The Winter of Great Expectations

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The Winter of Great Expectations

 

From the moment the 2015 World Series ended until just a few days ago, a controversy was raging in the media and amongst the fan base of the NEW YORK METS.

Mets logo

To Cespedes or Not To Cespedes…that was the question.

 

Cespedes  Cespedes 3

 

Cespedes 2

Whether t’was nobler to stand pat and try to get back to the Series on the strength ofyoung arms, suffering the slings and arrows of a lack of offense (see last season before the trade deadline) or to take arms against a sea of troubles by signing a bat and ending the slumps before they even began! Ending the heartache of a thousand foul balls…to hit…perchance to dream…that the slugger would return.

Spaeketh wise Jerry Seinfeld…Cespedes…for the rest of us !

Seinfeld2015

And then something miraculous happened. A thunderbolt of such fury and power that all of the great City was consumed in delight and much celebration…Cepedes was truly for the rest of us! The NY METS…those same METS who have given us little to be thankful for in recent years gave us a gift of such magnitude that burnt offerings to the BASEBALL GODS are in order.

All kidding aside,  the signing of Yoenis Cespedes puts the METS back into contention for serious serious October baseball. Can they duplicate the feat the Royals accomplished by beating the METS in the 2015 World Series? Can this team get back to the Fall Classic and win it?

Why not?

In addition to the signing of the big slugger they desperately needed, they upgraded both short and second by bringing in Asdrubal Cabreara and Neil Walker. These guys are professionals. Reliable steady bats and gloves to support the pitching staff with solid middle infield defense. They re-signed Bartolo Colon…a great move. He’ll give them innings until Wheeler gets back, and then long relief as seen by his outstanding performance in the post season.

Is it obvious that the MET pitching staff is off the charts. They needed a bit of help at the reliever spot and they signed Antonio Bastardo from the Pirates giving them another reliable professional. With the anticipated return of Blevins and Edgin, the MET bullpen is looking fairly solid and deep. Let us not forget Familia and his awesome 2015 season.

And so looking towards the 2016 season I think of the immortal words of Casey Shakespeare who said, “And enterprises of great pitch and moment, with this regard their currents turn awry…but that ain’t gonna’ happen this year…’cuz the METS be flyin’ high!

 

 

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Trump Gets Whacked by THE NATIONAL REVIEW

The Trump bandwagon continues to roll along. picking up speed with pissed off white people lining up to back him.

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Apparently he embodies all of their misdirected anger and more than a little of their loud pushback. A pushback against all of their perceived slights from Obama to Muslims; Chinese investments in American properties to gun control. He slams immigrants…they love that. He slams women. That resonates too. He mocks the President, he mocks his Republican rivals, he mocks Foreign Countries and denigrates everybody and anybody who doesn’t buy into his unique and rather peculiar reactionary agenda.  He’s the corner bully but in this case he’s convinced a lot of people that he will be THEIR bully.

This week the highly regarded bastion of conservative intellect, THE NATIONAL REVIEW, has come out with both barrels a-blazing to question whether or not Trump is fit and capable to be the President.

National review Stop Trump

According to an article by Michael Calderone in the January 22, 2016 HUFFINGTON POST  “National Review’s editors denounce Trump for shifting his political stances and describe him as “a menace to American conservatism who would take the work of generations and trample it underfoot in behalf of a populism as heedless and crude as the Donald himself.”

In a story appearing in the WASHINGTON POST’s “Fix” section, written by Callum Borchers, the editor of THE NATIONAL REVIEW (and a FOX NEWS analyst)  Rich Lowry explains the how and why of what they did.

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So conservatives, across a wide spectrum of political thought have banded together to try and stop the Trump diesel from gaining any more momentum.  I think part of the problem here is it’s not your typical conservative movement.  There are lots of people supporting Trump who wouldn’t ever consider themselves conservative.  He’s struck a chord with people who are first and foremost “angry” and “dissatisfied” with what they perceive as the deterioration of their own lives,  and the life of the country on a grander scale.

Since THE NATIONAL REVIEW came out with it’s blistering AGAINST TRUMP issue, the candidate has labeled them as “establishment” and as a “dying paper”. charges that in my opinion are both self serving and disingenuous.  Lowry responds.

