Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Nets Comeback Falls Short in Toronto Game 5

RAPTORS 115 / NETS 113 
TOR leads 3-2

Now the Nets have their backs to the wall. In a series where they were heavy favorites, against an inexperienced Toronto Raptors team Brooklyn now finds itself down 3-2 on the brink of elimination. They look old, the Raptors look rejuvenated, young and raring to go.

While Wednesday night saw the Nets put together a miraculous fourth quarter run of 27-7 to erase a deficit that was once 26 points, it was too little too late as Brooklyn couldn't stop the man that had killed all night long, and all series long.

Kyle Lowry was tremendous. He tallied 21 points in the first half alone, and was the sole reason Toronto blew the Nets out of the Air Canada center in the first half. He nailed four buckets and three free throw shots in the final 4:27 of the second quarter to turn a 40-40 game into a 62-44 Raptors halftime lead. His three-pointer from half court, while falling was an exclamation point to his performance.

Yet, here were the Nets with a chance to erase it all. Brooklyn came into the fourth quarter down 19, 91-72, and slowly pulled their way back into the game.

Andre Blatche, Deron Williams, Alan Anderson and Mirza Teletovic hit the shots they needed to hit to pull Brooklyn back to within reason at 97-87, before Williams hit a pair of free throws to make the deficit eight, and the Nets were starting to believe, and with that Joe Johnson caught fire. Johnson connected on a layup and foul to cut the Raptor lead to five 101-96, then he hit a floating jumper to cut the deficit to a field goal with 3:51 to play.

Feeling the momentum had completely turned Johnson drilled a three pointer from downtown to tie it at 101. It appeared that the Nets were on their way having just completed a 27-7 run. However as wonderful the comeback was the Nets never took the lead once in the fourth quarter.

Toronto's hero, Lowry hit a couple of free throws to give the Raptors the lead, 103-101, seconds later Greivis Vasquez nailed a three pointer of his own to push the lead back to five points. 

The were able to tie it again on Teletovic's three pointer, but Brooklyn got sloppy in the final 50 seconds, as Toronto pulled away with a well played game of free-throws and fouls.

Leading 115-112, the Raptors decided to foul the Nets instead of letting them set up Johnson for a three pointer. Blatche hit the first free throw, missed the second on purpose to get the defensive rebound. Amazingly Blatche was able to get to the basketball and had Deron Williams wide open for a three, but Blatche's pass sailed over Williams' head for the back-court violation. Ball game.

The Nets now find themselves down 3-2. This was supposed to be a series that Brooklyn was to win fairly easily, instead it is anything but. The Nets have to win game six at home or else, but even if they do, the Raptors are playing with such confidence right now, the Nets are serious danger of being ousted in the first round for the second straight season.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Complete NY Jets 2014 Schedule Leaked, Open vs. Raiders

As has been the pattern all afternoon, the NFL schedule has been leaking all over the place, with the league wide announcement still tabbed for 8:00 p.m. ET.

First the Giants announced their schedule around 4:30 this afternoon, nearly two and a half hours later the Jets were next. According to Gang Green Nation, the Jets open the season at home for the fifth consecutive season, this time against the Oakland Raiders on September 7. The Jets will get three primetime games, against Chicago (MNF), New England (Thurs) and Miami (MNF). The Jets will not have a Sunday night game, unless it gets flexed. The Jets finish the season in Miami for the second straight season.

Sept. 7 OAKLAND ........ 1:00 CBS
Sept. 14 @ Green Bay .... 4:25 CBS
Sept. 22 CHICAGO ....... 8:30 ESPN
Sept. 28 DETROIT ........ 1:00 FOX
Oct. 5 @ San Diego ....... 4:25 CBS
Oct. 12 DENVER .......... 4:25 CBS
Oct. 16 @ New England 8:30 CBS
Oct. 26 BUFFALO ......... 1:00 CBS
Nov. 3 @ Kansas City .... 1:00 CBS
Nov. 10 PITTSBURGH...1:00 CBS
Nov. 17 Bye Week
Nov. 23 @ Buffalo ........ 1:00 CBS
Dec. 1 MIAMI .............. 8:30 ESPN
Dec. 7 @ Minnesota ..... 1:00 CBS
Dec. 14 @ Tennessee ... 1:00 CBS
Dec. 21 NEW ENGLAND 1:00 CBS
Dec. 28 @ Miami ......... 1:00 CBS

Here is the entire NFL Schedule. Some notes. FOX and CBS will mix and match games this year. The Bills visit Chicago in week 1, typically a CBS game, that will now be on FOX. Chicago also visits Detroit on Thanksgiving, typically a game that would be on FOX. That will now be on CBS. Confused? Also, oddly enough, the NFL decided to put Broncos @ Seahawks on Sunday afternoon in week 3 on CBS, with Pittsburgh @ Carolina getting prime time on Sunday night. Weird. 

