Monday, September 30, 2013

N.Y. Giants: Do It For The Duke, or Else

From the desk of:   DO IT FOR THE DUKE

Proceed With Caution!

NEW YORK FOOTBALL GIANTS: That's Not Erie Silence You Hear Emanating From The Owner's Box - It's John Mara Grinding His Teeth and Seething.  Memo To Big Blue Players, There Is Only One True GIANT, And You Work For Him.

John Mara is his own person, and runs the Giants organization admiringly as far as I'm concerned.  He certainly has his own way about him, and wouldn't hesitate imparting some knowledge upon this team if he felt it was warranted.  His father's influence (rest his soul) has most likely, if not assuredly spared, or should I say saved, the uniformed members of this football team from such an episode - so far.

Wellington Mara was a patient man, and before he passed away, he taught his son the fine art of temperance.  The younger John was somewhat of a hot head.  If you saw how Ann reprimanded Terry Bradshaw after SBVLVI, it's easy to understands where he may have gotten that from.  Joking aside, but at the same time in all seriousness, that's not necessarily my observation or opinion.  They're John Mara's, forwarded by himself through the years.  Make no mistake.  John Mara is the alpha of this Big Blue organization, and players are well aware of the family history.  It comes with being a Giant, so there is no way of it eluding or escaping anyone who dons the uniform.  That said, in their current state, these players will never feel the really truly embarrassment of having to look into Wellington Mara's eyes.  To that I say, what a shame!  It was hard not taking one his looks to heart.  The modern environment of football is much more cold and impersonal than the days of shame and accountability.  These days, you just get cut.  That's Jerry Reese's department.  But in the land of Giants, a glare from the owner is just as relevant, and as potent as it ever was under Tim Mara, his son, or presently under Tim's grandson.

Jon Mara doesn't speak publicly much, although he is quite available.  Be sure.  Instead, he is very adept at choosing his moments.  When he does speak, the uniformed members of this team had better listen very intently.  He makes it easy on the listener, because he doesn't mince words.  He's commented publically regarding team performance before in less dire straights than the current dilemma facing the team.  I expect the New York Football Giants to make an appearance on the local airways soon, or not.  But for the players sake, let me be wrong.

Hence, the Giants portion of my blog is titled:  DO IT FOR THE DUKE..!

And another thing for those who've strayed - don't you know, that in one form or another Coach Tom Coughlin is enmeshed in all this team's history of the last twenty-five years as well?  With two SB trophies to his credit as Head Coach, this organization will not be forcing Coach out the door.  The Giants suffer personnel issues, not head coaching issues.  It is understandable for us fans to be upset.  But dumping on Coughlin as a first resort will no longer be excused.  Now shape up, and get back in line.


L.I. Ducks: Flock Rock To Second Straight Title; Navarrete Homers In Swan Song

From the desk of:   THE WEBBED SPIKES NINE

Patriots  4
Long Island Ducks Win Series 3-2
Long Island Ducks

Flock Rock II - The Long Island Ducks Are Back-To-Back Atlantic League Champions!  All-Time Ducks Great Leads The Way With Fourth Inning Blast.


Long Island fans can breathe easy now.  The Ducks successfully gained this year's title in their final opportunity.

On the evening of September 29, 2013, the Long Island Ducks Baseball Club captured their second straight Atlantic League championship, and third in their history.  It took five supremely classic  episodes to decide a winner.  But the Ducks ultimately beat the Patriots at their own game, slugging their way past Somerset via the long ball in each of their three victories.  Sunday's Game Five victory incidentally was the first road victory achieved by either team.  After winning the first two games at Bethpage Park, the Ducks entered TD Bank Ballpark with three opportunities with which to win one game.  The Somerset Patriots would not be defeated so easily, and stormed back with two extra-inning victories to tie the series at two apiece and force a decisive Game Five.

Late Sunday afternoon, the Ducks 2013 elected MVP, starting pitcher John Brownell climbed the hill on three days rest, and was opposed by Somerset Patriots hurler David Harden.  After two straight extra-inning games, with Game Four lasting sixteen, both bullpens were no doubt taxed, and in need of length from their respective starters.  John Brownell gave the Ducks just that.  He battled against two Somerset pitchers for eight innings, and then was lifted after walking the lead-off batter in the top of the ninth.  In all, he was charged with four Patriots runs on five hits, walked four batters and struck out three before being relived by closer Leo Rosales.

The Patriots jumped out to a 1-0 first inning lead on Yunesky Sanchez' RBI double.  The spotlight however, belonged to one player, Ray Navarrete, who played little during the post-season, but was tasked with being Sunday's designated hitter for Long Island.  The long time Duck and the club's all-time leader in most major offensive categories enjoyed a most providential swan swan.  The Ducks tied the game in the top of the fourth inning on Ramon Castro's RBI single.  Then with two on and two outs, Ray Navarrete cleared the bases with a home run - perhaps the most important home run he's ever hit, and certainly his last as a Ducks player.  Those who follow the team, and have done so for quite some time, know what an epic moment that was for Ray in particular, and the team as a whole.  That's Grade-A storybook stuff.  Ray's blast gave the Ducks a 4-1 lead.

