Sunday, August 15, 2010

Omar Minaya Actually Doing A Good Job This Season

I don’t wan to defend Omar Minaya. I don’t want to defend anything about the Mets front office. I think they are all terrible and the Mets won’t win anything until the entire organization is overthrown and that starts with the Wilpons selling the team. However I am going to make one daring statement. Is it possible that Omar Minaya has actually been doing a good job this season?

The 2010 Mets have been consistently inconsistent. Odds are they will finish somewhere right around 81-81. During the last offseason the fans cried for the Mets to either trade for or sign a premier starting pitcher. Everyone who follows the Mets knew that pitching was going to be the Mets biggest weakness in 2010. What did Omar Minaya do, he decided not to acquire a pitcher and instead spent his money on OF Jason Bay.

Fast forward to this season; the Mets are playing very well at home and awful on the road. As the trade deadline approaches both Roy Oswalt and Cliff Lee are available. Mets fans are begging the Mets to spend the money and acquire one of the two. After all, both Mike Pelfrey and Johan Santana are pitching like aces, and R.A. Dickey is proving to be a very pleasant surprise. Everyone believed the Mets were just one starter away from being a legitimate playoff contender. The trade deadline came and went and the Mets remained quiet, not making any moves.

When the Mets did nothing at the trade deadline many fans had had it with management. Many fans were calling for Omar Minaya’s head, claiming both he and manager Jerry Manuel needed to be fired. Many began to think that Minaya was only employed because he was keeping his mouth shut on the amount of cash the Wilpons were allowing him to work with, a number that many people believe is much smaller then the Wilpons are letting on. But perhaps maybe Omar knew exactly what he was doing?

While the fans have believed all season long that pitching is the Mets problem the truth is that hasn’t been the case at all. While the Mets did start the season with both John Maine and Oliver Perez in the rotation, they are both now gone, and have been replaced by a very good R.A. Dickey and occasionally the solid Japanese rookie Hisanori Takahashi. Mets pitching has a 7th best E.R.A. of 3.72. Furthermore the Mets also have pitched a league high 18 shutouts this season. The problem the Mets face is their manager gets matchup happy and often goes to the bullpen too soon, causing the relief pitchers to become overworked and therefore they are unable to hold onto leads.

The biggest problem the Mets face right now is with their bats, a problem that Omar tried to address during the offseason by signing Bay. Mets pitching has been unbelievable this season, the hitters however seem to be unable to get a hit even if the other team was only playing with six guys. During the offseason Minaya tried to address this by signing Jason Bay, who just hasn’t been hitting. While third baseman David Wright is 7th in the league with 77 RBI, his 126 strikeouts is not only staggeringly high, but often cost him RBI’s which cost the Mets runs.

The Mets simply are not getting offense from any parts of their lineup. While they have pitched 18 shutouts, the Mets have also been shutout too many times for a fans liking, as well as losing several games by a 2-1 score. The Mets pitchers are putting the team in a position to win, it’s the hitters who have been unable to come through for this team.

While I do think that Omar Minaya has made several mistakes during his tenure as Mets GM, his move of not panicking at the deadline and giving up prospects for unneeded starting pitching should be met with cheers, rather then the boos that it has been getting.

Friday, June 4, 2010

US Will Win World Cup Before It Wins WBC

“The Disease of More,” a term that according to Bill Simmons was used by Pat Riley to describe why it is much harder to defend a championship then it is to win one. Riley’s point was that when a team wins a championship, the following season the players are infected with the disease of more. They want more money, more minutes, and more shots, throwing away the tight team concept that had originally won them the championship. Teams not only have to beat the all the other teams to defend their championship, they also have to beat the disease of more.

I thought of the disease of more when I was reading ESPN the magazine’s World Cup preview. In the magazine was an excerpt from “ESPN’s World Cup Companion” where two writers, one American and one British, were discussing whether the United States would ever be able to win the World Cup. The article ended with Roger Bennett, the British writer, stating that the US would win the World Cup before it wins the World Baseball Classic.

My first thought was “wow! That’s a bold prediction.” About 10 seconds later I thought, that’s a really far-fetched position. However after thinking this over for a few more minutes I quickly realized something else. Roger Bennett’s prediction is not far-fetched at all; in fact, Roger Bennett is going to be right.

And that is where the disease of more comes in. The disease of more has evolved from not just basketball, but to American society as a whole. We constantly need more things to do; we live in a society where there is just so much else going on.

Look no further to prove this point then American television. All you hear about in sports is how ratings are down, how the World Series needs to be played at 8:30 at night because this way they could draw higher ratings at the expense of not allowing kids to stay up late enough to watch. The NBA finals starts late at night in an effort to draw better ratings as well. All you hear about during the playoffs is it would be a ratings disaster if the small market teams make the finals. Well you know what the real issue is, there is just so much more to watch.

