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It’s the Weekend

Ed Botti


As we approach the coin toss for Sunday’s Super Bowl LVI, we have two teams competing that followed completely different paths to earn their spot in the big game. On the one hand we have the upstarts, the Cincinnati Bengals who followed the good old fashioned approach by building from shrewd draft picks, smart trades, thrown in with a little good fortune.

Across the field will be the Los Angeles Rams, built more like their NBA neighbor the Lakers, by making trades for veterans, free agent signings, and added Odell Beckham Junior who once again wore out his welcome and forced a mid-season release after feuding once again with his quarterback, and ended up a Ram.

As I have mentioned here before, the Super Bowl is my point of demarcation. Once the Super Bowl is over, in my mind (for whatever that is worth) it is Baseball time as we eagerly await pitchers and catchers reporting to the various spring training facilities in Florida and Arizona.

As we know, it appears that is not the case in 2022. More on that below.

No, this year the Super Bowl is the line of demarcation for us New York fans that our sports is nearly over for the foreseeable future.

No disrespect intended to the NYC FC champions, but as a fan of New York winter sports in 2021/2022, we are almost bereft of any competitive teams to watch, with the exception of the New York Rangers. Yes, the Rangers will keep me engaged throughout the spring, but not most of us. The NHL does not have nearly as many fans as the other winter sports. So, unless you had your heart broken in the old blue seats at Madison Square Garden and now have this talented young Ranger team to root for, you are set for an undisclosed amount of down time in your sports viewing vocation.

It’s hard to believe that in the biggest and greatest city in the world, most of our professional sports teams cannot find a way to be consistently competitive.

The two NFL teams, Giants and Jets, seemed to have been in rebuild mode for a decade. The Giants just hired their 5th head coach since Tom Coughlin was unceremoniously relieved of his duties following the 2015/2016 season (Ben McAdoo, Steve Spagnuolo, Pat Shurmur, Joe Judge and now Brian Daboll).

The Jets haven’t been much better having gone through 3 head coaches since Rex Ryan left after the 2014 season (Todd Bowls, Adam Gase and now Robert Salah). Let’s not even mention the “Butt Fumble”!

The two teams since 2015 have gone a combined 76-150. Pretty Pathetic!

On the NBA side of things, we have a pretty odd situation going on, not unusual for the NBA. My rooting interests in NBA basketball rest with the Brooklyn Nets.

As a matter of background, in 2013, the Nets traded Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries, Kris Joseph, Keith Bogans and MarShon Brooks, first-round picks in 2014, 2016, the rights to swap first-round picks in 2017, and here is the kicker, their 2018 first-round pick.

In return, The Nets received 37-year-old Kevin Garnett, a 36-year-old Paul Pierce, a 36-year-old Jason Terry and DJ White.

With all the new faces and plans for greatness, the Nets went as far as the second round before losing to the Miami Heat in the 2014 NBA playoffs. To throw salt on the wounds, Paul Pierce left for the Wizards the following season, and a hobbled and finished Garnett lasted one more season and then left for Minnesota.

This trade was one of the worst transactions ever made and many of us Net fans believed It would take years to rebound.

Thank you Billy King!

But a funny thing happened on the way to complete obscurity, The Nets hired Sean Marks in 2016 as their GM and Kenny Atkinson as their head coach. These two went to work with no high draft picks, little cap room and a team made up of older veterans ready for the pasture.

By 2018 Marks and Atkinson had built an exciting team of young players and castoffs, and exciting basketball returned.

Then they got cute. Instead of adding a piece or two to lead the young upstarts, they rolled the dice and dealt nearly every single one of those young exciting players and signed arguably the best player in the league, Kevin Durant.

Durant however was injured and would sit out the entire 2019/2020 season. He also now was following the LeBron James scheme of demanding to be the de facto GM and insisted that they sign Kyrie Irving as a package deal. Then those two conspired to have Atkinson fired.

Those deals led to the complete dismantling of the team, and they were all replaced with seasoned veterans, culminating with the January 14, 2021 trade for James Harden.

The NBA is different from the other three sports in one significant way. If a team can stockpile 3 stars, they can win it all.

So the Nets followed that plan and got Durant, Irving, and Harden.

The “Big Three” was built. But sometimes things don’t always work out as planned.

As we sit here on February 11, 2022 the Nets are 29-26 having lost 10 straight. Durant is hurt, Irving is barred from playing in the five boroughs due to ridiculous NYC Covid 19 restrictions (unvaccinated Nets and Knicks can’t play home games, but visiting team’s unvaccinated players can play in NYC) and Harden demanded a behind the scenes trade.

On Thursday at the NBA trade deadline, the Nets sent him to Philly for the much maligned Ben Simmons, Seth Curry, Andre Drummond and two first-round draft picks.

It became a complete mess. Maybe this move solves some of their issues.

Who knows if it is a good deal or not at this point. Harden is a great player. But, apparently the Kyrie Irving drama was too much for him to take, and he wanted out.

So much for the “Big Three”.

The Knicks on the other hand are once again “stumbling and bumbling” ( per Walt Frazier!) their way through another NBA season. Over the last 10 seasons including the 55 games played this season, the Knicks have a won-loss record of 303-464. If you take out the surprising Covid shortened 2020/2021 season when they went 41-31, they are 262-433 in the other nine seasons.

