The 2020 NASCAR season: 10 things you need to know as the sport returns

NASCAR is one of the first major North American sports leagues to return to live action. Here’s what you need to know as the season resumes.

Live sports are back, America, at least those of the pistoned variety.

NASCAR will be among the first major American sports leagues to return to live-action as the country continues to battle the COVID-19 pandemic. All three of the organization’s national circuits will return to action in the coming days, beginning with the premiere Cup Series. Proceedings get underway with the Real Heroes 400 at Darlington Raceway in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina on Sunday afternoon (3:30 p.m. ET, Fox). The Cup Series will run two races at Darlington (the other coming on Wednesday night) with a lower-tier Xfinity Series race commencing on Tuesday. Charlotte Motor Speedway will then host all three national realms (including the Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series) next week, complete with the Cup Series’  traditional running of the Coca-Cola 600 on Memorial Day weekend.

The appetite of the American sports fan may lead to many new viewers for the sport. ESM has primed up what you need to know as things get back underway…

(Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

1. The First Lap in Sports’ Return

While NASCAR is indeed making a return, the comeback won’t exactly be a fully typical day at the races. 

In adherence to ongoing social distancing policies, the scheduled races will predictably be run sans spectators. Media attendees will be kept to a minimum and there will be no qualifying or practice sessions. The starting lineup for Sunday’s race will be determined by random drawings through divisions via car owner points standings (i.e., a random drawing of the top 12 will make up the first dozen spots). Qualifying will still be run for the 600-mile race on May 24. 

Pit stops will also look different, especially during competition yellow flags that will be thrown at a specific point in the race (it will come on lap 30 of Sunday’s event). During these caution sessions, cars will not gain or lose positions, provided they beat the pace car out of pit road. Teams are also limited to no more than 16 individuals at the track.

Sacrifices are already being made. Several tracks (including Sonoma Raceway, Chicagoland Speedway, and Richmond Internation Raceway) had to give up their dates as NASCAR intends to run full schedules.

It’s certainly not the perfect storm, but drivers are looking forward to the challenges presented and are confident that they will be able to adapt to the necessary changes.

“We’re going to be able to do this and it should be pretty effective,” Denny Hamlin said in a conference call last weekend. “Obviously there will be a huge microscope on how we’re doing things, making sure it’s done in a safe manner. For all of us, it’s just the unknown of making sure we’re doing it the right way. After the first week, I think it will be easier and people will have a better understanding. Certainly the first week there will be some questions that I’m sure drivers will have.”

2. Getting Finer in Carolina

NASCAR’s return comes in familiar territory, its hub of the Carolinas. Two of its most familiar tracks will host the opening, with Myrtle Beach’s Darlington dropping the green flag next Sunday and Wednesday before Charlotte duplicates the process further north next week. Both tracks hold special places in the hearts of fans and drivers alike.

Darlington is renowned for its treacherous semi-egg shaped track, earning a reputation as “The Track Too Tough to Tame” thanks to drivers’ repeated encounters with the wall and each other. It has hosted NASCAR races since 1950. Nearly seven decades of exciting races have ensued. One such occasion was the 2003 Carolina Dodge Dealers 400, when Ricky Craven held off Kurt Busch in the closest finish in NASCAR history (0.002 seconds).

The unusual layout of Darlington often makes preparation and practice imperative, but that’s not possible in the current environment.

“The team aspect of things is going to be difficult because those guys are going to have to turn cars around, and your shop efforts are going to have to be really exceptional to prepare good cars,” William Byron said in another conference earlier this spring. “I think that, honestly for me as a driver, I’m just going to have to manage my time really well. I’m going to have to be in good physical shape but not be too worn out training too hard or anything like that.”

“I’m looking forward to seeing what that is like. I know our team on the 24 will do a good job of preparing and adapting to the circumstances, so I’m just looking forward to seeing how that plays out.”

After the Darlington events, the circuit shifts to Charlotte, the site of NASCAR’s headquarters and its Hall of Fame. Fans who are getting into the sport for the first time will certainly have their fill after the Coca-Cola 600. The race has annually been run on Memorial Day Weekend since 1961 and is the longest race on the NASCAR circuit at 600 miles (400 laps around the 1.5-mile track).

3. Feelin’ 22

If you’re looking for a name to root for, it’s probably not too late to jump on Joey Logano’s bandwagon. After all, it’s hard to top the year the 2018 Cup Series champion has been having so far.

