Monday, February 27, 2017

N.Y. Knicks: Where's That Confounded Plan?

From the desk of:  DUTCH PANTS CAN'T JUMP

NEW YORK KNICKS: Carmelo Anthony said he has no clue what the plan is.

Yeah well, welcome to the club.  We've been trying to figure that out for eighteen years.

Missed it by that much ...

I'm a Knickerbocker fan since 1974-1975, which makes me too young to have remembered their last championship.  But that also qualifies me as one of the oldest fans to never to have seen them hoist a trophy.

They've provided several memorable and lasting moments along the way, though.

I'm thankful that at least I got to see a few remaining 1973 champs play together (Bill Bradley, Earl the Pearl Monroe, Phil Jackson, Walt Frazier) along with coach Red Holzman.  Bob McAdoo also fast became a fan favorite.  Meanwhile, a string of incoming rookies (Lonnie Shelton, Michael Ray Richardson, Ray Williams, and Bill Cartwright) all had me feeling positive heading into a new decade in which I would be living out my teens.

The early 1980s gave us Bernard King and an uplifting 1984 playoff run.  During the latter part of the decade, drafting Patrick Ewing and Mark Jackson, acquiring Charles Oakley, and signing head coach Rick Pitino, were key in forming a solid foundation from which the Knicks would continue a prolonged run of success.

Bittersweet as one might find the 1990s, the 'Bockers were nevertheless a perennial playoff contender.  Year in, and year out, we enjoyed fun times (to a point) usually lasting into deep Spring.

But make no mistake, my first 25 years being a Knicks fan were quite obviously filled with hardship as well.

For instance, how the hell could they trade Clyde Frazier?

Michael Ray Richardson was a huge favorite of mine when he burst on the scene, but just as quickly became one of the initial major disappointments of my early sports fandom.

Bernard King blowing out his knee was devastating, and set the organization back several years.  A few short years later chants of "Fire Bianci! Fire Bianci!" (former general manager Al Bianci) would thunder throughout the Garden.

We were later forced to reconcile trading away Mark Jackson, in addition to such colossal failures as the finger roll against the Indiana Pacers, Charles Smith against the Chicago Bulls, and BenchGate versus the Miami Heat, just to name a few.  Quite obviously, though, there were no more depressing times than during their pair of NBA Final losses.

But, who am I telling ... another Knicks fan?

My point is, till that stage of my life it can be said the Knicks had undergone the typical ups and downs of an average NBA franchise.  They've been both outstanding at times and underwhelming during others.  That's neither a rebuke or an endorsement.

By the of 1998-1999 season, the Knicks were obviously a transitioning team, but still in an agreeable condition.

However, the same can not be said of the new millennium Knicks.

Late 1999 is also when Jim Dolan arrived on the scene, ushering in a wholly different approach to Knicks operations.

Like Dave Checketts, Ernie Grunfeld, and Pat Riley before him, Jeff Van Gundy was a member of the old guard.  He saw exactly where this organization was headed under Dolan and his new general manager Scott Layden.  Between the embarrassing trade of Patrick Ewing and the ludicrous contract extended to Allan Houston, etc., Gundy knew Layden had committed the club to inescapable salary cap hell.  Meanwhile, piss-poor drafting was only making matters worse.  And so I never begrudged JVG for abruptly submitting his resignation in Dec. 2001.

Scott Layden on the other hand was only getting started.  More bad drafting and unpopular trades lay ahead.  He ponderously shipped Marcus Camby to Denver for an irreparably broken(!) Antonio McDyess, and in one of his final acts in office, traded Latrell Sprewell whom still had two years remaining on his contract.

But just when you thought things couldn't get any worse, they did.  Layden was finally relieved of his general manager duties in Dec. 2003, thus inaugurating the Isiah Thomas Era.

All I can say is ... Wow!

There's really no need getting into that beyond labeling the era spanning Dec. 2003 through April 2008 an unmitigated disaster.

That being said, Dolan's unyielding support of Thomas might never be fully understood.  Not only did he let Thomas create at the time the worst performing, highest paid team in the NBA, but also supported him unfailingly during a rather infamous lawsuit brought against Dolan and MSG resulting in a $13 million payout settlement.

Then again, money was obviously never an issue ... was it?

There was plenty of cash to make several head coaches very rich.  But even Hall of Fame coaches Lenny Wilkens and Larry Brown proved helpless against the institutionalized dysfunction plaguing the Knicks organization.

