THAT AWFUL SMELL IN NEWARK? IT’S THE DEVILS

By DINO COSTA

December 4, 2018

-New York

What a difference a few months can make, eh?

It was only back on April 22 of this year when the New Jersey Devils bowed out in their first-round playoff series against the Tampa Bay Lightning, losing the series 4-1.

Despite losing and having their year come to an end, the Devils and their fans had to be feeling pretty good about what they saw from the 2017-18 squad, in addition to feeling that it was perhaps a harbinger of better times ahead, with general manager Ray Shero and head coach John Hynes 4-years into a rebuild that saw the Devils playing some pretty good hockey and qualifying for the post-season for the first time since the 2011-12 campaign.

Taylor Hall put up an MVP season, their #1 pick, Nico Heschier, played in every game and acquited himself more than well as a 19-year old rookie. They won 44-games during the regular season, they had a goaltender in Keith Kincaid who played much better than anyone could have anticipated, they introduced another rookie on their blue line in Will Butcher, who seems like a keeper and a part of the plan moving forward. Another young 19-year old rookie, Jepser Bratt, displayed some nice things on the ice. Veteran Kyle Palmieri’s role with the team grew, while veteran Brian Boyle was an inspirational story and a key contributor, all while he fought off cancer. There was a great sound emanating out of the Prudential Center last year, a sound that Devils fans hadn’t heard in quite some time.

Prior to this season getting underway, the NHL Network even featured the Devils in an interesting weekly series detailing their preparations for the new season ahead.

Then the season started and the Devils came out of the box flying.

They started this season over in Sweden and beat the Edmonton Oilers 5-2.

Then they flew back to the states and opened up at their home in Newark with a 6-0 win over last year’s Stanley Cup champions, the Washington Capitals.

That was followed up by back-to-back wins, both at home, 3-2 over San Jose and 3-0 over Dallas.

A 4-0 start to this season had Devils fans overjoyed — and the thinking was that maybe they were even better than last year’s club.

Then the clock struck midnight.

Since winning their first 4-games over a span of 11-days the Devils have managed to skate off the ice with a mere 5-wins over the last 41-days, and in the process, they’ve sunk like a rock to the bottom of the Eastern Conference.

Yes, the special feeling from a season ago, just like the great vibes being felt over the first few days of this season, have all dissipated for New Jersey’s NHL team.

General Manager Ray Shero pretty much stood pat during the offseason as the Devils were perhaps the quietest team in the league as far as making moves with trades and free agency.

Other than signing free-agent defenseman Egor Yakovlev and naming a new coach for their AHL Binghamton affiliate (Mark Dennehy), as well as promoting former Binghamton head coach, Rick Kowalsky, to their New Jersey coaching staff, the Devils barely made a peep from the end of last season to the beginning of this one.

They did lose a couple of players to free agency themselves, as John Moore, Michael Grabner (expected to leave) and Jimmy Hayes all signed deals elsewhere.

GM, Ray Shero, took a patient approach with his roster despite having a considerable amount of salary cap space at his disposal. Shero is not a big fan of free agency as it is and favors building a club internally and through the draft and by making smart trades (Taylor Hall).

It’s been a slow and sometimes a painful rebuild over the last few years, although last season, of course, was a bright spot that ginned up excitement for this year — but of course, this year has been a season to forget so far in Newark.

Shero was, and is, counting the continued growth with several players on his roster, players on the squad last year, many of whom I have already mentioned. However, the improvement Shero has been counting on has been very spotty through the first few months of this season.

Right now the Devils are an eyesore on the ice, it’s ugly, and lately, it’s been getting uglier, with fans calling for the firing of head coach John Hynes and screaming for Shero to do something to lift this team out of its awful malaise.

Change, you say? Okay. Change what, change who, and change how?

Fire John Hynes? Okay, and replace him with who? And is a coaching change right now really the answer to this Devils debacle currently on the ice? I’m not necessarily against a coaching change at this time, but on the other hand, I ask myself how much of an effect that will have?

The St. Louis Blues, who have a roster of players far better than the Devils have, just fired their head coach recently. Mike Yeo was jettisoned in favor of assistant coach Craig Berube. Since that change, there has really been no uptick in St. Louis’ play on the ice.

Right now the Devils aren’t doing anything well.

They cannot score, they cannot defend, their power-play is a disjointed mess, and their goaltending situation is quite honestly nightmarish.

Of all of the above I mentioned, it might be their goaltending situation which is most concerning. Cory Schneider is finished. Not only is he done, but the Devils are on the hook for Schneider’s contract for big dollars through the next 4 years after this one through his age-36 season. Schneider is untradeable right now. He’s also been relegated to being his back-ups back up with Keith Kincaid playing the majority of the games, primarily because Schneider couldn’t stop a puck the size of the space shuttle these days and has become an extreme liability for the organization.

Kincaid, is who he is, a very serviceable back up who has been thrust into the starting role because the Devils simply have no other options available.

Unless the Devils want to dip into their system and recall career journeyman Eddie Lack or take a flyer on bust draft pick Mackenzie Blackwood, both in Binghamton, both doing nothing to distinguish themselves, it is an undeniable fact that the Devils are truly screwed in this area.

They have little in the way of current assets to trade for a goaltender, but then again, what goaltenders of any repute are available right now?

I guess they could throw a phone call in the direction of current free-agent Kari Lehtonen, but who knows where he is and what kind of playing shape he might be in right now?

Making matters worse is that no matter who is in the New Jersey net these days, they are rarely helped out by playing a defensive-six on most night’s that is well below league standards. The days of the Devils having an embarrassment of riches on their blue line are a thing of the past — and not a single defenseman on the roster would likely have been able to crack any of the Devils previous Stanely Cup winners.

To give everyone an idea of just how bereft the Devils are these days in terms of playing quality defenseman, last night in their 5-1 loss to Tampa Bay, the Devils number one defensive pairing was Mirco Mueller and Sami Vatanen. Throw in tandems featuring their captain, Andy Greene (who simply is not an NHL player anymore) and youngster Damon Severson, while rounding it out with young Will Butcher and veteran Ben Lovejoy, and you don’t need to be a hockey expert to realize things are more than bleak for New Jersey at the position.

Greene, as I mentioned, is really a sad case, a player still hanging on who simply can’t play anymore, guaranteed to induce several cringe-inducing moments with each game he plays. Mueller would be a bottom six defenseman with any other team in the league. Vatanen is an offensive defenseman with limited ability to play a true defensive game. Lovejoy is practically finished as an NHL-er, and Severson, much like Vatanen, is thought of as more of an offensive d-man than a reliable defender in his own zone. Young Will Butcher is still learning the game but is often times caught out of position leading to scoring chances and goals for the opposition on too many occasions.

As far as the stench up front is concerned, this is a team that has a horrible time sustaining offensive pressure leading to consistent high-quality scoring chances. In other words, I’ve seen fewer teams this season that need to work as hard as the Devils do to simply score a goal(s) most nights.

Like last year, the Devils are primarily a one-line team with young Nico Hischier centering Kyle Palmieri on the right and Taylor Hall on his left. But even this line has struggled with consistency this season. And Taylor Hall? Take a look at the NHL leaders as far as power-play goals are concerned. Let me know when you get to Hall’s name. Don’t bother looking, because he won’t show up in that category. For an indication of just how bad New Jersey’s power-play has been this season, consider that 26-games into this season the Devils best player and last year’s league-MVP is without a power-play goal. You would think that would be hard to do even if Taylor Hall was actually trying not to score on power-play opportunities.

Palmieri hasn’t been as good this season, but I’ve noticed that he does skate hard and falls down to the ice a lot. Nico Hischier, like most very young players, is still learning, possesses a very high-upside, but right now he’s prone to flashes of brilliance intertwined with youthful mistakes.

Miles Wood, who held out before the season and got into camp late has been a huge disappointment. Wood gets on the ice a lot, but he seems to skate in circles, adding nothing to the Devils attack, and then he returns to the bench waiting for his next shift…where he all too often does the same exact thing. If Ray Shero was counting on Miles Wood continued development from last season, he’s not seeing it at all so far this year.

Marcus Johannson continues to show why the Capitals gave up on him and traded him to the Devils. Johannson is a soft player (an unfortunate trait of this team) who doesn’t shoot enough, and maybe that’s because he’s such a poor finisher around the net?

Beyond Taylor Hall, what players on the Devils roster would other teams be very interested in? This is why, although I understand the fan frustrations with them wanting to see Ray Shero do something to shake things up, I think Shero’s hands are pretty much tied.

I guess Pavel Zacha might interest a few teams. Zacha has played better since his recall from Binghamton, but what are you getting back for Pavel Zacha, a player to this point in his career considered an underachiever? Perhaps you can trade your underachiever for another team’s underachiever, but how does that make things any better? I actually think the Devils should stick with Zacha because I see an emerging player who is getting better somewhere in that #37 uniform.

Blake Coleman would get some notice, but I’m hesitant to part with him right now.

Long-time Devil center Travis Zajac is who he’s always been. A plodder, a workmanlike player who always seems to give 100% doing just enough these days to stick around. However, his age and his contract could make trading him this season prohibitive.

I mean, under a hypothetical, with the Devils being a contender in let’s say the 2021-22 season, exactly how many of the guys on the current roster would you say would be on that team? I count two. Hall and Hischier. Maybe even Blake Coleman now that I think about it.  Would it be four if I also included Will Butcher? I’d like to think that Brett Seney, who has added some nice energy, could be a part of the mix, but really, despite the fact that this team went to the playoffs last year, we’re talking about a team devoid of high-impact talent when compared to other clubs around the NHL.

Then we go back to Taylor Hall. I just stated that Hall would be part of a contending Devils team in 2021-22, one of only a few players on the current team to still be there at that time. But if you’re Taylor Hall are you wanting to wait around, getting through this current painstaking season, then two more, before you’re a part of a legit Devils team?

In 2021-22 Taylor Hall will be in his age 30 season having played 13-years in the league with possibly a single playoff appearance on his ledger. May I also remind you that all of this hypothetical nonsense so far as Taylor Hall is concerned might not even matter in the year 2021-22 because Hall is an unrestricted free agent after next year, so he may be gone anyway of his own volition.

Perhaps the fact that the Devils find themselves back in a doormat situation shouldn’t be all that surprising this season?

What was last year? Fools gold? Okay. For the time being let’s call it a fluke.  The Devils caught lightning in a bottle and on the back of a herculean season from Taylor Hall and they managed to get into the post-season. In the process, as the Devils played over their heads, it camouflaged, for the time being, real holes on the roster, concerns with goaltending and overall depth up and down the roster.

In reference to the above paragraph, is this something that truly catches you by surprise when you take into consideration the previous regime and how through their inability to draft and develop talent as they had for so many years prior, that as a result, the talent in the system simply hasn’t been good enough to produce success on a regular and consistent basis and has given way to this current predicament the franchise finds itself in?

Look it, as a fan of this team from the initial drop of the puck back in 1982, nobody loves and appreciates Lou Lamoriello more than I do. I cringed when I saw Lou wearing a shirt with a Maple Leafs logo on it, and I wince now, whenever I see Lou wearing a blue and orange Islanders windbreaker. The man is the absolute Godfather of Devils hockey and their previous success was of his doing more than anyone else’s.

But the record will clearly show that under the watch of Lou and his former scouting director, David Conte, the Devils drafts the last several seasons under both men’s watch were pretty abysmal.

When an organization goes through a stretch of time, say 7-8 years, where little of substantive value is found over successive drafts, any organization is bound to feel the negative repercussions of such a situation — and that is not something that can be easily rectified in only a few short years.

No, Ray Shero is going to need more time to turn this Devils ship in the right direction, a few more drafts, a few solid trades, before the Devils may be fairly judged on his watch. The digging out will continue for the next few years ahead I’m afraid.

The most immediate question I have, is, what should Shero do now?

If last year was a total aberration, and if this Devils season has woken many to the fact that the grind will continue longer than some thought, and if the Devils are farther from the playoffs now than they were before last season got underway, then why not blow this up as this season moves ahead and further position the franchise for better opportunities to be in a position to select talent in the draft during the next few years ahead, while going younger and youngest across the board?

A step back? A tank? I don’t care what you want to call it, as long as its a process with the objective of making this team better and infusing this organization with some much needed young talent for the long-term.

I’m not open to dealing Nico Hischier right now for obvious reasons, and I do want to see more of players like Brett Seney, John Quenneville, Mike McLeod, Steven Santini, Joey Anderson (when he gets back), along with Pavel Zacha and Blake Coleman. Will Butcher stays put. I’d be more than fine with Nathan Bastien getting called up from the AHL. Also, If you’re a Devils fan would you rather see a player like Colton White getting an opportunity on the Devils blue line or would you rather continue to watch Andy Greene stumble and wobble on his skates embarrassing himself on most night’s?

Next season the Devils will see the player who just might be the next great New Jersey defenseman, a player who could conceivably anchor their back line for the next 10-12 years when Ty Smith makes his debut. Another young defenseman that Ray Shero drafted, actually, he was a 6th-round steal, in my opinion, is Aarine Talvitie, a Finish wunderkind who is currently playing college hockey at Penn State, he could be on the horizon very soon.

Which leads me to what is without question a controversial decision that the Devils might have to consider, and that is trading by far their most marketable commodity, yes, last season’s NHL-MVP, Taylor Hall.

Would I trade Hall? Yes, provided the Devils can receive a package of young players and perhaps a goaltender which would help to stabilize the position until maybe the Devils can draft and develop their own long-term netminder.

Think of the potential feeding-frenzy the Devils could count on if they made Hall available, especially to a team that feels they are a player away from winning the whole thing, a player exactly like Taylor Hall. Also, as I made mention up the page, depending on what the Devils timetable is for being a legitimate Stanley Cup contender again, I have my doubts about how much more time Hall would want to spend with the Devils no matter how much he may like playing at The Rock.

Even if coming into this season you saw that the Devils were still a significant ways away from being a good team again, what should bother you right now is the lack of ‘compete’ we’ve seen too often this year. Last night against Tampa Bay, the Devils were not even remotely competitive, Hall was actually benched by John Hynes during the game and it all too often looked like the Lightning were toying with New Jersey for most of the night. This is a concern, and it raises further questions about Hynes and if his message is no longer getting through.

The stench in Newark is very real right now and Ray Shero and his staff have their work cut out for them over the next few weeks, months, and even years ahead.

It’s going to be a rough road no matter which avenue Shero decides to take.

In consideration of their current lack of talent and organizational depth, perhaps Shero may want to think further about pushing the nuclear button, setting the Devils back a few more years out of necessity,  dealing Taylor Hall, and enduring some more pain in the short term for bigger gains and the ability to make the Devils a relevant Stanley Cup contender again 4-5 years down the line.

I LOVE NICK SABAN. YOU SHOULD TOO.

By DINO COSTA

December 4, 2018

-New York

In appreciation of Nick Saban.

Is title number seven only a few weeks away?

We’ll wait, we’ll watch, we’ll find out soon enough.

Even if Alabama fails to win the championship this year, it will do nothing to diminish my feelings nor my appreciation for Saban and what he’s accomplished during his incredible career.

Nick Saban is the greatest college football coach in the history of the sport – but that’s only part of the reason I’m such an admirer.

What, is Nick Saban, and who is Nick Saban?

Well, for starters, Saban is a throwback, it may sound cliche, but he’s uniquely singular in his makeup. That is, in all the years I’ve been following sports, I’ve never seen or heard anyone like Saban, and I can’t compare him to anyone else, because there is really nobody quite like Nick Saban.

Saban can be acerbic and sometimes plays the role of a curmudgeon like very few are able to, but Saban is able to play the role with a certain degree of lovability and charm that I find endearing.  In addition, Saban is no act, he’s an original and he’s authentically real, and I really respect those who are original…and real.

Saban refuses to suffer fools, he’s a principled and dignified family man who chews Red Man tobacco and munches on Little Debbie’s Oatmeal creampies each morning in his office. How can you not love that?

Not to sound too pollyannish, but in my mind, there is no other football coach in America who represents the good old-fashioned values of America and is a better representative of American values on a football field than Nick Saban is.

When you are looking for a purely American success story, look at Nick Saban, his life, his career, the legacy he has already left on college football — and on sports.

I love his story. It’s utterly genuine, it should be taken from the pages of a well-written novel, yet it’s so spectacularly real.

Nick Saban is from West Virginia. I’ve done two tours of duty in the great state of West Virginia in my broadcast career. I love the people of West Virginia. They’re a good stock. Nick Saban grew up under the tutelage of a father who both loved football and valued hard work.

Nick Saban grew up blue-collar all the way and he’s never forgotten the lessons instilled within him by his parents, lessons that I believe are the bedrock of Saban’s view of life and the world-view that he carries with him each and every day.

Only those who have never done their research into Nick Saban, only those who could never hope to have an appreciation for Saban, his story, his self-made career, his undying loyalty to his family and friends, these are the only kinds of people who either don’t like or could never properly acknowledge Nick Saban.

It seems to me, that Saban was always destined to become a living legend in one place, and one place only, and of course, that is in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, with the signature football university in the sport.

For instance, the legend that has become Nick Saban, would it have been so colorful and memorable had Saban been coaching all these years at say, Purdue, or if he was still coaching at Michigan State?

I’ve never had the opportunity to meet Nick Saban, and yet, I feel like I  know him thoroughly, what makes him tick, and I have found myself connecting with Nick Saban for a long time now. Saban is relatable, and it’s something that people love about him.

In an America of cotton soft people these days, many who whine, piss and moan there way through life on a daily basis, expecting handouts and refusing to put in the work necessary to be successful, I find Nick Saban to be the antithesis of this unfortunate status quo.

How unique is Nick Saban? He’s so unique that when he finally hangs up his whistle for good we’ll never see another one quite like him. That’s pretty damn unique.

Nick Saban is a man’s man all the way.

Saban has earned everything he’s been given.

Nobody has ever given Nick Saban a damn thing, and Saban would have it no other way.

Oh, I could cite his records as a head coach, his incredible accomplishments as the leader of Alabama all these years, the SEC titles, the National Championships, all the first-round NFL draft picks he’s coached, but you know all of that, or you should anyway.

But what strikes me more so than the various pieces of hardware in Saban’s possession is the humility and the dignity with which he’s accrued all of these myriad accolades. His ability to stay grounded throughout the years is beyond impressive.

Saban has never disrespected the game itself, he’s never embarrassed any opposing coach or player, he’s never been one to demand that the attention be placed on him, he’s not a braggart, he’s not a showman. He’s simply Nick Saban, the self-made, hard-working head coach of the University of Alabama, born and reared in the country town of Fairmont, West Virginia, and he’s never forgotten where he’s come from.

Saban is honest and forthright, he’s completely transparent, he doesn’t know how to intentionally mislead anyone.

Saban is a generous man as well, he’s deeply involved within the Tuscaloosa community. Nick Saban and his wife, ‘Miss Terry’, have been involved with the Habitat For Humanity organization for years. In fact, Nick Saban has funded money to build 16 houses in the Tuscaloosa area for families in need representing the 16 National Championships that Alabama has won over its long and illustrious history.

On the field, in the classroom, Saban has maintained elite status with virtually all of his teams at Alabama, yet, he takes nothing for granted, is never completely satisfied, has an indefatigable work-ethic that is unrivaled, and never allows any of his teams to get too big-headed (like him), taking each and every game as the latest test to determine how good Alabama is and what they need to do in order to be better the next time out.

Saban’s players love him and they are uber-loyal to him. Take for example the situation with quarterback Jalen Hurts. As a freshman, Hurts led Alabama to the National Championship game where they eventually fell to Clemson 35-31. The following year, Hurts was pulled at halftime of the championship game and watched as Tua Tagovailoa led the Crimson Tide to the title over Clemson.

This season, Tagovailoa was the primary starter for the Tide, yet Hurts never wavered in support of his team or his coach, and we all saw the gutsy play of Hurts last Saturday, coming off the bench when called upon and leading Alabama back in the 4th quarter of the SEC title game against Georgia.

Sure, Jalen Hurts is a great young man with a maturity beyond his years that should be admired by all. But Hurts very easily could have become frustrated and angry at losing his job to Tagovailoa, quit Alabama, and transferred to another school that would have loved to have him. But Hurts stayed, became the ultimate team player, and I’m not so sure that Jalen Hurts is still with the Crimson Tide if anyone other than Nick Saban is the head coach in Tuscaloosa.

Yes, his success as a college football coach is unprecedented, but as I’ve been noting, there are a lot of things about Nick Saban that are rare indeed.

I would have loved to have been able to play football for Nick Saban – how about you? I have no question that those who have had the opportunity to play for Nick Saban leave Alabama not only better players – but better men as well. Of course, like anything in life, there are exceptions.

Saban once said of himself; “One of the things that has bothered me a little through the years is I don’t think the perception that people have of me as a coach is really, truly who I am as a person. I’m always portrayed as the tough, grinding, working-hard guy. And I think those things are true. But there is more than that. And I don’t think people realize that.”

I go back to Saban’s upbringing, born and raised in Fairmont, West Virginia, parented and coached by his father of whom he always revered. ‘Big Nick’ was a stern and very demanding father who always wanted his son to know that in life, seldom are there any shortcuts.

Saban’s father ran a small gas station & grocery store and if young Nick wasn’t in school or playing sports he was always working at his dad’s business learning life-lessons he would take with him throughout his career. His father also coached Nick’s football team and was the same demanding coach as he was a father and small business owner.

Nick Saban has never found himself involved in an unseemly scandal, either on or off the football field. He’s a father, a grandfather, and a husband to his wife who he’s been with since his high school days. There’s a lot to say about that I feel.

