Elster's World

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Everything's Coming Our Way - Santana (Greatest Hits, 1974)

I first heard the NEWS from Joe in the afternoon. It's done, reported USA Today. The Mets had traded for Johan Santana, giving up, in essence, four ok prospects for arguably the best pitcher in baseball.

Within two hours I had sent or received about 45 Johan Santana related emails with my buddies. Joe even purchased a Sunday game plan on the spot (right after my excited - this is the first legit ACE the Mets have had since Gooden - email), professing his re-kindled man love for the Mets after The Collapse.

On the street to the train, it was the buzz. One dopey fan was even talking about a Mets-Yankees world series. On the train, bitter Yankee fans bemoaning how much better the Yanks offer was. Don't worry guys, you still have Andy Petite, the Steinbrenner brother, and a horrible steroid cloud hanging over the Bronx.

Good trade? Oh. I'd say so. ESPN's baseball analyst Peter Gammons could barely keep the disdain out of his voice when discussing the Mets prospects given away. Gomes is ok, Humber "is not a prospect", Mulvey has "a decent arm" and then there was "the guy in A ball". WOW, sounds a little like a dollar for 2 quarters trade to me. I'll take it.

Are the Mets a shoe in for the world series? No. But all of a sudden you are looking at a rotation of Santana, Pedro, Maine (who, don't forget, pitched a one hit, 8 inning gem in a do or die game the second to last day of the season, a game I'm predicting will be leap game in his development) and OP - followed by the discount menu of Pelfrey, el Duque (for about 10 starts) etc.

Sure, the bullpen still sucks, but what if Sanchez comes back healthy? What if Schoenweis has a bounce back year? what if Heilman can get himself together? What if the Mets sign Livan (Mr. 200 innings) Hernandez to a reasonable contract, move El Duque to the pen (unhittable in short stretches) and move Pelfrey (unhittable for short stretches) to the pen? Now you have Johan, Pedro, Main, OP and Livan starting and Duque, Pelfrey, Heilman, Sanchez, Schoenweis and Wagner in the pen - with a little Jorge Sosa thrown in since we don't have enough Latin Americans on the team. And you have 3 guys in your pen who can start if a starter gets injured. All of a sudden not so bad right?

Sure, this is all in the dreaming stage. Santana has to pass his physical and sign a contract (shouldn't be a problem) and the Mets have to perform. But this is a great start. This is buzz. This is stealing the back page from the hated Yankees. This is about hope and excitement.

Now picture this. You are a Wilpon. You are worried about how this move (and all the moves that need to happen to make this work) will effect your bottom line. You are nervous about giving Johan 6-7 years and 150-160 mill. Wait a second, you think. I'm opening up a new stadium (cha-ching) and ad revenues at my tv network are about to rip through the roof (cha-ching). You relax, sip your frozen beverage and light up your Venezuelan cigar. Life is good.

Now please Omar, let's get that contract signed.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Slow But Steady

Nice to see that the mainstream media is finally picking up on what I mentioned months ago - that Jason Kidd was intentionally tanking his season to force a trade. Wow, thanks for playing guys, we have some nice parting gifts for you at the door.

This does have a nice karmic circle to it though. A few years ago Vince Carter (recently voted one of the 4 biggest underachievers in the NBA - nice) tanked his way out of Toronto and the Nets picked him up for 10 cents on the dollar. Now the Nets will have to trade Kidd for expiring contracts and another 10 cents on the dollar - then watch him lead some team deep in the playoffs. It actually sounds kinda fair - unless you are a Nets fan.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Pre-Vacation Thoughts

Since I'll be out of the office next week for my kids winter break, here are some quick thoughts on sports:

- There seem to be more Knick rumors of shot down trades flying around; Balkman and Nate for Artest (like we need another insane forward on the team), Crawford package for Larry Hughes package (isn't that a step DOWN??), 2 different scenarios for Vince Carter (um, no thank you - we already have enough quitters on our team).

It's unclear if Isaiah Thomas is just being true to his word that all players are "untouchable" or if there is a Dolanian mandate not to add salaries. Either way, I'm not thrilled about any trade that adds salary to this team unless the Knicks are getting back a true point guard. Sadly, my trade scenario involving Andre Miller no longer makes sense because (a) since he's opted to take the rest of the season off, er I mean have surgery, Marbury is untradeable now until next year when he becomes an expiring contract and (b) despite the fact that he cannot score, David Lee should really be untouchable - he is one of only a few players who plays hard all the tie and he rebounds too well.

