My Christmas Wish List

When I put together my Christmas list for this year, I didn’t bother to ask for anything to do with the New York Football Giants. At 6-9, their season has been lost since their Week 12 loss to the Cowboys and this season marks the fourth time in five years the Giants won’t play in the postseason.

After reaching the playoffs in each of the first four years of Eli Manning’s career as the full-time starting quarterback (2005-08), the Giants’ lone playoff trip since their loss in the 2008 divisional round as the No. 1 seed was in 2011 when they won the Super Bowl. I’m very grateful for the two Super Bowls since 2007 and that Eli Manning and Tom Coughlin prevented Tom Brady and Bill Belichick from being 5-0 in the Super Bowl and football immortality as the best quarterback-coach combination in history. But at this time of the year with the Cowboys and Eagles playing for the NFC East title and the Bears, Packers, Panthers, Saints, Seahawks, 49ers, Cardinals, Patriots, Dolphins, Bengals, Ravens, Steelers, Colts, Broncos, Chiefs and Chargers all playing for something this Sunday, it’s not fun being on the outside looking in.

Yes, it’s another Week 17 of wondering what could have been, but I’m not going to let the Giants ruin Christmas since they already ruined October and November (the Yankees ruined September). And if I can’t have playoff football this year, which I can’t, then this is what I want.

Something That Resembles A Starting Rotation That Can Compete In the AL East
If it seems like I have asked for that before, it’s because I have. Back in 2010, I asked for the same exact thing after the Yankees lost out on Cliff Lee and I was staring at a potential rotation of CC Sabathia, Phil Hughes, A.J. Burnett, Ivan Nova and at the time no one else. (That’s right, Phil Hughes, coming off an 18-win season, was going to be the Yankees’ No. 2 starter.) Thankfully Bartolo Colon decided to get some “help” and Freddy Garcia reinvented himself and the Yankees won 97 games and the AL East before the heart of the order went missing in a five-game series loss to the Tigers in the ALDS.

So far this offseason the Yankees have signed Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran and Brian Roberts and lost Robinson Cano to the Mariners. The November 2013 Yankees are better than the September 2013 Yankees were and are better in theory than the 2013 Yankees were ever going to be at their healthiest point. But the rotation is still a problem just like it was at this time last year and the year before that.

The best free-agent options for the rotation are Matt Garza, Ervin Santana, Ubaldo Jimenez, Bronson Arroyo, Paul Maholm and …. wait for it …. wait for it …. wait for it … A.J. Burnett! The only one of these six options I would be OK with would be Garza, but even then he’s going to command (and receive) a ridiculous contract in this market for someone who has a career .500 record (67-67), a 3.84 ERA and has started only 42 games over the last two years.

Brian Cashman said going into this winter that he was going to have to find 400 innings from somewhere and I don’t think the Yankees are going to sign one of the “top” free agents just because they are the best available right now like they would have in the past with Carl Pavano or Jaret Wright or Burnett. That means that “somewhere” will likely be from within the organization and some combination of the current favorites Michael Pineda, David Phelps and Adam Warren. Unless, the Yankees can give me the next thing on my list …

Cliff Lee
Yes, three years later I’m still asking for Cliff Lee. I don’t need to explain it. Just read this. But since Lee isn’t exactly realistic, I will ask for someone who is …

Masahiro Tanaka
I know nothing about Masahiro Tanaka other than from searching “Masahiro Tanaka” on YouTube and watching a video titled “Best of Mashahiro Tanaka” that is synced to what sounds like nearly four minutes of an instrumental version of a song by The Offspring. But I’m going to guess that the only knowledge most North American “experts” who talk about how good Tanaka is happens to be this same exact video. No one knows for sure how Tanaka’s Japanese success will translate to the majors and given the history of highly coveted Japanese pitchers coming to North America, there’s a better chance that Tanaka will be more like Daisuke Matsuzaka than Yu Darvish. But as long as he’s not Kei Igawa (I haven’t typed that name in so long), I’ll take him.

2013-14 Henrik Lundqvist To Be 2011-12 Henrik Lundqvist
Since signing his seven-year extension, Henrik Lundqvist is 2-4-2. I’m not sure if you want your franchise player, who you recently locked up through 2020-21 to be saying he “kind of expected” that a rookie backup would be starting in place of him for the second consecutive game and night. And after recording two wins and allowing just two goals combined in 48 hours, I’m not sure that Alain Vigneault is necessarily going to go back to Lundqvist over Cam Talbot on Friday night in Washington.

Lundqvist has admitted to over-anticipating plays and being jumpy and it has shown this season. While it’s hard to fault him for a five-goal loss to the Islanders on Friday night when you consider they were getting shorthanded breakaways and odd-man rushes left and right, he isn’t bailing out the team that way he used to. And because Lundqvist isn’t bailing out his team the way he used to, it brings me to the next thing I’m asking for …

A New Rangers Defense
I asked for this last because this is going to be the most unrealistic of them all. It would be like asking for Xbox One and PlayStation 4 this year.

Since 2008-09, the Rangers’ problem has been scoring goals, but now with Lundvist struggling and having a down year so far, preventing goals is even more of a problem. And if Lundqvist is going to be more human-like than King-like this season, the Rangers aren’t going anywhere because they don’t have the defense (especially with Marc Staal injured) many thought they did. Through the first 46 percent of the season, Lundqvist hasn’t been bailing out the incompetence of the Rangers defense the way he has through his entire career. But rather than focus on his entire career, let’s focus on since 2011-12 when the current Rangers defensive core started to become the foundation of the defense.

We all know that I don’t think the 2011-12 Rangers were worthy of the Eastern Conference’s No. 1 seed or as close as “two wins away from the Stanley Cup Final” as they technically were. They earned the top seed and won two series in Game 7 before losing the Devils in six because of Henrik Lundqvist. Not because of their offense and certainly not because of their defense. Lundqvist made everyone believe Dan Girardi was an All-Star and that Michael Del Zotto could be trusted in his own zone the same way Sidney Crosby has made everyone believe Chris Kunitz is some kind of superstar despite his career season-high in goals being 26 and now as a linemate of Number 87, he has 20 goals in just 39 games.

Prior to Lundqvist signing an extension, there was a worrying sense that overpaying Lundqvist would cost the Rangers a chance at re-signing Girardi this offseason. But right now I’m not sure anyone would want to sign Girardi. When he’s not falling down or giving the puck away, he’s busy scoring goals against his team, a stat which he must lead the league in by at least 15.

As for Del Zotto, it’s pretty obvious his time with the Rangers is dwindling. When the Rangers beat the Maple Leafs on Monday night at the Garden, I watched Del Zotto intently as the Rangers saluted from center ice and wondered if Del Zotto was thinking it could be one of the last times he would salute the MSG crowd. If it is, the Rangers will be a better team.

Merry Christmas!