Elster's World

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Writer's Block

This time, though, the reasons are simple. The Mets stink, the Jets have only played three games, and basketball (and hockey) season hasn't started yet.

Simply put, there's not much to talk about on my all-sports blog.

Might be time for another change.....

Sunday, September 23, 2007

A Day For Victory

Big wins today by both the Mets and Jets, but still let's not get too excited.

- The Mets, after learning that the Phillies had lost earlier in the day, watched Aaron Heilman and Billy Wagner cough up leads in the 8th and 9th and needed another big hit from MVP candidate David Wright to avoid a crushing defeat.

You know your bullpen stinks when, after your closer of the balky back can't hold a one run lead, your manager sends Aaron Sele and Scott Schoenweis out to save the game for you in the 10th.

All in all the Met win and the Philly loss lowered the magic number to 5, but it's impossible to feel particularly good about the team right now.

- As for the Jets, they won a game they were supposed to win in typical fashion - they opened up a big lead and then watched it close to 3 when the clock finally ran out. Here are some thoughts from the game.

- The Dolphins really stink. The don't trust their quarterback to throw the ball down field and they have to rely on Ronnie Brown who had a career day against, who else, the Jets.

- Though the Dolphins got some pressure on Pennington at times, the offensive line did a relatively nice job of stopping the blitz and opening up running lanes in the second half.

- Jerricho Cotchery is a heck of a football player.

- Maybe Baker isn't so bad after all.

- The Jets are going to need to find a way to generate a pass rush or it's going to be a long season.

- The Bills stink too, so the Jets should win next week.

- Repetition - My fantasy team is going to lose again this week - making me 0-3. If I lose another game, I'm going to start picking up the worst players and starting them to see if that helps me more.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Magic Number?

The concept of the magic number is either silly or all embracing - depending on how close or far from reach it happens to be. So when the Mets were sitting six and a half games up in first and coming of an impressive 9 out of 10 stretch, it was easy to look at a swollen magic number, scoff and say "who cares about magic numbers when they are so far away?"

Now? The Mets are clinging to a two and a half game lead over Philly (thanks to a Met win and Philly loss last night) and a magic number of 9. Wait a minute, you say, 9? games? That's not so many. After all it's a combination of Met wins and Philly losses right? So if we win just five games and Phily loses just 4, we make the playoffs right?

So the magic number has gone, at least for me, from being an object of ridicule to being an object of hope. Hope that, perhaps, the season will run out before the Mets give away the lead they spent the entire summer holding on to. Hope that maybe, within that magic number, the Mets will find some of the swagger that they had last year in the late days of September. Hope that what Met fans have been saying all season - if only we get fully healthy, then watch out - will actually come to be. That Delgado's hip heals and he hits like he was in the week or two leading up to the injury. That Alou's quad stops tightening up. That El Duque can pitch in the playoffs this year. That Pedro can stretch the arm out to 6 or 7 innings. That Castillo's knees don't snap off like twigs.

Magic number: 9. And that nine should come sooner rather than later. Soon enough that Jose Reyes, who looks tired, can sit for a few days.

That it should come before the season runs out and the Mets give the lead away.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Should We Be Worried Yet?

I caught a few minutes of the Boomer Esiason show on WFAN this morning. Some guy called in, bitching and moaning about Willie and demanding that Willie gets fired after the year is out if the Mets don't make the playoffs. Boomer and friends quickly pooh-poohed him, playing the "hey, let's not panic, we are still in first place" angle. Of course, I angrily shut off the radio.



Not panic? Still in first place? The Mets are in the process of attempting nothing short of a monumental collapse and we shouldn't panic? Keep in mind that after losing FOUR straight to the Phils, the Mets went on a tear, winning 9 of 10 and cementing an "unbeatable" 6.5 game lead last week. The follow up: a second sweep by the Phillies followed by a joke against the Nats last night. Now, the lead has been neatly trimmed to two and a half games. If not isn't the time to panic, when is?



