Why Granderson’s Injury May Be a Positive For the Yankees

It took less than an inning. Picking up right where the Yankees left off in last year’s ALDS, a broken forearm will sideline all-star outfielder Curtis Granderson until May. The knee-jerk reaction is “here we go again,” “that sucks,” and other one-liners emanating negativity and pessimism.

But nothing against Granderson, and I don’t wish injury upon anybody, but it wouldn’t bother me if he was out for the year.

Since the Yankees’ scrappy dynasty of the late 90’s, the Steinbrenner wallet has headed the forefront of the New York Yankees product – cashmere-quality athletes who, on paper, should give the Yankees a World Series every two or three years.

About 12 years have gone by since the subjective start of this philosophy and the trend has been anything but what the Evil Empire expected – while borderline unfair, one championship in 12 years isn’t acceptable in the Bronx.

Personally, I want to see young guns get a chance to showcase their skills for the team who’s scouts handpicked them. There’s something different about cheering for a Robinson Cano vs. Alex Rodriguez, Brett Gardner vs. Mark Teixeira.

I’m not hating on A-Rod nor Teixeira, but the majesty of, for instance,  the ’98 Yankees came partially due to the homegrown talent that together created the perfect jigsaw puzzle: Bernie Williams, Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada, David Cone, Mariano Rivera.

As a die-hard Yankee fan it seems my team today is kind of…. artificial.

It’s why I don’t mind watching Cashman wiggle his way out of paying a cent in luxury tax. Give your homegrown talent a chance to shine. The big bully free agency strategy is nice in theory, but has not shown the results we’ve come to expect out of the Bronx Bombers.

Remember Tony Womack? In 2005 the Yankees signed the veteran second baseman to a deal, only to forfeit that position to a young Robinson Cano that May due to Womack’s inability to do anything.

I don’t expect a home run like this to come from Granderson’s strike of bad luck, but there are Jeremy Lins out there waiting for their time.

Take as much time as you need Curtis. We want you healthy… but hopefully more good will come out of this than bad, and I hope a 22-year old Joe Schmo will have the chance to cash in.

Why the Knicks are Serious Title Contenders This Season

After a tough loss Monday, the Knicks played what I thought was their best game all season Wednesday against the Brooklyn Nets (box score). They made the extra pass, rotated with energy on defense, hustled, and conveyed to me they were not going to lose.

They committed seven turnovers, none in the third quarter.

Five superstars do not make winning basketball. You need a special concoction of pieces that flow together to make the tastiest mix drink. Assuming health, this 2012 Knicks team has all the ingredients:

The Star – Carmelo Anthony

With Carmelo, you always have a backup plan. If you’re out of sync, he can single-handedly bail you out. He leads the team offensively and will close out games in the fourth quarter.

The President – Jason Kidd

See my post that argues Jason Kidd is the most important player on the Knicks. Kidd’s veteran presence keeps the team in check and keeps Carmelo focused but grounded. He directs the offense and isn’t afraid to tell you when you’re doing something wrong.

The Enforcer – Tyson Chandler

A perennial leader in technical fouls, Chandler’s breadth, intimidation, and blue-collar play polish New York’s interior game. Chandler’s defense and size is the one clear-cut advantage over the Miami Heat, and unselfishness on the boards (slapping the ball out to the perimeter to reset the shot clock instead of trying to pad stats) keeps the Knicks in every game.

The Shooter – Steve Novak

Even when he’s off, he still spaces the floor for Carmelo & Co. Like my dog, you have to give last year’s three-point percentage leader perpetual attention. If you don’t, you’ll get a Wisconsinly cheesy Discount Double Check.

The Defenders/Dirty Workers – Ronnie Brewer, Iman Shumpert

Both have the potential to knock down shots, but their job is to defend, hustle, and rebound. Brewer doesn’t get the credit he should, and Shumpert’s great on-ball defense will both frustrate opponents and keep them out of rhythm.

The Sixth Man/Wild Card – J.R. Smith

He’s the Robin to Carmelo’s Batman. The first one off the bench, Smith keeps the fire burning with his unquestioned offensive ability. His biggest weakness has always been his intangibles (he did not attended practice when he played for China during the lockout last year), but this season evoked a new J.R., one that plays hard defense, hustles, and keeps his dribbling and shooting under control.

