Elster's World

Monday, April 28, 2008

The Weekend That Was

So the second days of Pesach caused me to miss:

3 Met games

2 Ranger games

1 NFL draft

And a partridge in a pear tree.

- The Mets managed to take 2 of three from the Braves (despite Aaron Heilman's best efforts on Saturday).

A quick thought: Too much is being made of each game at this point. After 2 horrid games against the Nats, I was willing to write off the season. Now it's 2 big wins later and we see little signs. A strong bullpen on Sunday, Delgado's 2 home runs. Nelson Figuora's strong outing with Santana on the hill tonight. The fact is, the team is floundering up and down right now and we have to give it a little time to see how it goes. It's simply too soon to say what this team is.

As for Delgado "snapping out" of his funk - talk to me on May 28th and let's see where his BA/HR/RBI numbers are.

What in the world is wrong with Jose Reyes??? My dad thinks last September killed him. I think he's in shut down mode because he thinks he's being unfairly singled out by Willie. How can he be this unproductive? He should be able to bunt for 2 hits a game.

- The Rangers 2 losses in Pittsburgh are disappointing, but probably not too unexpected. These are 2 of the three best teams standing in the Eastern Conference. One is going to have to fall. Since I didn't see either game, I really have nothing to add. All I hear about are rumors of bad bounces, flops and whining. Sounds like a great series! Let's hope the Rangers can recover, take 2 in NY, and then get it right in Pitt.

- As for the draft. The truth is, I didn't know what to make of the draft before it happened and I still don't. Gholston was the obvious pick at 6 (everyone else was gone - kinda makes it easy). If he's ore than a workout wonder, then he may turn into LT II or even LT Jr.. That wouldn't be so bad, would it? Word is the Jets were trying to move up for Howie Long's son but who knows.

Moving up 6 spots for Dustin Keller, a tight end who can't block, is curious at best. Another sign to the players that you can't mess with management? If so, they are sending mixed signals after guaranteeing Coles and extending Rhodes. You can't eat your cake and have it too, team Tangini. While I agree that Baker doesn't necessarily deserve a huge raise, I hope the Jets don't cut him out of spite. Though to be fair, the Jets do need a seam threat for their quarterbacks.

Lowery is a small dude who doesn't run fast. Doesn't sound like the answer at CB to me. Is Hank Poteat still available?

Danny Ainge's nephew has a weak arm and can't take a hit. Um....ok. On the bright side, he's a wonderful game manager.

Update: Joe found some scouting reports on Ainge which are more favorable (re: arm strength) than the ones I saw. So hopefully this will turn into a good value pick. Also, Kiper seemed to like this pick as well (for whatever that's worth).

Marcus Henry is intriguing in the 6th round. Big target with possibly good hands (depending on which draft review you read). Not too fast. But when you average out him and Chasney Stucky, they are pretty fast.

Some fat dude who can't run went in the 7th round. He will one day start next to the immortal Jon Bender. Bender and Garner. Has a nice ring.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Much Ado About Nothing (At This Point)?

In a fast German car, I'm amazed that I survived - Radiohead.

I was brought up in a home where we hated everything German. The perpetrators of the Holocaust were never to be forgiven and the best way to honor that was to never buy German products. Germans were all Nazis and every German product was taboo city. My dad shook his head when my wife and I purchased our first set of JA Henckle knives (though let the record reflect that a few years later, he did the same thing!).

But the creme de la creme of German hating was the disdain for their automobiles. Mercedes. BMW. Audi. These were akin to curse words. Who cares if the Germans make some of the finest cars. Other cars would simply have to do. There was, to put it bluntly, no excuse for ever buying a German car.

I don't think my dad was unique in his thinking on this subject. I'm pretty sure his generation mostly felt this way.

But it seems there's a new generation now. And a new way of thinking. I leave shul in the morning and I always see a few minyan-goers pulling away from the curb in their Beemers or Audis. My around the corner neighbor has a Mercedes SUV and my friend swears by his Volkswagon.

