Written By: Alex Lowenthal

Sunday vs Florida

Johan Santana returned to the hill Sunday against the Marlins looking to bounce back from his shaky first outing.  He did just that.  He pitched four shutout innings while striking out four.  He throw 45 pitches (32 for strikes) and only allowed three hits.  We hope to see more of this from Johan as we move forward.  The Mets, however, lost the game 5-1.  Here are some other Sunday points:

-John Maine came in after Santana and struggled, throwing 37 pitches in just two-thirds of an inning, allowing five runs on five hits with three walks

-Jason Bay had a triple and Luis Castillo was two for three with two base hits

Monday vs St. Louis

Today’s game against the Cardinals turned out to be just about as exciting as Spring Training can be.  Fernando Nieve and Jon Niese were the main Mets’ pitchers, as they are both fighting for the fifth spot in the opening day rotation.  Neither looked great.  Nieve pitched the first three innings, giving up five hits, two runs, a walk, and no strikeouts.  Niese was slightly better, pitching innings 4-6, allowing three runs (one unearned) on four hits, with two Ks and no walks.  The bullpen looked great, including Sean Green (7th), Pat Misch (8th), and Francisco Rodriguez.  This was K-Rod’s much awaited Grapefruit League debut, as he has been battling pink eye.  He looked excellent, throwing just seven pitches in the top of the ninth inning.  He got a weak ground ball out, a pop out to right, and a K to end the perfect debut.

The real story of today’s game was Angel Pagan, who played all of about ten minutes.  He came in to play right field for Jeff Francoeur after the Mets left the bases loaded down 5-4 in the bottom of the 8th.  K-Rod came in and did his thing, while Pagan made a routine fly ball catch.  He also was up third in the bottom of the frame.  With one out and the bases empty, Mets brought in the red hot pinch hitter, Chris Carter, who I will discuss in a minute.  He chopped a single that took a nice hop over the head of Cardinal 2B, Ruben Gotay.  Then came Angel Pagan.  He ripped a 3 and 1 fastball over the right field wall, for a walk off 6-5 victory.  This also gave K-Rod the victory.  Nice 9th inning Angel.  Pagan is battling with Gary Matthews Jr for the opening day CF job, with Beltran out.

Now let’s get back to Chris Carter quickly.  The Mets acquired him in the deal that sent Billy Wagner to the Red Sox.  He’s quickly gotten himself the nickname “The Animal” in the dugout.  After today’s 9th inning single, he is 6 for 12 with 3 HRs and 8RBI this spring.  Mets coaches are seriously considering Carter as a primary pinch hitter if he keeps this up.  Carter, Mike Jacobs, and Frank Catalanotto are all looking to be potential opening day pinch hitters.

Check out Pagan’s Walk off

Side Notes

-Jason Bay was 2 for 3, scored twice, and got hit by a hard Jason Motte fastball in the 8th, but jogged to first and was fine

-Fernando Martinez look brilliant once again, going 2 for 3 with two doubles and 2 RBI

-Despite Martinez’s terrific spring, Omar Minaya said this morning that there is no way he will start the year in the big league

Photo Credit:http://weblogs.cw11.com/sports/thehuddle/JOHAN%20SANTANA%201.jpg

http://citifield.files.wordpress.com/2009/07/angel.jpg

The Yankees lost another game to the Pirates yesterday, 10-5. CC Sabathia got the start for the Yankees and lasted 4 1/3 innings. Sabathia gave up 3 hits and 1 run. However, he left the game with runners on base. Reliever Jon Albaledejo, allowed both of the runners to score, ultimately damaging Sabathia’s ERA. Outside of the 4th inning home run to Iwamura, Sabathia looked good.

As we get closer to the season, we hope to see each pitcher tweak their mechanics and get into a groove. So far, Sabathia is following along with that plan.

Nick Johnson hit his 3rd home run of the spring yesterday, a 6th inning blast off reliever, Vinnie Chulk. The back appears to be alright.

