Hitting Back: ‘Retirement’, April Baseball MATTAHS, Steven McDonald

The Yankees celebrate a 7-3 win over the Orioles to salvage the final game of the series at beautiful Camden Yards. They return to the Bronx for the home opener tomorrow. More on April Baseball, ‘retirements,’ the awful Knicks, LeBron, NBA MVP and why The McDonald family means so much to New York City. AP Photo via Getty Images courtesy Yankees.

This is what makes my good friend Brian one of the true classics when it comes to sports fandom. Unhinged in our Facebook chat room this morning:

Brian No. This time retirement is meant.

Brian Sanborn left the conversation.

How to explain the legend of Brian David? Unpredictable. At any moment, he can erupt for no reason. Our chat focuses mostly on sports with some politics mixed in by future President JPG. A young fiery yet misguided lad who was overwhelmingly supportive on Trump. But now has turned because Mr. Trump actually has feelings on other human beings. 😛

Brian is a long suffering Buffalo sports fan. I’ve known him for over two decades. Since the depths of the basement meeting at St. John’s University on the Staten Island campus for three hour sleepless lectures from Professor Bernheim on the safety and protection of sports. He is the biggest Bills and Sabres fan I know followed by Rob “Retirement” Davis, who supports Two Bills Mafia but resides in the mean streets of Clifton, New Jersey and is now a long suffering Devils fan full of tanks. A trend started by Chris Wassel.

When it comes down to it, Brian is the biggest advocate of retirements. How much has he ‘retired’? Probably over 100. But he always returns with a vengeance with war usually waged for me, Derek “Flex” Felix. Led by JPBenedict- a former Chicagoan who turned on hometown Bears and Bulls even supporting any team LeBron played on (that’s low even for me)- BlueJayPG finally saw the Cubs win a World Series. It only took 108 years. Mr. Giagnorio was alive for only 31. So, 2016 was special. Yet he still complains about the Cubs overpaying for Aroldis Chapman due to top prospect Gleyber Torres coming to the Yankees as part of the big rebuild last summer.

Then there is the wildcard Colin “Vanwarinator” Cannaday. A die hard Atlanta Braves and Falcons fan, he had his heart crushed by the Falcons in the Super Bowl. One which I still can’t believe. How they blew a 28-3 lead to the Patriots still boggles my mind. What was even more shocking is how calm Colin was when it was over saying:

“It’s who the Falcons are.”

I don’t know about all that. But obviously, he has a bigger heart than me. We all have our quirks. Me with Rangers coach Alain Vigneault, clueless and senile Knicks President Phil “The Will” Jackson and Giants GM Jerry Reese. Needless to say, I have been accused of treason by John Giagnorio. The fearless and emotional leader of Team Benedict. JayPG has spread his practice of turncoatism to students Brian David, Retirement Rawb and Colin.

Maybe you’re thinking what’s the point of this post. Well, it’s about time I provided the true characters of our chat. People I am proud to call friends despite all the shit we talk. It’s all good. Friends who have been part of my shows on Hard Hits Network and part of Wassel’s over on the airwaves of Blog Talk Radio. One day, Hard Hits shall return. When it does, you’ll be the first to know.

There’s so much going on. Already panicked callers of the Yankees and Mets due to one week of baseball in a 162-game season. Like I always say:

April Baseball MATTAHS!!!!!

You’d think these people would get real. But when you have Benny from the Bronx still calling in about precious NFL and Ira as well about the Jets, you know things aren’t normal in NYC. WFAN is in need of a makeover. Once Mike Francesa leaves, they’re gonna become even worse. Ever since Imus was wrongfully terminated due to overreaction from social activists over a poorly timed joke that didn’t make him racist, it’s become a toilet of awful radio led by Boomer & Carton. Two of the biggest imbeciles to ever team up and replace Imus. They are unlistenable. Wait till Joe and Evan take over for Francesa. What will that senile clown Phil Schmucknick do then with his recycled column in the Post?

So I heard Bill Madden is back with the News. Shocking. But only in a special Friday column as he releases another book. He is a better interview than writer. We know he still hates the Yankees and is old school when it comes to Cooperstown. I guess Mike Lupica needed his old buddy back. The day they no longer write for that biased rag will be too soon.

