The Yankees Erased a 2-0 Series Deficit to Advance to the ALCS

I’m just gonna come right out and say it: I’m sorry Joe Girardi. He’s off the hook for his non-challenge in Game 2. Do I think he’s a good manager? No, I still don’t really. But clearly this team is behind him more than I thought, as shown in Todd Frazier’s interview last night.

This team picked up their manager in a big way, and honestly I think they used the way they lost Game 2 and the fans’/media’s blaming Girardi to rally together and win this series. Hand up, I admit I was wrong for thinking the 0-2 hole on top of the way they lost Game 2 was too much to overcome, but I think pretty much every Yankee fan was thinking the same way I was.

As far as last night’s game, you really couldn’t have asked for much more. Didi Gregorious continues to be our MVP, homering twice off of likely AL Cy Young winner Corey Kluber.

And yes, my plans for my first born child’s name are still in place.

If Didi was hero number 1 last night, Carsten Charles Sabathia was 1A. This man was LOCKED in last night, dominating like it was 2009 all over again. It stinks he ran into trouble in the 5th and couldn’t stay in long enough to pick up the win, but he pitched great and gave us just what we needed last night. (The smile on Sanchez’s face after CC made that huge divot in the ground on his sliding catch was priceless, by the way.)

The bullpen came up big also, with David Robertson inducing a huge double play ball from Francisco Lindor to get out of the jam in the 5th. He pitched a scoreless 6th and 7th before Aroldis Chapman shut the door in the final two innings.

Brett Gardner also came through in the clutch, singling off of Indians’ closer Cody Allen in a 12-pitch at bat that provided the Yankees with two insurance runs in the 9th.

This team is amazing to watch. Games 3-5 saw everything teams need to win in the playoffs: great pitching, sound fielding, and timely hitting. The Astros are a better hitting team than the Indians, however. It’ll be a tougher task for our pitching staff, and the offense is going to have to put up a good amount of runs to give us a chance. But we just beat a team three straight times that previously hadn’t lost three straight since July. That’s over two months. I plan on doing a series preview for the ALCS tomorrow, but for now let’s just enjoy what was easily the most memorable Yankees playoff series since 2009. And what better way to do that than with some Twitter memes.

What a game, what a series, what a team. See you in Houston (figuratively, not literally, I don’t get paid to do this or anything). Let’s go Yanks baby!

McGon’s Picks: NFL Week 6

After the Ravens-Jaguars game in London, I tweeted this.

And after last Sunday, I have the same reaction. Will the real Jacksonville Jaguars please stand up?

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The odd week Jaguars have been incredible with blowout wins away from Jacksonville against the Texans, Steelers, and Ravens, who are a combined 8-4 in games not against the Jaguars. The even week Jaguars have been a different story. They got crushed by the Titans at home and lost to the Jets on the road, and these two teams are a combined 3-5 in games not against the Jaguars. This makes the Jaguars a very tough team not only to bet for, but bet against as well. Will the even week Jaguars be back this week? Keep reading to find out.

Week 5 was much better for me than Week 4, but still not nearly as strong as my first two weeks. I went 8-6 straight up, and 7-7 against the spread. Here’s a look back at the picks I made (winning team in red, spread winner in red):

Continue reading McGon’s Picks: NFL Week 6

Don’t Tell Me I Can’t Hate On Aaron Judge Just Because He’s a Good Guy and a Young Star in the MLB

Note: Granted this blog was started by three Yankee fans, but we need some more Yankee hate on this blog. Everyone knows you can’t have a great sports blog without hating on/making fun of teams like the Yankees, Cowboys (unfortunately), Patriots, Warriors, etc.

All Rise, and let me paint a hypothetical for you to start this out. Say you are a standard Yankees fan who lives in the tri-state area. If you are my age, you grew up watching the Red Sox send out David Ortiz, Manny Ramirez, Pedro Martinez, and other players who were on their championship teams in 2004 and/or 2007. Naturally, you hated these guys and those teams, for the most part simply because they were all Boston Red Sox and you hated that team. Flash forward to the last couple of seasons, the Red Sox have brought in young talent such as Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Andrew Benintendi, just to name a few. All of these guys have been good guys on and off the field, and of course are loved by Red Sox fans. If you are a Yankee fan, you may not hate these guys as much as you hated the 2000s Red Sox (yet), but you naturally root against these guys and hate on them because as good as they may be, they play for the Boston Red Sox.

