New Year’s Resolutions for New York’s Teams (Part 1)

2013 was an absolute nightmare for all sports in New York City. That’s pretty hard to do, considering there are nine teams in the area in the big four sports leagues (MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL). The Yankees and Mets both missed the playoffs, the Giants and Jets were an embarrassment, the Knicks and Nets were dismissed abruptly in May and now are struggling in a bad East, and all three hockey teams are very mediocre. No championships, just one division title, and five playoff absences.

So, each team has a New Year’s resolution as they all try to build for a better 2014 and try to bring home some championships to the greatest city in the world. I’ll start with teams that are still playing (the two NBA teams and three NHL squads)

 

Brooklyn Nets: Make the playoffs without Lopez?

The Nets were embarrassingly dismissed from the playoffs last May by the Chicago Bulls sans Derrick Rose. So, their Russian owner decided to make another big splash in the summer.

After trading for Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, the Nets became instant favorites in the Atlantic division and were expected to challenge the Miami Heat. Coached by former Net great Jason Kidd, the team featured a starting five of Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Pierce, Garnett, and Brook Lopez. Along with a bench featuring Andrei Kirilenko, Jason Terry, and Reggie Evans, expectations were as high as the C-word (championship. What, were you expecting something else?)

However, the seasons has so far been a total disaster, a 10-20 start leaves them 12th in the Eastern conference. Matters are even worse with All-Star center Brook Lopez out for the year with a broken foot. Lopez has been one of the most productive big men in the league, averaging over 19 points per game since 2009. Still, with the Eastern conference being total garbage, the Nets are still only 2.5 games out of a playoff spot, so all hope isn’t lost – yet.

 

New York Knicks: Don’t panic or make any bad moves

The Knicks have been even worse than the Nets this season. After getting outplayed and outhustled by the Indiana Pacers in the second round of the 2013 playoffs, they made really just one big move: A trade for Andrea Bargnani, a seven footer who shot below 40% from the field in 2012-13. So far this season, it’s been an absolute nightmare, a 9-21 record leaves them second to last in the East. Injuries, inconsistencies, and organizational madness had cursed the Knicks like usual, but it’s as bad as it can be.

The resolution for the Knicks is to not panic. They’re still a few games out in a terrible conference, so a big winning streak will get them going again. They can’t, I repeat, CAN’T make any of their usual desperate trades, giving us whatever assets they still have (Tim Hardaway, Jr. has been a revelation, second among rookies in three-pointer percentage and fourth in PER). All hope is not lost yet, but a coaching change may be necessary for survival this season.

New Jersey Devils: Stop relying on the old guys so much

A year after returning to the Stanley Cup Finals, the Devils collapsed during a lock-out shortened season doomed by a late 10-game win-less streak. This year, they’re still not great but they’re hanging in there in a mediocre Metropolitan division. They’d probably be near the bottom of the division if not for the heroics of two 41 year-old legends: Jaromir Jagr and Martin Brodeur.

Jagr continues to be amazing, leading the time in both goals and assists and has has 34 points, nine more than Patrik Elias. Brodeur continues to be consistent, playing to an 11-8-3 record with a 2.31 GAA and .906 save percentage. Still they’re going to need more than them to make the playoffs. Jagr is only one of two double digit scorers for the Devils, and Adam Henrique has just 18 points in 41 games. More firepower needed.

New York Islanders: No sleep til Brooklyn?

The Isles made the playoffs the first time in six years in 2013, pushing the top seeded Penguins to six games. From there, the future looked bright with John Tavares leading the way. Things seemed to get brighter after they traded for Sabres scorer Thomas Vanek. However, they have tanked again this season, currently last in the Metro division and second worst in the Eastern conference.

The primary problem for the Isles is the lack of toughness and zero consistency at goalie. Have to wonder when it’s going to get better, and it won’t at Nassau. The team will move to Barclays Center in Brooklyn after the 2015 season, so hopefully that helps big time and increases their revenue, allowing them to surround Tavares with better talent.

New York Rangers: Put the puck in the net!

With a new offensive minded coach running the show with the King, many expected the Rangers to be one of the elite teams in the East and perhaps compete for the Cup. However, it hasn’t exactly panned out, as they’ve been hovering around .500 for weeks and barely in the playoff picture. They’re 8th in the league in power play percentage, but just 27th in goals per game.

Why? Well, the offense hasn’t been exactly great. Rick Nash has been slow and lazy after dealing with a concussion. They’ve been carried by rookie Chris Kreider and Mats Zuccarello. Good, but not enough, it seems. Center-wise, Derek Stepan and Brad Richards have been strong points-wise, but they haven’t scored much. Time to start taking better shots and put the damn puck in the net. It’s maddening.

