Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Yankees Score 12 Runs. And It's Almost Not Enough.

Every now and then, the Yankees have one of those games that makes you say, "I wish they'd saved some of those runs for later." It usually happens when they're about to play the Red Sox, especially at Fenway Park.

And what's the next series on the Yankee schedule? Well, lookee what we have here: A trip to Boston to play the Red Sox at Fenway.

So what happened last night, against the Texas Rangers? The Yankees scored 12 runs.

Legend has it that, after a 1964 afternoon game in which the Mets beat the Chicago Cubs 19-1 -- wins were rare for them in their early years, never mind blowout wins -- a fan, unable to watch or listen to the game because he was at work, called up one of the New York newspapers (no Internet in those days) and asked how the Mets did. He was told, "Great, they scored 19 runs!" And the fan, who knew his Mets, asked, "Did they win?"


Last night, Brett Gardner continued his hot hitting by leading off the game with a home run, his 13th of the season. But the Rangers tagged Brandon McCarthy for 4 runs, and led 4-1 after 5.

Then came the 6th inning, perhaps the best Yankee inning of the season so far. Gardner led off again, off Ranger starter Nick Martinez, and doubled to right. Jeter beat out an infield singled. Jacoby Ellsbury popped up, but a wild pitch moved Gardner to 3rd and Jeter to 2nd.

Mark Teixeira returned from injury, and drew a walk to load the bases. Carlos Beltran singled Gardy and the Captain home. 4-3 Rangers. Brian McCann hit a sacrifice fly to get Teix home. Tie game. Chase Headley drew a walk.

That was enough for Ranger manager Ron Washington, as he brought Shawn Tolleson -- son of 1980s Yankee reserve and Rangers starting infielder Wayne Tolleson -- in to relieve Martinez. But Zoilo Amonte, back from the minors, singled home Beltran to give the Yankees the lead.

Brendan Ryan, who's been completely unreliable with the bat, doubled home Headley and Almonte. 7-4. Yankees. The Yanks had batted around, and Gardner came up again, and reached on an error. 8-4. Yankees.

The Yankees scored twice more in the 7th, and it was 10-4 Yankees. Surely, the Yankees weren't going to blow a 6-run lead with 9 outs to go.

J.P. Arencibia hit his 2nd home run of the game, a grand slam off Dellin Betances after Adam Warren loaded the bases. 10-8 Yankees.

Teixeira sent a Teix Message in the top of the 8th (18 homers in July is pretty good for a player who's been injured), and that made it 12-8 Yankees. Surely, the Yankees weren't going to blow an 4-run lead with 6 outs to go.

The Rangers closed to within 12-9 in the bottom of the 8th. Surely, the Yankees weren't going to blow a 3-run lead with 3 outs to go.

David Robertson came in to close it out. The 1st batter he faced was Arencibia. D-Rob struck him out.

But Leonys Martin singled. Robinson Chirinos walked, and was replaced by pinch-runner Daniel Robertson. Now the tying run was at the plate.

Rougned Odor grounded out to move the runners over. Shin-Soo Choo walked to load the bases. Now the tying run was on 1st, and the winning run was at the plate.

Elvis Andrus singled home Martin and Robertson. 12-11. Now the tying run was at 2nd, and the winning run was on 1st. And Joe Girardi had already used Warren, Betances and Chase Whitley. And who's left in the bullpen that would inspire confidence in a Yankee Fan? Nobody. Girardi was going to live or die with Robertson.

Robertson walked Alex Rios. Bases loaded. Now the tying run was at 3rd, the winning run at 2nd. Good thing there were 2 outs. Just 1 out to go. So near, and yet so far away.

That home run that Beltre had hit earlier? It was the 391st of his career. That's 1 more than Graig Nettles, 2 more than Johnny Bench. More than Joe DiMaggio, Yogi Berra, Johnny Mize, Jim Rice, Dwight Evans, Frank Howard and Dick Allen. And only a few less than Dale Murphy, Al Kaline and Duke Snider.

It was the 2,541st hit of his career. That's more than anyone has had in a Yankee uniform aside from Jeter, Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.

And all he needed to at least tie the game, and probably win it, was a single.

I remembered the Yankee game of May 16, 2006. Playing at the old Stadium, they fell behind the Rangers 9-0 and 10-1, stormed back to 12-12 after 7, and trailed 13-12 in the bottom of the 9th, and won it 14-13 on a home run by Jorge Posada.

Could this game be the Rangers' revenge for that, as the 2010 American League Championship Series was their revenge for beating them in the Division Series of 1996, '98 and '99?

A big chunk of the Yankee section of the Twitterverse was saying this would be the worst Yankee loss of the season. Some were saying that, even if we held on, it would feel like a loss. I have to admit, if you score 12 runs, and the game is still in doubt with 1 out to go, you shouldn't brag about it.

Beltre hit a long fly ball to left field. Some of us were sure it was another grand slam.

Gardner stood on the warning track, and hauled it in. Ballgame over. Yankees win. Theeee Yankees win... barely.

WP: McCarthy (3-0). SV: Robertson (27). LP: Martinez (1-7).


The series with the Rangers concludes tonight. The starting pitchers are Hiroki Kuroda for the Yankees, and Colby Lewis for the Rangers.

Tomorrow is a travel day, and then comes the weekend series against the Boston Red Scum.

Meanwhile, right now, Yankee Stadium is hosting a preseason "friendly" between 2 of England's biggest soccer teams, Liverpool and Manchester City.

The Yankee Stadium Bleachers are probably the closest thing in American sports to The Kop at Liverpool's historic Anfield.

Fenway's bleachers? Considering the Fenway animals, it's more like the Stretford End at Manchester United's Old Trafford.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Yankees, Red Sox, Stephen A., Raiders, Modell, and an Arsenal Farewell

We won 7 of 8 after the All-Star Break. Now, we've lost 3 straight.

We need runs. Lots and lots of runs.

We didn't get them last night. The only runs we scored were on a pair of solo home runs by Brett Gardner (giving him a surprising 12 on the season). Gardner and Derek Jeter (who passed Carl Yastrzemski on the all-time hits list, giving him more than all living humans except Hank Aaron and Pete Rose) each got 3 hits; the rest of the Yankees, 5.

David Phelps (5-5) didn't help, giving up 4 runs in 6 innings. But it wouldn't have mattered if the entire staff gave up only 3 over the full 9: We still only scored 2 off Yu Darvish (10-6). Neftali Feliz had the save for the Rangers (his 2nd).

Rangers 4, Yankees 2.

We need a win tonight.


It could have been worse. Somebody forgot to tell the Red Sox that you gotta come out of the clubhouse to play the ballgame. Those pesky Toronto Blue Jays pounded them at Fenway last night, 14-1.

And, with the Red Sox playing as lousy this season as they did in 2012, as if the 2013 World Series title never happened (and, without David Ortiz's steroids, it wouldn't have), Fenway was only half-full.

What happened to "the best sports city in America"? What happened to "Boston Strong"? What happened to "our fucking city"?

I guess they only support a winner.


Stephen A. Smith was suspended by ESPN for his ill-suited remarks about domestic violence in the way of the Ray Rice suspension.

For one week. Or half as long as Rutgers Ray, who I used to admire, got for hitting his now-wife.

If this doesn't make sense, it's not because it wasn't enough for Stephen A., one of the best sportswriters of the last 20 years, but whose mouth has gotten him in trouble before. And it's not because it was too long for him. It's because it wasn't enough for Rice.

If a woman hits you, you can defend yourself without hitting her. There's no excuse for anything other than self-defense, like if she's coming at you with a gun or a knife.


There's a rumor going around that Mark Davis, son of Al Davis and now owner of the Oakland Raiders, wants to move the team to San Antonio, because of the lease and the comparative lack of luxury boxes at the Oakland Coliseum.

He does know the Alamodome isn't a better option, right? Maybe he should ask the ownership of the Houston Texans how hard it is to put a dent into the Dallas Cowboys' stranglehold on football fandom in Texas.

The San Antonio Raiders? At least they wouldn't have to change uniform colors to match another team in town, since the Spurs also wear silver and black. Although, when the Raiders first left Oakland, for Los Angeles, eventually the Kings switched from Laker purple and gold to Raider silver and black.

But why not just go back to Los Angeles? They still have a hold of the area anyway. Plus, it would screw over the San Diego Chargers, which is something Daddy Al loved to do.


Speaking of rotten owners who moved NFL teams, Art Modell couldn't be buried anywhere near Cleveland after he moved the original Browns to Baltimore. He's buried in suburban Baltimore County.

And a man identified only as a Browns fan has been arrested for, literally, pissing on Modell's grave. He did it, and posted a video of it on YouTube. (No, I won't link to it.)

If charges are filed (and it looks like they will be), the fan could face 2 years in jail, and a $500 fine.

Look, I understand the sentiment. But there are some things that you just don't do. He crossed the line, and I have no sympathy for him if he goes to prison for this.


Alex Forbes has died. You may never have heard of him, but he was a legend for one of my favorite sports teams.

Alexander Rooney Forbes was born on January 21, 1925 in Dundee, Scotland. A right half in soccer -- today, he would be a right back -- he worked in a Dundee dockyard during World War II, and played for Dundee North End. Yorkshire club Sheffield United brought him to England in 1944, and fellow Scot Archie Macaulay recommended him to his own club, North London's Arsenal, in 1948.

That allowed Alex to reach Arsenal in time to be a part of their 1948 Football League title, and he played enough matches to get a League winner's medal. He did, however, start as the Number 4 on their 1950 FA Cup winners, defeating Liverpool. He also played in the 1952 FA Cup Final, but Arsenal lost to Newcastle United. In 1953, he helped Arsenal win another League title.
Alex Forbes, wearing the lid of the FA Cup after the 1950 Final

In 1956, he suffered a knee injury, and Arsenal let him go after the season. After a season with East London's Leyton Orient and another with West London's Fulham, he retired in 1958. He represented Scotland in both soccer and ice hockey. He later moved to South Africa, taught at Yeshiva College in Johannesburg (not to be confused with Yeshiva University in New York), and won snooker tournaments there.

He was married to Peggy, and had a son Bobby and a daughter Jan. He died yesterday, at the age of 89, the last surviving member of Arsenal's 1950 FA Cup winners.


Days until the next Yankees-Red Sox series begins: 3, this Friday night, at 7:00 PM, at Fenway Park.

