Monday, October 23, 2017

Road Trips 2017 Part IV: Hudson Valley Renegades

I'm glad to finally present you with Road Trips, Part IV.  This chronicles my Labor Day weekend adventure through my home state of New York.  The wife and I made stops in Hudson Valley/Fishkill, Troy, Cooperstown, and Binghamton.  I took 1,062 pictures, so it took some time for me to get them properly filed way.

Road Trips 2017:

We escaped the city after work with surprisingly little resistance.  It then dawned on me while driving through Hudson Valley that the Renegades were hosting the Vermont Lake Monsters.  The Renegades were involved in a late season race for the McNamara Division title against the first place Staten Island Yankees.  And so I made a last minute decision to stop at Dutchess Stadium in Fishkill to catch the game.

I originally planned on driving straight through to Cooperstown, and we prepared a cooler filled with stuff for the trip.  But we also grabbed some last minute heroes, which got me thinking ... lets make a mess of ourselves at the game, instead of trying to feed our faces in the car.

What a good decision!  We left in the seventh inning or so, continued the drive up to Cooperstown with a full belly, and checked in later than night as planned.

That's the great thing about road tripping; I get to make the rules as I go along.

home of the
New York-Penn League Affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays

Established in Fishkill, N.Y.

Little did I know that my visit to Dutchess Stadium would serve as a sneak preview to the New York-Penn League championship series.

The Baby Bombers wound up edging out Hudson Valley to win the McNamara Division title.
Staten Island ended the regular season with a league best 46-29 record, and 2.5 games ahead of the second place Renegades, whom closed out the season with a 44-32 record, which earned them the Wild Card.

The Renegades would turn the tables on Staten Island in the first round of the New York-Penn League playoffs.  After the teams split games One and Two, the Renegades rolled to a 7-1 victory in Game Three.

Hudson Valley faced the Vermont Lake Monsters in the New York-Penn League championship series.  After claiming a slim 2-1 victory in Game One, the Renegades completed the sweep with a 6-0 whitewashing of the Lake Monsters in Game Two, to capture Hudson Valley's third NYPL championship in their 24 year history.

New York Penn-League 

Onward to Cooperstown ...


Dutchess Stadium

Sunday, October 22, 2017

N.Y. Giants: What The Fluker Was That?

From the desk of:  DO IT FOR THE DUKE

Seattle Seahawks
New York Giants
Jimmy Hoffa Grounds

New York Giants: Was Last Sunday Just a Fluker?

Seattle will be ready.  The Giants won't be able to pull a fast one over the Seahawks like they did against the Broncos in Denver.

It was painfully evident last week, offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan was not going to put Eli Manning in harms way.  Yes, the offensive line allowed another three sacks, but that's routine stuff at this point.  Instead, Coach Sullivan limited Eli to 19 passes, who completed 11 of them.  Only five receptions were made by four different fill-in receivers.  Rookie tight end Evan Engram accounted for another five receptions, and one toss went to Orleans Darkwa out of the backfield.

Denver is a good team with a top tier defense.  Yet, the Giants rushed 31 times for 148 yards; an average of 4.6 yards per carry.

Were the Broncos simply caught off guard?  Did they simply have a bad day at the office?

One now has to wonder about the impact D.J. Fluker played in Sunday's game.  He single-handed opened up swaths of daylight for Orleans Darkwa starting at center in place of Weston Richburg (concussion protocol).

Bart Oates was the Giants starting center from 1985 through 1993, during which time he appeared in three Pro Bowls.  He was their center in 1986, and went to the Pro Bowl during the Giants 1990 Super Bowl season.  He played out his final two season with San Francisco, making the Pro Bowl each time.

Shaun O'Hara was brought over from Cleveland in 2004, and became the Giants starting center for the next seven seasons.  He started for the 2007 Super Bowl champions, and appeared in three straight Pro Bowls between 2008 - 2010.

David Baas was signed as a free agent to replace O'Hara the following season.  Despite winning a Super Bowl in 2011 with Baas at center, he went on to become an expensive bust.  But then again, the 2011 season was the last bit of goodness Jerry Reese was able to squeeze out of that offensive line.

Since then, it's been all downhill.

Now in his fourth season, Weston Richburg, 25, was selected by the Giants in the second round (43rd overall) of the 2014 draft.  He has missed the last two games, placed in concussion protocol, which brings us to D.J. Fluker.

Now 29-years old, D.J. was selected in the first round (11th overall) of the 2013 draft by the Chargers.  Only problem is, he is used to playing right guard.

So what do we make of last Sunday?

The man is 6'5", and weighs 339 pounds.  Weston Richburg is 6'3", 298lbs.


Seattle will be expecting the Giants to run ... again.  I'm sure of it.

So, I'm going to reserve judgement until after Sunday's game against the Seahawks.

I have a saying: Once is an event; twice is a coincidence; and three times is a trend.

Nuff ced.

Friday, October 20, 2017

PIGSKIN 2017: Week Seven

Week Seven


Week Six Record:  3-9
Overall Record:  27-51-1
Schmear of the Week: 3-3
Bagels in the Basket:  -25

Either the NFL is plagued with undecipherable parity, or I just can't pick winners against the spread this season.  If you follow my picks, and you're into trends like I am, then you should be doing just fine by going against everything I say.  I've been terribly consistent in that respect.  So, I'm glad to have been of some service to you.

Welcome to Week Seven Light!  These picks are according to Thursday's line in the NYP.

I'm outta here.  I'll be on the road this weekend taking in the autumnal change, soaking up the last bits of Oktoberfest, and partaking in some early Halloween festivities.  Check out my timeline on Twitter if you're interested in seeing cool stuff, people, and places, as well as some thing unexpected ... I'm sure.

Jets +3 (DOLPHINS)
The Dolphins were considered up and comers before they got displaced by hurricanes.  They seem to have their feet under them again.  I'm throwing the Jets a bone, and say they'll cover.  After getting screwed last week against the Pats, they just might play that much harder.

Seahawks -5 (GIANTS)
The Seahawks will not be caught off guard like the Broncos were.  The Giants had no choice but to protect Eli, and approach Denver in the manner which they did.  Seattle knows exactly what to prepare for.  There will be no surprises here.

