Monday, December 10, 2007

"It's disturbing, it really is"

Here are the team's post-game comments following their 74-61 to Siena:

Head Coach Ed Cooley:

On another loss in the final minutes
“It’s been the same script for four straight games”

On an energy-less loss to Siena
“We had a bad performance tonight. We were not good from start to finish. We were lackluster. We were energy less. We looked puzzled. We didn’t play well at all. We have to find out who we are and where we want to go because right now we’re not a (consistent team). We’re in a funk that I haven’t seen us (in). It’s disturbing, it really is. I saw a different Fairfield team today.

On whether a lack of preparation was the cause of the Siena loss
"I thought we had two good preparation today. We knew exactly what Siena wanted to today. Against a press that was a peek-a-boo press. I mean, wow. Against a regular zone… They must have played a new form of basketball tonight. Basketball, 2008. That’s what we must have saw tonight. But right now, we are not a good team”

When asked if Siena is a difficult team to match-up with
“I don’t think (Siena) is difficult to guard at all. It was our lack of understanding their personnel. It’s not the first time we’ve played them – (Siena) played the same system a year ago. It’s a lack of understanding. It did not translate from practice to the game. It could be Michael Jordan and Dennis Rodman out there playing. It’s basketball. It’s jump to the ball, its close out, it’s beat your man to the dribble. Right now, our guys are allowing to much of that.”

On Fairfield’s myriad of issues
"I didn’t think we did a good job of taking away some of the easy thing. They made ten (three-point shots) on the night, I’d bet that eight of them were uncontested. Our rotations were bad defensively. We’ll right it, though. I’m down, I’m disappointed. We’ve got 14 days to see where we’re going. It’s early in the season and we’ve played a lot of young guys. We’ll take care of it.”

Yorel Hawkins:
“It’s frustrating. It was a lackluster game. They were picked to win the league and we didn’t come out there energized. Everyone is lackadaisical out there. I mean, it’s frustrating.

Herbie Allen:
“It’s tough. They shot 55% from three. We made a run, but they made a three here and a three there – it was frustrating. We prepared for them for two days. It seemed like we just threw the stuff that we learned (in) last two days out the window.”

- Keith Connors

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

'That's My Record'

Head coach Ed Cooley's post-game comments on the Stags' overtime loss against Yale (70-66) at Alumni Hall. For a recap of the game from Tom Cleary, as well as commentary on Coach Cooley's post-game words, check out this weeks edition of The Mirror.

on the 70-66 OT loss to Yale - “A very disappointing loss. I will go on record to say that this was the most disappointing loss I’ve had as a head coach. At home, our crowd was terrific; the atmosphere was great. We are just not a smart basketball team. We’ve had the same script for four straight games. Coming down the stretch, our lack of execution, our lack of understanding what we need to do is just not there. Right now, we are not a good basketball club based on our inexperience on the floor and right now it’s showing because of our turnovers.”

on how to fix the mistakes of a very youthful Stags team - “Keep working with them. Keep stressing the importance of how valuable the ball is. Time and score means everything. Not only that, I think we scout teams as well as anyone in the country when it comes down to what they’re doing. Coaches coach and players play, and put people in a position to win basketball games. Apparently right now I’m not doing a very good job of that. We’ll look at these mistakes and see if we can’t get better.”

on Fairfield's 13-of-26 foul shooting on Tuesday night - “No, that’s just a lack of concentration. We’ve had a couple of games now where we’ve shot a very subpar free throw percentage. That’s just a lack of concentration. That’s not youth – these kids have been playing basketball for a long time. And you’ve been shooting free throws since they were babies if you’re playing this sport. That’s just bad."

on the state of Fairfield Basketball - “Right now, we are not a good basketball team. We are trying to grow. We have a league game (against Siena) on Friday which is very important. I’d like to be 1-0 after Friday. That’s the most important thing on my mind right now. We’ll learn from this and we’ll move on. "

on the Stags' up-tempo start to the Yale game - “I thought we came out of the gate really well. You have to sustain it. Right now, we are having trouble sustaining that level of concentration. "

on the responsibility for the four-game losing sterak - "2-6 isn’t the end of the world. You get to the NCAA (Tournament) in the MAAC by winning the MAAC (Championship). That’s our goal. Right now, our (2-6) record is more about the coach. That’s my record. Our team record right now is 0-0 in this league. That’s the most important thing we have to stress to our kids."

Looking ahead - "We will get better. Those mistakes these kids were making (vs. Yale) will not be made in the near future, I promise you that. It’s a matter of us getting better on a daily basis."

on if there is any consolation knowing the MAAC games are still ahead - "I always think the game you play is the biggest game. There is zero consolation in losing a game. If you’ve ever coached a sport, you don’t sleep when you lose, you don’t sleep when you win because you’re preparing for your next opponent. We won’t sleep tonight because we will be watching hours upon hours of film on Siena. That’s just what our job is. And it’s my job as a head coach to let them know that our head coach is not disappointed, just a little down."

- Keith Connors

Friday, November 16, 2007

Plenty of Fights Ahead

When Jon Han got up from the floor on Tuesday night against Holy Cross, he lost control. There was certainly a lot of frustration in his actions - as he charged after Holy Cross guard Kyle Cruze. After all, the Stags were handled by Wake Forest last Saturday and were being tossed around by Holy Cross the entire night.

