Saturday, March 29, 2014

2014 New York Mets...Please Don't Make Us Wait Until 2015

Baseball is back. The 2014 season begins in just a few days and every team starts with a clean slate and the same goal of winning the World Series. While it is the GOAL of every team, it is just a DREAM for many. Unfortunately the New York Mets have been perennial dreamers for close to eight years. Based on the roster heading north from Spring Training, it's looking like 2014 may be a repeat of 2013...and 2012...and 2011 and every season going back to 2006. In other words it's looking like another losing season. Maybe they'll surprise us, but with so many questions throughout the lineup and a lack of major acquisitions it's hard to see how the Mets will improve on their 74-88 2013 record.

Apparently the club's General Manager feels differently as Sandy Alderson predicted that the Mets will win 90 games this season. Alderson is beginning the fourth year of  his four year contract and his rebuilding project appears to be taking longer than fans had been led to believe. Hopefully Alderson will prove me wrong, but when Ruben Tejada and Ike Davis or Lucas Duda are two fourths of your everyday infield, it's hard to believe that he will.

So here's a look at the good, the bad and the ugly of the 2014 New York Mets:

The Good

David Wright is the heart and soul of the Mets. He's an all around good guy, loyal to the club and even more important, he's a very good ball player. I truly hope that the Mets win a championship at some point before Wright retires as he deserves to be part of a winner.

Curtis Granderson should prove to be a very good addition to the Mets' lineup.He will bring added power and provide protection for David Wright in the batting order. Granderson is a quality player and will be a positive influence on the younger and less experienced Mets players.

Daniel Murphy is not the greatest player, looks a bit awkward in the field, but he is a hard worker, keeps his mouth shut and HE CAN HIT. It is amazing how consistent Murphy is at the plate. It would be great if he could exhibit a bit more power, but he is the guy you want at the plate when a hit is needed. He also should be given credit for working his butt off to become a much more reliable second baseman.

Young pitching. The fact that Dillon Gee has been tapped as the Opening Day starter is a bit disconcerting; not because he's bad, but he's no Matt Harvey. Even without Harvey in the rotation, John Niese, Zack Wheeler and Gee are three good young arms. In addition, promising 24-year-old Jenrry Mejia may get the fifth starter spot. Waiting in the wings are the highly touted Noah Syndergaard and Rafael Montero. Another 24-year-old with potential, Jeurys Familia, will probably get the chance to show his stuff out of the bullpen.

The Bad

First of all, bad here really should be called uncertainty. Some of these players have put up good numbers in the past and some may again, but questions surround this group.

Bartolo Colon has had a great career. The Mets signed him in the off season to be a part of the starting rotation. What troubles me is the fact that he's going to turn 41 in May and let's be honest, the man is rather large and looks more like a middle aged man with a beer belly than a top athlete.

Then there's the outfield. Granderson is really the only certainty here. Gone is Marlon Byrd who was a godsend last year for the Mets. Instead we have Eric Young, Jr. and Juan Lagares vying for the center field job. Both have pluses and minuses. EY Jr. brings energy to the Mets lineup, but has never been an everyday player. Lagares is a defensive star. He's unproven as a hitter, but I would go with him as an everyday player. Lastly is the addition of Chris Young. He's had a great spring, but Young is a career .235 hitter so why the Mets think he's going to be a power hitting outfielder is beyond me.

Catcher Travis d'Arnaud will be the Mets' everyday catcher. He arrived, along with Syndergaard, as part of the trade that sent R.A. Dickey to Toronto. He was considered a big chip so he has a lot to live up to. It's way too early to tell what kind of player he will be so at this point he's still an uncertainty.

The Bullpen. Bobby Parnell has looked solid and really should be a part of the good list...but, the bullpen as a unit is a question. When Terry Collins goes to the pen and brings in Scott Rice, Jose Valverde or Carlos Torres there's no telling what you're going to get. Time will tell, but I wouldn't call it a solid pen.

The Ugly

I am still pissed off that the Mets traded Jose Reyes. Ruben Tejada has shown enough for most fans to realize he is not good enough to be the Mets' regular shortstop. Last year was a disaster and if he doesn't hit for average or field his position cleanly, he should be shown the door. Shortstop is the Mets' weakest link.