Jets have games against Bears and Lions Leaked, GB-SEA Open Season

CBS Sports is doing a bang up job breaking all the leaks on the 2014 NFL schedule. After the Giants schedule was leaked by Mike Francesa on WFAN, the floodgates were opened to other tidbits on the NFL slate.

The Detroit Lions entire schedule was released and in it, it was revealed that Detroit will travel to New York to play the Jets in week 4, the game will be on FOX. The Jets will also host the Chicago Bears in week 3 on Monday Night Football. The rest of the Jets schedule is under wraps.

Interestingly it had been assumed for a while that the Lions would host their Thanksgiving day clash against either the Bills or Dolphins, well, it turns out they will instead face the Bears on Fox. That might mean that Dallas will be getting a prime time game on Thanksgiving. We'll know soon.

Lost in all this mayhem, the Green Bay Packers and world champion Seattle Seahawks will open the entire regular season against one another on Thursday September 5 on NBC.

Giants Leak 2014 Schedule Hours Before Announcement

The Giants could always blame WFAN's Mike Francesa for this, but Big Blue's schedule was leaked hours before the 8:00 p.m. ET league wide announcement.

Inspite of a hideous 7-9 season in 2013, the Giants will have five games in primetime, including a stunning Monday Night Football season opener in Detroit. The Giants will also face the Redskins on Thursday Night Football, (yes, the game will be on CBS, which usually broadcasts AFC contests). Two Sunday night games against the Eagles and Cowboys, and a Monday night game in November against the Colts.

The Giants are barely home in December with only one home game scheduled for the final month of the season.

Sept. 8 @ Detroit ................. 7:00 ESPN
Sept. 14 ARIZONA ............ 1:00 FOX
Sept. 21 HOUSTON ............ 1:00 CBS
Sept. 25 @ Washington........ 8:30 CBS
Oct. 5 ATLANTA ............... 1:00 FOX
Oct. 12@ Philadelphia ........ 8:30 NBC
Oct. 19 @ Dallas ................ 4:25 FOX
Bye Week
Nov. 3 INDIANAPOLIS...... 8:30 NBC
Nov. 10 @ Seattle ............... 4:25 FOX
Nov. 17 SAN FRANCISCO 4:25 FOX
Nov. 23 DALLAS ............... 8:30 NBC
Nov. 30 @ Jacksonville ...... 1:00 FOX
Dec. 7 @ Tennessee ........... 1:00 FOX
Dec. 14 WASHINGTON .... 1:00 FOX
Dec. 21 @ St. Louis ........... 1:00 FOX
Dec. 28 PHILADELPHIA ... 1:00 FOX

The Jets schedule will be out soon. The NFL now has the right to take games from Week 5-10 and flex them, however only two games in that timeframe can get flexed to Sunday night. The regular flex schedule still goes into effect in week 11. NBC will now broadcast a Divisional playoff game this season, in addition to the Wild Card game and Super Bowl XLIX. CBS, partnered with the NFL Network and will take over the Thursday Night Football package for the first half of the year, giving CBS a chance to host exclusive NFC games for the first time since 1993. 

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Paul Pierce Guides Nets to Game 1 Victory in Toronto

NETS 94/RAPTORS 87

This is the reason why Billy King made that monster trade with the Boston Celtics last summer. He made that deal, because he knew that as soon as serious Spring Basketball started, veterans Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett would be at the ready.

Down the stretch Saturday, it was the two ex-Celtics that powered the Brooklyn Nets to a 94-87 victory in Toronto to take a 1-0 lead in the best of seven series.

While the Nets might be ranked as a number six seed, this match-up feels more like a battle between a four and five seed. These two teams are that close. However it was obvious from the get go Saturday afternoon, that the Nets playoff experience played a large roll in their victory, while Toronto's playoff inexperience may have been their ultimate undoing.

The Nets had flirted with disaster from time to time throughout the contest. They were terrible from behind the arch, and watch the Raptors were seemingly nailing every three pointer they attempted. Kyle Lowry nailed a buzzer beater at the end of the third quarter to cut the Nets lead to five. Then, Patrick Peterson nailed a corner three, and slammed home a pass by Lowry to tie it up with 9:49 to play.

Did the Nets panic? No sir.

The Nets relied on the guys who both carried them to this point, and then the older guys who have made the playoffs their annual playground in years past to get them past a spunky Raptor team.

