Tag Archives: Yankees

Lessons learned: MLB Trade Deadline 2014

Yesterday, baseball went on the kind of run that everyone in Las Vegas hopes to go on.  When the morning began those of us unfortunate enough to be tied to our Twitter accounts were awakened by Alex Speier’s report that Jon Lester had been traded to the Oakland A’s.  A moment passed before I read the next tweet which read “…for Yoenis Cespedes”.  It was the kind of swift kick in the butt that the trade deadline needed.

What followed over the next 7 hours were teams responding, teams waving the white flag, teams staying pat and teams deciding that they weren’t going to dip their toe in these crazy waters.

We will get to the New York teams in a minute.  But there’s much to learn about the changing landscape these days when Detroit and Oakland are the two teams waging war and raising armies in the North and the South, shooting out warning shots undoubtedly in preparation for their matchup in the ALCS.  After the Lester trade was finalized, I imagine Detroit CEO, GM and overlord of the car making province Dave Dombrowski reading the report on one of his sports apps and looking up at his team and muttering some phrase equivalent to “let’s get busy boys.”

The Tigers then made a huge trade in a three team swap to pick up the ace that had a reported 8.9% chance of being traded.  The Tigers picked up their Scherzer insurance.  The Mariners got an everyday center fielder.  The Rays got their bundle of team controlled prospects that will undoubtedly lead them on their second run.  Much of the surprise is somehow on the Rays side.  Most thinkers of baseball believe they could’ve received an equivalent trade in the offseason.  Why settle now in the midst of a race the Rays are quickly getting themselves back into?

One can never seem to doubt Andrew Friedman, but looking at the landscape this move can only lead one to believe that he saw his team incapable of sustaining such a run over the month of August and September and decided to cash out now.  But did they cash out with the biggest hand they could’ve had?  Who knows?  Drew Smyly has produced the best numbers of his career.  Nick Franklin has been shuttled between Triple A and the major leagues but has potential.  A most dangerous adjective that can lure GM’s into a trap.  Then there’s Willy Adames, the SS who is 18 years old and has shown an advanced bat for his age.  Those three shouldn’t net a David Price but this is the reality in which the Tampa front office operates in.  They must always keep an eye to four years from now while maintaining what they have today.  In a market that is not advantageous and doesn’t offer the revenue stream to change their thinking, they must always look ahead rather than gaze at the now.

But not Billy Beane.  Ol Billy decided when he traded away his best prospect to land two starters from the Cubs that this would NOT be the year that he stands pat and looks ahead.  This year he was putting his chips to the middle of the table.  Ultimately these moves will be judged by the end result in October but one can only applaud Billy as he makes his run at that championship he has so cleverly tried to get by selling his home made lemonade in his stand while he competes with the big boys in all things beverage.  By trading Addison Russell his star SS, he made an announcement to the world that he was going for it.  When he traded Jon Lester for home run darling Yoenis Cespedes he made sure to remind us that he was dead serious about his aspirations.  Lester represents about as sure a thing in the playoffs as you can get.  A hired gun bought for a single reason: to pitch those games that the Oakland A’s have never been able to win.  The Game 5’s and Game 7’s that Oakland has had to rely upon lesser talented players.  Now they have a bona fide tried and true ace that has been there and done that.  Again, his trades will ultimately be looked at through the prism of October results, but we should all applaud Billy the kid for deciding to take out the twin guns and fire away.

Of course if you’re Dave Dombrowski and you have a pitcher who decided to reject a 6 year $144 million deal the writing is in the stars.  When Max Scherzer decided to say no to an extension offer, the wheels had to start turning for GM Dave Dombrowski.  He has an aging owner who wants to win now and is willing to spend money but doesn’t have the endless pockets the Yankees do and at some point you get the sense that with each start, Scherzer is pricing himself into a different stratosphere.  Don’t take for granted Mike Illitch’s will to spend to keep a championship capable roster.  But with David Price in tow, they can weather Scherzer’s departure.  But this is also about  Rick Porcello’s advancement as a pitcher.  The Tigers bet on Porcello getting better when they dealt Doug Fister to the Nationals.  Now that his stats have all shown a major jump, one has to wonder if Detroit looks at those stats as an unsustainable leap from a pitcher who doesn’t project as a front line starter.  For me, this is also a Rick Porcello insurance move.  In case these stats are unsustainable, they have enough frontline starting pitching to help Porcello toil away and figure things out.  The Tigers have been stubborn about his development and it seems as though they will see this to the absolute end before they give up on him.

The Red Sox are an interesting case.  They sent away Jon Lester and John Lackey in separate deals that netted them serviceable major league players.  So it wasn’t a total destroy and rebuild like in 2012, but it bears a striking resemblance.  When the Red Sox traded away all their horrible contracts to the Dodgers they took advantage of a team with new ownership desperate to make a splash.  Now, there are no bad contracts, but a ton of young players the Sox brass are hoping will develop enough to become a core that can be competitive at a decent price while having the financial flexibility to add star players to support them.  I can’t be totally sure that the two moves were with an eye toward the future or making sure to have pieces in 2015.  The A’s were smart to trade Cespedes, a star borne out of the Cuban craze that has produced two legit superstars in Yasiel Puig and Jose Abreu.  Cespedes, if you will remember had the amazing scouting tape that made him a cross between Babe Ruth, Joe Dimaggio and Ken Griffey Jr.  But he hasn’t had the kind of career that Puig and Abreu have.  Aside from the two home run derby titles and the occasional amazing display of the gun from the outfield, Cespedes has been a clean up hitter in name only.  Yes, he has a year left on his contract, but if the Sox catch lightning in a  bottle, they have inserted themselves into the Cuban pipeline of talent by bringing in one of their better prospects.  We won’t get a good idea of where the Sox’s thinking is until the offseason.  If they make a run at Lester, who can be a free agent and is well liked by both Boston’s fan base and by the ownership group, this will be a huge win for the Sox.  But based on earlier negotiations, the Sox have a price in mind for their staff ace and won’t go beyond that number.

The NL East all made incremental moves with one team making the most interesting one.  I’ve always been jealous of how ruthlessly efficient the Miami front office is.  Historically, they haven’t mastered sustained success, rather banking on their scouting and farm development to give them a good nucleus and then building through some major splashes, much the way they attempted to do so in 2012.  Then as soon as they win, they get out blaming a public that doesn’t support the team to give them revenue streams to spend.  But when Miami sent a few well thought of prospects for Jared Cosart, it was the kind of low level go for it move with a look towards the future for both teams operating with a time frame in mind.  Cosart is a former number one pick and no matter what the circumstances are that led to his trade from the Astros, its always a good bet to trade for talent.  Changing his surroundings may allow Cosart to start over and reach his potential.  If they manage to tap into Cosart’s potential, they could have added another frontline starter to a rotation that includes Jose Fernandez.  In a vacuum let’s presume that when Fernandez comes back next year, he will need a majority of the season to get back into the form we saw from him last year.  Cosart will enter a rotation with Henderson Alvarez and Nathan Eovaldi, gives them enough young talent to slowly build the same way they built their championship teams.  This is the kind of move that won’t immediately pay dividends but ultimately is the kind of forward thinking move that sets the table for a major run in a year or two.  Smart.

So what if anything can the local teams learn from all of these moves?  The Mets and the Yankees operate in two different tax brackets.  The Yankees, did the smart thing at the trade deadline.  Rather than sacrifice their top prospects, they dealt from their endless welt of cash.  Nowadays, prospects are the currency of choice for GM’s, but that’s a matter of circumstance.  It just so happens that the Yankees can and can’t be begrudged for operating from that advantage.  So rather than make earth shattering moves which GM Brian Cashman is expected to always do, they made incremental moves to add depth.  If the A’s taught us anything its that having depth at IF and OF can always be a plus.  Having multiple options for a roster that is riddled with older players who are getting injured way too often, how is adding Martin Prado, Chase Headley, Chris Capuano, Jeff Francis,  Stephen Drew, David Huff, and Brandon McCarthy for cash, Vidal Nuno, C Peter O’Brien, Yangervis Solarte, Rafael DePaula, Kelly Johnson and a player to be named later.  To recap, they got a guy who was asking for $15M a year this offseason, a former Gold Glover, a player who was the centerpiece of the Justin Upton trade, for a guy they were going to option, a guy who’s hot start they parlayed into someone useful and a bunch of other pieces that were ultimately expendable.   That’s called making the most of what you have and more importantly recognizing what you don’t have.  They have enough talent, that once healthy, they know they can piece together a run.

