Tuesday, January 31, 2012



Why would a Yankee fan utter these words? Let me tell you a story.

My nine-year-old nephew came to me around Thanksgiving and said, “Nino, can you put me into baseball?”  I told him that I would. I was a bit surprised because he never really showed an interest in the game. I was extremely happy because, I love hockey and football but my passion is baseball.

I signed him up for Cal Ripken Baseball in Long Beach, California. We went to the sporting goods store and he got his first baseball glove. We went to the park and had a catch. For a kid who never played the game before, he appears to have natural ability. He has a real good glove, a decent arm and he is not afraid to put his body in front of the ball. He was having a blast just throwing the ball around.

We went and bought him his first baseball bat and I borrowed a T and a bucket of balls. We worked on mechanics by hitting off the T and he seems to have a natural inside out swing, a la Derek Jeter. I threw batting practice and he was having fun, even when I center-punched him because he was getting a little cocky and talking his mush to me.

He had his tryouts for the league and I sat and watched, never interfering with what he was doing nor trying to correct every mistake. After every fielding drill or hitting drill, he would look over at me and give me a smile and a wave. I would smile and wave back and I realized why baseball is my passion. No matter what age, it just makes you smile. As I sat and watched the nine year olds trying out, my mind drifted back to 1960s.

I remember seeing the older kids playing baseball and stickball on East 7th Street and in the schoolyard of PS 209. I would hear the older guys talking about this guy named Mickey Mantle. I would hear the Italian guys saying that Joe D was the best. I was amazed how guys would sit around and argue about things that made no sense to me.

My dad took me to Mr. Baccagalupe’s barbershop and on the way there I asked about this Mickey Mantle guy and all this hoopla about baseball. I asked my dad how come we never have a catch, I asked how come we never go to a ball game, I said I want to play baseball and since this Mickey Mantle character seems to be the talk of the town, I want him as my favorite player. My dad basically nodded his head in agreement without uttering a word. Just as we crossed over Ave Y on Coney Island Avenue, I declared, “And I like the Yankees!!!” I looked at my dad to see if he had any input and he just kept walking. I figured he had a lot on his mind, since we were on our way to Baccagalupe’s and according to my dad if you take the wrong seat at that barbershop, you might get whacked. Amazing what grown-ups think about.

Since I had a new hobby, I needed to start somewhere. I got a hand me down glove from my cousin and a Spaldeen. I had no clue how to throw nor did I have anyone wanting to throw the ball to me. I would ask my dad to catch with me and he wouldn’t. I would ask my dad about hitting and he really had no answer. I came to the conclusion that I was on my own for this one. I figured that he just didn’t like this game called baseball.
I would roam on down to the parking lot in the back of my apartment building and I would sit and watch the older kids playing. I would run after the balls for them and I would act as a batboy for them.

One day I was asked if I would like to try hitting and I said sure. They told me to get into the batter’s box and they would pitch it to me. I didn’t know which side of the batter’s box to get into because that Mickey Mantle guy hit the ball from both sides. When I was asked this, I was standing behind the plate and I quickly thought that a lefty should stand to the left of the plate. From where I was standing, the right-handed batter’s box was on the left side. So as not to look like a dope, I quickly picked up a bat and jumped into the right-handed box. I gripped the bat with my left hand on top because that is what felt comfortable and tried to take a practice swing. The older guys made me switch up my hands and said that is how a righty bats. I didn’t want to argue the fact that I was left-handed so I just went with it. (I became a right-handed batter but not on purpose)

I taught myself to hit, catch, and throw. My dad never showed any interest for these shenanigans. I always said that he didn’t know what he was missing.

Fast forward to 1997, my father had passed away in 1993 and I was talking on the phone with an older cousin who had not seen me since I was a baby. I told him that I wanted to come visit him in Woodstock, New York when I was in the City.  I told him that I was coming into NY because I had opening day tickets for the Yankees and I wanted to watch the Championship Flag hoisted. My cousin said to me, “I never thought the day would come that there would be a male in our family that was a Yankee fan.” He went on to say, “If you come to visit me and you are wearing a Yankee hat, I will slap it off your head.” Wow, the hostility from my own family.

