Sunday, April 29, 2018

Vintage Base Ball 2018: Member Clubs and Links





Other Known Active Clubs

Member Club Archive:

Friday, April 27, 2018

N.Y. Mets: The Demoted Knight Podcast

From the desk of:  HEAD-BUTTING MR. MET


Sam, Rich, and I convened for our second podcast of the regular season and our ninth since reforming the band.  We jumped right into the Matt Harvey matter with haste.  I may have ranted - that's for you to decide.  But we all seem to be in agreement: The Real Deal is screwing up.

Another METSian Podcast #9: 
Adversity Has Entered The Building

April record ~ more Matt Harvey talk ~ Mickey Callaway's managing ~ Dave Eiland ~ Joe Namath 
Brandon Nimmo ~ the bullpen ~ winners vs. losers ~ the disaster at catcher ~ N.L. East competition
Joe Torre ~ trolleys ~ Dom Smith/Peter Alonso ~ Joey Votto ~ Brooklyn's elevated trains 
Bob Ojeda ~ stoppers ~ Washington Park ~ 1909 Brooklyn Superbas ~ Todd Zeile ~ Shea Stadium
The Dark Years vs. Madoff Years ~ Mets players who've worn #9 ~ The Beatles ~ comebacks

Time: 90 minutes

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Long Island Ducks 2018 Season Preview

From the desk of:  THE WEBBED SPIKES NINE

Atlantic League Champions
2004     2012     2013

Long Island Ducks Set Sights on Elusive Fourth Atlantic League Title.

Bittersweet is the only way to describe Long Island's last two seasons.  The defending back-to-back Liberty Division champs were swept in the 2016 Atlantic League finals by the Sugar Land Skeeters, then suffered the same fate against the York Revolution last season.

Motivation will surely be in abundant supply this season as the Ducks attempt to break on through and capture their first title in five years.

There's certainly no shortage of confidence on behalf of the organization as Friday's season opener draws near. Newsday's Jordan Lauterbach quotes Ducks president and general manager Michael Pfaff saying, "I think this team is as strong a team as we've had on Opening Day at any point in our history.  I think we're better than we were last year."

That being said, let the games begin!

  • John Brownell; Jake Fisher; Dennis O'Grady; Jake Dunning; Tyler Levine; Rob Rogers; Matt Marsh; Matt Larkins.

Add pitching coach to John Brownell's resume.  The Ducks soon to be 35-year old ace since 2013 enters his seventh year with the Ducks.  This will be his first season serving in a player/coach capacity.  Brownell has averaged 26 starts and eleven wins for Long Island over the last five seasons.  John finished last season with the league's third best ERA.

Matt Larkins returns for a second full season with the Flock.  He made 26 starts last season, posting a 9-7 record and 3.69 ERA over 156 innings, with an 8.0 K/9 and 2.4 W/9 averages.  He finished second in the Atlantic League last season in strikeouts, and fourth in ERA.

Southpaw Jake Fisher, 27, appeared in two games last season for the Ducks.  A product of the L.A. Dodgers organization, he owns a 4.04 ERA with 418 strikeouts in 485.1 innings during a four year independent league career.

  • Max Almonte; Jason Creasy; Carlos Pimentel; Vinnie Pestano; Andrew Barbosa; Ashur Tolliver; Bennett Parry; Jair Jurrjens; Wander Perez.

Vinnie Pestano, 33, is a veteran relief pitcher of six major league seasons with the Indians and Angels.  He owns a 2.98 ERA in 202.2 innings pitched.  Pitching for the Bridgeport Bluefish last season he posted a 3.25 ERA over 27.2 innings pitched.  He has 143.1 innings of triple-A experience.

Jair Jurrgens, 32, comes to the Ducks with eight seasons of MLB experience, mostly with Atlanta.  An all-star in 2011, he owns a 3.72 career ERA over (MLB) 767.1 innings pitched.  He threw his last MLB pitch in 2014 while with the Colorado Rockies.  After missing all of 2016, he made ten starts last season for the Los Angeles Dodgers triple-A affiliate

Southpaw Ashur Tolliver, 30, pitched in eight MLB games.  A reliever by trade, he posted a 12-9 record and 3.49 ERA, with an 8.6 K/9 average in 329.2 minor league innings pitched.

