VEGAS UNWRAPPED with Aaron Phillips & Ricky Cash

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Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Need For a Must Win Contunues Sunday

Why does it seem to me that every game since the Jets started the season someone in the media or on the team or talk within the blogs, that the Jets next game is a must win? I don't get it. Unless the season has been extended without my knowledge, and I can't imagine anyone doing that to me, there's still no more than 16 games and with a record of 4-3 why is this game in particular a must win?

Sure I get it. The Jets will be vying more likely than not for a Wild Card berth as we get closer to the last 1/3rd of the season. The Miami Dolphins have already beaten them once in Miami on a national media circus known as Monday Night Football. They lost that game by allowing the Dolphins to score three touchdowns in the fourth quarter with the winning score coming with 8 seconds left on the clock.

The Jets inability to deal with Miami's "Wildcat" formations has been duly noted and mouths have not been able to shut off as well since then. I also don't have to remind any Jets fans out there that it was these same Dolphins that put the nail in the Jets playoff coffin in the last game of last season at the Meadowlands that not only gave the Dolphins the Division but also knocked the New England Patriots out of the playoffs as well.

Nothing is quite like revenge when it comes to motivating a team and the Jets certainly have revenge on their minds. I expect them to come out of the gate like wild Indians on both sides of the ball during the first quarter. The question is can they maintain that type of intensity for an entire 60 minutes or come back from a deficit that may happen once again?

I really see this if anything as a must win for the Dolphins. They are 2-4 and another defeat would put them in a position where they would to have to win their remaining nine games to finish the season with the same record as they achieved last year.

I don't think so mainly because Chad Henne is still too untested to be able to carry this team on his shoulders. The Dolphins who rank number two in rushing offense believe Henne doesn't have to win games for them, he just can't lose any. Last week's come from behind win by the New Orleans Saints again in the fourth quarter gives the Dolphins some real concerns that to them must be answered this week.

Of course Mark Sanchez is no Drew Brees so this week will be interesting indeed.

For the Jets to win, they must at least slow down the Miami running game with Ricky Williams and Robbe Brown doing the damage. Although nursing an injury Jets Linebacker and defensive leader Bart Scott is expected to play. The loss of Kris Jenkins looms large today, unlike last week against the Raiders. The Jets front three will have to step up and have a big game. If the defense can keep the rushing yardage to 100 yards or less and cause a couple of take away turnovers that will lead the Jets to victory.

On the other hand if the Dolphins run wild again the Jets offense may have to play matching touchdowns to stay in the game. They fell short against this team in Miami 3 weeks ago and that loss more than any other that the Jets have been beaten this year has hurt the most.

Prediction: An old Klingon expression, "Revenge is a dish best served cold". I believe the Jets will control their emotions and put a serious hurting on the Dolphins. Another 250 yard rushing day, a couple of key turnovers by the enthusiastic Jets defense and Miami will fall too far behind early and they won't be able to go to the passing game to pull this one out.

Jets 31 Dolphins 17.

There's No Place Like Home

Game Three of the 2009 World series shifts today to the new launching pad in the National League, Citizens Bank Park. It's bit ironic that the Philadelphia "Mashers" at one point in time had a far better record on the road than they did at home. They righted that situation in the second half of the season to finish nine games over .500 at home.

The post season is a completely different story as the Phillies have lost a grand total of three games over the past three post seasons. They've won 12 games and the only team to beat them at home was the Colorado Rockies.

Today they try to keep that streak going with 2008 World Series MVP Cole Hamels going up against one of the great post season pitchers, Andy Pettitte.

Game three has always been a critical game in the World Series. In the past 10 World Series where the two teams were tied at one a piece, the team who took Game Three went on to win the World Series nine out of the last ten times. Those are pretty darn good odds for the winner of today's game.

While pitching has dominated in the first two games which is quite usual since outstanding pitching, which we have seen from all four starters, almost always dominates good hitting. Will Game Three change that?

I believe both teams are looking for just that. Right now there seems to be two Cole Hamels. The one who looks like last year's MVP or the other one who has trouble getting to the sixth inning and has been prone to the long ball. Everyone has a reason for Cole's woes this year so I'll throw in mine as well.

He shouldn't have called my Mets choke artists in the off season last winter. The fact that they very well may be, he should have kept that gem to himself. So I put a slight whammy on him. Today, I officially take the whammy off him because I would like mine and Jimmy Rollins prediction to come true.

The Yankees have other ideas. Derek Jeter says no one should be worried about A-Rod's 0-8 so far. That was said to soothe the nerves of Yankee fans worldwide as their juiced up, lying hero may be diverting back to his previous post season blues. Anybody seen his cousin recently?

On the flip side, the Phillies big bats haven't hit their stride after the first two games either. Chase Utley has two home runs and Ryan Howard has two doubles but as said earlier outstanding pitching has virtually shut both teams down.

I like Andy Pettitte despite my dis-like of most things Yankees. He is a clutch performer whose consistency has kept him in the bigs for over a decade and he has chalked up some pretty good performances over the years in critical games. He has always been the Yankee stopper in post season as he has followed a Yankee loss with a win of his own on so many occasions, I've lost count.

Charlie Manuel has already announced that Joe Blanton would start Game Four rather than pitch Cliff Lee on short rest. That shows me how much confidence Manuel has with this team. That's why I picked the Phillies to win the whole thing. This team almost to a man played in last years World Series. They are experienced, very tough at home and unless the Yankees bats start to explode I still feel there will be no need for a Game Six at Yankee Stadium.

Prediction: I am definitely going to jinx myself right here and now. Since the beginning of the playoffs and only picking in games where the Phillies have been been involved I am 10-1. With that said I'm not going to waiver on my original World Series pick.

Phillies 11 Yankees 6 as the bats explode on a 70 degree day in sunny Philadelphia. Game time temps in the 60's.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Let's Talk Hot Dogs

There are very few foods or food groups for that matter are sacred to the American Way of Life. Unquestionably the "Hot Dog" is one of those treats that has been associated with sports since the beginning of time.

As a kid going to a ball game with my Dad or any sporting event it never would seem complete unless we had a couple of dogs along with all the condiments that you could fit on a six to eight inch bun.

It seemed that these dogs were always so much better at a game then the ones served at home with a side of sauerkraut, baked beans, and loads of mustard, ketchup, pickles, onions and whatever else might be available.

I have always been very picky about my dogs. Occasionally I'd sprinkle a little ketchup on mine but more than 90% of the time it was the dog on the roll and nothing else. My family thought it strange because after they finished putting all the toppings on their dog a keen sighted visitor would have trouble identifying what was in the roll.

In my house nothing but Hebrew National dogs crossed our threshold. On the street we would only but a Sabrettes dog from a cart and those rare trips to Coney Island if anything but a Nathans dog crossed our lips I was sure I would be sent to purgatory.

So what's the big fuss about Mark Sanchez munching on a dog late in the fourth quarter and his team was up 38-0? Is there a rule somewhere hidden deep in the bowels of the NFL rule book that says there should be no eating or drinking on the bench during the game?

I think not for if there was Gatorade might just go right out of business. Let's face it. The man was hungry and he saw an opportunity to munch down a dog to curb his already upset stomach. That's what my doctor always said, if you're having trouble keeping food down and you get a little hungry it means your stomach is OK now and a hot dog, if available, is as good as it gets.

Talk about scrutiny. Give this kid a break. He didn't throw 5 interceptions again. He didn't make foolish plays and cause turnovers which would become scores against his team. He didn't shoot himself in the foot or punch out his teammate.

He had a frickin dog, so what, get over it and get your BBQ ready and lets cook some up. It's not like eating ice cream at 3:30 in the afternoon that will ruin your appetite for dinner. It just a hot dog.

It's the American way. Hey Mark, pass the apple pie will ya.

Hello? Has Anyone Seen Oh!-Rod?

The boo birds are lying in wake. They are getting ready to let loose a tirade the likes of which have not been seen in a very long time in the Bronx. Last night there were rumblings, signs of things to come. Despite the fact that Alex Rodriguez was hitting over .430 in the post season and hit clutch tying home runs late in the game, here he was on baseball's greatest stage with the opportunity to completely bury his past failures and finally be accepted as a true blue New York Yankee.

The only person to stand in his way was the former Cy Young Award winner, Cliff Lee, who is having a post season for the ages. What a classic confrontation. Even I was psyched despite my disappointment in the World Series combatants.

Last night clearly belonged to Cliff Lee. Not only did he strike out A-Rod three times but completely shut down the heart of the Yankee lineup with A-Rod, Texiera, and Posada going a measly 1-12 against the crafty left hander. Lee struck out 10 and posted his first win and complete game in the World Series.

