Wednesday, September 19, 2018

L.I. Ducks: With Liberty and Playoffs For All

From the desk of:  THE WEBBED SPIKES NINE



LIBERTY DIVISION
CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES
Somerset Patriots
vs
Long Island Ducks


Here we go again.

As if there were any doubt ...

For a fourth consecutive post-season, the Long Island Ducks and Somerset Patriots will battle for the Liberty Division championship.  It's been this way pretty much ever since the league realigned and placed Somerset alongside the Ducks.

The Flock cut it close this season, narrowly capturing the second-half division flag over rival Somerset, and thereby averting a Wild Card scenario.  After a troublesome first-half, in which they finish five games back of the first place Patriots, Long Island finishes strong with a 39-24 mark, two games better than the Patriots, and a 69-57 record overall.  Somerset secures their post-season berth with a 35-28 first-half record and finish the regular season with a 72-54 record overall, three games better than the Ducks. 

Not coincidentally, the Patriots take the first-half head-to-head series six games to three.  The Ducks turn the tables in the second-half head-to-head series, likewise winning six and losing three.  Said another way, these rivals split their regular season series down the middle, posting nine victories apiece.

It goes to show how through the seasons little has changed with regard to this recurring match-up.  The Liberty Division championship series once again features an age old dynamic in which one of the league's strongest offensive teams opposes one of the league's top pitching teams.

Of the two clubs, Long Island is the offensive juggernaut.  The Ducks rank first in home runs and total bases, second in slugging, and third in runs scored and OPS.  Somerset ranks last in home runs, seventh in both total bases and slugging, and fifth in both runs and OPS.  However, the Patriots are second in walks and stolen bases, third in OBP, and fourth in team average.  Whereas the Ducks are fifth in both walks and stolen bases, and sixth in both OBP and team average.

Infielder Justin Trapp leads Somerset with eight home runs, while the Ducks feature three players in double-digits.  David Washington leads Long Island with 24 round-trippers (second in the league), and Taylor Ard is second with sixteen.  The ageless one, Lew Ford leads the team with 73 RBI.  Washington and Travis Snider are tied with 71 RBI.  Second baseman Jordany Valdespin spearheads the offense with a team leading .338/.400/.487 triple slash.  He wins the league batting title by fractions over Somerset's Craig Massey, whom also finishes with a .338 mark.  In addition to leading the Patriots in batting, Massey also leads Somerset with a .418 OBP.  Alfredo Rodriguez leads with 55 RBI, while Jayce Boyd tops the club with a .481 slugging average.

Unfortunately, the Ducks lost the services of Emilio Bonifacio.  At the time his contract is purchased by the Milwaukee Brewers, he was leading the Atlantic League with a .348 average through 70 games.

On the mound, Somerset features one of the top two pitching staffs in the league.  They're first in strikeouts, H/9, K/W, own the league's second best ERA and WHiP, and have issued the second least walks.  Meanwhile, the Ducks rank fifth or sixth in most pitching categories.

This is precisely why Long Island's best hopes for advancing into the Atlantic League championship series rests on the arms and shoulders of their starting rotation.  As John Brownell, Matt Larkins, and Jake Fisher go, so will go the Ducks.  They'll also need effective contributions from Hector Silvestre, Dennis O'Grady, and recently acquired Brett Marshall.

And should the Ducks take a lead late into the game, the old pro Francisco Rodriguez must slam the door closed.  He posts 27 regular season saves and 2.76 ERA, with 42 strikeouts through 42.1 innings pitched.

THE RIVALRY: DUCKS vs. PATRIOTS

Prior to league realignment, the Ducks and Patriots face off in the 2013 league championship series, with Long Island emerging victoriously, three games against two.  The following season, Somerset gets shifted out of the Freedom Division and proceed to win their first Liberty Division title.  In 2015, Long Island flips the script in defeating Somerset two games against one.  If you're a Ducks fan the 2016 series proves epic; for Patriots fans not so much.  Somerset jumps out to a 2-0 series lead, but Long Island storms back winning three straight to capture the Liberty Division flag.  Last season, the Ducks again sweep Somerset, but for a second straight season fall short in the Atlantic League championship series.



Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Brooklyn Street Art: On a Brick Wall Near You




PET BIRD RIP
Lorimer Street at Metropolitan Avenue


2nd Avenue, GOWANUS


SUNSET PARK



N.Y. Yankees: California Reeling

From the desk of:  BLAME CARLOS MAY

The Red Sox Athletics Are Coming!

New York Yankees: Boston Red Sox Poised to Clinch A.L. East Title on Bronx County Grounds.


"Aaron Boone has no pulse."

Back in April (13-15) I attend the Red Sox/Orioles series at Boston immediately following their brouhaha against the Yankees.  I spent the mornings in part listening to WEEI Sports Radio, and sure enough a pair of hosts accuse the Yankees of (paraphrasing) playing asleep, and that Aaron Boone has no pulse.  I dismiss their comments outright, chalking it up to local hyperbole.  Their comments, however, never truly leave my mind.  So I watch as the Yankees negotiate their way through the rest of Spring and the dog days of Summer, and I wonder.  In truth, the Yankees nor Aaron Boone do anything that, to me, serve to dispel the aforementioned critiques levied against them by Boston radio five months ago.

Then along comes Aug. 31, at Detroit.  The Yankees wake up that morning losers of three of their last four.  Later that night a sense of urgency finally erupts through Aaron Boone's otherwise cool exterior, when the manager earns a well deserved ejection from an otherwise victorious Yankees effort over the Tigers.

Since then, the Yankees have won six and lost eight.

So much for inspiring the troops ...

On Sunday, the Yankees suffer yet another debilitating loss against the Blue Jays.  Moreover, they are now losers of three of their last four series.  Only Sunday's Oakland loss against Tampa keeps the Yankees clinging for another day to their precarious 1.5 game lead for top Wild Card spot over the A's.
  • The Yankees are 29-25 since returning from the all-star break (26-22 since Aaron Judge went down); the A's have gone 35-18 over the same span.

And now, here come the Red Sox!  They arrive in Bronx County on Tuesday, but the series itself is an afterthought.  Boston already has their playoff ticket in hand, and are poised to clinch the A.L. East any day now.  That leaves the Yankees battling the Oakland A's for the right to host a one game post-season play-in, with only fourteen games left to play.

In the meantime, Seattle and Tampa represent nothing but trouble.  Just ask the Athletics who drop two of three over the weekend against the Rays.  Tampa and Seattle only trail the A's by seven games. The Yankees still must play the troublesome Rays four times before this Wild Card race is through, while Seattle and Oakland likewise have a four game series looming.

The Yankees enter Tuesday's series opener with a 91-58 record.  On Sunday, the Red Sox defeated the Mets at Fenway Park for their 103rd victory of the season and reduced their magic number to clinch the division to two.  Therefore, the Red Sox will very likely secure the A.L. East crown during this upcoming series on Yankee grounds.

That comes on Aaron Boone's watch, who now must find a way to keep his team from potentially boarding that flight bound for California.

It doesn't get any more wild than that.


