Saturday, September 23, 2017

PIGSKIN 2017: Week Three



PIGSKIN

FOOTBALL SUNDAY
Week Three

RESULTS

Scoreboard
Week Two Record:  6-9
Overall Record:  10-16-1
Schmear of the Week:  1-1
Bagels in the Basket:  -7

1st and Ten:
  • President Donald Trump said on Friday, players who kneel during the National Anthem should be fired by the NFL's respective team owners.  Uh, isn't that illegal Mr. President?
2nd and Short:
  • A judge's decision has cleared the way for Ezekiel Elliott to participate in at least the next two games.
No Gain:
  • What are these London, England, games all about?  Future Expansion?  Isn't that what the old European League of American Football was all about?  And failed?  Just think of the onerous travel potentially facing teams like the Cardinals, Rams, Chargers, Raiders, 49ers, and Seahawks.
PUNT!
  • Chargers football in Los Angeles?  So far, they have 25,381 fans.  Great reception; great start.   Not.

Week Three
Friday Line ~ NYDN

EAGLES -6 (Giants)
Philly should double-team Odell Beckham all day long.  If they don't, they're fools.  The Giants can't run the ball; they can't pass protect.  And neither Sterling Shepard nor Brandon Marshall are enough to get the offense through the day.  Giants have managed just 13 total points through two games. Expect more of the same.

Dolphins -6 (JETS)
Even potentially jet lagged after flying in from San Diego, the Fish are just a better team that the Jets.

Ravens -4 (Jaguars) London
I guess convincing victories over the Browns and Bengals should warrant some respect for the Ravens.  The Texans showed us last week exactly where the Jags stand.

Browns -1 (COLTS)
A baseball man, Paul DePodesta, is gonna save the Browns ... or so Cleveland hopes.  Remember the Browns effort against the Steelers?  I 'member.  Otherwise, this is a great time to be playing the Colts. If this spread were wider, I'd be singing a different tune.

Steelers -7 1/2 (BEARS)
The Steelers have baffled me for two years now.  My head says this is a six-point game, but my heart says lay the points.  Pittsburgh needs to bring the pain against the Bears in order to validate their 2-0 start.

Broncos -3 (BILLS)
What the hell is Las Vegas thinking?  I'd love to know.  Must be a trap!  Lay the points.

PATRIOTS -13 (Texans)
Texans whooped the Jaguars, then just barely got by the Bengals.  On the other side, we know Brady and Simon Bar Belichick like to run up the score whenever they can.

Saints +6 (PANTHERS)
Drew Brees and Saints already know it's desperation time.  Their offense has scored 39 points in defeat so far.  But, I know what you're saying - the Panthers have so far given up only six points.  I get that.  But they've played the 49ers and Bills, and just barely squeaked by the latter.  Cam Newton will be playing this week on a hobbled foot.  That evens the playing field a bit.  Take the points.

Bucs +1 (VIKINGS)
Sam Bradford will miss his second straight game.  A good Bucs team will prevail.

Falcons -3 (LIONS)
Nice match-up! Stafford vs. Ryan.  However, unlike what the Lions defensive line did against the Giants, particularly Eli Manning, the Falcons offensive line will keep Matt Ryan upright and clean.

TITANS -2 1/2 (Seahawks)
The Seahawks are making a habit of coming on late in seasons.  They squeaked by the 49ers in Week One, then managed only nine points during good weather in Green Bay.  If the Titans win time of possession, the Seahawks are doomed.

Chiefs -3 (CHARGERS)
Andy Reid has been at this a long time.  He's a good coach, and the Chiefs will be among the AFC's final four.  Beating the Patriots was no fluke.  The Chiefs then followed-up with a win over the Eagles.  At least Los Angeles spectators will see one good team on the field.  Said another way, the Chargers have no chance.

Bengals +9 (PACKERS)
Say hello to another desperate 0-2 team.  If the Bengals really care about Coach Lewis, then they'll play competitive football Sunday in Green Bay.  No excuses ... the weather will still be nice, etc.   Covering nine points would be good enough for me.  But them Cats are still gonna get Marvin Lewis fired.

Raiders -3 (D.C.HOGS)
This is another one of those Las Vegas spreads that makes me scratch my head.  I think the Raiders win by two touchdowns.


Schmear of the Week: (1-1)
Chiefs -3

Guten Appetit
Roast pork shoulder, Spanish rice, platanos, avocado and tomato salad, and a bread pudding.


Good luck, and have a great Football Sunday everyone!


Thursday, September 21, 2017

N.Y. Giants: Coach McAdoo Masterminding His Own Dilemma

From the desk of:  DO IT FOR THE DUKE


Head Coach Ben McAdoo 
Joins Opposition In Assault Against Eli Manning

New York Football Giants: Delusional Head Coach Implements Flawed Offensive System, Then Blames Eli Manning For Poor Results.


Ereck Flowers played terribly this past Monday night.  We know.  Although I find myself disagreeing with Coach McAdoo more and more, the head coach is right about one thing - the problems facing the offensive line affect the entire unit, not just one person.

