Tuesday, April 30, 2019

N.Y. Mets: Catching Hell Behind The Plate

From the desk of:  HEAD-BUTTING MR. MET

Travis d'Arnaud's Biggest Liability Was His Unavailability

New York Mets: Brodie Van Wagenen DFA's Once Prized Minor League Acquisition Travis d'Arnaud.

One thing the Mets can never be accused of is treating Travis d'Arnaud unfairly.  His spot behind the plate after each and every one of his ongoing injuries was always there awaiting his return.  In fact, I believe the Mets have been exceedingly patient with their once prized acquisition.  Considering they've been at this since 2013, I'll even go so far as saying the Mets went above and beyond in their efforts at placing him in a position to succeed.

But the time had ultimately come to part ways, and not just because BVW signed free agent Wilson Ramos.  Unfortunately, d'Arnaud's body continues to fail him.  Fluke injuries are one thing but his chronic string of bad luck is something more ponderous.  In the end his inability to stay on the field due to an unfortunate propensity for injury just proved too problematic for both him and the Mets - this year included.

When healthy he demonstrated much promise with a bat throughout his career.  Although going 2 for 23 in ten games this season perhaps helped seal his fate.  Travis d'Arnaud defenders will also point out his ability to frame pitches - something of which I believe is wholly inconsequential when pitchers would just rather not pitch to him.  Truth be told, he was already a defensive liability.  More so if his throwing ability hasn't been satisfactorily restored after Tommy John surgery.

Devin Mesoraco last season earned his way into the staff's graces through his receiving skills, not for an ability to influence umpires with snapshots.  Pitchers need confidence in their catchers.  They want supreme receivers - someone they can trust with a purposeful pitch in the dirt.  None of which accurately describe d'Arnaud.  His lazy backhand stabs at errant pitches absolutely infuriate me.  Moreover, all one had to do was count how many times pitchers shook him off to know he lacked sync with a majority of the starting staff.

Both media and a large pocket of fans have long lobbied for his release.  Yet, the club to their credit afforded him one last opportunity, and he failed the test - key word being, afforded.  They signed him for $3.52 million this past off-season, and fans nor the media understand why.  For a team with more money problems than the MTA, they essentially set fire to $3.52 million dollars that could have otherwise been better spent.  Their mishandling of Devin Mesoraco (IMO) only exasperates the matter.

Yeah, they blew it ...

But let's also keep things in context.  This is a low kiloton event, comparatively speaking.  After all, we're haranguing over a backup catcher.  I do not believe Travis d'Arnaud is being scapegoated like some in the media are portraying.  The Mets are merely eliminating a liability from behind the plate, and in doing so improving the Mets 25-man roster and their pitching staff's level of comfort.

I have no qualms moving forward with Tomas Nido, or even welcoming back Rene Rivera.  Both are quality receivers, something I prioritize over hitting where it concerns backstops.

Amazin' Date 4/30/1969: Mets Take Second Straight at Jarry Park

From the desk of:  HEAD-BUTTING MR. MET

Game #20: Wednesday, April 30, 1969 - BR
New York Mets @ Montreal Expos
Parc Jarry

Tom Seaver Out-Duels Expos Mike Wegener; Mets Win Second Straight at Montreal.

In game two of the Mets first ever series played north of the border, Tom Seaver dueled Montreal's Mike Wegener for nine innings at Parc Jarry on Wednesday.

Leading off the second, Cleon Jones legged out a triple then scored on Ed Kranepool's sacrifice fly to left.  The Mets held that lead until the seventh when with two outs Expos catcher John Bateman connected off Seaver for his third home run of the season.

Limited to just three hits through the first eight innings of play, the Mets rallied in the ninth.  Leading off against Mike Wegener, Rod Gaspar singled to left.  With Ken Boswell up, Manager Hodges put Gaspar in motion.  After a successful steal of second base, Boswell singled to right scoring Gaspar, but was cut down himself trying to stretch out a single.

In the bottom of the ninth Tom Seaver retired the Expos in order, striking out first baseman Donn Clendenon and third baseman Coco Laboy to end the game.  Despite unleashing three wild pitches, Tom was terrific in earning the complete game victory, allowing just the one run on five hits and three walks, with six strikeouts.  He evened his record at 2-2 and lowered his ERA to a 2.35 mark.

Hard luck loser Mike Wegener was equally effective, allowing just two runs on five hits and one walk with seven strikeouts through nine complete innings of work.

The Mets are winners of three in a row for the first time this season.  They finish the month of April with a 9-11 record.  Manager Hodges says he wants improvement from his club in games decided by one run.  So far they've won two and lost four in such games.

Ed Kranepool now leads the team with 15 RBI.  Cleon Jones is second with 14 RBI through the Mets first twenty games of the season.

Tommie Agee appeared as a ninth inning defensive replacement for Ron Swoboda.  Wednesday marked Agee's tenth straight game absent from the starting lineup.  He is expected to resume full time duty during the Mets upcoming series at Chicago.

  • Mets Record:  9-11 (.450)
  • N.L. East:  3rd; 5.5 GB

Monday, April 29, 2019

N.Y. Islanders: Playing Against The Unseen Hand


Hurricanes lead series 2-0
I - CAR 1; NYI 0*
II - CAR 2; NYI 1

New York Islanders: Barry Trotz Patiently Waiting For Goal Scorers to Emerge.

So much for home ice advantage ... After a rather unceremonious return to Brooklyn, the question begs to be asked: did the Islanders ever have it in the first place?

Previous to game one they hadn't played at Barclays Center since February.  The Islanders split this season's home schedule between Brooklyn and Uniondale, but finished out the season playing their final twelve home games and first round series against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Long Island.  Of course the counter is they achieved 103 regular season points partly playing at Brooklyn.

On to the next excuse ...

After a ten game layoff, brushing off game one's overtime loss was the easy thing to do.  Now down two games going away Islanders fans are being led to believe they've secured another moral victory.  As Coach puts it, this is nothing more than the "unseen hand" at work, and that if they continue playing the way they've been, the Islanders will be fine.

With twenty minutes left in game two, the Islanders stood poised to knot the series.  They were leading 1-0 and now facing Carolina's backup goalie.  They had finally scored their first goal of the series back in the first period off starter Petr Mzerak, whom exited the game due to injury early in the second period.  At that point one could only imagine what opportunities potentially awaited the Islanders against Curtis McElhinney.

But Carolina had other ideas.  Warren Foegele's blast from the right wing just 0:17 into the third period tied the game at one.  Robin Lehner had a clean look, but the unseen hand just blew it by him.  Forty-eight seconds later, Nino Niederreiter scored on a deflection.  This time there was nothing Robin Lehner could do to prevent the unseen hand from seizing a 2-1 lead.

Curtis McElhinney took care of the rest, facing 17 shots on goal - all but one at even strength - and stopped them all since taking over early in the second period.

Despite repeated quality opportunities - as Coach points out - the Islanders offensive production was stifled yet again.  It's worth noting Mathew Barzal's first period goal was the result of a Hurricane self deflection.  Therefore truth be told the Islanders are yet to score a clean goal against either Carolina net minder in over 120 minutes of hockey.

Carolina outscored the Washington Capitals by a slim 21-20 margin through seven games.  They averaged three goals per game against the Caps.  But the Islanders defense has so far limited Carolina to half as many through six plus periods of hockey.  Yet they themselves can't seem to find the back of the net after averaging 3.5 goals per game during their sweep of Pittsburgh.

