Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Random Thoughts from the Passionate Sports Fan's Mind V

We know Tom Coughlin may be fired, but would the Giants seriously consider trading Eli Manning?
Calm down, Giant fans. Yes, Eli has had a bad year, but you are turning him into the new Roger Maris: excellent player, overly unappreciated. If they trade him, your team will be mediocre for years afterward.

If the Jets face Kansas City in the first round of the playoffs, they WILL lose.
You need to run the football to win in January, and Kansas City can certainly do that. With the defensive struggles of Gang Green in recent weeks, what makes you think they will stop Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones on the ground?

Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell calls America "a nation of wusses" after the postponement of Sunday's Eagles game due to the Blizzard of 2010.
Imagine if a blizzard happens the day the Meadowlands hosts the Super Bowl. What will the NFL do then?

Devils fire John MacLean, rehire Jacques Lemaire.
Johnny Mac should be grateful he's away from this mess. With Marty past his prime and Ilya under contract for 14 more years, get ready for a decade of mediocrity, Devils fans.

Andy Pettitte still undecided about retirement.
It's as simple as this for the Yankees: If he comes back, there is hope for #28 in 2011. If not, wait until 2012 to hope.

The 7-8 Rams visit 6-9 Seattle Sunday night to determind the NFC West champion.
Do yourself a favor and root for Seattle. I want to see the outcry from the fans, league, and media over a 7-9 division champion!

With one week to go before the playoffs, my Super Bowl pick at the moment is Patriots-Eagles.
This is despite last night's no-show by Vick and co. With their playmakers, I expect Philly to make a lot of noise in January. But if they don't make it, don't be surprised if the Saints make it again.

And my non-sports thought of the week:
Is anyone else happy to not have to deal with Christmas music overkill on the radio until next year? I mean, starting Christmas music non-stop on some stations BEFORE Thanksgiving? No wonder we are all so overindulgent at Holiday time!

Everyone have a safe, healthy, and happy New Year! Next week will be my NFL regular season wrap-up, plus awards and playoff predictions!

NFL Picks for Week 17 (2-2 last week, 19-21 overall)
NE -4 over Mia
NO -7 1/2 over TB
Buf +3 over NYJ
SEA +1 1/2 over Stl

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Worst Chokes in New York Sports History

Maybe I have a morbid fascination with death, or I am simply a drama whore. Either way, despite the fact I am not a Giants fan, I couldn't help but marvel at one of the most unforgettable NFL games of my lifetime this past Sunday. When the history of the NFL is written, we will talk about Sunday's 38-31 Eagles comeback in the same breath as the Buffalo-Houston, Giants-San Francisco, and Jets-Dolphins epic comebacks. Giant fans will take this loss to their graves, no matter if their team makes the playoffs or even makes another miracle Super Bowl run.

It got me to think of the worst chokes in the history of New York sports. And there have been plenty between all eleven professional sports teams in the Tri-State area. New York sports haters, this is your day to smile! Here we go...

10. Reggie Miller scores eight points in the final 12 seconds of Game 1 of the 1995 Playoffs to shock the Knicks.
This was the lowest moment of the Patrick Ewing era. Miller had scared the living daylight out of the Knicks in the previous year's playoffs with his epic Game 5 performance, and he shattered their hearts into pieces the next year, and relished every single moment of it. The Pacers go on to win the series in 7 games, thereby ending possibly the last legit chance for the Knicks to win an NBA title in the Ewing era.

9. Dan Marino's fake spike against the Jets in the 1994 season.
In one of the biggest regular season games in the history of the Jets franchise, they held a 24-21 lead in the final seconds. Marino took a snap, then looked up and froze dead in his tracks, thereby throwing off the rhythm of the Jet defense. Suddenly, Marino threw a perfect strike to reciever Mark Ingram in the corner of the end zone, shocking the Jets and ending their opportunity to move into first place in the AFC East. The Jets would go on to lose their last four games and finish 6-10. Head coach Pete Carroll was fired after the season.

