So here we are in the last week of 2016; time to look back at the biggest (so many to choose) sports stories of the year. Unless Tiger Woods wins this coming weekend or Todd Bowles gets fired, I think I have it covered. 2016 gave us some of the most dramatic scenes and incredible performances in many years. So after careful deliberation…
The Peyton Manning retirement was certainly a story. Manning wins the Super Bowl despite barely being able to throw a ball farther than 10 yards. Funny thing is after injury he wins his old job back from a guy who, one year later, would be benched in favor of someone named Tom Savage.
Sadly we lost Jose Fernandez who wasn't just an amazing pitcher; he was a bridge to the next generation of baseball fandom, a player who had an unabashed exuberance and joy for the game and wasn't afraid to express it. Unfortunately he decided to drive a boat at 2:00am while under the influence.
The great Muhammad Ali died. There were many legends to die this year (Arnold Palmer, Pat Summitt, Gordie Howe), but Ali might have been the most influential, important American athlete since Babe Ruth.
The Rio Olympics certainly gave us a handful of stories. Everybody has their favorite. Usain Bolt. Simone Biles. Michael Phelps and his 6 medals. But for my money, the most amazing athlete was 19 year old Katie Ledecky, who was so dominant that she made all her opponents look like they just learned to swim. Let’s not forget Ryan Lochte’s shaky credibility.
Lebron James leads the Cavs past the seemly unbeatable Warriors to win the NBA title, while Alabama wins the NCAA football championship, and Kris Jenkins hits a last second shot to give Villanova the basketball title. The Penguins beat the Sharks to win the Stanley Cup, and a team from Leicester City (wherever that is) pulls off the most amazing upset winning a soccer title.
There were other stories like Kolbe’s 60 points in his final game, Colin Kaprnick’s stand to not stand, Rex Ryans, firing, Vin Scully’s retirement, Tom Coughlin’s resignation, the sex scandal at Baylor, and Kevin Durant’s signing with the Warriors.
Locally we had a few stories of our own, like the retirement of Mark Teixeira, and the Alex Rodriguez drama. But the real Yankee story was the firesale in the Bronx, losing Miller, Chapman, and Nova while making room for the future, especially Gary Sanchez. The Mets failed to get back to the playoffs with all their injuries and Big Blue’s return to the NFL playoffs.
The biggest story may be that the curse is over, the Cubs won the World Series. Seriously: The Chicago Cubs did win the World Series. I swear, I didn’t make it up!
Happy New Year
Hey, its Christmas time. You have a favorite Christmas tune? Is it “White Christmas?” “Let it Snow?” “Silent Night?” Yes to all of the above. My favorite is of course, “The Christmas Song”, by Nat King Cole. I have to admit I like most every Christmas song, the secular ones, the religious ones, the ear-splitting ones – we’re looking at you Rudolph and your drummer boy friend too.
It’s Christmas time. It comes but once a year. People are usually a bit nicer to each other. You do Christmas parties. You get presents. You spend time with family and friends. What’s not to like? Well, there are a few things…
When it comes to gifts, you believe it’s the thought that counts, and most people will think you are cheap if they see the Clearance sticker on their present, which is why you LOVE black Sharpies. They can be counted on to fully black out the $4.99 on the bottom of that seashell vase from Pier One. Hey, why pay retail to still give an awesome gift? You just make sure the gift recipient can see part of the original price of $89 so they feel like you “shelled” out a lot of cash.
Then there are those holiday sweaters (a perfect gift for someone you don’t like) – Ugly!
How about fruit cake, easily the most hated cake in the existence of baking. It’s dense, overly sweet and surprisingly heavy for its size. Sure, some people like this seasonal baked good, but we don’t really trust them. Who in their right mind wants to eat something that tastes that bad and can shatter someone’s front window should you choose it over a brick.
And finally, gift wrapping, uggh. Thought you were saving money when you bought the wrapping paper from Wal Mart. Of course, you didn’t foresee that it was as thin as rice-paper on a crash diet. After tearing the corners on every box you wrapped, you had to wrap everything AGAIN. This means ten gifts took 42 rolls of paper. You lost the tape, only to later find it stuck to your butt. Buy Dollar Store bags. DUH. You love the environment, so why cut down more trees when THIS Christmas wrapping paper can later be used to pick up dog poop or for other household chores ?