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The facts are simply this.  Trump is a political outsider, a moniker that he relishes.  He paints the politicians and the government as the root cause of all the problems in the society.  This is a calculated strategy that many before Trump have used to manipulate followers.  This is the original thesis of the fledgling TEA PARTY before they were commandeered by the rightwing of the Republican party.  Trump seems like he wants to be connected with the outsider mentality.  But then why in the world would he make such a big deal out of being endorsed by Sarah Palin just a few days later?  Most mainstream Republicans cringe at the very mention of her name.  She represents a small stratum of society, at least in the last two national elections,  that doesn’t reflect the attitudes of the vast majority of people.  Is it possible her endorsement could be the kiss of death to his campaign?  Maybe yes, maybe no.  Remember Trump has already alienated Latinos, women and Muslims.  He has insulted a national hero in John McCain; He has mocked and bullied his rivals Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and Carly Fiorina and yet his standing in the polls remains constant.  His campaign tactics are less an indictment of The Donald himself,  and  I believe more a reflection of the darker side of American politics in 2016.  When a candidate can show grossly classless behavior,  when a candidate can mobilize anger into a political force against large swaths of the population; when a candidate promises to “make America great again” yet shows little in the way of programs to do so,  it seems pretty obvious to me that he is playing to the lowest common denominator in the electorate.  These are the issues that THE NATIONAL REVIEW,  and the Republican hierarchy in general are faced with. As the loudest portion of the party moves further and further to the right, traditional Republicans with more moderate centrist views, are finally waking up to the danger presented by Trump and his angry populist movement.

Can Trump win a national election?  Can he even win a number of the primaries? Will he keep his word and support the eventual nominee if he is not selected?

It’s going to be a VERY INTERESTING year on the right.

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Disappointing Loss Ends Hopeful JETS Season

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Disappointing Loss Ends Hopeful JETS Season

Though JET fans are still irritated and smarting from the season ending loss to Wrecks and his Bisons, there are two very good reasons JETS NATION can look to a promising future.

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The first reason is the new GM, Mike Maccagnan, who assumed the reins of a team in disarray and moved them forward with a steady hand. For the first time in a long time it was obvious the man running the show knew what the heck he was doing. Woody Johnson has taken a lot of abuse over the years for some of the hires he made and rightfully so. But in this case he deserves the lion’s share of the credit for assembling the right advisors in Ron Wolf and Charlie Casserly and then making this critical hire. In this case Woody brought in the right man for the job. Mike Maccagnan did a splendid job turning the franchise around and he did it quickly. He stepped up to the plate and started smacking line drives all over the field.

Woody & Maccagnan

First he acquires the extremely talented Brandon Marshall via trade for basically nothing (a low round draft pick). People were concerned that maybe Marshall could be a bit of a head case. How’d that turn out? Marshall became the quintessential team player and goes on to write single season JET and NFL receiving records. Then he brought in Ryan Fitzpatrick whom he knew from his time is Houston. All he does is foster an intelligent, quiet calm and confidence to the offense as he sets the JET single season TD record surpassing Vinny Testaverde’s mark of 29 in 1998 with his 31. A pretty good start to the GM’s first off season. But he was just getting warmed up.

FitzpatrickMarshall

Then he orchestrates a return to Revis Island with Darrelle “Batman” Revis and his sidekick Antonio “Robun” Cromartie. With a wave of his hand he steals Buster Skrine from the Browns and Marcus Gilchrist from the Chargers revamping what had been a horrible defensive backfield and making it one of the team’s strengths. Wow.

Revis

Oh wait. There’s more. He drafts arguably the best player in last year’s draft, Leonard Williams when he falls into the Jet’s lap at number six. The kid goes on to have a solid rookie season and is expected to develop into a star in the years to come. He takes linebacker Lorenzo Mauldin who showed some flashes during the year and lastly picks up speedy wide out Devon Smith. Though he had a rocky start to his career, Smith should be a great addition to the offense after a year in the system. He has the speed the offense desperately needs. Mike Maccagnan had an awesome first season with the New York JETS and apparently the Pro Football Writers Association agrees as they voted him the NFL Executive of the Year. Jets owner Woody Johnson has taken a lot of crap the last few years from the likes of Mike Francesca and others in the media. He deserves to be lauded and applauded for making this choice to run the franchise. Thanks also goes to Ron Wolf and Charlie Casserly as well for their invaluable input and guidance. This time the JETS got it right. Very right.

