Tuesday, February 26, 2019

N.Y. Rangers: My Kingdom for a Center


Jeff Gorton has jettisoned in excess of 15 players within the last year 
in return for 13 players/prospects and a near equal number of draft picks.

New York Rangers: Jeff Gorton wraps up round two of the purge; with newly accumulated assets in hand, he must now seek out, secure, and build around a legitimate first line center.

One championship in 79-years ... Rangers fans know it all too well.  

In 1994, the Rangers snapped what was then a 54-year drought.  The Stanley Cup itself was hoisted up in triumph by a legitimate first line center named Mark Messier.  Sadly, another 25-years have elapsed without winning another.  Not coincidentally, the team has likewise remained hopelessly in search of their next first line center, to no avail.

How do teams go about obtaining one of these so called first line centers?

In the Rangers case, they were fortunate enough in 1991 to acquire by trade a 31-year old future hall of fame center from the Edmonton Oilers.  Previous to Mark Messier, fans need to rewind all the way back to Phil Esposito - another hall of fame, first line, albeit aging center acquired by trade from the Boston Bruins - whom in 1979 led the club to the Stanley Cup finals, only to meet defeat against the dynastic Montreal Canadiens.

Otherwise, first line centers are drafted.  But unless you're selecting first or second overall - outside of the rare wunderkind slipping through the cracks - odds are you're still not securing a legitimate two way first line threat.  In order to be in that position, a team must really, really, suck ... and not just for one season, but two, or three seasons of complete and utter toilet worthy play.

Here are just a few examples:
  • Between the years 2003 through 2006, the Pittsburgh Penguins lost upwards of 65% of their games.  In 2004, they selected Evgeni Malkin with the second overall pick of the entry draft.  The very next year, Pittsburgh selected Sidney Crosby with the first overall pick of the entry draft.
  • While not a center, Alex Ovechkin was the player selected first overall ahead of Malkin in the 2004 entry draft.  But in order to get themselves in that position, the Washington Capitals in 2003-2004 lost 64% of their games.
  • The Chicago Blackhawks are no different.  Jonathan Toews is an example of a top center being selected third overall (in the 2006 entry draft).  The very next year, winger Patrick Kane was the first overall selection of the 2007 entry draft.  However, being in position to draft either player, much less both, required the Blackhawks enduring back-to-back seasons of 60% futility.
  • Locally speaking, this is how the Islanders got their hands on their former center John Tavares, and how the Devils were able to draft center Nico Hischier.

The Rangers, on the other hand, have never allowed themselves to sink to such depths.  That, in a nutshell, explains the Rangers decades long lack of elite skill up the middle.  There's been just one instance within my lifetime (1984-1985) in which the Rangers lost 62% of their games.  The previous time before that occurred before I was born, between the years 1964 through 1966, when they lost 64% of their games, on average.  Under Emile "the cat" Francis they would draft themselves back into playoff contention and into the 1972 Stanley Cup finals.

It was one year ago this month when Jeff Gorton (shadowed by Glen Sather) announced the Rangers were embarking on a full rebuild.  A decision I applauded.  But according to the latest NHL standings, the Rangers are presently only the tenth worst team in hockey.  To my point, that's not nearly bad enough in terms of superior draft positioning.

Jeff Gorton has nonetheless amassed a handsome clutch of draft picks to either stock the organization's ranks, or utilize as trade chips.  The latter seems far more likely, particularly if Jeff Gorton decides to accelerate this rebuild.  For example, if the Rangers can not swing a deal for, say, a thirty-something Jonathan Toews, then acquiring a pair of two way/second line centers I guess would be the next best thing.

Monday, February 25, 2019

N.Y. Mets: Pete Alonso Smashes First Grapefruit of Spring Training

From the desk of:  HEAD-BUTTING MR. MET


New York Mets: Pete Alonso Begins Bid to Win First Base Job With a Bang.

With general manager Brodie Van Wagenen looking on, first base hopeful Pete Alonso wasted no time putting his long-ball capabilities on full display Saturday afternoon for all the Spring Training crowd to see.  In his first Grapefruit League at-bat, Alonso deposited Atlanta's Touki Toussaint's first offering beyond the left/center field wall.

It's also worth mentioning one of BVW's very first actions as new general manager was to pay his highly touted slugger a personal visit.  After all, it's Brodie who is prioritizing better organizational interpersonal relationships aimed towards achieving success.

Yeah ... just keep hitting dingers, Pete!

I caught my first glimpse of Alonso in 2016 when he played (in my backyard) for the Brooklyn Cyclones.  He slashed .321/.382/.587, with 12 doubles, five home runs, and 21 RBI, through 30 games and 109 at-bats.  He played 82 games for (A+) St. Lucie in 2017, then touched down at Binghamton by season's end (where I managed my second glimpse of Alonso; pictured below).

Sept. 4, 2017 @ Binghamton Rumble Ponies

Alonso split last season demoralizing both Eastern and Pacific Coast League pitchers.  Considering his batting average dipped 54-points from Binghamton (.314) to Las Vegas (.260), he nonetheless finished up slashing .285/.395/.579/1.012, with 31 doubles, 36 home runs, and 119 RBI through 132 games and a combined 478 at-bats.

The recently turned 24-year old has but 282 games played as a professional.  Through 1,038 career minor league at-bats, Alonso is slashing .287/.377/.555/.932, with 65 home runs and 230 RBI.  That's some rather prodigious stuff.  But by no means does last season's performance, nor Saturday's home run mean he's ready to compete against major league pitching.  That must work itself out on the field and at the plate.  In the meantime, he appears to have no bigger proponent than Brodie Van Wagenen, who seems unconcerned with starting Alonso's proverbial clock.