Yankee manager Joe Girardi plans to unveil his Opening Day lineup on Tuesday against the Astros. Expect to see this lineup:

D. Jeter, SS

N. Johnson, DH

M. Teixeira, 1B

A. Rodriguez, 3B

R. Cano, 2B

J. Posada, C

C. Granderson, CF

N. Swisher, RF

B. Gardner, LF

No Yankee stuff today. No games, practice, etc. The team gets the day off.

Photo Credit: brewcrewball.com

Instead of sitting here and wasting your time, join our Yahoo! group and fill out a bracket today.

Group ID: 93240

Winner Gets A High-Five, Maybe A Guest Post On Any Topic. We’ll See What Happens

Written By: Mike Ulatoski

One game after coach John Tortorella made Sean Avery a healthy scratch, Avery delivered a performance that should keep him in the New York Rangers lineup for the rest of the season.

Avery scored two goals and drew two penalties as the Rangers beat the Philadelphia Flyers 3-1 on Sunday afternoon at Madison Square Garden. The win was the Rangers’ second straight, and moved them within one point of the Boston Bruins for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

“He was huge today,” Rangers captain Chris Drury said of Avery. “When he is playing straight-ahead hockey like he did today, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more effective guy. The hits he had, the goals he had, the way he got under their skin. It was just huge for us.”

Michal Rozsival’s power-play goal in the second period put the Rangers ahead for good.

Henrik Lundqvist made saves when they needed to be made, stopping 17 out of a total of 18 shots. This is his second win in a row after getting yanked against New Jersey on March 10 for allowing five goals on 17 shots.

The Flyers are tied with the Montreal Canadiens with 76 points, good for sixth place in the East. But Sunday’s regulation loss trimmed their cushion on the ninth-place Rangers to just five points.

Avery played with a purpose on Sunday after he was a healthy scratch against the Atlanta Thrashers on Friday night. Aside from his two goals, he delivered plenty of big hits and drew a roughing penalty on the Flyers’ Scott Hartnell during the second period and an interference call on Braydon Coburn in the third. [I thought Hartnell deserved a four-minute minor during the ensuing scrum with Avery. Aves never dropped his gloves, yet Hartnell threw punches and continued to do so while Avery was being held by an official.]

The Flyers scored on their first shot on goal. With Olli Jokinen in the penalty box for slashing, Danny Briere wristed a shot through heavy traffic that found its way past Lundqvist, just 4:13 into the game, to make it 1-0.

The Rangers tied it off of a faceoff win by Erik Christensen, who pulled the puck back to Wade Redden. He ripped a shot that was initially stopped by Flyers’ goalie Michael Leighton, but Avery beat Flyers defenseman Matt Carle to the front of the net and backhanded the rebound chance just 1:53 into the second period to make it a 1-1 game.

Michal Rozsival put the Rangers up 2-1 with a power-play goal just 3:01 later. His rocket from the point deflected off the inside of the post and past Leighton, who was helpless against a great screen directly in front by Chris Drury. Christensen was credited with his second assist of the game on the goal, and I feel he is making a very strong case to be a part of the future plans of the Rangers.

With the Rangers playing a solid defensive third period, Avery had a monster shift that swung the game permanently in the Rangers’ favor. First, he harassed Flyers’ defenseman Ryan Parent and forced a turnover at center ice, which led to a scoring opportunity for Drury. Then, as the Flyers tried to regroup, he received a pass from Dan Girardi on the left wing, skated into the circle, and whipped a wrister past Leighton at 14:05 of the third period.

Avery was far from the only skater wearing the blue sweater who played with passion on Sunday. Rookie defenseman Michael Del Zotto was a consistent physical presence and played a very smart game in his own defensive end, and defensemen Marc Staal and Michal Rozsival also played big minutes on Sunday.