Titans -5 1/2 (BROWNS)
Marcus Mariota playing on one good leg is good enough for me.

Jaguars -3 1/2 (COLTS)
The Jags are starting to piss me off with their up and down crap.  Doesn't change the fact Indianapolis has so far allowed the most points in the NFL.

STEELERS -5 (Bengals)
Just when I thought the Steelers were imploding from within, Coach Tomlin glued them back together and made them take out their frustrations on the formerly undefeated Chiefs.

VIKINGS -5 (Ravens)
The Ravens are another team really pissing me off.  Thank goodness the Vikings give this game clarity.

Panthers -3 (BEARS)
Meh ... Happy Go Moody Cam Newton will lead his team to an unimpressive victory.

Saints -5 1/2 (PACKERS)
The Packers are just another ordinary team without Aaron Rogers.  Their offensive line isn't some fantastic unit capable of carrying their backup quarterback.  Rogers stretches out, and creates plays on his own, because of breakdowns in protection.

Rams -3 1/2 (Cardinals)  *England*
The Cardinals are lagging behind the Rams on both sides of the football.  Young beats old.

Cowboys -6 (49ERS)
Ezekiel Elliott plays on.  Advantage Cowboys.

Broncos +1 1/2 (CHARGERS)
After last week's debacle against the Giants, the Broncos better play angry.

PATRIOTS -3 (Falcons)
Take the home team in a massive shootout.

Buccaneers @ BILLS is off the board a/o Thursday

Schmear of the Week: (3-3)
Seahawks -5

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

The Rivalry: Rangers vs. Islanders - Part I

From the desks of:


Islanders  4
Rangers    3

Six games into the season, the Rangers forward lines have raised far more questions than answers.  Part of the reason is because the Rangers are staffed with a preponderance of mediocrity, which in turn leaves Alain Vigneault nowhere closer to stabilizing his forward lines today, than he was in training camp. 

This goes back to what I said - the Rangers are perhaps one of the weakest teams in the NHL up the middle.  I already issued my opening statement regarding that, and the New York Rangers in general.

Think about it ... they picked Adam Cracknell from the scrap pile, and played him on the fourth line two games ago against Pittsburgh.

What does that tell you?

For the moment, the Rangers are in last place, and from what I've seen so far, that's where they belong.  In fact, the Rangers are in the midst of their worst start too the season in my lifetime. 

Thursday night's loss against the Islanders only heightens my displeasure with their present condition.  And Saturday's upcoming game against the Predators will very likely make matters worse.

Just wanted to get that off my chest before breaking out for the weekend.

I'm out.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

N.Y. Yankees: Damn Yankees Heading Back To Texas

From the desk of:  BLAME CARLOS MAY

Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa Flame Out at Yankee Stadium;
Astros Glad to Get Out of Town.

Yankees Lead Series 3-2
I - HOU 2; NYY 1
II - HOU 2; NYY 1
III - NYY 8; HOU 1
IV - NYY 6; HOU 4
V - NYY 5; HOU 0

New York Yankees: Tanaka Pitches a Gem; Bombers Gain Series Lead With Sweep at Stadium.

Holy Cow!

With Wednesday's 5-0 whitewashing of the Astros, the Yankees are now just one victory away from clinching the American League pennant, and advancing to the World Series.

After losing the first two games of the ALCS in Houston, the Yankees have stormed back to sweep three at Yankee Stadium.  And just like that ... the favored Astros find themselves heading back home under do or die circumstances.

Masahiro Tanaka delivered a gem in Game Five at Yankee Stadium, limiting Houston to just three hits and a walk, and fanning eight, through seven innings pitched for the victory.  He now owns a 1.83 ERA in two starts against the Astros, surrendering just two earned runs on seven hits and two walks, with 11 strikeouts, in 13 innings pitched.

After five games, the Yankees four starting pitchers collectively own a 1.28 ERA against the Astros.  They've joined to give the Yankees 28 innings, in which they've limited the Astros to just four runs, on 13 hits and ten walks, for an 0.821 WHiP, with 30 strikeouts.

Luis Severino is on deck for Game Six, and CC Sabathia is poised to pitch Game Seven, if necessary.

The Empire also struck back against Astros starter Dallas Kuechel, who struck out 10 Yankees over seven innings in Game One.  This time, the Bombers knocked him out of the box after just 4.2 innings pitched, but not before roughing him up for four earned runs on seven hits.

Aaron Judge, Didi Gregorious, and Greg Bird, all drove in runs.  Gary Sanchez homered in the seventh to ice it.

The Yankees will face Justin Verlander in Game Six at Houston.  He shut out the Yankees for eight innings until they touched him for one run in the ninth inning of Game Two.  Otherwise, Verlander surrendered just five hits, walked one, and fanned 13 Yankees, for a complete game victory.

The home team has yet to lose in this series.  And apparently, home is where the hits have been for both teams as well.

Yankee fans now have to wonder which lineup will show up for Game Six.  The one which previously batted just .158 (63 at-bats) at Houston, with only four walks, three doubles, one home run, and 27 strikeouts?  Or the lineup which batted .269 (93 at-bats) in three games at Yankee Stadium, with 11 walks, six doubles, one triple, four home runs, and 22 strikeouts?

While Yankees production spiked sharply at Yankee Stadium, the Astros lineup has remained somewhat more consistently unproductive.  They batted just .190 (58 at bats) in Houston, with four walks, two doubles, one home run, and nine strikeouts.  Then dipped even further to .119 (92 at-bats) in three games at the Stadium, with 12 walks, five doubles, no home runs, and 25 strikeouts.

The eyes of Texas will again be on Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa as the series shifts back to Houston.  Without them, the Astros do not win games One and Two.  After starting the series a combined 8 for 15 in the first two games, Houston's dynamic due has since gone just 2 for 22 in three games at Yankee Stadium.

Recall how the Astros barely outscored the Yankees in games One and Two by a 4-2 aggregate in Houston.  The Bronx Bombers, on the other hand, outscored the Astros by an aggregate 19-5 margin through three games at Yankee Stadium.

The Yankees have two chances to win one game, whereas the Astros must win Game Six in order to force a Game Seven.


