Friday, April 25, 2014

I’ll Take Mine with a Schmear

Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell looked like a man going to turn his best friend in to
the police as he trudged, head down, to the umpires in the bottom of the second inning on Wednesday night.   Farrell was compelled to ask the umps to check Yankee pitcher Michael Pineda for illegal substances.  The umps got together and agreed to inspect Pineda.  They checked his mitt, his cap, his back (back???) and finally got to what everyone on national television saw – a huge schmear of pine tar on his neck!  

Pineda was done for the night (and subsequently, the next 10 games).  Yankee manager Joe Girardi walked out of the dugout to ask about the situation, as certain in his client’s guilt as a mob lawyer.  Girardi accepted Pineda’s fate and sauntered back to the dugout, hands in pockets, thinking about the need to hire someone to wipe this kid down before every inning the rest of the year.

Pitchers have been doctoring balls since Abner Doubleday threw out the first pitch in Hoboken.  The old motto, “if you’re not cheating, you’re not trying” has been woven into the fabric of baseball since its early “legal spitball” days.   However, the days where “cut fastball” had a literal meaning, have been phased out.  Performance enhancing drugs have painted all cheating with the same broad brush.  Gaylord Perry’s Vaseline ball and Whitey Ford’s sharpened belt buckle have gone the way of the sacrifice bunt.  

But when you think about it, what is “performance enhancing?”  Pine tar, batting gloves, and body armor that would make a Navy SEAL jealous are used by every hitter.  Fielding gloves the size of Jai Alai cestas are provided to every outfielder.  The only thing uniform left in the game is the size of the ball (and just the size – the consistency has been changed to “juice” or deaden the balls in any given year).  Hall of Famer and ESPN analyst Barry Larkin commented that the hitters wouldn’t mind the pitcher having a better grip so they can control it better.  Is there anything scarier that having someone not in control of a 95 mile per hour fastball from 60 feet away?  

I don’t advocate what Pineda did.  In my opinion, he should be suspended for his lack of subtlety or inability to conceal the pine tar.  Farrell, who skillfully dodged the issue two weeks ago, desperately did not want to go to the umps, but was compelled by the obvious schmear (nothing better would describe the inches long streak on Pineda’s neck).  Knowing that this now opened Red Sox pitchers up to inspection, Farrell was seeking any other solution.  He knows that this now opens his staff (purportedly heavy users of sticky stuff) to inspection, something Girardi has in his back pocket for a critical moment to come later in the year as revenge.

One easy solution for baseball in the spirit of the game (AL President Lee McPhail’s excuse
for allowing George Brett’s “pine tar” home run in 1983): pitchers should be allowed to use limited amounts of pine tar on cold nights.  If umpires have the discretion of allowing pitchers to put their hands to their mouth on cold days (a violation on normal days), then why not allow pine tar?  

It’s already on the field – go ask a batter.

Just Sayin”

Welcome to New York Martin St. Louis!  Now keep it up.

Umm, two weeks in and Phil Jackson and James Dolan are already like Jets and Sharks.  What a surprise!

So much for my “Ivan Nova as Cy Young Winner” prediction . . . 

Fantasy Football Update: My buddy, AC is trying to get me into another league- this one allows you to own two quarterbacks – this way I can take Tony Romo with a clear conscience.

I keep hoping against hope that some teams will trade up in the NFL draft to get some of these quarterbacks allowing the Giants to get a crack at better players. I wouldn’t bite on any of usual suspects.  Not with three SEC-tested success stories waiting in Rounds 2, 3 and 4.  Bold prediction: Aaron Murray, Zach Mettenberger and AJ McCarron will be the best QBs out of this draft.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Garden Dreams to Garden Nightmare?

The New York Knicks and New York Rangers have been sharing Madison Square Garden (and an owner) for most of their shared existence.   Growing up in the late 60's and 70's the Garden was the place to be.  Fans of the two teams experienced multiple seasons where both teams made deep playoff runs (despite visits from the circus), including two championships for the Knicks and two Stanley Cup finals appearances for the Rangers. 

After some down years, the teams' rebuilt and reached the pinnacle in 1994 as both teams
electrified the Garden, going to game sevens in the finals.  The Mark Messier-led Rangers won their first Cup since 1940; the Patrick Ewing-led Knicks dropped a heartbreaker series to Houston (thanks John Starks!).  Twenty years have passed since that glorious Spring, and we find the Rangers a consistent playoff team, with a solid mix of veterans, young stars, and bona fide hall of fame goalie.

