Under Appreciated New York Mets: Pedro Martinez

Pedro Martinez came to the New York Mets after many dominant years as a Red Sox. Along with Carlos Beltran, he played a crucial role in transitioning the team from rebuilders to contenders.

Martinez signed a four year/$53 million contract after winning the 2004 World Series with the Red Sox. He never quite lived up to the full expectations of the deal, but his presence on the roster was immeasurable.

When Martinez joined the Mets in 2005, the team was rebuilding around young stars like Jose Reyes and David Wright, while the days of Mike Piazza were coming to a close. 2005 showed the Mets were on the rise, which led them to bring in players like Carlos Delgado, Paul Lo Duca, and Billy Wagner the following season.

Strong Start

Martinez pitched as advertised during his first year with the Mets. He went 15-8 with a 2.82 ERA over 31 starts. He made his seventh All-Star team and led the MLB with a 0.95 WHIP. A couple of memorable moments came when the sprinklers at Shea Stadium randomly turned on during his start against the Diamondbacks. Martinez drank from the sprinklers and embraced the moment with a smile in a way he only could.

Martinez also hurled his only shutout of the season in his final start of the season at Citi Field. He struck out 10 Braves on six hits to close out his home season in style.

He came into the 2006 season with high expectations to repeat his 2005 performance. Martinez pitched even better than he did the previous year during the first two months of the season. He was 5-1 with a 2.50 ERA and 88 strikeouts. Martinez looked like he was still in his prime, even at 34.

Things suddenly changed when he slipped in the clubhouse after being forced to change his undershirt during a May 24 start again the Marlins. From that point on, he only made 11 more starts for the rest of the season and had a 7.11 ERA during that time. A couple of DL stints kept him on the sidelines, and his season ended in September.

Retirement Thoughts

Martinez shed tears on the fact that he would not be able to pitch during the postseason. His injures of a torn muscle in his left calf and a torn rotator cuff. Martinez contemplated retirement if things did not get better.

After a year of recovery, Martinez returned in an attempt to save the collapsing Mets in 2007. Over five starts he had a 2.57 ERA, but it was not enough to get them back into the postseason. It did give the Mets hope that he would pitch well for the final year of his contract in 2008.

It only took four innings for Martinez to tear his hamstring, which kept him out for two months. Upon his return, his ERA was over five, and he never quite pitched well for an extended period. During the second Mets September collapse, he had a 7.77 ERA in four starts.

Martinez’s Mets career ended the complete opposite way it began. Because of that, he does not receive the support he deserved, but he was an integral part of any pitching success the Mets in 2005 and 2006.

Yankee History: A love affair, the special bond between Phil and Yogi

New York Yankees, Yogi Berra

Over the years, the New York Yankees have had hundreds of players who developed special bonds.  But none more significant than the love between Phil Rizzuto and Yogi Berra.  No, not that kind of love, but love created by similarities, playing together, and a life shared.

Phil Rizzuto was a small man, much like Yogi Berra that may have been what connected them, to begin with.  Both short for baseball.  Phil was 5′ 6″ and Yogi 5′ 7″, neither were expected to be great ballplayers but both ended up in the Baseball Hall of Fame.  Phil burst onto the baseball scene when he replaced Frank Crosetti in 1941 as the new New York Yankee shortstop. Rizzuto had a 13-year career with the Yankees and a .273 career batting average while being a five-time All-Star, an eight-time MVP candidate winning the award in 1950.

Yogi Berra being eight years younger than Phil, made his major league debut as the Yankee backstop in 1946 and played through 1963.  Yogi was an amazing player for a little guy.  His career batting average was .285. Unlike Phil Yogi was a home run hitter, hitting 358 in his eighteen years as a Yankee.  Yogi had his share of awards as well, 18 All-Stars, 15 MVP’s winning it three times.  During the years between 1946 and 1956, the two played together and formed a very close bond.  Both got married and both had children, Phil four and Yogi three.  During their lives, the families often spend time together off the field as well.

Phil Rizzuto and Yogi Berra are two of the most rewarded players in all of baseball.  Between the two of them, they had 23 All-Star selections, 23 MVP nominations and the two won the MVP 4 times.  Together they collected 17 World Championship rings.

