Category: Uncategorized

Nick Saban Isn’t Happy: Lord Help the Tide’s Opponents

ROBBINS NEST

By Lenn Robbins

   Nick Saban, arguably the greatest head coach in college football history, is not happy. Which is truly an intimidating situation for every other program in the nation.

 Saban believes his players were undisciplined at times last season. He thinks his team’s preparation wasn’t as good as it should have been on occasion. He speculates that some of his players, now in the NFL, were thinking about themselves ahead of the team.

  Saban has spent the last the last six months talking about re-establishing the program’s standard of excellence. Yes, that is a scary narrative if your team faces the Crimson Tide this season.

  Mind you, Alabama went 14-1 and last season, not 11-3 or some other utterly unacceptable record in Tuscaloosa. It’s not as if the standard fell off the table. But when you’re Alabama, winner of 15 national championships, the standard is staggeringly high.

  So after getting embarrassed in the national championship game, a 44-16 beat down at the hands of Clemson, you better believe that Saban has done everything in his power to make certain the Tide is as disciplined, prepared and focused as any team in the nation.

  Oh yes, Alabama also happens to have one of the nation’s top quarterbacks in Tua Tagovailoa, a ridiculous amount of depth and talent on both sides of the ball and a schedule that is fair by SEC standards.

  The 2019 season begins Saturday with Miami and Florida meeting at Camping World Stadium in Orlando (7:00 p.m.; ESPN), followed by Arizona at Hawaii (10:00 p.m.; CBSSN). Although Clemson and Alabama have dominated the preseason polls, neither are undisputed favorites. NYSportsExtra.com looks at the nation’s Top 25 teams, starting with The Tide.

  “I think that the key to us, the key to our success, is can we internally re-establish the standard of what we need to do to be the best team that we can be?” said Saban. “And that’s got to be something that’s done on a consistent basis, and it has to be able to sustain the season. And that’s a challenge for all of us.”

  The challenge for every other team is to find a way to beat ‘Bama.

  1. Alabama: Player Watch: WR Jerry Jeudy. Key Game: Nov. 16 at Mississippi State – Can ‘Bama respond the week after hosting LSU? That BCS Championship Game humiliation provides a lot of motivation. Skinny: Bama’s mindset – to physical dominate at every position – has proved hard to beat.
  • Georgia: Player Watch: RB D’Andre Swift. Key Game: Nov. 16 at Auburn – Showdown on the Plains. Skinny: Dawgs are sick and tired of looking up at Alabama. They have lots of company.
  • Oklahoma: Player Watch: QB Jalen Hurts. Key Game: Nov. 30th at Oklahoma St. – Bedlam. Skinny: Hurts replaces Kyler Murray who replaced Baker Mayfield. Can’t be that easy, can it?
  • Washington: Player Watch: Georgia transfer QB Jacob Eason. Oct 5th at Stanford – One week after hosting USC. Skinny: Chris Petersen has his teams consistently physically and fundamentally prepared.
  • Clemson: Player Watch: Key Game: Sept 14th at Syracuse – One week after hosting Texas A&M. Skinny: Yes, we know QB Trevor Lawrence is exceptional but the Tigers lost an NFL caliber line of defenders.
  • Michigan: Player Watch: RB Zach Charnonnet. Key Game: Nov. 30th vs Ohio State – Wolverines haven’t beaten the Buckeyes since 2011. Skinny: Michigan has been to Vatican; It hasn’t been to the CFP. Favorable schedule.
  • Florida: Player Watch: CB C.J. Henderson; Key Game: Oct. 12th at LSU – One week after Auburn, the Gators go to Death Valley. Skinny: There’s always talent in Gainesville but this is about Year 2 under Dan Mullen.
  • Ohio State: Player Watch: DE Chase Young.  Key Game: Sept 28th at Nebraska – Georgia transfer QB Justin Fields gets his first nerve-fraying road game. Skinny: Time for Buckeyes to get back to the CFP instead of worrying about trademarking, ‘The.’
  • LSU: Player Watch: SS Grant Delpit. Key Game: Nov. 9th at Alabama – If the Tigers want to get back to the SEC elite, no better place to start. Skinny: LSU always has some of the best talent in the country; does it now have discipline and coaching to match?

10. Notre Dame: Player Watch: OG Tommy Kraemer. Key Game: Sept 28 vs Virginia – One week after what figures to be a physical and emotional battle in Athens, can the Irish be ready for a resurgent Virginia program? Skinny: Coach Brian Kelly will need all the depth he’s built to handle this brutal schedule.

