The city of Philadelphia has already had a fantastic sports year and there’s no sign of a letup as major league baseball heads into the final two months. The city that started the year with a historic Super Bowl-Final Four parlay behind the Eagles and Villanova, is now watching the Phillies gain steam. The city’s baseball team has nudged out to a 2 ½ games in the NL East and is sneaking up on the Cubs for the best record in the National League.
Even better news for Philadelphia sports fans is that the most valuable commodity in baseball is driving the success—solid starting pitching. Aaron Nola is leading the way with a 12-3 record, a 2.42 ERA and has quietly stopped the NL Cy Young race from being a coronation for Max Scherzer. Indeed, ESPN’s Cy Young Predictor currently has Nola a narrow leader. I’ll admit I’m not sure what exactly a “Cy Young Predictor”, although I’m guessing it’s more complicated than my own “12 wins, 2.42 ERA and staff ace of a first-place team” rationale.
Nola is joined in the rotation by veteran Jake Arrieta and Zach Elfin, each with ERAs in the mid-3s, and this in a ballpark that decidedly favors hitters. If Nola, Arrieta and Elfin can continue performance like this in the postseason, that’s all the starting pitching you need to win in October. And I’m going to guess that if the Phillies play the Cubs, Arrieta might be pitching with just a little bit of a chip on his shoulder.
There’s still the question of actually getting to the postseason. Atlanta is close in the rearview mirror and the wild-card race in the National League is still extremely stacked. And there’s still time for the more talented Washington Nationals to break out of a season-long funk of mediocrity, although that’s not far from entering the area of “wishful thinking.”
Surviving these coming two months is going to depend on consistency. First-year manager Gabe Kapler is getting a bullpen slowly put together. Seranthony Dominguez has emerged as the closer. The 23-year-old Dominican has closed 10/11 save chances and is the kind of hard thrower that’s ideally suited to this role. On the other end of the career spectrum, 37-year-old Pat Neshek has gotten healthy and back on the mound this month and tossed nine scoreless innings. Victor Arano, with a 2.31 ERA is also giving Kapler quality work.
Offensively, the Phillies are a team that relies on drawing walks and hitting home runs to cover up an inability to generate consistent rallies. Or maybe that’s another way of saying that Carlos Santana is on their team. The former Cleveland Indian still has the knack for having an amazing batting eye, as his on-base percentage is .353 even as the batting average is just .215.
Second baseman Cesar Hernandez is developing a similar profile, with his .371 OBP being over a hundred points above the .266 batting average. I’m not sure why pitchers don’t just throw it down the chute and dare these guys to hit, but Santana’s been doing this so long that it’s clearly no fluke.
If I were a Phillies fan, I’d be concerned about the team’s poor performance in simply getting hits (12th in the NL in batting average) and driving the ball into the gaps (13th in doubles), but the home run production, led by Rhys Hoskins’ 20 and drawing the walks to support really good starting pitching is still a good one. Maybe even good enough to this second rendition of The Philadelphia Story going deep into October.
Remember the 2011 National League Division Series between the Phillies and Cardinals and the epic pitchers’ duel between the late Roy Halladay and Chris Carpenter? The Cards won that game 1-0 behind Carpenter and ended the Phillies’ 102-win season. Turns it out that was the last happy moment for the Phils. They haven’t had a winning season since and spent the last five years in complete irrelevance. But it looks like the dark years are over and a new era of winning is ahead.
Philadelphia is 27-19 and just a game and a half back of the Atlanta Braves in a four-team NL East logjam, as we approach the Memorial Day turn. Even better, this strong start looks for real, with the Phillies winning in sustainable fashion.
Starting pitching and patience at the plate are two good ingredients for success in the course of a long baseball season. Philadelphia has both. They rank second in the National League in drawing walks and are third in starting rotation ERA.
Two significant offseason veteran acquisitions could explain the change by themselves. Jake Arrieta was signed on the free agent market after the Cubs—and it seems the rest of major league baseball—decided he was finished. Instead, pitching in hitter-friendly Citizens’ Bank Park, Arrieta has posted a 2.82 ERA in his eight starts. On the offensive side, the Phils added Carlos Santana. A veteran of the recent playoff teams in Cleveland, Santana consistently covers up bad batting averages (.186 so far this year) with an amazing ability to get walks (.313 OBP).