In the bottom half of the fourth, Yunesky Sanchez continued haunting Long Island, hitting his second home run of the series to make it a 4-2 game.  Apparently, that didn't sit well with the Ducks, so they promptly scored two more runs in the top of the fifth.  Lew Ford led off the frame with a single, and scored on Bryant Nelson's double.  After Somerset's manager replaced starter David Harden with reliever Josh Lowey, Adam Bailey greeted him with another RBI single, scoring Nelson for a 6-2 Ducks lead.

The Patriots picked up a run in the sixth, and one more in the ninth, all off starter John Brownell, but no more.  Closer Leo Rosales entered the game and finished off the Patriots.  Upon collecting his third save of the series, Leo and his team mates came together for the on-field celebration of another Long Island title - make that back-to-back Ducks titles.

The Ducks completed their playoff run with a 6-2 record, which is a far cry from their 63-77 regular season finish.  Players play the game, but there is no denying that a General Manager is tasked with bring the right players into the fold.  Michael Pfaff did just that.  His key acquisitions to bolster the pitching had a huge impact on Long Island's playoff run and eventual championship.  After the departure of Dontrelle Willis from Long Island's rotation, pitchers Shaun Garceau, Bobby Blevins, Derek Blacksher, Josh Strawn, and outfielder Lew Ford were all traded for or signed in late August.
First year Ducks players, veteran Bill HallJosh Barfield and the younger Adam Bailey were all big season long contributors for Long Island.

For the Ducks, their third championship, with the first coming in 2004.  They have participated in the last three Atlantic League championship series, with perhaps their strongest team of the three runs losing the 2011 finals to the York Revolution.  For Ray Navarrete, he retires on top, as a Long Island baseball hero.


Sunday, September 29, 2013

N.Y.Giants: Did The Chiefs Tomahawk Big Blue's Season?

From the desk of:   DO IT FOR THE DUKE

Picking Up Reese's Pieces

NEW YORK FOOTBALL GIANTS: With A Quarter Of The Season Wasted, Big Blue's Underlying Condition Must Be Realized And Dealt With. 

The Giants are off to their worst start in twenty-seven years.  The first four weeks of the season have been a recurring nightmare, and any playoff aspirations the team may have held entering the 2013 season are now all but ruined.  Tom Coughlin might be happy to see his worse ever month as Head Coach of the GMen finally end.  But make no mistake, there will be no joy in the land of Giants.  They've dug such a hole for themselves, that at this point, there is likely no way out.  At the moment, the only thing they have working for them is time, as twelve games remain in the regular season.  Outside of that, the Giants have invited rampant and wide ranging speculation upon themselves.

This may be a hard subject to broach, or seem like a knee-jerk reaction after only Week Four, but the truth of the matter is the Chiefs may very well have served GM Jerry Reese with rebuilding papers this afternoon.  Just look where the Kansas City Chiefs have been the last two seasons, and look at them now.  Ditto goes for Seattle.  The same thing happening to the Giants is also happening to Pittsburgh.

No GM can ever flip a roster in one week much less one season, but with Giants respectability hanging by a thread, desperate times call for desperate measures.  Jerry Reese has upwards of forty-five question marks on both offense and defense which demand considerable attention.  Therefore, the coming second quarter of the season, and the rest of the year for that matter, begs for a different kind of team evaluation.

It is sad to be speaking about 2014 so soon, but the Giants condition must be realized and dealt with.  Offensively, I do not believe the return of a healthy David Diehl will make a difference.  He hardly made a difference last season.  Instead, the entire offensive line needs rebuilding - all five positions.  Eli Manning began as a rookie playing behind an established elite veteran offensive line, and was supplemented by an equally powerful backfield, and additionally always had a capable tight end at his disposal.  David Diehl, Chris Snee, Kareem McKenzie, Shaun O'Hara, Rich Seubert, Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw collectively had their last hurrah together in SBXLII.  Injuries, age and declining ability have since took their toll on the offense.  Naturally with the passage of time, the collective skills of the offensive line and backfield were diminishing just as Eli was entering his prime, but the overlap of careers was still good enough to win two titles.  However, inadequate replacements have hastened the Giants demise.  In spite of his performance against Carolina, Will Beatty is a good pass blocker, but the Giants won't be doing much running behind him.  Beatty also does not come cheaply, and that's a hindrance to forward progress, just as David Baas' price tag and lack of performance have likewise been a hindrance towards success.

Defensively, despite Corey Webster's and Aaron Ross' past ability to rise up to occasion, ruinous injuries have hampered Jerry Reese's ability to upgrade the secondary for years.  Since Antonio Pierce, and despite a failed sizable investment in Michael Boley, the position of linebacker has been largely ignored.  While it's true, the Giants were able to rise up and win two Super Bowls on the strength on their pass rush, they currently rank last in the league in sacks.  Justin Tuck recorded just two tackles last week versus Carolina.  This week against the Chiefs, he made just one tackle.  He has exactly one-half sack after four games.  While the defensive line is where Jerry Reese has focused most of his attention in recent years, the results are lacking.  Tackle Cullen Jenkins was brought in for big money, and now reports have it Jerry Reese is looking to extend Linval Joseph.

That said, the Giants have faced massive salary cap issues for several years now as well.  Will Beatty and David Baas were already mentioned.  Victor Cruz' money barely fit under the cap, while Hakeem Nicks will be looking to cash in next season.  None of this bodes well for the Giants, this year or next.  This era may have finally reached its Law of Diminished returns.