The No. 22 Ford won two of the first four races on the Cup slate (including the most recent event in Phoenix) before its driver welcomed his second son alongside his wife Brittany last week. Logano holds the runner-up spot in the standings, a single point behind Kevin Harvick.

4. Hello, Newman!

The 2020 season began in February. as it always does, with the running of the Daytona 500. Hamlin’s third win in the event was overshadowed by a scary last-lap crash involving Ryan Newman. The No. 6 Ford was leading the race when it was inadvertently spun out by the No. 12 Ford of Ryan Blaney. Newman hit the wall hard, before his car flipped into oncoming traffic. After Corey LaJoie’s No. 32 machine slammed into Newman head-on, he crossed the finish line upside down in a shower of sparks.

After several tense hours, it was revealed Newman had sustained serious but non-life-threatening injuries. Less than 48 hours after the crash, he walked out of Halifax Medical Center alongside his daughters Brooklyn and Ashlyn. Newman would miss the next three races to recover while Ross Chastain temporarily took over his Roush Fenway Racing car. Darlington will mark his first time back in the No. 6 car since the accident.

The pause has left Newman in a manageable position in terms of the playoffs. He restarts competition 54 points out of a playoff spot, though a win would certainly solidify his case.

5. A Familiar Face in An Unfortunate Case

Newman isn’t the only NASCAR star of the 2000s returning to the track. Matt Kenseth has emerged from retirement to pilot the No. 42 Chevrolet for Chip Ganassi Racing. The ride was vacated after regular driver Kyle Larson used a racial slur during a streamed iRacing event.

Kenseth, the 2003 Cup Series champion, has 39 Cup wins under his belt, including two triumphs in the Daytona 500. Ganassi’s No. 42 has been rather successful with top ten finishes in each of the last four final standings. His most recent race was the 2018 season finale (subbing for the fired Trevor Bayne in Roush Fenway’s aforementioned No. 6), but his competition is wary that it won’t take much for Kenseth to rediscover his racing groove.

“From my standpoint, I’m like, I don’t want him back,” said Hamlin, a teammate of Kenseth’s at Joe Gibbs Racing for five seasons. “I know he gives great information. He can give an organization information. It’s another voice that that organization will hear that’s different than what they’ve had over the last few years. Not better or worse, but just different. So I think he’s probably going to lift that program up, similar to what he did to Roush towards the end. He’s my buddy, but I prefer him just to stay home at this point!”

6. See You Again

It’s obviously the least of our concerns at this point, but the pause created a level of awkwardness in the final season of full-time racing for Jimmie Johnson. The seven-time Cup champion confirmed that 2020 would still be his final season in Rick Hendrick’s No. 48 Chevrolet, refusing to budge from a plan established last November.

Johnson well might’ve been saving the best for last. After struggling over the past two seasons (his last win coming in June 2017 and missing out on the NASCAR playoffs for the first time in his career last year), the No. 48 began to resemble its old, victorious self. A late crash took him out of contention at Daytona but he followed it up with three consecutive finishes in the top dozen. That stretch includes a seventh-place showing at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, the El Cajon native’s de facto home track and site of his first victory in 2002. Johnson was honored before the race and his family got things started by waving the green flag.

7. Cups by Hendrick

Johnson’s resurgence is only one of the positive stories coming out of the Hendrick Motorsports stables these days. The iconic race squad has amassed 16 NASCAR titles since its 1984 inception but had fallen on hard times in recent years. Granted, they were results other teams would potentially salivate over, but Hendrick cars have finished in the final standings’ top five only once since Johnson’s last title in 2016.

However, the team was on a roll at the time of the temporary shutdown. Hendrick’s quartet has united to lead 313 laps (led by Chase Elliott’s tally of 186) over the first four races and three of those drivers appear in the top five of the standings. Such a resurgence was prominently on display in Fontana, where Alex Bowman’s No. 88 led 110 of 200 laps en route to victory. While William Byron (currently 19th in the standings) may be struggling in the iconic No. 24 car, he was able to build momentum during simulated iRacing events that helped fill the void of sports in the pandemic’s early days. Byron won three of the seven virtual races run during the eNASCAR Pro Invitational iRacing Series. His teammate Bowman likewise earned a win at pixelated Talladega.

8. King of the Hill

Speaking of iRacing, no one emerged from the simulated circuit better than Timmy Hill.

Standings were not kept in the Pro Invitational Series, but mathematics and NASCAR’s point system determined that Hill emerged as the de facto champion of the temporary circuit. He finished every race on the lead lap and finished no worse than 11th. His success probably should’ve come as no surprise, as he’s closing in on making 1,700 iRacing starts.

