More HB: The tale of two New York football teams

-It would be very easy to start off with the Giants following what was one of the best NFL games of the season with the defending Super Bowl champs showing mettle rallying from 21-10 down in defeating the Panthers 34-28 in overtime at Giants Stadium clinching homefield.

We’ll get to that later.

-Whether or not they deserve it, the Jets’ latest collapse is front and center with them falling in humiliating fashion to the three-win Seahawks 13-3 in snowy Seattle. Somehow, Eric Mangini’s club went from 8-3 and looking like a possible AFC Super Bowl representative following road wins over the Pats and Titans to 9-6 having dropped three of four- well it should’ve been all four if Dick Jauron wasn’t coaching Buffalo- having lost badly at home to a mediocre Bronco team along with a brutal performance at hapless San Francisco.

By falling yesterday to Seahawk backup quarterback Seneca Wallace and Maurice Morris in Mike Holmgren’s home swan song as Seattle coach, Gang Green discovered a new way to tease their fans. When WFAN midday host Joe Benigno goes into rant mode with partner Evan Roberts later today, the S.O.J. (Same Old Jets) mantra about how their coach made some baffling decisions such as not going for fourth and less than a yard from inside the five early on settling for a Jay Feely field goal.

In a game you need, you can’t play conservative. Especially with how poor the conditions were. The Jets had their only good drive where Brett Favre and the offense were in sync. So, why not go for the score when you’re at their 2 with a chance to set the tone? Especially when everyone knew this team was 0 for the West coast coming in having even lost to the woeful Raiders on a 55-yard Sebastian Janikowski kick.

Not this coach. If you thought that decision was bad, then what of the choice after a mistimed delay of game penalty negative a Feely 45-yard kick that would’ve cut the deficit to 10-6 opting instead to punt in the fourth quarter with it slipping away? Utterly ridiculous when Feely’s first kick had plenty of distance and the Jets desperately needed the three points just to give themselves a realistic chance on a day Favre looked every bit the age of 39 finishing with under a 50.0 rating tossing two interceptions including a dreadful throw which stood no chance.

If the QB is not throwing it well, then why did Thomas Jones carry the ball only 17 times for 67 yards? Even if the AFC rushing leader wasn’t chewing up chunks on the ground, that’s not enough carries for a team who much like the more reliable New York football team rely on a balance of running setting up the pass game. How is it possible that Morris got the ball 29 times for 116 averaging 4.0 yards to Jones’ 3.9?

What’s a better philosophy for winning in snowy windy cold conditions? Not the one the Jets employed with triple threat Leon Washington (3 rushes, 14 yds, no receptions) an afterthought.

Making matters worse, when they were facing fourth-and-two from their own 20 trailing by a TD with over two minutes left and all three timeouts, for some reason Mangini opted to go chancing it all and then watched helplessly as Favre’s best throw sailed off Laveranues Coles with his main target defended well by Kelly Jennings. He still could’ve made the catch but you have to wonder why it was thrown 30 yards on a short yardage play with it all hanging in the balance.

When they didn’t convert, it allowed the Seahawks to essentially run it three times forcing Mangini to use two timeouts before Olindo Mare drilled a 38-yard kick ending any chance of a Jets comeback.

And just like that, here are the Jets 9-6 a game behind Chad Pennington and the Dolphins and the Patriots, who will be pulling hard for a Jet win over their former QB while they probably destroy the Bills.

With the Colts already having locked up one wildcard and the Ravens after a great road win over Dallas a home win over Jacksonville away from clinching the remaining spot, the Jets essentially need a miracle to make January.

Someone might ask how is it possible? It’s the Jets. That’s how.

-As for the Giants, they stepped up after two poor showings in divisional losses to the Eagles and Cowboys by playing a great second half outscoring the Panthers 21-7 if you include Brandon Jacobs’ third TD of the night which sealed the deal finishing off a nice comeback win in front of their supporters on a cold windy night improving to 12-3.

They deserve a lot of credit because Carolina played very well getting four TDs from impressive rookie back DeAngelo Williams (24 rushes, 108 yds), who twice pulled away from Giant defenders with scores of 13 and 30. The difference was that Tom Coughlin never deviated from the gameplan despite falling behind 21-10 with the Panthers scoring TDs on their first three possessions due to a nice balanced attack with Jake Delhomme finding main target Steve Smith for key pickups.

The combination of Williams along with Jonathan Stewart was working well for John Fox’s club in the opening 30 minutes. But Big Blue also got back to what they do best running the ball with Jacobs who returned and ran for a hard 87 yards while teammate Ward (Wind) hammered the Panthers on the ground establishing a new career high 215 on only 15 carries.

It was as impressive a performance as you can have in a big spot on national TV with everyone watching. Certainly, the return of Kareem McKenzie to a strong offensive line which boasts Pro Bowlers Shaun O’Hara and Chris Snee helped the Giants get back on track after not being able to get a consistent ground attack the past two weeks while allowing eight sacks to Dallas including three by NFL sack leader DeMarcus Ware.

Instead, the line was back doing the job clearing space for Jacobs and Ward to do their thing while blocking well for Eli Manning, who managed the game well not making any mistakes going 17 of 27 for 181 yards with a TD pass to improving tight end Kevin Boss, who also did a solid job making holes for the two-headed run attack that roasted the Panthers for 301 yards.

If the Giant D was brutal in the first half unable to get stops, then they were much better after the half shutting out Smith while limiting the damage to allow Manning and Co. to comeback.

While many might point to the brilliant Jeff Feagles punt following a Julius Peppers sack where the Giant special teams came through pinning Carolina inside their own 2, perhaps the biggest play during the comeback was Manning’s patience on a critical third-and-long waiting for his blocking Boss to bounce away before finding him for a huge first down with the second-year player getting to the marker.

Afterwards, the Jints’ ground game along with some timely Manning completions allowed them to methodically drive down the field using almost nine minutes before Eli found Boss on third-and-goal from four yards out cutting it to 21-20. They had gotten a John Carney 35-yard kick before the half to make it an eight-point deficit. A workable margin considering how well their opponents played.

If they were going to give in following a great Williams 30-yard scamper putting them back down eight midway through the final quarter, the Giants never panicked with Manning doing some of his best work completing three passes including a couple on third down to move the chains to setup Jacobs from a yard out making it 28-26 with 3:21 remaining.

Needing a two-point conversion, he made no mistake using a perfect playfake to Jacobs before threading the needle to a wide open Domenik Hixon tying it.

Now it was up to the defense. One which saw leading rusher Justin Tuck hobbled on and off the field with the flu gutting it out. They hadn’t gotten much pressure on Delhomme but made enough tackles on the Panthers’ ground game to force Jon Kasay to attempt a 50-yard FG with nine seconds left. Certainly no gimme in these conditions. The reliable lefty kicker had the distance but the wind pushed it just wide right allowing the Giants to breathe a sigh of relief getting to sudden death.

In it, both offenses stumbled going three and out before the Giants got it back. With Manning going off, they stayed with Ward, who used three great blocks to pull away for a 51-yard dash inside the Carolina 40. A couple of more Ward double digit runs for first downs got the ball all the way to the 2 setting up Jacobs (Earth) to plow in from two yards out for the game-winner.

It was easily one of the most entertaining games of this regular season with two good NFC teams going toe to toe but in the end, the Giants were left standing thanks to Earth and Wind along with their line which wore down Carolina’s front.

A sharp contrast from the Jets who once again letdown their fans making it nearly impossible for them to make the cut. So much for that all New York Super Bowl.

