We're ending our first week of a Luis Castillo- and Oliver Perez-less New York, and (as all people say as they're about to offend someone) no offense to the veteran second baseman and erratic lefty but the air smells a little cleaner, the sky's a little bluer and the grass is just a little greener nowadays. Even though it seemed like their release was always imminent, there was the scary idea that the New York Mets would be stubborn or eye the dearth of options at second base and all the money they'd be throwing away and hang onto Castillo and/or Perez. But no, the duo that represents the failed Omar Minaya tenure is actually gone. To paraphrase Mickey Rourke in Barfly, I don't hate Castillo and Perez, I just seem to feel better when they're not around. And Met fans everywhere are celebrating. They're so happy and excited, in fact, that they're dancing in the streets and doing the Funky Chicken:
And now on to the top (but not as funky) stories of the week in the world of New York sports.
There Will Be Blood: The New York Knicks were in no mood to do the Funky Chicken this week, as they lost all four games they played. They were defeated by the Pistons on Friday night, which was the lowlight of Carmelo Anthony's young Knick career, as he sulked, skulked and stormed off after the game. After falling behind by the seemingly impossible score of 32-9 to the Bucks on Sunday, the Knicks fought back but ultimately lost to Milwaukee. They followed that game up with a street-fight loss to the Celtics. There were blood, guts and stitches galore (and Matt Cooke wasn't even in the building), but the Knicks blew a big lead as Boston schooled them in the ways of winning. And on Wednesday, Orlando pretty much did the same thing to the Knicks, minus the blood. Whether legitimate or not, the excuses are coming fast and furious from the Knicks: They're fatigued, they need time, they haven't practiced together, they have to learn to play together, they need to see what they have, the defensive schemes are too complicated, an old friend came into town, they left their suit at the cleaners and on and on. It's all true, but in the meantime, they're falling apart. But they'll eventually pull themselves together one of these days, won't they?
Not the Knicks: As for the New Jersey Nets, like the Knicks, they also lost to the Bucks, also had trouble holding a lead (and a mammoth one at that against Washington), lost to the Pacers (which the Knicks did twice last week), but un-Knickified themselves on Wednesday with a hard-fought overtime win in Cleveland, highlighted by Kris Humphries' career-high 23 rebounds. They also signed the defensively talented, tough Sundiata Gaines to an extension.
Up, Down and Hanging Around: The Ottawa Senators helped to sabotage the New Jersey Devils' miracle run to the playoffs, and they tried to make things harder for the New York Rangers as well on Thursday. The Senators are a last-place team everywhere but the tri-state area, where they turn into the 1921 Stanley Cup-winning Ottawa Senators, led by Hall of Famers Cy Denneny and Clint Benedict. Though they didn't play with the usual Blueshirt-like energy and passion, the Rangers did escape with a point thanks to Henrik Lundqvist's heroics. And with 11 out of a possible 12 points in their last six games, the Rangers are now closer to sixth-place Montreal than ninth-place Carolina. They also helped get rid of cheap-shot artist Matt Cooke for a while along the way. The Devils lost two more games this week, to Washington and Boston, which just about buries them for the year. Zach Parise is back practicing with the team but it just may be too late. Meanwhile, the New York Islanders are hanging in right behind New Jersey, with a 2-1-1 record this week. Rick DiPietro returned with a win over Florida on Saturday, but they were done in by old friend Rob Schremp in Thursday's loss to Atlanta.
A New Day Dawning: The Castillo and Perez soap opera is finally over. Perez signed a minor league deal with Washington, and will most likely end up in Syracuse (now he'll accept a minor league assignment?), while Castillo was scooped up by the Phillies The bitter second baseman showed up late and was scratched from the lineup on his first day with his new team. He's all yours Philadelphia. The second base situation is starting to come into focus. Justin Turner was sent down to the minors while Daniel Murphy is seemingly pegged for a bench/utility role. Brad Emaus is the front runner and the front office's choice, while Terry Collins hyped up Luis Hernandez as his man. But Emaus helped his cause with four hits including a home run on Thursday. The Carlos Beltran watch continues. He DH'd in a few minor league games, and Collins and Sandy Alderson are still saying they're hopeful he'll be in right field on opening day. They now have a plan to get him ready for the season, which we hope will be more than just crossing their fingers and hoping for the best. But what else can they do?
New York Yankees Spring Hodgepodge: Are oblique strains contagious? Just as Greg Golson, Joba Chamberlain and Sergio Mitre are recovering from their oblique injuries, Curtis Granderson is now questionable for opening day, which means shadow-of-his-former-self Andruw Jones will have to start in left field. Joe Girardi has anointed A.J. Burnett as his No. 2 starter and the inconsistent hurler celebrated by unleashing two wild pitches and hit a batter, though he didn't walk anybody in his start on Friday (he let in four runs with three walks and eight strikeouts in a minor league game on Wednesday). No matter his strides of success, there's a feeling of doom with every errant pitch Burnett uncorks. Bartolo Colon, who has a 2.40 ERA this spring and has hit the mid-90s on the radar gun, has outpitched Freddy Garcia (5.93 ERA), but Girardi is still leaning toward the former White Sox pitcher for that last spot in the rotation, as Colon has been on the shelf so long that the last major league batter that he faced was Gene Michael. Meanwhile, Rafael Soriano's request that he not pitch against AL East teams this spring has been granted. His plea that he only face the actors who portrayed the New York Knights in The Natural fell on deaf ears, though. And Alex Rodriguez just keeps raking. I think his batting average is now over 1.000. Is he peaking too early?
Say it Ain't So, LT: New York Giant legend Lawrence Taylor was sentenced to six years' probation this week, and he will be registered as a sex offender. His story just gets sadder every year. There's no dancing in the streets for anyone involved in this case.