The Undisputed Greatest NFL Players of All-Time

Robbins Nest

By Lenn Robbins

  Antonio Brown is having issues with his feet and helmet. Tom Brady is selling his Massachusetts house. Dak Prescott reportedly wants $40 million a year. Daniel Jones, booed just a few months ago, is headed to the Hall of Fame. So is Jarrett Stidham. And Kyler Murray has wrapped up the MVP.

Lord is it great to have the NFL back!

With Week 2 of the preseason upon us and Fantasy Football Owners cutting off all communication with loved ones, we offer you the best NFL players of all-time, position by position.

Feel free to vent!

OFFENSE

QB – Tom Brady: Pats – Yes, Dan Marino had a stronger arm. And you can make an argument for Joe Montana with the ball, down six, with 90 seconds left. But Brady has set a new standard.

RB – Jim Brown: Browns – The greatest offensive player of all time.

RB – Walter Payton: Bears – Made the stiff arm and the dead leg the envy of all backs.

TE – John Mackey: Colts, Chargers – Tony Gonzalez as better numbers Kellen Winslow was a better deep threat. But for receiving, blocking and toughness, Mackey gets the nod.

WR – Jerry Rice: 49ers – The master technician had DB’s beat at the line of scrimmage.

WR – Randy Moss: Vikings, Raiders, Pats, Titans, 49ers – At 6-4, 210, he redfined the WR position. Imagine if he played his entire career with Brady?

OT – Anthony Munoz: Bengals – Simply physically and mentally dominant, missing just three games in his first 12 seasons.

OG – John Hannah: Pats – If a cornerback had a choice of meeting a train or a pulling Hannah, well, it’s not a no-brainer.

C – Jim Otto: Raiders – Arguably the toughest player of all time, he underwent some 40 surgeries during and after his career.

OG – Bruce Matthews: Oilers, Titans – Mr. Versatile; started at all five OL positions – and dominated.

OT – Jonathan Ogden: Ravens – 6-9, 345 pounds of strength and athleticism.

PK – Justin Tucker: Ravens – He’s missed one PAT. One out of 242. And has nailed 90-percent of his field goal attempts.

KOR – Gale Sayers: Bears – In an injury-shortened career, the Kansas Comet averaged 30.6 yards per return and was the most breathtaking open-field runner ever.

PR – Devin Hester: Bears, Falcons, Ravens, Seahawks – The epitome of a cocky, electric Miami athlete; you sat up whenever he received a punt and headed upfield.

DEFENSE

DE – Reggie White: Eagles – No lineman was better against the run and pass. Or classier.

DL – Mean Joe Greene: Steelers – He wasn’t the meanest. But he was the ultimate disrupter for the Steel Curtain.

DL – Bob Lily: Cowboys: Headliner of the Dallas Doomsday Defense.

DE – Deacon Jones: Rams, Chargers, Redskins – Quarterbacks saw him in their nightmares. And in their waking hours.

LB – Lawrence Taylor: Giants – The greatest defensive player of all time.

MLB – Dick Butkus: Bears – Sorry Joe, Butkus was the meanest player of all time.

LB – Ted Hendricks: Colts, Packers, Raiders – Until LT came along, The Mad Stork was the standard for an OLB. Exemplary nickname.

CB – Deion Sanders: Falcons, 49ers, Cowboys, Redskins, Ravens – Arguably the greatest athlete to play the game in Prime Time, or any other time.

CB – Mike Haynes: Raiders – The most physical corner to play the game. NFL has become a passing league because of the style with which he played.

SS – Ronnie Lott: 49ers – Warning: Go over the middle at your own peril.

FS – Emlen Tunnell: Giants – Turned the safety position into an offensive threat with 1,282 yards in interception returns.

P – Ray Guy: Raiders – Didn’t just flip the field, he flipped the game.

Special Teams – Steve Tasker: Oilers, Bills – The 5-9, 183-pound, 9th-round draft pick made ‘Gunner’ a cool position with his hustle and hitting.

MANAGEMENT

Coach – Bill Belichick: Browns, Pats – 1. Sixteen AFC East titles. 2. Six Super Bowl championships. 3. Notice how many players leave N.E. for more money but never play as well? Notice how many players come to N.E. and have their best years?

GM – Tex Schramm – Not only did he draft some of the greatest players of all time (Lily, Tony Dorsett, Herschel Walker) but he was one of the first to scout small schools. And we wouldn’t have the combine if not for Schramm.