-It could be worse. You could be a Lion fan where their team made history becoming the first in the NFL to lose its first 15 games in a season Sunday getting trounced 42-7 by the Saints. They can complete the first ever 0-16 season next week when they visit Lambeau Field and the Packers where they haven’t prevailed since 1991.

Just how sad is the franchise which went a preposterous 31-84 before Team President Matt Millen was axed following an 0-3 beginning? Even their own fans have created “Yes We Can” t-shirts with 0-16 on them believing and rooting for their own team to lose every game.

The only team in league history to go winless were the expansion Tampa Bay Bucs when they finished 0-14 in 1976. According to center Dominic Raiola, this dubious distinction would be much worse with him going on to say:

It’s very real. It’s right there in front of us … It’s pretty sad that its come to this.
Sad indeed.

-One question that remains is whether Mangini will survive if the Jets miss the postseason following their 8-3 start. Many fans and talkshow hosts want him gone. Will Woody Johnson listen? Get back to us after the New Year.

-On the flipside, it would be great for Pennington to comeback to the place where he had lots of success and lead his new team to a road win and the AFC East title taking a one-win Dolphin team a year ago to 11-5.

With Kurt Warner and the Cardinals falling apart before the playoffs and no real frontrunner, why not Pennington for MVP? While it’s true he doesn’t possess the gaudy stats of Peyton Manning, Drew Brees or Philip Rivers, all the QB does is win and put up respectable numbers with lesser talent.

Who had Miami winning this many games? It had plenty to do with a gutsy quarterback who is fearless and has comeback from two reconstructive shoulder surgeries and not missed a beat. Pennington was always a well stated classy guy here but he also was a leader.

He’s a winner who’s always been easy to root for. I want him and his team to make it next week. They deserve to!

-One final thought on the Seahawks making a winner of Holmgren in his final home game before he takes a break. Watching how intense the players were led by Wallace was fun stuff. You could tell how much they wanted to win the game for him. The celebration in the snow was nice.

Cool stuff.

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NFL Week 9 Picks

We’re basically at the halfway point of the season and with the clocks going an hour back and November officially here having been brought in by an amazing college football game won by Texas Tech with a second to spare over No.1 Texas, what kind of big games will we get in the crucial final two months of the regular season?

There’s only one unbeaten in defensive minded Tennessee and the defending champion Giants are 6-1 just half a game in front of the surprising Redskins with every NFC East team including the banged up Cowboys who enter with five wins looking to pull a huge upset at East Rutherford. The Eagles must also not be forgotten at 4-3 with a very winnable road game in Seattle.

The question is is there a better division in football? Sure doesn’t seem like it despite Jerry Jones lurking around promising changes if his injured team doesn’t get going.

Meanwhile, the struggling Jets are at a crossroads somehow just a game behind the first place Bills as they enter a big divisional match-up at Ralph Wilson Stadium where the 5-2 Bills have yet to lose in three home games. They’re usually very tough to beat there as well getting great special teams, solid D and efficient QBing from second-year starter Trent Edwards.

So, can Brett Favre and a lost Gang Green team who squeaked by the lowly Chiefs last week thanks to the usual Herm Edwards “Play To Win Lose” philosophy get the ship righted and come away with a ‘W’ in Buffalo? All that and more shall get answered today.

NFL Week 9

Jets (4-3) at Bills (5-2)- It’s hard not to like Buffalo here. Especially after a bitter defeat in Miami last week in which they gave up the last 18 points. Sure. They’ve dropped two of three but every time this team is doubted, they step up with a good performance. The same can’t be said for the dysfunctional Jets who still don’t know what they are despite having a gunslinger. Does Favre respond? Something tells me this will be tight late.

Prediction: Jets 20  Bills 26

Jaguars (3-4) at Bengals (0-8)- Our Super Bowl pick is in huge trouble following a six point home loss to the Browns. They along with the Colts trail the Titans by a ridiculous four games. Right now, it’s just about Jack Del Rio’s inconsistent club staying afloat. He’s labeled Matt Jones their best receiver. Well, duh. They can’t afford to foul this up. So figure Jones to have a nice day and for the Jags to reestablish the ground game.

Prediction: Jags 27  Bengals 16

Ravens (4-3) at Browns (3-4)- Can anyone explain the up and down Browns who can destroy the Giants while losing a tight one to the Skins before rebounding in Jacksonville? They obviously are playing better. They’ll need to not turn it over against an opportunistic Raven D. Something tells me they get it done.

Prediction: Ravens 13  Browns 19

Texans (3-4) at Vikings (3-4)- Two teams with identical records but one hot having reeled off three straight while the other has been an enigma all season despite being a trendy pick. So, can Houston continue its resurgence in Minnesota? That’s usually a tough place to win. This might be close.

Prediction: Texans 17  Vikings 20

Lions (0-7) at Bears (4-3)- Did anyone have the Kyle Orton led Bears putting up 48 on the Vikes two weeks ago? Suddenly, they’re very much in play for the division with the Packers. So, this should be a no-brainer against a winless team Orton lit up once already. At least Daunte Culpepper has a day job again.

Prediction: Lions 13  Bears 27

Bucs (5-3) at Chiefs (1-6)- Jon Gruden’s team is coming off a disappointing 13-9 road loss to the Cowboys. So, figure them to be better this week against the lowly Chiefs who can’t possibly duplicate their performance from last week. The Bucs don’t score much but they’re much better coached than the Jets and need the game.

Prediction: Bucs 20  Chiefs 12

Cards (4-3) at Rams (2-5)- Two-time league MVP Kurt Warner returns to where it all started with the Rams when he led them to a Super Bowl win going from bagging groceries to one of the best stories. He’s having a very good season leading the high powered Cards into first. His former team is playing better under Jim Haslett. So, this won’t be easy. But I wouldn’t bet against Warner in this spot.

Prediction: Cards 31 Rams 24

Packers (4-3) at Titans (7-0)- Can anyone stop the Titans? Green Bay should be in this game but they better find a way to slow down Tennessee’s ground game or it could be a long day. Kerry Collins doesn’t have to be lights out due to the combo of Chris Johnson and LenDale White. He can pick his spots. Something tells me the Titans will blanket Ryan Grant getting to Aaron Rodgers.

Prediction: Packers 13  Titans 24

Dolphins (3-4) at Broncos (4-3)- Miami’s coming off a quality home win over Buffalo keeping them in the AFC East race a couple back of the Bills and Pats. Chad Pennington threw for over 300 yards and has been rejuvenated. Denver has dropped two straight but is coming off a bye and should be healthier. Figure Jay Cutler and their air attack to get back on track.

Prediction: Dolphins 20  Broncos 31

Cowboys (5-3) at Giants (6-1)- Let’s see. No Tony Romo. Check. No Felix Jones. Check. Probably no Jason Witten. Check. No Terrence Newman. Check. A 40 year-old immobile QB in Brad JohnsonMarion Barber forcing Johnson to beat them. The Giants meanwhile are much healthier and just need to do a better job in the red zone. starting against a super fast pass rushing D. Check. Despite all that, expect the Cowboys to stay in it because there’s too much at stake. They should play hard. But figure the Giants to concentrate on stopping

Prediction: Cowboys 17  Giants 26

Eagles (4-3) at Seahawks (2-5)- Donovan McNabb is motivated and Brian Westbrook is healthy. So, this shouldn’t be any cause for concern against a bad Seahawk team. Right? Figure the Eagle D to make life miserable for Matt Hasselbeck.