In the interim, the Knicks have won three straight and are playing their best basketball of the season. Jamaal Crawford is starting to show his otherworldly skills, taking over games at the rigth time AND at the same time, not making all the dumb mistakes that have plagued him up until now. And they want to trade him for Larry Hughes?

- The editor of Golfweek Magazine was fired today after putting a noose on the cover of the 'zine after the Kelly Tilgman's "lynching" comment about Tiger Woods. I wholeheartedly agree this guy deserves to get canned. Tilghman's comment, while idiotic, was harmless. Tilghman (who made the off the cuff comment, possibly with 2 seconds of thought) didn't seem to mean it in a racist way (though admittedly I don't know this). Tilghman got suspended (which I disagree with but I can certainly live with - I would have argued a public reprimand would have been enough) but Dave Seanor consciously made a decision to fan flames. Why? To sell a few more magazines that probably no more than 10 people read anyway? So bad judgement call on his part and he's paying the price.

- And now for what you truly want to hear, my predictions for this weekend's championship games.

Giants/Pack - Everyone seems to be waffling on this one. The Giants have a great D-line which can put pressure on Favre, making him less effective. Eli has been much improved and the running game (important in cold cold weather) is fantastic right now.

But here's the thing - Playing in zero degree conditions in Lambeau Field - one of the hardest places to play in general, with Brett Favre looking like a guy of destiny at 38 - with the freezing field and the crazy crowd and the frigid temperatures - who would YOU put your money on, Eli Manning or Brett Favre?

Exactly. Packers 24-Giants 17.

Pats/Superchargers - No one is waffling on this one. What's to say. Tom Brady is playing out of his mind, the Pats are healthy and the Chargers are not. Antonio Gates is hobbled at best and don't think for one second the evil coach Bill Belichick isn't giving the "sweep the leg Jonny" speech to his locker room about LDT. And Phil Rivers, even if he goes, hasn't practiced all week. How confident are you with Billy Volek out there? On the other hand, the Chargers can get at Brady, they have Cromartie blanketing Moss and Jammer on Welker and they have 2 game changing linebackers.

But in the end, let me quote Peter King:

"But football is such a great game because who could see the Jags winning twice at Heinz Field in a month and the Chargers defeating the Colts with Tomlinson and Rivers on the sideline? So I would never say San Diego doesn't have a chance -- especially after giving up 12 points a game over the last eight games. They'll send the house at Brady and hope to force some turnovers. But we've read that script throughout this season, and it always ends the same way."

Pats 34-Chargers 20.

Have a good week.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Couple of Thoughts on a Slow Afternoon

- Bill Simmons linked this amazing story about former Jets head coach Pete Carroll. While obviously he didn't have great success on the NFL level (33-31 in four seasons), I will never look at him the same way again. Sometimes we get a little too caught up in short term success. Perhaps Carroll wasn't ready in 1994-98 to be a head coach in the NFL.

Regardless, reading this piece completely changed my view of Carroll (unfairly that of a crappy NFL head coach). Just the part about his regular trips into South Central LA make me remember that your success or lack thereof at your job should never define the person that you are. Go Pete.

- If there is a more selfish player in New York sports than Stephon Marbury, please point him out to me. Despite his diminishing skills, the over hyped point guard continually refuses to play a team game, and, after a string of bizarre incidents this past summer:

1. selfishly bailed out on the team and flew home during a pivotal west coast trip, effectively killing any positive karma that may have existed

2. selfishly took WAAAAY too much time off after his father died. Look, I know people mourn in different ways, but imagine taking an entire month off after your parent died at work. How would that go over?

3. selfishly (reported) decided to have surgery on his ankle and is taking off the remainder of the 2007/2008 season.

Well guess what Steph? The Knicks are 2-0 since your latest injury and are playing much better team basketball without you. Isaiah Thomas was quoted as saying the team is playing crisper, ball movement basketball without Starbury. So by all means, go have your surgery.