Said Cooley, "I was very disappointed with the way our team responded to (Holy Cross') physicality."

Lesson learned. A few days later, the Stags were able to get a win over American University in D.C. - the first of hopefully many in the win column. The team stormed out of the gate with a 14-0 second half run - and, from what I've heard, it looks as if Cooley may have found some rhythm with his personnel after last night's halftime.

Which brings me back to my original point: patience. The reasoning behind Fairfield's brutal out-of-conference schedule is to prepare them for the MAAC. As Cooley said after the Wake game, "We're not trying to compete with Wake Forest. We're trying to compete with Loyola and Siena".

If the Stags can pull some positives out of the sketchy start to the season, it's that they have played against some of the best and come out better for it.

Whether or not they turns those lessons into victories remains to be seen.

  • Holy Cross did a great job getting to the line and converting; whether or not it was a merited opportunity remains to be seen. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that Cooley was not pleased with the officiating. The Crusaders' breathed a sigh of relief that the got a W on the road without big man Tim Clifford for most of the game.
  • Jon Han vowed that the team would pick itself up and learn after the Holy Cross loss.
  • Jimmy Patsos got some pub in the recent edition of Sports Illustrated, which is the 2007-08 college basketball preview. The Greyhounds took down American a few days before the Stags came to town.
  • Team source told me that the best story of the D.C. trip to American was the bus driver not showing up to drive the team to the pre-game shoot around. Luckily for them, Cooley called in a favor with John Thomson III and got the Stags into Georgetown's practice facility just in time.
  • Assistant coach and coordinator of scouting Tim Fuller has resigned. Coach Cooley confirmed the news yesterday in an interview - but it's something that we've been hearing about for a few weeks now.
  • Without Fuller in the equation, one can only speculate whether or not it had an impact on former signee Jamal Turner. It's hard to say that the two aren't connected.
  • Head Coach Ed Cooley is not unfamiliar with Sacred Heart, as Mike Puma writes here. It's been a while.
  • Sacred Heart just won't stop talking. They'll be up for this one. The Pioneers are off to a rough 1-3 start. They recently dropped a game to lowly Hartford. But it's a hyped game and they'll be up for it - as will SHU's "Big Red" faithful.
  • Regardless of how you feel on the Sacred Heart game, it is no more a rivalry than Holy Cross - which was as intense a game as you can find.
  • Early scouting report on SHU: a lot of athletes, not as many basketball "team" players. FU is looking to go in often to Greg Nero (who exploded with 13 second-half points vs. American) and Anthony Johnson to counter the Pioneers' small team. Execution will be key for the Stags, but it is a very winnable game.
- Keith Connors

[Photo Credit: Connecticut Post]

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Let The Games Begin

Last Friday night at Harbor Yard, we got the appetizer.

It wasn't pretty, but Fairfield gave us a glimpse into the season ahead. One thing is for sure: this is a deeply talented team that has a lot of options beyond the starting five. One can look no further to that fact that Marty O'Sullivan and Mamadou Diakhate, two returning veterans, did not play as much as Lyndon Jordan and Sean Grzeck.

Now, in all honesty, it is only a scrimmage. But if we learned anything about head coach Ed Cooley last season, it's that he isn't afraid to go to a younger lineup.

It's hard to envision Fairfield finishing sixth in the MAAC. Still, with a young roster of up-and-comers, it isn't out of the realm of possibility than 2007-08 still may be a rebuilding process. However, one can't help but think that there is a chance that things may gel, the team may hit the ground running, and the Stags could find themselves playing basketball in March.

And it's not out of the realm of possibility that Cooley and the gang could pull a 180-degree turnaround and perform well in a tough out-of-conference schedule. With powerhouses like Kentucky and Michigan State falling to small, mid-major schools in scrimmages, why can't the Stags follow in suit? Especially given the transitional nature of Wake's team right now.

Oh, the beauty of the pre-season.

  • Jon Han was The Man for Fairfield against Bridgeport. The Stags were able to overcome a sluggish start and hold on for a win over the Purple Knights.
  • Ed Cooley did his best to rotate players and avoided going into the playbook all night. After the game, he was as calm as ever. He told me, "I just can't wait to go home and watch (the Boston College) Eagles game tomorrow, man."
  • Wake Forest, after a tumultuous off-season, is ready to roll. In many respects, the season begins with a heavy heart for the Demon Deacons. For many, like junior guard Harvey Hale, it's to focus on the game; a welcome distraction after a tough loss. As a Duke fan growing up, I can say that Skip Prosser's Wake teams were as tough as they come. It's a loss that will most-definitely be felt.
  • As Lenox Rawlings writes, a pre-season prediction for Wake to finish near the bottom of the pack in the ACC (the team is starting four freshman and a red-shirt sophomore) just adds fuel to the fire for hard-workers like Hale.
  • There are plenty of questions surrounding the Deacs as they head into the season.
  • Early Scouting Report on Wake from a Fairfield perspective: expect to see a lot of match-up zone. From what I've heard, Fairfield has prepared all week to face a lot of the 2-3 zone on Friday night - probably due to a lack of respect for the Stags' outside shooting sans Michael Van Schaick.
  • Fairfield signed a blockbuster deal with Cablevision that will provide game coverage as early as this season. AD Gene Doris hopes that this will develop into a great partnership - with a possible full season televised schedule on the horizon. Great news for FU from an exposure and public relations standpoint.
  • To add more fuel to the so-called Cooley/Jimmy Patsos rivalry, Loyola (Md.) has received a great deal of publicity in the pre-season, as his Greyhound squad is largely considered to be the favorite in the MAAC. The reason? Senior guard Gerald Brown (22.2 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 2.7 apg), a 6'4" kid from Baltimore who led the MAAC and ranked eighth in the nation in scoring. He's that good.
For our final tidbit of prep heading into the season, here's a little history lesson. After some research (after all, I've only been a part of the Fairfield family for 14 months), it seems that there's some reason for hope that a Fairfield upset in Friday night's contest is possible. One simply needs to look to the past.

