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Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Geno Smith Breaks Jaw in Locker Room Fight, Out 6-10 Weeks

Leave it to the Jets to make headlines for all the wrong reasons.

Geno Smith and his star-crossed career with the New York football franchise took another strange twist on Tuesday afternoon, when word came out that Smith was involved in a locker room altercation with back-up linebacker IK Enemkpali, in which the 2014 sixth round pick, slugged smith in the face during a fight in the locker room. Smith broke his jaw as a result, and will be out for 6-10 weeks, at least.

Reports say that coach Todd Bowles said the fracas broke out because of something that had "nothing to do with football" and was "very childish." What childish means in this situation is anyone's guess. And it is not known who started the fight. However, whatever Smith may have done or said to Enemkpali was enough for him to rear back and crack the quarterback in the face.

Enemkpali was released almost immediately.

To some Jets fans, they probably are ecstatic that Smith is out for such a long period of time. Smith did nothing to endear himself to Jets fans with his poor play the past two years, becoming one of the leagues worst quarterbacks.

That being said, the Jets now will have to rely on veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick as their starting quarterback for at least the first half of the season. While Fitzpatrick has seen some good moments in his career, he has been a mostly mediocre quarterback. He spent four years as the Buffalo Bills starting quarterback and never produced a winning season. His best season in Buffalo was in 2011 when he threw for 3,800 yards and 24 touchdowns, but he also threw 23 interceptions that year as well.

This is also the same Ryan Fitzpatrick who couldn't hold off Case Keenum and Ryan Mallett from taking the starting job from him in Houston last season. In other words, here is another hoe-hum quarterback under center for the Jets.

If Fitzpatrick falters, it could rush the debut of rookie Bryce Petty, whom the Jets were hoping would have a year to sit back and watch before ever getting a call to start. That might change now. Petty is coming out of the spread offense system from Baylor, and needs time to learn the in's and out's of an NFL offense.

There is even a rumor out there that the Jets would go after ... dare I say it .. Rex Grossman! (You can scream now.)

So in short, there are no good options here for the Jets, even if Smith was probably on his last legs as a Jets starting quarterback this season.

Also here is this tidbit, the injury might actually mean the end of the Geno Smith era in New York. If Fitzpatrick, or Petty, or whomever plays well for the team and the Jets are winning ball games there is no chance that Smith will get the starting job back. The only way Smith even gets consideration to be the starter at this point is if Fitzpatrick is really stinking it up for Gang Green.

It would be ironic in a way if this is indeed the end of the Smith era, because his time with the Jets started when Mark Sanchez was injured in a pre-season game and lost for the season. If Sanchez hadn't been injured, Smith probably never takes the field as the Jets starting quarterback.

Oh the irony, oh the Jets.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Mets acquire Cespedes from Tigers, save top prospects

The Mets went from zero to hero in the span of 36 hours. Mere two days after the team was involved in an embarrassing trade debacle with the Milwaukee Brewers that would have sent Carlos Gomez to the Mets, were it not for the teams concerns about a phantom hip inury, the New York baseball club made up for the gaff by getting an even better player this time around.

And this time the Mets didn't let a "medical history" get in the way.

The Mets acquired slugger Yoenis Cespedes from the Detroit Tigers for minor league right hander's Michael Fulmer and Luis Cessa  just 13 minutes before the non-waiver trade deadline ended on Friday. Fulmer was the centerpiece of the deal. The Double-A prospect is 6-2 with a 1.88 ERA down on the farm. He might be a great arm one day, but considering the Mets are already stacked with great arms, losing him in a trade like this is too good to pass up.

Best of all the Mets keep Zach Wheeler. Wheeler had been rumored to be involved in deals with the Brewers, Red and Tigers. In fact there were even reports that the Tigers wanted Wheeler back in a deal for Cespedes. But it never came to pass. Wheeler who is out for the rest of this season, and will miss part of next year as he recovers from Tommy John Surgery, is looked upon by the Mets as their future number five starter.

New York wants to go into 2016 with Matt Harvery, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Steve Matz, and Wheeler as their rotation. They want to market "Fab 5" t-shirts, ticket packages and what have you throughout 2016 beginning this winter for the build up of Spring Training. While the Mets were willing to part with Wheeler to get a deal done, keeping him makes this trade even tastier for Mets' fans.

As for Cespedes, he is in the final year of his contract. He is due $3.8 million on his deal, which the Mets have said they will cover. The Mets are getting a player who can light up their locker room and change the culture for this franchise. For the first time since Carlos Beltran patrolled center field for the Mets in the last decade, the Mets have a true All Star in the outfield.  Cespedes is a career .269 hitter, but he is a pure power hitter, something the Mets have not had since they moved into Citi Field in 2009. He has 89 career home runs, and this year alone, Cespedes has hit 18 bombs for a Tigers team that plays in the very spacious Comerica Park in Detroit.

Imagine the possibilities of what Cespedes can bring to this lineup as the team's number three hitter, especially with David Wright still out of the lineup. Now imagine Cespedes and a fully healthy David Wright back-to-back in the lineup -- WOW!

