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Thursday, November 30, 2017

Giants have become a disgrace

In recent years, the New York Giants were considered a franchise that operated with class and dignity.

The Giants enjoyed a lot of success, winning four Super Bowl championships over the last 30 years. They won two in Bill Parcells' regime and two more under the guidance of Tom Coughlin. It was a lot for fans to sing the Giants' fight song, "Proud to Be a New York Giant."

But no more. That class and dignity has disappeared this year. It started when prima donna receiver Odell Beckham, Jr. made like a dog and acted like he was peeing on the turf in Philadelphia. It continued when almost the entire secondary was either suspended or reprimanded for bad behavior.

Some of those secondary members, like the well-paid Janoris Jenkins, and the misguided former first round pick Eli Apple, appeared to stop playing in a loss to the San Francisco 49ers, a team that was winless before Big Blue came calling. Both Jenkins and Apple looked like they didn't want to make tackles during that loss. On one play, Apple was out of bounds when 49er quarterback C.J. Beathard ran by for a touchdown. He was standing out of bounds. I had never seen that in a football play on any level, even Pop Warner.

Apple was apparently called out for that play and others, like running away from Robert Woods on a touchdown the Los Angeles Rams receiver scored on a play where it was third-and-33. Apple's poor play was pointed out in a film session and he was so angered by it that he considered walking out. But he thought better and returned, but he has not played in a game since.

All of the aforementioned things are bad enough, but the way that beleaguered head coach Ben McAdoo treated his future Hall of Fame quarterback Eli Manning this week took the cake and placed the entire franchise in a state of disgrace.

I just happened to be covering Giants' practice for Associated Press a few weeks ago, when McAdoo first hinted the idea that he might sit Manning, even though Manning hadn't missed a start in his entire career, dating back to 2004.

When reporters asked Eli about McAdoo floated the idea of sitting Manning down, Eli, like he has done many times in his career, handled the questions like a true professional.

"I'm happy to be out there," Manning said. "I'm able to play through injuries. It's important for me to be out there for my team. I want to play. I play quarterback. I play football. I understand I have a job to do. It's no fun losing games. We're going through a tough time, but we have eight more games and an opportunity to fix it."

Even after the loss to the Washington Redskins on Thanksgiving night, I took part in a conference call that featured Manning.

"It's definitely been a frustrating year," Manning said. "It's not the style of football I'm used to playing. It is frustrating and it is tough. We have to find ways why we're not able to do things. I've missed some throws. Everyone is contributing to our lack of success. I have to make plays. It's been a tough year, but we have five games left and now it's all about pride."

You know, proud to be a New York Giant.

McAdoo was on the same conference call last Friday.

"We're disappointed in the way our offense looked," McAdoo said. "We had a lot of unforced errors. We're going to take a look at it and see what adjustments we can make."

But there was no talk of any quarterback change.

However, three days later, McAdoo announces that the Giants were sending Manning to the bench in favor of Geno Smith, stating that "Geno gives us the best chance to win right now."

And this was done on Tuesday, which is always scheduled as Manning's day to speak to the media. Coincidence? I don't think so.

So then Manning was left to twist in the wind and deal with the issue of the benching head on. Which, by the way, Eli did and did magnificently, like he always has over the last 14 years.

My problem with the whole thing is this: First of all, if McAdoo really wanted to bench Manning, like he hinted at doing three weeks ago, then why didn't he do it then? Why wait until now?

I'd understand it even more if McAdoo said, "We have five games left and we want to see what Davis Webb can do." But no, he chooses to say that Geno Smith _ yes, that same Geno Smith who was a total flame out with the Jets _ gives the Giants a better chance to win than the two-time Super Bowl MVP. Now, how insane is that?

We all know what Geno Smith is capable of. I covered a game a few years ago against the Buffalo Bills that Smith threw three interceptions among his first four passes. He threw the ball to the other team three times in his first four passes. Right there and then, we all knew that Geno Smith was not a good quarterback. But now, McAdoo believes that Geno gives the Giants a better chance to win than the guy who brought two silver trophies to the East Rutherford facility. There's no logic in that whatsoever.

Here's the deal. If McAdoo wanted to make the change, there were better ways of doing it than letting the future Hall of Famer twist in front of his locker Tuesday. I still believe that it was calculated to happen on Eli's talk day with the media. It would have made more sense on the conference call. Did McAdoo just decide on Tuesday that he was going to make the change? Not if he hinted about it three weeks prior.

There's no way that Eli Manning is the source of the problem with the 2-9 Giants. He didn't put that ridiculous offensive line in front of him. That falls in GM Jerry Reese's lap. He's the one who knew last year that Ereck Flowers couldn't block and John Jerry couldn't move laterally, but he thought that if they worked out all during the off-season, they would magically get better. Or that Justin Pugh could play every single position on the line.