In 1956 that year, Gil McDougald, who had played third base and second base, moved to shortstop, hit .311, and stayed there, and even Phil admitted he was out of a job.  Now Phil and Yogi were no longer playing together.  Yogi would go on to manage the Yankees after he left his playing days.  Yogi like Phil was unceremoniously removed from his job when owner George Steinbrenner fired him from his managerial job, causing a rift between the two that wasn’t corrected until George apologized to Yogi in 1999.  During all this time the two friends remained as close as ever.  The Yankees in 1999 celebrated his career with Yogi Berra Day at Yanke Stadium.

The similarity between the two was more than their statures.  Their personalities were nearly the same.  They both were full of fun and characters in their own ways.  Yogi had an uneducated way of talking that endeared himself to fans.  His Yogisms were world-known.  Phrases like “it’s not over until its over,”  “when you get to a fork in the road, take it,” and many many more.  Meanwhile, Phil had become a folksy broadcaster for Yankee games.  A storytelling and jokes player Rizutto broadcasted Yankee games for 40 years after he retired from baseball. Who could forget those “Holy Cow” game calls?

In the years that followed the only winner of a perfect game in a World Series, Don Larsen, Phil Rizzuto, and Yogi Berra became the beloved elder statesman of New York Yankee baseball.  They always headlined the Old Timer’s Day celebration at the Stadium.  One thing that never changed was the bond between Phil and Yogi.  On August 13, 2007, Phil Rizzuto passed away.  A few days later, in the Yankee booth, Yogi expressed his sorrow of Phil’s passing with tears running down his cheeks.

After Phil died, Yogi remained close to Phil’s wife Cora.  She too died in 2010.  Yogi’s wife Carmen died on March 6, 2014.  Yogi had lost the three most influential people in his life other than his children.  It may have been too much for Yogi to bear as he passed away shortly after that on September 22, 2015, at the age of 90.  The entire Yankee faithful shed tears upon each passing, for they felt they had lost a family member.  Even though you may have never met Phil or Yogi, you felt like you knew them as what you saw is what you got.  There was nothing phoney about either of them.

Older fans are well aware of the love Phil and Yogi had for each other.  Some younger members may not.  To further demonstrate their devotion to each other When Phil was in ailing health, and near the end of his life, he was living at an assisted living facility.  Every morning Yogi would get up and drive to the nearby home and play cards with Phil, holding his hand until the day he died.  This writer does not know of another bond so close in the baseball world.

Both Yogi Berra and Phil Rizzuto may have passed from this world but not from our hearts and memories.  Today they are both enshrined at Yankee Stadium and in the Baseball Hall of Fame. The following is a video of an interview that the YES Network had with Yankee broadcaster Michael Kay shortly after Yogi Berra died.  WARNING: This may cause you to tear up.

EmpireSportsMedia.com’s Columnist William Parlee is a member of the Society for American Baseball Research.

 

 

Yankees: The face of New York turns 28

New York Yankees, Aaron Judge

Today (4/26), New York Yankees all-star right fielder Aaron Judge celebrates his 28th birthday. Though he’s only been in New York for a few years, Judge has quickly made himself the face of New York.

The start

Judge graduated Linden High School in California in 2010 and was selected in the 31st round of the draft by the hometown Oakland Athletics. He opted to go to college and spent three years at Fresno St. before being drafted in the first round by the Yankees in 2013.

The 6’7 outfielder never played a minor league game until 2014, but it took him just a year and a half to make it to AAA. He started 2015 in AA and was called up to AAA in the middle of the season. Judge struggled in AAA and then began the 2016 season there. He bat .270 with 19 home runs before getting called up to the Yankees in August of 2016.

A big debut

It didn’t take long for Judge to steal the hearts of Yankee fans. He went yard in his first at-bat, going back-to-back with Tyler Austin, also making his debut. Judge hit .179 in 2016 with the Yankees, and there were doubts about whether he should start 2017 in AAA again.

He bat .333 in spring training in 2017 and was able to land one of the final roster spots with the Yankees, and the rest was history. Judge hit .284 with a then-rookie record 52 home runs, 114 RBIs, and an incredible .422 OBP. He was snubbed of a gold glove, but won Rookie of the Year and finished 2nd in MVP voting to Jose Altuve.