The 1997 miracle run of the Stags was one of the more remarkable in the school's history. After an injury-plagued, underachieving season, Fairfield caught fire just in time for the MAAC tournament. The Stags (11-18 on the season) downed St. Peter's, Canisuis, and top-seeded Iona to clinched an NCAA tourney berth.

In the 1-16 game, the Stags pushed North Carolina to the brink. The Stags started the second half strong and took a 37-28 lead early, but their bid to become the first 16 seed to claim a top-seed as their victim, but ultimately fell short, 82-74.

The host city of that game? Winston-Salem. The arena? Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

Hey, you never know.

Friday, November 2, 2007

As the Calendar turns to November

The last time I wrote from Harbor Yard, a teary-eyed Michael Van Schaick was trying to put a first round loss to Loyola (Md.) into words, and Ed Cooley was vowing that 2007 would have a far different ending.

7 months have passed and now we return to the start and wonder what the road ahead will bring. How will Fairfield respond to losing their leader? It will be difficult to decipher at first, as the Stags once against face a daunting early season schedule from the outset.

One thing is for sure, with eight underclassmen, this is still a young team - and a sixth-place MAAC projection in the coaches' poll proves expectations are low.

But that's fine with Fairfield.

- K.C.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Goodbye, Uncle Joe

I have never met Joe Torre. He never signed an autograph for me, or even looked my way when my buddies and I would scream him name when we went to games.

Still, as a die hard Yankee fan since I was eight years old (1996, for those keeping track) I feel like I've lost more than a manager or a friend - Joe was like family.

While it sounds a little childish, my brother, Matt, and I used to call him "Uncle Joe" - an always steady and reassuring voice in the chaotic, crazy world of the New York Yankees. The players respected him so much that every Yankee used to refer to him as "Mr. Torre" in public. Players like Derek Jeter and Paul O'Neill always did call him a "father figure". I now realize how right they were.

Needless to say, I was very upset upon hearing the news - and even more effected by Joe Torre's somber press conference from Rye, N.Y. in which he gave his explanation of the events that transpired the day before.

It was an unofficial end of an era. As I started to think of it, the only thing that will probably affect me more emotionally as a Yankee fan in years to come is Derek Jeter's retirement. That's how much Joe Torre meant to the Yankees, the city of New York, and to the fans.

Count myself as one of those who admired him as a manager and as a gentleman.

Torre was a voice of reason, a presence of calm, and a beacon of class in a city that demands excellence and has exceedingly high expectations. Any normal human being would have last maybe a year or two in this job; Torre excelled for 12 years in the only baseball dynasty since the advent of free agency.

He meant so much to the city of New York. He grew up in Marine Park, Brooklyn - only 15 minutes from where my parents grew up. To say that the city embraced him as family upon his arrival in an understatement. He was one of the first to pay a visit to Ground Zero after the attacks.

Torre's popularity transcended Gotham. A Newsweek poll in 2000 said, behind Michael Jordan, he was the most recognizable sports figure in America.

He also, somehow, made the Yankees likable. While some of that is due to a change in philosophy and new, hard nosed players, Torre's professionalism and class made them approachable and, for Yankee haters, respected villains. My Dad, a lifelong Mets fan, commented in 2003 during the ALCS against Boston (another signature Torre moment) that he never once in his lifetime thought he'd ever root for the Yankees. He did. His two reasons: Derek Jeter and Joe Torre.

Personally, I'd believe that Torre did the right thing by turning down the offer, one that was certainly designed to be rejected. Torre deserved more respect than to have an incentive-based deal. The fact that Randy Levine, the Yankees' president who has never shown signs of an effective leader, said Torre needed to be more motivated is an absolute joke. An interview with any Yankees player after the ALDS will tell you that, if not for Joe Torre, the season would have ended in July, not October.

Torre's replacement is another issue, and the Yankees have more problems beyond the man who will lead the troops. Mariano Rivera and Jorge Posada, long-time Torre allies, may need to be swayed a little more in order to stay in the Bronx now that their man is gone. Trades will be made. Players will be moved. This roster may look very, very different. And that starts at the top.