There hasn’t been much consistency on the blue line other than Ryan McDonagh, who is breaking out as one of the elite defense-men in the NHL. The defense overall has been horrible, and Henrik Lundqvist is having his worst season (2.77 GAA and .906 save % aren’t bad, but not the King’s caliber.

Part 2 will come later, covering New York’s MLB and NFL squads are all four missed the playoffs in 2013.

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NFL Picks: Week Seventeen

Last Week: 10-6

On the Season: 135-104-1

1:00PM Games:

Carolina over @ Atlanta (CAR by 6, UNDER

Baltimore over @Cincinnati (CIN by 7, UPSET)

@ Tennessee over Houston (TEN by 7, UNDER)

@ Indianapolis over Jacksonville (IND by 11, OVER)

NY Jets over @ Miami (MIA by 6, UPSET)

Detroit over @ Minnesota (MIN by 3)

@ NY Giants over Washington (NYG by 4, OVER)

@ Pittsburgh over Cleveland (PIT by 7, OVER)

Later Games:

@ Chicago over Green Bay (GB by 3, technically even)

Denver over @ Oakland (DEN by 11, OVER)

@ New England over Buffalo (NE by 8, OVER)

@ New Orleans over Tampa Bay (NO by 11, OVER)

@ Arizona over San Francisco (SF by 1)

@ San Diego over Kansas City (SD by 9, UNDER)

@ Seattle over St. Louis (SEA by 12, OVER)

Philadelphia over Dallas (PHI by 7, OVER)

NFL Picks: Week Sixteen

Last Week: 6-10 (Ouch)

On the Season: 125-98-1

Thursday: No game (thank God)

1:00PM Games:

Miami over @ Buffalo (MIA by 3, OVER)

@ Cincinnati over Minnesota (CIN by 9, UNDER)

Indianapolis over @ Kansas City (KC by 7, UPSET)

@ St. Louis over Tampa Bay (STL by 4, OVER)

@ NY Jets over Cleveland (NYJ by 2, OVER)

Dallas over @ Washington (DAL by 3, OVER)

@ Carolina over New Orleans (CAR by 3, OVER)

@ Jacksonville over Tennessee (TEN by 5, UPSET)

Denver over @ Houston (DEN by 10, OVER)

Later Games:

@ Detroit over NY Giants (DET by 10, UNDER)

Arizona over @ Seattle (SEA by 10, UPSET)

Pittsburgh over @ Green Bay (GB by 1)

@ San Diego over Oakland (SD by 10, UNDER)

@ Baltimore over New England (BAL by 1, OVER)

Chicago over @ Philadelphia (PHI by 3)

Atlanta over @ San Francisco (SF by 14, UPSET)

The Yankees Really, Really Shouldn’t Trade Brett Gardner

With the arrival of Carlos Beltran and Jacoby Ellsbury, Brett Gardner has apparently become expendable. With the amount of holes the New York Yankees have, it would seem logical for them to trade the scrappy outfielder, as he’s one of their most valuable assets and can help them find a replacement for Robinson Cano or much-needed pitching.

There have already been rumors of Gardner going elsewhere. New York recently rejected a trade offer from the Cincinnati Reds for 2B Brandon Phillips. Second base is obviously a huge need with Robinson Cano gone. But the 32 year-old Phillips is owed $50 million over the next four years, and his numbers are declining (96 OPS+ last two years, don’t let the RBIs fool you).

But is trading Gardner really the best option for the Yankees? Maybe not. There are actually quite a few reasons why they should hold onto him for next season.

1. He’s very productive and cheap.

Gardner he is a very undervalued player. In his last three healthy seasons, he’s been worth 15.6 WAR. He’s put up a slash line of .270/.358/.389/.747 with a 102 OPS+ since 2010. He’s stolen 148 bases since 2009, among the game’s leaders (if not the highest amount). He’s done all this by making no more than $3 million a year. He’s going into his final season of arbitration, possibly becoming a free agent next winter. With the Yankees trying to avoid going over the luxury tax, trading Gardner wouldn’t make much sense.

2. He is perfect as a third or fourth outfielder.

Currently the starting outfield for the New York Yankees in 2014 is Alfonso Soriano in left, Jacoby Ellsbury in center, and Carlos Beltran in right. Ellsbury has a long injury history with the Red Sox and may end up missing his fair share of games next year. Soriano and Beltran are both 37 and can’t play the outfield every single day, especially together. If the Yankees trade Gardner, they will need to find a reliable fourth outfielder (because Vernon Wells and Ichiro ain’t cutting it) to play a significant amount of playing time.

