Thursday, February 18, 2016

N.Y. Mets: Happy Pitchers and Catchers Day

From the desk of:  HEAD-BUTTING MR. MET

The Truck 'O' Stuff Has Arrived ...

NEW YORK METS: As Pitchers and Catchers report, defense of their National League championship starts now.

The AGE of WILPONianism
Year 14 A.D. 
(After Doubleday)

Roughly 4,802 days ago, former partners Fred Wilpon and Nelson Doubleday parted ways, 
thus making Fred and Jeff Wilpon, and Saul Katz, sole owners of the 
New York Metropolitan Baseball Club.

Team ownership has been a rather neat and tidy history ... from Joan Payson, to Nelson Doubleday, to Fred Wilpon & Son.  We are now entering the 14th year of the latter's reign.

I couldn't resist...

Having secured the 2015 National League pennant, the Wilpons easily enjoyed their finest moment as sole owners of the Mets - for it was ownership whom stepped up at last year's trade deadline and dictated the short term course of the club.

With the off-season now officially behind us, the New York Mets enter Spring Training an improved team, with ownership's continued financial investment into Yoenis Cespedes largely to thank, which is not to say they've retired their massive debt - far from it.

Nevertheless, after a long rebuilding process the Mets are no longer underdogs, and instead enter the 2016 regular season among the favorites to win the World Series.

This blog created the WILPONian Calender in jest, and so, with a turn in team fortunes, ownership at least deserves straight forward credit.

If you think about it, the time spanning the respective firings of Bobby Valentine and Steve Phillips, through Art Howe, Jim Duquette, Willie Randolph and Omar Minaya, the 2016 New York Mets indeed enter the season on the highest of notes over the last 14 years.

So let it be done...

The Competition

With regards to the N.L. East, I think it's safe to say we're talking about a two team race between the Mets and Nationals.  Despite signing 2015 NLCS hero Daniel Murphy, many might argue the Nationals actually took step backwards this off-season.  As noted, the Mets on the other hand, are an improved team.  By how much is debatable, but they're improved nonetheless.

The Atlanta Braves and Miami Marlins are next in the division hierarchy, while the Philadelphia Phillies seem destined for another last place finish.  All three teams lost in excess of 90 games last season.  Perhaps only Miami, with the return of Giancarlo Stanton, seems equipped to break that trend this season.

Otherwise, I do not think much else has changed.  In the West Division, Los Angeles and San Francisco will battle for a lone playoff spot, because the N.L. Central will once again feature three of the circuit's top tier clubs.  Some believe the Cubs are the favorites to dethrone the Mets as N.L. champs.

We'll cross that bridge when we get to it.

The Team

Can you believe it?  No overwhelming issues.

Without getting into the real particulars, there are no positional jobs up for grabs per se, the bench is poised to be strong, the starting rotation is set, and outside of one remaining reliever spot there are no glaring needs to speak of.

Oh how the times have changed...

Behind the dish, Travis d'Arnaud simply needs to stay on the field and in the line-up on a more consistent basis.  His penchant for incurring fluke injuries is becoming problematic.  I'm still high on Kevin Plawecki.  The Mets have a good situation on their hands, but ultimately, one of these catchers needs to win the job outright.  That said, it's obviously TDA's to lose.

Will the real Lucas Duda please show up...  Are the Mets getting Dr. Jekyll from 2014, or last year's Mr. Hyde?  His 2015 regular season was entirely too streaky.  Perhaps he'll benefit from having Yoenis Cespedes in the line-up for a full season.  He has a lot of convincing to do.

Up the middle, Asdrubal Cabrera and Neil Walker are more polished infielders than Wilmer Flores and Daniel Murphy demonstrated.  The Mets are better defensively, if only slightly.  Offensively, the Mets might be breaking even.  The acquisition of Cabrera, however, turns Wilmer Flores into a super-sub off the bench.  There's real net gain here.

Look no further than third base, where the Mets are looking towards limiting David Wright to 130 games.

Yoenis Cespedes will headline the outfield.  If only the Mets could convince him to play right field, where they'd maximize his freakish arm strength.  Curtis Granderson looks like he drinks from the fountain of youth.  Unlike last season, Terry Collins gets to figure a way of fitting Michael Conforto, Juan Lagares, and Alex De Aza, over the course of a full season.  Once again, it's a good problem to have.

