Thursday, April 29, 2010

Concern Over New Philly Newspaper Owners

At an auction conducted on Wednesday, the struggling and increasingly irrelevant Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News as well as their Internet arm "Philly.com" were all purchased by a group of creditors.

The new owners have quickly come under fire from the top politicians at both the Commonwealth and the City levels.

Governor Ed Rendell, the former 2-term Mayor of Philadelphia, voiced his concern that he believed that newspapers should  be owned by people from the area. He further stated "In the end, the newspaper is nothing if not the people who work for it. If you take that away, you take away it's soul."

Mayor Michael Nutter, the current Philly head honcho, called on the new owners to make their decisions on how to proceed with the operation of the papers "based on great journalism" rather than being overly concerned with the financial bottom line.

Both of these comments mask the actual concern of these two leading Democratic Party politicians. Their real primary concern is that with new ownership will come a basic change of direction in the editorial content and presentation of the two papers.

For decades, the Philadelphia Inquirer and even more overtly the Daily News have been outwardly liberal in their political and social commentaries and with the vast majority of their political endorsements. It is this liberal ideology as directed by Rendell and Nutter's Democrats that has demoralized Philly and reduced it to a shell of it's former greatness.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Tea Party Should Not Be A 'Third' Party

There has been a great deal of angst among the Lefty Lib community regarding the emergence over the past year or so of what has become known as the 'Tea Party' movement.

The liberals who now control the Democratic Party should be concerned, because they and their political leaders led by President Barrack Obama, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid have awoken a sleeping giant.

That sleeping giant is the true Conservative movement that the majority of Americans feel a natural affinity towards. The people who make up real main-stream America.

Hard-working, family-rearing, tax-paying, God-fearing, America-loving, law-abiding folks who want government out of their lives. Who recognize that low taxation, modest regulation, secure borders, and the teaching of and support for American exceptionalism are the true path to lasting recovery, not the socialist style policies of the Obama administration.

That sleeping giant has been embodied by the Tea Party.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

New York Red Bulls - 2, UNION -1 (Twice)

Twice within a short span of four days, the New York Red Bulls hosted and bested the expansion Philadelphia Union by the same scores of 2-1. Both games were held at New York's Red Bull Arena, with the first being an official MLS regular season match and the 2nd representing a play-in to the U.S. Open Cup tournament.

In the first match, the Union 11 again came out fast, as has been their habit in these early games of the franchise' history. They took the action to the Red Bull end, but couldn't bury the ball in the net, and then as the pace became more even the two clubs battled into a 0-0 tie at half.

As has also been the case, they again found themselves behind by a goal on the road when New York scored on a header just five minutes into the 2nd half. The Union continued to plug away, and just moments later they got the equalizer in a familiar fashion. Alejandro Moreno broke free in the Bulls end, slid a pass along the ground towards the goal, and a streaking Sebastien LeToux (pictured) tapped it in for his 4th goal to tie the score at 1-1.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, the Union downfall also came along in familiar fashion. A handball in their own end resulted in a penalty kick for the Red Bull's Juan Pablo Angel, who buried the shot to put New York on top 2-1. The Union were unable to get the equalizer, and thus dropped their 2nd straight road match thanks to a 2nd half penalty kick goal. The loss leaves the club with a 1-3-0 record in the early season.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Real American Hero: Brandon Darby

For the past couple of years I have written a semi-regular series of articles here titled "Real American Hero", all of the previous entries of which can be viewed by clicking on that 'label' at the bottom of this original post here at the http://www.mattveasey.com/ website.

Beginning with the very first article whose subject matter was Arizona Senator and former American POW John McCain, each of the entries has highlighted a hero from the American military. These were people who put their lives on the line, and in many instances laid down those lives, for their country. And except for McCain, every one of them was virtually anonymous outside of their own closest inner circle of family and friends.