Monday, September 17, 2018

N.Y. Jets: Grounded

From the desk of:  WALT MICHAELS REVENGE


That Empty Feeling ..

New York Jets: Ryan Tennehill's efficiency wins out over Sam Darnold's inexperience.

Congratulations are in order.  Sam Darnold throws for his first 300-yard game as a pro.  The rookie was 25 of 41 (61%) for 334 yards and a touchdown.

Be sure that's not what Coach Bowles had in mind, as Miami limits the Jets running game to a mere 41 yards on 17 rushes.  Pressed into an elevated role Sam Darnold throws two interceptions: one in the first quarter that Miami converts into six points, then a second in the third quarter.  By comparison, Darnold's veteran counterpart Ryan Tannehill offers up a sixty-minute lesson in efficiency and proficiency.

After such an impressive showing in Week One, this is indeed one of those oft recurring inexplicable team losses that makes fans scratch grooves into the sides of their heads.

Don't put this on the rookie.

I don't think anyone anticipated the Fish bringing the Jets running game to a grinding halt.

Down by twenty at halftime?

They still had chances.

Keep scratching.



N.Y. Giants: A Five Star Mess

From the desk of:  DO IT FOR THE DUKE


BIG BLUE BLIGHT

New York Football Giants: The offense has played eight quarters of football with but one touchdown to show.

There's something to be said for not giving this newly constructed offensive line more reps during pre-season games.  However, there's very little that can be said in the way of defending Sunday night's atrocious play against the Cowboys at Dallas.

If the game were a movie, I'd rate them a five star mess.

The inescapable truth is that this revamped Giants offensive line was clearly out-played, out-muscled, out-smarted, and certainly out-classed.  Coach Shurmur and staff share equal fault for failing to make adequate in-game adjustments, if at all.  Moreover, losing center Jon Halapio is hardly an excuse for what transpired.  By the time he was being carted off the field, the proverbial damn had already burst allowing a torrent of Dallas pass rushers to flood the Giants backfield.

Eli Manning goes 33 of 44 (75%) for 279 yards and a touchdown.  But that hardly paints an accurate picture of the offensive debacle that was.  Eli is sacked six times, and hit another eight times.  With little time to negotiate through his progressions, Eli is forced into dumping off to Saquon Barkley 14 times for 80 yards.  By comparison, Odell Beckham only makes four receptions for 51-yards, while Cody Latimer's 37-yard reception goes down as the Giants longest play from scrimmage.

Forced into playing catch-up football, Saquon Barkley only rushes 11 times for a paltry 28-yards.  Aside from Eli Manning running for his life, the Giants only rush 14 times all game for 31 very inconsequential yards.

The Giants offense has played eight quarters of football thus far, but have only one touchdown to show.

Dave Gettleman built a win now team.

After two weeks, we're still waiting.


East Village Street Art: 1st Avenue at 2nd Street










Sunday, September 16, 2018

N.Y. Mets: The Latest Greatest Three Positive People Metsian Podcast

From the desk of:  HEAD-BUTTING MR. MET



Sam, Rich, and I bring you a very positive
Episode #20 of a Metsian Podcast

Sam gets a gold star for this episode.



1 hour, 10 minutes

STUFF
Jacob deGrom and the continuing Cy Young debate
The great R.A. Dickey hypocrisy ~ Jack Morris ~ Craig Swan ~ 
Todd Frazier's fake catch ~ Umpires Gone Wild ~ David Wright reaction
JAY HORWITZ NEW JOB DESCRIPTION
Good Things To Say About The Wilpons .... No, Really!
Tommy Agee ~ BABE RUTH ~ Shawn Green
Amed Rosario ~ grading Callaway ~ catchers ~ Michael Conforto
Thor ~ second half play ~ parking cars ~ and so much more...!



Saturday, September 15, 2018

N.Y. Giants: Eli Manning Poised To Play In Narrative Defining Game

From the desk of:  DO IT FOR THE DUKE

Dave Gettleman Banking on Eli Manning's 
Ability to Turn Back the Clock

SUNDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL
New York Giants
vs.
Dallas Cowboys
FROM
The House That Jerry Built

New York Football Giants: Dallas Cowboys Will Do Far Better Job Exploiting Absence of Olivier Vernon; I'm Concerned With Extra Load Being Placed on Snacks Harrison.

The Giants will play once again minus the services of their top pass rusher, linebacker Olivier Vernon, who will miss a second straight week with a high ankle sprain.  The Giants say he'll be ready by next week.  But history says this injury is notorious for slow healing, and sometimes responsible for hampering entire seasons.

Without him, the defense last week generated little in the way of quarterback pressure, registering one sack, and just three other QB hits.  On the ground, Leonard Fournette was having his way until sidelined by a strained hamstring.  Otherwise the Jaguars go on to rush for 137 total yards.

Sunday night the Giants face Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, and a superior Dallas Cowboys offensive line.  If Week One is any indication, the Giants will have difficulty generating much, if any pressure against Dak Prescott.  But there are reasons why the Cowboys only scored eight points last week against Carolina.  Without Dez Bryant, they have no legitimate high threat receivers to speak of.  It just renders their offense more predictable.., that's all.

But it also creates a great case study into new defensive coordinator James Bettcher's creativity.  His unit allowed the Jaguars only thirteen offensive points last week.  Bettcher should be daring Dak Prescott to beat them.  If Eli Apple, Janoris Jenkins, and Curtis Riley capably handle their respective assignments, Landon Collins can then potentially help stack the box against Ezekiel Elliott, and thus allow Bettcher to sneak in an occasional blitz.

On a somewhat different note, it appeared to me last week that playing minus Olivier Vernon at some point began taking its toll on Snacks Harrison.  In that regard, I envision this week unfolding similarly.  Keep an eye on Snacks, Coach, because he's the one player I feel the defense can least afford to lose.

THIS IS EXACTLY THE TYPE OF GAME DAVE GETTLEMAN IS TRUSTING ELI MANNING TO CARRY THE TEAM, AND WIN.

Point directly at Big Blue's offensive shortcomings for Week One's loss against the Jaguars.  Much was, and is still being made of Ereck Flowers poor performance.  When truth be told, the entire line played a flawed and inept brand of football.  Nate Solder was the first to admit that.  All told, the Giants rush 23 times for 114 total yards, but subtract Saquon Barkley's 68-yard romp, and the Giants rush 22 times for just 46 yards.  And if we're pointing fingers, the left side of the line (not the right) proved least effective.  The unit as a whole allowed two sacks and six more QB hits.

It seems Saquon Barkley's role is yet to be defined.  Last week he rushed 18 times with only two receptions, which is contrary to what many anticipated.  I would argue this week calls for 25 rushes of smash mouth type football.  After which I'm sure he'll be making many more receptions out of the backfield in the weeks to come.  In the meantime, Dallas is sure to test his abilities at reacting to an NFL blitz.