As the starting pitching goes, so go the Mets - obviously.  And by the way, their lone southpaw starter, Jon Niese, got traded to Pittsburgh.  I wish him luck there.  Otherwise, there's a need for a fifth starter.

In the bullpen, the Mets perhaps need one more reliever in order to round out what seems like a capable bunch (for now...).

That concludes my first stretch...

Happy Pitchers and Catchers Day!

Friday, February 12, 2016

N.Y. Knicks: Triangulation Exacerbation

From the desk of:  DUTCH PANTS CAN'T JUMP

Another deflating moment in the Knicks 16-year rebuilding process.

New York Knicks: Derek Fisher turned into just another social misfit lost in a Triangle of love.

There was little justification for hiring Derek Fisher in the first place, so, firing him was a layup.

He was brought in to help teach Phil Jackson's triangle offense, but instead became ensnared in a bizarre love triangle gone public.  As coach, his affect on the team was just as ineffective - and as we're learning, maybe even toxic.

For a change, there's no dumping on Carmelo Anthony for this one.  He's clean.  In fact, Melo has been more of the solution this season, than the problem.  His willingness to work with Kristaps Porzingis and the rest of his newer mates elevated the Knicks into a .500 team (to date) - not Derek Fisher's coaching per se, or lack thereof.  Lest we forget the Knicks were a woeful 17-65 last season.

Therefore, all this (and Kurt Rambis) must be taken with a grain of salt.

I've seen more prominent coaches torn apart by this town's media, for exercising greater command of their craft, and committing much lesser offenses than those of which Derek Fisher was essentially given a slap on the hand for.  It goes without saying he has Phil Jackson to thank for his initial employment, as well as any benevolence experienced from said media.

Luckily for Derek Fisher, Phil Jackson is the alpha.  All eyes are on him, and always were.  Everyone looked at Fisher, but saw Phil Jackson.

Hiring Fisher was not as negligent as generally characterized.  Giving Derek Fisher an opportunity to get his feet wet was a nice gesture on Jackson's part.  Sure, it came at the Knicks expense, but, the team was in do-ever mode again, and going nowhere.

So what becomes of this acute Triangle now?

Phil Jackson's next hire will go a long way towards answering that question.  We're also going to learn, one way or another, how stubbornly committed he is to this twisted geometry of his.

At some point, this system, or Phil Jackson himself will have to go.  And it's my opinion that Phil Jackson knows exactly when the latter will happen.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

N.Y. Rangers: Screaming for Vengeance


The above was just one of many articles leading into Opening Night,
yet, four months later the coach himself remains a pacifist.

NEW YORK RANGERS: The King continues paying a stiff tax in Alain Vigneault's system.

...but this really has more to do with Dylan McIlrath.

Since Thanksgiving, work, life, and whatnot, has taken much of my free time otherwise usually spent operating this Trolley.

In truth, however, it seems as if I'm picking up where I left off (which is an indictment of itself).  So little has changed that perhaps I would have just been spending much of the last 3 months sniveling about the Rangers anyway.

We've officially entered crunch time folks ... and if you haven't noticed, things are starting to get a little chippy.

The New York Rangers presently own a 31-18-5 record (67 points), good enough for 2nd place in the Metropolitan Division, and 3rd in the Eastern Conference.

"We're a skilled team that can mix in hard work as well..." - Henrik Lundqvist

The Rangers goalie said that soon after shutting out the Penguins Wednesday evening in Pittsburgh, extending the Rangers win streak to 4 games.

It was a positive spin on the here and now, but, read between the lines.  Lundqvist has been critically vocal throughout the season regarding gridlock in the royal road, and the team's overall inability to clear traffic from his crease.

The defense has clearly taken a step backwards this season.  Dan Girardi's relentless style over the years seems to have caught up with him, while the overall blue line pairings look a step slower (if not fatigued), and are playing as passively as ever.

Now for the other pertinent stuff:
  • Having both Keith Yandle and Kevin Klein in the line-up has officially become an untenable situation - specifically Klein's inadequate play.
  • The opposition handles the puck into the Rangers defensive end with grace, style, and ease.   Once in the zone, opposing forwards are permitted to loiter around Henrik, sometimes in the form of menacing mobs.
  • Above all else, opposing teams/players continue battering Rangers players and taking their runs with impunity, much less a reaction, from the Rangers coach.  That in turn, translates onto the ice.