My guy reaction has always been that these German auto owners are just wrong. That it's a slap in the face to Jewish survivors to drive around in these cars. This is the way i was brought up. That buying German products is, in a sense, a statement of forgiveness for the Holocaust.

I guess the question is, is that fair? Does that logic still work? If they could, would the Germans still ethnically cleanse the Jews? Is that really the national desire, though obviously well hidden, or was that the expression of one insane man in a very insane time which somehow spun out of control?

And while, of course, we can never forget - the question is, are we correctly remembering by boycotting German products? Is that really the way to keep the legacy of the Holocaust?

As usual, when I have questions, I don't have answers.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Ah Youth

This year's New York Rangers playoff squad is full of the typical movie-like story lines:

- There's the aging gunslinger, looking to will himself on for one more shot at glory (Jagr and Shanahan)

- The two seasoned gunslingers brought in to bolster the run to glory (Gomez and Drury)

- The goaltender who has done it on the big stage (Olympics) but not yet on this big stage

- The antagonizer who you love when he plays for you and hate if he plays against you (Avery)

Interestingly enough, these ingredients probably sound familiar to Ranger fans. For years the team struggled to make the playoffs with the aging gunslingers and overpriced veterans all brought in to make runs (just change the words "aging" and "seasoned" to "done" and "cooked"). They had the goaltender in Richter, but they had nothing in front of him.

The difference with this team? Brandon, Marc, Nigel, Ryan and Dan.

Sure they sound like the makings of a prep-school hockey team in Connecticut - more likely to throw Friday night parties at the parental manses where Santonio Holmes-like photos get taken - than make big plays on the ice. But at the end of the day, the Rangers re-energized themselves by letting the younger players crack the lineup and contribute.

And the results have been great to see.

Dawes and Callahan have been terrific together - Callahan the banger, Dawes the shifty, tricky stick magician. Dubinsky has earned the right to play with the Rangers best scorer - and has done it well. Girardi continues to be a steady blue-line presence...and Marc Staal is slowly turning himself into the team's best all around defenseman - displaying a grit and toughness (not to mention strength) belied by his lanky frame and wispy facial hair. All of them are really talented, not the typically overhyped and underperforming New York prospects. All of them fly around the ice and play with young legs - something Ranger fans have not really seen in a long time.

The younger player seem to re-enegrgize the older players and the older, wiser players are there to help these kids learn what it takes, on the fly, to play in the supercharged atmosphere of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

So yes, the Rangers will still need to lean on Jagr's scoring, Gomez' skating and Drury's clutch play - but they won't have to completely reply on them.

At the end of the day, the perfect mix of veterans and kids makes for the best team.

Hopefully we are seeing that play out in New York.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Opening the 'Bag

We here at Elster's World are always searching for another tired gimmick to trot out. So without further ado, it's time for the very first Elster Mailbag!! Since no one actually emails me any questions, I invented my own.

1. What's your take on Jose Reyes' decision to start celebrating again? Is it bad for the game or good for the Mets? - Mr. Met, Queens (yes the one with the giant head).

Excellent question MM. The truth is, baseball is our purest, most traditional sport. It's always been about being reserved and acting in the best possible fashion....ah screw it, who am I kidding? I love it. Who cares if he ticks off some people. Do you think Jimmy Rollins cares if he ticks off some people with his big mouth? All I know is that in the 2 games since Jose decided to be Regular Jose instead of Reserved Jose, he has 2 singles, a double, a triple and a home run. By all means, please stand on the top steps of the dugout and do elaborate multi-step handshakes with anyone you want. Please smile all the time and actually look like you are having fun out there. I know this is crazy, but a team that enjoys what it is doing will probably beat the miserable team - all talent being equal.

2. At the end of the day, the signings for Scott Gomez and Chris Drury turned out to be pretty good moves no? - Joe Antagonizer, Long Island.

Well, obviously it's not the end of the day yet, but certainly, those 2 signings, and the contract extension, look to be some pretty smart moves by Glen Sather. Things got off to a bit of a slow start for these two, but these have always been considered "what can they do for us in the playoffs" signings. They have really picked up their games as of late. They finished 2 and 3 respectively on the team in scoring this year during the regular season. Gomez has been one of the best (if not the best) forwards on the ice for the Rangers so far against the Devils (leading the team in points and plus/minus) and Drury has been great on face offs and intangibles.