As it rains here in Connecticut, I can't help but wonder whether I will remember this as the day that the Yankee Golden Age of my lifetime crumbled. It started in 2001 with Luis Gonzalez single, it continued in 2004 when Boston made history.

Now, in a age of turmoil in the post-George Steinbrenner era, the Yankees are not just leaderless, they are faceless.

Still, I'll always be thankful for Joe and the moments his Yankees gave me. From the comeback against Atlanta in 1996, to the greatest team of all time in '98, to the emotional roller coaster of 2001 - Torre was there and a reason behind all of it.

And for that, I'm thankful to have been a part of it.

Friday, October 12, 2007

A Yankee Fan Copes with Reality

As I sit here and top this post, the Boston Red Sox are trouncing the Cleveland Indiana in Game 1 of the ALCS. It seemed like only a week ago that the New York Yankees were knocking around C.C. Sabathia, much like the Indiana. Unfortunately for them, two things happened: 1) they didn't finish off with runners in scoring position, and 2) the Indians battered Chien-Ming Wang that much more.

Apparently with Josh Beckett on the mound, the easy selection for the American League Cy Young winner, the Sox do not have that problem.

So, despite the fact that I've managed to go five innings without even a glance at the screen, let's give these teams some credit and here's some quick thoughts on the ALCS:

  • The Indians, to have any shot at this series, have to win three out of the four games that are pitched by their aces - C.C. Sabathia and Fausto Carmona. Thus far, the prospects are looking dim in Game One, placing even more emphasis on tomorrow night's start from Cleveland's other upstart righty. The two were dirty against the Yankees. I'd like to think that, even if overmatched by Boston, they will not go quietly into the night.
  • Travis Hafner, who homered in his first at-bat of the playoffs, is poised for a break-out series. He was a frightening presence in the Division Series against the Yankees, seemingly up in every big opportunity. The Indians need Hafner. I'd think he may be a household name by the end of the series.
  • We all know what's coming out of David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez. For Boston to take it all this year, they'll need that third big threat to emerge. While many will point to J.D. Drew's recent emergence as a sign of hope, I still think he's overpaid and overhyped. I think it will be Kevin Youkilis that helps the Fenway faithful get back to the Promised Land.
  • Schilling and Dice-K. One is a little old, the other is over hyped. I'm interested to see their performances in this series. Schilling is going up against a younger, more energetic pitcher who was on his game against the Yankees. Carmona does have demons against Boston (David Ortiz owned him last year when he was a reliever), but this guy is a much different pitcher. Can Schilling keep up with him? As for Matsuzaka, I'm a little worried about him in a road game in a big spot in the postseason. If Cleveland can head back home with a 1-1 split, I think they could rattle Dice-K early. He has shown me no evidence he can pitch in a big game in 2007.
  • Dustin Pedroia is a star in the making. You have to love a guy who plays the game with a lot of intensity and a lot of pride. The Red Sox have a great, homegrown talent that will be in that #4 position in the scorecard for quite some time.
  • Ditto for Grady Sizemore, although you already knew that. Sizemore has the kind of talent that makes scouts drool and opposing pitchers shake. He had an uncanny ability of being able to hit for power and contact against New York in the Division Series. Sizemore, while a little over aggressive in his young age, can develop into a top ten player in the MLB. Whether or not this is the year he does it has yet to be seen.
Anyway, let's see how it unfolds. I'm taking Boston in six, who will have the Colorado Rockies waiting for them in an unlikely World Series match-up.

Meanwhile, I'm left to cope with a terrible October by Derek Jeter, rumors of the best manager in my time being fired, and Alex Rodriguez opting out of his contract for even more cash. I very much admire the Yankee youth movement and their astounding resiliency in what looked like a lost season early on, but the media is certainly taking a negative spin out of their October exit. Whether or not they can recover, only time will tell.

While Fenway rocks, it's a tough time to be on the south side of I-95.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

He's Baaaaack....

Roger Clemens is back, and so are the Yankees' chances of success in 2007

It started a long time ago, long before the calendar turned to April and the Yankees took on the Devil Rays on Opening Day.

It all started with Andy Pettitte's first question in his press conference just after the announcement of his second tenure with the Bronx Bombers: "So, where's Roger?"

It's always been about the alleged return- from Pettitte's unlikely return home, to Robinson Cano's number change. It was essentially predetermined.

Now, with the Yankees wavering and 5 1/2 games out of first place in early May, Clemens decided to forget the wait and get to business.

And nobody does it better than Roger.

Here's a few thoughts:

  • On Saturday's FOX telecast of the Yanks/M's game, one in which Chien-Ming Wang nearly through a perfect game, Tim McCarver and Joe Buck began to discuss "the Rocket" in the broadcast booth. Buck claimed he felt the Yankees were the front-runner, but technically it should be Boston since they are the odds on favorites to win it, albeit at such an early point in the year. McCarver's response: "If he really cared about the World Series, he'd have signed with a team by now." Who cares now, Tim?
  • Boston was supposed to be the "storybook ending" on a team that, as of now, has a better chance of winning the World Series than the Yankees or Astros. Now, as my roommate put it, Clemens has "burned all his bridges" with Boston. Still, it's hard to argue that Boston didn't tare them down first. Clemens, a creature of motivation and work ethic, has strived since being let go by the Red Sox after the 1996 season. Dan Duquette's "twilight" comment is still very much in his mind, in my opinion. In my mind, it always came down to hometown Houston or the Yankees.
  • Julian Tavarez, Red Sox pitcher: "We don't need Clemens." Be careful what you wish for, Julian.
  • Don't underestimate the impact of two other Yankees not named Pettitte - Derek Jeter and Joe Torre. Jeter, the consummate professional, has stayed close with Clemens since his departure after the 2003 World Series. According to sources, they've been talking for weeks. The two, despite very different approaches and styles, have always had their minds on one thing only: World Series rings. As for Torre, Clemens has always looked at him as a sort of father figure that brought him the best years of his career - not statistically, but in terms of success and pride.
  • How 'bout that announcement, huh? That's as close to the WWE as baseball will ever get. Michael Kay said it best, "Broadway's not too far from here". Any Sox fan, though, will likely vomit upon seeing that video. (Side-note: A buddy told me they actually stopped "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" a few chords in, with Sheppard calling the crowd to attention for an "important announcement". Not bad for drama.)
  • Can they catch Boston? Maybe. With Clemens and phenom Phil Hughes both back in early June... probably. But I'd just as soon take a Wild Card spot for all I care. This team was built for the playoffs, and it's hard to imagine them going anywhere else.

The bottom line is this - the Yankees just spent $28 million for a 44-year old pitcher that is past his prime. Still, if past your prime meant a 2.30 ERA and 102 strikeouts in 113 innings, I'd probably take that over 95% of the pitchers "in" their prime.

Adding him to Wang, Pettitte, a healthy Moose, and a kid like Hughes not only makes that a formidable rotation for the regular seson and beyond - but also has correlative effects. Hughes, labeled as the "next" Rocket, will likely be hearing from Roger a lot over the next few months. As much as the 20-year old is already "ready" for prime time, he can only benefit from learning from Roger's work ethic, workout routines, mentality, and approach. It's a perfect marriage - one that will have benefits a decade from now.

As for the affect on the AL East, the Yankees once again proved their true colors. Boston, Toronto, and the like may be able to outsmart the Yankees with savvy decisions and smart trades, but they will never be able to compete with their spending. Dice-K bids are one and a million for Boston; a purchase like Rocket's is a common occurence in the Bronx.

If the Yankees struggle, they will buy their way out of it.

I look at Clemens not as an act of desperation, but as the first of many moves that will be made in the coming weeks that the Yankees were not happy about the first 40 days of the season. I'm sure the bullpen will be addressed, or perhaps completely re hauled altogether. A hitter (probably a 1B) may get added on top of that.

One thing is for sure, Roger's "homecoming" marks a return to the Yankees of old: Buying their way into contention, by any means necessary.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Mo, How the Mighty Have Fallen..

It's 6-3 in the 8th inning. The Yankees have absolutely controlled the game. A-Rod hits two off of Schilling. The bullpen (specifically, the greatest closer of all time) is rested and ready to go.

A half hour later, I'm hearing the Standells' "Dirty Water" over the Fenway loudspeakers as Hideki Okajima strikes out Kevin Thompson to end the game, as the Sox win 7-6?


I'll admit that the Sox put up a great inning against Mighty Mo that included some great at-bats, specifically by Jason Varitek (a guy I mentioned in my blog last night kills the Yankees... kills)

But a four-run lead vanishing? That's unreal.

Here's a few thoughts:

  • Mo is still Mo - but not the 1997 Mo that would saw bats like a lumberjack and end games in a matter of 30 seconds. He's not as dominant as Papelbon or as devastating as K-Rod at this point. He still is, though, a lights-out closer when used properly.
  • On that note, Mariano hasn't pitched in four days - the last time being when he gave up a game-ending walk-off HR to Marco Scutaro. Give the guy some work! His struggle locating his cutter and two-seam are directly related to his lack of work. If he was in there more, he'd have been fine last night. I'm not saying overuse him, but he needs to be out there to not only regain confidence, but also hit his stride. It's like claiming that a great hitter (let's say Derek Jeter) will get out of a slump by limiting his ABs to two or three a week. Pitchers work very similar. Get him out there!
  • Torre, for the second straight game, mismanaged the bullpen. Plain and simple. I'd have kept Pettitte out there to finish the 7th, but I'll let him slide on that one. Proctor looked good - and I would have definitely kept him in. As for Vizcaino, I'm not sure I would've let him stay in the game - especially since Bruney and Farnsworth are better pitchers with more big game experience/power and ready to go.
  • From now on, no more two inning saves for Mo. I'm sorry. It'd have to be game 7 for me to even consider it. He's still dominant and I'll never be nervous with him at the plate, but inheriting two base runners against a team with a lot of momentum and some good hitters coming up is just not the right thing to do.
  • HUGE mistake of the night: A bit overlooked due to the bullpen woes, Torre pinch ran for Giambi with Kevin Thompson as the Yanks are up 4 runs. On the very next pitch, Thompson gets out on a fielder's choice to second that even Michael Johnson couldn't have beat out. Down one? Fine. Up one? Sure. UP FOUR? Why? What's the point? We really need that fifth? I was pissed at the move from the start (an omen, I guess).
  • As for the last out of the night, you guessed it - Kevin Thompson. His presence allowed Okajima to throw A-Rod crappier pitches, one of which he swung at, and get the last out with Abreu stranded at first. Giambi may have gotten out, but it likely would've been a battle of an at-bat with Giambi's eye, as well as a possible win with Giambi's flair for the dramatic (fourth in active MLB players with most HRs in the ninth or extra innings). Ouch.