Brandon Dubinsky drew a standing ovation from The Garden Faithful when he put a beating on Flyers’ captain Mike Richards in their center-ice fight with 3:46 remaining in the third.

“That’s a good club we played, coming off a huge win for them (against Chicago),” said Tortorella. “I thought we stood in there in the physical part of the game, and played very well as a team. We can enjoy it and then get back to work for our next game against Montreal.”

The Rangers faceoff against the Montreal Canadiens at MSG on Tuesday night, the second game of a three-game homestand for the Blueshirts which concludes on Thursday with a contest against the St. Louis Blues.

Three Stars
1st: Sean Avery – 2 goals
2nd: Michal Rozsival – 1 goal (powerplay)
3rd: Henrik Lundqvist – 17 saves on 18 shots

In this fantasy edition, we’ll cover players who are poised for breakout seasons. We covered under valued players yesterday

1. Justin Upton, OF, Arizona Diamondbacks: We covered Upton yesterday, but he is my #1 breakout pick for the 2010 season.  The 22-year-old Upton hit 26 home runs and stole 20 bases in only 138 games last season. He also posted an impressive batting average(.300) and slugging percentage(.532). Upton has a world of talent. If he plays the entire season, consider 30-30 to be his basement. Upton is being selected in the 3rd-4th rounds(25 Average Draft Position(ADP) in fantasy drafts when he has 1st Round potential. Consider that a good value.

Projection: .295 BA, 35 HRs, 105 RBIs, 32 SBs, 100 Rs

2. Shin-Soo Choo, OF, Cleveland Indians: In 2009, Choo quietly had a great season with Cleveland. Choo hit 20 HRs, drove in 86 runs, scored 95 times, and stole 21 bases. He also hit .300 on the season. Choo will support your fantasy team in all five offensive categories. Owners must also take into account that Choo posted most of these numbers without Grady Sizemore(injured) in the lineup. Sizemore is expected to be 100% this season, which only enhances Choo’s fantasy value. 100+ RBIs are not out of the question. Choo’s ADP is 67th overall right now. However, owners are taking one dimensional players, like Manny Ramirez and Michael Bourne before him. By pass these players and hop aboard the “Choo Choo” train.

Projection: .305 BA, 22 HRs, 100 RBIs, 22 SBs, 93 Rs

3. Matt Wieters, C, Baltimore Orioles: Fantasy owners were expecting the world and then some from Wieters during his rookie campaign last season. In 354 big league at-bats, Wieters hit 9 HRs with 43 RBIs. This isn’t exactly setting the world on fire, but given the sample size, it’s respectable from a rookie. Alike all rookies, Wieters was a little tentative after first coming up. I don’t expect that be to be a problem during his sophomore campaign. Wieters posted a .288 BA last year, proving that he could have Mauer-Esq value at the catching position. Wieters should get 500+ ABs this year and won’t disappoint. His current ADP of 95 makes him the 4th catcher drafted and worthy of 9th-10th round selection. I’m calling for a huge boost in Wieters’s numbers in 2010.

Projection: .300 BA, 22 HRs, 95 RBIs, 80 Rs

4. Brett Anderson, SP, Oakland Athletics: Another player that we covered yesterday, but this kid is also due for a breakdown campaign.  Don’t be fooled by Anderson’s 2009 ERA of 4.06. The 22-year-old Anderson had a great second half last season. In 14 starts after the All-Star break, Anderson posted a 6-4 record, striking out 86 hitters in only 80 innings. After mid-season, Anderson’s ERA dropped from 5.45(June 29) to 4.06(Oct 1). Anderson also benefits from playing in the spacious Oakland Coliseum. Anderson’s ADP of 150 is a no-brainer for a 15th round selection.

