Sunday, December 30, 2007

A SUNDAY WITH NOTHING TO PLAY FOR

Strange Sunday. The final week of the NFL season, which means the fantasy league is over (for me, without playoffs, it's been long since over), and after the Giants lost to the Pats on Saturday night, I had no chance of winning anything in the confidence pool I'm in (I had been doing so badly that the past few weeks I just picked against the Patriots because everyone was picking them, just hoping their loss might benefit me financially). So that left me with nothing but 'the love of the game' on Sunday for the final day of the NFL season.

I watched much of the Jets-Chiefs game, knowing it would be the last time I saw the Jets play for months. I also hoped Chad Pennington would make an appearance in what was likely his last game in a Jets uniform (more on that later in the week). That didn't happen, but I think by watching the game, I have made my peace with Kellen Clemens. If he is the Jets' quarterback in 2008, so be it. I'll never love him...I don't know that I'll ever get very attached to a single Jet ever again...but I'll live with him. Amazingly, in a game just about everyone just wanted to go out and get it over with, the Jets and Chiefs went to overtime. The Jets did win, hurting their draft position a little, but I really don't know enough about this year's draft crop to judge whether or not that's a horrible thing. The way I see it, they should trade the pick and build up a stockpile of picks...unless there's one great player out there.

I want to spend a bit of time, though, talking about the Saturday night game, because that was the best game of the weekend.

I want to reiterate my claim - I do not think the Patriots will go 19-0. If they do, then yes, they can be considered the greatest team of all time. I don't think you can argue that. But they're starting to slip. They're beatable. And I just think 19-0 will be an incredibly hard thing to do. I don't know who it is that will beat them - and I think you can make the argument against me that they will go 19-0, just having to win 3 more games, after a bye week. But those three games won't come easy...and I think the game plan to beat them is out there. It just needs to be executed.

The Giants looked like they had that game plan in place and all but had the Patriots beat Saturday night. But Eli Manning did them in. I've never seen a player go from having a great game to an awful one quicker. Eli looked like Peyton in the first half and on the first drive of the second half, when the Giants took a 28-16 lead. Then it's like he suddenly realized he was on the verge of the biggest win of his career, got nervous, and played horribly, when all the Giants needed was a few first downs to keep the Patriots' offense off the field.

That's not to take the credit away from the Patriots. Tom Brady has the opposite gift of Eli -nothing rattles him. He knew he'd win that game, and went out and did it. The Patriots' defense sensed Eli was getting rattled, and rattled him some more. Brady to Moss didn't work once, so they went right back to it. That's why they're 16-0.

But I still don't think they'll go 19-0. Part of this rationale is my studid heart getting in the way of my head...I just don't like this team. At least with the past few Patriots championship teams they had players you could respect and, in spite of yourself, root for. Those players drowned out the Bill Belichicks and Rodney Harrisons, at least in my view, and made the team tolerable. But this year it seems like the Patriots have suddenly gotten classless, and there are more Rodney Harrison-types than not. There's a lot more "me" guys there...and I'm surprised it's working for them so well. But that's another part of the reason I think their season will end with a loss.

AROUND THE LEAGUE
1) A couple of years ago I was all over the Jaguars, and how, at 12-4, I thought they were fakers. I think I called them the 'worst 12-4 team of all time'. Well, this year they're 11-5, and I think they're better than the 12-4 team. I am buying into David Garrard - I think the Jaguars made a great decision going with him over Byron Leftwich. I've been anti-Fred Taylor the past few years, thinking he's washed up. I take it all back. He's had a fantastic year, and he's splitting time with Maurice Jones-Drew. I think the Jaguars could be dangerous in the playoffs - but it hurts them that they have to go on the road.

2) For you die-hards out there, Anthony Becht is still playing with the Buccaneers. He gets decent playing time (I think, because I haven't spent much time watching Tampa this season), but he is mainly a blocking tight end. He finished the season with 5 catches for 20 yards, but two of those catches were for touchdowns, and another two for first downs. Watch for him next week against the Giants - he always came up big for the Jets in big games.

SITE UPDATE: I think I'll make my playoff picks by Friday night, and you are free to post comments with your picks. I'll pick against the spread, and using the over/under. I urge you to do the same.

Also, please note that I have transferred all of the Jets content to this site, and the Jets site is effectively no more. Thanks.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

EXPOSED

I'm thrilled the NFL decided to put tonight's Patriots-Giants game out as a simulcast, so it is available to every football fan, and not just those of us who have DirecTV. There are two reasons for this, in my book.

First of all, I'm thrilled because it's the right thing to do. One of the great things about the NFL is that it's so accessible. Can't get tickets to your local team? Well, the game will be on free TV. No other league is like that. (Most every game in every other sport is on cable, a few markets notwithstanding.) (Second parenthetical note - if you can get tickets to your local team...if it's not a sellout, it isn't on your local channel - it's blacked out. I think that's fantastic, too - go support your team in person.) So this game has a tremendous amount of interest, and it was only going to be available to a small fraction of fans? That wasn't sitting well with me, and I'm glad the NFL made the decision to put the game on CBS and NBS (it's also on ABC by me...and Channel 9 in New York). I'm not sure it was an issue that merited Congress getting involved, but that's another story for another day.

But the main reason I'm thrilled about this is that it's the last game of the season for the NFL Network, and maybe it will result in Bryant Gumbel's last game on the NFL Network. Not only will the aforementioned small fraction of people with the NFL Network get to see how awful Gumbel is at play-by-play, but now every NFL fan who cares will get a taste of it. And that is satisfying - Gumbel won't be able to hide behind the fact that no one gets the Network to keep his hideousness a secret. Unfortunately, to this point (I'm writing with the score 7-3 Giants, right after the Patriots just kicked a field goal), Gumbel hasn't been terrible. But mark my words....he will.

ON THAT SUBJECT: Drove back from New York today, and listened to the UConn-Wake Forest bowl game on the radio on the way back. I don't remember the names of the broadcasters - but they were friggin' awful. Man. I didn't know what was going on 3/4ths of the time. Especially frustrating because after the 10-0 halftime lead, UConn's 24-10 loss hurt me badly in my bowl pool.

COMING THIS WEEK: I'm off this week, so I plan a week full of updates on the blog. And therefore, I will withhold my wishes for a Happy New Year to you and yours for now.

Monday, December 24, 2007

ONE MORE WEEK

Whether or not the Jets are involved (not, more often than not), I always enjoy the final weeks of the NFL leading up to the playoffs. I enjoy playoff scenarios (this team needs this team to lose, but this team can get in if it just keeps winning....). I enjoy them so much that the one of the biggest reasons I created FAMILEAGUE, my fantasy football league, was so I could keep track of stats and playoff positioning and scenarios. But Sunday of Week 16 of the real NFL was one of those weeks where you almost wished you were a fan of the Titans or the Redskins....because they must have done something right this year.

Both Tennessee and Washington entered Week 16 needing a team to lose, in order to stay alive for the playoffs. For the Titans, it was the Browns, for the Redskins, it was their opponent, the Vikings. Both teams lost, keeping both Tennessee and Washington alive...and not only that, but now they both control their own fate!

Cleveland is in the midst of pulling a minor Detroit job - Detroit was sitting pretty around Thanksgiving, then proceeded to lose 8 games in a row, putting themselves out of contention. The Browns were on the verge of passing Pittsburgh for the division title, and now, after losing a very winnable game in Cincinnati, need Indianapolis to beat Tennessee next week in order to make the playoffs. It doesn't matter what the Browns do against the 49ers - they just need the Titans to lose.

The Jets could have been a major spoiler for the Titans on Sunday - and could have been heroes for the Browns. After the Browns stunk it up in Cincinnati, all the Jets had to do was win, and Cleveland would have had a playoff berth. But the Jets are 3-12 for a reason...as we have documented...and the Titans snuck out a win. (If the Titans are really only a narrow 10-6 victory better than the Jets, by the way, the Browns shouldn't have much to worry about next week when Tennessee plays the Colts. At least Cleveland beat the Jets by six.)

The NFC is a mess...that's how I'll start off talking about the Redskins and Vikings. But the Vikings showed they deserved a playoff spot the past couple of months, and could have clinched one last night at home against the Redskins. Instead, Washington came out and crushed them. So now the Vikings need to beat Denver and hope a Dallas team with everything locked up can beat Washington. Meanwhile, the 'Skins only have to beat a Dallas team that has nothing to play for. If somehow the Redskins and Vikings lose, the Saints, who have no right making the playoffs this year, will get the spot if they beat the Bears.

Obviously, I would love these playoff scenarios a lot more if the Jets were involved. But I like figuring out the ways a team can get in, or out, and I like seeing the unlikeliest scenarios play out. That's fun for me. I guess creating all of these mini-games within the football season is the byproduct of rooting for a team each year that is most likely not going to be playing in January.

I will be updating regularly during the playoffs - at least to give some predictions. I welcome my readers to send me their playoff picks - I think I'm going to predict the over/unders and winners vs. the spread in each game (with a score). That's always fun come playoff time. I challenge all five of you to join me in this venture.

Merry Christmas.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

MITCHELL REPORT REACTION II

WHO DO YOU BELIEVE?