Hill’s actual racing career has been far less illustrious. Trapped in racing purgatory of microbudget teams, his best finish to date is a 14th place showing at the 2017 Indianapolis race. But his iRacing showcase may have been his ticket to at least start to turn the corner. His MBM Motorsports team is simply looking to finish the season, a task that became incredibly more difficult when they were forced to let go 30 employees during the shutdown. However, his performance allowed them to gain some extra sponsors for both Hill’s No. 66 Toyota and the Xfinity program. Hill probably won’t be contending for a title any time soon, but his success in the iRacing proceedings and how a small-budget team performs in these uncertain economic times will certainly be worth watching.

9. Minor League NASCAR

If you’re really looking to fill the live sports void in your life, you might want to keep track of the lower-tier national circuits as well. Thus far, the Xfinity series (the NASCAR equivalent of AAA-level baseball) has been dominated by a legacy selection. 19-year-old Harrison Burton (son of former driver Jeff) has finished in the top five in each of the first four races so far, part of a torrid start to his early NASCAR career (which includes a 12th-place finish in last season’s Truck standings). He’s pursued closely by Chase Briscoe at three points behind.

The Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series was only able to run two events before the shutdown. Grant Enfinger won the season-opening event at Daytona, besting Jordan Anderson by 0.010 seconds. Of note, Natalie Decker made history in that same race, as her fifth-place posting was the best by a female driver in Truck Series history. Veteran Truck Series driver Austin Hill currently leads the points in his No. 16 Toyota.

2020 NASCAR Cup Series Standings (After 4 of 36 Races)
Driver Points/Behind Wins Car/Primary Sponsor
1. Kevin Harvick 164 0 #4 Busch Ford
2. Joey Logano -1 2 #22 Shell/Pennzoil Ford
3. Chase Elliott -20 0 #9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet
4. Alex Bowman -26 1 #88 Valvoline Chevrolet
5. Jimmie Johnson -33 0 #48 Ally Bank Chevrolet
6. Ryan Blaney -41 0 #12 PEAK Ford
7. Kyle Larson (out) -43 0 N/A
8. Aric Almirola -43 0 #10 Smithfield Ford
9. Matt DiBenedetto -46 0 #21 Menard’s Ford
10. Brad Keselowski -46 0 #2 Miller Lite Ford
11. Denny Hamlin -53 1 #11 FedEx Toyota
12. Kyle Busch -53 0 #18 M&M’s Toyota
13. Clint Bowyer -59 0 #14 Rush Trick Centers Ford
14. Chris Buescher -62 0 #17 Fastenal Ford
15. Martin Truex Jr. -68 0 #19 Bass Pro Shops Toyota
16. Kurt Busch -74 0 #1 Monster Energy Chevrolet
NASCAR PLAYOFF CUTOFF LINE (Points behind 16th)
17. Ricky Stenhouse Jr, -2 0 #47 Kroger Chevrolet
18. Bubba Wallace -3 0 #43 World Wide Technology Chevrolet
19. William Byron -3 0 #24 Axalta Chevrolet
20. Austin Dillon -13 0 #3 Dow Chevrolet
21. Erik Jones -13 0 #20 SportClips Toyota
22. Cole Custer (R) -17 0 #41 Haas Automation Ford
23. Corey LaJoie -22 0 #32 RagingBull.com Ford
24. Ty Dillon -22 0 #13 GEICO Chevrolet
25. Tyler Reddick (R) -22 0 #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet

10. The Standings and the Playoff

Now a good a time as ever to update you on the NASCAR playoff picture.

As has been customary, the current plan is to run 26 “regular season” races. After such races, 16 drivers are invited to the ten-race “playoff” session. The easiest way to reach the playoffs is by winning races and finishing in the top 30 in points. If there are fewer unique winners than playoff spots, the rest of the field is filled via points. Once the playoff begins, each qualified driver’s point total rests at 2,000.

Drivers are seeded by a number of combined factors that accumulate into playoff points. These special tallies are earned via individual victories (five points each) and winning in-race stages (one point). The regular season champion also earned an additional 15 playoff points.

