Tag Archives: Carson Wentz

For Philadelphia sports fans, Bryce Harper may be only big free agent drawing card

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Harper may be the one true drawing card for tough Philly sports fans

When the off-season began the Phillies had a clear mandate from the broader Philadelphia sports fan base. Those many fans who lie beyond the hardcore baseball fans who the team can count on every year, win or lose.

The fans who have made Carson Wentz and Zach Ertz their favorite players on the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles. The fans who have trusted the process and are fully behind Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons now that the 76ers have become legitimate NBA contenders.
What the Phillies are after is a re-capturing of the fan base who had the club’s full attention for more than a decade, a period that came to a sudden, crashing end approximately six years ago.
Along with that attention, owner John Middleton also hopes to re-capture the dollars spent by those fans. From 2007 through 2013, the last year or two riding a wave of hope established by the success of earlier Phillies teams, those fans flooded into Citizens Bank Park at a pace of well over three million each season.

In recent years, those attendance figures have come crashing down. The turnstiles have spun far less frequently as the product on the field deteriorated. Philly fans have stayed away in droves, with attendance not even reaching the two million mark for three straight seasons from 2015-17.
There was a slight increase this past season to 2.1 million, or approximately 200,000 more total fans than in the previous three years. That is roughly 3,000 more per game. Those fans were lured in by a team that made an unexpected run to the top of the division in mid-summer. But their interest faded over the final month or so as the team faded in the standings.
The per-game attendance of 26,644 ranked just 12th of 15 National League ball clubs. And it pales in comparison to the 44-45,000 per game who packed the beautiful ballpark in South Philly during the relatively recent heydays.
So, what will it take to re-ignite that broader fan base? Those other one million or so paying customers who actually came out to the park, spending their hard-earned money on tickets, parking, concessions, and merchandise?
Neither McCutchen or Machado is likely to excite the broader Philly sports fan base. (Photo: Keith Allison)
It is going to take what they believe to be sustainable winning. And it is going to take relatable star power. Despite the additions of good players in Andrew McCutchen and Jean Segura the Phillies are not there yet.
And here is another prediction that might make the club tremble at the thought of handing him something like $350 million or more of their dollars for the next decade – Manny Machado will not get them there either.
Machado is a fine player. By all statistical measures he is a genuine superstar. He fits a lineup need perfectly. But he comes with baggage of the type that does not usually play well in Philly. You can argue the numbers all you want. And I’ll watch and say I told you so, just as I did with Carlos Santana.
There is only one player available on the free agent market this off-season who will genuinely excite the Philadelphia sports fan base. Only one who will sell big numbers of jerseys and shirseys. Who will light up the phone lines down on Pattison Avenue. Who will increase visits to the website to purchase tickets.
I am not going to say that the Phillies off-season will be a complete failure if they do not sign Bryce Harper. They could very well put together a winning team that might even push for a Wildcard playoff berth. But there is no other player who will put the fannies in the seats the way that he would.
I wrote at the beginning of the Winter Meetings that the Phillies were one of the front-runners for Harper’s services. That remains true today. Don’t expect any significant movement from any team regarding the star outfielder until after Machado signs.

Originally published at Phillies Nation as “Only one Phillies free agent signing would genuinely excite the broader Philly sports fan base

Finally Eagles, Finally!

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“Fly Eagles, Fly!” is the official fight song for the Philadelphia Eagles of the National Football League.

After winning the first Super Bowl championship in franchise history last night, we can at least temporarily change those first three words of the song to “Finally Eagles, Finally!

The Eagles and New England Patriots threw haymakers at one another all night long on Sunday night during Super Bowl LII in Minnesota in a game that was reminiscent of the climactic fight of the film “Rocky II“.

In that epic slugfest, Philly’s favorite fictional underdog fighter, Rocky Balboa, traded big blows with and ultimately defeated a legendary unbeatable champion named Apollo Creed.

Last night it was a real, live legendary champion named Tom Brady who was throwing bombs at the Eagles. For most of the night, Brady found the Birds weak spots, landing punishing shot after punishing shot.

But the Eagles kept taking those shots and answering back with big shots of their own. Leading the way was a man every bit the underdog that the fictional Rocky had been in that film series.