He proceeded to tell me that my father would take him to Ebbets Field and they would watch my father’s beloved Brooklyn Dodgers. I told my cousin, “I thought my dad hated baseball, he never wanted to catch with me, he wouldn’t watch a game on TV with me and he never showed any interest.” My cousin went on to say that my father was the biggest baseball fan around and when the Dodgers left Brooklyn, it broke his heart. My father refused to have anything to do with a game that caused him so much pain. My cousin went on to say that when I professed my allegiance to the Yankees, it just about killed him. My father could not believe that there was a Yankee fan living in the same house with him. A boy that loves Mickey Mantle and not Duke Snider. My cousin said that it completely killed my father to step foot inside of Yankee Stadium so I could watch the Yankees. I always wondered why he made me sit behind the girder for both games of the doubleheader. I bet he planned that and Baccagalupe was probably in on it.

When I hung up the phone, I was amazed. I never knew that my father was such a baseball fan. I had mixed emotions on this but I think the emotion that still lingers is the emotion of sadness. My father and I never had that baseball bond. Whether it was just having a catch or sitting around and arguing baseball. I never got the chance to ask him questions about the Dodgers and Ebbets Field. I never got to hear the stories from my dad and he probably had some good ones.  Just writing this makes me sad.

On Sunday night, I received a call from my nephew’s baseball coach. He told me that he had drafted my nephew to play on his little league team. I was excited for my nephew. The coach went on to tell me that my nephew’s little league team is the Blue Jays. My inner Yankee fan said, “The Blue Jays?” but then my memories washed over me again and all I could say to the coach was….


Monday, January 30, 2012


After 5 hours and 53 minutes, Novak Djokovic was crowned the Australian Open champion. Once again he came out on top of Rafael Nadal, who did not make the win easy. Djokovic beat Nadal, 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-7(5) and 7-5.

This match was far from flawless from either player. Each player had more unforced errors than winners. Nadal had 44 winners and Djokovic had 57. The big number was the unforced errors, Djokovic had 69 and Nadal had 71. Nadal committed one unforced error in the fifth set that changed the outcome of the match.

After Nadal fought back from being down in the fourth set, 3-4 and 0-40 on his serve, he seemed to be taking control of the fifth set. Djokovic looked a bit gassed and Nadal started to press on his neck. With the set at 4-2 Nadal and Djokovic serving, Nadal appeared that he was going to break Djokovic's serve to take a commanding 5-2 lead.  During the rally, that would of put Nadal up 15-40, Djokovic hit a ball to Nadal's backhand. Nadal had a lot of space to Djokovic's left to hit a clean passing shot. Nadal's passing shot appeared to have bounced barely in but after Djokovic challenged, the shot was clearly out. Game is tied at 30 and Djokovic could hear the wind going out of Nadal's sails.

This match will be talked about in the same conversation as Nadal-Federer, 2008 Wimbledon and Borg-McEnroe, 1980 Wimbledon.

Djokovic is on a roll right now. He has won four of the last five Grand Slam Tournaments. The only loss in that stretch is to Federer at last year's French Open.

Hopefully these two guys enter the BNP Parabas Tournament at Indian Wells in March, since we have tickets to the weekends festivities. We would love to see these two go at it again.

Sunday, January 15, 2012


Brian Cashman pulled the trigger on a four player trade with the Seattle Mariners. The Yankees needed pitching and they traded one of their top prospects, Jesus Montero, and Hector Noesi for Michael Pineda and Jose Campos. Michael Pineda is a 23 year old All-Star right-hander. He has a fastball that averages 94.7 miles and hour and he strikes out 9.11 hitters per nine innings. His downside is that he gives up a lot of fly balls, not a great thing for Yankee Stadium.

