New York Yankees: The Captain - Derek Jeter Says The 2014 Season Will Be His Last.
By 1974, I was a young five tool fanchild. I was born a very secure Mets fan, entertained my pop's love for the Yankees, been to both stadiums, knew how to keep score, and started collecting baseball cards on my own.
Fleeting are the summers. Forty have passed in my life as a baseball fan. But, much like the snow piling ever higher outside my house, the passage of time is chilling to ponder.
I spent the years 1974 and 1975 taking mental snapshots of the massive renovations taking place at historic Yankee Stadium. In the interim, the team played its games at my house, Shea Stadium. Nevertheless, routine trips to visit relatives meant taking the F.D.R. uptown to the George Washington Bridge, which provided me with an ongoing account of progress. I was always alert with anticipation, waiting for the moment we drove by.
In 1976, the year of Yankee Stadium's grand reopening, my pop closed out the season by taking me to Game Five of the ALCS - you know, the insane Chris Chambliss home run game. The images of that night, and watching the transformation of the old stadium, stay with me today. As an adult, and father myself, I caught chills the day I positioned myself across the river, at that exact point of view, for a final series of photos just prior to her demolition.
The House That Ruth Built was gone. The loss was great, but my memories, I knew would last forever. Among them, I include the playing days of Thurman Munson, the exploits of Reggie Jackson, and the careers of Dave Winfield and Don Mattingly when they shared a field together.
You can now add the cast of recent Core players, and in particular, the career of Derek Jeter. The Yankees shortstop of the last 18+ years, the man dubbed Mr. November, announced Wednesday he will retire at season's end. The 11th team captain in Yankees history decided it's time to leave the game.
In my lifetime, there has perhaps been no athlete in New York City, who has gotten IT more right, than him. The Boss was never more spot on, than when he named Derek captain of the Yankees, just as he was correct in naming Thurman Munson. I understand more each day why those two were so perfectly suited for the role. I mean no slight towards Mattingly, but I was a bigger Winfield fan. That said, Munson, Mariano Rivera, and Derek Jeter, are whom I would define as the modern ideal of a Yankee. In the Steinbrenner era, I believe no players brought more balance, and commanded genuine league wide, or even cross-town respect, despite the club's prevailing early Bronx Zoo, and later Evil Empire personas, than those three.
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As part of my own personal Hall of Fame criteria, a player's late years, should rate similarly to those of, say, his prime years. Loosely stated, I feel a player's 17th season, should somewhat resemble, say, his 7th year in the league. I believe one or two late, great seasons, serves as a punctuation mark to a potential HOF career. It's a statement saying - I stayed great to the end.
For example, Dave Winfield did that in 1992, by posting 108 RBI at age 40, for the eighth 100+ RBI season of his career - a prestigious level of production by any measure. Seven times? Not so much. Winfield additionally amassed 75 home runs in his final three full seasons. He then only managed another 123 games over the next two seasons, and retired. Had Dave Winfield not lost all of 1989 to injury, 500 home runs, and 2,000 RBI were very distinct possibilities.
Derek Jeter's 2012 regular season qualifies as one of those punctuation marks. And like Winfield, Derek was sidelined for an entire season, all except for 17 games last year. I'm not sure, however, if that helped or harmed his career numbers. It just makes this season all the more intriguing.
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There is also much about Derek Jeter that reminds me of Pete Rose. Why bring Rose into this? They shared an unrelenting, rabid determination, and thirst for competition at the highest level, and, because Derek Jeter could conceivably wind up 5th, 6th, or 7th on baseball's all-time hits list. Currently in 6th place, is Tris Speaker, with 3,514 hits. Derek needs 198 hits to match Speaker.
Pete Rose's last great season came at age 40, during the 1981 strike-shortened campaign, in which he led the N.L. in hits, and batted .325 for the season. That's a punctuation mark. He retired five years later, after passing Ty Cobb for 1st place on the all-time hits list. Of course, Pete Rose held on till age 45, with the sole intention of chasing down Ty Cobb's record, so naturally, there was an expected drop in Charlie Hustle's production. But had Rose retired after the 1981 season at age 40, he would still have amassed 3,697 hits. Derek Jeter currently sits at 3,316 and counting. That's a difference of only 381 hits before a single pitch gets thrown in 2014.