After Mirza Teletovic and Shaun Livingston built a Nets lead of 75-73, Toronto answered with another three-pointer, this one from Gerivis Vasquez, who drilled a 25-foot jumper. The Raptors led 76-75.

Now it was up to the old guys to get the job done, and did they ever. Garnett who had been shutout all afternoon, hit a big two point bucket to give Brooklyn a three-point lead, 79-76, before Paul Pierce went absolutely insane on Toronto.

The former Finals MVP accounted for the next four Nets scores, including a monster three pointer to increase the Nets lead to six with 2:58 to go. After another Toronto turnover, he drilled a 19-foot jump shot to make it 86-78, and later, dropped down two more to answer another Vasquez basket to keep Brooklyn in front, 88-81.

Perhaps it was just meant to be Pierce's day. He opened the day with a loud three pointer for Brooklyn's first points of the day, and he kept it going from that point forward. It was his way of saying "hello, I am here for the playoffs." While Pierce's numbers don't blow you away, 15 points on 6-of-13 shooting, it was a heck of performance in the clutch.

In a way it overshadows the great job by Deron Williams who put up 20 points, 18 of which came in the first half, and Joe Johnson, who netted 24 points.

But, at the end of the day it doesn't matter. The Nets played like the cohesive, clutch unit everyone expected them to be all season.

Now Brooklyn has control of this series, and against a young Toronto team, one has to like the Nets chances.

Mets Cut Ties with Ike Davis, Ship 1B to Pirates

When Ike Davis failed to secure the first base job from Lucas Duda, who in many respects is a weaker defensive first baseman than Davis, the writing was on the wall that Ike was not long for the Mets and Citi Field.

On Friday, the Mets ended their turbulent relationship with Davis when they traded him to Pittsburgh for minor league reliever Zach Thorton and a player to be named later.

The trade ends months of speculation that the first baseman was on his way out. The Mets spent an entire off-season trying to trade him and failing, which led to Davis' father claiming the Mets screwed up his son's off-season.

The Davis vs. Mets battles became not only bizarre, but public. From Valley Fever to the secret injury that Davis didn't reveal until the start of Spring Training this year, it has been a wild ride. Remember when Davis shredded a New York Post reporter for breaking the story that he had withheld information from the Mets about an injury he played with all of last season? That too was another bizarre moment in Davis' stay in New York.

What made things worse for him was his inability to play consistently well. Davis never again became the hitter that showed so much promise his rookie year in 2010, when he hit 19 homers and .264. He instead became a guy who could never get his batting average over .220, sometimes he struggled to even get it to .200.

Last year he hit .205 for New York in 103 games, this year he was hitting .208 before the trade. It was time for Davis to go, and it was time for the Mets to part ways. Davis now heads to Pittsburgh; to a team that is winning, where he could settle in as either a bench player or part time first baseman. PNC Park is a lot smaller than Citi Field, so one would think that Davis will tee-off on the short porch in right for the Pirates.

As for the Mets, while the minor league pitcher they received in return may or may not ever make the major league squad, they had to unload Davis and end this nightmare.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Jets Ink Chris Johnson to 2-Year Deal

The New York Jets get their man. In desperate need to address their beleaguered running attack the Jets are reported to have completed a 2-year deal with former Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson.

Johnson, 29, who was released by the Titans a couple weeks ago, visited the Jets training facility in Florham Park on Tuesday, had a physical and was reported hanging out at a Brooklyn Nets game. On Wednesday he signed a two-year deal with New York; money was not disclosed as the story broke.

Johnson's release came from the fact that his productivity had been lagging the past few seasons, and there were reports that the new Titans regime was not crazy about his work ethic.

Whatever the case may be, the Jets are getting a serious upgrade in the backfield. He can generate big plays both in the backfield and in the passing game. With Chris Ivory as his understudy, Johnson will certainly have fresh legs when the Jets use him.

It wasn't that long ago that Johnson was one of the best running backs in the game. In 2009 he ran for 2,006 yards earning the nickname CJ2K. However, his numbers have declined since then. Twice in the last four seasons, he has just barely rushed for more than 1,000 yards. 2013 was his worst season, rushing for 1,077 yards and a 3.9 yards per carry average.

One would imagine that changing places and coming to the Jets might re-energize him. Plus the Jets have had success with aging backs in recent years. They got a lot out of Thomas Jones in 2009, and LaDainian Tomlinson in 2010. While, he is not old, Johnson is approaching the "decline" threshold of 30 years-old, this should be fun to see how he fools the experts.