Syracuse is, of course, the logical place for him to open the season.  There's enough roster depth available between Todd Frazier, Dom Smith, and J.D. Davis, for accommodating Alonso's eventual graduation to Flushing.  The only question is not if, but when.  Unfortunately, Alonso potentially faces a lengthy season at Syracuse, as the matter of Todd Frazier's $9 million dollar salary may force Alonso to just sit around and wait.


J.D. Davis is a curious acquisition with much potential upside.  He comes from the Houston Astros, along with (minor) Cody Bohanek, in exchange for (minor prospects) Ross Adolph, Scott, Manea, and Luis Santana.  Parting with Adolph is my only bone of contention.  Like Pete Alonso, I enjoyed immensely watching Ross play out his first pro season as a member of the Brooklyn Cyclones.  But unlike Ross, Davis has major league experience and can play the infield corners as well as outfield (although his defense at third may leave something to be desired).  He turns 26-years old in April, and is not eligible for free agency until after the 2024 season.  That said,  I'll give J.D. a pass for 67 inconsequential MLB games played, to date.  What I will credit him for is being a .521 slugger through five minor league seasons and nearly 2,000 career (minor) at-bats.  Last season while playing at Fresno of the PCL, he slashed a nifty .342/.406/.583, with 17 home runs and 81 RBI through 85 games and 333 at-bats.  However, like Pete Alonso, this slugger needs to prove himself on the major league level.  But this is indeed an intriguing acquisition to say the least.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

N.Y. Rangers: The Jeff Gorton Purge Continues


New York Rangers: Mats Zuccarello traded to the Dallas Stars in exchange for two conditional draft picks.

Traded in the midst of his ninth season with the Rangers, Mats Zuccarello has always been considered one of off-Broadway's brightest stars, and will forever remain a fan favorite.

An extremely smart player both with and without the puck, he had a knack for being everywhere his line mates needed him to be.  Also never one to shy away from physical play or steer clear of the dirtier portions of ice, Mats continually demonstrated himself to be an explosive player in a small package.  And for the last five-plus seasons he has easily been one of the team's top forwards, and often times their best.

And there's the rub ...

Taking account of Rangers personnel over the last seven years is to know Mats Zuccarello should never have been the team's top scorer; not with the likes of Rick Nash, Chris Kreider, Ryan Callahan, Brad Richards, Keith Yandle, Kevin Hayse, J.T. Miller, Derick Brassard, Derek Stepan, etc., populating the roster.  Yet between 2013 and 2018, Mats Zuccarello did just that, leading the team in scoring four out of five seasons with an average of 56-points - an indictment against the players, if I may, with whom through the years Zuccarello has been surrounded with, including the man who assembled them together, Glen Sather, whose cap-consuming win now business model inevitably proved ruinous.  This is why the Rangers find themselves in this present condition of tearing it down and rebuilding from the ground up.

I liked MatsZucs as much as the next fan.  But if it's change that you seek, well then things must get worse before getting better.  As such, many of life's best decisions usually start out being the most unpopular ones.  So touche to Jeff Gorton for picking up where he left off last year insofar as trading away players of value for draft picks and prospects; the more, the merrier.  My only gripe is that Gorton has still not gone far enough (last year included). 

But there's still time to jettison more players before Monday's deadline.

Brooklyn Nets: Flatbush Creates Some Elbow Room

From the desk of:  THE HOOPS OF FLATBUSH


Nets       117
Hornets  115

Brooklyn Nets: Caris LeVert Provides Flatbush With a Little Elbow Room.

A week after making his NBA All-Star Game debut at Charlotte, D'Angelo Russell returned to North Carolina where on Saturday the fourth year point guard celebrated his 23rd birthday by smoking the Hornets nest with a career tying 40-point, and game high seven assist effort.

However, it was Caris LeVert who in the end stepped in to create the requisite elbow room needed for nudging the Nets through to a much needed team victory over one of the Eastern Conference's top eight contenders.  To the Hornets dismay, LeVert's flailing elbow block of Kemba Walker's last second attempt at a three earned no whistle.  Walker tried selling an infraction, but the refs weren't buying.

Brooklyn entered Saturday's action with an even 30-30 record.  Their 117-115 victory at Charlotte helps stabilize their sixth place standing after going just 3-6 in their previous nine games.  Brooklyn is presently one of just six Eastern Conference teams playing above the .500 mark.  The Hornets loss drops them to eighth, while Detroit now slips into seventh just 1.5 games behind the Nets.


With Spencer Dinwiddie out since Jan. 23, D'Angelo Russell continues elevating his game.  Saturday marks the second time this season D'Angelo Russell has hit the 40-point mark.  No coincidence both have occurred during the new year (he scored 40-points at Orlando, Jan. 8).  He has scored 25-points or better in 20 games this season; eight times from October through December:
  • OCT: once.
  • NOV: three times.
  • DEC: four times.
So far, the new calendar year speaks for itself:
  • JAN: eight times.
  • FEB: four times.
This month, D'Angelo Russell has scored 25-points or better in three of his last four games, and four times over his last eight games.  Closer to the point, he's averaging 26.1 point in February, after averaging 23.8 points in January.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

N.Y. Mets: Noah Syndergaard Wields Hammer on Free Agency

From the desk of:  HEAD-BUTTING MR. MET



New York Mets: Thor Says Make No Pitch Before Its Time.

