Monday, May 28, 2018

N.Y. Mets: Fall To Par Then Pray For Rain

From the desk of:  HEAD-BUTTING MR. MET


This past off-season at a winter luncheon Mets COO Jeff Wilpon told reporters he believes the Mets are within a range in which they can effectively compete ... and that he does not believe they must rank among the top payrolls in baseball in order to contend for a championship.

According to Anthony DiComo at MLB.comJeff Wilpon said,
"I'd rather look at what we can do in terms of wins and losses.  Being top five in payroll, I don't think that won us a World Series.  So we're set out to make the playoffs and do well deep into the playoffs, and try to win the World Series - not to try and be in the top five in payroll.  If you look at what's coming back or what should be coming back that was hurt last year, that's tantamount to signing some free agents ... "

Very well ... let's eat your oatmeal pragmatism stick with wins and losses.  The latter have been piling up of late, as have the myriad of ways the Mets have gone about them.  Although the season started very promisingly with the team reeling off five straight series victories en route to a club record 11-1 start, they've since gone 15-25 dropping them to par with an 25-25 overall record, and a fourth place standing in the N.L. East.

  • The nightcap of Monday's double-header is/was delayed by rain.

If nothing else the Mets did reconfirm the importance of a good start.  I say it all the time: you can't win pennants in April, but you sure can lose them.  Most fans would be apoplectic by now (if not already) were it not for their 11-1 start.  Instead, we're talking about a team just five games out of first place patiently awaiting the returns of Yoenis Cespedes and Todd Frazier to their line-up.

About that ...

It's Memorial Day, the traditional first checkpoint of the season, and to no one's surprise the Mets are already hobbling after the first turn.  Injuries have again become a source of consternation.  Pitchers Anthony Swarzak, AJ Ramos, and position players Travis d'Arnaud, Juan Lagares, Frazier, Cespedes, and now Wilmer Flores, have all felt something either snap, crackle, or pop. 

In the meantime, the team's numbers speak for themselves:  

N.L. East: 4th Place
Record: 25-25 (.500)
Home Record: 12-13
Road Record:  13-12
Run Differential:  -21

Team ERA: 4.18 (10th)
HR Allowed: 60 (3rd)
Strikeouts: 477 (3rd)
Avg. Against: .251 (10th)
WHiP: 1.31 (9th)

Team Average: .240 (9th)
OBP: .316 (10th)
Slugging: .388 (11th)
Home Runs: 52 (11th)
Runs Scored: 206 (12th)

In other words, the Mets presently are an average team bordering on sub-par.  However, from a May 28th perspective the front office considers this being in the mix. 

My friend Sam says the Wilpons are in the business of selling hope.  And I'm like, the 1973 and 2015 teams rock forever, man!  We can do this.  Ya Gotta Believe!  After all, they twice went from being mediocre to making Mets history, right?


Wink, wink, Jeff.

Road Trips 2018: New Jersey Part II ~ Yogi Berra Museum

Road Trips: New Jersey ~ Part II




Sunday, May 27, 2018

Road Trips 2018: New Jersey Jackals and Yogi Berra Stadium

home of the

Saturday, May 26, 2018


First Pitch

Opened 1998

N.Y. Rangers: Draft Will Confirm Who's Really In Charge


Talking Tough Is One Thing; 
Drafting Tough Is Another

New York Rangers: David Quinn Named New Head Coach.

I'm not going to pretend I know anything about David Quinn, because I don't.

Nor do I care ...

I'm more concerned with the upcoming June entry draft.  Because if Jeff Gorton selects another bunch of Smurfs, then David Quinn is going to coach Smurfs.  If Jeff Gorton selects a bunch of gargoyles, then David Quinn will coach gargoyles.  If he drafts big tough two-way players with requisite speed, then Quinn will coach such players in a relative manner.

I will simply say Quinn sports a fine resume, and that I welcome a new start with a fresh face.

He becomes the 20th head coach I remember well.  I came to learn of Emil "the cat" Francis only after the famed coach's run with the Rangers ended.  The very first head coach I care to recall is Jean-Guy Talbot, whom otherwise left no real lasting impression upon me.

Fred Shero was head coach when Ron Greschner and the Rangers advanced by the hated New York Islanders en route to the 1978-1979 Stanley Cup finals.  He only lasted two seasons behind the bench (blame Barry Beck), but is worthy of an honorable mention.