But the Yankees also operate in a changing landscape.  There aren’t enough legit superstars in mid prime entering the free agent market that the Yankees can devour like they used to.  Teams are starting to be smarter about the Super-2 status and convincing prospects with potential to give up one or two years of their free agency in exchange for financial security.  Thus, free agents are entering free agency on the opposite side of 30.  Not only that, the Yankees aren’t the automatic suitors for the in their prime stars, anymore like they used to be.  The Dodgers with their new ownership group, the Tigers with an owner who’s advanced in both age and desperation to win a title, the Angels with a threatened Artie Moreno, and of course the Boston Red Sox.

Playing in New York comes with its advantages and disadvantages.  Cashman operates from the must do something mandate where its not just about the number of moves but the number of moves that make a splash.  So every offseason the Yankees will be linked with the biggest free agents and during the trade deadline the best trade chips are also somehow linked despite the Yankees not having the treasure trove of prospects with which to deal from.  The Yankees will never be in rebuilding mode.  Not with a new stadium that needs to be paid for.  Not when the team seems to be entering a deep decline with the final member of the Core Four retiring.  If anything this calls for an even more aggressive show of force by the Yankee front office.  A moment to puff out the chest and remind everybody who the Yankees are.  So naturally for those fans who looked at the Yankees tenuous position and thought they would just pack their bags and call it a season, just don’t know how the machine works.  It never stops. Or rests.  It continues manufacturing a relentless mentality to chase what may be out of their grasp.

The Mets however, have had to operate from a different point of view.  Though they call New York home as well.  Though they have a brand new ball park as well.  They compete with the monolith Yankees and against a reality they would rather not admit to the public because of what the feared reaction from the public is.  However, the Mets have always made the mistake that the public won’t understand: they’ve been with you this long stupid, they will continue to ride with you through this crap too.  With their finances a big question mark to everyone but the Wilpons’ accountants, the Mets have cut costs, and payroll since 2006, their last playoff run, to sit comfortably in the middle of the pack; a weird place for any team from NY to be in.  The Mets do however have something the Yankees don’t: young, high end, cost controlled pitching.  The Mets could have made a move to send a signal to the landscape that they were ready to overtake the Yankees but one thing is clear: they aren’t ready.  Not that they couldn’t make a run to the postseason or the 90 win goal GM Sandy Alderson set.  But the Mets also didn’t make a panic trade to make a run that nobody thinks is a guarantee.  What the Mets can take away from this deadline from the other teams is this: that they aren’t ready to trade for a David Price or Jon Lester.  But they are also close enough to be realistic.  This may not be the year, but they are close to making the kind of moves that send shockwaves throughout baseball and announce themselves as legit contenders.

 

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Headlines 1/11/2013

copelandThe Knicks were without Carmelo Anthony last night in Indianapolis and predictably the offense faltered.  Tony Williams of the Star Ledger writes that that’s either glass being half empty or half full if you’re a Knicks fan. Frank Isola of the Daily News writes about the exercise in futility that was the Knick offense last night.  George Willis of the Post writes that maybe the Knicks have lost their swagger entering a seven game home stand.  Nate Taylor of the New York Times writes that it wasn’t just the missing Carmelo Anthony and his 29 points per game and his usual brilliant late game shooting, but it was just the Knicks missing in general.  Jared Swerling of ESPNNY.com writes among his notes about Marcus Camby’s injury that sidelined him for most of the game.

There was a time in that game that the Knicks were capturing some of that momentum.  They were up 4 after being down most of a very sloppy game, and then the Pacers went on a 13-2 run and it felt like a 28-2 run.  It felt like an enormous lead that this team just could not overcome because they didn’t have their best player on the court.  But let’s add on, that the Knicks haven’t had their best players on the court all season.  Their best team is still sitting on the bench wearing tailored suits.  Yes, Carmelo Anthony wasn’t in the building last night but also consider that primary point guard Raymond Felton is out for another four to five more weeks.  The Knicks best perimeter defender Iman Shumpert is now only beginning live practices.  Rasheed Wallace, another veteran center, was out because of a recurring foot issue that has him day to day.  Amar’e Stoudemire is only beginning to round into form.  

Last night people began wondering if the Knicks were as good as the early season start or if this recent rough stretch was in reality who the Knicks were.  I am willing to say that the Knicks are somewhere in the middle.  One thing I will say is that when healthy this team can go against anybody.  They have the veteran leadership.  They have the bigs to control the paint.  They have the defensive mindset in a half court game.  They play the style of basketball that wins in the postseason and in the end, that’s what this team’s ultimate goal is.  To win in May and June.  Playoff seeding be damned, had the Knicks not gotten off to that fast start, who knows where in the standings they would be.  Thanks to Miami losing they didn’t lose any ground so they remain a half game back of number one seed Miami, but Indiana has to be a real threat.  They added a ton of size to their team and the difference between last year’s team and this year’s team is Paul George.  

It makes the alpha dog status of this team an interesting one when Danny Granger returns.  The Pacers don’t have a top 10 player on their team but they have several excellent pieces.  George is showing signs that he could be their go-to guy.  He still doesn’t have a consistent enough shot, but his perimeter d and his otherworldly athleticism make him a candidate with further room to grow and improve.  He’s the kind of guy that will only get better and oh by the way he’s only turning 23 this May.  

A line up that I saw last night that worries me is the Jason Kidd, Tyson Chandler, Amar’e Stoudemire, JR Smith and Steve Novak.  While Novak isn’t a terrible defender, Amar’e has been a liability on that side of the ball and Kidd gets beat consistently by the quicker point guards.  Its only his hands that make him a threat to poke the ball away from an offensive player running right by him.  He still has the quickness and strength to poke balls away when they aren’t secured.  I understand its to give the Knicks the most amount of shooters, but Amare and Tyson can’t create their own offense so teams play zone and never have to stray too far away from their guy.  If you were to replace Novak or Smith with Prigioni, this gives you two ball handlers who can run dual pick and rolls.  A play they may want to run is Pablo/Kidd coming from the top of the arc and working their way down while getting two screens from both Amar’e and Tyson, as soon as the bigs start to roll, only one big can rotate back to their original man leaving one guy with the point guard while allowing a big to have a mismatch.  Either a lob to the open big to set up a roll to the basket or a bounce pass would suffice.  Now, what happens if someone else rotates to the basket to prevent the easy dunk?  You now have whomever was standing at the corner three locations running behind their man and the big can quickly pass it to him for the easy lay up.  That line up needs as many ball handlers and offensive creators as possible due to the limitations of Chandler and Amar’e to create offensively.  

Once Amar’e gets his stuff together (ie: his 15-18 footer that he was routinely knocking down in 2010), and gets more acclimated to the pace of the game (which he should be by now), the Knicks won’t feel as crippled by the fact that both are primarily pick and roll players.  The Knicks just can’t let Amar’e play center and allow teams easy buckets in the paint and offensive rebounds by the dozens.  Amar’e just does not box out well (he admitted he was never taught), and you can’t let a defensive liability to be left out there without any protection.  Funny thing is, if Rasheed Wallace had been in both games, I think the Knicks win both.  Not kidding you at all.