Eli Manning wasn't the cause of the injuries to receivers Brandon Marshall and Beckham. Manning wasn't the reason why the rushing attack simply isn't there. Manning didn't instruct the secondary to act like complete lazy jackasses and refuse to tackle people with the ball.

But on Tuesday, McAdoo chose to single out Manning as the reason why the team smells like bad fish.

Manning was the one who went out there and took every single snap, despite being so grossly undermanned. But now, he's the reason.

So now Giants fans are left with Geno Smith? Are you kidding me? That's like going out on a date with Charlize Theron and coming home with Phyllis Diller.

I'm also stunned and shocked that John Mara told sportswriters Wednesday that he was on board with the decision. Here's Mara's quote:

"I had had a conversation with Jerry (Reese) a week or two ago about – and I normally don’t speak to the coach directly about which players are playing and which players are not playing. I’ll have the conversation with Jerry. I mentioned to him a week or two ago – ‘don’t you think it’s time that we start to get a look at these other quarterbacks at some point during the games’ and he agreed. Said he had already had a conversation with Ben (McAdoo) about that. Jerry called me on Monday afternoon, I was at a family function in Virginia, to tell me that Ben was going to be speaking to Eli to let him know that he was going to continue to start the game. He’s going to start the game on Sunday, but that at some point Geno (Smith) would come into the game. Tuesday morning, Jerry called me and said that Eli had informed Ben that ‘if you’re going to play Geno in the second half, you may as well just start him. It’s not fair to him. It’s not fair to me and I think that would be the best decision going forward.’ And, he also wanted us to put out a statement announcing that. So, that’s what we did."


So after all that Manning has done for the Giants, the franchise throws him under the bus. Just like that. Thanks for the memories, but you're done here.

If the Giants were classy, like they once were, they would have released Manning and let him go elsewhere to play right now. You can be rest assured that Coughlin (who was first told to retire by the Giants, but in reality was fired) would take him in Jacksonville in a heartbeat.

But the Giants, the ones who let Beckham pee and let Jenkins and Apple whiff on tackles, decided to let their two-time Super Bowl MVP to twist and then handle his benching.

This is now a disgraceful franchise, top to bottom. I never would have thought that of Mara, who is a disciple of his father, Wellington, one of the most respected men in the history of the NFL.

As for the coach, he's a complete clown. The general manager has to go, because he constructed this mess. They decided to get rid of Coughlin for some reason and now the team that Coughlin oversees is in first place and the Giants are dead last.

I don't know where the Giants go from here. I was at the game in 1978 when a plane flew over Giants Stadium that said, "Fifteen years of lousy football, we've had enough."

Well, the Giants have reverted back to those days in one single year. They are a laughingstock. And it's only going to get worse Sunday in Oakland, with Geno Smith calling the signals. What a joke!


On Thanksgiving morning, I attended the final high school football game between Madison and Millburn, ending a tradition that lasted 86 years.

I covered 13 of those Turkey Day contests for the Daily Record of Morristown. I first covered the games when the legendary Ted Monica was on the sidelines for the Dodgers and I was overjoyed to see him there with the countless other former Dodger and Miller players that were on the field at halftime. I cherish the times I spent talking football with Monica when I was just starting out in the business and he remembers many of those chats to this day.

I also experienced current coach Chris Kubik's genius over the years, winning five state championships and posting three undefeated campaigns. He's one of the finest football coaches in the state and a credit to the Madison athletic department.

I spoke with my friend, current Madison athletic director Sean Dowling about the demise of the long-standing rivalry.

"The North Jersey Super Football Conference has encouraged us to discontinue the game to give us more flexibility and create more competitive crossover games. We're also looking to pass a new playoff structure. To wait around for 2 1/2 to 3 weeks to play this game is not good. Madison and Millburn really don't have a rivalry in other sports anymore. It's time to end this and move on. It was a great rivalry, but we understand that it's time."

It makes sense, but it still stinks that a long-standing tradition that stood the test of time for 86 years is gone. It was the last Thanksgiving Day game in Morris County and now it's over.

There was something special about seeing football on Thanksgiving morning, then going home to have dinner with the family. I remember the old St. Peter's Prep-Dickinson Turkey Day games at Roosevelt Stadium in Jersey City, memories I shared with my late father.

So Madison-Millburn ended with Madison winning 14-7.

I understand the move, but it doesn't mean that I'm applauding it. I wish there was a way to keep the tradition. That's all.


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Friday, November 3, 2017

Protesting officials had to go; Verona's treatment of grid coach Racioppe unacceptable

High school sports and political beliefs should never be intermixed. They have to be separate. There’s no room for one with the other.

