New York Giants: Steve Spagnuolo Finds New Job With Chiefs

One part of the offseason is staff members changing teams, and former New York Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo is one of the coaches who will start working with a new organization for the 2019 season. That organization will be the Kansas City Chiefs, which interestingly, has been better than the Giants in recent years and is coming off of a trip to the AFC Championship Game and nearly a run to the Super Bowl.

One would think that a defensive coordinator who was fired from his last job would have a hard time finding work with one of the AFC finalists, but peculiarly enough, Spanuolo is being hired to the same role that he had with the Giants. Spagnuolo replaces Bob Sutton, who spent six seasons with the Chiefs but coached the defense to an AFC Championship Game where they allowed the Patriots to score 37 points and eventually lost.

It wasn’t the first time that the Chiefs allowed a large number of points. The Patriots dropped 40 on them earlier in the season and the Rams managed to score 54, in a matchup that was almost a preview of the Super Bowl, as well as allowing 38 points to the Seahawks around the end of the regular season. With a better defense, the Chiefs could have made it all the way through the AFC playoffs, so it will be interesting to see whether Spagnuolo improves or worsens their play.

Before this job, Spagnuolo served as the interim head coach of the Giants after the firing of Ben McAdoo. The team, however, had already mostly given up at that point and Spagnuolo only achieved one win in that span, something that you can hardly blame on him. Earlier in the season, however, Spagnuolo seemed to do a mediocre job as the defensive coordinator of the Giants, a far cry from the 2016 season where a good defense was one of the things that helped the team into the playoffs.

Even though few disagreed with the decision for the Giants to move on, most Giants fans will wish Spagnuolo luck in the new role. After all, Spagnuolo is one of the remaining key members from a better time, when the Giants were winning the Super Bowl rather than sitting out at playoff time.

New York Knicks Bow Down To James Harden – Kanter Benched

The New York Knicks lost their 7th straight game in a nail biter, 114 to 110, against the Houston Rockets and the hottest player in the NBA, James Harden.

The Knicks rolled out a lineup of Mudiay, Hardaway Jr, Vonleh, Knox, and Lance Thomas against the Houston Rockets led by Harden and featuring Kenneth Faried who was recently acquired to fill in for the injured Clint Capela. For the Knicks this is an interesting lineup change with Luke Kornet injured and the Trade Deadline looming (more on that later).

Starting from the beginning:

The first basket made, in the Knicks 3rd game in the last 7 days, came off a James Harden And-1 three-pointer. At that precise moment every single Knicks spectator had the same thought “it’s going to be a long night” … and it sure was… but not for the reasons you may think.

The Knicks had a legitimate shot to win although James Harden tied Kobe Bryant’ record for points by a visiting player in the Garden with 61. Despite Harden’s best efforts, he was one-point shy of the overall individual points record in one game, set by Carmelooooo Anthonyyyyyyyyyyy (Mike Walczewski voice [MSG PA announcer]).

“The Beard” has been on a tear in the NBA averaging 52 points per game over the last five games with, remarkably, zero of those points coming off an assist! Not sure which statistic is more impressive.

In arguably the best half of basketball the Knicks have collectively put together as a cohesive team this season, the team maintained a three-point lead after the first quarter and a five-point lead at halftime, despite James Harden starting the game with 19 points in the first quarter and finishing the first half with 36 points.

Tim Hardaway Jr. did his best to match the Rockets offensive style in the first half by scoring 16 points, but ended the game with just 21 points.

In a game where Harden was seemingly scoring at will, the Knicks brought their own dog to the fight as their undrafted rookie stepped up to the plate and broke out of his slump for a career day.

Allonzo Trier dropped 31 points and 10 rebounds, becoming the first rookie since Patrick Ewing with more than 30 points and 10 bounds(Walt Frazier voice).

The 4th Quarter:

The New York Knicks were on a 10-0 run within 5-minutes, but the Houston Rockets recovered quickly and had the game seemingly in hand; up 7 with 2 minutes and 30 seconds, before the chaos ensued. Mudiay closed in on the lead with a drive the basket and Eric Gordon had a key three-pointer, but it was mostly the Harden and Trier show in the last 2 minutes.

It began with coach David Fizdale receiving his second technical foul for (maybe?) saying something to the referee, which resulted in an automatic ejection and led to a mini-tirade by Coach Fiz that ignited the Garden crowd in crunch time. There was also an all-time blunder on an inbound play with under 1-minute left that put the Knicks within 1 point of the Rockets. On an inbound play after a made basket, P.J. Tucker, a well-respected veteran in the NBA, let the ball bounce inbounds as if he was trying to kill a dead ball on a football punt, in a Top 10 Shaqtin-A-Fool moment.