With DIRECTV, satellite companies, cable, digital cable, all fighting for customers, prices are so low that practically everyone has access to at least basic cable nowadays, while many people have satellite or digital cable, which provides hundreds of channels on your TV. The result of this is obvious, there is much more choice with what we want to watch. The reason ratings are low isn’t because people care less, people today care just as little as people 20 years ago, the difference is 20 years ago there was nothing else to watch.

The influx of television channels has more effects on society. Kids can now sit in front of a TV and be entertained all day with the surplus of channels and video games. The consequence is kids are no longer outside playing sports. Their sports consists of the 3 hours a week of organized sports, no pick up ball or sandlot baseball. We are no longer getting kids with street talent, rather only kids with organized sports and structured within a system talent. That is where our national teams will begin to suffer.

This helps to answer the question of how could we expect to win on the world stage in soccer before baseball when baseball is our national past time? The answer is simple, there is just so much else to do. Kids would rather sit and play video games then go out and play baseball. Most kids’ sports are restricted to organized sports only, and right now, more kids in America play soccer then any other sport.

Though baseball may have been invented in America and be America’s past time that doesn’t necessarily translate to global dominance. After all, America’s global dominance is almost becoming non-existent in the entire sports world. We were proved to be human when we lost the gold medal in basketball in 2004, and we only won it in 2008 after putting together a team and saying, in order to play in the Olympics you guys need to play together for a full 3 years, and actually take the Olympics seriously. Same goes with the game of baseball. Baseball in America is now played by kids who can afford equipment, play in little league, and move up the ranks. Kids that cannot afford equipment, well, many of them gravitate to basketball.

Now compare this to Latin American countries where many people are impoverished. Kids make baseball gloves out of whatever material they could find, and spend every moment they can on dirt fields playing the game. It’s no wonder many of Major League Baseballs stars are from Latin American decent, the kids are playing baseball with every second of their free time.

The real reason Roger Bennett’s prediction will stand is because the United States will never actually win the World Baseball Classic, ever. There is too much else for American kids to do these days, and nothing else to do for kids in Latin America. More importantly look at the reason this tournament even exists, because of the disease of more; the tournament was created so MLB could make more money. And that’s really all this tournament is for the Americans. The players speak of the pride of representing their country, but who in this country actually cares. Compare that to the Dominican Republic, or Cuba, or the team that has won both classics, Japan. The tournament means everything to those players, fans, and countries, while in America it just means a way for MLB to make more money. America will never take this tournament seriously and therefore will never actually win the World Baseball Classic. And that is why Mr. Bennett is correct; the United States will win the World Cup before it wins the World Baseball Classic.

My Tipping Point With The Mets

Despite no longer having any papers to put off writing, or any tests to put off studying for, I’ve still been re-reading Now I Can Die In Peace by Bill Simmons. The book was a collection of Red Sox related columns written by Simmons from around 1998 until after they won the World Series in 2004. Last night I opened it up to where I left off and found that I was reading emails that were sent to Simmons by fans after Aaron Boone’s home run in Game Seven of the 2003 ALCS. When I first read the book at the end of 2005 these emails had no affect on me, but now, they make me think; they make me think of Game Seven in the 2006 NLCS when the Mets lost to the Cardinals.

Obviously the magnitude of these games was significantly different. The long-suffering Red Sox, finally thinking they would overcome the Yankees, only to have their manager ruin it for them. What really caught my attention was in his next column, when he talked about how there was a weird vibe of optimism in Boston that winter, coming after their worst heartbreak yet. He described the optimism coming after the team acquired Curt Schilling, and thinking, this team is coming back next year, we should have beaten the Yankees, we can beat the Yankees, next year we will actually beat the Yankees. Then I saw another email from a reader, talking about how after Game Seven he saw a group of 17 year olds totally in shock, with a “this was our year, how could this happen” look on their face. That email seemed way to have too many personal connections with me.

Those 17 year olds were me in 2006. I was 17 years old in October of 2006; I watched that team all season long, that team took over life to the point that one of my Mets fan teachers re-scheduled a test because it would have been the night after Game Two of the World Series. You know, because there was no reason not to expect the Mets in the World Series. We were the best, we dominated every team we played against. This was our year. We were by far the best team in the National League, the Yankees were having a down year (though somehow managed to finish with the same record as us), the World Series representative for the American League were the used to be awful Detroit Tigers. How could we not win the World Series?

It was literally a state of shock that fell over me after Game Seven. How could we lose? But later, I felt that same sense of optimism come over me though, we were the best this year, and were going to be even better next year. We would be back to win it next year.

Fast-forward to 2010, where we can look back on back to back September collapses, followed by a disastrous season in 2009, and then to now, where my tipping point has finally been reached. They say in Baseball that when you lay the foundation for a team that team has five years to win a championship. Well the foundation was laid in 2005, which is why in 2010 it is time for the Mets to blow this thing up and start over. The problem is they in no way can build another contender like that 2006 team.