  • Useless Stat Alert: the Hurricanes finished the regular season with a +22 point differential while the Islanders registered a +32 mark for the season.
  • Cal Clutterbuck is hurt again; details pending.  It's also worth mentioning the Isles are still playing without Johnny Boychuk.

Amazin' Date 4/29/1969: Mets Win Their First Ever Game in Canada

From the desk of:  HEAD-BUTTING MR. MET

Game #19: Tuesday, April 29, 1969 - BR
New York Mets @ Montreal Expos
Jarry Park

Ed Kranepool's Two Home Runs Power Mets in Canadian Debut.

Welcome to baseball in the great white north.  The Mets are visiting Montreal, Canada, for their first ever series played beyond the borders of the United States.  The National League's new northern member club play their home games at Parc Jarry.  Tuesday's game one marks only the Expos seventh home game of the season.  They've played 12 games on the road, to date.  Understandably, this mark's Montreal's first three game series at home.

With one out in the second, first baseman Ed Kranepool connected on his first home run of the season off Expos starter Mudcat Grant.  Mets starter Jerry Koosman and Nolan Ryan took care of the rest.  Koosman faced just 15 batters, allowing no runs on just two hits with a strikeout through 4.1 innings before being relieved by Nolan Ryan.  The Mets flame throwing right-hander finished out the final 4.2 innings for a combined six-hit shutout.  Ryan surrendered four hits and fanned seven en route to his second victory of the season against no losses.  Jerry Koosman's status is pending.

The Mets added an insurance run in the sixth.  With two outs, Ed Kranepool connected on his second home run of the game off Mudcat Grant.

Despite Tommie Agee's pinch hit appearance against the Cubs, he remains out of the starting lineup.  Cleon Jones took a rare 0 for 4, and was also caught stealing.  With two hits in four at-bats, Ron Swoboda has lifted his average to a robust .340 mark.  Ed Kranepool also lifted his average back above the .300 mark, and is slugging .509 through his first 17 games.

  • Mets Record:  8-11
  • N.L. East:  3rd: 6.5 GB

L.I. Ducks: Quack Attack Ends Three Day Siege of York

From the desk of:  THE WEBBED SPIKES NINE

I - LID 12; YRK 3
II - LID 14; YRK 0
III - LID 8; YRK 4

Flock Opens Season With Series Sweep of York Revolution.

Long Island's triumphant siege of the York Revolution has mercifully come to an end.  To the victors go the season opening series spoils: three games in the win column.

To say the Ducks regular season is off to a resounding start is putting it mildly.  With eight more runs in game three, Long Island outscores York in the series by a commanding 34-7 margin.

Matt den Dekker and Ivan DeJesus Jr. led Long Island's barrage with three hits apiece.  Matt went 3 for 5 with two doubles; DeJesus was likewise 3 for 5 with two RBI.  Kirk Nieuwenhuis was 2 for 4 with another two RBI.  The Ducks batted 16 for 40 (.347) for the game, and were 7 for 16 (.437) with runners in scoring position as part of an overall 16 hit, eight run attack.

Darin Downs started the game but did not qualify for the victory.  He allowed two runs (one earned) on four hits and one walk with five strikeouts before exiting after four innings pitched.  Tim Adleman followed, allowing an earned run on two hits and a walk with three strikeouts through two innings en route to his first relief victory of the season.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

L.I. Ducks: Tim Melville Redefines Pitch Economy With Gem Over York

From the desk of:  THE WEBBED SPIKES NINE

Ducks lead series 2-0
I - LID 12; YRK 3
II - LID 14; YRK 0

Long Island Ducks
York Revolution

Long Island batters unleashed a second straight Quack attack against the Revolution in game two at York, scoring against five of six pitchers faced.

Kirk Nieuwenhuis hit his first home run as a member of the Ducks, and drove in four runs as the designated hitter.  Eight different Ducks drove in at least one run apiece.  With another fourteen runs on Saturday (twelve earned), the Ducks have now amassed 26 runs in their first two games against the Revs.

However, Long Island pitching was the true story of game two.  Starter Tim Melville handed in one of the funkiest performances I've ever come across.  York had a clearly defined plan of attack against Melville, going after his first pitch throughout the game.   The results are curious to say the least.
  • Tim Melville faced 22 batters through six innings pitched.  
  • Three batters hit safely off Melville's first pitch.
  • Two batters drew walks on exactly four pitches.
  • Six batters struck out on exactly three pitches.
  • Eleven batters were retired after swinging at the first pitch.
  • Tim Melville threw just 40 pitches with 32 (80%) going for strikes!

This should also serve a lesson for pitching to contact.

But I digress ...

Relievers Kam Mickolio and Alex Katz joined to pitch three scoreless innings, allowing two hits and a walk with four strikeouts to close out Long Island's 14-0 whitewashing of the Revolution.

N.Y. Islanders: Game One Loss Apparently No Big Deal



Carolina Hurricanes (1-0)
New York Islanders (0-1)

New York Islanders hit pothole upon their return to Brooklyn.

I'm buying into the consensus take within the Islanders locker room that game one's loss is no big deal.  All is well - there's nothing more to see here.  You can all go back to your homes and get some sleep.  We're on it.

Famous last words ... look how many favorites have already been booted from the tourney.

Make no mistake, Carolina is a very good emerging team.  Young and somewhat inexperienced, they're a more gamely bunch than their seventh place conference finish suggests.  As such they're not necessarily weighted down by over expectations and therefore get to play relatively free of undue pressure.  That makes for an extremely dangerous opponent.  Underestimate them at your own risk.  Just ask Alex Ovechkin and the former defending Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals.

In the Islanders case, I believe the effects of rust are a very real matter where it concerns the speed of playoff hockey.  Entering round two, I would have rather been the team coming off an extended series than the one waiting around for an opponent as the Islanders were made to do after sweeping the Penguins.  Coach Trotz after game one eluded to mental rust more so than physical.  Game one may or may not have proved that out.  But like round one the burden of expectations again weighs on the shoulders of Carolina's opponent.  That said, the Islanders were far more sharper than I thought they would be after a ten day layoff.  Thus, despite Carolina's game one victory it is with great confidence I say the Hurricanes are in trouble.

The box score says the Islanders were shut out.  In fact, each team had their power play opportunities and came up empty.  That could turn into a problem for the Islanders.  But outside of returning from a ten day layoff, when has even strength scoring ever been their problem?  Lest we forget the Isles outscored Pittsburgh by a 14-6 margin through four games.

Instead, defensive shortcomings, net minding - and in hindsight coaching - have always been the Islanders undoing.  These days, limiting goals is what the Islanders do best.  And for all intent and purpose Friday proved no different.  The Hurricanes scored 245 regular season goals, while the Islanders tallied 228 goals, but at the same time allowed the fewest in all the NHL.  The Islanders have been relearning hockey under Barry Trotz.  Just as he did at Washington, Trotz gave the Islanders blue liners and his forwards a system and a sense of urgency and turned them into the stingiest unit in the league.  Lou Lamoriello in turn secured goalie Robin Lehner who is in the midst of a hockey epiphany.  Fine performances from the Islanders defense and Lehner were on full display Friday evening at Barclays Center.  Through sixty minutes of regulation time Lehner and Carolina's Petr Mrazic performed superbly matching each other save for save - pitching shutouts if you will.