Iso-Zo was living up to his nickname as he went toe-to-toe with Harden and put the Knicks up by one with 20 seconds left in the game. From there came an Eric Gordon coast-to-coast 3 pointer followed by a defensive play on a Vonleh inbound that led to a Harden steal, dunk, and just like that… game over. Rockets win by 4.

So… What Now?

The Knicks are 10-36, including a current seven-game losing streak and 1-14 in the last 15 games. No matter how you slice the numbers, the Knicks have settled themselves into the dark shadows of the NBA and everyone’s eyes are on the May 14th, NBA Lottery prize. But of course, before getting there, there are steep mountains to climb for this organization in their 36 remaining games.

First and foremost, the NBA trade deadline is February 7th, which is just around the corner. Today the Knicks have officially declared that Courtney Lee, Tim Hardaway Jr., and Enes Kanter are on the trading block. New York has reportedly been adamant about not attaching assets to get rid of players and/or contracts such as Lee and THJ.

This is great news for the New York fans who do not have much faith in the organization and front office, with an important 2019 offseason looming. The New York Knicks, along with Coach David Fizdale, Scott Perry, and Steve Mills have done a great job thus far. Do not forget they obtained Kevin Knox, Mitchell Robinson, Trier, and Vonleh this offseason. They have a plan and it is working.

Enes Kanter Turmoil

Enes Kanter and the Knicks have been on an interesting ride this season. It began with the Turkish center getting reprimanded publicly by the Turkish government, to Kanter’s offseason social media escapades trying to figure out if he will opt in or out of his contract with New York. Recently has not been able to make the trip with his team to London due to his conflict with Turkey and has not only been benched but completely removed from the rotation.

Kanter was frustrated with being taken out of the starting lineup for Luke Kornet, but with Kornet hurt Enes was not only expecting to slide back into the starting lineup but claimed he was told he would start the Rockets game. Kanter did not play with a Coaches decision. Fizdale defended his decision by saying that nothing was set in stone in the morning and that he essentially reserves the right to make changes to put his team in the best position to win. That’s an extremely cliche answer in a dicey situation with a disgruntled player who went from being promised a starting position to not playing at all, with no communication. That spells 4 words… See ya later Enes.

When Coach Fizdale was asked if he was concerned about Kanter as a distraction and he joked,  “What are we going to do, lose more games?”

Reasons for Optimism:

This was a tough loss for the New York Knicks morale and to see the bright side of the 2018-19 Knicks season, you really have to go searching into the big picture.

Mitchell Robinson, the French Prince, Kevin Knox, Damyean Dotson, and Emmanuel Mudiay are all slowly progressing in the NBA and they continue to grow while piling up losses. These losses aren’t so good for their morale and culture, but all will be forgotten when the NBA Draft Lottery rolls around. Either if you’re completely against the idea of wanting your team to lose, any wins accumulated are completely useless as the Knicks have virtually no chance to make the playoffs this year.

Wash. Rinse. Repeat:

Shed Contracts. Grow as a team. Have a bottom three record.

 

 

The New York Yankees Need To Steal One Thing From The Boston Red Sox System

The New York Yankees live and die on the homer-run, that was the system they used in 2018 and will likely continue to use until it doesn’t earn them 100 overall wins on the year. With Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, and Gary Sanchez all offering a big bat in the lineup, another high home run total is likely on the horizon.

In 2018, the trio combined for an astounding 83 homers, and when you factor in Judge’s missed time that number grows. Additionally, Sanchez had a porous year, hitting .186. A lingering hamstring injury and the after-shock of shoulder surgery surely didn’t help his overall statistics.

What should the New York Yankees steal from Boston?

One of the more intriguing aspects of the Boston offense is their ability to run the bases. Smart base-running can be the difference between having a runner in scoring position, or not. Now, the risk of running the bases can often result in negative plays, but Red Sox manager Alex Cora knows exactly what he’s doing with this methodology. Keeping your base-runners aggressive forces pitchers to pay more attention to the bases and not on accuracy.

This simple distraction can throw off a pitchers rhythm and put them in a position of vulnerability.

In 2018, Boston stole 125 bases and was caught stealing 31 times. The Yankees only stole 63 bases and were caught 21 times. That number is sickening, and guess who won the big game…

What can the Yankees do?

