A few weeks ago, my daughter turned on the TV just as I walked into the room, and a baseball game appeared on the screen. She said, "The Mets game is on, Dad." I told her that it was a replay of the previous night's game. Slightly hesitating, she asked if this was like a TV rerun or if the players actually had to reenact the game from the night before. I answered that it was a rerun, but reenacting the game is not such a bad idea actually. I think she's really hit on something. Football teams have walk-throughs before a game, but how about after? If a team plays a horrible, sloppy, nightmarish game (like, oh, say the New York Jets vs. the Baltimore Ravens), make the players reenact the whole thing to teach them a lesson. Maybe the opponent can be played by stand-ins or the practice squad players. It could be like one of the Civil War reenactments. How else are they going to learn? Wouldn't this be better than five minutes of Rex Ryan throwing F-bombs around during a team meeting? Get back on the field for three-plus hours and painstakingly re-create what happened in the last game. It's now too late for the New York Yankees to learn from their mistakes, but not for the Jets, so if Mark Sanchez's nose needs to be re-broken for authenticity, then so be it. Studying game film afterward just isn't the same as being back out there and going through the torturous exercise one more time. And then make the players sit in the stands and witness two teams of stand-ins replay the game -- if we had to sit through the debacle, why shouldn't the players?
And now on to the top stories of the week in the world of New York sports.
Is That It? If the Boston Red Sox's season ended in a cataclysmic, apocalyptic explosion of a collapse, the Yankees' season finished with a dull thud. The starting rotation was in disarray due to rain, short rest and finally injury, and they didn't give the team much quantity, but they did give the Yankees a chance to win every game. With the exception of one Rafael Soriano home run, the bullpen was excellent, from top to bottom. It was the juggernaut offense that let the team down. The bats produced two blowout wins, but in the three losses, they stranded base runners at a dizzying pace. And their clutch hitting was nowhere to be seen. In Games 1 and 2, Robinson Cano and Derek Jeter ended ninth-inning rallies, and everyone up and down the lineup came up short in Game 5. And the middle of the order -- Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, Nick Swisher -- was flat-out terrible. Sure, there were highlights in the series -- Cano's Game 1 heroics, Curtis Granderson doing his 1969 Tommie Agee impression (both made catches in right-center and left-center, all four were the third out of the inning and all came with runners on base), Ivan Nova coming up big in the first game and A.J. Burnett's surprisingly decent outing -- but you have to give credit to the Detroit Tigers, who made pitches when they had to and got the big hit when needed. One thing we've learned the last two years about the present edition of the Bombers is that opposing teams don't come into Yankee Stadium in October, awed by monuments and pennants, and tremble at the sight of THE NEW YORK YANKEES. I'm not going to predict the future, because the Yankees could surely go on a World Series-winning spree, but 2009 is looking more like an aberration than a pattern of success. It's now one World Series win in the last 11 years for Brian Cashman, after spending more than a billion dollars. Money can buy Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira and CC Sabathia, but it can't always buy a happy ending.
Miracle in the Dessert: The buzzword of the week for the New York Giants coming into their game against the Arizona Cardinals was "letdown," and the game was playing out just that way until Eli Manning reached into his magical, fourth-quarter bag of tricks and came through in the clutch yet again, leading his team to an impressive comeback win. There must be something in the Arizona air that agrees with Manning, as he channeled his miraculous Super Bowl heroics and did his Cool Hand Eli routine once again, this time with Hakeem Nicks, who had a monster game (10 catches, 162 yards), hauling in the winning touchdown pass playing the role of Plaxico Burress. And if David Tyree's helmet catch was the miracle play back in February of '08, Victor Cruz's stop, drop and roll was the memorable play this time around (and though it's rarely seen, if you go by the letter of the rule, the refs made the correct call). The offense began slowly, and the running game never began at all (now ranked 24th in the NFL), but Jake Ballard (three receptions, 33 yards) made an acrobatic touchdown catch, while Nicks and Cruz (six catches, 98 yards) are forming a solid one-two punch for Manning to target. Though the defense couldn't stop the run for the second consecutive week (21st in the league), they were relentless in their pursuit of Kevin Kolb, with Dave Tollefson sacking him twice, and in Osi Umenyiora's 2011 debut, he came up with one of his signature strip sacks and had a key fourth-quarter sack as well. Antrel Rolle played well and intercepted a pass, and if the theme of the season for the team is "Finish," Corey Webster did just that, batting down Kolb's final pass of the day to seal the game. The now have three consecutive 1:00 home games with a bye week thrown in to keep the momentum going.