First on the docket, pass protection.  After allowing three sacks and four QB hits during Week One against the Cowboys, the Giants offensive line allowed the Detroit Lions five sacks, and another eight QB hits.  Do the math, and that's eight sacks, and twelve QB hits through their first two hours of football.

Second, the running game remains inept.  The Giants backfield rushed just ten times for thirty yards against the Lions.  Add that to their Week One totals, and the Giants have thus far rushed 26 times through two games for a mere 85 yards.

Now ...

Lack of skill/talent aside, herein lies the real problem with the Giants offense.  Coach McAdoo thinks he's running a West Coast style offense (or variant thereof).  I watched Coach Bill Walsh and Joe Montana both invent and perfect the West Coast offense during their run together with the San Francisco 49ers.  Therefore I say with great confidence that Coach McAdoo could not be getting this more wrong.

In very simple, loose terms, the West Coast style is predicated on three-step drops, slants, timing patterns, and above all, quickness.  It's a system which dares opposing defenses to blitz, creating a "damned if you do/damned if you don't" situation.  Yet, it's patient enough to take what is given.  Just look at the Patriots ... the modern day masters of West Coast.  Tom Brady is a statue in the pocket, but no one gets to him because he gets the play off too quickly.  It's the speed with which a QB makes his read, executes, and/or dumps off to the backfield (or throws it away) that is most key in keeping the quarterback clean and minimizing pressure on the offensive line.

Coach McAdoo has certainly changed the offensive philosophy around here over his three-plus years with the Giants.  Eli's completion rate under McAdoo is up, but his yards attempted per pass are way down.  While that's an affect of the West Coast system, Coach McAdoo's version looks much like the same Kevin Gilbride set at the line of scrimmage, replete with five to six step drops (even from the shotgun, and he's still getting sacked).

There's a common link among the offensive braintrust; a bridge between Gilbride and McAdoo; and his name Mike Sullivan.

But I'm not going there ...

The system also requires balance, meaning, the ability to run the ball.

It's Jerry Reese's fault the line is so dreadfully bad.  And it's Jerry's fault that a franchise which once prided itself for playing smash mouth football has all but abandoned the run.  There's no getting around it - poor offensive line play is killing this team, and just might get Eli hurt.  West Coast demands a far more intricate brand of play from the offensive line than the Giants are presently staffed to execute.

But it's the increasingly delusional head coach's faulty implementation of his West Coast hybrid presently putting Eli in harms way.  It's this delusional head coach who also continues minimizing the offensive line deficiencies, and instead seems hell bent on destroying his quarterback's moral.

See?  Damned if you do ... damned of you don't.

Just saying.


Wednesday, September 20, 2017

L.I. Ducks: Liberty Division Playoff Preview

From the desk of:  THE WEBBED SPIKES NINE




LIBERTY DIVISION 
PLAYOFF

GAME ONE
Somerset Patriots
vs.
Long Island Ducks
FROM
Bethpage Ballpark

Long Island Ducks: Flock Holds On to Win 2nd-Half Flag; Face Rival Somerset Patriots in Liberty Division Playoff.

Here we go again ... the Long Island Ducks/Somerset Patriots rivalry resumes Wednesday evening at The Pond.  And quite frankly, I don't think Ducks and Patriots fans would have it any other way.

Prior to 2014, the Ducks and Patriots faced off just once in the post-season.  That came in 2013, when Long Island defeated Somerset in the finals to capture their second consecutive Atlantic League title.

But a genuinely intense rivalry has clearly emerged since then.

In 2014, league realignment moved the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs out of the Liberty Division, and into the Freedom Division.  The Somerset Patriots in turn switched from the Freedom into the same division with the Ducks.  The Patriots finished first overall in the Liberty Division that season but bowed out of the division series.  After posting back-to-back championships, the Ducks, however, failed to qualify for the playoffs in 2014, finishing both halves of the season in second place, six games behind the resettled Pats.

In 2015, the Long Island Ducks again finished both halves of the season in second place behind Somerset.  Although Long Island still gained a playoff spot via the Wild Card, they were defeated by the Patriots in the Liberty Division series, whom would go on to claim their Atlantic League leading sixth championship.

The Ducks finally snatched the Liberty Division back from the Patriots last season, finishing two games ahead of Somerset to clinch the first-half flag.  Undeterred, Somerset went on to clinch the second-half flag, finishing seven games ahead of the Ducks.

Somerset jumped out to a commanding 2-0 series lead over Long Island in the Liberty Division series, highlighted by Game Two's 10-1 romp over the Ducks.  With Long Island facing elimination, the series shifted to Bethpage Ballpark.  Back in The Pond, the Ducks staged a stunning comeback, reeling off three straight victories to win the 2016 Liberty Division title.

Long Island's potential storybook ending ended there, however.  The Sugar Land Skeeters swept three straight games from the Ducks during last year's Atlantic League finals.


