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Thursday, October 30, 2014

Bumgarner Dominates in Relief as Giants Win World Series

GIANTS 3
ROYALS 2
SF wins series 4-3

In a postseason where the Kansas City Royals made history going from rags to riches, it was Madison Bumgarner and the San Francisco Giants who pushed their way to the top of the mountain and chiseled their names into history forevermore.

Bumgarner was fantastic. The Giants unwavering. After falling to the Royals 10-0 in Game 6, the Giants stared at an uncertain script in Game 7. The stats and momentum all pointed in Kansas City's favor. No road team had won a World Series after losing Game 6 since the 1975 Cincinnati Reds. Home teams had won the previous nine Game 7's in World Series history, and the last time the Giants played in a World Series Game 7, the Angles cruised 4-1 to cap off a comeback in the 2002 Fall Classic.

Plus this series was feeling a lot like the 1985 series, where the Royals erased a 3-2 series deficit to win it all in Games 6 and 7, topping their rivals from down I-70, the St. Louis Cardinals.

So many ghosts of World Series past, yet the Giants were Ghostbusters two days before Halloween. They were unwavering to the pressure of the moment, playing with the same calm demeanor of their future Hall of Fame manager, Bruce Bouchy.

Bouchy had a plan and it worked to perfection, even almost too perfect.

The Giants grabbed an early 2-0 lead when Michael Morse and Brandon Crawford hit Sac Fly's to the outfield to drive in both Pablo Sandoval, who started the inning getting hit by a pitch, and Hunter Pence, who singled.

Bouchy gave the ball back to Tim Hudson, the 39-year-old veteran who always wanted to pitch in this moment, but never got the chance until this postseason. Hudson had to know he was on a severe pitch count. Any mistake, or sign of struggling he was going to get pulled.

Hudson gave up a lead of single to Billy Butler and a RBI double to Alex Gordon to cut the lead in half, 2-1. After Hudson hit Salvador Perez on the knee with a fastball, Omar Infante tied the game on a sac fly to center tying the game at two. Bouchy knew he had to make his move and did so taking Hudson out of the game.

Perhaps it was a little earlier than he would have liked, but Bouchy again pushed the right buttons. He inserted Jeremy Affeldt and the lefty didn't disappoint shutting down the Royals for two and a third innings in relief -- his longest outing of the season.

Soon the Giants regained the lead, as it turned out for good this time in the top of the fourth. Jeremy Guthrie really began to waver in the fourth. He served up singles to Sandoval and Pence before being lifted for Kelvin Herrera who couldn't shut the door. Morse lined a pitch off the end of the bat into right field, dropping it in front of Nori Aoki to push in Sandoval with the go-ahead run to make it 3-2.

Now the stage was set for the master.

Bouchy rolled a big dice earlier in this series when he decided to hold Bumgarner for Game 5 instead of pitching him in Game 4. If he had Bumgarner would have been on three days rest to start Game 7 if necessary.  Bouchy's gamble paid off.

Bumgarner was phenomenal in Game 7. In an era where coaches worry about pitch counts, stress pitches, and innings for young starters Bumgarner broke the mold this postseason. He came into the game with the plan to throw only 40-50 pitches, or three innings of work. Instead he went out there and dominated as if he were on full rest, not two short days of rest.

He confused the Royals with his high fastball. The Royals were impatient and Bumgarner took full advantage. Bumgarner struck out four batters and jammed many more over five innings for one of the most dominate relief appearances by a starter in World Series history.

Even in the ninth inning with his pitch count approaching 70 he found a way to shut the door on the storybook Royals. He gave up a base hit to Alex Gordon, which turned into a triple when the ball skipped away from Gregor Blanco and bounced around the outfield wall. Still, Bumgarner didn't waver. He got Salvador Perez to chase a high fastball for strike one; got him to swing again at high heat for strike two, and on pitch number 68, Bumgarner jammed Perez into a pop out at third base in foul territory to win the World Series.

