Saturday, August 12, 2017

Jets D Dominates Titans

JETS 7 - TITANS 3 

While many expect the New York Jets to be one of the NFL's worst teams, the players and coaches certainly aren't listening. While it is preseason, New York won its first game in a 7-3 slugfest against the Tennessee Titans, in a game where the Jets defense dominated the night with eight sacks and two forced turnovers.

The Good: 

The Jets defense was phenomenal on Saturday night. New York harassed Titan quarterbacks all night, including sacking third stringer Alex Tanney seven times. Starter Marcus Mariota was sacked once by Leonard Willams in the first quarter, which set the tone for the night. Really, this entire game was won on the back of the Jets D. They never relented against the Titans, bringing tons of pressure on Tanney who played about 90 percent of the game. The Jets secondary was also physical at the line of scrimmage against Tennessee's receivers, forcing Tanney to take the extra beat to look for an open man, which there was none.

Perhaps the biggest moments of the game came in the early stages of the fourth quarter with Tennessee knocking on the door at the Jets 26. Tanney heaved a pass into the end zone that was picked off by Ron Martin.

Later, with Tennessee again moving deep into Jets territory, Tanney was strip sacked by Anthony Johnson at the Jets 30. Nose tackle Josh Martin recovered for New York, killing the Titans momentum.

Overall the Jets held the Titans to just 11 first downs and 223 yards of offense. It was a dominant effort by a unit that must dominate all season.

Josh McCown: McCown got the start on Saturday, and even though it was only one possession, he looked sharp. McCown was 3-of-4 for 72 yards and a touchdown.  His first completion was a 15-yard screen to Jalin Marshall on first and ten at the Jets own 31. Two plays later, McCown hit a bomb to Robbie Anderson of 53-yards to the Titans two-yard line. Finally, McCown found an open Charone Peake in the flat for the touchdown to give the Jets a 7-0 lead.

The not so good, but not so bad. 

Christian Hackenberg had a mixed bag on Saturday. He wasn't awful, but didn't set the world on fire either. Overall he was 18-of-25 for 127. He didn't look overwhelmed, but never really effectively moved the offense at all on Saturday, an issue that had more to with the Jets offensive line. More on them later.

The Truly Awful: 

The Jets offensive line looks like one of the worst units in franchise history, if not in the entire NFL right now.

They didn't create enough time for Hackenberg or Bryce Petty in the pocket, not to mention, the Jets lone turnover of the line was because of a bad quarterback-center exchange. The O-line also failed to  create effective running lanes for the Jets ground attack.  Granted, the Jets were without Bilal Powell and Matt Forte on Saturday, but it probably wouldn't have made much of a difference. That is how bad this offensive line was.

The Jets were called for nine penalties on the night, and most of those came on the offensive line. Jets General Manager Mike Maccagnan has refused to address the line problems in the draft and it clearly showed.  If the Jets want to exceed expectations, either this unit is going to have to improve by leaps and bounds, or they better hope someone good gets cut in another camp that they can pick up.

Bryce Petty: Petty looked terrible. Like I wrote earlier, the offensive line didn't help him, but his footwork was off on a number of plays, and he even held the ball too long and took a couple of bad sacks. Petty, who hasn't exactly lit it up in camp, is quickly losing any hope of getting a shot to be a starter on this team.

The West Coast Offense: Never been a big fan of the West Coast. If a team doesn't have an effective offensive line or a strong armed quarterback, this offensive strategy can be incredibly stale. Hence was the case against Tennessee.

What's next? The Jets visit the Detroit Lions next Saturday night.


Open Mike: NFL Training Camp Preview Series

I have opened up my NFL Training camp series for the 2017 season. I will be covering as many teams as possible throughout the month on the Open Mike program which will be heard on the SportsTalk Nation channel on YouTube.

In the first episode I spoke with Scout.com writer Michael Hernandez, who covers the Miami Dolphins, to talk about Jay Cutler's presence on the Fish in 2017.



Next I am joined by John Robert of Cover 32.com to talk about the defending NFC Champion Atlanta Falcons. We talk about how ATL can overcome last February's crushing Super Bowl loss.


Backups listless in Giants 20-12 Loss to Steelers

STEELERS 20 - GIANTS 12

What did we learn from Friday night's preseason opener between the New York Giants and Pittsburgh Steelers? Not much. Not much at all.

With the starters on both teams spending much of the game on the sidelines, heck neither Ben Roethisberger nor Eli Manning took a snap in this snooze fest, the Giants backups looked the part in a 20-12 loss to the Steelers.

What Looked Good: 

The Giants did play most of their defensive starters on Friday, and they looked good, granted it was against a second team offense for Pittsburgh. Landon Collins had five tackles, including blowing up Pittsburgh running back Terrell Watson. New York also sacked quarterback Joshua Dobbs three times, and forced two interceptions. Devin Taylor and Valentino Blake both had picks in the effort for Big Blue.

Mike Nugent and Aldrick Rosas continue their kicking competition camp with perfect nights against the Steelers. Nugent's long was 45 yards, while Rosas hit one from 52 yards out.

What Didn't Look Good: 

Geno Smith. What a shock? He may have switched uniform colors, but Geno Smith was still the same old Geno Smith. He had moments of brilliance, like rolling out of the pocket and finding open receivers down field, and also had moments of buffoonery. With the Giants lead 12-10, Smith threw  a costly interception at New York's own 30 yard line. Pittsburgh turned the gaff into three points to take the lead for good at 13-12.