Obviously if the Mets fail to reach the playoffs, there will be multiple reasons for such a failure. There almost never is one. But at the top of the list you MUST put Willie. His inept managerial moves are killing this team. What's worse, his greatest strength was his ability to motivate the players. Now he seems to have lost them, some even openly questioning his managerial decisions. That is not a good way to keep your guys. Keep in mind that he once made so many switches in a game that he was forced to pinch run a pitcher in the eight inning and use Tom Glavine as a pinch hitter in the ninth. Not exactly Tony Larussa-esq.



The Mets are simply too talented a team to not be more dominant. Omar Minaya, for all of his bad bullpen decisions this year, has put together a fine team. In fact, I believe the Mets are the best team in the National League. And that's exactly why Willie needs to get canned if the Mets aren't representing the NL in the world series this fall. This team is too good to (a) not make the playoffs, (b) lose in the first round or even (c) lose in the NLCS, even factoring in the rash of injuries that his the team this year.



As for managerial decisions, how the heck can you send Brian Lawrence and his 83 mph fastball out there when you have Mike Pelfrey on your roster? Can anyone explain that move to me? Is Willie trying to make the race more interesting?



If the Mets fail to make the playoffs and the yanks take the wild card, I'm moving to Boston and becoming a Red Sox fan.



- In other news, the Jetropolitans have started the year a very Jet-like 0-2. So not only is real football going to be depressing this year, fantasy football will be as well. Only three weeks till Knicks Maccabee Tel Aviv at the Garden baby!!



- Incidentally, this is post number 301 for me.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Monday, Bloody Sunday

Couple of additions to yesterday's column:

- I'm 12.5 points behind Lou the Toe, with only London Fletcher left. So I'm looking for a 10 tackle, one forced fumble and one sack kinda night from the backer. Otherwise, I'm toast. We all know that 0-2 fantasy teams never make the playoffs in the league I'm in. (Yes, I know there is no playoff system in our league, it was a joke.

- The more I think about the Belichick thing, the more I believe it's nothing new or surprising when we come to view the man he is. This is simply a case of a man who values winning above everything and anything else. He's already been divorced, he looks like he's spent the last 20 years in a Siberian gulag and he's famous for spending 27 hours a day living, eating and breathing football. So is it really surprising that he would stoop to spying on the other team?

Belichick puts to mind the kid in high school who has a 400 IQ, has five tutors and a 100 average, studies night and day for the Regent's exams but feels the need to try and buy them the night before the exam anyway. Did he need to steal signals to trounce the Jets on opening day? Of course not. But he did it anyway. Quite honestly, this might even be a worse offense.

Interesting point on Mike and Mike this morning - By Belicheck clamming up and refusing to talk about is he's putting his players, innocents in this case, directly in the spotlight - taking his heat. A total jerk move by an unadulterated jerk.

Reason number 1,000,000,986 why we should all hate Bill Belichick.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Sunday, Bloody Sunday

Not a great day to share rooting interests with Elster. First up, thew one o'clock time slot, where the Mets completed a dismal series against the Phillies, getting swept in their own house and letting their comfortable six and a half game lead shrink to 3 and a half. This series had it all, bad relief pitching, horrible defense, untimely hitting - a potpourri of reasons why the Mets don't look like a team that can make noise in October.

On the bright side, David Wright became just the third 30/30 player in Met history, and continues to make a strong case for MVP honors. Pedro was real sharp in his no decision Saturday, striking out 9 and looking unhi-table at times. And more importantly, the Mets can beat up on crappy teams for a while (Marlins, Nats) and hopefully fatten up the lead again with under 15 to play).

Now to Baltimore, where a game that looked like it was going to be a fiasco instead became a last minute nail biter. Kellen Clemens shook off early game jitters and lead the Jets on a nice comeback at the end, throwing for about 175 yards in the fourth quarter alone and coming within two Justin McCareins drops of tying the score and completing a comeback. Instead, the Jets lost 20-13.

I had predicted the Jets start the season 0-2 so there is really no reason to panic. Instead, here are some causes for concern and optimism as we head into week 3:

Concern:

- The offensive line is having issues. They cannot open up holes for Thomas Jones and they were having trouble protecting Jets quarterbacks until the fourth quarter of game 2. They will have to get much better fast in order for this team to do anything. I'm not saying D'brikashaw Ferguson is a bust but he certainly is not Jonathan Ogden either.

