New York Giants: James Bettcher Planning For His Possible Last Game

New York Giants

It’s no secret that the New York Giants might be moving on from defensive coordinator James Bettcher soon. His defenses have been lackluster and cost the Giants a number of games where they could have won had the team not given up one more touchdown or field goal, and Pat Shurmur’s decision to keep faith in Bettcher moving from the 2018 season to the 2019 season hasn’t paid off for either party.

If both coaches are going to keep their jobs, which could be an unlikely prospect whether the team wins or loses based on the reports about the ownership’s unhappiness with the current situation, winning on Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles is an absolute must. It’s not exactly turning the season around, but knocking the Eagles out of the playoffs would be an achievement Bettcher and Shurmur can point towards – even if the Giants themselves didn’t come anywhere close to competing for the playoffs this season.

“I think that the first down play in that series is very important, too, because if you give up six on first down, then it’s second and four and your third down doesn’t look good already. It starts with the whole series and the whole drive. Playing well on first down, putting that play in the bank. Go to the second down play, execute, win your matchup, whatever it might be. Then get to the third down and play where it’s at,” Bettcher said about the preparations for the upcoming game.

But the Eagles converting nine out of 21 third downs last time the teams met was a problem for the Giants and one of the factors that led to their overtime battle ending up a loss rather than a victory.

“When you get 12 stops on third down in a game, that’s pretty good. The percentage kind of goes out the window at that point. But we need to go execute on third down, win our matchups on third down, understand how they’re trying to attack us. In the second half, we need to get one or two more third down stops than we got last time,” Bettcher stated.

If the Giants can’t pull out a win on Sunday, it looks very likely that Bettcher and Shurmur will be on the way out come Monday – potentially with Dave Gettleman following closely behind, depending on just how much of a purge the ownership conducts. It certainly makes third down defense more important than it’s ever been in the past for this coaching staff.

New York Giants: Pat Shurmur and Dave Gettleman’s Seats Red Hot Ahead of Black Monday

New York Giants. Dave Gettleman, Pat Shurmur

The 4-11 New York Giants are heading into the final week of what has been a majorly disappointing season. Head coach Pat Shurmur has shouldered much of the blame for the Giants’ lackluster season. However, general manager Dave Gettleman has received much criticism as well.

In addition to the constant criticism from fans, journalists, and analysts alike, the Giants’ current regime has not received a public vote of confidence from ownership either.

Steve Tisch Is Ready For A Change

At the beginning of the month, co-owner Steve Tisch briefly discussed his thoughts and feelings on the Giants’ season and future, saying to the New York Post, “It’s been a very frustrating season. At the end of the season, John Mara and I are gonna get together and discuss the future. As partners, we have to be very honest with each other about where we see this team going into the 2020 season.”

Now Steve Tisch’s name has been brought up in the media once again. According to recent reports, Tisch is in favor of a “major overhaul.” This could mean multiple firings, including both the coach and general manager.

“Multiple NFL sources have told SNY that they believe Steve Tisch is ‘very frustrated’ with the current direction of his organization and will push for sweeping changes when he meets with co-owner John Mara after the season finale on Sunday.” - Ralph Vacchiano of SNY

We have heard plenty about Steve Tisch’s opinions on the current state of the New York Giants. However, we have not heard anything from John Mara. Tisch and Mara will have that planned discussion at the end of the week. The Giants’ future is as clouded with uncertainty as it has ever been.

Is Pat Shurmur’s Job Lost?

According to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, some within the Giants’ organization are treating the firing of head coach Pat Shurmur as a done deal when speaking to people outside the organization. It is expected at this point that Pat Shurmur will be fired at the season’s end.

Since being hired as the head coach of the Giants in 2018, Pat Shurmur has earned a putrid 9-22 record. The Giants have not shown any signs of improvement in their second season with Shurmur calling the shots. The constant losing and growing frustration amongst fans and ownership indicate a likely end to Shurmur’s short tenure as head coach of the Giants.

New York Yankees: Will Jordan Montgomery Be A Starter Or Reliever In 2020?

