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

Xavier was victorious over Dayton in the Atlantic 10 Tournament yesterday. Our record for March improves to an impressive, 9-3. Today, we look down South into an SEC match up that features two of the best younger players in college basketball, John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins.

Matchup: 1:05 PM: #13 Tennessee Volunteers(25-7) vs. #2 Kentucky Wildcats(30-2)

John Wall’s heroic effort in the 2nd half yesterday propelled the Wildcats over the Alabama Crimson Tide, 73-67. Wall scored 23 points including a stretch of five straight points in the final three minutes to preserve the victory. The Wildcats only shot 1 for 13(7%) from three point land. The Vols posted an impressive 76-65 victory over the Mississippi Rebels on Friday. Wayne Chism recorded a double-double (16 points, 15 rebounds).

This game will be played in Nashville, so it will be on a neutral court. Geographically speaking, the Volunteers should have more fans in the house for this match-up.

In Kentucky’s earlier loss to Tennessee, the Wildcats shot only 2 for 22(8%) from behind the arc. On the season, the Wildcats have been shooting at 35% efficiency clip from three-point land. In games that Kentucky has lost or only won by 5 or fewer points, they have shot less than 25% from behind the arc. Kentucky has not had any issues out-rebounding opponents or winning the turnover battle.

With only two more wins before claiming an SEC Championship, look for the young Wildcats to come out motivated. UK for the Green.

The Pick: Kentucky Wildcats (30-2)

Bookmark Us (CTRL D) and Check Back Tomorrow For Another Selection

March Record: 9-3

Photo Credit: news.yahoo.com

I can’t believe I’m actually writing about this, but the media has been making a huge deal about Tim Tebow’s Wonderlic Test results. The Wonderlic tests a person’s problem solving and learning ability, two critical key assesments to teams. Each player at the NFL Combine is subject to this one time test. Players have 12 minutes to answer 50 challenging problems. The average score among NFL players is 21. Tebow scored a 22 out of a possible 50 questions. Is this life-altering? No, it is considered below average in terms of quarterbacks, but it was a better score than Donovan McNabb.  McNabb scored a 14 on the test, one of the lowest scores ever for a quarterback. By my estimation, McNabb has had a good NFL career. 49ers underachieving quarterback, Alex Smith scored a 40. Enough said about this test…..

Instead of focusing on Tebow’s score, people need to focus on Tebow’s physical assets. He has shortened his throwing motion, performed well at the combine, and is ready for the NFL. Tebow is a bright player. One test will never make or break an individual.

If you are interested to see what the Wonderlic test is like, take this abbreviated online test. It’s only 2:25 and you must answer 10 questions. I got 9 out of 10, which can be projected to a score of 45. How’d you do?

Photo Credit: news.yahoo.com

Written By: Matt Vereb

Syracuse dropped their opening round game in the Big East Tournament to Georgetown, 91-84.

Should Syracuse fans worry? The team has dropped two straight games before the NCAA Tournament, so it causes some reason for concern. However, their projected #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament will not be affected after today’s loss.

The real concern? Forward Arinze Onuaku left in 2nd half with an apart leg injury. X-rays have come back negative, but ‘Cuse fans will hold their breath with only five days before the NCAA tournament kicks off. If Onuaku is unable play, Syracuse will only have one inside presence in center, Rick Jackson. After watching Georgetown center Greg Monroe have his way with Jackson(15 points, 10 rebounds), Syracuse will have matchup problems against teams with larger front courts. Long term, Syracuse will have a problem against a team like Kansas if they do not have Onuaku.

Is there a silver lining? Definitely. Syracuse has played great basketball all season in the nation’s toughest conference, posting a 15-3 record. Their RPI of 4 and Strength of schedule of 11, further emphasizes that point. Big East player of the year, Wes Johnson and head coach, Jim Boeheim, will have the Orange motivated heading into the tournament.

Syracuse will have the next 5-6 days to rest and recover before embarking on a National Championship journey. They will not have to battle two, top-tier Big East teams in the next two days. To me, that is a big advantage. Syracuse will come out angry in the NCAA Tournament.

Syracuse has been elimiated in the first round in two of the last three NCAA Tournaments. Last season, they were eliminated by Blake Griffin and the Oklahoma Sooners in the Sweet 16.

Photo Credit: news.yahoo.com

**Pictured Above Mets Pitcher Oliver Perez**

Written By: Alex Lowenthal

The Mets’ pitching situation is anything but solid or comforting to fans this year.  Johan Santana is the only bankable pitcher.  Yes we know a few other definite starters, but Johan is actually expected to hold up his end of the bargain.  What about the others?

