Friday, February 23, 2018

Mets and Yankees win pre-season openers


The Mets opened up the Mickey Callaway era in the win column by rallying late to beat back their NL East rival, the Atlanta Braves 6-2 at First Data Field in Port St. Lucie.

While most of the Mets regulars were long gone by the late stages, the Mets were led by a 2-run double by Zach Borenstein that tied the game at two in the eighth inning, and a RBI single by David Thompson that bounced off the glove of left fielder Isreal Wilson that gave the Mets a 3-2 lead. New York would score three more runs in the frame on walks to Patrick Mazeika, Gavin Cecchini and Luis Gillorme. Cecchini and Wilmer Flores were the only major league talent to bat in the inning for the Mets.

Early on all eyes were on pitcher Zach Wheeler who got the nod for the exhibition opener. Much had been made about the security of Wheeler's spot in the rotation in light of the recent signing of veteran Jason Vargas. While he only pitched one inning, Wheeler looked good. He surrendered a lead-off single Ozzie Albies, before striking out two of the next three hitters.

As for the regulars, Adrian Gonzalez made his Mets debut going 0-for-3 with two strikeouts. Todd Fraizer was 1-for-2 in his debut. Amed Rosario was 1-for-2 on the afternoon, while Travis d'Arnaud was 0-for-2 at the plate.

The Mets (1-0) host the Cardinals on Saturday.


As for the Bronx Bombers, they got a chance to take the ribbon off their biggest off-season prize, Giancarlo Stanton on Friday against Detroit. Stanton got the start in right field and batted second in the order, going 0-for-1 with a walk. Aaron Judge did not play against the Tigers on Friday.

Aaron Boone's ball club rallied to score three runs in the sixth, including a two-run single by Jorge Saez.

Luis Cesa got the start on the mound for the Yankees, giving up a run on two hits over two innings of work.

The Yankees visit the Pirates on Saturday.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Jets to do "whatever it takes" to get Kirk Cousins

If reports are accurate the New York Jets are going to do everything in their power to get Kirk Cousins.

According to Rich Cimini of ESPN, the Jets want Cousins so badly that they are willing to do, and pay whatever it takes to get him. There is also a report from Pro Football Talk that the Jets are considering breaking the bank for Cousins and giving him a fully-guaranteed contract.

Again these are all rumors at this point, but when you consider the Jets plight at quarterback; General Manager Mike Maccagnan's inability to draft a good quarterback in the draft not just once, but twice, and the uncertainty of this year's quarterback draft class, the Jets have to get Kirk Cousins.

That's right, I said it, they have to

The Jets have over $70 million to spend in salary cap space, and some believe they will have more cap room after they release Muhammad Wilkerson next month. This is a franchise that has been in quarterback purgatory for far too long and adding Cousins will undoubtedly give this team (on paper) the best quarterback they have had since --- Chad Pennington? Joe Namath? Ever? Let's go with ever, because it is the Jets after all.

So in a win-or-die year for Maccagnan and Head Coach Todd Bowles, landing Cousins could help keep them aboard the Jets green and white ship longer (... unless you talk to Eric Managini after the Brett Favre fiasco in 2008).

Cousins has been one of the league's most consistent passers from a statistical standpoint in the past three seasons, completing 65 percent of his passes and throwing for 4,000 yards in each of the last three years. At 30 years old, he still has a lot of good football in him.

The only blemish on Cousin's record is, well, ... his record. Cousins is 26-30-1 as a starting quarterback in the NFL, and has appeared in only one playoff game. A lot of people feel that Cousins is undeserving of a big contract because of his mediocre winning percentage, and they have a good point. In fact, no player in the NFL is worth upwards of $100 to $150 million with about $25 million guaranteed a year. Nobody!

If Cousins is going to sign with the Jets, he'll probably have to take his asking price down a bit, which might be tough considering his peers like Matthew Stafford and Jimmy Garoppolo have all hit it big with mega contracts.

