Tag Archives: A-Rod

WEEK 5 Picks and some baseball drama!

What a first quarter of the season it has been!  It isn’t hard to make the statement that football is the best sport and have evidence to back that statement up.  All you need to do is show them the tape of the Dallas Cowboys/Detroit Lions game.  First, the video of Nate Burleson’s riveting opening monologue going over the Detroit Lions recent history of 0-16 and other exploits.  Then the favored, hometown Cowboys going up 20-3 with another Romo to Dez Bryant touchdown.  As all hope looks to fade, Dez Bryant has an incomplete yet talks trash to the Lions defense and bench which suddenly rejuvenates the upstarts and gives them life back.  Throw in an emphatically excited coach Jim Schwartz motioning incomplete to Dez defending his team’s honor.

Then the team rallies back with two exciting pick sixes surrounded by one of those exciting scenes in a movie that you know the QB and receiver (that’s Matt Stafford and Calvin Johnson in case you’re keeping score at home) just sort of give each other a look and as the play transpires, close-ups of both of them show their subtle communication with one another that can only be described as something so unique to their relationship and it goes in slow motion right from the moment Stafford releases the ball to the time Johnson begins his ascent.  That scene includes the moment that the third defender who  realizes what’s going on and tries to get there in time gives chase to the play and in case the director wants more decides that upon release of the football, Stafford gets pancaked by two Dallas defenders, and Johnson jumps, and with the close up catches it and comes down all in slow motion and the crowd in stunned silence watches as Johnson emerges with the football as the ref in the background comes up to make the touchdown signal and the shot goes back to the QB celebrating on the ground as nice magical Disney theme music plays.

Then there’s the final play where Calvin Johnson goes up and catches the winning touchdown to ice the game and then the post game press conference where Jim Schwartz memorably goes on to shoot one back to Rob Ryan who ignorantly* said during the week of the game that he’s faced better receivers in practice about how he’s glad the third best receiver on the Cowboys was actually a Lion in reference to Romo’s 3 INT’s, two of which were pick sixes and transformed the dynamic of the game.  Yeah, just show someone that footage and I’m sure you could end any argument right there.

*= This is why Rob isn’t a head coach.  Atleast Rex isn’t stupid enough to say something like that which from the moment he said it kind of made you raise your eyebrow.  I mean if you watched Calvin Johnson since he came into the league you knew that this guy was a top 5 receiver.  But this season, with a healthy Stafford is turning into Randy Moss 1998 season where everytime you threw up the ball you knew it was to Randy and you knew he was going to catch it.  That catch in triple coverage had to make Rob sick to his stomach.  Don’t get me wrong.  The Cowboys have a beast of their own in the making with Dez.  He’s going to be great.  I said during the draft that he had the chance to make everyone pay like Randy did for passing on him in the draft thanks to shaky background information.  But let’s not bark up that tree.  Calvin is better than Dez right now and I believe always will be.  Something about Dez is missing.  But back to my original point:  this is why Rob isn’t a head coach.  He’s too much of a wild card.  He also needs to shave and cut his hair.  The NFL is too rigid and conservative to allow a coach to look like a hippie.  Trust me, its the good ole boys network and they won’t want that kind of guy in.  It sets too bad of a precedent.

But you have to give baseball its due.  These past two weeks, baseball has given us two nights worthy of our bravos.  First, game 162 on September 28th where two playoff spots were up for grabs and there were four teams competing for them and two trying to complete the most amazing comeback ever in league history.  The Cards were as far back as 10 games at the end of August and the Rays were as far back as 9 during the beginning of September.  Somehow, both went into that final game needing but one win and some help to keep playing.  Wouldn’t you know, Evan Longoria hit two homeruns to help his team come back from a 7 run deficit while the Red Sox, a team whom many considered overwhelming favorites to win it all couldn’t keep a lead in the ninth completing the meltdown.  Meanwhile, in the National League, the Phillies honoring the gods of baseball by playing out every game to the fullest blocked the Braves from entering the playoffs by beating them in a game they had to have after the Cardinals had beaten the Houston Astros (you know, the Phillies minor league affiliate) 12-0 to complete the Cards own miraculous comeback with a complete game shutout thrown courtesy of Chris Carpenter.*

*= Foreshadowing anyone?

But if that weren’t enough drama for you, the first round featured 3 sudden death game 5’s featuring the Yankees against the Detroit Tigers, Milwaukee against the upstart Diamondbacks, and Phillies against the upstart Cardinals.  The Yankees were the first to be eliminated as the big bats of that Yankee line up could not overcome Detroit’s great bullpen and timely hitting.  Timely because they jumped on the Yankee starter, young Ivan Nova who was later removed from the game thanks to arm stiffness or so said the medical report given by the Yankees.  Joe Girardi, overmanaging as he usually does brought out his ace in the pivotal game five and Sabathia eventually surrendered the go-ahead RBI.  The Yankees closed to within one in the bottom of the 9th when the heart of their line up came up with Yankee stadium on their feet hoping for the new Stadium to enjoy great memories like the old one had.  Naturally the season came down to Alex Rodriguez at the plate and he struck out swinging to end the game as he left the mound with no regrets as he later said in a press conference showered by the boos of the high expectations of their fan base.  The Yankees head into the offseason plagued by questions of their age, the remaining years on A-Rod’s contract and the eventual CC Sabathia opt-out from his contract.  Remember how A-Rod had no leverage but he still managed to talk the Yankees into making him the highest paid player in all of sports, for a second time?  Well, CC does have the leverage since he’s their ace and there’s no sure thing in their minor leagues yet and King Felix remains untouchable according to Mariners people.  It will be interesting how the Yankees approach this offseason.

Not to be outdone by the natural drama that New York brings, the Brewers and Diamondbacks continued the wild ride of one run games by giving us a dramatic extra inning affair.  John Axelford who had not blown a save since mid April came in and naturally blew the save as the scrappy Diamondbacks went the run producing route.  Get a man on base, move him over, suicide squeeze and score a run.  Typical Gibson fashion.  But the year of T-Plush continued as he faced a bunch of ex-Mets and as any former National does, he scored a run as former Met farmhand Carlos Gomez raced from second on a single and scored the winning run as the ball sailed over the catcher’s head avoiding what would’ve been a more incredible play, the play at the plate.