Days until the Red Bulls next play a "derby": 4, this Saturday, at 7:00 PM, home to the New England Revolution. So that's New York vs. New England in both MLB and MLS.

Days until the 2014-15 Premier League season begins: 18, on Saturday, August 16, with Arsenal at home to Southeast London club Crystal Palace.

Days until Rutgers plays football again: 30, on Thursday, August 28, at 10:00 PM (7:00 local), away to Washington State, at CenturyLink Field, home of the NFL Champion Seattle Seahawks. Just 1 month.

Days until the U.S. national soccer team plays again: 36, on Wednesday, September 3, a friendly, away to the Czech Republic in Prague. The Czechs have given the U.S. trouble before, including a 3-0 humiliation at the 2006 World Cup. But things are different now. There's also discussions about playing Ireland away later in the year.

Days until East Brunswick High School plays football again: 37 on Thursday, September 4, home to Woodbridge. A little over 5 weeks. It's on a Thursday night, rather than a Friday night, because of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.

Days until Rutgers makes its Big Ten Conference debut: 46, on Saturday, September 13, at 8:00 PM, against old enemy Penn State. Under 7 weeks.

Days until Derek Jeter's last regular-season home game (barring injury): 58, on Thursday, September 25, against the Baltimore Orioles. Under 2 months.

Days until the next North London Derby between Arsenal and Tottenham: 60, on Saturday, September 27, at the Emirates Stadium.

Days until Derek Jeter's last regular-season game (barring injury): 61, on Sunday, September 28, against the Red Sox at Fenway Park.

Days until the Devils play again: 72. They open on Thursday, October 9, away to the Philadelphia Flyers. Just 10 weeks. They once again get screwed by Commissioner Gary Bettman and his schedulemakers, this time having to play 4 road games before their home opener, on Saturday, October 18, at 7:00 PM, vs. the San Jose Sharks.

Days until the Devils play another local rival: See the previous answer. The first game against The Scum is Tuesday night, October 21, at the Prudential Center. The first game against the Islanders is Saturday night, November 29, at the Nassau Coliseum. The Devils' last trip to Uniondale, before the Isles move to Brooklyn, is Monday night, December 15.

Days until Game 7 of the 2014 World Series -- the absolute latest you can ever again see Derek Jeter in a competitive game: 92, on Wednesday, October 29. Exactly 3 months, and no more Jeter -- not as an active player, anyway.

Days until the next East Brunswick vs. Old Bridge Thanksgiving game: 121, on Thursday morning, November 27, at 10:00 AM. Under 4 months.

Days until New York City FC make their Major League Soccer debut: Unknown, but a new MLS season usually begins on the 2nd Saturday in March, which would be March 14, 2015. That's 228 days. Under 8 months. Whether it will be a home game, and thus at the new Yankee Stadium, is yet to be determined.

Days until Alex Rodriguez is eligible to play for the Yankees again: 246 -- presuming, that is, that 2015's Opening Day is on April 1, and wouldn't it just work out that way, that A-Rod is again allowed to play a regular-season game for the Yankees on April Fool's Day? Anyway, that's a little over 8 months.

Days until the New York Islanders' last game at the Nassau Coliseum: 256, on April 11, 2015, at 7:00 PM, against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Under 9 months.

Days until the Islanders' first home game at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn: Unknown, but an NHL regular season usually begins on the 1st Friday in October, which would be October 2, 2015. That's 431 days. That's a little over 14 months. Or, to put it another way, "431 Sleeps Till Brooklyn." Until then, even with their 4 straight long-ago Stanley Cups, they're just a Small Club In Hempstead.

Days until Euro 2016 begins in France: 683, on Friday, June 10. Under 2 years.

Days until the next Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: 740, on Friday, August 5, 2016. A little over 2 years.

Days until the next World Cup begins in Russia: 1,413, on Friday June 8, 2018. Under 4 years.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Yanks Cooled Off, But Teix Could Soon Return

Maybe, sometime this week, I'll do a report of Arsenal Day at Red Bull Arena. Not today.

When last I posted the result of a Yankee game, the Yanks had won 7 of 8 since the All-Star Break. Things were looking very good, with lots of nice momentum.

Aaaaaaaand it's gone. They've now lost 2 straight, at home, to those pesky Toronto Blue Jays.

On Saturday, while I was preparing for Arsenal Day, Chris Capuano made his Yankee debut. I certainly can't blame him for the Yankees losing: He went 6 innings, allowing just 2 runs on 5 hits, although he did walk 4. He left with the game tied 2-2, so if the team's job wasn't done, it was much more the offense's fault than the pitcher's.

Brian McCann hit a home run in the 4th inning (his 11th of the season), with Carlos Beltran aboard, to give the Yanks a 2-0 lead. But, yet again, Melky Cabrera hurt the Yankees, this time with a 5th-inning double that scored some guy who Met fans used to think was a better shortstop than Derek Jeter. (Jose Reyes. And he still isn't better.)

Shawn Kelley allowed a run in the 7th, before Matt Thornton settled things down. But Chase Whitley, who really should have been kept in the rotation, allowed 2 runs in the 9th, and Jeff Francis allowed another to make it 6-2.

The Yankees came back in the 9th, but it wasn't enough. Jacoby Ellsbury singled with one out, and Beltran knocked one out (his 12th homer) to make it 6-4, but that was it.

WP: Drew Hutchison (7-9). No save. LP: Kelley (1-3).

Blame the hitters. They blew it with men on 1st & 2nd in the 1st, the 5th and the 8th; and they blew it with man on 1st in the 3rd, again after the homer in the 4th, in the 6th and the 7th.


Shane Greene started yesterday, and didn't have good stuff. In less than 6 innings, he allowed 3 runs on 8 hits and 2 walks. Not bad, but the way the Yankees have hit most of the year, not good enough.

In the bottom of the 5th, with the Yankees down 2-0, Chase Headley and Francisco Cervelli, 2 guys the Yankees couldn't count on in the 1st half (because Headley was elsewhere and Cervelli was hurt), hit back-to-back home runs to tie it. It was Headley's 1st as a Yankee, and Cervelli's 1st of the season. The teams traded runs in the 6th, making it 3-3.

David Huff finished the 6th without further trouble for the Yankees. Dellin Betances got through the 7th, but allowed a run in the 8th before Adam Warren got out of it. But Beltran singled home Brett Gardner to forge yet another tie. It was 4-4 going to the 9th.

David Robertson got Reyes to ground out to open the inning. But Melky singled. (Look, the guy embarrassed the Giants with his PED use. He would have embarrassed us, and we didn't need that then, and we don't need that now. I am not saying we never should have gotten rid of Melky. I'm just saying that I don't like that he's hurt us with the Jays.)

D-Rob got the dangerous Jose Bautista to ground into a fielders choice. But he stole 2nd, and another ex-Yankee prospect, Dioner Navarro, singled him home. The Yanks meekly went down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the 9th.

(Navarro's never quite turned into a great player, but he did make the All-Star Team with the 2008 Rays, and he's done better, thus far, than that other recent catching prospect, Jesus Montero, who's been hurt most of this season.)

Jays 5, Yanks 4. WP: Aaron Sanchez (1-0). SV: Cam Janssen (16). LP: Robertson (1-3).


So, with 9 weeks left in the regular season, the Yankees are 4 games behind the 1st-place Baltimore Orioles. This is not a big deal -- certainly not so big a deal that we need to start paying more attention to the Wild Card race. But we must start scoring more runs.

Good news: Mark Teixeira has taken batting and fielding practice, and it is rumored that he will be in the lineup tomorrow night. Bad news: Until he does, whenever that is, the Yankees will still be, essentially, operating with a 24-man roster. And with 13 pitchers and 9 starting hitters, that means only 2 hitters on the bench.

Joe Girardi and Brian Cashman, please take note: This is not a recommended way to run your ballclub. You should have put Teix on the Disabled List, since he'll end up having been out at least 15 days anyway; and you don't need 13 pitchers. Joe: I repeat, you do not need 13 pitchers! Put down the damn binder and let a righthanded pitcher pitch to a lefthanded hitter! If he's good enough to pitch for the New York Yankees, he's good enough to pitch to anyone!


Tonight, the Yankees start a weeklong roadtrip. First, 3 games in Arlington against the Texas Rangers, then Thursday is a travel day, and then a weekend series against The Scum at Scumway Park in Scumtown.

All the Texas games are scheduled to start at 8:05 PM our time (7:05 theirs). Here are the projected pitching matchups:

* Tonight: David Phelps vs. Yu Darvish.
* Tomorrow: Brandon McCarthy vs. Nick Martinez.
* Wednesday: Hiroki Kuroda vs. Colby Lewis.

Come on you... uh, Bombers? Let's do some bombing! Like the YES Network promos are saying: Go deep, in the heart of Texas!

Yankees in the Baseball Hall of Fame

Note: This list only includes players and others who had notable contributions to the Yankees, not Hall-of-Famers who were briefly Yankees like Paul Waner and Phil Niekro. And while I do count broadcasters, I'm not counting Joe Garagiola, because he wasn't a Yankee broadcaster for long; nor Tony Kubek, even though he played for the Yankees, because he wasn't elected as a Yankee broadcaster.

1. Babe Ruth, elected 1936 with the first class.
2. Willie Keeler, 1939
3. Lou Gehrig, 1939
4. Clark Griffith, 1946, pitcher and first manager, nearly won 1904 Pennant
5. Jack Chesbro, 1946
6. Herb Pennock, 1948
7. Ed Barrow, 1953
8. Bill Dickey, 1954
9. Joe DiMaggio, 1955
10. Joe McCarthy, 1957
11. Miller Huggins, 1964
12. Casey Stengel, 1966
13. Red Ruffing, 1967
14. Waite Hoyt, 1969
15. Earle Combs, 1970
16. George Weiss, 1971
17. Lefty Gomez, 1972
18. Yogi Berra, 1972
19. Mickey Mantle, 1974
20. Whitey Ford, 1974
21. Bucky Harris, 1975, just 2 years as manager but won 1947 World Series
22. Bob Lemon, 1976, Yankee pitching coach then, won 1978 World Series as manager
23. Joe Sewell, 1977, only 3 years as Yankee but won 1932 World Series
24. Larry MacPhail, 1978, only 2 years as owner but modernized team, won 1947 World Series
25. Mel Allen, 1978, Ford Frick Award for broadcasters
26. Red Barber, 1978, he and Mel were the first Frick Award honorees
27. Johnny Mize, 1981
28. Enos Slaughter, 1985
29. Buck Canel, 1985, did Spanish broadcasts for both Yankees and Mets
30. Catfish Hunter, 1987
31. Tony Lazzeri, 1991
32. Reggie Jackson, 1993
33. Phil Rizzuto, 1994
34. Dave Winfield, 2001
35. Wade Boggs, 2005
36. Jerry Coleman, 2005, elected as broadcaster for Yankees and San Diego Padres
37. Goose Gossage, 2008
38. Rickey Henderson, 2009, I wouldn't count him but he keeps getting invited to Old-Timers' Day
39. Jacob Ruppert, 2013
40. Joe Torre, 2014

Yogi, Whitey, Reggie, Winfield, Boggs, Goose, Rickey and Torre are still alive -- that's 8.