Smith was also sacked twice in the defeat, as it was clear he is likely behind Josh Johnson in the battle to be Eli Manning's backup.

Rookie quarterback David Webb looked the part on Friday. He had the proverbial "deer in the headlights" look in his eyes all night, but still managed to complete eight of 16 passes. He is a project that is years away from ever seeing the field.

What Didn't We Learn? 

Still not 100% sure that Josh Johnson is a solid pick to be Manning's back-up. He was underwhelming. The only thing he had going for him is he didn't make the mistakes Geno Smith made.

We didn't see the Giants high octane passing attack of Odell Beckham, Brandon Marshall and Sterling Shepherd. Relax, we'll see them together by next week's contest.

What's Next? 

The Giants face the Cleveland Browns on Monday, August 21. These aren't your typical Browns. They have a young prospect in Deshone Kizer who looked real good in Cleveland's preseason opener against New Orleans. Kizer is competing with journeyman Brock Osweiler for the starting quarterback job.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Amed Rosario to Make MLB Debut Tonight

The wait is now over. The New York Mets are looking to future on Tuesday night in Denver, when Amed Rosario makes his long anticipated major league debut at shortstop.

Call it a passing of torch if you will as veteran Jose Reyes, once the gem of the Mets minor league system all those years ago, now gives way to the man who will eventually replace him.

Like Reyes in 2004, Rosario comes with a great resume and lots of hype. The 21-year old holds a slash line of .328/.367/.466 with seven homers and 58 RBI for Triple-A Las Vegas. He also owns 19 stolen bases this season, and 60 swipes in his career.

While Rosario is hitting eighth tonight, the hope is that by the end of this year, and certainly going into 2018, Rosario will take over the lead-off spot for the Mets. That will allow Michael Conforto to hit in the middle of the order where he belongs.

The addition of Rosario comes after the Mets made some solid moves at the deadline. First they traded away Addison Reed to Boston for three minor league prospects. They also acquired a solid triple-A pitcher from Tampa Bay for Lucas Duda, and received a front line reliever who can help them right away in A.J. Ramos.

With Rosario now in fold, it only deepens the fact that the rest of the 2017 season is an audition to see who will be here in 2018.  We know Rosario, Conforto and Yoenis Cespedes are not going anywhere. But, these are likely the final days of Reyes, Curtis Granderson, Asdrubal Cabrera and Neil Walker in Mets uniforms.

In a lot of ways this is a sad occasion, as much as it is a hopeful one. Why? Because Rosario's presence at short likely means we have seen the last of Jose Reyes as an everyday shortstop. While Mets fans knew this day was inevitable, especially when he is struggling with a .226 batting average, Reyes was a face of this franchise for a long time.

It feels odd that it is now 12 years since Reyes and David Wright became the faces of the Mets future. The days of Mike Piazza, Edgardo Alfonzo and company were history, and it was time for an influx of new blood. Reyes and Wright gave the Mets the youth and energy they were hopping for then. And they came oh so close in 2006 to that World Series, before falling to St. Louis in the NLCS. Wright finally got to a World Series two years ago, but Reyes never played in the Fall Classic.

Now it is time for Reyes to pass the baton over to Rosario.

Here's to the future.

Open Mike: MLB Trade Deadline Recap Show

The trade deadline has come and gone, and I got the chance to recap it all on Open Mike last night with guest Doug Rush. Rush is a Yankees blogger, and of course the Yankees made a lot of noise this July, most notably with their acquisition of Sonny Gray.

In addition, the Dodgers made some last minute magic when they acquired Yu Darvish from the LA Dodgers.

We talk about it all, right here on Open Mike.


Monday, July 31, 2017

Yankees Get their Ace in Sonny Gray

The Yankees consistent pursuit of Sonny Gray has finally paid off. The Bronx Bombers were able to acquire Gray from the Oakland A's for minor leaguers Jorge Mateo, James Kaprielian and Dustin Fowler.

This is a huge deal for the Yankees, who have been pretty busy here at the deadline as they are clearly going for a world championship after a tremendous start to the season. What makes this deal even better for the Yankees is that they will have Gray under their control for two more seasons, and he is not a free agent until 2020.

As for the prospects, much had been made about the compensation going back to Oakland. At one point the A's wanted Gleyber Torres and Clint Fraizer in the deal, but the Yankees would not budge. Instead, the A's get three of the Yankees top nine prospects in their farm system. It may seem like a lot to give up, but this is the Yankees we are talking about.

If the Yankees have any hopes of competing with the Indians, Red Sox, Royals and Astros this October, they needed to make a big move and this was it.

The Yankees rotation has been their biggest weakness all season, and in a matter of hours they have improved it with the addition of not only Gray, but Jamie Garcia as well.

Gray will slide into that number one position in the Yankees rotation, with Mashairo Tanaka and CC Sabathia behind him. Jamie Garcia is a reliable fourth starter. With Jordan Montgomery and Luis Severino still in the mix, New York now features a six-man rotation. Not bad at all for a team that ranks sixth in the league in team ERA.

The Yankees had inquired about Texas Rangers starter Yu Darvish, but Gray was the man that Brian Cashman wanted all along.