Lundqvist was great down the stretch (phenomenal) and just as good in the playoffs. He makes all the saves he should, some great saves and even some impossible saves. He has a chance to be one of the true elite goaltenders in the NHL - and he can start by leading his team to the Stanley Cup.

3. How great has Lost been this season? John Locke, The Island

How great? SOOO great. Unlike last year, which started slow and ended strong with the flash forward twist, this year has been like a vintage Pedro Martinez season - the producers are throwing 1 run, 3 hit, 13 strikeout performances each week. The new characters all bring something to the table and all fit in seamlessly with the show and the regulars remain interesting. The plot twists continue to fascinate and the acting continues to be top notch. Throw in the Desmond-Penny Christmas episode (in my opinion, the greatest stand-alone episode of Lost ever) and this season might be the best one yet - even if it is strike shortened. The only peeve I had with the entire season so far has been the one episode that centered on the evil Michael. After what he did, I simply didn't feel he deserved a whole episode to himself.

4. What else are you watching besides Lost? Matt Rousch and Michael Ausiello, TV Guide.

Hey guys, I had no idea you were readers!! Anyway, pretty much the only thing I'm watching right now besides Lost and sports is the great Battlestar Galactica - sadly in its final season. I will not waste time trying to talk up the show - you all remember my mammoth BSG post after I watched the first season on DVD - instead I will simply share the following with you. Mrs. Elster, who would rather watch someone suffering in the final stages of the AIDS virus than watch sci-fi (in other words, she REALLY doesn't like sci-fi) is watching the final season on the strength of just a pre-season interview show they did with producers. That alone was enough to suck her in.

For the last time, it's really just a great show that happens to take place in space - it's not a great show about space. Whatever.

5. Who is your pick for MVP this season in the NBA? I personally think that coach of the Knicks is the man - Isiah, NYC.

Hmmm, well Isiah, it's like this. By all accounts, this was supposedly a great NBA season. The Celtics were reborn, Kobe and Lebron dominated, 2 great point guards grew up (Deron Williams and Chris Paul), a 45 plus win team didn't make the playoffs in the West. Sadly, I'm a Knick fan and I had grown so disgusted with the team, I pretty much stopped watching basketball months ago. So for me to try and chose between Paul, Kobe (did he really leap that car by the way?), Lebron and KG would be silly.

I do, however, have a few thoughts on the Knicks.

A. They are going to suck next year. And the year after that as well. Assuming they don;t take on big salaries though, enough salary will come off the cap for a serious run at Lebron. What Walsh needs to be doing right now is building up a team full of complimentary pieces - so that when Lebron is a free agent in 2010-2011, he can sell the team to Lebron as a championship contender just missing the superstar.

B. It must really suck to play for the Knicks. Clearly they have no on court chemistry. Worse, by all accounts,they all seem to hate each other off the court. And the absolute worst, David Lee looks despondent out there. Just miserable. He no longer plays with the same energy - all of which seems to have been totally sucked out of him. Walsh needs to rid this team of the cancers and quick (I'm talking about you Zack Randolph - and you Eddy Curry - and you Jamaal Crawford - oh and you too Q-Rich - and....... oh sigh).

C. On the bright side, the Knicks are about to fire Isiah Thomas. That alone is worth some happy points. I'm officially excited about Mark "Action" Jackson coaching the team for the ext few years. So what if he has no experience? The team is going to suck either way. At least this way we will have a cool coach.