The Mets begin the season with no idea who's going to be the club's everyday first basemen. That in itself is a problem, but compounding the situation is the fact that it's between Ike Davis and Lucas Duda. Duda has power, but he doesn't get on base enough and he is slower than Friday traffic on the LIE. I've seen fly balls to the outfield that should be easy outs, turn in to singles as Duda is too slow to reach the ball in time to catch it.

As for Ike Davis...this is it. We all know he's a great guy, we know that he has proven he has talent in the past but no one wants to hear about Valley Fever or how he's a slow starter. It's time to put up or be shipped out. He's been a liability the past two seasons and the Mets couldn't even find a team to take him as part of a trade during the off season. He, like Tejada, has to show he deserves to be on a Major League roster right from the go. Mets fans will be all over these two, and fast, if they stink day in and day out. If the Mets want to have an automatic out in the lineup, they might as well sign me. I'd come at a much cheaper price.

So, while I always hope that the Mets will surprise us all and terrorize the rest of baseball, I've seen enough over the past seven years to realistically say I don't expect the Mets to be good or even improve on last season. While Alderson says the Mets will win 90, I see the Mets winning no more than 72 games. Let's hope I'm wrong. Regardless, Lets Go Mets!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Holy Crap...Arsenal Are Coming to the NYC Area

It's about time!
The news came today that Arsenal would be playing their first match in the United State for 25 years, this summer versus Thierry Henry and the New York Red Bulls. I cannot express how thrilled and excited I am to see Arsenal here in my home town. While I was alive 25 years ago, Arsenal were definitely not on my radar at that time so this is a MAJOR first for me as a New Yorker.

A legend in bronze
I have seen Thierry Henry play for Arsenal (I was lucky enough to witness 2 of his 8 Arsenal hat tricks live!) and I have seen Thierry Henry play for the Red Bulls. For me, and many other Arsenal fans, Henry is Arsenal!! In fact, when Henry first came to the Red Bulls, Kurtis Powers and Arsenal NYC worked with the club to organize an exclusive post-game Q&A session with Thierry Henry following a Red Bulls match. It was an amazing experience as it was an opportunity for Arsenal fans based in the NYC area to show our appreciation and respect for Henry while welcoming him to New York. Henry was visibly touched and for those of us who were there it was a truly unique experience.

From Arsenal captain to Red Bulls captain, Thierry Henry the legend
Being a fan of Arsenal, I have had the opportunity to see the club play live on many occasions in the UK. At the same time, I have seen Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea & god forbid, even Tottenham, come to NYC during the EPL pre-season. To be honest, I was wondering when the hell is the club that I care about coming over here. I understand it's a big world, but I don't want to see Manchester United or Spuds, I want to see my club,  Arsenal, on US soil in my lifetime. I was beginning to wonder if and when it would happen. Therefore, the combination of Arsenal playing the NY Red Bulls, captained by former Arsenal captain Thierry Henry, is the equivalent of celebrating Christmas and your birthday all on the same day! Or, it's like seeing the New York Jets and the New York Mets win championships in the same other words it is SPECIAL.
Reunited and it feels so good!
No offense to Vietnam and Indonesia, but it's about time that Arsenal visited our part of the world as New York Gooners are passionate and dedicated. So here's to the summer of 2014...or as it will now be called...the summer of Arsenal in NYC!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Arsenal 2013-2014: The Lows, the Highs and the Trophy - Part 4 - March-May 2014

Saturday, March 22, 2014 8:45AM EST Arsenal at Chelsea

Today's match is a chance for Arsenal to show whether or not they are truly title contenders as they visit Stamford Bridge for Arsene Wenger's 1000th match as Arsenal manager. Three points would put Arsenal 1 point behind Chelsea with a game in hand. A solid performance would shut up a lot of the naysayers.

Well that was the most embarrassing performance I have ever seen from Arsenal (outside of the 8-2 at Manchester United). It was truly men against boys and Chelsea had their way from start to finish. There's really nothing more to be said other than, the club is still not good enough to win the EPL title. If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best and it's obvious that Arsenal's players can't handle the pressure. This was not just a one off...after losing at Manchester City 6-3 and being humiliated at Anfield 5-1 this was the opportunity for the players to show their mettle and prove the critics wrong. Instead they "celebrated" Wenger's 1000th game by proving the critics right.