Derek Jeter will turn 40 years old this June, and his bounce back 2012 season is right up there with Pete Rose's 1981 campaign. Derek once again surpassed 200 hits, and in fact, led the league with 216, and batted .316 for the season. That's punctuation.
Baseball's all-time hit king averaged 639 at-bats a season over his 24 year career. Entering his 20th campaign, Jeter has averaged 661 at-bats a season. Pete Rose eclipsed 200 hits in a season ten times, while Jeter has done so eight times.
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Upon completion of Derek's final game as a Yankee, the Core FIVE era will officially come to an end. Despite arriving in the Bronx a few years earlier, I will always include Bernie Williams among the core, along with Andy, Mo, and Jorge Posada.
Bernie's enduring legacy could have been further enhanced, but he never provided that punctuating season at the end of his career. He, in effect, ruined his .300 career batting average with four final pedestrian seasons before Brian Cashman unceremoniously pushed him out the door. He batted above .300 for eight straight seasons, but (unofficially) retired after 16 seasons with the Yankees, owning a .297 batting average.
Like Bernie, the great Mickey Mantle probably held on too long, and likewise ruined his career batting average. The Mick retired with a .299 mark. In his mind, and with his words, Mickey was defiant to the end, insisting he was a .300 hitter. Unfortunately, his baseball card disagreed by a fraction, and he always regretted that.
When Derek Jeter signed his current contract, his lifetime batting average stood at .314, which means he's lost two points over the last three years. That's been my main concern regarding Jeter's latter years - I want him to retire with a career batting average above the .310 mark. Over a 20 year career, I would view that as a majestic baseball achievement. With the hopeful completion of a healthy, and even mildly productive 2014 season, his lifetime average will likely rank 15th all-time for players with 20 or more years of service.
Pete Rose was far from being a home run hitter, but remains one of the greatest players I ever saw - period! Home runs do not a Hall of Famer make. Rose retired with a .303 career batting average, and holds a considerable advantage in doubles, while Derek Jeter easily beats Rose in home runs, and was an overall higher slugger.
Derek currently has 256 home runs, and with any luck, can reach 270+ before he retires, if, he sticks to his career average of 16 per season. Keeping in mind that he has primarily been a lead-off, or number two hitter, here are other milestones within reach this season:
39 more RBI for 1,300
24 runs scored for 1,900
2 stolen bases for 350
25 more doubles for 550
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It wasn't too long ago that Derek Jeter was being ranked behind contemporaries such as the beleaguered Alex Rodriguez, Nomar Garciaparra, Miguel Tejada, and other various shortstops of the day. Of the former shortstops mentioned, two have been established as cheaters of the game, and the third couldn't withstand the test of time.
Not coincidentally, Nomar Garciaparra also owns a .312 career batting average, but only lasted 14 years before injuries forced him into retirement. It was ironic that during the 2004 season, then Red Sox GM Theo Epstein traded then face of the franchise, Nomar Garciaparra. The Sox went on to win their first World Series in 86 years without him, and two more for good measure. In 2009, Derek Jeter earned his fifth ring as a Yankee.
Derek Jeter's Hall of Fame career needs no championing from me. His career spans two decades of sustained excellence that speaks for itself. He not only outlasted, and outclassed his contemporaries, he will retire as one of baseball's all-time titans.
Port St. Lucie Or Bust! One Week Till Pitchers and Catchers
The equipment truck rumbled out of Flushing, and started down I-95 a few days ago. What many fans hope is shaping up to be the most promising Mets season of the recent past, begins Saturday morning, when pitchers and catchers report for initial work-outs.
The Mets roster is a mix of old problems, new faces, and inexperienced kids, that collectively, hope to start changing the on-field conversation in Flushing towards the better. Although Spring Training is yet to begin, the team is already operating with a new outlook. That's a positive condition to start.
It All Starts At The Top
Of course, there is no escaping the fact ownership is still mired in money woes, but for the moment, they have stabilized their immediate situation enough to make the 2014 regular season seem like a reasonably functional endeavor. But make no mistake, ownership, needs increased wins on the field, in order to increase attendance, and generate higher game day revenues. More importantly, they need the 2014 season to begin a winning trend. There is virtually nothing they can do in one year, that can change the fact that ownership's situation is highly leveraged, and they are still near one billion dollars in debt.