MISSION: GET BACK TO FINALS

This year's road back to the playoffs was a perilous one.  Long Island closed out the month of September with a 5-11 record.

Owning a six game lead ahead of second place Bridgeport, the Ducks began a stretch (Sept. 7-17) of 12 games in 11 days in which they struggled to a 3-8 record.  Meanwhile, the red-hot Bluefish were swimming strong, and over the Sept. 9 weekend swept the Ducks in their final home series at the Pond. By doing so, Bridgeport won potential tie-breaker rights away from Long Island (should that have come into effect), and also threatened having the gates at Bethpage Ballpark locked shut till next Spring.

Why?

Because Long Island was now faced with playing their final seven games of the regular season on the road, and more importantly, needing to protect their fast eroding division lead.

With a magic number of two heading into the Sept. 15 weekend, Long Island at last managed a key victory in Sugar Land that Friday, as Bridgeport also emerged victorious over the Patriots.  Then despite Long Island's loss against the Skeeters on Saturday, Bridgeport's loss to Somerset finally awarded the second-half flag to Long Island (with just one more game left in the regular season).

Somerset punched their ticket to the post-season by winning the first-half flag, finishing with a league leading 42-18 record.  However, they barely finished just one game ahead of the second place  Fish.   The Patriots 7-9 record in September was only slightly better than Long Island's. Somerset lost six of their last ten games, but at least ended the regular season with a pair of victories.

Ironically (perhaps not so much for Bridgeport fans), the Bluefish finished tied with the Lancaster Barnstormers for the best (76-64) overall regular season record.  Yet, each team failed to qualify for the post-season.  This was the Bluefish final regular season in Bridgeport.  They made a hell of a push during each half of the season.  Unfortunately, this charter member of the Atlantic League will be relocating for the 2018 season.

Long Island posted an 73-67 overall record which was the league's third best mark behind Somerset's 74-65 record.  The Ducks and Patriots have faced each other 20 times this season.  Long Island was 6-4 at the Pond, and played to par (5-5) in Somerset.


Runs Scored:  LID 598; SOM  628

Team Average:  LID .263; SOM .270

Home Runs:  LID 110; SOM 81

Team Slugging:  LID .391; SOM .374

Team OPS:  LID .725; SOM .729

*

Team ERA:  LID 4.12; SOM 3.90

Average Against:  LID .260; SOM .251

Team WHiP:  LID 1.4; SOM 1.3

Strikeouts:  LID 1,030; SOM 1,051



The York Revolution host the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs for games One and Two of the Freedom Division playoffs.



Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Hudson Valley Renegades Win 2017 NYPL Championship

From the desk of:  THE FISHKILL NINE



DUTCHESS STADIUM
home of the 
Hudson Valley Renegades
2017
NEW YORK-PENN LEAGUE 
CHAMPIONS
1999    2012


Hudson Valley Renegades: Fishkill Club Wins Third New York-Penn League Championship.

I saw my first ever New York-Penn League game back in 1994 at Dutchess Stadium when the Hudson Valley Renegades were still an affiliate of the Texas Rangers.  So as a Brooklyn Cyclones fan, I would like to congratulate the Fishkill Nine for eliminating the Staten Island Yankees - because after all, the enemy of my enemy is my friend.  Then of course, congratulations for winning a third NYPL championship.

With a 46-29 regular season record, it was actually the Staten Island Yankees who posted the league's best record with a 46-29 mark.  Hudson Valley was a close second with a 44-32 league record, but finished 2.5 games behind in the race for the McNamara Division flag behind the Yankees.

Being the Wild Card seemed to suit the Renegades just fine, though.  After taking Game One of the McNamara Division playoff by a 5-2 margin, the series shifted to Staten Island.  There, the Yankees won Game Two by a 4-1 score.  But Hudson Valley roared back in Game Three with a decisive 7-1 series clinching victory.

In the other semi-final series pitting the Stedler Division versus Pinckney Division champs, the Vermont Lake Monsters made quick work of the latter division's Mahoning Valley Scrappers, completing a two game sweep.

The New York-Penn League championship series commenced on Wednesday, Sept. 13, at Dutchess Stadium, where the Renegades gained a 3-2, 13-inning opening game victory over the Monsters.

Burlington, Vermont, hosted Game Two on Thursday, where Hudson Valley completed a sweep of the Lake Monsters.  A home run by Renegades shortstop Taylor Wall capped off a five-run, second inning outburst, from which Hudson Valley never looked back en route to a convincing 6-0 victory.

Renegades starter Drew Strotman tossed six innings of one-hit ball, issuing one walk and fanning five for the victory.  Reliever Andrew Gist allowed no hits, walked two, and fanned three over the final three innings for the save.




