Thursday, November 30, 2017

Who Should Be the Next Yankee Manager?

I've said before that the next Yankee manager doesn't matter nearly as much as we think it will, for the simple reason that the manager for the 2018 season won't be Joe Girardi, with his binder and his pitch count.

But who will it be? Some have suggested a manager in their minor-league system, men who have worked with the players, both major-league and minor-league, in Spring Training, who already know the system and most of the players:

* Alfredo "Al" Pedrique, who won Pennants with the Class AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Railriders in 2016 and 2017.

* Bobby Mitchell, who won a Division with the Class AA Trenton Thunder this year.

* Jay Bell, the former major league infielder (including against the Yankees for the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 2001 World Series), who managed the Class A Tampa Yankees this season.

* Pat Osborn, who managed the Class A Charleston RiverDogs of South Carolina this season.

* Julio Mosquera, who won a Division with the Class A Staten Island Yankees this season.

It's also been suggested that a current or recent Yankee coach might get the job: Don Mattingly, Willie Randolph, Tony Pena, Rob Thomson, Joe Espada. Chris Woodward, now a coach for the Los Angeles Dodgers, with no connection to the Yankees (but played under Randolph on the Mets), has also been mentioned.

It's also been suggested that it might be a recent Yankee player: Current MLB broadcasters Alex Rodriguez, David Cone, Aaron Boone, John Flaherty, or Jerry Hairston Jr.; Raul Ibanez, now working in the Los Angeles Dodgers' front office; Carlos Beltrán, who just retired as a player having won the World Series with the Houston Astros; or, if you want to go back that far, a Yankee prospect of the 1980s, once every bit as hyped as Gleyber Torres and Clint Frazier are today, Hensley "Bam-Bam" Meulens, now the bench coach of the San Francisco Giants.

Also suggested: Former major league managers John Farrell and Eric Wedge. And, in a far less serious suggestion, made by the man himself, WFAN host Mike Francesa.


These seem to be general manager Brian Cashman's criteria:

* A company man, or someone willing to become one. That is, don't make waves, and don't make yourself the story. "Making waves" would seem to eliminate Coney. "Making yourself the story," intentionally or otherwise, obviously eliminates A-Rod and Donnie Regular Season Baseball.

* Someone young, who can better relate to young players. So much for Randolph, despite the fact that he took a Met team not as good as the current Yankee team to within 1 run of a Pennant.

* Someone even-tempered. This was one area where Girardi would still qualify. But it would also eliminate A-Rod.

* And someone who knows the players. This is why the most-discussed names seem to be Beltrán, Pena, Thomson, Pedrique and Bell.

If you think about it, the Yankees' 2 biggest failings were not having one more reliable starting pitcher, and not hitting at key times. It's Cashman's job to find that one more starter (a problem he caused by trading away Ivan Nova last year and getting Jaime Garcia instead of Justin Verlander this year). But the hitting? A smart, not just relatable, guy is needed.

Someone like Beltrán. Young (40). Good hitter (2,725 hits, including 435 home runs). Good runner (312 stolen bases). A native Spanish speaker, but his English is very good. And not a controversial guy: The biggest controversy of his career was his not swinging at a called 3rd strike to end the Mets' 2006 season.

Ladies and gentlemen, if I'm picking the next Yankee manager, based on Cashman's criteria, it's Carlos Beltrán.


Days until The Arsenal play again: 2, on Saturday afternoon at 12:30 PM our time, home to Manchester United. They beat newly-promoted Yorkshire club Huddersfield Town 5-0 yesterday.

Days until the New Jersey Devils next play a local rival: 9, a week from this Saturday, at 7:00, against the New York Rangers at the Prudential Center in Newark. Their 1st game against the New York Islanders will be on Sunday, January 7, 2018, at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Their 1st game against the Philadelphia Flyers will be on Saturday, January 13, 2018, at the Prudential Center.

Days until the Alex Rodriguez Contract From Hell officially runs out, and the Yankees can spend his salary on new players: 31, on Sunday, December 31. Just 1 month.

Days until Phil Murphy is inaugurated as Governor of New Jersey: 47, on Tuesday, January 16, 2018. Under 7 weeks. Goodbye, Chris Christie, and stay out.

Days until the U.S. national soccer team plays again: 59, on Sunday night, January 28, 2018, a friendly against Bosnia and Herzegovina (that's 1 country), at the StubHub Center in the Los Angeles suburb of Carson, California. Under 2 months. After that, no matches are scheduled. They were supposed to play at the World Cup in June 2018. Alas...

Days until the next Winter Olympics begins in Pyeongchang, Korea: 71, on February 9, 2018. A little over 10 weeks.

Days until the next North London Derby: 72, on Saturday, February 10, 2018, at Wembley Stadium in West London, where Spurs are playing their "home games" until the new stadium they're building on the site of White Hart Lane opens the following August. Two things could change this day-count: The game could be moved due to the British TV networks' demands, or Arsenal could be drawn to play Spurs in the FA Cup, which would be the weekend of January 6 (if it's in the 3rd Round) or that of January 27 (if it's in the 4th Round). The 4th Round would be the weekend of February 17, after the next scheduled Derby.

Days until the Red Bulls play again: Unknown. Usually, the Major League Soccer season begins on the 1st Sunday in March, which would be March 4, which would be 94 days from now. A little over 3 months.

Days until the Red Bulls next play a "derby": Unknown, although the season opener is rarely a derby, so it probably won't be against either New York City FC, the Philadelphia Union, D.C. United or the New England Revolution.

Days until Opening Day of the 2018 Major League Baseball season: 119on Thursday night, March 29, as the Yankees open away to the Toronto Blue Jays. A little under 4 months.

Days until the Yankees' 2018 home opener: 123, on Monday afternoon, April 2, against the Tampa Bay Rays.

Days until the next Yankees-Red Sox series begins: 131, on Tuesday, April 10, 2018, at Fenway Park.

Days until the next World Cup kicks off in Russia: 196, on June 14, 2018. A little over 6 months. But the U.S. team won't be playing. At least now, Donald Trump doesn't have to choose, and can root for his favorite country, the host nation, Russia.

Days until September 2018 roster call-ups, when we can finally start to expect seeing most of these wonderful "prospects" that Yankee general manager Brian Cashman wanted: 275. Just 9 months.

Days until Rutgers University plays football again: 275, on Saturday, September 1, home to Texas State University. Their loss to Michigan State this past Saturday left them 4-8 on the season, although it did include 3 Big Ten wins: At Illinois, and home to Purdue and Maryland.

Days until East Brunswick High School plays football again: Unknown. The 2018 schedule hasn't been released yet. But the season opener is usually on the 1st Friday in September. that would be September 7, which is 281 days from now.

Days until the next Congressional election, when we can elect a Democratic Congress that can impeach and remove Donald Trump from the Presidency: 341on November 6, 2018. A little over 11 months.

Days until the next Rutgers-Penn State game: 352, on Saturday, November 17, 2018, at High Point Solutions Stadium in Piscataway, New Jersey. A little under 1 year.

Days until the next East Brunswick-Old Bridge Thanksgiving high school football game (after tomorrow's): 357, on Thursday, November 22, 2018.

