We all do it.
Maybe it’s in our own heads. Maybe it’s in a text thread with friends. Maybe it’s during a debate on WIP.
We rank the best players in Philadelphia. The list is fluid, and ever evolving. Earlier this week, Joe DeCamara pushed Flyers goalie Carter Hart to the top of the current Philly sports mountain.
I’m not quite ready to go there, and think we shouldn’t overlook an early MVP-caliber start from the player Philadelphia was so excited for a little over one year ago.
This isn’t for the next five years. It’s not about who I’d build around. It’s not about upside. It’s right now, as in today.
Here’s how I’d rank the top 10 Philly athletes right now.
Harper entered play on August 13 with a mind-boggling .341/.491/.659 slash line. He’s crushing lefties. He’s playing everyday. The solid (if not better) defense we saw in 2019 is there again. When the Phillies spent over $300M to land Harper, I believe he had one or two more truly special seasons left before natural decline hit. We might be seeing one right now. Let’s just hope the Phillies don’t waste it.
No. 1 in talent, but something always gives me pause on Embiid. Sometimes it’s injuries. Sometimes it’s playing at not close to peak physical condition. Sometimes it’s his poor attitude. Joel is an outstanding player and belongs in the conversation of the 10 best basketball players on the planet. I just hope his talent/attitude/work ethic/maturity all come together at some point.
It’s easy to dismiss because of how good he’s been and how quickly he’s risen to the top of his position in pro hockey, but we’re talking about a goalie with less than 75 games started in a Flyers uniform. He’s only 22, but plays like a veteran. The Flyers finally have a goalie, and he just might turn out to be a great one. Could jump both Embiid and Harper by standing on his head for a Stanley Cup run over the next couple months.
No tight end in NFL history has more receptions through their first seven seasons than Ertz. Think about that fact for a minute. I know the league has become more and more of a passing league, but those targets primarily go to wide receivers in a three or or four-wideout league. We’re watching one of the best Eagles in team history and a player on a Hall of Fame track.
Power. Defense. Base running. Realmuto does it all, and has won over the entire fan base since arriving from Miami before the 2019 season. Enjoy it while it lasts, and not just because the Phillies aren’t close to a contract extension with the best catcher in the sport. Catchers rarely age gracefully. This level of play from a player at such a demanding position is fleeting. Hopefully we get to see it for a long as possible.
From sixth-round pick to yearly “this is the year the Eagles cut him!” takes to the doorstep of the Hall of Fame. Kelce’s incredible career is nearing an end, but his play is not slipping. Kelce has been a leader and one of the NFL’s best offensive lineman since coming out of nowhere to earn a starting gig as a rookie. It’s going to be very hard to replace him when he hangs them up.
Here’s where Nola ranks among all starting pitchers in baseball since the start of 2018:
Slice and dice it anyway you want: Nola is one of the best starting pitchers in the sport. Early on in 2020, he’s pitching (29 K, 2 BB) like his 2018 Cy Young-contending self. Matt Klentak hasn’t made a ton of great decisions as Phillies GM, but Nola’s four-year, $45M contract is one of the best contracts in sports.
The one you’ve been waiting for. I have Wentz ranked No. 13 among all NFL quarterbacks heading into 2020. He’s a good quarterback, but has fallen off from an elite level we saw in 2017. I’m rooting for him to get back to MVP form, but would be lying if I said that I’m expecting that to happen. Here’s the good news: The Eagles can win with him, as we’ve seen. This ranking is a reflection of how good the high-end talent is here right no, and how Wentz has been closer to middle-of-the-pack than great among his peers over the last two seasons.
High-end talent. All-Star player. Incredibly frustrating. All three sentences sum up Ben Simmons. Sometimes I think we’re too hard on him, and overlook what he does well to harp on what he doesn’t do. But then I remember that Simmons’ reluctance to shoot is ridiculous for a basketball player, especially in 2020. It’s time to stop calling him a generational player, and start wondering if he has the will to reach his ceiling.
I thought about having Lane Johnson, Fletcher Cox, Darius Slay, Ivan Provorov and Sean Couturier here, but it has to be Giroux. He wasn’t as prolific this season as last year, but we’re still talking about the most important non-Hart Flyer. Despite an excellent career, Giroux has had a Bobby Abreu-esque run here: Outstanding play in an era that’s been easy to forget. That could change if Giroux hoists a Cup in October.