At this moment it is not known when Gray will get his first Yankees start, since he was scheduled to start for Oakland yesterday, before they pulled him pending this trade. Chance are he'll likely make his Yankees debut this week against the Tigers.





Mets Finalize Deal, Send Reed to Boston

Addison Reed is now officially a member of the Boston Red Sox.

The Mets finalized a deal with Boston to send their interim closer to Boston while receiving three prospects in return. The prospects are Jamie Callahan (Triple-A), Greson Bautista (Single-A) and Stephen Nogosek (Single-A). Callahan is 5-2 with a 3.21 ERA in 32 games out of the bullpen, combined between Triple-A and Double-A.

No telling what kind of impact if any Callahan will have on the Mets, but if he pitches well, we'll probably see him in September.

As for Reed he was a serviceable reliever for the Mets for the past two years. The Mets acquired him in 2015 to help them get to the postseason in 2015, and he was a solid presence back there since day 1. This year, he became the team's closer because of the number of issues surrounding Jeurys Familia. He will be a welcome addition to Boston's bullpen, and will likely be the set-up man to Craig Kimbrel.

Reed will be a free agent in the off-season, so a return to the Mets is always a possibility. 

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Mets Trade of Addison Reed Could Still Happen

The New York Mets are still looking for a suitor for reliever Addison Reed, who is set to be a free agent at the end of the year.

Reed has been the Mets closer for much of the season due to a suspension and injury to Jeurys Familia, and to be honest, he has been mighty impressive. Reed has been one of the Mets most reliable relievers, and one of the best in baseball to date. Through 48 games this season, Reed owns 19 saves and 2.57 ERA. He also has a BB/K ratio of 9-48.

Not bad at all.

There are rumors now that suitors for Reed could come down to five teams, and according to Buster Olney on Twitter the Red Sox could be one of them.

Boston has been looking to upgrade the backend of its bullpen leading up to closer Craig Kimbrel. Reed would do just that. Matt Barnes, Heath Hembree, Fernando Abad and Robby Scott have all had their ups and downs this year, but one thing those guys don't have that Reed does is postseason experience.

The question will be compensation going back to New York. We'll see how this works out. Don't be shocked if Houston or Kansas City are dark horses in this race for Reed.

Reed's value only went up after Sandy Alderson took A.J. Ramos off the market when he acquired him from the Marlins. It was a good move by the Mets, who didn't have to give up much in prospects, and will have control of Ramos through the 2018 season.

Ramos had 20 saves in 40 games with the Marlins this season, and owns 92 career saves. He will slide into that closer role for the rest of this season, should the Mets in fact deal Reed. If not, then New York will have two solid options to use for the final two months of the season. Ramos will most likely compete with Familia for the closer's role next spring, with the loser likely to get the eighth inning.

Yankees Add Another Pitcher, But it's Not Sonny Gray

The Yankees remain busy as the MLB trade deadline nears its conclusion tomorrow afternoon. Amid rumors that the Bombers were still in negotiations with the Oakland A's about acquiring starter Sonny Gray, the Yankees veered left and swung a deal on Sunday with the Twins for Jaime Garcia.

While Garcia may not be the sexy name that most Yankee fans were looking for, he does bring a great resume with him to the Bronx.

In addition to winning 67 games and post a 3.65 ERA over the course of his career that dates back to 2008 with the St. Louis Cardinals, he has a good reputation as a solid postseason starter. In 2011, he helped lead the Cardinals to a World Series title, recording 21 strikeouts over 25 innings, and posting an ERA of 4.21.

HIs best seasons as a Cardinal came in his final two years with the squad in 2015 and 2016.  In 2015, Garcia started 20 games and posted a record of 10-6 with a 2.43 ERA. Last season, he recorded 150 strikeouts over 171 innings pitched.

The Yankees will be Garcia's third team in a week. Last week he was dealt from the Atlanta Braves to the Minnesota Twins. The Yankees didn't give up much, trading away minor league prospects Zach Littell and Dietrich Enns.

Garcia will slide right into a Yankees rotation that is in desperate need of a starter. Mashairo Tanaka has been woefully inconsistent all year, and the Yankees have already lost Michael Pineda for the season. CC Sabathia has had his own health issues as well this year.

The question is are the Yankees done? New York has been trying to swing a deal with Oakland to get Sonny Gray, but neither side has come to a deal. The A's have asked for top prospects Clint Fraizer and Gleyber Torres in return, which is too expensive for the Yankees.

Yet, the A's seem steadfast that they want to trade their ace, even skipping his rotation spot on Sunday. Then again this is Billy Beane we are talking about where the unpredictable is always the norm.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Yoenis Cespedes Throws Terry Collins Under the Bus

When Terry Collins looks in the mirror tonight, he will see the tread marks that came from the bus driven by his left fielder Yoenis Cespedes.

 Cespedes did himself, his manager and the Mets no favors Friday night when he opened up to the San Francisco Chronicle that he would like to finish his career in Oakland, and considers A's manager Bob Melvin the best manager he's ever played for. 

In an article by Oakland beat writer Susan Slusser, Cespedes told her that he would like to finish his career where it started, with the A's. 

Here is the quote from the story. 

“I wish that happens,” C├ęspedes said, adding of former A’s and current Mets teammate Jerry Blevins, “I told Blevins, ‘I don’t know how many years I’m going to play, but I’m going to play the last year of my career with Oakland.’ I don’t know if that’s possible or not, but that’s my goal.”

