DM Digest #1 – “Why is Philly no Longer a Sports City/Free Agent Destination?” – @JamesSantore


Welcome to DM Digest. This is where I’ll answer any and all questions from readers in the most honest way possible. Ask me anything (that won’t get me in trouble). The really good questions will also get discussed by myself and Kevin McGowan on the Sideline Spew podcast (which is coming later this week!).

@brandenbutkus on IG: “Can you try to explain why Philadelphia is no longer a sports city and that it isn’t a big market destination for high-end targets? For example, Claude Giroux should have been traded when he was worth value and Players such as Alshon Jeffery and Didi are signed for no reason.”

What a way to start DM Digest. Philly not a sports city? I don’t necessarily agree with that, but I do understand the perspective. Four-for-four (although the Union deserve way more love, especially after winning the Supporters’ Shield – #DOOP). That’s what we call ourselves here in Philly when we root for strictly Philly sports teams. If you are NOT four for four: get the hell out. Just kidding (kinda), but the vast majority of us crazy sports fans here in Philly are four-for-four’s. Now, rooting for teams who have collectively gone 15,396-15,796-484 since inception is not an easy task (feel free to use that stat on your zoom calls today – you’re welcome). But, no matter how good or bad our teams are we always make sure we let our voices be heard.

I’m 26. For the majority of my life, this has been the setup: one team is flat out mediocre, one team has high expectations and sucks, one team is in the dangerous spot of deciding to rebuild or go for it, and one team has always just flat-out sucked. The Birds, Flyers, and Sixers had their runs in the early-2000’s with McNabb, Westbrook, Lindros, AI, etc. Other than that, success has been pretty fragmented in this city.

The 2005-2011 Phillies were a pleasure to watch and that World Series was one that the city desperately needed. The 2017-2018 Eagles were one of the best Philly stories ever – grit, perseverance, controversy, and a little bit of luck. The Sixers have been bordering the “NBA elite” and “really expensive, ill-fitting 5 seed” for 5+ years now. The Flyers continue to have low-to-mid expectations for success and find a way to at least make it exciting (shout out Carter Hart – dude is LEGIT). We’re finally at a point where all teams are competitive in their own ways – if the Phillies get a bullpen that is – and we’ve experienced that taste of success that every Philadelphian has dreamed of when crushing a “whiz wit” at Tony Lukes while heavily intoxicated at 6 PM after a Jetro tailgate.

But I think I understand what Branden is asking here. Less about the fans and more about appearing as a destination for free agents. The passion of Philly fans is a blessing and a curse at the same time. We all LOVE our guys. I know personally that if I could take a saw to my own knee to potentially keep Joel Embiid healthy I’d start walking to Fairmount Hardware right now and cop the sharpest saw I can find. But in the case of a guy like Claude Giroux it gets more difficult.

I’ll admit that hockey is the sport I know least about, but I also say that as someone who probably watches anywhere between 20-30 games a year. Giroux is a homegrown guy who has experienced tremendous ups-and-downs with the Flyguys. He’s been the guy (along with Voracek) since the beginning of the last decade and is definitely considered the face of the franchise. This is why when the Flyers gave him an 8 yr/$66.2 million contract in 2013 that will take him to the dangerous athletic age of 34, they forced themselves into either keeping their “face of the franchise” or trying to get him off the books for nothing. Had the Flyers not resigned Giroux in ’13, fans would have been pissed.

The same goes for Alshon. Dude had one of the best seasons a wideout has had in midnight green ever and helped win us a Super Bowl. Alshon more than deserved the contract he got and it’s a shame it hasn’t worked out, but we are all forever indebted to him for what he did for that motley crew in 2017-18 and bringing the Lombardi back to Philly.

Why haven’t other big-time players come to Philly? Personally, I thought between the Super Bowl win and Bryce’s signing, more would start to come. But, it’s not as easy as it seems to bring in big-time talent. Going back to the Giroux situation, we get forced (as all franchises do) into paying our player’s big contracts that keep them here for the long haul. It’s too early in the morning for me to navigate the muddied waters of salary caps, but the unfortunate truth is that Philly is the home of the WORST SCOUTS IN AMERICA. I swear the ability of scouts for our teams is on the same level as a dude eight pitchers deep at McGillin’s trying to talk to an attractive chick. We miss – consistently – on early picks. That caps our ability to maximize our teams as having an expensive early-round pick on your books for the 4-5 years of a typical contract severely limits your ability to make moves. In the Phillies case, the complete lack of Major League talent drafted in the past ten years has forced them to sign bullpen arms that are equivalent to some of the guys we see in the Delco League.

So the long-winded answer to your question is that Philly IS indeed still a sports city. THE sports city in my mind. But, our unbelievable ability to hire scouts that cannot find talent that can then be developed to fit team needs has severely limited our ability to both grow organically and attract/be able to financially acquire top talent across the sports landscape.

Blog done. Let me know your thoughts people and remember to send in any other questions you want to be answered!

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