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Kallas Remarks: Random Sports Thoughts And Some NFL Picks

(Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

(Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

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By Steve Kallas
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JESUS MONTERO

Everybody went crazy when Jesus Montero hit those two opposite-field home runs against the Orioles on September 5 and, to some degree, rightfully so.  The right-handed hitting Montero hit a fastball out over the plate into the right-center field bleachers (actually, into the second level – above the divider – in the bleachers) and then hit a down and away fastball also into the right-center field bleachers (below the divider) – two excellent shots for a righty.

The resulting conversations after these home runs went from massive opposite field power (which was Montero’s rep when he came up) to he hit it off weak Orioles pitching.  But the conclusion – this guy can hit – had already been answered in the previous series against Toronto,

The hardest thing for a young power hitter to do when first called up to the majors has nothing to do with hitting for power the opposite way.  The hardest thing for a kid like Montero to do is to hit major league off-speed stuff, stuff that he rarely, if ever, saw in the minor leagues.

So, it was actually in the Toronto series, the series before the Baltimore bashes, that Jesus Montero showed (to those with a keen eye) that he could hit major league pitching when he was able to stay back on off-speed stuff and line a single to left-field against the Blue Jays.

Why is this so important?  Well, fairly or not, Jesus Montero has already been compared to unbelievable hitters such as Manny Ramirez and Miguel Cabrera.  Ramirez, one of the greatest right-handed hitters ever, and Cabrera, in this writer’s opinion the best hitter in baseball today, both have (had, in the case of Ramirez) an uncanny ability to hit a breaking ball after seeing four, five, six fastballs in a row.

For example, on August 19, 2010 at Yankee Stadium, Phil Hughes threw Cabrera five fastballs in a row.  He then threw him a curveball that Cabrera deposited in the left-center field bleachers for a mammoth home run.  I believe that only Ramirez (in the last 15 years or so) could do it like Cabrera did it that day.

Now, this isn’t to say that Jesus Montero can do it like Ramirez and Cabrera can (or could) do it.  But it is to say that, if you are trying to figure out whether a young hitter can be a GREAT hitter, not just a good one, you should watch his ability to hit off-speed, major league pitching.

The excellent power the opposite way is an added bonus.

Make no mistake – Jesus Montero is going to be an excellent major league hitter.  But it’s not for the reasons that most people swooned over last week against the Orioles.

MARK HERZLICH

Undrafted linebacker Mark Herzlich officially made the Giants roster last week.  Everybody knows the feel good story – ACC Defensive Player of the Year in 2008, diagnosed with bone cancer in 2009, comes back to have a pretty good (not great) season in 2010 but goes undrafted and signs with the Giants.

But this is no pity party for Mark Herzlich.  While playing well on special teams during the exhibition games, Herzlich (I thought) cemented his place on the 53-man roster with a single play he made against the Chicago Bears late in that exhibition game.  Down at the goal line, playing linebacker late in the game, Herzlich dropped back into pass coverage and made a stunning athletic play, leaping up to block a pass and, at the same time, showing the ability to intercept the ball.

In that one play, Herzlich showed many that he’s coming back to the athleticism that he showed in the past.  A brilliant (from a mental perspective) play coupled with a brilliant (from an athletic perspective) play.  That’s an NFL football player.  When I asked Giant owner John Mara about Herzlich on my radio show the following Thursday, he was non-committal (although clearly in Herzlich’s corner), talking correctly about the competition at the position, etc.

But clearly Herzlich has impressed the coaching staff with his intelligence, his work ethic and, yes, with his ability to drop into coverage and catch (not just knock down) a pass that comes his way near the end zone.

While he may not be a factor this season on anything but special teams, it says here that, at some point in the future, Mark Herzlich will be a good NFL linebacker.

REX RYAN

Given the situation with the beating of that baseball Giants fan in the Dodgers parking lot and that shooting at an NFL exhibition game this season, it’s kind of hard to believe that Rex Ryan would be dumb enough to make any kind of comment about Dallas fans not wearing Dallas gear to the Meadowlands this Sunday night.  It’s not even that what Ryan says is wrong – certainly, if you wear the opposing teams jersey to many stadiums (Philadelphia and New York come to mind), you may very well get abused (hopefully, only verbally or not at all).

But, in this climate, this year, this statement shows that Rex Ryan, an excellent football coach, has a problem with Open Mouth, Insert Foot disease.

If he can’t think before he speaks, he needs to hire someone to help him with that.

PLAXICO BURRESS

I’m actually a Burress fan, understanding full well what he did for Eli Manning and the Giants and what he may do for Mark Sanchez and the Jets.  But, hopefully, somebody with a brain who has his ear will tell him the obvious:  just shut up and play football.

Hard to believe that this guy, of all guys, would even open his mouth about real or perceived slights from the Giants.

NFL PICKS

AFC DIVISION WINNERS:  NEW ENGLAND, PITTSBURGH, HOUSTON, SAN DIEGO

AFC WILD CARDS:  NEW YORK JETS, BALTIMORE

NFC DIVISION WINNERS:  PHILADELPHIA, GREEN BAY, NEW ORLEANS, ARIZONA

NFC WILD CARDS:  ATLANTA, DALLAS

SUPER BOWL:  NEW ENGLAND OVER PHILADELPHIA (and, boy, does it hurt to pick these teams in the SB)