Fun 80’s Metal Wacky MTV Videos and Cubs banner raising 108 years in the making

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The Cubs line up during player intros on banner night before defeating the Dodgers 3-2 in an NLCS rematch at Wrigley Field. AP Photo via Getty Images courtesy Cubs.

So, I was sitting downstairs in the entertainment room with the TV on. A flat screen like so many other spoiled people. But we’re a family. So, we take turns watching and share.

I was mostly locked in on the Cubs epic banner raising ceremony 108 years in the making. Rain delayed the game about an hour at Wrigley Field. Once it got going, boy was it something to behold. I’m not a Cubs fan. I’m not from Chicago and have never been there. But watching the festivities along with the nice scenery at one of the oldest ballparks, I concluded I need to get to Wrigley. Bookmark that.

My favorite part was following the awesome player introductions for both the Dodgers and Cubs in an NLCS rematch, seeing all-time Cubs greats Fergie Jenkins, Billy Dee Williams and Ryne Sandberg help raise not one banner but two. They first did a banner for 1908. The last one before they came back to defeat the Indians from a 3-1 deficit to win the World Series in 2016. Then as every great sports movie soundtrack played including favorite themes from Rudy and The Natural, up went the 2016 World Championship banner by the ivy on ESPN. Wow.

Maybe it’s the historian in me. When it comes down to it, I appreciate the history of sports. Seeing the Cubs finally get to do a banner raising was one of the coolest moments. I can only put it on par with the Rangers finally raising the Stanley Cup banner honoring ’93-94 after waiting 54 years for their fourth championship. Think about this. That is half as long as Cubs fans waited. That defines crazy and explains the fandom. They have a great team capable of repeating. We’ll get into that another time.

What’s great is that you had Anthony Rizzo marching out the World Championship trophy as the Cubs all came down the stairs following the ceremony in from the outfield. It was really well done. Even more appropriately, Wayne Messmer performed an unreal edition of the star spangled banner. He used to be a regular at Blackhawks games along with the White Sox and Bears. To hear Dad tell it, there was no one better than Messmer when it came to our national anthem. I had never seen him perform live. But watched classic videos on You Tube. My favorite current anthem singers are John Amirante and Jim Cornelison. Amirante used to do O Canada and the Star Spangled Banner frequently at MSG before being phased out. He’s 82. Cornelison replaced Messmer at Hawks games. He is terrific.

If there is one more thing I loved, it was the organ playing during the intros. It really gave it an old school feel. The organ is something that isn’t used enough at games. I have always enjoyed it. Now, arenas and stadiums blast music through the sound system as if it’s some deejay event or concert. It’s a game. The organ has a nice touch. It’s soothing and whispers to you that a good event is coming, building anticipation.

As for the game, eventually it was played. The Cubs won 3-2 over the Dodgers on Rizzo’s walk off single in the home half of the ninth plating Jon Jay. His first run batted in of the season was a clutch two out game-winner. What you’d expect from one of the National League’s best players. He finished in the top four for MVP last year. An award won by teammate Kris Bryant, whose double plated the game’s first run off Alex Wood.

The Cubs scratched out an unearned run too due to an E9 from Yasiel Puig. Chicago ace Jon Lester’s RBI fielder’s choice put them ahead 2-0. But the Dodgers were able to come back late. Corey Seager’s RBI double scored Joc Pederson in the sixth. They would tie it in the eighth with an unearned run due to an E6 from Addison Russell. Two of the game’s best teams combined for five errors.

Seager is an emerging star who won NL Rookie Of The Year and finished third for MVP. He’s a unique talent at short with great bat speed and terrific instincts. He’s everything Pederson isn’t. I would know. I drafted Joc in the first year of my Franchise League in the minors before trading him and then getting him back and keeping him. I keep thinking he’ll figure it out. But he still can’t hit lefties batting way down in the lineup when he starts. He also had a key at bat with the bases loaded and nobody out against Justin Grimm. Pederson let Grimm off the hook missing his pitch on a 3-2 count with a weak pop up to short right which prevented a run from scoring. He should’ve crushed it. Instead, Grimm escaped a bases loaded no out jam getting Carl Edwards, Jr. off the hook when he induced an inning ending 4-6-3 double play.

While Pederson remains an unfinished product, leave it to me to not insert Michael Pineda on the one day he pitched up to his talent. On Yankees Opening Day at Yankee Stadium in the home opener, Pineda was the story taking a perfect game into the seventh inning. Yankee killer Evan Longoria broke it up with a double down the left field line. Pineda was brilliant pitching into the eighth inning allowing only one earned run on a solo shot from Logan Morrison while fanning 11. That is the kind of quality outing that can get Yankee fans on his side. It’s about finding consistent. The talent is there. Let’s hope this gives him the confidence boost he needs.

