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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.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Jets Tricks! Mistakes cost Gang Green chance to take down Patriots

PATRIOTS 27
JETS 25

When a team lacks the necessary talent to make game changing plays on defense; when the team's punter can't punt the football accurately in a big spot, and when the quarterback can't make plays in big spots, and can't be trusted with the football other times, it will somehow lead to a loss.

That is exactly what happened to the Jets Thursday night in New England. They did a lot of things right against the Patriots. The ran the ball at will against a very soft Patriots defense; kept Tom Brady on the sideline for most of the night, but when it mattered, the Jets couldn't keep from shooting themselves in the foot.

Of the seven games the Jets played this year, this was their best performance. And their most excruciating. To their credit the Jets should have won this game. They should be 2-5 Friday morning, not 1-6, but shoulda, coulda, woulda never leads to anything.

Let's start with the defense, which was bad, really bad.

Not even 2:30 minutes into the game, the Patriots found themselves on the scoreboard when Tom Brady found a wide open Shane Vereen, who was probably stunned he was so open himself, streaking down the sideline for a 49-yard pitch-and-catch touchdown to make it 7-0.

That was just the first of many faux pas by the Jets beleaguered secondary. Even though the Patriots didn't possess the football for more than 19 minutes, and never had a drive longer than 4:48, they still managed to score three touchdowns in the game, with Tom Brady playing the lead roll. The Jets rarely hit Brady, and when they got to him, he had already found his target.

Case in point with the Jets taking their first lead, 9-7, the New York defense allowed New England to cruise across the field on 10 very crisp plays in 80 yards for another Brady touchdown pass to Vereen to make it 14-9.

It seemed that no matter what the Jets tried to do Thursday night, they were going to find a way to put themselves behind the eight ball.

While the defense wasn't any good, the offense was terrible in the clutch. While the Jets controled the clock for over 40 minutes, thanks in big part to Chris Ivory and the Jets offensive line, when it mattered the most, quarterback Geno Smith couldn't get it done.

On the Jets first possession, Smtih actually threw a touchdown pass that was negated for offensive holding. Instead of rising up to the challenge, the Jets offense decided to shrink like crushed tin foil. Smith danced around for a five yard gain of first and 19. They handed it off to Ivory for nothing on second down, and on third down, Smith threw a completion well short of the first down marker, forcing the Jets to kick.

This would be a trend. Three more times Chris Ivory guided the Jets down field, and three more times, Smith screwed it up in the red zone. Late in the first quarter with New York knocking on the door, Smith threw two dreary incompletions to Jace Amaro, who wasn't even open to force, yet another field goal.

A good team would have at least scored one touchdown in two terrific possessions, but the Jets aren't a good team.

Overall Smith had the Jets in striking distance four times, and four times they came up snake eyes. Perhaps the biggest disaster coming late in the first half with the Jets at the Patriots seven yard line. New York tried to force feed Ivory on second down, it didn't work as he lost two yards; then on third down Smith lobbed a pass that wasn't even close to David Nelson to force a fourth field goal. Instead of 16-14 Jets, it was 14-12 Patriots.

As the second half wore on the Jets were still in the game, shockingly, down 20-19 before special teams decided to cost the Jets dearly. After a New York three and out, punter Ryan Quigley shanked a punt for only 28 yards, giving New England great field position at the Jets 46.

Brady went right to work hitting a couple of big completions, before finding Danny Amendola in the end zone for an acrobatic 19 yard catch. Patriots 27, Jets 19.

Even with that the Jets wouldn't go away. While he played poorly at times, Smith had his best drive here. He ran for a first down on a key third down, and hit a couple of big completions to Jeremy Kerley and Jeff Cumberland. Low and behold the Jets were at the Patriots 10 before anyone knew it.

We then saw the good Geno and bad Geno in the matter of two plays. The good Geno hit Cumberland for a touchdown pass from the 10-yard line to cut the deficit to 27-25. But, the bad Geno reared his ugly head again, when he overthrew his back-up tight end on an attempted two point conversion killing the Jets chances of tying it at least.

After New England unsuccessfully tried to run the clock down, the Jets got the football back with a minute and change. Smith's completion to Kerely at mid-field was huge in giving New York a chance in this thing. However, Bad Geno came back again, when he wasted an important play by intentionally throwing an incompletion at the Pats 40 yard line with eight seconds to go, when he had a receiver open for at least five more yards.

That forced a 58-yard field goal attempt by Nick Folk, which was blocked by the Patriots with five seconds left. It is not fair to ask a kicker to make that kind of kick from that point in the field, no matter how good he is. The Jets should have gotten closer. But, hey just more stupid Jets tricks for ya.

New York (1-6) is now on a six game losing streak. They played well, but not well enough to win. When the talent pool is so bad, every miscue becomes the size of a crater.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Victor Cruz suffers knee injury as Giants lose to Eagles

EAGLES 27
GIANTS 0

Tonight was supposed to be the night that New York Giant would make a big statement in the NFC East that they are ready to play with the big boys. Instead the Giants went limp, as the Eagles did exactly what they planned to do, and that was dominate the New York Giants.