Herb Brooks brought his authoritarian style - not to mention his Olympic gold medal - to Madison Square Garden in 1981 and becomes the first head coach I genuinely rallied behind.  Developing a bunch of college kids into TEAM USA and defeating the mighty Russians in 1980 earned Brooks a ton of respect.  Not unexpectedly, though, his taskmaster tactics wore thin with established NHL veterans and would be replaced by the same person he himself succeeded as head coach, i.e., Craig Patrick.

Seemingly out of nowhere, in steps Ted Sator whom astonishingly takes the original cast of off-Broadway Smurfs all the way to the conference finals.  Just as quickly, though, he also steps through and disappears beyond the Eighth Avenue steam pipes.

Fast forward ... Roger Neilson is the first Rangers head coach to win the President's Trophy.  However, like Mark Messier I couldn't stand the guy nor his system.  The Rangers clearly were in need of a major kick in the posterior, and Mike Keenan was the absolute right guy to administer just that.  But because Rangers head coaches traditionally have the lifespan of a fruit fly, Keenan left after just one (Stanley Cup) season.

Rangers fans were for the most part behind his successor, Colin Campbell.  It's just that general manager Neil Smith started making some ponderously awful trades for sake of prolonging an increasingly futile run for another Cup.

Enter the Glen Sather era ...

His body of work spanning 2000-2004 on its own should have qualified as a fire-able offense.  Unfortunately in the eyes and mind of James Dolan, the omniscient Sather can do no wrong.

John Tortorella's arrival finally marks the first time Sather starts taking seriously actual NHL level player development.  I believe now as I did back then that Tortorella slammed the brakes on Sather's impatience regarding young inexperienced players and prospects.  I'm convinced Torts did indeed hold sway over Sather, by effectively taking charge of an emerging group of players (drafted by Jeff Gorton), letting them develop together, and giving them a sorely needed identity.  If left to his own device, Glen Sather very likely would have traded many eventual endearing players, away.

However, due to his already obnoxious and increasingly erratic behavior, Torts absolutely earned his dismissal.

Shame ... (Rick Nash really let him (us) down).

Tortorella is then replaced with the diametrically opposite Alian Vigneault, whom I wanted fired the minute he was hired.  If the Canadiens didn't want him, and the Vancouver Canucks fired him in an effort to increase toughness, then I certainly didn't want Vigneault coaching the Rangers.  Let's be clear - he took Tortorella's team to the Stanley Cup finals.  But that team then underwent considerable changes to better suit Vigneault's style, of which Glen Sather was all in.  And where did that get Tex's Rangers?

Hence the genesis of today's condition.

Rewind back to the organization's statement announcing a change in direction.  My untrained ears heard Jeff Gorton wanting to gut this pig.  But I also heard Glen Sather in the background whining about wanting to rebuild while staying competitive at the same time (which we know is complete garbage nonsense).  I think Jeff Gorton recognized this as well, and may have gone so far as calling out Sather over his repeated attempts at tomfoolery (as I suspect Tortorella once did).

While serving as both assistant and interim general manager for Boston, Gorton played a large role in building up the Bruins as we know them today.  Yet, he was dismissed from Boston and hired by Sather with haste to replace Don Maloney (whom accepted the general manager's position with the Phoenix Coyotes) as head of scouting and development.  Gorton, therefore, has been a front row witness to Sather's follies for the past twelve years.  And at this juncture in his career I believe he can get an NHL job anywhere there's a need for a qualified general manager.

Therefore, why wouldn't Gorton issue Sather an ultimatum, i.e., either the rebuild goes according to his plan, or he seeks employment elsewhere.  After thinking the situation through, my fantastical scenario says Sather gave Gorton his blessings to proceed forward.