UPDATE: Through the election of 2020:

41. Mariano Rivera, 2019
42. Mike Mussina, 2019
43. Derek Jeter, 2020

Still alive: Whitey, Reggie, Winfield, Boggs, Goose, Rickey, Torre, Mo, Moose and Derek -- that's 10.

How to Go to a Giants or Jets Game at the Meadowlands

With the 2014 National Football League season approaching, I decided to do my "How to Be a (team name) fan in (city name)" series for football, starting with the home teams, the New York Giants of East Rutherford and the New York Jets of East Rutherford (as the baseball Angels might call them). This is, of course, less for those of you who are Tri-State Area fans, more for those of you visiting from other cities/metropolitan areas.

I'll also be doing this for each of their 2014 away opponents too, including (should they make it) any teams they go away to in the Playoffs if I haven't already done them.

According to a map based on Facebook "Likes," showing each County in the country, until 2013, the Jets had just one County where they had more fans than the Giants: Nassau County, Long Island, long the home of their team offices and training camp, Weeb Ewbank Hall on the campus of Hofstra University, across from the Nassau Coliseum. Now, even Nassau is listed as majority Giants territory. I guess Sports Illustrated had it right in 1986, when the Giants were on their way to their 1st Super Bowl win and the Jets were also Playoff-bound: "In the Big Apple, the Jets are always second banana."

Before You Go. In New York and North Jersey, anything is possible as far as the weather goes, but there are some usuals. It can get really hot early in the season, really cold from November on out, and the biggest thing wrong with Giants Stadium, the wind, wasn't fixed even with $1.6 billion at their disposal. So be aware of that. Check the newspaper or local TV websites for the forecast before you decide what to wear.

It's the Eastern Time Zone, so you don't have to worry about fiddling with your timepieces if you actually are a Giants fan, or a Jets fan, or a fan of any of the teams in the East visiting them (Giants: Atlanta Falcons, Washington Redskins, Philadelphia Eagles; Jets: Detroit Lions, Buffalo Bills, Pittsburgh Steelers, Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots). It's 1 hour ahead of the Central Time Zone (Giants: Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, Dallas Cowboys; Jets: Chicago Bears), 2 hours ahead of Mountain (Giants: Arizona Cardinals; Jets: Denver Broncos), and 3 hours ahead of Pacific (Giants: San Francisco 49ers; Jets: Oakland Raiders).

Tickets. The games are usually sold out well in advance, with all 82,566 seats sold (if not actually occupied during the game). This in spite of the fact of the familiar joke that the only reason anyone goes to Jet games is that they can't get tickets to Giant games.

This may be right: In 2013, the Giants averaged 80,148 fans per home game, a near-sellout, and 2nd in the League only to the Dallas Cowboys. The Jets? "Only" 76,957, or 93 percent of capacity.

As with Giants Stadium, MetLife Stadium has 3 main decks. In the lower level, expect to pay $400 to $1,400 on the sidelines, and $219 to $332 in the end zones. In the middle level, $593 to $792 sidelines, $227 to $265 end zones. In the upper level, $128 to $443 sidelines, $123 to $233 end zones.

Getting There. For reasons that will soon become clear, I'm advising you to get to New York/New Jersey by a means other than driving: Plane, train, bus. Then get a hotel nearby (there are several near both Newark Airport and the Meadowlands Sports Complex), and then either get a rental car or take public transportation (especially the latter if you're actually staying in New York City).

If you're driving, here's how to get to MetLife Stadium by car:

* Philadelphia Eagles: Get into New Jersey and take the Turnpike North to Exit 16W, and follow the signs for the Stadium. About 1 hour and 45 minutes.

* Washington Redskins: Get on Interstate 95 North, and then follow the directions from Philadelphia. About 3 hours and 45 minutes.

* New England Patriots: It really depends on what part of New England you're starting from. From Cape Cod, Rhode Island and eastern Connecticut, take I-95 South the whole way. From northern Connecticut, western Massachusetts and Vermont, take Interstate 91 South until you reach New Haven, and then follow the preceding directions. From Boston, take Interstate 90/Massachusetts Turnpike West to Exit 9, take Interstate 84 West to Hartford, take Exit 86 onto I-91, and then follow the preceding directions. From New Hampshire, take Interstate 93 South until you get to Interstate 495, and take that until you get to the Pike, and then follow the directions from Boston. From Maine, you could take I-95 all the way, but it will probably be faster if you take it to I-495, and then follow the directions from New Hampshire. Once you get into New York City, cross over the George Washington Bridge, then get on the New Jersey Turnpike South, and take Exit 16W, and follow the signs for the stadium. The time you will need will also vary, depending on what part of New England you start from, but, from Boston, figure on at least 4 hours; northern New England, at least 5 hours.

* Buffalo Bills: The simplest way is to get on I-90, the New York State Thruway East, to Syracuse, then take Interstate 81 South to Scranton, switch to Interstate 380 South, to Interstate 80 East, then take that to Exit 53 for New Jersey Route 3, and take that to the Stadium. About 6 hours.

* Pittsburgh Steelers: Take Interstate 76, the Pennsylvania Turnpike East, to Harrisburg, then switch to Interstate 78 East for its entire length. This will get you to the New Jersey Turnpike, and then take Exit 16W, and follow the signs for the Stadium. About 6 hours.

* Detroit Lions: Take Interstate 75 South to Toledo, then I-80 East to the New Jersey Turnpike, and that to Exit 16W. About 9 hours.

* Indianapolis Colts: Take Interstate 70 East until it merges with I-76 outside Pittsburgh, and then follow the directions from there. About 10 hours and 45 minutes.

* Chicago Bears: Take Interstate 94 South to I-80 East, and take that all the way to the New Jersey Turnpike, and that to Exit 16W. About 11 hours and 45 minutes.

* Atlanta Falcons: Take Interstate 85 North until you hit I-95 in Virginia, and then follow the directions from Washington. About 13 hours.

* Miami Dolphins: Take I-95 North the whole way. About 18 hours and 30 minutes.

* Dallas Cowboys: Uh, yeah, you're flying. But if you really want to drive all the way from North Texas, take Interstate 20 East until you reach Atlanta, and then follow the directions from there. About 24 hours.

* Anybody else: Forget it, fly.

Be advised that traffic is going to be hellacious, even though you'll never actually be entering New York City. So, whatever driving time I gave you, allow yourself at least half an hour to get from Exit 16W to your parking space.

Once In the City. East Rutherford is a Borough of 8,913 people in Bergen County, New Jersey. Its most famous native is basketball announcer Dick Vitale. If not for the Meadowlands complex, which opened in 1976 with Giants Stadium and the Meadowlands Racetrack, added the arena now named the IZOD Center in 1981, and replaced the Stadium with MetLife in 2010, it might very well be best known for producing Dickie V, bay-bee! It's not like, aside from the Complex, there's anything noticeable about it.

So if you're flying in, and your hotel isn't at the Complex or by the Airport, most likely, you'll be staying in New York City -- a.k.a. The City.

Pennsylvania Station, a.k.a. Penn Station, is between 31st and 33rd Streets, between 7th and 8th Avenues. Port Authority Bus Terminal is between 40th and 42nd Streets, between 8th and 9th Avenues. They are one stop apart on the Subway's A, C and E trains. Outside Port Authority, there is a statue of Jackie Gleason dressed as bus driver Ralph Kramden on The Honeymooners, one of a series of statues commissioned by cable network TV Land.

When you get to your hotel, Penn Station or Port Authority, go to a Hudson News stand and pick up copies of The New York Times and the Daily News. Don’t read the New York Post. Like anything owned by Rupert Murdoch, it’s a bunch of right-wing lies with an occasionally good sports section added. The Times and the Daily News, however, are not only manned by responsible journalists, but have great sports sections. The Times is the face New York City likes to show the rest of the world. The Daily News is the face the City prefers to show itself. The Post is a face only a mother could love. Not my mother, though. Nor hers.

The sales tax in New York City is 8.25 percent, in New Jersey 7 percent.

The city of New Amsterdam, and the colony of New Netherland, was founded by the Dutch in 1624. In 1664, the English took over, and named both city and colony New York, for the Duke of York, brother of King Charles II. As none of Charles' many children were legitimate, when he died in 1685, that brother became King James II -- and his reign did not end well, and let's leave it at that.

New York County, a.k.a. the Borough of Manhattan, was also named for James. "Manahatta" was an Indian word meaning "island of many hills." Kings County was named for King Charles, but the Dutch name Breuckelen stuck, and it became the City, and after 1898 the Borough, of Brooklyn. Queens County, or the Borough of Queens, was named for King Charles' Portuguese wife, Catherine of Braganza. Richmond County was named for one of Charles' sons, Charles Lennox, Earl of Richmond, but the Dutch name Staaten Eylandt stuck, and it became the Borough of Staten Island. And Jonas Bronck settled the land north of Manhattan, which became known as Bronck's Land, which somehow morphed into "The Bronx." Apparently, the "The" became attached because of the Bronx River that passes through it, as rivers are still frequently called that: The Hudson is, although never "The Harlem" or "The East." Anyway, it's the Borough of The Bronx and Bronx County.

New York has been the most populous city in America since surpassing Philadelphia in the post-Revolutionary period, and now has about 8.4 million people living in the Five Boroughs. About 20 million live in the New York Metropolitan Area, a.k.a. the New York Tri-State Area.