However, most problematic of all was last week's disconnect between Eli Manning and his receivers.
Eli's naysayers say elite quarterbacks find ways of carrying entire teams to victory regardless of the talent level surrounding them.  This week, that couldn't ring more true.  Getting open against Jacksonville was not necessarily a problem for Odell Beckham, Sterling Sherpard, or Evan Engram.  But timing and accuracy were.  I might be an Eli apologist without realizing it.  But even I'll admit this is Eli's game to either win or lose all by himself.  If he and his receivers clean up their act, the Giants should get out of Dallas with hard fought, well earned victory, and allow fans to breathe a little sigh of relief.

Or not ...


PIGSKIN 2018: Week Two


PIGSKIN
FOOTBALL SUNDAY
Week Two

RESULTS
Week One

SCOREBOARD:
Week One Record:  6-6-1
Schmear of the Week:  1-0
Bagels in the Basket:  +2

1st and Ten:
  • What Aaron Rogers did to the Bears last week was just stupid!
  • Sam Darnold on his first ever NFL pass attempt throws a pick-six against the Lions, but then proceeds to throw two TD passes in defeating the Lions by a 31-point margin of victory.
  • Saquon Barkley rushes for 106 yards and a TD in his NFL debut.
  • Bengals Swawn Williams first player ejected this season for illegal hit to the head (on Andrew Luck).
2nd and Long:
  • Aaron Rogers a long-shot to play Week Two.
  • Marcus Mariota enters Week Two dealing with a funky elbow.
No Gain:
  • Chicago Khalil Mack acquisition.
  • John Gruden's first game back.
  • Jerry Jones' continuing futility as GM of the Cowboys.
PUNT:
  • Carolina Panthers owner essentially tells rest of NFL owners to stick-it with their stupid anthem policy, telling them protesting does not make them unpatriotic.

WEEK TWO
Friday Line ~ NYDN

Giants +3 (COWBOYS)
Eli was somewhat off target last week.  I expect him and the offensive cohesiveness to be better.  The Giants are still playing minus Olivier Vernon.  But limiting the Jaguars to 13 offensive points last week is something the Giants defense can build on.  I envision them stuffing the box against Ezekiel Elliot, thus daring Dak Prescott and his pedestrian receivers to beat them.  The Cowboys only scored eight points last week against the Panthers.
Loss; 20-13 Cowboys
Dolphins +3 (JETS)
After last week's high, I expect a Week Two low.  I'm not saying the Dolphins are much better, but the Fish won't play as badly as did the Lions.  The Fish are still on a Week One high as well.  I just sense one of those inexplicable Jets let downs.
Win; 20-12 Dolphins

D.C. HOGS -6 (Colts)
I picked the Bengals last week over the Colts, but lost my Arizona pick over the Hogs.  The Colts offensive line is pathetic.  Andrew Luck sustained big hits in Week One.  I like the Hogs laying points at home.
Loss; 21-9 Colts

Panthers +6 (FALCONS)
Game plan be damned ... with Atlanta playing minus Devonta Freeman, and Carolina's offensive line essentially crippled after Week One, this will devolve into a shoot-out between Ryan and Newton.  In that scenario, I'll take the points.
Loss; 31-24 Falcons

Vikings +2 1/2 (PACKERS)
It's a trap!  Vikings win by nine.
Win; 29-29 TIE

Chargers -7 (BILLS)
West coast; long flight; jet lag; who cares.  It's not snowing in Buffalo yet.  Philip Rivers picks apart the Bills like a Thanksgiving turkey.
Win; 31-20 Chargers

Texans -2 1/2 (TITANS)
While the Titans continue pondering what went wrong last week, the Texans will cruise to easy victory.
Loss; 20-17 Titans

STEELERS -4 (Chiefs)
The Steelers tie the Browns; the Chiefs are better than the Browns; the Chiefs beat the Steelers.  That makes for nice football haiku, but the Steelers win at home out of pure desperation.  Missing Le'Veon Bell wasn't necessarily the reason why PITT came up short last week.  I think Big Ben's elbow (questionable) will be fine.  I'm uncomfortable laying four; one point more and I would have gone the other way.
UPDATE:  Big Ben may not be so fine after all, and may miss Sunday's game.  That changes everything, doesn't it ...  Since I'm my own commissioner, I'll decide what I do about this later.
Loss; 42-37 Chiefs

Eagles -3 (BUCS)
I defy Ryan Fitzpatrick to do that again!  Not against the Eagles defense, he wont.  Not happening, folks.
Loss; 27-21 Bucs

SAINTS -8 (Browns)
Speaking of which, Ryan Fitzpatrick ripped through the Saints defense like wet toilet paper.  They better clean that up fast.  These aren't last year's Browns.  In truth, I'm uncomfortable laying eight points.  Placing my hopes with Drew Brees in the Dome.
Loss; 21-18 Saints

RAMS -12 1/2 (Cardinals)
The Rams are good, but are the Cardinals that bad?  We're going to find out.
Win; 34-0 Rams

49ERS -6 (Lions)
After being tripped-up in Week One, Jimmy G will lead the Niners to their first victory over a hapless Lions team now reportedly dealing with internal turmoil.
Loss; 30-27 Niners

Patriots -1 (Jaguars)
It's just a point ...  I'll take that chance.
Loss; 31-20 Jaguars

Raiders +6 (BRONCOS)
So much for the obligatory home team laying three.  I'll gladly take six.  But will the real Raiders team please stand up.  I know the Raiders caved in the second half of Week One.  But they looked very good in the first half.  I know the Broncos defeated the Seahawks last week ... but I'm a big believer in parity.
Win; 20-19 Broncos


SCHMEAR of the WEEK:  1-0
Vikings +2 1/2
WIN

Good luck and have a great Football Sunday, everyone!

Post Game:
Week Two Record:  5-9
Overall Record:  11-14-1
Schmear of the Week:  2-0
Bagels in the Basket:  +1



Friday, September 14, 2018

N.Y. Mets: The Captain David Wright Setting New Life Course

From the desk of:  HEAD-BUTTING MR. MET


THE CAPTAIN
5
DAVID WRIGHT

New York Mets: Without actually using the "R" word, David Wright sadly informs the organization, media, and fans, that his playing career is unavoidably coming to an end.

The New York Mets held a Thursday mid-afternoon press conference at Citi Field where David Wright, accompanied by Jeff Wilpon and John Ricco, confirmed that various physical ailments affecting his neck, back, and shoulder, are preventing him from resuming his playing career.

In 2015, he only plays in 38 regular season games, but at least is able to participate in three rounds of playoffs and help the Mets win a National League pennant.  However, the following season he is again limited to just 37 games played, the last occurring on May 27, 2016, against the Dodgers at Citi Field.  Wright has not played a game for the Mets since.

Recent Injury History:
  • 2009 - suffers concussion/post-concussion symptoms after getting hit with pitch in head/helmet.
  • 2011 - suffers stress fracture in lower back.
  • 2016 - diagnosed with spinal stenosis; undergoes surgery for herniated disk in neck.
  • 2017 - undergoes rotator cuff surgery.

The club recently cut-short his official rehab assignment (at Las Vegas) so as to control the date of his official activation.  According to SNY-TV, the tentative plan is to reinstate him by Sept. 25, after which he will play third base on Saturday, Sept. 29, against the Miami Marlins in the penultimate game of the regular season at Citi Field.  David's availability for Sunday's season finale has yet to be determined, although unlikely.

