Coughlin’s gone and there’s nothing we can do about it

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - OCTOBER 07: (NEW YORK DAILIES OUT) Head coach Tom Coughlin of the New York Giants in action against the Cleveland Browns at MetLife Stadium on October 7, 2012 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Giants defeated the Browns 41-27. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

FROM MY RECLINER, VA — After 12 years (also known as my entire adult football life), Tom Coughlin is stepping down as the New York Giants head coach.

This isn’t a surprise. It’s something that has seemingly been speculated about every season the 69-year-old has been at the helm, and I’ll admit I even hoped for it a few times during his tenure.

Early on it was probably adolescent naivety (a lot of frustration too), but my biggest problem was always the coordinators he chose. Coughlin has proven to be a very loyal man (certainly an admirable quality), and that seemed to handcuff him to mediocre coordinators he had a history with.

The coordinators employed by the Giants during his tenure were John Hufnagel (not in the NFL), Kevin Gilbride (not in the NFL), Tim Lewis (SF secondary coach), Bill Sheridan (DET linebackers coach) and current coordinators Ben McAdoo and Steve Spagnuolo.

See a trend? None of the Giants previous coordinators have been offered the same position on another team after the Giants released them.

This year was different. McAdoo and Spagnuolo are likely the best coordinators employed during the Coughlin-era

6-10 isn’t a good record, but with this roster, a 6-10 record and -22 point differential should put Coughlin in Coach of the Year consideration. The Giants started midseason transactions at both safety spots, middle linebacker, offensive line, tight end and even had its starting fullback take snaps at defensive tackle!

There were times during the season that Odell Beckham Jr. was the only reliable offensive target with Victor Cruz’s injury, Preston Parker’s early release, Rueben Randle’s Rueben Randleness and Larry Donnell’s injury issues. Our second-best receiver was probably third-down back Shane Vereen, and as his role indicates, he wasn’t on the field most snaps.

*I could probably write another 1,000+ words on all the holes that litter this roster*

And yet, there were only two games the Giants outright lost: The 27-7 debacle to the Philadelphia Eagles, and a 49-17 embarrassment against the Minnesota Vikings with ODB suspended.

Why is GM Jerry Reese safe?


I’m not a Giants beat reporter. I have no sources to support this, it’s just speculation by a fan who has obsessed over this team for most of my life.

The Giants owners, John Mara and Steve Tisch, want stability. New York has had just three General Managers in its history: George Young (1979-1997), Ernie Accorsi (1998-2007) and Jerry Reese (2008-present). Young and Accorsi were only replaced after they retired.

But after three losing seasons (the first such stretch since the 70s) the Giants had to make a move. They couldn’t fire Reese and keep Coughlin — any good GM is going to want to pick his own coach. So why not just remove the oldest coach in the NFL who showed signs of slipping with his poor clock management? Not to mention the embarrassment over the ODB debacle.

Reese has been with the organization since 1994, and while his recent success has been limited, he’s shown a ton of promise in that time. The owners believe in Reese the man, and now they’re letting him learn from his mistakes.

For all his failures, he was heavily involved in the mostly homegrown teams that won Super Bowls during the 2007 and 2011 seasons.

Hakeem Nicks, Kenny Phillips, Steve Smith, Jay Alford, Ahmad Bradshaw, Mario Manningham, Terrell Thomas, Andre Brown, Will Beatty, JPP and David Wilson have all had their careers cut short (or diminished) because of unpredictable injuries. Smith is the only player in that group that’s 30.

And for all the blame Reese deserves, Coughlin should shoulder some for so many players failing to develop (how much? Who knows. I personally give more blame to Reese since so few players have caught on with other teams, but I’m not exactly a scout).

You could also argue that his last two drafts have been markedly better (meh).

What’s next?

But what’s done is done. I might not agree with the decision, but I’m currently writing my thoughts on wordpress in my bedroom, not whispering into the ears of Mara and Tisch (probably for good reason too).

Gun to my head I think the Giants promote McAdoo to head coach.

The owners like McAdoo, and have stated on record that they consider him a future head coach. The Giants currently employ a 35-year-old, two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback in Eli Manning, who has had the two best statistical seasons of his career in the West Coast attack, and has publicly stated he respects McAdoo and would prefer to remain in the same offensive system.

The move would also allow the Giants to retain Spagnuolo, another coach the owners have publicly expressed a lot of confidence in, which in turn would keep most of the Giants coaching staff intact. Clearly something that would sit well with Coughlin.

My thoughts

I’d be against the move. It’s not that I don’t believe in McAdoo, but if you’re going to keep the coaching staff largely intact, why dismiss the most prominent and successful member?

McAdoo has only two years of experience as a coordinator. Before that he was a quarterbacks coach in Green Bay. That doesn’t mean he can’t have success (and Mike Tomlin got the job in Pittsburgh after only one year as a defensive coordinator), but it doesn’t exactly fill me with confidence.

Again, this isn’t to say McAdoo can’t succeed, or that he’s been a bad coordinator for New York. But Coughlin’s voice wasn’t being tuned out in the locker room, fans weren’t clamoring for his firing and he isn’t retiring. There are already reports he’d be interested in continuing his coaching career if the right situation presented itself. Why move on from a Hall of Famer if you’re not completely overhauling the staff?