New York has a street grid, but doesn't quite follow a centerpoint system. For the east-west numbered Streets, below Washington Square Park, Broadway is the divider between the East Side and the West Side; above Washington Square to the Harlem River, it's 5th Avenue; in The Bronx, it's Jerome Avenue, which borders the 3rd-base stands of the new Stadium.

On the East Side, the Avenues go 5th, Madison, Park (which takes the place of 4th Avenue above Union Square), Lexington, 3rd, 2nd, 1st, York, East End. Numbered Streets will reach an address of 1 at 5th, 100 at Park, 200 at 3rd, 300 at 2nd, 400 at 1st. On the Lower East Side, this extends to 500 at Avenue A, 600 at Avenue B, 700 at Avenue C and 800 at Avenue D. (A, B, C and D, hence the nickname for this neighborhood: "Alphabet City.") The Franklin D. Roosevelt Drive (FDR Drive), formerly the East River Drive and once so dangerous it was called the Falling Down Roadway, separates the island from the East River.

On the West Side, the Avenues go 6th, a.k.a. Avenue of the Americas, Lenox Avenue or Malcolm X Blvd. above Central Park; 7th, a.k.a. Fashion Avenue, or Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd. above Central Park; 8th, Central Park West above 59th Street, or Frederick Douglass Blvd. above Central Park; 9th, Columbus Avenue above 59th, or Morningside Drive above 110th; 10th, Amsterdam Avenue above 59th; 11th, West End Avenue above 59th, merging with Broadway at 108th; and Riverside Drive. The West Side Highway, a.k.a. the Joe DiMaggio Highway, separates the island from the Hudson River.

The north-south numbered Avenues start with 1 at their southern ends, and the addresses go up going Uptown, but there's no set pattern (every X blocks = 100 house numbers), and the vary as to where they begin: 

Broadway, The Battery at the island's southern tip; 1st and 2nd, Houston Street (roughly, Zero Street -- and that's pronounced HOW-stin, not HEW-stin like the Texas city); 3rd, 9th Street; Lexington, 21st Street; Park, 32nd Street (Park Avenue South extends to 17th Street); Madison, 23rd Street (at Madison Square); 5th, Washington Square North (roughly, 6th Street); 6th, Franklin Street (the only numbered Avenue below Houston, so it's about -12th Street); 7th, 11th Street (7th Avenue South extends to Carmine Street, roughly at Houston or Zero); 8th, Bleecker Street (roughly 10th Street at that point); 9th, Gansevoort Street (roughly 12th Street); 10th and 11th, 13th Street; 12th, 22nd Street.

The Subway system looks complicated, and it is. The blue lines (A, C & E), orange lines (B, D & F) and red lines (1, 2 & 3) are on the West Side; the green lines (4, 5 & 6) on the East Side; the yellow lines (N, Q & R) go from the East Side when Downtown to the West Side in Midtown, and then cross over to Queens. A single ride is $2.50, and you're better off getting a multi-ride MetroCard. There will be a $1.00 charge for a new card.

Going In. If you're in the City, getting to the Meadowlands by public transportation has never been easy. It used to be that the only way to do it was to get to the Port Authority Bus Terminal at 41st Street & 8th Avenue (A, C or E train to 42nd Street), and then take the New Jersey Transit 320 bus in. This is still possible, and, theoretically, you can get from bus station to stadium gate in 20 minutes. But, as I said, the traffic will be bad.

The new option, established with the new Stadium, is by rail. You can get to Penn Station, at 32nd Street & 7th Avenue (1, 2, 3, A, C, or E train to 34th Street), and then switch to New Jersey Transit rail. Even then, you'll have to change trains at Secaucus Junction. At least then, it will only be one more stop, although why the rail spur goes around the Stadium, and not right to it, I'll never know. NJ Transit makes no sense whatsoever. But if you do it right, it should take about half an hour. Round-trip fare from New York's Penn Station is $10.50, and from Newark's Penn Station (from which you would also transfer at Secaucus Junction) it's $8.00.

The official address of the Stadium is 1 MetLife Stadium Drive. Tailgating is allowed in the Stadium parking lots. The Stadium has 5 gates, all named for corporations: Bud Light, SAP, Verizon, MetLife (an insurance company, in case you didn't know) and Pepsi. The SAP Gate is the closest one to the train station.

For Giants games, the exterior of the Stadium lights up in blue. For Jets games, it lights up in green. This is a way of finally giving the Jets and their fans, who for a quarter of a century were stuck playing "home games" at a stadium named for another team, a sense of home-field advantage.

There are large video boards at each of the four corners of the stadium. The field is artificial turf.

Food. I don't want this post to be any longer than it has to be, but the food options at MetLife are quite extensive. Whether they're appetizing is for you to decide. So here's a link.

Team History Displays. As the only stadium in the NFL that had, as they would say in soccer, "groundsharing," it was difficult to do that at Giants Stadium. The Jets would hang banners with their retired numbers on the sideline, but the Giants, who naturally (as the older team and the more successful team) did not. And neither team, thus far, hangs representations of their World Championships (the Jets only the 1, the Giants 8, more than any team except the Green Bay Packers' 13 and the Chicago Bears' 9).

But with the opening of MetLife Stadium, and the electronically-aided switching between home teams, signs can be turned out around the lip of the upper deck, showing the Giants' and Jets' Rings of Honor.

The Giants honor the following 35 individuals:

* From their 1927 NFL Champions: Founders/Owners Tim and Jack Mara, and two-way tackle Steve Owen (Number 55). Tim Mara and Owen are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. So is two-way end Ray Flaherty (1, retired); and quarterback Benny Friedman (6), who came a little bit after this and didn't stay for the next title.

* From their 1934 NFL Champions: The Mara brothers, now head coach Owen, center/linebacker Mel Hein (Number 7, retired), and running back/defensive back Ken Strong (50, retired). All of these except Jack Mara are in the Hall, as are Flaherty and two-way end Red Badgro (17).

* From their 1938 NFL Champions: Each of the preceding, running back/defensive back Alphonse "Tuffy" Leemans (4, retired), two-way end Jim Lee Howell (81). All of these except Howell and Jack Mara are in the Hall.

* From their 1944 team that lost the NFL Championship Game to the Green Bay Packers: The Mara brothers, Owen, and two-way tackle Al Blozis. Blozis' Number 32 is retired -- not because he was a great player, but because he then went into the service and was killed in action in World War II. So was another Giant from that 1944 team, two-way end Jack Lummus. Blozis, from Garfield, Bergen County, New Jersey, played 3 seasons for the Giants before being drafted, and was killed fighting the Nazis in France. Lummus only played the 1941 season for the Giants, then enlisted in the Marines, and died fighting the Japanese at Iwo Jima, from stepping on a land mine, but not before his heroics there got him the Congressional Medal of Honor, though he never knew it. Blozis and Lummus both had plaques in their memory on the center field clubhouse at the Polo Grounds, along with baseball Giants John McGraw, Christy Mathewson and Ross Youngs, former Mayor and Giants fan Jimmy Walker, and a monument for Eddie Grant, the baseball Giant killed in World War I.)

* From their 1956 NFL Champions: The Mara brothers, Howell (now head coach), quarterback Charlie Conerly (Number 42 retired), running backs Frank Gifford (Number 16 retired) and Alex Webster (29), offensive tackle Roosevelt Brown (79), defensive end Andy Robustelli (81), linebacker Sam Huff (70), and defensive back Emlen Tunnell (45). Each of these except Howell and Jack Mara is in the Hall. But two of Howell's assistant coaches are, though not for what they did with the Giants: Offensive coordinator Vince Lombardi, and defensive coordinator Tom Landry, who, after the early 1950s' switch to two-platoon football, was the first great defensive back (49), who did not also play defensive back, but retired and switched to a coaching role in time for the 1956 title, and may have made that title possible as much as anyone. Also in the Hall, but leaving the Giants before their 1956-63 glory days, was two-way tackle Arnie Weinmeister (73).

* From their 1958-63 teams that reached 5 NFL Championship Games and lost them all: Each of the preceding (Tim Mara died during that run), quarterback Y.A. Tittle (Number 14 retired), running back Joe Morrison (Number 40 retired), and defensive back Dick Lynch. All of these except Jack Mara, Morrison and Lynch are in the Hall.

* From the 1964-85 interregnum: Owner Wellington Mara, kicker Pete Gogolak (3), linebacker Brad Van Pelt (10), and punter Dave Jennings (13). Mara is in the Hall. So is quarterback Fran Tarkenton (10), who was a Giant between his two stints with the Minnesota Vikings.

* From their 1986-87 and 1990-91 Super Bowl XXI and XXV winners: Mara, general manager George Young, coach Bill Parcells, quarterback Phil Simms (Number 11 retired), tight end Mark Bavaro (89), defensive end George Martin (75), and linebackers Lawrence Taylor (56, retired), Harry Carson (53) and Carl Banks (58). Mara, Parcells, Taylor and Carson are in the Hall. Why isn't Young? Or Simms? 

* From their 2000-01 team that lost Super Bowl XXXV: Mara, co-owner Bob Tisch, running back Tiki Barber (21), receiver Amani Toomer (81), defensive end Michael Strahan (92) and linebacker Jessie Armstead (98). Mara and Strahan are in the Hall. Barber is not, despite being the all-time leading rusher in New York Tri-State Area football history (slightly ahead of Curtis Martin, who is in).

* From their 2007-08 Super Bowl XLII winners: Toomer and Strahan. Strahan is in the Hall. As yet, no player who was on their 2011-12 Super Bowl XLVI winners has been enshrined, mainly because so many of them are still active, such as quarterback Eli Manning.

The Jets honor the following 13 individuals:

* From their 1968-69 Super Bowl III winners: Coach Weeb Ewbank (a representation of a green coach's jacket stood in for a "retired number"), quarterback Joe Namath (Number 12 retired), receiver Don Maynard (13, retired), offensive lineman Winston Hill (75), defensive lineman Gerry Philbin (81) and linebacker Larry Grantham (60). Ewbank, Namath and Maynard are in the Hall of Fame. So is running back John Riggins (44), who arrived after the Super Bowl win, and played enough seasons to qualify as a "Jet in the Hall of Fame," although he's better known for his play with the Washington Redskins.

