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Monday, July 27, 2015

Mets acquire Clippard from Oakland A's

The suddenly wheeling and dealing New York Mets have made another move, four days before the non-waiver trade deadline. The Mets acquired right handed reliever Tyler Clippard from the Oakland A's for minor leaguer Casey Meisner.

Clippard is another cost saving acquisition for the Mets, since he will be a free agent after this season, and is due to make $3.1 million the rest of this year. Clippard is 1-3 with a 2.79 ERA and 17 saves this year. He automatically becomes the Mets set-up man behind closer Jeurys Familia.  Currently the Mets back-end of the bullpen comprises of Jenrry Mejia who is ineligible for the postseason, and unreliable Bobby Parnell, who had a typical Parnell implosion in a big spot a couple outings ago.

Clippard gives the Mets that veteran reliever they hoped to have when they acquired Jerry Blevins from Washington, only to see Blevins hit the DL. He has not returned since the start of the year. As a former National, Clippard might find some added motivation to beat his old team, since the Mets are only two back of Washington for first place in the NL East.

This is the same Tyler Clippard who began his career with the Yankees and never caught on with the Bombers before they dealt him to Washington in 2008.

The Mets will be Clippard's fourth team at age 30.

Now the question will be whether the Mets can get a big outfield bat to get the team over the hump.

NFL Training Camp Begins, Top Headlines

While Major League Baseball is grabbing plenty of headlines, rumors and Twitter space, the NFL is slowly kicking off the 2015 season in training camp this week. All 32 teams are reporting to their respective camps as you read this, and with it, renewed excitement comes with the dawn of a new season.

The 2015 NFL season begins with plenty of headlines that are sure to soak up all the summer sunlight as two-a-days and pre-season games get closer. Let's look at some of the major topics.

1) Tom Brady vs. the NFL: In what has to be the biggest example of "dragging your feet," the NFL, Players Association and Brady's representatives have been talking about a potential settlement on the quarterback's appeal of a four-game ban for deflating footballs in last winter's AFC Championship game with little to no success. There are a lot of moving pieces in this case, from Commissioner Roger Goodell hearing the appeal in spite of backlash from the NFLPA and a few NFL folks that he had a conflict of interest, to the fear that Brady will take "Deflate-Gate" to Federal Court.

Several news sources have confirmed that a reduction in the suspension could still come down, although it is unlikely. Many believe that Goodell will stand firm on the four game suspension that was levied on Brady in April. Brady's people might be willing to admit to failure to comply in the investigation for a fine, but with no suspension.

If Brady does take this to Federal Court it could open up the possibility that the quarterback plays opening night against the Steelers, while a Federal Judge reviews the case. If a judge were to uphold the suspension, Brady would have to serve that suspension at some point this season.

2) New Deflate-Gate Rule: In lite of this ongoing legal battle between the Patriots quarterback and the NFL, the league released a new rules regarding the inflation of footballs.

"According to FOX Sports’ Mike Pereira — a former NFL vice president of officiating — some of the rule changes include two officials designated “to conduct a pregame inspection to make sure all footballs meet the required specifications,” number all 24 balls, and take and record a PSI measurement of every ball. The legal range of pressure in NFL footballs is 12.5 PSI to 13.5 PSI." (NESN). If there are any footballs below the specifications, they are to be inflated to 13 PSI. In addition, officials appointed by the referee will inspect 48 football (24 for each team) more than two hours before kickoff. 

Just before kickoff a member of each officiating crew and a security official will take 24 of those balls (12 from each team) and bring them to the field. The remaining 24 balls will be left in the officials locker room, and used in the second half. 

3) JPP and his missing finger: In what had to be the most bizarre story of the offseason, Giants defensive end Jason Pierre Paul had his index finger amputated after an accident with a fire cracker on the Fourth of July. As a result, the Giants pulled a $60 million contract offer from the table that would have been offered had JPP played by the rules before teams signed franchise tagged players to contracts.  When the deadline for signing players who are franchised passed on July 15, without any traction in negotiations it signaled the nearing of the end of Pierre-Paul and the Giants. The only way he gets a long term deal is if he plays this season and gets a deal after the 2015 season ends.

