Elster's World

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Mike Cameron Took Drugs!!!


A Few, Subtle Changes

And lest anyone think this is some sort of Halloween joke to scare all of you, rest assured it isn't:

Though there are no viewers to take heed (not being bitter, just realistic), I have made some slight changes to Elster's World. That's right, Elster's World is now once again known as Elster's World - no longer to be called Elster's Sports World.

This change is a long time coming I think. I made the initial change simply because I was getting tired of cranking out posts I had to give significant thought to when I had such a limited viewership to begin with. If no one was going to read, I reasoned, then I'll just write solely about sports. Yes, I know the logic is a tad difficult to follow since you need to give thought to sports posts as well. No one ever said I made any sense.

However, these past few months I have been getting the desire to branch back out. Since this blog has always been about me first and the viewers (however many or few) second (no offense to any of you of course), and since I've actually enjoyed writing the Elster Reviews for In Rainbows and Friday Night Lights, I think the time has come to officially become a blog about everything again.

For those of you who read regularly, once in a while or who pop in on the "Jarrod Mustaf" Google search, I hope you all enjoy...

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Elster Reviews - Friday Night Lights


Sure, I'm about a year late on this but what the hey:

When ESPN.com's Bill Simmons wrote an impassioned plea to get people to start watching Friday Night Lights (FNL), it was the final straw. I had heard many, many great things about the show (including other impassioned please from TV Guide's respected Matt Roush and the slightly less respected Michael Ausiello), I decided to give it a try. Not often are shows described as being perfect for both men and women so on a very very slow day at work a month ago (a rare occurrence but hey, I take what i can get) I watched the FNL pilot online. When the 45 minute (no commercials) episode was done, I was hooked like a brook trout. I immediately called the wive and told her that we were in for the first season. Hey, for 14 and a half bucks on Amazon (plus delivery of course) I can be a big spender.

The 5 disc, 22 episode boxed set (very weak on the extras, by the way - couldn't they have thrown in a few bloopers or an interview or 2???) arrived a few days later. I sat down with Mrs E hoping that I hadn't made a big mistake expecting her to like a show about high school football in West Texas. By the end of the first episode (my second viewing), she, too was drying her eyes and proclaiming herself in for the season.

Over the course of the next 10 days we ripped through all 22 episodes of season one and the first 4 episodes of season 2, catching us up with America.

Which begs the question - how can a show THIS GOOD be struggling this badly? It is absolutely mind boggling to me. It has something for everyone. The sports scenes and sports story lines will surely hold the interest of any football lover, the depiction of small town life is dead one perfect (or at least feels perfect) and with one notable exception, the action is some of the best you will see on TV. Starting with the show's core family, Coach Taylor (Kyle Chandler) and his with Tami (Connie Britton) and daughter Julie (Amy Teegarden) the characters are extremely true to life.

The Pilot revolves around the event leading up to the first game of the season. Dillon High School's team is rated top in Texas thanks to wonder QB Jason Street (played with a goofy Peyton Manning-like awe shucksness by Scott Porter) and stud running back "Smash" Williams (Gauis Charles). Coach Taylor is getting his first real shot at big time HS football and already the media is wondering if he got the job on the heels of Street. Meanwhile we are introduced to the other characters in the Dillon Universe - Street's best friend and always drunken fullback Tim Riggins (Taylor Kitsch - who my wife thinks is really hot), Street's girlfriend and head cheerleader Lyla Garrity (Minka Kelley, the worse, most annoying character on the show) Lyla's dad and Dillon football booster Buddy Garrity, bad girl Tyra Collette (Adrianne Palicki) and footnote back-up QB Matt Saracen (Zach Gilford) and his semi nerdy buddy Landry (Jesse Plemmons).

Everyone's world comes apart when Jason Street is horribly injured in the first game of the season paralyzed (he ends up a paraplegic). While the stadium basically is in shock, Taylor rallies back up Saracen who, after performing horribly, throws a (ridiculously improbable) miracle pass for a win.

The rest of season one centers on Street's adjustment to his condition, Coach Taylor and his family, and the lives of Riggins, Saraen, Smash, Tyra and Landry - all as Dillon tries to save its season and make it to the State championship.