Thursday's announcement sets in motion one of the more unfortunate and somber career endings to beset this organization throughout its five-plus decades old history.  Wright has been a part of the Mets family since they drafted him with the 38th overall selection in the 2001 amateur draft.  By late 2004 he is donning a New York Mets uniform for his first time.  After which, he spends the next fourteen years becoming one of the Mets most beloved players of all-time, and one of the organization's greatest ever ambassadors.

A seven time all-star, he makes his Mets debut on July 21, 2004, against the Montreal Expos at Shea Stadium.  At 21-years of age, he slashes .293/.332/.525, with 14 home runs and 40 RBI in 69 games.  Between 2005-2008, and 2010, he averages .305/.386/.527/.913, with 29 home runs and 110 RBI.  He enjoys a resurgent season in 2012, slashing .306/.391/.492, with 21 home runs and 93 RBI.

Then injuries start piling up which ultimately take a career ending toll on his elite baseball abilities, however, not before David Wright rewrites the Mets history books.  He is the Mets all-time leader in At-Bats; Runs Scored; Hits; Doubles; RBI; and Walks.  He is second in games played behind Ed Kranepool, and second in home runs (only ten) behind Darryl Strawberry, and is third all-time in career average.  All of which arguably qualifies him as the greatest ever positional player in New York Mets history.

Above all else, I want David Wright, the husband and father of two daughters, to enjoy for many years to come a superior quality of life with his family, that he be able to dance with his daughters perhaps one day at their respective weddings, and maybe one day be able to play with grandchildren free of restrictions.

Otherwise, thank you, David Wright, for being such an upstanding person, and for being the admirable hero to so many Mets fans you undoubtedly have become.



Thursday, September 13, 2018

N.Y. Jets: Into the Wild Green Yonder

From the desk of:  WALT MICHAELS' REVENGE


This Johnson Is Not Like The Other

New York Jets: Sam Darnold Brushes Aside Opening Mistakes; Regroups for Calm, Cool, and Collected Finish to NFL Debut.

For nearly two decades now, the number of quarterbacks to don a Jets jersey has been commensurate with the carousel of head coaches and general managers exhausted by this organization's upper hierarchy.  It's a condition for which I blame Woody Johnson.

Enter Jets CEO Christopher Johnson, who on Tuesday said it would be "counterproductive" for him issue a playoff ultimatum for Coach Bowles and general manager Mike Maccagnan (both of whom received two-year contract extensions at the end of last season), according to Rich Cimini of ESPN.

The Jets are only one game into the regular season, but coupled with their selection of Sam Darnold with the third overall pick of the draft, this just may prove to be the smartest start this organization has gotten off to in quite some time.

Although, it didn't seem that way as Sam Darnold on his first ever NFL pass attempt from scrimmage throws a pick-six.  His second possession proves no less futile.  But supported by a very effective running game, the rookie was able to brush aside any missteps and finally start proving his worth with a calm. cool, and collected finish.  He ends Monday night's game throwing 16 of 21 (76%) for 198 yards, the one INT, and the first two touchdown passes of his NFL career on connections to Quincy Enunwa and Robby Anderson.

In addition to his abilities on the field, Darnold brings stability to the coaching staff.  I know Todd Bowles has his detractors, but I believe he gets far more out of his players than any available replacement would.  Mike Maccagnan, meanwhile, will have tons of money available to spend next season.  And so there is every reason for Christopher Johnson keep this operation together regardless of the Jets final record and standing.

Time finally seems to be changing ...



Monday, September 10, 2018

N.Y. Giants: Blue Monday

From the desk of: DO IT FOR THE DUKE


Game One
Jaguars   20
Giants     15
FINAL

New York Football Giants: Offense Fails to Seize a Winnable Day.

With the Giants playing minus the services of Olivier Vernon - decidedly their best defensive player - they hold Jacksonville to 13 offensive points.

Leonard Fournette was having his way early, rushing nine times for 41-yards.  But a cranky hamstring takes him out of action.  T.J. Yeldon then steps in with 51 yards on 14 carries.  Meanwhile, Blake Bortles only passes for (18/33) 176 yards, an INT, and a touchdown, but scrambles twice for 42 yards.  All told the Jaguars gained 137 yards on the ground.

But then, the Jaguars aren't exactly known for offense.

On the other side of the ball, the Giants create good scoring opportunities against a stout Jacksonville defense.  But three times they settle for field goals.  In the first-half, Eli Manning overthrows a wide open Odell Beckham in the end zone.  In the second-half Manning has a pass batted at the line of scrimmage which is intercepted and returned for six points.  Evan Engram even drops what could have been a big play.

Special teams seals the loss, fumbling a punt that negates the Giants final possession of the game.

Odell Beckham registers 11 catches for 111 yards while rookie Saquon Barkley rushes 18 times for 106 yards and a touchdown.  Yet, the Giants lose by five.

Truth be told, Eli Manning's accuracy decreased as the afternoon wore on.  For the game, Eli was 23 of 37 (62%) for 224 yards, with no touchdowns and a pick-six.  In the first-half Eli is 13 of 17 (76%) (regardless of negating penalties committed by Ereck Flowers or other plays that went for minimal gain).  In the second-half, Eli only completes roughly 50% of his passes.

The offensive line allows two sacks, both within the final two minutes of the first half.  Jacksonville hits Eli six other times.  Now playing right guard, Ereck Flowers couldn't have gotten off to a worse start, wasting little time committing two inane penalties on the Gaints very first two plays from scrimmage.

But the running game paints a somewhat different picture of Flowers' performance.  The Giants run 23 times for 114 net yards.  Saquon Barkely accounts for 18 rushes and 106 yards (5.9 avg).  Take away Barkley's touchdown romp, he rushes 17 times for 38 yards (2.2 avg).

Here's the rub ...

Together, Jonathan Stewart and Saquon Barkley rush 20 times.  Five plays go left side for +16 yards; five plays up the middle go for +6 yards; but nine plays go right side towards Ereck Flowers for +24 yards.  Now add Saquon Barkley's 68-yard touchdown that started middle, but then bounced right around Flowers.

Too bad this will be lost in the narrative of the Giants first regular season loss.



N.Y. Jets: The Sam Darnold Era Begins

From the desk of:  WALT MICHAELS' REVENGE



MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL
New York Jets
vs.
Detroit Lions
FROM
Motor City

New York Jets: With Sam Darnold in the fold, it's time for Chris Johnson to halt his brother's practice of turning over general managers and head coaches.

The Jets haven't won, much less appeared in a Super Bowl since Joe Namath guaranteed victory over the (then) Baltimore Colts fifty years ago.  I remember Broadway Joe's last two seasons with the Jets, and every year of the ensuing four decades since spent trying to replace him.

If Richard Todd and A.J. Duhey never cross paths, or Ken O'Brien pulls the Jets out of a fatal nosedive, or if Vinny Testeverde's Achilles heel never snaps, or Chad Pennington weren't so fragile, or Marc Sanchez comes out of USC with just a tad more polish, the history of the Jets reads quite differently.