Chase Utley supplied all the offense the Fightin' Phil's needed with two home runs off Yankee ace and former Lee teammate, C.C. Sabathia. Other than the two blasts, Sabathia held the powerful Phil's bats in check allowing only those two runs in seven innings.

Then the Yankee bull pen, which I said was a course of concern for Joe Girardi's troops managed to give up four runs in two innings to put Game One out of reach. With the win, the Phillies grabbed the home field advantage and need to win three more games to repeat as World Champions. With three of the next four games at Citizens Bank Park, I like their chances.

The Yankees find themselves nearing to have their backs against the wall for the first time in this post season and will give the ball to their other gazillion dollar free agent, A.J. Burnett, who many times this season looked nothing more than an ordinary struggling pitcher. Make no mistake however, when Burnett is on his game he can be one of the most un-hittable pitchers in the either league today. He is going to have to be if the Yankees plan on expanding this series into November.

The Phillies counter tonight with my favorite pitcher and player in this past generation, Pedro Martinez. He has been nothing short of sensational since the Phillies picked him up late in the season. One of the great big game pitchers of all time, Pedro brings his expertise to a Yankee organization that he once called his "Daddy".

Don't you just love this?

If Pedro does get racked around, Charlie Manuel may be second guessed since he had a choice of starting another left hander in Cole Hamels who would have turned around the Yankee switch hitters to the right side where his patented change-up is a devastating pitch. Regardless, Hamels will start Game Three in Philadelphia and if the Yankees find themselves down 0-2 they will have to pull out of their past hat from the Series of 1999 where they lost the first two games to Atlanta only to come back and sweep the Braves from there.

Prediction; I have only missed one game in picking the right team in this post season. I expect Pedro to pitch a gem but unfortunately Charlie won't let him go beyond 105 pitches and then I expect the Phillies bull pen to implode late in the game as the Yankees did last night. The Yanks will come back and tie this series at one each. It will also be the last game the "Skankees" will win in 2009, and A-Hole-Fraud-Roid's woes will continue. You see I really believe in "what goes around, comes around" and Alex Rodriguez, once a hero of mine, is the poster child for arrogant, ignorant behavior which is too wide spread in professional sports.

Yankees 7 Phillies 3

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Pedro to Pitch Game Two



Asked last April who were the last two teams I would like to see in the World Series, anybody and everybody who know me well enough would have said the Yankees vs. the Phillies.

As a lifetime New York Mets fan and college student Red Sox fan nothing in baseball could be worse than to have these two rivals competing for a world title. For close to 15 years, I hated the Atlanta Braves. They gave me so many ugly nights and subsequent nightmares it's no wonder I still can't get enough sleep.

In the last three or four years or so the Phillies and their legions where I lived for 20 years has crept past the Braves to receive my ultimate disdain.

As a kid growing up in Brooklyn during the late 40's and right through 1955, the Yankees were to me, the "evil empire" long before that name became part of our lexicon.

Even after the Dodgers left in 1957, this 12 year old brain was already entrenched with loathing of the Yankees and they did nothing over the last 50 years to improve their lot with me. They always were and will always be the best team that money would try to buy ever since Curt Flood changed the landscape of the game with the advent of the free agency system.

These are and were the villains of baseball while my Mets were the lovable loser underdogs that I grew to love.

So now all that could be bad has finally happened in this first "Turnpike" series since 1950.

With all that said, I'm going to try and give a very objective preview of the coming series and will not let me personal feeling get in the way of solid reporting. At least I'll try.

Hating to admit it, this World Series potentially has the makings of perhaps one of the all time greats. Great pitching, excellent defense and a truckload of power hitting will surely make this series a classic in the making.

For this reason, I will throw away the stats, because by and large they can be interpreted in many different ways and it's been my experience that in a short World Series, anywhere between four and seven games, it's hardly ever the superstar that makes the difference. It's usually the hard nose guy who lays down a bunt, steals base, hits behind the runner and scoots home with the winning run on a passed ball or a wild pitch.

It's almost November and adrenaline can only take you so far. Most of these guys are dog tired and the prospects of playing baseball into November with temps possibly dropping into the 20's is, at least, in my opinion, no way to finish the season.

So throw out all the stats and take a pick. I have been mulling this over for almost two weeks and I started out by giving the edge to the Yankees because I thought their bullpen was deeper and I could envision C.C. Sabathia getting into three of the seven games if it went that far.

Then I watched the ALDS and ALCS and the vaunted Yankee bullpen looked very hittable to me. I can imagine Ryan Howard and Jayson Werth just licking their chops waiting to get a couple off swings against them.

The Phillies bullpen which was loaded with holes in September has closed ranks this post season and if Brad Lidge continues on his steady incline, the Phillies pen now gets the edge.

I still like the Phillies starters. I question Charlie Manuels decision to start Pedro Martinez in Game Two simply because if he had chosen Cole Hamels to go in Game Two he would have turned around all those switch hitters to the right side of the plate and Hamels best pitch, by far, is his change up which breaks in on the right handed batters and that would be a definite plus for the Phillies.

Pedro brings history end excitement to Yankee Stadium where he last pitched playoff baseball in the 2004 post season. Who could ever forget Pedro throwing 149 year old Don Zimmer to the ground. I loved it. There are risks to Charlie's move here but if the Phillies outlast Sabathia in Game One against Cliff Lee, even if Pedro is not successful, Hamels will be ready for Game Three at Citizens Bank Park and Pedro, if necessary, would get another shot against the Yankees once again in a Game Six.

I would love to see the ball flying out of both parks which we know can certainly happen and although A-Rod is having an outstanding post season so far, unless he continues it on the biggest stage of the them all, he will not be accepted as a Yankee through and through. You wonder why I hate these guys.

I do admire and respect Derek Jeter to the utmost. I would still pick him to start up any team whether it's for real of just fantasy baseball. He's the one guy you can root for on this team of Gold Diggers.

I tried to keep my feelings out of this but it's just too hard. I can live with the Phillies winning. Maybe a back to back will wake up my Mets front office to get off their collective behinds and get to work. To have the Yankees win and hear about the 27 championships is just way too much to bare. So here it comes.

Prediction: The smart pick would still be the Skankees in seven games, but no, that's just not going to happen. The Phillies in seven games will mean they will have to win two games in the Bronx. No, that's not happening either. What's going to happen is the first two games will be split even Steven, but when the Yanks arrive in South Philly, it's going to be good morning, good afternoon, and good night. The Phillies in Five. You heard it here first and while I'm at it, Game One, Phillies 7, Yanks 4.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Jets 30 Raiders 0; How Sweet it Was!

My long weekend trip to the Bay Area was topped by an outstanding performance on the part of the New York Jets defense as they completely shut down and already suspect Oakland Raiders offense with a shutout performance in front of an almost half empty Oakland-Alameda County Stadium. I know, as I said, I was there.

First off before game details I need to dispel some very untrue rumors, or urban legends if you chose, regarding the fans of the Oakland Raiders. Is it true they have their own section called the "Black Hole' where even the most frenzied fan dresses up in costumes that would have any trick or treaters on Halloween looking over their shoulders? Yes it's true.

Do they have tailgating parties that start at the crack of dawn and have some of the finest food on the planet being served? Absolutely.

Do they talk smack to anybody and everybody who walks the parking lot in any jersey other than a Raiders one? For sure.

Are they miserable drunks and alcoholics that start fights, carry dangerous weapons and give you no chance to enter the stadium as they run you down in the Harley's? Not a chance.

Wearing my well worn and rather faded Curtis Martin Jersey that I dug out of storage for this rare event I was ready for the worst of it. At least I wouldn't have to hear my wife sling the "chicken*#%@" phrase at me for the rest of the trip, there I was ready to be entertained or maimed whichever came first.

The Raider fans couldn't have been nicer. Sure they had their say but it was no different from other home parks I have attended wearing the opposing teams shirt. If anything they were milder than in Philadelphia by a long shot and there I wore a Donovan McNabb jersey and I was trashed. Anyway, as I said earlier, the food was outstanding and everybody was willing to share and that was perfectly fine with me.

The game was virtually over in the first quarter. After the Jets went up 14-0 in the first quarter after two costly turnovers not only did it appear that the Raider team gave up but their fans certainly did as well. I spent most of the game listening to the Raider fans, whom I was surrounded by, blast not only their Head Coach, Tom Cable, but the entire coaching staff and the game plan that didn't seem to exist. JaMarcus Russell was replaced in the second quarter and for all intense and purposes the game was over right then and there.

