Sunday, January 27, 2019

N.Y. Yankees: Hall of Fame Makes Room for Moose and Mo

From the desk of:  BLAME CARLOS MAY


The Greatest Relief Pitcher/Closer of All-Time
100%

New York Yankees 
Hall of Fame Class of 2019

Mo-Body Does It Better; Made Life Sad For The Rest.  Mo-Body Does It Half As Good As Him; Baby, Mo's The Best ...

I remember Rollie Fingers as a member of the Swingin' Oakland A's.  He and the Mets Tug McGraw are the first great relief pitchers of my childhood recollection.  I remember Mike Marshall capturing the 1974 National League Cy Young as a member of the Dodgers, after posting a 15-12 record with 21 saves, a 2.42 ERA, through 106 appearances and 208.1 innings pitched, all as a reliever.  I also recall when Sparky Lyle captured the 1977 American Cy Young as a reliever for the Yankees.  I'll never soon forget Goose Gossage's aura of intimidation; Bruce Sutter's famous splitter; or 1984 when Willie Hernandez won both the Cy Young Award and MVP with a 9-3 record, 21 saves, and a 1.92 ERA through 130.1 innings pitched for the World Champion Tigers.

Damn right Lee Smith deserves enshrinement into baseball's Hall of Fame.  He put forth at least ten dominant seasons of thirty saves or more; three times exceeded 40 saves; and led the league in saves on four occasions, with a career high 47 saves in 1991 as a member of the Cardinals.  Upon his retirement after the 1997 season, Lee Smith's 478 saves were the most all-time.

I remember when MLB amended the Save rule, spurring great debate and statistical controversy.  I have also watched relievers evolve from the Fireman into the modern day Closer.  And of course, I watched Tony LaRussa invent the one inning specialist.  Few people mention that before Dennis Eckersley the A's closer came into existence, La Russa first invented Bobby Thigpen with the Chicago White Sox.

Since the early/mid 1970's and every era since, I've seen relievers come and go.  In fact, I've seen them all.  Some relievers/firemen/closers are incredibly over rated, while some are unquestionably great.

It is with great confidence I say there was/is none better than Mariano Rivera.

None ...

In 1997, he earned 43 saves during his first full season as Yankees closer.  After missing nearly all of the 2012 season, Mariano returned at 43-years of age to record 44 saves in the final season of his illustrious 19-year career.  That's consistency.  He had 15 seasons of at least 30 saves; seven years of at least 40 saves; and two seasons of at least 50 saves.  In 2005, he recorded a career high 54 saves.  His 652 saves are most all-time.  He boasts a career 2.21 ERA and 1.00 WHiP in 1,283.1 innings pitched.

He was no single-inning matador either.  In order to be great, one needs great competition.  For better or worse, his multi-inning efforts throughout his post-season career are the stuff of legend.  But with regards to the overall nuanced art of closing out games, nothing in baseball history compares with Mo's exploits:
  • 96 career playoff games; 24 appearances via seven trips to the Word Series.
  • 141 innings pitched; 86 hits allowed (just two home runs); 21 walks; 110 strikeouts
  • 8-1 record; 78 saves; 0.70 ERA; 0.750 WHiP.
  • Just 86 hits allowed (only two home runs) through 141 innings pitched; 21 walks; 110 strikeouts
With regards to the nuanced art of closing out games, nothing in baseball history compares.

The irony is never before had the BBWAA enshrined a player into the Hall by a unanimous vote.  Some have come close.  Alas none had ever achieved the distinction of garnering 100% approval - not Babe Ruth; Ty Cobb; Cy Young; Ted Williams; Willie Mays; Hank Aaron; Greg Maddux, Ken Griffey, Jr., et al - until Mariano Rivera.  He will go down in history as the first player to ever be voted into baseball's Hall of Fame unanimously.

Dare I say he is truly one of baseball's few all-time transcendent players.

Cooperstown Sounds Moose Call, But Is Mike Mussina a True Hall of Famer?

Sometimes milestones such as 300 wins or 3,000 strikeouts need not apply.  Those are not prerequisites for election into Cooperstown.  Every player has their own story.  Each differs from player to player, but none follow the same script.  There are wunderkind members, as well as workingman members; conquerors and compilers; both majestic and modest.  They all perform in their own unique ways.

Mike Mussina was never considered one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball.  There aren't many italicized statistics on the back of his baseball card.  He never led the league in ERA; achieved 20-wins in a season only once; and recorded 200 strikeouts in a season but four times.  He never won a Cy Young Award, and his teams never won the World Series.  You might say Moose was somewhat unfortunate insofar that he pitched for the Yankees from 2001 through 2008 - the eight seasons nestled between New York's 2000 and 2009 titles.

But what he did was pitch his entire career in the highly competitive American League East and still manage a 3.68 ERA.  Very simply, Moose is one of the great craftsmen the American League has ever known.  He led the league in wins and shutouts in 1994 as an Oriole, and posted the league's best FIP during his first season with the Yankees.  But his true worth came in posting double-digit victories for 17 consecutive seasons; winning 20-games once; 19-games twice; and at least 18-victories on three other occasions.  All the while limiting himself to single-digit losses in 12 of his 18 seasons.  Mussina made 536 career starts and won 64% of them, retiring with a stellar 270-153 career record.  His control was impeccable, finishing with 2,813 strikeouts in 3,562.2 innings pitched, with a career 2.0 W/9 average.

Is he a borderline Hall of Fame pitcher?  Although I was initially conflicted, the answer is yes.  Capturing just 76.7% of the vote bears that out.  But he is Hall of Fame pitcher nonetheless.  Mike Mussina wasn't just good enough to get in, he was great enough to be voted in his first year on the ballot.