Once the playoff begins, elimination rounds are held in three-race increments. Drivers can automatically advance to the next round by winning one of three races in the interim. Four drivers per round are eliminated leading up to final, tenth race in which the best finisher wins the title.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

 

An inside look at how Giants’ Daniel Jones felt with Eli Manning in the room in 2019

New York Giants, Eli Manning, Daniel Jones

New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones opened up about Eli Manning being benched in 2019 and what the feeling was like:

The 2019 season was built around the idea that Eli Manning had one more successful campaign in his bones. Co-owner John Mara wanted to give Manning the exit he deserved, allowing him to remain the starter for one final season before eventually replacing him with a young quarterback. This was an everlasting problem the Giants had faced as they contemplated committing fully to a rebuild.

General manager Dave Gettleman tried to scoot around the concept of a rebuild by drafting Saquon Barkley with the second overall pick in 2018. He stated they would attempt to win while rebuilding, which ultimately was a flawed plan and forced them to hit the restart button after just one year. The hope was that Manning could retain his spot as the everyday starter at quarterback and the New York Giants could retool a roster that had voids across-the-board.

Ultimately, they were unable to do so and resorted to drafting Daniel Jones out of Duke in 2019. This made things a bit awkward for Jones in the locker room, especially after Manning was benched in week three after two consecutive losses to open the season. Jones took over and immediately won two games, starting his career on a high note and putting Manning in the rearview mirror. Jones ended up missing two games later on the season to give Eli a chance at exiting on a high note. He eventually overcame a lowly Miami Dolphins team that allowed him to walk into the sunset.

However, a year of ups and downs at the position left an uncomfortable feeling in Jones’ mind at times.

He stated on a Zoom call with media members on Wednesday:

“Looking back there was definitely .. probably a little bit awkward at times, certain times,” Jones said. “But we did a good job working together. I know I enjoyed working with him and certainly learned a ton from him and appreciate everything he did during that year.”

The class video of Eli and Daniel playing flip-cup a Hoboken bar leaves us with glowing memories of the two, but that didn’t mean the quarterback’s room wasn’t awkward and tumultuous at times in a year that was supposed to be Eli’s.

Manning stated after officially retiring, via Sirius XM NFL Radio:

“I think it will be easier this year for him to kind of step up as that leader,’’ Manning said. “Last year was probably awkward for him, me being there, me being in meeting rooms and just kind of the whole dynamic. Me being gone and, hey, he is the quarterback, he is the guy, for him to have that control and the authority over receivers and offensive line.

Things will be different for Jones in the future, as he will be the commanding officer in the room at all times (player-wise), and Manning thinks he’s ready for the job.

A look at the newly released New York Giants’ rookie jersey numbers

New York Giants, Andrew Thomas

Taking a look at the New York Giants rookie jersey numbers:

The New York Giants had 10 overall selections in the 2020 NFL draft, and while most suspected they would package some of their seventh-round picks together to move up, they stood pat and used every single one of them.

The Giants released their rookie jersey numbers on Thursday, as a first-round pick, Andrew Thomas, selected number 78. Most of the players selected numbers that didn’t match up with their college choices, likely because they were already taken. Even Thomas, who was #71 with Georgia, was unable to secure his number with the Giants, as he decided on 78.

Per Giants.com:

78: OT Andrew Thomas (Georgia), Round 1, Pick 4

29: S Xavier McKinney (Alabama), Round 2, Pick 36

74: OT Matt Peart (UConn), Round 3, Pick 99

30: CB Darnay Holmes (UCLA), Round 4, Pick 110

66: OL Shane Lemieux (Oregon), Round 5, Pick 150

47: LB Cam Brown (Penn State), Round 6, Pick 183

49: LB Carter Coughlin (Minnesota), Round 7, Pick 218

35: LB TJ Brunson (South Carolina), Round 7, Pick 238

31: DB Chris Williamson (Minnesota), Round 7, Pick 247

37: LB Tae Crowder (Georgia), Round 7, Pick 255

Undrafted rookie free agent signings:

5: QB Case Cookus (Northern Arizona)

6: WR Derrick Dillon (LSU)

9: WR Binjimen Victor (Ohio State)

19: S Jaquarius Landrews (Mississippi State)

28: DB Malcolm Elmore (Central Methodist)

33: DB Christian Angulo (Hampton)

38: RB Javon Leake (Maryland)

39: LB Dominique Ross (UNC)

45: DE Oluwole Betiku (Illinois)

47: TE Rysen John (Simon Fraser)

49: TE Kyle Markway (South Carolina)

60: OL Kyle Murphy (Rhode Island)

61: OL Tyler Haycraft (Louisville)

79: DE Niko Lalos (Dartmouth)

81: WR Austin Mack (Ohio State)

96: DE Dana Levine (Temple)

NFL International Pathway Program:

34: RB Sandro Platzgummer (Austria)

Giants’ Dalvin Tomlinson on Familiar Turf With New Coaching Staff

New York Giants, Dalvin Tomlinson

There was some speculation on whether the New York Giants would seek to extend the rookie contract of defensive lineman Dalvin Tomlinson, who is entering the final year of that deal this season.