Overall the Jets played well. Mark Sanchez played this game as not to lose while using his running game extremely well and his short pass game worked as well as it could be planned. The loss of Leon Washington with a broken leg will cost the Jets dearly down the road but yesterday it was Shonn Green whose performance opened more than few eyes on the Jets coaching staff.

Green had 19 carries for 144 yards and two TD's while his partner Thomas Jacobs put another big game performance on the board with 26 carries for 126 yards and a a TD. Sanchez only had to go to the air 15 times where he completed 9 for 143 yards. His highlight reel came in the first quarter as he called his own number and scampered into the end-zone on a quarterback draw.

The special teams unit was in on it as well as they completed another fake punt attempt for a first down. If I have been counting correctly on those, that makes it two out of three successful attempts so far. I'm surprised that other teams don't try that more often because you rarely see more than one guy rushing the punter and when he is blocked out of the play 30 yards down field is usually free and clear.

In any game when your defense causes four turnovers and you tandem of running backs can scamper for more than 300 yards the game gets easier. Easy enough to grab a 4th quarter hot dog? Sure, who not. That's what Mark Sanchez did yesterday after complaining as to not being able to keep food down 24 hours prior to the start of the game. So with the game well in-hand deep in the 4th quarter there was Mark munching on a dog and today that's all the New York press wants to discuss.

I am so glad to be out of there. Let's just talk football.

The Jets have their three critical games ahead along with a bye week. They will have return matches with the Miami Dolphins who blew a huge early lead yesterday to the Undefeated New Orleans Saints, and the New England Patriots who took it to the Tampa Bay Bay Bucs in jolly old England reminding our British forefathers that an American Patriot is still hard to beat even after 233 years or so.

They will also get to see the Jacksonville Jaguares a team not much like themselves whose game performances are not matching their expectations.

Should be fun. By the way, I'm picking the Phillies in seven games to repeat as World Series Champions. Look for that series review tomorrow on the NL East page.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Jets Fly West

In what some media people are saying is that the Jets, after only six regular season games, have reached the crossroads to the 2009 season. After starting 3-0 and on such a high note with victories over Houston, New England, and Tennessee, the Jets have come crashing towards the ground with three consecutive losses against better teams for sure in New Orleans and Miami and the far less competitive Buffalo Bills.

That's no knock against the New England Patriots, but they weren't the same team in Week Two as they are now, agreed?

A loss against the 2-4 Oakland Raiders this Sunday in Oakland very well might be the end of the Jets season with upcoming games against Miami, Jacksonville, a bye week and New England. At that point the Jets could be looking at a 3-7 season and a ranking among the five worst teams in the NFL.

That is exactly why, here in only week seven, that the Jets will play the most important game of their season.

They will have to do it without nose tackle Kris Jenkins who is out for the season with knee damage and Lito Sheppard who once again finds himself on the sidelines, out with an injury. The loss of Jenkins is huge and a hole that the Jets hope to fill with Sione Pouha.

On the offensive side of the ball, Coach Ryan will be looking for a bounce back game from his much criticized rookie Quarterback Mark Sanchez. With 10 interceptions so far this season, Sanchez is hardly looking like the next Joe Namath to lead the Jets to the promised land.

According to Ryan, Sanchez is "resilient" but I guarantee another repeat performance even by halftime of the Oakland game we very well might find former starting Quarterback Kellen Clemens under the center.

The Raiders are coming off their biggest win of the season, a surprising 13-9 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles who certainly played it's ugliest game of the season this past Sunday.

JaMarcus Russell played his best game of the season but he too didn't remind any Raider fans of the second coming of Jim Plunkett or Kenny Stabler or even Darryl Lamonica.

The Eagles were one touchdown drive away from winning that game all day long and if their once trusted field goal kicker David Akers hadn't missed on two early field goals attempts the Raiders would have lost this game as well.

Prior to the Eagles game, the Raider had given up enough points to lose by at least 20 in those three previous games. The Raiders have scored a grand total of five touchdowns in six games and if the Jets vaunted defense returns to the fold the Raiders won't be scoring many more this Sunday.

Over the years, the Jets playing in Oakland can only be described as a nightmare. They are 2-12-1 in Oakland since 1963 and one only has to look back to last year when the Jets visited the west four times and came away with four losses.

It's no secret in the NFL that teams don't travel well when going cross country. This team really is in a make it or break game going to the west coast to play in front of some very hostile fans.

I know there will be at least two Jets fans there as my wife and I take our annual football trip on the road to Oakland to see this game in person. We have debated back and forth as to whether or not we have enough "cajones" to wear our Jets gear, shirts, hats etc. She says "Sure, bring it on", while I tend to be more conservative about my well being. She's still annoyed at me for not getting seats in the infamous "Black Hole" section where all the crazies hang out.

Prediction: I'm still on the Rex Ryan bandwagon. He says the team has great character and they will show it on Sunday. They had better for their season and my safety depends on it. Jets 27- Raiders 10.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Phillies Need One More Win Tonight

The Phillies continue on their quest tonight to be the first National League team to win back to back World Series since the Big Red Machine of the Cincinnati Reds in the mid 70's.

They are one win away from getting back to the World Series for that second straight year. Former Phillies starter Vincente Padilla, and the somewhat snake bit Los Angeles Dodgers remain standing, just barely, in their way.

After a devastating blown save and blown game by 100 mph pitcher Jonathan Broxton on Monday Night, the Dodgers are hanging on by a thread.

Manny Ramirez was quoted saying " The Phillies have just been playing better". He is 100% correct about that no doubt.

This Phillies team has one characteristic which separates themselves from any other team, at least, in the National League East. When bad things happens, at least on the outside, they do not get flustered. They bounce back as quickly as it's done and move on in the right direction.

That point was proven here in the NLCS a day after Chase Utley made a crucial throwing error that cost the Phillies a shot at Game Two. They came right back in Game Three and put an 11 spot on the board.

They hope to close out this series tonight with their former ace, Cole Hamels on the hill. I do believe that having Cliff Lee has taken some of the pressure off Cole Hamels. It's nearly impossible to top Hamels performance in the 2008 post season and I truly believe he has put a lot of pressure upon himself to do just that.

He had a very short off season this year being in demand for interviews, commercials and the like. He started a major controversy when he called the Mets "choke artists" on a New York based radio show. He then struggled through spring training and opened the year with a couple of injuries that I believe plagued him throughout the season.

We didn't get to see the vintage Hamels until after Cliff Lee was acquired at the trade deadline. Since then Cole has had a number of games that clearly resembled 2008.

He is in a great position to put the Phillies over the top tonight. Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins and Jayson Werth have been clutch in this NLCS and unless Padilla can repeat his best games with the Dodgers in 2009 this baby is going to end tonight.

I love Joe Torre. He actually said his team was not in such a bad situation. He basically said if the Dodgers can win tonight the Phillies will have to come to us in our home park.. Yes and face Pedro Martinez and if necessary Cliff Lee again. Yes, Joe, the Dodgers are in real great shape.

Prediction: My bad, I guess I wasn't a true believer as I picked the Dodgers in Game Four. I came close, but close doesn't get it done in the world of predictions and otherwise. So tonight, I do believe, Phillies 9 Dodgers 5 and barring any miracles from the Angels, it will be the Phillies and the Yankees in a Turnpike Series, first one of those since 1950.

Yes I was around for that.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Jets Are Grounded By The Bills


While I was getting ready to sit back and watch my two favorite teams The New York Jets, and the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday afternoon I was reminding myself why I loved living and following sports in Las Vegas.

On any given day of the year I can get in my car and in about the same time you can get to a Walmart near you I can be sitting comfortably in the Sports Book Lounge at the Alliente Station Casino and Hotel. I sure they appreciate the plug.

On two rather giant screens, I couldn't fit into my apartment, I was going to get to watch both my teams side by side for the rest of my afternoon. Other than being at either game, I figured it couldn't be better than this.

My wife, born and bred South Philly native was dressed to the hilt in Eagle gear and believe me when I tell you she can hold her own in any discussion about her Eagles for the past 25 years, she can. Besides she's amazing to look at even after 15 years.

Both teams were favored by the Vegas bookmakers. The Eagles were 14 1/2 point favorites to whip upon the hapless Oakland Raiders and the J-E-T-S Jets, Jets, Jets were 9 1/2 points over the equally hapless Buffalo Bills.

As Flounder said in Animal House, "Boy is this great or what?"

Almost 3 1/2 hours later I once again understood why Las Vegas is still known in many circles as " The City of Lost Wages".

I have seen my share of football games live and in person with countless more on the screen since the mid 1950's and I can truly say I have never seen two more identical,lousy,uninspiring football games in my entire life. Now I'm not going to focus on the Eagles game at all here other to say, that a team coming off a bye week and traveling from the East Coast to the West Coast should have been more prepared and not to have taken their opponent seriously is a statement of contention not on just the team but the entire coaching staff.

