Open Thread: Jets at Bengals

After putting a hurtin’ on them last week, the Jets line up to face the Bengals once again in today’s AFC Wild Card Game. Another 37-0 beatdown is unlikely, however expect the Jets to use the same smothering defense and brutally efficient ground attack to try and get them their first playoff win since 2004.

Use this thread to talk about this afternoon’s game, which starts at 4:30pm ET and can be seen on NBC.

Olney: Yanks in no rush to find a righty hitting leftfielder

In this morning’s blog post, Buster Olney says the Yanks are not in a big rush to bring in a righthanded hitting left fielder to caddy Brett Gardner. He says the team will simply wait out free agency to see how the market develops for Reed Johnson, Jonny Gomes, and the like. It makes perfect sense for the Yanks to operate like this, as there is no shortage of qualified players on the open market, and frankly because we haven’t heard of too many teams being interested in Johnson or Gomes or Rocco Baldelli or whoever else.

Would it be nice to upgrade in left? Sure. Is it that big of a hole that Brian Cashman should rush out and sign the best available player? No, of course not. It could be way worse than having two good-to-great defenders age-25 or less fit at the very bottom of this lineup.

Waiting for pitchers and catchers

Later this afternoon, when the Jets and Bengals face off in Cincinnati, this baseball fan will be reminded how we are so close and yet so far to the start of Spring Training. Of course, a brisk walk around the city in these sub-freezing temperatures would accomplish the same thing, but the NFL playoffs are a more visual reminder.

For sports fans, the year is divided into different leagues and games. For me, the year starts in April when Opening Day arrives. Already, my interest in the immediacy of the baseball through Spring Training roster battles, and when April rolls around, despite the ongoing hockey and basketball seasons, I’m ready for seven months of bliss. After baseball season ends, football takes as much of center stage as it can. I enjoy watching the games but find it hard to root too hard for anyone.

As football plows onward, Sunday to Sunday, the NBA and NHL flit into and out of my consciousness. Sometimes, I remember to watch the Knicks. Sometimes, I remember to check the hockey standings. As January rolls around, the NFL playoff takes center stage, and these weeks of games are all that separates us from pitchers and catchers. After the Super Bowl, this year at least, we get the Olympics, but those are more spectacle than sport.

When mid-February rolls around, I want spring to be on the horizon, but we are handed only some full-team workouts and pitcher fielding practice. It is but an amuse bouche well before the appetizers are even ordered. In March, the NCAA’s tournament sweeps through the sports world. Some live for Bracketology and the 65th team. Others wait the Sweet Sixteen, cheer for the Cinderella story and await the national championship game. And then it’s baseball’s time to shine.

Today, we sit amidst a slow time in baseball. A caution and sluggish market has come to a near-freeze, and although many players are teamless and jobless, they figure to remain so for a few more weeks before a pre-Spring Training glut of signings are announced. So we wait for football. We wait for spring. We count down the days until players trickle into Arizona and Florida. And we wonder which team will make the next move, which GM will surprise us all, which domino will fall next.

Yanks interested in bringing back Jerry Hairston Jr.

Via MLBTR, the Yanks are one of five teams that have expressed interest in free agent jack-of-all-trades Jerry Hairston Jr. Sucka got no juice, the proprietor of said rumor, says that Jerry could get as much as $2-3M on a one year deal, though he’s received multi-year deals as well. The Yanks could certainly afford that, especially since he’d also double as a backup backup plan for left field.

The bench right now is decidedly young, and Jerry did a bang up job during his stint in pinstripes last year. It’s not every day that you can find a guy to come off the bench and get on base 35% of the time while running into the occasional fastball.

Friday Night Open Thread

Sorry for the tardiness, but here’s your open thread for the evening. The Devils, Islanders, and Nets are all in action, plus you can come hang out with me at MLBTR. Anything goes, so have fun.

Phil v. Joba (2010)

As Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes have risen through the Yankee system, they have been dazzled and disappointed at times. Such are the ways of young pitching prospects, and the two will head into Spring Training battling for the same spot in the starting rotation. The loser will, in all likelihood, start the season in the bullpen if not the Triple A rotation, and due to his ability to throw more innings in 2010, Joba will be the incumbent while Phil has an uphill battle if he wants to start in the Bronx this April.

For the Yankees, having two live and highly-regarded arms is hardly a problem; 29 other teams would die to have this problem. For fans watching these two mature into Major League pitchers, it’s always entertaining to see how the two stack up against each other, and today at The Yankee U, Moshe Mandel did just that. He asked a bunch of prospect writers — including our very own Mike Axisa — which of the two was the bigger prospect. Joba seems to have won by a hair, and the jury is still out as to which of the two will be the better Major Leaguer.