If that weren’t enough for you, the capper was the Philadelphia Phillies and their vaunted rotation went up against those pesky Cardinals.  Met fans remember these Cardinals as the ones that sneak up on you and can kill a magical season as they did to us in 2006.  But this time they went in against the Cards in a 5 game set and the Phils had them right where they wanted them.  Roy Halladay in a winner take all.  And he gave up only one run.  If you had told me before the game that Roy Halladay would only give up one run and go 8 innings I would’ve told you that the Phillies would win 9 out of 10 times.  Of course that’s why you play the game.  How do you beat an ace that pitches that effectively?  Have your own ace that pitches a complete game shutout and that’s what Chris Carpenter did.  He had the Phillies completely fooled all night as he weaved and bobbed through their line up with relative ease and efficiency.  Finally Ryan Howard came up with the Phillies season in the balance and he put a strong swing on a ball that ended up weakly going to second where Nick Punto could’ve walked it to first.  In fact he could’ve stayed on the field and did a few laps around Citizens Bank Ball park, hi five every Cards fan and then run to first.  Why?  Because Ryan Howard, it turns out, had torn his achilles as he made the turn on his swing and couldn’t make it down the base paths.  Fitting end.  Next year begins Howard’s big 5 year extension that runs for $125 million and suddenly the Phillies, everyone’s preseason pick to win it all thanks to that rotation doesn’t look AS formidable.  Suddenly their line up is old in many spots.  Chase Utley, who for my money was the heart and soul of that Phillies team, hit a drive to deep center in that bottom of the ninth that would have made it past the wall if he had full rotation of his hips.  Something he clearly is no longer able to do after he had to rest himself.  Jimmy Rollins yet another integral cog who has been disappearing from superstar status slowly since 2008 is up for a new contract.  Which I’m told he will receive because of his status in the Philly clubhouse.  So more of that payroll will be plugged into several superstars and Ruben Amaro will have to dig deeper to try and find that young superstar bat.  Perhaps its Dominic Brown or John Mayberry Jr.  Who knows exactly.  The only thing the Phillies know is that they will have several questions moving forward.

So now the ALCS is a Midwesterner’s paradise.  No longer is baseball being destroyed by those Satans of the East Coast and that media love they always get.  Now its small town versus small town.  Its Detroit, the town that has seen a revival in these past few months.  The Lions are destroying the NFL with their 4-0 record and keeping pace with the Green Bay Packers, the Super Bowl champions, and now their beloved Tigers are going back to the ALCS hoping for a return trip to the World Series.  They have the Cy-Young Winner and possible MVP on their team, Justin Verlander leading the charge.  Then there’s the Milwaukee  Brewers.  After the NLDS win, when asked to do an interview which the interviewer would’ve certainly asked him what his thoughts were as the Brew-Crew were playing on and his impending free agency, Prince Fielder overcome with emotion could not give a response and ran to join his teammates.  Then of course there are the St Louis Cardinals.  Tony LaRussa’s bunch who somehow always end up in the playoffs.  Who somehow always wind up in these circumstances when they sneak up on people.  Albert Pujols is another midwestern super hero whom Cardinal fans are praying will stay with them for the rest of his playing days.  What will happen once this season is over?  Perhaps winning his second title will convince him that this is the place he wants to be.  The Cardinals have plenty of pitching in the minor leagues and some hitting coming up.  Finally, there’s the the Texas Rangers.  The team that continues to bash its way to the top.  The team with the young GM from Bayside, Queens.  The same GM whom sources add would have definitely become the Mets GM had they simply placed a call and an offer.  Naturally the Mets failed to do neither, but hey who cares.  He’s the guy who built the Rangers into a superpower.  Now have the Rangers again knocking on the door of a World Series which would be the second year in a row they would be there.  Of course this is on the heels of a Dallas Mavericks NBA championship.  This would turn that sports crazed state into one big championship parade route.  They won game one and are now trying to get to the World Series and finish the job a year after letting their ace go.  Amazing how things happen right?

Who knew baseball could be this exciting and October baseball continues with the ALCS and NLCS.  While football is taking a minor backseat with bye weeks starting this week, plenty of cities will be wide awake watching their respective baseball teams try to bring some pride to their cities.  Who knew baseball had that kind of football drama?

Here then are the week 5 picks with the hometeam in caps:

COLTS (-2) over Chiefs

Cardinals (+3) over VIKINGS – i’m sorry am I missing something here? Why is Minny still getting love?

Eagles (-3) over BILLS

RANGERS (-5) over Raiders

PANTHERS (+6.5) over Saints

Bengals (-1) over JAGS- stat of the week that will mess you up:  NFL’s number one defense:  your 2011 Cincinnati Bengals!

Titans (+3) over STEELERS-  Start writing up the Steeler obituaries folks.  And the curse of the Super Bowl losers continue.  By the way, yet another stat that will mess up your day?  Matt Hasselback is a relevant QB again.

GIANTS (-10) over Seahawks

49ERS (-3) over Bucs

PATRIOTS (-7.5) over Jets

Chargers (-3.5) over BRONCOS-  The Chargers this week took out a full page ad in a LA newspaper.  I’m just saying.

BREWERS (-5.5) over Falcons-  I’m totally off the Matty Ice bandwagon by the way.  I got off that express two weeks ago.

TIGERS (-5) over Bears-  Can’t wait for this game.  CANT WAIT!

Enjoy week 5 folks.

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Monday Morning something or the other…

Happy Monday morning.  Ok forget it, I tried you lazy bums.  Here’s the racket this morning:  Huge win for the Knicks last night over the Heatles.  I will talk about the trade deadline.  No links this week but I will come back strong next week.  The Melo trade was indeed a victory but Prokho scored a major coup but I will tell you why it won’t all be vodka and salad dressing for the Russian.

Also some on Kevin Costner, Keannu Reeves, Adam Sandler and Spring Training.  Let’s warm up shall we?

FUSSING OVER TRADE DEADLINE

I weighed in on Carmelo already so no need to rehash that.

But anyone who thinks this Carmelo deal was exclusive to itself is beyond nuts.  This deal had 60% to do with Carmelo and 40% to do with the free agent class of 2012.

