image description
Joel Langstein
October 8

Rangers Edge Blackhawks 3-2 In Strong Debut

Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

This past Wednesday night, the New York Rangers opened up with a gutty 3-2 victory over the defending champion Chicago Blackhawks at the madhouse on madison in the windy city. Prospect centerman Oscar Lindberg netted the first goal of the 2015-16 campaign with a nice finish on a one-timer. After that, the Blackhawks evened the score up on a goal by Artmei Panarin, assisted by an outstanding pass from winger Patrick Kane. The Rangers would then go up 3-1 and stave off a late rally by the feisty Blackhawks. With around a minute to go, Patrick Kane poked in a puck past Lundqvist, but the goal was disallowed because the referee lost sight of the puck. This gave Ranger fans a scare, but it ended up being a moot point. The Rangers showed fight and poise, something that they have shown often in recent years. 

This performance is nothing surprising, the Rangers are a very good team. The question every year now is whether they can get over the hump. It is impossible to answer that right now, but a win on the road opening night against the defending champs is definitely nothing to sneeze at. New addition centerman Jarret Stoll, although a question mark off the ice, will hopefully add some toughness and physicality to the team, something they lacked last year against the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference Finals. Stoll can win face-offs, and is the gritty guy that they need. 

It is only one game, so we shouldn't get too crazy, but it is apparent that the Rangers again will at least be a solid team that should be right back in the thick of the playoff conversation. Whether they make a deep run or not is yet to be seen, but we should be in store for another eventful season. The young core of players including Kreider, McDonagh, Fast, Miller, Stepan, and others allows for this team to be a force year in and year out. Not to mention, the King in net is still at the top of his game. With the calming force of Alain Vigneault behind the bench, look for the Rangers to pick up right where they left off last season. 

October 5

Yankees Vs. Astros Wild Card Preview

Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

After receiving the chilling news of their starting pitcher C.C. Sabathia checking into rehab for alcohol, the Yankees must get refocused for their biggest game of the season.  Masahiro Tanaka who sported a (12-7) record and a 3.51 era this season will square off against the Houston Astros ace Dallas Keuchel, a 20 game winner this year with a 2.48 era.  Statistically the Astros have the advantage on the bump, but statistics don't win playoff games. Experience wins playoff games.  And while Mashiro Tanaka himself is a postseason rookie, the Yankees are loaded with postseason experience on offense.  Sure, they are old, over the hill, washed up, whatever you want to call them.  But they are in the A.L. Wild Card game and are at home in Yankee Stadium against a team that stumbled into this game.  I will take the Yankees everyday of the week and twice on Sunday facing a team that has never been in this situation.  Sure, the Yankees may get bounced against a better team if they advance, but in this game, and in this moment, they are the favorites.

Houston's only chance is for their star pitcher Dallas Keuchel to be the ace he is.  Keuchel had a break out year and although I think the Yankees will prevail, he cannot be taken lightly.  Keuchel is not a flashy pitcher, he does not wow you with his stuff.  But all he does is get guys out.  He is very difficult to square up and if you take him for granted him will make you pay.  My X-factor for the game is former Houston Astros playoff hero Carlos Beltran now of the Yankees, who seems to shine in these games.  Although he will likely be hitting in his weaker hitting position of righty, he is still a force to be reckoned with and has been hot of late at the dish.  

Masahiro Tanaka will have his hands full with a tough lineup from Houston.  Rookie sensation Carlos Correia and all-star second baseman Jose Altuve are very dangerous hitters, but Tanaka's splitter is a great neutralizer for the young anxious bats of Houston.  If Tanaka can establish his splitter early and often, it could prove to be a long day for the Houston offense.  A six inning performance with one or two earned runs from Tanaka should do the trick, assuming the Yankees can scratch out a few runs.  The Yankees back end of the bullpen with Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances is absolutely lethal in a high stakes game and essentially shortens the game.  Not to the same extent that former closer Mariano Rivera did, but the idea is there.  

