“It’s always darkest before the dawn.”
That might just describe the state of Philadelphia pro sports right now. With the Flyers (as of this writing on 2/4) mired in last place in the Atlantic division, the 76ers six games under .500 and out of the top 8 playoff spots, and the Phillies coming off an off-season in which they did not acquire a “big name” power bat, following a season in which they finished out of the playoffs and a very mediocre 81-81, it’s easy to be pessimistic.
Those are the bad numbers … now, let’s check out the other side.
First, the Fly Guys are currently just 2 points behind the Rangers and 3 points away from the last playoff berth with one of the most aggressive front offices in all of sports. You know they will make moves (for better or for worse) to try to ride the ship and improve some areas in need of strengthening, especially help on the power play. They’ve also had more than their share of injuries and you can hope that would balance itself out with other teams, especially with the very aggressive four-games a week schedule teams have to endure because of the lockout. And about that condensed schedule, it does make it easier for a quicker reversal-of-fortunes than in normal years. Given continued solid performances by Ilya Bryzgalov in the net, a “hot” week or two could give the Flyers a 10 to 12 point bounce which should calm the anxiety of some of South Philly’s most loyal fan base.
The Sixers, of course, have their big man Andrew Bynam soon to make his long-awaited debut in Philly. He will certainly need time to adjust to his teammates and the new offense, but maybe the team doesn’t need him as much as fans think—at least right now. They certainly need a reliable — and consistent — presence in the paint. But even at 10 to 14 minutes a game to start will help with the team’s depth up-front. I also think his return will light a much needed fire under some other members of the frontcourt (see Spencer Hawes & Lavoy Allen) that have shown flashes of solid play, but not on any kind of regular basis. The team has been gelling better of late with all the new pieces to this year’s team. If their play improves, it will allow Bynam time to get his legs back to as-good-as-its-going-to-be condition for the playoffs, at which time he will have to step and deliver his much need his in-close to the basket skills.
And for the Phillies, who open spring training on February 13th, it is true that Ruben Amaro Jr. spent less money this offseason than the majority of other teams in baseball. He did, however, address every need the Phils had, albeit with some very questionable players. But his moves give the Phils some extra depth that he didn’t have last year at this time. For example, if Dom Brown slips again going after a routine fly ball and breaks his wrist, John Mayberry again can’t establish plate discipline until July, or Delmon Young develops an affinity for Tony Luke’s cheese steaks, the team does have a young stud in Darin Ruff, just chomping at the bit for a chance to bring his big bat to the Bank. The Phillies also have a multitude of options for the bullpen—the candidates for the remaining roster spots NOW have some big league experience. And if all of the options for the corner outfielders and third base positions fall apart and/or if health issues once again crop up for Halladay, Utley and/or Howard, Amaro still has an ace card to play. The team is roughly 7-million under the cap, and the team didn’t go over the luxury tax in 2012, meaning the team can go over in ’13 and not be penalized too harshly. With free agents-to-be like Utley, Halladay, Ruiz and others coming off the books at the end of this season, it wouldn’t surprise me if a big addition would be made during the year, if the team needs one.
Do you think any of these teams and make run for the postseason, and which teams have the most upside? Post a comment on our blog here or email us at RCNSportsTalk@rcn.com and join us for the hottest local and national sports conversations live on Thursdays at 6pm on RCN-TV. Don’t forget, Villanova and LaSalle surprised us with some rays of sunshine over nationally ranked teams a few weeks ago. It isn’t that far out of the realm of possibility that the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies all make the playoffs this season…even if optimism’s not burning brightly here on these cold February nights.