Jesus Montero is a power hitting catcher but the word on him is that he can't play defense. The Yankees are hoping that this will not turn into another Jay Buhner for Ken Phelps trade. The bottom line is that the Yankees needed pitching and if it takes trading a top young hitter for a top young arm, than it has to be done. Pitching is in short supply these days. I want to see what Jesus will do.

The signing of Hiroki Kuroda is a smart move. Kuroda was the number two guy behind Clayton Kershaw and he will fill in nicely at the end of the order.  If all the stars align, the Yankees have a very young starting rotation to go with CC. The youngsters are Phil Hughes, Michael Pineda, Ivan Nova and prospects Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances. The Yankees then have Kuroda, Freddy Garcia and AJ to fill in.
I like the fact that the Yankees went after some pitching and maybe this year they won't have to be such a softball team.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


Why does the UCLA football team always seem to get these dolts to coach them.  Every other varsity sport has top notch coaching. They hired Neuheisel and everything was in disarray. You had a head coach that was a quarterback in college and he couldn't teach Kevin Prince to be a quarterback. So, they fire Neuheisel because he couldn't win and they hire Mora. He has been on the job since breakfast and already he is doing things that make the Bruin faithful shake their heads.

Mora hires Sal Alosi as their strength and conditioning coach. You might remember Sal Alosi and his 10 seconds of fame on the NY Jets sidelines about a year ago. Alosi trips a Miami Dolphin who is running down the sidelines in punt coverage. He gets himself fined, then fired and never to be heard from again. Perfect. With all the hooey going on in sports, the last thing you need is a guy like this making headlines for you.

Since UCLA wants to be THE college football team of Los Angeles, they decide that they need to emulate the powerful USC Trojans. They need to cheat and who better to start the cheating off with but Sal Alosi, a cheater caught on television cheating.

Mora, you have not played a down yet, you are months from spring practice and already you are being questioned. What message does that send the athletes?  Are you sending a message that cheating is OK? Mora, I am already not liking what I see.

And from the team that brought you Sal Alosi.....

The New York Jets cut ties with Schottenheimer. They say he didn't want to come back. I say, who cares, he's gone. They have replaced him with Tony Sparano. This is meant to be that Tony Sparano sounds so much like Tony Soprano, and he will be standing in the Meadowlands, the home of Jimmy Hoffa and any other mob informant that went missing. Can you say fuhgedabouit!!!

Sparano, who brought back the Wildcat, is going to definitely tinker with the offense. That Miami Dolphin team that ran the Wildcat was anything but vanilla. Sparano can make it interesting but most important is that he will rely on his offensive line and his running backs to make the Jets offense productive. He is your perfect mastermind for the ground and pound.

Monday, January 9, 2012


All two-year-old horses have turned three on January 1.  Every owner and trainer with a brand new three year old is wondering, “Can this horse make a run for the Derby?” Every owner and trainer is going to putting their horses into spots to see if their dream will come true.

When we were at the track on New Year’s Eve, we watched horses being paraded from the paddocks to the saddling area and then to the mounting area. These horses were not in a race but they were two year olds, whose birthdays were going to be the next day. All the trainers wanted to see was how these horses would react if the horse were actually going to race. The trainers will not leave any stone unturned when it comes to possibly having the next Derby winner.

Talking about spots. This past weekend in the Sham Stakes at Santa Anita, Out Of Bounds beat the 1-2 favorite Secret Circle. This was the first prep race of the season for Santa Anita.

Secret Circle was last year’s Breeder’s Cup Juvenile Sprint winner. This is something that I look at when I handicap the Kentucky Derby. If a horse has won a Breeder’s Cup race, don’t bet him. It’s not science, it is my superstition, and I have been right for as long as I can remember.  Secret Circle came into this race with four career wins for Bob Baffert. This was his first race as a three year old and the betting public was betting him like he already won the race. This was the first time that Secret Circle was stretching to a mile after he proved that he could win sprint races.