The Yankees had plenty of offense. Aaron Judge went yard for the second straight day for home run number two, driving a hanging curve into left field 10 rows back. With Gary Sanchez officially sidelined a month, the Bronx Bombers need Judge to produce along with Greg Bird, who should be good to go in a couple of days. For now, quality backup catcher Austin Romine is starting with prospect Kyle Higashioka up from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. Down two starters on the infield with shortstop Didi Gregorius also missing April, the Yanks have gotten nice contributions from 24-year old utility man Ronald Torreyes. He’s filled in admirably at short while hitting a home run and driving in eight to lead the team.

For now, skipper Joe Girardi has gone back to the 1-2 of Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury at the top of the order. They’re both off to good starts with Gardner swiping two more bases to hike his total to five while scoring two runs. Ellsbury is hitting .348 with a homer and two RBI’s. Matt Holliday, who recently became a member of the 2,000 hit club, had a pair of hits and his fifth RBI. So far, so good for the proven veteran. Starlin Castro went yard for the first time parking one to right center. One of three long balls the Yanks hit. Chase Headley got the other for number two. With two straight wins, the Yanks are 3-5 and at least can cool off some of the panic from the April Mattahs crowd.

The Mets won in Philadelphia 4-3. Jay Bruce continues to swing a hot bat going deep twice. That included the go-ahead game-winning two-run bomb for his fourth dinger. Remember all that talk about them dumping him in the off-season. Sometimes, the best moves are the ones you don’t make. Even though Terry Collins must fit Michael Conforto into the lineup when he can. Jacob de Grom got a no decision despite grinding out six innings while allowing two earned with two walks and three strikeouts. Addison Reed earned his second save in two nights pitching around a solo home run from Brock Stassi in the Phils’ ninth.

Among the notables, Bryce Harper went 4-for-4 with with two runs and three RBI’s along with six total bases in a Nationals’ 14-6 win over the Cardinals. Stephen Drew had three hits and four RBI’s. Seriously. Khris Davis is up to four homers already as Oakland shutout Kansas City 2-0. Wil Myers became just the second Padre to hit for the cycle highlighting a 5-3 win over the Rockies. He hit his third home run and is up to seven RBI’s.

As the Cubs and Dodgers moved at a snails pace, I flipped on MTV Classic between breaks to catch Metal Mayhem. Just your classic hour of cheesy and classy metal videos full of electric guitar shredding, drum beats and edgy lyrics. I still can’t believe they mixed in Suicidal Tendencies in a weird video where the lead singer talked in gibberish like a pre-Henry Rollins. It had its moments. A throwback Guns N’ Roses live concert from 1988 with the original band performing a stirring rendition of “Welcome To The Jungle.”

There also was the underrated “Fallen Angel” from Poison along with “Youth Gone Wild” from Skid Row in their debut album with Sebastian Bach screaming his lungs out. I had never seen this one from Twisted Sister before. It was released as a single in 1987. It’s called “Hot Love” featuring Dee Snider’s hot wife Suzette:

What would a Metal Mayhem be without an appearance from Diamond Dave? You betcha! David Lee Roth when he went solo after a bad break up with Van Halen. It’s Yankee Rose. A hilarious satirical look at immigration in the intro along with stereotypes. Imagine if this video aired now. The ridiculous overreaction it would get. Music shouldn’t be censored. That whole thing with Tipper Gore and Snider testifying in court was crap.

Anyway, you get all these crazy characters in a convenience store with an immigrant behind the register. Then David Lee Roth recites the classic line:

“I’ll take a bottle of anything and a glazed donut to go!”

Of course, the scene shifts to Diamond Dave on stage shouting, “Whoa!!!!! She’s beautiful!” What a comedian he was. Great presence. He had fun. Eddie Van Halen didn’t. Remember that reunion disaster as presenters at the VMA’s? Here is the song from Mr. Roth:

Yeah. 80’s metal was epic. 😀

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.

Hard Hits talks big October Football Weekend

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Clayton Kershaw will be facing Max Scherzer in a battle of aces in a great match up between the Dodgers and Nationals in the NLDS. That and plenty more was covered on Hard Hits from Derek, Colin and John. AP Photo by Jeff Chiu/Getty Images

Hard Hits is my internet show that can be heard on the airwaves of BlogTalkRadio. Originally started in February 2007, the Hard Hits Network has been around for nine years in some format or another. A sports themed show that also mixes in the current events and music from time to time, it’s our way to express ourselves.

On Sunday, we did two live broadcasts. Each was 30 minutes live with 15 minutes of overtime. Until we go back to Premium, it’ll be a shorter format. Once we do renew for Premium, longer shows shall return. Featuring John “JPG” Giagnorio, Colin Cannaday, Rob “Retirement” Davis, Brian David Sanborn, Justin “JNF” Felix and hosted by yours truly, Derek “Flex” Felix, it’s always entertaining back and forth banter. No matter what the topic, it is “hard hitting.”