Later in the interview, Cespedes admitted that he had a terrific rapport with Melvin, citing as long as Melvin manages the A's he wants to be there. 

“I tell my guys here all the time that he’s the best manager for me so far,” C├ęspedes said. “I don’t think there’s a better manager than Melvin.”

When asked about Cespedes' comments in the postgame, Terry Collins said it was the first he heard of it, calling Melvin a great manager, but had no comment beyond that. 

Finally, once the New York media questioned Cespedes about the comments he answered every question through his interpreter, refusing to speak english.  In case you are wondering he was more than willing to speak in plain english to the San Francisco Chronicle when he threw the Mets under the bus. 

Cespedes tried to put out the fire, admitting that he felt it would be nice to one day finish his career in Oakland, but meant no disrespect to the Mets or Terry Collins.  To some on Friday that was enough, but speaking through the interpreter after basically throwing his current employer under the bus was the cheap way out of a sticky situation. 

 While he likely meant well, the comments are bad optics. They do not come at a good time for the Mets or Terry Collins, whom some expect is in his final two-and-a-half months as manager. 

Cespedes should have put some thought into his answers, because Collins has had his back all the time, especially when Cespedes' commitment to the game has been questioned. Whenever Cespedes went down with an injury, it was Collins who would run into the outfield to see if he was okay. So, while Bob Melvin might have been great to Cespedes when he was in Oakland, Collins has been a very solid leader for the Mets left fielder. 

What's most troubling is the comments come as Cespedes is in the first year of a four-year contract that is paying him $22.5 million this season. He is due $29 million in each of the next two seasons, and $29.5 million in 2020. He will be an unrestricted free agent in 2021. These comments make it look like Cespedes is counting the days to free agency. 

Cespedes should have done a better job clearing the air. One only hopes he means what he said, and will explain himself to his teammates and Terry Collins, so everyone can move on from this. 

Friday, July 21, 2017

Why the Mets Shouldn't Promote Tebow to 40-Man Just Yet

As seen on Scout.com, my article on the whether the Mets should promote Tim Tebow come September in order to fill seats.

When the Mets went all in on bringing Tim Tebow into the organization, one has to hope that they knew what they were doing because Tebow is currently figuring things out at Port St. Lucie, and, like clockwork, the Tebow-fanatics and the media are peppering Sandy Alderson with questions about Tebow’s future in ** gasp ** the major leagues.

Ok, you can drop the paper bag you are blowing into.

Yes, Tebow is playing well. He had a 12-game hitting streak and, just recently, had three hits in a game against Fort Myers.  Does this mean that a promotion to the majors should be in the offing? Absolutely not. Tebow does not deserve promotion to the majors.

With the Mets quickly falling out of contention and staring at an August and September of pure gloom, yet there is a prevailing thought that the Mets should promote Tebow just to put fans in the seats.

If such an idea were to actually come to fruition, it would make the Mets look like the total circus act that many already perceive them to be.

Assuming that the Mets call up Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith before rosters expand in September, there is no logical baseball reason to bring Tebow up to the big leagues. For one, a lot of the hype is built on just three very solid weeks for Tebow. Before getting promoted, Tebow was struggling to hit over .220 in Class-A Charleston over a period of two-and-a-half months. This recent surge has to make one wonder which Tebow is the real Tebow? 

Second, Tebow hasn’t proven at all that he can hit Double-A and Triple-A pitching. Before any promotion, one would hope to assume Tebow would need to prove his worth at a higher level over an extended period of time.

Finally, if the Mets shoot Tebow through the minor league system in-spite of whatever future struggles he has at the dish and in the field, it will be at the chagrin of the franchise, any minor leaguer more deserving of promotion, and Tebow himself.

For the health of the franchise, it behooves the Mets to give their true prospects a shot at the big leagues, rather than call up Tebow’s in what would amount to a publicity stunt.

And, remember, it was Sandy Alderson who admitted that Tebow presence in the Mets organization was all about exposure.

"Look, we signed him because he is a good guy, partly because of his celebrity, partly because this is an entertainment business. My attitude is, 'Why not?'"

Those were Alderson’s words on July 2, and with each day that Tebow plays well and draws more and more media attention, those words will keep coming back to haunt Alderson. Why? Because nobody will let Tebow mania go away. 

Just weeks after admitting Tebow’s signing was for publicity, Alderson has had to answer questions about a forthcoming promotion. Alderson said he doesn’t “foresee” such a scenario. He will be held to that statement because the talk won’t stop.

Telling the media and the Tebow cult to let it go is like telling someone to quit smoking. They don’t do it easily.  In the NFL, Tebow-mania became so big that even the Denver Broncos and New York Jets couldn’t control it. 

Aside from having a shot at Payton Manning, there was a reason why John Elway couldn’t wait to get rid of Tebow. Elway knew that in spite of the cult following and one playoff win versus Pittsburgh, Tebow was not going to take Denver to the Super Bowl. 

There is also a reason why Rex Ryan refused to start Tebow when he was the Jets back-up quarterback in 2012. Even though Mark Sanchez was struggling, Ryan knew there would be no turning back if Tebow started a game at quarterback. 

Sandy Alderson better have Elway and Ryan’s phone numbers on speed dial.

