GAGNE RETURN HIT WITH FANS: MORE TO COME

Last night marked the return of Simon Gagne to Philadelphia. Gagne was acquired in a trade with the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday. Well, Gagne finally won that elusive ring last season with a few other Flyers of the past. As a huge Flyers fan, and an even bigger admirer of the NHL, I could never be jealous that Gagne won a cup wearing another teams jersey. Look, the ultimate goal of any player Is to win a Cup, and lets face it, Gagne had never tasted it in his plus ten years with the Flyers.

Ok…flash forward to last night at the Wells Fargo Center. As Gagne took the ice, I cannot remember a louder ovation for a returning player in an extremely long time. Simon was always a fan favorite and was drafted by the Flyers. He had many great seasons with this team. Some of his most notable goals were the Game 4 Overtime winner against Boston in the 2010 SemiFinals that saw the Flyers down 3-0 to the Bruins. He also scored the game winner in Game 7 of that same series. The last goal that Gagne would score as a Flyer was in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals against the Chicago Blackhawks, the closet he would ever come to tasting Cup Glory as a Flyer. The Flyers eventually lost that game in overtime as a seeing eye dribbler went past Michael Leighton and ended the Flyers chase for Glory.

Well, the Blackhawks are perfect his season so far…sitting a top the NHL in almost every statistical category that is measured. Last Seasons Champion, the Los Angeles Kings have also been on a role after an early struggle. However, Gagne had not scored a goal and was a healthy scratch for six straight games. When the trade was announced on Tuesday, I have to admit that I wasn’t surprised. Caught off guard, yes, but not surprised. The Flyers have been known to bring stars back into the fold after trading them away. Mark Recchi three times, John LeClair, Ron Hextall, Mike Knuble most recently and the list could go on for days. The point I am trying to make is that the Flyers have actually made a wise choice at a wise time.

Simon was struggling on the Kings this season…to the point that he was benched. However, he still has better than average speed and a knack for putting the puck in the net. Gagne also should be able to help both sides of the Flyers special teams with their horrible penalty kill and their average power play. Gagne’s presence on the ice paid off immediately in his first game back last night as he scored a power play goal, his first goal of the season. Now Gagne not only brings veteran leadership back to this team, he also brings playoff experience and a ring. Never discount the importance of that fact. Look at the Rangers in 1994 when Mark Messier brought the Rangers a Cup. It happens all of the time. Now the Flyers should make a few more trades for veterans to mix with the star youth of this team. They should not be ready to give up on the season yet…anything can happen if they just make the playoffs.

The trade rumors for Daniel Briere are just that…rumors. First of all, Briere has a no trade clause. Secondly, even though he is struggling right now, he may be one of the best active performers in the playoffs right now. Thirdly, I think trading Briere would send a bad message to the team that they are basically not going anywhere this season. Instead of trading Briere, how about trading Courtier or another young player for a veteran that can put the puck in the net. Look at the trade block, there are many big names available that could help the Flyers get back on track. It’s great to have Gagne back on this team and I believe he Will give this team a tremendous lift. Stay tuned for more moves. Paul Holmgren never sits back.

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THE IDES OF MARCH

February comes to a close today as we head into the month of March. The term “Ides of March” used to represent the middle of the month on the Roman Calendar. It was a festive day and dedicated to the “God Mars” and a Military Parade was usually held. In modern day history, the term refers to the date on which Julius Caesar was assassinated by a group of Senate Conspirators in 44 B.C.

In today’s society, The Ides of March marks the end of February and the transition from winter to spring. The Ides of March can truly share many meanings for many different people and many different cultures. In today’s American culture, the term can refer to many things, but mostly relates to the change of season, going from the long cold winter to the refreshing season of Spring.

My own version of the Ides of March can be summed up by sports and music etymology. First of all, this year does not have a 29th day of February meaning there is no leap year. March marks the luminous sound of balls pounding leather, bats cracking at the sound of a ball being rocketed from home plate, the smell of fresh cut grass, the chants of “Hot Dogs Here”, the sounds of fans shouting (either cheering or booing), the sight of young kids as they try to get their favorite player’s (heroes) autograph or picture, the sight of a manager scolding one of his young players for making a mistake in hopes that the player will learn from this mistake. The Ides of March marks spring training Baseball, the start of another new Season and everyone is at square one.