Wednesday, October 18, 2017

N.Y. Yankees: Judge Wields His Mighty Gavel

From the desk of:  BLAME CARLOS MAY

Series Tied 2-2
I - HOU 2; NYY 1
II - HOU 2; NYY 1
III - NYY 8; HOU 1
IV - NYY 6; HOU 4

Houston Astros
New York Yankees
161 Street and River Avenue

New York Yankees: Judge Holds Court; Issues Stay Against Houston Astros.

Home Sweet Home is where the hits are.

For the moment, Aaron Judge and the Yankees have turned the tables on Houston.

As a team, the Yankees struck out an untenable 27 times (14 times in Game One, and another 13 times against Justin Verlander in Game Two).  That means exactly half of their 54 allotted outs came via strikeouts.  Headlining the futility were Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez, who went a combined 1 for 14 in Houston, with seven strikeouts.  The Yankees otherwise totaled ten hits in the first two games at Houston, with only three going for extra bases.

The Astros wound up taking games One and Two by identically slim 2-1 margins of victory as a result.  In truth, Houston only managed just one more hit than the Yankees, and matched them with three extra base hits.  But it was Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa who profited most against Yankees pitching, going 8 for 15, with four runs scored and three RBI.

With a change of location, it is Judge, Sanchez, and the Yankees, now beginning to prosper, while Altuve, Correa, and the Astros, find themselves suddenly struggling at Yankee Stadium.

As a team, Houston only struck out a total of nine times through the first two games.  That changed upon their arrival in the Bronx, when they fanned seven times, with just four hits in Game Three, and struck out another nine times in Game Four.  Meanwhile, Houston's dynamic duo only went 1 for 14, with 3 walks, and just one run scored.

The formerly dormant bats of Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez, however, are so far 4 for 13 in the Bronx, with a double, three runs scored, two home runs, and eight RBI.

The Yankees outscored Houston by a 14-5 margin in games Three and Four.  All you need to know is that the Bombers cut down their strikeouts, when compared to games One and Two, by two-thirds. They struck out six times as a team in Game Three, and just three times in Game Four.  That's 18 fewer overall strikeouts than games One and Two.

Putting more bat on the ball in games Three and Four, in turn, has resulted in 15 total hits for a plus-five, and seven extra base hits for a plus-four, when compared against their production in games One and Two at Houston.

The largest questions now looming for the Yankees are can Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez carry over their Game Three and Four success at the plate, into their rematch against Dallas Kuechel and Justin Verlander in games Five and Six, whom dominated them in Houston?

Secondly, can the Yankees starting pitching sustain their overall success against the Astros?

The Yankees four starters, (Masahiro Tanaka, Luis Sevrino, CC Sabathia, Sunny Gray) have joined to post a 1.71 ERA, having allowed just four earned runs over 20 innings pitched, with nine walks, and 12 strikeouts.

Keep in mind, Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa went 5 for 15 specifically in games One and Two against Masahiro Tanaka and Luis Severino, with five runs scored, and three RBI.

Game time!

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

N.Y. Mets: All Eyes Are On Alex Cora

From the desk of:  HEAD-BUTTING MR. MET

Terry Collins Ends Mets Career With 551-583 Record; 
Second Most Wins By Mets Manager Behind Davey Johnson

New York Mets: Front Office Will Interview Highly Recommended Alex Cora For Vacant Managers Position.

With the Astros in town to face the Yankees in the ALCS, it's being reported Houston bench coach Alex Cora will interview on Tuesday to potentially fill the New York Mets managerial vacancy.

It's also being reported Alex Cora has already interviewed for the vacant Red Sox position.  The former infielder has strong ties with Boston as a member of the 2007 championship team.

Drafted in the 3rd round of the 1996 draft, Cora spent the first seven seasons of his career with the Los Angeles Dodgers.  He signed as a free agent with the Cleveland Indians for the 2005 season, and was then traded to the Boston Red Sox midway through the season, where he continued playing through the 2008 season.

Like the Red Sox, Alex Cora is no stranger to the Mets.  He was a well respected, influential player in the Mets clubhouse during the 2009 and 2010 seasons, and was already being touted in baseball circles as a future coach/manager in the making.

He played his 14th and final MLB season as a 35-year old in 2011 with the Washington Nationals.

Since Cora's retirement, his widely recognized baseball acumen had long been sought after by major league baseball clubs.  His main priority during the years immediately following his retirement, however, lay in being close to home and raising his daughter.

Alex still remained active in baseball as an analyst for ESPN, and as general manager of his home town Criollos de Caguas of Puerto Rico's Liga Profesional de Beisbol Roberto Clemente.  

While still active, Cora, an eminently proud native of Caguas, Puerto Rico, played in three straight Serie Final for los Criollos from 2009-10 through 2011-12, and helped lead them to a league championship in 2010-11.  After retiring later that year, he accepted the position of general manager upon the resignation of Frankie Higginbotham.  With Cora at the helm, Caguas went on to win another league title (2012-13) in a rematch series against los Indios de Mayaguez.

Last winter, los Criollos de Caguas won their second championship in the last five years under Cora.

Alex and los Criollos de Caguas moved on to Culiacan, Mexico, for the 2017 Serie del Caribe, or, the Winter Leagues World Series, if you will.  It marked his second attempt at winning a Caribbean title as general manager of Team Puerto Rico.  This time, Cora and Puerto Rico did emerge victorious to capture the Caribbean Leagues crown.

As general manager of Puerto Rico in the 2017 World Baseball Classic, Alex Cora's bid at the trifecta ended against Team USA.

He has nevertheless since continued riding a personal wave of success into the ALCS as bench coach of the Houston Astros.

Many believe working along side Astros manager AJ Hinch has added the finishing touch to Alex Cora's resume.  To quote a line from, the Mets are looking for someone younger ... and willing to adapt to new technology.  

That's exactly the type of experience he's presently gaining with Houston.

Is he the right man for the Mets?

Yes, without a doubt.  For all the reasons being discussed throughout media and print.

His baseball journey has taken him from the innocent fields of his native Caguas, where him and his brother Joey Cora both played as kids, to the University of Miami, then through several of MLB's largest markets.  

After Los Angles, he went on to play under the glaring lights of New York City.  He understands the role media plays here, and how intense the scrutiny can be.  The same can be said regarding his experience in Boston.  The media there is just as relentless, ruthless, and combative; sometimes even more so.  He nevertheless earned the media's respect and was embraced by them in both towns as the voice of reason.