Is It Time to Start Believing in the Mets Again

Robbins Nest

By Lenn Robbins

04/23/19 phila phillies vs ny mets at citifield queens ny photos by neil miller / nysportsextra ny met #24 robinson cano high fives with #21 todd ferazier after hitting a grand slam in the 5th innning

Let’s stay in the real world. The Mets chances of making the playoffs remains somewhere between improbable and miraculous.

After Saturday night’s 7-5 stirring come-from-behind win against the Pirates in Pittsburgh, the Mets remain four and one-half games out of the final Wild Card with 52 games remaining. They are tied with the Arizona Diamondbacks at 54-56 and have five other teams ahead of them for that last spot.

Those of us fortunate enough to have been on that Amazing ride in 1969 know miracles were possible long before Al Michaels told us so at the 1980 Olympics.

 Those of us lucky enough to have an older friend or relative to recount the tales of that miraculous August, September and October wonder if they would ever see such magic for themselves.

So when the 2019 Mets went on a spurt before, and now, after the All-Star break, there was some folly musings that this could be 1969 all over again. Then the Mets went all contrarian on the baseball world and GM Brodie Van Wagenen became a buyer instead of seller, acquiring starter Marcus Stroman.

“We both feel like we can win and go on a run and get into this thing,’’ manager Mickey Calloway told reporters.

This was a head scratcher that only a rake could sate.

“Get into this thing?!”

The Mets? Get into the playoffs? Lol. Lol. Lol.

Yet after Saturday night’s win, it’s not insane to say, ‘Maybe.’

The 7-5 victory came on the heels of an 8-4 loss to the Pirates that snapped a seven-game win streak. After a 12-game stretch in which the Mets starters were 1969-like superb, Steven Matz turned in a subpar performance and SNAP went the streak.

“Let’s just start another streak,’’ Calloway told reporters, as if starting a streak in baseball is as easy as snapping a Selfie.

The baseball gods have been irked over less flippant statements.

We won’t know for a few games if the Mets are streaking in the direction but we do know this: The Mets won a bounce back game in come-from-behind fashion and the bullpen didn’t blow it.

“Tonight was elusive to us in the first half,” Callaway acknowledged to reporters. “It was tough to stop the bleeding, and I think we understand we have to do that. I don’t think we’ve ever given up, but we just have to get it done.”

The Mets got it done. Stroman made his first start for the Mets and was uneven as was to be expected. He hadn’t pitched since July 24th and making a debut for a team that believes it can be in the postseason can give many a pitcher pause.

Yet the Mets overcame a shaky start, rallied from down 3-1 and Seth Lugo, pitched a scoreless eighth inning. The blemish on this game was Edwin Diaz who surrendered a two-run home run in the ninth.

If you need more reason to seriously think about reinvesting your heart and soul in the Mets, consider this: Lugo was named NL Reliever of the Month. Yes, a member of the Mets pen won Reliever of the Month!

Baseball hardly is the sport to point to one game and declare it the most important of the season. Picking one of 162 is like picking the moment when a teenager started acting like an adult.

Maybe, just maybe, the Mets are starting to act like winners.

The Yankees Didn’t Blink; They Shut Their Eyes

Robbins Nest

By Lenn Robbins

The Yankees didn’t blink.

They just shut their eyes on the season.

Is it possible this offensive juggernaut can offset the recent horrible starting pitching and lead the Bombers to a 28th World Series title? Of course.

But that lineup took another hit on Wednesday when manager Aaron Boone announced that first baseman Luke Voit is headed to the injured listed with a sports hernia. If Voit needs surgery he could be lost for the season.

That’s 19 home runs missing from the lineup.

Also out of the lineup is Giancarlo Stanton (PCL), Gary Sanchez (groin) and Brett Gardner (knee). Although that lineup remains potent, good pitching has always shut down good hitting in the postseason.

And Wednesday was all about the postseason.

The trade deadline came and went with GM Brian Cashman failing to land a quality starter. Cashman has earned the benefit of the doubt. He told reporters he would not be pressured into a trade. Only he knows what teams were asking him to part with for a quality starter.

The Yankees, who improved to 68-39 with a 7-5 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks, improved their lead in the AL East to eight games over the Rays and 9.5 games over the Red Sox. But they didn’t improve their pitching which makes hoisting the Commissioner’s Trophy a daunting task.

The Yankees saw Zack Greinke go to the Astros. Trevor Bauer go to the Reds. Marcus Stroman go to the Mets. Madison Bumgarner stay in San Francisco, and Zach Wheeler and Noah Syndegaard remain with the Mets.

