Friday, May 29, 2009

Omir Santos' Heroics Allow Mets To Trade Ramon Castro

The Mets have found themselves their new catcher. Omir Santos, who was called up from Triple-A Buffalo last month to replace the injured Brian Schneider has been nothing but spetacular for the Metroplitans this season.

Last week Santos beat the Boston Red Sox with his two run home run over the Green Monster, and tonight, Santos delivered again. He hit a solo home run off of Sean White to tie the Mets game with the Florida Marlins at one in the fifth inning. Then in the 11th inning, Santos won the game with an RBI single to drive in Gary Sheffield.

Santos is hitting .276 this season for the Mets with 3 homeruns and 17 RBI. His energy and sense of the big moment in the big game is something the Mets have never really had. You could say he is their version of Yadier Molina, the Cardinals catcher who has developed a career of big hits in big moments, i.e. his game clinching homer against the Mets in Game Seven of the 2006 NLCS.

Because of Santos' heroics, the Mets were able to deal Ramon Castro to the White Sox for relief pitcher Lance Broadway. Broadway will be sent down to Triple A Buffalo. Santos will likely slide back into the back up catcher role, with Schneider ready to come off of the DL tomorrow. However, if Santos continues to deliever, look for him to become the everyday catcher before the end of June.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Matsui, Burnett and Wang Help Blow Away Rangers

YANKEES 9
RANGERS 2

Yankees on the march! The Bombers have now won 12 of their last 15 games, to improve to 27-20, tying for first place in the AL East.

The key for the Yankees was its offense which produced 15 hits, 4 home runs and 9 runs against the Rangers on Wednesday night. Mark Teixeira once again delivered, this time a two run blast that cleared the wall in left field to give the Yankees a 2-0 lead. In the third, Derek Jeter lined a double down the left field line to bring in Kevin Cash to make it 3-0 Bombers.

A. J. Burnett bounced back from a mediocre outing against the Phillies last week, giving the Yankees six strong innings of three hit ball. Burnett struck out seven Rangers, surrendering only one hit combined between Ian Kinsler, Michael Young, and Josh Hamilton, the heart of the Rangers powerful lineup.

Hideki Matsui awoke from his slump, blasting a solo shot to right field to give the Yankees a 4-0 lead. Later in the seventh, Matsui went deep again, this one a two run bomb to right to give New York a 8-0 lead, all but placing the cap on this one. Box Score.

Big news tonight for the Yankees: Chein-Ming Wang pitched two no hit innings for the Yankees in the eighth and ninth innings. He struck out two Rangers and showed great movement on his pitches. He even reached as high as 92 MPH on the radar gun. With Wang's inspiring outing, talk will begin to heat up even more about moving Wang back into the rotation, and, possibly, moving Joba Chamberlain back into the bullpen.

Chamberlain is 2-1 with a 3.97 ERA as a starter this year and struggled on Tuesday night in a 7-3 loss to Texas. Only once this year has Chamberlain pitched longer than six innings, so it might be time to put him back in the pen where he was so successful in 2007. The fact that Phil Hughes has been pitching well lately adds to the complications that Yankee management is facing, but as the old saying goes, this is a good problem to have.

Murphy's Magic Stirs Some Controversy

METS 7
NATIONALS 4

Controversy appears to stalk the Mets these days. For the fourth time in five days umpires have had to review another home run, and, for the fourth straight time, the ruling came in favor of the Mets. If there is one team that will endorse replay at the end of the season, the Mets might be that team.

In a game that followed many twists and turns, Daniel Murphy's home run, or phantom double, was the difference tonight. In the sixth inning, with Gary Sheffield on base, and Jordan Zimmerman once again mastering the Mets by holding them to three runs in the game's first five innings, controversy struck. Murphy blasted a pitch to the deep, well-shaped wall in right field. The ball appeared to have died in front of the Subway restaurants sign which makes up part of the large overhang in right. The ball fell off the Modell's store sign a few feet below and dropped to the ground.

Sheffield scored easily, but there remained a question: Was it a home run for the struggling Murphy?

The umpires took a look at it in replay and subsequently ruled that the ball had hit the Subway sign, ricocheted off that and bounced to the ground, making it a home run. Still, there is some debate. Late in the SNY broadcast, intrepid reporter Kevin Burkhard reported that fans in the upper deck noticed that the ball never hit the Subway sign. Ah me; I suppose this ruling constitutes the biggest controversy to occur at Flushing since Keith Hernandez's let loose his wicked lugie at Kramer and Newman in an episode of Seinfeld. Back and to the left. Back and to the left.

As for the other moments in this crazy affair, ace Johan Santana was inconsistent. He threw too many pitches, 120 to be exact, and was never in command of his fastball, giving up a 500 foot home run to Adam Dunn to mark the longest homer in CitiField history; nonetheless, he still found a way to strike out 11 Nationals and pitch six innings for his seventh victory of the season.

As for Dunn, his night was nutty too. Other then the gigantic bomb fired off Santana's fastball, he made a bid for his second blast of the night, but the ball died in front of the right field fence; instead, it appeared in the glove of rookie Fernando Martinez for a very long out. Then, in the sixth, he was underneath Murphy's controversial home run and thought that the ball was going to bounce off the Modell's sign so he could make a play on it, but it never happened the way he anticipated.

In the end, K-Rod put the kibosh on a potential Nationals comeback, striking out red hot Ryan Zimmerman to end the game and preventing any chance of Dunn coming to the plate as a potential tying run. Box Score.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Bletran, Reyes, Church Now Out For Mets

The injury bug is becoming an epidemic in the Mets clubhouse. With Carlos Delgado already on the shelf with a torn labrum, Jose Reyes and Ryan Church were both placed on the 15 day disabled list. Carlos Beltran will not hit the DL, at least right now, with inflammation in his knee. Beltran will miss the rest of the week but could return to action by Friday.

Reyes has struggled to recover from tendinitis in his right calf which he aggravated last week in Los Angeles. Meanwhile, Church is nursing a hamstring injury and needs more time to heal.

This marks the sixth player to hit the DL for the Mets that are already missing Oliver Perez who was demoted due to poor pitching, Brian Schneider out with a bad back, and Alex Cora, a torn ligament in his right thumb.

With these recent injuries, the Mets had no choice but to call up their top minor league prospect, Fernando Martinez. Martinez went 0 for 2 with an RBI in his first major league start.
The Mets also acquired Wilson Valdez from the Indians to fill the roster void left by Reyes.
Is it biblical? Time will tell.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Phantom Home Run Gives Mets Victory

METS 5
NATIONALS 2

It took a while, but baseball's new home run video replay rule is starting to create controversy by settling disputes on the field.

For the third straight game, a challenge on a home run played a major role in the Mets victory; however, unlike Saturday night when it was obvious that Omir Santos' fly ball cleared the gigantic Green Monster at Fenway Park, tonight's controversy was not as overt.

With the score tied at one, Gary Sheffield took a 2-1 pitch from lefty John Lannan and blasted a shot to the left field wall. The ball was interfered with by a foolhardy fan who thought that sticking his glove out to catch it was a better idea than finishing his hot dog.

The initial ruling: three run home run. Nationals manager Manny Acta stormed out of the dugout and asked for a challenge. Through several replays it was quite clear that the ball was interfered with which would mean no home run. If the fan had not interfered, the ball probably would have grazed the wall and fallen to the ground for an easy two run double.

Nonetheless, the umpires upheld the initial home run call. The Mets took the 4-1 lead, and, eventually, held on for the 5-2 victory. Box Score.

These challenges are becoming a bit much. For starters, umpires take forever to make a decision. Santos' home run on Saturday took close to five minutes to review. Earlier in the year, the umps took about seven minutes to review a home run during a Yankees' game. Perhaps baseball should consider capping the amount of time umpires can take to review the play? In the NFL, where replay is best executed, officials only have two minutes to review a play and come to a decision.

Wouldn't it be nice to mike the umpires so they can explain to the rest of us their decision? In the NFL, officials give a detailed explanation for their rulings so everyone knows what is going on. In baseball, the umpire comes charging out of the dugout and makes a quick hand signal for home run, or none. There is no explanation, and unless fans are watching on TV, they will likely miss the decision.