Yes, Tim Tebow is a good guy; he would be great in the clubhouse. But come September, if he is called up, manager Terry Collins will have to play him, even if he is making blooper highlights in the outfield. And when he sits, Tebow, Collins will have to talk about that, too.  Not needed. The Mets should focus on the future of the franchise.



Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Yankees Acquire Fraizer and Robertson From White Sox

The Yankees made a move they had to make. At 48-44 the Yankees are 3.5 out of first place, and hold a 1.5 game lead on the Minnesota Twins for the last wild card slot. So if the Yankees want to have any shot at getting to the postseason this year, they had to make this move.

On Tuesday night, the Yankees acquired third baseman Todd Fraizer and relievers David Robertson Tommy Kahnle from the Chicago White Sox for reliever Tyler Clippard, 2016 first round pick Blake Rutherford, and minor leaguers Ian Clarkin and Tito Polo.

For the Yankees this move makes all the sense in the world. They are re-united with Roberston, who was the teams closer back in 2014 when he saved 39 games. He has spent the past two-and-a-half years as the White Sox closer. What makes this deal even better, is the Yankees have control of Robertson through next season at $ 13 million. He is going to slide nicely into that seventh inning role as the bridge to Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman. So far this year, Robertson has been great, pitching to a 2.70 ERA and a WHIP of 0.90.

Considering how Clippard really struggled in that role this season, bringing back Robertson gives the Yankees a back-end of the bullpen that mirrors that of the Cleveland Indians last season. Time will tell.

And don't fall asleep on Kahnle who is 1-3 with a 2.70 ERA in 37 appearances out of the Chi-Sox bullpen. Not to mention he is only 27 years old, which is a huge plus.

Finally the intriguing piece of this trade is Fraizer. A New Jersey kid, and a pending free agent. He is set to make $12 million this year. There has always been talk that Fraizer would one day play in New York because of his Jersey roots, and now that will happen. He is expected to see a lot of third and first base as needed, and platoon with Chase Headley.

While Fraizer has a history as a power bat, he has struggled this year, hitting only .207 in 280 at bats this year. Fraizer's 16 home runs and 44 RBI this year is on pace for career lows. Still this is a guy who hit 40 bombs just a year ago. While the Yankees would like to see the batting and on base percentage go up with Fraizer, if he has a solid second half, one could see the Yankees wanting to keep him beyond this year.

Either way, this was a move the Yankees had to make, and it was a good one.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Open Mike Program: Red Sox, Yankees Open Second Half

On this episode of the Open Mike Program, I am joined by 27 Outs Baseball broadcaster and editor, Chris Hogan as we talk about the keys to the second half of the baseball season.

Our focus is primarily on this weekend's series between the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, and Boston is off to a good start with last night's 5-4 win.

We look at the strengths and weaknesses of both, and what their respective front offices should look for come the trade deadline.

Enjoy the show!


Friday, July 7, 2017

Mike Francesa claims he pushed Mets to land Mike Piazza

As Tommy DeVito pointed out in Jersey Boys, “Everybody remembers it in the way they need to.”

That is the only way to describe Mike Francesca’s stunning claim that he and former WFAN colleague Christopher “Mad Dog” Russo are the reason the Mets swung a deal with the Florida Marlins to get Mike Piazza to New York.


In the most recent clip published by Sirius XM Sports, world-renowned actor, and long-time WFAN caller, Chaz Palminteri, interviews Mike and the Mad Dog, and brings up Piazza’s trade to New York in 1998.

Mike pontificates that if it weren’t for them the Mets never would have swung a deal for Piazza.

He claims that Piazza’s agent called the WFAN office and told the radio duo that Piazza was heading to the Cubs, but really wanted to play in New York. They wanted Mike and Chris to assure a detour to the Big Apple.

“I said we can relay the message. Steve Phillips comes on our show and says under no circumstances are we interested in Mike Piazza. … After he leaves Dog and I got on a tangent. (Shea Stadium) is empty. I drove by the stadium there were only 13,000 people inside. These idiots won’t fill the stadium … .” Francesca claims.

Even Russo is seen just sitting there, listening to Mike's tangent. 



This is not a new story.  Mike and the Mad Dog have thrown that claim out there before, and were taken to task by Daily News writerBob Rassman, who quoted former Mets General Manager Steve Phillips, vehemently denying the claims.

While Mike and the Mad Dog had a huge impact on the New York sports scene and can take credit for putting pressure on many of the cities top stars, while creating the sports debate that we all enjoy on a daily basis; the very idea they were the reason Piazza came to the Mets is dubious at best.

There is no way in the world that Steve Phillips would confide in two sports-talk radio hosts that he is trying to work out a deal that hadn’t been completed. Such a move would be considered tampering.

It is also unlikely that Mets co-owners Nelson Doubleday and Fred Wilpon would turn on the radio, hear Mike and Chris rant that the Mets should get Piazza, and think, ‘Hey, they’re right, let’s do it.’

It wouldn’t happen, not when there were too many variables involved. Keep in mind Dave Dombroski, who is now known as one of baseball’s top executives for his work with the Tigers and Red Sox, was the Marlins GM at the time. He didn’t have to send Piazza within the division, and he certainly didn’t care what ‘Mike and the Mad Dog’ thought. All he cared about was the compensation.  