2006 was the coming of a perfect storm for the Mets. They had Jose Reyes who was finally healthy, ready to be healthy for a full season. They had David Wright, about to enter his third season in the big leagues and was ready to make “the leap.” Furthermore they put the other pieces in place, a great center fielder in Carlos Beltran ready to prove something, and a new power hitting first baseman. We keep entering a new season thinking this year we’ll get back to the way we were in 2006, but really Reyes, Wright, and Pedro Feliciano are the only people who are playing now that played for the Mets in 2006. (There are two others that pitched for that team that are still with the Mets now, John Maine and Oliver Perez. Look at how that has turned out for the Mets).Gone are the ever important role players, guys like Cliff Floyd, who took David Wright under his wing as a rookie, and Jose Valentine who mentored Jose Reyes.

The 2006 Mets were made up of a core group of players as well as veteran role players who you knew what you were going to get from them. Paul Lo Duca behind the plate, you knew he would work the count and let Reyes steal bases and get into scoring position, something that was incredibly valuable for those Mets. Now we have Luis Castillo bunting Reyes over to second. Steve Trachsel was our #3 starter, you knew he would take forever to pitch and would give up a lot of runs, but knowing this, he got run support, and led the team in wins that year. The Mets were lead by a young core who in their early years were being mentioned in the same sentence as the words “Hall of Fame.” Now the Mets are lead by a core that people question if they will ever be good enough, surrounded by a bunch of question marks. The moment has passed this team. There is no more “we’ll be back next year” feeling like the 2003 Red Sox had, there is no “wait till next year” cry that was made famous with the Brooklyn Dodgers in the late 40’s and early 50’s. The team needs to be completely rebuilt.

This is not an easy task; there is no Jose Reyes or David Wright waiting in the wings. There is no third year potential superstar ready to make the “leap.” Look at where the team is where this team is now, and lets look ahead by two years. Ike Davis will be a third year player ready to make “the leap,” but who will be around him. Reyes and Wright will be at the tail end of their prime, there will be no more Beltran, Johan Santana will be near the end of his contract and that’s working on the assumption that he doesn’t kill himself for never getting any run support or killing the Mets bullpen for being unable to hold a lead for him. Jason Bay will be old and not able to hit the ball out of CitiField as opposed to the Jason Bay of today who can’t hit the ball out of CitiField.

When I read the Red Sox fan reaction after 2003 I compared it to my reaction after 2006. However I then came to realize that those fans were rewarded with a World Series win the following year, but for me, I realized it would be much worse. There was no next year for the Mets, or the year after, and now it will be a long time. The Mets are battling mediocrity this year in a very mediocre National League, but they are unable to pull away. Furthermore in the years coming there is really nothing bright to look foreword too. The Mets will continue to float around mediocrity for years to come, and that chance to win the World Series has come and gone for the foreseeable future.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Misreading the Market

According to Maury Brown and “The Biz of Baseball,” the Mets are down 15 percent in attendance at this point in the season compared to last season, which is good for 6th worst in Baseball.

The Mets have blamed this on poor April weather; the teams bad play last year, and the economic downturn.

Meanwhile over at Jets camp, the Jets still have plenty of PSL’s they have yet to sell. The team is not lowering the prices for these unsold PSL’s and they are confident the team will sell their remaining seats.

Both the Jets and the Mets have people that are hired to look at the market and the way the market is moving, and set their prices accordingly. But in the last two years, we have seen the Jets, Giants, Mets, and Yankees, all grossly misread the market. The Mets blame empty seats on bad play last season, while the Yankees won the World Series last season and are still struggling to fill up their stadium during the regular season.

How did four teams in the New York Market all misread the market so egregiously? Do they not realize in the land of HDTV, the quality of the home team commentators, it is just much simpler and more relaxing to stay home and watch the game at home. Furthermore, one of the things Citifield got rid of was the prestigious $5 upper deck ticket. My senior year I was woken up by a phone call one day in May that said “I’m picking you up in 15 minutes, were going to Shea, its 5 dollar tickets.” That was it, a completely spur of the moment decision. Now, getting to Citifield is a process. Spend money on tickets, spend an additional $20 dollars on parking, spend two hours getting there because of NYC traffic, and spend two hours coming home because of never-ending construction on the RFK/Triboro bridge.

Going to a Mets game now is a 5-11:30 pm process. The same thing could be said about going to the Meadowlands. You need to get there at around 12 for a 1:00 game, and even though it’s only 10 minutes away, there is two hours of traffic waiting for you after the game. A simple three hour football game becomes an all day affair.

Watching the Mets on TV on the other hand, you don’t have to get there until 7:00 and the moment that game is over your already home; not to mention the much shorter bathroom lines. With the quality of HDTV and the prices of tickets, the market is really saying that staying home for games is just that much more convenient and cheaper.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

United Didn't Have a Clue

Well it finally happened. Last summer, when Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez both left Manchester United, the three time champions were always being written off as a title contender for the 2009-2010 season. They lost two important stars and all they added was an aging Michael Owen, and replaced Ronaldo with Antonio Valencia who had no hope of filling Ronaldo’s boots. The big United fans kept hope however, the rest of the league was a bit weaker, Rooney was going to play down the middle this year and score more goals and we would be ok.