But it is not just within the military that we can find individuals whose significant contributions have gone mostly unnoticed, and this article is going to begin the process of incorporating some of those civilian stories into the series as well. The story of Brandon Darby, a former radical leftist activist who openly called for the overthrow of the U.S. government turned Real American Hero, is a fitting one with which to begin.

Darby is a good ol' Texas boy who grew up to harbor and cultivate anti-government and anti-establishment feelings. He became an outspoken critic of fellow Texan George W. Bush during his presidency, in particular following Hurrican Katrina. It was in the relief response to the Katrina disaster in Louisiana that Darby began to come to some prominence.

As Matthew Vadum tells the story in Town Hall magazine, Darby used $50 of his own money to co-found the group 'Common Ground', a supposed relief agency that was in actuality a far-Left political activist organization that included a number of former Black Panther members. It was during and thanks to his experiences with this group that Darby's social and political viewpoint began to change and mature.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Toronto FC - 2, UNION - 1

After going almost two weeks between their first-ever match on the road in Seattle to their first-ever home match back in Philly, the Union took the pitch for the 2nd time in 5 days at Toronto.

The Toronto FC (football club) have one of the most rabid and supportive fan bases in all of MLS, and so for the 2nd time in their young history, the Union 11 were going to be in extremely hostile conditions on the road in front of almost 22,000 Toronto partisans.

The Union came out strong and confident, riding the high of their weekend home victory over D.C. United, and were generally dominating play against Toronto in the early going.

But the momentum and the ultimate outcome of the game all changed suddenly and dramatically. In the 34th minute, Union defender and team captain Danny Califf was handed a red card and tossed from the game for delivering what appeared to be an intentional elbow to the head of Toronto forward Julian de Guzman.

With Califf tossed from the game, the Union would be forced to play the rest of the match shorthanded by a man. That was bad enough, but also on the ensuing free kick Toronto's Dwayne De Rosario drilled a shot that overpowered Union goalie Chris Seitz, slipping through Seitz' hands and into the net for a 1-0 Toronto lead.

Things appeared pretty bleak for the Union at that point in the match being covered nationally on ESPN2. They were trailing 1-0 on the road in an extremely hostile arena and had to play shorthanded. But hope reared it's head again just before halftime.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

TV Watch: Breaking Bad

The AMC network, home to the best drama show on television in the award-winning 'Mad Men', has another major hit on their hands, one that I was personally just introduced to this year.

'Breaking Bad' just began the run of it's 3rd season, and the quirky human-interest drug-dealing drama is well worth anyone's time.

The show is based around the life of high school science teacher Walter White, a man whose intellect is well above his current position and pay grade. As played wonderfully by Bryan Cranston, White suffers a serious setback when he learns that he has cancer and does not have long to live. His wife, Skyler, played smartly by the beautiful Anna Gunn, turns up pregnant with what will be their 2nd child. Timing is everything.

Walt then makes a dramatic decision that will change thier lives forever, and will setup the story line. He decides that he is going to become a drug manufacturer, and cooks up a new brand of meth that is extremely high-quality. He hopes to make enough money from the distribution of the drug before he dies to setup his family financially after he is gone.

To that end, Walt solicits the help of one of his former students, Jesse Pinkman, played by Aaron Paul. Pinkman has a talent for both the science end, where he helps out Walt as his assistant 'cook', and as a dealer as well.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

UNION - 3, D.C. United - 2

Young Roger Torres has proven to be one of the most exciting players on the youngest team in Major League Soccer, and the 19-year old Philadelphia Union forward was a key player in setting up the first goal in franchise history. I was there, but thanks to Vice President Joe Biden, I didn't get to see it live.

My wife and I had purchased a pair of great tickets, just off mid-field on the west side of Lincoln Financial Field, in anticipation of seeing this Inaugural home match, the first for the new expansion Union in front of their home crowd in Philadelphia. Unfortunately for Deb, she got sick in the days leading up to the match, and was still sick on game day.