It's not like Cousins doesn't have other suiters whom the Jets will compete with in the coming weeks. The Broncos are expected to be a favorite to land Cousins because of the offensive scheme they run, and the fact the Broncos still have a win-now defense. John Elway is also a excellent negotiator, just Google Payton Manning.

The Jets can offer Cousins a similar offensive system as Denver. Offensive Coordinator Jeremy Bates comes from the Mike Shanahan coaching tree, and Cousins lauded Bates during Super Bowl week. They also can offer Cousins a team that is younger than Denver that will be ready to win for years to come. What is Denver's window? It's likely closing, especially with all those defensive players getting up in age.

New York is also a nice place to be from the marketing standpoint, and I am sure the Jets can give Cousins and his wife the grand tour of northern New Jersey to show them what a great suburban state it is outside of Newark and New York City.

We are getting closer and closer to free agency day in the NFL. If the Jets want to end years of mediocrity, end years of frustration and give their fleeting fanbase some hope this year and for future years, they need to and should roll out the red carpet for Kirk Cousins.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Vargas addition will affect Wheeler and Matz in Mets rotation

The Mets signing veteran lefty Jason Vargas to a two-year deal worth $16 million on Friday is going to have a major impact on their rotation this season.  While the name of Vargas doesn't jump off the page like free agents Lance Lynn or Alex Cobb, the Mets made the deal with Vargas as insurance to a starting rotation ravaged by injuries the past two seasons.

Vargas has had a rather mediocre career. He's bounced around between five different teams over the past 12 seasons and never had an ERA lower than 3.78 for a full season.  However last season, he seemed to put it together at age 34 when he won 18 games and was an All Star for the Kansas City Royals. His pitching coach at the time? New Mets pitching coach Dave Eiland who had Vargas when they were together at the Royals. Obviously the familiarity between the two is a big reason why Vargas comes aboard.

The injury history of the Mets rotation is the biggest reason. So consider the move a shot across the bow of Steven Matz and Zach Wheeler.

Both Wheeler and Matz have had a lot of trouble staying on the field for long durations of time. Wheeler missed all of the 2015 season because of Tommy John Surgery. A year later, he missed the entire 2016 season because of various setbacks. Last season, he missed time early in the year due to biceps tendonitis, and was later shut down for the year after a stress reaction in his right arm.

Aside from the injuries Wheeler has been inconsistent. A 3-7 record in 17 starts with a 5.21 ERA, and he continued to struggle with walks and high pitch counts, something that plagued the early part of his career.

On the flip side, Matz is still searching to get back to the guy who was 4-0 down the stretch of the 2015 season. The last two years have not been kind to him. He was bothered by a bone spur in his left elbow that affected his pitching during the season. By September of 2016, the Mets had to shut Matz down to undergo surgery for the bone spur.

Last season was a nightmare for Matz. He battled through injuries all season, and a career worst 2-7 record with a 6.08 ERA before he had season-ending elbow surgery last August.

When asked by reporters about the signing, Wheeler was visibly bothered by the move, saying only he will not change his mindset for the rest of camp. One can understand his frustration. Not only is he trying to prove he's the strongest he's been in a long while,  he just recently won an arbitration settlement with the Mets for $1.9 million.  It shouldn't be surprising that the Vargas signing didn't sit well with him.

Should Vargas make the team as a starter, it will leave only one spot up for grabs between Wheeler, Matz, Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo. Both Lugo and Gsellman have been up and down in the Mets system between the Major's and Triple-A the past two years; both will have options in 2018. So in reality the fifth spot is between Wheeler and Matz.

It's hard to say at this point who would be the favorite to be the rotation or in the bullpen. Wheeler is not a guy who has recovered well after starts and has never been a reliever at any level of his career. Having a lefty like Matz come out of the pen might be more attractive. It's anyone's guess at this point. We'll see how this plays out once the games begin in two weeks.

Either way, as we learned last season, the Mets can't have enough starting pitching, and adding Vargas gives Mickey Callaway some much needed depth.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Mets Spring Training: Position Battle at first base

For Mets first baseman Dominic Smith this is his chance.

