Thursday, January 28, 2010

Another Garden Embarrassment

Last night, I was in attendance at Madison Square Garden to watch the Rangers fumble away a must-win game against the worst team in the Eastern Conference. The 5-1 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes was the Rangers' fourth consecutive loss in regulation and dropped their record at home to a dismal 12-13-4.

The thing that stood out the most to me during the game was hearing Rangers fans chanting "We Suck!" in their own arena. The Canes scored twice within the first 4 minutes of the game, and immediately after, the "Fire Sather!" chants began. At the end of the third period, the Garden faithful were dueling over their favorite baseball teams!! BASEBALL IN JANUARY?!?!

That's how bad things have gotten at the world's most famous arena. Overall, the Rangers are still 24-23-7 and in 8th place, worthy of the final playoff spot in the East. While that may be, the Rangers are clearly spiraling in the wrong direction. If there's one word to describe this team, it's Inconsistent.

Merely a week ago, the Rangers scored 14 goals in 5 periods while dismantling the Canadiens and Lightning at MSG. Since that game, the Rangers have scored three times in 12 periods. They beat Montreal 6-2 at the Garden then lost to the same team 6-0 up north a week later. That's inconsistent.

With the Olympic break coming up and the trade deadline on March 3rd, it's safe to say the Rangers need to make some changes. They need another scorer if they want to compete in the East with teams like Washington and Pittsburgh. The Rangers are extremely soft and often show a lack of desire to finish checks and forecheck the whole game. They need to obtain a guy who checks all game long and can also create some offense (Dustin Brown anyone?).

A friend of mine and I had a chat the other day about who the Rangers need to keep and who needs to go. Out of the list of keepers, we came up with Marion Gaborik, Brandon Dubinsky, Ryan Callahan, Sean Avery, Marc Staal, Michael Del Zotto, and Henrik Lundqvist for sure. After watching last night, I might even consider taking of Del Zotto for the right deal. However, if the Rangers are going to trade for a big scorer, they'll likely have to give up Dubinsky or Callahan.

In the end, the Rangers have a few key forwards, two to four young defensemen, and a solid goaltender (who actually looked pretty bad last night). If the Rangers want to be successful, they have to re-tool and get some key role players. The first guy that needs to go though, is probably Glen Sather. Until that happens, I don't see the Rangers getting deep into the playoffs.

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Damon Situation

Over this past weekend, there were multiple reports on Johnny Damon and his situation with the Yankees. As of now, the teams have not agreed on anything, but it seems there may be a decision approaching very soon.

Jon Heyman of Sports Illustrated has said that the Yankees have given Damon a deadline to accept an offer (likely a low-base salary plus incentives deal), or the Yankees will move on to other opportunities. Brian Cashman later denied that rumor. Then, Marc Carig of the Newark Star-Ledger tweeted that Damon texted him saying he should have a team within a week.

So here's where it all seems to stand:
Damon either accepts a low offer from the Yankees or declines to go elsewhere for slightly more money and the Yankees choose from one of the following to fill the roster spot:
Xavier Nady
Reed Johnson
Randy Winn
Jermaine Dye and Jim Edmonds have been mentioned, but Brian Cashman basically said neither are on the Yanks' radar.

Here's my opinion and take on the situation:
Damon isn't going to get the kind of money he was seeking from any team. He's going to take a paycut no matter where he goes. So, if he wants to play for the Yankees bad enough, he'll take the low deal with incentives to play with the Yanks again. If money is the bigger concern, he'll decline and go elsewhere.

If Damon does go elsewhere, the Yanks will choose from Nady, Johnson, and Winn. So which of the three is the best? In order:

Reed Johnson

He can play all three outfield positions, has great numbers against lefties, not terrible against righties, and has the experience of playing the AL East. I definitely think he does a good job of getting on base. Johnson seems like someone who gives the Yanks versatility, no one expects amazing things out of, and can provide great upside.

Xavier Nady

When healthy, he has the best bat of anyone in contention for the spot. He can play both corner OF positions, which is where help is needed since Granderson will control CF and play almost every day. The big problem is the second elbow surgery he just had that forced him to miss almost all of 2009. He has risk, and it would be a major blow if he can't hit well or throw the ball from the outfield. If he's healthy, he'd be a steal at the bargain price he'd get.

