“Go New York, Go New York, Go!”

Anybody else remember that catchy ditty from the run up to the 1994 NBA Finals?

You remember the ’94 Finals, right? For us Knicks fans, it was the top of the proverbial market. Pat Riley on the bench, Patrick Ewing jumping center. A tenacious defense that made layups by the opposing team akin to taking one’s life in his own hands. That hated soul-crusher from Chicago was off playing minor league baseball somewhere, and the title that had eluded Knicks fans since 1973 was ours for the taking.

We all know where it went from there.

John Starks couldn’t throw it in the ocean in Game 7, and inexplicably Riles kept him in the game, while (less inexplicably) Starks kept hoisting increasingly desperate heaves from all over the perimeter. The Knicks never could close the gap and time ran out. Maybe it was the “Go New York” song/video that jinxed us? I don’t know, but with the exception of that unlikely run following the strike-shortened 1999 season, when we really didn’t stand a chance in the finals with Ewing injured and going up against young Tim Duncan and the Spurs, there have been far too few hoops thrills for us Knickerbocker fans since.

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And now, in case you missed it, the Knicks have fired another coach.

I grew tired of Coach Fiz’s “all hat, no cattle” act months ago. However, in fairness to the now departed former-coach, I’m not sure even the sainted Riley, circa-1994, could have done much more with this awful hodgepodge of overpaid, veteran role players, immature teens, and G-League wannabe’s.

So now we are going to reset again, hoping that maybe there’s a quality GM out there foolish or desperate enough to take control of the team should our owner, He Who Shall Not Be Named, actually wise up long enough to kick out the ridiculously incompetent front office duo of Steve Mills and Scott Perry.

Truth be told, we really have no idea as to the competence, or lack thereof, of Perry, who seems content to walk about a half step behind Mills while nodding affirmatively whenever his boss speaks. Mills though? His inept body of work goes back so far, and with such outsized horrific decisions (remember he was even part of the Isiah Thomas years), that it makes one wonder what he holds over Dolan’s head that’s allowed him to keep his seat all this time.

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Enough already. Let’s clean house (yet again) and start over. How long might it take for an actual rebuild at America’s Most Famous Arena to take hold?

Wellllll….assuming that our despised joke of an owner is actually willing to step back and cede control to a real basketball man (a big if, we all know), would five years be too ambitious a timeframe for the Knicks to start to produce a consistent winner? You know, drafting well, making wise free agent signings, and draining the cultural swamp that’s become a reeking cesspool since the days of “Go New York, Go New York, Go.” Yeah, five years is ambitious, but we’d sign up for that in an instant given the disaster we find ourselves forced to watch right now.

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Hmmmm…five years. That timeframe has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?

That’s right. Across the river, out at Citi Field, there’s legitimate hope this December for the first time in a looooong time. All it took was for fans to hear that tightfisted owner Fred Wilpon (and his little dog Toto, I mean, his son/COO Jeff) would be exiting the building in five years. Don’t let it hit you in the ass, boys!

Now, forget for a second that five years sounds like an effin’ eternity to me and all Mets fans, and try to focus on the long game. They’re going. And please, somebody reassure me this isn’t one of those delightful-beyond-belief dreams we have, where somewhere along the way we realize things are going so freaking well that it just can’t be real, and then we wake up all bummed out. The Wilpons said they’d go, right? And not just leave, but hand the keys on the way out to some super rich guy with a hedge fund background? Please, don’t fuck with us on something of this magnitude, Wilpons. You promised you’d leave, right?

Welllll…a lot can happen on the way to the bank as we all know, but hey, it’s hope. And not just the normal Winter Meetings-trade for Edwin Diaz and Robinson Cano-paying for them with our best prospects since apparently the days of Darryl Strawberry and Doc Gooden-kind of hope. This is real.

But yeah, we’re going to have to wait. I know, the half-full storyline is that a guy with the wealth of Steve Cohen won’t sit around for any amount of time and not begin to inject his opinions (and greenbacks, we hope) into the franchise he’s rooted for since he was a kid. So maybe it won’t be the full five years, but in the meantime, we’re not getting any younger around here folks. My buddy Geno the Sawx Fan tells me that when hedge fund money took over his ballclub, life was changed forever. So there is precedent, but hey, we are the New York Mets.

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And the Mets ownership tree has delivered only two World Series championships in our entire 57-year history (and none in the last 33 years, but who’s counting). So let Mr. Cohen figure out how to broom the Wilpon Boys (and their toady Saul Katz, for God’s sake, please) sooner rather than later, and then may he start throwing that fortune of his around in a way that allows us to feel like a big market club at long last. Is that too much to ask?

So to recap, we have hope in Queens, but of the long-term, everything must fall exactly according to plan variety. We have a new coach named Mike Miller at The Garden, but the same lousy front office, backed by the worst owner in professional sports (apologies to Dan Snyder).

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And think about this horrifying thought, New York sports fans — right now (excluding the Yankees, who grudgingly have earned their own separate class in such discussions following 100 years of pretty much uninterrupted excellence) the most well run (non-hockey) franchise in the New York metropolitan area today is none other than the Brooklyn Nets.

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The Giants? That needle is pointed down, down, down, with the unthinkable happening as Big Blue fans are now beginning to question their long-admired ownership group. It does seem like Saquon Barkley is about as good a starting point for a rebuild as exists in pro sports today, but still, right now? Yeesh.

The Jets? They squeaked by the full-on-tank Dolphins today only because a last second field goal was set up by a shaky pass interference review call. Ownership issues abound for Gang Green also, with Chris Johnson no doubt being one of the few humans in the Tri-State area who truly wants to see both the Wilpons and James Dolan hang onto their teams. Hey, when you are being chased by a bear, you only need to outrun your friends to avoid harm, right?

Yup, it’s certainly a sign of the apocalypse when the woebegone Nets are the team to emulate when trying to pull your franchise out of the toilet. But such is the state of New York sports today.

As Casey Stengel once said in that endearing way of his that none of us realized at the time was setting a tone of incompetence for our franchise that would cast it’s pall over the majority of the next six decades, “can’t anybody here play this game?”

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NFL Post-Thanksgiving Notes –Who’s the Best Football Coach in New York?

I don’t know that I’ve ever been less clear on who will meet in the Super Bowl at the end of an NFL season than I am this year.

There’s so much damn parity (14 teams with 4, 5 or 6 wins entering this weekend’s games), and the elite teams all have their weaknesses, so what’s a frustrated prognosticator to do? Stick with what you (think you) know, of course.

For example, as a fan of the New York Football Jets, Jets, Jets, I often feel as though I have the worst fan gig in the NFL. But then I tuned in to the games yesterday, and there I find the Lions, one of the handful of NFL franchises never to compete in a Super Bowl. They go up 17-7 against the offensively challenged Bears, yet at no time did I feel confident the Lions would hang on for the win. I haven’t followed Detroit that closely this year, but it seems to me that this sort of close loss has happened more than a couple of times to the cursed Detroit football club and their loyal fans.

Which caused me to wonder — is it worse being a Lions fan than a Jets fan? That’s a close one, for sure. And what about fans of the Washington Football Club? I mean, their team is worse than either the Jets or Lions, and their owner is an embarrassment bordering on James Dolan-level. Now Washington does have a few Lombardi trophies to ease their pain during seasons like this one, but right now that’s another delegation you can add to the “misery loves company” section of NFL fans.