The Jets, I'll have a lot to say about. My friend and colleague, Michael Cohen who writes for the Bleacher Report was at the Meadowlands and he completely trashed the Jets, with particular emphasis on the coaching staff especially new Head Coach Rex Ryan and called his team nothing more than "The Same Old Jets".

Is he correct? Are Jets fans after six games already disbelieving of the promises of a new and hard hitting team who will shake President Obama's hand while he is still in office during his first term?

Both the Jets and the Ravens are 3-3 but there is a world of difference between Rex Ryan's present team and the New York Jets. Joe Flacco threw close to 400 yards and had 2 touchdowns on the road in Minnesota while rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez had an embarrassing five interception day at home against the Buffalo Bills.

Here is something that is bothering me greatly. I have watched Mark Sanchez very closely in all the games he's played in. As a rookie it is not unexpected to see the young man walk off to the sidelines frustrated and angry with himself and sit by himself looking and feeling dejected by the plays that he has not made.

I ask this. Why is he sitting there wallowing by himself in his self pity. Where is the coaching staff? Where is the Offensive Co-Ordinator? Where is his back up Kellen Clemmens with his head set on talking and soothing this young QB and giving him the encouragement to get out there and try to limit his mistakes. Where the heck is everybody?

Sure he made some bad throws yesterday but a couple of his passes were tipped into the hands of the defense that might have been caught for good gains. Instead they were not and there goes Sanchez off the field with his head down dejected as he can be. Don't give him a vote of confidence the next day, give it to him then and there while he's struggling.

I don't like that and I blame the coaches.

In a recent article I said the Jets weren't as good as their first three wins indicated and not as bad as their first two losses were. After yesterday's performance I'm not that sure.

The Jets have a core of potentially great young stars. Bart Scott, Darrelle Revis, Braylon Edwards, Kerry Rhodes, Thomas Jones, Leon Washington and yes Mark Sanchez.

Kris Jenkins is now out for the season with a knee injury that will require surgery. The team has still plenty of holes to fill and needs to come together as a unit. I believe that the Jets have still yet recovered from the Miami loss and despite all the protests of taking the Bulls seriously, they did not.

Ahead 13-3 at halftime the offense was non existent in the second half despite the fact that Thomas Jones set a new club rushing record of gaining 205 yards from scrimmage. The defense barely laid a hand on a third string Quarterback who brought the Bills back to tie the game in regulation and win it in overtime with a 47 yard field goal.

For Michael and most of our contemporaries I must remind you that six games does not make a season, but I will agree with you that those early results which just three weeks ago looked so promising have fallen by the wayside and comments about "The Same Old Jets" are understandable.

With that in mind these games are played week to week and hopefully unlike the Eagles, the Jets will take the Oakland Raiders who they meet this Sunday in Oakland more seriously then their 90 mile away neighbors did.

I will be attending the Jets/Raiders game in Oakland this Sunday. It's one of two Football Trips I try to make each year. In November it will be on to San Diego to see Kimberly's Eagles take on the Chargers.

I will do a re-cap of the Jets game Monday when I get back home. I hope the results will be more satisfying then the ride home from the Sports Book Lounge yesterday. It seemed to take hours. I'm not ready to give up on this years team just quite yet. Lets talk again after this week and the after the games with Miami, Jacksonville and New England.

Let's just hope we can get a day without snow in Foxboro. After yesterday, there's no team in the NFL that wants to visit New England in the snow.

Dodgers Try To Get Even

Trying to recover from last night’s thrashing, the Los Angeles Dodgers try to even the NLCS tonight, with former Philadelphia starting pitcher Randy Wolf. Wolf was with the Phillies during the time that they were starting to become respectable during the mid nineties.

Wolf started the first game ever to be played at Citizens Bank Park back in 1994. He has always pitched well in his former home park and as a visitor he sports a 1-0 record with 17 strikeouts with a 2.25 ERA in two games pitched.

The Phillies will counter with Joe Blanton who was picked up at the trade deadline in 2008 in the same fashion Cliff Lee was picked up this year. Blanton has seen post season action as a Phillie last year as well as this season.

Blanton was used in the Bullpen during the Colorado series but with this being a best of seven contest it was expected that he would get a start. Joe had a very good and quite consistent year pitching for the World Champions. He went 12-8 in 31 starts and posted an ERA of 4.05. Having the run support which most Phillie pitchers have had this year, Blanton was able to pitch late into most games he started.

The Dodgers will have to put last night’s game behind them and try to forget not the 11 runs the Phillies put on the board but the zero runs the Dodger hitters were able to produce.

The Phillies can beat you with the long ball everyday if given the opportunity. They are also getting great production from their six, seven and eight hitters in the lineup.

For the Dodgers to even the series Randy Wolf must find a way to quiet the Phillies hot bats and must find some of their own. Ethier, Kemp, Loney and even Manny Ramirez has been relatively quiet in the first three games and these guys have to come alive or the Dodgers will have played their last game at Dodger Stadium this year.

With Cole Hamels and then possibly Pedro Martinez and Cliff Lee again looming on the horizon tonight is certainly a must game for the Dodgers. On the other hand the Phillies are confident they won’t be needing to go back to LA. The only way they want to see the west coast this post season is if the Angels can come back from a 2-0 deficit against the Yankees.

Not publicly of course, but privately to a man the Phillies want to play the Yankees in the World Series. It means less travel and an opportunity to defend their world title against, who many fee,l is the best team in baseball.

Prediction: So far so good. I am 3-0 in this series and tonight I see the Dodgers rebounding from last night’s disaster and tying this series up at two games a piece. LA in a close one 6-4.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Phillies Come Home For Game Three

In what might have been a game that could have put the Los Angeles Dodgers back against the wall, this series stands even at one game a piece. Charlie Manuel's decision to remove Pedro Martinez after seven brilliant innings in Game Two, only to see his bullpen give away the game in the 8th inning.

The bright side is that Pedro will certainly be ready for a repeat performance in Game Six if it should go that far. As I have mentioned in earlier stories I like the way the Phillies rotation sets up for the rest of the series.

Today in Game Three, Cliff Lee who has been nothing short of un-hittable takes the mound against eight game winner Hiroki Kuroda pitching in his first playoff appearance in the 2009 post season.

Kuroda beat the Phillies last post season in the only game won by the Dodgers. His opponent, Cliff Lee acquired by the Phiilies at the trade deadline has been sensational this post season.

In two games so far he has given up two earned runs in 16 1/3 innings winning Game One and posting a no decision in Game Four against the Rockies. If he continues on the path he has created this post season the Dodgers are in for a long afternoon.

If the series goes a full seven games the Phillies will have Pedro Martinez to pitch Game Six and Lee to pitch Game seven if necessary.

Citizens Bank Park certainly favors the hitters and the Phillies have been terrific the last two post seasons at home. Their fans are knowledgeable and very loud and the intimidation factor can't be measured but it is surely there.

Weather may play a role in the three games scheduled to be played in Philadelphia. Forecasts predict some rain and cold in the area. Right now Joe Blanton is scheduled to go in Game Four and Cole Hamels to go in Game Five. That may change if there is a delay.

Prediction: I'm going to stick with the fact that here at home the Phillies bats will come alive and put the defending World Champions up two games to one with an opportunity not to go back to Los Angeles for a Game Six. Phillies 6, Dodgers 2.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

New York Jets vs Buffalo Bills Preview

There hasn't been much talk around Jets land this week about this upcoming game with the Buffalo Bills Sunday. I can think of two reasons for this. One, the last time Jets players opened their mouths about an opposing team, the Miami Dolphins put a 31 on their pie holes and the talking suddenly stopped as fast as it started.

The second thought is that nobody is taking Buffalo very seriously. They have the 25th ranked defense in the league and their offense has been virtually non-existent. Ever since they blew a fourth quarter lead against New England in week one, the Bills have looked like they don't even belong in the NFL.

Bart Scott was absolutelty politically correct when he was quoted this week saying about the Bills, "They're all professionals. The last time I checked they have some great players".

I agree, they do especially their running back tandem of Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch. Trent Edwards is a proven NFL Quarterback, and the last I checked Terrell Owens is always capable of having a breakout day.

There is a reason for the expression "On any given Sunday", because it has happened so many times over the years.

The Jets can not get complacent here or they'll find themselves behind in the 4th quarter and that's not what is expected at the Meadowlands tomorrow.

Rex Ryan has called this game " A must win" which may or may not be true for a week six game but he wants to make his players understand that anything less than a win and an excellent performance will not be tolerated.