The day will come this fall, where replay could determine the winner of a seven game series; in fact, it might even decide who wins the World Series! Baseball must work to improve the replay system so it is efficient and effective for everyone.

Jets' David Harris Must "Move Like A Butterfly, Sting Like a Bee"

When the Jets drafted David Harris from the University of Michigan University in 2007, they were hoping to have gotten a kid who would one day become a great NFL linebacker. The Jets during their history have had good linebackers, from Gregg Buttle to Marvin Jones and Mo Lewis to Bryan Cox, but the franchise has never had a dominant player at the position.

Whenever it seemed that the franchise was on the verge of fielding a great player at linebacker, they let him go, such as James Farrior and John Abraham. There has never been a Ray Lewis or a Lawrence Taylor on this team, nor a Jack Lambert or Teddy Bruschi.

However, in 2009, Harris has a chance to break with past history in a big way.

In 2007, Harris was a standout all season. He recorded 121 tackles and appeared to be in on every single play, whether a run, a sack, or pass coverage, Harris was all-world that season. But in 2008, Harris dropped off the radar, in spite of consistent and somewhat undeserved praise. Color it a sophomore slump or just plain bad luck; in either case, Harris was a disappointment; he recorded 76 tackles, one sack and one blocked one pass over 11 games.

There remain high expectations for Harris; in fact, people in and around the Jets organization feel he can become one of the great linebackers of the game; reportedly, some are sanguine enough to assert that Harris already is a very good linebacker.

However, with Rex Ryan installing his complex 46 Defense from the Baltimore Ravens, Harris' presence and maturation takes on even more importance to this team. It's a hell of time for a young man to learn a new system, coming off of a bad season as he does, but that precisely where Harris finds himself.

When Ryan coached with the Ravens, middle linebacker was key to the defense's success. Linebackers in the Ravens' defensive scheme were responsible for creating most of the havoc inflicted on opposing offenses, going beyond a simple blitz package. In Ryan's defense, it is blitz, blitz, blitz and more blitz. Ryan's athletes are gifted performers whose physical abilities are incomparable. Ray Lewis, for example, has been a key to the Ravens D for so many years due to his ability to beat the stuffing out of just about anyone who comes across his path, in tandem with his athletic talent to cover tight ends, slot receivers and running backs.

Such players are expected to be extremely physical and mentally tough. First, they must possess the physical tools to both tackle and sack the quarterback, as well as unleash Mercury-like speed to chase running backs in the flat, wide receivers deep in the field, and force turnovers with bone-jarring hits.

Bart Scott, who is now Harris' teammate, was a product of that system and was quite successful at it, recording four straight seasons of 100 plus tackles including a Pro Bowl appearance in 2006 in which he recorded 153 tackles. Scott did this while being tagged as "under-sized" by many scouts before he entered the NFL.

In an article from the New York Post Online, Ryan emphasized the importance of having players familiar with his system. Along with Scott, comes safety Brian Leonard and defensive end Marques Douglas who will try to teach the Jets holdovers the ins and outs of Ryan's schemes.

"It's not only that they know the system, but they know how things are done, what the expectations are, and understand that we don't accept anything but that," Ryan said. "For them, it's critical that they have to step up there leading" (qutd. Brian Costello, "Three Ex-Ravens Helping Ryan Get Jets D Read For A Fight," New York Post).

How the new philosophy shapes the mind of the 25-year-old in question, who is still virtually a babe in the woods in terms of football years, remains to be seen. That uncertainty intrigues and engages our attention.

Harris has the potential to become a player like Scott, or, dare I say it, Ray Lewis. At 6'2", 243 pounds, he is the archetypal Rex Ryan linebacker; he is physical, fast and, more important, dedicated.

What Harris needs to learn to become the complete package is to metamorphose into a better linebacker in coverage. Last season, Harris got burned a few times in coverage down the middle and on slants. He has yet to make his first career interception. In this new Ryan defense system, it will be imperative for the middle linebacker move around in space, bump receivers or running backs and create utter confusion for the quarterback.

Exemplars of successful Rex Ryan linebackers are Bart Scott, who has 16 career passes defended and three interceptions in his career so far, while future Hall of Famer Ray Lewis has 28 interceptions, two for touchdowns.

Keep in mind, pass coverage will be important in the AFC East this year with the always dangerous Wes Welker moving across the middle for the Patriots. Welker has had two straight years of 100 plus catches, a record that should continue this year with Tom Brady back in the fold. Lee Evans or Rosco Parrish will likely see some time at slot receiver with the addition of Terrell Owens to Buffalo, so Harris will have to become better in coverage really fast if he wants to become a better player.

As a tackler and blitzer, Harris owns the goods in this department provided his 2008 struggles were an aberration. Teams likely doubled up on Harris last season after his breakout season in 2007; clearly he then represented the only real threat in the middle.

Now, with Scott next to him, Harris should get more opportunities to make plays rushing the passer as well as make big plays on the running game.

When Harris is on his game, he can be very good. In his first professional start against the Bills in the middle of the 2007 season, Harris recorded 14 tackles and a sack. He appeared all over the field, the only player the Bills had trouble stopping that afternoon in a 13-3 loss for the Jets.

If Harris can regain the form that made him the toast of New York Jets town after the 2007 season to emerge like a chrysalis from its cocoon and become more the beautiful butterfly of toughness and downright nastiness required of the great linebackers, then surely the past praise that he received will be finally justified.

Yankees Spank Rangers In Memorial Day Bash

YANKEES 11
RANGERS 1

Losing two out of three to the Philadelphia Phillies is not enough to stop the Yankee express right now. After a disappointing 4-3 loss to Philadelphia on Sunday, the Yankees turned around and made this Memorial Day a memorable one.

The Bombers pounded out 19 hits, 11 runs, 5 doubles and a triple in an 11-1 rout of the Texas Rangers. Box Score.

The Yankees got on the board early and often on Rangers starter Matt Harrison. Derek Jeter started the game off with double to the center field wall, and Johnny Damon singled to move Jeter to third base. Then a pair of old Rangers burned the current Rangers big time; Mark Teixeira laced a double to left to drive home Jeter and move Damon to third. Next, A-Rod singled up the middle to drive in Damon to give the Yankees a 2-0 lead.

In the third, the Yankees went ballistic. After a Damon double and Teixeira walk, A-Rod once again delivered. This time he doubled to left to bring home Damon to make it 3-0. Robinson Cano tripled when the ball trickled down the left field line, clearing the bases to make it 5-0 Bombers.

Finally, in the sixth, Teixeira and A-Rod went for a third helping. This time, Teixeira's single to right center drove in Jeter, and A-Rod's bases clearing double gave the Yankees an outstanding 10-0 lead.

Phil Hughes, who was once rumored to be heading back to the minors with Chien Ming Wang now back from the DL, was brilliant. Hughes went eight shut out innings, giving up only three hits to one of baseball's best offensive teams. Hughes is now 3-2 with a 5.16 ERA this season. He also improved to 2-0 against the Rangers with a sparkling 0.00 ERA in both starts.

Jets Safety Rhodes Investigated For Possible Rape

A report from the New York Post states that safety Kerry Rhodes, one of the team leaders of the New York Jets, could be in big time trouble. A Canadian woman claims Rhodes and another man raped her in Morristown, New Jersey late Friday.

Rhodes said through the New York Jets: "The police confirmed to me that I am not the subject of this allegation."

The story reports that the woman went out with a friend to a club in Manhattan where she met Rhodes and the other gentleman. The Post reported that she didn't know who Rhodes was until her friend informed her. After their meeting at the club, the woman joined Rhodes and his guest back in Morristown where they supposedly raped her. READ STORY. The investigation is still ongoing.

If there is any truth to the matter then Rhodes is in big trouble with the law, which is the last thing that he and the Jets need at this time. Rhodes is an important asset to the Jets since he is one of the longest tenured players on the team, and a fantastic football player in general.