Sadly, the Knicks cannot get out from under Steph's contract. However, if I was Dolan and trading Steph is impossible (which, of course, it is), I'd tell Marbury to take a seat at the end of the bench - there to remain until his contract expires and then he can then fulfill his lifelong dream of playing in Italy. But I wouldn't let Thomas or any other coach let him step one foot on the floor to play except meaningless garbage time. This would wound the ego of any self respecting player. On the other hand, Marbury continually shows he has no self respect so maybe this wouldn't work after all.

- Can I Get A Side Order Of Insanity With That?

- Gawker.com has released this unbelievable video of Crazy Hollywood Start Du Jour, Tom Cruise, that the Church of Scientology uses to promote its nutty cult. On the heels of last week's rumors that his baby with Joey Potter is really the spawn of the late (he's not really dead, just in another galaxy) L. Ron Hubbard himself puts Scientology back on the great map of kool-ade drinkers everywhere.

In this brilliantly zany video, Cruise describes how Scientologists are the ones who can bring about world peace, save lives, stop accidents - all while having a grand old time. Really, you have to give credit to someone who can whip up that kind of crazy fervor and insane laughter in a 10 minute span. Kudos Tom. You've done it again. And here I thought you peaked in A Few Good Men.

On the same vein, coincidentally I got a call from an old classmate yesterday about the possibility of an elementary school reunion. while we were talking about a venue, my friend laughed and reminded me that I had the dubious honor of going to school with the hottest leader of the new Kabbalah movement - "Rabbi" Michal Berg -son of Philip Berg - the noted Kabbalah "scholar" and possible charlatan.

I remember spending time in his house in Kew Gardens as a kid and even then, the word "cult" sprung to mind. Watching the followers of the Kabbalist Berg cleaning up dog poop from the rug and generally being mistreated by Michael and his older brother Yehuda, even a 12 year old kid knew this wasn't normal behavior. Shabbos at the Berg house was even more loopy. (In retrospect, I'm shocked my parents would even let me go there. I'll need to have a talk with them about that when they come back from their Israel vacation.)

And now Michael and Yehuda are running the show in California, hanging out with notables like Madonna and writing self help books that don't help. What a world.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Running The Gamut

One of the local Jewish papers had an "expose" article this past week regarding a letter that was supposed to be sent home to all high school age students in the Five Towns and Far Rockaway areas. The letter was a stern warning about proper behavior during upcoming winter vacation breaks - acting properly, dressing properly, etc. Basically it can be loosely translated to say that just because your parents let you go to Miami alone for a week doesn't mean you should be doing copious amounts of sex, booze and drugs will walking along the boardwalk virtually naked.

According to the Jewish Star, every principal in the FT and FR agreed in principle to the letter and it was supposed to go out, in some form or another, to all students. Each school could tweak it as they say fit, but the message about being on vacation doesn't mean you are on vacation from Judaism remains. However, it appears a few of the principals of certain righter wing yeshivas dropped out at the last minute and momentum ground to a halt as the wheels came flying off.

For starters, I personally think the letter was a good idea. I've been to Miami during intersession and there is a free for all - type element that does exist there. I'm not saying that every teenage kid down in Miami is acting in an inappropriate manner, but what I am saying is that there is a very decent sized population of orthodox kids who are behaving in a way that defy any religious rationalization.

The sad thing is, the "evildoing" kids are simply written off as "oh, those kids are from Haftr/Halb/Flatbush/Ramaz etc." Sadly, despite being a silly oversimplification about who the "problem children" tend to be, it's completely untrue. It is my understanding that many children in even the more right wing schools are not immune to sowing their wilder oats during vacations with girls, drugs and booze.

So the question I have is, why did these yeshivos pull out? Why would ANYONE be opposed to this idea? Even if you are a good kid, does it ever hurt to be reminded not to act like a jackass?

It got me thinking. Perhaps some of the principals pulled out for fear of being associated with the letter. Perhaps Yeshivah ____ ____ did not want to be grouped into the same association with a Haftr or Halb type school. Perhaps by not agreeing to be included in the letter, the principal believes the message he is sending is, "yes we recognize there are issues with teens acting inappropriately, but that type of behavior doesn't happen in MY school so there's no reason to be included in this letter". To me, that's misguided thinking. I understand it, but I disagree with it. And of course, once one school bugs out, others are sure to follow.