But that’s what took place recently at the Monroe-Colts Neck football game, when a few members of the Monroe team, taking the lead of their National Football League gridiron brethren, decided to take a knee during the National Anthem, forcing two officials slated to work the game to walk off in protest.

Ernie Lunardelli and his son, Anthony, decided that they didn’t want to work the game after the Monroe team protested, so they walked off soon after and decided they were not going to work the game.

Ernie Lunardelli was reached by NJ Advance Media after the incident and gave his reasons for doing what he did.

“I’m not in favor of anyone disrespecting our country, our flag, the armed forces,” Ernie Lunardelli told NJ Advance Media. “What they’re protesting has nothing to do with the national anthem and I’m against it, so I decided to protest for them kneeling and that’s what I did.”

Lunardelli continued with his words and reasons for his protest.

“Whoever is disrespecting that flag and the national anthem, that’s who I have a problem with,” Lunardelli said. “That’s my protest. I don’t care if it’s a baby, if it’s an 80-year-old man, anybody. I don’t care. Any race, color, I don’t care who it is. It’s not the way I was brought up and it pisses me off that people are doing that.”

But the sickening part took place even before the game. Apparently, the elder Lunardelli was yelling at the Monroe players before the game and had to be physically restrained from going after the players by other officials.

And get this: The elder Lunardelli apparently informed officials from the Greater Middlesex Conference that he was indeed going to walk away from officiating if such a protest took place. He gave the GMC officials warning of his protest _ and lived up to it.

And it gets better: Both Lunardellis posted comments on social media that were derogatory toward race and religion.

Well, I personally don’t care what our beloved father and son do on their own free time. They can protest the NFL actions or high school actions all they want away from the high school gridiron. But once they put on that black and white striped shirt, they have a job to do as an official. How can players and coaches actually take them seriously if they act in such an antagonizing fashion before kickoff?

There’s no room for such behavior in high school sports. Adults have to set the tone for the adolescents. Even when the teenagers are making a political statement of their own, there’s no room for the so-called adults to react to it, especially when they are there to do a job as football officials.

And then, to make matters worse, this father-and-son combo is bragging about their exploits before the incident takes place? And they’re dishing racial and religious epitaphs on social media to boot?

The NJSIAA did the right thing by informing these clowns that they have relinquished their rights to serve as football officials for the rest of their lives. Good riddance.

Mind you, I’m not fond of the NFL players disrespecting the flag and our servicemen by kneeling and sitting for the National Anthem. If you can’t stand for two minutes and 10 seconds, then you don’t deserve the right to play a little boys’ game for a whole lot of spending cash. If the NFL players want to make a statement, do so on your own time at the venue of your choice, not one where people are spending hundreds of dollars to see you play a little boys’ game.

That being said, I find it ludicrous for high school kids to be kneeling and sitting. What kind of lesson are they being taught by kneeling?

But it’s far worse for paid officials (who get paid pretty well to referee games) to walk off and not do their jobs simply because they disagree with the stance the football players were making.
Shame on the powers-that-be in the Verona Board of Education for electing to oust long-time head football coach Lou Racioppe last week.

The Verona BOE decided that Racioppe, the head coach at Verona for the last 20 years, was worthy of losing his job in the middle of a season for apparently raising his voice and barking expletives at some of his players.

How ridiculous is that? Football coaches have been yelling at kids and using profane language since the turn of the century. Amos Alonzo Stagg probably berated his players. Knute Rockne more than likely cursed once or twice.

But Verona decided to can a good man and an even better football coach like Racioppe in the middle of the season. They couldn’t wait until the season was over? They had to disgrace him and humiliate him now? 

What about all the good Racioppe did during his career, like winning four state sectional championships and producing superstar players like Anthony Fasano and Carlo Calabrese? Does all that simply get forgotten?

Apparently so, because if the Verona BOE did some revisionist history and realized that Racioppe did more good for Verona than could possibly be ever bad, then they would realize they made a colossal mistake.

If a move like this was made during the offseason, it still wouldn’t make much sense, but it would make more sense than showing the man the unceremonious door In the middle of the season.

The Verona BOE has not publicly stated the reasons for Racioppe’s dismissal, but it was rumored that some parents and members of the BOE was not happy with his behavior toward his players.

The school board conducted an investigation into Racioppe’s behavior three weeks ago and determined after interviewing players, coaches and parents that Racioppe was to be placed on administrative leave.

Then the BOE determined last week that Racioppe should be terminated immediately.

Now, if Racioppe did something criminal, like lay his hands on a player, then he deserved to be fired. But for yelling at kids and cursing?

"If this is the case for his termination, then every coach in the state of New Jersey and around the country shouldn't be able to coach," one parent said. “He did nothing immoral, it's just really a shame and a shame on the administration for doing this."

Bingo. Shame on the administration.  