My point? As a Mets fan, don’t tell me I can’t root hard against Aaron Judge and the rest of the Baby Bombers just because they’re great players.

Continue reading Don’t Tell Me I Can’t Hate On Aaron Judge Just Because He’s a Good Guy and a Young Star in the MLB

How Do My Professors Expect Me to Do Well in School While Playoff Baseball Is On?

It’s blasphemy, flabbergasting, preposterous, and any other large word that implies crazy thinking or behavior. I mean, look, I wanna do well in school as much as the next guy…but at what cost? Missing Kyle Hendricks throw a 7 inning-gem against the favored Nats? Not being able to see your home-town Yankees win two in a row with their backs against the wall? Lacking the ability to soak in the happiness of the Red Sox being embarrassingly eliminated at home? Mr. Professor…that’s priceless.

And now, as the halfway point of the semester approaches and midterms need to be studied for, October baseball is heating up, and Jim Rome Is Burning.

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I literally have a midterm assignment due tomorrow and a midterm exam on Friday, but I am planning my day around watching the Yankees in Game 5 tonight instead, not studying for the test and completing my work. How do these professors expect me to do both? I can multitask, but I’m no dual-threat student that can study efficiently AND give the proper attention to Game 5 it requires.

Look, I’m not saying colleges and universities need to schedule midterms and other homework around playoff baseball, but I kind of am. Us baseball fans wait through SIX months and 162 games of sometimes irrelevant baseball to get to this part of our lives. It’s important that we dedicate ourselves fully to it.

All I ask for is that during that month, I have no responsibility.  No school, no work, no extra-curricular activities, nothing. I do not care about the affects technology has on Foreign Direct Investment in Europe, but I do care about the affects Stephen Strasburg’s changeup has on right-handed hitters.

So to all my professors, a little respect for my desires would be greatly appreciated. Take my final grade into account, and take your job into account. If I’m not going to try for a whole month out of the semester, it probably won’t reflect too positively on your class grade. Not a threat, just something to chew on next week when I’m taking a midterm entirely clueless because Game 3 of the ALDS was on.  Go Yanks.

I Just Watched the Yankees Win Two Playoff Games in Two Nights and I’ve Peaked

So my last blog basically called for Joe Girardi’s head after he literally gift-wrapped Game 2 and gave it to the Indians, putting the Yankees’ backs against the wall in this best-of-5 ALDS. While he is still absolutely not off the hook for that, especially if the Yankees lose Game 5 tomorrow, my spirits are infinitely higher than they were Friday night after witnessing two Yankee wins. Let me explain how the past 48 hours were the peak of my Yankee fandom/probably life in general.

My friends and I were in attendance the last time the Yankees made the playoffs in the 2015 wild card game. That Yankee team limped into the playoffs and got dominated by the Astros. After missing the playoffs in 2016 and having an exciting season this year, my friends and I again decided to try and go to the wild card game. However, tickets were very expensive. So we decided to take our chances and get ALDS game 3 tickets, which were significantly cheaper.

After the Yankees gave us all heart attacks as we watched from scenic New Brunswick, New Jersey on Tuesday, they beat the Twins to advance to the ALDS. We were going back to Yankee Stadium for some playoff baseball.

The next two games were less than ideal, with Trevor Bauer dominating the Yankee lineup in Game 1 and Joe Girardi forgetting how to use his brain in Game 2. So here we were, headed to watch what could be the last Yankee game all season, down in a 2-0 hole. The series should’ve been 1-1. We knew it. The Yankees knew it. The Indians knew it. Everyone knew it. But regardless, the Stadium was rocking for Game 3.

After a solid tailgate, we all grabbed our tickets and headed into the game. As I went to take everything out of my pockets I noticed my wallet was gone. I freaked out a little, but told myself at least it wasn’t the ticket I lost. Thank goodness, because what I witnessed after that was one of the best Yankee playoff games I can remember. Seven shutout innings from Masahiro Tanaka, Aaron Judge robbing Francisco Lindor of what could have been another game-changing home run, and Greg Bird’s solo shot gave us a 1-0 victory to force a Game 4. The Stadium was absolutely electric, hanging on each and every pitch. I was a wallet down, but at least I saw a Yankees playoff win in person for the first time.