And, he did ...
  • February 20: Nick Holden remarkably traded to Boston in exchange for defender Rob O'Gara and Boston's third round pick 2018 draft.  I wouldn't have given the NYR three pucks and a roll of tape ... but that's just me.  Rob O'Gara is 24-years old, 6'4" 215 lbs.
  • February 23: Michael Grabner traded to rival New Jersey Devils in exchange for defender Yegor Rykov and Newark's second round pick 2018 draft.  Yegor Rykov is 20-years old, 6'1" 205 lbs.
  • February 25: Rich Nash traded to Boston in exchange for three players (Ryan Spooner, Matt Belesky, and prospect defender Ryan Lindgren), plus the Bruins first round pick 2018 draft, and their seventh round pick 2019 draft.  Ryan Lindgren is 20-years old, a stocky 5'11" 203 lbs.
  • February 26: Ryan McDonagh and J.T. Miller traded to Tampa Bay Lighting in exchange for forward Vladislav Namestnikov, prospects Libor Hajek and Brett Howden, the Bolts first round pick 2018 draft, and a conditional second round pick 2019 draft.  Defenseman Libor Hajek is 20-years old, 6'2" 196 lbs.  Centerman Brett Howden is 19-years old, 6'2" 193 lbs.

The 2018 NHL entry draft is less than thirty days away.

With an eye towards the future, Jeff Gorton spoke of becoming a more physical team.

With his mind on the present, David Quinn spoke of being a physical team.


Now we find out who's really in charge.

Talking crunch is one thing; drafting crunch is another.  If it turns out being the latter, then Gorton is calling the shots.  If it turns out being the former, then we know Sather is still firmly in charge.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

N.Y. Islanders: Lou Lamoriello New Lord of Flatbush

From the desk of:  NO SLEEP TILL BELMONT


New York Islanders: If Jon Ledecky needs a playoff contender in time for his new Belmont arena, Lou Lamoriello will build it.

What Islanders fans have been longing to hear for over a decade is now music to their ears.

Arthur Staple of The Athletic is reporting former New Jersey Devils and Toronto Maple Leafs executive Lou Lamoriello will be taking over the New York Islanders hockey operations.  Be it as team president and/or general manager for the moment remains unclear.  However, Arthur Staple also reports Lamoriello acting on behalf of the Islanders has already been in contact with pending unrestricted free agent John Tavares whom is set to hit the open market in July.

The Islanders have failed to qualify for the Stanley Cup playoffs in each of the last two seasons.

Snow retired after the 2005-06 season and was immediately offered the position of general manager despite having no coaching nor practical front office experience.  A well educated man, he was nevertheless hired to replace outgoing Neil Smith whom previously constructed a Stanley Cup champion at Madison Square Garden and hadn't yet held the Islanders job more than fifty days before experiencing a ponderous falling out with ownership.

Garth Snow's tenure started out quite promisingly but he never did build a sustainable contender.  The team made the playoffs during his first season behind the desk earning him Executive of the Year honors, but would not qualify for post-season play again for another six seasons.  All told, the Islanders made the playoffs four times during Snow's dozen years as general manager.  Their lone 2015-2016 first round playoff victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins stands out as Snow's crowning achievement.  Suffice it to say the on-ice product has remained a major disappointment ever since.

In Snow's defense, any discussion involving him should also include former owner Charles Wang whose infamous battle with Nassau County over construction of his proposed Lighthouse Project would inevitably hamper and ultimately doom Uniondale's hockey club.

Snow may still potentially remain with the Islanders.  A statement from partner Jon Ledecky and new club ownership is forthcoming.

Lou Lamoriello took over in 2015 as general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs.  Three years later, they registered a 105-point season.  However, he too appears to have experienced a falling out with the Leafs, as well.

Be that as it may, the man knows a thing or two, or three, about winning Stanley Cups.  What he achieved in just three years with Toronto has not gone unnoticed.  The hope here no doubt is making the Islanders highly competitive by the time they open their new arena at Belmont.

If there exists an executive who can convince John Tavares the Islanders can and will turn this around, and see to it they become a highly regarded and consistent competitor, his name is Lou Lamoriello.

He instantly becomes the second most important person within the organization.  Until July 1, however, the most important person in the organization continues being John Tavares.

Both know lots can happen within the next three or so years.

Right now, however, it appears as if Lou Lamoiello has dropped right onto Jon Ladecky's lap.

... can't blow this, guys.

Monday, May 21, 2018

L.I. Ducks: Monday Swim 5/21/2018

From the desk of:  THE WEBBED SPIKES NINE

Long Island Ducks: Somerset Patriots Continue Getting Better of the Flock.

Make that four losses in six tries at TD Bank Ballpark this season.

