Saturday, September 17, 2005

Excuse Me?

I’m sitting here watching the bottom of the 9th as the Yanks try to fend off the Blue Jays to go 5-0, and I find myself uncharacteristically frustrated. Not that I don’t get frustrated, just not usually to this degree1. The reason: my Dad.

I love my Dad, and though it may not be overly ostensible, I really do admire him. He taught me so many lessons over the years. And, of course, I ignored those lectures and did things my way, many times crashing and burning worse than those skateboarding 15-year-olds down the street.

But he’s stuck with me through inane decisions followed by more failure than I thought I was capable of accepting. He supported me during a journey through college that led me to three institutions and tens of thousands of dollars. He supports me as I sit at home in my underwear in the morning, trying to fuse my thoughts onto this electronic paper in hopes of catching somebody, anybody’s attention.

Before the strike in ’94, he brought me to a Yankees game every year. Just remember how things were in the late 80s and early 90s. Yeah, not the most exciting time to be a Yanks fan, but we still relished every game nonetheless. Sure, it may have been Wade Taylor on the mound, but it was still Yankee Stadium, which seemed as large as America itself to me at the time2 .

This isn’t leading to a tribute to my father, though he deserves one. Conversely, he’s the one who is causing me this massive headache. Why, you ask? Well, it was a culmination of statements he’s been making over the course of this season, but it came to a head with the latest one: “Tom Gordon sucks.”

Excuse me? I’m sorry, I haven’t showered yet today and must have some wax lodged in my ear canal. Did I just hear him right? Tom Gordon…sucks?

Sure, I was blurting out similar criticisms of Gordon in April, but those were the words of a desperate Yankees fan trying to cope with the fact that the team didn’t post a .500 record in April. Gordon’s near 5.00 ERA and two blown saves were, to the fan scrambling for excuses, part of the reason the team was in shambles. In fact, as soon as I heard the rumor, I wanted the trigger pulled on a Tom Gordon for Mike Cameron trade ASAP. Before Flash could do any more damage.

Having been rendered temporarily insane by a court of law, I obviously didn’t realize a few facts. 1) He’s allowed to have a bad month. 2) The Yanks were so thin in the bullpen that Gordon. 5.00 ERA and all, was a necessity. And D) He’s not Mariano Rivera.

And as the Yankees exited Bizzaro world, so did Flash. He pitched like the set-up guy we brought in prior to the 2004 season over the next few months, culminating in an August in which he yielded a singular run over 13.1 innings (0.68 ERA), and has given up but one run this month as well, in 8.1 entering today.

Befuddled by Dad’s remark, I asked him why Gordon sucks. His first argument: he’s not automatic. Of course he’s not. If he was automatic, he wouldn’t be pitching for the Yanks now. If he was automatic, he never would have gotten the boot in Boston.

Argument No. 2: he doesn’t even finish his inning, the eighth. Mariano has been coming in to finish off the eighth and into the ninth lately. And you know what, Dad’s right. It’s just unfortunate that he didn’t bring up the fact that Gordon has been coming in late in the seventh lately to compensate for Tanyon Sturtze not being the guy he was earlier this year.

In fact, the last time Tom Gordon failed to get three outs in an appearance was back in JULY, in the game the Yanks beat the Angels 4-1. Gordon allowed a leadoff single to Vlad Guerrero, and after a pop out, issued a walk to make it first and second, one out. And since Mo hadn’t pitched in the last three days and the next day was an off day, it only made sense to bring in the Sandman in that situation.

I know I haven’t constructed a very elaborate argument, but it should suffice to prove that Tom Gordon, in fact, does not suck. And I don’t really believe my dad thinks that he does. It goes a bit deeper than that, burrowing its way all the way to the leader, Joe Torre.

He may complain about all the players – ESPECIALLY A-Rod – but all of my dad’s complaints boil down to Joe Torre and his so-called questionable decision making. And while I agree that Torre’s decisions are shaky at best sometimes, I can’t justify grudgingly bashing him after every move I don’t particularly care for. Because, quite frankly, who the hell am I?