Prediction: Eagles 28  Seahawks 13

Falcons (4-3) at Raiders (2-5)- The Falcons suffered a 13-point loss to the Eagles last week and now visit The Black Hole looking for a bounce back performance. Expect rookie Matt Ryan to step up with a nice run game led by Michael Turner. A win keeps one of the league’s pleasant surprises right there for the NFC South.

Prediction: Falcons 24  Raiders 16

Patriots (5-2) at Colts (3-4)- The Pats somehow have five wins without Tom Brady because they blew the doors off Denver in a must win two weeks ago and held off a tougher Rams team. Now, they enter one of those old establishment match-ups in primetime against Peyton Manning and the struggling Colts. I just can’t see Manning letting his team lose this one. It’s too important.

Prediction: Pats 16  Colts 27

Steelers (5-2) at Redskins (6-2)- This is easily the best game of the week. Boy. Did ESPN luck out and you can’t always say that. So, how will they ruin it? Who had Washington with six wins already? Mean time, Big Ben tries to rebound from a pitiful performance against an attacking Giant D which sacked him five times forcing him into five turnovers. The Skins continue to play well getting inspired running from league leader Clinton Portis and efficient passing from Jason Campbell, who enters without an Int. A potential barn burner in the making between two good football teams.

Prediction: Steelers 17  Redskins 14

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More HB: World Series, Brett Favre, Beyonce

-The Rays bounced back with a 4-2 win in Game 2 over the Phillies evening the World Series at a game apiece with the next three back in Philly this weekend. Tampa Bay scored twice in the first and tacked on a couple of more runs in the second and fourth off losing Phillie starter Brett Myers while ace James Shields held their opponent without a run in five and two thirds scattering seven hits while walking two and striking out four.

A pair of RBI ground outs from Carlos Pena and rookie third baseman Evan Longoria helped Tampa Bay get off to a quick start. B.J. Upton’s two out bases loaded RBI single to the opposite field plated a third run before Jayson Werth’s throw nailed Rocco Baldelli at the plate with the right fielder crashing into Philadelphia catcher Carlos Ruiz, who held on for the final out.

With Cliff Floyd on third, a well executed safety squeeze from shortstop Jason Bartlett scored the fourth run two innings later.

After Dan Wheeler came onto toss one scoreless frame K-ing a pair, ALCS Game Seven rookie hero David Price made things interesting by giving up a two out eighth inning pinch hit Eric Bruntlett solo blast to left breaking the shutout.

With Joe Maddon staying with the former 2007 first overall pick out of Vanderbilt, it got even tighter when Ruiz ledoff with a double and Jimmy Rollins appeared to be hit by a pitch. If the ball did touch part of the 2007 NL MVP’s jersey, plate umpire Kerwin Danley wasn’t saying and neither did the shortstop make much of it.

Instead, Price cameback to pop him up for a big first out before Werth’s scorcher off Longoria which somehow was ruled an E5 scored Ruiz for the Phils’ second run sending the tying run to the plate in Game 1 hero Chase Utley with Ryan Howard on deck. But Price dug deep getting Utley to chase and then inducing the struggling Howard into a grounder right into the shift for an easy 4-3 putout ending the game.

-A good win for the Rays who like they did in the ALCS against Boston bounced back from a Game One home defeat to even a series making it anyone’s with five potential games left. They”ll be in the identical spot they were when they visited Fenway sending ALCS MVP Matt Garza to the mound against crafty 45 year-old southpaw Jamie Moyer Saturday night. Figure the edge to go to the Rays if Garza continues to dominate. We’ll see if Howard can get untracked.

The other two match-ups at Citizen’s Bank Park pits Andy Sonnanstine against Joe Blanton and a Game 1 lefty rematch between 24 year-olds Scott Kazmir and Cole Hamels. This series shaped up to be a good one and thus far, has delivered even if ratings on Fox are probably down due to who’s in it. It’s good baseball though with solid pitching on both sides, low scores and key hits. Whoever wins the whole thing will have really earned it.

-Who cares if Brett Favre really put in a call to buddy Matt Millen before he was axed by Detroit about a game versus his ex-team. What does it matter? We’re talking about the Lions here, who need all the help they can get and that still wouldn’t be enough. What’s sad is that Favre lied when asked about whether he spoke to Millen. Why hide it? It’s not that bad to begin with but makes him look a lot worse.

Meanwhile, Favre’s sketchy play on the gridiron for an underachieving 3-3 Jets team in a weaker AFC is what should come under fire by the New York media here. He just hasn’t been the difference Gang Green expected him to be with part of the blame on conservative coach Eric Mangini along with Brian Schottenheimer, who’d rather run the ball with Thomas Jones than let one of the greatest QBs the game’s ever seen win a game at Oakland in which he was responsible for even getting it there in the first place.

You don’t treat Favre with kid gloves. That was easily one of the most poorly coached OTs I’ve ever seen with the Jets getting what they deserved. An ugly loss putting them two behind an overachieving bunch in Buffalo who find ways to win and don’t use excuses like the ones Bob Wischusen invents behind a Jets microphone over on ESPN Radio.

Bottom Line: The good teams overcome adversity to pull out games while the mediocre ones don’t which is what the Jets are right now. Mediocre.

-I’m no expert but what does changing her name to Sasha Fierce have to do with Beyonce anyway? She’s fierce anyway. We know that. Just look at her!

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More HB: The Day After

-And so, the New York baseball season is over and it really does feel weird that both the Mets and Yankees won’t be playing meaningful baseball as October gets ready to hit. I just can’t remember what this felt like. Sure. The two teams both finished with identical records winning 89 games which meant they didn’t stink by any stretch but when you have the kind of payrolls they do, so many expectations come with it for this spoiled city which makes it all the more disappointing.

In the end, both teams despite big names proved to be flawed which was why they fell short in their postseason bids. Injuries aside, the Yankees didn’t have enough pitching or timely hitting. For some reason, they never hit the way they could’ve and too often couldn’t deliver in the clutch. That along with being a very streaky team which sometimes lacked energy kept them from putting together that run with their best ball coming way too late when the season was already lost.

The Mets also had their share of injuries but severely underperformed the first 10 weeks getting Willie Randolph axed before waking up under Jerry Manuel to get back in the race. Despite no pen to speak of, they persevered and once again were in great position to win their division before it all came crashing down in the final couple of weeks though not as badly as last year. While the pen could never be trusted and cost them a ton of games, what was most baffling was the offense which at times disappeared. How do you explain getting shutout 1-0 against the majors’ worst team the Nats? And what about scoring only five runs in the do or die weekend series against the same Marlins who danced on their field eliminating them last year? Questions will continue to linger about David Wright and Jose Reyes until they stop disappearing and carry this team back to October and beyond.

Now, it will be a long offseason for Omar Minaya with plenty of angry customers wondering why next year will be different at Citi Field. Getting a real second baseman while unloading Luis Castillo along with revamping the bullpen are just a couple of topics he must address with new record closer Francisco Rodriguez at the top of the list. It’s also likely Pedro Martinez pitched his final game as a Met after struggling mightily. And then there’s Oliver Perez, who will be seeking a deal in the neighborhood of $12-16 million per year under greedy agent Scott Boras$. Is he really worth that kind of money longterm? I say no. He’s just too unpredictable to get to that next level. What about Carlos Delgado? Do they pick up the $12 million option rewarding him for his brilliant second half or do they try to get younger going for better defense? If they let him go, it won’t be easy to replace his big bat.

