Welcome to Day 2 of the Major League Baseball lockout. Day 1 started with the owners locking out the players to initiate the first work stoppage in 26 years. What soon followed were tersely worded statements and a sudden vanishing of player names and images from team websites, including the Phillies, who explained the move.
Players soon followed suit, removing their own images from their Twitter profiles, including Phillies first baseman Rhys Hoskins.
That new MVP banner honoring Bryce Harper that just went up at Citizens Bank Park? That came down, too. In St. Louis, that Nolan Arenado Bobble Head promotion on April 30 became “Cardinals Third Baseman Bobble Head” night.
Meanwhile, commissioner Rob Manfred said in a news conference Thursday that speeding up players getting to free agency from six years of service to five — one of the MLBPA’s priorities — would hurt small-market teams and the fans. Union chief Tony Clark said that Manfred’s statement, issued moments after the lockout began, was full of “misrepresentations,” and that “it would have been beneficial to the process to have spent as much time negotiating in the room as it appeared it was spent on the letter.”
It’s a long way until spring training in February with plenty of time to agree on a new collective bargaining agreement, but there are plenty of signs that this thing could go on for a while.
— Inquirer Sports Staff, @phillysport
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The man snapping the ball, Jason Kelce, has embodied Philly toughness, and it showed in the last game as he came back to play after suffering an injury in the first half. Such zest for football was noticed, and it inspired his teammates and head coach Nick Sirianni.
Now will the Eagles respond? They get another chance at MetLife Stadium on Sunday against the Jets, and while the game on paper is entirely winnable, there is always the concern that the Eagles will take another step backward. Yes, Jalen Hurts and Miles Sanders are expected to play through ankle injuries, but Boston Scott and Jordan Howard are question marks.
All eyes will especially be on Hurts after a three-interception game led to the loss against the Giants and questions about his staying power. The Eagles will have a decision to make in the offseason, and a lot can depend on how strongly team owner Jeffrey Lurie continues to back the Hurts era. Will the Eagles be patient or go with a proven veteran?
Hurts will also be noticeable on the field given that it’s My Cause My Cleats week, and he has expressed strong support for the Women’s Sports Foundation. On the other side of the ball, Rodney McLeod with his cleats will promote the youth foundation he and his wife created, and they’ll also host a fund-raiser featuring shoes and style on Monday night.
No one knows when the lockout will end, including Phillies president Dave Dombrowski, who said he felt “no sense of urgency” to make a big trade or signing before the work stoppage began late Wednesday. He might have landed a new closer, but he still has to address two outfield spots, at least one late-inning reliever, and probably a back-end starter.
For now, the Phillies can do nothing while they wait for MLB and the players union to come to terms on a new deal. The good news for the Phillies? Many of their reported targets — Kyle Schwarber, Kevin Kiermaier, Nick Castellanos, and Kris Bryant, to name a few — are still out there. Could the Phillies afford to add Schwarber, Kiermaier, and reliever Mychal Givens? Scott Lauber dives into many of the possibilities for the Phillies once the hot stove resumes.
What are both sides even fighting about? Check out this primer that explains what’s at stake with baseball’s first work stoppage in 26 years.
Betting note: Select World Series odds changes at FanDuel over the last month: Dodgers from +550 to +600, Mets from +2000 to +1100, Braves have stayed at +1400, Phillies from +2500 to +4000. This assumes, of course, there is a 2022 season.
Off the Dribble
There were high expectations for Al Horford when he joined the 76ers in 2019. He had played at an All-Star level for the Atlanta Hawks and Boston Celtics, and was expected to bring a steadying presence to a young team on the rise. What actually transpired was quite different, as Horford struggled in Philly and didn’t adapt to life alongside Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons.
The Sixers traveled to Boston on Wednesday and Horford discussed that time in his career, one that he said hurt his reputation and served as a low point. He played well against his old team, producing 10 points, eight rebounds, and five blocks. He was pleased to play well against the Sixers.
“Being down, being talked down about and those things. I was written off, and I’m glad I got another opportunity in a place where I want to be. But no question about it, there’s also a lot of satisfaction of being back here and playing at high level,” he said.
Next: The Sixers travel to Atlanta to play against Trae Young and his up-and-coming Hawks at 7:30 p.m. Friday (ESPN, NBCSP).
Betting note: The Suns were 11-6 against the spread during the 17-game winning streak they had going into Thursday’s visit from Detroit. Nine of those 17 went under, including Tuesday night when they gave up just 42 second-half points to the Warriors. Phoenix played the final two-plus quarters against Golden State without star Devin Booker, who is expected to miss a few games. The Suns do not play the Sixers until Feb. 8 here, and March 27 in Phoenix.
On the Fly
Seventh Heaven. Try Seventh Hell for the Flyers, who dropped their seventh straight game, losing, 4-1, on Wednesday to the New York Rangers.
While the energy was better against the Rangers, the results were the same, Sam Carchidi writes. The Flyers struggled to score (one goal on 34 shots), went 0-for on the power play (0-for-3), and saw yet another important player go down injured (winger Joel Farabee).
At least the schedule is about to get easier. ... The Flyers will host the two-time defending champion Tampa Bay Lightning on Sunday, and then face Vegas’ Stanley Cup betting favorites, the Colorado Avalanche (6-1 odds), the following night. Yikes.
Next: The Flyers play the Lightning at 6 p.m. Sunday at the Wells Fargo Center (NBCSP).
New York City FC is the Union’s opposition in the Eastern Conference final at Subaru Park in Chester. The game is already sold out. Our soccer reporter, Jonathan Tannenwald, has expert analysis on the top player matchups from one of the on-air broadcasters calling the game, former MLS and USMNT star Taylor Twellman.
Next: The Union will play NYCFC in the Eastern Conference final Sunday at 3 p.m. at Subaru Park (6abc).
Worth a look
Villanova football? Villanova is known for being a basketball school, but this season, it has a pretty darn good football team as well. The No. 6 Wildcats, who recently won the CAA championship, host their FCS playoff opener Friday night against Holy Cross.
Big 5 dominance: Beyond the obvious need for improvement to compete with Villanova, a city tournament still is a must to get some life back in the City Series.
Owls’ big loss: Temple star Khalif Battle will miss the remainder of the season because of a foot injury. The sophomore guard leads the American Athletic Conference in scoring at 21.4 points per game.
Today’s newsletter was created in collaboration with the Inquirer sports staff.