Saturday, January 26, 2019

Winter League Baseball: Serie del Caribe 2018-2019 Faces Potential Cancellation


2018~2019
HOST
Barquisimeto, Venezuela


BREAKING NEWS

If you've been keeping up with international news, then you're probably aware Venezuela is a nation in crisis.  Amidst epic political turmoil, cities throughout the country on Wednesday erupted in demonstration.  Hundreds of arrests are being reported, while 13 known deaths have occurred in protests.

The city of Barquisimeto was due to host this year's Caribbean Series.  On Thursday, the Professional Baseball Confederation of the Caribbean issued a statement all but declaring a final resolution in light of present conditions in Venezuela, and that a definitive determination would be forthcoming within 24-hours.

An ongoing state of turmoil likewise caused the confederation to shift last year's Serie del Caribe - originally scheduled for Barquisimeto - to Jalisco, Mexico.  It marked Mexico's second straight season as host nation.  As a result, they've expressed a reluctance to host a third straight tournament.
However, last year's decision to opt out of Venezuela was made well in advance, a full seven months before the February event.  Thus affording ample time for tackling the complexities of relocation and logistical reconfiguration.  This year's opening game of the Serie del Caribe is tentatively scheduled for Feb.2, which at this point leaves little or no time for a sudden change of venues.  Moreover, Puerto Rico is still beset with post Hurricane Maria recovery, and is in no position to host.  Dominican Republic offered to host but at the participating country's expense.  Cuba since 2014 is still technically considered a guest of the Caribbean Series, and therefore is not a host consideration.

Founded in 1949, the Serie del Caribe ironically was the brainchild of Venezuelan businessmen Pablo Morales and Oscar Prieto Ortiz.  Perhaps even more ironic, the Serie del Caribe was last suspended in 1981 due to a Venezuelan League player's strike.

CONFEDERATION of the CARIBBEAN CHARTER MEMBERS: 1949-1960
  • Venezuela (0)
  • Panama (1)
  • Puerto Rico (4)
  • Cuba (7)
  • *Serie del Caribe titles


By 1959-1960, Cuba's Communist Revolution seizes control of government.  Fidel Castro nationalizes the country's baseball enterprise, and by banning professionalism transforms the game into regional divisions of strictly amateur competition.  The Serie del Caribe is suspended from 1961 through 1969 as a result.  Panama folds operations.  The circuit is reformed in 1970 with lone returning members Puerto Rico and Venezuela.  Dominican Republic joins the loop in 1970, and Mexico joins the year after.  These four member circuits now make up the present Confederation of the Caribbean.  As a result of slow and steady thawing of decades long political tensions, the Confederation invited Cuba back in 2014 as a guest participant.

CONFEDERATION of the CARIBBEAN CURRENT MEMBERS: 1970-present
  • Dominican Republic (19)
  • Puerto Rico (12)
  • Mexico (9)
  • Venezuela (7)
  • Cuba (1)
  • * Serie del Caribe titles






VENEZUELA
Serie del Caribe Champions: 1970; 1979; 1982; 1984; 1989; 2006; 2009.
Despite political and civil unrest dominating the nation's attention, the LVBP championship series  pressed on.

CHAMPIONS: LOS CARDENALES de LARA
  • Founded: 1942
  • LVBP Champions: 1991; 1998; 2000-2001.
CARDENALES de LARA sweep LEONES de CARACAS; 4-0
I - LAR 7; CAR 1
II - LAR 8; CAR 2
III - LAR 12; CAR 1

GAME FOUR
LARA         7
CARACAS 0
SATURDAY FINAL





MEXICO
Serie del Caribe Champions: 1976; 1986; 1996; 2002; 2005; 2011; 2013-2014; 2016.
Jalisco leads LMP Championship Series over Obregon; 3-2
I - OBR 8; JAL 3
II - JAL 6; OBR 4
III - OBR 10; JAL 9
IV - JAL 5; OBR 3
V - JAL 7; OBR 0

GAME SIX
YAQUIS de OBREGON @ CHARROS de JALISCO
MONDAY






CUBA
Serie del Caribe Champions: 1949; 1952; 1956-1960; 2015.
CHAMPIONS: LENADORES de LAS TUNAS (Lumberjacks)
  • Founded: 1977
  • Record: 65-45 (.591)
  • 2018-2019 First Time Serie Nacional Champions/58th Edition; Defeat Leopardos de Villa Clara (four games to one).






DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
Serie del Caribe Champions: 1971; 1973; 1977; 1980; 1985; 1988; 1990-1991; 1994; 1997-1999; 2001; 2003-2004; 2007-2008; 2010; 2012.
CHAMPIONS: ESTRELLAS de ORIENTALES 
  • Founded: 1910
  • First Championship: 1936
  • LIDOM Champions: 1954; 1968; 2019
LIDOM
CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES
Estrellas de Orientaled defeat Toros del Este; 5-1
I - Stars 13; Toros 1
II - Stars 6; Toros 1
III - Toros 13; Stars 2
IV - Stars 3; Toros 2
V - Stars 3; Toros 0
VI - Stars 4; Toros 0






PUERTO RICO
Serie del Caribe Champions: 1951; 1953-1955; 1972; 1974-1975; 1978; 1983; 1987; 1992-1993; 1995; 2000; 2017-2018.
CHAMPIONS: CANGREJEROS de SANTURCE 
  • Founded: 1939
  • LBPRC Champions: 1951; 1953; 1955; 1959; 1962; 1965; 1967; 1971; 1973; 1991; 1993; 2000; 2015-2016; 2019.
LBPRC
CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES
Cangrejeros de Santurce sweep Indios de Mayaguez; 4-0
I - SAN 4; MAY 0
II - SAN 7; MAY 1
III - SAN 8; MAY 3
IV - SAN 1; MAY 0




*Wikipedia/CaribbeanSeries


Brooklyn Nets Bench Brigade Turn Away Hapless Knickerbockers

From the desks of:  
DUTCH PANTS CAN'T JUMP  and  THE HOOPS OF FLATBUSH

BATTLE OF THE BOROUGHS-IV
Nets win season series 4-1
I - BKN 107; NYK 105
II - NYK 115; BKN 96
III - BKN 112; NYK 104

FRIDAY
Knicks  99
Nets    109
FINAL

Brooklyn Nets: Mounting Injuries Put Spotlight Squarely Upon D'Angelo Russell.