My eldest daughter, Christine, pinch-hit and accompanied me to the match, and we got to enjoy a nice dad-daughter evening at The Linc. Unfortunately it got off to a slow start. Even though we arrived more than a half hour before the scheduled kickoff and were able to quickly and luckily find a great parking slot despite the crush of fans, our progress into The Linc was halted at the front door, literally.

It turns out that U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden had been solicited by the club to kick-out the ceremonial 'first ball', and thus the security at the front gates was unbelievable. Every fan entering and ever bag they carried was searched and screened, making for a massive holdup at those gates. It took us about 40 minutes to get through the sea of humanity and make our way into The Linc.

As we began to trek around the concourse to our seats, we scanned the food and merchandise concessions, and just then heard the roar of the crowd inside. Torres had been awarded a 'corner kick', blasted the ball inside, and then taken a carom and quickly fed the ball to striker Sebastian LeToux who came streaking towards the goal and headed it home for that first-ever goal in Union history.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Goodbye, Donovan McNabb

There has been a battle brewing in my pro football-crazed town of Philadelphia over the past couple of football seasons. That battle has been over the fate and future of it's quarterback, Donovan McNabb.

Is McNabb good enough to lead the Eagles to a Super Bowl? Should McNabb be traded away?

The answer apparently came on Easter Sunday night when the Eagles traded McNabb to the division rival Washington Redskins for a pair of draft picks.

Some have been waiting for more than a decade for McNabb to stumble and fall. These were the Eagles fans infamously known as the 'Boo Birds', the fans who showed up for the NFL Draft in 1999 hoping and praying that their beloved Eagles would select running back Ricky Williams to lead them out of the wilderness of losing seasons that had befallen the team.

With the 2nd overall pick, Williams was there waiting for the Birds. But much to the chagrin of the rabid fan base, Commissioner Paul Tagliabue stepped to the podium and made this announcement:

"With the 2nd pick the Philadelphia Eagles select Donovan McNabb, quarterback, Syracuse University."

Never before has such a torrent of boisterous "boo" calls rained down upon an NFL Commissioner as the Eagles fans delivered on that infamous day. And that is saying a lot, considering the Draft is held in New York, rabid Jets fans show up regularly in numbers, and their team has made some awful picks over the years.

Monday, April 5, 2010

MLB 2010: Philadelphia Phillies

The Philadelphia Phillies returned to defend their World Series championship last season, marking the first time in the 126-year history of the franchise that the club appeared in back-to-back MLB championship series. And although the team fell two games shy of a repeat, the new 2010 season dawns with them once again as the favorites in the National League.

To actually make that 'favorite' status turn out to be a reality, to become the first National League team since the 1942-1944 St. Louis Cardinals pulled the trick during the years when talent was seriously reduced all across the Major Leagues during World War II, the Phils will have to navigate a mine field of tough opposition both in and out of their division.

First, the Phils faced a stiff test a year ago from both the improving Atlanta Braves and the always budget conscious Florida Marlins. Both of those clubs remain solid this year, and the Braves in particular look strong. They have a deep starting rotation, bullpen talent, some impact bats, and one of the best looking young offensive prospects in years in outfielder Jason Heyward. It would be an upset if Atlanta does not at least push the Phillies all season long, and contend for both the division and the Wildcard.

Around the rest of the National League, the St. Louis Cardinals, Milwaukee Brewers, Los Angeles Dodgers, San Francisco Giants, and Colorado Rockies lead the group of 7-8 teams who could emerge as serious threats for the pennant based on how they actually perform, whether they stay healthy, and what additions they might make during the course of the long season.

For the most part, however, there appear to me to be just two things that are likely to keep the Phils away from a 3rd straight trip to the World Series. Those two things would be injuries, which can crop up and add up and derail any team's promising season, and themselves. Better teams than these Phillies have self-destructed by not performing up to their overall talent levels during a particular season or playoff series.