Right-hander Max Almonte, 26, comes from the lower levels of the St. Louis Cardinals organization.  He owns a 3.09 ERA in 96 innings pitched through 61 appearances spread over three seasons.

Andrew Barbosa was in the Mets system for a time.  Usually a starter, he pitched in relief last season for Milwaukee's triple-A affiliate.  He owns a career 3.36 ERA through 589.1 (minor/winter league) innings pitched.

A potential starter for the Ducks, right-hander Jason Creasy comes over from the St. Paul Saints after spending six seasons in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization.

Right-hander Bennett Parry spent the last two seasons with Lincoln of the independent American Association for whom he made 17 starts and posted a 2.16 ERA over 96 innings pitched.

Keep an eye on southpaw reliever Wander Perez.  He also comes over from (now defunct) Bridgeport, where he posted a 1.71 ERA in 22 appearances and 21 innings pitched.  He allowed just 14 hits and fanned 25 batters, with 10.7 K/9 and 2.1 W/9 averages.

  • Audie Afenir; Cody Puckett; Lew Ford; Dan Lyons. 

Catcher Audie Afenir, 26, is a product of the New York Yankees system.  He returns for a second season on Long Island.

  • Wilkin Castillo; Wagner Gomez; Jordany Valdespin; Alec Sole; David Washington; Travis Snider; Tyler Holt; Robert Garcia; Daniel Fields.

Local fans should be somewhat familiar with former Met infielder Jordany Valdespin albeit perhaps for more reason than just one ... or two.  He behaved somewhat obnoxiously (2012-2013) when he played in Queens.  Now 30-years old and coming off a rather productive season spent playing triple-A in Mexico and winter ball, he managed 86 total games with 333 at-bats in which he slashed .318/.402/.426, and posted 43 RBI.

Lefty-swinging outfielder Travis Snider brings his eight years of MLB experience to Bethpage Ballpark.  He was the Toronto Blue Jays first round selection (14th overall) of the 2006 draft.  After spending parts of five seasons with the Jays, he changed leagues when traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates.  He split time last season playing triple-A ball for both the Texas Rangers and New York Mets respective affiliates and posted a combined .296/.375/.432 slash, with ten home runs and 52 RBI in 476 at-bats.

Catcher Wilkin Castillo has 22 games of MLB experience with the Cincinnati Reds.  Now 33-years old, he spent last season in the New York Yankees system, and has ten years of triple-A experience.

Infielder Alec Sole is a local kid from Holbrook, N.Y.  He gained 27 games of triple-A experience while spending just four years in the Tampa Bay Rays system.

David Washington is a product of the St. Louis Cardinals, but comes to the Ducks via the Baltimore Orioles system.  He has exactly two games of MLB experience.  He's otherwise a nine year minor league veteran with 207 games at triple-A.

I don't know what to make of Wagner Gomez.  He was a catcher up until 2013 when the Reds organization began converting him into a relief pitcher, to mixed results I might add.

Outfielder Tyler Holt, 28, has four years of MLB experience.  A Cleveland Indians product, he comes to the Ducks via the Los Angeles Dodgers.  In 168 games at the triple-A level, Holt slashed .298/.390/.372 but with just a pair of home runs and 44 RBI.

Yet another player acquired via the Bridgeport Bluefish dispersal draft, I'd keep my eye on outfielder Daniel Fields as well.  In just 85 games and 296 at-bats, Daniel slashed .297/.387/.486, with twelve home runs and 51 RBI.

Extra Innings

Long Island begins the season on the road.  They open against the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs, then move on to Somerset where they'll take on the rival Patriots.  Homecoming for the Ducks is scheduled for May 4 against Southern Maryland.

The Ducks will host Bud Harrelson Appreciation Night on August 3, 2018 at Bethpage Ballpark.

With the Bridgeport Bluefish closed for business, the Somerset Patriots are now the lone remaining Atlantic League charter member still in operation.  Entering their 19th year of existence, the Long Island Ducks are now the second oldest operating team in the Atlantic League.

In lieu of the Bridgeport Bluefish, this season will see the return to the field of the Road Warriors.