Don't count on the Mets serving up Noah Syndergaard a four/five year early bird special similar to those recently gobbled up by the Yankees Luis Severino and the Phillies Aaron Nola.  For it appears offering Noah a higher premium for his remaining years of arbitration and shaving a few years off free agency is now officially off the menu.

Apparently that's the bottom line, because Noah Syndergaard said so.  The man they call Thor made his position quite clear just a few days ago when he said,
"I trust my ability and the talent that I have.  I feel like I'm going to bet on myself in free agency." - The Athletic.

And why not ...

Business wise, it's the right move.  As someone who turns 27-years old this coming August, any prospective four/five year deal would expire during his early thirties.  All it takes is one look around to know the present landscape for thirty-something free agents is changing before our very eyes.  And make no mistake ... Noah is paying very close attention as Jacob deGrom and the Mets front office speak of hammering out a new deal but have yet to exchange a single dollar figure.  Therefore, why would Noah put himself in such a position when he most certainly stands to make more money on the open market as a 29-year old and still in the midst of his prime athletic years.

His name was also the focus of constant off-season trade scuttlebutt.  Some players are immune to rumors; others not so much.  But at this point, it seems as if mutual loyalty has left the building.  Thus I believe Brodie Van Wagenen is inclined more now than ever to actually follow through with a trade involving Syndergaaard.  I heard the following on the radio, of which I fully agree: Syndergaard could very well wind up dealt to the San Diego Padres.  On the heels of signing Manny Machado, the Padres are starved for pitching but very rich in touted, and potentially obtainable prospects.

It's also no coincidence the Mets have a quickly developing quandary on their hands.  Zack Wheeler becomes a free agent after this season; Jacob deGrom is eligible after 2020; and Syndergaard is eligible after the 2021 season.  The odds of the Mets retaining all three are remote.

What's a general manager to do?

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

N.Y. Mets: Time for the Real Steven Matz to Step Forward

From the desk of:  HEAD-BUTTING MR. MET



New York Mets: A Healthy Steven Matz Can Help Transform the Starting Rotation into the Idealized Fearsome Foursome Fans Have Been Longing For.

Can Steven Matz endure a full season?

That is the question.

Until he demonstrates otherwise, the Mets fragile fifth year pitcher still requires handling with care.

Matz made his MLB debut in June of 2015, and started three more games before season's end, posting a nifty 4-0 record with a 2.27 ERA, while allowing 34 hits, and fanning 34 through 35.2 innings pitched.  After which, he's been riddled by arm troubles ever since.  In 2016, he managed 132.1 innings pitched through 22 starts.  However, by mid-season it was revealed he was pitching with bone spurs in his elbow.  He pressed on but was shut down by late August upon feeling shoulder tightness.  He would undergo off-season surgery as scheduled.  Steven then began the 2017 season on the disabled list with a flexor strain.  His season finally commenced on June 10, but came to an abrupt end just over two months later when an ulnar nerve issue short-circuited his season after just 13 starts.  For a second straight off-season, Matz would undergo surgery.

Under first year manager Mickey Callaway and new bullpen coach Dave Eiland, Steven returned in 2018 to post a 5-11 record with a 3.97 ERA, and 1.247 WHiP, and set several career marks in the process:
  • 33 starts
  • 154 innings pitched
  • 8.9 K/9
  • 7.8 H/9
  • .267 BABIP

On the negative side, he finished the season with a career high 3.4 W/9 average, but more noticeably failed to negotiate yet another season without experiencing injury; the culprit this time being a late July flexor pronator strain.

It's understandable that his fastball velocity is still slightly down from his rookie year, according to Fangraphs.  But a fully recovered, and healthy Steven Matz may yet correct that.  He can turn things around by first cutting down his walks, and getting his rate of ground balls back over the 50% mark.
In 2016, Matz posted a career best 3.44 ERA over 132.1 innings pitched; improving upon that mark is an achievable goal.

Above all else, the Mets need more innings from their back-end starter.  Matz averaged just 4.2 innings per start last season, and is averaging 5.1 innings through 71 career starts.  Said another way, each of his appearances inherently places a burden on the bullpen.  And that must change.  As the team's fourth starter, a healthy, reliable, and effective, Steven Matz can serve as a key weapon of sorts insofar as consistently outperforming the competition's back-end starters.

Not out of the question ...

Monday, February 18, 2019

N.Y. Mets: Zack Wheeler Poised for Breakout Season

From the desk of:  HEAD-BUTTING MR. MET


New York Mets: A Breakout Season By Zack Wheeler Will Surely Add To Front Office Troubles.

Acquired by the Mets in exchange for Carlos Beltran midway through the 2012 season, Zack Wheeler is one of the longest tenured players on the team.  However, only now does he finally appear physically able, and thus poised to validate being selected sixth overall by the Giants in the 2009 draft, but more importantly establishing himself as a top tier National League pitcher while still in a Mets uniform.

In the meantime, Wheeler's report card is incomplete.  After making 17 starts in 2013 as a rookie, he followed up in 2014 with a career high 32 starts.  He would then unfortunately miss the entirety of both the 2015 and 2016 seasons, before returning in 2017 to make 17 starts.

Zack now faces a career defining, if not career altering season ahead.  With free agency looming it appears as if everything is indeed riding on this upcoming season's performance.

