The Phillies Should Be Interesting This Year

This year’s baseball season is still very young, which makes it difficult to make ironclad assertions about teams, players and managers. But if the first few games are any indication, the Philadelphia Phillies look like a team that may be very interesting to watch this year. But that does not mean that they will be very good.

Gabe Kapler is the Phillies’ new manager, and this is his first managing job. So, a healthy amount of rookie mistakes should be expected. But this is not a person who is new to baseball. He played more than a dozen years in the major leagues, for 7 different teams. Though you would not know it from his first three games.

In these games — which have included 28 innings — Kapler has used 20 different pitchers. 21 if you include infielder Pedro Florimón, who is now the first non-pitcher to pitch in the month of March in major league history. Only the Miami Marlins have used more pitchers so far, and they have a better excuse, as they have played not only an extra game but had another last 17 innings.

Interestingly, the game in which Florimón pitched was not the most interesting pitching moment of the game. That came in the third inning when Kapler inexplicably removed Vince Velasquez despite the fact there was no pitcher warming up in the bullpen. Fortunately for Kapler and the team, umpire crew chief Jerry Layne took mercy on Kapler and gave relief pitcher Hoby Milner more time than the standard 2 minutes to warm up, so that he would not hurt himself.

All this actually helped the Phillies, because Brian Snitker — who is the Atlanta Braves’ manager — was so upset at Layne for helping Kapler that he got himself thrown out of the game. Afterward, Layne said that, whoever was responsible for the snafu on the part of the Phillies, should have to answer to the league.

Kaplar at least took the blame for the snafu, saying that there was “miscommunication.” But this was not even his first mistake in terms of pitching changes. On opening day, with his team up 5-0 in the fifth, he took out starter Aaron Nola, who had thrown only 68 pitches. The team eventually lost 8-5.

 

Tight Ends the Eagles Should Target in Free Agency

Following the franchise’s first ever Super Bowl victory, the Philadelphia Eagles are in a great position to take advantage of this year’s free agency market. Having already signed a few powerhouse names like Michael Bennett (pending his legal trouble), Haloti Ngata, and Mike Wallace, Howie Roseman and the rest of the Eagles’ front office should set their sights on a few offensive players still available.

Now that soon-to-be Eagles Hall of Famer Brent Celek has been released by the team, and Trey Burton (an unsung hero of Super Bowl LII) has signed with the Chicago Bears, Zach Ertz remains as the #1 tight end following a remarkable 2017-18 season in which he was consistently ranked as one of the best players at his position. While Ertz will surely have many successful years to come with the Eagles, the tight end position is now one to address.

Marcedes Lewis

Marcedes Lewis was recently cut by the Jacksonville Jaguars; a surprising move given the fact that the Jags picked up his 2018 option before the season started. However, they’ve recently added Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Niles Paul to their roster, rendering Lewis as an expendable player.

Though he may be turning 34 soon, Lewis is still a formidable tight end with a great ability to block, not unlike Celek. He recorded 5 touchdown receptions this past season on 318 yards as well. Should the Eagles choose to sign him, it would not cost them a compensatory pick seeing as he was released.

Richard Rogers*

While his stats were a little less than impressive this past season, Richard Rogers proved to be a decent tight end for the Green Bay Packers. He would be a solid backup, complimenting Ertz, and even giving Billy Brown some competition for the no. 2 spot on the roster. Rogers has shown that he can catch very well in his time with the Packers, during which he has only missed 1 single game, meaning injuries are not a concern with him.

Anthony Fasano

Anthony Fasano served as a backup tight end to the ever-impressive Travis Kelce (brother of now Philadelphia legend Jason Kelce) in Kansas City for two seasons. There, he was under the watchful eye of now Eagles Head Coach Doug Pederson when he served as the Chiefs’ Offensive Coordinator from 2013-2015. Fasano could be a relatively inexpensive option, and a solid backup to Ertz. He is yet another great blocking tight end, somewhat addressing Philadelphia’s offensive line needs as well.

Chris Gragg

A name many may be unfamiliar with, Chris Gragg was drafted by the Buffalo Bills in 2013, and has yet to really make an impact in the league. Last playing for the New York Jets in 2017, Gragg’s most recent catches were actually back in 2015 when he was still with the Bills. His stats are far from impressive, but he’s only 27 years old, and could serve as an adequate replacement to Trey Burton if he can improve his catching and blocking abilities.

