The 76ers and Flyers have been in the news lately, even though neither has played a game in more than a month. And even though the Phillies are in the middle of their season, they’ve been making as much news off the field as on it.
We’re talking about what baseball people call the Hot Stove League – conjecture and debate over personnel moves, whether it be a draft pick, a trade or a free agent signing.
For a lot of fans, the Hot Stove League is more fun that the real thing, which is why the NFL draft draws monster television ratings and why the internet is bombarded with mock drafts when that time of the year rolls around. It’s also the reason millions of people play in fantasy leagues.
So, it’s fun to talk about that stuff, even if we don’t really know what we’re talking about. And with that in mind, here is some unsolicited advice for the three Philadelphia professional teams as they ponder personnel moves:
The Flyers are historically the most active team in the Delaware Valley when it comes to wheeling and dealing, which is why Flyers fans were hugging themselves over the possibility their team would sign three prime free agents – forward Zach Parese and defensemen Ryan Suter and Matt Carle. In fact, the Comcast network ran a poll asking fans if they’d rather sign Parese or Suter or Carle or all three and, not surprisingly, “all three’’ won in a landslide. Well, they ended up signing none of them – Parese and Suter signed with the Minnesota Wild and Carle with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
But that might actually be a good thing. It seems like the Flyers have a new team every year and they might be better off sticking with what they have, which isn’t too bad – they finished the 2011-12 season with 103 points, sixth most in the league, and advanced to the Eastern Conference semifinals, beating the Pittsburgh Penguins before losing to the New Jersey Devils. Give the Flyers players a chance to get to know each other better, give some injured players a chance to heal and give goalie Ilia Bryzgalov a chance to live up to the big-bucks contract he signed last year and then see what happens.
Like they say, sometimes the best moves are the ones you don’t make and that could be the case with the Flyers.
It’s different for the 76ers – they simply can’t stand pat. The Sixers’ dominoes started to fall during last week’s NBA draft when they selected a small forward (Maurice Harkless of St. John’s) and a power forward (Arnett Moultrie of Mississippi State). Then they re-signed center Spencer Hawes, which added to the speculation that swingman Andre Iguodala will finally be traded for the scoring punch this team needs so badly.
We’re on record as saying the Sixers should keep Iguodala and trade point guard Jrue Holiday because Iguodala is a defensive ace who can cover the best players in the game and Holiday doesn’t do a good job running the offense, which is the point guard’s main job. But even though all signs point to Iguodala leaving, nobody knows what the Sixers’ brain trust is cooking up. They know they have to do something significant to upgrade their roster and excite their fan base and it will be interesting to see in which direction they go from here.
And that brings us to the most successful Philadelphia sports team of the last decade, but a team that is now in last place in its division just one year after setting a franchise record for victories.
Most of the conjecture swirling around the Phillies is about pitcher Cole Hamels, who will become a free agent next year and, as one of the top lefthanders in the game, command top dollar on the open market. Many fans feel this season is already a lost one and the Phillies would be better off trading Hamels for a solid everyday player and then use the money they saved on another prize free agent. After all, even without Hamels the Phillies have a solid one-two punch with Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee, two pitchers who have something Hamels does not – a Cy Young Award.
But Hamels has something neither Halladay or Lee has – a World Series ring, not to mention a World Series MVP trophy. Plus Hamels is just 28 and reaching his prime, whereas Halladay is 35 and Lee will be 34 next month and Halladay has already missed a month of the season with a back-shoulder injury.
If anything, we’d rather see the Phils deal Halladay or Lee and keep Hamels. Of course, the Phillies should keep all three of them, especially since this is a team that tends to struggle on offense and needs all the aces they can get.
Contact Kevin Noonan at firstname.lastname@example.org.