 After a disappointing Major League debut where hit only .198 in 49 games, and was badly out of shape, the Mets sent Smith a direct message this winter when they signed veteran slugger Adrian Gonzalez. Show us something.

The Mets could have easily given up on Smith and just went out and handed free agent Eric Hosmer the deal he covets in free agency, but because of the slow market, or the Mets unwillingness to overpay for outside talent, the Mets are not going to give up on the 22-year old just yet.

The Mets battle at first base is going to be the story of camp.

One side is Smith, the young man who was the thunder for both Binghamton and Las Vegas the past two years down in the Mets farm system. Smith slugged 30 home runs, 63 doubles and drove in 167, while batting .315 in 2016 and 2017 respectfully.  The power, combined with the fact that he has 120 or more hits in each of the past four seasons, gave the Mets the vision that one day Smith could become that good in Flushing.

On the other side is Gonzalez, a 36-year old journeyman at this point in his career. The days when Gonzalez was one of baseballs most feared hitters is long past. Instead his days as a Red Sox and Padre are distant memories; a dying flame that the Mets are banking can be rekindled to give them something this season. In short Gonzalez had the career that Smith hopes to have one day.

While neither player will admit it, this is a competition after all; both will make the other better. Gonzalez is here for two reasons, to give the Mets a legitimate power bat in the middle of the order, and push Smith to fulfill his potential.

Since January, Smith has been down in Florida working out extensively at the Fischer Institute of Physical Therapy and Performance, where he reportedly dropped 30 pounds and weighs around 224. Now the key for him will be winning the job from Gonzalez.

Last year Smith was a middle-in type of hitter, where most of his hits and his best exit velocity came from. To become a complete hitter, Smith will need to expand that zone and start going the other way. There is nothing wrong with singles, doubles and walks. Carlos Delgado, and even Gonzalez did it for years.

Rest assured Gonzalez will be ready. He too is looking for redemption since last year’s disappointing effort with the LA Dodgers where he played in only 71 games and didn’t make the postseason roster. 2017 was the worst year of Gonzalez’s career, and as a prideful veteran, he is going to want to prove he can still be the guy that hit 28 home runs and drove in 90 back in 2015.

The question with Gonzalez, though, has Father Time finally come for him? He has not had a 100 RBI season since 2014, and has not hit close to 20 home runs since that aforementioned 2015 season.  If things don’t work out for Gonzalez, the Mets could let him go, or they could make him into a lefty- power bat off the bench, which wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.

Verdict: Barring an incredible spring training performance by Smith where he just blows Mickey Callaway out of his seat, chances are the Mets will send Smith back to the Minor’s to start the year and will go with Gonzalez at first. Expect Smith to be back in the Major’s certainly by June.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Eagles Win Super Bowl 52, Recap and Reaction

Earlier this week I hosted a special Open Mike Program to recap the Philadelphia Eagles first ever Super Bowl title. Philly beat the Patriots 41-33 in one of the most entertaining, and shocking Super Bowls in NFL history. Joining me on this podcast are Sean Bretherick and Daniel Feuerstein.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Super Bowl Ratings Tank to 9-Year Low

Inspite of a fantastic football game and wonderful finish with the Eagles winning their first ever Super Bowl title, Super Bowl LII was the least watched 'big game' in nine years according to data released by Nielsen  on Monday night. The game garnered a 103.4 million rating, which is down 7.1 percent from last season, which drew 111.3 million people.

The rating was the lowest since Super Bowl XLIII between the Steelers and Cardinals that drew 98.7 million eyeballs.

While the game was still the most watched televised event of the year, it is little consolation. The NFL has been suffering a downturn in ratings all season long with some outlets reporting a 9 percent drop during the regular season. The postseason also saw ratings decline that went into the teens.

There are a lot of reasons for this. Executives have been trumping the idea that people are streaming the content online, but that argument masks a much darker reality for the NFL.  People are just flat out fed up.

Shortly after the Eagles and Patriots stamped their tickets to Minnesota during the conference championships, hundreds, if not thousands of people took to social media to denounce the Super Bowl, promising not to watch. According to the numbers by Nielsen, people weren't blowing smoke.