Randy Winn

He's the oldest of the group at 35 and might command a higher salary out of the three. He has a decent bat but was bad against lefties last year. He's played a lot at each outfield spot, which is a plus. However, I think he'd want a starting job guaranteed, and the Yankees won't want to give him that promise. Could be good, but I don't see him coming to the Yanks, who want to stay relatively young.

Let me know who you think should fill the Yankees' outfield spot and vote in the poll on the right.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

When Lost on Revis Island...

...What would you bring?

There have been a plethora of receivers this year who have gotten lost on Revis Island. You may have heard of a few. The way Darrelle Revis has played this year, I am still in absolute shock he did not get Defensive Player of the Year honors. I think Charles Woodson's a great player but don't tell me his veteran status did not win him that award.

Regardless, as the Jets get set for their match-up with the Colts to decide the AFC Championship and a spot in the Super Bowl, I thought I would take a look back at some of the receivers Revis shut down, and the one thing they would most likely bring if they were to get lost on Revis Island again.

Chad Ochocinco

2009 vs. Revis (2 games): 2 catches, 28 yards
What he'd bring: Himself...because Chad Ochocinco loves to entertain Chad Ochocinco, and only Chad Ochocinco can keep Chad Ochocinco from eating his own words...twice (translation: he loves himself)

Reggie Wayne

2009 vs. Revis: 3 catches, 33 yards
What he'd bring: Marvin Harrison, pre-gun incident...That way, Revis will have to choose which high-profile playmaker to shut down

Terrell Owens

2009 vs. Revis (2 games): 6 catches, 44 yards
What he'd bring: Trent Edwards and Ryan Fitzpatrick...BECAUSE THOSE ARE HIS QUARTERBACKS!!

Randy Moss

2009 vs. Revis (2 games): 9 catches, 58 yards, 1 TD
What he'd bring: Another slow make him look like less of a "slouch"

Steve Smith

2009 vs. Revis: 1 catch, 5 yards
What he'd bring: A quarterback, any quarterback, that throws the ball more often to players wearing the same jersey as him rather than a different one

Andre Johnson

2009 vs. Revis: 4 catches, 35 yards
What he'd bring: A team that is either really good or really bad for him to play on, not one that's always stuck in between

Marques Colston

2009 vs. Revis: 2 catches, 33 yards
What he'd bring: The Hofstra University Football program...because with enough practice against a top-flight cornerback, maybe Hofstra football can play well again and the school will bring the program back

Roddy White

2009 vs. Revis: 4 catches, 33 yards
What he'd bring: A big gift for Mark Sanchez...for allowing the Falcons to stay in that game and eventually win it

Vincent Jackson

2009 vs. Revis: 7 catches, 111 yards
What he'd bring: A congratulatory certificate...honoring him for putting up the best numbers against Revis and the Jets, but he still couldn't help his team pull out a win

Monday, January 18, 2010

I'm Back

Hey Everyone,

So after the long lay-off for my semester in Los Angeles, I am back here running New York Sports Buff and am excited to contribute my thoughts and feelings regarding all the latest happenings in the New York sports world! I had an absolute blast in LA getting to see what another major sports city was like, and I must say, Los Angelinos are crazy about their sports. I'll definitely post an article on my experiences in LA, but if you don't want to wait, check out the blog I kept: Michael in Los Angeles

Ok, moving on, I figured my first post would be about the hottest topic on the NY sports scene right now, and of course, that would be the New York Jets. After a hot start, the team plummeted to 4-6 and then were written off by their own Head Coach, Rex Ryan, after a terrible loss to the Falcons with 2 weeks left in the season.

My how the tables have turned!

The Jets beat the Colts and Bengals to clinch a spot in the playoffs, upended Cincy, on the road, on Wild Card weekend, and then shocked the Chargers, in San Diego, in the Divisional Round. And now sure enough, here are the Jets, about to face the Colts in the AFC Championship Game, 60 minutes from the Super Bowl for just the 2nd time in team history.

And one question still remains: Do they deserve to be here?

Frankly, I'm sick of hearing everyone claiming the Jets "backed their way in." Did they get a gift from the Colts when they removed Peyton Manning and Co. in the 3rd quarter of their Week 16 game? Sure. Did they benefit from Cedric Benson not playing in the season finale? Perhaps. Will we ever know how the games would have played out otherwise? NO! So stop trying to look back into the past.

No matter how the Jets got to the postseason, they got there by playing well enough to win games. Would the Rams or Lions have beaten the Colts second-string? I don't think so, and they are off golfing somewhere. The Jets did their job, and they have proven the last two weeks they could beat Division Champions who played their starters the whole game.

