Monday, February 23, 2009

I Hate Being Wrong, Except When I'm Wrong

So they actually went through with it. Earlier today the Rangers fired head coach Tom Renney and assistant coach Perry Pearn. Maybe I’m just cursed, I have four teams that I follow intensely; in the past 7 months three of those teams fired the man in charge. Fittingly it is my only team that doesn’t play in America, Manchester United that is the exact opposite, showing stability and having a manager who has been in charge for just slightly longer then Gary Williams has been the basketball coach here at Maryland.

I can’t say anything about Eric Mangini, but I know I was against the firing of Willie Randolph, but Jerry Manuel seemed to light a fire under the Mets last year and initial reports out of spring training are filled with optimism. I recently made my case for Tom Renney, and Jim Kelly’s sports illustrated article seemed to fall right in line. ( Kelly compares the management between the Rangers and the Devils, which ultimately has turned the Rangers into a joke.

Renney was 164-121-42 in 5 seasons with the Rangers. That’s a pretty good record for a team that hadn’t made the playoffs in 8 seasons. He was unfairly fired this year, as Kelly points out, “When your forwards are ineffective, your defense is incapable, your special teams are incompetent and your goaltender is inundated with shots, that's not bad coaching. That's an inept hockey team.” The fault here doesn’t fall onto Renney, you could make an argument that Perry Pearn, the man in charge of the Rangers terrible power play deserves to go, but not Renny, the fault here falls on the man who built the team. That team was put together by Sather, the man who fired Renney. Again the only person with the power to fire Sather is the inept James Dolan, whoever comes into New York should send Wade Redden down to the minors, and just wait until Dolan realizes how much he’s paying for a minor league player. That might be the only way for him to realize how bad the Rangers management was.

Unfortunately I don’t see the Rangers responding to this the way the Mets responded when their manager was fired. The Mets were a much better team then Willie was getting out of them. The Rangers on the other hand are a terrible team, and sometimes don’t even look like they know how to play hockey. The Rangers will likely miss the playoffs this year and we could probably start counting how many years their going to miss the playoffs again.

I just hope I’m wrong.

Monday, February 16, 2009


This was supposed to be written Sunday, after the Rangers dreadful showing against the Flyers. I decided to hold off on that, when I wasn’t sure whether I was more bothered by the fact that the NBC commentators noticed how bad the Rangers were after watching just one game, or whether it was because everything they said was justified. I also wanted to wait a night and see whether the commentators on Versus would be able to pick up on anything. Turns out not only does nobody watch Hockey on Versus, but the Versus commentators showed that they themselves don’t really watch any hockey other then what’s on Versus.

I just watched the Rangers show off their dreadfulness, again. Many people in New York are now calling for Tom Renney’s head, citing that his team is playing unmotivated undisciplined hockey. The problem here is, Renney isn’t to blame. Yes right now he is not doing his job well, but this year he was put into a situation where it’s almost impossible for him to succeed. The problem falls onto the shoulders of perhaps one of the least competent people in all of New York, James Dolan. You may remember when Dolan took over control of his fathers entities which include Cablevision, the Knicks, and the Rangers. Now Cablevision is by far the worst TV distributor in the New York area, and is terribly run, he was a hands on owner with the Knicks and ran them down the drain, he ran a great talent evaluator in Dave Checketts out of Madison Square Garden and as bad as he is as a hands on owner of the Knicks he’s been awful as a hands off owner of the Rangers.

The Rangers biggest problem right now seems to be that Dolan has no idea what is going on with his team. If he did he would realize that its general manager Glen Sather that needs to go and not Tom Renney. Unfortunately for the Rangers Dolan probably has no idea about this and Renney is likely to be the one to go. Now I don’t agree with everything that Renney has done, in fact he’s butchered a few situations, namely Petr Prucha who never plays anymore, when he really should. But coaching aside Renney is in a position where he can’t win, and it’s his general manager that put him there.

Glen Sather has a history of terrible free-agent signings. Just look at the teams put together from when he first came to the Rangers until the year after the lockout. In fact you can argue that Sather shouldn’t even get credit for the post lockout years because for the first year the “new” NHL couldn’t stop Jaromir Jagr. All the trades he made in the rebuilding process before the lockout to get the Rangers their post lockout team, only Michael Rozsival, Blair Betts Henrik Lundqvist, and Petr Prucha, who rarely plays, are left on the team. Renney’s problem is that Sather has again crippled him with crazy contracts. Bringing in defenseman Wade Redden and re-signing Michael Rozsival is absolutely going to cripple the Rangers. The worst of these signings though is when Sather drove away Jagr, and then threw $8 million a year at Markus Naslund, who really looks like he doesn’t know how to play hockey. Renney has players on the team who will go all out for him, the only problem is those are the guys making no money, and there the ones he could bench if they don’t play well. However his hands are tied with guys like Naslund and Redden, two players making crazy amounts of money and absolutely killing the team.

