Tuesday, May 31, 2016

L.I. Ducks: Gone Barnstorming

From the desk of:  THE WEBBED SPIKES NINE

Long Island Ducks
Lancaster Barnstormers
Prince Street

Long Island Ducks: Flock Forging Ahead While Somerset Patriots Remain in Retreat.

Joining the millions of Memorial Day travelers hitting the road Monday, the Ducks were Pennsylvania bound for a month of June opening series against the Lancaster Barnstormers.

Long Island's John Brownell will face off against Lancaster's J.D. Martin in Tuesday's opener. Brownell, 32, will be making his sixth start of the season.  He is 3-0 with a 3.37 ERA, and has allowed 31 hits, nine walks, and fanned 25 over 29.1 innings so far this season.

The Barnstormers are presently in third place in the Freedom Division, playing at par with an 18-18 record.  Not coincidentally, they are 5-5 in their last ten games, and four games out of first place behind the York Revolution.

The Ducks recent home stand featured a series win over Bridgeport, and a four game split against the New Britain Bees.  They'll enter Tuesday's action in first place of the Liberty Division with a 1.5 game lead over the Somerset Patriots, whom lost in extra innings Monday to York.

Somerset has lost their last two, and eight of their last ten games.  After starting the season 13-0, they've been in free fall since with an 8-17 record over their last 25 games.  Long Island, on the other hand, is 17-9 over their last 26 games, and are 21-9 since tripping out of the starting gate with a 1-6 record.

Waddling Around the Bases Like a Bunch of Mad Mallards...

The Ducks line-up lists three top ten hitters.  Lew Ford's .348 mark is second in the league, while Fehlandt Lentini (.310) and Dan Lyons (.308) rank seventh and eighth respectively.

Lentini also leads the league in games played, at-bats, and runs scored.  He's also second overall in hits, and tied for second with 25 RBI.  Lew Ford ranks among the top four with 24 RBI.

What Long Island lacks in home run potential, they more than make up for with offensive balance and relentlessness.  The Ducks are tied for last in the Atlantic League in home runs, and drawing walks.  Yet, they lead the league in runs scored, hits, team average, and triples, and rank second in doubles, total bases, team OPS, and team slugging.

Hurlers Quacking Down on Opposing Hitters

Long Island hurlers have combined to lead the Atlantic League in strikeouts, shutouts, fewest hits allowed, and average against.  They're additionally second in least earned runs allowed, team ERA, and WHiP, and rank third in slugging against.

Jack Snodgrass leads the Atlantic League in strikeouts, with his staff mate Darin Downs close behind in second.  They're presently the only two pitchers to have surpassed 40 strikeouts so far this season.   Starter Mark Blackmar's 1.77 ERA is good enough for third in the circuit.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Memorial Day 2016

Thank You
to everyone who gave their all.
My unyielding support and appreciation goes out to 
them and their families.

All The Way!

Friday, May 27, 2016

N.Y. Mets: RA's Memorial Day Podcast

Here's our latest podcast at 

I hosted, and was joined by fellow RA writer Rich Sparago.

Our guests were Gary Mac of MetsMusings.com
 and John Pielli of the Passed Ball Show

A National League round-up,
lots of Matt Harvey stuff, and Steven Matz,
what to do at first base, praise for the bullpen,
a live report from Sam while at a tavern in Cooperstown,
all starters pitchers not firing on all cylinders
while injuries mounting to positional players,
recollections of the 1986 New York Mets championship season.
and loads more stuff...!

senior staff writer/Rising Apple

L.I. Ducks: Look Who's Number One

From the desk of:  THE WEBBED SPIKES NINE

Ducks win series over Bluefish 2-1
I - BPT 5; LID 1
II - LID 15; BPT 5
III - LID 10; BPT 9

Long Island leads 2016 Ferry Cup Series over Bridgeport 5-1

Long Island Ducks: Flock Waddles into First Place After Pounding Out Fish at the Pond.

The Flock is waddling strong, and wielding a big stick.

In winning their series against the Bridgeport Bluefish, the Ducks outscored the Fish by a 25-14 margin over the final two games.  In fact, the Long Island Ducks have now scored the most runs in the league, surpassing the Patriots.  Meanwhile, Long Island has now won five of the six games played against Bridgeport this season.

Where has it gotten them?

Answer: atop the Liberty Division ... finally.

The Somerset Patriots, meanwhile, lost Thursday against Sugar Land, thus allowing Long Island to climb atop the division.  The Patriots continue encountering increasingly tougher times of late, losing three in a row, and seven of their last ten games.

Otherwise, I can't help but think of the grief suffered by Ducks fans in recent years ever since league realignment placed the Patriots in the Liberty Division.

I digress...

Thursday Final
Fish       9
Ducks  10

After jumping out to an early four run lead in Thursday's finale, the Ducks were faced with a 9-4 deficit after four innings.  But Long Island clawed back with two runs in the bottom of the fourth, and three more in the fifth to tie the game at nine.

Catcher Mike Dowd's double in the home seventh plated the decisive run in a 10-9 Ducks victory. Dowd went 3 for 4 on the night with three RBI overall.

Fehlandt Lentini went 3 for 5, with a home run and a pair of RBI.  On Tuesday, he went 2 for 5, with a triple and two RBI.  He and Lew Ford are now tied for second in the league with 21 RBI.

After turning in two straight extended effective performances, Starter Darin Down fared poorly during his seventh start of the season, allowing eight runs (six earned) on 11 hits in just 3.2 innings of work.

A crew of six relievers summoned from the bullpen, however, quite literally saved the day with 5.1 innings in which they surrendered one unearned run on just two hits and no walks, with three strikeouts.

New Britain Bees
Long Island Ducks

The Ducks need relief ... for their bullpen that is.  After Monday's day off, the Bridgeport Bluefish levied a heavy tax on Long Island's bullpen, particularly in Thursday's game.  And the Ducks also have a double-header to contend with on Saturday.

Long Island is in need, then, of lengthy starts from the trio of Bobby Blevins, Jack Snodgrass, and Mark Blackmare, in their upcoming series against the New Britain Bees.

Snodgrass presently leads the circuit with 44 strikeouts, while his staff mate Mark Blackmare is second in the league with a 1.26 ERA.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

L.I. Ducks: Flock Force First Place Showdown Against Patriots

From the desk of:  THE WEBBED SPIKES NINE

Flock at the Gates!
Ducks lead Patriots 2-0
I - LID 9; SOM 3
II - LID 11; SOM 9
III - Sunday @ SOM

Long Island Ducks: Flock Continues Waddling Through Somerset Patriots; First Place Now Within Their Grasp.

After overwhelming Somerset on Friday, the Ducks withstood a fierce Patriots counter-attack Saturday, then regrouped, and somehow mounted a counter of their own to ultimately gain victory in Game Two of their weekend set.

Long Island assured themselves of their first series victory over the Patriots this season with a five run outburst in the top of the ninth inning, and will now attempt the sweep on Sunday.  Game Three could potentially see a transfer of first place in the Liberty Division, as the Ducks now trail the Patriots by a mere half game.

Ducks starter Bobby Blevins struggled, allowing six earned runs on seven hits and a walk, with two strikeouts.  Somerset finally knocked him out of the box with four runs in the fourth.

Patriots starter Jeremy Horst fared little better through five innings of work.  The Ducks, though, trailed 7-6 after eight innings of play.