I’m a fan, plain and simple. Never have I purported to be a soothsayer or an expert on how to play the game of baseball. Sure, I play fantasy manager when I’m sitting on the couch with my buddies. I’m telling them when I’m headed out to the mound to talk to the pitcher, and what I’ll say. I point out changes I’d make to the lineup. I announce definitively when I’d pull a pitcher, who I’d put in, and exactly what it would take for me to yank that guy.

But never, ever have I claimed to be right in these matters. That’s why I’m sitting at my computer in my boxers and Torre is in the dugout nightly.

Sure, a lot of his moves leave us scratching our collective heads, but just remember, he’s the guy with the rings. True, he inherited a team with a plethora of talent and an unlimited budget, but you can’t just put anyone in charge of those guys. Just ask Grady Little, Mike Tice, Steve Spurrier (with the ‘Skins, not the Gators), Art Howe, Rick Pitino (think Celts and Knicks), Mike Shannahan (post-Elway), or any other of the “Had Great Talent But Didn’t Have A Clue What To Do With It” coaching fraternity.

(Imagine a frat party at that house! You’d have Mike Tice funneling brews a la Frank the Tank. Grady Little would think about flagging Howe after he thought he had too many, only to waver on the decision and witness Howe carted off in an ambulance for alcohol poisoning. And, possibly most entertaining, Pitino and Shanny would be sitting there going, “no, you ask him. No, you ask him,” as they try to get Spurrier to say something in that squeaky, pre-pubescent voice.)

So the next time you want to bash Torre for his decisions, feel free; it’s your right as a fan to bitch and whine and complain. But just keep it lodged in the back of your brain that you don’t know what’s going on in the clubhouse. You don’t know who went up to Joe that afternoon and said, “Skip, I don’t think I can go tonight,” unless Michael Kay tells you so.

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1 By the way, Gordon was the just the recipient of a pitcher’s best friend, and the game is over. One zip, Yanks. 5-0, baby, with 15 to go.

2 Those memories will always be etched in my mind, never letting me forget the names of Alvaro Espinoza, Roberto Kelly, Pat Kelly, and of course, the guy who I saw sock four dingers in the games I attended over the years, Matt Nokes.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Hoping For Improvement In Week Two

Not a whole lot of time to get my thoughts on paper – well, the digital equivalent – so I’m going to keep it short and sweet.

Pat on the back to the Yanks for finally stringing together some wins against the D-Rays. A good start to the final 20 games, and we’re three games closer to the goal of 20-0. Playoffs, baby! Can’t ya feel it?

Now onto the NFL, where my Week One picks were dismal at best. Thankfully, I haven’t set up a gambling account this year, and as such didn’t drop a real dime last Sunday. Betting on Week One is like betting on college football: it’s uber risky business. Emotions are running rampant, and everyone is out to prove something.

I’m going to stick to my guns for Week Two. If I made a preseason prediction that is egregious (i.e. the Jets), I might change my pitch a bit. But all in all, I think that most surprises Week One (i.e. the Vikings) can be coughed up to aberrations.

On to the picks:

New England (-3) over Carolina: The Pats had impeccable pass protection against Oakland, and with Kris Jenkins done for the season, the Panthers are going to have a fair amount of trouble breaking through. Bringing Dan Morgan and/or Will Witherspoon on passing downs is an option, but that leaves opens up Kevin Faulk out of the backfield for screens and quick over the middle passes. Definitely see the Pats by more than a field goal.

Kansas City (-1) over Oakland: Yes, I know I had Oakland tabbed for grand heights this year. But that was before I watched last Thursday’s game. Corey Dillon had a field day, making Oakland’s run stop look a bit more vulnerable than I had anticipated. This week, they’re facing Priest Holmes AND Larry Johnson. If the latter can beat the Oakland D like he beats his girlfriend, this one could get ugly fast.