In Part 1 of a two show special edition, the guest of honor JPG showed up to discuss his relocation to Las Vegas. Naturally, he stopped in Chicago for hometown before completing the trip with his Cubs primed for a big October run. Derek predictably figured out what John ordered for dinner. Plus more interesting discussion from the statmastah who joined Derek and Colin for both college football, NFL and baseball wildcard predictions.

Who will win? The Orioles or Blue Jays. The winner gets the Texas Rangers. The other AL Division series is set between two evenly matched teams with the Indians hosting the Red Sox in Big Papi’s final year. Can Cleveland overcome Boston’s lethal lineup?

Meanwhile, the Giants are back in in another even year. Can they make another improbable run? They’ll visit the Mets Wednesday with a great match-up between Madison Bumgarner and Noah Syndergaard. Find out who Colin and John like. Also why Derek went against his original prediction. The winner takes on JPG’s Cubs.

In the other NL Division match-up, it features two of the game’s best pitchers with the Nats’ Max Scherzer taking on the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw. It shapes up to be a great series. For more breakdown on this series, tune into Part 2 where Derek, Colin and John made their predictions.

Catch Part 1 of Hard Hits A JPG Tribute here:

Hard Hits Part I: A JPG Tribute

Among the topics covered were two unbelievable college football games including the hail mary which allowed Tennessee to stun Georgia. Plus a pro style classic with Clemson and Louisville going toe to toe with Heisman quarterbacks Deshaun Watson and Lamar Jackson putting on a show.

NFL Week 4 highlights are discussed with Colin pretty pumped about his Falcons led by record performances from Matt Ryan and Julio Jones in a dismantling of the suddenly struggling Panthers. Plus why Derek feels sorry for Phil Rivers following the Chargers’ latest collapse. The Bills pull off a shocker in New England. They’re back.

Derek also makes a prediction into the future on baseball.

More HB: Mets ready for Dodgers, Nats debacle

It’s a wonderful autumn Monday here in the city that never sleeps. Here are the hot topics fresh off a big sports weekend:

-Congrats to manager Terry Collins on guiding the Mets to a division title. Nobody takes more crap than the classy 66-year old baseball lifer. In an Amazin’ season, he’s done a great job. It was Collins who kept his team together until GM Sandy Alderson went out and got Yoenis Cespedes. It was also Terry who handled himself well following the Matt Harvey “innings limit” controversy created by evil agent Scott Boras. Once Collins had the talent, you see how it played out. The Mets ran away from the bumbling and stumbling Nats who embarrassed themselves Sunday. More on that later. Now Collins gets the chance to see if he can manage a team of aces to a third world title.

-Following that odd Harvey start where Collins pulled him after five scoreless in a brutal Yankee loss, he sent him back out there to get the ‘W’ in Saturday’s clincher. And Harvey threw 97 pitches allowing a pair of runs in six-plus while fanning six Reds in a 10-2 romp. He’s on board and will be ready for the postseason. That’s what it’s all about.

-After nine years away from October, Mets captain David Wright gets another crack at it. If there’s a more deserving player, I can’t think of one. After everything he’s been through including the uncertainty surrounding his bad back, he’s come back and hit a couple of satisfying home runs including the exclamation point in the ninth on Saturday. It’ll be fun to see if he can deliver on the best team the Mets have had since that heartbreaking conclusion in Game 7 of the NLCS. The pitching part is better with Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Bartolo Colon with Jon Niese and likely Steven Matz going to the pen.

-The Mets are fighting for home field in the NLDS against the Dodgers. With LA limping to the finish line, the Mets are a game and a half up in the final week of the regular season. They would love to get that potential fifth game at Citi Field. However, I can’t help but wonder if the Dodgers will be an easy opponent.

-Obviously, they have a pair of aces in Clayton Kershaw and Zach Greinke. So, they’ll have to work the count and get to the Dodger bullpen. A team weakness with the exception of closer Kenley Jansen. However, LA’s lineup doesn’t strike fear. Adrian Gonzalez is their most dangerous hitter. Corey Seager is the unknown. How much impact will the young phenom have? Joc Pederson has been a disaster in the second half. Dodger skipper Don Mattingly hasn’t hesitated to bench him against lefties. Obviously, he’ll face right-handers if he plays.

-Mattingly also isn’t sure about the availability of Yasiel Puig, who’s been out since Aug. 27 with a right hamstring strain. Justin Turner hasn’t been the same since returning from the disabled list. Howie Kendrick is a proven playoff performer with the Halos. So is Jimmy Rollins, who did plenty of damage to the Mets for the Phillies the last time they were relevant.

-If we’re comparing offenses, the Mets are deeper with Cespedes the headliner who carried his team to their first NL East crown since ’06. With Wright and Daniel Murphy along with Curtis Granderson and Travis D’arnaud, the Amazin’s boast some solid bats. Collins can also go to a righty lineup against Kershaw that features Michael Cuddyer and Juan Lagares. They’re hoping to have vet Juan Uribe (chest) for the NLDS. He’s gotten some big hits since coming over from the Braves. The wildcard is rookie Michael Conforto, who’s swung a good bat against righties with all eight of his homers coming off them. But he’s only had a dozen at bats versus southpaws.