By now you know that Dwight Howard, Chris Paul and Deron Williams* all have the option to be free agents during the summer of 2012.  They will all go to where they feel give them the best chance to win.
*= D-Will has a player option for next year which could make him a 2011 free agent.

Melo’s deal wasn’t just supposed to make the Knicks a better team in the short term but also as a call to those guys that the Knicks need an extra playmaker who can come in and make them a whole helluva lot better.

The talked about lament of small market teams was firmly waved aside by Bill Simmons and other like minded people who agree that a hierarchy of teams in the league make for “must see television” which the NBA can properly plug in to prime time slots as they see fit.  It will also elevate the product come playoff time when the best teams are supposed to be playing against each other.

The NBA for far too long has tried to tell everyone that the league needs balance.  That led to the crappy decade we are only coming out of.  Look at the last decade of winners and tell me one team other than the ’04 Pistons who won without two or three guys that were top 5 at their particular position.  The NBA has and always will be a star led league.  Stars dictate where this league is going and like it or not, guys like Lebron, and Carmelo will always have the power.

At its core the NBA comes down to one on one matchups.  Those stats that seem too hard to calculate like clutch ability in other sports is a much simpler debate to have in the NBA.  Every team has one or two guys we label as finishers.  How can the league or its fans deny the power the players have?

This may be big market thinking but here’s one other point some people so easily forget.  Lebron played in Cleveland for 7 years and won 0 NBA titles.  Carmelo played in Denver for 7 and a half seasons and won 0 NBA titles.  KG played in Minnesota for 12 years and won 0 NBA titles.  Ray Allen played the same time and won 0 NBA titles.  Its not like these guys played out their rookie contracts and left the first chance they got.  They signed one and even two extensions before forcing their way to better situations.  Meanwhile Tim Duncan has been in San Antonio for 13 seasons and won 4 NBA titles.  Your team either does everything they can to surround you with complementary pieces or they don’t.  Name me one player that Lebron played with that you thought when they acquired him the Cavs would win a title.  I bet you had that convo when he, Wade and Bosh came together in Miami.  Those same conversations were had in New York this week.

This is a league of few stars and many complementary pieces.  When I was researching this whole NBA labor issue and saw the reason for a soft cap it made my mind up.  Soft caps allow teams to go over the set salary limit in order to add pieces and surround good talent.  Its meant to keep stars that were drafted by teams in their original uniforms.

The owners arguments have been faulty at best.  To ask players to give back almost $800 million in salaries because the NBA tried to be balanced is ridiculous.  Made more ridiculous by the fact that these owners signed off on these crippling deals.  Hey dumbass owner: if you didn’t wanna pay, say for arguments sake, a lazy, fat, unenthused center with a heart condition a huge contract then guess what?  DON’T.  To blame Eddy Curry for cashing those checks is ridiculous because we all would have done the same.*
*= I realize with that logic that all of us would be Eddy Curry’s but its the truth.  In some bizarro universe, we are Eddy Curry.

I think the league is about to go into a great upswing where its popularity is about to explode.  The stars aligning and allying with another isn’t a bad thing for the sport but the best thing for this sport.  Figuring out a way to share revenues seems to be the only problem that needs mediation.  The players are setting the trend.  To restrict movement and keep players in situations that are not conducive to their own happiness isn’t just unproductive, but also very stupid.

At the end of the day if teams surrounded their talent with equal talent then perhaps Lebron would still be in Cleveland getting set to win another championship.  Melo would be in Denver realistically challenging Kobe in LA.  Mark Cuban has held on to Dirk Nowitzki.  Tim Duncan has won titles in San Antonio and remains there and won’t leave.

Want a sad tale?  Steve Nash, the great white hope, won’t be traded by Robert Sarver because he refuses to let go of the one guy that keeps paying customers coming back.  Nash’s best years are gone, undoubtedly, and as long as he remains in Phoenix, he will never sniff an NBA title.  They have continuously shed draft picks and superstars like they were going out of style and they did so to reduce their salary demands.

You think if Steve Nash were younger he wouldn’t want to leave?  That he wouldnt grow tired of the same old crap?

The NBA is becoming a hierarchical society and the owners had better figure out how to deal with it.  That’s their best bet.  That’s their only play here.  Anything else would be evidence of the truth that owners of unsuccessful franchises have long tried to hide from its fans: they don’t care.

REAL LIFE RIVALRY

Nationally, the story of the real budding rivalry has gotten minuscule attention and rightfully so.  Its a non-story at this point.  The Knicks are the main event and the Nets are the hopeful under card.  Of course, that doesn’t mean that the upstart doesn’t have to give in to that logic.

Right as the Knicks were paving the streets with roses and carnations in anticipation of Carmelo Anthony’s debut at MSG, the Nets went out and hijacked Deron Williams from the Nets for a smaller version of the Carmelo offer.  Two first round draft picks, Devin Harris, and Derrick Favors.   The consensus around the league was that of shock and awe that the Russian Mad Scientist could pull off such a deal without the wherewithal of the NBA scribes who were sniffing around every corner.

The story was that this deal was consummated in 24 hours, shortly after Denver signed off on the Knicks package.  Prokho wanted a replacement superstar pronto and that he got.  Many instantly assessed Deron as the better player with the better upside.  Though there are several flaws in that logic.

Not to say that Deron Williams isn’t as good a player as Melo, or even better, I think that opinion came from the mouths of those that were still reeling from the shock of the Jazz, a very smart and steady organization, going through major renovations of its product after 20 something years with the same old script.  First Jerry Sloan and now Deron Williams?  With nary a hint that something like this was in the works?

But such is the trend and the two sided nature of the debate that small market execs are going to have to have in the coming months.  Keep our budding superstar or try to get as many building block assets before he jumps ship to more lucrative waters.  Melo’s reasoning was sound.  He’s a Brooklyn boy and wanted to come to play on the team that his childhood idol played on: Bernard King.  Deron Williams, as far as we know, did no such clamoring to get out.  Some would say that he got what he wanted when Sloan threw in his towel after twenty plus years on the bench with the scowl.