With the blank entry list to the Baseball Hall of Fame thanks to the suspicion of steroids use by many of the first timers on this year’s ballot, baseball followed that announcement with this: the Players Union and Major League Baseball agreed to expand HGH testing.  Andy McCullough of the Star Ledger writes that the plan is to monitor testosterone levels to note any changes to them in players.  Michael Schmidt of the New York Times writes that this is another way for baseball to argue that it has the strictest testing of all the four major sports.  Both stories spoke of the NFL’s hesitation in blood tests for HGH in season.  This comes a day after a story revealed that Junior Seau was in fact diagnosed with a degenerative brain disease named CTE that is caused by repeated blows to the head perhaps due to his years playing football.  According to this NYTimes report, out of 34 cases that the researchers at Boston University have examined where the subject died, 33 were found to be linked to CTE.

Dr James Andrews, Mike Shanahan RGIIIIt was an unusual day for science in the sports landscape.   I wouldn’t describe baseball as reeling from the aftershock of not inducting anyone to the Hall of Fame, but the numerous empty ballots certainly created a buzz in the sporting community.  Performance enhancing drugs are an ever changing market.  One day its anabolic steroids, the next its something more subtle that alters a player’s ability.  Tomorrow it will be a substance that is virtually untraceable.  I’m willing to bet that every year we will read about two or three more athletes that continue to feel that they can cheat the system and get away with it.  Until the sports world has universal Olympic testing prior to every competition, how can a team not feel they were cheated by somebody who came into a game all “juiced up”.  Obviously that kind of testing will never happen but baseball will always have this stigma attached to it thanks to the almost two decades long period of not caring to do anything about the problem.  

Football on the other hand has a very very serious problem.  I’ve said for years now that Roger Goodell’s legacy will be linked to how he contains or doesn’t contain the concussion issue and player safety.  Those who think that he’s not doing enough will ask for more measures of reeling in the violence.  And there will always be those who feel he has done too much to risk the primal nature of the game that makes it what it is.  I’m of those that believe that you play football knowing the risks.  The hits just keep getting harder and tougher the bigger the players get and the faster they come to hit.  But players continue to compete knowing the risks.  There’s no place in the game for HGH considering how big these guys are and how physical this game is, but don’t try and convince me that Goodell’s stance on this issue isn’t driven by his fear that if he doesn’t do anything the lawsuit by former NFL players contending that the NFL does very little for its former players will make the NFL pay a huge hefty sum.  Goodell has implemented rules and barriers to use in court to say that the NFL is doing its level best to not compromise player safety.  One of the biggest issues that I saw in a report for HBO’s Real Sports series was a story done by Andrea Kremer in which the NFL was asking players to sign a waiver agreeing to free the NFL of any kind of lawsuit before taking a painkiller called Toradol which acts as a numbing agent.  The Players Union is asking players NOT to sign the waiver which continues the back and forth of this issue.  Neither side is willing to be fully on board with the player safety issue as the NFL is trying to lead everyone to believe and its being done with the intention of trying to avoid any further legal hassles in the future.

My opinion is, the NFL is a dangerous sport.  Junior Seau’s case is one that will never change.  Players play injured.  Players go in when they aren’t supposed to, ask RGIII.  The sport almost demands a player to play through and to show the teammates their individual toughness.  The fact is, the risks aren’t being explored in game situations and are only being asked after the fact.  After a game has been played and the player has taken a few extra lumps on top of the lump that caused the injury.  Players do this all the time in the NFL but they do so under their own recognizance.  That’s where team doctors or medical officials need to step in and be authoritative when they demand a player’s removal from a game.  If Dr. James Andrews, the most renowned name in orthopedics, can’t have his professional opinion taken seriously enough then what shot does any other medical official have.  Its a dilemma that won’t go away and good for the NFL that it doesnt!

Hal Steinbrenner calmed Yankees fans fears a little in this Ken Davidoff report saying that the $189 million figure is just a number and doesn’t represent an end all figure if the Yankees aren’t seriously contending for a World Series in 2014.

Sammy Sosa is just weird, on his Pinterest page.

John Clayton of ESPN.com writes that several teams will have a difficult time in reshaping their roster, especially the Jets who are currently $19.4 million over the cap and Dallas who are currently $18.2 million over.  The Giants sit at $4.7 million over.

Gary Meyers of the Daily News writes that Tim Tebow doesn’t have a prayer of having a starting gig in the NFL.

 

 

 

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Daily Rounds 12/9/2011 Part 2

In Part One, we took a look at all the NBA crazyness leading into the first day of training camps.  In Part two we look at the Pujols contract and reaction.  A crazy game in Pittsburgh that came down to the wire and a bum leg.  And other small mini notes including breaking news regarding one of my favorite players in the NBA.
Albert Pujols is a Los Angeles (of Anaheim) Angel.  In a stunning turn of events that was confirmed by multiple outlets Albert Pujols agreed to a 10 year $255 million deal to go from the St Louis Cardinals and the National League to the LA Angels and the American League.  Bernie Miklasz of the St Louis Post Dispatch says save the blame game, its just a business.  Bryan Burwell doesn’t believe the Cardinals did everything they could to keep the superstar a Cardinal for life.  Vincent Bonsignore of the LA Daily News shows his reaction.  Bill Plaschke of the LA Times  says this makes the Angels relevant in LA just as much as it does in the AL.  Kevin Baxter writes that Pujols’ Hispanic heritage won’t be that huge here given the low Dominican population in Southern California.  However his reputation could take a hit.  And Boy DOES IT EVER and from an unusual place.  Joel Sherman of the NY Post asks the Angels “have we learned NOTHING from the idiocy of handing a soon to be 32 year old slugger a 10 year contract?” John Harper meanwhile says that the Yankees may be forced to react to this news if the dominoes fall the way that some suggest it will.  Gil Lebreton of the Fort-Worth Star Telegram says that the Rangers insist they aren’t going to budge from their plan and business model.   I agree with Steve Henson of Yahoo Sports that the real winner here was Prince Fielder who’s agent is a fella by the name of Scott Boras.  

The question on everyone’s mind this morning is: IS this deal a good idea for the Angels?  Just take for a second to remove the emotion of a long time Cardinal leaving the only place he knows for bigger dollars and a bigger tank.  Is Albert Pujols worth 10 years $255 million (reportedly)?  (for that matter is ANY player worth that much for that long?)  My answer is yes.  A HUGE yes.  A resounding yes.

Kevin Baxter is right.  There is no latino influence like he would’ve had if he had chosen to go to Miami in South Beach.  Pujols decision to move to Los Angeles was purely based on dollars.  It was a business decision.  And it was a business decision on both sides.

For years I’ve said that Arte Moreno operated his ball club like a weird rich kid.  Unsure about spending all of his money, instead he made smaller purchases to keep people believing that they were big spenders.  Kind of like what the Coupon family did two winters ago when they signed Jason Bay.  I guess Moreno got tired of shopping at the mall and went to Fifth Ave and swallowed up Albert Pujols and got a discount on CJ Wilson.  This is a huge deal for Moreno because now was the time to strike.

The Dodgers are a financial mess and despite their bumbling problems, they will soon be on the receiving end of a huge multi-year TV deal that will make them even richer and they will get new ownership soon, one group rumored to include Magic Johnson.  So now was the time to strike.  Before the Dodgers got their affairs in order.  It was time to get some sour Dodger fans to turn and stare at the red of the Angels while the Dodgers remained blue in the face.  These are the kind of bombs you land when you are fighting a turf battle.  These are the things that give you victory.

Pujols immediately gives them legitemacy.  Wilson gives the Angels another arm on a team full of capable arms.  The Angels move to get Vernon Wells looks dumber now considering they could’ve had an outfield of Torii Wilson, Peter Bourjos and Mike Trout the whiz kid 19 year old who will eventually be a superstar if all the scouts are right.  The Angels have the kind of long term commitment from Pujols that will allow them to win a few battles in the presses and will give the Angels the ability to hold their head high when they walk in this town long run by the Dodgers.