What then happened was Rooney played down the middle and scored 34 goals in all competitions. With Rooney firing away, United were back on top of the league, with Rooney going, United were going. Still, it soon became obvious United were too dependant on Rooney, and questions arose as to whether they would be able to hold on and win the title again. Soon it became obvious they wouldn’t, and at the end they came up 1 point short of Chelsea.

So United just missed the title by one small point this year and now I will ask, did they even have a plan for this season?

While it may seem hard to question a team that finished one point behind the champions the question of whether United had a plan needs to be asked. Last season, many of United’s younger players earned the chance to shine throughout the Carling Cup competition and ended up winning the cup for United. The future looked bright with these young players coming through the ranks. When Tevez and Ronaldo left last summer, many fans saw this upcoming season as a rebuilding this year. The team had only made one new signing, bringing in the young Antonio Valencia, but we had many young guys that we figured would start to get more playing time and experience this coming season.

But then the season started and the young guys weren’t playing. United, who have a lot of players who are beginning to get up there with age seemed to be throwing their chips in for one last hurrah with the older players. One more shot at the title. But then the older players weren’t getting it done, and it was clear that we just weren’t going to win with this team. Fergie started sprinkling some young players in here and there to mixed results. The end result was not winning the title.

It is very easy to look back in hindsight and second guess, but I was ready to write this post back in December. When things were just lackluster for United I decided, this team needed to make a choice. Throw all your chips into the pot for one more title this year, blow it up next season and start again, or start getting ready for next year now. Truthfully I thought they should have taken the latter.

While the performances of guys like Paul Scholes, Gary Neville, Ji-Sung Park, and John O’ Shea were very good towards the end of the season, would it have been better for the team if they didn’t play as much as they did. United have bright young stars that were not seeing the field this year. Fergie spoke of how much he liked the games of guys like Federico Macheda, Darren Gibson, and the Da Silva twins. When it came down to it, with the exception of Gibson, these players barely saw the field this season. I know they all battled injuries but they still should have played more. Gibson went through a fantastic run of form at the end of December, but after United’s youngsters lost their FA Cup match against Leeds at the beginning of January, Gibson took an extended spell on the bench. Macheda started the season healthy, but only played a half hour in the first Carling Cup match when he was the one who was subbed off after Fabio had been given a red card. He wasn’t heard from again until coming on to score a goal against Chelsea in April. Fergie then said he’d be an important player for the rest of the season, but even though Fergie had already lost faith in Dimitar Berbatov, he still chose the Bulgarian over taking a gamble and giving the young Italian even a chance.

While United got hot towards the end of the season, and during March it looked like they had legitimate chances to win both the Premier League and the Champions League, I was still indifferent. At this point, we had almost killed our chances for next season. Our young players weren’t gaining experience, and it was clear that we would bring in one or two new big names, but we would still be relying on our older players to turn in stellar performances again next season.

Fergie claims that part of the reason United have been so good late in games and in close games is because when his older players were young, they played in those games, and lost those games. They gained the experience by losing. But somehow that didn’t transfer to this current crop of youngsters. After the FA Cup loss to Leeds, many of them didn’t see the field again for a while, even Gibson who had been playing well. Gibson then got a chance to impress again in the home leg of the Champions League, he played well and even scored the first goal of the game for United, he was rewarded by not starting another game all season. Young defender Rafael, who for a time had won the starting right back job last season, got the call at the San Siro against AC Milan. His task was to contain Ronaldinho. At first it looked like it would be a disaster, but after 10 minutes Rafael settled down and played beautifully the rest of the game. After the game Fergie said Rafael had played very well in a big game and had gained valuable big game experience. His reward, for the home leg Fergie picked Gary Neville at right back, citing reasons as “experience” for why Neville was chosen. Rafael did get a chance against Munich, where he was sent off, possibly causing United to bow out of the Champions League. He only made one more appearance for the rest of the season after that.

It’s easy to say I’m wrong right now and that United still came very close to winning the title. It’s easy to quote reasons like, “if the referees would just enforce the offside rule on Didier Drogba then United would have won the title by 5 points,” or “if Michael Carrick doesn’t miss a penalty against Burnley on the second day of the season then we win the title,” or even “there was a point in the season where we only played with a back three, and two of them were midfielders.”

While all those reasons are true, back in December I decided that I would rather have been watching the young players more often. While I enjoyed the ride all season, and dreamed of what could have been, that thought was always in the back of my head, we still should have and should be playing the young guys. Rafael should have been playing over O’ Shea and Neville. Gibson should have been getting many more starts then he was. Macheda should have been getting many more appearances. When the young guys impressed in their Carling Cup outings Fergie would glow about them and talk about how more first team appearances would come. But when 9 first team defenders were injured and Fergie decided to play with a back three of Fletcher-Carrick-Evra instead of giving a young guy a chance I grew more and more confused.