The Deron Williams trade and Melo trade have one very unique attribute in common.  Its not just done to make the team immediately better, but more so to attract potential superstars to Jersey/Brooklyn.  Williams’ value is much higher for Prokho than Melo’s is to James Dolan who is still trying to craft the next memo, in unison with Isiah Thomas, that he is in no way shape or form still associated with the Hall of Fame Point Guard.  Williams’ name represents star value and a billboard that Prokho can put up across the street from 34th and 8th in full view of Mr. Dolan who must look at the Nets as that fly that he just can’t seem to swat.

That fly of course is growing bigger and by 2012 will be gigantic when they move to Brooklyn and open up the Barclay Center.  The question now becomes will Deron Williams be there?  Unreported are two clauses in both contracts that Deron Williams and Carmelo signed.  Melo has an out clause after 2013 which means that he will give this homecoming a joyride before deciding if he really wants to commit which means there’s still another big pay day coming.  Deron Williams has a player option for next season.  Not a team option a player option.  Which means he decides that over the next 23 games that Brook Lopez is the real deal and if the Nets aren’t just a perennial contender for the 8th seed.  Like I said previously (scroll up slackers), this generation of players are much more in tune with what they want.  They are not willing to go along with organizational philosophy unless its in tune with that of their own.  They have dreams and aspirations that go far beyond the basketball court and the best and brightest of the bunch have a brand to protect.

The good thing about them is that they understand that a championship exponentially increases the value of that brand.  With no title gets no pub.  No pub means no love.  And no love on the streets means credibility is shot and if the credibility is shot amongst the basketball watching community, then its shot among execs who see them as cash cows.  Williams never committed to the Nets during his press conference only issuing the usual credo of “let’s wait and see.”

Which means that Prokho hasn’t done anything but upstage the Knicks in the back pages which is precisely what his intent is.  There’s no doubt in my mind that Prokho will be content in winning that war because that’s what counts in this city.  Perception is often a much more willing participant than reality.  It knows only the truth which you enter.

George Steinbrenner knows this and so does Mikhail Prokhorov.  The Big Russian must be looking and laughing at James Dolan as he pulled off this heist thinking that all the basketball community could talk about, on the day of Melo’s much ballyhooed debut, was the deal that brought Deron Williams to Jersey.  Prokho’s people have not made any overtures to sign him to an extension although I’m sure they will try as heck.  They will offer him a boat load of money and his chance at being the man in Brook-Land.  The major play was the back page victory.  Whatever comes next for Jersey will be gravy or gory.  If Prokho doesn’t get Deron to commit to his vision of the Nets it may be the biggest chance he ever took but he knew that it was his only play.  For that I will give the big Russian credit.  He played his hand and played it very well.  He won in every aspect of what he wanted to do.

He brought an equally talented superstar to his digs without surrendering his entire starting 5 which really wouldn’t have said a lot.  The newest trick for Prokho will be to ink Deron and ink Dwight Howard who will also become a free agent in 2012.  If he does that then he won’t have to pull any stunts to get everyone’s attention the basketball team will do all the talking for him.

 

THE BIG COUP

Finally, those of you clamoring for the reunion of the real big 3 of Melo, Stat and CP3 allow me to add some perspective.  The Knicks don’t require a point guard of the highest degree like many would like them to get.  What they require is precisely what they were missing against Cleveland.  A big man.  A gigantic big man.  The kind of big man who would make people think twice and thrice of coming into the paint.  The kind of big man that comes along as often as Haley’s Comet.  Dwight Howard should be the Knicks big signing in 2012 not CP3 or D-Will.  Sorry guys.

If the Knicks are serious about winning defensively the Knicks must up the ante and must do what they can.  I would say that in two years they can try and re-sign Felton and carry on but that bridge may have been burned.  The Knicks major deficiency is on the defensive end (last night’s final 3 minutes of the game not withstanding) and God-Willing the Knicks can convince Superman to join the Avengers and bring a title to Broadway.  Rumor has it that its between them and the Lakers meaning Dwight sees himself as a superstar (Which he should) and wants more than what Orlando can offer him and will take his time thinking things through.  The next two seasons can be exceptional auditioning tape.  What Dwight can see is a team and a system that provides numbers offensively and also a team that has two superstars in place at the prime of their careers and ready to take the next step.  On the left coast, Kobe’s aging and the team is dedicated to the development of Andrew Bynum.

Of course things can change next season.  If Kupchak gets word that the Magic want to deal away their superstar center before him wanting to leave becomes a big deal then yes, I’d say that the Lakers would ship Bynum and whomever to Orlando and export the big kahuna to help Kobe win ring number 6 (if he hasn’t already claimed it by the end of the season) or seven.  Kobe cares about his legacy and about winning more than anything and knows he’s entering that territory where it will atleast become a debate as to who is the greatest player ever: he or Jordan.

For people of my generation it will always be Jordan.  End of discussion but like I said perception is always a far greater tool than reality.  Kobe’s comeuppance has been greatly chronicled beyond words.  He won 3 titles with Shaq then exiled him to travel the great plains searching for titles and revenge.  He’s won two with a new big man who’s content to rebound, take charges and score the minimum amount of points to count as a superstar.  He’s got the complementary pieces to win with and he’s taking all the credit along with Phil who once again is along for the ride.

But even Kobe understands how many years Howard’s arrival would add, not only to his legs but also to his championship counter.  Dwight’s recent offensive output means that he’s finally harnessing his massive potential and teams are now beginning to finally see a finished product.  At age 25 he’s playing ball like even most of his biggest fans couldn’t have seen coming and that’s with Gilbert Arenas and Jason Richardson who love to call their own numbers as often as they can.  To be sure his offensive game is improving but his defense is still his major calling card.  Size, rebounding and defensive girth is what he provides and since its in limited supply in this league (see uproar of Kendrick Perkins to OKC) his move would create a seismic shift more so than the ones that CP3 or D-Will will create.

Whatever his decision is, I’m sure whomever Knick management will be at the time will be wise to remind Dwight that he can enjoy the summer of his playing days as a card carrying member of a superstar trio of 20 year olds to battle that knucklehead crew in Miami.  That team of Stat, Melo and Dwight would instantly be the best team in the NBA.  Hands down.  That would be the most dominant front court and with Landry Fields playing the 2, it really doesn’t matter who they get to play the one.

Although getting Dwight Hardy from St Johns couldn’t hurt.  Right?