It ultimately took the strong insistence of Commissioner Stern in order for Dolan to finally part ways with Isiah Thomas.

Next up, Donnie Walsh and Mike D'Antoni.  And at long last, I was thinking progress.  A genuine rebuilding would actually take place.

Or would it?

Walsh indeed accomplished a near miracle by ridding the team of bad contracts and getting the Knicks under the salary cap with astonishing haste.  Meanwhile on the court, lets just say coach Mike D'Antoni was busy deregulating Isiah Thomas' delusional leftover point guard, Stephon Marbury.

Again I thought, Donnie Walsh and D'Antoni were administering exactly the kind of grassroots deconstruction and eventual reconstruction process this team has long needed.

Great!  Except for one small problem.  Donnie Walsh becoming general manager of the Knicks was likewise due primarily to Commissioner Stern's strong-arming.  In plain English, Walsh was not a Dolan guy which meant his days at MSG were numbered.

Either dismayed with the process, or simply impatient, Dolan reemerged three years after Commissioner Stern's admonishing more petulant than ever.

It's now February 2011 ... and both the Knicks and Brooklyn Nets are in hot pursuit of Carmelo Anthony - with the key word here being Brooklyn.  Because for the first time in Knicks history, (they) Jim Dolan was dealing with direct and legitimate competition from within the city limits in the form of Russian tycoon Mikhail Prokhorov.

Dolan ultimately won the Melo sweepstakes, but not before trampling all over Donnie Walsh and his process, much less his opinion or position.  Dolan took the lead at the ensuing press conference as well.  Meanwhile, the looks on the faces of Donnie Walsh and Mike D'Antoni whom were seated nearby said it all.

Donnie Walsh handed in his resignation four short months later.  D'Antoni, meanwhile, knew the Knicks were acquiring a player who would not buy into his system.  Sure enough, one year with Melo proved one too many, prompting D'Antoni to likewise hand in his resignation in March 2012.

This blog has made no secret of its dislike of Carmelo Anthony (the player).  I've made my position known since day one, and am yet to waiver from that opinion.

I digress ...

After three seasons spent in Glen Grunwald/Steve Mills purgatory, we finally arrive at Phil Jackson.

I had no qualms with this front office selection.  In fact, it seemed like a neat fit at the time.  Phil Jackson had won a ring with the Knicks as a player back in 1972-1973, and was a championship coach with the Chicago Bulls and L.A. Lakers.  The legitimate criticism against hiring Phil Jackson was his lack of executive experience.  But that made him no less intriguing.

So much for being curious ...

Here we are two inconsequential years later, and the Knicks are nearly ten games below .500 with just over 20 games left in the season.  After remaining idle through the NBA trade deadline, everyone wants to know where the future direction of the club is heading.  The problem is other than belittling Carmelo Anthony on Twitter, no one really knows what Phil Jackson is doing or thinking.

His greatest and only accomplishment to date is having Kristaps Pozingis fall into his lap.

His mistakes, meanwhile, are becoming numerous.  His biggest to date is perhaps extending Carmelo Anthony's contract and giving him a no-trade clause to boot.  Phil knew full well he faced the same dilemma Mike D'Antoni faced, insofar as Melo not buying into the triangle system.

Now what?

No one really knows.  We fans have been trying to figure this out for 18 years now.  But apparently Melo is just now receiving the memo.

This much I do know: Carmelo Anthony represents Jim Dolan's stamp on the team.

Having now watched the mismanagement of this product for the last 18 years, there's only one conclusion to which I can arrive: for the entirety of this new millennium, the one constant variable plaguing Knicks basketball has been its overseer.

Think about it.

Since taking over, does the organization have even one quantifiable defining moment to speak of?

Do they?

Not under Dolan ... not unless you include countless feats of astonishing executive buffoonery.

I mean, really ... every time you think this team has reached the pinnacle of dysfunction, they go ahead and raise the bar another level.

It is therefore rather sad pondering how the Knicks are an NBA charter member club and represent the league's and nation's largest market, but yet have continually existed in this dysfunctional state throughout Dolan's regime.

Dolan recently stated on local NYC radio that he will, and must honor the full length of Phil Jackson's contract.  Doing so he said will help lure any future potential executives to New York with an expectation of receiving a fair shot at implementing their respective plan.

That circles us back to the beginning of this quandary.

What plan?

