Archive | June, 2014

Feets Don’t Fail Me Now: Sixers Gamble On Injury Prone Draft Picks

29 Jun

Some edits and updates

The Chris Murray Report

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

If Joel Embiid can stay healthy, the Sixers could be a good team in the future. If Joel Embiid can stay healthy, the Sixers could be a good team in the future.

PHILADELPHIA-Last Sunday I was a guest on 94 WIP-FM with Ricky Ricardo and we were discussing the NBA Draft and the possibility that the 76ers would draft Kansas’s 7-foot center Joel Embiid who has a stress fracture in his right foot.

A fan called the show and vented his spleen about how felt it would be idiotic for the Sixers to take draft another big man in the draft with a damaged leg. It was to the point where the caller was breathing to the point where it sounded like he was hyperventilating.

While there are bigger things than basketball to be that upset, the sentiment among fans is certainly understandable given how the 76ers franchise seems to be enamored with…

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Feets Don’t Fail Me Now: Sixers Gamble On Injury Prone Draft Picks

29 Jun

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

If Joel Embiid can stay healthy, the Sixers could be a good team in the future.

If Joel Embiid can stay healthy, the Sixers could be a good team in the future.

PHILADELPHIA-Last Sunday I was a guest on 94 WIP-FM with Ricky Ricardo and we were discussing the NBA Draft and the possibility that the 76ers would draft Kansas’s 7-foot center Joel Embiid who has a stress fracture in his right foot.

A fan called the show and vented his spleen about how felt it would be idiotic for the Sixers to take draft another big man in the draft with a damaged leg. It was to the point where the caller was breathing to the point where it sounded like he was hyperventilating.

While there are bigger things than basketball to be that upset, the sentiment among fans is certainly understandable given how the 76ers franchise seems to be enamored with big men with leg and foot problems.

The Sixers made the injured Embiid the third pick of the draft much to the chagrin of Sixers fans, who are wondering what are general manager Sam Hinkie and head coach Brett Brown trying to do? This guy has the same fractured navicular bone that ended the careers of Bill Walton and Yao Ming.

During the last three years, 76ers fans have been enduring big men with leg problems. Last year, the Sixers drafted Nerlens Noel, who did not get any playing time with the team because he was rehabbing the ACL in his left knee.

And speaking of big men with bad feet, the Sixers fans are still smarting from the “thievery” of one free agent center Andrew Bynum whose bum legs prevented him from putting on a Sixers uniform. That was a true embarrassment for the franchise considering the huge welcome for him by thousands of 76ers fans at the National Constitution Center in 2012.

Meanwhile, Hinkie has been telling fans to patient with the team. On one hand that’s understandable, the Sixers rebuilding process is going to take some time. Hopefully, fans won’t have to experience another 19-63 season.

I know a large number of fans are upset about the team picking Embiid because of his injured foot and they should be given the team’s recent history of injuries. They are also ticked off about acquiring 6-10 Croatian power forward Dario Saric, who will spend the next two years playing for a pro team in Turkey.

The bottom-line here is that the gambles this management team is making had better pay off into the team being a contender for an NBA title or Hinkie and Brown will be run out of town quick, fast and a hurry.

If Embiid and Noel become the forces in the low post the Sixers think they can become with a mature Michael Carter-Williams at point guard and Saric is the second coming of Dirk Nowitzki, Hinkie and the Sixers will be hailed as geniuses who will never want for a steak dinner or alcoholic beverage in this town again.

The seasons, like last year, that they will have tanked will be looked upon as a fond memory, especially if there’s a parade down Broad Street in the next five or six years.

Now if those injuries keep bothering those guys to the point to where they are missing a significant amount of games, every columnist in this town (including yours truly), sports talk radio host and fans on the various social media platforms, will never let the Sixers hear the end of it.

It will go down in the lore of bad moves personnel moves by Philly sports teams like the Phillies trading pitcher Ferguson Jenkins, the Eagles drafting combine workout wonder Mike Mamula who turned out to be a bust or the Sixers drafting Charles Shackleford over Brad Daugherty.

