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Pucklius

The pros and cons of Matt Harvey undergoing elbow surgery

KOBEshigawa: According to the man himself, Matt Harvey, 24 year-old New York Mets pitching phenom, will forgo surgery for his partially torn UCL in his throwing elbow, choosing instead to try and avoid an operation and rehab instead. Resident Mets superfan Pucklius: when you first heard the news that Harvey had a choice between surgery and rehab, what was your first reaction?
 
Pucklius: A part of me is hopeful that rest and rehab will take care of the injury, but the rational side of me questions the logic of delaying surgery. If you watch enough baseball you know how rarely rehab works and how often surgery is successful these days. Part of you just wants to rip the band-aid off considering the Mets are unlikely to compete in 2014 anyway.
 
Then again, as most sports fans often forget in these situations, it’s not my arm.
 
KOBEshigawa: You’ve got a really great point in your “band-aid” theory, and the evidence supports it. It just seems like the track record doesn’t bode well for partially torn ligaments. That all being said, check out my hypothetical situation:
 
Looking at the other players on the Mets’ radar screen, it looks like Zach Wheeler and Noah Syndergaard will both be up in the big leagues next year and hopefully rounding into top of the rotation form by 2015. Jon Niese turns 27 next year and is in his prime. Dillon Gee is at the same age and statistically around the same skill level. To me, this appears as a starting rotation that looks to be, health permitting, like it could be one of the very best in 2015 and hell, maybe even 2014. That being said, if Harvey were to get the surgery now, he’d essentially miss the entire 2014 season and like Adam Wainwright, Brandon Beachy and others, could see either a downturn in performance or even re-injury upon his return in 2015. It seems like just getting the surgery when a rehab recover is possible could really affect the fortunes of this team as a….legit contender in 2015.
 
Do you buy into my theory at all? Does that affect your thinking on that matter?… Read more...

Oh, calm down, this isn’t as good as it sounds: The 2013 New York Mets

What?

 
No. Wait. It– shit, no. It can’t be. That’s not…. optimism? No, no way. Who could be optimistic about this team? Who would be optimistic about a team that just traded away the reigning Cy Young Award winner, a team that hasn’t had a winning record or finished above fourth place in five years or a team whose two highest-paid outfielders now play for the Seattle Mariners and no one?
 
Why would any fan with his frontal lobe intact be the least bit happy about the impending train of mediocrity that will be the 2013 New York Mets?
 
Well, even if the next six months will be some mild drudgery — and they will be — there is, at long last, some light at the end of what has been frustratingly long tunnel. No, the Mets won’t be great this year. They won’t be particularly good either. In fact, they’re almost certainly not going to have the horses to get so much as a winning record for the first time in the Obama administration, not when Lucas Duda, Mike Baxter and Kirk Nieuwenhuis are some of the fine men certain to get starting outfield time. Do not let the cautious optimism in Port St. Lucie or Queens fool you. This is probably a bad baseball team, even if Pecota somehow has the Mets projected to go 82-80 at the moment.
 
But that’s ok.
 … Read more...

We’re back everyone! A hastily-written 2012-13 NHL season preview

So, not so surprisingly, I’ve been somewhat quiet around these parts and though I’d rather not go into it, there was a really good reason why. That said, on Saturday at long last the puck will be dropping on the 2012-13 NHL season and there is just a ton of stuff to get excited about, to say nothing of the premier matchups (Chicago-Los Angeles, Pittsburgh-Philadelphia, New York-Boston) that we get on opening day alone.

However, given the consequences of the NHL’s work stoppage, rather than the full 82-course serving of a standard NHL season, we’ll be seeing a slap-dash truncated 48-game menu this time around. What’s even more wild is that the 48 games each team plays will be played entirely within a span of 99 days, which means less of a developed and cohesive performance all around and more of a frenetic breakneck scramble to make the postseason, which will be played out in full.

If anyone remembers last season’s 66-game NBA slate in which it seemed like the Knicks were playing about five times per week, this will be something like that. No one is entirely sure how different teams will respond to it, and as a result of the condensed schedule certain teams one might have expected to be title contenders (the Rangers, Detroit) might fall victim to exhaustion due to age or an aggressive style of play while teams not quite ready to make the jump (Edmonton, Florida) could take advantage because of their relative youth in the shortened schedule.