It was one of the most impressive outings in history. Bumgarner is now 4-0 with a historic 0.25 ERA and a save in the World Series. This postseason, he pitched to a 1.03 ERA in seven games, six starts with a record of 4-1. He was deserving of the MVP award having carried an entire team on his back for one month.

 As for the Royals, they have nothing to be ashamed of. They had a tremendous run that captivated the hearts of fans across the country. They were 90 feet away from keeping the dream alive, but they ran into a buzz-saw in Bumgarner.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Cubs Sign Joe Madden as next Manager

The Chicago Cubs haven't won a World Series since 1908; 114 years of nothing but pure misery. Chicago may finally be ready to take a step toward ending that long drought after signing Joe Maddon as their new manager beginning in 2015.

Hours before Game 7 of the World Series was about to begin between the Royals and Giants, CBS' Jon Hayman reported that the Cubs were on the verge of getting their man. Former Cubs manager Rick Renteria was aware that the Chicago front office led by Theo Epstein, was in the process of replacing the second year manager with arguably the best managers in the game. Renteria is guaranteed the next two years of his contract, whether he serves another role in the organization is to be determined.

Now it is all but official.

"The Cubs and agent Alan Nero denied that a deal is done, but people familiar with the dealings say that it is certain to be completed in coming days, and that Maddon would indeed be the next Cubs manager.

The contract, once finalized, is expected to make Maddon one of the highest-paid managers in baseball and quite likely the best-paid in the National League. Mike Scioscia's Angels deal pays him $5 million annually, so he sets the standard. It is believed Maddon was looking for $5 million-plus per year, but the exact terms are not known, "(Heyman).

Ever since he arrived in Northside of town, Epstein has been trying to get a big time manager in town to give the Cubs that needed jolt of credibility. He tried to pry away Joe Girardi last year from New York, but the Yankees gave him an offer he couldn't refuse. Many thought Epstein's old manager with the Red Sox, Terry Francona, would head over there but he opted for Cleveland instead two years ago.

Now Epstein gets his guy, and he will give him young players and a team on the way up talentwise. They already have an ace in Jake Arrieta and a young slugger in Anthony Rizzo. Maddon is no stranger to turning around young clubs into winners, he did it in Tampa Bay, and will most certainly do it in Chicago.

This is the hot stove season's first big move, and surely everyone's pick to be the next Kansas City will be Chicago.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Geno Smith and Rex Ryan's Jet Careers in Flames After Buffalo Stampede

BILLS 43
JETS 23

Geno Smith should never throw another pass for the New York Jets ever again. Correction, he should never suit up for the Jets ever again. And Rex Ryan should never be allowed to coach the Jets again either.

The Jets not only imploded on Sunday afternoon at the Meadowlands, they went up in flames in a mushroom cloud that should have only one consequence: Woody Johnson forgets his edict that he won't fire anyone in-season, and go Donald Trump on Rex Ryan and company and fire them. This brand of foolery is over, it is time to get answers to long held questions.

 One thing is certain, there is no doubt now about Geno Smith, at least to those who still wanted to believe he had something good in him. Geno Smith has nothing good in him. He stinks. He's a bust draft day quarterback like Mark Sanchez was before him, and will join the long line of draft day bust quarterbacks in NFL history.

Geno Smith etched his name in the infamy stone when he came and played as bad as any quarterback could think of playing. He was 2-of-8 for five yards. The Jets got him a big target in Percy Harvin, and he couldn't even hit him if the man was standing two feet in front of him. Instead Smith threw three interceptions in one quarter and his day was officially over; his Jets career probably over with it.

The Jets were lucky that the Bills didn't score 28 points in this quarter. Buffalo is not a great team, they couldn't even score after two of those first quarter picks, but they did score a TD when Smith's third interception was brought back to the one-yard line setting up a easy score to make it 14-0, Buffalo.