Can Jaguars fans be added to this sad collection of football suffering yet? Maybe. I think they need to endure a bit more, personally, but it’s been pretty bad down there for quite some time. And the topic of tortured football fans can’t be brought to its proper conclusion without a tip of the cap to Browns fans. Yeah, this was the year, right?

Wellll… Not so fast. At 5-6 with a HUGE matchup against the Steelers tomorrow, the playoffs remain eminently viable for the Cleveland fan base. As does the extreme disappointment of a season defined by potential unfulfilled. A loss in Pittsburgh on Sunday sets up all of Cleveland for a different type of pain than that experienced by the woebegone fans in New York and Detroit, where there’s simply not much hope and little relief in sight. In fact, the Browns fans’ unfulfilled potential misery could very well be the worst of the lot. And since they are Cleveland, here’s betting that when the dust settles in Western PA tomorrow, the Browns will be 5-7.

Other thoughts and comments from around the NFL as the turkey sandwiches, turkey soup and turkey chili work their way through our Thanksgiving Friday digestive systems:

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*Who’s the worst football coach of a New York football team as we wake up this morning? I don’t think Adam Gase was as bad as he was made out to be when the Jets hit 1-7 (nobody can be that bad, can they?), but I’m not ready to say he’s the answer yet, either. At 4-7 with games coming up against the winless Bengals and hapless Dolphins, everyone’s got the Jets already sitting at 6-7. The J-E-T-S giving three on the road in Cincinnati this weekend smacks of the ultimate sucker bet. I can’t help remembering back to when the Jets allowed the Ain’ts to secure the only win of their 1-15 1980 campaign. Feeling nostalgic? Take the Bengals and don’t even worry about the points. Sorry Lions fans, we Jets fans have it worse.

*Another safe bet this Sunday would be the Packers giving only 6.5 on the road against the Giants. I find it an odd contradiction the way Giants boss Pat Shurmur comes across as so balanced and competent during his time with the press, yet weekly makes so many head-scratching decisions with respect to play calling, personnel, and game management. Hard to imagine the Gints not losing their eighth in a row on Sunday, and by at least 20 points this time, rendering moot the whole “progress” theme Shurmur keeps preaching. Take the Pack and give the points. And worst head coach in New York? Yeah, it’s Shurmur in a close one.

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*Are all of you as psyched for Niners-Ravens this Sunday as I am? Therein lies the coolness of the NFL, as nobody had this matchup circled when the season began back in early-September. Fast forward to today, and the Niners appear to be as complete a team as there is in the NFL, while the Ravens seem to destroy a different contender every week. Meanwhile, Baltimore’s second-year QB is creating distance from the field in MVP polling every time he takes the field. Think about all the hype around the 2018 draft and the QB’s taken. Yeah, hype for every one of them except Lamar Jackson, that is. I hope this one is close in the fourth quarter. Appointment viewing.

*When I look around the league, besides Baltimore and San Francisco, the only other potential heavyweight I see out there is Seattle. Again, who saw this one coming back in August (and c’mon Seattle fans, no you didn’t). We will learn about both the Seahawks and the resurgent Vikings this Monday night up in the Pacific Northwest. Has Kirk Cousins coaxed Minnesotans back onto his unsteady bandwagon? Are those long-suffering Purple People Eaters sufficiently primed for another round of extreme disappointment? Yeah, at 8-3, I think they probably are feeling good again, despite them absolutely knowing better. Here comes the December fade, folks, because it says here the Seahawks are serious contenders and the Vikes are (yet again) shameful pretenders. Anyone else see 9-7 on the horizon for the Twin Cities?

*The next tier of NFL contenders only includes the standing champion New England Patriots and the New Orleans Saints. At 10-1 I realize it’s hard to justify the Pats as “next tier,” but something still seems off up there in New England. Part of it is the lousy schedule they’ve faced. Part of it is how badly Baltimore took them apart in their only loss. And yeah, part of it is Jets-fan bitterness rearing its ugly head, as we continue to root for the inevitable signs of old age putting the sleeper hold on Tom Brady. Has to happen one of these days, right? Right?? As for the Saints, can they represent the NFC in the Super Bowl this year? Well, yes they could. And the Drew Brees love-fest remains alive and thriving, but I just don’t see it. New Orleans had its best chance last year, but the refs knee-capped them and now their Super Bowl window appears closed.

*How good do the Bills look? Speaking of franchises with a history of suffering. Anyone else wonder what might have happened to the trajectory of the Buffalo franchise if Scott Norwood had split the uprights with his last-second field goal attempt back in January of 1991? Nah, me either, but I bet they do in Buffalo! Anyway, that defense sure does look legit, and I can’t help but wonder how the Jets had this team dead to rights way back in Week 1, before C.J. Mosley went out with his injury, changing the 2019 direction for both of these AFC East squads. I know the Cowboys are a train wreck right now, but give the Bills their due — that defense is downright nasty, Josh Allen is looking like the 2015 version of Cam Newton, and the entire team has the look of one that believes in itself. Best football coach in New York? Damn right it’s Sean McDermott. Not even close.

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*I know the Raiders looked like a pickup squad last weekend against the Jets, but doesn’t it seem like the Chiefs giving Oakland 10.5 on Sunday is a bit of a betting line overreaction, even if the game is being played in K.C.? I like the Raiders to keep this one close late, and if forced to pick between John Gruden and Andy Reid as to which coach will figure out how to pull out a close one, let’s just say I’ll go with the coach who resembles a demented horror movie doll over the one with the mustache that conjures up thoughts of a walrus.

*One last point on the Lions. When the kid QB Detroit had behind center yesterday clicked for a long TD on the first completion of his career, I must admit I got caught up in hoping  that maybe Detroit had stumbled upon some Thanksgiving pixie dust. And young David Blough actually looked far better than I expected from an undrafted free agent out of Purdue, but despite all that, you can’t tell me Colin Kaepernick wouldn’t have given the Lions a better shot at the W. I’m not a Kaepernick fan, and really wish he’d have come up with a different way of trying to launch his second career as a champion of civil rights for the downtrodden, but if the NFL is truly willing to let the man play, why isn’t he on a roster somewhere? Or maybe Kaepernick just really doesn’t want to play football anymore, but fears losing relevance due to inactivity? I don’t know, and I’m tired of the whole storyline and debate at this point, but something continues to smell bad here, NFL, and it isn’t just the Lions poor play.

P.S. SportsAttic Super Bowl forecast — Ravens 30, Seahawks 21.

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Heeeee’s baaaaack! The Blazers Send SportsAttic an Early Holiday Gift!

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Thank you, Portland, thank you!

Things just haven’t been the same since Carmelo Anthony was summarily dismissed by The Association. And it really seemed like this day would never come. I mean, even King James wouldn’t find a spot at the table for Melo in that purple and gold mish-mosh of “unique” NBA personalities he’s assembling out west. Yeah, the party was over.

But not so fast!

A team desperate enough to add an over the hill, ball-stopping, coach killer has emerged in the Pacific Northwest! And for that, dear Portland Trailblazers, we owe you a debt of gratitude. If anyone out there thinks the Blazers’ signing of Carmelo Anthony isn’t a gift from above, then you obviously overlooked the biggest hint of all-time just a couple of weeks ago, when Melo showed up for the Syracuse-Virginia contest dressed as a colorfully wrapped Christmas present. Put a bow on that man!