Division leaders Astros, Indians, and Dodgers have better starting pitching on paper. They’re lineups also are potent. 

Let the games begin.

Is it possible the Yankees get the boost they need from the return of Luis Severino (lat strain) from the injured list? Sure. But he has yet to pitch this season.

Is it possible the pen is bolstered by the return of Dellin Betances (right shoulder strain)? Sure. But he too has yet to pitch this season.

August in here. The race to October has begun. The Yankees are the same team they were in July, the same franchise as the one that hasn’t won a World Series since 2009.

If they don’t win it this year, the Yankees may very well look back on Wednesday.

When A Boxer Dies All That Is Left Are Tombstone Words

Robbins Nest

Credit twitter

By Lenn Robbins

            There used to be a saying among sportswriters that if you can’t cover boxing, find another profession. Fast.

            Boxing offered every delicious morsel of sports reporting. The fighters often are colorful or have backgrounds that make you wonder how they’re not dead or in jail. The trainers possibly would not be allowed to work in any other industry because they’re, well, borderline nuts.

            Access to most boxers, albeit less now than it used to be as is the case with every professional and major college sport, is unique. The fighters are available during training and in the days leading up to the fight when they host an open workout. Often there is no media relations person whose job is to interrupt an interview by declaring, “Last question.”

            The weigh-ins often devolve into a shouting, pushing, macho man moments between fighters and their camps. The stare down between boxers usually is so tense the air seems to stand still.

            A writer has a chance to really learn what makes a fighter tick. The smart boxers (see: Muhammad Ali) knew how to work the media long before social media. Ali sold his looks, his skill, his personality, his political and religious views.

Until the advent of MMA, there was no sport like boxing. It appeals to the savage in all of us. Watching two warriors, blood and sweat flying off their faces; hearing the sound of body shots resonating, (see: Bernard Hopkins one-body-punch knockout of Oscar de la Hoya in the 9th round of their 2004 fight) is surreal.

One forgets that a flurry of punches is all it takes for death to invite itself into the ring.

Such was the case Friday night when junior welterweight Maxim Dadashev was pummeled by Subriel Matias at the MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Md. Dadashev’s trainer, the legendary Buddy McGirt stopped the fight before the start of the 11th round.

It was two rounds too late. Dadashev, 28, had suffered devastating brain damage. He died Tuesday morning after doctors at UM Prince George’s Hospital Center in Cheverly, Md., tried to reduce brain swelling and bleeding.

“It just makes you realize what type of sport we’re in, man,” McGirt told ESPN. “He did everything right in training — no problems, no nothing. My mind is, like, really running crazy right now. Like, what could I have done differently?”

“He seemed OK. He was ready. But it’s the sport that we’re in. It just takes one punch, man.”

Dadashev leaves behind a wife, Elizaveta Apushkina, and a son Daniel, who will be three in October. In other words, Daniel will never really know his father. Apushkina posted a photo of the family on Dadashev’s Instagram, page.

“He was a very kind person who fought until the very end,’’ Apushkina wrote in a statement. “Our son will continue be raised to be a great man like his father.”

Daniel’s father was fighting for $75,000 plus training expenses. He trained in California. His family lived in Russia. He literally was fighting for a better life. Fighting took his life.

In the wake of his death, all the responsible parties said all the appropriate words. He was a devoted father, loving husband, promising boxer. Tombstone words.

McGirt said he wanted to stop the fight in the 9th but Dadashev wouldn’t hear of it. The ringside doctor also let him keep fighting. It’s impossible to look into someone’s brain in the corner of a ring in between rounds.

The crowd roared its approval as Dadashev was pounded.

And then the fight was suddenly over and a few days later so was a life. There’s no one to blame. It’s the sport they’re in, man.

Trust me, it’s stories like this that make one think about finding another profession. Fast.

Rivera Scripted His Hall of Fame Career.

Robbins Nest

File photo Neil Miller Nysportsextra copyright 2019

By Lenn Robbins

Any fan that has ever received an autograph from Mariano Rivera has an insight into what made him the greatest closer of all time.

Rivera’s signature after signature is so precise you’d think it was produced by a rubber stamp.

The swirling upper case M and R letters are exactly the same height with an artistic flourish. The lower-case letters, again, exactly the same height with exactly the same spacing.

It’s a work of art that defines Rivera’s approach to pitching and to the execution of the greatest cut fastball anyone has ever thrown.


Statistics can be twisted and turned every which way to support or counter any argument but consider these mind-boggling numbers, courtesy of Rivera.

652 saves.