At the time, the Mets were trying to build a winner, and they knew (without outside help) that a player like Piazza would help get them over the top.  Such a move came with great risk. Piazza was scheduled to be a free agent; there was no guarantee he would even stay beyond the 1998 season. The Mets were also sending Preston Wilson, the son of beloved former Met Mookie Wilson, to the Marlins. To say that it was an easy move is not fair.


And to say that it took Mike and the Mad Dog to make sure it happened is not fair at all to the men who actually did make it happen in the Mets and Marlins front offices.  

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Mets GM Sandy Alderson Admits Tebow is all P.R.

It would figure that on anniversary of Bobby Bonilla's ridiculous deferred money contract with the New York Mets, a story would come out that could put Mets General Manager Sandy Alderson squarely on the hot seat.

Earlier this week the Mets promoted Tim Tebow from Class-A Charleston to High-A St. Lucie after hitting a measly .222. Alderson even admitted that Tebow wasn't exactly "tearing up the league," at the time of the promotion.

We knew all along that the Tebow's stay with Mets has been a ruse, a public relations stunt meant only to sell tickets and jerseys. That was it.

On Friday, Alderson admitted it, in a series of statements that were first published in Newsday, and later on CBS.com.

"The guy we sent to see him in California did not exactly send back a glowing report. I knew immediately he would not want his name as the signing scout. Ultimately, the guy we put down was the Director of Merchandising.

"Look we signed him because he's a good guy, partly because of his celebrity, partly because this is the entertainment business. My attitude was 'why not?'" 

Remember the scene in "Spaceballs" when Mel Brooks' Yogurt was talking about "merchandising, merchandising, merchandising." I guess Sandy Alderson is the Mets' Yogurt. Maybe we'll get Tim Tebow the Lunch Box and Tim Tebow the Flame Thrower mixed in?

If this was Alderson's way of cracking a joke about the situation, it falls flat and makes him and the Mets front office look small. The Mets focus should be about finding the best young talent available to sign to minor league contracts, and move those players up through the system.

While Tebow doesn't systematically destroy that dichotomy, he isn't helping it either. The Mets have players down on Class-A Charleston who were more deserving of a promotion than Tebow. And if New York decides to move Tebow up even higher this season, it will be at the chagrin of another young guy down in St. Lucie.

It doesn't matter that Tebow homered in his first game with the St. Lucie Mets. Overall, he is still hitting around .231 in the minors. He should have been released a long time ago, but the Mets and Alderson continue to prop the man up in order to sell as many tickets as possible.

I feel bad for the kids down on the farm. I feel bad for the coaches who have to play Tebow. And I feel bad for Tebow himself, who has become a mascot.

Alderson and the Mets should stay focused on turning things around at the major league level, because stuff like this should drive the fans nuts.

Bartolo Colon Reunion with Mets?

At 44-years old, Bartolo Colon is on the open market once again. The burley right-hander was released by the Atlanta Braves on Friday after a hideous start to the season. His numbers read as follows: 2-8, with an ERA of 8.14, 11 home runs allowed, 57 earned runs allowed in 63 innings.

Still the New York Mets are said to be "considering" reuniting with Colon inspite of it all. Make no mistake for three years, Colon was one of the Mets' most dependable starters. Even in times where they were watching the like of Matt Harvey and Steven Matz drop out of the rotation with one injury after another, Colon was the one guy Terry Collins could rely on. Last season alone, Colon was 15-8 with a 3.43 ERA at age 43.

He even uncorked his first and only career home run in San Diego last summer.

So a reunion has to happen, right?

There is reason to believe the Mets are considering it. According to the Daily News, a Mets "source" said "'Get him back here and working with Dan Wharthen and see where he's at. It couldn't hurt to try him in the bullpen. It's not like we'd be upsetting anything.'"

Not sure who these Mets sources are, but that is a true condemnation of the entire bullpen if this is a true statement.

Colon was very important to the Mets the past three years, not only on the mound but as a mentor to the young players in the clubhouse. His presence in the clubhouse would be a welcome sight to the players.

But it's time for Colon and the Mets to realize that his playing career is likely over. A startling ERA and clear drop in mechanics at age 44 should signal that it is time for Big Bart to hang 'em up.  Not to mention, the Mets true focus should be on getting younger, and actually improving the bullpen with guys that can help this team this season and beyond. Colon does not offer that potential.

At 37-42 the Mets are in a position where they must determine by the All-Star Break whether they are going to be buyers or sellers at the trade deadline, and if all reports are true, they are leaning toward selling.  By doing so, the Mets are giving up on this season. Adding Colon to the bullpen now would be counterproductive to that strategy.

This does not mean that Colon can't help the Mets now and in the future. The players love Colon. The Mets could and should sign Colon to a one-day contract so he can retire a Met. Then, they can go ahead and make him an ambassador to the team to work with the young guys as they come up to majors; or maybe they can send him to Brooklyn to help Edgardo Alfonzo work with the kids. Then come 2018, the Mets could add Colon to the coaching staff of the major league roster.

A Bartolo Colon reunion with the Mets? Sure. But, not as a pitcher.

Friday, June 23, 2017

London Calling: President Trump Nominates Jets Owner as Ambassador

The inevitable is about to become a reality. Jets owner Woody Johnson is heading to England to become to United State Ambassador to the United Kingdom, after President Donald Trump nominated him this week.