March also marks the beginning of the NFL combine, the rigorous tests on college football stars with the hopes of getting drafted by some NFL team, it is the hopes and dreams of young college players just waiting for the chance to display their physical skills for the entire NFL to see, it marks the numerous General Manager Meetings, Free Agency begins, Teams are finalizing their coaching staffs and making player personnel decisions based on where the team finished last season, it is the prelude to the NFL Draft which comes in April.

The Ides of March means the beginning of the sprint towards the playoffs in both basketball and hockey. Teams are jockeying for position and are making roster moves and trades to either help them now or better their future, they are gearing up for the most spirited grind in sports, coaches on the hot seat, players changing jerseys, veterans slowing down, rookies become stars, the spotlight is on in full force on both of these sports. Only one team will win the prize and March is where it all begins to come to a Climax.

The Ides of March represents the sprint to the finish line for High School Seniors. It marks the race towards the Senior Prom, Senior Trips, and finally High School Graduation. It also marks the start of many college hopefuls visiting different colleges In hopes of finding the one that best fits their needs. It also is the time where testing is done to qualify students strengths and weaknesses.

The Ides of March also marks the true beginning if the new Music/Movie Season as the Grammys and Oscars have been completed and now we look forward to all of the new material that will come about in 2013. Bands are working in new albums. Recording studios are scouring the local clubs and bars to find that next great talent. Tours begin to kick off as fans wait in line for days to purchase tickets. New Movie Releases are pouring out weekly, each week trying to outdo the last. Actors and Actresses are either coming to their end or are on the rise.

The Ides of March is a very fun time in my opinion. The change of season is always welcome and going from the winter weather to the spring and summer months is just a mile away. As we come to the end of another February, let us ponder how our new year has began so far. For many if us this year has started off terrible. Well, there is good news. March is here and it’s time for change. There is hope to turn things around. You have to want to change. You have to have the will to change. March should bring a welcome opportunity to embrace this change and come full circle.

As I conclude this blog, I believe it is very important for people to realize that this time of the year is where you can make or break the choices you will make for the upcoming year. Enjoy the change of weather. Spring and Summer Sun should lead us to happier days. They say that the Sun can “pull you out of depression”. So as the Ides of March approach, praise God that you are alive and well and that you wake up everyday to a new day. Be thankful for what you do have not envious of what you don’t have. Remain positive and always move forward. The Ides of March are here…Embrace

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FLYERS STRUGGLE TO FIND IDENTITY

Ok, with over a month into the 2013 NHL Season, the Philadelphia Flyers continue to find an identity. At the beginning of the season…many analysts agreed that the shortened season should help a team like the Flyers, and may even give them an advantage. Well, it has been anything but an advantage for the Flyers. The Flyers have played 19 games and are only 8-10-1. Only 8 wins and 17 points.

With only a 48 game season, the 24 game spot will mark the halfway season. The Flyers better turn this season around in a hurry or they will fail to make the playoffs for the first time in five years. Their special teams have been horrible, especially the penalty kill. Of course, losing Scott Hartnell their unquestioned leader has not helped this team in its quest to win the CUP.

As of now, the Flyers are the 20th best team in the NHL with 17 points, and are fourth in the Atlantic Division and 10th in the Eastern Conference. As of now, Philly is in the outside looking in. One could ask what is wrong with this team? Is it the coach…has he lost the team? Is it the injuries to Scott Hartnell, Andre Mesarojs, and others. Is it the continued inconsistency of their defense and the sloppy play of their Goalie Ilya Bryzgalov. In the beginning of the season the Flyers could not put the puck in the net. Now they can’t seem to stop pucks from going in their net.