The notion that he is a traitor OR even did anything remotely bad here needs to stop.  I find it hilarious that its New York reporters who are crying foul of this deal though it makes sense.  The A-Rod contract looks like it will be a stain on the Yankees for years and something they won’t be able to remove anytime soon.  But there are several reasons why this deal makes sense and not only that he deserves it:

This is a guy who TOOK a hometown discount already.  His last contract paid him $100 million which was hugely under-market deal.  So Pujols took the hometown discount once.  He wasnt, at the age of 32(?) going to take it again and I don’t blame him.  Its once in a life time that a player of his talents come along and enter the free agent market and any team would’ve been right to offer him that contract.  Leaving St Louis somehow makes this deal a bad one?  Retiring a Cardinal would’ve made sense.  Yes, they offered north of $200 million but their payroll restrictions didn’t allow the Cardinals to go further or take that extra step.

But that’s not what cost them Pujols.  They never, in his mind made that extra push prior to last season to make him an offer he felt he was worthy of.  If we learned anything following the Jose Reyes press conference, its that stars need to be pampered and felt like they are wanted.  They are insecure and shallow and need the reassurance like little kids that they will be looked after.  Pujols CAN be looked at in that light but it wouldn’t be fair.  The Cardinals had an exclusive window to talk contract extension and if they said 10 years $240 million, they would’ve gotten him then.  This would not be going on.  I’m not mad at Pujols for taking the money.  You get offered that kind of money, you would be dumb to NOT take it because this is a business and in the end you take care of yourself, family and loved ones and nobody else.  Everyone else is periphery and don’t really matter.  Pujols’ fans in St Louis need to know that.

I was a fan of Reyes and I know that he did the right thing.  I don’t blame him for wanting out of the Mets, and their current situation, and taking the bigger contract.  He did the right thing.  I don’t begrudge him as a Met fan and I don’t hate the Mets for letting him leave.  This was right for both parties.  It was the right time.  Was there a better way like trading him?  Sure.  But either way I don’t blame Sandy for not offering that kind of money that signed Reyes and I’m not mad at Reyes for not taking the offer.

The Wilson deal part of it makes sense because he won’t be asked to be the number one guy.  That role is Jered Weaver’s.  They have a four man staff that could be Phillies lite and given that Roy Oswalt is no longer there could be better than the Phillies overall.  This gives them needed depth that they can augment with a very strong bullpen which they have.  I like this move because they also got him on a bit of a discount if you believe the rumors that the Marlins offered him 6 years.

The Pujols deal also makes sense because he will instantly improve a lineup that scored 200 runs less than their immediate competitor the Texas Rangers.  For two years the Angels have watched the Rangers go to the World Series and there’s no end in sight in Arlington, so the Angels had to wait for the right guy.  What about the guy that led the team that just crushed your hearts?  What about the guy who had an all-time great World Series game against them?  Pujols is a major swing at the Texas Rangers who may be forced to respond.

What if the Rangers now get crazy and sign Prince Fielder to a 9 year $200 million contract?  What if they post for Yu Darvish who just came on the market?  Doesn’t this mean the Yankees and Red Sox have to respond in kind?  The Yankees would then feel the need to trade for Gio Gonzalez or Wandy Rodriguez even.  So goodbye valuable young assets and future Yankee stars, and hello immediate response to a major league arms race.  Suddenly the Red Sox, would also need to make a big play.  What about trading for Jon Niese AND David Wright?

All scenarios are in play.  But the next few days could be intense and could lead to deals.  This Pujols/Wilson play has major repercussions and I can’t wait to see it play itself out.

Thursday Night Football somehow, seems to get its share of drama to run with and boy did they get it yesterday.  Ben Roethlisberger’s ankle looked like a pretzel…after snapping, and somehow he still managed to get up and throw a game winning touchdown and play a whole second half on a badly injured ankle limping his way on the field.  Ron Cook of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette was as impressed as I was.  Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Tribune Review says he was also awed at Ben’s stand.  

I only got to watch the second half but I read on twitter about his injury and then saw it replayed.  It looked gruesome.  The kind that would make the average human being turn their head away or make their face have the look whenever you eat something sour.  It just was insane.  Then you saw him come back out.  You suddenly realized the important.  7-3 ballgame.  Season was on the line.  Steelers had to win this game and ensure they would.  Could their defense hold?  Sure.  But you couldn’t, if you were Ben, take that chance.

Consider that Ben plays behind a very porous offensive line that usually leaves him writing on the floor in a considerable amount of pain.  Nobody would’ve faulted the Steelers for leaving Charlie Batch in for the rest of the game.  But these are the moments that superstars rise and make a name for themselves.  Against a division rival, Big Ben lived up to his name and forever earned my respect.  For all intents and purposes he was hopping like a rabbit out there.  He couldnt put any weight on that foot which was so vital to him planting and being able to drive in through his throws.  His passing would be compromised.  Yet somehow, someway, he threw a 79 yard TD pass to Antonio Brown who made a few guys miss with a few moves and his speed and did most of the leg work.

But it was Ben’s heart that won them this game.  I believe in momentum shifts and small little things like this that may go unnoticed to the average eye that can propel a team to a Super Bowl.  Yes the Ravens swept the Steelers.  Yes the Steelers offensive line is an absolute mess and at times, yes, the defense has looked old.  But last night was something different.

The onus on all the other players to step up their game is ten fold now.  Nobody’s injury is that important that they can’t suck it up.  Lamar Woodley.  You hear me?  No more being laid out because of a hamstring.  That’s bullshit.  This game could’ve galvanized this Steeler team.  Now they get 10 days and for a team nursing injuries and being old and needing rest it couldn’t have come at a better time.  Big Ben showed up last night and now expect a veteran ball club like the Steelers to show up for him.  This victory could be even more special and can be the turning point for the Steelers.  Stay tuned.

Finally, according to Adrian Woj of Yahoo sports, Brandon Roy may have to retire due to medical reasons.  USA Today is reporting it as well.  Sad day for Brandon.  He could’ve been a game changer.  This of course means that depending on his contract status, the Blazers may be in the clear if his contract was insured.  Sad day.   


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Sports Roundup 12/4/2011 and Week 13 Picks!

Bill Simmons of Grantland.com is bringing you Day 1 of a 12 day series in which he covers the frantic NBA Free Agent Experience and makes the simple yet honest point: Even though the lockout was meant to stop dumb contracts, we’re about to get even MORE dumb contracts in the coming days.  Gentlemen, start your paychecks.  Speaking of which, Vishnu Parasuraman of Grantland explains the new deal in a comprehensive yet simple way.  Ok fine, so I got an Indian sports writer in there.  SUE ME!

I’m a huge Bill Simmons fan so you’ll be seeing alot of his posts linked for sure.  He’s a huge basketball junkie thus his opus titled the Book of Basketball which went through his thoughts and long held beliefs of the game so you knew he would have something for basketball junkies as the NBA was coming out of the lockout.  His point?  the deal could’ve been struck five months ago but players held stubbornly and owners were too dick headed to admit their faults.  Now, we have a 66 game season in which the league and its elder statesmen will be subjected to AT LEAST one back to back to back set of games.  NBA fans won’t care but remember that teams with older players will be rested more to survive the grind.  An interesting point that Simmons made was that this proved how vital the NBA views its slate of games on Christmas Day.  Its their Thanksgiving.  They didn’t want to lose it and couldn’t afford to do so and Simmons argued that it made sense and the NBA should consider making some cosmetic changes to their schedule in order to not get in the way of football and therefore step on their own toes.  Not many people pay attention to basketball on Sundays while the NFL is still pumping out its product.  And now with the NFL set to have a Thursday game every week and then some Saturday games starting on Christmas eve, you can bet that the NBA will be keeping a close watch on games.

By the way, here’s the updated schedule of games that will kick off the NBA season:

Boston AT New York (Rondo vs. CP3?), Miami AT Dallas (the banner will be unveiled but the rings apparently won’t be given out), Chicago AT Los Angeles (Who’s going to be the wingman for Derrick Rose this year?), Orlando AT OKC and Clippers AT Golden State.  Got all that?  That’s TNT for Knicks Celts followed by ABC for the next two games with the NBA Finals rematch and Kobe vs. MVP Derrick Rose and finally ESPN gets the last two games.  When’s the last time the NBA went out of its way to put the Clippers in a marquee NBA television night?  Ahh, the power of Blake.

