The Amazing Return

mets

 

By Stefan Anderson

After remaining on the irrelevant for the nearly a decade, the New York Mets are back and making strides toward a progressive season in 2015. To talk about the Mets, I spoke with an insider and good friend of mine,Avery Decker of Mets Merized, a site that caters to everything about the Mets.

 

SA: The Mets have seen early season success, taking 1st place in the NL East and what has been the key for the Mets revival?

 

AD: You have to credit there pitching up to this point. Besides there early winning streak, the Mets haven’t really been hitting the ball all that much. They needed their pitching to carry them and continue to carry them. Bartolo Colon has been one of the better pitchers in the NL up until this point. Harvey is Harvey. The Mets have also received strong early season starts from deGrom and Gee. Now with their top pitching prospect Noah Syndergaard up, it’s tough to see the staff slowing down.

 

SA: The Bullpen has been the backbone for the teams early success, how far can this group of guys shoulder the load?

 

AD:The bullpen has been way better than expected. Nobody saw Familia emerging as the league leader in saves after he was penned to be the setup man before Mejia’s suspension. He has been electric on the mound and has embraced his new role with those intangible closer characteristics. There have been some other nice surprises this year as well from Carlos Torres and Erik Goeddell who have both been consistent. Keep in mind that this bullpen lost their best left-specialist early in the year, Jeremy Blevins to a fractured forearm. This team is also waiting for Vic Black and Bobby Parnell to return from injuries as well as Mejia to return after the All-Star Break. If the bullpen can hang on until the reinforcements arrive, the Mets will have a good problem.

SA:With Tulo taking himself of the trade block, what mid season move do you see the Mets making to improve their chances?

 

AD:This is a tough one to answer. From watching the Mets for so long and understanding the beliefs of the regime in place, I don’t believe they are going to make a move. Any pressure they have from the fanbase will be put off by justifying a lack of offensive production with the losses of d’Arnaud and Wright early in the season. However, I would imagine most logical Mets fans and writers know that ontop of those two, this team still needs another bat. Another place they’ve struggled is with their defense in the infield, again a product of some injuries. However, Wilmer Flores, the player the Mets hope can handle the SS duties, is leading the team in HRs and RBIs. Tough to take him out of the lineup. I would still argue that their isn’t really a small move to make because the rotation and bullpen are solid right now. Sure you can add a bench guy but that won’t do much and the Mets have some strong bench options in AAA. I think it’s boom or bust with a trade, you go after someone big or go with what you have.

The trade I would really like to see the Mets do is to trade Murphy. He has been a consistent hitter over the past couple years, but he will be a free agent this off season. He will demand more than I think he’s worth and probably more than the Mets will pay him. Rather than losing him outright, I would rather trade him for a young prospect or something like that. Alderson has proved his ability to acquire young guys who work in the minors and impact the team. I don’t think they will get much for him, but a contender can surely use his bat. It makes sense because he is a sub-par defender and if the Mets plan on running Flores out there everyday, they need a better defender to counteract the poor defense in the infield that exists already.

 

SA: Wild Card or NL East champs? Which one seems more possible for the Mets?

 

AD: I still don’t see the Mets making the playoffs this year. You look up and down the lineup and it isn’t scary at all. Again, this relates to injuries but still. The lineup isn’t that of a legitimate playoff team. Contender, yes. But I will take the under on this one.

 

SA: Last question, What has been your favorite Mets moment thus far ?

AD:It’s hard to pin one moment as my favorite one of all this season. I’ve seen Harvey pitch in person and that is an experience unlike any other. However, when I go to the ballpark, one thing I always look forward to is watching Lagares roam around in CF. His defense alone is worth the price of admission. Check out his highlight reels and see what i’m talking about.
For more on the Avery Decker and the Mets, check out Mets Merized at http://metsmerizedonline.com/

Jesper Fast: Rangers’ Difference-Maker

By Greg Hudson

He began the season on the fourth line, fighting for ice time against the likes of Tanner Glass and Anthony Duclair.

Now, deep into a playoff run that has Rangers’ fans dreaming of Lord Stanley’s cup for the second time in as many years, Jesper Fast has cemented himself at the heart of the Rangers’ goal scoring machine.