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However, this post is not intended to make fun of Anthony, as his play is sure to provide ample opportunity for that in the days and weeks (can he last months? Okay, let’s not get greedy here, kids…) to come. No, this is all about tipping our hat to an organization we actually like — the Portland Trailblazers (SportsAttic Fun Fact — the Blazers currently have the sixth-best all-time won-loss record in NBA history) — for their willingness to insert some drama into the dreary, early-season NBA schedule.

Trying to look at this from the Blazers point of view, I suppose the appropriate response is “what the heck was there to lose?”  Sent packing from the playoffs once again last spring by the Warriors Dynasty, and then failing to improve their personnel over the summer (while almost the entire west retooled), the Blazers currently find themselves in last place, saddled with a 5-9 record.

Their one big summer acquisition, Hassan Whiteside, was recently ridiculed by TNT’s Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal during a halftime show yuck-fest, over his painfully obvious lack of effort, and their one true superstar, Damian Lillard is mired in a horror show of a shooting slump, going an ice-cold 10 for 46 from the field (yikes!) over their last three games (and Portland even managed to win one of those).

And now here comes Melo, likely to suit up for the first time as a Blazer tonight on the road in New Orleans, in a rare winnable matchup against the 4-9 Pelicans. Smart move by the Blazers, sparing Melo the indignity of trying to regain his sea legs last night in Houston, the home of his last ill-fated attempt at hitching a ride to a title run on the back of more talented teammates.

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That failed Houston experiment (on the heels of a similar failed experiment the prior season with Russ Westbrook and Paul George in Oklahoma City),

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which was expertly terminated by beleaguered Anthony foil and current Houston coach Mike D’Antoni before Anthony was able to completely detonated the already shaky partnership between James Harden and Chris Paul, proved yet again what most of us already knew — the league only will allow one basketball in play at a time (no matter how high-profile the teammates may be, or how loud their whining). Yet apparently Portland intends to test that theory one more time (didn’t someone once say that those who choose to ignore history are doomed to repeat it?), just not with the same flimsy title aspirations at stake that were torpedoed in Houston a year ago, and OKC the year before that.

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The interesting thing about Anthony, though, is that he also proved to be an unconscionable, me-first, defense-optional, stat-padder when the team was built around him and only him. We are referring to his time in a Knicks uniform, of course. In fact, you could argue that the only time during Melo’s New York tenure that The Garden was truly rocking, took place with Anthony in street clothes nursing an injury, paving the way for the two weeks of Lin-sanity that swept through the World’s Most Famous Arena with such fervor that Carmelo felt no choice but to rush back on court and demand Jeremy Lin be restricted from continuing to run the Knicks’ offensive show.

So we will sit back and enjoy Anthony’s final act for as long as Portland chooses to let it run. Lillard is worth the price of admission on his own, and backed up by the sweet shooting C.J. McCollum, the Blazers have been an eminently entertaining squad for the past several years, despite never possessing quite enough to get over the top and past those dominant Warriors squads. This year’s edition in the Rose City now adds the low-post, shoot-first repertoire of Whiteside to their high-scoring backcourt duo, and that’s the “not enough shots to go around” formula Melo makes his entrance into.

Other than injury-ravaged Golden State dropping off the map, this year’s Western Conference looks to be as strong as advertised. LBJ has his running mate du jour in AnthonyDavis down in L.A., battling for Tinseltown supremacy with the Kawhi Leonard Clips. Utah is improved, well rounded and superbly coached. Houston is still experimenting with Hero Ball On Steroids, this time courtesy of the Westbrook/Harden combo, and many still believe the Nuggets (where Carmelo once actually led a team to the playoffs)

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could be the best of the lot. Even Phoenix is no longer a gimme, so, again, desperate times up in Oregon call for desperate measures.

And desperate measures, in this case, mean Melo in Rip City. Let the fun begin folks, and Happy Holidays to all!

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El Tiante and the Not Ready For Prime Time (Hall of Fame) Players

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It’s November, which is a dangerous time of year for this baseball fan, because Hall of Fame voting is going on. And no, I’m not going to rail on The Hall’s watered down admissions process that now takes place annually led by Participation Trophy-loving voters (Harold Baines?? OH, OH, OH!!!).

Instead, I’m going to zero in on a few stars who’ve been passed over by Hall of Fame voters through the years. And I’m going to start with a personal favorite from my youth, and maybe the coolest cat from an MLB era that boasted a lot of super cool cats — El Tiante.

I got to thinking about Luis Tiant when I saw that the Eras Committee — Modern Baseball Division — had put out their latest Hall of Fame ballot a couple of weeks back. These committees are well-intentioned, and annually are tasked with combing over those former stars who perhaps warrant another look of consideration when it comes to Hall of Fame induction. The Modern Baseball group covers those who played predominantly between the years of 1970 to 1987 and include some names well deserving of deeper dives, including Ted Simmons, Tommy John and Dave Parker, to name just a few.

I found it interesting, though, that Tiant was not a part of the 2020 group, since he’s been under consideration as recently as 2018 (the last year this committee convened). Apparently the Eras Committee has decided that the Luis Tiant Hall of Fame question now falls under the “asked and answered” category, after many failed tries by El Tiante to reach the necessary number of votes. Fair enough.

But just for fun, as I sit 37,000 feet in the air, let’s take a look at El Tiante, the Cuban-born right-hander who made his debut on July 19th of 1964, and promptly shut out the World Series-bound New York Yankees, 4-0. The losing pitcher that day was Whitey Ford, and New York’s cleanup hitter that afternoon was the single-season home run king, Roger Maris.

Tiant would go on to win 229 games over 3400 innings spanning 19 big league seasons. He struck out over 2400 batters during his career, and was a 20-game winner four times (he also lost 20 once). In 1968, the infamous Year of the Pitcher, Tiant was 21-9 for Cleveland, while leading the American League with a 1.60 ERA. He also led the AL in shutouts  in ’68 with nine, while throwing 19 complete games and striking out 264 hitters in 258 innings pitched. That’s one hell of an HOF resume.

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Interestingly in 1969, after MLB had lowered the pitcher’s mound in an effort to force more offense back into the game, Tiant reversed course. He led the league with 129 walks and 37 homers allowed, while falling to 9-20, prompting the Indians to trade him to the Minnesota Twins.

With the Twins in 1970, Tiant won his first six games, but in that sixth felt a “pop” in his right arm and went on the injured list. He would never regain his full velocity on his signature fastball. He mopped up in one ALCS game for the Twins in ’70, giving up two runs (one earned) against the Orioles as Minnesota was swept, and Tiant was released shortly thereafter, presumed washed up by most observers.

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It was in Boston that folks my age remember Luis Tiant at his beguiling best. No longer a flame-throwing strikeout pitcher following his arm troubles (he went 1-7 in his first year in Boston), Tiant learned to be a complete pitcher, changing speeds, locating with precise control, and battling every pitch and every inning for those memorably good Bosox teams of the ’70’s. He would lead the AL in ERA in 1972, win 20 or more in 1973, 1974 and 1976, and was Boston’s ace when they won the AL East in 1975.

If the postseason matters to voters (and it should), maybe they should have paid closer attention to what Tiant did with Boston in the 1975 postseason. Consider this —

*ALCS Game 1 — complete game win, 7-1 over the three-time champion Oakland A’s,  with the only run allowed coming unearned. The Sawx would ride that momentum to a three-game sweep, ending the A’s dynasty.

