Sunday, August 17, 2014

Jets at Bengals Preseason Recap

Photo courtesy of NY Post
Final Score: Jets 25, Bengals 17

First Star: QB Andy Dalton- 8/8, 144 passing yards, 1 passing TD, 158.3 passer rating

Second Star: S Calvin Pryor- 3 tackles, 3 assists, 1 fumble recovery

Third Star: RB Chris Johnson- 10 rushes, 63 yards, 2 receptions, 1 yard

The Good
Calvin Pryor looked great in his first in-game action. He constantly found himself in the backfield after breaking through the offensive line. It was a very good sign for the rookie's future.

Geno Smith and the rest of the offense found their footing towards the end of the second half, putting together two touchdown drives in the second quarter.

Antonio Allen was bad at times, but for someone playing cornerback for the first time in his career, actually looked decent overall. Still, he'll need to improve quickly if Rex Ryan is going to need him to play an important in the regular season.

I.K. Enemkpali showed off his speed and agility by exploding off the line to block a punt through the back of the end zone for a safety. It doesn't really mean much, as it's only one play, but it's a good sign.

The Bad
The offense only looked good when they were matched up against Cincinnati's second team unit.

The Ugly
Penalties. The Jets were called for 12 penalties totaling 133 yards over the course of the game. Offensive linemen Willie Colon and Breno Giacomini were playing generally undisciplined football early and caused a few scuffles between the two teams.

Tajh Boyd looked absolutely terrible in the fourth quarter, going 1 for 5 with 6 passing yards. I'd like to see him get another chance later in the preseason to compete for the third string job along with Matt Simms, but he didn't do himself any favors yesterday.

The Weird
Both Calvin Pryor and running back Alex Green wore #25 in last night's game. I know it's just preseason, but I've never seen that before. And I doubt it's legal.

Quarterback Playing Time
1st Quarter- Geno Smith
2nd Quarter- Geno Smith
3rd Quarter- Michael Vick
4th Quarter-Tajh Boyd
Did Not Play- Matt Simms

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Mets Mailbag 1

Photo courtesy of Random Baseball Stuff
Recently I posted in a few Facebook groups looking for people to comment questions for me to answer in an article. The response for the Mets has been great so far, and I'll have to split up the questions I've received into two articles. The second edition will be coming soon.

Q: Do you think the Mets will contend next year? -Mohit

A: Yes, I do. There are certainly a few holes that need to be plugged up in the offseason, but the foundation for a playoff contender has been laid. The rotation has the potential to be one of the best in the major leagues (I got another question about the rotation, so I'll cover that in depth in Part 2.) and the offense needs a couple of extra pieces (I'll get to that later as well), but overall we should be expecting to see the Mets in the thick of a playoff race next September.

And I'm not the only one, FanGraph's Eno Sarris agrees with my belief as well:


Q: What free agents would you like to see the Mets go after this winter if they can up the payroll to $110-120 million and they can shed Colon's salary? -Al

A: It's a little bit hard to tell exactly how much the payroll will be with Bobby Parnell, Daniel Murphy, Dillon Gee, Lucas Duda, Eric Young, Jr., Ruben Tejada, Jenrry Mejia, and Anthony Recker all eligible for arbitration, but Baseball-Reference estimates to all of those cases will cost about $22 million. The rest of the contracts aren't guaranteed, because of the way pre-arbitration contracts are structured in the MLB, but Baseball-Reference estimates that it will cost $6.5 million to lock up everyone else.

So far, the payroll stands at $71.5 million for 23 players. Obviously these are just rough estimates to give an idea of exactly how much the Mets can spend this winter.

I don't think that the Wilpons will be willing to increase the payroll to the number that Al mentioned in his question this season, but rather in preparation for 2016, after seeing the team be at least a fringe playoff team in 2015. I see them paying up to $90 million on the team next season, and that's being generous. Still, I'm all for hypotheticals and thought experiments, so here we go:

I do not think that Gee will be on the team next season, and in this world where the payroll skyrockets to $110-120 million, there's no need for Jonathon Niese to be in Flushing either, because the Mets can sign an ace in free agency. Look at that! I just whittled down the payroll to $60.5 million for 21 players.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Exciting News

I returned from my trip to Ghana last Friday, and I'd say that my vacation was a successful one, as I got some valuable experience working at a newspaper, where I got seven articles published over the course of my four weeks working.

But that's in the past. As for the future...

I've secured a job writing for Mets Merized Online, one of the most fun, and most visited, Mets sites out there. It's a great opportunity to significantly expand my audience.

Of course, everything that I write for them and every other website will still appear on this blog. 

