The worst thing about Jets news in the summer is that I have to write about the Jets in the summer.
Geno Smith got sucker punched by some dude who nobody had ever heard of before this week, and who was quickly released and then picked up by, you guessed it, Rex Ryan, all over 600 bucks. Jets fans are left to cover their eyes, plug their ears, and remind themselves that for once it pays to root for two island dwelling teams since at least the Mets provide a good distraction.
The expected recovery time for Geno is 6-10 weeks, which is a timetable that my step-mom won’t accept. In an email moments after the news broke, she asked, can’t you still play football with a broken jaw? My dad’s response was better, not really as they hit on every play, you can in hockey.
Since you can’t play football with a broken jaw, or if it was hockey, you would have to say that he suffered an “upper body injury” in order to play it out, new coach Todd Bowles is faced with his first test as head coach. Who takes the reins? For how long? What happens when Geno comes back?
Football teams carry a larger roster than any of the other major sports. Each play is complex, diagrammed with battle precision, and then analyzed in game film from every angle and perspective. Yet, more than any other sport, the same conversation dominates the major media outlets. Quarterback. Quarterback. Quarterback.
The worst outcome of Geno Smith receiving a fist to the face is the giant punch to the gut that football fans now take from the excessive force of coverage that follows. A Jets team that will likely start the season 1-3, with or without Geno, now becomes the number one story in New York and ESPN’s America. Does it really matter whether it is Geno Smith’s or Ryan Fitzpatrick’s name that is printed next to the 10-23, 177 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT opening week stat line?
All of this speaks to the state of the Jets. Not that they are a disaster waiting to happen as most sad-luck fans would like to express. It reminds everyone that they don’t have a quarterback. A position, as the media constantly reminds us, of heightened importance in the modern NFL. Punching Geno Smith in the jaw is smashing the mirror because it shows an ugly face. It will take some time to pick up the shattered pieces, but even then, the reflection remains the same.
It was early April, the Leafs and Knicks were still playing out the stretch on their schedules, and for most of the country, baseball was just a new annoyance on their bottomline score tickers. In a season 162 games long, game number eight didn’t matter. But for Mets fans, it did. It was Matt Harvey’s first start in over 18 months following Tommy John surgery. And for the first time in many, many more months than the time Harvey was missing from the rotation, Citi Field had a buzz.
Little did we know then, me and my dad, as we sat in our usual seats in section 329, that excitement would really come to Citi Field several months later. Little did we know that the Mets would make a mad dash for first place while Harvey still struggled to find his game. Little did we know that we were seeing David Wright’s last game that night until maybe the end of August.
Citi Field was alive and chatty on April, 14, 2015. Four months later it is screaming.
Three things really stand out when putting the Mets current first place position in context:
- The Nationals. The story of the 2015 Mets is more a story of the 2015 Nationals. The fact that they are below .500 nearing the end of August is shocking.
- Missing David Wright. Nobody, nobody would have given the Mets a fighting chance this year had they known that Wright would miss most of the season.
- Harvey’s path to regain his form. Missing Wright is one thing, but the fact that Harvey hasn’t been Harvey until recently is another strange but true occurrence to this 2015 campaign.
Most important for the Mets is that the things listed above may pay out most in the coming weeks. The Nationals have lost six straight and look completely lost. David Wright is due to return as early as next weekend. And Matt Harvey is back!
As the graphic to start the post highlights, over Harvey’s last four starts, dating back to July 31, he has allowed two earned runs over 27.2 innings of work. In his previous four starts to this current stretch, he went 1-3 with a 7.20 ERA (20 earned runs/25.0 innings), allowing a home run in a career-high four straight games, totaling eight home runs during that stretch.
As the Mets enter the stretch run, it looks like they can count on Harvey being his old self. Something they did on Sunday, handing him the ball, after back-to-back extra innings losses to Pittsburgh, who along with Chicago, the Mets are now 0-13 against on the year. Harvey entered the game with a list of accolades.
- Harvey became the first pitcher in Mets history to allow no walks and one run or less in three consecutive starts.
- His three straight starts of 7.0 or more innings, no walks and no more
than one run allowed is tied for the longest such streak in the majors in the last century (the 21st such occurrence).
- He has pitched at least 6.0 innings in 28 consecutive home starts dating back to September 19, 2012, passing Clayton Kerhaw’s also-active 27-game streak for the longest such stretch in the majors since the start of 2012.
- Harvey is one of only two starters in the last 100 years to allow one run or
fewer in half (29) of his first 58 career games.
Once again, Harvey was brilliant at home, holding the Pirates to one run over six innings, striking out six while walking only one. Then, as if Batman’s strongest villain, Bane, was plotting to ruin the Mets, a dark cloud covered Citi Field, rain assaulted the field, a delay ensued, and when the game resumed, the Dark Knight was replaced by a weakened Bruce Wayne in the form of Bobby Parnell. The Pirates quickly took advantage and completed the sweep.
The way the weekend went, with the Nats playing on the west coast, every time a Mets game ran late, as it did each game, the temporary feeling of disappointment that came with an eventual Mets loss was soothed by a six- or three- or four-run inning by the Giants to put the Nationals behind. I’m still not sure if I should be pissed that the Nats got swept by the Giants and the Mets lead sits only at 4.5 games, or if I should be elated that we got swept, ourselves, and yet, our lead still sits at 4.5 games.
Regardless of how we got here, the Mets are in first place on August 16. Amazin’.
If everything goes to Brendan Shanahan’s plan, he will have accomplished the impossible. Bringing a Stanley Cup to Toronto ranks alongside winning a World Series in Wrigley or delivering a championship to the poor fans of Cleveland as the most sought after achievements remaining in professional sport. By hiring yet another Hall-of-Fame name to join his management team, it appears that Shanny is bent on letting a bunch of his decorated friends join him on route to the parade.
Jacques Lemaire was hired as a special assignment coach, whatever that means, bringing one of the greatest defensive minds in the history of hockey to an organization that has refused to play defense for over a decade. The fact that his name has been inscribed on Lord Stanley’s trophy eleven times shows the experience he brings too. Maybe some of that winning will rub off.
As the Leafs continue to add high power names to their payroll, the most difficult task is figuring out how the organization is now structured. I put all of the major faces and names together to start building an org chart, but it is useless to try to draw any lines. We know that Shanny sits on the top. Where things go from there is the tricky part.
As a few more names and flowchart arrows fill out the Leafs’ org chart, progress from the new group is already showing. Mark Hunter has turned a small grocery list of prospects into a cupboard stocked with goodies. The latest team prospect rankings by Corey Pronman of ESPN – and don’t let the ESPN tag scare you away, Pronman knows his shit – has the Leafs ranked second in all of hockey.
The Leafs are entering a period that promises to be painful. Hiring veteran names like Mike Babcock, Lou Lamoriello, and Jacques Lemaire seems counter-intuitive to their competitive timeline. Either that, or it’s just right. Rather than bringing in the big dogs to lead a team already built to win, Brendan Shanahan is making sure that the brightest minds in hockey, both young and old, are part of the rebuilding process.
That does it for this week!