Who said that’s the plan?

Of course, that assumes the Giants don’t even want to interview other candidates. While their last few coaching searches could hardly be described as exhaustive, this is the first time they have an opening at head coach in 12 years.

And when Coughlin was hired the Giants also interviewed Lovie Smith, Romeo Crennel and Charlie Weis.

But there have been two times in recent memory the Giants simply hired from within. The first was in 2006 when Coughlin stripped Hufnagel of his play-calling responsibilities midseason, and gave them to then-quarterbacks coach, Gilbride. The second was after Spagnuolo was hired away to be the Rams head coach following the 2008 season, and Sheridan was elevated to defensive coordinator.

I shouldn’t get ahead of myself.

The market, history, amenities and stability make the Giants opening one of the most sought after in the league. And while the roster is mostly barren, Manning and Beckham are two incredible building blocks for any perspective coach.

So what would my plan be?

I’d look to Sean Payton or Chip Kelly (Disclaimer: All the reports out there make both seem unlikely).

Payton is tough because of the draft pick compensation likely tied to his hire, but he’s still a great offensive mind, who is a former Giants offensive coordinator. He has a Super Bowl win as a head coach, and would be a coach that could get the most out of Eli and ODB.

My biggest complaint with McAdoo (and there aren’t many), was his inability to incorporate multiple running backs onto the field. I tend to believe the Giants three best offensive players this past season were Beckham, Vereen and Rashad Jennings. So while the Giants insistence on a running back by committee is its own debate, I thought the Giants should’ve worked to get multiple backs onto the field at the same time.

That shouldn’t be an issue with Payton’s offense.

While the Saints have struggled in recent years, they’re a team that’s been hollowed out with cap room casualties, and are still recovering from Payton’s year-long suspension (which was just insane in retrospect).

He’s still highly regarded, and has every right to be highly regarded.

For Kelly, if the Giants hire him it’s clearly with the intention of keeping Reese at GM (again, pretty much no chance on Kelly).

The other big problem Kelly seemed to face was controlling personalities. From the (way) outside, it just seemed like he didn’t take the time to relate to his players. Kind of reminds me of early Bill Belichick, who’s success endeared him to players.

And for as bad as this season was, he won 20 games in his first two seasons with Mark Sanchez and Nick Foles (oh, and Michael Vick and Matt Barkley).

He is more than a scheme, and there are countless examples of all the innovative ways he’s cultivated success during his career. I’m sure I’m far from alone in my belief that he’ll find success in the NFL.

But there are tons of names out there, and presumably tons of qualified coaches interested in the opportunity. So, with as little information as we have of the owner’s thoughts, let’s leave the remaining speculation for another day.


Quantity the Name of the Game in the NFL Draft


FROM MY RECLINER, NJ – It’s always been a popular belief that the best NFL teams build through the draft. But last week Steve Palazzolo brought it to a new level. He sent out two tweets to really hammer home how important draft picks are.

Group 1

Group 2

So, according to those tweets, the correlation between wins and the draft is purely based on the number of picks. Not which rounds they’re in, and not who’s drafting them. So do we buy it?

First, is there anything about the teams in group 2 that stand out? Basically, is there another reason why these teams didn’t succeed last season?

On the surface it doesn’t seem so. Almost all have been to the playoffs in the last few years, the majority have a stable quarterback situation, and only two of the teams — Detroit and Tampa Bay — had bad coaches.

Wait, what about injuries?

According to Football Outsiders the New York Giants were the most injured team in football last season, and San Diego, Atlanta, New Orleans and Tampa Bay all find themselves in the top 10. But so do Green Bay, New England and San Francisco, and two AFC playoff teams in Denver and Indianapolis.

But can the difference really just be the number of players selected? Shouldn’t it matter what round the picks are in? Why don’t we break the numbers down and see what the actual difference was in amount of picks between these two groups:

Table 1

So it looks like group 1 had more picks in every round except the third, and even that difference wasn’t significant. But overall, the biggest difference is in the later rounds. Group 1 has 2.1 more picks in rounds 1-3 and 8.8 more picks in rounds 4-7. Ok, so it isn’t the case of a few teams having an inordinate amount of top picks.

So, what is it?

I got it! There are good players available in the later rounds, just not a lot of them. By having more picks these teams have a better chance of finding that diamond in the rough. So why don’t we see how successful the two groups have been at finding players in each round:

Table 2

Well that didn’t go quite to plan. Group 1 only had a better success rate in two rounds, one of which they had less picks! How could they do worse with more chances?

There’s actually a very obvious explanation for this. Even if they found more players in these drafts, the percent should be lower. Think back to elementary school, if the denominator (amount of total picks) grows, you’d need a corresponding growth — or better — in the numerator (total number of active players) to end with a higher percent. So instead let’s just look at the total number of players the two groups yielded in these drafts:

Group 1 Total Players (Avg.): 16.9

Group 2 Total Players (Avg.): 14.4

Now that’s more like it. While the percent was lower, group 1 walked away with almost three more players on average in these drafts. Now that might not seem like a ton, but check out this table provided by Kevin Seifert at ESPN charting drafted players still on their original team:


The biggest gap is between the Packers and Bears with 18. But those two teams are extreme outliers; the only two in the NFL separated from the next closest team by more than one player. Removing them, the largest gap is 13 (Jaguars – 17 to Falcons – 30), and that’s over the course of a decade at least.