Sure, there is a soapy quality to the show that might be off putting to TV snobs (of which i am certainly not one - heck I watch Reaper), but as I said, what sets this show apart is the acting. Chandler, Britton and Teegarden portray the most believable family I've ever seen on television, even rivalling the likes of the Seavers, the Cohens and the Keatons. And Gilford's Matt Saracen, shy, afterthought QB thrust into the spotlight, is perhaps the finest TV acting job I've ever seen. His endearing stutter and his shyness - all while Taylor tries to mold him into a QB - he just nails is. When I watch Matt Saracen, I don't feel like I'm watching a TV character, I feel like he really exists. And that is about the highest praise one can give an actor.

Without giving away too much, the show hits on all the big issues - adultery, steroids, rape, coming of age, and they do it inoffensively and without jamming it down our throats. Of course the Dillon Panthers make it to state and of course it comes out right before the big game that Taylor has accepted a job next year as Texas Methodist University's QB coach and then - well if you want to find out what happens, I suggest you splurge on the boxed set or sit in front of your computer. All 26 episodes of the show are watchable online with limited commercial breaks.

The show is filmed with a haunting soundtrack and very interesting camera angles and closeups. Many of the cameras are handheld and shaky, which adds a gritty element to it.

And yes, there have already been complaints that the second season is failing to live up to expectations. The Taylors begin the season living apart and in turmoil over it and there is a plot twist involving Landry and Tyra that is waaaaay out of character for the show - but hey, the ratings for this show are awful and the creators are doing what they can to solve it.

And it's happened before. Some shows have just one great season in them (my wife will tell you this is the case with The OC but i have no way to confirm or deny that - and many will tell you this is true of Lost as well, but those people are just stupid). And some will say that why should they put the effort into a show that will probably be getting cancelled before the end of its second season. To which I say - hey get off your butts and start watching and maybe it won;t be getting cancelled. And besides, watching SOME of a great, but short lived show beats not watching it at all.

So there you have it. On the Elster Scale (1 to 10, 10 being the best), we are giving Season 1 of Friday Night Lights a crazy high 9.5 rating. That's right, it scores a near perfect rating. Because the show, well it's near perfect.

So what are you waiting for. Amazon.com is just a click away. In fact, I'll even link you. Go to it people and remember - Full Hearts Clear eyes Can't Lose.

Monday, October 29, 2007

You Must Watch This

Youn have got to see this play so the next time it happens in a movie you won't say "oh please, like that could ever happen". Extra kudos to the announcers for not even getting excited about this until the very end.

Are The Pats Looking For A BCS Win?

Watching the New England Patriots annihilate team after team, a few things are becoming clear:

- This Pats team is the deepest, and best team to strap it on since the San Fransisco 49er glory years.

- Bill Belichick is doing everything in his power to win Tom Brady the elusive MVP he so richly deserves.

- Belichick has turned his cheating into an Us Against Them rallying cry for his team - once again proving he's by far the best coach in the National Football League right now.

What else have we learned? That the only thing worse than running up the score in these games is whining about it afterwards. These are NFL teams the pats are playing, not division II schools getting rolled by Florida State. If these teams had any pride, they would make some stops and lose games by 20 instead of 35. Crying and whining about it afterwards is jut embarrassing.

So when the Jets play the pats in New England later this season, I fully expect (barring catastrophic injuries to all of Seymour, Vrable, Thomas, Brady, Moss, Welker, etc.) the final score to be 62-13. I expect Belichick to disdainfully walk past a shell shocked Eric Mangini and refer to him as "the other coach" in the post game interview. I expect myself to hate the Patriots even more than I already do. But I hope that I don't hear a defeated, over the hill Eric Barton crying after how "the Pats have no respect for the league" or "I can't wait to see these guys again next year". Because you know what Eric, the pats can't wait to see you again either.

They are looking to hang 62 points on someone again.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

What Else Is There To Say?

The 2007 Jets are a disaster of epic proportion. The coaching is awful, the offense is terrible and the defense is terrible. As crazy as this sounds, Jon Vilma's knee injury is a blessing - getting Harris on the field and making plays. He seems more suited to the 3-4 middle than Vilma.