Out of Bounds sat back and watched Secret Circle and Longview Drive battle it out coming into the stretch. Out of Bounds ran to the outside of the battling horses and won the mile race by a half-length. Out of Bounds looked like it had a real good kick in the stretch.

Eoin Harty, Out of Bounds’ trainer, said that they would place Out of Bounds in another Derby prep race. He was unsure of which one.

A lot will happen from now until the first weekend in May and that is what is so exciting about this time of year at the track.

Sunday, January 8, 2012


Jorge Posada is doing the right thing in retiring from the Yankees and not seeking employment elsewhere. In this day and age, it is rare to see any professional athlete complete his entire career with one team. With Posada's decision, he is one of those athletes.

We can all sit and wonder if Posada is a Hall of Fame catcher but the bottom line is this. He was on four World Championship teams, had five All-Star nominations and now he has played his entire career with one team. That one thing does not make a Hall of Famer but it sure makes you remember the catcher that he was and not the sparingly used DH for the Tampa Bay Rays.

Last year was not the most stellar for Posada but when the play-offs rolled around he batted .429 against Detroit. He had a six RBI game in August and got the Division Clinching RBI on September 21.

Only two catchers caught more games for the Yankees and that was Yogi and Bill Dickey, and he is one of only six catchers, Mike Piazza, Johnny Beach, Yogi Berra, Gary Carter and Carlton Fisk to have at least 20 home runs in eight seasons. Not bad for a guy that was never mentioned in the same sentence with the word steroid.

Posada will be sorely missed by the fans and also his teammates. Thanks for everything and.....

Friday, January 6, 2012


There are two professional teams that call Madison Square Garden home. These two teams are completely on opposite sides of the spectrum right now. The Rangers are just rolling along while the Knicks are resembling a rowboat with only one oar rowing.

I could just go on and on about the Knicks problems. These problems were still there when the Knicks took on the Wizards on Friday. The ever powerful Wizards, who have a whopping zero wins, made the Knicks look pretty inept, even though the Knicks won. Enough said, we'll see how this plays out.

The team in the other locker, the New York Rangers, are pretty fun to watch. They are scoring, they are playing defense, they are hitting and their goaltenders are fabulous. They play with a plan and they play with emotion. They look like a mature team and when they are down, they don't panic.

Last night against the Panthers, the Rangers rested Lundqvist. Biron was in goal and he got the win in overtime. Biron is 8-2 on the season, not bad for a backup. Tonight with Lundqvist back in net, the Rangers beat the Penguins 3-1.

I am very glad to see that Marc Staal is back and plying like we know he can play. Tonight he took a huge hit and it didn't rattle him. He just came back and flattened a Penguin. He is definitely not gun-shy.  With tonight's win, the Rangers are 6 points ahead of the Flyers for first place. Keep it up and maybe some of your winning attitude will rub off on your roommates.

Did you see that Kris Jenkins told Mark Sanchez to grow a pair. He let loose on Sanchez and Jenkins even thinks that Sanchez shouldn't even be starting.  Wow, that's huge from an ex-teammmate.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012


The Knicks had 5 players with double figures and their bench scored 24 points. For any balanced basketball team that would equate to a check in the win column. But for the defenseless Knicks this became a check mark in the loss column.

The Bobcats came into Madison Square Garden having a very difficult time putting points on the board and tonight they put up 118. The Knicks looked decent in the first quarter and then the second quarter hit. The Knicks started standing around and watching the Bobcats put on a clinic. The Knicks refused to rebound and before you know it, they're down by 14 points. Once they got to this point of the game, the fans started to boo.

The Knicks have the talent to be a well balanced team. They need to put in a full effort on both sides of the ball. Right now there does not seem to be a full effort put out by everyone on the court. Tonight it looked like the Bobcats were the Harlem Globetrotters and the Knicks were the Washington Generals. All we needed to see was Paul Silas dump a bucket of confetti on D'Antoni, just to round things off.