Than again, this could be also be a case of mistaken identity, or even a fabrication on the woman's part, but nothing will be certain until Morristown police complete their work.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Santana Shines As Mets Shock Sox

METS 5
RED SOX 3

If someone told you that the New York Mets would go to Boston without the services of Carlos Delgado and Jose Reyes, that they would have Dan Murphy leading off, and Ryan Church batting second. That Ramon Martinez would start at short, Jeremy Reed would start in center field, and Johan Santana was going into the game with a 6.98 career ERA at Fenway, you probably bet that the Mets would lose.

As ESPN's Chris Berman likes to say, "THAT'S WHY THEY PLAY THE GAME!"

Santana was brilliant against the Sox, getting stronger with each inning, and even shouting back at Boston's boisterous first baseman Kevin Youklis after Youklis leaned into one of Santana's pitches in the fifth inning. Santana was great: seven innings, six hits, three runs, two earned runs and eight strike outs. He made the Red Sox look foolish all night long, in what was his most important start of the year, considering the Mets were reeling from insult and injury.

In the fourth, the Mets broke the game open off of Dice-K Matsuzaka, who was returning from the DL tonight for Boston. Carlos Beltran laced a ground rule double to the short wall in right to get things going. After Gary Sheffield walked, David Wright singled to center to drive in Beltran to give the Mets a 2-1 lead. Later, Omar Santos singled to left to drive in Sheffield to make it 3-1 Metroplitans. Finally it was Martinez, whose RBI single to center turned out to be the biggest at bat of the inning, handing the Mets a 4-1 lead. His RBI would be the deciding RBI of the night.

The Red Sox did make it interesting, when Martinez's throwing error in the bottom of the fourth allowed Mike Lowell and J.D. Drew to score to cut the Met lead to one run. This is where Santana bore down, allowing only one Red Sox to reach base in his final three innings of work. Bobby Parnell was brilliant in his one inning of relief and K-Rod was fantastic yet again in the ninth, retiring the Sox in order to seal the deal for the Metropolitans.
Box Score.

Phillies Out Bomb Bombers In The Bronx

PHILLIES 7
YANKEES 3

Hey! New York Yankees, now you know why the Philadelphia Phillies give the cross town Mets nightmares.

The World Champions homered four times off of Yankee pitching, making the new Yankee Stadium into their own little play pen, as they took game one 7-3. The Phils got off to a fast start when Jimmy Rollins led off the game with a solo home run to the very, very, very short porch in right field to give the Phillies a 1-0 lead.

The second inning was more of the same. With Matt Stairs already on base, Carlos Ruiz blasted a two run shot to left to make it 3-0 Philly. A. J. Burnett, who came into the game with a five ERA for the Yankees, never had it tonight. In six innings Burnett gave up eight hits and five runs, inclulding three home runs. Burnett falls to 2-2 with an ERA of 5.28.

With the Phillies up 5-0, Alex Rodriguez blasted his sixth home run of the year to cut the deficit to 5-1. However, the Phillies, as they always do, never gave in. Raul Ibanez who is having an All Star season hit his 16th home run to right off of Chien Ming Wang. Wang made his return from the DL to pitch in some long relief for the Yankees strapped bullpen. I guess Wang must wish that he stayed on the DL for a couple more days.

In the eighth the Philles got to Wang. Pedro Feliz led off the inning with a single, and Rollins singled to left to move Feliz to third. Finally, Chase Utley drove in Feliez with a single of his own to make it 7-1 Phils.

The Yankees did try to come back via the home run ball. Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeria hit a couple of bombs to make it 7-3, but it was not enough. Brett Meyers went eight solid innings for Philadelphia allowing three runs on eight hits, while striking out five. He is now 4-2 on the season. Box Score.

New York Braces For A Switch Of Division Rivals

Over the last couple of years many have called for an end to Interleague play in baseball, since match-ups like Royals vs. Pirates, or Mets vs. Mariners were failing to draw big crowds and big TV ratings. These people have called for, and, understandably so, a return to a MLB schedule where all teams stay inside of their league for all 162 ball games.

Well at least for one weekend, the dissenters of interleague play can't say anything. No it is not another version of the Subway Series, it may be even better. The Yankees will play host to the World Champion Philadelphia Phillies, the same Phillies who are the Mets arch rival in the NL East. Meanwhile, the Mets travel to Boston to take on the Yankees most hated rival the Red Sox.

It is a switch for the ages. Two New York teams taking on the other teams' nemesis. This is what interleague play is all about, the intreguing match-up that will make fans want to watch.
The Mets will limp into Boston with a four game losing streak, battered and beaten with numerous injuries and a wounded self esteem. This is not a good time for the Mets to play the Red Sox. The Sox are red hot, having just swept away the first place Blue Jays, and are just now starting to click on all cylinders.

The last time the Mets visited Fenway Park in 2006, it was a nightmare. The series was built around the return of Pedro Martinez to his old stomping grounds, but instead it was the Red Sox who stomped all over the Mets in a three game sweep.

This weekend, the Mets will pin their hopes on Johan Santana, who has had a horrible career at Fenway. In four career games there Santana is 1-3 with a 6.98 ERA, by far one of the few stadiums that Santana struggles the most. If Santana's history in Beantown is any indication, then the Mets are in for very long weekend. Josh Beckett, the Red Sox staff ace is matched up against the struggling Mike Pelfrey, and Tim Wakefield, who is having a brilliant season for Boston at the age of 42, will square off against Tim Redding, who has a 12 ERA in Boston.

Expect the Red Sox to sweep away the Mets. The Mets have not been the same team since Carlos Delgado hit the DL with a torn labrum in his hip, and it is still unclear if Jose Reyes will play at all this weekend with a calf injury. This means the Mets lineup will be very much depleted with only David Wright and Carlos Beltran providing any thunder for this team.

As for the Yankees, they have been the complete opposite of the Mets lately. The Bombers have won nine in a row, and look unstoppable right now. Mark Teixeria who was really struggling to find a some consistency at the plate now has his average up to .250, with 11 homers and 32 RBI. You can probably thank the return of Alex Rodriguez for his recent hot streak, because, with A-Rod around, the more pitches Teixeria will see from opposing pitches.

But it is not Teixeria and A-Rod who have led this offense. It is instead Melky Cabrera and Johnny Damon. Both are having tremendous seasons. Damon has 10 hits in his last 32 at bats with a home run and 3 RBI. Likewise Cabrera has 8 RBI during the Yankees winning streak.

It should be noted that the Phillies have the worst starting rotation this season in the ERA department. Brett Myers has a 4.50 ERA, A.J. Happ has a 2.49 ERA, but should come back to earth really soon, and Cole Hamels, who pitches in game three of the series has not been himself this year, posting a 4.95 ERA.

Either way there should be a lot runs scored. Raul Ibanez is leading the world right now in the long ball. Ibanez who came to Philly as a free agent this past winter, leads the Phils with 15 homers and 40 RBI. Meanwhile, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard continue to deliver for Philly. Utley has 11 homers and 30 RBI, while Howard has 10 homers and 30 RBI.

It will be a fantastic series, and who knows, it could be a World Series preview! Prediction: Yankees take two out of three.
It should be a fun weekend as well. Rare is the opportunity for the Yankees and Mets to play the other teams' arch rival.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Misfortune Continues To Plauge The Mets

DODGERS 2
METS 1

As if it weren't bad enough to be a member of the Mets right now, not only did the Mets fall for the fourth straight time this week, they may have lost Jose Reyes in the process.

In the third inning, Reyes grounded out to second but came up limping after the out was recorded at first base. Reyes aggravated his calf muscle which has been giving him trouble this past week. Reyes limped into the clubhouse and did not return to the game. The extent of his injury is still not clear, nor is it clear how long he will be out.

Even worse is the play of the Mets offense. Ever since Carlos Delgado went down for two months with hip surgery, the Mets seem to have forgotten how to hit the ball. They are batting .218 as a team in the last four games with six runs scored and 29 hits. Uglier, the Mets are hitting .088 with runners in scoring position during this arid stretch.