 

Game 81: Phillies Drowning Themselves at the Halfway Point of the Season

29 Jun

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

 

Phillies Manager Ryne Sandberg feels his team has to improve in every aspect the game.

Phillies Manager Ryne Sandberg feels his team has to improve in every aspect the game.

PHILADELPHIA—At about this time last week when the Phillies went 5-2 on their last road trip, including a three-game sweep of the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field.

All of sudden there was some optimism for a hot minute in the City of Brotherly Love, especially since the Phillies are within striking distance of the leaders in the National League East even looking up from last place.

Unfortunately for the Phillies, this current homestand brought us back to a stark reality that they are still going nowhere fast. It reminds me of the two Japanese groundskeepers in the movie, “Major League,” who kept saying their team was “still sh—ty.”

Since winning five straight last week, the Phillies have lost seven of their last nine games including today’s double-header sweep at the hands of the Atlanta Brave at the Citizen’s Bank Park Saturday afternoon and evening.

The Phillies lost the first game 10-3 and the second game 5-1 to sink themselves further down in the National League East race. They haven’t been able to score more than three runs in the first three games of this series. They were 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position in the second game of the double-header.

“It is disappointing we came with momentum, a winning streak,” said Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg. “We could have won another game against the Marlins, but these last three games. … It was a tough for sure. It was a lot of things a lack of offense, a big inning there on the pitching side of things and not so good play on defense.”

The Phillies are nine games below .500 at the true halfway point of the season-game No. 81. It’s the same old problems for the Phillies—lack of hitting, poor defense and pitching, though that aspect of their game has improved significantly. Uniting the three kingdoms of offense, pitching and defense on a consistent basis has been a monumental struggle for the Phillies (36-45).

“We have to do things differently,” Sandberg said. “We definitely have to have more opportunities to score runs and then we have to actually score runs. We have to be more consistent in putting the pitching and the defense together.”

In the Phillies last nine games, they are hitting just .139 with runners in scoring position. Sandberg said he still believes his team is good enough to contend, but they have to play fundamental baseball, something they don’t do on a regular basis.

“We can definitely sharpen up on just playing clean baseball and execute in situational things,” Sandberg said. “The starting pitching has to be consistent, but we have to play good defense behind that pitching.”

In the first game of the twin-bill, first baseman Ryan Howard committed two errors that led to a pair of unearned runs that got the Braves back into the game after the Phillies had taken a 2-0 lead. The bullpen gave up five runs in the eighth.

Centerfielder Ben Revere said despite the Phillies current run of misfortune, the team is still capable of putting together a solid run to get back in the race. At the rate they are losing and the way they are playing, it just doesn’t seem to be possible that the Phillies can turn it around.

“We can go on a roll at any time, win a couple series and sweep a couple of good teams and we’re right back in it,” Revere said. “We have to keep battling. We’re at the halfway point, but it’s a long season and we have the team to do that.”

They better to do it quick because the season is not far from being on life support, if it’s not there already.

 

Utley’s Walk-Off Homer Backs Up Stellar Effort by Phillies Bullpen

27 Jun

The Chris Murray Report

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Chase Utley went 3-for-7 Thursday with three RBI including a two-run walk homer in win over the Miami Marlins. Chase Utley went 3-for-7 Thursday with three RBI including a two-run walk homer in win over the Miami Marlins.

PHILADELPHIA – Perhaps the most frustrating thing for Phillies fans is watching the offense struggle to score runs, especially when their pitchers—both starters and relievers– are doing all they can to keep the team in the game.

It took the Phils offense 14 innings to finally put the game away on Chase Utley’s two-run walk-off home run to give the Phillies a 5-3 win over the Miami Marlins in front of 34, 168 fans at Citizen’s Bank Park.

But it was the effort of the bullpen—Jake Diekman, Jonathan Papelbon, Antonio Bastardo, Ken Giles, Mario Hollands and winning pitcher Justin De Fratus—that kept the Phillies in the game.