 If the U.S. Senate approves Johnson's appointment, than the Jets will be left in the hands of Johnson's brother, Chris. Oh by the way, Johnson's appointment will be for three years, and he will have to live in England. While some cynical Jets fans might be happy that Woody might be leaving, he will remain the principal owner of the team.

Such an appointment is not unusual, since late Steelers owner Dan Rooney was the U.S. Ambassador to Ireland under President Obama. Keep in mind that was the Steelers -- one of the best run organizations in sports. This is the Jets.

It will be even more fascinating to see how Chris Johnson, who has no football experience, runs the franchise during the most critical point in its history. The team is visibly trying to tank the season in order to improve its draft status for 2018. There is also questions about the job security of both head coach Todd Bowles and GM Mike Maccagnan. If the Jets are 3-13 or worse, many think both will be fired. But, will that happen, considering 1) that Woody Johnson won't be around much? And 2) the team is not planning to do anything this year anyway?

And should the Jets part ways with either Bowles, Maccagnan or both, who will be in charge of finding their replacements?

All these questions are now on the table for the New York Jets in 2017.

Knicks Don't Trade Porzingis After All

The bizarre times of the New York Knicks continues to be, well, bizarre.

After fielding calls for days leading up to the NBA Draft about forward Kistaps Porzingis, Knicks President Phil Jackson decided not to trade the Knicks All Star, mainly because he was asking for too much. There were rumors that the Knicks were close to a deal with the Phoenix Suns, but nothing came of that deal, because the Knicks wanted Devin Booker and the number 4 overall pick in return.

Jackson even committed the biggest sin of all taking calls from the division rival Boston Celtics and Brooklyn Nets, but nothing happened either.

So instead the Knicks decided to stand pat on Porzingis, at least for now, and drafted Frenchman Frank Ntilikina with their eighth pick in the draft. Ntilikina is a point-guard by trade, and the Knicks desperately need leadership at the position. While they passed on more well known players like Malik Monk, who went to Charlotte, the Knicks are hopping that Ntilikina turns out to be ... well ... like Porzingis. A guy that the fans didn't want that ends up winning their hearts.

How ironic.

Even with the dust settling on the draft, it doesn't change the fact that Jackson and Porzingis have some serious making up to do. Jackson went on MSG and made no qualms that he was looking to trade the Latvian star, even going as far as to claim that he never had any player not show up to a season-ending exit interview. A claim that is apparently a flat out lie.

As we all know we got here because of Porzingis' refusal to respect the Knicks GM by not showing up for that meeting, and reportedly tweeting out his support of fellow teammate Carmelo Anthony in his own battle with Jackson. There were even rumors that Porzingis wanted to play in Europe over the summer against the Knicks demands.

So while Porzingis isn't going anywhere right now, it doesn't mean that a trade isn't forthcoming. If the Knicks and Porzingis can't find common ground anytime soon, it will only make the fractured relationship beyond repair (if it isn't there already).

Where's James Dolan in all this? Well, he was singing the 'Blues' , literary, in New York with his band JD and the Straight Shot during the draft. Guess, unless a former player is throwing F-bombs his way, Dolan could care less ...

Friday, June 16, 2017

Odell Beckham and Giants Podcast

Part II of my show from June 15. Here Karen Vankat and I talk about the drama surrounding Odell Beckham Jr. Since Karen is a big Giants fan, I wanted to get her take on what is going on with Big Blue's star wide receiver.

The reports were rampant that Beckham skipped OTA's because of his contract. Perhaps, even though OTA's are voluntary. Still Beckham is one of the lowest paid receivers in the NFL, but is he worth it considering the drama he brings on and off the field?


Harvey lands on DL with another injury

Just when ya thought things were starting to look up for the Mets, the events of Thursday night happened. Matt Harvey will be sidelined for "several weeks"with a stress injury to the scapula bone in his right shoulder.

This is the latest setback for Harvey who has already undergone Tommy John Surgery and Thoracic Outlet Syndrome the last two seasons. According to reports Harvey's velocity was way down, averaging only 91.8 mph on his fastball in the Mets 9-4 win over the Cubs. Harvey lasted only four innings in that game.

Harvey was even quoted as saying he hasn't thrown 87 mph with a fastball since he was in high school.

This is a huge setback for a pitcher who is starting to turn an injury prone career. Once a budding superstar, Harvey's career has come crashing to earth. Last season, Harvey was lost for the year with the Thoracic Outlet injury in his shoulder, after pitching in only 17 games. Before being disabled he was putting together the worst year of his career, posting a 4-10 record with an ERA 4.86.

This season, Harvey hasn't come close to recapturing the former stud he once was in 2013. He has been woeful all season, pitching to an ERA that has been over five. This latest injury doesn't explain the issues on the hill, but it certainly doesn't help.

On top of that Harvey has had his share of issues with the Mets front office. Most recently with the all-nighter he pulled the night before a ball game. At the time, reports were that Harvey was out golfing, which he confirmed, just hours before the ball game. After a night of partying and a morning of golfing, Harvey didn't show up to Citi Field. He was suspended three games for his actions.

One has to seriously wonder, what this guy has left in his Mets career.