* From their 1982 team that got to the AFC Championship Game: Running back Freeman McNeil (24), receiver Wesley Walker (85), and 3 of the 4 members of the defensive line known as the New York Sack Exchange: Tackles Joe Klecko (73 retired) and Marty Lyons (93) and end Mark Gastineau (99). Tackle Abdul Salaam (74) has yet to be added.

* From the late 1980s and early 1990s: Receiver Al Toon (88). Defensive end Dennis Byrd, whose struggle to walk again led the Jets to retire his Number 90, has not yet been enshrined.

* From their 1998 team that won the AFC East and got to the AFC Championship Game, and their 2002 AFC East Champions: Running back Curtis Martin (28, retired). Receiver Wayne Chrebet has not yet been enshrined, and his Number 80 has not been officially retired, but the Jets have removed it from circulation. Parcells, the architect of this team after coaching the Giants and the New England Patriots, is in the Hall, but, as yet, enshrined only by the Giants, not the Jets.

* No players from their 2009 or '10 teams that reached the AFC Championship Games, have yet been honored.

There is no representation at MetLife Stadium for the many college stars who played at Giants Stadium, either for Rutgers, or in the now-defunct Kickoff Classic, or in the Army-Navy Games of 1989, 1993, 1997 or 2002. It was also held a few times at the Polo Grounds, the old Yankee Stadium, and, way back in 1905, at Osborne Field, then the football home of Princeton University. Nor is there a mention of the 9 games played at Giants Stadium by the U.S. soccer team, or any other national team, or the New York Cosmos. Or of the August 10, 2010 U.S. loss to Brazil, or the March 26, 2011 draw with Argentina, both at MetLife.

Stuff. On the first floor of the outer edge of the stadium, along the west sideline, is a large store, as big as most Sports Authority or Modell's outlets, that sells both Giant and Jet gear. Which includes Giants' and Jets' hard hats, which so many fans in the urban Northeast and Midwest like to wear, imagining themselves to be as tough as construction workers. Ha ha.

It does not, however, sell team DVDs or books about the teams. I can, however, make some recommendations. New York Giants: The Complete Illustrated History, by Lew Freedman and former Giants player turned broadcaster Pat Summerall (who has since died) was updated in 2012.

Jack Cavanaugh's Giants Among Men tells how, as the subtitle puts it, the 1956-63 Giants "Made New York a Football Town and Changed the NFL." (Those Giants changed the NFL in 2 significant ways: They helped move pro football into the TV era, and made defense something to cheer for the first time. In fact, the now-familiar "Dee-FENSE!" chant was invented by Giant fans at the old Yankee Stadium.) Linebacker Jim Burt and sportswriter Hank Gola told the story of the next great Giant team in Hard Nose: The Story of the 1986 Giants.

Carlo DeVito and Sam Huff wrote Wellington: The Maras, the Giants, and the City of New York, about the late owner's relationship to the team and the Tri-State Area, with significant attention to how the Giants got forced out of The City by the impending renovation of Yankee Stadium, and how the team and The City have reacted to each other ever since.

Just as Summerall assisted on the Giants' version, Joe Namath co-write New York Jets: The Complete Illustrated History, with sportswriter Mark Cannizzaro. Shortly before Parcells brought the Jets back to respectability, longtime New York Times sportswriter Gerald Eskenazi wrote Gang Green: An Irreverent Look Behind the Scenes at Thirty-Eight (Well, Thirty-Seven) Seasons of New York Jets Football Futility. And Andrew Goldstein recently published Growing Up Green: Living, Dying, and Dying Again as a Fan of the New York Jets.

NFL Films produced installments in their The Complete History of the... series for both teams, in both cases going up through the 2007 season (enabling them to include the Giants' Super Bowl XLII win). And all 4 Giant Super Bowl wins, and the Jets' even more significant 1, are all available in DVD packages.

The film Little Giants is about youth football, and has nothing to do with the Big Blue Wrecking Crew. And one (oh-so-slightly) Jet-related film you do not want to get is the 1980 version of Flash Gordon. This piece of outer-space camp cast Sam J. Jones as an updated version of the 1930s film-serial hero, now identifying himself as, "Flash Gordon, quarterback, New York Jets." (I have to admit, though, he did bear a resemblance to the Jet quarterback of that time, Richard Todd.) It not only failed to show any football action (even The Dark Knight Returns showed one play), it failed to properly ride the rise of science fiction generated by Star Trek and Star Wars, and made Flash look even more ridiculous than did the then-current TV version of Flash's long-ago contemporary, Buck Rogers.

During the Game. Although New Yorkers and New Jerseyans can be intense, a visiting fan will probably be safe attending a game at MetLife Stadium. Giant fans may harass people wearing Eagles or Cowboys gear, but if you don't provoke them, it won't get any worse than that. As for Jet fans, they'll probably leave you alone unless you're wearing Patriots gear. (Even Dolphin and Raider paraphernalia won't get under their skin.) But, again, don't provoke them, and you should be all right.

Neither the Giants nor the Jets have a mascot. The Giants do not have cheerleaders. The Jets didn't, either, until the 2007 establishment of the Jets Flight Crew, who are dressed considerably more modestly than most NFL cheerleading squads.

The teams really don't need cheerleaders. These are, after all, New Yorkers, New Jerseyans, and Connecticutians... uh, Connecticutites... uh, people from Connecticut.

As I said, it was Giant fans in 1956 that invented the "Dee-FENSE!" chant. Jet fans, however, are content to chant, "J! E! T! S! Jets! Jets! Jets!" Giant fans may wonder if that's the best that Jet fans can do, but Jet fans can say, "At least we've proven we can spell." Of course, Giant fans could come back with "'Jets' is a four-letter word."

The man who long led the J-E-T-S chants from Section 134 (an end zone) of Giants Stadium, New York fireman Edwin "Fireman Ed" Anzalone, while still attending games at MetLife, no longer does so "in character." A native of College Point, Queens, not far from the Jets' former home of Shea Stadium, he had worn a fireman's hat decorated with Jets gear, and a jersey, Number 42, in honor of former Jet running back Bruce Harper, before switching to 6 in support of beleaguered quarterback Mark Sanchez. Apparently, it was Sanchez's "Butt Fumble," on Thanksgiving Night 2012 against the arch-rival New England Patriots, that made him give up. (Oddly, while continuing to work with the FDNY, he actually lives in East Rutherford.)

As for the Giants, I previously thought that they don't have any fans who are any more noticeable than the others. But this isn't true: Joe Ruback, a.k.a. License Plate Guy, has attended every Giants home game since Giants Stadium opened in 1976, and has attended every away game since 2003, too. He first came to a Giants game with his original plate, one of the old orange New York plates with blue lettering, reading "G1ANTS." He now has a collection of 31 plates, rotating them, including a vanity plate with a Giants helmet (available from New York's DMV even though the Giants play in New Jersey), reading "XXIXX5" for their 1st 2 Super Bowl wins. (I guess someone already had "XXI XXV." Like Fireman Ed, he's no dope: He's trusted enough to be the athletic director at a school in Yonkers, and runs a design company. He's also appeared a few times on WFAN's Boomer and Carton show with Boomer Esiason and Craig Carton.

After the Game. Traffic may be even worse after the game than before. After all, those 80,000 people have tried all day to get into the parking lot, some to tailgate, some just to see the game; afterward, they all want to get out as soon as possible. (Well, maybe not all. Some fans like to do a postgame tailgate, too.) Be advised, it may take a while to get out.

Route 3 is probably your best bet for a postgame meal, as there are plenty of chain restaurants. It's a typically tacky and commercial Jersey highway. However, Manny's Cocktail Lounge, a.k.a. "Manny's of Moonachie" (that's pronounced Moo-NAH-key), made famous as a watering hole by fans of the 1980s Giants, has long since gone out of business. Its location, at 110 Moonachie Avenue, has been replaced by a Cuban-themed restaurant and banquet hall, La Havana 59.

Sidelights. This is where I discuss other sports-related sites in the metropolitan area in question, and then move on to tourist attractions that have no (or little) connection to sports. Since most people reading this will be from the Tri-State Area, I'll keep it short as possible.

Both the Giants (1925-55) and the Jets (1960-63) used to play at the Polo Grounds. So did the baseball Giants (1890-1957), the Yankees (1913-22) and the Mets (1962-63). 155th Street & 8th Avenue in Upper Manhattan. D train to 155th Street. Definitely visit in daylight only.

The original Yankee Stadium, the former home of the Yankees (1923-2008) and the Giants (1956-73), was on the south side of 161st Street at River Avenue. The new Stadium is on the north side. D or 4 train to 161st Street.

Shea Stadium, the former home of the Mets (1964-2008) and Jets (1964-83), and where the Yankees played while the old Yankee Stadium was being renovated (1974-75), was in Flushing Meadow, Queens, just to the west of the new Mets ballpark, Citi Field. 7 train to Mets-Willets Point. The Giants played 1 season there, 1975.

The Giants played half of 1973 and all of 1974 at the Yale Bowl in New Haven, Connecticut. Metro-North from Grand Central to New Haven, then walk from Union Station to Chapel Street, and take the F bus.

The current version of Madison Square Garden, home of the Knicks and Rangers since 1968, is at 32nd Street & 7th Avenue, on top of Penn Station. 1, 2, 3, A, C or E train to 34th Street-Penn Station. "The Old Garden" was at 49th Street & 8th Avenue, and is now home to an office and residential tower, Worldwide Plaza. C train to 50th Street, and the station contains a mural about the Garden.

The NBA's Nets and the NHL's Devils used to play at the Meadowlands Complex, at the building now named the IZOD Center. Now, the Nets play at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, and the Islanders will join them there for the 2015-16 season. 620 Atlantic Avenue & Flatbush Avenue. 2, 3, 4, 5, D, N or R train to Atlantic Avenue.

The Islanders will play 1 more season before moving to Brooklyn at the Nassau Coliseum. The Nets also played their best years (1971-77) there. 1255 Hempstead Turnpike in Hempstead (the mailing address is Uniondale). Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) from Penn Station to Hempstead Terminal, then transfer to N70, N71 or N72 bus.

The Devils now play at the Prudential Center in Newark. 165 Mulberry Street & Edison Place. New Jersey Transit rail from New York's Penn Station to Newark's station of the same name.

However, because of the distance involved, I'd say forget the Long Island and Connecticut places, unless you're a sports nut with an entire weekend to spare.

