Monthly Archives: December 2012

Playoff Path

The Giants’ path to the playoffs is now clear. Their only hope is to get the last wild card spot in the NFC. To do that will require all of the following things to happen-

1- The Giants have to beat Philadelphia (with the Bears and Vikings already 9-6, the 8-7 Giants have to win)

2- The Vikings and Bears have to lose. (see above)

3- The Cowboys have to lose to Washington. (This one is a bit more complicated. If the Giants and Cowboys win, they and Washington would finish with a 9-7 record. And, all three teams would finish with a win and a loss against each other, negating the first tiebreaker. The problem is the second tiebreaker is record within the division and the Giants are the only team that has lost to Philly this year. So, the Giants would lose the tiebreaker at that point to both Dallas and Washington. One for the division and one for the wild card spot.)

The Giants game against Philly and the Bears game against Detroit kickoff at 1pm EST. The Vikings play the Packers at 4pm and the Cowboys face Washington at 8:20pm. New York will need plenty of luck to pull off a playoff spot this year.

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The Yankees and The Giants

Since my regular blog is undergoing a renovation, I thought I would use this one to talk a bit about the Yankees a bit before launching into a harsh critique of the Giants.

If you had asked me to give one of the Yankees free agents a two-year deal this offseason, I would have chosen Russell Martin. Martin plays a position that is very hard to fill and he is only going to turn 30 in February. I would not have given a two-year deal to Ichiro. Yes, his overall Yankee numbers of .322/.340/.454 were very good.  But, the bulk of those were earned in the final few weeks of the season. He is 39 and he had a season and a half of mediocre performance prior to his trade to the Yankees. New York wanted to preserve 2014 payroll space, but they gave Ichiro $6.5 million of that space. For $2-million more they could have had Martin.

I simply cannot get upset about the Yankees letting Raul Ibanez go back to Seattle. Yes, Ibanez was great in the playoffs, but that doesn’t make me forget his .308 OBP in the regular season. He hit .208/.269/.365 on the road, so his overall numbers are a creation of Yankee Stadium. And the Yankees don’t need another lefty outfielder.

Looking at the roster, the Opening Day lineup is probably something like this: Ichiro, Jeter, Cano, Teixeira, Granderson, Youkilis, DH, Catcher, Gardner. With AJ Pierzynski headed to Texas, we can assume the catcher will be Stewart, Cervelli or Romine. One of that trio will be on the bench along with a backup outfielder, a backup infielder and one other player. I just don’t see Ibanez as a great fit in that configuration.

*****

As for the Giants….

I never thought I would relive the humiliation of Super Bowl XXXV, but tonight’s game against the Ravens came very close. The defense was terrible, the offense inept and the entire team played a passionless game. The coaching staff and captains should be searching their souls this week to figure out what happened to a season that started 6-2 and  finished no better than 3-6. Unless a miracle occurs*, the Giants will miss the playoffs.  That also means that without hockey we will be down to basketball here in New York this time next Sunday. At least the Knicks are pretty good.

*Perhaps miracle is too strong a word, but the Giants will need to win next week and have three other teams lose.  The exact formula will depend on what Seattle does tonight, but it starts with a Cowboys loss because the Giants are finished if Dallas wins.

UGLY

Here’s a “fun” fact, before yesterday the defending Super Bowl champion had never been shutout. So add that to the multitude of humiliations the Giants suffered yesterday.

I was not expecting the Giants to win that game yesterday. Atlanta has been one of the best teams in the NFC and I didn’t think New York would beat them at home. But, I expected it to be a competitive game and I was very wrong.

We have seen this pattern before. When the Giants are “All In” they are unbeatable. When they are not, they are going to get smoked. This was the Bengals game all over again, except even uglier. I don’t know who that was wearing #10, but it wasn’t Eli. And before we blame him for everything, where were Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks?  The offensive line shouldn’t escape notice either, terrible job by them.

On defense the Giants’ pass rush couldn’t save the Giants’ pass defense. The Giants did sack Matt Ryan once, but other than that he had far too much time to throw. And with Prince out, Hosley got burned. Watching him yesterday reminded me of Bill Parcells nicknaming Elvis Patterson “toast” because he got burned so often.