On top of that bad news, the Mets got word that second baseman Neil Walker will be out for a very long time after suffering a partially torn hamstring. Hamstring injuries can be very tricky. The Mets say it will take 2-3 weeks of rehab in addition to more time to rest the muscle. In short he could be out a couple months -- considering coming back early from such an injury could do even more damage.

Later, the Mets learned that ace, Noah Syndergaard, out since May 1 with a lat muscle injury won't be able to throw for four weeks. Syndergaard has been working out with a trainer to get his strength back, but still hasn't picked up a baseball. This would likely mean his chances to return this year get slimmer.

Finally, (there is always a final injury) Juan Lagares hit the self after breaking his thumb while trying to make a diving catch in the outfield. No word on how long he will be out.

And so go the walking wounded of the New York Mets.

All Rise: Aaron Judge and Yankees Podcast

Check out my podcast from Thursday night where I talk about Aaron Judge's torrid stretch with the New York Yankees, and whether he can get to 60-plus homers this season. My guest on the show, is Karen Vankat.

Enjoy!


Thursday, June 15, 2017

Aaron Judge might give us first "Legit" 60-homer season since Maris

It's hard to believe that it has been almost 20 years since Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa dazzled us all with their pursuit of Roger Maris' then-record 61-homer season from 1961. It was a time when baseball came back to the fans after the bitter 1994-lockout that canceled that season's World Series.

1998 was the pinnacle of the sport at that time. We had heroes. McGwire and Sosa were our heroes. The Yankees won a record 125 games, and baseball once again reminded us why it is and will always be our national pastime.

As we all know, some 19 to 20 years later, 1998 was just that a mirage. Allegations, followed by testimony, followed by one embarrassment after another proved that McGwire and Sosa, and soon Barry Bonds were all using steroids. The great home run seasons? The records? They all meant nothing.

 In fact, Jose Canseco's proclamation that the majority of players were using steroids, disturbingly seemed more plausible by the day.

We'll never forget the grand jury hearings with McGwire and Sosa. No one will forget Rafael Palmeiro pointing his finger at congress, denying allegations that turned out true.  We'll never forget Bonds denying and denying and denying he never juiced, and who will forget Roger Clemens and his snake oil-salesman lawyer when "the Rocket" was accused multiple times of drug use.

It was a time that left all of us baseball fans suspicious about what players were doing behind closed doors. Anytime someone started hitting home runs, the first guess would be that that person was on steroids. It was also a time that put Baseball Writers in a huge pickle that they still can't get out of when it comes to the Hall of Fame. Clemens, Bonds, McGwire, Sosa -- likely will never get into the hallowed Halls of Cooperstown because of steroids. If they ever do, it might be another 5 to 10 years from now.

Alex Rodriguez, who was the most recent steroid case, likely will face even greater scrutiny when his name comes up for the Hall of Fame in a few years. The allegations and reports will likely cost A-Rod any chances of getting in on his first ballot.

While some of the steroid noise has calmed down in recent years, we now have a young guy named Aaron Judge who is on pace to do something we haven't seen since the infamous steroid era, hit 60-plus homers.

Judge is having one of the best rookie seasons in Major League history. He leads the American League in runs scored, batting average, on base percentage, slugging percentage, OPS and WAR. He also leads the AL in homers with 22. He is second in the AL in RBI with 49 and seventh in the league in hits with 75.

Judge is amazing. And according to Business Insider, Judge is on his way to 60 homers this season, the first time we have seen that since 2001 when Sosa hit 64 and Bonds hit the infamous 73. But if you believe that we now play in a clean era, perhaps Judge has a chance to become the true home run record breaker. Perhaps, and somewhat fitting, he gets a chance to tie and break Maris' record of 61.

We certainly haven't seen any Yankee come close to 60 homers in a given year since Maris, which makes Judge's pursuit even more fascinating. Even A-Rod's best homer season in 2002 produced only 57 homers while he was playing for Texas.

In recent years we have seen some players come close to the 60-homer plateau, only to fall just short. Ryan Howard hit 58 homers for the Phillies in 2006. Jose Bautista blasted 54 in 2010 for the Blue Jays. Rodriguez hit 54 in 2007 for the Yankees, and David "Big Papi" Ortiz hit 54 in 2006. The most recent 50-homer player was the Orioles' Chris Davis, who hit 53 in 2013.

So it isn't easy, and recent history suggests that Judge may fall short. But consider the ferocity in which this man is hitting the baseball, there is really no telling when Judge will cool down. Judge has been hitting consistently over .300 since April 28, and has not had a hitless streak longer than two games (May 21 and 22) during that stretch. He has also had 24 multi-hit games already this season, and the Yankees have played only 61 games!

A lot of hitters his size, which is 6-for-7, usually have a weak zone, sometimes up and in, sometimes down and away, and thus far, nobody has figured it out. He is hitting .409 on pitches inside and low, .524 on pitches middle-in, and .500 on pitches over the plate but outside. Yes, he has struggled a bit with pitches up-and-in, but his tremendous batting average everywhere else on the plate makes it very difficult for pitchers to locate properly on this guy. In short, there is nowhere, right now, to put the baseball.

What makes Judge's pursuit of certainly the greatest rookie season we have ever seen even more enjoyable is the fact we have not heard any steroid talk. No rumors. Nothing. This is a good thing. It shows how far we have come from the infamous steroid era of the late 90s'/early 00s. We no longer question. We no longer call for investigations. We just enjoy the ride while it lasts.