As for the Yankees, they will need to decide on center field moving forward along with what they intend to do with Joba Chamberlain. If they make him a starter, then they must continue to shore up their pen. Bringing back 20-game winner Mike Mussina should be at the top of Brian Cashman’s list. Figure Andy Pettite to either retire or go elsewhere following a dismal second half. The Yanks of course need a real ace and should be in the running for C.C. Sabathia, John Lackey or A.J. Burnett with him expected to opt out of Toronto. There’s also the first base situation where they could be competing with the Angels and Mets for Mark Teixeira. Figure Jason Giambi to go elsewhere after a productive season proving he can still be a valuable DH somewhere. As for Bobby Abreu, he’s a solid run producer who gets on base but leaves something to be desired for in right which is why we see Xavier Nady shifting.

Whatever transpires over the next three months, New York baseball fans know full well their rosters won’t look the same following a quiet October.

Get ready for chaos.

-Just in case we forgot, there’s still one more regular season game to be played later today when the Twins visit the Windy City against the White Sox, who earned the one-game home playoff by getting a grand slam from overlooked rookie second baseman Alexei Ramirez in an 8-2 win over the Tigers in a makeup game Monday. They get the game despite winning their first in six thanks to the Twins dropping two of three to the Royals despite sweeping three from Ozzie Guillen’s club to pull half a game up. It’ll be John Danks going on three days rest against Nick Blackburn to decide the AL Central for the final playoff berth.

One team will advance to play the Tampa Bay Rays in the Division Series while Boston travels to California to meet the 100-win Angels.

The NL of course is all set with the Cubs taking on the Dodgers while the Phillies host the Brewers, who are in their first postseason in 26 years.

We’ll have more playoff stuff later on.

-It’s hard to choose one between each but our pick for NL MVP would be Ryan Howard for how he carried the Phillies the final month having one of the best Septembers eerily similar to when he clubbed 58 home runs and knocking in 149 to win the award two years ago. I’ve always been a huge fan of Manny Ramirez and he sure stepped up carrying the Dodgers in the final two months impacting their lineup while coming back to win the NL West. But it’s hard to pick him over Howard with how well the first base slugger finished leading his team to a 13-3 record over the final 16 pressure packed games in a very tight race.

-The same could be said for the NL Cy Young where worthy candidates like Johan Santana, Brandon Webb and Tim Lincecum all are in the running against Milwaukee rental Sabathia, who tossed a remarkable seven complete games pacing the league while turning in a money performance following Santana’s gem to get the Brewers in. For that, we’ll give the nod to Sabathia over Lincecum with Santana third and Webb fourth.

-AL MVP is a little easier and could depend on if the Twins win with Justin Morneau once again in the running against Boston tandem Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis. It’s hard to ignore Carlos Quentin’s impact with the White Sox, who haven’t been the same since he went down. To be honest, he would’ve been a lock had he not broken his wrist. If the Twins get in, Morneau should win his second MVP in three years this time edging another do everything infielder Pedroia, who resembles a young Derek Jeter. If not, give the award to Pedroia because he’s been his team’s best player since the Manny trade.

-As for AL Cy Young, Cliff Lee should get the nod handily edging out K-Rod, Dice-K and Roy Halladay. I know he won’t get a lot of consideration but Moose deserves a few votes for how well he pitched in the Bronx this year.

-What else can Joe Girardi be two-faced about and purposely hide from the media?

-It’s nice to see Brett Favre finally be allowed to open it up and get on the same page with Laveranues Coles, who caught three touchdowns for the first time in his career- half of Favre’s career high six in the Jets’ 56-35 win over Kurt Warner and the Cards. I just wonder if Gang Green fans can be pleased about their D turning a 34-0 halftime cushion into a game by allowing three straight TDs in the third quarter before Favre and the Jet offense put it away.

-Did anyone ever think the Bills and Titans would both be the only remaining unbeatens in the AFC looking like playoff locks?

-How come Terrell Owens always blames Dallas defeats on not getting him involved enough when it was about as believable as anything Sarah Palin says? Can’t he ever give credit to the opponent because the Redskins played a heck of a game and have certainly turned things around since the NFL Opener defeat to the Giants? But hey. T-Ho will always be a selfserving primadona who doesn’t care about the team concept despite his talent which is why I’d never take him on my team.

-I could do a better job than Scott Linehan did with the Rams.

-It sure took long enough for the Lions to realize Matt Millen wasn’t a good Team President. I wonder what keyed them in on that.

-When someone takes shots at the Yanks and Mets for not qualifying, just remember you could be the Tigers who gave up the world for Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis, who now looks like a serious rebuilding project. Tell ya one thing. Cameron Maybin sure looks good in center for the Marlins. And if Andrew Miller pans out, that’s gonna be one heck of a rotation in 2009. The Mets and Phillies might have some competition for the NL East.

-Just how ridiculous is Jim Dolan? Idiotic enough to continue bringing back Allan Houston while refusing to payoff Stephon Marbury to get him off the Knicks roster. That’s why no matter who’s running it, they’ll always be the same laughingstock.

-Now would be a good time to tell the Rangers that the NHL regular season begins in a few days over in Europe cause they have looked really bad so far. I wonder what Glen Sather thinks now of investing six years and six and a half per on Wade Redden. Just wait till the season starts up. You ain’t seen nothing yet.

-What I like about the Giant organization is they stick to their rules disciplining Plaxico Burress for missing two straight days of practice even if it was due to a personal family matter. The wideout still should’ve communicated better this way he wouldn’t be fined and have to sit out next week’s home game versus Seattle. However, there aren’t any excuses and no exceptions under Coach Coughlin which is why I believe this team can repeat. They get it!

-Someone might want to tell Jerry Jones that this isn’t the 50′s anymore when he last played organized football. He doesn’t belong on the sideline.

-Boomer and Carton are a fun listen on WFAN in the morning because they work well and have solid chemistry. Listening to them rant over the Mets’ latest disappointment was good radio. Loved Carton’s nickname for Wright for failing to deliver in the clutch: “D-Rod.” A reference to Alex Rodriguez.

-I feel bad for diehard Met fans like Steve Somers, Tony Paige, Evan Roberts and Joe Benigno, who live and die with their team all year long. You can feel the emotion and terrible bitterness in their voices. Particularly Somers, who last week coming back from a great Weezer concert sounded heartbroken over a costly extra inning defeat to the Cubs. You could really tell how badly he wanted to see them get in and reverse last year.

They all did and showed so much. Maybe if the Mets had played with as much energy as they brought to the WFAN airwaves, they wouldn’t be sitting home instead getting ready for Lou Piniella’s Cubs. They might get paid to talk sports but they wear the Mets’ logo as a badge of honor as did outstanding play-by-play man Howie Rose.

Nobody ever likes to get their hearts broken. Especially by their favorite sports team which is what can make following sports so crazy. One minute, you’re as high as the sky and the next you feel like burying yourself under the sand.

It’s the real diehards who never abandon ship who shall always get my sorrows. Cause it takes a lot sometimes to stay with a team that constantly gives you heartache.

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Golden Brett Broadway Bound

Brett Favre is no longer the quarterback of the Green Bay Packers. The 38 year-old future Hall of Famer was traded to the New York Jets for a conditional 2009 draft pick.

It was first reported by both ESPN and Fox Sports just after midnight on the East coast.

“We just felt like this was an opportunity to go get somebody of Brett’s stature and what he’s accomplished,” Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum said during a conference call earlier this morning.

“We felt it was in the best interest of the team and when the opportunity presented itself, we felt it was the right move for us to make and we went ahead and did it.”