This is the first time since 2012 that the Yankees are taking part in the playoffs, and Yankee Stadium should have a raucous crowd.  I look for the Yankees to beat the Houston Astros 3-1.  

October 2

Is A Subway Series In The Cards This Fall?

Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

Ever since the 2000 Subway World Series, a Mets and Yankees rematch in the fall classic has seemed nothing more than a pipe dream.  Only once since the 2000 season have the Mets and Yankees even made the playoffs in the same year.  But in 2015, the New York rivals have both clinched postseason appearances.  Granted, the Yankees have to get through a one game wild card game to get to the postseason bracket, but they are in the playoffs nonetheless.  

When you look at each teams path to the Fall Classic, there is a way a Subway Series can come to fruition.  There is no buzz saw in the league this year.  With the exception of the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League who look like they are going to win over 100 games, there is no team that you can say,"they are going to win it all."  The Yankees will either have to play the Astros, Angels, or Twins in the wild card game.  Only the Angels scare me out of that group, and they may not even clinch a playoff berth.  If the Yankees moved on, they would play either the Blue Jays or the Royals, two teams that are extremely good, but have flaws.  The Royals do not have as stable a bullpen as they did last postseason, and the Blue Jays star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki is an unknown coming off of an injury.   I am not saying the Yankees would beat either of these two teams, but if the Yankees can get Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda to have one of their good days in a short series, they have the bullpen to make a run.  That is the beauty about the MLB playoffs, the best team doesn't always win, and the Yankees while not being the most talented of the bunch, have a formula that could pan out in October. 

As for the Mets, they have to go through the 1-2 pitching combination of Clayton Kershaw and Zach Greinke of the Los Angeles Dodgers.  Although home field has not been decided for this series yet, facing these two anywhere is a monumental task.  However, the Mets have a fierce pitching duo of their own with Matt Harvey and Jacob DeGrom.  So while the Mets would have to face a deadly pitching staff on L.A. and possibly meet with one of three N.L. Central teams whom they had trouble with all season, the Mets have the pitching to do it.  In fact, the regular season meetings usually cannot be a good determinate for a playoff meeting.  In 1988, the Mets manhandled the Dodgers in the regular season but fell to them in an eventual league championship series defeat.  

METS BIGGEST HURDLE: The N.L. Central---The Mets were putrid against this division this season, as they were well under .500 against the Cardinals, Cubs, and Pirates.  Although the Mets may not get past L.A., I would be most concerned with a potential meeting with this division, all three teams are very scary in their own right.

YANKEES BIGGEST HURDLE: The Toronto Blue Jays---If I am the Yankees, I am only scared of the team North of the border.  I know the Yankees have been struggling and they have to get through the wild card game, but they have as much experience as anyone else in the field, and only the Blue Jays really seem to have their number this year.  Toronto is scary good, and proved they can beat the Yankees down the stretch, so they seem to be the biggest future speed bump for the pinstripes.

If the Mets and Yankees can overcome their biggest hurdles, why can't the New York classic happen?

Hey, its not likely, but for the first time in a while, theres a chance.  And a Subway World Series in 2015 would bring a buzz to the city that New York baseball has lacked for almost a decade and a half.  

September 8

The New York Mets Are Primed For A Deep Playoff Run

Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

With less than a month left to play in the MLB season, the New York Mets lead the National League Eastern Division by five games over the Washington Nationals. Since 2000, the Mets have missed the playoffs all but one time. As a result, the Mets and their respective fan base are entering uncharted waters. In every fans mind, however, is the year of 2007. The Mets were leading the Philadelphia Phillies by seven and a half games with seventeen games to play. What did the Mets do? They choked. Many Mets fans are asking themselves today on September eighth, what is different about the 2015 Mets than the 2007 Mets? Could they collapse yet again? 