The next day, as I was about to begin the process of replacing everything in my wallet (Drivers’ license, school ID, tampons, etc.), my Mom suggested I call the Stadium and see if they had my wallet. Worth a shot, right? After being on hold for 5 minutes and the guy asking my name like 3 times, they said that they actually have my wallet. I was absolutely shocked and ecstatic. This was about to save me a lot of time and money. I texted the group chat with all my friends who had been to the game the night before. I jokingly suggested that since they found my wallet, we had no choice but to go back for Game 4. Then we checked ticket prices.

I would’ve thought tickets would be well over $100, considering it could’ve been the last home game for the Yankees all year. Somehow, tickets were even cheaper for Game 4 than we got our Game 3 tickets for. Maybe people realized they had last minute conflicts, or were scared off by the chance of rain. Whatever. Regardless, we all had to decide within minutes whether or not to abandon our original plan of watching on the game on TV and “send it,” as the kids say these days. Send it, we did.

We walked in through Gate 2 and I quickly retrieved my wallet. Shoutout to the guy who said “I’d ask you to show ID but I doubt you have any left,” that made me laugh. We stood on the third base side near left field for the Yankees’ 2nd at-bat. We were right there for Todd Frazier’s and Aaron Judge’s doubles. The Stadium was going absolutely nuts. From where we were standing, it looked like Judge had just hit a three-run homer. Regardless, the Yankees had just scored four runs and knocked that nerd Trevor Bauer out of the game. (Disclaimer: I have nothing against nerds and am in fact a nerd myself but when you injure your finger flying a drone during the playoffs you bet your ass I’m gonna make fun of you for it.)

The Yankees tacked on three more runs with a Brett Gardner infield single (sorta), a sac fly by Gardner where third-base coach Joe Espada embodied our “send it” mentality for the night because it was a very shallow fly ball, and a solo homer by El Gary. Luis Severino completely bounced back from his disastrous wild card game start, pitching 7 great innings and giving up only three runs. After Dellin Betances did something that definitely wasn’t pitching for two batters, Tommy Kahnle slammed the door shut. Kahnle was brilliant, getting six outs on 22 pitches, including five strikeouts.

If you told me 24 hours after Game 3 I’d be walking out of Game 4, having witnessed another Yankee win and gotten my wallet back, I’d say you were absolutely insane. But baseball and life are both unpredictable, and anything can happen.

I’m obviously ecstatic the series is going to Game 5, especially after it seemed like we were done after the way we lost Game 2. But if you’re a Yankees fan that’s satisfied because they proved everyone wrong, you are incorrect. They need to win Game 5. This team has outplayed the best team in the AL (and all of baseball at the end of the season) in 3 out of 4 games. It’s time to take what they deserve and win this series.

CC/Kluber round 2, a literal rematch of Game 2. This time, it’s win or go home for both teams. Let’s go Yankees, baby.

 

Breaking Sports Fans into Tiers

For most of my life, I considered myself to be a die-hard Mets and Devils fan.  After all, any list of the greatest moments of my life include Robin Ventura’s “Grand Single”, the 10-run inning against the Braves, “Henrique, it’s over!!!”, and the Devils’ three Stanley Cups.  The worst moments of my life include Kenny Rogers, Yadier Molina, Stephane Matteau, and Eric Staal.   However, I realized on Sunday that I had watched a total of 5 innings of Mets games since August 16.  That’s right…5!  I didn’t used to be that way.  In 1995 and 1996, 2002 through 2004, and 2009 through 2014 (all Mets seasons with meaningless Septembers); I still watched plenty of Mets games in late August and September.  However, in 2017, I live in a world with Thursday Night Football, lots of football pools, lots of blogs, lots of podcasts, a million shows to binge-watch, and 24/7 coverage of politics.  There were many times since August 16 when I flipped on the Mets, only to see them getting trounced….at which point I would change the channel to something else.  Similarly, in the past three Devils seasons, I generally stopped tuning by early March, as the team was way out of playoff contention.  All of this has made me realize that I’m not a die-hard fan.  I’m a hard-core fan, but I’m not a die-hard.