The main place that the self-destruction could begin, the team's only apparent achilles heel entering the season, is in the bullpen. Closer and 2008's perfection hero Brad Lidge has started the season on the DL after off-season surgeries. Joining him on the DL to open the year is lefty setup man J.C. Romero. With former #2 bullpen lefty Scott Eyre having retired and last year's relief savior Chan Ho Park having left via free agency, the group that will try to nail down games at the end has plenty of questions to answer.

Can Ryan Madson hold down the closer duties with strong performances until Lidge returns, or in the long term if Lidge's injury issues linger? Will newcomer Danys Baez thrive and succeed in the primary righthanded setup role? Can young lefty Antonio Bastardo show that he is finally ready to claim a Major League job? Can aged veteran Jose Contreras squeeze one more solid season from his arm? Is Rule 5 find David Herndon for real and a keeper? The reliable Chad Durbin is back, a good thing. Getting both Lidge and Romero back sooner rather than later would be an excellent thing. Not getting them back at all, or later, or having them become constant injury problems would make for a season of tough spots.

The starting rotation is in much better shape than their bullpen counterparts. That rotation is now led by one of the best pitchers on the planet in righthander Roy Halladay, one of the biggest free agent signing in Phillies history. Halladay is that rarest of finds, a genuine ace with a track record of big success in the prime of his career. Everyone remembers how good Cliff Lee was last season, but few seem to remember that the Phils did not acquire him until August. They will have Halladay around this year from Day One, which makes them much better right off the bat.

Cole Hamels went from NLCS and World Series MVP, hero, and budding superstar legend to an enigma seemingly overnight. He came to camp last season on a World Series hangover that produced a combination of nagging injuries and mental funk from which he never fully emerged, showing only glimpses of his true talent. Still, a close look at his overall numbers show that he was not far off. He was much more focused and determined, and worked harder, this past winter. There is no reason, especially with Halladay now manning that #1 slot, that Hamels should not emerge as one of the best lefties in the game once again.

Joe Blanton is an underrated #3 starter who eats up innings and gives the Phils a chance to win every start out. Unfortunately he will start the year on the DL as well. Out 6-8 weeks, the Phils will have to make due short in their rotation until his return in late May. With last year's rookie sensation lefty J.A. Happ, ageless lefty Jamie Moyer, and born-again-hard Halladay protege Kyle Kendrick around the rotation should be at least capable of weathering that early challenge to it's depth.

The Phillies lineup is one of the 3-4 best in all of baseball from top to bottom. They have power, speed, clutch veterans, and now newcomer Placido Polanco gets dropped into the #2 hole in the order and adds in a bit of the one thing that has been largely missing - patience. Polanco was here before the playoff years, and now is back to take over at 3rd base from the great-glove, light-hitting Pedro Feliz. Polanco won a Gold Glove the last couple years at 2nd for Detroit, and so provides some depth in case of some flukey major (bite my tongue) injury to Chase Utley.

To Polanco's left in the shorstop hole, and directly in front of him in the batting order at leadoff is veteran spark plug Jimmy Rollins. The man affectionately known as 'JRoll' won the 2007 NL MVP Award and delivered once again in the clutch in last year's NLCS vs. the Dodgers with a now-legendary 9th inning, 2-out, 2-strike hit in Game #4. Jimmy has set goals of 50 steals and 150 runs scored. Those would be career highs and appear slightly out of reach, but I for one would never say that Rollins cannot do something that he sets his mind to accomplish. If he even approaches those numbers, it will be phenomenal. Look for a big year out of the Phillies shorstop.

2nd baseman Chase Utley is steadily building what could end up as a Hall of Fame resume. The #1 draft pick, 15th overall, in the Phils 2000 draft, Utley took over the starting 2nd base job in 2005 after platooning in '04. Since becoming the starter, an average season has produced a .300 batting average with 30 homeruns, 100 rbi, 110 runs scored, and 15 steals. He has received MVP votes each of those years, finishing in the top ten in voting 3 times. He has been an All-Star and won the Silver Slugger Award as the top offensive player at his position for 4 straight seasons. And going a step further, Utley has been acknowledged as a strong defensive player at 2nd base who has worked hard each year to get better there.

