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5 reasons Philly sports fans should be excited for 2014

Jan 1, 2014, 3:52 PM EDT

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5. Playoffs!

2013 came and went, and not one of the big four managed to reach their respective sport’s postseason. In fact, we have to go all the way back to May of 2012 when the Flyers and 76ers both advanced to the quarterfinals.

Philadelphia did have some postseason representation in 2013. La Salle’s men’s basketball team enjoyed a memorable run to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA tournament. Merion Golf Club hosted the U.S. Open. Still, those experiences don’t unite the city in quite the same way.

Thankfully, the New Year is going to get started right, with the Eagles hosting an NFL playoff game this Saturday. The Flyers have turned their season around as well, and currently appear on track to make their postseason return as well. Who knows, the Phillies could even steal a Wild Card this summer.

The point is, Philly sports have enjoyed a marked turnaround compared to where we were even six short months ago. Don’t take that for granted.

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4. Jesse Biddle / Maikel Franco

The Phillies figure to go into 2014 with one of if not THE oldest roster in Major League Baseball. Nobody is expecting much from the aging core that helped produce the city’s last major championship in 2008. Some would laugh at the mere suggestion they could sneak into the playoffs.

Admittedly, there’s a decent chance we’ll have to slog through another summer of meaningless baseball from a franchise spinning its wheels. Thankfully though, there is some help on the way. A pair of quality prospects are looming in the minors, both of whom could potentially find their way to the big-league roster sometime in 2014.

For Maikel Franco, a September call-up at least seems likely as long as his stroke is anything like it was in 2013. The 21-year-old third baseman swatted 31 home runs between Clearwater and Reading last season with a .320 batting average, earning MiLB’s Breakout Prospect of the Year honors. He should be at Triple-A Lehigh Valley by summer, if he doesn’t start the season there.

Jesse Biddle’s ascension to the show might not be much closer, but he’ll be another name to watch this year. The 21-year-old Philly native didn’t have a great 2013 at Reading with a 5-14 record and 3.64 ERA, but it turns out the lefty was pitching through various maladies, including plantar fasciitis and whooping cough. With an offseason of rest, the 2010 first-round pick should return to form in the new year.

Biddle will probably begin the year at Triple A as well, and both he and Maikel are long-shots to make meaningful contributions to the Phillies this year. Both young men have bright futures ahead though, and there’s a good chance fans could get their first glimpse of one or both of them this summer.

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3. Steve Mason

Ilya Bryzgalov had his moments when he was in Philadelphia, but it rarely felt like he stole victories from the jaws of defeat. Since the Flyers acquired Steve Mason at April’s deadline, the new guy has frequently put the club on his back.

The orange and black acquired Mason from the Columbus Blue Jackets for the discount price of Michael Leighton and a third-round pick, though for good reason. Since winning the Calder Trophy for rookie of the year in ’08, the 25-year-old’s numbers plummeted every season until last when Sergei Bobrovsky finally replaced him between the pipes.

Mason’s fortunes began turning around immediately upon his arrival. Hell, he was the only reason the Flyers won any games at all during the early portion of this season’s schedule, as the offense struggled mightily to light the lamp more than once or twice per game.

The scoring has improved, and so too has Mason’s record in net. Since getting off to a 1-5-0 start in goal, the lefty’s record has improved to an incredible 17-4-4 to go with a solid .922 save percentage and 2.38 goals against average. They haven’t all been easy, either.  Mase has frequently stood on his head to bail out his mates.

With the Flyers rising in the standings and looking like a surefire playoff team again, it feels good to have a promising, young netminder in the crease. Who knows how deep they could run if Mason gets hot at the right time of the year.

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2. 2014 NBA Draft and Offseason

Sometimes you have to take a step back before you can take two forward. That seemed to be Sam Hinkie’s philosophy when he took over as 76ers general manager in May, as he quickly engineered a draft-day trade that sent the franchise’s best player packing.

Jrue Holiday was shipped to the New Orleans Pelicans in exchange for the rights to sixth-overall pick Nerlens Noel and a top-five protected first-round pick in 2014. The move guaranteed two things: first, that the Sixers would be so awful as a result, they would have an excellent shot at landing the No. 1 pick with their own ping-pong ball. Second, they would likely have two lottery picks in that draft.

