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A Tale of Two Gardeners

Did anyone see the Rangers game last night? If you made a conscious effort to tune in, you probably saw more of the game than I did, despite the fact that I had eagerly been anticipating going to this game. Blame it on the hell that is I-95 traffic. I took this picture, on your right, by the way. Hah.

But from what I saw, the Rangers looked good. The best part of their success was that played a throwback style (to um, last year), rather than the haphazard low-effort, sloppy defense output we've come to expect this year

Last year, their play was crisp and urgent, and the stellar play of King Henrik (who was exactly that Tuesday night) vaulted the Blueshirts to the head of the pack, at least until the end of the season. That hangover (sorry, Sandis, for the poor word choice) has plagued the Rangers to a certain extent all of this season, as they are tied for first with New Jersey in the Atlantic, with New Jersey having a few games to spare.

The fact that the Rangers are tied for first in the Atlantic Division, where the record of the first-place team is just as bad or even worse as that of any other division leader, is not exactly something to write home about. But Tuesday's game was. Shanahan and Jagr were both very impressive, and the sloppy and excessively penalized play of Saturday night was nowhere to be found.

It is nice to see that the Rangers are at least trying to rectify things, and Henrik's near shutout on Sunday plus an actual shutout on Tuesday bode well for this team's future. I predict a first place finish in the Atlantic Division, but, regrettably, I know that Gomez, Brodeur, Elias and Co. will have quite a bit to say about that.

Alas, MSG's other inhabitants (and the tenant with MSG TV precedence) have played a horrendous game tonight, and nearly lost by less than fifteen, in spite of the fact that the Minnesota T-Wolves (who were 3-6 and in last place in their divison going into tonight's game) led by 17 at the end of the first quarter.

I grant that I don't know all that much about basketball, but when it seems as though most of your television advertising space is devoted to telling people to come to the games, despite the fact that the Knicks play in the biggest market in the nation, it's safe to say that your team is in trouble.

The team is utterly horrendous this season. Their 4-9 record projects to about 25 wins (and 57 losses) over the course of the NBA's 82-game season, which would actually be a two-game improvement over the previous season. I guess there's some silver lining in that.

It's actually funny to listen to these guys (Gus Johnson and Walt Frazier tonight) try and not say anything horribly negative about this team, or try and highlight only the least negative aspects of this squad. I would like to note that my ex co-blogger forecasted a playoff season for these Knicks. Instead, you'll be lucky to see thirty wins.

I think this is what makes me just dislike pro basketball... the game seems horribly uninspired, with chumps in cornrows jogging up and down the floor, missing free throws and making sloppy passes. I also dislike Bill Simmons, so, yeah.

Cablevision needs to put forth more Rangers coverage and realize that people honestly don't give a damn about pro basketball, especially the brand put forth by Isiah and his Knicks. Put anything on instead. I don't care. Have a show where professional Ranger shill Bobby Granger fights Colton Orr for two hours. I'd watch that rather than the Knicks.

Maybe they should take the games off television entirely, resurrect Orson Welles, and broadcast the games over the radio as though the Knicks are winning them all. Given the money they're spending on contracts of ex-Knicks Allan Houston, Shandon Anderson, Jalen Rose, Maurice Taylor, and Jerome Williams, they could probably afford such a plan.


I'm pretty sure that this free agent market is actually a figment of my imagination. Soriano getting the huge contract is even not as loony as the deals handed out to Juan Pierre and Gary Matthews, Jr. If I declared myself a free agent, the Cubs would probably offer me a nine-year deal. I'd be represented by Scott Boras, though, so I'd hold out for 11 years.

I can't decide which is a worse deal. I'm probably leaning towards the Pierre contract, because he has shown a great deal of regression since his 2003-2004 progress. He's not a horribly valuable player, granted, and his status as an average defensive outfielder probably means that he can't be a full-time centerfielder, since he can't hit.

Matthews, Jr. at least had a 7.1 WARP3 this season, in his first full season of playing time.


Even though my feelings on Yankees SS/God Derek Jeter are well-known (save for one April Fool's Day prank), I'm not terribly vindicated with the fact that he didn't win the MVP.

He, like his NL counterpart in running-up Albert Pujols, was victim to someone with gaudier HR/RBI numbers. And since RBI is a statistic thoroughly dependent on the number of opportunities one has with men on base, it's not altogether that hard to discount it mathematically.

Morneau, though, was still a credible candidate. It's just funny to hear Windbag and Loudmouth on the WFAN drive time talk about how Jeter was utterly robbed, while they talk about his intangibles, clutch, and leadership. Why don't they just reference VORP? For once, his statistics were actually called the league's best by these evil statheads and their computers.