It’s a machine that hasn’t been firing on all cylinders, and that’s why Fast has been so important. Top scorer Rick Nash was unable to follow up a fantastic regular season with an impressive series against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round, and an injury to Nash’s linemate Mats Zuccarello sidelined the Norwegian for the entirety of the Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Washington Capitals and left the Rangers in desperate need of a spark.

Coach Alain Vigneault reacted quickly, shaking up all four Rangers forward lines, opting to maintain balance than simply plug the hole left by Zuccarello. In doing so, he gave Fast, a hard-working but relatively unremarkable right winger, a promotion to the second line, skating with power forward Chris Kreider and sniping centerman Derek Stepan.

It took a few games for the system to start to work, and to the dismay of Rangers’ fans, those games saw the Blueshirts fall behind the Caps 3-1 in the series. With their playoff dreams hanging by a thread, the Rangers needed a spark in game five at Madison Square Garden. With the crowd behind them, the Rangers rallied in the third period and won the game in overtime, thanks to a pair of goals scored with the second line on the ice.

Wins in games six and in overtime in game seven saw the Rangers advance to face the Tampa Bay Lightning in the conference final, and Fast has been a huge part of that.

Since Zuccarello’s injury, seven of the Rangers’ 15 goals have come from the second line, and Fast has points on four of those goals including three assists. Compare that to his eight assists in 58 regular season games and it’s clear that his performance has stepped up with his promotion to playing alongside better linemates.

But Fast isn’t the only beneficiary of playing with Kreider and Stepan. Before Fast’s appointment to the line, Kreider did most of the hard work below the goal line, keeping the forecheck going in the corner to provide opportunities for Stepan and Martin St. Louis. But with Fast’s hard work and relentless pursuit of the puck both offensively and defensively, it frees Kreider to get in front of the net, enabling him to tandem with Stepan to great effect. The two have produced almost half of the Rangers’ goals since the start of the Washington series, and it shows no sign of stopping.

While the Rangers have their sights set directly on the Stanley Cup this year, looking forward, it’s feasible that Vigneault will keep Fast on the second line with Stepan and Kreider and utilize the dangerous but aging St. Louis in a different way as he looks to extend the career of a great player.

For Fast though, a permanent switch to the second line offers him the chance to make important contributions to the Rangers in the coming years – not to mention double his ice time – and with a hard worker like Fast on the ice with playmakers like Stepan and Kreider, the Rangers have the recipe for success not just in the playoffs this season, but for years to come.

Race To The Finals: NBA Conference Finals Preview

conference finals

By Jazmine August

The 2015 NBA Playoffs have been filled with buzzer beaters, epic collapses and superstars rising to the moment. It has now come down to the “Final Four”, consisting of the Houston Rockets, Golden State Warriors, Atlanta Hawks and Cleveland Cavaliers.  Might I add,  these are the four teams I picked to be in the Conference Finals. Let’s get into these predictions:

Western Conference Finals

(1)Golden State Warriors vs. (2) Houston Rockets

The NBA MVP Stephen Curry and the NBA MVP runner-up James Harden will face off in a best of seven series where Harden has everything to prove. Criticized for not showing up in the post-season; James Harden will not only get a chance to exercise those demons but also prove why he deserved to be the league MVP. Don’t get your hopes up so fast Rockets fan. The Rockets comeback from a 3-1 deficit was more of a collapse by the Los Angeles Clippers than the shear talent and ability of the Houston Rockets. I’m still not convinced that Dwight Howard can dominate the post over Draymond Green and Andrew Bogut. Not only has the Warriors offense been exceptional but so has it’s defense. If a combination of Klay Thompson and Andre Igoudala’s defense can slow James Harden, the Rockets will be dependent on an aging veteran Jason Terry and streaky at best Josh Smith. The exceptional shooting abilities of Stephen Curry will be too much for the Rockets to bear.

Golden State in 5.