The development of young players, both pitching and in the everyday lineup, have worked in tandem with the veteran upgrades. Aaron Nola has been the Phils’ best starting pitcher, with his 2.37 ERA. Nick Pivetta is throwing the ball well, with a 3.23 ERA in ten starts. Vince Velasquez is pitching respectably, with his 4.18 ERA good enough for the back end of the rotation.
Offensively, rightfielder Rhys Hoskins and second baseman Cesar Hernandez are following in the Santana mode of drawing their walks. If you see a player with an on-base percentage that’s 100 points over his batting average, you are looking at a player with exceptional knowledge of the strike zone. Hoskins’ spread is 146 (.373 to .237). Hernanedez’ spread is 111 (.388 to .277). In the bigger picture, it’s more important to hit than draw walks, but at this point in the season, I like to see a team showing patience—for the simple reason that patience doesn’t slump.
And if you want the position player who can simply drive the baseball? Let’s meet Odubel Herrera, coming into his own with a .345 batting average and .542 slugging percentage. Herrera has been one of the National League’s best offensive threats in the early part of this season.
The bullpen has been shaky and rookie manager Gabe Kapler did the right thing this past weekend in making a shuffle at closer. Hector Neris has been inconsistent, while Edubrary Ramos has been excellent. Ramos got his first save chance on Sunday and cashed it in. His ERA is a sparkling 0.96. At least stabilizing the ninth inning gives Kapler a foundation to put together the rest of his bullpen, currently lacking in depth.
Washington remains the top-heavy favorite to eventually pull away in this race and I won’t be the one to challenge that consensus wisdom. I will say this though—if the Nationals have an off-year, it’s the Phillies, rather than the Braves or Mets, who are the best bet to fill the void.
We’re now five weeks from the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, and a lot of teams are going to have some decisions to make. None more so than the Philadelphia Phillies, who have what are easily the game’s two best trade chips, in starting pitcher Cliff Lee and closer Jonathan Papelbon. The question is, are the Phils ready to throw in the towel?
To place this decision in context, let’s backtrack to the aftermath of the 2010 season. The Phillies had surprised the baseball world when they won the bidding for Lee, with a five-year $125 million contract. Lee joined with Cole Hamels and Roy Halladay that was major league baseball’s “Big Three”, the Phils’ version of the LeBron James/Chris Bosh/Dwayne Wade trio that would get together in Miami just a few weeks later.
A BIG THREE ERA GONE BAD
But the Phils have been less like the Miami Heat and more like the Boston Celtics, if we want to use NBA equivalencies. Philadelphia has turned into a team that is obviously aging, obviously needing a youth movement, yet has just enough talent and does just enough to tease you into keeping the band together. They won 102 games in 2011, but were upset in the Division Series by the St. Louis Cardinals. Then the Phils endured a lousy four months last season and were at least persuaded to deal off Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence. But a September surge put them in the playoff race for a brief while and created the illusion of respectability.
Philadelphia then went out and added Michael Young to play third base. Given that Young was no longer deemed worthy of playing the field when he was in Texas, this was not exactly a decision that involved getting younger. Still, the Phillies had talent and above all they still had the Big Three. I liked them enough in March topick them to reach the playoffs as a wild-card.
The Phils are instead 36-40, 7 ½ games off the pace in the NL East and 8 ½ back in the wild-card race. Those are not insurmountable deficits if you believe in this team, and believe its worthwhile keeping the veterans on hand to take a shot at it. Are they worthy of this confidence? Let’s take a closer look.
A POPGUN OFFENSE
When this current era of the Phillies began, basically in 2005—they made a strong push for the wild-card that season—this team was built on its offensive firepower. Those days are long gone, replaced by a pitching-first roster, but even a staff with aces can’t compensate for an offense that’s this woeful. Philadelphia is 12th in the National League in runs scored in spite of playing in a hitter-friendly environment at Citizen’s Bank Park. And their ability to generate baserunners consistently is even worse.
If we use .340 as a baseline as a reasonably good on-base percentage—a figure that I consider generous—and you add up the number of Phillie regulars who exceed it, you get exactly one. That would be Young. To be fair, Ryan Howard is close, at .335, but up and down this lineup are players who are awful at the basic task of getting themselves to first base on a consistent basis.
