The question is intriguing: Who will be the next Philadelphia team to win a championship?
The Philadelphia Eagles, Philadelphia Phillies and Philadelphia Sixers are all in the hunt. My answer is based on a simple notion: Which team is closest right now?
In Philadelphia, we stand at a rare moment in our gloomy sport’s history. We have three teams capable of winning a ring and marching down Broad Street. Capable is relative, of course, but two of our teams just went to the championship round.
They lost — this is Philadelphia, after all — but the Eagles and Phillies are poised to make another serious run at a title.
- The Eagles are coming off a Super Bowl loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in a game they could have won.
- The Phillies led the Houston Astros, two games to one with a home game to go up 3-1, before losing the World Series in six games.
- The 76ers currently have the likely league MVP in Joel Embiid. They also have the league’s fourth-best record. All systems are go for the Sixers heading into April.
BIRDS, FOR THE WIN?
Who will win the next title? I think it’s the Eagles. But we can’t forget the Phillies and Sixers are talented enough to win titles of their own.
The Eagles’ offense is title-worthy. They have a franchise quarterback in Jalen Hurts. He was the MVP runner-up last season and his game should continue to improve. From the NFL’s best offensive line they lost right guard Isaac Seumalo to free agency but have his replacement in hand with Cam Jurgens.
Their receiving corps is among the league’s best in A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith and Dallas Goedert. They lost running back Miles Sanders but signed a worthy replacement in Rashaad Penny. The Eagles averaged 28 points per game last year and could be on track for more in 2023.
They have defensive holes after losing five starters to free agency. General manager Howie Roseman, followed his successful 2022 method of spackling some of those holes with one-year deals for veteran players. The 2023 Eagles schedule is definitely more challenging than last season, but things are still looking up for the birds.
They have two first-round draft picks. Plus, the NFL apparently is not changing the quarterback sneak rule!
WATCH THE PHILLIES
The Phillies bring an enormous amount of incentive into 2023 after getting so close to a championship. After 10 years out of the playoffs, the Phillies turned Philly into Red October in 2022. Phillies fans were recharged from the energy of home runs cranked out of Citizens Bank Park.
After a thrilling stretch run to get into the playoffs, the Phillies blew through the Cardinals, Braves and Padres in the National League playoffs and played the Astros to a near-standstill in the World Series.
Bryce Harper’s eighth-inning home run in the clinching NLCS Game 5 against the Padres is legendary in Philadelphia. The opposite-field blast put the Phillies into their first World Series since 2009. Kyle Schwarber hit 46 home runs last season.
In the offseason, the Phillies signed shortstop Trea Turner to a long-term deal. He will improve their lineup and defense. His speed will win ballgames. They also signed starter Taijuan Walker, who was 12-5 last season for the Mets. And, they believe they’ve improved the bullpen.
Baseball doctrine says momentum stops with the next starting pitcher. In the Phillies’ case, spring training has dampened their momentum. Harper is recovering from Tommy John surgery. In a glimmer of good news: He was not placed on the 60-day injury list, which means he could return by May 29.
First baseman, and playoff hero, Rhys Hoskins tore an ACL and is out for the season. That means big-money free agent Nick Castellanos, a disappointment last season, has a possible season of redemption to help pick up some of the power numbers the Phils will lose without Hoskins.
Contract talks between the team and ace Aaron Nola broke off this week. You never want your top pitcher to explore free agency. Maybe it’s a coincidence, but the day the talks broke off, Nola got lit up by the Yankees in spring training.
Starter Ranger Suarez has an inflamed elbow and might miss the start of the season.
The Phillies came into spring with high hopes for 19-year-old right-hander Andrew Painter. They talked about him as a potential starter this season. After one outing, Painter had a sprained UCL and currently is shut down. His immediate future is unknown.
Baseball is a long season and over 162 games, the best teams are revealed. With all of the injuries, the Phillies might look at a slow start and a momentum-driving second half of the season. Despite their setbacks, the Phillies come into the season with a better roster than last season and strong resolve to get back to where they once belonged.
There is a different vibe around the Sixers this season. Player rotations seem to be working. James Harden is an assist machine who continues to score.
Tyrese Maxey continues to develop into a legitimate NBA star with his scoring and defense. When Tobias Harris contributes to the offense and rebounding, the Sixers are as good as anyone in the league.
Ultimately, the Sixers will go as far as Joel Embiid carries them. He is the NBA’s leading scorer and sixth in shot blocking. They cannot win a seven-game series without major contributions from Embiid.
If they can get through the East — and that might mean Boston and Milwaukee — only the Nuggets or the Kevin Durant-led Suns could stand in their way. The Sixers only have moved past the second round once since 1985 — the Allen Iverson 2021 team.
The Sixers are on a one-year, prove-it deal with their fans.
AND ON THE ICE
Oops, forgot about the Flyers. That’s OK, so have most Philly fans.
The once-revered Flyers admitted they are in a rebuild, they’re changing executives and hoping some of their young talent can develop.
It’s going to be a long haul.