Spring Training update

Far be it from me to ignore the masses clamoring for a spring training update from both teams.  First we’ll start off with the Yankees who debuted their new cast of characters and there are actual jobs to be won in Tampa this year.  The biggest question mark for the Yankees this spring is their pitching which will be a “we’ll play it by ear” kind of strategy.  Unless the idea of Bartolo Colon as a starter impresses you.  Of course this isn’t 2005 or 2003, so I’m sure any sane, rational Yankee fan (I’ve met a few though I can’t say there are that many in the wild) knows that whatever Colon gives them will be gravy.  But the one major player not really mentioned is Ivan Nova who’s up and down campaign last season had more positives than negatives.  Internally the Yankees are praying that they can put Colon back into the storage compartment and ship him to the Dairy Farm factory for restocking as soon as possible.  Nova’s performance yesterday did much to calm the nerves of Brian Cashman and company who would love to see Nova wrestle the job away from Colon so they can tell Colon “no mas.”

Meanwhile, remember those kids I mentioned who would be instrumental this year in how the Yankees play the C.C. Sabathia card this year?  Well Dellin Betances came in and struck out the side against the Phillies which included Dominic Brown, Wilson Alvarez and Ben Francisco which isn’t murderer’s row I know, but still good for a first crack at impressing the bosses.  Cashman’s stubbornness has kept him from offering these two gems in any trade, as he should.  The scouting scribes are all hot and bothered with the “Killer B’s” Betances and Manny Banuelos.  If they continue to impress during Spring Training those threats of new contracts may go on deaf ears so that Cashman can fall back on his “we don’t discuss extensions until the contract runs out” philosophy.

Curtis Granderson hit a 2 run home run which propelled the Yankees to a victory over the Phillies everyone’s favorite.  Granderson must have a big year for the Bombers and if the final month of the season is any indication, he may be on the rise.  Remember how everyone in the fantasy camps assured you that Grandy would be handily hitting 30+ homeruns with that inviting right field porch?  Well consider that prognostication fit for 2011 as he’s showing signs that he has worked through his hiccups and found a steady stroke that will propel him to that season we had hoped for last year.  You know, as fantasy campers.

As for the Mets, listen, if you’re going to make smart ass comments about the $25 million loan, then sorry you won’t get a chuckle out of me.  Not because it isn’t funny, but its sad.  The Wilpons’ house of cards are slowly crumbling and even they are too dumb to issue the requisite statement of “we have a problem.”  The Mets are worth around a Billion dollars roughly with the stadium and SNY.  No way someone comes in from the wood works and pumps $150 million into the revenue stream so they can help pay the Madoff money they’re accused of making off with.  Unless they build in an exclusive window to buy out the team should it ever go on sale.  Other than those assurances I can’t see any businessman with any gravitas ponying up the pesos to do that exchange.

In actual baseball news Luis Castillo played and well, he played.  1 for 2 with a single and a defensive play.  He was still hitting like he’s helping the other team do fielding drills but its a step up for the guy who’s been blasted and called every name under the sun by Met fans.  He’s lost weight and has impressed his owners.  Maybe long enough to get some trade value built up.  Meanwhile in other not so surprising news Ollie Perez couldn’t quite get a handle on the strike zone and issued 3 walks and let 4 runs cross the plate.  Of course the guy couldn’t hit the strike zone with consistency from 6 feet so forget 60 feet and 6 inches.  There is no sad news to report there.  All in all positive news.  Both players will likely get dumped.  One in the garbage and the other on another team.  Only time will tell which will be.

Meanwhile Chris Capuano and Chris Young pitched impressively enough to earn wins in their Met debuts.  Young pitched two perfect innings while Capuano struck out 4 in two innings of work and allowing one run.  Young’s job is assured but Capuano’s isn’t which means his starts will be much more noticed if he flops.  Young and Cap aren’t going to make your ears pop hearing their fastball but both are effective in the upper 80’s which many Met fans can attest are good enough sometimes.

Loving R.A. Dickey’s emergence in the clubhouse as both sage and leader.  His innings will be dictate how well the Mets do this season.  The more he pitches the better chance the Mets have at winning.

THE NEW OWNER OF THE METS IS….

 

Source: Bobby V interested in buying piece of #Metshttp://es.pn/ibggsm #espnst
-@AdamRubinESPN Adam Rubin
Here I was ready to write an entertaining piece about my second hopeful owner of the Mets and Adam Rubin is reporting that Bobby Valentine is perhaps interested in owning a piece of the Mets.  Listen, I dont get cheesy over many things but this brought a great big piece of provolone to my grill this morning.
Valentine’s place in Met lore is well talked about.  He’s an icon to scores of Met fans and the name they were hollering from roof tops when the job of manager was initially up for grabs.  The problem with that was his salary demands may have been something that they couldn’t afford though now that all this information is coming out, not too much could be afforded.  This is just the initial phase but yes, there is plenty to be smiling about.  But like I said earlier, if the Mets dont write assurances that the group who purchases the minority stake won’t have exclusive bidding rights to buy out the rest of the team then there won’t be too many.
I love Bobby V’s flair to come in on a white horse and save the day for the Mets.  Even if he doesn’t, the fact that he is actively trying to get back into Flushing tells you what he means to this fan base and how much he adores us back.  Thanks Bobby V.
Okay the fan-dling of Bobby V can stop.  On to more sarcastic news.

Closing Thoughts:

Thought I’d close with these last few gems.

– Chauncy Billups, is no throw in to any deal.  What a performance by Big Shot with that three pointer late in the game that made me go from “no, why would you take that shot you…GREAT DECISION!” valleys to peaks so quick.  I’m afraid my heart won’t be able to take too many of these Knick performances.

– Melo’s defense is in his body.  Lebron’s build is one of a kind and for many an impossibility to guard but Melo brings his own unique build to defend Lebron and he did a fine job.  I love the fact that he demanded to guard Lebron late in the game.  Sounds like the guy can handle the big time.

– Big win for the Knicks  but they need size. I wonder what Troy Murphy was thinking.  Murphy is reportedly deciding on whether to join the Knicks or Heat and this game may have swayed him to Broadway.

– Alex Rodriguez dropped ten pounds entering camp.  He must have been one of those guys building mansions that Hank Steinbrenner was referring to.  So worry not Jeter.