Amazingly, the Giants still control their own fate. Win their final two and they make the playoffs. That’s the start of a script we are very familiar with. Hopefully, the Giants remember how to execute it.

Big Mistake

The U.S. Open (tennis version) has decided that in 2013 the men’s final will be played on Monday at 5pm instead of Sunday at 4:30pm.

The upside of this move is that it will eliminate the unfair practice of playing the men’s semifinals on Saturday and then the finals on Sunday. Now, the women’s semis will be Friday and Sunday and then men’s will be Saturday and Monday.

But, who exactly is going to be around to watch the men’s final on Monday at 5pm? On the East Coast most people will just be getting out of work. People in other U.S. time zones will still be at work. In Europe it will be 10 or 11pm. In Asia it will be the early morning. So, there really isn’t any one place on the globe where this might increase viewership and it will greatly detract from it. So why are they doing it? I suspect the answer is football.

By playing on Sunday at 4:30 of the opening weekend of the NFL season the men’s final already gets lost behind some football fans. And, while playing later on Monday night would make sense, it would put them up against the opening doubleheader on Monday Night Football. So, they are essentially going to give up and try and cram a tennis final around the NFL schedule.

I don’t get it, why not move the entire tournament instead? If they started a week earlier they wouldn’t have to worry about football. And they would be able to finish the tournament on Labor Day Weekend.  Well, this is only for 2013 right now so there is hope the USTA and other powers think this through.

The Fans Fight Back

There is a movement afoot called “Just Drop It!” which is aiming to hit the NHL and the NHLPA in the pocketbook if they do not resolve the lockout by December 21st. You can watch the video here.

Here’s how it works.  For every game cancelled after December 21st, supporters of Just Drop It vow to boycott a similar number of games once the lockout is resolved. By boycott, they mean they won’t attend games, watch games or spend any money on anything NHL-related. So, if the Rangers have ten games cancelled after 12/21, I would pledge not to have anything to do with them for the first ten games of the 2012-13 season. 

The video I linked to says it best, this is the third stoppage in 18 years it is “embarrassing”. The NHL and NHLPA make over $3-billion in revenue, why they can’t figure out a way to share that is beyond me. Let’s send them a message.

Slip Sliding Away

The NHL announced the cancellation of all games until the end of 2012 today.  That means they have cancelled around 40% of the season. Yet they still won’t have constructive dialogue. Last week, the NHL owners pulled their proposal and currently no talks are scheduled. The real question now is when is the date that this absolutely has to be settled by?  “Luckily”, the NHL has already given us plenty of previous examples to go by.

In 1994-95 the NHL resolved the lockout on January 11th, 1995 and proceeded with a 48-game regular season with no inter-conference play.

In 2004-05 the NHL cancelled the entire season on February 16th, 2005.

So, despite Gary Bettman’s pronouncements that this has to be resolved soon or the season will disappear, I think we have at least one month and possibly two for this to drag on. If the two sides reached a deal on say February 1st, they could conceivably start playing by February 15th and get a 48-game season in by the first week of May. It wouldn’t be pretty and the hockey would be abysmal on some nights, but they could do it.

One sticking point will be the conference alignments. In 1995, they abandoned inter-conference play and just had the teams from each conference play each other. The problem now is Winnipeg is part of the Eastern Conference and it wouldn’t be fair for them to have to fly to Boston, New York, etc. to play their games in a truncated season.

So, I expect that one of the final issues the league will decide is conference alignment.  The league had a proposal in 2011 that made a lot of sense, but the NHLPA didn’t allow it to go forward. They will probably have to this time, but there are a lot of bigger hurdles to cross before we get to that.

Wilson Arrives

Giants fans had been waiting for this. As we watched Doug Martin rush for 1,200 yards, we kept wondering what about our first-round back? Why was David Wilson nailed to the bench with only 28 carries?  When would he get a chance to shine? The questions have been answered now as today Wilson became the first player in NFL history to have over 200 yards in kickoff returns and 100 yards rushing.  And he also added 3 TD’s.