The Jets offense looks better on paper now, then what it did months ago. They have a solid receiver in Eric Decker, likely a new starting quarterback in Michael Vick, and now Johnson. Look for Gang Green to go wide receiver and tight end in the draft to fill out the talent on the offensive side of the ball.

While, its a solid move, it's not one to get too excited about. We still have to see how Johnson adjusts to life in the Big City, and how this team comes together.

NOTES: NFL schedules will be released by the league on Tuesday, April 22. 

Giants Ink Josh Freeman to back-up Eli Manning

The Giants have a new back-up plan in case they ever need to worry about the health of quarterback Eli Manning, after signing Josh Freeman to a 1-year deal.

Manning, who is going under the knife with ankle surgery that will likely keep sidelined until late June. However, Manning was beaten up last year by defensive fronts for many reasons, but the biggest culprit was the poor play from his running game and offensive line; the former Super Bowl MVP had everything, plus the kitchen sink dumped on him in 2013.

It only makes sense that the Giants go out and get a decent back-up, just in case.

So Big Blue went out and inked Freeman. Freeman, the former quarterback of the Buccaneers and Vikings is at a new stage in his career. He was much maligned last fall as a poor clubhouse leader and was jettisoned by the Buccaneers; however the popular opinion is that Freeman was having issues getting along with former Bucs coach Greg Schiano.

So, Freeman moved on to Minnesota at mid-season, and spent the rest of the year playing a game of musical chairs with the Vikings and their hairy quarterback situation.

To say the least, he was the best option available to the Giants at this time, and he is a definite upgrade from Curtis Painter, who has been the back-up to Manning. Expect Painter to get his walking papers.

Freeman's best season came in 2010 when he threw 25 touchdowns to six interceptions for the Bucs.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Jets Set to See Sanchez & Eagles In Preseason

The 2014 NFL preseason schedule has been released for all 32 NFL teams, and the Jets know when they will get a chance to see Mark Sanchez again, this time as an Eagle. After both teams basically exchanged back-up quarterbacks, the Jets and Eagles will face off in their traditional week 4 match-up in the preseason.

Usually the fourth game of the pre-season is pointless, but if Michael Vick and Mark Sanchez see any time in the contest, rest assure that the media will go nuts over it. Oh, by the way, the Giants and Jets will face each other in week three of the preseason.

Here is the schedule:

NYGiants Schedule
Aug. 3 vs. Buffalo (HOF) ..... 8:00 NBC
Aug. 9 PITTSBURGH ......... 8:00 WNBC
Aug. 15 @ Indianapolis ......... 8:00 WNBC
Aug. 23 @ NY Jets ............... 7:30 WCBS
Aug. 28 NEW ENGLAND ... 7:00 WNBC

NY JETS Schedule
Aug. 10 INDIANAPOLIS .... 8:00 WCBS
Aug. 15 @Cincinnati ............ 7:30 WCBS
Aug. 23 NY GIANTS .......... 7:30 WCBS
Aug. 28 @ Philadelphia ........ 6:30 WCBS

The regular season schedule will be coming out in a couple of weeks.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Napier Leads UCONN Huskies to National Title over Kentucky

UCONN 60/KENTUCKY 54 

It was as improbable a finish as it was a run. The University of Connecticut Huskies are on top of the college basketball world, beating back an equally good Cinderella-tale in the Kentucky Wild Cats, 60-54 in Big D. The Huskies who were ranked 7th in the East region of the tournament and nearly forgotten by just about every expert, blew up everyone's brackets on Monday.

Who would have thought that a team that was once blown away 81-48 by Louisville exactly one month ago would find itself hoisting up the National Championship trophy? But they are, and its a testament to second year head coach Kevin Ollie, who went a perfect 6-0 in the NCAA tournament.

Ollie's super cool, and player friendly demeanor was the backbone of this great run. His confidence in his players when they beat back Villanova, a two seed, in the second game of this 64-team tourney was evidence that something good was cooking on the stove. He backed his players every step of the way, gave them a reason to believe, and they paid him back with a run for the ages.

Former Huskies coach Jim Calhoun, who watched from the stands throughout the run, must have a smile on his face from ear to ear, as he watched his former point guard and assistant coach take the team to its fourth national title in 15 years. You could almost see the confidence and lessons that Calhoun bestowed upon Ollie burst through his pours whenever he coached on the sidelines, or spoke with the media afterwards.

When the Huskies dominated Michigan State at the Garden in the Elite 8, en route to this Final Four, you knew this team had something special. They had the swagger of a champion; a gleam in their eyes that they didn't care who stood in their way, they would not be denied.