*World Series Game 1 — complete game shutout throwing only 100 pitches, dominating the Big Red Machine of Bench, Perez, Rose and Morgan.

*World Series Game 4 — guts out a 5-4 win in another complete game. Tiant allows nine hits and four walks, but goes the distance throwing 155 pitches.

*World Series Game 6 — yup, he got the call in the historic Carlton Fisk Wave It Fair Game, and gutted his way into the 8th inning on fumes, giving up six runs in the process while extending himself for another 113 high-leverage pitches, and keeping Boston in it long enough for Fisk to hit his walkoff in the 12th.

For those keeping track, in the seven-game 1975 World Series, the Big Red Machine won their four games when Tiant didn’t start. The Red Sox rode El Tiante in the other three.

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Now let’s throw in for voters the style points. El Tiante’s signature Fu Manchu mustache, the exaggerated delivery that hesitated midway, as he rolled his eyes back in his head, taking a peek at second base, before releasing the ball towards the batter. The ever-present cigar, the smile, the vagabond career path of an MLB lifer, coaxing wins out of his twisted, old, right arm for the Yankees, Angels and Pirates (yeah, he even wore the old time Pittsburgh hat back in the day) deep into his late-30’s (even if no one was ever sure exactly how old Tiant really was).

I know it’s a different time today, especially when it comes to starting pitchers (however don’t tell that to the Washington Nationals, please), but what would happen if a colorful pitcher with a resume the likes of El Tiante’s were to hit the general HOF ballot today? Yeah, that’s right, he’d be considered a lock. In fact, the modern day example of just that type of pitcher may have recently reached retirement. C.C. Sabathia left the game for good last month, and most pundits have him down as a future sure thing for Hall of Fame inclusion.

I happen to be a Sabathia supporter, but give me Luis Tiant on a bronze bust in Cooperstown all day long over C.C. (or Roy Halladay, or Jack Morris). Just sayin’.

All this nostalgia over the great El Tiante got me to thinking — what would my starting lineup of “Hall of Fame Almosts” look like? And with apologies to my buddy Geno, who is undoubtedly already putting together a text for me extolling the virtues of Dwight Evans, here’s the AtticBro Nine of all-time ballplayers NOT in the Hall of Fame (style points absolutely taken into consideration!):

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Right-handed Starting Pitcher — Yup, we are going with El Tiante on the bump, and I really didn’t consider anyone else.

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Left-handed Starting Pitcher — Jim Kaat. This one was a tough call, with Kitty going down to the wire against another deserving HOF candidate, Tommy John (who happens to be up again this year courtesy of the Eras Committee). Winning 283 games (including an AL-best 25 in 1966 for the Twins) puts him on this squad, and his 16 consecutive Gold Gloves are worth noting, too.

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Catcher — Ted Simmons. This may be the final year Simmons is eligible for our squad, as he was only two votes shy when the Eras Committee voted in 2018, and I fully expect the raking switch-hitter to get into The Hall this year. Nearly 2500 hits and a career .348 OBP, along with a .986 fielding percentage makes Simba a no-brainer. Honorable Mention to Thurman Munson, who’s also under consideration again this year with the Eras Committee, and will likely be my starter behind the dish in future years, once Simmons moves on.

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First Base — Dick Allen and Gil Hodges. First base was easily the most hotly contested spot on my starting nine, and I ended up having to throw in the towel and go with a tie. I choose to believe Dick Allen is not in the Hall of Fame today more because his run of absolutely absurd statistical excellence didn’t last quite long enough, rather than due to his questionable attitude and hostility toward those that wrote his paychecks. Who knows, maybe I’m just being naive. But I do know that I want peak-performance Richie Allen of the early-’60’s Phils and early-’70’s Chisox hitting third in my lineup. The problem that Allen created for me was what to do with Hodges? Of all of the all-time Cooperstown snubs, the mystery behind Gil Hodges’ exclusion is the hardest for me to understand. Hopefully one of the various committees can right this egregious wrong one day, but until then, he’ll slide onto the SportsAttic Nine as Player-Manager. From there he can insert himself into games as Allen’s late-innings defensive replacement, while running the show from the top step. Honorable mention (by a fair distance) to Steve Garvey, and no, Yankees fans, Don Mattingly isn’t even in the conversation.

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Second Base — Lou Whitaker. Sweet Lou is also being considered by the Eras Committee, and, along with Simmons, is the only other no-brainer on this year’s Modern Baseball list. It still doesn’t seem right to me that Alan Trammell is in The Hall without his double-play partner from those strong Tigers teams of the ’70’s and ’80’s. Quick SportsAttic footnote: I briefly considered trying to sneak Pete Rose in here at the keystone (the way Sparky Anderson used to move Rose around the diamond depending on who needed a day off), but ultimately decided to exclude those banned by MLB (which is why you won’t see Shoeless Joe Jackson when we get to our outfield). I also decided against including any of the known steroids cheats (easy, since other than Mark McGwire, I can’t stand any of those guys, anyway). Honorable mention here to Jeff Kent, but he was always such a sour horse’s ass that we can’t let him onto our team.

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Shortstop — Bert Campaneris. Shortstop was about as close as it could get between Campy and the Reds’ Dave Concepcion. Ultimately my tie-breaker was simply that I always liked those 1970’s Oakland A’s teams featuring Campy at short better than I did the Big Red Machine and Concepcion. Besides, Campaneris was just so much fun. In 1965, in another hair-brained Charlie Finley attempt to sell more tickets, Campaneris played all nine positions on Campy Campaneris Night in Kansas City. Not only that, but during his time on the mound, Campaneris threw from both sides, going righty against the right-handed hitters, and turning around for a southpaw look against the lefties in the Angels lineup. And yes, the haters may bring up the time Campy hurled his bat at the Tigers Lerrin LaGrow after getting hit by a pitch in the 1972 ALCS (in a head scratcher, Campy was suspended for the remainder of the ALCS and the first seven games of the following season, yet allowed by commissioner Bowie Kuhn to play in the World Series), but c’mon, Juan Marichal hit John Roseboro over the head with his bat, and he’s got a statue outside Oracle Park in San Francisco and a bust in Cooperstown. Campy it is.

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Third Base — Ken Boyer. It was tempting to plug Rose in at third, too, but Boyer was too good an option to pass up. Arguably the best defensive third baseman of his time, who also amassed nearly 2500 hits on some awesome Cardinals teams. It’s puzzling to me that he never comes up when we discuss Hall of Fame snubs. My only theory is that perhaps he was too overshadowed by all the stars those St. Louis teams boasted who would one day go on to Cooperstown immortality — Stan Musial, Lou Brock, Bob Gibson — the Redbirds of Boyer’s day were loaded. But we will take Boyer’s snub as SportsAttic’s gain, even if he did miss out on the best baseball name in his own family to his brother, Clete. Honorable mention to Sal Bando, but it really wasn’t that close.