Eastern Conference Finals

(1)Atlanta Hawks vs. (2) Cleveland Cavaliers

Overcoming the depth, defensive abilities and the health of the Chicago Bulls has made the Cleveland Cavaliers my favorite to win it all (not that they weren’t already). Lebron proved that his bench is deeper than most thought and his role players have stepped up tremendously. For the better part of these playoffs Lebron has not been his usual efficient self with the exception of Game 5 of the Chicago series. But even without Lebron being efficient, the loss of Kevin Love and the diminishing health of Kyrie Irving; the Cleveland Cavaliers have proven to the league they can beat you in multiple ways. Now they are set to match-up against the Atlanta Hawks who barely beat a Washington Wizards team who was without their star player, John Wall, for the better part of the series. The Atlanta Hawks are an offensive threat to any team when they are clicking and their ability to score can be problematic for a Cavs team whose offense can be stagnant at times. But when Atlanta’s shot isn’t falling, they have no “go to guy” to win the game for them. This will be the edge that the Cavs need and send Lebron to his fifth straight Finals appearance.

Cavs in 6.

Keys to Game 5

game 5 nba

By Stefan Anderson

After a lackluster first round, the NBA has kicked into another gear during the Conference Semifinals showcasing the best action thus far. Although it has only been 4 games for each matchup, every game has been thrilling, providing fans with true playoff basketball. With each series heading into a pivotal game, let’s highlight some keys for each series.

  1. Warriors vs. 5. Grizzlies: The series is now tied at 2 a piece after it appeared that the grind-out style of Memphis highlight what could be Golden State weakness, the Warriors then responded with blowout game 4 which they controlled the Grizzlies from the tip. Golden State ability to take away the energy of defensive nightmare ,Tony Allen, force him to become an offensive threat in which he struggles in. With the series heading back to the Bay Area, the Dubs can take control of the series and put Memphis in an uncompromising position.

Keys for GS: Continue to double on the front court of Memphis and make the perimeter players beat you. The biggest key is to have Draymond Green pull Zach Randolph away from the basket and make him work defensively.

Keys for Memphis: It is going to be hard for Memphis 4 on 5 with the inconsistency of Tony Allen on the offensive end. There Memphis can go on some spurts where they showcase Jeff Green at the small power forward to stretch and prevent double teams for their Gasol or Randolph, while allowing driving gaps for players like Conley, Lee and even Vince Carter to take advantage of.

  1. Houston vs. Los Angeles: After defeating the defending champions, the Spurs, the Clippers have found the wind beneath their wings, by jumping out to a 3-1 lead over the Rockets and looking like a superior team to the Southwest division champs. Houston has looked lethargic and over matched against and has gotten a taste of what the Clips have experienced over the past few seasons after being heartbroken by the Spurs, Thunder and the Grizzlies. The Rockets will have to grow and learn from the adversity and come back geared up the next season.

Keys for LA: Continue to apply pressure on the floor with dribble hand offs and pick and roll offensive which has left the Rockets defense in shambles. Try to close it in 5.

Keys for Houston: The Rockets look like an entirely new team then in the first round, James Harden has explode for a big game and Game 5 could be his last chance, I would expect him to shoot his life away tomorrow. Try to limit the 3 point shooting of Rivers, Reddick and Crawford.

  1. Cleveland vs. 3. Chicago: This a true dog fight and a match up I would rather see in the Conference Finals, but overall is what you expect when you put together the East’s powerhouses. The stingy defense played by both teams allowed 3 out of 4 games to go down the wire. This game 5 in Cleveland will most likely determine the winner, as this series will go to a game 7.

Keys for Chicago: The health of Pau Gasol, can he return to create a matchup problem versus Cavs frontline, as well as the bench for the Bulls. Would like to see Snell, Mirotic,Gibson and Brooks all have a great role in en route to a possible game 5 win.

Keys for Cleveland: With Kyrie Irving’s health in question, who steps up and becomes the next guy for LeBron James and the Cavs? I believe J.R. Smith will the key and a double digit game from Iman Shumpert will propel Cleveland in game 5.

  1.  Atlanta vs. 5. Washington: Without John Wall for the last three games, the Wizards have found a way to keep the Hawks on their heels on each game of the series. But the Hawks returned and attacked the PG position with Jeff Teague penetrating and dishing to his open teammates and showing that team ball can really win in this league still.

Keys for Atlanta: Atlanta has find a way to contribute to spread the ball and make sure that everyone adds to their win and continue to play their style of basketball.  Also, I would like to see Carroll or Teague guard Bradley Beal more to help control his offensive onslaught.

