New York Minute

November 23, 2009 8:39 AM

Lombardi Trophy Not Coming to N.Y.

As the NFL heads into the final six weeks of the season, one thing became perfectly clear after Sunday's action, and that is this: the Lombardi Trophy won't be coming to New York.

It might even be reach for either the Giants or Jets to make the playoffs, but even if they do get there, it won't be an extended stay. There are simply too many flaws for either team to be considered title contenders.

The Jets (4-6) will just be lucky to get through the next month with their pride intact. This is a team that is 1-6 since starting the season 0-3, and they are 1-4 in their division. A whole bunch of teams would need to collapse for them to even sniff the postseason.

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November 13, 2009 4:12 AM

Jets Need to Start Playoff Push

Like a lot of other teams at this point in the season, the Jets find themselves in the hunt for a playoff spot.


If the team is going to have any hope at all of returning to the post season, it needs to start with a victory Sunday over the Jaguars.


Like the Jets, the Jaguars are 4-4. But the Jets have a difficult road ahead of them after Sunday's home contest against the Jaguars. They have a road game at New England on Nov. 22, and then play Carolina and Buffalo.


Those are two winnable games for Gang Green, but the final three weeks are going to be difficult. The Jets will be at home for Atlanta, on the road at Indianapolis, and finish up at home against Cincinnati.

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November 5, 2009 9:42 AM

Sensational Sendoff for Matsui?

matsui.jpgIf this was his last game as a Yankee, it was quite a sendoff for Hideki Matsui.


The Japanese legend practically won Game 6 of the World Series singlehandedly for the Yankees Wednesday night, and earned MVP honors in the process.


His batting line reads like final four digits of a lost telephone number: 4-1-3-6. That's four at-bats, one run, three hits and six RBIs.


"I guess you could say this is the best moment of my life right now," Matsui said through an interpreter.


Certainly there were more to the Yankees than Matsui last night, but the Phillies, and more specifically Pedro Martinez, couldn't find a way to get him out.


He hit a two-run home run in the second inning to stake the Bombers to a 2-0 lead, and then delivered another two-run single in the third inning to make it 4-1. He followed with a booming double in the fifth off of J.A. Happ that drove in two more runs, and he was just a triple shy of hitting for the cycle.


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October 28, 2009 12:36 PM

Yankees Haven't Won Any Thing Yet

This has been one terrific postseason run by the Yankees so far.

They took care of the Twins with ease, and defeated the Angels, the team they have had the most difficulty beating over the past 10 years, in six games.

The Bronx Bombers have been led by a resurgent Alex Rodriguez, who has quieted the critics who said he can’t do it in the clutch, along with the usual suspects, such as Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera. There were questions about C.C. Sabathia and A.J. Burnett and their lack of postseason credentials, but they have delivered as well.

All of which is great for Yankees fans. There is one other sobering thought, however, and that is this: the Yankees haven’t won any thing yet.

For all the chest-thumping and giddiness that has gone on in New York since beating the Angels to win the American League pennant, the truth of the matter is that the Yankees were expected to get this far. Heck, they are expected to win the World Series.

It will not be easy. When the Yankees meet the Philadelphia Phillies in Game 1 of the World Series tonight, they will be looking at a team that can match them in a lot of areas.

The Phillies can hit, can hit for power, and have a strong starting rotation and a decent bullpen. The weak link this season has been closer Brad Lidge, who has turned it around during the postseason. The Phillies also have something the Yankees do not, and that’s team speed. Any one of their top three batters – Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino and Chase Utley – is a threat to steal a base.

The Yankees know this, of course, and aren’t going to say any thing to get Philadelphia fired up. In the button-down world of the Pinstripes, disrespecting an opponent is never in vogue. The Yankees would never stand for somebody like the Phils’ Rollins, who chirped that the Phillies would win the Series in five games.

“He’s been Nostradamus, that’s what I heard,’’ Yankees catcher Jorge Posada said. “He’s been (making) a lot of good predictions, so we’ve got to take that away from him.”

