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Jastremski: A New Fab 5 in the Boogie Down

In the middle of Rangers fever, Instagram and the nature of the new Yankee Stadium, it’s tough to get a June crowd rocking the way you would an October crowd.

Sadly, the nature of the beast these days. However, Thursday night was one of those nights where you could tell the new Yankee Stadium was very much alive and well.

Jameson Taillon was two innings away from making history, but at the same time the outcome of the ballgame was very much in doubt.

The stadium crowd was living and dying on every strike, every pitch and every out.

Taillon lost the perfect game in the 8th inning and surrendered a run, but in many ways the Yankee crowd and Anthony Rizzo was not going to let the pitching performance go wasted.

The Yankees came back and won the game. Yankee Stadium was going bananas and I was in quite the good mood.

Little did I know, Taillon’s performance on Thursday night was just part one of a Yankee starter flirting with perfection.

Friday, the ace on paper Gerrit Cole was nothing short of brilliant against the Detroit Tigers.

Cole took a perfect game into the 7th inning.

Back to back starts with two guys seriously flirting with perfect games? I watch a whole lot of baseball, that simply doesn’t happen.

On Saturday, Luis Severino wasn’t flirting with a perfecto, but he delivered a 1 hit, 7 inning shutout masterpiece.

I know the Tigers lineup is nothing to write home about, but it will be tough to imagine three starts in a row from teammates being better than Taillon, Cole and Severino in 2022 throughout the sport.

The Yankees are rolling every which way so far this season and their starting pitching has hands down been the biggest reason.

Entering the 2022 season, I expected Gerritt Cole to be the ace of the staff and everything else would fall into place.

I didn’t expect that the highest era for a Yankee starter would be Jordan Montgomery’s 3.02, which is 14th amongst starters in the American League.

I thought this Yankee rotation would surprise people, because I expected a resurgent year from Severino and I believed in Cortes.

Could I have imagined this would be what the rotation would look like in the middle of June?

Not in a million years.

The last time the Yankees received high quality starting pitching like this, the end result was a parade down the Canyon of Heroes.

It’s premature to start thinking about that, but it’s not premature thinking about the possibility of multiple Yankee starters finding their way to Los Angeles for the All-Star Game.

I know the Fab 5 has branding rights, but the Yankees have a Fab 5 of their own.

A Fab 5 on the mound in the Boogie Down Bronx.

You can listen to my podcast New York, New York on The Ringer Podcast Network every Sunday, Tuesday & Thursday nights on Spotify & Apple Podcasts. You can watch me nightly on Geico Sportsnight after Mets postgame on SNY.

Jastremski: Comeback Blueshirts Conference Finals Bound

All season long, the New York Rangers have continued to find ways to win.

In some ways, it shouldn’t surprise anyone what this team has been able to accomplish so far this postseason.

However, in other ways. It should!

The Rangers have won five consecutive games facing elimination. No easy feat.

They were down 3-1 against the Penguins and found a way to rally.

In the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Carolina Hurricanes, the Rangers found themselves in familiar territory.

After a lackluster Game 5 effort, the Rangers proceeded to outscore Carolina 11-4 in the final two games of the series advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 2015.

The Rangers dominating 6-2 Game 7 win was the first home loss for the Carolina Hurricanes all postseason.

The Rangers beat the Hurricanes because of two main reasons.

Special Teams and goaltending.

The Rangers power-play was responsible for the first two goals of Game 7. Adam Fox and Chris Kreider delivered in ways that the Carolina Hurricanes could not.

There was no comparison between the Rangers and Hurricanes power play units.

In addition, there was no comparison between goaltenders.

Igor Shesterskin was spectacular in all seven games in net.

The goaltender advantage was overwhelming for the Blueshirts.

They will not have the same advantage going into the Conference Finals against the two time defending champion Tampa Bay Lightning.

The Lightning are on the verge of a dynasty, they are battle tested and well rested.

Is this a series you expect the Rangers to win, probably not.

Guess what, doesn’t matter.

The Rangers have spunk, they have terrific goaltending and special teams and they have nothing to lose.

A young, emerging Rangers team against a budding dynasty.

I’ve learned my lesson with this Rangers group, don’t count them out.

You can listen to my podcast New York, New York every Sunday, Tuesday & Thursday on the Ringer Podcast Network on Spotify & Apple Podcasts. You can also watch me nightly on Geico Sportsnight on SNY.

Jastremski: No Max, No Problem For Now…

About a week ago, there was a collective sigh across Met land.

Top of the 6th inning. Ace pitcher Max Scherzer was on the mound up to his usual tricks against the St. Louis Cardinals lineup, then all of a sudden… a gut punch.