Monday night, all this gets thrown on the shoulders and arm of a rookie poised to be the youngest quarterback to ever start an NFL game since the 1970 AFL/NFL merger.  That being said, Sam Darnold might finally be that guy: a rare franchise quarterback capable of carrying a team through years of sustained success, and ideally, Super Bowls.  Even as a Giants fan, there's no denying I'm experiencing palatable anticipation leading up to his pro debut.

However, Mike Maccagnan and head coach Todd Bowles are still piecing together everything else surrounding Darnold.  And I believe they're doing a good job turning things around, despite what the Jets recent season records indicate.  Maccagnan has been methodical but effective, and players respond to Coach Bowles.  But above all else they need time, and there in lies the rub ...

Woody Johnson long ago created a condition among his various general managers and head coaches in which they were more or less compelled into making decisions based on job preservation over that of making actual long term progress.  Team CEO and acting owner Christopher Johnson is seemingly applying the brakes on that trend.  He already extended both Maccagnan and Bowles through 2020, ensuring both are provided an opportunity to see this through for a change.  However, Bowles' extension came before they drafted Darnold.  If the Jets are throwing Sam Darnold into the fire, Mr. Johnson must remain open minded about extending even further both Maccagnan and Bowles.



Sunday, September 09, 2018

L.I. Ducks: Liberty Division Race Tightening Like a Tourniquet

From the desk of:  THE WEBBED SPIKES NINE


Long Island Ducks: New, Veteran, and Spot Starters Keeping Flock a Step Ahead of Patriots.

Behind the recent performances of pitchers Brett Marshall, Jake Fisher, and a spot start by reliever Dennis O'Grady, the Ducks enter Sunday's action 2.5 games ahead of the Somerset Patriots in the Liberty Division standings with just seven games left to play.

Newly acquired Brett Marshall provided the Ducks with a sorely needed assist on Sept. 4, allowing just one run on four hits and three walks, with seven strikeouts during a six inning winning stint against New Britain.  Jake Fisher then tosses a complete game victory over the Road Warriors in Friday's series opener at Bethpage Ballpark, allowing just one run on five hits, walking none and fanning three.  On Saturday, making only his third start of the season, Dennis O'Grady allowed the Road Warriors two earned runs on seven hits, with no walks and a pair of strikeouts.

On Sunday the Ducks play their last home game of the regular season.  After Monday's day-off, the Ducks will be in Texas, where they'll wrap up their schedule with a huge, if not decisive six game series against the Freedom Division leading Sugar Land Skeeters.

Once the Patriots conclude their series against York on Sunday, they'll only have five more games left on their docket - one less than Long Island.  On Tuesday, Somerset opens a two game set against the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs, then get another day off on Thursday.  After which the Patriots travel to York where they'll close out the regular season against the suddenly surging and defending Atlantic League champion Revolution.

With the race for a second half pennant tightening like a tourniquet, the Ducks are 5-2 thus far in September, with the Patriots hot on their trail with a 4-3 September record.



Saturday, September 08, 2018

N.Y. Giants: Last Chance at the Eli Manning Corral

From the desk of:  DO IT FOR THE DUKE

Can Giants Get Back to Running Between the Tackles?

New York Football Giants: Dave Gettleman is putting an awful lot of trust in Eli Manning's ability to stay injury free not just this season, but next season as well.

With great conviction the Giants new general manager moves forward with a 37-year old quarterback, no viable back-up, and without a contingency plan for securing a replacement in the foreseeable future.

With the second overall pick of the draft, I did not agree with Dave Gettleman's decision to select Saquon Barkley.  There were several highly rated quarterbacks available, and a touted pass rusher to be had as well.  But Gettleman passed on them all, then turns and cuts back-up quarterback Davis Webb one week before the regular season opener.

That's called win now mentality, and life after Eli Manning be damned.

Coming off a 3-13 season, I'm not sure this is the correct course of action.  Be that as it may, instead of tearing it down and rebuilding, the plan is to squeeze every last bit of goodness out of Eli.

I'm no Eli apologist - no need to be.  He is flawed; not the most accurate passer; and did indeed lead the NFL three times in interceptions.  But I don't care.  I have no issue with Eli.  The bottom line is that I trust him.  The great debate as to whether or not he is/was elite always strikes me as nonsensical because damn near every critic takes his career completely out of context.  No one brings up that former offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride's play selection routinely led the NFL in most yards attempted per pass, and that Tom Coughlin happily signed off.  Coughlin and Gilbride were buddies from way back, and were in lockstep with Eli running a purposeful high risk, high reward offense.

Let's also not forget it was Ernie Accorsi's offensive line which nursed Eli Manning to maturity.  Once up to snuff, Eli, behind that offensive line pressed on to win two Super Bowls together.  In turn, Jerry Reese is to blame for running that same offensive line (and running game) into the ground.

Enough ...

With Gettleman's selection of Saquon Barkley, and the re-signing of Odell Beckham, together with Eli Manning, the Giants have an offensive triad that could potentially rank among the best.  Add tight end Evan Engram, and we're talking a quartet arguably comparable with any in the league.  If Dave Gettleman's revamped offensive line provides Eli Manning just one or two seconds more of pocket time, it won't matter if the opposition triple-covers Odell.

Yeah, about that offensive line ...

For all Gettleman's efforts, he still can't hide Ereck Flowers.  Shifting him to the right side is a good start.  In the meantime, I'm more concerned with both the collective abilities of Nate Solder, center Jon Halapio, and Patrick Omameh to create daylight, and with Saquon Barkley's ability to rush between the tackles.

Barkley's pre-season was compromised by a strained hamstring sustained in the Giants first exhibition game.  We'll see how far the Giants push him against the Jaguars, but I do not think they have 25 rushes in mind.  I suspect Coach Shurmur and new offensive coordinator Mike Shula will have him equally rush and receive.

The Giants offense failed to score thirty points in any game last season.  This season, the Giants were handed one of the toughest schedules in football.

Go Gettleman Go!



PIGSKIN 2018: Week One


PIGSKIN
FOOTBALL SUNDAY
WEEK ONE

My Trolley stats indicate PIGSKIN is one of my more popular features.  But there would be no PIGSKIN, nor a Brooklyn Trolley for that matter were it not for you.  So beyond merely welcoming you back, I want also to express my heart felt thanks, and extend to you my deepest appreciation for your valuable time spent visiting my blog.

For those new to this, here's how PIGSKIN works:  I usually post my selections each Friday according to that day's (NYDN or NYP) spread.  I stick to Sunday games unless the Giants/Jets play alternative days (I'll have a separate post for Monday's upcoming Jets game).  My preferred unit of value is the delicious Brooklyn deli fresh BAGEL.  Each game is worth one BAGEL.  I post a SCHMEAR of the WEEK worth three BAGELS.  A Push is as good as a loss.

Results: 2017 Regular Season
  • Overall Record:  93-113-6
  • Schmear of the Week:  8-8
  • BAGELS in the Basket:  -26

Obviously a bad season, if not my worst, down two baker's dozens.  That said, what I do here is strictly for entertainment purposes only.  If by following my picks you should do something ponderously stupid causing you to lose your home/job/family/etc., it means you have much deeper issues and the problem is all yours.  I'm just a dumb blogger.