On a side note, referee Andre Mariner added to Arsenal's woes by awarding a penalty to Chelsea after Oxlade-Chamberlalin handled a ball that was flying wide of the net. As the hand ball had no bearing on whether the ball went in or not, it was obviously not a clear goal scoring opportunity and therefore should not have been a penalty. But wait, there's more...he then produced a red card for the handball that was not a goal scoring opportunity and then SENT OFF THE WRONG PLAYER. It looked as if Oxlade-Chamberlain was clearly telling Mariner that it was he who handled the ball, but Mariner didn't listen and sent off Kieran Gibbs instead. Arsenal were already getting their butts kicked so it really didn't matter, but it was completely ridiculous.

After the embarrassment over the weekend at Chelsea, it will be interesting to see how Arsenal respond to this match versus Swansea. Hopefully the humiliation will inspire these players to put in a complete performance...the fact that a humiliation would  be necessary to motivate the club is a problem, but for today it is imperative that every player gives their all throughout the entire match.

(Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

The Manchester derby is also taking place today and I was so looking forward to taking the piss out of ManU on Twitter, but after Arsenal's display over the weekend, I don't dare open my mouth. While it would be best for Arsenal if United won, there's a part of me that would lover to see United thrashed and humiliated worse than we were. That's for 2 reasons; first it takes the spotlight off of Arsenal's debacle and second, after so many years of cocky ManU fans and players, it's so enjoyable to watch them wallow in mediocrity.

(Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

Well that SUCKED. Against a team battling relegation, Arsenal looked uninspired and lacked any creativity. Swansea took a 0-1 lead in to the second half and it looked as if Arsenal were never going to score. Frustrated is  too kind of a word to how I was feeling. I remained confident, however, as I've seen Arsenal turn slogs like this one around....and so they did once Lukas Podolski entered the game. He scored in the 73rd minute and set up Giroud one minute later. All Arsenal had to do was retain possession and keep Swansea at bay for 12 more minutes...that they did...until the last minute of the match when a ball kicked in to the Arsenal box ricocheted off of two players and then bounced in off of Mathieu Flamini who really didn't deserve to be credited with an own goal. This must win match ended in a 2-2 draw.

(Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

I am a part of the fan base that has not called for Arsene Wenger's head and have supported all of his decisions on players and tactics. After this mess, I am really starting to think that change might just be needed. Arsenal's passing was off and they rarely threatened the Swansea goal. Giroud has been taking a lot of stick and he may deserve some of it...BUT, how can Wenger think that having just  one striker out there in every match is going to work. There were at least a half dozen times in this match where Sagna or Gibbs sent in a great cross in to the Swansea area yet there was NO ONE in the box waiting to receive the pass and shoot.

(Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
I'm resigned to the fact that we are now fighting for our usual third or fourth place finish and sadly that's not even guaranteed after recent results. I hate to say it, but if Arsenal do not win the FA Cup that has been pretty much set up for the club to win (thank you Wigan), heads need to roll.

Oh...and Man City did embarrass United at home 0-3...hard to gloat though when Arsenal are blowing everything they worked so hard for.

(Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

Saturday, March 29, 2014 1:30PM EST Arsenal vs Manchester City

(Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

After a recent dip in form and embarrassing beatings at the hands of Chelsea and Liverpool, most fans were not feeling too optimistic about the visit of Sheikh City to the Emirates (actually a Sheikh in the Emirates...UAE...makes sense). Of course a win would greatly help the Arsenal cause, but most fans were just hoping to not witness a thrashing.

I watched this match at The Blind Pig with other Gooners and overall it was not a bad match. Arsenal seemed timid in the first half and found themselves trailing by 1 after a David Silva goal in the 18th minute. The second half was a different story as Arsenal more than held their own, and in fact seemed the side more likely to score. That they did in the 53rd minute when Mathieu Flamini equalized and confidently encouraged his side to stay focused. In the end a 1-1 draw was a good result and hopefully gave the team a needed confidence boost.

(Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

(Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Sunday, April 6, 2014 8:30AM EST Arsenal at Everton

Arsenal have been wobbling recently and this trip to Everton is extremely important in guaranteeing that Arsenal actually finish within the top 4. A win is a must and the players better be up for the fight. When the club's met last month in the FA Cup Arsenal walked away 4-1 winners. Let's hope for more of the same.

Total shit all around. Crap performance, lack of any creativity and another embarrassment for Arsenal. Whatever confidence this team once had is gone. For the first time in a long time I can honestly say that I am completely disgusted with the players. The only player that looked like they gave a crap was the Ox and he didn't come on until there were 20 minutes left in the game.

I usually defend the players but since I am beyond pissed off at this moment here's a list of players that are not pulling their weight and/or are just not good enough: Nacho Monreal, Yaya Sanogo, Olivier Giroud, Mikel Arteta, Thomas Vermaelen and we most definitely need a REAL goalkeeper. Szczesny has proven that he is reckless and often makes the wrong decision.

Arsenal must win their semifinal FA Cup match versus Wigan next weekend and must win their remaining five league matches to have any chance of saving face. Absolutely pathetic.

Saturday, April 12, 12:07PM EST Arsenal vs Wigan at Wembley FA Cup Semi-Final

After all the negativity surrounding Arsenal, today is an opportunity for the club to do something positive. Arsenal head to Wembley Stadium to meet 5th place Championship side Wigan for a place in the FA Cup Final. With Hull and Sheffield United contesting for the other final spot, Arsenal are in pole position to win the FA Cup and end the "9 years without a trophy" mantra that has been hanging around the club and its fans. We've been here before, however, and we all know that nothing is guaranteed. No club should be taken lightly and each opponent needs to be respected. Wigan in particular deserve respect. They are the defending FA Cup holders, having beaten Manchester City in last year's final. To prove their worth, Wigan defeated City again in the quarter finals to get to this point. Arsenal are easily the better side on paper, but it's on the pitch that matters.

Well, they did it. Arsenal are through to the final. BUT, and that's a big BUT, they made their entire fan base nervous wrecks and were given a run for their money by Championship side Wigan. The free flowing Arsenal that was on display earlier this season seems to have left the room. The team's inability to score, or even cause the other team's goalie to have to work has become a major worry. When Mertesacker gave away that penalty and it looked like we would go out, I knew that I could never look at Twitter again. I couldn't take reading all the negativity and all the "piss taking" of fans of other clubs.

Luckily Mertesacker got one back and it then went on to extra time. I was dreading penalties as it's always a crap shoot, but of course that's what it came down to. It turns out we did have a hero in the squad on this day...the once maligned Lukas Fabianski saved Wigan's first two penalties, allowing Arsenal's players to step to the spot with a little wiggle room. In the end, Arsenal went through on penalties 4-2. Of course negative folks want to be negative win, lose or draw and they were out in full force. Yes, Arsenal should have easily beaten Wigan, but they won and on this day, that is enough.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014 2:45PM EST Arsenal vs West Ham

Having secured their spot in the FA Cup Final, Arsenal need to get back to ensuring their rightful place in the Champions League spots in the EPL. Having seen Everton jump in front of them by one point, Arsenal were looking to win their remaining five league matches to regain their position in the top four. Despite all the jokes about 4th place being a trophy for Arsene Wenger, the fact is, anything less than that would be a major setback.

There were plenty of nerves among fans as the game remained goalless through the first 40 minutes. Unfortunately the first goal didn't help matters as it was West Ham that made the breakthrough first.  However, West Ham were unable to retain the lead heading in to the half as Lukas Podolski evened the match in the 44th minute.

The second half was all Arsenal and Olivier Giroud scored in the 55th minute with Podolski sealing the victory with his second goal of the match in the 78th.

Sunday, April 20, 2014 9:05AM EST Arsenal at Hull

This one is a preview of next month's FA Cup Final. While Arsenal had to beat Tottenham, Liverpool and Everton to reach the Final, Hull had an easier road with matches against Brighton, Middlesbrough, Sunderland and Sheffield United. Arsenal are a superior team and this should prove no trouble for the Gunners.