So at the end, when United came up short, the question must be asked, did United have plan? At the beginning of the season they were mixing in the young guys, talking about getting them big game experience, but when it all came down to what matter, Fergie turned towards his older players time and time again. Now I worry that we may have set ourselves back for next year, and may be going through more of the same next season.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Jerry Manuel Is Clueless On How To Use A Bullpen

April 19th 2010. It was a day that sparked a renewed optimism for the Mets, and gave new hope for their fans. After last season, fan confidence was low; it grew a little bit during spring training, and then was once again shattered during the teams 4-8 start. In a move that was clearly scheduled to happen right from day one, on April 19th the Mets called up first base prospect Ike Davis whom all the fans had been waiting for. The move has looked great so far; Davis is hitting .318 with a Home Run and 2 RBI’s in his first week in the big leagues. More importantly the Mets are 6-1 since calling him up. April 19th could be looked at as the day that saved the Mets season, but it wasn’t. April 19th 2010 is the day that ruined the 2010 Mets season, and has possibly caused more long-term damage.

Lets be fair, this is not an “Ike Davis is not ready for the majors and should still be developing in the minors” article. This is an “Ike Davis may be saving Jerry Manuel’s job article,” and that is a problem. The Mets might be playing great baseball right now, and Manuel may look like a genius for moving Jose Reyes to the #3 spot in the order but there is no way the Mets can make the playoffs with Jerry Manuel running the show.

When Jerry took over in June of 2008 he immediately steadied a sinking ship and put the Mets right back at the top of the division. The Mets started pitching, Carlos Delgado started hitting, and the Mets were winning again. They looked like they were going to move past the collapse of 2007. What happened next was almost an exact repeat of 2007, only this time it was different culprit, the bullpen simply could not close out a game.

By the time September of 2008 came around the Mets bullpen was exhausted. It became a struggle to hold onto a four run lead over two innings. At the time it looked like the Mets bullpen just lacked talent, but really there was a bigger reason for the bullpen collapse, Jerry had no idea how to use them, and now were heading for more of the same.

I know its only April and it is still early but there is no way the Mets can go to the playoffs if they continue to be managed like this. Coming out of spring training, confidence was high about the Mets lineup, however many questions were raised about the starting rotation and the bullpen. Through almost one month of the season, the lineup has been pretty bad, until Ike arrived, the rotation has been amazing and the bullpen has been amazing. The problem is our bullpen has been usage is among the highest in the league. There is no reason I should be reading that going into Sunday’s game Fernando Nieve had pitched in 12 of 18 games. There is no reason that Pedro Feliciano, who has set appearance records for the Mets in each of the last two seasons, has at least warmed up in 14 of 18 games. There is no reason that K-Rod should have thrown 100 warmup pitches in the bullpen before entering the 20-inning marathon game against the Cardinals in 19th inning. Actually there is a reason; when it comes to the bullpen, Jerry Manuel has no idea what he is doing.

Jerry said at the beginning of the year he didn’t have roles for any of his relievers yet, but we all know Jerry favors certain guys. He said on opening day that 20 year old phenom Jenrry Mejia would not pitch the 8th inning. So for some reason Mejia never pitches the 8th inning even though he’s been stellar this season, as Jerry opts to use Nieve and Feliciano instead, even if they are tired. Jerry will always call to his “comfort pitchers.” Right now they are doing great, and even better, were learning Feliciano can get right handed batter out too, but how will this end?

There is history behind the situation unfolding, very recent history actually. In fact every year in April we become shocked to learn that Pedro Feliciano can get right handed hitters out as well as left handed ones. But then every year in May when we start playing the Phillies Feliciano moves back into the left-handers only role, with Jerry refusing to let him pitch to anyone else. By the time mid-summer comes along, Feliciano is already tired and overworked, and can’t get those lefties out anymore, thus turning him into a guy who warms up pitches to one batter and leaves the game.

Question marks were also raised this season about the Mets rotation. With the exception of some shaky John Maine starts the rotation has been awesome. The one problem has been, they’ve barely been pitching. I’m not a big fan of pitch counts but I do understand their merit. However Jerry is living way too strictly by them, especially since he doesn’t change it depending on the pitcher. They say the number of pitches a pitcher throws should be around 100, but that number is too low. Pitchers really can throw up to 125 pitches a game before completely losing effectiveness, but they should not be hitting the 125 mark every outing. In reality pitchers should be looking at 110-115 pitches a start. Jerry has the bar very set at 100. Even when pitchers are doing well, even if the pitcher is Johan Santana, too often Jerry has removed pitchers after 6 innings and 103 pitches. Over the last week he removed Oliver Perez and Jon Niese before they completed the 6th inning despite good outings. He used lines like “I want Olli’s confidence to remain high so I took him out after a good outing.” This can’t keep happening, at a certain point you need to let your starters, even your young ones go out there and work and get through tough times, or you need to say to Johan, we need another inning out of you go get it. I know its early, but at this rate this bullpen is going to be exhausted by June.