Judge battled injuries in 2018 and 2019 but was still effective when healthy. He had WARs of almost six in both seasons, despite playing 112 games in 2018 and 102 games in 2019.

Coming into his fourth full season, Judge is looking to have a big year. If he can stay healthy, he can accomplish big things as he did in 2017. He’s been trying to cut down strikeout numbers, but his high OBP makes up for extra strikeouts.

Happy Birthday to Aaron Judge, the face of New York! Enjoy your day, and stay safe!

 

Can the New York Yankees trust Giancarlo Stanton to remain healthy in 2020?

New York Yankees, Yankees, Giancarlo Stanton

Why has New York Yankees‘ slugger Giancarlo Stanton been getting injured so much?

One significant concern the Yankees are facing is the overall health of Giancarlo Stanton, who was acquired in a trade with the Miami Marlins two years ago.

If the regular season were to start today, Stanton would be healthy and ready to go after suffering a mild calf strain that kept him out for several weeks earlier this year. He’s not the only player that suffered preseason injuries though, as Aaron judge, James Paxton, and Luis Severino were all facing issues.

Some are worse than others, like Severino who underwent Tommy John surgery and will miss all of the 2020 campaigns if there even is one. Paxton had a cyst removed from his lower back, and Aaron judge was diagnosed with a stress fracture in a rib that he suffered last September.

The unfortunate trend of injuries for the Yankees has not slowed down, but the most interesting part is that Stanton had rarely been injured before coming to New York. It is possible that the Yankees training staff forced him to change his workout habits and focus more on power, opening up the door for soft tissue injuries.

“Giancarlo’s doing well,” Boone said. “He’s still reporting in Tampa and going through his rehab. He’s doing really well. When we get ready to go, he should certainly be ready to be back and part of things.”

The calf injury is a reoccurring one from last season, as he also had issues with his shoulder, lat, and more.

He was limited to just 18 regular-season games in 2019, after winning the NL MVP in 2017 and following up his incredible season with a slash line of .266/.343/.509 with 38 homers over 705 plate appearances in 2018.

Overall, Stanton has struggled to live up to his potential so far, and injuries have undoubtedly played a part in that. The Yankees made a significant change and overhauled their strength and conditioning program this off-season. The injuries seem to be stemming from the previous regimen, which indicates that better days might be ahead.

The Giants’ 2020 NFL Draft class has three significant takeaways

New York Giants, Nate Solder, Jon Halapio, Mike Remmers

There are three major takeaways from the New York Giants‘ draft class:

There are several clear trends the Giants followed in the 2020 NFL draft, and some would say this was one of the best draft classes they’ve seen in years from Big Blue.

They manage to solve positions of absolute need while also providing an influx of talent in the later rounds to spur competition.

General manager Dave Gettleman and head coach Joe Judge did a fantastic job piecing together a team that had holes all over the defense and offensive line. Gettleman made it a priority to solve the offensive line once and for all, while Judge stated they were trying to build a team and not a group of 53 independent contractors.

Both Gettleman and Judge needed to have a successful draft despite the virtual reality aspect. After rounds one and two, the Giants began piecing together the depth of the team. Ultimately, you cannot have multiple first-round picks to solve problems with a high probability rate, so finding high upside players who can compete right off the bat is sometimes the best alternative.

That is where the Giants began their quest to build a team and not a group.

The three takeaways that we can derive from the Giants’ latest draft class begins with the offensive line. After years of neglect and inadequate talent allocations, Big Blue has seemed to found the answer in left tackle Andrew Thomas finally.

A sturdy, strong player who has a serious mean streak will likely supplant Nate Solder on the left side. This gives Daniel Jones a considerable boost in the pocket and opens up running lanes for Saquon Barkley. A home run pick for the Giants, and that wasn’t the end in of trench allocations.

In round three, the Giants landed Matt Peart out of UConn, an extremely talented player with high-upside. He has the potential to develop into a starting right tackle, which would be the best-case scenario. If Gettleman managed to land a starting LT and RT in one draft, not only will the team’s salary cap be extremely healthy, but they will have achieved a rare feat.

Another significant take away was the allocation of players toward the slot corner position. The Giants drafted UCLA corner Darnay Holmes in the fourth round, and while he has minimal experience as a nickel CB, he has the perfect size and strength to play the position.

