Monday, May 25, 2015

N.Y. Yankees retire Bernie Williams' #51 !Bien Hecho!

From the desk of:  BLAME CARLOS MAY

Bernie Williams

New York Yankees: Bernie Williams Inducted Into Monument Park, as Bronx Bombers Retire #51.

I remember when Bernie Williams first came up.  The Yankees were a shell of their former selves.   The owner, George Steinbrenner, was suspended from the team.  And, so Gene "Stick" Michael was free to rebuild the Yankees at his own discretion, direction and speed.

Bernie Williams was promoted to the big club nearly a full 5 years before the Core Four came into being, and boy was he raw - not necessarily with a bat (which was a troubling sight), but in patrolling the expansive Yankees Stadium center field.

After just a few minutes reinstated back into baseball, George Steinbrenner seemed to zero in on Bernie.  There wasn't a day that passed in which the Boss didn't want Bernie traded.  The brilliant Stick Michael kept stonewalling George (perhaps one of the few to possess the balls to do so...), and the Yankees wound up keeping the young Williams.

That said, the Core Four just might owe their existence to Bernie, as he was the Boss' first true exercise in (acute) benevolence and patience in the aftermath of Fay Vincent's suspension.

That said, not another word (from me) without expressing my dismay over the Core Four.  The notion is a disservice to Bernie Williams, and quite honestly, it's disrespectful too.  To me, it has always been the Core Five.

In the strike marred year of 1994, you could sense his game was finally coalescing.  Then in 1995, Bernie arguably broke out.  He slashed .307/.392/.487 with 18 home runs and 82 RBI.

From then on, Bernie Williams was the clean-up hitter for the most recent New York Yankees dynasty.

For 7 years spanning 1996-2002, Bernie Williams averaged .323, 25 HR, and 104 RBI per season.   He appeared in 5 all-star games, won 4 gold gloves, a silver slugger award, and won the 1998 batting title.

Bernie Williams: Career Yankee
Games - 6th
Hits - 5th
Doubles - 3rd
Home Runs - 7th
RBI - 7th
Runs Scored - 6th

He was one of the finest ambassadors of Puerto Rico, ever.

To locals, he was a beloved, and an integral part of four Yankees championships.  He was perhaps the most quiet and unassuming as well.  The man never lacked class.., never.  Outside of the city, there's a chance he'll go down as one of the greatest Yankees that people never heard of.  Blame the Core Four, in a manner of speaking.

Not here though.  New Yorkers will forever know who Bernie Williams was in a town where no one really cares to know your name.

!Bien hecho!


N.Y. Mets: Another Swing and a Miss

From the desk of:  HEAD-BUTTING MR. MET

NEW YORK METS: The Amazin's Have Three Credits Left Before Their 11-Game Winning Streak Fails to Matter.

Q:  After 45 games, what have we learned?

A:  Superb pitching will not be enough to sustain a competitive level of play unless the position players pull their weight at the plate.

The Mets offense has truly become a sad state of affairs.  As of Sunday night, here's where they rank in relation to the rest of their Senior Circuit competitors:
  • Average 14th
  • OBP 13th
  • SLG 15th
  • Hits - 13th
  • Doubles - 13th
  • Home Runs - 11th
  • Runs Scored - 13th
  • Walks - 8th
  • Stolen Bases - 13th
  • Strikeouts - 6th most
Those are hardly competitive numbers.  In fact, they're even worse against the league's best competition.  Until they play the Dodgers, that list includes the National, Cardinals, and Pirates.  You could arguably include the Cubs on the list.  Despite getting swept in Chicago, I opted not to because while they're 5th in batting, they only rank 7th in ERA.  So, they would only serve to belabor my point.

The Cardinals own the league's best ERA.  The Mets entered their series against the Pirates with the league's 2nd best ERA, but fell to 3rd over the weekend behind Pittsburgh.  The Nationals sport the circuit's 5th best ERA.

There's really no need to over complicate this.  At present, the Mets sport a .234 team average.  But against the aforementioned three, here's how they fared:
  • In 7 games against the Nationals, they faced the whole arsenal of Max Scherzer (2) Jordan Zimmermann, Stephen Strasburg (2), Gio Gonzalez, and Doug Fister.  They batted 47 for 229 (.205), with 14 walks, and 63 strikeouts (27%).
  • In 4 games against the Cardinals, they faced John Lackey, Michael Wacha, Carlos Martinez, and Jaime Garcia.  They went 28 for 136 (.206), with 15 walks, and 30 strikeouts (22%).
  • In 3 recently completed games against the Pirates, they faced Gerrit Cole, A.J. Burnett, and Francisco Liriano.  They went 20 for 95 (.211), with 3 walks, and 36 strikeouts (36%).
  • The overall tally: 14 games, 95 for 460 (.206), with 32 walks, and 129 strikeouts (28%).
Those are some feeble numbers folks.  

As you'd expect, the Mets have gone a combined 5-9 against the Nats, Cards, and Bucs.  And, if I include the Cubs, then the Mets own a 5-13 record against the N.L.'s top competition to date.

Their dearth of offensive production comes at a time when Travis d'Arnaud and David Wright have been on the disabled list since mid-April.  The other components, however, have been playing regularly and hitting poorly.
  • Travis d'Arnaud was the team's leading slugger when he went down on April 19th, while David Wright was knocked out of action on April 14th after just 8 games played.
In truth, offensively speaking at least, the Mets are 26th (MLB) in runs scored, and have become one of the most boring teams to watch in all of baseball.  Their record is now 24-21, and trending downward with haste.  They have three credits left before their 11-game winnings streak fails to matter.  The Mets are 11-18 since the Yankees snapped their string back on April 24th.

As an owner, all this would be concerning to me, but, when you're burdened with the Wilpon'$ problem$, I guess yawn inspiring baseball doesn't even make the list of top three things to fret about.


Sunday, May 24, 2015

Long Island Ducks Look to Close Out Camden Before Showdown Against Patriots

From the desk of:  THE WEBBED SPIKES NINE

Last tune up before showdown against Somerset Patriots.

Long Island Ducks: Calm Before The Storm - Flock Needs a Good Game in Series Finale Against Camden to Set Tone for Showdown Versus Somerset Patriots.