The Atlantic League's new all-time saves leader, and former Ducks closer, Jon Hunton was summoned by Somerset to close out the ninth inning.  Instead, he faced nine batters, allowed five runs (four earned) on five hits for the loss.  With one out, Cody Puckett's RBI single, Mike Blanke's 2-RBI double, and another 2-RBI double by Matt Wessinger flipped the tables on what seemed like a sure Patriots victory.

Cody Puckett and Mike Blanke combined for 7-RBI, and Ruben Gotay resumed his hot hitting with a 3 for 4 night, with three runs scored and an RBI.

Waddling Tall

Since starting the season 1-6, the Ducks have gone 17-5 in their last 22 games, thus improving their record to 18-11 for the season.  Long Island has also scored 29 runs over their last three games.

A sweep of the Patriots would be ideal, as the Ducks and Patriots will not face each other again in the first half.

N.Y. Mets: The Good, the Bad, and the Harvey

From the desk of:  HEAD-BUTTING MR. MET

First Quarter Performance Report

NEW YORK METS: Injuries and Inconsistencies Holding the Amazin's Back From Achieving Greater Gains.

Entering their 43rd game of the season on Sunday, the Mets have veered left and are well into the first corner turn of the 2016 campaign, but, already are experiencing problems to many of their key horses.

After closing to within a nose of the N.L. East leaders, the Mets recently lost 2 of 3 against the Washington Nationals at Citi Field, in turn pushing them back into the pack with Philadelphia and Miami.

Thanks to a pair of victories over the visiting Milwaukee Brewers, the Mets improved to 9-11 in May, with nine games remaining in the month.  Sunday, the Mets will attempt a sweep of the Brewers, while entering the game 1 1/2 games out of first place.

The Outfield is Yielding a Mixed Crop

Yoenis Cespedes is admittedly surprised he's hit this many home runs this soon, noting he's been a notoriously better second half performer throughout his career.  That's a good thing I suppose..

After hitting an opposite field home run on Friday, then doubling in Saturday's victory over the Brewers, Michael Conforto seems to be snapping out of his first prolonged slump as a Met.

While Curtis Granderson has earned the benefit of the doubt, and has found his home run stroke of late, he is nonetheless batting below the Mendoza Line, and hitting just .134 in May.  His .292 OBP is no less problematic as the lead-off hitter.  Perhaps, drawing a pair of walks and going 1 for 3 Saturday against the Brewers is a sign of better things to come.

This Diamond is Getting Rough

Travis d'Arnaud's latest injury (apparently one with no resolution is sight), his short term future, as well as his long term future with the Mets are no more or less clear today, than they were upon his arrival from the Toronto Blue Jays.

Ideally, one player's injury is another player's opportunity.  But in the case of Kevin Plawecki, he's thus far failed to show the polish the Mets anticipated from their once highly regarded college amateur draft selection.  He's been the primary catcher for the Mets since April 24th, and in 20 starts since, he's slashing .206/.341, with four doubles and one home run.

Lucas Duda is hurt with one of those injuries that makes us all shake our heads at the Mets medical staff.  I mean, sometimes you just never know with these guys.  For the record, Lucas Duda is presently experiencing a lower back ailment.  It was reported Saturday his MRI came back clean.   Otherwise, little else explains his rather inconsequential 130 at-bats this season.  He's so far slashing just .231/.297/.431, with seven home runs and 19 RBI.  But, above all, his streaky nature continues boggling the minds of Mets fans.

With regards to second base and shortstop, Neil Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera have allowed Mets fans to repress their former situation.  By no means, though, have they achieved nirvana.
Walker's and Cabrera's play this month have cooled ... and that's putting it mildly.  After slashing .307/.337/.625 in April, Walker is presently slashing just .170/.267/.245 in May with only one double, and one home run.

To date, there's a case to be made Asdrubal Cabrera has been the most consistent Mets player this season.  While his performance dip from April into May has been less precipitous than Walker's, it has been no less noticeable.  After slashing .300/.364/.400 in April, he's presently operating at a .257/.307/.357 rate of productivity in May.  Cabrera's play at times this month even offered very brief, fleeting glimpses that somewhat confirmed less than complimentary off-season scouting reports.

Third baseman David Wright stroked a 9th inning, game winning RBI Saturday against the Brewers.   Unfortunately, there's no hiding the fact his spinal stenosis condition has compromised his game, both offensively and in the field, and particularly on throws to first.

Pen Full-o-Bulls

The strength of the 2016 New York Mets has easily been their bullpen: Hansel Robles, Addison Reed, Jerry Blevins, Jim Henderson, and Antonio Bastardo have combined to throw 83 innings, in which they've posted a combined 2.38 ERA, 1.074 WHiP, with an 11.2 K/9 average.

The closer?  Very simply, Jeurys Familia has turned himself around.  In April, he allowed 14 hits with nine strikeouts in just 12 innings pitched.  This month, he allowed just three hits and fanned seven in just 7.1 innings pitched.

The Four Hurlers of the Metropolis

With the exception of Thor, the rest of the Mets Marvels are presently performing like mere mortals at best.

Super Matz is still battling his body and lack of mound experience, while the deGrominator is still searching for his mojo.  Meanwhile, the Dark Knight continues to fall further into the abyss.

Noah Syndergaard, 23, has been nothing short of brilliant.  Still fresh from out-dueling Max Scherzer, Thor is 4-2 with a 2.19 ERA and 0.994 WHiP this season, with 65 strikeouts in 53.1 innings pitched.

He has now pitched the equivalent of a full season in his brief career.  In 32 combined starts, Noah owns a career 13-9 record, with a 2.97 ERA and 1.033 WHiP, and 231 strikeouts over 203.1 innings pitched.

The 800 lbs. gorilla in the locker room is no doubt Matt Harvey.   Said another way, the Real Deal is in real trouble.  After nine starts, he owns a 3-6 record, with a bloated 5.77 ERA and unsightly 1.655 WHiP.  His 8.0 K/9 average is at a career low, and he's issuing a full walk more per nine innings over last season.  Most alarming, Harvey owns a 12.1 H/9 average this season.

His last start against the Washington Nationals was particularly disturbing, not because he allowed nine runs (six earned) in only 2.2 innings pitched, but because I watched a pitcher simply going through the motions.

I've watched more strenuous efforts from coaches delivering batting practice.

Winning Cures All

Matt Harvey wants the ball again when the Mets vs. Nationals resumes again this Monday in Washington.  There's ongoing speculation the Mets might withhold him for a start, but that seems unlikely at this point.

After losing 2 of 3 against the Nationals at Citi Field, a proper response is in order.  Nothing short of a series win will satisfy.

This is not last season.  This team has expectations to fulfill.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

L.I. Ducks: Flock Waddles Over Somerset Patriots in Series Opener

From the desk of:  THE WEBBED SPIKES NINE

Flock at the Gates!
Ducks lead Patriots 1-0
I - LID 9; SOM 3
II - Saturday @SOM
III - Sunday  @SOM

Long Island Ducks: Extra! News from the front ... Flock overwhelm first place Patriots in Friday night's series opener at Somerset.

On this night, Long Island's six-run third inning outburst and a dominant starting performance on the mound proved too much for the Liberty Division leaders.

This was only the Ducks second victory (2-6) over the Patriots this season, and their first at Somerset. I guess timing is indeed everything then, as Long Island's 9-3 win brings them to within 1 1/2 games of first place entering Saturday's action.