This got me thinking.  It is time that I separate fans into tiers.  I am leaving football out of the equation, because the once-a-week, 16-game, fantasy/pools/gambling aspect provides too many different variables and scenarios than for the other three sports.  The way I see it; for fans of any MLB, NHL, or NBA team; there are either 6 or 7 tiers of fans.  Let’s dive right in.

 

Tier I: The Ultimate Die-Hards

I was never actually in this category…even from 1990 through 1992 when I would cry every time the Mets lost.  These are the fans who go to September baseball games of a team that is way out of contention.  They go to March hockey/basketball games for teams out of contention too.  They are willing to spend the time not only to watch these games but to drive to the stadium/arena.  They are also willing to keep spending money to go to these crappy games.  You don’t get more die-hard than this.  Very few people make it into this tier. These are the individual fans you heard when you turned on a mid-week Mets game this September and saw 500 people in the stands.  There is always one guy whose every comment gets picked up by the TV broadcast.  Fans in this tier show either an incredible amount of team loyalty or an incredible lack of a life.  You be the judge.

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Tier II: The Die-Hards

Again, I was in this category until recently.   These “Die-Hards” differ from the “Ultimate Die-Hards” only in that they watch the late-season games on TV.  These fans keep watching, but they at least retain the options to channel-surf in commercials, do chores during games, and avoid spending money for ballpark hot dogs.  This category does cover fans who try to watch every single game regardless of how bad a team is doing.  Congratulations to my parents, who both remain in the “die-hards” category for the Mets.  Over the past month, I have enjoyed getting updates from them about the September Mets.  It’s almost like I was in a foreign country with no access to Mets info….when, in actuality, I was in the same country that allowed me to spend hours every day on metsblog from April through mid-August.  I just had had enough of the Mets by the end of summer.  These fans don’t feel that way.  These fans are devoted enough to the team that they would rather watch a depressing last month of a season than watch anything else.  These are the Mets fans who were devastated in late August that Conforto and Cespedes would be out for the season, when people like me said, “I feel bad for them personally, but the Mets’ season ended weeks ago.  I’m over it.”

 

Tier III: The Hard-Core Non-Die-Hards

This is where I fall.  We in this group start every season excited about the possibility of a World Series Championship, Stanley Cup, or NBA Championship; regardless of how unlikely it might be.  This is the fourth-straight season in which no reasonable person gives the Devils a shot to win the Cup, but I am excited about the prospect of them shocking the world in June.  Tier-III fans are just like Tier-I/II fans in that all try to watch as many games as possible at the start of the season.  In any of the three groups listed, the fans know who all the players are.  A Mets fan in this group always knows who the fifth outfielder is, which relievers have been pitching well lately, how many pitches a starter pitched his last time out, and so on.  A Devils fan in this group knows the line combinations and defense pairs at any point, has views on what better combinations would be, and who should be getting more or less ice time.  Fans in this group actively think about a team’s game when they cannot watch.  They will take any socially acceptable opportunity to check in on a team’s game when they are unable to watch.

The main difference between Tiers II and III is that Tier-III fans, like me, check out in the last quarter of the season if the team is terrible.  We hold out hope longer than we probably should, but eventually we realize it’s over.  Once that happens, we move on to other entertainment choices.

 

Tier IV The Halfway-Respectable Bandwagoners

These are the Mets fans who came back into the mix a few weeks into 2006, after a few years off.  They are the fans who jumped back onboard in April of 2015, left for three months, and returned in August of that year.  They are Rangers fans who took off from 1997 through 2005 but jumped backed in when Lundqvist showed up and improved the team that year.  These fans don’t wait until playoff time to root for their teams, but they wait until the team is good to jump back in.  Fans in this group have a major distinction from the first three tiers in that they do not check in daily to see how their team is doing.  They will check in rather frequently, but they are ok with not knowing how their team did last night.  Meanwhile, this statement would be blasphemous to someone from the previous three tiers.