Once again, a Board of Education gets angered by some harsh words from a disgruntled parent _ usually a parent whose kid is lacking in playing time _ and then runs with the accusations like they’re fact. It happens way too many times in high school sports. Frankly, I don’t know why any college kid would aspire to be a coach in New Jersey because there are far too many instances such as this.

Prayers go out to retired New Providence football coach Frank Bottone, who fell ill earlier this week. 

Bottone is one of the rare members of the 300-win club in New Jersey, but more importantly, Bottone is one of the pure gentlemen in the sport. He is always an absolute joy to run into at different events and was a pleasure to cover during my early days at the Daily Record and then later the Elizabeth Daily Journal and Star-Ledger. 

I adore Frank Bottone and I urge you to hit the knees and ask God to love him as much as the entire football community certainly does.
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Saturday, October 21, 2017

Horrific final score of Irvington-Belleville football game

In all my years of covering high school athletics, now in my 35th year of seeing some amazing and incredible things in my beloved state of New Jersey, the results of one game today sickened and disgusted me more than any other in my career.

Irvington defeated Belleville today in a football game by a final score of 84-0.

That’s no misprint. That indeed was the final tally.

And get this! The wonderful people from the Irvington athletic department tweeted out that score like it was something to be proud of. Thanks to AD Dr. John Taylor for tweeting that out. Rah, rah, sis boom bah.

What do you get for running up the score like that? Bonus points? Parting gifts from Monty Hall? A win is a win unless it’s a demoralizing one like this one.

Someone responded to my rants today to say “Isn’t there a mercy rule in New Jersey? Is there a running clock?”

Well, there sure is. But it only kicks in after halftime, when a team is up by 35 or more points. There’s nothing in place for BEFORE halftime. In this case, Irvington led, 70-0, at the break. And yes, for good measure, head coach Ashley Pierre (E-mail instructed his team to score two more times after the marching band was done playing.

Now, let’s face facts. There is no way that something like this should happen. There is such a thing called good sportsmanship. When the score became say 40-0 in the first half, Coach (using that term very loosely) Pierre could have called off the dogs and put in the second string. Even the third string. The junior varsity. 

Hell, the freshmen could have received a few snaps.

But when the score reached 40 before halftime, that obviously wasn’t enough. No, Pierre needed 30 more points before the break. That’s sickening.

And then, they needed to score two more touchdowns AFTER halftime. That’s even more sickening.

The thing that bothers me the most about this isn’t so much the idiocy of everyone involved with the Irvington football team. It’s the fact that they totally ignored that there was another team there today. There was no regard to Belleville coach Mario Cuniglio and his band of Buccaneers. This is a team that has been struggling, but has been trying hard all year to get ready for this football season. They put their time and effort into getting ready for a year that they were all hopeful to be more competitive.

And then this happens, demoralizing a program, a coaching staff and more importantly, a bunch of teenage boys, sending them all perhaps to the brink of despair.

In my opinion, this coach and athletic director BOTH no longer have a right to participate in high school sports. Sure, you never want to play with one’s livelihood, but there has to be some repercussions for what transpired today. And apparently, with the way the score was tweeted out like one publicizes say the birth of a child, then there was no thought at all to what took place.

Obviously, they think like they did nothing wrong.

But this was a wrong like no other in the true spirit of competition in high school sports.

I don’t know how Cuniglio restrained himself after the game from laying one to Pierre’s kisser. I give him credit for doing so. But a lot of other coaches might not have had such restraint. At least Cuniglio knows a thing about sportsmanship. The opposition? Not so much.

So if you’re a reader of this blog regularly, I implore you to take the time and write, call, email even carrier pigeon your disgust to the powers-that-be in Irvington. The principal, the superintendent, everyone should not be omitted from the ire and anger.

I’ve already called the powers-that-be to offer my utter disgust. The crusade will continue Monday morning.

I don’t know if my friends at the NJSIAA will want to discuss this matter, but they should address it. It can’t be ignored. A simple slap on the wrist just won’t do.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Face it, New York football is dreadful

It's safe to say that Stevie Wonder could see that both the Jets and Giants are pitiful, dreadful, awful (I could become Leonard Pinth Garnell here in a hurry), just plain bad football teams.

Both local teams are 0-2 and a woeful 0-2 at that.

The Jets proved their woeful status on Sunday against the Oakland Raiders, a game that had Marshawn Lynch dancing on the sidelines in a wickedly talented display.

The Giants joined the putrid status with an embarrassing loss on Monday night to the Detroit Lions, the second straight week that Big Blue proved to be Big Pew.

Before the season, we all knew that the Jets would stink. There were some prognosticators who predicted that the Giants would challenge the Lions' 0-16 march of a few years ago, that the J-E-T-S Jets Jets Jets were headed for a season like they had when Rich Kotite (remember him?) guided Gang Green to a 1-15 mark with Boomer Esiason calling the signals.