Nick Foles has had big moments as an NFL quarterback before, including in an Eagles uniform. But his career had gone a bit off the rails over the last couple of years to the point where he was ready to retire from the game.

Given another shot at NFL life, Foles was signed by the Eagles for the 2018 season. Brought in to serve as a backup to rising stud Carson Wentz, most Eagles fans thought – in fact hoped – that Foles would never see the field.

As everyone now knows, the unthinkable happened. Wentz led the Eagles to the NFL’s best record and was the leading NFL MVP candidate. But it all seemed to evaporate when Wentz suffered a debilitating knee injury, ending his season in a Week #14 victory in Los Angeles.

In stepped a cold Foles. With no training camp, having taken no game snaps all year long, the 28-year old in his sixth season was suddenly put under center for the NFC’s top team.

It was a no-win situation for Foles. If the Eagles collapsed at that point, blame would all go to the Wentz injury. If they lost at any point in the playoffs, there would always be those who would wonder “what if Carson” had stayed healthy?

In retrospect – if it had to happen at all – the timing of Wentz’ injury could not have been better. His great play had been the biggest key in the Eagles having clinched a playoff berth. He put the team in position to finish as the top overall seed in the NFC playoffs.

That timing allowed Foles to come in and play in two full games and parts of two others before the playoffs would begin. It was just enough time to get him up to game speed and ready to perform once again on the big stage.

Perform he would. Foles threw for 246 yards and managed the game well as the Eagles held off the tough defending NFC champion Atlanta Falcons by 15-10 in the Divisional Round.

Taking it up a notch, Foles put on a show in throwing for 352 yards and three touchdowns as the Eagles crushed the Minnesota Vikings dreams of hosting the Super Bowl in their home town with a 38-7 victory in the NFC Championship Game.

That all led to last night, and the battle with Brady and his Patriots. Brady threw for an unreal Super Bowl record 505 yards and three touchdowns.

But for nearly every Brady drive of excellence, Foles had an answer. He threw for 373 yards himself, and matched the great Brady with three touchdown passes of his own.

He also did Brady one better. While Brady dropped a possible TD reception on a second quarter trick play, Foles caught one tossed by tight end Trey Burton. Foles thus became the first player in NFL history to both pass for and catch a touchdown in the Super Bowl.

The game itself was much like those fictional Balboa-Creed battles. Big shots. Back and forth action. When each seemed within a blow of landing a knockout punch, the other would come roaring back to life.

After the two teams traded early field goals, Foles was first to put his team into the end zone when he connected with wide receiver Alshon Jeffery on a 34-yard TD pass with 2:41 to play in the first quarter.

Halfway through the second quarter, former Patriots’ running back LeGarrette Blount bulled his way in from 21 yards away with the help of strong blocking from his teammates to give the Birds a 15-3 lead.

That lead nearly got even bigger. On their next possession from the New England 43-yard line, Foles tried to connect with Jeffery down along the sideline at the eight-yard line.

The receiver nearly made a tremendous one-hand catch. But the ball somehow flipped out of his hand, and popped directly to Duron Harmon for the only interception that Foles would throw in the entirety of this postseason run.

At this point, I was feeling a bit cocky that my pregame 41-10 prediction in favor of the Eagles was going to materialize. I would turn out to be only halfway correct.

Brady became nearly unstoppable for much of the rest of the contest. He started by leading New England on an eight-play, 90-yard drive, aided along by a key defensive holding call. When James White rolled in from 26-yards out, the Pats had cut their deficit to just 15-12.

However, Foles answered right back, leading the Eagles down to the Patriots one-yard line with just :38 seconds remaining in the first half. The key play of the drive was a 55-yard catch and run by rookie RB Corey Clement, who had a tremendous game in all phases.

On fourth-and-one, coach Doug Pederson could have kicked a field goal, putting points on the board for his team as they entered halftime. But Pederson showed all night long that he wasn’t playing it safe. His team was going to play to win.

Pederson called for a schoolyard trick play, and his players ran it to perfection. Clement would find himself right in the middle of things once again.