Ok, it’s the big day; you open gifts, hug, and kiss. Later you hug friends and relatives, have Christmas dinner and then, secretly plan the rest of your day. You celebrate Christmas the only way you know how: by ignoring those family and friends and watching NFL and NBA games from noon until night. Celtics-Knicks. Warriors-Cavs. Ravens-Steelers. Bulls-Spurs. T-Wolves-Thunder. Broncos-Chiefs. Clips-Lakers. These marquee match-ups are what Christmas is really all about. Isn’t it??
Thanks for reading - Merry Christmas!!!
After coming off the big win over the Cowboys, the Giants, maybe for the first time this season, looked like a team full of confidence, especially on offense as they drove down the field on their first possession, earning their 10th victory of the season Sunday, defeating the Detroit Lions 17-6.
Now don’t get me wrong. The offense is still not where it should be for a playoff team. But it was good enough to win, with the help of thier shutdown defense. The Lions defense flustered Giants quarterback Eli Manning and bewildered the Giants’ rushing attack. After the Giants scored on that 75-yard opening drive, the Lions held them to 3 points and 214 total yards over the next three quarters. Amid a momentary coverage breakdown late in the fourth, they left Beckham, the wunderkind, open on a third down from the 4-yard line. His resulting touchdown, on yet another difficult grab (a bad Eli pass), helped the Giants prevail.
Again, the real story of the win was the Giant D. The defense continues to evolve into a championship-caliber unit. The D line line hounded Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, who played with a black glove on his throwing hand after tearing ligaments and dislocating a joint in his middle finger last week. Although Stafford was sacked only once and was hit just four times, he rarely looked comfortable in the pocket, completing 24 of 39 passes for 273 yards and no touchdowns. With the exception of a Golden Tate 67 yard completion, the secondary shadowed every receiver all game long. He simply had no one to throw too.
Yesterday the Giants were oozing confidence. It was the first time all season I watched the Giants and felt like they were going to win from the kickoff. They are now 10-4, and one step closer to their first playoff berth since 2011. The 10 wins is their most since they went 10-6 in 2010. The Giants have road games against the Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins remaining on their schedule. The Giants can clinch a wild-card playoff spot with a win Thursday night in Philadelphia.
I don’t know about you, but finally I feel like the Giant’s have caught lightning in a bottle. Yes, they still have some flaws, but that didn’t stop them in 2011. They even might be a little bit better than that team. If I were in New England, I would be wondering if this was 2011 all over again.
Last night’s Seahawk 24-3 victory over the Rams wasn’t exactly a thing of beauty, but it was undeniably effective as Seattle clinched another NFC West title. (The Seahawks are a potential Giants playoff opponent). The ugliest aspect of the game was the Seahawks color rush "action green" uniforms, resembling bright neon green, with blue bordering and outlines. The color combination fell somewhere between Ecto-Cooler green and nuclear vomit. Even the end zones were painted neon, as were the fan’s “poopfest” T-shirts. Thank god I found my sunglasses shortly after kickoff.
All that was simply backdrop. Then there was the game itself, which unfolded like an episode of Stranger Things. It was, undoubtedly, a “poopfest,” albeit with some unexpected plot twists. Like when the Seahawks dialed a fake with punter Jon Ryan late in the fourth quarter, and Ryan bolted upfield, bobbled the ball and was nearly decapitated by a Ram defender. Ryan was the most unlikely of the four players who wound up in concussion protocol. Another was Jared Goff, the Rams’ rookie quarterback, who led L.A.’s offense to 93 totals yards in the first three quarters, while absorbing what looked like a painful beating. Yes, it had everything - Failed trick plays. Drops. Penalties. Sacks. Injuries, and Richard Sherman.
With 4:03 left in the third quarter, Seattle had the ball, first-and-goal at the Ram’s 1 and leading by seven points. The Seahawks called a pass, quarterback Russell Wilson lobbing a ball toward tight end Jimmy Graham in the back of the end zone. A LA linebacker took the ball away from Graham, Seattle avoiding an interception only because officials ruled that Graham had been out of bounds with his hand on the ball thereby killing the play. That was Sherman’s cue. He goes to head coach Pete Carroll and emotionally says “I don’t like when we throw the ball at the 1, We throw an interception at the 1. Luckily it went incomplete, and I wasn’t going to let them continue to do that.”
That would be considered mutinous on most NFL teams, but not on the wacky Seahawks where defensive players can help out the offensive coordinators on play calling matters (tongue in cheek). Could you imagine if Odell Beckham did that? Oh wait, what am I saying? It’s Odell were talking about here!