His elite quickness and speed allow him to match up with interior receivers well in the NFL, and he was one of the highest-ranked nickel corners available in the draft. They also landed Minnesota corner Chris Williamson in the seventh round, who has great physical traits but lacks the fundamentals to be an immediate impact player. With a year or two of refinement, he could develop into a useful talent, creating more competition in the slot.

The last trend that we noticed was a major influx of linebackers. The Giants drafted outside linebacker Cam Brown from Penn State, outside linebacker Carter Coughlin from Minnesota, inside linebacker TJ Brunson from South Carolina and Tae Crowder from Georgia. All of these new linebackers will likely turn over the depth at the position and allow competition to brew on the backend. Clearly, the coaching staff did not feel confident with their depth linebackers and needed to re-tool the reserves.

Overall, the Giants did a fantastic job building out the depth on their defense and also allocating assets toward the offensive line. Not to mention grabbing first-round value pick Xavier McKinney in the second round, they have multiple immediate starters who can leave their mark in 2020.

New York Jets: LIVE Undrafted Free Agent Tracker

New York Jets

The New York Jets’ roster continues to expand after the 255 names of the NFL Draft have been called through rookie free agency.

ESM updates the Jets’ undrafted free agency movements, as they continue to add players to their roster after Mr. Irrelevant’s name was called. ESM keeps things in order via a live tracker…

(LAST UPDATED: 4/26/20, 1:30 p.m. ET)

WR Lawerence Cager, Georgia: A less elusive Michael Pittman Jr., Cager has a Good catch radius and solid athleticism. (Zach Klein)

DB Shyheim Carter, Alabama: A former teammate of Quinnen Williams, Carter returned two interceptions back for touchdowns in 2018 and put up 100 tackles. (Yo Murphy)

DL Domenique Davis, UNC-Pembroke: The fourth member of the Division II Braves to join an NFL camp, Davis put up 40 tackles and three sacks. (Brandon Tester)

CB Javelin Guidry, Utah: Guidry is a freak athlete, having run a 4.29 at the Combine in the 40. (Sam Farnsworth)

OT Jared Hilbers, Washington: Hilbers started every game of the Huskies’ 2019 season at right tackle, earning second-team All-Pac-12 honors from Pro Football Focus. (Mike Vorel)

LB Bryce Huff, Memphis: Huff earned back-to-back second-team All-ACC honors, earning 16 sacks over the last two seasons. (Bryan Moss-Namcowicz)

CB Lamar Jackson, Nebraska: It might not be THAT Lamar Jackson, but this LJ of the defensive variety was named the Cornhuskers’ Defensive MVP. (Steven M. Sipple)

DT Sterling Johnson, Coastal Carolina: Johnson runs a 5.08 40 and he was pretty productive at CCU with 41 tackles, 10 TFLs, and 3.5 sacks last season. (Draft Diamonds)

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Yankees: Can Tyler Wade be a starter for the Bombers? What does the evidence suggest?

New York Yankees, Tyler Wade

Tyler Wade the early years

The New York Yankees Tyler Dean Wade was born on November 24, 1994, in San Diego, California. He played baseball as a boy, and from the age of ten was a Yankee and Derek Jeter fan. He played ball for Murrieta Valley High School in California, where he developed into a shortstop who played several times at second base. Yankees scouts took notice of Wade and particularly liked his athleticism. They thought so much of him that they selected him in the fourth round of the 2013 MLB draft when he was just eighteen.

Wade’s history with the New York Yankees

Tyler Wade had committed to play college baseball for San Diego State University but chose to forgo his commitment and sign with the Yankees, He made his pro debut in the rookie Gulf Coast League. At the end of the season, he was batting .309 with 12 RBI’s and the Yankees promoted him to the Staten Island Yankees. In the same year, he also played at the Charleston River Dogs and for the Trenton Thunder. He ended playing in 129 games for an average of .273 with 51 RBI’s.

