VEGAS UNWRAPPED with Aaron Phillips & Ricky Cash


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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The New York Jets: Unfamilar Territory

The last time the Jets started the season 3-0 it was 2004 and optimism in Jets land was at an all time high. This is a team that hadn't been to a Super Bowl since 1969 and had disappointed it fans for decades,

That team actually won it's first five before losing two of it's next three and finishing the year at a somewhat disappointing 10-6. They were victorious on the road in San Diego and beat the heavily favored Chargers 20-17 in overtime. The Jets had a 17-10 lead with 20 seconds left in regulation and literally handed the ball to the Chargers for the tying touchdown.

The following week they met the 15-1 Pittsburgh Steelers in Pittsburgh. The Jets who had no offense against the vaunted Steelers defense had a great chance to steal the game and head to the AFC championship game. With the score 17-17 the Jets tried a 47 yard field goal that hit the crossbar and my dream for a chance to return to the Super Bowl came to an end as the ball bounced back on to the field from the direction it come from.

They had a second shot from 43 yards out in overtime but this one went wide left and the Steelers would win the game on a 33 yard field goal of their own.

I bring up 2004 as a comparison to this years 3-0 Jets. Record wise there is a great similarity and for those of us who predicted that if the Jets finished at 10-6 this year,it would be believed as a miraculous season under first year head coach Rex Ryan. I, myself predicted that 2-4 or 3-3 at best after the first six games would be a decent accomplishment.

There is a telltale difference however in these two teams. The 2004 team did not have the swagger that this 2009 edition does. It starts right at the top with Coach Ryan and it has easily filtered down to its players on both sides of the ball.

Bart Scott, doing a very good imitation of Ravens great linebacker, Ray Lewis, has every Jets defensive player believing they can pitch a shutout in every game. Darrelle Revis is also sending a message to high flying wide outs that he is a shutdown corner and has the walk to back the talk.

However the biggest difference in the Years Jets is the phenomenal beginning to rookie Mark Sanchez career as the Jets rookie QB.

What has intrigued me the most about him is his poise under pressure. There is no mistaking at times he certainly plays like the rookie he is but the vast majority of the time he looks, acts and performs like a 10 year veteran out there, unflappable in the rush of 285 pound defensive giants who want to rip his heart right out of his body.

No better example of this attitude and capability of performance came in Sundays game against the Tennessee Titans which saw the Jets fall behind 17-14 after beginning the game as if there would be a rout in the Meadowlands that day.

Not only had Sanchez gone into a funk but the whole team seemed to be coming down the roller coaster at breakneck speed with no chance to continue the ride. That's exactly when the rookie took control. After recovering the fumble on the dropped fair catch punt, Sanchez went to work. It seemed that before you let out the deep breath you took after scrambling for the lost ball, Sanchez fired at dart into the end zone and the the Jets were back on top 21-17.

His play in the 4th quarter of ball control was not lost on Coach Jeff Fischer of the Titans. Once the Titans got the ball back with time enough to get the game into overtime the defense took over. They held Quarterback Kerri Collins to zero completions in his last 13 attempts to seal the win for the Jets.

Overall, if Sundays performance was a measure of things to come for the 2009 Jets it's going to be a fun season. The party moves to New Orleans this weekend with a showdown with the also undefeated New Orleans Saints, another team like the Jets, who have frustrated their fans in a very similar manner.

This time, however they have tools on both sides of the ball to go a very long way in the NFC. I picked them to go to the NFC Championship Game this year and so far they are making me look very good.

In a very short 16 game season it's never too early to call any one game crucial and if the Jets come up short in this one I don't think anyone should press the panic button and call for Ryan's head. However on the flip side, a win here would by all means let the NFL community be put on alert that there will now be two New York teams on a Super Bowl appearance watch. A little early for that for sure, but a very nice prospect to hope for during the next 3 months.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Omar: Learn From History: Resign Carlos Delgado

Does the name Pedro Martinez ring a bell Omar? It should. You were smart enough to bring him to New York and it was a brilliant move because it started a whirlwind movement by Latin players who wanted to come to New York to be in his presence. Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado, Johan Santana, all expressed publicly that coming to the Mets to play with Pedro was paramount in their decision to want to play in New York.