Last year, Zack Wheeler pitched 182.1 innings through 29 starts:
  • 12-7 record
  • 3.31 ERA and 1.124 WHiP
  • 3.25 FIP
  • 7.4 H/9 average
  • 2.7 W/9 average
  • * all career bests

However, it's Wheeler's performance over the second half of last season which best suggests he's truly onto something big.  According to Fangraphs, Zack's velocity in 2018 was back up to 2014 levels (pre-Tommy John surgery).

2018 FIRST HALF (April-June)
  • 88.2 innings through 15 starts
  • 2-6 record
  • 4.48 ERA and 1.315 WHiP
  • 84 hits; 8.5 H/9 average
  • 32 walks; 3.2 W/9 average
  • 86 strikeouts; 8.7 K/0 average

2018 SECOND HALF (July-Sept)
  • 93.2 innings through 14 starts
  • 10-1 record
  • 2.22 ERA and 0.933 WHiP
  • 64 hits; 6.1 H/9 average
  • 23 walks; 2.2 W/9 average
  • 93 strikeouts; 8.9 K/9

The second half numbers speak for themselves.  He additionally pitched seven innings or more ten times over his final 14 starts of the season, but only four times over his first 15 starts of the season.  Therefore all indications point to Wheeler being fully healthy, but more importantly thoroughly recovered.

If only things were that clear cut ...

Like Jacob deGrom, Wheeler's age entering free agency is potentially putting him at a slight disadvantage as teams no longer seem willing to commit long term to players beyond 32-years of age (or so).  Zack Wheeler turns 29-years old in May.  If he turns in the type of season I'm excitedly anticipating, the Mets will have yet another potential ace-caliber pitcher on their hands in search of representative dollar figures in which a three year offer may not suffice.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Open For Business: A Metsian Podcast Spring Training Preview With Guest Metstradamus

From the desk of:  HEAD-BUTTING MR. MET


with Sam, Rich, and Mike



The Mets Off-Season That Was ~ Brodie Van Wagenen Report Card
Free Agency Collusion Debate ~ 1981 Baseball Strike ~ Peter Ueberroth
Dave Winfield ~ Hanley Ramirez ~ Bryce Harper ~ Manny Machado
Chilli Davis/Coaching Staff ~ Mickey Callaway on the Hot Seat?
The Great Jacob deGrom Contract Dilemma
25-Man Roster ~ 40-Man Roster Depth
Devin Mesoraco ~ Juan Lagares ~ Robinson Cano ~ Tim Tebow
On Trading Prospects ~ Ty Kelly ~ Lets Go Syracuse
Are the Mets Intentionally Branding the Brooklyn Dodgers?
My Opinion on Culture Change and Making Unpopular Decisions
Rich: on Off-Season Minor League Deals
Metstradamus: on Frank Cashen and List of Core Players
N.L. East Preliminary Predictions
Mike FranSaySo ... and so much more!

Previous Podcast: 1 FEB 2019
Fan Favorite and Author of "Insight Pitch"

1 hour; 48 minutes


Wednesday, February 13, 2019

N.Y. Mets: Jacob deGrom's New Agent Repeats Old Message

From the desk of:  HEAD-BUTTING MR. MET

The Truck Is Unloaded;


New York Mets: Jacob deGrom Contract Dilemma Shines Spotlight on Double-Agent, Brodie Van Wagenen.

Jacob deGrom wants to get paid.  And who can blame him.  On the heels of a Cy Young award winning performance, he enters 2019 arguably considered the best pitcher in baseball. 

Less than one year ago both Jacob and his former agent Brodie Van Wagenen revealed their position to the Mets regarding a contract extension in a public and rather straightforward manner.  Then something peculiar happened.  By season's end Brodie Van Wagenen was hired as general manager of the New York Mets.  So, rather than sitting side by side with Jacob at the negotiation table, Brodie now sits across from his former client's new representation.  As plot twists go, it's very likely BVW knows exactly what it will take to satiate Camp deGrom.  Only now he gets paid to negotiate what's in the best interest of the Mets checkbook.  That means taking into consideration that Jacob turns 31-years old this summer, and that he is still two years away from free agent eligibility.  Technically, the Mets needn't do a thing ... yet.

Now word comes down that Jacob's representatives have placed an opening day deadline on contract negotiations.  Brodie Van Wagenen says this is a mutual agreement, as neither party wants contract issues becoming a distraction during the regular season.  And there you have it, folks: two versions to the story.  Somewhere in the middle likely lies the truth.

If I were GM ... I'd offer to tear up Jacob's present settlement in return for four years at premium dollar, with a club option for a fifth year.  As a fan, this is a conflicting circumstance; he's an all-time Mets great, and deserves better.  But business is business, and I prefer the Mets remain non-committal beyond his 34th birthday.  That said, it's logical to assume that Camp deGrom is seeking longer term security.

I'd caution the Mets not to budge.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

N.Y. Mets: Hello Pitchers and Catchers

From the desk of:  HEAD-BUTTING MR. MET

The Truck is Unloaded;


New York Mets: Talk About an Off-Season of Upheaval ... Brodie Van Wagenen Sends Tremors Throughout Flushing.

Since being named general manager just three months ago Brodie Van Wagenen has been busy shaking, rattling, and rolling, all the while stressing winning, winning now, winning for years to come, and winning deep into the future.

That's great!  His positive energy is undeniable.  But I still have my reservations.  Because what BVW does not discuss is the other side of the proverbial coin: Mets ownership is still in debt.  As such, their finances will continue playing a prohibitive role in club operations for another two years.  Only then, by 2021, will they will be free of all debt stemming from the Madoff implosion, the aftermath, and recovery, and finally regain the financial flexibility fans are clamoring for.  I've cited in previous posts easily searched media articles/reports and links supporting this claim.  I merely bring this up for sake of injecting needed context into the conversation, nothing more.