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Right Field — Dave Parker. Sorry, Geno, but Dewey Evans doesn’t break into this lineup as long as The Cobra remains on the outside of the HOF looking in (both Parker and Evans are up for consideration this year by Eras). I honestly can’t come up with a single facet of the game where Evans outperforms Parker. Evans’ arm was his money-maker and will no doubt be part of the argument for his candidacy this year, but Parker’s arm was at least as good. Somehow Cobra is tainted in the eyes of the voters (cocaine scandal, anyone?), so I expect him to fall short once again, but talk about a five-tool prototype! Pencil in Dave Parker at cleanup for this squad, following Richie Allen, for all of eternity, and just imagine what kind of post-game party those two will throw. Honorable Mention goes to back-to-back MVP Dale Murphy, along with Evans.

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Centerfield — Vada Pinson. C’mon, name me a better centerfielder not in The Hall. Playing in the Reds outfield behind the considerable shadow cast by Frank Robinson, Pinson put up consistently outstanding numbers. However he was never in the running for MVP and ultimately fell a couple of hundred hits short of 3000, both of which cost him in the eyes of the voters. So he may not be HOF-worthy, but he will bat leadoff for SportsAttic and score 120 runs every year easy. Of course, the real reason he’s on this team is that the first Little League bat ever swung with purpose by young AtticBro was a Vada Pinson autograph model. Hey, it’s my list, so my rules.

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Left Field — Al Oliver. That’s right, I’m going there. Scoop is in the lineup, and we’re going with Pirates at both our corner outfield spots. Imagine this hit machine in the six-hole of the SportsAttic batting order? Right after Simba with Ken Boyer waiting on deck? Yeah, I like it a lot. And if you are bored, go to sportsreference.com and take a look at Oliver’s stats. Day games, night games; early career, late career; regular season, postseason; Pittsburg, Texas, Montreal. All Al Oliver does is rake, rake, rake. A career .303 hitter, he topped .300 eleven times in his career. Yes, he played a lot of first, too, but we’ll take that versatility on our squad, especially since we have no bench other than Player-Manager Gil Hodges and our pitching staff. Honorable Mention to Tony Oliva, only because I really wanted to find a spot for Oliva on our team, even if he was more of a right-fielder. Man could Oliva fill up boxscores in the ’60’s and early-’70’s.

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Closer — Sparky Lyle. The first American League closer to win the Cy Young (Mike Marshall had won it with the Dodgers in ’74), Lyle pitched 137 innings as a closer for Billy Martin and the Yankees during his Cy Young year of 1977. He won 13, and saved another 26 on the way to the Yankees first World Series title since 1962. Then, in the offseason he led the league again, this time in factual errors discovered after he put out The Bronx Zoo. But forgetting his misdeeds as an author, the guy the Yanks stole from Boston for Danny Cater back in the 1971 offseason (in 1972, his first season in Pinstripes, all Lyle did was save 35 games, when that sort of total was unheard of), remains the quintessential lefty closer when SportsAttic looks  back on MLB history.

So there you have it. The SportsAttic No-Hall-of-Fame starting lineup. And while I promised myself that I’d refrain from any more “Hall of Very Good” bashing (at least until this year’s elections are announced), I’d be hard pressed to see Andre Dawson, Tim Raines or Harold Baines crack this starting lineup.

Nuff sed (and ten ballot slots does not mean you brainless sheep have to include ten names, for crying out loud!!!). Sorry, but it just had to be said.

Let’s hear from you — who’s your starting nine?

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World Series Game Memories — What Are Your Five?

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We had a strong World Series this October. Two good teams, outstanding pitching, excellent defense, stars on both sides of the field, and an outcome that touched baseball history and gave us an underdog champion.

Not to mention it went the full seven games, giving us bonus baseball and the unmatched buildup and drama that only a Game 7 offers. Yup, all in all a terrific finish to the 2019 baseball season, which got me thinking about World Series games past.

As we sit between the end of 2019 game action and MLB’s awards season, it seems to make sense for a quick inventory of the most memorable World Series games contested during my lifetime. Emphasis on “game” here, not “series.” Additional emphasis on the word “memorable,” and not “best.” That last distinction becomes particularly important, because like most of the work SportsAttic puts out, this list is completely subjective, coming straight to you from AtticBro’s very own Isle of Me.

Also, please note the following important SportsAttic footnote:  we will not be including Game 6 of the 1986 World Series in this post, as that game transcends any single sporting event memory, and has earned a place in the Top 5 moments of my entire life. Besides, another mention of the ’86 Series here may just put my pal Geno over the proverbial edge.

This is MY top five. If done correctly, the hope here is that should you take a look at this post, perhaps you’ll compile your own Top Five. To frame my list properly, understand that the choices will span from the first World Series to register in my baseball fan’s memory bank (the 1970 Fall Classic between the Orioles and Reds — aka the Brooks Robinson Series) through the one that concluded late last month (congrats once again to all you District of Columbia fans who can no longer be described as “long suffering”).

Here we go:

  1. 1977 Game 6 of Yankees vs Dodgers

Mr. October. Reggie Jackson was part of October baseball in seven out of 10 years during the decade of the 1970’s, which also happen to be the first ten World Series this fan ever tuned in for.

Reggie’s A’s lost in the ALCS in 1971 and 1975, and won it all from 1972-1974. He’d spent 1976 watching from home after his Orioles (Orioles?) had missed the playoffs, and joined forces with the Bronx Bombers as a free agent that winter, promising to be the “straw that stirs the drink,” and promptly pissing of his manager and most of his teammates with that statement. He then introduced himself to the New York media with a season-long string of me-first shenanigans that made the Bombers a must-watch club both on and off the field throughout the 1977 campaign.

And then it was all forgotten (at least until the next season), as Reggie deposited three consecutive pitches thrown by the Dodgers’ Burt Hooten, Elias Sosa and Charlie Hough into the Yankee Stadium seats on the final night of postseason baseball that October. Reggie’s three-homer feat, which at that point had only been accomplished once before, by the immortal Babe Ruth, closed out an entertaining and competitive series, while cementing Reggie Jackson as synonymous with World Series excellence forever after.

The ’77 series would be my last prior to entering my teenage years, and thus I was still required to beg for permission to watch the conclusion of baseball games played on school nights, even when a World Series hung in the balance. When Reggie launched his second blast, the series outcome was secure, but because it looked like Reggie would get another turn at bat with a chance at making history, my dad relented. And Reggie didn’t let us down. To this day, when I think of the Fall Classic, I start with Reggie Jackson.

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2. 2000 Game 4 of Mets vs Yankees

The only Subway Series of my lifetime (so far) is best remembered for Game 2, where that cowardly phony and steroid cheat Roger Clemens inexplicably threw a broken bat barrel at Mike Piazza. Mets fans may also  wake up at night screaming over Game 1 of this series, as we pleaded with Armando Benitez to put away the pesky Paul O’Neil and deliver us the all important confidence builder of a Game 1 win over the Yankees, who were seeking their third World Series title in as many years. No such luck.

For me, Game 4 is the one I’ll always remember. Mostly because this was the game AtticBride and I chose to attend in person, somehow scoring awesome seats only a few rows behind the visitors dugout. It was from that vantage point that I got to witness a shirtless, psychopathic Mets fan (face painted half in blue, half in orange) climb onto the Yankees dugout roof as the Yanks were completing their infield drills. This deranged member of Mets Nation absolutely unleashed the most profanity-filled, over the top verbal attack on Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter that this fan has ever witnessed. Jeter never took his eyes off the young “fan” and kept repeating back to him a deadpan “thank you, thank you” as he jogged down the steps into the Yankees dugout. Ten minutes later he emerged from the same dugout, and deposited Mets starter Bobby Jones’ first pitch into the left field seats to lead off the game. Totally took the fans out of it before the home team had even taken their first turn at the plate. I will always blame that fan, along with Armando Benitez, for the Mets losing that series.