- The Jets front 7 can't generate any pressure on the quarterbacks. It's one thing to be stopped by the Pats and Tom Brady, but quite another to let a Jonathan Ogden-less Ravens line keep Kyle Boller's jersey spotless.

- The Jets defense has no takeaways in 2 games.

- The Jets running game has looked really flat to start the season. See offensive line, above.

Positives:

- How about that Mike Nugent. His kickoffs are longer and his accuracy much improved. Sure he missed today, but he missed from 53 yards away, making a 50 yarder and a chippy. Maybe he was worth the high pick after all.

- The Jets may have found a real keeper in quarterback Kellen Clemens. He did look lost for three quarters but you could sort of see it coming together for him in the fourth. The line started blocking better and he started winging the ball around like a latter-day Joe Namath.

I'm seven and a half points down to Lou the Toe in fantasy football. I still have my kicker and London Fletcher going for me and he had a nose tackle. Should be pretty close.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Sunday Recap

- The Jets were completely outplayed at the line of scrimmage yesterday - on both sides if the ball - and the results were a one sided loss to the Patriots (for a change). Gang Green couldn't run or protect Chad Pennington and failed to score once Pennington left the game with an injured ankle.

If the line cannot block or create holes, it's going to be a long season.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Jets could not pressure Tom Brady. He had all the time in the world to find mismatches with a suddenly rejuvenated Randy Moss who had 78 catches for 15,000 yards. Revis looked pretty impressive though.

- Pedro was slightly better in start 2 (still can't throw very hard) and is now 2-0 since returning from the major shoulder surgery. How effective he can be for the stretch run remains to be seen, but the fact is his presence gives the team an undeniable boost.

Tom Glavine's numbers in his last 15 starts are extremely good. I honestly had no idea how well he was pitching.

Big 6 games coming up for the Mets. Good showings against the Braves and Phillis at home can put the NL East race away for good and all the Mets to be rested and healthy for the playoffs.

- Fantasy update - You had to know the Jetropolitans were in trouble when the inactive bench outscored to starters, the stud running back had a whopping 0 fantasy points, and the kicker actually LOST the team 2 points. even my stud first defensive pick failed me. a disaster all around. And Orlando Pace's injury impacts not one but TWO of my major offensive players. Is it too early to concede the season?

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Jets 2007 Season Preview

But first, how about the death - and then subsequent rebirth - of the Mets the last week and a half? First a four game sweep at the hands of the Phillies - just an absolute disaster on all levels. The starters were terrible, the bullpen were gas cans and the offense was nonexistent until the Thursday afternoon game.

The series against the Braves was a seasonal crossroads. If the Mets failed in Atlanta against their forever nemesis, they could have left Georgia in second place and sliding. Instead, the Mets opened up a can of Whup ass on the Braves - sweeping them in Atlanta. This included an improbable 6 inning one hitter from Mike Pelfrey and was followed by Sunday's Return of Pedro in a win against the Reds. All of a sudden, things don't look as bleak anymore.

All said and done, the Mets are now 5 games in first place and moving in the right direction.

And now, on to some football:

The Jets 2007 season opens in an interesting place. The Jets surprised the world last year and, under new head coach Eric Mangini, went 10-6 and made the playoffs (losing a horrible game to the patriots in the wild card). This season promises to be much tougher - the schedule is cruel and the world is now on notice that The Jets Don't Suck.

Let's take a look at a positional analysis and some final season predictions. My final ratings for each position will be on a scale of one to ten:

Quarterback - Chad Pennington, strangely, comes back a total mystery. Not because he is coming off shoulder surgery (he's actually not) or because he missed significant time last year with injuries (he didn't) but because he played so darned little in the preseason it's impossible to know how he is doing. While he was awful against the Vikings in the preseason, he has been used very little by Mangini (in one game he didn't even throw a pass). Assuming all things being equal, it's relatively safe to expect a similar season to last year - while his arm should be better, so will the defenses the Jets will be playing against. Kellen Clemens showed this pre-season that he's a capable back-up. Tuiasosopu provides nothing more than a warm body. The issue is whether a patchwork offensive line can keep the quarterbacks upright and allow the running backs to take off some of the pressure. Final rating: 7

