Category Archives: Hank Mushinski

What can the Phillies learn from King Pyrrhus of Epirus?

I’m developing matching calluses on my palm and forehead. This is Ruben Amaro’s fault. Every time the man speaks these days I face an uncontrollable instinct to bury my face in my hand with increasing haste, as if this could somehow shield me from his wanton disregard for reason.

Ugh

Thus far, my efforts have been unsuccessful.

The latest chapter in my increasingly violent distaste for the Phillies’ front office front man comes courtesy of David Murphy.

Amaro: “Right now, we’re trying to win as many games as possible… At the same time, at some point, we’re going to have to start looking to the future. And once we’re ‘eliminated’ … listen, is it a long shot to get back into this Wild Card race? It is. Numerically it’s not impossible, but right now obviously I’d be foolish to say it’s something that’s probable…. And at some point, we may be looking more at what we have to do for 2015 as far as what’s going on, on the field. But until then, we’ll make the decision when it’s the appropriate time, when it’s time to start to looking to 2015 and beyond. We’re not quite there yet.”

Trying to win as many games as possible. While that might be a nice thing to hear from a player, whose present entertainment value and future paycheck rely entirely upon his immediate performance, this is an impossibly ignorant and disheartening thing to hear from the general manager of a woefully uncompetitive major league baseball team. It has become clear at this point that self-reflection is not Amaro’s strong suit.

Perhaps Amaro, Montgomery, and the rest of the Phillies’ brass would be better served by a lesson that comes not from self examination, but from history. Not baseball history, but Mediterranean.

King Pyrrhus of Epirus was always a warrior. He was not a king that came from the political class. While he was indeed the heir to the title by birth, he was expelled from power four years into his reign, and had to take to the battlefield to regain his throne. So in 281 B.C.E., King Pyrrhus was already an expert battlefield commander when he answered the pleas of the beleagured city of Tarentum, which was under threat of destruction at the hands of Rome. Pyrrhus, sensing an opportunity to expand his kingdom, sailed to Italy with an army.

"Pyrrhus and his Elephants" by Helene Guerber - Story of the Romans - Helene Guerber. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

Pyrrhus and his Elephants
Story of the Romans – Helene Guerber. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

After early successes in the field, in 279 B.C.E. Pyrrhus turned his troops north towards the city of Asculum. His army numbered around 40,000, and the Romans met him with an equal number. The battle lasted for two days, and at the end of the second day, the Roman forced had been decisively defeated. But Pyrrhus was hardly in a position to celebrate. Although his army had killed twice as many Roman soldiers as it had lost, winning the battle had cost Pyrrhus a strategic defeat.

The Greek historian Plutarch sums up the aftermath: “Pyrrhus said to one who was congratulating him on his victory, ‘If we are victorious in one more battle with the Romans, we shall be utterly ruined.’ For he had lost a great part of the forces with which he came, and all his friends and generals except a few; moreover, he had no others whom he could summon from home, and he saw that his allies in Italy were becoming indifferent, while the army of the Romans, as if from a fountain gushing forth indoors, was easily and speedily filled up again.”

This is the event from which we draw the term Pyrrhic Victory: winning the day with grave consequences for the future. Unfortunately for Phillies fans, this is precisely the kind of win that Amaro is referencing above.

The Phillies’ misguided attempts to win today, or indeed during the second half of the 2014 season, have prevented them from making the moves that must be made in order to start building another championship-caliber roster. By holding onto aging, but still productive, talent, the Phillies have already lost out on too many opportunities to get any better in the future. Likewise, they’re pushing themselves further and further away from the highest picks in next year’s draft, which this team sorely needs in order to start replenishing its decimated farm system.

Actually, comparing Pyrrhus to Amaro and Montgomery isn’t very fair to Pyrrhus. At least he realized the cost of glory. He demonstrated an ability to remove himself from his personal pride and see the ultimate consequences. This Phillies management group has repeatedly proven incapable of thinking with such lucidity. Every extra win that this team earns in the waning days of summer could rightly be termed a Phillic victory, and they should be “celebrated” accordingly. It would serve the Phillies – and more importantly, what remains of the Phillies’ fan base – to see that the net result of their current philosophy can only lead to ultimate failure.