Of course, there is always a chance the Eagles will target a tight end in the upcoming NFL Draft, but should they be more inclined to draft a running back or offensive tackle (which may better suit their needs at the moment), any of the players mentioned above would be sufficient signings.

*As of 4/4/18, the Eagles have officially signed free agent TE Richard Rodgers to a 1-year deal.

Butcher of the Year Shares His Favorite Meats & Cooking Tips

Butcher of the year shares favourite meats and cooking tips
Reuben Sharples — 2017 winner of New Zealand’s Best Butcher award, and owner of Aussie Butcher New Lynn — puts his 25 years of butchering experience to work in sharing his five favourite meats with consumers. Read on for his worthy choices, as well as cooking tips for each selection. To read the full article and interview, click here.
Scotch fillet
Unlike a tenderloin, which needs a boost from either an open charcoal fire or a hearty slug of compound butter, the Scotch fillet holds its own with unparalleled meaty flavor. As Sharples himself says, “you can’t stuff it up.”
For optimum taste and tenderness from this cut, bring the steak up to room temperature before searing it over hot coals for about three minutes on the first side, then flip to the other side and cook until the blood begins to seep from the top. The meat can be cooked to medium, but rare to medium-rare will yield the best results.
Sausage
Sausages are versatile, flavorful, and cost-effective, making them an excellent choice for any occasion. There’s a reason why just about every country has their own traditional sausage recipe.

The key to preparing good sausage is to start low and slow. Don’t force it into a hot pan right away — begin on low heat, or in a pot of simmering water (this method is a great way to draw out excess fat). Finish on a hot grill, turning often, and serve with seasonal accompaniments.

Mince
Mince is another jack-of-all-trades in the meat department, adding heft and zest to anything from poached eggs in the morning to lasagna Bolognese for dinner.
Simply brown up the meat and add it to your favorite casserole, sauce, or stew.
Beef Short Rib
For the ultimate in beefy flavor, one can’t go wrong with beef short rib. Use only salt and pepper to let the flavors shine through, and be sure to allow at least five hours for cooking for premium tenderness.
Lamb Shoulder
A must for any special occasion, lamb can be slow-roasted (as with the short rib, allow plenty of time for cooking), or boned and thrown on a hot grill. In either case, be sure to have mint sauce or chutney on hand for serving.

A Sneak Peak at the Mock NFL Draft

Cleveland Browns Pass on QB at No. 1 in Latest Mock Draft
The Super Bowl is in the rear view mirror, and since the NFL always soldiers on, that means we are entering mock draft season! Football has become a 12-month sport thanks to offseason interest peaking with the draft in the spring. Every fan yearns to get a glimpse of what their favorite club might do.

Though the attention is great for the sport, teams try their best to avoid leaking any information to the public. Nothing is worse for a club than having their draft plans in the hands of other organizations. Even still, behind that veil of secrecy, formulating mock drafts is endlessly fun and informative. Thanks to scouting and assessments of team needs, a mock draft doesn’t have to be perfectly accurate to be beneficial.

Bleacher Report released its latest 2018 mock draft this week. Things get interesting right from the jump with the Cleveland Browns deciding not to select a quarterback with the first pick.

Rather than having their selection of the best QB in the draft, the Browns instead go with Penn State running back Saquon Barkley. Barkley is widely considered one of the top three players in this class, so the selection isn’t outlandish. But it is risky for Cleveland, a team that has been without a franchise quarterback since its reboot at the turn of the century.

That leaves the New York Giants – at pick number two – with their choice of any quarterback they desire. B/R has New York going with USC passer Sam Darnold as its hopeful replacement for Eli Manning behind center.

After Indianapolis selects edge rusher Bradley Chubb at three, the run at quarterbacks begins in earnest. The Browns have their second pick coming at fourth overall thanks to a past trade with Houston. So, though Cleveland’s decision to pass on a QB at one is noteworthy, the team isn’t out of luck completely. In this scenario, it still gets the second-best quarterback prospect in the draft, and since opinions are so varied on who actually is the best or second-best QB in this class, this move makes a lot of sense.

The Browns make Baker Mayfield that second QB taken, followed by Buffalo taking Josh Rosen at five, and the New York Jets taking Josh Allen at six. That makes four of the top six players off the board QBs.