When asked about Smith's performance and whether he start next week in Kansas City, coach Rex Ryan said "I have no idea, we'll look at that later." That is a huge 180 by Ryan, who consistently supported Smith through some pretty atrocious football. But there is no defending that effort, not when the team is 1-7, and the head coach is about to get fired.

Rex deserves a lot of blame here. He let John Idzik use him in playing a quarterback who was not any good, and during the broadcast we found out that Mike Vick didn't get many snaps during the week. So for Ryan to expect Vick to be ready to rock and roll isn't even fair.

On Monday morning Woody Johnson must make the decision now. He needs to fire Rex Ryan now. It goes beyond just his mishandling of Geno Smith. It's the culmination of six flabbergasting and pompous years of nothing. Promises of glory that resulted in nothing but butt fumbles, Geno Smith shrugs and Tebow time.

Ryan has been unable to develop a quarterback -- he had two chances and failed both times. He rarely took interest in the offense leaving it in the hands of three offensive coordinators during his tenure. And his defense, while not totally his fault because of the lack of talent, has gotten worse over the years.

Ryan should have been fired last year, but wasn't because Johnson bought into the Jets mirage of an 8-8 campaign. Heck, Ryan should have been tossed to the side in 2012 when Mike Tannenbaum was let go. He has survived some brutal seasons, but he cannot and should not survive this.

There is no excuse to lose in this fashion. The Jets had extra days to prepare. They were coming off a solid performance in New England. The Bills were ripe for the picking with injuries; instead the Jets looked unprepared -- and that goes for everyone on the field.

And when Woody Johnson makes that decision to ax the coach, he should send John Idzik packing too. Idzik has done nothing to deserve a reprieve and return for 2015. He drafted Geno Smith, nuff said. He drafted Dee Milliner who can never stay healthy. He drafted Jalen Saunders as the savior at wide receiver and he was cut this year.

Idzik then didn't spend much money in the off-season, leaving over $20 million on the books, and telling the Jets best corners Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie to fly a kite. Now it's time for Johnson to give Idzik the boot. He's proven he can't be trusted in making personnel decisions. 

The show is over. The Rex Ryan Jets jumped the shark a long time ago -- for my money during the butt-fumble game two Thanksgiving's ago, but now it is official.

Woody Johnson needs to make the move. He should stand in front of the media, and the fans and apologize for giving second life to the Rex Ryan regime, and apologize for bringing in Idzik, and tell his fleeting fan base that he will not stand for embarrassing football. He needs to fire his head coach, clean out the front office and get rid of Geno Smith once and for all. 

Will he do this Monday? Rhetorical question. 

Friday, October 24, 2014

Joe Maddon Leaves Tampa Bay, What's Next?

Joe Maddon is considered by many to be one of baseball's best managers. A winner of 781 games in 11 years in Tampa Bay, turning a downtrodden expansion team into a postseason contender, Maddon parted ways from the Rays after opting out of his contract.

The Rays tried to keep Maddon around with a third contract extension in his tenure with the club, but the skipper said no thank you.

Perhaps Maddon sees the writing on the wall. Tampa Bay won 77 games this year, a disappointment in his eyes; he watched the team trade his ace, David Price to the Tigers for virtually nothing, and saw his friend and co-worker, Andrew Friedman leave his post as Rays Executive Vice President to become the GM of the LA Dodgers.

So now rumors and speculation are going to run rampant. It's not often that a manager with 781 wins under his belt and six 90-win seasons just walks around looking for a job.

Maddon will have plenty of decisions to make. He could either sign with a team now, or wait until next season when more vacancies open up. This year only four managerial vacancies opened, two of them were filled before the month of October (Texas and Houston), and only just recently Chip Hale took over the Diamondbacks.