Other than that, Clemens finally got in with under three to play. What was Mangini waiting for? He obviously doesn't trust Clemens at all - why else keep an ineffective Pennington in that long?

What a mess. I would write more, but really, what else is there to say at this point?

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Elster Reviews - In Rainbows

We interrupt our regularly scheduled Sports Blog for a slice of pop culture.

Instead of writing another lament regarding the Jets quarterback non-controversy or the utter silliness of the Mets firing Omar Minaya and replacing his with ...... Joe Torre????, I am going to be dropping a few non-sports related topics on my legions of readers every so often. And I will be introducing a new feature at Elster's World - Elster Reviews - where I, well where I review stuff. Up first, Radiohead's newest effort, In Rainbows. As soon as the wife and I finish ripping through season one of Friday Night Lights, I'll get that up as well.

On positive to a long train ride to and from work is that, when I don't have anything good to read, there is plenty of time to get lost in my Ipod. So when the Radiohead album became available on October 10th, I waited for the initial barrage of people and then grabbed it the following Sunday.

Now anyone who reads Elster's World knows I think Radiohead is the most important, and best, band of the last 20 years (and yes I know this is a very arguable position, I just choose not to argue it).

Either way, the band has not released an album since Hail to the Thief back in 2003 and fans have been chomping at the bit, or at least logging on to YouTube so see more of their favorite band. And finally, almost four years in the making (and after a number of false promises and threats that the band was done recording), out came In Rainbows.

So how does it stack up? Well for starters, like all their albums since 1995's The Bends, it takes multiple listenings to really have an opinion. Radiohead's music is intricate and, with some exceptions, it isn't something easily digested. In Rainbows is no exception. However, once you have digested it, it's a wonderful addition to the Radiohead catalogue.

In Rainbows is a sorta, kinda return to Radiohead's earlier, more guitar/instrument driven sound, yet it continues to push the envelope with new sounds (including a chorus of school children at one point on the first song, 15 Step). Each listen gives you something you missed the time before, and what else can you really ask for in an album. except good music of course, of which there is plenty.

The music starts off with 15 Step, currently my second favorite song on the album. It has a snazzy beat and a very interesting guitar backing. It's followed by the crunches of Bodysnatchers and the first dirgy song, Nude. Weird Fishes/Arpeggi seems to be the most talked about song, the one fans have been quick to compare to Paranoid Android, off of 1997's Ok Computer (for the way it mixes two songs into one) and it's way out there.

All I Need is the perfect anti-companion song to Ok Computer's Climbing Up The Walls (a sane companion if you will) and Faust Arp is a folksy little number backed by what sounds like a series of strings. It's very different and a nice listen.

Reckoner follows. I am at a loss to describe my personal favorite track on this album. It's just...great. Thom York, who seems to be able to sound like a dozen different people (the first time I listened to The Bends, I thought I heard U2's Bono and the guy from Smashing Pumpkins) sounds just beautiful on this song. The backing music is terrific, the shift in the middle is lovely ("Because we separate......it ripples our reflections......(in rainbows)").

House of Cards and Jigsaw falling Into Place are two fine tracks which just get lost among all of the solid pieces here. And Radiohead brings its depressing best on the final track, Videotape, which closes things off nicely ("This is my way of saying goodbye.......Because I can't do it face to face..........I'm talking to you after it's too late.........From my videotape") .

On the whole, In Rainbows plays much more like an album than its predecessor, Hail to the Thief did. It is much more similar that way to Kid A (not a real favorite of mine) or Amnesiac. A second disc with additional songs is available for people wanting to spend serious cash, but the album itself rings...complete... just the way it is. All in all, a very enthusiastic thumbs up.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Because It Needs To Be Said

Sticking with Chad Pennington this week against the Bills makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. The season is done. DONE. Why not give Clemens a shot? If he falls flat on his face, the Jets will get a nice high draft pick next year.

What is the logic here? Mangini talked after the game about how no ones job is safe. So besides making David Harris a starter and bumping Erik Coleman for Abram Elam, what exactly does he plan to do? Making a change at quarterback is at least a bolder move.