Projection: 15 wins, 180 Ks, 3.85 ERA

5. Clayton Kershaw, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers: The 22-year-old Kershaw has dazzled so far on the Major League level. In 171 innings last season, Kershaw struck out 185 hitters and posted a minuscule 2.79 ERA. Kershaw only won 8 games last season, so most fantasy owners will be a little wary about selecting him on draft day. Don’t be one of those owners. Kershaw’s 9.74 K/9 rate should increase in 2010. Kershaw has mastered his 95 MPH+ fastball and his curve ball. He has spent this Spring Training working on a slider as well. The slider is just another feather in this kid’s cap. Kershaw’s ADP of 94 makes him the 19th starting pitcher selected in drafts. That’s a huge steal and I’ll take him over Yovani Gollardo or Tommy Hanson any day of the week. I’m expecting Cy-Young type numbers from Kershaw this season.

Projection: 15 wins, 220 Ks, 2.60 ERA

Who are some of your break out players this season?

All ADP values are credit of: KFFL

Photo Credit: news.yahoo.com

Written By: Bobby Harrington

OUCH.  That pretty much sums up the sentiment in Queens for the 2009 Mets season.  The fans felt the pain from the stands as a team that was supposed to contend for NL East title crumbled before their eyes. The players felt the pain in the form of busted hamstrings, bone spurs, and torn rotator cuffs. Both New York teams started the year with bang by opening two new stadiums. Unfortunately for Mets fans, it was a barely audible bang compared to the Bronx.

So what exactly went wrong?   The enormous confines of Citi Field held the Mets to a measly 671 runs, which only comes out to 4.14 runs per game, 6th worst in the league. Converted 1B Daniel Murphy led the team in home runs with…..11? Considering the question coming into the season was whether or not the pitching staff could compliment the strong lineup, it’s not hard to figure out why the Metropolitans amassed a disappointing 70-92 record.

However, the 2009 Mets will best be known for the fact that  their Disable List lineup was superior to the one that took the field.  Throughout the season Reyes, Delgado, Wagner, Perez, Santana, Keith Hernandez, Maine, Putz, Beltran, Nieve, the hot dog vendor, Niese, Wright, and Mr. Met all spent significant time on the DL.  While some of them only missed a few starts, in the case of Santana, others such as Reyes and Delgado missed 130+ games.  For a team that was already up against the defending World Series champs for the division title, the plethora of injuries quickly destroyed any hopes.

“The darkest hour is always before dawn” in mind, lets turn our eyes to the 2010 season.   A slow offseason, at least by New York standards, was highlighted by the Mets signing of OF Jason Bay.  On December 30th, the Mets got a late Christmas gift when the coveted free agent agreed to a 4 year/ $66 million deal.  A lifetime .280 hitter, Bay posted 36 HRs and 119 RBI in Boston last season.  Although I’m a fan of Bay, I have some concerns with the deal.  The towering fly balls that escaped the Green Monster in Fenway are going to be long outs in Citi Field.  Also, Bay has never been known for his glove, which could lead to Daniel Murphy like adventures in Citi’s giant outfield.  Bay is certainly a good hitter, but to me, the deal seems like desperation.

Although this winters free agent pitching class didn’t turn many heads, one has to wonder if GM Omar Minaya has made a giant mistake by not addressing the rotation.  While I don’t believe Lackey was worth the $82 million the Red Sox gave him, it would have been nice to see the Mets talk to some of the other names.  Guys like Pineiro and Wolf would have been reasonably affordable additions to a rotation that is full of question marks. Either way, it was a very quiet offseason for a GM who many people believe is on the hot seat this season.  Whether he is displaying wisdom or just plain stubbornness, will be addressed in time.

Other than Bay, however, the 2010 Mets lineup will not look too much different than the 2009 one.  The notable absence will be that of Carlos Delgado, who appears headed towards retirement or possibly a reduced role with another club.  At age 37, I think it’s wise for the Mets to part ways with the lefty slugger and see if they can’t get (former Gold Glove winner, Hairclub for Men spokesman, and Jerry Seinfeld pal) Keith Hernandez to keep working with Murphy as the future 1B of the team.  Billy Wagner got dealt late last year and won’t be returning as he wants to be a closer, and no one in their right mind would put the shaky lefty in there in the 9th inning instead of K- Rod.