Overtime be damned ...

Hurricanes  1
Islanders     0

I'm quite certain the Hurricanes will encounter a very different Islanders team come game two at Barclays Center on Sunday.  Islanders forwards out shot Carolina forward lines by a 26-22 margin.  However, the Hurricanes got ten shots on goal from their defense; the Islanders just five.  That tells me the Isles blue liners are staying home, while the Canes are not averse to taking risks.  A big question is can the Islanders capitalize on Carolina's over aggression.

Now that the home team has lost a game there is a genuine series to be played.  I know this: ten days of practice simply can not replicate the speed and urgency of playoff hockey.  And so in game two I believe the series narrative begins undergoing a dramatic shift.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

L.I. Ducks: Potent Quack Attack Too Much For York Revolution

From the desk of:  THE WEBBED SPIKES NINE



Long Island Ducks: Flock open their 20th season of baseball with resounding victory over York Revolution.

Lead-off batter and center fielder Rey Fuentes set the pace going 3 for 5 with a walk, double, a run scored, and four RBI.  Second baseman Steve Lombardozzi was 3 for 4 with two walks, and two RBI.  Meanwhile Matt den Dekker goes 2 for 5 with two RBI playing in his first independent league game with the Ducks.

The visiting Flock jumped out to a one run lead on Steve Lombardozzi one-out triple to right, who with two outs scored when Lew Ford reached safely on an error charged to York shortstop Ryan Dent.  However, Long Island's lead was short lived.  Tabbed with the season opening start, Bennett Parry surrendered a three run home run off the bat of Dent in the bottom of the second. 

That's the way things stayed for both starting pitchers whom each put in five innings of work.  York's Ross Detwiler exited on the winning side of a 3-1 affair after allowing just the one unearned run on three hits, no walks, and four strikeouts.  Long Island's Bennett Parry exited on the hook having surrendered three earned runs on eight hits and two walks with four strikeouts.  But wound up earning the victory as both team's fortunes then changed on a dime in the sixth.  With the game placed in the hands of the respective bullpens, Long Island struck right away for six runs getting RBI hits from Rey Fuentes and Steve Lombardozzi, and a two run home run off the bat of Matt den Dekker.  York helped the Ducks along on third baseman Nate Coronado's throwing error, and a wild pitch unleashed by reliever Julio Perez.

Rey Fuentes plated two more runs with a hit in the eighth.  Then for good measure, the Ducks struck for three more runs in the ninth.  With the bases loaded, York reliever Trevor Reckling issued consecutive walks to Rey Fuentes and Steve Lombardozzi setting up Kirk Nieuwenhuis' hit which plated Long Island's final run of the game giving them a 12-3 final margin of victory.

Ducks relievers Joe Iorio, Jose Cuas, and Tucker Healey, joined together on four scoreless innings, allowing four hits, no walks, and striking out three.

Amazin' Date 4/27/1969: Cleon Jones Blast Sends Shea Crowd Home Happy

From the desk of:  HEAD-BUTTING MR. MET

Game #17: Sunday, April 27, 1969 - BR
Double Header: Chicago Cubs @ New York Mets
Shea Stadium

GAME ONE: Cubs Make Mets Pay for Late Inning Mistakes; Take Third Straight at Shea Stadium.

A mere two outs away from certain victory, the Mets failed to close out the front end of Sunday's double-header against the first place Cubs and as a result paid the price.

The Mets staked starting pitcher Gary Gentry to an early 3-0 lead in the first on runs batted in by Cleon Jones, Ed Kranepool, and Ron Swoboda.  But Chicago struck back with a pair of runs in the third on a two RBI double off the bat of Ron Santo.  After surrendering consecutive hits to Don Kessinger and Glen Beckert leading off the fifth, left fielder Billy Williams plated the tying run on a fielder's choice.

Cubs starter Dick Selma was chased from the game in the bottom of the fifth.  Upon surrendering consecutive hits to Wayne Garrett and Ken Boswell, Cleon Jones sent Selma heading for the showers with an opposite field double scoring both runners.  Clones would advance to third on Kranepool's sac fly, then scored on Swododa's sac fly to center giving the Mets a 6-3 lead.

Gary Gentry exited the game on the winning side of a 6-3 game after pitching six full innings, while allowing three earned runs on six hits and three walks with three strikeouts.  He was lifted for a pinch hitter with one in the home sixth.

Enter Cal Koonce in relief of Gentry  After retiring his first five batters faced, he issued a two out walk to Randy Hundley in the eighth, then yielded Al Spangler's RBI double to left scoring Hundley to bring the Cubs within one.

Cubs   8
Mets   6

With Cal Koonce still pitching in the top the ninth, Don Kessinger drew a lead-off walk.  Then with one out Billy William reached safely on an E4 charged to Wayne Garrett.  Next up, Ron Santo likewise reached safely on an E5 charged to Kevin Collins; Kessinger scored.  Ernie Banks followed with a single to score Williams.  Randy Hundley would then deliver the final blow with a three run home run off Koonce for an 8-6 Cubs lead, and ultimate final margin of victory.  Chicago's Phil Regan struck out the side in the ninth to close out the Mets and earn his fourth relief victory of the season.

Cal Koonce is charged with both his second blown save and second loss of the season.  Making an appearance on his throw day, Tom Seaver faced two batters in the ninth, walking one and fanning the other.  Koonce has now surrendered eleven runs (seven earned) on nine hits and 13 walks in 10.1 innings for a 6.10 ERA through seven appearances to date.

Game #18: Sunday, April 27, 1969 - BR
Game Two: Chicago Cubs @ New York Mets
Shea Stadium

Game Two: Cleon Jones Ninth Inning Home Run Sends Shea Stadium Crown Home Happy; Mets Gain Split of Twinbill.

After losing game one in heartbreaking fashion, the Met orchestrated a most thrilling game two finish to at least send the Shea Stadium crowd of over 37,000 smiling all the way home.

Making his fifth start of the season, sophomore starter Jim McAndrew toed the rubber in Sunday's series finale, and was opposed by Chicago's Rich Nye.  For the first five innings the two dueled through a scoreless tie.

McAndrew's counterpart reached safely leading off the top of the sixth on an E4 charged to Ken Boswell (his eighth of the season).  When Don Kessinger followed with a sharp hit to right, Manager Hodges turned to his bullpen with haste.  Tug Mcgraw would pitch four scoreless innings while allowing three hits and striking out six.

Rich Nye continued pressing on for the Cubs, and continued shutting out the Mets through eight full innings.  Leading off the ninth, however, Rod Gaspar would make it safely to second on an untimely error by Billy Williams.  From the dugout, Leo Durocher then ordered Ken Boswell be given an intentional pass.  Next up, Ed Charles was retired on a pop foul behind third base.  Then in stepped the red hot Cleon Jones who is presently hitting above the.400 mark.  Yet Leo made no move from the Cubs dugout.  And so with one out and the double play in order, Rich Nye served, and Cleon Jones volleyed Nye's pitch over the left field wall for a three run home run to end the game in most dramatic fashion.

Cubs   0
Mets   3

Tommie Agee appeared as a pinch hitter with one out in the eighth.  It marked his first game back since last playing ten days ago against the Pirates.  Cleon Jones continues his hot hitting, going 2 for 4, with three RBI.  He is now batting .443 for the season.