Running Back - It's hard to evaluate the running backs without taking into account the offensive line. But let's try. Thomas Jones was a huge upgrade as the feature back and should provide stability and reliability (as well as over a thousand yards), assuming the calf is healthy. Leon Washington becomes the third down scatback and change of pace guy - a role he was born to play. Both can catch passes out of the backfield - giving Pennington another short rage weapon. Darian Barnes was brought in to make holes. Final rating (not factoring the O-line): 8

Wide Receivers - Laverneous Coles has a great return to the Jets and Jerricho Cotchery had a breakthrough season. Justin Mcareins came to camp recommitted to being a trustworthy number three as well as a deep threat. Brad Smith is probably still a year away from being a real factor as a receiver (but I'm not counting him out). Not sure we will be seeing too much of Chasney Stucky and Wallace Wright. The tight ends are pretty much all blockers except for the mediocre Chris Baker. Final rating: 7

Offensive Line - The offensive line is a huge problem. After the fiasco with their left guard, the Jets have huge holes to fill. Nick Mangold is a keeper at center and D'Brickashaw Ferguson is a work in progress, talented but uneven. After that it's simply a crap shoot. GM Mike Tannebaum should be scanning the waiver wires to find a replacement for Pete Kendall and/or shore up the right side of the line. Final rating: 4.7

Defensive Line - Robertson, Ellis, Coleman, Pouha, Mosly and Hicks - aka mediocrity personified. Jets need big seasons from Ellis and Robertson to make anything work. Final rating: 5.5

Linebackers - The Jets moved up to grab David Harris in the second round. he will be backing up Eric Barton and i assume eventually starting for him if things go according to plan. Jonathan Vilma needs to have a bounce back year but he's still too small to b a great inside guy in a 3-4 defense, especially without space eaters in front of him. Bryan Thomas had a strong year last year and needs to build on that. Victor Hobson, Bowens and Kassell add depth. Final rating: 6.

Backfield - Kerry Rhodes is an outstanding safety who made the Leap last year. Eric Coleman needs to improve at the other safety spot. Andre Dyson needs to stay healthy and David Barret is keeping the seat warm for Darelle Revis or Justin Miller. Drew Coleman, Eric Smith, Rashard Washington and Hank Poteat provide depth. In Mangini's defense, these guys will all get alot of time. Look for Revis early in nickel and dime packages. Let's hope he was worth the price of moving up. Final rating: 6.5.

Special Teams - Under Mike Westhoff you know the coverage teams will be good. Ben Graham has supposedly looked good in preseason and Nugent has looked good as well, even kicking off longer. Justin Miller led the league in average last season and the Jets have a lot of options at punt returner (Revis, Washington and Stuckey). Final Rating: 8

Coaching - This will be the key for the Jets in year 2 of the Mangenius. The schedule is brutal to start - home against the Pats then at the Ravens and their superhuman defense. It's not only conceivable that the Jets will start the season 0-2, but probable. Mangini is going to have to keep the team together and keep the atmosphere positive. The money is on him to succeed. Brian Schottenheimer did a really good job in his first year as offensive coordinator and Bob Sutton is more of a Mangini figurehead. Westhoff is still one of the best special teams coaches in the business. Ben Kotwica continues to astound as the defensive quality control coach. Final Rating 8.5

Predictions: As noted above, the season begins brutally. I expect the Jets to go 3-3 in the division, losing 2 to the Pats, splitting the Bills and continuing their trend of beating the Dolphins. There are tough games against the Steelers, Bengals, Ravens and Eagles. There are never any gimmes for the Jets but they have the Giants, Browns, Chiefs (the Return of Herm Edwards!!), Titans and Redskins. Dallas is a swing game. Final Prediction - 9-7 and outside looking in for the playoffs.

Note that this isn't meant as a doom and gloom prediction. The Jets play a number of tough teams this year who know not to take them lightly. The team is one upset away from being 10-6 or two heartbreaks away from 7-9. Things tend to break funny in a football season.