Gardner has a career 23.0 UZR/150, playing left and center very well enough to win two Fielding Bible Awards in 2010 and 2011. Keeping him as a full-time player will limit the amount of time Beltran and Soriano will be in the outfield together, allowing either to settle into a DH role and be fresh for most of the season. If Ellsbury gets hurt, you still have a centerfielder in Brett the Jet.

3. He will form a dynamic 1-2 punch with Ellsbury

General manager Brian Cashman admits that Ellsbury and Gardner are very similar players. As a matter of fact, they are, just Ellsbury is just better. It’s highly likely with Derek Jeter staying in the top of the order, Gardner will be moved down to #9 in the lineup. That’s ok, actually. Perfect table setting for the heart of the order would be for both to get on and wreck total havoc on the base-paths. It will be much easier for the Yankees to score runs this year compared to last.

Speed kills

Let’s not also forget having both Brett and Jacoby, both all-world centerfielders, in the outfield. How many balls are going to go into the gap for extra bases? Not many. Keep Gardner in left, as it’s much deeper than right at Yankee Stadium. That’s really going to help a questionable pitching staff.

4. He’s one of the youngest (and healthiest) players on the Yankees

The Yankees’ kryptonite, even still, is their age and health. It all went to Hell in 2013, with several regular players missing significant playing time as the Yankees missed the postseason for only the second time in 19 seasons. Everyone missed time except for Robinson Cano and Brett Gardner. Gardner in fact has been relatively healthy in his career minus a freak wrist injury in 2012. They’ll need him, with the injury risk coming with Ellsbury and Beltran. Just 30 years old, he’s still one of the youngest players left on a very old team.

NFL Picks: Week Fifteen

 

Last Week: 10-6

On the Season: 119-88-1

Thursday: Had @ Denver over San Diego. Lost

1:00PM Games:

@ Atlanta over Washington (ATL by 6, OVER)

Chicago over @ Cleveland (CHI by 1)

@ Indianapolis over Houston (IND by 5, OVER)

New England over @ Miami (MIA by 1)

Philadelphia over @ Minnesota (PHI by 7, UNDER)

@ NY Giants over Seattle (SEA by 7, UPSET)

@ Tampa Bay over San Francisco (SF by 5, UPSET)

@ Jacksonville over Buffalo (BUF by 3)

 

Later Games:

Kansas City over @ Oakland (KC by 5, UNDER)

@ Carolina over NY Jets (CAR by 10, UNDER)

@ Dallas over Green Bay (DAL by 7, OVER)

Arizona over @ Tennessee (ARI over 3, OVER)

New Orleans over @ St. Louis (NO by 7, OVER)

Cincinnati over @ Pittsburgh (CIN by 2)

@ Detroit over Baltimore (DET by 6, UNDER)

NFL Picks: Week Fourteen

Last Week: 10-6

On the Season: 109-82-1

Thursday: Had @ Jacksonville over Houston, won

1:00PM Games

Indianapolis over @ Cincinnati (CIN by 7, UPSET)

@ Green Bay over Atlanta (GB by 4, UNDER)

@ New England over Cleveland (NE by 10, OVER)

@ NY Jets over Oakland (NYJ by 3, OVER)

Detroit over @ Philadelphia (PHI by 3)

@ Pittsburgh over Miami (PIT by 4, OVER)

@ Tampa Bay over Buffalo (TB by 3, OVER)

@ Washington over Kansas City (KC by 3, UPSET)

@ Baltimore over Minnesota (BAL by 6, OVER)

Later Games:

@ Denver over Tennessee (DEN by 11, OVER)

@ Arizona over St. Louis (ARI by 6, UNDER)

@ San Diego over NY Giants (SD by 4, OVER)

Seattle over @ San Francisco (SF by 3)

@ New Orleans over Carolina (NO by 4, UNDER)

Dallas over @ Chicago (DAL by 1, OVER)

Cano Will Miss New York, But Are the Yankees Better Off Without Him?

He’s smiling now, but wait until he plays a game in Seattle

It was a hectic Friday for the New York Yankees. They took some big losses to their offense and franchise. First, their best player departed the team after nine seasons in the Bronx. Their first homegrown superstar to leave in the prime of his career. Robinson Cano signed a 10 year contract with the Seattle Mariners worth $240 million, one of the four most lucrative deals in sports history. Curtis Granderson went across town to join the Mets for four years.