So the fact that the Jets are off to such an auspicious start isn't exactly shocking.

However, it sounds as if head coach Todd Bowles is already on nap watch. In his press conferences, Bowles sounds like he's been medicated. He has no emotion. He is monotone. One answer after another, Bowles almost hypnotizes you. If you listen to him speak, make sure to bring the My Pillow and your soft blanket, because you're almost guaranteed to take a siesta.

I don't think I've ever heard a coach speak with less emotion than Bowles.

As for the team, there isn't much to like, except that the players seem to care and seem to be busting their tails. There isn't much talent and clearly Josh McCown is definitely not the answer. It's safe to say that no one in the Jets organization has any use for either Christian Hackenberg or Bryce Petty, because neither seems to be even on the radar at this point.

But we knew all of this before the season began. There was no hope for anything (except for USC's Sam Darnold in the 2018 NFL Draft) in Florham Park.

However, that wasn't the case with the Giants.

In preseason, there was a buzz that the Giants were the elite team in the NFC East, a team that could have legitimate Super Bowl contention written all over them.

Now, two weeks into the season and two stinkers in a row, does anyone still have those glories of grandeur?

There's no way.

Where do we begin?

There's no rushing attack at all. Paul Perkins was thought to be the answer, the next Eric Dickerson. He had 10 yards on seven carries last night and had all of 15 yards against Dallas. Dickerson used to gain 25 yards on his first two carries of a game. Perkins looks as lost as Kim Kardashian's virginity.

Is it me or does it look as if Eli Manning has aged faster than his older brother? Eli looked almost feeble last night and couldn't avoid the Lions' ferocious rush at all.

The wide receivers were supposed to be the best trio in football. But Brandon Marshall dropped two HUGE passes, one that would have been about a 40-yard gain. Sterling Shepard was practically invisible except for one reverse rushing attempt. And the big hype was that Odell Beckham, Jr. would return from his celebrated ankle injury (has there ever been a more overblown sprained ankle than OBJ's was last week?) and save the day and he had a ho-hum four catches. As Derrick Coleman once uttered, "Whoop-dee-damn-do."

At least the defense is very solid. No worries there at all. Even their leading tackler from Week One, B.J. Goodson, goes down with a leg injury and his replacement, undrafted rookie free agent Calvin Munson, looked very good in Goodson's middle linebacker slot. There were times that Jason Pierre-Paul almost over pursued along the line, but that comes from being quick and aggressive and no one will complain about that.

So let's address the huge issue at hand, something that the administration didn't address at all during the off-season. The Giants' offensive line is the humongous albatross hanging around Jerry Reese's neck right now.

I don't think I can remember seeing a line play so poorly for two straight weeks like this conglomeration of nitwits. I think it's safe to say now that Ereck Flowers is a bust. He's a gigantic man who cannot play left tackle to save his life. His footwork is like Herman Munster's. He doesn't get off the ball at all. He stands and watches defensive ends and outside linebackers slide around him and it looks as if Flowers has no clue.

John Jerry is the same. He is about as bad of a guard that has ever played in the NFL. He also doesn't get off the ball at all and is seen just standing there watching his teammates (especially the aging quarterback) to get drilled play after play. Jerry was supposed to be a great run blocker. See Perkins' stats to determine whether Jerry is any good. He was a failure with the Dolphins and he's a failure here.

The biggest concern the team had LAST year was the offensive line and Reese and his crew did nothing to address that issue, just thinking that they could sprinkle some Anthony Munoz magic dust on them and they would become even decent blockers. Right now, the Giants' offensive line couldn't block Justin Bieber.

How could Reese go into the off-season and not even try to improve the Giants' offensive line? They failed to score 20 points in their last six games last year and that streak is now eight after the first two stink bombs. Does Reese not see what the rest of the world does? These guys, the way they are constructed now, cannot block. It's as simple as that.

Two weeks into the season, there are no magic potions to make them any better. And you're not going to find any Orlando Paces on the NFL waiver wire. They have to dance with the mess Reese created _ or failed to create.

The first move has to be to get Flowers out of the crucial left tackle slot. Either bench him or put him at right tackle and move Justin Pugh (a natural guard) to left tackle. There's no choice. Flowers cannot play left tackle any longer. He's a disgrace. Flowers doesn't play football. He clods his way through a game.

And after they make that switch, maybe they can see if either of their other two rookie tackles, Chad Wheeler or Adam Bisnowaty, can slide in and play right tackle. Let's face facts. They cannot be any worse than what Flowers and Jerry showed last night.

Let's now address the general manager. Reese did a great job taking over for football guru Ernie Acorsi when he became the GM and promptly led Big Blue to a Super Bowl victory. But since then, his moves have to be considered questionable.