As a huge hockey fan, I am always following the rumors that are brandied around the league. Well, I can remember before the season that there were rumors floating around that the Flyers were interested in all world goalie Roberto Luongo. Many fans snickered at this rumor and said we have a 50 million dollar goalie and he deserves a chance. Well I will agree that last season was not all of Bryzgalov’s fault, I will point out that his inconsistency cost them in the season and ultimately in the Devils Series.

The Flyers lack identity. I was totally about naming Claude Giroux the team captain at the start of the season. The only drawback of naming a young rising star to the captaincy is the added stress and pressure that it imposes on the player to perform and produce. Claude Giroux is not having a terrible season, but teams are game planning to take him out of the game. The truth is, Giroux cannot do everything. Missing Scott Hartnell has been a tremendous loss for this team. Signing Mike Knuble was a nice effort, but lets face it…Knuble is 40 years old and does not have the ice presence he once did.

The Flyers decided to part ways with James Van Reinsdyke in the trade that brought Luke Schenn to the Flyers. Yes, the Flyers did have to improve a defense that lost Chris Pronger. However, Van Reimsdyke was the other rising star who still had another level. He is showing this fact in Toronto as he is tearing it up. The other young star Matt Read is now injured and may be out five weeks. The Flyers lack offensive cohesion and I think you can point to all of these factors.

If you asked me today, should the Flyers have went after Luongo. I say…are u kidding me?!!! Of Course, even if Luongo was not leading the league (which he is) he would still be an upgrade to Bryzgalov. I will give Holmgren kudos for trying to bring an all word goalie into the fold with Bryzgalov, however, BRYZ continues to play down to the competition. In order for the Flyers to turn this season around they must make a few moves.

The New York Rangers have Dubinsky, Nash, Gaborik, and Richards. The Penguins have Crosby, Malkin, Neal And Stall. The Devils have Kovalchuk. The Flyers have Giroux and then there is a drop. I live the fact that the Flyers are trying to build the team through youth, but they are short on star power. Look at the Chicago Blackhawks…14-0! This is after a down season last year one year removed from a Cup. The Blackhawks still have great goaltending and plenty of firepower. The Flyers better make some moves quickly. I would go fast and hard after Luongo. Courtier has been a huge disappointment and could be used in any big trade. Stay tuned… It

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BULLET FOR MY VALENTINE/BUCK CHERRY RELEASE NEW ALBUMS

So in the past two weeks, two very good bands have released new albums. Last Week Bullet For My Valentine released Temper Temper which also includes a bonus three tracks including a cover of the AC/DC hit Whole Lotta Rosie. The First track of the album has the typical hard and heavy intro that we as metal fans have grown accustomed too from Bullet. The song, titled Breaking Point is pretty self explanatory with a theme that replicates being pushed to your limit. Lines like “Scratch the Surface” and Breaking Point are used to describe this phenomenon. The Truth Hurts is the second track and really has some unique sounding guitar and hard hitting base and drum solos.

Bullet For My Valentine continues to be a strong force in the metal community. Every song on the album brings maximum energy to the fore front including the self titled “Temper Temper”, the single “Riot”, Tears Don’t Fall Part II which is the sequel to Tears Don’t Fall on their second album The Poison. As mentioned, they also cover A Whole Lotta Rosie by AC/DC and also share a live version of Scream Aim Fire. I rank this album right there with Scream Aim Fire and The Poison as solid metal albums. Their last album Fever took a step backwards, but I believe that this album has the band back on track. They are set to your the US this summer. Stay Tuned.

Another Band, Buck Cherry released their new album “Confessions” this past Tuesday. Buck Cherry is now considered a “Veteran Band” as they have been around since the late nineties. They burst onto the scene with the single “Lit Up”, which is a song that documents the party scene and drug usage, mainly Cocaine. Of course, this song was considered controversial when it was released and is still frowned upon by some major Metal Publications. The band is also known for a few other big hits…one of them being Ride.

Buck Cherry is a metal band that has the same roots as Guns N Roses. This band is probably as close to the sound that GNR produced during the late eighties early nineties. Confessions is a collaboration of different styles and is probably the most diverse record released by Buck Cherry to date. The first song Gluttony is exactly like the title states…about people who want things in excess. The Guitar Solos are very tight and to the point.