Days until the Baseball Hall of Fame vote is announced, electing Mariano Rivera: 394, on January 9, 2019. A little over a year, or a little over 13 months.

Days until the next Women's World Cup kicks off: 543, on June 7, 2019, in France. A little over a year and a half, or a little over 18 months. The U.S. team, as 3-time and defending Champions, has, as usual, a better chance than the men's team would have had in 2018 anyway.

Days until the Baseball Hall of Fame vote is announced, electing Derek Jeter: 758on January 8, 2020. A little over 2 years, or a little over 25 months.

Days until the next Summer Olympics begins in Tokyo, Japan: 956on July 24, 2020. A little over 2 1/2 years, or a little under 32 months.

Days until the next Presidential election, when we can dump the Trump-Pence regime and elect a real Administration: 1,058on November 3, 2020. Under 3 years, or a little over 35 months.

Days until Liberation Day: 1,146at noon on January 20, 2021. A little over 3 years, or a little under 38 months. Note that this is liberation from the Republican Party, not just from Donald Trump. Having Mike Pence as President wouldn't be better, just differently bad, mixing theocracy with plutocracy, rather than mixing kleptocracy with plutocracy.

Days until the next World Cup for which the American team will be eligible is scheduled to kick off: 1,806, on November 21, 2022, in Qatar. Under 5 years, or 60 months. The charges of corruption against Qatar may yet mean that they will lose the tournament, in which case it will be moved to a nation where it would not be too hot to play it in June and July.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

How to Be a Devils Fan In Columbus -- 2017-18 Edition

Reports that the new owners of Major League Soccer's Columbus Crew want to move the team to Austin, Texas for the 2019 season have infuriated soccer fans all over America. #SaveTheCrew has become MLS' fans' favorite Twitter hashtag. There is now a report that Columbus will receive an expansion team to replace the one they would lose, a new Crew.

Something to think about next Tuesday, when the New Jersey Devils will go to Ohio to play the Columbus Blue Jackets. Now that Ohio-State Michigan Week is over, Columbus can go back to caring about other sports, including hockey and soccer. If you go, and you see anyone selling Save The Crew merchandise, get it. Because Columbus fans helped keep the league alive during its dark hours, so the least the league can do now is return the favor.

UPDATE: The Crew were saved. On October 12, 2018, Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam announced that he was forming a group to buy the team, and MLS has announced that the Austin group will get an expansion team.

Before You Go. Columbus can get really hot in the summer, but this game will be played in early December, and, besides, the game will be indoors. The Columbus Dispatch website is predicting low 50s for Tuesday afternoon, and mid-30s for the evening. There is a chance of rain, though.

Columbus is in the Eastern Time Zone, so you won't have to set your clocks back.

Tickets. The Blue Jackets averaged 15,857 fans per home game this season, up nearly 2,000 from the previous season, due to a strong season that ended with a 1st-round Playoff loss to the eventual Stanley Cup Champions, the Pittsburgh Penguins. (How their fans have suffered since... the team debuted in October 2000.) However, it's still only about 87 percent of capacity.

Which does beg the question: Why did Columbus get an NHL team? Why not Cleveland or Cincinnati, the more proven major league cities? Probably because somebody (probably the actual Devil, a.k.a. Commissioner Gary Bettman) though that neither Cleveland nor Cincinnati could support a team by itself, but a team in Columbus, in Central Ohio, would be supported by the entire State. (Or maybe that theory makes no sense, since he let the Minnesota North Stars move to Dallas, when he could have suggested Austin as a way to get fans from Dallas and Houston, but didn't.)

At any rate, you should be able to walk up to the box office 5 minutes before puck-drop, and buy any seat you can afford. In the Lower Level, the 100 sections, seats are $120 between the goals and $94 behind them. In the Upper Level, the 200 sections, seats are $61 between the goals and $41 behind them.

Getting There. It's 536 miles from Times Square in New York to Capitol Square in Columbus, and 526 miles from the Prudential Center to Nationwide Arena.

Flying may seem like a good option, although with a destination city as close as Columbus, you shouldn't have to change planes. But you do, in either Washington (Dulles) or Chicago (which is further west than Columbus). And it's a bit expensive considering the distance, at $641 round-trip from Newark Liberty to Port Columbus International Airport.

Amtrak does not go to Columbus. Its main train station was demolished in 1979 to make way for the Columbus Convention Center (which is too bad, because it was just 2 blocks from the Arena), and it is now the largest metropolitan area in America that doesn't have Amtrak access.

Greyhound's run between New York and Columbus is about 14 hours with no change of buses necessary, costing $300, and dropping to as little as $107 with advanced-purchase. The station is at 111 E. Town Street, at 3rd Street, downtown, 2 blocks south of the State House.

If you decide to drive, it's far enough that it will help to get someone to go with you and split the duties, and to trade off driving and sleeping. You'll need to get on the New Jersey Turnpike. Take it to Exit 14, to Interstate 78. Follow I-78 west all the way through New Jersey, to Phillipsburg, and across the Delaware River into Easton, Pennsylvania. Continue west on I-78 until reaching Harrisburg. There, you will merge onto I-81. Take Exit 52 to U.S. Route 11, which will soon take you onto I-76. This is the Pennsylvania Turnpike, the nation's first superhighway, opening in 1940.

The Turnpike will eventually be a joint run between I-76 and Interstate 70. Once that happens, you'll stay on I-70, all the way past Pittsburgh, across the little northern pandhandle of West Virginia, and into Ohio all the way to Columbus.

If you do it right, you should spend about an hour and 15 minutes in New Jersey, 5 hours and 30 minutes in Pennsylvania, 15 minutes in West Virginia, and about 2 hours and 15 minutes in Ohio. That's about 9 hours and 15 minutes. Counting rest stops, preferably halfway through Pennsylvania and just after you enter Ohio, and accounting for traffic in both New York and Columbus, it should be no more than 11 hours, which would save you time on Greyhound, if not flying.

Once In the City. Founded in 1816, Columbus, named for Christopher Columbus, is easily the largest city in Ohio by population, with about 823,000 people, to a mere 397,000 for Cleveland and 298,000 for Cincinnati. But its metropolitan area has just 2.4 million people, still larger than Cincy's 2.2 million but considerably smaller than Cleveland's 3.5 million, because Cleveland has a much larger suburban area.

High Street is the street address divider between East and West, and Broad Street serving as the divider between North and South. The southeaster corner of High & Broad includes Capitol Square, with the State House. The sales tax in the State of Ohio is 5.75 percent, rising to 7.5 percent in Franklin County, including the City of Columbus.
The Ohio State House. No, I don't know why they stopped buildng it
before finishing the dome.

ZIP Codes in Columbus begin with the digits 432, and the Area Code is 614, with 380 overlaid. The Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA) runs buses, with a $2.00 fare, but no rapid transit rail system: No subway, no elevated, no light rail, no commuter rail. Interstate 270 serves as a beltway, known as the Outerbelt or, for a local "sports" hero, the Jack Nicklaus Freeway.