Other than drafting Beckham (a complete no brainer) and trading up to get Landon Collins in the second round two years ago, what has Reese done? Well, there's one glaring thing Reese didn't do. He didn't improve that offensive line one iota. Reese has to be held accountable.

And then there's the coach, Ben McAdoo, who gets somewhat of a flier because the team won 11 games in his first season.

But now, it appears as if McAdoo's team has been so totally unprepared to start the season. Some of the play calling last night just scratches your head in amazement. Draw plays on third and 11 inside his own 20 yard line are just not going to work. Down 14 points in the fourth quarter, you have to abandon the running game entirely. You're in panic mode. Orleans Darkwa off tackle is not the call to make there.

McAdoo came to the Giants as an offensive wizard who worked with Aaron Rodgers. He was so well liked by the Mara and Tisch contingency that they actually had the nerve to fire a legend like Tom Coughlin and tried to make it look like a retirement. McAdoo was brought in and they bounced a two-time Super Bowl winning coach who still had some fire left in his belly to do so.

Well, how does that move look like now? McAdoo looks lost with this offense and Coughlin was on the field last night holding the Super Bowl trophy and gleaming from ear-to-ear.

McAdoo also appears on the defensive every press conference, like he's afraid of getting criticized. Well, he has to be criticized sharply right now, because his team absolutely stinks. Sure, he stepped up to the podium last night after the game and said that the loss was his fault.

“Put this game on me,” McAdoo said. “We talk about playing complete, complementary football. By no stretch of the imagination did we get that done tonight. We’ve got to do better. No one feels sorry for us. We’ve got to find a way to get better and get better in a hurry. Just too many issues. We’ve got to play and feed off each other and we’re not doing that right now and I’ve got to find a way to make that work.”

But a lot of this mess falls in McAdoo's lap. They have to take advantage of their speedy receivers, go to more quick short passes and hope they can make a play with their feet. They have to switch up their blocking schemes and personnel up front. They have to hope that the 36-year-old quarterback didn't get old overnight.

Sure, there are 14 games left in the regular season, time to right the ship. After all, the Super Bowl champs that they honored at halftime last night in the 10th anniversary celebration started that season 0-2.

But does anyone in their right mind believe that's going to happen with this group. The Giants look completely lost right now and incredibly are headed in the same downward direction as the other inhabitants of MetLife Stadium. A sad state of affairs indeed for New York's football teams.

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Thursday, August 3, 2017

The reigning kings of New York baseball? The Yankees, of course

There’s no easy way for these words to come out of my head, so I’ll just throw it out there and see if it sticks, you know, like the plate of linguini against the kitchen wall.

Right now, the New York Yankees are clearly the best baseball team in New York.

There, I said it. It was painful to admit, like a two-second trip to the dentist without Novocain. The Yankees are better than the Mets.

The two teams will meet soon for four straight games, Monday Aug. 14 and Tuesday Aug. 15 at Yankee Stadium, then Wednesday Aug. 16 and Thursday Aug. 17 at CitiField.

Those four games might become like an extended stay in the dentist’s chair, like a root canal or even a full-fledged extraction. This year’s Subway Series might become an all-out coronation of which team is better, complete with red carpet, blaring horns and unveiling of the crown.

When the 2017 season began with spring training in late February into March, there isn’t a soul on this planet who would have believed that the Yankees were indeed better than the Mets. It was inconceivable.

The Mets were the team with the young, brash, bodacious pitching rotation. Some went as far as to say it could possibly be the best five-man rotation in the history of the game. An esteemed sportswriter who works for ESPN, Buster Olney, was one who proclaimed such words. Sports Illustrated posted a picture of the five, namely Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler, boasting and bragging that this was the best rotation in the game.

Of course, this clown drank every ounce of that Kool-Aid and believed every single word of it. Dominant, I said. With that pitching staff alone, the Mets could win the pennant, much like they did in 2015. This is the year to win it all, if they stay healthy. There was no comparison between the Mets’ rotation and the Yankees’ five-man unit. It was believed that the Mets’ contingency was the best in the entire game, so it was obviously better than the Bronx.

When the season began, what did the Yankees have as a rotation? They had one sure-fire starter in Masahiro Tanaka, who was coming off a solid 14-4 season with a 3.04 ERA. They had a mixed-up second-year youngster in Luis Severino, a rehabbing Michael Pineda, an unsure 36-year-old C.C. Sabathia _ and nothing else. In spring training, the Yankees didn’t even have five reliable starting pitchers and the Mets had the best rotation in the game, perhaps ever.