For Game 4, the Yankees had started the unimpressive Denny Neagle in what amounted to a must-win for the Mets (who’d somehow come into the Series as betting favorites, despite a starting outfield that included Jay Payton, Benny Agbayani and Timo Perez — you can look it up). The Mets had pulled the series to 2 games to 1 by winning the first home game at Shea Stadium a couple of nights prior, and a Game 4 win to even the series that night would have signaled a total momentum shift.

The key moment in this one came in the 5th, when the Mets put two on with two out for Piazza. The crowd was back in it, with the Mets trailing 3-2 and looking to break it open. Yankees skipper Joe Torre emerged from the dugout doing that familiar walk of his out to the mound, head down, hands in jacket pockets as always, and he summoned former-Met David Cone to replace Neagle. Cone had pitched to a 6.91 ERA during the 2000 season, and was clearly nearing the end of his spectacular career. Torre needed one out. Conie got Piazza to pop out to the infield, and an hour later the Yanks were up three games to one.

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3. 1996 Game 3 of Yankees vs Braves

Conie again. This was the first World Series game I ever attended in person, landing an upper deck seat with a work buddy who hailed from Atlanta. From our nosebleed-level vantage point, we suffered through countless renditions of The Macarena, as the Braves fans carried on as though their second consecutive title was a foregone conclusion. And who could blame them, since they’d just returned home after taking the first two games of the series on the road at Yankee Stadium.

Cone had suffered an aneurism earlier that 1996 season, and had staged a remarkable return to the Yanks in September. He wasn’t at his best this night, but battled, giving up only one run over his six innings of work, and exited having survived a bases loaded, one out threat in his final inning. What’s most memorable to me as I think back on that game, was seeing in person the early-career excellence of Mariano Rivera — as a set up man. The future Hall of Famer relieved Cone to start the seventh inning, and actually got pulled after giving up the Braves’ second run in the 8th. Graeme Lloyd and John Wetteland closed things out, setting the stage for the Yanks to run the table the rest of the way and win the series in six games.

The other notable memory from that cool 1996 night was seeing Atlanta fans heading for the exits after that failed rally in the sixth. The game was only 2-1 at that point, and I was flabbergasted that the home fans were calling it a night so early. The fact that the Braves never did mount a serious rally from there has nothing to do with what a shameless display this was to me. To this day it remains one of the most disappointing efforts by an entire fan base I’ve ever witnessed, and it forced me into doing the unthinkable for the remainder of that 1996 series — rooting for the Yankees to bring home a championship.

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4. 1989 Game 3 of Giants vs A’s

The earthquake game. A half hour before the LaRussa/Canseco/McGwire A’s were scheduled to continue their beatdown of their Bay Area rivals over at Candlestick Park, an enormous earthquake hit, fracturing the Bay Area to the tune of 6.9 on the Richter scale. When it was over there would be $5 billion in damages and 67 dead. The Fall Classic was delayed for ten days, allowing the Game 1 starters to take the mound for the second time in Game 3. The outcome would be the same, as Dave Stewart got the win over Mike Moore, and one of the least competitive series of all-time concluded a couple of days later.

But this one was incredibly memorable to me. I’d been working late at my New Jersey office, and one of the guys came running in saying his wife had just called and there’d been a huge earthquake right before the game had begun. We all huddled around a black and white TV set watching all hell break loose on the west coast. The SI cover above remains iconic to this day.

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5. 2016 Game 7 of Cubs vs Indians

Okay, maybe we had to sneak a “best” game into the Top Five. But man it was memorable, too. I’d flown to the east coast earlier that day, the three-hour time difference making it possible for me to remain awake for the entire 4:28 of game time. The problem was that I had to be up at 5:30 eastern the following morning to get to an early meeting, so when the rain delay hit after the ninth inning concluded, I was nearing delirium.

But what a game, and there was no way I was turning this one off (I’m no Braves fan, after all), especially after watching these two great teams slug it out into this instant-classic of a Game 7. I actually remained wide awake and rooting for more baseball right to the bitter end.

This contest is recent enough that most remember the high drama. The Cubs and their World Series drought dating back to 1908,  facing the Indians, who hadn’t won it all since 1948. The Indians owning more momentum than seemingly imaginable after scoring three in the bottom of the 8th off Aroldis Chapman, with Rajai Davis’ two-run, game-tying shot the key blow, tying the game at 6. Cleveland had destiny on their side, but not so fast. Talk about divine intervention in the form of a just-long-enough torrential downpour.

Then the Cubbies came out of the fifteen minute rain delay scoring two in the top of the 10th, only to teeter and give one back in the bottom half of the frame, while putting the tying run on base, before Kris Bryant’s off balance grab/toss to Anthony Russo ended it. As Bryant charged that ball, picking it up off a still wet infield with speedy Michael Martinez making his way down the line, all I wanted was to see Bryant throw it into the seats.

Not just to keep the Cubs from ending their curse (although I did love that curse), or because I was riding hard on the Indians bandwagon (even though I practically had the whip in my hand by the time Game 7 rolled around), but because I simply wanted more baseball. All good things must come to an end, though, and thus ended Game 7 and the Cubs jinx with one perfect Bryant throw.

Honorable mention on my list of most memorable World Series games:

*The Matt Harvey Game in 2015

*The Joe Carter Walk-off Game in 1993

*The Jack Morris Game in 1991

*The Mariano Rivera Blown Save Game in 2001

What’s your Top Five?

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MLB Postseason Post-Mortem

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It’s been brought to my attention that I’m too hard on major league baseball managers.

Is that a bad thing?

I mean, c’mon. There are only 30 of these jobs in the world. They pay millions of dollars in salary to even the least experienced and inexpensive of the lot (you know, the kind the Mets shop for). And they get to spend their workdays wearing an official baseball uniform at the ballpark.

To me, such a job description should also include, at the least, high expectations. Now don’t get me wrong, managing a professional baseball team is a damn hard job. The degree of difficulty is so high in part because it is a sport that millions of us have grown up around, and consider ourselves experts in. Members of the media (and that distant cousin of the media — bloggers), die hard fans, and little leaguers alike, can all be excused for considering themselves savants when it comes to the National Pastime. And as a result, even the most mundane of the big league manager’s daily strategic decisions are open for interpretation, debate, second guessing, and yes, hostile criticism.

Because there are fundamental truths to the game of baseball that we all grew up understanding. Such as, when trying to keep Game 7 of the World Series close, you don’t leave the best pitcher on the planet sitting in your bullpen. Or when hitting with two outs in the bottom of the 9th of the 2006 NLCS (with the tying and winning runners on base for crying out loud), you don’t watch strike three go by without taking the bat off your shoulder.

And that’s where we’ll start today’s postseason post-mortem.

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Astros skipper A.J. Hinch entered the World Series hailed as some sort of combination of John McGraw and Miller Huggins, with a splash of (fill in the name of some other all-time great manager here — you get the idea) thrown in. Yet, Hinch chose to construct a postseason bullpen without a left-handed pitcher on his roster. This became quite problematic when the Washington Nationals wound up as the Astros opponent in the Fall Classic. Washington featured 20-year-old wunderkind Juan Soto in their middle of their lineup. And all the kid had done all season was mash and rake anything and everything from his stance on the left side of the plate. Especially when facing right-handers. Doh!