Otherwise, as a fan who preaches success starts at the top I'm quite pleased with the sweeping changes enacted throughout the front office, scouting and development departments, and coaching staff.  I'd also be a hypocrite if I say I do not agree with BVW's plan to fortify the entire 40-man roster.  There's a very noticeable redundancy at play, with an aim to hedge against injury - something the Mets know much about.  There's also no denying that whichever potential mix of players wind up comprising this year's opening day 25-man roster, it will be an improved version over last year.

Some of BVW's transactions have been popular, others not so much.  Some acquisitions have come at the expense of several well touted, albeit low level minor league prospects.  I had a particular liking for Justin Dunn and Ross Adolf.  However, how all of this works out remains to been seen.  The Mets have won off-season's in the past.  But no team gets parades down the Canyon of Heroes for dominating the winter tabloids.

Catchers: The Position is Improved With An Agreeable Short-Term Solution.

I'm still a little dismayed over the non- acquisition of J.T. Realmuto, more so now that he's a member of the Phillies, and considering the price Philadelphia paid to acquire him.  It looks as if the Miami Marlins overplayed their hand.  However, the problem is wholly mine, for if there were one player I really wanted BVW to get in a Mets uniform this off-season, it was him.

Perchance to dream ...

Instead, the Mets enter the season with free agent catcher Wilson "the Buffalo" Ramos.  He is signed to a favorable two-year deal, which leaves only his day to day availability in question.  Wilson is averaging 108 games played over his last four season, but only 92 games over his last eight full seasons.  Health concerns aside he wields a very capable bat, able to hit for both average and power, and should provide solid protection for the middle of the line-up.  He's equally adept behind the plate, having already demonstrated himself to be a good receiver behind the plate, while sporting a .993 fielding average, and an above league average in caught stealing.

However, the re-signing of Devin Mesoraco (to a minor league contract) may prove most valuable of all.  Because although retained and signed, the future of Travis d'Arnaud in a Mets uniform remains very much in doubt.  To a far greater extent than Ramos, there is little debating that d'Arnaud's worse ability has been his unavailability.  He'll need to stay healthy for a complete season, be it in Flushing or Syracuse, before shaking the growing general perception of him.  In the meantime, Mesoraco enters camp as a non-roster invitee.  However, he has already proven to Mets fans that he is a very capable receiver behind the plate.  I'd be more than agreeable with Devin backing up Wilson Ramos on a full time basis.  Travis d'Arnaud ... not so much.

Next up: Pitchers.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Serie del Caribe Championship Game: Panama vs. Cuba

2018 ~ 2019
Panama City, Panama



Round Robin Standings:
  1. Panama                      3-1
  2. Dominican Republic   3-1
  3. Cuba                          2-2
  4. Mexico                       2-2
  5. Venezuela                  2-2
  6. Puerto Rico                0-4

Felicidades a Panama ...

Panama, a charter member of the original (1949-1960) Caribbean Confederation of Professional Baseball, on Sunday will host their first Serie Del Caribe championship in 59 years.  Los Torros de Herrera - first time champions of the Panamanian Professional Baseball League - will likewise bid to become the country's first Caribbean champion since Panama's 1950 title culmination at San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Panama was already on schedule for inclusion as an invited guest in next year's Serie del Caribe.  However, ongoing political turmoil and a sudden outbreak of violence in Venezuela hastened Panama's invitation when the Confederation for a second straight year was forced to retreat from the city of Barquisimeto.  Faced with the cancellation of the Serie del Caribe itself, the Confederation and Panama were able to facilitate a last minute resolution.

Panama, Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Venezuela, are charter members of the original Confederation formed in 1949, which continued through the 1960 season.  After which, the Confederation ceased operations when baseball in Cuba became nationalized as part of Fidel Castro's revolution.

Panama's former professional baseball league was founded in 1946, then folded in 1972.  Today's Panamanian Professional Baseball League (PROBEIS) was founded in 2001, but was again suspended shortly thereafter.  Not until 2011 did the four team circuit stabilize and embark on continuous seasons.

The Caribbean Confederation was reformed in 1970 with original members Puerto Rico and Venezuela joined by Dominican Republic.  Mexico joined in 1971 to round out the present day four nation membership.

Like Panama, Cuba since 2014 participates as an invited guest.  In 1949, they hosted and won the first ever Serie del Caribe, and went on to win six more - including five in a row - before ceasing professional operations after the 1960 season.  In only their second season of modern participation, Cuba captured the 2014-2015 Serie del Caribe; their eighth overall.  Cuba has won all three Serie del Caribe previously hosted by Panama.

Cuban representatives, los Lenadores de Las Tuna, are first time Serie Nacional de Cuba champions, and thus making their first ever appearance in Serie del Caribe.

CUBA        1

Congratulations, Panama!  It's been 59-years since they last participated in the annual winter tournament.  In defeating heavily favored and fellow invitee Cuba on Sunday, los Torros de Herrera clinch Panama's second ever Serie del Caribe championship, and their first since 1950, nearly seven decades ago.

Thursday, February 07, 2019

Brooklyn Nets: Look What Flatbush Did to the Denver Nuggets, Again

From the desk of:  THE HOOPS OF FLATBUSH

Nets win season series; 2-0
I - BKN 112; DEN 110

Nuggets    130
NETS       135

Brooklyn Nets 29th Victory Surpasses Last Season's Win Total.