If Reyes hits the DL, then the offense will continue to suffer. The Mets really don't have anyone else to call up. They already brought up Angel Pagan and Ramon Martinez to replace the injured Alex Cora and Delgado. The Mets moved Dan Murphy at first base, and he did a nice job with the glove, snaring a couple of line drives and starting a double play. First base should not be a concern, especially if Murphy continues to show prowess at first and begins to hit.

More imortant, the Mets are in the market for some big time help, whether in left field or first base, or by adding another starting pitcher, or an extra infielder. General Manager Omar Minaya will have to wheel and deal like a college kid playing Fantasy Baseball to pick up the slack in the lineup. Minaya has never been known for much creativity for midseason moves, but this year he will to if he wants to preserve his job. Box Score.

Cohen's Corner Now On Bleacher Report

Attention readers: I have been on Bleacher Report for a while now and usually post big editorials on that site. You can access the site by clicking on BLEACHER REPORT in the Michael's Pages link on the right hand side of this website's page.

I am in a contest to become an NFL correspondent for the New York Jets via CBS Sports.com., so, in order to read those articles, click this link: Michael's Bleacher Report Page.

Here is my latest article on Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Magnificent Seven, Yankees Remain Hot

YANKEES 9
ORIOLES 1


Look out Toronto and Boston, here come the Yankees.

After easily sweeping the Twins Monday night, the Yankees went back to work Tuesday and destroyed the Royals to earn their seventh win in a row. Ironically, in order to earn this victory, the Yankees scored seven runs in the seventh inning to put that baby to bed.

With bases loaded, new catcher Francisco Cervelli reached on a error by Orioles short stop Robert Andino to bring home Nick Swisher, giving the Yankees a 3-1 lead. Derek Jeter followed the error with a double off the wall in center to drive in Melky Cabrera and Robinson Cano, making it 5-1 Bombers. Cervelli came in to score the Yankees sixth run after center fielder Adam Jones' error when he missed the cut off man.

Johnny Damon drove in Jeter with an RBI single to center, and Mark Teixeira swung a hot bat after his two run home run to the Bleacher Creatures in right; 9-1 Yankees. Teixeria leads the Yankees with 11 home runs this season and appears more comfortable in New York with each passing day. Alex Rodriguez knoxked a two run shot earlier in the game, his fifth of the year to keep pace with his teammate. Box Score.

Speaking of being comfortable in new digs: C.C. Sabathia was brilliant again for the Yankees. The hefty lefty pitched seven terrific innings, striking out seven and allowing only one run on three hits for the night. Sabathia is now 4-3 on the year with a 3.43 ERA. It is clear that Sabathia is now comfortable in pinstrips, improving with each start.

The Yankees will look to extend their winning ways to eight games when they send Phil Hughes to the mound. Hughes has struggled this season, and it might be his last start until the Yankees feel that Chien Ming Wang is ready to come off the DL.

Mark Sanchez Already Making Waves in NY

I trust the Jets are happy now.

I hope Woody Johnson and Co. were all smiles when they got a gander at Tuesday's New York Post. In living color on the front cover of the tabloid poses their new quarterback Mark Sanchez with a red hot bikini babe excerpted from a GQ magazine spread. Inside, more seductive photos of Sanchez and the beauty queen delight the eye.


The Jets have a new version of Broadway Joe, who appears to have spent much of his time fooling around with single women in the city than he did studying a playbook. This is all okay as long as the quarterback wins games. Tom Brady can get away with it because he has three Super Bowl rings to his credit. After all, "all work and no play makes" ... well, you know the rest. Matt Leinart of the Arizona Cardinals can not get away with philandering. Leinart has been a bust, and whenever he is caught posing with half naked models, it certainly raises eyebrows about his professional commitment.

If Sanchez doesn't win in New York, performances like this one will get tiresome, really, really fast.

Bloopers Night Kills Mets In 11

DODGERS 3
METS 2

Who cares that Tim Redding made a good first impression in his first start with the Mets. Who cares that Gary Sheffield tied this game at two with a dribbler down the right field line to score Angel Pagan. What matters is two things for the Mets in this game against the Dodgers: (1) Injuries can kill, (2) Mental mistakes can kill even more.

The Mets played this game without the services of Jose Reyes (calf), Carlos Delgado (out two months with a labrum tear) and Alex Cora (thumb); the Metropolitans had to go with Jeremy Reed, Pagan and Ramon Martinez if they had any hope of winning, but they just couldn't get past their problems late in this game. More specifically, the substitutions cost the Mets --big time.

In the bottom of the 11, the Dodgers had loaded the bases on Mets reliever Brian Stokes. The Mets had five men in the infield, with Carlos Beltran as the extra infielder coming in from center to play second. The Mets were hoping to keep the ball in the infield so they can make a play at the plate and, maybe, maybe, make a double play to get out of the inning.

Stokes bore down large here. He was able to get Rafael Furcal to pop out to Pagan in left. Pagan made a stellar throw to home plate to keep Mark Loretta at third. The Mets appeared destined to perform a Houdini-like act of magic and slip out of the inning, but the absence of Delgado suddenly reared.

Orlando Hudson chopped one to Reed at first base. Reed correctly planted and threw the ball to Ramon Castro at home; however, Reed's throw went wide of Castro, allowing Loretta to score the winning run. If Delgado were playing, would the play at the plate be an out for the Mets? Would the Mets have gotten out of the inning safe and sound? We will never know, but the moment begs the question.

Reed can't be blamed for all of this. In the top of the 11th, after Ryan Church laced a single to lead off the inning, Pagan drilled a double into the gap. Church chugged around third and scored the go-ahead run, but there was a problem. Church never touched third base! Hello? On replay's provided by SNY, it was clear that Church walked over the bag without touching it. Dodgers manager Joe Torre spotted Church's gaff and instructed his players to challenge the play. It worked out for the Dodgers; the Mets did not score. Box Score.

What is even more interesting about Church's gaff is the fact that Mets manager Jerry Manuel did not run out of the dugout to protect his player and argue the call. He merely scowled at Church and shook his head. Some journalists, radio hosts, and fans have wondered whether Church is in Manuel's dog house since the right fielder has not seen a lot of playing time lately. This little episode will be talked about a lot in the coming days.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Delgado To Have Hip Surgery

Not a good day to be a fan or a member of the New York Metropolitans. Read Press Release.

Carlos Delgado, the team's cleanup hitter, who resurrected his career last season with an outstanding hitting performance finishing 2008 with 38 home runs, will likely miss two months or more because of a labrum tear in his hip. Delgado will have arthroscopic surgery to fix the tear and remove a bone spur.

During the off season, there was little doubt that the Mets were to pick up Delgado's $11 million option for 2009. He was the best first baseman on the free agent market and was the best third baseman the Mets had on their roster. It seemed to make sense to bring him back, even at his age, 36.

Delgado got off to a great start this season, hitting .298 with four homers and 23 RBIs. It was clear at the time that the Mets were getting the Delgado who stunned the world in the second half with his offensive surge; the Delgado who struggled in April and May of 2008 was gone for good. Now Delgado, good, bad or indifferent will be gone for a very long time.

This leaves a huge hole for the Mets at first; it leaves a even bigger hole in the lineup. Delgado took much pressure off Carlos Beltran and David Wright, driving runners in and hitting home runs. Now both will be relied upon to provide the thunder the Mets need in order to click.

Gary Sheffield has hit well lately, raising his average to .254, but Sheffield is 40 years old; he is not the same guy who hit 30 homers and drove in 100 during his prime years with the Dodgers and Braves.

Thus, the Mets will have to go out and try to trade for a first baseman, or trade for an outfielder with power. There are not many first baseman on the market right now. Colorado Rockies first baseman Todd Helton could be an option if Colorado fell out of it; he's hitting over .300 but no longer possesses the power that he used to have. In 2007, Helton had only 17 home runs, and, last season, he had only 7 home runs in an injury riddled year.

The Mets could move Daniel Murphy to first base since that would probably be a more natural fit for him defensively and let him become their first baseman of the future. Murphy has good instincts at the plate, can hit over .300, and drive people in. Some have compared him to Don Mattingely, the Yankees legendary first baseman, but it will be years before any comparison can be legitimately drawn.