If you have more than 1 day (and more than a little money) to spend in and around New York, I do recommend the American Museum of Natural History (79th Street & Central Park West, C train to 81st Street), the Metropolitan Museum of Art (82nd Street & 5th Avenue, 4, 5 or 6 train to 86th Street and then walk 3 blocks west to 5th Avenue), the observation deck of the Empire State Building (34th Street & 5th Avenue, B, D, F, N, Q or R train to 34th Street-Herald Square and walk 1 block east), and the Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace National Historic Site (the only President thus far born in The City was born at 28 East 20th Street, N or R train to 23rd Street).

However, I can't recommend the Statue of Liberty, as it's not cheap, it's time-consuming both to get there and to get through, and the view from the crown isn't what you might hope. And the new World Trade Center isn't open yet, and the 9/11 Memorial is expensive and has long lines.


The New York Giants and the New York Jets no longer play in New York City, or even in New York State, but still represent the Big Apple after all these years. To be fair, the Meadowlands Sports Complex is only slightly farther from Midtown Manhattan than Shea Stadium was, and not that much further than Yankee Stadium. So they're still a good match for The City.

If you follow these instructions carefully, you'll be able to get in, through and out of a Giants or Jets game safely. Not without stress, to be sure, and I can't guarantee a win (I'm Uncle Mike, not Broadway Joe), but safely.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Arsenal In New York -- and New Jersey, and I Was There

Thierry Henry and Jack Wilshere

From where I currently live, it is 5 miles to the nearest college football team, Rutgers; 6 miles to RU's basketball arena; 12 miles to the nearest professional baseball team, the Somerset Patriots; 25 miles to the nearest NHL team, the New Jersey Devils; 27 miles to the nearest MLS team, the New York Red Bulls; 35 miles to the nearest NFL teams, the New York Giants and the New York Jets; 35 miles to the nearest NBA team, the Brooklyn Nets; 36 miles to Madison Square Garden; 44 miles to the nearest baseball team, the New York Yankees; 47 miles to the New York Mets; 66 miles to the South Philadelphia Sports Complex; 246 miles to the Yankees' arch-rivals, the Boston Red Sox...

And 3,521 miles to the English soccer team I love, Arsenal Football Club. That's 46 miles from home to the International Terminal at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, 3,451 air miles to Heathrow International Airport in London; and 24 miles from Heathrow to the Emirates Stadium.

Since I became an Arsenal fan in 2008, I have had online wisenheimers taunt me by saying, "You've never seen your team in person!"

That is no longer true.


For the 4th time, Arsenal came to North America. The 1st was in 1972. On May 31, days after an FA Cup Final defeat and a year after winning the Football League and FA Cup "Double," they played the Miami Gatos of the old North American Soccer League at the Orange Bowl. Arsenal won 3-2, on goals by Charlie George, John Radford and Ray Kennedy. Attendance: A mere 4,725.

But they came back to this continent the next year anyway, possibly hoping that Canada's status as a nation still in the British Commonwealth would help attendance. If so, I can't find a reference to how many came out. On May 23, 1973, they played at Varsity Stadium in Toronto, against a team called Toronto Select. Charlie George, the 1971 FA Cup Final hero, scored again, in a game that ended, as a later song would say, "One-nil to The Arsenal."

They stayed away for a long time. On August 6, 1989, they returned to Miami, apparently forgetting that Florida is hot as hell, especially in the Summer. At the Dolphins' new stadium (then named Joe Robbie Stadium), they came as newly-crowned Champions of the Football League Division One, predecessors of the Premier League.

They played Club Atletico Independiente, of Avellaneda in the province of Buenos Aires, the defending champions of Argentina. This was for the Zenith Data Systems Challenge Trophy, a phony "world championship." David "Rocky" Rocastle scored from open play in the 1st half, and from a penalty in the 2nd half, giving The Arsenal a 2-1 win. Attendance: 10,042, the vast majority of them Hispanics rooting for the South American team.

It would be a quarter of a century before they returned. Yesterday was the day.


They would come to New York, hold several events in The City during the week, and play at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, Hudson County, New Jersey, home of Major League Soccer's New York Red Bulls -- featuring Arsenal's all-time leading scorer, Thierry Henry.

Because of my membership in the NYC Arsenal Supporters, I had the opportunity to be among the early birds eligible for the group's ticket offer, putting us in the upper deck of the North Ward, opposite the Red Bulls' supporters' section in the South Ward. It cost me $60, but I knew it would be worth it.

There was a big get-together the night before, along East 14th Street in Manhattan's East Village, which, on game day, becomes what I like to call Gooner Alley. The 2 main bars showing Arsenal matches were a part of it, the Blind Pig between 2nd and 3rd Avenues, and O'Hanlon's between 1st and 2nd. Two other bars on the block also had events.

Andrew Mangan, the charming if profane Irishman who writes Arseblog, was there. It was great to meet "Arseblogger," someone who has been a major lifeline between the team and people all over the world.

People really did come from all over the world, not just all over the country. It was natural that people would come from London, elsewhere in England, elsewhere in the British Isles. But when the game was actually played, there were banners for fan clubs from Australia, China and Africa. This was huge. If someone had decided to move this game to the 82,000-seat MetLife Stadium at the Meadowlands, I guarantee it would have sold out.


Instead, it was played at Red Bull Arena. In North Jersey. My old stomping grounds. (Okay, mine were Bloomfield and Newark, not Harrison across the Passaic River.) As they would say in London, The Arsenal were on my manor.

I could have taken the bus from East Brunswick to Port Authority Bus Terminal, and then the PATH (Port Authority Trans-Hudson) train to Harrison. Instead, I set out to take a local bus to New Brunswick, the New Jersey Transit Northeast Corridor train to Penn Station in Newark, and then walk down East Market Street in Newark's Ironbound section, past the bars that cater to Red Bulls fans before and after the games, and during away games, and then walk over the River via the Jackson Street Bridge to the stadium.

That was not an option. When I got to Newark Penn, an announcement said that the bridge was closed. I had to take the short PATH ride to Harrison.

I got there early enough to see Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger give an interview. It was a thrill just to see him. It was a bigger thrill to hear a crowd announced as 25,219 -- most of them Arsenal fans, not (or not just) Red Bulls fans, give him a standing ovation right before the game, and sing his song, to the tune of "Guantanamera": "One Arsène Wenger! There's only one Arsène Wenger!" Especially given how much certain people claiming to be Arsenal fans have abused him, both in person and online.

I arrived in time to watch pregame warmups. Due to the World Cup, several players who had played in it were allowed to stay home and rest, without having to make the flights and the appearances. From Champions Germany, midfielder Mesut Özil (who wears Number 11 for Arsenal), forward Lukas Podolski (9) and centreback Per Mertesacker (4) stayed home.

This was not a tragedy for me: I had previously seen Özil play for Real Madrid against AC Milan at Yankee Stadium in 2012; and had seen Poldi and the 6-foot-6 "Big Fucking German" play for Germany against the U.S. at Robert F. Kennedy Stadium in Washington in 2013.

Also not making the trip, due to their participation in the World Cup, were forwards Olivier Giroud of France (12) and the newly-acquired Alexis Sánchez of Chile (17); midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain of England (15); and centrebacks Laurent Koscielny of France (6), Thomas Vermaelen of Belgium (5, Arsenal's official Captain) and Johan Djourou of Switzerland (20).

Despite having played for England, midfielder Jack Wilshere did make the trip. So did midfielder Santi Cazorla of Spain. They proved to be among the most popular players on the team, and interacted with the fans more than any other players.

The World Cup-induced shortage forced Wenger to bring a lot of young reserves, and put some players in unusual positions. Here was the starting lineup:

1 Goalkeeper: Wojciech Szczesny of Poland.
25 Right back: Carl Jenkinson of England.
45 Centreback: Isaac Hayden of England.
18 Centreback: Nacho Monreal of Spain, normally a left back.
3 Left back: Kieran Gibbs of England.
35 Right wing: Gedion Zelalem of the U.S.
8 Central midfield: Mikel Arteta of Spain, Captain for the day.
10 Central midfield: Jack Wilshere of England.
16 Central midfield: Aaron Ramsey of Wales.
19 Left wing: Santi Cazorla of Spain.
7 Forward: Tomáš Rosický of the Czech Republic, normally a midfielder.

Zelalem, born in Germany to Ethiopian parents, has lived in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. from age 9 to his current age of 17. He is only the 3rd American ever to play for Arsenal, after Frank Simek in 2003 and Danny Karbassiyoon in 2004. As a result of this game, he also became the 1st player from a CONCACAF nation to play for Arsenal in any CONCACAF nation, let alone his own.

Since this was a friendly, permissible substitutions were limited only by the size of the roster. For the 2nd half, Wenger made these changes: In goal, Szczesny off, Number 26, Emiliano Martinez of Argentina on; at RB, Jenkinson off, Number 39, Héctor Bellerin of Spain on; at CB, Hayden off, Number 48, Ignasi Miquel of Spain on; at RW, Number 20, Mathieu Flamini of France on; at CM, Arteta off, Number 34, Francis Coquelin of France on; and at CM, Ramsey off, Number 24, Abou Diaby of France on.

In the 71st minute, Wenger replaced Rosicky at forward with Number 37, Chuba Akpom of England; Cazorla on left wing with Number 53, Kristoffer Olsson of Sweden and Wilshere in central midfield with Number 56, Jon Toral of Spain.

Only Gibbs and Monreal played the whole game -- ironically, 2 men who usually play the same position.

For the Red Bulls: Luis Robles of the U.S. was in goal, Chris Duvall of the U.S. was at right back, Jámison Olave of Colombia and Ibrahim Sekagya of Uganda were at centreback, Roy Miller of the U.S. was at left back; the midfielders were Lloyd Sam of England, Dax McCarty of the U.S., Tim Cahill of Australia, and Ambroise Oyongo of Cameroon; and the forwards were, of course, Thierry Henry of France; and Bradley Wright-Phillips of England, son of Ian Wright, who set Arsenal's team record for career goals, 185 -- broken by Henry, who raised it to 228.