Cora is completely bilingual, which also eliminates any potential miscommunication with Latin players.  That being said, he is known to be a uniquely well spoken communicator with all players.

Above all else, he is the best, and most appealing available candidate in my opinion.

After Cora, Gardenhire is second on my list.  He has the most managerial experience among the field of candidates, and was fairly successful during his years with Minnesota.

Kevin Long, is said to be the only person to have interviewed for the job so far.  He is not a top consideration of mine.  Nor is Joe McEwing, or Mickey Callaway.  Manny Acta is a blast from the past that I might be agreeable to.

For whatever reason, there seems to no longer be interest in the services of Robin Ventura and Brad Ausmus.  In turn, I have zero interest in Bob Geren and Chip Hale, but will admit to having a mild curiosity with Sandy Alomar Jr.

Joe Girardi's contract with the Yankees expires after the post-season, but I do not think the Yankees and him will part ways.  I also personally think Joe is wound up just a bit too tightly, and that him crossing boroughs wouldn't go over very well.

Cora is the best man for the Mets, but seems to be a better fit in Boston.

I hope that's just the Mets pessimism in me speaking out loud.

Monday, October 16, 2017

N.Y. Giants: Smash-Mouth Makes an Appearance in Denver

From the desk of:  DO IT FOR THE DUKE

GIANTS      23

New York Giants: Big Blue Finds Daylight in Denver; Rumble to First Victory of Season.

I rest my case!

Limited throwing from Eli Manning;
a heavy dose of the ground game;
key tight end receptions;
and shut down defense.

That's Giants football where I come from.

Unfortunately, Sunday's game was the closest thing I've seen to traditional Big Blue smash-mouth football since Ben McAdoo arrived in town.

Considering the Giants defeated the Denver Broncos quite soundly, I'm forced to revisit a question I've been asking for years:

If the New York York Giants won two Super Bowls in 1986 and 1990 playing smash-mouth football, then won another pair of Lombardi trophies in 2007 and 2011 still playing smash-mouth football, and all four Super Bowl victories came against west coast styled offenses, then why on earth are the Giants so hell bent on transforming into a west coast offense?

My answer is obviously Ben McAdoo.

The Giants second year head coach gets credit points for self-reflection.  He surrendered play calling to his offensive coordinator, Mike Sullivan, and the results were in stark contrast to what McAdoo has been reconditioning us for. 

How is it that with Mike Sullivan calling plays Eli Manning's yards per completion average also rose by almost two full yards (versus previous three seasons with McAdoo calling plays)?

I'll wait ...

That being said, isn't it amazing the things you can accomplish without Odell Beckham Jr.?  Odell is the best wide receiver the Giants have ever had.  Right?  He's better than Phil McConkey, Bobby Johnson, Stephen "touchdown" Baker, Plaxico Burress, Amani Toomer, you name it.

Problem is, Sunday's victory over the Denver Broncos was the Giants first of the season, and their first since last year's infamous trip to South Beach with Bieber. 

Is this proof it took Beckham's disappearance to finally open some eyes?  Does this prove, as I contend, Ben McAdoo's application of the west coast was flawed to begin with?

I don't know ...

But I do know Eli Manning only threw the ball 19 times, and connected 11 times for 128 yards.  And I know he threw a touchdown to his rookie tight end, Even Engram, who caught five huge passes for 82 yards.

With D.J. Fluker starting at center in place of Weston Richburg (concussion), the offensive line created loads of daylight for Orleans Darkwa, who rushed 21 times for 117 yards.  On three separate occasions, he rumbled for 47 yards, 17 yards, and 14 yards.

As John Madden would say ... BOOM!

But one game does not a running game make ... the line is still not without its problems. 

They allowed another three sacks.

Pfft ..!  Before the game, I was fearful Eli was going to get hurt.

The defense was shut-down.  The Giants limited the Broncos to just 46 yards rushing, sacked Trevor Siemian four times, with JPP recording three of them.  They intercepted Siemian twice, caused one fumble, and scored six points.

It was a nice day in Denver.

So, where do the Giants go from here?  After all, Sunday's victory only makes them 1-5 on the season.  There's still a lot of room to play with.

Is smash-mouth back to stay?  Will Mike Sullivan continue implementing this run-first philosophy, even though it flies in the face of Ben McAdoo? 

Or, will the head coach intercede, insisting upon some semblance of west coast?

N.Y. Yankees: Another Swing And A Whiff

From the desk of:  BLAME CARLOS MAY

Back in the Bronx

Houston Astros
New York Yankees
161 Street and River Ave.

New York Yankees: Fine Pitching Efforts Being Wasted Due to Lack of Contact at the Plate, Lack of Base Runners, and Non-Productive Outs

Just like that ... the Yankees are back home in Bronx County down 0-2 for a second straight series against a favored post-season opponent.

And for a second straight game against the Houston Astros, a play at home plate is being singled out as the primary reason why the Yankees find themselves having to climb out of a deepening hole.

With one out in the bottom of the ninth, and the score tied at one, Jose Altuve singled off Aroldis Chapman.  Altuve then scampered from first all the way home on Carlos Correa's double to the right/center field gap.  With Altuve rounding third, Gary Sanchez was unable to cleanly pick Didi Gregorious' relay throw, which arrived in sufficient time, but on a short-hop, allowing Altuve to slide home safely for the win.

As a former catcher himself, Joe Girardi has never kept secret his displeasure with Gary Sanchez' defensive shortcomings behind the plate.  Game Two perhaps further demonstrates why Sanchez might ultimately be transferred to first base within the next few seasons.

For the moment, that's neither here nor there ...

If you missed it, I stand by my previous post, suggesting strikeouts will be the Yankees downfall - not Greg Bird being a half-step slow, or Gary Sanchez mishandling a rely throw (although both could genuinely be considered decisive plays).

First of all, the Yankees are failing to stop Jose Altuve.  They can't even hope to contain him.  The Astros second baseman and MVP candidate is turning the Yankees away in the field with his glove, he's punishing them at the plate, and absolutely torching them on the base paths with speed.

That needed to be said.

But here's the real skinny ...

Too Many Strikeouts!