He started 2015 with the Tampa A team but ended the season back with the Thunder. Between the two teams, he played in 127 games for an average of .262 with 31 RBI’s and with three home runs. He was an invitee to 2016 spring training but spent the season with the Thunder. He began the 2017 season with Scranton Wilkes/Bare but was called up to the Stadium on June 27. He ended up taking the shuttle between the Rail Riders and the Yankees multiple times. He was finally called up for the rest of the season on the 4th of September. He batting .310 for the Rail Riders but .155 for the Yankees in just 30 games. During the 2018 season, he was back and forth between the teams again. During the winter he played in the Arizona fall league where he worked on his outfield skills.

Last year he started his season with the Rail Riders but was up and down again. While at Scranton Wade was honing his outfield skills while his natural position is as a shortstop. As it turns out Wade is a pretty good utility player even playing second base, although he isn’t the greatest hitter. He is still young (25) and still developing. Wade was again called up when the roster expanded and has made some exciting catches in left field. Last season in the majors, he hit .245 with 11 RBI’s. In his short time up, he had seven stolen bases. The Yankees like his best on the team speed. He can pinch-run and cover vast areas of the outfield.

Personals

Wade is not married, and there are no scandals attached to his name. In the offseason he lives in southern California. He has an older brother Kyle. Tyler attributes his hard-working style to his military father. He became a Yankee fan at the age of ten when going on a family trip to Cooperstown he got to see a Yankee game at the old Stadium. In that game, he got to see Derek Jeter do his famous jump throw; when he returned home, he practiced that throw in backyard Whiffle ball games. Wade carries a tattoo behind his left wrist the says “Confidence is key” For female fans, he is a bit of a heartthrob with his good looks.

Can Wade make a starter when the season begins?

In the shortened spring training season Wade did not make the case that he should be in the opening lineup.  He hit only .133 in 11 games.  He started in none of them.  His 30 at-bats only resulted in four RBIs.  Two of his hits were home runs. Even though his early stats were not very good, the New York Yankees should take into consideration that he is genuinely the super-utility player that can play almost anywhere with good defense.  He is a lefty hitter that is much needed in an otherwise right-hand heavy lineup.  He also can, at times, hit with power.  Tyler Wade may just be that player that can excess if he is ever given the opportunity to be an everyday player.

Interestingly, the New York Yankees could be looking at those two long balls in just 11 games.  In a standard 162 game season at that pace, he would hit 30 home runs and drive in 60.  Those two home runs match his entire 2019 season.  It could be that his maturing in the game is beginning to show his ability to hit for power.

Unfortunately for Wade is that everything that points to him being a good everyday player also makes him the perfect player to have on the bench. Also, a consideration is another bench player that can play left field well, Mike Tauchman who is also a lefty. With Miguel Andujar surely in the starting lineup as a left fielder or DH, there will be a competition between the two for the most playing time.  To this writer, Wade gets the edge because of the number of positions he can fill.

Killian Hayes could be New York Knicks’ point guard of the future

The New York Knicks have their eyes on the 2020 NBA draft. While the draft order is yet to be determined, the Knicks will be picking in the lottery and have a shot at some of the top prospects. One player they should target is French point guard Killian Hayes.

Hayes is becoming the draft’s worst kept secret. Hayes is was born in America but played in France’s basketball academies growing up. He currently plays for Ratiopharm ULM in the Bundesliga, the top basketball league in Germany.

The 18-year-old has mostly flown under the radar but has recently been making waves among scouts. Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer recently released his 2020 NBA draft guide, and Hayes was the number one prospect. The top three prospects have typically consisted of LaMelo Ball, Anthony Edwards, and James Wiseman. Now it looks as though Hayes is in the mix.

Elite Passer. Elite Scorer.

Hayes has everything you want in a modern point guard. From a physical standpoint, he’s got great size at 6’5 tall and a 6’9 wingspan. More importantly, Hayes is a talented scorer and phenomenal passer who’s game seems to improve every month.

Hayes shooting has been inconsistent. However, he’s got great form and keeps improving his numbers. In 10 games in Eurocup, before play was suspended, Hayes was shooting 39% from 3 and 90% from the free-throw line. Hayes’ impressive handles allow him to create space and score off of the dribble. He’s starting to put it together.

Killian Hayes is already advanced as a playmaker. His processing is quite advanced for his age, and his ability to find open shooters pops off the screen. Hayes is already an advanced pick and roll ball handler with a good understanding of pro basketball spacing.

What really stands out watching his film is his speed. Hayes’ quickness and burst are clearly a step above some of the other guards projected as lottery picks.

