2010: A Year In Review In New York Sports


2010: A Year In Review In New York Sports
M.D. Wright
12.31.2010

The Year In Review

This year was a very interesting one in the world of sports here in New York. In fact, the turbulence almost mirrored that in my own life, month to month. Some of you know we live and die with our sports teams. What happens in sports locally serves as a background palet for our lives and we will forever remember what was taking place at the time based upon what was going on in the world of sports. Call us crazy, but it is true.

How many people remember exactly where they were in January 1987 when the Giants won their first Super Bowl? Or in January 1991 when Whitney Houston sang the National Anthem upon the troops coming home from the Persian Gulf? Or when Mookie Wilson’s base hit passed through Bill Buckner’s wickets? Or worse yet, when the Giants lost to the 49ers in a collapse similar to the one they suffered at the hands of the Eagles in 2010?

We have lived and died (mostly died) with the Knicks for over a decade now, until recently.

The Rangers have experienced a mild upswing after mirroring the Knicks’ futility (with the same ownership, no less — different column, different day altogether!)

The Mets have underachieved and floundered since their last World Series appearance.

The Islanders simply do not matter, nor do the Nets.
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JANUARY 2010
National Football League

New York Jets
Fans of the New York Jets had cautious optimism entering the year, as the Indianapolis Colts decided to rest their starters prior to their final two games, ultimately enabling the Jets to make the playoffs with wins. In a fashion similar to the 2007 Giants, the Jets made it improbably to the AFC Championship Game, only to lose to the Colts. Jet fans weren’t crushed, because the postseason was found money to begin with. But anytime you get that close to tasting the real prize and lose, you do feel it for a while.

The real downside for the rest of us? The newfound Jet fans are already as bad as Philadelphia Eagles fans. The longtime Jet fans are cool, but the ones who have become fans since Rex Ryan became head coach have made life disgusting for Giants fans and generally fans in the NFL.

New York Football Giants
Likewise, for the New York Giants, the calendar year immediately began with bitter defeat. In stunning fashion, they lost back to back games while yielding 40+ points in both, missing the playoffs and experiencing the absolute worst defensive performance ever for the Giants franchise. Think about that. EIGHTY FIVE YEARS. The team was awful in the 60s and 70s, and never has the defense performed the way that it did in 2009. The season could not end quickly enough. Thankfully, the “Defensive Coordinator” Bill Sheridan was fired. But Giants fans could not wait for September 2010 to arrive quickly enough.
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FEBRUARY/MARCH 2010
College Basketball

Connecticut Huskies, St. John’s Red Storm, Rutgers Scarlet Knights, Seton Hall Pirates
Since we do not have all that much in the way of allegiance to college basketball, there wasn’t much to write about in February and March. However, some of us have friends, church members, etc. who went to/go to St. John’s, Connecticut, Rutgers and Seton Hall and will follow those teams. I have been a simultaneous fan of UConn and UNC since 1993, so I do follow the UConn Huskies ardently. 2009 was regrettable. Let’s just leave it at that.
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APRIL 2010
Major League Baseball
National Basketball Association

New York Knicks
The 2009-2010 season was not kind to the Knicks. They finished up another nondescript losing season, but did enter the offseason with hopes of signing LeBron James from the Cleveland Cavaliers and Amaré Stoudemire from the Phoenix Suns. One out of two is not bad. They also had (have) eyes set on Carmelo Anthony of Denver and inevitably, Anthony will be a Knick.

Baseball-wise, both area teams were expecting big things in 2010.

New York Mets
The Mets were RACKED by injuries in 2009, but aside from those issues, on paper, they had a pretty good lineup and pitching staff entering the 2010 season. The season began somewhat positively, but they were once again racked by injuries and the pitching staff completely fell apart — even team ace Johan Santana. The Mets limped through the last half of the season, as their owners, the Wilpons — Fred and Jeff — would not allow General Manager Omar Minaya to spend money in order to improve the team near the MLB Trading Deadline of July 31, 2010. The Mets precipitously fell hard the final two months of the season and can only hope wholesale changes will work wonders entering 2011.