The Giants are still waiting for JPP to sign a $14.83 million franchise tender. Without that signature, he's not on the roster. Not to mention that before he had his finger amputated, JPP refused to meet with Giants medical staff and ex-Giant linebacker Jessie Armstead. The Giants clearly don't trust him anymore -- why should they. The guy is a total moron. Linemen need to have full strength in their hands in order to make plays, and without an index finger a person could lose up to 35% of their strength. 

It remains to be seen when and how this issue will resolve itself as camp begins.  

4) Rex Ryan's big mouth: Nothing new here, in fact Rex and his big mouth are an annual headline. But what makes this one unique is that the bombastic head coach is now in Buffalo instead of New York City. Ryan will coach the Bills this year after a messy ending with the Jets. He has already vowed that the Bills will go to the playoffs, and has launched a public tirade against Jets tight end Jace Amaro. Oh, and he still won't kiss Bill Belichick's rings. Should be interesting to see how quickly Buffalo gets tired of this act. The Bills play the Colts and Patriots in the first two weeks of the season. 

5) To start Geno Smith or not start Geno Smith: While the Jets went through an entire face-lift this offseason they are still stuck with the same question: move forward and start troubled quarterback Geno Smith or move on without him. The Jets new regime of Todd Bowles and Mike McCagnan plan on giving Smith the keys to the car, but if he screws up look for more heated debate about Ryan Fitzpatrick and Bryce Petty. It is fair to say that the one thing that may hold the Jets back this year from being even a wild card contender this year is the fact that Smith will be the teams quarterback in 2015. 

6) Can the 49ers have success in the Post-Harbaugh era? It was a wild offseason for the 49ers. Out is Jim Harbaugh, now the head coach at Michigan. Out is Greg Roman, now the Offensive Coordinator in Buffalo. Out is Patrick Willis who retired. Out is Justin Smith who also retired. It appears that the Harbaugh era took its tool on the Niners who are retooling with a new head coach in Jim Tomsula and several new pieces on defense. It remains to be seen how this group buys into Tomsula, and whether or not Colin Kaepernick can resurrect his once promising career at quarterback.

7) Last of Peyton Manning? Until Manning decides to hang it up officially, we will be asking this question all season long. Manning was pretty close to making the BIG move after last years' disheartening loss to the Colts in the playoffs. With a new coach in Gary Kubiak, a lot of people thought it was certain would call it a career. Instead, number 18 will return for the 2015 season. Is this Manning's last go-round in the NFL? We will see. 

8) Los Angeles. The city of LA is getting ready to be the home to a potential NFL franchise, possibly as soon as 2016. There has been a lot of rumors and traction that either the Rams, Raiders or Chargers, or any combination of the three would move to Los Angeles. The Rams have a proposed $400 million stadium in Southern Cal. in the works, but the city of St. Louis is going to put up a fight to keep an NFL franchise this time around. Missouri's governor has proposed a $985 million stadium for the Rams to stay in the Show Me State. Meanwhile the Chargers and Raiders are still in talks of joining together to host a stadium in Carson, California, which would mean either team would jump to the NFC. 


Mets finally making moves with Uribe and Johnson, is it enough?

The New York Mets have been the butt of jokes for a number of years now when it comes to making moves to improve the ball club. A sense of reluctance and ongoing stubbornness from both General Manager Sandy Alderson and ownership has soured things in Flushing for far too long.

Then this weekend things began to change -- believe it or not. The Mets made a rare deal with division rival, Atlanta to acquire aging veterans Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson for two low level minor league prospects in John Gant and Rob Whalen. The move is both a smart one and cost saving for a team obsessed with pinching pennies.

Uribe, 36, is owed only $6.5 million in the final year of his contract, which is this year. Johnson, 33, is owned only $1.5 million.