In the NHL, we have three teams; NY Islanders, NJ Devils and the NY Rangers. Hockey is much different than the NBA. Three stars doesn’t mean as much. A hockey team is built on four lines consisting of 5 players (excluding the goalie) on each line. Due to the grueling physical demands of a shift, each line is essentially moved in and out of the game in shifts. Each shift averages 47 seconds.

The New York Islanders are led by GM Lou Lamoriello, who I consider the best executive in professional sports, and head coach Barry Trots, a Stanley Cup winning head coach. The Islanders entered the season as a favorite to make it to the Stanley Cup finals but have been ravaged by injuries and Covid-19 the entire season.

The New Jersey Devils are in the midst of a re-build and currently have a 16-26-5 record, good enough for last place in the Metropolitan Division.

Finally, we have the New York Rangers, the only winter team in New York that gives us hope. The Rangers entered the All-Star break with a 30-13-4 record, 1 point behind the Carolina Hurricanes for the best record in the Division.

The Rangers did what I wanted the Yankees to do after the 2021 season; they cleaned house and fired the GM and Head Coach. They brought in the right people, Chris Drury as GM and Gerard Gallant and Head Coach. Drury made some shrewd moves and gave Gallant a fast and tough team and they were off to the races.

I am opportunistic for an extremely exciting playoff this May and June!

I bring all of this up for one reason. In the past when our winter teams have let us down year after year, we always knew in the back of our minds that baseball was just around the corner.

Hope springs eternal! That is our annual mantra.

We as baseball fans are a resilient bunch. We have been through numerous strikes, lockouts, rule changes, a World Series cancelation, steroid abuse, a cheating team and a pandemic. We always return. We sit through pouring rain only to be sent home 3 hours later after the game is finally called off, with no reimbursement for our extreme parking fees offered, and then we return once again.

As a result of our loyalty, we are unappreciated by both sides of this ridiculous work stoppage; Ownership and the Players.

Now we are being tested again in 2022, and why not? We always return. We always tune in. We are programmed to do so, it’s in our DNA. The Yankees are playing, we watch or listen. It’s what we do.

But, are they pushing us too far this time? It is quite possible.

Whether you agree with the players or not, the biggest hindrance in ending this latest work stoppage is one person. Rob Manfred.

Unless you have been living under a rock, we all have known for years that the last CBA was set to expire on December 1, 2021. It was written about and talked about for the last 2 + years in just about every baseball related medium. How in the world can this man wait until December 1, 2021 to engage the players, and then lock them out 24 hours later? Then wait another 45 days to re-engage them?

It is ridiculous.

He is a failure at his job. He is failing the players and the fans over and over. He implements ridiculous rule changes and worries more about political correctness (Indians to Guardians, Disabled List to Injured List, All Star game moved from Atlanta to Denver) all while the clock was ticking on an expiration of the CBA.

The players aren’t much better. This past week we heard some more from them.

Gerrit Cole sounded off and stated “I was at our PA meeting in AZ and it was exciting to see solidarity this high. We had 100+ players show up and are united to protect the integrity of the game.”

Gerrit, what exactly did that do for the integrity of the game? It’s pretty easy to say when you are making $30MM a year even though you flopped in the biggest late games of the 2021 season.

Marcus Stroman had this to say this week “Manclown and his boys need to figure it out and stop ruining the game of baseball,”

Marcus, how exactly is that helping?

Maybe Trevor May of the Mets had it best, when he recently stated “This is not going to be a good-faith negotiation. Not a single negotiation with the guy (Manfred) has been in good faith. He doesn’t do good-faith things. … Good faith needs to stop being said. It’s bad faith. Good faith doesn’t exist, so stop acting like it was even a possibility.”

“This isn’t a mutually beneficial situation. They (the league and the owners) want to win.”

“He just doesn’t really think about the fan as a fan. He doesn’t really think about the players as people.”

“He thinks about all of us as a dollar sign and he wants to move the pieces in order to maximize the number of dollar signs that go to his bosses.”

“In my opinion, there is probably going to be something missed. Probably spring training because … you don’t pay players during spring training, so the leverage on their end isn’t as high as it is during the season.”

Finally someone mentions the fans!

Manfred is and has been a disaster for Baseball as the Commissioner. He needs to go. The sooner the better.

Yesterday he finally made a statement to the fans.

“Look, the status of Spring Training is no change. We’re gonna have a conversation with the MLBPA with the calendar … Until we see how this session on Saturday goes, it’s no change.”

“I am an optimist, and I believe we will have an agreement in time to play our regular schedule,”

“If I hadn’t given consideration to what it would mean to miss games, I wouldn’t be doing my job,”

“Obviously I pay attention to that. I see missing games as a disastrous outcome for this industry. We’re committed to make an agreement in an effort to avoid that.”

Disastrous, a good word to use Rob!

RIP to ex Yankee Gerald Williams.

RIP to Jeremy Giambi.

Both lost way too soon. Our condolences go out to their families.

This week’s Trivia – in 1976, who hit the first home run by a Yankee at the newly refurbished Yankee Stadium?

Add your answer to the comment section, and I’ll reply.

This week’s Weird News- Some “speculator” paid $474,000.00 for a Jasson Dominguez baseball card.

Enjoy the Super Bowl!

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