September 10, 2014

PHILADELPHIA (AP) Philadelphia Eagles general manager Howie Roseman walked onto the field before the 2005 Super Bowl and saw a sign that read, ''Eagles, if you win, God take me now.''

Roseman, then the team's director of football administration, laughed for a second at the message until it smacked him just how seriously Philadelphia sports fans take their teams.

''That's how we feel about the teams,'' Roseman said. ''In time, the teams are the institutions that are going to be here.''

Team executives? Well, they come and go, the price they often pay when championship contenders suddenly start sinking at the bottom of the standings. Roseman joked that he thought winning a championship meant players and general managers were set for life in Philadelphia. Then he saw how Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. has been kicked around by fans since the team plummeted from World Series champions to last place in six seasons.

''Ruben's kind of killed that for me,'' Roseman said, laughing.

Roseman, Amaro, Flyers general manager Ron Hextall and 76ers CEO Scott O'Neil were part of a panel Wednesday at Lincoln Financial Field on the impact of sports, hosted by The Rothman Institute. They all make their professional home at a shared sports complex. But the four men responsible for making Philadelphia's four pro sports teams go rarely share a stage.

Like any diehard fan calling in to an all-sports station, the foursome came to discuss Philly sports. Unlike ''Scott from West Chester'' (the name O'Neil said he'd use as a regular caller), these four shape the teams, not just complain about them.

And Amaro said he might do it differently with the Phillies.

Amaro, a Philadelphia native, recalled the halcyon days of the late 1970s and early 1980s when stars like Mike Schmidt, Larry Bowa and Steve Carlton would stay with a team for at least a decade and give kids fans a lasting connection with the franchise from childhood to adulthood. The Phillies went that route with tremendous success for most of the last decade, making five straight playoff appearances (and winning the 2008 World Series) with a core that included Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Cole Hamels.

But overpriced contracts and aging players have sunk the Phillies the last three seasons. They entered Wednesday night with one of the largest payrolls in baseball and are last in the NL East with a 67-77 record.

Thanks to the big contracts general manager Amaro gave the stars of `08 and money spent on Cliff Lee, Jonathan Papelbon, A.J. Burnett and Marlon Byrd, they have the highest payroll ($184 million) in club history and third-highest in the majors.

''I grew up with the old-school thought process that when you get a chance to get the brass ring, you've got to go for it every time, particularly in this city where the expectations are so high,'' Amaro said. ''For five years we went for it, we kept going for it because we had opportunities, we had a window, we had core players that were in their prime. And now we're paying for that, in some regard.''

Amaro, who said the core was starting to ''break down,'' was mum on how he planned to fix the Phillies.

''(Fans) want to know your plan, which I don't like to give up too much and get scorched about,'' Amaro said, ''even though we may have one, and we certainly do. But the Philadelphia fan, that's what they want. They want to see a plan.''

The Sixers, Flyers, Eagles and Phillies all made their version of the finals from 2000-10. The Phillies won the World Series in 2008 and lost in 2009; the Eagles lost the 2005 Super Bowl; the 76ers lost in the 2001 NBA finals; and the Flyers lost the 2010 Stanley Cup championship.

The Flyers have toiled in mediocrity since their last run, and the lottery-bound Sixers matched an NBA record with 26 straight losses last season. After falling on hard times in the final years of the Andy Reid era, the Eagles won the NFC East last season in coach Chip Kelly's first year.

With the addition of Cameroonian native Joel Embiid, O'Neil said the 76ers were hopeful of playing a preseason game next year in Africa. The 76ers also announced they will open training camp Sept. 30 at Stockton College in Galloway, New Jersey.

The 76ers don't plan to make the same mistake the Phillies did, and will bring in the best players when needed, should they ever again become contenders.

''Our belief is that fans will watch, more easily fall in love with, winners than they will a player,'' he said.

Sam Hinkie, the media shy 76ers GM, skipped the panel. Hinkie was put in charge of the Sixers' rebuild on his strength as an analytics disciple, and all four teams have found a way to incorporate modern statistics into their organizations.

Some just have some catching up to do.

''It's kind of a misconception that we've tossed analytics aside for the last 30 years,'' Amaro said. ''The fact of the matter is, the first thing our scouts when they do when they walk into the ballpark is pick up a stat sheet.''


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