The wait is phinally over Phillies Phans! Today should be a National Holiday but we all know that it is a Philadelphia Halladay! There are great pitchers in the majors, and then there is Roy Halladay. Doc is the Ace on a rotation full of Aces. He is the reigning National League Cy Young winner, unquestionably the best pitcher in all of baseball and he is an even better teammate. His amazing work ethic is a testament to the great pitcher he is today. Roy Halladay is the best pitcher in all of baseball and earns the #1 spot on our countdown.
It’s hard to imagine life without Chase Utley. With the knee problem surrounding our star second baseman the chatter has arose to ridiculous proportions. “Trade Chase, he’s overrated, he’s old and beat up.” With Chase “You are the Man!” Utley sidelined due to a thumb injury most of July and August of 2010 and now being sidelined with patellar tendinitis to begin the year the haters and naysayers have arrived. I am here to set the record straight, Chase Utley is STILL the best second baseman in all of baseball. Shocking?!? Well the truth remains; the heartbeat of Philly still has phaith in #26. We here at BLN still believe that Chase Utley is the best second baseman in the game and that he will prove that notion at some point in 2011. That’s why he still deserves #2 on our Best Athlete in Philly countdown.
A dependable bullpen can go a long way in easing the hearts of the Philly Phaithful. Games and even Championships can be won and lost by a team’s ability to successfully close out games. In 2008 Brad Lidge was perfect and that went a long way in propelling the Phillies to the World Series Championship. Since then, we have been holding our breaths to see if the game will be closed out. Once again the season will start with Lidge on the disabled list and it will be interesting to see how the pen will fall into place this season.
It’s hard to fathom why anybody in their right mind would want to leave beautiful, sunny Florida for the cold in the northeast. But it doesn’t take long to warm up to the idea of what 2011 has in store for the reigning NL East Division Champs. I would sit through negative degrees and snow just to see Opening Day this Friday! And well looking at the five day forecast we just may have to. Friday!? Yea it sounds pretty flipping ridiculous to talk about Opening Day as in this week!
There are few players in the NFL that can leave defensive coordinators sleepless and Eagles quarterback Michael Vick is definitely one of them. His combination of speed and arm strength is something that has not been seen before in the NFL and it makes him almost impossible to stop. But Vick’s career has been anything but a fairy tale as he has had to completely rebuild his image over the past few years. His electric play making ability allows him to dominate his opponent whenever he steps on the field and it earns him a spot at #3 on our countdown.
There are some players that are just irreplaceable. The style and impact of their play are so grand that that they actually fly under the radar because their greatness is that understated. Greatness is a part of their inner fiber. Intangibles that every great leader of every great team has. Mike Richards has done nothing but win throughout his entire hockey career. He continues to captain that attitude on the NHL level with the Flyers leading them to the Stanley Cup Finals a season ago. Mike Richards is quietly one of the most underrated players in all of hockey and one of the best all-around hockey players that Philadelphia has ever seen. Richards lands at #4 in our Best Athlete in Philly countdown.
On any other team a former Cy Young winner would be the undisputed ace and the teams starter on Opening Day. But this is not any ordinary rotation. Clifton Phifer Lee made the decision to take less money and join what has the talent to be one of the greatest rotations in the history of baseball. It’s hard to find a word to describe what type of pitcher Lee is, his stuff isn’t overpowering but he has pin point accuracy with all of his pitches. Lee is the best lefty in the game, is one of the best pitchers in all off baseball and is #5 on BLN’s 2011 Best Athlete in Philadelphia.
The Big Piece, the Big Man, the Big Fella, Big Brown, Big Smooth. There’s seems to be an underlying message in the array of nicknames used for the Phillies BIG slugger Ryan Howard. So whatever the name of choice there is no denying the impact that Howard has had on the Phillie since he was named NL Rookie of the Year in 2005. Amazingly enough he still gets hated on for his lack of “Big” play ability. Of course his strikeouts always the drink of choice for those guzzling some haterade. But the Big Man is a beast, point-blank-period! He has put up Hall of Fame numbers that only juice heads could fathom reaching. That’s why Howard belongs in the talk of Best Athlete in Philly and finds himself at # 6 in our countdown.
In football they say defense wins championships, in baseball good pitching beats good hitting but in hockey great defensive play is overlooked for some reason. Most of the attention in the NHL goes to the man who makes the save and the defense is overlooked. They are like the offensive line in football, they only get noticed if they do something wrong. Last year in the postseason, Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger was a major reason for their deep run in the playoffs. He has the ability to single handily completely shut down one of the opponent’s top scorers. His combination of leadership, gamesmanship and pure talent earns him a spot at number seven on our countdown.
You only get one chance to make a first impression on your next employer and yesterday Luis Castillo got off to a bad start with the Phillies. He signed a minor league contract with the team on Monday and was already in Florida. The team thought he would arrive to Clearwater in time to play in the game and he was already penciled in as the starting 2nd baseman for yesterday’s game. But when the Phillies looked around, there was something missing. Castillo was not in Clearwater. You would think that a player who was released by a team like the Mets and be signed by a World Series contending team would be running as fast as he could to Clearwater.