Billy Vargus discusses the Phillies, Flyers, and Eagles Draft



It’s sort of like a three-headed monster, except that this monster is good. 


It’s sort of like a three-headed monster, except that this monster is good. 

On the same night, the Phillies got a strong pitching performance from Jamie Moyer, the Eagles traded up to get an impact pass rusher (Brandon Graham) in the 1st round of the draft, and the Flyers stole everyone’s thunder by winning their first-round playoff series against New Jersey.  The Flyers, not the Phillies, are suddenly the hottest team in town. Who would’ve thought, even a week ago, that the Flyers would take a commanding lead in the playoffs at the very same moment the Phillies were blowing a 9th inning lead on their way to their third straight loss.

No one could have foreseen this on April 11th, when the Flyers were facing possible elimination from playoff contention in their final game of the season. The Phillies, meanwhile, had started the season with four wins in five games, and looked like a team that was flawless. It helped that the Phillies opened the season against the team with the worst record in baseball last year (Washington), then went up against the team that is tied for the worst record in the National League this year (Houston.)

However, it was virtually at the same moment Tuesday night that the clock expired at the Wachovia center,Ryan Madson continues to struggle in the closers role. Photo: giving the Flyers their 3-games-to-1 playoff series lead while Ryan Madson  served up a 9th inning homer to Troy Glaus when the Phils were just one out away from sealing up a shutout victory. When Madson then served up a game-tying homer to Jason Heyward, it cemented concerns about the Phillies bullpen, and established this—Ryan Madson just can’t cut it as a closer. It’s become clear that if Brad Lidge returns to the team but doesn’t also return to his old form, the Phils will have a huge hole to fill, and Madson can’t do it.

Check out these numbers; in non-save situations over the last two years, Madson has an ERA of 2.84. But in closing situations, his ERA is 6.00. He blew 6 saves last year in 16 chances. Tuesday’s blown save was his first of 2010 after successfully converting his first three opportunities. Just like so many of last year’s meltdowns, it involved giving up a homerun or homeruns.

It’s not like the Phils have many other options. Danys Baez hasn’t shown anything so far, giving up 4 runs in 4 2/3 innings. Jose Contreras, who impressed several of the writers who watched him work out in Florida during spring training, has had a good start; but since Jose followed Madson on Tuesday and gave up the homer to Nate McLouth in the 10th that won the game for the Braves, you wonder if he’s any better at handling the pressure.

The Phils’ best lefty reliever, J.C. Romero, is back from the DL, but he’s pitched only 17 innings since 2008, and given that he averaged 7 walks per 9 innings when he did pitch last year, I’m wondering if he’ll be able to find home plate at all.  So there are suddenly a lot of question marks about the pitching.

Of course, there are two pieces of good news: 1) the dominating performance of Kyle Kendrick, who erased the memory of two previous poor outings by throwing eight shutout innings before Madson and Contreras blew it. 2) The even more dominating performance of Roy Halladay the following night, with nine innings of shutout baseball. Halladay is everything the Phillies hoped for when they traded three prospects to get him—a true stopper who puts an end to 3-game losing streaks by insuring the other team doesn’t score. 3) Jamie Moyer pitched his best game of the year on Thursday.  Also, the Phillies scored eight runs for Moyer, ending a four game drought in which they averaged just 1.4 runs per game. 

Part of the reason has to be the absence of Jimmy Rollins. Last year, the Phillies Brian Boucher is looking for redemption Photo: a .763 win percentage in games when Rollins scored and a .373 percentage when he didn’t. Obviously, he is the catalyst that makes things go. Juan Castro has batted over .300 as his replacement,but Shane Victorino has not been getting on base out of the leadoff spot, and you can’t help but miss a player like J-Roll, who was actually having the best start of his career when he got hurt. More bad news—the Phils say Rollins will not be ready to return even when he’s eligible to come off the disabled list on April 28th.

The 28th also happens to be the date the Phillies will finish their nine-game road trip. At that time, we’ll have a little better understanding of whether they are really the juggernaut they appeared to be during the season’s first ten games. The jury is still out on Kendrick and Moyer,despite their strong showings this week. The loss of J.A. Happ, who was placed on the 15-day DL Thursday with a forearm injury, adds to the uncertainty surrounding the pitching staff. Happ was initially expected to merely miss one start, and hopefully, this doesn’t end up being one of those situations where it starts out as a minor thing that just keeps lingering.

Meanwhile, the Flyers, who were such an up and down team throughout the season, are sitting pretty, heading to the second round of the playoffs.  And they did it by beating their longtime playoff nemesis, the New Jersey Devils.  Goalie Brian Boucher was in net ten years ago when the Flyers took a commanding three-games-to-one lead in a playoff series against New Jersey, only to have the Devils come back and win. Although Boucher lost that series and has a losing record over his career, 101-121, he’s a class act off the ice, and it sure was nice to see him outplay future Hall of Famer Martin Brodeur and wipe away that decade-old memory as the Flyers closed it out, 4 games to 1. It must be even sweeter for Boucher that he shut out the Devils, 3-0. It’s all the more impressive that the Flyers closed out the series one night after getting the shocking news that two of their best players Jeff Carter and Simon Gagne will both be out for several weeks due to injuries sustained in Tuesday night’s game.

Oh, and let’s not forget the Eagles, who chose defensive end Brandon Graham in the first round. Coach Andy Reid describes Graham as a “relentless” pass rusher, and compares him to Hugh Douglas.  Every coach in the league will tell you he got a good player, but  the Eagles gave up two 3rd round picks to move up to get Graham, so you know they really mean it.

Check out more of Billy V’s articles on right here!

Billy Vargus is an Emmy Award Winner for Best Sports Anchor for 2008 and 2009. (Mid-Atlantic region, covering all of Pennsylvania, South Jersey and Delaware.) Bill has been a TV sports anchor in the Philadelphia area for 18 years with the last 12 coming at Fox 29. He’s also had stops at Channel 10, Channel 12, plus at other television markets around the country.He has also served as the pre-game host for all Seventy-Sixers games in the past and also has acted in films, TV shows and commercials.

He can be contacted at

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