Congrats to Sergio Garcia on winning The Masters. His first PGA major slam title at the age of 37. Kinda felt for Justin Rose after that playoff.

The Knicks season is finally almost over. Counting down to the NBA Lottery live during the Conference Finals on ABC. Praying for Kentucky’s De’Aaron Fox. If not, then Malik Monk.

When Carmelo Anthony is freed from jail this summer, I hope he winds up playing great basketball in the final part of his career. He never complained once about how poorly run the franchise is. All he’s done is play and take plenty of body contact and play through injuries. Not what Melo envisioned. Maybe he’ll get to team with CP3 and Blake and Deandre with the Clippers.

I can’t think of a more pampered star than LeBron. He’s a top five all-time great player. But man. Does he bitch and moan a lot. The latest during a game the Cavs were outscored 44-18 by the Hawks in a one-point overtime loss Sunday. He whined about a jump ball that led to Atlanta forcing extras. Mr. James is a terrific player who will go down as one of the most complete in NBA history. But the antics and diving is nauseating. So is his complaints when his team loses a couple. I never saw that from Larry, Magic or MJ. You think Bill Russell complained like him? Ha. Patrick Ewing should have. But he did the best with what he had for the Knicks during the 90’s when they were relevant.

The game has changed. Not for the better. Kudos to Russell Westchuck on breaking Oscar’s NBA season record for triple doubles with number 42 which included a buzzer beater. He’s still never seen a shot he didn’t like. OKC is only 12 games over .500. He’ll probably edge James “Ballhog” Harden for MVP. Both have the ball a ton. So, they are gonna put up ridiculous numbers. Westbrook averaging a triple double and Harden close to it with the Rockets, who will take on the Thunder in the first round.

I still say Kawhi Leonard is more complete than either and should get more votes along with King James. Neither will. It’s a award all about gaudy stats. No matter how many turnovers either averaged along with their assists, points and rebounds, it’s either Russell or Harden who will win.

Tell me how Isaiah Thomas doesn’t mean as much to his team. He only leads them in scoring every game he plays. The Celtics are too perimeter oriented to seriously contend. The Cavs served notice on Wednesday by routing them. John Wall is every bit as valuable to the Wizards, who have the only chance to give the Cavs a series in the East due to their mix of great guard play and size. A Washington vs Cleveland Conference Final would be a potential great match-up.

As for the Warriors, they finally got back Durant. Now, he can rejoin the mouthpiece, Steph Curry, Dray Green and Klay Thompson. Golden State clinched the best record again and will have home court throughout. They look like locks to come out of the West. If it is the Warriors and Cavaliers again for a third straight NBA Finals, that never happened between the Celtics and Lakers when I grew up during the 80’s. That would be interesting.

Early baseball thoughts:

Francisco Lindor will be in the mix for AL MVP. He’s got three dingers and plays an electrifying short for the Indians.

I guess all those Mariners preseason picks might be wrong. I bought in sorta. Oops. Well, I do believe the wildcard is coming from that division. But it’s probably gonna be Texas and Houston even though I don’t love the Astros’ staff. Keep an eye on Dallas Keuchel, who is back in form.

When Gary Sanchez is out longer than two weeks for the biceps strain, then I’ll be concerned. Good bounce back win for the Yankees today after the bullpen blew two to the Orioles, who can rake with anyone. And that pen is elite. Nice to see Starlin the Darlin’ come through with a clutch two strike base knock. How about Ronald Torreyes? Why didn’t I have him in my fantasy lineup again? Only 24 and is tied with 7 RBI’s for the AL lead.

I also thought the Braves would be improved. They’re 1-5 so far. Double oops. When Big Sexy, Bartolo Colon has your best outing so far, that’s not a ringing endorsement. Plus it came in his return against the light hitting Mets. In their latest defeat, the pig pen gave it up to the Pirates with one of the best young outfielders, Starling Marte hitting the game-winning two-run home run for a walk off. At least Freddie Freeman went yard twice and Dansby Swanson jacked one. Atlanta should hit. But their staff and relief is scary bad. They have two 40-plus year old pitchers in Bartolo and R.A. Dickey. And Jim Johnson cannot close anymore. Is it too late to bring back Bobby Cox?!?!?!?!

