Baseball is here, so with all due respect to the New Jersey Nets, New York Islanders and New Jersey Devils unless one of their players performs some miraculous feat in the last handful of games, we're moving on to playoff contenders and the local baseball teams here at the Player of the Week (Patrik Elias did notch a hat trick against the Flyers on Friday night, keeping his team mathematically alive for one more day, so there's a shout-out for a member of one of those teams right there). One season is beginning and two are coming to a close, with the New York Rangers fighting and clawing their way to the postseason and the New York Knicks finally clinching a playoff spot. The New York Yankees were a home-run hitting machine in the first series of the year. And with jokes, wisecracks, snickers, insinuations, accusations and Family Guy clips flying fast and furious, the New York Mets got the last laugh over the weekend by coming out of Florida with a series win. Here we go, with the first springtime edition of the Player of the Week.
Mark Teixeira: Mr. Slow Start isn't starting very slow this season. In fact he better slow down or the Bombers will expect a start like this every year. The sweet-swinging first baseman led the long ball barrage for the Yankees, with a trio of dingers, including a pair of three-run moon shots. He's now on pace for 162 home runs and 378 RBIs! I'm confident that he can keep up this pace. All stupidly ridiculous comments aside, a fast start by Teixeira would be a huge bonus for the Yanks to help cover for the unpredictable pitching they may receive. Another Yankee who's mashing the ball is Russell Martin, who's off to a beautiful beginning to his career in the Bronx. After three games, the catcher's batting .455, with a three-run homer himself. Alex Rodriguez is hitting .400. After embarrassing himself by going into his home-run trot on opening day when he mistakenly thought he hit one out, he went into his same routine again on Saturday, but at least the ball went over the wall this time. On the mound, CC Sabathia did his job on opening day, going six innings and only allowing two earned runs, while striking out seven. And Mariano Rivera picked up a save in the two Yankee wins.
Runners Up & Other Notables
Willie Harris: While the Yankees' season opener might as well have been penned by a Hollywood screenwriter--the pitching staff all doing their jobs to a T, dramatic home runs, diving catches, empty seats galore (well, except for that part)--the Mets' 2011 debut played out as if it were written by, well, a Hollywood screenwriter who's a Yankee or Phillie fan, or maybe an author of horror flicks. There was a collective sigh of relief when Harris cracked his double to the gap in the seventh inning to break up Josh Johnson's no-hitter. Harris came through again the following night with a pinch-hit two-run double. And in his first plate appearance in the third game, he cracked a two-run homer. He's the new Met folk hero, and he's sporting a .400 batting average after the first series of the year. David Wright had a big game on Saturday, with three hits, including a solo homer and the game-winning hit in the 10th inning. Josh Thole has a .444 average, and had what could have been the game-winning hit in the team's first win of the year if Frankie Rodriguez didn't blow his first save opportunity of the season. Was anger the secret to the closer's success? Ike Davis is also off to a good start, with a home run and a .364 batting average. And the Mets got two stellar starting pitching performances from Jon Niese and R.A. Dickey, not to mention Bobby Parnell's perfect inning on Saturday when he was throwing nothing but heat.
Carmelo Anthony: They're in! After seven long, frustrating, fruitless, infuriating, hapless, disappointing, confounding, wretched, miserable, unhappy, hair-pulling, maddening years, the Knicks are finally back in the playoffs. They pulled themselves together after going through a "sky-is-falling" period, with Anthony stepping up his game and showing some toughness and leadership. In Monday's win over Orlando and Wednesday's nail-biter against the Nets, he put the team on his back and willed them to wins. And playing a little defense didn't hurt either. The former Nugget poured in 39 points and grabbed 10 boards in both games, and added five assists in the win over the Nets. Chauncey Billups has found his second wind, piling up 33 points, six assists and six rebounds in the victory over the Nets, and scoring 23 while dishing out seven assists in Sunday's win. The MVP chants were back in full force for Amar'e Stoudemire, who looked rejuvenated on Sunday, after appearing worn out and playing like he was stuck in the mud for a few games. And let's give Shelden Williams his due. He's moved into the starting lineup at center, and against New Jersey he tapped in six consecutive points during a crucial stage of the game, and against Cleveland he scored nine points and hauled in six boards.
Wojtek Wolski: The Rangers didn't really have any stars this week, especially in the first two games, a 1-0 loss to Buffalo (well, Henrik Lundqvist was good in that game) and a 6-2 shellacking at the hands of the Islanders. But the third game of the week was the latest "most important game of the year" game for the Blueshirts and it was a doozey. After getting no help from the Islanders or Devils on Saturday, the team had to win on Sunday. But a shootout with the Flyers with the season on the line again? Holy smokes. But this time the Rangers came out on top. After Flyer Sean O'Donnell tried to send a message to the Rangers in the opening minute of the game by repeatedly getting punched in the face by Brandon Prust, the Blueshirts wouldn't be intimidated. Bryan McCabe scored a clutch goal with less than a second left in the first period, and Ruslan Fedotenko notched the Rangers' second goal. And Lundqvist was his usual solid self in goal (and during his specialty--the shootout). But it was the skills competition twins Erik Christensen and Wolski who gave the Rangers that extra point they needed. Whew. Three games left, and they're all must-wins, too.