Bullet For My Valentine and Buck Cherry are both bands that I would consider above average. I recommend both if these albums to any fan that enjoys good old hard rock n roll and hard core metal. Bullet is kind of in the mold of Avenged Sevenfold, but also has the same style of Linkin Park. Buck Cherry is more of a straight up kick your ass style of Hard Rock and they also have the occasional ballad. In retrospect…both of these albums are must haves for any true metal fan. Stay tuned for many other great albums that are due out this spring and summer. Anthrax, Stryper, Megadeth, Slayer, Volbeat, Deftones, and many more are due out in the near future. Too all of my Metal Fans…ROCK ON!

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MEGADETH MEGA NEWS

Metal Heavyweight Megadeth has announced the release of their new album “Super Collider” sometime in June 2013. They are currently putting the finishing touches to what Mustaine refers to as a “work of art”. Dave has said that the best is yet to come. Megadeth states that ” Super Collider” is on the level of Countdown to Extinction…and has the potential to bring as many if not more hits.

“Super Collider” will be the first Megadeth album released on Dave’s own label and they have teamed up with Universal while in accordance with Capitol/EMI. Their latest album Thirteen was nominated for two Grammy’s and was a huge success. The band says that the new album has some of the best material ever created. That is saying a lot…considering the Band has sold over 38 Million Records worldwide, a total of 11 Grammy Nominations, five consecutive platinum albums and a total of 13 Studio Albums.

Megadeth has been called one of the most successful Metal Bands as well as one of the most influential rock bands of the past 30 Years by Universal President and CEO Bruce Resnikoff. They also announced a United Kingdom Tour to kickoff the release of their new album in June. They will also be headlining two shows in Italy and France. This is an awesome day for Megadeth Fans! Cannot wait for the album!!!!

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EARLY MLB PREDICTIONS

This is my early predictions and thoughts on the 2013 MLB Baseball Season and a breakdown of how players will finish in different categories. First of all…we will start with the Power Rankings on Offense going into Spring Training. My Top 10 Hitting Teams in MLB are as follows:
1) Anaheim Angels- The Angels lineup is stacked with the top 4 being Mike Trout, Erick Aybar, Albert Pujols, and Josh Hamilton.
2) Detroit Tigers- Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder will produce a lot of runs.
3) Toronto Blue Jays- With the addition of Jose Reyes the Blue Jays instantly jump ahead in this list. Melky Cabrera and Jose Bautista pack some punch too.
4) Washington Nationals- The addition of Denard Span will mean the addition of more runs.
5) New York Yankees- This is the lowest ranking for the Yankees lineup going into a season in forever.
6) Cincinnati Reds- Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips, and now a legitimate lead off threat Sin Soo Choo.
7) Saint Louis Cardinals- The Cardinals offense is potent every year even with the departure of Pujols. Carlos Beltran looks to better his comeback after a great 2012.
8) Atlanta Braves- BJ Upton, Jonathan Upton, Jayson Heyward, Martin Prado, Dan Uggla, Brian McCann. This team very well could be the number 1 Lineup.
9) Milwaukee Brewers
10) Texas Rangers
Honorable Mention (If Healthy and Up to par) Philadelphia Phillies, Colorado Rockies, Arizona Diamondbacks.

My Top 10 Pitching Staffs are as follows:
1) Detroit Tigers- Justin Verlander, Max Sherzer, Doug Fister, Anibal Sanchez…Top 4 Man rotation in Baseball.
2) Los Angeles Dodgers- Clayton Kershaw, Josh Beckett, Zach Greinke, Chad Billingsley, Ted Lily, and Aaron Harang. Wow!
3) Washington Nationals- Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmerman, Gio Gonzalez, Dan Haren, ??. Awesome Top 4.
4) Philadelphia Phillies- Roy Halladay, Cole Hammels, Cliff Lee, Kyle Kendrick. Of course this is a big if…but if Halladay can stay healthy and be dominant once again the Phillies could jump to Number 1!
5) Tampa Bay Devil Rays- David Price and Jeremy Hellickson right there with the Top 1/2 Punch.
6) Cincinnati Reds- Johnny Cueto, Matt Latos, Homer Bailey, Bronson Arroyo.
7) Toronto Blue Jays- RA Dickey, Josh Johnson, and Mark Bueherle give them a formidable Top 3.
8) San Francisco Giants- The Giants could be anywhere from 8th to 1st. This will depend on Tim Lincecum.
9) Atlanta Braves
10) Oakland Athletics
Honorable Mention- New York Yankees, Anaheim Angels, Arizona Diamondbacks.
Ok…now to my playoff picks.
National League East- The Washington Nationals will win their second division in a row.
National League Central- Cincinnati Reds- The Reds deserved a better fate last year and will be back.
National League West- Los Angeles Dodgers
Wild Card- Philadelphia Phillies, San Francisco Giants
National League Champs- Philadelphia Phillies