 

Tier V The Unrespectable Bandwagoners

These are the Yankees fans who showed up out of nowhere this week, the Mets fans who showed up out of nowhere two Octobers ago, and the hockey fans who show up once their “team” makes the second round of the playoffs.  They experience none of the hard work and stress to make it to the most exciting part of the year, but they reap all the benefits.  Worst of all, they usually act like they have been watching the team all year and know what they are talking about.  Essentially, they are like me (and most of America during March Madness).  With March Madness, I gobble up four days of college-basketball analysis between Selection Sunday and the opening Thursday, and then I act like I really know that Stony Brook should match up well against Kentucky.  I like to think it’s cute when we do this for college basketball, but I’m sure college-basketball purists hate it.  Likewise, the Yankees equivalent of this fan will probably spend the Yankees’ entire playoff run spewing lines like, “The Yankees need to make this a bullpen game, because their bullpen is their strength.” “Aaron Judge has really come on after a rough patch in the middle of the season.” and “Joe Girardi needs to be careful not to overmanage”.  These are the three lines that they heard from Francesa, Michael Kay, Sportscenter, or even just a Yahoo! Headline, but these fans are going to milk the three lines for all they are worth.  These people want to sound smart and act like they have been there all along, even if they have no idea where Todd Frazier or Sonny Gray was playing on July 1.  Also, these fans never never ever check to see how a team has been doing, unless they are actually watching the game.

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Tier VI The Absolute Worst

Sorry, Yankees fans, but you have a lot more of these fans most other teams do.  These are the fans that don’t even watch playoff games, but they will tell anyone within an ear shot that they are huge fans of a certain team.  A Yankees fan of this flavor is probably at a bar right now saying, “I love the Yankees.  How can you not love Derek Jeter and Tino Martinez?”  They know absolutely nothing outside of 1 or 2 players who once played for the team…but  they legitimately think they can fool people into thinking they are huge fans. My all-time favorite moment for a Tier-VI person came in 2010.  I was at a bar, and a TV was showing the “Yankees Classics” version of Game 4 of the 1996 World Series.  I overheard a woman say to her friend, “The Yankees are losing 6-0.  This sucks.  I love the Yankees.”  That actually happened.  The TV said “Yankees Classics” in the corner, and the footage was somewhat grainy.  It was actually 2010, but the TV was showing the likes of Wade Boggs, Mariano Duncan, and Tino Martinez on the field.  The girl clearly hoped that a guy would hear her, be impressed, and start talking to her.  It didn’t work.  However, if I were not engaged at the time, I would have been tempted to go up to her and say, “It’s gonna be OK.  The Yankees are gonna tie this at 6 later on, on a 3-run homer by Jim Leyritz, and they’ll win it in extra innings.”  Is there anything sexier than being able to tell the future?  No.  Unfortunately, if my plan had worked, I would have been stuck spending time with a “Tier VI Yankees Fan”, which is as an insufferable a human being as one can find.  Anyway, you get my point.  These fans know absolutely nothing but act like they are huge fans.

 

Tier Self-Loathing

This tier exists only for a select few teams, and they are the fans who refuse to enjoy anything about their team because they are always waiting for the other shoe to drop.  When good things happen, they say, “Obviously something bad will happen now because these are the ______________.”  You know the teams that have this tier.  The Mets, the Jets, and the Knicks are the main culprits.  I am going to guess that the Browns, Bills, and Maple Leafs have plenty of these fans too.  Don LaGreca and I cannot stand these people.  If you are that miserable rooting for your team, then stop watching.  These are the Mets fans who said in the 2015 World Series, “I knew they’d blow it, because they are the Mets.”  Never mind that they had an incredible run to make it to the World Series.  These are the Jets fans who are already conceding the #1 pick after two wins, because “The Jets don’t even know how to tank right.”  At some point, I plan to write a full post about self-loathing Mets fans, but today is not that day.

And there you have it….my 6-7 tiers of sports fans!

The Yankees Suffered Their Worst Loss Since 2004 Last Night and I Am Heartbroken

I’ve seen the Yankees lose in the playoffs plenty of times before but last night is just a tough, tough pill to swallow. Ever since it became clear that the Yankees were playing the Indians and that likely AL Cy Young winner Corey Kluber would be starting Game 2, everyone talked about how important Game 1 was. Instead, Trevor Bauer looked like the Cy Young caliber pitcher, and the Yankees were dominated.