PREGAME STRETCH
  • Since Daniel Snyder refuses to re-brand his team, PIGSKIN for the last several seasons refers to his organization as the D.C. Hogs.
  • I am a Giants fan since the mid-1970s; I'm not a New York Jets hater.  The Oakland Raiders used to be my second favorite team, dating back to John Madden's days as head coach.  But that's been long purged from my system (...kinda).  Can't decide who I hate more: Eagles or Cowboys.  Just depends which team Giants play that day.
ICYMI:

The NFL is in big freaking trouble, with a capital EF!  Over the next few years, the game may become even more unrecognizable than ever before, if not on the verge of extinction.  Between ongoing brain injury discovery and subsequent litigation, Roger Goodell's utter lack of command and control, and a wholly ineffective player's union, the game may lose its ability to remain "collectively bargained" if for no other reason than government inclination to interceded in the name of promoting the general welfare.  As a mega-billion dollar industry, it is becoming increasingly difficult for them to justify their lack of responsible compensation, treatment, and aftercare.  Remember, the 20th century died 18-years ago.  Baby Boomer sensibilities are being beat down around every turn.  For better or worse(!), Time is proving their worst enemy.  The game itself is proof.  During any given possession, intolerable amounts of penalties and time consuming replay are killing the on screen product.  If that's not good enough, there's always a beer or razor commercial to save us.  All of it screams ratings killers.  That changes negotiations between the leagues and networks.  Fans do not necessarily need to watch the game in order to follow the action.  And there's the rub.  Alas, football's new saving grace is gambling, and that somewhat negates any potential losses in future TV deals.  But the moment two, three, and four owners begin losing considerable bucks and put up for sale signs, the greater potential for creating a domino effect looms over the game.  That's just the nature of business.  Players have no leverage.  But, a majority of owners are flaky and skittish.  The stronger owners drag them along.  So, why this doomsday scenario?  The answer lies in a question: what happens when the alpha owners of the game (NYG/PIT/DAL/N.E./etc.) are gone?  Because the NFL's greatest asset has always been stability.  And they're losing it faster than it's taking to clear the Amazon rain forest ... with the same effect.


1st and Ten:
  • NFL debuts of NYJ Sam Darnold and NYG Saquon Barkley; NIKE shows-up the NFL.
2nd and Long:
  • John "Chuckie Good Guy" Gruden is back, back again. Chuckie's back, Chuckie's back.
No Gain:
  • CTE and concussion protocol; anthem protests and Trump's revenge for not letting him into the NFL back in 1980s; Le'Veon Bell holdout; will the Bengals ever fire Marvin Lewis?
PUNT:
  • Los Angeles stadium situation; Jerry Jones will never fire himself as general manager; integrity fees my ass!


WEEK ONE
Friday Line ~ NYDN

Jaguars -3 (GIANTS)
A new Giants offensive line needs to prove its worth against a stout Jacksonville defense.  Sure the Giants have offensive weapons.  One of them, Saquon Barkley, had an ineffective camp (hamstring).  But can the Giants maintain possession and manage the clock?  Defensively, the Giants will be without Olivier Vernon, which means they'll have no pass rush to speak of, which means Eli Apple and the rest of the secondary will be busy.  I smell toast.
WIN

Steelers -4 (BROWNS)
As strange as it seems, the Steelers are a unified team ... in their resentment of Le'Veon Bell, that is.  The Browns haven't won a game in a long time.  They'll have to wait another week before they win another.  Big Ben knows time is of the essence, and that the Browns won't be down much longer.
LOSS

VIKINGS -6 1/2 (49ers)
I like what Jimmy G brings to the Niners.  That's what helped me decide this pick.  Any more points I was going Niners.  But the Vikings this year will prove to be one of the more complete teams in the league.
WIN

Bengals +2 1/2 (COLTS)
Andrew Luck is back, but the Colts still won't be able to protect him.  The Bengals have many familiar faces and a measure of continuity that should get them through the day.
WIN

RAVENS -7 1/2 (Bills)
I gave up on the Ravens last season, perhaps prematurely.  They start the season with my respect.  The Bills on the other hand are going to be one of the worst teams in football.
WIN

SAINTS -9 1/2 (Bucs)
Meanwhile, the Saints will be one of the best teams in football this season.  Close your eyes and envision Ryan Fitzpatrick getting into a shoot-out with Drew Brees.  Exactly ... lay the points!
LOSS

Texans +6 (PATRIOTS)
The Texans have their quarterback and J.J. Watt back in the fold.  They're chomping at the bit to get back on the field.  Last thing they want is getting off to a poor start.  Besides, the Patriots are due for a good kick in the shins.  The Foxboro crowd sits in stunned silence.
LOSS

Titans -1 (DOLPHINS)
If Vegas isn't giving the Miami Ocean Mammals any home team respect, why should I?  The Titans are an emerging playoff contender with a new head coach guiding quarterback Marcus Mariota.  Nuf ced.
LOSS

Chiefs +3 (CHARGERS)
Toughest game of the week.  I'm hearing good things about the Chargers.  However, they've been so Jekyll and Hyde these last few seasons.  I still don't trust them.  I do trust Andy Reid and the Chiefs, though.  I'm sure they've been seething all off-season.
WIN

Seahawks +3 (BRONCOS)
Who cares!  Russell Wilson will be the best player on the field.  Bad match up for Denver.  That's worth three points alone.
PUSH

PANTHERS -2 1/2 (Cowboys)
Do not understand why this spread is so tight.  I like the Panthers by double-digits.
WIN

CARDINALS -1 (D. C. Hogs)
Here we have two veteran quarterbacks making fresh starts with new teams.  The Cardinals defense should make them more than just a one point favorite.
LOSS

Bears +7 1/2 (PACKERS)
I thought this spread would tighten up.  I'm more than happy taking that half-point point.
WIN


SCHMEAR of the WEEK:
RAVENS -7 1/2 (Bills)
WIN


Good luck, and have a great Football Sunday, everyone!



Thursday, September 06, 2018

N.Y. Mets: The We Just Want Meaningful Conversation in September Metsian Podcast

From the desk of:  HEAD-BUTTING MR. MET



Partner @MetFanRich and I bring you a 
wide ranging and very straight forward Metsian discussion.

1 hour, 18 minutes

 

STUFF
California fool's gold rush ~ Bobby Ojeda ~ Home Run Baker
PON vs. Son of PON ~ Omar Minaya ~ scouting vs. analytics
Pitching ~ Pitching ~ Pitching
DeGrom's streak ~ Thor's Hammer ~ The Wonder Wheeler ~ Dwight Gooden
Terry Collins ~ Bullpen ~ Closer ~ What Inning Limits?
Mickey Callaway ~ Dave Eiland ~ Wally Backman ~ Frank Viola
Home Run Baker ~ Tim Foli ~ Ryan Church ~ gambling ~ The Black Sox
Pragmatism ~ more Cy Young talk ... and so much more!