As a team, the New Yankees are hitting .159 (10 for 63) through two games, with just four walks, and two runs scored.  But, Houston is only hitting marginally better, batting .189 (11 for 58), with four walks, and four runs scored.

In other words, the Yankees are so far getting all the pitching they could have hoped for.  They also have almost as many hits as the Astros, but their prodigious rate of strikeouts at the plate is proving prohibitive.  They just aren't putting enough balls in play.  More specifically, I think they need more reliable contact out of the two spot, which means dropping Aaron Judge down in the order.

By keeping Judge in the second hole, I feel Joe Girardi is completely compromising and minimizing the affects of Brett Gardner hitting ahead of him, as well as affecting the at-bats of Starlin Castro and Aaron Hicks later as the line-up progresses.

The Astros rarely strikeout, and are adept at manufacturing runs.  Jose Altuve went steaming from first all the way home because someone (Carlos Correa) put the ball in play.

The Yankees, on the other hand, are doing less living and doing more dying lately, as Joe Girardi continues looking through the preponderance of strikeouts in search of the team's next three-run home run.

In Game One, Joe Girardi batted Judge second, Sanchez third, and Didi clean-up.  The three combined to go 1 for 10, with no runs scored, no home runs, no RBI, one walk, and fanned six times.  Worth noting, Gregorious had only fanned four times in six playoff games prior to Game One in Houston, but fanned twice hitting behind Judge and Sanchez, and with Stalin Castro protecting him in the fifth spot.  Then in Game Two, Girardi batted Gregorious third, and Sanchez fourth.  With Judge, the three went 1 for 12, with no runs scored, no home runs, no RBI, no walks, and struck out another four times.

Added up, the Yankees two/three/four slots through the first two games against the Astros went 2 for 22 (.090), with no runs scored, no home runs, no RBI, one walk, and struck out ten times.  Houston's three and four hitters, Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa, have joined to go 8 for 15 (.533), with four runs scored, three RBI, one walk, and have struck out just once.

As a team, the Yankees have outpaced the Astros strikeouts at the plate by a rate of three to one.  Yankees batters have now struck out 27 times in 63 at-bats, fanning 14 times in Game One, and another 13 times in Game Two against Justin Verlander.  Meanwhile, the Astros have only fanned nine times in 58 total at-bats.

Said another way, Yankees batters are striking out 42.8 percent of the time.  The Astros are only fanning at a rate of 15.5 percent, which, not coincidentally, is below their MLB leading mark of 17 percent during the regular season.

Why stop there?

The Yankees have struck out 96 times through eight post-season games.  Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez account for 35% of those strikeouts.  In fact, Judge and Sanchez have combined to strikeout 34 times in eight playoff games, while the entire Astros team has only fanned 39 times though six playoff games.

In turn, the Astros feature a .358 OBP through six post-season games, while the Yankees lag behind with an inadequate .281 OBP through eight post-season games.

That's your real problem, Joe.

Lack of base runners, lack of making contact, unproductive outs/too many strikeouts, and too many strikeouts bunched together in the two through five spots in the lineup.

Then again ... what do I know?

Sunday, October 15, 2017

N.Y. Giants: Dysfunction, Junction, What's Your Malfunction?

From the desk of:  DO IT FOR THE DUKE

Lunatics Are Ruling The Asylum, Again

New York Football Giants: Dysfunction Tends To Slip Into Every Team's Locker Room From Time to Time; How John Mara Intends To Address This Is What Most Interests Me.

When I think back upon instances of Big Blue dysfunction, Wellington Mara's 30-year rebuilding plan comes to mind.  That era was highlighted the very first fan inspired/hired prop plane towing a sign in protest over the Giants practice field.

Then there's Wellington's rift with his brother, necessitating the NFL Commissioner to intercede, and force the Giants into hiring George Young as their general manager.  On that note, there was Pete Rozell laughing it up over Young's selection of an unknown quarterback named Phil Simms out of Morehead State.

Soon thereafter, Bill Parcells went just 3-12-1 in his first season as head coach, and almost got fired as a result.

Lawrence Taylor ... no comment.

When I think dysfunction, I think back on two disastrous seasons under former head coach Ray Handley.

Fast forward a few years to the Jim Fassel era, when he gladly let the lunatics run the asylum.  There was the infamous mental meltdown against the Minnesota Vikings in the 1997 playoffs, in which Giants players starting fighting among themselves on the field, as well as on the sidelines.  Then there was the far more egregious mental meltdown during the 2002 playoffs in San Francisco against the 49ers, in which they blew a 38-16 lead with less than five minutes left in the third quarter.

Jim Fassel wound up leaving a veritable Animal House behind led by Michael Strahan, Keith Hamilton, Tiki Barber, Jeremy Shockey, and a few other prominent frat house pledges.

Tiki Barber's relationship with new coach Tom Coughlin, as well as that of Michael Strahan's with  Coughlin and Jerry Reese devolved to cantankerous levels, and absolutely wreaked of dysfunction.

We also saw what happened in 2007 when Jeremy Shockey sustained a season ending injury, thus freeing the Giants from his dysfunctional oppression of Eli Manning.

These days, the very mention of Odell Beckham's name has become a divisive issue because of the very dysfunction he's perceived to have brought to the team.  His history of immaturity, questionable behavior, and complete lack of professionalism prior to his injury continued undeterred.  Therefore, Coughlin and McAdoo both enabling Beckham the whole time is yet another level of dysfunction.

Dysfunction is Eli Apple saying the club needs a culture change; it's players leaving the field during games; and it's the odd circumstances surrounding Coach McAdoo suspension of Dominique-Rogers Cromartie.

Dysfunction is the background scuttlebutt suggesting Coach McAdoo is losing the team's respect.

There's only one man whom can rectify, or even eliminate, this entire current state of dysfunction presently afflicting the New York Giants - that's John Mara.

With this season already all but lost, when will his patience run out?  Mr. Mara is not afraid to draw a line in the sand and hold his employees to it.  He also possesses reasonable cause to blow this thing up.

The Giants have been hampered by the salary cap, and have drafted poorly for years.  Posting an aggregate record of 39-46 with one playoff appearance since the confetti stopped raining on Super Bowl XLVI, should indeed be making Jerry Reese feel very uncomfortably.