For the Yankees to win their first World Series since 2000 – really, it has been that long – they will need Rodriguez to deliver in the clutch. He has hit .438 during the playoffs with five home runs and 12 RBIs. He helped pick up an offense that struggled otherwise, as Mark Teixeira (.205, 5 RBIs), Robinson Cano (.229, five RBIs) and Johnny Damon (.238, 5 RBIs) have all struggled so far. The Yankees need A-Rod to continue his hot October run.

Just as important, the Yankees need to slow down the Phillies’ offense. Ryan Howard (.355, 2 home runs, 14 RBIs) has been Rodriguez’s peer in the postseason, and Utley, Carlos Ruiz and Victorino all have hit better than .300 this October.

It promises to be an exciting World Series, and many people consider the Yankees the favorite. If they do win their 27th World Series, then truly a celebration will be in order. But for now, the Bronx Bombers are still short of the goal that they, and their fans, have set.

October 19, 2009 12:54 PM

Saints Expose Giants' Defense

Going back to their first Super Bowl victories, the Giants have always been defined by their defense.

Sure they had Phil Simms and some others, but this is a team that loved defense. The fans love their defense. The NFC East is all about the defensive side of the ball, and stopping the other team from moving the ball.

So when, exactly, did the Giants turn in the old San Diego Chargers, a team that couldn’t stop any body? Because that’s what it looked like Sunday, as Drew Brees drove the Saints all over the field on the way to an easier-than-it looked 48-27 victory.

It was like Brees had the keys to the hot rod, and he could drive it wherever he pleased. The Saints scored on their first two possessions, compiled 626 yards of total offense and easily won the battle of undefeated teams.

The biggest problem for the Giants was their pass rush, because they hardly laid a hand on Brees. He was only sacked one time, completed 23-of-30 passes for 369 yards and made every key play. He threw the ball all over the lot, and the Giants never could stop him. You had the feeling if Brees lined up Saints owner Tom Benson at wide receiver, he could’ve hit him for a 10-yard completion.

The defensive line was virtually invisible the entire game, which is hard to believe with a unit that features Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora and Mathius Kiwanuka. This was a team that was supposed to make offenses cringe, and they hardly laid a hand on Brees.

Absence a pass rush, the Giants’ secondary got torched all game long. The team undoubtedly misses Kenny Phillips and Aaron Ross, both of whom are out with injuries. Ross should return soon, but Phillips is gone for the year. Their replacements, Terrell Thomas and C.C. Brown, were beat time and again yesterday.

Granted, Brees played a terrific game. He marched the team down for a touchdown on the opening drive of the game, and his touchdown pass to Jeremy Shockey late in the first quarter made it 14-0.

He continued to riddle the Giants’ pass defense the entire game, throwing touchdowns to four different players. The Saints were able to run the ball, too, rushing for 133 yards, including 72 by Pierre Thomas.

Through the first five games of the season, the Giants made it look easy. They had surrendered just 71 points, and were dominating against a weak schedule that included Tampa Bay, Kansas City and Oakland, who had a combined one victory entering Sunday’s games.

Sunday, on a big stage against a quality team, the Giants’ defense was exposed time and again. If this is a team that wants to return to the Super Bowl, it has to find answers for its defense.

October 18, 2009 2:43 PM

Give Cashman Credit, Too

There has been a lot of discussion about the personnel moves made by the Yankees over the past few years in their bid to get back to the World Series.

What a lot of commentators have missed is the one move the Yankees didn’t make.
Back in 2007, after the team parted ways with manager Joe Torre, there was also a lot of conjecture on the future of general manager Brian Cashman.

The team lost to the Cleveland Indians in the Divisional Series, and Cashman’s contract was done. More than a few teams were interested in having Cashman come work for them.

The Yankees retained Cashman, and it may have been one of their smartest personnel moves.
That was my thinking last night when I watched Jerry Hairston score the winning run in Game 2 of the American League Championship Series against the Angels. Hairston was picked up just before the trading deadline by Cashman, who has made a series of strong moves over the past 12 months to fortify the Yankees.

Detractors, of course, will point out that Cashman has the deep Yankees’ coffers with which to work. Give any general manager the opportunity to get C.C. Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Mark Teixeira, as the Yankees did in the last off-season, and they could win the pennant.