Todd Bowles

But there is also an important part two to this successful Jet equation in the person of first year head coach Todd Bowles, a no-nonsense no drama tough guy who speaks very softly and carries a large stick. Bowles is a former player and Super Bowl champion with the Washington Redskins, a Parcells disciple and confidante. He was an acknowledged standout as the Defensive Coordinator in Arizona last season.

Bowles also brought a tough minded calm to the team in his first season. He made it clear that the players would be accountable. I was a fan of Wrecks Ryan but he failed in a couple of BIG ways that spelled the end of his reign here. First off was accountability. It’s my opinion his close relationship with the players was maybe too close. He talked a mean game and continually took the blame for his players failures. Bowles approach was more “us” and “we” rather than I. Wrecks other big fault was putting the entire offensive scheme into his assistant coach’s hands. He needed to be more involved with strategy, clock management and just general awareness of what the offense was doing. In a league that has increasingly become throw throw throw run, his insistence on run run run throw was part of his undoing.   In fairness Coach Ryan did not have the team that was handed to Todd Bowles. The secondary he was forced to play with by John Idzik was really atrocious. The offensive skill players were nowhere to be found, and Geno Smith just couldn’t carry the team on his back. Idzik’s austerity budget did nothing for him or Coach Ryan but it certainly put Mike Maccagnan in an enviable position. One that he took full advantage of.

So where are the Jets headed this off season? I would make an educated guess that they want to bring back Ryan Fitzpatrick to hold the seat while they either look for a long term franchise answer at QB or continue to groom Bryce Petty. Geno Smith? I can honestly say I have no idea what they are going to do about Smith. Coach Bowles said he likes the player after the season ended and would have no problem with Smith as the backup. I’m sure Smith has other ideas. Is Smith a better option than Petty? Another question I have no answer for. I saw Smith start for two years and though he had little to work with as far as offensive talent, he really didn’t show me much in the smarts department. Another problem on the offensive side of the ball is the tight end position or lack thereof. This was the year Jace Amaro was going to bloom into the major force they thought he would be when he was drafted. Bitten by the injury bug we’ll have to wait till next season to see if he can perform as expected. “Baby Gronk” Zach Sudfeld was supposed to be the “other” tight end. He too saw injuries short circuit his season. One wonders how much more dynamic the Jet offense would have been with these two guys lining up for Fitzpatrick. Amaro as the pass catcher and Sudfeld the big time blocker. It’s obvious Chan Gailey was too thrilled with his tight ends seeing how Jeff Cumberland did little this year. The offensive line is solid but it’s probably time to go looking for quality depth. They are pretty long in the tooth at left tackle and center. Mangold is an awesome force but he’s going to break down sooner or later. His injuries this year were a forewarning of what’s ahead. The running back situation seems fairly stable with Ivory, Powell, Stacy and Ridley but none of these guys are home run hitters. Should a burner with moves become available in the second or third round maybe the Jets should grab him.

Moving to the defensive side of the ball there are some serious questions that GM Maccagnan will have to address. Franchise tag Mo Wilkerson? Seems logical. What do you do about Damon Harrison who has become one of the top three nose tackles in the league? If he goes free agent the patriots, The Giants, The Dolphins or the Bills would swallow him up in a flash. Is Demario Davis the answer at linebacker? A force against the run…a liability in pass coverage. What about an edge pass rusher? Bowles defense is sorely lacking a pass rusher with speed who can disrupt things from the outside (just look at what DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller did to The Patriot offense yesterday) His defensive line is formidable but they just don’t get enough pressure and sacks on the QB. The secondary looks pretty good but questions here as well. Do they continue with Cromartie or do they promote Marcus Williams or Dexter MacDougal?

I can say that for the first time in a long time I am comfortable and confident that Mike Mccaganan will make the right decisions and keep the Jets on an upward trajectory. A move here or there and this team could be playing serious January football next season. We can only hope.

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2015 NEW YORK JETS – A PLAYOFF RUN?

I’ve been quiet about this JET season for several weeks. They came out of the gate 4-1 and it seemed like something special was about to happen with several very winnable games. Those games slipped away and before you knew it the JETS were5-4 and seemingly headed for disaster.

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What were the reasons for the erosion of the great start? I believe the injury to Chris Ivory was the key factor in the decline. An impressive power running game all but disappeared with his hamstring problems. Another obvious problem was key injuries to Willie Colon and Nick Mangold seriously hampering the veteran offensive line.