I would make the argument that the NFL will have a tough slate to take away from the NBA but it appears Roger Goodell has paved the streets clean of NFL football, even disposing of Jay Cutler to make the Sunday night game with the Packers and Bears less interesting unless Caleb Hanie’s body gets possessed by a better QB.  Maybe he needs to bring the stache back?

Bill Madden of the New York Daily News is breaking down the wishlist and rumor mill stuff of the Winter Meetings.  For those that don’t know, this is where all the action happens and deals get done.  Oh, and so does Ken Davidoff of Newsday and Joel Sherman of the New York Post believes that the Yankees are going to be quiet for once and that’s because they are trying to cut costs.  Meanwhile here is Jon Heyman of SI (and soon to be CBS Sports) and Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports gives us the skinny on Yu Darvish the sought after pitcher from the Nippon Ham club in Japan.  

The Winter Meetings are interesting because fans are under the impression that this is MLB’s way of getting all 30 GM’s and player agents under one roof to make deals and sign contracts with players but its not.  Its a convention for GM’s, kind of like one of those training seminars your company sends you to and oh by the way every other power broker in the sport ends up in the same hotel (what are the odds?) and winds up swinging deals.  There’s only enough Public Safety Seminars one can stomach apparently.  Blackberries will be used and this is the week that cell phone companies see a spike in calls made and received from certain phone lines.  Either way, plenty of rumors to get to.

The Sherman article interests me because this is not the first time we’ve heard that the Yankees are tightening up their belts.  They ALWAYS say that and like Sherman points out seemingly always spend more and shrug it off because they can.  The Yankees are being more judicious with how they spend their money and they are right, CJ Wilson is NOT worth a major contract.  He’s a third starter in my opinion and NOT a number one.  His cost has been inflated because there’s no other marquee pitching talent available unless the Mariners somehow decide to put King Felix on the block but that’s a long shot especially if the rumors are true and they are going to make a run at Prince Fielder.  Jon Danks could be an interesting option seeing as how Kenny Williams has all but put the Rebuilding notice on his White Sox club and may part ways with their best pitcher to start collecting young assets.  The Yankees won’t trade their Killer B”s for anyone outside of Felix in my opinion.  They still could dangle Jesus Montero and get a pretty good return so the Yankees always have that.  We’ll see how it goes.

As for the Mets, I’ve always been in the trade David Wright Camp.  If the Mets were really interested in rebuilding and trying to maintain a level or status of a long term winner, they would look to trade Wright and I think it would be mandatory should Jose Reyes leave for another team.  One team he may be leaving for are the Miami Marlins who are now facing charges from the SEC about possible violations in how they got their majority-taxpayer-funded brand new ballpark.  Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports writes that free agents looking at Miami may be scared off by the investigation which has real legs and could possibly end up costing the Marlins a lot.  This is part of a bigger problem that baseball is facing as this will only make the SEC open every single team’s books about how they are getting local governments to raise money via taxpayers to fund these new stadiums.  Baseball is largely guilty of strong arming these local branches on a yearly basis that some in the industry view it as an “about time” investigation.

Back to the Metropolitans.  Sandy Alderson vows that the Mets will be fun to watch and reportedly have a gentleman’s agreement with them and Reyes where Reyes will bring back the final offers to the Mets and the Mets will either allow Reyes to walk or the Mets will match.  Of course that doesn’t mean Jose will take the first genuinely intriguing offer the Mets have.  He will most certainly take it back to other teams and given the state of the Miami Marlins with this pending investigation, Reyes may think twice about taking a multi-year deal to stay there.  The Marlins are willing to give Reyes a 6 year deal, something the Mets are rightfully reluctant to do.

I get Alderson’s hesitation with Reyes.  No one doubts the skill, but the injury history gives prospective employers pause and makes Reyes’ suitors that much smaller.  Marlins have been effectively ambitious this offseason finally inking a player with some star power to let baseball know they are serious, in Heath Bell who was given a 3 year deal worth $27 million which is a lot for a 34 year old closer.  That gives everyone but the Mets an effective end of game solution.  The Braves have Craig Kimbrel who won the Rookie of the Year award in the NL.  The Phillies signed Papelbon.  The Nationals have young Drew Storen ready to go.  So the Mets are looking to add a prominent closer themselves without breaking the bank given their other litany of needs which begs the question: if you’re not going to go after Reyes, why not turn your attention elsewhere and spend that 16-20 million you had slotted for Jose on the relief market and mid level starter market?

The interest in Reyes is real but the Mets have two budgets for the upcoming season: one that HAS Reyes on board and another that doesn’t have Reyes on board.  The on that has Reyes on board ranges from $100-110 million and one can only figure that the one that doesn’t include Reyes is somewhere in the neighborhood of $20 million cheaper.  So the Mets won’t just spend the money to spend it and Alderson is cautiously spending the money because let’s face it, without Reyes or any kind of prominent free agent signing, the Mets will have a much lower draw at CitiField effectively eliminating any chance of turning a profit for the year.

Unless the Mets miraculously turn competitive.  Which isn’t impossible but highly improbable given the state of the other teams in the division and the current state of the Mets.

My prediction on Reyes?  He resigns with the Mets for 5 years and $95 million with a 6th year option based on games played over the final two guaranteed years.  Most fans have this idea that the Mets won’t spend but I don’t think the Wilpons are that frugal and that stupid.  They are stupid but not cheap.  They will spend and they know the ramifications of trying to field a Reyes-less team in 2012 to their bottom line.  Alderson and Co. know the skill set of Reyes and what he means to the franchise.  The fan base is almost unanimous that they want him back.  But at an effective price.  I think the fanbase more is about the rebuilding process and know that any exorbitant price tag given the state of the franchise’s finances would be crippling to any long term repairs the Mets hope to do.  Let’s be honest, we don’t know how much the bill will be on the Madoff case but reports indicate that it won’t be as high as one wished   thought.  Either way, the Mets will need all available space to sign their superstars if it is indeed their wish.  Let’s say Reyes leaves, David Wright will most certainly be discussed and presented as a carrot for any team to make deals but given his status being lowered, they won’t get back what they hope.  I think the Mets wait till the trade deadline so that with the new changes to CitiField can help build back up Wright’s status and then trade him.

Though, in either scenario, I think the Mets should trade Wright.  Not only for the Mets, but for Wright.  I admit he’s a very good player but he’s NOT a superstar and the Mets have treated him as such while other teams have looked at his last three years and seen a lower tier player.  Ryan Zimmerman of the Nationals is a better defensive AND offensive player and has been for the last two years at the very least.

Here’s hoping that Reyes decides to take a hometown discount.

Now, on to Sunday’s picks:

BILLS (-2) over Titans-  This is pretty much must win territory for Buffalo.  The Bills, now looking at their schedule again with clarity provided for us by the last few weeks of action, face a pretty tough schedule.  Where once the Chargers and Patriots were looking like the toughest tests on the schedule, the Chargers look like they have given up on the season and Norv Turner, and the Patriots may basically be resting their starters by Week 17 .  The Dolphins are competitive and nobody’s patsies and the Broncos are Tebow’s Team and look virtually unbeatable.