The city government runs the electricity. The city is about 59 percent white, 28 percent black, 6 percent Hispanic and 4 percent Asian.

Going In. The Nationwide Arena (naming rights bought by the insurance company) is about a mile northwest of the State House, in the Arena District, near the confluence of the Scioto and Olentangy Rivers, in an area that includes their minor-league ballpark and their Convention Center.
Several bus lines get you there. The official address is 200 W. Nationwide Blvd. Parking is cheap, starting at $3.00. The rink is laid out east-to-west, and the Jackets attack twice toward the east end.

The Arena includes an in-house practice facility, the OhioHealth IceHaus. It was the 1st NHL arena to have this since the old Madison Square Garden, and inspired the building of the AmeriHealth Pavilion as part of the Devils' Prudential Center project.
The Arena has hosted NCAA Tournament basketball, "professional wrestling" and concerts. The husband & wife team of country singers Tim McGraw & Faith Hill played the Arena's 1st event, and British rock legends Paul McCartney and (the surviving members of) The Who have played there within the past year. President Barack Obama held one of his final 2012 campaign rallies, with Bruce Springsteen and Jay-Z performing.

ESPN The Magazine declared it "the No. 2 stadium experience in professional sports." The Ultimate Sports Road Trip rated it the best arena in the NHL, saying, "This newer arena in downtown Columbus is the anchor for the emerging Arena District, already burgeoning with shops, restaurants and hotels. The venue is spectacular, from its nostalgic brick and stone veneer to its sweeping concourses with blue mood lighting and modern amenities. The arena bowl has state of the art scoreboards and surround LED graphics boards which look 21st century high tech. With a separate practice rink built right in the facility, theme restaurants and great food selection, not to mention a raucous hockey atmosphere, this NHL venue is a must see!"

But despite its youth, the Arena already has a tragic history. On March 16, 2002, 13-year-old Brittanie Cecil was struck in the head by a deflected puck during the Blue Jackets' game against the Calgary Flames, dying from her injuries 2 days later. As far as can be determine, she is the only fan in the NHL's nearly 100-year history ever to be killed in a game-related accident. As a result of her death, the NHL mandated safety netting in all its arenas.

Food. Being in Big Ten Country, where tailgate parties are practically a sacrament, you would expect the Columbus arena to have lots of good options. They do not disappoint. Their chain stands include ColdStone Creamery behind Sections 108, 121, 202, 203 and 218; Tim Hortons at 210; Kettle Chipper potato chips at 105; Papa John's Pizza 102 and 226; and that Cincinnati specialty, Skyline chili -- chili over spaghetti -- at 105, 119 and 206.

There are stands for that Midwestern staple, Bratwurst, at 108, 121, 202, 203 and 209; a Sausage Haus at 121; a Baked Potato stand at 105; Burgers at 105, 119, 206 and 222; Hot Dogs at 108, 111, 119, 202, 203, 206, 209, 218 and 222; Chicken Tenders at 101, 119, 206 and 222; French Fries at 105, 119, 206 and 222; Cheese Fries at 229; Popcorn at 108, 121, 202, 203, 209 and 218; Milkshakes at 105; and Mexican food at 217.

Team History Displays. As 1 of the 3 newest teams in the NHL, the Jackets don't have much history. They have no retired numbers. They have just 1 banner honoring anyone, founding owner John H. McConnell. "Mr. Mac" was also the founder of Worthington Industries, a steel company. Kilbourn Street, on the Arena's west side, has been renamed John H. McConnell Blvd. in his memory. The team's parking deck, across the Boulevard from the Arena, is named the McConnell Garage. His son, John P. McConnell, now owns both the team and Worthington Industries.

They have just 1 player from their history who has been elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame, Sergei Fedorov, who played for them from 2005 to 2008, but is better known as a Detroit Red Wing. (I don't know why they haven't retired his number: It's not like 91 is a popular one.) They have never won their Division in 16 tries (not counting the current season and the never-played 2004-05). They've made the Playoffs only 3 times (in 2009, 2014 and 2017), and won a grand total of 3 Playoff games (2 in 2014 and 1 last year, all against Pittsburgh).

Dave King, the team's 1st head coach, has been elected to the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) Hall of Fame, for his contributions to the Canadian national team. As yet, no member of the Jackets' organization has received the Lester Patrick Trophy for contributions to hockey in America.

Instead of banners detailing the team's history (which wouldn't take many banners), they have banners of the NHL's other 29 teams. Yes, even the teams that Jacket fans don't particularly like, such as Pittsburgh, Detroit and Chicago.

Stuff. The Blue Line Team Store is on the north side of the Arena. The usual items that can be found at a souvenir store can be found there, including Union-style Army hats with the team logo on them.

As 1 of the 2 newest teams in the NHL, starting play in 2000 along with the Minnesota Wild, there aren't any official NHL videos about the Jackets. Don't count on finding many books about them either: The only one I could find on was Erin Butler's entry for them in the NHL's official Inside the NHL series. Maybe if this strong season they're having turns out well.

During the Game. A November 19, 2014 article on The Hockey News' website ranked the NHL teams' fan bases, and listed the Blue Jackets' fans 28th, ahead of only Dallas and Arizona: "Jackets fans have decent reputation, but THN metrics suggest it's exaggerated." I'm not sure what that means.
Does it mean that they have an exaggerated reputation for decency?

No, their reputation for decency is fine: You do not have to worry about wearing Devils gear in Nationwide Arena. Their rivals are the Pittsburgh Penguins (a reflection of the Browns vs. Steelers and Bengals vs. Steelers rivalries), the Detroit Red Wings (a reflection of the Ohio State vs. Michigan rivalry), and the Chicago Blackhawks (because everybody in the Midwest seems to hate the Hawks, now that they've replaced the Wings as the Midwest's most successful hockey team). They won't bother New Jersey fans, as long as you don't bother them first.

So you may be asking yourself, "I know what a Yellow Jacket is, it's a nasty stinging insect. I know what a Green Jacket is, it's the jacket you get for winning the Masters golf tournament. But what's a Blue Jacket?" The team's name was inspired by Ohio's connection to the American Civil War: Not only were legendary Generals Ulysses S. Grant, William Tecumseh Sherman and Philip Sheridan from Ohio, but the State lost a greater percentage of its population in battle than any other (on the non-traitor side, anyway).

Next Tuesday's Devils-Jackets game will not be a promotion. However, when the Devils go back on Saturday, February 10, the Jackets will host Hockey is for Everyone Night. This is most likely a gay rights "Pride Night." They say that hats will be given to the 1st 10,000 fans. Oddly, the sponsor is Fox Sports Ohio -- not what you would expect to be an inclusive organization.

Leo Welsh is the Jackets' National Anthem singer. The fans, who call themselves the 5th Line (hockey teams usually have 4 forward lines) like to do the "O-H-I-O" chant made famous at Ohio State football games (and copied by the R&B group the Ohio Players on their song "Fire"), and also chant the team's initials, "C-B-J!"

Prior to the start of the 2007-08 season, the team bought a hand-made replica of an 1857 Napoleon cannon. It is "fired" at home games when the Jackets take the ice, score, or win. Their goal song is "The Whip" by Locksley.