When it became apparent Favre would not be the man in Green Bay with the Packers opting to hand the reigns over to Aaron Rodgers, the Jets and Bucs were the final two teams in the running to land the NFL’s all-time leader in throwing touchdowns (442). Tampa dropped out making Gang Green’s destiny of landing the former Southern Miss star likely.

Favre was originally selected by the Falcons in the second round of the 1991 Draft. He only played in two games going 0-for-5 with two picks and a sack before Atlanta dealt him during the offseason to Green Bay for the 19th pick in the 1992 Draft in which they ironically selected another Southern Miss star Tony Smith, who lasted only three seasons. Perhaps that explains the Falcons legacy.

After becoming the starter with his new team, Favre went onto a brilliant career spending the next 16 years as arguably the best quarterback in the game leading the Packers back to the NFL’s elite winning Super Bowl XXXI over New England and losing to John Elway and Denver in Super Bowl XXXII. He is the only three-time AP MVP (1995-97) in league history.

Not only does Favre hold the NFL record for most TD’s thrown but most career passing yards (61,655), most career completions (5,377), attempts (8,758) and interceptions (288). He also holds the record for most consecutive starts among NFL QBs with 253 straight including 275 with playoffs. Not surprisingly, he also owns the most ever victories (160) for a starting signal caller.

Now, Brett will get the opportunity to turn around a Jets team which went just 4-12 a year ago as both Chad Pennington and Kellen Clemens struggled. Before he decided to unretire getting league approval for reinstatement, the original plan was for the two QBs to battle it out in camp and preseason to see who would win the starting job.

Instead, the Jets will reportedly release the classy Pennington later today who twice cameback from rotator cuff surgery battling injuries during a respectable eight-year career finishing with 82 TDs and 55 Ints while tossing for 13,738 yards.

“It’s a bittersweet moment for us,” Tannenbaum pointed out. “I have all the respect in the world for Chad as a person, as a player. We’ve accomplished a lot of good things with Chad … He gave his heart and soul to this organization for a long, long time. I really appreciate everything he’s done.”

For his team, it’s the right move which of course comes with a lot of expectations. The pressure to win now while sacrificing the team’s future.

A high risk investment for a veteran QB who never seems to know whether he’s coming or going.

We doubt Jet fans will care. Today’s their day to celebrate arguably the franchise’s biggest acquisition.

Now the fun really begins.

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-It was a mixed night for both New York ballclubs. Let’s start with the positive if you can call hanging on for dear life against the lowly Padres that as the Mets did in a 6-5 win to kick off a vital six-game homestand on the right foot. Most of the offense was supplied by resurgent left fielder Fernando Tatis, who slugged two home runs including a huge two out three-run go-ahead shot in the home sixth which put the Mets up 4-2. The Mets tacked on a couple of key insurance tallies including a Nick Evans eighth inning run scoring double which wound up being the difference due to the pen. Though Aaron Heilman wasn’t helped much by his defense as he attempted to close out the game with Billy Wagner on the DL, he still served up a three-run homer to Jody Gerut which suddenly made it a nerve wracking one-run game with still a couple of outs to get. Jerry Manuel opted for Joe Smith to get the second out and then lefty Scott Schoeneweis came on to pop out Brian Giles to deep center on one pitch notching the save.

-Still, it was an important win snapping a four-game skid and allowing the Mets to regain some momentum as they also gained a game on the first place Phillies, who dropped an 8-2 contest to visiting Florida, who pulled within a game and a half while the Amazin’s are two behind. They need to go at least 4-2 on this stand against the Padres and Marlins to feel good about themselves as the stretch drive nears closer.

-There was no such encouraging news for the other New York team as the Yankees again lost in Texas- this time falling 8-6 despite a Richie Sexson eighth inning grand salami which at least made the outcome respectable. Truthfully, the Rangers aren’t a bad team and in fact are just a game and a half worse now than those Yanks in that wild card race. AL MVP candidate Josh Hamilton did some damage hitting his 27th home run off an ineffective Andy Pettite, who lasted only five while permitting five earned. Struggling rookie David Robertson and Brian Bruney provided little relief allowing three more Rangers to come home highlighted by a Chris Davis two-run double in the seventh that was the difference. The rookie knocked in half his team’s output as Texas captured the first two of the four-game set.

-That combined with a damaging walkoff defeat the previous night where Marlon Byrd got the better of Damaso Marte for a winning slam has New York seeing red. Boston won as Jason Bay had four hits and four RBI’s in an 8-2 win over the Royals increasing their WC lead to 3.5 over the Bronx Bombers. Oh btw…with the Twins and White Sox deadlocked in the AL Central both with superior records, the Yanks will also have to jump over them as well with Texas hot on the trail and even Toronto lurking in the background. They better get it in high gear soon or it really will be first October in 14 years without the Pinstripes closing out the House That Ruth Built for good earlier than expected.

-The worse news is that budding young ace Joba Chamberlain left Monday’s game in the fifth with shoulder tightness and already will miss his next turn in the rotation. Following an MRI, he’ll be reevaluated by Dr. James Andrews later today. Yankee brass and supporters better keep their fingers crossed it’s not too serious as they can ill afford to lose the 22 year-old former No.1 draft choice for an extended period. Especially when their staff is so thin after Pettite and rejuvenated vet Mike Mussina. Are you putting a lot of faith in veteran Sidney Ponson and the unheralded Darrell Rasner? Speaking of Ponson, he’ll face his former team tonight trying to give the Yanks a much needed jolt. So, who gets Joba’s next start? Ian Kennedy? He’s pitched well lately in Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. You’d think it would make sense to recall the rookie and give him another shot over say Japanese failure Kei Igawa or <gulp> Carl Pavano.

-I’m no genius here but good California buddy Brian Sanborn informed me that ESPN SC showed the replay of Prince Fielder getting into it with teammate Manny Parra over and over again. Why must they always show such replays of something negative when a younger audience just might be watching all their shows? Because if you know the biz as I have come to, it’s all about the most evil word in TV. RATING$. They don’t care just as you watch. When is enough enough? Sad to say but we all know the answer…

-Brett Favre’s back with Green Bay but won’t be for long. The question is if you were them, would you deal the legendary quarterback who’s meant so much to their franchise to the bitter rival Vikings? Tough question to answer. Personally, I think they should call the shots here for the reinstated 38 year-old future Hall of Famer. Unfortunately, that’s not going to happen anytime soon. Don’t expect a happy ending made for Hollywood.

-Remember when the Phillies were supposed to miss former center fielder Aaron Rowand, who left for greener pastures in San Fran? Truthfully, he’s not performing badly but given how well the gritty Shane Victorino is swinging the bat these days, they aren’t missing Rowand all too much:

Aaron Rowand

Shane Victorino

-Who would ever believe that Evan Longoria would become the leader of the first place Rays during his rookie season after signing a big extension? What a player!

-Alfonso Soriano missed all those games yet still leads the first place Cubs in homers slugging his 20th on a three hit, four-RBI night in an 11-7 victory over Houston. If he hadn’t gone down, 40 homers and 30 steals probably would have been locks.

-Daily News columnist Mike Lupica had another good piece in yesterday’s paper on long time Yankee catcher Jorge Posada having to be reduced to spectator status the rest of the way after undergoing successful surgery on his torn right labrum and capsule last week. It’s a good read with some very solid quotes from the 37 year-old veteran who’s been a huge part of the team’s success.