Wally Backman begins his first season managing the New Britain Bees.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Wrestlemania 35: Ridiculously Early Predictions

From the desk of:  VINCE SR.'s WORST NIGHTMARE

I first became passionate about wrestling as a single-digit midget back in the mid 1970s when all territories were still under the umbrella of the NWA and kayfabe ruled the day.  Our local territory was then known as the WWWF, and was owned by Vince McMahon Sr.  At the time, his son Vince Jr. was doing little more than cutting promos and ring announcing.  When Daddy Mac decided he'd had enough, he made Vince Jr. promise to not break up the territory system.  So what did Sonny Mac do?  He swallowed up the competition with haste thus ending the territory system.  Vince Jr. would argue in the same spirit that Brett Hart screwed Brett Hart, the various territory owners killed the various territories.  My son and I constantly debate the evolution of wrestling from when I was a kid through today's era of Sports Entertainment.  It is therefore my honor and privilege to introduce the newest contributor to the Brooklyn Trolley Blogger, my son, Michael III.

*            *            *

Once again, Wrestlemania season has come and gone.  Now is usually the downtime for the company as the creative team scrambles to set up new storylines and feuds to carry us through the next few months.  The Superstar Shakeup has moved several wrestlers from Raw to Smackdown and vice versa while also bringing up some top prospects from NXT. New and exciting rivalries are poised to begin and we can sort of get a feeling of who is going to be feuding with who.  What’s harder to predict is what the WWE is going to look like next year for Wrestlemania 35.

It’s almost impossible to know what will happen come Wrestlemania.  Superstars can get injured, some might leave the company by that time and some you might not expect to have any impact could be top stars by that time.  Despite all that, guessing and predicting is always fun so let's do it anyway. The match card I’ve made is a little bloated but it gives a chance for everyone to get on the show and for the show to make sense storyline wise. The 35th anniversary of Wrestlemania will be a historic show hailing from Metlife Stadium in New Jersey. A spectacle like that deserves top caliber matches that will cater to all types of wrestling fans interests.

Wrestlemania KickOff-Show: Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal, Wrestlemania Women’s Battle Royal, WWE Cruiserweight Championship: Cedric Alexander (c) Vs. Roderick Strong

The Andre the Giant Battle Royal really serves no other purpose than to get every male superstar on the show.  In the years since its inception, the winner has received no meaningful push of any kid and it is really seen as an afterthought.  Despite it being on the pre-show, I’m hoping that the company actually treats this one a little better. With the way the rest of my card looks, this Battle Royale should still have a decent amount of star power behind it.  Rusev, Matt Hardy, Bobby Roode, Jinder Mahal, Tye Dillinger, The New Day, Elias and several other solo stars and tag teams can fill out the field.  With the Raw tag team division not nearly as stacked as Smackdown’s and the card already being pretty full, I would put whoever the Raw Tag Champs are at the time in this match as well.  Bobby Roode should get the win here because hopefully by this time he will be in the middle of a solid heel run and the win can boost him even more.

The women’s battle royal pretty much serves the same purpose as the men’s: getting everyone on the card.  This will be the first of an unprecedented four women’s matches I expect to see at Wrestlemania next year.  Alexa Bliss, Nia Jax, Ember Moon, Carmella, Natalya and Naomi should add some needed star power and combined with some NXT superstars and legends the match should be an entertaining one.  Ember Moon should take the win here and use that for some momentum that could lead to a title run down the line.

The Cruiserweight title match was a tough one to call considering its hard to know what the 205 Live roster will look like next year.  Many expect Ricochet and Johnny Gargano to join the Cruiserweight division but they are more than deserving of main roster call ups and pushes.  Gargano in particular could have a Daniel Bryan like career ahead of him and Ricochet can help carry the NXT brand for the next year. The title match should come down Cedric Alexander and an NXT call up in Roderick Strong.  Strong looks set to have a heel push in NXT with the Undisputed Era but once that's finished he should come up to 205 Live and give Cedric Alexander a solid feud.