The numbers we’ve been discussing are just from the last four drafts. More importantly, “total players” only charts whether a player is on a team, not whether they’ve actually had an impact. So instead let’s look at the difference between starters from the two groups.

Group 1 Starters (Avg.): 8.88

Group 2 Starters (Avg.): 7.5

Again, 1+ starter might not seem like a ton, but that’s out of just 22 players, and it’s quite possible the 8.88 starters from group 1 are better than the 7.5 from group 2.

Think about it, there’s a reason group 2 teams couldn’t win ten games last season. Doesn’t the quality of the starters have to be the top reason? And with less total players drafted, there is less competition for those starting spots. So it’s likely the starters from group 2 had less competition and less quality competition.

How can we measure that? Instead of starters, let’s look at the number of impact players these teams have drafted since 2010 (we’ll define impact player as a Pro Bowl player, or an above average quarterback).

Group 1 Impact Players (Avg.): 3.13

Group 2 Impact Players (Avg.): 1.7 

Now that’s a pretty big jump. That’s close to two more players on average, and while that doesn’t seem huge, once again, think about how few impact players there are in the league. How many players from each team make the Pro Bowl each season, or an All-American team?

On top of that, all of these players are still on their rookie deals. In a league run by a salary cap, that point can’t be overstated. That’s especially true for the five playoff teams in group 1. All five of them got their quarterbacks after the first round (granted the Patriots got theirs years ago). That means they were free to use their first-round picks on other areas of need, and also means they’re paying bargain basement prices for the most important position on the team.

If there is anything we know about the draft, it’s that it’s a crapshoot. Even the best GMs fail to yield top results, and even the most talented prospects don’t pan out. So what’s the best strategy? Increase your odds by picking more often, even in the later rounds.

To illustrate that just a bit further indulge me in just one more table:

Table 3

The difference in impact players from group 1 to group 2 was as large in rounds 1-3 (4) as it was in rounds 4-7 (4).

With the draft just a little more than a week away, don’t forget how valuable each selection can be. In fact, it might be smarter for your favorite team to trade down and accumulate more picks, than trade up for that one stud. A fact especially true this year during a draft that everyone loves to describe as deep.

13 Down on the Quest to 90 Wins

Mets Header

FROM MY RECLINER, NJ – Before the season, New York Mets general manager Sandy Alderson said the team could win 90 games. It didn’t take long for the media to jump all over that; no one took it seriously, and it became a running joke.

The start of the season did nothing to change the narrative. The Mets were swept by the Washington Nationals in the first series, striking out a record 31 times in the first two games  and featuring a bullpen that looked like it could be the worst in the league. News that closer Bobby Parnell was going to miss the season certainly didn’t help. I got more texts with this clip than I knew I had friends:

But something changed. Even with that disastrous start, the Mets are actually three games above .500. At 13-10 they’re on pace to surpass that 90 win prediction! But being a Mets fan is all about the unexpected punch to the gut. This team reels you in with false hope, before flaming out in the worst possible way.

So can the Mets realistically continue to play this well? Let’s start by looking at what they’re doing right. 1) They have the tenth best starters ERA in MLB. 2) They’re eighth in the league in defensive runs saved (DRS). 3) They’re fourth in the league in stolen bases.

There is nothing else they do that ranks in the top half of the league. Even if you remove that awful first series, their bullpen ERA does not land in the top half of the league. Offensively they’ve been well below average: they rank 26th in home runs, 23rd in runs scored, 29th in average, 26th in OBP, last in isolated power (ISO), and are tied with three other teams for the second worst strikeout rate in baseball. Like bullpen ERA, none of those numbers improve much if you remove that first awful series, or even look at their production over the last two weeks when they’ve posted a 9-4 record.

So for the Mets to continue this level of production they don’t need to hope for an unexpected offensive explosion, or a dominant bullpen to emerge. Knowing that, let’s look at what the Mets did do well and see if those numbers are maintainable.

10th Best Starting Pitcher ERA

This was always the presumed strength of the Mets. The team has been stockpiling arms for years with the belief that strong power arms and defense are the best way to win a championship. Right now the rotation consists of Zack Wheeler, Jenrry Mejia, Jon Niese, Dillon Gee and Bartolo Colon. Watching these guys pitch, they all pass the eye test. Well, except Colon…

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The advanced stats back them too. In the last 14 days the Mets are seventh in the league in fielding independent pitching (FIP) and ninth in true ERA (tERA), two stats that try to calculate pitchers performances while removing the element of chance. The only number that works against them is their low batting average on balls in play (BABIP).

The idea behind BABIP is once a ball is put in play there is a great deal of chance involved with whether it becomes a hit or an out. So if your BABIP is low the thought is you’ve gotten lucky (or unlucky if you’re a hitter), and the opposite if your BABIP is high. For the most part the theory holds up with the number averaging around .300 with most teams falling between .290-.310. The Mets currently have the tenth lowest number, but even that is .280 so it’s unlikely a return to the norm will affect the staff’s numbers much.