The Yankees threw out a startling 36 different pitchers to the mound in 2016 with some names living on in immortality. Try these names on for size. Johnny Barbato? Sounds like my barber. Richard Bleier? No, not the Steelers’ RB. Ben Heller? I prefer Ben Stiller. Tyler Goody? Oh, Goody, I’d rather Sam Goody to get some CDs. Tyler Olson? He’s the long lost brother of the frog-like looking twins from Full House. Conor Mullee? I only know him because he once pitched for St. Peter’s University, yes, that one, Harvard on the Boulevard. Those are some immortal names right there.

Shall we go on? The Mets thought they had the best position player in New York in Yoenis Cespedes, who practically walked on water for his first two seasons, leading the team to the postseason twice. His 2015 season with the orange and blue was something to behold, belting 17 homers in 52 games coming after the big trade deadline deal, leading the Mets to the World Series. Last year, in 132 games, he hit .280 with 31 homers and 86 RBI, as the Mets went to the playoffs for the second straight year for only the second time in club history.

The Mets had a host of proven veteran players who did well in 2016, like Neil Walker, Asdrubal Cabrera, Curtis Granderson and Lucas Duda. It didn’t even matter than the former face of the franchise, David Wright, wasn’t even able to pick up a baseball and throw it five feet in spring training. It wasn’t like Met fans were holding on to every last bit of hope that Wright would return. It didn’t matter. The team was still dominant without him, especially if the five starters could make their turn in the rotation.

The Yankees did have a huge glimmer of hope, a bright ray of sunshine in catcher Gary Sanchez, who was incredible last year after his midseason call-up to the Bronx, belting 20 homers in 52 games and hitting .299. Sanchez was so amazing that he finished second in the Rookie of the Year balloting _ and he didn’t make his debut until late July. There’s no question that the Yankees had their catcher for the next decade. Sanchez was the “Sanchise” indeed, not like the former Jets quarterback who ran into the rear end of his own player and fumbled. Gary Sanchez was not going to fumble a thing.

And in spring training, it looked as if the Yankees had a first baseman to be excited about for the next 10 years in Greg Bird, who hit an astounding seven homers and batted better than .400 in the Grapefruit League. Bird was smooth around the bag and looked like he was going to just step right in to replace long-time fixture Mark Teixeira, who retired at the end of the season. Another aging great named Alex Rodriguez (remember him?) also hung them up. Both were shells of their real selves in 2016, with Tex batting .204 and A-Rod hitting the unthinkable .200.

The Yankees did have some promising young players. One of which was outfielder Aaron Judge, but he batted .179 in 27 games as a rookie and struck out 42 times in 95 at-bats, almost exactly half of his plate appearances.

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman knew that 2016 was going to be a washout, so he traded his two-thirds of his famed All-Star bullpen, namely Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller, in order to get younger prospects. For Chapman, Cashman got heralded shortstop Gleyber Torres from the Cubs. For Miller, he received outfielder Clint Frazier from the Indians. Both were big pieces for the future.

That was the key word when it came to the Yankees. The future. The Mets? The future was now, especially with those young arms.

That’s the way the season began. The Mets filled with promise of a great 2017, one that could even become magical. The Yankees seemed to be playing for the future.

But then, the tides started to turn _ and in a hurry. The Mets had a revolving door into the trainer’s office. It was believed that the Mets had a glut of starting pitchers coming into spring training. They all spent more time with medical staff than on the mound.

Matz and last year’s revelation Seth Lugo couldn’t pitch in spring training at all. Then as the season began, they all started to go down. Syndergaard, who was being hyped as the second coming of the Lord, never mind the Thor references and 102 mile-per-hour fastballs, tore a lat muscle and was done. Harvey, who already had Tommy John surgery and thoracic outlet syndrome surgery, where a rib was removed to allow the nerves in his right arm to function, somehow suffered a stress fracture of the shoulder. The Dark Knight references were quickly forgotten. Wheeler, who missed the last two years after Tommy John surgery, came back, showed some signs of brilliance, but then got bombed and went down with a tired arm.

The only pitcher to stay healthy and strong throughout was deGrom, who has been brilliant. The rest? It’s a collective pile of doo-doo. What was supposed to be the strength of the entire league has now evolved into a mess weaker than the skinny kid in third grade who got pummeled in the schoolyard every day. It has to be the biggest disappointment in all of baseball this spring.

The Mets on the field were abysmal to watch. Cabrera and Jose Reyes got old before our eyes. Following a trend, Cespedes and Walker got hurt. So did Juan Lagares. So did Lucas Duda, but he gets hurt every summer. People say that injuries are a part of baseball. Well, the Mets have that part mastered. No team gets hurt like the Mets. None. They’ve cornered the market on trips to the Hospital for Special Surgery. They should just keep an ambulance right outside the operating room door.

The only true positive on the team was Jay Bruce’s surprising return to glory. Bruce, who was dreadful after coming to the Mets last summer, was sensational from the start. With 29 homers right now, he’s on pace to break the team’s all-time single season home run record. So was the rejuvenated Michael Conforto, who shrugged off a horrendous sophomore slump to come back this season and play like an All-Star.