2.21 ERA.

1,173 strikeouts.

82 wins, 60 losses.

56.2 WAR.

Trevor Hoffman, the only other closer with 600 saves (601) had an ERA of 2.87, 1,133 strikeouts, a 61-75 record and a WAR of 27.9. This is not to demean Hoffman in any fashion. He set the standard that Rivera shattered.

And now he has one more number, arguably the greatest number of all to add to his stat line:

425 ballots.

Rivera was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday. He was last of six inductees to speak which is fitting. He also is the first unanimous selection into the hallowed halls in Cooperstown, his name on all 425 ballots.

“I don’t understand why I always have to be the last,” Rivera quipped during his speech. “I’ve kept saying that for the last 20 years and the last 17 years of my career. I always said, ‘Why do I have to be the last one?’ But I guess being the last one was special.”

If Rivera had not gone last, chances are the Yankees wouldn’t have won the five World Series championships he was a part of. Yes, the Yankees in Rivera’s time were a much better team than any of Hoffman’s teams.

Rivera was even better in the postseason:

42 saves.

0.70

But the stats only tell half of Rivera’s story.

 Ask anyone that every asked Rivera’s autograph and you’d be hard pressed to find a fan that didn’t get one. He didn’t care if his ball ended up in an auction or on EBay.

 Born in small fishing village in Panama, Rivera never forgot who he was and where he came from. Panama embraced him as a hero.

Panama president Laurentino Cortizo was in Cooperstown on Sunday as was legendary boxing great Roberto Duran.

Rivera spoke no English when he came to America. He couldn’t communicate with his teammates. He cried himself to sleep.

Yet teammates Jeter, Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte and Tino Martinez were all there on Sunday, sitting together. Bernie Williams played, ‘Take Me Out to the Ballgame’ on the guitar.

They came because Rivera asked them to come.

“I tried to carry the pinstripes the best I could,’’ said Rivera. “I think I did all right with that.’’

We Are Family? No, We Are Savages

Robbins Nest

By Lenn Robbins

  For a team that plays in The Jungle, it’s confounding that no manager or player in pinstripes had ever before claimed, “My Guys Are Savages.”

 Aaron Boone has turned out to be a terrific manager. There’s no better proof than the first half of this season when so many in pinstripes had a red cross. His players like him but after Thursday’s epic blowup with rookie umpire Brennan Miller and subsequent ejection, this is a renewing of vows.

“My guys are f**king savages in that f**king box, right?!” raged Boone.

And thus, a rallying cry for the ages was born: My Guys Are Savages!

By Friday night, Luke Voit, with a lot of help from BarStool Sports, the Yankees had ‘Savage’ T-shirts.

Sure hope that Boone trademarked his slogan because you know every factory from Vietnam to China and back are revving up their printing presses. By Saturday morning there were T-shirts ranging from $13-$28 on the web ready to be had.

“We’re gonna rock it for a while,” Voit told The Post.

The Yankees didn’t need a rallying cry this season. After losing four straight in April to drop to 5-8, the Yankees arguably have been the best team in baseball.

They showed themselves to be savages Friday night when Edwin Encarnacion blasted a grand slam in the bottom of the third to lead the Yankees to an 8-2 win over the Rockies. They are 30 games above .500 (63-33) and have the best record in baseball going into Saturday’s matinee.

But there are no guarantees that the best team in late-July is the team that will hoist the championship trophy in October. The A’s, Astros, Indians, Rays and Twins, who have been cooling while the heat is rising, are formidable foes in the AL. The Braves, Cubs, Dodgers and resurgent Nationals lurk in the NL.

Perhaps Boone’s savage slogan will push the Yankees to greater heights. Certainly, he’s upped his standing in the clubhouse and in the boardroom.

“It shows that he is one with his players,” Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner told The Post. “He is there with them and for them, step by step throughout this season. As any good leader would, and should, be. Aaron is a good leader.”

“I think he uses that term to give us confidence,” MVP candidate DJ LeMahieu told reporters. “We obviously have a good lineup, but when your manager has your back like that, it goes a long ways. … Watching it on video, I don’t think you could’ve really written it any better. I thought it was one of the coolest things.”

Also cool is that Boone called Miller to apologize for the tirade. There can be a fine line between leader and bully and Boone made certain to stay on the correct side.

Now he has the most potent lineup in baseball. He has a pitching staff that should get a boost before the July 31st trade deadline. He’s got his own T-shirt. And he’s got a rallying cry for the ages.

‘My Guys Are Savages.” It sure beats, “We Are Family.”