Foles lined up in the shotgun to take the snap, but then suddenly split out to the right as a receiver. The direct snap went to Clement, who started to his left, then pitched the ball off to backup tight end Trey Burton, who was moving right.

While all this misdirection was happening, Foles had slipped off unseen into the right side of the end zone. Burton threw a perfect strike while on the run to Foles, who cradled the TD reception into his arms. The Eagles thus took a 22-12 lead into the locker room.

After a lengthy halftime break in which Justin Timberlake put on quite a song and dance show, the action continued with Brady remaining hot.

Leading the Patriots on an eight-play, 75-yard drive, Brady found his favorite target on half of those plays. Rob Gronkowski had receptions of 25, 24, and 14 yards. Then he snared a 5-yard TD catch, and just a couple minutes into the second half, it was again a three-point game.

Not to be outdone, Foles again drove the Eagles back right away. An 11-play, 85-yard drive culminated with a 22-yard TD pass to Clement, and the Eagles were back up by 10 again at 29-19.

And then Brady got the ball back, and guess what happened? Yup. Eight-play, 75-yard drive resulting in a 26-yard TD pass to Chris Hogan making it a 29-26 game. That was how the third quarter would end.

Early in the fourth, a 42-yard field goal by Jake Elliott pushed the Eagles lead out to 32-26. That gave Brady the ball back, and he remained unstoppable.

A 10-play, 75-yard drive led to a four-yard pass to Gronkowski for the touchdown. When Stephen Gostkowski booted the extra-point, New England had their first lead of the night at 33-32.

With 9:22 to play, Foles got the ball back, trailing for the first time. On a third and six play from his own 29-yard line he found TE Zach Ertz for seven and a first down. But three plays later, with the clock showing under six minutes to play, the Eagles faced a fourth down.

On fourth and one from their own 45-yard line, Pederson faced another key decision. The odds said to punt, try to pin the Patriots deep, have the defense hold Brady, and get the ball back in better field position.

But as I said earlier, Pederson didn’t come to U.S. Bank Stadium to play it safe. He came to win. And so he rolled the dice again, going for it on fourth down. Foles came through once again. A quick hit to Ertz over the middle resulted in a two-yard gain and another first down.

Seven plays and three more minutes off the clock later, Foles again found Ertz, this time streaking towards the end zone. Foles hit his tight end in stride at the five. Ertz turned up field, took a couple of strides, and dove into the end zone for the go-ahead touchdown.

With just over two minutes remaining and holding a five-point lead, Pederson called for a two-point conversion attempt. For the second time in the game, the Birds failed to convert, and the Eagles held a 38-33 lead.
Brady would get the ball back with one timeout and the two minute warning in his pocket. This was way too much time and opportunity for any Eagles coach, player, or fan to feel anything but uncomfortable.
The Eagles clearly needed someone on the defense to step up with a big play, which really hadn’t happened the entire game. Now, at the biggest moment, that big play would finally come.
Brady began at his own 25, and immediately completed a pass to Gronkowski for an eight-yard gain. It looked to all the world as if he was ready to begin yet another late-game drive to victory.
On second down and two, Brady again dropped back to pass. But this time, the Eagles defense charged through the Patriots line.
Brandon Graham reached Brady, bursting the football from his hands. Derek Barnett pounced on the loose ball, recovering a fumble that now stands as the single most important defensive play in Eagles history.
Foles took over and drove the offense back down the field once more. That drive resulted in key points put up on the scoreboard in the form of a clutch 46-yard field goal from Elliott. The Eagles now had a 41-33 lead. But Brady would get the ball back with just over a minute to play.
On the ensuing kickoff return, Patriots coach Bill Belichik showed that he wasn’t going down without a fight, calling for a reverse. Once again it would be Clement who would come up big, this time on special teams. The first man down field on the kickoff coverage, he disrupted the return enough that the Eagles were able to pin the Patriots deep.
Brady was forced to begin at his own nine-yard line. He had no time outs, and just :58 seconds to drive his team to a touchdown. He would then still need to be successful on a two-point conversion just to force a tie and send the Super Bowl to overtime.

The Eagles defense stiffened, and the pass rush put relentless pressure on him. Three plays later the Patriots faced fourth and ten, still at that nine-yard line. And then Brady tried to miraculously raise his team from the canvas one last time.