Make that six wins in a row, and 19 wins in their last 24 games.  The Nets are now 19-5 since snapping an eight-game losing streak back on Dec. 7, marked by noteworthy victories over Toronto, Philadelphia, Charlotte, Boston, Houston, Sacramento, and of course their crosstown rival Knickerbockers.  They've done all this while hurt.  The Nets were just 6-8 on Nov. 12 when Caris LeVert was lost to a foot injury.  After which Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Allan Crabbe, and Jared Dudly, also went down and remained out.  Only on Friday did Jefferson finally return to the lineup against the Knicks.  However, the Nets now lose Spencer Dinwiddie - arguably on pace to win the NBA's 6th man award - sidelined a torn ligament in his thumb.  Surgery is pending.

EASTERN CONFERENCE
6th) Nets        27-23 (.540)
14th) Knicks  10-37 (.213)

As injuries mount, all eyes now turn towards D'Angelo Russell.  This is his team now, and he'll have the fourth quarter all to himself.  Although he has played himself into the All-Star conversation, there's been many games this season where in much of the final session Coach Atkinson has kept him wrapped in sweats.  It's only recently that Russell's and Dinwiddie's games have begun to mesh on the floor together.  There was clearly an initial disconnect, of which Coach says the two have learned how to play together and the results bear that out.

It's been a happy new year for D'Angelo Russell indeed, who was named NBA Player of the Week.  Through 12 games in January, he's averaging 23.1 point and 7.4 assists per game.  On Jan.14, he scored 34-points in a winning effort over Boston.  Two games later, he dropped 40-points in a win over the Magic at Orlando, then followed that up with 31-points on Jan. 21 against Sacramento.  In their lead-up to Friday's game versus the Knicks, Russell posted a double-double (25-points; 10 assists) in Wednesday's rematch against the Magic.  For the season (49 games) he is averaging 19-points and six assists per game.

Against the Knicks, however, Russell was limited to just 12-points in 24-minutes.  Joe Harris was the only other starter to score in double digits with ten points in 28-minutes.  The real story of the game, and for the matter the continuing narrative of the Nets season, is the next guy in line stepping up and contributing effective play and productive minutes.  Brooklyn featured more four scorers in double digits all off the bench.  Theo Pinson led all Nets with 19 points.  With 29-minutes in Dinwiddie's absence, Shabazz Napier was next in with 18-points.  Ed Davis played big man on campus with 17-points and a game high 16-rebounds.

Friday's 109-99 victory over the cross-river Knicks gives the Nets a 27-23 record on the season, good for sixth place, 2.5 games ahead of the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference standings.  They also improve to 15-11 at home.  Lest we forget they started the season 3-10 at home.  They've since won  92% of their games (12-1) at Barclays Center.

And don't look now, but their season long negative point differential now reads +0.4 for the season; another benchmark; more evidence of sustained improvement.

Against the Nets, Noah Vonleh scored a double-double Friday with 22-points and 13 rebounds; Trey Burke led all scorers with 15-points off the bench.

New York Knicks: Unfortunately for Enes Kanter, this is what happens when you become enmeshed with the Bockers.

One the one hand, Enes Kanter knew he was opting into a rebuilding situation.  Therefore, part of his present calamity came by his own hand.  Money will do that.  Little did he know there would be a heavy price to pay for his (micro vs. macro) decision.  On the other hand, Friday's performance was a picture perfect demonstration of tank-a-thon in action.  This game was perfectly suited for Kanter.  Just take a look at his last three games against the Nets.  He's right to express displeasure, and for that matter demanding a trade.  A man of his talents riding the bench is hardly ideal for either party.  Kanter is actually my favorite Knick, but he obviously needs to go.  The Knicks just have no real leverage to work with, so what can they reasonably expect in return?  Where this tank-a-thon ultimately gets the Knicks, remains to be seen.  But for as long as Steve Mills remains a part of this organization's decision making process, I expect nothing good.

I'll say this much about Coach Fizdale: if the intention is indeed to tank the season, he's in the midst of masterminding something epic.  With Friday's loss, the Knicks fall to just 10-37 on the season.  They extend their losing streak to eight games, making them just 1-16 in their last 17 games.  With February just around the corner, 37 games remain in the season.



Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Winter League Baseball: Crabbers Whitewash Indians in LBPRC Series Opener

WINTER LEAGUE BEISBOL
2018~2019


PUERTO RICO
Liga Beisbol Profesional Roberto Clemente

CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES
CANGREJEROS de SANTURCE 
vs. 
INDIOS de MAYAGUEZ


Santurce leads series 1-0
I - SAN 4; MAY 0

1/21 - Crabbers Ride Strong Pitching, Defense, and Timely Hitting, to Game One Victory Over Favored Indians.