Camden Riversharks
Long Island Ducks
The Pond

The Ducks and visiting Camden Riversharks split a double-header Saturday, thus ending Long Island's 6-game winning streak.

In the opening game, Coach Baez tabbed Sergio Perez for another short start.  He tossed 2 innings, allowed no runs and no hits, walked 3 and fanned two before giving way to Bruce Kern.

Kern in turn, threw 3 innings, allowed no runs on just one hit, walked one and fanned 3 to earn the victory.

Camden's lone run came in the 6th inning off reliever Patrick Crider.

Delta Cleary Jr. was one man show in the 3rd inning as Long Island rallied for 3 runs off Riversharks starter Zachary Clark.  Cleary singled home Dan Lyons and Bryan Sabatella, then stole second base, and scored on Cody Puckett's RBI single.

After leading off the 4th with a base hit, Jose morales eventually scored the Ducks' 4th run on a wild pitch.  In the 5th, Cody Puckett drove in Delta Cleary Jr. for a second time to give the Ducks their final 5-1 margin of victory.

In the night cap, Camden roared back to post their 15th victory of the season, and snap Long Island's winning streak at 6 games.

Ian Marshall made 109 pitches in a conventional start for Long Island, but battled with control issues. He lasted 5 innings, allowing 3 runs (2 earned) on 5 hits and an untenable 7 walks, while fanning 5 batters.  Eric Niesen entered the game in the 6th in relief of Marshall and surrendered another 3 earned runs, but the damage had already been done.

Long Island only managed a run in the 4th, and an unearned run in the 9th, in bowing 7-2 to the Riversharks.  Dan Lyons and Mike Blanke delivered the run scoring hits.

Lew Ford Tracker:
4th in batting - .351
3rd in OBP - .434
2nd in slugging - .577
1st in RBI - 31

The Ducks and Riversharks conclude their 4-game series this afternoon.  After which they'll get 2 days off, then head to Somerset for a 4-game showdown against the 1st place Patriots.

This will be the team's first meeting of the season.

Somerset remains the hottest team in the league.  They're the lone Atlantic League team left with single-digit losses.  They enter today's action with a 20-8 record, and are winners of 8 of their last 10 games.  The Ducks are 6-4 in their last 10 games, and enter this afternoon's game in 2nd place of the Liberty Division with a 16-13 record, 4.5 games back of 1st, and with the Bridgeport Bluefish also on hot on their tail feathers.


N.Y. Rangers: The Goonies Strike Back; Regain Home Ice Advantage




Series tied 2-2
I - NYR 2; TBL 1
II - TBL 6; NYR 2
III - TBL 6; NYR 5
IV - NYR 5; TBL 1

Tampa Bay Lightning
Animal House
33rd Street @ 8th Avenue

NEW YORK RANGERS: Revenge of the Goonies!  See what happens when you bring your backbone to work?

Big Guns Power Rangers

Not only was Friday's game a complete, and necessary devolution from the spineless Smurf misadventures of games Two and Three (I'm happy to report), it fundamentally regressed into something much more primal than even Game One, or any game Tex's Rangers played during this post-season, or in two seasons under Alain Vigneault for that matter.

Game Four (or worse, a potential series loss) was, and effectively remains a fan referendum after last year's L.A. Kings series.

Prior to Game Four, I left off saying physicality starts behind the bench.  Simply put, Alain Vigneault was getting beat at his own game by Tampa, and so the onus was on him to make an adjustment.   After failing to keep up with Tampa's speed, a much more primitive approach was clearly in order.   Therefore, it came time to sound a call to arms, and demand his players follow through, or else face what would have arguably been an insurmountable 3-1 series deficit.

Sound familiar?

The coach deserves a lot of credit.  He is very adept at making quick, and timely adjustments.  He is far more adaptable when a change of style is warranted than his predecessor John Tortorella was.   The Rangers former coach was far more rigid in his approach, and terribly unyielding in his precepts and style.  Tortorella's strategy against adversity was more defense and intensity, but not much in the way of offensive logistics.

Rick Nash did for Alain Vigneault what he could not do for John Tortorella - bailed him out of a tight spot.

For the 1st period of Friday's game, the Rangers upped their intensity, and shocked the Bolts with some considerable physicality.  Late in the period, Carl Hagelin caused a turnover in the defensive zone and kicked it to Kevin Hayes, whom fed Rick Nash steaming down center ice with speed.  He utilized his size, brushing off Cedric Paquette like a toy clown buoy, and with 2:42 left on the clock, slid the puck passed Ben Bishop.  It was the bull in a china shop type performance the Rangers have lacked from Nash all post-season.

In the 2nd period, the Rangers lost their bearing, and regressed into a softer mode of play.  They were grossly out-shot in the session, and midway through, Steven Stamkos' goal had the Rangers looking miffed.  A few minutes later, however, Chris Kreider cleaned up a Kevin Hayes shot and rebound, whom shortly thereafter set up Keith Yandle for a 3-1 Rangers lead.

In the 3rd, the Rangers stuck it the Bolts again.  Tampa committed a pair of penalties, and the Rangers made them pay.  At the 5:08 mark, Martin St. Louis finally scored his first goal of the playoffs, and midway through the period Rick Nash was credited for his second goal of the game, thanks in part to the traffic he created in front.

The game effectively ended there, because, with less than 3-minutes left in the final period, the game truly deteriorated into an orgy of high sticking, cross-checking, and roughing penalties, a goalie interference, and some unsportsmanlike and misconducts for others.

Way to go Boys!  I'm so proud.

The goalie interference was perpetrated by Tampa's Brenden Morrow, which finally did not sit well with the Rangers - or lest we forget Sidney Crosby's indiscretion against Lundqvist in round one, that went ignored....?

The numbers say Tampa hit slightly more often than did the Rangers, but there's no arguing the Rangers hit harder, and strategically smarter than did the Lightning.

Now, all was not necessarily peaches and creme.  The Rangers were out-shot in that 2nd period by a 19-6 margin.  Tampa totaled 28 shot attempts.  Only Henrik Lundqvist prevented a complete meltdown by making 18 saves in the period, and 38 for the game.  The Bolts out-shot the Rangers 39-24 overall, but it was Ben Bishop whom allowed 5 pucks into his net.