The fact that Omar had the chance to resign him this year at a much lower cost to the organization was a wasted effort on Omar's part.

Well Met fans, I screamed about this for 9 months only to see Pedro wind up in Philadelphia, of all places, and come back magnificently and literally kick our butts all over the northeast part of the US. I felt the beatings here in Vegas and the only saving grace for me was I put y money where my mouth is and collected on every game he has started for the Phillies.

I may be richer for it but I'm miserable as hell.

Now Omar is about to make the exact same mistake all over again. The chances of resigning Carlos Delgado are slim to none. Fast forward to next September and I sure hope he's in the American League because without a crystal ball I can give you his numbers going into Sept 1st. Write them down so you can choke on the paper next year.

450 plate appearances, 155 hits, 28 doubles, 3 triples, 29 home runs, 91 rbi's, .282 batting average, .372 OBP, .585 Slugging percentage .957 OPS.

Crazy, you think? I think it's as real as it can get. His had hip surgery. The same surgery as Chase Utley and Alex Rodriguez and Mike Lowell. This injury, when fixed is fixed, period.

If the Mets resign him and he plays only 120-130 games, so what. Daniel Murphy and perhaps Ike Davis are the heir apparents for the Mets at that position. I would have Murphy playing winter ball at second base and use him as the super-sub in 2010.

Delgado is a core player for a reason. He is a leader both on the field and off. He takes the pressure off David and provides motivation for Beltran Reyes, Pagan and every player on that team.

Omar now has the reputation of being a fixer of problems. That's not his job. He needs to develop the farm system through the draft and through the international market. His results as a fixer are terrible. One could even argue that K-Rod and I love him a New York Mets uniform was not the fix the Mets needed when Houston Street, Brian Fuentes, and a few others were out there last year to be had a a much lower cost and you really don't want to bring up JJ Putz do you?

I'm going to take a lot of flack on this the same way I did on taking the side of Pedro Martinez. Believe me it's not a matter of being right or even saying I told you so. I'm way too old for that. I just want to see this organization be pro-active instead of being re-active all the time.

To be pro-active would be to resign Carlos Delgado and move on from there. In Part II, I will give my opinion of what it's going to take to get back into contention for 2010. You'll be surprised, it really doesn't have to take too much.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Daniel In the Lions Den

With this season finally drawing to a close, I have spent most of the past six to eight weeks listening to Mets fans and those who cover the Mets in the media trash over and over and over again the Mets first baseman, Daniel Murphy.

To me it's just unbelievable what extremes these fans take when it comes to blame and evaluation of a players year.

To a man, after last years great September when Daniel Murphy literally skipped AAA to come directly to the Mets and have a wonderful month, he was anointed the final piece of the package which would be added to the already supreme core of Mets players that would have them contend for a championship for the next 10 years.

His numbers were in fact pretty darn good for a 23 year old rookie. He hit .313 had an OBP of .397 and a SLG of .473. He had great bat control, had power to all fields and worked at his hitting like the second coming of Keith Hernandez.

The question was where to play him. A third baseman by trade, he also had some minor leagues games at first but the only place the Mets could see him in was left field, a position where he never played before and looked very uncomfortable in his limited outings there last September.

In winter ball he was going to work out at second base in case Luis Castillo couldn't come back after his disastrous 2008.

Well we all saw what happened in the spring. Murphy was clearly out of his element in left field at the start of the season and his play in the field carried over to his plate appearances.

It also didn't help that his manager, my favorite moron, who has cost this team so many games I have lost count, didn't do any favors with his now 24 year old batter. He moved him in and out of the lineup so many times and had him in every batting slot in the lineup it had to play with the youngsters mind.

He slumped miserably until two things finally happened to change things around. One, Daniel became the regular first baseman and second Jerry finally started to hit Murphy in front of Wright and Francoeur to give him some protection in the line up.

So what has Daniel done since August. All he's done is hit. His average for the last 7 weeks is over .300. His OBP is over .350 and his slugging percentage is just under.500.