Yes, I'm going there, again, meaning Alain Vigneault's preference for playing Kevin Klein over Dylan McIlrath for the better part of the season.  It's only recently, with Klein banged up, that McIlrath has been given more ice time.

Dylan McIlrath made his season debut on Oct. 13th, but did not play again until November, when he was squeezed into just 5 of the Rangers 14 scheduled games.  In December, however, he played in 11 of the Rangers 13 games.  Then in January, he was again relegated to just 3 of the Rangers 11 scheduled games.

Circle back to Feb. 2nd, when the Rangers suffered their lone defeat this month (to date) against the Devils - McIlrath did not play, while the rest of the team got pushed around.

McIlrath then played against the Wild in a game without incident.  Then came Wayne Simmonds and the Flyers - a game Dylan McIlrath did not start.

If you don't know ... Saturday, Feb. 6th at Philly, Wayne Simmonds sucker punched Ryan McDonagh with his glove still on.  McDonagh hasn't played since, out with a concussion.  It's hard to say whether McDonagh suffered his concussion as a result of Simmonds' initial check into the boards, or as a result of the punch, or both.

In either case, I'm sick of it...!

The Rangers followed up on Feb. 8th, turning the tables on the Devils with a 2-1 victory.  Newark didn't quite play with the same rambunctiousness they displayed on Feb. 2nd.  I offer no theories why, other that to simply state Dylan McIlrath started, registered 2 SOG and 4 hits in 14:24 (even strength) minutes, and committed no penalties.

Dylan McIlrath made his 2nd straight start Wednesday night in the Rangers 3-0 victory over the Penguins.  He registered 5 hits in 13:27 minutes.

I think by now you smell what I'm cooking.

  • Small Picture - I'm interested to see how the Rangers handle Milan Lucic and the Los Angeles Kings on Friday.  My mind, however, is already fixed on Sunday's rematch against the Philadelphia Flyers - if I may be so bold as to even suggest vengeance should permeate the air.
  • Big Picture - It's been proven throughout his tenure with the Rangers, Alain Vigneault's pacifism gets players hurt.  He had one or two enforcers in Vancouver, and refused to utilize them as well.   Thus, this is purely philosophical.  His is a great system for the regular season, but reaches it's law of diminished returns come playoff time.  

In effect, open season on Blueshirts has begun.  So I ask, what good is making the playoffs if one continually exposes his premium players to snipers, while at the same time restrains his team from firing back?

Proactive deterrence (don't make me laugh) is an entirely different matter.

Some call it playing with discipline.  There's something to that ... but in this case I call it soft, which will get the Rangers nowhere except placed on the disabled list.

If that's not enough for ya, then let's circle back to Henrik Lundqvist, because the Rangers have reverted back to requiring nightly miracles from their liege.  At 33-years of age, he presently leads the NHL with 46 games played (while starting 40 of the Rangers 54 games played to date).

In a bit of irony, a coach's philosophy, a poor penalty kill, worn down blue liners, injuries and perhaps indifference, are all imposing a stiff tax upon The King.

It's all relative...

Grove Place 2: RIMX - Follow the Beat


*       *       *

I could not capture this mural in its entirety.  After all, Grove Place is an alley behind 
Fulton Street Mall, where adjoining businesses set their rubbish for collection.

"Follow the Beat"

*       *       *

*       *       *

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Dancing with the Devil: Martin Brodeur


New Jersey Devils 
1990         30         2014

All-Time Leader


Games            1,266
Minutes        74,439
Wins                  691
Losses               397
Shutouts            125
30-Win Seasons   14

Team Canada
2002 Gold Medal

Brodeur warming up at Madison Square Garden during
season he surpassed Patrick Roy with 552nd career victory.

This past Tuesday, Martin Brodeur became the fourth member of the New Jersey Devils to have his number/jersey retired and lifted to the rafters.  He follows those of former team mates Ken Daneyko, Scott Stevens, and Scott Niedermayer.

Now inside their 32nd year of existence, the New Jersey Devils were established in 1982-1983 after spending the organization's initial 8 campaigns as the Kansas City Scouts and Colorado Rockies. 

Martin Brodeur participated in all but 11 of those seasons.  During his 21-year NJD career, he led NHL goalies in wins 9 times, achieved 40 wins 8 times, and, of course, helped New Jersey win 5 conference titles and hoist three Stanley Cups.