L.I. Ducks: Teams Battle Sixteen Innings; Somerset Patriots Force Game Five

From the desk of:   THE WEBBED SPIKES NINE

Series Tied 2-2
I - Ducks 4; Patriots 3
II - Ducks 3; Patriots 2
III - Patriots 5; Ducks 4*
IV - Patriots 2; Ducks 1*
New Jersey

LONG ISLAND DUCKS: The Flock Suffer Their Second Straight Extra-Inning Defeat To Patriots.  A Winner Take All Game Five Awaits.

  • Ducks Leave Thirteen Runners On Base.
  • Failure To Execute Sacrifice Bunt, And Advance Potential Go-Ahead Runner In Fifteenth Inning Looms Large.
  • Struggling Reliever Erick Threets Sets Up Final Run; Hits Lead-Off Batter With Pitch In Final Frame.

If Friday night's extra-inning Game Three slugfest didn't excite the senses, Saturday's game may have caused cardiac arrest for those in attendance at Game Four.  Through three games and the last sixteen innings, the 2013 Atlantic League championship series is already a classic.

With Long Island holding a 2-1 series lead, they gave the ball to Bobby Blevins to start Game Four.  He was opposed by Somerset starter Graham Taylor.  Blevins was attempting to clinch a title for the Ducks, while Taylor was pitching to stave off Somerset's elimination.  Both dueled for eight complete innings.  Bobby Blevins surrendered a single run, but unfortunately it was the game tying run in the seventh.  Otherwise he only allowed five hits, walked no batters and struck out four before exiting the game to a no-decision.  The Ducks took a 1-0 lead off Graham Taylor in the third when an error by third baseman Corey Smith opened the door to an unearned run.  Taylor allowed just three hits, walked one batter and struck out three before likewise departing to a no-decision.

Reliever Jason Lowey pitched a scoreless ninth inning for the Patriots.  Jared Lansford answered back with a scoreless bottom half of the ninth inning for the Ducks.

For the second consecutive night, the Atlantic League championship series was sent into extra-innings.  The teams remained knotted at one through the thirteenth inning, then through fourteen.  Four and a half hours after Taylor Graham's opening pitch of the game, the teams were still playing in the fifteenth inning.

Both managers still had their respective closers in reserve.  For the Ducks, Leo Rosales picked up saves in games One and Two, then did not appear in Game Three's loss to the Patriots.  Jon Hunton pitched in Friday night's thriller, and like Rosales, warmed up repeatedly throughout the late innings.  Before the game boiled down to closers however, Coach Baez was quickly running out of options, and was faced with bringing in beleaguered reliever Erick Threets into the game, if not in the bottom of the fifteenth, then soon.

The bottom of the fifteenth was not without controversy.  A close play at first base was called out against the Patriots Jonny Tucker.  The Somerset dugout protested in concert.  The call was overturned when the umpires discussed the play further, but not before one Patriots player, from within the dugout, was ejected from the game.  Coach Baez became livid over the reversal, and vociferously shared his opinions with the first base umpire, albeit to no avail.  Once order returned, Kevin Baez officially placed the game under protest.  Coach was also forced to bring Erick Threets into the game, who finally closed out the fifteenth inning.

Bryant Nelson led-off the top of the sixteenth with a hit, and Bill Hall then drew a walk.  With runners on first and second and no outs, Somerset opted to bring in starting pitcher Roy Merritt to face Adam Bailey, who failed to lay down a bunt on two attempts, then struck out swinging.  With another change, first baseman Ryan Strieby stepped in to face Somerset's eighth pitcher of the night, and beat out an infield hit down the third base line to load the bases.  With the Ducks still needing a big hit or just a fly ball, Ralph Enriquez weakly bounced into a force out at home, scored 1-2 for the second out.  Kraig Binick then lined out to right fielder Cory Aldridge for out number three.

Erik Threets climbed the hill in the bottom of the sixteenth and immediately hit Cory Aldridge with a pitch.  That was the end of Threets.  Coach Baez summoned Derek Blacksher from the bullpen.  Next in, Bobby Stevens bunted Aldridge to second.  First baseman Jeff Baisley then singled to left to put runners on the corners with one out.  The Ducks elected to intentionally walk the next batter to load the bases for Patriots shortstop Angel Sanchez.  On a 3-1 pitch, Sanchez fouled off a pitch to run the count full.  On the next pitch, Sanchez deposited a base hit in front of right fielder Adam Baily for the game winning RBI and a 2-1 Patriots win.

The Atlantic League championship will now be decided by one game - Game Five, scheduled for late Sunday afternoon at TD Bank Ballpark.


Saturday, September 28, 2013

N.Y. Giants: Underwhelming Defense Getting Overwhelmed

From the desk of:   DO IT FOR THE DUKE

New York Giants @ Kansas City Chiefs

NEW YORK FOOTBALL GIANTS: The Defense Must Do More Than Offer Yet Another Yawn Inspiring Performance.

17th In NFL Against Pass
Watching Peyton Manning and Cam Newton dissect the secondary
makes it seem much worse.
27th In NFL Against Run
Denver and Carolina ran outside their Tackles at will,
and with great success.