Eagles Training Camp Catch-up!

Chip KellyIn case you’ve missed them, here are some things that we’ve recently discussed during Eagles training camp! They’re the best articles written in the history of all articles ever. Fact.

  1. Hall of Fame writer Ray Didinger and 94WIP host Marc Farzetta were on our podcast. Need we say more?
  2. Hank explores if it’s reasonable to expect Chip Kelly to improve this season. Stats a-plenty!
  3. We explain who the hell Allen Barbre is. After all, he’s going to start the first four games.
  4. Ray discusses which players intrigued him going into the first preseason game.
  5. This team has some freakishly tall players—as in NBA starting five-sized players.
  6. The Eagles window to win a Super Bowl is shorter than you think. Believe it.

The Phillies think we’re all just jerks with wallets

AmaroYet another trade deadline has passed, and yet again the Phillies did absolutely nothing to alter their course. It’s damned near inexplicable. Not only are they 4 games back from the hapless Mets and 5.5 back from the penniless Marlins, but they also have the league’s second oldest lineup – 31.0 years old – and the third highest payroll in the whole goddamned MLB.

Anybody – I mean really, anybody – can see that this bullshit ain’t gonna get better on its own. Old players are old, and no amount of wishful thinking can make them young again. Sometimes bad players are good, but more often they stay bad. Especially if they are already old. This shit ain’t exactly fucking science.

The period preceding the non-waiver trade deadline is generally the best sellers’ market in the MLB calendar. Unlike the relative mystery of the hot stove, teams know exactly where they are with respect to the league, managers have an excellent idea of their units’ deficiencies, and when contenders make moves, other playoff-bound teams are put under pressure to keep up with the Joneses. The 2014 non-waiver deadline was one of the most active in memory, and a number of marquee players were involved in the deals.

And yet, the Phillies couldn’t pull off a single one. Not one goddamned trade to make this squad better in the future. Nothing to indicate that they have any intention of making it to the World Series again.

Make no mistake, this is a terrible missed opportunity for the future of Philadelphia baseball. But in and of itself, it’s not worth taking personal offense to a quiet deadline. No, what’s truly onerous about the situation is the attitude coming from the man in charge, the grand marshall of this shit parade: Rubén Amaro, Jr.

Amaro: “We were not looking for exorbitant payback, so to speak. We were looking for players that would help us. I think we were very reasonable in the discussions that we had. Frankly, I don’t think the clubs were aggressive enough for the kind of talent we have on our club.” – NJ.com

Let me translate that into human English: “Nobody wanted to sell the farm for the bullshit that I was peddling, so I’m gonna peddle bullshit to my fan base instead.”

I take offense, Rubén. I take offense because you just looked me in the eye and called me a stupid asshole.

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Is Chip Kelly in for a Sophomore Slump?

Chip KellyRejoice! The doldrums of summer, and the seemingly-endless stream of unsubstantiated speculation about the coming season is mercifully subsiding. Eagles training camp is here, and thus marks the official unofficial start of the 2014 NFL season. Huzzah! Now we have some actual news to read about!

But games that count are still quite a ways away, and something has been bugging me. While perusing the various forms of Philadelphia sports talk-radio over the last couple of weeks (Hey! Have you heard our excellent podcast yet?), I noticed that one of the more persistent topics of unsubstantiated conjecture debate has been “Are Chip Kelly’s Eagles going to improve or decline in year two?”

The argument generally breaks down into one of two run-on sentences: 1) Chip’s offense has been torn apart in NFL film rooms all offseason, and it’s a college offense anyway, and it was sort of a flukey year, and the defense still sucks, so the Eagles will be worse in 2014, or 2) Chip is a genius, so when opposing teams make adjustments, Chip’ll adjust them right back, the team is used to Chip now, and the defense didn’t get any worse but the offense is gonna get better, so the Eagles will be better than last year.