The Front Office
The organization has still not discussed a contract extension with Sandy Alderson. I find this only mildly unsettling for the moment, but my concern will grow the longer this issue remains unresolved.
In October 2013, Sandy Alderson began the off-season by expressing his desire for acquiring a major league back-up for Travis d'Arnaud. At the beginning of the free-agency period, Sandy Alderson maintained signing a shortstop was a main priority. Throughout the winter meetings, Sandy Alderson was intent on trading Ike Davis. None of that transpired, and thus far, Alderson has additionally neglected the bullpen.
What Sandy Alderson has accomplished however, to a large extent, is rebuild what was a minor league caliber outfield, and, in the absence of Matt Harvey, created depth in the starting rotation.
If you're inclined to take an optimistic approach, this may finally be the season the club pulls off a surprise acquisition at the trade deadline. Sandy Alderson has stocked the system with enough attractive prospects, should such a trade opportunity materialize. Ownership would have to sign-off on such a move, but the club is no longer saddled with prohibitive, long term contracts, that have stymied them previously. This off-season, Sandy Alderson smartly staggered the expiration dates on his three main free agent signings.
After lengthy speculation, Sandy Alderson finally decided Terry Collins would continue managing the Mets, and offered him a contract extension that runs through the 2015 season. The real question regarding Collins was whether a better candidate existed at the time. Outside of Wally Backman being a fan favorite, the pragmatic answer was, not really.
Not incidentally, I still find it very curious that Wally Backman agreed to stay with Las Vegas for another season. Terry Collins' two year extension is not exactly a ringing endorsement from the general manager. It seems more like a GM trying to retain flexibility, and keeping his options open. Should the Mets decide to fire Terry Collins at anytime, the financial pill would be a small one for Mr. Wilpon to swallow.
Regardless, Terry Collins earned the right to return. After a rough first half, the Mets finished the last 100 games of the 2013 season with a .500 record. He obediently piloted them through an organizational deconstruction period, and now gets to guide the team in, what everyone hopes, is a new direction.
Secure in his position for the moment, what type of Terry Collins may we expect now? The emergence of young players, in addition to the off-season acquisitions, means this season brings with it new expectations. The rebuilding stage, and time for coddling players has effectively passed. In other words, Terry Collins is now under pressure to win, and at least get this team above the .500 mark this year.
Historically, under Collins, the team has gotten off to quick starts, then finished the season in a state of disarray. Last year, however, provided just the opposite. A repeat of last year's poor start, may doom Terry's extension.
What's Old Is New Again
Ike Davis is being given one last chance to win the first base job, while Ruben Tejada is back for another, hopefully more productive stint at shortstop. Both players have their work cut out for them, with little margin for error, and even less organizational patience.
Terry Collin's declaration that Ike Davis has first dibs on first base, means Lucas Duda's situation is just as unsettled as ever. Josh Satin's role appears unchanged, as he is the right handed bat in the first base equation.
Welcome To Flushing
Curtis Granderson was the most significant off-season acquisition, along with Bartolo Colon and Chris Young. Sandy Alderson also took steps to improve depth in the starting rotation.
The Kids Are Alright
Or, so the Mets hope. The Mets need positive contributions from their young, promising players. Highly touted imports such as Travis d'Arnaud, and Zack Wheeler, and promoted farm hands such as Juan Lagares, and Wilmer Flores, are being put in the spotlight very early in their careers. More talent is on the way. Pitchers Noah Syndergaard and Rafael Montero are expected to make their major league debuts at some point this season.
Winter is far from over, but let the stretching begin. More on the Mets coming soon.
Representing Mexico, the Naranjeros baseball club from Hermosillo, captured the nation's second straight Caribbean championship. This was Mexico's third title in the last four years, and the eighth time a team from Mexico captured the Caribbean flag since they began participating in 1970.
MEXICAN PACIFIC LEAGUE MEMBER:
NARANJEROS de HERMOSILLO
1976 & 2014
The representatives from Puerto Rico failed in their bid to capture the island's fifteenth Caribbean title, as los Indios de Mayaguez were undone by Mexico's sixth inning, six run outburst during Saturday night's final.
Joel Piniero climbed the hill for Mayaguez, and was opposed by Juan Delgadillo for los Naranjeros. The two dueled through a scoreless tie through the first five innings, but Piniero's night ended there with a no-decision. He threw 66 pitches, with 47 going for strikes, for a 71% rate of effectiveness. He only allowed three hits, walked one, and struck out three before yielding to the bullpen.