Arizona is off to a very good start. Greinke looking for a bounce back. Plus a healthy A.J. Pollock patrolling center should be a boost to a lineup featuring Paul Goldschmidt and Jake Lamb. They have some young arms in the pen but old man Rodney closes. That has to change at some point.

Yasiel Puig has three homers already including a pair in a recent Dodgers win. Motivation? If he stays focused and on the field, he could be a steal for someone. Right now, that would be Richie’s Baseball Stars in my league. He paid only 13 bucks.

It only took Mark Melancon eight days to record his first save for Dad’s Giants. After blowing his first opportunity by giving up four straight two out hits on Opening Day in The Desert, he finally got a save for only the Giants’ second win. Their lineup will hit. Especially with speedster and ex-Yank and Baby Bomber Eduardo Nunez at the hot corner. But after MadBum and El Cueto, it gets dicey.

At least Melancon is reunited with former Staten Island Yankee teammate George Kontos. Did You Know? they teamed up to win the Baby Bombers a NY-Penn League championship in ’06? I covered it. Kontos started and Melancon closed. Francisco Cervelli was also on that team.

Hockey is finally over. The playoffs start this week. For the Rangers, they get the Canadiens. I’ll have more on that first round series on New York Puck. They’re not favorite. We’ll see if Lundqvist can match Price in net and the Blueshirts can deal with the Habs balance and annoying grit and peskiness.

I’ll end by saying much respect to Sergeant Conor McDonald. It definitely isn’t easy to fill Dad’s big shoes. But I loved his passionate speech with father Steven proudly watching from above with love. It was tough seeing his wife Patti-Ann cry as the Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award was presented to Mats Zuccarello.

The McDonald Family is all class and the epitome of what it means to represent this city. I got emotional watching it. Their Dad is sorely missed. He fought for 30 years after being shot in the line of duty by a criminal he eventually forgave even though he spent the rest of his life in a wheel chair due to becoming paralyzed with a spinal cord injury. Look at how they carry themselves the next time you have a bad moment or feel sorry for yourselves.


Madden, Bondy and Coffey latest NY Daily News casualties

In the never ending NY Daily News saga, more well known writers lost their jobs. They include baseball columnist Bill Madden, Filip Bondy and Wayne Coffey. All were outstanding.

As we noted last night, Madden was a lifer who started covering the Yankees in ’78 before graduating to a columnist in ’89. Bondy had been a fixture always putting together interesting columns on a variety of subjects including tennis and soccer. He also delved into hockey once failing to comprehend why blocked shots mattered under former Rangers coach John Tortorella. Even if he missed the point entirely, he was a quality writer. More than one can say for Phil Mushnick, who repeatedly bashes easy target Mike Francesa in the rival NY Post. Is there an angrier person than Mushnick?

Coffey was a favorite of mine specializing in Sunday front page stories on sports athletes who had to overcome many obstacles. It is sad to see him go. He tweeted goodbye earlier.

What it boils down to is in today’s world of social media, these writers have become expendable. Especially with the News losing so much money. How can they afford to keep them? Mike Lupica is one of the highest paid writers in the country. There’s still a chance he could stay on in a lesser role. Neither side commented on contract negotiations.

Other esteemed Daily News fixtures who were laid off include Roger Rubin, Hank Gola, Stephen Lorenzo and Teri Thompson. It’s a sad time when so many people lose jobs for the only place they knew.

Bill Madden’s baseball predictions

Bill Madden is a renown baseball columnist for the New York Daily News since 1989. Originally, he grew up in Oradell, New Jersey. A former high school graduate of Bergen Catholic, Madden went onto stardom after getting hired by the Daily News in 1978. Originally, he covered the Yankees before graduating to a columnist for New York’s hometown paper.

With a enormous resume that includes several books along with serving on the Baseball Hall of Fame Historical Committee in 2005, 2007 and 2008, Madden is an accomplished sports writer. Since players usage of PED’s has become public knowledge, he’s been an outspoken critic of voting for any former player into Cooperstown. That even includes Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. Along with many other ballplayers, they used performance enhancing drugs to gain a competitive edge.