The 55th overall selection out of Alabama in the 2017 NFL Draft has been a key contributor for two coaching staffs in his short NFL career and with a new staff coming in, his future in Blue likely hinges on his performance in 2020.

Or maybe not. Tomlinson has some hooks on the Giants’ incoming staff in head coach Joe Judge and defensive coordinator Patrick Graham. Judge actually recruited Tomlinson when he was an assistant under Nick Saban at Alabama. He is optimistic that the trio will hit it off from the start.

“Coach Judge is a great guy. I remember when I was getting recruited by Alabama, that was when I met him for the first time,” Tomlinson told reporters on a conference call this week. “It’s just crazy how small the world is. He’s a great guy and so is the whole coaching staff. Every day you come in the locker room, just make sure you are ready to work every day. Bring your A game and make sure everyone around you is ready to work. That’s all you can do, come to work and do your best.”

Graham was the Giants’ defensive line coach under Ben McAdoo when Tomlinson was a rookie. He is very familiar with Graham and his tactics and knows what will be expected of him this season.

“He’s a great coach, super high energy,’ said Tomlinson. “He coaches you to the fullest because he wants the full potential brought out of you. Back then, the way he coached the D-line, you could just tell he was going to be a D-coordinator soon.”

Tomlinson will be coached by former Penn State defensive front coach Sean Spencer, who is well-respected in coaching circles.

“Super high energy guy,’ said Tomlinson. “He always has energy no matter what time of the day it is. I’m looking forward to doing some of his drills when we get back to practice.”

Second-round picks don’t get the benefit of a fifth-year option like first round selections do. In many cases, they have to go into their fourth seasons, regardless of their achievements, with their career status uncertain.

Tomlinson is not looking past this season, further exemplifying his commitment to team over personal issues. That will go a long way with Judge, who has stressed that these are type of players he is seeking to build around. The fact that Tomlinson has dressed -and started – all 48 games since becoming a Giant in 2017 should only add to his value.

“Pretty much we have been taking every day one day at a time because of the pandemic,” he said. “I’m not really focused on the contract because all I can do is try to get better and be as much prepared as I can for when we get back to training camp and get back to the facility as early as possible. I have been focusing on getting better and improving with my teammates as much as possible, that’s my biggest goal right now.”

New York Jets have NOT signed Logan Ryan to a deal he stated on GMFB

New York Giants, Logan Ryan

Recent reports, specifically by Manish Mehta from the New York Daily News, stated that the New York Jets were close to signing veteran cornerback Logan Ryan. The former Titan stated on GMFB these reports are not valid.

Ryan has ample experience as a number one corner in the NFL, posting lofty numbers in 2019. At 28 years old, he logged 113 combine tackles, 4.5 sacks, eight quarterback hits, 18 passes offended, and four forced fumbles. He also earned four interceptions, proving he’s capable of producing in many different categories.

The role he played was rather interesting for the Tennessee Titans last season, as he acted as a pass rusher off the edge but also dropped into coverage frequently, considering his 18 passes offended. His eight turnovers were impressive, and it was likely a significant reason the Titans’ defense had a successful season.

However, the Jets reportedly were set to gain the corner at a position that severely lacks talent. After cutting Trumaine Johnson and his vile contract, the Jets were left with a void at the number one position, and as of now, they are preparing to feature Pierre Desir or from the Indianapolis Colts in that role.

Ryan joined GMFB Thursday morning to talk about the reports indicating he was signing with the Jets. He stated, “People broke news and wrote articles on what I was going before I even knew.”

So, we can conclude that the Jets have not signed Logan Ryan as of yet, but he did indicate that he would be open to the idea of taking his talents to New York.

Not only would Ryan bring essential experience and knowledge to help the younger players develop, but he would fill the number one spot immediately and give the Jets some solace in their unpredictable unit.

Signing him to a one-year deal might make the most sense, allowing the younger players to further develop and utilize Ryan as a one-off type of player. Their secondary would be improved and give them the extra benefit of knowing they don’t have to rely on second-year player Bless Austin or depth pieces like Arthur Maulet or Quincy Wilson — not to mention Bryce Hall, their fifth-round pick out of Virginia.