New York Yankees, Jordan Montgomery

The New York Yankees and Jordan Montgomery are in a peculiar spot. Monty could be used as a starter or a reliever in 2020, and it’s not all that clear which role he will be in. It’s all dependent on the status of one other player: JA Happ.

The Yankees have four set in stone starters for the 2020 season: Luis Severino, James Paxton, Gerrit Cole, and Masahiro Tanaka. However, the fifth starter would be either Happ or Montgomery.

There were rumors about Happ being traded, but those have died down a bit as of late. He has one year and $17 million left on his deal, and it could be a risk worth taking for some teams in the trade market.

Maybe the Yankees could convince the Brewers to take his contract in some sort of trade for Josh Hader.

But if they choose to not move Happ, he will likely be the fifth starter. If they do move him, it will be Montgomery as the fifth starter.

Montgomery has missed the better part of two seasons with Tommy John surgery. In his 2017 rookie campaign, he was 9-7 with a 3.88 ERA over 155.1 innings.

The now 27-year-old lefty will look to come back from his Tommy John surgery better than ever. He made two appearances at the end of 2019 to shake off the rust, and also made minor league rehab starts.

In my opinion, Brian Cashman needs to try as hard as he can to move JA Happ. Montgomery has proven to be a solid fifth starter, and the team already has a long reliever in Luis Cessa.

(Note: It’s also Montgomery’s birthday today, December 27th)

 

New York Mets: Brandon Nimmo is an asset thanks to his plate discipline

The New York Mets are looking for a “true” center fielder capable of defending the position well. It isn’t a pressing need, but the team would like to have someone with a good bat, as well.

That’s why the Mets are continually talking with the Pittsburgh Pirates about Starling Marte. However, a deal seems unlikely at this point because he wouldn’t come cheap. The Bucs probably want valuable prospects that are wanted and needed in Queens.

One of the names that surfaced in the trade rumors was that of Brandon Nimmo. However, the Mets so far have been “disinclined” to offer him as part of the return, and for good reason.

Despite missing more than three months with a bulging cervical disc in his neck, Nimmo was a productive player in 2019. He managed to end with a .375 OBP and a 114 wRC+ despite a putrid .221 average. How did he do it? Easy: walks.

Brandon Nimmo’s plate discipline is something to behold. He struck out more than the league average, sure (28.0 K%) but his 18.1 walk rate was outstanding. The Mets love the fact that he can get on base at such a high clip.

The Mets’ on-base machine

In fact, among players with at least 250 plate appearances, Nimmo’s 18.1 BB% ranked second in MLB. Do you care to guess who was number one? Yes, him. Mike Trout led all players with a 18.3 BB%.

This isn’t to say that Brandon Nimmo is Mike Trout. Not even close. However, he is a useful major leaguer capable of starting on a championship-caliber team. And while he is best suited in one of the corners, he can play a passable center field. His -6.7 UZR/150 and -2 DRS there weren’t good, but they also weren’t among the worst. And the team brought Jake Marisnick, a superior defender, to share time with him.

Offensively, Nimmo is more than just walks. He can do damage at the dish, as evidenced by his eight home runs in 69 games in 2019 and his 17 round-trippers in 140 games in 2018. He can also steal the occasional base.

The thing that makes Nimmo such an asset for the New York Mets, though, is his plate discipline. He can take walks with the best of them. And if he clears the .400 OBP mark as he did in 2018, the offense will be firing on all cylinders.

New York Mets: All Decade Team

The New York Mets have had a very up and down decade in the 2010s. As it finally comes to an end, here is a look at the 25 men who are deserving of their spot on the roster. One thing will be different about this team. Most will give you the best of the best, which will leave out the lesser-known guys who play significant roles in winning teams.

For example, instead of putting a starting player in a bench role, we will have a list of the best bench players the Mets had during the decade. It makes my life harder to compile a list, but it gives a more in-depth list. That said, let us start with the pitchers.