Brooklyn Nets: The Start of a Wonderful Relationship

From the desk of:  THE HOOPS OF FLATBUSH

Last One Out Turn Off The Lights

Rest assured, all is well even though the Nets series against the Sixers didn't end well.  Like I say, you can't be disappointed with what you do not expect.  Which is what made this entire season so enjoyable.  Every one of their regular season victories along with their series opening victory over Philadelphia were all fun as hell.

More importantly, Brooklyn finally seems emotionally invested in their team.  I knew coming into this venture the Nets would be up against a very apathetic Borough, and that attendance would be an issue.  If you're familiar with Madison Square Garden, then you know how many tourists both the Knicks and Rangers attract.  That's what makes this a Brooklyn only issue.  Sure enough, Nets annual average attendance has indeed been problematic.  However, this team is a far cry from the costly collection of carpetbaggers assembled by former general manager Billy King.  That Nets team had the fleeting novelty of being new in town which wore off rather quickly.  As it turns out, Billy King's transactions of mass destruction were perhaps the best thing that ever happened to the Brooklyn Nets.  For without his general managerial malfeasance perhaps there is no Sean Marks, and in turn no Kenny Atkinson, or Jarrett Allen, or D'Angelo Russell, or Caris LeVert, or no genuine feel good story of the 2018-2019 season.

While the team on the other side of the river employed tank tactics in order to achieve their aim, the Nets hierarchy opted for the more grassroots approach, and in just three seasons are beginning to bear the fruits of their labors.  In turn, fans supported their team down the stretch unlike any time during  the preceding six years since their move to Brooklyn.

Just to be clear, I am not speaking of the New Jersey Nets fan.  Any fan making the trek into Brooklyn from New Jersey should be commended.  That speaks of tremendous passion and loyalty.  Instead I speak specifically of the Brooklyn fan - the basketball fans who positioned themselves on the fence upon the Nets arrival on Flatbush Avenue.  

In addition to being an apathetic population, Brooklynites are a guarded bunch as well.  Think Dodgers.  But once the Borough embraces you, you're forever part of the family.

Go Brooklyn.

Go Nets.


Friday, April 26, 2019

A Golden Era Metsian Podcast with Uncle Stan the New York Giants Fan

From the desk of:  HEAD-BUTTING MR. MET

with SAM, RICH, and MIKE

With Guest:

Yes, Sam's Uncle Stan!
I was enthralled both listening and speaking with him,
and I'm sure you'll enjoy Stan's baseball anecdotes, as well.

Ninety-Five Minutes

Mets vs. Phillies
Rivalry ~ Jacob Rhame vs. Ryhs Hoskins ~ Head Hunting
Gio Gonzalez ~ Mets Money ~ Dallas Keuchel
Jason Vargas ~ Jacob deGrom ~ Zack Wheeler
Amed Rosario ~ Mickey Callaway
Jesus Alou ~ Doug Flynn ~ Bernard Gilkey ~ Matt den Dekker
and so much more..!

Amazin' Dates 4/26/1969: Cubs Take Second Straight From Mets

From the desk of:  HEAD-BUTTING MR. MET


Game #16: Saturday, April 26, 1969 - BR
Chicago Cubs @ New York Mets
Shea Stadium

Mets Move Further Away From First Place After Second Straight Loss to Cubs.

In the second game of a four game series at Shea Stadium, the first place Cubs scored early and often off Mets starter Don Cardwell.  An RBI single by Ron Santo in the first; another RBI single by Don Kessinger in the second; and a two out RBI double off the bat of catcher Randy Hundley in the third staked Chicago starter Bill Hands to an early 3-0 lead.

With one out in the bottom of the fourth Cardwell walked his counterpart Bill Hands, then yielded another hit to Don Kessinger.  That's when manager Gil Hodges decided his pitcher had suffered enough.  Al Jackson was summoned from the bullpen, and was immediately greeted by right fielder Al Spangler's successful bunt down the third base line to load the bases.  Jackson then walked Ron Santo scoring Hands from third.  With two outs and the bases still jammed, Mr. Cub himself Ernie Banks singled home another pair of runs for a 6-0 Cubs lead.

Chicago didn't stop there.  They would score twice more in the sixth off Al Jackson, although one run was unearned on an error charged to Cleon Jones.  Their ninth and final run of the game came courtesy of Randy Hundley's RBI hit in the eighth off Tug McGraw.

New York did all their scoring off Bill Hands in the bottom of the sixth.  Ken Boswell, Amos Otis, and Ed Kranepool all drove in a run apiece.  However, Hands would press on for the complete game victory,  surrendering three runs (two earned) on eight hits and one walk with seven strikeouts.  He improves to 3-1 on the season.

Don Cardwell falls to 0-3 on the season.  Ron Taylor pitched a scoreless ninth inning.

Continuing to bat in the lead-off position while Tommie Agee remains out, Bud Harrelson went 2 for 3, with a double, and a run scored.
  • Mets Record: 6-10
  • N.L. East: 5th; 6 GB

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Amazin' Date 4/25/1969: Fergie Jenkins Shows Mets Who's Number One

From the desk of:  HEAD-BUTTING MR. MET


Game #15: Friday, April 25, 1969 - BR
Chicago Cubs vs. New York Mets
Shea Stadium

Cubs Take Bite Out of Seaver; Mets Drop Series Opener to First Place Chicago.

Leo the Lip has entered the building.  The familiar Mr. Durocher and his National League East leading Chicago Cubs arrived in New York last night after dropping their series finale to the Cardinals at Wrigley Field.

Making his fourth start of the season, Tom Seaver was tasked with reducing the Cubs four game division lead over the Mets, but was ultimately thwarted by the arm and bat of Chicago's back-to-back twenty game winner Fergie Jenkins in Friday's series opener.

Cubs   3
Mets   1

With two outs in the top of the third, Cubs shortstop Don Kessinger, in a very rare display of power, hit his first home run of the season and only the third of his six year career.  Tom Seaver yielded his second home run of the game this time off the bat of third baseman Ron Santo leading off the fourth.  The final blow came with one out in the fifth, when Fergie Jengkins took his turn connecting on yet another home run surrendered by Seaver.

Ron Swoboda broke up the shutout in the sixth with his first home run of the season.  But that's all the Mets would muster.  Fergie would retire his final ten batters en route to a complete game victory.  Jenkins allowed the lone run on six hits and three walks with nine strikeouts for his third win of the young season against just one loss.

Seaver pitched through the seventh before being lifted for a pinch hitter.  He exited on the losing side of a 3-0 game after surrendering three home runs, and five total hits, with two walks and seven strikeouts.  Ron Taylor pitched two scoreless innings in relief, surrendering one hit and fanning three.

Tommie Agee remains out of the lineup.  He missed his fifth straight game.  In his place Amos Otis, who still qualifies as a rookie, has two hits, both doubles, in 21 at-bats.

  • Mets Record:  6-9 (.400)
  • N.L. East:  4th; 5 GB

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

N.Y. Mets: Zack Wheeler Serves Up Phillies Flambe

From the desk of:  HEAD-BUTTING MR. MET

Competitive Aprils Lead to Contending Summers
Series tied 1-1
I - NYM 5; PHI 1
II - NYM 9; PHI 0

New York Mets: Look Who's Number One ... For Now!

Far too often these early season showdowns go under spoken.  For instance both the Mets and Phillies entered Tuesday's game sporting rather unremarkable 12-10 records.  Thing is they entered Tuesday's game tied for first place - exactly where fans want to be.