I hate that I've become so cynical - but part of that (or a lot of it, to be honest), is that I've become more honest with myself. I don't believe everything anyone connected with sports says anymore - and it's almost to the point where I don't believe anything anyone connected with sports says anymore.


So it's hard for me to know who to believe in the Mitchell Report. But I'm leaning towards the trainers, and less towards the players.


The trainers really had nothing to lose - well, I guess they had everything to lose - and that's why I believe they were honest. The ballplayers have a lot to lose (hard to say they have everything to lose) - and I think that's why they're not being honest.

Sure, I want to believe Andy Pettitte used HGH for only two days, and his conscience bothered him so much he stopped. Sure, I want to believe Brian Roberts took steroids ONCE, four years ago, and never since. I don't want to believe Roger Clemens never took steroids...but that's fine, because I don't believe any of them.

I am no longer surprised when a (usually football) coach walks out of a contract to take the next best attractive offer that comes along. (Thanks for that, Herman Edwards.) And I am no longer surprised when a player's name is linked to steroids. If Roger Clemens thinks I'm going to believe him any more than a guy named Brian McNamee, he's in the wrong profession. Athletes are no more believable than politicians. They say as little as possible, then hide behind the union. I don't blame them for it - but it damages their credibility. And the Mitchell Report is an instance when the players would have benefitted from having a little credibility left in their corner.

As it is, I'll take the Mitchell Report at its word, and I'll continue to be skeptical about whatever else I hear - especially when the source is a professional athlete.

I'll continue to throw my thoughts about the Mitchell Report out when time allows - I'm on winter vacation now, so there might be some time these next couple of weeks...although I do have some report cards to write. I do intend to write about all of the Mets connections to the report.


CONGRATS TO MY BROTHER: I'm very proud to say that Friday morning, my brother appeared on 'Imus in the Morning', playing with his company band. My brother plays lead guitar and sings, and was the star of the show - Imus raved about him all morning. My brother was also in the New York Daily News on Thursday in a profile of the founder of the band, the manager of a couple of New York City radio stations. After four years of johnnymets.blogspot.com, I think I'm no longer the most famous person in my family.

Monday, December 17, 2007

NO CIGAR

I have lots more to say about the Mitchell Report, but I guess I'll save that for the rest of the week. For now, I'll focus on how the Jets came oh-so-close to making history. What's the biggest difference between a 13-0 team and a 3-10 team (or 14-0 and 3-11 now)? If you watched the Jets-Patriots game on Sunday, you saw a number of examples.

First of all, Kellen Clemens made the biggest mistake of the game for the Jets, and he only threw one pass. It was a good rush by Richard Seymour, but you can't throw that ball - and if you are going to throw it, you had better make sure that ball goes out of bounds. Throwing an interception right there (on the five-yard line, returned for a touchdown) is a killer.

But then it dawns on Jets fans (or, at the very least, me). I never envisioned, even when I blocked out my common sense, that Kellen Clemens could figure out a way to beat the Patriots. I rationalized that maybe the Jets could get a defensive touchdown and a couple of field goals. But Clemens is really hurt. And the backup.....could it be.....[cue the dramatic music].....what? Brad Smith? Seriously, Eric Mangini?


The Jets went with about the most predictable offense in the world by bringing in Smith to run the ball, and Pennington to pass it. (Predictability - not a formula for success against New England.) There was absolutely no threat of Brad Smith throwing the ball when he was in the game. One play worked - a 49-yard run by Leon Washington on an option. But everything else, the Patriots read perfectly. The Jets finally found some rhythm when Pennington got to run the show a bit. And I was loving it.

But Pennington was plagued by the exact same problems he had when he was the starting quarterback - mistakes by everyone else. Pennington did a great job - 25-38, 186 yards. (For the record, Tom Brady was 14-27 for 140, with an interception.) And in the second quarter, when the Jets blocked a field goal, and ran it in for the touchdown, it was suddenly a 10-7 game, in favor of the Patriots, and the Jets had life.

Unfortunately, the Patriots got (of all things) a blocked punt on the next possession, scored a touchdown a couple of plays later, and the Patriots took a 17-7 lead into halftime.

It was in the second half that Pennington's efforts were wasted. First, in the third quarter, trailing 17-7, the Jets should have had a field goal. The wind was at their backs, and Pennington completed to Chris Baker, and he was short of the first down yardage, but fumbled. 13-0 teams don't fumble in situations like that. 3-10 teams do. No points for the Jets. Patriots ball.

The Jets ended up getting a field goal to make it 17-10 (could have been 17-13), then the Patriots kicked one to make it 20-10 (could have been 20-13). The Jets drove down the field in the fourth quarter, and Pennington hit Justin McCareins with a perfect throw from 7 yards out in the back of the end zone for a touchdown. But McCareins bobbled the throw. Pennington does not have a strong arm. There's no excuse for bobbling that pass. So the Jets have to settle for a field goal, and Mike Nugent misses it. But that's all on McCareins. So instead of a situation that could have possibly tied the game at 20, the Jets turned the ball over and lost the game.

This was frustrating, because the Jets could have won the game. They put enough pressure on Tom Brady to force him to make mistakes, they had their opportunities, they just didn't take advantage of them. But that's why they're 3-11. And that's why the Patriots are 14-0.

PREDICTION: I still stand by my thought that the Patriots will finish the regular season 16-0. But I believe they will not go 19-0 - I think they'll lose in the post-season.

AT LEAST I HAVE THIS: When the 49ers upset the Bengals Saturday night, my thoughts turned to the NFL standings, and the fact that the Patriots own the 49ers' first-round pick. At that point, the Niners were a top five pick. But with the 49ers win, coupled with the Jets' loss, and the Ravens' loss to the Dolphins (among other games) there are now 8 teams with the 49ers at 4-10 or worse. The 49ers still have Tampa Bay and Cleveland on their schedule - so it looks like 4-12 for them - hopefully those other teams do just as poorly and that pick at least stays around 8 or higher.

Friday, December 14, 2007

MITCHELL REPORT REACTION I

I think I'll break down my opinions on the Mitchell Report into a bunch of different postings. I don't know that this was the earth-shattering document a lot of people were expecting. I think it was about what I thought we'd see...but it left me with a lot more questions than answers. I'm pretty sure there have been Mets since the mid-90's who have used steroids other than Mo Vaughn and Matt Franco (surprise there - never would have expected that). But I'll get into that more another time.

What I want to spend my time on in Part I is Roger Clemens. First of all, it seems like a lot of people are shocked he was on this list. Really? I might be shocked that he started as early as when he was in Toronto...but not shocked at all that he was there. (P.S. - Why haven't I heard anyone yet using the words, "Maybe Dan Duquette was right.....?")

I am glad Roger Clemens was named in the report mainly for one reason (though there are a lot of other reasons right behind this one)....a white player needed to be prominently featured in this report. And there were a couple. But Roger Clemens compares favorably to Barry Bonds, talent-wise.

I get so tired of hearing about the race aspect of Barry Bonds and steroids. People were saying, "If Bonds was white, he wouldn't be treated this way...." Part of the problem is that Mark McGwire fell off the face of the earth, while Bonds was still playing and was a live target - so there was no white target. (Jose Canseco goes into a separate category, because he was the whistleblower.) Well, this should now take the race issue out of it, because Clemens is getting hit from all angles. His Hall of Fame candidacy is being questioned now, and that should ease the criticism that Bonds is being singled out because he is black. And if it doesn't, or if Clemens is given a pass...then this country still has a serious problem with race, and this will become prime example number one.

A NOTE ABOUT STEROIDS: Early in the day on Thursday, an e-mail made the rounds naming a bunch of high-profile major leaguers as being mentioned in the report. A couple of the names turned out to be accurate, but most were false - because if you name enough players, you're going to hit a couple. I hate that. You could name players all day and come up with a few that are guilty....and a couple who are still guilty who weren't named in the report. While I still feel that most of the players I mentioned on the blog last week probably took steroids, I have deleted that part of the entry, because I don't like the fact that anyone can throw names around and bring down people's reputations unsubstantiated. I know I don't have a ridiculous number of readers, but I felt like taking that down was the right thing to do. I wrote that in an emotional moment, when I was ticked off about this whole steroid thing. I will continue to write about steroids, and the report, but I will keep my thoughts about who else could have/probably did take steroids to myself, and stay with what has been published.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

DO NOT DISTURB


I'm busy reading....

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

NOT HOW, BUT HOW MANY?

The question on everyone's mind this weekend is not "How will the Patriots beat the Jets?", but "How many points will they score?" I'm here to tell you that I think the question should be, "How can the Jets beat the Patriots?", because they can, and they will, hand New England their first loss on Sunday afternoon.

And I'm Johnnymets' common sense, and I'm here to tell you the way it's really going to be this weekend.

Everyone's talking about how fired up the Patriots are going to be this weekend because of the Jets, and how they "wronged" the Patriots by revealing them as cheaters to the outside world. Eric Mangini broke some unwritten rule about betraying trust, so the Patriots are going to show the Jets what's what and who's who and all that. I say, the Jets will be fired up! You're 3-10. You have a chance to re-write the history books this weekend. If there's ever a game you're going to want to go out and prove yourselves in, this is the one!! How can you not be fired up?! You didn't disrespect the Patriots by breaking an unwritten rule - they're disrespecting you with all this talk about running up the score on you!!!!!