Full disclosure, I’m not an Alabama fan, per say, but I do root for them to win and the only reason I root for Alabama is because I want to see Nick Saban succeed because I respect the man so damn much. I have little doubt that once Saban is no longer in Tuscaloosa my rooting interests will change with many a game the Crimson Tide is involved with.

Football, especially these days, could use a few more Nick Saban’s.

Sports could use a few more Nick Saban’s.

America could use a few more Nick Saban’s.

But, as we all know, there is only one, Nick Saban.

A GOOD MAN WITH NOBODY ELSE TO BLAME

By DINO COSTA

December 3, 2018

-New York
(You can take the boy out of New York but you can’t take the New York out of the boy)

Thank goodness the Tennessee Titans finally woke up yesterday afternoon in Nashville, finding a way to come back from 16-0 and 22-13 deficits to eventually beat the Jets 26-22 at Nissan Stadium.

The Jets obviously need to blow things up, and in a piece I wrote last week here on the website, I contend that the Gotham City Football Club (what they’re apparently calling themselves now) needs a total reboot and that means axing head coach Todd Bowles along with underachieving general manager Mike Maccagnan at seasons end.

But the two guys who run the Jets, ‘The Brothers Johnson’, have shown they can be pretty unpredictable in all the wrong ways when it comes to the head coaches of their football team.

Beyond his first two seasons at the helm, former coach Rex Ryan’s run as the Jets head coach was a disaster in my opinion. I always thought that the Jets won in spite of Ryan more than anything suggesting that they won because of Ryan while he was here.

Remember the Jets 2013 season? That was New York’s 3rd successive non-playoff season following Ryan’s first 2-years when the Jets went to the AFC Championship game back-to-back.  The Jets were 6-8 with 2-games left in ’13, Ryan’s bravado and bragging had long-since run its course, he was exposed as the buffoon I had always felt he was, and it was obvious that the Jets needed a change in direction following the season.

But the Jets won their last 2-games that year, they defeated an awful Browns team in week-17, then followed that up by beating a less than good Miami team in their final week to finish at .500. Following the win in their last game against the Dolphins, so smitten was owner Woody (clueless) Johnson, that he decided to make the announcement right there in the post-game locker room in Miami, that good old Rex was coming back the next year. The Jets partied following the announcement as though they’d just won the Super Bowl.

See, Woody Johnson was smitten with Rex Ryan, never wanted to fire him, and he was overjoyed that the Jets showed up and won their last 2-games that year, which gave Johnson all the reasons he needed to announce that Ryan would be coming back the following year when any Jets fan with half a brain knew that Ryan’s run should have instead been coming to an end.

But the following year Johnson had no such ammunition to protect his friend. The Jets bottomed out with a 4-12 record, and Johnson, despite not wanting to, pulled the trigger and fired Ryan a day after the 2014 season ended.

These days, Johnson is somewhere in the UK serving as an ambassador in the Trump administration, and his brother, the equally inept Chris Johnson, is running the show.

Chris Johnson is as big a fan of Todd Bowles as his brother was of Rex Ryan. Despite the fact that most feel that Todd Bowles firing at the end of this season is a foregone conclusion, I’ve never felt that way and I still don’t feel that way despite the fact that the Jets record, after yesterday’s defeat, stands at 3-9.

You see, just like Woody Johnson was looking for, hoping for, maybe even praying for reasons to somehow justify keeping Rex Ryan after that 2013 campaign, and that prayer was answered with 2-wins to end the season, similarly, I feel that Christopher Johnson is saying a novena for his current coach, and hopes that somehow, someway, something good can happen over the next few weeks, and he can make the claim that Todd Bowles is deserving of coming back for another rodeo in 2019.

You say, no way?

I’ll remind you that Chris Johnson, since he took over, has repeatedly made the claim that it’s not so much the Jets record that will determine the fate of his head coach, instead, its all about progress and the trajectory of the team that will factor into how he views Bowles and his staff.

Had the Jets won yesterday, I could see Chris Johnson thinking, that with a few more wins, he could stand up at season’s end and tell everyone that Bowles was deserving of more time.

Think about it. If the Jets had beat Tennessee, Johnson would have been thinking; “well, they played hard for their coach, they haven’t quit on him, Bowles managed to win a game on the road, with his backup quarterback, so now lets see if they can follow it up with another decent effort against Buffalo at home next week.”

Then, if the Jets beat the Bills this week, Johnson could begin to mount a defense for his coach, he could tell people that just when it looked like the team was coming apart at the seams, Coach Bowles managed to galvanize his club, steady the ship, got his players to focus knowing there would be no playoffs again. Hey? If Coach Bowles can maybe win games against the Packers and maybe the Texans at home, show up and play tough against the Patriots to close things out…a 6-7 win season? Can I really feel good about firing a coach I really don’t want to fire when his team closed somewhat strongly, won 6-7 games, I mean, what were we really expecting this year anyway?

This is why, if you’re a Jets fan, you should be hoping for losses the rest of the way, a 3-13 finish, a 10-game losing streak to end the season, leaving no wiggle room for any Bowles apologists in the organization, making it impossible to justify bringing back a head coach who should have never been given the job to begin with.

Here’s the thing about Todd Bowles from a personal position. I happen to like the man. I think Todd Bowles is not only a good man, but I also believe he’s a good football coach, just not a head football coach, and not the head football coach of a team that plays in New York. I’m actually hoping that when and if Bowles is replaced he finds another opportunity as a head coach and can correct many of the things that led him to the current predicament he finds himself in.

When and if Bowles is relieved of his position following the season, unlike Rex Ryan, who I felt no pity for when he was canned, I’ll actually feel a little sad for Bowles when he walks the plank.

Bowles has emphasized changing the culture of his football team since he took over, and while I believe it to be something that is a worthwhile objective, the ways that Bowles has gone about trying to change the Jets culture has mostly been with catchy slogans and words from the podium that fell on deaf ears inside his teams locker room.

Today’s NFL product is obviously a piss-poor game, a far cry from a time and a place when the NFL game and the NFL environment felt and looked so much different than it does today.

Today, the NFL isn’t full of men, as much as it is full of miscreants. Twenty-three, twenty-five, and twenty-eight-year-old children, displaying a consistent pattern of sophomoric and juvenile on and off the field behavior that renders many of today’s NFL players no better than pre-schoolers.

This is why each time I see the Giants, Saquon Barkley, make a great play or score a touchdown, it is refreshing to see this young man combine spontaneous and authentic enthusiasm along with a maturity that allows him to not disrespect the game or other players, conducting himself like a grown-up, and who, a few times this season has without words, told Odell Beckham that he wants no part of his on-field displays and won’t be party to them.

Which leads me to the witless and simple-minded actions of Jets wide receiver Robby Anderson. Now, full disclosure, for reasons you can easily find with a quick Online search, if I owned or coached the Jets, Robby Anderson would not have gotten into MetLife Stadium this season without first purchasing a ticket.

Anderson, the very epitome of a me-first player (which seems to account for 95% of the league these days), is someone who apparently is always intent on taking his ‘street-cred’ out onto the playing field. Always. Here’s a player who has really done nothing in the short time he’s been in the league other than begging on live TV to be voted into the Pro Bowl. Instead of hitting the field each and every game with an admirable work ethic, always trying to get better, plying his craft each week, instead, Anderson apparently finds it impossible to not act like a jackass whenever he makes a catch or scores a touchdown. Growing up and becoming a man is way down on Anderson’s priority list it would seem.

In yesterday’s game, we got to see the latest example of this immature child in action, when after catching a pass along the right sideline for a nice gain, not content to simply run back to the huddle hoping to do more, he instead had an insatiable need to spin the football at the Titans defensive back and bark some tough guy words in his direction. The play was wiped out by a taunting call, the Jets were penalized, and yet Anderson was permitted to stay in the game, no doubt feeling wronged by an officiating staff that couldn’t ever hope to understand his world and his struggles. Was Todd Bowles aware of how Anderson cost his team? If so, I couldn’t really tell, Anderson continued to play and Bowles never mentioned a word about it in his post-game presser.

In real time, as I’m watching the game during this Robby Anderson moment, my mind immediately thought back to Bill Parcells when he coached the Jets and when teamwide accountability was in fashion during those years. I thought to myself that if Parcells was coaching this team and Robby Anderson pulled such a stunt (and it is hardly the first tie Anderson has displayed this kind of reckless behavior), his ass would have been bolted to the bench the rest of the game. More than that, it wouldn’t have taken more than a single episode of such behavior for Anderson to know, that if he ever pulled such bullshit again, his name would be on the NFL waiver wire the very next day.

So a few hours later, color me a little shocked, when on the Jets post-game show on SNY-TV, my thoughts were being spoken to life by former Jets players, Ray Lucas, Victor Green, and Chad Cascadden, all agreed and spoke specifically of the Anderson hijinks, and what would have been the resulting consequences of Anderson playing on a Parcells coached football team demonstrating such careless behavior that ended up costing his team.

And this leads me back to Todd Bowles, who sought to change a Jets culture, but he was either hesitant to do it with conviction or simply doesn’t realize that to change something you need to follow up words with real actions in order to implement actual changes in behavioral patterns and accountability.

It’s one thing to talk tough, its another thing to show that you mean it, and based on what I’ve seen, Todd Bowles never really meant it. It’s one thing to talk about professionalism and accountability and quite another to allow Isiah Crowell to wipe his ass with the football after scoring a touchdown earlier this season without any penalty from the Jets coach.

Go back to before the start of last season. Bowles second Jets team in 2016 was an unmitigated disaster. The locker room was a scene out of the movie Animal House.  Players seemed to come and go as they pleased, to the point of players feeling as though they could set their own schedules when it came to team meetings.

Two of the Jets best players that year, Sheldon Richardson and Muhammad Wilkerson, made a habit of showing up late to meetings. In March of 2017, as Bowles was preparing for his 3rd season, reporters caught up with him at an owners meeting in Phoenix. When Bowles talked about changing things in 2017, reporters alluded to players like Richardson and Wilkerson consistently showing up late and wanted to know how Bowles felt about that? Bowles responded by saying; It’s part of it. Sometimes you’re late to work. It’s life. It’s not life-threatening … Sometimes your alarm clock isn’t going to go off.”

Keep in mind that Bowles comes off of the Bill Parcells coaching tree. Can you imagine Parcells responding to players being late in the ways that Todd Bowles did back then? Moreover, how can you seriously talk about a culture change and accountability on your football team while passing off lateness to team meetings as though its the prerogative of any player if they want to show up in the first place?

Same thing with Robby Anderson. How many times has Anderson flat-out showed that he could not give two shits what Todd Bowles says, thinks, or feels, Robby Anderson is going to do things his way whether Todd Bowles likes it or not? Has Anderson ever been benched? Suspended? Has Bowles ever embarrassed Anderson and taken him to task during one of his weekly press conferences? No, to all of the above. So now tell me, why should Robby Anderson feel the need to do anything at all unless it’s scripted from his own personal playbook? What are the ramifications Anderson will have to deal with from Bowles if he doesn’t change his ways?

After yesterday’s Jets loss the players once again went to bat for their head coach, they said all the losing wasn’t his fault, it’s the players who deserve the criticism, yada-yada-yada. The Jets players have a funny way of talking about how much they love their head coach while their play and behavior contradicts such alleged love.

After the loss to the Titans, many players went on to note (for the hundredth time this season) how the same penalties and mistakes keep happening but they have no real explanations for any of it. Basically, if you had to conclude objectively, you would have to say that Jets players always talk about how much they love their head coach and always talk about making corrections and playing better to justify that love of their head coach…the same exact way Todd Bowles constantly talks about correcting things, cleaning up his locker room, and doing whatever it takes to make his football team better, yet, just like his players, his words contradict reality.

Tell me, who has Todd Bowles benched during a game during his 4-years as the Jets head coach? Does performance matter? Does Bill Belichick play the best players regardless of draft position? Yes. Does Bill Belichick make lineup changes, does he bench players when they’re not performing? Yes. Does Todd Bowles? Patriots players fear their head coach who sugarcoats nothing. Do Jets players fear Todd Bowles?

After the game yesterday Todd Bowles spoke yet again about getting better, about closing out games, about limiting mistakes. Yet, for all of his talk the last 4-years, Todd Bowles will likely fall on his own sword in a few weeks, because while Todd Bowles talked a good game, when it came to taking those words and turning them into action, Todd Bowles was as phony as many of the players in his locker room.

Todd Bowles may talk of accountability, he may stress it, he may even beg for it. But his players know he doesn’t really mean it because 4-years into this deal nobody ever suffers any consequences for bad play, bad decisions, bad behavior, etc.

Late for a meeting? Hey, those things happen and it’s not as though it’s life-threatening.

Cost the team big plays with juvenile me-first tough-guy behavior? Aww, we hate that, but get back in there and don’t do it again.

What? They did it again? Please don’t do it next time.

You’re not holding up your end out on the field, you’re underperforming on a weekly basis? Replace that player and send a message? Nah, look it, he’s not been good lately, but we’ve seen encouraging signs in practice, he’ll be alright.

Let’s hope we are in the final few weeks of this never-ending circle of maddening Jets coaching nether-world.

When Todd Bowles was named as the Jets head coach replacing Rex Ryan I applauded the move and I had the highest of hopes that a certain amount order and professionalism would follow that I felt was absent during the Rex Ryan experiment. Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened.

As I have noted previously, Todd Bowles seems like a good and decent man, and I happen to like him and I’ll wish him well when and if the Jets let him go shortly.

But Todd Bowles had 4-years to make changes and revisions, he had a long time to put his imprint on the Jets, he had time to reverse their fortunes both on and off the football field, and he wasn’t able to get it done.

In summation, while I wish Todd Bowles well, I hope he won’t take it too personally knowing that I’ll be rooting for wins by the Bills, Texans, Packers, and Patriots, against his Jets the next few weeks, to absolutely and positively ensure that Todd Bowles isn’t the head coach of The Gotham City Football Team in 2019.

LIVING & DYING WITH BRODIE’S METS

By DINO COSTA

November 30, 2018

-St Louis

These are both exciting and torturous times to be a fan of the New York Mets.

I’ve exhaled a bit at this point, after hearing that the Mets were on the verge of a deal with the Seattle Mariners that may or may not completed by the time you read this piece.

New Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen is, according to reports, on the verge of what can be considered a blockbuster type trade, where he would send the onerous contract of outfielder Jay Bruce, along with a combination of other players, to the Mariners, in exchange for Robinson Cano and elite relief pitcher Edwin Diaz.

Such a move would no doubt vastly improve the Mets bullpen, a bullpen currently without an identifiable closer, however, it would also require that the Mets take on the contract of an aging and in decline second baseman, a player with limited defensive range at the position, and a player coming off a PED suspension just last season.

I’ll leave the question about just how much gas Cano has left in his tank for another time, but it is obviously a huge question worth considering.

While the Mets are seeking to have the Mariners provide them with salary relief for Cano’s massive contract which still has 5-years and $120 million left on it, what I have a difficult time comprehending is, even if Seattle was willing to knock off $10 million a year over the next 5-years of Cano’s deal, why would the Mets be willing be on the hook for a regressing player to the tune of $70 million through the final year of Cano’s deal in 2023?

The Mets would be paying Cano $14 million a season through 2023 until he’s 40, and unless Cano is aware of where Ponce De Leon’s fountain of youth is, the Mets would be paying an exorbitant price to a player who you would have to believe would be virtually useless as soon as the 2021 season comes around in a league currently without the designated hitter (Lets hope the DH never comes to the National League).

So we ask ourselves, don’t we, if the Mets are willing to pay Robinson Cano $14 million dollars a year (under the hypothetical that Seattle is swallowing $50 million), what would prevent the Mets from being bolder and submitting an offer to a player like Bryce Harper, a not yet in his prime player, at age 26, and a player who would instantly change the culture at The Ballpark In Queens, with a contract worth $400 million over the next 10-years?

Let me ask you another question; which player do you believe the Mets would get a much better return on their investment: Cano at age 36 for 5-years and $70 million, or Harper, age 26, for 10-years and $400 million? Would you rather pay Cano at age 36, $14 million a season, or have Bryce Harper, entering his prime, having him for many highly productive seasons, and paying him, at age 36, $40 million?

The answer should be obvious. Also, Harper would cost only dollars, not players.

Now, as my temperature came down a bit last night in contemplating this deal further, let me make clear that I am not necessarily against making a trade that includes taking on Robinson Cano and the more important piece to the deal, closer, Edwin Diaz.

What I am against, is the Mets, who should be in a position of extreme advantage, surrendering some players in their minor league system that Seattle should have no right asking for and who the Mets should have no motivation to move in such a deal.

Before I explain my thoughts further, let me ask yet another question: Why is it that whenever the Yankees make a trade for an established player(s) they never seem to have to give up the marquee players in their farm system to get them?

Just last offseason, the Yankees were able to absorb the contract of Giancarlo Stanton, a player that Miami wanted to, and had to move, and yet the Yankees gave up absolutely nothing to acquire Stanton.

Miami did not receive Gleyber Torres, they didn’t get Miguel Andujar, they didn’t get Justus Sheffield, or Estevan Florial, or Clarke Schmidt, or Clint Frazier, they didn’t even get Ronald Torreyes, who the Yankees just shipped off to the Cubs earlier this week. No, instead the Yankees absorbed the contract of one of baseball’s best players and all the money he is owed for secondary minor league talent in addition to a veteran player the Yankees could easily part with in Starlin Castro.

Here is where I take issue with the players being reported going to Seattle from the Mets.

The Mets should be in the driver’s seat with this deal to the point where Seattle isn’t simply riding in the back seat, no, the Mariners are along for the ride and are in the car trunk.

Seattle needs to move Robinson Cano, they no longer have any use for him, the window in which the Mariners hoped they would win with Cano is closed. The Mets should be able to dictate the shots here in an extremely one-sided way. So, why aren’t they?

Yes, other clubs are interested in Edwin Diaz as well, and unless the Mariners are willing to part with Diaz alone, separate from a deal which won’t allow them to get out from underneath Cano’s burdensome salary, then the Mariners are between a rock and a hard place in their attempts to move Cano to another team because unless Cano is attached to another player with a higher value then Cano is almost untradeable.

Also on the Mets side of things is Cano’s no-trade clause. The Phillies and a few other clubs are interested in Edwin Diaz, but they’re interested in Diaz as a stand-alone piece, not in conjunction with having to take on Cano as well. Additionally, even if a team like the Phillies would agree to take on Cano, there is a lot of doubt in my mind that Cano would agree to waive his full no-trade clause to go to Philadelphia. But the Mets? Yeah, Cano would eagerly want to come back to New York and would consent to a deal to go to Queens.

While I appreciate Van Wagenen’s boldness in looking to strike a deal, on the other hand, I’m dismayed that Van Wagenen is apparently very eager to supply Seattle with some nice pieces, some players that could be instrumental in the Mets growth into the future, players that have some very nice upside, players that the Mets, being in a position of extreme advantage, shouldn’t be making available in my mind.

Let’s start with Jeff McNeil. 

During a time when more and more players are laissez-faire on the baseball field, what a breath of fresh air this kid was once he made his way up through the Mets system and finally arrived at The Ballpark In Queens last July. In an otherwise lost season in Queens, McNeil ate dirt every time he was on the field and played each game as though it was his last time he’d ever be in a major league ballpark. He’s a self-made baseball player, he does the little things that don’t necessarily show up in a box score, in other words, Jeff McNeil is a winning type of baseball player. It also didn’t hurt that McNeil, over the 2-months he was with the Mets, collected 74 hits in 225 plate appearances, smacked 11-doubles, SIX triples, hit 3-home runs, and had an OBP of .381. Why would you be seeking to trade such an emerging player who hustles his ass off all the time and plays a respectable defense, a player you could use at both second and third? If I’m Brodie Van Wagenen, I want as many Jeff McNeil’s on my team as possible.

Another player the Mets are apparently willing to deal is there #1 pick from last year’s June draft, Jared Kelenic. Why? Who are the Mariners to ask for the cream of the crop in the Mets system when it is Seattle who needs to move Robinson Cano and not the Mets?

Of course, when it comes to young professional players you are always trying to project their ascent through your system and you’re patient with their overall development as they gain experience in playing baseball almost every day for the first time in their lives. Kelenic, according to those in the know, has an exceptionally high-ceiling, is a player who has consistent high-contact ability at the plate. Kelenic has good speed, can hit with some power now, and the thinking is that as he matures and grows into his body his power numbers will only increase. Kalenic has sometimes been compared to Brandon Nimmo, a pretty good player in his own right, but scouts feel as though Kelenic is more advanced and more mature at this point in his development than Nimmo was at the same age a few years ago. If I’m the Mets GM, there is no way I’m trading a player we just took a few months ago with such a high-ceiling, dealing that player to a Mariners team that the Mets should have over a barrel, and watching as Kelenic becomes a very good full-time player on someone else’s club.

Now, as far as Justin Dunn is concerned, he’s not a player who I feel is off limits and I wouldn’t be afraid to deal him to Seattle in a proposed Cano/Diaz deal.

As I said further up the page, the Mets should be calling the shots here because they are in an extremely advantageous position.

 

Here is the deal I would offer the Mariners:

To the MetsRobinson CanoEdwin Diaz, Mallix Smith.

To Seattle: Jay BruceAnthony SwarzakJason VargasDominic SmithGerson BautistaAndres Giminez, and Justin Dunn.

Seattle is gearing up for another run starting in 2021, they can more than afford to not only make this deal but to justify it as well. They get rid of the majority of Cano’s contract, they have little need for an elite closer on what will most likely be a losing ballclub the next few years, and they receive a stop-gap player in Jay Bruce, or they could flip Bruce to another team for further assets, and they get 4 young players and an opportunity to play them to see if they can be a part of their future during a rebuild. Vargas will give them 25-30 starts next season and Seattle can decline his option for the 2020 season thus cutting him loose, and Swarzak can give Mariners fans agita the same way he gave it to Mets fans last season.