Jose Bautista is one of the top MLB free agents on the market this winter. The Baltimore Orioles won’t sign him. Why you ask? It’s simple, their fans don’t like him. As silly as that sounds, the free agent is not well liked around the majors and especially in Baltimore. While the O’s and other teams are concerned with his attitude, Bautista remains one of the best bats on the free-agent market. The 36-year-old has averaged 36 home runs, 93 RBIs, and a .929 OPS over the last seven seasons.
Bautista has played in the AL East for a long time, so there is plenty of history between the sides. The most notable of which came in 2015 when Bautista admired his home run flipped his bat and sauntered around the basebaths. The Orioles took exception to the level of celebration and Bautista even traded words with Baltimore’s Adam Jones. As we all know, it’s not the first time Bautista has flipped a bat and shown up the other team. With that in mind, he should probably cross Texas off his list of potential suitors as well. Oh and there’s the Royals fans. (He played for the Royals briefly in 2004) During the 2015 American League Championship Series, Bautista didn’t make any fans when he faked throwing a ball to a fan in the stands, then ran off the field with a smirk on his face.
Opposing fans hate that he shows emotion and celebrates big moments while showing up their team. And they hate that he constantly complains about the strike zone.( As do the umpires). Now he’s trying to land a new contract and each day that goes by, his agent is crossing potential teams off their list. Word has It that there was another face-to-face discussion between the Blue Jays and Bautista’s camp since extension talks went nowhere prior to spring training in February. There had been very little contact between the sides since Bautista rejected a $17.2-million qualifying offer November 14, which looked to have marked the final split between the sides. As it turned out, Toronto made the same offer. Again he rejected it.
In life sometimes you think you are bigger than the game itself and then you get a rude awakening. I would suggest to MR. BAUTISTA that you might not be the hot commodity that you think you are and settle with the Jays, if you think you can get by on a small allowance of only $17,000,000 US per year. I hope the Jays eventually sign him, they deserve him.
Cowboy fans are a lot like Met fans…always waiting for the shoe to drop. One day after their loss to the Giants, and Cowboy social media has gone crazy. Talk of Tony Romo back at QB is burning up the internet. Mind you, they are 11-2 and atop the NFC East.
Ok so Zak Prescott hasn’t been Zak like for the last few games, but the sensational rookie is still a quality signal caller who just hasn’t played at the same level he has for most of the season. Prescott has slumped, so has the Cowboys’ offense. There is panic in Dallas, he has lost to the Giants twice. Keep in mind, against the rest of the NFL this season Prescott is 11-0.
Slump or not, Prescott and the cowboys met a dominant defense Sunday. Simply put, the New York defense came at Prescott from multiple angles. And while the rookie quarterback was dodging onrushing Giants, the New York secondary also was shackling Cowboys receivers in their tracks. Giant defensive backs Janoris Jenkins, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Landon Collins conspired to almost completely eliminate Dez Bryant from the Cowboys’ plans. Prescott targeted him nine times, but Bryant caught only one pass — fumbling it, fittingly, after a gain of 10 yards in the final three minutes. Do Cowboy fans really think things would have been different if Romo would have been in there? I think not. Get a grip on reality, Romo isn’t the answer. The answer is play better as an offense. Give your quarterback some time, get open, catch a few balls and convert some 3rd downs.
Get your popcorn ready, because this debate will rage on at least until Sunday's game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Oh yea, don’t forget to talk your friends who are Cowboy fans, off the ledge.
Last night at Metlife, the Dallas Cowboy defense played a great game. The Giants defense was even better. Much better! Lockdown better!! Despite giving up 107 yards rushing on 24 carries to Ezekiel Elliott, the defense was outstanding leading to a 10-7 Big Blue victory. What a game!
The 107 number is a bit deceiving, as the Giant’s D didn’t allow any big back breaking play. Yea, he chipped away, but when it counted, they didn’t break. The secondary was outstanding. The ever improving defense held Dallas to 1-of-15 on third downs. They intercepted Cowboy quarterback Dak Prescott twice (Janoris Jenkins, Leon Hall). This was the first multi-interception game for the ballyhooed Dallas rookie quarterback. He had only thrown two interceptions in the first 12 Cowboys’ games. The Giants generated three sacks, and also had a fumble recovery. Total domination. All of this without JPP.