Subs: 46th, Armando Lozado of Spain at CB for Olave, Eric Alexander of the U.S. at LB for Miller and Andre Akpan of the U.S. at FW for BWP; 57th, Peguy Luyindula of France at FW for Henry; 62nd, Matt Miazga of the U.S. at CB for Sekagya; 63rd, Michael Bustamante of Colombia at MF for Cahill; 70th, Ruben Bover of Spain at MF for McCarty; 78th, Kosuke Kimura at RB for Duvall; 81st, Ryan Meara of the U.S. in goal for Robles, and Connor Lade of the U.S. for Sam (with the South Ward fans chanting, "We got Lade!"). Only Oyongo played the whole game.

Listed time for the kickoff was 5:00 PM U.S. Eastern Time -- meaning Arsenal fans back in London had a kickoff time of 10:00 PM. A small price to pay for those of us having to watch the traditional 3:00 PM Saturday kickoff at 10:00 AM -- leading to the title of a San Francisco-based Arsenal blog, 7AM Kickoff.

There was a light rain falling for much of the day, and maybe they waited a few minutes for it to stop. It did. At 5:12 PM on July 26, 2014, Henry kicked off, and, from that moment onward, anyone who has ever said that I've never seen Arsenal play live has been a liar.

UPDATE: Of course, being what the English call "bellends" (the American equivalent would, literally, be "dickheads"), they qualify it: They say friendlies don't count, or that I've never seen them play in England. And if I did see them play in anything other than a Premier League match, they'd say that doesn't count, either.

Being an exhibition game, the action wasn't especially intense. No one wanted to get hurt -- and, given both teams' tendencies toward an "injury crisis," this was understandable. The point for the Red Bulls was to give themselves some credibility alongside one of the world's most beloved sports teams; the point for The Arsenal was to grow their brand in the U.S.; and the point for both was much more to put on a show than to win. This was not a Herman Edwards contest: Playing to win the game was secondary.

In the 32nd minute, Henry took a corner kick. Sekagya got to it, headed it, and it landed in front of BWP, who put it past Szczesny. There would be no "One-nil to The Arsenal" song today; it was 1-0 to the Jersey Boys.

Given their experience -- even for the kids -- Arsenal were not fazed. In the 38th, Zelalem passed to Wilshere, who fired at goal, but Robles made a great save to stop him.

Henry may no longer be the best player in the world, as he was for Arsenal from 2002 to 2006, but he's still got a lot of moves. When he was subbed off in the 52nd minute, he got as good an ovation as he ever has.

Shortly thereafter, Diaby got the ball. Following a broken ankle in the 2005-06 season -- and he was injured on purpose by Sunderland's Dan Smith -- injuries have rendered the hope that he would be the "next Patrick Vieira" for Arsenal impossible. He is beloved by Arsenal fans, but he always seems to play poorly when I watch. He doesn't seem to grasp that you're supposed to pass to the guys wearing the same color shirts. As Yogi Berra would say if he were a soccer fan, Even when he can play, he can't play.

Which makes what happened here a great irony: Diaby charged toward the north goal, right under us, and fired a shot past Robles. Tie ballgame! The 1st Arsenal goal I had ever seen, and it was by Diaby!

No, it wasn't: The linesman ruled it offside. Incorrectly, I thought. Some things never change: Even in meaningless games on other continents, The Arsenal get screwed over by the officials.

Aside from that, the officiating wasn't bad. There was very little in the way of dirty play. Cahill was shown a yellow card at the end of the 1st half, and Kimura received one in the game's final minute.

In the 79th, Akpom broke away, and it was just he and Robles. A shot, and Robles made a kick-save with his left foot that, across the Passaic at the Prudential Center, New Jersey Devils goalie Martin Brodeur would have appreciated.

Since this was a friendly, and there were no injuries, there was no stoppage time at the end of either half. Final score, New York Red Bulls 1, Arsenal 0. Or, as it would be written in world soccer circles, Metro 1-0 Arsenal.

I left the game disappointed at the result. But thrilled at the entire experience. I saw The Arsenal play in New Jersey, something that would have been unimaginable 10 years earlier, and incredibly unlikely even 6 years earlier when I started watching them, just as the growth of international TV coverage of soccer was in mid-explosion.

I saw Arsenal shirts in the Ironbound bars, in Newark Penn Station, and on New Jersey Transit trains.

I saw a team that knew that, due to finances, I couldn't go to see them, so they came to see me.

The Yankees, the Devils, and any other team I support have never had to do that, because they're close. The Arsenal are not.

Yet they came to me. And I was there.

I will always be grateful to them for that. There have been times when I've watched them when I've regretted following this sport. But I have never regretted making them my team.

Yankees Get Another Pitcher, Beat Those Pesky Blue Jays

Before last night's game, the Yankees made another acquisition to boost their starting rotation, purchasing Chris Capuano from the Colorado Rockies.

This is not a long-term signing, as the lefthander from Springfield, Massachusetts -- Red Sox Nation, but also the hometown of early 1950s Yankee Legend Vic Raschi -- is about to turn 36. He missed all of 2008 and 2009 due to, yes, Tommy John surgery, and his career record is 74-84.

He was only with the Rockies for a few days, as they signed him after he was released by his home-State Red Sox. He's made 28 appearances this season, all in relief, but he's already been slotted in as today's Yankee starter. He'll wear Number 26.

Last night, in the opener of a 3-game home series against those pesky Toronto Blue Jays, Hiroki Kuroda settled down after a rough start. The Jays scored 3 runs, on a Jose Reyes single, a Melky Cabrera single, and a Jose Bautista home run, before Kuroda could even get a 2nd out in the 1st inning. But, the rest of the way, the Jays only got 1 run on 7 hits against the Yankee pitchers -- that 1 run coming on another home by "Joey Bats." (How come we never hear about him being tested for steroids?)

In the bottom of the 2nd, Brian Roberts got an infield single with the bases loaded, to get the Yankees on the board. Then Brett Gardner hit a sacrifice fly to score another. In the 3rd, the Yankees got home runs from Carlos Beltran (his 11th of the season, solo) and, believe it or not, Ichiro Suzuki (his 1st of the year, 3 runs).

It was 6-4 Yankees after 3 innings -- and yet, that was the final score. WP: Kuroda (7-6). SV: David Robertson (26). LP: Mark Buehrle (10-7).

The series continues this afternoon, with Capuano opposed by Drew Hutchison.


And, in a little over 6 hours, the New York Red Bulls will host a friendly (exhibition game) against Arsenal. For the first time, I will get to see my favorite soccer team play live, and it's, as they say over there, "on my manor." It'll be Thierry Henry leading Metro against the Gunners, the club with whom he made his name.

Hopefully, within the next few years, I'll have enough money to go over to London and see them play at home.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Yankees Win for the Nieces and Me

Today was a very special day. For the 1st time, my 7-year-old nieces watched an entire Yankee game with me.

Making it imperative that the Yankees win.

But before I get to that, I forgot to discuss last night's Yankee game.


So after playing 14 innings against the Texas Rangers the night before, last night the Yankees only played 5. So that's 19, which comes out to 2 full and change.

David Phelps started against Yu Darvish. I was not optimistic. But Phelps was very strong over his 5 innings: One run, 5 hits, no walks.

In the bottom of the 3rd, with the Rangers up 1-0, Francisco Cervelli was on 3rd, and Brett Gardner was up. Darvish committed a balk, and that sent Cervelli home with the tying run.

Darvish must have been rattled, because he gave up a home run to Gardner. Imagine if, before the season started, I had told you that Gardner would have more home runs than Jacoby Ellsbury. You'd have thought I was crazy. But it's true: Gardner has 10, Ellsbury 8... and Robinson Cano 7.

In the bottom of the 5th, with the Yankees still up 2-1, the rains came. The umpires waited over 2 hours before calling it. With the home team up in the bottom of the 5th, the game was official. Yankees win.

WP: Phelps (5-4). No save. LP: Darvish (9-6).


Now, for this afternoon's game. Brandon McCarthy started, and, using the cutter that the Arizona Diamondbacks told him to stop throwing, pitched 6 very strong innings. He only allowed 1 run, and that was partly due to an error by Brian Roberts.

Chase Headley, doing very nicely since the Yankees got him a couple of days ago, singled home Gardner in the 4th. In the 5th, Cervelli doubled home Ichiro Suzuki, advanced to 3rd on a Brendan Ryan bunt, and scored on a sacrifice fly from Ellsbury.

Joe Girardi brought Adam Warren in to pitch the 7th, and he gave up a home run to J.P. Arencibia. A guy batting .133, and he hit 2 home runs in this series. Then Girardi brought in Matt Thornton to pitch to 1 lefty. It just occurred to me now that he wears Number 48, the same number as Boone Logan, Girardi's previous "Save me, lefty!" But Thornton got out of it.

My niece Rachel kept calling Girardi "Joe DiMaggio." I had to remind her that DiMaggio was a long time ago. But she was much more into the game than Ashley was. She heard the announcers mention that Girardi was wearing a wristband in connection with something that his daughter Lina was doing. Lina is the same age as my nieces, and Rachel noticeably perked up every time the cameras showed Girardi and his wristband.

Dellin Betances pitched a scoreless 8th, and then the Yankees got an insurance run when Brian McCann doubled home Carlos Beltran. David Robertson walked a batter in the 9th, but finished it off.

Yankees 4, Rangers 2. WP: McCarthy (5-10). SV: Robertson (25). LP: Colby Lewis (6-8). Happy Uncle: Me. Happy Nieces: Ashley and Rachel. And the time of the game, a very nice 2 hours and 47 minutes.


So the Yankees have now won 6 out of 7 since the All-Star Break. They are just 2 1/2 games behind the Baltimore Orioles for 1st place in the American League Eastern Division, and they have the 2nd AL Wild Card berth -- pending the results of tonight's games. All this despite loads of injuries, including to 4 of the 5 opening week starters.

There's still quite a bit of baseball to be played, and anybody who counted the Yankees out is looking pretty silly right about now.

By the way, during the game, I saw a fan in the Stadium bleachers wearing a 2005 Arsenal home shirt -- with the O2 sponsorship.

Just over 48 hours from kickoff between Arsenal and the Red Bulls at Red Bull Arena, and the Gooners aren't merely coming to New York and New Jersey... they're here!


Hours until the Arsenal-Red Bulls match at Red Bull Arena: 48. Just 5 days after that, Red Bull Arena will also host Bayern Munich, perennially and again Champions of Germany, vs. C.D. Chivas of Guadalajara, perhaps the most legendary club of Mexico.

