Sports Tonight: Phillies' end of season looks like new beginning

Aaron Nola is one reason for hope for the Phillies.

Tonight, when the Phillies play Washington at 7:05 at Citizens Bank Park (TV: CSN; radio: 94 WIP), marks the start of their final homestand of the year.

For the most part, the 2017 season has been another disaster in South Philadelphia, but for the first time in a long time, the end actually looks like a positive transition forward.

It’s not just that the Phillies have played winning baseball over the last 30 games. It’s who has led the way – young players, ones the organization has been eyeing as pieces of a rebuilding plan.

First baseman Rhys Hoskins; outfielders Odubel Hererra, Nick Williams and Aaron Altherr; shortstop J.P. Crawford; catcher Jorge Alfaro; pitcher Aaron Nola; and even up-and-down third baseman Maikel Franco have shown the potential to be reliable major-league players – some, possibly stars.

For the first time in a while, the end of the season offers more to look forward to than the end of the season.

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Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett watches his team warm up before a preseason game against the Rams last month.

Cowboys and Cardinals will follow lead of other teams

Dallas coach Jason Garrett will face his hypothetical tonight when the Cowboys play the Arizona Cardinals at 8:15 on ESPN. Garrett said this past week that he didn’t “want to get into hypotheticals,” when asked what he would do if one of his players decided not to stand during the national anthem.

On Saturday, Garrett said he felt no need to address the issue of  President Donald Trump’s saying Friday that any NFL player who protested during the national was a “son of a bitch” and should be “fired.”

On Sunday, all 28 NFL teams that played, including coaches and some owners, made some form of demonstrative reaction against Trump’s statements. Previously, it had been only a select few players who were actively demonstrating during the anthem to protest the inequality of justice toward African-Americans.

Trump, however, pushed it to a different level by disrespecting the players’ mothers and threatening the players’ jobs if they elected to exercise their constitutional rights.

Only someone truly ignorant of human nature and peer pressure would believe that the players on the Cowboys and Cardinals, for that matter, are going to go against all the other players in the NFL by not joining them in protest against Trump.

Maybe the Cowboys won’t kneel, but they will do something and Garrett is likely to take part in it.

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Pittsburgh Steelers offensive tackle and former Army Ranger Alejandro Villanueva (78) stands outside the tunnel alone during the national anthem before a game against the Bears on Sunday in Chicago.

What I’m reading

The Pittsburgh Steelers decided as a team to stay in the locker room during the playing of the national anthem Sunday, but left tackle Alejandro Villanueva, a former Army Ranger, went to the field. Anyone, even a teammate, who has a problem with what Villanueva did misses the entire point of Sunday’s league-wide protest.

At least those fans who bought a Jahlil Okafor jersey won’t have to throw it out. Unless the Sixers really do just want a bag of basketballs for him, he’s not going anywhere. Staff writer Keith Pompey reports that Okafor is again going to start training camp limited by injury.

This is not the way it was supposed to end for Eagles running back Darren Sproles. The beloved veteran was putting in one last season to help the Birds reach the playoffs. Now, he is done for the year. Staff writer Les Bowen gives the injury update on Sproles and other Eagles.

The Eagles are 2-1 after beating the Giants. Staff writer Jeff McLane explains what we learned from the Birds’ last-second victory.

Today is media day for several NBA teams and questions about President Trump and the protest around the NFL on Sunday were bound to come up. Here are some early responses, including from the Sixers and LeBron James.

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From left, San Francisco 49ers Eli Harold (58), quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) and Eric Reid (35) kneel during the national anthem before their game against the Cowboys on Oct. 2, 2016 in Santa Clara, Calif.

From left, San Francisco 49ers Eli Harold (58), quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) and Eric Reid (35) kneel during the national anthem before their game against the Cowboys on Oct. 2, 2016 in Santa Clara, Calif.

The riff

Of course, President Donald Trump said his weekend rants against NFL players and NBA superstar Stephen Curry weren’t about race.

It’s a classic move to shift the emphasis of a protest for equality into something more palatable that can be defended.

In this case, Trump moved the argument that blackballed NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick made about the killing of African-American men by police officers in his initial protest to one of his disrespecting the national anthem, the flag, the military, veterans, and patriotism in general.

To be honest, on a lot of levels, it worked.

The statements from the NFL, the teams, and many players about Sunday’s league-wide protest were about unity against Trump for attacking the First Amendment rights of players to protest peacefully.

Only a handful of players, primarily the ones who were already protesting before Trump jumped in, talked about what Kaepernick was protesting in the first place – the continued questionable killing of people of color by law enforcement.

Tonight’s schedule

TV/Radio

Baseball
Nationals at Phillies, 7:05 p.m. (CSN; WIP-FM 94.1)
Cubs at Cardinals, 8 p.m. (MLB Network)
Padres at Dodgers, 11 p.m. (MLB Network)

NFL
Cowboys at Cardinals, 8:15 p.m. (ESPN)

Local Events

Baseball
Phillies vs. Nationals, 7:05<TH>p.m., Citizens Bank Park