Intercontinental Championship Ladder Match: Finn Balor (c) Vs. Bobby Lashley Vs. Baron Corbin Vs. Bray Wyatt Vs. Dolph Ziggler Vs. Drew McIntyre

It’s hard to get every worthy Superstar on the card and still make meaningful one on one matches at the same time.  This is a result of a huge roster and there being a lot of solid mid card guys on Raw. As much as I would like Finn Balor challenging for world titles, it just doesn't seem to be in the cards so him going into Mania with the Intercontinental belt is the next best thing.  Ziggler and McIntyre should be in the middle of breaking up their alliance by this point so that adds a personal edge to the match. Add in Wyatt and two powerhouses like Corbin and Lashley, this match should be an entertaining start to the show. Winner: Finn Balor

Smackdown Tag Team Championship Fatal 4 Way: The Bludgeon Brothers (c) Vs. The Bar Vs. The Usos Vs. SAnitY

The Smackdown Tag Team division is one of the biggest beneficiaries of the Superstar Shakeup. The division is stacked at the moment and the next year could see many interesting feuds and storylines.  SAnitY and the Bludgeon Brothers is an interesting rivalry that could take place soon as is the rivalry between the two best teams in the WWE right now, The Usos and The Bar.  The best use of all these teams is to have them all battle it out for tag team supremacy at the big show. Winner: SAnitY

United States Championship: Shinsuke Nakamura (c) Vs. Randy Orton

There is no doubt in my mind that Nakamura will become WWE Champion soon.  However his time at the top will not last all the way to Wrestlemania. Nakamura will drop back to the upper mid card and win the United States title which is perfectly fine.  With an opponent like Randy Orton, the program between the two could be the one of the best on Smackdown. With a heel Nakamura and an unpredictable Randy Orton, the match these two could put on could easily be one of the best matches of the night. Winner: Shinsuke Nakamura

Women’s Tag Team Championship: The IIconics (c) Vs. Sasha Banks & Bayley

If the current rumors are true than WWE will be introducing a Women’s Tag Team Championship soon.  This opens up many new options for the women that aren’t currently engaged in the main title feuds.  The IIconics recently came up from NXT and are the perfect pick to win the inaugural title. The championship could also have the added intrigue of being defended on both brands which allows the IIconics to battle as many opponents as possible during the months leading up to Wrestlemania.

Sasha Banks and Bayley are expected to continue their growing rivalry in the coming months. Eventually WWE will pull the trigger on a Sasha Banks heel turn and allow her and Bayley to deliver 5 star matches like they did in NXT.  Their rivalry will go on over the course of the next months with the two going their separate ways after. I can see Sasha winning the Raw Women’s title but eventually lose it to Ronda Rousey at the Royal Rumble which will set the stage for Rousey’s own Wrestlemania match.

Leading up to Wrestlemania, Bayley will become a victim of the IIconics with no partner willing to lend a hand to help.  This will lead to the reunion of Sasha and Bayley, a unit worthy of dethroning the IIconics. The possibility of Sasha of turning on her former friend at any given moment will add intrigue to the match and make their victory and title reign all the more interesting.  The match will also allow all four women to have a meaningful role without having to battle Ronda Rousey or compete for the Women’s championships. Winner: Sasha Banks & Bayley

Kevin Owens Vs. Sami Zayn

In this life three things are certain: Death, Taxes and Sami Zayn Vs. Kevin Owens.  It’s a scientific fact that these two are destined to fight forever. They may be aligned now but that alliance will disappear by the end of the year.  A move to Raw will allow the two of them to give the Tag division a boost but sooner or later the two must go back to singles stars. One will turn on each other leading to a series of show stealing matches leading to one final battle at Wrestlemania.  If the two are given enough time and maybe even an Extreme Rules stipulation the two can undoubtedly tear the house down.

Triple H Vs. Braun Strowman

Triple H needs a Wrestlemania match.  Like the Undertaker, Triple H usually only pops up for a handful of appearances a year and Wrestlemania is always a guarantee for the Game. This particular match was teased last year but nothing ever came from it. Strowman will be in the main event for the rest of the year but eventually he will transition from the title picture to a feud with the Game.