Hats off to Iman Shumpert who played extremely well. He put up 18 points and played the game going north to south and at 100 miles an hour. When D'Antoni took Shumpert out in the third quarter, the Garden crowd chanted "We Want Shumpert". I would love to see him start but the Knicks need that shot in the arm with him coming off the bench.

Maybe D'Antoni can have a seance and call up the spirit of Red Holzman to scare the Knicks into playing some defense.


After five games the Knicks are their usual average selves. Coming into tonight’s game against the Bobcats, the Knicks are still sporadic on offense and they are still allergic to playing defense. I have been saying, “Fire D’Antoni” but that isn’t going to happen.

Hopefully, with Stoudemire and Shumpert coming back from injury, the offense might become a little bit more consistent. As for the defense, unless you start Shumpert, it is the same old song for a D’Antoni team, “They Can’t Make All Of Their Shots.”

Iman Shumpert, the Knicks rookie, has shown signs of defensive aggressiveness and a knack for pushing the ball on offense and scoring. He has been impressive in all of his preseason starts and in the first game against the Celtics. Right now, he is going to come off the bench as the sixth man. He is going to add a great shot in the arm for the not so deep Knicks.

If the season turns into the average season it is turning out to be, D’Antoni needs to plug Shumpert in and sit Toney Douglas. By the time Baron Davis gets back to health, the season might be far-gone.

Note to D’Antoni, you have been given a powerful front court, you have a backcourt that can be good but how about throwing in some defense and having an offensive plan that does not require you to put up 30 three-pointers.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012


Yesterday’s Winter Classic was everything you would want in a one-day hockey showcase. You had spectacular goaltending, you had hard hitting, you had unexpected players scoring, you had a penalty shot and you had Tortorella complaining about the referees. The best part of this game was seeing Marc Staal play his first hockey game of the season since suffering a concussion last year.

When the NHL decided that the 2012 Winter Classic was going to be played by the Rangers and the Flyers, you couldn’t of asked for a better rivalry in hockey. (Unless you matched the Islanders against the Rangers) This 2012 Classic was a game between rivals but it was also a game to decide first place in the Atlantic Division.

The first period ended with both teams scoreless. The Flyers had their chances but Lundqvist looked pretty solid. The Rangers had a few runs at the Flyers net but were also held scoreless. This isn’t the first time that these two teams have met this year but they seemed to be on their best behavior. There was one scrum at the beginning of the period but the nastiness of both teams was missing.

The second period started the same way but all of a sudden the Flyers were stepping on the gas pedal. They were buzzing the Rangers net and peppering Lundqvist. Braydon Schenn, with his first goal of the season, scored the Flyers first goal. This was followed by a goal by Claude Giroux, the Flyers best player who has also just come back from a concussion. So, with a little more than five minutes left in the second period, the Flyers were up 2-0. The ice was starting to tilt in the Flyers direction but this is still the Rangers and the Flyers and anything can happen and it did.

Thirty seconds after Giroux scored, Mike Rupp put the puck in the net for the Rangers. Mike Rupp is not a big goal scorer but he seems to get big goals. He scored the winning goal in the 2003 Stanley Cup Final when he was with the Devils. After his goal, Rupp saluted the Flyers bench to mock Jaromir Jagr’s trademark goal salute. The Flyers’ Scott Hartnell decided to have a talk with Rupp at center ice about this and the jawing began. Scott Hartnell who looks like Side Show Bob from the Simpson’s cartoon seems to be in the middle of all the Flyers instigating. Rupp said a few things back but Hartnell didn’t seem like he wanted to dance with Rupp, who would.

The third period started and the hitting was turned up a bit. Then 2:41 into the third period, Rupp scores again to tie the game at three. His second goal of the game did not need a salute. Three minutes later Brad Richards netted the third goal of the game, which turned out to be the game winner. And now the fun starts.

It appeared that the referees wanted this game to go into OT and possibly a shootout. The officiating became so obviously lopsided against the Rangers. The refs overlooked Flyers infractions and called questionable Ranger penalties in the final minutes, especially two that were called in the final two minutes.