That’s the deal I present to the Mariners, period.

I could also be talked into another combination of Mets prospects so long as they are not named Jeff McNeil or Jared Kelenic.

If Seattle declines the deal, then if I’m Brodie Van Wagenen, I wish Seattle luck, hang up the phone, and move on to other potential deals.

The end.

 

JETS NEED TO FIRE BOWLES & MACCAGNAN

By DINO COSTA

November 29, 2018

-St. Louis

Long-suffering and then some, baby!

New York Jets football, catch it while you can!

Maybe the Jets should move to St. Louis?

Only kidding, baby, just trying to keep things lite here at the start of affairs.

Back in 1972, Dan Jenkins wrote a book titled: ‘Semi-Tough.’

In that fictitious book, Jenkins referred to them as; ‘The dog-ass New York Jets.’

But the book was only fiction, okay?

Actually, now that I think on it for a second, that 1972 Jets season was the best it would be until the Jets managed to accrue a record of 10-5-1 in 1981 and found themselves back in the post-season for the first time since 1969. Oh, wait, they also finished at 7-7 in 1974 as well. That was the year they went on a tear and won their final 6 games to finish at .500 after a 1-7 start to the year.

So, Dino, with all of that momentum, with the Jets winning 6 straight to finish the 74′ season, what did they do for an encore the next year? Glad you asked. The Jets followed up the 1974 season by crashing to a record of 3-11 in 1975 with a coach whose last name was; ‘Winner’ (as in Charlie).

That led to the 1976 season in which Lou Holtz thought it would be a swell idea to leave North Carolina State and come and coach in the NFL with Gang Green.

Lou contributed 3 wins and a Jets fight song to the club before he packed his bags Bobby Petrino style and went back to coaching amateurs, this time at Arkansas.

The Jets season, as you all know, is dead on arrival once more, and there is really nothing to get excited about over the course of the next 5 games to end yet another losing campaign.

There is, of course, some intrigue, I guess. Well, I’m talking about the Jets new uniforms that will be unveiled sometime in the spring right before the draft. You all know me, I’m a big uni guy!

And then, there is the current speculation about who will be the Jets next head coach after Todd Bowles is fired a day after this season mercifully concludes?

How about this one: The day after the season ends, Jets acting owner Christopher Johnson announces that Todd Bowles and general manager Mike Maccagnan are both coming back in 2019 for one last shot at putting it all together.

I know, I know, I’m scaring you. Hell, I’m scaring myself by coming up with such a nightmarish scenario.

So Bowles goes and Maccagnan gets to stay?

I don’t think so.

Well, look it now, if I were the Jets acting owner my spin on this thing would be different than the various reports several Jets insiders are, you know, reporting?

Nope, owner Dino herby declares that Mike Maccagnan and head coach Todd Bowles came in together, and if we’re going to make a change (and we are) then they’ll both be walking out the door together. In together, and out together, perfect symmetry.

Call it a tandem firing.

And it would be justified.

Why? Because they both failed.

Why? Because I want to wipe the slate and start over with new personnel in both the front office and on the sideline.

I want a new era with new uniforms to begin with new people.

How old is Bill Parcells right now? A quick check just revealed that Bill Parcells is now 77-years-old. However, at the age of 77, I’m not sure, in fact, I’m downright positive, that Bill Parcells would have gotten more out of this 2018 edition of the dog-ass New York Jets than in over his head Todd Bowles did.

Then Jets coach Bill Parcells with ET by his side

But Parcells is obviously not an option at this juncture. As we all remember, Parcells rode in like a white knight all those years ago and nearly delivered then-Jets owner Leon Hess with a Super Bowl appearance, that is, before John Elway woke up from his first-half stupor and the Jets turned the ball over way too many times in the Mile High air of Denver that day. Keith Byars, anyone?

Okay, so Parcells is not an option, and I don’t think Sean McVay can get out of his contract with the Rams, and Jimmy Johnson is firmly entrenched on that hideous FOX NFL pre-game show, and to the best of my knowledge, Vince Lombardi has been dead since 1970, unfortunately.

I already mentioned that Mike Maccagnan and Todd Bowles came into this deal together, right? And after 4-years in some weird and strange partnership with one another, and with little in the way of progress, they should both walk out the door together, right?

I think so.

Todd Bowles has simply not been a good head coach for the Jets and Mike Macacagnan has exhibited very little to distinguish himself as the head of Jets football operations since he assumed that position. Period.

Is this a business where people are measured by numbers – or not?

Well, if that’s the case then the numbers for the firm of Bowles/Maccagnan say that the Jets, under their umbrella, have accrued a total of 23 victories and a total of 36 defeats up to this point in time. I ask that you please double-check those numbers because math was by far my worst subject in high-school. If my numbers are correct I believe that means the Jets have a .360 winning percentage since the two gentlemen forced into a shotgun marriage with one another assumed command in Florham Park. That’s pretty damn ‘dog-ass-ish’ if you ask me.

Now, as we all know, and I repeat, the popular notion moving forward is that while Bowles will be fired the day after the season ends, on the other hand, Mike Maccagnan will be kept on in his role as the Jets general manager.

There’s just something wrong with that.

Then again, in all good conscience, I feel that of the two of them, Maccagnan has done a better job in his role that Bowles has done in his…but that’s not really saying a whole lot when you take the bigger picture into consideration.

The chatter seems to indicate that while Jets ownership feels that Bowles needs to be replaced, that Maccagnan, is still somehow considered part of the solution.

But why?

What has Mike Maccagnan done to not only deserve keeping his job – but in addition – if Maccagnan is retained with a new coach coming in, then the Jets would have to extend Maccagnan’s contract to make it equal in length to the new coaches contract, right? If you’re the Jets, are you extending Mike Maccagnan’s contract after this season?

Keep Maccagnan and extend his deal?

I think this would be a mistake, I believe it would be a mistake, I’m pretty certain that this would be a mistake.

Look it, this was a doomed partnership from the jump and shame on the Jets for what was a shotgun wedding in teaming this coach and this general manager in the ways that they did.

In some ways, I can make the case that Bowles and Maccagnan should be able to fire the Jets ownership instead of the other way around.

Guys, were you forced to marry your wife?

Gals, were you forced to marry your husband?

If so, never mind, just keep reading.

The Jets organizational flow-chart is so flawed and so amateurish that if they should repeat the process again then they might as well take the team out of the NFL and liquidate whatever assets remain. Or, the NFL should allow the Jets to move to St. Louis and award New York (or in this case, New Jersey) a brand new expansion franchise.

What the hell is it with me and St. Louis all of a sudden?

The Jets need to hire a new general manager!

Put the new bastard in charge!

Provide him with total autonomy of the roster and the organization!

Then allow him to choose the next Jets head coach.

Who should it be?

I’m really not sure, let me think on this for a bit and write some other stuff and perhaps by the end of this column I’ll have a suggestion or two for you.

Come on now, let’s have the Jets get their shit together, for once?

Here’s how it goes:

The damn head coach reports to the GM!

The GM reports to ownership!

This is the way the majority of successful franchises have always been run. But in the Jets case, Bowles and Maccagnan both report to ownership independent of one another. So, do you need me to tell you how this can often times skew priorities with each respective position?

And please, if you’re the Jets, can you show some confidence in your own organization in conducting a search for a GM and a head coach on your own, rather than going the route of having consultants telling you what is best for your football team?

The consultants (don’t you just hate fucking consultants?) told the Jets that they should put Maccagnan and Bowles together, and how did that work out?

It worked out to 23 wins and 36 losses before the results of this weekend’s game against Tennessee come in.

Maccagnan has shown over the last 4-years that he is more of a scout (much like former Jets GM, Terry Bradway) than the lead administrator for the football operations department.

Maccagnan’s drafts have been thoroughly average and have left the Jets pretty much depth-less throughout their roster for the most part.

Then again, I know what you’re thinking if you’re a Jets fan like me.

We all know that the Jets just cannot have nice things.

And when the Jets do have nice things there is a short expiration date on those nice things, isn’t there?

By the way, and I just thought of this in the moment; does it piss you off to no end that the Jets aren’t still playing their games in Queens? Not only does it piss me off, but I get further pissed off thinking about the fact that they decided to tear down Shea Stadium a few years ago.

But hey now, look at the bright side of things. The Jets now have a state of the art training complex in Florham Park, New Jersey, and they get to play their home games in a gorgeous, almost still brand new, football-only stadium on the side of the New Jersey Turnpike. They do this, of course, if characterless and sterile, boring, ugly, and utterly personality-less football stadiums are your thing.

Let’s get to Todd Bowles for a second.

See, I like the darn guy, I really do. Todd Bowles is a guy I think I’d enjoy a burger and a brew with.

I have vacillated back and forth on Bowles since he was handed the big whistle, but in all candor, I think most will agree that Bowles hasn’t shown enough growth, nor do I believe he has the correct personality or temperament to be the head coach of a New York football franchise.

I see Bowles as more of a very good defensive coordinator than a head coach, and as I already said a few times, Maccagnan is probably a better scout than he is a big-picture football executive. Why do I keep repeating this?

Now back to Mike Maccagnan again, if you please.

The job of a general manager on the NFL level is complex and uber-diversified!

You’re not simply watching tape all day and every day!

You’re not only managing your own roster and being aware of every player in the league on every other roster, but you’re constantly checking in with your scouts in the field!

You’re consulting with the team’s video coordinator, you’re managing the salary cap, you’re managing your team’s ownership group, you’re dealing with free-agency and roster manipulation, and you’re out in the field at college stadiums most every Saturday before your teams game on Sunday!

You’re leading and managing an entire organization from top to bottom each and every day of every week. In short, it’s a very tough job and a lot of very good football men aren’t equipped for it!

Why am I completing each sentence or paragraph with an exclamation point? Because this is important shit that you need to know, dammit!

These things are always a crapshoot for the most part, but a guy I’d like to see the Jets make a run at is the current Vikings assistant general manager, George Paton.

Why?

Well, first off, the name is killer, right?

I mean, can you imagine the Jets being run by a guy with the last name of Paton?

Whose in charge here? Who is running this Jets show? Answer: Paton is in charge of the Jets!

It can’t get any worse than when the Jets were being run by a guy with the aforementioned last name of Winner, right?

George Paton has been in Minnesota the last 12-years. Paton has been a key cog in the Vikings front office and he’s been involved in the drafting and acquisition of many talented players on the Vikings roster over the years.

Now, like some teams, not all of the Vikings drafts have been home runs (Christian Ponder-Matt Kalil-Cordarralle Patterson), but the franchise has selected more than a few players who have become key contributors for the team over the 12-years in which Paton has teamed with Vikings GM Chris Spielman.

Minnesota has picked up players in the draft like Xavier Rhodes (a pro-bowler), Anthony Barr (a terrific linebacker), Teddy Bridgewater (thought to be a franchise QB before he was injured), Trae Waynes (a starter at CB), Percy Harvin (made the pro-bowl in his rookie season), Harrison Smith (one of the NFL’s best safeties), Adrian Peterson (a future hall-of-famer), and they engineered a trade for Jared Allen who was spectacular during his 6-seasons with the Vikings and is a likely hall-of-famer himself.

The Vikings also have been proficient in taking players below the first round who emerged as starters and became important contributors to their teams over the years. Guys like wide receiver Sidney Rice (2nd round), defensive end Brian Robinson (4th round), offensive tackle Phil Loadholt (2nd round), safety Jamarcus Sanford (7th round), and safety Mistral Raymond (6th round).

Spielman and Paton haven’t been perfect, but they’ve been able to find players and find value in players at a pretty good rate beyond their first-round picks over the years.

If Mike Maccagnan’s drafts had been similar to the Vikings drafts under Messrs Spielman and PATON I would have little to quibble with.

Let’s look at Mike Mccagnan’s 4 Jets drafts.

Before we get to those drafts, how about a few words from the man himself on how he evaluates the drafts under his watch thus far?

Maccagnam said: “For the most part, I feel pretty good. I mean, there’s definitely picks that haven’t worked out, but again that’s part of this business. But if you look at our roster, there’s a lot of good, young players we’ve drafted. We’ve positioned ourselves well with that.”

I guess that’s one way to look at it, and in the name of self-preservation, if I was Mike Maccagnan, I might have answered in the same exact way.

->Maccagnan’s first draft was in 2015. This was the draft where USC defensive lineman Leonard Williams dropped to the Jets who they then took with the 6th pick in the first round. Other than Williams, who many feel has been underwhelming as a pro, there is not a single player Macaggnan picked in this draft who is still on the Jets roster.

->Now, in 2016, Maccagnan took Ohio State linebacker Darron Lee with the 20th overall selection in the first-round. While Lee has flashed some signs befitting a number one selection, all too often his career has been defined by spotty play if not downright disappointing play over his first few years in the league. This was the same draft that saw Maccagnan use his second-round pick to select Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg who never saw the field as a Jet and is now in that waste of time spring fling league getting set to debut early next year. He then took another linebacker with his third pick, Jordan Jenkins, who is serviceable at best, followed by defensive back Justin Burris who is now with Cleveland (and probably better off), followed by offensive tackle Brandon Shell, a mediocre player who wouldn’t start for most teams not named the Jets. He also selected a punter, Lachlan Edwards (currently the Jets punter), and a wide receiver, Charon Peake, who is nothing to get excited about. To be fair, Maccagnan did sign wide receiver Robby Anderson as a free agent after this draft, but Anderson, for all of his talents as a receiver, is an extraordinary head case to boot, and a vile and law-breaking creep at worst.

 

->Maccagnan’s third-draft in 2017 is a mixed bag – at best. Jamal Adams was there for the taking (6th overall) and appears to be rounding into a pro-bowl type player. He then selected another safety with his second pick, nabbing Marcus Maye, who like Adams, appears to be a very good player. He took wide receiver Ardarius Stewart with his 3rd pick, Stewart was cut and is no longer with the team. He followed the Stewart pick with another wideout who was thought to have some promise in Chad Hansen. Hansen stuck around for his rookie year hardly seeing the field before the Jets cut him last summer. With two 5th round picks, Maccagnan took tight end Jordan Legget, who might be a potential keeper, although he’s currently third on the Jets depth chart for tight ends, and then he reached for a linebacker out of West Georgia, Dylan Donahue, whose claim to fame is getting drunk and driving the wrong way through the Lincoln Tunnel. Credit where it is due, Maccagnan did get a potential steal in the 6th round with his pick of running back Eli McGuire, before he ended this draft with a couple of defensive backs, Jeremy Clark (cut) and Derrick Jones, who is a fringe roster player right now. In total, this is perhaps Maccagnan’s best draft to date, although it certainly comes with a lot of holes beyond the first 2 picks of Adams and Maye, and the pick of McGuire in the 6th round.

->His most recent draft saw Maccagna take Sam Darnold with the Jets number one selection and 3rd overall. Jets fans want to believe that Darnold is a franchise quarterback and so do I. However, Darnold is anything but a lock to become a great player and I never liked him all that much during his collegiate career. Besides, I like my quarterbacks with a little more fire in their belly than Darnold seems to have, and call me crazy, call me weird even, but there’s something about Sam Darnold’s face that is off-putting to me. I know, I’m weird, right? The Jets traded their second-round pick to the Colts in order to move up and select Darnold, and with their 3rd round pick they took defensive lineman Nathan Shepherd, an intriguing player from a small school, but a guy who appears to have a long way to go to become an impact starting player on the NFL level. Maccagnan closed his most recent draft with three 6th round picks. He took a defensive back in Parry Nickerson who I feel has a chance to stick around for a while, before taking defensive lineman Folorunso Fatukasi (buried on the depth chart) and then, another possible steal for Maccagnan when he selected running back Trenton Cannon. Cannon has warp-like speed and could develop into an exciting return specialist and an occasional guy in the backfield.

So overall, I guess you could make the claim that Maccganan has done a solid job with his first-round picks, however, he has not shown the ability to find much value in later rounds beyond some guys like Eli McGuire, Trenton Cannon, and perhaps Chris Herndon, and none of those players are likely to be star-impact players before their careers are finished up.

Free-agents? To date, the big money that Maccagnan gave cornerback Trumaine Johnson looks like a bust so far. He signed Spencer Long away from the Redksins to play center and Long is clearly much better as an interior lineman than at the center position. The Darrelle Revis re-acquisition was an utter disaster and never should have happened. Terrelle Pryor was signed, had a cup of coffee with the Jets and was cut, cornerback Morris Claiborne is an average player, Teddy Bridgewater stayed for a few weeks and then was traded to New Orleans for a pick, Isaiah  Crowell had a once in a lifetime game but showed his lack of class by pantomiming wiping his ass with the football after a touchdown, and Avery Williamson was signed and is a pretty good run-stuffing linebacker.

Macaggnan did hit on quarterback Josh McCown who played his best football in the one-year he played as the Jets starter, offensive tackle Kelvin Beachum is decent but nothing to write home about, running back Matt Forte was really a non-factor and finished by the time the Jets signed him, defensive lineman Steve McClendon was merely okay, corner Buster Skrine is always up and down, and offensive lineman James Carpenter was pretty good for two years with the team before falling off of late.

The Jets offensive line, four-years into Maccagnan’s run as the Jets GM, remains a disaster area, and Maccagnan has failed to find the Jets any players who can get to the opposing quarterbacks with consistency. Maccagnan has also failed to provide his team with high-impact skill position players, most specifically, wide receivers who can make a difference and are a nightmare to contend with for opposing defensive coordinators.

In total, I’d characterize Maccganan’s drafts with a simple, ‘meh.’

Back to the coach.

Todd Bowles, on the other hand, has his own shortcomings as a head coach. A predictable pattern has emerged over Bowles four years, his teams aren’t able to follow up solid wins with repeat performances and the overall consistency with his teams has been sorely lacking in just about all areas.

Also, the Jets under Bowles have seen way too many games where the team simply comes out flat, looks unprepared, and simply makes far too many mistakes to win on a consistent basis. Bowles is supposed to be a defensive mastermind of sorts, however, the Jets defense over Bowles four years has been mediocre to flat out bad all too often.

The Jets have given up a lot of leads that have become losses and the Jets under Bowles still haven’t learned how to close out games as they should in too many second halves over the last four seasons.

Penalties have also been a huge problem for the Jets since Bowles has been the head coach. Penalties happen to every team in the league, but the Jets seem to commit so many penalties at such crucial moments in games and they’ve been an undisciplined football team throughout Bowles tenure.

The bottom line with Bowles is that although he has tried hard to change the Jets culture he’s come up well short in regard to fielding a football team that plays a sound and disciplined style of football on a regular and consistent basis, and truthfully, I believe Bowles is beyond his depth as a head coach and never should have been hired in the first place.

Which leads me back to how I feel both Bowles and Maccagnan should be relieved of their duties in unison.

They tried, I’m sure they tried hard, but it simply didn’t work out the way all had hoped for.

I did say way up the page that maybe I’d come up with a name or two, some candidates to replace Todd Bowles as coach?

Well, look it now, I guess I could come up with the usual names that are all making the rounds, you’ve seen them, and I guess like all potential head coaches they come with strong points and weaker points.

The one thing I disagree with is the contention by some that the Jets need to absolutely hire an offensive-minded head coach because Sam Darnold’s development should be priority number one.

This is flawed thinking.

I don’t give two shits if a potential hire is thought of as being more of an offensive guy or a defensive guy because what’s much more urgent is hiring a head coach who knows the game, can manage the game, is well-organized, and a coach who puts together a thorough staff of assistants around him.<

Is Mike Tomlin thought of as more of a defensive kind of a coach than an offensive-minded coach? Indeed, and how has Ben Roethlisberger panned out over the years? I could cite many more examples.

Not only is Todd Bowles a less than average head coach, but making things even more difficult for the Jets is that Bowles has assembled a terrible staff of assistants around him, he seems to have hired his friends more than capable and proven people who know the game and who can coach up players.

The one thing I’d like to see the Jets do is to hire their next coach and stay away from neophytes.

Throughout their history, the Jets, under multiple ownership groups, have hired first-time head coaches at an alarming rate.

In fact, the last 5 Jets head coaching hires have been first-time coaches, including, Bowles, Rex Ryan, Eric Mangini, Herman Edwards, and Al Groh. Not including the one-day tenure of Bill Belichick, you would need to go all the way back to the 1997 season with Bill Parcells to find the most recent Jets head coach who came into the job with previous head coaching experience.

To be sure, I’m not necessarily against the Jets hiring an offensive-minded head coach, if that coach is the best coach available, I just don’t believe it needs to be a prerequisite of any kind

Mike McCarthy would be an intriguing choice if the Packers should let him go.

John Harbaugh should get a look see if the Ravens end up firing him.

Although a long shot, the Jets would do well to get a sense if Bill Cowher has an itch to return to the sidelines.

And while Bruce Arians has indicated that the only job he’d be interested in is in Cleveland, I’d certainly want to talk with him about possibly becoming the Jets next head coach.

This is not to say that I would discount any one of a number of first-time candidates, but I think there is something to say about head coaching candidates who have been through the fire before and who are able to rebound by making certain adjustments with their next opportunity being better for the trials and tribulations they went through in their previous stop(s).

This is a wayward franchise with dubious ownership at the helm and so my confidence that they’ll get this right isn’t exactly high.

Bottom line, however, is that I feel that when Bowles is shown the door at season’s end a great argument can and should be made that general manager Mike Maccagnan should also be given the boot as the Jets reboot (again) and look to finally get the recipe for success right.

Long-suffering.

Dog-ass.

Welcome to the world of the New York Jets.

ST. LOUIS CLOSE TO GETTING FOOTBALL BACK?

By DINO COSTA

November 28, 2018

-St. Louis

Today the city of St. Louis moved one step closer to bringing football back to the Gateway City.