Naturally, the hamstrung GM takes the blame when he is not allowed to spend money to improve the team. For every bad deal Minaya made, he made two “okay” to “good” moves. Most GMs will take batting .555 or .667 when it comes to making deals. No one is capable of batting close to 1.000 unless you’re Brian Cashman, and even HE is trying to screw that up with an almost unlimited bankroll. And without George Steinbrenner around to put the kibosh on the stupid deals that Cashman has wanted to make in the past, I may do facepalms right along with Met fans next year.

New York Yankees
The Yankee fan had every reason to expect 2010 to be a continuation of 2009: the team’s nucleus was returning and healthy at that (albeit a year older, which showed as 2010 wore on) and there was no reason to believe the team would not win 100+ games and be back in the World Series.

It was not to be. The season began rather well, but there were long stretches of futility by the offense. The only thing that offset those offensive slumps (Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira and Jorge Posada started particularly poorly) was early success from the pitching staff of CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte, Phil Hughes and even AJ Burnett.

Burnett quickly fell off the wagon. It appeared at times he was half in the bag while pitching from mid-June and following.

Sabathia was Sabathia, leading MLB in wins with 21, but with a balky knee for the final month of the season.

Andy gets hurt and derails all momentum of the then-resurgent bats in early August, as the team barely sniffed .500 for the entire month.

Hughes simply ran out of gas, never having pitched more than 150 IP at any point in his career in the minors or majors.

Joe Girardi hamstrung the team with his bonehead “managing” and another prolonged batting slump sunk the team when the stakes were highest.

SOMEHOW, GIRARDI IMMEDIATELY GETS A CONTRACT EXTENSION, ONE OF THE FEW DEPENDABLE PITCHERS ON THE STAFF GOES BACK TO THE CHICAGO CUBS FOR LESS MONEY AND GENERAL MANAGER BRIAN CASHMAN SITS IDLY BY, PREFERRING TO BUNGEE JUMP FROM OBSCURE LOCATIONS IN GREENWICH, CONNECTICUT THAN TO IMPROVE THE TEAM.

On the surface, the Yankees had a pretty good year. Most teams will take 94, 95 wins and an American League Championship Series berth. But with most Yankee fans (of which I do not belong) “anything less than winning the World Series every year is failure”.

Yeah, what have you.

Bob Sheppard, the longtime voice of the Yankees passes away and so does George M. Steinbrenner. I don’t know what to think. They are as synonymous with the team as the pinstripes themselves. A little-known fact to outta town sports fans, but Bob Sheppard was the voice of the New York Football Giants for many years as well. One of his friends now does the Public Address at Giants games and he does his best to sound like Sheppard as homage.

When I went to the very first game at new Giants Stadium with a couple of my boys, we died laughing because the guy sounded so much like Sheppard: “Williams, for a gain of threeeee… STOPPED.. by TUCK… AND ROLLLLLEEEEEEE”. It will be a lasting memory, because immediately, Yankee fans think —

“Now batting… at shortstop… NUMBAH TOOOO… Derek… JETAHHHH… numbah tooo…”

Jeter still uses that introduction for each of his at-bats at Yankee Stadium. GOOD STUFF.
—————-

MAY-AUGUST 2010
The summer is pretty light when it comes to sports. We do not have contending hockey teams, nor NBA teams. The baseball season lags on forever and rather than go into further detail, you kind of get the gist of what happened with both the Yankees and Mets from earlier writing.

The one bright spot was that Organized Team Activities (OTAs, in NFL jargon) and Training Camp arrived and passed very quickly this year. I didn’t have extreme football withdrawals leading into August, and the regular season arrived with great alacrity. I was pleased.
—————-

SEPTEMBER 2010
National Football League

New York Jets
Again, the new season is upon us and Jet fans are expecting the team to carry over the momentum they began at the end of the 2009 season into 2010. They had to deal with early issues stemming from bitter negotiations with All-Pro CB Darrelle Revis, but as predicted by me weeks in advance, he signed the exact day that I figured he would and the Jets began the season on a roll. They stomped the brains in of their arch-rival New England Patriots and looked to be heading toward an easy playoff berth as October arrived (based upon the way they were playing).

New York Football Giants
The Giants always play up and down to the level of their competition. I had the pleasure of enjoying the Giants maul the Panthers at the new Meadowlands, but the game was ugly. Little did I know that the turnover-fest in that game was going to be the linchpin to this entire season as it will be remembered. The Giants had a ton of turnovers in that game and “only” won by a couple of touchdowns. They should have easily won by four or five. Things looked bleak after getting blasted by the Indianapolis Colts right after that and probably the worst-played game (turnover/penalty-wise) after that, versus the Tennessee Titans.