The only team without a manager is the Minnesota Twins. The Twins have been busy interviewing Paul Molitor and Doug Mientkiewicz for the post, and reports are that Molitor is going in for a second interview. With these latest developments, don't be shocked the Twins jump into the mix. They haven't signed a manger, and Maddon's resume certainly trumps that of Molitor and Mientkiewicz. He would be a boost to the moral in Minnesota, but the Twins were winners of only 70 games last year, and are not ready to contend again.

Already the New York Mets have said they have no interest in signing Maddon. They are committed to embattled Terry Collins for another season.  However, if Collins struggles early next year you can rest assure that IF Maddon is still out there come next season, his name will be thrown out there by Mets fans on New York radio every single day.

The other team that comes to mind right away is the Dodgers. The Dodgers were great in the regular season; favorites to win it all this year, but they fell flat in the NLDS against the Cardinals. Don Mattingly is on shaky ground with a Dodgers front office that expects more, especially with all the money they have spent the past three years. So far they have been coming up snake eyes in the playoffs.

Maddon's innovative philosophy could be what a veteran team like the Dodgers needs. Plus, with Friedman in LA, the very thought of Maddon jumping Tampa Bay to go west is very tempting.

Already the Dodgers have tried to rebuke any interest, telling ESPN's Buster Olney that Maddon's exit from central Florida, "has nothing to do with us."

Remember the Dodgers do not have to fire Mattingly and hire Maddon. Mattingly does have a winning record with the Dodgers. Inspite of all the pressure on him, he's won the NL West each of the last two years, and has been the NLCS once. Who is to say the Dodgers couldn't get hot next Fall with Mattingly as the manager and win it all?

If the Dodgers don't make a swift move now, Maddon will sit and wait in the shadows. His stock will only go up, a la Bill Cowher and Jon Gruden in the NFL, and he will likely find that next job next year.

Here are a list of teams that could be looking for a manager for the 2016 season:

NY Mets: Even though the Wilpon's said Maddon is not on the radar, it doesn't mean he's not on the radar come 2015/16. If Terry Collins produces another 75 - 80 win season, he should get fired and the Mets would be dumb not to talk to Maddon. Then again, it's the Mets.

NY Yankees: Speaking of New York, there is pressure on Joe Girardi to win next season. The Yankees missed the postseason each of the last two years. Usually a third year with no playoffs would lead to a firing. If Girardi goes, Maddon in Yankee pinstripes would fit nicely.

Chicago Cubs: the Cubs have a young ace in Jake Arrieta and a lot of young talent coming up through their system. In an NL Central that is usually dominated by only the Cardinals, the Cubs could make a push in a couple of years, a la the Royals this year.

Chicago White Sox: Robin Ventura kept his job after a disappointing 73 win season. While they are older, the Chi Sox have more contending potential then the Twins do right now.

Atlanta Braves: The Braves might be getting long in the tooth, and are likely on the decline. So I am not sure if even Joe Maddon can ture that ship around in quick order IF Freddi Gonzalez got the boot after next year.

Milwaukee Brewers: The Brewers were rolling early this year, but a second half collapse doesn't help Ron Roenicke's cause. Another down year, and the Brewers could be in the market too.

San Diego Padres: How does Bud Black keep his job after all these mediocre seasons?

We'll see how it plays out.

Mets hope ex-Yankee Kevin Long can make Mets hit

Well the Mets made a move this off-season. Yes, pop the champagne bottles, take a picture of it and cherish it, because knowing the Mets they won't make too many more moves between now and February.

The Mets hired ex-Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long to revive their stagnate offense that ranked 28th in MLB in batting average and 21st in the league in runs scored. While Lucas Duda had a break out year with the power, 30 homers, and Daniel Murphy was an All Star at second base, the Mets really never hit consistently well in 2014. In fact, they haven't hit consistently well at all the past five years.

Long spent eight years with the Yankees, but he was working with a lot of top flight hitters like Derek Jeter, Mark Teixiera, and even Alex Rodriguez. Hitting coaches are not the "Be-All or End-All" when it comes to putting together a baseball team. Either the hitters on the team have the talent or they don't.