I always say you can't win pennants in April, but you sure can lose them.  As the month draws to a close, the Mets and Phils now have five game between them.  Therefore I say this series is no longer a potential preview of this season's race for the National League East title.  This in fact is the race for the division flag.

The Phils, Nationals, and Braves have all demonstrated beyond a shadow of a doubt, that every game will matter greatly.

Record vs. N.L. East
  • WAS: 3-3
  • ATL:  2-2
  • PHI:   3-2
  • MIA:  3-0

This just tells me this division is up for grabs.  There will be little margin for error come September - assuming all teams stay reasonably healthy.  Should that turn out being the case, expect a fight to the finish.

The Mets defeated the Phils to gain a tie for first place on Monday.  On Tuesday the Mets again defeated the Phillies to secure a series victory, and move into sole possession of first place.

The Zack Wheeler I've been anticipating all spring finally showed up.  Making his fifth start of the season, the Mets looming free agent pitched a gem, while consistently popping the radar gun from 98mph to the century mark.  He threw 105 pitches with 74 (70%) going for strikes, while allowing just five hits and no walks through seven scoreless innings with eleven strikeouts for his second victory of the season.  Wheeler was also 2 for 3 at the plate, with a double, home run, and three RBI.

Luis Avilan and Jacob Rhame joined in pitching two scoreless innings of no hit ball in relief of Wheeler to complete the Mets 9-0 whitewashing of Philadelphia.

Robinson Cano and Michael Conforto each posted multi-hit games.  In only his second game back from injury Todd Frazier connected on a grand slam in the fifth inning.

Philadelphia's Bryce Harper is 0 for 5 thus far in the series with four strikeouts, an ejection in game one, and an all around bad attitude.

See ... baseball games in April are fun, but they matter too. A little bit of bad blood doesn't hurt either.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Brooklyn Nets: The Birth of a Cult

From the desk of:  THE HOOPS OF FLATBUSH


Brooklyn Nets
Philadelphia 76ers

I believe players across the National Basketball Association are noticing developments taking place in Brooklyn.  I bet they're salivating like a Pavlov dog watching an owner, a general manager, and a head coach, rally behind their players, and together draw a collective line in the sand.

Everyone knows head coaches aren't allowed to criticize referees; and that general managers shouldn't go barging into referee locker rooms; and that owners shouldn't be saying stuff detrimental to the league.  Kenny Atkinson, Sean Marks, and Joseph Tsai are all guilty.  We know it; everyone knows it.  But they couldn't be more right, and at this very moment couldn't be more beloved for it.

As a completely subjective observer, I think this is great!  And I believe other people and potential free agents do too.

The crowds at Barclays Center have spoken.

A basketball cult grows in Brooklyn.

Long Island Ducks 2019 Season Preview

From the desk of:  THE WEBBED SPIKES NINE

2000   20th SEASON   2019
2004    2012    2013

Congratulations to Buddy Harrelson, Michael Pfaff, and the entire Long Island Ducks organization as they embark on their 20th season of professional baseball.

The naysayers said it couldn't be done.  Carving out a niche in and around the Big Apple - much less establishing a new independent league within the tri-state area - sounds as improbable now as I remember it then.  Yet, two decades later here they are.  With the unfortunate demise of the Bridgeport Bluefish (after the 2017 season), the Somerset Patriots became the lone remaining member club of the original Atlantic League charter, thus elevating the Ducks to second most senior team in the circuit.

Michael Pfaff's Quacks are backed by a passionate fan base stretching from Bensonhurst (yours truly) to Montauk Point whom consistently pack the Pond.  The same can be said of the well entrenched Patriots and their stalwart New Jersey fan base.  Suffice it say the rivalry between the two teams goes under-spoken, but is nonetheless epic.  Somerset leads all clubs with six Atlantic League championships, but none since getting realigned out of the Freedom Division after the 2015 season and into the same division with Long Island.  In each of the last three seasons, the Ducks have gone on to pull off amazing feats of victory in the Liberty Division playoffs over Somerset.  The Ducks are three time Atlantic League champions, but not since winning back-to-back titles six and seven years ago.  Although they've qualified for the finals the last three years running, they've fallen short each time; twice to a formidable Sugar Land Skeeters team, and once against the York Revolution.

If that alone does not serve to motivate the current cast of Quacks to greater altitudes, then Wally Backman will.  The old Mets firebrand is back, and looking to ruffle Atlantic League competition.  The man I longed to have piloting the New York Mets enters his first season as manager of the Long Island Ducks.  I congratulate him, and I'm happy for him.  As a manager he's both wild and wile, and a freak for small ball and fundamentals.  Wally makes his position crystal clear.  He's tough, demanding, and expects you to study your craft.  But he's also straightforward, a good teacher, and exudes support for his guys.  Everywhere he's been, players respected him, even lauded him.  Authority figures, not so much.  But I am no man's judge.  That said I believe he possesses a brilliant baseball mind rivaling the great managers of not too long ago.  I welcome him into the Flock's fold with wings wide open.

Ed Lynch, is not only one of my favorite Met pitchers of the time, he is likewise one of the most under rated Mets of all-time ... and he's from Brooklyn!  He was a bright light through some dark years during the early 1980s at Shea Stadium.  I felt terrible for him upon learning in 1986 he had been traded mid-season to the Cubs.  He was an important pitcher during their early rise to prominence.  Lynch rejoins his former teammate Wally Backman serving as team pitching coach.

Long Island now enters what I'll call the post John Brownell era.  The organization's all-time record setting starting pitcher retired after last season.  There's also no more Francisco Rodriguez in the bullpen.  Gone too from this year's lineup are the bats of Emilio Bonifacio, Jordany Valdespin, Taylor Ard, and Travis Snider.  The popular Cody Puckett is likewise gone, as is crowd favorite and long time shortstop Dan Lyons.



Tim Adleman (RHP)
  • The 31-year old native New Yorker from Staten Island marks his first season with the Ducks.  Tim was originally drafted in 2010 by the Orioles, then spent the 2012 and 2013 seasons pitching in the independent American Association, and CanAm League, respectively.  By 2014 he was back to playing affiliated ball with the Cincinnati Reds organization.  He has 43 games of major league experience including 33 starts over two seasons (2016-2017) with the Reds.
Tyler Badamo (RHP)
  • Hailing from Mount Sinai, New York, the 26-year old was originally drafted in 2014 by the New York Mets.  He owns a 12-13 record with a 3.79 ERA during four seasons of affiliated ball in the Mets and Arizona Diamondbacks organizations.  Back for his first full season with the Ducks, Badamo spent parts of last season pitching for New Britain and Sugar Land before landing on Long Island, where he posted a 3-3 record with a 3.38 ERA through seven starts.
Jake Fisher (LHP)
  • The 27-year old independent league veteran returns for his third season, and second full season with the Ducks.  Jake last year posted an 8-7 record with a 3.92 ERA with 107 strikeouts in 133.1 innings pitched.
Brett Marshall (RHP)
  • After making three appearances last year, Marshall returns for his first full season on Long Island.  A Yankees farm product, he last played MiLB in 2016 for Tampa's double-A affiliate.  Before joining the Ducks, he pitched parts of last season for Sugar Land and Southern Maryland.  He posted a combined 6-9 record with a 4.56 ERA in 25 total starts, with 108 strikeouts in 132.1 innings pitched.
Tim Melville (RHP)
  • After making nine starts in 2017 for the Ducks, Tim returns for a second campaign on Long Island.  He spent last season pitching for Baltimore's triple-A affiliate where he made 14 starts and 40 overall appearances.  The 29-year old owns a 4.67 ERA in 861.1 career minor league innings pitched. 
Jon Niese (LHP)
  • The 32-year old southpaw needs no introduction.  Local fans know him very well.  He was a member of the 2015 National League champion Mets.  I suspect many Ducks/Mets fans will be flocking to Bethpage Ballpark throughout the upcoming season to watch him pitch - every pun intended.  Niese spent nine season pitching in Queens, compiling a 61-62 record and 3.99 ERA, with 838 strikeouts through 1,079.1 innings pitched.  He pitched his last MLB game in 2016 for the Pittsburgh Pirates.  The upcoming season marks Jon Niese's return to baseball after a two year hiatus.