IvoryColon Mangold

After beating up the hapless Dolphins the JETS found themselves just on the fringe of the playoff chase at 6-5. The losses to Oakland, Buffalo and Houston have been particularly damaging. All of these teams are also in the hunt for a wildcard spot and the JETS handed the tie breakers to teams they are competing with.

The next stop? METLIFE STADIUM for a battle with an equally desperate and inconsistent GIANT team also struggling to get to second season. Most of the pundits made the JETS a slight 2 point favorite in the game. Surprising seeing how the game was officially a GIANT home game, and the JET’S long slow decline in the previous month. I was expecting a knock down drag out fight and that’s exactly what we got.

Was I expecting a JET win? Well when it started I thought they were the better team everywhere but at QB. I must admit in the fourth quarter I didn’t see a win looming.

My GIANT fan nephew watching the game with me remarked that the JETS had the GIANTS right where they wanted them. Up 10 in the with about 12 minutes to go. He assured me that the JETS were going to win the game based on the numerous GIANT collapses he had witnessed all season long. I wasn’t too sure of his prediction but when Coach Coughlin passed on the field goal try with about minutes to go, and Manning was intercepted, I was feeling his pain. Hmmmm. Maybe the JETS had a comeback in them after all. Decker over the middle. Decker over the middle and then Decker over the middle. The long JET drive ended in a made field goal cutting the GIANT lead to 7. My nephew shook his head knowingly. “No way the JETS lose this game” he said.

Decker

The JETS kick off and Inexplicably the GIANTS decided to try and pound their non-existent run game against the number run defense in the league. The result was predictable. They gained nada, zippo, zilch, nothing and the JETS got the ball back with a comfortable 2:43, 3 times out plus the 2 minute warning. Wow I thought to myself. The JETS are going to at least tie the game and then who knows? I was thinking about Herm’s legendary “You play to win the game” quote. Maybe.

Herm

Ryan Fitzpatrick has been sort of maligned all season. By and large I’ve been happy with his play. His decisions seem good. His arm strength is acceptable.

Fitzpatrick

He has a poise and calm about him that I have not seen since Chad Pennington. He’s in control. After his amazing fourth down run that gave the JETS a first down deep in GIANT territory, even I was believing the JETS were going to win. Ah yes but with all the tricky overtime rules I figured the odds were still long what with Eli and Beckham on the case.

Eli-Manning   Beckham

So the JETS marched down the field and scored a TD on a power move and catch by Brandon Marshall. Nice. On to overtime.

Marshall

The Jets march down the field once again and kick the go ahead field goal. The GIANTS get the ball and start moving the ball. Unfortunately for them their chances die on an incomplete fourth down play. For the GIANTS another miserable late loss. For the JETS a stirring comeback that may yet propel them into the playoffs.

Four games to go. Tennessee…Dallas…New England…Buffalo. If they play like they did the last couple of weeks maybe the playoffs can be a reality in 2015. I’m thinking they can take care of the Titans but the remaining three games against Belicheat , Dem Boys and Wrecks Ryan’s Bulls ain’t gonna be easy. But they are in the thick of serious December football and that’s all you can ask.

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ANOTHER GROWING SEASON OVER – GARDEN 2015

Hard to believe but it’s already December…another year has blown by in the wink of an eye. The vegetable garden is still producing a trickle of items even now. But soon the harvest will be finished and we’ll wait till spring to crank it up again. Two weeks ago we got our first batch of sweet potatoes. They have been delicious.  I barbecued, pan fried and baked them.  And I guess by now everyone knows how great they are for you!

sweet pota

 

Last week we picked these nice aromatic herbs, ready for winter drying.

trimmed onion grassrosemary

Onion grass                             Rosemary

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Parsley                                          Greek Oregano

We also spent some time adding ground leaves from our yard to the asparagus bed.

asparaguebed

The leaves will slowly break down and add nutrients to the soil to keep the asparagus happy when the growing season begins anew. We also got some swiss chard and some kale.

swiss chard  ragged leaf kale

dinosaur kale

The garlic that we put in the ground in early October is now about 6 inches high.

young garlic

This week I’ll add some mulch to the area. We always try to plant in long rows whenever possible with about 10 inches between the rows so we can get in there with a tool and keep the weeds to a minimum. Once the plants get tall enough we mulch the areas with a good organic compost. The garlic will grow very slowly all winter in the cold and then will pick up a head of steam in the spring. This variety is called early Italian. We usually harvest the first week of July.