Now everybody wants to see him gone. Why? The Mets don't need a guy at first to hit.260 with 35 hr's and 100 rbi's to play first base and have the team win. They need that guy in left field. Matt Holliday is who they need there.

The Mets have had three pretty darn good players at first base and won championships without sluggers. They were Dave Magadan, Keith Hernandez and Jon Olerud. Magadan was 27 in 1990 when he .328 with an OBP of .417 and a SLG .457.

Keith Hernandez was 25 in 1975 when he hit .344, OBP .417 and SLG .513 for the Cardinals in 1979

Neither Hernandez, Olerud or Magadan had as good numbers as Murphy did when they were 23.

This is a guy you build your future around. A guy who never stops to try and make himself better, who works on his game everyday and dives around the bag at first like Ferris Fane.

But the problem here is that Met fans are never satisfied. They don't want to even entertain the thought that this year made us take a good look at Pagan, Sullivan Francoeur, Murphy, and Cora. These guys are winners and if you build your core around Wright, Reyes, Beltran, Santana, Niese, K-Rod, Thole, and F-Mart and have Holt, Davies, Marte, and others waiting in the wings, we can, with the right GM and Manager, get right back into contention in 2010.

I should only be so lucky.

Vegas Rich.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Down The Stretch They Come

If anyone on April 1st would have said to me that on September 1st that the Phillies would be leading the NL East by 7 or more games, I would have said, "Wow, I knew they were going to be good but ahead by 7, No way".

If on April 1st someone said to me the Braves and Marlins would be battling it out for second in the east and fighting for a wild card spot, I would have said, "Wow, both their pitching staffs must have held up pretty well."

Finally if someone told me that the Mets would be about 15 games below .500, in 4th place and completely out of the race I would have said, "What the frack, did everyone get injured?"

That brings us to September 1st and for the first time in a few years there is little uncertainty about the National League East.

The Phillies have been nothing short of brilliant. Despite early season struggles at home and much inconsistency on the part of their staring rotation, they have met each challenge and have come through like the champions they are. ( Boy, did that hurt)

The acquisitions of Cliff Lee and Pedro Martinez in August have been an outstanding moves. All they've done is win 6 out of 7 games and with a month to go they should probably win an additional 6.

They have to be the favorites going into the post season despite the Cardinals surge and the late heroics by the Giants and the Roxcies.

Their biggest concern will be who shall star game 3 of the NLDS, Joe Blanton or J.A. Haap.

To me it looks like another parade on Broad Street and me sending pictures of Vegas Rich draped in Phillies gear sending those photos to every Phillies writer on the BR. Oye.

The Atlanta Braves have surprised me more than any other team in the division. I knew their pitching would be good but I didn't expect the consistency that they have shown. I was not a huge Derek Lowe fan and I'm still not sure he deserved a 4 year deal, but this year he has been vintage Lowe.

Their bats have kept them from getting any closer to the Phillies than their ever going to be. They need a boomer and I was surprised that they didn't try to get one before the trade deadline.

If they plan to be in the 2010 race they certainly will need to address that concern. I can certainly see them making a huge run at Matt Holiday. That in of itself should tighten the race in 2010.

The Marlins are always an intriguing team. They are like the David Copperfield of the MLB. They are always in the race with a payroll somewhat less than daily take from the Las Vegas casinos.

I don't see the usual fire sale at the end of this year simply because with a new stadium on the way, there will be more money available to keep their budding stars. Their young staff is impressive and it certainly doesn't hurt to have the number 2 player in all of baseball roaming the infield for the fish.

Watch out for the Washington Nationals. Not this year for sure and probably not for the next 2 years either but expect an increase of wins over the next 3 years. This is a franchise that has found it's leadership and is definitely headed in the right direction. Expect a playoff run from them by 2012.

Finally my beloved Mets. I have spent the entire season trying to look beyond the injuries because they are a part of the game. But, what those injuries have done is expose this teams vital organs and they are failing at an alarming rate. Real quick, drastic change needs to take place at the end of this season.

Omar and his sidekick Jerry need to go. They Mets need to bring back Bobby Valentine and give him complete control over player selection. I could go on for hours on this but I've done it already often enough this year and now all we can do is wait for next year.