The mascot is Stinger the Yellow Jacket, although his costume was changed from yellow to green because it clashed less with the Blue Jackets' blue jerseys. He wears Number 00, in honor of the team's 2000 founding, and tends to bang on a snare drum.
That's right: They say that this clashes less.

After the Game. The Arena district is well-policed, and downtown should be safe. Columbus doesn't have nearly the reputation for crime that Cleveland and Cincinnati do.

As for where to go for a postgame meal or drink, an Italian restaurant called Beppa di Bucco is across from the Arena to the east, a Mexican restaurant named Nada to the west, and bd's Mongolian Grill to the south.

The most famous bar, perhaps in the entire State of Ohio, is the Varsity Club, across from the OSU Ice Arena and 3 blocks north of Ohio Stadium. 278 W. Lane Avenue, at Tuttle Park Place. High Street, the eastern boundary of the OSU campus, has been described as "a zoo" on home football Saturdays, although that won't affect you as a visiting hockey fan.

Unfortunately, the most storied Ohio State fan bar of all, Papa Joe's, home of the Saturday morning Kegs and Eggs breakfast, burned down in 1996. The current pizza chain of the same name has no connection, aside from being an Ohio tradition. Retail space, including the current Ohio State bookstore (a Barnes & Noble, of course), is on the site. 1556 N. High Street at 11th Avenue.

I can find no references to places where New Yorkers gather in or around Columbus: The sites that usually list bars for football fans in exile don't seem to have references to where Yankees, Mets, Giants or Jets fans go when they live nearby.

Remember the York Steak House? There was one at the Brunswick Square Mall in East Brunswick, New Jersey, and I grew up a mile down the hill from it. There is only one left, and it is in Columbus. 4220 W. Broad Street, a.k.a. U.S. Route 40, at the interchange of I-270, across from the Westland Mall, 6 miles west of downtown. Bus 10.

If you visit Columbus during the European soccer season, the Fado Irish Pub chain has an outlet here, at 4022 Townsfair Way, about 9 miles northeast of downtown. Number 16 bus.

Sidelights. Columbus may have only the 1 major league team, but it's a decent sports town, and here's some of the highlights:

* Huntington Park. Just 2 blocks west of Nationwide Arena, at 330 Huntington Park Lane, this 10,100-seat stadium has been home to the International League's Columbus Clippers since 2009. Since moving in, they've won Pennants in 2010, 2011 and 2015, giving them a total of 10 Pennants.
* Cooper Stadium. Opened in 1932 as Red Bird Stadium, and renamed for Harold Cooper, the Franklin County Commissioner and team owner who kept professional baseball in the city in the 1950s, this stadium was one of the most successful ballparks in the minor leagues. It was also one of the largest, seating 17,500 people at its peak, and 15,000 in its last years.

Initially, it was home to the Columbus Red Birds, a farm team of the St. Louis Cardinals (also nicknamed the Redbirds), and to a Negro League team, the Columbus Blue Birds. The Red Birds won Pennants in 1933, 1934, 1937, 1941, 1942, 1943 and 1950.

The Cardinals moved them to Omaha in 1955, and a new team was brought in, the Columbus Jets, a farm club first of the Kansas City Athletics, then of the Pittsburgh Pirates. This led to the stadium being renamed Jets Stadium. They won the Pennant in 1961 and 1965, before being moved to Charleston, West Virginia after the 1970 season. The Pirates restored Columbus as their Triple-A team in 1977, the Yankees took over in 1979, the Washington Nationals in 2007, and the Cleveland Indians in 2009.
The Clippers were a Yankee farm team from 1979 to 2006, infamous as the bad end of "The Columbus Shuttle," George Steinbrenner's pipeline from Triple-A ball to the Yankees and back. As a Yankee farm team, they won IL Pennants in 1979, 1980, 1981, 1987, 1991, 1992 and 1996. All told, Columbus baseball teams have won 19 Pennants.

Cooper Stadium was closed after the 2008 season, but instead of being demolished, it has been converted into an auto racing facility. 1155 W. Mound Street, 3 miles west of downtown. Number 6 bus.

An April 24, 2014 article in The New York Times, showing baseball fandom by ZIP Code, shows that, despite being considerably closer to Cincinnati (107 miles) than to Cleveland (143 miles), the Indians still have a slight edge on baseball fandom in Columbus, on the average having 28 percent to the Reds' 22 percent. The September 2014 issue of The Atlantic Monthly had a similar map, showing that the Browns are more popular in Columbus than the Bengals.

Cincinnati is the nearest MLB and NFL city, while Cleveland is the nearest NBA city. If it had teams in those sports, Columbus would rank 29th in population in MLB, 26th in the NFL, and 25th in the NBA. So don't hold your breath.

* Ohio State. The most famous building in the State of Ohio is Ohio Stadium, or, as ABC Sports' legendary college football announcer Keith Jackson called it, The Big Horseshoe On the Olentangy -- home field of the school usually referred to as "THE... Ohio State University." How big is it? The official seating capacity is currently listed as 104,944, making it the 4th-largest non-racing stadium in the world. 411 Woody Hayes Drive (formerly Woodruff Avenue), 3 1/2 miles north of downtown. Number 18 bus.
The Value City Arena at the Schottenstein Center opened in 1998, at 555 Borror Drive, across the Olentangy River from the Stadium. It hosted the NCAA's hockey Final Four, a.k.a. the Frozen Four, in 2005. The Bill Davis Stadium (baseball) and the Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium (track & field) are part of this complex as well.
From 1956 to 1998, Ohio State played basketball at St. John Arena, across from the Stadium at 410 Woody Hayes Drive. It was at this arena that the Buckeyes played the 1959-60 season in which they won the National Championship. Coach Fred Taylor is in the Basketball Hall of Fame, along with 3 players on this team, although 1 is in as a coach: Jerry Lucas, John Havlicek, and "sixth man" Bob Knight.
It was also at St. John that Elvis Presley sang on June 25, 1974. Early in his carer, Elvis played 2 shows at the Franklin County Veterans Memorial Auditorium on May 26, 1956. Built in 1955, it was demolished in 2015, and an Ohio Veterans Museum is being built on the site. 300 W. Broad Street, on the Scioto River, just across from downtown. (The Beatles played in Cleveland and Cincinnati, but not in Columbus.)

Columbus has never hosted an NCAA Final Four. Nor has any other Ohio city. The 13,435-seat University of Dayton Arena, built in 1969, 74 miles west of Columbus, has hosted more NCAA Tournament games than any other facility: 107.

* Indianola Park. This was the home ground of the Columbus Pandhandles, one of the 1st professional football teams, from 1901 to 1926, before the glut of early pro football doomed them. Along with the Canton Bulldogs, in the 1910s they dominated the Ohio League, one of the NFL's predecessors.
They are best remembered for the 7 Nesser brothers (sons of German immigrants, there were 8, but Pete, 1877-1954, ironically the largest of them, didn't like football and didn't play; there were also 4 sisters): John (1875-1931), Phil (1880-1959), Ted (1883-1941), Fred (1887-1967), Frank (1889-1953), Al (1893-1967) and Ray (1898-1969, the youngest and the last survivor).

