Sunday, January 29, 2017

Criollos de Caguas win LBPRC Championship

From the desk of: Winter Leagues/Puerto Rico

Santurce  5
Caguas     6

Criollos de Caguas defeat los Cangrejeros de Santurce,
five games to three

Puerto Rico crowns new league champion; Santurce's two year run is over, undone by los Criollos de Caguas.  

Los Criollos de Caguas reclaimed their position atop Puerto Rico's LBPRC this past Wednesday with their fifth and final series victory over los Cangrejeros de Santuce.

Upon falling behind 3-2 in the Serie Final against the defending back-to-back champions, Caguas reeled off three straight victories to deny Santurce their bid for a third straight title.  

But by no means did los Cangrejeros go down easily.  Game Eight required 12-innings, with resilient Santurce threatening to shift the series back to San Juan for a decisive Game Nine.

After spotting los Cangrejeros an early run in the first inning, Caguas tied things up in the bottom of the fifth when second baseman Ray Navarro plated center fielder Henry Ramos (lead-off single) from third with a sac-fly.

Santurce promptly responded with a pair of runs in the top of the sixth off Criollos relievers Jose de la Torre and William Oliver (in relief of starter Orlando Roman).

Caguas then seemingly pulled away with a four hit, four run outburst in the bottom half of the frame.

Undeterred, and to the dismay of fanaticos Criollos, Santurce scored runs in the top of the seventh and eighth innings, both charged to reliever Miguel Mejia, forging a 5-5 tie and sending the game into extra-innings.

Through the next four innings, however, Caguas relievers Ricardo Gomez and Joel Pineiro combined to pitch four scoreless innings of no-hit ball, while fanning five.  Cangrejeros batters went 0 for 11 over that span, managing only a walk off Pineiro in the top of the 12th.

Parque Yldefonso Sola Morales

In the bottom half of the frame, Santurce's lone mistake proved costly.  With two outs and Frank del Valle on the mound, Criollos third baseman David Vidal gained second base on outfielder Juan Silva's error in right.  Center fielder Henry Ramos then followed with another base hit to right, scoring Vidal, and clinching a 6-5 victory in front of an overflowing crowd at Parque Yldefonso Sola Morales.

Shortly thereafter, it was party time in the valley ...

This is los Criollos second championship in the last five years under general manager Alex Cora, and their 17th league title in their 80 year history.  They are now one title shy of tying Mayaguez (18) for most in league history.

Alex Cora, an eminently proud native of Caguas, previously played in three straight Serie Final for los Criollos beginning in 2009-10 through 2011-12, and helped lead them to a league championship in 2010-11.  Later in 2011, Alex retired from MLB after completing his 14th season, then continued playing one last season with los Criollos.  He would accept the position of general manager the following season upon the resignation of Frankie Higginbotham.  With Cora at the helm, Caguas went on to win another league title (2012-13) in what became a rematch series over los Indios de Mayaguez.

Next stop for los Criollos de Caguas ... Culiacan, Mexico, for the 2017 Serie del Caribe, commencing Wednesday, February 1st.  This will likewise be general manager Alex Cora's second attempt at capturing a Caribbean title.  Caguas last accomplished the feat back in 1987. 

Since Alex Cora's retirement, his well respected baseball acumen has been long sought after by major league baseball clubs.  However, his main priority these last few years lay in being home and spending summers with his daughter.  But starting with the 2017 season, Alex will finally be back in an MLB dugout near you, having signed on to become the Houston Astros bench coach for this upcoming season.

Prior to the start of the regular season, Alex Cora will also be serving as general manager for Team Puerto Rico in the 2017 World Baseball Classic.

  • Joey Cora, older brother of Alex, likewise won a championship with Caguas in 2000-01 while serving in the same capacity.


1941   1974   1977   1979   1981   1987
2001   2011   2013

1948   1950   1954   1956   1958   1960   1968

1954   1974   1987

Caguas Pitching Subdues Mayaguez in Semi-Finals

In defense of their back-to-back titles, los Cangrejeros de Santurce finished atop this year's regular season standings, nine games ahead of third place Caguas, and two games in front of los Indios de Mayaguez.  As the top seed, Santurce went on to have a predictably easy time eliminating los Gigantes de Carolina in the first round of playoffs, four games to one.  

Los Criollos' first order of business, however, lay in overtaking the second place Indios de Mayaguez, whom were vying for their sixth straight Serie Final appearance.  These two rivals squared off in the league finals for three straight years immediately preceding Santurce's now ended two year run.  And with their 2014 Serie Final loss to Mayaguez still fresh in the minds of fanaticos Criollos, payback was foremost on their minds.

But after posting a sub .500 regular season record, then falling behind 0-2 in the semi-finals against los Indios, the specter of elimination loomed large over Caguas.  That is, until designated hitter Randy Ruiz slugged los Criollos to a Game Three victory with what proved to be a decisive three run home run, and four RBI night.  

The sum of Caguas pitching then proceeded to dominate Mayaguez, limiting los Indios to a pair of runs on just 15 hits over the final three games of the series.