Of course, I don't know what's going through anyone's head - if this is the reason why a Minahel would decide against a letter (some of the rabbanim who pulled out were quotes as agreeing with the letter's contents and saying it was a fine idea - well if it's such a fine idea, put your name to it?) but I was struggling to come up with plausible alternatives. After all, our society is almost as much about perception as it is about reality. No yeshiva wants to be included into anything which even whiffs of looking bad.

The reality is, however, ALL our kids need to be warned about proper behavior. The Yetzer Horah, as far as I can tell, attempts to thwart the deeds of all kids, not just Modern Orthodox ones. And yes, I certainly am aware that the wrongdoers on frolicking on the beaches of Miami in full view of the public tend to be the more modern kids, but don't kid yourselves into thinking more right wing kids are immune. I guaranty you they are not. I could fill a book with just my own personal knowledge.

If it were up to me, this letter would have been put in every knapsack and sent home to every parent. Parents need to be aware there are problems, especially those exceptionally blind ones who think their kids can do no wrong. But it won't be - another good idea tossed to the side of the road like a used wrapper.

People are quick to forget. They are quick to forget the tragedy that took place last year during intersession when a kid committed suicide (quickly swept under the rug after it happened) and they forget the distaste they had seeing all these kids whooping it up like they were participants in the MTV beach house. They forget that in order to fix problems you first need to admit there ARE problems.

End rant. Here's wishing everyone who reads this (or doesn't read this) a wonderful winter break.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Thoughts From The Last Few Days

- Overheard a group of men in shul this morning arguing about people's requirements to support the shul the daven in sometimes but don't consider that particular shul their "regular" shul. One guy was arguing that if you daven in a particular shul every day except Shabbos, you should support it. The other group countered that by dropping your dollar in the shul's tzeddakah box every morning, you are contributing about 200 bucks a year to the shul and that's good enough.

When I was growing up, we davened in a little shteible on shabbos, and that was out shul. we also davened at one shul Friday night and a different place shabbos afternoon. It was a real mishmash. However, my dad always gave money to each one, though he saved his biggest support for the REAL shul, the shteible we all hated going to.

For the first time in my life, I now have only one shul to call "my shul". I daven there both during the week and on shabbos. And while their dues are insanely high (1,200 bucks a year, not counting the building fund), at least I no longer have to fret over this issue.

But since you are all curious, I think that while it's all well and good to call your shabbos shul your "shul", if you are constantly using another facility, even if it's "only" for shacharis during the week, you should pony up to support that shul. it only seems fair.

- Though I have not watched much rangers hockey as of late, they seem to be in big trouble. There is so much firepower on this team (on paper at least) yet they cannot score.43 or so games into the season, you can no longer make the argument the players are still gelling. It's time to start playing.

Also, is Jagr done? Is the tank finally empty? I for one am hoping for the Alex Ovetchkin upgrade this off season.

- The Knicks suck - even if they did manage to win last night on the road for just the second time this season in 15 tries. And can coach Thomas please stop making insane comments about winning championships?

- Georgetown was dominant against an inferior Depaul team last night. They are so deep and so talented, that despite their early season loss to Memphis, I believe this team can win a national championship.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Report: Ryan to take over for Sutton

Note: This is based on a report and is unofficial:

ESPN.com is reporting that soon to be fired Rob Ryan, the current defensive coordinator for the Raiders ( son of hallowed defensive mind Buddy Ryan and brother of Ravens coordinator Rex), will replace soon to be fired D-coordinator of the Jets, Bob Sutton. Ryan the younger and Mangini worked for 4 years together in New England.

On the negative side, the Raiders defense performed below expectations this year. And Mangini brings in a crony.

On the bright side, the Jets are firing Bob Sutton, who I'm pretty sure has been dead since 2004.

On the negative side, Ryan hasn't run a 3-4 defense, the defense of choice for Mangini, since he tried it (and failed) in his first year with the Raiders. Also, Raiders fans on message boards say Ryan is very conservative and doesn't blitz much.

On the negative side, Jets fans on the message boards seem pretty pumped, usually a harbinger of doom.

We shall see if any of this happens.