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

N.Y. Mets: Spring Training Podcast

Here's our latest podcast at 

David Wright ... Terry Collins
5th Starter Spot ... Las Vegas 51s
Neil Walker ... Curtis Granderson
Problems Behind the Plate,
and other stuff.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Admiral's Row: And then there was one

And then there was one...

Admiral's Row

Construction dating 1838 through 1881

Historical graphics provided by 
Scott Witter

Monday, February 13, 2017

N.Y. Rangers: Henrik Lundqvist Wins #400


Feb. 11, 2017
Rangers 4; Avalanche 2

2005 - present

400 - 242 - 73
.920 Sv%
2.30 GAA

  • Henrik Lundqvist became only the twelfth goalie in NHL history to achieve 400 regular season victories.  He is the first non-Canadian goalie to achieve 400 victories, and is also the fastest to achieve 400 victories (727 games).
  • He joined Martin Brodeur and Tony Esposito as the only NHL goalies to ever register 400 wins with one team.
  • Henrik Lundqvist has so far won thirty or more games in ten seasons, has gained 225 of his victories at Madison Square Garden, and has won 55 playoff games.
  • Mike Richter is second on the New York Rangers all-time list with 301 wins.

N.Y. Mets: The Future Starting Rotation is Now

From the desk of:  HEAD-BUTTING MR. MET

The Truck o' Stuff has Arrived
Pitchers and Catchers are in the building.
The rest of the position players report Feb. 18


Thor    deGrominator    Dark Knight    Super Matz    and Zack Wheeler?

Entering Spring Training, manager Terry Collins let it be known there will be an open competition for the fifth rotation spot between Zack Wheeler, Seth Lugo, and Robert Gsellman.

Both Gsellman, 23, and Lugo, 27, made their major league debut last season, and in the pressures of a pennant race performed very well.

Gsellman made eight appearances and seven starts, in which he went 4-2 with a 2.42 ERA, and a 1.276 WHiP with 42 strikeouts through 44.2 innings pitched.  Lugo made 18 appearances and eight starts, in which he posted a 5-2 record with a 2.67 ERA and 1.094 WHiP through 64 innings pitched, with 45 strikeouts.

It's been a long road back for Zack Wheeler, who will turn 28-years old in May.  He is arguably the incumbent heading into Spring Training to win the fifth spot.  But he last threw a major league pitch on Sept. 25, 2014 at Washington in a losing effort against the Nationals.  He has missed all of the last two seasons, save for facing four batters last year while rehabbing with Port St. Lucie.  He'll surely be on a pitch count this season, and will likely be shifting into the bullpen at some point anyway (despite preliminary protestations).

That in turn will leave the door wide open for either Gsellman and/or Lugo to step in.  Overall, this is a good problem for Terry Collins to have.

The same can't be said of TC's number four starter.  There is no doubting Steven Matz' physical ability, but questions abound where it concerns his durability.  Matz has yet to prove he can stay healthy.  Otherwise, Steven is a dynamite kid who has proven he belongs in the bigs.  The upcoming 2017 season will serve as a test, then, to see whether he can withstand the rigors of a long major league season.  Until then, Matz likewise provides Gsellman and Lugo yet another reason to stay sharp and prepare for duty on a moment's notice.

Then there's Matt Harvey ... the Darkened Knight.  His 2016 season literally fizzled out like a bottle rocket on the 4th of July.  And of course, he missed all of 2014 recovering from Tommy John surgery. It is reasonable to believe this man will be fueled by frustration.  Whatever his motivation, this much is certain: Matt Harvey still has much to prove, and his super agent Scott Boras knows it.  He is indeed a supreme talent, but the Dark Knight is now the measure of himself.  That being said, I hope Terry Collins learned his lesson as far as sticking to his guns when it comes to dealing with Harvey.

Jacob deGrom, who turns 29-years old in June, pitched 43 less innings in 2016 than during the 2015 season.  His ERA, WHiP, and rate of strikeouts were all down, while his rate of hits allowed and walks were up from the previous season.  Sure enough, deGrom succumbed to forearm and elbow discomfort in September and would undergo surgery to re-position the ulnar nerve.  Earlier this month, he said his elbow was pain free.

Noah Syndergaard's off-season weight-gain regimen seems all the rage.  The Mets Nordic ace gained roughly fifteen pounds in an effort to get stronger and increase his late season durability.  Thor claims he accomplished this while applying equal attention to a pitcher's need for flexibility.  Already in possession of a 100 mph fastball, he stated his desire to throw even harder.