I had no problem with Hinch riding Zack Greinke into the 7th inning of Game 7. The quirky right-hander was dealing, and even when he gave up the Rendon leadoff home run, I was still in agreement with leaving him in. When he walked the next hitter, I also agreed with Hinch that it was time to come get Greinke. But not for Will Harris, for chrissakes! The best pitcher in baseball was sitting warm in the Houston pen, and with the red hot Howie Kendrick due up, was there going to be a more highly leveraged situation to go to Gerrit Cole? You throw out any “game plan” at that point. Protect your lead with everything you’ve got, right?

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Shit, Cole was going to be a free agent in a matter of hours. This is akin to Hinch having rented a Ferrari and the deadline for returning the sports car is about an hour from now. You don’t put the thing back in the garage to save gas mileage, you see how fast you can get it up to on the interstate! And then if there’s still time, you try to get it onto two wheels with a couple of ill-advised sharp turns, and maybe even run over a couple curbs for good measure as you pull into the rental car return place.

But not only didn’t Hinch bring in Cole there as Harris turned a 2-1 lead into a 3-2 deficit, he let him sit the rest of the game! We even watched Ryan Pressly (and his 11+ postseason ERA for fucksake) come in and take a turn, and this game was still only a two run deficit through 8. WTF, A.J.?

Now I wasn’t even rooting for the Astros, mind you. I was simply rooting for a tense ninth inning where the D.C. fans would have to sweat through a high wire act from their rickety bullpen one final time, before taking home their long awaited title. But thanks to A.J. Hinch, we got no such opportunity, and the Nats fans received as low stress a ninth as one could imagine to begin their celebration with.

Other postseason thoughts:

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*Speaking of the Nats. Did anyone else find them so much easier to root for without that all-time dickhead Bryce Harper in right field sucking the air out of the rest of his club? I, for one, can not wait for the first time Joe Girardi punches out Harper in the Philly dugout in 2020.

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*More Nats — I suppose I owe Dave Martinez an apology. I still don’t think the guy has a clue heading into the late innings, but a title is a title, and his meltdown in Game 6 was the stuff dreams are made of. Absolutely epic, Davey. Thank you for that memorable contribution to postseason baseball lore.

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*Yup, congrats to Expos Nation. Er, I mean all those Senators fans out there. Whatever — way to go Nationals (I guess, although don’t somehow the Padres, Texas Rangers and Minnesota Twins all get one of those convoluted hockey assists now that D.C. has recaptured the title for the first time since Walter Johnson was the ace of their staff?)!

*Every 95 years, like clockwork, another World Series title arrives in our nation’s capital.

*“First in war, first in peace, last in the American League.” — sorry, but we just love that saying, and felt the need to include it.

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*And how about that Mets managerial hire, huh? Yeah, I know, it’s not technically part of the postseason, but the drama of watching the Wilpons sift through the discount drawer of bench coaches, fringe TV personalities and other assorted second-tier candidates lasted the entire postseason, so we will include it. Carlos Beltran? I heard someone on Baseball Tonight describe him as the best free agent signing ever. EVER. Not just by the Mets, buy by any team. Huh, you don’t say? Funny, since all I remember of Beltran’s Mets tenure is him keeping us out of the World Series by letting some Cardinals rookie strike him out — looking — to end Game 7 of the NLCS back in ’06. Bitter? You bet.

*Is it too soon for me to start lobbying Gerrit Cole not to sign with the Yankees?

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*Dave Roberts must have something on his bosses over at Chavez Ravine. Let’s see, he completely managed the Dodgers out of the 2017 World Series (beginning the knighthood of Mr. Hinch, by the way), was uncompetitive against the BoSox in the 2018 WS, and lost to a Nationals team that finished with 13 fewer regular season wins than L.A. in the 2019 NLDS. Yeah, bring that guy back. I know, everybody says Roberts is a nice guy. So was Art Howe…

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*For the umpteenth time, the skills that help a manager guide a team during the regular season are entirely different than those that can win three playoff series in three weeks. As much as it upsets me to admit it, it appears Aaron Boone may be capable of doing both well. Mets fans can only hope Carlos Beltran becomes another in that elite club, but as I sit here today I can’t tell you I’m feeling it.

*Did the Cardinals really beat the Braves in the NLDS? That ten-run first by the Cards in Game 5 feels like it happened about 15 years ago.

*The A’s ticket office has left me no fewer than 11 messages since they were bounced (again) from the Wild Card game. Their latest offer included an exclusive opportunity to meet Marcus Semien. Yes, I’m a sucker for that sort of thing, but I think Oakland may be maxed out in their current value-seeking business model.

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*Joe Maddon to the Angels with Mickey Callaway as his pitching coach? I like both moves. Put Cole at the front of the Angels rotation, with Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani in the middle of the order, and that’s the season ticket package I want to hear about.

*I guess we should have smelled something rotten in Denmark (or Houston) when the Rays took them to the limit in the ALDS. Cole saved Hinch and the ‘Stros there, though, didn’t he? Hell of a season down in Tampa, especially when I factor in that I still can’t name five players on the Rays roster. Even so, I’m going on record now that the Rays don’t make the 2020 playoffs.

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*Who is it at Fox Sports that feels A-Rod, Big Papi and the Big Hurt make for entertaining pregame and postgame commentary? A-Rod is so busy letting everyone know how he was indirectly involved in every star’s early development that he barely notices Papi frothing at the mouth to his left, looking for the first pause where can force his Boston-biased opinions on an unsuspecting nation. And poor Frank Thomas. Sitting at the end of the row with that placid smile of his plastered across his face, wishing he would get an opportunity to speak. Then, on the rare occasions that Kevin Burkhardt throws a softball his way, the shock of it is so overpowering that Thomas becomes tongue-tied and defaults to cliches and platitudes. Let’s start over in 2020, Fox Sports. Please!

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*How scary would the Yankees be if Gary Sanchez learned how to hit in the postseason?

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*Aaron Judge is the most fundamentally sound, 6’7 home run hitting freak I’ve ever seen. I’d pay to watch him field his position and run the bases. He’s that solid.

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*I think I’d be more comfortable praising Yuli Gurriel for his all-around excellence if he had a different haircut. You can’t tell me someone in the Astros locker room hasn’t pointed out the resemblance to Sideshow Bob of The Simpsons, right?

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*Is Jose Altuve a Hall of Famer right now, if he never played another game? Not quite, if you ask me, but he’s a top five guy in the league and shows no signs of slowing down.

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*And since you asked — today’s top 5 MLB non-pitchers — Mike Trout, Jose Altuve, Christian Yelich, Aaron Judge, Anthony Rendon. Sorry Alex Bregman, but Rendon leap-frogged you in the last 10 days (drop your damn bat like a professional, for God’s sake), and probably added about $50 million to his offseason in the process.

*Watching these two teams play defense during the World Series was a pleasure. And thank you to MLB for removing the juiced baseballs this postseason. It allowed us to focus back in on the finer and more subtle aspects of the National Pastime, played by two outstanding clubs. The Nationals and Astros were two damned good baseball teams, and we appreciated not having that diminished in any way by a game of Home Run Derby breaking out.