Sather’s moves are not only hurting the Rangers this season but are locking them into a cap problem for the next few years as well. Meaning these guys are tied down to the team which will make it very hard for the Rangers to improve, let alone make any changes. Yes right now Tom Renney is not doing a good coaching job, but part of motivation also falls onto the players on the team. The Rangers have been crippled by a bad GM; they need a new one who will have the very tough task of trying to re-make this team despite the absurd unmovable contracts. The biggest problem, I highly doubt James Dolan knows that there’s a problem and that he needs to fire Sather, if he doesn’t, Sather will feel the pressure and unfairly fire Renney.

Monday, February 9, 2009

The Mets lineup isn't strong enough to compete with the Phillies....REALLY?!?!

You can argue that George Steinbrenner has ruined baseball in different ways. You can blame him for starting the free spending craze that has pushed the free agent market to ridiculous highs, and has broadened the gap between the big market teams and the small market teams. But I’m here to blame him for something else; because of George Steinbrenner it is all of a sudden a problem in New York, if your lineup doesn’t have 9 all stars in it day in and day out.

The Mets defiantly have their problems with their team, but it’s starting to get ridiculous how many “holes” they have in their lineup. A few years ago George decided his lineup wasn’t good enough because he didn’t have all stars all over the field. Eventually he fielded a team that had a guy who was batting over .300 batting 9th! Somehow that team, which didn’t win the World Series, has become the standard through not just New York but all of baseball. This whole off-season I’ve heard a lot about how the Mets lineup has holes and the team isn’t addressing these issues. It’s true the Mets don’t have 9 all stars in their every day lineup, but their lineup isn’t flawed either; the standard is now being set too high.

The Mets issues this off-season was their bullpen, not their lineup. They addressed the issue that was their bullpen but now all of a sudden everything thinks their lineup is too weak to compete with the Phillies. Where are these weaknesses coming from? The Mets lineup is relatively the same as last years, but so is the Phillies, shouldn’t that make their lineup stronger then the Phillies? The Mets blew around 30 saves last year. Had games ended after 6 innings the Mets would have won the division by almost 16 games! Had games ended after the 8th inning the Mets still would have won the division by more then 5 games. Last year the Phillies pulled off something remarkable and rare, every time they had a lead after 8 innings they won the game; meaning their closer came into the game and did what he was supposed to do, close out the game. The Phillies had a 65-9 record when leading after 7 innings last year, and their first loss in that category came in late August against the Mets.

The point here is, the Phillies won the division by a mere 3 games. New York Mets pitcher Johan Santana won 16 games last year. What is crazier is that 9 times last year he left the game with a lead and watched the bullpen give it up. Had the Mets held onto just 4 of those games, still blowing 5 saves, Santana would have won 20 games and the Mets would have taken the division by a game. This just emphasizes how the Mets lost the division last year because they couldn’t pitch late in games, the Phillies were able to finish the job and close out the games. The thing is, in order to give up a late inning lead; you have to have a late inning lead. The Mets lineup got them far more late inning leads then the Phillies did, it was simply the pitching that couldn’t hold onto it. The bottom line there was games that the Mets lost, and there were games that the bullpen blew. The Phillies only had games that they lost, every game that they gave a lead off to their bullpen ended up being a win for them.

Both teams are brining back relatively the same lineups as last year. The core of the Mets lineup last year, Reyes, Wright, Beltran, and Delgado were the only people who really played the entire year last season. The team had multiple catchers, multiple second basemen, and multiple corner outfielders all year and still put the team in position to win far more games then the Phillies did. The non all stars that helped them do this, like Fernando Tatis, Daniel Murphy, and Ryan Church are now being called “holes” in the teams lineup. In truth the only hole the Mets have in their lineup is the dead carcass that is 2nd baseman Luis Castillo.
Last year this lineup was mostly unknowns filling in for injured players, this season we know what the Mets lineup is going to look like, and it’s the same lineup that put them into a great position to win the division. The problem that was needed was a bullpen overhaul, and that’s the problem that was addressed. The Mets didn’t address their lineup because they didn’t need to; their lineup is just as strong, if not better then the Phillies.