Completing passes to his two favorite targets, Danny Amendola and Gronkowski, Brady got the first down and then drove the Patriots out to midfield with nine seconds remaining. There was enough time for one last-gasp ‘Hail Mary’ play.

The plan was for Brady to throw up the ball in the end zone, hoping that the massive Gronkowski could out-leap and out-fight the Eagles defensive backs. That, or have him tip the ball to Amendola or one of the other receivers.

As Brady dropped back to pass, the Eagles put on another strong rush. Graham nearly got him again, but the New England QB slipped away and stepped up for one final heave.

He couldn’t have made a better throw. Brady’s long pass was on the money. The ball came down just inside the end zone, and Gronkowski was right there, leaping to make the catch. However, he was swarmed upon by a gaggle of Eagles defensive backs.

The ball was swatted around, appearing to bounce off two or three players before finally falling harmlessly to the turf. There were no flags, the clock was at 0:00, and the Philadelphia Eagles were finally world champions.

13 years ago, Brady and the Patriots had defeated the Eagles in the Super Bowl. Now in a rematch of sorts, the greatest quarterback in NFL history had done battle with one of the biggest underdogs in NFL history.

Like that showdown fight in “Rocky II, the underdog had defeated the defending champion.

All of that tells you the story of the game. But it fails to convey the emotion that comes with being a fan of that underdog. I have been such a fan for something like 47 years.

My earliest memories of the Eagles are from the opening of Veteran’s Stadium for the 1971 season. My age peers and I lived through mostly losing teams in those early Vet years with quarterbacks named Pete Liske, John Reaves, Roman Gabriel, and Mike Boryla.

Finally, an energetic young coach named Dick Vermeil arrived, and we began to believe that we could join the NFL’s elite. Though we had many great moments and great players over the next four decades, even reached the Super Bowl twice, we could never claim the ultimate victory.

There were no guarantees that it would ever come either. Just ask fans of the Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs, both with loyal and passionate fan bases.

For 86 years in the Bosox case, and for 108 years in the Cubbies case, generations of fans were born, lived a full life, rooted on their teams for decades, and died never experiencing a World Series victory.

No, there was no guarantee that any of us would ever live to see the Eagles win a Super Bowl. But last night put an end to all of the frustration.

When Graham knocked the ball from Brady’s hands and Barnett recovered it, a realization hit me that I would not allow myself to feel all night. The Eagles were about to win the Super Bowl. Seriously, tears began to well up in my eyes.

Those emotions remained exactly that raw for the next 15 minutes or so of real time, the final two minutes of the game time. Could the Eagles pick up the one more first down that they needed to drive the stake through Brady’s heart? No. Could the defense stop him on fourth down at his own nine, driving that stake through his heart? No.

But could the greatest quarterback in the history of the National Football League pull one final miracle out of his bag? Could he add one more unbelievable last-second play to his personal highlight reel? No as well.

What Vermeil, Ron Jaworski, and Bill Bergey were unable to do, these Eagles finally did. What Buddy Ryan, Randall Cunningham, and Reggie White were never able to do, these Eagles finally did. What Andy Reid, Donovan McNabb, and Brian Dawkins were never able to do, these Eagles finally did.

As the Eagles players, coaches, and families began to celebrate on the field nearly a thousand miles away, at my house, with those tears now fully in my eyes, my wife and I embraced. Out on the streets of Philadelphia, tens of thousands poured out onto Broad Street from north to south to celebrate.

The Philadelphia Eagles had finally won the Super Bowl. And like our fictional hero decades ago, they did it as underdogs. It only made the victory that much sweeter.

Team owner Jeffrey Lurie took to the stage to accept the Super Bowl trophy. GM Howie Roseman, for whom this victory must be justifiably ridiculously sweet, took part in the trophy celebration.

Foles was honored as the Super Bowl MVP, joined on stage by his quarterback brother Wentz, who will now hope to one day lead the team back to this moment.

There will be a parade here in Philly on Thursday. Millions are expected. It will be a street party like none this town has ever seen, and with the Flyers of the 1970’s and the 1980 and 2008 Phillies, I’ve seen some pretty big ones.