“I think the bullpen is on a roll as a group,”…

View original post 519 more words

Utley’s Walk-Off Homer Backs Up Stellar Effort by Phillies Bullpen

27 Jun

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

 

Chase Utley went 3-for-7 Thursday with three RBI including a two-run walk homer in win over the Miami Marlins.

Chase Utley went 3-for-7 Thursday with three RBI including a two-run walk homer in win over the Miami Marlins.

PHILADELPHIA – Perhaps the most frustrating thing for Phillies fans is watching the offense struggle to score runs, especially when their pitchers—both starters and relievers– are doing all they can to keep the team in the game.

It took the Phils offense 14 innings to finally put the game away on Chase Utley’s two-run walk-off home run to give the Phillies a 5-3 win over the Miami Marlins in front of 34, 168 fans at Citizen’s Bank Park.

But it was the effort of the bullpen—Jake Diekman, Jonathan Papelbon, Antonio Bastardo, Ken Giles, Mario Hollands and winning pitcher Justin De Fratus—that kept the Phillies in the game.

“I think the bullpen is on a roll as a group,” said Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg. “They’ve found their niche in the game. We’ve got situational guys and they’re feeding off each other. Competition within themselves and they’re just all doing the job.”

Like a hot hockey goalie, the Phillies bullpen stood on its collective head against the Marlins for seven innings and allowed no runs on three hits. They have not allowed an earned run in 24 of their last 25 innings. (They have 0.72 earned-run- average in nine games since June 17). Since June 3, the Phillies relievers have an ERA of 1.10.

“It’s a good thing to see and it just shows the hard work they’ve put in,” said Phillies starting pitcher Cole Hamels.

Meanwhile, it was Utley’s first walk-off homer for the Phillies since 2006 when he did it against the Houston Astros. The Phillies second baseman had been struggling and was 1-for-10 for the homestand coming into Thursday night’s game. Utley was 3-for-7 with three runs batted in against the Marlins.

Utley was in an 0-2 hole after taking an off-balance swing at a pitch. He made up for it on the next pitch by knocking the ball into the seats in right field.

“Especially after that swing in the dirt and so it was good to see him regroup and get a pitch he can really handle,” said Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg. “He’s a grinder. Three RBI in the game, scrapped out a hit and the big shot at the end.”

With the exception of three solo homeruns to Giancarlo Stanton, Jarrod Satalamacchia and Marcell Ozuna, Hamels threw well enough to keep the Phillies in the game. He gave up six hits-three of which were not the long ball. He struck out seven with no walks in seven innings on the mound.

“It’s a situation when you get behind in the count, especially to all three of those hitters, they’re very good. They have power and when you make a mistake, they’re going to hit it a long way,” Hamels said. “When you don’t get ahead of hitters in general you put yourself in a bad situation.”

Hamels left the game in the top of the seventh down 3-2, but somehow his teammates got him off the hook for the loss when Domonic Brown scored from third when Marlins first baseman Jeff Baker mishandled a routine ground ball hit by shortstop Jimmy Rollins, who hustled down the line.

“Jimmy put the ball in play and hustling down to first base makes a difference there,” Sandberg said. “It was an open door and then we depended upon our bullpen and we used about all of it.”

The Marlins jumped on the scoreboard in their half of third when Satalamacchia belted a solo home run to the left field seats. Stanton homered in the fourth and Oduna hit one out in the seventh to give Miami a short-lived lead.

The Phillies scored their first two runs on a sacrifice fly by Carlos Ruiz that scored Utley. The Phils tied the game in the fifth inning on an RBI single by Utley that scored centerfielder Ben Revere.

 

An Inspiration to Youth: Karega Leaves Snider Foundation A Better Place

26 Jun

Tarasai Karega’s experiences as an African-American female collegiate hockey star has inspired inner city youth both on and off the ice.

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

 

For four years Tarasai Karega has been coaching young people and inspiring them to do well on the ice and in the classroom as a program coordinator with the Ed Snider Hockey Foundation. Submitted Photo.

