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The Death of a Season

It's difficult for us to fathom what has become of the New York Rangers 2006-07 season. Sure, they're still only behind the Devils in the Atlantic Division, but at present they are tied for eighth in the conference with one game at hand vs. Toronto. That's right. If the season ended today, the Rangers would receive an early-round thrashing from the Sabres, similar to the show put on by the Satanists over in Jersey last year.

But if you've been living in a cave for a month, you would probably be surprised at this turn for the worse taken by the Rangers. After their 5-2 win at Dallas, where Henrik Lundqvist stopped everything, making 43 saves, the Rangers moved to 18-10-4 and had the division lead. It's been downhill from there. They have allowed 50 goals in their last 15 games, while scoring only 35 in that same span. The problem with that is that the Rangers are deviating from their best output in both directions.

Their weapons are rusty. Jagr's the walking wounded, Shanahan has two goals in his last 18 games, and Michael Nylander apparently has forgotten how to shoot the puck. The team defense is absolutely wretched- they take a plethora of useless penalties and then leave it up to Hank to make a great save. Of course, given that the Rangers play in Madison Square Garden and are owned by Jim Dolan, the coaching staff and front office are also ridiculously culpable.

Some of the team's problems were due to GM Glen Sather's weak manuvering during the spring and summer months. The playoffs exposed the Rangers as a team with few offensive weapons and scoring defensemen. Accordingly, Sather opted to let two of the Rangers' top scorers walk. Peter Sykora and Martin Rucinsky found new homes, and the Rangers seemed in no need to replace them.

Rather than choosing to add an elite defenseman, Sather chose to add Aaron Ward, a man who grew a red playoff beard last year. He added Ward's Hurricanes teammate Matt Cullen. The Rangers also added notable alcoholic Latvian superstar Sandis Ozolinsh into the fray last year, absorbing Ozo's giant contract from the Ducks in exchange for Ville Niemenen. He made another poor trade, as well, acquiring useless chump Adam "11 points in 47 games" Hall for Dominic Moore, a player who was much of the heart and soul of this team.

The burden to a certain extent falls on coach Tom Renney's shoulders as well. The coach has overexposed many players, repeatedly expecting some sort of output from them, while simultaneously burying the Rangers' future in Hartford and on the fourth line. Overexposed players include low-scoring forwards Hall, Jason Ward, Marcel Hossa, Colton Orr, and Ryan Hollweg, all of whom are logging valuable minutes while Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan rot in Hartford and Peter Prucha is atrophying on the fourth line.

The Rangers have also been the victim of some bad luck, to be sure, given Jagr's injury, Henrik's sophomore slump and Fedor Tyutin's sudden defensive regression. It's hard to say that this couldn't have been planned for, though.

Accordingly, the Rangers lost again, today, and will head into the All-Star Break losers of four of their last five.

They best come out strong, for Renney's sake.

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A Call to Polyester-Covered Arms

Omar Minaya has made his intentions for the 2007 season clear, and his recent signing of washed-up Cardinal/Brave fireballer Jorge Sosa is even more evidence of that.

Minaya did not add, much to the chagrin of fans like myself, an arm the caliber of Zito, Haren, or Schmidt. Minaya has yet even to add a pitcher in the mold of Gil Meche or Ted Lilly, pitchers who have been hampered by injuries moreso than ineffectiveness during their careers.

Instead, Minaya stockpiled projects. He nabbed hard-throwing righty relievers Jon Adkins and Ambiorix Burgos in separate deals, and he followed that up by trading for Jason Vargas, a pitcher whose ability far outweighs his performance to this point.

And now he's got Sosa. Although he was 13-3 with a 2.55 ERA in 2005, the righty posted a 5.42 ERA in 2006 following Leo Mazzone's departure.

One might wonder if the Mets were trying to play the market cheaply, avoiding expensive injury risks and the large contracts that have permeated the game so far this winter. However, these contracts show something else, as far as I can tell.

The Mets are putting all their faith in "Slick" Rick "The Jacket" Peterson. They are counting on him to take a rotation without a Pedro and a bullpen without a juiced Mota to the top of the NL East.

Beforehand, such a goal might have been unrealistic. We've watched as various projects scuffled at points in the year, and not one among us forgets his "I can fix him in ten minutes" comment. By the way, the Devil Rays are reportedly pursuing Victor Zambrano as an option for a non-roster deal.

This is all a giant opportunity for the Jacket. He will be given talented young starters with explosive arms (Pelfrey, Humber, Perez) and a few live-armed relievers down on their luck (Sosa, Burgos, Mota, Sanchez) and he will be expected to take this team to the top.

The Jacket will be required to take this team from its present conceptual state, instead hoping to turn it over into a pitching juggernaut where all fireballers are supposed to reach their potential. Obviously, that's not happening.

It's tough, though, to take a look at this team and realize the worst case scenario. The Mets will still have that incredible offense, and Glavine will still be here. Furthermore, the rotations in the division are still not all that formidable (though you have to fear the Marlins' young guns).

Godspeed, Jacket. This season is on your (surgically-repaired) shoulders now.


According to Murray Chass in the New York Times, the Mets are close to a minor-league deal with Ruben Sierra. (What, Travis Fryman wasn't available?) Chass quotes Sierra's agent Chuck Berry, who will soon join a battle with Billy Wagner's agent Bean Stringfellow for worst name.

Sierra put up a garbage .179/.273/.214 line in 28 ABs with Minnesota last year, before being released in July.

I just don't understand this. Sierra is 41 years old, has garbage knees, hasn't played a game in the National League since '97 and played no time in the outfield last year.

In fact, the Mets already have Sierra's equivalent in Julio Franco. This move makes zero sense to me, even though it's probably a non-guaranteed deal.


Rangers, Devils, tonight, 7:30. It strikes me that these teams just play every time that neither one has a nationally-televised game. It's pretty awful, given that the rivalry is devoid of intensity.

Oh, well... the boys looked alright during the Boston game.

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