They destroyed Florida, a team everything and their grandmother thought would be a shoe-in for the National title in the Final Four. They erased a 12-point deficit to the Gators in the first half and turned it into a route, forcing Florida to make shots they never felt comfortable making, while Shabazz Napier and DeAndre Daniels did their thing to dismantle the Gators.

Now facing Kentucky, a team that had an equally magical run through this tournament, it would be easy to think that Connecticut had met their match. The Wild Cats were pulling games out of their hats in the final seconds against Louisville and Wisconsin. Kentucky may have played the best game of this year's tournament when they came back to beat unbeaten Wichita State in the second round.

Without question, these were the two hottest teams in the country, and it was almost a shame that someone had to lose Monday.

But on this day it was all Connecticut, all the time. Kentucky never had the lead, and only twice were tied, 2-2 and 6-6. The closest they ever came was one point when Wild Cats hero Aaron Harrison opened up the second half with a three pointer to make it 35-34, but even that wasn't enough.

The Huskies were faster, smarter, more physical, and better at the free throw line. Midway through the first half, the Huskies opened up a 9-2 run, highlighted by a monster corner three-pointer by Napier as the Huskies built a 17-8 advantage.

You could almost feel the life being sucked out of Kentucky when Terrance Samuels hit a layup, Napier nailed another three-ball and Daniels hit a jumper to push the lead to 11-points, 26-15. Kentucky needed a run, or they were going to get run out of Dallas.

Give credit to Kentucky. James Young's three pointer, and Aaron Harrion's steal and dunk settled things down at 30-20, and helped Kentucky crawl back into it by halftime, 35-31, but there was something about this Connecticut team.

Kentucky didn't help themselves in the second half. They were missing free throw shots and jumpers like it was going out of style. Connecticut gave the Wild Cats a chance to take control of the game when Napier and Co. got careless with the basketball on their end, but Kentucky just couldn't get the ball to drop. At one point the Wild Cats missed five consecutive free throws. Free throws that Kentucky coach John Calipari wishes he had back.

With the game still reasonably close, German born, Niles Giffey and Napier put the nails into Kentucky's coffin. Giffey banked a three-pointer from the top of the arch to make it 44-39, and Napier added a jumper and three-pointer of his own to make it 51-47. The final dagger came from Giffey, who hit one last three ball to make it 54-49 with 6:39 to go.

When Giffey hit that last three, you could feel the party starting to simmer and explode in Storrs, Connecticut.

Napier, along with teammate Ryan Boatright willed this team to victory throughout the postseason. Boatright even spent the final 8:30 of this championship game on a bum ankle that he tweaked on a jumper. He wasn't going to miss out on this finale.

Napier was named game MVP with 22 points and 8-of-16 shooting. The Huskies as a team shot 41% from the floor, and were a perfect 10-for-10 in free throws. Kentucky, on the other hand, shot only 39% from the floor, and were a horrific 13-for-24, or 54%, from the foul line.

Congratulations Connecticut. They proved to all of us that while the regular season is very important, it's not how one starts, but how one finishes, and the Huskies finished as clearly the best team in basketball. That is all that matters.

In Jeter's Final Home Opener, Yankees Take Care of O's

YANKEES 4/ORIOLES 2

Every move Derek Jeter makes this season is going to be magnified to the nth degree, and Opening Day at Yankee Stadium was no different.

Before a half full stadium the Yankees did everything they could to make Jeter's final home opener into a Yankees classic. They tried to get the crowd riled up to give Jeter a standing ovation during team introductions -- which didn't exactly happen, ironically -- and then brought out Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte and Jorge Posada for a first pitch of the "Core 4." Where's Bernie Williams?

While it was one of many moments to come at Yankee Stadium for Jeter, he was probably happiest being on the field for the game, and happier with it's outcome. Jeter was the first to race out to the field when the Yankees finally took the field for the first inning, and was seen smiling and enjoying opening day as the day wore on.

Meanwhile, he let his teammates carry New York's 4-2 victory over the Orioles. Yangervis Solarte, who is quickly turning into a fan favorite, had a sparkling day. He was 1-for-3 with a run scored and an RBI. He scored the games first run on a double-play groundout by Jeter, and later drove in his sixth run of the year on a single to right to drive in Alfonso Soriano.

It was also a big day for Jacoby Ellsbury, who was making his Yankee Stadium debut in pinstripes, and he didn't disappoint either, going 2-for-4 with an RBI.

Hiroki Kuroda, rebonded nicely from a loss in Houston with a quality start against the O's. He held Baltimore to two runs on eight hits in six and a third innings. He improves to 1-1 on the season.

The Yankees continue their three game series with the Orioles, Tuesday afternoon.