The Sixers’ future already looks brighter than most thought. After a hot start, the club is well on its way to tanking, but exciting 2013 first-round pick Michael Carter-Williams has already made fans forget about Holiday.

With some quality pieces already in place, Hinkie will have an opportunity to make a big splash next offseason. Besides a pair of first-round picks, the Sixers are way under the salary cap, so they should be players in free agency. Plus, Evan Turner and Thaddeus Young may be tradeable assets that land more picks and pieces for the future.

Right now, the Sixers blow, and that’s unfortunate. Come this summer though, they are going to be a franchise to watch as Hinkie’s blueprint continues to unfold.

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1. The Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles’ rebuilding process is way ahead of schedule. In a season where most fans and experts predicted 6-8 wins, the Birds won 10 and a division title. They unearthed a franchise quarterback almost everybody had overlooked at some point, and successfully transitioned from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4 faster than expected.

We’ll find out just how good the Birds are right now in a matter of days. They may still be a piece or two away from the Super Bowl, but they’re in the playoffs. Anything can happen.

That’s not even the best part. The way the landscape looks at the beginning of 2014, the Eagles are poised to be contenders for a long time.

Recent drafts have produced quality contributors and budding stars all over the roster. The class of 2012 really came into its own this season, with Fletcher Cox, Mychal Kendricks, Vinny Curry and Brandon Boykin key pieces of a defensive turnaround, while ‘13’s class received promising campaigns from Lane Johnson, Zach Ertz, Bennie Logan and Earl Wolff.

Some of the game’s brightest stars are in their primes right now, such as NFL rushing champion LeSean McCoy (25), DeSean Jackson (27), Jason Kelce (26) and Connor Barwin (27).

And, of course, there’s Nick Foles. Only into his second season, the 24-year-old still has much to prove,  but it certainly appears the Eagles have found their franchise quarterback. It’s tough to win the Super Bowl without stability under center, something the organization may have unexpectedly walked into for the next decade with Foles.

Even the head coach is just getting started. The job Chip Kelly did of turning this team around in one season is amazing. Just imagine what he could do in year two.

No matter what the Eagles do in the playoffs this year, they only stand to improve with another offseason. Add a quality free agent or two and another solid draft, and Philadelphia could become an NFL powerhouse again in no time—if they aren’t already.

The Eagles are three wins away from the Super Bowl in 2014. Considering where they were last year at this time, you can’t ask for much more than that.

  1. 363repository - Jan 1, 2014 at 5:18 PM

    10 reasons Philly fans are the biggest assholes in the fucking universe

    http://phillyvs.weebly.com

    Reply
    • vincent lasprogata - Jan 1, 2014 at 5:47 PM

      If that is true and you are reading this article, what does that make you?

      Reply
      • 363repository - Jan 1, 2014 at 6:33 PM

        A self absorbed, potboiling troll curious as to why I should be excited for 2014

      • 2sentz - Jan 2, 2014 at 7:55 AM

        Dude your site is worse than disingenuous…..it’s really boring. “Have some class, Philly fans” is all you got? FYL

    • willh888 - Jan 1, 2014 at 6:33 PM

      60 days of bloggin, no comments. How do you handle it

      Reply
      • mykhuis - Jan 1, 2014 at 6:53 PM

        Clearly he blames Philly fans for everything, including the lack of comments on his blog.

      • 2sentz - Jan 2, 2014 at 8:14 AM

        My resolution was to help another human this year.

        http://www.cardiovention.com/26/how-significant-are-the-negative-effects-of-the-emotion-hatred-on-the-human-body

        http://stopallthathating.com/2011/06/03/just-in-case-you-didnt-know-hating-isnt-healthy/

        Check. Now I can resume my life.

      • Matt - Jan 2, 2014 at 3:59 PM

        I’m pretty sure his entire site is pro philly, it’s just using the national media’s interpretation as satire. Look at his articles. They’re really all pro philly. Highlighting the sell out (making fun of greenbay’s bandwagon by calling people who care about their team, bandwagoners), the Alan Iverson quote, all of it. Have a laugh, guys.