The Jets ended the year with the best defense and best running game in the entire NFL. Sure, they have a rookie quarterback who has struggled, but had their defense and running game not been as top-notch as they were this year, they wouldn't have come close to making the playoffs. Credit the Jets' talent and their ability to take care of business late in the season (they did win 5 of 6 to close out the season) for the reason they are playing in January. Not the decisions of other teams to rest some starters.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Top 10 Yankee Moments of 2009

So, I decided to step aside from my LA blog for a moment and discuss the Yankees 2009 season considering they were crowned World Series Champs a week ago. It was a fantastic season for the Yanks with many ups and downs along the way, but in the end, they were truly the best team in baseball. There were so many great moments along the way, but I narrowed the list down to the 10 that stick out the most in my mind. Let me know what you think. What's missing? What shouldn't be there? Should anything move up or down? I'd love to hear your opinion!

#10 - Yanks Open New Stadium

While the Yankee bullpen imploded and the bats were silenced by Cliff Lee, the opening of the New Yankee Stadium could not go unnoticed. The grand facility began a year marked by criticism for expensive tickets and empty seats, but also marked by pies in the face after walk-off wins and a tremendous amount of tribute to the Yankees history. It was the “House That George Built” and it would end up hosting the final game of the Yankees’ World Championship Season.

#9 - Yanks Sweep Away Sox

In early August, the Yanks were sitting in first place, but by just 2.5 games over the Red Sox when the rivals came to town. The Yankees had started the year 0-8 vs. Boston and needed at least a win or two to give them some credibility. What followed was a four-game sweep of Boston that featured a 13-6 blowout of John Smoltz in Game 1, a walk-off homer by A-Rod for 2-0, 15-inning win in Game 2, a masterful performance by CC Sabathia en route to a 5-0 shutout in Game 3, and a Mark Teixeira go-ahead homer in the 8th inning of a 5-2 win in the final game. The Yanks were now up 6.5 games in the east and cruised to the division title.

#8 - Mo Enters 500 Club and Adds 1st RBI

Against the cross-town rival Mets, and on National TV, Mariano Rivera came into the game with two outs in the 8th, needing 4 saves for #500. He gave up just one hit, struck out two, and joined Trevor Hoffman in the 500 club. Not only did he get that milestone, he also got career RBI #1 when he drew a bases-loaded walk against elite closer Francisco Rodriguez. It was the performance that elated Yankee fans and drove Met fans off the side of a bridge.

#7 - Pettitte is #1 on Playoff Wins List

After having to wait an extra day because of rain, Andy Pettitte took the mound in Game 6 of the ALCS looking to get the Yanks back to the Fall Classic. Not only did he win the game, but he won his 16th career postseason game, surpassing John Smoltz for first all-time. Andy threw 6 and a third innings giving up just 1 run and striking out 6 in the victory, sending the Yanks to the World Series, and moving him within four wins from Ring #5.

#6 - Game 2 Heroics

Game 2’s to me are always big momentum swingers. It could end with a team holding a commanding 2-0 lead or in a 1-1 tie, right back like it was at the beginning. In these two, the Yankees were looking to take that dominant lead, and they’d need extra innings to do so both times. In the ALDS against Minnesota, the Yanks were down 3-1 in the 9th. Up came Alex Rodriguez with 1 on, and he unloaded an A-Bomb into the right field bullpen off Joe Nathan to tie the game and send it to extras, beginning his exorcism of the playoff demons that haunted him since 2004. In the 11th, Mark Teixeira lined a bullet to left that hit off the top of the wall and skipped into the stands for another Yankee walk-off and a 2-0 series lead.

In the ALCS, the Angels had taken a 3-2 lead in the top of the 11th. Up came A-Rod again against another strong closer in Brian Fuentes. He hit another homer to right, just clearing the wall, and further exorcising the demons, and the game was tied up again. In the 13th, Maicer Izturis inexplicably tried to turn an impossible double play, threw the ball away at second, and Jerry Hairston Jr. scored the game winner.

Then in the World Series, after getting completely shut down by Cliff Lee in Game 1, the Yanks needed AJ Burnett to step up in Game 2 and shut down the Phillies. He tossed 7 innings of one-run ball, striking out 9, and allowing only 4 hits and 2 walks in a 3-1 win. Two excellent walk-offs, which was the Yanks theme of the year, and a masterful performance on the mound, turned the tide in each series.