The Patriots never said they were going to run up the score. It's been the media and fans who are talking about the Patriots putting up 70 points on the Jets. The Patriots have just gone about their business. You'd better believe, though, that they have had this game circled on their calendars for a long time. They feel like the Jets disrespected them. And no team is better at turning disrespect into a beating on the field than the Patriots.

What about the running game? When was the last time the Patriots ran the ball well? October? And they couldn't stop Willis McGahee a couple of weeks ago. Thomas Jones will run up and down on that team. They've been exposed the past couple of weeks, and that works to the Jets advantage.

hahahaha. Thomas Jones? What has he done this year? One rushing touchdown??? That's only one more than I have. The Jets haven't had as ineffective a red zone runner since Blair Thomas. And the Patriots will be just fine running the ball against the joke that is the Jets' defense. Even if they don't....they seem to be doing OK throwing the ball.

My only hope is that the Jets don't open their mouths this week. Sure, you might say this trash-talking stuff means nothing once the game starts, but the Jets don't need to give the Patriots any incentives. They need to treat this week like business as usual, and then let their actions on the field Sunday speak for them.

The Jets don't need to say anything else to get the Patriots fired up. They did their damage in Week 1 - which, by the way, the Patriots won, 38-14. Pretty handily, I'd say. I suspect the only thing the Jets' actions will be saying on Sunday is "We are an inferior football team".

Finally, I need this Jets win. It's tough enough as it is living here in New England as a Jets fan, while the Jets are awful, without the Patriots going undefeated. I don't need that to continue. Plus, my fantasy football season is over...I need this game to give me one highlight of this football season.

Maybe if you used me once in a while when you made your picks, you wouldn't be having such an awful football season. You keep using that stupid heart of yours. Nice work drafting Matt Leinart in the fantasy league this year, by the way. How has that worked out? Marvin Harrison too?

This isn't about my fantasy league. We don't need to drag that out now.

OK. Right. So I shouldn't mention that I knew you were going to lose to your brother, even though he doesn't even care, barely checks his team, and beat you soundly in a must-win situation for you, when he was already out of playoff contention.

There's no need to mention that.

What do you care? It's not like anyone reads the blog anyway.

OK. Stop it. I pick the Jets to pull off the upset of the decade this weekend, and beat the Patriots, 13-10. (There might be some weather to contend with on Sunday, too.)

Yeah, 'whether' or not the Patriots will get to 100 points. I say Patriots 52, Jets 10.

Friday, December 07, 2007

COVER BOY

Another Met will grace the cover of a video game. This time, Jose Reyes will do the honors. Unlike the last time, I will not be rushing out to buy this game. (The enthusiasm for that game lasted about a week...it has collected dust ever since. Chalk one up to The Baby.)

I'll take advantage of this news, though, to comment on the Winter Meetings....

Anyway, the Mets were quiet during the Winter Meetings, other than to have Omar Minaya raise false hope at times (giving Mets fans reason to believe the Mets still had an outside chance at Johan Santana), or telling us that the Mets are set the way they are right now (doubtful).

I do believe the Mets have a chance at Santana. I don't think he's going anywhere now until the trade deadline. Unlike Mark Buehrle, I don't think Santana will work out an 11th hour deal with the Twins. He will be traded, but it will come later. And I think the Mets have a real shot, and....full circle here....I think the MLB 2K8 cover boy still could be wearing a different uniform by the end of the season.

Sorry I didn't update during the meetings like I thought I would. My mind is focused on the two weeks left until winter vacation. We're getting there...

FOOTBALL NOTES: I'm not a betting man, but for entertainment purposes only, I'd take the Steelers plus the points this week. I think they might beat the Patriots. If not them, I think the Patriots might finish the regular season undefeated. And if they do, I have a feeling they're going to lose in the playoffs. Just my two cents on that.

ANOTHER BLOG: Joining the Southern Bureau (see the 'Orange Couch' link to the right), and Dave in Brighton (naturalbl0g), Justin From NYC finally has his blog. I say finally because of the four of us, he's the one who should have had one from the beginning. It's about politics, and it's through 1010 WINS in New York. See the link at the right - Talking Politics. Should be lots of fun.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

THE DOLPHINS ARE REALLY BAD

JETS 40, DOLPHINS 13

I can't say I was rooting for the Jets this week...but I am glad that they didn't become the one win on the Dolphins' record.

It's hard to remember now, because of how poorly the Dolphins have played in recent years, but there's no one in football I hate more than the Dolphins. I would love for them to be the team that matched Tampa Bay's mark of futility by going winless for an entire season.

And when you see a team give up 40 points to the Jets, you have to figure they're not going to beat anyone the rest of the way. Thomas Jones hadn't been able to get in the end zone all season...he did against the Dolphins.

In 12 games, the Jets have now scored more than 30 points just three times. Once was against the Cincinnati Bengals, who have an awful defense, and still managed to find a way to stop the Jets and win the game. The other time (besides Sunday) was the other time the Jets played the Dolphins, a 31-28 Jets win.

The Dolphins could win a game this year. They still have to play Buffalo, Baltimore, New England, and Cincinnati. Desperate teams sometimes accomplish major upsets...I don't think Miami will beat the Patriots, but they could upset the Bills or Ravens. The other side of that, though, is no one wants to be that team that loses to the Dolphins...exhibit A was Sunday in Miami. If the Jets can do it, and put up 40 in doing so, the Dolphins don't have a chance against anyone else.

One last point about the Jets before we get back to the hot stove talk the rest of the week: One positive thing out of this season has been the different throwback uniforms teams have worn. While some have been misses (the Eagles come to mind), the Jets have been a hit, wearing the gold and blue of the New York Titans (the name the Jets had before they became the Jets). (On a personal note, and in the interest of full disclosure, yellow and blue are also my favorite colors.) Each team wore the throwbacks a couple of times this year - I think the Jets are done, because they also wore the Titans uniforms against the Giants in October. I noticed last week the Browns had numbers on their helmets - I think that was their throwback edition. Anyway, I love those types of things. Here's a look at the highlight of the Jets' 2007 season - the uniform of a team that no longer even exists (it's my blog, so I choose to show a picture of Kellen Clemens getting sacked. Petty? Yes.):

Saturday, December 01, 2007

JUST THE FACTS....BUT ALSO SOME OPINIONS

I have no idea why the Mets traded Lastings Milledge to the Nationals for Ryan Church and Brian Schneider. I'm hoping it's part of something bigger, where someone will be swapped due to that move being made, but I have no idea.

(A part of me thinks this deal is Omar Minaya's way of responding to the critics who accuse him of racism [or ethnicism, I guess] by acquiring only Hispanic players. I can imagine him saying, "You want some white players? Here are some white players. Guess what? They suck! Hispanic players are better. Do you see my point now?")

That said, there are some pieces to this off-season puzzle that I have firmly in my grasp, that I want to make sure I get out there, on what has turned out to be a quiet day baseball-wise.

First of all, and I haven't had a chance yet to mention this, Omar Minaya came out on Thursday to say that the Mets would not be trading Jose Reyes. Of course, the cynic in me wants to know when someone has ever told the truth in that situation, but I sort of believe it. So maybe Reyes is sticking around...or at least being held for a different blockbuster.

I don't think the Mets are getting Johan Santana. I'm not sure who is at this point, but it seems like the Twins want young pitchers that the Mets just don't have. I also wonder whether or not Santana is going to be traded this far before the trade deadline - by trading Matt Garza, the Twins left themselves a hole in their rotation - would they trade Santana too? Or if they did, they need a major-league ready pitcher, which the Mets can't offer....or the Twins don't want.

On that note, the Mets look to be kind of set for themselves in the young pitcher department, with Philip Humber and Mike Pelfrey. I still think these guys will turn out to be solid, effective pitchers. Nothing spectacular, but they'll provide pitching depth. The problem with Pelfrey and Humber is that they are not going to land the Mets any big trading fish...because no one likes them as bait. They are the Mets' two best pitching prospects...but no one really thinks too highly of them.

Who do the Mets have that they could trade? The big name right now that would be part of a deal for a pitcher for the Mets is outfielder Carlos Gomez. He's speedy, and had a good start to his major league career with the Mets before breaking a bone in his hand. He is part of what the Mets imagine their outfield of the future to look like...but he might not be around for long. Also, it looks like the lefty-hitting Brian Schneider will stay a Met, to platoon with righty Ramon Castro...while Johnny Estrada will be shipped.

So if Santana is out of the question, who might the Mets land? This is where it gets good. How about Erik Bedard? If he's a Met come April, I'll be thrilled. I'd also be happy (but to a much lesser extent - you know how I feel about Erik Bedard) if the rumors about Dan Haren are true. He's a good pitcher. Joe Blanton is a big drop-off from those two names, and the Mets are also interested in him....but if you asked me which of the three would be most likely to be a Met in the spring, his name would come up.

One more thing - I'm not sure how I missed this, but I guess Rickey Henderson is no longer with the Mets. The Mets' record wasn't awful after he joined the team, but individuals, most notably Jose Reyes, saw their performances decrease after his arrival. The reason I noticed he's not coming back is that Tom Nieto, the Mets catching instructor, appears to be the front-runner for the job. Hmm...again, no Hall of Famer Gary Carter. Might he be in line for a catching instructor job?