Max Scherzer gesturing for the trainer and removing himself from the ballgame put every Met fan on alert.

The prized ace and difference-maker grimaced in pain. What could it be?

Did Mets fans think the worst? Of course, they did, and honestly who could blame them.

It’s part of being a Mets fan, after all just look at what has transpired with Jacob deGrom over the past year.

Thankfully the news on Scherzer was not the worst-case scenario.

Scherzer hurt his oblique. They’re tricky, he will miss around 6 to 8 weeks, but it’s not a season-ending injury.

That said, I wondered following the news how the Mets would respond down two aces.

So far, they’ve been at the top of their game.

On Thursday, the Mets overcame an Edwin Diaz blown save which in reality was the end result of bad defense, and turned that into a Pete Alonso signature walk-off homer moment.

Sunday, the Mets found a way to win yet another series against the Colorado Rockies with some clutch hitting, quality pitching, and top-notch defense.

It’s closing in on Memorial Day weekend which is one of those milestone markers in the baseball season to evaluate progress.

So far, everything about the 2022 Mets season has been a joy to watch.

The team plays hard, they have a ton of grit and unlike the teams of the last few years, they find ways to win.

The 2020-2021 Mets found ways to lose.

The 2022 Mets find ways to win.

Is that the direct result of Buck Showalter’s presence? Well, his leadership most certainly plays a role, because his approach to the game is easy to see all over the Mets team.

The Scherzer injury would have been a convenient excuse for a tailspin.

Not for the 2022 Mets. Not now at least.

It’s the end of May, but the more you see of this baseball team, the more you like…

You can listen to my podcast New York, New York every Sunday, Tuesday & Thursday evenings on the Ringer Podcast Network on Spotify & Apple Podcasts. You can also watch me nightly on Geico Sportsnight on SNY.

Jastremski: Is lowly NY Football about to turn a corner?

The NY Football situation since the 2012 season has been as bad as it gets around the sport.

This is no secret, after all, just take a peak at the record for the Jets and Giants over the past ten years.

A whole lot of losses and not a whole lot of meaningful Decembers…

Last week was a unique opportunity based upon ineptitude and a wise trade for each of course. The Jets and Giants had four of the top ten picks in the 2022 NFL Draft.

I would hope it’s a situation that we don’t see ever again.

The 2022 Draft opened the door for the Giants and Jets to spark franchise turnarounds.

Look, it’s impossible to know for sure if these teams get it right or wrong, but on paper it looked quite spectacular for both teams.

The Jets are in the third year of the Joe Douglas tenure.

His 2020 draft was very suspect and his 2021 draft produced instant results.

The 2022 draft saw the Jets address three major needs. Cornerback, Wide Receiver and Defensive End.

Sauce Gardner was as good as it gets at Cincinnati. You couldn’t score on the guy.

With Tyreke Hill, Jalen Waddle and Stefon Diggs all suiting up in the AFC East, it behooves the Jets to have a lockdown corner.

The Jets had better hope Sauce is way closer to Revis than Millner…

Garrett Wilson provides second year quarterback Zack Wilson with another talented receiver to throw to. The Jets sure hope that Wilson can play alongside last years talented rookie Elijah Moore as a tandem for years to come.

In addition, Douglas wisely traded back into the first round to snag defensive end Jermaine Johnson who has a chance to be the first legitimate home grown edge rusher since John Abraham, who was drafted over twenty years ago…

The Jets have been re-tooling and rebuilding for the past few seasons, but now it’s time to start winning some games.

For the Giants, the new regime of Joe Schoen and Brian Daboll went to the roots of what has made the Giants successful with their two first round picks.

The Giants snagged the electrifying Kayvon Thibodeaux out of Oregon. Thibodeaux has a booming personality, thinks very highly of himself and should be wrecking havoc on quarterbacks for years to come.

For some, there were questions about Thibodeaux’s attitude. I don’t have the same questions, in fact I see a player who has the swagger and confidence that is made for New York.

The Giants saw the draft board fall perfectly to allow them to end up with a stud pass rusher and one of the top three linemen on the board.

Evan Neal is a big boy, has Alabama pedigree and has no issues playing Right Tackle.

A team that has had major issues on the offensive line, should have two pillars at tackle for years to come with Neal joining forces with Andrew Thomas.

On paper, everything looks terrific for both the Jets and Giants.

It’s hard for me to knock anything I saw on draft day.

However, these grades don’t go final for a few years.

The Jets and Giants have seen way too many F’s over the last few years, it’s time to start passing some NFL classes…

The Jets and Giants need some long term A’s…

You can listen to my podcast New York, New York every Sunday, Wednesday & Friday plus Ringer Gambling Picks on Tuesday & Friday on The Ringer Podcast Network on Spotify & Apple Podcasts.