In Week One, Dallas showed the Giants defense was flawed.  In Week two, Peyton Manning stripped them down and left the defense exposed.  Last Week, Cam Newton and the Panthers finished them off by thoroughly demoralizing them.  All told, the Giants got out-scored by a 115-54 margin in three games to date.  They will now face the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium, where the defense can either put forth a formidable Big Blue effort for a change, or continue to devolve.

Adversity is supposed to reveal character, but in the Giants case they are facing something much more primitive - the instincts to fight or flee.  Game Four is the crucible of their season.  And so begins the conversation as to whether this assemblage of defensive players is finished.

If I were drafting a defense from the pool of current Giants players, my first two selections would be JPP and Prince Amukamara.  My next two picks would be Mathias Kiwanuka and Linval Joseph. Everyone else you can have.

Jason Pierre Paul is getting a little healthier by the week.  He made five tackles against the Panthers, but still can't generate a pass rush.  Mathias Kiwanuka has suffered from what I'm calling the Joba Treatment (as in the Yankees handling of Joba Chamberlain), which was failing to establish him at one position or another.  This season he is back to being a lineman.  Mathias wouldn't have had to be moved to linebacker in the first place if GM Jerry Reese had paid more attention to the position.  There is still a lot of potential in Prince Amukamara's game, and with the departure of Chris Canty, Linval Joseph has not embarrassed himself one bit.

We all know the Giants present linebacker situation can be described as pedestrian at best.  Jesse Armstead was the last linebacker of impact drafted by the Giants.  A long succession of superior linebackers ended with him.  Antonio Pierce was a very good acquisition along the way.  But outside of the recent surprise seasons provided by Kawika Mitchell and Chase Blackburn, the position on the whole has been impotent.  The Giants caught a bad break when Dan Conner went down for the season in Week One.  He was supposed to solidify the middle.  But his injury only magnified how thin the Giants already were to begin with.

In the secondary, Ryan Mundy continues to play well, while Antrel Rolle continues to talk-up a good game. Injured - Corey Webster will sit out Sunday's game.  Truth is, he has looked no better getting burnt on deep plays, than say Aaron Ross or Terrell Thomas have.  Speaking of which, Terrell Thomas' knees just may be two years past their usefulness.  That's just speculation on my part, but talk is he's already wearing down.  The Giants corners haven't gotten help from the defensive line this season either, and that's not about to change unless Justin Tuck starts to play elite football.

The naysayers have already lined-up against him, saying Justin Tuck can't.  After a supposedly superior off-season training program, Tuck led us to believe he would be playing rejuvenated and inspired football this season.  So far, he's been perpetrating a daydream and making Subway commercials.  He has exactly one-half sack this season, and last week only made two tackles all game, which ranked eleventh on the team!  His sub-par play is now bleeding into its third season.

As a whole, the Giants defense is understaffed, and the offense currently has them overburdened, as offensive time of possession has been terrible this season.  At the same time however, the defense is collectively underachieving and has been underwhelming to say the least.  The once mighty sack machine is now among the worst pass rushes in the league.

There are many fans who would agree the Giants have enjoyed success in spite of Perry Fewell.  He continues to assemble yawn inspiring defensive game plans.  Coach Fewell believes in winning individual battles up front that the Giants defensive line have been increasingly less able to do over the last two seasons.  Don't expect any creativity on his part to compensate for depleted or compromised ability.  Coach Fewell has never been that "wiley" before.


N.Y. Giants: Offensive Woes Mounting

From the desk of:   DO IT FOR THE DUKE

NEW YORK FOOTBALL GIANTS: Things Always Get Worse Before They Get Better.

The Giants offensive line continues to pose more problems than a math book.  David Diehl is still not ready for game action, and now, Chris Snee and David Baas will miss this weekend's game, and possibly more than that.  That makes three (potential) starting linemen out for Sunday's game.

At least Big Blue will get a fresh new look at their remaining options without having to second guess themselves.  Injuries have forced their hand.  James Brewer and Jim Cordle now enter the equation.  The Giants third option is second year Brandon Mosley.  Regardless of who plays where this week, any combination the Giants throw out Sunday can't do any worse than the line performed last week.  In fact, in three successive weeks starting in Dallas and culminating last week against Carolina, the offensive line's play got worse, gained less yardage, and allowed more sacks as they went along.  So, last week was indeed like hitting rock bottom, as it cost them two more players and the reputation of a third - that being Will Beatty, who had perhaps the worst day of all.

This week's beleaguered and inexperienced bunch has the unenviable task of protecting Eli from the Kansas City Chiefs, who just happen to lead the NFL in sacks.  Linebacker Justin Houston has 7 1/2 of them.  Justin Pugh in particular will have his hands full this week.  It certainly won't help the Giants that they're also facing a familiar old foe in Coach Andy Reid.

There is also something more to than just protecting Eli.  As we've learned, when Eli can't get the ball to Hakeem Nicks, the offense looks especially bad.  Once again, that circles back to the running game, and making matters even worse now, the back field suffered an additional major blow with the loss of fullback Henry Hynoski for the season.  If the Giants continue to struggle running the ball, they at least have to do a better job of keeping Eli upright, so he, Nicks and Cruz can at least make this a competitive game.