Oliver Perez is going to be the Mets number 3 starter.  We know he has a ton of talent, but he is one of the most erratic pitchers in the league.  We never know which Perez will show up on any given day, and his health is also a big question mark.  He returned to the mound yesterday making his first start since August 23, when he suffered season-ending knee surgery.  He gave up 7 hits and 5 runs in just three innings yesterday.

Is this all bad? It’s definitely not good.  However, he did throw a ton of strikes, with a 2 to 1 walk to strikeout ratio.  He said his goal was to throw strikes and mix in his “slurve”, while feeling healthy.  He said afterwards that he felt healthy, and was in command of his pitches. It’s a start for Perez.

The better story of yesterday’s game was Ollie’s relief.  35 year old rookie Hisanori Takahashi came in in the 4th inning and had a pretty decent inning.  He struck out the side on 10 pitches.  He threw 3 shutout innings, throwing 34 strikes in 42 pitches, struck out 6, allowing only 1 single.  Jerry Manual was very impressed, saying that they would definitely find a way to use him in the opening day lineup if he continues this success.  I think he’s likely to be a long reliever.  Mets minor leaguer, Pat Misch came on for the final three innings, allowed no runs, 3 hits and struck out 3 while getting the save.  The Mets beat the Nationals 6-5.

Today the Mets were running on all cylinders as they beat the Marlins, 11-2.  John Maine got the nod, and In 1 2/3 innings, he struck out four and gave up one run.  Jenrry Mejia shined once again, throwing three scoreless innings, allowing two hits and striking out one.  The 20 year old hasn’t allowed a run yet this Spring.

With four weeks left until opening day, we have an idea of the Mets’ probable starting rotation.

Here’s what it looks like:

Johan Santana, Mike Pelfrey, Oliver Perez, John Maine, and Jon Niese

Fernando Nieve and Niese are battling for that fifth spot, but I think it will go to Niese.

Can this rotation contend for a pennant? Or even a playoff birth?

Side Notes

1. Jason Bay had an RBI single in the 1st inning today.

2. Chris Carter homered twice in the Mets’, 8-run 9th inning.

3. Rod Barajas homered today, in his quest to be the starting catcher over Omir Santos and Henry Blanco

4. Johan Santana makes his first start tomorrow against Houston at 1:10pm

**Pictured Above: Yankees Outfielder, Nick Swisher, Falling Over A Fence**

Written By: Matt Vereb

The Yankees participated in split squad games today. Half of the Yankees traveled to play the Pirates. The other half stayed home to take on the Phillies.

Game 1: Notable Players vs. Pirates:

Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Curtis Granderon, Alfredo Aceves

Game Result: Yankees Win, 6-0

Game Notes:

1. The pitching foursome of Aceves, Ivan Nova, Zach McAllister, and Jason Hirsch combined to one-hit the Pirates. Aceves threw four, dominant scoreless innings. He has looked extremely sharp during Spring Training. Nova, McAllister, and Hirsch all play prominent roles for the Yankees’ Double A and Triple A clubs.

2. Curtis Granderson is still hitless this spring, but did score a run in the victory.

3. Alex Rodriguez laced a two-run single in the 1st inning.

Game 2: Notable Players vs. Phillies:

Javier Vazquez, Mark Teixeira, Robinson Cano, Nick Johnson, Jorge Posada, Brett Gardner, David Robertson

Game Result: Yankees Win, 7-5

Before I begin my writeup, take a look at the Phillies lineup today:

Jimmy Rollins SS
Placido Polanco 3B
Chase Utley 2B
Ryan Howard 1B
Raul Ibanez LF
Jayson Werth DH
Ben Francisco CF
John Mayberry Jr. RF
Carlos Ruiz C

I guess Charlie Manuel is still a little bitter from October. It’s March, Charlie. Wake up. Half of the Yankee starters are playing the Pirates. We’ll see you again in October, don’t worry.

Game Notes:

1. Javier Vazquez got the start today for the Yankees. Phillies leadoff hitter, Jimmy Rollins, hit Vazquez’s first pitch over the right field wall. After that, Javy settled in. He threw two innings, striking out four, and only allowing the one hit. Not a bad showing for Vazquez, given it is his first start of the season against a stacked lineup.

2. Outfielder Nick Swisher was 2 for 3 with two doubles and three RBIs. His big 3 RBI double came off of….

3. JOSE CONTRERAS. Contreras has found himself competing for a spot in the Phillies bullepn. His line today? 1 2/3 innings, six runs, six hits, three walks.Thanks Jose.

4. David Robertson had a rough outing today, giving up two runs and three hits in only 2/3 of an inning.

Both games provided some encouraging results. A-Rod is getting the clutch hits, Vazquez pitched very well against a good lineup, Swish-Hawk is crushing the ball. We are one day closer to opening day…

Yankee Fans: Are You Encoruaged By Today’s Results?