On the flip side, the Mets have been above average in both home run rate, and home run-to-fly ball ratio, suggesting the Mets will give up less home runs as the season progresses. Certainly makes sense since they play their home games at pitcher-friendly Citi Field.

All these numbers hold up when you look at the individual pitchers. While Mejia and Niese are likely to regress, Colon and Wheeler should see improved numbers — which keeps the Mets overall numbers more or less in line with what they’ve been.

Speaking of Mejia, he has quickly worked his way into a prominent role with the Mets. Years ago he was one of the team’s top prospects, but mismanagement and injuries forced him to the background. Now he’s showing everyone how great his stuff is with ridiculous strikeout and swing and miss rates that has led to a sparkling 1.99 ERA and 3-0 record. But that ERA isn’t exactly sustainable. Both his FIP and tERA are right around league average. He’s being helped by a BABIP of .250 that’s allowed him to strand batters at a LOB% of 92 percent!

There is good news, though. His BAA of .193 is so incredibly low that even if the BABIP evens out, he should still be able to limit hits. For example last year his BABIP was .329 and he still kept batters to a .259 average. What’s hurting Mejia in advanced metrics is a ridiculously high BB% of 14.4 percent which has led to 5.56 walks per nine innings (BB/9). But those numbers are by far the highest of his career. Last year, in limited action, he had a 1.32 BB/9, and has mostly had a BB% below 10 percent for his career.

As for Wheeler, despite a relatively average 3.99 ERA, he actually has improved his numbers across the board from last season. He also has the best FIP and tERA on the team at 2.98 and 2.95, respectively. No one disputes how great his pitches are, and when he was in AA a scout said he might be the best pitcher in the minors. In fact, most people thought he’d prove to be better than Matt Harvey when the two were still in the minors. But his problem has always been control, and last season his main black mark was a BB% of 10.7 percent.

This season he’s lowered that number to an acceptable 8.7 percent. What’s been killing him is a BABIP at .349, by far the highest on the team, which has allowed hitters to bat .267 against him — the worst number of his career. Those numbers will drop and, if Wheeler continues to show his improved control, he’ll morph into the ace the Mets were expecting he’d be.

8th Most Defensive Runs Saved

This is another area the Mets were supposed to be good at. Last year they were awful in the outfield to start the season. It certainly didn’t help that Lucas Duda was one of their outfielders:

Duda Outfield

But out of necessity the Mets switched up their outfield, and that part of their defense became one of the best units in the league. They also found Juan Lagares, who has statistically been the best center fielder in baseball.

Lagares ranked sixth in the majors last season in DRS, even though he played, by far, the fewest innings. The only center fielder ranked ahead of him was Carlos Gomez, who played over 400 more innings than Lagares.

This season the Mets added two great defensive outfielders in Curtis Granderson and Chris Young. The three outfielders are tops on the team in terms of DRS. In fact, the only players with more than one DRS this season are outfielders, and that’s with Lagares missing the past few weeks due to injury. So what was supposed to be a great outfield has been playing great, with no one surpassing their career averages. Yeah, I think that’s sustainable.

Now for those of you who don’t think fielding is important, give this a read. Yes, that’s right, fielding looks to be almost as important a tool as hitting. Both arm strength and fielding was graded as 0.43 in relationship to wins above replacement (WAR), while average and power was 0.53.

4th Most Stolen Bases

There are only three players on the team with more than one stolen base: Granderson (2), Daniel Murphy (4), and Eric Young Jr. (11). Murphy is on pace to steal 32 bases, while he set his career-high at 23 last season. EYJ is on pace for over 80 stolen bases and, while he led the NL with 46 stolen bases last season, over 80 is not happening. But two stolen bases is a modest number for Granderson who has stolen more than 20 bases three times in his career. And so far David Wright and Chris Young — two players that have proven to be good base stealers in their careers — have only one each. It wouldn’t be shocking to see the Mets keep on a similar pace for the rest of the season.

The one thing that could change that is less playing time for EYJ. He is the fourth outfielder, and has gotten a lot of his playing time because Young and Lagares have traded off DL stints to start the season. So even if Terry Collins continues to get him at-bats, it’s likely he’ll see less than he is currently. But if we refer to that same FiveThirtyEight article, speed only has a 0.13 correlation with WAR, making it the least important metric to the Mets start so far. So even if there is a small dip in their stolen base rate, it shouldn’t have a huge affect on their win total.

But what about the Mets opponents? Have they just been beating up on bad teams to start the year?

The Mets are 6-7 against teams above .500 and 6-1 against teams below .500, including a series sweep against the worst team in the majors, the Arizona Diamondbacks. Overall, Mets opponents this season are 78-83. So if there is a reason to temper expectations, the early schedule is it. But that 6-7 record includes an 0-3 number from their opening series sweep by the Nationals, a series that hasn’t proven to be truly indicative of their talent level.

Also, if you look ahead, the Mets schedule doesn’t get much harder. From now till June 5th they play 23 games against teams below .500 — The Phillies (9), Marlins (5), Diamondbacks (3), Pirates (3) and Cubs (3) — and just ten against teams above .500. Sure, the season doesn’t end in June, but the Mets can expect some reinforcements in June and July.

