New York Giants: John Mara Denies Losing Touch

New York Giants, John Mara

The New York Giants have suffered from a number of problems over the past years, where the team has had a number of losing seasons and has often found themselves picking high in the NFL Draft, but the man that’s largely at the head of the organization isn’t concerned right now about having lost touch with his role.

That man is of course John Mara, who co-owns the team but tends to be the public face with more of their decisions than fellow co-owner Steve Tisch – and during the past couple of offseasons, Mara has gained criticism for how he’s handled several things, not the least of which is decisions that have led to the Giants trying multiple half rebuilds instead of burning things down and starting from scratch… Something that has likely impacted their results in a negative way and kept the Giants from even having much of a chance going into their last couple seasons.

Despite the criticisms, Mara is still confident going into the 2020 season where he made the decision to bring on Joe Judge as the new head coach.

“I don’t fear that I’ve lost the touch. But I certainly understand our fans’ lack of trust in what we’re doing right now. And the only way to win that back is to start winning games. I get that,” Mara told NJ Advance Media.

“The record is what it is, and I can’t defend that. I don’t feel any differently about myself and my judgment now than I did in February of 2012. Certainly, the record doesn’t bear that out. But I have just as much confidence in myself now as I did in 2012,” Mara continued.

Objectively, however, the Giants are a worse team than they were in 2012, to put it lightly – it seems that a fair amount of blame for that naturally falls on Mara’s shoulders as the top decision maker and the one with the power to hire and fire General Managers and coaches. Just as a player or coach may be thought of as in decline, it should also be possible for an executive to be considered declining.

We’ll have to see how things turn out this season, however, to see if Mara really has lost touch with running the team or if the last years were an anomaly rather than the new norm – the new coaching hires look quite good so far, but in the NFL, nothing is certain until games are played in the regular season.

New York Yankees: Starting Pitching Situation Makes Sense Now

New York Yankees, Jordan Montgomery

The New York Yankees announced earlier today that starting pitcher James Paxton will miss three to four months after removing a painful cyst.

We found out that this pain appeared last season, and was still there in January when he began his offseason throwing program. There was no other option but to remove the cyst now.

The injury is all beginning to make sense for the New York Yankees and their pitching staff.

Earlier in the offseason, there were rumors about the possibility of trading JA Happ. A few weeks ago, Brian Cashman shut down those trade rumors by saying that Happ will be the fifth starter. Cashman knew about the surgery concerns for Paxton, so that’s why he ended trade talks for Happ and shot down rumors.

There were also debates about if the Yankees kept Happ, whether it would be him or Jordan Montgomery as the fifth starter. But with Paxton gone until May or June, it appears as if both Montgomery and Happ will be in the rotation. It’s just a matter of who is fourth and who is fifth. The current starters are now:

-Gerrit Cole

-Masahiro Tanaka

-Luis Severino

-Jordan Montgomery

-JA Happ

Now, when Paxton gets healthy, it could still be possible that the Yankees trade Happ. Other teams need him more than the Yankees, especially if Jordan Montgomery is pitching as well as he did in 2017. Happ has one year and $17 million left on his contract.

With James Paxton injured, the Yankees starting pitching situation is beginning to make sense.

 

BREAKING: New York Yankees’ James Paxton to miss 3-4 months with injury

New York Yankees, James Paxton

The New York Yankees seemed to be healthy and ready to go for spring training on Wednesday morning, however, starting pitcher James Paxton has been ruled out for 3-4 months after undergoing surgery on a peridiscal cyst.

Paxton had a solid 2019 campaign, finishing with a 3.82 ERA and emerging as one of the Yankees’ best starters in the postseason. Luckily, GM Brian Cashman invested heavily in Gerrit Cole to lead the starting pitching rotation, so the team should be able to weather the storm of losing their talented lefty.

Until Paxton returns, the rotation will look like this:

  1. Gerrit Cole
  2. Luis Severino
  3. Masahiro Tanaka
  4. J.A Happ
  5. Jordan Montgomery

Despite his loss, they have plenty of talent and potential to start the season off strong. The return of both Miguel Andujar and Giancarlo Stanton should increase run-support and soften the blow. A best-case scenario for Paxton would be an April return with May being the latest he can make it back to the field.