Fortunately for the concerned Mets fans out there, this 2015 Mets team is light years ahead of the 2007 team. The 2015 Mets sport a three headed monster pitching combo with the likes of Matt Harvey, Jacob DeGrom, and Noah Syndergaard. These three pitchers were not on the Mets in 2007, and provide this years team with the keys to greatness. The Mets choked in 2007 because their pitching crumbled down the stretch. This year, regardless whether they lose two or three games in a row, their electric young pitching staff will prevent a catastrophic losing streak. Not to mention, the Washington Nationals who are chasing the Mets are in turmoil, as the Phillies who chased the Mets in 2007 were on the upswing with a plethora of young talent just surfacing from the minor leagues.

With all of these reasons that point to a Mets division title, there is still one catch. It is the New York Mets. A team so diseased and snake bitten that even the smallest ounce of bad luck can end the dream of a championship.  Only time will tell if the Metropolitans luck has finally returned to that of the glory days in 1986 and 1969.

July 23

The Mets couldn't hit water if they fell off of a boat

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

For those that defended Sandy Alderson's long term plan when he began his tenure as Mets General Manager, it is time to wave the white flag.  The Mets are wasting great pitching and an opportunity to contend this season.  The Washington Nationals are begging for the Mets to take the NL East crown.  If the Mets aren't going to go for it now, when will they ever go for it?  No trade is good enough for them; They routinely pass on players because they "don't like them" while what they go with instead is worse, and they try to wait for a deal that will never come.  Just today the Pittsburgh Pirates acquired third baseman Aramis Ramirez from the Milwaukee Brewers.  Ramirez was a hot topic in Mets trade rumors, but the Mets "were not impressed with him" according to multiple reports close to the team.  Instead, the Mets continue to play Eric Campbell at third base who has hit three home runs this season, eight less than Aramis Ramirez.  So, in short, the Mets prefer a guy who has 3 home runs and 17 RBI's over Ramirez who has 11 home runs and 42 RBI's.  Let that sink in for a moment.  I guess the Mets are more interested in contending during the year 2045 than going for it this year.  Apparently, the Mets were hesitant to go after Ramirez because they would not be able to receive a compensatory first round pick for him.  That is funny because the Mets drafted position prospect Brandon Nimmo in 2011 and he probably won't be ready until the Wilpons sell the team, or in other words, never.  So basically the Mets didn't want Ramirez because they wouldn't receive a draft pick who may never play for the team.  What a logical decision by the Mets, they really know what they are doing.  

 This inaction by the Mets is just the latest of terrible managerial decisions by the organization.  Mets recent free agent signing Michael Cuddyer has been battling a knee injury the past couple of weeks.  Instead of putting Cuddyer on the disabled list, they are keeping him on the roster.  There is just one problem, he isn't playing!  Instead of placing him on the DL and opening up a roster spot for highly touted outfield prospect Michael Conforto, the Mets are keeping Cuddyer active and essentially playing with a 24 man roster.  Why have 25 players when you can just have 24?  I mean, the season is so long, why not just make it more difficult for your team than it already is.  As for the Mets OF hitting prospect Michael Conforto, what else is there to say?  He is tearing it up in double A, but the Mets are afraid to ruin his confidence.  This is a true testament to how afraid the Mets are.  Its funny that the Mets don't mind playing Kirk Nieuwenhuis who is batting .169 at the big league level, but they are afraid to bring Michael Conforto up because he may struggle.  The Mets make decisions every day that make you question their sanity.  It is almost as if they are following a book that is titled how not to win.  If that were the case, everything would finally make sense.  It seems that every time you look up, a player is benched the day after he hits well or a guy is sat down because he is tired.  Raise your hand if your done hearing that the Mets didn't play well because their flight got in late the night before the game.  The list goes on and on and on.