The starting pitchers were ranked based on baseball reference’s 1-5 category: (Years in uniform, years listed in spot)

  1. Jacob deGrom (2014-19, 17-19): This one is pretty easy; the man had back to back Cy Young award wins.
  2. Jon Niese (2010-16, 2012 and 2014): Niese was one of the more consistent pitchers the Mets had. 3.99 ERA during his nine seasons in Flushing.
  3. Zack Wheeler (2013-19, 2014 and 2019): Wheeler always did a stable job of holding down the middle of the rotation. He only had one season where his ERA was above four.
  4. Steven Matz (2015-19, 2016 and 2018-19): Matz always showed glimpses of how talented he can be, but has not thoroughly put it together yet. In 103 career games, he has a 4.05 ERA.
  5. Dillon Gee (2010-15, 2012 and 2014): Gee was never dominant by any means and was often injured. In 114 games, he had a 4.03 ERA as a Met.

Bullpen (Years in uniform, years in role):

The bullpen will layout similarly to the starters. There will be two mop-up/long relief men, two middle relief guys, two setup men, and a closer.

Long Relief: Carlos Torres (2013-15, 2013): Seemed like this guy could pitch every day. He even started a few games as well during his time with the Mets.

Long Relief: Logan Verrett: (2015-16, 2015-16): Verrett was another pitcher who could eat innings and make a spot start when needed. Cannot forget his dominant start in Colorado to save the Mets bullpen in 2015.

Middle Relief: Jerry Blevins (2015-18, 2016-18): Blevins originally came in as a lefty specialist, but ended up emerging as a critical reliever in the Mets bullpen. He had three straight season of 60+ appearances with the Mets.

Middle Relief: Tim Byrdak (2011-13, 2011-12): Another lefty specialist, Byrdak, spent his last three season with the Mets. Mostly over the first two seasons, he pitched in 136 games and has a 4.32 ERA.

Setup: Seth Lugo (2016-19, 2018-19): Originally a starter, Lugo found his niche in the bullpen. He has a 2.68 ERA with nine saves over the last two seasons.

Setup: Bobby Parnell (2010-15, 2013-14): Parnell reminds Mets fans of darker days. Before injuries derailed his career, he had become one of the better relievers in baseball. 2.79 ERA from 2010-13.

Closer: Jeurys Familia (2012-19, 2015-16 and 2018): Speaking of dark days, Familia created some of those, but it is hard to argue with his dominance as closer. Two 40+ save seasons and a 3.14 ERA as a Met, even including his rough 2019 season.

Starting Lineup:

This one is pretty simple, the best of the best position players who were starters for a majority of their time as a Met.

Catcher: Wilson Ramos (2019): Yes, Travis d’Arnaud was also a candidate, but Ramos production at the plate was hands down better than anything d’Arnaud ever put together.

First Base: Pete Alonso (2019): Lucas Duda fell into the same situation as d’Arnaud. Also, it is hard to argue with 53 home runs.

Second Base: Daniel Murphy (2011-2015): For all of his defensive shortcomings, Murphy was a good hitter. He hit .288 with 967 hits as a Met alone with his impressive run in the 2015 postseason.

Third Base: David Wright: (2010-2018): We all wish we could have seen more of the captain.

Shortstop: Jose Reyes (2010-11, 2017-19): Tough choice between him and Amed Rosario, but Reyes has a good then dominant year to start the decade. Plus, it is hard to keep Wright and Reyes separate.

Left Field: Yoenis Cespedes (2015-2019): Despite missing the last two and a half seasons, his competition was Jason Bay, Eric Young Jr., and one year from J.D. Davis.

Center Field: Juan Lagares (2013-2019): Despite never hitting much, his defense was top notch and kept him on the roster for all these years.

Right Field: Curtis Granderson (2014-2017): Always a fan favorite and hit 95 home runs over his four years with the Mets.

Bench Players:

This will consist of guys who were known for filling roles of the bench but made a vital contribution and filled their roles adequately.

Backup Catcher: Rene Rivera (2016-17, 19): Rivera was your typical backup catcher. Handled the pitching staff very well, excellent defensively, and popped out a homer once in a while. He was the catcher for Noah Syndergaard in the 2016 Wild Card game.