Long was fired this year after the Yankees offense was putrid this season. They were ranked 20th in batting average, 23rd in on base percentage, and 20th in runs scored. He will be hard pressed to get a lot out of the likes of lite hitting Juan Lageras, Travis D'Arnaud, Wilmer Flores, and Matt DenDeker in the near future.


Sunday, October 19, 2014

Peyton Manning Sets Touchdown Record

Congratulations to Peyton Manning for becoming the NFL's all time passing touchdown leader. Manning has done it with a true passion for the game and total class. Well deserved to the best quarterback in the sport.


Giant load of trouble after Big Blue loss to Dallas

COWBOYS 31
GIANTS 21

Now, the New York Giants are behind the proverbial eight ball. It was just two weeks ago at 3-2 the Giants looked like a team that had revived its season after a hideous 0-2 start with convincing wins over Houston, Washington and Atlanta. Two weeks later the Giants have two losses to the top two teams in the NFC East, if not the top two teams in all the NFC.

The Giants were barely competitive against the Cowboys. They hurt themselves with penalties, drops and really, really bad defense in their 31-21 loss in Big D. Big Blue had no answer for Cowboys back-up tight end Gavin Escobar, who had two touchdowns, and even less answers for running back DeMarco Murray who gashed the Giants for 128 yards and a score.

It was an overall bad late afternoon for the Giants, who were badly exposed up front on both sides of the football.

In the second quarter it was looking good for the Giants. After Dallas was called for pass interference on a fourth and one at the Cowboys 38, the Giants took full advantage. Andre Williams chugged down to the five yard line for 22 yards on first and 10. Two plays later Eli Manning hi Odel Beckham Jr. for a nine yard touchdown to tie it at seven.

Later in the quarter, Prince Amukamara stepped in front of a Tony Romo pass and picked it off deep inside Dallas territory. On the next play from scrimmage, Manning connected with Daniel Fells on a 27 yard touchdown to give the Giants their only lead of the day.

Everything went down hill from there.

First Murray gashed and dashed the Giants for 21 yards to set up Tony Romo with a short field to hit Terrance Williams on an 18-yard touchdown pass to tie the game at 14.

At this point the entire Giants offense went into a proverbial deep freeze. Three times in the second half the Giants had time consuming drives, and twice they resulted in nothing but a missed opportunity.

Their first drive of the third quarter ate 5:26 off the clock for all of 22 yards. It was a drive that was marred by two hideous penalties on the Giants offensive line which all but ruined the drive, as the Giants finally stalled at the Dallas 43.

Their second drive of futility ate up 4:55 for only 44 yards on eight plays that ended in a Steve Weatherford punt.  These time consuming drives did more to help the Dallas Cowboys cause than it did for the Giants own efforts.

Dallas took full advantage of the Giants futility. With the sun in his face, Romo hit a pass to Dez Bryant down the sideline for a 44-yard gain to the Giants 45. After Romo found Bryant again for 17 more yards to the 26, he found a wide open Escobar in the back of the end zone for a touchdown. Dallas 21, Giants 14.

Fast forward to the fourth quarter, and Big Blue added sloppy to their hideous day on offense. A fumble by tight end Larry Donnell gave the Cowboys the football at the Giants 27. Romo and the Boys went right to work. First Romo hit Dez Bryan for 24 yards to the one yard line, then Murray plowed in from one yard out to make it 28-14.

What happened next defies logic. For whatever reason the Giants decided to have the most cavalier and relaxed drive anyone would ever see from a team down 14 points. The Giants took the ball with 9:11 to go in the game. They needed a quick score, but instead took their sweet time eating up four minutes of clock for an 11 play 80-yard drive with about 35-40 seconds between each play. Before they knew it, the game was coming down to the final minutes and the Giants, still, hadn't scored a touchdown.