The setup could call back to their interaction at Survivor Series.  Strowman cannot be controlled by the Authority so Triple H has no choice but to take matters into his own hands. Expect this match to be filled with announce table destruction and chair shots. If WWE really wanted to surprise us they would have Strowman squash Triple H in a matter of minutes but we all know that won’t happen. Either way, Strowman should get the win to continue his momentum and Triple H doesn’t need big wins anymore at this stage in his career. Winner: Braun Strowman

Daniel Bryan Vs. Johnny Gargano

This match is just one on a long list of dream matches for Daniel Bryan now that he is medically cleared to compete.  Daniel Bryan will spend the rest of the year battling the Miz, AJ Styles, Samoa Joe and Shinsuke Nakamura with hopefully some well deserved title wins thrown in.  If he is not in the title picture by Wrestlemania, he needs a worthy opponent that can keep up with him in the ring. WWE doesn’t have to look far because they have the second coming of Daniel Bryan down in NXT in the form of Johnny Gargano.

Much like Bryan, Gargano is a natural babyface that gets over effortlessly with the WWE Universe. Eventually Gargano will have to leave NXT for the greener pastures of the main roster and Smackdown is the perfect place for him.  Gargano can become one of the Blue Brand’s top faces but first he must face the man shares so many similarities with him.

This battle of wrestling purists doesn’t have to really have that deep of a story behind it.  It can be just two guys at the top of their game seeing who's really better. They can both stay faces, even occasionally teaming with each other in the weeks leading up to Mania, even trying to one up each other.  If the WWE gives these guys enough time on the grandest stage, they will steal the show with no problem. Winner: Doesn’t matter.  Great match either way.

The Miz Vs. Shane McMahon

Since his return, Shane O’ Mac has been given a featured match at each Wrestlemania.  AJ Styles, The Undertake and most recently, Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens have battled him. Despite not being a real performer, Shane always delivers the goods and his matches are always entertaining.  Next year there may not be a better heel for him to face than the Miz.

Miz has been on top of his game for some time now.  His mic skills are arguably the best in the business right now and he has improved greatly in the ring.  He gets cheered more than booed nowadays but the WWE must resist the urge to turn him face. Miz is at his best as a dastardly and cocky heel and it is this persona that will bring out the best of Shane McMahon.

The Miz will probably spend a good amount of the year battling it out with Daniel Bryan, maybe even getting a crack at the WWE title somewhere down the line.  Unfortunately for Miz, the Wrestlemania WWE title picture is reserved for others besides him so Miz will take his frustration out on the commissioner. At Daniel Bryan’s request, Shane McMahon brough Miz over to Smackdown so Miz will undoubtedly have some issues with him.  The match will give them both something to do and Miz’s heel antics will be a perfect foil for Shane. Winner: The Miz

Smackdown Women’s Championship: Asuka (c) Vs. Becky Lynch

Despite having her undefeated streak broken by Charlotte at Wrestlemania, Asuka will continue to be a dominant force in WWE.  Now on Smackdown, Asuka will most likely resume her feud with Charlotte over the Smackdown Women’s Championship. Eventually Asuka will win the title and become the top woman on Smackdown.  For Wrestlemania Asuka will need a worth opponent and Becky Lynch is perfect for her.

For several years now Becky Lynch has been the workhorse of the Smackdown women’s division. She was the inaugural Smackdown Women's Champ but since winning it she has fallen down the card and has been involved in multi woman matches and meaningless feuds.  Lynch deserves to hold gold again and her ring work proves that she and Asuka can put on a hell of a match. Lynch is a natural babyface so going up against a dominant heel Asuka is the perfect matchup. Winner: Becky Lynch

WWE Championship: AJ Styles (c) Vs. Samoa Joe

AJ Styles is the best wrestler in the company right now and by Wrestlemania next year he will hopefully be involved in another bout for the WWE Championship.  He will most likely spend the next couple of months battling Shinsuke Nakamura but come Wrestlemania he should once again hold the title, prepared to defend it against another opponent that he knows very well.  That opponent is Smackdown’s newest acquisition, Samoa Joe.

Samoa Joe and AJ Styles are certainly no strangers to each other.  They have battled countless times in TNA and now they can finally bring their brutal rivalry to the WWE.  Aside from Brock Lesnar, Samoa Joe is easily WWE’s best heel. He doesn't use cheating tactics or excuses to win, he just flat out kicks ass.  Joe should spend this year taking on many of Smackdown’s top faces including Randy Orton and Jeff Hardy. His last true test should be ripping the WWE title away from Styles.