That's where we're at right now. There's a lot going on on the hot stove - I'll do my best to keep updating through the winter...especially with the Winter Meetings just getting underway.

Friday, November 30, 2007

WHAT'S THE DEAL?

I can't believe the Mets just made this trade. I really don't have a lot of information to go on right now, but thanks to the Southern Bureau for some ESPN Insider information. Heres' what I know: the Mets traded Lastings Milledge for Ryan Church and Brian Schneider.

Umm...what?

Players like Johan Santana are on the trade market, the Mets are dark horses in that chase because they have limited prospects as it is, and the Mets REALLY need a starting pitcher.....and they're trading one of their top trade-able players for RYAN CHURCH and BRIAN SCHNEIDER!?!?

I can't believe that the Mets would make this bad of a deal. It's a bad deal. Awful deal. And Lastings Milledge stays in the division so that he can haunt them 19 times a year. You better believe right now that Milledge will have a Chipper Jones-type career against the Mets for the rest of his career.

The only rationale I can make is that the Mets are working on something huge. Or the Nationals are working on something huge. Or the Mets and Nationals together are working on something huge, which required Milledge to be Nationals' property before he was dealt. I have to believe, following the Johnny Estrada deal, that the acquisition of another catcher is the set-up to a whole other deal. I have to believe that because if I don't, I'll cry.

The Mets could have gotten a number of different players for Lastings Milledge over the years. His value has dropped a little since he was a minor league prospect, but he still had a solid showing last year in the majors. There's no way his stock has dropped so far that he is only worth RYAN CHURCH and BRIAN SCHNEIDER.

One or both of these players better not be on the Mets' Opening Day roster.

I just had to give an immediate weigh-in on this potential disaster. (The only reason it's potential is that there's a chance the Mets can move some of these guys and get someone of value.) I heard it on the car radio on my way home from school and nearly drove off the road. I heard the guy say, "And the Mets trade Lastings Milledge...." in the last line of his update, and I thought, "This should be higher up in the update...this is a big deal." And then when I heard who he was traded for I felt sick. Seriously. I guess I do care quite a bit about the Mets.

I'll probably update more over the weekend...hopefully as future deals develop.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

WHY NOT GARY CARTER?

Earlier this month, the Lancaster Barnstormers of the independent Atlantic League named Von Hayes their new manager. Among the other names on the short list of candidates for the job was Hall of Famer Gary Carter. Carter was supposedly very close to getting the job, but Hayes pulled ahead and was able to land the position.

The talk, and this is a reasonable point, is that Hayes was selected because of his incredibly popular stint with the Philadelphia Phillies during the 1980's, and that goes a long way in drawing fans to an independent team like the Barnstormers. But I would counter with the argument that Carter is a Hall of Famer, and he doesn't just pull in the local Pennsylvania fans...he's a national draw. I know right now I have no interest in attending a Barnstormers game...but if Gary Carter were managing the team, I'd be making a trip to Lancaster. This is also the league that includes the Long Island Ducks and Bridgeport Bluefish...so chances are I would even catch one or two Barnstormers road games.

So why else might a team pass up Gary Carter for Von Hayes? Could the reasons be the same as why a major league team might pass up Gary Carter as their hitting coach (the Colorado Rockies last year), or first-base coach (the New York Mets)? Or why a Triple-A level team might pass him up as manager (the L.A. Dodgers' affiliate)?

At first glance, Carter seems like a great candidate. His track record is impressive - managing two years at the lowest minor league levels, he posted very impressive records:
2005 (Gulf Coast League): 37-16, first round playoff exit (0-2)
2006 (St. Lucie Mets)
1st Half: 40-30
2nd Half: 37-32
Postseason: 5-0 and won the championship

He's also savvy with the media. In fact, I think this media savvy could be his strongest point...and his weakest. No manager in the world would be more willing to talk to the media, win or lose, after a game, than Gary Carter. He loves the press. No question about it. But that might also be a drawback...in this day and age, where someone as ornery and secretive as Bill Belichick (different sport, I know, but the parallel can be made) is having so much success while giving the media hardly anything to work with, a team might not be looking to hire someone so willing to talk.

I also think there's a stigma that no one wants to work with Carter, and this is what bothers me the most. I think Carter was a little too much of a go-getter as a player, too willing to kiss up to the right people. It made him a success, no doubt about it, but I think now that some of the people in important positions are his former peers, instead of the people he was kissing up to, he's sort of receiving a little bit of what those people felt he had coming. Perhaps they have an idea that Carter thinks he's better than them...and maybe he doesn't do too much to dispel that thought. But something like Carter turning down a Double-A managing job with the Mets, maybe that turned people off - who does Gary Carter think he is, does he think he'll go straight to the majors without paying his dues? I don't know what the problem is.

This bothers me, especially the fact that I believe so many baseball people aren't crazy about Carter (which is just my assumption...it's not a fact, but when you hear people/broadcasters/former players talk, you get that impression) because as far as I can tell (and with the bias that Gary Carter is my childhood sports hero), Gary Carter is a nice guy. For all his faults, he's not going out and doing bad things - he's a good role model, and I'm glad he's mine. I just wish I could continue seeing him involved in the game at the major-league level again.

TRADE NEWS: The Minnesota Twins and the Tampa Bay Rays made a trade Wednesday, where Matt Garza and Jason Bartlett went to the Rays, with Delmon Young and Brendan Harris going to Minnesota. I think this is a great trade for both teams, and I also think it means the Twins are working on other things....namely, a trade of Johan Santana to the Mets for Jose Reyes. I don't know whether or not it's possible, but I do know that Brendan Harris played a lot of second base last year, and if the Twins put him at second (Luis Castillo was dealt at last year's trade deadline, as we know), they'll still need a shortstop after dealing Bartlett. Reyes? Perhaps.

The Mets also added a reliever Wednesday, trading for Brian Stokes from the Rays. Stokes had a 7+ ERA last year, so I don't know how much relief he'll provide, but the Mets are involved in this trade market, that's for sure.

GOODBYE, TOM: One last note - Tom McCarthy, the Mets' radio announcer with Howie Rose, for the past two seasons, has left the Mets to go back to Philadelphia with the Phillies. I always liked him. Too bad. I wonder if Ed Coleman now moves up to permanent game-calling status, and his 'Mets Extra' pre-and-post-game shows get handed off to someone else. Could be a big shift on the radio side.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

BOOK REVIEW

QUIET STRENGTH: THE PRINCIPLES, PRACTICES, & PRIORITIES OF A WINNING LIFE
By Tony Dungy, with Nathan Whitaker

I just got around to reading this book last week, and I really blew through it...and I really enjoyed it. I have to thank Dave in Brighton, and Mrs. Dave in Brighton, because it is through them that I got this book. They were nice enough to get me a gift on my big 29th birthday party this year (7/7/07!), but unfortunately, I already had the book they got me. (I guess they didn't read the blog carefully enough.) But I exchanged that book for this one over the summer, and now I've finally read it. So everything worked out.

This book started out rocky (the italics are direct quotes):

"...before we begin, I want to make sure we're starting at the same place. The point of this book is not the Super Bowl. In fact, it's not football."

What?

"This book is not only about me, either."

Well, then what is this book about? Football and Tony Dungy were the reasons I bought it!

"It's about the things I've learned, the mistakes I've made, and the heartaches that have made me lean into the Father's presence. I hope that when it's all said and done, you'll see that it's really all about Him."

Oh no! I've been tricked into a book about religion!

But not totally, and really, it was a good book.

Now, I have a pretty high tolerance for the religion piece, so I don't know that I can be a fair judge of whether or not Dungy beats the reader over the head with religion throughout the book. I will say he mentions it a lot, but not overwhelmingly so. The man's religious, and that comes across loud and clear. But he's also a good guy, who treats people the right way, and that makes anything he says more tolerable.

The best parts of the book were some of the inner workings of the NFL. There's a really good part when Dungy talks about the 1996 draft with Tampa Bay, when they end up 'settling' for Mike Alstott. The Jets were actually involved, screwing up the Bucs pick by taking receiver Alex Van Dyke when they had previously agreed to trade the pick so the Buccaneers could get Texas A&M running back Leeland McElroy. He went to the Cardinals, and Tampa ended up with Alstott. I'd say that non-trade worked out OK for Tampa, not so well for the other teams involved.

The connections between all of the coaches was pretty interesting too. Dungy worked with a number of people on different levels of different staffs. He didn't have the kindest words for the type of workhorse Marty Schottenheimer is, and of course, Dungy and Herman Edwards are close friends, so the former Jets coach features prominently in the book. If you can stand the religious talk, or at least be able to scan through the football portions of the book while skipping the religious parts, I'd really recommend the book.

HOW BAD ARE THE JETS RIGHT NOW?: Here's how bad the Jets are right now - the Jets, 2-9, are 1-and-a-half point underdogs at the 0-11 Miami Dolphins. Ouch.

COMMENT ON THE COMMENTS: Southern Bureau is not alone thinking that Shea is a dump...and he's entitled to his opinion, but for me, it will always be a special place. I can never categorize it as a dump, and that's not me being 'politically correct', it's just the way I feel.