Knute Rockne, who did play a little pro football before going back to Notre Dame to coach, said, "Getting hit by a Nesser is like falling off a moving train." In 1921, Ted's son Charlie (1903-1970) played with the Panhandles, marking the only time a father and son have played in the NFL at the same time, let alone for the same team.

The Indianola Shopping Center is now on the site, 3 miles north of downtown. 1900 N. 4th Street at 19th Avenue. Number 4 bus.

* Mapfre Stadium. Opening in 1999, and known until 2015 as Columbus Crew Stadium before naming rights were sold to a Spain-based insurance company, the Crew moved into this 22,555-seat stadium after playing their 1st 3 seasons (1996-98) before 90,000 empty seats at Ohio Stadium. They won the MLS Cup in 2008, and reached the Final again in 2015, losing to the Portland Timbers despite playing at home.
The Stadium also hosted the MLS Cup Final in 2001 (San Jose beating Los Angeles), 10 games of the U.S. National Team (including 4 games against Mexico, all 2-0 or "Dos A Cero" wins), and 6 games of the 2003 Women's World Cup (including a 3-0 U.S. win over North Korea).

The Crew's long-term status is now in doubt, as their owners plan to move them to Austin, Texas for the 2019 season. It is possible that this plan will fall through, and an alternative would be the "Cleveland Browns Plan," to grant Columbus an expansion team that would taken on the old team's name, colors, trademarks and honors -- although, having already gone through this with the Browns, the northern half of Ohio would prefer better results than what they got with the NFL.

UPDATE: As I said at the beginning, the Crew were saved.

One Black and Gold Blvd., at 20th Avenue, about 3 1/2 miles north of downtown, near the Indianola Shopping Center. Number 4 bus.

Currently without an NBA team, a May 12, 2014 article in The New York Times shows basketball allegiances in the Columbus area are mixed between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Miami Heat. But once you get into the suburbs, it becomes more Cavs territory. My guess: Ohio State students from elsewhere, some of whom end up staying in Columbus, stick with their old home teams; while some stick with LeBron James (who's played for both the Cavs and the Heat), and some adopted the Cavs regardless of LeBron.

The aforementioned Ohio Veterans Museum is now scheduled to open in Summer 2018.

Ohio Village is a recreated 19th Century community, sort of an updated, Midwestern version of Colonial Williamsburg. 800 E. 17th Avenue, at Velma Avenue. Number 4 bus. The Columbus Museum of Art is at 480 E. Broad Street, at Washington Avenue. Number 10 bus. The Center of Science & Industry (COSI) is across from the Veterans Memorial Auditorium site, at 333 W. Broad Street, at Washington Blvd. Number 10 bus. The James Thurber House, home to the legendary author and humorist, is at 77 Jefferson Avenue,at N. 11th Street. Number 6 bus.

Farther afield -- with no public transportation available -- the Armstrong Air & Space Museum is in the hometown of Neil Armstrong, the late 1st man to walk on the Moon. 500 Apollo Drive in Wapakoneta, just off Interstate 75, 87 miles northwest of downtown Columbus.

No Presidents have come from Columbus, but Rutherford B. Hayes and William McKinley lived there while they were Governor of Ohio. Alas, there was no Governor's Mansion during their times in the office. The Ohio Governor's Residence and Heritage Garden has only been the Governor's Mansion since 1957, and current Governor John Kasich, who ran for President in 2016, already lived nearby (he'd been a Congressman for the area), and so he only uses it for official functions. 358 N. Parkview, in Bexley, about 4 miles northeast of downtown. Number 10 bus.

McKinley's historical sites are all in or near his hometown of Canton, and I discuss them in my Cleveland trip guides. Hayes' home, Spiegel Grove, and his grave and Presidential Library are in Fremont, 106 miles north of Columbus. Warren G. Harding's hometown of Marion is 51 miles north. Dying in office in 1923, he remains the last President to have lived in Ohio. As with both locations, there is no public transportation to there from any of Ohio's major cities.

Marion was also the official hometown of the Oorang Indians, a pro football team made up entirely of Native Americans, led by Hall-of-Famers Jim Thorpe and Joe Guyon. The problem wasn't that some of the players used their Native names, which included animal names like Ted Buffalo, Gray Horse, Big Bear, Eagle Feather and War Eagle. The problem is that they were party animals, not getting the rest they needed. As quarterback Leon Boutwell noted:

White people had this misconception about Indians. They thought they were all wild men, even though almost all of us had been to college and were generally more civilized than they were. Well, it was a dandy excuse to raise hell and get away with it when the mood struck us. Since we were Indians we could get away with things the whites couldn't. Don't think we didn't take advantage of it.

As a result of their wild ways, they went 3-6 in 1922, and 2-10 in 1923, and folded. I say Marion was their official hometown because they were a "traveling team," playing just 1 of their 21 games in Marion.

The Armstrong Air & Space Museum was built to honor Neil Armstrong, the 1st man to walk on the Moon, in his hometown of Wapakoneta, Ohio. The building is, naturally, shaped like a crescent moon. 500 Apollo Drive, 185 miles southwest of Cleveland, 93 miles southwest of Toledo, and 88 miles northwest of Columbus.

The tallest building in Columbus is the Rhodes State Office Tower, named for the longtime Governor who ordered the Ohio National Guard to fire on the protestors at Kent State University on May 4, 1970. Completed in 1974, it is 629 feet high, and every bit as ugly as the Administration it memorializes. 30 E. Broad Street, downtown, across from the State House.

While lots of movies have been shot and/or set in Ohio, Columbus hasn't been a popular location for them. There have been 3 TV shows set in Columbus: Family Ties, the 1982-89 NBC sitcom that introduced us to Michael J. Fox; Hope & Faith, a sitcom that ran on ABC, 2006-09; and Man Up!, an ABC sitcom set in nearby Gahanna that tanked and was canceled after 13 episodes in 2011.

Lima, the real town that was the setting for the Fox drama Glee, is 92 miles northwest of downtown Columbus. Further northwest, 152 miles from Columbus, is Sherwood, which was used as the setting for the film Heathers, with the oh-so-Middle American town's high school ironically named after Paul Westerburg, lead singer of the alternative rock band The Replacements. But both Glee and
Heathers were filmed completely in Southern California.


Columbus may be Ohio's largest city, but aside from being the State capital, it's known for 2 things: Ohio State football, and Ohio State anything else. But a Blue Jackets game could be fun, and it's close enough for a fairly easy New Jersey Devils roadtrip.

Monday, November 27, 2017

New York Tri-State Area Sports: Dysfunction Junction, Autumn 2017 Edition

In the March 12, 2017 New York Daily News, Mike Lupica wrote a column with the title, "Knicks, Jets stand together as New York's only two hopeless franchises."

Just 8 months later, things have changed quite a bit. Both of those teams have more hope now than they've had in years, while the fortunes of other teams have significantly changed. One being the Giants, who fell to 2-9 against the Washington Redskins on Thanksgiving night.

