DICKEY-MANIA IS SWEEPING THE LAND

OUR BASEBALL WEEKEND REPORT - DICKEY-MANIA IS SWEEPING THE LAND BUT WE OFFER UP A COUPLE OF OTHER STARTING PITCHERS WHO DESERVE A ROUND OF APPLAUSE FOR THEIR FIRST-HALF PERFORMANCES ...

MORE NFL TEAM-BY-TEAM CAPSULES AS WE BRING YOU THE JETS & BEARS

There was an ultra-interesting discussion going on in Friday night’s New York Mets’ 9-0 win at the Los Angeles Dodgers as knuckleballer R.A. Dickey was busy dazzling the home folks with an 8-inning, 3-hit shutout that included 10 more strikeouts and - the real amazing stat - just one walk.

Dickey’s star-studded season now stands as thus:

A truly fabulous 12-1 record (and a winner in 10 straight decisions) to go along with a tidy 2.15 ERA and naturally folks in The Big Apple are clamoring for this born-again 37-year-old to start in this month’s All-Star Game in Kansas City on the night of July 10th.

No doubt this first half of the 2012 season has been super-special for Dickey who really has thrown only two bad games including last Sunday’s 5-run yield in a no-decision Mets loss to the archrival New York Yankees and so while Mets television broadcasters Gary Cohen and Ron Darling waxed poetically about the days of “Fernando-Mania” with Dodgers LHP Fernando Valenzeula back in the early 1980s and Mark “The Bird” Fidyrch in Detroit back in the summer of 1976 we didn’t want to overlook two other Major-League Baseball starting pitchers who have been absolutely terrific the first half of this 2012 campaign.

Here’s the “A+” role call to join with Mr. Dickey:

Chris Sale, LHP, Chicago White Sox - Too bad that this 6-foot-6, 180-pound hurler didn’t pitch in this four-game weekend series at Yankee Stadium because it would have been a treat to see him knock heads with the likes of SS Derek Jeter and 2B Robinson Cano but you better believe there will be an All-Star berth for this 23-year-old Chisox pitcher who will enter his Tuesday start against the Texas Rangers with a 9-2 record and miniscule 2.27 ERA.

Note that Sale has gone seven-or-more innings in six of his last seven starts for the American League Central leaders and his 0.97 WHIP is second-best in the junior circuit.

Is there a Cy Young straight ahead this season for Sale? Hey, a 20-win year could have him nudging out the likes of Tampa Bay LHP David Price and Texas RHP Yu Darvish.

Madison Bumgarner, LHP, San Francisco Giants - Maybe Dickey has wowed folks more with his “hard” knuckler and his one-time troubling off-the-field life but has any pitcher out there in the National League been more consistent than this classy southpaw?

Bumgarner exited Thursday’s snazzy 5-0, one-hit allowed win against the Cincinnati Reds with a 10-4 record and 2.85 ERA and keep in mind that complete-game showing gave him the NL lead in innings pitched (110.2) plus he finished the month of June at 5-0 with a 2.44 ERA with 45 strikeouts.

Folks, on a Giants staff loaded with aces, this guy might someday be the best of ‘em all!

And now hear this ...

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NFL TEAM-BY-TEAM CAPSULES - LET’S CHECK OUT THE JETS & BEARS

Let’s continue our summertime look at all 32 NFL teams. On today’s menu, the New York Jets and the Chicago Bears:

NEW YORK JETS - Last year’s meltdown season included more than a few internal brush fires en route to a sluggish 8-8 campaign but the J-E-T-S believe they’ve “improved” the locker room mix and maybe getting rid of WR Plaxico Burress was a start (although WR Santonio Holmes already has acted out by sitting out a portion of the team drills last month in the OTAs).

Naturally, the biggest buzz surrounding Gang Green was the import of QB Tim Tebow during the off-season and while critics laughed at head coach Rex Ryan’s account that Tebow will get “20 snaps” in regular-season games this 2012 season we believe Tebow will play in lots of short-yardage and goal-line plays as a running back type and so maybe he’ll get closer to 20 snaps per game than everyone thinks. If Tebow does have a role as a passing quarterback behind starter Mark Sanchez, than we would think it’s just as a guy who gets plugged in for a quick slant pass here or there to help energize a drive ... we’ll see.

On the defensive side of things, keep in mind the Jets are looking for big things from first-round draftee DE Quinton Coples (North Carolina) whom Ryan promises won’t be another Vernon Gholston!

CHICAGO - Here’s another team that didn’t quite live up to expectations last year while also recording an 8-8 SU (straight-up) mark and now this NFC North crew hopes the offense can be a bit more productive after ranking just 17th in the NFL in 2011.

Running back Matt Forte claims he has “scars” from his contract issues as the Bears placed the franchise tag on him and paid ‘em $7.742 million for this upcoming campaign but will new additions WR Brandon Marshall (trade with Miami) and acrobatic rookie WR Alshon Jeffery (South Carolina) really stretch the field for QB Jay Cutler ... or will those offensive line problems force Cutler to dump down more passes than he would like in this offense?

Meanwhile, hate to get “caught up” in stats but last year’s Bears bunch finished 28th in the NFL in passing defense (allowed 254.1 aerial yards per game) and rookie OLB/DE Shea McClellin (Boise State) could wind up being a perfect complement to Bears pass rusher Julius Peppers - and don’t be surprised if Chicago’s first-round pick plays on most every down and even on some special teams too. Hey, Chicago’s gonna get its proverbial money’s worth, right?

NOTE: Get more NFL Team-by-Team capsules in the next Jim Sez.

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Nov

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