Juan Delgadillo went back out for the sixth, and held los Indios scoreless yet again. In the bottom of the frame, his efforts were finally rewarded. With Kanekoa Texeira pitching in relief of Piniero, Naranjero's lead-off batter, and center fielder, Chris Roberson, greeted the Mayaguez reliever, and broke up the stalemate with a home run to right. After surrendering a one out single and a walk, Texeira was removed in favor of Nelvin Fuentes. First baseman Daryle Ward then promptly singled to drive in the Naranjero's second run. A base hit by right fielder Luis Fonseca to load the bases, and a pitching change later, catcher Sabastian Valle stepped in against reliever Saul Rivera, and delivered the knock out blow- a grand slam home run over the left-center field wall.
Hermosillo scored one more time in the eighth, on a bases loaded single by shortstop Gil Velasquez.
Starting pitcher Juan Delgadillo completed seven full innings of scoreless baseball. He allowed four hits, walked none, and struck out five batters before exiting on the winning side. He threw 98 pitches, 70 for strikes, for a 71% rate of effectiveness.
Puerto Rico managed to ruin the shutout with one run in the ninth, but no much else. Naranjero pitching limited them to five hits for the game. Los Indios wound up 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position. Kanekoa Texeira was credited with the loss in relief.
Saturday's final game was played under clear skies, and 86 degrees, on la Isla de Margarita off Venezuela.
A crowd of 13,291 filled Estadio Guatamare de Porlamar for Saturday's championship. Next year's Caribbean Series will be hosted by Puerto Rico. Despite making their first appearance in 53 years, Cuba's participation in next year's tournament is still uncertain.
The Naranjeros de Hermosillo compiled a 42-25 record during their Mexican Pacific League regular season, clinching first place by a 4.5 game margin over second place Aguilas de Mexicali. Hermosillo defeated the Mayos de Navojoa to win their league championship. The Naranjeros then defeated the Domincan Republic's Tigres de Licey in the semi-finals to advance into the championship game against Puerto Rico.
For some, this is a refresher. For my learned followers, bear with me. For the unknowing, here's the definition of terms:
In 1980, Doubleday Publishing purchased the Mets for $20.1 million. In 1986, Nelson Doubleday and Fred Wilpon, in turn, purchased the Mets for $86 million from Doubleday and Company. Initially a mere 1% investor, Fred Wilpon's share in the team grew to 50%, while the relationship and partnership simultaneously deteriorated. By August 2002, Fred Wilpon agreed to pay Nelson Doubleday $135 million for his half of the team. By year's end, the sale was complete. Fred Wilpon, and family, then assumed full ownership of the New York Mets Baseball Club, ushering in, what this blog has dubbed:
The AGE of
Today Marks Day 4,088 On The Wilponic Calander,
In The Year 12 A.D. (After Doubleday)
In order to facilitate the transaction, Fred was required to cut Nelson Doubleday a check, up front, for $100 million dollars, with the balance to be paid over several years. It was on the heels of that check, ownership sought financing for Citi Field. The Madoff scandal was then revealed, and threatened to obliterate the whole operation, and theoretically, still does. The Mets never achieved their predicted attendance figures promised to the banks, and instead, have hemorrhaged money for the last five seasons, and piled up even more crippling debt, on top of their Citi Field financial commitments.
Enter Saul B. Katz, who has known nothing but misfortune since teaming up with Fred and Jeff. He doesn't speak to the press, so you do not know what he's thinking, or what he's like. He's a mysterious figure to Mets fans. So, what good mystery man doesn't need a good saga to perpetuate his myth? Therefore, this entire twilight zone existence Saul married into, this condition, is what this blog dubs, his Dilemma.
I liken it to money getting stuck on fly paper. Uncle Saul has seen his shares in the team devalued, due to a 25% reduction in overall ownership, since distributed to other various $20 million dollar share investors. Whether he is an accomplice, or a victim of the whole Mets mess, matters not to me. I just feel sorry for him...., and us.
Why do all this? Well, for entertainment purposes only. I assure you. But also because, on his way out of Shea Stadium's offices for the final time, Nelson Doubleday prophesied Fred Wilpon and his son would run the New York Mets into the ground. We are now twelve years into the deconstruction.