HOW I SPENT PART OF THANKSGIVING WEEKEND: Saturday night at Madison Square Garden, Boston University took on Cornell in what was billed as "Red Hot Hockey: A Rivalry Renewed". My brother came through big time, using a connection to get me and Justin From NYC two tickets in a luxury box. For a while we thought we'd have the box to ourselves, but then other people showed up. Wildly - not only were they BU fans...they were also people Justin knew from BU - one was a guy who he and the Southern Bureau took under their wings and helped grow from radio intern to someone who now does something for a Redskins radio network. BU, having a terrible season so far, won the game, 6-3. This was our view from the suite:

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

LOOKING FORWARD, LOOKING BACK

In all of my excitement about the Mets new stadium, Citi Field, which opens in 2009, I've sort of been overlooking the fact that 2008 will be the Mets' last year at Shea Stadium. That's pretty significant.

I'll say this - it's not the greatest stadium known to mankind. I know that. (Especially after seeing so many of the new ones, and how much Shea is lacking.) But it's the Mets' home, the only one I've ever known, and it's been home to a lot of special moments in Mets history.

The Mets played a couple of years at the start of their existence at the Polo Grounds, former home of the New York (baseball) Giants, but since 1964, it's been Shea. In good times (few) and bad (many).

So in 2008, there will be many events honoring the final year at Shea, and one of the constant reminders will be this patch the Mets will wear on their uniforms:

As patches go, I think it's a good-looking one. I like the contrast of the old Shea (on the left) with the new. Note that there's really not much of a difference, hence, the new stadium on the way.

Monday, November 26, 2007

IS ESTRADA NOTHING MORE THAN A CHiP?

All puns aside (I've never seen 'CHiPs', so I don't even know if that title makes sense), I'm not sure I understand this Johnny Estrada deal. First I'll clarify a few things, then I'll get into what the story appears to be.

Clarifications
I wrote last week something along the lines of not reading that Estrada has been a clubhouse problem, so I wasn't sure why he is now on his fifth team in seven years. After the deal, reading newspaper articles, I read about the fact that Estrada clashed with his pitchers in Milwaukee and had some conflicts with his coaches (there was a near-fight with either pitching coach Mike Maddux or manager Ned Yost in Milwaukee...I've read conflicting reports about who it was...might have been both). So I guess he's a hothead. Probably not more so than LoDuca. Estrada, though, is supposedly not a great handler of pitchers....again, not much different than LoDuca.

Also, Estrada is not very good at throwing out runners attempting (and usually succeeding) to steal. He threw out something like 8% of runners last year. But I think, according to what I've read, the Mets think the surgeries Estrada underwent after the season will improve that stat for him.

Now the speculation
Now that all that's out of the way, here's what's being speculated:
1) I've read that it's highly unlikely Estrada will be on the Mets' Opening Day roster. I don't know who the Mets would have as a catcher if this is the case, because I don't think they view Ramon Castro as an everyday guy.
2) The Mets might just have acquired Estrada (for Guillermo Mota, so it was worth doing) as leverage, so other teams can't hang the fact that they don't have a catcher over them when they try to make deals for other players. Now it looks like they have the catching hole plugged, and they can't get roped into taking a catcher or someone they wouldn't want, and it gives Omar Minaya more freedom to make a deal for a frontline starter. I'm not totally sure I understand this viewpoint, but there it is.
3) Instead of number 2, and I understand this point a whole lot better (but I'm also not a GM, so do I really need to understand all of these things?), Estrada could be a bargaining chip in another deal, and he'll just get turned around in said deal.

The bottom line here is that I like Johnny Estrada, and if he is the Mets' starting catcher on Opening Day, I'm happy with that. But I suspect this won't be the last time this off-season that I'm writing about him.

HOPE YOUR THANKSGIVING WAS BETTER THAN KELLEN'S
Meanwhile, I would be remiss if I didn't take the opportunity to write about Thursday's debacle by the Jets. It wasn't so much a debacle for me, though. I had the Dallas defense in my fantasy league, so in addition to rooting against Kellen Clemens, I had the opportunity to root for the Dallas defense to do well. (I loved the Terrence Newman interception return for a touchdown.)

I learned this on Thursday: You have a much higher probability of successful cheering when you root against the Jets than when you root for them. I won't be doing this forever - it'll just last the rest of this season (except, maybe, when they play New England) - but it was an interesting Thanksgiving experiment.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!

(Unless you're a Jets fan, in which case, enjoy the Parade, dinner, and don't watch the game.)

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

HERE'S JOHNNY

Considering it's late November, and I didn't think I'd be following much baseball this deep into the off-season, I'm pretty thrilled with the moves the Mets have made. Tuesday they traded Guillermo Mota for Johnny Estrada, solidifying the catcher position the day after they shored up second base.

I've thought highly of Estrada ever since he came up with the Phillies. I don't know if he was talked up a lot by the Philadelphia media, or I just heard a lot about him because he was a young guy coming up on a rival team in the NL East, but I remember thinking that the Braves made a great move trading for him. And I know that Estrada is better than anyone else available on the free agent market - and I think, for the Mets, that includes Jorge Posada. When you combine offense and defense, and their ages (Estrada is five years younger), I think the Mets got the best catcher available (even if his availability comes as a surprise) this off-season.

There are questions. Estrada is coming off post-season surgery on his knee, and had a bone spur removed from his elbow. So I guess there's some recovery involved. There's also the matter of Estrada playing for his 5th team in 7 years in the majors. He's been traded away from every team - which either means four other teams didn't want him, or four other teams really wanted him badly. I don't remember hearing much about Estrada as a clubhouse problem, so let's hope it's the latter. (From what I'm reading really quickly online, it seems Estrada's first - and only - season in Milwaukee was a disappointment, to fans and to him. He's owned up to how badly he played. So maybe it was a 'get value for him now, since fans are down on him' type deal.) The Breweres are rumored to be seeking Jason Kendall...they really have no catcher now that they've dealt Estrada.

I think this is a great deal for the Mets. You can't beat unloading an erratic (and cheating) reliever, and getting lots of value in return.

They say you win with what you have up the middle, and now the Mets have Estrada, Luis Castillo, Jose Reyes, and Carlos Beltran up the middle. The one gaping hole there is the pitcher's mound - and that's Omar Minaya's next challenge.

AND ON THE FOOTBALL FRONT

Thanksgiving is probably my favorite holiday. I love the fall, I love getting together with the family, and I love eating. I also love watching the football with everyone. So when I saw the NFL schedule this year, I especially couldn't wait for Thanksgiving, to watch the Jets upset the Cowboys on national television, as they showed the world what they were made of!

Needless to say, that excitement has worn off. Lots. I was disappointed the Jets won last week. And I'm hoping the Cowboys embarrass them on Thursday...this coming from a guy who hates the Cowboys. You know where I stand on this - the whole Chad Pennington thing has just left a really sour taste in my mouth.

The more I think about it, the more I realize that last year's playoff appearance was one of the worst things that could have happened to the Jets, specifically, to Eric Mangini. He was given last year, they could have been awful, and he could have built things up his way. But they surprised everyone, he was the Boy Wonder, Man-Genius, and that created pressure. So this year, there was no question that Pennington was going to be the starting quarterback, and the playoffs were the expectation, especially with the addition of Thomas Jones, and it didn't work out. People didn't play well, and it was magnified even worse because of the expectations caused by last year.

Maybe Chad Pennington shouldn't have been the starter from the beginning this year. Maybe then I would have been more willing to root for Kellen Clemens. But after leading the Jets to the playoffs last year, Mangini had to go with Pennington. He had no shot to start building with his own quarterback - he would have been killed. Then he was killed for going to Pennington too late. I still don't agree with the decision, but at least Mangini has things on his terms now. The problem is, if the Jets don't rebound and win next year - he probably won't get a fourth year on his terms. So now the Jets are playing out the string - with some really tough games left on the schedule. And 'the string' starts Thursday. I suspect the performance against Pittsburgh will be the exception, rather than the rule.

I'll make a special Thanksgiving pick Wednesday, then I'm heading to New York for the Thanksgiving weekend, and I'll be back next week.

Monday, November 19, 2007

A PIECE IN PLACE

I was very happy to hear that the Mets re-signed Luis Castillo, so at least second base is solidified for the Mets. It's a 4-year deal for Castillo, who is 32 years old right now. That's pretty good all around.

Castillo is a smart ballplayer, his intelligence at the plate stands out to me. He knows what to do in all situations...just a good hitter. The Mets need more folks like him.

It was a big day for free agents. Mike Lowell re-upped with the Red Sox, it looks like Mariano Rivera is re-upping with the Yankees, and Tom Glavine went back to the Braves.

I hate the way things ended with Glavine. I hate that I'll remember him with the Mets as the man who got rocked with everything on the line on the final day of the season instead of the man who won his 300th careeer game with the team. I hate that he's now going back to Atlanta. I hope the Mets hang an 8 on him every time he pitches against them from here on out.

Incidentally, this morning on ESPN Radio, when they were talking about GM's who need to make moves, Omar Minaya's name came up as someone who needs an ace, and someone who says he will get a number-one - or -two starter this off-season. And for the first time I heard Jose Reyes' name come up in something other than pure speculation on my part. Just throwing it out there, for whatever that's worth.