Unfortunately, it’s the wrong kind of football and it will do little to raise the spirits of the local sports citizenry.

Today the board of Alderman’s approved a plan to develop a soccer-specific stadium west of Union Station along Market Street that would house a new Major League Soccer expansion franchise. Major League Soccer is expected to announce additional expansion franchises in the next few months ahead and St. Louis is thought to have a great chance at being one of those new cities in MLS.

St. Louis has always been thought of as an American soccer hotbed going back to the early 1900’s when the

St. Louis Soccer League was the country’s first and only professional soccer circuit back in those days. In addition, the city previously had a team in the late North American Soccer League from 1967-77, with the St. Louis Stars, which featured many local St. Lousians and played against teams like the New York Cosmos and some guy who goes by the name of ‘Pele’, before the club eventually left town and moved to California where they were rebranded as the Surf.

Indoor soccer, a bastardized version of the game, also had a time and place in the city, when the St. Louis Steamers played from 1978 through 1988 and actually enjoyed some terrific support. From 1980-84 the Steamers actually outdrew the Blues, and in 1982, they got all the way to the MISL championship round before losing to the New York Arrows.

The Steamers eventually went away and were replaced by a second MISL team for a few years, as the St. Louis Storm, played in the league from 1989-92 before ceasing operations. A second incarnation of the Steamers emerged in 1998 and played through the 2006 season as a part of something known as the World Indoor Soccer League.

St. Louis University has obviously featured a powerhouse program for many years and their 10-NCAA championships are still a record for collegiate play.

Currently, of course, St. Louis has a pro soccer team in something known as USL, a league that is a few steps below MLS. The St. Louis Football club plays at a minor league facility located in Fenton and enjoys mild fan support while getting virtually no coverage by any of the media platforms in town.
Now, while I like soccer and have always been a fan of the game played at its highest level, and while I actually enjoy me some Major League Soccer on occasion, and while I’m not necessarily against St. Louis getting an MLS team of their own (in fact I’m all for it), on the other hand, I believe that the city is settling for a team, in a sport that very few beyond a niche audience will really care about when all is said and done.

When we talk about a professional sports franchise in any city that moves a needle, a soccer team, despite the fact that MLS has done a nice job of growing the game over the years since the league has been in existence, is simply not going to get it done.

I would imagine that this stadium that’s on the drawing board will have a capacity of somewhere between 25-30,000 people — and I have no doubt that most games will be complete sellouts if the city is awarded a franchise. However, beyond the core group of soccer-crazed fans that the team will eventually have as their ardent supporters, the indisputable fact remains that the overwhelming majority of St. Louis sports fans will yawn whenever news about this team is eventually announced.

Of course, the image of the city was hurt when the Rams decided to pull out of the city a few years ago — and whenever someone mentions St. Louis in the same sentence as the NFL they are quick to note that St. Louis is the only city in America to lose a National Football League franchise – not once – but twice. Actually, when you consider that St. Louis was left at the alter back in 1995 when the NFL decided to award expansion franchises to Charlotte and Jacksonville, it may be argued that St. Louis has been jilted over football teams a total of three times.

I get that the sting of losing the NFL for a second time is still fresh in the minds of many, however, if St. Louis is ever going to be thought of as major sports city again then it simply cannot settle for some crumbs that will come with the announcement that St. Louis is getting a Major League Soccer franchise.
As much as Major League Soccer is showing signs of making an impact in terms of growing the game of soccer across the country, the unfortunate fact is that soccer in America is still thought of as minor league and nothing more.

Look it, maybe its because I have never been one to think small and I’m always prone to thinking big. Maybe its because I find myself bullish on the future of St. Louis and I want to see St. Louis become more than it is currently in regard to its sports landscape. I guess there are a number of reasons I find myself being in the position of wanting to see the city redoubling its efforts to bring an NFL team back to town and not merely settling for a niche sport like soccer.

I do know this; each and every time the NFL has left a city, the record shows that eventually the league went ahead and back filled that vacancy with another team. Will this eventually be the case here in The Lou? Only time will tell.

Where does it say that St. Louis can’t have both an MLS and an NFL franchise at the same time?

Are we short on vision, short on tenacity, do we lack the gusto to pick ourselves up and make the National Football League take notice of this city again? Are we simply going to curl up into a fetal position, lick our wounds, and posture ourselves forever with a woe is us mentality?
Let me get this right, St. Louis has more Fortune 500 companies than current NFL cities such as, Buffalo,

Charlotte, Jacksonville, Seattle, Cincinnatti, Pittsburgh, and Nashville, yet St. Louis isn’t currently in the conversation of being a viable NFL city again? This I find unnaceptable, and you should find it unnaceptable as well. For crying out loud, only 250 miles to our west, Kansas City has three Fortune 500 companies compared to the 10 that currently reside in St. Louis!

Stan Kroenke will forever live in infamy around these parts, but trust me a lot when I tell you that that is the last thing on Slimy Stan’s mind these days. Kroenke is the ultimate opportunist, an incredible businessman, who cares nothing about feelings or sentimentality. The only thing that Slimy Stan cares about are greenbacks. Period.

It is in LA, where Slimy Stan now does his football business and it is in that city where true opportunity should be able to be had for St. Louis when you think about it.

Right now, while they call themselves the Los Angeles Chargers, they could also call themselves the Austin Chargers, or the Calgary Chargers, or the Tuskeegee Chargers, or the Bermuda Chargers, over the next few weeks. They could play home games in any of the aforementioned places I mentioned over the next few weeks and maybe 4 people in Los Angles would notice or care. Maybe.
In what was one of the worst decisions ever made (maybe the worst ever?) by a professional sports franchise, the Chargers pulled up stakes in San Diego, and instead, chose to become the tennants of Stan Kroenke in his new football palace that will open in a few years. Would you choose to be Slimy Stan’s tennant?

In the interim, of course, the Chargers play their home games in a soccer stadium where empty seats as well as fans of other teams usually outnumber the amount of 6 or 7 Chargers fans in attendance each game.
The jury is still well out on whether or not Los Angeles can capably support one NFL team let alone two.The Chargers are virtually invisible in the hearts and minds of LA sports fans as well as in the minds of those in the Los Angeles sports media. The Chargers simply don’t matter even a little bit in Los Angeles — and they never will.

Here is where St. Louis, in my mind, has an opportunity. Under the umbrella of visionary thinking with visonary people, St. Louis could possibly be a player so far as the future of the Chargers franchise is concerned and where they wind up long-term.

The Chargers current predictament of being an invisible team in a town that doesn’t want them is compounded by being subservient to the same Slimy Stan Kroenke who uprooted the Rams and took them back to the west coast. The lease they’ve signed up for playing in Slimy Stan’s new gazillion dollar playpen is onerous and then some. I also believe that Slimy Stan is absolutely dying to see a situation materialize such as the one I am oulining that sees the Chargers leave Los Angeles for St. Louis or any other outpost in the country come to fruition. Kroenke doesn’t play well with others, and instinct tells me he wants Los Angeles all to himself – why wouldn’t he?

And so, enter St. Louis back into the picture.

I speak about the right people involved in this brazen attempt to lure the NFL back to town. People with the better interests of St. Louis in mind. Such people should be able to convince Chargers brass that the worst day here in the midwest truly beats the shit out of being the Los Angles Chargers on most sunny day in the history of Los Angeles, and at the end of the day, Chargers brass (the Spanos family) gets a more than nice financial reward for their proactive participation in returning the NFL to St. Looie.

The value of the Chargers franchise has grown by millions with the shift of the franchise to Los Angeles, however, the irrelevence of the team in a market where they don’t matter even a little bit stunts their growth and limits their revenue generating ability by a lot, both short and long-term. The NFL and the Chargers current owner, Dean Spanos, have to be well aware of this.
The St. Louis Chargers?

No, in fact, St. Louis should want nothing to do with adopting the name of this club if it ever relocated here and St. Louis shouldn’t be thinking about purchasing a Los Angeles based club, but rather, a St. Louis based operation which would decrease the cost of that purchase by millions of dollars.

How?

Well, you’re gonna need people with huge balls to pull off the manuever I have in mind, you’re gonna need people with steel nerves, people who won’t take no for an answer no matter how many times they may have the telephone hung up on them, and people who can naviagate around the complex issues that will come with such an ambitious acquisition.

In my plan, a deal should be consummated where a minority share of the Chargers are bought by St. Louis interests. The club is then moved to St. Louis where they then rebrand under a new moniker, with the St. Louis ownership contingent having the option to purchase the team and with the local St. Louis interests eventually winding up with 100% of the franchise.

For instance, Dean Spanos moves the club to St. Louis and owns majority share of the team for a period of anywhere from 5-7 years under a stipulation that allows local St. Louis interests to purchase the club sometime within that window.

Spanos is then forever hailed as a hero to the people of The Lou for moving the team here and then turning over interest of the franchise to local St. Louis people. Spanos gets to parachute out of the NFL with a more than healthy pay day and St. Louis finally has a team of its own without ever needing to worry about losing it ever again.

But where would they play and who would pay for the cost of a new stadium?

Here is where the NFL would have an opportunity to refurbish their image around these parts. It would be illogical to believe that the NFL would foot the entire bill for a new stadium, however, the league could commit to funding the majority cost of a new stadium while the team could conceivably play at the Dome downtown until the new stadium is ready.

Also, forget about putting a new NFL stadium downtown, that simply won’t fly for what should be obvious reasons. While I’m not ever here to defend slimy Stan Kroenke, I will concede that the stadium idea floated with the intention of keeping the Rams in St. Louis at the site down by the river would have been a disaster for mryiad reasons.

No, any new stadium should be thought of with the idea of putting it in one of the outer suburban rings around the city. The old Chrysler plant in Fenton might be a good place to think about putting a new stadium — and if not there then someplace else.

Of course, I’m not naive enough to believe this could all happen at the drop of a hat, nor am I not aware that there are hurdles and issues that time and space prevent me from mentioning here in this column that would need to be addressed, however, creative and visonary people are able to move hurdles out of the way and to find solutions to the issues that need to be confronted.
Question: Whose ready to step up? Who will refuse to allow St. Louis to be without a franchise in America’s still greatest sports league?

I don’t believe the NFL is in any hurry to expand any time soon and so getting a franchise back under such a hypotethical isn’t a reasonable alternative.

But with the right people and with the right game plan, with the right kind of can-do thinking, with the right kind of support, the situation in Los Angeles with the Chargers is one that should be looked upon as a legitimate opportunity to bring St. Louis a football team once again, this time forever.
The right kind of football team.

The kind that everyone can and would care about.

In 4 or 5 years maybe the expansion ‘Spirit Of St. Louis’ MLS team will win the MLS Cup, followed by a parade and keys to the city for all of the players. That’ll be nice, but hardly anyone outside of St. Louis will truly notice.

But on January 30, 2000, the then St. Louis Rams won Super Bowl XXXIV in Atlanta beating the Tennessee Titans by the score of 23-16.

That evening, the city of St. Louis, MIssouri, was the professional football capital of the world.

And everyone took note.

OH BABY, YES!

BY DINO COSTA

@ImDinoCosta

@590TheFan

November 21, 2018

-St. Louis

Well, look it now, I’m a uniform guy, always have been and always will be.

Some of the strangest things contained as a part of the sports landscape have always intrigued me, fascinated me, and I guess they always will.

Take media guides for instance.

Media guides?

Over the years being a part of the sports media has allowed me to collect a plethora of team-issued media guides and I have kept every single one of them. It doesn’t matter if it was a media guide I received back in 1997 or a media guide I just picked up last week. There is just something about team media guides that I find engrossing for some reason. I have boxes of media guides stored in my garage, I haven’t had any reason to go through about 99.9% of them in some time, but I’ll always keep them and I’ll always consider them to be my own special kind of sports literature treasure trove.

 

The other thing I have always been fascinated with well before I ever became a working part of the sports media are team uniforms, team colors, and team logos. The aesthetics of athletics has always piqued my interest going back to the days I was a young boy and first fell in love with the world of sports. I could talk sports uniforms through the years for hours – and have previously done so – including on some of my radio shows.

I have always loved critiquing various teams threads, changes, or revisions that different clubs make with their uniforms or logos, and whenever a team makes the announcement that they’re going to be making a change, big or small, once they set a date to unveil their new look, I find myself waiting with eager anticipation much like a kid who cannot wait to get to the tree on Christmas morning to see what Santa has brought that year.

Here in St. Louis, we are blessed to have two teams, who, when it comes to the art of sports aesthetics, deliver big time.

Not only is St. Louis one of the best hockey towns in the country, but in addition, the Blues uniforms, both home, and road, including their logo, is one of the very best looks in the NHL. The blue and gold along with a second darker blue color, give The Note a very distinguished look, an iconic brand that has stood the test of time since they entered the league way back in 1967.

The Cardinals?

While there are a number of great baseball uniforms currently on display in major league baseball, very few come as close to perfection that the Cardinals display on a year in and year out basis.

The birds on a bat design across the jersey top is a stunning and time-honored design that has served as the backdrop for the organization throughout the last nine-decades and each of the 11 World Championship teams during the Cardinals glorious history. Since 1922, to the best of my knowledge, the Cardinals have had this design with the rare exceptions of the 1927 season, when for some reason, only a single bird was perched on the bat, and in 1956, when blasphemy was in order and the birds on the bat somehow disappeared entirely for that one year. You can thank then Cardinals general manager Frank ‘Trader’ Lane for that unforgivable screw-up.

Below, find the mention in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch back on March 28, 1922, taking note of the new Cardinals design that has pretty much been in place ever since then.

One of the things I have always loved about the Cardinals logo/uniform is that the entire presentation is represented in total by the logo and it leaves nothing else to chance, right? The birds (Cardinals), the bat (baseball) and the wordmark itself, ‘Cardinals.’

Which leads me to the unveiling the Cardinals had earlier this week when they brought back the powder blue look that was a part of their set from the seasons 1977 through 1984.

I remember when I was at Busch Stadium a few years ago for a luncheon and I had an opportunity to speak with Cardinals President Bill DeWitt. DeWitt, unlike some other owners, is really into uniforms and sports aesthetics, and knowing this I wanted to ask him about a change I was hoping the Cardinals would make at some point in the future.

I asked DeWitt if he had ever given any thought to bringing back the powder blue jerseys the Cardinals had worn previously because I thought they would be very well received, and selfishly, I wanted to see the Cardinals reintroduce them as their primary road uniforms because I liked them so much.

DeWitt told me that he had given it some thought and that he had heard from some other people who had expressed the same sentiments that I had, but that he felt it was a look that perhaps wouldn’t fit within ‘modern times’ and a look that already had its expiration date.

Well, that was then and this is now, and, when several days before the official announcement, when it became apparent that the Cardinals would indeed be reintroducing the look on some level, I became very excited.

While not exactly the same exact look as the previous powder blues, and while they won’t wear them for all road games (just Saturday road contests), I feel that the club has hit a grand slam homer with these new duds and they’re going to look spectacular once we get to see them worn on the field and in action.

Where the previous powder blues said; ‘CARDINALS’, across the chest, these have a classy and stylish ‘St. Louis’ script across the front of the uniform, with, of course, the same iconic birds on the bat logo in place. Naturally.

Against the backdrop of the powder blue uniform color, the Redbirds logo really ‘pops’ with the yellow bat really coming to life against that gorgeous blue fabric. The red piping that runs around the shoulders and down the front of the jersey looks phenomenal as does the red pinstripe down both pant legs.

Another key difference between these modern Cardinals powder blues and the ones they wore back in the 1970’s and 80’s, is that those sets featured pullover jersey tops and sansabelt pants, while in this iteration (thankfully) the Cardinals will feature a button down jersey top and actual belts for the pants.

Tony Scott (L) Gary Templeton (R) back in the day

Another thing that is unique and great about the Cardinals uniform is that they don’t cut any corners in regard to the stitching used on their jerseys. The Cardinals use something known as; ‘chain-stitching’, on all of their jersey tops, which is more expensive to produce, but it allows a logo or a set of letters to be printed on a uniform that provides the markings with more texture, to appear more layered, more of a 3-D look, instead of the alternative which is more of a ‘flat’ design used on most other teams uniforms. The only other franchises that I’m aware of that utilize chain-stitching on their uniforms as the Cardinals do are, the Chicago Blackhawks — and the only other major league baseball team that incorporates this design are the Philadelphia Phillies as far as I’m aware.

While the Cardinals have some work to do this offseason in terms of their roster heading into the 2019 season, at least they’re off to a good start in the uniform department with the reintroduction of a look I’ve been hoping to see for a long time.

Thank you, Mr. DeWitt!

 

WILL IT BE “Q” PART-II IN THE LOU?

By DINO COSTA
November 20, 2019
St. Louis

After last night’s dispiriting loss to the Los Angeles Kings at Enterprise Center, the Blues hit the reset button on this 2018-19 season.

Well, kind of.

About 90-minutes after the game ended the Blues fired head coach Mike Yeo.

Following Yeo into the fire is his assistant and one time Flyers head coach Craig Berube.

Berube now becomes the 26th head coach in franchise history but unless he possesses the magic elixir that will suddenly allow this team to score some goals and consistently play a complete game then the interim tag that he now wears should be short-lived.

Look it, after the loss last night, just like everyone else who follows the Blues, I too wondered if they would make a coaching change before they next hit the ice against the Predators in Nashville tomorrow night – but at the same time – I wondered who would replace Yeo if he were given the hook?

The current options out there right now are not all that enticing beyond the one obvious name; Joel Quenneville.

The next 3 games for the Note, are, in the words of Blues television commentator Darren Pang, ‘big boy games’. True enough. Nashville tomorrow night, followed by the Preds coming to St. Louis this Friday night, followed by the very physical Winnipeg Jets the very next night at Enterprise.

Unless the Blues already have a deal in place that will bring Joel Quenneville to town in the next 24-48 hours then you would have to think that they’re prepared to at least get through this weekend with Berbue behind the bench calling the shots.

But then what?

To this point, the Blues have pissed away the first quarter of the season and dug themselves a bit of a hole in the always deep western conference. They’re in last place in the Central division – and only the team that beat them last night – the Kings – have fewer points than the Blues do in the conference currently.

However, its still early and there’s still a lot of hockey to play and the deficit the Blues face as they attempt to march back up the western conference standings is far from insurmountable. However, for a team that was looked at as a legitimate contender coming into the season, it’s no secret to anyone that the Blues have been a severely underachieving bunch to this point.

They’ve now been shut out in back-to-back games, shut out in 3 of their last 4, and they’ve only scored a single goal in their last 4 games overall. This is almost impossible to do even if the Blues were trying not to score.

How snakebit is this club right now? In last night’s game, they were beaten by a rookie winger playing in only his 6th NHL game, as Matt Luff, scored his first-ever NHL goal for the Kings (it turned out to be the game-winner), and they were shut out by some pretty stellar goaltending by another Kings rookie, this one being Los Angeles goalie, Calvin Petersen, who channeled his inner Jonathan Quick in turning away all 29 Note shots, with several of them being high-quality scoring chances.

The Blues power play is powerless these days – and is now on an 0-17 skid.

The Kings bottled up the Blues in the neutral zone and it was rare that St. Louis had any clean breakouts from their own zone through middle ice last night, and the Kings also played a physical brand of hockey that saw them pounding the Blues all night long, particularly on the forecheck. Actually, the Kings played probably their best defensive game of the season last night.

Yes, the Blues are obviously dealing with injuries, Alex Steen, Pat Maroon, and Jaden Schwartz were all missing from their lines up front last night, and Carl Gunnerson is still out on the Blues backline as he was replaced by Vince Dunn who didn’t play badly. Gunnerson and Schwartz won’t likely play in any of the next 3 games, Maroon could be back tomorrow night, Steen is day-to-day…and I haven’t even yet mentioned that defenseman Robert Bortuzzo has missed 13-consecutive games and his status remains unclear at this juncture.

Their health improving will certainly help this club, and despite the fact that they’ve gone dry in the goal-scoring department of late, the Blues are actually not far from the top-10 in goals per game scoring as they currently sit in 13th place in the league with an average of 3.11 goals per game. They’re 14th in the league in goals against allowing on average 3.17 goals per game, and I think this number will get better as the year moves along. Even one-half of the Blues special teams aren’t bad, they’ve got the 8th best power-play in the league (hard to believe, eh?), but their penalty kill is something altogether different, they’re tied for 23rd in the league in that category and obviously, improvement must be found in that area.

So the raw numbers aren’t exactly awful through their first 19-games. By my count, they’ve lost a total of 7 one-goal games so far this season, but as I noted up the page, there’s still a lot of time to turn this around and I think the Blues are too talented not to play a much crisper brand of hockey as this season moves along.

The question is, who will be the coach?

Whoever it is, hopefully, it will be someone who will ask Colton Parayko why he was smiling and laughing by the Blues bench when they called their time out last night toward the end of the game with the team in the midst of a brutal stretch. What was so funny?

Craig Berube? Are you expecting a major shift and a significant uptick in play now that Craig Berube is in charge for as long as he’ll be in command?

Did Doug Armstrong assemble what he felt was a western conference contender to be put in the hands of an interim head coach for the rest of the season who doesn’t have a lot of head coaching experience to begin with and whose previous head coaching role was a mixed bag – at best?

I can’t see it folks, and I can’t see how the Blues management and ownership can sell Craig Berube to the fan base for the rest of this season. If the Blues were a middle of the pack team, a rebuilding team, and team with low expectations, then perhaps you could sell me Craig Berube for a stretch. But this is a team far too talented to be turned over to a guy that nobody sees as an eventual full-time and successful NHL bench boss, no disrespect to Craig Berube.

