Feb 05

Some Reflections On 49ers And Ravens, Before The Mets

One of the true beauties of sport is the ability to generate conversation and debate. Before we dive head first into baseball let’s take one more swipe at the Super Bowl, which will go down in history as one of the most compelling in history.

What I root most for in watching games – regardless of sport – are interesting story lines and close games. Yesterday’s game hit on both counts.

As I wrote yesterday, I didn’t have a dog in the fight, but leaned toward San Francisco because of my Cleveland roots. I didn’t waiver, but found myself happy for Joe Flacco because of the heat he’s taken, some of it from his own team.

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While Flacco is easy to root for, Jim Harbaugh is the opposite.

Harbaugh went from hard to root for to almost impossible to root for because of his whining. After saying he wanted to handle things with class, he proceeded to rip the officiating. Although he was right on that last non-call – it was holding – be gracious and congratulate your brother. Not a lot of warmth in that post-game handshake.

Brother John said he thought his brother is the best coach in the NFL and would be honored to work for him. He also said he loved him. Jim said no such thing. I wonder if Jim will truly be happy for John?

That was a horrible non-call, and I can’t stand that term. “That was a good non-call,’’ said Phil Simms, who praised the officials for “not making a call late in the game.’’ I normally like Simms, but he’s as off-target on this one like a Mark Sanchez pass. Huh? If it is holding, it is holding whether on the first play of the game or the last. What is it? Then call it. I bet he wouldn’t have been that forgiving had he been throwing the ball.

That wasn’t the only bad call in the game. As a matter of fact, two Ravens were caught holding on that play. They were also holding on the kickoff return. And, how does Cary Williams not get thrown out of the game for shoving a ref? He later went on to make several key plays, including tipping a pass in the end zone.

There were numerous other blown calls that cost both teams. It isn’t like the 49ers got screwed; both teams were affected. Like, how about a late hit on Flacco wasn’t called?

I heard a lot about the officials “letting them play,’’ which is garbage. Your job as an official is to call the game, not arbitrarily decide how the game should be played. It is like an umpire’s “personal’’ strike zone. Rules are rules, so enforce them.

That being said, I don’t want to hear how the officials cost the 49ers the game. They had a 300-yard passer, two 100-yard receivers and a 100-yard rusher, yet still lost the game. I wonder how many times that has happened. The bottom line is when you score 31 points, you should win the game. The 49ers defense and special teams were horrid, and Jim Harbaugh was outcoached by his brother, John Harbaugh.

Outclassed, too?

Jim Harbaugh inexplicably abandoned the running game at the end, despite Frank Gore’s success in the game and on that drive. Harbaugh, as a former quarterback, should know timeouts are more precious than five yards.

Colin Kaepernick burned a timeout earlier rather than take a penalty, and as the clock ticked down on that final drive, Harbaugh screamed for a timeout rather than take the penalty, despite the five yards possibly helping the receivers maneuver easier around the end zone.

As far as Kaepernick is concerned, he came alive in the second half, but clearly was unnerved early in the game. As Kaepernick struggled, I was somewhat surprised – considering the score – not much was made by Simms on going to Alex Smith. Bill Cowher mentioned it at halftime, but Simms threw an incompletion there.

And, about that safety at the end of the game, there was blatant holding there, but I’m not totally buying it meant nothing because a penalty in the end zone still results in a safety. However, had the penalty been called it there might have been more time on the clock for maybe one more play.

And, who wouldn’t have wanted one more play from a game like last night’s?

Feb 01

Report: Mets Considering Valverde As Closer

Maybe Sandy Alderson believes the Mets might be ready to compete this year.

That was my first impression – perhaps wishful thinking – after reading an ESPN report they are considering signing former Detroit closer Jose Valverde to replace Frank Francisco. No problems there. Actually, I have no problem with anybody replacing Francisco, who was a bad signing.

Valverde saved 35 games last year for the Tigers before unraveling and was replaced in the postseason by a committee pen. Valverde’s agent is Scott Boras, but the Mets say they need this on their terms, with a reported $4 million base plus incentives. Valverde earned $9 million last year, but with how he finished nobody will bite on that figure.

With spring training less than two weeks away – my, where did the winter go? – Valverde falls under the category of beggars can’t be choosers. If he’s signed and does well, he can try the market again. There are always a multitude of relievers every winter.