Ben Revere and John Mayberry are each at .310 or lower, Chase Utley muddled along at .326 until he got hurt (the veteran second baseman returned this past Friday), and Jimmy Rollins is also at .326. Even Domonic Brown, whose power has been one of this team’s really good offensive stories, has a lousy .321 on-base percentage. Yesterday on Baseball Tonight’s extended show during the Texas-St. Louis rain delay, analyst and former manager Manny Acta spoke about players who hit home runs but lack the plate discipline necessary to get respectable OBPs. Acta didn’t name names—he was talking in the context of Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera, who is the exact opposite—but Acta’s tone made it clear he looked at the high HR/low OBP players the same way TheSportsNotebook does—as sound and fury signifying very little.
To be fair to Brown, the last month has seen him become a genuinely more complete offensive player. His OBP is a spiffy .360 over the past thirty days, and he’s also hit 11 of his 19 home runs in that timeframe. Howard is also hot, with a stat line of .398 OBP and .582 slugging. Rollins’ last-month OBP is .357, although his track record of being a low-efficiency offensive player suggests this is just a mirage.
On balance, the Phils are not going to score runs and they’re going to have find ways to win games by scores like 4-3 and 3-2. They might want to trade notes with the NHL’s Boston Bruins, who have to do the same thing against the Chicago Blackhawks tonight if they want to avoid watching Chicago hoist the Stanley Cup in Boston Garden.
PROBLEMS WITH THE PITCHING
The offensive woes are disappointing, but not surprising. The pitching is different—it’s been terrible, symbolized by Roy Halladay first getting hit hard, then having to go to the disabled list until at least the end of August. Hamels has made 16 starts, has a woeful 2-11 record and with a 4.50 ERA, he can’t even blame the lack of support. Lee is the only one of the original Big Three still pitching well, with a 2.53 ERA in 15 starts, good for a 9-2 record. To continue our cross-sports analogies, Lee is LeBron, Halladay is Wade (the injured star) and Hamels is Bosh (no excuses for incompetence). Unfortunately, baseball doesn’t allow Lee to touch the ball on every possession the way hoops does.
Philadelphia has gotten some good work from Kyle Kendrick, a 3.56 ERA in 16 starts, and young Jonathan Petitbone has been pretty good with his 4.14 ERA in 12 trips to the post. The fact Petitbone is young and developing makes it even more promising. Tyler Cloyd, another young arm, made six starts and posted a 3.41 ERA. For reasons I’m not sure of, the organization sent him back to the minors earlier this month. When your rotation is struggling, and you need youth, why you ship out a young starter who pitches well is a mystery to me.
As troubled as the rotation has been—10th in the National League—the bullpen is even worse, as Phillie relievers have built the worst composite ERA in the NL. Papelbon has been pretty good—he’s blown three saves, but still has closed 14 and has a 2.20 ERA. Antonio Bastardo also looks good, and Justin De Frautus has obvious promise. But veteran Mike Adams was first so-so, with a 3.96 ERA and has hit the disabled list until early July.
The De Frautus-Bastardo to Papelbon combo might work in a short playoff series, but that’s not nearly enough depth to go for the long haul. The organization called up young Jake Diekman, who has looked good in his first five appearances, so we’ll see if that provides a jolt to this troubled relief corps.
IS THERE HOPE?
The answer to this question is yes. I still believe Hamels will turn things around, I think #5 starter John Lannan—a lot of DL time and a 5.84 ERA in his five starts—will pitch better now that he’s healthy. I expect manager Charlie Manuel to figure out a way to improve the bullpen, and if you get Adams back and Diekman panning out, this unit could go from being really bad, to looking pretty good. I further like the fact that Brown’s offensive game has been so much more complete, and I think Howard’s recent hot streak is a sign of good things to come. Philadelphia can at least narrow those 7 ½ game and 8 ½ game deficits they face in the NL East and wild-card.
But the bigger question is this—is it worth it? There are just way too many past-prime veterans to assume this team will stay healthy consistently. Even if you can get in the race by the end of August, can Halladay pitch well enough to get you over the top. Furthermore, is there a reason the Phils should sell out the future to win now?
The latter question is the big one. This is a fan base that has enjoyed a World Series title as recently as five years ago and another trip to the Fall Classic the year after that. There have been several playoff appearances. It’s not like they’re Baltimore, an hour down I-95, where fans are starving and the organization might need to take some chances.