Finally, Eagles fans, it was our turn to see our heroes on the stage accepting the Lombardi Trophy, green and white confetti pouring down on them. It was our turn to party late into the night. It was our turn to know that championship feeling. Finally, Eagles fans. Finally!

Can Eagles fly without Carson Wentz?

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Nick Foles takes over as Eagles QB after injury to Carson Wentz

This afternoon for the first time since the 2013 season the Philadelphia Eagles will take part in an NFL playoff game.

For my fellow Eagles fans, if it seems that we’ve suffered through a long drought without a postseason appearance, that’s because we have.

In the last 30 years there has only been one other stretch, from 1997-99 prior to the Andy Reid-Donovan McNabb era, where the Eagles missed the playoffs in three consecutive seasons.

The turnaround from the recent downturn for the franchise can easily be traced to one event, and basically to one person. That would be the selection of quarterback Carson Wentz with the second overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft.

Wentz somewhat unexpectedly became the starting quarterback immediately. He led the Eagles to a 3-0 start as a rookie that fall, demonstrating the talent and leadership that had inspired team management to make him such a high draft selection.

After the defense collapsed during a five-game late season losing streak, Wentz orchestrated a pair of 2016 season-closing victories over the division rival New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys.

Those late wins and his overall play buoyed the hopes and dreams of the Eagles rabid fan base for the 2017 season. Wentz and the team did not disappoint. He passed for over 3,200 yards and 33 touchdowns in leading the team to an 11-2 record this fall.

But the 13th game would prove to be unlucky in the extreme. Wentz was matched up against the quarterback chosen ahead of him with the top pick in that 2016 NFL Draft, Jared Goff, as the Eagles visited the Los Angeles Rams.

Wentz would throw four touchdown passes to out-duel Goff at the Los Angeles Colosseum in a 43-35 thrilling shootout. With four minutes to go in the third quarter, Wentz was hit awkwardly as he tried to score on a keeper from the Rams two-yard line.

Four plays later, Wentz passed to Alshon Jeffery to put the Eagles up by 31-28. However, on that earlier keeper play, Wentz had injured his leg. He would leave the game following the TD pass, replaced by backup Nick Foles for the first time all season.

A rusty Foles would go just 6-10 for 42 yards, but the Eagles defense took over. The ‘D’ forced a pair of fumbles, one setting up a Jake Elliott field goal and another returned for a touchdown by Brandon Graham.

It was learned following the game that Wentz had suffered major injuries. He would require surgery to repair a torn ACL and a partially torn IT band, as well as some meniscus damage. Not only would Wentz miss the rest of the 2017 season, but he is likely to miss much of the 2018 season as well.

With their NFL MVP candidate leader out, the Eagles turned the reigns of a playoff team over to Foles. The team won their first two games with the backup under center, but those victories over the Giants and the LA Raiders were marked by inconsistent play against inferior opponents.

Those two victories did allow the Eagles to clinch the top overall record in the NFC, and thus home field advantage for however long they last in the playoffs.

A season-closing 6-0 loss to the hated rival Cowboys continued the inconsistent play, with Foles seeing just limited action. Coach Doug Pederson took the meaningless contest as a chance to rest his regulars and get some game action for the new backup quarterback, Nate Sudfeld.

As the Eagles have waited for an opponent to be determined and then began to prep for their NFC Divisional Playoff game, there has been a lot of tough talk.

But any honest fan of the team has to admit that without Wentz, this has simply not been the same team that built most of the record which put them in this position.

The playoff opponent turns out to be the Falcons, the defending NFC champions. Last February, Atlanta built a 25-3 lead in dominating the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LI. But the Falcons then infamously collapsed, with Tom Brady orchestrating one of the greatest comebacks in NFL history for a 34-28 overtime Patriots victory.

This year, Atlanta suffered a roller-coast season early on. They were just 4-4 after an early November defeat at Carolina. The Falcons then went on a roll, winning six of their last eight. Their defense has led the way, allowing an average of just under 17 points per game over the last seven weeks.

