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Saturday, November 22, 2008

Utley News Says Plenty

When the biggest sports news of the week in late November is about the second baseman of your city’s baseball team – even if they are World Champions – things aren’t looking good for the winter squads. Those holding on to the Phillies to get through the pain of a suddenly putrid Eagles season got a kick in the gut with the revelation that Chase Utley needs hip surgery and may not see the field until June.

The good news is Phils GM Ruben Amaro Jr. appears pretty confident Utley will be ready to go by early April, if not opening day. The news, which didn’t really shock anybody except in regards to the extent of the injury, only makes what the guy did in the World Series run all the more impressive. Utley was a very realistic candidate to win the MVP early in the season, and while he tapered off in the second half of the season, no one in Philadelphia doubts that we’re still looking for a parade without him based on his playoff performance. If he makes a full recovery – and indications are this isn’t major surgery, but it’s tough to just assume he’ll be perfectly fine – the only question may be how good can this guy really be.

The Sixers are still tough to figure out, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing yet. They’ve won 4 out of 5 to crawl back to .500 at 6-6. Their one loss in that stretch brings hopes back to reality, a road loss against the previously 1-8 Minnesota Timberwolves. They beat Indiana after falling behind by more than 20 in the first quarter, which suggests Indiana fell asleep more than anything, and it took a comeback in the final minutes to beat what looks like another bad Clippers team.

Wins are wins, though, and I still think they can be very good. Elton Brand is the best post player they’ve had since Charles Barkley. Andre Miller continues to prove a distributing point guard is more valuable to a team than Allen Iverson. Thaddeus Young looks like the real deal, and may make Andre Iguodala trade bait for a shooter if anybody will take his contract.

I freely admit I only notice the Flyers when they’re winning, and 8-6-4 already 10 points behind the Rangers doesn’t sound too good.

Penn State is finishing a demolition of Michigan State and securing a Rose Bowl appearance as I type. Unfortunately, all it means is they get to wonder “what if” – as in, what if they had shown up against Iowa? That said, the Rose Bowl is likely going to be the only meaningful football around here in January.

That’s because we end – as Philadelphia always does – with the Birds. In five days they could have two consecutive wins and be in the playoff hunt. We may even forget our quarterback is dumb enough to think the fact that he admitted he didn’t know the NFL only played one overtime was some sort of public service. Andy Reid may realize that he didn’t invent football, and that all those teams winning by running the football may be on to something.

Or, as I’m guessing, the Birds will get beaten up in Baltimore with the Andy and Donovan Show chucking the ball all over the field, and we can officially root for them to lose for the good of the team. Jeff Lurie has to react eventually . . . right?

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