Frankly, both sides make a somewhat cogent point. What bothers me – what always bothers me – is the lack of context…

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The Wooder Cooler Is Two Years Old! (Belated)

2Yes, it’s been two years of The Wooder Cooler clogging up your Facebook and Twitter feeds and no one has fought me over it yet so I’ll take that as a good sign. I’d like to thank the people who comment on our posts, listen to our podcast, and make us a regular part of your day to day. You guys are the best (and I’ll probably hug you).

This site has taken some major strides in our second year…we did some work with an ESPN affiliate, both myself and Ray have begun putting our sports writing on CBSPhilly.com, and we’re doing Around the Cooler from a professional radio studio. It’s been wild and exhausting and endlessly enjoyable.

I’ve also fooled around with some things this year whether it be guest writers or podcast segments and anything in between. Like all experiments, some flopped and some were a great success. So while the site hasn’t gone through many major changes in the last few months and I want it to be clear that I’m by no means satisfied with where we are. There’s always a way to get better and I’m open to any avenue that allows us to do that so expect bolder moves over the next year. #TogetherWeBuild

-Vince

Mocking the Draftniks: Are NFL draft “experts” actually any good at mock drafting?

“Say what?”

[Note: This is a write-up that Hank did last year following the 2013 draft, but it’s still totally accurate and well worth your time.] 

Mock drafts are stupid.

There, I said it. You and I know that as much as we all love them, they’re not consequential. They’re not inherently insightful. They’re often nothing more than speculative conversation pieces. At best, they’re educated guesswork.

Now I’m likely to be dragged to the town square and stoned for saying that, but so be it, it needed to be said. I’ll die a martyr for the cause of reasonable, retrospective sports analysis. A worthy ideal, certainly.

Sarcasm aside, I really was convinced that if there ever were a year when I could successfully prove that the draftniks really are all just soothsaying con-men, this was the year. There were no sure-fire top-5 quarterbacks, no stud wide outs or corners. No truly obvious picks. The consensus seemed to be that the real talent in this draft was along the lines, some of the hardest positions in the sport to scout. If there really is such a thing as a “draft guru,” this is the kind of draft that would expose him as either a true expert or a useless hack.

With this hypothesis in mind, I collected an assortment of 14 “final” 1st-round mock drafts published before the draft started last Thursday. As a control, I asked my buddy Frank to submit his own 1st-round mock. Frank watches far more college and pro football than anybody can reasonably consider healthy, but he’s not a paid analyst, nor does he have a support team, league sources, game film, nor any other resources that pro analysts or sports columnists can access.

Here’s what I found out.

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NCAA Tourney Challenge!

FinalFourHey everyone!

You know that thing that you degenerately gamble on every year? Do it with us! For free!

We’re running a bracket challenge on ESPN and would like to compete against anyone interested (maybe for a prize? I’m working on it). If you’re interested in joining us, write a message on our facebook page or tweet at us and we’ll get you the info! Also, trash talk is strongly encouraged!

Thanks and good luck screw your crappy bracket.

 

-The Wooder Cooler

 

If the NFL moves the Extra Point, this is why smart teams will stop kicking them entirely…

Shout out to the pro-football-reference.com database for the stats in this article. You guys rock.

So we’ve all heard the rumblings from the NFL’s competition committee recently: “The extra point is sort of boring. Let’s screw with it!” seems to be the general gist of the conversation.

The Commish himself has gone on record about his distaste for the extra point. “I believe we had five missed extra points this year out of 1,200 some odd. So it’s a very small fraction of the play, and you want to add excitement with every play.”

The gripe might be legitimate. In the last ten season, NFL kickers have completed the extra point attempt a whopping 98.9% of the time (11058 attempts). In 2013, the success rate was 99.6% (1267 attempts). This is as close to automatic as it is going to get in the NFL. The problem, of course, is that there are still 21 players besides the kicker on the field, so major injuries can still occur. Rob Gronkowski, the Pats’ ginormous, extraordinarily gifted tight end, famously broke his forearm on a simple extra-point attempt. While that was a highly visible incident, there are undoubtedly countless, unreported minor traumas that occur during extra point attempts every season. The logic is that the 1.1% of kicks that aren’t made are outweighed in importance by the danger of the play.