American League East-Toronto Blue Jays
American League Central-Detroit Tigers
American League West-Los Angeles Angels
Wild Card-Tampa Bay Devil Rays, Oakland Athletics

No you are not seeing things! The New York Tankees and Boston No Sox will not make the playoffs this season.

NL CY Young- Clayton Kershaw
NL MVP- Brandon Phillips
NL Rookie of Year-Zack Wheeler
Comeback Player of Year-Roy Halladay

AL CY Young- Justin Verlander
AL MVP- Justin Verlander
AL Rookie of Year-Mike Olt

NL HR- Ryan Howard
NL AVG- BJ Upton
NL SB- Ben Revere
NL RBI- Ryan Braun
ERA- Roy Halladay
Wins- Clayton Kershaw
K’s- Clayton Kershaw
SVS- Jonathan Papplebon

AL HR- Josh Hamilton
AL RBI- Miguel Cabrera
AL AVG- Miguel Cabrera
AL SB- Jose Reyes
AL Wins- Justin Verlander
AL ERA- Justin Verlander
AL K’s- Justin Verlander
AL SVS-Andrew Bailey

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GOTTA LOVE SPRING TRAINING

Fresh cut grass…warm sun rays…Arizona and Florida heat…the sweet smell of cotton candy and the crunch of peanut shells…”Hot Dogs Here,” the pop of balls hitting leather gloves…the Crack of bats hitting the white round ball…the red laces flying through the warm crisp air…the sight of players doing exercises, stretching, running drills…the sound of coaches yelling orders to the players…the laughter and cracking jokes from the players…star studded talent…long shot rookies and free agents…the epiphany that strikes us between the eyes every year at this time.

That’s right baseball fans, Spring Training has arrived. Spring Training is to Baseball as Training Camp is to Football. All of the offseason transactions and team news comes to the forefront. Every team is even at this point. All of these teams believe that they have a shot to win it all. Of course, this is where the long journey begins. Players coming back from injury. Other players trying to come back from down seasons. Teams trying to return to the playoffs for consecutive teams as well as teams trying to make it back to the top.

The San Francisco Giants are the defending champions. And the Giants won this World Series despite a down season from Tim Lincecum. The Detroit Tigers are the toast of the American League. Justin Verlander is ready for another CY Young run. The Yankees as always are dealing with drama and controversy. The Washington Nationals are dealing with their first taste of high expectations. The Phillies are trying to make one last run with the core that continues to age. The Mets are hoping that all of the youngsters can put it together and win some ball games. The Atlanta Braves are ready to go to the next level. The Saint Louis Cardinals are looking to get back on top despite Chris Carpenter being on the injury list. The Blue Jays are hoping that their offseason deals turn golden. Just like every year…there are so many plots and sub plots as we head into another season of Major League Baseball.

Spring Training is a time for hope. It is a time to bond and make friendships. It is a time for veterans to work with youth and show them what it takes and how it is done. It’s a time where managers can play around with lineups to form the best possible offensive threat. It’s a time where pitchers build up their stamina for another long haul. Spring Training is a time for fans to get close to their favorite players. It’s a time for kids to get to meet their idols. It’s a time for baseball players and fans alike to get back into the Baseball Routine. Don’t forget, after this long spring there is 162 game sprint to the finish line. May the best team win.