Henrik Lundqvist was indeed brilliant, pitching a quasi-shutout after allowing back-to-back 6-goal games.  If not for a slight Dan Girardi deflection, Henrik most likely makes a save on Stamkos.

Most importantly, all the King's horses, and all the King's men actually showed up.

With a 2 for 4 performance, the Rangers PP is now 6 for 15 (40%) in the series.  I knew the power play could be an advantage for the Rangers - and will be if they only let it!  They are still committing too many themselves (then again, that's what Tampa's speed is designed to do).  The Bolts went 0 for 4 in Game Four, but are 11 of 16 for the series.

Here's the other side of that:  The Rangers and Lightning are now tied at 14 goals apiece.

The Rangers have the edge in the series, but, they've always had it.  They just decided to shelve it for a pair of games.  After a job well done, they have home ice back in their hands with Game Five at MSG.

Now that we know Vigneault and the Rangers have this kind of fight in them, they had better keep it up.


Saturday, May 23, 2015

L.I. Ducks: John Brownell Dominates Camden Riversharks; Flock Takes Series Opener

From the desk of:  THE WEBBED SPIKES NINE

Long Island Ducks: Can't Rain on Flock's Parade.

If not for a very questionable decision made by the umpiring crew to play through Monday's tempest in Lancaster, the Ducks could very well be winners of 6 in a row this evening.  They'll settle for 5 in a row instead, with a suspended game, I'm sure.

Flock Thwart a Struggling Revolution; Sweep Series.

5/19 Game 1 - L.I.D 4; York 1

  • Coach Baez really out-did himself in this one.  After starter Andrew Barbosa exited after just 3 innings pitched, the Ducks skipper summoned 8 relievers from the bullpen.  Eric Neisen earned the win, and Amalio Diaz earned the save.  Lew Ford drove in all four Long Island runs, going 3 for 4 with a home run.

5/20 Game 2 - L.I.D. 11; York 9

  • Coach Baez wasn't done, although, this was a wild one.  After starter Mark Rogers allowed back to back home runs in the very first inning, Coach Baez made the call for 9 more relievers. First in, Matt Soren fared no better, allowing a 2-run homer in the 2nd, and yet another 2-run homer in the 3rd as part of a 3-run inning.  The Ducks went 16 for 41 (.390) at the plate, led by Jon Griffin's 3 RBI, and a pair each from Lew Ford and Dan Lyons.

5/21 Game 3 - L.I.D. 6; York 1

  • Newly signed Billy Buckner, 31, started for Long Island, pitched through a neat 2 innings.  He allowed no runs on 3 hits, walked one and fanned a pair.  Mickey Jannis then entered in the third, and pitched masterfully for the next 7 innings.  He allowed just a run on 6 hits and 2 walks, and fanned 6 to earn his 2nd victory of the season.  He owns a 2.45 ERA over 29.1 innings this season.  Playing in just his 8th game for the Ducks, center fielder Delta Cleary jr. went 3 for 3, with a double and 2 RBI.  With a 2 for 3 game, Jon Griffin posted his 7th multi-hit game in his last 8 played, and raised his average up to a .283 mark.

John Brownell Pitches Gem Over Camden Riversharks:

Ducks lead series 1-0
I - L.I.D. 10; CAM 1

Saturday Twin Bill
Camden Riversharks
Long Island Ducks
The Pond

Back in the Pond, Long Island rolled to a 10-1 victory over the now .500 Camden RiverSharks. Starter John Brownell turned in a brilliant performance over 8 innings of work.  He faced 27 batters, and threw 109 pitches with 66 going for strikes.  He allowed one earned run on just 2 hits and a walk, and tied his career high with 12 strikeouts.

Jon Griffin and Lew Ford continue punishing A.L. pitching.  The surging Griffin was 2 for 3, with a home run and 3 RBI, and the white hot Lew Ford was 2 for 4 with 2 RBI.  Ryan Sabatella also erupted for a 3 for 4 night, with 3 runs scored and 2 RBI.

Lew Ford is now 2nd in the circuit in batting, and tops the league with 31 RBI.  While John Brownell now leads the Atlantic League with 4 victories, and 34 strikeouts.

What a Difference a Week Makes:

The 2nd place Ducks are presently in the midst of a 5 game winning streak, and have improved their record to a 15-12 mark.  The Somerset Patriots, however, still maintain a 4 game lead over Long Island in the Liberty Division standings.  The Patriots are 8-2 in their last 10 games, and are the only team remaining with single digit losses.


Friday, May 22, 2015

The Friday Recap: Noah Syndergaard, Mets flustered by Pirates; lose series opener 4-1

Here's my Friday Recap for 

Behind Starter Gerrit Cole, Pirates Fluster Noah Syndergaard; Mets Lose 4-1

Check in every week for my
 Friday Night Recap

senior staff writer/Rising Apple

N.Y. Rangers: Resistance Has Been Futile


You didn't have to like him.  He was never the most composed player, and his team mates didn't necessarily like him either.  In truth, his general misconduct belied his true hockey abilities.  Sean Avery could skate, and knew how to play, and was a brilliant passer, particularly from behind the net.  Avery also knew how to crash the net, and possessed down-low killer instinct.  He didn't get pushed off the puck, and knew when a well timed fight was in order.  If he and John Tortorella could have only found an inch of common ground, they would have made sweet music together...,
(Ryan Callahan withstanding).  Just saying.........

Gotta turn this into a street hockey game.  No blood, no penalty.


New York Rangers
Tampa Bay Lightning
Century Village Ice Hut

NEW YORK RANGERS: Physical play starts behind the bench, meaning, Alain Vigneault has a tough adjustment to make.

The Rangers scored 5 times in Game Three.  That should have been good enough..., anytime..,

....except, when you commit another offensive turnover near the blue line that went the other way for a goal; allow Tampa the offensive zone with numbers off one stretch pass; play with a complete lack of resistance in the neutral zone; arrive late to the boards and shy away from dirty ice; and commit stupid penalties because they can't keep up (or they're either just stupid, or Chris Kreider, or both).   All that demonstrated just how much faster the Lightning are than Tex's Rangers.