Sunday, September 17, 2017

PIGSKIN 2017: Week Two



PIGSKIN

FOOTBALL SUNDAY
Week Two

RESULTS

SCOREBOARD
Week One Record:  4-7-1
Schmear of the Week:  0-1
Bagels in the Basket:  -7

1st and Ten:
  • New England Patriots ... So much for going undefeated.  Meanwhile, Tom Brady serves a lengthy suspension last season for his alleged involvement in deflating footballs.  Yet, Ezekiel Elliott is still playing.
2nd and Long:
  • New York Giants: Team than can least afford to start season with two straight losses.
No Gain:
  • After losing their first two games by a combined score of 33-9, Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis risks becoming their former coach ... again.  If he doesn't get fired, I'll show you a general manager not doing his job.
PUNT!
  • Opening Day at the Black Hole in Oakland.  Curious to see if the future Las Vegas Raiders will be playing in front of highly apathetic fans.


WEEK TWO:
Friday Line ~ NYDN


RAIDERS -13 1/2 (Jets)
The Jets take another step closer to the #1 overall pick in next year's draft.  If, last week, the Jets lost by nine points in Buffalo, what do you think will happen in the Black Hole?  For Coach Todd Bowles, when it rains, it pours.
WIN  45-20 Raiders

Titans -2 (JAGUARS)
This will indeed be a close game.  Titans are coming off a tough home loss against Oakland.  The Jags can surprise, but I think the Titans are put together just a little better than the Jags are at this point.
WIN  37-16 Titans

RAVENS -8 1/2 (Browns)
After last week's performance, I'm forced to rethink the Ravens.  After last week's gutsy performance, I still can not be sold on the Browns.
WIN  24-10 Ravens

PANTHERS -7 1/2 (Bills)
Memo to Buffalo ... these aren't the Jets.  This strikes me as a ten point game.
Loss  9-3 Panthers

Patriots -6 1/2 (SAINTS)
Hard to go against the Saints at home, but I expect an extremely perturbed Tom Brady to correct last week's loss against the Chiefs.  Not sure when the Patriots last lost two games in a row.
WIN  36-20 Patriots

Cardinals -7 (COLTS)
Cards won't defeat the Colts in a romp like the Rams did.  But I'll bet they cover this game with ease. Carson Palmer should play better than he did against the Lions.
Loss  16-13 Cardinals

Eagles +5 (CHIEFS)
I know what the Chiefs did last week to New England.  The match-ups are different this week, and I think they favor Philly's defense.
Loss  27-20 Chiefs

Vikings +6 (STEELERS)
The Steelers put forth a disappointing performance last week against Cleveland.  That said, the biggest question surrounding this game centers around the health of Sam Bradford.  He might be able to fight through this game (with a recurring knee issue), but who knows what the rest of his season will bring.
Loss  26-9 Steelers

BUCS -7 (Bears)
This is essentially the Bucaneers' season opening game.  They are going to be a tougher team than people realize.  The Bears hung around last week (and covered the points) in Atlanta.  But, at the end of the day, however, they're just Da Bears.
WIN  29-7 Bucs

CHARGERS -4 1/2 (Dolphins)
Like the Bucs, the Fish have yet to play a game.  The Bolts barely lost to Denver last Monday.  With a game under their belts, look for them to cover at home.
Loss  19-17 Dolphins

D.C. Hogs +2 1/2 (RAMS)
This is a game I'd avoid like a plague.  If there's such a thing as a desperation game in Week Two, for the Hogs, this is it.
WIN  27-20 Hogs

Cowboys -2 (BRONCOS)
Denver can stuff the box in an effort to neutralize Ezekiel Elliott if they want.  But Dallas' O-Line will still give Dak Prescott time to throw (find Dez).  The Cowboys offensive balance, therefore, will win out.  The Cowboys defense is not as good as it looked against the Giants.  But I still don't see the Broncos outscoring Dallas.
Loss  42-17 Broncos

SEAHAWKS -14 (49ers)
An angry team, playing at home, against a dysfunctional organization.
Loss  12-9 Seahawks

Packers +3 (FALCONS)
Tough call ... Packers covered last week against the Seahawks > job well done.  The Falcons playing at home pushed against the Bears > suspect.  Vegas sees this straight up, so lay the points and hope for the best.
Loss  34-23 Falcons

*GIANTS -3 1/2 (Lions) Monday Night
I have only one decent reason for justifying this pick - the Giants defense against Matt Stafford.   Otherwise, the Giants offense can't run; they can't protect Eli; and it looks as if Odell Beckham Jr. will miss another game.  Did you see the kind of game Carson Palmer had against Detroit last week? Yeah ... so I'm counting on turnovers, defensive points, field goals.
Loss  24-10 Lions

Schmear of the Week: (0-1)
Buccaneers -7

Guten Appetit:
Shrimp skewers on the barbie, lobster rolls, crab cakes, and some good old fried calamari.  Tomato salad with cucumber, bell pepper, minced parsley/basil, fried onion crumbs, thin sliced almonds.  I picked up some crisp kristall weizen beers for the occasion.


Good Luck, and have a great Football Sunday everyone!