Last Friday evening I was listening on sports radio to N.Y. Post's Brian Lewis crediting much of the Nets success this season on their defensive prioritization.  And while Kenny Atkinson maintains a grip on the greater issues at hand, Lewis says the greater impact upon the team's overall focus is most attributable to veterans DeMarre Carroll, Ed Davis, and Jared Dudley.

Although 130 points might suggest otherwise, defense was again front and center against the Denver Nuggets Wednesday night at Barclays.  Their efforts helped Brooklyn amass a lead upwards of 20-points.  Which in turn permitted them to withstand and outlast Nikola Jokic's triple double (25 points; 10 assists; 14 rebounds) and Denver's fourth quarter surge in which they outscored the Nets by 16-points.

With Spencer Dinwiddie out, D'Angelo Russell is being afforded time to prove his fourth quarter worth.  He led all scorers with 27-points and tied for game high with 11 assists, while playing in a game-high 35-minutes.  Joe Harris (... he's so good!) backed up Russell with 17 points in 32 minutes.

The Nets featured six players overall scoring double-digits against Denver.  Off the bench, DeMarre Carroll contributed a double-double (18 points; 10 rebounds), while Shabazz Napier posted the Nets third double-double of the game with ten points and 11 assists.  Also playing off the bench, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson effectively sticks the dagger through Denver's heart with a dunk making it 133-125 with 25 seconds left.  Throughout the game, RHJ and the refs never did see eye to eye.  And after being called for a foul on what appeared to be a clean block, he sort of blew his top to earn a technical.

The victory not only snaps the Nets three game skid.  It's their 29th victory of the season, which on Feb. 6 surpasses last year's entire win total.  It also comes against the Western Conference's second ranked team.

That should send a little tremor throughout the NBA this evening.

But insofar as the message Wednesday night's victory sends: don't mistake their injuries as their weakness.  Underestimate the Brooklyn Nets at your own risk.

Tuesday, February 05, 2019

N.Y. Mets: Happy Birthday, Mrs. Payson

From the desk of:  HEAD-BUTTING MR. MET

1976 Mets Yearbook

Happy Birthday, Mrs. Joan Whitney Payson.  Born Feb. 5, 1903, today marks the 116th year since she joined us, and 43-years since her passing.  She was 72-years old.  A minority shareholder of the New York Giants, she voted against moving the club to San Francisco, and even tried buying them outright to no avail.  She henceforth stood front and center in the Continental League's bid to compete against the American and National leagues.  When major league baseball acquiesced to expansion, she founded the New York Metropolitan Baseball Club.  I appeal to the present day owner of the Mets: please commission a statue in recognition of the organization's matriarch.  The honor is terribly long overdue.  Before anyone else, a statue memorializing Joan Whitney Payson must absolutely stand first.

Monday, February 04, 2019

Winter League Baseball: Serie del Caribe 2018-2019 Preview


With political turmoil raging throughout Venezuela, for a second straight year the Caribbean Confederation of Professional Baseball was left with no choice but to withdraw out of the city of Barquisimeto.  But whereas the decision to relocate last year's tourney was made in mid-summer,  thus facilitating a smooth transition to Jalisco, Mexico, this year's sudden outbreak of violence left little time for relocating a complex multinational event of this kind.  As such, the 61st edition of Serie del Caribe itself faced outright cancellation.  It would have marked the first tournament postponement since 1981, not coincidentally caused by the Venezuelan league players' strike.

Last year marked Mexico's second straight season as host nation.  As a result, they expressed a reluctance to host a third straight tournament.  Meanwhile, 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 Confederation, and therefore is not yet a host consideration.

Three cheers and bienvenidos a Panama, who at the last minute step in to become this year's Most Valuable Host.  The 2018-2019 Serie del Caribe goes on as scheduled, to be played at Rod Carew Stadium in Panama City.

This marks Panama's long awaited return to Caribe play.  Along with Puerto Rico, Venezuela, and Cuba, they were charter members (1949-1960) of the original confederation, which was forced to disband upon onset of Fidel Castro's Communist revolution.  The original plan was to integrate Panama back into Caribe play by next year.  But considering the circumstances, a year earlier than anticipated suits everyone just fine.

  • 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 returning charter members Puerto Rico and Venezuela.  Dominican Republic joins the loop in 1970, and Mexico joins the following year.  These four member circuits now make up the present body of the Caribbean Confederation of Professional Baseball.  As a result of slow and steady thawing of decades long political tensions, the Confederation invited Cuba back in 2014 as a guest participant.

  • Dominican Republic (19)
  • Puerto Rico (12)
  • Mexico (9)
  • Venezuela (7)
  • Cuba (1) guest participant
  • Panama (0) guest participant
  • * Serie del Caribe titles

Serie del Caribe Championships: 1950
LBP Champions: Torros de Herrera

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

Serie del Caribe Champions: 1971; 1973; 1977; 1980; 1985; 1988; 1990-1991; 1994; 1997-1999; 2001; 2003-2004; 2007-2008; 2010; 2012.
  • Club Founded: 1910
  • Dominican League Champions: 1936
  • LIDOM Champions: 1954; 1968; 2019
  • Serie del Caribe Champions: none

Serie del Caribe Champions: 1951; 1953-1955; 1972; 1974-1975; 1978; 1983; 1987; 1992-1993; 1995; 2000; 2017-2018
  • Club Founded: 1939
  • LBPRC Champions: 1951; 1953; 1955; 1959; 1962; 1965; 1967; 1971; 1973; 1991; 1993; 2000; 2015-2016; 2019
  • Serie del Caribe Champions: 1951; 1953; 1955; 1993; 2000

Serie del Caribe Champions: 1976; 1986; 1996; 2002; 2005; 2011; 2013-2014; 2016.
  • Club Founded: 2014
  • LMP Champions: 2019
  • Serie del Caribe Champions: none

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.