There is more to the Yankees, however, than their start-studded lineup. There are several other contributors that have played a large part in the team’s success. And the reason they are in pinstripes? Brian Cashman.

Take, for instance, Nick Swisher. He hit just .219 last year for the White Sox, with 24 home runs and 69 RBIs. Cashman acquired the switch-hitting outfielder for Wilson Betemit and two minor leaguers. During the regular season, he hit 29 home runs and had 82 RBIs while drawing 97 walks.

Swisher might have had the greatest impact this season, but there have been others. Cashman also brought in Phil Coke and Hairston, who have been key additions as well. He stuck with Melky Cabrera in the outfield, and backed him up with Brett Gardner, who has also been an important player.

Certainly, not every move Cashman has made has worked. He has made a lot of poor decisions regarding pitchers – Carl Pavano and Randy Johnson comes to mind – but don’t forget, a lot of teams would’ve made those same choices. Cashman got burned going after them, but a lot of teams also wanted those pitchers.

Cashman also made the choice to pursue Sabathia and Burnett last winter, and it certainly looks smart now. He knew the Yankees’ biggest shortcoming was pitching, and he addressed it. He need not apologize simply because the Yankees can afford to pay the big salaries. He’s just playing by the rules.

It is not, however, the mega stars that win championships. A lot of times it is the supporting cast that is just as instrumental, and Cashman has done a terrific job in strengthening the Yankees’ bench and the bullpen. They were two major flaws in the team last year, and Cashman improved the team in each of those areas.

The Yankees still have work to do to win the World Series. But at least they have the weapons to do it, thanks to Brian Cashman.

October 13, 2009 12:56 PM

Yankees Will Need to Play Better

There were more than a few encouraging signs from the Yankees in their American League Division Series sweep of the Minnesota Twins.

Alex Rodriguez finally produced some October magic, Derek Jeter delivered a big home run and another brilliant defensive play, and Mariano Rivera performed like, well, Mariano Rivera. The team even got contributions from A.J. Burnett and Joba Chamberlain.

All of that is fine, but here’s one other point to consider: the Bronx Bombers must play better if they are going to beat the Angels in the American League Championship Series. The Yankees swept the Twins, but it also helped that the Twins made critical mistakes that helped the Yankees. It’s not so much that the Yankees won, but the Twins made miscues that practically gift-wrapped the series for New York.

Such as? Glad you asked.

The most glaring was in Game 2, where the Twins summoned closer Joe Nathan to protect a two-run lead. The Yankees held a 1-0 lead in the series, and to that point had managed all of three hits against four Minnesota pitchers. Nathan surrendered three hits, including a two-run home run by A-Rod, and the game went extra innings.

In the 11th, the Twins loaded the bases with none out against Damaso Marte and David Robertson, but failed to push in the go-ahead run.

A lot of people complain about umpire Phil Cuzzi’s blown call on a ball hit by Mauer down the left field line, which he incorrectly called foul. Mauer should have been on second base, no question about it. Yet if the Twins can’t push across the go-ahead run in that inning, they didn’t deserve to win the game. And they didn’t, losing in the bottom of the inning on Mark Teixeira’s walk-off home run off of Josa Mijares.

In Sunday’s series clincher, the Twins took a 1-0 lead in the sixth inning on an RBI by Mauer. Carl Pavano, a former Yankees bust, kept his former teammates guessing through the first six innings. So what does he do when he gets a lead?

He promptly gives it up, yielding home runs to A-Rod and Jorge Posada, as the Yankees took the lead for good.

In the eighth, Nick Punto’s basesrunning mistake proved costly, as he was gunned down after a terrific play by Jeter, who saw Punto running through the stop sign at third. Punto was dead on the relay from Posada, and it killed the rally. The bullpen then promptly blew whatever chance the Twins had by allowing two tack-on runs in the 9th as the Yankees won, 4-1.

And while everybody pointed to A-Rod, did any one notice that few others hit for the Yankees? Johnny Damon and Nick Swisher hit .083, Melky Cabrera, Robinson Cano and Teixeira were at .167. Hideki Matsui was .222. Phil Hughes pitched all three games, but had an ERA of 9.00.