It would have been their third straight drive of time consuming futility, if it were not for Manning's fourth and goal touchdown pass to Odell Bekham Jr. to cut the deficit to 28-21 with 5:34 to play; but thanks to lack of urgency by both Manning and offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo the Giants lost this game long before that touchdown ever took place.

New York (3-4) is now in crisis mode. They have lost two divisional games, and MUST put together a winning streak, or their season could be on the brink of total collapse. They have two weeks to think about it too, with a bye week next Sunday. Almost 1/2 way through the season it looks like the NFC East will send two teams to the playoffs. If the Giants want to make it three teams from the East, the better get their act together and fast. 

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Jets Acquire Percy Harvin from Seahawks in Stunning Move

It might be too little too late, but the Jets felt inclined to pull off one of the most shocking deals in the NFL in a couple of seasons when they acquired Percy Harvin from the Seattle Seahawks for a conditional pick, that as it turns out, is a fourth rounder in 2015 that could become a second round pick depending on performance.

So in essence the Jets gave up little for a guy who, according to multiple reports, has an anger management problem. (More on that in a moment).

Talentwise the Jets get a player who has a tremendous amount of speed, is an excellent slot receiver, and a return specialist who can make big plays on special teams. There is no questioning his talent, which was also on display in the Super Bowl when he returned a punt for a touchdown.

However, Harvin is statistically having one of his worst seasons of his career. Only 133 yards on 22 catches, and has only played in 38 snaps in games this season. Harvin went from being a focal point in the Seahawks offense to a guy they couldn't wait to get rid of.

What is most disturbing is the trend of bad behavior Harvin has displayed in many of his stops.

Here is an excerpt:

"(Ian) Rapoport reports that Harvin was not the easiest player to deal with in the locker room, and the Seahawks were in the market to deal him for "several weeks." The off-field issues are not a new story. The Vikings had numerous documented problems with Harvin during his four seasons there, including him badmouthing quarterback Christian Ponder. NFL Media's Albert Breer reports that Harvin's "anger management issues" followed him to Seattle, where according to two sources connected to the Seahawks, the receiver was involved in multiple physical altercations -- namely one with then-teammate Golden Tate before Super Bowl XLVIII," (Rosenthal, Greg NFL.com)

It was these altercations including the Seahawks inability to intergrate Harvin successfully into the offense that led to them wanting to depart from the troubled NFL star.

This is a big and bold move by Seattle. They gave up three draft picks to get him from Minnesota a couple seasons back, and gave him $25.5 million in guaranteed money. The fact that they are willing to admit its a mistake now is a huge red flag.

But don't tell that to the Jets. The Jets essentially get to have Harvin for a free trial, since the remaining four years of his contract aren't guaranteed. However, the Seahawks have clearly taken full advantage of an organization that is desperate to make a splash.

John Idzik has a ton of pressure on him now after failing to address the Jets manifold issues in the off-season and leaving more than $20 million in cap room on the table. Not to mention his two drafts have been a total failure.

Call it Idzik's Hail Mary. He knows that if Harvin becomes a key contributor to the offense it will essentially save his job no matter how badly the Jets finish the season. In a way he's making Rex Ryan even more of a scapegoat. If Harvin plays well and the Jets finish 3-13, Idizk could always tell Woody Johnson, "see it wasn't me, it was Rex's inability to lead."

However let us not forget why the Jets are in this mess to begin with. It is because of Idzik, and Woody Johnson too.

The move echos past moves to get Santonio Holmes and Braylon Edwards. While both receivers played well early on, both became an albatross by the end of their time with Gang Green. Especially Holmes whom the Steelers couldn't wait to dump because of his personality issues -- the Jets found that out in 2011 when Holmes went a-wall on the Jets in the regular season finale.

How will Harvin react from going to a Super Bowl team to a 1-6 disaster? That is the question we are going to find the answer to over the next 10 weeks.