Right now they have several pitchers in their minor league system that will likely be added to the bullpen or rotation by then. There’s top prospect Noah Syndergaard — a pitcher many believe can be better than Wheeler — Rafael Montero, Jacob deGrom, Vic Black and Jeff Walters. Those guys can help stabilize the rotation, protect against injury, and improve a bullpen that’s been league average at best this season. And with such a surplus, the Mets may even be able to swing a trade for an impact bat if they remain in the playoff hunt.

We’re only 23 games into an 162-game season. It’s very easy to scream small sample size. Even the most optimistic fans have good reason to remain skeptical. But looking at the numbers, the Mets actually have a good chance of chasing that 90-win milestone and possibly snagging a wild card spot. So laugh all you want, but I like seeing the glass half-full that way.

JK who am I kidding. Mets aren’t winning 90 games.

Why The Stanley Cup Playoffs Reign Supreme


AT THE EDGE OF MY SEAT, NJ – It’s April, one of the best times of year. Not only has the MLB season started, but both the NBA and NHL playoffs are in full swing. Oh, and the NFL Draft is right around the corner. But does this time of year really compete with the NFL Playoffs? Or the drama of October baseball? What about March Madness? All of these tournaments advertise themselves as the most exciting, so which is it?

To properly answer this we have to determine what makes a postseason great. First has to be the quality of the teams in the tournament. While seeing a great team is always exciting, what makes exciting postseason games is having close scores. So not only do we want a good top seed, but we need lower seeds that can hang with the big boys.

So how do we calculate that? For the NBA, MLB and NHL it’s more important that the series is competitive than each game is competitive. Obviously you want both, but a seven-game series is better than a four-game sweep even if all four games were won by a smaller margin of victory. Plus, calculating score can be misleading. What about a baseball game that was tied till the seventh, or an NHL game that features a couple empty-netters, and an NBA game with tons of free throws at the end of the game? So for this piece we’ll focus on series length for those leagues.

For the NFL, the only way to look at it is calculate the amount of blowouts, and close games. For the purposes of this exercise we’ll define a blowout as a win by 17+ points, and close games will be any game decided by < 3 points or in overtime. While this method can fall victim to the same fallacies as NHL, NBA and MLB games, there are far less of those elements in an NFL game. And with no series totals, it’s really the only method to determine it. The same can’t be said for NCAAB. You either get to a point where you’re including games that weren’t crazy competitive, or eliminate games that were.

Here are the numbers for the four leagues (All numbers since 2000):

League | Number of Sweeps (%) | Number of Seven Game Series (%) 

MLB      |   11 (26%)                            |  11 (26%)                                                              

NBA      |   26 (12%)                            |   39 (19%)                                                       

NHL      |  19 (9%)                               |   56 (27%)                                                        

League | Number of Blowouts (%) | Number of Close Games (%) 

NFL       |  50 (42%)                               | 38 (30%)                    

League | Championship Sweeps | Championship Game 7s

MLB      | 4                                            | 3     

NBA      | 2                                             | 3

NHL      | 0                                             | 6

League | Championship Blowouts | Championship Close Games

NFL       | 3                                                | 5

Looking at the numbers above, the two that jump out are the NHL and NFL. Both have a high number of competitive games. But the NHL has had far less non-competitive match-ups; only 9 percent of all series ended in a sweep, and there wasn’t a single sweep in the title game. The NFL, meanwhile, had 42 percent of games end in a blowout. It’s not good if almost half your games aren’t competitive.

But that can’t be the only factor in deciding the best tournament. More importantly, we need a proper metric to rate March Madness. So why don’t we start with something the NCAA Basketball tournament is certain to win: the amount of “Cinderella” champions. To compute this we are going to categorize any tournament champion lower than a 2-seed as a “Cinderella” team. There is one drawback for this category, though. Since the majority of data on the MLB only has four teams from each conference in the postseason, there aren’t really any teams that qualify. Baseball has completely removed that aspect from their postseason. So while they won’t be included in the table, it’s pretty safe to say they finish in last in this category.

League | Percent of Cinderella Champions | Percent of Upsets

NBA      | 14%                                                                 | 16.7%

NHL      | 39%                                                                 | 39%

NFL       | 34%                                                                 | 25%

NCAAB| 26%                                                                  | 34%

The NBA is just god awful at providing upsets. The first-round features almost no upsets, and only one lower seed has ever made it to the NBA Finals. The 14 percent is from two 3-seeds (the 06-07 Spurs and the 10-11 Mavericks) In fact, even the fifth-seed only has a 25.9 percent chance of winning their series. There’s a greater chance an MLB postseason series ends in a sweep than a first-round NBA series ends in an upset.

The NCAAB actually fairs pretty well in this metric. But both numbers fall short of the NHL numbers. Even more, upsets in the NCAA tournament have negative effects. Even with 16 of the 30 NHL teams making the postseason, all teams prove to be competitive. If you don’t count shootout losses (and there’s no reason you should) there hasn’t been a team below .500 that has made the postseason in over a decade. In addition, from 2000-10 five eight seeds won their first-round series, and two of those teams went on to win their next series as well. In fact, the eighth-seeded Los Angeles Kings beat the sixth-seeded New Jersey Devils in the Stanley Cup Finals back in 2012.

