Maccabees Games

A look at the New York sports scene and the sporting world at large.

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Smart vs. Stupid

In watching the transformation of Chad Pennington into a dependable, winning QB and the lack of development of Eli Manning into the same, one can notice the difference between a smart QB and a stupid one.

Of course it is always difficult to make comparisons when one is dealing with different experience levels, personnel and coaching. However, watching this season and week 17 of the NFL, has shown me that Eli does not deserve a passing grade while Chad should be on the honor roll.

Throughout the season Eli has shown bad footwork, a tendency to dangerously throw the ball where it should not be thrown and a failure to read a defense properly.

When he does succeed much it of comes from the skills of his receivers and running back.

Does anyone actually believe that the balls that are thrown to Plaxico Burress are thrown well? Does anyone really believe that without Tiki Barber’s moves or reads, Manning’s dump off passes would really go anywhere?

Moreover why did replacement offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbrade have only 9 plays for Manning? Why did the offense have to be simplified for him? He’s not a rookie anymore. He’s not playing his first game.

On the other hand Pennington, with the overall magnificent play calling of Brian Schottenheimer, seems to have no problem reading defenses on the fly, executing on a high level and changing plays midstream.

Pennington though older and with a surgically repaired shoulder somehow is able to throw the ball on target and in the right position so that the receiver can continue running in stride and pick up extra yardage to move the chain along.

What’s more, in Sunday’s game against the Raiders, Pennington was magnificent in his adroit handling of the ball. Pennington has always been a master of the fake handoff, but in Sunday’s game he masterfully hid the ball time and time again.

Make no mistake, it is not just Mangini and his staff who have football genius; Pennington also has a brilliant football mind.

When will Manning with all his lineage ever get there?

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Zito Blunder

At first glance the signing of Barry Zito by the Giants seems to be for the best for the Mets, Giants and Zito.

After experiences with Zambrano, Martinez, Glavine and Sanchez, the Mets should be reluctant to shell out a ton of money on any pitcher who may or may not develop arm trouble somewhere along the way. $18 million a year for 7 years is a hefty chunk of change even if Zito is only 28 years of age.

Moreover Zito is not necessarily a number one starter and should not command such a high price, much less the largest contract ever for a pitcher -- $126 million.

The Giants on the other hand have a very bad team and they lost their “number one” starter (I use that loosely) in Jason Schmidt. They obviously used whatever cash they would have had to pay Schmidt and preferred to give it to Zito. Schmidt will be 34 in January and in 2008 will be the same age as Zito will be when his new contract expires.

Zito should be happy that he is becoming the richest pitcher in baseball. All he had to do was to cross town, go over one of the Bay bridges and work in a more chic neighborhood.

However, I believe all parties will rue the day this deal was made.

After Bonds completes his steroid tainted undeserved home run record this year, no one will bother to come to see the Giants play. Their income level will not meet their expenditures and they will eventually lose money every single year.

Zito will not be particularly happy pitching for a team which will find itself regularly floundering in the bottom of the division.

And if the statistic I heard today by John Hayman on ESPN radio is true Met fans will be sick to their stomach regarding the failed attempt to sign Zito.

When the A’s scored 4 or more runs for Zito, he was 85-4; when they scored only 3 runs for him, he was 93-11.

Zito’s ERA last year was 3.83. In the National League without the DH and the overall weak hitting it may go down to 2.83. His ERA has never been higher than 4.48.

Mind you those ERA numbers are for 9 innings. Since most pitchers work no more than 6 innings, his true ‘run average’ per start would be no more than 3 and could be as little as 2 and change.

He may not be a number one starter, but with the Mets lineup he could have easily been a 20 game winner.

If they could overpay Glavine and El Duque, they could overpay Zito as well.

Chalk up one more mistake for Minaya.

Bad News Knicks

Though the depleted Knicks in winning 4 of 5, with single, double and triple overtime victories have put on an exciting show for their fans, they remain an undisciplined, badly coached mediocre bunch.

Not one player on the squad can be considered a complete player.

Eddie Curry, despite his prolific scoring of late (I had to use a Clyde Frazierism), is afraid of the ball, plays no defense and rarely gets an offensive rebound.

Jamal Crawford may be the most extreme hot-cold shooter ever. He makes Knick fans cry longingly for John Starks. If one compared Crawford to Starks, Starks’ shooting looks more like that of Jerry West; while Crawford’s looks more like Starks’ Game 7 performance in the 1994 Finals versus Houston.

Stephon Marbury, though scoring of late still has trouble playing defense, passing the ball and just doing his job which is to be a point guard.

Channing Frye is a soft player, a poor man’s Charles Smith; though I am sure Frye will never get the same chances to miss as Smith did against Michael Jordan and the Bulls on June 2nd 1993. The Knicks never got rich with Smith either.

Jared Jeffries is a nice bench player. Because of his brawling and lack of talent, Thomas sees fit to start him over David Lee.