My criteria would be this—if Philadelphia perceives a genuine chance to win the NL East, then it’s still worth a shot. But a wild-card, where all you are guaranteed is one game? Then I’d probably throw in the towel, call the era over and deal both Lee and Papelbon for what will be a motherlode of young talent, in addition to clearing significant salary off the books for future investment.
That’s the criteria, so what then is the decision? I’m not optimistic. I think the Phils missed their chance to take advantage of Washington’s early struggles and thinking Philly could both catch the Atlanta and still fight off Washington is a lot to ask. The front office doesn’t have to decide until mid-July at the earliest, and possibly later. But if I’m a Phillie fan, I’m shifting my mindset to rebuild mode.
AROUND THE NL EAST
Atlanta: The Braves’ lead is still six games, but Brandon Beachy had to return to the disabled list as quickly as he went on it. Would the Phils consider dealing Lee within the division? Would the Braves do the same with their prospects? Probably not, but there’s no doubt this two teams match each other as trade partners.
Washington: TheSportsNotebook featured Washington in MLB coverage a couple weeks ago, and at 37-38, the outlook hasn’t changed. This team has to hit better, but Bryce Harper starts his rehab this week and the pitching still suggests a big move is ahead.
NY Mets: At 30-42, this team is quietly one of the senior circuit’s bigger disappointments. The bullpen, closing only 56 percent of its save chances (the league average is two-thirds) is one of several culprits.
Miami: The Marlins are 25-50. Let’s just say the city of Miami is not going to replicate the feat of Los Angeles in 2002, the last city to claim both the NBA title and World Series crown in the same year.
The Philadelphia Phillies are digging themselves an early hole. The Phils have lost 14 of their first 24 games coming into Saturday, and this in a division that promises very little margin for error. Philly is six games out, with three teams ahead of them—and Washington hasn’t really started to click yet.
Last year the Phils were one of the game’s big disappointments. Expectations weren’t as high this year, but this was still supposed to be a contender. What the problem is and whether it’s going to turnaround is our topic on in today’s National League MLB coverage.
Philadelphia’s problems are threefold…
Star pitchers are not pitching like it
Anyone not named Chase Utley is flailing helplessly at the plate
Bullpen depth is lacking
I’m going to start with the last problem, simply because it does look to be the most short-term. Jonathan Papelbon has closed all four save chances at a 2.25 ERA and Antonio Bastardo is off to a very good start, with a buck-08 ERA. Philadelphia’s going to need at least two more arms to really become reliable, and I think they can reasonably count on Mike Adams to be one of them. A proven eighth-inning man, Adams hasn’t been terrible—4.00 ERA—and can easily get hot.
Whether this area of the team can be really deep depends on the immediate and drastic improvement from a several other young pitchers, but at the very least they should have a Bastardo-Adams-Papelbon tag team to rely on most nights. If the Phillies fail to turn their season around it’s unlikely to be the bullpen’s fault.
It’s also unlikely to be the fault of the starting pitching, but there’s no getting around the staff of aces deserves a load of the blame for poor April play. Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels each have ERAs a bit over 5 and newly acquired John Lannan was first terrible, then hit the disabled list until June.
Cliff Lee, after a slow start a year ago when he didn’t win a game until June, is pitching well, with a 3.03 ERA and has a couple victories. Kyle Kendrick is also throwing the ball very well. The importance of the latter can’t be underestimated. Halladay and Hamels are going to turn it around—in fact both have already shown signs of life in the latter part of this month, and if Kendrick stays as a solid fourth starter, Philadelphia will be well-poised for some long winning streaks.
But while pitching may be the most important part of the game, it’s not everything and the offense is just not getting the job done. While Utley is having a comeback year (.355 on-base percentage/.529 slugging percentage), the rest of the lineup is having problems. Ryan Howard has hit four home runs, but done little else. Michael Young has a solid .393 on-base percentage, but that can’t make up for the ineptness provided by Jimmy Rollins, Ben Revere and Dominic Brown.
Brown, a young rightfielder who’s had great minor league reviews but little in the way of major league production, is behind the eight-ball in his first shot at regular playing time. Rollins has done next to nothing since his MVP year of 2007—a year he was still overrated—and is one of the most overrated position players in baseball. Revere won deserved praise for his classy “Pray For Boston” inscription inside his glove the night of the Marathon bombing. On the less important—but more pertinent for the sake of this article—topic of his offensive production, it just hasn’t been there.