On Saturday, John Brownell outlasted mound opponent Cory Riordan en route to his second victory of the season.  After enduring consecutive losses Brownell evened his record, allowing two runs on just four hits and two walks and a pair of strikeouts through six innings pitched.  The bullpen provided three innings of scoreless, one-hit relief.  At the plate, the Ducks struck for 14 hits including a home run by Travis Snider, and doubles by Lew Ford and catcher Wilkin Castillo.

On Sunday, Long Island's ninth inning rally fell just short as they lose the rubber game by a 5-4 final.  Starter Jake Dunning would perhaps admit he's seen better days.  Yanked after just three innings, Jake allowed four earned runs on five hits and four walks, while fanning just one.  Runs driven in by Cody Puckett and Ramon Cabrera got the Ducks to within a run in the top of the ninth, but with only one out and the tying run on third Dan Lyons bounced back to the pitcher and Daniel Fields fanned to end the game.

The Ducks and Patriots will get a short break from each other, as the Flock host the Road Warriors this week.  Then the Patriots make their first visit of the season to Bethpage Ballpark where the Patriots and Ducks will resume hostilities over the Memorial Day weekend.

With Sunday's loss, the Ducks fall two games behind the Liberty Division leading Patriots.

Don't look now, but the Lancaster Barnstormers have won ten in a row.  Yet, they only lead the Freedom Division by 1.5 games over the Sugar Land Skeeters.

At the other end of the spectrum, the Road Warriors have lost ten straight.  Poor guys ... they just finished up a series in Lancaster.  They'll be on Long Island tomorrow.  After which they travel back to York, then head the opposite direction again for a series at New Britain.  That's just one small sample of what they endure throughout their season-long road trip.

Ducks Notes:
  • Bennett Parry presently leads the Atlantic League with 23 strikeouts.
  • David Washington is among the top five in home runs and RBI.

Friday, May 18, 2018

L.I. Ducks: Late Misplay Proves Costly Against Somerset Patriots

From the desk of:  THE WEBBED SPIKES NINE

Stopped at the Gates

Liberty Division Showdown

Long Island Ducks: Patriots Outlast Jake Fisher Gem; Take Series Opener.

In the spirit of baseball, fans attending TD Bank Ballpark's feature between the visiting Flock and host Patriots were treated to an old fashioned pitching duel. 

Under such circumstances tradition suggests the first mistake - no matter how slight - usually proves most costly.  If nothing else, Friday's series opener against rival Somerset adds credence to this school of thought.

Patriots starter Kyle Davies was removed from the game after just three innings of work, but not before retiring all nine batters faced.  Assuming pitching duties in the fourth, Vince Molesky allowed just two hits and a walk through 2.1 innings of work.  He was relieved by Mike Antonini who continued whitewashing Long Island through the seventh.  Logan Kensing then took over for Antonini in the top of the eighth.  And despite hitting Ducks shortstop Dan Lyons with a pitch, he still managed to face the minimum.  For the ninth inning, the Patriots summoned their fifth pitcher of the evening, Ryan Kelly, whom followed suit by retiring Long Island in order.

Jake Fisher: Second straight gem ends with second straight no-decision.

Seeking his third victory of the season, Jake Fisher climbed the bump for Long Island.  And for a second consecutive start, Fisher held the opposition scoreless through eight full innings pitched.  On this night he faced 26 batters, allowed just four hits and no walks, and fanned four.  After yielding a lead-off base hit in the home third, Fisher retired his final 18 batters faced in consecutive order.

In handing the game over to the bullpen, Coach Baez called upon Ashur Tolliver to pitch the ninth inning, whom promptly walked the first two batters before recording an out.  The Ducks then elected to intentionally load the bases.  But as fate would have it, Somerset's Aaron Dudley lifted a flare to shallow left which was misplayed by Danny Fields.

Thus Somerset wins Friday's series opener by a 1-0 final on an unearned run in the bottom of the ninth ... and the home crowd goes home happy.

The Ducks, not so much ...

Long Island is now 1-3 in four games this season at TD Bank Ballpark, and with Friday's loss fall two games behind the first place Patriots.  Weather permitting, they'll get the remainder of this weekend's series in.  Otherwise, they've been outscored by the Patriots through four games by a mere 17-18 margin.  After defeating them 6-4 in their very first match of the new season, the Ducks have lost three straight at Somerset by one run margins.

The Ducks/Patriots play each other six times over these next ten days.  Somerset makes their first appearance of the season at Bethpage Ballpark next weekend.