BEARS (-7) over Chiefs-  I’m not saying that this is a slam dunk.  The Chiefs CAN play as evidenced by their near upset win over the Steelers who looked old on Sunday night.  But unless Caleb Hanie plays mistake free football the Bears season is effectively over.  Which brings me to the QB carousel that took place this week and left one very famous name without a seat.  Donovan McNabb is no longer an employed member of the NFL.  Its a sad ending to a very good career which had its ups and downs.  Mostly, I think he benefited just as much as he faltered by playing in a demanding market like Philly.  McNabb has such thick skin that after being released by the Vikings citing his lack of a work ethic and weight gain, he was marketing himself as a STARTER for any franchise who wanted him.  A STARTER.  This is a guy who was traded IN DIVISION by the coach who constantly made excuses for him and was shown the door by an organization so messed up and screwed up in the head like the Redskins that he was replaced early in the season by a rookie who nobody expected to sniff the Metrodome turf.  I couldn’t believe how quickly he fell out of grace and now out of touch with his own ability.  McNabb’s biggest liability at this point is what made him famous in Philly: his unquestioning belief in himself.  As much as TO loves him some me, McNabb really loves him some me and not being picked up on waivers and TO’s inability to get anyone to even bother showing up for a private workout is fitting for two players who once were considered elite at their position yet many had lingering questions about their make up.

Oakland (+2) over DOLPHINS-  I think this game is going to be fantastic.  No lies.  I have to admit that trading two number one picks for Carson Palmer in my mind STILL isn’t a defensible trade but he’s been paying off these last few weeks and IF and WHEN Run DMC joins the fold the Raiders could end up being a very dangerous team moving forward.  Teams are now beginning to respect the pass which is opening up lanes for their rushing attack.  Michael Bush is lining up a very nice pay day for him next year.

Bengals (+6.5) over STEELERS-  How old did the Steelers look as compared to the hyped up KC Chiefs who field one of the youngest teams in the league?  Pitt’s moxie and veteran know how to pull out the W helped them but the Bengals are much more talented and with a full game from AJ Green should easily beat the Steelers IN Pittsburgh.

Ravens (-7) over BROWNS-  Classic let down game for the Ravens considering their season.  The one remaining question they have left to answer is if they can maintain their level no matter the competition.  That question must be answered with a win today.  MUST.

Jets (-3) over REDSKINS-  This is closer than many people think but I see a HUGE win for the Jets.  I mean a dominating performance.  I smell it coming.

Falcons (-1.5) over TEXANS-  Would’ve been a good game had even Matt Leinart played.  But some people love TJ Yates and believe he will be their starting QB moving forward and some are even giving him a small chance at Tom Bradying the Texans this year to a Super Bowl.  Hold your horses.  The defense has playmakers and the offense getting Andre Johnson back is a huge plus but let’s hold your horses and let them play today’s game and then we’ll fast lane them into the Super Bowl.

Bucs (-2) over PANTHERS-  Cam needs a strong finish to the season to secure that once locked up Offensive Rookie of the Year award he had giftwrapped back in September.  Last week was a good start in beating a Colts team he HAD to beat.  But looking at his stats they tell you something.  Since throwing for 422, 432 and 374 in three out of his first four games in the NFL, Cam doesn’t have a single 300 yard passing game since and only thrown north of 250 three times only one resulting in a win.  Its when he’s thrown for less than 220 (158 and 208) when he’s won so there’s that to consider for Ron Rivera and co as they move forward with Cam’s progression.  I wish ONCE in a team’s life that they unleashed a QB like the Falcons did Michael Vick and Eagles did until he got injured.  He puts not only defenses in such a bad way, but also referees who have problems knowing when to call late hit penalties and can sometimes get confused and make a huge call that can tilt the game in the team’s favor.  Cam has one thing going for him that Vick never had: he’s built like a tank.  Vick is injury prone not because of his style but because he’s built like a receiver.  Not Desean Jackson skinny but enough where one good pop as he’s going full speed can really hurt him.  Cam loves contact and can bring the lumber as grown folk would say.  If the Carolina offensive coaches can devise a way to have Cam throw 20-25 times and run 8-12 times and then run the football with their two headed beast at running back HOW is that a bad thing?  Some of you will say well Swith, isn’t that what they are doing already?  Yes.  But their defense doesn’t stop anyone.  I’m saying, don’t start making Cam chuck the ball.  Stick to the plan.  Stubbornly if you have to.  In his first year of development you have to let Cam know that the game plan that the coaches have set up is the right way to go and should NEVER be abandoned.  Teams that have trust and faith in their coaching staff to put them in the right place always wind up winning games.  Faith and patience go a long way in the NFL.  Look at the Super Bowl run the Giants made in 2007 and then their first 11 games of 2008.  They stubbornly stayed with the running game even when teams were beating them and they always won because they forcefully displayed their will against their opponents.  That’s what winning teams do: impose their wills on other teams.

PATRIOTS (-20) over Colts-  Two more reasons that Peyton Manning should get some MVP consideration this year: this outrageous line and the fact that NBC chucked this game so far out of its rotation as quickly as it could because Peyton wasn’t playing that they almost tripped over themselves getting to the league office to try and get Giants/Packers (Fox protected it) or Lions and Saints which will now be flexed into Sunday Night.  By the way, here’s a theory for all you conspiracy nuts:  Have you noticed the crappy schedule ESPN got this year for their Monday Night Package?  It appears ex- ESPN chief was in charge of not only giving NBC its incredibly lucrative flex scheduling deal but also giving ESPN its latest which is not to say that its payback for his fall, but let’s just say its kind of dicey the way it all went down.

SAINTS (-9) over Lions-  Speaking of which, the Saints looked unstoppable on Monday night but that’s because the Giants defense were looking fifty different directions and never knew where to line up or where to go.  They were a hot mess the whole evening and trust me, the Saints didn’t do them any favors with the way they ran up the score.  That last touchdown was meant to send a message and let’s be honest, anyone who is crying about how disgraceful and unsportsmanlike it was needs to chill.  If you can’t STOP a team from scoring then get somebody who can.  The Saints were right to never take the foot off the pedal.  That mentality will be the ONLY thing that helps them beat the Packers if and when they meet again down the road in the playoffs.

As it relates to the Lions and mainly Ndamukong Suh.  Look, he had a dirty play which reminded NFL fans of his earlier shady plays.  Then his post game press conference was NOT an apology I don’t care WHAT he says.  Does he need counseling?  No.  He lets his emotions show during games which is a good thing.  BUT, this young man’s recent car crash shows that there is a very dizzying pattern that seems to be playing out.  The Lions need someone to talk to him.  They were IN that game against the Packers until Suh stepped on that Packer line man and then the Pack ran away with that game.  They need Suh long term to be the rock and the NFL wants Suh to be a prominent wheel in its promotional cog.  There’s a lot at stake and the NFL hopes that the Lions will take care of it.

Also is Roger Goodell trying to get a consulting job on the side? First he advises Michael Vick where to go and now he advises Suh to appeal?  Even though his appeal magically met earlier in the week and he lost it making him ineligible to play against the Saints after some furor broke out about the commissioner’s shady appeal for Suh to do so.  Hmmm.  You would think his 10 million salary would be enough, no?

Broncos (-1) over VIKINGS-  This game is a lot closer now that Von Miller is a game time decision.  With no AP though, I can’t give the Vikes an edge here and no matter what, you can’t go against Tebow right?

49ers (-13) over Rams-  Finally, a team that plays consistently across the board.  I know they will show up against the Rams who have been playing SLIGHTLY better these last few weeks.

Cowboys (-4.5) over CARDS-  You know that Patrick Peterson touchdown is coming.  You can feel it like I can, can’t you?

Packers (-6) over GIANTS-  IF the team that wore the Giants uniforms the last two weeks against Philly and the Saints show up, forget about this game and the season.  Those last two Cowboy games are for naught.  IF the Giants show some fight, and this is basically Custer’s last stand here for the G-Men, then they have a shot.  They certainly have the offense, with Bradshaw back, to score points.

Chargers (-3) over JAGUARS-  Barely.

Enjoy Week 13!

 

 

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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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Monday Morning something or the other- February 14th

I’ve always been a fan of Peter King’s weekly Monday Morning QB article that I decided to use his idea and try to expand it a bit.  I’ve been looking at ways to change the format of the blog to expand my readership and I hope at some point over the next few years, that this idea will atleast spark some of you that read me (I can’t begin to express gratitude to you) to tell your friends so they can tell their friends.  I hope that this new changed up, and perhaps a little more organized, spread will help me attain the one goal that I’ve always sought: world domination.