Post-Game:
Week Two Record:  6-9
Overall Record:  10-16-1
Schmear of the Week:  1-1
Bagels in the Basket:  -7


Wednesday, September 13, 2017

L.I. Ducks: Losing Altitude

From the desk of:  THE WEBBED SPIKES NINE


Flock's Lead Down to Two Games 
With Five to Play

Long Island Ducks: Struggles Continuing Through the Final Stretch.

Like a piano falling out of the sky ...

Long Island's untimely struggles continued Tuesday evening in Lancaster where the beleaguered Flock dropped their sixth straight contest, this time against the Barnstormers.  While no consolation, the Ducks at least have the Skeeters to thank for putting the breaks on Bridgeport's recent surge with a 5-0 whitewashing of the Fish in Sugar Land.

As a result of Tuesday's loss, Long Island's once comfortable Liberty Division lead over the Bridgeport Bluefish is now down to just a pair of games, with five games left in the regular season.

Tuesday's starter John Brownell pitched 6.2 innings in a losing effort, allowing three earned runs on six hits and three walks, with three strikeouts.  The Ducks offense, however, is only averaging 2.4 runs per game over their last eight.  It's no coincidence, then, the Ducks have scored the third least runs in the league, and own the third lowest team average.

Just saying ...

The York Revolution, Lancaster Barnstormers, and Sugar Land Skeeters, were all victorious Tuesday, so the logjam atop the Freedom Division standings continues.  The Revs own a two game lead over Lancaster, and a three game lead over Sugar Land.  Be sure that the Ducks will have their hands full with York and Sugar Land.

Meanwhile, after wrapping up their present series against Sugar Land, the Fish close out the regular season at home against a coasting Patriots team.  Somerset may attempt to set up their rotation for the post-season, perhaps affording Bridgeport an easier day at the office than otherwise expected.


Leading the Freedom Division

The Somerset Patriots and Southern Maryland Blue Crabs were the Atlantic League's first-half champions of their respective divisions.


Tuesday, September 12, 2017

N.Y. Giants: O-Line Puts Worst Foot Forward

From the desk of:  DO IT FOR THE DUKE


Coach McAdoo 
Serving Up Offensive Line Kool-Aid

Week One
FINAL
Giants        3
Cowboys  19

New York Football Giants: New Season, Same Old Story.



This is an offensive line/backfield issue in the collective sense, as much a philosophical issue; be sure of that.  So there's no point in singling out players.  We know who they are, and what they're incapable of.  If anyone needs to be singled out, it's Jerry Reese for de-prioritizing these units over the last six seasons to the point of complete deterioration.

What I'm not sure about, is what Coach McAdoo is trying to sell us.  No coach should ever place himself in agreement with the press by saying, "Yeah, well, my O-Line sucks."  I understand not wanting to throw a struggling unit under the bus.  We all get that.  But reducing the matter to a non-issue.  That's the first indication of a huge problem.  And it's beginning to seem as if his media deflections and denials are cries for mercy.

The Cowboys sacked Eli three times, and registered four more QB hits.  In other words, the pocket was not a hospitable place to be.  Meanwhile the passing lanes remained riddled with obstacles as well.  Dallas defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence in particular laid siege to the right side of the Giants O-Line with two sacks, and two more QB hits.

Okay ... so Coach knows he has no running game, and that Eli Manning is in jeopardy with every snap he takes from center.  He also knows that without Odell Beckham Jr. turning seven yard receptions into 65 yard gains the Giants are somewhat impotent.  Sunday night was a Prime Time example (embarrassment).  Sure, Brandon Marshall is a fine receiver in his own right, and is here to alleviate the double team on OBJ.  But with no OBJ, and no viable running game to set up play-action, an average Dallas Cowboys defense (IMO) simply loaded the box, limited Marshall to one catch, and essentially defied the Giants to beat them with Sterling Shepard.

Dallas QB Dak Prescott nearly out-rushed Paul Perkins and Orleans Darkwa by himself.  Big Blue's backs joined to rush a mere ten times for thirty yards.  In fact, the Giants only rushed the ball eleven times all night if you include Sterling Shepard's six yard romp.

If you care to argue Shane Vereen's nine receptions for 54 yards out of the backfield count for something ... fine.  But what if I countered by saying he accounted for 23% of the Giants offense during what was effectively a shutout.

Now consider that guy on the opposing sideline.  Behind a well drafted, cohesive, and effective offensive line, Dallas' Ezekiel Elliott rushed 24 times for 104 yards ... against a good Giants defense.

That being said, the Giants defense played very well Sunday night, holding the Cowboys to 19 points. But if the offense remains intent on leaving them out there for 35:00 minutes a game, then we're all in for a long season.

The score was only 0-3 after the first quarter, and 0-16 at halftime.  We are not talking dire circumstances here.  Those are generally times for regrouping, making adjustments, getting back to fundamentals, and attempting to establish the run again.  But that's only if you have any semblance of a rushing attack.  One must have the mindset as well.  Teams must want to run the ball and commit.   And for that, you need an effective offensive line.  It appears as if the Giants have none of the above.