Henrik was the one who said he's having trouble zeroing in on the puck, and that Tampa was doing anything they pleased these last two games - not me.  Yeah, Henrik has been a little sketchy of late, but I still refuse to unload my ire on him.  I chose to direct it towards the forwards, and to a lesser extent, the blue liners.

So, what can the Blueshirts do to slow Tampa down?  You know the answer to that as well as I do.

Refer to Game One.

The Lightning are even smaller than the (Smurfs) Rangers!  C'mon!  The Rangers should be pushing and plowing their way towards net, and laying the body wherever necessary, just like in Game One.   Furthermore, Tampa has shown no inclination to clean the front of Ben Bishop's crease.  The Rangers should be living on his doorstep.

With regards to style, Coach Vigneault is getting beat at his own game.  Therefore, the directive must come from him.  This is his adjustment to make.

On another front, how many Rangers bells have been rung so far?  Ryan McDonagh, Dan Boyle, Kevin Hayes...   Who's next?  Where has the response been?  What bells have they rung?  Don't think I forgot the cheap shot Sindy Crosby took on Henrik that went completely ignored.  I don't want people getting hurt.  I just want the Rangers finishing their checks, and initiating effective physical play, but I also want them administering justice for any opposing indiscretions.

Coach must make the call for tougher play, and demand his players respond accordingly - all of them, including Rick Nash.  He should be the lead bull in Tampa's china shop.  If he's been veering wide, demand that he turns toward net.  Toughness starts behind the bench.

I predicted the Rangers would be enjoying an advantage with regards to PP opportunities, but they lost their bearing along the way.  The Rangers are 4 for 9 on the power play this series.  That would ordinarily have been considered a glorious success, as they were just 6 for 36 during the two previous series against Pittsburgh and Washington.  Instead, it's an inglorious performance, because they've let Tampa on the power play 12 times this series, and the Lightning converted on 7 of them.  That's unacceptable!  The Rangers are having too much trouble skating with Tampa at even strength as it is. If they're going to allow Tampa goals on special teams as well, then this will be a much shorter series than anticipated.

Last point...

At 9:55 of the 1st period, Jesper Fast (and the Rangers) did it again.  They proved once again Ben Bishop can be beat if you make him move side to side.  Yet, the Rangers have largely settled for outside shots, and generally played the last two games with a major lack of killer instinct.  Sure, they did well to stay somewhat competitive in a 6-5 loss (as if..).  But, a loss in the playoffs is a huge loss nonetheless.

Be Better, Do More, Get Tougher.


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

N.Y. Mets: Sandy Alderson Can Improve the Offense with Dollars and Sense

Here's my latest for 

senior staff writer/Rising Apple

N.Y. Rangers: Game 3 - Get Back to What Worked



New York Rangers
Tampa Bay Lightning
Century Village Arena
in too hot Florida

NEW YORK RANGERS: Lessons learned over first two games.

In Game One, the Blue shirts did a great job initiating physical play.  In Game Two they did not because they were too busy killing off 6 penalties.

In Game One, the Blue shirts did well to get Ben Bishop away from his set position, and getting him to move laterally.  In Game Two they did not.  The Rangers need to get his skates and head moving in different directions, otherwise he is literally too big to get beaten straight on - (with Alex Ovechkin's slap shot, maybe).

Here comes the big one:

In games One and Two, the Lightning defense demonstrated little inclination to push Rangers players out from in front and away from Bishop.  Therefore, the Rangers can seemingly set up in front any time they chose with little to no resistance from Tampa.  Yet, they seemed reluctant to establish position in Game Two, particularly during their failed 1st period 5 on 3 opportunity, prior to Martin St. Louis' turnover.

Mission: Come out of Tampa with at least a split, but try like hell to reestablish home ice advantage.

We'll talk more later...


Newark Bears: Village Voice Open Letter to Chris Rock


Includes Chris Rock's take on blacks in baseball: HBO's Real Sports/YouTube

Newark Bears: Sounds like a perfect fit.  I'd like to think it actually makes $en$e, but, economic reality says otherwise.

I would only add this, stated several times in this blog...

In light of Newark's rich baseball history, part of any renewed effort to field a Newark Bears baseball club again should involve a conversation to erect the finest Negro League museum this side of the Mississippi River.

Newark should, before another city does.


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

2015 NBA Draft Lottery at Barclays Center

From the desks of:  

Home of the 2015 NBA Draft Lottery

New York Knicks anticipate having the best night of their season.

In the first ever NBA lottery, each team's logo was placed into an over sized envelope.  The envelopes in turn were placed in an over sized Bingo style spinning barrel.  Once mixed to Commissioner David Stern's satisfaction, he began the process of determining the order of selection for the June draft.  The last two envelopes remaining in the barrel belonged to the New York Knicks and the Indiana Pacers.

Commissioner Stern reached in once more, and opened the envelope containing the Indiana Pacers logo.  Attending on behalf of the Knicks was then GM Dave DeBusschere, whom triumphantly pounded his fist on the table knowing the Knicks had just won the first ever NBA draft lottery.  

David Stern then performed the formality of reaching in the barrel one last time to reveal a Knicks logo, winners of the first overall pick in the 1985 NBA June draft.

Of course, the Knicks selected Georgetown center, Patrick Ewing, and the rest is history as they say...

The conspiracy theorists claim the Knicks envelope was placed in a freezer so that Commissioner Stern could distinguish their envelope from all the rest, and award the struggling NBA charter franchise the #1 pick.

With a 17-65 record, the New York Knicks only won 20.7% of their regular season games.  Tonight will represent the best part of their season.  They just so happen to have a 20% chance of landing the #1 overall pick in the upcoming June NBA Draft, and can do no worse than securing the #5 overall pick.

Steve Mills will be the Knicks representative at this year's ping pong ball extravaganza.  My first question is why?  My next question is, why is Steve Mills still employed by the Knicks?  Then I'd like to know why the hell Phil Jackson hasn't fired him yet?  

And now..., and now....!  Steve Mills and IsiahThomas work in the same building again!