– Speaking of which, maybe it was his popcorn diet courtesy of Cameron Diaz?  Who knows what diets these celebs are on these days?

– Big win for the Storm of St Johns.  Dwight Hardy continues to play beyond his years.  That kid’s draft stock has to be going up, no?

– Had a conversation this weekend about Adam Sandler’s career and more importantly how underrated he is.  Yes, underrated.  I’ve never been a huge fan of his work but needless to say his post SNL career has been ten times better than most and that’s saying something.  Or maybe its not saying much at all but Sandler’s work deserves much applause.  He does serious work as well.  His acting in Spanglish was pretty damn good for a guy who many peg as a slapstick artist.

– Kevin Costner meanwhile is last generation’s Keaunu Reeves.  I realize that won’t make much sense but work with me here.  Has any two men been given more lucrative roles than those two aforementioned?  Luck of the draw?  More like horsehoe up the butthole.  Or maybe their agents are just smarter than the average bear.  Whatever the source of their good fortune is, re-watch their movies and tell me one role where you could see no one other than those two in those roles and I promise you i’ll get you a roll.  With butter on it too.  I promise.

– Speaking of crazy.  No.  Actually he isn’t even crazy.  He’s beyond that and there’s a reason I’m putting him before the Ron Artest tweet of the week.  Charlie Sheen’s rant on the “Alex Jones show” was one for the ages.  This guy is beyond crazy, he’s in another planet.  Bill Simmons labeled that the Tyson zone.  But even that’s unfair to describe the mind numbing all over the place-ness of this doozy of a rant which will go down as one of the most puzzling, frightening, terrifyingly funny rants ever.  If you’re Jewish, or Catholic you may not appreciate the following but its all in good fun.  Right?  Ok fine.  Its not but take a gander at this:

http://www.aolnews.com/2011/02/25/charlie-sheen-rant-listen-here/

– Finally the Ron Artest tweet to make all of you happy:

 

LA vs LA tonight… I think LA gonna win
@RONARTESTCOM RON ARTEST
I will have more on Melo and Amare during the week.  More on Spring Training.  More stuff coming.  Enjoy the week folks

 

 

 

 

 

 

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2011 Spring Training questions

With today being another one of those unofficial national holidays according ONLY to us warped, out-of-touch sports fans, I thought it would be helpful to address five concerns our local ballclubs have going into this season.

This isn’t a final list of problems or some list meant to read into the future of the two teams, but let’s just say there is a lot of unresolved business heading into the 2011 season for BOTH the Yankees and Mets.

Because the Yankees face a helluva lot less drama I’m going to start with them.

Also, understand that the order is NOT based on importance.

1. Core Four being…replaced?
Yankee fans have long dreaded the day that this would happen but more than any season it has become crystalized:  replacements for the Core Four are here.  Well, technically its three now that Andy Pettite has retired.  But the Yankees have two young pitchers who are capable of replacing the wily veteran though I wonder how effective they will be in the immediate future.

Jesus Montero, is somewhere in every Top 5 prospect list.  He’s projected to be a 30 homer, 100 RBI guy that hits for average but can’t play defense which was Posada’s flaw.  But already the Yankees have told Posada that he should concentrate on being a DH.  The Yankees have a good supply of defensive catchers they can use if they need someone back there.

Speaking of changing positions, the Yankees have already begun discussions on moving Derek Jeter to centerfield to make room for Eduardo Nunes.  Nunes is the shortstop the Yankees wouldn’t part with in their failed attempt at trading for Cliff Lee.  I wonder how insane all those defensive stat geeks will get when they bring out their plus/minus projections for Derek Jeter the centerfielder?

One doesn’t give out $30 something million to a set up man unless its a clear indication that a succession plan has been put into place.  Mariano Rivera however is the ultimate pro so I see no chance of him causing problems with Rafael Soriano.  Though I can’t imagine they were thrilled to hear Mariano having contract talks with the Red Sox.

Seems to me the Yankees have made it a priority to spell out the next group of stars that will replace the legends of yet another great Yankee generation.  I just wonder if these guys will appreciate being shown the door before they have decided its time to leave.

2. No Cliff Lee.  No Andy Pettite.  No problem?
No matter what the spin is during introductory press conferences let’s be real: its spring training its all peachy keen.  But this will be a big issue as the season plays itself out especially if the rotation stays as presently constructed.  Who knows what to expect from A.J. Burnett?  Phil Hughes doesn’t have a long enough resume to just assume that he will keep pitching at the level he did last year.  There’s a chance that Bartolo Colon will make this rotation which would be incredible when considering that he essentially is plan B for not getting Cliff Lee.  Then there’s Joba Chamberlain who has had his growth as a pitcher permanently stunted by his constant movement from the bullpen to the rotation.

The only person you can rely on to have a big year is C.C. Sabathia who now has back tracked his previous comments of playing out his 7 year $161 million deal and may opt out of the deal and force the Yankees into paying him even more money in a deal that would keep him in pinstripes for “8 to 10 more years” as he has been quoted as saying he would like to pitch.

The rotation will be a concern if C.C. leaves which brings us to…

3. Jesus Montero: future Yankee star or trade bait?
After losing out on Cliff Lee, the Yankees may end up ace-less after 2012 when, if every reporter is reading the signals right, C.C. Sabathia will opt out of his contract and perhaps leave to play elsewhere.  Sabathia was probably the only person in the Bronx who rejoiced when Lee didn’t sign with the Yankees because it now gives him leverage to ask for more money.  Add into the fact that the best free agent pitcher in next years market will be Mark Buerhle, the Yankees will be hard pressed to find solutions there unless they explore the trade market where a potential ace may be available.

According to rumors coming from Minneapolis, Francisco Liriano may become available, and I have a feeling (note sarcasm) they will approach this a bit differently than the Johan Santana trade.  It will most certainly cost Jesus Montero and who knows what else.  Will the rotation issues force the Yankees into using their best prospect in a deal to plug a major hole?  Should be interesting.

4. Who are Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances?
If the Yankees are correct, they are future aces in the Yankee system honing their craft just in time.  Three of the top 5 prospects in the system are catchers but the other two are these young guns who could be the key to how they approach their pitching problems.  If they show a continuing trend upward I wonder how Cashman will respond to CC’s contract opt out.  Their progress this season will go a long way in future organizational decisions.