Dallas rushed for 129 yards and held the ball for 34:14 minutes.  They produced 392 yards of offense on 71 plays.  As previously noted, the Giants only rushed for 35 yards and possessed the ball for 25:46 minutes.  They were limited to 233 total yards on just 53 plays.

If you do not think there is a correlation between running successfully, and time of possession, and victory, then you're drinking Coach McAdoo's Kool-Aid.


 ... and I picked the Giants to win too.



Monday, September 11, 2017

Sept. 11, 2001 ~ 2017
























L.I. Ducks: Flock's Playoff Aspirations Suddenly in Peril

From the desk of:  THE WEBBED SPIKES NINE


Closing Time?
Ducks final seven games of the regular season are on the road.
Only way they'll play at the Pond again is to win the division flag.

Long Island Ducks: Reeling Flock Losing Grip on Liberty Division Flag.

The Ducks final regular season game at Bethpage Ballpark resulted in yet another loss against the Bridgeport Bluefish, whom completed a weekend sweep over the Ducks in their last ever visit to Long Island.

As recently as five days ago, the Ducks owned a 6.5 game lead over Bridgeport.  The Bluefish have now closed to within 2.5 games of the first place Long Island as both head into the final week of the season.

Bridgeport has two series left on their schedule.  After a day off on Monday, they'll be in Sugar Land for three, then close out the season at home against the Somerset Patriots.  The Fish have gone 10-4 since getting swept by Somerset back on Aug. 25-27.  The league's top three hitters for average are presently Bluefish.

The Ducks will play a make-up game in York on Monday, then visit Lancaster.  They will close out the regular season with a trip to Sugar Land.  They've now lost four straight, and seven of their last ten games.  They have not won a series since taking three of four games against Sugar Land back on Aug. 21-24.

With Sunday's loss, the Ducks also lose the tie-breaker advantage to Bridgeport.

Long Island lead this game 1-0 through six innings.  But with the bases loaded in the top of the 7th, Ducks reliever Patrick Crider hit center fielder Wellington Dotel with a pitch to force in the tying run.

In the top of the 9th, veteran Ducks third baseman Ruben Gutay committed back-to-back throwing errors, paving the way for three unearned runs and a huge Long Island loss.

The second-half Liberty Division winner will face the Somerset Patriots.

In the Freedom Division, the York Revolution hold a tenuous 1.5 game lead over the Lancaster Barnstormers, and a 2.5 game lead over the Sugar Land Skeeters.  The Southern Maryland Blue Crabs were winners of the first-half.




Sunday marked the last visit of the Bridgeport Bluefish baseball club to Bethpage Ballpark.  After twenty years in Connecticut, the organization is moving to North Carolina for the 2018 season.  The Bridgeport Bluefish were a charter member of the Atlantic League.  The final regular season game at the Ballpark at Harbor Yard is scheduled for Sept. 17.

The Ballpark at Harbor Yard 
home of the 
Bridgeport Bluefish
1998 ~ 2017













Aug. 2016

Roger Clemens coaching first base for Bluefish.




Sunday, September 10, 2017

L.I. Ducks: Bluefish Last Trip to Pond Going Swimmingly

From the desk of:  THE WEBBED SPIKES NINE

1998 ~ 2017

Long Island DucksBridgeport Bluefish Getting in Last Licks at The Pond.

Red hot Bridgeport has taken the first two games of their weekend series against the Ducks, and look to complete the sweep in Sunday's afternoon finale.

The Fish are now 8-2 in their last ten games, and have quietly lowered Long Island's Liberty Division lead to 3.5 games.  The Ducks have eight games remaining on their schedule including Sunday's game, while the Bluefish have seven.  This leaves the door open just a crack for the Fish, but open none the less.

Long Island let a 4-3 eighth inning lead slip away en route to a 6-5 loss in Friday's series opener.   Four Bridgeport pitchers then joined forces to whitewash the Ducks 4-0 on Saturday.  Sunday's finale against the Fish will conclude the last ever Ferry Series game played between the Long Island Sound neighbors.

Bridgeport, a charter member of the Atlantic League, began play twenty years ago in 1998.  It was announced earlier this year that 2017 would be their last.  Their final home game is scheduled for Sunday, Sept. 17.  Unfortunately, the town doesn't want the team, and not the other way around.  The city of Bridgeport has already committed to alternative uses for what will become the former site of the Ballpark at Harbor Yard.

The team will be relocating to North Carolina for the 2018 season.


The Ballpark at Harbor Yard













N.Y. Giants: All Eyes On Offensive Line

From the desk of:  DO IT FOR THE DUKE


Nothing Changes
Everything Starts Up Front

SUNDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL
NEW YORK GIANTS
vs.
DALLAS COWBOYS
FROM
The House That Jerry Built
TEXAS


New York Football Giants: Big Blue Will Go As Far As Their Offensive Line Takes Them.

We left off last season with Coach McAdoo downplaying the offensive line's pedestrian performance, and instead taking odd shots at Eli Manning, and placing the onus on his QB's individual play.