Not bad for some Mickey Mouse outfit (as per Wayne Gretzky) - wouldn't you say?

Grove Place by PRAXIS

Sunday, February 07, 2016

PIGSKIN: Super Bowl 50



Denver Broncos

Two weeks ago, Peyton Manning and the Denver Bronc  Oh hell.., two weeks ago I couldn't have gotten both championship games any more wrong.  So what do I know...  

I'm an NFC guy, therefore I'm siding with the Carolina Panthers.

Panthers -5 1/2 (Broncos)

AFC vs. NFC 
Super Bowl Record
AFC   23
NFC   26

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

N.Y. Mets: The Revival Meeting Podcast

Here's our latest podcast at 

Hosted by Sam the the Converted Met Fan,
and joined by Met Fan Rich, and myself. 

Our featured guest was author Greg Prince 

Strangers in a strange land?  
Mets have have nothing to worry about for a change?
The bullpen, spotlight on Lucas Duda, 
even more Yoenis Cespedes, and Darrell Ceciliani.
Say Hey!
Players who've worn #24 in Mets history, the 1924 N.L. pennant race,
the New York Giants, and the continuing evolution of Citi Field.

Senior staff writer/Rising Apple

Super Bowl 50: Giants Bust Broncos XXI

1967  ~  2016


Denver Broncos     20
New York Giants   39

The first ... my first ... OUR first Super Bowl ... and the Giants first NFL championship since the glory days of 1956.  

Don't forget Jets fans, it was Big Blue rooters whom first flew sign-towing planes over the Giants practice field several decades ago.  Now, finally, the Duke's 30-year rebuilding plan came to fruition.

Just as with the Mets, I spent the late 1970s and early 1980s watching Big Blue gradually transform themselves into a smash mouth power.  I endured brutal seasons as a youngster, then transitioned into a teen under Ray Perkins.  I grew into my own under the George Young/Bill Parcells regime.

But, by the time 1986 rolled around, I had already traded in my civilian status for a gig with Uncle Sam's service.  I actually watched the Super Bowl from Texas accompanied by me and myself.  And don't ask me how I pulled it off either.  You try doing that as the lone New Yorker in what was essentially a three story frat house.  The Pigskin gods were obviously with me during those playoffs and Super Bowl.  I went undisturbed, and free to bask in my somewhat ponderous glory (...of all years).

The Rose Bowl was beautiful...

Denver held a 10-9 lead at half-time, and you're damn right I was worried.  That's what Giants fans did back then.  Although the Giants dominated their regular season opponents, this was still something entirely new to us.

Plus, we were playing John Elway, whom gave the Broncos a 10-7 lead in the first quarter with a 4-yard TD scramble.

The Giants, however, inevitably imposed their will over Denver, outscoring them 30-10 in the second half.  The long maligned Phil Simms set Super Bowl records for completion rate and quarterback rating.  He went 22/25 for 268 yards and three touchdowns en route to winning MVP honors.  He also contributed 25 rushing yards towards the Giants overall 136 yards on the ground.  

The Giants gained 399 total combined yards against the Broncos defense led by linebacker Tom Jackson, and new partner Karl Mecklenburg.

The game aside, my favorite part of that Super Bowl was listening to Don Criqui call the action...

"as Mark Bavaro genuflects in prayer..."

This will always be the sweetest of the Giants four Super Bowls for me.  But, I chose that word carefully, as I have other ways of characterizing their other three Lombardi Trophy winners.

Then New York City Mayor, Edward Koch, refused to host a victory parade down Broadway for the Giants, citing they played in New Jersey.  He was a good mayor, and a necessary type at that time in the city's history.  But he became so petty regarding the matter.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Rangers vs. Devils: Battle of the Hudson - II

From the desks of:

Devils lead series 1-0
I - NJD 2; NYR 1

New York Rangers 
New Jersey Devils
The Rock

New Jersey Devils: With blunted pitchforks...

The Devils are presently on the outside looking in.  The standings say they are 9th in the conference, but tied at 55-points with (#8) Pittsburgh, and 31 games remaining after tonight.  If you want some pain to go along with that suffering, well then the Devils trail the Metropolitan Division leading Washington Capitals by 19 points. That said, who doesn't...
Few teams, though, are playing better defense than the Devils.  That said, despite a recent offensive outburst against the Flames and Senators, nearly the entire NHL is scoring at a higher rate than the Devils.   They enter Tuesday's game with a -4 point differential. There's your season to date.