Starter Darin Downs climbed the hill against Somerset's Mickey Storey.  While the usually reliable Mickey Storey continues struggling for the Patriots this season, Downs is officially on a roll.  Darin improved his record to 3-1, and lowered his ERA from 3.25 down to a 3.02 mark.  He faced 30 batters, allowed a pair of earned runs on five hits and no walks, and fanned 11 batters.  It was his third straight winning decision, and comes on the heels of a seven inning, eight strikeout performance on May 14 against Southern Maryland.

  • Ducks pitchers have faced the second least batters this season, but lead the Atlantic League in strikeouts.  Ducks pitching also leads with a league low .231 average against.

Offensively, Cody Puckett and Matt Blanke combined to go 6 for 10 at the plate, and registered eight RBI, with four each.  Five Ducks batters posted multiple hit games.  Lew Ford accounted for the ninth Ducks run with a 2 for 5 effort and RBI.

  • The Ducks have now scored nine runs in each of their last two games.  Somerset first, followed by Long Island, are the top two scoring teams in the league.  They both have hit 17 team home runs.  Somerset's .748 team OPS leads the circuit, however, while the Ducks .723 mark ranks fifth.

After starting the season 13-0, the Patriots have gone 6-10 since, and are 4-6 over their last ten games.  After starting the season 1-6, the Ducks have gone 16-5 since.

Obviously, the trick for Long Island would be to strike while Somerset is down by winning this weekend series, or even sweeping it, because they will not face them again over the remainder of the first half of the season.

That will leave the Ducks and Patriots scrambling to outpace each other against the remaining competition.

Michael Pfaff's latest acquisitions forcing Coach Baez into reshuffling infield deck.

Recently signed, and former Met, Ruben Gotay went 0 for 5 Friday, with two strikeouts.  This, however, was the first time he failed to hit safely as a member of the Ducks.  He went 7 for 15 during Long Island's four game split against the Sugar Land Skeeters previous to Friday, and is now batting an even .300 since arriving.

Gotay was apparently brought in to solidify second base along with Matt Wessinger.  But, wasn't that accomplished by signing Tyler Colvin, which allowed Sean Burroughs to shift over to third, and thereby allow Cody Puckett to play second?

Well ... Colvin started Friday's game in left field, Burroughs was back at first, Puckett played third, while Lew Ford DH'd.  That came after Cody Puckett DH's twice against Sugar Land.  Coach Baez is clearly spelling positional players with turns at DH, but Colvin playing outfield is not something I'd   entertain too often.  Then again, Anthony Vega's play of late seems to support Coach Baez's decision to pencil in Colvin for occasional spot starts in the outfield.  In fact, I'd be willing to bet Michael Pfaff is searching for Vega's replacement at this very moment.

In the meantime, the GM has afforded Baez a few options.  We'll see how Coach continues utilizing them.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

N.Y. Mets: Thor Lowers Hammer on Max Scherzer and the Nationals

From the desk of:  HEAD-BUTTING MR. MET


Mets lead series 1-0
I - NYM 2; WAS 0

Washington Nationals
SP-Gio Gonzalez
New York Mets
SP-Bartolo Colon

NEW YORK METS: Noah Syndergaard out-duels Nationals veteran ace Max Scherzer in series opening main event.

Noah Syndergaard to Addison Reed to Jeurys Familia ...

A Curtis Granderson lead-off home run, and done.

That's how the defending N.L. champs took the series opener over the Washington Nationals and closed within one-half game of first place.

As Howie Rose would say - Put it in the books!

Noah Syndergaard, 23, dominated the first place Nationals for seven scoreless innings.  He faced 24 batters, and threw 102 pitches with a very efficient 72 (70.5%) going for strikes.  He surrendered just five hits, walked none, and fanned 10 batters.  This was his second double-digit strikeout performance of the season, and the seventh of his career.

The victory improved his record to 4-2 this season, and lowered his ERA down from 2.53 to a 2.19 mark.  His WHIP likewise dropped to 0.99 for the season.  Thor has now surrendered 41 hits in 53.1 innings pitched, with just nine walks, and 65 strikeouts.

It's easy to overlook the man has only made a mere 32 career MLB starts.  He did not debut for the Mets until May 12, 2015, against the Cubs in Chicago.  He took the loss in that game, but he's been lowing the hammer on N.L. opponents ever since.  To date, he boasts a 13-9 record, with a 2.96 ERA, and 1.044 WHIP, over just 103.1 career innings pitched.

Addison Reed was all business as well, throwing eight pitches with seven going for strikes, en route to fanning a pair during his lone inning of work.

Jeurys Familia closed the door in the ninth for his 13th save, recording the final out of the game against Bryce Harper.

The Mets line-up was opposed by Max Scherzer, who was fresh off a 20-strikeout performance against the Detroit Tigers.  Appropriately then, former Tiger Curtis Granderson homered off Scherzer leading off the game.  But little did Washington know they lost the game right then.

The young buck, Michael Conforto, gave the Mets an insurance run with a solo shot in the sixth, and their ultimate 2-0 margin over the Nats.  It was Conforto's sixth home run, and 21st RBI of the season.

That makes 30 strikeouts for Max Scherzer in his last 15.1 innings pitched.

Washington's Max Scherzer lasted 6.1 innings, allowed two earned runs on just three hits and three walks, but matched Syndergaard with ten strikeouts despite the loss.

Bryce Harper went 0 for 4 with two strikeouts.

The Washington Nationals have now lost three in a row.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

N.Y. Mets: First Place or Bust Time in May

From the desk of:  HEAD-BUTTING MR. MET


Washington Nationals
New York Mets
Queens, N.Y.

NEW YORK METS: Washington Nationals Upsetting Balance of the Universe!

Despite what you've been reading in the internet tabloids, the previous 37 games were just practice.

Sure, the Nationals jumped out to a 9-1 start, while the Mets initially stumbled out of the block with a 2-5 record.  But what happened in April, stayed in April.

It's now mid-May, and it's all good - the New York Mets are presently in fine position ... and so defense of their National League pennant starts in earnest Tuesday night at Citi Field, when the home plate umpire makes the call to Play Ball against first place Washington.

Nationals    23-15
Mets            21-16

The Nats fell short of a N.L. East flag last season, largely due to their own failings.  That's not to undermine what the Mets accomplished - not at all.  Washington made the mistake of leaving the door open, and the Mets obligingly barged on through.

That's baseball...

This season, the Nationals have so far wrought nothing less of destruction - in the establishment, in the financial market, in the record books, and then to a lesser degree, in the standings,

Bryce Harper is the main headliner for effectively telling Goose Gossage and the rest of MLB, that he's essentially had it up to his threaded eyebrows with Old School nonsense.  It's not the first time he's criticized the establishment, having previously accused MLB many times of killing itself by alienating yet another generation of youngsters with their antiquated code of unwritten rules and protocol.

I do not necessarily disagree with his latter point.  Baseball is indeed in jeopardy of losing a second consecutive generation of potentially passionate fans.  Despite increasing WiFi capabilities at ballparks, they have done little to address an increasing disconnect between players, the game, and the average fan.  Harper believes restricting players' self expression only worsens the matter.

Meanwhile, the new Dusty Baker still utilizes starting pitchers like the old Dusty Baker.

That may or may not be a good thing in terms of the Mets future, considering Scott Boars and Nationals' ownership financially polluted the market for pitchers yet again with Stephen Strasburg's new contract.  Some believe Strasburg's next injury is always just a pitch away.