Anywho, that's life. Vonnegut would say "so it goes". All in all, a great game, and I have to tip my cap to the Sox for getting good ABs against Mo and hanging in there. Crisp and Cora didn't crush the ball or get good wood on the pitch, but they were in the right spots. A nice confidence boost for a few struggling players and this Red Sox team in general.

As for today, Jeff Karstens takes the hill against Josh Beckett. Needless to say, I'll be having 2003 WS nightmare flashbacks all afternoon if he dominates us, which seems likely the way things went last night.

With two rookies going up against two of the AL's best after that debacle last night - I can only think of one thing:

Does anyone know Roger's cell phone number?

Friday, April 20, 2007

Breakin' it Down for the Fight at Fenway

A position-by-position look at the Bombers and the Sawx.

  • Catcher - Jason Varitek BOS vs. Jorge Posada - Posada is a far better hitter and off to a great start this season. Yet, while I'm tempted to give it to him, it's clear that Varitek's absence last summer coincided with the Sox demise. Besides being a veteran presence and a great defensive catcher, he does an unbelievable job studying hitters and calling a great game. It's the most underrated part of baseball. And he always seems to do well against the Yanks. CALL: TOSS UP
  • First Base - Kevin Youkilis vs. Josh Phelps - Phelps is nice, but only a serviceable player at best. He's got some pop, I'll admit, but he's in there because he's a better fielder than Giambi and because Douggie can't really hit. Youkilis is an on-base machine that can frustrate pitchers. CALL: SOX
  • Second Base - Dustin Pedroia vs. Robinson Cano - It's not even close. Robbie Cano is the premier second baseman in the American League, whereas Pedroia is a stopgap kind of guy with minor upside. As far as I'm concerned, Cano will probably be the AL's second baseman in the All-Star game for the next decade. Props here to the guy that nearly won the batting title at the ripe age of 24 in only his second years in the bigs. CALL: YANKS
  • Shortstop - Julio Lugo vs. Derek Jeter - You're kidding, right? CALL: YANKS
  • Third Base - Mike Lowell vs. Alex Rodriguez - (See Shortstop) CALL: YANKS
  • Left Field - Manny Ramirez vs. Melky Cabrera I'd say that this one was close if Hideki was healthy, but that's simply not the case. With Manny just starting to heat up, it's anyone's guess as to the kind of weekend he'll have. My gut says he's wreak havoc on the youngsters on Saturday afternoon and Sunday night. A great hitter to watch. CALL: SOX
  • Center Field - Coco Crisp, BOS vs. Johnny Damon - Coco's a far better defensive outfield, since Damon's arm is similar to that of a 13-year old girl or myself. Damon, however, still has some nice range, is familiar with the grounds in Boston, and can hit better righty than the Mr. Kellogs over there, who is hitting a paltry .167 coming off of his outstanding .263, 36 RBI season. CALL: YANKS
  • Right Field - J.D. Drew vs. Bobby Abreu - Probably the closest position battle of them all. J.D. Drew is an over hyped player, but when healthy he can be a key asset and a dangerous hitter. He's got plus power and a solid batting average already in 2007. As for our RF, Abreu is a solid player that works counts, fields his position well, and always seems to get on base. It's a tough one, but Bobby's experiences last year against Boston and his superior OPS gives him the edge, but it's as close to a tie as you can get. EDGE: YANKS.
  • Starting Pitching - OK, you've got me. Our pitching is a mess. This can be summarized in one sentence: "After Andy Pettitte, the Yankees will start Jeff Karstens and Chase Wright in Fenway". Yikes. I think they can surprise some people, but it's certainly far from the trio of Beckett, Schilling, and Dice-K. EDGE: SOX, but talk to me in June when Wang and Moose are back and Roger Clemens and Phil Hughes are in the rotation!
  • Bullpen - A tough one. I like the trio of Timlin, Donnelly, and Romero leading to Paps, even though my roomie is scared to death of J.C. Romero. As for the Bombers, I'm a fan of the Bruney, Proctor, Vizcaino, and Farnsworth quartet leading to Mo, even though Proctor is erratic and Vizcaino blew it for us yesterday. CALL: TOSS-UP
  • Closer - I can't even go there. It's too painful for me to admit Papelbon is better. He is. But, I can't admit that. Mo's track record and my Yankee heart prevent me from doing so. CALL: NO COMMENT
  • OVERALL : We'll find out, won't we? (My guy says Boston this weekend, Yanks next weekend when Wang and Matsui return)

So, now you're set for the games. I'll be back tomorrow for a little post-game action and preview of Saturday's match-up.

- Keith Connors

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Let the Games Begin....