Unless Doug Armstrong is on the phone with Ken Hitchcock to come back in an attempt to rescue the season, then there’s only one name that screams out, only one name with the instant credibility to steer the Blues ship back on course, and that name, of course, is Joel Quenneville.

This makes so much sense that shame on the Blues if they don’t make this happen.

At the age of 60, with 3 Stanley Cup’s in his back pocket, with 890 career wins on his ledger, I think its safe to assume that Quenneville wants no part of a rebuilding club to inherit. The Blues certainly don’t fit the profile of a rebuilding club, instead, they’re a team with some very nice pieces, a legit goaltender, and right now they need a fresh voice to shake them out of their funk, and no voice currently available comes equipped with the credibility and legitimacy of Joel Quenneville.

Quenneville certainly doesn’t have to get back to work any time soon as he’s making $6 million this season and the same amount next year.

But a coach always remains a coach and unless the fire for coaching and competing has been extinguished inside of Quenneville, then it says here he’s probably already chomping at the bit to find his next challenge.

The Blues – after a very busy offseason – entered the 2018-19 campaign with high expectations, high expectations not only in the minds of fans but also internally, as the Blues organization set the bar high as well.

Craig Berube is an acceptable stop-gap measure for a game or two, but if the Blues organization is truly serious about not only the rest of this season but serious about finding a way to finally win the elusive Stanley Cup that has always eluded this franchise, then owner Tom Stillman and general manager Doug Armstrong need to do everything within their power to make Joel Quenneville the next full-time head coach of the St. Louis Blues.

WAIT…ST. LOUIS? WHAT’S GOING ON HERE?

By DINO COSTA
November 19, 2018
St. Louis

WHAT?

St. Louis?

GTFOH!

Where are the bright lights?

Where’s the BIG City?

Broadway and midtown?

The West Side Highway?

Saint Louis.

Haven’t we been here before?

Is this a dream?

A nightmare?

Ever been to St. Louis in the summertime?

It gets hot in St.Louis, it gets humid and sultry in St. Louis during the summer months, it can get downright miserable in St. Louis in the summer.

St. Louis doesn’t even have an NFL team for crying out loud. The city lost the NFL not once – but twice!

Now the city is pining for a Major League Soccer club.

Hoo-Ray!

The closest NBA team is located in Indianapolis some 242 miles away.

Go Pacers!

St. Louis has supplanted Detroit as the murder capital of the country.

At least I still have my guns.

St. Louis has an airport more befitting of a 3rd world country.

Thanks, but I’ll drive instead.

At least the Cardinals will be reintroducing those snazzy looking powder blue uniform tops every now and again next season, so that should be nice.

And the Arch still rises majestically to meet the sky down by the banks of the old muddy.

The state of Missouri voted for Trump in 2016 helping to put him into the White House.

If you can’t tell, I’m looking for positives and silver linings.

St. Louis.

Us locals like to refer to it as; ‘The Lou.’

The voice on the other end of the telephone said; “So I hear you’re in New York right now?”

I answered in the affirmative, I was indeed in New York, I had been in New York for 3-weeks and I was awaiting the go-ahead to begin work with an exciting and fairly new sports media company. Conversations were continuing.  I had 2 very good meetings with this companies CEO in addition to a meeting with one of their operating directors and things were looking very good to start with them soon enough. This is what I wanted – badly.

I had a terrific conversation with a young and up and coming media personality by the name of Gregg Sussman who was as complimentary of my work as anyone could be, he even told me his father used to listen to my show religiously while I was at SiriusXM.

The weeks I had spent in New York were also productive in that after 5-years I was able to rekindle a relationship with the man who fired me at SiriusXM, Tim Sabean, who is now with Westwood One in New York,  who has always been a fan of my work, maybe now, more than ever before.

“How soon before you receive word on the New York position”, the voice on the telephone asked me? I said I didn’t know, that my meetings had concluded, that the interest was legitimate, and that the opportunity was very exciting and I was hopeful of getting a green light any day.

“Well let me ask you something…if I offered you a chance to join our radio station right now what would you say?”

What’s that old saying about having one bird in the hand instead of two in the bush?

I asked the man in St. Louis for a few more days to see if the New York deal would materialize — and if it didn’t show any signs of coming together before the end of the year that I would seriously think about taking him up on his offer.

48-hours passed and I had not heard anything further from the decision makers in New York.

HELP!!!!!

I needed work. Money was running low. I have kids, a family to support.

Ever see the movie The Truman Show?  This is how I really feel, like I’m Truman and you’re all in on this, yet you dare not to tell me. Instead, you’ll wait until I get in the boat and run into the wall at the end of the gigantic TV studio.

The next day I phoned Randy Markel, the president and owner and CEO of 590 The Fan in St. Louis and told him I would accept his offer to join his radio station. Again.

Is this the way I had it drawn up? No, but I’m obviously thankful for the opportunity and I certainly plan on making the most of it while justifying the faith placed in me by the people who have welcomed me back to St. Louis.

St. Louis and Dino.

Dino and St. Louis.

From what I’m told, my first day on the air will be Monday, December 3. What time I’ll be on has not yet been determined, but at this point, I could not care less what time I’ll be on or who I’ll be on with, I’m simply thankful that there will be a microphone in front of me and a paycheck to be had. Even if they don’t want me to ever get on the air I’ll gladly just hang out at the station, wash the windows, empty the trash baskets, vacuum the carpets, as long as they pay me every two weeks.

What a trip, what a weird and trying last 5-years it’s been for me, what an odyssey these last few years have been, how did I get to this point?

I’m telling you, this is really the Truman Show come to life, isn’t it?

Let’s see, there was a trip out to Los Angeles to meet with the fine folks at Fox Sports right after I was canned by SXM which went nowhere.

Not good enough for Fox Sports Radio.

Nor TV.

Nor their Online properties.

There was 4, no wait, 6, or was it 7 different incarnations of an Online broadcast with varying degrees of success and or failure. As a side note, Mike Francesa is acutely aware of how difficult it is to generate an Online following, especially if you’re charging people money for the product.

There was a six-week stint in St. Louis with some radio station…I think they call themselves 590 The Fan (Yes, I’m convinced this is The Truman Show).

Questions about ownership caused me to walk away from that role on my own.

There was an unprecedented situation in Portland, where I arrived, spiked ratings for 3-months in afternoon drive, I said something about a domestic terrorist group who had hijacked the city over a weekend, and was fired…SEVENTY-DAYS after I said what I said. This simply does not happen to anyone else but me, you understand? This DOES NOT HAPPEN. That’s why I know I’m really living The Truman Show come to life. Come on, admit it.

For 10-months I did a show in New York City on AM-970 that was a lot of fun – but also cost me a lot of money as well. I kept waiting for Mark Chernoff (WFAN PD) to pick up the telephone but he was always busy doing something else to talk to a hack like me.

And so, as you can see, as you may have already surmised all on your own, I guess that for 5-years I have been in what can be considered to be radio purgatory of sorts.

In the last 5-years, I have also worked a construction job, driven a cab, and was offered a job as a bus driver that I never took. I now wish I’d have taken that bus driving position…perhaps the producers of this show (The Truman Show) have that in the script for next year?

I’ve had much time to think, no shortage of time to think, over the last 5-years.

Much has happened, of course, very little of it was any good.

For many reasons, I cannot get my son’s passing out of my head.

My father passed away back in 2015.

My small children suddenly became bigger children and I never saw that coming.

I’ve gone from the age of 50 to 55 and this has me freaked out.

My doctor said I was borderline diabetic and that if I didn’t change my eating habits I was running the risk of some very bad stuff happening to me.

I have to tell you, none of that scared me in the least. Many a time I asked myself, what difference does it make if I’m dead or alive?

Who would miss me? I mean, besides Bob Raissman of the New York Daily News?

Speaking of them, do they even have a sports section anymore?

DINO!

You’re a radio guy, you’re a talk show host, baby!

Do you still have it?

Of this, I have zero questions. It never goes away, it just goes on hiatus from time to time.

For 5-years, while time and distance has allowed me to reflect on a few things I regret, in these last 5-years, I have never once doubted the fact that so far as getting on the radio and fashioning a show is concerned, I take a back seat to nobody when it comes to entertaining an audience and providing compelling talk radio on a regular and consistent basis. You will find very few people in the industry who would disagree with this notion. Sid Rosenberg would disagree, but who gives a flying fuck about him anyway?

Is it okay for me to think of myself as a more than competent and well-equipped talk radio host who does his show with passion and conviction without someone pointing out that my ego is getting in the way?

Then again, what kind of a talk show host is worth the powder to blow them away if they aren’t their own biggest fans?

It’s all about health though, right?

Back to health…or my own health anyway.

How many times do we hear people make the claim that you are nothing without your health?

HEALTH BE WITH YOU!

My health?

Your health?

The both of us, baby!

Admittedly, the last 5-years has taken a toll on me psychologically – but also – physically as well and I think I already mentioned this a few paragraphs up the page.

The deterioration of my body physically has me most concerned. Sometimes. The last 5-years my blood pressure has spiked to dangerously high levels while my cholesterol count isn’t very good at all.

But I’m not dead yet.

Discouragement? Yes.

Depression? For sure.

A few other things.

Humbled?

Yes.

Regretful?

Of some things, no question.

But none of these things I mention has anything to do with my on-air presentation.

In other words, while I have felt regret for some things over the last 5-years, none of it has anything to do with how I do my radio show.

On the contrary, the opinionated and irreverent components of my shows are what I remain bullish on with no apologies whatsoever.

My on-air projection and presentation have not only worked very effectively, but it has also created value for whatever organizations I have been with through myriad news agencies taking note of my work and then publicizing that work on a pretty consistent basis.

But what about those two words you mentioned up the page, Dino?

Did you mention ‘humbled’ and ‘regretful?’

Yes to both of those, and I’ll talk about it and mention some things as I continue this piece.

As I get set to enter into a new chapter in St. Louis, and in thinking about the previous 5-years, l think it would serve me well to consider just where those two words (humbled/regretful) are most applicable.

It’s been a long road back, and many days I don’t feel like I’ve even taken the first step, so what am I even talking about?

But if there is a coming back from and if there is a road in which a first step may be taken to come back, then at what point did the road begin to become very rough for me?

Well, most of you found me initially at the good ship SiriusXM Radio so I guess I should begin there?

Okay, fine, let us go back before we begin moving forward.

Now, let’s get a few things out of the way before we dive into this, okay, because during the last few years there has been some confusion if not outright inaccurate theories or judgments rendered by some concerning my dispatch by SXM officials, so allow me to set the record straight.

1-In the 5-years I was with SXM, I was never told not to say something, or, to say something. Never was my content censored for even one-second. In other words, for anyone who may think that my very successful run coming to an end at SXM had anything to do with the words that spilled out of my mouth and into the RE-20 microphone I was speaking into, you would be very wrong.

2-The show on SXM was a massive success. In the 5-years I was with SXM, along with my incredible producer, Andrew Caplan, we fashioned and created a show that connected sports fans across the country on a night after night basis. The show had an undeniable buzz, it penetrated across boundaries up into Canada, it possessed a very diverse audience, it featured blown up phone lines, and it did all of this against only one form of competition — and never was that competition another radio program. No, instead, my competition on a nightly basis was something called the NFL. Or on another night it was something called the NBA. Or, the NHL. Many nights my competition was something called Major League Baseball. The success of the show, when measured against these kinds of alternate entertainment options, makes my 5-year run at SXM and the accompanying publicity it generated even more impressive.

3-I talked about creating value for SXM while I was there.  This is beyond dispute. From year 1 through to year 5 the show increased in audience numbers and helped in the way of adding more subscribers each and every year. In addition, take all the times my name was mentioned in newspapers, a national magazine story, a documentary film, appearances on various national television shows, local television shows in NYC, and then tell me how much money SXM would have had to cough up in advertising dollars to get that same exposure? Also, when you consider that nary a nickel was ever spent on promoting my show — and I was working under the umbrella of a much more well-known host — this consistent amount of publicity I received should be even more impressive because it was the show itself, and only the show, that garnered and attracted the attention it received.

4-Chris Russo did not fire me. Steve Torre did not fire me. In fact, nobody at Mad Dog Radio fired me because if you’ll recall, at the time of my ejection I had not been with MDR for almost 3-months. I reported to nobody at MDR, had no contact with anyone at the channel, why would I when I wasn’t working on that channel any longer? I was fired by Tim Sabean who was running the channel I was on at the time (SportsZone).

5-Interpersonal relationships. Other than my on-air feud with Russo, and not getting along with my first producer (because we disagreed on how the show should be broadcast – not because I didn’t like him personally), I had no issues with anyone at the company. I got along with virtually everyone from the time I arrived until the time I left. I tried to compose myself as a decent citizen, tried to show proper respect to everyone, had disagreements with some people, but who doesn’t from time to time? I committed no major violations in case you might be wondering.

6-My firing at SXM had nothing to do with the unfortunate things we see so many other radio or TV broadcasters losing their jobs for:

-I never threatened nor attacked any of my work colleagues.

-I never had a cocaine problem or a drinking issue.

-I never followed a female staffer home on the highway after a company party.

-I never drunkenly walked into someone else’s hotel room without any clothes on.

-I never stole DirecTV’s signal and then bragged about it on the air.

-I never fleeced an offshore booking company out of 40K.

-I never slugged a taxi driver.

-I never photocopied my junk and sent it to company employees.

-I never manipulated ratings and was caught doing so.

-I never ran a Ponzi scheme nor was I ever indicted by the feds.

-I was never cited for any domestic violence issues.

-I was never charged with sodomy.

I never did any of this stuff, nor would I ever, because none of that stuff is contained within my DNA.

Let me be clear about why I was fired at SXM:

I was fired for complaining too much about promotion and visibility for my show.

In other words, I became too much of a pain in the ass at some point with all of the haranguing I did.

I was canned for feeling as though my show deserved better through the work and the results it procured. Period – end of story.

For years I felt that my show had been hitting a ceiling, that the show needed some exposure and visibility elements that would enhance it and grow it even more.

The final straw in the minds of SXM execs came 2-days before I was fired, when I complained again, this time about the show being cited in a book about WFAN Radio, where the author complimented the show and said it was the perfect parameter fit for a radio company like SXM and I spoke about this on the air.

I have something to say about my ‘complaining’ a little further down the page so keep reading.

Regrets?

Here you go:

Although I felt the show at the time was deserving of more attention from my superiors at SXM, I was wrong to so publically address them from time to time on my radio show.

Instead, because the show was so real, so visceral, I took my grievances to the air and in the process of doing so, I alienated some people in big chairs above me. If I had to do it all over again I would not have done this and would have kept my complaints to myself or in-house and off the air. This…is an apology.

Chris Russo. The ‘battles’ between Mr. Russo and myself have been well-documented and for much of the time I was with SXM, we warred with one another pretty regularly.

Now, I cannot speak for Chris Russo, but I will tell anyone who asks me, I have nothing against him, I don’t dislike him, although, I would be dishonest with anyone if I said that a lot of what I felt at the time wasn’t something I genuinely felt, and I have no doubt Chris felt what he did at the time in regard to the many things he said on the air about yours truly.

So what. It’s water over the dam at this juncture, its 5-years in the rear view mirror…and it’s radio, its theater of the mind, pure and simple.

The history of radio is littered with personalities under one roof battling with each other, in fact, many of these kinds of situations are on-going at various stations as I write these words. However, in hindsight, if I could do it over again, I would have attempted to find more common ground with Chris and kept much of the acrimony off the air because it probably would have served the channel better. On the other hand, there are some (and I have heard from many of these people) who loved the bitter back and forth between me and Chris during those days. There is a sense in some people’s minds that it made for great radio. That’s up to the individual listener to determine.

All of the above may be considered another apology.

Humbled:  “To do or say something which shows that one knows one has been wrong, has behaved with too much pride, etc.”

Self-introspection since those long ago days has led me to conclude that my downfall at SiriusXM had to do with one thing more than anything else: Vanity.

VANITY“Excessive pride in or admiration of one’s own appearance or achievements.” 

That is, I had worked in the radio industry for many years prior to being welcomed into the SXM food chain, and never before was I the recipient of the kinds of publicity and attention I received while I was with SXM.

When I tell you it was intoxicating, it was like a drug for me, and like many kinds of addictions, it led to destructive behavior. You would really need to be in my shoes to understand what the attention and the accolades felt like for me.

By the way, if I am the very first in the history of the entertainment industry to have attention affect their decision making then I am sorry even more so.

In summation, I simply did not handle this attention very well at all.

I feel it distorted reality for me in many ways, it made me feel all too invincible, and my ego (already pretty healthy) shifted into overdrive and made me feel impenetrable.

I wanted it all and I wanted it right then and there.

I felt I had outgrown the channel I was on and I wanted my own deal, I wanted and felt I was deserving of being a featured presentation at SiriusXM.

Lessons learned.

Look it, we go through processes, we experience, we learn, we adjust, we recalibrate. This in many ways is the cycle of life in so many situations.

What am I, a fucking sage all of a sudden?

Have I sat in a discussion about all of this shit with the Dalai Lama?

Dino, do you still feel that the show should have been showed more attention?

No question, yes.

However, the ways I went about trying to secure such an objective was flawed and self-defeating.

The above line is another apology.

And now, back to; ‘pain in the ass.’ 

Yes, of course, I was and can be a pain in the ass from time to time, I won’t dispute this.

Then again, please name for me another perceived to be talented or acerbic radio personality who isn’t a pain in the ass from time to time for whatever the reason?

Think Howard Stern can be a pain in the ass?

Don Imus?

Mike Francesa?

Chris Russo?

Michael Savage?

Bob Grant?

Mark Belling?

Howie Carr?

Glenn Beck?

John & Ken?

Bubba The Love Sponge?

Craig Carton?

Mike Trivisonno?

Mike Missenelli?

Clay Travis?

Dan Sileo?

Michael Kay?

Rush Limbaugh?

I’ll stop here because quite honestly, there are at least another 100 name’s or so I could add to this list, if not more.

This is an ego-fueled business that we’re in, and there is no shortage of ego at any radio station in America no matter if that station is a legendary powerhouse signal or a mom and pop operation somewhere in the backwoods of Alaska.

If ‘ego’ is the barometer of how we’re to judge whether or not someone is fit to be on the air, then we may as well close down every radio station in the country right now.

If there is an epitaph to be written for my time and eventual end at SiriusXM Radio it would likely read: “Here lies Dino Costa, fired for being a pain in the ass.”  I could live with this.

Look it, I’ve said the words; ‘I’m sorry’ enough over the last 5-years to fill up an entire book.

I can only apologize so many times, I can only tell those who will listen that I am more than aware of my past mistakes so many times, and in the end, while I’m self-critical of the ways I expressed myself back then, and while I’m more than willing to start at the bottom all over again (which in reality is what I’m doing), I’m also aware that my own personal downfall  thankfully didn’t come with many of the more toxic ingredients that have seen many others lose their own positions.

Being canned for being a pain in the ass beats the shit out of being fired for some more salacious reasons that others have a history with.

You know who I let down more than anyone else?

It wasn’t SXM, it was no specific individual in the radio industry. No, instead, the people I most let down are my wife and our two gorgeous children. For them, I cannot say that I am sorry enough times.

I’ve just wanted another opportunity.

No, I mean a real opportunity, a legit opportunity, an opportunity with people excited about my show and what I bring to the table.

Do you want to call it redemption? Go ahead, I won’t argue it.

Here is what I do know.

I host an entertaining and compelling radio show that is singularly unique in design and in orientation.

THAT’S A FACT JACK!

I possess talents and abilities that can be an asset to any radio organization in a situation and in an environment with people in charge who know how to enhance the value of my brand, who want to exploit it, and who believe in its ability to resonate with an audience, be it local or national, because they’ve seen it in action previously.

I always try to comport myself as a decent citizen and I try my best to be a capable husband and a father to my children.

What more do you want?

The St. Louis situation came out of the blue, it was totally unexpected, but perhaps it arrived at just the right time and this is where I’m supposed to be?

I’m as flawed and as defective as anyone on earth, but I like to consider myself a pretty decent person who tries to make more right choices than wrong ones. Do I fuck up sometimes? Do you?

In advance, I would like to thank those in St. Louis for their belief in me and for this opportunity even though I have absolutely no idea how I wound up back in this place.

So what’s in St. Louis?

The Blues are, and this huge NHL fan since the early 1970’s is more than excited that hockey in The Lou has always been a big deal.

The Cardinals are, and how many baseball towns can rival St. Louis?

It’s gonna be a hoot to walk into Busch Stadium when the Mets come into town wearing my royal blue Mets hat in a sea of Cardinals red-clad patrons.

I guess the opportunity to talk up the NBA, the NFL, college football, and a host of national topics will be at hand.

Perhaps this is a long-term opportunity that will manifest itself?

Maybe its a brief pit-stop on my eventual way back to New York as I had it originally scripted?

We’ll see, I guess.

I’m thankful for this new role, thankful for those who have given me this chance, and I want to do all I can to justify their faith in me for however long I’ll be here.

I’m in the middle of the country but maybe not in the middle of all the action as I was hoping for.

That’s okay?

I’m in St. Louis, Missouri.

Dino In The Lou.

How did this happen?

I’ve told myself not to ask any questions, just go with it, and to make the best of the situation.

I promise I’ll give it my best.

Stay tuned…

THE BRAIN DEAD NFL

By DINO COSTA
November 16, 2018
New York

Let the record reflect that I saw all of this coming 10-years ago and I sounded the alarms as loudly as I could back then, all while being dismissed by so many.

In fact, with all of the changes and negative repercussions as the result of those changes in the sport of football, everything I said starting back in 2009 about what would become of football has, unfortunately, come to fruition.

The continuing ruination of America’s pastime, that being football, continues, and there doesn’t seem to be any signs that would suggest that this will be stopping anytime soon, in fact, I believe we’re still only at the tip of the iceberg.