On that note, Max Scherzer is still throwing no hitters, and very recently tied the MLB record by recording 20 strikeouts against the Detroit Tigers.  He is tentatively slated to start Tuesday's series opener against Noah Syndergaard.

Daniel Murphy Returns to Citi Field

And of course, there's former Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy, who is proving last year's post-season offensive heroics were no fluke.  With 140 at-bats in the books to date, Daniel is slashing .400/.433/.629, with 5 home runs and 23 RBI.  You read that right - Oh Murph! is still batting .400 for the season.

Mets fans knew all along Murph could hit.  He was a doubles machine.  But they also knew his OBP would never lay too far ahead of his batting average, and this season is no different.  As for his present rate of slugging versus that during his time with the Mets ... he was a lead player during troublesome rebuilding years.  He was always a solid contributor, but his production could never be enough for those Mets.  Then throw money into the equation, and what you have now is an ex-Mets player who was once widely loved by the fan base.

There's no doubt in my mind Daniel Murphy will receive a very warm, heartfelt, and extended, standing ovation from Mets fans upon his first trip to the plate, only this time as a member of the Washington Nationals.

After which, it's game on!

New Mets second baseman Neil Walker has done much to help fans at least move on from their attachment to Daniel Murphy.  In fact, Walker and Asdrubal Cabrera have done much to make Mets fans forget how defensively inept they were up the middle.  For the most part, the two have been smooth as silk.  Cabrera, specifically, has so far proved all the scouts wrong whom counted him out last year.

The Mets new problems reside at the hot corners.  David Wright is defective and Lucas Duda has been ineffective.  Watching Wright's throws to first base are becoming distressful, if not problematic. Meanwhile, the Big Lebowski's bat has been inconsequential as ever.  His hot streaks are as unpredictable as a mid-western twister.

Then, there's the Mets battery problems.  Catcher Travis d'Arnaud's propensity for injury is just as dismaying today, as it has ever been previously.  On the mound, the Dark Knight is still yet to find his mojo, while Steven Matz is apparently breaking down ... again (although no ligament damage has been found in his elbow).

Oh, and the Mets went 4-7 on their road trip, and are presently losers of 4 in a row.

In other words, just another day in the Citi.

Let the games begin!

Monday, May 16, 2016

N.Y. Mets: On pitcher Rafael Montero

Here's my latest article for 

senior staff writer/Rising Apple

L.I. Ducks: Monday Swim; Gut Check Time

From the desk of:  THE WEBBED SPIKES NINE

"When you see a fork in the road ... take it!"
Yogi Berra's words never rang more true. 

Long Island Ducks: Path to Success or Road to Ruin? Upcoming seven game trip will test Flock's mettle.

As if you need reminding, the Patriots swept four games from the Ducks during the season's opening series at TD Bank Ballpark, then very recently took two of three games from the Ducks at the Pond.

So if there's a crucial road trip the Ducks need to make good on, this would be the one.  After a four game series in Sugar Land, Texas, Long Island will attempt another invasion of Somerset.

After starting the season 13-0, the Somerset Patriots have cooled considerably, going just 4-7 since, for an overall 17-7 first-half record.  The Skeeters are partly responsible for Somerset's recent downturn after sweeping a three game set last week at Sugar Land.

The Long Island Ducks, on the other hand, have turned themselves around.  After stumbling out of the block with a 1-6 record, they have gone 13-3 since, for an overall 14-9 first-half mark.  They'll enter Tuesday's opener against the Skeeters trailing the Patriots by just 2.5 games in the Liberty Division race.

The Patriots are fresh off losing two of three against the Barnstormers, and now draw the Bridgeport Bluefish prior to Long Island's Friday arrival.

It's up to the Ducks, then, to strike while the iron is hot.

They'll have to face Somerset's kryptonite first.  The Ducks and Skeeters will play four games in three days in their first meeting of the season.  Sugar Land is 13-11 so far, and battling the York Revolution for first place in the Freedom Division.

The Ducks will then descend upon Somerset for what will be the team's final encounter of the first half.  Long Island can make up for their poor 1-6 record against the Patriots to date, with a strong showing.

  • Nate Freiman's initial acquisition allowed the Ducks to untangle their infield positioning situation, but did not last long.  His contract was purchased by the Boston Red Sox.
  • The Ducks then promptly signed OF/1B Tyler Colvin, 30 years old, who brings over 400 games of MLB experience with him.  He should add an appreciable measure of slugging to the line-up.  He hit 20 home runs and drove in 56 runs in 2010 for the Cubs, then another 18 home runs and a career high 72 RBI in 2012 for the Rockies.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

L.I. Ducks: Jack Snodgrass hurls gem over Somerset Patriots

From the desk of:  THE WEBBED SPIKES NINE

Patriots @ Ducks tied 1-1
I - SOM 4; LID 1
II - LID 1; SOM 0

Game Three
Somerset Patriots
Long Island Ducks
The Pond

Long Island Ducks: Jack Snodgrass tosses gem to snap five game losing streak against Somerset Patriots.

Ducks three games back of 1st place.

Somerset got the better of the Ducks during Tuesday's series opener at Bethpage Ballpark.  The 4-1 loss to the Patriots brought Long Island's eight game winning streak to a screeching halt.

Starter Bobby Blevins lasted 5.2 innings in a losing effort.  He allowed 4 earned runs on 7 hits and 2 walks, with 4 strikeouts.  Long Island's lone run came on Mike Blanke's solo shot in the 7th inning.

In Game Two, the Ducks took an early lead in the 2nd on Mike Dowd's 2-out RBI single.
After which, the Ducks required a gem from their starting pitcher, and got just that en route to a 1-0 whitewashing of the Patriots.

Jack Snodgrass won his third straight decision in impressive fashion, fanning 12 Patriots batters over 6 scoreless innings of 2 hit baseball, while issuing just one walk.  He now sports a 3-1 record and 3.27 ERA, with 33 strikeouts over 22 innings pitched.

Reliever Todd Coffey faced the minimum during a scoreless 9th for his 3rd save of the season.

  • The Ducks are presently the hottest team in the Atlantic League, having gone 9-1 over their last 10 games.  After stumbling out of the gate with a 1-6 record, the Ducks have gone 10-1 since.
  • After starting the season 13-0. the first place Patriots have cooled off of late, with just a par 5-5 record over their last 10 games.

After the Patriots retreat upon conclusion of Thursday's series finale, the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs will move in for a four game weekend series.

N.Y. Islanders: No Rest for the Weary; Complicated Off-Season Ahead

From the desk of:  FIVE FOR FLATBUSH

Hockey Thing One


Hockey Thing Two

Where do we go from here?  
And by we, I do mean Brooklyn and Long Islanders.

I - Brooklyn's Foster Hockey Club

Hello Islanders fans.  Sorry it didn't work out.

If you are a regular rider of this blog I call The Trolley, then you know I've been a Rangers fan since the mid to late 1970s.  In turn, that once made you my enemy.  But I'm much older now, and no longer harbor such anger within me.

Above all, mine is a Brooklyn-centric blog, and so I think I've handled the Islanders very fairly.  I just call it as I see it without dumping a cooler of Rangers Hate-o-Rade all over them.  In fact, I feel I've been quite supportive, and even suggested the Smurfs Rangers could have learned a thing or two from the Isles.

I hope you'll agree.