Speaking of this blog, I'll be starting my NFL Preview Extravaganza later this month. Being that my trip cut into the beginning of August, I did not have nearly enough time to preview every team in the NFL separately, so I will be previewing each division as a separate article over the course of eight days leading up to the season opener on Thursday, September 4. 

After my division previews, I'll power rank all of the teams, and finish it all off with a full preview including team records, standings, playoff predictions, awards, and other random predictions. 

As this website continues to allow me more and more opportunities, I need to thank the loyal readers who have continued to check out this blog even though it's not the most famous. 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The True Value of Juan Lagares

Photo courtesy of Mets Blog
As the New York Mets near the end of their ongoing rebuilding process, it's time for Sandy Alderson to re-evaluate the entire team and see who can help the team on a day to day basis over the next few years. Once that task is completed, it's time for the front office to work to get rid of the dead weight, or those who aren't seen as useful in the coming years, and to plug up the holes with quality talent. They also need to look at where there's a surplus of talent, and where there's a dearth, and to plan accordingly.

Some of the answers are rather obvious when taking a look at the Mets. David Wright looks to be regressing, but for now at least, he's still a very useful player. Obviously, the pitching depth is incredible both at the major league level and coming up through the farm system. Guys like Noah Syndergaard, Rafael Montero, and Steven Matz are well-known to Mets fans, but even in smaller prospects like Jack Leathersich and Cory Mazzoni, the Mets have the ability to put together a historically great rotation and bullpen filled with homegrown talent.

It's clear that the team needs some more bats in the lineup. The question is, how many? Shortstop is an issue because while Ruben Tejada has improved upon an absymal 2013, he still hasn't been anything to write home about. He's been getting on base at a very nice pace, flashing a pretty .355 OBP, but his complete disregard for extra base hits, as evidenced by his .285 SLG, is an issue.

Outfield help is a necessity. The Young boys in left field have been nothing short of a disappointment, which is why Chris Young found himself Designated for Assignment last week. The really interesting debate begins when looking at who stands next to either of them in the outfield grass.

Juan Lagares has been an elite defensive player since his career began last April. The problem is, that his offensive success has come and gone periodically. Is it worth locking him in as the center fielder when there's no guarantee that he'll ever develop into anything more than an inconsistent hitter?

Saturday, August 2, 2014

The Future of Terry Collins

Photo courtesy of NY Daily News
As the Mets move toward completing their plan and becoming a playoff contender in the 2015 season, there are still many questions regarding the team. Can Noah Syndergaard play up to his nickname, Thor, in his first season in the big leagues? Can Rafael Montero improve upon what was a lackluster debut in 2014? Can Sandy Alderson find a left fielder who can hit/isn't named Young? Is Daniel Murphy going to continue his All-Star level of play?

My answers: yes, yes, yes, and no.

But the biggest problem facing the team is: who will be manning the dugout day in and day out? Right now that task belongs to Terry Collins, but it's clear that he's a certified fool. I've been calling him Clueless Collins for the past year, because that's what he is. His ever-changing lineups include asinine decisions that included batting Matt den Dekker leadoff simply because he's fast, ignoring the fact that his career .250 OBP makes him by far the worst option on the roster to hit first. In fact, I would have rather seen Bartolo Colon hit leadoff. The production level wouldn't have been much worse, and at least we would have gotten to see some hilarity:

Friday, July 25, 2014

The Prime of Fandom

Photo courtesy of NY Post
I began watching football and basketball in the fall of 2004, and continued by becoming a full-fledged baseball fan in April 2005. Initially, I denounced hockey when it returned in 2005 from its lockout the previous year, but about six weeks into the season my grandfather took me to my first Ranger game and I became obsessed.

I've dealt with a lot of shit. A lot of shit. In the first season that I followed religiously, the Jets, who I adopted as my team due to my father's being a longtime fan, made the playoffs after a successful 10-6 season. They began the year undefeated, going 5-0 before finally suffering a loss to the New England Patriots. I was so spoiled from the beginning that I didn't even know what losing felt like until October 24, six weeks after the season began.

Photo courtesy of Dallas Penn
Curtis Martin captured the rushing title by one yard over Seattle running back (and the guy who was about to dominate the NFL in the upcoming season) Shaun Alexander (leading to a hilarious situation in which Alexander got mad at the Seahawks and coach Mike Holmgren for not running with the ball at the one yard line, causing him to fall short of a tie for the rushing title). Jonathan Vilma won Defensive Rookie of the Year. Chad Pennington only missed 3 games that season, and I fell in love with Santana Moss. In December (my birthday is two weeks before Christmas, so when I receive gifts is such a blur that I have to simply refer to it as "December"), I received not only a Santana Moss jersey that was huge on me at the time (and for whatever reason, still fits me almost ten years later), but a giant Moss poster that was taped to my wall until I moved at the end of 2012.