Goodell intimated that there are several proposals to change the rule, including one where the point is automatically given after the touchdown unless the offense wants to attempt a two-point conversion. But football purists are certain to be appalled by the idea of taking another step to remove feet from football, so this complete removal of the kick attempt would be a fairly radical move to make in one fell swoop.

So the NFL competition committee is floating a compromise idea: Move extra point kick attempts to the 25 yard line, making the kick a 42 yard attempt rather than its current 19. This solution makes some sense on its face. Teams are still allowed the option of attempting a slightly-riskier but still very makeable extra point, or they can go for the two-point play from the regular spot two yards out. This presumably would leave the strategy of the game intact but provide for a more interesting post-touchdown play.

But this proposal has a major flaw: Any team that chooses to kick in that scenario is run by stupid people. Here’s why:

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

TL;DR

If they move the extra point kick back pretty much at all, statistically minded coaches will stop attempting it almost completely. There’s a graph above that says so! The yellow line is how much extra points would be “worth” on average from a given yardage, and the horizontal lines are multiple approximations for the expected points of any regular two-point conversion attempt. Extra Point attempts start being worth less than two-point conversions if they are attempted from 15-16 yards out, so if the extra point were moved to the 25, smart teams would go for two almost every time.

I’ll admit the above graph doesn’t have the best labels in the world, so please allow me to elaborate. Explanation after the jump.

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Playoff Talk with 3D Philly Sports!

The year has turned, snow is in the air and the music of the playoffs is in our hearts. Our Birds will be making the push to a Superbowl and we decided to chat with our pals over at 3DPhillySports about what could be a cinderella story. Joining us to break down Saturday’s game as well as the league-wide goodness are Derrick AlvarezDave BennettRandy Jobst. Hank and I give our take as well.

First, the Birds!

The Eagles are in the playoffs! Does this make Chip Kelly Coach of the Year?

Derrick: If I had the option, I’d probably split the vote up. One half for Bruce Arians, the other half for Chip Kelly. If I had to pick one though, I’ll go with the team that made the playoffs and beat Bruce Arians on their way there. Great season for the Birds.
 
Randy: It makes him a great candidate to win the award, but you can make a serious argument for several other coaches too. Andy Reid took a 2-14 team and turned them into an 11 win team in just one season. Ron Rivera went into the season as the coach we were all waiting to get fired. Fast forward a few months and he is watching the opening round of the playoffs from his couch, but only because his team earned a first round bye. You also have to consider how dominate Seattle was at times this season. Chip is very deserving, but so are those other three mentions as well. This award is a toss-up this year. I hope Chip gets it, but I wouldn’t be offended if he didn’t.
Hank: He has to be. He’s brought in a system that is, if not wholly unprecedented at the NFL level, at least a truly genuine attempt to rethink the formula that leads to success in the NFL. It’s a passing league, and the Eagles’ offense is putting up ridiculous numbers while leaning on the run.
Vince: I think there’s some good candidates but Chip has to be the guy. He’s doing some pretty wild and innovative stuff in what has been a league based on parity while shattering records along the way. If I had any money, I’d bet it on him.

Which player on the team (outside of Foles and McCoy) is most pivotal to the team’s success?

Derrick: Desean Jackson. If a team is able to even hold him under 50-60 yards then they have an excellent chance at defeating the Eagles. He’s a home run hitter that has had one helluva season in 2013. 
Randy: Trent Cole. This defense depends on a good pass-rush and Cole is the most capable of wreaking havoc on an opposing backfield each week. When he gets shut down with just one blocker, this defense struggles to get much penetration. When he gets after the quarterback early, the defense appears to be a top-10 group, just ask the Bears.
Hank: I think it’s either Jason Peters or Evan Mathis. For all the success that Fletcher Cox or Brandon Boykin had on defense this year, none of this would be possible without stellar performances on the offensive side of the ball. That starts with the offensive line, specifically the left side. Mathis is a rock, and Peters is a monster. If you’re a DC trying to scheme against this team, good luck picking a player that matches up well against them. 
Vince: Fletcher Cox. I’ve been saying for weeks now that the defensive line is the true heart of our defense and when they’re not beating opposing lines, we’re sunk. That was the case in Dallas where I think we slipped away with an undeserved win. This week the Saints have two Pro Bowl guards protecting a Pro Bowl quarterback. It’s prime time, Fletcher. Get it done.