I still say this team belongs in Long Island - not Brooklyn.  Understandably, they did not necessarily move to Flatbush Avenue by choice.  So when the residents of Nassau County voted down the final arena proposal, I temporarily named the Islanders portion of this Trolley - Brooklyn's Foster Hockey Club.

Once they settled into Barclays Center, I changed over to - Five For Flatbush - because I thought it would acknowledge the team's toughness, pay tribute to their previous history and the pursuit of a fifth Stanley Cup, and incorporate their arrival on Flatbush Avenue, all in one title.

The old Brooklyn Americans only practiced in Brooklyn.  They never played NHL games here.   Therefore, the first NHL regular season and first Stanley Cup playoffs in Brooklyn history are now officially a matter of record.

The Islanders last won a playoff series back in 1993, or 23 years ago - pick your poison.  But with their first round victory over the Florida Panthers, Brooklyn is now vested in this too..

II - Charles Wang isn't leaving the building, but he'll be occupying a much smaller office.

Upon assuming ownership of the Islanders, Charles Wang's first challenge was restoring a demoralized fan base's faith in the aftermath of the Mike Milbury, Stephen Walsh, and the utterly ponderous Jon Spano era.

Wang seemingly tried as best he could keeping them in Long Island, but ultimately lost tens of millions of dollars floating them until faced with no other alternative but to move the team out of Uniondale.  A sadly outdated coliseum, the doomed Lighthouse project, Nassau County bureaucrats, and a justifiably overburdened and fed up tax base, all seemingly conspired against him.


By his own doing, Charles Wang will now take a back seat as a minority owner, while new majority owners Jon Ledecky and Scott Malkin take over the helm.

The $99,000 dollar question is what will their personal ideas be for the Islanders?  Will they decide playing in Barclays Center is an untenable situation, and therefore pursue relocating out of the metropolitan area all together?  Or will they continue tolerating their present condition, and just stay?

Then there's the matter of branding.  Is there such a thing as dual identity?  How long will new ownership continue with this split personality?

After four consecutive Stanley Cup championships, the Islanders traditional jersey is still iconic.   Should they opt to stick with it full time, unchanged, they'd be completely within their right.   Flatbush, after all, is still terra firma of Long Island Proper.  There's no real need to change the name, or re-brand for that matter.

But they did just that ... kinda.

The question, then, is will they take an additional step forward, above and beyond the black/white BKLN alternate uniform, and embrace a larger allegiance to Brooklyn, and market themselves as such?

I noticed no attempt by the Islanders to wear their Brooklyn alternative uniform during the playoffs.

That's fine - correct even.  I'm just saying...

III - Garth Snow

Will Garth Snow move forward with the organization, or will new ownership opt to go in a new direction?

Whoever the general manager is, he or she will have major financial decisions to make with regards to Kyle Okposo and Matt Martin.  Among the Islanders soon-to-be free agents, I consider them indispensable.

Afterward, who knows if new ownership is interested in resetting the team's spending limits.  That remains to be seen.  What the Islanders do have is prospects, which they should consider moving a few for more established players.

The Islanders posted back-to-back 100-point seasons.  There's still time to keep this together and win. But they're two quality players short.  Re-Sign Okposo and find both him and John Tavares a quality line compliment.  Then either bolster the 2nd/3rd line, or add a bruising, reliable stay-home defenseman.

IV - So What Happened?

Hard to say....

By Game Five, the damage had been done.  Through Game Four, the Isles had been outscored by an 11-14 margin.  Here's the best way I can explain the 3 goal differential:
  • Jon Cooper pulled the goalie late in Game Three, and Tampa tied with just 0:38 left in regulation, then won in overtime.
  • In Game Four, Tampa tied the game in the 3rd, and send a second consecutive game into overtime.
  • The rest, as they say is history.

Now for the painfully obvious - despite playing without Steven Stamkos and Anton Stralman, the Lightning still won the series by a decisive 4-1 margin.

In hindsight, I'm still not sure where debating Thomas Greiss versus Jaroslav Halak may lead.   Thomas Greiss was screened on far too many shots by Lightning skaters, and that's exactly why I'm not up to having the Jaroslav Halak debate.  Refer instead back to Garth Snow, and on-ice lapses
in effective traffic control.

What I do know is the Islanders continually gave up back breaking goals within the final two minutes of a period.  Two overtime losses in Brooklyn?  Don't know what to say about those either, other than the Isles actually did a lot of things right.  But once you get into overtime ... pffff!  The original misstep occurs in regulation.

Here's another item I refuse to tackle - as John Tavares goes, so go the Isles.  This is no time for finger pointing.  We know who the contributors were, and who the under performers were.  My only answer to that, again, is ... see Garth Snow.

One thing is certain, and they proved it again, the Islanders had the best 4th forward line in all of hockey.  They should look into keeping them together.  They're a tremendous asset most NHL teams can not handle.

Monday, May 09, 2016

N.Y. Yankees: Big Papi Foils Bombers Attempt at Sweep

From the desk of:  BLAME CARLOS MAY

David Ortiz hit his 29th and 30th career home runs
at Yankee Stadiums II and III.

New York Yankees: Big Papi Kicks Sand at Yankees' Attempt to Sweep Red Sox.

They put up good fight ... for two games at least.  And hell, the Yankees won the series, and even caused the Sawx to drop into second place of the A.L. East.

But the Bronx Bombers just couldn't pull off a weekend sweep over the Boston Red Sox with a still ineffective Luis Severino on the mound.

The ol' tag team of Dustin Pedroia and Big Papi weren't having it ... not from him, not from this inexperienced 22-year old youngster.  Despite Severino's 9 strikeouts, Pedroia's home run in the 1st, and Papi's home runs in the 4th and 7th innings ensured Severino's season ERA remained over six.

Xander Bogaerts landed the final TKO blow in the 8th inning off the Yankees bullpen.  The damage, however, had already been done.

Although the Yankees will finally realize the arrival of reliever Aroldis Chapman, they're clearly still waiting for the more promising 2015 rookie version of Luis Severiono to reappear - the one whom posted a 5-3 record with a 2.86 ERA, and 8.1 K/9 average over 11 starts.

This season, Severino is now 0-5, with a 6.12 ERA.  To date, he has surrendered 42 hits, and an alarming 7 home runs, with an unsightly 1.485 WHiP in only 32.1 innings pitched.

That still doesn't explain Boston starter Steven Wright's dominant performance over the Bombers.   He went the distance for his third victory (3-3, 1.52) of the season, and held the Bombers scoreless and limited them to just 2 hits through 8.2 innings, until finally surrendering Bret Gardner's 2-out solo home run in the 9th.

Series win or not, any way you season it, the Yankees will begin their series against the Kansas City Royals with a bitter taste in Joe Girardi their mouths, and they have Big Papi largely to thank ... again.

David Ortiz hit his 29th, and 30th career home runs at Yankee Stadiums II and III.

L.I. Ducks: Waddling Tall; Flock Wins Ninth Straight

From the desk of:  THE WEBBED SPIKES NINE

Ducks close to within three games of Somerset
just in time for three game series at Pond.

Ducks win series; lead 2016 Ferry Cup Series 4-0
I - LID 1; BPT 0
II - LID 5; BPT 1
III - LID 7; BPT 1
IV - LID 9; BPT 4

LONG ISLAND DUCKS: Complete Weekend Sweep Over Bridgeport Bluefish in Season's First Ferry Cup Series; Extend Winning Streak to Nine Straight Games.