Everything was going swimmingly at the time. The Jets even won their Wild Card playoff game on the road, defeating Drew Brees and the San Diego Chargers (wow that felt weird to type) in overtime despite an insanely stupid roughing the passer penalty by Eric Barton on 4th and 2 with 24 seconds left that allowed the Chargers to tie the game. A missed 40 yard field goal by Nate Kaeding kept the Jets alive, and Doug Brien drilled home a short 28 yarder, 8 seconds away from double OT, to win it.

Little did I know that merely a week later, that the Wild Card game hero, Doug Brien, would become the biggest goat imaginable.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Re-Evaluating The Kingdom

Photo from drjays.com
Just because the Internet in Ghana is spotty doesn't mean that I was not well aware of the Decision 2.0: Instagram/Sports Illustrated Edition last Friday.

This was a lot different from how I found out about the formation of the Big 3 in 2010. I had been in Ghana for about two weeks before finally making my way to an Internet cafe. It was at this point that I was forced to digest, all at once, that Amar'e Stoudemire was headed to my Knicks, and that Chris Bosh and LeBron James were to join Dwyane Wade in Miami. I couldn't control myself and said, "wait, what???" as I looked flabbergasted at my computer screen.

This time around, it was my mom who told me, while on AOL's home page before checking her email (because for some reason she's one of the 7 people on the planet that doesn't use Gmail) that LeBron James was headed to Cleveland. My mother, who is not a sports fan at all, only knew to tell me this being I had spent a few minutes earlier in the day recounting to her the insanity that was taking place back in the U.S. that I heard about through Twitter and Facebook; from website hackers, to cupcake stores, to people camping outside of James's home, to reminding her about to angry letter in blue Comic Sans that the Cavaliers had removed from their website recently.

I had some time to stew, try and digest my dinner, accept that the people who had been yelling about LeBron returning were actually not insane, accept that the Cavs actually executed their pipe dream after seemingly wasting all of their time and energy in a wild pursuit of their former hero, and read. My eyes began to digest Grantland like a seven year old let loose at a free all-you-can-eat ice cream buffet.

Now I'm calm, confused, and ready to re-evaluate the NBA landscape, which was altered forever by two links that James simply tweeted out of the blue.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Belo Horizonte Massacre

Photo from hindustantimes.com
 I know I said I probably wouldn't post anything while in Ghana, but this is a can't miss opportunity.

Right now I'm working at a newspaper in Ghana called The Finder, and an edited version of this article will be published in the weekly sports edition. So, I'm basically an international superstar. Hold the applause, please. 

We all watched what happened last night (or afternoon for those of you in the States). We all looked on in disbelief as Germany chopped up Brazil, chewed them, spit them back out, then chewed them again. I don't know if I can find words to describe the game correctly. Germany annihilated, crushed, mauled, massacred, pillaged, and plundered Brazil. They continued their war against all Portugese speaking nations by beating the Brazilians 7-1, a few weeks after defeating Portugal 4-1 behind a hat trick by Thomas Müller.

Even the goal that Oscar drilled home in the 90th minute couldn't save face for his team and his country. The fans in the crowd even booed their own home team after scoring. Everyone knew that they had no business scoring a single goal in that game. In fact, Brazil deserved to score negative goals in that match.

Coming into the match, people were unsure about how Brazil could combat the losses of star forward Neymar, and their captain Tiago Silva at center back. Even with Neymar, the attack had been lackluster throughout the entire tournament. Last night was the time for Oscar, Fred, and Hulk to step it up now that they didn't have their skillful teammate to bail them out up front. And for the first 10 minutes or so, it looked like they were doing a good job at it. The Brazilians controlled the possession early, forcing the issue and getting the ball deep into the German defense. They were doing a poor job at communicating and connecting on their passes once there. In addition, center backs Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng, who is of Ghanaian descent, were disrupting the host nation's offense.

Despite not touching the ball often, the Germans opened up the scoring with a very nice side-footed volley from Müller, giving him his fifth goal of the World Cup, putting him one goal behind Colombian James Rodriguez for the tournament lead.