New York Yankees: Miguel Andujar recovery update, per Gleyber Torres

New York Yankees, Miguel Andujar

The New York Yankees sorely missed Miguel Andujar’s offensive production during the 2019 postseason. Owner Hal Steinbrenner hit on the lack of run-support in the ALCS against the Houston Astros before the start of the free agency, and Andujar’s .297 batting average, 27 homers, and 47 doubles (2018 stats) would have been useful in the absence of slugger, Giancarlo Stanton.

Andujar subsequently tore his Labrum early on in the 2019 season, missing the entire campaign and failing to make an impact. Despite his absence, the Yankees managed to climb to 103-wins on the back of reserve options like Gio Urshela, Brett Gardner, Cameron Maybin, and more. Side note, Aaron Boone should have won coach of the year after his incredible season featuring so many backups.

The New York Yankees are excited about Andujar’s return:

On Tuesday night, new starting shortstop for the Yankees, Gleyber Torres, opened up about the return of Miggy and his recovery process.

The third baseman, who’s learning how to play first base and left field, is “healthy right now,” Torres said. “I saw everything with him. I had a really good conversation with him about the injury. I can’t wait to see how he plays this year and can’t wait to play together with him.”

The Yankees seem confident in the third-year player’s abilities, considering his offensive production in his rookie campaign. His defensive placement is yet to be determined, but the expectation is that he will slot into first and left field during spring training.

An ideal scenario, in my opinion, would be for Andujar to land in left field where he can alternate with Stanton as the DH and defensive starter. This would allow the Yankees to mitigate a re-injury and limit fatigue between the two. Overall, the defensive starters for the Yankees will be ironed out in the coming weeks, but finding a way to maximize Andujar’s value will remain a priority.

The Real Question for the New York Giants at 4

New York Giants, DeAndre Baker

The New York Giants have a very real dilemma if they do not trade back in the 2020 NFL Draft this April.  Of course, any Giant fan will hold on to the dream of Chase Young falling to New York, but the roads to get there are nearly impassable.  

It would take a team willing to outbid the Miami Dolphins, who hold five picks in the first two rounds this year, for Washington’s pick.  Which would also mean the Redskins would be willing to move outside the Top 5.

Possible? Sure. So is me winning a lottery jackpot upwards of one billion dollars?

What options do the Giants realistically have at 4?

Fans of the New York Giants should stick to three options assuming they stay at number 4.  Those options are offensive tackle, a versatile defensive unicorn, and another young cornerback.

Offensive Tackle

Fortunately for the Giants, the offensive tackle class has some very good talent.  There are four options right now that the Giants could consider at the 4th overall. Alabama’s Jedrick Wills, Georgia’s Andrew Thomas, Iowa’s Tristan Wirfs, and Mekhi Becton out of Louisville.  

Jedrick Wills seems to be separating himself a bit from the rest, but Mekhi Becton has been gaining quite a bit of steam heading into the pre-draft process.  I wrote in my most recent mock draft that I believe Andrew Thomas would be the best fit for the Giants run game, but Becton Wills and Wirfs all have their arguments as well.  Admittedly, I’m beginning to lean more towards Wills, while not being able to deny the lateral movement of Becton. Regardless, if Dave Gettleman wants to add a hog molly with the 4th pick, there are plenty of options.

The Unicorn

All I really need to say here is the name “Isaiah Simmons” and end this paragraph.  Everyone knows his name and what he can do. He’s versatile, he’s talented and he has very few, if any, weaknesses to his game.  Simmons can play a variety of positions, which is what makes him attractive for the Giants here. He wouldn’t fix all of the defenses issues, but wherever he plays best would be an upgrade for New York.

His best fit for the Giants would likely be linebacker.  Either as an interior LB or as the WILL in a 4-3 front. Regardless, he can cover running backs, tight ends and even wide receivers, as well as be an impact blitzer.  If you’ve been a fan of the Giants for awhile, you likely desire a talented sideline-to-sideline linebacker that can defend the pass against running backs and tightends as much as I have.  Simmons is that answer.