Backup Infielder: Ruben Tejada (2010-15, 16): Tejada’s role fluctuated over the years but played all around the infield and emerged as a starter during the 2015 playoff run.

Backup Infielder: Justin Turner (2010-13): Unfortunately, the Mets gave up on him before he became an All-Star. Hit .265 during his tenure as a Met

Backup Outfielder: Kirk Nieuwenhuis (2012-15): Known for his long swing and defensive play, his home run against Jonathan Papelbon and three home run game in 2015 will not be forgotten.

Backup Outfielder: Brandon Nimmo (2016-19): Outside of 2018, Nimmo’s work has come as a platoon or back up role. He has a .387 on-base percentage in his career.

Just by looking at the list, it is evident the beginning half of the decade was not kind to the organization. The list was compiled to create a different look at the team and possibly bring up some names you may have forgotten about.

 

How do the 2020 New York Yankees stack up against traditional Foes?

New York Yankees, Gerrit Cole

UNCLE BILL ASKS: HOW DO THE 2020 YANKEES STACK UP TO TRADITIONAL FOES?

It is fair to say that the 2020 Yankees are improved over the last two seasons when they had a 100 and 103 wins.  Let’s start with the pitching.  This coming year they will have a real ace compared to several pitchers trying to be the club’s ace.  Just acquired Gerrit Cole will head a formidable rotation that includes a healthy Luis Severino, who was 19-8 in 2018, before being injured in spring training before the 2019 season.  James Paxton that came on solid this past season winning his last ten games in a row.  Masahiro Tanaka, who is always reliable.  The Yankee will look to him to improve over his 11-9 record.  And at some point, the fifth in the rotation will be Domingo German, who went 18-4 last year before being suspended for alleged domestic violence.  Most think his suspension will be relatively short due to the suspension already served.  While German is away from the team, the Yankees have Jordan Montgomery to hold down that fifth spot.  They also have J.A. Happ assuming he is not traded before the season starts.

Compared to last year, the bullpen has lost Dellin Betances, who recently signed with the Mets.  How much of an impact that will have on the bullpen is questionable as he missed almost all of the last season.  The bullpen is already strong with  Luis Cessa, Adam Ottavino, Tommy Kahnle, Chad Green, Jonathan Loisiga, Zack Britton, and arguably the best closer in the business, Aroldis Chapman.   Add to that the many reports that the Yankees are still looking to add Josh Hader to the pen.  With the analytical approach of the new pitching coach and head of player development, you can only assume they will work hard to get the best performance from the pitching staff.

There is a question mark at the backstop.  Gary Sanchez did improve dramatically defensively behind the plate, but his hitting was off, most likely due to his frequent groin injuries.  The Yankees hope he can stay healthy this year, mainly because they have lost their tried and true backup in Austin Romine, who signed with the Tigers.  That leaves Kyle Higashioka that is adequate as a backup but is not as good offensively as Romine was.  The Yankees have added Erik Katz from the Indians to the system, and may still do more to assure they don’t get caught with their pants down.

As far as the offense is concerned, the Yankees are as potent as any team.   With DJ LaMahieu, a Silver Slugger award winner last year leading off the lineup, he will be on base often.  After LeMahieu will be Aaron Judge, who would have had a great season last year if it wasn’t for injuries.  With Judge, you know he will have plenty of homers.  Following Judge will most likely be Gleyber Torres, who has a good mix of hits and home runs.  He led the team in homers last year.   The order for the rest of the lineup is less clear, and will probably be determined during spring training.  The forth hitter will probably be Giancarlo Stanton or Gary Sanchez.  Both of these players, if healthy, can be powerful in the cleanup stop.   According to who is on the bench, Miguel Andujar, who can be impactful,  Luke Voit, who was developing nicely before injuries, would be expected to take the number 5 spot.  The Yankees have plenty of other players to fill out the rest of the lineup, including recently re-signed Brett Gardner, who had 28 homers last year.