-As I noted in another entry, I really enjoyed the festivities of the final Yankee Old-Timer’s Day Saturday but when WCBS play-by-play man John Sterling actually referenced the weather holding off due to a rainy forecast as, “Once again, the sun is shining down on the Yankees,” that even got me. Talk about being overly dramatic.

Gee wiz.

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-Rafael Nadal took another step closer to the No.1 ranking by defeating veteran German Nicolas Kiefer 6-3, 6-2 to capture the Rogers Cup in Toronto yesterday for his ATP Tour leading seventh title of the year. It also marked his fifth consecutive tournament win and extended his match win streak to 29 straight. The 22 year-old No.2 ranked Spaniard also captured a fourth straight French Open and first ever Wimbledon becoming the first male tennis player to win both since Bjorn Borg in 1980. He defeated Scot Andy Murray in straight sets to reach the final after Murray had upset No.3 ranked Serb Novak Djokovic in the quarters of an upset marred tournament which saw top ranked Roger Federer, No.4 Russian Nikolay Davydenko, No.5 Spaniard David Ferrer and No.6 American Andy Roddick all bounced in the third round.

Nadal was able to avoid the upset bug to capture his first hard court tournament of the season. Though Kiefer raised his level early in the second set getting a few break points in the fifth game, the resilient Nadal fought them off and held serve before breaking the German’s spirit with two breaks to take the last four games for the championship.

If he continues to get solid results on the hard courts, then Nadal has to be considered a serious U.S. Open contender. He now believes he can win on any surface:

“I win on every surface, no? I win on grass, on hard, on indoor, and on clay, too. So if I am playing my best tennis I can win on every surface, no?”

In his career, Nadal’s now won 30 titles, making him the third youngest player to win that many behind Borg and Jimmy Connors.

He now trails Federer by just 300 points in the rankings boasting an impressive 61-7 record in 2008. So, can he finally overtake the 12-time slam winner who’s held the top spot a record 234 weeks in a row?

Every player wants to be No. 1, no? I would love to be No. 1, but I am No. 2 right now. I’m very happy for be No. 2. Because with my titles, with my points, in a normal situation I, well, would have been No. 1 before. So I think I have to be happy, very happy anyway if I am No. 1 or No. 2. Because if I am No. 2 it’s because in front of me there is amazing player like Roger (Federer).”

We’ll see how Rafa follows up all his success in Cincinnati this week.
-This Brett Favre Saga has gotten out of control. Now, ESPN’s Bottom Line is giving a daily synopsis of the on-goings filled with quotes from the Green Bay QB as if it matters more to sports fans than the scores which is what it’s supposed to fill us in on. I highly doubt most NFL fans outside the crazies in Milwaukee care about every life detail of Favre’s existence. What’s next? ESPN Bottom Line fills us in on the little details of Favre’s day:
“After talking about how he won’t report to camp, Favre then milked his cows on his farm before having a balanced lunch with a homemade salad filled up of veggies freshly picked and washed it down with some fresh squeezed lemonade.”
Why can I actually see this happening?
-In a fun baseball season filled with pennant chases, it’s easy to overlook the season San Diego first base slugger Adrian Gonzalez is having. Despite playing for a last place team with not much else around him, the 26 year-old former Marlins’ 2000 No.1 pick is hitting .280 with 25 homers, 82 RBI’s and 63 runs scored. He needs just five dingers and 18 RBI’s to match last year’s total. His 25 long balls are tied for fifth in the NL and 82 knocked in are tied for second. Just imagine if he was on a good team with more productive hitters. He’s become one of the more productive hitters in the game since coming over from Texas three years ago. Isn’t it about time he got his due?
-I don’t care what comes out of his mouth. The Red Sox would be crazy to trade Manny Ramirez. Few sluggers are more dangerous in crunch time than the kid from Washington Heights.
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-Listening to WFAN’s Tony Paige in his monologue of one of the worst Met losses and the overnight host is absolutely dead on about Johan Santana not being left in to start the ninth inning against the division rival Phillies. The Mets led 5-1 at one point until the former Twins’ AL Cy winner gave up a solo shot to Philly center fielder Shane Victorino in the seventh. Still, the Met ace on this night pitched like one getting through the eighth with a three-run lead intact. In fact, he had thrown just 105 pitches. You had to figure he had something left to maybe even finish what was the biggest game of the season at a packed Shea with first place up for grabs. Instead, on a night when he didn’t have Billy Wagner available (shoulder tightness), Jerry Manuel opted to pinch hit for Santana. Instead, he turned it over to Duaner Sanchez.

Paige took note of the intro of the AP game recap. One which is worth repeating:

When Jimmy Rollins saw New York reliever Duaner Sanchez come out to pitch the ninth inning instead of starter Johan Santana or closer Billy Wagner, he went straight to the batting tee to stay loose.

It didn’t matter that he was due up sixth and the Philadelphia Phillies trailed by three runs. He thought they had a chance.

The ever optimistic NL MVP was right.

You’d think by now some managers would learn. Especially when Wagner wasn’t around to close it out which meant Manuel was banking on Sanchez to come through in a different role. Instead, the setup man failed miserably giving up three straight base hits loading the bases forcing the interim skipper to pull him for second-year reliever Joe Smith. Smith closed games for the Single-A Cyclones a couple of years ago. Truthfully, it wasn’t his fault that Jose Reyes on a grounder missed the second base bag allowing a run to score and everyone to be safe. Still, he was out of the game replaced by lefty Pedro Feliciano. He’s been a fixture in seventh and eighth situations usually against lefties. Don’t believe me? Check the splits entering last night:

vs left .222

vs right .324

Not surprisingly, pinch hitter So Taguchi made Mets’ fans worst fears realized by delivering a tying two-run double to right over Endy Chavez. Then everyone’s fave Jimmy Rollins followed suit with a two-run go-ahead double. A couple batters later, the Phillie shortstop would come into score a sixth run on Ryan Howard’s RBI fielder’s choice.

By the time the Mets’ hottest reliever Aaron Heilman got into the ninth recording the final out, the damage was done. I have to question Manuel on why he didn’t put in Heilman after Sanchez got into trouble. He had been pitching very well and probably would’ve been the best choice.

Still, in this Relief Era Error ruled where pitch counts prevent most starters from finishing what they started unless your name’s Roy Halladay (real best pitcher in the game), you have to ask why Santana wasn’t out there to at least start that fateful ninth? It’s ridiculous. The guy tossed eight allowing two earned on eight hits walking none and fanning four. Without Billy The Kid, he has to be out there.

Instead, the Amazin’s suffered a crushing home defeat failing to move a game up in the standings. Instead, combined with a Marlins’ 4-0 blanking of Atlanta in which four pitchers combined to one-hit the former NL East front runners and ex-Met Mike Jacobs slugged a three-run homer, the Mets find themselves tied for second a game behind those Phils.

Does such a devastating loss set the tone for the next two days in Queens? Will this get the struggling Phillies going. They were 12-18 in their last 30 blowing a seven and a half game lead as the Mets turned around their season following the Willie Randolph firing.

The Mets should still have the edge in tonight’s game with John Maine facing recently recalled one-time Phillie closer Brett Myers following a minor league stint. A win would cure what happened and make fans forget. The middle game of this series now becomes crucial. We’ll see what they’re made of.

-Is it any wonder that Phillie big pickup Joe Blanton struggled serving up a pair of two-run dingers to Carlos Delgado and Ramon Castro? At least he went six and tossed four more pitches than Santana.