As another Spring Training approaches, you cannot help but wonder which teams will play up to their talent, which teams will have disappointing seasons, which teams will rise from the ashes and surprise everyone, and which teams will falter due to season defeating injuries. Yes that horrible scary word injuries. Injuries are an unfortunate part of the game and every year the injury bug hits a new team. Injuries do not discriminate. Injuries do not play favorites. Last year was no exception. The Phillies struggled as their ace Roy Halladay endured an injury plagued season. The Cardinals struggled with numerous player injuries. The list goes on and on. But sometimes teams must put these injuries behind them and ride the hot arm or bat of that surprise ace in the hole.

As this 2013 Season begins…there are always different story lines and question marks. There are also analysts who predict how the season will progress. In my next piece, I will give my early picks for how this season will round out, teams that will make the playoffs, players that will lead their league in various categories, etc. It should be fun. And even though I am a Phillies fan, I promise to be unbiased in my elections. Till next time, enjoy the best time of the year folks…spring training.

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MIAMI SCANDAL PUTS DAMPER ON MLB

On the eve of the release of Mike Piazza’s book “Long Shot”, the ongoing investigation of the Miami PED Scandal continues. Gio Gonzalez, the star left hander for the Washington Nationals has been named to the WBC US roster. This is amid rumors that he has been linked to the scandal. First of all, I feel that this is a very poor decision by the WBC executive staff. It would be like Mark McGwire being named to the team years ago even though there was an ongoing investigation. It’s also very poor publicity for MLB.

There are other actions by Major League Baseball and specific teams that make you shake your head. I know the ultimate goal for any professional team is to win a championship, and that having the best players gives you the best chance to do so. However, at what cost do these teams pay the piper to reach these goals. I mean, what a travesty…Melky Cabrera is named in the scandal and two weeks later he receives a 2 Million Dollar raise. Bartolo Colon is suspended for 50 games and for using Performance Enhancing Drugs and then is rewarded with a two year contract. Even last year, when Ryan Braun was let go on a technicality that stated that his tests were not delivered in a timely manner. Now all of a sudden his name has shown up in this report.

The New York Yankees have yet to part ways with Alex Rodriguez. I mean…I am all about innocent until proven guilty, but the pureness and sanctity of the game is being robbed by these players who chose to risk it all in order to get ahead if the curve. This did not happen in years past so why is it now that it continues. Even with the more strict rules and regulations that the MLB has passed, these players continue to ruin the game by cheating.

I mean, yes Bud Selig deserves some blame and so does the MLB counsel and hierarchy, however, The Team owners deserve most of the blame as they continue to she’ll out millions of dollars to players who are CHEATERS and LIARS! Alex Rodriguez will be found guilty just as Barry Bonds was found guilty and just as Mark McGwire was found guilty and so forth. Steroids…HGH…call it whatever you want to call it but it all reaks of treason to me. The New York Yankees, otherwise known as the “Evil Empire” should do the right thing and save face with the league by cutting Alex Rodriguez. Instead they continue to stand behind him in his defense.

I cannot wait to purchase Mike Piazza’s book tomorrow. I am sure that there will be a lot of exciting stories from the former Catcher, who was drafted with the 152nd pick and became one of the Greatest hitting catchers to play the game. A lifetime .308 Hitter with 457 Home Runs and 2,000 hits. Mike was a top notch player.

In his book he sounds off against his critics that say that he used Steroids just like other star players of his time. I believe that players of this generation were more of a byproduct of the system than all liars and cheaters. I mean we have the players that smell of lies like Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Roger Clemmens, the list goes on and on. However, Mike is an honest guy and you can tell by some of his commentary in the book.