To begin the new year, the Mets dodged a $250 million dollar note due in June. That money has been refinanced over the next seven years, but the club still owes SNY $600 million due in 2015, and I just do not know how they are going to pull that one off.
In the very near term, the Mets now need to come up with $120 million a year just to keep up on their loan refinancing and the debt on Citi Field. They have a projected rounded off 2014 payroll of $90 million, which raises their immediate need for cash to $210 million. Last year, the club only generated $230 million in revenues. So, how exactly are they going to save enough to pay off over half a billion dollars next year?
Thus, the Saul B. Katz Dilemma continues.....
The Mets are 868-913 during the Age of WILPONianism, averaging a 78-83 yearly record over the last eleven seasons. During that time, the Mets have posted a winning record four times, and a sub-.500 record seven times. They've exceeded 90 losses three times, and achieved over 90 victories only once. They have posted a losing record in each of the last five years. In the last eleven years, they have participated in the post-season once.
Fred Wilpon's team is on its fourth field manager, third general manager, and second ball park. On that note, attendance has gone down in each of Citi Field's first five seasons.
The upcoming 2014 season was the one when things were to begin changing for the better. Mets minor league prospects are on the rise, the team could potentially post a .500 record, attendance might go up, and ownership might break even, or, actually turn a profit for the first time in years.
Even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while. So, again, welcome to year twelve.
NEW YORK METS: I Revisited The Summers of '74-'76 For The Next Forty Years Thanks To Ralph Kiner.
For me, those were the summers just prior to the dark period. In which ever era of Mets baseball you grew up in, right up until last season, Ralph Kiner always took you there.
When I was a kid, the exterior of Shea Stadium was still decorated with multi-colored panels, the outfield fences were green, there was no Diamond Vision, no picnic area, or bleachers, or Home Run Apple. In fact, the Yankees were co-occupying Shea Stadium during renovation of their River Avenue ballpark.
Free agency had not taken hold of the game yet, Hank Aaron had just broken Babe Ruth's career home run record, the N.L. still only had 12 teams, and the Big Red Machine was running wild.
Relief pitchers were called firemen, and when called upon, were driven in from the bullpen in golf carts refitted to resemble a giant baseball and cap. The designated hitter experiment in the American League was still a new concept.
Players did not wear names on the backs of their jerseys then. Their uniform numbers were more hardwired into our young brains. The manner with which players swung a bat, or wound up to pitch, made the most impressions on us. This was a time when players were a bit more quirky, and not necessarily restricted by, or drilled in prohibitive fundamentals. Players were allowed to have their own unique styles back then.
Broadcasters were no different. For me, my earliest baseball professors were Lindsey Nelson, Bob Murphy, and the recently departed Ralph Kiner.
I was too young for the Miracle of 1969, but as a young boy, I was able to enjoy a few years watching Seaver, Milner, Koosman, Harrelson, Grote, Garrett, Millan, Kranepool, Tug, Rusty, Matlack, and Jones all play together. Their on-field efforts were narrated by the Mets original broadcast team.
Even more than the 1980's, those were the days, still, most magical to me. Well beyond the playing careers of the above mentioned players, and well after the departure of Lindsey Nelson, and the passing of Bob Murphy, Ralph Kiner continued bringing me back to those days and nights of my youth.
Time marches on, and so, the older I get, the more blessed I feel to have become a Mets fan when I did.
New York Yankees: Alex Rodriguez Benched For 2014 Season.
Word to the wise - Be careful, as sometimes people get what they ask for.
In Alex Rodriguez' more loosey-goosey days, back when it was discovered he took PED's during his years in Texas, the disgraced Yankee slugger pleaded with the greater world of baseball to judge him from that point forward. That was five years ago.
Today, the conclusions most mindful people hold regarding Alex Rodriguez' career, are that he is a repeat offender, a cheater of the game of baseball, a colossal liar, and someone who turned and bit all the hands that feed him.
In other words, as a professional athlete, Alex Rodriguez no longer has any credibility. Despite dropping his lawsuits against MLB and the MLBPA, there's nothing he can do to regain a good name now. He's also finding out, that all the millions of dollars he's earned over his career will not buy him a new legacy either. His personal fortune, is for all intent and purpose, now worthless, because when you lose the respect of your piers and contemporaries, you're done, and as good as broke.