Southern Maryland, check.
Lancaster Barnstormers, check.
Bridgeport Bluefish, check.

The Long Island completed a series sweep against the Bridgeport Bluefish over the weekend, making it three consecutive series sweeps, and nine straight victories for the Flock.

If you're like me, and were concerned with the Ducks seeming lack of overall power heading into the season, fret no more...

During Sunday's series finale in Bridgeport, Lew Ford connected on his second home run of the season, as the Ducks cruised to a 9-4 victory.  On Saturday, newly acquired Nate Freiman hit a pair of home runs with four RBI during a 7-1 Game Three win.

The Long Island Ducks are presently 3rd in team average, 4th in the Atlantic League in OBP, and have scored the 3rd most runs to date, but as expected, they've hit the circuit's 2nd least home runs.

While their balanced attack is presently working out as hoped, the Flock are waddling strong based primarily on effective pitching.  They are number one in strikeouts, allowed both the 2nd least hits and earned runs, own the 3rd best ERA, are 4th in average against, but slip to 5th in team WHiP.

The Ducks are off Monday.

On Tuesday, the Ducks will host the invading Patriots for the first of a three game series.

Friday, May 06, 2016

N.Y. Yankees: BoSox Visit Bronx Aiming to Rub Salt in Bombers' Wounds

From the desk of:  BLAME CARLOS MAY

Attention passengers. this train is presently being held up in the station due to sick Yankees fans.  Please be patient through this wait for help to arrive.  We apologize for any inconveniences this may cause.  If and when Hal Steinbrenner hires a qualified baseball person needed for searching out a new general manager for the team, we'll let you know.  
Otherwise, thank you for your patronage.  
That is all.

New York Yankees: Joe Girardi didn't flip the buffet table last week in Boston, opting instead for getting ejected from Thursday's latest lack-luster episode in Baltimore.

"Hey Joe, think about where you're going with that book in your hand.."
Sing to the music of Jimmy Hendrix ~ Hit it!

I'm not advocating Joe Girardi quit (because I do not think Brian Cashman would fire him), but if Hal does not start exerting greater power within his organization, i.e., over Brian Cashman, then  maybe Joe should con$ider an e$cape plan out of thi$ old Hou$e of continued idol wor$hip.

Just a though ... but obviously not practical.  The media would never let him live down quitting the Yankees before his contract expires after 2017 ~ key word being, Before!

*         *         *         *         *         *         *         *         *

Losing in extra innings is never pleasant, especially on the road and losing series after series against their division leading rivals (Orioles and Red Sox) in their ballparks - much less being firmly anchored in last place of the A.L. East.

Thursday night, the Yankees managed just 4 hits in 10 innings.  Their lead-off batter went 0 for 4 with no walks and a strikeout.  Their 3-4-5 hitters combined to go 1 for 11, with 3 strikeouts.  We all know who they are.  And lower down the batting order, the Yankees continue getting rarely seen hits from the once highly thought of Didi Gregorius.

Most teams (maybe even 29 other MLB member clubs) can usually shake off such an extra inning loss in May and just move on ... unless you're Brian Cashman and the New York Yankees, that is, where cost vs. production levels have never been more divergent over the previous two decades of Bronx County baseball than right now.

Last week, the on-field condition called for reactive measures as prescribed by David Cone and Ken Singleton during last Saturday's telecast against the Red Sox.  Problem is they wanted Joe Girardi to flip the buffet table.  That's fine, but in truth, Girardi is an innocent party to this all.  He is provided players of the general manager's choosing, then simply follows said general manager's bidding to the letter, as written in the Brian Cashman Binder of Baseball (bullpen maneuvering aside, because Joe is good at that).

After the Red Sox completed their series sweep of the Bombers last Sunday at Fenway, Dr. Frankenstein Brian Cashman rightfully took it upon himself to address the media with full intent of expressing his great displeasure regarding his team's monstrously poor play throughout the start to this season, and threatening them with potential changes if they do not get things turned around, and soon.

Shudder to think....

After Boston, the Yankees then moved on to Baltimore where they lost 2 of 3 games to the Orioles, and wound up placing both Alex Rodriguez on the disabled list for a pulled hamstring, and more recently C.C. Sabathia for a groin.  It's worth noting A-Rod wielded the lone productive bat against the Red Sox, with actual, genuine, meaningful home runs, while C.C. threw 7 strong innings against the Orioles.

Circling back ... if the Yankees performance was problematic last week, then what's this week's appropriate level of escalation.., dire?

Beaten and battered, the Bombers are back in the Bronx where, this time, they'll host the first place Boston Red Sox.  If you remember, it was Boston's sweep of the Yankees last weekend that propelled the Sawx into first place to begin with, then ensured the A.L East remains a tight race by bowing out in Baltimore.

Friday night, this vicious cycle potentially starts all over again.  Some might call that spiraling out of control.  I don't know...

But, all things are as they were then, only tonight Yankee fans get to see it in person.

L.I. Ducks: Gone Fishing; Ferry Cup Series 2016

From the desk of:  THE WEBBED SPIKES NINE

Bluefish lead all-time series over Ducks 

The Bridgeport Bluefish last qualified for the playoffs in 2010, when they advanced beyond the first round only to get turned back in the Atlantic League championship series by the York Revolution.  The following season, Bridgeport then lost a Liberty Division play-in game against the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs.  The times have been relatively quiet at Harbor Yard since.

The Bridgeport Nine captured their lone Atlantic League title in 1999, but own the distinction of winning the most games all-time of any member club in Atlantic League history.

That said, they have certainly enjoyed better starts in previous seasons.  The Fish are now losers of four straight games after dropping a double-header on Wednesday against the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs.  They enter this weekend's Ferry Cup series in last place of the Liberty Division with a sub-par 5-9 record.

However, there's seemingly never a dull moment whenever these rivals meet.  This weekend in Bridgeport should be no different.

Six game winning streak

The Ducks have officially put their 1-6 start behind them.  After Wednesday's rain postponement, Long Island won both games of Thursday's abbreviated make-up double-header, completing a series sweep over the Lancaster Barnstormers.

After having won 6 straight games, they'll enter this weekend's series against rival Bridgeport with a 7-6 record.

Bobby Blevins toed the rubber in Thursday's first game against Lancaster.  He threw six scoreless innings, allowed just 4 hits, walked none, and fanned 4 batters, but walked off to a no decision.  The Ducks and Barnstormers traded zeroes right up to the moment Lancaster reliever Scott Gracey walked home the winning run in the bottom of the 7th inning.  Todd Coffey earned the victory in relief.

In Game Two, starting pitcher Jack Snodgrass earned his second consecutive victory of the season.   He hurled 6 innings for a second straight game as well, allowing 3 earned runs on 7 hits and 2 walks, with 7 strikeouts.  In his previous start against Southern Maryland, Jack allowed just one earned run on 5 hits and 3 walks, with 9 strikeouts.

After being limited to just 3 hits in Game One, the Ducks exploded for 14 hits and 13 runs in the night cap.  Lead-off hitter Fehlandt Lentini was 2 for 4 with 3 RBI.  Delta Cleary Jr. went 3 for 4 with 2 RBI.

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

N.Y. Mets: Wuilmer Becerra Next Best Reason to Love Dickey Trade

Here's my latest for 

senior staff writer/Rising Apple

N.Y. Islanders: Brian Boyle Foils the Brutes of Flatbush

From the desk of:  FIVE FOR FLATBUSH

So much for stealing away home ice advantage from Bolts..