N.Y. Giants: No Hiding Flowers In Newly Constructed Offensive Line

From the desk of:  DO IT FOR THE DUKE

Dave Gettleman spends big bucks and 
second round pick to refortify offensive line.

New York Football Giants: Dave Gettleman did more to overhaul the offensive line in his first off-season than did former general manager Jerry Reese over the last six years.

The day after winning Super Bowl XLVI, should have been the day Jerry Reese started deconstructing and rebuilding his offensive line.  He did no such thing.  Which is part and parcel why Reese is no longer employed by the Giants.

This year's helmet crashers will feature three brand new members.  But with Ereck Flowers shifting over to the right side, and Jon Halapio moving to center, all five positions will have a new starter in place.

Gettleman paid the necessary premium in order to secure free agent left tackle Nate Solder.  His four year, $62 million dollar contract makes Nate the NFL's highest paid lineman.  But that's the price the Giants needed to pay in order to rectify an untenable situation (where it concerns Eli Manning's ability to play upright).  Solder was Tom Brady's blind side protector for the last seven years, and won two Super Bowls with the Patriots.  He instantly becomes the anchor of this unit.  His four line mates would be wise to follow his lead.

With their second pick in the 2018 draft, the Giants select left guard Will Hernandez.  He's 6'4", 327 lbs., and when on the field is said to be mean as a rattlesnake.  At one point during training camp, he and B.J. Goodson engaged in a minor altercation and needed to be separated.  That's good!  And I couldn't be happier with this selection.

Jon Halapio takes over at center.  Exactly why, I'm not quite sure, because it's not his natural position. But it would seem he simply demonstrated better ability and agility at the position.  Listed at 6'3", 315 lbs., I certainly don't mind the switch.  Brett Jones last year played fairly well in place of the since departed Weston Richburg.  But this is clearly Coach Shurmur's decision, whom like Gettleman is seemingly doing everything possible to separate themselves from last season's mess.

In March, Gettleman signed former Jacksonville Jaguar right guard Patrick Omameh to a three year deal.  How he fairs playing next to Ereck Flowers remains to be seen.  There's an obvious and necessary role for both him and center Jon Halapio to play in helping Ereck Flowers successfully negotiate four quarters of football.

Banned from the more critical left side, Ereck Flowers has been reassigned to right tackle.  His next move should be out the door.  The switch simply means Eli Manning will get to look his would be attackers in the face (as opposed to being hit from behind).  Flowers is still a liability opposing defenses will look to exploit - only difference being he'll now be appearing on their left.  No sooner than Week One will Jacksonville let the Giants know exactly where they stand with regard to Ereck Flowers.

Many of the Giants most recent failures have been largely blamed on an inept offensive line.  While Dave Gettleman did well to enact sweeping changes in just one off-season, some questions never change, such as can this new offensive line both satisfactorily protect an older Eli Manning and create sufficient daylight for rookie Saquon Barkley? 

The Giants first game of the season against a stout Jacksonville defense will go a long way towards answering these questions, and more.



Wednesday, September 05, 2018

N.Y. Mets: Thor Finally Wields Mighty Hammer Like an Ace

From the desk of:  HEAD-BUTTING MR. MET


What took so long?

New York Mets: Noah Syndergaard Pitches First Career Complete Game Victory.

Shall we call it a break through?

This past Sunday, Noah Syndergaard finally becomes a pitcher, if for only a day.  Although his continuing growth as a craftsman remains to be seen, on this day he pitches nine full innings for his first ever complete game victory over the Giants at San Francisco.  A rather brilliant effort, he surrenders one run on just two hits and a walk, with eleven strikeouts.  Noah faces thirty batters, and throws an economical 114 pitches (12.5 per inning) with an efficient 87 (76%) going for strikes.

A Mets bullpen routinely asked to contribute three innings in relief of a typical Noah Syndergaard start were given the day off.  That being said, Sunday's effort is in stark contrast to his performance just three starts ago, when on Aug. 17 Syndergaard throws 115 pitches but only lasts 5.2 innings against Philadelphia.  Which, therein lies his career narrative.  He's been good - very good in fact - but only for one hundred pitches, or six innings, which ever comes first.

With Sunday's nine inning effort, he's now averaging 6.2 innings this season through twenty starts.  Previous to Sunday, however, he was only averaging just a shade under six innings per outing.

After effectively missing all of 2017, this is indeed a comeback season for him.  And lest we forget his bout with Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease.  But this has been the Noah Syndergaard syndrome ever since his rookie season.  At this juncture of his career, he should have already achieved higher ground.  Yet four years later he's merely trying to reestablish who and what he was as a rookie.

Compare the seasons; they speak for themselves.



Tuesday, September 04, 2018

N.Y. Mets: A Season of Historic deGromination

From the desk of:  HEAD-BUTTING MR. MET


Jacob deGrom breaks Dwight Gooden's 33-year old record; 
ties 118-year old Major League record.

New York Mets: Jacob deGrom's Bid for Cy Young Award Goes from Epic to Historic.

With no disrespect towards Philadelphia's Aaron Nola, it's safe to say this year's chase for the National League Cy Young Award is a two man race between Washington's Max Scherzer and Flushing's own Jacob deGrom. 

Scherzer's 16-6 record and deGrom's 8-8 record are obviously incomparable.  Otherwise, Scherzer and deGrom are first and second respectively in both WHiP and strikeouts.  However, deGrom leads the majors with a stingy 1.68 ERA, while his 230 strikeouts rank fourth overall.  He additionally leads the National League with a 0.4 HR/9 average and 2.07 FIP.

On April 10, at Miami, in just his third start of the regular season, Jacob allows four earned runs on seven hits and a walk, with six strikeouts through six innings pitched.  Although he earns the rare  victory, it's arguably his worst performance of the season, to date.  Since then, deGrom limits opponents to three runs or less in each of his next 25 starts, thus breaking the Mets record of 24 consecutive starts yielding three runs or less set in 1985 by Dwight Gooden.  Moreover, deGrom also ties the major league record for consecutive starts allowing three runs or fewer set back in 1910 by Chicago Cub King Cole, according to ESPN.

Only four times during the streak has he actually allowed the opposition three runs in a game.  Otherwise he has limited them to two runs or less 21 other times.  For the season, he has allowed but two runs or less in 23 of his 28 starts.

Now in the midst of his fifth season with the Mets, Jacob deGrom's narrative has evolved from being a quietly touted prospect, to Rookie of the Year, to All-Star pitcher, to National League champion, and most recently to Cy Young Award candidate. 

Now we begin his foray into the realm MLB records.


Brooklyn Cyclones: Wait Till Next Year

From the desk of:  THE CONEY ISLAND NINE



Brooklyn Cyclones: Despite Last Ditch Victory Over Staten Island, Coney Island Falls Half-Game Short of Wild Card.

Brooklyn entered Monday's action trailing the Wild Card leading Auburn Doubledays by a mere half game.  Auburn and Batavia were scheduled for an early game, with Brooklyn and Staten Island slated for late afternoon.