You can watch me nightly on Geico Sportsnight after Mets games on SNY.

Yanks Off the Mat

The 2021 Yankees season should have a surgeon’s general warning attached to it. It’s almost a guarantee every night that the Yankees will play a game that comes down to the wire.
I was shocked to find out that the Yankees are actually 19-12 in one-run games this season. After all, we’ve all watched the Yankees this season right?
I’ve legitimately lost count when it comes to the amount of excruciating and gut-wrenching defeats, especially at the hands of the bullpen, over the last two months.
In the Field of Dreams game on Thursday night, the Yankees suffered another back-breaking loss in the middle of a cornfield to the White Sox.
The dramatics of Giancarlo Stanton’s two-out, ninth-inning go-ahead home run were vanquished within ten minutes when White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson returned the favor in the bottom half of the inning.
After Thursday night, I legitimately wondered how many more of these losses the Yankees could withstand the rest of this season.
After all, they’ve had at least eight-to-ten losses this year when it was totally fair to wonder if the team and its players would be able to recover.
However, there’s one thing that shouldn’t be questioned when it comes to the 2021 Yankees: the team gets off the mat and responds.
Look at this weekend for instance.
The Yankees lost a heartbreaking game to one of the most talented teams in the American League. They had every reason to whine, allow it to linger in the Windy City, and lead to an extended funk, but the team did the exact opposite.
The Yankees survived a bullpen meltdown on Saturday and a near meltdown on Sunday, but won the series against Chicago.
A Yankees team dealing with a ton of injuries and COVID has put together the best record in the AL in the second half of the season.
I have been very critical of Yankees manager Aaron Boone throughout the season, but he deserves a ton of credit for keeping this team together.
I am officially done when it comes to counting the 2021 Yankees out after a bad loss. Despite their flaws, the team has shown a whole lot of resilience.
But can that resilience propel the Yankees into the month of October? The answer in the middle of August is drastically different from what it would have been one month ago. If you’re a Yankees fan, that is a good thing.
It’s time to finish the job.

You can listen to my podcast “New York, New York” on The Ringer Podcast Network every Sunday Night, Wednesday Early Morning & Friday Early Morning on Spotify & Apple Podcasts. 

Half-Full or Empty?

Let’s get this out of the way right now, the Mets had a terrible weekend.
They lost two out of three games to a dismal Pirates team, and if not for a ninth inning comeback on Sunday, it would have been three straight.
The Mets played poorly, their closer Edwin Diaz can’t get anybody out, and the kicker? Jacob deGrom and Francisco Lindor landed on the injured list.
What a way to start the second half!
Right out of the gate, the resiliency that has been a hallmark of the 2021 squad is being put to the test.
I’ve wondered something about this team all year. Are the Mets simply a product of a mediocre division, or are the Mets a much more talented and better team than the record would indicate?
I think it’s a combination of both.
There is no question that the Mets have taken advantage of the mediocrity of the National League East. It’s a division that has been far worse than anyone could have possibly imagined going into the start of the season.
However, it doesn’t mean you apologize for being in first place.
On the flip side, I do believe that the Mets can reach a much higher level of play. Offensively, they’ve come nowhere close to realizing their peak potential.
I’ve been encouraged by the quality at-bats of Michael Conforto and Dom Smith, and expect both to have quality second halves.
I also expect this new ownership group to go the extra mile trying to improve the ball club at the July 31st trade deadline.
Will the Mets add a starter, a bat or both? That remains to be seen, however I would be very surprised if the team decided to stay idle.
The Mets depth will once again be tested in the absence of deGrom and Lindor, and they have allowed some of the other teams in the division to hang around, but there’s still some good news.
The hallmark of the 2021 Mets is resilience. After Saturday’s bullpen meltdown, the Mets rallied offensively in a big way on both Sunday and Monday.
The Mets have a lot of fight in them. It’s commendable, and they’ll need it throughout the second half.

You can listen to my podcast “New York, New York” on the Ringer Podcast Network on Spotify and Apple Podcasts every Sunday Night, Wednesday & Friday early mornings.