8. Miracle at the New Meadowlands.
You know how it happened. 31-10 Giants with 7 1/2 minutes to go. The Eagles score. The Eagles recover an onside kick the Giants were totally unprepared for. Michael Vick ran wild. The Eagles tie the game. Punter Matt Dodge fails to punt out of bounds. DeSean Jackson goes all the way. Tom Coughlin throws Dodge under the bus on the field. The Giants blow their chance at the NFC East title.

7. Giants blow 38-14 lead in 2003 playoffs to San Francisco, lose 39-38.
This all culminated with journeyman long snapper Trey Junkin's botched snap, and the failed hail mary desperation pass by punter Matt Allen (with a missed pass interference call). This marked the beginning of the end of the Jim Fassel/Kerry Collins era. Two years later, Eli Manning and Tom Coughlin arrived.

6. Mariano Rivera blows 2001 World Series Game 7.
Even the greatest of all time is human. Everything that could go wrong did go wrong for Mo in the bottom of the 9th inning in Arizona. An errant throw, a double down the right field line, a hit batsmen, and a bloop single over a drawn-in infield. It was the end of the Joe Torre dynasty, as Paul O'Neill and Scott Brosius retired, and Tino Martinez left as a free agent. The Yankees would suffer more postseason failures until their 27th title in 2009.

5. Jets lose '86 AFC Division playoffs to Browns in Double OT.
Gang Green appeared to be on their way to the AFC Title game with a 20-10 lead close to the two minute warning of the 4th quarter until Mark Gastineau got flagged for roughing the passer. Given new life, Bernie Kosar led the Browns to a touchdown and a field goal before the end of regulation. The Browns would win the game on a Mark Moseley field goal in the second overtime period, ending the Jets' best chance to win a Super Bowl in the Ken O'Brien era.

4. Brooklyn Dodgers blow a 13 game lead, lose pennant to Giants in 1951.
Whether or not the Giants were stealing signs, the Dodgers still pulled off one of the epic regular season collapses in the history of baseball, culminating with the Shot Heard 'Round the World, which still resonates to this day.

3. Mets blow 7 game lead with 17 games to play in 2007.
This collapse still haunts this franchise to this day. The Mets became the first team in MLB history to blow a 7 game division lead with 17 games to play, ending with future Hall of Famer Tom Glavine allowing 7 runs in the first inning of Game 162 against the Florida Marlins. The Mets missed out on the division and wild card (to the archrival Phillies no less) as a result. The next year, though not as epic, the Mets again lost to the Marlins on the final day of the regular season in the final game at Shea Stadium to miss the playoffs by one game.

2. Miracle at the Meadowlands (1978).
They say every cloud has a silver line, and this is the greatest example in the history of the NFL. The Giants were a sad-sack franchise at the time. Joe Picsarcik fumbling a handoff to Larry Csonka, recovered by future Jet head coach Herm Edwards and returned for a touchdown to give the Eagles an unfathomable victory was rock bottom for the G-Men. But not only did this play change the franchise for the better, but it changed the NFL. As a result of this play, every single NFL team (or football team, for that matter), instructs their quarterback to take a knee with possession of the ball and lead in the final seconds of a game, simply to avoid a similar fate. As for the Giants, they fired their entire coaching staff and front office, and brought on George Young. He would go on to hire Bill Parcells as head coach, and draft Lawrence Taylor and Phil Simms. This lead to a new era in Giants football, including two Super Bowl wins. The Giants have become one of the most respected and classy organizations in all of sports since.

1. Yankees blow 3-0 series lead to Red Sox in 2004 ALCS.

Honorable Mentions
Yankees blow 1995 ALDS to Mariners
Yankees blow 1981 World Series to Dodgers, Steinbrenner breaks hand
Mets lose 1988 NLCS Game 4 on Mike Scioscia's HR
Giants blow 1997 playoff game against Minnesota
Doug Brien misses two field goals at the end of regulation, Jets lose 2004 AFC Divisional playoff to Steelers in OT
Jets miss 2008 playoffs with Brett Favre and Eric Mangini after 8-3 start.
Knicks blow 3-1 series lead in 1997 playoffs to Miami after Game 5 brawl at the Garden
Chris Drury scores with 7.7 seconds left, Sabres beat Rangers in OT in Game 5 of 2007 Conference Semifinal
Rangers blow 3-1 series lead to Capitals in 2009 playoffs
Devils allow two goals in final minute of Game 7 of 2009 first round to Carolina

NFL Picks for Week 16 (1-3 last week, 17-19 overall)
GB +2 over NYG
CLE +3 over Bal
Sd -7 over CIN
Det +3 1/2 over MIA

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

What Now for the Yankees?

