On the surface that doesn’t seem to be the case. The Phillies are currently the worst team in baseball. The Eagles, after storming out of the gate to a 9-3 start, lost three out of the final four games of the regular season and failed to qualify for the playoffs. Typical Philadelphia collapse. The Sixers labored through a 19 win season and the Flyers slogged through a maddeningly inconsistent season and fell well short of a playoff spot. For the first time since 1994, all four Philadelphia teams failed to qualify for the postseason.
So with all of that being said, one would say things couldn’t be any more bleak on the Philadelphia sports landscape. My Dad likes to say, “we are in sports hell right now.” At present he is correct. We have hit rock bottom. There is nowhere to go but up. However, I honestly believe that all four teams are heading in the right direction.
There are two main reasons I see an upswing in our teams’ futures: change in management and change in organizational philosophies. Gone are the days of owners/GMs who are looking to win now, making the big splash in free agency, and being loyal to veterans who have spent all or most of their careers with one of our teams. In is being patient and building through the draft. Is this approach a guarantee for success? No. But when you look at the successful teams in all four of the major sports: the Chicago Blackhawks, the Los Angeles Kings, the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Seattle Seahawks, the Green Bay Packsrs, the Golden State Warriors, the San Antonio Spurs, the San Francisco Giants, the Kansas City Royals and more recently the Houston Astros, they all have, for the most part, built their teams through the draft and with home-grown talent. The four Philadelphia teams seemed to have finally gotten the memo. Here is a breakdown of all four Philadelphia teams and why I’m optimistic about each one.
The Philadelphia Eagles:
Chip Kelly took over in 2013 and led the Eagles to a 10-6 record and a playoff berth. After following that up with another 10 win season in 2014, but failing to qualify for the playoffs, Kelly won a power struggle over GM Howie Roseman and was given complete control of football operations. Kelly’s first move was to hire Ed Marynowitz. Unlike former GM Howie Roseman, who had no football background before taking the Eagles’ GM job, Marynowitz is a well-respected football man who is held in high regard around the NFL. He served as the head of recruiting under Nick Saban at the University of Alabama where he consistently brought in top 5 recruiting classes for Coach Saban to work with. Also, unlike Roseman, who created an atmosphere of fear and mistrust in the Eagles organization, Marynowitz has Chip Kelly’s trust. The first step to building a winner in any sport is having a stable front office and firing Roseman and bringing in Marynowitz does this for the Eagles. The Eagles made a lot of moves in the offseason and it remains to be seen if they will all pan out. But having good football men as coach and GM who work well together should bode well for the Eagles future.
The Philadelphia Phillies:
At the press conference to announce new team president Andy MacPhail, it wasn’t Dave Montgomery who made the announcement, it was John Middleton. It is well-known that out of all the men and women in the Phillies ownership group, Middelton is the most committed to winning. He has a ton of money and is more than willing to spend it. The fact that he was out front to announce MacPhail as the new team president is a great sign that Middleton now has a greater influence on the team’s day-to-day operations. Ruben Amaro Jr. is in the last year of his contract and is being phased out. MacPhail has said the Phillies are going to take a long-term approach to rebuilding the organization. They are going to look at revamping their scouting department and have some young prospects in Maikel Franco, J.P Crawford, Aaron Nola, Roman Quinn and Ben Lively to build around. Trading Cole Hammels for one or two top end prospects should also help to restock the cupboard.
The Philadelphia 76ers:
The Sixers were headed for that dreaded cycle of mediocrity. The were going to be only good enough to squeak into the playoffs but not good enough to contend, but not bad enough to be in the lottery. Basketball limbo. Sam Hinke recognized this and traded All-Star guard Jrue Holiday to the Pelicans for Nerlens Noel and the Pelicans first-round pick. This started the process of tearing the Sixers down and then building them back up. With last week’s trade of two second-round picks to the Sacramento Kings for Nick Stauskas and another first-round pick, the Sixers’ future looks extremely bright. They now have Stauskas, Joel Embiid, Jahlil Okafor, Noel, Dario Saric and four first-round picks to build around.
The Philadelphia Flyers:
At his introductory press conference Ron Hextall said his approach was going to be different from that of Paul Holgrem. No more quick fixes. No more going out and making the big splash in free agency. No more trading young players for veterans in an effort to win now. He was going to be patient and build through the draft. I just read an article a few days ago that ranked every team’s prospect pool. The Flyers were ranked 13th. It might not seem like a big deal to only be ranked slightly in the top half of the league, but when you consider the fact that only two years ago the Flyers were always ranked near the very bottom, that is a huge leap. One more good draft class next year and the Flyers will easily be in the top 10. Two years from now when the likes of Ivan Provorov, Travis Sanheim, Samuel Morin, Shayne Gostisbehere, Travis Konecny and Nicolas Aube-Kubel are coming up and meshing with Claude Giroux, Jakub Voráček, Wayne Simmonds, Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier, they will be a force to be reckoned with.
So as bleak as things may look now, there is reason for optimism and hope for our city’s sports teams. They are all at least a few years away and there will be growing pains along the way. But, all four teams have a good foundation in place that should pay dividends a few years down the road.