The Doubledays build an 8-5 lead, but heavy rain at Batavia causes a delay of game in the eighth.  By then the Cyclones trail Staten Island 2-3 in the middle of the seventh at Coney Island.  When the skies over Batavia clear, Auburn completes their post-season clinching victory over the Muckdogs.  With Brooklyn's game against Staten Island now rendered inconsequential, the Yankees tie the game in the eighth, sending their respective season finale into extra innings.  Staten Island pulls ahead in the top of the tenth, but Brooklyn rallies for two in the bottom half of the frame to capture one last regular season victory.

Second year manager Edgardo Alfonzo and the Cyclones break a string a three consecutive losing seasons, posting forty victories for the first time since 2014 and 13th time in their history.  They send six representative this year to the New York Penn League all-star game, with standout outfielder Ross Adolph capturing MVP honors.  The Cyclones lead the regular season in runs scored, total bases, team average, and team OPS.  Meanwhile, starters Jaison Vilera and Christian James lead the league in ERA, finishing one and two respectively.  Collectively, the Cyclones staff finishes second in team ERA, and third in WHiP.  All of which makes the conclusion of 2018 regular season bittersweet, as the Brooklyn Cyclones miss the post-season for a sixth consecutive year.

I will continue singling out getting sacked at Troy as the reason why.  The Cyclones were fresh off taking three of four from the Hudson Valley Renegades, but then got swept at Troy by the Valley Cats.  And therein lies their biggest misstep, because at the same time Hudson Valley was sweeping the Connecticut Tigers.  Between Aug. 20 and Sept. 1, the Cyclones go just 4-9 entering Sunday's penultimate game against Staten Island.  Hudson Valley, meanwhile goes 10-3 over the same stretch, leaving Brooklyn's hopes of a Wild Card berth out of their hands, and securely in Auburn's.

It was a fun season nonetheless.

Unfortunately, it's time to dust off the Borough's old refrain: Wait till next year!

#LetsGoCyclones



N.Y. Giants: The New Blue Administration

From the desk of:  DO IT FOR THE DUKE


All Scapegoats Have Left The Building

New York Football Giants: The Four Men Responsible For Correcting John Mara's Recent Mistakes.

I've been a witness to some fairly bad Giants seasons.  Of course, there are generations who've endured more than me.  Others not so much.

Only five times previous to last year did the Giants ever lose as many as twelves games in a season: 1966, 1974, 1980, 1983, 2003.

The first time they ever achieve double-digit losses comes in 1964 with a 2-10-2 record.  I was not yet born in 1966, and still too young when in 1974 they post a 2-12 record.  But the team goes 3-11 in 1976, the first year I can recall bleeding blue.  A few years later, Ray Perkins coaches the Giants to the first twelve-loss season of my recollection.  Three years later Bill Parcells in his first season as head coach leads the Giants to a 3-12-1 season.  Then twenty years pass until 2003 when Jim Fassell coaches the Giants to a 4-12 record.

No New York Football Giants fan, dating back to 1925, had ever been made to endure a thirteen loss season.  Then last year happened.  Today, our multiple generations of Giants fans are now united as one in so far that we all saw them together at their very worst.

High-five!

Since everything starts at the top, how does John Mara proceed forward after the worst season in the history of his family business?  The simple answer is hiring a new general manager, selecting a new head coach, assembling a new staff, collectively working to cut the dead weight, targeting key free agents, and ultimately marching forward with a roster purged of at least 45% of last year's personnel.

But nothing is ever that clear cut and dry, is it?

After all, John Mara himself played an uncharacteristically large role as a meddler and enabler, not only last season, but over the last few seasons.  We know John Mara is a loyal person, and that long relationships do not usually end well, and saying good-bye is hardly ever easy.  In the case of Jerry Reese, perhaps he was a bit too loyal.  He and Jerry Reese scapegoated Tom Coughlin.  Mara in turn then took the lead in scapegoating Ben McAdoo.  With no more scapegoats to be found, the time finally come for them both to part ways.

In addition to Reese's departure, John Mara also humbles himself.  Any effective owner or executive understands the value of self-reflection and accountability.  So he admits recently to being solely responsible for orchestrating last year's Eli Manning consecutive starts streak fiasco, and completely miscalculating the resulting backlash.

For better or worse, the changes that should have been exacted several years ago are now in place.  To what lengths and to whom's satisfaction will be an ongoing matter for debate.

Dave Gettleman is the new general manager.  I didn't necessarily agree at the time with all his draft selections, but he nevertheless has a supporter in me.  He preaches about playing the brand of Giants football I feel for too long has been lacking around these parts.  At the same time, I find his previous body of work for the Carolina Panthers commendable.  I like the way he generally handles his business, and the press in particular.  There are concerns regarding his health, although he says everything is fine.  I'll nonetheless be preoccupied with his condition throughout the season because I believe in Gettleman, and want for him to see his transformation of the Giants through to completion.

Next on the totem pole is Pat Shurmur, hired back in January to replace outcast Ben McAdoo as head coach of the New York Giants.  I'm not going to pretend I know much, if anything about him.  I will say to this point he has exhibited more depth of knowledge, an undeniable self-confidence, superior presentation, and a noticeably better command of outside interference and/or unnecessary distractions than did his predecessor.

Shurmur serves last year as Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator with positive results.  He spends his first ten seasons coaching with the Philadelphia Eagles.  After which, he serves two seasons as St. Louis Rams offensive coordinator.  He then moves on to become head coach of the Cleveland Browns under then executive Mike Holmgren.  And later returns to Philadelphia for three more seasons until landing at Minnesota where in 2016 he starts out as tight ends coach, and by 2017 is back to serving as offensive coordinator.

This all makes him an offensive schooled head coach, just like McAdoo, Coughlin, and Fassell, before him.  On the one hand, we'll see how he interacts with his own offensive coordinator, and how in turn he manages and trusts defensive delegation, and lastly his ability to fuse both together into effective overall game management.

Mike Shula is the new offensive coordinator.  I don't care who his father is, the guy has thirty years of coaching experience.  Moreover, he's a Shurmur guy.  If you recall, with Kevin Gilbride (and Tom Coughlin) it was always high risk/high reward, and interceptions be damned.  Under Ben McAdoo, Eli was coached in shorter yard higher percentage passing, albeit with lower rates of interceptions, but was stymied the whole time by poor game-planning, a substandard offensive line, and the Giants woeful inability to rush the ball.  Dave Gettlman has enacted changes to the offensive line, drafted a highly touted college back, and re-signed a healthy Odell Beckham Jr. to a new contract, all of which might help Mike Shula and Eli Manning manage a potentially well balanced attack.

The new defensive coordinator is James Bettcher who comes to the Giants via the Arizona Cardinals.  He took over an outstanding Cardinals defense former coordinator Todd Bowles left behind in order to accept the New York Jets head coaching position.  However, under Bettcher, the Cardinals nevertheless remained a stout, league respected unit.  Year in and year out, they've been among the league leaders in fewest rushing yards allowed.  That much can not be denied.  But the true common denominator with regards to Arizona's defensive prowess is more a matter of personnel than perhaps their two former coordinators.  The Giants defensive unit Bettcher is inheriting, quite frankly, has more problems than a math book, and I wish him luck figuring it out.