Lightning lead series 2-1
I - NYI 5; TBL 3
II - TBL 4; NYI 1
III - TBL 5; NYI 4*

New York Islanders did everything they wanted in Game Three ... except win.

It also makes complete sense Ryan Callahan and Brian Boyle would thrive in such a physically played game.

The Islanders turned Game Three into a grudge match - just as planned.  That's when they're at their best, and I believe their physicality will indeed wear on Tampa as the series continues.  And that's why the Islanders should continue playing in this manner despite suffering a brutal overtime loss Tuesday night at Barclays Center.

Even I have to admit my guilt, though, in so far as overlooking Ryan Callahan and Brian Boyle.   Shame on me as a Rangers fan, I should have known better.  The two obviously benefit from their familiarity with New York City, and particularly playing in front of Islanders home crowds.   Moreover, they were easily Tampa's two most resilient players on the ice.  After all, they were indoctrinated under John Tortorella, and so found the Islanders' style quite to their liking, and it showed.

There's an argument to be made the Islanders partly blew Game Three in the 1st period, which was actually their best session of the game.  I say that because John Tavares registered so little ice time, with Coach Cooper temporarily getting the better of Jack Capuano in so far as line changes and match-ups.

But with Jack Capuano left decoding his counterpart, the Islanders fourth line carried the action.

Misstep Number One
  • With everything seemingly going the Islanders way, they literally tripped themselves up late in the 1st period by committed one of the cardinal sins of hockey - allowing a goal within the last two minutes of a period.  

At 18:27, Casey Cizikas was dispatched to the sin bin for carelessly tripping Brian Boyle.  In turn, the Bolts wasted no time converting what amounted to a costly lack of situational awareness.  With just 0:13 left in the period, Ryan Callahan established position in front of Thomas Greiss, and deflected Alex Killorn's wide shot back on net and beyond Thomas Greiss, tying the score at one.

The Bolts and Isles fought to a 2nd period draw on the judge's scorecards, after swapping goals from Victor Hedman and Nick Leddy.

Misstep Number Two
  • After Josh Bailey converted a power play opportunity just 2:27 into the 3rd period, the Bolts returned fire a mere minute later, tying the score again at three.

That was a punch to the gut, but New York's fourth line continued carrying the night with Cal Clutterbuck finding net, and putting the Islanders ahead 4-3 at the 11:23 mark.

Misstep Number Three
  • With 2:00 left in regulation, Jon Cooper pulled Ben Bishop in order to give the Bolts a man advantage, and it worked.  With just 0:38 left in regulation, Nikita Kucherov got lost in the slot, and zapped one beyond Thomas Greiss to tie the game at four.

Brian Boyle reared his head again in overtime, but this time in a most controversial way.  He separated Thomas Hickey from the puck high in the Isles defensive zone but with a questionable hit to the head area that went unpenalized by the men in stripes.  The play remained on side for Tampa, and while Boyle rejoined the rush, Hickey remained laid-out on the ice.

  • Was Boyle's hit retaliation for the even bigger hit Thomas Hickey laid on Jonathan Drouin?  I don't think it was, but I won't get in anyone's way if they think so.  I'm also not so sure Brian Boyle deserved a penalty either.

With just 0:38 second left in regulation, Ryan Callahan was credited with an assist, but in truth the puck caromed off the backboard and found Brian Boyle positioned on the weak side, who snapped it beyond Thomas Greiss for the game winning goal.

Brian Boyle also got into a pre-game scrum during warm-ups, then had a 1st period goal waved off for a high stick.  In other words, Brian Boyle had his fingerprints all over this game, with Ryan Callahan right there with him, and both standing tall after a very physical game.

Just the way they like it...

Power Outages

I still say both teams are flirting with disaster.  Each committed four more penalties in Game Three.   Despite trading power play goals Tuesday, both PP units continue to flounder.  Tampa is 2 of 11 with the man advantage (which does not include Coach Cooper pulling Bishop in the 3rd period of Game Three).  The Islanders are 2 for 13 on the PP.  All hail their respective PK, but eventually, something is gonna give.

Behind the Mask

There's been talk of Jaroslav Halak's improvement, and potential return.  An obvious question, then, begs to be asked. Should Halak be reinstated, if and when available, or is this playoff run now firmly in the pads of Thomas Greiss?

Game Four @ Flatbush

We already have all the context we need - Screaming for Vengence with be the anthem of the night.

The Islanders must win Game Four at home before heading back to the Sunshine State. It's not critical they do, just terribly necessary.

They started Game Three perfectly, with big hits, and a 1-0 lead, just like the doctor ordered.  For the game, the Islanders out-hit Tampa by a 44-34 margin.  In turn, the Islanders incurred 14 takeaways.   They also muscled their way to a 38-27 victory in the face-off battle.  The Islanders additionally raised their number of shots on goal.  Now they must do more.

  • Josh Bailey is such a difference maker when he's healthy.
  • I'm having trouble recalling a better fourth line in hockey.

Monday, May 02, 2016

N.Y. Islanders: Series Shifts to Ben Bishop's Borough of Horror

From the desk of:  FIVE FOR FLATBUSH

Welcome back to Brooklyn, 
a great place to visit, unless you're Ben Bishop that is..

Series tied 1-1
I - NYI 5; TBL 3
II - TBL 4; NYI 1

New York Islanders: The series is now a best of five, with Flatbush potentially owning the home ice edge.

If you recall, I said pay no mind to Game One.  I will side with a team coming off a 3-day layoff over a team coming off a 6-day layoff every time.

That's exactly what happened.  Tampa spent two and a half periods shaking off rust before getting their game skates under them.  By then, it was too late, particularly against an Islanders team still high from an overtime series clinching victory over the Florida Panthers.

Inactivity and rust aside, it's worth noting the Islanders spent the better part of said two and a half periods pounding the Bolts into submission.  But that said, the series started in earnest with Game Two, when unfortunately, the Islanders looked listless after quickly falling behind in the 1st period, en route to a 4-1 loss.

For the moment, though, the Islanders potentially stealing home ice advantage with their Game One win in Tampa should not go understated.  Heading into Game Three, the trick now is to seize upon their gained advantage with nothing short of victory in Brooklyn.

Easier said than done... I know.

Tampa Bay Lightning
New York Islanders
Flatbush Avenue

Special Teams: Waiting for the dam to burst.

Hey, if both teams insist on committing so many damn penalties, then the team which scores most with the man advantage wins the series.  To date, the Bolts are a mere 1 for 7, while the Islanders are just a fraction better with a 2 for 9 rate.  I say both are flirting with disaster.  Something is eventually gonna give like a weakening dam.

Beyond the Mask: Coach's Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Beyond the bench is more like it...

The Tampa Bay Lightning sent a jolt through the Islanders system in Game Two.  With the Triplets Line back in place, the Bolts were quicker, and possessed the puck for an inordinate amount of time by staying in open ice, and not allowing themselves to get pinned along the boards.

The Islanders trailed 2-0 by 11:55 of the 1st period, and the Lightning never looked back en route to a 4-1 series tying victory.  Tampa out-shot the Islanders 31-20, limiting the Islanders to five shots on goal in the 2nd period, then just three shots on goal in the 3rd.

Thomas Greiss was the hard luck loser, allowing six goals against 41 shots on net.