He highlights his “war” and battles with Roger Clemmens. In 2000 he was intentionally beaned in the head by a Roger Clemmens fastball. Soon after, during a playoff game, Piazza hit a soft grounder towards the mound and his bat shattered, the long stem landed near Clemmens. Roger picked up the sharred bat and throws it at Mike Piazza as he runs down the First Base Line. When Roger Clemmens was questioned in an interview about the incident, he replies in dumb fashion by saying” I thought I was throwing the ball.” HELLO DUMB ASS, even if you were throwing the ball what would possess you to do so. Oh, it must have been the steroids that you claim over and over that you did not take. Even though other players have linked you to the substance and other evidence has showed that you did so. One paragraph in the book has Mike Piazza rehashing his fantasy of how he planned to kick Roger Clemmens ass. This plan was detailed and even involved Mike taking Karate.

Mike Piazza is also known as a true metal head. He was drunk during a Guns N Roses concert and yelled at AXL for not wearing a Mets jersey. Mike was also responsible for leaking pieces of the Chinese Democracy album from GNR to Eddy Trunk in that metal show. I love Mike and his realism. Hopefully his book will shed more light on the fact that Baseball must continue to punish these liars and cheaters. The game has no place for this.

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PHILLIES 2008-PRESENT

It’s hard to believe that Five Years have passed since the Philadelphia Phillies shocked the country and this city and win their second World Series, and their first since 1980. I remember what I was doing the moment that Harry Kallas and Chris Wheeler called that last pitch strikeout by Brad Lidge on Pinch Hitter Chris Hinske and the slow motion charge of Carlos Ruiz and Brad Lidge, Ruiz jumping into the outstretched arms of Lidge, the rest of the team mobbing the mound, Ryan Howard knocking over Chase Utley, Shane Victorino in an all out sprint jumping into the pile of players. These are just a few of the many memories that the 2008 Phillies provided for its fans in an unprecedented World Series Win.

The 2008 version of the Phillies was much different than the 2013 team. The only offensive players that remain are Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, and Carlos Ruiz. Cole Hammels is the lone pitcher that remains. Count that…Five Players…I repeat Five Players from that World Series Championship Team. Wow! My have things changed. However, those Five Players that do remain are the Five Core players that this Franchise was built around so in hindsight, they still have the core in tact.

After the Phillies won in 2008, Ruben Amaro made some unbelievable trades and acquisitions which certainly should have brought this team many more championships. That never happened…in 2009 the Phillies made it to the World Series once again, only to lose to the New York Yankees. This was after Amaro traded for former CY Young Winner Cliff Lee down the stretch, and also adding Pedro Martinez before the playoffs. The Starting Rotation of Cole Hammels, Cliff Lee, Martinez and Blanton could not get the job done. Neither could the Phillies offense.

In the offseason, in mid December, Amaro made one of the most controversial yet bold moves by trading Cliff Lee to the Seattle Mariners, while acquiring maybe the best pitcher in Baseball Roy Halladay. Amaro traded away its best pitching Prospects in Kyle Drabek and some other fine talent. No one seemed to care at this time as the Phillies had their Ace and Hammels and were poised for yet another run to the Big Dance. After struggling down the stretch, Amaro made another huge splash by trading AJ Happ, one of their aspiring starting pitchers to the Houston Astros for Roy Oswalt. The Phillies looked to again be the favorites only to lose to the eventual World Series Champions, the San Francisco Giants.

Well…that offseason an even more dramatic roster move was made. The Phillies signed Cliff Lee to a long term contract, which gave the Phillies “4 Aces” in Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hammels, and Roy Oswalt, and a great number 3 starter in Joe Blanton. It’s safe to say that the Phillies were huge favorites to make it back to the World Series and win. There have not been too many pitching staffs in history that could rival these names. However, Although Roy Halladay won another CY Young, Cliff Lee struggled and Roy Oswalt was hurt most of the year, which made him expendable. Once again, the Phillies were stunned by the upstart Saint Louis Cardinals who won the World Series. To add insult to injury, Ryan Howard tore his Achilles’ tendon running to first base in the last play of the game in that NLCS. He would be out part of the 2012 season.

The Phillies failed to make the playoffs for the first time in 2012 since 2007. This team had a tremendous run. They had so much talent, but unfortunately names on paper does not guarantee a World Series. Last Season…Roy Halladay had an injury plagued season while Cole Hammels had his best year as a pro. Although Cliff Lee had a horrible record, he became only the second pitcher to lose more than 10 games and have a sub 3.25 ERA. He also was in the league leaders in Ks, Innings, Complete Games and WHIP. Ok…so much has changed since tbs Phillies won the 2008 World Series.