I’m thankful that a new book is out authored by former NFL player Merrill Hoge where Hoge openly concedes that in his view, the game of football continues to be under attack and a plan has been hatched to destroy the sport. What sane person could disagree?

Hoge’s book (which I have not yet read) is titled; Brainwashed: The Bad Science Behind CTE And The Plot To Destroy Football.

A few things to start:

1-Football has been ruined forever.

2-The NFL will never be the same.

3-The National Football League will never again be the kind of league that made me fall in love with it for so many years.

4-All of this (and more) has absolutely broken my heart.

Right now, if you still watch the NFL – so far as the on-field product is concerned – the continuing changes to the rules, the emphasis on offense, offense, and more offense, the castration of defensive football in all ways, you have been forced to condition yourself to the idea that in its current incarnation, this is as good as it gets. You also realize that as much as you are dissatisfied with the state of affairs within the league, you’re more than cognizant that things will only get worse and that the game will become even more watered down in the years to come.

I shudder whenever I come to the realization that of the 1696 current players on active NFL rosters right now, that 1526 of them will at some point die horrible deaths attributable to the dreaded Chronic traumatic encephalopathy, also known as CTE. The 1526 players who will be afflicted with this deadly disease of the brain accounts for 90% of all NFL players on current rosters across the league’s 32 franchises.

It is truly mind-blowing to consider, that this coming Sunday, players across the league will again strap on shoulder pads and put on helmets knowing that the vast majority of them will live utterly debilitating lives shortly after their careers have been completed.

Of course, I didn’t come up with this grim prognosis or these startling numbers on my own, no, instead, this is the future of many NFL players as brought to us by football boogeyman Bennet Omalu, a coroner, who has gone on to become a very wealthy man by becoming the Johnny Appleseed of the CTE scare over the last several years. Omalu has stated that it is his belief that 90% of all active players in the National Football League have CTE.

NINETY (90) percent.

Following this crazed Dr. Omalu since the beginning when his name became somewhat synonymous with football, and in reading as much as I could on the subject over the years, and being aware of the devastating effects that Omalu’s conclusions have had on this once great game, I’ve come to a few cessations of my own.

Namely, that I remain convinced that football and CTE have far less to do with one another than the good doctor would have us believe. Now, I’m obviously not a doctor myself and I’ll never pretend to be one, but I believe that Mr. Omalu is not only recklessly and irresponsibly wrong concerning his theories about football and CTE – but in addition – I believe that CTE is more hereditary than anything else and that millions of people around the globe have had some form of CTE in their brains at the time of their passing, yet, they were never diagnosed with the disease because there was no reason to look for it during autopsies that were performed after their deaths.

I’ll go so far as to make the claim that I might have some form of CTE in my brain right now. You, the reader of this piece, you might have some form as CTE in your brains as well, and when we die, like millions who died before us who were never diagnosed, we might very well go to our final resting place unaware that we had the disease, however, it never manifested itself to the degrees of some who have been diagnosed.

Of course, and I have made this assertion hundreds of times over the years on my radio shows, we only hear about the few who have been diagnosed with CTE — and the connection is then made that football was the culprit.

Thus, many have become brainwashed into believing that in terms of football players, the causes of CTE have everything to do with playing the sport – and if only the players who have been diagnosed with the disease after they passed away had never trotted out onto a playing field, that never playing the sport would have prevented them from ever getting the disease in the first place. In a word, and please pardon my French, I consider this to be bullshit.

Now understand, I’m not making the claim that CTE can’t be acquired from playing contact sports, football, hockey, boxing, etc, but what I am saying is that I believe it is grossly exaggerated, and the question begs to be asked: how do we account for those who have this disease of the brain and many others like it who have never taken part in sports at all?

Let’s also make another important point because it bears repeating even though the headlines and the hype surrounding this topic refuse to acknowledge it. For as many players who have died and been diagnosed with CTE, the inarguable fact remains that of all the players who have suited up over the years since the league started back in 1920, that those who had an appreciable career in the league (lets say 4-years), the overwhelming majority of those players not only were never diagnosed with CTE but in addition, the well majority of those players went on to live long and healthy lives after their playing careers were finished.

Bottom line? Despite the screaming headlines and the scare tactics that have become so commonplace over the last few years, despite Dr. Omalu’s grossly inaccurate conclusions over the years, the facts suggest that only a microscopic amount of football players over the last almost 100-years have died as the result of this dreadful affliction that we know of.

Hundreds of thousands of people all around the world die of dementia and other related brain diseases each and every year, were all of those people NFL players? How many of those people never put on a football helmet a single time in their lives, yet,  were still found to have some sort of CTE in their brains?

I’ll make the additional argument of saying that even if a former player was diagnosed with CTE after their death it doesn’t necessarily mean that that player died of the disease specifically. Take as one example, Frank Gifford. Gifford played 12-years in the NFL, after that, Gifford found even more fame and a lot more fortune in his post-career as a broadcaster on Monday Night Football for 27-years and as a pitchman for various companies and their products. Gifford passed away at the age of 84 back in 2015. Frank Gifford lived a perfectly healthy and prosperous life for decades after his playing career ended, and upon his passing, his family agreed to let his brain be tested for CTE. Low and behold, traces of CTE were found in Gifford’s brain, but is that what killed Frank Gifford? No, Gifford died of what was described as natural causes, or, to put it another way, Frank Gifford passed away as the result of old age.

If CTE and football are so intertwined and as dramatic as the headlines would have us believe, then how do we account for the lives of some of the hardest-hitting and fiercest players in the history of the league who either died without any symptoms or are still alive and doing more than well these days?

Mike Ditka was not only the Bears head coach at one time, but he was also a bear of a football player. As a tight end, Ditka would catch passes and actually run straight at defenders attempting to tackle him unleashing hits to the very hitters looking to take him down. Has anyone seen Mike Ditka lately? The last time I saw Ditka he was talking about football on ESPN and he looked and sounded like a guy with all of his mental faculties, looked like a guy who could play 18-holes of golf most days and a guy who could happily bounce his grandchildren on his knees without any problems. Mike Ditka is currently 79-years old. If Ditka died tomorrow and had his brain scanned for CTE, if the test came back positive, if the test showed traces of CTE in Ditka’s brain, is there anyone who would be willing to say that CTE was the cause of Mike Ditka’s passing?

The late Deacon Jones was one of the NFL’s most savage like players during his years in the league. Jones lived to age 74 before dying of lung cancer — not CTE.

Dick Butkus, anyone? How many concussions do you think Butkus suffered during his legendary playing career? Right now Dick Butkus is 75-years old and with the way Butkus played the game one would imagine that he should have been dead years ago…from dementia or CTE, right?

Dick ‘Night Train’ Lane?

Joe Greene?

Conrad Dobler?

Ronnie Lott?

John Lynch?

Jack Lambert/Ham?

Lawrence Taylor?

Art Shell?

Jim Otto?

Troy Polamula?

Ray Lewis?

I could go on and on with hundreds if not thousands of players who bulldozed their way through football careers, guys who have gone on to live perfectly capable lives after football who have shown no signs of brain diseases of any kind at all.

As my very good friend, author Daniel J. Flynn points out in his must-read book; The War On Football, NFL players outlive the general population, in addition, NFL players rates of suicide are below the numbers of those in the general population. The alarmist ‘reporting’ that has been done since this became a hot-button topic is both misleading and beyond negligent in my opinion.

If 90% of all active NFL players have CTE right now, playing the game during an era where the game has never been safer and where equipment has never been better, then what do we say about players who played the game during a time when it was far more dangerous and the equipment was far less protective than it is today?

During the decade of the 1960’s and 1970’s, should we conclude that perhaps 98.7% of all players had CTE? If so, can someone please get back to me with the death records of those who played during that time and tell me how many died from brain injuries or brain diseases of some kind? The numbers must be truly staggering, right? And if we go back even farther to the decades of the 1940’s and 1950’s, then I guess we should all agree that 100% of all players during those times had to have CTE or some other kind of brain diseases, right?

Something that is overlooked in this area is what I’ll refer to as; susceptibilities. Because many within the medical community have found no direct correlation between playing football and developing CTE (and as I noted up the page, I myself, could very well have traces of the disease in my brain), the fact is that for whatever the reason, family history, hereditary considerations, and a host of other things we might consider, I just might be more susceptible to CTE than you are and vice versa. I never played a single down of football on the NFL level, unlike, for instance, someone like Mel Blount. Blount (now 70-years old), was one of the NFL’s biggest hitters during his day and played a total of 14-years for the Steelers. Maybe Dino Costa winds up with CTE someday while Mel Blount lives to the age of 88 and never had a foggy day in his life after he hung up his helmet. Susceptibilities.

Is it such a stretch to consider the possibility that there are people who have some form of CTE yet never show any signs of the debilitating effects of the disease throughout their lives? I don’t know for sure, I’m merely asking the question.

Then there is this to consider. Not all CTE diagnoses are the same. To what degree, for example, did the aforementioned Frank Gifford have traces of CTE found in his brain after he died? To the best of my knowledge, there are 4-stages of CTE.  Stages 1 through 4, with 1 & 2 being the mildest, and, of course, stages 3 and 4 representing the highest levels. Thus, not all CTE is the same much like not all burn victims are the same. A burn on my index finger while lighting a stove is a far cry from someone suffering from 3rd or 4th-degree burns.

Also, while studies have been done on various NFL players the last few years, how do we know what possible levels of CTE could be found in the brains of people in the general population unless a study is conducted in that area as well?

Obviously many unanswered questions remain in the areas of brain injuries, concussions, CTE, dementia, and a host of other related maladies related to these areas. Where one group of medical professionals will state their beliefs unequivocally, another group of professionals will disagree.

Whether or not I agree with one group versus another is probably less important than this though, and that is; over the last 10-years through assumptive conclusions the sport of football has been sucked dry of its fun, its former majesty, and its ability to make Sunday’s a glorious day with riveting games being played the way the sport was always intended to be played.

THE NETS GO BIG ON BIGGIE

(Prelude To A Fairytale)

By DINO COSTA
November 14, 2018
New York

Amazing when we stop and consider the people who are honored, memorialized, and lionized in these freaky and often confusing times we live in.

The world of sports seems immune from the world of reality in many instances, we see this all the time.

Here in New York, the Nets are set to lower the bar with the introduction of their new ‘City Edition’ uniforms this coming Saturday night at Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn when they play host to the Los Angeles Clippers. The irony of introducing these uniforms against this opponent (the Clippers) isn’t lost on me.

When it comes to the NBA, this is a league that has introduced so many new uniform designs for every team in the league over the last few seasons that sometimes it can be difficult to immediately identify the teams that are playing at first blush.

But back to the Nets and their latest rollout of a new uniform design.

The Nets ‘City Edition’ uniform is in ‘honor’ and inspired by the memory of a deceased rapper by the name of Christopher Wallace, otherwise known by his stage name; The Notorious B.I.G.

Now I get the Nets wanting to identify and connect with the ‘Brooklyn Vibe’ and all, ‘Biggie’ as he was also known, hails from the borough, but in this case, the inspiration behind the uniform design, which features something known as ‘Coogi print’ adorning the sides of the jersey and shorts, is a little perplexing to me.

While ‘Biggie’ might be one of the best-known rappers ever to come out of Brooklyn, he’s also one of the most criminally-oriented individuals to come out of the area as well.

Most know that I’m a Nets fan and a person who goes back with this franchise to its days as a member of the ABA, so while I want to see this franchise reach new heights and get better on the court (and that’s happening) it pains me to also see this organization paying homage to an entertainer who I’ll bet good money would not get within 100 yards of the upper east side apartment of Nets CEO Brett Yormark if Mr. Wallace was still alive.

I also find it humorous to listen to various Nets television personnel talking about what their favorite Biggie song is during Nets telecasts on the YES Network. Most everyone on the Nets TV side of things points to the song ‘Juicy’, as their favorite Biggie melody.

This has me wondering if people like the very accomplished play-by-play voice of the Nets, Ian Eagle, rides to the Barclay’s Center while listening to and singing along to the lyrics of his favorite Biggie diddy? Could you see Ian Eagle rolling down the windows of his car riding up Atlantic Avenue and chiming along to the tune and singing; “Fuck all you hoes, get a grip motherfucker?”

Perhaps Nets color analyst Sarah Kustock or Nets sideline reporter Michael Grady (who is excellent by the way) walk into the Nets arena rapping along to Biggie’s 1994 hit; ‘Gimme The Loot’? How long do you think Kustock and Grady would have jobs if they were heard singing; “Yeah, mothafuckas better know, I’m a bad bad bad.” Or, in another verse of the same song they were caught singing;  “No need for that, just grab the fucking gat”, or; “Ni–a you ain’t got to explain shit?” Didn’t the entire NBA community react with shock and moral outrage when it was revealed that former Clippers owner Donald Sterling spoke in similar if not exact tones before taking away his team?

Look it now, I don’t like writing some of these lyrics that Biggie wrote never mind speaking them.

I guess that in the name of keeping it real at the Barclay’s Center these kinds of words are overlooked and explained away as the methods of a ‘lyrical genius’. But as we have moved into this new age of having the word police out there looking to dismember people for talking in such vulgar ways, Biggie’s words in the songs he used to sing are looked at in a completely different light. I gather that in the name of selective convenience what is held against one person in one situation is explained away for someone else in another.

Even if the Nets wanted to look beyond the words of Biggie Smalls (and they have obviously done so), can they reasonably explain away his criminal conduct exhibited consistently throughout his life?

The Nets newest uniform was inspired by an individual who:

-Was arrested in 1989 for carrying a loaded and unregistered firearm and was sentenced to 5-years probation.

-In 1990 he was arrested for violation of that probation.

-In 1991 he was arrested for dealing crack cocaine and spent 9-months in prison.

-In 1996 Biggies was arrested outside a Manhattan nightclub for chasing and threatening to kill 2 fans who were seeking an autograph. He pleaded guilty to second-degree harassment and was sentenced to perform 10-hours of community service.

-Also in 1996 Biggie was arrested at his home in New Jersey for drug and weapons possession.

-In 1997 Biggie was ordered to pay someone $41,000 following an incident involving a friend of a concert promoter who claimed that Wallace and a friend beat him up. He was also charged with robbery during the incident although the charges for this violation were later dropped.

Where have you gone to, Joe DiMaggio?

Take any other individual not named Biggie Smalls, assign the same exact rap sheet to that individual, and then tell me if the Brooklyn Nets would be inspired to do anything at all with such person with the exception of praying that such a person steer clear of their arena at all times.

Inconvenient truths abound throughout society these days as people and organizations are all too willing to look the other way depending on who that person is and what they did for a living.

While I begrudge nobody for their fandom of the late Mr. Wallace, the fact is that many people will celebrate the Nets decision to honor this fallen rapper and many will buy this new uniform while conveniently forgetting or not wishing to know who the real Biggie Smalls was beyond being a well-known rap star.

Juicy, anyone?

FORGET MANNY, BRYCE, BRING NOLAN ARENADO TO METS

By DINO COSTA
November 5, 2018
New York, New York

Okay, Brodie my friend.

Your administration is now officially on the clock.

The Mets are going to win now and the Mets are going to win in the future, your words, and music to any Mets fans ears, of course.

While the very talented New York Post baseball columnist Joel Sherman recently made a compelling argument as to why the Mets should be in pursuit of free-agent Manny Machado, I’m here to suggest that it isn’t Machado the Mets should be setting their sights on, nor is it talented outfielder Bryce Harper either.

In the next few weeks ahead, the Colorado Rockies should have a clearer indication of what their all-world third-baseman, Nolan Arenado, wants to do with the next few years of his professional baseball life.

Arenado will either be open to a long-term multi-million dollar deal with the Rockies or, for reasons that are his own, he’ll inform the Rockies that he wishes to play someplace else. If it’ someplace else then the Mets ought to jump right in and make the Rockies an offer they cannot refuse to land a player that can become the face of the franchise for the next 10-years ahead — and the fit is perfect on every level you may wish to consider.

Arenado is exactly the kind of player the Mets should be seeking to move heaven and earth to acquire.

He represents a crucial position of immediate need for the Mets, he’s just now entering the prime of his incredible career, he’s a tremendous leader with an infectious personality and a drive to win that rubs off on others, and continuing his hall of fame career in a city like New York should be something very appetizing to him.

Unlike Manny Machado, Arendo is driven to win, hustles constantly, takes losing personally, is willing to get in teammates face, and would be a significant tone-setter for a Mets franchise dying for someone who would immediately inject a professional aura and a legitimacy the club is currently lacking.

In the past, the Mets have been impacted by a few other significant acquisitions that have helped to re-direct the course of the franchise. We saw this when they made the in-season deal for Keith Hernandez back in 1983. We saw this when they traded for Mike Piazza and ended up signing him to a long-term deal after the 1998 season. Now an opportunity could be had if they’re able to offer the Rockies a package that lands the best third baseman I’ve seen since I’ve been watching the game over the last 5-decades.

Arenado affects the game on both sides of the ball. With the bat, Arenado has become a monster player, particularly over the last 4-years where he’s hammered 158 home runs since 2015, and if you’re worried that Arenado is a creature of having the luxury of playing 81 games in the thin air of Denver, of his 186 career home runs, 108 of those have been hit at Coors Field while 78 of them have come out on the road. Last season, Arenado slugged 23 home runs at home but also nailed 15 of them at visiting ballparks. The season before that (2017) Arenado clubbed 37 home runs, 19 of them at home and 18 of them on the road.

Defensively there may not be a better infielder in the game. Since Arenado came up to the big league’s in 2013 he’s made the gold glove his personal domain winning it every year – including this past year. Arenado’s glove work at third base has to be seen on an everyday basis to be truly appreciated. I cannot tell you how many times over the last few years I have had to pick my jaw up off the floor after yet another Arenado gem with the glove. Every time I think I’ve seen the best defensive play by a third baseman I can see, Arenado goes and shocks me one more time with a stunning defensive sequence. Keith Hernandez was the best defensive first baseman I’ve ever witnessed, and Arenado is a better defender at third than Hernandez was for all those years at the other infield corner.

So, what would it take to land this generational talent who is on a fast track to Cooperstown? In two words: A LOT.

Colorado will always be looking for pitching, although to be fair, the Rockies have done an outstanding job the last few years of drafting and developing their own pitchers who have thrown very well at Coors Field. But as the saying goes, you can never have enough pitching.

I would offer Colorado a package something along these lines:

To the Mets: Noland Arenado.

To the Rockies: Zack Wheeler, David Peterson, Peter Alonso, Ali Sanchez, and Jay Bruce.

Colorado needs a first baseman in the worst way, and Alonso, particularly with his strong showing in the AZ Fall League, should be a player Colorado likes and can see blasting home run after home run, especially at Coors Field. Getting Alonso would allow the Rockies to shift Ryan MacMahon over to his natural position of third base replacing Arenado. Wheeler, finally coming into his own, gives the Rockies one of the best young right-handers in the game and he slots nicely into their current rotation. Peterson is actually a Colorado kid, he has a huge upside, he’s a left-hander, all things the Rockies should like. Carlos Gonzales won’t be back next season in Colorado and neither will Gerardo Parra. Jay Bruce takes over right field and provides the Rockies with better production in 2019 than Cargo did last year – or the Rockies could spin Bruce off to another team addressing another area of need for them. Ali Sanchez is a few years away, and Colorado doesn’t have any high-ceiling catchers in their system currently.

Look it, I hate the idea of including Wheeler in this trade because I truly feel he’s going to be an all-star caliber pitcher in the years to come, but if it meant getting Arenado, I’d pull the trigger. I like that the Mets have some depth with some other pitchers in their system nearly ready to ascend to the big league’s and I believe they can withstand the loss of Wheeler. Then again, if the Rockies want Steven Matz instead, I’ll substitute him for Wheeler in a nanosecond.

And my package isn’t the only one I’d consider or the Mets should consider either. The Mets have other players in their system, a combination in other ways that might entice the Rockies to bite on a potential swap for Arenado.

Nolan Arenado is a game-changer for the Mets or any team fortunate enough to acquire him. As I alluded to up the page, the potential acquisition of a player of Arenado’s stature for the Mets would change the entire feel of their organization in multiple ways.

So, Mr. Brodie, if the Rockies might be the recipient of some bad news, and if Arenado makes it clear he has no intention of signing a long-term deal in the Rocky Mountains, then it behooves you to get on the phone with Rockies GM Jeff Bridich, and bring Nolan Arenado to The Ballpark In Queens.

 

THOUGHTS & VIEWS ON A FRIDAY

By DINO COSTA
November 2, 2018
New York, New York

Local talk radio, or, in my case, local sports radio, can be a pleasant way to spend a few hours on the radio.

This is probably true when you’re on the air in any town or city.

Talking the local landscape can be invigorating and interesting depending on the skill level of the individual behind the microphone.

For sure, the overall scope of content is much more narrow and more repetitive than if you are talking issues and items on a national scale, but then again, there is something to be said for the ability to tap into a passionate base of listeners who are so singularly consumed with their individual teams and rooting interests on that local level.

Having fashioned shows on both the local and national level during my career I’m sometimes asked which of the two orientations I enjoy more, and in fact, I sometimes will ask myself this same question from time to time.

The answer for me is; it depends on the day and it depends on the news cycle.

Both formats can lend themselves to compelling on-air segments – and for a talk show host – I guess it can depend on where their own passions can be found.  Is the articulation of sports with issues almost exclusive to a local level enough to satisfy a host who is content to stay within the confining parameters of news, information, and commentary dispatched to a local listening audience not necessarily attuned to topics outside their own geographic area – will this allow that host enough opportunities to create thoughtful and engaging content on a regular and consistent basis?

