A Night With The Yankees

Guest contributor Justin Fritze breaks down his latest trip to Yankees Stadium

Guest contributor Justin Fritze walks us through another one of his nights at Yankees Stadium – 

The day started with rain. Rain and more rain for about five hours. I was going to see the Yankees play the Orioles at 7pm, sans Swisher yet sadly with Phil Hughes starting at pitcher. Hughes was 1-3 this year with an ERA rising over 6, so to say I had general apprehensions about his start would be an understatement.

At around noon the sun started coming out, slowly but surely, until around 3pm it was about 70 degrees and feeling like the glorious spring we’ve all been waiting for. At 5 I walked out of work and headed towards Union Square, which was currently being flanked by about 500 cops, surveillance buses, emergency service units, and general gestapo of the highest order. The kids were having some fun so someone had to stop it.

The most interesting part of the journey to Yankee stadium is the 4 train from Manhattan, which slowly picks up all the wall street crowd, the yuppie crowd, and the kids from the projects getting on for a quick 40 block ride to 161st street. It’s a real interesting mix, and despite the income inequality, living quarters, political views etc. there is a general unifier. They are going to see the Yankees. New York’s only REAL New York team. (Jets/Giants play in NJ…Knicks are too expensive for most)

If you’re really familiar with parking for a Yankees game, then you’ll know that the Gateway shopping Center is the best deal to get to the stadium and openly drink to the point of recklessness. Also, there is Taco Bell 500 feet away. And if T-Bell doesn’t do it for you then there is a fine Indian hot dog vendor who will sell you two hot dogs and a soda for $3.50 as soon as you come down the pedestrian walkway.

We made the mistake of coming out the back side (blame it on the Goose) of the Gateway, but found an amazing thing had happened in the Bronx in the matter of one year. We start walking towards the stadium, somehow stumbling on a recently built Metro North Station that looks like it’s the site of a space shuttle test (clean and minimal decorum). You cross over the footbridge and then you get to a site that makes you feel quite far from the Bronx.

Macombs Dam Park/Heritage Field is a revelation to anyone who is used to slumming through the generally downtrodden River Avenue. It’s huge. It’s spacious. There are basketball courts, running tracks, playgrounds, baseball fields. There’s nearly everything for every sport and it’s all surrounding the Stadium itself. More than anything else it gives you a feeling of approaching something larger than life. You forgot that you are stepping on hallowed ground, where the great played. And you see the new stadium, like a coliseum piercing the New York skyline. It is where THEY play. The great ones. The ones you listen to in the background while you are doing other work. The ones you check in on while you’re at a family party. The ones that pace the summer with games every other night. Sometimes you don’t even have the volume up. You know what they’re talking about.

The entrance is something almost primal. You start wrapping around from the first base line, catching a glimpse of the huge steel beams holding up the top deck, and then the green is so bright, so expansive it stops you in your tracks. Jeter just got a hit and the whole place is rumbling. This is his house. A subway rolls by and someone spills a beer. You get to the bleachers and you see Curtis Granderson standing about 50 feet away. You don’t see him much on television, but he is there and he is in prime position to move left, right, forward, back. You buy Bazzini peanuts and grab a beer. It’s the 5th inning and everyone is jumping up and down because Rodriguez just drew a walk.

This is baseball at Yankee stadium. Everything the Yankees do well is rewarded with 20,000 cheers. Everything they don’t is drew with 20,000 boos. It is Tuesday in May, and for a little while you forget about everything and just enjoy the game. They lost 7-1. No complaints.

The Jets Will Win Ten Games

NFL-Jets-Texans

First a few updates:

1. First off, how about those Yankees? A great season from a truly great, well-rounded team. I remember standing in the rain at Camden Yards on opening day watching CC and Texiera struggle and listening to the heckles of the Baltimore fans (who were clearly just bitter they haven’t had a relevant baseball team in over a decade) and wondering if this team had the make up to be a champion or whether they’d spent all that money to just lose in the first round again. Fortunately, after some early season struggles they turned things around and were the best team in baseball for the entire summer and all the way through the playoffs. Amazing post-season from A-Rod. Jeter was Jeter. Matsui and Damon were particularly clutch in the World Series. CC was the ace we signed him to be. Mariano was Mariano…and on and on. #27 in the books.

2. A little reader appreciation on the bye week to frequent readers and people who comment often: The Iron Marshall for always posting insightful thoughts and staying optimistic, Angel who has been following my writing for a few years now and is a great writer himself over at the The Bleacher Report and The Jets Blog, Bruce Harper, Simplysimon, all the fellow Fanball bloggers who stop by, JetBo, 16, dmd13, Coach and everybody else who takes the time to visit the site.