Through the years, each and every of the most major steroid/PED suspects, elevated their fraud to even higher levels of audacity, absurdity, and shame, than the previous cheat. The sham perpetrated by Mark McGwire upon the Maris Family, by far has been the most disrespectful, because the Maris Family followed McGwire around in good faith, out of tradition, and reverence for the institution of baseball, while McGwire knew he was dirty the whole time.
Rafael Palmeiro waged his finger at Congress, then came up hot, and subsequently blamed his positive test on a syringe obtained from Miguel Tejada. He has since disappeared.
On the heels of appearing in TV commercials promoting tourism in the Dominican Republic, Sammy Sosa suddenly forgot how to speak English, bleached his skin, and likewise, effectively deleted himself from known civilization.
Barry Bonds escaped MLB's wrath because a certain Mr. Anderson from BALCO Labs (detailed in the book Game of Shadows) agreed to serve jail time versus decoding laboratory files, and connecting documents and regimens to players. In court and under oath, Barry Bonds merely admitted to unknowingly taking steroids, thinking, as he testified, he was using flax seed oil.
Roger Clemens was incriminated by Andy Pettitte's testimony, but as Clemens puts it, Andy mis-remembered. What Clemens would have you believe, is that steroids were in his personal home, were used by his wife, but he himself, never did the stuff.
Riding a technicality, a defiant Ryan Braun recently tried railroading the lives of innocent people who were just trying to do their jobs, then got snared again in the Biogenesis revelation.
Of course there are other examples, many others, but these were some of the more egregious cases, until Alex Rodriguez came along to trump them all.
Alex Rodriguez will miss the entirety of the 2014 season - suspended. However, the Yankees are still beholden to him for over $60 million dollars through the 2017 season. If he comes back after his suspension, and connects on certain milestone home runs, he will earn even more. That part just doesn't seem right. In fact, records wise, it would be a joke, and a travesty, should Alex approach Hank Aaron's true home run record.
Many words can be spent discussing ARod's situation. I, however, feel as if I've spent too many. He has been a piranha ever since setting foot in New York City, many times, however, for trivial reasons. This time, he got what he earned,and deserved.
Puerto Rico's Indios de Mayaguez outlasted the top seeded Venezuelan Navegantes de Magallanes Friday evening to gain a 2-0 victory, and advance into Saturday's Caribbean championship game against Mexico's Naranjeros de Hermosillo.
Pitcher Giancarlo Alvarado climbed the hill for los Indios, and was opposed by Daryl Thompson for los Navegantes. Both starters traded zeroes through the first five innings. Thompson allowed but a hit, and a pair of walks, while striking out three before being relieved after facing one batter in the sixth. Alvarado completed six innings, allowed two hits, two walks, and struck out two, before likewise departing with a no-decision.
Puerto Rico finally broke the scoreless deadlock in the top of the eighth inning off reliever Hassan Pena, who walked the first two batters he faced. A fielding error by Navegantes shortstop Eduardo Escobar then loaded the bases, and chased Pena from the game. In to pitch came Jesus Martinez, who promptly allowed a single to Indios center fielder Eddie Rosario. Pinch runner Luis Montanez was the first base runner to cross the plate, followed by pinch hitter Miguel Abreu, who reached safely on a walk. Both unearned runs were charged to Hassan Pena, who suffered the loss.
Steve Smith pitched two innings in relief of Giancarlo Alvarado, allowed just one hit, and picked up the win for Mayaguez. Tyler Herron was credited with the save. Alvarado faced 22 batters, threw 92 pitches, with 56 going for strikes, for an effective rate of 61%.
Both teams were limited to just three hits apiece. Navegantes left fielder Ezequiel Carrera was the lone player with multiple hits, but the top seeded Venezuelan team was 0-4 with runners on scoring position. Former Mets player, and center fielder for los Navegantes, Endy Chavez went 1 for 4 at the plate.
The final game is set. #4 Puerto Rico versus #2 Mexico - On Saturday, los Indios de Mayaguez will face los Naranjeros de Hermosillo, for the 2014 Caribbean League championship.
Puerto Rico is attempting to capture their 15th Caribbean title, but it has been thirteen years since their last. Their most recent championship came back in 2000, while los Indios de Mayaguez, who claim two titles, last won the winter leagues championship back in 1992.