The important thing to understand, however, is that with only one other example of this situation to fall back on, no one is really sure how this will shake out, though if it ends the same way, I won’t really be complaining. Either way, it’s going to be kind of hard to predict who to bet on in the horse race, but because we need to fill these column inches, here is who might be Secretariat, and who might be Zippy Chippy.… Read more...

Feeling Big Blue

This season Sports Illustrated revamped it’s NFL predictions from September with the foresight and knowledge of eight weeks of football already past and came up with new picks for the Super Bowl that were different, rational and not far off from what I would have pegged it at myself. The choice by SI’s Jim Trotter, with the argument of “Whom do you trust late with the game on the line? Two-time Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning or Matt Schaub, who has never started in the postseason?” was the New York Giants to win a second consecutive championship with a 24-20 victory over the Houston Texans in Super Bowl XLVII. At the time that I saw this after I got my issue in the mail I had one thought run through my head.

“Oh, I don’t like this one bit.”

I hesitate to say that I’m superstitious. After all, the idea that a few words printed on a page in a soon to be forgotten article in a weekly periodical don’t actually have the power to unseat or upset anyone or anything. They’re just words, meaningless as every game in college football’s postseason with the notable exception of one. And yet fear still ran down my spine as I saw it, hypothetically jinxing everything I had known to be a true, reasonable interpretation of the season’s first half. After all, the Giants had overcome an early season hiccup against Dallas and were 6-2 with a comfortable division lead at the season’s mid-way point, their lone other loss being a frustrating, but forgiveable road defeat at Philadelphia which had not yet revealed itself to be utterly horrendous.

Otherwise, the Giants were off and running with an offense looking every bit as potent as one would have expected, a solid defense, championship experience in their back pockets and an absolute thrashing of a San Francisco team many expected to (and still expect to) compete for a Super Bowl title this February. All of this makes the fact that New York is already home for the summer more than a little baffling, and if you happen to call yourself a Giants fan (spoiler alert: I do), it’s more than a little frustrating. I sat in my father’s living room in New Jersey Sunday watching my team display in just about every facet why it has the potential to make a Super Bowl run any time it gets into the postseason and the entire time I kept watching Chicago stave off Detroit on my laptop and realized what the Giants did wouldn’t mean a thing. This is maddening to some extent considering had the Giants done what was required of them in just one of any number of previous games this all would have been moot, but in the end, a rational man takes his gifts and hesitates to get greedy.

This offseason, I am going to pretend that that is me.


After all, with two championships in five years, how upset can I be? There are teams that wait lifetimes for that kind of success, some longer than lifetimes and in one or two cases, hopefully forever. It would be unbecoming to believe you were somehow slighted by a team that in such a small span has gifted you with two titles and arguably the greatest upset in the history of the sport. Given that, it’s hard to let the disappointments beat you down and even without a track record like that, perspective should keep your head on straight. As I explained to a teenage fan in front of me when I traveled to Cincinnati in November to see a game that, uh, didn’t go as planned, in all likelihood, he would watch the Giants play roughly 700 more times before he died. For your heart’s sake, you can’t let yourself get frazzled over on… Read more...

MAMBINO’s Pro Bowl Selections

It happens when Mike Antoni is prompted to talk about defense. It happens when an Asian student has to explain a B+ to the parental droids. It happens when you have to explain a mischievous deed to a significant other.

Rambling run-on sentences.
When you don’t know what you’re talking about or when anything you say won’t be believed, you may fall victim to over-talking and fail to use punctuation regarding tone and speed. I am certainly above such pedestrian nonsense, but rather than risk it, I present to you, the MAMBINO Pro Bowl rosters defined by best Youtube video.
Special thanks to my committee: Pucklius, who has staved off NHL Lockout-induced suicide for yet another day, and TuckRule, who is probably playing Madden to find a new NFL team to root for.