FANTASY: The fantasy NASCAR season came to an end Sunday. What started as a whim to pass the time between the Super Bowl and spring training turned into a weekly obsession and lots of fun. I really enjoyed it...finished 4th out of 12 or so people.

Playoffs in fantasy football are looking bleak as of last weekend.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

SCORE-E-ALBA

The news on Sunday is that the Mets have now broken off all talks with Yorvit Torrealba, and that he might re-sign with the Rockies. It doesn't really matter where he goes, it just doesn't seem like he's coming to the Mets anymore.

This is both good news and bad news. Good news, because, as I said, I didn't really want him. I don't think he's the piece that's been missing to lead the Mets to the championship. Unfortunately (this is the bad news), there's no one out there who can...and that includes free agent catcher Paul LoDuca (he had his chance). I hope LoDuca doesn't end up coming back - he's just got way too much going on off the field. I think it affects what happens on the field. I don't even know who the other free agent catchers are - I should look into that and see who else fits with the Mets.

The Mets did make the Ramon Castro re-signing official, but I don't think he's an everyday guy - he's valuable because he is able to do what he does in spurts off the bench. I don't think he'd give you that over 130, 140 games.

The new talk now is that the Mets are very interested in signing David Eckstein and moving him to second base. They like his fire, and approach to the game - they feel he was the type of player that was missing down the stretch last year. I agree with that, because he certainly approaches the game the right way...but I don't think now is the time to pursue Eckstein. He's not the same player - he's more beat up, and I think he's on the down side of his career. I'd love to see him prove me wrong if the Mets sign him........but I'd rather see Luis Castillo as the Mets second baseman in 2008.

ON FOOTBALL:
-How do the Jets end up beating the Steelers? That frustrates me...I didn't get to see much football due to a variety of situations on Sunday. I wonder if I had been watching if the Jets would have played their usual brand of losing football.
-I take back what I said about the Bills and the Patriots. I suspect Marshawn Lynch wouldn't have made much of a difference in this game.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

REVIEW: 'MICHIGAN VS. OHIO STATE: THE RIVALRY'

A couple of things I think I should make clear before I get into this review. Growing up in New York City and now living near Boston (and having gone to Boston University, whose football team was disbanded after my freshman year), college football was never much on my radar. Sure, I'd watch a game or two, the big games during the year, but my football attention was devoted to Sundays, not Saturdays.

As I grew older, though, I started to appreciate more about the game. I also developed attachments (and dislikes) for certain teams due to who I knew. I always rooted for Notre Dame - one of my cousins went there when I was in high school, and growing up, my dad rooted for Notre Dame, so I did too. I started to root for Tennessee the past few years because someone I met in the teaching profession was a Tennessee fan. When I worked at the CBS affiliate in Boston, one of my closest friends there was a Michigan fan, and seeing him live and die with these games made me root for Michigan to win. I root against Florida because of one of my college roommates (he lived and died, too, but I enjoyed it more when he died with the losses...unlike my CBS friend, who I much preferred to see live with the wins). I also root against Boston College, because of my BU ties. Then, I root for and against whoever tickles my fancy - right now I keep rooting against the number 1's and 2's until I get a team I like in there. I'm rooting for Kansas right now, just for some new blood. I think my college football interest is summed up in the fact that this is the first time I've written a blog extensively about college football. And I think it should be said that I root against Ohio State simply because of my CBS friend.

All of that said, I am much more interested in college football recently than I ever was. This is in part because of my participation in a Bowl pool at the end of the season, and I like to think that having watched a couple of games during the regular season increases my chances of doing well. (It usually doesn't.) But I'm looking forward to today's Ohio State-Michigan matchup. And in anticipation of the game, I watched the HBO Sports documentary "Michigan vs. Ohio State: The Rivalry".

I need to learn my lesson - no matter what the subject, HBO Sports does a nice job. I should watch all of their documentaries. In spite of myself, I always feel myself getting choked up at a certain point, and I always end thinking that it was done very well (the same way I felt watching the documentary about the Cubs).

I went in hoping to learn more about a subject I knew little about, while hoping to be entertained, and getting glimpses of events I was familiar with. All were accomplished. The one complaint was that there was a big chunk (maybe 10 minutes) about the fans, which I could have done without. I realize how important that part is - if I was doing the documentary, I would also think the part about the fans was important to include...but as a viewer with no particular allegiances, I thought that segment was too long.

The most entertaining part was Desmond Howard, who struck the Heisman pose after scoring on a punt return in the Ohio State game. He went through his thought process about whether or not he should do it as he was running, and finally decided, "F___ it." He was an entertaining interview throughout the documentary.

A lot of time was spent on the Woody Hayes-Bo Schembechler connection. The Schembechler interview was recorded the day before he died...which was exactly one year ago as I write this. I also liked hearing about the 1950 game, which took place in a tremendous blizzard, which Michigan won, 9-3, scoring the game's only touchdown on a blocked punt. There were 45 punts in the game, some on first down, and Michigan didn't get a first down the whole game. Good stuff all around.

It made me wish I was a fan in some kind of rivalry like this - where one game means so much. The Mets have a rivalry with the Braves, but it's nowhere near this scale (and ranks waaaaaay down on any list of rivalries - it's not even in the top 10 of its sport). The Jets-Patriots rivalry is too recent...and still is more media-manufactured than anything else. The Jets-Dolphins are probable bigger rivals...but it's rare that both teams have been competitive at the same time. In hockey, I guess there's BU-BC, but the fact that it's hockey, in such an apathetic school as BU really has a negative impact. I guess I'll just continue to live vicariously through the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry. I'll be rooting for Michigan...but from where I stand, it sure hurts less if they lose.

NFL UPDATE: I'm very tempted to say the Buffalo Bills will hand the New England Patriots their first loss of the season on Sunday night...but I really think Marshawn Lynch being out of the lineup kills their chances. I'm hard-pressed, looking at their roster, to say they have someone who can be as explosive. So I'm afraid the Patriots will continue to march along undefeated.

SITE UPDATE: One drawback, I've just realized, of deleting the Jets entries so they reappear here is that I'm losing pictures when I do this. If you come across a post that has a red 'x' where a picture should be, please let me know, and I'll fix it.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

SNORE-E-ALBA

I need to be completely honest with you - this Yorvit Torrealba signing doesn't instill me with a huge amount of confidence heading into the 2008 baseball season.

Torrealba is a career .251 hitter, with 30 career home runs and 173 career RBI. I hate to say it, but when I heard about the signing (or I guess when I heard that he would be signed...it hasn't technically happened yet), I actually wished that Jorge Posada was going to be the Mets catcher next year. (For the record, Posada had 20 homers last year alone, and 183 RBI over the past two years.)

Offensively, I don't think a Torrealba-Ramon Castro (who the Mets are also expected to re-sign, and give more playing time) rotation would be any worse than Paul LoDuca-Castro...maybe a lower batting average, but not a huge drop-off. Baseball-reference.com compares players - and the number one comparison to Torrealba is former Met Jason Phillips. Just what the Mets need...Phillips revisited. Maybe after Carlos Delgado is gone, which is looking like it can't be too soon, Torrealba will make an ill-fated move to first place, a la Phillips.

The Mets made the right decision moving away from LoDuca - he's getting old, and the off-field stuff was becoming a huge distraction. Torrealba's defense is supposed to be above-average, so at least he's got that over Posada...but even so, Torrealba doesn't have the greatest percentage throwing out runners.

I can learn to love Torrealba. The one thing that stands out to me about him is his clutch hitting - I feel like he had a lot of clutch hits for the Rockies, and every time I saw them come back late in a game, I feel like Torrealba was involved. That said, I'm not tremendously confident that he is what the Mets need. And there's one huge factor that will be make or break as far as me liking Torrealba, and it's why I chose the picture above to show him. His jersey number with the Rockies (and before that, with the Giants) was 8. If he knows what's good for him as far as gaining my fanhood, he'll either pick a new number with the Mets, or show a LOT of respect for the number 8 of Hall of Famer Gary Carter.

IN OTHER NEWS:

I am very, very surprised that Alex Rodriguez is going to remain a Yankee. I can't imagine he'll be very well-received in the Bronx, though.

I am not at all surprised that Barry Bonds has been indicted. Is it really that big a deal? Who didn't see that coming?

Finally, with Jake Peavy winning the National League Cy Young Award so decisively, it made me wonder...when a player wins unanimously, is it even worth listing the second and third place finishers?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

MOVING WRIGHT WOULD BE WRONG MOVE

Allow me a word or two on baseball: Quite a treat this morning on my way to work - David Wright on Mike & Mike in the Morning. It was as brief a radio interview as you're going to get, in which free agency, the Mets' collapse, and Wright's charity work were all touched on.

The biggest deal was made over the Mets' likely involvement in the Alex Rodriguez chase in free agency, and how if the Mets made a play for A-Rod, would Wright be willing to change positions. His short answer was that he would. If that happens, I think the Mets would be making a tremendous mistake. David Wright is a third baseman, not a second baseman. I'm sure he'd do fine there, his offense wouldn't suffer, that's for sure - but it would take a long adjustment period for him. It would not equal success for the Mets, and worst case scenario, Wright gets taken out on a slide in an attempted double-play breakup at second base, and suffers a knee injury that threatens the rest of his career. The Mets are opening themselves up to that if they make him move for A-Rod.