From Marc Simon, ESPN

  • The Mets have never had five pitchers make thirty starts in the same season.  They've had four pitchers make thirty starts on six occasions: 1976, 1986, 1989, 1990, 2000, 2003.

The Brooklyn Bushwicks and Dexter Park


...and the baseball club from Brooklyn wins the Caribbean championship!

Perhaps not this year, but it happened, folks.  And not just once, but multiple times.

Brief History: Serie del Caribe

The inspiration for first creating a tournament whereby the best Caribbean winter league baseball clubs would vie for a championship is credited to Venezuelan businessman Jesus Corao.

In 1946, in Caracas, the first Inter-American Series was held between teams representing Mexico, Cuba, Venezuela, and representing the United States ... the Brooklyn Bushwicks.  Five Caribbean series were held in Caracas between 1946 and 1950, with Brooklyn winning the first four and Venezuela winning the last.

The success of the series did not go unnoticed.  In 1946 two Venezuelan entrepreneurs pitched the idea of a Caribbean series to what became the original members of the Confederation of Caribbean Baseball (Cuba, Puerto Rico, Panama, and Venezuela).  In August 1949, in Havana, they signed an agreement creating a tournament whereby each nation's respective champion would vie for the Serie del Caribe title.

The rest, as they say, is Caribbean beisbol history ...

  • Cuba won the inaugural Serie del Caribe of 1949-50, then captured a second in 1952.  Between 1956 through 1960, Cuba reeled off another five straight Caribbean titles.  However, as part of his revolution Fidel Castro disbanded the county's professional baseball circuits.  
  • At the same time, Panama's professional league ceased operations as well.  As a result, the Serie del Caribe was suspended between the years 1961 through 1969.
  • The four team Caribbean tournament resumed when the Dominican Republic joined the confederation in 1970 (with returning Venezuela and Puerto Rico), and when Mexico joined in 1971. 
  • The 2016-17 winter season marked Cuba's fourth straight reappearance in the Serie del Caribe. In 2014, Cuba participated in their first Serie del Caribe since 1960, and one short year later captured their first title in 55 years, and the country's eighth overall.  For now, they continue participating on an invitation basis extended by the four member confederation.
  • Most recently, the Criollos de Caguas baseball club representing Puerto Rico defeated Mexico's Aguilas de Mexicali, capturing the Serie del Caribe 2017 title, and thus becoming the 59th champion in the tournament's history.

The Brooklyn Bushwicks

They were an independent semi-pro club and easily one of the game's more unheralded New York City enterprises to ever take the baseball field.

The Bushwicks were owned by a gentleman named Max Rosner, whom immigrated to the United States in 1892 from Hungary.  A businessman in the cigar trade, he was soon sponsoring and even playing shortstop for a local team named the Paramounts in the neighborhood of Williamsburg.

A few years after the Paramounts disbanded, in 1913 Rosner purchased the nearby Ridgewood Nine semi-pro club, and in 1914 renamed them the Bushwicks.  The former Ridgewoods had previously played their home games since 1902 at Wallace's Grounds located at Halsey and Irvin streets in Bushwick.  Rosner's team remained there until a fire in 1917 destroyed the grandstands.

In 1918, the Brooklyn Bushwicks moved into Dexter Park where they played out the remainder of their existence.  At its height, the park grew to hold upwards of 15,000 fans for their traditional Sunday double-headers.

And for good reason - the team was good.

Former President of the Baseball Writers Association of America, Jack Lang said, "In any given game, the Bushwicks had up to five men in the line-up who had some major league experience."

Whether playing for the Bushwicks or in exhibitions against them, Whitey Ford, Dazzy Vance, Joe DiMaggio, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Dizzy Dean, Carl Hubbell, Casey Stengel, Jackie Robinson, Phil Rizzuto, Joe Medwick, and Hank Greenberg, were just a few (future or former) major league notables whom participated in games at Dexter Park.

The Brooklyn Bushwicks always maintained multicultural diverse rosters, and likewise hosted the finest Negro Leagues competition of the day, featuring their fellow Dexter Park tenant Brooklyn Royal Giants, the Adrian Page Fence Giants, Cleveland Buckeyes, Cuban Giants, Philadelphia Giants, Roy Campanella and the Baltimore Elite Giants, Josh Gibson and the Homestead Grays, and other stars Cool Papa Bell, Satchel Paige, et al.