There is a key here, however. I’m a believer that Kansas City will put up 28-37 points in this game, if for nothing else than the D being so focused on the run that Trent Green is going to have ample time to work a short passing game, possibly stretching the field at times. Hey, that’s what a double-barreled running attack will do for you. On the other end, Norv Turner’s reaction is going to gauge how this game goes. If he panics after being down and calls pass to Moss after pass to Moss, the Raiders are going to find themselves in the same hole as last Thursday: KC’s going to figure out what they need to stop and stick with that. If, however, they hand the ball to LaMont Jordan more than 18 times, they might be able to keep themselves in it. I’m also not opposed to using Justin Fargas a bit as a speedier option out of the backfield.

Minnesota over Cincinnati (-3): Sorry, but the Vikes were just off last week. I can’t see them turning in a repeat performance, especially against the Bungles, who just added fat, out of shape linebacker Nick Luchey to their ranks. While I don’t think Fred Smoot can shut down Chad Johnson, I don’t think CJ is going to run circles around him. Antoine Winfield (why isn’t he on Johnson??) can ably shut down Houshmandazeh, with Corey Chavous and Darren Sharper backing them up. Combine this with a beefy D-line (the Williamses, Udeze), and Carson Palmer could be in trouble all day long. Easily the underdog pick of the week.

Time to go read Bill Simmons’s new book, Now I Can Die In Peace. It doesn’t matter if you hate the Sox (as the bulk of my limited readership), this should be a hi-larious read.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Grievances, Grievances

At a time when the bottom of the 9th should never be a formality, it felt like just that. Despite the Immortal Mo’s recent history with the D-Rays, it still felt automatic. And my heart has never raced so rapidly for a lock.

Even after the D-Rays cut the lead to a run, even after the Yanks blew yet another bases loaded opportunity, my mind was still telling me that it didn’t matter. Mariano was headed towards the mound, which meant we were three short outs away from taking the second game of this three game series from the D-Rays.

And finally, we’ve won a series with the D-Rays. The closest the Yanks came to this previously was splitting a two game series back in April, which was followed by dropping three of four in each of the next two altercations. But complacency is the Number One killer this time of year.

The Yanks shouldn’t even be thinking about the past two games. Instead, they should still be focusing on a team that they’ve had a dickens of a time figuring out this year. I just have this sinking feeling, though, that they’re going to approach tonight’s game like a Rays game circa 2002. Such a game will drive me over the edge, a la Michael Douglas in Falling Down.

A few more things that will make me flip out in a fast food restaurant:
- Continued impotence with runners in scoring position: MLB.com has this wonderful feature called the O-Zone, which breaks down a team’s performance in various situations with runners in scoring position. Unfortunately, this feature is on the DL at the moment, thus I can’t access specific information. But the Yanks this season have been horrible getting, as John Sterling says, “the one big hit that puts them over the top.” You’re not going to win in the playoffs leaving 14 guys on base, eight with two outs. Then again, Matsui, A-Rod, Jeter and Cano all knocked guys in with two outs. Maybe a slight sign of improvement?
- Scoring in only one or two innings: That’s been one of the killers against Tampa Bay this year. The Yanks plate a few runs, and they sit back the rest of the game and watch as Tampa scores inning after inning. Hell, everyone witnessed that last night as they kept answering the Yanks scores with scores of their own. And they damn nearly came back the last time, too. If the Yanks continue to be – and here’s that word again – complacent scoring four runs in the first, they’re going to find themselves frustrated when there’s no bottom of the ninth.
- Chien-Ming Wang: Don’t get me wrong; I’m grateful for everything he did for the team in the first half, playing the part of the man amidst a pitching staff of chicks (inconsistent, making excuses, seemingly moody outings). But how frustrating is it to see the guy toss a mere 82 pitches through six and a third, yet allow five runs to score? So now he’s the inconsistent one.
- Torre’s refusal to use Al Leither from the ‘pen: Maybe this one is a bit premature, since he’s only been in the bullpen for nine games, and a few of those he needed off following the 12-0 game vs. Oakland (then again, how much rest do you need after hurling 1.2 innings?). He came out and pitched brilliantly against the Sox on Saturday, and sure, after 6.2 he’s going to need a few days off. So this is more of a preemptive frustration than an actual one. Who knows, maybe Joe will use him a la Sturtze. I just have a feeling he won’t, and since I’m listing my grievances now, I thought I’d throw this one out there.