And so it was no trouble for Arsenal. The Gunners controlled the match from start to finish and an Aaron Ramsey goal in the 31st minute was followed by yet another Lukas Podolski brace. Based on this performance, Arsenal's meeting with Hull in the FA Cup Final will see Arsenal as a heavy favorite to lift the cup and end their nine year trophy drought.

 Monday, April 28, 2014 3PM EST Arsenal vs Newcastle

With Everton's loss to Southampton over the weekend, an Arsenal victory over Newcastle would give the club a 4 point lead in their quest for Champions League football next season. After a run of bad form many pundits (and some fans) were predicting that Arsenal would fall out of the Champions League spots and be overtaken by Everton. What these folks forgot is that form is temporary, but class is permanent. Arsenal have gotten back on track while Everton could be accused of "bottling it" under pressure. Confidence was high going in to this match.

Arsenal controlled this match from start to finish and the outcome was really never in doubt. The only question was how many goals Arsenal would score.

Ozil and Ramsey were back in the mix together and Ozil had an excellent performance that should shut up some of the critics.

Koscielny gave Arsenal the lead in the 26th minute when he got on the end of a Santi Cazorla free kick. Ozil scored the second just before the break. He then set up Giroud who headed home for a sensational goal.

The 3-0 victory gave Arsenal plenty of breathing room over Everton and also secured the yearly celebration of St. Totteringham's Day. After all the negativity, it's good to see the club getting back to winning ways and good health as the FA Cup Final is now just several weeks away.— Vince_Brighton (@ShuhratDjurayev) April 28, 2014

Sunday, May 4, 2014 8:30AM EST Arsenal vs West Brom

Everton's one week lead over Arsenal for the final Champions League spot is looking like a fluke as Everton have faded since their victory over Arsenal just a few weeks ago. Meanwhile, Arsenal have won three straight EPL matches since and secured their spot in the FA Cup Final. West Brom are holding on for their EPL survival so this should be a win for Arsenal.

An Olivier Giroud header in the 14th minute was enough to see Arsenal win their fourth straight league match since their defeat at Everton. Despite the close 1-0 scoreline, the game was never really in any doubt as West Brom hardly threatened. With fourth place secure and just one league match remaining, Arsenal fans are now turning their thoughts to the all important FA Cup Final on May 17th.

Sunday, May 11, 2014 10AM EST Arsenal at Norwich

Today's last match of the EPL season has little riding it as Arsenal have sealed fourth place and Norwich are all but relegated. The most important thing on every Arsenal fans' mind is next week's match....the FA Cup final at Wembley where Arsenal can finally end that "it's been 9 years without a trophy" mantra and show idiots like Jose Mourinho who the real "specialist in failure" really is. Of course we want Arsenal to finish the season with as many points as possible so a solid victory over Norwich is expected today.

This was a pretty easy Arsenal win and saw Aaron Ramsey and Carl Jenkinson score. The Jenkinson goal in particular was special as most fans know that Jenkinson is a boyhood Arsenal fan and scoring his first goal for the team he's always supported must have been a special moment. 

Next up, the FA Cup on May 17th at Wembley.

Arsenal 2013-2014: The Lows, the Highs and the Trophy - Part 5 - The Trophy - May 2014

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Let's Teach British Sports Writers the Definition of Journalism


 noun \ˈjər-nə-ˌli-zəm\
: the activity or job of collecting, writing, and editing news stories for newspapers, magazines, television, or radio

Full Definition of JOURNALISM
a : the collection and editing of news for presentation through the media
b: the public press
c : an academic study concerned with the collection and editing of news or the management of a news medium

a : writing designed for publication in a newspaper or magazine
b : writing characterized by a direct presentation of facts or description of events without an attempt at interpretation

The real Mesut Ozil  (Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images)
When I studied journalism in college I worked as an editorial assistant in the sports department of the Boston Globe. I was fortunate enough to work with legendary writers such as Will McDonough, Dan Shaughnessy, Peter Gammons and Bob Ryan. These guys were pros and I learned a lot from watching them and reading their columns.
In my journalism classes we were taught that the most important part of writing a news story was to report the facts while being impartial
It seems those days are over...and nowhere is that more apparent than in the sports pages of the British newspapers. Headlines are distorted, rumors are reported as fact and "sources" are never revealed. In other words, anything goes. Keep that in mind as we'll return to this phenomenon later.