Days until the next Yankees-Red Sox series begins: 8, a week from tomorrow night, at 7:00 PM, at Fenway Park.

Days until the Red Bulls next play a "derby": 9, a week from Saturday, at 7:00 PM, home to the New England Revolution. So that's New York vs. New England in both MLB and MLS.

Days until the 2014-15 Premier League season begins: 23, on Saturday, August 16, with Arsenal at home to Southeast London club Crystal Palace. A little over 3 weeks.

Days until Rutgers plays football again: 35, on Thursday, August 28, at 10:00 PM (7:00 local), away to Washington State, at CenturyLink Field, home of the NFL Champion Seattle Seahawks. Just 5 weeks.

Days until the U.S. national soccer team plays again: 41, on Wednesday, September 3, a friendly, away to the Czech Republic in Prague. The Czechs have given the U.S. trouble before, including a 3-0 humiliation at the 2006 World Cup. But things are different now. There's also discussions about playing Ireland away later in the year.

Days until East Brunswick High School plays football again: 42, on Thursday, September 4, home to Woodbridge. Just 6 weeks. It's on a Thursday night, rather than a Friday night, because of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.

Days until Rutgers makes its Big Ten Conference debut: 51, on Saturday, September 13, at 8:00 PM, against old enemy Penn State. A little over 7 weeks.

Days until Derek Jeter's last regular-season home game (barring injury): 63, on Thursday, September 25, against the Baltimore Orioles. Exactly 9 weeks.

Days until the next North London Derby between Arsenal and Tottenham: 65, on Saturday, September 27, at the Emirates Stadium. Just over a month.

Days until Derek Jeter's last regular-season game (barring injury): 66, on Sunday, September 28, against the Red Sox at Fenway Park.

Days until the Devils play again: 77. They open on Thursday, October 9, away to the Philadelphia Flyers. Just 11 weeks. They once again get screwed by Commissioner Gary Bettman and his schedulemakers, this time having to play 4 road games before their home opener, on Saturday, October 18, at 7:00 PM, vs. the San Jose Sharks.

Days until the Devils play another local rival: See the previous answer. The 1st game against The Scum is Tuesday night, October 21, at the Prudential Center. The 1st game against the Islanders is Saturday night, November 29, at the Nassau Coliseum. The Devils' last trip to Uniondale, before the Isles move to Brooklyn, is Monday night, December 15.

Days until Game 7 of the 2014 World Series -- the absolute latest you can ever again see Derek Jeter in a competitive game: 97, on Wednesday, October 29. A little over 3 months, and no more Jeter -- not as an active player, anyway.

Days until the next East Brunswick vs. Old Bridge Thanksgiving game: 126, on Thursday morning, November 27, at 10:00 AM. A little over 4 months.

Days until New York City FC make their Major League Soccer debut: Unknown, but a new MLS season usually begins on the 2nd Saturday in March, which would be March 14, 2015. That's 233 days. Under 8 months. Whether it will be a home game, and thus at the new Yankee Stadium, is yet to be determined.

Days until Alex Rodriguez is eligible to play for the Yankees again: 251 -- presuming, that is, that 2015's Opening Day is on April 1, and wouldn't it just work out that way, that A-Rod is again allowed to play a regular-season game for the Yankees on April Fool's Day? Anyway, that's a little over 8 months.

Days until the New York Islanders' last game at the Nassau Coliseum: 261, on April 11, 2015, at 7:00 PM, against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Under 9 months.

Days until the Islanders' first home game at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn: Unknown, but an NHL regular season usually begins on the 1st Friday in October, which would be October 2, 2015. That's 436 days. That's a little over 14 months. Or, to put it another way, "436 Sleeps Till Brooklyn." Until then, even with their 4 straight long-ago Stanley Cups, they're just a Small Club In Hempstead.

Days until Euro 2016 begins in France: 688, on Friday, June 10. Under 2 years.

Days until the next Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: 745, on Friday, August 5, 2016. A little over 2 years.

Days until the next World Cup begins in Russia: 1,418, on Friday June 8, 2018. Under 4 years.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Are Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins Hall-of-Famers?

For years, the Philadelphia Phillies and their fans were lucky: They were reaching the Playoffs, largely due to having the greatest 1st baseman, the greatest 2nd baseman, and the greatest shortstop in team history, all at their peaks at the same time.

But now Ryan Howard has fallen victim to injuries that have rendered him not even ready to be a designated hitter, Chase Utley developed an old man's knees, and Jimmy Rollins is no longer as effective as he once was.

There are other facts in the Phillies' collapse from reaching 5 straight postseasons, including back-to-back Pennants and a World Series win, but this one is the most shocking.

It looks like this Big 3 is nearly finished, at least as regular contributors to a winning team. Is any of them worthy of Hall of Fame election?


Ryan Howard. He has a lifetime batting average of .267 (not good), on-base .356 (better), slugging .532 (very good), OPS+ 131 (very good). Hits, 1,259; home runs, 326; in each case, good, but not nearly enough.

He's had only 1 season batting at least .300, but has had 6 seasons of at least 30 homers, 4 of at least 40, and topped out at 58, the most of any National League lefthanded hitter ever, and tying Jimmie Foxx of the old Athletics for the most in Philadelphia history. He had 6 seasons of at least 100 RBIs; for comparison's sake, Mickey Mantle had just 4. Still, given that Citizens Bank Park is a hitters' park, he should have bigger numbers, both seasonal and career.

He has 3 All-Star berths and the 2006 National League MVP, and 3 other times he has finished in the top 5 in the MVP voting. That's not enough.

Baserunning doesn't help him: 12 stolen bases for a career, although his 75 percent success rate (12 out of 16) is good. Nor does fielding help him: He's never won a Gold Glove.

In postseason play, he came through in the 2008 NLCS and World Series, the 2009 NLDS and NLCS (winning the MVP in the latter), and the 2010 NLDS and NLCS. But in four other postseason series, he was poor, including a World Series record 13 strikeouts in 2009.'s Hall of Fame Monitor, on which 100 is a "Likely HOFer," Howard is at 98, just short. On their Hall of Fame Standards, which is more weighted toward career stats, and on which 50 is the "Average HOFer," he's at 25, well short.

B-R also has 10 “Most Similar Batters.” Howard's are Richie Sexson, Prince Fielder, Cecil Fielder, Hank Sauer, Tony Clark, Jay Buhner, Travis Hafner, Justin Morneau, Kevin Mitchell and Danny Tartabull. None of those are currently in the Hall, and only Prince Fielder has a legitimate chance to make it.

There's no serious evidence that "Big Piece" used performance-enhancing drugs, but he does fit the profile: From ages 25 to 31, he was one of the best sluggers in the game; since then, he's been plagued by injuries and just hasn't been getting it done.


Chase Utley. Lifetime BA .287 (good), OBP .371 (very good), SLG .493 (good), OPS+ 126 (good). Hits, 1,519; home runs, 225; in each case, decent, but not nearly enough.

He's batted .300 twice, and has had 3 seasons of at least 30 homers, and 4 of at least 100 RBIs. Given his ballpark, there should be more.

He has 6 All-Star berths, including this season. But his highest place in the MVP voting has been 7th. Baserunning doesn't help him much: Only 133 career steals (though with an 88 percent success rate). Fielding doesn't help much: No Gold Gloves.

He has been inconsistent in postseason play: He was great in the NLDS in 2009, '10 and '11, in the NLCS in 2008, and the World Series in 2009. However, in 4 other series, he was nearly invisible. In the 2008 World Series, he only got 3 hits, but 2 were home runs, for 4 RBIs.

B-R has him at 77 on their HOF Monitor, and 33 on their HOF Standards; in both cases, well short.

His most similar batters include interesting players like Nomar Garciaparra, Carlos Guillen, and the still-active Robinson Cano, David Wright, Hanley Ramirez and Victor Martinez; but the only one of the 10 already in the Hall is Joe Gordon.

There's no evidence that he cheated, but, as with Howard, there is a big statistical dropoff and injury tendency from age 31 onward.


Jimmy Rollins. Now, we're talking about a different kind of player: J-Roll is known as a contact hitter, a good baserunner, a good fielder, and a team leader. He's more a Derek Jeter type than a big boomer, Miguel Cabrera type like Howard; or a scrappy but powerful middle infielder, Robin Yount type like Utley.

He has a lifetime BA of .268; OBP, .327; SLG, .424; OPS+, 97; hits, 2,265; home runs, 212. Aside from the career hits, none of those statistics suggests even All-Star status, let alone Hall of Fame. He's never batted .300 in a season (only twice topping .290), has 4 20-homer seasons but only 1 reaching 30, and has never had a 100-RBI season.

He has, however, led the NL in triples 4 times and in runs scored once. He's had 10 seasons of at least 30 doubles, and 4 of at least 40. That suggests a little power, and good baserunning. That thought is backed by his 444 career stolen bases (83 percent success), including 10 seasons of at least 30 and 4 of at least 40. However, he has only led the League in stolen bases once.

His fielding also helps him, as he's won 4 Gold Gloves. But he's only made 3 All-Star teams, none since 2005. He has won an MVP, in 2007, but that's the only time he's come close in the voting. He's been the Phils' sparkplug, their leader on the field and off, getting them to postseason play 5 times and nearly 2 others.

He excelled in the 2008 NLCS, and hit well in the 2011 NLDS. Other than that, he hasn't been a positive factor, including batting .222 with just 2 RBIs in his 2 World Series (11 games).

B-R's HOF Monitor has him at 104, meaning he makes it; but their HOF Standards have him at 38, putting him well short. His 10 most similar batters provide an interesting look: 2 of them, Barry Larkin and Pee Wee Reese, are in the Hall; a 3, Alan Trammell, has some supporters for his election (including me). In each of the 4 cases (counting Rollins himself), the defense helps a lot.

Just in the last year, there has been talk of disputes between Rollins and Phillies' manager Ryne Sandberg, and it has coincided with a statistical decline. From ages 22 to 33, he was one of the leading figures of National League baseball. After that, he's been just another player.

My conclusion: Ryan Howard and Chase Utley are good guys, and were once great sluggers. And Jimmy Rollins was one of the most exciting players of our era. They were once winners. But, barring big-time comebacks at late ages, none is worthy of the Hall of Fame.

And that's something I never would have expected to say as recently as 2011.