But on a serious note, if you have any suggestions on ways to make the site better I’m always looking to improve and nothing is fixed on the site.   So feel free to communicate with me at lazyeyeofsports@gmail.com.

I’m sitting here trying to write the article while watching Cee Lo and Gwyneth Paltrow confuse 20,000 in the Staples Center and millions on television as to whether they are watching something real or stuck in a scene from “Inception.”

With that auspicious start, I give you the news that matter to me and I hope everyone else:

MELO WATCH

“Carmelo Anthony said after shootaround that he would ‘take a hard look’ at signing 3-year extension if he’s not dealt by trade deadline.”

@dempseypost Chris Dempsey

With Carmelo watch heading into day ??? Carmelo Anthony scored 50, 29 and 42 but the Nuggets went 1-2 and lost the two games by 5 and 2 points respectively.  Their lone win came against Dallas and they won by a single point.  Amar’e Stoudemire ‘s Knicks went 1-2 and lost by a combined 25 points to the two Los Angeles teams.  So the idea is that the two team up and find a way to beat those teams, right?

That might work, but not if the Knicks decide to trade away the building blocks that will eventually form the heart of the roster.  As much as I would love Melo to join the team right now, this instant, I have enjoyed this season from a basketball perspective because this team has competed.

Which is all New York fans have ever asked for.  This is the city that has the New York Yankees- the most decorated team ever and yet the inner cities of New York make this a basketball town.  This used to be point guard city and most of the talent used to stay within the tri-state area to make it big but its very rare nowadays to see that happen.

With Stoudemire’s presence, that dynamic is changing and we’ve seen that with the St John’s basketball program having a renaissance as well.  Coincedence or not, its good to note that the Knicks are not an embarrassing headline every night for the masses.

But as presently constructed, the Knicks won’t make any noise in the playoffs and as time goes on, Knick fans will grow tired of the bad defense and close call defeats that leave fans heartbroken against much more skilled line ups.  Eventually expectations will far exceed what we see on the court and then we’ll be awoken from this great dream we’ve been treated to.

I think Donnie Walsh realizes this and may be rolling his sleeves to try and trigger a trade, but will Melo be enough and is he the answer?  Only time will tell that.

But in my opinion, I say wait out Carmelo Anthony.  If this past offseason taught me anything its this: New York isn’t everyone’s cup of tea and maybe that’s not enough anymore for athletes to come here and take on the responsibility of bringing this city a championship.  But just because you can’t get the hottest girl at the dance, doesn’t mean you won’t walk away with the right girl.

Think about how much more mature Amar’e is than Lebron and just consider that perhaps one was more mentally capable of handling the pressure than the other.  Maybe decisions will work itself out.  Maybe its time for us to be the Prom King again and let them come to us.  So Melo, either you come in the offseason or you go elsewhere.

Your move.  New York doesn’t need you, you need us.

DOLAN OUT TO TRY AND GET MELO?

“NY will work trade on its terms but knows it can get Melo in free agency. Anyway, Jim Buss has made it clear within org: Bynum is staying.”

@WojYahooNBA Adrian Wojnarowski

Speaking of which, did you hear the joke about the owner who wanted to be his team’s GM?  Well that one’s kind of not that funny because every Knick fan is having a mini panic attack as rumors began flying around about  the Lakers possibly entering the trading fray for Melo by dealing away Andrew Bynum straight up for Melo.

First of all- no.  As much as this trade had sense because of the fact that the Lakers were struggling and word began spreading that perhaps Mitch Kupchak was looking to shake up the roster and make a deal so naturally the Melo magnet attracted trade talks with the Nuggets which are absolutely smoke screens.  According to ace scribe Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports, CAA (Melo’s agents) were behind this latest piece of fabric-ated trade talk in order to make the Knicks jump into the pool with both eyes close and make a trade so that they could get him that $65 million extension he may not receive if the new CBA comes out and lowers the salary cap.

I was happy to note that there was no leverage until I read further about reports that Knicks owner James Dolan was going over Donnie Walsh’s head to make a move which I can’t begin to describe how disheartening that is, and maddening at the same time.

Dolan can be blamed for many things like keeping Isiah around for as long as he did/does, but if he were to somehow make this trade happen, I can’t see any competent GM being able to run this team.  And why would they?  After working miracles to put the Knicks in the running for Lebron James, Donnie Walsh has still not been given an extension.

Why would Dolan NOT want to give Donnie Walsh an extension?  The man who pulled a rabbit out of his butt and somehow still made this team somewhat relevant.  These are the kind of non moves that, as a Knick fan, scare the bejeezus out of me and convince me that James Dolan is not from this planet and cares very little to not care at all about what the fans want.  Which is simply: STAY THE EFF OUT OF THE WAY!

VISITING THE GARDEN:

The Knicks had some high profile visitors this past week.  Probably the most anticipated, outside of Kobe, was the arrival of Blake Griffin.  I’ve said this often, but a newbie’s debut at the Garden is a very important rite of passage for every superstar to take that next step.  While he didn’t quite have that game- but I will give him this, he got quite the nod of approval from one of the most respected NBA writers in the game; the Post’s Peter Vecsey wrote a pretty cool profile piece on the budding NBA superstar.

HALL OF LAME

Filled up some vacants in Canton, Ohio. I’m stilled pissed about the HOF selection process. Don’t take it personal. It’s just tough love.

@WhitlockJason Jason Whitlock

Every year, the NFL announces its Hall of Fame class and every year people have problems with who got snubbed and so this year was no different because, let’s face it, there’s never a moment where everyone wholeheartedly agrees with everything- unless it has to do with Tom Brady winning the NFL MVP.  But that’s a discussion for a different day.

For today’s big bowl of beef, I give to you Jason Whitlock’s piece on how he would fix the  Hall’s selection process.

I’m a fan of Whitlock’s work usually but I think he’s a bit unfair in this matter.  I’ve never had the pleasure of sitting in on the meeting and can’t speak on some of his allegations that it’s a network of fat white men who love the power they wield over athletes they may/may not have liked during their playing career.  Maybe Whitlock knows something that I don’t and so he speaks from experience but when thinking about what they have to go through I can’t imagine you could’ve walked out of that room without knowing that you would offend some.

Also Whitlock’s idea is beyond ridiculous.  How is he removing the element of favoritism for popular athletes in his version?   I do agree that the whole idea of limiting each year’s entry to 7 people doesn’t make sense.

My big thing about the hall of fame is this (and this applies to every sport):  if the player can’t pass the five second test then they shouldn’t get in.  Pure and simple.  If you say someone’s name and have to think about his candidacy for longer than 5 seconds then he isn’t a hall of famer.  Hall of Fame has changed into the Hall of Very good and its pretty sad.

One day I’ll expand my thoughts on it but for now, you’ll have to make do with that.

Finally, I save you the bad news for last:

NFL SEASON GOING TO BE DE-LABOR(ED)

Text from plugged-in NFL person: “This CBA has no chance. The owners don’t a deal. Take a break – a month off. You won’t miss anything.”
@AdamSchefter Adam Schefter

You know by now that the NFL is headed towards a strike.  Its one of the most unbelievable situations ever in sports when you consider that there’s only ONE issue that’s keeping a resolution: money.

From what I’ve read and heard, its clear that the gulf separating players and owners is $1 billion.  That’s the amount of money that the owners want before the $9 billion annual pot gets split.  They already receive $1 billion in the current CBA, now they want an extra $1 billion to pay for new facilities and etc.

I have a few problems with that.  One, what is etc?  The players have asked to look at the league’s books to see if they have a valid case to ask for that extra money and the owners have thus far not budged which tells me all I need to know.

Secondly, a majority of these facilities are funded through friendly state programs that give them tax breaks and all sorts of financial mumbo jumbo I won’t get into*.  The players can’t be put on the hook for that.  The owners want newer stadiums to generate more revenue.  For themselves.

*= because I don’t know what I’m talking about.