Rodriguez had a fantastic series, hitting .455 with two home runs and six RBIs. His postseason struggles are legendary, but his shot off Nathan in Game 2 changed the series, and he crushed another home run off of Pavano. The starting pitcher with CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Andy Pettitte was solid.

But if the Yankees think the Angels are going to make the same errors the Twins made, they have another thing coming. They need to dial it up even more in the ALCS, because unlike the Twins, the Angels won’t hand them any thing.

October 8, 2009 1:04 PM

A Team Effort Propels Yankees

It wasn’t just important that the Yankees defeated the Twins, 7-2, in Game 1 of the American League Division Series Wednesday night at Yankee Stadium.

What was impressive is the way the won, because if this team is going to win its first World Series title since 2000, it will need to have contributions from every one.

Wednesday night, they did.

There were the usual suspects that delivered big in October for the Yankees. Derek Jeter had a home run, scored three runs, knocked in two more. Mariano Rivera pitched a scoreless ninth. They did what they’re supposed to do in October.

They were not the only ones, however, who starred on this night. CC Sabathia, Hideki Matsui, Alex Rodrgiuez, even Joba Chamberlain, contributed in this one.

If the team is going to do anything this October, they will need to continue to produce.
Sabathia and Rodriguez are the perhaps the most critical pieces, and they each delivered in their own way last night.

Sabathia pitched 6 2/3 strong innings, allowing just one earned run with eight strikeouts and no walks. He also allowed a run on a wild pitch, but he handcuffed the Twins most of the night.

"I was able to hold them down," Sabathia said. "It got a little sketchy in the third, but I was able to come back and put up zeroes like I have all year - and these guys scored runs like they did all year."

Sabathia is crucial to the Yankees postseason plans. He’s their top starter, and with the unpredictable A.J. Burnett following him, the Yankees need him to be at his best. Sabathia came into the postseason with a shaky past – a 2-3 record with a 7.92 ERA – but he was superb Wednesday. He pitched the way he did during the regular season, when he was 11-2 with a 2.74 ERA after the All-Star break.

"This is what you come here for, to pitch in the postseason and play in October," Sabathia said. "It was electric tonight."

The other key figure in Wednesday’s win was A-Rod, who had two hits, two RBIs and scored a run. The numbers were gruesome. He was 0-for-29 with runners on base in postseason games dating back to Game 4 of the AL Championship Series. He hit .071 in the 2006 playoffs, and hit just .256 with six strikeouts in 14 at-bats in the 2007 divisional round.

It was just a pair of singles for A-Rod Wednesday, but it took the pressure off him. At least for a little while.

"I'm sure it makes him feel good inside," Girardi said. "Whenever you contribute, it's important. It puts you in a good place."

There were others, too. Hideki Matsui hit a two-run home run. Phil Hughes, Phil Coke and Joba combined to get four outs before handing the ball over to Rivera for the ninth. Steve Swisher, an overlooked component of the Yankee who had 29 home runs during the regular season, delivered an RBI single.

It was all good for the Yankees Wednesday against a drained Minnesota team that was playing less than 24 hours after beating Detroit in a playoff for the AL Central crown. Few people expected Minnesota would be able to win Game 1, and the Twins looked like a tired team.

Still, it was important for the Yankees to take that first step toward 11 postseason wins. What was impressive was not how they won, but in the way in which they did it. If they continue to get contributions from their entire roster, they might just win that elusive 27th World Series.

October 5, 2009 3:23 PM

Sanchez Takes a Step Back

Mark Sanchez is finding out there is a steep learning curve for young quarterbacks in the NFL.

The question for the Jets rookie is how quickly can he overcome his first subpar effort?

Make no mistake about it: Sanchez needs to perform better than he did in Sunday’s 24-10 loss to New Orleans.

The final numbers were these: 14 completions in 27 attempts, a mere a 138 yards. The bigger numbers were these: Three interceptions and one fumble that resulted in a Saints touchdown.

It wasn’t just the turnovers or the fumble that were killers for the Jets. It was also when he fired the interceptions. The most critical one was early in the second quarter, with the Jets trailing 3-0 but deep in Saints territory. His pass intended for Dustin Keller was picked off by Darren Sharper and returned for a 99-yard touchdown.

