Casey Feeney

The 6 best on-court fights involving the Sixers

The 6 best on-court fights involving the Sixers

Joel Embiid added another chapter to the Sixers' history of on-court fights Wednesday night as he scrapped with fellow All-Star center Karl-Anthony Towns. Here’s a look at five of our other favorite on-court fights involving the 76ers.

5. Larry Bird vs Marc Iavaroni – 1983

This scrap took place in a preseason game. A. PRESEASON. GAME. Bird took exception to Iavaroni boxing out on a free throw. The two came together, were separated and eventually Bird made his way back to Iavaroni and landed a punch. Legendary Celtics coach Red Auerbach, then the team’s top basketball executive stormed the court and had to be separated (for his own good) from Moses Malone. Auerbach was later fined $2,500 for his action. A reasonable price to pay to not be punched by Moses Malone.

4. Sedale Threatt vs Danny Ainge – 1986

The Sixers/Celtics rivalry takes center stage again. Before he annoyed everyone as the Celtics president, Ainge annoyed everyone as a Celtics player. On this night, Sedale Threatt decided he had enough of Ainge’s act and delivered an open-hand shot to Ainge’s face. To Ainge’s credit, he stumbled but did not fall.

3. Charles Barkley vs Bill Laimbeer – 1990

This was the Thump and Bump Sixers vs the Bad Boys Pistons. In the waning seconds, notorious instigator Bill Laimbeer shoved a ball in his former teammate Rick Mahorn’s face. Charles Barkley, never one to back down from a skirmish, jumped in and the punches flew. Benches emptied. In the end, fines were handed out to both teams, and to more than a dozen players. Laimbeer and Barkley had to pay $20,000 fines and each sat out one game. Oh yeah, the Sixers won the game that night to clinch the Atlantic Division championship. 

2. Maurice Lucas vs Darryl Dawkins – 1977

The Sixres were on their way to taking a 2-0 series lead in the 1977 NBA Finals against the Trail Blazers when Darryl Dawkins and Bobby Gross tangled for a rebound. Dawkins tossed Gross to the floor. After some finger pointing by Gross, Dawkins went to deliver a haymaker and actually punched his own teammate Doug Collins. The Blazers’ Maurice Lucas came to Gross’ aid. Lucas and Dawkins squared off at center court. Fans actually stormed the court at the Spectrum. Order was eventually restored and the Blazers credit that moment as the turning point of the series. They went on to win the next four games and claim their first and only NBA title.

1. Julius Erving vs Larry Bird – 1984

This one takes top spot because of the star power involved. In November of 1984, Dr. J and Larry Bird were two of the top three recognizable stars in the NBA. This fight started after Bird attempted to bully his way into the post and picked up an offensive foul. As the teams went to the other end of the floor, Bird makes a beeline for Dr. J. A rookie forward by the name of Charles Barkley grabs Bird before he can get to Erving. Barkley then basically holds Bird up so that the Doctor can deliver the ultimate house call with three punches directly to the face. Remarkably, neither player was suspended. Gotta love the ‘80s.  



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Why Phillies shouldn't pay J.T. Realmuto $100 million or more

Why Phillies shouldn't pay J.T. Realmuto $100 million or more

The Phillies have a lot of difficult decisions to make this offseason. A decision on a new manager needs to be finalized. Half of the starting infield is likely to be changed, not to mention the desire to upgrade at least 40 percent of the starting rotation.

Relative to those decisions, signing J.T. Realmuto to a contract extension looks simple. Most Phillies fans feel that way.  

But is it a no-brainer if the terms are in the neighborhood of the five years and $112 million that Corey Seidman recently suggested? Let’s examine some of the key talking points.

'J.T. Realmuto is the best catcher in baseball'

That statement has been made plenty of times over the past year. It might be true. He’s certainly the most complete catcher. I’m not certain that Realmuto’s versatility makes him more valuable than Gary Sanchez and the sheer power he brings to the Yankees. Sanchez did have an awful postseason. But you do have to be there to be bad there. Regardless, it’s unquestionable that Realmuto is on the short list of top catchers in baseball.

But should that conversation even matter?

If you look at Realmuto solely as a hitter, he’d probably fit in somewhere between the 65th and 80th best everyday batter this past season. His .820 OPS ranked 69th amongst qualifiers in MLB. Next on that list, 70th with an .819 OPS, is Rhys Hoskins. I don’t imagine many Phillies fans would be lining up right now to give Hoskins $22 million-plus per year. 

This is where you point out Realmuto’s world-class defense at the diamond’s backbone position.