Hits were hard to come by, but Santurce made the most of theirs in Game One of Puerto Rico's championship series at Mayaguez.  Indios starter Jonathan Sanchez surrenders just two hits through six innings pitched.  However, the first of which in the top of the third off the bat of Santurce left fielder Rey Fuentes landed over the right field wall for a two-run home run.  That's essentially all the Crabbers would need as starter Ivan Maldonado pitches seven scoreless innings, allowing just four scattered hits and a walk, with three strikeouts en route to an opening game victory.  Relievers James Pugilese and Fernando Cruz close out the game with an inning each of scoreless, no hit ball, with three strikeouts.


GAME TWO
Mayaguez @ Santurce
Hiram Bithorn Stadium


  • Cangrejeros de Santurce: charter member since 1939; 14 Puerto Rico league titles; five Serie del Caribe titles.
  • Indios de Mayaguez: charter member since 1939; 18 Puerto Rico league titles; two Serie del Caribe titles.

Winner advances to Serie del Caribe 2018-2019, 
Host: City of Barquisimeto, Venezuela.


Congratulations Edgar Martinez on being elected to Baseball's Hall of Fame.



LIU/Brooklyn Blackbirds: Terriers Roll to Victory on Ashland Turf

From the desk of:  THE HOOPS OF FLATBUSH



DOWNTOWN SHOWDOWN
St. Francis Terriers  79
LIU Blackbirds        70
FINAL

Veni, Vidi, Fuhgeddaboudit; Terriers Plant Flag in Blackbirds School Yard.

Underestimate St. Francis(BK) at your on risk.  Just ask the Blackbirds who on MLK Day became the twelfth opponent this season to learn the hard way.  Up by 19-points at the half, the Remsen Street Terriers fend-off LIU's second half charge for a nine point margin of victory.  In turn, the Blackbirds are denied a third straight victory at the Wellness Center, while St. Francis(BK) rolls to their NEC leading twelfth overall victory of the season.

Despite Raiquan Clarke's game high 29-points and 14 rebounds, the Blackbirds only shoot 21/58 (36.2%) from the floor, and just 3/19 (15.8 %) from three-point range.

Robert Morris remains perched atop the NEC standings with a 5-1 conference record.  Both St. Francis(BK) and Sacred Heart are a game back with 4-2 records, while the LIU Blackbirds are bunched in a three-way tie with a 3-3 conference record, and 9-9 record overall.

The Blackbirds are headed to Maryland where they'll take on Mount St. Mary's on Thursday.


Monday, January 21, 2019

Only Name on My Hall of Fame Ballot: Gil Hodges

From the desks of: 
FINGERPRINTS OF DEM BUMS  and  HEAD-BUTTING MR. MET


THE QUIET MAN


According to baseballhall.org, the BBWAA Rules for Election, Article Five reads:

Voting shall be based upon player's record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.

Based on their own criteria, it is unfathomable to me how Gil Hodges is continually denied enshrinement into baseball's Hall of Fame.  The highest percentage of votes he ever received by the BBWAA was 63.4% in 1983, his final year on the writer's ballot.  However, the former Veterans Committee in my opinion was far more negligent in their refusal to pass him through than writers whom perhaps did not cover his playing career (and yes, I'm being kind about it).

My own personal criteria for election into Baseball's Hall of Fame includes being among the dominant players at both their respective position and the game as a whole for at least a ten year portion of a player's career.

By all accounts, Gil Hodges qualifies as a Hall of Famer.  I'm not breaking new ground.  His record reads as such:  Baseball-Reference.com

There are 25 first baseman enshrined at Cooperstown; Hodges ranks 11th among them with 370 home runs.  For twelve seasons spanning 1948-1959, Hodges led all first basemen in home runs, RBI, extra-base hits, and OPS.  For the decade of the 1950s, he ranked second overall in the National League in home runs and RBI.  From 1949 through 1959, Hodges slashed .280/.367/.507, while averaging 30 home runs and 101 RBI per season.  He exceeded 20 home runs in eleven consecutive seasons; hit at least 30 home runs six times, and hit forty or more home runs twice.  He exceeded 100 RBI in seven straight seasons.  Upon his retirement, Gil Hodges ranked 11th on the all-time home run list, and third among right-hand batters.  Moreover, he helped the Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers win seven National League pennants, and two World Series championships.  And it was Gil who triumphantly delivered Brooklyn's only two runs in Game Seven of the 1955 World Series against the Yankees.  Starting with 1957, he won baseball's first three newly minted Golden Glove Awards for defensive excellence at first base.

His career with the Dodgers which began in 1943 ended after the 1961 season.  In 1962 Gil returned to the city which still adored him unconditionally.  He played 54 games for the expansion New York Metropolitan baseball club, then retired in 1963 after just 11 games.  Five years later he would become their manager.  In his second season, the New York Mets would become World Series champions.
  • His four year record managing the Mets: 339-309 (.523)


Gil suffered a heart attack shortly before start of the 1972 season, and on April, 2, passed away at 47-years of age.  He rests peacefully at Holy Cross Cemetery in Brooklyn.

The Hall of Fame's Golden Era Committee reconvenes in 2020.  When they do, this epic injustice must finally be corrected.

Hall of Fame, now..!