Defensively the Yankees are relatively set.  In the infield, they have Voit or Ford at first, LeMahieu at second and rising star Gio Urhsela holding down the hot corner.  They will have Gleyber  Torres replacing Didi Gregorius, who signed with the Phillies.   The Yankees believe Torres can adequately hold down short.  The duo of Torres and LeMahieu worked well together last year.  Aaron Judge is a lockdown in right field.  Either Gardner or Tauchman will fill in for Hicks until he returns in center, and Stanton will take left, although probably not full time.  They also have Tauchman, Gardner, and Frazier, who can play left field.  All in all, the Yankees have a remarkable team going into the new season, but how do they stand up to their traditional rivals?

HOUSTON ASTROS:  The Astros had the best one-two punch in baseball with Verlander and Cole, who is now a Yankee.  The new one-two will be Verlander and Greinke, which is not anywhere near as intimidating.  The Astros, other than signing a few minor league players and pitchers, really haven’t made any splashes to improve the team.  They did sign Joe Smith to the bullpen and Martin Maldonado as the backup catcher.  Overall although they still have one of the more powerful lineups, the team is lesser for the loss of Gerrit Cole.

TAMPA BAY RAYS:   They Rays came in second last year in the East with 93 wins.  Tampa is always in the picture.  They have not done a lot so far, but the season is still three months away.  The did lose Avisail Garcia to free agency. He has signed with the Brewers.  They traded away Tommy Pham, who was one of their most productive players.  Travis d’Arnaud was also lost to the Braves.  They did sign Yoshitomo Tsutsugo as a slugging outfielder.

All in all, it looks like they have given up more than they have brought in.  Time will tell if they have more moves. So far, they look static to last year.

BOSTON RED SOX:  Wow, I don’t know what to say about the Sox, they appear to be in a giant mess.  They have hired Chaim Bloom as their new General Manager, and he will have to work with a front office more interested in reducing payroll than improving the team.  Offensively they are okay for the time being, but pitching is a big question mark for them.   They lost Rick Porcello to the Mets.   Sale and Price are question marks, Sale their ace, is coming off a 6-11 season.  David Price was only 7-5.  Nathan Eovaldi had injuries and was 2-1.   That leaves Eduardo Rodriguez, who had 19 wins last year and seems a sure bet to have a good season in 2020.   Last year the Sox had 84 wins, and this year looks, not that much better.

MINNESOTA TWINS:  In 2018 the Twins had more losses than wins, in 2019 they came roaring back only to be beaten in the ALDS in four straight games by the Yankees. But the hiring of Rocco Baldelli, nonetheless, had a significant positive impact on the team he won manager of the year. The group remains solid for next year except for the pitching. They did resign Jake Odorizzi, Matt Wisler, and Michael Pineda. Pineda will be on an 80 game suspension that started in September so that he will miss at least a month at the start of the season.  The Twins will have to make more moves before the season starts, but it looks like they will be a contender next season.

TORONTO BLUE JAYS:  Look for the Toronto Blue Jays to make a mark next season. The team has some up and coming young players that keep getting better.   Look for more offense.  The big move the Jays have made this offseason is the acquisition of  Hyun-Jin Ryu, the former Dodger ace.  Last year Ryu was 14-5 with an ERA of 2.32.   They lost Marcus Stroman during the season, and they traded away veteran Aaron Sanchez.  They still have Chase Anderson, Matt Shoemaker, and Tanner Roark.  Adding Ryu to head up the lineup, they should be pretty well set but might want to add another pitcher before the season.  The Jays only had 67 wins last year, but in my opinion, the Jays will become contenders in 2020.

Looking at all these teams, the Yankees stand out as the team that can win it all in 2020.    Other teams in the East will have little chance.  The Red Sox have a lot of question marks, and the Orioles look as if they will have another poor season ahead of them. To me, the Astros and the Twins will be the teams the Yankees will have to beat. 