If Murphy is at first, the Mets can go out and try to trade for an outfielder, preferably Oakland's Matt Holiday, who will be a free agent at year's end. But, Billy Beane, the A's General Manager will try to take as much minor league talent as possible if a deal were to be negotiated. That would mean the Mets would have to let go of top prospects Jon Niese, Fernando Martinez, and Bobby Parnell, something the Mets have been reluctant to do in recent years.

Either way, Delgado will be missed; his absence will be felt with each passing day, each passing game.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

A-Bomb From A-Rod Wins It For Steaking Bombers

YANKEES 6
TWINS 4

Just when things looked lost for the Yankees, they pull themselves right back into a game to find a way to come away with victory. In another game where Minnesota's Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau both went deep to help propel Minnesota to a 4-3 lead late in the eighth inning, the Yankees stormed back on the Minnesota's beleaguered bullpen.

In the eighth inning, Hideki Matsui smacked a ground rule double to left to get things going. Ramiro Pena came into run for Matsui, who has had hamstring injuries of late, and Derek Jeter's bunt moved Pena to third with a chance to tie the game. Mark Texiera, who enjoyed a blast today against Minnesota starter Nick Blackburn, hit a three run shot off him in the third inning, continuing to tatoo the right hander. Texieria lined a single to right to drive in Pena for his fourth RBI of the day.

Mariano Rivera did a wonderful job in relief for the Yankees, pitching two shut out innings, surrendering only two hits to the Twins to push this game into the eleventh inning. It was here that the old star's performance was overshadowed by a great performance from a newer star. Afer Texieria walked to lead off the inning, Alex Rodriguez blasted a two run home run into the bleachers in left center field to give the Yankees another come-from-behind victory, 6-4. Rodriguez's homer was his first in the new Yankee Stadium and second of the year. It was so big, his day will likely overshadow that of Teixeria who was 4 for 4 with 4 RBI.

If Teixeria and A-Rod continue to hit for the Yankees, this team will go very far this season. Box Score.

Comeback Kids Do It Again, Mets Find A Way By the Bay

METS 8
GIANTS 6

It is appears the Mets are finally turning the corner.

For the second straight night, the Mets stormed back from a huge deficit to beat back the San Francisco Giants; however, today's victory was special. It was the biggest comeback victory of the year, and it came when the Giants had their ace, Tim Linceum, on the mound; moreover, the Mets were playing without the services of Carlos Delgado and Jose Reyes.

Livan Hernandez got roughed up early in this one for the Mets. He surrendered four runs in the first inning that included a Pablo Sandoval RBI single to tie the game; an RBI double by Benji Molina gave the Giants a 2-1 lead, and a two run single by Rich Aurilia positioned the San Francisco Giants in a seemingly insurmountable 4-1 lead.

Linceum was pretty good for his part. Through the first five innings, he surrendered one run, and it appeared that the former Cy Young Award winner had the Mets right where he wanted them, but then the bottom fell out for San Francisco's young phenom.
In the sixth, Gary Sheffield started the inning with a double to right. Later, Ryan Church singled and Omir Santos floated to right center for the sacrifice to drive in Sheffield, making it 5-2. Then, Dan Murphy came up to pinch hit.

Turned out to be the biggest pinch hit of Murphy's career. Murphy laced a single to center to drive in Church to cut the Giants lead to 5-3, giving the Mets needed confidence that they could come back and win.

Fast forward to the top of the seventh: with the score now 6-3 San Fran, the Giants bullpen blew up big time. First, Linecum gave up a single to Luis Castillo and walked Carlos Beltran. Merkin Valdez came in relief of Linecum and didn't provide any relief for the case of Giants heartburn. Valdez walked Gary Sheffield to load the bases, and David Wright delivered again.

Wright smacked a bases clearing double to the left field corner to tie the game at six. Wright is smoking at the plate right now; he went 3 for 5 for the day with four RBIs and has seven RBIs in this series.

Finally, in the ninth, the Mets beat up Giants closer Brian Wilson for the second straight day. Sheffield and Wright led off back- to-back singles to set up an RBI opportunity for Ryan Church. Following instructions from third base coach Razor Shines, Church laid down a bunt. The ball was picked up by Wilson who tried to get the lead runner at third; however, Wilson's throw went right past the San Francisco third baseman and trickled down the left field line. Sheffield scrambled in for the score, giving New York a 7-6 lead. Santos followed with another sacrifice fly to drive in Wright to give K-Rod some insurance.

Speaking of K-Rod, he had another easy 1-2-3 inning to earn his 11th save of the season. K-Rod has been fantastic. Unlike closers of the past for the Mets, Rodriguez does not make Met fans or players sweat. He is closing games with ease.

What can the Mets take away from the win? Well, they are starting to gel and play with a sense of determination that has not been seen from this team in a couple of years. In 2007, when the Mets went on a long West coast trip, the team played flat baseball, indicative of the kind of baseball they would play in September. In 2008, the Mets had their moments, like a three game sweep of the Yankees in old Yankee Stadium, but, overall, the Mets never really showed fans a killer instinct. It showed in September.

However in 2006, the Mets went 9-1 on a 10 game West Coast swing in the month of May that took them from Arizona to L.A. to Philadelphia. Later that year, the Mets won the NL East. So far, on this trip, the Mets are 2-0 and face Randy Johnson tomorrow, a pitcher whom the Mets have had great success against over the years. Box Score.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Yankees Storm Back To Beat Twins

YANKEES 5
TWINS 4

So much for that five game home losing streak. Now people can stop complaining about the Yankees not having any home field advantage anymore, because the Yankees found a way to beat back closer Joe Nathan and the Minnesota Twins in the Bronx, Friday night to open a ten game home stand.
The Twins tatooed Phil Hughes eary in this game. Justin Morneau blasted a solo home run to lead off the second inning to give the Twins a 1-0 lead. In the fifth, Morneau went yard again for his second solo home run of the night to make it 3-0 Twins.

But, the Yankees would not give in. Derek Jeter's solo home run in the bottom of the fifth off of Francisco Lirano made it 3-1. It was Jeter's fifth home run of the year, and it was a good sign considering that Jeter missed the Toronto series with an oblique strain earlier this week.

Still the Twins had the long ball going in their favor. Joe Mauer, who has been red hot since missing a month of the season due to rehab from off-season back surgery, blasted his fifth home run of the season to give Minnesota a 4-1 lead.


Don't tell the Yankees that this game was over. Brett Gardner, who has really been hitting well lately, slashed a ball into the left field corner. As the ball trickled around the out field, Gardner turned on the jets and scored on the inside the park home run, one of the most exciting plays in baseball.


Finally, in the ninth the Yankees completed their comeback, this time off of Twins closer Joe Nathan. Gardner once again was in the middle of it, legging out a tripple to lead off the inning. Mark Texieria followed with an RBI single to drive in Gardner to make it 4-3. Alex Rodriguez walked, Hideki Matsui struck out and Nick Swisher grounded out, placing the Yankees in a scenerio of do or die.

For some reason the Twins decided to walk Robinson Cano intentionally, which made little sense since the man that followed, Melky Cabrera is currently hitting .330 and has been delivering huge hits for the Bombers all season. I guess the Twins never got that memo. Cabrera lined a single to center; Texieria scored the tying run and Ramiro Pena scored the game winning run before the tag was ever placed on him at home plate. Box Score.

Another exciting win for the Yankees, who consistently pull rabbits out of their hats almost every night. The come from behind victories are a great sign of better days ahead for the Yankees, who have not shown the capability of coming back in games for the last couple of years. If the Yankees can keep this mojo going, they are going to be very, very tough to beat.

Delgado Could Miss Rest Of 2009 Season

Carlos Delgado we hardly knew ye.

The former All Star first baseman could have his 2009 season and his entire career come to a screeching halt after it was discovered that Delgado has a series of potentially career-threatening hip problems.

According to the New York Post, "Minaya said team doctors determined that Delgado has an impingement in his right hip, a small bone spur in the hip and a partial tear of an unspecified area of the hip.