The NFC Least

NFC NFL

Last season, the NFC East wasn’t exactly a powerhouse division.

The Redskins, lead by Kirk Cousins, finished atop the division with a 9-7 record. They were the only team in the division with a record better than .500. And this year, it might not get any better.

In fact, it will more than likely get a whole lot worse. There is no one team that stands out as outstanding in the division–no team that will likely run away with the title and go on to dominate the postseason.

The Skins are coming off a season in which they barely squeaked into the postseason, but whether he likes it or not, Kirk Cousins has yet to establish himself as an elite NFL QB. Keep in mind that, just two seasons ago, Washington finished 4-12 with a whopping -132 point differential. While many positions have been shored up since then, Cousins under center, Matt Jones (if he’s healthy) at running back and a so-so receiving corps doesn’t spell a successful season in Washington.

A good number of people had the Cowboys winning the division last season, coming back from an abysmal 4-12 record to top one of the weakest divisions in football.

NRC NFL

Tony Romo’s recent injury has left fans wondering if he will return for another season.

After all, Tony Romo would be back, finally healthy, and Zeke Elliot would be lined up behind him to take the brunt of the work at running back with a formidable backup in Alfred Morris there just in case. What many people forgot, though, was about Tony Romo’s glass bones and the Cowboy signal caller’s penchant for shattering one or two every season, leaving him on the sidelines. And, almost on cue, Tony Romo went down with an injury–this time to his back–that will sideline him for 6-10 weeks, according to the Cowboys. This leaves rookie Dak Prescott to step into the starting roll, and leaves a huge hole in the Cowboy’s plan to win the division.

The Eagles are, in and of themselves, a question mark. Will Bradford or Wentz be starting by the end of the season? Will Ryan Matthews stay healthy? Will Nelson Agholor learn how to catch the football when it’s thrown in his general direction? Will Dorial Green-Beckham live up to the potential that many thought he had when he was drafted by the Titans?

After a fairly mediocre season last year, the Eagles haven’t done all that much to improve their chances this year. They didn’t sign any big-name offensive free agents. They (arguably) downgraded at running back by getting rid of Murray. Lane Johnson and Dennis Kelly, two members of one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL last season, are gone.

And the Giants are hard to have faith in on any given day. Some days, Eli Manning plays like a Hall of Fame QB, while others he plays like the backup to a Junior Varsity QB thrust into the NFL spotlight. Luckily, he’s got a solid receiving corps around him to throw to, namely in Sterling Shepard and Odell Beckham Jr. However, it may be hard to find openings if defenses are dropping back into coverage constantly, not particularly afraid of the G-Men rushing attack.

None of the teams in the NFC east stand out as the clear frontrunner–it’s almost as if it’s an entire division full of teams you’d expect to finish 2nd or 3rd in any given year. But maybe that will make this season all the more exciting.

The Rise and Fall of the 2016 Phillies

The Philadelphia Phillies

To view this post as a video, visit Peter Bubel’s YouTube.

The Philadelphia Phillies were not supposed to be good this season. They were coming off of a 63-99 2015 season, good for dead last in Major League Baseball. Preseason projections had them hovering around 100 losses and universally finishing last in the National League East.

But, for a period of time, there was hope on the horizon. Through the troves of Tweets from Phillies fans around the country came the hashtag #HighHopes, a reference to the song popularized in Philadelphia sports by late broadcaster Harry Kalas. The hashtag acted as a sort of “we may be the laughingstock of baseball right now, but look who’s playing not-too-terribly after all.”

The high hopes were, predictably, short lived. After a brief run that saw them climb to within a game of first place early in the season, the Phils have returned to preseason form, compiling a 7-19 record so far in the month of June and an 8-26 record in their last 34 games played.

So what was the cause of the Phillies meteoric rise in the standings, and subsequent hurtle back towards Earth where they crashed into a ditch on the side of I-76 and were left for dead?

The One-Run Conundrum

There was a point of time this season during which the Phillies, baseball’s [second] worst team, owned a 13-3 record in one-run games. Yes, games that were decided by one run were almost universally won when Philadelphia was involved. It was incredible and, according to statisticians and baseball writers, unsustainable. But some Phillies fans took the offensive, claiming they had high hopes the Phils could continue winning one-run games at a prolific clip.