Can someone please explain this to me?

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Black Day For ESPN?

Am I the only right minded person in the world who thinks Rick Reilly is completely unfunny? His back page articles are silly and his Riffs of Reilly thing on SI.com is almost embarrassing.

Why is ESPN turning the Dan Patrick switch to SI into a Biggie Tupac war. Let Patrick go and be done with it. Did they really need to "retaliate" by bringing in the most unfunny funny guy in sports? Wouldn't they have done better giving Joe Namath a bottle of scotch, some "pain medication" and a microphone? Who wouldn't watch that? Instead, we will all be subjected to Reilly and Simmons get into a pissing contest for funnyman turf at ESPN - a lose lose situation for Reilly, who isn't funny to begin with.

Note - I have no idea if Reilly was really hired by ESPN in response to the hiring of SI of Patrick and I don't really care. I'm just upset that, with the way ESPN over promotes everything, Reilly is going to be in my grill 24/7.

In other news, Eric Mangini refuses to name a starter for Sunday's game against Buffalo. Isn't that the equivalent of naming Clemens the starter or am I crazy here?

Monday, October 22, 2007

Grounding the Jet?

Sure, you cannot blame Chad Pennington solely for this week's disaster. He didn't give up 800 rushing yards and 3 rushing td's to a Rudi Johnson-less Bengal team. He didn't let the Bengals march up and down the field at will in the second half. He didn't shank a punt. He didn't coach the team - or drop 3 passes. He didn't fail to open up any holes or fail to run through them.

In other words, though his weak arm is a problem, it's far from the only problem.

But, and here's the big but, Eric Mangini can't get rid of his defensive line. Or his offensive line. He can make a change at QB. He can throw Clemens out there and let us see what we have. Start planning for next season. Start figuring out who stays and who goes. Because right now, the whole mess ain't working.

For fantasy purposes - I am the kiss of death. If you play for my fantasy team, it means that not only will YOU get hurt, but anyone connected to you will as well. If you are a receiver, your QB, and backup QB, will both be out for extended periods. I started Schaub this week, desperate for a healthy body. Result - injured in the first quarter. I am pulling backup running backs off the scrap heap week to week because none of my backs are healthy. My wide receivers are healthy but they have 3rd string qb's throwing to them. I can't get a break. The result - Tom Brady's 48.5 points was the same as my ENTIRE STARTING OFFENSE gave me this week. By right, I should lose every fantasy game the rest of the season. all my best players are hurt. I'm using my 4th string and 23rd string RB's and 5 or 6 qb's have been on my roster. A total mess.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Just Throwing It Out There - and other random thoughts

The Jets are 1-5. No matter who they toss out to start at quarterback the remainder of the season, the chances of going 9-1 in their last 10 and making a playoff spot (or even 8-2 and sneaking in at 9-7) are so remote, it doesn't even really pay to consider. (Though with my skill as a prognosticator, watch the Jets go 9-1, make the playoffs, and then we will have Joe taking the above as a quote on The Zionist Conspiracy, telling all of his loyal readers how dumb I am. Actually, I hope that happens.) After all, neither Chad Pennington or Kellen Clemens can stop the run, consistently make field goals, and/or tackle wide receivers who make 10 yard catches before they turn those into 55 yard TDs.

That being said, if it's true that QB hungry teams were inquiring after Mr. Pennington, why wouldn't you have dealt him for a player or draft pick at this point in the season? Are Messrs Mangini and Tannenbaum worried about the season turning into a rout? The season IS turning into a rout. What, exactly, was the downside of such a trade? Worse case scenario, we find out in an already down year that Clemens isn't the guy and we know we need someone else next year. Best case scenario, you find a way to get Pennington off the books without the embarrassing benching sequence, you get to test your young QB in an already lost season and you get a player or draft pick in the process.

Obviously it would have been had to trade Pennington because of cap issues and maybe no one was really asking. But if there were real inquiries, why not pursue them? Am I missing something but what was the downside here?

