MLB > The Yankees & Mets vs. Father Time & A Budget

 

 

 ~ When the baseball season started this year, fans in New York City were prepared for the expected. The Yankees making the playoffs and another run at a championship. The Mets … not so much. It started out looking that way through most of April. The Yankees were on top of the American League East and the Mets near the bottom of the National League East. This is baseball though and that means it’s a 162 game season with an array of sub plots. “It ain’t over til it’s over” and it’s far from over. However we are now heading into June and the sub plots have drowned out the expectations for both teams. While the Mets are quietly playing good baseball lately, the Yankees are not only playing poorly they are imploding off the field.

The off the field issues were supposed to be all about the New York Mets in 2011. The team came into this year under great financial stress from the fallout of the Maddoff / Ponzi scandal. This led to them not being very active in the free agent market and faced with many questions concerning their core players. After years of spending big money on big name free agents and signing off on big contracts, the Mets are now learning how to win on a budget. When a team is faced with money problems, like any other franchise or business payroll has to be reduced. That definitely effects what you do with your star players. Jose Reyes is in a contract year. Carlos Beltran is near the end of a long term contract and most likely won’t get another one. David Wright has been the face of the team since 2005, is he still an untouchable or is it time to move him? Thats a lot of questions to address without the money to help answer them. Surprisingly though, the Mets have been better on the field than expected so far this season. They gave been hit with the injury bug hard so far. However, new manager Terry Collins has gotten the most out of a team that didn’t look very good on paper.

Over in the Bronx, the Yankees lately have been looking more like the old “Bronx Zoo” teams of the past than the dynasty they have restored over the last 15 years. The bottom line with the Yankees is that like any other sports dynasty, eventually the players get old and have to be replaced. When that time comes for many of those players, feelings are hurt and the business becomes the new reality. Now imagine that scenario for a team that has a lineup full of all-stars and icons. Jeter, A-Rod, Posada, Sabathia … these are are not just everyday players.

 

 The Yankees are known for their air-tight Public Relations machine. Fans are used to hearing about the players coming in and putting on “The Pinstripes” and doing things “The Yankee Way”. There is a code of ethics that comes along with being a Yankee. The Yankees are more than a major league baseball team, they are more than a franchise, they are a brand. Winning is the only results that matter, no matter how much it cost. It’s a philosphy that has brought them championships and yearly playoff expectations.

This year and for the first time since the winning started up again back in the mid 90’s, the Yankees are faced with a hurdle they had hoped to avoid at all costs. Derek Jeter. Jorge Posada. Father Time. Yes … Father Time is a member of the New York Yankees. Father Time is a member of many teams in professional sports. His role is not a popular one, however it is a mandatory one. As an athlete, when Father Time knocks on the door, it can only be ignored but for so long. Eventually that athlete has to open the door. It does not discriminate and it is not bias. Michael Jordan had to answer that knock. He did it in a Washington Wizards uniform.

The Yankees already have lost Andy Pettitte to a knock on the door. Only they and Derek Jeter actually know how close things were to losing him as well. Jeter has struggled this season on the field and one can only wonder if it’s because Jeter is hearing the knocks on the door. He’s 36 years old and already was told for the most part that he’s seen his last long-term contract. He has a milestone of 3,000 career hits to reach this season. The season started out with talk of when will the Yankees move Jeter from the leadoff spot in the lineup. (Knock Knock) Before that when Jeter finally re-signed with the only team he’s ever played for in the Major Leagues, one of the first questions asked him was what position would he finish his career playing … because it’s not like it’s going to be at shortstop. Right? (Knock Knock) Currently the Captain is struggling to hit the same fastballs he’s used to knocking the opposite field for extra bases or clutch base hits. The talk has now become will Jeter even finish out his new contract that he accepted after bitter negotiations.

 

Jorge Posada has definitely heard the knocks of Father Time recently. It reflects in his numbers. A non-baseball fan could look at .165 and realize that’s not a good batting average for a baseball player. Maybe someone who bowls for a hobby. Not for a professional baseball player and definitely not for a New York Yankee. At 39 years old, Posada knows the end is near for his career and like any other proud athlete, the urge to go out on his own terms is a strong one. It’s just not working out that way for him. He has been the starting Catcher for the Yankees the majority of his 16 year career. This season he is only the Designated Hitter (DH). Posada was recently dropped to the bottom of the lineup and it didn’t go well with him. Who’s to blame? Upper Management? Posada? How about neither? It’s simply the sounds of knocking at the door.

Most baseball experts and fans will say that it’s only May and there is plenty of baseball to be played in the season. This is true and if there is any team that has the talent to turn things around right away, it’s the Yankees. They have struggled early in the season before and still found their way to the playoffs in October. However this is a little different this year. The Yankees don’t just have players in their All-Star lineup struggling, they have household names who are struggling. Upper management has not handled it well. The reality though is no matter how strong the Public Relations machine is for the Yankees, it would not have prevented the headlines that have recently come up. It only will get more complicated from here on. CC Sabathia’s contract status is up after the season and Alex Rodriguez is still A-Rod, just a year older now. The knocks at the door continue to get louder. Father Time is making his rounds at Yankee Stadium right now. Eventually, you have to let him in.