Caguas Bats Close Out Serie Final With a Flourish

Through their first 11 playoff games (six against Mayaguez, and through Game Five against Santurce) los Criollos had batted a sickly .148 (11 for 74) with runners in scoring position.  But Santurce had only outscored Caguas by a slim 9-11 margin to that point.  Los Criollos struggles at the plate nonetheless translated into consecutive loses in games Four and Five, and a 2-3 series disadvantage.  They had additionally failed to win at home in two previous attempts.

All that changed starting with Game Six at Sola Morales, as Caguas defeated los Cangrejeros in a 12-1 rout, going 8 for 16 with runners in scoring position.  They went 3 for 8 in Game Seven en route to a 4-1 victory at Hiram Bithorn, then 3 for 12 during Wednesday's clincher.  All told, Caguas batted .388 (14 for 36) with runners in scoring position, and outscored Santurce by a 22-7 margin over the final three games of the series.

Next stop for los Criollos de Caguas ... Culiacan, Mexico, for the 2017 Serie del Caribe, commencing Wednesday, February 1st.

Criollos de Caguas Retire Ivan Rodriguez #7 in Pre-Game Ceremony

Los Criollos de Caguas honored newly elected Hall of Fame member Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez by retiring his #7 prior to the start of Wednesday's Game Eight at Parque Yldefonso Sola Morales.  He first wore the number for Caguas as an amateur during the 1989-90 season.  Pudge played 23 games for Caguas between 2008 and 2011 (his final years as a pro).

Ivan Rodriguez is the fourth player hailing from Puerto Rico elected to baseball's Hall of Fame, joining Roberto Clemente, Orlando Cepeda, and Roberto Alomar.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

N.Y. Mets: First Podcast of 2017

Here's out latest podcast at 

Sam and I talk Mets baseball with guest 
Greg Prince of

The Queens Baseball Convention
Tom Seaver
Curtis Granderson, Jay Bruce
the Bullpen

the 1941 Season:
Brooklyn Dodgers, New York Giants, New York Yankees

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Winter Leagues: Criollos de Caguas closing in on Puerto Rico league title

Game One   Game Two   Game Three   Game Four   Game Five   Game Six

Hiram Bithorn Stadium
San Juan, Puerto Rico

Caguas   4
Santurce 1

With Sunday's 4-1 victory over los Cangrejeros de Santurce at Hiram Bithorn Stadium, los Criollos de Caguas are now just one victory away from capturing the club's second title in the last five years. 
They head back to Parque Yldefonso Sola Morales for Game Eight with hopes of dethroning the league's defending back-to-back champion in front of their home crowd.

Four Caguas relievers combined to protect a 4-1 lead with six scoreless innings of work in support of starter John Brownell.  Will Oliver gained the victory with 2.1 innings of two hit ball, with two strikeouts.  Ricardo Gomez earned his sixth save of the post-season.

At the plate, Caguas batters greeted Santurce starter Hiram Burgos with four first inning hits in taking an early 2-0 lead.  A one-out double by shortstop Jack Lopez in the top of the second, an RBI triple by catcher Jonathan Morales, and a sac-fly from right-fielder Jorge Padilla staked Caguas to a 4-0 lead.

Los Cangrejeros scored their only run of the game off John Brownell in the bottom of the second on a lead-off triple by right fielder Juan Silva, and a sac-fly from Christian Vasquez.

Caguas is now 3-1 this series at Hiram Bithorn Stadium.  Santurce would host Game Nine if necessary.

  • Founded in 1939, los Cangrejeros de Santurce are 14 time league champions, and as previously noted, are still the reigning back-to-back champions until further notice.  This year's top regular season team, Santurce has gone on to win the Serie Caribe on five occasions.
  • Founded in 1938, los Criollos are in search of their 17th league championship.  Their most recent came during the 2010-2011 and 2012-2013 seasons.  They have gone on to win three Serie Caribe titles in their history.


Winter Leagues: Caguas romps to Game Six victory over Santurce


Caguas, Puerto Rico

Santurce  1
Caguas   12

Los Criollos de Caguas rolled to a much needed 12-1 victory over the visiting Cangrejeros de Santurce.  

The Liga Roberto Clemente serie final is now knotted at three games apiece.  That leaves each team just two victories shy of capturing Puerto Rico's league title with three games left to play.  Santurce hosts Sunday's Game Seven, and would host Game Nine at Hiram Bithorn Stadium if necessary on Thursday.

The league champion would then move on to participate in the Caribbean Series.

For Caguas, the victory snaps a two game skid, and marks their first series win at Yldefonso Sola Morales in three tries.  Their last home game is scheduled for Game Eight on Wednesday.

A timely, if not rare, Criollos offensive outburst was clearly the story of Game Six.  After grabbing an early 2-0 lead in the second, Caguas broke through for four runs in the fifth, then capped off a rout with another six runs in the eighth inning.  They connected on 17 hits which included a double by first baseman Ruben Gotay, a triple by right fielder Jorge Padilla, and a 2-run home run by left fielder Rusney Castillo.  Third baseman David Vidal was 3 for 4 with an RBI, and shortstop Jack Lopez was 2 for 4 with a pair of RBI.  