Players picked by Mambino but not chosen by the fans or the NFL are highlighted in bold.
Quarterbacks:
Tom Brady’s wife, Peyton Manning’s neck nerves, Andrew Luck
Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, The third version of Robert Griffin
Some people forget that she’s first ballot:
Running Backs:
Arian Foster, Jamaal Charles, Ray Rice
Adrian Peterson’s drive, Marshawn Lynch, Doug Martin

If you ever need motivation for ANYTHING:
Wide Receivers:
A.J. Green, Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker, Andre Johnson
Calvin Johnson, Brandon Marshall, Dez Bryant, Vincent Jackson
This went from “subtle” to “awesome” rather quickly:
Tight Ends:
Heath Miller, Rob Gronkowski
Tony Gonzalez, Jason Witten
Really hate that I’m posting videos related to THREE New England Patriots, but Gronk is just so damn likeable:
Check back in about 3 months when I refuse to do a traditional NFL Mock Draft.… Read more...

Instant Trade Analysis: R.A. Dickey to the Toronto Blue Jays

Toronto Blue Jays get: SP R.A. Dickey, C Josh Thole

New York Mets get: C Travis d’Arnaud, SP Noah Snydergaard, C John Buck

Timing is everything, and in R.A. Dickey’s case, timing apparently wasn’t worth two years and $25 million dollars.

The 38 year-old knuckerballing 2012 NL Cy Young winner was shipped to the Toronto Blue Jays for two of the team’s best prospects, including one of the most elite in all of baseball’s minor leagues.

Dickey’s story is one of the best in baseball, in which he missed two of the last twelve seasons not from injury, but because he wasn’t good enough to make a team. He reinvented himself as a knuckleball pitcher in the middle of the last decade after several seasons in Texas. As a Ranger, Dickey established himself as one of the game’s worst every day pitchers, throwing up a 5.72 ERA, 1.56 WHIP and just 5.8 strikeouts per nine innings, amongst many other ghastly stats. In short, he was absolutely terrible and was actually fortunate to stick around int he Majors as long as he did.

However, after two seasons in Seattle and Minnesota honing his craft (to the tune of a 4.99 ERA, 1.58 WHIP and 5.1 strikeouts per nine innings–about as on par with his Texas numbers as he could get), Dickey was a scrap heap signing with the Mets in 2010. He immediately became a bright spot amongst an otherwise forgetful NYM season, throwing together a stunning 2.84 ERA and 1.18 WHIP in 26 starts and 174 innings. Since then, Dickey has been simply amazing, doling out two seasons of 32 and 33 starts, with 2012 being his masterpiece: 2.73 ERA, 20 wins, 1.05 WHIP, 230 strikeouts (!) to only 54 walks and a NL Cy Young Award. The blessing and the curse of the knuckleball is that because it’s thrown without rotation, it’s hard to predict where it’s going to land. Luckily for Dickey, he’s been able to understand the art of the ball’s static nature and put it into places where he’s able to accurately deceive the hitter.

The problem is that he did all of this at age 35. Going into 2013, Dickey will be 38 years old for a Mets team that’s, from all projections, is a couple years away from contending. The future of the franchise is built squarely around two young prospects, Matt Harvey and Zach Wheeler. Harvey already made it to the Majors this year, posting a devastating 2.73 ERA, 70 strikeouts, 29 walks in just 59 innings. Wheeler, who came from the San Francisco Giants last year in the Carlos Beltran deal, is the organization’s second best prospect (or perhaps best, depending on who you talk to), and could be up in the Majors late this year or early in 2014. With Dillon Gee and Jonathan Niese, the Mets 2014-2016 rotation looks just about set, just as long as these youngsters can stop themselves from becoming the next Rick Ankiels. Dickey, at his age, was simply too far out of the Mets’ forecast for playoff contention to pay him a contract that essentially would have placed him with the Ryan Dempsters of the world. Ryan Dempster, last I checked, finished the season with an ERA over 5.00. R.A. Dickey won the Cy Young Award.

There’s a couple flaws in the Mets’ logic here, most of which sits with nature of knuckleballers. For the most part, throwing the pitch takes stress of the pitcher’s elbow and shoulder, allowing guys like Tim Wakefield to pitch effectively into his mid-forties and for a guy like Dickey with a missing ligment in his throwing elbow to win the Cy Young at age 37. In the words of MAMBINO contributor Pucklius, R.A. could be pitchin… Read more...

