In 1979, just ten years after they had captivated the Big Apple as the Amazin’ Mets, New York’s National League franchise had sunk to the lowest point in its history. Not only did they steadfastly refuse to participate in baseball’s new free agent market, they stood by as the crosstown rival Yankees embraced the new system on their way to two World Series titles. The denizens of Shea became so miserly that they traded the face of the franchise, Tom Seaver, and had co-owner, Bebe DeRoulet inquire in a board meeting as to whether the organization could save money by using old baseballs.
Finally, to the relief of the Met faithful, the team was sold and the new owners coaxed Frank Cashen out of the Commissioner’s office; assigning him the task of reviving the Amazins. He soon drafted Daryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden, traded for Keith Hernandez and Gary Carter and turned the reins over to manager Davey Johnson. Six years later, they were, once again, World Champions.
Around the same time, the Giants had plummeted to depths so low that one of their fans hired a plane to fly over the stadium during a home game trailing a banner that read,” 15 years of lousy football…We’ve had enough!”
The entire losing era was symbolized by a single play that came to be known as “The Fumble.” Quarterback, Joe Pisarcik, botched a handoff to Larry Csonka when a simple kneel- down was all that was necessary to end the game. The Eagles scooped up the ball and scored the game winning touchdown, sealing the fate of head coach, John McVay. That off-season, on the recommendation of NFL commissioner, Pete Rozelle, the Jints persuaded longtime Colts’ GM, George Young, out of semi retirement and charged him with saving the franchise. Young started the reclamation project by hiring Coach Ray Perkins, who led the team to the playoffs in 1981. He selected quarterback Phil Simms in his first draft and then turned his attention to the defense, using his first pick in 1981 to grab Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor. When Perkins left for the University of Alabama, Young turned the club over to Bill Parcells, who guided the Giants to Super Bowl titles in 1986 and 1990.
Now, all of these years later, we find the Knicks in the same predicament as the Mets and Giants. Mismanaged for years and disgraced by scandal, they have become the laughingstock of the league; suffering through a period of ineptitude that can be traced all the way back to the decision to trade Patrick Ewing rather than let his contract expire. They have been struggling unsuccessfully to establish some kind of salary cap relief ever since.
For the past four seasons, owner Jim Dolan, for reasons known only to him, has staunchly supported Isiah Thomas through a litany of horrendous trades, ridiculous contracts and a sexual harassment lawsuit that cost Dolan $11 million. Last week, Dolan finally gave long suffering fans a glimmer of hope by installing former Pacer GM, Donnie Walsh, as President of the organization. One of the most respected men in the game and cut from the same cloth as Cashen and Young, it will be up to Walsh to resurrect the NBA’s most visible franchise. With no choice but to spend the next few seasons allowing bad contracts to expire, his first move should be jettisoning Thomas. It is that decision, however, about which Knick fans should keep their collective fingers crossed. While it is seemingly unthinkable that Thomas would be allowed to continue as coach after such a dreadful performance, it is equally difficult to imagine that Dolan, after standing by Thomas in the face of enormous public outcry for his firing, has suddenly become disloyal to Isiah. Add in the fact that Walsh did hire Thomas as his Head Coach in Indiana and one can see where the possibility exists that Dolan hired Walsh simply because he was the only potential executive who would agree to take the job and keep Thomas on the sideline. Stay tuned.
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One aspect of the NCAA basketball tournament that has become an annual fascination is the amount of responsibility handed to freshmen and how routine it has become for them to lead their teams through the post season. It is hard to imagine that UCLA could have won its region without Kevin Love, while Derrick Rose was simply the best player in the country during March Madness ’08. Either could be tabbed by Donnie Walsh in the June draft to lead the Knicks back to respectability.
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Joba Chamberlain’s performance over the first ten days of the baseball season should terminate any discussion of making him a starter. Not only is his 98 MPH fastball almost impossible to hit late in the game, he also protects the aging Mariano Rivera from having to make two inning save appearances. Why mess with success?
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The theme in Mets camp this spring seemed to be a focus on the fundamentals that were forgotten during last September’s collapse. So, it was surprising to see Luis Castillo cost the Mets a run in the first inning of the opener by not running hard on a two out popup that dropped for a hit. Four days later, Ryan Church cost them another run by failing to tag up from third on a liner to left. Veterans or not, Willie Randolph needs to drop the hammer on these guys before it’s too late.
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Can someone explain why, time after time after time, basketball coaches whose teams are up by three points at the end of a game allow the opposing team the chance to tie with a three point shot rather than instructing their players to foul and give them the enemy just two foul shots instead? Many coaches will explain that by fouling, you bring the possibility of a loss into the equation. If the opponent should hit the first shot, miss the second, get the rebound and hit a three pointer, it’s over. Sane people counter with the simple mathematical observation that it is more prudent to force a team to accomplish those four things rather than the one thing needed in knocking down a trey. In the latest occurrence of this silliness, Memphis coach, John Calipari, gift wrapped a National Championship for Kansas. Maybe such a high profile blunder will change the way these guys think in the future.
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