I know Mr. Mara will let Ben McAdoo and Jerry Reese finish out the season.  Mr. Mara is going to make them own this debacle.  After which, should the team finish the season under similar circumstances, I can almost guarantee the owner will make the next move.

N.Y. Jets: Mission Improbable Suddenly Not So Far Fetched

From the desk of:  WALT MICAHELS REVENGE

New England Patriots
New York Jets

New York Jets: To The Chagrin of Fans In Search Of The Elusive Number One Overall Draft Pick, Gang Green Is Suddenly Playing Must See Football.

The Jets were written off before they ever reported to training camp.  And according to some, that was the intended plan.  Tank the season (discreetly, of course) in an attempt to secure the number one overall selection in next year's NFL draft.

Consecutive losses to open the season against the Bills and Raiders, by a aggregate 66-32 score, had Jets fans thinking they were greenfully on their way towards last place, and finally on their way towards resolving a decades long crisis at quarterback.

Only now, Jets antagonists, and even some of their own fans, are growing increasingly bitter because they're failing to get even that right.

Defeating the Miami Dolphins and Cleveland Browns were only somewhat understandable victories.  The Jets couldn't help but be better than them.  What are you gonna do..?  Their 23-20 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, however, was far more unexpected, and conflicting.  I'm sure the Jags are all still kicking themselves over that game.  As I'm sure there's one or two Jets fans whom kicked themselves in the posterior over it as well.

Not winning a Super Bowl in 48 years kind of does that.

Nevertheless, the New York Jets are winners of three in a row, and locked a three-way tie for first place in the AFC East entering Week Six, along with Buffalo, and Sunday's opponent, and primary nemesis, the New England Patriots.

Which ever team wins Sunday between the Jets and Patriots, will be the undisputed leader of the AFC East, at least for one week, that is.  The Buffalo Bill will sit out this Sunday with a bye.

Think about that for a second ...

It would have been irresponsible for anyone to have suggested before the season started that the Jets would be locked in a three-way tie for first place entering Week Six.  The Jets playing the Patriots for sole possession of first place in Week Six was never even a fleeting consideration, much less an improbable one.  And for a fan to have gone as far as predicting the Jets would have a legitimate chance at actually winning this game would surely have invited sports bullying upon him/her self.

But the truth of the matter is that Coach Bowles has his Jets playing hard-nosed, fundamental football.  He's done the best he can do considering the team's roster and circumstances, and you can't blame him for that.

Not too long ago, Rex Ryan's Jets featuring Mark Sanchez at quarterback, and a defense led by Bart Scott, earned an epic and improbable playoff victory against the Patriots at New England, and a trip trip to the AFC Championship Game against the Steelers in Pittsburgh.

These Jets aren't nearly as talented as that team.  This team is still rebuilding in the aftermath of the Rex Ryan years, who in turn took over Eric Mangini's roster and gave it a little tweak.

I digress ...

These Patriots, in their present state, can be beaten.

The Patriots defense, to date:
  • the most yards allowed per game.
  • the most yards allowed per play.
  • the second most points allowed per game.
  • the second most points allowed overall/season.

That being said, if anyone can make a quarterback look amateurish, regardless of defensive personnel, it's Bill Belichick.

Even Mark Sanchez had a strong running game guiding his way, and making play-action a viable option.  I'm not sure these Jets can execute ball control and time management well enough to disrupt Tom Brady's playing time.

The Patriots are still scoring points at their usual rate.  Tom Brady, however, is under siege.  New England's pass protection has been negligible at best.  Tom Brady has always also been a statue in the pocket, so perhaps this is the week Muhammad Wilkerson and Leonard Williams finally break through for their first respective sacks of the season, if not more.  And where there's sacks, there's the potential for turnovers.  So at least the Jets have that to shoot for.

Jets transient quarterback Josh McCown is no stranger to the game.  There's no reason for him to feel overwhelmed by the Patriots come Sunday.  Instead, it would be nice to get another calm, cool, collected, performance from the 15-year veteran.  If he keeps completing 71% of his passes against the Patriots, the Jets could indeed gain some much needed altitude within the division.  He'll need to be at least as good as his modest season averages, because Bilal Powell has a strained calf, and so the Jets running game will be compromised.  Matt Forte is probable.

Yes, these Jets are way different than the team a young inexperienced Mark Sanchez led in 2010 against the Patriots.  Those Jets had more talent operating around him, and a Pro Bowl center like Nick Mangold to hide behind.  Where as these Jets are instead supposed to be competing to be among the worst in the league along side the Browns, 49ers, and the suddenly moribund Giants.

Problem is Coach Bowles isn't letting the Jets lay down on themselves, which flies in the face of the front office's unofficial, top secret objective of tanking.

To the chagrin of many Jets fans, their recent counterproductive success, coupled with their upcoming game against the New England Patriots, have suddenly transformed the team into must see football.

Saturday, October 14, 2017


Week Six


Week Five Record:  3-9
Overall Record:  24-42-1
Schmear of the Week:  3-2
Bagels in the Basket:  -16

1st and Ten:
  • I picked Kansas City to lose last week, and therefore the Chiefs are the lone remaining undefeated team in the NFL.
  • It would have been irresponsible for anyone to have suggested there would be a three-way tie for first place between the Bills, Jets, and Patriots, entering Week Six.  That, the Jets would be playing the Patriots for sole possession of first place in Week Six (while Buffalo sat idle with a Bye), even more improbable.
2nd and Long:
  • It's going to be a long day for Eli Manning and his second-string offense against the Denver Broncos defense.
  • Houston Texan DE, J.J. Watt, sustained a broken leg last week against the Chiefs.  It's his second straight season ending injury.
No Gain:
  • Hurrah! to whoever's responsible for upholding Ezekiel Elliott's six game suspension.
  • A Miami Dolphins assistance coach took video of himself snorting cocaine, sent the video to some chick he was supposedly courting, whom in turn outed his dumb ass on Facebook.
  • I can't believe I'm including the New York Giants in the same sentence along with the Cleveland Browns, and San Francisco 49ers, as the only win-less teams in the NFL.