Cornerback

Albeit the least likely of the three options, one can not rule out the Giants potential attraction to Ohio State’s Jeffrey Okudah.  Okudah’s man coverage skills and athletic ability may result in him evolving into one of, if not the best cornerback in the NFL during his time.  He is physical and can stay on a receivers hip through any route. Okudah’s ball skills are tremendous. He may need to work on his zone presence a little, but the value he adds in the pass game outweighs that.

The Dilemma

To me, the real debate for the Giants if they choose to stay at four is simple.  Linebacker or offensive tackle. Of course, Simmons can play more than just linebacker, but he is best suited for the middle of the defense.  He’s not a true EDGE rusher and putting him at safety takes him away from being a consistent impact on every rep. If the Giants draft Simmons, it is to play him at linebacker.  

As much as I covet a game-changing linebacker for this team, is a linebacker more valuable and more of a dire need for the New York Giants?  It certainly is something they need to address, but let’s not ignore the issues at offensive line.

The problems along the offensive line have been rampant for the Giants for years.  Nate Solder was given a big contract but has not lived up to it. The right tackle has been a carousel of players with no clear answer.  Misfortune and durability have crippled the starting center role. Trying to patch the line up can no longer be an answer.  

OL Nick Gates showed promise last season.  He stepped in when Mike Remmers was injured and looked good.  Whether or not he can be a consistent starter quality talent for New York is still a question.  Free-agent Jack Conklin has been a name linked to the Giants for some time now, but his signing with Big Blue is no certainty either.  Even with the addition of Conklin, do either him or Gates have what it takes to play left tackle? Can Nate Solder drastically improve?  

Finding a talented offensive line is not just a problem that plagues the Giants.  Every team in the NFL values talent on their line every off-season. There are plenty of teams with good lines, but having depth is another thing.  Jack Conklin could command big money in free agency, which the Giants have, but are they willing and able to outbid other suitors? Time will tell. 

The 2020 offensive tackle class this year is pretty talented.  As noted earlier, there are four options for the Giants with the 4th pick.  Usually, if a position of need is deep, I am all for waiting to select a player.  However, is this really something worth risking to wait until taking with the 2nd pick?  Would players like Josh Jones, Lucas Niang and Austin Jackson have the same impact and longevity? They might, but why let another team dictate who you can pick if you have the fortune of being able to choose whoever you want?

Isaiah Simmons is a fantastic athlete and I will not be disappointed to hear his name called to the Giants in April.  I will be the first in line to buy his jersey.  However, when it comes down to it, offensive tackle is a much more important need than a linebacker. The Giants have taken risks in the last two drafts.  A running back with the 2nd overall pick, and then a controversial QB selection in 2019. It is imperative for the success of the team to give both of those players help.  Even if that means sacrificing a unicorn in the process.

New York Giants: Joe Judge’s Coaching Staff Is Officially Announced

New York Giants, Joe Judge

The New York Giants‘ new coaching staff has been officially announced this morning. After firing Pat Shurmur at the end of the 2019 season, the Giants hired new head coach Joe Judge. Judge, former New England Patriots special teams coordinator and wide receivers coach, has been building his coaching staff over the past several weeks. Today, Judge’s staff is complete and has been made official. Down Below is Joe Judge’s official coaching staff for the 2020 NFL season:

Offense:

Offensive Coordinator: Jason Garrett
Quarterbacks Coach: Jerry Schuplinski
Running Backs Coach: Burton Burns
Wide Receivers Coach: Tyke Tolbert
Offensive Line Coach: Marc Colombo
Assistant Offensive Line Coach: Ben Wilkerson
Tight Ends Coach: Freddie Kitchens
Senior Offensive Assistant: Derek Dooley
Offensive Assistant: Stephen Brown
Offensive Quality Control: Bobby Blick

Defense:

Defensive Coordinator/Assistant Head Coach: Patrick Graham
Defensive Line Coach: Sean Spencer
Outside Linebackers Coach/Senior Assistant: Bret Bielema
Inside Linebackers Coach: Kevin Sherrer
Defensive Backs Coach: Jerome Henderson
Assistant Defensive Backs Coach: Anthony Blevins
Defensive Assistant: Jody Wright
Defensive Quality Control: Mike Treier

Special Teams:

Special Teams Coordinator: Thomas McGaughey
Assistant Special Teams Coordinator: Tom Quinn

Joe Judge’s coaching staff replaced almost everyone on Pat Shurmur’s staff. The only members of Shurmur’s staff still with the Giants are wide receivers coach Tyke Tolbert, special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey, and assistant special teams coordinator Tom Quinn.