Wilmer Flores remains the turning point when he cried thinking he was traded with injured starter Zach Wheeler to Milwaukee for Carlos Gomez. He’s been a steady and productive player since shifting to second with Ruben Tejada reclaiming shortstop. Lucas Duda has been streaky. He’s gone deep lately clubbing three dingers in the Mets’ last two wins over hapless Cincinnati. He is tied with Granderson for the team lead in homers (25). Oddly enough, he hits lefties better going .299-7-21 in 117 at bats. Most of the power has been supplied off righties with 18 home runs but a .227 average in twice as many at bats (317).

-Collins also has Kelly Johnson who can come off the bench as a pinch-hitter or play utility. The pen is a bit better since adding Tyler Clippard and Addison Reed to help set up flame thrower Jeurys Familia.  The Mets’ depth on both sides should give them a decided edge.

-So the fireworks finally erupted in the Nats’ dugout Sunday. Fittingly, it came in a ugly 12-5 loss to that world beater Philadelphia. Following a Bryce Harper at bat in which he didn’t run out a routine fly out, Jonathan Papelbon took him to task as he got back to the dugout. Paplebon had a good point about the 22-year old superstar who didn’t show much leadership even though his team was eliminated a day before. However, Papelbon attempted to choke Harper causing teammates to quickly come to the NL MVP front runner’s aid. That’s unacceptable but expected from a hot head like Papelbon. It led to a four-game suspension from major league baseball and the Nats suspending him for the rest of the season. A sad commentary on a frustrating season for the Nationals.

-Of course, clueless skipper Matt Williams didn’t say much after this. Why would he? He was a superb player for the Giants, Indians and Diamondbacks. But is overmatched as a manager. With the Nats underachieving so badly with 80 wins, he’ll no doubt lose his job. It’s not just on Williams. But rather the organization as a whole. They need to change the attitude and leadership. It’ll be an interesting off-season.

Hard Hits Network Friday Night

Last night, we did another show on Hard Hits Network. It was hosted by yours truly. I was joined by sidekicks Justin Felix, Colin Cannaday and the one and only Brian Sanborn returned. John “JPG” Giagnorio is MIA. Nate Sousa continues to tease us about joining the fracas. And Rob Davis continues his Kraze ways of “retirement” channeling his inner Sanborn.

Plenty was covered including a surprise 80’s song featured on a popular movie soundtrack. Justin throws out a classic Simple Minds song, “Alive and Kicking,” taking the crew to yesteryear. Justin, Derek and Colin discuss some other 80’s stuff along with favorite beers.

The Mets close in on their first division title since ’06. Meanwhile, Sanborn reminds Derek that “his Giants” are about to be Eli-minated. What do the guys think about October? Meanwhile, the Felix Boys aren’t impressed with Big Blue’s first win over the Redskins. Plus a look at some games on tap for Week 3 of the NFL and another big college football weekend.

Other highlights include Sanborn revealing a new war against something hip and Derek highlighting the Devils tweaking the Islander fan.

More HB: Matt Harvey, Subway Series, Another Giants Collapse, Bama and USC fall

On the first autumn Monday, we take a look back at a busy sports weekend.

New York Mets starting pitcher Matt Harvey delivers in the first inning of a baseball game against the New York Yankees in New York, Sunday, Sept. 20, 2015. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Matt Harvey tossed five scoreless for the Mets but was pulled after 77 pitches due to the controversial innings limit that has handcuffed manager Terry Collins. AP Photo by Kathy Willens/Getty Images

MORE HB

-For five innings, Matt Harvey shut down the Yankee offense holding them to a single infield hit while walking one and fanning seven on 77 pitches. Then Mets skipper Terry Collins pulled the plug due to the “innings limit” imposed by evil agent Scott Boras. Then Collins watched helplessly as the Yanks erupted for five runs in a ugly sixth off rookie reliever Hansel Robles that included two errors- one from Daniel Murphy on a Jacoby Ellsbury infield hit and a David Wright miscue on a 95 MPH strike from Robles on a bad Brett Gardner bunt that should’ve nailed Ellsbury at third. If Wright makes the tag, who knows how the inning plays out. Instead, a two-run Carlos Beltran go-ahead double followed along with a two out Dustin Ackley three-run bomb.

-The Mets pen turned in a comedy allowing 11 runs (7 ER) in three consecutive innings highlighted by a opposite field Greg Bird three-run blast that made it 11-1. It was predictable once Harvey exited. Whose fault is it? It’s hard to blame Collins when he’s been put in an uncomfortable position. Blame Boras and his client who have put future interests ahead of this special season at Citi Field. Harvey is at 176.2 innings with potentially two starts left before the postseason. How will he be used? If they’re saving him, the Dark Knight better deliver in October.