Friday Line ~ NYDN

JETS +10 (Patriots)
I might be playing right into Vegas' hands, but just look how these teams are trending.  The Jets are playing surprisingly sound and serious football, while the Patriots are trending last in most, if not all, AFC defensive categories.  The Pats also have had trouble keeping Tom Brady clean.  The Jets should be able to rough him too.  Now, if anyone is going to confuse a jobber quarterback (McCown), it's going to be Bill Belichick.  But I'll take my chances with the points.
ICYMI: NYJ: Mission Improbable Suddenly Not So Far Fetched
WIN  24-17 Patriots

BRONCOS -12 (Giants)
I see nothing good for the Giants coming out of Sunday's game in Denver.  In fact, I'm a tiny bit fearful Eli Manning might even get hurt.  The Giants defense is JPP.  Otherwise, the secondary is in a complete state of chaos, and the rest of the significant names are injured.  Right now, they couldn't prevent a mail box from gaining positive yards, or even stop some kid from flying a kite.
Loss  23-10 Giants

TEXANS -9 1/2 (Browns)
Tough break for J.J. Watt (pardon the pun).  But the Texans offense is still capable of blowing out the Browns ... I repeat, the Browns.
WIN  33-17 Texans

FALCONS -12 (Dolphins)
I'm still looking forward to Matt Ryan and the Falcons firing on all cylinders again.  This is a deservedly wide spread.  The Miami Sea Mammals are a complete mess right now.  They've only scored 41 points through four games.
Loss  20-17 Dolphins

Lions +5 (SAINTS)
The Saints are only laying five because they're home in the Dome.  But the Lions got this.  I swear I saw that five point spread wink at me last night in the French Quarter.
Loss  52-38 Saints

Packers -3 (VIKINGS)
Marginal differences between teams in defensive capabilities.  You can tell Aaron Rogers is just heating up.  He'll be the difference again for Green Bay.
Loss  23-10 Vikings

RAVENS -6 (Bears)
I'll side with anyone against the Bears right now.  I'm still having trouble decoding the Ravens.  But I'm sure the Bears are bad.  Lay the points at home.
Loss  27-24 Bears

D.C. HOGS -11 (49ers)
The Redsking are actually proving to be a solid team.  They're not overwhelming anyone on offense, but they're exhibiting fundamental competence.  The defense is playing fairly well too.  San Francisco's ineptness on defense will clear the way for an easy Hogs victory.
Loss  26-24 Hogs

JAGUARS -2 1/2 (Rams)
Jacksonville is fourth in the AFC in scoring, while limiting opponents to 16.6 points a game.  The Rams are second in the NFC in scoring, but give up a lot of points.  This spread is spot on.  Jaguars win a close one.  Think about it.  A late field goal wins.
Loss  27-17 Rams

An offensive line that's been having trouble protecting Carson Palmer, must now block for newly acquired Adrian Peterson.  He's going to help the Cardinals.  The Bucs are an up-ticking team.  But the Cards are still a good team.  Their window is closing, but they're still good.
WIN  38-33 Cardinals

CHIEFS -4 (Steelers)
Man, did you see what the Jaguars did to the Steelers last week?  Pittsburgh's locker room is in turmoil right now.  Mike Tomlin has been there a long time.  The question is does his voice still resonate with all the right players?  In the meantime, I'll stick with the undefeated Chiefs at home with a very favorable spread to dip my chips into.
Loss  19-13 Steelers

RAIDERS -3 1/2 (Chargers)
I don't know about this game.  If you're betting your children's college fund, I recommend you stay away.  The Raiders are a fraction better than the Chargers even with Derek Carr playing with a compromised back.  But give Philip Rivers a chance, and he'll wipe the spread right off your chips.
Loss  17-16 Chargers

SCHMEAR of the WEEK: (3-2)
Broncos -12

Guten Appetit

  • Bacon cheeseburger sliders sprinkled w/fried crispy onion bits; loaded oven roast potato chunks; homemade macaroni salad; homemade onion rings; homemade salsa and guacamole, with chips.
  • Garlic rubbed oven roasted cornish hens stuffed with wild rice, asparagus and glazed carrots.  Green leafy stuff, w/tomato, cucumber.

Good luck, and have a Happy Football Sunday everyone!

Week Six Record:  3-9
Overall Record:  27-51-1
Schmear of the Week: 3-3
Bagels in the Basket:  -25

N.Y. Yankees: Swing And A Miss

From the desk of:  BLAME CARLOS MAY

Astros Lead Yankees 1-0
I - HOU 2; NYY 1

Game Two
New York Yankees
Houston Astros

New York Yankees: Dare I Say It's Time For Joe Girardi To Manage Again, and Reconfigure His Lineup?

One could conclude after watching Game One that the Yankees missed it by that much.

Perhaps Game One goes into extra innings if Greg Bird is a half-step faster to the plate.  Then again, who knows, because we're talking about an unpredictable change in events.

Unfortunately for the Yankees, however, "that much" makes a huge difference against the Astros, particularly when contrasting Houston's ability to manufacture runs versus the Yankees predilection for hitting home runs.

Starter Masahiro Tanaka and reliever Chad Green did exactly what was required of them.  The two joined in limiting the Astros to a pair of runs on just six hits, and one walk, through eight innings of work, with five strikeouts.

Only problem is, Houston effectively strung together three of their four hits off Tanaka in the fourth inning.  With one out, it's important pointing out how Jose Altuve's speed is what allowed him to reach safely for an infield hit struck sharply back through the box.  With Carlos Correa at the plate, Altuve put himself in gear again and swiped second base.  Correa then promptly singled home Altuve.  With two outs, first baseman Yuli Gurriel singled Correa home from second, for a 2-0 Houston lead they'd never surrender.

Although the Yankees closed the gap in the eighth inning, Game One invariably proved the Yankees still live and die by the home run.  That's how they catapulted themselves into the post-season, past the Minnesota Twins, and through the former defending A.L. champion Cleveland Indians.

These Bronx Bombers, however, leave themselves no margin for error, be it from the players, third base coach, manager, or otherwise.

Let's take the Yankees fifth inning at-bat.  Aaron Judge singles.  Astros left fielder Marwin Gonzalez fields the ball and nails Greg Bird at home plate with an accurate, low trajectory, one-hop throw to former Yankees catcher Brian McCann, whom lets Bird slide into his waiting mitt.