As for General Manager Sandy Alderson, congratulations, you sit back and watch Omar Minaya's draft picks play well and take credit for them.  You made one good trade when you gave away R.A. Dickey for Noah Syndergaard and Travid d'Arnaud.  Other than that, you have done absolutely nothing.  Your snide remarks and misplaced arrogance are not welcome in New York.  It is one thing to fail while trying, but to do nothing and act like you are above others when questioned is quite grotesque.  The Met fans deserve more than this, and it is time for a change.  Omar Minaya all of the sudden looks pretty good compared to Sandy Alderson.  At least he tried, and I think that is something we all took for granted when he was here as Mets General Manager.

Throughout this Mets season I have realized one very important thing, the Mets are basically the Jets.  They are interchangeable.  Just when you think things can't get any worse, they do.  This season was over before it even started.  To be honest, the next five years are already over for this team, thats how pathetic they really are.  

May 26

Do the Rangers have another comeback in them?

Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Against the Washington Capitals in the Eastern Conference Semis, the Rangers were able to pull out a dramatic comeback down 3-1 in the series.  The Rangers face a similar feat in front of them that they had to pull off last series, and that is winning a game 6 on the road facing elimination to force a game 7 at Madison Square Garden.  Can the Rangers come from behind once again?

The Rangers are more than capable of coming back on the Tampa Bay Lightning, but every time the Rangers dig themselves a hole, the odds of them climbing out of it decrease with time.  Tampa Bay is a different entity than Washington, they have many more offensive weapons and have seemed to overwhelm the Rangers at times with their speed, which coincidentally is the Rangers strength.  They are beating them at their own game.  

Three of the five games in this series have not been close, so at this point to predict an outcome for game 6 is silly.  Rather, it is important to look at the constants.  Tampa Bay will score if they get on the power play, and Henrik Lundqvist is going to have to keep the Rangers in the game with big saves.  The main goal for the Rangers should be to get bodies to the net in front of Tampa Bay net minder Ben Bishop who has proven to be pedestrian when truly challenged.  If the Rangers stay out of the box, get guys to the net, and don't turn the puck over in their own zone, we will have a game 7.  It is easier said then done, however.

Tampa Bay is a quick strike team and is riding a lot of confidence from their young scorers, Steven Stamkos and Tyler Johnson.  They are dangerous, and very good.  If the Rangers cannot find a way to better contain these guys, they will find themselves booking their tee times at the golf course.  It is time for guys like Keith Yandle and Dan Boyle to step up, and show why they were brought to New York.  They have had a subpar performance in these playoffs, but the past is the past, and they have to be solid with the puck if the Rangers have any chance.  

When it is all said and done, the Rangers comeback will depend on their ability to score on the man advantage.  If they can be efficient on the power play then they will be in good shape.  The experience factor is on the Rangers side, but it only means so much when you are playing a team that has just as much talent as you do.  Its do or die for the Rangers, and they must answer the bell.  It is Stanley Cup or bust for the blueshirts, so we will see if they have something to say in game 6.

April 26

Are the Mets taking over the Big Apple?

Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Although the Yankees took the first game of the Subway Series in convincing fashion, the Mets struck back in yesterday's game led by the face of the franchise, starting pitcher Matt Harvey.  The Mets came into the series having won 11 straight contests, only to have that spoiled this past Friday night by the Yankees.  Many Mets fans started to have those old thoughts surface about whether this was the same old mets after their win streak came to an abrupt start.  Matt Harvey, however, made a bold statement.  On Saturday in the Bronx, he went out on the mound and shut the Yankees down.  No nonsense, no nothing.  The Yankees never had a chance.  He blew A-Rod away on a 98 mph fastball in the 9th inning, silencing the Bronx crowd and energizing the Met faithful.  He showed that the Mets are here to stay and that they are for real.  Something that a true ace does for his team.  He showed that Friday's loss was more of an aberration than anything else, and that this is the Mets time.  