From the National Anthem protest to horrible officiating, a lack of accountability and pure hubris from commissioner Roger Goodell, and the inevitability of the Patriots success, people are flat out sick of the current state of the NFL.

Earlier this season when the NFL was in the midst of the national anthem crisis, fans began burning NFL jersey's to protest the League's wide response to kneel during the National Anthem after President Donald Trump called out the league for its behavior before Week 2. Across the country jersey's were burned, and thousands of fans refused to return to their couch for Sunday afternoons.

Football has a problem and unless it truly gets politics out of the game, and focuses on making the sport competitive again, people are going to continue to avoid it.

Mets Swipe Todd Fraizer Away from Yankees

The Mets indeed have life this off-season.  The team from Queens signed former Yankees third baseman Todd Frazier to a two-year, $17 million contract. The deal gives the Mets a solid defensive third baseman with pop, while delivering a blow to the Yankees, who lose a valuable leader in the clubhouse.

Last season, Frazier split 147 games between the White Sox and Yankees. In his 66 games in the Bronx, Frazier hit only .222 with 11 homers and 32 RBI,  but his value was increased by the fact he provided steady veteran leadership in the Yankee clubhouse. A lot of people point to the fact that the Yankees postseason run was connected to his clubhouse presence.

For a Mets team in a transition year, Frazier is valuable from that standpoint. Manager Mickey Callaway needs a guy who can set the tone for everyone else, and Frazier is the perfect guy to do that.

That being said, the Mets are getting a rather inconsistent hitter. Frazier has never been known as a big time average hitter; his best season was 2014 when he hit .274 for the Reds. Other than that he is a lifetime .245 hitter.

Still, the man hits for power. Over the past five seasons, Frazier has hit 25-plus home runs four times, including a 40-homer season in 2016 for the Chicago White Sox. Considering the influx of power displayed by the Mets last year at Citi Field, and the fact that the fences were brought in over the past couple of seasons, Frazier could enjoy another big season from the production standpoint.

Another big plus to adding Frazier is his fielding. He was ranked 13th in Major League Baseball among third baseman with a .960 fielding percentage, committing only 13 errors in 133 games at third. Two years ago he was ranked 8th in baseball in fielding percentage, and in 2014 he was ranked 7th.

As a team, the Mets committed 24 errors at third base in 2017, which was tied with San Diego for the third most errors by a team at that position. The Mets .938 fielding percentage at third was ranked 29th in all of Major League Baseball. It didn't help that New York had a case of musical chairs at the position with eight different players getting a start at third, including catcher Travis d'Arnaud.

Frazier gives the Mets at least some short term stability at the position, a veteran presence they have not enjoyed on a regular basis since David Wright was a regular at the position back in 2014. That's right, the Mets have gone three straight seasons without any identity at third base. That is how much Wright's injuries have negatively impacted this baseball team.

While the Mets were able to get by with Daniel Murphy and Juan Uribe during the Mets run to the World Series in 2015, Wright's absence has been a huge problem for this team. Wright has only played in 65 games over the past three seasons. He missed all of last year, and is not expected back this year. What's most frustrating is that he has shown no signs that he is willing to hang 'em up and retire.

The signing of Frazier is the Mets way of telling Wright they want to and have to move on without him. Of course that is easier said then done, considering Wright is still getting paid millions of dollars to sit at home, while the Mets are still collecting insurance on the backend. It's a tricky situation to say the least.

Regardless how the Mets situation further develops with David Wright, the Mets are moving forward as if he will never play for the franchise again.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Eagles Win First Super Bowl, Send Brady to Pit of Misery


Pinch yourself Philly! Then again, I think the people of Philadelphia did enough of that last night as they literally tore apart their city limb for limb following the Eagles shocking Super Bowl victory over New England.

Yes, the Eagles are World Champions. They are champions because they beat the Patriots at their own game -- outscoring the Patriots in a shootout, while getting a few breaks to go their way as well. It all added up to one of the more exciting Super Bowl's we have seen in years,  if not it was the highest scoring.