Yanks, Sox Renew the Rivalry
An in-depth look at what makes baseball so great - and what I think heading into Series #1

So it's April 19th. I'm getting ready for a weekend that includes partying, Archie Moore wings, hopefully a game or two of 'ruit (as my roomie would call it), and baseball.

Not just any baseball, Yankees and Red Sox.

Sufficed to say, it's not just any game.

I have so many things to say, that I don't really know where to begin. I've been waiting for this for such a long time. Last season, by the time we arrived to Fairfield, the Sawx were starting Javy Lopez behind the plate and looked more like the Sox we swept in the '99 ALCS than the team that stood toe-to-toe with us in '03 and '04.

5 straight at Fenway? It seemed just too easy.

As for the Fairfield campus, Sox fans were already turning the calender to 2006 and didn't care at all about that one series we had while we were here. Yankees fan (NEVER one to rub it in) let them know about it, but realized how boring our ride to the World Series would be without playing our buddies from Beantown.

Unfortunately, the hopes of another ring we're derailed.

And now, both of us are in the same spot: starting from scratch, trying to get back to the promised land.

So the world will watch Friday night as the two teams battle it out. Here's what's running through my head going into the lion's den.

  • Fenway is scary. I don't like it at all. Believe it or not, I actually like watching games at Fenway more than in the Bronx for some reason. It sort of reminds me of that scene from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade when Connery turns to his son at the German camp and says, "Son, we're pilgrims in an unholy place". That's what Fenway is. It's everything against what I root for. Wins there are just so much sweeter. Most Yankee fans would agree, I think.
  • On the topic of Fenway, the reason it scares me is that it's an offensive playground. Throwing Jeff Karstens and Chase Wright out to the Sox lineup does not enthuse me. I don't think either are bad pitchers, just very young, very raw, and are being asked to do a lot. It's a tall order for a veteran.
  • As long as we're on the "raw, not yet ready for the majors players," Joel Piniero said he can't wait "to rip the Yankees heads off" for the fans. JOEL PINIERO? You've gotta be kidding. I'm pretty sure that you'd be pitching in Triple A for Durham telling stories to the kids about how it used to be in "the show" if it wasn't for Theo Epstein liking your WHIP like the stat nerd he is and giving you a deal. By the end of the weekend, if he's used at all, he's be Joel Pinata.
  • Schilling's blog - I'll be honest, I'm a fan. I wish more players did it. A very opinionated guy, but I like that about him. And he's a gamer. I'm expecting a great outing out of him tomorrow night. He always comes up big.
  • I'm thinking a big weekend on the way for Manny. He homered on Thursday and is finally starting to heat up. Not that that scares me - he's always done well against us. I just think that he'll be the feared hitter this weekend. Other than Ortiz, of course.
  • The player I'll be watching for the Sawx is J.D. Drew. He's had a nice start statistically and thus far has proved worth the investment. In a big spot, though, I'm still not convinced. He's never played with this kind of pressure - regardless of his experiences with the Cardinals. Nothing is like this. Especially when you're a controversial signing brought in specifically to beat the Yankees. It's not like L.A. when people don't care and show up in the 4th. At Fenway, they'll remember that 1-2 pitch you took in the 4th on April 20th in the 8th with two men on that lost them a chance to win. Welcome to Boston.
  • We NEED A-Rod. He's been absolutely on fire thus far - especially after his ridiculous walk-off against the Tribe. He's better than anybody on the Sox, by far. Probably MLB, too. Keep Ortiz. Keep Manny. Keep Pujols, Howard, Reyes. I'll take A-Rod and take my chances. Especially now that he's clutch.
  • Speaking of clutch, I've got my eye on two Yankees that have yet to really come through yet: 1) Andy Pettitte - probably the only good match-up we get in terms of starting pitching all weekend, Andy goes mono e mono (that's right, I brought out the Latin for this game) with blogger Curt Schilling. If that doesn't sound like an October game, I don't know what does. He's been okay this year, not yet fantastic. Pettitte's big game persona will shine this weekend. Just a gut feeling. That being said, Curt is just as good of a gamer. Odds are Sox could pull out a win just as easy. I'm just waiting on Andy to finally show his stripes. 2) Jeter - Jeter haunts the Red Sox. He always does something that completely changes the course of the games/series/year. Expecting anything less is just dumb. If Jeter's up against Papelbon with the game on the line, I'll be fine. On the verge on a heart attack, but fine.
  • Mo vs. Papelbon? I love Paps, he's a great kid with a good stare and a live arm. There's not much not to like. I would like to add though that the Yankees, a patient team with a great team OPS, got a good look at him last season. As if that's not enough, Papelbon has a history of arm problems and has pitched for two consecutive games. I like our chances.
  • Mo's money. I'm fine with him. He got his one blown save out of the way. We'll be fine. He's rested. Am I trying to convince myself? Who knows anymore. I think his days of getting owned by Boston are over. This is a different Red Sox team. OK, I need to stop talking now.
  • Karstens and Wright had a great spring - I like both kids. It's just a tall order. I'm not expecting much from Karstens, who fresh of a stint on the DL and definitely not ready for a team as good as Boston. I'm thinking a loss on Saturday is more than 50% likely.
  • As for Chase, I like him a lot. I think he's got potential to be a great big leaguer. Especially good poise and athleticism. I'm thinking that they found a gem in this kid. Reminds me a little of a Jamie Moyer. Anyway, don't be shocked to see him throw well on Sunday. If not for two shaky innings in his first taste of the big leagues that resulted in a handful of walks - it would've been a gem.
  • Dice-K - I know, I know. We're expected to roll over and bow down to this giant of Japan. In all honesty, he doesn't scare me a bit. So he strikes out a lot of guys. Great. I watched the game against Seattle (SEATTLE! THE MARINERS! They have been good since I was a sperm! Maybe longer!) worked a great inning, made him sweat, and beat him. I think he'll be a bit over hyped for this game and he'll probably make a few mistakes. A very underrated part of this too is the Yanks' patient and OPS. Dice-K strikes out people on guys making mistakes a.k.a. swinging at balls a.k.a. inexperience and impatient. When he's facing Damon, Jeter, Abreu, and Giambi - all workers and great eyes - it won't be easy. I think he gets beat.
  • BOTTOM LINE: Pettitte and Jeter help us on Friday to a 3-2 win. Mo gets the save. The Sox blow us out (we'll say 9-3) on Saturday as Beckett goes 8 and Donnelly finishes it up. On Sunday, Wright goes 7 and shocks the world be out pitching Dice-K and giving us a series win, 4-2.