- Speaking of Tannenbaum read this quote. Then read it again:

"I think the team got better over the course of the season. That's what I'm looking forward to this year. We're heading in the right direction. They're getting coached well, they're being developed and they're getting better. Although we haven't seen it with our record yet, I have seen progress."

Huh? Is he watching the same game I am? Where, exactly, is the progress? The Jets defense, which played pretty well the second half of last season, has been awful. They can't tackle, can't fill gaps, can't stop little plays from becoming big plays. John Vilma continues to go in reverse and Kerry Rhodes has taken a step back since his monster season last year (though I suspect that's partially due to the scheme). A rookie cornerback who didn't even play during the preseason is leading the team in tackles. The defensive line didn't get better. The running game is, for the most part, terrible. The loss of Pete Kendal seems to have dropped lines play back a few steps too (though give them credit for a decent job of pass protection so far this season).

Coached well? They miss tackles, blunder about with poor game plans and generally seem to lack fire.

All in all, not exactly his finest hour as GM of the Jets.

Look, I like the Mangini/Tannenbaum duo. They seem to have a plan and it's unfair to not give the plan time to develop. Keep in mind that the Patriots under The Evil Genius got a gift from the Jets when Drew Bledsoe got injured and unproven Tom Brady had to step in. That sped up New Englands ascension. These things take time. Let's give the brain trust the rest of the season at least to show this so called "progress".

- At the urging of several people I don't know (ESPN's Bill Simmons as well as TV Guide's Matt Roush and Michael Ausiello, the wife and I spent $14 plus shipping and handling for the first season of Friday Night Lights. Have to tell you, $14 bucks very well spent.

Any show that can grab both the wife and I has to be diverse. She hates football and I hate soapy type crappola. What raises this show to another level: Two things - the football scenes don't look staged and the acting is top rate. Zach Gilford's Matt Saracen, the back-up qb thrust into the starting role, with a dementia ridden grandmother, a crappy job flipping burgers and a very endearing stutter when he talks to girls, is the most believable tv character I have ever seen. Coach Taylor and his wife (Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton) are perfect and the character that make up Dillon, Texas' universe are all well acted and believable. And This is after only watching the first 7 episodes. I simply cannot understand why this show is floundering.

Now supposedly the second season started with a horrendous plot twist which has fans reeling. Sometimes shows are forced to leave their own blueprint for success when the ratings aren't there. i don't know, nor do I want to know, the twist - yet. Until I catch up. But until then, I am deeply enjoying this ride. Some shows peak in their first season. I have watched shows like that before too.

But for 14 bucks, you can take a chance on greatness.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Thoughts From Last Night's Game

Just some quick thoughts from last night's Knick - Maccabi Tel Aviv game to get you all through the weekend:

- Last night's crowd resembled a UN rally for Israel - some married people, some Israelis and about 15,000 high school aged kids, most of whom couldn't identify Stephon Marbury from Nadav Henefeld (not playing).

- The crowd was at least 75% Jewish - and the Rabbi of Migdal Ohr, the organization the proceeds of the game went to, led the Am Yisroel Chai song at halftime from mid court - AND EVERYONE SANG. Pretty neat.

- MTA got off to a quick start against a very listless Knick team, but when Jamaal Crawford scored the first 7 points of the second half, the game was over.

- Good to see Vonteego Cummings and Marcus Fizer back in action. I had missed them since the college days.

- The game itself sucked, but i have to say it was a great experience. I was 2 rows from courtside, right near the MTA bench - not the loudest group of guys you will ever hear. It's amazing how BIG these guys are up close. The crowd, lots of Israelis in the house, made the game very festive. Lots of Mac-A-BI chants during the game and the crowd was clearly for the visitors. Well, this WAS a Knick game so not all that surprising.

Well, I'm off to cull together a fantasy squad to get beaten into submission by Moc. Have a great weekend.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Tel Aviv Basketball

I will be sitting courtside tonight for the exhibition matchup between the Knicks and Maccabi Tel Aviv. If anyone is going, let me know. If anyone is interested in the game, I'll be glad to share my experiences.

Monday, October 08, 2007

On A Happier Note

Team Jetropolitans have clearly responded to my roster shake-up and waiver wire moves and laid the smack down on Team Phan this week.