Are you happy the Eagles drew the Saints over the 49ers?

Derrick: Yes. I’ll take a team that is 3-5 on the road, who also struggled to beat the Bucs and Falcons mind you (this would have made them 1-7) over a team that has marched to two consecutive NFC Championships. Drews Brees always scares me, but force 2 turnovers from him and I think the Eagles have a first-round W.
Randy: This is the playoffs. I don’t care who you play, everybody is good at this point. The 49ers are a mediocre passing offense at best, but the Saints are a mediocre running offense at best. Both teams have their strengths and their weaknesses and either way you are going to face an elite receiving tight end. I’m happy with the Saints here because it means the 49ers and Seahawks could face-off next weekend. That’s a good thing for everyone in the playoffs who don’t reside in San Fran or Seatle.
Hank: No. Chip beat Harbaugh a couple of times in the college ranks, and frankly Kaepernick is two tiers below Brees right now. I think the Eagles’ passing D, which remains the team’s biggest weakness, would have a much easier time handling the 49ers. Look for a shootout next Sunday, and don’t get caught up in that in the dome / out of the dome crap. This Saints group is gonna show up in full force, weather be damned. Look for Jimmy Graham to go 18 catches for 200+ and at least one TD.
Vince: I think that this was the best possible thing that could happen. The Saints on the road makes the entire NFC picture a little weaker so at this point you hope a blind cinderella gets a nut. That’s the expression right?

How far do you expect the Eagles to go?

Derrick: I really have no expectations, just enjoying the ride from a team that I thought would win 8 games max. I’ve got high hopes though.
Randy: It’s ridiculous to expect the Eagles to win this week and be one of the final eight teams left. We all had this team pegged as a 8-win team at best. However, if they do come out of this weekend with a win I really like their chances against Carolina. Regardless of what happens, this has been a great season and everything the Eagles accomplish from here on out is like a bonus round in my mind.
Hank: I would not be surprised if they got bounced by the Saints in the first round. I WOULD be surprised if they got to the NFCCG.
Vince: I was a doubter on this team all season, but screw it. I’m all in. I think this team should be in the NFC Championship game. They’re good at putting up points and generating turnovers. Hell, if Seattle loses this team is a coin flip from the Super Bowl as they play at home for the Conference. Time to call up Tom Coughlin?

Does it bother you seeing Andy Reid in the playoffs?

Derrick: Not at all, but I’m not sure I want to see him make it too far in the playoffs or the phone lines on Philly talk radio will be going nuts, and not in a good way.
Randy: You know it really doesn’t. I have nothing but love for Andy Reid. His work in the red zone is embarrassing at times and we all wished he would run the ball more, but at this point that is a Kansas City problem. Big Red tried to bring home a Lombardi Trophy to Philly, but he just couldn’t get it done. He’s still a class act who loves the people around him. Plus he is still the best interview on draft day. I will continue to root for him when it doesn’t affect the Eagles.
Hank: No. We knew he was still a decent coach, but he was past due for a change of scenery. He walks into a team that’d LOADED with talent, of course he could make it to the dance. Berry, Hali, Alberts, Charles. We’re talking explosive players there. Couple that with a more-or-less ideal quarterback for his system, and suddenly it would have been a surprise if Andy didn’t make it this year.
Vince: Yes. Yes it does. Not because he himself is in, but it’s the manner in which he’s done it. I feel like a crazy person for yelling at him to run the ball for years and now that he does it he’s coaching one of the best teams in the league. I say this in the name of Correll Buckhalter: Fuck you, Andy.

Which playoff team is the biggest surprise this year?