Buffalo is coming off their worst game of the season, a 6-3 loss at the hands of the hapless Cleveland Browns. I watched part of that game and I needed a quart of Mountain Dew to stay awake.

The Jets defense has got to get back on track. They haven't recorded a sack in either of their last two games but I expect this to change with Buffalo nursing a makeshift offensive line.

This could also prove to be a breakout game for young Quarterback Mark Sanchez. He will be without two wide receivers and he must be prepared to look to other receivers besides Braylon Edwards.

Buffalo will have to play close to a perfect game to beat the Jets. Are they capable? Perhaps, but the Jets at least this week seem to have too many weapons, the least of which is motivation which they are not lacking at all.

This game should be over by halftime.

Prediction: Jets 38 - Bills 10

Second Guessing



I have never been one to second guess. It's so easy after the fact to say he should have done this or he should have done that. If you raise the concern before it happens then you have some validity in making a point.

I am what many would consider an "old timer" when it comes to watching baseball. It's been over a half a century and plenty of games have happenned where it's very easy to say why did you do this when speaking of a Manager's move.

I am not a "traditionalist". I like the modern game. I love Inter League Play even if it's the Seattle Mariners against the Colorado Rockies. I'm not crazy about the Designated Hitter but I do wish for consistency for both leagues.

I'm very much against the All Star Game determining who gets home field in the World Series simply because that game is nothing more than an exhibition game. I'm all for instant replay as long as it doesn't slow each game to four hours.

What really ticks me off is the Pitch Count. Here is definitely where I love the games of the fifties and sixties. Complete games, six out saves, old fashioned 300 inning seasons with 40 starts and 300 strikeouts. That I miss and what brings me to the point of this article.

Yesterday Pedro Martinez the veteran great that he was and is was on a pitch count. For whatever reason Charlie Manuel, who I like as a manager generally, decided that Pedro would only go 75-95 pitchers whether that got him into the 5th or the 8th inning. The reason for this, very vague. He hadn't pitched a regular game in three weeks.

In early September all the master did was throw 130 pitches and completely shut down his former team the Mets.

At the end of 7 innings, Pedro had given up zero runs with zero walks a couple of K's and 87 pitches. So, out he comes and the vaunted Phillies bullpen which has been as inconsistent as our economy used five relief pitchers in the 8th inning and after a bases loaded walk there went Game 2 to the Dodgers.

I ask a simple question. Why not let Pedro at least start the 8th? If he gets into trouble pull him then and give your bullpen a shot at redemption. But, no the allmighty Pitch Count was in effect and that was that.

They say baseball is a game of inches. Now it's become a game of pitches. For what it's worth, I was screaming at the TV before the 8th inning when it was announced that Pedro's day was done.

Right now it seems the only person on board to bring back the old days where pitchers earned their salaries is Nolan Ryan. He has instructed his coaches and managers througout the Texas Rangers organization to stretch these pitchers out.

I wish him luck. he will definitely need it. So will the Phillies if Game two comes back to haunt them. We will see.

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Grand Master Returns Home


For Pedro Martinez this is just not your everyday post season start. This is truly his homecoming. Traded to the Montreal Expos in 1993 for Delino DeShields in one of the worst trade in modern baseball history, Pedro gets to stand on the mound where it all started for him those many years ago.

I am always reminded that baseball is is just a bunch of grownups playing a kids game and because of the ridiculous amount of money they get they really don't care what team they play for or who their opponent is. That very well may be so but in the case of Pedro Martinez I highly doubt it.

When I listen to Pedro speak on any subject I find him not only to be articulate but I sense a feeling of truthfulness and sincerity to his words.

I followed him very closely during his four not that successful years with the Mets. I was in the vast minority of those fans who felt that the Mets should have resigned him in the off season simply because Pedro said he wasn't finished accomplishing what he set out to do and I hung on to every word he said and took it as gospel.

Unfortunately as for the Mets, we all know how 2009 turned out and it may not have made one bit of difference whether Pedro was on the roster or not as far as the results this past year for the Mets but we will never know.

Pedro is a student of baseball history. Not only does he know his place, he relishes in it. Over the years he has become what they say is a crafty veteran instead of a flame throwing throwback to the days of Bob Gibson and Don Drysdale.

He had the skills to make the adjustment and prolong his already Hall of Fame worthy career. Already documented as perhaps the best pitcher of his generation, like Sandy Koufax, there was a five year period while as a member of the Red Sox that one could argue was not only the best five year period ever for a pitcher but it would put in him among the greatest of all time.

His opponent today is another pitcher who gets to get a bit of revenge on his former team. Vincent Padilla was once a young gun on the Philadelphia staff. He had a blazing fastball that he couldn't control and just as he's had problems in other clubhouses Philadelphia was no exception.

Joe Torre is an amazing manager who knows how to handle players. I would venture to say that if you had a team with all the "bad boys" of baseball and put them under Torre's tutelage they would become a dynasty. What is his secret?

I think the answer is very simple. I thinks he let's men revert back to their childhood and play the game for the fun of it and win or lose you walk away from each game like it was the greatest day of your life.

Game Two - 1:00PM PST. Prediction: My plan worked well for Game One, no need to change my formula for Game Two. The team that scores more than six runs wins Game Two. I think these runs will come after the 7th inning and I give the edge to the Dodgers to even the series at two.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Cheesesteaks in LaLa Land

When I think back to the twenty years I lived just across the Delaware River in Mt. Laurel New Jersey, I always felt like a big fish out of water trying desperately to catch my breath.

It's not easy being a Mets fan in South Jersey when every living soul North to Trenton, East to the Jersey Shore and South to the twin bridges into Delaware eat, breathe, sleep with never ending Philadelphia sports talk.

Whether it was the Phillies, Eagles, Flyers or Sixers these are some of the most passionate fans in the world.

I find it ironic now living in Las Vegas and when I get to games they are usually in LA. The Dodger games start at 7:00PM and at 8:30 they are still arriving. They start a wave by the third inning and God forbid, if a beach ball finds it's way into the crowd the number of eyes watching the field is reduced dramatically. They are leaving by the 7th despite the score.

That's not to say there aren't any passionate Dodger fans. There are, and perhaps those are the fans who will attend the opening two games of the NLCS which begins today at Chavez Ravine. They also better hope that the Dodgers get out of the gate quickly because if they do not, that place will be close to empty by the end of the seventh inning.

The Phillies are attempting to become the first National League team to repeat as World Champions since the Big Red Machine in 1975 and 1976. That Cincinnati team of Hall of Fame members began to slide in 1977 as the Dodgers and Phillies played each other twice, once that year and again in 1978 for the right to go to the World Series.

The Dodgers won both of those series and it took 21 years for the Phillies to get a taste of revenge last year. They get to try it again tonight with Cole Hamels, last years NLCS and World Series MVP against 21 year old Clayton Kershaw for Joe Torre's Dodgers.

The Dodgers are slight favorites here at the Vegas Sports Books but after what I witnessed against the Colorado Rockies I wouldn't bet against them. The Dodgers, with the best record in the National League, were actually underdogs to the St. Louis Cardinals. Many people felt with Wainwright and Carpenter the Cardinals would be hard to beat. However the Dodgers swept the Cardinals like a hot knife through butter.

This will be a series decided by who can put up the most runs over six, each game. Both teams can hit a ton. The Phillies own the long ball and the Dodgers get on base with timely hitting. The Dodgers have the edge in a deeper bullpen but I give the Phillies the nod in defense.

I see this series going quite a few games longer than last year. The Phillies won in five games last year and took five more games to wrap up the World Series. This year the task will definitely be more difficult. If they do get by the Dodgers they will have the Yankees or Angels waiting in the wings.

My prediction: Seven games for sure. I like the Phillies rotation and they are never out of any game. Phillies four, Dodgers three.

Have fun! Key players: Dodgers - Russell Martin, Phillies - Jimmy Rollins

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Football Hall of Fame Injustice.

Football has a very interesting way they select their candidates for the Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. The problem is, nobody knows how it's done.

Perhaps it's for that reason why the Defensive Player of the 1980's has yet to be enshrined.

Below is an article that my friend and mentor Phil Kohen wrote about how to get Joey Browner into the Hall of Fame. He shows how it gets done.

Joey deserves it, let's get him there.

Hall of Fame Injustice by Phil Kohen Columnist for Fan Huddle.

Former Minnesota Viking Great Joey Browner is once again on the ballot for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, OH.

Joey Browner, Minnesota Vikings 1982-1991, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1992. Five time Hall of Fame Nominee, six time Pro Bowl Player. Starter on ALL TIME 1980’s defensive team NFL. One of the hardest hitting defenders to EVER play the game.