New York Knicks: Jeff Van Gundy ‘open’ to returning to the bench with ‘right team’

New York Knicks, James Dolan

Former New York Knicks head coach Jeff Van Gundy is ‘open’ to returning to the bench.  However, it might not be with the Knicks.

Van Gundy was on Instagram Live chat with former Knicks point guard Charlie Ward.  He said, “I’m definitely open to coaching in the right spot at the right time.”  Basically everything within the organizations as to be in order for Van Gundy to accept a coaching job.  The front office, assistant coaches, have to be on the same page going forward for the future for Van Gundy to even consider that franchise.

The owner will be another factory for Van Gundy to return.  The Knicks owner has been controversial, getting himself in sticky situations that makes him and organization look bad.

Van Gundy said he had job offered over the last twelve years but he didn’t think they were “the right fit.”  While with the Knicks for seven seasons, Van Gundy was 248-172, .590 winning percentage, with the team from 1996-2001.  He led the Knicks to the NBA finals in 1998-99, ultimately losing to the San Antonio Spurs.

Van Gundy has been, by far, the Knicks best head coach in the last two decades.  His teams had some of the best talent minus the early 2010s with Carmelo Anthony and company.  He’s an excellent coach that players can relate to and play hard for.

Although, with all the distractions thanks for the Knicks owner, Van Gundy returning to New York seems unlikely.  The organization is rebuilding in every way possible.  There’s a new regime coming in with new team president Leon Rose and a new front office.  So maybe Rose can sell Van Gundy on being a focal point in the turnaround.

Van Gundy has the coaching knowledge and experience that a franchise needs in a coach.  But with how the organization currently stands, Van Gundy returning to the New York Knicks seems unlikely.

New York Mets: Why Wilson Ramos Should Be a DH Candidate

As the negotiations toward continuing the MLB season continues, one of the key topics is the universal designated hitter. The New York Mets have an abundance of options, but an overlooked choice is Wilson Ramos.

Ramos has one of the most reliable bats at catcher, but his defense prevents him from ranking as a top-10 catcher. His caught stealing has been below league average over the last three seasons and is in the same area with about everything else defensively. The caught sealing numbers were due in part to the inability to hold runners on, but moving Ramos to DH strengthens the defense.

Who Becomes the Catcher

This plan only works if the rosters expand to 30 for the entire season. Rene Rivera handles the bulk of the catching duty, and Tomas Nido becomes the third catcher on the roster. Rivera is better with the running game than Nido, but Nido is stronger in his framing. Rivera has a career 36 percent caught stealing for his career while Nido lags at 13 percent.

The biggest difference for the Mets is adding the extra catcher to the lineup stops them from using Yoenis Cespedes or Dominic Smith as the DH. With the depth of the Mets lineup, using Rivera/Nido should not hurt their offensive production. If they needed a pinch hitter, they could use Cespedes/Smith with the ability to put the third catcher in the game.

In extreme circumstances, the Mets lose the DH to make Ramos the catcher and play classic NL baseball. In an 82-game season with a DH, Ramos should play in all 82. Last season, he hit .307 with runners in scoring position and .367 in high leverage situations.

Keeping Ramos fresh was a key emphasis for the Mets down the stretch run of 2019. His hot hitting in the second half made it hard to take him out of the lineup. Putting him as the DH every 2-3 games allows them to keep him fresh and continue to give Cespedes/Smith the opportunity to DH when Ramos is behind the dish. It serves as an alternative plan if the Mets would rather have more offense than defense with the universal DH.

3 Reasons why Frank Gore and the New York Jets are a perfect match

New York Giants, Frank Gore

The signing of Frank Gore has raised some eyebrows, but the newly minted 37-year-old may wind up being the New York Jets’ most vital addition.

If you assembled the all-time “He played for the JETS?!?!” team, Frank Gore would already be a top contender, but he’d have some competition.

Gore, who turns 37 on Thursday, joins a list of illustrious rushers that have spent their twilight years with the New York Jets. Others notables that have taken the green plunge include Chris Johnson, Matt Forte, and LaDanian Tomlinson. Aging legends of the game be found all over such a lineup, one whose depth chart includes Brett Favre, Derrick Mason, Jason Taylor, and Ronnie Lott.

While some names wind up hitting the blooper reels of NFL lore, others can wind becoming solid contributors to the New York cause. Law, for example, earned a career-best 10 interceptions during the 2005 season. A decade later, Brandon Marshall had the most illustrious season in franchise history with team-bests 1,502 yards on 109 receptions, 14 of which went for touchdowns.