For some reason, all day Friday I said I had a good feeling about Game 2 and our chances of getting to Kluber. I think I was just trying to convince myself of it so I’d feel better, but nonetheless I felt like we were gonna get some runs off of him. Gary Sanchez confirmed my belief with his homer in the top of the first.

What I could not have anticipated, however, was the Bombers touching up Kluber for SIX runs in less than three innings. An Aaron Hicks 3-run shot had us Yankee fans dreaming of the series coming back to the Bronx tied at 1, and Greg Bird’s shot seemed to put the game out of reach.

Everything appeared to be going to plan. CC worked into and out of trouble multiple times in a gutsy five-plus inning performance before Joe Girardi turned the ball over to our dominant bullpen. As much as I hate Girardi right now, I’m not gonna come after him for this move. Sure CC was pitching great with a low pitch count, but he pushed all the right buttons when it came to the bullpen in the Wild Card game, and Chad Green has been money all year. But his next crucial decision is the reason I am calling for him to be fired, as well as thrown in jail.

I’m not gonna put in the replay of what happened next because I can’t bring myself to watch it again. With two outs, two strikes, and two runners on, Green throws a pitch that hits the knob of Lonnie Chisenhall’s bat and lands in Gary Sanchez’s glove. End of the inning, right? Wrong. The home plate umpire said the pitch hit Chisenhall. Sanchez was immediately adamant that the ball hit the bat and not Chisenhall. So Girardi, as a former catcher, puts his faith in Sanchez because he had the clearest view, right?

SPOILER ALERT: THIS IS NOT WHAT JOE DID.

Girardi decided that because the Yankees’ replay crew didn’t have enough time to see the super slow-mo before he had to make a decision on challenging, he was going to hold off and let the play stand.

Let’s understand what that means.

Girardi would rather take his chances and pitch to Francisco Lindor, the Indians best hitter/one of the best hitters in the American League, with the bases loaded than take a chance and potentially lose (because to be fair he couldn’t be 100% sure at that point) a challenge. How how how HOW is this a thought in his mind? And the fact that he tried to defend the move with the absolutely BULLSHIT excuse that he didn’t want to throw off Green’s “rhythm” with a challenge? I know he finally took the blame today but how long was it going to take this guy to hold himself accountable for the biggest managing blunder of his career?

You could also make the case that he left both Robertson and Betances in the game for too long, but I don’t even care about those moves. I could sit here and complain about bullpen usage for hours, but that’s one of the hardest tasks a manager has. But when you are faced with a situation where a challenge can get you out of an inning and the alternative is pitching to the other team’s best hitter with the bases loaded, challenging is probably a good idea.

I’ve never really been a big Girardi fan. I thought that the team overachieving this year meant he would be back for sure, but after last night I’m thinking differently. How are players supposed to get behind a guy who not only shoots his team in the foot in its most crucial game all season, but refuses to take responsibility for it after the fact? This Yankee team has the young core to compete and make runs deep into the playoffs for years to come. The Yankees’ front office needs to ask themselves: is Joe Girardi the guy to lead them there? Sure, he already won a World Series in 2009, but that was a team full of veterans. The present day Yankees are one of the youngest teams in baseball; is Joe Girardi the fearless leader they need to guide them through the playoffs? After last night, I think the clear answer is no.

Game 3 in the Bronx tomorrow night, I’ll be in attendance. I really wish I could’ve seen how crazy the stadium would be if the series was tied at 1, but it should still be rocking regardless. A 2-0 deficit is a tough hole to get out of but as the late Yogi Berra used to say, it ain’t over til’ it’s over. There’s also this El Gary tweet from earlier today.

After the ’04 ALCS, I’m definitely a believer in the fact that anything can happen in the game of baseball. The Yankees are home, Tanaka is on the hill, and there will be playoff baseball in the Bronx. If the Yankees proved one thing last night, it’s that the Indians are not unbeatable, that’s for damn sure. Let’s right this ship and force Game 4. Thumbs down for days.