Just ask any of his peers about whether Browner should be inducted and they will ALL tell you it is LONG overdue!

The fact that he has not been enshrined yet is a terrible injustice to football and to Joey Browner’s football career.

Log on to www.profootballhof.com, www.fanchoice.com, or www.lvsportsandentertainment.com.

Click on the button that says vote now. Search by team, click on Minnesota Vikings, click on "BROWNER".

You can let your voice be heard and tell the voters that Joey Browner should be FINALLY voted in to the Hall of Fame.

You can compare his stats to those on the ballot as well as those who have already been voted in.

Joey Browner, Minnesota Vikings 1982-1991, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1992. Five time Hall of Fame Nominee, six time Pro Bowl Player. Starter on All time 1980’s defensive team NFL.

New York Jets: Not Elite, Just Yet

In what was one of the most exciting and enjoyable games to be played in the last few years on Monday Night Football, The new York Jets clearly answered their fans and perhaps themselves that at this point in the season they are a very good football team, very good, but not elite, just yet.

The Jets put 27 points on the board last night but also gave up three fourth quarter touchdowns to the supposed run happy Dolphins. What they didn't expect was to be beaten by new Dolphins quarterback Michigan's own Chad Henne.

Henne, for the time he was under the center was simply brilliant out playing his much noted USC grad opponent, Mark Sanchez. Mark had an excellent game as well but too many, that was expected especially after last weeks performance in New Orleans.

What was not expected was Henne's 20-26 for 241 yards and two touchdowns. The Dolphins put a total of 413 yards of offense against Rex Ryan's vaunted defense. The Dolphins also used the NFL's latest fad "The Wildcat" to move the ball repeatedly against the Jets.

Ronny Brown and Ricky Williams both hammered away at the Jets defense on the ground and Ricky Williams looked like the Heisman Trophy running back while he was at Texas.

Right from the beginning it looked like whoever had the ball at the end of the game would come out on top.

One of the few very bright spots for the Jets was the emergence of their new number one receiver,recently acquired Braylon Edwards. He hooked up with Mark Sanchez for five catches for 64 yards receptions, plus one touchdown which might have been two if he extended his arm about one more yard into the end zone on a brilliant pass and catch from quarterback Mark Sanchez.

Edwards was familiar with the Jets offense because it is a similar one that was used in Cleveland. "It really was a game of just refreshing the memory", he said after the game. Edwards who has led the league in dropped passes in the past looked like he would catch everything thrown at him by Sanchez and he nearly did. He missed a few but they were out of reach. The one he wanted the most was the "Hail Mary" at the end of the game but it came up short.

The Jets took advantage of two special teams play where they ran for first downs with fake punts.

This is a very exciting team to watch. What fans must remember is that it is still very early in the learning process and the Jets are not as good as their 3-0 start, but their not as bad as their 0-2 last two games.

With a pretty favorable schedule over the next 5 weeks the Jets have the opportunity to make a statement in the AFC east. They have a re-match with both New England and Miami and games with Oakland, Buffalo, and Jacksonville who have a combined 4-11 record.

What's next for New York is getting back home this Sunday to face the 1-4 Buffalo Bills who look like they are in disarray. It will also be an opportunity to see T.O who is struggling in Buffalo and due to sound off in the very near future.

Should be fun.

Monday, October 12, 2009

NLDS Game 5 Preview: Rockies vs Phillies

As I learned during last nights game that when the temperature dropped into the 20's I was reminded why I left South Jersey 15 years ago to come and live in Las Vegas. That's just too darn cold for my blood.

Of course that didn't stop the Phillies bats as they won a thrilling game four 6-5 to take a 2-1 lead in this years NLDS.

The Phillies core Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins all played a major role and Brad Lidge did the best imitation of the 2009 Brad Lidge as Philly fans at least those who were still awake on the East Coast at 3:00 AM held their breath in the bottom of the ninth as the Rockies had the tying and winning runs on the basepaths.

But Lidge held firm the Phillies look to wrap up the series in less than an hour from now.

They go back to their game one starter, Cliff Lee who has been nothing less than sensational since coming to the Phillies from Cleveland at the trade deadline. he has the chance to become a two time winner in this NDLS. I don't think manager Charlie Manuel will not hesitate to pull Lee late in the game even if he has the lead. A complete game as he did in game one would take a Superman effort in this cold temperature.

For the record Lee is 2-0 vs. the Rockies this year sporting a 1.13 ERA. Having never pitched in a playoff game before this will be his second one in a week.

The Rockies will counter with their Game One starter Ubaldo Jimenez who match Lee for the first four innings. Then the Phillies bats took over with two in the fifth and three in the sixth.

For the Rockies to win today they are going have to score early and often and Jimenez, who is 0-2 in three stars against the Phillies this year, must be on his game.

The most exciting player on the field has been Carlos Gonzales who hitting a rather hot.615 for the series and has 8 hits in 13 attempts. What he does today along with Troy Tulowitzki who barely missed a home run last night just may determine the rest of the Rockies playoffs chances.

Prediction: We are going back to Philadelphia as the Rockies bats come to life and take a 8-7 victory.

Monday Night Football Preview: Jets vs Dolphins

Tonight on ESPN these two original American Football Leagues teams will meet at Pro Players Stadium in Miami. The Jets and the Dolphins have met close to 100 times in the regular season providing a history and rivalry as good and intense as any in the National Football League.

Even my family has it's competitive hats on tonight as my son Russ is a huge Dolphins fan despite growing up in a Jets household. Good luck son.

Their most recent game literally tells the story of so many years. In order to reach the playoffs last year the Jets needed to beat Miami in the last game of the season played at the Meadowlands. If Miami won they would have finished one of the greatest turnarounds in NFL history, not only winning the Division but knocking the New England Patriots out of the playoffs.

The other main factor in this matchup was the return to the Meadowlands of former Jets Quarterback Chad Pennington who was released by the Jets upon the signing of Bret Favre. This game had all the implications of a championship caliber game.

We all know the results. The Dolphins easily won the game and the Jets who at one point in time after their victory against then undefeated Tennessee Titans were considered the best team in the AFC went home and ended their one year lease with Brett Favre.

Tonight's game has revenge written all over it, but in order for the Jets to get the job done, they are going to have to do it not being nearly at full strength.

Jerricho Cotchery the Jets leading receiver is questionable for tonight's game. That would mean that even if he does play newly acquired Braylon Edwards should see plenty of action on his side of the field.

Speaking of the new Jets "Bad Boy", the coaches have been very pleased in the just very few days since he's arrived. Coach Rex Ryan said that Braylon looked quite comfortable out there and seemed to know or be very familiar within this offensive structure.

Mark Sanchez, the Jets rookie QB is going to have to have a bounce back game in order to beat this very strong defensive Dolphin team. Last week Sanchez got a welcome call to the NFL from the New Orleans Saints who forced 3 turnovers from the Southern Cal graduate.

The Jets also are reporting that Lito Sheppard the fine cornerback formally on the Philadelphia Eagles and cornerback Donald Strickland will both be out of tonight's game as well.

For the Dolphins to continue their winning ways it's got to come on the ground. Their one-two punch of Ronny Brown and Ricky Williams are averaging almost 184 yards each game. If these guys run wild the Dolphins will not have to rely on Chad Henne who has replaced injured Quarterback Chad Pennington who once again is out for the season with a shoulder injury that could very well end his 10 year NFL career.

Keep in mind that the Jets have only allowed three rushing touchdowns against them in the first 4 games this year. This has all the makings of a low scoring smash mouth football game to be decided in the trenches.

I love Joey Porters comments saying " this league isn't big enough for too many bullies". He calls it two bullies meeting in a parking lot and dukeing it out. Should be fun.

Prediction: The Jets by a field goal late in the 4th quarter 17-14. Didn't I say that same thing last week in New Orleans?

Sunday, October 11, 2009

NLDS Game 3 Preview: Phillies vs. Rockies

The Philadelphia Phillies definitely benefiting from an extra day's rest sends 12 game winner Rookie JA Happ to the mound in what probably be the coldest game played this post season for sure.

The Rockies will counter with Jason Hammel a 10 game winner in what always has been a great hitters park. The Rockies evened the series by taking the second game in Philadelphia with an inconsistent performance by Phillies 2008 World Series MVP Cole Hamels.

Happ has been absolutely brilliant for the Phillies. He started in the bullpen early in the season but when Chan Ho Park was ineffective, Happ went into the rotation and was the most consistent pitcher for the remainder of the season.

If he's to be successful tonight he's going to have shut down Todd Helton, Brad Hawpe and most important Troy Tulowitzki.