With a 14-4 start and a 4 1/2 game lead in the N.L. East, the Mets are clearly the better New York team right now.  The Yankees have played well of late, but they have too many question marks to have any staying power.  The Mets are on the rise and the Yankees are falling.  The fans at yesterday's game were the most telling sign that their is a changing of the guard.  The Yankee stadium crowd was lifeless, while the Mets fans were getting louder and louder by the moment.  The idea of the Mets overtaking the Yankees for New York supremacy may be hard to believe, solely because of the disappointment that the Mets have provided their fans over the years.  This year, however, is a different Mets team.  They have the ace, they have the attitude, and they have the expectations.

Tonight's game in primetime against the Yankees is going to tell us a lot about this Mets team.  Can Jonathan Niese step up and win the series for the Mets?  Can the Mets convince people that they are better than the Yankees?  Or simply, can the Mets perform in a big game?  All of these questions will be answered tonight.  

For those Mets fans who are waiting for the other shoe to drop, and being one of them myself, I think it is important to analyze this team based on this year and this year only, and to not let the years of disappointment get in the way of this season.  Its a new year, a new identity, and a new roster, and a win tonight can be a big step to proving to us fans that this team means business.   

March 14

The Jets have upgraded, but they are still one move away from being a super bowl contender

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

While Jets GM Mike Maccagnan has been ultra aggressive this offseason and has added some of the top free agents of the offseason, most notably CB Darrelle Revis and WR Brandon Marshall, the thing that still ails the Jets is the lack of a franchise quarterback.  Yes, the Jets added journeyman QB Ryan Fitzpatrick from the Houston Texans, but he is just a placeholder.  Unfortunately, the Jets were not able to add QB Nick Foles because the St. Louis Rams had the most to offer to the Philadelphia Eagles.  If you are the Jets, it is time to go back to the drawing board about where you can get a good quarterback.  If the Jets end up with Ryan Fitzpatrick and Geno Smith on opening day because they were not able to find a better option, I think there would be anarchy if Geno Smith was the starter over Ryan Fitzpatrick.

So what are some options?  It is looking a bit less likely that the Jets will be able to draft Marcus Mariota for two reasons.  One, the Jets do not seem to absolutely love him, and two, there are now teams in front of the Jets in the draft like the Washington Redskins and the Tennessee Titans who desperately need a QB.  No Marcus Mariota means the Jets would either have to upgrade at QB in free agency or keep the status quo.  And because the status quo is not acceptable, I have a trade proposal.  Because the New Orleans Saints are in a mode where they are willing to give away any player, why not trade the sixth pick in the draft for QB Drew Brees?  If the Jets could pull this trade off, they would instantly be a threat to go to the super bowl.  There is nothing that says win now more than trading for a future hall of fame QB.  GM Mike Maccagnan and head coach Todd Bowles have been great so far this offseason, but a trade of this magnitude would elevate their status immensely.

What do the Jets have to lose?  They are not going anywhere with Geno Smith or Ryan Fitzpatrick, so why not? The Jets have never seemed to be able to get stability at the QB position in recent years, and Drew Brees would definitely bring some of that and more.  As of now the moves that the Jets have made are very good, but they are still a step down from the New England Patriots.  Why? Because they don't have the quarterback.  That has always been the problem for the Jets, and unless they can address  it, they are going to struggle to take the next step.  

That is not to say that they can't win some games with Ryan Fitzpatrick at the helm, but for the Jets to make some real noise this year, they have to have a QB who can make noise.  The Jets need to score more points, and that is not going to happen with Geno Smith or Ryan Fitzpatrick, plain and simple.

February 26

Its put up or shut up time for the Mets

All offseason the Mets have been blowing a lot of smoke and bluster, but that all stops now as MLB Spring Training is right around the corner.  No matter what the Mets say in terms of their potential, we will all have the real answer starting in the beginning of April.  Whether it is there young pitching, or new acquisitions(or lack there of), they are still a sub .500 team until proven otherwise.  I have never heard so much confidence from a team that needs so many things to break perfect just to be in the 80 win range.  I don't fault the Mets for having a positive mindset, but this false sense of confidence is what results in a lack of interest in improving the status quo.  We have seen this year after year, and there is no reason that this year is any different.  