Key hirings on Judge’s staff are at offensive coordinator and offensive line coach. The Giants will be implementing a system like the Dallas Cowboys’ offense from recent years under former Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett. Garrett was also able to bring over his offensive line coach from Dallas, Marc Colombo.

One thing to note is the amount of assistants Judge has put on his staff. Each side of the ball has a quality control assistant and more than one positional unit on the team has an assistant coach (such as offensive line and defensive back).

The New York Giants’ new defensive coordinator, Patrick Graham, will also serve as the team’s assistant head coach. Graham spent 2019 as defensive coordinator of the Miami Dolphins.

With a brand new coaching staff in place, there are reasons for real optimism heading into 2020. Judge made numerous big-name hirings and put together a staff with a multitude of head coach experience. Hopefully, this staff’s experience and impressive track record can get the Giants back on track next season.

Tom Brady on the New York Jets?

The New York Jets would breathe a collective sigh of relief with the rest of the AFC East should Tom Brady leave the only team he’s ever played for. But speculation is still running rampant about where the 6 time Super Bowl champion will end up. He says he wants to play till he’s 45, and will be 43 when the season starts. 11 teams are reportedly interested in acquiring Tom Brady. Including, the New York Jets.

How Plausible is Brady to the Jets?

According to SI.com, we’re talking very slim odds that Brady will leave the Patriots for the Jets. 20/1 odds put the Jets in the bottom 10 teams of the league likely to get the GOAT, tied with their neighbors, the Giants.

However, it doesn’t change the fact that WEEI broadcaster, Dale Arnold, reports that the Jets have at least “some interest” in Brady.

How Legit is This Info?

“Some interest” doesn’t mean a whole lot. However, the Jets will have $60 million in cap space. If the Jets can acquire enough pieces during the draft, and Brady is willing to sign a 2-year deal that will allow the Jets to plug in extra holes using free agency, why wouldn’t they jump at it?

Crazier things have happened in sports. Tim Tebow was riding high with the Denver Broncos in 2011. He helped the team to the playoffs, including an overtime win. He was only 2 years into his career as a quarterback, and it was only logical that the Broncos would keep him around. Then Peyton Manning came back from neck surgery.

I believe that Sam Darnold should be the team’s QB for the foreseeable future. He’s improving in all the right ways and should be up there with the likes of Jimmy Garopolo and Josh Allen by 2020/2021 easily. But this is like the Mets or Yankees being presented with the opportunity to sign Mike Trout to a team-friendly deal tomorrow. You have to assume the interest is more than just mild from Gase and Douglas.

New York Giants: John Mara and Dave Gettleman are both to blame for one major reason

New York Giants, John Mara, Dave Gettleman

When GM Dave Gettleman initially mocked analytics in his opening remarks two years ago, the New York Giants hadn’t yet embarked on two seasons of absolute failure.

The avoidance of analytics has been heralding of their demise, which has now resulted in the firing of head coach Pat Shurmur and the hiring of Joe Judge, an old-school, smash-mouth football coach. Well, that wasn’t exactly what we meant when we mentioned “progressiveness,” but it’s a start.

Judge brings a winning mentality from the New England Patriots, and he will have no choice but to incorporate analytical approaches into his game-plan, and that extends beyond a few computer engineers sitting in the back-office. The team needs to be actively practicing the use of probabilities and expanding on its sample size during practice.

The New York Giants are two-years behind everyone else, but they’re taking the appropriate steps now:

Co-owner John Mara seems to be finally be taking that essential step forward with the development of the organization.

“They stuck to their old ways of doing things at a time when football is changing,” former Giants offensive guard Geoff Schwartz said. “It just feels like they don’t have a plan. It’s hard when things are going really well to decide that you need to do something much different.”

Gettleman, who’s 68-year-old, is wholly lost in the world of numbers, which has been catastrophic to the Giants in recent years. Their inability to utilize probabilities to help improve success-rate on fourth-down, etc., has been a massive negative.