Philadelphia is tied for 10th in the National League in runs scored and I don’t see any reason to expect significant improvement. The return of Carlos Ruiz from a suspension—expected tomorrow—will help, but it’s not as though Ruiz is going to turn this into an offense that’s even in the top half of the NL. That’s going to take someone like a Revere or a Brown catching fire and really setting the table, and I’m not optimistic that will happen.
Thus, the question becomes whether the Phils will compete with a subpar offense. As long it stays “subpar” and doesn’t descend into “atrocious”, I think the answer is yes. The starting pitching is already getting better and if they can get Lannan healthy that will add to the depth come summertime. What we don’t know is what kind of shape Philadelphia will be in the standings. Last year they caught fire in the final six weeks but had too big a deficit to make up. The hole certainly isn’t that deep yet, but the slow start means Philadelphia does have to play with some urgency.
SEPARATING THEMSELVES FROM THE PACK
Most of the National League is teams packed up against one another, but each division has seen one team separate itself in the wrong direction. I don’t think anyone was expecting Miami, the Chicago Cubs or San Diego to seriously contend, and the first four weeks of the season have confirmed that.
Rather than pile on these teams—their opponents are doing plenty of that already—let’s single out some positives on each cellar-dwellar.
*Miami starting pitcher Kevin Slowey has a 2.43 ERA in five starts and the former Twins hurler could be rejuvenating his career in South Beach.
*Chicago’s actually gotten good starting pitching overall. Their third in the National League in ERA, and the two biggest reasons are Carlos Villanueva and Travis Wood. Each pitcher has made four starts, with ERAs of 1.53 and 2.08 respectively.
*San Diego’s Chris Denorfia is swinging a good bat, with a. 380/.462 stat line in a park where numbers are tough to come by.
I won’t say that the city of Philadelphia is having the roughest stretch of any American sports city—as long as Cleveland and Kansas City exist, that’s a tough honor to claim. But Philadelphia fans can, at the very least, credibly claim to be the most victimized by high expectations of late. This was a city that was supposed to compete for a World Series and Super Bowl in 2012, and expected to have good teams across the board. Instead, their teams tanked. It’s in that context that TheSportsNotebook is going to start its MLB coverage—we’re going to take a look at the Phillies chances for 2013 in light of what this city’s fans have endured.
Let’s lay the groundwork. At this time last year, expectations were sky-high for the Phils. They had an Over/Under win projection in Las Vegas of 92.5—considering oddsmakers are notoriously conservative, this is a very high number and it was accompanied by the team being a 3-1 favorite to win the Series. Instead, Philadelphia watched its baseball team finish 81-81. It was the first non-playoff season since 2006 and the first non-winning season since 2002.
At the very least, the Phils made a noble run at salvaging their year. Even after trade deadline deals to get rid of Hunter Pence and Shane Victorino, the team caught fire and was able to reach .500 and for a few brief days at the end of the season seemed to have a shot at the playoffs. That was more than could be said for the Eagles—when the NFL team went in the tank, they went all-out. A team that had a Vegas expectation of 10 wins, was considered the slight favorite in the NFC East—over the previous year’s Super Bowl champs no less—and rated right behind Green Bay in the NFC overall, ended up 4-12 and saw their longtime head coach shipped out of town.
Now let’s go to basketball. The 76ers injected themselves into the multi-team Dwight Howard trade and got center Andrew Bynum from the Lakers. With two championship rings, Bynum was expected to make Philly a favorite in the Atlantic Division this year and a good bet to reach the conference finals against Miami. The Over/Under number on wins was 47. How’s it worked out? Bynum hasn’t played a minute this season, the team is well out of the playoff hunt and is on a pace for 32-50.
The failings of the Phillies, Eagles and 76ers define the past year, but there’s other pinpricks of misery. The Flyers lost in the playoffs to the rival New Jersey Devils. At least the hockey team beat Pittsburgh to start the postseason. College basketball in 2012 was a disaster—Villanova was off the map entirely, Temple had a decent year, but was bounced in the first round of the NCAA Tournament and no one else in the city’s famed Big Five (LaSalle, St. Joseph’s, Penn included) was a factor.