Styles is similar to Daniel Bryan in that he thrives when his back against the wall.  Being physically smaller than Joe should put him at a distinct disadvantage. Going into this match, Joe should completely dominate Styles, choking him out any chance he gets.  An underdog Styles against a brutal Joe is the perfect setup to a show stealer. The two know each other so well and if their matches in TNA were any indication, Styles Vs. Joe will be one of the better world title matches at Wrestlemania in recent memory. Winner: Samoa Joe

WWE Universal Championship Triple Threat Match: Dean Ambrose (c) Vs. Roman Reigns Vs. Seth Rollins

At any other Wrestlemania, this is the main event.  The three members of the Shield battling out for Raw’s top prize.  WWE went with this exact scenario several years ago but it was at a B level pay per view and the build to it was derailed when Reigns was suspended for violating the WWE wellness policy.  Now all the pieces have fallen together again to make this match happen even bigger and better than before.

Roman Reigns is the chosen one and after most likely dethroning Brock Lesnar and sending him off to UFC, he will dominate Raw with a long title reign.  Seth Rollins is the current Intercontinental Champion and has firmly established himself as Raw’s best wrestler and resident work horse. Dean Ambrose is currently injured but when he returns he should return as a heel and betray his former partners.  The Shield reunion was derailed last year and while there is always room to revisit it, now is not the time. These guys need all need to be at odds when Ambrose returns.

Ambrose needs to be able to fully make use of his Lunatic gimmick when he returns.  While Rollins tears it up with Balor, Roode and other mid guys for the IC belt, Ambrose should set his sights on Reigns and the Universal Title.  The two of them have never really had an extended program against each other and they could definitely deliver some solid PPV matches. Ambrose needs to be the one dethrone Reigns and walk into Wrestlemania as the champion.  Reigns, looking for revenge, declares a rematch for Wrestlemania but those plans are derailed by the winner of the 2019 men’s Royal Rumble, Seth Rollins.

Having Rollins interject himself into the Reigns Ambrose feud will give the WWE universe something to sink their teeth into.  Each member of the Shield has something that endears them to a portion of the WWE Universe. Ambrose’s mic skills and instability constantly make him a fan favorite whether he’s a face or a heel.  Rollins is universally loved by the fans for his match quality and unparalleled athleticism. And say what you will about Reigns but the guy has improved by leaps and bounds both in the ring and on the mic and always delivers an entertaining match.  These three are worthy of a main event match at Mania together and it will finally bring the story of the Shield full circle. Winner: Seth Rollins

Raw Women’s Championship: Ronda Rousey (c) Vs. Charlotte Flair

This match may very well be the first female main event in Wrestlemania’s storied history. Ronda Rousey is the biggest signing in the company’s history and with the women of the WWE being treated with way more respect nowadays, the WWE is now in a unique place in history.  It might finally be time for the women to main event Wrestlemania and there are no two bigger stars worthy of that spot than Ronda Rousey and Charlotte Flair.

Charlotte recently did something that few people thought was possible, she defeated Asuka at Wrestlemania and ended her undefeated streak.  Two nights later she lost her Smackdown Women’s Championship to Carmella and will no doubt seek to get it back. She’ll most likely regain that title at some point but after that her options on Smackdown are limited.  A move to Raw makes the most sense for her to have some fresh feuds. She didn't switch brands during the Shakeup but there is one way for her to get to Raw and face off against Rousey: winning the women’s Royal Rumble.

Earlier in this article, I presented a scenario for Rousey to win her first world title against a heel Sasha Banks at a major event like Survivor Series or the Royal Rumble.  Rousey should carry the Raw Women’s Championship into Metlife Stadium, having conquered all opponents on Raw worthy of stepping into the ring with her. The only match left for her would be the Royal Rumble winner, Charlotte, in a dream match of epic proportions.