Going into my match up with MOC, they question is which of my 4 excellent receivers to go with each week? And i have been effective and waiver wiring a running back each week while my 2 starters rest their various injuries.

After Dallas plays tonight, Joe and I should be tied for second to last place in the league. For me it is the begining of my climb to the top. However Joe, after his impressive start, seems to be fading....

Time To Make A Move

Ed's note: I wrote this post when very tired. When you write when tired, you make mistakes. The Ravens of course won a Super Bowl with Trent Dilfer. It shold be noted, however, that his opponent that day was Kerry Collins - not exactly an all world model QB himself. Apologies for the mistake (which I will leave in for the world to see) but perhaps that exception proves the rule - you need to be able to play on both sides ot the ball to win the big one - unless you are playing a crappy Giants team that had to "push all its chips into the middle of the table" to be in the big game too.

I like Chad Pennington, noodle arm and all. I do. I recognize how important a role he has played to the New York Jets organization. How he makes up for the weak arm with smarts, moxy and savvy. How well he runs the no huddle offense and how well he recognizes defenses and makes all the right calls at the line.

But, sadly, with his weak arm it doesn't make any difference.

In the NFL there are 2 types of playoff teams. There are those teams that make the playoffs and those that actually have a chance to win the Super Bowl. With rare exceptions, teams need to be able to play both ways to win the big game.

Look at Baltimore. They have had a great defense for a number of seasons now and every year they are included in the list of "Super Bowl Favorites". But they never win. Why? Because you don't win Super Bowls with Trent Dilfers and gimpy Steve McNairs. You win Super Bowls with Brett Favres, John Elways and that guy from the Patriots.

The Jets made the playoffs last year by being JUST GOOD ENOUGH. They scored just enough points, ran the ball just enough, held on to the ball and played just enough defense to eek out 10 wins and a chance to get stepped on by the Patriots.

And sure, if the Jets aspirations are to be perennial playoff contenders - if they are happy with just being there, then yes, Chad Pennington is your guy. He runs the offense well, doesn't usually turn it over (today's disaster notwithstanding) and so long as you don't need yards in chunks, he can get you down the field in slow, 14 play, 9 minute drives.

But it's becoming increasingly, and painfully, obvious that you can only go so far with Pennington as your quarterback. Simply put, he can't throw hard. He can't throw deep. He only has a changeup when sometimes you need a fastball.

I am a big Pennington fan - I'm not a basher. Sure I have bashed him in the past, but as a fan, that's been my right. I am trying to write this dispassionately. As a BLOGGER. As a Jet observer. If we could sew Kellen Clemens arm on Pennington, I'd say you would have the best quarterback in the league bar none. Including Manning and Brady. But you can't. It's a fantasy.

The Jets are 1-4. They are going nowhere fast. The defense, 4 years later, still can't stop the run. They still cannot pressure the opposing quarterback. They still can't run and they still can't block. If Mangini sticks with Pennington can the Jets make the playoffs? Possibly, though doubtful. Not with guaranteed losses to Dallas and the Pats still on the schedule.

But then what? Another first round flame out at New England or Indy? Is that what it's all about for the Jets? Is being a perennial playoff satellite good enough?

I'm not saying that Kellen Clemens is the next John Elway. For all we know, he's the next Browning Nagle. But we also know what we get with Pennington. They guy who moves the ball, slowly and methodically, doesn't turn it over, doesn't do anything flashy. Good leader. Etc.

But he's also the guy who floats his 40 yard vertical throws. And the guy with no gas on his 20 yard outs. The guy, in other words, who never wins you a Super Bowl.

So Mangini and Tannenbaum and the rest of the gang need to figure out what kind of team they want to be. And how best to get there.

While the anticipated decision hangs in the air like a Pennington wounded duck.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Just Disgusting

As of 9:30 am, the first three stories on ESPN.com's news section:

- Report: Mets to keep Randolph despite epic fall

- Jury's notes indicate Isaiah MSG liable

- Source: Mets lefty Schoenweiss received steroids.