The Giants don’t have a choice but to modernize with the rest of the NFL, though, as they’re now two-years behind some of the better clubs in the league. My most significant concern with the Giants right now is the average age in their front-office. With older heads making the decisions, the team will always be intertwined with an old-school, gut feeling mentality. While this isn’t always a bad thing, sometimes, it cannot compare to the analytical approach and its success rate.

How does Red Sox payroll offloading of Mookie Betts affect the Yankees?

Boston Red Sox, Mookie Betts

Blockbuster deal:

An earthquake traveled through the baseball world last night when the Athletic’s Chad Jennings tweeted that both Betts and Price are headed to Los Angeles.  This news is both sensational and transformative for the Boston Red Sox and the Los Angeles Dodgers.  It is reported that the Red Sox get the 23-year-old lefty outfielder Alex Verdugo.  It was also revealed that the Sox will eat part of Price’s salary.

What will Red Sox fans think?

Many Red Sox fans will not be happy when they find out their most popular player in decades will not be with the Sox in the 2020 campaign.  For the Yankees, they will be pleased in the short term as they will no longer face one of the most successful hitters against them.   Now they will face the outfielder Verdugo that is not close to the player Betts is.  In the long term, the Yankees will most likely face the Dodgers who now appear destined to reach the World Series again, and with an improved team brought about by this blockbuster trade deal.

Minnesota Twins involved:

The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier reported that there is a third team involved in the complicated trade deal. That team is the Minnesota Twins who will get RHP Kenta Maeda from Dodgers while the Red Sox will get RHP prospect Brusdar Graterol from Twins.  With the completion of this trade, it will be the second-biggest baseball move of the offseason after the New York Yankees acquisition of arguably the best pitcher in baseball Gerrit Cole.

Los Angeles Dodgers World Series bound:

The Los Angeles Dodgers fell short of the World Series last year while having one of the most potent lineups in the National League.  Adding Mookie Betts to the equation puts them over the top and realistically makes their offense equal or surpassing the Yankee’s potent lineup.   This how the Dodger lineup sets up for the 2020 season.

  1. Mookie Betts RF
  2. Max Muncy 1B
  3. Justin Turner 3B
  4. Cody Bellinger CF
  5. A.J. Pollock LF
  6. Corey Seager SS
  7. Will Smith C
  8. Gavin Lux 2B

On the pitching side, Cy Young winner David Price who will undoubtedly do even better in the National League.  He will augment an already reliable pitching staff that includes another Cy Young winner in Clayton Kershaw and the great Cy Young prospect, their 25-year-old  ace Walker Buehler.  The Dodgers lost Hyun-Jin Ryu when the left-hander agreed to a four-year, $80-million contract with the Toronto Blue Jays earlier in the offseason. The Dodgers will hope that Price softens that loss.

The net effect:

Looking at the impact on the baseball horizon as we approach spring training that is only two weeks away, the Los Angeles Dodgers are the big winners in this shocking deal, and they did it without stripping their farm system of prospects.   As big as the win for the Dodgers is, the dismantling of the Red Sox are even more amazing.  The Red Sox are left with a team that is less powerful and puts their pitching staff in even more question.  Last year their lefty ace Chris Sale imploded with a 6-11 record.   Rick Porcello was 14-12, but he’s gone to the New York Mets this offseason.  Nathan Eovaldi was plagued with injuries and only started twelve games going 2-1.  On the bright side lefty, Eduardo Rodrigeuz was 19-6, and there is every reason to believe he will continue his winning ways.  The Boston Red Sox ranked 20th in the majors in starter ERA (4.95) during 2019 while winning only eighty-four games.  The Red Sox are the big losers in this deal while accomplishing their main objective this offseason, shedding salary.

The Darkhorse:

This deal has created more than one winner.  Take notice, Yankees!  The 2019 Twins were a fantastic team that collapsed in the postseason with the Yankees sweeping them in the ALDS.  Their pitching in the postseason was horrible.  With the Twins acquisition of veteran pitcher Kenta Maeda, the Twins will attempt to equal their 101 wins, and if reaching the postseason, they will look to not repeat last year’s dismal performance.  The Minnesota Twins may well be the team to watch this coming season.