"A hip impingement is a lack of space between the neck of the hip socket and its rim; it causes them to jam together when the hip is flexed. That can lead to labrum damage, as well as degenerative arthritis." (Hubbach, Mets Carlos Delgado May Miss Season).

The Mets are still holding out hope before they disable Delagdo. In the interim, the Mets will rely on Fernando Tatis and Dan Murphy to play first base. Many expect Murphy to be the long term answer at first, but if the Mets can get a proven first baseman via a trade with some pop in the bat, they probably will look into it. Then again, the Mets could keep Murphy at first and trade for a left fielder with some pop to replace Delgado's presence in the lineup.

Mets Start 10 Game Road Trip In Style

METS 7
GIANTS 4

God must be a Met fan.

Or, maybe, it is just that May is the Mets' favorite month.

Either way, coming off a 8-7 defeat to the Atlanta Braves Wednesday and flying across the country to California, a long day's journey into night ended in grand style for the Mets as they bounced back to beat the Giants 7-4 late Thursday night.

After falling behind 2-1 in the first inning, the Mets stormed back against the Giants, slapping around Jonathan Sanchez, a pitcher who was 2-1 with a 3.55 ERA against them coming into last night. In the third inning, with Carlos Beltran on with a single, and Gary Sheffield on with a ground rule double, David Wright turned on the jets for the first time this season. Wright slapped a single to shortstop, allowing Beltran to score with the tying run. Wright then stole second base, good enough to distract Sanchez, who threw a wild pitch to the plate, allowing Sheffield to score with the lead run.

John Maine was brilliant; the right-hander has put away his early season arm trouble and is looking more and more like the Maine of 2007 who won 15 games and was one of the Mets best pitchers. Maine went six and two-thirds, scattered seven hits and allowed only two runs. It was the best start of the year by far for Maine; he was deserving of the win, but he didn't get it.

Why might you ask? Bobby Parnell. Parnell feel apart in the eighth. Fred Lewis led off the inning with a single, Aaron Rowand walked. Both runners stole second and third on a double steal, and Juan Uribe capped it off with a RBI single to left to drive in Lewis. Parnell never settled down. After striking out Rich Aurillia, Parnell gave up a game-tying single to Edgar Renteria; a player who has made his career with big hits, i.e. his game winning hit Game Seven of the 1997 World Series for the Florida Marlins. Granted, this was not as big a hit, but it still had to send shivers down the spine of Mets manager Jerry Manuel, fearing that his club would get off to a flat start on a crucial 10 game road trip.

His players showed no fear, coming back on Giants closer Brian Wilson to score three runs in an exciting ninth inning. First, Beltran doubled to the left field corner, and stole third. Sheffield walked, setting the stage for Wright. Wright slapped a single to right center field. Beltran scored to give the Mets the lead.

Wright and Sheffield then put on their running shoes, pulling a double steal of their own to put runners in scoring position for a sizzling Fernando Tatis. The two steals gave the Mets seven for the game, setting a new franchise record for stolen bases in a single game.

Tatis grounded out to second, but it was Ramon Castro who ended up delivering the final blow. Castro's two run single to right field gave New York a 7-4 lead; with Francisco Rodriguez coming into the bottom of the ninth, this game was clearly over. Box Score.

The Mets are now 19-15 on the season and face a huge test Friday night when former Giants ace Livan Hernandez faces off with the current Giants ace Tim Lincecum.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Ryan Not Happy With Jets No-Shows

Rex Ryan was a tad perturbed today after Leon Washington and Thomas Jones continued their hold out from OTA's.

"I would say maybe a little ... [surprised]," Ryan said at his news conference this afternoon about Washington's absence. "I was disappointed. Again, it's a voluntary camp. Would I like him to be here? Absolutely, no question; I'd love for Leon to be here, and Thomas. But he chose not to be here and that's unfortunate." (Randy Lange, "Rex disappointed by Leon and Thomas Absences."

In the story, Ryan goes on to say that he expects both veteran running backs to appear at mandatory mini-camp from June 9-11."That word 'mandatory,' to me; I'm not the smartest guy, but I think you should be here. I expect him to be here and I expect Thomas to be here as well," Ryan said.

It will be interesting to see how Ryan reacts if both fail to appear in June, since it will be the first in-house crisis for the new head coach.

Both Washington and Jones are holding out because of disputes over their contract status.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Rally Time: Mets Storm Back To Beat Braves

METS 4
BRAVES 3

It took about 17 innings for the Mets offense to wake up, but when they did, it was not a moment too soon. After the Atlanta Braves had built a 3-0 lead going into the eighth inning of Tuesday night's game against the Mets, it appeared that New York was on its way to another dismal defeat; instead, it was an interesting comeback and victory.

Braves starter Jair Jurrijens fell apart in the eighth; he surrendered a single to light-hitting Jeremeny Reed and another single to the struggling Ryan Church to kick off the inning. Jose Reyes followed that up with a two run double off the 16 foot wall. Reyes tried to extend the double into a triple, but he was tagged out at third by Chipper Jones. Sometimes Reyes' imagination is bigger then his bite!

That was enough for Bobby Cox, who had no choice but to go to his beleagured bullpen for the rest of the night. That turned out to be the biggest mistake Cox made. In the ninth with wacky closer Mike Gonzalez on the mound, Carlos Beltran got things going with a double down the left field line. Beltran would later steal third, and Gonzalez would hit Fernando Tatis in the shoulder to put two on base. Luis Castillo, pinch hitting for Reed, hit a sacrifice fly to left to drive in Beltran to tie the game at three. Box score.

Francisco Rodriguez was brilliant in two innings of relief, working around lead off singles in both the ninth and tenth innings to earn his first victory as a Metropolitan. Finally, in the bottom of the tenth, Jeff Bennett imploded for the Braves. Bennett gave up a single to Reyes, intentionally walked Cora, and even lost Ramon Castro to a walk to load the bases. At this point, Bennett had nothing left; he walked Beltran on five pitches to end the game and hand the Mets a 4-3 victory.

Wang Is Close To Returning

Chien Ming Wang is on his way back to the big leagues. Wang, who started the season 0-3 with a 34 ERA because of a hip injury and a lack of arm strength, pitched six shutout innings for Triple A Scranton, Tuesday night. Wang's speed reached as high as 93 mph, and it is only a matter of time before he makes a return to the Yankees.

Halladay Masters Yankees As Always

Blue Jays 5
Yankees 1

Many years ago, Pedro Martinez once asked the Yankees and their fans this simple question: "Who's your daddy?" Well, the answer to that question is not Pedro, not anymore anyhow; the final answer to that question is Roy Halladay.

The Blue Jays ace was his masterful self on Tuesday, pitching to his first complete games of the season, surrendering only five hits and a run in the effort while striking out five. Halladay is now 7-1 on the year with a 2.95 ERA. His win total now ties him with Kansas City's Zach Grenkie for most wins in the majors at this juncture in the season.

With the game scoreless in the fourth, the Blue Jays were able to load the bases on ex-teammate A.J. Burnett, who matched Halladay pitch for pitch up to this point. Blue Jays' third baseman, Scott Rolen, laced a double to left field to allow both Vernon Wells and Alex Rios to score, making it 2-0 Jays. Rod Barajas capped the inning with a sacrifice fly to right center to drive in Adam Lind with the third run of the inning.

The Yankees never really answered. Halladay had their number all night. He retired the Yankees in order in the fifth and sixth innings and got in and out of trouble in the seventh, allowing just one run. He was brilliant, but what else do you expect from the best pitcher in the game next to the Mets Johan Santana?

Aaron Hill's home run to lead off the eighth and Rolen's RBI single finished off the Yankees, as the Jays won their 23rd game of the year 5-1. Box Score.

Don't underestimate the Blue Jays; they have the best record in the American League for a reason. With great pitching from Halladay, rookie Scott Richmond, and closer/set-up man Scott Downs, the Jays can pitch with the best of them. The Jays are also loaded in the lineup with scrappy players like Lind and Marco Scutaro to go along with their two All Star outfielders in Wells and Rios. The Jays are for real, so start believing in them.