PIGSKIN 2013 - Football Sunday; Week Four



Football Sunday
Week Three Record:  6-7-1
Overall Record:  17-21-2
Schmear of the Week:  3-0 (3x Bagels)
Bagels in the Basket:  +3
Coin Toss:
  • Seven undefeated teams remain; 4 in the AFC, 3 in the NFC.  The only real surprise is Miami.
Third and Long:
  • Who would have thought the Steelers, Giants, Falcons and Packers would be a combined 2-10 heading into Week Four.
  • Can we stop exporting regular season NFL games to Europe, please?  Instead, stop stealing money from loyal season ticket holders by making them buy pre-season tickets, and let the entire NFL conduct pre-season in various cities of Europe.  Didn't the NFL experiment with the WLAF already fail once before in the 1990's with the London Monarchs, Claymores, Galaxy, etc. etc.?  And who could forget the NY/NJ Knights?
  • One fourth of the regular season is now over.  The speed of an NFL regular season is unbelievable, isn't it?
...Let's roll some Bagels.
CHIEFS -4 1/2 (Giants)
The Giants are struggling in every facet of the game.  This week it gets worse - more injuries, another loss, more rampant speculation.  The Giants will be glad to see September finally end.
Win; 31-7 Chiefs
TITANS -3 1/2 (Jets)
The retooled Titans are playing competitive football again.  This will be a tight game.  That 1/2 point is killing me but I'm sticking with the home team.
Win; 38-13 Titans
Steelers -2 1/2 (Vikings) *London, England
I don't trust the Vikings in Minnesota.  No need to trust them in London.
Loss; 34-27 Vikings
Ravens -3 (BILLS)
The Bills are playing "just good enough" football, but keep falling short.  Baltimore surprised me last week.  This game will clarify many things regarding both teams.
Loss; 23-20 Bills
Bengals -4 1/2 (BROWNS)
You know the routine by now.  I've gotten every Browns game wrong so far.  I think the Bengals should win this one easy.  That means take the Browns folks.
Loss; 17-6 Browns
Colts -8 1/2 (JAGUARS)
The Colts are giving up sixteen points a game.  The Jags have scored the fewest points in the league.  Sometimes you just have to stick with logic.
Win; 37-3 Colts
Seahawks -3 (TEXANS)
I do not particularly enjoy picking against the Texans at home.  But Seattle's defense just looks stupid scary!
Push; 23-20 Seahawks; O.T.
Cardinals +2 1/2 (BUCS)
The Bucs are spiraling out of control.  I almost always like the Cardinals getting points.
Win; 13-10 Cardinals
LIONS -3 (Bears)
A great battle between two monsters of the midway.  Ancient Chinese secret says enter Lions den at own risk.  However, I smell a push.
Win; 40-32 Lions
CHARGERS +2 (Cowboys)
This is the New York Giants lucky week.  Dallas will slow down to the rest of the NFC East's speed.  Chargers look like they really want to contend this season, but still can't finish games.  I'm thinking Romo and the Boys are salivating over facing San Diego's secondary, so I sense interceptions in their future.
Win; 30-21 Chargers
Redskins -3 (RAIDERS)
I don't like this game one bit.  This is another game that screams push.  On a side note, nothing would delight the Black Hole more than knocking RGIII around.
Win; 24-14 Redskins
BRONCOS -10 1/2 (Eagles)
The new up-tempo Eagles will be sucking thin wind trying to defend Peyton's targets in the mile high air of Denver.  Good luck with that.
Win; 52-20 Broncos
FALCONS +2 (Patriots)
Welcome to the stay away game of the week.  Due to injury, the Patriots still have a questionable cast of key participants, while the Falcons are still underachieving.  We'll find out much more about every team this week.
Loss; 30-23 Patriots
SAINTS -6 1/2 (Dolphins)
The crow Miami has been making me swallow this season has been absolutely delicious.  However, New Orleans will not be Dolphin safe this weekend.  Fry Fish Fry.
Win; 38-17 Saints
Schmear of the Week:
SAINTS - 6/12 (Dolphins)
That's seventeen Bagels into the oven.  Good Luck, and have a Happy Football Sunday everyone!
Week Four Record:  9-4-1
Overall Record:  26-25-3
Schmear of the Week: 4-0
Bagels in the Basket:  +10

L.I. Ducks: Game Three Turns Into The Cory Aldridge Show

From the desk of:  THE WEBBED SPIKES NINE

Ducks Lead Series 2-1
I - Ducks 4; Patriots 3
II - Ducks 3; Patriots 2
III - Patriots 5; Ducks 4*
IV - Saturday @ Somerset
 * extra innings

LONG ISLAND DUCKS: Series On!  The Somerset Patriots Launched A Major Offensive Against Long Island Invaders; Fire Off Over 1,750 Feet Worth Of Baseballs Over TD Bank Ballpark Walls.

What Reggie Jackson did in the 1977 World Series stands alone.  I watched on TV as a ten year old.  Most recently Kung-Fu Panda accomplished the feat for the San Francisco Giants.

In Atlantic League history, I was there when Jose Herrera did it for the Newark Bears during the 2007 Atlantic League championship clinching game, albeit his didn't come on the first pitch of each at-bat.  All these guys need to mover over one seat now and make room at the table of folklore for Somerset Patriots right fielder Corey Aldridge.

In fact, the Somerset Patriots hit five solo home runs against Long Island pitching to stay alive in the 2013Atlantic League championship series.  Three blasts came off the bat of Cory Aldridge, with none bigger than his tenth inning clout to stave off elimination and force a Game Four in the best of five series.