Does anyone get the impression that if Phil Jackson doesn't win the #1 or at least the #2 pick, that he's as good as gone?  Reason being, he doesn't need this crap, so why torture himself?

  • In 1985, Brooklyn's own, and St. John's University star forward Chris Mullin was selected with the #7 overall pick by the Golden State Warriors.  Mullin is now in the Basketball Hall of Fame, and has returned to his Alma-mater to be their head coach.

Brooklyn Nets feeling the ramifications of Billy King's reign.

Five years ago at the NBA Lottery Show - because it has become just that, a side show replete with dwarfs, sword swallowing congenial twins, poodles with people faces, a teenage werewolf, and a bad dirty joke teller - Mikhail Prokhorov made his grand entrance upon the NBA landscape.

On national TV, he proclaimed with supreme confidence his intentions to win an NBA championship within 5 years.  When the host reporter asked what that plan entailed, Mikhail Prokhorov explained that if he told her, he would have to kill her - all in fun of course.

Five years later, the 1,825th and final day expired on Prokhorov's title mandate.

The Nets finished the regular season with a 38-44 record, which could have entitled them to the #15 overall pick in the draft.  However, Billy King traded the rights to this year's first round pick as part of the deal to acquire Joe Johnson.  The Atlanta Hawks, whom eliminated the Nets from this year's playoffs in six games, own the right to swap #1's with the Nets.  Atlanta will now have the 15th overall selection, and the Nets drop down to 29th.

That doesn't even begin to lend insight into the mess the Nets are in.  

Billy King's creation has gotten worse in each of the last three seasons, culminating this season in a sub .500 record.  He compromised the Nets #1 pick through 2018 as part of the failed trade to acquire Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.  He's additionally capped out AND paying the luxury tax.

Since the team's move to Brooklyn three seasons ago, the Nets have been in a supreme position to steal headlines, and outshine the Knicks, whom by their own folly have literally hit an all-time low. But, Billy King failed to seize the moment.  The most expensive team in NBA history turned into a miserable failure.  Billy King's machinations will have lasting ramifications, as noted, through the 2018 season.


The New York Knicks 
will have the 4th overall selection in the June draft.


N.Y. Rangers: Two, Too Horrible to Watch


Game Two Blues

Eastern Conference Finals

Series tied 1-1
I - NYR 2; TBL 1
II - TBL 6; NYR 2

Game Two Final:
Lightning    6

NEW YORK RANGERS: That was just awful.

The Rangers played as bad a game as they have all post-season, if not worse.

Moreover, the 1st period was about as bad a period as they've played all post-season.

  • Martin St. Louis seemingly forgot how to play hockey.  He had trouble with his footwork and   skating, he failed to convert a great pass in front and put it on net, and most glaringly, he turned the puck over with the Rangers in the midst of a 5 on 3 power play that resulted in a short-handed goal the other way.
  • The regular season Chris Kreider reappeared.  Or, just to be clear should I say Stupid Kreider lost his bearing again...?  I'd swear someone spiked his Gatorade bottle with idiot juice.  After establishing position in front of Ben Bishop and cleaning up a rebound to tie the game at one, he committed just an absolutely idiotic penalty, and of course, the Lightning cashed in on the power play to make it a 2-1 game.
  • Then there was Hagelin, who just decided to push the puck outside the offensive zone for no particular reason.

The Rangers played a particularly undisciplined game, and put Tampa on the power play 6 more times, in which they cashed in 3 times.

If they keep that up, they won't be playing in June.

More later.....


L.I. Ducks: Barnstormers and Mother Nature Stymie Flock

from the desk of:  THE WEBBED SPIKES NINE


Mother Nature doused Long Island's attempt at a series split with the Barnstormers.

After rain delayed the start of the game in excess of two hours, the umpires finally made the call to play Monday night baseball in Lancaster.

With the Ducks holding on to a 3-2 lead, heavy rain began falling again in the top of the 5th, and threatened the game's official status.  They would get through it, managing to fit in 5 complete innings with the Ducks ahead.

However, the umpires ponderously made them continue playing through deteriorating conditions into the 6th inning.  After the Ducks went scoreless, they began barking from the dugout at the home plate ump.   With heavy rain continuing to fall, and loud protestations emanating from Long Island's dugout, and with 1-out in the bottom of the frame, Blake Gailen homered off Ian Marshall to tie the game at three.

After starter Ian Marshall walked the next batter, umpires incredulously called for the field tarps again.  The Ducks dugout was livid, maintaining the game should have been stopped after the 5th.

Just before midnight, the game was suspended with the score tied at three.  The game will be made up on a day to be determined.  This game needs to count towards the first half standings.

  • Lancaster won Friday's series opener by a 6-2 score over Ducks starter Mark Rogers.  He allowed all six runs (all earned), on 6 hits and 5 walks.  He fanned 4 batters, and saw his ERA grow to a 4.82 mark.  His record fell to 1-2 after 4 starts.  Lew Ford was 4 for 4 with an RBI.

  • On Saturday, the Ducks jumped out to a 4-0 lead after 5 innings, but then allowed Lancaster to post 7 unanswered runs.  Mickey Jannis started, and lasted 5 innings.  He allowed 4 runs 9 (only 1 earned), on 6 hits and no walks.  He fanned 6 batters, but took a no-decision.  Bruce Kern allowed 3 earned runs in relief of Jannis to earn the loss.  Reggie Corona was 3 for 4, and hit his first home run of the season.  It was Long Island's only extra base hit of the game.

  • In Sunday's game, Lancaster's pitching fell apart late in the game, and helped push 5 runs across the plate in the 8th.  The Barnstormers issued a pair of bases loaded walks, and a wild pitch plated a third run.  Lew Ford's 2-out single then scored two more en route to an 8-6 Ducks victory.  Lew Ford and Reggie Corona both drove in 3 runs apiece.  Bruce Kern rebounded from Saturday's loss to earn the win in relief of starter John Brownell.  The Long Island ace exited the game after 6.2 innings pitched.  In earning a no-decision, he allowed 4 runs (3 ER) on 5 hits and 3 walks, with 7 strikeouts.