At 1st base, Ryan Howard seems like he has been smashing homeruns for a long time in the middle of the Phils batting order. However, 2010 will mark just his 5th full season as a starter. He was probably ready for a shot earlier in his career, but was blocked for a time by the imposing presence of Jim Thome at 1st base for the big league club. Since finally taking over the full-time duties for the 2006 season, Howard has put up an average season of 48 homeruns, 140 rbi, and 100 runs scored. He was the NL Rookie of the Year in 2005 when he wasn't even the starter all  season, then followed that up by winning the NL Most Valuable Player in 2006. He has finished in the top five in MVP voting each of his full seasons, and is a 2-time All-Star and a Silver Slugger winner at the toughest position to gain those honors. All that, and last year he finally took his conditioning seriously, lost weight, and made himself much better defensively.

In the outfield, the Phillies group received rare public acknowledgement of their individual accomplishments a year ago when all three starters, Raul Ibanez, Shane Victorino, and Jayson Werth were selected for the NL All-Star team. Ibanez started out his first season with the team by providing offensive fireworks for more than two months, carrying the club while some of the other stars struggled. Victorino, a fan favorite as "The Flyin' Hawaiian", provides speed, an emotional spark, and Gold Glove defense to centerfield. In right, Jayson Werth finally had a full, healthy season and proved that he could produce big time. He is currently in his contract year, and a decision on whether to re-sign him just as he may be emerging into stardom will be the Phillies management team's toughest decision in the coming months.

At catcher, the Phillies are blessed to have the steady Carlos Ruiz. The man affectionately known around the clubhouse and with the fans as "Chooch" has grown into a leadership role in handling the pitching staff as well as any catcher in the Majors. He has a strong, accurate throwing arm, and he stands up at his position defensively as well as anyone. He has also shown himself to be a clutch hitter at playoff time in the club's recent run of post-season success. Brian Schneider, a former Phillie-killer, has joined the club as an experienced, talented backup backstop who would be capable of stepping into the starting role with ease should anything happen to Ruiz.

The rest of the bench in addition to Schneider is improved over last season's bunch. Greg Dobbs and Ben Francisco return, providing a strong lefy/righty pinch-hitting tandem with pop in their bats and covering backup defensive duties at 3rd base, 1st base, and in the outfield. Juan Castro gives the Phils a solid option when they want to rest either Utley or Rollins in the middle infield. Ross Gload has been one of baseball's top pinch-hitters in recent years, and gives the Phils another proven left-handed option off the bench.

The Phillies largely cleaned out their minor league system during the last two years in order to bring in first Cliff Lee to help nail down last season's run to the pennant and World Series, and now Roy Halladay for the long term. Still, there is help down on the farm, and there are gems coming soon. Outfielder John Mayberry has shown that he is fully capable of holding down either a temporary starting role or a key bench role should the Phillies need him at some point. Pitchers Andrew Carpenter, Scott Mathieson, and Mike Zagurski, 1st baseman Andy Tracey, 3rd baseman Cody Ransom, outfielders Mayberry, Chris Duffy, and DeWayne Wise, catcher Paul Hoover, and infielder Wilson Valdez all have the type of AAA profile that could allow them an in-season promotion to help successfully fill-in the roster due to injuries. And top prospect outfielder Domonic Brown is the next Phillies offensive star-in-waiting, possibly ready by next season to take over a starting slot.