Turns out, the statisticians were right. After losing just three of their first 16, the Phillies have dropped six of their last 10 one-run games, bringing their record in those contests to a (still very good, and very unsustainable) 17-9.

Their Run Differential Caught Up to Them

As it stands right now, the Phillies run differential is an uncomfortably bad -160. To put that into perspective, the league-best Cubs sport a +258 run differential–meaning they’ve scored 258 runs more than their opponents to this point in the season.

Unlike their record or Freddy Galvis’ batting average, the Phillies run differential hasn’t fluctuated, remaining last in the league (or close to it) for the better part of the season. A low run-differential means a team is consistently getting outscored by its opponents by large margins. The 13-3 record in one-run games pointed to the huge regression that was incoming–the Phils were winning games, yes, but they were doing it by one run. Then, they were turning around and dropping other games by 8 or 9 regularly.

Aaron Nola

Phillies’ pitcher Aaron Nola has struggled lately. Photo courtesy of Arturo Pardavila III.

The Starting Pitching

Aaron Nola was supposed to be our savior. He was going to be our lone All-Star, the next Cole Hamels and the one piece of the team that Phillies fans could proudly boast “well, at least we’ve got him.”

Lately, it’s looked like Nola is going to need more time to adjust to the big-leagues. After compiling a 3.55 ERA in April and a 2.31 ERA in May, the wheels have fallen off the Nola train to the tune of a 10.42 ERA in June. He hasn’t made it out of the fourth inning since June 5, allowing 32 hits, 22 runs and walking 7 in his last 16 innings.

Nola is not the only pitcher who has struggled–Vince Velasquez has had problems pitching deep into games, and his high pitch counts have given him arm troubles lately–but he is the prime example of the Phil’s late SP struggles.

The Bullpen

We all knew that the Phillies bullpen would more closely resemble a trashcan engulfed in flames than it would the pristine 2008 World Series Champions’ pen. But a few weeks into the season, the pen looked strong. Jenmar Gomez was closing out games at an absurd pace and Hector Neris was nearly untouchable. And then, they weren’t.

Gomez, who typically pitches to contact, is not the prototypical closer. We’re used to seeing the Brad Lidges, the Billy Wagners–more recently the Ken Giles–the hard-throwing, bat-missing, intimidation-above-all-else back of the bullpen options. Jenmar Gomez doesn’t fit that bill.

And after Neris’ unblemished start to the season, he’s struggled a bit lately, as he’s striking out significantly fewer batters, walking more, and allowing more hard-hit balls.

Preseason projections had Nationals right-fielder Bryce Harper outperforming the entire Phillies team. Photo courtesy of Johnmaxmena2.

Preseason projections had Nationals right-fielder Bryce Harper outperforming the entire Phillies team. Photo courtesy of Johnmaxmena2.

The Offense 

Before the season started, projections put the Phillies starting offense–that is, hitters one through eight in the lineup–as being roughly as productive as Bryce Harper. That means that eight hitters for the Phils were supposed to create the same amount of offensive give and take as one 23-year-old outfielder from Washington.

If you need evidence that the Phillies are struggling offensively, allow me to direct you back up this blog a bit to the -160 run differential.

Or the second-worst 269 runs scored.

Or the second-worst .235 batting average.

Or the league-worst .289 on-base percentage.

I could go on, but I won’t.
The Phillies have struggled this year. And despite playing significantly better earlier in the season, they’ve regressed towards the mean pretty quickly in recent weeks. While some Phillies fans may have deluded themselves into thinking a playoff berth (or above-average season) was in the works, most saw this coming.

Travel Hacks and Tips

Traveling can be exciting and stressful all at the same time. You just want to get to your destination but you inevitably have to go through the airport. That means security, long lines, electronics dying, sitting next to strangers and so much more. With these hacks and tips you can make your traveling experience much better:

Some of the Best Restaurants in Reading, PA

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Reading is Pennsylvania’s fifth-largest city, and it is brimming with amazing attractions. From the culture to the metropolitan appeal, Reading has it all. If you’re going to visit Reading, Pennsylvania, chances are you’ll want to find some delicious restaurants. And luckily, there’s no shortage. If you want to immerse yourself into Reading’s incredible cuisine, here are a few restaurants you have to try.