It's been a campaign best characterized in terms of peeks and valleys, as Newark had their most recent 4-game win streak snapped when the Penguins shut them out in Pittsburgh.  The brief win streak, however, came after losing five of their first seven games of the new year.

At least the Devils still have Feb. 9 to look forward to.  That's when the organization will retire, and raise Martin Brodeur's #30 jersey to the rafters, where it will join company with Ken Daneyko's #3 and Scott Stevens' #4 jerseys.

On Feb. 9th, they'll play against the Edmonton Oilers, but that comes a night after playing the Rangers, again, and will cap off a five game stretch in an eight day span.  Just saying....

Entering tonight, the Devils have what the Rangers do not, which is a 20-goal scorer in winger Kyle Palmieri.  With 24 assists, Michael Cammalleri is Newark's leading scorer with 38 points.  In fact, he'll be the leading scorer among either team hitting the ice tonight.

If anyone, the Devils have Cory Schneider to thank for their standing.  He ranks 7th in the NHL with a .929 Sv%, 4th with a 2.03 GAA, ranks 6th in wins (just one behind Henrik Lundqvist), and is 4th with four shutouts.

Rangers  2
Devils      3

Look what Newark did to the Rangers.., again.

There's a point on that pitchfork after all... and they stuck it right to Tex's Rangers.  Two points to be exact, which placed the Devils within one point of the Rangers for 2nd place in the Metropolitan Division.

The Pittsburgh Penguins won, however, and so the Devils #9 standing in the conference remained unchanged.

The Devils were out-shot by the Rangers 33-25, but Cory Schneider outlasted J.T. Miller and the Rangers with 31 saves.  Henrik Lundqvist faced 25 shots, but surrendered three goals.

J.T. Miller scored twice for the Rangers.  He opened the scoring in the 1st period.  After Lee Stempniak's 15th goal (PP) of the season tied it in the 2nd period, J.T. Miller put the Blueshirts back in front within another two minutes of play.

Joseph Blandisi tied the game shortly thereafter, and another power play goal by David Schlemko midway through sent the Rangers home defeated.

There ya go..  The Devils were 2/2 on the power play, and the Rangers were 0/4 on the man advantage.

Oh yeah..!  And Mike Cammalleri was a scratch to boot.

With no Dylan McIlrath on the ice, I also saw the Rangers get hit, and otherwise pushed around.   Newark was clearly focused on throwing their bodies around, to which the Rangers never answered back.  Kevin Hayes paid a heavy price late in the game and skated off the ice in pain.

As a cherry on top, Newark dominated face offs too.

an increasingly perturbed Rangers fan.

Monday, February 01, 2016

Super Bowl 50: Broncos fans plant their flags on Myrtle Ave

1967   ~   2016

Broncos fans have taken up positions along Myrtle Avenue
in the Clinton Hill section of Brooklyn.

Super Bowl Memories


This will be the 39th Super Bowl that I've watched in my lifetime.  The first came at 11-years of age, when the Dallas Cowboys took on the Denver Broncos in January 1978.

That Cowboys team was stacked with talent, both offensively and defensively, and of course, were coached by the stoic Tom Landry.  

The final score was 27-10 Cowboys, but in truth, the game wasn't even close.

The Broncos offense never gave their team a chance to compete.  Dallas defensive linemen Randy White and Harvey Martin made sure of it, en rout to co-sharing game MVP honors.  The Cowboys limited the Broncos to 156 total yards, and to a lone first down on 12 third down conversion attempts. Denver QB Craig Morton completed a mere 4 of 15 pass attempts, and threw four disastrous INTs.   The Broncos also lost four fumbles.

Denver's defense, dubbed Orange Crush, featured Lyle Alzado, Tom Jackson, and Randy Gradishaw, but were never able to get off the field.  The Dallas Cowboys held the ball for over 38-minutes.   Quarterback Roger Staubach threw for just 183 yards, with no touchdowns, and one INT.  Tony Dorsett and Robert Newhouse, however, combined to rush 29 times for 121 yards.

This victory evened the Cowboys record in Super Bowls at 2-2.

This was the Broncos first ever SB appearance.  They are about to make their 8th.  They've posted a 2-5 record in SB play, and were last tenderized by the Seattle Seahawks in XLVIII.