Notice that I didn’t list Torre’s mismanagement of the bullpen or his seeming inability to read a scouting report. Those are major grievances shared by many fans, as I learned through discussion boards. The reason I don’t see them as a huge problem are as follows:

1) What the #@*% does the average fan know about the guys on the team? Do you spend hours with them daily? Have you talked to them before the game to see how they’re feeling? Do you have a relationship with them that would allow you to read them like a book? Oh hell no. So when Torre puts a guy in a situation that fans think is stupid, it’s just him acting with his gut feeling in the situation. Numbers tell you one story, but talking to one of your guys before the game tells a completely different one.
2) Has anyone noticed who sits next to Torre on the bench? Of course you have. Did anyone listen to the same Joe Girardi in the YES booth last year? Because if anyone did, they’d realize that this guy knows the game of baseball, and if you don’t think he reads every scouting report that comes his way, you’re nuts. It’s just that sometimes the scouting report isn’t everything. For instance, say the report on a guy says he has trouble with breaking pitches on the inside half of the plate. But he knows what the scouts say about him, so he takes a half step back. Well, tossing him an inside breaking pitch won’t do a whole lot of good, now will it? So you toss him some heat over the outer half to keep him honest. And maybe he reaches out and dinks it for a single through the hole on the right side. It happens. The scouting report is an important factor in baseball. So is deception.

One last grievance before I sign off for the day: would it kill the power that be to schedule us a weekday game? None for the rest of the year. Highly disappointing.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

One Game At A Time

I can’t help my giddiness after last night. Hell, I couldn’t help my giddiness during the game last night. True, I was at work, but after I caught the update on ESPN.com and saw that it was 10-2, I started texting every Yanks fan in my cell phone with the message, “Thank God.”

Thank God for last night, indeed. But tonight is another adventure in and of itself. Need I refer everyone back to April 18th? 19-8? And April 19th? 6-2, in favor of the bad guys.

Well, it’s a similar situation, and we’re facing the same bad guys. And if you don’t think Sweet Lou is firing this team up for a rally tonight, you might be in for a surprise come 7:00 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time. Sure, it’s common knowledge at this point that Lou wants out of Tampa Bay, and the best way to a quick exit in baseball is to lose games. But hear me out on this one.

There are going to be a plethora of open managerial jobs this off-season. Oakland is purportedly ditching Ken Macha, and the Dodgers might be done with Jim Tracy – both good moves in my opinion. The Pirates job remains open, though Jim Leyland would surely have the gig if he so wished, and it seems like he might. Allan Trammell is on the outs in Detroit, Dusty Baker has been rumored for the bulk of the season to be done in Chicago, the O’s need a new guy, and Jack McKeon leaving Florida could come at any minute (though not likely after this year).

This leaves Lou with his pick of the litter, since it’s basically a foregone conclusion that he will, by being fired or simply resigning, be managing elsewhere next year. But assuming that Billy Beane wants nothing to do with him (which is probably pretty accurate), what job there looks even remotely attractive? Maybe Detroit, but they’re stuck in one of the most talent-heavy divisions in baseball. The O’s? Eh, same dilemma, though I’m sure Lou would love to coach a team in the AL East.

Of course, the job in New York would be infinitely more appealing than any of the aforementioned positions. True, it’s not necessarily up for grabs, but I’m sure even in his old age, George has a good firing left in him should the situation call for it. And if the Yanks hit a slide that keeps them out of the playoffs after being this close at this point in the season, I just can’t see Torre here next year.

And where would George look first? Mattingly isn’t ready yet, at least I don’t think so. Mazzilli is an option, but from what I’ve read, he didn’t create the greatest reputation for himself in Baltimore and may be relegated to a lesser coaching role next year (hopefully third base for us so Sojo doesn’t make us suffer any longer).