Sunday, January 20, 2019

Winter League Baseball: All Championship Series Underway


WINTER LEAGUE BEISBOL
2018~2019



MEXICO

CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES
GAME ONE
YAQUIS de OBRAGON
vs.
CHARROS de JALISCO
MONDAY



PUERTO RICO

CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES
GAME ONE
CANGREJEROS de SANTURCE
vs.
INDIOS de MAYAGUEZ
TUESDAY



VENEZUELA

CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES
GAME ONE
LEONES de CARACAS
vs.
CARDENALES de LARA
TUESDAY



DOMINICAN REPUBLIC

CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES
GAME FOUR
ESTRELLAS de ORIENTALES (2-1)
vs.
TOROS del ESTE (1-2)
MONDAY



CUBA

CAMPEONES SERIE NACIONAL/58TH EDITION
LENADORES de LAS TUNAS


PIGSKIN 2018: CHAMPIONSHIP SUNDAY


PIGSKIN
CHAMPIONSHIP 
SUNDAY

RESULTS
Week Eleven
Thanksgiving Day
Week Twelve
Week Thirteen
Week Fourteen
Week Fifteen
Week Sixteen
Week Seventeen
Wild Card Round
Divisional Round



SCOREBOARD:
Division Round Record:  2-2
Overall Record:  98-126-11
Bagels in the Basket:  -45

  • Going with 20 bagels per game..!
  • Line: Saturday NYP


AMERICAN FOOTBALL CONFERENCE

Patriots +3 (CHIEFS)

Correct me if I'm mistaken, but the Chargers entered last week's game rated among the top defenses in the AFC, no?  As I was saying ... Paper Tiger!  Bill Belichick, Tom Brady, and the New England Patriots completely short circuited the San Diego Los Angeles Bolts by playing fundamentally simple, no-nonsense, unadulterated smash mouth football.  No gimmicks, just in your face pigskin.  They called formations and plays straight out of the 1960s.  The only thing missing were leather helmets.  It was beauty to behold.  That's why I ignore those who scream from the hilltops about how the game has changed.  The Patriots possessed the ball for over 38-freaking minutes!  Change that!  Know why the Pats possessed the ball for so long?  They rushed for 154 yards and four touchdowns, while Julian Edelman/James White accounted for another 248 yards receiving.  In other words the Chargers had no answer; didn't know how to adjust ... that's why.  Along with Brady, the four Minutemen put forth such a dominant effort that (hobbled) Gronk was only asked to make one reception all game.  Otherwise, he was busy creating daylight with great effectiveness for RB Sony Michel.  If the Patriots managed 40-points against the Bolts, what do you suppose can happen against a porous Chiefs defense that allowed 421 regular season points (26.3 points per game)?  I know I said that last week, but I'll also reiterate the Colts looked more ready for the glue factory than for an NFL playoff game.  Furthermore, I maintain the Patriots defense is underrated.  Just ask a disrupted, harassed, and ultimately beaten-down Philip Rivers, who completed a miserable 25 of 51 passes with an INT.  He was sacked twice and roughed-up another seven times.  Playing from behind throughout, the Chargers rushed just nine times all game.  All this being said, there was little or nothing about Kansas City's victory over the Colts that I found the least bit impressive.  I repeat, nothing.  Dare I say the Colts flat out sucked.  Kansas City really had nothing to do with Indy's futility.  The Nags did everything imaginable to kick themselves in their own posterior.  As Charles Barkley would say, "Trrrible."  Then there's Andy Reid.  When it comes to coaching, this really is a battle of the have and have-not.  Reid just can't seem to get over that hump.  Sure Belichick has lost big games before - lots of times.  But he's won a lot of big games as well.  These teams last met in Week Twelve; the Patriots won by three.  Brady put in his typical work, and Sony Michel rushed for over 100 yards.  Pat Mahomes on the other hand threw two picks and Kareem Hunt is no longer on the team.  If bad weather becomes a factor, I like the Patriots even more.
WIN; 37-31 Patriots


NATIONAL FOOTBALL CONFERENCE

SAINTS -3 (Rams)

I was long ago convinced the Saints would wind up in the championship game.  But now what?  What can a bad shoulder do to a quarterback's game, much less his season?  Ask Cam Newton.  He sucked this season and nobody really knew why.  Turns out he played hurt and the Panthers wound up losing seven in a row.  I bring this up, as I was pointed out by the TV pundits how Drew Brees was under-throwing his receivers last week.  And by-golly, they're right!  The question then begs to be asked: is he really hurt?  Consider how the Eagles lost! Saints won.  Just a thought.  Drew Brees was actually 28/38 for 301 yards, two TD's, and one big WTF interception.  The Saints also ran the ball 31 times, and therefore maintained a measure of play calling balance.  The O-line only allowed two sacks, and that's my biggest question concerning the Rams: can they get to Brees?  The Rams finished t-19 in the NFL with 38 sacks, and just one last week against he Cowboys.  The Cowboys managed 22-points against the Rams; the Saints 20-points against the Eagles.  Dallas nor the Chargers get after the QB like Philly or the Saints can.  New Orleans finished the season t-5th with 49 sacks, but none against the Eagles.  The Saints/Rams met midway through the season.  Neither QB was sacked; the Saints got in five QB hits, and the Rams four.  Goff threw three TD's and one pick; Brees threw four TD's and no picks.  Ironically, the Rams were better this season at picking off passes than New New Orleans.  How'd that work out for them?  Both teams feature the so called offensive triumvirate; both teams scored over 500 points this season.  The Saints are 6-2 at home; the Rams 6-2 on the road.  Yeah ... at the end of the day, this boils down to defense.  Time for stupid math tricks.  The Saints allowed 353 regular season points; the Rams 384; for a +31 in favor of New Orleans.  What that means, I'm not sure.  But I do know the Saints defeated the Rams by ten points back in November.  The Saints defense kept Nick Foles and the Eagles scoreless over the final three quarters of last week's game ... barely!  I believe they can beat the Rams by four.
Loss; 26-23 Rams

Saints got screwed ...!