For the first time in over a decade, the Yankees did not get their man. Nearly 95% of their offseason was banked on a potential high-priced acquisition of Cliff Lee. Now that he has chosen to return to Philadelphia, the Yankees have major holes in their starting rotation, and have likely fallen behind the hated Red Sox with their acquisitions of Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez. Before all the irrational, media-manipulated Yankee fans jump off the George Washington Bridge, it's important to remember that they made it to Game 6 of the 2010 ALCS with essentially the same roster they have right now. So it is not out of the question that the Yankees can return to October glory in 2011. But they will need help.

The remainder of the Yankee offseason should be centered around the following five strategies:

1. Do NOT trade for Zach Greinke.
Forget his social anxiety issues and the potential to become the next Ed Whitson in New York. Greinke has only had one ace-caliber Major League season, his 2009 Cy Young season. If you look at his stats from last season and 2008 and before, what exactly screams the word "ace" to you? In 2010, he went 10-14 with a 4.17 ERA and a 1.25 WHIP. In 2008, he went 13-10 with a 1.28 WHIP. Solid, but not ace material. Before 2008, Greinke did not have ONE season with a .500-plus record since his Major League debut in 2003. There is no denying this man's talent, but to me, he is more of a number 2 or 3 starter. If the Yankees decide to mortgage the farm for him, they'd better realize what kind of pitcher they are getting. Then pray he can handle New York.

2. Convince Andy Pettitte to come back for one more year.
Let's face it, the Yankees need Ol' Reliable Andy now more than ever with Lee out of the picture. Before second half injury issues, Pettitte, at age 38, was on his way to the best season of his career. He went 11-2 with a 2.70 ERA, made the All-Star team, and was highly considered a Cy Young Award favorite. Who's to say that if he stays healthy throughout 2011, that he can't at least approach a 20-win season? Of course, it will cost the Yanks more money to convince him.

3. Trade for a viable #2 or #3 starter behind CC. As mentioned before, Greinke would be a good fit as a 2 or 3 starter, IF makeup weren't such an issue. The Yankees will have to get creative here. Josh Johnson of the Marlins would be a perfect fit, but the Marlins wouldn't dare trade him one year before opening their new ballpark. Carlos Zambrano? Don't even get me started. Chad Billingsley? It may take top prospects Jesus Montero AND Austin Romine to get him to New York, and that is far too much for a non-ace. Other possibilities may be Fausto Carmona of the Indians and Francisco Liriano of the Twins, but both may not be available, either.

The man the Yankees should seriously consider trading for is Derek Lowe of the Braves. Atlanta is desperate to unload his contract, and Lowe would be a perfect innings-eater for a depleted Yankees staff. Assuming Pettitte returns, The Yankee rotation would consist of Sabathia, Pettitte, Lowe, Hughes, and Burnett. That is a solid enough rotation if all are healthy, especially in the AL East. Lowe is a gamer, knows the AL East well from his years in Boston, and would fit the Yankees nicely. Also, the Yankees may not have to give up their A-list prospects for him.

And by the way, if anyone even thinks the Yankees will throw money at Carl Pavano, I will personally come after you on the streets in a Ferrari filled with supermodels and hemmorhoid medication in the glove compartment!