It would only make sense for George to pursue the guy who said on multiple occasions that he’d never work for him again. Of course, we know these are hollow words, since he said those words following the ’87 season and was immediately hired as the General Manager for ’88.

What’s in it for Lou, you ask? He’s not exactly a young buck anymore, having proclaimed that he has forgotten more baseball that Curt Schilling knows (and I’m inclined to believe him). And in his managerial journeys, he still hasn’t hit the jackpot. Does he think he’s going to strike it rich in Detroit or Los Angeles? Yeah, maybe in five years with some impeccable GMing.

Aside: I shouldn’t say that about LA. I like what DePodesta has done with the team and I despise Jim Tracy, so I guess filling the managerial role with a guy like Lou could do them a world of good. Well, in addition to avoiding injuries and pitching up a few quality pitchers. So that’s a possible hole in the argument, but considering the way they’re playing this year, I don’t think a managerial move will immediately push them over the brim.

In New York, however, he’d inherit quite a few superstars, a formidable pitching staff, and a nearly unlimited budget. He’d be in the spotlight, and in all likelihood will be in contention year in and year out. What more could an aging manager ask for? Hell, Zim turned down managerial jobs just to be the bench coach in New York.

This has everything to do with the series. As much as Lou just doesn’t care about this Devil Rays team (or at least that’s how it seems), he’s going to care about beating the Yankees if for nothing else than the fact that it will put him in a better position to take the team over. If theYanks don’t make the playoffs, the Yanks have an opening. Lou can play the role of spoiler with the Rays and slide onto that bench next year if he keeps his team fired up.

Thankfully for Torre, he’s not going to take the D-Rays lying down. If Lou is motivated because of the possible opening in New York, Joe is motivated because he wants to avoid that vacancy. There’s no way he’s going to let the Yankees become complacent following this blowout like they did on April 19th. They only have a few more games they can lose this season, and wasting one of them on the last place team in the division is not exactly the safest route.

On a parting note, I’d like to detour to the subject of the batting order, which has varied more in the past week than it has all season. I guess Joe’s really feeling the pressure now, and shaking up the lineup to keep the team from getting stale. But, come playoff time, I’d like to see the following 1 through 9:

1. Jeter
2. Matsui
3. A-Rod
4. Giambi
5. Sheffield
6. Bernie
7. Sierra/whoever is DHing
8. Posada/Flaherty
9. Cano

Cano has been much better in the nine slot with the top of the order in back of him to help insure he sees strikes. Lawton will surely be stuck in there, especially with Sheff DHing for the time being, even though he hasn’t exactly been a success thus far.

Hopefully tonight will be another filled with happy text messages.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Rallying the Troops

When I opened this blog back in June, I promised myself that I wouldn’t write about what everyone else wrote about that day. Of course, this isn’t realistic, since there are only so many things you can talk about regarding the Yankees on a given day. Thus I have, as infrequently as possible, written on the same topic as the guys that get paid to pen their thoughts.

Upon waking this morning, I opened my local paper, the Newark Star Ledger, and then hit up the electronic version of the New York Daily News. Between the two of them, there must have been five or six articles on the Yankees lack of success against their current foes, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. And why not? It’s the most prevalent topic, and we as sports fans should get a comprehensive look at this unique situation.

So what now to write about? I could analyze some statistics, but that seems sort of inappropriate. This is the Second Season, which is driven more by emotion and desire than by numbers. Of course, the numbers still matter, but just look to Sunday’s game for an example of what I’m saying. You can scrutinize the hitters until the cows come home; they only managed three hits all game. But one of them plated a run, and Randy Johnson, surely feeling the barometer rise, hurled with the passion that is needed for success at this point in the season.

And tonight, maybe all nine starters end up 3-5. There are ups and downs to the Second Season, and it doesn’t always even out into a pretty looking average number. Maybe Bernie Williams hits a 2 for 25 slump in the next few games; maybe those two hits plate two game-winning runs. Maybe Shawn Chacon goes out there with nothing again, and surrenders five runs. But maybe he sucks it up and heads out there for the sixth inning and puts them down 1-2-3. And maybe that is significant because A-Rod maybe just hit a homer that put the Yanks up 6-5.