Lets take a quick look at that roster that won the Trophy. Starting Pitchers were Cole Hammels, Brett Myers, Jaime Moyer, Joe Blanton, and AJ Happ. The Bullpen consisted of Clay Condrey, Chad Durbin, Scott Eyere, JC Romero, Ryan Madson and Brad Lidge. Brad Lidge was a perfect 48 for 48 Saves in the regular season and 5 for 5 in the post season. That feat may never be duplicated. Ok, on Offense the Phillies were stacked with power…lineup was Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Jayson Werth, Pat Burrell, Pedro Feliz, and Carlos Ruiz.

In that World Series, bench players made huge contribution. Starters made huge plays. Pat Burrel led off Game 5 part 2 with a Double. Eric Bruntlett replaced Burrell, was moved to third on a sacrifice by Shane Victorino and then scored on a single by Pedro Feliz in the top of the ninth. Then, Brad Lidge made the save after allowing two base runners. Game 4 was the blowout where Ryan Howard hit two monster blasts and Joe Blanton even hit a home run. Game 3 was the long rain delay, Eric Bruntlett gets hit by a pitch in the Bottom of the Ninth and scored on a seeing eye single by Ruiz. Game 2 was a loss and Game 1 was a tremendous win for Cole Hammels who went 8 and Chase Utley and Pat Burrell went back to back. That team had heart. That team had energy. Matt Stairs pinch hit home run in the Dodgers Series. Brett Myers 3 for 3 in a game 2 thriller. That was an awesome ride.

Now lets fast forward to 2013. Tube lineup will still have Rollins, Utley, Howard and Ruiz. But that’s it. Only Four. The Starting Pitching if healthy will trump that staff in 2008 on paper. However, will they be able to execute. We will soon find out as pitchers and catchers report this week. The Phillies will have a totally new lineup with Michael Young, Delmon Young, and Ben Revere. And Johnathan Papplebon replaces Brad Lidge as the closer. As mentioned…this team is far removed from the one that won it all. However, this team still has its Top 5 Core in tact. They could surprise everyone this year if healthy. Looking forward to it!

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MLB CRACKDOWN

The latest report has named Ryan Braun and four other players as being involved in the performance enhancing drugs investigation. Earlier this month it was found that Alex Rodriguez was involved in the same investigation.

Major League Baseball must do more to protect the sanctity of the game. A 50 game Suspension is not enough of a punishment for these cheaters and scum bags. Bud Selig is a Pussy. He needs to garner enough support to propose tougher sanctions against players that test positive for these drugs.

Bud Selig acts like he has reformed the game, but the fact remains that star players and no name players alike continue to take a risk and use these performance enhancers. The league should propose a mandatory one year suspension for any player that tests positive for any type of illegal substances for a first time. If a player gets caught a second time they should be banished from the league for life. Tougher punishments would definitely lead to less violations.

Alex Rodriguez should be ashamed of himself. Ryan Braun should agree to sit out a season since last year he tested positive and somehow got off on a technicality. He would have served a fifty game suspension. Baseball is still America’s Past Time. However, just like in the gun control debate, these drugs definitely diminish the game and causes bad perception and publicity.

This league has drug it’s feet for too long now. CMoN Bud, this is ruining the game. There not going to get off so easy any more. Pass more stringent penalties and I would wager to bet that these occurrences will lessen. Last night, Todd Helton was pulled over for a DUI over the weekend. These players are so blessed to be in a Career that they enjoy and make extreme amounts of money to do so. If that was you and I…We would be in jail or prison.

I would bet that there are more players that don’t get caught using the drugs than the ones that do. MLB, you need to put more money into drug testing and awareness throughout the league. These players are ruining the game and are making it hard to enjoy as fans. These players need a one year suspension and twenty lashes. Ok, just kidding about the lashes. Anyways, Bud Selig the league is mocking you and your authority. Have some back bone and do something!

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