Derek Jeter To Miss Game Vs. Jays

Here is some bad news for the Yankees. No it is not just the fact that they have to face Roy Halladay tonight in Tornoto, they will have to do it without the services of Derek Jeter, who will miss the game with an oblique muscle injury says a story provided by Sports Radio 66 WFAN in New York.

It is unfortunate for the Yankees since Jeter leads the team with seven stolen bases this season. The All Star short stop is 19 for 79 against Halladay, a .241 batting average with no homers and four RBI. More later on his status.

Thomas Jones & Leon Washington Plan On Holding Out

It is only May 12, almost five months before the Jets kickoff the 2009 season in Houston Texas and already, the team has some major issues. No, it is not the impending quarterback battle between Kellen Clemens and Mark Sanchez, and, no, it is not the installation of Rex Ryan's complex 46 Defense. No, the problem is at one of the Jets strengths, the running game.

Both running backs Thomas Jones and Leon Washington were no shows at the Jets organized team activities Monday afternoon in Florham Park because of disputes over their contract status.

Jones, who led the AFC in rushing with 1,312 yards in 2008, skipped out on the Jets voluntary workouts in March, and there is reason to speculate that he could skip out on mandatory workouts next month if his agent Drew Rosenhaus and the Jets can't come to terms on a new deal. Currently, Jones is entering the third year of a four year $20 million contract, and apparently $5 million a year is not enough for him.

Meanwhile, Washington is entering the final year of his contract and is looking for a long term deal that could pay him as much as $6 million a season. According to the Newark Star Ledger, Washington is looking at other dynamic running backs, such as Maurice Jones-Drew of the Jaguars, who received a four year $32.8 million deal, and Chargers back-up running back Darren Sproles, who received a one year $6.621 million deal, as leverage in negotiations. Currently, the Jets are still in negotiations with Washington's agent, Alvin Keels, although nothing seems imminent.

This is a huge dilemma that the Jets can ill afford to mess up, especially with a new coaching staff entering its first year.

Eventually, Jets General Manager Mike Tannenbaum, who has been praised as a salary cap guru throughout his 13 year tenure with the franchise, and Head Coach Rex Ryan will have to make a really, really tough decision; truth is, the decision is pretty obvious.
Pay Leon Washington his money.

Washington is too special for the Jets to let him walk to someone else after this season. The guy is a two-time Pro Bowler and he is only 26 years old. He set a franchise record last year with 2,332 all-purpose yards and proved to be the Jets greatest offensive weapon whenever he touched the football. Throughout his first three seasons with the club, Washington has been reduced to kick and punt return duty because of his ability to race past on-coming special teams' defenders. In 2008 alone, Washington had 1,231 yards with one long 94 yard touchdown against the Patriots in Week 11.

One reason the Jets have not made a commitment to Washington as an every down back has more to do with his skinny 5'8", 202 pound frame. Most running backs are in the 220 range for weight, so there has been question whether Washington can take it, but it's worth the shot. Why? Because the Jets could have their version of Tiki Barber in Washington.

Barber was not the biggest running back in the NFL and lacked the kind of size required to be an every down back, weighing in at only 205 pounds. Yet Barber put up prolific numbers in the final five years of his career; 1,387 yards in 2002, 1,216 yards in 2003, 1,518 yards in 2004, 1,860 yards in 2005, and 1,660 yards in 2006. No one was more reliable during those years for the New York Giants than Barber, and right now, no one is more reliable to the Jets than Leon Washington. He is worth every penny of a contract that could pay him up to $6 million a year.

As for Jones, he is 31 years old, and as almost everyone knows, the skills of a running back tend to deteriorate after the age of 30. No doubt, Jones had the year of his life in 2008, but for a man who has logged in 132 games and 1,949 carries, it might be time to consider other options.

One of those options is the drafting of Iowa running back and Sicklerville native Shonn Greene. Greene rushed of 1,850 yards in his senior season with a school record 20 touchdowns to boot. Greene also led the Big Ten Conference in rushing yards per game, 152.9, and was the only Division I athlete to rush for 100 yards in all 13 games. Greene is supposed to be a between the tackles type of back, similar to Jones, and if he can develop into something, then the Jets can move on without Jones.

There have even been persistent rumors, started by the Cleveland Plain Dealer, that the Jets and Browns could make another big trade, this one involving a swap of Jones for talented wide receiver Braylon Edwards. Edwards would be a great addition to the Jets, considering he is 6'3," a tall receiver that Jets have not had since Keyshawn Johnson. However, Edwards is coming off a down year logging 873 yards receiving on 55 catches. In 2007, Edwards had a breakout year with 1,289 yards receiving for the Browns, and was a Pro Bowler. If the Jets can get a deal like that done, they have to pursue it further.

In addition, dealing with an agent like Rosenhaus can be tricky. Remember the Terrell Owens fiasco in Philadelphia? Rosenhaus likes to ruffle the feathers of teams he is dealing with, and the fact that he is trying to hold out a 31-year-old runningback who is making $5 million a year speaks volumes about Rosenhaus' intentions.

The Jets should stick to their convictions regarding Jones and Rosenhaus; eventually, Jones will show up to play, $10 million over two years is nothing to sneeze at, and he knows that the only way he will get the money is if he shows up to training camp and starts working out with his teammates.

But if the Jets really want to start looking to the future, they must give Washington a vote of confidence that he can be their every down back. The man deserves the opportunity; he has earned it in just three years.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Errors Abound As Mets Fall To Braves

BRAVES 8
METS 3

So much for that wonderful seven game winning streak.

The Mets not only found a way to boot away baseballs on the infield, they found a way to boot their winning ways, and hand Johan Santana his second loss of the season. Santana didn't have great command tonight, but losing the game was not his fault. In the first inning, David Wright misplayed a chopper by Martin Prado to put two Braves on with one out in the inning. Later, Wright botched a throw to first on a Matt Diaz single. The throw got away from Fernando Tatis, allowing Yunel Escobar to score from third, 1-0 Braves.

Meanwhile, Derek Lowe was fantastic for the Braves. The former free-agent who the Mets refused to sign to a four year contract must have had some extra motivation, blowing away the Mets offense. Lowe gave up only two runs on five hits in six and two-thirds innings to improve to 5-1 on the season. If you heard a toilet flush, it was Mets GM Omar Minaya throwing up, realizing that he blew the opportunity at signing a real pitcher and not the fink that he did sign in Oliver Perez.

In the seventh, the Mets buffoonery in the field continued. First Jerry Manuel pulled Santana out of the game, because the ace threw 108 pitches. 108 pitches!?!?!? What he could throw 10 more? I think Manuel wishes he did, because it went down hill from there. Bobby Parnell came in and allowed Yunel Escobar single to put runners on base.

Manuel continued to over manage, pulling out Parnell in favor of the struggling Pedro Feliciano. Feliciano was able to induce a ground ball out of Braves catcher Brain McCann, but Jose Reyes booted the ball loading the bases for the Braves. Matt Diaz followed with a two run single, and Casey Kotchman laced a two run single to left. Before you knew it it was 7-2 Atlanta, and the night was O-V-E-R! OVER! OVER! OVER!!

Granted, no one expects the Mets to play 1.000 baseball forever, but the fact that this team can't seem to get enough run support, or even fielding support for Santana is a complete joke. Santana has a 0.78 ERA this season, and if he were on a team that actually hit a baseball, he could be 7-0 this season. Santana deserves better, and it better change if the Mets truly want to be considered a contender. Box Score.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

7th Heaven! Mets Sweep Pirates, Winners of Seven Straight

METS 8
PIRATES 4

Ok Met fans, how do you feel about your team now? Heh?

Just over a week ago, Met fans were ready to fire Omar Minaya, Jerry Manuel and even Mr. Met after the team started off the season 9-12. Well, a 8-1 start to May that includes a seven game winning streak has the Mets in first place in the NL East.