-The loss sent Amazin’ fans into panic mode. Despite their team still comfortably up on the Nationals by six games with 13 games left, they still are concerned about another collapse. Unlike ’07 and ’08, it remains highly unlikely. The Nats would have to go 11-2 while the Mets would have to finish 5-8 to force a one-game playoff. Given that their next opponent is the lowly Braves starting tonight, reducing a magic number of eight shouldn’t be a problem. After playing three against Atlanta at home, they travel to Cincinnati for a four-game series and visit Philadelphia for three. The final three come against Washington at home Oct. 2-4. The Nats probably can only lose once to have any realistic shot. They host close rival Baltimore for three and then the Phillies for three. They then play a make up game at home versus the Reds before visiting the Braves for three. Then comes the final series at the Mets.

-For the Mets, even with the Harvey distraction they have six starters with Jacob deGrom, Bartolo Colon, Jon Niese and rookies Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz all part of the rotation. In other words, Collins has plenty of options.

-On the flip side, it was a successful weekend for the Yankees who took the final two games and actually gained two games on the first place Blue Jays cutting the AL East deficit to two and a half entering a pivotal three-game series at Toronto later tonight. They can thank the ageless Beltran who drove in five in the two wins including a three-run bomb off Syndergaard into the upper deck in Saturday’s 5-0 shutout. In the second half, Beltran has hit .302 with nine dingers and 28 RBI’s. Not bad for the former All-Star outfielder who most thought was done at 38. He can still get it done.

-The Yanks also had to be pleased with Michael Pineda and C.C. Sabathia. Both delivered well pitched games. Pineda pitched shutout ball into the sixth before manager Joe Girardi went to Justin Wilson, who fanned the final two batters to get out of a jam. After lumbering in a long first using 32 pitches but only permitting one run on a Wright RBI double, Sabathia settled down going six allowing one earned on five hits with three walks and seven strikeouts to finally win for the first time in 11 starts. It was his second straight good outing. He got a no-decision against the Rays on Sept. 14 after permitting no runs in six and two thirds while having six K’s. Sabathia attributes the recent success to wearing a knee brace. It’s nice to see the 35-year old southpaw able to contribute.

New York Yankees Carlos Beltran, right, greets the Yankees Greg Bird (31) after the pair scored on Dustin Ackley's sixth-inning, three-run home run in a baseball game in New York, Sunday, Sept. 20, 2015. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Carlos Beltran and Greg Bird celebrate during the Yankees win over the Mets Sunday. AP Photo by Kathy Willens/Getty Images

-Every time I watch Bird at bat, I come away very impressed. The 22-year old former 2011 fifth round pick has shown good patience at the plate working counts while making solid contact. With his eighth home run and two walks, he reached base three times Sunday night. In fact, the future starting first baseman has reached base in eight consecutive games hitting in all but one. He’s 8-for-29 with three homers, seven RBI’s, four runs scored with five walks. There’s a lot to like about him. It’s early but he’s done a solid job replacing Mark Teixeira.

-The Yanks need to take two of three from the Jays in this series. The pitching match-ups don’t favor them. Adam Warren opposes David Price tonight. Rookie Luis Severino gets a chance at redemption tomorrow. Ivan Nova replaces Masahiro Tanaka, who will skip a start after suffering a Grade 1 sprain in his right hamstring while running to first after a bunt. Girardi didn’t think it was too serious. Hopefully, it isn’t because we all remember what happened Chien-Ming Wang’s career while running the base paths.

-You knew it was coming. Once Eli Manning lost the football on that crucial third-and-goal with the Giants going for the kill up 20-10 on the Falcons, another Giants collapse was coming. Should it come as any surprise? The team GM Jerry Reese put together is a mediocre one that finds ways to lose games. That’s two consecutive weeks they’ve blown 10-point leads in the fourth quarter. After the Cowboy debacle, here they were allowing Matt Ryan to drive his team down twice for touchdowns against a invisible defense that doesn’t scare anyone. But this isn’t as much about them as it is about Manning, who made costly mistakes. He didn’t protect the football when at worst, Big Blue should’ve come away with a field goal that would’ve made it 13. A week after he screwed up royally mismanaging the clock, Manning was a goat again. There also was a mind boggling delay of game penalty out of a timeout that put the Giants in a 3rd-and-12 which of course they didn’t convert. Then there were errant throws on the final drive which can’t happen after your best player Odell Beckham Jr. draws pass interference at midfield that gives you a chance.