With 1:06 left, Ryan Callahan had the puck and an open net in front of him, but was hauled down by Kimo Timonen. However, Callahan was initially called for unsportsmanlike diving, but then it was changed to holding the stick, setting up a four-on-four final minute.

Then, with :19.6 seconds left, Philadelphia’s
Danny Briere was awarded a penalty shot on a call against Rangers defensman Ryan McDonagh for covering the puck in the crease.

This led to a penalty shot and Briere is pretty much 50 percent on the year for shootouts. He came barreling down on Lundqvist and tried to go five hole but Lundqvist denied Briere’s attempt and that was all she wrote, the Rangers win the 2012 Winter Classic and what a Classic it was.

Monday, January 2, 2012


I think that the Jets not making the play-offs is going to be a blessing in disguise. There are definitely going to be some changes. I hope some of the changes are ones that I have said should of been made 2 years ago.

The biggest change that needs to be done right now is the vanquishing of Schottenheimer. This supposed offensive guru is one of the only holdovers from the Mangini era. I never really understood how he was held over from that vanilla offensive scheme. Can you believe he actually applied to be the head coach for the Jets but was beaten out by Ryan. Could you imagine how really bad they would be with Schottenheimer at the reins. Schottenheimer's ineptitude and the Jets huge dysfunctional organization was apparent yesterday late in the game. Santonio Holmes was sulking and got into an argument with Brandon Moore in the huddle during the fourth quarter. (Great way for a captain to act but that is another issue) Schottenheimer pulls Holmes but at no time does he notify Ryan of his actions. I am for pulling a player who has a bad attitude but you also have to keep everyone on the same sheet of music. Just like last week, Ryan wasn't even aware that the Jets were going to take to the air, like their name says, but they crashed like the Hindenburg. Besides all of the cockamamie offensive calls that Schottenheimer runs, Ryan needed to be informed of the game plan so he could have the first right of refusal. This dysfunction starts at the top and it trickles down to the players.

I am hearing rumors that if Schottenheimer is released they might try to sign Norv Turner. Why? Rex Ryan must have a thing for USC because Schottenheimer was a coach there, and you see where that got us. Sanchez was a QB there and USC probably does not teach color recognition due to Sanchez constantly throwing to the color that he isn't wearing. And now Turner, the man who has probably one of the most talented teams in the AFC and he has turned that into a circus.

The Sanchez Experiment is over!!! Sanchez is a good quarterback but you have to put him in a system that he is not the centerpiece. Allow him to hand the ball off, allow him to pass the ball on slant routes, screens and target his tight end but to have him drop back and try to make a good decision is disastrous. Sanchez has not matured as a professional quarterback. He still tries to make things happen instead of just taking the loss. Why are you going to toss the ball into the back of your lineman and risk a deflection for an interception, which is what happened. All I can say is Sanchez is what they have and they need to install a system that will allow Sanchez to be effective.

I really like Rex Ryan but there needs to be more discipline instilled on the team when they take the field. This has been the worst season in regards to penalties taken. Every good football team takes very few penalties and here is another reason that the Jets were not a good football team.

The Jets interceptions and fumbles were another example of an undisciplined team. This has to be addressed before next season.

Outside of the offense, there is a part of the game that needs to be addressed and that is the returner for the special teams. The Jets this year had a revolving door for their returners. The Jets need to find a return specialist. The need to find one that can handle the ball and also get some yardage after the catch. They were sorely missing this piece throughout the year.

One thing that the Jets definitely need to address is the health of Justin Leonard. When Leonard is healthy, the defense seems to play better. When he is out, the defensive backfield looks lost outside of Revis. Without Leonard, Cromartie's mental lapses are exposed because he doesn't have Leonard to make up for his buffoonery. Leonard also brings another linebacker type to runs up the middle. Don't know how they will fix this but Leonard is definitely a key to the offense.

All in all, the Jets have a tough road ahead in the off season but if the smart moves are made, the Jets should be fine come August.