In the NCAA, even teams that pull off an upset don’t prove to be great teams. No team lower than an 8-seed has won the tournament, only 26 percent of teams ranked lower than a 2-seed have won the tournament, and 11 percent below a 3-seed. So maybe low seeds manage to pull off an upset or two, but they basically never wind up winning the title. Even look to this season. It was exciting to see Mercer, Dayton and Stanford pull off upsets, but what were we left with? Neither Kansas nor Duke — two top teams with top 3 NBA Draft talent — even made the sweet sixteen. Instead we were forced to suffer through Mercer vs. Tennessee, Stanford vs. Dayton, and Dayton vs. Florida. That’s bad games in the top 32, Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight. When the stakes got higher, the games got worse.

So even in a category March Madness is known to dominate, the NHL postseason has proven to be better. In the end, the NHL has the most competitive match-ups, and the most upsets. It also has the most continuous action *cough*football*cough*, even in the final minutes (I’m looking at you basketball!). Even ESPN anchor John Buccigross agrees:

Using this data it looks like the postseason ranks: 1. NHL 2. NCAAB 3. NFL 4. NBA 5. MLB


THE BILLY MUMPHREY THEORY: Why the Mets snagged a big return for Ike Davis


FROM MY RECLINER, NY — Let me tell you a story. That is what I love to do, after all.

It’s a story about a kid named Bill Mumphrey. For those who don’t know, Billy Mumphrey is a simple country boy — some might say, a cockeyed optimist — who got caught up in the dirty game of world diplomacy and international intrigue. Billy Mumphrey is also a Mets fan.

For Billy, rarely, if ever, is there a comfortable middle ground. His story is one of love, deception, greed, lust and unbridled enthusiasm. For poor Billy, the line between soul crushing, Ruben-Tejada-is-at-bat despair and I can taste the playoffs like a $7 ballpark hot dog, is razor thin when it comes to his prized Metropolitans.

Thus is the life of an obsessive sports fan, I suppose.

So, when the Mets shipped first baseman Ike Davis to the Pittsburgh Pirates on Friday, Billy Mumphrey had some thinking to do.

The move was not unexpected, as the Mets shopped Davis for months during the off season and had clearly, and inexplicably, chosen Lucas Duda in the Duda-Davis-Josh Satin triumvirate first base competition.

Although Billy mourned the loss of Ike, a fan favorite, whose jersey he bought when Davis was called up in 2010, the stages of grief are nearing their completion, occasionally volleying between anger and acceptance, with occasional pit stops at depression.

Now, all that matters to Billy is what Sandy Alderson got in return because, like I said, Billy Mumphrey’s sports life is a compulsive and complicated mix of dizzying highs and getting kicked in the groin lows and must constantly be assessed and reassessed — there is no middle ground.

The answer, you ask, to Billy’s all important question: RHP Zach Thornton and a player to be named later.

To which he initially responded:

But, hold on. What’s this? Hope? Is that you knocking at the door?

Being the cockeyed optimist he is, Billy came up with a theory. A theory that will prove all the doubters wrong, a theory that will justly place Sandy Alderson back on the Iron Throne of Major League Baseball general managers and prove once and for all that he’s the White Wizard of trades.

There will be doubters, yes. But Billy doesn’t have time for them. To mix a fruity cocktail of two different classic stories: He’s an idea man, don’t take the wind out of his sails. He doesn’t need your damn negativity.

Below is the Billy Mumphrey Theory. Let the unbridled enthusiasm begin.

1.  Billy knows Sandy Alderson has a track record

Remember when Sandy Alderson got Zack Wheeler for two months of Carlos Beltran? Remember when he pried Travis d’Arnaud and Noah Syndergaard away for a 38-year-old knuckleballer? Remember when he snagged Dilson Herrera and a PTNBL (which turned into fireballer Vic Black) for a playoff run with Marlon Byrd and John Buck?

The point is, with the exception of trading Angel Pagan (you could argue that was a decent trade at the time) Alderson has been a magician when dealing players. Wheeler, Syndergaard and d’Arnaud are currently cornerstones of the organization and all were acquired for players no longer considered a part of the Mets’ future.

So, until the word comes down that the Mets sold low on Davis and settled Adam Landecker, Billy is rolling with Sandy.

2. Billy knows Sandy wanted a lot for Ike

Keeping in toe with the first point, it seems highly unlikely that the Sandy Alderson of Wheeler and Syndergaard and d’Arnaud all of sudden waffled on Ike’s asking price.

It was well reported that Alderson’s price for Davis was high throughout the off season, which is one of the reasons Davis stayed put so long. There were rumors about the Brewers’ Tyler Thornburg, the Orioles’ Dylan Bundy and Eduardo Rodriguez and the Pirates’ Nick Kingham as potential Alderson targets. All considered to be lofty prizes at the time.

So, as the story goes, Alderson stayed put and decided not to trade Davis for less than what he believed to be market value for a young first baseman with 30 home run potential.