Back on March 24 in Tampa, the Islanders suffered through a 7-4 drubbing against the Bolts.  That game was tied at four until 10:09 of the 3rd period, when things fell apart for the Isles like wet toilet paper.  Coach Jack Capuano stuck with Thomas Greiss, and did not pull his goalie after allowing the go-ahead goal, then another within 23-seconds of each other.

On Tuesday, the Islanders goalie knows he's entering a critical Game Three with the full confidence of his coach, and more importantly, that of his team mates.

Then there's Ben Bishop, coach Jon Cooper, and the Lightning...

Bishop is no stranger to New York City's fan fervor during playoff time, having successfully experienced their passion last season at Madison Square Garden during the Eastern Conference finals against the Rangers.

But, as is the case with most out-of-towners, it wasn't until April 4th this year, that Bishop rudely discovered Brooklyn and Manhattan are actually worlds apart.  During his lone regular season visit to Barclays Center, Bishop allowed all five Islanders goals on only 23 shots on net, and was consequently relieved of his duties just 4:28 into the 3rd period by coach Jon Cooper.

Ben Bishop now gets a chance to erase his own chalk outline left at the intersection of Atlantic Avenue and Flatbush.

Or does he?

Coach Jon Cooper again pulled Ben Bishop midway through the 2nd period of Game One after allowing four goals on just 13 shots on net - and that happened in Tampa.  Back-up goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy wound up finishing the game.  He faced eight shots and did not allow a goal.

One thing has become very clear - Jack Capuano has far more confidence in goalie Thomas Greiss, than Jon Cooper has in Tampa goalie Ben Bishop.  That inevitably translates onto the ice.

I have no doubt Jon Cooper will start Ben Bishop in Game Three.  But if Tampa's goalie didn't already learn back in April, he's surely going to understand the meaning of playing in city traffic now.

The Islanders also want the crowd factoring in games Three and Four if at all possible, and big early hits are a great way to get them started.  Establishing a physical presence in front of the net, and scoring tough goals is another.  The Islanders hammered Tampa 38 hits to 24 during that 5-2 victory over Tampa back on April 4th, then absolutely pounded them into the boards again in Game One.

Just saying...

Welcome back to Brooklyn, Ben, a great place to visit ... for some.  Apparently for others, not so much.


N.Y. Yankees: Blame for Beantown Beat Down Falls on Brian Cashman

From the desk of:  BLAME CARLOS MAY

Merely passing each other by in the night while heading in opposite directions.

Red Sox sweep series 3-0
I - BOS 4; NYY 2
II - BOS 8; NYY 0
III - BOS 8; NYY 7

Look what Big Papi did to the Bronx Bombers ... again!

The Red Sox swept the weekend series at Fenway Park by a combined 20-9 score.  As has been his custom since joining the Red Sox, David Ortiz went 4 for 7 with 2 home runs and 3 RBI during the first two games.

Now in his 14th season with the Red Sox, David Ortiz has 778 career at-bats against the Bombers, in which he slashed .339/.424/.679, with 48 home runs, and 152 RBI.

In two classic back-to-back American League Championship Series between the Yankees and Red Sox during 2003-2004, Big Papi slashed a combined .328/.412/.640, with 5 home runs and 17 RBI in 14 games.

Ortiz combined to hit 30+ home runs and drive in 100+ runs nine times throughout his career.  He led the American League with 148 RBI in 2005, then led the circuit with both 54 home runs and 137 RBI in 2006.

David Ortiz
"Big Papi"
Twins 1997 - 2002
Red Sox 2003 - present
508 HR
1,660 RBI

New York Yankees: "Right now is a time when everyone wants to play the Yankees" - Ken Singleton during Saturday's telecast.

Let the table hit the floor...
Let the table hit the floor...
Let the table hit the floor...
Let the table hit the floor...


Joe Girardi always looks miserable, but he's looking especially grim these days.  As the Yankees enter the second month of the season, little is going his way.

Before Joe makes himself sick, someone please tell him this is all Brian Cashman's fault.

In the meantime, Sunday's result once again did little to remove the scowl from Girardi's jaw clenched face.
  • The Red Sox moved into first place after a weekend sweep of the Yankees.  
  • The Yankees have now lost five in a row, and six of their last seven games.
  • Oh, and they're in last place with an 8-15 record, and must now face the second place Orioles.

Said another way, the Yankees are off to their worst start since 1991, back when the Law of Diminished Returns ill affected the Boss' Yankees of the late 1980s in eerie similar fashion.

Fast forward - upon his hiring, Joe Girardi was initially tasked with retiring a dynasty, then got locked into a rebuilding holding pen after Cashman signed another wave of prohibitive contracts.  Not unexpectedly, now Girardi is receiving distressing performances from the all team's most expensive players.  

Until the Yankees detach themselves from several of these largess contracts, they'll remain incapable of initiating a full blown youth insurgence (which requires its own conversation).  Brian Cashman has actually procured some good young talent, sure, but his greater claims of a youth injection are greatly exaggerated.  Instead, he's to be criticized for years of lacking timeliness and forethought.

In the meantime what's a Yankees manager to do?  Joe Girardi is nothing more than the interpreter of the Book of Cashman - a stooge, if you will, in the same manner many managers were under George Steinbrenner.  Under the old Old Boss, however, this never used to be a problem - he just ate the money and bought more players.  These days, that's just not the way Hal rolls.

There's the rub ... Brian Cashman began empowering himself during George's latter years, but has truly seized, and exerted, full authority under Hal.  This is not a criticism of Mr. Steinbrenner, but I'm not sure Hal is prepared to venture forward without Cashman ... yet.

The Bronx Bombers are presently nothing more than a myth.  Although there's been some tangible improvements made from within, these Yankees arrived at their own law of diminished returns years ago.

2016 American League Rank:
  • 6th least home runs
  • 5th worst team average
  • 4th worst OBP
  • 2nd most strikeouts
  • Dead last in slugging

I watched Saturday's game, and agreed with David Cone and Ken Singleton when the two accurately described the Yankees overall effort as one worthy of a buffet flip.

After one particularly poor performance, Ken Singleton recalled how his manager Earl Weaver once flipped the food table while telling his team they didn't deserve to eat.  Singleton said Weaver then apologized, and told the team it was his own fault, because he picked them, and thought they could win!


There's no need discussing how George would have handled this, especially after getting swept in Boston.

Although David Cone was first to suggest flipping the buffet table, he got it right by calling that Old School tactics.  

Ah, the good ol' days!

This world is now far too PC for the Billy Martin's and Earl Weaver's of yore, but I digress...

Saturday's 8-0 whitewashing was the second of two pathetically played games against the Red Sox on consecutive nights at Fenway Park.  At least the Yanks showed some fight on Sunday.  But it was the manner in which they lost on Saturday that inspired Cone and Singleton to consider such a reactive measure - a message made all the more poignant because it came from two former players.

Monday is an off day for the Yankees, who will then open a series in Baltimore on Tuesday against the second place Orioles.

Circling back to Girardi, maybe the guys in the booth were right.  Perhaps Joe should have indeed flipped the buffet table and sent them back to the hotel room that night feeling hungry.

Maybe, if their malaise continues during their stopover in Baltimore, the ghost of Earl Weaver will inspire Joe Girardi to ignore protocol, and engage in said old school tactics.

Flip the table Joe!

Nothing else in Cashman's codex seems to be working for you.