For Uribe the Mets are the third team he will play for this year, as he came onto his new team hitting .272 with eight homers and 23 RBI. Johnson, who is mostly a utility guy at this point in his career is hitting .275 with nine home runs and 34 RBI.

Those are numbers that normally wouldn't jump off the page, but with the Mets they are. The moves allowed New York to dumb John Mayb
erry Jr. who was a total bust this season, and they sent struggling Danny Muno back to the minors where he belongs.

The Mets have been an awful baseball team to watch this season, ranked last or near last in most offensive categories, so a move, even like this one, is a good one.

Already both Uribe and Johnson are paying dividends with their new team. Uribe had a game winning RBI hit against the Dodgers on Sunday. He's hitting .500 (2-for-4) since the trade. Johnson is hitting .222, but in nine at bats, Johnson does have a home run for the Mets.

But here is the question the Mets have to ask themselves, is it enough? Most certainly not. When Uribe and Johnson are two veteran major league hitters, neither one is a savior. Uribe is 36. His best days are long, long, long behind him. He hasn't driven in 60 in a season since 2010, and has been a part time player for a better part of the past four years.

Johnson is as light hitting as they come with a career .251 batting average. There is a reason why he has been on seven different teams, including the Yankees, and hasn't stuck anywhere he has been. When given the chance to play everyday, Johnson does have some power. He hit 26 home runs in 2010 with the Braves, and 18 homers in 2011 with the Diamondbacks, but that's about it. He's a part time player himself.

The Mets cannot rest. There are rumors the team is interested in reliever Tyler Clipard of the A's and Yoneis Cespedis of the Tigers. Interest is great, getting it done is even better. It's nice that the Mets are in the thick of July 31 trade rumors, but if this organization is going to be taken seriously down the stretch they need to complete a truly major splash before the deadline comes and goes.

NJ Jackals @ Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown

On July 17, I had the honor of joining the New Jersey Jackals on their trip to Cooperstown to play the Rockland Boulders in the first ever Can-Am League classic.

We toured the hallowed halls of the Baseball Hall of Fame; eyeing the jerseys, caps and bats of yesteryear before getting ready for baseball later that afternoon. In the game, the Jackals defeated the Boulders by a score of 9-1 behind a grand slam homer by A.J. Kirby Jones and a bases clearing double by Matt Helms in the win.

Below is the highlight package I put together of the trip.


Sunday, July 5, 2015

Ed Ott Jersey Retirement Ceremony

As most know I have been very busy covering the New Jersey Jackals this season, providing play-by-play coverage for their radio and TV coverage on www.canamleague.tv . Below are some highlights from an interview I did with Ed Ott, former Jackals pitching coach. Ott returned to Yogi Berra Stadium to have his number 14 jersey retired on June 20.



Here is the full radio interview myself and Nick Delahanty did with Ed during the fifth and sixth innings of the ball game.


Wilpon's and Front Office are to blame for hideous Mets season

The Mets are have been mired in mediocrity all season long. After a terrific 13-3 start that was highlighted by an 11-game winning streak it has been downhill ever since.

The Mets are 28-38 since their 11-game winning streak ended on April 24 against the New York Yankees. Everything that could go wrong has gone wrong for the Mets. David Wright has missed most of the season with Spinal Stenosis; Daniel Murphy spent a chunk of time on the DL; catcher Travis D'Arnaud has been on the DL twice; the Mets still don't have a short stop; Dillion Gee is no longer a Met; Jon Niese is on his way out, eventually, and the Mets have one of the worst lineups in baseball that is ranked 27th in runs scored, and 29th in baseball in team batting average.

In short: they stink. 
The future of the Mets depends on these two guys.

Yet, here the Mets are still somewhat alive in the NL East (er, should I say NL Least) as the Washington Nationals have yet to pull away from the competition, while the Braves, Marlins and Phillies are all awful. 

It is easy for the desperate Met fan, who bought into the hype and believed that this group had what it took to be a serious playoff contender, to still believe this team is for real. 

But let's be honest the Mets are going nowhere.