5.  A-Rod.
Either he needs to get back with Kate Hudson who apparently also helped Muse win a Grammy (why havent the Mets made David Wright go after her? Seriously?), or he just needs to have a bounceback year.  I think the latter is the liklier outcome but remember that he’s on the wrong side of 30 and coming off a hip condition which will make his range progressively worse at 3B.  Eventually he will be a full time DH but this year his health will be monitored closely.  If he continues trending downward it will be interesting to see how they approach him about full time DH’ing once Posada’s contract ends.  Boy that 10 year contract will feel like a prison sentence.

Now that we are done with the Nickelodeon type drama of the Yankees its time to move on to the TNT of drama filled teams: the New York Mets.  Here are 5 questions heading into next season for the Metropolitans in no particular order:

1.  Beltran and Reyes’ future-

This is a case of long term and short term futures.  The first half will be crucial for both of these players.

Beltran will likely have to take a huge paycut to stay in New York in light of recent events.  If he plays well, the Mets will like to trade him but I doubt they will find a team willing to pay the price in prospects for what will likely be a half year rental.  I see the Mets holding on to Beltran and recouping 2 first round picks from him.

Reyes on the other hand is the one I see getting dealt.  He is the biggest chip the Mets have and its more than likely that this front office will look to deal him away because of the prospects he will be able to land them.  The scarcity of elite shortstops with the tools Reyes has will make him a commodity and I can’t see this front office’s unwillingness to sign Reyes to a long term contract now (when his value would be lower due to some down years) as anything other than a sign that they will look to deal him for the best possible haul.

If they do trade him, the hope is that the front office knows what its getting in return.  This year will be interesting- especially the first half.  There are several reasons to hope these two get off to strong starts.

2. Madoff-
So many questions remain since the contents of the Madoff trust’s lawsuit against the Wilpon’s were revealed.  One thing is clear for me: the Wilpons knew something was up with this guy.  I’m not implying they were in on it, but to plead ignorance is stupid and won’t hold up.  The Mets will eventually be up for sale and its anyone’s guess who will wind up with them.

What we do know is that next years financial flexibility that Sandy Alderson pointed to may not be there thanks to the mess they are currently in.  What I do know is that the Mets will have to find a way to play through the distraction and it leads me to the next concern/question for 2011

3. How will the new manager and GM handle their roles?

Terry Collins was hired over Wally Backman who was the clear cut fan favorite and remains in the system eager for an opportunity to succeed Collins should he slip.  The big worry about Collins was his temperment and ability to relate to players and it will be interesting to see if he’s lost touch with that after being out of the major league coaching ranks for a decade.

Sandy Alderson was brought in, in hindsight I suppose, as a cleaner of messes.  He did so in San Diego with the Padres and in Dominican Republic with the corruption of the academies there.  He now faces his most high profile mess to clean up and its unclear whether he was sent with a specific directive from the Commissioner’s office or he actually thought he would get to play GM with a bigger bank account.  Whatever the case is, his skills will be put to the test.

Every move will be crucial as the Mets now seemingly will have very little of the $60 million coming off the books to reinvest.  So the Mets will have to be smart with how they spend their payroll as long as the drama with the Wilpons is unresolved.  If the Mets dont resolve this ownership issue expect more Chris Capuano and Chris Young signings.  Lucky for Met fans Sandy Alderson has plenty of experience dealing with limited resources.

4. When Opening Day comes who will be on the team?

Its a natural question to ponder since there are two names that Met fans won’t miss all that much if they were left without a roster spot come Opening Day.  Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo are approaching epic levels of disdain and do you blame them?  These were two guys who received contracts that were universally hated the moment it was announced and basically the worst case scenario played out.  Every four pitch walk and every weak grounder resulting in a double play built the vitriol that exists today.

If they were not to come to camp, they would fall under the “addition by subtraction” principle.

But there is one other figure that looms large and that is Johan Santana who for the third consecutive year had offseason surgery to repair something in his throwing arm.  When he will come back.  What condition he will come back in.  How long it will take for him to get into competitive shape are all questions that have yet to be answered and the longer it takes to get a timetable for these things, the worse it will be for Met fans who already have such little to look forward to this year.

If I had to guess right now, I’d say Santana comes back in August.  Gets into playing shape in September and hopefully pitches in some very meaningful games during that month.  Best case scenario for the Mets?  They are by some miracle in contention in August and instead of making the major deal to swing for a pitcher they will be getting their ace back in time for the stretch run which would be great.  Of course that’s absolutely best case scenario.

5.  Will young guys step up?

Jon Niese, Josh Thole, Ike Davis, Dillon Gee, Bobby Parnell, are all pretty much guaranteed roster spots and will be counted on to take that next step in their development.  Niese I think has the opportunity to be a good number 2 starter thanks to that curveball which he rarely uses.  Pitching coach Dan Warthen got his contract renewed because of the pitching staff’s success last season despite a dismal overall record.   Dillon Gee won’t blow anyone away with his stuff but his guile and toughness will be needed to navigate out of that 5 hole.  Bobby Parnell’s success will be counted upon greatly next season when you remember that a $17.5 million option for next year in K-Rod’s contract automatically kicks in if he appears in 55 games.  If Parnell takes that next step then the Mets will have a legitimate  reason for keeping K-Rod on the bench so that option doesn’t kick in.  In fact, thanks to Madoff, it may not even matter if Parnell is good or not- he will definitely see more action as the year moves along.

Ike Davis was the breakout rookie for the Mets and depending on how well Bay snaps out of last year’s funk and Wright comes back and Beltran returns to form, the Mets could have a formidable heart of the line up rife with power.  Davis suffered through the usual rookie spell where he wasn’t lining up the breaking balls.  He made adjustments at the end of the season to bump his average up from .246 to .264.  Hopefully Davis keeps trending upwards.

Five rookies who are probably going to see the light of day during September call ups:

Jenrry Mejia- Dan Warthen believes that Mejia could be an elite closer.  Scouts think that Mejia projects as a front line starter.  Either way, the hope here is that he doesn’t get screwed up like this guy.