Santurce outscored los Criollos by a 9-11 margin through the first five games of the series.  And in a complete reversal of fortune, the team went 8 for 16 with runners in scoring position.  They were batting a prohibitive .148 (11 for 74) with runners in scoring position during their previous eleven playoff games.  But on this night, all nine Criollos batters, plus a pinch hitter all hit safely.

Starter Andrew Barbosa has pitched brilliantly since joining the team as a reinforcement selection from los Indios de Mayaguez.  Saturday evening proved no different.  In facing 17 batters, he threw a mere 26 pitches with 22 going for strikes.  He walked one and fanned three through five scoreless innings of two hit baseball to earn the victory.

Pitching in relief, Jose de la Torre and Joel Pineiro limited los Cagrejeros to one late run on four hits through the final four innings.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

PIGSKIN 2016: Championship Sunday



Divisional Playoff Picks

Friday Line ~ NYDN

National Football Conference
FALCONS -4 1/2 (Packers)

The Green Bay Packers are the hottest team in football.  Amazing is how much pocket time their offensive line creates for Aaron Rogers.  Making matters worse, Rogers' elusiveness is demoralizing. Just ask the Giants and Cowboys.  The Packers success, however, has come at a heavy cost. Physically speaking, this will be the week when all their injuries finally catch up to them.  The Atlanta Falcons offense will demand that Green Bay be firing on all cylinders.  Problem is the Packers are missing parts, and simply can't.  That being said, I still feel the Packers will generate more than 24 points.  It's their defense (and their head coach) that will let them down.  Atlanta's offensive line has done a stellar job as well, and veteran QB Matt Ryan is the real deal.  The Falcons can run the ball with power, and have an arsenal of receivers too numerous to cover effectively.  I fully expect the Falcons to score upwards of 30 points against the Packers defense.  I'm almost prepared to say Coach McCarthy will be left stupefied.  His adjustments will lag far behind Atlanta's speed and progress.  Said another way, this is just a bad match-up.  Plus, you know what they say - the best way to beat Aaron Rogers is to keep him on the sidelines.  The Packers will be playing catch-up all day, and may not get enough possessions to pull out a victory.  Last week, the Cowboys did more to take themselves out of positions to succeed, and made more mental mistakes, than were forced upon them by the Packers.  Can the Packers cover?  Is Rogers dating Olivia Munn?!  This spread leaves the door wide open for another Hail Mary.  And Green Bay just might need it.  But I foresee Matt Ryan dissecting Green Bay's secondary like we all did to that frog in high school biology class. 

Falcons win by 4 1/2.
WIN  44-21 Falcons

American Football Conference
Steelers +6 (PATRIOTS)

Neither team looked overly impressive last week.  Despite New England's 18-point margin of victory over Houston, that was perhaps as sloppy a performance they could have possibly put forward.   They'd be the first to admit it.  Otherwise, the Texans simply had no shot.  I expect Tom Brady to be sharper this week, but that does not mean he'll be any more mobile.  Pittsburgh's defense is on a roll, but if they can't get to Brady without blitzing, they're inviting trouble.  Will the Patriots abuse
Pittsburgh to the tune of 30 points?  Not likely ... more like 27 points.  Here's the flip side: Bill Belichick and his bend-don't-break defense.  The Patriots defense was the league's stingiest this season, but they played a namby-pamby schedule, so take that with a grain of salt.  They will allow the Steelers yardage for sure, but will they limit them to field goals or allow touchdowns?  The Steelers kicked six field goals in cold Kansas City last week and barely managed a two point victory over the Chiefs.  Said another way, no touchdown passes for Big Ben, TD receptions for Antonio Brown, nor any rushing TDs for Le'veon Bell in the red zone.  That plays right into the hands of bend-don't-break.  Belichick will forego sacks for INTs, and Big Ben has been known to throw a few. Moreover, both punters should be put on red alert.  The battle of field position is sure to be huge.  The difference between getting pinned back in your end, or starting drives near mid-field will decide much in this match-up.  I think this will be a game that comes down to the wire.  Six points is just too much of a stretch for me.  I like the Steelers to cover, but the Patriots to win at home.   

Steelers lose within six

Loss?  36-17 Patriots ... after all, I did pick them to win.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Winter Leagues: Santurce Cangrejeros take series lead over Caguas Criollos


San Juan, Puerto Rico 

Caguas     1
Santurce  3

Bucking trends ...

Los Cangrejeros de Santurce are the first team in this series to win at home, and the first to capture two straight.  Santurce now leads this see-saw affair by a 3-2 margin.  After a day off on Friday, play resumes on Saturday at Parque Yldefonso Sola Morales for Game Six.

Caguas continues to do themselves no favors at the plate.  Despite nine hits in Game Four, los Criollos somehow still only managed 2 for 14 with runners in scoring position.  This is beyond trending now.  Their situation has become pandemic.  Criollos are now batting .148 (11 for 74) with runners in scoring position through 11 playoffs games.  It's no wonder then, they've been limited to two runs or fewer in seven of those games.