For the Phillies to be successful they must get production from the very top of their order. If Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino are kept off the bases, I like the Rockies chances.

Game 3 of a five game series is always the most pivotal obviously because the team that wins needs only to win one more to move on.

There's no question the Rockies do not want to return to Philadelphia simply because the Phillies will have the momentum playing in front of their home crowd.

This should be a great game. Charlie Manuel may be second guessed regarding not staring Pedro Martinez whose experience in post season play has been excellent.

Prediction: Phillies bats carry them to Game 4, Phillies 8 Rockies 2.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

No Bullpen Needed: Phillies 5 Rockies 1

While the parade along Broad is not quite there yet, there is a quiet confidence that for the Phillies to repeat as world champions, the less we see of the bullpen the better off they will be. One game down 11 to go and if the Cliff Lee performance in the 5-1 Phillies victory is any indication that the Phillies are even a bit concerned of their bullpen is beyond me.

In what undoubtedly the best in season pickup in baseball this year, some may disagge and point to Matt Holliday,I believe when you van put your game on the line to a former CY Young Award and 20+ game winner you should come out just fine.

There's a baseball saying in truth that to get to these guys you better get to them early for as the game progresses they get stronger and meaner and their desire to complete what they started reigns supreme. The Rockies had their chances. They put a couple of guys on early and Ibanez was matching Lee pitch for pitch through the first 4 innings.

Lee was dominant. When you through first pitch strikes to first hitters good results more often happen.It's when you walk somone so often the game falls apart and that' exactly what happend to the Rockies in the 5th.

The Phil's got two in the 5th and added three more in the 6th and so went the rockies away in game 1.

Lee pitched a complete game for his first post season victory and put himself in position to a pitch game five if neccessary.

Next up for the Phillies today is their version of Dr.Jeckel or Mr Hyde. Cole has the ability of repeating Lees perfornmance and return to the form that made him last years playoff and World Series MVP. On other days he looks as hittable as Charlie Brown. Who is going to show up today?

After today here's what we will have. Ann all out work force making plans for another Broad Street parade or can the Phillies even get out of the first round in one piece.

Key Game, today, wouldn't you think.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Big Apple Jets Obtain an Apple of it's Own

The Jets who have for the past six months having been trying to acquire a prominent wide receiver took a giant step today by acquiring Braylon Edwards from the Cleveland Browns for wide receiver Chancey Stuckey, linebacker Jason Trusnik and two draft choices.

With all the hype coming out of Michigan, Edwards for the most part part has been a flop in his first seasons. He has shown signs of greatness but his behavior off the field leaves one to wonder whether he can be pencilled in as the number one receiver each week.

There was never any doubt that Braylon would ever be on the same page as Eric Mangini. Those two guys are just worlds apart. Now if Rex Ryan is keep Mr Edwards in line in game face mode he will have to lay the law down early and perhaps often for this talented yet troubled young man.

My initial thought when hearing of this trade was if Braylon could get in trouble outside a Cleveland night club having him in New York is like being a diabetic and putting him to work at Hershey's chocolate.

Perhaps it was Rex Ryan who helped put Ray Lewis life back in order in Baltimore. He can only wish for the same thing here. When healthy and focused, Edwards will be force that other teams will have to prepare for each week. If he's a bust, then we gave up a pretty talented number two receiver for him.

The future is any body's guess. Let's just hope that if Braylon Edwards is a rotten apple, he doesn't get a chance to spoil the whole cart.

Monday, October 5, 2009

NLDV Preview: Phillies vs. Rockies



Flashback to only two years ago, 2007 and these same two teams were to meet in the NL Division Series. The Philadelphia Phillies had overcome a seven game deficit with 17 games to play. Trying to erase some ghosts of their own, particularly the "Big Choke" of 1964 when the Phillies blew a six game lead with 10 games to go against the St. Louis Cardinals, this team came charging down the stretch led by their big three Ryan Howard, Chase, Utley and NL MVP winner Jimmy Rollins.

However, the vast majority of the 2007 team weren't even born in 1964, except for Jaime Moyer, when that Phillies team gave away that pennant in 1964. This team had a terrific September and beat the highly favored New York Mets to win the crown on the last day of the season.

Their opponent then as now was the Colorado Rockies who stormed through September that year like Sherman marching through Georgia to win the wild card. They lost one game in their last 50,(only kidding)but it certainly felt that way. They had a momemtum going for them that eventually swept through not only the Phillies in three straight, but then swept the Diamondbacks in four straight to head into a classic match up with the now powerful and World Series experienced Boston Red Sox.

Their luck ran out there and they have not forgotten that series just 2 years removed and nothing less than a return trip and victory there will satisfy this hungry Rockies group.

They are managed by Jim Tracy who took over for the ever popular Clint Hurdle and were 10 games under.500 as the calendar turned to June. With brilliant pitching from Jason Marquis,Jason Hammel,Jorge De La Rosa, Ubaldo Jimenez, and Aaron Cook, these 5 starters combined for 67 wins and look to be strong going into the playoffs. The only question mark may be De La Rosa who has a mild groin injury, but with Aaron Cooks excellent return the pitching rotation for round one is set.

With Todd Helton, Brad Hawpe and Troy Tulowitzki all driving in more than 85 rbi's, the Rockies have the power to compete with the Phillies. The relief pitching is excellent as well with Houston Street successfully back from injury, closing 35 out of 37 save opportunities.

This is a very well rounded team that took the Dodgers down to the final weekend to determine the NL West crown.

Ubaldo Jimenez gets the call for game 1 in Philadelphia.

These 2009 Phillies will be looking to be the first National League team to repeat as World Champions since the great "Big Red Machine" of the Cincinatti Reds in 1975 and 1976.

The road to get there will be a more difficult road then the one that got the Phillies here once again.

The regular season started off with Brad Lidge finally blowing a save in April. Considering he had perfect in 2008 including both the regular season and the playoffs through the World Series. It was no surprise that sooner or later that streak would be broken.

What was not expected was the implosion which Lidge and the Phillies have gone through since that first blown save. Over the course of this past season to look at Lidge's numbers they are so ugly that it does surprise many just how did the Phillies get to this point again. It also speaks highly for the Phillies advancing beyond the Rockies, because if not Lidge, who else?

Lidge finished the season with a record of 0-8. He had 42 save opportunities but only converted 31. 11 blown saves and 8 losses certainly seems like a major concern come playoff time for Charlie Manuel and his Fightin' Phil's.

The rotation did struggle early but with the inception of JA Happ into the rotation and the acquisition of Cliff Lee, plus the year long solid performance by Joe Blanton, the Phillies pitching rotation seems to be in good shape.

I say seems because we don't know which Cliff Lee and Cole Hammels will arrive on the scene. Both pitchers in the last two months have been both brilliant and tragic in back to back performances. It's easy to say if the "Good" pitchers show up the Phillies have the edge in the rotation but if the "Bad" guys show up a repeat of the 2007 sweep would not surprise me at all.

With all that said, one must keep in mind that on any given day the Phillies are capable and have done it frequently enough this year for you to know it's a reality, they can put a 10 spot on the board before your out of the third inning. This is a team that can flat out hit.

Despite the fact that Jimmy Rollins can hardly be found, the combination of Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Raul Ibanez and Jason Werth have been devastating to National League pitchers all year long. Those four sluggers combined for 146 hr's this year. Throw in an additional 52 from the other four starters and you know there will be no power outage on Broad Street this fall.

This is a very tough series to call. Lots of intangibles here, specifically the situation with the Phillies closer. A return to form from Brad Lidge and home field advantage in a short series certainly favors the Phillies. Obviously the longer the series stretches out the Rockies become the favorites.

Charlie Manuel has not yet named his opening game starter. That in of itself should tell you just how concerned the Phillies are with the pitching staff.

As a fan, I would personally love to see Pedro Martinez play a role not only in this division series but if the Phillies were to move on he would be a fantastic draw for baseball fans everywhere especially if it should turn out that the Phillies would make it to the World Series against either the Yankees or the Red Sox. Ah, one can dream.

I am a big believer in momentum and right now I believe the Rockies have more of that than the Phillies so therefore my prediction, the Rockies in 4 games and it's going to be quite a few more years that the Big Red Machine's back to back championships will be matched.

High Fyling Saints Grounds Jets 24-10

It's no wonder why Jet's coach Rex Ryan told the media this past week he wished the Jets didn't have to play the Saints. This was very out of character for the coach who has told his team and the world that they would not bow down to anyone. I wonder what made him change his strategy this week?