Instead, they then talk about how he did a poor job leading Alex Rodriguez. Well, if his candidacy is based on leadership, why do they say he should be the MVP? Presumably, someone didn't screw up leading their team to the extent that pundits blame it for the demise of a superstar. Ugh.


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A Disappointing Weekend

I wasn't really inclined, especially after Ohio State beat Michigan, to call this a disappointing weekend for me. I expressed some favor for the Buckeyes, and that game had been preceded by Yale beating Harvard, which made me smile.

But it was downhill for the most part from there.

Moises Alou might become a Met, which scares me. My favorite son, Firstings, is almost a lock to be sent packing if the Mets acquire Alou. Did you know he pees on his hands? HE PEES ON HIS HANDS, people. My biggest objection, actually, to the Alou acquisition is the possibility of a two-year deal for the aging OF.

Shawn "The Grass Ain't So" Green and Moises really won't make for that much of an athletic outfield, no matter how fast Carlos Beltran can run in CF. The other negative is that the deal isn't the incentive-laden contract you would want for an injury-prone player going on 41. It looks like $9MM guaranteed annually over one year, with an option for 2008.

I don't exactly hate the signing (if it occurs), but the problem is that the quality of the investment (a hefty one at that) all hinges on whether or not a forty-year old corner outfielder (who hasn't played 140 games since '04) can remain healthy.

But Omar is planning on using the power of the platoon, given that having two bums in the corner spots will open up some time for the younger Firstings and athletic Chavez and Ben Johnson.

On some level, though, one must wonder whether this signing actually occured. We've been hearing a lot about it, from almost every NY-area media outlet, but didn't something like this happen (in fact, with Moises) after the 2004 season? I'll wait until we hear more official statements about the free-agent OF.

Saturday night made me want to shake Moises' hands. Not only did Cinderella story Rutgers take a loss (against friggin' Cincinnati), the Rangers played what was possibly the sloppiest and least inspired game of hockey ever played.

In a loss to the Penguins, they took what seemed to be about 150 penalties, and it just generally didn't seem like the team was hustling. The Rangers, this season, just don't look the same as they did last year. There's a bit of a drag in everyone's step, and the biggest problem seems to be inconsistent defense.

At least we have football on Sunday. On TV here was the Patriots' rout of Green Bay and the Jets-Bears game, which was incredibly close for the first half.

Then your man Eric Mangini made the brilliant decision to go for an onside kick, and since the Jets were getting destroyed in the game (your score was 0-0), it was obviously necessary to neutralize the Bears' advantage (once again, your score was 0-0, and the Bears had like 2 yards passing, and the game was only tied because of a C. Penn red zone INT and a bonehead overturning of a fumble recovery).

So, the Jets stunk it up in the second half, and were absolutely unable to wrap up this Bradley fellow. Nevertheless, this page will hand game balls out to the Jets pass rush, the Jets running game, and of course, Tim Dwight and Laveranues Coles. Boo to the pass protection and secondary.

At least I was able to seek solace in the 4-1 Rangers victory over Tampa Bay at the Garden last night, where Jaromir Jagr netted his 400th and the Rangers really made up for the poor play of prior nights. It also had a baseball-y feel, as Lightning coach John Tortorella was ejected from the game from tossing vulgarities at the refs.

I will be at Tuesday night's Rangers-Hurricanes showdown, so maybe I'll have something else to say then.


Also, if you thought this was your grandmother's free agent market... you might be wrong. Former Blue Jay Justin Speier, a sidearming righty setup man, got 4 years, $18MM, when in fact he is just boosting what is already one of the strongest bullpens in the majors over there in LA of A.

And, uh, yeah. If you live in a cave, you might have even heard that a 31 year old outfielder who strikes out a ton and doesn't walk got eight years and $136MM.

It was, earlier in this offseason, pretty shocking to hear that Soriano wanted "Beltran money", given that when Beltran was a free agent he was younger and had an incredibly strong postseason to his credit, not to mention the reputation as a hard worker and a great athlete.

Soriano has none of that (save for the athleticism) and he got one more year than Beltran did at roughly the same yearly rate. Wow. That's all I can say.

And there are maybe a few more signings to rank on your ridiculous-o-meter.

SS Alex Gonzalez got 3 years, $14MM from the Reds.

1B Nomar Garciaparra, who was injured for a large chunk of last year, got 2 years, $18MM guaranteed to re-up with the Dodgers.

And Mike Stanton, yes Mike Friggin' Stanton, yes the former Met, got a two-year deal. He's like eighty. I think I'm going to go cry and wish I were left-handed.

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