Here’s why Gore can potentially lean toward ending up in the latter, more hopeful, category…

He’s Still Got What the Jets Are Looking For

Jets head coach Adam Gase took some heat for his usage of Le’Veon Bell last season. Comments to ESPN’s Rich Cimini earlier this offseason only seemed to further freeze the icy relationship Bell and Gase have reportedly had so far.

“I do think we have some guys that can help maybe lessen the load on (Bell) to where it’s not all on him,” Gase told Cimini on May 4, two days before Gore’s arrival. “Hopefully, we can get some of the younger backs to where we can make a good one-two punch to where we can really excel instead of feeling like it’s just all on him all the time.”

But Gase may have a point.

While Bell’s tally of 311 touches didn’t sniff the league-best 406 he had with Pittsburgh in 2017, it still ranked eighth in the NFL last season. It quickly became clear that Bell wasn’t the one-size-fits-all solution to the Jets’ offense some envisioned him to be. Things could get a little easier after the expansive offensive line renovations,  The Jets had to find a spell option for Bell, a process that became all the more imperative with Bilal Powell and Ty Montgomery on the free agency block.

They began to address the role when they took Florida’s Lamical Perine in the fourth round of last month’s draft and continued with Gore. No one’s expecting Gore to be the dominant rusher he was during his glory days in San Francisco, but he has spent the past few seasons fulfilling similar roles across the AFC East. Gore has earned 1,321 over the last two seasons with Miami and Buffalo. He would serve as a passable starting option when Devin Singletary went down with an injury. Among his notable efforts with the Bills last season was an 83-total yard performance at MetLife Stadium (also scoring a touchdown in a 28-14 win over the Giants) and a 109-yard ground output on 17 carries against New England. For what the Jets are looking for, Gore was a perfect fit.

Over the last seasons, Gore’s 1,321 rushing yards are good for second amongst running backs in their 30s (behind only Washington’s Adrian Peterson).

He Knows the Staff

If and when we get a 2020 season, it will undoubtedly be one of reckoning for Gase and his staff. He and offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains will be under particular scrutiny for how the offense flows with Sam Darnold entering the telling third year as the franchise quarterback, now armed with a revamped offensive line and a potential big-play receiver in Denzel Mims in tow.

It’s only natural for the staff to surround themselves with talent that has worked to their advantage before. Gore was brought into Gase and Loggains’ Miami squad in 2018. His duties were shared with youngsters Kenyan Drake and Kalen Ballage, but he still led the team with 722 yards. The 2018 season also served as a mini-revitalization, as Gore averaged 4.6 yards per carry, the first time he put over four yards since his final San Francisco season in 2014.

Gase has spoken highly of their brief shared tour of Miami. He referred to the Gore experience as “unbelievable” in the lead-up to the Jets’ Week 1 matchup with the rusher’s then-employers from Buffalo.

“If you watched him work day-in and day-out, it wouldn’t surprise you,” Gase said, per Brian Costello of the New York Post. “We would always say, ‘Hey, we think you should take today off,’ and he’s like, ‘Wednesdays, I’m practicing,’ and he wants every rep. You’re in full pads and he’s going at it like it’s Sunday. That’s just how he looks. That’s how he’s always been. He loves football. There’s no other place he’d rather be than the practice field, game day. Everything about football, he loves.”

(Photo by Anthony J. Causi/Icon SMI/Corbis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Good Country For Old Men

A lot has been made about the Jets signing yet another veteran past his prime. But that might be exactly what they need at this stage of the game.

The Jets’ perpetual rebuild is in perhaps its most hopeful stage yet, but it’s one stocked with youth. On the team’s current roster, only four other veterans are at least 30. When it comes to building a winning culture, a veteran that has done the dance of victory before is an essential ingredient. One can do far worse in a helpful veteran than a college football national champion, a five-time Pro Bowler, the rusher named to the 2010s All-Decade Team by the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and the third-leading rusher in NFL history.

An example at another position came in the form of Mark Brunell’s brief tenure as Mark Sanchez’s backup during the 2010 and 2011 campaigns. Brunell’s resume wasn’t as polished as Gore’s, but he was the quarterback that led the Jacksonville Jaguars to their earliest glory days and later won a Super Bowl as the understudy in New Orleans.

The aged Brunell, who was entering his 40s, had a calming effect on Sanchez, who posted the best numbers of his career with the ex-Jaguar in the room.