Once Beltran returns probably a month into the season the Mets lineup should like something like this:

1.     Reyes SS

2.    Castillo 2B

3.    Wright 3B

4.    Beltran CF

5.    Bay LF

6.    Murphy 1B

7.    Franceour RF

8.    Santos C

9.    Santana P

That is certainly a lineup that can give opposing pitchers troubles night in and night out.  Reyes is the ideal leadoff guy, Castillo is solid as a #2 hitter and then Wright, Beltran, and Bay are going to be responsible for raking in the RBI’s.  After that, there’s an obvious drop off, and I think both Murphy and Franceour are going to be crucial to the team’s success this year.  With the rumor that the CF wall is going to be cut down from 16 feet to 8 feet and a healthy lineup, I’d look for this group to be a top 5 offense in the NL.

But then there’s the pitching, and that’s where the real question marks are for this team.  I’m going to project a rotation of Santana, Pelfrey, Maine, Perez, and then probably Niese with Nieve as a viable alternative.  Pelfrey was the only guy of the 6 who didn’t spend a decent chunk of the 2009 season on the DL.  Flushing is going to live and die on Johan’s left elbow, which I think (hope) will be fully recovered by opening day.  After Santana, however, there is no sure thing in the rotation.  Pelfrey seems to be maturing but is surely not reliable at this point.  Maine has shown flashes of being a great but remains unproven. Perez is like a twisted game of Russian Roulette where there are 5 bullets in the 6 chambers and just about everybody loses.  Niese and Nieve have both shown promise but have so little experience that it’s hard to know what you’re going to get from them on any given night.  The common theme here is that just about everybody has the potential to be good and contribute between 12-15 wins.  If Santana can notch 17-20 wins and the other 4 starters can all muster say 10-13, which I truly believe each of them is capable of, the Mets are going to be in great shape.  If that doesn’t happen I believe the U.S Open will once again be the only meaningful sporting event in Flushing this summer.

So lets make some predications, shall we?  I’m not going to get crazy and hit you with “OMG METS WORLD SERIES CHAMPS 2010 YAY!” (Ask Sports Illustrated how that pick went last season).  But this team is not as bad as some people are saying.  Yes they won 70 games last year.  Yes there are a mountain of question marks.  But I defy any team to make the playoffs with the injuries they suffered last year, and every team in the league is filled with question marks.  The Mets, when healthy, are still serious playoff contenders.  Will they win the NL East? I don’t believe so.  The Phillies are the team to beat, and until someone does so they deserve to be the favorites.  But I look for guys like Reyes, Beltran, Maine, Pelfrey and Bay to come into this season with big things to prove for various reasons and lead the team to a 87-75 record and serious Wild Card contenion.


Ohio State won in blowout fashion to give us our 11th win of the month. We turn to the NHL today for our 12th win.

The Matchup: Boston Bruins(30-25-12) at New Jersey Devils(40-24-3)

The Devils have won both regular season meetings against the Bruins this season. However, the Devils dropped their last contest to the lowly New York Islanders on Saturday, 4-2. New Jersey currently sits in 4th place of the Eastern Conference with 83 points. The Devils are 22-9-1 at home this season. The Boston Bruins have lost 3 of their 4 last road games, including their most recently loss at Montreal, 3-2 on Saturday. Left Winger, Ilya Kovalchuk has scored 5 goals in his last 8 games. Goaltender Martin Brodeur is expected to be back on Monday after getting Saturday night off.

I like the Devils in this matchup. Expect them to come out motivated after an embarassing loss on Saturday night.

The Pick: New Jersey Devils(40-24-3)

March Record: 11-3

Photo Credit: news.yahoo.com

Written By: Adam Poedubicky

According to multiple NFL sources, the Jets have reached a contract agreement for 2-years with LaDainian Tomlinson. The deal, which has disclosed terms, will most likely be very incentive-based, based upon the number of carries, yards, and touchdowns Tomlinson scores.