When Jerry took over the Mets in 2008 it took him just 2 and a half months to tire out the bullpen. He has no idea how to use it. Mets games used to last 2 hours 50 minutes. Now I’ll turn on a game in the 7th inning and still be watching 90 minutes later because Jerry needs to make a pitching change every batter, at a point your just overdoing it. The Mets need a manager who understands you don’t need to use your bullpen 3 innings every single night, and you can’t have every pitcher warm up every night. My anger culminated last night when the Mets played a rain shortened 5-inning game. The game was called 1 pitch into the 6th inning. Even though our starting pitcher did not give up a single run, Jerry still managed to find a way to warm up TWO different pitchers on the night. It may only be April, and we may be winning right now, but very soon these pitchers are going to be exhausted from throwing every day, and the Mets will be unable to turn over a 4 run lead to their bullpen, and all the positives will be wiped away. Mets fans may be happy now, but at this rate, they will be very angry, very soon.

Monday, March 8, 2010


I’ve had about 9 million different ideas for entries over the course of this year about Cristiano Ronaldo’s exit from Manchester United to greener pastures of Real Madrid. However every time I thought of one, I would forget to write it, and usually that weekend United would either win big, or get killed and prove whatever point I was going to make wrong. But now as the season is winding down and the title race is incredibly tight I’m ready to bang this out.

The media have begun to fall in love with a certain idea about this post-Ronaldo season for United. There seems to be an overwhelming number of people who are writing about how since Ronaldo left Wayne Rooney has emerged as United’s most valuable player. While yes this is true, that Rooney is having his best season ever and is absolutely incredible, he is not JUST emerging as United’s most valuable player. The truth is, Rooney always has been the heart and soul of that team.

I could swear that I wrote about this topic a few years ago, but looking through my disappointingly small archives I discovered apparently I haven’t. Wayne Rooney is the ultimate team player, they say he doesn’t care what position he has to play, but that he’ll be happy if he just gets to go on the pitch and kick a ball around for 90 minutes. This became evident when Critiano Ronaldo emerged as the worlds best player, often moving to the center of the field, and exiling Rooney down the left flank.

When Ronaldo left this year it was announced Rooney would go back to his central role. Many pundits wondered how United would cope without Ronaldo, but United fans knew that putting Rooney back in the middle was almost like bringing in a whole new player. We were going to see a completely new Wayne Rooney this year. I’ve always known how potent Rooney was in the middle; I never understood why they exiled him down the left side. In United’s 2008 European Champions League away match with AS Roma, Rooney played down the left side. For 10 minutes Sir Alex Ferguson moved him back to the middle. It took Rooney just two minutes to score after that switch, and moving him back out to the left, perplexing, followed it.

In the first post-Ronaldo year at Old Trafford, many people believe United are TOO dependent on Rooney. There defiantly is some truth to the statement. In the Champions League and Premier League this season Rooney has only not started in 3 matches. Once because of a knee injury, once because he just had a child, and once just to give him rest. In two of those matches United played with only 1 striker, Dimitar Berbatov, who excelled at showing the world that we overpaid for him, and that he cannot function as the only striker on the pitch. We did manage to win both games 1-0. The other match, a home tie against CSKA Moscow, Fergie was forced to bring on Rooney with 30 minutes to play, and Rooney helped ignite a comeback earning a 3-3 draw. Most recently, Rooney was rested against Aston Villa in the Carling Cup final. That rest lasted 30 minutes before Rooney had to replace injured Michael Owen, and of course save the day by scoring the winner.

This all of course comes in light just after witnessing this weekend’s match, where Rooney was forced to miss the match due to an injury. United played with only Berbatov up front. The result was a fail of epic proportions. It took United a long time to learn how to play with Rooney as the only striker, they finally have gotten the hang of it, but in truth only Rooney can make it work. The team mounted relatively no attack from their wingers and Berbatov, who are essential in this formation. Deploying this formation just helps to show how we wasted our money on Berbatov, and how because of this we lost Carlos Tevez.
What many people fail to see is that Rooney was just as valuable with Ronaldo on the team as he is now. In 2008 Ronaldo scored 42 goals in all competitions. United just kept winning and winning, most of the time with Ronaldo being the only goal scorer of the game. That season Rooney hit a good run of form in October, and again in February, but both times that great run in form was halted by an injury. Furthermore, he also went down injured in the first game of the season. While many said that with his 42 goals Ronaldo was easily the most valuable person United had in the team, there was someone else who made his motor go. Rooney got injured 4 times that season, not once did United ever win the first game that Rooney missed. Rooney was hurt in the first half of the first game of the season. United drew 0-0. He missed the next few games; United would follow the first match with a 1-1 draw, then a 1-0 loss. While they would win the next four games, they would only score 4 goals, all 1-0 wins. As soon as Rooney came back the goals started pouring in. The next time Rooney went down it was followed by a 1-0 loss to Bolton. He would go down again and United followed that with a loss to West Ham.