Derrick: Honestly, Riverboat Ron and the Panthers getting the 2 seed and bye week is probably the biggest shocker to me.
Randy: I had the Chiefs projected as the 6th seed in the AFC before the season started so I’d be lying if I said seeing Kansas City in the playoffs is surprising. I was also a huge Mike McCoy fan so I don’t think the Chargers season is a major shocker either. I would say the Panthers are the biggest shock to me. They came into the season with a nice front seven, but a terrible secondary and an average offense with one good target. Give credit to the job the offensive staff has done to turn this team into an efficient unit this season. I had them pegged as a 6-win team.
Hank: Has to be Carolina. Their defense improved dramatically, and it seems to have caught a lot of people off guard. I always thought Cam was gonna be a really, really good player at the NFL level but feared he would suffer from a lack of help. Not so for the Panthers this year. Credit to Rivera and *cough* Sean McDermott for engineering such an impressive turnaround. They’re making the most of their talent (did anybody know who Greg Hardy or Charles Johnson were before last year?) and still have room to grow.
Vince: I honestly have to say the Packers. Green Bay is decimated and they made the playoffs after starting Senece Wallace, Scott Tolzien, and Matt Flynn for seven games. Remember when we made the playoffs on the back of Jeff Garcia? I think this is just as wild.

Which match-up this weekend do you think will be the best game?

Derrick: San Fran/Green Bay. -5 degrees up in Lambeau is must-see TV.
Randy: This one is a no-brainer for me, it’s the 49ers-Packers game. They played a thriller in Week One, plus we saw the Colin Kapernick show take flight in last year’s postseason. Aaron Rodgers is back and has officially shaken off all the rust. Both teams are still pretty flawed, but I wouldn’t want any part of them either. I think this game tops even the Bears-Packers game from last week.
Hank: Saying it’s Eagles v. Saints would be a cop out, so I’m going with Green Bay and SF. Last year’s NFCCG was one of the most entertaining games I’ve ever seen, and their regular season matchup this year was an offensive explosion. Look for fireworks at the tundra this Sunday.
Vince: I actually think that San Fran should beat Green Bay by a solid margin so I’m going to go with Kansas City and Indianapolis. Indy’s a team that has had some serious ups and downs, but if they show up this game will be a ton of fun. You’ll have the first Deacon Jones Award winner Robert Mathis and Andrew Luck trying to upset a very sturdy Chiefs team in Indy. I think it’s a down to the wire matchup.   

You’re making the odds in Vegas: Who’s your favorite to win the Super Bowl?

Derrick: Broncos, who is going to stop their offense? Peyton is long overdue for that 2nd ring. I think he evens things up with his brother in Eli’s home stadium.
Randy:  A lot has changed to make this a much more difficult answer. The Patriots lost Rob Gronkowski for the season and the Seahawks can’t seem to get Percy Harvin healthy. Both of those teams looked like obvious Super Bowl picks to me when all was well, but right now they are both very beatable.Really every team has its limitations right now. Can Peyton Manning deliver in the January cold? Can the Patriots score enough points to go on another playoff run? Are the Bengals good enough to win a Super Bowl without their two best defensive players(Atkins and Hall)? Do the Panthers have enough fire power to win in the postseason? Same goes for the Seahawks.This really is a season where you just try to survive each week. Nobody is dominant enough to expect to win any playoff game right now. Each game should be a dog fight and the most clutch offenses and defenses will come out on top.

I’ll stick with my preseason pick, the Seahawks, because of the home-field advantage and their defense, but I’m not very confident in that pick. Hell I’m almost inclined to pick the Eagles here because they protect the football, run the ball well and the

Hank: Broncos

Vince: Seattle. The best complete team in the league with the best home field advantage will likely play in a cold Super Bowl. Not to know Peyton in the cold, but rather I’m knocking the reliance on the passing game in the cold. Seahawks win. The Peyton legacy takes a tough hit. And Marshawn Lynch lives in a house made of skittles.

Around the Cooler 12/28/13: Put Up or Shut Up

Here’s what we’re talking about:

  • Boss Christmas present put to use!

    Boss Christmas present put to use!

    The Eagles shaming the Bears on National television and scheme changes (0:00)

  • DallasDallasDallasDallasDallas (11:40)

Play on your Mobile Device or Right Click to Download: Around the Cooler 12-28-13

What are you talking about around the wooder cooler this week? Leave us a comment!

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Musical theme written by Matthew Schwalm.

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