Caguas opened Thursday's scoring in the top of the fourth on doubles by left fielder Rusney Castillo and first baseman Ruben Gotay.  But mustered nothing more.

Meanwhile, Criollos starter Orlando Roman cruised through the first three innings and his first turn through the order.  His second time through, not so much.  Santurce laced three base hits and were helped along with a error by Orlando Roman himself in the bottom of the frame en route to taking a 2-1 lead.  A third run off reliever William Oliver effectively sealed los Criollos fate.

Otherwise, the bullpen silenced Santurce the rest of the way, pitching five scoreless innings while allowing just one hit and fanning seven.

Mi isla del encanto..

Just in case anyone is wondering ... yes, I do have a genuine rooting interest in Caguas Criollos.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Winter Leagues: Road Teams Still Trending in Puerto Rico Serie Final

Game One   Game Two   Game Three

Santurce   4
Caguas     1

Parque Yldefonso Sola Morales
Caguas, Puerto Rico

Through four games of the LBPRC championship series, each team has failed to establish a home field advantage. 

Santurce's 4-1 victory Wednesday evening over Caguas was their second at Parque Sola Morales.   The series now shifts back to Hiram Bithorn Stadium on Thursday, where los Criollos have likewise won games One and Three.

Should this series go the distance, los Cangrejeroes de Santurce would host a decisive Game Nine.

*          *          *

Los Criollos and Cangrejeros dueled to a one all tie through six innings.

Santurce designated hitter Christian Vasquez led-off the top of the fifth with a triple, and would later score on a sac-fly.  Criollos left fielder Rusney Castillo wielded a quick response with a lead-off home run to right in the bottom of the sixth.

In the seventh, it was Christian Vasquez again whom knocked Criollos starter John Brownell out of the box.  After issuing a lead-off walk to first baseman Neftali Soto, Brownell surrendered a double to Vasquez, scoring Soto with what proved to be the game winning run.  After a pitching change, reliever Joel Pineiro then allowed another three hits, and Santurce's third run charged to Brownell.

An insurance run in the ninth gave Santurce their final margin of victory.

*          *          *

Caguas bats went 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position, and grounded into three double-plays.  Los Criollos are 0 for 10 in the last two games, and just 9 for 60 (.150) through ten post-season games with runners in scoring position.


Tigres del Licey
Aguilas Cibaenas


Cardenales de Lara
Aguilas del Zulia

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

N.Y. Rangers: The Coach is ReAL iN


No he doesn't.  He's a pacifist.

New York Rangers: He still thinks he's going to win a Cup by turning the other cheek.

Even the Florida Panthers demoted Dylan McIlrath.

Yes, that speaks about his actual talent and abilities as a defenseman, and perhaps why Alain Vigneault had no use for him.  I get that.  But he's still very useful for proving a point.

In a Dec. 13 game between the Florida Panthers and Minnesota Wild, Dylan McIlrath twice reacted in response to perceived indiscretions taken against his goalie, Roberto Luongo.  He threw down gloves in the first period against Chris Stewart, then again in the third period against Kurtis Gabriel.   Shortly thereafter the stripes declared McIlrath's night over.  On his way off the ice and towards the tunnel, Dylan McIlrath received a pat on the back from his coach (interim Tom Rowe) for a job well done.

Two nights later on Dec. 15, the New York Rangers were in Dallas playing the Stars.  This was Henrik Lundqvist's first game back since a Dec. 6 loss to the Islanders.  Midway through the first period, Dallas' Cody Eakin barreled through Henrik Lundqvist while playing a puck behind net.  I believe in physicality, but even this hit went too far.  Lundqvist was forced to sit out more than five minutes until he could regather himself.

Not one Ranger skater challenged Cody Eakin.  Not one.  And for the remaining fifty minutes of the game, Eakin's act continued to go unchallenged.  Keep in mind, the NHL eventually handed down a suspension for the hit on Lundqvist.

But where does that leave Henrik?

Answer ... in the hands of a pacifist name Alain Vigneault.

The Rangers hosted the Dallas Stars on Tuesday.  In a rather disgraceful display, the Rangers collectively allowed the Stars seven goals.  The fact the Rangers scored six of their own deserves little mention - not when you allow that many.

Finally ... and I do mean finally, Chris Kreider challenged Cody Eakin.

Is that the plan, Coach?  To have Kreider fight our battles for us?


Since I'm going there, the Stars were quite chippy Tuesday.  I watched Jamie Benn and Antonio Roussel take their liberties what seemed like all night.  A slash here and a cross-check there, much less a run at the goalie, are things that generally continue to go unaddressed by this head coach.

Today, what good is leading the league in goals scored if all that gets you is fourth place in the Metropolitan Division?

I wish I had a better outlook.  But I said this many times, and I'll say it again: you can pirouette through the regular season, but you can't do that in the playoffs.