The offense wasn’t very good, but good enough. For two quarters and most of the third, the Giants simply could not get out of their own way. Drops, penalties, turnovers had Dallas leading, 7-3. Then, with 1:18 left in the third quarter Manning hit Beckham on a slant pass. Beckham split the defenders and raced untouched 61 yards. The extra point gave the Giants a 10-7 lead. That is how it stayed. Manning completed 17-of-28 passes for 193 yards with a touchdown and an interception. He also fumbled twice. Beckham caught four passes for 94 yards The touchdown gave him 34 in his career, most thrown by Eli Manning to any receiver. The running game netted 95 yards (2.8 yards per rush).
With the big win, the Giants (9-4) kept their very slim NFC East title hopes alive. The Cowboys (11-2) could have clinched the division with a victory. After watching all of the teams chasing them ( Buccaneers, Redskins, Vikings, Packers) in the NFC wild-card race win on Sunday, the Giants maintained their hold on the No. 5 seed. There are three games tough remaining.
The Giants made a statement with the win. But for it to mean anything, they must win 2 of the 3. Yes, they won last night, but let’s be honest here, the offense has been barely functional. Poor blocking, along with those drops and self-inflicted wounds have been hallmarks of the Giants’ offense all season and they were again on Sunday night. I put a lot of this on Eli. He has been awful and a big contributor to the offensive mess, (along with his O line). There are only so many Odell magic tricks left in the bag. If the Giants want to continue this run the rest of the way, the offense needs to clean it’s act. Odell, and the Defense can only carry them so far.
After last week’s loss against the Steelers, this Sundays game against the Cowboys at Met life, has lost some of its luster. The Giants were supposed to show all the doubters that they were a legitimate 8-3 team. Instead, they only confirmed that they have many flaws. But what remains is the fact that The Giants (8-4) and Dallas Cowboys (11-1) rivalry is still one of the most intense in NFL history. The stakes are still high for both teams, Dallas clinches the NFC East with a win, and the Giants keep their playoff hopes alive with a victory over the boys.
Of course, since nothing ever happens easily for the Giants, they will be without one of their best players as the difficulty and stakes ramp up. As everyone probably knows by now, starting defensive end and stalwart Jason Pierre-Paul is out for (at least) six weeks after surgery to repair the injury suffered against the Steelers. The Giants already faced a stiff defensive test against the Cowboys, but can they possibly overcome the loss of JPP? The rival Cowboys aren’t the same team that the Giants defeated in the season opener. At the same time, the Giants aren’t the same either. Especially without JPP.
Do the Giants even have a chance Sunday night?? From the holding penalty by left tackle Ereck Flowers in the end zone for a safety to Eli Manning’s interception in the red zone, the Giants didn’t do themselves any favors last week in losing their first game since Oct. 9. When a team is struggling to move the ball – the Giants have fallen to 26th in total yards per game (327.4) – it makes overcoming the setbacks even more difficult. The Cowboys may not force a lot of turnovers with just 11 takeaways on the season, but they also don’t beat themselves with only nine giveaways. The Giants Must play mistake free, that means no stupid personal foul calls and especially offsides from interior linemen. There is no excuse for that. Eli must get time to throw - otherwise, the misfires and interceptions will continue. He must spread his targets around and of course the receivers must catch the ball for positive yards. Odell must shut his mouth, get open and make some plays. I’m not counting on the running game doing anything substantial, but 75 or more on the ground will help if McAdoo can get creative. These straight off tackle and up the middle runs have failed miserably.
As for the aforementioned D, we can only hope they step it up. Vernon must play his best game of the season. Hit the gaps and prevent Elliot from breaking out into the open and everyone needs to make tackles. Elliot has a reputation for making defenses miss. Put pressure on Prescott! Stop those deep completions to Bryant and those 3rd and long completions to the tight ends. If Collins plays his usual great game the tight ends could get shut down, but then the pressure is on the CB’s. Think Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who’s name hasn’t been called much lately. It’s time for Eli Apple to step up and play his best game of the season.
I know that it’s a lot to ask a team who has so many obvious flaws along with injuries. But by the time they play the game on Sunday night, the Giants could be in must-win mode. Washington plays the floundering Eagles at 1 p.m., and Tampa Bay hosts the Saints at 4:15. Lose to the Cowboys and the Giants could enter the final three weeks of the season holding a tenuous one-game lead against a trio of current six-win teams for the final wild-card spot, all three of which — Washington, Minnesota and Green Bay — hold head-to-head advantages over them. Time to step up Big Blue.