#5 - Matsui's 6 in Game 6

Game 6 wasn’t a must-win situation, but after losing Game 5, the Yankees no doubt wanted to close out the Series rather than send it to a Game 7. Hideki Matsui was up to his usual tricks against Pedro “Who’s Your Daddy?” Martinez. Godzilla had a two-run homer, a two-run single, and a two-run double, knocking in 6 of the Yankees’ 7 runs to lead the Bombers to a 7-3 series clinching win and earning him World Series MVP honors.

#4 - A-Rod Returns in Style

After missing the first month of the season recovering from hip surgery, Alex Rodriguez made his first start of the year on May 8th in Baltimore. At the time, the team was 13-15 and terribly missing its power bat. With boos raining down from Orioles fans in regards to his steroids admission during the offseason, A-Rod stepped in to face Jeremy Guthrie with two on in the first. The result? A 3-run homer on the first pitch he saw. The Yanks won the game 4-0 and were the best team in baseball from there. This was no doubt the turning point of the season.

#3 - Damon's Double Dash

If there is one play Yankee fans and the media will remember from this postseason, Johnny Damon’s double steal in Game 4 of the World Series is it. The Yanks were up 2-1 in the series, but had just blown a lead in the late innings. After a 9-pitch at-bat, Damon lofted a single into left in one of the great at-bats in postseason history. Then, Damon took second easily on a horrible through from Carlos Ruiz, and with the Phillies infield shifted to right for Mark Teixeira, Damon instantly took off for third after noticing no one was covering the bag. It was the type of veteran, heads-up play that turned the Series around. Brad Lidge’s slider was taken away, A-Rod would later double Damon home, and the Yanks went on to a 7-4 win, their second straight victory in Philly, and a 3-1 series lead.

#2 - Jeter Becomes Yankees Hit King

On the 8th anniversary of the September 11th attacks, Derek Jeter once again lifted the spirits of New Yorkers when he became the team’s all-time leader in hits. Jeter’s third inning single gave him 2,722 in his career, moving him one ahead of Lou Gehrig for the top spot. The Stadium gave him a standing ovation, and he rightfully deserved it.

#1 - Title #27, For The Boss

You can’t really argue there was a better moment than this one. After 2000, the team endured a shocking loss to the D-Backs in 2001, an even bigger shocker to the Marlins in 2003, and the collapse in 2004. After missing the playoffs in for the first time since 1993 in 2008, the Yanks completely turned it around and are now at the pinnacle of the sports world: World Series Champions. The phrase “Boss, this one’s for you!” was up on the big scoreboard in centerfield, in a true display of what he means to the team.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Break Time

Hello Everyone,

I am going to be taking a little bit of a break from my blog over the next few months. I will be spending my fall semester in Los Angeles and will be very involved with an internship and classes. However, when some important news breaks, I will do my best to update here and give you my take on it.

Until then, please follow my new blog that I created specifically for my LA Journey. Here's the link.


Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Rangers Walk Away from Nik Zherdev

The Rangers today have decided to part ways with forward Nikolai Zherdev after an arbitration hearing on Friday resulted in a figure the Rangers didn't want to pay. The Rangers presented an offer of about $3 million while Zherdev wanted about $4.5 million. The arbitrator went about right in the middle at $3.9 million and the Rangers decided it was best to walk away and let the Russian become an unrestricted free agent.

So what happens now? Zherdev can sign negotiate and sign with any other NHL team or with a team in the KHL in Russia. The Rangers have freed up some cap room, which they will likely use to sign Brandon Dubinsky to a deal and possibly add another winger. Some names involved could be Alex Tanguay, Mike Grier, or Petr Sykora.

This was an expected move, and in my mind, the right move for the Rangers. Zherdev is a talented player who can score and stick handle tremendously. However, he has shown a lack of energy and desire on a nightly basis. Some nights, he'll play well and give it his all. Other nights, he wishes he was elsewhere. This team cannot afford to pay big bucks for a player like that.

Dubinsky is a bigger piece to the Rangers' future and has plenty of talent as well. Lock him up and get a veteran that can provide some experience and scoring to give the roster some depth. However, the Rangers are all about bringing up their talented youth and letting them help the team. Zherdev appears like a guy who would rather play in Russia rather than in the NHL. Either way, you can't fault the Rangers for walking away at this point. It's sad that a guy with so much talent simply doesn't bring it every game.