The Broken Yankees

After the Yankees were humiliated by the Detroit Tigers right before Memorial Day, the entire team stressed the urgency of their most recent home stand.
Four games with the Tampa Bay Rays and three games with the Boston Red Sox.
To say the Yankees failed miserably doesn’t even do justice to what we watched last week at Yankee Stadium.
The performance of the team goes beyond the 2-5 performance over the seven games.
It’s obvious to anyone watching the first two months of the year that there is a simple truth regarding the Yankees: they are broken.
It’s funny to think about the 2021 Yankees being the Vegas frontrunner to win the American League.
Vegas assumed, like I did, that this would be a Yankee team that would be able to score a whole lot of runs and hit the ball out of the park pretty consistently.
But two-plus months into the year, the Yankees are dead last in the American League in runs scored.
Look up and down the lineup, and aside from Aaron Judge, where is the production?
There are plenty of guys underperforming. Who in their wildest dreams could have imagined DJ LeMahieu’s start to this year.?
The Machine has turned into the ground-ball machine and has been a shell of the player he was in 2019 and 2020.
He is not alone though, because the overall construction of the Yankee lineup is flawed. They are too right-handed and too reliant on the home run, which they are not hitting.
This lineup loves to do two things especially well: strikeout and hit into double plays.
They have also been an insanely sloppy team. They lead baseball in getting thrown out on the base paths. They play terrible defense and make way too many mental mistakes.
The sloppy play falls at the feet of manager Aaron Boone. Boone is a likable guy, but sadly his team has reflected his personality, and not in a good way.
The Yankees continue to make the same mental mistakes over and over again, and there is a major lack of accountability from their leader. Boone’s nice-guy act and constant cliche’s postgame have become a tired act.
Meanwhile, the difference in the Boston Red Sox from a year ago was on full display over the weekend.
The biggest reason for the Sox turnaround is Alex Cora returning to manage the team. He’s given them instant credibility, and they are back to playing a winning-brand of baseball since his arrival.
I see the impact that Cora has had on the Red Sox, and it’s the opposite with Boone and the Yankees.
With Boone in the final year of his contract, his seat could not be any hotter going into the summer months.
But the scrutiny shouldn’t stop with Boone. Longtime general manager Brian Cashman must take responsibility for the flaws with this team and the way it has been built.
The Yankees had a championship window starting in 2017 after a feel-good regular season and a surprise trip to Game 7 of the ALCS. Four years later, the Yankees seem further away from a championship.
Sure, there’s a lot of baseball left, and yes things can change.
But the Yankees are in a stage of development where they should be “World Series or Bust” mode.
This was supposed to be a down year for the American League, the Yankees time to capitalize. They’ve done nothing but fizzle and disappoint.
If it’s more of the same over the next four months, wholesale changes up and down the organization are needed.
For now, we’ll see if Cashman, Boone and the Yankees can put the pieces back together.

You can listen to my podcast New York, New York every Sunday, Tuesday & Thursday night on The Ringer Podcast Network on Spotify & Apple Podcasts.

Using House Money

The last two decades haven’t exactly been a whole lot of fun if you are a fan of the New York Knicks.
Plenty of dysfunction combined with a whole lot of losing put the franchise in a predicament going into the 2020-2021 season, where the bar was set perhaps at an all-time low.
The Knicks season win total in Vegas for a 70-plus game season was in the low 20’s and expectations were minimal.
Well, a lot has changed in a year.
The Knicks hired Tom Thibodeau last summer, and in many ways he’s the true architect of this remarkable franchise turnaround.
Coach Thibs established a culture, and his players bought. It became obvious very early in the season that this team was not going to be the Same Old Knicks.
The Knicks compete nightly. The players have taken on the personality of their hardworking head coach.
Team MVP Julius Randle put together an All-Star season and the best of his professional career. RJ Barrett made a gigantic leap from a solid rookie season to an even better second year.
The professionalism of Derrick Rose combined with the shot-making ability of Immanuel Quickley and Alec Burks has provided much needed competence in the back court.
The fact that you can pinpoint the growth and development of multiple players on the roster throughout the season speaks volumes to the job the coaching staff has done.
The Knicks defense has been the calling card of this team all season, but look at the improvements regarding ball movement and three-point shooting.
The improved offensive play has been the catalyst to their incredible surge over the final 20 games of the season.
The Knicks finished 10 games over .500 and will host a playoff series. Who in their right mind could have imagined that before the start of the season?
Up first in round one this weekend is the Atlanta Hawks.
The Hawks bring two specific challenges to the table: the shooting skills of guard Trey Young and the size of Clint Capela and John Collins.
Atlanta has been a red-hot team in the second half of the season and played much better under interim head coach Nate McMillian.
The Knicks must be able to neutralize Young and control the pace in order to win this series. It’s a manageable ask.
Of the potential first-round opponents, Atlanta is by far and away the most winnable series for the Knicks.
Vegas says it’s basically a pick‘em series.
I’ll take the playoff-tested head coach and the team with home-court advantage to keep the feel-good ride going.
My money is on, yes, the Knicks in six.

You can listen to my NEW Podcast on all things NY Sports “New York, New York” on The Ringer. Download and subscribe on Spotify, Apple or wherever you get your podcasts.

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