The manager has gone from buffoon to beloved, from a fish-out-of-water country hillbilly hick to a hometown fan favorite. Charlie Manuel was ready to be run out of town by the local radio talk show hosts and the fan base when the team suddenly surged past the slumping New York Mets and won a thrilling division race on the final day of the 2007 season. The club followed that up with just the 2nd World Series championship in it's history in 2008, and then returned to the Series a year ago, cementing 'Uncle Charlie' as a beloved character. Pitching coach Rich Dubee and hitting coach Milt Thompson are both Manuel loyalists and solid baseball men. Add in the maestro of the Phillies strong running game in 1st base coach Davey Lopes, and the Phils get outstanding instruction, leadership, and experience from their management team.

When you factor in everything that is important in putting together a championship baseball team: power, speed, pitching talent, maturity, leadership, strong defense, winning experience, steady management, committed ownership, and a rabid fan base the Phillies have it all. Again, they are the 3-time defending NL East champs, the 2-time defending NL pennant winners, and have been to the World Series in back-to-back seasons for the first time in franchise history. There is little that realistically appears to be standing between them and making those numbers read 4-time NL East champs, 3-time NL pennant winners, and 2-time World Series champions, and that is exactly what this fearless prognosticator believes will happen.

Friday, April 2, 2010

MLB 2010: National League

In nearly every major publication and from most every prognosticator you will find that the 3-time defending NL East winning, 2-time defending National League champion, and back-to-back World Series participant Philadelphia Phillies are considered the odds-on favorites to repeat at least where that eastern crown is concerned.

In fact, many have them again winning the NL pennant and advancing back to the Series, some predicting they will win.

An admitted lifelong Phillies fan, this absolutely prejudiced observer is calling it that way. Phillies to win their 4th straight NL East crown, 3rd straight National League pennant, and then a 2nd World Series title in 3 years.

Did you expect anything else from me under the current circumstances? However, it will be a struggle, there will be highs and lows, they will be pushed. I will cover the Phillies specifically in detail in my next article here in the coming days.

In that NL East race, the team that will push the Phillies the most this year will be...the Atlanta Braves. In fact, some might even find a reason to pick Atlanta to Tomahawk Chop their way back to the top of the division and unseat the Fightin's from their lofty perch.

Atlanta's rotation of Tim Hudson, Jair Jurrjens, Derek Lowe, Tommy Hanson & Kenshin Kawakami is talented and deep. The lineup is led by declining veteran and future Hall of Famer Chipper Jones and perhaps the best offensive catcher in the NL in Brian McCann.

However, the biggest reason that the Braves will challenge the Phils will be the play of tremendous rookie right fielder Jason Heyward. If you haven't heard of him yet, you will, and soon. Bobby Cox has a strong bullpen as well, and in his final season as manager he should push for a playoff spot.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

MLB 2010: American League

If there is one consistent in almost every single prognostication for the American League in the coming 2010 season it will be that the Yankees and Red Sox will finish 1-2 in some order in the AL East.

Almost every one, because you won't find that pick here. For the 2nd straight year my pick is for the Rays to win the East, and to advance back into the World Series for the 2nd time in 3 seasons.

In that AL East division race, Tampa will be able to matchup with the 'big boys' in New York and Boston with talented young pitching that I believe is primed to take a big step forward, a deep bullpen, and some exciting young hitters throughout the lineup.

Leading that rotation is underrated ace James Shields, just entering his prime at 28 years old and the senior member. Following him in order will be Matt Garza, Jeff Niemann, David Price and Wade Davis.

The Rays now have a legitimate closer in Rafael Soriano, and a quality setup man in Dan Wheeler. But they will be challenged at least early as lefty J.P. Howell battles injury.

The offense will feature 3rd baseman Evan Longoria and outfielder Carl Crawford, two of the best, most exciting all-around players in baseball. They will be supplemented by outfielder B.J. Upton, 1st baseman Carlos Pena, 2nd baseman Ben Zobrist, and shortstop Jason Bartlett.

I am picking that Yankees-Red Sox race as a dead-even battle right behind Tampa, with the 2nd place team here in the AL East becoming the Wild Card playoff club.