The Yankees could pursue lefty relief pitcher in free agency

New York Yankees, Alex Wood

With the Yankees in tentative talks with the Brewers regarding Josh Hader, exploring other options on the market to supplement the loss of Dellin Betances is justified. While Betances pitched only one inning in 2019, the bullpen also saw Nestor Cortes Jr. depart, which leaves a void.

If Hader falls through and GM Brian Cashman isn’t willing to part with too many assets to bring one of the best relief arms in baseball to the Bronx, looking into lefty-pitcher Alex Wood would be a reasonable alternative.

Wood, who’s nearly 29-years-old, has logged a combined 13.6 fWAR during his career but has been hampered by injuries. He signed a one-year deal with the Reds last season approaching $10 million, but his efficiency took a significant hit as he earned 5.80 ERA over seven appearances.

The New York Yankees should consider Alex Wood:

If the Yankees are keen on injecting a bit of lefty power into the bullpen, Wood fits the bill, especially since his price-tag will likely be manageable. I imagine Cashman could lure him in for less than $8 million, which is a risk worth taking considering his sub-4.00 ERA for seven-consecutive seasons before falling off in 2019.

While he has been subject to numerous 60-day stints on the IL, he was most recently an All-Star in 2017 and was on the ballot for the National League Cy Young award. He’s a solid ground ball pitcher that generates them at an elevated rate when at his best (50%). The Yankees like these types of pitchers, similar to Zack Britton. However, Wood’s groundball rate dropped over 10% last season from his career-average. It’s clear that injuries took a toll on his production, but there’s reason to believe he can bounce back and learn a few tricks from new Yankees’ pitching coach, Matt Blake.

The former Red features a changeup, curveball, and sinker. His sinker, which he throws 50% of the time, averaged on 89.9 MPH. To compensate for his lack of speed, he uses excellent accuracy to paint the corners and force hitters to reach for pitches, increasing ground balls.

By no means is Wood an elite relief arm, but if he can return to form in 2020, he could be a serviceable replacement for Betances, who missed all of the 2019 season.

 

Do The New York Mets Benefit From Dellin Betances?

New York Yankees, New York Mets, Dellin Betances

The New York Yankees just lost Dellin Betances to the NY Mets. What does this mean for the power dynamics in the battle for New York?

The Yankees Bullpen

Dellin was a cornerstone of the Yankees bullpen for much of this rapidly ending decade. A 95+ MPH fastball, and a FILTHY curveball. But what Dellin always suffered from was a regular case of inconsistency. 2017 saw him losing immense control right up to the playoff push that season, complete with a 9.00 ERA, and a WHIP of 3.0000 in the 2017 ALCS. The Yankees were able to construct a more than capable bullpen built around Betances from 2014-2018, and we largely didn’t need Dellin last year when he was hurt. But 5 consecutive years with 66 minimum innings pitched, and 100+ strikeouts is a serious blow.

But Does it Help the Mets?

Betances provides some stability to a largely unstable Mets bullpen. Look at what Jeurys Familia is capable of. Some great things, and he’s also painfully inconsistent. Edwin Diaz had arguably one of the most horrendous 2019’s a closer could have. Lugo was easily the brightest spots in the Mets pen last year. But is that enough to hinge your bets on? Thor and deGromm both can go deep enough into a game to help keep the pen fresh. But Porcello, Wacha, and Matz having inconsistent to awful years last years, having 3 guys in your pen you can’t rely on to stay steady an entire season leaves one to suspect how bad things can get.

What Caused Betances Going to Queens?

The best rationale is two possibilities. We all know how the Yankees are trying to save the most money while putting the team from the last 2 seasons back on the field with the necessary improvements of Gerrit Cole. Betances wanted at least $10 million and got $10.5 for 2020. If the Yankees took that on, they’d be paying closer to $15 million for Betances alone after the 42.5% of the luxury tax kicks in.

The next is the Yankees looked at what Betances was able to do for the team over the years. You can’t ignore the 500+ strikeouts over 5 seasons, but if he lost it, it took him too long to get it back. And missing most of last season with problems in his shoulder, to then bust his achilles last year… why would an analytics based team like the Yankees take that kind of risk on a 31, soon to be 32 year old?