AND Bill Simmons, coming off his Idiot's Guide to the Isaiah Trial, has now updated his Levels of Losing column from a few years ago for the Mets collapse. See below:

"Level II: The Goose/Maverick Tailspin

Definition: Cruising happily through the baseball regular season, a potential playoff team suddenly and inexplicably goes into a tailspin, can't bounce out of it and ends up crashing for the season. In "Top Gun," the entire scene lasted for 30 seconds and we immediately moved to a couple of scenes in which Tom Cruise tried to make himself cry on camera but couldn't quite pull it off. In sports, the Goose/Maverick Tailspin could last for two weeks, four weeks, maybe even two months, but as long as it's happening, you feel like your entire world is collapsing. It's like an ongoing Stomach Punch Game. And when it finally ends, you spend the rest of your life reliving it every time a TV network shows a montage of the worst collapses in sports history. Other than that, it's no big deal.

Best Example: The incredible collapse of the 2007 Mets. I have three buddies who root for them, so I was able to witness the emotional devastation firsthand: in five days, they went from planning for the playoffs to planning for a potential nightmare. Just when it looked like the ship had been righted, they were swept at home by the lowly Nationals, passed by the Phillies, given a second life on Saturday with a Phillies loss and Maine's one-hitter and then, just as abruptly, everything ended when Tom Glavine got shelled by the Marlins. Win or lose on Sunday, the damage had already been done to the psyche of Mets fans. On Friday night, as Cole Hamels was pitching Philly to victory, my friend Paul Raff (a Mets fan) sent me the following e-mail: "Honestly, it's such a betrayal by the team. They have ruined us fans this season and last October. I hate this sport now. They've violated and befouled every [expletive] nuance of the game, playoffs or no playoffs." Now that's a baseball fan with some healing to do."

I'll tell you, it's not exactly a banner time to be a Met or Knicks fan. Or a 1-3 Jets fan either.

Go Rangers?

Monday, October 01, 2007

The Blame Game

In the end, the loss was so surreal, it was almost impossible to take in.

7 runs in a third of an inning. The worst outing in a 300 win career by a hall of fame lock was almost the *perfect* way to finish a monumental collapse.

7 and a half games with 17 games remaining. never been done before. The Mets are holders of this dubious distinction. They are monumental chokers. They are failures. They squandered a sure thing - a shot at redemption for last year's fall against the Cardinals. They spent 147 days in first place and lost it all with just 18 days to go.

Obviously all Mets fans are sick right now. They are unable to cope with what has just occurred, even as any rational one has seen this coming for 2 weeks - that the Mets Collapse has been a done deal for weeks.

So as we all try and recover from this debacle - as we try and figure out how we are supposed to fall in love with this team again next spring - the question lingers; who is to blame for this stunning turn of events?

Obviously, there is no single answer. There is plenty of blame to go around - from the front office to ownership to the manager to the coaches to the players themselves. Almost every person associated with this team shares in the blame. Below, in order of worse culprit to minor culprits, I try and sort out my take. Please keep in mind when you read this that it's knee jerk reaction to the Collapse - while all the blame remains, the question of the ORDER of the blame may change:

- Willie Randolph. Say what you will about being undercut by his general manager, Willie took a Juggernaut and he turned it into a basket case. Being upbeat and staying positive works when you are Joe Torre and the Yankees had a bad April. But when your team is falling apart at the seams, promising that "we will still win the division" just sounds stupid. Especially when you DON'T win the division. Throw in the horrible mishandling of the bullpen (did Joe Smith really need to throw 1,000 innings in the first half of his first full professional season? Did Mota really need to come in in every tight spot even though he's a gas can?), the questionable moves (It's not a good idea to use up all your bench players in the 7th inning? Really? Should we really stubbornly stick to using Julio Franco even when it's clear to everyone in the Western Hemisphere that he had nothing left in the tank?) and the shaky communication with his players and it's my belief that the ceremonial head that needs to roll here is his.

- The Bullpen. They get a spot right above the man who assembled them (more on Minaya in a minute) because, despite it all, they melted down over and over again when they needed to be good. At the end of the day, you need to go out there, pitch, and get guys out. The bullpen failed to do this all season, especially down the stretch when the team needed them the most.