David Lee is a great sixth man, if the Knicks truly had a third, fourth or fifth man; but that’s because he’s a workaholic. Once other teams take notice of how much he hustles, they’ll box him out so he can’t get 20 rebounds a game.

The other players are not really worth mentioning; though now we have ample evidence that Larry Brown was correct in describing Nate Robinson as a circus act. Moreover, the day Renaldo Balkman develops any shooting skills from more than 3 feet away is the day he will be able to throw Robinson through the basket.

It would be great if the Knicks could continue their winning ways in the exciting fashion that they have recently but unfortunately 2006 is coming to an end.

2007 will bring back the Knicks from hell.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Jolly Jets

If Chad Pennington is a mediocre quarterback, he must be the best mediocre quarterback in NFL history. With no running game to speak of except for Leon Washington, who’s yardage was mostly attained via receptions, Pennington, as he has most of this season, continued to execute well and make 3rd down yardage once it stopped raining and the ball was, one would assume, sufficiently dry.

Though the Jets had some bad luck with the turnover by Graham and the accidental fumble in the 4th quarter which let to the Miami tying field goal, they had good fortune when Coach Nick Saban put in Cleo Lemon.

To put a third string quarterback against a complex defense such as the Jets’ is asking for trouble. At least one of his passes could have been intercepted by 3 Jets and his agility could not stop Bryan Thomas from throwing him for a loss of 6 yards in the fourth quarter.

Eric Mangini has done wonders with this squad. Unlike Tom Coughlin and his staff and players on the NY Giants, Mangini, with his coaches and players have produced a team which rarely takes stupid penalties, plays an overall smart game, has a good demeanor and is a pleasure to watch no matter who has the ball.

This is true even if there’s no scoring as there was none in the first half or a low scoring affair overall. That’s because whether we’re watching the offense or defense, one can visualize a good game plan being attempted most of the time. Though the execution is far from perfect especially with the running game, the offensive line specifically with D’Brickashaw Ferguson and the Jets secondary other than with Kerry Rhodes, the players all try to give a full team effort.

Kudos to the Jets for bringing some excitement to the New York sports scene this fall and congratulations to all long suffering Jet fans for a quality season already way beyond expectations by most sports fans.

Enjoy the game next week against Oakland, Joe. You deserve it.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Baseball All-Pomposity All-Stars

They say nice guys finish last but do mean guys finish first? For your perusal here is just one man’s opinion of a collection of highly talented egocentric baseball players.
Though the lineup and team as a whole are well stocked with malcontents, I am sure many more could be added and others can be deleted.

The lineup and bench order are picked partially for talent and partially for having a mean-spirited disposition.

OF1 Barry Bonds
OF2 Ty Cobb
OF3 Babe Ruth
1B Dave Winfield
2B Rogers Hornsby
SS Honus Wagner
3B Alex Rodriguez
C Thurman Munson
DH Reggie Jackson
SP1 Bob Gibson
SP2 Roger Clemens
SP3 Randy Johnson
SP4 David Wells
SP5 Kenny Rogers
SP6 Kevin Brown
R1 Al Hrabosky
R2 Goose Gossage
R3 Rollie Fingers
R4 Sparky Lyle

1B2 Jack Clark
1B3 Jose Conseco
2B2 Pete Rose
2B3 Jeff Kent
3B2 Wade Boggs
3B3 Graig Nettles
OF4 Rickey Henderson
OF5 Ken Griffey Jr
OF6 Albert Belle
OF7 Juan Gonzalez
OF8 Carl Everett
OF9 George Foster
OF10 Dave Kingman
C2 Johnny Bench
C3 Ivan Rodriguez

Giants Folly

The New York Giants have been a disgrace to the New York sports scene in 2006.

After today’s debacle against the Saints it should be clear that this team is in need of a major overhaul.

We begin at the top:

Though the Mara ownership has consistently been behind Tom Coughlin the past few years, it seems that in their interviews to replace departing Ernie Accorsi, potential GM candidates have been demanding free reign to have their own coach installed next year.

If this is refused then the Giants would be better served by having the Mara ownership sell the team.

Of course, Tom Coughlin and his staff should be let go at the end of the season. The lack of discipline by the players during game performances, proper play calling by the coaching staff, development of Eli Manning and the lack of emotional integrity on and off the field is enough to make any Giants fan puke.

It seems that Eli Manning will never be more than an average quarterback at best, though proper coaching by a different crew may change that.

Players who can’t buy into the program and who are constant complainers or malcontents may have to go. Specifically on the agenda are Shockey, Burress and Strahan.

Of course, the Giants will need a replacement for the departing Tiki Barber. Jacobs is not the man. He may not even be a quality third down back.

Even if the Giants win next week and somehow make the playoffs, none of these observations will be altered.

One thing we can almost surely count on. If they do make the playoffs, their brief appearance in this year’s post season will make last year’s meeting against Carolina look like a pleasant memory.

Maccabees Games

This blog is dedicated mainly to the New York sports scene though it will look as well at other sports issues and the sporting scene at large.