Rumors are flying rampant that Terry Collins is going to get fired. The fans have have wanted him gone since the very beginning, hoping that the franchise would tap the fiery Wally Backman instead. But let me ask the Met fan this: Really? Firing Terry Collins is really going to be the difference? 

Reports are that Collins is safe ... for now. GM Sandy Alderson has made a trip out to LA to be with the ball club during its 6-game California track to LA and San Francisco, but he emphasized that Collins is indeed safe. This coming off an embarrassing sweep at the hands of the Chicago Cubs, where the Mets scored only one run in three games. 

Fact is Collins is going to get fired -- eventually. It's not his fault either. This is a man who has been forced to work with a patch-work baseball club since he took the job in 2010. At that time the Mets were in financial hell with the Bernie Madoff scandal weighing heavily on ownership. The scandal prevented the Mets from spending much money, as the focus for the club was to "trim the fat" of bad contracts. 

However for the past two seasons (2014 and this year) the Mets front office and ownership has tried to make the fans believe that the time is now for the Mets to turn it around. Yet they do so half-heartidly. The Mets still do not spend big money on players who can have an immediate impact. They still refuse to make trades to improve the club, and still behave as if they are trapped under the financial weight of Bernie Madoff. 

Sure, some will point out that the club spent money on Curtis Grandson, 4-years and $60 million; spent money on Michael Cuddyer, 2-years $21 million, and gave Wright a 8-year $138 million deal that runs through 2021. Yet, outside of the David Wright contract the Mets moves are all small moves. One can even say that the signings of Cuddyer and Granderson are virtually identical moves. Both signings felt like they were made just to appease the fan base and get the team through some tough years. There was no sense of urgency by the front office to make a move to get a big time player here. 

Now Mets fans want this same front office led by Sandy Alderson, which is under instruction from the Wilpon's to go out and trade for some big time bats a la Todd Fraizer from Cincinnati? Really? Come on fans, you're smarter than that. 

Give me the number of July 31 trade deadline moves that Alderson has made that proved to be a big difference for the Mets since he's been GM? There are none. Alderson has a history of doing nothing, and word on the street is that the Mets are leery of acquiring a big contract in exchange for the franchises starting pitching. 

The Mets love Matt Harvey, Steve Matz, Jacob DeGrom, Noah Syndergaard, and Zach Wheeler. Throw in Rafael Montero into the mix, too. The Mets are hesitant to trade any of them, especially Matz and Syndergaard, who are both expendable. 

Logic would dictate that the Mets SHOULD trade one of their young studs for a hitter. It would make sense. The core of starting pitching this team has now will never be together at one time ever again. Eventually guys like Harvey and DeGrom will want to get paid. Harvey who is represented by Scott Boras has 2018 circled on his calendar, his first year of free agency. That would mean that the need to win now with this core is paramount. 

Yet, don't tell that to the Wilpon's. The Wilpon's don't like to spend. Whether they are still haunted by bad contracts of the past, Bernie Madoff, a bad real estate market, or all of the above, they are the one's who have to give Alderson the green light to make a deal. So far it doesn't look like that will happen.

Now the Mets new motto will be "2016 is our year," just like 2015 was supposed to be the year and just like 2014 was supposed to be the year.

Until the Wilpon's either give in to the demands of the fan base, you better get used to seeing Juan Lagares' .254 batting average being the best BA on the team. Get used to seeing Lucas Duda return to being a below average major league first baseman. Get used to seeing Wilmur Flores lead the team in RBI with 35. Get used to seeing this team continue to sign aging former All Stars like Cuddyer and Granderson, who are just there to pick up a check.

 In short get used to the same ole, same ole Mets. 

Monday, May 11, 2015

Tom Brady Suspended 4 games for DeflateGate

Justice was served Monday night in the form of a suspension that has rocked the NFL to its core and taken down one of the game's most treasured athletes with it.