Mexico defeated los Tigres de Licey, of the Dominican circuit, on Thursday, to gain a berth in the final. Mexico, last season's Caribbean champion, will be seeking to repeat, and gain the nation's 8th title. The Naranjeros lone championship came in 1976. Mexico's recent success has been sustained for over a decade now. They have won two of the last three tournaments, and four times since 2002.
Mexico's quest to repeat as Caribbean champions remains on course.
In semi-final action Thursday evening, the Dominican League's final four entrant, los Tigres de Licey's attempt to win an unprecedented eleventh Caribbean title came to a screeching halt. Mexico's Naranjeros de Hermosillo gained a 3-2 victory over the Dominicans, and now await the winner of Friday night's showdown between Venezuela's Navegantes de Magallanes and Puerto Rico's Indios de Mayaguez.
The scheduled pitchers listed in Friday's match-up were Daryl Thompson for Venezuela, and Giancarlo Alvarado throwing for Puerto Rico.
Mexico tied D.R at 2-2 in the bottom of the eighth inning, then won the game in the ninth on a run scoring base hit, to advance to the championship game scheduled for Saturday. On the mound, Baltimore's Alfredo Aceves started for Mexico, and was opposed by Atlanta's Yunesky Maya. The two engaged in a 1-1 duel over six innings. Aceves pitched seven innings in all, allowing just three hits for the win. Maya left the game in the sixth, after being struck on the hand by a line drive.
NEW YORK KNICKS: Melo! Melo Changes Everything.... Or Was That, Money Changes Everything? Whatever.
As we know by now, James Dolan held a private meeting with Carmelo Anthony, to discuss, of all things, the future status of their head coach. Publicly, Melo says he wants no part of that conversation. That's unfortunate. But in a small way, I don't blame him. More on that later.
First, talk about gratitude, huh? From day one, Mike Woodson was careful to not make the same mistake Mike D'Antoni did, which was to not give Carmelo Anthony what he wanted, meaning, the ball. Coach Woodson made it clear upon assuming the Knicks head coaching position, that he would be riding Melo like a mule, for as long and far as the small forward could carry them. We are now finding out just how far that is.
I do not know how or when it happened. Those of you who follow my blog know Melo has no friend in me. But at this point, I absolve him of blame for the current Knicks situation, on all counts but one. Carmelo Anthony did not support his coach with the same unwavering loyalty Mike Woodson invested in him. So, I guess from a coach's perspective, the present state of the Knicks is indeed a disaster, which was Coach Woodson's choice of word, not mine. And, I couldn't concur more.
In my opinion, the two are joined at the hip. If James Dolan fires Coach Woodson, then Carmelo Anthony needs to be traded, post haste. Carmelo Anthony perhaps needs to be traded anyway. The current cast of Knickerbockers is a bad mix. They need to be reconfigured. It is clear the Knicks can not surround Melo with a better supporting cast. Therefore, Melo must go, then cross your fingers, and bank on a good return. It's just that simple.
If anything, or anyone, is putting Coach Woodson's job in jeopardy, it is the sub-par play of Raymond Felton at the point. After that, we can start cherry picking reasons, like the lack of scoring from Tyson Chandler, or the drop in J.R. Smith's overall game since signing his contract, or Iman Shumpert taking steps backwards, or the infirmary of players they call a bench and supporting cast.
Making matters worse, Tyson Chandler, Amare Stoudemire, and Melo, are all guilty of displaying apathy towards their coach this season. The only player to exhibit open support for his coach has been J.R. Smith - ironically, the one player Coach Woodson has been hardest on.
The Knicks entered Friday night's game against the Denver Nuggets with a 19-30 record, with matters deteriorating fast. Scuttlebutt around Madison Square Garden says Mike Woodson will be fired by the all-star game. So how did the team respond this evening? They trailed Denver 26-20 after the first quarter. Melo scored 13 of the Knicks 20 points.
Coach is not without his own faults. I'd be hard pressed to explain Mike Woodson's offensive philosophy with any conviction. The strategy seems part iso, part Melo, and part gonzo. With few set plays, poorly designed plays coming out of time-outs, and an inability to get his players to play collective defense, consider yourself up to date.