Coach McAdoo may have simply been employing tough talk tactics, especially coming off guiding the Giants to their first winning season since 2012, and first playoff appearance 2011.  There's also a part of me that totally understands the art and intricacies of Coach Ploy.  Indeed, many things coaches do and say serve specific reasons, particularly where it involves sending messages and/or singling out players.  And at this point, Coach and Eli are also no longer strangers to one another.  But if Coach McAdoo honestly believes his offensive line was not necessarily a problem (or the problem) last season, then we have a big problem on our hands.

I obviously believe the offensive line remains this team's greatest liability.  Last year's performance was mediocre at best ... and I think that's being kind.  One hand washes the other.  So, with regards to Eli, Coach McAdoo has obviously altered the plan since Kevin Gilbride once called the shots.  Eli played under duress.  Why?  His 6.7 yards per attempt last season were his lowest since 2008.  His 10.7 yards per completion were his lowest since 2006.  And while Eli's average yards per game, and QB rating improved dramatically during Coach McAdoo's time as offensive coordinator, Eli's yards per game and QB rating experienced a noticeable downturn last year, not coincidentally, during McAdoo's first year as head coach.

Point is, Coach might be talking out of both sides of his mouth.  It was his own offensive predictability that stood out most me.  That, and the team's complete lack of a running game.

Fact is, the Giants attained an 11-6 record last season despite their offensive line deficiencies.  And as far as I'm concerned, all that does is build false hope.  You saw what happened in the playoffs last season against the Packers.

Having a great defense is just that ... great!  But if your offensive line is incapable of pass protection, and creating daylight for the running game, and thereby managing the clock, then the quick strike system (aka Odell Beckham Jr.) allows the opposition every chance in the world to stay in the game, and position themselves for victory.  Why?  Because they'll likely have sufficient time on the clock. Said another way, the Giants can not win in December and January if their defense has been forced to play 32:00 to 38:00 minutes a game.

The alternative has been Eli needing to orchestrate a game saving 1:39 minute, 87 yard drive for the victory.

The Giants head into this season with the same offensive line as last season.  There's something to be said for continuity.  I believe in that.  But does this unit, as presently constituted, posses the talent worthy of such a time investment?

At left tackle, the answer is unequivocally, no..!  Ereck Flowers must blossom this season, and preferably sooner in the year that later.  There's no doubt all eyes will be on him.  But will Eli need eyes in the beck of his head?

Hoepfully (I can't stress that enough), LG Just Pugh is a year wiser, and a year better.  And at Center, I'm expecting perhaps too much from Weston Richburg.  I have a belief that winning, success, or at the very least a effective running game is born of an all-pro caliber center.  Look how the Jets ran with Jeff Mangold, then how their running game fell off the planet without him.  The same thing happened last year of the Atlanta Falcons in the Super Bowl against the Patriots.  Atlanta couldn't keep the Patriots offense off the field once their center got hurt because they could longer run the ball effectively.  The Giants won Super Bowls with Bart Oates at center, with Joe Morris, and O.J. Anderson, and Sean O'Hara at center with Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw.  Get the picture?

The right side of the line is a complete mystery to me.  I have no idea what we'll be getting, from what is sure to be a revolving door system, involving John Jerry, Bobby Hart, and D.J. Fluker.

At least Jerry Reese thought enough to fortify tight end, if only to help the running game, and give Eli an occasional outlet.  But by no means are any of them a primary pass option, and that's too bad.

To make this long story short, and as good as this defense is expected to be, the Giants will only go as far as their offensive line takes them.


Saturday, September 09, 2017

PIGSKIN 2017: Opening Week



PIGSKIN
Football Sunday
WEEK ONE

Welcome back!  What a Super Bowl, huh?

Before getting started, allow me to explain what I do here.  I usually post my picks on Friday according to the day's spread.  Unless the Giants/Jets are playing, PIGSKIN picks involve Sunday games only.  My preferred unit of worthlessness is the Bagel.  That's right ... each game is worth one Bagel, and I list a Schmear of the Week worth three Bagels.  And just to be clear, I do this for fun.   So, if you get all Craig Carton'd up and lose real money as a result of following my picks, that's your problem.  Not mine.

Notes:
  • Since Daniel Snyder won't change his team name, I did it for him.
  • I usually get all Cleveland Browns games wrong.
  • Everyone seems to have two teams they root for.  Therefore I'm first and foremost a Giants fan, and I've been a Raiders fan since the days of Ken Stabler, Dave Casper, Coach Madden, etc.

