Friday, May 2, 2008

Michael Wilbon is a knucklehead

So we're trying something new here at Through Your Earpiece today. Since it's the first Friday in May, Crasher and I thought we'd bring you alittle discussion PTI style. We're going to go with a few topics and aruge back and forth as best we can on a blog, feel free to comment.

First topic: Derek Jeter's start to this season

Net Crasher: The only concern I have about Derek Jeter is that he has some work to do to make the all-start team. Otherwise, the Yankee captain will be just fine. He is hitting .286 and effectively hitting the ball into the holes in both directions – truly “Jeterarian” as Michael Kay would say. Sure he is not hitting too many doubles and has yet to steal a base but let’s put that in the grand scheme of the struggling Yankee offense. In front of Jeter is Damon who is hitting .275 and is second on the team in strike outs (which means there is a good chance Jeter is up with no one and one out) Behind Jeter is Abreu who has been the most productive Yankee, so all Jeter really has needed to do is hit singles. No need for him to stretch doubles and steal bases. If I am Joe Girardi I am much more worried about Robinson Cano and Jason Giambi than Derek Jeter. To kick start this offense and pick up the slack for Posada and A-rod, they will have to get going.

Game Misconduct: The fact that Johnny Damon not only still bats leadoff, but is still in the Majors just baffles me. But we’re not here to discuss the man who once looked more like Captain Caveman than a baseball player. Jeter’s average is fourth best on the team at .286 and does face an uphill battle batting behind Damon. I’m a little discouraged at the fact that he has no stolen bases and only 5 extra base hits. The Yankees offense is clearly in the toilet right now which is due to injuries and just not scoring enough runs to win games. Robby Cano (who is killing my fantasy teams) was touted as a soon-to-be AL MVP, but he’s hitting .155 with 7 RBI’s. 7 RBI’s in 30 games is just not good. There’s only so far an excuse like “he’s a slow starter” will carry you until you label this season a step in the wrong direction of his growth as a player. Back to Jeter though, as captain isn’t it his job to try and pick up the rest of the team when they are clearly struggling?

Crasher: I just don't see what more he can do for the team. The last thing you want Jeter to do is swing for the fences at every AB. He's a table setter - the Yanks still have enough power to bring him around.

Game: Maybe what I'm trying to get at, is he really captain worthy or just a very good player? I feel like A-rod may be the only threatening bat in the lineup with most of the younger guys struggling, and the older veterans not hitting well either. Is this a transition/rebuilding period for the Yankees but no one wants to use the big scary "R" word in New York? There's little to no middle ground, they're either old and near the end of their careers or young guns still learning the game. That goes for the pitching staff as well.

Crasher: I think this is a rebuilding year for the Yanks, not to say they can't make a run. The rebuilding is really more with the pitchers though. We have seen great things out of Melky Cabrera, and I am confident Cano will get back on track.

Game: Let's hope so, or else the fans may burn down Yankee Stadium before they can move into the new one.

2nd Topic: Let's take a look at how the big names are performing in the Pens/Rangers series, now at 3-1

Game: As a Ranger fan I’m going to try to be as impartial as possible. For the Pen’s their big names have played extremely well. Geno Malkin, right now is probably the best player on that team, ahead of Captain Sid the Kid. In Game 3 he was absolutely dominant, ending the game with 4 points. Sid’s been good but he hasn’t taken over a game yet and the Rangers D is doing a decent job of not giving him time and space to make plays. His line with Marian Hossa and Dupuis are quick off the transition and always a threat to score. Hossa continues to shed the label he earned in Ottawa as a playoff disappointment, but the Pens still paid a high price to get him at the deadline. Fleury has been very good showing that the first overall pick the Pens used to select him was not a giant mistake, although Eric Staal (selected #2) wouldn’t have been a bad choice either. The Pens player I’m most impressed with is Jordan Staal. He’s fast, has soft hands, and at 19 years old is a fantastic penalty killer.

On the Rangers end, Jaromir Jagr is playing like a man possessed. At the age of 36 people were saying he was washed up during the regular season, but over the past two months he’s shown that when he wants to be he can still be a dominant offensive force, and after so many years in the league I think he should be allowed a little lee way during the regular season. At least he didn’t pull a Niedermayer/Selanne and sit out most of the year only to come back for the final 2 months and playoffs. He's even acted as a mentor to the young Dubinsky. Brendan Shannahan’s presence on the ice has a calming effect on the team, but against a fast team like the Pen’s his age has clearly shown. He’s still an extremely smart player and a good leader but his contributions on the ice are not what they once were. Tom Renney made a good move in game 3 and 4 in moving Shanny down the depth chart in order to keep him fresh for the power play and penalty kills. Lundqvist has not been able to steal a game until Game 4. He was brilliant in the first period allowing the Rangers to take the 1-0 lead in the middle of the second. Without him this series is over. Game 2 he was excellent as well, losing because of a Roszival defensive miscue. Lastly, Marc Staal and Brandon Dubinsky play with so much poise they look like 30-something year old veterans that belies their inability to grow facial hair.

Crasher: As much as I wanted the Rangers to get embarrassed, I am happy to see this series continue on. There are few bigger names in the Eastern Conference now playing in this series. For the Pens, I agree, Malkin has been stellar. He has been throwing his body around and is seemingly always at the right place at the right time. He leads the Pens in the playoffs with 13 points. In the East, he is only behind Danny Briere and Jaromir Jagr. Jagr leads all players with 15 points. His scoring on Fleury and then getting lit up by Brooks Orpik had to be the highlight of the game. Naturally, this has gotten great production out of Jagr’s line: Straka (10 pts) and Dubinsky (8 pts). The Blue Shirts would be foolish not to resign him next year.

I would take it easy on Sid the Kid though. I have liked his physical play and his ability to spread the puck around. His mere presence on this ice makes opposing coaches shuffle up defensemen and create match-up problem. I believe splitting Crosby from Malkin has been a great benefit for Geno. Let’s also credit the Pens blue line. How about that feed from Gonchar to Malkin resulting in the penalty shot? Gonchar has 5 points (in 8 playoff games). Scdueri is at a plus 6. I think they will be crucial for the Pens to go the distance.

More later....

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