With an 11-12 record the Ducks remain in last place, and trail the Somerset Patriots by 4.5 games in the Liberty Division standings.  They are now headed to York, Pennsylvania, to take on the Revolution.


Long Island Ducks
York Revolution
Santander Headquarters


Monday, May 18, 2015

N.Y. Rangers: Time For A Carl Hagelin Reemergence; Game 2



Eastern Conference Finals

Rangers lead series 1-0
I - NYR 2; TBL 1

Tampa Bay Lightning
33rd Street @ 8th Avenue

NEW YORK RANGERS: Now that they've established a physical advantage, Blueshirts need to keep it up.

Did the Lightning's lack of playoff experience rear its young head in Game One?

For such a high scoring, skate and possession team such as Tampa to spend so little time in their offensive zone, to turn over the puck as much as they did, and to get limited to just 5 shots on goal in the 3rd period, the answer could very well be..., maybe.

The Rangers on the other hand, are very experienced.  After playing what seems like an eternity of gut-wrenching 1-point games, the tested Rangers have an overwhelming calm about them.  Dan Boyle and Martin St. Louis won a Cup with Tampa.  Most of these Rangers went to the Stanley Cup finals last season, and several more have now been to the Eastern Conference finals 3 times with the Rangers in the last 4 years.

Did the Rangers also go old school on Tampa?

If you watched Tex's Rangers play a more physical game - initiating hits and throwing their bodies around with purpose, battling along the boards, pushing Bolts off the puck, causing turnovers, and blocking shots - like they used to under Tortorella, then the answer is definitively yes.

The Rangers out-jolted the Bolts by a 30-18 count, and their 10 takeaways somewhat off-set losing the face-off battle by a 30-23 margin.

Do I think the Rangers will maintain their physical edge?  They should!

They better!

The Need For Speed:

Did the Rangers also skate with speed reminiscent of an Alain Vigneault coached team?  You bet.  I guess Rangers fans CAN have it both ways, sometimes.., I guess.., (against the Lightning at least).

Attention Carl Hagelin - the Tampa Bay Lightning seem like a perfect opponent for him to get his game going into a higher gear, considering all the wide open hockey expected of these two teams and all...

In the previous round, Hagelin registered a mere assist in Game One, then got sand thrown in his motor by the very physical Capitals, whom not incidentally had the Rangers scurrying on defense for large portions of the series.

The Penguins on the other hand, are a step down in physicality, and with that being said, Hagelin's game improved as the series against Pittsburgh wore on.  He scored a goal in Game 3, assisted on Kevin Hayes OT winner in Game 4, and of course scored the overtime winning goal in Game 5.

Now with yet another down tick in physicality against the Bolts, I similarly expect an uptick in Carl Hagelin's performance as this series progresses.

Shake and Bake:

I think the Rangers can forget about beating Ben Bishop top shelf, unless they can put one through his chest.  His 6'7" frame covers a lot of net.  And if he can see the puck, he'll challenge shots, and stop them.

When Rick Nash set up Kevin Hayes for a clear shot on goal, Ben Bishop challenged Hayes straight forward, and made an easy glove save.  Later when Derick Brassard and Nash rushed 2 on 1, Brassard kept the puck and shot into the glove of a well positioned, and unflinching Bishop.

  • By the way, the Nash/Hayes/Brassard line did not score a goal, but played a brilliant game together.  In yet another line tweak, Brassard and Hayes assisted on Moore's goal.  The aforementioned line, however, may very well turn into the leading unit this series, as the Kreider/Stepan/Fast line was last series.

In Game One, Bishop was instead the victim of two costly deflections.  More importantly, the Rangers were able to create, maneuver, and effectively operate in traffic.

Derek Stepan's goal came off Chris Kreider's initial shot from the slot, that deflected off a Bolt in front, and presented itself for Stepan to clean up.  Bishop got beat moving to his right.

The second Rangers goal came on Kevin Hayes' bad angle shot/pass from the left corner.  Dominic Moore skated around from behind net to create the disruptive traffic and wound up getting credit for the goal.  On the play, Bishop got beat moving to his left.

If Game One served as any indication, then the way to beat Ben Bishop is by causing disruptive traffic, and by getting him to move laterally.

Gotta shake him, and bake him.

Blueshirts Short Circuit Bolts In Game One
Rangers Need To Keep Lightning From Sparking A Wildfire


Sunday, May 17, 2015

Are the Mets hitters ready for the St. Louis Cardinals pitchers?

Here's my latest for 

St. Louis Cardinals

senior staff writer/Rising Apple

N.Y. Rangers: Blueshirts Short Circuit Bolts in Game One


Blueshirts Strike First!


Rangers lead series 1-0
I - NYR 2; T.B. 1

NEW YORK RANGERS: Serving Up a Blue Line Special.

Derek Stepan picked up where he left off in Game Seven against the Capitals, by opening the scoring in Game One against the Tampa Bay Lightning with one of those morale breaking goals at 19:47 of the 2nd period.

No one expected Tampa to stay quiet for very long though.  Ryan McDonagh got called for a high stick, and at 6:45 of the 3rd, the Lightning scored on Andrej Palat's power play goal.

Despite the Rangers playing a very strong defensive game, giving Tampa a man advantage is something they can least afford to do, if only because of the Bolts already high potential for scoring.   The Rangers gave Tampa four power play opportunities - three in the 3rd period.

Can't do that boys!

On Saturday, they got away with it, but they'll need to tighten that up by Monday.

I fully expected the Bolts to visit the box more often than the Rangers this series, and still do.  In Game One however, they limited the Rangers to just two PP opportunities.  The Rangers went scoreless which makes them 6 for 40 in the post-season.

Dominic Moore was guilty of tripping at 15:05 of the 3rd, which could have spelled big trouble.  But, the Rangers did well limiting Tampa to just two shots.

Out of the box, Dominic turned the puck over in the offensive zone.  Roughly 20 seconds later, however, Kevin Hayes' feed from the left corner deflected off Dominic Moore's skate as he attacked the crease, and by Ben Bishop for what proved to be the game winning goal.