  • Club Founded: 1942
  • LVBP Champions: 1991; 1998; 2000-2001
  • Serie del Caribe Champions: none

Estadio Nacional de Panama
Panama City
(Feb. 4-10)
  1. CUBA - Lenadores de Las Tunas
  2. MEXICO - Charros de Jalisco
  3. VENEZUELA - Cardenales de Lara
  1. PUERTO RICO - Cangrejeros de Santurce
  2. DOMINICAN REPUBLIC - Estrellas de Orientales
  3. PANAMA - Torros de Herrera

Serie del Caribe 
Baseball Hall of Fame Participants:

Jim Bunning ~ Rod Carew ~ Orlando Cepeda ~ Roberto Alomar ~ Monte Irvin ~ Willie Mays Rickey Henderson ~ Reggie Jackson ~ Roberto Cemente ~ Tony LaRussa ~ Juan Marichal Tom Lasorda ~ Edgar Martinez ~ Pedro Martinez ~ Satchel Paige ~ Mike Piazza ~ Tony Perez ~ Frank Robinson Ivan Rodriguez ~ Mike Schmidt ~ Hoyt Wilhelm

Caribbean Series Baseball Reference
Caribbean World Series

Sunday, February 03, 2019

PIGSKIN 2018: Super Bowl LIII


Championship Weekend: 1-1
Overall Record:  99-127-11
Bagels in the Basket:  -45

**In an effort to get back into the black, I'm wagering one billion bagels!

  • "I Love L.A. We Love It!" ~ Randy Newman.  For those of you who never thought the city of Los Angeles would ever return to the Super Bowl ... what can I say.  Like thieves in the night, NFL officiating rob the New Orleans Saints of a second NFC title, and an appearance in Super Bowl LIII; a non-call so egregious on so many levels, the league had no choice but to admit their mistake and bury its head in the sand.  Poor Gayle Benson, who assumed principle ownership of the Saints upon the passing of her husband, Tom Benson.  She's got Roger Goodell's cell number.  I'm sure.
  • AFC Championship Game: Andy Reid catches a lot of crap for not being able to win the big one.  But he was brilliant last week, matching wits with Bill Belichick.  Both head coaches demonstrated the art of in-game adjustment.  It truly was a sight to behold.  Belichick exploited Patrick Mahomes inexperience; no more, no less.  And there was nothing Andy Reid could do about it.  But make no mistake, he coached a brilliant game against a brilliant adversary.  My only other point in regards to last week's Patriots victory over the Kansas City Chiefs: smash mouth football is not dead..!  I can't stress that enough.  As a Giants fans, it's something I incessantly harp on when blogging about Big Blue's ongoing folly.

Saturday Line/NYP

If you wanna be the man, you gotta beat the man..!  WooOO!!  Of course I'm picking the Patriots.  Did you think otherwise?  While I'm not a Patriots fan, surely you must know by now that I'm an unrepentant Hoodie minion.  I'm eternally indebted to Bill Belichick ever since he helped the Giants win their first two Super Bowls ... WoOoo!  That's what an aging Sith curmudgeon does - we pledge allegiance to and obey our master or die.  My son holds out hope than he can one day turn me away from what he deems my sad devotion to this ancient religion called smash mouth football.

Oh, the blissful ignorance of youth ... perchance to dream.  Perhaps by 10pm Sunday evening, he will finally come to understand Baby Boomers were meant to destroy planet Earth, which includes Rams head coach Sean McVay's best laid plans. 

Born of football pedigree, McVay is representative of the new age of professional football in which we now live.  He is a 33-years young innovator; he's brilliantly bold; and takes big chances in big moments.  He brings deception, trickery, and fearlessness to the table.  He'll no doubt present problems Bill Belichick must resolve before or during Sunday's game.  The Rams are also superior to New England's last two opponents (Chargers and the Chiefs), and therefore will provide more of a challenge through four full quarters of football.  I'm sure Ndamukong Sue and L.A.'s pass rush also stand poised to cause Tom Brady and company many disruptions.

But if Coach McVay wants the ball in Jared Goff's hands for any extended length of time, the Rams will need to stop Sony Michel and the Patriots running game, not Tom Brady.  Through New England's first two playoff games, the Patriots offensive line has created more daylight than the sun.  If the Rams can not throw some shade upon the Patriots rushing attack, they're d-o-n-e!  Lest I remind everyone the Patriots held the ball for 38:20 against the Chargers, and one second shy of FORTY freaking MINUTES against the Chiefs!  W ..W ... WooOOo!  Ya can't score points WOOo! if you don't have the ball.  Said another way, it's hard playing catch up with little to no time left on the clock.  Both the Chargers and Chiefs finally exerted themselves against the Patriots in the fourth quarter.  By then however it was too late, and that's by design.  The Chargers scored 428 regular season points, for a 26.7 average per game.  Against the Patriots, LAC scored 28-points, but didn't break through with 14 points until the fourth quarter.  The high-flying Chiefs scored 565 points this season, averaging 35.3 per game.  They wound up scoring 31 against the Patriots, but lagged until they put up 14-points in the fourth quarter.  Again, ladies and gentlemen, that is by design.  Point being, the Patriots play ball control, and if the Rams can't manage two good scoring quarters against them, they're done.  That said, the Rams averaged 28-points and 35:28 time of possession through their two playoffs victories over the Cowboys and Saints.  Will that be good enough against New England?  Every coach thinks they have a good plan until forced into matching wits with Simon Bar Sinister.  WooOoo!  Bill  Belichick's holy scripture defensive game plan designed to thwart the mighty Buffalo Bills offense in Super Bowl XXV has been on display in the Football Hall of Fame at Canton since before Sean McVay was born (obvious hyperbole..).