Keys for Washington: If John Wall returns their offense returns to its normal state and make life a lot easier for Marcin Gortat and Bradley Beal. Without Wall, I think that some small ball or another big that comes off the bench that replaces Drew Gooden inefficiency on the offensive end.

Its Finally Over.. What Now ?

brady

By Stefan Anderson

Nearly two weeks after the newest talent of the NFL was added to their respective rosters, we still have to discuss Deflategate. But now that the verdict has been set, we can now FINALLY put that D-word, to rest.

The faculty of the New England Patriots will have to now live with their decision they made and face the punishments handed down by the NFL. As the NFL and NFLPA made their verdict to punish the Super Bowl Champs with a list of penalties that include:

  • Quarterback Tom Brady was suspended four games
  • The team was fined $1 million
  • Have to forfeit their 2016 first-round draft pick and a fourth-round pick in 2017
  • Patriots employees who tampered with the air pressure, John Jastremski and James McNally were suspended indefinitely.

With the Pats already known for Spygate, and their inability to cooperate with the Ted Wells investigation, the NFL and its brass wasted no time and made sure they could hit New England where it hurt.

The loss of Tom Brady could be significant because we have never seen Jimmy Garoppolo, but the Patriots used their 2nd rounder just two years ago to acquire the Eastern Illinois product. New England and the coaching mastermind of Bill Belichick have shown that can a hard rock into a gem , in 2008 they had backup and Buffalo Bills frontrunner Matt Cassell lead NE to a 11-5 season during Tom Brady’s absence.

The question remains now is the “Golden Boy” Tom Brady’s legacy in jeopardy after the suspension and investigation. And the answer is NO, Brady is one of (if not) the best quarterbacks we have seen this decade, and there is no concrete evidence that proves he actually tampered with the footballs after his noncompliance with the Wells investigation.

Brady’s suspension will be dropped down to less than 4 games after he makes his appeal to the NFL. When the Michigan alum, returns it shall scary for all opposing as he will play with a chip on his shoulder that everyone portrays him as a cheater. If the suspension time does not get lessened then his return versus, the showdown with the Colts in Indianapolis in Week 6 will be one for the ages.

What One Night Could Do

money mayBy Stefan Anderson

Years in the making, spectators and fans got what they were asking for Manny Pacquiao versus Floyd Mayweather on the big stage in Las Vegas. But many were upset including myself.

Not because the fight was not a slug fest or similar to any storybook imaginary ending that those thought it was going to be. It’s because that we are getting ready to witness of one greatest athletes/entertainers make his final appearance on the grand stage.

“Money Mayweather” is closing on his final fight in September, and causal fans and boxing purists will not get to witness one of the greatest in and outside the sports showcase himself again. The self-proclaimed GOAT has fought off critics throughout of his career due to various reasons including his domestic violence issues or even his outlandish antics outside of the ring. But when your remain undefeated after going toe to toe with the greats among your class and continuously prove your claim to be the greatest its not argument why he has the confidence or arrogance Mayweather sports.

In the fight where he had the closest competitor “Pac Man”,  “TBE” gracefully put one on an exhibition against Pacquiao , time and time again making his rival look like amateur. Mayweather’s ability to control his opponent with cross and his height and not to mention his adept defensive tactics propelled him to 48-0 and once again on top of the world boxing ranks.

Now that he is final stage of his star studded career, Mayweather is set to relinquishing his belts and claiming “I’m a world champion in two different weight classes. It’s time to let other fighters fight for the belt.”After holding the grips to the belt over the past decade, the sport is set to find a new leader as the balance of powers has been restored.

But as I stated previously in Bringing It Back, Boxing is making its revival as you see many networks including NBC and Spike have jumped on board to witness the sport once again remain prevalent.

The question now remains, Who is going to be the next fighter to become Mayweather’s predecessor or predecessors? Who is going to be the guy that makes people have fight parties and control a PPV card ?

I would personally like to see heavyweight fighters rise to prominence again with fans wanting to see slugfests and knockdowns. But I am anxious to see how Mayweather brings other fighter to spotlight that he holds with his ability as a businessman along with the control that he has over Las Vegas.

It will be great to witness and is something we will be on our edge of our seats to see.