A Few Words On The Mighty Miami Dolphins

jason_taylor_red_rooster_strutAs many people have read the humble and high character Miami Dolphins have enjoyed their share of shots on the Jets in the past few days. Joey Porter ranting on about how they were the division champs last year and the division still runs through them. Jason Taylor talking about how Giants Stadium is a “hellhole” and that unlike Giants fans, Jets fans are “asses.” We all know that Taylor has had a lifelong hatred of the Jets organization and fans and will always take a shot whenever he can. What can you say? Taylor is a probable hall of fame player but a guy who will never win a championship and a guy who has never been past the second round of the playoffs. He got there a couple of times but lost 62-7 to Jacksonville and was blown out by the Raiders another time. He left Miami last year because Bill Parcells didn’t want him because he was too worried about his Hollywood career, stunk it up in DC and then got out of his contract by refusing to participate in off-season workouts. While he was gone, Miami had their best season in years and won the division, so Jason came back this year just in time to be a part of another 6-10 Dolphins team this season. Taylor is right about one thing, he hates Jets fans and we hate him. He can enjoy another January at home this season watching the NFL playoffs, like he has done every year since 2001.

Also, another funny thing about the Dolphins is how they refer to themselves as “champions” from last year. They won the AFC East title not the Super Bowl. I have never seen a team more proud of a season that ended at home in the first round of the playoffs in a game where they were completely outclassed and embarrassed (by Rex Ryan, Bart Scott, Jim Leonhard, and Marques Douglas among other people). The Dolphins talk about their 2008 season like they won a Super Bowl, yet they didn’t even win a single playoff game. Similar to how they act like they are in first place because they swept the Jets, when they are in third place and are still below .500. The entire NFL is praising the Dolphins character and toughness, yet they have enough character and toughness to blow a 21 point lead at home and lose a game where they held the ball for a record amount of time.

The Jets Will Win Ten Games

The general consensus about the Jets now is that their 2009 season is over. Rex Ryan is in over his head right now as a head coach and needs to change his personality. Mark Sanchez won’t be ready to lead a playoff team until next season. There is no way the Jets can overcome the injuries to Kris Jenkins and Leon Washington. Their second half schedule is brutal and on and on and on. It would be easy to write that article today. It is easy to bury a team who has lost four of their last five and flush the second half of the season down the toilet. Yet, I said in the beginning of the year the Jets would win ten games and still believe they will today. Will those ten wins be enough to make the playoffs? The tie breakers can be tricky but I think they got a good shot.

20081207_zaf_cg5_080-calvin-paceThe Jets have a great defense. Through the first eight games of the season, they played one poor game but beyond that have been among the best in the NFL. The Jets will never get blown out because of this. When I look at the Jets losses, I see a game in New Orleans (the best team in the NFL) that was a touchdown game in the fourth quarter despite 14 points allowed by the Jets offense. I see an OT loss to Buffalo despite 5 interceptions, a botched field goal, and a crucial holding penalty in OT. I see a defensive let down the first time against Miami, which was corrected with a dominant defensive performance in the second game but the team was let down by the kick coverage unit.

Mark Sanchez won’t play any games as poorly as he did in New Orleans or against Buffalo in the second half of the season. He may struggle in some games but there won’t be any five interception performances or 14 points directly handed to the other team. I am going from what I saw in six of the Jets games, compared to two of them and how he responded to each of his bad performances. Beyond that, the Jets have found their running game in a big way. Great running game plus great defense plus decent quarterbacking that doesn’t turn the ball over equals a winning team. Do you think Mike Westoff’s kick coverage units are going to lose another game for the Jets this year? Do you think the Jets will make the mistake of making Marques Murrell, Ahmad Carroll, and Marquice Cole all inactive on the same day? I don’t.

thomas-jones22When I look at the Jets second half schedule, I think they take care of Jacksonville and Carolina at home. I think they take care of Buffalo (aka Toronto) and Tampa Bay on the road, without much difficulty. The real question is going to be what are the Jets going to do in New England and Indy? What are they going to do at home against Atlanta and Cincy? I think the Jets/Pats game will be close, like they are every time play. I know if the Jets want a prayer at the division they better take care of business up there. I like the match-up with Atlanta because they are a playing a dome team at home in the middle of December. Obviously, Indy is going to be a tough game but by that point won’t the Colts have everything wrapped up and potentially be resting some people? In the end, the Jets could very well be hosting the Bengals on the last day of the season as a 9-6 team, needing a victory to get in the playoffs. If it comes to that, I am glad we are at home and we shall see what happens.

A quick thing about Rex Ryan, it is time for Jets fans and writers to stop flip-flopping on the guy. If you liked the swagger in week 3 and were nominating him for NFL Head Coach of the Year, don’t be calling for his job in week 8 or asking him to change his personality. This is who we hired. This attitude, this mindset, and this style is what he hired and personally I still like the direction this team is headed. I believe Rex Ryan and Mark Sanchez are going to be leading this team for a long time.

Number 27

Jets Training Camp Wrap Up: August 5th

First a few updates:

1. Big weekend coming up, starting tomorrow night with the Jets Green and White Scrimmage and of course, the beginning of a huge 4 game series between the Yankees and Red Sox. As of right now, it looks like the Yanks will head into the series with a 2.5 game lead in the standings, which means this series really gives them a chance to put some distance between them and Boston over the weekend.