The Ducks took a 3-0 lead in the top of the fourth when Ramon Castro's sac-fly scored Bill Hall.  Back in the second inning, consecutive doubles by Bill Hall and Adam Bailey, and a follow-up single by Ramon Castro plated the Ducks first two runs.

With one out in the bottom of the fourth, Cory Aldridge hit his first home run of the night.  With one out in the bottom of the sixth, Cory Aldridge hit his second.  The Ducks got a run back in the top of the seventh on Josh Barfield's RBI single, to make it a 4-2 game.  But in the bottom of the frame, number nine hitter, catcher Adam Donachie homered to make it a 4-3 game.  In the bottom of the eighth, Somerset number eight hitter, shortstop Yunesky Sanchez homered to tie the game at four.  That set up Friday night's tenth inning heroics.  With two outs, Cory Aldrdge clubbed his third solo home run of the game to win it for the Patriots.

Bob Zimmermann started for the Ducks, and lasted 5.1 innings before being lifted in favor of Josh Lansford.  Zimmermann allowed two earned runs on four hits, walked two and struck out four, but was taken deep twice by Aldridge.  Lansford was victimized by Donachie's long ball in the seventh, while Jared Lansford gave up Sanchez' blast in the eighth.  Reliever Erik Threets surrendered Cory Aldridge's game winner in the tenth.

I guess Coach Baez didn't learn his lesson regarding Threets, who struggled mightily in clutch situations coming down the Liberty Division stretch drive.  While suffering through a seven game losing streak down the stretch and then three more losses before finally clinching the division flag, Threets factored in four straight defeats and personally lost three straight games before Coach Baez ceased to summon him in big spots.  In all fairness, Leo Rosales appeared unavailable, as he appeared in two straight games back in Long Island and earned saves in each.

The Ducks twice escaped big trouble, as they were bailed out with huge inning ending double-plays in the sixth and eighth innings.  The bullpen meanwhile, failed to keep the bottom of Somerset's line-up quiet, as the eighth and ninth hitters delivered crippling blows.  At least Cory Aldridge's performance is explainable.  He now has six playoff home runs and ten RBI in six games, after a regular season in which he hit twelve home runs in 331 trips to the plate.

Somerset Patriots
TD Bank Ballpark
New Jersey
A packed house of almost 7,000 Patriots fans no doubt went home happy, and relish an opportunity to see their team even the series tomorrow at two.  Game Four is scheduled for Saturday at 7:05pm, from Somerset's TD Bank Ballpark.  Bobby Blevins will start for Long Island, and will be opposed by lefty Graham Taylor.

Ducks GM Michael Pfaff reacquired Bobby Blevins from the CanAm League Rockland Boulders.  He managed just two starts for Long Island before the regular season ended, going 1-1 with a 4.85 ERA.  In twenty starts for Rockland, he posted a 9-10 record with a 4.24 ERA.  Graham Taylor was the Marlins tenth round pick of the 2006 draft, and spent six years in their organization.  He made twenty-seven starts for the Patriots this season and posted a 10-6 record with a 3.40 ERA.


Thursday, September 26, 2013

L.I. Ducks: More Solid Pitching And The Long Ball Seal Game Two

From the desk of:   THE WEBBED SPIKES NINE

Ducks Lead Series 2-0
I - Ducks 4; Patriots 3
II - Ducks 3; Patriots 2
III - Friday @ Somerset

LONG ISLAND DUCKS: What Regular Season Struggles?  The Flock Is One Game Away From Repeating As Atlantic League Champions.  They Now Have Three Chances To Win One Game At Somerset.

Strong starting pitching with length, effective bullpen work, and clutch late-inning hitting featuring the long ball is no doubt a winning formula at any level of play.  For a second consecutive night, the Long Island Ducks employed that exact mix to outlast their opponent, achieve victory, and gain a 2-0 advantage in the Atlantic League Finals.

Game Two Final:
Patriots   2

Somerset's Roy Merritt retired the first nine Ducks batters he faced before allowing a harmless lead-off single to Lew Ford in the bottom of the fourth.  Merritt then proceeded to retire another seven straight batters.  Meanwhile, Patriots batters held a 2-0 lead over Long Island starter Shaun Garceau, scoring single runs in the second and fourth innings.

With one out in the bottom of the sixth, Roy Merritt hit Dan Lyons with a pitch.  Renaissance man, Lew Ford then stepped in and stroked his, and the Ducks' second hit off Merritt, only this time he connected on a two run home run to tie the game at two.  A subsequent double by Josh Barfield and RBI single by Bryant Nelson gave Long Island a 3-2 lead.  After such an impressive start, Merritt's effort short circuited just like - that.  His night was over after six.

Meanwhile, Shaun Garceau pressed on.  He departed the game on the winning side after pitching seven full innings, allowing two runs, one earned, on eight hits, walking no batters and striking out six.  Jared Lansford was first out of Long Island's bullpen, pitched a scoreless eighth, and struck out two.  Leo Rosales then entered the game in the ninth and made things interesting yet again, but closed out the Patriots while stranding the tying run on third.  Rosales earned his second save in as many nights, and his third of the post-season.