Week One:
Saturday Line NYDN

Giants +4 (COWBOYS)
Ezekiel Elliott?  Really?  Cowboys, Jerry Jones ... nothing about that organization surprises me anymore.  I was down on JPP last season.  Not this year.  And I always hated starting the season against Dallas.  Not this year.
Loss  19-3 Cowboys

BILLS -9 (Jets)
Gang Green's horrible season starts, now.
PUSH  21-12 Bills

Falcons -6 1/2 (BEARS)
Talk about pissed off.  I still say the Falcons were incapable of running the ball after their center got hurt.  Why no one made a bigger deal of that is ponderous.  That prevented Atlanta from keeping Tom Brady and the Patriots' offense off the field.  The rest is Super Bowl history.
Loss  23-17 Falcons

TEXANS -5 1/2 (Jaguars)
Tom Coughlin will make a difference in Jacksonville ... eventually.
Loss  29-7 Jaguars

D.C. HOGS +1 (Eagles)
Opening day upset anyone?
Loss  30-17 Eagles

Cardinals -2 (LIONS)
This is the Cardinals last chance before their window of opportunity slams shut.
Loss  35-23 Lions

Raiders +2 1/2 (TITANS)
See Atlanta ... the Raiders have one pissed-off quarterback on their hands who's gonna take out last season's frustrations on this year's opposition.
WIN  26-16 Raiders

Buccaneers @ DOLPHINS
Game has been moved to Week Eleven due to Hurricane Irma.  I have family in Florida, as I'm sure many of you do too.

BENGALS -3 (Ravens)
Rebuild said the Raven...
Loss  20-0 Ravens

Steelers -9 (BROWNS)
I've often wondered how Paul DePodesta (former NY Mets front office executive) thinks he's going to turn around the Browns.  Can't draft high school players in the NFL, dude.
Loss  21-18 Steelers

RAMS -4 (Colts)
The Colts can not protect Andrew Luck.  Oh wait, he's not playing!
WIN  46-9 Rams

PACKERS -3 (Seahawks)
I'm as apathetic as Las Vegas on this one.  Take the home team and the points.  Can you say, Push?
WIN  17-9 Packers

Panthers -5 (49ERS)
This is all about Carolina.  Does happy-go-lucky Cam show up, or does despondent Newton rule the day?
WIN  23-3 Panthers


Schmear of the Week:
Cardinals -2 1/2
LOSS

Guten Appetit:
Why fight tradition?  We're kicking off the new season with chicken wings - buffalo, bbq, and parmesan style.  Making bruschetta with my own tomato, basil, and parsley.  I grew hot peppers this season too!  So I'll be making a salsa, and tossing in my home grown cucumbers, bell peppers, and arugula into another salad.


Good luck, and have a great Football Sunday everyone!


POST-GAME:
Week One Record:  4-7-1
Schmear of the Week:  0-1
Bagels in the Basket:  -7

Thursday, September 07, 2017

S.I. Yankees: Baby Bombers Capture Division Flag

From the desk of: THE RICHMOND COUNTY BABES

Richmond County Bank Ballpark at St. George

McNamara Division Titles
2000, 2002, 2005-06, 2008-09, 2011, 2013
2017

Staten Island Yankees: Richmond County Babes Clinch Their Ninth McNamara Division Title.

On a wet Wednesday evening, the Staten Island Yankees gained a rain shortened/official game victory over the visiting Brooklyn Cyclones to clinch the organization's ninth division title, and their first since 2013.

With the Yanks holding a slim 2-1 lead, the umpire's call to halt play came after Staten Island reliever Kaleb Ort struck out the side during Brooklyn's top half of the 6th inning.  Despite initially playing through rain, conditions worsened and the game was therefore declared official shortly thereafter.

The New York-Penn League regular season wraps up on Thursday.  Or does it?

The Mahoning Valley Scrappers captured the Pinckney Division, while the Vermont Lake Monsters won the Stedler Division.  In posting the NYPL's top regular season record, Richmond draws the Wild Card in the first round of playoffs.  Hudson Valley presently leads the Wild Card race by 2.5 games over Aberdeen.  However, two straight rain postponements involving the Aberdeen @ Hudson Valley series have naturally created a big problem.

Stay tuned...

  • Someone failed to inform Cyclones starter Briam Campusano that Brooklyn will finish the NYPL season last in team ERA.  Needless to say, the Brooklyn Cyclones will close out their worst regular season, ever, when they host the Yankees at Coney Island on Thursday.  Briam Campusano, however, pitched a gem albeit in a losing effort.  Staten Island's two runs in the 2nd inning were scored on ground ball outs.  Otherwise, Campusano allowed just one hit and a walk through five innings, while fanning seven.

The Yankees will undoubtedly rely on their pitching.  Offensively, their team average, slugging, and runs scored is comparatively bottom tier.  On the mound, however, Staten Island owns the best team ERA with a 2.62 mark, and a league low 1.10 WHiP.  They also lead the league in shutouts, and their bullpen has posted the most saves.





Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Roberto Clemente Day




ROBERTO CLEMENTE WALKER
1934 ~ 1972



Lou Gehrig, Jackie Robinson, and Roberto Clemente
entrance lobby at Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, Cooperstown



Summer 2017










Summer 2017
PNC PARK
PITTSBURGH



Posvar Hall
University of Pittsburgh


Roberto Clemente Stadium
Carolina, Puerto Rico


2013









Translation:
"I want to be remembered as a baseball player 
who gave all he had to give."






All photos are my own/Cooperstown/Pittsburgh/Puerto Rico