Lucas Duda & Kirk Nieuwenheis-  I would love for Captain Kirk to make it to the majors if for nothing other than his nickname but here’s what I know about this guy: he’s a winner.  His entire life he’s won.  He was a former football quarterback which tells me that the mental aspect of the game won’t be a problem.  He plays hard but because of his lack of range and mobility most people find it difficult to put him at one position.  He deserves a legitimate shot at the majors.  Duda played well for the Mets during his call up and will probably see some time again.  He even has the opportunity to break camp with the Mets and come up north but it depends on how he plays during Spring Training.
I grouped them together because they feel and look like the same player.

Reese Havens-  He’s got a plus bat but he’s average in the field.  Frankly I could care less.  I need him to stay healthy.  He’s the classic what if proposition for Met prospects “what if he were healthy?”  Most would agree that he would be the starting 2b for the Mets come opening day.  That’s how good people think he can be but unfortunately at bats are hard to come by when you’re injured all the time.

Fernando Martinez- Listen, he’s 22 so its not out of the realm of possibility that the guy could make 2011 his coming out party.  Well let’s face it, at some point he’ll be 25 and he’ll be old news and not worth all the hassle.  Maybe its the pressure of living up to all the high standards that were put on him from the moment he hit homeruns in Shea Stadium when he was 16.

The Mets youngsters will play a major role in shaping how this year plays out.  There are a lot of what ifs but if you can’t be optimistic during Spring Training, when can you?
I’m ready for baseball.

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Thoughts on Jeter

So let me get this straight. The Yankees, the team with an endless supply of money, no budget and a team that goes shopping during the offseason like teenage girls who get daddys credit card are now strong arming the most famous homegrown* Yankee since Mickey Mantle?
*= I think he’s the most famous Yankee since Mantle only because I can’t stand Reggie Jackson. Not like I know his career like the back of my hand, but for what its worth, Jeter is a much better clutch guy and a much better teammate than Mr October ever was. Plus, Jeter’s nickname is Mr November so he’s one upped him already.

Huh? Wasn’t this supposed to be a done deal? Jeter is supposed to be a Yankee and the Yankees always takes care of their own. Right?

For what its worth, I think Jeter isn’t the player he once was regardless of what award he gets.*
*= haters like me discount the fact that he had the highest fielding percentage for his position in the majors. The majority of people blasting the decision are stat geeks who swear by the “fielding bible” and other statistical measures and who have never liked Jeters defense in the first place. But we can’t even say that stat geeks are taking over due to Jeter getting the gold glove. This award was the old guard’s last stand against these stat geeks who won a major victory when a guy who won 13 games and lost 12 and never pitched a single game under the bright lights of a pennant chase won THE Cy Young award.

But the discussion isn’t about Jeters defense, its about how much he’s worth to a team that prints money for a living. Who takes on the $250 million contract of A-Rod’s because its their back up plan and then, bidding against the mirror gives him a deal that could potentially reach $300 million.

And that’s where I think the communication gap lies. That one contract is coming back to haunt the Yankees as it should. When Texas originally gave A-Rod the $250 million contract and made him the highest paid player in all of sports, they were destroyed in the media for ruining sports basically. When the Yankees gave A-Rod his contract, one that runs through age 42, it was a reminder that the Yankees can do what they want. The difference is HUGE and plays into present day negotiations.

The factor here shows that Jeter

So what does Jeter want exactly? That’s hard to say. Jeter’s agent Casey Close* wanted only two things from these negotiations: that the Yankees recognize Jeter’s value to the organization and that these proceedings be done privately minus the media.
*= people always assume that when negotiations are tough with a star player that it automatically means the player’s agent must be Scott Boras. He’s only the standard bearer of drawn out negotiations.

Unfortunately that isn’t the case. In fact the Yankees have gone beyond that. They have leaked” Jeter’s demands” (6 Years/$150 million?)and the biggest blow: tell Jeter that if he didn’t think the Yankee offer would suffice to test the free agent market and see what he could get.

These negotiations are completely about pride. The Yankees know they are going to overpay for Jeter. Jeter realizes that despite his want to play till 42 like A-Rod (if you think the fued is over because they won a championship then you don’t know anything), he won’t get the chance. So somewhere there is a middle ground to be reached.

The most sensible* is 4 year $80 million with escalator clauses that can push the total value of this deal to $90 million.**
*=and I use the word sensible VERY loosely.
**= Jeter is almost 90 hits shy of 3,000 which would remarkably make him the first Yankee to have that many hits as a Yankee. Then there’s 4,000 hits which Jeter certainly wants to reach but won’t in 4 years and perhaps another for reaching a certain number of AB’s.

Yet, the Yankees and Jeter are stuck playing the staring game waiting for the first person to blink. History tells us that it won’t be Jeter. Before signing his just expired contract, Jeter rejected arbitration efforts and strong armed the Yankees into buying out his final year of arbitration and give him a huge deal. Jeter and company are dangerous for one reason: he has an advanced business sense that allows him to see past the crap that the Yankees will throw his way about being selfish and trying to save the Yankees money for other free agents and will ask for what he’s due. For Jeter this is about back pay. Backpay for a guy who just came off a contract that paid him $189 million. Back pay for a guy who over the last 15 years helped rebuild a brand that Steinbrenner almost destroyed with his constant meddling.* Backpay for a guy who played in the midst of the Yankees most lucrative years as a franchise. For a guy who symbolizes the Yankee way and the guy who wears a captain symbol that isn’t given to just anybody wearing pinstripes.
*=isn’t it weird that only at his death that he received the criticism for the way he did things? Even till the day he died, George was feared.

No, it would be foolish to undermine all of that. To risk the future relationship that the Yankees are so good at keeping with their alumni. The Yankees will pay.

What will be the price is the question. What will the Yankees do to honor Jeter? Or has enough damage been done to Jeter for him to take their money yet never trust the franchise he grew up rooting for? He will take the money undoubtedly.

But what will they give up? That is the question. Who will give up what? The Yankees are betrothed to Jeter and vice versa, but the Yankees have the weight of one big contract that Jeter looks at and pridefully is telling himself that he too can do it. He can play till 42. If A-Rod the mercinary for hire is worth $300 million, what is the captain, the face of the franchise worth?

These are the obstacles. Want to know why these negotiations are taking so long? Easy. Its not about numbers or money. Its about pride and that is a part of the equation that has no price. The Yankees are clearly in negotiations that they are uncomfortable with.

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