Bennett Parry (LHP)
  • Now entering his second season with the Ducks, Parry spent five seasons in the Baltimore Orioles organization before moving on to Lincoln of the American Association for two seasons.  An Atlantic League all-start least season, he posted a 6-1 record with a 2.86 ERA in 14 starts, with 116 strikeouts in 85 innings pitched for a 12.3 K/9 average.


Enrique Burgos (RHP)
  • He spent ten seasons in the Arizona Diamondbacks organization before moving on in 2017 to the Atlanta Braves triple-A affiliate.  He spent last year pitching in Mexico.  He owns a 6-4 record and 4.43 ERA through 91.1 innings at triple-A.  Burgos has 73 games of MLB experience (2015-2016), all in relief for Arizona with a 5.27 ERA and 10.8 K/9 average in 68.1 innings pitched.
Jose Cuas (RHP)
  • The infielder turned relief pitcher is back for his second season with the Ducks.  The 24-year old appeared in 22 games last season all in relief, posting a 2.38 ERA, with a 6.4 H/9 and 6.9 K/9 average in 22.2 innings pitched.  Jose played for Grand Street High School in Brooklyn!  The Milwaukee Brewers selected him in the 11th round of the 2015 draft.
Darin Downs (LHP)
  • The 34-year old southpaw previously pitched on Long Island in 2015 and 2016, and now returns for his third season with the Ducks.  He spent last season pitching in Mexico for Monterrey where he posted a 3.42 ERA in 26.1 innings pitched.  He owns a 4.03 ERA through 764.1 career minor league innings pitched.  Downs is a three year MLB veteran with a 4.76 ERA and 8.3 K/9 average in 90.2 career innings pitched.
Tucker Healy (RHP)
  • The soon to be 29-year old owns a career 3.24 ERA, 1.242 WHiP, with a 7.5 H/9 average and 11.3 K/9 average in 319.2 career innings mostly spent in the Oakland A's organization.  He enters his first season on Long Island after making 20 appearances last year for Tacoma of the Pacific Coast League.  All of his 249 career appearances have come in relief.
Joe Iorio (RHP)
  • The 27-year old Frontier League veteran of four seasons enters his first campaign with the Ducks.  He owns a career 3.95 ERA, 1.338 WHiP, and 10.2 K/9 average through 95.2 innings pitched.  He's coming off a breakout 2018 season, posting a 1.46 ERA with 55 strikeouts in 49.1 innings pitched, while allowing just 36 hits and seven walks for a 0.872 WHiP.
Vin Mazzaro (RHP)
  • The first time Duck was originally selected by the Oakland A's in the third round of the 2005 draft.  A veteran of eight (2009-2016) MLB seasons, he owns a 24-23 career record and 4.79 ERA in 383 innings pitched.  Of his 140 career appearances, 95 have been in relief.  Last season he posted ten saves with a 1.76 ERA in 46 innings pitched for the New Jersey Jackals of the CanAm League.  He surrendered just 33 hits and 10 walks for a 0.935 WHiP, with 44 strikeouts for an 8.6 K/9 average.
Alex Katz (LHP)
  • Another local born in Manhasset, New York, Alex attended St. John's University in Queens.  The 24-year old owns a 3.95 ERA in 200.1 career innings pitching in the White Sox and Orioles respective  systems.  Last season he struck out 47 batters in 44.1 innings pitching for single-A Delmarva.


Ramon Cabrera (C)
  • At 29-years of age, Ramon returns for a second season on Long Island.  Last year he batted .268 in 84 games and 313 at-bats, with 21 doubles, three home runs, and 31 RBI.  Over a ten year MiLB career he's a career .282 hitter, with a 24% rate of caught stealing, and .991 fielding average.  Ramon played in 74 MLB games with the Cincinnati Reds.
Hector Sanchez (C)
  • Now 29-years old, he spent last season playing for Sacramento of the Pacific Coast League.  Over the course of seven (2011-2017) seasons, he slashed .238/.273/.367, with 59 extra base hits and 120 RBI through 347 games and 783 at-bats, and owned a .992 FA, with a 25% rate of caught stealing as a major league catcher.  In 498 career MiLB games, he is a .286/.359/.449 career slasher with 52 home runs and 309 RBI in 1,700 at-bats.
Wagner Gomez (C, RP)
  • Sometimes pitcher, sometimes catcher - who knows - Gomez is another man of many, if not enigmatic talents.  He enjoyed a brief cup of coffee late last year, and returns in search of a full season on Long Island.  But in what capacity remains to be seen.  He played two games last season in which he managed four at-bats, but also pitched and finished a game with one full inning of work.  His five year minor league career with the Reds organization ended after 2014, after which he remained unlisted for three seasons until joining the Ducks.


David Washington (1B)
  • David last season was Long Island's main sources of power.  In 113 games and 399 at-bats, he hit 16 doubles, a team high 24 home runs, with 71 RBI, and eighteen stolen bases.  For the 28-year old, his prime athletic years lay dead ahead.
Vladimir Frias (2B, SS)
  • Drafted by the Giants in 2008, Frias last participated in affiliated ball in 2017 with Arizona's double-A club.  Otherwise, the now 34-year old infielder spent the previous two seasons as a standout with the Lancaster Barnstormers.  Last year he slashed .282/.350/.411, with 24 extra base hits and 39 RBI in 287 at-bats.  He also stole 16 bases and was caught only twice.
Ivan De Jesus, Jr. (SS, 2B)
  • It seems as if Ivan has been playing forever.  He was 18-years old in 2005 when he broke in with the Los Angeles Dodgers rookie league squad.  He is a career .302 hitter through eight season at triple-A; and a career .300 hitter in 13 overall MiLB seasons.  De Jesus is also a Winter League stalwart, and brings with him 228 games of major league experience.  He played last season for the triple-A Pawtucket Red Sox.  The soon to be 32-year old enters his first season playing independent baseball.
Rando Moreno (SS, 2B)
  • The soon to be 27-year old, spent last season playing for the San Rafael Pacifics of the independent Pacific Association, where he slashed .305/.356/.432, with 33 extra base hots, and 55 RBI through 80 games and 354 at-bats.  He scored 71 runs, and stole 25 bases while getting caught just once.  Prior to that, he spent seven seasons in the San Francisco Giants organization.
Steve Lombardozzi (3B, 2B)
  • In six years of major league service, the 30-year old infielder slashed .260/.292/.333, with 43 extra base hits and 52 RBI in 291 games and 786 at-bats.  He spent last season playing for Nashville of the Pacific Coast League where he batted .243 with 19 extra base hits and 42 RBI over 120 games.  This season marks Steve's return to the Atlantic League.  He previously  played 40 games in 2016 for the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs where he slashed .367/.401/.428, with nine extra base hits and 20 RBI in 166 at-bats.
Mike Olt (1B/3B)
  • Hailing from New Haven, Connecticut, Mike attended spring training with the Minnesota Twins.  He spent the last two seasons in the Red Sox organization.  In 2017 he hit 23 doubles and 16 home runs, with 57 RBI in 392 at-bats for double-A Portland.  He has 135 games of MLB service.  While with the Cubs in 2014, he hit 12 home runs with 33 RBI in 225 at-bats.