The Yankees came into the offseason seemingly determined to spend huge on a closer, and as a result, they’ve handed out by far the largest reliever contract in baseball history. Aroldis Chapman is back! The hard-throwing closer reached agreement to return to the New York Yankees last night- an $86 million deal for five years. There’s an opt-out after the third year. The deal includes a no-trade clause for three years, and the Yankees can’t trade him to a team in California. A little odd, but what ever.
That Chapman was able to score himself this kind of contract isn’t that surprising. In a season split between the Yankees and Cubs, the 28-year-old Cuban lefthander struck out 90 men in 58 innings, and posted a 1.55 ERA with 36 saves. That marked Chapman’s fourth year out of the last five with an ERA of 2.00 or below, and since becoming a full-time closer in 2012, he has posted a strikeout-per-nine rate of 14.0 or higher every year. Featuring a fastball that routinely breaks 100 mph and a wipeout slider, Chapman is borderline unhittable at times, and after being acquired by Chicago at the trade deadline, he was a key piece of the team’s World Series run.
All those stats are well and good, and Chapman will pair with fellow flamethrower Dellin Betances to give the Yankees an enviable 1–2 punch in the later innings that will be hard for any team to counter. But he’ll be doing so for a team that, unless everything breaks right, likely won’t have much need for a shutdown closer. Mired in .500-level mediocrity throughout the first half of 2016, the Yanks chose to sell and rebuild, dealing Chapman, fellow elite reliever Andrew Miller and veteran outfielder Carlos Beltran; that tack continued this winter, with the team trading catcher Brian McCann to the Astros for two minor leaguers. All those deals have brought back a plethora ( I love that word…lol) of good prospects—Chapman returned top young shortstop Gleyber Torres from Chicago—but all of those players are at least one or two years away from making a real impact.
I do have a concern. $86 million is a lot of money for a guy who’s real impact won’t be felt for a season or two. There’s also the question of how much longer you can expect a pitcher who throws 100 mph over and over again to hold up. We all know how often Joe Giardi loves to go to his bullpen. By the end of the postseason, Chapman was clearly gassed; he blew Chicago’s eighth-inning lead, and in his final frame of the World Series, he abandoned his fastball and threw his slider almost exclusively.
It was said that Hal Steinbrenner liked the “buzz” that Chapman brought to Yankee stadium. I think what he really meant is, he will help fill seats while the youth movement develops into quality major leaguers, making the Yankees legitimate contenders again. While that sounds good, the Yankees Must work on starting pitching. Without rebuilding the rotation, it will be more than one or two years away that the Bombers get beyond a wild card game.
The big news from the baseball winter meetings is the trade executed by the Red Sox and White Sox. Lefty Chris Sale goes to Boston to give the Red Sox the best 1-2-3 rotation in the American league. The kneejerk reaction might be “oh no, now we don’t have a chance”. Stop. The Yankees are in the middle of this transition phase and the Sale trade doesn’t change their short-term outlook much. The Yankees and Red Sox are playing for two very different things right now, like it or not. The Yankees have a clearly defined goal. They want to develop a new young core while getting under the luxury tax threshold in the near future to create payroll flexibility, so when those young players are ready to win, they’ll be able to spend and spend big.
The Bombers are re-tooling. Your argument might be that they are trying to re-sign Chapman. They are, but for 4 or 5 years. I believe that Brian Cashman and staff believe they will be competitive, but the 2018 season is the goal (see above). 2017 will be the year they give the young baby bombers a chance to play every day and develop into quality major leaguers.
The pickens are slim in the Free Agency market and trade possibilities. We all know for the Yanks, to make a legitimate run, they need pitching. Especially starting pitching. There isn’t much out there, now that Sale (trade) and Rich Hill (free agency) are off the block. There is one I can think of - Chicago’s Jose Quintana. He’s not Chris Sale, but he’s really good, and he’s signed affordably for another four years (owed $37.85M total). Brandon McCarthy is being shopped around by the Dodgers, but he’s 33 and a year removed from Tommy John surgery.
The Yankees have lots of young talent to use in a trade or develop for the future. Patience is the key. Accept that this year won’t be a run for the World Series. Maybe if we’re lucky, they qualify for the playoffs. Maybe they play better than a retooling team. One thing I do know… watching Sanchez take Sale deep over the Green Monster will be fun as hell next summer.
WHAT IS THIS?
It's a somewhat tongue in cheek OPINIONATED sports blog that promises to cover baseball, football, hockey, basketball, and any other INTERESTING, stupid, and absurd STORY related to sports.