And college football? The prominent team in the Philadelphia market was Penn State. Let’s just say that the past year-plus has been forgettable on that count.
Thus, we come full circle and get ready for the Phillies to take the field in 2013. The expectations are a little tamer this time around, with a win expectation of 84.5 and the Washington Nationals being all the rage in the NL East. Have we now gone to the other extreme and started dismissing the Phils too quickly?
Philadelphia, when healthy, is still a tough team to handle. Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels anchor the rotation. Ryan Howard and Chase Utley, who missed most of last year, are each ready to go. Michael Young has been brought in from Texas, and Jimmy Rollins still holds down the shortstop position. The outfield is filled with young legs, including fresh acquisitions in Ben Revere to play center and last year’s ALCS MVP Delmon Young to play right. Closer Jonathan Papelbon had his best year since 2009, and the setup core has a nice balance of veterans and young arms, all anchored by eighth-inning guru Mike Adams.
We can further build the positive spin by noting that Hamels has pitched 200+ innings in four of the last five seasons and the one year he missed, he threw 193. His ERAs have mostly averaged out in the very low 3s. Halladay had a rough year last year, including extended time on the disabled list, but he’s only a year removed from pitching at a Cy Young level. Lee had horrible luck, explaining his six wins, but his ERA was s respectable 3.16. Then add in that 28-year-old Kyle Kendrick might have put it together when he delivered a 3.90 ERA in 25 starts, more than acceptable for a fourth starter. And I really like the pickup of John Lannan at the back end of the rotation. The one-time Nationals lefty was hurt last year and just got lost in the shuffle, but he’s only 28 and he’s a good ground-ball pitcher, ideal for a hitter-friendly environment like Citizen’s Bank Park.
When you look at the outfield, you see the 25-year-old Revere, who stepped it up to hit .294 in Minnesota. While his plate discipline wasn’t ideal, that’s normal for a young player and Revere has already said he wants to start drawing more walks. If he does it without losing his aggressiveness, Philly could have themselves a nice leadoff hitter. Utley swung the bat well when he returned and if he gets his game back to pre-2011 levels, Philadelphia has another big asset to the lineup. And Howard continues to hit home runs,
Now let’s give this same team a less-friendly spin. It’s all well and good to talk about health, but let’s consider that catcher Carlos Ruiz is 34, Howard is 33, Utley and Rollins are each 34, Young is 36, Halladay is 35 and Lee is 34. Is it realistic to consider good health all year even a possibility?
Let’s further add that even if you throw out last year, Howard has still declined two years in a row. He still hits home runs, but the rest of his offensive game is coming down and he’s in danger of becoming the Alfonso Soriano of the NL East—essentially, a player who’s useless except for the 30 at-bats a year when he hits it out. Ruiz had a surprising increase in power last year, with his slugging percentage shooting up to .540 after never being in that neighborhood. You have to think he’s coming down to earth, unless there were some…ahem, some medically-induced reasons for a thirtysomething catcher to suddenly find a power stroke. We should also note that in either case Ruiz is suspended until April 28.
As for Rollins, he hasn’t been productive since his halcyon years of 2007-08, when he won an MVP and keyed a World Series champ in consecutive years—and even those years were overrated. Michael Young declined sharply last year and was a non-factor in Texas. Delmon Young, the other new toy in right field, hasn’t had a good year since 2010. As to his ALCS MVP honor, if you watched that Tigers-Yankees series, it was apparent that any hitter who could get multiple hits for the series was going to win the MVP. Nobody did anything at the plate and because it was a four-game sweep no pitcher could get two wins. Suffice it to say, I’m less than impressed. At least he’s only 27.
So where is the truth for the 2013 Phils? I think the hope for this team is to stay healthy enough to get in the high 80s for wins, maybe get to 90 and sneak into the wild-card game at full health. This is the most secure team in baseball for a one-game shot thanks to their starting pitching and if they get into the divisional round with everyone healthy, then watch out. But I don’t see them keeping everyone on the field together often enough to win a competitive division.
In either case, the long Narnian winter for Philadelphia sports is starting to melt. Temple, LaSalle and Villanova all look to be in position to make the NCAA Tournament. And I’ll take the Phils to go Over 84.5 on their Las Vegas win total.