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Saturday, January 16, 2021

Sixers and Phillies Following the Same Road to Respectability

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Kevin Noonan
Kevin Noonan
Kevin Noonan has covered and commented on the Delaware sports scene for more than 30 years, everything from amateur recreation leagues and high schools to local colleges and the Philadelphia professional teams. He’s been voted Delaware Sportswriter of the Year multiple times and currently covers the Philadelphia Eagles for CBSSports.com and teaches creative writing courses at Wilmington University.

The 76ers have made a lot of hay off of the phrase “trust the process,” but they’re not the only local professional sports team that is in the middle of a long and often painful process. And the Phillies’ process is very similar to the Sixers’, even though it hasn’t gotten nearly as much attention. 

Phillies official workout out in Clearwater, Florida

The one thing the two initially shared, of course, is the reason they needed a process – they were both really, really bad. For a while, the Sixers and Phillies were the two worst teams in their respective sports and their rosters were filled with a bunch of players we didn’t care about and certainly weren’t going to pay money to watch. Interest in those two teams was at all-time lows and both the arena and the park had more empty seats than filled ones. The worst thing possible had happened – nobody cared anymore. The fans didn’t even boo because it wasn’t worth their breath. 

Now, finally, some of the rewards of the process are being realized by both teams. The Sixers have already built their foundation, which is mostly center Joel Embiid and forward Ben Simmons (assuming they can stay healthy), and once more people are packing the place to watch them play. 

For the Phillies, their foundation is their starting pitching and they have what appears to be a set rotation filled with good young pitchers with unlimited potential. Potential, of course, is the key word, and there are no guarantees that all or any of the Phillies’ current pitchers will live up to it. On the other hand, many of the guys manning the rotation the past three years were has-beens or never-weres, so at least now there’s hope – again, assuming everybody can stay healthy. 

That rotation has some strong young arms that are attached to Aaron Nola, Vince Velasquez and Jerad Eickhoff. And just like the Sixers acquired veterans like Ersan Ilysova and Gerald Henderson for their experience and leadership, the Phillies have two veteran pitchers – Clay Buchholz and Jeremy Hellickson – to show the young guys how to be big-league players.

There are other similarities. The Sixers’ offense centers around young dynamic players like Embiid, Simmons and Dario Saric, and the Phillies’ offense relies heavily on young, dynamic players like Maikel Franco, Cesar Hernandez and Odubel Herrera.

Another thing – for both teams, part of the process is still developing. The Sixers still have draft picks stockpiled for the future and the Phillies have young stars like outfielder Nick Williams and shortstop J.P. Crawford waiting in the wings in the minor leagues.

Finally, both teams have iron-jawed leaders who are both player and media friendly – Sixers coach Brett Brown and Phillies manager Pete Mackanin. They had to deal with the bad times and if justice is served, they’ll still be around when their teams are finally contenders again.

So, it’s time for these teams to show marked improvement, and the Sixers already have. They’re not about to make a run at a championship or even a playoff berth, but they’ve taken purposeful strides in the right direction this season and they’ve been fun to watch even when Imbiid doesn’t play. Once again, they are relevant.

The Phillies have added enough talent this offseason, and their young players have added enough experience, for them to take a similar step this season. Nobody expects them to challenge the Washington Nationals for the NL East flag (besides, we’re having too much fun watching the Nationals choke in the playoffs), but they should be competitive, and for a team that averaged 93 losses over the last three seasons, that would be enough.

Sixers and Phillies fans have trusted the process long enough. Now it’s time for the process to give something back to them.


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Latest News

New photo page, Delaware Community Lens, will celebrate First State

'There's enough places to on social media and the internet that are not positive places. This is meant to be a respite.'

Meet ‘The Wilmington:’ A liquid ode to Delaware’s largest city

The new cocktail uses gin, peach-infused simple syrup, lemon and cinnamon.

Carney activates National Guard to help with inauguration events in Delaware

The Executive Order said protests are planned in Wilmington, Dover and at the Delaware Capitol.
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