*And watching two teams that can flat out pick it in the field made this Mets fan green with envy. If you plan to build around your pitching, shouldn’t you surround those pitchers with fielders that are actually skilled at catching a batted ball? Apparently the Wilpons missed that breakout session at the last Owners Meeting. Once again the Mets head into the offseason with no every day centerfielder, an overload of corner outfielders, a second baseman with no range, and no reliable defensive catcher. Welcome, Carlos Beltran.

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*Top five pitchers today in MLB? Gerrit Cole, Justin Verlander, Stephen Strasburg, Max Scherzer and Jacob deGrom. Apologies to Walker Buehler, but he will find this list and stick for years to follow one day soon. Seeing four of these aces compete in the Fall Classic was awesome, and while I’ve always known Strasburg was good, he took it to a whole new level on the biggest of stages. Deserving MVP.

*Too soon for 2020 predictions? Of course it is, but here goes — Yankees over Astros in an ALCS rematch. Braves over Padres (riding Manny Machado and, wait for it, Gerrit Cole) in the NLCS. Braves over Yanks in the 2020 World Series.

See you all in February along with pitchers and catchers!

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Look Out Patriots — Here Comes Gang Green! NFL Week 6 Notes

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Are the Patriots really that good?

Okay, probably a foolish question, since they are the defending Super Bowl champs, undefeated, and appear to be head and shoulders above the rest of the NFL at the six week mark.

But then again, what have they really done so far in 2019?

They trounced a Steelers team badly in their home opener, but that was before we began to realize that the Steelers aren’t very good this year. Since then, the only game you could argue was against a semi-competitive opponent was when New England went over to Buffalo and pulled out a close one, 16-10. The Bills? Yup, that’s the Pats biggest win so far in 2019.

Yeah, Buffalo’s been the class of the Patriots early-season competition. And yes, I know all about how the Patriots can only play the teams the schedule-makers place in front of them each week, but c’mon. Blowouts of the putrid Dolphins, injury-ravaged Jets, only-slightly-less-putrid-than-the-Dolphins Redskins, along with a less than stellar showing last Thursday night over the Daniel Jones-led Giants, hasn’t proven a thing.

Maybe by next Tuesday morning the Pats will be sitting 7-0 and taking bows as more bouquets are thrown their way. But will the Patriots easily dismiss the J-E-T-S, JETS, JETS, JETS for the second time in four weeks? This one could actually be a telling matchup if any doubts are still floating around out there about New England.

The Jets are a different team with Sam Darnold leading the offense, and their O-line finally looked as though they were finding their footing against a solid Cowboys defensive front on Sunday. On defense, it appears C.J. Mosley may at last be returning from the groin injury that sidelined him in the Jets opener, and he is a difference-maker for Gang Green if he is healthy and calling the defensive signals.

As bad as the Jets have looked during Darnold’s absence, the defense has actually acquitted itself pretty well, which is no easy feat when you go into a game knowing you have zero chance of winning unless the defense and special teams units rack up multiple scores.

Meanwhile, we may not be watching the same old Patriots of years past. For one, at some point, they will miss Rob Gronkowski. There was a notable difference between the Pats with Gronk in the lineup, as opposed to when he was sitting it out with an injury these last few years, and when the competition picks up Gronk’s absence could be notable. Then there’s the Pats’ 42-year-old QB. He can’t keep up this level of play forever, can he? Okay, maybe he can, but at some point there’s gotta be some kind of injury, right? Brady does take some hits, and I don’t care how healthy a diet you have, it’s harder to recover from a beating at 42 than 32 (or 22, for that matter).

Then there was the whole Antonio Brown embarrassment/distraction earlier in the season. Very un-Patriots-like, don’t you think? And maybe most importantly, the Patriots have made closing the season strong their hallmark during this remarkable run of excellence. It’s almost an October rite of passage that there’s some unexpected New England loss, or losses, to get all us haters hopeful that maybe the jig is finally up in New England. You know the chorus — Belichick’s losing his touch, Brady’s showing signs of his age, etc., etc., etc. Then they go and right the ship and close the season on a crescendo that carries them right through January. Like effin’ clockwork.

Are the Patriots peaking too early in 2019? Can their incredible streak of 19 consecutive wins over teams led by first and second-year QB’s continue uninterrupted? Could they be overlooking the Jets after barely breaking a sweat in stomping their division rivals just four weeks ago?

Well, that’s why they play the games. And forget the point spread, SportsAttic is calling for an outright Monday Night Football upset at MetLife Stadium six days from now. You heard it here first!

Other thoughts from around the NFL following an interesting Week 6:

*Are the 49ers really good, or were the Rams overrated coming into this year? Probably a little bit of both, but until someone knocks them off, consider the Niners the team to beat in the NFC. That defense looks for real.

*And what about the Steelers rallying around a kid who showed up for the game in a duck t-shirt on Sunday night? Methinks that Pittsburgh win may tell us more about the state of the Los Angeles (still can’t get used to calling them that) Chargers, than any real sign of optimism for NFL fans in Western Pennsylvania to grab hold of.

*We can’t help but think that Atlanta sports fans must have had their fill of Cardinals after this past week, huh? Are the Falcons really that bad? As the oracle known as Parcells once said, “You are what your record says you are.”

*So the Eagles go to Minnesota and lay an egg against the Vikings and decide to place the blame on linebacker Zach Brown, who was quoted criticizing Kirk Cousins leading up to the game (he was not alone in his critique, by the way). Yeah, definitely the linebacker’s fault. Here’s hoping the Giants or Cowboys pick up Brown and he exacts some NFC East revenge before the season’s out. Enjoy 3-3, Iggles.

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*Speaking of the NFC East, maybe the best part of the Jets win over the Cowboys on Sunday was reading the hysterical, ranting tweets from Cowboys fans calling for Jason Garrett’s head. Listen folks, Garrett’s stared down way worse than a 3-3 start during his checkered tenure in Big D. Doesn’t seem Jerry Jones will ever pull that trigger. Makes ya wonder what Garrett’s got on this guy, doesn’t it?

(SPORTSATTIC NOTE and SHAMELESS SELF-PROMOTIONAL PLUG — Follow us on twitter — @sportsattic2)

*One last note on the NFC East — can the Giants really be only one game out of first place? Could they truly be playing a “must win game” (against the Cardinals for goodness sakes) this coming Sunday? Do they really sport the same 2-4 record as the vaunted Cleveland Browns at this point in the season? Yes, yes, and yes. And don’t think for a second Odell Beckham Jr. isn’t well aware of all of that.

*I know it seems like most of the league is 2-4 right now, but the Jaguars have to be the best 2-4 team of them all. They’ve lost close ones to the Chiefs and Saints at home and to the Panthers and Texans on the road. Plus their QB’s mustache is way cooler than Aaron Rogers’.

*Yeah, the Lions got robbed last night. Yeah, in their heart of hearts, the NFL probably does prefer to see the Packers win at Lambeau on a Monday night. Yeah, it’s getting old having the officiating play such a visible role in outcomes every week. I’m not sure about the correct solution, but it seems to me a catch is a catch, and interference is interference, and we all grew up making those calls decisively in pick up games on every playground from sea to shining sea. Yet those are the calls officials can’t seem to get right week after week. SMH.

*Was Sam Darnold’s triumphant return and demonstration to all that he possesses the intangibles of a franchise QB enough to table these absurdly premature “Daniel Jones is the best QB in New York” arguments? I sure hope so.

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