Grasshopper, beware!  McVay, this means you.  Sensei never reveals all.  Offensively, New England defeated the Kansas City Chiefs using plays straight out of Vince Lombardi's 1962 Green Bay Packers playbook.  And while I believe Andy Reid brilliantly countered Belichick, Bill still did things to Patrick Mahomes that were out of Reid's control.  Instead up beating him up, per se, the Patriots coerced and confused him.

But let's just assume the Rams (and the Patriots) do everything right, and this game boils down to a last second field goal.  Who do you trust more to put themselves in a position to kick it?

Put your faith in smash mouth, my sons.  Because there's no surer way to put a stop to all this new millennium flash, glitz and glam, than with a good slap to the face.


RAMS           3

Time of Possession
N.E.  33:10
L.A.  26:50

Total Yards:
N.E.  407
L.A.  260

Smash mouth football..!

If it wasn't for defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, the Patriots might have blown out the Rams.  Head coach Sean McVey looked like a deer in the headlights.  To say he got thoroughly out-coached is an understatement.

I hope the Giants were watching.

Saturday, February 02, 2019

N.Y. Knicks: Opportunity to Move Porzingis and Hardaway is a Godsend

From the desk of:  DUTCH PANTS CAN'T JUMP


New York Knicks: The Two Decade Old Rebuild Continues ...

Don't get me wrong, the Knicks lose me with Jimmy Dolan Steve Mills.  He's been a constant throughout this ongoing crisis we call the Knickerbockers.  Moreover, I wouldn't trust Scott Perry to mail a letter for me, much less build a contender.  In light of the big trade, my opinion of them has not changed.

However, I'd be a hypocrite if I said I didn't agree with their decision to trade Kristaps Porzingis.  Because when the situation calls for a full blown rebuild, I firmly believe in stripping things to the bone.  That means all assets must go.  So bravo to them, because no not only do I agree with trading Kristaps, I applaud it.

I acknowledge the manner in which the game is played has changed.  Be that as it may, I never saw the use for a seven foot three-point shooter.  He doesn't rebound, nor was he going to turn around a 10-41 team by himself.  In fact, I contend freeing themselves of both Porzingis and Hardaway is a godsend.  They're what I call net asset zero salary cap suckers.  Besides, seven-footers with feet/leg issues are historically known to be NBA taboo.  So whether he wanted to be in New York or not is irrelevant to me.

Mike, you idiot!  When healthy he  ...


Dallas Mavericks get:
  • Kristaps Porzingis
  • Tim Hardaway, Jr.
  • Trey Burke
  • Courtney Lee
New York Knicks get:
  • DeAndre Jordan
  • Wesley Matthews
  • Dennis Smith, Jr.
  • 2021 #1 pick
  • 2023 #1 pick *top ten protected

They'll be far better served with two first round draft picks versus anything Courtney Lee or Trey Burke brought to the table.  Let's be real.  Before the trade, the Knicks were effectively void of players not named Kevin Knox worthy of retention.  But they must draft smartly.

... and there's the rub.

As I sit here watching Zion Williamson and Duke destroy St. John's, it dawns on me the only way this season's tank-a-thon truly pays off is either through pure luck, or if Commissioner Silver fills the Knicks' ping pong balls with helium.  Otherwise, amassing high drafts picks is the next best strategy.

"The person who does not select Zion Williamson at number one in the upcoming draft, will go to sleep each night embarrassed over what they passed up!" - loosely paraphrasing college basketball god Dick Vitale during Saturday's St. John's/Duke game.

With regards to rumors of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, or other big name free agents coming to town, anticipate nothing.  Yes, Mills and Perry created an intriguing amount of cap space.  But you can't be disappointed with what you do not expect.  High profile players say they love playing at Madison Square Garden.  But  how many of them actually say they want to play for the Knicks?  Therefore, I'll believe it when I see it.

In the meantime, bringing in DeAndre Jordan serves as yet another slap to the face of Enes Kanter.


Friday, February 01, 2019

A Most Glorious Metsian Podcast with Special Guest, Skip Lockwood

From the desk of:  HEAD-BUTTING MR. MET

One of my all-time favorite seasons!

with SAM, RICH, and MIKE

Another SAM the Man Production;
all credit goes to our Metsian partner for putting this together.


Sam (the archaeologist) dug up this old Tweet of mine.  I can't be certain what I meant by that #hashtag, but I'm quite certain it was in response to #MetsTwitter.  Proof, nonetheless ... I love Skip Lockwood.  I was 12-years old during his last season with the club.  He ranks among my very select list of Mets players most responsible for igniting and fueling my passion for our Boys of Flushing during the mid to late 1970s.  It is my great privilege and honor to have spoken with Mr. Lockwood.  A thrill I will not soon forget.  #LGM