There’s no doubt the Yankees will miss Cano and Granderson, as they hit a combined 232 home runs from 2010-2013. However, they may miss the Yankees even more; in the long run, the Yankees may be better off without them. Cano moves from Yankee Stadium, one of the best hitting parks in baseball, to Safeco Field, one of the worst hitting parks in baseball. That alone will cut his power numbers by a serious margin.

Cano also moves from the greatest franchise in sports to one of the worst franchises in baseball. The Mariners have just 11 winning seasons in almost 40 years of existence, making the playoffs just four times. They only attracted 1.76 million fans this past season, 11th in the AL. Do Cano and Jay Z think he’s going to breathe new life into that franchise? He’s no Ken Griffey, Jr.

Let’s also not forget the talent in Seattle’s lineup is of minor league quality, so he will not be able to get good pitches to hit with a lack of protection. I mean, his second best teammate is Kyle Seager, a career .260 hitter. Thus, his numbers will start to decline as soon as next year, and it’s unlikely the Mariners will be competitive in the same division as Texas and Oakland. Cano’s move to Seattle from New York will be one he will regret, even if he got paid.

So how did the Yankees respond to two big losses for their lineup? Simple: Spend mo money. They brought back ace Hiroki Kuroda for one more season, a much needed piece to fill a huge void in the rotation. Then, they struck again on Friday night, bringing Carlos Beltran to the Bronx at long last; for three years and $45 million. They also have finalized the deals for Jacoby Ellsbury and Brian McCann this past week; both are serious upgrades to positions where the Yankees had huge holes at.

Carlos Beltran finally joins Derek Jeter in the Bronx

So, to recap: The Yankees have so far spent about $300 million between McCann, Ellsbury, Kuroda, and Beltran. Cano and Granderson alone got the same amount of money. The Evil Empire still has some more holes to fill, (in the rotation, the bullpen, and the infield), but they have more than enough financial muscle to do so.

Their payroll is currently around $150 million, so they still have about $30-35 million to spend if they are committed to keeping the payroll around $189 million to avoid the luxury tax. They may risk going over the limit for trying to further upgrade the roster, but they may have even more flexibility if Alex Rodriguez gets suspended for the entire 2014 season. That’ll free up over $25 million.

Next move for the Yankees may be on the trade market. With the arrival of Ellsbury and Beltran, Brett Gardner becomes expendable, and he’s a valuable asset, being worth 16 wins in his last three full seasons and providing Gold Glove caliber defense. He can be packaged along with expendable prospects, and there’s already talk of the Reds willing to take him for either Homer Bailey or Brandon Phillips. They should also look into Chase Headley from the Padres if A-Rod gets banned.

The Yankees are not done. 2008 ALCS MVP Matt Garza could be next on their shopping list.

Then there’s the rotation. Currently, three spots are filled with CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova, and Hiroki Kuroda. It seems one of the open spots will be a Spring Training competition, so the Yankees could afford to fill the last one via free agency or trade. The top free agent pitcher is Matt Garza, an AL East veteran who is looking for a deal for about five years. There’s also Masahiro Tanaka, the latest Japanese sensation, but he may not be available at all this winter as his team is frustrated by big changes to the posting system. Either one would be a terrific no. 2 or no. 3 pitcher in the rotation, but with plenty of risk attached.

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This is likely going to be their Opening Day lineup, with different scenarios considered:

CF Jacoby Ellsbury (L)

DH Derek Jeter (R)

RF Carlos Beltran (S)

1B Mark Teixeira (S)

C Brian McCann (L)

LF Alfonso Soriano (R)

3B/3B/2B Alex Rodriguez/Chase Headley/Brandon Phillips (R/S/R)

2B Kelly Johnson (L)

SS Brendan Ryan (R)

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Potential rotation:

LHP CC Sabathia

RHP Hiroki Kuroda

RHP Matt Garza/Masahiro Tanaka

RHP Ivan Nova

RHP/RHP/LHP Michael Pineda/David Phelps/Vidal Nuno

IF everybody stays healthy, any scenario is a really damn good lineup, one that is also very well rounded. Could be one of the best lineups in the game. That rotation looks pretty solid too, especially if Sabathia returns to form. A lot will still have to go right for the Yankees next season for them to win, given all the inconsistencies and injuries to several regulars this past season. But hey, it happened to the Red Sox this year, so “why not us?” They’re sitting more pretty even now than Seattle-bound Robinson Cano.