The Knicks are a different story.

(Post Break: A quick history lesson: in 1987, Knicks GM Al Bianchi brought in Providence College's head coach Rick Pitino as the next "hot" coach.  In that same year, Phil Jackson took an assistant position with Doug Collins and the Bulls leaving the CBA's Albany Patroons having won two straight league titles and being designated the next "hot" pro coach.  Short term, Pitino takes Mark Jackson and Patrick Ewing to a division title, then cashes out and goes to Kentucky.  Jackson takes Michael Jordan and the Bulls to six titles, Kobe and Shaq to five more.  The Knicks?  Well, we still have James Dolan . . . )

The Knicks are now looking up to Raptors, Wizards, Hawks with no long term prospects and no first round draft pick.  They've mortgaged the future for a "superstar" (Hi Melo!) who has no ability to carry or lift a team - and has the option of leaving before the team finishes paying for him.  They've brought in Phil Jackson in the twilight of his career, as a president - not a coach - to try and resurrect the only team he ever wanted to coach.  With no viable draft picks on the horizon, the only option for Jackson is to blow up the roster and rebuild.  But will he have the patience to lose 60 games while the Garden patrons exercise their lungs booing or by apathetically refusing to show up (or even worse - going to Brooklyn to watch the Nets!)?  The organizational strategy is to have the Knicks attract potential free agents in 2015, but, in my opinion, if they don't start by bringing in young players they're doomed to just tread water.


By the way, the Garden itself will be the victim of a Penn Station renovation in less than 10 years, which means moving time for everyone is on the horizon.

Just Sayin'

OK Burger King, LeBron joins the "all time greats" and Johnny Manzeil and Alex Morgan are already there?  That's why I go to Wendy's or Chic-fil-a.

Anyone who had David Robertson lasting less than seven games - you win!

Rangers clinch second place in the division and fourth seed in the conference.  On to the first round of, what is by far, the best playoffs in sports - the quest for the Stanley Cup.

Fantasy Football Note: Jaguars defense added valuable parts and are sitting on the Clowney/Mack draft survivor - I think Gus Bradley will mold them into a top 10 D/ST in 2014.

Friday, April 4, 2014

With One Month of the Off Season Down, Reese Gets a "Thumb's Up"

Jerry Reese, the New York Football Giants General Manager, has been collecting cornerbacks like a dog collects fleas this off season.  Whether it be for depth (resigning Trumaine McBride) or quality (hello Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Walter Thurmond III), Reese has seen the light in the new NFL - when you need to defend 50 passes a game, you better have little guys who can cover.  The Giants have gotten younger and faster on defense over the past month, no longer hostage to depending on four defensive linemen to make it to the quarterback in less than three seconds. 
(Post break: I was all excited when DeSean Jackson was cut by Philly and thought there was a great chance that he could be out of the NFC East.  Needless to say, Reese looks clairvoyant now that D-Jax signed with the Skins.)

This d-back depth will provide better coverage (former number one CB Prince Amukamara will now be responsible for the number two receiver on almost every play) and more time for the linemen to find their target.  With Reese spending over $100 million Marabucks on free agents, Defensive Coordinator Perry Fewell should feel like a kid in a candy store with all the flexibility that he has (don't forget the linebacker changes - resigning of Jon Beason and addition of Jameel McClain).  Despite losing Linval Joseph and Justin Tuck, the 8th ranked Big Blue D should be back in style in 2014.    
Now about the offense . . .

Just sayin'
The Yanks lost the first two games of the season and had to rely on Ivan Nova to save them from a sweep.  Just the first win on the way to the Cy Young!
My alma mater, UAlbany was voted as the ugliest uniforms per NY Daily News (How can anything beat the late '70's Astros or any short -sleeve bball jersey?).
Ugh!  Kentucky crushed my bracket hopes by beating Michigan.  That's after they crushed my other bracket by beating Louisville.  Did I mention how much I hate Kentucky?

Bobby Parnell, Matt Harvey, half the Braves staff - are elbows conspiring to give the Nats the NL East?

I'm sure Mrs. Esiason appreciated that Boomer was not hanging when his kids were born.

Fantasy Football note:  Eric Decker stud to dud; Golden Tate will be, well, "golden".

Get well soon Chris Kreider and Ryan McDonough - you have two weeks before the real action starts!