Welcome to the fourth annual KULPY Awards, where we here at The700Level celebrate our own existence by handing out trite, meaningless honors to the sufficiently decorated professional athletes, coaches and executives in Philadelphia sports. That's The700Level.com – Yep, We're Still Here™. And as always, The KULPYs are brought to you by our corporate overlords at CSN Philly – proud partner of Phillies baseball!
(Hey, it's the Phillies who should be embarrassed, not us. No trademark.)
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Now that we got our plugs out of the way, we begin with an obligatory, self-congratulatory pat on the back, Barry Horowitz style. I'm not privy to the numbers, but for all I know, we did record traffic in the last year, and the outlook for those of us in the journalism industry has never been brighter! And even if that statement were 100 percent true (it's not), somebody would probably cry fake news anyway, so why bother getting hung up on the details?
Once again, CSN has neglected to give The KULPYs so much as a brief television segment, not even on The700Level Show – I haven't been part of this brand for the last decade or anything – but no matter. No TV, no awards banquet, no party in Enrico's parents' basement while they're out of the country on vacation, no problem. The show must go on, and I promise we've got a great one this year, so prepare to polish the turd that is Philly sports. We're handing out some real* coveted** hardware today.
*KULPY trophies are not real.
Let's jump straight to an award that shows what The KULPYs are all about: Best Sixers Player Bryan Colangelo Is Solely Responsible for Acquiring. These are strictly players Colangelo nabbed without the aid of Sam Hinkie and The Process. That means no Ben Simmons, the outcome of years of tanking; no Markelle Fultz, obtained by trading assets stockpiled by Hinkie; not even Justin Anderson, acquired in a swap for Nerlens Noel – another Hinkie piece.
With all of that in mind, there are sure to be some real gems among the nominees.
(Nominees: Amir Johnson, J.J. Redick, Sergio Rodriguez, Anzejs Pasecnicks, Tiago Splitter)
Any time Tiago Splitter is on a list of an NBA general manager's top acquisitions, you know that person is doing a stellar job. Sergio Rodriguez is the only one of these guys who made a significant contribution last season, appearing in 68 games for the Sixers, unfortunately. Granted, Anzejs Pasecnicks was just obtained in a draft-night trade and looks like an intriguing talent – who won't be on the roster in 2017 because he's staying overseas, @#$%.
It's a two-horse race for the award, and naturally the KULPY goes to… Bryan Colangelo! After all, he is the true victor in The Process.
Even the money used to lure Redick and Johnson was a direct result of the favorable salary-cap situation inherited from Hinkie. By the time Colangelo took over the Sixers, he was walking into quite possibly the easiest setup for a new GM in the history of professional sports. "Job description: Oversee an organization loaded with young talent, top draft picks and plenty of cash." Kind of hard to screw up. Go ahead and give him Fultz – the fact that all Colangelo had to do to sell out the building for this upcoming season was engineer a trade up two spots in the draft goes to show the hard part was already over.
We'll go straight from one rebuilding team to another – they're not very hard to find around here. We blindfolded some interns at nearby Xfinity Live and set them loose in the sports complex, and a few horrific accidents later, one of them landed on Citizens Bank Park. In honor of the one who made it, this next category is the aptly named Most Likely to Survive the Phillies Rebuild.
(Nominees: Maikel Franco, Odubel Herrera, Matt Klentak, Pete Mackanin, Andres Blanco)
Herrera may be on the steadiest ground, having turned his season around at the plate after a horrific start, but Philly fans are going to get sick of the lack of concentration and hustle before this is all over. Meanwhile, the club is reportedly shopping Franco, who continues to struggle, and Mackanin would be gone already if the club didn't have the foresight to lock him up with a contract extension in May!
Better hurry up and reveal the winner before one of these guys gets canned. The KULPY goes to… Andres Blanco, in an upset!
Fun fact – Blanco is the second-longest tenured Phillies player, behind only Freddy Galvis. And unlike a lot of the other guys on this team, Blanco chose to be a part of this, opting to re-sign in December. Sure, he's 33, batting a crisp .151 at the All-Star break and a free agent again at the end of the season. With the end of tanking… sorry, with the end of "rebuilding" nowhere in sight, Blanco probably has just as good a chance as anybody to survive.
Hey, you've got to appreciate the man's loyalty.
Seeing as there's so little to celebrate in the immediate past, let's take a moment to honor a Philadelphia sports legend. Congratulations to longtime Flyers winger and former general manager Paul Holmgren – this one is for you. It's The Paul Holmgren Award for Worst Flyers Contract.
Not coincidentally, most of the people up for this award actually have Holmgren to thank for their awful, awful contracts. And to think, the man stepped down three years ago.
(Nominees: Claude Giroux, Andrew MacDonald, Matt Read, Jori Lehtera, Jakub Voracek)
Believe it or not, Read's contract finally concludes in 2018, so guess we can finally OH MY GOD, MACDONALD STILL HAS THREE YEARS LEFT AT $5 MILLION PER. Meanwhile, current Flyers GM Ron Hextall chose to pay homage to Holmgren with some recent moves, taking on the final two years of Lehtera's deal at $4.7 million annually, and awarding Voracek $8.25 million per year until 2024. Hey, Voracek will still be off the books before Ilya Bryzgalov, so there's that.
But the KULPY goes to Claude Giroux, the human embodiment of the cement shoes attached to the Flyers' Stanley Cup hopes for the foreseeable future.
I would love to be wrong about that, by the way. There was a time when Giroux was legitimately one of the best players in the NHL, and would do cool things like put Sidney Crosby on his ass and score a goal in the same shift. Unfortunately, the last two seasons have not been kind to the Flyers captain, and he simply does not look like the same player. Signed through 2022 at $8.25 million per, with a no-trade clause and turning 30 in January, there's almost no way this ends well.
If every other Philly sports team gets its own award, the Eagles need one, too – Joe Banner insisted. Oddly enough, one NFL team managed to have five semi-prominent quarterbacks on its roster in the last year, so the following KULPY is for Eagles Quarterback of the Year, because there were enough of them to choose from.
(Nominees: Sam Bradford, Chase Daniel, Nick Foles, Matt McGloin, Carson Wentz)
Fun fact – Bradford and Daniel will cost the Eagles nearly $12 million under the salary cap for 2017. The three guys who are actually on the roster: a little over $8 million. Guess we know who the real winners are here, and it's not Wentz.
The KULPY goes to… Sam Bradford, who did more for the Eagles in the last year than any of the other guys. Let's be honest, Wentz is going to be awesome, but he was pretty useless in 2016 when he didn't have anybody to throw the ball. In the meantime, Bradford netted the Eagles first- and fourth-round draft picks in a trade with the Vikings, which are a lot more useful than leading the team to the same 7-9 record Wentz did.
Thank you, Sam, and thank you, readers… for clicking through to Part 2. Still to come: The Ryan Howard Memorial Award for Athlete or Sportsperson Most Inexplicably Still in Philadelphia, Philadelphia Athlete of the Year, and The Competency Award for Philadelphia Sports Executive of the Year. Also, a special In Memoriam video you won't want to miss!