6. What's your gut feeling on how the Jets will perform next season? Fireman Ed, JETS Stadium

My gut on the Jets is that...I have no gut yet. It's too early. On the bright side you have a pretty favorable schedule (though with alot of travelling for away games), some shiny new free agent signings, and some high draft picks. On the other hand, we have no idea how any of these free agents fit in, how good any of them are, or how much Faneca has left in the tank (it better be alot). Also, the fate of the playoffs still rests in the hands of either weak armed Pennington or jittery Clemens. So I don't feel like I can make a call on this yet. Let's see how the draft and practices go before we can get an idea of this squad.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Mocking the Mocks

Ok, for starters, let's state for the record - I LOVE mock drafts. I love extended coverage of the NFL Scouting Combine. I love the excitement over a 4.37 40 and the utter devastation of a 4.55. How high can that 320 pound offensive lineman jump? Let's look it up.

(Mind you, I don't really care about any of this stuff or follow it too closely, it gets way too over-analyzed and it can often be a total crap shoot, but I love the fact that it exists. I mean Mel Kiper Jr. gets paid to rank draft prospects. It's a full time job for him and his hair. all he does is rank 'em and then discuss 'em at the draft. No one really remembers or cares if he's right or wrong. What a life. But I digress)

What I love the best of the coverage? Mock drafts. Every so-called expert and hack takes their stab at projecting the first (and sometimes even second or third) round of the draft. It's especially exciting when your team has a high pick (as a Jet fan this can be quite often) and when you have the pick right above your most hated enemy, the evil Patriots. So yes, I've been following this year's crop of mocks quite closely. Will the pick be Ghoulston and his scary speed (and even scarier speed)? Will one of the Long brothers drop? Can the Jets possible pass by McFAdden? Will the pick Cromartie and stun everyone? All in all, it's fun to get yourself caught up in the excitement.

But this article really made me laugh. Mike Lombardi tells us that teams he worked for in the NFL used mock drafts as part of their draft day calculations. How absurd. It's one thing for Elie Hecht to get into this stuff, it's quite another for the guys actually making the decisions to use this as a tool. Can you imagine Mike Tannenbaum, in an exclusive article for SI 15 years from now, cranking out the following:

"We were really looking forward to nabbing McFadden with our sixth pick but then we saw Joe Schick had the Raiders taking him at 4. We really felt that we were set at every other position after spending $400 million in contracts in the off season. So after consulting with Eric, we decided to give the Raiders our 2008 number 1, as well as our 2009 1, to move up two spots and grab McFadden. Alas for us the Rams took him at number 2, but heck, it's the thought that counts. And "

I think the Jets can get an impact player at 6 or trade the pick to move down a bit and pick up another first day choice. The problem is the Jets draft records are abysmal. So the draft becomes even more of a real crap shoot when the Jets are involved.

Speaking of the absurd, why are people making a big deal of the Jets-Pats first meeting next year? The Jets and Pats already played after Spygate. The Jets lost but didn't embarrass themselves by losing by 50. In case some sportswriters forgot, the Jets and Pats play twice a year. It's time to put this non-story to bed.

Even more absurdity

How scared should we as Met fans be that the team's best pitcher right now is Mike Pelfrey? If you said "terrified", you are correct! On the bright side, getting 12-14 wins and a sub-4 era from Pelfrey this season would be a HUGE and unexpected (read season saving?) boost to the squad. After el Duque hurt el Foote, it was assumed that the fifth starter's spot would be a giant void to be filled with scrap heap parts such as Jorge Sosa and last season's emergency number 5, Jose Lima. Now the question is - how long can Nelson Figuora do his Pedro imitation? I'm guessing he's done. We shall see.

Friday, April 11, 2008

A Fitting Tribute

Yesterday morning I attended the funeral for a man I had never met before. He was the father of one of my best friends, but a friend who came from far away from where I lived.

My friend, his three siblings, the Niftar's ex-wife (my friend's mother), the Niftar's sister and a niece all spoke. 7 speeches in a month of no eulogies. And you know what? It was fitting. I walked out of the funeral parlor with a real appreciation for a man I had never known. His kindness towards everyone he met, his love of learning, his love of reading and culture. And when 7 people all echo the exact same sentiments, you get the idea that they weren't made up simply to honor the deceased.

I know 2 of my friend's three siblings. They are all good people. My friend likes to act like he hates people and doesn't care about anyone, but in reality he is one of the best friends you could want. He would do anything for you, including giving you the shirt off his back. We have vacationed with his family a number of times (the highlight being Miami, 2006) and I think I cried more at this funeral than any other I've ever attended.