The game itself broke records all night. Gone is the total yards record in a Super Bowl. This game crushed that by a mile. The Eagles and Patriots combined for 1,151 yards of offense, a Super Bowl record. Tom Brady's 505 yards passing shredded his own record he set last season against Atlanta. Nick Foles' 373 yards passing was just four yards short of Kurt Warner's mark from Super Bowl XLIII, and was the fifth most yards in a game all time for a Super Bowl.

But really, outside the stats this game was about the guts of the Eagles. They openly embraced the idea of having to pull out every stop in order to beat the Patriots at their own game, and if that meant getting into a shootout so be it. That is where Doug Pederson deserves a tremendous amount of credit for the guts he showed Sunday night. Most coaches have steered clear of the aggressive play, instead settling for the safe conservative call against the Patriots, and almost all the time it comes back to bite them.

Not Pederson.

He remained aggressive even if the risk was too great. After the Eagles scored on a 21-yards scamper by LeGarrette Blount to make it 15-3 Eagles in the second quarter, Pederson decided to go for two points. The attempt failed, but he never let it bother him.

After Brady marched New England the length of the field in less than three minutes for a touchdown to cut the Eagles lead to 15-12, Philadelphia was quick to respond with a seven play, 70-yard drive engineered by Foles to quiet the New England comeback. The big play was Foles 55-yard completion to Corey Clement that stunned the crowd and set up the Eagles at the Patriots eight-yard line.

The Patriots would stiffen defensively, forcing a fourth down for the Eagles. Instead of being conservative and settling for three, Pederson dipped down into his bag of tricks and pulled out a play that will be remembered as the most important play of Super Bowl 52.

The Eagles sent a direct snap to Clement who handed the ball off to Trey Burton on the end around. Burton then flipped the ball to a wide open Nick Foles for the touchdown. 22-12, Eagles. While the game was not over, the play stood as a sign that this night belonged to Philadelphia.

And most ironic with that trick play was the fact that earlier in that second quarter, when the Patriots tried to pull their own tricks on the Eagles, it backfired when Brady dropped a wide open pass down the sideline.

In fact by the end of the night, Super Bowl LII had become a cruel joke to the Patriots. Every moment that would normally go the Patriots way did not.

First it was Stephan Goskowski missing a field goal, then the Brady drop. By the second half the football gods got their revenge on New England on two controversial touchdown calls. The first one with 7:18 to go in the third quarter when Corey Clement hauled in a 22-yard pass from Foles in the back of the end zone. On replay it appeared that the ball moved around in Clement's hands, but he never dropped the ball, and kept possession all the way through. The touchdown stood.

 The catch was eerily similar to the Jets-Patriots game in October when Austin-Seferian Jenkins caught a bass and fell into the end zone, but had the call reversed because the officials thought he bobbled the ball. This time, in the Super Bowl, the officials got the call right.

Later in the fourth quarter, Foles engineered another incredible Eagles drive that culminated in an 11-yard score to Zach Ertz who dove over a Patriots player and fell into the end zone. The ball bounced out of his hands when it touched the ground, then ended up back in Ertz's possession as he rolled over  on his back.

Talk about Deja-Vu. Seven weeks ago the Patriots got a lucky break when Pittsburgh's Jesse James dove for the end zone and scored, but the officials said it was not a touchdown because the ball may have come out at the end of the catch. The call was wrong in that game, and James should have been awarded a touchdown. In a cruel twist of fate for the Patriots, the call came back to bite them in the Super Bowl. This time, the officials got the call right.

Then if this game could not go full circle enough. With the Patriots down to their final breaths, Brady was stripped of the football as he was trying to throw. It was ruled a fumble and the Eagles got the ball back. The last time such a play happened to Brady, he was in a driving snowstorm in Foxboro, on a play infamously called the Tuck Rule -- a play that began the Patriots Dynasty all those years ago. The football gods got their revenge.

And with it, the Eagles came out victorious. They withstood the Patriots machine and beat back the best team the League has to offer. Congrats Philly, enjoy it.