Both Long Island starting pitchers John Brownell and Game Two's Shaun Garceau have pitched brilliantly to outduel their Patriots mound opponents, while timely hitting again propelled the Ducks to victory.  Year long struggles and finishing the regular season below .500 seem like ancient history now.  In a most efficient manner, Long Island has now won five straight playoff games, and head into Patriots territory with three chances to win one game, and repeat as Atlantic League champions.

Bob Zimmermann will climb the hill for Long Island Friday night in Game Three.  He won his only post-season start over the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs, pitching six effective innings of four hit, five strikeout baseball.  For the season, he posted a 4-4 record with a 4.46 ERA in eleven starts and 94.2 innings pitched.  He's been a full time veteran of the Ducks latest three championship runs.  He will be opposed by right-hander Erik Arnesen, 29, who was drafted in the seventeenth round of the 2006 draft by the St. Louis Cardinals.  He is coming off a somewhat rough first round start over Sugar Land, in which he tossed seven innings, allowed four earned runs on nine hits, walked two and struck out six, but still managed the victory.  His regular season was rock solid however.  Erik Arnesen posted a 13-4 record with a 3.18 ERA in twenty-two starts and 149.2 innings pitched.  He ranked fourth in the league in victories, and placed fifth in ERA.  He is charged with the Patriots first  attempt at staving off elimination on their home field.

Somerset is now three long victories away from an unprecedented sixth A.L. title.


N.Y. Knicks: Glen Grunwald Out, Steve Mills Back In - How George Steinbrennian

From the desk of:   DUTCH PANTS CAN'T JUMP

(Walton Street, Williamsburg)

NEW YORK KNICKS: The Heels At The Garden Go Round And Round.

There you go!  If life works in cycles, James Dolan is lapping the field.  History has taught him nothing.  His long list of failures as owner repeat themselves.  This is why I'm so down on the Knickerbockers.

I can understand, if only theoretically that is..., if Dolan felt as if Donnie Walsh was imposed upon him by Commissioner Stern, and that Walsh wasn't necessarily Jimmy's kind of guy.  Fine.  But the fact that Donnie Walsh recovered this organization after being reduced to rubble by the previous administration, and was then rewarded by being shoved in front of an oncoming train downstairs at Penn Station, and for what(?) - to replace him with lightweight Glen Grunwald(?) - is what got lost on me. 

If you really want to know how Dolan felt about Donnie Walsh, look no further than how the Carmelo Anthony deal went down.  For a decade plus, Dolan never ever came close to sticking his unlearned nose into Glen Sather's or Isiah Thomas' business.  At the same time he was facing direct competition or the first time via the Brooklyn Nets, Denver put Melo on the market, and Dolan didn't just step on Donnie's toes, he broke them with a nut cracker in order to acquire the Nuggets star forward.

Sather (still does) and Thomas enjoyed absolute reign over MSG's teams for as long as they lived, right up until the Anucha Brown Sanders debacle forced David Stern to effectively break up MSG's triumvirate led MSG cult, which include among the ranks, an albeit lesser known, Steve Mills.  He was right there, front and center for a decade, playing an equal part in the Fall of Knickerbocker.

I had no particular like for Glen Grunwald, but without knowing for sure why he is no longer the GM, the fact Steve Mills is back in the fold is ponderous to me.  We all know Isiah Thomas still has a key to the executive bathroom, and has never really gone away.  Mills had his fingerprints all over the decision to bring Zeke to the Knicks.  And now he's back for an encore.  Do you want more?  He's back as GM and President no less.  Happy days are here again.

Meanwhile, Glen Grunwald has been reassigned within the organization as an advisor.  Right - How George Steinbrennian, and absolutely ponderous!

All that aside, it appears as if Allan Houston will be taking on a larger role with the Knicks.  That's another conversation.


L.I. Ducks: Strike Late For Game One Victory

From the desk of:  THE WEBBED SPIKES NINE

Somerset Patriots
Bethpage Park
Long Island, New York

LONG ISLAND DUCKS: Late Power Surge Propels Flock In Game One.  Shaun Garceau Goes Tonight In Game Two.

Despite trailing the Somerset Patriots 2-0 through six complete innings, Coach Baez demonstrated unwavering confidence in his Game One starting pitcher.  The manager's faith paid off, as John Brownell kept the Patriots at two runs through eight full innings.

Meanwhile, in the batter's box, patience was the name of Long Island's game.  The Ducks outlasted strong Somerset pitching with clutch late inning hits.  Three Patriots hurlers combined to limit the Ducks to just four hits, while striking out eleven, but two of Long Island's hits were particularly huge decisive blows.

Long Island cut their two run deficit by one in the bottom of the seventh inning on Bill Hall's solo home run off Somerset starting pitcher Josh Lowey.  Then in the bottom of the eighth, a lead-off walk issued to Kraig Binick, and a one out single by Lew Ford put runners on the corners.  Second baseman Josh Barfield followed, and put the Ducks ahead with a three run clout off reliever Jim Hoey.

After a brief rejoicing, the Long Island capacity crowd grew queasy when Somerset DH Cory Aldridge went deep off Leo Rosales in the top of the ninth inning to make it a 4-3 game.  But that's all the Patriots would score.  Leo Rosales struck out two and stranded a runner to earn a save in Game One of the Atlantic League finals.  John Brownell earned the victory for his eight innings of work, in which he allowed two earned runs on six hits, walked one, and struck out six.