Charlotte has proven time and time again that she can put on classic matches with just about anyone.  Rousey silenced all critics with her debut match and will only grow as a performer with help from vets like Natalya, Bayley and Sasha Banks.  The two of them will no doubt put on a clinic at next year’s Wrestlemania. Aside from one other match, this battle is arguably the best option to go on last.  If WWE does decide to pull the trigger on this main event, it will be the culmination of the Women’s Evolution. Winner: Ronda Rousey

Career Vs. Career: John Cena Vs. The Undertaker

If Rousey Vs. Flair doesn’t go on last, this is the only other match that should.  If this match doesn’t happen it’s because Taker can’t physically compete and in that case he should be inducted into the Hall of Fame next year and officially retire.  However, if rumors are to be believed, then The Undertaker is set to make a decent run this year, appearing and competing more than he has in a long time. That to me sounds like a farewell tour, one that should end next year against the man Taker squashed at this past year’s Wrestlemania, John Cena.

Like it or not, John Cena is a living legend.  Having carried the company longer than guys like Rock, Austin, Hogan or Michaels, Cena more than deserves his legendary status. Guys like Batista, CM Punk, Daniel Bryan and Randy Orton have competed with Cena in popularity but none of those guys were ever really meant to eclipse Super Cena as “the guy.”  Recently Cena has taken on more of a part time role and has grown accustomed to putting over new stars, something he has been criticized for not doing in the past. Aside from tying Ric Flair’s championship record, there is little left for Cena to do in the company besides defeat the Undertaker at Wrestlemania.

Cena lobbied for this dream match for weeks leading up to this year’s Wrestlemania with Taker only finally responding at the last minute.  Taker proceeded to squash Cena in a short match that left many underwhelmed. At first it appeared like this match was all Taker was capable of but it could serve a bigger purpose.  It could allow Taker to get into even better shape for next year with his career culminating against Cena.

Cena’s path to the rematch is clear.  Much like his loss against the Rock at Wrestlemania 28, his loss against the Deadman can send Cena’s life into a tailspin.  Cena can spend the rest of this year losing to high profile stars, proving he might not be able to win the big one anymore. WWE isn’t above using personal issues to further a story either.  They included Cena’s real life divorce in the Rock storyline, implying that Cena’s real life unravelled after the defeat. Cena’s recent real life breakup with Nikki Bella serves a similar narrative point, along with the several losses he will suffer leading up next year’s Mania.

The Retirement Match between The Undertaker and John Cena could potentially be the biggest spectacle since The Rock Vs. Hulk Hogan at Wrestlemania 18.  Cena gets a shot at redemption and Taker gets to prove that he is still the Phenom. Although some may be upset that two part timers are once again taking up a main event spot at Wrestlemania, this time it is necessary.  Cena Vs. Taker 2 is the biggest possible match that either of them can have. It will serve as a fitting end to the storied career of The Undertaker and allow him to retire on his terms. His defeat against Reigns felt empty so it was only right he came back to face Cena.  Cena is the only one who is worth of giving the Deadman his final match and finally put the Phenom down for good. Winner: John Cena

Michael III

Monday, April 23, 2018

N.Y. Mets: The Knight Getting Even Darker

From the desk of:  HEAD-BUTTING MR. MET

Matt Harvey Doesn't Have Terry Collins To Push Around Anymore

New York Mets: With his effectiveness seemingly all but diminished, the Darkening Knight should take care to not make comportment an issue.

Matt Harvey knows adversity well, and has always managed to say the right thing although at times his body language and actions suggest otherwise.

But now he is outwardly upset.

I don't blame him.  I'd be upset with me if I were in his shoes, too.  But is he mad with himself, or the Mets?  The truth probably lies somewhere in between, but he is definitely leaning in one of two directions.

Matt struck New York City like a lightning bolt in July of 2012, and for the first seven months of his career electrified all of major league baseball.  The Dark Knight was born, and every fifth day the Harvey Day signal illuminated over Roosevelt Avenue, Queens.

Then came the blackout.  Matt's brilliant launch short-circuited in August 2013 when he was diagnosed with the dreaded partial tear of his ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow.  Harvey would inevitably require Tommy John surgery causing him to miss all of the 2014 season.