But the rest of the bunch? Downright disgusting. So you take an underachieving, broken down disgrace of a starting rotation, add a bad offensive mix throughout and sprinkle in some really bad defense and you have the reasons why the Mets are dead in the water. They’re six games under .500, going nowhere fast.

As for the Yankees, there has never been more life in the Bronx, a rebirth and rejuvenation perhaps never before seen in pinstripe history. The aforementioned Judge has blossomed into a five-tool superstar, a 6-foot-7 behemoth who leads all of baseball in home runs after winning the Home Run Derby at the All-Star Game in eye-popping fashion. This lovable humble kid keeps tattooing the baseball with mammoth blasts that come close to 500 feet.

The 25-year-old, a shoo-in for Rookie of the Year who has to be considered as one of the favorites for the American League Most Valuable Player, has 34 homers, 75 RBI, a .299 batting average and a .425 on-base percentage, considering he leads the league in walks. Last year, Judge would swing at breaking pitches that were thrown low and away, but this year, he has laid off those pitches and taking walks. Judge personally symbolizes the rebirth of the Yankees, going from a .179 hitting question mark to a superstar overnight.

The Yankees have a dynamite second base-shortstop combination in Starlin Castro and Didi Gregorius. Brett Gardner, the 10-year veteran, is the leader of the team and the resident old-timer at 33 years old. Gardner already has a career-high in homers with 19.

Rookie Frazier has been solid in 24 games since his recall from the minors, batting .255 with four homers and 17 RBI. The red-headed wonder looks like a permanent piece to the Yankees’ outfield, especially after he hit that bomb against the Orioles last week that flew over the bullpens and deep into those left field bleachers. 

And the Yankees made a trade with the White Sox to get another Frazier, namely former Home Run Derby champ and New Jersey hero Todd Frazier, to take over third base. The Yankees clearly lead all of MLB in guys named Frazier. Take that, Niles.

And trades? Cashman has been nothing short of brilliant. First, going back to last year, he traded Chapman to the Cubs for their pennant run, got a stud in Gleyber Torres in return, then re-signed Chapman as a free agent. Brilliant! Then, there was the trade with the White Sox to get Todd Frazier, former Yankee reliever and fan favorite David Robertson and flame throwing reliever Tommy Kahnle. Brilliant!

But the best of all gets unveiled tonight. Sonny Gray was somehow dislodged from the Oakland A’s for three prospects. The All-Star right-handed hurler will make every Yankee fan’s heard skip and go pitter-patter, because this kid is the real deal _ and then some. He might not look like an overpowering pitcher with his slight and small frame, but Gray throws gas and throws five different pitches for strikes. He can be the dominant pitcher that they hoped Tanaka would be this season.

Mark my words, Sonny Gray will become the best right-handed pitching acquisition the franchise has made since Catfish Hunter. That’s saying a lot, but I truly believe it. Gray has it all and the best part about it for Yankee fans is that he’s only 27 years old and under contract for the next two seasons. In 2015, Gray’s last full healthy season, he went 14-7 with a 2.73 ERA and allowed just 166 hits in 208 innings. People on the East Coast might not have gotten the chance to appreciate what Gray can do, but Gray will quickly become a fan favorite in Yankee Stadium, much in the fashion that Ron Guidry’s “Louisiana Lightning” lit up the Bronx during the “Bronx Zoo” era.

Now, that Yankee rotation looks extremely solid, with Severino (8-4, 2.98 ERA) pitching like he’s the ace, Gray, the reborn and remade Sabathia (9-4, 3.81 ERA), the surprising rookie Jordan Montgomery (7-6, 4.15 ERA), Tanaka (8-9, 5.09 ERA, but two solid starts back-to-back) and the recently acquired Jaime Garcia (67-52 over his career, 10-6 with a 2.43 ERA in 2015) to round things off. Suddently, even after losing Michael Pineda to Tommy John surgery, this rotation looks pretty darn good.

And the Yankees find themselves at 57-49, a game behind Boston in the AL East standings, but tied in the loss column. We’ve hit August and the team that everyone thought was rebuilding is right there in the hunt.

The sure-fire contenders in preseason from Queens are 49-56, some 13 and a half games out of first place and unable to see out of the wild card hole they are sitting in. It’s a lost season for sure for the Mets. It’s a glorious return for the Bronx Bombers.

And who’s better? Not even a debate. Holy cow, it’s the Yankees who somehow sneaked past the Mets. And things get better for the Yankees tonight with Sonny Gray ready to shine against the Indians in Cleveland.

This was painful to write, but it’s all factual. Come back to me next March, when people are saying that the Mets have the best rotation in the history of the game. Yeah, sure, that’s the ticket.


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