Arsenal met Bayern Munich in the second leg of their Champions League knockout series in Munich on Tuesday. Having lost the first leg at the Emirates by 0-2 most sane fans knew that Arsenal's task would be difficult. Let's look at the facts to examine why it would be a tough feat:

  • Bayern Munich are currently the defending European champions.
  • They currently lead the Bundesliga by 20 points...the largest lead at this point in the season ever in the German league.
  • In 24 league matches this season Bayern have 22 wins, 2 draws and 0 losses
  • Bayern have scored 72 goals in the Bundesliga while allowing only 11 for a staggering +61 goal differential.
Arsenal were pitted against Bayern at this point in the tournament last year as well, and were knocked out solely on away goals. Arsenal went to Munich last year and defeated Bayern on the day 0-2. While it wasn't enough to go through last season, Arsenal proved that Bayern can be beaten and showed that they were not pushovers.

So my question is why do Arsenal get zero respect from hacks, posing as journalists? It's not like Bayern Munich are Stoke or some other crap team...they are the European champions. While every Arsenal fan was rooting for their team to pull off an upset (they had done it before), there should be no shame in losing to the best team in Europe.

If I was covering the match as a "journalist" I would have come up with a headline such as:

Arsenal draw with Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena 1-1 but go out of the Champions League by a 3-1 aggregate.

As for the facts, here are some that I would include in my article if I was a journalist covering the match:

Arsenal kept Bayern off the board in the first half. Bastian Schweinsteiger scored in the 54th minute. Lukas Podolski pulled one back for Arsenal in the 57th minute. Lukas Fabianski saved a penalty kick and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was Arsenal's star man. Oh and let's not forget the FACT that Arjen Robben dove several times during the match.

Here's the coverage that we got instead:

During the pre-game commentary on Fox Sports the worthless and inane Eric Wynalda offered his opinion on what would transpire. The "expert" that he is immediately predicted that Arsenal would be thrashed and lose by 4 or 5 goals. He also referred to defender Thomas Vermaelen as slow and ineffective, proving that he really has no clue what he's talking about. Considering Wynalda was a star player with the world famous San Diego Nomads and Bakersfield Brigade, it's clear he shouldn't be allowed to play with the big kids in the sandbox.

After the match, the sports pages were filled with derogatory and insulting headlines such as these from The Daily Mail and The Mirror:

Neil Ashton The Daily Mail
Lost and lazy Ozil cost Arsenal £42.5m but based on that performance against Bayern he isn't worth two-bob... he's nicking a living

John Cross The Mirror
Mesut Ozil looks lost at Arsenal after his lacklustre display stuck out like a sore thumb against Bayern

Dumping on Mesut Ozil rather than reporting on what happened on the pitch is not journalism. John Cross & Neil Ashton might as well go work for TMZ and speculate about Kanye & Kim if that's what they call "reporting".

Even funnier is the consistency of their "reporting". Last week might as well have been national put down Mesut Ozil week. All week we heard he was crap, disinterested, a waste of money. Then this past Saturday, he scored the opening goal in Arsenal's FA Cup meeting with Everton and assisted on another goal. Suddenly, Ozil was back to the amazing player we all knew in a number of newspaper stories.

Now, three days later, he's back to being crap and a waste of money.

I'll admit that he didn't have a great game versus Bayern. However, it was revealed after the match that he was taken off after the first half because he injured his hamstring and will miss a few weeks. Does the paper report that fact? No, instead "journalist" Neil Ashton declares that Ozil isn't worth what Arsenal paid for him and that he's ripping off the club.

Then John Cross piles on declaring that Ozil was lacklustre and stuck out like a sore thumb?! Really that a "FACT"? No it's your ridiculous opinion and it shouldn't be part of your reporting on the match.

It's time that John Cross, Neil Ashton and other British hacks like them go back to school and learn what journalism is. In the meantime, they can read the definition at the start of this post.

The lazy British media's Mesut Ozil