We also have a crop of beets still in the ground. They weren’t quite ready last week. Hopefully they’ll be ready to go next week.

late beets

We are cleaning and storing the equipment and replacing broken pots and hoses.

Time to close it all down for a long winter’s nap.

See you in the springtime!

 

 

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ARE THEY TOUGH ENOUGH?

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ARE THEY TOUGH ENOUGH?

It’s October 29th and the NY METS are in the World Series.

Mets logo

Not only in the World Series but they are down 2 games to none.  MET fans are understandably concerned. To put a positive spin on things, the ’86 World Champion METS were down 2 to none heading to Boston and we know how that ended up. Having said that, past history in sports is a fun conversation angle but definitely has nothing to do with present day realities. Lenny Dykstra won’t be suiting up for this World Series, nor will Keith Hernandez, Gary Carter, Doc Gooden, Darryl Strawberry or Ray Knight.  HernandezDykstra Gooden

But we will be watching the most amazing Daniel Murphy. The electric Yoenis Cespedes and the dynamic arms of Harvey , DeGrom and Familia.

Murphy2015  Cespedes

Honestly I am impressed with the way the Kansas City lineup has handled the METpitching. Really wasn’t expectING that. They are a good lineup top to bottom but so were the Cubs and the MET pitching handled them.

The MET bats haven’t done much to help the situation.  Where oh where have you been David Wright?  Lucas Duda? Travis D’Arnaud?

In the final analysis I think the MET’s World Series outcome will come down to a single concept. Are they TOUGH ENOUGH? I’m usually never at a loss for words but I have to admit that I have no idea. They have been so dominant through the end of the regular season into their playoff run, there hasn’t been all that much to be tough about. Can these predominantly young players summon up the energy and persistence to prevail? They need to win 4 or the next five…a tall order against a very good team. Can they do it? Maybe. Maybe not. That’s why they PLAY the games.

LET’S GO METS !

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October in New York

It’s October 2015. The leaves are falling. The sun is waning and there is an unmistakable chill in the air. Usually at this time of year fans of the NY JETS, and the NY METS, (the “Ets” if you will) are sitting around talking about past glories and hopefully discussing “next year’. They are most likely thinking of possible draft picks and trades that might further their team.

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Hmmmmmm. What’s happening here?

The “rebuilding” JETS are a tidy 4 and 1, after a solid victory over the team from DC. Shall we call them the ‘Skins? The JETS head coach Todd Bowles, is a former standout player and a tight lipped Parcells clone who says things like, “one play at a time, one game at a time” and even though they are enjoying some early success it’s nearly impossible to get this guy to crack a smile. Did someone say intense? He’s so low key many fans are wondering who the heck he is and how did he get here?

Todd Bowles

But as a reporter in the locker room of yesterday’s game at Metlife Stadium put it, Bowles got his message across loud and clear after a lackluster first half. When the JETS took the field for the third quarter they blasted the ‘Skins out of the stadium. The 34-20 final score didn’t reflect the JETS defensive domination. Next week a trip to New England…the land of the infamous BELICHEATS. It should be an interesting two proponents of the Parcells philosophy. One is a four time Super Bowl winner and the other just getting his head coaching career off on the right foot. The Jets and the Pats have had many tough and close battles the last few years. If nothing else, it will be entertaining.

Heading across the river over to Flushing by the Bay…

Usually at this time of the year their lockers are cleaned out and most of the players have scattrered across North America…playing golf…laying in the sun…making plans for extended vacations. Things are quite a bit different this year. Honestly I had no illusions at the beginning of this season. They would be a pesky little time that could possible contend for the second wild card spot.

Alderson

Then something really amazing happened. The Wilponzies decided to allow Sandy Alderson to spend some money and make some deals to improve the offense, for the a team loaded with spectacular pitching.

Wow.

The rest is history as they say. Enter Uribe…Johnson…Clippard…and Cespedes. Real major league players. Enter the Captain off the DL. Enter D’Arnaud off the DL. Bang zoom. A new team with power and grit. It’s been epic.  Daniel Murphy, he of the zillion trade rumors has taken the team on his back and lead the way. How do ya like me now???

Murphy2015

I predicted 86 wins before the season began. They ended up with 90. Pretty close.

Of course my prediction was aided by the mini swoon the last week of the year.

So let me be the first to say that these METS will be in the World Series, and I believe their chances of wining it all are quite realistic and maybe even probable.

If good pitching beats good hitting why not?

It should be great to watch!

 

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