I didn't say fire him.  I'm just calling him a hopeless dove, and that I'm sick and tired of teams taking their liberties against the Rangers because they know they can.

This isn't everything wrong with the Rangers ... just what bothers me.

P.S. Rick Nash threw his body around.  That was nice to see.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Winter Leagues: Criollos de Caguas take 2-1 series lead in Puerto Rico finals

Hiram Bithorn Stadium
San Juan, Puerto Rico

Criollos lead series 2-1
I - CAG 1; SAN 0
II - SAN 6; CAG 3
III - CAG 4; SAN 2
IV - Wednesday

Caguas      4
Santurce   2

Puerto Rico: David Vidal's HR is the difference as Criollos de Caguas win Game Three, and take 2-1 series lead against Cangrejeros de Santurce.

For a third straight game in this Serie Final, the home team failed to win.

Los Cangrejeros de Santurce fell for a second time to los Criollos de Caguas at Hiram Bithorn Stadium.  Los Criollos now own a 2-1 series lead, with Game Four scheduled for Parque Sola Morales on Wednesday.

A pair of fielding errors by Santurce second baseman Abiatal Avelino in the first inning paved the way for two unearned runs and an early lead for Caguas against Cangrejeros starter Hiram Burgos.

Making his third start of the post-season, Criollos right-hander Jose de la Torres made the hosts regret the errors of their ways, limiting them to just a pair of hits by lead-off batter and left fielder Drew Ferguson through the first 3.2 innings of the game.

Then the rain came...

After a brief delay, a home run to left off the bat of third baseman David Vidal in the top of the fourth gave Caguas some much needed breathing room.

As expected, the quiet didn't last.  The league's top team during the regular season inevitably threatened in the bottom of the sixth.  Jose de la Torre surrendered back to back singles, but regrouped to strikeout Cangrejeros first baseman Neftali Soto on three pitches.  On the next play, however, an error by Caguas shortstop Jack Lopez loaded the bases.  Abiatal Avelino then bounced to third base for a force, but first baseman Ruben Gotay was unable to handle David Vidal's throw to complete a double play.  The runner from third scored making it a 3-1 game.  Criollos manager Luis Matos then took the ball from Jose de la Torre and handed off to reliever William Oliver.  Santurce catcher Christian Vasquez promptly greeted him with a double to center, scoring one.  But Caguas escaped further damage when Avelino was thrown out at the plate while also attempting to score.

Caguas reliever Miguel Mejia took over pitching duties and pitched a scoreless seventh.

Then rain delayed the game a second time.

Upon resumption of play, Caguas handed off to reliever Ricardo Gomez for the bottom of the eighth. With two outs, los Cangrejeros put runners on the corners but failed to plate the tying run.

Caguas scored a sorely needed insurance run in the top of the ninth on DH Randy Ruiz' RBI double.

Gomez walked the lead-off batter in the bottom of the ninth, but got the next two Cangrejeros batters to pop up in the infield.  Left fielder Drew Ferguson kept Santurce's at-bat alive with a single to right, but shortstop Ivan DeJesus Jr. then flied to right ending the game.

Jose de la Torre earned the victory.  Ricardo Gomez notched his fifth save of the playoffs.


Dominican Republic

The final four round-robin is done.  With Tuesday's Tigres del Licey victory over Leones del Escogido, coupled with Gigantes del Cibao loss against Aguilas Cibaenas, the Dominican League serie final is set.  Licey will play against Aquilas for the championship.  With a 27-23 regular season record, the now eliminated Gigantes finished just a game ahead of Licey, and a mere two games ahead of third place Aguilas.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Winter Leagues: Criollos fall to Cangrejeros; Series tied

Santurce  6
Caguas     3

Los Cangrejeros de Santurce Outlast Andrew Barbosa; Bullpen Fails Punchless Criollos.

Now that each team has lost at home, let the series begin...

Caguas got yet another stellar performance from their starting pitching, only this time it went for not.

Andrew Barbosa kept los Cangrejeros de Santurce scoreless through six full innings pitched, facing twenty batters, allowing a lone hit and two walks, while fanning four.

But with los Criollos clinging to a slim 2-0 lead in the top of the seventh, Caguas manager Luis Matos relieved Barbosa with Jake Newberry.  Four batters later, Newberry was out of the game, charged with four earned runs on three hits and a walk, and inevitably, the loss.

  • While still pitching at the time for Mayaguez, Andrew Barbosa allowed los Criollos one earned run on five hits and a walk, and fanned four during Game Four of the semis.  He was then smartly selected by Caguas in the roster fortification process.  Barbosa joins Orlando Roman, Jose de la Torre, and John Brownell, in los Criollos starting rotation.
  • This best of nine series is now tied at a game apiece.  After a day off on Monday, the series shifts back to Hiram Bithorn Stadium on Tuesday for Game Three.

Hiram Bithorn Stadium
San Juan, Puerto Rico

Parque Yldefonso Sola Morales
Caguas, Puerto Rico

!Mi Rieno por un Hit!

My kingdom for a hit...!