He returned for the 2015 season helping the Mets reach the World Series, but not without his agent Scott Boras instigating a brouhaha over innings limits.  But even Boris' best laid plans have come undone as Harvey's career continues suffering outages.  In June 2016 he underwent a second surgery to correct thoratic outlet syndrome.  Exactly one year later to the day on June, 15, 2017 Harvey was placed on the disabled list for a stress fracture of the scapula (shoulder blade) requiring yet more surgery and ten more weeks of unavailability.

Matt Harvey entered spring training expressing both relief and optimism after having experienced a self-described normal off-season, for a change.  But his Grapefruit League performance was pedestrian at best.  He posted a 4.50 ERA and struck out 18 batters over twenty innings pitched, while surrendering 21 hits and walking six for a 1.350 WHiP.

After four regular season starts, the Real Deal has been real bad.  He presently owns an even 6.00 ERA and a 1.429 WHiP after just 21 innings pitched, in which he allowed 26 hits and four walks and fanned 17 batters.

Matt Harvey's career has now not-so-suddenly gone completely awry, and one way or another we are surely witnessing the end days of the Darkening Knight.  Suffering perhaps the most devastating setback of his career to date, the Mets demoted him.  The timing couldn't have been worse.  Matt Harvey is eligible to become a free agent after this season.  His relationship with the Mets was already strained since before this latest development.  If Matt was unsure before regarding his future with the Mets, he is most likely certain of departure now.  And make no mistake ... Scott Boras will execute a plan towards that end.  But only if his client gets his stool samples together first.

What little value Harvey had left, is all but gone at this juncture.  If he is to garner even the slightest interest on the open market Matt must first reestablish credibility in a Mets uniform by earning his way out of the bullpen.  For the moment, the team says Matt Harvey is no longer a member of the Mets starting rotation.

That's too bad ... for him.

If he proves himself worthy, I'm sure this will be a transient situation.  In the meantime, Matt can snivel if he wants to.  That's just Matt being Matt.  And there's nothing wrong with that.  I want someone who demands the ball every fifth day no matter the circumstance.  That's actually quite commendable.  Unfortunately for Harvey the Mets have a new regime calling the shots now whom he can't seem to bully.  On the contrary, the Darkening Knight is being directed to look into the same mirror Zack Wheeler was instructed to confront at Las Vegas earlier this season.

The Mets previously made the mistake of letting Harvey dictate his own terms of employment.  Not necessarily in terms of imposing inning limits or medical issues (although he and Scott Boris did just that in 2015), but through his resistance and occasional open defiance of Terry Collins.  Who can forget Game Five of the 2015 World Series when Collins allowed Harvey to bully him out of making a sound pitching change during ... I don't know ... the most important game in recent Mets history?

Mickey Callaway and Dave Eiland have thus far demonstrated they're entertaining none of that.  Eiland minced no words in his criticisms of Zack Wheeler, and now Mickey Callaway is likewise leaving little doubt in Matt Harvey's mind where it concerns his newly modified expectations.  Matt Harvey may not agree, but I find the organizational conviction refreshing.

If you recall, Harvey was suspended last season.  According to the New York Times Harvey confessed to being out late beyond curfew on a Friday night, then playing golf the following morning.  He says the combination of activities rendered him MIA for a Saturday afternoon game.  Embarrassed, Matt did all the right things with regards to apologizing to the organization and mates.  But in truth the matter only exasperated his reputation for being a local celebrity about town.

Now this ...

Harvey's handling of his unavoidable Q&A with the media was understandable.  He's a man down on his luck, and his future as an effective major league pitcher is coming into serious question.  But his decision to swear and willfully speak in scatological terms on air is curious.  It certainly does not serve his best interest.  If anything, he invites a new conversation focusing on comportment.

I have a saying: once is an event; twice is a coincidence; three times is a trend.

That means one more questionable move by the Darkening Knight completes the hat trick.

UPDATE: 6:03pm Wednesday, April 25, 2018

SNY-TV reports Matt Harvey blows off media, and swears at them again.

Road Trips 2018: Back to Boston Part III ~ Fenway Park

Back to Boston ~ Part III

April 13-15
Jackie Robinson Day

Ted Williams Home Run Landed Here
June 9, 1946
Section 42; Row 37; Seat 21