Panic in NJ: Mark Sanchez was lucky to come out of Sunday night's game alive. The offensive line couldn't have done a worse job protecting their quarterback. Though he was running for his life most of the game, Sanchez couldn't have been worse himself, with three fumbles and an interception, with three of those turnovers leading directly to touchdowns. With no depth on the front line, has a team missed anyone as much as the Nick Mangold (who thankfully might play this weekend)? Gang Green was hoping for a rebound after the loss in Oakland, and was framing that game as an aberration, but the Ravens game was even more of a disaster than the Raiders game, and the team is in full crisis mode with the New England Patriots up next. Everyone from Santonio Holmes to Joe Namath is pointing fingers, placing blame all over the place. While the offense was a disaster, with no running game to boot either (ranked 30th in the league), the defense was ok, but they still can't stop the run (27th in the NFL). But for any chance to win this game, the D would have had to match Baltimore's defense in the scoring department, but only came up with one touchdown themselves, which wasn't enough. And now they have another season-ending injury, as well, with Bryan Thomas gone for the year. Joe McKnight provided the highlight of the game for the Jets, with a 107-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, which was the longest play in franchise history. And when he surprisingly took the field on the defensive side of the ball, McKnight pressured Joe Flacco into throwing the ball right to David Harris, who ran it back for a TD. Will the sight of the Patriots turn them back into the lean, mean fighting green machine they've been in the first two seasons of the Rex Ryan era? Or has the dismantling of the offensive and defensive lines doomed them for the foreseeable future?miss
Here Comes Hockey: With no basketball on the horizon, hockey season will be in the limelight just a little more this year, and it all starts on Friday and Saturday around here. If any old-timers remember the old TV show Soap, and how they ended each episode with a string of questions, asking how the conflicts and action will resolve themselves, well, that's what we'll do here for the local hockey teams. For the New York Rangers, will Marc Staal (who will not play in the first two games of the season in Sweden) be healthy enough to play the other 80 games and not miss any significant amount of time? And how will the defense shake out if Staal can't play? Will Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik find chemistry together? Will those two ever find a permanent left wing to play with? Will the team regret waiving Sean Avery (though he may wind up in Connecticut and back up to the Blueshirts before we know it)? Will all the team's young players take another step forward this season? Will Brandon Dubinsky finally have a full year of consistency? Is this the year Henrik Lundqvist (who gets to be a conquering hero in his home country to begin the season) finally wins the Vezina? And will Glen Sather's predictions come true?
The New Jersey Devils' Turn: Will they find a way to score more than last season? Will Pete DeBoer fare better than John MacLean did in his first season behind the bench? Will Adam Larrson be as good as advertised? Can Ilya Kovalchuk click with any centers on the team? Can a team whose two best players are both left wings win? Will this be new captain Zach Parise's last season with the Devils? Will Martin Brodeur make it through the whole season and can he still play at a high, Brodeur-like level? How much will Travis Zajac's injury affect the team? Will the return of Petr Sykora be a success?
And Now the New York Islanders: Who will end up being the starting goalie, Rick DiPietro or Evgeni Nabokov? Will all the young talent translate into a playoff spot? With the team being relatively healthy to start the year compared to last year (with the exceptions of Nino Niederreiter and Trevor Gillies starting on IR), will they get off to a fast start? Will a full year plus training camp of Jack Capuano be a difference-maker? Will John Tavares turn into a full-fledged star this season? Will Niederreiter and Josh Bailey take big strides this year? Can Michael Grabner do it two years in a row? Can Mark Streit be a consistent defensive presence to complement his offensive game? Will the veteran experience of Jay Pandolfo and Marty Reasoner make a difference for the team? And will they still be playing on Long Island when the season's over?
Shake It Up: The New York Mets made some coaching changes this week. Chip Hale is off to Oakland to be Bob Melvin's bench coach, and Mookie Wilson, Ken Oberkfell and Jon DeBus are also out, but Dan Warthen and Dave Hudgens will remain with the team. Tim Teufel takes over as the third-base coach and Ricky Bones is the new bullpen coach, with the bench coach and first-base coach positions yet to be filled. And old Met (and Yankee) Robin Ventura is surprisingly the new manager of the Chicago White Sox.
This Day in Baseball History: This Sunday, October 9, is the fiftieth anniversary of the 1961 Yankees winning the World Series. With the Roger Maris/Mickey Mantle home run chase, and the team belting a then-record 240 home runs, which helped them win 109 games, the World Series itself is mostly forgotten. The Yankees cruised to the AL title (that was the first year of the 162-game schedule, with the expansion Washington Los Angeles Angels joining the league, though the NL stuck with the old 154-game schedule for one last year), while the Cincinnati Reds beat out the Dodgers by four games. With the preceding and following World Series each ending with memorable at-bats (Bill Mazeroski's homer in 1960 and Willie McCovey hitting a scalding liner into Bobby Richardson's glove with two runners on and the Yanks holding a one-run lead in '62), the 1961 Series has fallen through the cracks. The Yankees won in five games, with Whitey Ford being named the MVP. He pitched a two-hit shutout in Game 1 (which took only two hours and 11 minutes to play), and threw five shutout innings before leaving the game with an ankle injury in Game 4, breaking Babe Ruth's World Series consecutive-inning shutout streak in the process. The Reds won, 6-2, in Game 2, but the Yankees won out from there, with scores of 3-2, 7-0 and 13-5. Roger Maris went 2-for-19 in the Series, but hit the winning home run in the top of the ninth in Game 3, while Mantle went 2-for-6 and sat out most of the games with an injury. Richardson led the team with nine hits (and also hit .391), while Johnny Blanchard hit two home runs and Moose Skowron drove in five runs.and