Love and the New York Giants: It happens when you least expect it

I am single. I’m fine with this, but I know I won’t be forever. As a result, I date a lot. Probably too much if you ask my friends or my wallet, but in the now multi-year, multi-part journey I’ve endured in hopes of finding someone to share a few months if not my life I have been met by one frustration after another and remain single. This is partially because I’m picky and partially because I’m an obnoxious sarcastic loudmouth who occasionally misses the nuances of charmed conversation, but in all irksome experiences that compose the catastrophic cluster that is dating in New York city in your 20s, my friends have continually harped on one maxim to ease my anxieties.

“It always happens when you least expect it.”

Now that is a load of horseshit if I ever heard it. I’ve spent all but three years of my post-pubescent life not particularly trying in the dating world and the vast majority of that was all spent single. So clearly, not expecting it hasn’t really been the elixir. In all of my life the only area in which not expecting anything has truly paid off has been with the first, most dearest thing I ever truly fell in love with: The New York Football Giants.

I was a wide-eyed optimist when I first was cast under the spell of Big Blue in the early 1990s. After all, the Giants were just a few seasons removed from their last Super Bowl title, an upset of the high-powered Buffalo Bills in 1990 that is unfortunately far more widely remembered for Scott Norwood’s miss of a far more difficult than remembered game-winning field goal as time expired than it is for Bill Parcells’ brilliant ball-control game plan — the Giants had more than 40 minutes of possession — or Mark Ingram’s insane, twisting extension that earned a crucial New York first down. The first season I truly got invested in the NFL, the Giants battled with Dallas for the top seed in the NFC before the Cowboys, and Emmitt Smith, literally ran away with it in overtime in the final game of the season in 1994 — on a separated shoulder no less.

Surely, I thought, it wouldn’t be long before the Giants climbed to the top again though. And that’s when the years of frustration set in, starting right with the nationally televised Monday Night Opener in 1995 in which the Giants got drubbed by the ‘Boys on their home turf 35-0. For most of my life that had been the way for the Giants, a constant disappointment as I desperately searched for success in my football team. A few exciting seasons came and went, division titles in 1997, 2000 and 2005 and a Super Bowl berth in 2000 among them. But the frustrating, head-shaking losses came, too.

A stunning loss to Minnesota in the 1997 playoffs, an embarrassing Super Bowl defeat to the Baltimore Ravens, an almost incomprehensibly absurd blown 24-point lead in the 2002 playoffs to the 49ers in a game that featured botched field goals and botched officiating aplenty, an embarrassing playoff loss to Carolina in 2005, Vince Young’s coming out party in 2006 in which the Giants blew a 21-0 lead with 10 minutes to play and the entirety of the 2006 season in which the Giants were poised to enter the second half of their showdown for first place in the NFC with the Bears up 10-0 before a converted draw on 3rd and 22 for Chicago upended the game and Devin Hester slow-played a short field-goal return for a touchdown. All of this would send New York into a disastrous 2-6 spiral to end the season before it was mercifully put to an end on a last-second field goal by Philadelphia in the … Read more...

Was Johan Santana’s No-Hitter Worth a Mets Playoff Run?

On June 1st, 2012, it only took two hours and thirty-five minutes to erase 50 years of frustration. 

For the first time in New York Mets history–over 8,000 games, four National League pennants and two World Series title since 1962–a pitcher had thrown a no-hitter. Johan Santana, the team’s ace, had put down 27 batters while registering zeroes all along the St. Louis Cardinals’ side of the scoreboard. The setting couldn’t have been more perfect; in front of 27,000 fans on a cloudy summer’s night in Queens, Johan threw a career-high 134 pitches on his way to the franchise’s first-ever no-no, striking out reigning World Series MVP David Freese. Santana, who had not led the the Metropolitans to the playoffs since his acquisition in a blockbuster trade with the Minnesota Twins in 2007, came back from a lost 2011 season in which he hadn’t thrown a single pitch. SNY broadcasters and franchise mainstays Keith Hernandez and Gary Cohen, admitted after the game that they both truly believed that they’d never live to see a Mets’ no-hitter. Grown men were crying in the stands, jumping into one another’s arms as if the Mets had won the World Series. For many of them, the feeling might have been just as joyous. 