Start up the grill (70 all weekend.) Let's do this.

Oh yeah, and tune up Sinatra.

- Keith Connors

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Peyton, Payton, and a ton of football.

It's not every year when the NFL playoffs weaves a storyline as intriguing as the ones we are about to see tomorrow. One can even make an argument that tomorrow's AFC Championship Game between the Colts and the Patriots is the most anticipated game since the Yankees and Red Sox battled it out back in October of 2003 and 2004.

At the same time, we have never seen a single game of football mean so much in terms of importance and relevance as the NFC Championship game will mean tomorrow to the city of New Orleans.

All in all, I'm pretty sure that my Sunday is set.

Here's my outlook on the games:
  1. New England Patriots @ Indianapolis Colts (RCA Dome, Indy)
  • The Belichick/Brady factor is strong, but at a certain point every dynasty has a moment in which it is completely and utterly distroyed, normally at the hands of a rival. The 49ers saw the Cowboys take over their glory. USC helplessly watched Texas storm down the field and win a championship. The Yankees had to bear the pain of watching a bloop single by Luis Gonzalez end their run. For New England, tomorrow may well be the beginning of the end.
  • On paper, the Colts are a better team. At the same time, so were the Chargers. But to be clear, Tony Dungy is no Marty Scohttenheimer.
  • Speaking of Tony Dungy, I have heard a lot of talk about how the pressure is on him for never being able to "win the big one". He has always had a Schottenheimer like label: great in the fall, horrendous in the winter when it matters. Heck, Jon Gruden took his exact team to the Super Bowl and dismantled the Raiders back in '02. This couldn't be any more of a fallacy: Dungy has always put his team in a position to win, but has lacked a monumental victory or a watershed play from a playmaker. Last I checked, he can't throw the ball or make a tackle. In the end, it comes down to the players. After all, wasn't it about a year ago when we were saying Bill Cowher couldn't win "the big one"?
  • Peyton Manning's potential fate hangs in the balance of this game. Hands down. Anyone who thinks otherwise is foolish. He has his team in the best position to not only knock of a rival in Brady, but also to shed the label that he can't win in the postseason. He has down everything there is to do, except for this.
  • The Colts D looked unreal against the Ravens underrated offense last week, whereas the Pats looked weak against San Diego's non-LT threats. I mean, Vincent Jackson coming up big with deep passes? Not a good sign. The run D of Indy is peaking at the right time, and Bob Sanders has an awful lot to do with it.
  • As a diehard Yankee fan, I admit that mystique and Aura definitely give the Pats an advantage, but it's not mistake that Indy beat the Patriots the past two times the met (including a match-up in Foxboro).
  • As if that wasn't enough, here's two words: Adam Vinatieri.

Pick: Colts 27, Patriots 21 (for the record, I'm rooting for New England)

2. New Orleans Saints @ Chicago Bears (Soldier Field, Chicago)

  • The Bears have two big things going for them: home field advantage and a killer defense.
  • Personally, I feel that the Bears have done everything in their power to squander having both of these factors as a positive for them. The Bears have looked shoddy at home, after barely squeaking by a less-than-deserving Seahawks team last week. They were not the same dominant squad we saw in October. I mean, Brett Favre made them look bad on New Year's Eve. Brett Favre! Imagine what Drew Brees will do.
  • As for the home field, Soldier Field may be their only positive. But with an offense that is as inexplicable as Chris Simmons' dance moves and a QB that makes Eli look Peyton, it's hard to go with them.
  • The Katrina subplot is a lot stronger than people think; to me, the Saints embody the region in every aspect. No one ever gave them a ton of credit, they are perrenial losers, but they believe in each other. Come playoff time, that's really all that matters.
  • The dual tandem of Reggie Bush and Deuce McAllister are quickly becoming the best Tag Team since.. well. Tag Team.
  • Two words: Red Grossman

Pick: New Orleans 31, Chicago 17

Back for a recap later this week..