For four years Tarasai Karega has been coaching young people and inspiring them to do well on the ice and in the classroom as a program coordinator with the Ed Snider Hockey Foundation. Submitted Photo.

PHILADELPHIA—Former collegiate hockey star Tarasai Karega knows all about believing in what some would say is an impossible dream.

In a world where young African-American girls aren’t supposed to aspire to play hockey, Karega not only accomplished that dream, she became an All-American who led Div. III Amherst to a national championship.

Because she had experienced the growing pains of being a hockey player of color, Karega was able to share the experience of learning a new sport during her time working with the mostly young Black and Latino youngsters that she worked with in the Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation at the Laura Sims Skating Rink on 63rd Street in West Philadelphia.

“There are a lot of times when a kid falls on the ice and says they can’t do it, she said. “I think of time when I wanted to give up and thought I couldn’t do it, but I had to keep pushing through because I had this dream that I wanted to achieve. A lot of times I see myself in the kids.”

As the program coordinator of the Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation since 2010, Karega has found her joy in watching a growing number of young people learn to love a sport that has taken her places she could have never imagined while her helping get her education.

“Personally it’s been a great opportunity for me to help kids learn to love the sport that I grew up loving and that has taken me all over the world,” Karega said. “It’s great to be able to share with them the love of hockey.”

Karega, who is working on her master degree in sports management at Temple, will be leaving the Ed Snider Foundation in July to pursue a career in that discipline. Her accomplishments at the Snider Center have included increasing the number of kids participating in the program and helping to oversee the rink’s transition from an outdoor facility to an indoor one.

Tina Sloan-Green is the president and founder of the Black Women in Sports Foundation, an organization that specializes in connecting young women with non-traditional sports. She applauded Karega’s ability to engage parents and staff in a sport that sometimes needs explanation.
“I think she was instrumental in getting parents and young people involved because ice hockey is a hard sell,” Green said. “She could relate to young people and their parents. (Karega) came in with a passion for her sport.”
In addition to her work with the children, Karega said her greatest joy has been watching the joy of parents whose kids are excelling on the ice as well as improving their grades in the classroom.

“When you see a parent get excited about their child scoring their first goal … Or getting excited about their child improving in school, I know that we, as a staff, have had some influence on them in some way through our homework help, through our tutoring services that we provide.

The kids are learning that academics are important,” she said. “It’s great to see the parents get happy about seeing their children succeed in the classroom and on the ice.”

Karega (wearing no. 13) knew how to put the puck in the net during his days at Amherst. She led the Lord Jeffs to a Div. III national championship. Submitted Photo.

Tarasai Karega (wearing no. 13 in white) knew how to put the puck in the net during his days at Amherst. She led the Lord Jeffs to a Div. III national championship. Submitted Photo.

Karega’s insight into the sport comes from her days a youth hockey player in Detroit. During her senior year at Cranbrook-Kingswood High School in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, she was voted Michigan’s Ms. Hockey and scored the game-winning goal in double overtime to lead her school to a state championship.

Playing for Div. III Amherst College, Karega scored 61 goals and 51 assists for 112 points in 110 games. She was a first-team All-New England Small College Athletic Conference as a sophomore and she helped lead Amherst to a national championship.

From the time she started playing youth hockey when she was nine, Karega heard all the name-calling and the cries of “Black girls aren’t supposed to play hockey!” While playing at Amherst, Karega said she got her share of extra-curricular big hits. She had a concussion during her senior year.

Instead of reacting to it with anger or the need for retaliation, Karega said her revenge was putting the puck in the net and excel on the ice.

“Yeah, I want to retaliate, I want to fight back, but increasing that score on the board is really hurting people in the long run,” Karega said with a smile. “Your play on the ice shuts people up.…putting pucks in the net is never a hindrance to any team.”

Green, who had eight girls from her program participating in the Snider Hockey program, said Karega did a good job of coaching the kids to be good teammates to help each other.

“The girls were able to be peer role models for each other and sometimes kids can learn better when they learn from their peers,” Green said.