Jackie Robinson's breaking of baseball's color barrier and the resulting demise of the various Negro Leagues are believed to have made it increasingly harder for Max Rosner to field quality talent and lure representative competition.  The advent of television further affected Rosner's ability to draw fans to the park.

Shortly after their participation in the Inter-America Caribbean series, the team ceased operations upon completion of their 1951 season.

Dexter Park, 1930s

The area of Dexter Park had previously existed as a racetrack, then a recreational park.  The ballpark itself which dated back to the 19th century, was located just off Jamaica Avenue on the Woodhaven side of the Brooklyn/Queens border.

Dexter Park was also the nation's first ball field to be fitted with lights, hosting the first night game in 1930, a full six seasons before the Brooklyn Dodgers played the major's first night game at Ebbets Field.

One particular optician's advertisement on the outfield wall read, "Don't kill the Umpire - Maybe it's your eyes?"  An incline also existed in right field due to a horse having been buried there.

Only in Brooklyn...

Yahoo images
Green Cathedrals

Thursday, February 09, 2017

Criollos de Caguas Capture Series del Caribe 2017 Title for Puerto Rico

From the desk of: Winter League/Serie del Caribe


Puerto Rico   1
Mexico          0

Los Criollos de Caguas Bring Caribbean Championship Back to Puerto Rico.

La Yeguita ha llegado ...

!Los Criollos de Caguas son campeones del Caribe!

Seventeen years in the making ... the Borinquen delegation from Caguas defeated Mexico's Aguilas de Mexciali to capture the winter league's Serie del Caribe 2017 title.

They say one of the hardest things to do in Caribbean beisbol is beating Mexico, in Mexico.  Yet, Caguas did just that, overcoming the heavily favored Mexicali Eagles in extra innings Tuesday evening in the city of Culiacan.

After opening the Caribbean tournament with three consecutive loses against Mexico, Venezuela, and Cuba, los Criollos parlayed their lone first round victory over Relublico Dominicana into a semi-final appearance versus Venezuela.

Once there, Caguas avenged their opening round loss against Aguilas de Zulia with a 9-6 victory in Monday's penultimate game, and thereby earned themselves a tournament rematch against Mexico in the Serie final.

Los Criollos de Caguas prevailed 1-0 in ten innings over los Aguilas de Mexicali in the series finale before a dismayed crowd at Tomateros Stadium to capture this year's Caribbean crown for Puerto Rico.

This marks Puerto Rico's 15th Serie del Caribe title, and their first since 2000 when los Cangrejeros de Santurce last accomplished the feat.

Meanwhile, this is los Criollos de Caguas fourth Serie del Caribe title in their history, but only their first since 1987.

The thirty years wait finally ended Tuesday evening when Caguas shortstop Yadiel Rivera led off the top of the tenth inning against Mexicali with a double to right, advanced to third on a sacrifice by second basemen Jesmuel Valentin, then scored the lone run of the game on catcher Jonathan Morales' sac-fly to center.

In the bottom of the tenth, Criollos reliever Miguel Mejia retired los Aguilas de Mexicali in order to earn the win, and close out Puerto Rico's ultimate victory.

Starter Adalberto Flores faced 18 batters through six innings pitched, allowing just one hit and a walk.

Analyze all you want, they are special and believed - GM Alex Cora

Believe in themselves they did ... when it seemed as if no one else did.

Having ended their regular season with a slightly sub par .500 record, they've been labeled underdogs the day since Puerto Rico's LBPRC regular season ended and this improbable post-season journey began.  Few liked their chances against los Indios de Mayaguez in the league's semi-final, and even less liked their chances for getting by los Cangrejeros de Santurce in the LBPRC Serie Final.

Were it not for a ponderous Dominican exit from the Serie del Caribe, we may not even be having this conversation.  But Puerto Rico's road to the Caribbean title undeniably reaffirms the notion los Criollos simply continued winning when the games mattered most.

Upon conclusion of round robin play, Venezuela entered the semi-final game the top seeded team, yet fell to Caguas.  And while los Criollos entered the Serie final game with a 2-3 record, los Aguilas de Mexicali entered the final game with a Serie best 4-1 mark, and likewise fell to Caguas.

Parque Yldefonso Sola Morales
Home of 2017 Caribbean Champions