Browsing Posts published by Joe Cohen

On July 17th of last season, the first-place Phillies strolled out of Citi Field having taken 2 of 3 from the Mets, and widening their NL East lead over their rivals to a comfortable 12 games.  A predictable outcome during what culminated in a 102-win season for those Fightin’ Phils.

continue reading…

Tomorrow night, the puck will drop at 7:oo PM to kick off the opening game of Senators-Rangers.  It’s Game 1, at Madison Square Garden.  When was the last time someone was able to say that previous sentence?  You’d have to go 11 years back to 2001, when EITHER the Knicks or Rangers finished the season as a top-half seed, and hosted a Game 1 (sorry, the Liberty don’t count).

Obviously, the first thought that jumps out when seeing that stat is, “Wow, this building hasn’t seen many good teams recently.”  And it’s true.  Since 2001, the Knicks have made the playoffs only twice (as a 6th seed and 7th seed) and were swept both times.  The Rangers have been a little better, making the playoffs 5 times in that span.  But they’ve only escaped the first round twice, and both times were ousted in the subsequent round.  So to recap, 19 combined seasons, 7 total playoff appearances…2 playoff series wins.

Which brings us to this year’s Rangers.  51 wins, 24 losses, 7 overtime losses — good for the #1 seed in the East, and second best in the entire league.  It’s the first time they’ve finished first in the East since they won it all in ’94.  They’re not your typical #1 seed, though — they finished with a +39 goal differential for the season, which was good for only 6th in the league.  They don’t regularly blow teams out, and they can’t win by coasting on talent alone.  Rather, they’re a well coached unit that has to go all out every shift, and then rely on arguably the league’s best goalie to cover up their flaws (most namely, lack of team speed and a weak power play).

Of course, with a top finish in the East comes a new world of pressure.  Unlike previous years, a “good try” and early exit is not going to cut it.  We’ll soon find out if this year’s memorable regular season will translate into playoff euphoria or disappointment.  The real season starts tomorrow, at the Garden.

With the Wilpons’ financial mess emerging as the dominant Mets-related story throughout the entire offseason, it’s easy to forget that the actual team will start playing regular season games in 2 weeks.  While Team Wilpon scored a win in court, will the Mets themselves be worth watching after they didn’t add any big names following a 77-85 season?  Here are a few reasons to tune in…

 

Comeback kid (Jeff Robertson/AP)

continue reading…

Mets starter Jon Niese reported to yesterday’s camp with a whole new look.  He came in about 10 pounds lighter, but the real story is his new nose.  Yes, apparently Carlos Beltran decided to do the Mets one final favor, and offered to pay for Niese’s rhinoplasty over the offseason.

Carlos nose best... (AP/Adam Rubin)

 

It’s more than just for looks, too — according to the New York Post, Niese was told that his previously smushed nose had an abnormality in the sinus that was affecting his breathing.  Since being able to breathe seems like a rather important factor in being a successful pro athlete, could this signal a breakout season for the 25-year old lefty?  So far, his career stats are fairly pedestrian: a 22-23 record, with a 4.39 ERA, and a 1.46 WHIP.  Could improved breathing (and thus, better conditioning) + another year in the bigs + a year of Johan Santana’s tutelage (being a crafty lefty himself) = an anchor in the Mets’ rotation?

 

Yesterday, in a development that shocked no one, the New York Jets made headlines for the wrong reasons.  Several anonymous players called for Peyton Manning to come to New York, and trashed Mark Sanchez in the process.  It’s a fitting end to a dreadful season that began with Super Bowl guarantees and ended with a collapse.  From one fed-up fan, here’s an open letter to the entire team (after the jump).

A true captain

continue reading…

Last night’s Rangers-Islanders tilt at Nassau Coliseum (my first visit of the season) was a snapshot of two teams headed in opposite directions.  The Rangers came in riding a hot streak (6 straight wins, second place in the division), while the Isles sorely needed a win (9 losses in their past 10 games, last place in the conference).  It was an intense game, as always, and that intensity boiled over to the stands (a fistfight next to my section needed a few guards to be broken up before the 1st period was over — always good times).

(Christopher Pasatieri/Getty Images)

continue reading…

The Mets: A 50th Anniversary Celebration, by Andy Martino and Anthony McCarron (with the New York Daily News), is a great read for any Mets fan.  It takes you through each season of their history, highlighting the main stories of each season, and flows seamlessly from one year to the next.  It does an excellent job of giving the reader a sense of what it’s like to root for a franchise that’s occasionally good, usually mediocre, but always entertaining.  More after the jump…

continue reading…

Later tonight, the New York Rangers and Soon-to-be-Kansas-City Islanders will square off at Nassau Coliseum for the first time in the 2011-2012 season.  It has long been a storied and intense rivalry, regardless of where either team is in the standings — a level of intensity that can sometimes cause some bizarre moments to occur.  Let’s go back 5 seasons and take a look at 2 games, both played at the Coliseum, 1 month apart, that became more infamous for reasons beside the final score.

And the rivalry renews...(Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

continue reading…

In the season finale, Miguel Batista and Mike Baxter were the ones who led the Mets to a win.  Batista started and completed the shutout, and Baxter crushed a 2-run homer to give the Mets a final record of 77-85.

The main story of the game, however, was Jose Reyes.  In what was possibly his final game as a Met, he led off with a bunt single, which pushed his NL-leading average to .337.  In a move that drew the ire of the Citi Field crowd, Terry Collins pulled him right after.  The fans had every right to be upset there — it’s understandable that they wanted to protect Reyes’ lead for the batting title, but the fans deserved more than that.  The guy has been an integral part of the team since being called up in 2003, and just submitted his finest season yet.  That kind of tenure needed a fitting salute — the fans should have had the chance to go crazy for him the whole game, and then probably end it with one last standing ovation.  But it was his call — Reyes asked to be pulled, so the batting title’s more important to him.

Congrats to Pete Flynn, retiring after 50 years as a groundskeeper (AP Photo/Kathy Kmonicek)

continue reading…

The Phils wrapped this game up early — after 4 innings, it was 9-0.  Hunter Pence drove in 3 of those runs, including a 2-run homer in the first that got the ball rolling.  For the 13th time this season, Mike Pelfrey took the loss.  He was only able to stick around for the first 3 innings, allowing 5 runs.  Fittingly (assuming this is his last appearance of the season, and let’s hope it is), D.J. Carrasco got shelled as well — the final 4 Philly runs came in his 1 inning of work.  He likely won’t be around next year; Pelfrey probably will.  Roy Halladay himself had a typical game, tossing 6 shutout innings for the win.  

Denied. (AP Photo/Henny Ray Abrams)

continue reading…