Caguas has now been limited to three or fewer runs in seven of their eight post-season games played to date.  Their lone offensive outburst came during Game Three of the semi-finals when they posted a 5-4 victory over los Indios de Mayaguez.  However, despite advancing through the semis in six games, Mayaguez outscored los Criollos by a 14-15 margin.  Over all, Caguas has been outscored by an 18-21 margin through eight playoff games, averaging just 2.25 runs per game.

And there's the rub...

Caguas is now 5-3 in these playoffs.  They are 1-3 in games during which they surrendered four runs or more, but are 4-1 when they limit their opponent to a run or less.

During Game One's victory over Santurce, los Criollos went a mere 1 for 10 with runners in scoring position, and left nine men on base.  They fared no better Sunday in Game Two, going 2 for 10 with runners in scoring position, and leaving another nine runners on base.  In six games against Mayaguez, los Criollos batted just .180 (9 for 50) with runners in scoring position, and left an average of eight men on base.  That makes them .171 (12 for 70) in the playoffs with runners in scoring position.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Winter Leagues: Caguas Prevails Over Santurce in Puerto Rico Finals Opener

Liga de Beisbol Profesional Roberto Clemente


Caguas Criollos             1
Santurce Cangrejeros   0

San Juan, Puerto Rico

Los Criollos de Caguas followed up their semi-final clinching 1-0 whitewashing of los Indios de Mayaguez with yet another 1-0 shutout performance, this time in Game One of Puerto Rico's Liga de Beisbol Profesional Roberto Clemente championship series against los Cangrejeros de Santurce.

Five Criollos pitchers combined to limit top seeded Santurce to just four hits and two walks, while fanning six.  Despite failing to qualify for a victory, Caguas starter Orlando Roman tossed 4.2 scoreless innings, allowing three hits and a walk, and fanning four.  Four Criollos relievers then allowed los Cangrejeros just one hit the rest of the way.

Caguas right fielder Jorge Padilla promptly led off the game with a double off Santurce starter Adalberto Flores, then scored on a two-out single by DH Randy Ruiz for the game's only run.

Santurce won their previous series (over los Gigantes de Carolina) in five games and were coming into Saturday's game off three full days of rest.  Or should we say rust?  Meanwhile, Los Criollos are now winners of five straight.

The series shifts from Hiram Bithorn Stadium 
to Caguas for Game Two on Sunday.

Estadio Yldefonso Sola Morales
Caguas, Puerto Rico

Santurce finished the regular season with a league best 28-12 record, two games ahead of second place Mayaguez.  Caguas on the other hand, posted a third place finish with a sub par 19-21 record, three games ahead of los Gigantes de Carolina.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Winter Leagues: L.I. Ducks Ace Pitches Gem for Caguas Criollos

 Liga de Beibol Profesional Roberto Clemente 

Pitching for los Criollos de Caguas, Long Island Ducks ace starter John Brownell earned a victory with seven scoreless innings in Game Six of their semi-final series against los Indios de Mayaguez.

The lone run of the game came in the bottom of the fourth when Caguas first baseman Ruben Gotay was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded, scoring center fielder Rico Noel from third, who likewise led-off by getting hit with a pitch.

Brownell allowed just three hits and a walk, fanned five, and retired his first eleven batters faced.   This was his second victory of the post-season.  He previously earned a victory in Game Three, allowing two earned runs over 5.2 innings during Caguas' 5-4 victory over Mayaguez.

After falling behind 0-2 in their best of seven series to Mayaguez, Caguas regrouped to win four straight.

Los Criollos will now take on los Cangrejeros de Santurce in Puerto Rico's Roberto Clemente Professional Baseball League finals beginning Saturday evening at San Juan's Hiram Bithorn Stadium.

In the league's other semi-final series, Santurce easily advanced passed los Gigantes de Carolina by a four games to one margin.

Caguas finished nine games behind the first place Cangrejeros in the regular season standings.

The finals are a best five of nine series.  Game One takes place in Hiram Bithorn Stadium, San Juan.   Game Two is scheduled to be played in Caguas.

Estadio Yldefonso Sola Morales
home of
Los Criollos de Caguas

PIGSKIN 2016: Divisional Round Playoffs


Divisional Round

Featuring the revenge of Tom Brady 
and the continuing demise of Jerry Jones

Saturday Home Favorites

FALCONS -5 (Seahawks)
I would love nothing more than to watch Matt Ryan and Julio Jones lay siege upon Richard Sherman and the Legion of Boom.  It is high time Matt Ryan stepped out of the shadows and into the NFL limelight ... or not.  He's an MVP candidate, but that means nothing unless he finally makes his mark in the playoffs.  The Falcons playing at home will help as there will be no 12th man backing the Seahawks.  The Falcons averaged over 30 points a game this season.  I'm not sure they'll score that many against the Seahawks defense, but I do feel Atlanta will outscore Seattle.  Atlanta's generous defense will need to make stops, though, in order for the Falcons to emerge victorious.  The Seahawks do not run the ball as well as they used to, which could lend itself to a few more offensive possessions and much needed clock consumption for Atlanta.  The question here is whether Seattle can hold Atlanta under 20 points ... and to that I say probably not.
WIN  36-20 Falcons