Killian Hayes still has kinks to work out. He’s incredibly left hand dominant and needs to improve his defense. However, his combination of quickness, scoring, and passing make him one of the most captivating prospects in the entire draft. An ascending player, Killian Hayes is exactly what the New York Knicks want in a franchise point guard.

For Giants’ Joe Judge, It’s All About the Team

New York Giants, Joe Judge

The New York Giants could have brought in some more high-profile picks in this year’s draft than they did. Instead, they chose the right players for their mindset and system.

Head coach Joe Judge knows that in a team game such as football, you have to play as a team in order to win. That is the culture he is bringing to the New York Giants. He wants to change the recent culture where the sum of the parts has been greater than the whole.

The Giants were hung up on profiles and selling jerseys and idiotic self-promotions. That led to just 12 wins over the last three years. Under Judge, the culture will be one of team-first where no player is above the rest – a unit of 53 players all heading in the same direction.

They made some curious choices in this weekend’s NFL Draft, bypassing some dynamic talent for more staid and steady choices. Football acumen and character prevailed over raw talent and high profiles. Translation: they wanted good, loyal soldiers.

“We spent a lot of time on the character, on the traits, on the personality. Look, we’re not collecting talent, we’re building a team — and it’s important,” said Judge. “There’s a lot of good players out there. There’s not a lot of right fits and you want to find the right fits to bring into your locker room. It’s important to spend as much time with these guys as people on the front end and make sure that you’re building a culture in your locker room. I don’t want 53 independent contractors, I want one team. That’s what we have to make sure we bring in the right guys for that.”

During the draft, the Giants’ first round pick, Georgia OT Andrew Thomas made the mistake of mentioning that he wants to win a Super Bowl. Judge repeated to the media what he told Thomas after the call.

“Hey listen, this is your focus, this is what we’re building, this is what our culture here is going to be, let’s just make sure you say the right thing at the right time.” Number one, not to make yourself have any expectations you now have to meet, it’s going to be tough enough for you to go ahead and get in the rhythm of you being a pro as it is. Number two, don’t ever, the whole comparisons and predictions, just work out what you can control. Right now what you can control is showing up, doing your job day-by-day and improving and that’s it.”

Judge is laying the groundwork for the same type of culture that he worked under in New England, where the team comes first. He won’t get any resistance from his boss, general manager Dave Gettleman, a man known to cut bait on players who go rogue or outgrow their contracts.

After the draft, reporters wanted to know how these two alpha personalities got along in their first draft collaborating together.

“It was great working with Joe and at the end of the day, it’s not a Dave Gettleman decision, they are not Joe Judge decisions, they are New York Football Giants decisions,’ said Gettleman. “That’s really the way it is. It was terrific working with Joe, it was thorough, it was well done and we felt very prepared and felt we had a really good, solid draft.”

That answer wasn’t sufficient, however. Gettleman was asked how it was different than working with the other coaches he worked with in his career.

“God bless you,” he said. “We get along fine. Next question.”

Under Appreciated New York Mets: Orlando Hernandez

Much like many other veterans who finish their career in Queens, Orlando Hernandez‘s New York Mets career is forgettable, but not because he did not play well. At ages 40 and 41, he spent the final season and a half stabilizing the Mets starting rotation.

Hernandez developed a reputation for his postseason dominance, which is why the Mets traded for him in 2006. The trade with the Diamondbacks occurred on May 24 in exchange for reliever Jorge Julio. Hernandez struggled in Arizona with a 6.11 ERA in nine starts. He pitched much better with the Mets, putting up a 4.09 ERA in 20 starts. Hernandez was in line to start game one of the postseason, but a calf injury sustained running the day prior scratched him from the roster.

Ageless El Duque

At 41, he looked sharp as ever during the 2007 season. He had a 3.72 ERA over 27 games, which was only second to Oliver Perez. Hernandez even made three relief appearances in September to bolster the putrid Mets bullpen. He received foot surgery after the season, which caused him to miss all of 2008, which effectively ended his Mets career.

After a couple of minor league comeback attempts, he retired following the 2011 season. Hernandez was not in his dominant Yankees form with the Mets, but he was still a key reason the team was in contention during his time with the team.