Certainly, when doing talk radio on a national level it allows the host many advantages that a local host isn’t necessarily in possession of, namely, the opportunities to spread out and to opine on myriad topical points of interest to an audience not nearly as interested in local content as those who prefer to listen to locally geared shows.

I’m of the opinion that there are talk show hosts who are better suited to the areas of local talk content who should never even think about doing a national show – and on the flip side – hosts who are naturally inclined to deliver a better national sports radio vehicle while being limited in their ability to resonate on the local level.

Then, of course, there is the rarity. The individual who may seamlessly rotate between the two worlds with the capacity to deliver on both levels successfully.

For me, in the end, if I had to choose one over the other I guess I would go with…stay tuned.

Speaking of local news, if I may be permitted to add a few more thoughts to the Mets situation what with their most recent announcement of naming an ex-agent to the post of general manager.

I think some people may be confused with the story I posted here on the website a few days ago. It’s not that I’m not willing to give Brodie Van Wagenen a chance, I mean, as a Mets fan, what other choice do we have?

Along with the thoughts I have already written about the Van Wagenen hire, I guess another thought will be the following; did the Mets hire the best person available for the position?  In my opinion, if you answer yes to such a question you are one of two people:

1-A Mets fan who never sees or thinks any evil with your favorite ballclub.

2-Jeff Wilpon’s relative.

Was this hire one that brought in the person with the most credentials, the person most immediately equipped to run a baseball operations department in the biggest city in America, or, was this a hire that made Jeff Wilpon feel more comfortable than any other candidate who may have been under consideration?

So in the end, I implore any Mets fan to ask themselves this simple question: Did your ownership go out and hire the best and most capable baseball person possible to make the franchise a consistent winner, or did ownership settle on a person they feel most comfortable with who will allow ownership to keep their hands very close to the cookie jar?

I had lunch yesterday with a prominent individual very close to both New York baseball teams who told me point blank that Jeff Wilpon hired his golfing buddy to be the Mets next GM.

Perhaps this is true, but one thing I am absolutely sure of is that the Mets did not hire the most qualified and capable candidate available for the position.

I maintain that the press conference to introduce Van Wagenen was an utter mess. Both Jeff Wilpon and Van Wagenen were all over the place with their comments and there was never a clear vision articulated. The presentation reeked of amateur-hour, absent was any semblance of a professional presentation with specifics, with a plan, with direction.

But give Brodie Van Wagenen a chance? Sure, what other alternative is there now that he has the job?

Looking forward to heading over to West Point tomorrow afternoon for the Army-Air Force game at Michie Stadium.

With a victory, Army will retain the Commander In Chief trophy for a second consecutive year.

It is truly amazing the job that Army head coach Jeff Monken has done over the last few years in reinvigorating an Army program that had lost every ounce of life prior to his arrival back in 2014. Through dogged recruiting efforts by Monken and his staff, the Black Knights have once again become an exciting football product worthy of the attention they’ve been in receipt of the last few years.

Army has a chance to not only keep the CIC Trophy with a win tomorrow – but in addition – they have an opportunity to beat Navy in a few weeks for a second consecutive year, and they’ll most likely play in a bowl game for the third year in a row, something no other Army program has ever done previously.

Army came close last year to finishing in the Top-25, so don’t be surprised if they win out the rest of the way this season if they don’t find themselves in that lofty position at season’s close.

The Red Sox were baseball’s best team this season, however, lost in their ride to becoming 2018 world champions is that Boston was able to accomplish this with one of the most inconsistent bullpens in recent memory for a championship ballclub.

There have now been 19 world series played this century and the American League has a 10-9 advantage over the National League. Interestingly, the Red Sox have won 4 of those 10 titles for the AL while the Giants have won 3 of the 9 titles the National League has garnered. Of course, not a single team has repeated since the Yankees were able to do so while in the midst of winning three straight titles from 1998-2000.

It was sad to see mob rule win the day down in College Park, Maryland the other day. After two investigations that cleared him of any negligence or wrong-doing, Maryland fired their football coach, DJ Durkin, this after reinstating him following said investigations.

One of Durkin’s players, Jordan McNair, tragically died this past summer running wind sprints. As tragic and as unfortunate as this was it wasn’t something unprecedented, and placing the full blame of something like that at the feet of the head coach is just wrong in my opinion.

Once Durkin was cleared by two separate investigations he was given his job back, but unfortunately for him, the pitchfork-wielding crowd raised their voices and the university crumbled immediately. Such is life these days. No matter that Durkin was found not responsible for the player’s tragic death, for a long time now we have been living in a culture where people’s feelings matter more and so Durkin became more than expendable.

While ultimately any coach is responsible for their program from top to bottom, this appears to be a situation where a rare, albeit, not unprecedented situation occurred where a young man, unfortunately, lost his life while in the midst of training.

On August 1, 2001, the Minnesota Vikings lost offensive lineman Kory Stringer in a very similar way. The Vikings head coach at the time, Dennis Green, was not fired.

This past July 24, University of Maine football player Darius Minor, collapsed and died during training. These are horrible things that sometimes happen, but happen they do, and often times it is not specifically anyone’s fault that these things occur. At the time Minor passed away on the football field this past summer, his coach was Joe Harasymiak. Today, the head football coach at Maine is still, Joe Harasymiak.

Despite some reviews I’ve read that the movie is a train wreck, I’m still going out tonight to see the movie on the life and times of former Queen singer, Freddie Mercury. I’m hoping for the best, although if you have read anything about this movie, you’ve seen that it was afflicted with turmoil and constant changes almost from the outset.

Politics and sports, sports and politics, you know how this stuff works.

On Bill Simmons website (The Ringer) there is a current story by a writer named Bryan Curtis who wrote a story with the headline: Are NBA Players Political Enough? Just what the NBA and sports needs, right? Curtis mentions LeBron James and a few others in his story and the basic premise of the piece is if NBA players are doing enough politically or speaking out enough?

Of course, this piece, like the majority of pieces like this, is only interested in athletes being political if it fits within the narrative the writer themselves approves of.  Issues and items important within the social and political construct of the writer’s world that mirror a specific athlete’s views are more than kosher.

On the flip side, if there are athletes in the world of sports who have the audacity to express their views that run contrary to what is socially acceptable in the authors mind, then that author will of course, admonish and castigate said athlete for having the temerity to voice their thoughts within the sports ecosystem, thereby claiming that such an athlete is making the world of sports less than what it should be.

Bottom line?  If you espouse a liberal social and political view speak up. If you advance a conservative social and political view…kindly shut the fuck up.

THINKING BELICHICK CLEVELAND 2.0

By DINO COSTA
November 1, 2018
New York, New York

I’ll admit right off the top that the chances of his happening are probably less than good, however, it doesn’t prevent me from hoping it happens and listing a few reasons why it should happen.

Bill Belichick is the greatest head coach in modern NFL history, of this there can be no dispute.

His rise to the top of the food chain of NFL head coaches mirrors the remarkable rise of the New England Patriots becoming the signature franchise in the NFL during this century.

As we all know, Belichick was deemed a failure in his first head coaching role in Cleveland from 1991 through the 1995 season. Many felt that Belichick was beyond his depth as a head coach and that his ceiling was that of a very good defensive coordinator.

Then came the one day hire as the Jets head coach followed by a messy divorce that saw Belichick land in New England with a star-crossed franchise that for years couldn’t help but to always find the banana peel in the room to slip on.

Since then, and with an ever-changing cast of characters sans the quarterback position, the Patriots have become an NFL dynasty that has outdistanced all comers since winning their first Super Bowl in 2001 while also winning 4 more big games and appearing in a total of 6 title games since Belichick took up residence in Foxboro.

But times seem to be changing in New England, Tom Brady is close to winding down an illustrious career, and there have been hints that Brady and Belichick might be tiring of each other and that Brady wouldn’t shed any tears if Belichick were to leave soon.

Meanwhile, in Cleveland, as you all know, the Browns just canned their head coach Hue Jackson, and once again Browns owner Jimmy Haslem is looking for his next head football coach.

If I’m Haslem, I’m on the phone already with Patriots owner Robert Kraft inquiring about the possibility of what it might take to make Bill Belichick the next head coach of the Browns following this season.

The Browns will be linked with an innumerable number of names for the position, and among them, Lincoln Riley, who of course was Baker Mayfield’s coach at Oklahoma, is certain to draw Cleveland’s attention – and he should.

But what if Riley isn’t ready to jump out of Norman yet, isn’t quite ready to do all he thinks he can do in the college game, and at the tender age of 35 wants to take his time before considering a jump up to the next level? To say nothing of the fact that the NFL is littered with examples of college head coaches who don’t make the same kind of impact in the pro ranks as they did coaching young amateurs.

Enter the possibility of Bill Belichick as the Browns head coach following this season.

Think of the juicy storylines that would accompany Belichick coming back to Cleveland in my scenario.

The one time failed Browns coach returning to the city where his reputation and credibility was damaged and now returning and viewed as a savior.

The opportunity to come back to Cleveland with a fresh start and with a quarterback already in place in Baker Mayfield that he can build around for the next several years.

The chance to do something that no other NFL head coach has ever done before, winning Super Bowl titles with two different NFL franchises.

The ability for Belichick to reinvigorate himself in a new environment in a football crazy city thirsting for a winner.

For the Browns, an organization in desperate need of credibility, is there another head coach who can immediately inject legitimacy into their operation the way that Belichick could?

However, as much as I’d love to see this happen, and maybe even for Browns fans themselves who would be keen on such an idea, there are some questions and hurdles to think about.

Namely, would the Browns want to explore this and how much would it cost them to bring such an idea to fruition, as well as whether or not Belichick would be interested in such a plan, pivoting to a new franchise and leaving New England for a fresh start, and  would he like to inherit a blank slate in Cleveland?

Could he work for an owner like Jimmy Haslem? All of these things would need answers.

In addition, to the best of my knowledge, Belichick and current Browns general manager John Dorsey have never worked with one another. Would they be able to mesh? Would Dorsey welcome an opportunity to work with Belichick, and would Belichick want to work with Dorsey?

Belichick is the singular kingpin of football operations in New England and has been ever since he walked in the door there, would Belichick want to partner with another football executive at this juncture, does he have the ability to co-exist with someone else on football matters, player acquisition issues, running the draft, coordinating an organizational philosophy?

On the flip side of the equation, perhaps at this point in his long coaching career, Belichick would welcome someone else working in tandem with him, taking some of the load off of his shoulders and being agreeable to finding the best route to success with some help from someone like John Dorsey.

The Patriots just might be ready to move on from Belichick when you think about it. It has been believed that Josh McDaniels has been given assurances that he will succeed Belichick as the Patriots coach when Belichick’s tenure has run its course, and perhaps depending on what happens as this current season plays out, New England and Belichick might be ready to look at different options.

What would it cost? Who knows. Certainly, you would have to think that the Patriots hold the upper hand in any talks involving a trade for their head coach if they were willing to consider a scenario where they would be willing to trade him for assets. But what kind of assets — and how many?

The Browns have their own number one pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, and as a starting point, you would have to think that that pick would most assuredly need to be sacrificed in a situation where they traded for Belichick.

The Browns will finish this season with another losing record and depending on how many losses they wind up with, the Browns number one pick next year could be anywhere from the number 1 pick in the draft, to, perhaps at worst, the number 3 or 4 pick in the draft.

Let me ask you this –if you’re a Browns fan and the cost to snatch Belichick out of New England was your teams first pick in next year’s draft would you do it?

How about this trade proposal:

Cleveland sends their number one pick in the 2019 draft to the Patriots for Bill Belichick and the Patriots number 2 pick in the 2019 draft.

So, Cleveland gets Belichick, surrenders their first pick next year, but adds another second-round selection, while the Patriots trade their second round pick next year but wind up with two first round picks, sending Belichick to the Browns and installing Josh McDaniels as their new head coach which would probably bring a smile to the face of Tom Brady as he plays out the final years of his career with a new coach who he has a good rapport with.

Another thing to consider when it comes to Belichick is this; what else can he do with the Patriots that he hasn’t already done?

Belichick, next year at the age of 67, under my hypothetical, could begin the challenge of turning the Browns around, and could cap off his incredible career with an opportunity to have his name revered in two NFL outposts before all is said and done.

Phil Jackson did it in the NBA, as did Pat Riley, and, if you want to include Alex Hannum, who did it in the stone ages of NBA history, these are the coaches who have won world titles with two different franchises.

Tommy Gordon did it the NHL with two different clubs, and Scotty Bowman won the Stanley Cup with three different franchises.

Tony LaRussa and Sparky Anderson are the only two managers to turn the trick in baseball by winning World championships with two different clubs…but in the NFL it has never happened.

Let’s give it a chance, let’s bring Bill Belichick back to Cleveland, history just might be made.

THE BRO SHOW IS UNDERWAY

By DINO COSTA
October 31, 2018
New York, New York

So far as first impressions are concerned, yesterday’s introduction of Brodie Van Wagenen as the Mets new general manager was a complete disaster if you ask me.

Of course, I wrote a column last week that endorsed the hiring of Tampa Bay baseball executive Chaim Bloom, and my opinion that he should have gotten the job has not changed. However, I was open-minded heading into yesterday’s press conference and found myself fascinated at what Van Wagenen would say when he was introduced.

Beyond some slogans and platitudes, Van Wagenen didn’t really say that much at all, however, if you’re a Mets fan seeking someone who sounded more like Tony Robbins than a baseball executive with a plan then Van Wagenen might be your guy.

Van Wagenen was introduced by Jeff Wilpon, who once again showed that he should never be allowed near an open microphone because Wilpon is a cringe-inducing public speaker who inspires not confidence, but rather, confusion, and statements backed up by absolutely nothing in the way of details.

For instance, Wilpon noted that during the interview process Van Wagenen talked about so many ‘bright ideas’ that Van Wagenen would bring to the team. However, if there were so many of these ideas that Wilpon spoke about he never bothered to mention a single one of them. Wilpon also stated that the Mets considered about 40 candidates for the position, but that Van Wagenen was the front-runner from the start which makes me believe that he was a shoe-in all along — and that the overall process of selecting a new general manager was more of a farce than anything else.

For his part, Van Wagenen said a few things when he addressed reporters, but like Wilpon, there was nary a mention of any concrete plan of action, no specifics beyond his words about how the Mets were going to “win now and win in the future”, and nothing that could be considered credible to any objective individual who was watching or listening. Like Wilpon before him, Van Wagenen never once talked about so many of the great ideas that apparently won him the job.

Now, let me also add that while Van Wagenen has absolutely no credentials and was clearly the least equipped and most undeserving individual considered by the Mets to become their next GM, that this could work, although, it is likely that it won’t.  Then again, I come back to the question of; why make it harder than it has to be?

Here is an organization that most often finds itself rudderless as far as leadership and accountability is concerned, here is an organization that lacks credibility and has found itself distrusted by its fan base for years and years, and here is a franchise that refuses to let go of the steering wheel while insisting that they know best when clearly the results have shown the exact opposite.

Here is a COO in Jeff Wilpon, who should have gone into this process on finding new front office leadership for his club by insisting that the Mets locate the most accomplished high-ceiling executive possible.

The Mets should have been seeking a progressive general manager who had a demonstrated track record of success in assisting in the building of a franchise while also checking all the boxes in terms of being involved with things like drafting and evaluating talent, being involved in trade talks and other player procurement processes, and being plugged in and familiar not only with the Mets personnel, but with the personnel and the organizational depth of each and every franchise in baseball. Such a person is much more Chaim Boom than Brodie Van Wagenen.

Please don’t insult me by claiming that Van Wagenen knows a lot about baseball, or that Van Wagenen knows the Mets upside down and sideways, in addition to the other 29 clubs in the game like someone who is knee-deep in this stuff 365 days a year.

Van Wagenen, unlike someone like Chaim Bloom and many others, isn’t cramming his head with intimate franchise player information the way that a true baseball executive would, simply because, in his previous role as a player agent Van Wagenen would have no reason to do such a thing.

His central role and responsibility in his previous line of work was to ensure his clients got the best deals possible, not to know major and minor league baseball personnel on a sophisticated level. Thus, there is a significant learning curve that comes with this role for Van Wagenen which begs the question; is this something you want for a baseball general manager in a city like New York for a franchise like the Mets?

While I’m willing to concede that Van Wagenen has a cursory knowledge of the Mets and a few other clubs, so do many of you, and I’m willing to bet that my own knowledge of many major league player systems is better than Van Wagenen’s is right now.

Let me ask you something. How many other teams would have done what the Mets did yesterday? How high was Brodie Van Wagenen on the San Francisco Giants list of candidates to become their new general manager?

The Mets should have been seeking their own Brian Cashman, their own Theo Epstein, their own Jeff Luhnow, their own Dayton Moore, their own John Mozeliak, their own Erik Neander, their own Jeff Bridich. Instead, they rolled the dice on a player-agent apparently fascinated with the idea of switching roles and becoming a baseball general manager without an ounce of previous accomplishment and undeserving of such a role, be it with the Mets, or any other franchise.

The naming of Brodie Van Wagenen to the post should be the latest indication that Mets ownership, most specifically, Jeff Wilpon, have no plans to divorce themselves from the franchise in terms of allowing any baseball executive with the kind of autonomy that is needed to truly be effective and to put their imprint on a franchise.

If anything, I get the feeling that Jeff Wilpon felt like he was kept at an arm’s length distance under the previous GM, Sandy Alderson, and here was his opportunity to get closer to the steering wheel again by hiring what essentially amounts to a guy who has been Jeff Wilpon’s friend for a number of years now.

Jeff Wilpon indicated yesterday that his daddy, Fred, was elated with the Van Wagenen hiring, so much so that according to Jeff, his dad hadn’t been so happy with a hire in years…or probably not since daddy made the brilliant decision of replacing Bobby Valentine with Art Howe. Think about that. Fred Wilpon was happier than he’s been in years over the hiring of an individual who has never worked in a major league baseball front office at any time previous to yesterday’s announcement.

Perhaps sensing that their new GM wasn’t prepared for this moment like someone else might have been, I found it more than curious that the Mets PR staff shut down questions for Van Wagenen after only 5 of them were lobbed from the peanut gallery by those in the press in attendance yesterday.

If you thought, like I did, that Van Wagenen’s presser at The Ballpark In Queens was bereft of anything inspiring confidence, it actually got worse for BVW when later in the afternoon he appeared on Mike Francesa’s program on WFAN Radio.

On Francesa’s program, Van Wagenen sounded much less like a baseball executive with a plan and much more like a Mets fan who was calling into Francesa’s program from Far Rockaway who wanted to argue about the Mets current positioning.

Francesa asked Van Wagenen what kind of a team he envisions, what kind of a philosophy Van Wagenen might have that he’d like to see from the Mets. Van Wagenen responded by saying: “I like guys that can prevent runs and guys that can score runs, I want guys that can hit the ball out of the ballpark and guys that can run the bases, I want guys that can pick it up, I want a guy that isn’t afraid to throw a fastball by somebody, and I want guys that have the fortitude to go out and be accountable for it.” Let me just say that based on those words that this was a stunning and novel recipe for success and I now understand what Jeff Wilpon was talking about when he mentioned so many of the ideas that his new general manager had expressed during the interview process.

When pressed by Francesa on whether or not the Mets could win now, Van Wagenen said; “I think we can…we can talk in July and see how we’re doing.” What?

Francesa then correctly pointed out that the Mets as presently constructed have some holes on the roster that need fixing to which Van Wagenen responded by stating: “The beauty of it is that we can fill those holes and our competition has holes too.” Their competition has holes too? Okay, while there might be some truth in such a statement why in the hell is Brodie Van Wagenen talking about the holes on other clubs? Was this the newly minted general manager of the Mets — or a fan wanting to call into a sports radio program to argue silliness? This sounded like a GM to you?

Van Wagenen mentioned that he’s headed to the Arizona Fall League to talk to Mets minor league first-baseman Peter Alonso to; “see what his head (Alonso’s) is saying to me right now.” Huh?

Francesa asked Van Wagenen a simple question about how Van Wagenen sees the Mets right now as a ballclub.  Van Wagenen was confused by the complexity of such an inquiry and asked Francesa to repeat the question which Francesa did, and Van Wagenen said: “I think our club is good. I think it’s a good everyday lineup that I want to go and build off of.”

Francesa seemed incredulous at the suggestion that a Mets lineup this past season that struggled to generate consistent offense was being described as a ‘good lineup’ by the new GM. Van Wagenen then went on to say: “Mike, I think I got a team I can compete with and I can add to it. I have confidence in a lot of the guy’s names in that clubhouse.”

Then, Van Wagenen really took the opportunity to sound like a fan from Far Rockaway by asking Francesa; “who in the National League East is gonna beat us and why?” You can’t make this stuff up.

As I sat in my car and was listening to this I was trying to think of a more dubious first day for a previous front office executive who sounded so utterly foolish and unprepared as Van Wagenen did yesterday — and the only other name I could come up with was Mike Milbury, when he was introduced by the Islanders back in 1995.

Van Wagenen didn’t sound ‘confident’ to me, he sounded like an unprepared and ill-equipped person who was attempting to utilize bluster as a way to make him appear competent and ready which to anyone with a working brain is an insult.

Make no mistake, it is business as usual for the Mets and anyone who suggests anything else is clearly drinking nothing but orange and blue Kool-Aid each day while fooling nobody but themselves.

Don’t make the mistake of believing that the Mets were operating outside the box or outside their comfort zone with the selection of Van Wagenen as the new GM. On the contrary, this was exactly within the Mets comfort zone, a known commodity and a person who can be guided by the hands of Jeff Wilpon to do what Jeff Wilpon wants him to do. Period.