Game One Final
Lightning  1
Rangers    2

Coming with just 2:25 left in regulation, you might as well file Dominic Moore's goal along with the other demoralizing goals the Blueshirts have scored in either the opening or closing moments of a period.  It was close enough.

  • The Rangers lost the face-off battle by a 30-23 margin.   Dominic Moore was 9 for 19 on face-offs (47%), Brassard was 6 for 13 (46%), and Derek Stepan was 7 for 16, (43.8%).  Tampa's Valtteri Filppula destroyed the Rangers, going 10 for 13 (76.9%)

The Rangers finally got off the snide.  Ben Bishop is now 8-1-0 in career against the Blueshirts.  On Stepan's goal, he was forced to slide right and got beat stick side low.  On Moore's goal, he was forced to slide left and got beat glove side low.

Just saying....

Dan Boyle still might be suffering affects from the hit laid upon by Brooks Orpik.  He nonetheless played near 18:00 minutes Saturday.  He and the rest of the blue liners limited the Bolts to single digit shots on goal in the 1st and 3rd periods.  The Rangers also posted 10 takeaways.  Tampa took 24 shots overall, with only one getting by Henrik Lundqvist.

The Rangers took 30 shots on goal.  Nice adjustment by Alain Vigneault moving Kevin Hayes up on the line with Rick Nash and Derick Brassard, whom led the Blueshirts with 6 shots on goal.  Dominic also happened to be in the ice with Brassard and Hayes in the closing minutes - another (in-game) adjustment by AV.

Ryan Callahan did not have a shot on goal.  He was credited with 2 hits though.  However, it was the Rangers who applied the body, outhitting the Bolts by a jolting 30-18 margin.


Saturday, May 16, 2015

Brooklyn Nets: Billy King and the Mess of Flatbush

From the desk of:  THE HOOPS OF FLATBUSH

The Five Year Mission Failed.

BROOKLYN NETS: Instead of celebrating their first NBA championship, the Hoops of Flatbush are facing a rebuild without any nails, hammers, or wood, and the wrong guy in charge.

Yeah.., ouch!  Keep reading.

In the last three seasons, the Nets went from a 49-33 record during their inaugural season in Brooklyn, to a 44-38 record in 2013-14, to posting a sub par 38-44 record this past season in what proved to be a very weak Atlantic Division, and Eastern Conference.

That's called regression.

Let's jump right in, then, with the Atlanta Hawks recently opting to swap #1 picks with the Nets, as is their right dating back to the Joe Johnson trade.  The Hawks #29 overall pick in the upcoming 2015 draft now belongs to the Nets, while Brooklyn's #15 overall pick is headed to Atlanta.

Since we're on the subject of draft picks, the Boston Celtics will benefit from Billy King's benevolence till the year 2018.  As part of the trade to acquire Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, the Celtics received the Nets 2014 #1 pick, and are still due the Nets 2016 #1 pick, the option to swap 2017 #1 picks, and the Nets 2018 #1 pick.

Moreover, heading into Summer the Nets suffer from incredible salary cap inflexibility, not to mention being indebted to the NBA's luxury tax.  On that note, Alan Anderson, Thaddeus Young, and Brook Lopez, can all opt of of their deals and become a free agents.  If Billy King has intentions to retain Lopez and Young, it will potentially cost him yet more money.  That would leave very little to address the team's greater deficiencies.

Those are just some of the enduring ramifications stemming from Billy King's tenure, and five year (or three year..) failed mission to win his boss an NBA championship.

The NBA's most expensive team is now in need of a complete overhaul, although one is not likely because Billy King has created an unmanageable, and in all likelihood, an immovable mess.

When I last chimed in, I was about to lambaste Jarrett Jack for an utterly pathetic defensive effort in Game 5.  But, after getting blown out by the Hawks in Game 6, that became a moot point.

Today, the Nets situation is less promising than its ever been on Flatbush.  Meanwhile, Billy King still has one more year left in his contract.

Does this mean the Nets will be challenged to win 35 games next season?  My answer to that is - Once is an event, Twice is a coincidence, and Three times is a trend.  Read into that what you will.

All I know is that Joe Johnson said this -

"We never had that (chemistry) going into seasons.  That's probably the thing that hurt us most because you can have coaching changes but as players, you have to have cohesiveness to be successful in this league."

That's on Billy King, for his revolving door of both coaches and players.

This much I do know.  Billy King's 4th head coach in three years is astonishingly blunt, brutally honest, but speaks the truth.   Lionel Hollins demoted, and made bench players of Deron Williams and Brook Lopez.  I have yet to decide whether all of it helped, or hindered the team.

Among his more biting critiques:

On Deron Williams -
"He's not a franchise player anymore."
On Brook Lopez -
"He has some limitations.  ...there's a lot more that goes into a franchise player than just skill, so I don't even want to go there." 
On the team -
"I thought we had a higher basketball IQ as a group than we did.  I thought we had more toughness and all of that.   
...looking from the outside, that's why I always say until you come in and coach a team you don't know for sure.  I thought the skill level was better..."


He basically dumped all over Billy King's creation, and in fact, dumped on them all season long.

I don't know how King is going to improve this team.  He's got the entire organization in a bind.  We do not know if Mikhail Prokhorov has true intentions to sell, and if he's just trying to maintain a positive image.  That might explain why Mikhail Prokhorov hasn't fired him yet.

King's failure on the court should only be part of the owner's reasoning.  Marketing wise, I'd be focusing on Billy King's failure to seize the city as the Knicks were falling flat on their faces.  Over the last two seasons, Brooklyn was the only NYC representative in the playoffs, and as such, failed to encroach on the Knicks' popularity, never mind seizing the moment (or a Borough).

This is still a tenuous time for professional basketball in Brooklyn.  So far, fans kept their side of the deal.  They packed Barclays Center, and in all honesty, sometimes I had my doubts.  This can be a very apathetic, and on the more positive side, an ambivalent town.  The organization should now act before they lose something more than just games and money.  They need to worry about sustaining interest.  Therefore, a proactive approach is in order.

Billy King has been the architect of an incredible mess on Flatbush Avenue.  Someone else should be brought in to dismantle it, then rebuild it, quickly.