Lets Break it down: The MAJOR Questions

SP Matt Harvey: Coming off of a major injury and surgery.

3B David Wright: Coming off of a major injury.

OF Michael Cuddeyer: Played 49 games last year for the Colorado Rockies and is 35 years old.

OF Curtis Granderson: Had a batting average of .227 last season.

RHP Bobby Parnell: Slated as the closer to beat and is coming off of a major injury and major surgery.

SS Wilmer Flores: Has a .240 batting average with 354 career at bats and is being anointed as the starting opening day shortstop with Rueben Tejada as the back up plan(oh boy).

As you can see, for a team that has high expectations, there are several question marks.  And not to be misconstrued, I am not saying that this team shouldn't have high expectations at this point, but rather, they have constructed this team so poorly over six years that they have dug themselves into hole that I do not see themselves climbing out of.  It is analogous with a student who puts off his project that is due in a little while down the road.  He says he will do it the next day, or the next year in the case of the Mets, so nobody can question him.  But when he gets towards the due date, and he pumps up his project, he in actuality did not do his due diligence to complete it effectively.  The Mets have ran out of time, and judgement day is right around the corner.

February 15

Carmelo Anthony has embarrassed himself

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Often times in sports today players are focused on marketing their brand and reaping as many benefits as possible from their brand.  I have nothing against a player trying to earn as much money as he possibly can.  However, when a player puts himself above the team that is writing his paycheck, I start to have a problem with it.  Carmelo Anthony has clearly through his actions this season put himself above the team.  He has deliberately sat out games to rest up for the all-star game.  He even sat out the Knicks last game before the break against the Orlando Magic to be extra rested for the all-star game!  Yes, he has a knee injury, but if he is hurt, then why can't he sit out the all-star game too?  After he sat out the game against the Magic, it came out that he was thinking about sitting out the rest of the season after the all-star game.  So basically, he threw in the towel on the season and decided to get whatever marketing he could from it by possibly playing an extra five minutes at the all-star game before shutting it down.  Isn't that nice, a guy who is making over $20 million a year is still putting his business aspirations ahead of the team that has allowed him to make money in the first place!

Again, I have no problem with players trying to receive as big of a contract as they can, but once you are under contract with a team, you owe it to them to give a product back to them.  Carmelo Anthony has exceptional talent, but is not a winner and never will be.  He is a selfish player who doesn't take the necessary sacrifices to win.  The other day I was at a Knicks game at Madison Square Garden, and the first thing I see when I get to my seats? An advertisement for Carmelo's new shoe brand.  Its nice to know that while the Knicks are mired in their worst season in the history of the franchise, Carmelo is exploring the "business" side of himself.  If this all-star game was in Indianapolis, he would have had his knee surgery a month ago.  Its disappointing to see that the Knicks star player cares more about his net worth than the team that has given him all the money he wants.  

Carmelo Anthony claims he wants to be an "ambassador" for the Knicks in order to attract marquise free agents for the offseason free agent push.  But Carmelo doesn't have to play five minutes in the all-star game to do that!  He can sit out the game and still partake in all of the festivities and try to showcase New York to offseason free agent options.  That excuse for Melo' is a copout.  And might I add, where is Phil Jackson in all of this?  His inaction says it all.  If he does not condemn Melo' for this, he condones it.  Plain and simple.  He was supposed to come in and stand for a no nonsense policy but in actuality he has done nothing but create more of a mess.  And don't even get me started on James Dolan and his embarrassing response to an upset fan.

This situation has gone from bad to worse, and yes Carmelo Anthony can put a basketball in a hoop, but that is all he can do.  He cannot lead people and does not value other people anywhere close to himself.  Melo' has been a tragic figure because people have felt that he has to carry the team, but no matter how you have viewed him in the past, this is a selfish act and really shows his true colors.  Sorry Melo', but this is just unacceptable.  

Sending your message...
Please wait..
Message sent.
Joel Langstein :