Our man Pucklius was one of the masses that night that yes, jumped into a stranger’s embrace and high-fived bartenders. While the excitement of that night will eternally warm the hearts of Mets faithful, reality has set in on the rest of New York’s 2012 season. 

At the time of Johan’s no-no, the Mets were 29-23, tied for the Wild Card lead with one third of the baseball calendar in the books. Somehow, they had broken through the restrictions of their infamous payroll squeeze and a rebuilding movement that had stripped a once-formidable squad down to its studs. Though perhaps inevitable, the Mets have careened back down to Earth from their lofty perch at the top of the standings. One of the primary reasons? Johan Santana. 

Since June 1st, Santana has gone 3-7, with a sky-high 8.27 ERA and allowed at least six runs in his last five starts. In fact, he’s only managed two quality starts in that time span, giving up an astonishing 68 hits. Some members of the media are laying his decline on the fact that Johan had been left to throw an enormous amount of pitches after coming off major shoulder surgery for a torn capsule, a rare injury that effectively ends careers. There’s no concrete evidence to suggest that this one particular game set off Santana into statistical hell. After taking a year off, perhaps throwing well into the summer months was never in his future. However, the proof is there, and it’s not a large logical leap to say that this no-hitter was the beginning of the end not just for Santana, but also the Mets’ 2012 season and playoff hopes. 

That being said, we’ve asked Pucklius to weigh in on all issues pertaining to the Mets’ first-ever no-hitter, as well as the fascinating psyche of the fanbase.

KOBEsh: Before we assume too much, where does Johan’s performance since the no-hitter rank as a reason for the Mets’ second-half decline?
Pucklius: I think it’s hard not to consider Johan’s precipitous decline over the past two months to be a relatively significant factor, but I would hesitate to make it the biggest one for several reasons.

For one, as a starting pitcher, Santana only gets about 34 appearances a year if he’s healthy anyway. Playing once every fifth day doesn’t Read more...

Zach Parise and Ryan Suter can go home again

Hockey does not have “bringing my talents to South Beach” free agent bonanzas. Yes, there are teams that win championships as a result of being heavily stocked with talent and depth that rolls them to a Stanley Cup, but often those teams are built as a result of deftly scouted drafts with the occasional smart free agent signing sprinkled in here or there. Look no further than the 2009 Penguins or the 2010 Blackhawks for evidence. While free agency is a large part of hockey, the tendency, often, is for teams to lock up their prized young assets early on, or at least attempt to do so, with a massive contract that gets them paid, but keeps them in the fold through their formative years. Many stars stay with the same organization for the vast majority of their careers and few championship teams are built almost exclusively on big-name free agents. The closest team in recent memory that might fill that description is 2002 Detroit Red Wings, an astonishingly old team which had four Hall-of-Famers (Steve Yzerman, Igor Larianov, Brett Hull and Luc Robitaille), six more players that are certain to be inducted at some point (Pavel Datsyuk, Sergei Fedorov, Brendan Shanahan, Nicklas Lidstrom, Chris Chelios and Dominik Hasek), two more that just might join them (Darren McCarty and Tomas Holmstrom) and two players that had already scored overtime Cup-clinchers for other teams in the previous six years (Hull and Uwe Krupp).

They were an immortal squad built on the backs of veteran acquisition and free agency in a way that is a dramatic outlier from how the NHL, generally speaking, has done business. Even that team, however, was no situation of LeBron James and Chris Bosh signing contracts as the top two free agents with the same team. Seeing the top two names on the market go to the same place is rare. Seeing them go to a small market is rarer still. And yet, on July 4, 2012, while most of us in the U.S. were prepping for our barbecues or traveling to to someone else’s, the Minnesota Wild, they of the one division title in their history, three playoff appearances all time and none since George W. Bush was still in the White House, managed to sign Zach Parise and Ryan Suter to identical 13-year $98-million contracts that will carry them both from the age of 27 to their post-retirement fishing days near the Superior Hiking Trail.