This flies in the face of something I've said many times: No matter how bad they get, the Giants give the impression that they will be able to turn it around soon; but, no matter how good they get, the Jets always manage to futz it up.

For the 1st time since I began this occasional series, I'm going to add the WNBA's New York Liberty, and Major League Soccer's New York Red Bulls and New York City FC, both of whom saw their seasons end in Playoff defeats earlier this month.

Here are the 12 major league sports teams of the New York Tri-State Area, ranked in ascending order of current dysfunction:

12. New York Liberty.

The Good: The Libs finished 1st in the WNBA Eastern Conference in the regular season. They're a young team, with an average age of 26 1/2, and their oldest player, Shavonte Zellous, is only 31. With Tina Charles, Epiphanny Prince and Kia Vaughn, they have 3 of the best players in the league. And, best of all, if they do poorly, hardly anybody cares.

The Bad: No matter what they do, hardly anybody cares. The WNBA started with so much hope, but has become a complete afterthought. The Libs lost in the 1st available Playoff round, and it wasn't even close.

They just lost head coach Bill Laimbeer to the San Antonio Stars, who will play the 2018 WNBA season in Las Vegas under a name to be chosen later. Katie Smith, a former star player for the Liberty, is now the head coach. She spent 4 years as Laimbeer's assistant after retiring as a player, making her as close to a natural choice as you could get. Still, it is her 1st head coaching job.

In 21 seasons of play, they have still never won a WNBA Championship. They haven't even reached the Finals in 15 years. And with the Garden situation unresolved, we don't know where they'll be playing for the long term -- presuming, of course, the WNBA survives, which it appears that it will, but who knows?

Dysfunction Level: 3. Their problems are chronic and nagging, but not really damaging. If this is as bad as it ever gets, that's not so bad.

11. New York Yankees. 

The Good: Joe Girardi is gone. And with the talent we've got, whoever the new manager turns out to be is going to be less important than who he manages. There's great young talent in Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, Didi Gregorius, Greg Bird, Ronald Torreyes and Aaron Hicks. Among veterans, there's Starlin Castro, Brett Gardner and, sometimes, Jacoby Ellsbury.

The starting pitching is improved, with Luis Severino having come good, Masahiro Tanaka having straightened out, and Sonny Gray is good, and Jordan Montgomery is all right. The bullpen is anchored by Aroldis Chapman, Dellin Betances, and the returned David Robertson -- who, between them, mean that we don't have to count on any one of them as the closer. Chad Green and Tommy Kahnle are good at filling in the gaps, although with Girardi and his damn binder gone, we will be able to trust our starters more.

The stadium situation is settled for the next 50 years. As for the competition, the Boston Red Sox hardly looked like worth Division Champions, the Toronto Blue Jays are no longer a Playoff team, the Tampa Bay Rays are now a mess, and the Baltimore Orioles are managed by Buck Showalter. The American League Eastern Division is ripe for the picking. Indeed, the Yankees should have won the last 4 AL East titles. Alas, Cashman wanted to build up the farm system, which was already the best in baseball.

The Bad: Not currently having a manager is an issue, although we really don't have to hire one until, at the absolute latest, right before Spring Training. CC Sabathia is currently in limbo, and we don't know if we want to keep him. If we don't -- or if we do, and he has nothing left -- then we need a 5th starter. Boy, it should would be good to have Ivan Nova right about now. And the rest of the bullpen is either question marks (Luis Cessa, Ben Heller, Jonathan Holder) or shouldn't be let anywhere near a major league mound (Adam Warren, Chasen Shreve, Giovanny Gallegos, Bryan Mitchell, Nick Rumbelow and Caleb Smith).

In the lineup, Ellsbury is inconsistent, although Hicks can play center field. The big hole is at 3rd base: Chase Headley is not a good option. Torreyes is a good hitter, and a good backup to have, but 3rd base is not his best position. (2nd base is.) And we can't wait for Gleyber Torres, The Great And Powerful, to both get healthy and come good -- and, besides, he's not a 3rd baseman, either. He's a shortstop -- meaning that Brian Cashman traded for him after he knew that Gregorius was the man at that position for the next decade.

What a stupid trade that was: If we keep Torres, then either he or Gregorius will have to move to a position that is not his best, and could be a liability. And, yes, Cashman is still in charge. How do we know he won't do something stupid again, like trade Judge, Sanchez, or Severino -- or Chapman again, or Robertson again -- for 25 teenagers who might never make the major leagues?

Dysfunction Level: 4. There's less than there was a year ago. If Cashman brings in a manager who treats a pitch count as something to use only for a pitcher coming off an injury, and not as a damn rule, this will drop to a 3.

10. New Jersey Devils.

The Good: GM Ray Shero and head coach John Hynes have the Mulberry Street Marauders much-improved. The Devils are currently in 1st place in the NHL Metropolitan Division, 1/5th of the way into the season. Captain Andy Greene, goaltender Cory Schneider, Travis Zajac, Brian Boyle, and 2012 Playoff hero Adam Henrique provide talent and veteran leadership. Big signing Taylor Hall and top draft pick Nico Hischier have provided an offensive spark. The passion, missing for so long, seems to be back.

The ownership and finance issues, which for the 2nd time in 19 years raised the possibility (even with the Prudential Center) of the NHL allowing the Devils to be moved out of the Tri-State Area, have been put to rest. The arena situation is settled for the next 50 years: While we don't know how far, as far as the Playoffs are concerned (if at all), the team is going, the franchise isn't going anywhere.

The Bad: Despite clear improvement, the Devils have not proven anything yet. Indeed, it's fair to say that they're where the Islanders were a couple of years ago, and they haven't taken the next step yet. While not the fool that Peter DeBoer is, Hynes isn't exactly the most inspiring of bench bosses. Veteran scorer Travis Zajac has yet to play this season, due to an injury.

And what was true in early 2004 is still true, nearly 14 years later: There's no Scott Stevens on the team -- no great defender, no enforcer, no guy who will tell his own teammates that what they're doing is not good enough. Stevens was all 3, but they don't have any 1 of those.

The Question Mark: The team is owned by Apollo Global Management, an investment firm, with Joshua Harris as operating owner. Through him, AGM also owns the Philadelphia 76ers, who were one of the biggest messes in North American Sports just a few months ago, but also seem to be improving, as management uses the slogan "Trust the Process." It is no longer discouraging that the Sixers' owners also own the Devils, but how long is the Devils' "process" supposed to last?

Dysfunction Level: 4. The question marks are considerably fewer, but those that are left are looking a lot bigger. Like the Isles, the Devils are no longer bad, but they still haven't shown that they are good enough to make a serious challenge for the Stanley Cup. This is in contrast to the Rangers, who have shown that they can make such a challenge -- but not that they can complete it.

9. New York Red Bulls.

The Good: In spite of the mistakes of manager Jesse Marsch, including trading away their Captain and best all-around player, Dax McCarty, Metro still made the Playoffs, and advanced to the Conference Semifinals after winning away to the Chicago Fire. They also reached the Final of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup for only the 2nd time in their history.