Immediately following that score, Brazil continued to control the ball, but were undone by sloppy play at the front. Then at around the 19th minute, there was a shift in the play, as Germany now was consistently putting pressure of Brazil's defensive unit. It was at this point that I wrote in my notes that Dante was actually playing pretty well at center back, filling in for Tiago Silva. It was true at the time, but it was quickly undone, as horrible mistakes by him, Fernandinho, and David Luiz allowed Germany to score three goals in a six minute span.

The first of those goals was a historic one, as Miroslav Klose scored his 16th goal at the World Cup, becoming the most prolific scorer in the history of the ultimate tournament. It only exacerbated the anguish of the Brazilian faithful, as he dethroned one of the biggest Brazilian stars ever, Ronaldo.

Then, only a minute later, Toni Kroos kicked off a stretch in which he beat Brazil's back line twice in two minutes to put his team up 4-0.

Just when you thought things couldn't get any worse for Brazil, Sami Khedira drove in a shot from near the top of the box and it looked like the Germans were simply fooling around at that point.

Despite giving up five goals in the first half, Brazilian goalkeeper Júlio César wasn't even playing poorly. He was not given a proper chance to make saves because his defenders were always leaving wide open spaces for German attackers to run into, then trailing behind once the ball was controlled. The most glaring measure of this was the fact that Brazil controlled possession for 64% of the first half, yet found themselves trailing by 5 goals because they simply were not ready to combat the German counterattack.

The story of the second half was Manuel Neuer messing with Brazil. With the game firmly in his side's hands, he was finally tested as the Brazilians were able to string together some quality offensive chances. But Neuer responded in brilliant fashion with two great saves, then two consecutive stops against Paulinho within the first eight minutes of the second half.

César played well when his teammates gave him a fair chance, but that didn't last long as another defensive lapse led to substitute Andre Schurrle scoring twice within ten minutes, with the second goal being a beautiful left-footed strike that was perfectly placed at the top of the net. At this point the Brazilian faithful were applauding every time their team conceded a goal, because they had given up on cheering for their own team. Also, the television graphic couldn't contain all of Germany's goals at once, so they were forced to scroll up to them all.

And then came the finish, which included an absolutely ridiculous pity goal scored by Oscar to try and salvage some semblance of respect for his team and his nation. But that didn't work. His team his defeated about as soundly as possible. They disappointed themselves and their entire country with a disgraceful performance.



Now's also a good time to point out that Ghana drew Germany in the group stage.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

I'll Be Back

Soon I'll be leaving for Ghana again, where I will be working for a newspaper for four weeks. Much like last year, my internet will range somewhere on a scale of Eddy Curry (absolutely disgraceful) to Gerald Henderson (totally mediocre), leaning more towards the former. Occasionally there may be moments of my internet connection being comparable to Bruno Caboclo (perfect in every way) but those will be fleeting.

Anyway, that means that I'll be away from this site, and from the American sports scene for a bit, but have no fear. I'll try to write something if I can during my time away (no word yet on when it will actually be posted. That's always an adventure, as evidenced by this article) and upon my return I'll be bringing back my 32 in 32 series, where I preview each NFL team leading up to the season opener. I will have significantly less than 32 days to complete it, but I'll double up on some days in order to get it done.

So that's all for now.

Let's go Mets. Let's go Phil Jackson.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Group Stage Winners and Losers

Photo from msn.foxsports.com
The World Cup is now officially halfway through as the group stage shaved the field of teams from 32 teams to 16, and it's time to really start to make sense of what just happened, and what to expect going forward. There have been some surprises to this point, there has been some great performances and games, and overall, the World Cup has had all of the excitement that should be expected of this hallowed tournament. Here are your winners to this point. These may be people, teams, or ideas. Really, anything that was either a pleasant surprise or :

France- After an absolutely disastrous 2010 campaign, the French team has solved all the turmoil and turned things around. Coach Didier Deschamps took over two years ago and attempted to change the culture by refusing to select any players who could potentially cause problems. Even without their best player, Franck Ribéry, the French side is playing extremely fell thanks to great defense and an unstoppable attack led by Karim Benzema's 4 goals. 

The Netherlands- From runners-up in 2010 to the early favorites in 2014, the Dutch have been around the top for quite a while. But, this time around it looks like they've put it all together and have become a powerhouse. It began with a shocking 5-1 demolition of the reigning champions, Spain (I'll get to them later) and nothing has changed. Arjen Robben has looked like the best player in the Cup thus far as he's been working hard and super aggressive in attack. Let's take some time to remember that Robin van Persie did this:


The land mass and people of Brazil- Had Brazil scuffled at all during the group stage and found a way, as impossible as it seems, to get eliminated prior to the knockout stage, I would have worried for the safety of the entire country of Brazil. They made it through. The world is still spinning, for now.