I've been feeling negatively about baseball lately, but listening to David Wright makes me think that as long as he's a Met, I'll root for them, if for no other reason than to root for him alone to succeed. Wright is a class act. He says exactly what you want to hear, and if he doesn't mean it, at least he sounds sincere about it. He talked about how the team was just waiting for things to turn around at the end of the season, and how that just didn't happen, and how disappointed he was. And then he talked about how watching other teams (in this case the Red Sox) celebrate just makes him even hungrier for a title. It makes you think that somehow he will be involved with the Mets winning a world championship...and that there are some ballplayers who do care as much as some of us stupid fans.

I just hope that David Wright always stays as level-headed as he has been these past 3+ years he has been in the Majors.

AWARDS TIME: Dustin Pedroia, Ryan Braun, C.C. Sabathia.....Who are three people I didn't pick at the beginning of the year to win post-season awards? If you care to check out exactly how off I was with my picks, go back in the archives - I made my predictions on March 21. Here's a hint at how badly I did - I'm not even going to link to them, I'll just let you go find them if you want.

PREDICTION: Cubs made another under-the-radar deal today. Craig Monroe to the Twins for a player-to-be-named. Current leader in the clubhouse - Cubs versus Twins for the 2008 title. That's just the under-the-radar connection that everyone is bound to overlook. I bet I can get good odds on that matchup.

NEW LOOK: So the white background is back...and probably will stay. Any thoughts on the colors at the top of the screen? The Jets postings transfer is going slow...but sure. Thanks for all the feedback so far.

Monday, November 12, 2007

GOOD BYE

Sad times in Jets land when we can break out that time-honored joke that we all love: At least the Jets couldn't lose this week! They had a bye!! I think I broke that one out in the 4th grade - hasn't failed me since.

It's also sad for me to go through all of these old postings, as I move the Jets site to its new permanent home here (more on the changes here below). The Jets have had a really good recent history, and it's all falling apart this year. I can't stand the losing...I really can't. I wish I could go back and live through the 2004 playoffs again...and maybe, if the outcome was the same, kill Doug Brien. Those were such good times as a Jets fan - even last year was exciting each week. The sad thing is, as a Jets fan, the good times don't even end in a Super Bowl win - they usually end in playoff losses.

FANTASY TEAM TAKES A HIT, TOO
The one redeeming factor this year for my football season was the rebirth of my fantasy football team, which after an 0-3 start was sitting at 5-4 this week. I'm in the midst of a loss, so that hurts, but even worse is what I had found in Adrian Peterson (a possible new LaDainian Tomlinson?) I have now lost for a few weeks to injury. That's a big blow to my fantasy team's playoff hopes.

ON BASEBALL
The Tigers dealt Omar Infante to the Cubs for Jacque Jones, making the Tigers a possible frontrunner for the 2008 American League championship in my new prediction strategy...they are possibly going to play the Cubs or the Braves now in the World Series. I don't even know if the moves they made are quality (they seem pretty good), but the fact that they've been involved in deals with two National League teams makes them a front-runner in my eyes.

NEW LOOK
I have again changed the look of the blog - I'm looking for something pretty permanent so I don't have to keep doing this. I went with a couple of different things - I am hoping the black background looks sharp, and the different colors show a melding of the Mets and Jets. I've also changed the title to be all-inclusive, because this is no longer a Mets-only blog. It refers to where I live in relation to New York City, and specifically, the Mets' new ballpark. (I know, technically it's only about 188 miles, but 200 is catchier.) I welcome your feedback, and Southern Bureau, consider this your notification - please let me know what you think.

(Update: Just took my first look at the site as a reader - I'm not crazy about the black background. Please let me know if you think you have a better idea....maybe I'll just go back to white.)

Thursday, November 08, 2007

MORE CHANGES ON THE WAY...JUST LIKE THE JETS QB SITUATION

In an effort to streamline my resources, I'm going to combine the Jets and Mets sites into one. There is no real efficient way to do this (dorkier people have tried, and rule it, I quote, "impossible" to merge two blogs into one [from a Blogger Help Forum], so I'll just have to cut and paste my Jets entries onto the Mets site), so please bear with me as new postings pop up, backdated to appear at the time they originally appeared. This will also mean a new name for the blog - I welcome your help with that.

I've been thinking about the Jets a lot recently, which you might not have been able to guess due to my lack of posting on them (it's been about two months, in case you haven't been checking the Jets site, which I don't think you have been doing). Obviously, hard times have hit my football team...and the man who has taken the main hit is none other than Chad Pennington. I like Pennington a lot. Next to Bill Parcells, he's the number one reason that such a horrid franchise as the Jets has had some relative success in recent years. And he's not the only reason they have stunk it up this season - so I don't think it's fair that he should lose his job.

Chad Pennington will not play another game as a member of the New York Jets, barring injuries. That just bothers me to no end. As a result, I'm not going to root for the Jets for the rest of this season. This benefits me in a few ways:
  • I will be able to root for the Jets to get a high draft pick (although I have no idea if there is anyone worth getting)
  • I get to re-visit my roots as a young Jets fan, when the Jets always stunk, and I had to pick a backup team to root for. This team was often the Green Bay Packers, so guess who I've had fun rooting for this year? Brett Favre is playing well, they're playing great football, the Jets are horrible...it's like 1996 all over again.
  • Although he never did anything to me, and it wasn't his decision, I get to exact revenge on Kellen Clemens for taking Pennington's job. Every time Clemens throws an interception, or an incompletion, or gets sacked, I get to say, "Chad could have done better than that." And if he throws a touchdown, I can say, "Chad could have done that." It's a no-lose situation for me!

There are a lot of people out there who are happy Chad Pennington is no longer the quarterback of the Jets. These are the same people who hoped the Jets drafted Matt Leinart when Pennington went through "Hard Times, Round 2" (the shoulder injury, following the wrist injury), before he came back and won those fakers all back. (Looking your way, Mike Greenberg.) Now, they say they always loved Pennington, but are glad he's benched. Hypocrites. It was never Pennington - it was always the game plan (why go away from a deep attack when you're killing Cincinnati that way, and then go conservative? Stupid!).

Chad Pennington deserved better. I deserve better. So, go Packers! At least for this year.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

WELL, THAT WAS QUICK

Congratulations to the Boston Red Sox on winning the World Series. I really thought the Rockies would make something out of that...but they barely showed up. Click on the link to the right that says "Orange Couch". The Southern Bureau did a nice job of breaking down the World Series in his pick on his blog...although he admits to letting his heart get in the way a little, he made the right calls. I should have seen this coming...but I didn't.

The layoff definitely hurt the Rockies' hitting...but it didn't help that they were facing Josh Beckett early on also. Their pitching was pretty bad.

The Series was so quick that I didn't even have a chance to offer a bet to one of my co-bloggers...either the Southern Bureau or Dave in Brighton, who are both Red Sox fans...or even The Wife. Maybe we can still work something out, since I'll admit that I would have lost whatever we bet.

I could have let the Southern Bureau cash in on his bet in person, too. How's this for an impulsive move? The Southern Bureau came north Tuesday for the Red Sox championship parade. That's awesome. I had to be with the Baby, so I couldn't meet up with him, but I admire his move from afar. Great work, Southern Bureau. (Dave in Brighton also attended said parade, but who are we kidding...he's from Brighton. It would be news if he didn't go.)

I need to weigh in on a few other things that have been making news lately:

A-ROD
I agree that it was in poor taste that the announcement that A-Rod was opting out of his contract came during the World Series. But the media made way too big a deal out of it...they could have let it sit until after the World Series - they chose to play it up. Also, I would have bet money that the Yankees were waiting for a couple of hours until after the World Series ended (and the Red Sox won) to try to steal some headlines by naming their new manager. Perhaps they waited a day after they saw how A-Rod got slammed by not waiting with his news. It just seemed like a Yankees way to steal headlines - and trust me, as a Mets fan, I know the Yankees are a well-oiled machine when it comes to grabbing headlines away from their rivals.

Also, I hate to even bring this up, but this occurred to me, and I think it needs to be mentioned. Jose Reyes was not himself the last couple of months of the season. You hate to think it, but I'm sure the front office was wondering what was up. Now the best shortstop in the game is available. The Mets have to be in the conversation, since they're one of only a handful of teams in the majors who can afford Rodriguez. Do the Mets think about trading Jose Reyes for some stud pitchers somewhere, while his value is at its peak, and then sign Rodriguez? I am not in any way endorsing this move - I just thought it might have some fragment of the way the Mets' front office might be thinking.

Something needs to be shaken up after last season's collapse...do the Mets do something this dramatic? I think that I hope they don't...but I'm not really sure how I feel. The ending to last season...and then the impending steroid report results....it all has me a bit bothered, and I'm not sure I'll know how I really feel about baseball and the Mets until spring training rolls around. And I don't know that I'll care very much if Alex Rodriguez is a Met and Jose Reyes isn't. But I won't know until this stuff actually happens.