Bradley Wright-Phillips continues to be a goal machine like his father, Arsenal legend Ian Wright. Luis Robles may be the best goalkeeper in the league. Mike Grella, Sacha Kljestan and Gonzalo Veron all had very good seasons.

Attendance was 21,175 per game, up over 500 from the year before. Their stadium situation is settled, and when the new Harrison PATH station is built, the biggest Red Bulls problem in a practical sense, public transportation in and out of the neighborhood, will be solved.

The Bad: Yeah, the current aging, small PATH station remains one of the nastiest bottlenecks in the Tri-State Area's public transit network. That's an annoyance, but it's not a reflection on the team. What is a reflection on the team is that Marsch is a lousy manager.

And the Red Bulls frustrated again, taking Toronto FC, winners of the Supporters' Shield for the league's best overall regular season record, to a virtual draw, losing on away goals because they let in 2 bad ones in Harrison. They lost that Open Cup Final to Sporting Kansas City, although it should be noted that they were underdogs, but that meant that they still haven't won either of U.S. soccer's top 2 trophies in 22 seasons of trying. (Only 2 Supporters' Shields, but that's the 3rd-highest trophy.) And they did let NYCFC surpass them on the field.

Dysfunction Level: 4. It's more frustration than dysfunction. There are some teams in the NYTSA that would love to be no worse off than the Red Bulls.

8. New York Knicks. 

The Good: Phil Jackson is gone. Carmelo Anthony is gone. Derrick Rose is gone. The sense of dread is gone. Kristaps Porziņģis, Joakim Noah and Tim Hardaway Jr. are still there. Head coach Jeff Hornacek and new general manager Scott Perry seem to have the team going in the right direction. They are currently over .500. (Okay, it's only 10-8, but it's still a good sign.) And even if the Knicks don't finish well this season, the fans are once again into it to the point that they'll give management a pass, writing this off as a rebuilding year. 

The Bad: James Dolan and Isiah Thomas are still involved. The Knicks have won just 1 Playoff series in Dolan's 17 seasons in charge (this is the 18th). The Eastern Conference still has LeBron James at the head, the Boston Celtics are back to being one of the best teams in the league, and the Philadelphia 76ers seem revived. So the chances of the Knicks going far in the Playoffs are not good. And is there any player on the Knick roster, Porziņģis, likely to make an opponent say, "Aw no, I don't wanna play against him"?

And then, of course, there's the question of where the Knicks are going to play when The Garden's current lease runs out. Can you imagine the Knicks playing a home game anyplace not named Madison Square Garden? Can you imagine the Knicks playing at the Barclays Center? Or in the Prudential Center -- the New York Knickerbockers in New Jersey? If the Dolans and The City don't come to some sort of agreement soon, it may come to that.

Dysfunction Level: 5 -- a huge improvement from last season's 8, which is about what the Knicks have been for most of the 21st Century. 

7. New York City Football Club.

The Good: They finished 2nd in the Eastern Conference, and drew 22,112 fans per game, more than the Red Bulls. They have Barcelona legend David Villa, and are managed by Arsenal legend Patrick Vieira. They have the billions of petrodollars of the Emirati royal family behind them, and can tap into the resources of their parent club, Manchester City. And they finally showed, on the field, that they were better than the Red Bulls.

The Bad: They choked in their 1st available Playoff round, to the Columbus Crew. In 3 seasons, they have never won a Playoff round. Vieira was a great Captain in North London, but he's been a poor manager in The Bronx.

Their attendance looks great when you say that their home field has a seating capacity of 28,743, but who's kidding who? It's Yankee Stadium: Not only are they playing in a place that was built for another sport, and in which they are the 2nd-most important team -- second-class "Cityzens," if you will -- but the actual soccer capacity is 49,474 (which I know, because I was in a crowd of that size for the 2012 Real Madrid-AC Milan match there).

22,643 doesn't even half-fill The Stadium. What's more, for all their hype about being "the only team in New York" and for all their bragging about how they have more fans than the Red Bulls, they're averaging only 1,468 more fans per game -- partly because they're not appreciably the better team, partly because being such (if they are) hasn't brought them postseason results, and partly because the Red Bulls play in a stadium they own which was designed for soccer, and NYCFC play in a stadium someone else owns which was designed for another sport. And their biggest drawing card, Milan and Juventus legend Andrea Pirlo, just retired.

And let's not forget that they don't even know where they're going to be playing. Twice this year, the Yankees forced them out, once due to a rainout makeup, sending them over 100 miles away to East Hartford, Connecticut; and once due to a Playoff game, sending them, oh the humiliation, to Citi Field, home of the Mets (at least it was still in The City). So they can't even hold the "New Jersey" thing over Red Bulls fans' heads anymore. They have tried to find their own place to play, in Flushing Meadow-Corona Park across from Shea, and on the grounds of Belmont Park just over the City Line in Long Island, but it seems that nobody wants them.

Dysfunction Level: 5. Most of that is off the field. But even on the field, they're not exactly living up to their expectations.

6. New York Rangers.

The Good: Alain Vigneault is a good head coach, and GM Glen Sather hasn't made too many missteps the last few seasons. They have genuine stars in Marc Staal, Rick Nash, Mats Zuccarello, Chris Kreider and Henrik Lundqvist.

They're battle-tested, having gotten to a Stanley Cup Finals 4 seasons ago and 2 other Eastern Conference Finals, 3 and 6 years ago. They beat the Montreal Canadiens in the 1st round of last season's Playoffs, and while they lost to the Ottawa Senators in the next round, they weren't embarrassed. At 35, Lundqvist is their oldest player, so they're a fairly young team. 

The Bad: Charles Dolan is still letting his son James be the operating owner, which is also the biggest problem with the Knicks. Lundqvist is still a choker when it counts, and only an idiot would call him a "king." Not to mention that he'll be 36 when the regular season ends, so his window of opportunity to win a Stanley Cup may be closing.

The whole team showed a lack of heart in their recent Playoff losses. For all the talent that the Rangers have had since the 1994 Stanley Cup, in 23 years they have proven very little: The only banners they've hung in that stretch are a Division title in 2012 and the Conference title from 2014. And they are off to an atrocious start this season, with only the Carolina Hurricanes standing between them and last place in the Metropolitan Division.

And the arena situation is up in the air for the Rangers and Knicks: The current Madison Square Garden's lease is up in 2023, and the City government wants a new Penn Station on the site of the Farley Post Office (across 8th Avenue from the current Garden and Station) very, very, very, very badly. And, having just spent more money to "transform" The Garden than (even with inflation factored in) it took to build the thing from scratch in the 1960s, even though they can afford to start all over again, the Dolans are not keen on having to do so -- which they might have to do within the next couple of years, given how long it generally takes to get sports buildings erected around here.

(I'm still surprised that the new Yankee Stadium, Citi Field and MetLife Stadium opened on time. The Barclays Center sure didn't. The Devils had to spend the first month of the 2007-08 season on the road because the Prudential Center wasn't going to be ready in time. Nor did Ebbets Field or Shea Stadium open when they should have, and there were still a few wrinkles to work out on Opening Day of the renovated old Yankee Stadium in 1976.)