Dominate they did, to the tune of 27-0.

Yet, by the third quarter all of the Giants attention went from the game to their star wide receiver, Victor Cruz. Cruz attempted to make a diving catch in the end zone on fourth and goal with the Giants trying to get back into the game down 20-0. As the ball fell past Cruz's outstretched left hand, his right hand went directed to his knee which torqued while he was in mid air. 

Cruz fell into a heap in the back corner of the endzone, his hands clutching his right knee in agony. Just from seeing the play it looked bad -- the thought of a ACL tear seemed like the possible diagnosis. Instead it was later reported that Cruz tore his Patella Tendon. But the diagnosis is the same: he's out for the season.

Cruz was a spark-plug for this offense the past three years. He rose to prominence in 2011 with a break-out campaign during the Giants Super Bowl season. Over the past two seasons, he's been New York's number one receiver and was awarded this year when he was named one of the team captains. Instead, he'll have to lead from the sidelines.

Without Cruz the Giants pass attack becomes compromised. He took pressure off of Ruben Randall and tight ends Larry Donnell and Daniel Fells, now it is up to those guys and Odell Beckham Jr. to step up and make plays for Eli Manning.

Big plays were not in the offing Sunday night. Manning was under duress all day as he was sacked six times and hit countless more times by the Eagles 27th ranked defense, which stepped up in a big way.

New York was a measly 2-for-14 on third down and managed only 253 yards of offense with 12 first downs. Their running game never got going, which didn't help matters either.

Instead it was the Eagles ground attack which dominated the night. LeSean McCoy who was having a miserable season thus far broke out against the Giants, rushing for 149 yards on 22 carries, averaging 6.8 yards per carry. Even Darren Sproles added a touchdown before he too left with a knee injury, although not as severe as Cruz's.

This is a big loss for the Giants (3-3). They are now two back of both the Eagles and Cowboys, and must win next week in Dallas to give themselves a chance to live once again this season. For a season that looked like it had so much promise after a three game winning streak, now looks doomed once again. 

Sunday, October 12, 2014

How 'bout them Cowboys! Week 6 Rapid Reaction

The Dallas Cowboys made the loudest statement in week 6 with their shocking 30-23 victory over the Seattle Seahawks in Seattle. While the score indicated a close game, in retrospect, it was a Dallas blowout on the stat sheet.

After falling behind 10-0 the Seahawks, the Cowboys fought back, tied the game at ten, and took the lead before the half on a Tony Romo touchdown pass to Jason Witten.

The only reason Seattle was even in this game had to do with a muffed punt by the Cowboys that gave the Seahawks the football at the Dallas 14. Seattle would eventually score on Russell Wilson's 9-yard scamper, but that was it.

The Cowboys held the Seahawks offense in check all night, forcing two long field goals in the second half, and allowing only 206 yards of offense.

Meanwhile, Tony Romo who has taken so much heat in his career for not coming up in the clutch, did so with the game on the line in the fourth quarter. On a third and 20 at the Dallas 31-yard line, Romo connected on a slightly overthrown pass to Terrance Williams. In fact, it was Williams who made the save there, because the throw was initially intended for Jason Witten but overthrown. That connections was the turning point.

DeMarco Murray next busted through the hole for a 25-yard gain to the Seattle six, and scored himself on the next play with a six-yard scamper to put the Cowboys in front 27-23 with three minutes to go.

With all of the momentum on their side the Cowboys forced the Sehawks into a four-and-out deep in their own territory to ice the game. Dallas (5-1) is for real folks. They beat the defending Super Bowl champions, and with the way things are looking now in the NFC, all roads might be going through the NFC East this season.

THE BROWNS STUN THE STEELERS: Ok, it would not have been surprising if the Browns beat the Steelers on Sunday. Cleveland gave Pittsburgh all it could handle in week 1, but nobody saw the kind of thumping the Browns put on Pittsburgh coming. The Browns posted 21 points in the second quarter, including a 51-yard touchdown strike to Jordan Cameron to blow away the aging Steelers.

The Browns (3-2) are no longer in the AFC North's dog house, instead that honor belongs to the Steelers (3-3).

TIES R US: Nobody wanted to win the game in Cincinnati on Sunday as the Bengals and Panthers played to a crazy 37-37 tie. Both teams exchanged field goals to open up overtime, but it was the Bengals who were in prime position to win it in the final seconds, however Mike Nugent missed the game winning field goal. It was the second tie in the Marvin Lewis era in Cincinnati. For Carolina it was the first ever tie in their history.

RODGERS MARINO'S THE DOLPHINS: It has been a strange season in a lot of ways for Aaron Rodgers and the Packers, and Sunday's game in Miami exemplified their season thus far. Get off to a fast start, fall behind the eight ball, and somehow come out of nowhere to win the game. Rodgers led the Packers back from a 24-17 deficit to win 27-24. Rodgers drove Green Bay down to the Miami 20 with 30 seconds to go, and pulled a play out of Dan Marino's playbook when he attempted a fake spike to Davante Adams for a 12-yard gain to the four yard line. Finally, Rodgers hit a Andrew Quarles with three seconds to go to steal it from Miami.