“She brought a lot of enthusiasm and she was very personable with the kids and their parents,” said Donnell Hudson, a parent with two kids in the program. “(Karega) was good at getting the shy kids out of their shyness. She was about making it fun. … She is awesome.”

Karega said her favorite player was Detroit Red Wings Pavel Datsyuk because he played well without having to resort to fighting and being angry.

One of things that Karega hopes she has imparted to her kids, whether they become hockey player or lawyers, is to not let their anger get the best of them when they are facing adversity.
“It’s important that they learn to face challenges because life is a challenge, there’s no red carpet, there’s no booklet on how to live life without issues, racism or homophobia,” she said.

“I try to teach kids to think first and not lead with their emotions; to lead with their brains, so that they don’t regret things and someone would have learned something from them.”

 

Brown’s Fielding Miscue and Lack of Offense Doom Phillies in Loss to Miami

26 Jun

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Domonic Brown has been struggling at the plate and in the field. His misplay of a fly ball cost the Phillies in Wednesday's loss to the Miami Marlins. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Domonic Brown has been struggling at the plate and in the field. His misplay of a fly ball cost the Phillies in Wednesday’s loss to the Miami Marlins. Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA—It was one of those nights where the Phillies (35-42) could point to doing really well in couple of facets of their game, but found themselves faltering in others.

They got solid effort from their starting pitcher  and a solid effort from their bullpen. The usual suspects of not enough hitting and a bad mistake in the field sealed their doom in a 3-2 loss to the Miami Marlins in front of 23, 360 fans at Citizen’s Bank Park.

Starting pitcher A.J. Burnett didn’t have a bad night at all. He had eight strikeouts while allowing just five hits and three runs. But he had one bad inning that wasn’t exactly his fault.

With two on and two outs in the fourth inning, Miami leftfielder Marcel Ozuna hit should have been an easy fly ball to Domonic Brown in left. But the Phils outfielder over ran it and the ball ended up going to the left field wall to score Giancarlo Stanton from second.

That led Burnett giving up a two-run double to Jarrod Saltalamacchia to give the Marlins a 3-0 lead they had no business having in the first place.

To his credit, Brown didn’t hide from reporters in the training room or in the showers after the game, he took full responsibility for his blunder in the field.

“That’s a play I gotta make for my team,” Brown said. “That changed the whole game. I told A.J. I was sorry about it. But that play has to be made. It was a hard-hit line drive. I made a break in and that was definitely a big mistake. It was a low liner, I took a step in, but it was too late.”

Takeaway Brown’s blunder in the field, the Phillies might have come away with a 2-0 shutout, but that’s the maddening luck of a mediocre team that just can’t seem to get it together.

“If that ball’s caught right there, there’s no runs up on the board, it’s the third out,” said Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said. “A .J had enough stuff to throw a shutout the rest of the game.”

Meanwhile in a solid display of backing up your teammate when stuff hits the fan, Burnett said there was no need for Brown to apologize to him. He said he should have gotten Saltalamacchia, who was 1-for-15 against him with nine strikeouts before that at-bat.

“I felt like I should have picked (Brown) up the next at bat. That’s what we do. You pick each other up,” Burnett said. “If the pitch is a little bit low to (Saltalamachhia) and you pick (Brown) up. He plays hard, he comes in everyday and prepares and goes about his business. It’s not like he’s trying to miss balls out there. Plays like that happen you gotta pick your teammates up.”

On the offensive side, the Phillies had their shots. In the second inning, they had men on second and third with just one out, but could not score. With the bases loaded and one out, the Phillies could only get a sacrifice fly from Chase Utley that scored Ben Revere.

An RBI single by Brown scoring Marlon Byrd in the bottom of the sixth to cut the Marlins lead to 3-2. That’s as close as they would come.

Miami starting right-handed pitcher Henderson Alvarez wasn’t necessarily the second-coming of Cy Young or Walter Johnson, but he did well enough to keep the Phillies bats at bay. He allowed just two runs (one earned) on seven hits with three strikeouts and a pair of walks.