The other major talking points, in no order of importance:

– Rookie Wage scale-  there’s no reason why untested rookies should make more money than proven veterans.

– 18 game schedule-  with the commissioner leading a revolution against concussions I find it hard for him to then turn around and say, in the interest of fans, that an 18 game schedule makes sense.  Really?  NFL fans think of it this way, most teams already rest players during the last one or two weeks with playoff seeds locked up, now imagine a whole month of Curtis Painter at QB for the Colts or a whole month of Matt Flynn in Green Bay?  I wonder how season ticket holders will feel about being treated to that?  Or how about two more games in which a key player can get injured just in time for the playoffs.  The defending Super Bowl champs, Packers, won with 15 players on IR.  That doesn’t happen all the time.

Players in exchange for 18 games want better health benefits.  Sounds reasonable.  Right now the NFL gives 5 years of insurance for players who leave football.  The NFLPA wants ten.

For now, these two items are the most discussed.  One final note about the 18 game schedule, I’m not in favor of it.  I see no point.  The reason the NFL is the most popular sport is because its appointment television.  The lack of games gives each one a significance.  Why would the NFL want more games and threaten a watered down product come the playoffs?  Staying healthy is so difficult in a sport as physical as football.  Could you imagine this years Super Bowl QB matchup if it were “Charlie Batch vs. Matt Flynn”?  It wouldve been a nightmare game.

I listed how I feel about each.  What about you?  What changes would you want?

The real shame in this match up of billionaires and millionaires is that the regular everyday fan stands to lose.

I was always under the assumption that the NBA was headed to a lockout as opposed to the NFL because the NBA was losing money.  But I lacked the foresight to realize that the NBA HAS to make a deal because it would behoove them.  The talent level has never been better and attendance is rising in the major markets (thanks Blake Griffin and Amar’e Stoudemire).

But the NFL is making too much money and that means that neither side is willing to budge from their spot because they both feel they are the bigger reason for the success.

Buckle up fans, we’re in for a long and bumpy road.

——Other News and Notes————-

With this section thought I’d rattle off some other cool links and worthwhile newstories that I found interesting and it hopefully isn’t with dated material that will grow old and stale with fans.

– A very cool article written by Jason Fray who writes for Fear and faith in Flushing which is a blog about the Mets.  I didn’t just pick his article for that reason although I’m not going to lie- he did win major points for it.  I would agree with what he had to say though in this new age, demand beats out anything.  The writer with the exclusive is the champion and in today’s day and age that guy doesn’t need to be the one with the press pass.  Facing normal citizens in the arena of journalism is as tough these days as it is facing your peers in a who’s got the line up card first.

But I still do manage to follow like twenty beat writers for the Mets.  Overlapping doesn’t bother me one bit.

–       Finally, SI’s Joe Lemire wrote a great article about the origins and cult following of the enduring game that spawned fantasy sports itself: Strat-O-Matic.  The game has a huge following and it still prints and still sells now even having a computerized version.

Follow up note to this piece:  I messaged him on Twitter to tell him good job and also that its not a game I could see myself purchasing because most of my friends/cousins don’t like baseball as much as I do and so I would be left with no one to play the game with (stop laughing) and he replied by saying that he had plenty of games by himself which I’m not ashamed to admit was enough to sell me on the game.

I am an only child.

ON TAP

This week I’m tentatively looking at making two posts.  One will appear either Tuesday or Wednesday which will focus on the five most pressing questions for both the Mets and the Yankees heading into Spring Training.  Also later in the week, if I can figure it out in time perhaps I will be able to do my very first podcast.  Let’s hope it will happen.

Again, this space won’t look like this next week.  I’m in the midst at looking for sponsors and who knows what will happen.  This space is always looking for a bit of change and I may change the whole layout of the piece to make it more aesthetically pleasing and easier to understand all this info that I will be disseminating.

Okay kids, hope you have a Happy Monday and happy Valentine’s Day!

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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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Short sTorre: We don’t need ya in Flushing Joe.

On Friday, Joe Torre decided to take a break from coaching and announced that this would be his final season with the Dodgers and effective at the end of the season, Don Mattingly would take over as manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The moment that happened the natural progression of events happened in a New York minute: Torre was listed as a managerial candidate for the New York Mets.

Thanks Joe, don’t call us, we’ll call you.

I watched Torre during his Yankee years and one thing he did better than anyone is understand that if you made friends with the media you could lay an egg and they would still call it gold.

Torre’s greatest trait is his demeanor.  Joe Cool.  Always dignified in his responses, it seems almost wrong to attack him like most reporters in New York love to do.

His media savvy is unquestionably good and he knows his way around an interview.  He’s handled the New York press better than anyone in the history of managers and he’s smart.

Torre landed the Yankee gig as guys named Jeter, Mariano, Pettite, Bernie and Posada were beginning to stake their claims to Yankee immortality.  He rode them to 4 World Series titles and the respect among the managerial greats.

I’ve always had a problem giving props to guys like him and Phil Jackson who himself had Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen in his first run of 6 titles and then Kobe and Shaq and later Gasol in his next run of 5.  Its easy to win when you have all-time players like that.  But I’ve grown to appreciate their style and success over time since the job title expands to ego shrinker and team organizer.

But Torre often got too much credit for the Yankees success.  His best asset was his persona: the unflinching, steady, even keeled approach to every situation.  Act like you’ve been there before and you plan on going back.  Quiet confidence and a professional attitude that became the Yankee way.  He taught them how to behave NOT how to play.  He’s a good manager, not a great one.

People may disagree with that but Lee Jenkins in yesterday’s SI.com article wrote about how Torre grew tired of waiting for his young players to grow up and cited a comment that Torre made saying that during one of his team meetings he made them talk their problems out to each other because perhaps a younger voice was needed.  Also with his leaving he was removing the last shred of dignity the Dodger organization had as ownership is going through a nasty divorce.

The Mets are a lost franchise, necessary of some of Joe Torre’s personality.  Necessary of his professionalism.  I don’t doubt that he could infuse the team with that, but the Mets need more, much much more to be relevant again.

As a Met fan I’m tired of the calm, good media people kind of managers this team has had.  They need a guy to come in and shift the attitude.  To change the way things are done.  A guy who has a track record of salvaging horrible wrecks.  A person who can put his foot down and get his point across to a generation that Torre feels he can’t relate with.

I’ve been on the Bobby Valentine bandwagon for quite some time.  Who knows if he’s the answer.  What I do know is that he’d fill the job description.  He’s a recognizable persona.  A character of interest.  An individual oozing confidence.  A guy who has had a history of turning water into wine.  Miraculously returning to the dugout in costume, unafraid of the consequences and willing to speak his mind to whomever when he feels its necessary.

The Mets need a guy to bench David Wright in the midst of one of his bad streaks.  A guy to get Jose Reyes back to hustling.  Someone who won’t be chicken to tell Carlos Beltran coming off knee surgery that he’s playing right field: end of discussion because we have a good young centerfielder.  Because Angel Pagan is our best player and moving your best player around the diamond is about as dumb as firing your manager on the first game of a west coast road trip at 3 am local time.

A guy that wouldve forced management to cut ties with Oliver Perez the moment he showed up to spring training out of shape.  Somebody who wouldve pulled Luis Castillo aside after he made comments voicing his displeasure playing on the Mets and then undressed him as a player in front of his teammates: to send a message that if you don’t want to be here, no ones keeping you here.

Jerry Manuel used to toss around the word “Gangsta” but he forgot what that meant.  He turned into 90% of rappers who also use that phrase to describe themselves.  Bobby Valentine is gangsta.  He took a team not nearly as talented to the World series in 2000.  I know he can do the same to this Mets team.

Despite everything the Mets have been through, a majority of these wounds are self inflicted.  My vote is for a team of Kevin Towers and Bobby Valentine to restore credibility to the Mets.  Let’s ignore the pull of another soft spoken media savvy manager, let’s go for a guy who can, not a guy who talks about what he can’t.  Its time for a change.

Don’t call us Joe, we’ll call you.

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