An all-world defensive effort versus the Chicago Bears in Week 4 gave the Giants new life, however.

OCTOBER 2010
National Football League/Major League Baseball

New York Jets
The Jets continued on their roll, making it look easy at times. RB LaDainian Tomlinson looked fresher than he had in three seasons. It appeared inevitable that the Jets would not only win the AFC East, but also be favorites to win the conference.

New York Football Giants
The win versus the Bears sparked them to win out in the month of October, but they weren’t beating any really solid teams. However, you beat who you play and use games against proven teams as a barometer, and man oh MAN did the team realize that they failed miserably when put up against that barometer…

New York Yankees
The Yankees frittered away any chance of winning the American League East title with putrid losses to the Baltimore Orioles and Boston Red Sox to end the season, but they still maintained a Wild Card berth for entry into the playoffs. Given that they own the Minnesota Twins, they handled business with relative ease (although the bats still only came alive late in games, which was disturbing).

Once they played the Texas Rangers in the ALCS, they completely shut down, Giants-Style (i.e. in every facet of the game). Managing was terrible. Pitching was ghastly. Batting was silent other than All-World Robinson Cano. The Yankees hadn’t looked so poorly in a series during the playoffs in decades.

Needless to say, the Texas Rangers won with relative ease, despite some comeback attempts by the Yanks in a couple of games.

NOVEMBER 2010
National Basketball Association/National Football League

New York Knicks
Following 2009-2010 Knicks, you’d have no idea that 2010 would be any better. Particularly since new $99.7M man, Amaré Stoudemire, was not known as a true leader while with the Phoenix Suns. And after the first two and a half weeks of the season, it appeared to be true. Stoudemire (affectionately known as “Bam Bam” by us longtime fans since 2003) was a turnover machine and the team appeared to be following the “Same ol’ Knicks” pattern.

Then, something switched on around Veteran’s Day.

Stoudemire began a streak of 30 point games that coincided with Knick wins not long afterward and the Knicks played inspired ball, at one point having a better record than the star-studded Miami Heat. There was energy in Madison Square Garden (formerly Mausoleum, even as late as April as I took a game in there) again. Not QUITE 1990s energy, but attention was palpable with the Knicks again, and I couldn’t be happier about it (Bill Walton Voice).

New York Jets
The Jets hit a little rough patch and the entire NFL and fans who hate the Jets began to pile on. It was apparent that the offensive line of the Jets was missing Damien Woody and Alan Faneca (who was released after the 2009 season). The team also got burned by former Jet, Danny Woodhead in embarrassing fashion in December. LaDainian Tomlinson appeared worn down (I cautioned about his carries load back around Week 6, Rex Ryan and Brian Schottenheimer did not read my column, like a lot of Facebook, apparently) and the defense was not dominant, especially after Kris Jenkins’ Annual ACL Tear/Out For Season Party in one of the first plays of the FIRST GAME OF THE SEASON.

Nevertheless, the Jets overcame an adverse month, still with the potential to make the playoffs and even a shot at hte division, before said Patriots’ rematch where castoff (who shouldn’t otherwise BE in the NFL) Danny Woodhead came back to haunt them after they moved to slowly in re-signing him in a salary cap move in September.

New York Giants
I have no idea where this “annual collapse” stuff comes from with regards to Giants haters. The Giants didn’t “collapse” in 2009, they quit on Bill Sheridan. DE Osi Umenyiora was never on board with him and All-Pro in the making (at the time in 2009) FS Kenny Phillips tore up his knee. He ran a 4.43/40 before the injury and was picking off passes and flowing from sideline to sideline before the injury.

The Giants lost WR Plaxico Burress due to a stupid shooting right after Thanksgiving in 2008. Burress was integral to the passing game. You do not recover from that.

They won the Super Bowl in 2007. How is a “collapse” annual?