- Omar Minaya. Minaya took a team one out away from the world series, made almost no upgrades to the offense, failed to add a starter and downgraded the bullpen by about 300%. Rumors that he constantly undercut Willie's authority while he pretends to be his biggest supporter persist. It was the failure of the bullpen which is probably the biggest game issue with the team and Minaya deservedly gets the blame for that. He also failed to adequately fill the fifth starter spot, which accounted for a number of losses this season. The only reason he gets the third spot and not the second is that he assembled a very good squad and brought some solid secondary talent like Marlon Anderson and Luis Castillo.

- The clutch hitting. Simply not there too many times in too many big spots. Beltran ended the year with very good numbers despite missing many games with injuries, but there were just too many strikeouts with runners in scoring position - fooled by terrible breaking pitches. Delgado was too brittle and too ineffective this season. David wright's April too weak. The 6, 7 and 8 spots simply didn't produce like they did last year when Jose Valentin was hitting 20 plus homers and Xavier Nady was still in right.

- Jose Reyes. High on this list as we watched his batting average plummet like the sub-prime mortgage market, watched his home runs fall in half - watched him fail to ignite rallies, fail to hit in the clutch, watched his defense suffer and, finally, watched his fail to play hard. Jose Reyes, more than any other player on the team, is the ignition. When he doesn't go right, neither does the offense. And Reyes went wrong the final 2 months of the season in spectacular fashion. Though I have not heard anything, I wouldn't be shocked if we find out in the next few weeks that he's been hiding an injury for months or that he was just plain fatigued. He certainly didn't look right for a few months.

- Moises Alou's quad. If Alou would have stayed healthy, the Mets would have won a bunch more games in the middle of the season. That much is clear. His bat was as potent as ever when it was in the lineup. If the lead had been 12 games with 17 to play, that's the difference between the playoffs and no playoffs.

- The starting pitching. I just can't kill it as much as everyone else seems to want to. This was the Mets biggest question mark going into the season and look at these numbers. Glavine 13-8, 4.45, Maine 15-10, 3.91 (including going out and throwing one of the best games ever by a Mets pitcher in a HUGE spot on Saturday), Oliver Perez 15-10, 3.56, El Duque 9-5, 3.72, Pedro 3-1, 2.57. The problem was El Duque's health (he only made 24 starts) and the fifth starter. Was trotting Brian Lawrence and his almost 7 era out there 6 times really a good a idea? It is fair to mention that John Maine took 4 steps back the second half of the season after an all-star worthy first half and Tom Glavine fell apart down the stretch as well. Duque missed too many starts with injuries and there were too many games where Oliver Perez couldn't get out of the 4th. The starters are certainly not blameless, but they were just not that high on the list.

The injury bug. It's not an excuse, just a fact. Injuries hurt this ballclub. Of course when you have 6 players over the age of 50, that's going to happen. But Pedro, El Duque, Lo Duca, Milledge, Alou (see above) Delgado and Beltran all missed significant amounts of time with injuries. The team wasn't fully healthy until late August and then Delgado got hurt. Throw in Carlos Gomez and lastnigs Milledge missing time and you have alot of missed time.

- Passion. In retrospect, the team played the entire season in third gear, never turning it up a notch and expecting to roll into the playoffs and shift into 4th and fifth gear there. Sadly, it just doesn't work that way. You can't slumber through and entire season that way. you need to be passionate the whole way though. This is both the fault of the manager and the team leaders. which leads us to....

- Leadership. Not enough leaders on this team. Lo Duca is vocal but I suspect he has too many enemies to be a true leader. Glavine, Wright and Wagner were there in front of microphones this season but Wright and Glavine don't seem like in your face types at all. So the question is, who is leading this team? The answer? No one.

Who did we leave out? Shawn Greens lack of production? Check. Lastings Milledge's early season injuries and his list of boneheaded mistakes? Check.

There is plenty of blame to go around. Almost no one is really immune. At the end of the day, when a team falls apart like this it's nothing if not a collective effort. Still, the blame game makes us all feel better at least.