A week ago, the Falcons shut down Goff and the Rams in a 26-13 road victory. They are a dangerous team once again. Led by a local boy quarterback, 32-year old Matt Ryan out of Penn Charter HS, the Falcons are a 2.5-point road betting line favorite over the Eagles on game day.

So the question is completely legitimate: can the Eagles win with Nick Foles as their quarterback? The simplest answer is that yes, of course they can win.

But now things are more complicated than they would have been had Wentz not gotten hurt. With Wentz leading the team, the uber-confident Eagles were on a roll. They were clearly a Super Bowl contender, the best team in the NFC.

The Eagles team that has been on display over the last month has not been a Super Bowl contender, and are clearly not the best team in the NFC.

In order to win in these playoffs, the Eagles are going to have to have three things happen. If any of the three fail to emerge, it will take something miraculous to fashion a victory.

First, the Eagles need their defense to play strong, emotional, inspired football. A half-dozen times this year, that ‘D’ has surrendered just 10 points or less. But for much of the year, the team won thanks to Wentz and an emerging high-octane offensive attack.

That leads to the second thing that must happen. In two stints with the Eagles, fans have found that there are two different versions of Nick Foles. There is the ‘Good Nick’, like the one who tossed four TD’s in beating the Giants. And there is the ‘Bad Nick’, represented by his horrible performance a week later against the Raiders.

For the Eagles to win against quality opponents in the playoffs, they need ‘Good Nick’ to show up. If ‘Good Nick’ shows up for three weeks, the Eagles can win the Super Bowl. If ‘Bad Nick’ makes even one appearance, they are likely done.

The final thing that must happen for the Eagles to win in these playoffs is that Pederson needs to emphasize his rushing attack, even more than he did in the regular season.

The Birds have three highly effective running backs in Jay Ajayi (5.8), LeGarrette Blount (4.4), and Corey Clement (4.3) who each averaged more than four yards per carry this season.

The Eagles must be able to run the ball successfully. This will keep the defense off the field, allowing that unit to remain fresh. It will also allow Foles to manage the game much more effectively, giving him time to find someone open among the vastly improved receiving corps of Jeffery, Zach Ertz, Trey Burton, Torrey Smith, and Nelson Agholor.

One factor outside the control of the players is the weather. The extreme cold was obviously a factor for both the Birds and their opponents in the last two games. Against the Raiders and Cowboys, just 35 total points were scored, and a number of passes were dropped by each of the teams.

By game time this afternoon, the temperatures are again expected to be below freezing, with wind chills in the teens. Theoretically, this should benefit the Eagles. They have been playing games in the cold for weeks. The Falcons play their home games in a domed stadium, and have not played a single game in those kinds of conditions all season long.

“Fly Eagles, Fly!” is the team fight song and the fans rallying cry. But can the Eagles fly without Carson Wentz? Yes, they can. But it will take a strong defense, an effective running game, a well-managed game from Nick Foles, good play calling and time management from Pederson, and maybe even an assist from the weather.

That sounds like a lot of things that have to go right for the Eagles to win. That’s only because this is the NFL playoffs. Every team still playing is a quality team. You want to win, you have to bring your best. That goes as much for the Falcons, and any other opponent, as it does for the Eagles.

Kickoff is scheduled for 4:35pm at Lincoln Financial Field. The game will be televised by NBC nationally. Radio coverage is provided locally by SportsRadio WIP (94.1 FM) with national radio coverage via Westwood One.

Phillies fans continue to dream on Mike Trout

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Mike Trout roots on his beloved Philadelphia Eagles in 2016 at The Linc

It has now been five long, losing seasons for fans of the Philadelphia Phillies. Those years came on suddenly, after nearly a decade of exciting, winning baseball.