-Speaking of Beckham, Jr. how special is he. That catch and run for a 67-yard touchdown was a thing of beauty. He caught seven for 146. Most of it came in the first half. Why? The Giants at least did a good job using ex-Patriot back Shane Vereen, who had eight receptions for 76 yards. But outside of him and ODB Jr. they got virtually nothing. Consistently inconsistent tight end Larry Donnell did manage a TD catch that put them ahead 20-10 four minutes into the second half. That was it. On a day Manning’s numbers said otherwise finishing 27-for-40 with 292 yards and two touchdowns, he wasn’t good enough. Now comes a must win against the Redskins at Met Life Stadium on Thursday night. And the Skins won beating the Rams after they stunned the Seahawks, who also are 0-2 after falling to the Packers.

-The problem for Big Blue is they don’t make the big plays on either side of the football. In what should be proud coach Tom Coughlin’s swan song, they are a losing team that doesn’t know how to win. If they did, we’d be talking about a totally different story with a 2-0 mark. Instead, they’ve lost in epic fashion twice by a combined five points.

Julio Jones is also pretty special using a combination of size and athleticism to beat secondaries. Prince Amukamara did a good job limiting him until that huge 37-yard reception he got burned on that set up Devonta Freeman’s go-ahead score from two yards out with 1:14 left. Jones finished with 13 catches for 135 yards.

-It’s sad that on a day they honored the 25-year anniversary of the Super Bowl XXV team, the Giants couldn’t get a win. For a successful franchise that’s won four Lombardi Trophies, they sure have had a lot of bad losses. Add Weeks 1 and 2 to the regrettable list that includes the 49ers playoff choke, the Vikings one in ’97, the Eagles countless times and the Boys.

-How unpredictable is the NFL? The Seahawks are 0-2 as are the Ravens and Saints, who lost at home to the Bucs. New Orleans has now dropped six straight at the Super Dome. The Seahawks should bounce back and I’d also expect Baltimore to be better even without Terrell Suggs. The Saints are a franchise in decline. Even with Drew Brees throwing for record numbers, they’re one dimensional.

-The Jets have a good one later at the Colts on Monday Night Football. It’ll be interesting to see if they can beat Andrew Luck coming off a ugly loss at Buffalo. They have a shot if Ryan Fitzpatrick doesn’t make mistakes and the defense gets to Luck. The Jets will need success on the ground from Chris Ivory.

-If it was six years ago, Frank Gore and Andre Johnson would be a scary combo added to T.Y. Hilton.

-Even with losing Tony Romo for at least eight weeks and star receiver Dez Bryant for roughly the same, the Cowboys remain the team to beat in the NFC East. A strong offensive line and improved defense should keep them around. They had no trouble blanketing ex-Cowboy DeMarco Murray, who’s finding out it’s a lot harder without a good line after being held to two yards on 13 carries. In two weeks, he’s rushed for a grand total of 11 yards on 21 carries.

-What exactly does Chip Kelly see in Sam Bradford?

-Great college football Saturday with Ole Miss upsetting Alabama 43-37 in a wild one that even featured a hilarious blooper with Mississippi quarterback Chad Kelly throwing one up for grabs after feeling pressure and having his prayers answered by receiver Quincy Adeboyejo for a 66-yard TD. After trailing by 20 in their own barn, the Tide never gave up with QB Jake Coker rallying them with two straight scores to cut the deficit to 30-24. But a great play by Kelly which saw him sucker the Bama secondary before threading the needle to Cody Core for a 73-yard TD proved pivotal. Kelly also hooked up with LaQuon Treadwell for a 24-yard score that made it 43-24. To Bama’s credit, they made it interesting with another Coker led drive setting up a Derrick Henry score. They then recovered the onside kick and scored again to cut it 43-37 with over four minutes to go. But after a Ole Miss drive stalled, Coker threw a interception for the Tide’s fifth turnover. They made too many mistakes to win.

-Stanford also sent USC to its first defeat with an impressive 41-31 win at The Coliseum in another great rivalry game. They were led by QB Kevin Hogan, who chewed up the Trojans’ secondary going 18-of-23 for 279 yards and two TDs. Sophomore running back Christian McCaffrey also impressed with a career best 115 rushing yards on 26 carries and Remound Wright ran for three scores. Even when USC’s Cody Kessler going 25-of-32 for 272 yards and three scores, it wasn’t enough. The Trojans never could stop the Cardinals.

-Ohio State remained undefeated in ugly fashion defeating Northern Illinois 20-13. It was the second straight week Cardale Jones was replaced. The BCS hero only completed four passes in nine attempts throwing two picks. J.T. Barrett relieved him finishing 11-of-19 for 97 yards with a TD and int. They should get some competition from Michigan State.

-Notre Dame also stayed unbeaten taking care of Georgia Tech 30-22. CJ Promise ran for 198 yards and three scores and Will Fuller caught six passes for 131 yards and a TD.

-Heisman front runner Leonard Fournette torched Auburn for 228 yards on the ground with three scores in the Tigers’ 45-21 blowout win. That included a 71-yard run plus a 40-yard TD run that made it 24-0 LSU.