NOTES: While all seemed right with the world on the home opener, it really wasn't. An odd sight happened in the ninth inning of the contest, that might have gone slightly unnoticed. Instead of David Robertson in the night, it was Shawn Kelly. While Kelly got the save, Robertson's absence is bad news. Shortly after the game it was revealed that Robertson would hit the disabled list with a grade one groin strain. Now the Yankees bullpen is in dire straits. Kelly is the only viable option to close with Adam Warren -- a guy who could really be a starter, and Dillon Betances, who is a rookie and learning the ropes of the majors.

If Robertson is to miss extended time it's bad news for the Yankees, who are already missing first baseman Mark Teixeira with a hamstring injury.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Masahiro Tanaka wins MLB debut for Yankees

YANKEES 7/BLUE JAYS 3

Mashairo Tanaka welcome to Major League Baseball. Major League Baseball meet Mashairo Tanaka.

It wasn't easy early on, but Tanaka settled in and delivered a solid performance in his first regular season game in pinstripes.

Given an early 2-0 lead, Tanaka couldn't hold it -- maybe he had some early butterflies in his first start. He gave up a solo home run to Melky Cabrera on the third pitch of the first inning to cut the Yankees lead in half; and in the second inning, surrendered a two-run single to Jonathan Diaz to put Toronto in front 3-2.

It would be the last time the Blue Jays would score on Tanaka.


From that point Tanaka gave up only two hits and shutout down a very solid Blue Jays lineup. It was the kind of dominating performance that allowed his team to not only come back, but it sent the message that Tanaka is indeed ready for this new challenge in his career.

The Yankees chose a good day to come out of their offensive doldrums. They pounded out 16 hits with all but Brian Roberts getting a hit on Friday. The bottom of the order was huge again, with Ichiro Suzuki collecting two hits, and new surprising youngster Yangervis Solarte putting up two more hits and driving in three runs.

It was Solarte's two run double in the third inning that put New York up for good, 4-3. He would add another RBI on his second double of the day in the ninth. Mark Teixeira, Carlos Beltran, Brett Gardner, and Brian McCann also had RBI's for the Yankees.

With the win the Yankees pull to .500 (2-2) on the young season. So much for all the early panic, the Yankees are a half game out of first behind Tampa Bay.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Francesa, Boomer and Carton Spat Over Murphy Paternity Leave Hits National Level

When Daniel Murphy decided to spend time with his pregnant wife as she was about to deliver the couples child, little did he think it would create a firestorm that has now become a national storyline. 

It all started on Opening Day when a few upset Mets fans decided to call into the radio stations questioning Murphy for skipping the Mets season opener to be with his family. The comments were initially brushed aside as incompetent comments from incredibly incompetent fans. 

Then, WFAN radio hosts Mike Francesa, Craig Carton and Boomer Esaison decided to jump to the fray to lend their opinion on the matter, and their outrage over Murphy's decision to be a husband and father first was not only classless, it leaves a horrifically bad taste in the mouth about the talk radio giant, WFAN, and the hosts are now on the defensive. 

It all started with Craig Carton who blasted Murphy for missing the first two games of the Mets season to be with his family in Florida, because it forced the Mets to bring up Wilmer Flores. 

"To me, assuming the birth went well, assuming the baby is fine ...  you have a good support system and you get your ass back to the team and play baseball ... you are not breastfeeding the kid," Carton blasted on his AM show. 

Esaison, the typically more logical partner in AM drive crime, looked uncomfortable as Carton ripped Murphy, saying the second baseman had legal rights to be with his wife. Then, perhaps out of pressure by Carton to take a hard stance he dropped a heck of bomb when he said he would have suggested to his wife get a c-section so he could play in Opening Day. 

To his credit, Esaison apologized on his radio show Friday morning. "I felt bad that Daniel Murphy and his wife were dragged into a conversation and their life was exposed. That is my fault. It's my fault for uttering the word c-section, and it put their lives under a spotlight." 

However, Francesa probably spent the most time breaking down the Murphy "situation." Big Mike spent 22 minutes ripping apart Murphy's decision to be with his wife for more than a few hours. Francesa went with the old school approach, citing that baseball players shouldn't be with their wives, and should entrust nurses and staff to be there instead. He even went as far as to call the federal rules of paternity leave a "scam." 

"... I was in the room, they handed me the (my) babies when they were born. What was I going to do afterwards? The babies went to the nursery, my wife fell asleep. I went to work," Francesa said laughing. "What do I do, sit there? I don't get it. I'd rather go out and get a couple of hits if I were a baseball player. The best thing I can is go out and play, go make some money." 