It’s not about going out and socking four dingers in a game. It’s not about tossing consecutive one-hit shutouts. It’s about going out there with passion and conviction, knowing that if you’re not 100 percent focused on what’s happening at this very moment, you’re sitting in your penthouse, watching the World Series on your 64-inch HDTV.

It’s about knowing that the manager is human, and therefore fallible, maybe calling on you in a situation that you’re not comfortable in. It’s about sucking it up, forgetting what makes you uncomfortable about the situation and playing on raw emotion, tossing every pitch to a guy who owns you like it’s a 3-2 count in the bottom of the ninth in the seventh game of the ALCS. Or stepping into the box against a guy you’re 0 for the century against and locking in on his pitches like you’re the Six Million Dollar Man.

The critics say this team doesn’t have the heart to come back from this deficit. They see A-Rod as a pretty-boy who cares only about Number One. They see Jeter as a guy who once led his team to victory, with the emphasis on the past tense. They see Sheffield as a clubhouse cancer, a guy who can sabotage your team given the proper motivation. Matsui is scrutinized for never having batted .300 or provided the pop in his bat as advertised. Bernie, Posada, Tino. They’re washed up. Cano? He’s a rookie who hit a hot streak early on and brings nothing to the table. And of course, Giambi is back on the juice.

And that’s not even including what they say about our $100 million pitching staff. Randy is washed up, and he doesn’t have any more games like Sunday left. Chacon is unproven and showing his true colors. Aaron Small, despite being 7-0 with a 2.82 ERA, will always be judged by his journey across the majors. Wang will never be the same after his rotator cuff injury, and the one game he pitched since recovering is proof enough of that. And don’t get them started on Jaret Wright. He may have been great last year, but putting him in pinstripes was a horrible idea.

Now re-read those last two paragraphs and ask yourself this: Am I, as a die-hard Yankee lunatic fan, going to let the critics have their way? Sure, some of those statements may be halfway accurate. But look how ridiculous others sound. And if the critics are making such outlandish claims against the team we live and die for, why do we need to listen to them?

Who says the D-Rays will continue their ownership of the Evil Empire? The critics, of course. And even though they outnumber the faithful by a larger margin than Reagan defeated Mondale, we can’t allow them to get us down.

Sure, trend and statistic are against us, but since when does that mean a damn thing this late in the season? I’ve said it before, and I’ll reiterate because it’s appropriate. The Yankees are a team built on magic. Yes, that sounds as corny as my Uncle Rick’s jokes, but it’s true.

I remember back in ’96 when the Yanks finally won the AL East. And I remember looking at the playoff schedule and looking to my buddy Steve and lamenting, “We have Texas? Dammit, we’re done first round.” But we took them in five. And I remember the day after the Jeff Maier incident, when we knew we were going to topple Baltimore.

Most importantly, I remember going down 0-2 at home to the unstoppable looking Braves. And I remember David Cone coming up huge in Game 3. And then the monster of all memories, my dad waking me up to tell me that Leyritz just homered, and “we’re brining it back to the Bronx!” I’m sure he remembers that too, but he surely doesn’t remember that I had my little transistor radio tuned in, and I knew exactly what had happened.

And no Yankees faithful forgets Andy Pettite in Game 5, 1-0, the prelude to a championship. Finally, burned into our minds, is the image of Charlie Hayes catching that pop off the bat of Mark Lemke in foul territory, followed by Wade Boggs holding on for dear life on that horse.

You know what? I also (vaguely, I wasn’t yet a teenager) remember the Yankees from ’88, ’89, and all those Dallas Green/Bucky Dent/Stump Merril/even Buck Showalter days. And I’ll tell you right now, this team doesn’t resemble those guys at all.