PATRIOTS -15 1/2 (Texans)
Will the Patriots cover all that cheese?  Houston has a good defense.  They can sack (the statue) Tom Brady early on (like the Giants did to Aaron Rogers).  But how long would Bill Belichick allow that to happen before he adjusts?  Moreover, how often can the Texans force New England into settling for field goals?  And there's the rub.  Tom Brady's and Bill Belichick's propensity to run up the score is now legendary.  It's Super Bowl or bust for them both.  But this is when the NFL will truly start to feel the wrath of Tom Brady in particular over DeflateGate.  On the other side of the ball, the Texans are not an offensive juggernaut to begin with.  Whichever QB they have under center will prove inconsequential playing against the NFL's stingiest defense.  Any given Sunday does not apply here as this is a Saturday night game, making this outcome as sure as taxes and death.  It'll be a wicked good time in Foxboro.
WIN  34-16 Patriots

Sunday Road Underdogs

Packers +5 1/2 (COWBOYS)
Unlike the New York Giants, Dallas can protect their QB, and rush the ball behind the best offensive line in football.  And unlike against the Giants, Green Bay's defense will need to play a more honest game, having to respect the run and the Cowboys ability to throw into their secondary.  For as long as Dak Prescott and the Boys pass the ball on their terms, they should be okay ... right?  After DRC left last week's game with an injury, you saw how Aaron Rogers picked apart a good Giants defense.   The Giants did a great job of containing him in the pocket all game, but after recording a few early sacks they never touched Rogers again.  Under little duress, Rogers threw five touchdown passes (while the Packers maintained run/pass balance throughout).  Outside of two or three designed QB roll-outs, Rogers never felt the need to scramble.  If he decides to take-off this week, Dallas is in trouble, because even minus Dominique Rogers Cromartie, I still think the Giants defense is better than the Dallas Cowboys defense.  In this situation, I like the hot team playing on a roll over the team returning from a week off.  On a side note, I wouldn't mind seeing Dak Prescott struggle, and having Tony Romo inserted into the game ... if only to take down Jerry Jones for old times sake.
WIN  34-31 Packers

Steelers +1 (CHIEFS)
This is the toughest of all four games to pick.  The spread accurately reflects a game between two evenly matched cold weather teams playing in poor conditions.  But are the Chiefs laying a point because they're the home team, or because of Big Ben's questionable foot injury?  After all, Roethlisberger's ability to buy time and throw on the run are part of which make him him great.  He's big and bouncy and creates magic outside the pocket.  He's big and bouncy within the pocket too, and throws to a guy named Antonio Brown.  But if Big Ben's foot isn't up to the task, then perhaps the feet of Le'veon Bell will be.  The worse the conditions are, the more Bell will be asked to do.  When the Chiefs have the ball, Alex Smith rarely makes mistakes.  I respect that.  I think he's underrated.   Overall, the Chiefs aren't flashy, but they're effective and consistent.  With regards to Sunday's potential playing conditions, that means business as usual for the Chiefs.  Edge Kansas City because the Steelers rely somewhat more on creativity.  If the Chiefs create and convert turnovers, they'll win. But if the Steelers keep it clean, they win.  That's what this spread is all about.  P.S. - See Green Bay.   I like the team playing on a roll over the team returning from a week off.
WIN  18-16 Steelers

Thursday, January 12, 2017

N.Y. Mets: MetsMusings Podcast

From the desk of:  HEAD-BUTTING MR. MET

Talkin' Mets Baseball
with Gary Mack on 
(episode #270)

The lukewarm Hot Stove
Mets outfield situation
A poor free agent pool?
The bullpen and re-signing Jerry Blevins
Travis d'Arnaud/Kevin Plawecki/Rene Rivera
First Base
TJ Rivera and Brandon Nimmo
Starting Pitching and The Dark Knight
The N.L. East

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

N.Y. Giants: There is no MiamiGate

From the desk of: DO IT FOR THE DUKE

What is this issue you speak of...?

New York Football Giants: Beckham's Big Blue Brush Off

Odell Beckham Jr. said there is no link between MiamiGate and Sunday's loss to the Packers.

I guess that's it then ... because OBJ said so.

In other words, stay tuned for his next feat of unchecked narcissism, at a time and place of his choosing.

If I didn't fear cultural imprisonment for being a millennial age dissident, I'd swear he was censuring me.

And there's the rub...

This generation wants to be liked, followed, and befriended on social media.  They are intoxicated with the ability to live out and self-promote fantastic, self-idealized lives (whether real, imagined, or otherwise).

World wide social media is completely unique to this generation.  Instant self-exposure, notoriety, and even fame, are now measured by one's digital heat index, or, one's social media activity.  They have somehow weaved real life into a wi-fi fantasy, and vice-versa.  This has even supplanted reality for some.

Make no mistake - modesty has left the building.

Self-aggrandizement is now anthem of the day.

And now for the inescapable culture clash...