Game Two's pitching match-up at Bethpage Park tonight features Shaun Garcueu for Long Island versus southpaw Roy Merritt.  Garceau was one of GM Michael Pfaff's late season acquisitions.  In just three regular season starts for Long Island, he posted a 2-1 record and 1.17 ERA in twenty-three innings pitched.  He allowed fifteen hits and walked four for a 0.826 WHiP, and struck out seventeen batters.  Shaun Garceau previously pitched for the Kansas City T-Bones of the independent American Association.  Somerset's Roy Merritt is a New York Mets farm product, selected 29th in the 2007 June draft.  He joined the Patriots in 2012, and enters tonight's game with a 4-2 record, 1.96 ERA and seventy-one strikeouts in 64.1 innings pitched this season.


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

L.I. Ducks: Atlantic League Championship Series Preview

From the desk of:   THE WEBBED SPIKES NINE

Somerset Patriots
Bethpage Park
Long Island, New York

LONG ISLAND DUCKS: Here They Go Again;
The Quack Quest For Title Number Three.

Defense of Long Island's 2012 Atlantic League title begins tonight.  The Flock will either come away with back-to-back trophies, or resign themselves to their second finals loss in the last three years.  Two years ago, the 2011 Long Island Ducks were the top scoring team in the regular season, but suffered a crippling offensive short circuit in the finals against the York Revolution.  Last season, the Ducks rebounded to capture their second flag in franchise history.  This year, they will face-off against the Somerset Patriots, who are looking to add to their league record five championships, but will be attempting to win their first in the post-Sparky Lyle era.

For the third consecutive Finals, the Ducks will open the series at Bethpage Park.  Games Three, Four and Five if necessary, will be played at Somerset's TD Bank Park.  Ducks ace John Brownell will climb the hill in Game One for Long Island, and will be opposed by the Patriots' Josh Lowey.  Brownell is fresh off a twelve strikeout performance against Southern Maryland in the Liberty Division series, and placed second in the league this season with 133 strikeouts.  He finished the regular season with a 9-10 record and 3.89 ERA.  Josh Lowey led the Atlantic League with a 2.89 ERA, placed third behind Brownell in strikeouts, and placed third overall with fourteen victories.

Game Two will tentatively feature key acquisition Shaun Garceau for the Ducks, opposing Somerset's Roy Merritt, and in Game Three, Bob Zimmermann is slated to face the Patriots Erik Arnesen.

There is a reason Somerset won ninety games this past season under first year manager Brett Jodie.  In fact, Somerset's was the second best season ever recorded in A.L. history.  Indeed, Sugar Land took the regular season crown with an A.L. record ninety-five victories.  Ultimately however, it was the Freedom Division Wild Card Patriots who swept the Skeeters during the opening round of playoffs in three straight.  The Patriots are most certainly an organization that knows their way around championships, and are favored in this year's series.

The Patriots held a distinct regular season advantage in pitching.  They finished second in the league with a team 1.28 WHiP, and second with a 3.61 team ERA as well.  Long Island was sixth with a 1.44 WHiP, and seventh in the circuit with a 4.51 team ERA.

Reliever Jon Hunton, who helped Long Island win a title last year, closed games for the Patriots this season.  In fact, he led the Atlantic League with thirty-seven saves.  Leo Rosales saved eighteen games for the Ducks and sported a 2.35 ERA in 38.1 innings pitched, and fanned forty-five batters.

Offensively, the Patriots excelled as well, leading the circuit with a team .277 batting average.  The Ducks ranked fifth with a .261 mark.  Somerset also out-slugged the rest of the league with a .415 team mark, while the Ducks slugged at a rate of .392, or sixth place.  Somerset boasted the top team OBP with a .356 mark, and the Ducks finished last.  Over the course of the season, Somerset scored 139 more runs than Long Island, but only hit seven more home runs than the Ducks.

Jake Fox led the Patriots this past season with a .310 batting average, while Josh Brodin's .307 average paced the Ducks.  Fox also finished second in the circuit with twenty-five home runs, and third with eighty-two runs batted in.  His team mate Corey Smith finished sixth in the circuit with twenty home runs, and second with eighty-four RBI.  For Long Island, Bill Hall topped the Ducks with sixteen home runs and Adam Bailey followed with fifteen.  Bryant Nelson led the team with seventy-one RBI, while Bill Hall contributed sixty-three.

Until affecting a three game sweep of the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs in the Liberty Division finals, the Long Island Ducks struggled every step of the way this season.  But GM Michael Pfaff made strong moves to bolster the team's pitching late in the season.  Outfielder Lew Ford missed last year's finals while spending time with the Orioles organization, but is sure to add much needed punch and experience this time around.  Dan Lyons, who was so instrumental in last year's title run, returns for an opportunity to win a second straight trophy.  Joining him from last season are, Bryant Nelson, Kraig Binick, Game One pitcher John Brownell, Bob Zimmermann, Jared Lansford, Josh Lansford and Leo Rosales.  And of course, this will be long time Ducks great, Ray Navarrete's last hurrah.  Earlier this season, Long Island's all-time leader in most offensive categories announced he would be retiring at season's end.  For him to raise another trophy on the way out.....

Let the games begin!