In a lot of ways Cespedes can be to the Mets what Mike Piazza was to the Mets in 1998. Piazza gave the club a jolt and resurrected a dead carcass. The Mets needed a star to turn things around, and went ahead and acquired Piazza from the Marlins. The Mets, at the time, were Piazza's third team. Piazza was also in the walk year of his contract in 1998 and after he earned the affection of New York City, it was a no-brainer the Mets had to go all in to keep Piazza in Queens.

That might happen with Cespedes. This guy has shown he loves the big stage. He shined brightly in New York when he put on a show in the home run derby at Citi Field in the All Star game a couple seasons back. He's also been known for making incredible plays like this:


This is a good baseball player. He has been with a lot of teams however. The Mets are already his fourth team since joining the Majors in 2012; so there might be a personality issue that we are not aware of yet. This is something to keep an eye on, because a player this good should still be on his first team, not his fourth.

Cespedes is going to play left field, meaning playing time for Michael Cuddyer when he gets off the disabled list, and Jaun Lagares might get a little interesting. The Mets have commitments to both players after this season -- is this a signal that that might change? We have to wait and see. Curtis Granderson, who has been having a solid season this year, might see more playing time in center field now that Cespedes is here as well..

It remains to be seen what kind of future beyond this year Cespedes has in New York. If he takes to New York City and the Mets, its a no-brainer the Mets should try to keep him. But at least for now, the Mets made a move that is going to set them apart and give this ball club an actual chance to compete in the final two months of the season.

That is all any Mets fan can ask for.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

July Fools Day, Gomez to Mets deal Blows Up

Only the Mets can turn a trade into a total back-page farce.

Last night word got out that the Mets and Milwaukee Brewers had a trade in place that would have sent Wilmur Flores and Zach Wheeler to the Brew Crew for outfielder Carlos Gomez. The Mets had been rumored for a while in this trade market to be in search of a "big bat" and they believed that Gomez was their guy.

Gomez was told by his teammates that the deal was done. Flores found out and started crying on the field -- then the rug was pulled out from underneath everyone thanks in part to the Mets unwillingness to let the deal go through.

Initially there was a belief that the Brewers had concerns about Wheeler who is coming off Tommy Johns Surgery and is out for the entire 2015 season. Wheelers isn't even expected back until mid-season of next year. However reports have contradicted that notion, and the Brewers had no concerns with Wheeler whatsoever.

The Mets themselves are the ones who pulled the plug on the deal and in embarrassing fashion too. The Mets got out of the deal because they had concerns about Gomez's hip. However both Gomez's agent Scott Boras, and Brewers General Manager Doug melvin reiterated that Gomez is healthy and had no hip injury. The Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentential later reported that the Mets backed out because of finances --- what else is new regarding the Mets.

The Sentential said "The Mets wanted the Brewers to take centerfielder Juan Lagares in the trade. The Brewers said no, in part because Lagares has an elbow issue but also because he has a four-year, $23 million contract extension that kicks in next year and they didn't want to pick up the money.

"So, after further talks, it was decided that the Brewers would take Flores in addition to Wheeler, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery and won't be able to pitch before next June. The source said the Mets then asked the Brewers to throw in the 2016 Competitive Balance Round B pick they were recently awarded and the Brewers said no.

"The source said the Brewers then were asked to put some money in the trade to cover part of what's remaining on Gomez's contract, including a $9 million salary next year. Considering the talent level of Gomez and his reasonable contract, the Brewers understandably declined to put any cash into the deal." (MWJS 7/29/15)

So the Mets were basically trying to get rid of Lagares -- a horrific signing the Mets made before the season, when they agreed to shell out $23 million to a guy who hadn't proved he could be an everyday center fielder to be just that, buying into the ridiculous hype machine they created around the kid.

So the Mets low-balled and asked for money in return and the Brewers said no. Good for them.

What makes matters worse is the fact the Mets embarassed Flores. The kid was on the field when he found out from fans and teammates that something had gone down, and the poor guy started crying on the field. Even manager Terry Collins didn't even know what was going on, and admitted that it was the most bizarre thing he ever saw in a ball park.

"Someone came to me: 'Wilmer's crying,'" Collins said. "There was nothing I knew about. Why would I take him out of the game?"

Alderson reportedly apologized to Flores, but the damage is done. This kid is going to be lost mentally. Howe is Flores expected to play for this franchise now after they botched a deal to get him out of town? Flores trade value is now dwindled and anyone wanting to deal with the Mets now, might be hesitant after this PR disaster. Not to mention why would the Mets even think that Carlos Gomez was an upgrade to begin with?

Gomez was a Met several years ago, and was dealt to Minnesota in the Johan Santana deal. Hhe's had a mediocre career ever since with only a couple big years in Milwaukee the past two years. This year Gomez has come crashing back to earth with a .262 batting average, eight home runs and 43 RBI. He's not the "Big Bat" that would make a difference for the Mets slim playoff chances to begin with.

Also, if you are the Brewers, why would you take on the contract of a pitcher who isn't going to pitch until mid-season of next year? Talk about ridiculous. The fact the Brewers were willing to take Wheeler off an injury is silly to being with.

This is a total PR farce for the Mets. They have succeeded in making a mockery of the trade deadline all because they and the Brewers allowed word to get out before anything was complete. Blame social media all you want, I blame the teams themselves.


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.