New York Yankee player profiles: J.A. Happ

New York Yankees, J.A. Happ

James Anthony Happ is the youngest of three Happ children; the other two are older sisters. He was born in Peru, Illinois, and attended St. Bede Academy, where he played baseball and basketball. He was a four-letter winner at the school in both sports. In his last year of high school, he was county Athlete of the year.

Happ played baseball for the Northwest Wildcats while attending Northwestern University. He made the All-Big ten conference in his first three years. In his last year, he compiled a 16-11 record with an ERA of 2.88 with 251 strikeouts compared to ninety walks. Happ decided to skip his senior year when he was drafted in the third round by the Phillies. Happ was a relatively average minor league type pitcher during his years with the Phillies. Midseason 2010 he was traded to the Houston Astros. He made a total of thirteen starts with the Astros in 2010. He went 5-4 with an ERA of 3.45. The following season was the worst of his career, posting a 6-15 record. In 2012 he improved some to a 7-9 record but was again traded, this time to the Toronto Blue Jays.

During the 2012 season, he appeared in only ten games due to a fractured foot, which set him down for the remainder of the season. On May 7, 2013, he was hit in the head with a line drive, collapsing immediately and laid on the mound for over ten minutes before being removed to the hospital. He was released the next day but put on the 60 day DL with a head contusion and laceration of the left ear. That year he made a total of eighteen starts and posted a 5-7 record. Other than getting hit in the head, Happ’s time with the Jays was unremarkable as well. After the season he was again traded, this time to the Seattle Mariners. In 20 starts, he was 4-6 again unremarkable.

In the middle of the 2015 season he was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates, where a mysteriously new Happ appeared, he went 7-2 in eleven starts posting an ERA of 1.85. During the winter the Blue Jays wanted him back. The Jays paid him a bunch of money, and he won eleven wins before the All-Star break, the first to do that since Roy Halladay. In August of 2016, he tied Steven Strasburg for the most wins in the MLB. In 2017 he was named to the All-Star game.

During 2018 the Jays desperate for a third baseman, traded Happ to the New York Yankees for Brandon Drury. Happ ended the season 17-6 with both teams and 7-0 while with the New York Yankees. The Yankees resigned Happ through the 2020 season. Unfortunately, Happ’s 2019 season was not what the New York Yankees had hoped for as he rarely pitched deep into games and had a 12-8 record with a high ERA of 4.91. When Happ is hot, he can be lights out.  Interestingly, Happ is a Red Sox killer, he won all four of his starts against the Boston team.  The Yankees still have hope that he can return to the pitcher he was in 2018.  In September of 2019, he briefly did just that with a 1.65 ERA, 3.10 FIP, and an excellent K-BB%. The only noticeable change was that he relied upon his four-seamer more,  going from around 45% of all pitches to 56% in September.  Regardless of his newfound success, he was not used in the postseason.

This year the New York Yankees have their rotation set ahead of spring training.  Newly acquired superstar Gerrit Cole will lead off a rotation of Luis Severino, James Paxton, Masahiro Tanaka, and J.A. Happ taking up the rear in the fifth spot.  If Happ can get 27 starts or pitch in 165 innings, he will be vested for the 2021 season.   Since 2016 Happ has been better than the average pitcher, and if he pitches well this season, he will remain in that fifth spot, at least until Domingo German returns from his suspension.  If his first several starts are not good, Manager Aaron Boone will be quick to relegate him to the bullpen and replace him with Jordan Montgomery.

Happ has the necessary stuff to be a successful pitcher, he is a five-pitch pitcher, and he uses all of them against right-hand hitters.  A four-seam fastball (89–95 mph), a two-seam fastball (89-93mph), a slider/cutter (83–86mph), a curveball (76–79mph), and a changeup (82-84mph).  He does not use the changeup against lefty hitters.  J.A. in his career is 121-90 with an ERA of 3.99 with 1,497 strikeouts.

Happ 37,  is married to his high school sweetheart wife Morgan who is a year younger and was also an Athlete in her days as a Lady Bruin.  The couple lives in their birthplace of Peru, Illinois.  They have three children, a son J.J., a daughter Bella and they gave birth to another child this past August. Happ has been successful in keeping himself far from rumors and controversies in his personal and professional life.