There’s no doubt Realmuto is the best in baseball at controlling the run game. He’s topped 31 percent in the caught stealing department in each of the last four seasons, including a mind-boggling 47 percent this past season. Baseball Prospectus measured Realmuto as the fourth-best defensive catcher in 2019 when factoring throwing, blocking pitches and pitch-framing.  

That invites the question: What did Realmuto’s great defense mean as far as overall run prevention for the Phillies this season? The short answer is not much. The Phillies ended up allowing 66 more runs in 2019 as opposed to the season before. While it would be a fool’s errand to blame Realmuto for the regression of the Phillies' pitching staff, it’s worth pointing out that Realmuto’s defense, or any player’s defense for that matter, is not as valuable as is conventionally believed. 

Effective pitching prevents runs. Everything else is window dressing.

In all actuality, Realmuto’s position should count as a reason for being cautious about signing him to a long-term, big-money deal. The physical rigors associated with catching are a reason to think Realmuto’s production will decline within the body of this deal, which would likely begin with his age-30 season in 2020. Not to mention that if the Phillies are able to work Realmuto down to the 110 starts in a season that Gabe Kapler mentioned as a desired target prior to his firing, that’s 45 to 50 starts Realmuto isn’t giving you that a position player theoretically could. 

'The Phillies can't afford to lose Realmuto'

This argument basically revolves around two main points: 

1. The Phillies traded their top pitching prospect and an everyday player for Realmuto. It would be foolish to lose him for nothing after that.

2. The Phillies currently don’t have enough good players to be World Series contenders. You cannot allow one already here to leave.

The first point is an easy one to counter. Past decisions should not dictate future ones. If signing Realmuto to a deal at a certain price point is not what’s best for the organization moving forward, it should not matter what it took to acquire him.

As for the second point, signing Realmuto might preclude the Phillies from adding multiple good players in the future. Would the Phillies be better served utilizing a much smaller portion of the $112 million theoretically pegged for Realmuto to sign a middle tier catcher, a la Travis d’Arnaud, then trade Realmuto for another piece or two while contributing the rest of the financial savings toward an elite pitcher like Stephen Strasburg or an elite hitter like Anthony Rendon? I’d argue yes.  

More simply put, the Phillies have a lot of holes to fill and spending major money on a good, not great hitter currently in his prime seasons that’s already in-house will not change your championship timeline.

By all accounts, Realmuto is a good clubhouse figure. He’s certainly an All-Star caliber talent. The Phillies should want to keep him. But there is a price where it make sense and a price where it does not. They have to be very careful about knowing that line.

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Phillies need to keep both Gabe Kapler and Matt Klentak or fire them both — it shouldn't be one or the other

Phillies need to keep both Gabe Kapler and Matt Klentak or fire them both — it shouldn't be one or the other

All-in.

That pretty accurately describes the question in front of Phillies owner and managing partner John Middleton’s mindset toward winning a third World Series in franchise history.

But now the time has come to determine whether he’s all-in or all-out on the heart of his baseball operations staff.

Until a decision is announced on Gabe Kapler and Matt Klentak’s future, we’re all left to speculate as to what Middleton is thinking about who is to blame for a season that began with championship aspirations and ended as many losses as wins. Thursday night, Jim Salisbury reported that a Kapler decision is unlikely to come before next week, and that Middleton is focused only on the manager's job, not the GM's or president's.

I’ll leave the debate as to whether Kapler and Klentak have earned the opportunity to maintain their jobs to others. A strong case can be made in either direction for both men.

But as this draws out, one thing becomes clear: The Phillies need to either keep both of them or fire both of them. Firing just one defies logic.

From all accounts, Klentak chose Kapler, in part, because of his ability to execute the vision of the front office in the dugout. There’s no evidence to suggest that hasn’t been the case. So, if Middleton still believes in Klentak's and the front office’s approach to the game, there’s no reason to fire Kapler.

On the other hand, if you believe that something is amiss in the organizational mindset, why would you keep the general manager who spearheaded that approach while dismissing the manager who was tasked with executing the vision on a nightly basis?

Furthermore, removing Kapler while retaining Klentak just courts future dysfunction. In that scenario, Middleton would likely hire an established manager with his own mindset that likely will not align with Klentak's methodology. Not to mention that Klentak would need to make the postseason in 2020 to avoid having the plug pulled on his tenure. That situation becomes ripe for a power struggle between the newly hired manager and the general manager on the hot seat.

Then, you likely find yourself back here next year looking to find a general manager. Only, the new GM will have his first manager forced upon him. Who knows how that arranged marriage will work? History suggests it won’t go well. 

So, then you find yourself two years down the road and the only place you’ve gotten to is square one with a GM that believes in his manager and vice versa.

As the hours and days tick by, it’s clear John Middleton must answer one simple question: Do I believe in the direction we’re going? 

It’s either all-in or all-out.

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