If I had known the Mets were going to hire Van Wagenen I would have suggested they keep the current front office model in place, or that they would have insisted that Omar Minaya take the job, or John Ricco, or Doug Melvin, or anyone other than Brodie Van Wagenen.

As I noted at the top, can this work? Look it, I guess that anything can work, lightning can strike, the winning lotto numbers can come in one day. But the chances are that this will not work and that despite Fred Wilpon’s rapturous state of mind with this hire, this, like many other Mets ideas will ultimately fail to materialize as they had hoped.

Why are the Mets all too often an irrelevant and second class citizen in their own town? A lot of reasons, actually. But in this case, the Mets hired a wet behind the ears and learn on the job neophyte as their next general manager while the Yankees would never do such a thing for obvious reasons.

Brian Cashman is the Yankees general manager.

The Cubs went out and got Theo Epstein to direct their front office.

The Astros took Jeff Luhnow away from the Cardinals to direct their affairs.

The Indians continue to win with Mike Chernoff as their GM.

Jeff Bridich is one of baseball’s most underrated front office executives with the Rockies.

The Red Sox just won a World Series under the very experienced hand of Dave Dombrowski.

The Mets?

They just hired an ex-agent, Brodie Van Wagenen, as their new general manager.

Jeff Wilpon got his man, got his ‘front-runner’, so to speak.

The Mets…continue to do Mets things.

 

 

THINKING DATA, ANALYTICS & SPORTS

By DINO COSTA
October 26, 2018
-New York, New York

What do you know about analytics?

What do you want to know about analytics or launch angles or CORSI statistics or plus and minus numbers?

Today’s sports world provides fans with the ability to break things down like never before as fans are able to track things daily, identify trends, talk in comprehensive detail with fanciful new terminology about the games we watch in more compartmentalized ways than ever before. I guess this is a good thing?

Or, is it?

Look it, I have no issues with many of the things that allow people to explore these games while being able to dissect so many things today that were never even thought about in years gone by, in fact, I’ll concede that sometimes I find myself taking part in these things as I try to obtain what is supposed to be a truer reflection of the things I’m watching on the field, on the court, or on the ice. I find much of the new statistical information about the world of sports to be interesting and even somewhat entertaining in its own right.

On the other hand, I’m not sure how important many of these things are to the average sports fan, or, why these things should so personally factor into the games we all watch. In fact, one could make the argument that as we pay so much attention to things like WAR in baseball (if you even understand it) or CORSI in hockey (ditto), can it be suggested that these things prevent us from simply enjoying the games through the eyes of a fan — and that it can possibly diminish the overall satisfaction we get as spectators of the games played if we think too much about it?

Asking in yet another way; is it possible for sports fans to have information overload while being spectators of the games we relish?

Speaking for myself, I know that I’ll sometimes be watching a game and find myself trying to remember and pay attention to so many of the statistical aspects which are now so prevalent and talked about — that I find myself missing many of the ‘pure sports’ moments, or, the entertainment features of the games, things that I would normally be content with, but now, some of these things are taking a backseat to the wide-ranging minutia cluttering my brain during a telecast. If I’m not careful and don’t pull back from the wide-assortment of statistical mumbo-jumbo inside my head, I sometimes feel like I’m studying for a test instead of simply watching the games and enjoying them on their own merit as I have done for years.

I’m not claiming that much of this ‘new’ information isn’t interesting, or even needed, on the contrary, as I mentioned in a paragraph above, I find much of it to be enlightening and there can be no question that it opens up entire new thought processes to how the games are played and won or lost as we look back at contests in retrospect.

But do I really need to be interested or pay attention to the ‘spin-rate’ of an individual pitcher as he’s making his way through the 4th inning to make up my mind as to whether or not he’s pitching a good game or not? No more so than I don’t need the exit velocity of a 450-foot home run to know that the hitter got all of the pitch, right?

While some people, average fans, are into this kind of stuff and can watch the games while still including these things in the forefront of their minds (and I have NO idea how they do this) while also finding the games entertaining, I, on the other hand, find that if I’m too cognizant of this statistical  baggage within the moment, that it then reduces my enjoyment of the games in a very big way.

The statistical revolution that sports have found itself in over the last decade-plus is something that I think front office executives throughout the sports world are mindful of and much more concerned about on a daily basis than the average ordinary fan, and with good reason. You may throw in player-agents as well, what with there need to dig in deep to show how their clients are contributing (or not) below the surface, down to levels where the average person never goes because rarely is there a reason to.

I guess what I’m saying is that I get the sense that more and more it is becoming increasingly difficult to simply turn to the games while enjoying them as fans with rooting interests absent any of the disparate and multi-tiered maze of statistics and underlying analytics that can distract and take away from pretty straight-forward reasons as to why we’re sports fans in the first place and why we savor and appreciate the world of sports to begin with.

So far as baseball is concerned, there is now a litany of things that we’re routinely programmed to think about as we watch the games. If we’re watching games on television, it’s impossible these days to not be bombarded with one element after another to the point of forgetting that we sat down to watch a game because of the game itself and for no other reason. The game, and only the game, the game we thought we knew.

I also get the feeling in some quarters, and geeky seam-heads are probably more responsible for this than anyone else, but I get the feeling that if we’re not watching the games on several different levels all having to do with the sabermetrics angle of the sport, then we’re to be discounted as fans who aren’t nearly as enlightened or as knowledgeable as today’s more sophisticated guardians of the games.

Whereas in the past we were satisfied with the back of a players baseball card that told us a players home run totals along with RBI’s and batting average, now, we’re over-indulged with a slew of other statistics that it’s almost hard to believe they can print all of the information on the back of a single baseball card. Wait a second. Who the hell collects baseball cards anymore…or even knows what a baseball card even is?

I digress.

I guess that some of my thoughts on this stuff have me showing my age in some respects. However, the last thing I want people to think is that I’m reluctant to embrace some new aspects of the sports world or that I’m unable to be pliable when it comes to new ways of thinking on some things – I certainly can be. But when pure sports starts to feel more like a video game and when the texture of sports begins to become too impersonal and cursory — this is where I start to recoil a bit.

I fell in love with sports because of the unscripted natural theater that took hold of me and wouldn’t let go. I fell in love with sports because of the unbridled spontaneity it regularly possessed. I’m not saying that these features are no longer a part of the sports climate, they are, but what I am saying is that with the oceans and oceans of data being presented so consistently, I find myself wondering if sports is being stripped of its fundamental and organic aesthetics in exchange for an environment that sometimes feels like the games have been moved inside a laboratory and under the observation of people wearing white coats.

In terms of some specific sports, is what we’re seeing in regard to some sweeping changes in styles and strategies the direct result of the deep analytical culture that has taken root?

Baseball has become, in many ways, decidedly one-dimensional in the minds of many long-time fans who yearn for a time and place when the game was more well-rounded and diversified. Today’s game has at its core, two main ingredients. The home run and the strikeout. Along with defensive shifting, baseball, it may be argued, has become a more predictable game than ever before, and let’s not forget that its almost impossible to predict baseball!

The intricacies of baseball, the subtle yet crucial little things, have become so less common within in the sport, and, in this person’s opinion the game is less as the result of these changes.

The art of bunting, the hit and run, hitting the ball the other way, the stolen base, not to mention an abundance of players with a seeming abhorrence to master the basic fundamentals of the game, has made the game far less resonant with many people. Has the introduction, if not the overemphasis on stats and data been the cause of all of this?

I love the NBA and have been a fan of the league since the early 1970’s, but I’ll admit, today’s NBA is a game I’m trying to adjust to as best I can in the midst of a changing environment that is pretty unrecognizable from only 3-4 years ago.

I wouldn’t blame anyone if they told me that watching today’s NBA game too often resembles an NBA skills-shooting competition. Let me ask you, at what point does the NBA introduce the 4-point line?

Much like baseball is identified by two central themes these days, the home run, and the strikeout, similarly, the NBA game primarily features dual factors as well, the 3-point shot, and the layup.

If you watch a lot of today’s NBA, you will see very little of anything more than those two elements. Defense? Forget it. The mid-range jumper? All but eradicated from teams playbooks. But points scored over 4-quarters of play? I see more games now with teams scoring more points today than I did while watching an ABA Spirits Of St. Louis versus Kentucky Colonels game back in 1976. Is today’s NBA the result of the statistical revolution as well?

The NFL? How much time do you have? Quickly I’ll just mention that in the NFL playing defense is thisclose to becoming a felony crime these days. Balance on both sides of the ball? A rarity, I’m afraid. However, if you like scoring, if you enjoy lots and lots of points, one touchdown after another, passing touchdowns one after the other and more passing yards than you can shake a stick out, this new Arena League National Football League will be right up your alley. Running backs? An endangered species. The role of the safety? Let’s just say that position isn’t the one Ronnie Lott knew.

I think another thing to consider with all of this is today’s I want it now society.

People are different these days from 15 and 20-years ago and so too are the way people consume their sports…and the average sports fan, particularly the younger fan within the ages of 18-35 is a much different, and in my opinion, a less knowledgeable fan today than years ago.

The emphasis on Fantasy Sports and the growing popularity of gambling has given rise to the instant gratification generation of sports fans who have no appreciation for the intricate aspects of sports, be it the perfect executed stunt in football or a great backdoor pass under the basket that scores 2-points, or a terrific penalty kill, or even something as mundane as the ability for a right-handed batter being able to hit the ball the other way and allowing the runner on second to move up to third base.

While I can appreciate and get excited about a deep post pattern that goes for 6-points, I am equally appreciative of fullback who takes out a middle linebacker at the point of attack with precision, allowing a running back to squeeze his way into the end zone for a well-orchestrated touchdown run.

But these days it seems that all that many care about are long balls, 8-touchdowns scored per game (preferably all of them through the air), a final in the NBA of 142 to 139, and don’t bother to tell them the final of a game played between the Maple Leafs and the Devils unless a least 10 goals were scored between both teams.

Despite the defects in the games I’ve noted, we’ll still watch, we’ll still root, we’ll still exhaust ourselves emotionally feeling as though we care more about the games won or lost than the participants.

Sports has changed, sports will continue to change, and I guess that no matter what kind of a fan we consider ourselves to be, we’ll change along with things no matter what.

I think?

METS GM? THERE’S ONLY ONE CHOICE

By DINO COSTA
October 24, 2018
New York, New York

What are the Mets doing here?

Send in the clowns?

Wait, the Wilpons are already here, and so is Mr. Met.

A general manager?

What’s that? Listen, the definition of what a general manager is and what that person does varies from one organization to the next, especially when one considers the Mets organization.

So, we’re down to Dougie, Chaim, and Brodie.

Listen, not for nothing, but if you’re the Mets why not hire all three?  It’s not like the Mets don’t have a history with 3-man front offices. Bring in three new guys and combine them with the three guys that ran the show this past season (John, Omar, JP) and the Mets will have the most high-octane six-man front office in all of baseball.

Hey, not for nothing, but can someone please tell me why the Mets never asked the Yankees for an opportunity to speak with Damon Oppenheimer who currently serves that organization as their director of scouting and has long been thought of as a future general manager himself? Then again, he works for the Yankees, and why would the Mets seek to emulate that operation or pick the brain of one of their central front office figures?

I guess Mickey Callaway is coming back next season, eh? Even though Jeff Wilpon didn’t say so during his season-closing press conference, one gets the idea that a prerequisite for whoever gets the GM job will be to agree that Callaway returns in 2019…otherwise, thanks for applying, but no thanks.

Doug Melvin.

Doug Melvin stepped away from wanting to run a major league franchise in almost the same way that Mike Francesa walked away from WFAN radio. Much like Francesa, it appears that Melvin missed the action and now wants back into the game.

Reading between the lines it looks as though Melvin will be the choice as the next Mets GM, although, it also appears as though he’ll work under a set of parameters like previous Mets GM’s have worked under, that is, in a subservient role to the real Mets general managers, Fred and Jeff Wilpon.

Maybe this is a good thing, actually, Melvin being the choice. At this juncture of his life and career, Doug Melvin is obviously agreeable to working under the Mets dysfunctional chain of command. I mean, what does he have to lose? Melvin has already spent a lifetime in the game, he’s been at the helm of two franchises previously, he’s now 66-years old, and if he can snag a deal with the Mets, at the very least, he’s going to pad his retirement fund before he evacuates the game for good at some time in the near future.

At some time in the near future.

The future.

The Mets future.

The Mets have a future?

Well, perhaps, but why hire a 66-year old man to direct baseball operations when the shelf life of such a general manager will in all probability be pretty short?

So, best case scenario, Doug Melvin is hired by the Mets and serves a total of 4-years as their GM, if he makes it 4-years even. Then what? Back to the drawing board in 2022 and another search all over again? This would be so Metsian, right?

The oldest GM in baseball currently is the Red Sox Dave Dombrowski who is now 62. But Dombrowski is now into his 4th season as Boston’s GM and was hired when he was 58. The next oldest is the Tigers Al Avila who is 60-years old, but Avila has been on the job since 2015 and was hired when he was 57.

The majority of baseball GM’s are far younger than both Dombrowski and Avila, and if you’re the Mets, why would you not hire a baseball executive who is not only well younger than someone like Doug Melvin, but also, why would you not hire someone younger than Melvin who is more in tune with today’s baseball trends, and more important, someone who can be on the job for the next 10-years at minimum and who will introduce much needed continuity within the Mets front office?

With all due respect to Doug Melvin, he’s the wrong guy at the wrong time for a Mets franchise in desperate need of outside the box thinking and someone who can preside over a front office many years into the future, not someone who will in all likelihood be a short-term plug-in which will necessitate yet another GM search in only a few short years.

There are a number of issues over the years that have prevented the Mets from being a franchise able to sustain long-term success over a collective number of years, but maybe the biggest problem the Mets have had is that their ownership group lacks the ability to have the kind of vision that allows other franchises to succeed where the Mets otherwise all too often fail.

Of the three finalists under consideration, in my way of thinking, there is only one obvious choice, and his name is Chaim Bloom, the Tampa Bay VP of baseball operations.

Not only does Bloom possess an age (35) that allows him to grow with the franchise and be around for a considerable length of time, but in addition, Bloom is at the forefront of today’s current baseball trends, and most important, Bloom has been a central cog in one of baseball most efficient front offices for years, a front office that has been as resourceful as any other in the game.

Over the last 12 years, the Rays have routinely been able to draft and develop talent at a rate as high as any other franchise in the game. Their minor league system has consistently been one of the best in the game for years. Bloom has demonstrated an ability to not only scout and draft high-ceiling talent for Tampa Bay, but he’s also found value in players at the major league level, players undervalued or discarded by other organizations that have found success in Tampa Bay.

Bloom represents a bold and invigorating step into the future for the Mets and his selection would send a clear signal perhaps, that the Mets are serious about doing things differently, that the Wilpons might finally be willing to take their hands off the wheel of the franchise, that the micro-managing ways they’ve exhibited in the past are finally coming to an end, and that they are placing their trust in a dynamic individual who will be given the autonomy that any GM needs in order to truly place their imprint on a franchise.

Brodie Van Wagenen? Come on, the fact that this agent has actually made it to the final round should be a sign that this franchise is in many ways still too stupid to comprehend what is and what is not in their better interests.

Then again, maybe it should be Doug Melvin.  Well, why not?  Look it, I’ll say this: If the Mets plan is to continue to operate under the same old ways, then Chaim Bloom should be dismissed as a candidate immediately — because the hiring of someone like Bloom under the conditions that have come to define the defective nature of the Mets baseball operations department would be a huge waste of time, both for Bloom and the Mets.

So, if it remains the status quo out at The Ballpark In Queens, allow me to be the first one to welcome Doug Melvin to town as the latest general manager of the New York Mets.

For the time being anyway.

PEOPLE DON’T WANT ‘SAFE FOOTBALL’

By DINO COSTA

10-22-2018

New York, New York

Just about 10-years ago when I was doing a national sports radio show, I told my audience that the National Football League was on a path to ruination. Many people who were listening to my show back then chuckled and told me I was simply being a contrarian.

I said that the NFL was headed for big-time trouble. People smiled and told me to hold the hyperbole for another day.

I stated that it was my belief that the NFL had lost its meaning, lost its soul, and lost the very idea of what made the NFL the greatest sports league in the history of modern times.

I said that the NFL (and this was TEN YEARS AGO) was fast becoming a game that was becoming an unrecognizable entity, a game that was changing and morphing into an arena league product played on 100-yard outdoor playing fields. That balance was missing in the game, that defensive football was being castrated in the name of more offense, more and more points, and that the on-field product that was becoming a shell of its former self.

Fast forward to today and tell me where we’re at?

The NFL is an unmitigated disaster, a mess of titanic proportions, with a product on the field that looks nothing like the game I fell in love with so many years ago, in short, the game of football has become a pathetic spectacle.

To date, through the first seven weeks of play, the league has broken offensive records in regard to points scored and touchdowns. Thus far through this 2018 season, the NFL has seen a total of 577 touchdowns and a total of 372 passing touchdowns. These are video game numbers and that is exactly what the game has become. Consider the 2018 NFL season to be Madden Football come to life on NFL playing fields throughout the country.

Ten years ago I said that the continuing changes to the rules of the game was making the NFL product something very foreign, much less satisfying — and that I felt as though I was watching imitation football being played most every Sunday in far too many of the games. How prescient I turned out to be, eh?

The constant ‘fear factor’ that the NFL has capitulated to over the years has rendered the game impotent in so many ways. The overcorrection in lieu of the very physicality of the game has resulted in an embarrassing form of football that is as far away from the fundamental ways the game was always intended to be played that words alone truly cannot capture how bad it has become.

Let me state again what I stated all those years ago, or, just about the time Roger Goodell walked into the commissioner’s chair:

1-You cannot make the game of football ‘safer.’

2-People don’t want ‘safe’ football.

At this point, with as many revisions as the league has made and with as many things that have been taken away from the sport so far as the defensive side of the ball is concerned, they may as well junk the entire league and liquidate all of the franchises because the game is now a hollow representation of what it once was and will never be again.

Real football fans understand that the game is physical, that players will get hurt on occasion, that players have always gotten hurt throughout the history of the game, and that all of this is a by-product of playing the game the way the game was meant to be played.

With the complete and total emasculation of defensive football the game has become a joke, unwatchable all too often, and the disgust level across the country is rising, not only with fans of the sport but with players as well, guys who are now voicing legitimate concerns that the game they themselves once knew is no longer a game they are allowed to play any longer.

Quarterbacks, as far as I’m concerned, should not be allowed any more protections on the field than any other player regardless of their position.  Quarterbacks have always gotten hurt and injured throughout the history of the game, and nothing should change in this regard, its why they have something on NFL rosters known as backup quarterbacks.

This season we have been introduced to, of all things, ‘weight distribution’ on quarterbacks when being sacked or hit by defensive players. Not only is this something that can and has been interrupted differently by various officials, but its also something that takes away from the very instincts of defensive players seeking to make a play that helps their teams to win football games. What was once admired as a great play is now called a penalty and it is costing teams games.

Let’s get one thing straight, and this will alienate the do-gooders and the snowflakes who have bought into the propaganda that has made the rounds for a while now, real NFL fans want physical football, they thirst and crave it, they want slobber-knocking hits on the field – and there is nothing wrong with any of this! Let me ask you something, with all of the new rules that have been implemented with the primary objective being to make the game safer, are players still being concussed, are players still be injured, are players still being placed on injured reserve lists? Last season, with new rules in place, concussions actually increased from the year before!

This season has also seen this ridiculous lowering of the head rule, where the emphasis is to take the head out of the game, and you don’t even need to be a scientist to acknowledge and understand that this is an impossibility. Helmets are continuing to touch against each other on almost every single play for crying out loud, and the subjectivity of this new rule (like most every new rule introduced) is completely based on what officials are calling what games and what they happened to see, or, what they think they saw.

You can pull on my heartstrings all you want to and tell me about such and such player needing to retire because of the effects of football on their bodies — I get all of that. What I also get is that those players are in the extreme minority, including players who have suffered such debilitating effects from playing the game that it has altered their quality of life after they remove their shoulder pads and helmets for the final time. What is not in the minority are players who have had appreciable careers in the NFL who have gone on to live completely healthy and productive lives after their careers have ended. In these cases, those players are the majority.

Football will always come with inherent risks and dangers, its been that way since they started to play the sport, and nothing will change in that regard no matter how many rule changes they make and no matter how much more they continue to destroy a defensive players ability to play the game in a way that allows that player to help his team win. However, with the rule changes they have made, and with more yet to arrive, what they have managed to do is to pare the game down and make it something very different from what it was intended to be.

It is amazing to me, in fact, it is stunning to consider, that with the way the game has been shaken down over the last few years by players seeking cash payouts for one reason or another, that the league has not mandated that each and every player who enters the league must sign a waiver holding the league and its owners harmless in the way of future lawsuits. In fact, if this is not done sometime soon, what is to prevent the NFL from being sued time and again for however long the league continues to remain in business?

The entire 1985 Chicago Bears defense would be outlawed in today’s NFL climate, Mean Joe Greene would be suspended for half the season, Ronnie Lott would be completely ineffective in todays game, and virtually every great defensive player with a bust in Canton, Ohio, would be told that their style of play was too neanderthal for today’s watered down NFL.

I make no apologies. Today’s NFL is a wretched display of ‘football lite’, and it continues to get worse with each passing week. I want my football played hard, with big hits, with the elimination of this ridiculous ‘defenseless player’ garbage that we hear about so often. By the way, what is that exactly, can someone define for me what in the hell a defenseless player even is?

We don’t want this NFL, Mr. Goodell, we reject this NFL, and we’d like our football back, the game you took away from us, the game that used to provide so many great moments, so much fun, so many glorious battles on the field that once made the NFL must-see stuff.

This thing you give us today?  It’s unrecognizable…just as I said it would be about ten years ago.