Saturday, January 19, 2019

N.Y. Islanders: Thomas Greiss Leads Washington Filibuster

From the desk of:  NO SLEEP TILL BELMONT


First Place - Metropolitan Division
Tied Second - Eastern Conference

FRIDAY
Islanders   2
Capitals     0
FINAL

New York Islanders: Look Who's Number One..!

A January Metropolitan Division battle for first place, Barry Trotz leads his new team on the road against his old team, and sees the Islanders through to a 2-0 whitewashing of the Capitals.  The victory gives them a point more than both the reigning champions and Columbus Blue Jackets, along with sole possession of first place.  With a 26-15-4 record, they now have 60-points to be exact, tied for second most in the conference with the Toronto Maple Leafs, no less.

Are the Maple Leafs better with John Tavares, or are the Islanders better without him?  On this day, the Isles have it.

Considering their defensive and net minding struggles over the last few years, the Islanders this season have allowed the fewest goals in the NHL.  Barry Trotz has a lot to do with that, but so does the goalie tandem of Robin Lehner and Thomas Greiss.  Lehner, the 28-year old former Senator/Saber is so far having a career season with the Isles.  After 25 appearances, he is 14-7-3, with an NHL best 2.11 GAA.  His .928 save percentage ranks second in the league.  Meanwhile, Thomas Greiss is 14-8-1 after 26 appearances, with a 2.50 GAA.  His .920 save percentage ranks top ten.  He faced just 19 shots during Friday's 2-0 shutout of the Capitals
  • Combined Stats:  28-15-4 record; .924 save percentage; 2.30 GAA; 4 shutouts.

The Islanders are now winners of four in a row, and 12-2-0 over their last 14 games, which includes last Sunday's 5-1 drubbing of the Eastern Conference leading Tampa Bay Lighting.

*

The Washington Capitals honored Barry Trotz with a touching video tribute, the crowd likewise showered him with applause, respect, and appreciation for the coach whom just one short season ago guided Washington to their one and only Stanley Cup victory.



Winter League Baseball: Semi Finals Near Complete; Puerto Rico; Mexico; Venezuela


Winter League Beisbol
2018~2019


PUERTO RICO
Founded 1938
80th Anniversary Season

ROUND ROBIN STANDINGS
  1. Indios de Mayaguez          8-3*
  2. Cangrejeros de Santurce  5-5
  3. Gigantes de Carolina        3-8
1/18 - Mayaguez 8; Carolina 3.  Mets catcher Tomas Nido went 2 for 3, with a double, run scored, and a pair of RBI, in los Indios victory over Carolina on Friday.

REMAINING SCHEDULE
  • 1/19 - Santurce @ Mayaguez
  • 1/21 - Carolina @ Santurce

There's been no let up in los Indios de Mayaguez, LBPRC leaders throughout this abbreviated season, and round robin play.  With Friday's victory over Carolina, not only have los Gigantes exhausted their championship round possibilities, but los Indios de Mayaguez clinch top seed in the upcoming LBPRC championship series.  Santurce has two games yet to play, but not enough to overtake Mayaguez.  Otherwise, a championship series showdown between Mayaguez versus Santurce is all but set.


MEXICO
Founded 1945

SEMIFINALS
Charros de Jalisco defeat Venados de Mazatlan; 4-1
I - JAL 3; MAZ 0
II - JAL 2; MAZ 0
III - MAZ 7; JAL 3
IV - JAL 6; MAZ 3
V - JAL 10; MAZ 6

Yaquis de Obregon vs. Caneros de Los Mochis; 3-3

Game Seven
Yaquis @ Caneros
Saturday

LMP 
CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES 
Jan. 21~29


VENEZUELA
Founded 1945

Leones de Caracas defeat Caribes de Anzoategui; 4-1
I - Leones 6; Caribes 4
II - Caribes 9; Leones 8
III - Leones 6; Caribes 5
IV - Leones 4; Caribes 2
V - Leones 4; Caribes 1

Cardenales de Lara Lead Navegantes de Magallanes; 3-2
I - MAG 4; LAR 1
II - LAR 2; MAG 1
III - LAR 6; MAG 2
IV - LAR 3; MAG 0
V - MAG 3; LAR 0

GAME SIX
Navegantes Cardenales
Saturday

LVBP 
CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES
Jan. 22~30


ICYMI:


Winter League Baseball: Cuba Crowns New Champion; Dominican League Finals Underway


WINTER LEAGUE BEISBOL
2018~2019


CUBA
FOUNDED 1961

CAMPEONES SERIE NACIONAL/58th EDITION
Lenadores de Las Tunas

Las Tunas defeat Leopardos de Villa Clara; 4-1
I - LTU 13; VCL 6
II - LTU 8; VCL 4
III - VCL 9; LTU 4
IV - LTU 7; VCL 5
V - LTU 8; VCL 4
  • Club Founded 1977
  • Translation: Los Lenadores = the Lumberjacks/Woodcutters.
  • Las Tunas play in Group C of the circuit's Eastern League.
  • This is the club's first ever Serie Nacional championship.
  • Las Tunas now enlist traditional reinforcements from within the league en route to this year's 2019 Caribbean Serie being hosted by Venezuela.



DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
Founded 1951

CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES
TOROS del ESTE
 vs. 
ESTRELLAS de ORIENTALES

Estrellas lead series 2-0
I - Estrellas 13; Toros 1
II - Estrellas 6; Toros 1
Game Three - 1/19
Game Four - 1/21
Game Five - 1/22
Game Six - 1/23*
Game Seven - 1/25*
Game Eight - 1/26*
Game Nine - 1/27*

1/18 - Game Two:  Before exiting on the winning side of a 4-1 game, Orientales starter Nestor Cortes pitches six scoreless innings of three-hit ball, with two walks and three strikeouts.  Five relievers join to pitch the final three frames, surrendering one earned run on three hits and a walk, with four strikeouts.  Roman Mendez struck out the side to close out the ninth.  Paolo Espino took the loss for los Toros, having allowed four earned runs on four hits and two walks through five innings, despite striking out nine.  Touted shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. was 1 for 2, with an RBI and two runs scores for los Estrellas.  Former Mets and los Toros designated hitter Jordany Valdespin went 0 for 4 with three strikeouts.

Both teams are in search of their third ever LIDOM championship.
  • Los Toros: 1994-1995; 2010-1011
  • Estrellas: 1953-1954; 1967-1968 (won championship in 1936, prior to LIDOM)
  • info/Wiki


Friday, January 18, 2019

Brooklyn Nets Creating a Winning Culture and Identity, As Promised

From the desk of:  THE HOOPS OF FLATBUSH


23-23 (.500)
Sixth Place Eastern Conference

New arena, new uniforms, new crowd, in a new town - a new owner knew the Nets couldn't just quietly tip-toe into Brooklyn.  At least that's the way incoming tycoon Mikhail Prokhorov viewed things.  Lest we forget his stated goal of winning a championship within five years.  We're now seven years away from Prokhorov's rather bold mandate which former general manager Billy King failed to satisfy.

Insofar as delivering a title: there's really no one person to blame for the way those initial years played out.  They made an organizational decision meant to ignite a new Nets economy in Brooklyn.  That's just the nature of doing business when one capitalist invades the territory of another.

It can be argued both teams during that time operated and transacted rather erratically.  However, none more crippling than the exorbitant price in draft picks Billy King paid to acquire Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce from Boston.  Blame as I may, the owner signed off on it.

And while the trade got Brooklyn this far ...


... by 2015-2016 the win-now plan had proven itself overwhelmingly futile.  On the heels of another January loss at Detroit which saw the Nets record fall to 10-24, Billy King's tenure as general manager ends.

On Sunday, January 10, 2016, Mikhail Prokhorov orders a rebuild:
"By making this decision now it enables our organization to use the rest of the season to diligently evaluate candidates with proven track records.  It's clear from our current state of affairs that we need new leadership.  With the right basketball management and coach in place we are going to create a winning culture and identity and give Brooklyn a team that it can be proud of and enjoy watching." Ryan Bort, Newsday

The Nets hire Sean Marks on Feb. 18, 2016, as new general manager.  In April, the team ends the regular season with a 21-61 record.  Before the month is through, Sean Marks offers Kenny Atkinson his first head coaching position.

  • Season One (2016-2017): Oct. 28, 2016, the Nets boast a 1-1 record; it marks their lone moment playing at or above the .500 mark.  On April 8, 2017 they win their 20th game of the season; a 107-106 victory over the Bulls at Barclays Center.  They finish the season with a 20-62 record.
  • Season Two (2017-2018): Oct. 27, 2017, the Nets are 3-3, but never again reach .500 for the rest of the season.  This time, however, they win their 20th game of the season by Feb. 26, 2018; coincidentally, another 104-87 victory over the Chicago Bulls at Barclays Center.  The Nets would finish the season with a slightly improved 28-54 record.

This is Kenny Atkinson's third season.  After 210 games, he owns an 71-139 (.338) overall record as Nets coach.  As recently as a month ago - with the Nets in the midst of an eight game losing streak - fans and faux experts across social media were calling for Atkinson's termination.

What say you?

Me?

That was a kneejerk and not very well thought out reaction.  Truth be told, one-third of all Kenny Atkinson's victories as Nets coach have come in the first three months of this season alone.

They won their 20th game of the season on Jan. 5, 2019, against none other than the Bulls; another 117-100 victory at Chicago, no less.  They're now 15-5 (.750) over their last 20 games, and are within five victories of surpassing last year's entire win total.  And with a 23-23 record, they presently occupy sixth place in the Eastern Conference standings.

Despite this relative success, injuries to key players (Caris Levert; Allen Crabbe; Jared Dudley) should not go under spoken.  Yet, adversity seems to have revealed within these Nets an endearing Brooklyn-like resiliency.

Is reaching .500 in January important?

Alas, consecutive benchmark victories against Boston and Houston transpired without Kyrie Irving on the floor, and James Harden essentially playing by himself.  However, where it concerns the Nets I would argue the answer is indubitably, yes.  Sean Marks and Kenny Atkinson somehow adapted and overcame the great mistake left behind by Billy King.  Over the last 2 1/2 years, they've methodically engineered steady improvement to the point where the Nets are now experiencing upwards climb.  The added ability to effectively impact the team through the draft is also back in their control, not to mention their substantial salary cap reserves at the ready. former cap reserves ...

Cycle back to the 2016 mission statement ...

At this point, I believe it safe to say a new basketball culture is indeed growing in Brooklyn; an earnest grassroots effort to build an NBA contender, involving many wonderful and individual player stories, to be sure.  The plan put in place back in 2016 is working.  This year's play bears that out.  As a result, the Nets are becoming increasingly more enjoyable to watch, as promised by Mikhail Prokhorov, and reaffirmed by incoming partner, Joseph Tsai.

Just don't wait for an apathetic local media to start shaking their pom-poms.

Go Brooklyn!


Thursday, January 17, 2019

N.Y. Jets Refocusing Their Eyes on the Prize

From the desk of:  WALT MICHAELS REVENGE


Gang Green Meets BountyGate;
Hello, Gregg Williams.