Greg Bird was hobbled all summer by a bone bruise which ultimately required surgery to remove a bone in his ankle.  He did not return to action until the end of August.  If fans know Greg Bird is slow to begin with, the Yankees third base coach should as well.  Right?  In any event, Joe Espada waived Bird homeward.

Should Espada have been that aggressive at that stage of the game?  Sure, why not, particularly against Dallas Keuchel (who pitched seven innings of lights-out baseball), and considering it took a perfect throw to get Bird at home.  But aggressiveness sometimes comes with unfortunate consequences as demonstrated in Game One.

When asked after the game whether Bird should have gotten a better jump off second base, Joe Girardi jumped all over it (in my opinion), seemingly joining the media in critiquing Bird's lack of speed.

Really, Joe?

I say Joe Girardi is skirting the real issue facing his club.

The Yankees struck out 14 times in Game One.  Dallas Keuchel turned them away ten times, and Ken Giles closed things out with four strikeouts over the final 1.2 innings, earning the save.

The Astros have so far hit eight home runs through five post-season games, but did not go deep against the Yankees in Game One.  Instead, Houston manufactured their runs.  Moreover, they only struck out five times all game.  In fact, they only struck out 17% of the time all season - the fewest rate in all of baseball.

The Yankees, meanwhile have hit 11 homers through seven post-season games, and did indeed go yard in the eighth inning against Houston courtesy of "slow-poke" Greg Bird.  Unfortunately for Joe Girardi, Starlin Castro and Aaron Hicks both fanned leading-off the ninth inning ahead of Bird, and Jacoby Ellsbury struck out following Bird to end the game.

I understand Joe Girardi wanting Aaron Judge batting second in the order for sake of getting him more fastballs, and generally better pitches to hit.  But despite Judge going 1 for 3 in Game One with a hit off Keuchel, his inclination, nevertheless, is to strike out.  No Astros hitter in the post-season has yet reached double-digit strikeouts.  The Yankees have three players in double-digits, with Aaron Judge's 17 strikeouts in 27 at-bats leading the way.

I'm not picking on Judge.  I just feel batting him second in the order at this juncture is an in-season move.  I know, that Joe knows, in the playoffs time is of the essence.  He therefore needs to manage and act upon that heading into Game Two, and drop Aaron Judge in the order.  Simply put, the second slot in the batting order needs more contact.

Houston's three and four hitters, went 4 for 8 in Game One with two runs scored, one RBI, and just one strikeout.  The Yankees two, three, and four hitters (Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, Didi Gregorious) went 1 for 10, with six strikeouts.

Gary Sanchez is only 6 for 30 (.200) with 13 strikeouts through seven post-season games.

Meanwhile, Didi had only fanned four times in six games previous to Game One in Houston, but fanned twice hitting behind Judge and Sanchez, and with Stalin Castro protecting him in the fifth spot.

Joe Giradi might want to break up all those potential strikeouts, and reconfigure his lineup if the Yankees are to overcome their over-reliance on the home run.

Just saying ...

Friday, October 13, 2017

N.Y. Yankees: Is Didi Gregorious New Meneer Oktober?

From the desk of:  BLAME CARLOS MAY


Game One
New York Yankees
Houston Astros
( ( (( ! ! !! HOUSTON STRONG !! ! ! )) ) )

New York Yankees: Wild Card Hero; ALDS Hero; What's Next For Didi Gregorious?

Meneer Oktober/Dutch/Mr. October

All hail Shane Greene!

Remember him?

He was the relief pitcher Brian Cashman traded, as part of a three team trade, to the Detroit Tigers in exchange for shortstop Didi Gregorious from the Arizona Diamondbacks.

I felt then as I feel now, acquiring Didi may have been one of Cashman's best ever transactions since being appointed general manager of the Yankees twenty years ago.

Gregorious originally won me over during the 2013 World Baseball Classic, and soon thereafter as a 23-year old rookie for Arizona.  The Diamondbacks, however, didn't see things my way, and made Didi start the 2014 season at triple-A.  He was recalled by June, and went on to hit just .226 in 270 at-bats, with a .290 OBP.

There's little wondering, then, why Arizona (mistakenly) seemed willing to part ways.  After all, the Diamondbacks did well in acquiring starting pitcher Robbie Ray (and a minor league prospect), as part of the deal, from Detroit.

Didi's first season with the Yankees was his first full season in the majors.  He posted modest personal gains in most every offensive category, slashing a then career best .265/.318/.370 in 525 official at-bats, with 35 extra base hits, and 56 RBI.

He confirmed my suspicions about him the following season, slashing .276/.304/.447, with 32 doubles, 20 home runs, and 70 RBI.

I was once again astounded with his performance for Team Netherlands earlier this year during the 2017 World Baseball Classic.  Albeit, the WBC is an exhibition which still fails to draw the world's best players together in one competition.

However, his 2017 regular season effectively eliminated any lingering fret with respect to replacing a Yankee legend.

Rather, Didi is in the midst of writing his own chapter in Yankee lure.

While establishing new career highs in batting, slugging, homers, and RBI, his 25 regular season home runs set a new Yankees record by a shortstop.

Yankee Stadium was aglow with frenetic energy in anticipation of Luis Severino's opening pitch against the Minnesota Twins in the American League Wild Card game.  Four batters and two home runs later, however, the Twins were staked to an immediate 3-0 lead.

Enter Didi Gregorious.  With two on and one out in the bottom of the first, Didi worked a full count against Twins starter Ervin Santana, then yanked his payoff pitch into the outfield stands just left of the right field foul pole.  Game tied - Yankees go on to win by an 8-4 final.

Didi went just 1 for 13 against Cleveland pitchers through the first four games of the ALDS.  But he still managed to get on base, drawing six walks in 19 plate appearances.

Then in Game Five, Didi demonstrated he was merely saving his best for last.  He went 3 for 5 in the decisive game, with a pair of home runs, and three RBI, off Cleveland's ace.  His first inning home run off Corey Kluber gave the Yankees an instant 1-0 lead, and better yet, it silenced the Cleveland crowd.  Two innings later, Didi connected on his second home run off Kluber, giving the Yankees a 3-0 lead, and marking the beginning of the end of Cleveland's now former remarkable season.

Didi Gregorious will turn 28-years old in February, but will not be free agent eligible until 2020, which means he will be under Yankees control during (traditionally speaking) prime years of his career.

What a great trade...