 

 The off the field issues are still there for the Mets and playing well right now could eventually lead to a very difficult business decision to make in the summer. Hypothetcially, if the Mets continue to play this week up until the trade deadline in July then will they clean house or make a run for the playoffs? It’s a decision that could impact the team’s revune problems in a major way. The nightmare for the Mets is possibly playing baseball in the summer in front of very little fan support at Citi-Field. That’s attendance that could go a long way in helping payoff debts that have become national headlines.

Which team has it worst right now? The Yankees vs. Father Time? The Mets vs. The Recession? It’s not exactly the debate that baseball fans expected to have when the season started in April. The answers may not be what fans of both teams will want to accept either.

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NBA Playoffs > Westbrook Gets The Point, Thunder Advance To West Finals

 

~ For the Oklahoma City Thunder, it took seven games to get done. They took out the Memphis Grizzlies to advance to the Western Conference finals. The Thunder now head to Dallas for Game 1 against a well rested Mavs team. To become a championship team, adversity must be taken on and there is no way around that. The Thunder needed game seven to happen for them to take the next step. The next step to not only reach the next round, to also grow as a team that is now eight wins away from playing for an NBA championship.

This was a great series and the Memphis Grizzlies deserve to be applauded for the run they put on in this post season. They came in as the 8th seed, new to the playoffs and looked like they have been playing playoff basketball for years. Zach Randolph took full advantage of the national spotlight this series provided. One look at this Grizzlies team and I can only wonder what would have been had Rudy Gay been healthy enough to play. Memphis grinded it out with a blue-collar work ethic on the court that the uptempo, run and gun Western Conference was not prepared for. It almost took the Grizzlies into the next round. When it mattered most though, they needed another scorer on the floor, and thats where Gay would’ve came in hand. We’ll now see how they go about preparing for next season because they are no longer the unknown playoff team now. The expectations will definitely be set.

 

The playoffs are now down to four teams. No Lakers, Celtics, or Spurs. It’s a brand new show this year with new and younger faces. That means growing pains are to be expected. The Thunder are a young team, fresh faces, and the talent to win an NBA title this year. They have the 1-2 punch of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. In a era where teams are rushing to put together their own versions of “The Big 3”, the Thunder are a throwback to the playoff teams that featured a big time scorer for a big man and a point guard who could drop 40 points if called on. However, this team needed adversity to challenge them. Westbrook is really a scoring guard who is playing the point guard position. A look back at the most recent “scoring guards” in NBA history and you already know where the storyline is going to go …

“SHOOT THE J’ … SHOOT IT!!!”

During Oklahoma City’s 1st round series against Denver and throughout the series against Memphis, Westbrook’s shot selection became a national headline. If Durant is the face of the team, why is Westbrook taking more shots than him? There was a stretch where everytime Westbrook brought the basketball up the court, it could be predicted that he was going to shoot first and ask questions last. History has a way of repeating itself. The Minnesota Timberwolves had a young 1-2 punch back in the day and basketball fans know what happened to that duel. The point guard / “scoring guard” Stephon Marbury became “Starbury” and Kevin Garnett didn’t exactly want to share his nickname as “The Big Ticket”. Marbury ended up being traded away and Garnett eventually won his NBA ring … with the Boston Celtics.

Westbrook and Durant made it clear to the media and fans that there is no beef between the two. Durant has come out and said that he actually encourages Westbrook to keep shooting. However, if the playoffs have shown anything this year it’s how important the point guard position is to a team’s title hopes. Here are the Thunder now in game seven, one loss away from elimination and Westbrook clearly had to make a choice. Play within the system or go against the system. He went with the system and at least for one day was the most dangerous point guard in the league. Westbrook didn’t score 40 points … he only scored 14. It was the 14 assists and 10 rebounds to go along with those points that made him the key to sending Memphis home for the summer. He became only the 5th player to register a game seven triple-double.

What Westbrook’s game did allow for Durant to do was what’s expected of him and that’s score, 39 points to be exact. The facts are the facts at the end of the day. Westbrook played in control, within the system and got his team involved in the offensive flow. It allowed for Durant to go off for 39. It allowed for James Harden and Nick Collison as role players to play their parts. The Thunder are tough to beat when they play like this. It remains to be seen how they respond to a well rested Dallas team that has been waiting over a week to play this series. A lot will depend on Westbrook and if he is ready to embrace what it takes to lead his team more as a point guard than a “scoring guard”. At least they are now a playoff team that has faced adversity head on and know now that they can overcome it.

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