Matt den Dekker (L/L)
  • Another familiar face, Matt has 166 major league games of experience most popularly with the Mets, along with the Nationals and Tigers.  He owns an MLB slash of .223/.305/.337, with 27 extra base hits and 30 RBI through 368 big league at-bats.  In 811 games over a nine year minor league career, he slashed .271/.335/.447 with 86 home runs and 401 RBI.  Now 31-years old, he spent last season playing for Las Vegas of the Pacific Coast League.
Daniel Fields (L/R)
  • Back for his second season with the Ducks, Daniel last season slashed .267/.345/.425, with 21 doubles, nine home runs, 40 RBI, and 12 stolen bases through 96 games and 341 at-bats.  He spent the 2017 season playing for the now defunct Bridgeport Bluefish, for whom he slashed .297/.387/.486, with 12 home runs and 51 RBI in 85 games.  Originally drafted in 2009 by the Detroit Tigers, the 28-year old played his only ever MLB game in 2015, going 1 for 3, with a double.
Rey Fuentes (L/L)
  • Drafted in the first round of the 2009 draft by the Boston Red Sox, Rey was later shipped to the San Diego Padres in 2010 as part of Boston's transaction to acquire first baseman Adrian Gonzalez.  Now 28-years old, he has exactly 100 games of MLB experience.  A perennial Winter League participant, he spent the last two seasons playing at Reno of the Pacific Coast League where last year he batted .265 in 2018 with 11 doubles, six home runs, and 39 RBI in 302 at-bats.
Kirk Nieuwenhuis (L/R)
  • Long Island welcomes another former Mets outfielder, the California dreamer himself.  Since debuting for the Mets back in 2012, he remained active in major league baseball through the 2017 season.  He spent last season playing for Tacoma of the Pacific Coast League.  I caught my first glimpse of Kirk - like so many other Mets prospects - at Coney Island when he played for the Brooklyn Cyclones.  He enjoyed his best season in 2016 while with Milwaukee where he hit 18 doubles and 13 home runs, with 44 RBI in 335 at-bats.
Lew Ford (R/R) - player/coach
  • The Texas born globetrotter returns to Long Island for his tenth season with the Ducks.  Before making the Pond his permanent residence, Lew played on baseball diamonds across America, as well as Canada, Mexico, Dominican Republic, Venezuela, and across the Pacific in Japan.  Oh, the stories he can tell.  Now 42-years young, Ford is coming off one of his best seasons in which he slashed .293/.353/.432, with 33 doubles, ten home runs, and 73 RBI in 123 games and 468 at-bats.  The trick was staying healthy after nagging injuries compromised both his 2016 and 2017 seasons.

Ducks: Spring Training Invitees

Long Island's season kicks off on the road against the Revolution at York, Pennsylvania on Friday.  Their home opener at Bethpage Ballpark is scheduled for the following Friday, May 3, in a return series against the Revolution.  The Ducks also have a new member club joining the Liberty Division.  The High Point Rockers hailing out of North Carolina are now open for business.  They replace the defunct Bridgeport Bluefish.  The Sugar Land Skeeters are defending Atlantic League champions.  They've won in two of the last three years, defeating the Long Island Ducks each time.

Amazin' Date 4/23/1969: Jerry Koosman Whitewashes Pittsburgh Pirates

From the desk of:  HEAD-BUTTING MR. MET

Game #14: Wednesday, April 23, 1969 - BR
Pittsburgh Pirates @ New York Mets
Shea Stadium

Cleon Jones Raises Average to .444 With Three More Hits in Victory Over Pirates.

The Mets benefited from a day off after suffering through Monday's heart-break extra-inning loss against the Phillies.  On Wednesday, the Mets hosted another single game match, this time against the second place Pittsburgh Pirates.

Cleon Jones continued his torrid hitting, smacking three hits off Pittsburgh's Jim Bunning, including a double and an RBI in the first inning staking Jerry Koosman to an instant 1-0 lead.  Ed Kranepool then delivered home the Mets second run of the game in the fourth with a base hit to plate Cleon Jones from second base.

Jerry Koosman took care of the rest.  In his third start of the season, Jerry finally looked like his old self, allowing just five scattered hits and three walks, with six strikeouts over nine scoreless innings en route to his first victory of the season.

Pirates  0
Mets     2

Pirates center fielder Matty Alou was 2 for 4 against Koosman with a lead-off double in the eighth, but was left stranded when Koosman caught third baseman Jose Pagan looking at strike three for out number three.  Roberto Clemente was 0 for 3, with a walk.  Willie Stargell did not start, but as a pinch hitter with two outs in the ninth, his fly to right ended the game.

Loser Jim Bunning allowed the two Mets runs on six hits and a walk, while fanning four through six innings.

In addition to Cleon Jones, the Mets got extra base hits from Bud Harrelson and Ken Boswell.  Ed Kranepool leads the team with ten RBI.

After another off day on Thursday, the Mets host an early season showdown against the N.L. East division leading Chicago Cubs.
  • Mets Record:  6-8
  • N.L. East:  3rd; 4 GB

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Brooklyn Nets: A Rivalry Breaks Out in Flatbush

From the desk of:  THE HOOPS OF FLATBUSH

Sixers lead series 3-1
I - BKN 111; PHI 102
II - PHI 145; BKN 123
III - PHI 131; BKN 115
IV- PHI 112; BKN 108

Brooklyn Nets: Flatbush Takes One On The Chin After Jared Dudley Confronts Schoolyard Bully.

Nothing Kenny Atkinson tried in game two seemed to work.  Coach said that's why no Nets player exceeded 26 minutes.  That left some scratching their heads.

I left off wondering what adjustments Atkinson would make heading into game four.

Sadly, the results are in.

It took two games but Kenny finally relented.  Four starters exceeded thirty minutes each.  He also broke up the trio of Joe Harris/DeMarre Carroll/Rodions Kurucs whom all started games one through three.  In place of Carroll and Kurucs, Coach (finally) started Caris Levert, and inserted Jared Dudley.

Levert logged 42 minutes as the starting two, scoring 25 points, and tying for team high with six assists, versus 21 ppg in less than 24-minutes per game off the bench.

In game one, Jared Dudley was 0/2 from the field, and 4/4 from the line in 28 minutes off the bench.  He did not see action in game two, then played 17 rather inconsequential minutes - if you ask Philly - in game three, recording no points and one rebound.

Then came the game four fracas on Flatbush Avenue.