    • miller2425 - Jan 1, 2014 at 10:48 PM

      hey scumbsg asshole go f your self you pussy

      Reply
    • sumkat - Jan 1, 2014 at 11:56 PM

      I feel sick that I accidently clicked on that link while going to hit reply (crap mouse) and gave you awful blog a site visit

      Reply
  2. aces - Jan 1, 2014 at 10:42 PM

    why does everyone write about trade possibilities involving young n turner but rarely add hawes to the list…hawes is most likely to get traded by deadline. pistons, rockets n clippers could use a stretch big

    Reply
    • sumkat - Jan 1, 2014 at 11:52 PM

      because Turner and Young would probably bring back more. I also think the sixers like the idea of keeping Hawes, if not just to keep people from clamoring to see Noel.

      But either way, I don’t see them getting more than a 2nd, maybe a protected future first? I think Young and Turner would bring back more immediate value. If that would be a young guy (doubtful unless they are willing to take on a project, or a high risk guy), or a pick remains to be seen.

      Out of the 3, I’d like to see Young stick around, I think he would be a great glue guy that would put up 12-7-5 a night, with lock down d, all the hussle plays, and a few steals and blocks mixed in. The type of guy that make the difference between a playoff run and a title run. But at the same time, he would probably bring back the most. He’d look great in Houston next to Howard (not sure how many picks/young pieces they have), pretty good in NY next to Chandler (although my 4 year old with be eligible for social security before they have a pick they can trade), next to Gasol in Memphis, Sanders in Milwaulkee (they’ll pick too high to be in on him), in Indy next to Hibbert, etc. Basically anywhere with a big 5 that can protect the rim and let him play aggressive D. He’d also be great at what he was before the sixers got bad. A high energy guy off the bench that can lead a 2nd unit (the backups were the reason they made the playoffs 2 years ago)

      I think they are just waiting with Turner, figuring that the price will rise when it gets closer to the deadline, and teams are getting anxious and wanting to make that last move. The first day someone offers a 1st, is the last day he’s on the Sixers. I do think that will happen, if it’s for this year or next, and how it’s protected, remains to be seen. But I do think a playoff team will be willing to part with a pick in the 20′s for him as it gets closer to the deadline.

      Hawes can’t go to Houston. They need a stretch 4, not a stretch big. Hawes would get abused defensively having to play the 4, especially out west. He’d only be useful with Howard on the bench, they already have Asik (although no the same game), but they’d have no minutes to give him. Pistons I could see, but I don’t think, that they think, they are ready. It’s also possible the slip out of the playoffs, and it’s al lottery pick. So unless it’s for next year, and lottery protected, I don’t see them doing that. Clipp are a possibility, but they are low on picks also. So while I think he can be moved, I think the most you will get back for him is a 2nd, or vastly protected, a few years down the line, 1st.
      Plus he’s an expiring contract, so not sure the sixers want to lose any of that financial flexibility without a good return (like a 1st). If the stars align, and they get one of those top 3, and the Pelicans pick is 11-13ish, this will be a VERY attractive team to FA’s (especially if they still have Young on the 2nd unit). Noel, MCW, any of those top 3, and one of the second tier (which would be top tier in a normal draft) is a solid a young core as there would be out there. Plus a few of these young guys that have been playing decent, would look good as 8-9 on the bench type of guys. They will have 2 seasons before MCW and Noel will need raises, and will be able to sign 2 max FA’s without dropping anything in that time. (After that, they could do it, but would have to clear salary)

      Reply
      • brandonphilly - Jan 2, 2014 at 5:03 AM

        Nice breakdown, Sumkat!

  3. williams2312 - Jan 1, 2014 at 10:52 PM

    hey 363 dude your the asshole go fuccckk yourself in bed your obviously a cowboy fan fuuccckk offf pussy

    Reply
  4. brandonphilly - Jan 2, 2014 at 5:00 AM

    Nice article, Kulper. Hinkie’s a mad scientist, the Phillies will blow for at least another year, and the Eagles might get Jairus Byrd in the offseason!!!!!

    Reply
  5. psudrozz - Jan 2, 2014 at 9:35 AM

    everything’s coming up milhouse!

    Reply
  6. Scott B - Jan 2, 2014 at 9:39 AM

    Liked the read Kulp and couldnt agree with your assessment more. Lets get Mr. Mason signed for like 4 years?

    Reply
  7. oodyman22 - Jan 2, 2014 at 11:39 AM

    And the banana peel thing happened in Europe during the NHL lockout. Disgusting but not relevant.

    Reply

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