4. Bring back Kerry Wood and spend, spend, spend on the bullpen!
At this point of the offseason, Kerry Wood is better suited to returning to the Yankees, since no teams seem desperate for a closer. Perhaps he is waiting to see what Rafael Soriano does before he makes his move, but Wood was a perfect fit as the 8th-inning bridge to Mariano Rivera last season. Maybe the Yankees can convince Soriano to be the set-up man, giving the Yanks a potential 6-7-8-9 inning combo of David Robertson, Wood, Soriano, and Rivera. That would be scary for the rest of the American League. Also, the Yankees should take a long look at Pedro Feliciano for a second lefty to complement Boone Logan, as their lefty options are running thin at this point. As for Joba Chamberlain? I personally believe he will be traded in a potential deal for a starting pitcher. If not, he provides incredible depth in an already deep pen assuming the Yanks load up.

5. Pray, PRAY A.J. Burnett gets his act together.
The Yanks are stuck with him for the next three seasons, with what is essentially an untradeable contract. Burnett is the key to the Yankees' success in 2011, and I'm not talking about the clubhouse pie-throwing contests. Burnett's 2010 season will go down as one of the most historically bad in baseball history. A playoff team that boasted a pitcher with a 10-15 record and a 5+ ERA reveals two seperate dynamics for next year's team. If Burnett duplicates his 2010 year, the Yankees will struggle to make the playoffs. If he goes out and has the best season of his career, and his mechanics are completely fixed by new pitching coach Larry Rothschild, the Yankees should at least get in to the postseason as the wild card. Burnett has the talent to be an ace on half the Major League staffs. At age 34, time is running out for him to show it. Next year needs to be that year.

NFL Picks for Week 15 (2-2 last week, 16-16 overall)
Phi +3 over NYG
DAL -6 over Wsh
NO +2 over BAL
PIT -6 over NYJ

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Random Thoughts from the Passionate Sports Fan's Mind IV

The Jets get destroyed by the Patriots 45-3.
If this doesn't humble the Jets, nothing will. Also, for those that believe the Jets have been lucky, this kind of loss may cripple their season.

Steelers defeat the Ravens 13-10.
The more talented team didn't win Sunday night. The team with the most heart did.

Josh McDaniels out as Broncos head coach.
Can one man single-handedly ruin a great franchise? This man came damn near close. It will take years to clean up the mess he made.

Boston acquires Adrian Gonzalez.
If they can sign Carl Crawford and get bullpen help, pencil them in for a 115 win 2011 season, assuming they stay healthy. God help us all if so. Oh by the way, do any more Red Sox Nation members want to continue to complain about the Yankees' payroll?

Nationals sign Jayson Werth for 7 years, $126 million.
Similar contracts: Giambi, Jason (NYY); Zito, Barry (SF); Hampton, Mike (COL); Wells, Vernon (TOR). I thought Washington needed to curb reckless spending? Enjoy this contract, Washington. Which brings us to the Nationals potentially...

...Offering Cliff Lee a 7 year deal.
1. Can we call the Nats Yankees South if this happens?
2. Good luck signing Ryan Zimmerman!

The Knicks are playing competitive basketball again.
YAWWWWNNNN. Wake me up if they make the finals.

The Rangers have the best road record in the NHL, but one of the worst home records.
Can this team get some consistency, please? Then, trade for Brad Richards and make a deep playoff run, perhaps? Oh yeah, fire Sather, too.

Rutgers misses out on a bowl game for the first time since 2004.
Not to split hairs with Greg Schiano, but where is this great football program we all expected?

And my non-sports thought of the week:
The fact that President Obama had to bow down to the GOP and allow for an extension for tax cuts for the wealthy in exchange for an extension for unemployment benefits is an out and out disgrace. It brings several things to mind:
1. The Republicans want the lower and middle classes to die in this country.
2. This economy won't be fixed during this current administration.
3. For the first time, I am leaning toward not voting for Obama in 2012. He caved in to the pressure and showed that he doesn't have the guts to take a stand or make difficult decisions in the White House. But that will NOT mean I am voting Republican. The day I vote Republican for anything is the day the sky turns green.

NFL Picks for Week 14 (2-2 last week, 14-14 overall)
DAL +3 1/2 over Phi
Cle +1 over BUF
Atl -8 over CAR
NE -4 over CHI