Random Thoughts: Yankees, Mets and Baseball

AL MVP front runner Josh Donaldson has carried the Blue Jays to the top of the AL East. news.nationalpost.com Associated Press/Getty Images

I’m bringing back Random Thoughts. It originated from Hitting Back. That is the old blog run off NYSportsDay. Today’s theme is the Yankees, Mets and baseball. So let’s get to it.

1.It’s nice to have two good teams in this town. Baseball hasn’t been kind to New York City the past couple of years. The Yankees spoiled us for two decades. The playoffs are no longer a lock. Competition has gotten better shifting to small markets who are run well such as the Royals and Pirates. Both of who will again be heard from this October. The Astros appear to be on the verge of winning the AL West and joining the fracas. The Blue Jays were big buyers at the deadline and have vaulted into first in the AL East. Toronto hasn’t seen a winner since 1993. The Cubs are good again. The Mets are back. It makes for what should be a compelling October.

2.When they don’t hit the ball out, the Bronx Bombers remain too one dimensional. With Mark Teixeira banged up and A-Rod showing his age, the offense has been non-existent. The only player hitting is Carlos Beltran. Healthier, he’s had a good second half. Brian McCann has been better in Year 2. The issue is that you can’t rely on the home run. That’s always been my one criticism of Joe Girardi. Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner haven’t been utilized enough. Their speed isn’t used due to all too predictable station to station baseball that doesn’t win in October assuming the Yanks make it.

3.Ever since Wilmer Flores cried after thinking he was traded, everything has gone right for the Mets. Not only did Sandy Alderson turn down a trade that would’ve sent Flores and Zach Wheeler to Milwaukee for Carlos Gomez. But he then turned around and dealt for slugger Yoenis Cespedes. He’s been brilliant since hitting over 300 with seven dingers and 20 RBI’s in 22 games highlighted by the three-homer seven RBI game against the Rockies in that joke of a stadium. Flores has hit blasting a pair of homers in a record setting win over the Phillies in which the Amazin’s set a team record with eight dingers. Suddenly scoring runs, they have a healthy five and a half game lead over the overrated Nationals. Unlike what Jayson Werth said, it’s the Mets division to lose.

4.The Amazin’ summer has fans excited about their team for the first time in nearly a decade. With a pair of aces in Jacob deGrom and Matt Harvey, they have the pitching that makes them a serious contender. Rookie Noah Syndergaard is still learning and finally won a road game. Jon Niese has been better in the second half. The bullpen is better since the acquisition of Tyler Clippard who has set up for closer Jeurys Familia. It’s them, the Cubs and Pirates who are the teams to watch this Fall.

5.No disrespect to the Cardinals who continue to win games like a daily ritual. They lead the majors with a 80-45 record. Michael Wacha has developed into a ace that’s not talked about. Matt Carpenter remains a constant and youngsters Randal Grichuk and Stephen Piscotty are players to watch. Even without ace Adam Wainwright and first base slugger Matt Adams, St. Louis is again here. It’s amazing. You can’t kill them. Just imagine if the Mets have to go through them like 2006. The Cardinals are The Terminators of baseball.

6.I like what I’ve seen from Greg Bird and Luis Severino so far. Good on Brian Cashman for not parting with either or Aaron Judge for rentals. It would’ve been a mistake to trade Jorge Mateo, who has 81 stolen bases in his first full pro season in Single A. Indeed, there is a bright future in the Bronx.

7.Just about every day, Josh Donaldson is hitting the ball out or driving in big runs for the Jays. With a higher average, more home runs and a major league leading 100 RBI’s, that’s your AL MVP.

8.Mike Trout is fantastic. But if he wins MVP, it would be a crime. The Angels aren’t even in the playoffs. Trout is the best player in the game. Forget his bat. It’s all about his defense which is on display nightly.

9.Dallas Keuchel should win AL Cy Young. If you’ve never heard of him, shame on you. That said, I still believe Chris Sale got robbed last year. If he pitched on a good team, he’d have won one already.

10.One of my pet peeves is when outfielders throw home when they have no chance of nailing the runner. How many times do we have to see fundamentally poor defense which allows hitters to take the extra base?

11.Regarding Larry Bowa’s blowup at plate umpire Dan Bellino for Mets reliever Hansel Robles quick pitching Darin Ruf, he’s right. By rule, the quick pitch is allowed. But pitchers should give batters time to get set. The new rules so favor pitchers that they’re taking advantage. Jeff Francoeur explained it perfectly:

“Let the guy get in the box.” “My whole thing is ‘Give the guy time to get in the box and then pitch.'” He cited Familia who did it exactly “like he was supposed to but he gave guys time to be set and then he went.”

12.As for Bowa going off on Daniel Murphy for the bat flip, it’s something we see too much of. Whether it’s batters celebrating home runs or guys such as Carlos Gomez showing frustration when their team is up big, it’s easy to see why opponents get riled up. Though the Post’s Joel Sherman is right when he says do something about it on the scoreboard. I just don’t like showing up the opposition. But that’s what it’s become. It’s not changing.