When the New England Patriots begin their defense of a Super Bowl title this September they will do so without Tom Brady under center, as the quarterback has been suspended for the season's first four games after his involvement in DeflateGate. Brady was cited hundreds of times in the report as having indirect, or even direct knowledge of what both Jim McNally and John Jastremski were doing to the footballs before Patriots' games; a history of violence that could date back years.

The two equipment guys were both suspended indefinitely, and chances are they will be fired and will never see an NFL field again. Justice has been served there, since both were totally rouge and irresponsible in their behavior by first trying to fool the NFL by concealing the deflation of footballs, and for lying to investigators during initial stages of the search.

Yet this story really isn't even about them even though it begins with them. This is about Tom Brady, the once highly decorated quarterback with four Super Bowl rings, a red hot super model wife, and a life most would kill for. Yet Brady, like his head coach Bill Belichick, felt that just being good wasn't good enough.

The report hints all to often, and even concludes that Brady had his thumb on both Jastremski and McNally, ordering that the balls be prepared to a certain specification, even if it were under the 12.5 psi limit.

Therefore Brady deserves to be suspended. He was as much responsible for breaking the rules as anyone and did so with the thought process that he could get away with it. And for a majority of his career he has gotten away with it. While the report said that Brady did interview with investigators, he didn't fully comply as he didn't hand over emails and text messages asked for by the Wells' team which makes him even more culpable in the matter.

When the NFL came out with the report last week, Brady, his agent and the Patriots trashed it as lacking "sufficient evidence," and Brady himself waved it off as no big deal in an interview with Jim Gray.

Such hubris. Such arrogance. This is what the Patriots deserve. This is a franchise that has carried itself above the NFL for far too long. From SpyGate in 2007 to DeflateGate today, the Patriots think they can do as they please and nobody will notice. They win Super Bowls with players who were once considered scraps, and nobody says a word. They set records for consecutive home wins and nobody bats an eye. They go 16-0 in 2007 and were that close to being considered the greatest team ever. Nobody dare questions the Patriots because they are so wonderful.

That opinion is now dead, and should never live again. The Patriots are their own worst enemy in this case. Not only are they arrogant and bask in the glory of their own self gratification, and abundant love from the media, they are paranoid. They are so worried that they won't be loved, and won't be considered the best that they cheat.

Cheating to the Patriots is the only guarantee they have at staying atop the mountain. For 14 years it worked. Even after SpyGate, all they got was a slap on the wrist from the NFL. Not this time.

In addition to losing Brady, Robert Kraft will be $1 million poorer, and the Patriots will lose a first round draft pick in 2016 and a fourth rounder in 2017.

The only thing the NFL didn't do was suspend Belichick. While the Wells' report exonerates the coach, there is little doubt he has been the main orchestrator in the Patriots cheating ways. He should have been suspended at least 2-3 games.

Without Brady, the Patriots will suffer. They open against Pittsburgh, visit Buffalo in week 2. After a winnable game against the lowly Jaguars in week 3, they will face the Cowboys following a Bye Week in week 5. With untested Jimmy Garoppolo at quarterback that sounds a lot like 1-3. By the time Brady gets back, the Patriots will be visiting the Colts -- the team that blew the whistle on Brady's entire operation.

While it would have been nice to see Brady get 6-8 weeks or even the entire season on the bench, this penalty seems sufficient and satisfying. The Patriots will suffer greatly for Brady's transgressions and their chances at repeating are greatly diminished. Cheaters never win ... ever.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Wells' report condemns Patriots, Brady Faces Stiff Suspension for DeflateGate

14 weeks and over 100 days after the New England Patriots were suspected of deflating footballs during the AFC Championship game, the Ted Wells' law firm hired by the NFL to investigate the matter has finally come out with its report implicating two Patriots personnel employees and quarterback Tom Brady for their involvement in the scandal. It's about time too.

In a document that spans over 138 pages, the investigation finds that the Patriots "were in violation of the NFL Playing Rules and were involved in a deliberate attempt to circumvent those rules." More specifically the investigation does implicate Brady for having some knowledge of what both went on during the scandal.