Reportedly, the Mets thought of asking Roy Oswalt to convert to closer like John Smoltz, but he was cool to the idea. He might have second thoughts if he doesn’t get any offers. Actually, if the Mets are in a spending mode, why not invite Oswalt and give him a minor league contract to start? They signed Shaun Marcum to a one-year deal as the fifth starter, but does anybody believe the Mets will make it through the season with only five starters? Not happening.

As Alderson attempts to build a bullpen at the last minute, he should not consider bringing back Francisco Rodriguez, who punched his girlfriend’s father at Citi Field, hurt himself and was traded to Milwaukee. The Mets don’t need that headache.

Evidently, this does not bode well for Bobby Parnell’s future with the Mets. He’s had several chances but spit the bit. It was thought he could get another chance if Francisco – who was injured at the end of last season – faltered again.

Parnell pitched well in place of Francisco, but there was admittedly no pressure on him. If Alderson thought the Mets could not be competitive this year, it would have been the perfect opportunity to force-feed the role to Parnell. If I’m Parnell, I’d be wanting to leave town.

By adding Valverde, Alderson believes the Mets could make something of the summer, but even with an improved bullpen there remains an enormous hole in the outfield, a thin bench and several questions in the rotation.

Jan 31

The Parallels Between Jose Reyes And Darelle Revis

When I hear of the Jets’ dilemma with Pro Bowl cornerback Darrelle Revis, I can’t but help think of the similarities with the Mets and Jose Reyes.

Both are supremely talented athletes who excel at their positions, but have apparently outgrown their team’s financial structure.

REVIS: Reminds me of Reyes.

REVIS: Reminds me of Reyes.

Make no mistake, the Mets had the resources to bring back Reyes and the Jets have the funds to renegotiate an extension for Revis.

The Mets let Reyes walk because they didn’t want to spend the money and tie up their budget in future seasons for a player with an injury history. No, they haven’t been able to fully replace Reyes, especially on the offensive side, but they have more financial flexibility than they have in recent years.

The Mets also let Reyes depart because he wasn’t the missing piece. Even with Reyes, the Mets had – and still have – numerous holes.

Reyes, a player whose living depends upon his legs, was frequently injured during his last seasons with the Mets, including going on the disabled list twice in his final summer.

By all accounts, Reyes was a positive in the clubhouse, much like Revis is in the locker with the Jets.

For the third time in his career, Revis wants to renegotiate his contract, which has prompted some NFL executives to suggest he’ll never be happy, and quite frankly, this must wear on Jets management.

Continue reading

Jan 28

Mets Not In It For Bourn; Will Look At Wilson Again

Not surprisingly, it is looking as if the Mets will enter spring training with their current outfield and pitching staff composition or sign a free agent not worthy of draft pick compensation.

The Mets had been thinking of Michael Bourn and Kyle Lohse, but do not want to lose the 11th pick. The ten worst records have their pick protected, but Pittsburgh displaced the Mets from the top ten because the Pirates did not sign their 2012 first-round pick.

The Mets’ argument is they shouldn’t be penalized for something the Pirates did not do.

“Obviously, we want to have some sense of which way that interpretation would go before we made any final decision,’’ GM Sandy Alderson said. “At this point, it’s all speculation.’’

Either way, with Scott Boras his agent, Bourn would not come cheaply.

Alderson admitted the free-agent market has greatly thinned and the trade market is slow because teams are preparing for spring training. If somebody doesn’t step up from within, the Mets will shop the free-agent market again when teams make their roster cuts.

Also thin is the bullpen pool, where Alderson will again take a look at former Giant Brian Wilson. Alderson watched Wilson, Jan. 12, in Los Angeles, but came away unimpressed with his velocity.

 

Jan 26

ESPN Reports Mets Have Interest In Oswalt

Despite their recent $4-million signing of Shaun Marcum, ESPN reported the Mets have interest in free-agent Roy Oswalt.

Oswalt, 35, has missed considerable time the past two seasons with lower back problems. He was 4-3 with a 5.80 ERA in 17 appearances last year with Texas. He worked solely in relief last September.

Operating under the theory you can never have enough pitching, even if it is older and broken down, the Mets don’t have anything to lose if they sign him to a minor league contract.

Let’s face it, they aren’t going to pay big money for a free agent (and most of them are already gone). If they can catch lightning in a bottle, then it is worth the signing. If not, then they are out only a minimal amount.

I’m not saying Oswalt is who I want. I’m just saying beggars can’t be choosers.