-Over in the Bronx, the Yankees continued their sizzling play improving to 5-0 since the break with an 8-2 win over the Twins. Darrell Rasner gave them a boost pitching into the sixth on what should have been just one run allowed due to first base umpire Mike Dimuro’s bad call ruling that Jason Kubel was safe on a potential inning ending double play in which Jason Giambi showed great athleticism to start it. Instead, the Twins took a 2-1 lead before eventual rookie winner David Robertson got the final out.

The Yanks have been swinging hotter bats lately and finally, they got going in the bottom half against Kevin Slowey. With Johnny Damon on first distracting the Minny starter enough, he grooved an inside heater to Bobby Abreu, who deposited it into the short porch for a 3-2 Yankee lead. Alex Rodriguez followed with a single for his second hit of the night to keep it going and then swiped second. After Jason Giambi was walked, resurgent second baseman Robinson Cano continued his hot hitting delivering a run scoring single to center putting them up a pair.

The following inning, the Bronx Bombers put the game out of reach batting around for four more highlighted by a two-run double from team captain Derek Jeter making it 6-2. An Abreu double and Giambi single increased the margin to six.

Relievers Jose Veras (1 IP, K) Kyle Farnsworth (1 IP, BB, 3 K’s) and Dan Giese (1 IP, H, K) finished off the final three frames pulling the Yanks to a season high 10 games over (55-45). With first place Tampa Bay falling to Oakland 8-1, they’re now just three and a half out. Meanwhile, Boston got a solid outing from Dice K, who pitched into the eighth permitting just a couple of runs while walking two and fanning six in a 4-2 road win over the Mariners to pull within half a game of first. They still lead the Yanks by three for the wild card.

-With his major league-leading 41st save, Angels’ closer Francisco Rodriguez is just 16 saves short of the major league record established by former White Sox closer Bobby Thigpen, who had 57 saves in 1990. With 62 games remaining, it’s a pretty good bet that the potential 2008 free agent will set a new record.

-With their fifth win in six, the Rockies remained seven behind NL West leader Arizona, who beat the NL-leading Cubs a second straight time to go a game up on the Dodgers. Ironically, that’s who Colorado beat getting homers from Brad Hawpe and Ian Stewart in a 10-1 rout bouncing back from a 16-10 defeat. They’re still 14 below .500 (44-58) but if they hang around in that weak division and play their cards right, I still believe they got a shot to comeback and win it.

-Did you ever think you’d see the day that WNBA players would be fighting and getting tossed out of games with suspensions coming? That’s precisely what occurred during a game between the Shock and Sparks in Auburn Hills much like that infamous brawl between the Pacers and Pistons a few years back.

With 4.6 seconds left in a game Los Angeles won 84-81, Sparks’ rookie Candace Parker got tangled up with the Shock’s Pienette Pierson, who then ran into her touching off the fireworks. Parker, who paced her team with 21 responded by throwing a punch before Deanna Nolan took her down as coaches and players left the bench highlighted by Detroit assistant Rick Mahorn knocking down former WNBA MVP Lisa Leslie, who tried to play peacemaker.

Ironically, the former Bad Boy was also involved in the 2004 brawl as a Pistons’ broadcaster trying to prevent Ron Artest from going into the stands. LA coach Michael Cooper thought he was trying to keep the peace but was “too big.”

Though this was far from as ugly as that NBA incident, it was disturbing to say the least. The three officials should have gotten better control preventing it to escalate following a hard foul from Detroit’s Cheryl Ford on Parker. This was definitely disappointing and suspensions and fines will be certain to follow.

-Finally, why must ESPN deliberately put a FAVRE portion on their bottom line ticker as if it were a scoreboard? Talk about insanity. I’m as tired as most of the whole Brett Favre escapade. That the people in Bristol would go this far tells you all you need to know about how out of touch they really are.

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-Last night, the Clippers acquired center Marcus Camby from the Nuggets for a 2010 second round pick. Apparently, Denver decided to go in a different direction dealing away the 34 year-old shot blocking big man who led the NBA with 3.61 blocks-per-game last season. The former UMass star played six seasons with the Nuggets after coming over from the Knicks as part of the Antonio McDyess debacle. He also averaged 9.1 PPG and 13.1 boards logging a career high 34.9 minutes.

For the Clippers who lost their best player Elton Brand to the 76ers, it’s understandable why they made the move as it allows them to get a solid replacement and team the defensive oriented Camby with Chris Kaman and new point guard Baron Davis. They’re coming off a dismal 23-59 season- the worst in eight years. So, it was a no-brainer to upgrade the roster in hopes of doubling their win total and possibly making the playoffs in a very crowded West. Still, you wonder if a team with Davis, Camby and Kaman can seriously compete in the Spring.

Did they just do this as a quick fix or because they actually believe they can go far? I believe it’s choice A. Let’s face it. The Clippers have never been about winning. They’re always going to play second fiddle to the Lakers playing in the same area and arena. So, just being able to compete is good enough. If I were a Clips fan, I don’t think I’d be too excited. Sure. They improved. But how much? Perhaps they win a round. They’re not better than the Lakers, Spurs, Jazz or Hornets. And figure the Blazers to be much improved if Greg Oden comes back healthy. It will still be an uphill climb just to make the postseason.

As for the Nuggets, they get the option to swap second round picks in 2010 just so they can get a $10 million trade exception. Funny but didn’t the Knicks turn down a similar deal from the same team for waste of cap space Zach Randolph? So much for the problems at Team Dumb and Dumber Clown Mgt 101 going away with Lord Isiah out of the picture.

At the moment, the Nuggets still have electrifying scoring duo Allen Iverson and Carmelo Anthony. The question is is Rex Chapman looking to rip apart the team and start over? If so, then expect more moves to follow for a team that’s done nothing but disappoint in the first round. At least they’re admitting it’s not good enough. The Clippers apparently are satisfied if they reach that point. It could always be worse. They could be the Knicks.

-Nice pickup by the Hornets inking sharp shooter James Posey to a $25 million, four-year deal. He was an excellent role player off the championship Celtics and should fit in nicely giving Chris Paul another perimeter option. Something which was badly needed. The 31 year-old veteran forward has necessary championship experience winning two rings with Miami (2005-06) and of course Boston (2007-08). This is a smart move.

-If Hideki Matsui does need surgery on his knee, then the Yanks should be expected to step up their search for a slugging outfielder. Would they be interested in Matt Holliday or will the cost be too steep? Seattle’s Raul Ibanez has always been an overlooked player who wouldn’t cost as much. Another possible option which would be an upgrade for first and utility is Cleveland veteran Casey Blake. Blake can play first, third and outfield and is a decent bat. Let’s see how smart Brian Cashman is.

-With Moises Alou’s season pretty much done, figure the Mets also to be in the market for a slugging outfielder. Though it’s hard to justify doing much right now given how well they’re playing. Still, ex-Met Xavier Nady should be on their radar as will Ibanez and Holliday.

-Watching Dan Uggla try to field at second base was like watching a beginner. Heck. Little leaguers could’ve made those plays.

-Perhaps I’m a minority here but does anyone still care about Roger Clemens?

-Just once I’d like to see Alex Rodriguez (seen here) look like he’s enjoying himself. Have you ever seen a more uncomfortable superstar in any sport? It wouldn’t hurt to loosen up instead of looking a certain way as if everything he does has to be choreographed.

-Did anyone really buy that Brett Favre would call it quits after such a good season last year? The 38 year-old Mr. Packer goofed when he announced his retirement. Imagine a competitor like Favre saying goodbye after leading his team to a 13 wins and the NFC Title Game. And given how they lost with him tossing a costly Int which setup the Jay Feely’s winning kick at Lambeau, you had to figure he’d want another crack at it. Favre has no one to blame but himself.