"It is more probable than not that Tom Brady was at least generally aware of the inappropriate activities of Jim McNally and John Jastremski involving the release of air from the Patriots game balls."

The two men in question are Jim McNally, a part time employee for the Patriots, responsible for delivering game balls, and John Jastremski, a Patriots equipment assistant who were the main culprits in the scandal. The duo plotted out ways to change the physical dimensions of the football to fit the preferences of Brady, whom the reference in text messages obtained in the investigation.

It was McNally who was the man that took the footballs into the bathroom for 90 seconds, and the report seems to indicate that that was enough time for him to deflate the balls with a needle. Regardless both McNally and Jastremski are cooked. Neither will be employed by the Patriots nor any NFL franchise for that matter ever again. They compromised the league and acted like they were above the rules. They have to pay the price.

But here is the kicker, why would two regular joe's do this by themselves with full knowledge the consequences would be detrimental for either of them in the end? That is why Brady is the real culprit here. He instructed both Jastremski and McNally in preparing the ball to his liking and got away with it until now.

Text messages obtained and revealed by the Wells' report show that Brady and Jastremski were in constant communication about DeflateGate with Brady saying to Jastremski "You didn't do anything wrong, bud." Not to mention the text messages between McNally and Jastremski date back to a Jets game in October of last year.

I find it hard to believe that the AFC Championship game was a first time event orchestrated by these three. I suspect, as has been the case with the Patriots in the past, that they have been deflating footballs for several seasons until they got caught. How can I support this? One word: SpyGate. The Patriots were caught red handed in 2007 for stealing signals only to have it be revealed they had been spying on people for years under Belichick. Who's to say deflating footballs hasn't been an established practice. Obviously McNally was pretty good at it since he took the air out of 11 balls in 90 seconds.

Since this story has broken Brady has acted like it's no big deal, while Brady's father and his agent do the dirty work taking pot-shots at the legitimacy of the allegations.

Now the question is what will the NFL do? Rumors are running rampant that Brady will face a suspension. Some say the entire 2015 season. Others say 6-8 weeks. Some say 2-4 weeks.

Now the pressure is on Roger Goodell to get this right. He screwed up big time last year when he should have thrown the book at wife abuser, Ray Rice and didn't do it. Rice was subsequently thrown off the team in Baltimore, and Goodell had egg on his face. In turn he suspended Adrian Peterson for the year after he was accused of beating his son.

While deflating footballs isn't as bad as hitting a wife or child, cheating is still a disgrace to the shield. Inspite of whatever feelings Goodell may have for the Patriots and his buddy, Robert Kraft he needs to drop a heavy penalty on the Patriots and make it count.

Remember this is the same Commish who dropped the bomb on the New Orleans Saints when their organization was found to be involved in a pay-to-injure scam known as BountyGate. Shouldn't the Patriots see similar treatment here?

Suspending Brady for the year is asking a lot, especially with Goodell calling the shots, although I am sure the Jets, Dolphins and Bills will all love it. At the very least Brady should be suspended the first four weeks of the regular season. He can still attend training camp, but can't play until late October. If Brady misses even a month of regular season action it could do severe damage to the Patriots chances to repeat. They likely will lose all of those games without him, and will have an uphill climb the rest of the way. The Patriots would also have to deal with the embarrassment of celebrating a Super Bowl title on Opening Night amid Brady missing his first game in prime time on national televison.

In turn, if I were Goodell, I would suspend Belichick the first four games of the year too. While Belichck wasn't found with any wrong doing, the fact that he allowed anything like this to happen on his watch makes him guilty by association. Suspending the man behind the true history of violence by the Patirots would be huge.

Fines and loss of draft picks will also be considered, and should be thrown in as well. Goodell might as well go all in. In addition to suspensions of Belichick and Brady, the Patriots should be fined double of what they were in 2007 when Spygate came out. In addition, they should have their first round picks for the next two seasons taken away from them.

While we won't know until this week what Goodell decides to do, he better get it right, and levy a penalty that satisfies the entire league and shows the country that the Patriots are not above the National Football League.