There’s the possibility Alderson’s asking price came down, but Zach Thornton and a PTBNL? That would be like asking for a mackinaw and  getting a seven-year-old fruit roll up.

Then there’s this quote:

“We’re very happy with the trade. We’re happy for Ike, in the sense that he’ll get another opportunity elsewhere. It’s a situation that we needed to resolve here, and we’re happy with the return.” — Sandy Alderson

If Sandy’s happy, Billy’s happy, too.

3. Billy knows Sandy isn’t impulsive

The idea that Alderson would dangle Davis all off season with no significant interest, then make the decision to proceed into the regular season with him and two other first basemen, only to ship the one with the most potential off in mid-April makes no sense.

Unless, of course, the return was considerable.

Alderson made the decision to keep Davis. Just like he made the decision to keep Ruben Tejada. Both were tough, steadfast decisions, as any impulsive general manager would’ve signed Stephen Drew and traded Ike for peanuts a long time ago.

Sandy didn’t.

The notion that he, all of a sudden, would change course and ship out Ike for Thornton and a nobody just doesn’t compute. At the very least, he should be consistent and get Drew on board.

4.  Billy knows the PTBNL is “significant”

Here’s the tweet that backed thousands of Mets fans away from the ledge:

Here’s the tweet that pushed them off:

Normally, a PTBNL is code for “meaningless org player changing hands.” However, that’s not always the case. Vic Black, who the Mets acquired from the Pirates last season, wasn’t exactly meaningless.

Like I said, Billy’s an optimist, so let’s ride with Heyman on this one, since he’s the guy who broke the trade in the first place.

“Significant” to Billy means top 10 in the Pirates’ system, so basically, much, much better than Zach Thornton. Here’s a link to Keith Law’s top prospects by organization (Sorry, Insiders only). Notice anything? That’s right, Thornton is conspicuously absent.

2. Billy knows the PTBNL is from the Pirates 2013 draft class

Here’s more from Billy’s favorite CBS Sports Insider:

Heyman, you brilliant bastard. Of course!  Players taken in the amatuer draft can’t be traded until a year after they’ve been picked, so it makes sense that the Pirates and Mets wouldn’t be able to announce the player’s name until at least June.

Plus, Alderson hints as much: “Players are named later for a variety of reasons, so I really can’t get into it any further than that,” he said. “Because if I were to give you the reason why the player’s [not] been, named it would lead you in the right direction.”

So, if the PTBNL is indeed the linchpin of the deal, then it must not only be someone the Pirates drafted in 2013, but it must be one of their top picks.

Meet Austin Meadows and Reese McGuire.

Both Meadows and McGuire make Law’s and Baseball America’s top 10 in the Pirates’ system and would be steals for Alderson.

I suppose there’s still the possibility that the Pirates will be sending another pick from2013, maybe JaCoby Jones or Cody Dickson,but that doesn’t exactly line up with Heyman’s “significant” claim. Neither guys are ranked in the Pirates’ top 10 by Baseball America or Keith Law. They fall just inside the top 20 on’s list.

So, here’s what Billy knows: Sandy has a great track record, he wanted a lot in return for Ike, he isn’t impulsive, the PTBNL is significant, and it’s most likely from the 2013 draft class (Austin Meadows or Reese McGuire).

But then again, you’ve probably read one too many Billy Mumphrey stories.





The Painful Departure Of Ike “The Real Hebrew Hammer” Davis


Ike Davis

FROM MY RECLINER, NJ – The New York Mets traded Ike Davis to the Pittsburgh Pirates. It’s no secret the Mets have been shopping the first baseman, General Manager Sandy Alderson said as much at the start of the off season. Davis had never truly established himself as a quality starter, and the team seemed more invested in the success of a Lucas Duda-Josh Satin platoon.

What was shocking about the trade was the timing. Alderson scoffed at trading Davis during the off season because what was being offered. Like a true Jewish mother, no one was quite good enough for his boy. Then, just a few weeks into the season, Alderson ships Davis off to Pittsburgh for Zach Thornton — a reliever they could’ve had for nothing during the Rule 5 draft — and a PTBNL. So what changed with the Mets and Pirates only a few weeks into the season to prompt this move?

It likely wasn’t anything to do with the Mets. The team couldn’t be worried about Ike’s value diminishing. Prior to the trade this was Davis’ line:

.208 BA/.367 OBP/1HR/5RBI 1 2B and 4K/6BB (24 at-bats)

He also had a supremely unlucky BABIP of .211. Sure the .208 average looks bad, but the BABIP screams small sample size. So what happens? In one game with the Pirates, Davis raises his numbers to .259/.412. Those numbers are even more encouraging when you look at how he played at the end of last season. After being added to the major league team in August he slashed:

.290/.468/3HR/8RBI/ 7 2B and 17K/24BB

Lucas Duda did have a solid start to his season. Current numbers:  .269/.356/3HR/9RBI 1 2B (52 at-bats)

But that’s with an ugly 16K/5BB, and his career numbers don’t offer much to get excited about. His slashline is .247/.356 and he’s never hit more than 15 homeruns in a season. The idea that Duda’s play allowed the Mets to trade Davis is laughable at best.