When a caller tried to call up Mike and correct him for his extreme comments, Francesa shut him down in typical Big Mike fashion. 

"I don't care. He's a major league baseball player. You explain to me why he needs to be there. Unless there's complications, that's a different story. In the old days they weren't allowed to leave (the team). Now they let the players leave. But why should they be gone more than a day?" 

Francesa tried to back out saying his biggest issue had more to do with the number of days for paternity leave, problem is he didn't choose his words wisely the other day. Now he is getting blasted from left to right by the national media. And he deserves it. 

Francesa's comments were insensitive. Francesa should have hung up on the Mets fan who called into the show to rail against Murphy. If he had, this wouldn't be a story today. Instead, he turned it into a rant. 

What Francesa, Carton and even Esaison don't seem to understand is that MLB Paternity Leave is by rule, three days, agreed upon in the Collective Bargaining Agreement by baseball and the players union. The players understand that while they are enjoying the fruits of being an major league baseball player, it isn't forever. Being a father is forever. Murphy wanted to be there as long as he could to make sure everything was fine with his family. That is his right, it's his life. 

To make matters worse this saga will likely fracture, if not strain, any relationship these hosts have with the Mets organization. The Mets already left WFAN earlier this year to have their games broadcast on WOR 710. However, that probably didn't preclude any Mets from being guest callers into shows. Now, with this, that might change. 

Keep in mind Francesa is no stranger to ruffling feathers. Even the New York Jets want nothing to do with him. 

These hosts should have thought twice before jumping all over this story. They should know well enough the boundaries between on the field and off the field stories. Personal lives should never be discussed, period. These guys know, better than most, that professional athletes are just human beings. But, alas like everything else, that was forgotten. Now the question is, can the trust be reestablished? 

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Nationals Sweep Away Mets to 0-3 Start

NATIONALS 8/METS 2 

If the first two days of the season weren't enough of a sign that things are amiss with the Mets, than final game of the clubs' opening series was the straw that broke the camels back.

With their best pitcher on the mound, Zach Wheeler, and with full knowledge they would not face Nationals flamethrower Jordan Zimmerman, the Mets put together another stink fest en route to their first 0-3 start since 2005.

In 2005, when the Mets opened 0-3, they would go onto finish with a record of 83-79. However that was a team that was expected to win. They had a veteran team with Mike Piazza, Pedro Martinez and Carlos Beltran, as well as two young stars in David Wright and Jose Reyes. It was the first year of what turned out to be the Mets mini-run.

This year's club is not expected to do anything, and through three games they haven't.

They look lost at the plate, having struck out a combined 31 times over the first two days, the bullpen is a nightmare, and the kids are not exactly alright, struggling through the learning process. Terry Collins must be wondering how much longer he'll have left as manager if this losing continues.

Here were the Mets with Wheeler on the hill, a 2-1 lead in his pocket, and the Mets fumbled it away.

Wheeler walked Sandy Leon to lead-off the fifth inning, then surrendered an RBI single to Denard Span to tie the game at two. Finally, Jayson Werth drove home Span with a single to right. The Mets did everything wrong when it mattered, while the Nationals did everything right. Washington looks like a playoff team in early April.

Long after Wheeler left, the Nationals blew the game open in the seventh inning with a four run frame. Adam LaRoche punched a two-run single to first that bounced off the glove of Lucas Duda. Ryan Zimmerman, who homered earlier in the game, drove in another run on a single to center, and LaRoche scored on a throwing error by Daniel Murphy to make it 7-2.

Is there hope for this team? Will they ever be able to muster enough offense to help their starters? One has to wonder. This team looks very raw in a lot of places, and the fact that this is a team with so many fringe major leagures' on the squad, the front office's decision making is finally coming back to bite them.

The Mets wrap up this opening home stand with three games against the Reds, before embarking on a nine game road trip to Atlanta, Anaheim and Arizona. It could be the trip from Hell if things don't change soon for the Metropolitans.

Astros Thump Yankees Again, Bombers Start 0-2

ASTROS 3/YANKEES 1

Maybe the Houston Astros knew what they were doing by going all out to honor Yankees short stop Derek Jeter on Wednesday.

 They trotted out Roger Clemens, Mike Stanton and Andy Pettitte, former Yankees teammates, who also pitched for the Astros about a decade ago, and gave Jeter all kinds of gifts from cowboy boots to golf clubs. And, to top it off, the Astros were actually selling Jeter jersey's in their store.

Maybe the Astros were trying to light a fire under their team's butt in addition to making some money? Nothing should motivate a team more than when its own front office decides to honor the opposing team.

If true, it worked as the Astros beat New York 3-1, and have dominated this series taking the first two contests.