Anyway, the Giants had too many key injuries, too many turnovers (40 at press time, December 2010) and too little discipline across the board this year. They gave away a game to the Dallas Cowboys, then another to the Philadelphia Eagles in November, mixed in with comeback wins over the Jacksonville Jaguars and taking apart the Washington Redskins. They were still prime to win the NFC East and securing a first-round playoff bye (NEVER A GOOD THING FOR GIANTS TEAMS, SO MAYBE THEY TANKED THE PAST TWO GAMES BECAUSE THEY LIKE PLAYING WITH THEIR BACKS AGAINST THE WALL AND BEING ON THE ROAD IN THE PLAYOFFS? AND WITHOUT A BYE? Hey, it worked in 2007 — although they had “control of their own destiny” in 2007, not requiring the help they need Sunday to make it to 2010’s playoffs.

It was a heart-wrenching month for Giants fans, something that fans have been all too accustomed to since Bill Parcells left in January 1991.

DECEMBER 2010
National Football League/National Basketball Association/College Basketball

Connecticut Huskies
Bronx native Kemba Walker has the green light to do whatever he wants with UConn and it shows. He’s well on his way to becoming NCAA Player of the Year and UConn just lost its first game at the very end of the calendar year 2010. Very nice. Hopefully, Walker’s individual start and the team’s as a whole portends well for the Young Huskies as the Big East Conference season has begun.

New York Knicks
The Knicks continued their roll until they met the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat (twice). They had a couple of ugly losses mixed in (including one to the Orlando Magic at press time — i.e. yesterday) but are 18-14, which is found money given this team is missing a man and a half in terms of what it will take to be a legitimate contender. And despite it all, short of their offensive breakdowns (see: aforementioned Orlando Magic game), they are extremely fun to watch — leading the NBA in scoring overall.

New York Jets
The Jets had a couple of nice wins and a couple of bad losses in December. Nevertheless, they have clinched an AFC playoff spot without help this year and figure to make some noise. Their keys at this point are getting QB Mark Sanchez healthy, figuring out how to slow teams down defensively — which has been a problem at times in this December and running the ball effectively. Each of the Jets’ losses have come when the latter two issues were not managed and also when Mark Sanchez played some of his worst football.

Defense, protect the football, run the football = WINS. Doesn’t matter how you arrive at that formula, be it your offensive coordinator’s philosophy on the passing game or rushing attack, or your defensive guru of a Head Coach and his schemes, you have to get stops defensively, run the ball and not turn it over to have a chance to win. The Jets know this and the 2010 Playoffs shall be interesting for them and their fans alike.

New York Football Giants
Whaappen???

The Giants were manhandling the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 15 of the 2010 season, and became conservative for no reason. The Eagles, while the dregs of the NFL, are not the Sisters of the Poor. No sense in taking the foot off the pedal with them for “mercy”. The Giants had the NFC East and a First Round Playoff Bye in their hands and dropped it, yielding 28 points in an unprecedented 7 minute stretch, including becoming the first team to lose a game on a PUNT RETURN in NFL History. That was the worst collapse ever in the NFL. Statistically, watching as a fan or otherwise. An otherwise stellar defense shuts a team out for 3 points for a half, then yields 31 in little over 10 minutes of total time possession by the opposing team, then yields 45 points in a must-win game? Worst collapse ever.

Yet and still, the Giants win their regular season finale (in January 2011) and the team they just surrendered 45 points to, the Green Bay Packers, lose their regular season finale at the same time of the day, the Giants still make the playoffs and have a chance to avenge not only their last two give-away losses to the Philadelphia Eagles, but the four others prior to that.

But it is less than 50% likely. So what now?

Tom Coughlin cannot be blamed much for the way this team played. This is a heart issue, lack of discipline and attention to detail. Injuries to Steve Smith (nicknamed “Steve-12” to differentiate him from Steve Smith of Carolina — “Steve-89”), Hakeem Nicks, Dave Diehl, Shawn Andrews and Shaun O’Hara did not help, but all teams have key injuries — including the Green Bay Packers and New England Patriots and they have not forgotten how to play football.

Kenny Phillips looks a step slow, but he is less than a year fully recovered from surgery. I give him 2011 to bounce back. He is the fastest player in the Giants’ secondary, but Defensive Coordinator Perry Fewell’s scheme plays to each member of the secondary’s strengths and hides their weaknesses — much like New England does with (vastly overrated) Thomas Brady.

Shall be an interesting exit to 2010 and we begin 2011 with a slew of HUGE games.

Hope your hometown teams didn’t rip your hearts out like ours did (or tried to, depending on your fanship).

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