Rooney has always been the heart and soul of United. While Ronaldo scored the goals, Rooney was the engine that got Ronaldo going. So please, Rooney being United’s most valuable player is nothing new. He always has been.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Rex Ryan Turns His Swag On

I’m upset. I’m not upset because the Jets lost, they played well and lost to a better team. You could not ask for more from a 9-7 team with a rookie quarterback. I’m upset because it’s over.

The term “same-old-Jets” gets thrown around this team so often. For the fans, it has come to mean the Jets will get your hopes up and then just when you think everything is going well they will stab you and lose. You hear it so often. After the 2004 playoff loss to Pittsburgh there were cries of “same-old-Jets.” We heard them in 2008 when the team started out 8-3 and finished 1-4 and missed the playoffs. The reality for Jets fans was quickly becoming the belief that this team would always let us down. But that would all change in January 2009.

Rex Ryan came in as the new Jets Head Coach with swagger and a plan. Ryan came in talking, saying the Jets won’t back down from anyone, saying the Jets were the team to beat, and that the Jets would win a Super Bowl during his tenure as Head Coach. YEA RIGHT!

The first step was getting the players to buy into his system, it didn’t happen overnight, but it happened. The hard part was getting the fans to buy into Rex’s swagger. He said the term “same-old-Jets” didn’t apply anymore, that this was a new team with a new attitude. Why should the fans believe him? We had no reason to believe him, but then the season started.

The Jets were 3-0. More importantly the Jets were fun to watch. Specifically their defense was fun to watch. When was the last time the Jets had a defense that was fun to watch? We had a rookie coach and a rookie quarterback walking around with a swagger; really, the two of them were a match made in heaven.

The Jets started the season 3-0, now all of a sudden they’re 4-6. Sanchez had a hot start, then he started playing like a rookie, and now he was REALLY playing like a rookie. Well it was fun while it lasted but these are the same-old-Jets.

But that’s where Rex Ryan brought his swagger, he didn’t give up, he took a larger role in the offense and the development in his rookie quarterback. More importantly he didn’t let his team stop believing. At this point the Jets were playing ugly football, and watching the games was, well it was like the way watching a Jet game used to be, ugly football and waiting for the other shoe to drop. Then the Jets lost an ugly game to Atlanta, they were all but eliminated.

Just when we thought the Jets were eliminated from the playoffs something crazy happened. If four (it actually might have been more I don’t remember) teams lost their games in week 16 the Jets would control their own playoff destiny. Win the last two games, and they’d be in. Miraculously every team the Jets needed to lose lost, now we just had to beat the unbeaten Colts. When we first looked at our schedule back in April we knew there was a chance the Colts would have nothing to play for and may rest their starters, as a nice holiday gift for the Jets, the Colts gave us Curtis Painter who gave us really bad play and a win.

Following the win against the Colts it suddenly started happening. The players had now fully bought into Rex Ryan, and now the fans were too. We believed we would make the playoffs, and then we believed we could make a run in the playoffs. Rex was still running his mouth and saying things that we thought were a little too far fetched, but then he was turning out to be right. Suddenly we all believed what he was saying; the swagger Rex carried was rubbing off on the fans. Suddenly not even Jets fans were throwing around the “same-old-Jets” phrase anymore, we truly believed times were finally changing.

So I’m upset that the run is over. Rex Ryan has made watching Jets games fun again. The games are exciting, the defense is once again fun to watch, not only that but the fans carry the swagger that even though no one believes in us we knew we would win. Rex Ryan has changed the whole outlook of the franchise, there is optimism floating around the Jets for the first time in god only knows how long. It’s upsetting because we can no longer watch this team week in week out.

It’s fitting that we lost to Peyton Manning and the Colts. After the game I got a text from a friend saying “AP Coach of the Year Peyton Manning?” I almost believe Manning should get the award. I honestly believe that of the four teams in conference championship games the Jets were the second best team. I really believe they would beat both the Saints and Vikings. I do not think any coach could have figured a way to beat our defense; therefore we would shut down both the Vikings and Saints. On the other hand, I never doubted that Peyton Manning would be able to figure out our defense. I think he is the only person on the planet that could figure it out. So it’s not so much the sting of losing, we lost to who I believe is the only person who could have beaten us. Peyton Manning, not his coach, not any other coach in the league.

The unfortunate part is that this run is over, but for the first time in a long time Jets fans feel that this run is just going to start right back up again in week 1 next season. We have some improvements to make, but we have the perfect piece at the center of the table. A man who is not only a great football mind, but a man who had the power to bring a swagger to a franchise hasn’t had any in 41 years, and a fan base who thought they were doomed for a lifetime of failure.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Kaeding Didn't Choke: It Was Written.

I spent this past Monday morning driving from Boston back home to New Jersey. One of the perks of this road trip was that for the first time I got to experience the much talked about WEEI Sports Radio in Boston. Those guys can only be described as “special.”