New York Jets: Despite Flawed Front Office, Hiring Adam Gase and Gregg Williams May Prove Savvy.

It dawned on me this is the first ever official hire by either Mike Maccagnan and/or Christopher Johnson - neither of whom did I ever feel were sufficiently experienced (much less qualified) to serve in their respective capacities.  And despite what may prove to be very savvy changes to the coaching staff, my opinion about the front office remains unchanged.

In the same manner I believe John Idzik undermined Rex Ryan, I view Maccagnan acting as the foil against former coach Todd Bowles.  In matters of personnel and free agent expenditure, both Idzik and Maccagnan demonstrated an ulterior underhandedness by forcing their head coaches into making due with increasingly less.  Why?  Perhaps because neither general manager played a role in hiring said head coach.  While an effective working relationship between new head coach Adam Gase and Maccagnan remains to be seen, Maccagnan's ability to smartly invest the team's $100 million salary cap reserves also remains to be seen.  If we're being truthful, his team building efforts over the last four years, outside of selecting Sam Darnold in last year's draft, have left much to be desired.  Yet, he stays.

Enter Christopher Johnson, who on Monday proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that he knows the game and business of football exponentially less than his brother.  Being heir to a corporate empire is one thing, but operating an NFL club is entirely another.  I do feel owners often times inject too many corporate sensibilities which at times are in direct conflict with the business dynamics of football.

I have no particular opinion regarding the hiring itself of head coach Adam Gase - and that's a good thing.  He is certainly someone who seems to have his eyes on the prize!  I couldn't resist ...

All kidding aside, I think many agree this hire is a fine step forward toward the development of quarterback Sam Darnold.  In that regard, the Jets are justified for moving on from Bowles and Jeremy Bates.

On the other side of the ball, the Jets execute another eye grabbing headline with the hiring of Gregg Williams as their next defensive coordinator.  Yes, the same former New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator who earned a one-year suspension after taped-recordings surfaced in which he is heard instigating his players into committing unsportsmanlike violence upon the opposition; an episode infamously known today as Bountygate.  That aside, he is no doubt an aggressive thinker, and should serve the Jets very well, provided Mike Maccagnan furnishes him with talent.  With some play makers, a new Jets identity may very well start on this side of the ball.

Despite my previous support for Todd Bowles, and my vote of no-confidence for Maccagnan, the Jets  are nevertheless in the midst of a very promising transition.



Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Winter League Baseball: Playoff Updates Through 1/15/2019


WINTER LEAGUE BEISBOL
2018~ 2019






CUBA
Serie National Beisbol de Cuba

SERIE FINAL
  • Lenadores de Las Tunas lead series against Leopardos de Villa Clara; 2-1
  1. Lenadores de Las Tunas 13; Leopardos de Villa Clara 6
  2. Lenadores de Las Tunas 8; Leopardos de Villa Clara 4
  3. Leopardos de Villa Clara 9; Lenadores de Las Tunas 4
  4. 1/16  Las Tunas @ Villa Clara
  5. 1/17  Las Tunas @ Villa Clara
  6.   if necessary*
  7.   if necessary*





DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
Liga de Beisbol Profesional Republica Dominicana

ROUND ROBIN
  • TIE-BREAKER FINAL: TOROS 4; LEONES 3
  • Los Toros starter Raul Valdez pitches an eight inning gem, exiting on the winning side of a 4-1 game after limiting Los Leones de Escogito to a lone earned run on five hits and a walk, with one strikeout.  Reliever Fernando Abad is summoned to pitch the bottom of the ninth.  But after retiring his first batter faced, Abad promptly surrenders two earned runs on three hits and a walk.  Enter reliever Michael Dimock, who retires Leones pinch-hitter Luis Valenzuela on a fly to right fielder Hunter Pence, but walks second baseman Ryan Court to load the bases.  Dimock then induces a harmless fly to center by Escogito center fielder Ryan Roberson to finally close out Los Toros tie-breaking victory over Los Leones.  Los Toros del Este advance to the LIDOM championship series where they'll face awaiting top seed Estrellas del Orientales.
DOMINICAN LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES
GAME ONE
Los Toros del Este (36-33)
vs.
Estrellas del Orientales (40-28)
Friday, Jan. 18, 2019






PUERTO RICO
Liga Beisbol Profesional Roberto Clemente

ROUND ROBIN STANDINGS
  1. Indios de Mayaguez           7-2 (3 games left)
  2. Cangrejeros de Santurce   4-5 (3 games left)
  3. Gigantes de Carolina         2-6 (4 games left)
  • 1/15 - Mayaguez 4; Santurce 1 (11-innings)
  • 1/16 - Mayaguez @ Carolina
Six games against each opponent; tourney concludes Jan. 21; top two clubs advance to LBPRC championship series.






MEXICO
Liga Mexicana del Pacifico

SEMI FINALS
  • Caneros de Los Mochis vs. Yaquis de Obregon series tied; 2-2
  • Charros de Jalisco lead series over Venados de Mazatlan; 2-1
  • 1/16 - Game Four (Jalisco vs. Mazatlan); Game Five (Los Mochis vs. Obregon)
  • 1/17 - Game Five (Jalisco vs. Mazatlan)
  • 1/18 - Game Six
  • 1/19 - Game Seven





VENEZUELA
Liga Venezolana de Beisbol Profesional

SEMI FINALS
  • Cardenales de Lara lead series against Navegantes de Magallanes; 2-1
  • Leones de Caracas lead series against Caribes de Anzoategui; 2-1
  • 1/16 - GAME FOUR
  • 1/17 - GAME FIVE
  • 1/19 - GAME SIX
  • 1/20 - GAME SEVEN