The steroid or juiced era was the responsibility of Major League Baseball. Former league commissioner Bud Selig turned a blind eye to it following the end of the strike. Instead, baseball rode the “Chicks Dig The Long Ball” campaign which featured Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa shattering Roger Maris’ single season home run record of 61 in 1961. It wasn’t until the BALCO scandal that things came to a head. Eventually, star players Bonds, McGwire, Sosa, Jason Giambi, Rafael Palmeiro were forced to testify in front of Congress. Most denied usage or pleaded the fifth which only cast more doubt. It forever tarnished McGwire’s legacy despite slugging a single season record of 70 home runs in 1998. Only Giambi admitted to steroid and human growth hormone (HGH) use in front of a grand jury in December 2003. Of course, Palmeiro embarrassed himself by defiantly saying he never used steroids only to get caught red handed.

It’s interesting to note that during this era, writers benefited from covering the sport. Madden’s former coworker Mike Lupica wrote a book entitled Summer of ’98. It was based on the 1998 season which featured McGwire and Sosa chasing history. It also details the Yankees special season en route to their 24th World Championship. The book is also a family affair with Lupica discussing his relationship with his son who also was a huge baseball fan. So, it wasn’t just about McGwire and Sosa but that was a prominent theme that season for fans and media. Nobody knew what was happening off the field. In retrospect, it came off hypocritical because that book made Lupica money. Of course, he and other baseball writers went back to bashing these players which is all part of what makes the media vultures.

Fast forward to the present and it’s only gotten worse. With Alex Rodriguez revealed as a steroid cheat who was caught twice including for his role in the Biogenesis baseball scandal, he served a MLB record 211-game suspension that included all of 2014. A-Rod returned to the Yankees in 2015 ready to put the past behind him. With so much uncertainty about what he would have left after being away from the game for a year and a half, some prognosticators doubted him. Could an aging Rodriguez who would turn 40 on July 27 still produce at a high level? He’s certainly answered that defiantly with 32 home runs and 83 RBI’s. The 32 dingers lead the ball club and the 83 base knocks trail only team leader Brian McCann (87).

Before the season started, the Daily News had its annual Baseball Season Predictions. Among the notables was how many homers would A-Rod hit. Madden, who has made no secret of his disdain for Rodriguez voted for a mystifying 9. Every other baseball writer had A-Rod in double digits. This is the same columnist who took three teams out of the NL East including his World Series pick the Marlins with Jose Fernandez winning World Series MVP. That was a reach with Fernandez needing time to recover from Tommy John surgery before returning to the mound in July. He’s only made eight starts and has posted a 2.06 earned run average (ERA) with a 5-0 record. Miami is without Giancarlo Stanton who’s been out since June 26 since surgery on a broken left hand. He’s been taking batting practice and could finally return before season’s conclusion.


While Madden was way off on the Marlins and White Sox who he took to win the AL Central which I also shamelessly did, he did nail the Mets to win the NL East. They lead the Nationals by 7.5 games with 16 games remaining and have a magic number of 10. But he also predicted Matt Harvey for 20 wins and the NL Cy Young. A bit unrealistic considering Harvey’s return from Tommy John. The Dark Knight has performed admirably going 12-7 with a 2.88 ERA and 164 strikeouts in 171-plus innings. He’s made 26 starts and will get two more before the postseason. Even with controversy surrounding him due to egotistical agent Scott Boras, who wanted Harvey’s innings limited. At first, Harvey toed the company line which didn’t sit well with Mets fans. But he sat down with management and straightened everything out. With him starting to wear down, how effective will he be in the postseason?

Madden also nabbed the Cardinals, who always defy logic. He also got the Dodgers. So, he did well in the NL. But his AL picks are a mess with the Orioles, White Sox and Mariners failing to live up to expectations. His AL wildcards weren’t much better with the Angels a long shot and the Tigers way out after selling David Price to the Blue Jays at the trade deadline. Baseball predictions are hard. So much factors in including injuries and how well teams jell. You also can’t predict which teams will be buyers. Who had the Jays getting Price and Troy Tulowitzki? No one had the Mets acquiring Yoenis Cespedes after nearly dealing away Wilmer Flores and Zach Wheeler for Carlos Gomez. Still, you would expect a knowledgeable and respected writer like Madden to do better than 3 out of 10.