When I got in the car they were debating who Patriots fans should be rooting for in the AFC Championship game. Should it be the division rival Jets, or should it be the team they’ve been battling this past decade the Colts. The guy on the air finally settled on the Jets for three ridiculous reasons. The first was that if Peyton Manning loses to the Jets who were a number 5 seed in the playoffs it would settle the Manning vs. Brady argument and Brady would be better (That is the worst logic I’ve ever heard. There is no argument there, Manning is better, who cares what Brady has done in the playoffs, you want proof just watch film of the two of them). The second reason for rooting for the Jets was this way the Colts will not win the Super Bowl and then in everyone in Boston could have fun watching either the Saints or Vikings destroy the Jets in the Super Bowl. (That’s right because obviously if the Jets defense is good enough to stop the Chargers and Peyton Manning on the road in back to back weeks they obviously are not good enough to stop either the Saints or Vikings on a neutral field.) Yes this guy gets paid to think like that, there is hope for me yet.

He then moved on to talk about how the Jets should not even be here and that they are only here because Nate Kaeding choked last week. I’m not totally buying into that. Was it really Kaeding’s fault for missing three field goals on Sunday?

Lets first look at the numbers. Yes Kaeding was the most accurate kicker in football during the regular season, but going into the game against the Jets he was 3 for 6 in his career in the playoffs. That’s right; Kaeding was only a 50% field goal kicker in the playoffs. Even Shaun Suisham hits more then half his field goals. This was not as much of a joke job as just the norm with Kaeding, when the big moment comes he shrinks. You could have said the same thing about Peyton Manning until 2005 when he won the Super Bowl.

Getting away from the numbers let’s look at the situation Kaeding was put in. Did you see the field on Sunday? It looked nice didn’t it? Well did you also see how many people were slipping and losing their footing in the first half? Forget about Jim Nantz working the announcer’s jinx to perfection on that first kick (though a very big thank you to you Jim). The whole first half people were slipping when trying to make cuts on almost every play. When it’s hard to plant your feet it is not exactly easy to set your feet for a field goal. This was not an easy field to kick on, yes, Jay Feely hit all three of his kicks but his first extra point came dangerously close to missing. This was not an easy field to kick on.

I don’t think anyone is holding the second field goal against Kaeding. It was a last second 57-yard field goal that would have tied his career long. It was defiantly not a sure thing.

Now lets get to perhaps what was the most important (and perhaps his worst miss) kick of the game; Kaeding’s last field goal. Kicking in the NFL is more mental then anything. It’s all about confidence. Nate Kaeding was the most accurate kicker in the NFL, he defiantly had confidence. That is until he got rattled. When Kaeding came marching onto the field for his third kick his face looked like he was thinking, “I know I can do this, I’ve done it before, I SHOULD be able to do this.” Anyone who has played sports knows that there is no room for “I think,” “I can,” or “I’ll try,” there is only room for “I will.” Nate Kaeding did not have the “I will make this kick” look on his face. Already, even before the kick he had lost the battle. Even after his third miss he had a chance to make an extra point, he came out with an “I will make this extra point” look on his face, and he put it right down the middle. It was all about confidence with Kaeding and after 2 misses he had a moment of doubt, and when kicking field goals is a mental game, a moment of doubt is all it takes to screw up.

The Chargers were going to miss that kick as soon as Kaeding trotted out on the field without the swagger a kicker needs. Head Coach Norv Turner should have seen the lack of confidence his kicker had and sent the offense back out to go for the first down. The look on Kaeding’s face said it all “I should be able to do this,” not “I will do this” and when you saw that look, you knew he was going to miss.

With all that being said opposing kickers are 0-5 on field goals in the playoffs against the Jets. Maybe Indy should be thinking there just might be a higher power here and that they shouldn’t even tempt fate by using their kicker. Maybe I should keep my mouth shut before I give them an idea and see the Colts score a touchdown on a 4th down play.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Mets Have Terrible Medical Team

Carlos Beltran getting surgery on his knee is perhaps the least shocking story I’ve heard in a while. All I could ask is why not get it sooner?

The Mets are upset about Beltran’s surgery remained adamant that he did not need surgery. I’m pretty sure the Mets have already lost all their credibility when it comes to injuries. The Mets have easily the worst medical team in the major leagues. This is a team that had a concussed Ryan Church fly on an airplane, then pinch-hit in a game, only to sit him down 6 days after the injury. This is a team that made Carlos Delgado fly from New York to San Francisco just to have his knee evaluated, and then they made him fly back to New York.

The funny thing is the Mets still don’t think Beltran needed surgery. Hello! His knee has been bothering him since he hurt it midway through last season when he said he needed surgery!

I will always refuse to trust the Mets medical staff as they have mishandled many injuries over the years. The Mets are a poorly run organization and until they clean house of the entire front office and put in some sort of structure this franchise will stay in a spiral of mediocrity.

Monday, January 4, 2010

This Needs To Be Brought To Everyones Attention

I couldn't really figure out why the link wasn't actually working, and I'm tired so just paste that into your browser.