Talk about turning points. The Jets get the lead there, they can let their defense loose. Coach Rex Ryan’s team will be difficult to beat once they get a lead, but Sanchez’s critical interception cost them that chance.

“That’s a classic rookie quarterback looking at his receiver and Sharper read me the whole way,’’ Sanchez said. “I took him right to it. It was a poor decision and poor use of my eyes.”

The Jets’ loss can’t be pinned entirely on Sanchez. The Saints had a fourth-and-one play in Jets’ territory late in the fourth quarter and protecting a 17-10 lead. Coach Sean Payton said the team was content to take a delay penalty and punt, but nose tackle Kris Jenkins jumped offside and the Saints maintained possession.

There were other errors, too, but Sanchez’ mistakes were critical. “We spotted them 14 points, and the final score was 24-10,’’ Sanchez said. “That was huge. I’ve got to learn from that and improve.”

How quickly, and how much, Sanchez improves will define his career. He won his first three games as an NFL starter, and certainly shows as much promise as any Jets quarterback has shown in a long, long time. But if the team is going to make a run at the postseason, he will need to improve. Quickly. Things change on a weekly basis in the NFL, and the Jets need Sanchez to minimize turnovers and let the defense keep the team in the game.

We will find out quickly if Sanchez is up for the challenge. His next opponent is the Miami Dolphins in a nationally televised game on Monday night. There is no question Miami general manager Bill Parcells and coach Tony Sparano saw Sanchez get exposed Sunday, and will try to capitalize on that.

It is too soon to tell if the Jets made a mistake by taking Sanchez with the No. 5 pick in April’s draft or even if he will be a starting quarterback in the NFL for any length of time. We will have a much better idea, however, after the next couple of games.

October 2, 2009 1:32 PM

Jets Need to Show Saints Something

New York is What-Have-You-Done-Lately town, and that will certainly be evidenced by the New York Jets in Sunday’s game against the New Orleans Saints.

The Jets have shown in three games thus far that these are not the Same Old’ Jets.
Things have a way turning around quickly in this town, however, which is why Sunday’s game at New Orleans is critical for Gang Green.

Certainly, the Jets have taken care of business so far. They are 3-0, beat New England at home, and have shown an aggressive defense that is capable of shutting down any one. Coach Rex Ryan has injected new life into the team, and first round quarterback Mark Sanchez has played as well as any one had any right to expect.

What was impressive in Sunday’s win over Tennessee was how the Jets were able to capitalize after getting a turnover. The game changed when Titans’ rookie Ryan Mouton fumbled a punt deep in his own territory. The Jets scored a few players later on Mark Sanchez’s 6-yard touchdown pass to Jerricho Cotchery, and the defense allowed very little the rest of the way in a 24-17 victory.

The Saints and quarterback Drew Brees might be the Jets’ toughest test yet this season. It is on the road, and Brees and Co. have been putting up staggering offensive numbers. If the Jets are as good as people think they are, this will be a good chance for them to show it.
”People are going to say what they want to say whether you win, lose or draw, Ryan said at Thursday’s news conference. “ I think people realize now that the Jets have a pretty darn good football team. That’s important to us.”

The Jets don’t necessarily have to beat the Saints on Sunday, because there is still a lot of season left. Nobody expects the team to go undefeated and losing on the road to an upper-echelon team is not going to end their season.

The one thing that positively cannot happen, however, is for the Jets to lose ugly. Their defense can’t surrender 40-plus points, Sanchez and the offense can’t survive multiple turnovers and the defense has to show that it can stop one of the marquee teams in the league.

If any of those things happen, many of the good vibes that have been generated by the good start will get washed away. New York is a town that breaks legs jumping on and off bandwagons, and if things get rolling in the wrong direction, people will be quick to dismiss the team’s good start as a fluke.

That’s not Ryan’s fault, but that’s the way things are in New York. If Ryan wants to keep the faith among the team’s hard core (and long-suffering) fans, it needs to play well against the Saints. Otherwise, many of the good feelings engendered from their September sprint will be wiped away.

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