Say what you will about Dudley - the Sixers do - but there's something to be said for Atkinson's decision to start him.  Dudley brings defense and acumen to the floor.  And there he was leading the Nets with a plus/12 and a team high five assists (and eight points) until the moment of his ejection at 7:42 of the third quarter.  I absolutely respect Jared for confronting Joel Embiid.  And that's exactly what Dudley did: confront him.  He didn't punch, slap, kick, scratch, thumb him in the eye, or do anything of the kind.  But Jared most certainly grabbed Embiid's arm, and his attention, and added an extra shove for good luck.  Someone needed to do it, and a veteran stepped up.  It was a questionable play on Embiid's part that perhaps appeared to Dudley harder than it was.  Jared, like every fan in the building, clearly grew tired of watching Jarrett Allen get pushed around in the presence of increasing ref approval.  However, Joel's previous transgressions both on and off the court are what really ignited the moment.  The game and series had already been building up pressure and was primed to blow, and so I feel the eruption was rather unavoidable.  I agree with Dudley insofar that no player should have been ejected, but I do not begrudge the officials final determination.

The Sixers are guilty of playing nothing more - and certainly nothing less - than aggressive playoff basketball.  For instance, the Sixers have been kicking the Nets ass on the glass.

  • GM1 - BKN 45; PHI 50
  • GM2 - BKN 32; PHI 49
  • GM3 - BKN 43; PHI 54
  • GM4 - BKN 42; PHI 55
  • Total - BKN 162; PHI 208

This has been quite a telling series.  I believe it's safe to assume Sean Marks has watched every second.  In fact, the more I think about it the more I believe the Sixers were the best possible match-up for this Nets team.  Philly demonstrates on both sides of the ball the importance of size and physical presence in the paint.  But I'm not about to gauge Marks' level of concern over what has transpired over the last four games where it concerns his future organizational considerations.  Truth is he and Kenny should be commended for getting the team this far this fast.  This is still a rebuilding year after all, and with both money and draft picks at his disposal Sean Marks is on the precipice of constructing something very special; something we hope above and beyond that which fans can presently imagine.

In the meantime, Marks is also staying busy bursting into refs locker rooms in search of those who put forth piss poor performances in playoff games.  I say this in jest, so you're better off reading the link for a clearer detail of events.

I digress ...

Back to Saturday's game ... we pick up this story with the Nets leading by six at the time of Dudley's ejection.

Enter Joe Harris, who despite continued struggles started game four.  After the game Kenny Atkinson said he played a great game on Saturday.  Technically speaking ... I guess.  The bottom line is the Nets need him burying three's at an all-star rate, which he is clearly not.  The numbers speak for themselves:
  • GM1 - 13 points; 3/4 from three; 30 minutes.
  • GM2 - 4 points; 0/2 from three; 26 minutes.
  • GM3 - 8 points; 0/4 from three; 29 minutes.
  • GM4 - 10 points; 0/6 from three; 35 minutes.

On the eve of game one, I said this:
Through the Nets first three regular season games versus Philly, Joe Harris averaged just 11.3 ppg., but was a hawk-eye 6 for 12 (50%) from three point land.  The Nets fourth game against Philly is perhaps the first time Joe Harris exerts himself, posting a team high 22 points and shooting 4/6 from beyond the arc.  The problem is the Nets will require from him more than just four attempts (3-pointers) per game.  In fact "his here today gone tomorrow" act must end post haste if the Nets are to hang around through an extended series against the Sixers.  What I ask for is a little more consistency; playing up to his averages on a nightly basis.  Granted, he only averaged 13.7 ppg for the season.  Make no mistake; I'm not picking on Joe.  But we all know the impact a sharpshooting Harris can have on any given game.  In fact, when Joe Harris glows hot the rest of the Nets radiate brilliance.
On the eve of game four, I said this:
Joe Harris must impact these next several games.  So far he's done quite the opposite.  He played up to his career average with 13 points and shooting 3/4 form behind the arc in game one's opening win.  But he's been missing ever since.  Harris scored just four points and was 0/2 from three range in game two, and scored eight but was 0/4 from the arc in game three.  That's 0/6 from three range with just twelve points over his last two games.

Then game four happened - there goes that phrase again - and another 0/6 performance from three range.  Joe Harris is coming off easily his best season since joining the Nets three years ago.  In his first playoff series, he is now OH! for his last 12 from three range, and averaging a shade under eight ppg.  It pains me to see him go through this, because when Joe is on he draws defense away from Coach's high pick-and-roll and trilateral guard commission.

For one Nets guard in particular, this season and these playoffs are providing an invaluable education.  D'Angelo Russell is clearly a marvelous talent - that bounce pass to Joe Harris was just stupid!  But the 23-year old is still learning.  To a certain extent the Sixers have him bottled up.  Moving forward, this gained experience will teach him how to better fight through the trees.  If this season is indeed the genesis of a star, these last four games were difficult but necessary steps towards that future.
  • GM1 - 26 points; 4 assists.
  • GM2 - 16 points; 2 assists.
  • GM3 - 26 points; 4 assists.
  • GM4 - 21 points; 6 assists.

Russell averaged 21.1 ppg in the regular season.  But if you watched him over the second half of the season, you know what he really did.  He also averaged seven assists per game.  Through four playoff games, he's averaging 22.2 points but just four assists.  Looming in the near future a dilemma awaits Sean Marks: securing Russell to a max contract or spending his Nets money off campus.

Good problems ahead.

In the meantime, welcome to the birth of a legitimate rivalry manufactured here in Brooklyn, by Brooklyn, for Brooklyn.

Game Five is Tuesday at Philadelphia.

Amazin' Date 4/21/1969: Mets Drop Extra-Inning Heart Breaker to Phillies

From the desk of:  HEAD-BUTTING MR. MET


Game #13: Monday, April 21, 1969 - BR
Philadelphia Phillies @ New York Mets
Shea Stadium

Home is Where the Heart Break Is; Woody Fryman Dominates Mets Yet Again.

To say Woody Fryman spoiled the Mets return home to Shea Stadium is wording it mildly.  In each of his two starts against the Mets, the Phillies veteran has offered them no quarter.  Last Monday, he tossed a complete game four-hitter, allowing just one run and striking out six.  On this day Fryman pitched another ten full innings, limiting the Mets to just one run on five hits and one walk, with eight strikeouts.

Early on the Mets appeared to have Fryman's number.  Cleon Jones and Ed Charles strung together consecutive hits leading off the bottom of the second.  Ron Swoboda then plated Jones with the Mets third straight hit.  But Fryman would regroup himself.  After issuing a two-out walk to Ed Kranepool, the crafty vet would retire twelve straight batters until Amos Otis snapped the string a two-out double in the sixth.

Phillies  2
Mets      1

Rookie Gary Gentry would incur a heartbreaking no decision.  Despite issuing eight base on balls, Gentry allowed just one run on Larry Hisle's fourth inning home run, and seven hits overall with eight strikeouts through nine innings of quality work.  With Ron Taylor pitching his second inning in relief of Gentry, Philadelphia third baseman Tony Taylor's base hit with two on and one out delivered the go-ahead run.

The game marks New York's first extra inning game of the season.  This also marks their fifth game decided by one run, which entering the season Gil Hodges made very clear would be his pet peeve.  Sorry to report the Mets are now 1-4 thus far in such games.

Cleon Jones accounted for one of the Mets five hits.  He has now hit safely in 11 of the Mets 13 games to date, and as reached base in all but one.  Cleon is 21 for 51 (.312), with three doubles, a home run, and seven RBI.
  • Mets Record:  5-8
  • N.L. East:  3rd; 6 GB