So why the big drop-off from last year when the Knicks won 54 games? Were Jason Kidd, Kurt Thomas, and Steve Novak, that influential, and integral to the Knicks success last season?
There is no clear answer. This season however, Carmelo Anthony has been made to shoulder the burden of putting the entire Knicks organization on is back. The owner, a pseudo-GM, a coach on the hot seat, eleven other second rate players, and a bewildered fan base, all look to Carmelo Anthony for everything.
He's Carmelo Anthony, not Meadowlark Lemon!
At this point, I can no longer begrudge Melo for his lack of professionalism, when earlier in the season, he smiled when saying he looked forward to becoming a free agent. When you're in-season, and under contract, that's disrespectful to all concerned parties. In fact, when Dolan initially acquired him, I thought he would be at the center of everything wrong with the Knicks. What Melo is, is a scorer, and a damn good one. There is nary a Knick on the floor who compliments his game. As it turned out, Melo is fine. Everything around him, however, is completely dysfunctional.
If it's about the money for Carmelo, he can make the most by staying with the Knicks. If he's determined to win a championship, he'd be smart to hop the next train from Penn Station out of the city. If the Knicks were smart, that puppet they call a GM would trade Carmelo Anthony at the deadline, in the best interests of the team.
Knicks won by the way, over Denver by a 117-90 final score. Melo scored 31 points. Amare came in big with 17 points.
New York Rangers: The Captain Now At The Core Of The GM's Latest Folly.
Does anyone foresee a visit to the Stanley Cup Finals this year? A friend of mine, who's hockey opinion I respect very much, believes it more than possible. He noted scoring is up, the power play is functional, and that Alain Vigneault's system is finally sinking in. He also believes the acquisition of another physical defenseman and a 20-goal type scorer at the trade deadline, could be enough to propel the Rangers, at least into the conference finals.
With all sarcasm intended - is that all?
Flat out - I do not share his optimism. One of the reasons why I was such a staunch supporter of John Tortorella was because he altered Sather's way of operating. Tort's affect on the GM, and the results on the ice spoke for themselves. I understand why Torts no longer coaches off-Broadway, but without him, I'm afraid the organization has once again lost its philosophical discipline and long range focus.
At the heart of the matter, is Glen Sather's continued (decade long) mismanagement, and deconstruction of a team (and spirit) that went to the conference finals two seasons ago.
Trading Michael Dell Zotto for Kevin Klein was actually a good move. Del Zotto earned the ire of two different coaches, so there was justified cause. He started out so promisingly, but then devolved as a defenseman.
Want to trade someone? Trade Marc Staal while we still can. You heard me right.
If you know me, I tend to lash out more when the team is doing well. On that note, the Rangers are 10-5 in the new year. I've been relatively silent since Christmas, but no more. My mid-winter break is over, and I'm pissed. So let's get on with this.
I would have traded Henrik Lundqvist...! Ryan Callahan and Dan Girardi are now tentatively on the trading block because the team can not afford to fit them (or anyone else for that matter) under the cap. After Rick Nash, Brad Richards, and now Lundqvist, there's little room left to sign or retain depth and quality.
On Lundqvist - how dare I even suggest trading The King? The short reason is, I'm tired of being a .500 team in perpetuity. As long as the Rangers continue to operate like a .500 team, the longer they will draft in the middle of the pack. It is that simple. Mediocrity breeds more mediocrity. Prior to signing Lundqvist to a long term deal, the number of teams that would have lined-up with offers would have been considerable. Especially in hockey, with a top selection, the odds of drafting a franchise player increase exponentially. Trading Lundqvist would have potentially netted the Rangers two high draft picks. Believe me, the only reason such a notion even crossed my mind had/has nothing to do with Henrik's off-season thus far. This had everything to do with the play of Cam Talbot. Now that Glen Sather made Lundqvist the highest paid goalie in the NHL, this possibility is all but squashed. The King's new contract practically makes him immovable.
Free agents to be Ryan Callahan and Dan Girardi are the first potential casualties. The latest word is the club wants Ryan Callahan's matter resolved by the start of the Olympics, which means by Thursday.
If you remember, John Tortorella initially identified Ryan Callahan, Dan Girardi, Marc Staal, Brandon Dubinsky, and of course, Henrik Lundqvist as his core.
Two seasons ago are fast becoming "the good old days".... So, f_*k it - humor me Glen Sather. Trade them all..!