The Giants are going to need him. Washington may have lost their QB, we will learn that probably tomorrow, but they won a huge game against Baltimore today. With games remaining @Cleveland, @Philadelphia and with Dallas, they could easily go 10-6. The Giants would lost a tiebreaker with them, so they need to keep wining. With games @Atlanta and @Baltimore coming up, it won’t be easy.

 

Here’s The Thing

Don’t get me wrong, I am ecstatic over the Knicks win in Miami last night.  They didn’t just beat the Heat, they destroyed them and did so without Carmelo.  The Knicks have now played 18 games and they are 14-4.

How have they done it?  With good defense.  With an obvious mismatch when Carmelo plays the 4 and other teams try to guard him. By taking care of the ball. But most importantly by moving the ball around and getting lots of good looks at the hoop. And that’s the thing.

The Knicks are moving the ball so well because they play with a smaller lineup than most teams. They have two point guards, Felton and Kidd playing in the starting lineup.  They have J.R. Smith averaging over 30 minutes a game.  What they don’t have is Amar’e and that’s my worry.

Sooner or later he is coming back to the lineup and I just don’t see how Amar’e helps this team.  He is a lousy defender who needs the ball.  He can’t play the 5 and he certainly can’t play the 3, so he will force Carmelo back to the 3. The offense will slow down and the defense will suffer. On the plus side, he will provide another scoring option and help on the boards. But will it all upset the balance that this team has created over the first 18 games?

Eliminate Kickoffs?

According to this synopsis of a Time Magazine profile of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, there are discussions within the league about eliminating kickoffs. It discusses the craziest rule change I think I have ever heard.  Apparently, Greg Schiano, coach of Tampa and not a fan of the kneel down, wants the team that scores to get the ball on their own 30 with a 4th-and-15 facing them.  They could then either punt, or go for it with the obvious risks of not making it.

If player safety is the ultimate concern, I am not sure this rule change would help that much.  While punts are safer than kickoffs, there are still plenty of violent collisions with them.  And, by placing the ball on the 30, you almost guarantee that the punt will be in the field of play since the punter would have to really boom it to make the end zone.  But, I do get the idea behind it.  The biggest problem you incur if you eliminate kickoffs is that you prevent a team that is trying to mount a comeback from having the ability to recover an onsides kick.

I think there are two solutions the NFL could look at to make kickoffs less dangerous for most players.  First, move the ball up to the 40 and you would create a ton of touchbacks. And since kickoffs took place at the 40 up until 1974, this wouldn’t be a hugely radical idea.

But, that only solves part of the problem because even on touchbacks players are blocking each other and colliding with great speed.  So, how about forcing the receiving team to put at least nine players 10-yards away from the kick?  That way you wouldn’t have the collisions down field for the blocking, you would have them right off the line of scrimmage, before players worked up a head of steam.  Now, you would almost destroy the return game as this would probably result in the returner being swarmed by eight guys, but it would be safer.  If you coupled that move with a move to put the kickoffs at the 40, you would preserve the onside kick, but also severely limit the amount of times kickoffs were returned.

Pelicans and Hornets

Reportedly, the New Orleans Hornets are going to become the New Orleans Pelicans which will allow the Charlotte Bobcats to become the Charlotte Hornets (their original name). I am a big fan of this move and I am hopeful that it might spur sports teams to follow suit if they relocate in the future.

I think sports teams have an obligation to their city that if they leave, they leave their name and history behind.  Since almost every team in every league benefits from public financing for their stadium/arena, this seems like a reasonable request.  So, if the actually build the new football stadium in Los Angeles and say the Jaguars decided to relocate their, they leave behind the name Jaguars and the history up until when they move.

Lo0k around sports and you will see some strange names because of relocation.  There are no lakes in Los Angeles, but there were in Minnesota.  Salt Lake City isn’t known for its jazz, but New Orleans is. There aren’t any trollies to dodge in LA either, but Brooklyn sure had them.  It’s not very hot in Calgary, but it was in Atlanta. You could go on for awhile.

The NFL did the right thing when Art Modell moved the Browns out of Baltimore.  They made him leave the name and the history and when they created a new team for Cleveland, the Browns name was waiting for it. Sometime in the not so distant future a team will pick up and leave its current home for greener pastures.  I hope that team and the ones that follow leave their names and history behind.