For the fan in enemy territory

Thursday, February 14, 2013

NYFSJ Valentine's Edition IV: Love It or Hate It

This is the day that retail stores wait for since the moment the Christmas rush ends. It's Valentine's Day. The annual tradition of expressing your love for your significant other or admired-from-afar other.  While this day has been a celebration of all things love, here at NYFSJ, it has become an annual state of the union address for the New York sports landscape.

In last year's installment, I mentioned that, as a whole, New York sports is continuing to have a bright future. While I was correct for that statement the year before, some teams have taken a step backwards. This can only mean one thing: get ready for some hate to go with all that feeling of love.

1) Love or hate the New York Jets last season? HATE. The Jets began last season with a QB controversy. They traded for Tim Tebow and were hoping his skills would boot the offense. It didn't. To be fair, they had multiple injuries in key positions. The offense and defense took massive hits.

The final standings cost the GM his job. With a new GM, the team will be looking to put that season behind them. To do so, they have to be healthy and they have to have an identity on both sides of the ball. They must establish the run to open up the pass for a pocket passer like Mark Sanchez.

Above all, they have to stop the drama. Stop trash talking. Stop making boasts and claims. That comes from the top and goes all the way down to the players. There has to be a change in their mentality. If not, we may see a return of their 2012 rather than a return of their 2010.

2) Love or hate the New York Yankees this coming season? LOVE. After faltering in the playoffs last season, the Yankees are getting healthy and feel rejuvenated for another season and hopeful playoff run. Joe Girardi has stated they can win 95 games and go to the World Series.

You have to like a manager that shows confidence like that, but titles are not won in quotes or on paper. As the saying goes, "that's why you play the game". With Mariano Rivera back and a healthy C.C. Sabathia, the pitching staff and bullpen should be solid.

The addition of Kevin Youkilis should boost the offense even more despite the loss of A-Rod.  All things considered, Girardi could end up being right, but the season has to play out before we'll see.

3) Love or hate the New York Knicks playoff chances? LOVE. The Knicks added several veterans this past offseason. The most prominent of them has been Jason Kidd. The group of Kidd, Chandler, STAT and Mello have gelled very well. They currently lead their division by 2.5 games with a 32-18 record.

Carmelo Anthony is averaging 29 points a game and is an MVP candidate with half of the season still to play. They should run away with a playoff spot and most likely the division. The main question is whether or not they can make a deep run.

The key is they have to get hot at the right time. That is something they were unable to do last season. If they do, they have the right mix of veterans to get by any team. If not, they could face another brick wall in the Miami Heat in June.

4) Love or hate the New York Rangers playoff chances? LOVE. Like the Knicks, the Rangers have added veteran talent that has become instrumental to their success. Rick Nash has added a much needed presence for captain Ryan Callahan to feed off of.

They have several names that can step up at any time to put this team on their shoulders: Marian Gaborik, Brad Richards the a fore mentioned Callahan and Nash, just to name a few. They currently are third in their division with a 7-5 record in a strike-shortened season despite being last in scoring in the division.

They have hung in there with defense. They have only scored four power play goals, but have killed 82.7% of opponent power play opportunities. With the offense still struggling from time to time, their success will stem from the goal tending. As King Henry goes, so the Rangers go.

The key for a solid performance in the playoffs from Lundqvist is giving him rest throughout the season. To do so, they have to trust back up goalie Marty Biron. So far that has not been the case. If his play gets better and the defense continues, they can look for a return to the Conference Championship Finals and, perhaps, the Stanley Cup Finals.

5) Love or hate the New York Mets this coming season? LOVE. Despite the common fan opinions, I was in favor of the Mets trading Dickey this offseason for the right deal. That's exactly what they got; the right deal.

With a catcher, a catching prospect, a pitching prospect and an outfield prospect all in the mix, trading a Cy Young winner that throws the most unpredictable pitch in baseball was a smart move. After all, what were the chances of his repeating or building on that 2012 performance?

I like the addition of Marcum to the rotation. He brings a veteran presence for younger players like Jon Niese and Matt Harvey to learn from his example on a daily basis. Johan Santana and Dillon Gee are returning healthy and should make their mark on the season. Should one falter, Zack Wheeler is waiting in the wings for his MLB debut.

The main issues for the Mets are in the outfield and the bullpen. The starting outfield is admittedly not too good, but they have potential. Between Baxter, Duda, Nieuwenhuis and Cowgill, they should be better than expected. They are young and still learning. Baxter and Cowgill could use their opportunities in platoons to be really good.

Duda could improve and show his form again with a healthy wrist. Captain Kirk could build on the potential he showed last season and improve into the type of outfielder the Mets think he could be. In addition, they have Matt Den Dekker waiting in the wings and chomping at the bit to have his chance at the Major League level.

The bullpen added experience in Brandon Lyon. With Frankie Frank on the mend, he should shoulder the load at the back end of games with Bobby Parnell. Josh Edgin and Tim Byrdak will show increases in their production. All in all the bullpen should be stronger.

The team is expected to finish in fourth place in a very tough division. I will go out on a limb here though. With an extra wildcard open and an aging Phillies team, it is possible they could fight for second with Atlanta and make a run for the postseason. Whether they make it or not is to be determined, but I believe they will be better than expected.

6) Love or hate the New York Giants last season? HATE. This was a season to forget if you are a New York Giants fan. With hurricane recoveries, comforting families of shooting victims and blow out losses, all the team can do is move on.

They have to build on their youth. There is a new champion in Baltimore and the Giants failed to make the playoffs. They have to learn from this. The issue was inconsistency of intensity. I mention the off the field events because they were tremendous factors in spoiling that intensity.

How can a team get hyped up for a game all week,  then have to have moments of silence right before the game starts and then get hyped up again? It is impossible. Football is a game of raw emotion. Players use the emotions they are feeling to pour it into their play on the field. With that said, the emotions just weren't where they needed to be to win games.

With the off season upon them, they have several free agents they need to re-sign, but they have cut ties with a few big names already. Whether names like Osi Umneyiora and Ahmad Bradshaw will come back is yet to be determined, but the team has several needs to fill.

Most pressing of these needs is the secondary. The defense can only rely on the pass rush so much. The secondary has to buy them time as much as they need to buy the secondary time. The defense can get back to being strong, but in a division that has all explosive passing teams, the Giants need to properly adjust.

The three safety sets they use have been effective, but the cornerback position is weak at best. They have to address this in the draft since they really don't have cap room for a dominant presence via free agency.

The offense is not as questionable. The receivers are set and Manning has a great rapport with them. The running attack has potential balance and that should open up the play action passing.

With a good draft, a good off season of re-signing players and adding the right mixture of veterans with youth, the Giants should be back and better next season.

Overall, the canvas of sports in New York is blank. As the would be artists, the above mentioned teams have their chances in 2013 to paint a masterpiece. It all comes down to health and finding the right mix at the right times. These teams are all capable of doing just that. Love them or hate them they're our teams.


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