N.Y. Rangers Need to Prevent Lightning from Sparking a Wildfire


Saturday Afternoon Fever

Eastern Conference Finals

Tampa Bay Lightning
33rd Street @ 8th Avenue

NEW YORK RANGERS: The Best of Frienemies..

Regardless whether you spent your hard earned cash and bought one, or received one for your birthday, or as a gift for Christmas, there are many Rangers fans with a Ryan Callahan jersey hanging in their closet.
  • For the moment, that's problematic.  Twenty years from now, not so much.
The former home grown captain and supremely popular Blueshirt, Ryan Callahan was the embodiment of everything John Tortorella wanted the Rangers to be.

Brian Boyle and Anton Stralman put in very admirable work for the Rangers as well.

That being said, I like to think that after the opening face-off, there are no such things as friends.

There's nothing wrong with a healthy respect for one's opponent, but, ti's the season for adversaries, enemies and foes.

Ryan Callahan (appendicitis aside) has actually been a minor contributor for the Lightning.  In 12 post-season games he has registered a mere 3 assists.  However, Callahan was acquired to add a respectable measure of front line toughness and grit, as the Tampa Bay Lightning are a less physical team than say the Washington Capitals, or the Rangers teams Callahan played for.

Under Barry Trotz, the Capitals executed a system right out of the John Tortorella manual, but the Bolts more closely mirror the Rangers under Alain Vigneault.  That makes Callahan's individual performance against the Rangers quite intriguing.

The Lightning swept the season series 3-0, and outscored them by a 15-7 margin.  However, all three games came before New Year's, when the eventual President Trophy winners were still languishing with an 11-9-4 record.

Season Series
I - (Nov. 17) T.B. 5; NYR 1
II - (Nov.26) T.B. 4; NYR 3
III - (Dec. 1) T.B. 6; NYR 3

In Game One, Ryan Callahan scored a power play, and an even strength goal.  
In Game Two, a power play goal, an even strength goal, and an assist.  
He had a negligible impact on Game Three.

For his part, Martin St. Louis has 4 assists in 12 post-season games.  Three came against the Capitals. He, like Callahan, has yet to score a goal in the playoffs.  But in three regular season meetings against the Bolts, St. Louis scored power play goals in Game One and Three.

Callahan finished the regular season with 24 goals and 30 assists.  St. Louis finished with 21 goals and 31 assists.  It would seem, then, the only real difference between the two would be their age.

Martin St. Louis did have his chances against the Capitals.  Opportunities presented themselves.  He was simply fire-walled by Braden Holtby like so many other Blueshirts.

On Saturday afternoon, the fans of Madison Square Garden will be cheering and encouraging Martin St. Louis, like they used to for Ryan Callahan, whom is now the enemy.

*          *          *          *

There is no getting around the fact Tampa can score goals, and score in bunches.  The Bolts led the NHL with a 3.16 goals per game average.  They presently have three skaters with double-digit points, while Tyler Johnson leads the post-season with 8 goals.  By contrast, the Rangers have only two skaters with 8 total points, but, were one of only three NHL teams (T.B., DAL) to average three goals or better per game this season.
  • In 13 games played, the Bolts average 2.62 goals per game.  The Rangers are averaging exactly 2 goals per, over 12 games played.
Over two rounds of hockey, Tampa's best line (Ondrej Palat/Tyler Johnson/Nikita Kucherov) has produced what it has taken two Rangers' lines to produce.  In 13 games, they've combined on 17 goals and 14 assists, for 31 points.  Obviously, that does not account for Steven Stamkos or Ryan Callahan.

The Rangers line of Jesper Fast/Derek Stepan/Chris Kreider combined on 9 goals and 8 assists, for 17 points in 12 games.  The Rick Nash/Martin St. Louis/Derick Brassard line has combined on 7 goals and 12 assists for 17 points.  That's 16 goals and 20 assists for 36 points in 12 games.

During the first half of the season, Steven Stamkos and Rick Nash ran neck and neck for the NHL lead in goals, that is, until Alex Ovechkin overtook them both.  Both forwards have struggled to score goals in the playoffs.  Stamkos has 3 goals and 7 assists in 13 games, while Nash has 2 goals and 5 assists in 12 games.

The Rangers power play, then, must become a decisive factor.  I believe they'll get ample opportunities because the Lightning will commit penalties.   Tampa finished 13th in the league in penalty minutes, averaging nearly 10 minutes per game.  The Rangers were 3 for 20 against the Penguins, and 3 for 18 against the Caps.   That's 6 for 38, good for a 15.8% rate of efficiency.  They'll have to do better this series if they want to hang with the Bolts, who's penalty kill finished the season 7th best.

Tampa's power play finished the season 14th best.  In the post-season, the unit has either scored in bunches, or not at all.  They were just 2 for 30 in the first round against Detroit, but were 7 for 20 in the second round against Montreal.  In two rounds they totaled 9 for 50, good for an 18% effective rate.  The Rangers had better keep their eye on Nikita Kucherov who leads Tampa with 5 points on special teams.  The Rangers penalty kill was ranked 6th best in the league.

Ben Bishop vs. Henrik Lundqvist
  • Goalie Ben Bishop was one of only four goalies to post 40 or more victories this season.  He appeared in 62 games, and posted a 40-13 record, with a .916 SV%, and a 2.32 GAA.  In Round Two against the Canadiens, he allowed 13 goals in 6 games for a .940 SV%, and owns a .931 SV% for the playoffs.
  • No team has allowed less goals in this year's playoffs than the New York Rangers.  Henrik Lundqvist should still be fresh, despite an exhaustive series against the Capitals.  He only appeared in 43 regular season games, and posted a 30-13-3 record, with a .922 SV%, and a 2.25 GAA.  He allowed 12 goals in 7 games to the Caps.  In 12 games, Henrik has a .944 SV% and a 1.60 GAA.

This will be a series of New York Rangers experience versus Tampa Bay's inexperience.  We'll see how much that works in the Blueshirt's favor.

And lastly, how about the Rangers win some face-offs, aye?  Even if they have to put Dominic Moore out there, then have him rush off the ice....  The Rangers need puck possession against the Lightning.

Otherwise, it's time.  Let the games begin.