Tomlinson is a 5-time Pro Bowler, the 2006 MVP, and a running back on the 2000’s All Decade Team. Tomlinson will replace Thomas Jones on the Jets, who rushed for 1402 yards and 14 TDs, both career highs.

Instant Analysis: Although the financial terms of the deal have yet to be disclosed, let’s hope that this deal is for less than $5.8 million dollars per year (which is very, very likely), because that was what Thomas Jones was set to make this upcoming season. Although LT is a year younger at 30 and is a lock for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the wheels have simply come off the bus. Last year, he averaged a career-low 3.3 YPC. It was the first time he hasn’t broken 1,000 yards in his storied career.

On the bright side, he will not be expected to be much more than a backup to Shonn Greene, who dazzled in the playoffs and prompted the front office to release Jones in the first place. LT should be good for ten touches a game, which combined with Shonn Greene and a potentially healthy Leon Washington, could be the best rushing game in the NFL, again.

My only question is, with the uncapped year, and TJ nearing his peak and LT nearing his final resting place, why would the front office not spend the extra $3 million on Jones? I previously applauded the Jets for releasing Jones, but replacing him with LT is like replacing a car with 100,000 miles with a truck with 120,000 miles; it just doesn’t make sense.

Photo Credit: news.yahoo.com

The New York Yankees were able to get two split squad games in today. Florida’s weather has caused two straight day of postponed games on Thursday and Friday.

Game 1: Yankees defeat Orioles, 5-3

Game Notes:

1. Javier Vazquez got the start for the Yankees. In three innings, Vazquez gave up two runs(HR to Ty Wiggington) and struck out two.

2. Alfredo Aceves came in relief of Vazquez. In four innings, Aceves gave up one run(HR to Garrett Atkins) and scattered three hits. Chamberlain, Hughes, Gaudin, and Mtire have struggled this season, making Ace an interesting candidate for the 5th stater’s role.

Spring Stats: 10 innings, 3 hits allowed, 1 earned runs, 5 strikeouts

3. David Robertson closed the game by striking out the side in the Top of the 9th inning.

4. Nick Johnson had an RBI Double in the win.

Game 2: Tigers defeat Yankees, 6-2.

Game Notes:

1. Chad Gaudin started this game. Gaudin yielded three earned runs in three innings.

2. Unfortunately, Sergio Mitre matched Gaudin’s stat line.

3. Ex-Yankee, Johnny Damon homered off Sergio Mitre.

Side Notes:

The Yankees cut pitcher, Kei Igawa today.

Photo Credit: news.yahoo.com

The Kentucky Wildcats dominated the Volunteers yesterday. Our record improves to 10-3 overall this month. Today, we look at a conference championship to give us our 11th win.

The Matchup: 3:30PM #7 Ohio State Buckeyes vs. Minnesota Golden Gophers

Ohio State is on an epic run. Evan Turner’s buzzer beater to beat Michigan on Friday night was awe-inspiring. On Saturday, Ohio State also needed double overitme to defeat Illinois. The Minnesota Golden Gophers have won three straight Big 10 Championship games, including impressive wins over Michigan State and Purdue. A win on Sunday would give the Golden Gophers an automatic NCAA Tournament bid. If they lose, they’ll sit firmly on the NCAA Tournament bubble. Ohio State and Minnesota have split their regular season meetings.

Many will wonder if Ohio State will be sluggish coming out to play on Sunday. However, expect a strong showing from Buckeye Guard, Evan Turner. When a player makes the type of shot Turner did on Friday Night, that team is destined for a great showing. The Buckeyes will conclude that showing on Sunday afternoon.

The Pick: Ohio State Buckeyes

March Record: 10-3

Photo Credit: news.yahoo.com