Which brings up the bigger question: why not try to trade Duda? Davis was a first-round pick who hit 30 homeruns in a season, and is also a potential gold-glover at first base, while Duda isn’t exactly what you’d call an athlete. Duda’s personality fails to inspire much confidence either. Just watch this Mets Christmas Card:

Look how miserable and nervous he looks. Hell he needed Justin “Instantly Cut” Turner to accompany him. And now he’s the starting first baseman for the New York Mets.

So if Davis is the better player and has more upside (and likely a mensch), why was he traded? It’s clear Alderson had no faith either Duda or Davis was turning into a star in New York. Duda, because…well do I really need to explain any further? And Davis because he’s a head case whose struggled with the media and struggled to get over the Mendoza Line for most of his career. The difference is, while Davis had trade value, Duda…

And to be honest, that would be quite a coup for the Mets. Sandy would win Executive of the Year for that one. So if Sandy didn’t believe in either one, he was trading the guy who could get something in return.

But the timing means the impetus was likely on the Pirates end. It’s certainly reasonable. After a surprising playoff berth last season, they’re below .500 and haven’t gotten great contributions from first base.

The speculation is the PTNBL is a Pirates’ draft pick from 2013, which is the reason he’s got to be named later — draft picks can’t be traded until a year after the draft. So, if that’s the case, it’ll be June by the time we find out how much the Mets got for Davis.

If it’s anything outside of first-rounders Austin Meadows and Reese McGuire, the Mets made a mistake. No one else in that draft even cracks the Top 20 of Pirates prospects. It seems unlikely Alderson would accept that when he held on to Davis after receiving lesser offers over the winter, but you never know in baseball.

The point, at the end of the day, is the Mets have one of the worst lineups in baseball. Curtis Granderson and Chris Young haven’t done much to change that. Davis was one of the few players on the team with true upside. He’s had real success at the major league level after all. That’s more than a lot of Mets’ batters can say.

While his start wasn’t earth-shattering this year, he didn’t look lost. Last season he looked hopeless and swung at everything. This season, coupled with his improved approach at the end of last year, gave reason for optimism. Now, in the hitter-friendly confines of PNC Bank Park, it won’t be shocking to see Davis match his career-high of 30 home runs. If he does, and all the Mets got was a low-level prospect, it’ll be a huge failure.

*Update: Davis hit a Grand Slam after the writing of this piece. SMH

Morning Struggles and Eventual Bliss

Taco Bell

AT THE KITCHEN TABLE, NJ – Taco Bell started serving breakfast on March 27th. Today is April 11th. To say I’m disappointed it took me this long would be an understatement. After the breakfast menu announcement I was literally counting down the days, drawing giant Xs through each day on the calendar as the days passed, salivating over the different combinations — I eventually settled on the idea of just ordering one of each.

Taco Bell breakfast was especially meaningful to me, as a person who all but gave up on breakfast years ago. Sleep became my breakfast. Ten minutes more of sleep beat out any amount of breakfast food. Only recently — with the discovery of bacon — did I realize the error of my ways. All I know now is I wasted 23 years of my life hating bacon, and I beg, every day, for bacon’s forgiveness.

But getting to Taco Bell before 11 AM has proven to be the closest thing to impossible I’ve ever been faced with. It’s not all laziness…

Ok, it’s mostly laziness.

On days off it’s hard to want to get out of bed and dressed that early. On work days, it’s hard to want to get up even earlier to stop by a place that might give me diarrhea while I’m at my place of work.

Lucky for me I work near Penn Station. A very central and busy location with it’s own Taco Bell. Despite the potential bowel pitfalls I decided it was worth the risk. Of course, nothing great in life ever comes easy. The Taco Bell at Penn Station, for reasons I can’t begin to comprehend, was not open for breakfast. It was perhaps my harshest defeat yet.

I stayed positive. I had the day off today, and thought for sure I’d be able to wake up in time. A last minute trip to Philly, and the subsequent drive home put a damper on that. What had once seemed to be a leisurely stroll to the nearest Taco Bell turned into a mad scamper to beat the 11 AM deadline. I left my house in pajamas, boat shoes, unkempt hair and without glasses. But I made it. Sweet lord, did I make it.

Granted when I actually got up to order, “everything on the menu” seemed like a bit much. I settled on a crunchwrap, and even built up the courage to get a cup of coffee.

***As a side-note, I can’t tell how I feel about myself that I had no problem was over-the-top excited for Taco Bell breakfast, but was somehow worried they’d screw up the coffee***

It all was fantastic…sorry, that wasn’t descriptive enough…

It reaffirmed my spirituality, for only a divine being could have been responsible for the creation of something as wonderful as that crunchwrap.


The hash brown was expertly salted and offered the right amount of crisp, the egg was both fluffy and melted in your mouth, and the bacon bits offered the perfect exclamation point to every bite. All of that was wrapped perfectly in a tortilla that almost made me feel cultured (gotta stress the almost).

Each bite was better than the last, and before I knew it the wrap was gone. An especially sad revelation when I realized it’ll probably be a long time before I get to Taco Bell for breakfast again. In the end it was worth it. I might not be Ronald McDonald, but I think that endorsement should mean something.