The Veteran Cast – Marcus Camby, Kurt Thomas, Rasheed Wallace (and Jason Kidd)

While these guys can’t give you big minutes, their presence at practice and during the game is unquestioned. Their wisdom gives the Knicks a mental advantage over every other team in the league and will be the unsung heroes should the Knicks make a big playoff push.

Mike Woodson – Head Coach

The players respect Mike Woodson. I see the way they play defense for him compared to Mike D’Antoni. Woodson is relateable, smart, honest, experienced, and likeable, a succeeding mix in the eyes of New Yorkers.

Last year with D’Antoni as head coach, New York was second-to-last in turnovers with over 16 per game. With Woodson, this year they lead the league with their record-setting pace of 10.7 per.

The scary thing is the 19-6 Knicks are competing without two indelible pieces – Amar’e Stoudemire (to return within the week) and Iman Shumpert (January).

Iman Shumpert
Iman Shumpert

I’m more excited to get Shumpert back – a great defender who won’t complain if he isn’t shooting. Shumpert is a team player who adds charisma, character, and a beastly high fade to the Garden. His skills and role will cohesively complement New York’s abundance of shooting talent.

Stoudemire will play limited minutes and will undoubtedly make the Knicks a better team. This assumes he doesn’t retard the Knicks chemistry, potentially a serious problem. But with now Woodson as the Knicks head coach, I believe STAT will put his ego aside and concentrate on defense, rebounding, and his elbow jump shot.

The Knicks are playing team basketball. The players’ knows their role and it seems individual goals take a back seat to winning, refreshing for a franchise trying to end a decade of embarrassment.

With a bench stronger than nearly every team in the league (Clippers), this Knicks team feels like one with the “it” factor. If they can stay healthy and Amar’e understands his new role, that Heat-Knicks rivalry we saw in the 90s could make a comeback in the 2013 Eastern Conference Finals.

The Giants are in the NFC Championship Game. hhhhhwat?

The Giants are playing with house money. In August, no one thought Big Blue would still be alive midway through January. You didn’t, and neither did I. Since then, Giants fans learned who Victor Cruz is, the Giants proved you can lose four straight in the second half of the season and still control your own destiny, and Eli Manning may have finally tattooed his name into the “elite quarterback” category – a fraternity I thought he pledged his way into three years ago.

The “may have” in that previous sentence is tentative to change. If the Giants win it all in the 2011 season, you can remove it altogether. That four star gold “C” means he’s the man in charge.

It’s not how good of a team you are, but how good you are for the 60 minutes on the field.

The Giants are not a better team than the Packers. If the two teams played ten times, I think Green Bay would win seven. However, in a blessing in disguise, the Giants got injured at the right time. Osi Umenyiora’s perfectly timed injury got him back just in time for a tune up game in week 17. The whole Giants team seemed to come back just as the regular season was ending as well.

In my previous post I had zero trust in my team to make any noise this postseason. Just over a month ago I watched a struggling football team look weak in the secondary, uphill on the ground, and a clueless on special teams.

Then finally and out of nowhere, the one constant – Peyton’s younger brother, finally finds his team. The defense (and especially the secondary) picked up, the running game reappeared, and Eli’s wide-receivers think they’re some of the best in the league. The Giants still have no special teams unit… but I can live without that, so long as you play solid on offense and defense.

And who’s been on and off the hot seat more than Tom Coughlin? He pushes the New York Giants’ fans and front office to the brink. In 2007 the Giants started 0-2, and were down 17-3 at the half to the Washington Redskins in week 3. I’m convinced if the Giants lost that game Coughlin was gone. I’m also convinced if Coughlin didn’t win week 17 against the Dallas Cowboys he was gone. Somehow he finds a way to rally his troops just in time. My previous post talked about how Coughlin would be gone by the end of January – I’m still not 100% sure he’s safe, but it looks that way.

Now the Giants play the 49ers, a team they showed they can beat back in week 10. They held a one point lead going into the fourth quarter. Granted, they now face the tall task of beating Alex Smith and Co. in SanFran, but again, it’s not how good of a team you are, but how good you are at the right time. That’s why the Giants won the Super Bowl in 2007 and why the 1980 Olympic Hockey team won gold.

Eli has been here before. He’s a quarterback entering the prime of his career, yet with Super Bowl experience under his belt. Will the Giants again hold up their Road Warrior mantra? Will Alex Smith lead the New York Knicks of football to a championship game (a team that’s usually so good but out of nowhere becomes terrible for ten years)?

Who knows… in five years, you may refer to Peyton as Eli’s older brother.