Whatever it was it carried right down to his team. In a complete 180 degree reversal from the previous game against the Tennessee Titans this time it was the Saints who jumped out in front early and although the Jets valiantly tried to make a game of it coming within a touchdown early in the second half, it was the Saints who were the dominant team on both sides of the ball.

The Saints somewhere along the way found a lost defense and forced four Jets turnovers.

Darren Sharper, returned one of his two interceptions off rookie Mark Sanchez to a club-record 99 yards for a score. Will Smith forced a fumble in the end zone to produce a second defensive touchdown.

Sanchez definitely had his first wake up call and unpleasant welcoming to the NFL. He definitely seemed out of sorts as the Saints were relentless in his pursuit. He still managed to go 14-27 and 138 yards but his four turnovers were his undoing.

Darren Sharper was the defensive hero for the Saints. He had two interceptions on the day returning one of them 99 yards for a Saints club record.

Drew Brees turned in just an average day for him as he was rushed by the Jets all day long. He was held to just 190 yards on the day with zero touchdowns. However it was the Saints defense that completely ruled the day.

Pierre Thomas led the Saints offense with 86 yards rushing and catching four passes for an additional 46 yards.

I had said in the preview article that if the Jets had lost this game it would not be time to panic or have the calling for Rex Ryan's head. With that said however, I am at a loss for the selection of play calling on two separate occasions when with the Jets driving on two drives Ryan chose to have Sanchez attempt a pass on 3rd and one yard to go for a first down. This was called twice in spite of the fact that Thomas Jones was finding holes in the Saints defensive line for yardage gains that might have kept the drives going.

Maybe we should look at the Offensive Co-ordinator for these calls. To me they made absolutely no sense and with two incompletions they certainly sealed the day for the Jets. I will be watching this type of play calling in future games because if this were to become a habit, there will be plenty of noise coming from this reporter.

In the meantime, the Jets 3-1 are now tied with the Patriots on top of the AFC East. Not too shabby but still along way to go until January.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Preview: New York Jets vs. New Orleans Saints

The 3-0 New York Jets, the red headed step brother, to the New York Giants, takes it's undefeated season and puts it on the line at the NFL's most prolific offense, the New Orleans Saints 3-0 Sunday afternoon in the Superdome in New Orleans.

The perfect scenario when the indestructable force comes across the immoveable object in a test of strengths between two of the NFL least most likely undefeated teams.

The Jets in the glory of their honeymoon season with their new first year head coach Rex Ryan has turned the clock back to 1985 when Rex's dad, the now infamous Buddy Ryan and his famed "46" defense ruled and intimidated the NFL.

The Jets in the first 3 games have outscored their opponents 64-33 and have held them to two offensive touchdowns. That is just flat out stifleing defense.

Led by Bart Scott and Darrelle Revis, the Jets are annoying the heck out their opponents with plenty of pre-game trash talk but have been backing up that talk with outstanding play on both sides of the ball.

The offense is led by rookie first round Quarterback and USC alum Mark Sanchez. Now nobody is going to confuse Mark with either brother Manning but he certainly seems to resemble last year's first time rookie Quarterbacks Joe Flacco and Matt Ryan.

As said in previous articles about this team, the thing that stands out most with Sanchez is his poise under pressure. Now it's one thing to handle that pressure while at home in a very supportive environment but this week figures to be the exact opposite that Sanchez has had to face in his last two games at home against New England and Tennessee.

This Sunday he will be indoors in one of the loudest stadiums in the league as 60,000 screaming Saints fans will sound more like a half a million. This will be Sanchez biggest test to date and the very future of the Jets season may very depend on how he does in this extremely hostile environment.

The New Orleans Saints is another of the NFL teams that has tugged at the heartstrings of it's fans for years. For example,last year, most writers predicted a division crown for the Saints but they came up short going 8-8 while showing glances of brilliance under the leadership and passing prowess of Drew Brees.

The inconsistency of their play and their defensive holes managed to disappoint themselves as well as the fans.

This past off season Drew Brees worked out at 5:30AM every morning with a group of Marines. While consumed by their work ethics he picked up on a number of chants they did during the workout. Brees brought these chants back to the Saints and they have adopted them as their own as he believes that these will be their jumping off point to a championship season.

So far so good.

After breezing through a rather easy opponent pre-season, the Saints turned on the burners for their first three games and have not let up since.

In their opener they ripped the Lions ( no big deal there) by putting up a 45 on the scoreboard. A great deal more impressive however were their next two road games. The first was in Philadelphia where they easily manhandled the Donovan McNabb less Eagles 48-22 which some writers feel might have been an early preview to the NFC Championship game.

Last week was their most impressive appearance to date. On the road in Buffalo they beat a determined Bills team 27-7 while completely shutting down Terrel Owens to zero completions. Now the Bills are not considered an offensive juggernaut, but the Saints were very pleased with their overall defensive effort.

In order for the Saints to win this game they will have to play another great defensive game and hold down the Jets running attack. If they keep the Jets offense off the field they feel that Drew Brees can light up any defensive scheme out there.

If the Jets are to win this game they must be relentless in putting pressure on Brees and knock him down and around and get him out of his rhythm. If they do that, the Saints still have plenty of defensive questions especially in their secondary. Remember this is still the same team that gave up 27 points to the Lions and over 300 passing yards to second string Eagles Quarterback Kevin Kobb.

Prediction: Jets 24 Saints 21 in a close game to be decided by a field goal with less than 1one minute left in the game.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The National League East Final Weekend

The MLB regular season comes to a grinding halt this Sunday after 162 grueling games and some will say that in the NL East everything has gone according to plan.

The Phillies have clinched their third straight division crown. The Nats have put together two back to back 100 game season losses. The Marlins and the Braves fought for a wild card position into the last week of the season and the Mets lost over 90 games, the first time they did that since 2004.

They did what?

Yes the Mets, the preseason co favorite with the Phillies in the NL East, had what many dire Mets fans are saying was the most disappointing season in the history of the franchise.

Personally I wouldn't go that far. 1987 was the stinker of all time. Remember the 86 club won 108 games and bullied their way through the National league. Then they played what some people still feel was the greatest division series of all times against the Houston Astros. Then the miracle ending to game 6 against the Boston Red Sox in the World Series. The rest was history.

1987 was set up as the continuance to the Mets dynasty. What happened that year was that injuries took out the entire Mets starting rotation for a good part of the year ending any thoughts of a repeat performance.

2009 for the Mets also got bit by the injury bug. no, let me ref raze that. The Mets got swallowed by the injury monster in 2009. Every member of the so-called Mets core missed a good portion of the 2009 Mets season.

Carlos Delgado coming off a brilliant second half of the 2008 season started off the year like he never had a winter break. By May he was gone for the year. Jose Reyes, who I had to remind another Mets reporter this morning, who said they should cut ties with him, that in his history with this club when Reyes gets on base, the Mets winning percentage is close to .700. By June, he was gone for the year. Carlos Beltran was only having the best year of his stellar career in 2009 went down with a leg injury in June and finished the year appearing in only half the games played this year.

Even at the all star break, this team still had positioned themselves within striking distance of the Phil's because at that time the Phillies just couldn't seem to win at home and their starting pitching was in disarray.

However the Mets problems continued to grow. Their starting rotation consisted of an unsteady Johan Santana, later we would learn why, and four to ten other guys who couldn't find home plate with a infra ray night scope. By the way, the Mets pitching this year lead the entire MLB in walks by about a trillion.

So the "B" Mets stumbled the rest of the year at a less than .400 pace. Johan Santana went down with chips or something like that floating in his elbow and the final blow to the Mets core happened when David Wright's head came into direct contact with a Matt Cain 93 mph fastball.

One concussion later, a 15 day trip to the DL and a .220 average upon his return certainly was the topping to this not so brilliant season for the Metropolitans.

In future articles about the NL East, we will follow the Phillies quest to repeat as World Series Champions, something a National League team has not done since the Big Red Machine of the 70's. I actually like their chances but more about that Sunday when we review the first round Division Series that starts next week.

After the season we will look back at all the teams in the NL East. We will evaluate their year and look into my famous crystal ball and see what moves if any are going to have to be made by each team to make a run at the Phillies once again in 2010.

Being a life long Mets fan I can really be very objective about this division simply because with the Mets, I love the team but despise the organization. This way no one may accuse me as being a homer.

My congratulations to the 2009 Philadelphia Phillies. They have fought through a lot of problems and obstacles this year, the least of which has been the complete meltdown of Brad Lidge, more on him this Sunday as well, but they have prevailed and deserve all the accolades they are getting.

With that said, however, I don't think they are getting as much respect as I hear that the Cardinals will be the solid favorites in the NL to go to the World Series.

Slow down folks, not so fast, they don't call them the Fightin' Phil's for nothing.