2. A complaint from a frustrated New York sports talk radio listener – Due to my long commute to Newark everyday, I spend alot of time listening to both 660 and 1050 AM and I can’t tell you freakin’ tired I am of hearing about the Mets. The Yankees are in first place in the best division in baseball, the Jets and Giants are both in training camp, and yet all I hear is discussion about the Mets, a fourth place team who is 5 games under .500, enough, nobody cares, their season is over. We all understand how awful they are and how many injuries they have, now spend some more time talking about my Yankees and Jets. (Sorry for another Mets bashing paragraph, Mandy, but I can’t help myself).

3. A quick comment on the New York Football Giants – Congrats to Eli for signing his fat new contract. The guy won a Super Bowl, he earned it. The G-Men are arguably the best team in the NFC this year despite their pedestrian receiving core that is counting on the likes of Domenick Hixon, Mario Manningham, and Sinorce Moss to handle major reps. The only thing that bothers me about the Giants is how much they talk about being disrespected and flying under the radar, it isn’t two seasons ago guys, everybody respects you and realizes you are a good team.

Jets Training Camp Wrap Up: August 5th

Story of the Day: Good day for the rookie…Mark Sanchez slightly outperformed Kellen Clemens today and did a good job with his extended reps with the first team. This battle is basically even right now, with a maybe a slight tilt towards Clemens. However, Kellen struggled today, taking too many sacks and throwing another interception into the hands of Kerry Rhodes. Sanchez showed good pocket presence in practice and had a better two minute drill than Clemens, who went three and out. Tomorrow is a big day for Sanchez who will get to go head to head versus Clemens in the Green and White Scrimmage. If he wants more reps with the first team, tomorrow is the day to make a statement.

More Quarterback Daily News: Rex Ryan said he wants to name a starter before the Jets third pre-season game against the Giants. You would have to think he will let Clemens and Sanchez start a game a piece before then and hope one of them seizes the job. The third pre-season game is when the starters see extended work, meaning whomever gets the nod in that game will be in good shape to start the regular season against Houston.

Secondary Love: Ryan talked at length today about how good he believes the Jets secondary is. Dwight Lowery continued his strong camp by knocking down three passes in practice today and Drew Coleman also flashed a few times, with an interception and a pass defensed, drawing praise from Ryan who thinks his skill set fits well with the Jets new scheme on defense. Ryan’s also complimented Donald Strickland’s versatility to play corner, nickle, and safety. James Ihedigbo looks like he will have a bigger role on the defense this season and could be active in nickle and dime packages. Darrelle Revis? He is the best corner in football according to Ryan and you won’t get much of an argument from me, although Asomugha on Oakland is probably still #1.

Tight End Issues: First off, condolences to Kareem Brown who lost a close friend in a car accident, which is why he missed the first few Jets practices. Many of the beat writers dedicated articles in today’s paper to the Jets lack of depth at tight end. Unless Jack Simmons, Brown, or the newly signed Kevin Brock really picks things up in the next week or two, the Jets are going to have bring in a veteran. Right now, reserve tackle Wayne Hunter is working as the primary backup. Hopefully, somebody will make a few plays tomorrow in the scrimmage and then in the first pre-season game to distinguish themselves.

Injury News: Shaun Ellis, Kris Jenkins, Shonn Greene, Tony Richardson and Donald Strickland are all nursing minor injuries and should be back soon. I don’t know if any of them will play tomorrow, but it would be nice to see Greene out there since he is a rookie. There is no need to rush veterans like Ellis, Richardson or Jenkins back.

Receiver Transaction: The Jets released Mario Urrutia (what kind of person would pick this guy to make the 53 man roster and think he was an under the radar guy to watch in camp…ooops) and got Aundrae Allison off waivers from the Vikings. Allison is a speedy guy, who has experience as a kick returner. He also has 18 career catches for 231 yards, which is nothing to scoff at when guys like David Clowney (1 career catch) and Wallace Wright (6 career receptions) are competing for major playing time.

Good Camp/Bad Camp: Good Camp – Wallace Wright, Chansi Stuckey, D’Brickashaw Ferguson, Bart Scott, Dwight Lowery, Howard Green, Jim Leonhard….Bad Camp (Or Quiet Camp) – David Clowney, J’Nathan Bullock, Mike DeVito, Sione Pouha, Jason Trusnik, Huey Whittaker, Marcus Henry

Tomorrow: Morning Session closed to the media and Green and White Scrimmage at 6 PM (Live play by play audio on www.newyorkjets.com, I know I’ll be listening).

5 Guys to Watch For in Tomorrow’s Scrimmage:

1. Mark Sanchez – Duh, big chance for the rookie to make some plays and a make a move in the QB battle.

2. David Clowney – He has been quiet all camp, can he make a few big plays?

3. Vernon Gholston – See above.

4. Jehuu Caulcrick/Shonn Greene – Who? Caulcrick will be the starting fullback with T-Rich out with injury. If Greene plays, he should be in line for some short yardage carries.

5. Kareem Brown/Jack Simmons/J’Nathan Bullock – Somebody could get a leg up in battle for the #2 TE spot.