Head coach Aaron Boone needs to utilize his players on base more effectively moving forward. Cora exploited a weakness in the Yankees’ defense during the postseason. Good base-running and aggressiveness while at their home-field stifled a young Bombers squad and left them scratching their heads in the dirt as their rivals walked on towards the World Series.

So, while I would never stoop low enough to damage my pride by stealing from the Red Sox, this category is an exception and is essential to winning games, especially in the elimination rounds. The biggest concern is the size of the Yankees’ players and finding a way to move them into scoring position when on base.

Stanton stands at 6-foot-6 and Judge 6-foot-7, so asking them to run the bases like Mookie Betts or Andrew Benintendi is unrealistic. But, utilizing aggressive base-running to set up Judge and Stanton seems to be the more efficient method of scoring more runs per-game.

 

 

New York Yankees: Can Gary Sanchez Bounce Back?

New York Yankees, Gary Sanchez

With the New York Yankees making several offseason moves to bolster their roster, some of their current talent are primed for big years in 2019. Despite injuries that limited him to only 89 games, catcher Gary Sanchez is primed for a bounce-back in 2019. If he can stay healthy, he could potentially return to 2016 form when he hit 20 home runs in just 53 games.

2018 Stats (New York Yankees):

89 Games, .186/.291/.406/.697, 18 HR, 53 RBI, 46 BB, 51 Runs Scored, 1.2 WAR

2018 was a poor year for Sanchez, both offensively and defensively. The latter has been an issue since 2017, mainly due to passed balls. He led MLB in that category the past two seasons, with 16 in 2017 and 18 in 2018. Not only did Sanchez suffer from two Disabled List stints stemming from a groin injury, but he also had surgery in November to remove tissue from his left shoulder. Apparently, Sanchez had been suffering from intermittent irritation in that same shoulder since 2017.

The procedure comes with a three-month recovery window. Happening in mid-November, that puts Sanchez’s expected recovery at mid-February, just in time for spring training. Despite this, GM Brian Cashman said that they will be cautious with the 26-year old catcher so he’s ready for Opening Day.

A big key for Sanchez to have a breakout 2019 is to fix his issues defensively. He has a cannon of an arm behind the plate that has gunned down 36% of would-be base stealers in his young career, as well as a solid pitch framer. If he can fix his blocking, especially with a Yankees pitching staff that recently added reliever Adam Ottovino and his trademark slider, he could become a significant defensive force behind the plate.

2019 Stat Predictions:

139 Games, .279/.412/.571/.983, 36 HR, 100 RBI, 93 BB, 80 Runs Scored

Awards Predictions:

All-Star, Silver Slugger, AL Comeback Player of the Year, Top 15 MVP Finish

The New York Yankees Could Be In For An Outfield Surprise

With the New York Yankees going into the 2019 season with an overcrowded outfield, they must instill confidence in the young Clintz Frazier despite the presence of Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury. Both are aging veterans that have seen massive declines in recent years, as Jacoby missed all of 2018.

Frazier is also coming off a stint on the disabled list, but his youth should allow him to move forward toward success. Ongoing concussion symptoms have derailed his development a bit, but trainers have indicated that he should be a full-go come opening day.

Ultimately, the Yankees must allow the speed-swinger to play as much as possible in the beginning of the season, simply because he is in need of the reps and consistency.

What can we expect from Clintz Frazier?

In 54-games in triple-A ball, Frazier slashed .305/.388/.562, displaying reason for optimism at the professional level. In 2017, Clint earned a .231 BA with the Yankees over 142 plate appearances. He recorded 14 RBIs with four-homers and 31 total hits. Frazier isn’t known as a slugger, but rather a base-hit first type. His speed is also intriguing as he recorded four triples in the MLB.

I’m cautiously optimistic that he can provide solid value in the season ahead, but if he can show his defensive qualities off, his influence could go beyond just batting.

The elders:

The Yankees still have Brett Gardner on a one-year, $7.5 million deal and Jacoby Ellsbury sucking the Yankees’ salary cap dry. Both will be vying for their fair share of the load in 2019, but Aaron Boone must stick to his young guns and further their development. At the end of the day, youth is more important for the prolonged success of the team, and that should be the mantra moving forward.

An outfield consisting of Giancarlo Stanton/Frazier, Aaron Hicks, and Aaron Judge would be one of the more elite groups in the league. Defensive prowess along with solid hitting abilities to compliment their talents and help the team achieve the ultimate goal…No.28.