The Mets found themselves in a huge hole earlier this afternoon, after Livan Hernandez put the Mets into a 2-0 deficit, which was not helped by the fact that Pirates ace Ian Snell was on the mound through the first three innings of the game. Then, as typical with Snell throughout his career, the bottom fell out.

David Wright followed a Carlos Delgado double with a blooping single to left to drive Delgado in to cut the Pirate lead in half. Wright would later steal second, and Daniel Murphy walked to set up Omir Santos. Santos laced a long deep single to right to drive in both Wright and Murphy to give the Mets a 3-2 lead.

Finally, in the eighth, the Mets put the game away. Jose Reyes drew a bases loaded walk to allow Santos to score, making it 5-2, Mets. Luis Castillo would tack on his second RBI of the afternoon with a sacrifice fly to right to make it 6-2, and Carlos Beltran narrowly missed a three run home run as the ball smacked the top of the 16 foot wall in left. Two more runners came in to score, giving the Mets a 8-2 lead. Box Score.

Sean Green was shaky in relief in the ninth, surrendering a two run shot to Nate McCloth, but he settled down to close the ball game without forcing Jerry Manuel to call the bullpen for a closer, Francisco Rodriguez.

The Mets are now 17-13 on the season, two games ahead of the Phillies and could be a full game up on the Marlins, who are losing to the Colorado Rockies 2-0 in the fifth inning.

Friday, May 8, 2009

A-Rod Helps Yankees Get Back on Track

YANKEES 4
ORIOLES 0

Everything is now good in Yankee land. Not only did Alex Rodriguez return in style, but staff ace C.C. Sabathia was brilliant for the first time in a Yankee uniform, showing everyone why the Yankees paid him $161 million in the off-season.

Sabathia got all he needed in the first inning, when Rodriguez went deep for his first home run of the season, a three run shot to give the Bombers a 3-0 lead. The homer was A-Rod's only hit, but it went a long way into proving that Rodriguez may be ready to put his troubled past, which has been now documented in a book by Sports Illustrated writer Selena Roberts, behind him, and focus on baseball.

With A-Rod back in the line-up there is no telling what the Yankees could do offensively. He will take enormous pressure off of new comer Mark Texieria who has struggled this season batting only .192 this season drawing the ire of a few fans at the new Yankee Stadium in the opening weeks.

As for Sabathia, he was in complete command all night long. C.C. went the distance for a complete game, four hit shut out to earn his second win of the year. Sabathia struck out eight Orioles. It was a good sign considering that the Orioles rocked Sabathia on opening day, and posses the leading run scorers in the league in Nick Markakis and Adam Jones.

The win gets the Bombers back to a game under .500 at 14-15, and if the Yankees continue to get healthy...watch out AL East opponents. Box Score.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

A-Rod Is On His Way Back To Yankee Lineup

Guess who's coming to diner Yankee fans?

Yes, the guy you love to hate ... Alex Rodriguez.

Rodriguez, who has been rehabbing from surgery to fix torn cartlidge in his right hip, will be in the Yankee lineup when the team travels to Baltimore on Friday.

It is not a moment too soon. Even with all of his quirks, Rodriguez is still one of the best right handed bats in the game, and lord knows, the Yankees could use Rodriguez to take pressure off the shoulders of Mark Texieria who has been the lone big bopper in the middle of the Yankee lineup.

Now don't think that A-Rod will get a hero's welcome tomorrow. He will have to answer questions about Selena Roberts' recent book "A-Rod: The Many Lives Of Alex Rodriguez" which details A-Rod's strange love affairs, his steroid use, and examples of how terrible a teammate he is in general.

The lightening rod is back, and the Yankees could use him, especially now.

Oh Mo! Mariano Rivera Gets Rocked By Rays

RAYS 8
YANKEES 6

Last week was the Met fans chance to jump off the bridge; now it's the Yankee fans turn.

The Yankees are suddenly immersed in a huge team-wide slump. Not only have the Yankees lost five in a row, they have done so against crucial division rivals and at home no less. Maybe the new Yankee Stadium lacks that special magic that the old House used to have.

Either way, the Yankees are in big trouble right now.

Tonight, the Yankees couldn't figure out Evan Longoria. Forget about the New York debate about David Wright and Alex Rodriguez, Longoria might be the best third baseman in all of baseball. Longoria had two homers on the night to give him 10 on the year along with 38 RBI's, and it is only May 7!!

Things looked pretty bad early in this one when Jason Bartlett led off the game with a solo home run off Andy Pettitte. Moments later, Carlos Pena blasted a solo shot of his own to right to give the Rays a sudden 2-0 lead. Fast forward to the third, and it was Longoria who connected on his first of the night, this one a two run job that he pulled toward the short porch in right to give Tampa a 4-0 lead.

The Yankees did rally back. If nothing else, the Yankees do have heart; they fight back with the best of their ability every single night. Jose Molina's double in the fourth brought in Melky Cabrera to cut the deficit to 4-1. Later, Johnny Damon's two run double cut the Rays lead to just 4-3. The Yankees tied the game in the fifth, thanks to Hideki Matsui's third homer of the year.

But, the Yankee pitching staff just couldn't handle the tie, coughing it up. Brian Zobrist's solo home run in the sixth off of Pettitte gave Tampa a 5-4 lead, and Pat Burrell's RBI single off of Jose Veras in the seventh extended the Rays lead to 6-4.

Still the Yankees had a hero. His name was Johnny Damon. Damon's two run home run off former Met Dan Wheeler tied the game at six. Could the old Yankee magic be making its move to the new stadium finally? Um...no! Box Score.

'Ole reliable Mariano Rivera was anything but reliable; he surrendered a shocking two run home run to Longoria to give Tampa Bay a 8-6 lead. The Yankees went away quietly in the bottom of the ninth and that was that. Good night and drive home safely.

The Yankees are now in fourth place, behind a red hot Toronto Blue Jay team, and fantastic Boston Red Sox team, and a battled-tested Tampa Bay Rays team. Are the Yankees too old to compete with these teams? Are the Yankees heading for years of futility? No one knows; it is still too early to panic, but the Yankees must get better pitching and situational hitting if they are to even sniff these other ball clubs. They have their work cut out for them.

Mets Outlast Phillies, Extend Winning Streak To Four

METS 7
PHILLIES 5

What a difference a week makes!

Just a week ago, Met fans were ready to jump off the RFK Bridge as the club was struggling to get back to .500 and looked more and more like a team without heart. Well, in what has been the most successful week of the season so far, the Mets are now 14-13 and are a half a game out of first place in the NL East.

The Mets ripped apart Jamie Moyer early in this contest. Like they did Monday, it was Carlos Beltran and David Wright who inflicted the damage. With Luis Castillo already on base with a walk, Beltran blasted a two run shot over the 16 foot wall in left field to give the Mets a 2-1 lead. Later, Wright blasted another two run shot to straight away center field, just a few feet away from the new Mets Home Run Apple in center to give New York a 4-1 lead.

Fast forward to the second inning; the Mets were not done pulverizing Moyer. Jose Reyes' solo shot to the left field corner gave the Mets a 5-1 lead, and Ramon Castro's two run double in the third gave the Metropolitans a seemingly comfortable 7-1 advantage.

Mike Pelfrey was decent tonight allowing three runs on eight hits through seven innings, but once again failed to strike out a batter. For a guy who struck out 110 batters last season, it is a bit disturbing that Pelfrey has lost some of that speed to blow by hitters. At least he is still a ground ball pitcher.

In the eighth things got really hairy for the Mets; so, what else is new? Shane Victorino was caught in a pick off play at first base, but the sneaky outfielder intentionally ran into Jose Reyes to make it look like Reyes interfered with the play. The umpire didn't see that it was Victorino who was at fault, and awarded Victorino first base. As a result, Mets manager Jerry Manuel was tossed from the game for arguing the call afterwards. Box Score.

Moments later, Jayson Werth, who went 4 for 4 on the day, laced a two run home run to left off of Pedro Feliciano to cut the Mets lead, 7-5. But, let not your heart be troubled; Francisco Rodriguez came into the ninth and shut the door on the Phillies to earn his ninth save of the season.