I’m sorry to see Dellin go, but unless he can turn it around in a BIG way next season, 2019 was the last time we saw Betances in pinstripes.

New York Yankees: Josh Hader Update

New York Yankees, Josha Hader

The New York Yankees have been talking with the Milwaukee Brewers for weeks on a trade for star reliever Josh Hader. I recently spoke with some sources close to the situation in Milwaukee, and they seem to believe that Hader is going to be traded this offseason.

So why are the Yankees so interested in Hader? The simple answer is control. Josh Hader would come with four years of team control, which would give the Yankees a ton of flexibility. Aroldis Chapman, Zack Britton, Adam Ottavino, Chad Green, and Tommy Kahnle would all hit free agency before Josh Hader. The Yankees are looking at this as an opportunity to secure arguably the best reliever in baseball who would also give them coverage if they were to lose any of those arms in free agency. The Yankees are also looking at this as a way to secure the most dominant paper roster in recent memory. If the Yankees would acquire Hader from the Brewers, they would arguably have the best lineup, starting rotation, and bullpen in all of baseball.

The Yankees Really Want Josh Hader

The Yankees do not need Josh Hader. The Yankees want Josh Hader. Sources told Empire Sports Media yesterday that the Yankees were aggressive in their push for Josh Hader. The same sources also believe that Milwaukee will deal him before Spring Training. Dan Federico reported of another “Informed” opinion that believes Josh Hader will end up in New York.

According to Jon Heyman, The Yankees have reportedly floated the idea of making Miguel Andujar the centerpiece of this deal. Andujar is coming off a lost season due to injury, but in his first full season back in 2018, he should have won the Rookie of the Year award in the American League when he set the Yankees franchise rookie record for doubles in a season at 47 (Baseball-Reference). The ole saying goes, “Where there’s smoke, there’s usually fire.” Well, I can tell you in this circumstance, there is a lot of smoke around Josh Hader and the New York Yankees. Time will tell if Josh Hader does get dealt, but if the news breaks that the star lefty is leaving Milwaukee, don’t be shocked if he’s heading to a barbershop close to Times Square.

New York Rangers Face Critical Five Game Stretch

New York Rangers, Artemi Panarin

The New York Rangers are facing a critical five-game stretch coming off the NHL holiday break. The Blueshirts are sitting eight points out of the last wild card spot in the Eastern Conference and must make a strong showing during these key match-ups in order to keep that wild card spot within reach. The challenge for these next five games comes in two parts.

Part One: Back-to-Back Games

The Rangers will face the Carolina Hurricanes in their only home matchup of this stretch. The Hurricanes are 23-13-2 on the season but are facing a two-game losing streak after giving up eight goals in their last game to the Toronto Maple Leafs. The good news for the Rangers is that Carolina has gone 5-22 in the previous 27 meetings in New York.  Nonetheless, the Rangers will have to deal with one of the better offenses in the league. The Blueshirts will then travel to Toronto on Saturday to face the Maple Leafs in an Original Six, “Hockey Night in Canda” matchup. The Leafs defeated the Rangers last week 6-3 at MSG.

Part Two: Trip to Western Canada

Leaving their golf clubs behind, the Blueshirts head out west for three games against Edmonton, Calgary, and Vancouver.  These teams sit in third, fourth, and fifth places, respectively, in the mediocre Pacific Division.

On New Year’s Eve, while many of us are preparing to watch the ball drop in Times Square, The Rangers will square off with the Oilers in a 9 PM (ET) face-off. After a strong start to the season, the Oilers are 3-6-1 over the last ten games. On January 2nd, the Rangers will travel to Calgary to face the Flames, who have been shutout twice in their previous five games. The Rangers will then be the late game feature for “Hockey Night in Canada” when they travel to Vancouver on January 4th for a 10 PM (ET) game against the Canucks.  Vancouver came into the holiday break on a three-game win streak, with their most recent victory coming against Edmonton.  We will all get a clear idea of where the Rangers playoff hopes stand after these five games.