1. Vietnamese Delights

If you love Vietnamese cuisine, you have to check this place out! This delicious and affordable restaurant is located in the Fairgrounds Farmers Market and is open from Thursday to Saturday. If you’re visiting the market on one of these days, this is the eatery you need to try. With only four or five tables, this restaurant is small, but it is not to be overlooked. When you visit you need to try their pho, a soup with a delicious broth and tender delicious sliced beef. Other recommended dishes include their pork hoagie, their shredded pork rolls, and their vermicelli.

2) Screpesi’s Sandwich Shop

This eatery is one of the best places in Reading to get a sandwich. All of their ingredients are fresh and delicious. The rolls that the sandwiches are made with are incredible every time. Customers typically recommend the Italian Sandwich, the Ham Sandwich and the Tuna Sandwich. This historical restaurant has built up a well-deserved reputation as an exemplary sandwich shop. If you’re in Reading and you don’t eat here, you’re missing out!

3) Brewer’s Bar and Grill

If you’re looking for a sports bar that serves delicious food in a laidback setting, look no further than Brewer’s. This bar and grill is decorated with memorabilia from the decades before and after prohibition in order to give a casual yet historic feel. Brewer’s serves delicious brisket and barbecue boneless wings, but the best dish by far is the burger. The burgers at Brewer’s are juicy and delicious, making Brewer’s stand out from your average Bar and Grill. Brewer’s is also unique in that it features 13 revolving craft beer taps. Last but not least, the service is always warm and friendly.

4) Winedown Cafe and Wine Bar

If you’re looking for a more upscale dining experience for relatively affordable prices, Winedown is just the place. The attentive servers show a clear knowledge of the restaurant’s exquisite array of wines and cheeses. The cozy and sophisticated ambiance makes for a perfect night with a significant other, a friend, or a few family members. The menu is tapas style, and includes a number of flavorful dishes. From the relaxing ambiance to the incredible cheeses and wines, Winedown is a must-visit.

Reading Pennsylvania is home to a number of top notch restaurants that are sure to satisfy your tastebuds. When you want to take a break from exploring the beauty of Reading’s history and culture, make sure to grab some delicious food at these superb restaurants.

Travel to St. Lucia

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St. Lucia is located in the eastern Caribbean Sea. It is a beautiful island filled with nature, friendly people, delicious food, and incredible beaches. If you’re looking for an escape to paradise then this should be the first place on your list to head to. Below are some of the places that you can’t miss when in St. Lucia.

Pigeon Island

A 44-acre island located in Gros Islet in northern St. Lucia, Pigeon Island has been artificially connected to the mainland. There are two peaks on the island that are great for hiking and offer amazing 360 degree views from the top. Throughout the island there are many historic forts such as an 18th century British Fort that was used to spy on the French. Pigeon Island is also a great place to relax at the beach or have a picnic.

Rodney Bay

The perfect place to relax on the beach. Whether you just want to lie in the sun, go sailing or enjoy a day snorkeling in the crystal clear water with the fishes, or eat some traditional Caribbean food Rodney Bay has it all. At night it transforms into a fun place to go out and have a drink. While it is a beach town, know that Rodney is a full modern, yet touristy, city.

Sulphur Springs

The world’s only drive in volcano, Sulphur Springs is a volcano on the southwestern side of the island. You are able to drive up right next to the springs and look down into the Earth or you can stand on a platform right next to it. Regardless of which way you decide to experience it, Sulphur Springs is definitely a site to see. There is also a mud bath that you can go in that leaves you feeling refreshed and rejuvenated, which is a really cool experience.

Botanical Gardens

The Botanical Gardens are a great way to enjoy and experience the natural beauty of St. Lucia. The grounds are beautifully kept, and offer a wide variety of plants, trees, and flowers to see. Within the gardens there is a beautiful waterfall that can’t be missed.

Laborie Beach

If you’re looking to escape from the touristy beaches and enjoy the island like the locals then head over to Laborie Beach in the south of the island. The water is crystal clear and warm, as you’d expect the water to be in the Caribbean. It is a beautiful bay filled with reefs and palm trees. Since it’s not a very touristy place there aren’t facilities and beach chairs to rent so you need to come prepared. However, it’s worth it though in order to experience the true beauty of the Caribbean Sea without being surrounded by many other people.