I’ll admit to erring with the White Sox and not sticking to my guns with the Royals. I also felt the Mariners could contend in a wide open AL West. Instead, they’ve flopped with Robinson Cano having a second straight down year. Instead, it’s between the Rangers and Astros with Texas holding the upper hand after taking the first three of a big four-game series to go in front by a game and a half. Texas went out and acquired Cole Hamels. A pitcher I didn’t want the Yankees to get due to the Phillies’ asking price. Brian Cashman stuck to his guns holding onto prized prospects Luis Severino and Aaron Judge. Severino has pitched solidly improving to 4-3 in a road win over the Rays. A good response after his worst outing in a blowout loss to the Jays. I felt the AL East was wide open due to no team really having a decided edge. It wasn’t until Toronto went out and got Price that they took over. The Yanks led the division most of the summer. They’re still in solid position for the first wildcard despite the losses of Mark Teixeira (31 HR) and 14-game winner Nathan Eovaldi.

My NL picks were the Nats, Cards, Dodgers, Pirates and Giants. So, I got three right. I can’t remember who my AL wildcards were. I think I had the Royals and Angels. It just goes to prove that no matter how much of an expert you are, making predictions can make anyone look bad. Including Madden, who might not want to review his own.

Mike Lupica loses job with NY Daily News due to cutbacks

For over three decades, Mike Lupica was the Daily News big sports columnist. That run came to an end on Wednesday, September 16, 2015.
For over three decades, Mike Lupica was the Daily News big sports columnist. That run came to an end on Wednesday, September 16, 2015.

In a story that was broken earlier by Politico Media, New York Daily News columnist Mike Lupica lost his job due to cutbacks. He and the paper couldn’t reach agreement on a new deal. With New York’s hometown paper losing money, they had to downsize. Also gone are sports editor Terri Thompson and Daily News columnist Bill Hammond who sent out this tweet below.

It’s a sad time for the Daily News. But also shows the unfortunate side of the newspaper business. With online content growing more popular, they have started hiring entry level writers to work in their Jersey City office. Times have changed. The days of people buying the paper are dwindling. Most of us have computers and are able to access stories without spending a dime.

News owner Mort Zuckerman had recently attempted a sale of the paper, which is said to lose between $20 million and $30 million a year. He took it off the market after failing to attract any serious bids during the six months the News and its Jersey City printing plant were on the block.

Lupica is 63 and has been with the Daily News since 1977. He joined up after working for the New York Post at the age of 23 where he covered the Knicks. His Shooting From The Lip columns in the Sunday paper were always entertaining. Whether you agreed or disagreed, it was a fun read. Like most famous sportswriters, Lupica became bigger starring on ESPN’s The Sports Reporters and even hosting his own show on ESPN Radio before it was canceled.

Considering how much success he’s had writing best seller books, Lupica will be fine. He’ll probably wind up with ESPN in a more prominent role. Considering that they let Bill Simmons go, it makes sense. As much as I disliked some of his bias with an anti-Yankee agenda and pro Mets, he was a good writer who brought a lot to the table. Ironically, his last article that appeared was about Hillary Clinton on Monday discussing her struggles as a Presidential candidate compared with Donald Trump.

Lupica made no secret on his show that he bled Giant blue. So, he also did a column on the confusion between Eli Manning and Rashad Jennings that led to a awful loss in Dallas. Now comes word that he is out at a paper he helped build for over three decades. It was a great run. All runs must end. So, Lupica moves on.

For years, I had a open Facebook group called Mike Lupica Is A Fraud. It remains up and new members continue to join. Many will celebrate this news. However, I won’t. The news of someone losing a job is sad. It’s nothing to get excited over. When your team wins a big game or you accomplish something big, that’s worth celebrating. In this country, we like to kick someone when they’re down. I’m not that way. Watch The Breakfast Club. You can learn a lot about wholesome values.

As we bid adieu to Lupica, good luck in the future.

An Inspired Blogger,

Derek B. Felix