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

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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.

Bautista bomb sends Yankees to third straight shutout loss

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Despite getting shutout three straight and falling out of the wildcard race, the Yankees future is bright due to future stars such as catching sensation Gary Sanchez. AP Photo via Getty Images courtesy Baseball Tonight on Twitter.

As John Sterling just said on the radio following the latest Yankee loss, “If you don’t score, you can’t win.”

Astonishingly, a great run at the playoffs has been replaced by not being able to score a run. Jose Bautista’s three-run bomb off losing pitcher Tyler Clippard in the eighth inning sent the punch less Yankees to a depressing 3-0 defeat. Their third straight shutout loss. It’s the first time since 1975 they have been shutout in three consecutive games.

That’s 27 innings without scoring a run. It’s definitely a sad way to go out. The four-game sweep at Boston was bad enough. I am not gonna bother reiterating my frustration. Despite it all, these new look Baby Bombers give us hope for the future. Gary Sanchez is chasing American League Rookie of The Year with a remarkable 19 home runs in his first 43 games. A modern day record. Even with being shutout, Sanchez remains at .330 with 19 blasts and 38 RBI’s.

The fact Sanchez could even win AL ROY despite coming up in August is remarkable. The top prospect has done more than anyone could’ve possibly envisioned. Hitting 19 homers in less than two months is insane. Even in the final two losses at Boston, Sanchez blasted two dingers to go on another streak. He ripped three more homers in consecutive wins over the Rays before the offense went ice cold. In fact, he drove in 13 over a five-game span where the Yanks lost three of five.

Unfortunately, the Red Sox’ offense is the best in baseball. When the off-season hits, Yankee pitchers will be seeing Hanley Ramirez in their nightmares. The sizzling first base slugger beat the Yanks with a three-run blast to dead center off a flat Dellin Betances which set the tone last Thursday. One of Joe Girardi’s screw ups. He’s a very good manager but the over managing can drive fans nuts. Like leaving C.C. Sabathia in for another inning after he served up a game-tying three-run bomb to Ramirez. He was over 100 pitches and facing the Red Sox. It turned into a disaster.

Maybe if they had split the big series, we’d be singing a different tune. They could have. But that doesn’t cut it. They still gave themselves a chance after taking the first two from Tampa. But then were shutout in the series finale. What’s followed is 18 more innings of frustration. No one has been able to drive in a single run. And so, they have the dubious distinction of not scoring a run in three straight games.

In the process, they wasted a great effort from Sabathia, who went seven scoreless reducing his ERA to 4.02. The veteran southpaw has given a good account of himself all year proving he still can be a serviceable back of the end starter who gives the Yanks innings. He’s made 29 starts and is up to 172-plus innings. With one start left, he could reach 180.

Sabathia has a vesting $25 million option for 2017 which hinges on not finishing the year on the disabled list with a left shoulder injury or spend 45 days or make six relief appearances due to a left shoulder injury. There also is a $5 million buyout. But it looks like the salary is guaranteed with Sabathia staying healthy. If so, he has earned it. That would mean one more year for the gritty lefty who has bounced back from how last season ended with him checking into rehab for alcoholism. If he can be bought out, I would still like to see him return.

It’s hard to get upset over the Yankees falling short. That they even made a run and played meaningful games this late in the season despite selling and reloading the farm system shows how well they played. They never gave up. A credit to Girardi and the coaching staff. For all of my issues with his by the book stuff, he’s done an admirable job. If he was ever let go, plenty of teams would be after Girardi.

As the season winds down with the Yanks now 79-75 and four behind the Orioles and Tigers, playoff extinction looms. But in a year where Alex Rodriguez went out with one final memorable night and Carlos Beltran proved he still has it, Brian Cashman finally was allowed to make game changing deals that could have a long term impact on the club’s future.

He turned Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller into Adam Warren, Gleyber Torres, Billy McKinney, Rashad Crawford, Clint Frazier, Justus Sheffield, Ben Heller and J.P. Feyereisen. Torres and Frazier are top prospects while Sheffield could have a place in the Yankee rotation. Warren returned to form after struggling with the Cubs. He’s been part of a solid 1-2 punch with Clippard getting the ball to Betances. Funny enough, he was sent to Chicago over the winter for Starlin Castro. Who won that one. 😉

Cashman also got three minor leaguers (Nick Green, Erik Swanson and Dillon Tate) for Beltran after sending him to Texas. Here’s hoping he has an impact and maybe even reaches the World Series.

As far as what’s transpired, I can’t help but feel proud. Expectations weren’t high. Especially when they sold at the deadline. But seeing some of these kids and the continued improvement of Didi Gregorius has shed a new light. The future is bright.