The Minnesota Wild are not a good team. Despite a surprising first half before a tumbling second in 2011-12, they are an unbalanced mixed of unfulfilled promise (Dany Heatley), inconsistent offense (Devin Setoguchi) and a whole lot of youth. And yet, somehow, some way, they took the two prizes of free agency in this offseason, Suter, the top defenseman on the market, and Parise, the top forward available and given his combination of youth, leadership, offensive production and defensive dedication arguably the most desired free agent in the history of the NHL. While the idea of the Wild attempting to lure Suter and Parise to Minnesota as a package deal had been floated for months due to the fact that both are friends, Parise is a Minnesota native and Suter is from neighboring Wisconsin, the notion had been met by most hockey insiders and fans alike with scoffing and amusement.

As a lifelong Devils fan, I personally felt as if of all the teams in the hunt for Parise, Minnesota was probably the least likely destination. Rumors that the Rangers, Penguins, Flyers, Blackhawks and Red Wings would all be hot on his trail seemed a far more likely result to anyone paying attention, and despite the rampant assumption that Parise would simp… Read more...

Who Starts the All-Star Game for the National League? Dickey or Cain?

I’m not surprised that the sporting world is having an argument over who should start the MLB All-Star game for the National League. Every year can’t have an automatic answer like a dominant Roy Halladay or a war horse-like half season from Justin Verlander. I’m not even surprised that Matt Cain is a part of the conversation, considering his video game statistics and the accompanying hype provided by the perfect game he threw just weeks ago.

What I am surprised about is that the opposing part of the argument for NL All-Star starter is…R.A. Dickey.

Yes, Mambinities. R.A. Dickey, who spent his 2002 and 2007 seasons out of baseball because he wasn’t good enough to make any team, is a probable All-Star. R.A. Dickey, who in 2006 as a 31 year-old, transitioned to a full-time knuckle-ball pitcher, is not only a probable All-Star, but considering starting material. R.A. Dickey, who at age 37 is having his most dominant season ever, is a potential All-Star starter and Cy Young candidate. Yes folks, that R.A. Dickey.

Unbelievably, just three years after finishing the season with Minnesota with a 5.21 ERA and walking nearly as many batters as he struck out, R.A. Dickey is favored by many, including our own Pucklius, as the presumptive National League All-Star Starter.

However, he’s not without his detractors. An e-mail debate began to stir today with the assertion that yes, the Mets ace was more deserving of throwing the NL’s first pitch than Cain.

At first thought, this is simply ludicrous. How could Dickey be more qualified than the guy who threw a perfect game? Let’s look at the tale of the tape:

R.A. Dickey: 15 starts (13 quality starts, 3 complete games), 11-1, 106 Ks, 72 Hits, 24 Walks, 2.31 ERA, 0.91 WHIP

Matt Cain: 15 starts (11 QS, 2 CG), 9-2, 107 Ks, 74 Hits, 22 Walks, 2.27 ERA, 0.90 WHIP
Well, that wasn’ helpful. Their statistics are stunningly similar in nearly every way, except for the obvious win-loss record (which is itself a pretty superfluous statistic). Both have their pros and cons, and with each of them having approximately three starts left until July 17th, there’s a lot left to be decided. So let’s turn to the experts. 
But obviously they were busy, so we here at MAMBINO HQ decided to tackle the issue. I’ll be taking the side of Cain, which shakes my Dodger Blue bones to their marrow, and Pucklius will be trumpeting his very own Dickey from Queens. Let’s see if either of us can swing each other.
KOBEsh: The numbers between the two really aren’t helping to create any separation between these two guys. Out of all the arguments, which are you looking at as the strongest in Dickey’s favor?

Pucklius: You’re right in that it’s hard to go wrong, but I think you’ve got to look at his quality starts and complete games in addition to the sheer dominance he displayed over the six or so starts prior to Sunday’s game against the Yankees. The rest of the stat line between the two is almost completely identical, but Dickey leads both in quality starts and complete games, which perhaps more than anything might be a sign of consistently putting your team in position to win games. Granted, the differences in those categories are slight — perhaps even negligible — but I do think those combined with his ERA and WHIP are crucial. Cain’s numbers are also stellar, but the flukiness of a perfect game — and yes, while they are tremendous accomplishments they are flukes — dramatically impacts his ERA and WHIP … Read more...