Growing up, my generation knew athletes weren't saints, and the older we got the less we wanted to learn about their private lives.  In the 1980s, we still maintained a mind your own business attitude.   Nowadays, every one's business is just a click, or an app away.

That being said, my generation gave birth to these people, who's every day has become its own mini reality adventure for all the world to see and like.  My generation thought they were going to outsmart their kids by spending more time being their friends than being actual parents and risk being the bad guys.

Sarcasm, however, is a trait my generation excels at.  My generation wrote the book on passive aggressive.  We Generation X'ers were angrier than the Baby Boomers.  Where the Boomers said never trust anyone over 30, my generation was telling everyone (including the Boomers) to f*** off.

  • A phrase I learned in the 1980s: teenagers are people who will one day grow up to be as stupid as they thought their parents once were.

In a few words, Gen X was defiant, antagonistic, and supremely skeptical.  Said another way, we maintained social circles, social loops, and even social clubs.  But if you weren't mingling, you didn't matter.  Even then, we trusted no one.

Right to privacy still means something to Generation X'ers.  That's why the willingness of millennials to live their lives on public social media assaults our senses.

Odell is right.  Technically, without accountability, there's no link.

I'm just gonna have to suck it up.

Shame on me for not being a professional athlete.

*          *          *

Jerry Reese said the Giants will help Odell Beckham Jr. with the process of growing up.

*         *          *

Sometimes discretion is the better part of valor.  Victor Cruz had it within his power to avoid any and all controversies.  I place full responsibility of MiamiGate on him for failing to implement leadership.

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

N.Y. Giants: Back to the Frozen Tundra

From the desk of:  DO IT FOR THE DUKE


New York Football Giants: Best way to defeat Aaron Rogers is by keeping him on the sidelines..

Let the record show, that in his first campaign as head coach Ben McAdoo ended Big Blue's four year playoff drought, guiding them to a well earned Wild Card berth - considering, that is, the team punctuated their 11-5 record with two victories over this season's NFC East champion (and #1 seed) Dallas Cowboys.

That being said, let the second season begin!

The Giants will again trek to Green Bay's famed Lambeau Field where they'll resume their ongoing subarctic conflict against the Packers.  This time led not by Tom Coughlin, but by Ben McAdoo who returns to the place where he helped create the beast Big Blue must slay named Aaron Rogers.


The Giants obviously emerged victorious in a pair of epic confrontations played at Lambeau during their 2007 and 2011 Super Bowl runs ... games Packer fans would much rather forget.  Which is why Sunday every cheese head in Wisconsin will have nothing but revenge on their minds.

*          *          *

But if the Giants are to be successful in Green Bay, and hopefully beyond, they'll need to gain a measure of ground control and clock management.  They'll need to run the ball whether they like it or not.  They must do so in order to keep the Packers defense honest, which is another way of saying keeping Eli Manning alive and maximizing play-action.  Running the ball will help keep Aaron Rogers on the sidelines, and perhaps lessen the burden being placed on the Giants defense (minus JPP) when Rogers is on the field.

  • Question:  What is the single most factor differentiating these Giants from the Super Bowl champions of XXI, XXV, XLII, XLVI?
  • Answer:  Previous opponents were forced to respect a formidable Giants running game.  Joe Morris and O.J. Anderson ran behind superb offensive lines led by all-pro center Bart Oates, while Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw rushed behind another superb offensive line anchored by yet another all-pro center, Shaun O'Hara.

Promising center (I'm being kind) Weston Richburg is good, and will get better.  In fact, the Giants do their best running up the middle.  However, he does not have the quality of personnel lined up to his left and right that Oates and O'Hara enjoyed.  The performance of left tackle Ereck Flowers has been the most distressing of the lot.  Otherwise, left guard Justin Pugh represents the best of the rest.

Having Shane Vereen on injured reserve combined with Rashad Jennings' unspectacular style and underwhelming performance only exacerbates the situation.

So what's a coach to do?

Everyone says the Giants should go right after Green Bay's weak secondary.

I could not agree more.

But I say do that by attacking Green Bay's more competent front seven.  Sit a third receiver from time to time, and at least attempt to smash mouth a way through to daylight.  Let Nikita Whitlock play like a true fullback.  Give Green Bay some double tight end sets.  Said another way, do what it takes to gain 3.5 yards per carry.  Give Weston Richburg, Justin Pugh, and John Jerry, the help they need to make this happen.

But a coach must first try, and commit.

Sell out.

Because at this point rookie Paul Perkins is the most powerful and elusive runner the Giants have.   Take that with a grain of salt, especially coming off a 102 yard performance during the season finale against a disinterested Washington Redskins defense.  That game nevertheless marked the first time this season a Giants running back rushed for 100 yards in a game.

To his credit, Perkins has been consistent.  He rushed 112 times this season, averaging 4.1 yards per carry.  He closed out the regular season on an uptick, rushing 47 times for 226 yards over the Giants final three games for an average of 4.80 yards per carry.

Run ... so Eli Manning can throw the ball to Miami Vice on his terms, not Green Bay's.