This from an Astros team that won all of 51 games last season!

The Yankees through two games look old. Their lineup from seven through nine looks about as average as a National League lineup. The middle of the order with All Star names like Beltran, Teixiera, Jeter, McCann, Soriano, and even Ellsbury look nothing like the big time hitters they are supposed to be.

The Yankees were 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position. They couldn't get a clutch hit if their lives depended on it. They allowed Jarred Cosart and the Astros usually beleaguered bullpen to dominate them from start to finish. Cosart never broke a sweat, in fact, nobody did, as ten Yankees were struck out in this contest. The Yankees as a team are hitting a dreadful .197. They make the Mets look like world beaters.

The Astros meanwhile, picked up where they left off in the opener. Dexter Fowler cracked a first inning home run off of Hiroki Kuroda and Houston was off and running to victory. Kuroda wasn't terrible. He settled in after the Fowler homer, allowing only two runs on three hits with five Ks, but with so little offense there is nothing any pitcher can do.

At 0-2 it is easy to panic, but there are too many veterans on this team to give up on them. Eventually the Yankees will figure it out, but dropping two games to the Astros? Eyebrows have been raised for sure.

Gio Gonzalez Homers Off Colon & Silences Helpless Mets

NATIONALS 5 / METS 1

Get used to seeing the words "lost" and "lifeless" when describing the Mets this season.

Two days after their inexplicable 9-7 loss on Opening Day, the Mets put together a total stinker against the Nationals, Wednesday night, dropping a 5-1 decision.

A team already reeling from the nightmarish opener and apparent incompetence by their baseball staff for allowing an injured pitcher (Bobby Parnell) to pitch, looked like they were already eliminated from the playoffs and this was only the second game of the season.

Josh Satin was slumping his shoulders; Travis d'Arnaud looked bored; Chris Young looked disappointed after getting injured in the top of the first inning, and Bartolo Colon was ... well ... Bartolo Colon.

Colon wasn't awful, but he wasn't good either. He allowed three runs on nine hits, including serving up a solo home run to opposing pitcher Gio Gonzalez in the fifth inning. The Gonzalez homer, which happened to be Gonzalez's third career dinger, was the dagger in the Mets back. They were finished from that point.

The Mets never pushed, never flexed their muscles. Other than Juan Lagares' two hits the Mets would have been 1-hit by Gonzalez and the Nats staff. Listless would be kind. The Mets looked defeated before the 27th out was even recorded.

They even forgot the fundamentals of the game when Ruben Tejada didn't even attempt to slide into home plate on a base hit by Lagares. Tejada practically walked toward home plate, and was out by a mile as Nationals' left fielder Bryce Harper drilled home a bullet to the plate.

At 0-2, the Mets now turn to Zach Wheeler to stop the bleeding. Wheeler is the team's defacto ace this year with Matt Harvey on the shelf. Wheeler better get used to the roll of stopper. He will be asked to stop many losing streaks this season.

Even though it's two games into the season, one has to wonder how low this team will go. The lineup is dead, with the exception of Lagares and David Wright of course; the rotation is decent, although vulnerable, and the bullpen is a total mess. How far will the Mets fall before change happens? The question, even now, is legit.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Mets Reveal Parnell Injury After Implosion

Mets closer Bobby Parnell is more hurt than he led on apparently.

Word came down from Fox Sports Ken Rosenthal that Parnell has a partially torn MCL ligament in his elbow, meaning that the inconsistent closer will hit the DL for two weeks and could require surgery at some point.

It is quite ironic that Parnell suddenly gets diagnosed with an elbow injury after he imploded on the mound in the ninth inning of the Mets opening day game against Washington. It is even more troubling, considering that the pitcher said he felt "comfortable" on the mound after the game.

Parnell was already coming off neck surgery last season, and his velocity was down Monday. The lack of velocity obviously had more to do with the now ligament injury than anything else.

Yet the Mets felt the need to put him out there. If Parnell had already been injured and had already felt discomfort he should never have been placed on the 25 man roster to start the season. Those who believe that Parnell was out there to work things out are ludicrous. Parnell's ego, and incompetency of the Mets training staff hurt the team on the most important day of the new season.

Now the Mets are without a closer. A team that already has a pretty horiffic bullpen just got a little worse with Parnell now out. While, I never considered Parnell a good closer, the fact is he's probably the best reliever in this sad sacked bullpen.

Now the Mets will rely on Jose Valverde, who was the only pitcher to look good, Monday for the forceable future. Unless Valverde takes a strangle hold of the position, the Mets will be in the market for a closer, even if Parnell comes back to full strength.