My friend and his siblings are strong. They will mourn and recover. But it appears that the Jewish Community suffered a loss this past week and I wanted to note it.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Double Standard

Can anyone take a stab at explaining why Willie gave Pelfrey a free pass for only going 5 innings (100 pitches) but he killed Oliver Perex for not giving up a run in 2 starts this season? Yes, Perez did not make it out of the 6th inning on Tuesday, but he left with a 2 run lead and a shutout on the line.

Sure I understand that Willie needs to boost Pelfrey's confidence. But don't forget, Perez is only a season removed from the year where he went 3-75. Doesn't he require some soft treatment as well?

Of course, I don't know these guys or their personalities, so maybe Perez needs more a kick in the pants and Pelfrey more of a love tap. That could be. But I don't buy that. It strikes me as another example of Willie's uneven nature. When does he start bashing Jose Reyes for stinking out the place? Do you realize his RBI last night came as a result of the double play he hit into? The Catalyst is now batting a whopping .200 on the season. When does he get the kick in the pants?

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Taking A Break From The Lakewood Controversy

While all worthwhile yidden are now focused solely on the events unfolding in Lakewood right now, a few of the fallen have managed to allowed themselves a quick reprieve for....

OPENING DAY AT SHEA!

As we speak the Mets and Phils are scoreless after 1 - on a cold and clear day in Queens. I'm forced to "watch" the action on the MLB GameCenter - which sucks, but what can you do? I need to remember to bring in a radio or something.

Bloggers report Johan Santana got the biggest ovation by the Mets faithful. Makes sense. Even in a loss this past Sunday he was a dominant force (1 run, 7 innings).

Let's go Mets.

Quick Update - In recent months I have been talking about getting back into the writing gig. I am happy to report that I have, in fact, started writing again. It's been a very slow process, though partly due to the fact that I actually have to do research for this story (biblical fiction).
Anyway, this topic is deserving of its own post.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Donnie Walsh

Listening to the Donnie Walsh, new President of Basketball Operations, press conference. Here are some highlights:

- He's saying the magic words - We will spend the next three years making sure we have cap flexibility in three years. In other words - we need to make sure we have enough money for Lebron for the 2010-2011 season. Though he denies that's the goal, that's obviously the goal here.

- Oh, and we will try and keep the team competitive over the next three years too.

(My take - Done and done. The Knicks are going to have to suck for a few years, but if they are building something, that is ok.)

- Refusing to discuss Isiah's role next season. Of course, no one expected him to say "Thomas is done" at this presser. But he won't discuss it today. He needs to analyze the situation. In other words, let's think about it and then fire him.

- "I think there are some good players here" - Where?

- "There is no magic wand here. it is going to take alot of work." - Um, DUH.

- He's stressing the short term goal is just being competitive. And no more crazy free agent signings.

- By the way, the goal is to be competitive for the next few years and then gain cap room (for Lebron).

- On the changing of media policies - I heard it was a problem - we plan on being more open and accessible. Looks like no more draconian, scary anti-press policies.

- He has been given autonomy by Dolan (per Dolan's own words). He says he wouldn't have come but for the autonomy.

- He felt compassion for the organization and wanted to come help fix it. Now that's embarrassing.

- He's making people laugh. That's a good thing.

- On Marbury - I need to speak to him before I make any decisions. He's pretty much talking about the injury, but he mentioned "the thing that happened at the beginning of the season".

- On the team's talent: "When you are on a bad team, no one looks good." Mentioned Curry, and Crawford as talented guys. as for Z-Ran: we need to find a place for him; can't have 2 guys in the low post. He did not mention Lee - let's pray this was a oversight.

- Not sure if he's going to bring in a GM to run the day to day stuff.

Gut reaction - He was brought here to bring in hope and for the first time in a long time, I have some hope. He at least sounds like he knows what he's talking about. He wants to change the culture - stay away from free agents in the short term and get cap flexibility - and the culture with the media as well.