Still, even with the Garden question unsettled, the Rangers are better off than most teams in the Area. Dysfunction Level: 6. If we knew what was going to happen with The Garden, this would be no more than a 4.

5. New York Islanders.

The Good: The Isles are playing decently, and if the current standings were to turn out to be the final standings, they would have the last Playoff spot in the NHL's Eastern Conference. More than that, they look from the top down like they know what they're doing. They seem to have sound management in place in owner Charles Wang, GM Garth Snow and head coach Doug Weight. They have good young players that the fans believe in, led by captain John Tavares. They've got a little Playoff experience.

The Bad: They haven't proven anything yet. Said Playoff experience is minimal. This is a team that, since the players from their early 1980s dynasty got old in the late 1980s, has never enjoyed prosperity for long, so their current good form could well be a mirage. Nor have Weight or Snow proven anything in the long term. 

What's more, the arena situation, which looked like it was settled for at least the next 50 years, is no longer. It is very possible that, at the start of the 2019-20 season, the Isles won't be playing at the Barclays Center. Will it be at a renovated Nassau Coliseum? A new arena in the Tri-State Area (which would require more than 3 off-seasons, and thus an extension on the Barclays Center lease)? Or out of the Tri-State Area altogether? Kansas City? Seattle? Portland? Could the Islanders become the new Quebec Nordiques?

Dysfunction Level: 6. Settle the arena situation, and this drops to a 4.

4. New York Giants.

The Good: Of all 9 franchises, since getting their house in order in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the Giants have given off the greatest continuous aura of competence. Co-owners John Mara and Steve Tisch are sound men, and not meddlers. Eli Manning is still a competent quarterback. Of the 7 losses, 3 were by a grand total of 10 points; they could, with a little more effort, now be 4-4, which wouldn't look nearly so bad. The stadium situation is settled for at least the next 50 years, so there's no danger of the Giants moving.

The Bad: Lots. Until now, general manager Jerry Reese has usually known what he's doing, but doesn't look like it anymore. Head coach Ben McAdoo now seems to be in over his head. Eli is in decline. A nasty injury means that their most exciting player, Odell Beckham Jr., may never be the same.

Their 2 wins thus far include a decent win away to the Denver Broncos, and a home overtime win over the Kansas City Chiefs, in which they didn't score a touchdown (12-9), and even that may just be due to Chiefs coach Andy Reid already being in his usual Playoff form.

Their 9 losses thus far include a 2-point loss away to Tampa Bay, a 3-point loss away to Philadelphia, and a 5-point loss at home to the Los Angeles Chargers. So, with 3 breaks, they could be 5-6, which wouldn't seem so bad. But those losses also include a loss away to Dallas in which they didn't score a touchdown, a punchless loss away to Washington this past Thursday (Thanksgiving night), and a home game in which they allowed 51 points to the Los Angeles Rams. (To be fair, that was the 3rd time this season the Rams scored at least 41 points in a game, and 1 of 6 in which they've scored at least 33.)

Dysfunction Level: 7. The Giants need work, lots of it. They'd done what's been needed before. But their aura of competence, as I like to put it, is seriously tarnished.

3. New York Mets.

The Good: A lot less than there was when the season began. GM Sandy Alderson remains committed to building a winner in Flushing Meadow. They still have Yoenis Cespedes, Michael Conforto and Travis d'Arnaud to hit; and Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Zack Wheeler and Steven Matz to pitch.

Having hired Mickey Callaway, until this season the pitching coach for the Cleveland Indians, as their new manager, the pitching could be handled better, and, chances are, the Mets won't be as bad as 70-92 again. And the stadium situation is settled for at least the next 50 years.

The Bad: The Mets have so many injuries, Arsenal send them sympathy cards. Harvey, Syndergaard, Wheeler and Matz made only 56 appearances between them this year. Injuries also struck Cespedes, Wilmer Flores and, most symbolically, David Wright, out with a long-term injury that means Alex Rodriguez, who retired in August 2016, has played in the major leagues since. Wright, the Mets' all-time leader in hits, will be 35 next month, and may never play again. Jose Reyes came back, but, at 34, he is a shadow of his former self (which wasn't nearly as great as the Flushing Heathen thought it was).

Dysfunction Level: 7. Although, but Met standards, that's not that bad.

2. New York Jets.

The Good: Hardly anybody expected the Jets to win 4 games all season long, but they've actually been decent. Certainly, they've been better than the Giants. The complaints about Todd Bowles are many, but for getting this Jet team to 3-2, and to 4-5, before falling to the current 4-7, he should get some sort of Nobel Prize.

Of the 7 losses, 1 was by 3 away to Miami, 1 was by 5 at home to Atlanta, 1 was by 5 away to Tampa Bay, and 1 was by 7 at home to the Cheatriots. The Jets really aren't that far away from being 8-3 and an actual Playoff contender. In 6 games, including 2 of the losses, they've held opponents to 21 or fewer points; in 3 games, including 1 of the losses, they've held 'em to 15. The defense is keeping them in most games. And the stadium situation is settled for at least the next 50 years. 

The Bad: The Jets need a quarterback. Josh McCown is not the answer. The running game isn't so hot, either: They're averaging 102 yards per game. That's not one running back, that's all of them. And they're going to go into a draft that has some interesting quarterbacks, but none looks like a Joe Namath, or a Peyton Manning, or even an Eli Manning. And the available running backs aren't particularly promising, either.

Dysfunction Level: 7. And for the Jets, that's about standard operating procedure.

1. Brooklyn Nets.

The Good: Not much. They have D'Angelo Russell and... uh, Jeremy Lin, and 14 guys named Joe Harris. Kenny Atkinson isn't a terrible coach. The arena situation is settled for the next 50 years. And... um... well, the Knicks, regardless of whether they're good or bad, are always big enough news to be a distraction.

The Bad: They are 7-12, making them the 13th seed in the Eastern Conference, and they are not likely to make the Playoffs this season, or in the foreseeable future. By the standards that Mikhail Prokhorov set when he bought the team, this is unacceptable, especially since this is now his 8th year as majority owner, and their 6th season as the lead team in their arena (something they haven't been since the Devils got good for the 1st time in 1988). And, despite Brooklyn's reputation as a basketball hotbed, the Nets' average attendance, through their 1st 9 home games, is only 15,382, 4th-worst in the league.

Dysfunction Level: 8. Indeed, like part-owner Jay-Z once claimed for himself, the Nets may well have 99 problems.


So here's the rankings:

1. Nets, 8 and not getting better.
2. Jets, 7 and getting a little better.
3. Mets, 7 and getting worse.
4. Giants, 7 and getting worse.
5. Islanders, 6 and holding steady.
6. Rangers, 6 and wobbly.
7. NYCFC, 5 and wobbly.
8. Knicks, 5 and getting better.
9. Red Bulls, 4 and stagnating.
10. Devils, 4 and getting better.
11. Yankees, 4 and getting better.
12. Liberty, 3 and holding steady.

If you're a gloryhunter, at the moment, your best bet is the Yankees, but they're the only team that's made their sport's last 4 in the last 2 years. Everybody else -- including the Mets, the last NYTSA team to reach their sport's finals, is pretty far away.