One last thing - a lot of Red Sox fans I know are saying they absolutely do NOT want Alex Rodriguez on their team. They're throwing around words like "cancer". I don't know if A-Rod is that big of a clubhouse cancer - how can he be? He's just not that big of a personality. I just think he's selfish...and that probably doesn't endear him to teammates...but I don't think he tears teams apart. I think he just folds in tough situations, and ends up letting his team down at key moments.

MANAGERIAL MOVES
So Joe Torre is out in New York, Joe Girardi is in, and Joe Torre is now in in Los Angeles, and Grady Little is out. And Don Mattingly is following Torre to L.A. The two guys that got the worst out of these deals are two guys I like a lot. I like Grady Little. I don't know why, I just do. And I think he got a raw deal in Boston. But that's ancient history. Too bad it didn't work out for him in L.A....who knows if he'll ever find success as a manager. (Meanwhile, I was about to write about what a great job Terry Francona has done with the Red Sox since succeeding Little, but Bob Ryan beat me to it with a great article in Tuesday's Boston Globe. So I won't waste my time.)

Then there's Don Mattingly. I always liked Mattingly. For a long time, I was a Yankees and Mets fan - I harbored no ill will towards the Yankees at all. People always said, "How could you like both New York teams?" They never played one another, so I thought it was easy to like them both. They both represented my city. But then Don Mattingly got old fast. And the Yankees showed him the door. I can't remember the details of his departure as I write this, but one day Don Mattingly was a Yankee, the next he wasn't even invited back to spring training, if I remember correctly. So now, another unceremonious departure later, I just feel bad for the man. He's a Yankee...and I don't think they treated him right twice. That's why I stopped rooting for the Yankees...just in time for their great run of World Series titles. But I guess it's a good thing that happened - because otherwise I would have been quite confused in the 2000 Subway Series (don't worry...I would have rooted for the Mets).

It will be interesting to see how Joe Girardi does in New York after the fiasco in Florida where he clashed with ownership while doing a wonderful job managing a young group. There are elements with this Yankees team that are the same (young players, interfering owners?), but it's a mostly veteran team of which a lot is expected. So that's different.

FINALLY, A PICK: The Yankees-Dodgers is too obvious, with that managerial connection. So the early frontrunner for my World Series prediction for 2008 is Braves-Tigers, following the Edgar Renteria trade.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

A MATCH MADE IN (WINTER) HAVEN

I am going to try something entirely unorthodox next year, but it can't be worse than anything I've done until this point. My World Series prediction is going to be based on two random teams linked in the off-season.

Sometimes I just get the impression the baseball gods are trying to give us a hint as to what's been pre-determined. Remember this past off-season, where all the talk was of an imminent trade between the Red Sox and Rockies? Todd Helton and Mike Lowell were the major players involved. The trade never happened, obviously, although various reports had it as very, very close to taking place a number of times. Well, if I had told you then that the Red Sox and Rockies would be their respective league's representatives in this year's World Series, I'd be considered a genius, no?

This isn't the first time this sort of thing has happened - that's how I know it's worth trying out. The trick is to pick the right relationship - because if you had said in January that the Reds would be playing the Athletics in the World Series based on the Kirk Saarloos-David Shafer trade, I'd think your reasoning was full of holes. But if you had recognized this pattern in late 1985, after the Mets and Red Sox swapped some players (the key names being Bobby Ojeda and Calvin Schiraldi), you would have guessed correctly the participants in the 1986 World Series.

Sometimes you have to look very closely. Following the 2000 season, Buck Showalter was fired by the Arizona Diamondbacks. The fact was mentioned back then that the last time he was fired by a team, they won the World Series. That team was the New York Yankees. Your 2001 World Series? That's right - Yankees-Diamondbacks.

I'm not saying this is seal-tight, bet-the-house, guaranteed victory. I'm just saying it's worth a shot. So when the Mets pick up a kid in a minor league deal with the Texas Rangers in late November, you'd better believe I'm forming a relationship between those two teams in my mind...and I just might take a closer look at those two teams when my spring training World Series picks roll around.

PEACE IN THE HOUSE SPONSORED BY DIRECTV: The Wife brought up a point the other day that hadn't really crossed my mind - it's a good thing the Mets didn't make the playoffs because if they advanced to the World Series, they'd be playing the Red Sox. And then this wouldn't be a very pleasant place. And she's right.

I hadn't really thought about that, though, because my mind was on other things: Like, I'm kind of glad the Mets didn't advance to the World Series (let alone the playoffs), because if the Mets ended up in the World Series with the Red Sox, that would be another wasted year on the ol' matchups chart. At least one good thing came out of this 2007 season - another box off the grid.

GAME ONE: Two things about Game 1 of the World Series - I can't imagine a better setting for a World Series game than Fenway Park. They should just play every World Series game here, whether or not the Red Sox are involved.

The second is, if Josh Beckett pitches well again in Game 1 of the World Series, start shining up his Hall of Fame plaque. He has at least two more starts in the post-season as of this writing, and if he continues to do what he's done to this point, he is in the conversation of "Best Post-Season Pitchers of All-Time". We'll revisit this, perhaps, as the season ends and we head into the off-season.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

MOST AWKWARD BOOK PLUG EVER...AND OTHER WORLD SERIES THOUGHTS


Fresh off of me praising him as a former Met done good, Paul Byrd spent the hours before Game 7 of the American League Championship Series denying that he cheated by taking HGH. Byrd insists he didn't cheat - he seems like a fine, upstanding guy, I'll believe him. He really went full-bore in seeming to tell the truth (as far as athletes go), so I'll believe him. It's fine...I've been lied to by sports figures I've cared more about, so I'll deal with this if it turns out he was lying.

But the real reason I'm addressing it is the fact that during his diatribe, Byrd threw in a plug for his book...and when Paul Byrd is writing a book, I think you need as many plugs as you can get, no matter what the circumstances. Here's what he said (I lifted the transcript from this link, so thanks to them for that):

I've also made comments, and this is things that I've talked about. I have a book coming out next year. This is not a promo for my book. But I do talk about this in the book, where I have had temptations to cheat. I have been asked by people, by pitching coaches, here's how you scuff a ball, here's how you put saliva on a ball, and I talk about that in the book. I also talked about the fact that I was prescribed a hormone, that I did inject it and I did have the temptation to take more of it than what was prescribed so my fastball would reach into the 90s on a consistent basis.

It sounded awkward - I don't know if it reads awkward as well. I just found it humorous while listening to him talk on Sunday.

POSSIBLE TITLES FOR PAUL BYRD'S BOOK:

Please Read My Book: The Story of Paul Byrd
(If he gets arrested) - I Know Why The Caged Paul Byrd Sings
(if he gets arrested for shooting a heckler) - How To Kill Someone Mocking Byrd

ON A RELATED NOTE: I'm not going to delve into areas that I'm not an expert in, because there's a lot of legality involved in this, and I don't know enough about the entire situation here...but the fact that George Mitchell has an association with the Red Sox, and this Paul Byrd thing broke the day of Game 7, seems awfully suspicious. It's almost like the Red Sox said, "You want to have our star pitcher's ex-girlfriend sing the National Anthem before he pitches at your place? Fine. We've got something to throw at you at our place..."

This steroids report, by the way, when it is released, which could be anywhere within the next couple of months, will be huge. And I don't know what my future as a baseball fan will be like when these names come out. There will be a lot of disappointment on my part.

WHY THE INDIANS LOST: If you read my previous posts, in which I predicted Fausto Carmona would win Game 6 for Cleveland, but wouldn't have bet money on it, I think there's something you should know. I think the Carmona prediction was with my heart, because I was sort of pulling for the Indians, like I've been pulling for the Rockies. But my head was saying, "You dope. The Red Sox are going to win these next two games at Fenway - there's no way the Indians will win." And I think the 'wouldn't bet anything on it' was my subconscious popping in with its two cents. So I think that's how you need to read into my predictions - I just can't make a sensible prediction.

That said, here's why the Indians lost: If you ever wanted to see what a team full of Jose Reyeses looks like, it was the Indians in Games 5, 6, and 7. You know how when Reyes presses (which for some reason he has been doing since August...had been, I should say), he pops everything up? That's what every batter in Cleveland's lineup was doing. Cleveland will be back in the future, because they're so young, and they should go far, because their star pitchers ought to pitch better in the big games. So they'll learn from the pressing they did this year, and I think they have a legit shot at winning in the next couple of years.

PREDICTION: With the World Series starting Wednesday night, I'll say this: The Rockies haven't really been intimidated by anyone this season - remember how they killed the Mets and Yankees back when both teams were playing good ball during the regular season? So I don't think they'll be intimidated by the Red Sox, or by the big stage. And I think this series will go 6 or 7 games. And though my head is saying the Red Sox win this (since they have home field in Games 6 and 7), I'm taking the Rockies, let's say in 6. It's hard for me to pick against the team I endorsed the day the playoffs started...and deep down (or actually, not very deep down...it's right out there on the surface) I'm a National League guy.

Understand, though, some of the people who I'm closest with in this world are Red Sox fans, so for them, I wouldn't mind seeing the Red Sox win. But, to quote Justin from NYC, when it comes down to it, with the Mets not involved, I "nothing" this World Series.