13.The Yanks picked quite a time to have a dreadful home stand.

14.Kris Bryant is now the front runner for NL Rookie Of The Year. With a two homer game and some heroics at Wrigley Field, he’s been as advertised. The young third baseman is a stud who’ll be a superstar. It should be fun to see how he performs on the big stage.

15.I was wrong about Jon Lester. He and Jake Arrieta have teamed to form a great 1-2 punch at the top of the Cubs rotation. Speaking of Arrieta, he’s 5-0 in August with an ERA below 0.60. You think the Orioles want a do over?

16.As good as the NL is, it also has some of the worst teams. The Rockies, Phillies, Marlins and Reds are punching bags. At least in the AL, doormats Oakland and Cleveland are competitive. Even Boston is with their lineup featuring future star Mookie Betts.

17.Kinda sad about Hanley Ramirez already being moved to first base after the failed outfield experiment. He went from an All-Star shortstop to a player without a position pretty quickly. He is one of the most talented players but now the Red Sox paid him all that money and don’t know where to play him. Jeez.

18.Remember when Joc Pederson was a lock for NL ROY? I regret trading for him. I could care less about his OBP when he can’t hit and doesn’t play versus lefties.

19.Only in this era can one dimensional sluggers last. There are way too many Rob Deers. It would be nice if more players could hit for average and get more credit for being a professional hitter. Remember when doubles were king and Wade Boggs and Tony Gwynn were hitting for ridiculous averages? What about the days of the stolen base when Rickey Henderson and Vince Coleman tore up the base paths. That is missed.

20.If only Paul Goldschmidt didn’t play in obscurity with Arizona. He’s hitting .330 with 24 homers, 93 RBI’s and 20 stolen bases. The 27-year old is an old school superstar who deserves more recognition.

21.Unless something changes, it’ll be two consecutive years a Dodger pitcher sweeps the Cy Young and MVP. Zach Greinke is 13-3 with a major league best 1.67 ERA. None of the MVP candidates have stood out. Bryce Harper and Buster Posey are probably the best hitters but it looks like their teams will miss the postseason. The aforementioned Goldschmidt won’t get it. Nolan Arenado and Carlos Gonzalez play for the Rockies. Former MVP Andrew McCutchen is the best player on the Pirates. But .299-19-81 with 72 runs scored doesn’t scream MVP. I love him as a player though and maybe this is the year he carries Pittsburgh.

22.It’s ridiculous that three teams from the NL Central will make the playoffs and two will play in a one-game elimination with better records than division winners. Change the rule!

23.Does anyone think the Dodgers will do anything this October? I don’t see it. Not unless Clayton Kershaw brings it and Yasiel Puig proves he’s not overrated. Think LA doesn’t miss Matt Kemp?

24.Two of my favorite players are Dee Gordon and Jose Altuve. Two elite second basemen who can hit, run and field. They play the game the right way.

25.Robinson Cano isn’t having a great year but did make history by becoming the first player to hit 30 doubles in each of his first 11 seasons. It’s not working out the way he envisioned so far in Seattle. At 32, his numbers are down. Even with a strong second half, he’ll probably wind up just shy of .300 with 20 homers and 90 RBI’s. Are his best seasons behind him? If so, Seattle paid an awful lot for a fading star. With 30 more hits, Cano will reach 2000. He turns 33 on October 22. Can he reach 3000?

26.Who is Michael Pineda? That’s what more Yankee fans need to be asking.

27.C.C. Sabathia is probably done for the season. He tried hard and pitched better recently. But in his mid-30’s with a lot of weight, injuries and inconsistency will continue for the former Yankee ace. He’s had a great career. But let’s face it. It’s been over for some time. Time for the Yankee organization to face the facts. Sabathia will always have that world championship.

28.Was there better theater than David Wright hitting the first pitch he saw into the left field upper deck after returning?

29.Delino Deshields, Jr. is a good player for the Rangers. The son of former Expo Delino Deshields, he doesn’t get much ink. But like Dad, he brings speed to the top of the Texas order. He’s stolen 22 bases and has seven triples. Given up on by the Astros, it looks like Deshields, Jr. has found a home. Playing center field for the other team in Texas, he might even get a chance to face Houston in the postseason. Pretty cool story.

30.Final thought. Andy Pettite and Jorge Posada were two important Yankees. Part of the Core Four, they were an integral part of great teams that won world championships. Neither was great. I’d put each in the very good category. It’s not their fault that the Yankees retired their numbers. So don’t blame them. Put it where it belongs on the organization who did it for the fanfare. Let’s face it. Sports are a big business. Drawing is part of it. Retiring their numbers guaranteed that. They became the 20th and 21st Yankees to have their number retired. Derek Jeter will become the 22nd. The only difference is he was great and is a Hall Of Fame lock. Retiring numbers should be reserved for legends. Especially when it comes to the Yankees. Case closed.