-Could the NFL (No Fun League) make up their minds already about Ahmad Bradshaw?!?!?!?!?!

-A couple of weeks later and it finally set in just how special that Wimbledon final between Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer was. That will be hard to top for a very long time even if they do meet in other slams.

-Not many care here but international soccer star Ronaldhino transferring from Barcelona to AC Milan is a pretty huge deal in Europe. The 28 year-old Brazilian scoring forward went for 21 million euros or the equivalent of $33.5 million. Can you imagine a star athlete being sold for that much here? Only one comes to mind and that was The Babe from Boston to the Yankees and we all know how that went. Just tells you how different the world of soccer is. If you think there’s pressure on players and coaches here, try following the game of soccer where so much is riding on almost every game with intense media scrutiny. It really does dwarf anything which comes under a microscope here including the A-Rod day-to-day saga.

-Speaking of which, does any other Yankee fan feel like they’ll never win championship No.27 as long as No.13 wears Pinstripes? He’s too much of a distraction. They would’ve been better off letting him walk.

-Red Wings-Blackhawks from Wrigley in the next Winter Classic on New Year’s Day 2009 will be one you won’t want to miss. Especially if it’s anything like the first one between the Pens and Sabres. This is one of the best ideas the NHL has ever had and should continue becoming a tradition which is exactly what the league could use.

-It’s July 16 and Wilson Betemit of a .268 OBP still holds a major league roster spot on the Yankees.

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Random Thoughts

It’s been a while since I actually put what’s floating around my brain out there. Well, the long wait is finally over! Let’s see:

1.The Mets have turned their season around since taking the last three from the Phillies running the table for a 6-0 homestand against NL West bottom feeders San Francisco and Colorado. While it might be true that the competition wasn’t all that great, it’s still pretty impressive how much Jerry Manuel’s suddenly resurgent ballclub dominated outscoring the two teams by a ridiculous 31-4 margin including four shutouts. Even with Pedro Martinez only going four before leaving with stiffness the other night, they still one-hit the Rockies. Then quickly improving second-year pitcher Mike Pelfrey tossed eight more shutout innings last night en route to his eighth win lowering his ERA to 3.64. He hasn’t allowed a run in 16 straight and has transformed into the team’s second best starter behind only ace Johan Santana. Amazing turnaround for the former 2005 first rounder out of Wichita State who looked lost early on with wildness.

2.The Amazin’s have gotten plenty of contributions from unsung heroes Damion Easley and Fernando Tatis but wouldn’t be a season best seven over .500 (51-44) half a game out of first if not for the turnaround of veteran first base slugger Carlos Delgado and spark plug Jose Reyes. Both have been swinging much better bats during the club’s nine-game win streak with Delgado crushing balls deep and Reyes getting base every game, stealing bases, scoring runs and driving in runs including his 10th homer off the scoreboard the other day. He’s back to wreaking havoc and might even make a run at MVP.

3.Yesterday, the Yankees were completely shutdown by A.J. Burnett until Jason Giambi took him deep for No.19 with one out in the ninth breaking the shutout. Burnett fanned eight and lowered his ERA under 5.00 which means he was having a pretty disappointing year. Though you’d never know it by the way the Yanks swing against him. They rarely ever do anything against the former Marlin. It really makes you wonder what it’s going to take for this lineup to wake up. Here they are six behind Boston and five and a half in back of the suddenly reeling Rays (swept by hapless Cleveland for seventh straight defeat). If the bats woke up, you have to figure they’d make a run. But it’s becoming increasingly clear that without leadoff man Johnny Damon and DH Hideki Matsui, this lineup isn’t that good. The only consistent run producers are Bobby Abreu, Alex Rodriguez and Giambi. Derek Jeter has been hot and cold while Jorge Posada is starting to slow down. Robinson Cano has been a colossal disappointment and Melky Cabrera has regressed. They might have something with the speedy Brett Gardner if he figures out how to reach base consistently.

4.Tell me how Joe Girardi installs Wilson Betemit into the lineup twice against one of the better pitching teams when all he ever does is strikeout? His OBP entering last night was a paltry .275. Before he got to the Yanks, he could draw walks. Now, he’s a K machine who never does. In his two years with the Pinstripes, Betemit has walked a grand total of nine times while fanning 66 times. How does he still have a job?

5.If you haven’t seen A’s pitching prospect Henry Rodriguez throw three straight heaters at 100 MPH, here’s your chance to check it out courtesy of my good Brooklyn buddy Patrick Hickey of dembrooklynbums.com.

6.So Brett Favre has changed his mind once again and wants to comeback which kind of reminds you of John Kerry. Favre is a an all-time great but he’s under contract with the Packers and shouldn’t be released. The team wants to move in another direction with Aaron Rodgers even if Packer fans want to side with No.4 in this debate. They should trade him and get what they can which is only right.

7.Does anyone really care about what silly names Brangelina gave their twins?

8.Speaking of which, the Alex Rodriguez-Cynthia Rodriguez split is getting way too much press. Sadly, that’s what this country has become obsessed with such as silly sites such as TMZ.com. Don’t they got better things to cover than a baseball star’s marriage breakup?

9.The honeymoon on Long Island for Ted Nolan sure lasted long.

10.If Larry Brooks was Ranger GM, he would immediately get rid of half the roster and somehow still find something wrong with it to complain about.

11.I still like the Home Run Derby even though A-Rod, Big Papi and Ryan Howard don’t want to participate because they might waste their arms. Pampered much?!?!?!?!?!

12.If the Knicks don’t get rid of Zach Randolph, they’re even dumber than first thought.

13.Mike Lupica said David Wright, who replaced Alfonso Soriano should’ve got in on the first ballot but is he really having a better year than Chipper Jones? Speaking of Mr. Lupica, his piece on that classic Rafael Nadal-Roger Federer Wimbledon final is a must read. Only question I have is why if he spent the first week there did he not stay for such a potential historic match?

14.Speaking of good writeups from a writer we don’t always agree with, Lupica also had a solid column on the greatness of Yankee closer Mariano Rivera who will be where he belongs on the grandest stage at the old Stadium tomorrow night for the All-Star Game. The man is amazing.

15.Is there a less deserving All-Star than Jason Varitek? I like him too but come on already. Is that really the best they can do?

16.If he played on a better team, the season Grady Sizemore (23 HR, 22 SB) is having might get a lot more attention. How did the Indians go from 3-1 up on Boston last October to falling apart and now into one of baseball’s biggest disappointments selling off C.C. Sabathia for hot shot prospect Matt Laporta? Amazing how quick it can change. Just ask the Rockies as they’ll probably be doing the same with Matt Holliday and Garrett Atkins.

17.Name the player:

Player A 

.283

  • HR 18
  • RBI 54
  • Runs 59
  • Player B

    .284

  • HR 16
  • RBI 57
  • Runs 43
  • Hint: Player B was traded and Player A replaced him and could’ve been signed by anyone.

    18.There’s no such thing as “the perfect life” which is what Christie Brinkley, who’s been married four times said during divorce proceedings with Peter Cook.

    Copyright Flickr

    Paula Creamer chips one out of the bunker.

    19.After seeing this latest shot of Paula Creamer, there are now as many attractive female LPGA players as WTA stars.

    20.Given his latest setback, isn’t it about time Peter Forsberg called it quits?

    21.Less than a month until the riveting artistry and sheer grit and determination of Olympic Power Walking. ;-)

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