In 2012, the Phils fell to the .500 mark after winning a franchise record 102 games the previous year. Since then, the team has never finished with more than 73 wins, or closer than 23 games to first place.
In late April of that 2012 season, the Los Angeles Angels called up a prized prospect from their minor league system. Mike Trout had been the Halos’ first round pick at 25th overall in the 2009 MLB Amateur Draft.
Trout was drafted out of Millville Senior High School in Millville, New Jersey. The town of about 30,000 people sits in Cumberland County of South Jersey. It lies just about 30 miles from Sea Isle City at the Jersey shore.
As the Phillies star faded, Trout’s quickly rose. He won the American League Rookie of the Year award in that 2012 season. Trout hit for a .326/.399/.564 slash line with 30 homers. He led the league with 49 stolen bases and 129 runs scored.
It was the first of what would be six consecutive MVP caliber all-star seasons from Trout. He was the AL’s Most Valuable Player winner in both 2014 and then again last season. In his other three full seasons, Trout finished as runner-up for the award. He has five consecutive Silver Slugger awards.
In short, Trout has become widely acknowledged as the best all around player in Major League Baseball.

LOCAL KID REMAINS A PHILLY SPORTS FAN

As Trout emerged to superstardom, Phillies fans became aware of his having been born in the area. Millville is Philly sports country, and Trout grew up as a fan of all the local teams.
Trout remains a vocal fan of the Philadelphia Eagles, and has become good friends with the Birds’ quarterback, Carson Wentz. He was tailgating as a 17-year old on that glorious night in October of 2008 when his boyhood idols won the World Series.
So it’s only natural that Trout has become one of the few opposition players who is beloved by Phillies fans. Those fans quickly began to envision a day when Trout might patrol the outfield in South Philly.
The Phillies are now out on a 10-game road trip that has begun in Anaheim to visit Trout and the Angels. Fans who stayed up late to watch Wednesday night’s contest saw him crush a home run to help the Angels to a 7-0 win over the Phillies.
That home run was Trout’s 20th of the year, despite the fact that he missed more than a month with the first DL stint of his career.
Trout will turn 27 years old early next week. He is signed to a contract with the Angels that takes him through the 2020 season.
When signed a couple of years ago, that contract broke the hearts of some Phillies fans who were counting down the days to his eligibility for free agency. But no one could blame him. At $144.5 million over five years, it gave Trout and his family financial security for life.

FOR PHILLIES FANS, THE WAIT IS ON

So now the wait is on, at least where Phillies fans are concerned. While Trout cannot become an outright free agent for another three years, he could come back east before that point.
If the Angels cannot get him to agree to a further extension, they may be forced to try to deal him by the 2019 trade deadline. Where will the Phillies be at that point in their own rebuilding process?
It is hoped that two years from now, the Phillies will have fully turned the page from the current group of placeholder position players. A number of their highly rated prospects, such as shortstop J.P. Crawford, second baseman Scott Kingery, and first baseman Rhys Hoskins should have a full season or two under their belts by that point.
The Phillies should also have plenty of money to spend on Trout’s next contract. That deal is likely to be for more than $400 million, and will take him through most, if not all, of his 30’s.
That is the plan, from a Phillies fan perspective. If I’ve seen it written and heard it discussed once over the last few years, I’ve heard it a hundred times.

HOMECOMING IS A REALISTIC POSSIBILITY

Prior to the game on Wednesday, Trout was asked point-blank by broadcaster Gregg Murphy about the possibility of returning home to play one day. “Obviously I have a couple more years on my contract,” Trout was quoted in a piece on the Murphy interview by Jordan Hall for CSN Philly.
“Growing up as a kid, you always want to play for your team, but I love it in Anaheim. I can’t say enough about this organization, I was brought up here and we’ll see what happens.”
Some fans who speculate about the Phillies obtaining him within the next year or two. That is highly unlikely. Trout is wildly popular with the Angels fan base, and is easily their biggest drawing card. He is not going anywhere for at least two years.
But when he does go on the market, the Phillies should be ready to pounce. If he remains as good as he has been, and they somehow lose him to some other team due to a higher offer, I don’t even want to imagine the uproar.
Back in May of 2014, Trout stepped to the plate in Philadelphia as a member of the Angels for the first time. He was greeted by a loud roar and standing ovation as he stepped into the box to face Cliff Lee. The appearance only served to feed Phillies fans Trout frenzy, which has continued to grow.
If I’m a betting man, which I’m not, I’d put it at better than 50/50 that Trout is patrolling the outfield at Citizens Bank Park in front of those Phillies fans during the 2020’s. Until it happens, those fans will continue to speculate wildly, and to dream of the return of a hometown hero.