This team looks like a bunch of guys who have been complacent with where they’ve been for most of the season. They’ve battled back from a desolate April and May to be right in the race in September. But in the race isn’t enough, and these guys know it. Well, at least the vested veterans do, and they’re going to be the ones to show the rest of the team exactly what it means to be a Yankee.

I hate being categorized as a “homer,” but come on, guys. This is the time we need to stand behind the Yanks. There’s already enough hatred of them out there. Have faith that the Yanks will step up and place dread in the hearts of the haters. We want them running to the hills, yelling, “Oh shit! They’re back!”

In the words of Journey, don’t stop believing.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Good Yanks, Bad Jets

It's the most embarrassed I've felt since I've been here. I think we're all ashamed of the way we played.
-Curtis Martin on yesterday’s 27-7 loss in Kansas City.

This is the thing with football: when you’re writhing from your team looking like 24 Alzheimer’s patients, you really don’t have many options. Sure, Week One is an exception, and any Jets fan with a pulse could easily switch to New Orleans-Carolina, or even the Yankees nail biter against the Sawks.

But come November, the options aren’t going to be aplenty. Baseball will be hibernating for the winter, and due to NFL media contracts, there are only one or two times a game will be televised opposite the local team.

Translation: we might be stuck watching the Jets throughout a 4-12 season.

I’m not preaching doomsday, or saying that it’s all over because of an embarrassing loss Week One. But if the Jets look like that for 15 more games, well, 4-12 might be a bit optimistic.

Of course, they’ll scrutinize this loss for the next 48 or so hours and hopefully learn from the blunders. But all the film in the world can’t help you execute.

My buddy Scott, whom I look to for credible football analyses, says he’s willing to chalk up Week One to an aberration. I’ll accept that for this week, but a loss at home to the ‘Fins next week and we can officially talk about winning the Leinart Sweepstakes.

There’s nothing worse than a team talking about next season after a week or two, but man, the Jets just played that disgustingly badly yesterday. You name a mistake, the Jets made it multiple times. Picks, fumbles, penalties, dropped passes, missed blocking assignments, botched coverage…I could go on for days, as I’m sure Herm Edwards will in the coming days.

Speaking of Herm, my bet is that if the Jets don’t make the playoffs this year, he’s toast. At least he would be if I was GM.

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My fantasy team had a week comparable to the Jets, with my starters managing a meager 41 points. Hidden on my bench, however, were Larry Johnson (25 points), Brandon Lloyd (12), Alex Smith (the rooke Tampa Bay TE, 15 points), Marty Booker (19), and the Giants D (17). Boo-urns.

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I don’t need to say much about the Yankees, because it’s all a little too obvious at this point. That’s the great part about September Baseball: you don’t need to break down the games. A win is a win, a loss is a loss. The former puts you ahead, the latter puts you behind. Simple, straightforward.

Last off-day of the season today, and then we hit the home stretch, playing no one outside the AL East for the remainder of the season. And it all kicks off with the D-Rays.

The Yanks performance against the D-Rays this season defies all logic. How can a team so good be so terrible against the worst team in their division?

What amplifies this whole D-Rays debacle is that it might cost us a playoff berth. Hey, you gotta beat the teams you’re supposed to beat, especially at this point in the season. But the Yanks knocked themselves back a game by dropping two of three to them last week, and there is nothing indicating they won’t suffer the same fate down in Tampa this week.

Twenty games left, and the Yanks had better believe that they need to win at least 16 of them. Sure, 16-4 sounds like a lot to ask, but when you’re in a race like this, every win is going to count. And if you consider that a sweep of the D-Rays is as likely as sweeping the Sox, that means that they need to go 12-2 in 14 games against Baltimore and Toronto. Rough.

If these Yankees have any heart whatsoever, they’ll play these last 20 like they’re the playoffs. And that means going out tomorrow night and making a statement against the D-Rays. If they go out and drop the first one, they’re only going to put themselves in a hole that may be impossible to surmount.

But these are the flippin’ Yankees; nothing should be impossible. They’re supposed to defy the laws of possibility and play on pure Bronx Magic.

It’s nice to dream.