The Giants and Jets started their seasons this week, and things are off to a promising start for one team and not-so-promising start for the other. We shouldn't get too excited or depressed, though. Do some of us want to book Super Bowl tickets already? While others are ready to jump off a bridge (or at least a bar stool, just as an act of symbolism)? Kind of, but not really, I guess. Think back to last year and the difference between the beginning of the season and the end for Big Blue. Things have a way of changing, for good or bad. Just take a look at the Mets. Their 2010 opening day lineup has the look of a split-squad spring training game: Alex Cora (SS), (2B), David Wright (3B), Mike Jacobs (1B), Jason Bay (LF), Gary Matthews Jr. (CF), Jeff Francoeur (RF), Rod Barajas (C) and Johan Santana (P). And now they have the best record in the major leagues. Oh, wait, they're not even close to that; they're hovering right around .500. Holy Rey Ordonez, did we really expect anything out of this team and that offense? (They did hammer and won, 7-1, that day, though). Forget about the Mets as an example.
So while Omar Minaya was busy spending the 2010 season ignoring the turmoil and failures of his team and penning his memoir, How I Turned a Poorly Run Organization Into a Flat-Out Laughingstock in Just Six Short Years, the Yankees were putting another winning product on the field, and Brian Cashman was releasing his book, How To Build a Championship Team in Two Easy Steps. His secret? "First, get $200-plus million to spend on payroll. Next, acquire and trade for the best and most expensive players year after year until you finally win the World Series." His explanation for the success of 2009 after missing out on a championship the previous eight seasons: "To paraphrase Jerry Seinfeld: ‘These aren't plans one through eight; this was plan nine, the one that worked!'" If we take a quick look back at opening day for the Yankees, they're only missing Nick Johnson from their initial lineup. And really, did anyone think he would make it past April? So that one was expected. They've been on a steady course to first place all year long, though they've recently started falling apart, which means there are no givens even with a team with every possible advantage.
So are there any lessons in there for this year'sand Jets? Actually, I don't think there are. I'm not even sure what the heck I'm talking about anymore. But the Jets can at least take solace in the fact that Gary Matthews Jr. and Mike Jacobs aren't on their team and there are still 15 more games to go. And as for the Giants and their fans, they should heed the words of Dewey Cox's brother right before he was cut in half by a machete: "I can't imagine anything bad happening today!"
Here are the top stories of the week in the world of New York sports:
The Battle For New York: The Jets wanted the 2010 season and the opening of the New Meadowlands to also be a battle for the hearts and minds of New Yorkers. They want to take over the stadium. They want to take over the city. They want to take over the NFL. Well, round one went to the old-school Giants. Was the lightning storm that delayed Gang Green's opening night an omen? A sign? A message from Weeb Ewbank to stop all the bragging and nonsense (he's powerful enough to communicate through lightning, isn't he?)? Big Blue won handily while the Jets looked far from the Super Bowl winners they claim they'll be, so after week one, the New Meadowlands is still Giants Stadium.
Open House: The Giants ushered in the New Meadowlands era with a sloppy yet somewhat dominating 31-18 win. The defense forced turnovers, intercepted passes, stopped the run, sacked and knocked Carolina's ineffective QB out of the game - it was a refreshing change of pace from last season's inept, bungling group. Eli Manning and Hakeem Nicks played catch for three TDs. The offensive line and running game got off to a rusty start, but pulled themselves together in the second half. The not so good for the Jints? Too many penalties, too many dropped passes and fumbles, too many special teams screw-ups and too many Matt Dodges on the field (one is too many).
Not Ready For Prime Time: When is a one-point deficit insurmountable? When the Jets offense is the group that is trying overcome that spread. The final score was 10-9, but it wasn't really that close. If the Ravens would have kicked one more field goal it would have been a blowout. It was not a good game for Kyle Wilson. Or Antonio Cromartie (though he did have that one pick and long run-back). Or Shonn Greene. Or Mark Sanchez. Or Braylon Edwards. Or Kris Jenkins. Or Dustin Keller. Or Matt Slauson. Or Rex Ryan. Or Brian Schottenheimer. Or . . . well, you get the idea. All you have to do is ask Joe Namath.
Stay Classy, Gang Green: Immature locker-room behavior directed at a comely female reporter? Suggestive comments lobbed her way? Overthrowing footballs on purpose to sneak a peek at her? Acting like male chauvinist pigs? Are we sure that was the Jets earlier this week, and not Ron Burgundy, Champ Kind and Brian Fantana? Luckily, Ines Sainz had her WWVCD (What Would Veronica Corningstone Do?) bracelet on.
Showdowns & Previews: The Yankees were one Jorge Posada swing of the bat away from losing every game this week (and two swings away from being swept in three straight series). And they failed the tests that were put before them. Potential playoff preview with Texas? Swept. AL East Division up for grabs? Lost two out of three and have dropped to second place. Is that any way to go into the final stretch of the season? The three-game set in Tampa Bay was a tension-filled, playoff-like series, but it was the young Rays who came through in the clutch when it counted and made the Yankees look like yesterday's news. Things have gotten so bad for the Yanks that Derek Jeter had to go all Lee Strasberg to try and get on base. The Bombers are still in great shape - unless they completely collapse, but that won't happen, will it?
Down and/Or Out: Poor Kris Jenkins is out for the season yet again, and may even retire, which is a big blow to the Jets. Kevin Boss sustained another concussion, and will be hanging out with Jason Bay for a while. William Beatty is out for seven or eight weeks with a fractured right foot. Chase Blackburn is out with a knee injury. Johan Santana is done for the year, and likely won't be ready until the 2011 season is already underway. Now Jenrry Mejia is out with a shoulder strain, resulting in the Mets and Giants fighting over who gets to add Bear Pascoe to their roster. And Nick Swisher and Brett Gardner are banged up. At least Andy Pettitte is making his return on Sunday.
Hey, What About Us? The Mets surpassed their win total of last season (70), and the team celebrated by sending Santana under the knife, having their closer violate his restraining order by texting his girlfriend 56 times and trying to put out (or fan the flames, depending on who you believe) the Walter Reed Kerfuffle (if it was any other team, the headlines would read, "22 Out of 25 Players Do Good Deed in Non-Mandatory Event By Visiting Wounded Soldiers" - the Mets do this every year and have never had 100% participation, so why the controversy? Because it was the three guys fans hate and the organization wants to get rid of). On the field, the Mets actually keep winning (hey, the Pirates aren't the worst team in baseball for nothing), and they're above .500 once again. But don't tell Jeff Wilpon that; he'll run out and give extensions to Omar and Jerry.
Signed, Sealed & Delivered: Gary Bettman declared the Ilya Kovalchuk saga as officially over. The Devils were fined $3 million and lost two draft picks as punishment for playing their games in New Jersey, I mean for the rejected contract of the Russian star. New Jersey gave up a lot when they traded for him last season, now throw these penalties, his $100 million contract and the fact that they'll have to jettison a few players to get under the cap onto the pile, and that's one big price to pay. He better be worth it. And in a non-controversial signing, the finally got Marc Staal to put his John Hancock on the dotted line. The just-coming-into-his-prime defenseman is locked up for five years, at $19.875 million, with a cap hit of $3.975 million. Now all the Rangers need to do is send Wade Redden to the Mets' bullpen to take a seat next to Oliver Perez, and they're all set for the start of training camp.
(For in-depth analysis and discussion of the Yankees, Mets, Giants, Jets, Rangers and Devils, go to SB Nation's Pinstripe Alley, Amazin' Avenue, Big Blue View, Gang Green Nation, Blueshirt Banter and In Lou We Trust, respectively.)