“He has a calming presence when everything is spinning out of control,” Sanchez told Cimini during the 2011 preseason. “When you’re not having a good game or practice is going too fast and you’re just not right, he’s got this way about him.”

A prominent rushing example came from Thomas Jones at the turn of the last decade. Jones’ was a solid contributor during his twilight years (he’s still seventh in franchise history with 3,833 rushing yards despite spending only three years in green), but he had a calming effect on the lineup as a whole. In another Cimini piece, Sanchez called Jones “one of the best teammates I’ve ever had”, even though their New York paths only merged for a single season.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

The New York Giants hired Jason Garrett for these 3 significant reasons

New York Giants, Jason Garrett, Dallas Cowboys

Taking a look at the factors that lead the New York Giants to hire Jason Garrett as their new offensive coordinator:

When the New York Giants hired Jason Garrett as their new offensive coordinator, most were perplexed at the decision. While the initial emotions were negative, realizing that Garrett has been a head coach in the NFL since 2011 should provide some solace in the idea. He brings an exorbitant amount of knowledge with him to Big Blue, where he backed up Kerry Collins back in 2000.

He spent two years on the Giants before being released and then re-signed on July 24 of 2002. Garrett was never a starting quarterback in the NFL, but he’s soaked up as much knowledge as he could to eventually become the quarterback’s coach for the Miami Dolphins in 2005. He spent six years refining his craft and eventually reaching the head coach position six years later.

Here’s a look at some of the reasons why the Giants invested in him as their new offense of coordinators:

1.) A modern offense with similar tendencies to the 2019 Dallas’ unit

First of all, the Dallas Cowboys had the number one ranked passing attack in the NFL last year. They were first in total yards, second in passing, fifth in rushing, sixth in scoring, and ranked second in third-down conversions.

Most of these impressive statistics are derived and implemented by Kellen Moore, who was a first-year offensive coordinator with the team. The hope is that Garrett gained wisdom from Moore and his thought process on the modern-day offense, which will hopefully translate over to the New York Giants. This is a major reason they invested in his talents and Joe Judge stated exactly that in his press conference via zoom on Tuesday.

2.) Familiarity with being a head coach to help Joe Judge adapt

Having spent nine seasons as a head coach in the NFL, Garrett knows a thing or two about the ins and outs of the job. He will help Judge become acclimated to the position and what it requires in terms of activity and preparation. While Garrett was never overly successful with the Cowboys, there are small intricate details that Judge would otherwise take longer to grasp.

3.) Familiar with the Giants organization and the NFC East

Garrett’s familiarity with the NFC East gives him another boost. Having played the Philadelphia Eagles, Washington Redskins, and the Giants twice per year for the last nine seasons, he understands how the division works and what it takes to get to the top of it. He has a few young pieces in Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley to utilize, which should breed excitement if he can replicate the same offensive concepts he used last season in Dallas.

New York Yankees news, 5/14/20: Mike Francesa rants over CC Sabathia weight loss, owners vs players war igniting

New York Yankees, Yankees, CC Sabathia

The top New York Yankees links of the day:

Mark Fischer | New York Post: CC Sabathia is one of the most well-known Yankees players in the team’s history. While he just recently retired after the 2019 season, Sabathia spent 11 years with the Yankees, compiling a 3.81 overall ERA, 307 games played, and nearly 2000 innings pitched. His time with the Bombers was mainly successful, playing nearly his entire 30s with the club. He recently lost a ton of weight, which has, for whatever reason, forced Mike Francesa to rant.

Some are curious as to why Sabathia didn’t slim down during his playing career, and Francesa shot back stating that he doesn’t believe losing weight would have helped his arm in the latter portion of his career. Sabathia weighed 300 pounds while acting as a starting pitcher in the MLB, and his new physique shouldn’t indicate anything more than retirement goals.

Brendan Kuty | NJ.com: MLB owners agreed on Monday that spring training could start in mid-June and Opening Day could be scheduled for early July. While this is far from a solidified action, talks are currently being held between the players union and team owners. It is revolving primarily around payment and how they will manage the salary cap. Will there be prorated contracts? How will this entire thing work financially? There are plenty of questions still left for debate, but baseball is gaining steam with a start hopefully occurring within the next few weeks.

Andres Chavez | Empire Sports Media: While the world deals with the coronavirus in different ways, athletes all over the planet have begun to exercise community outreach programs to help fight on the front lines. One young minor-league player named Montana Semmel is one of them. A former 36th round draft pick by the New York Yankees has begun to raise money for Stamford health response fund. Here’s a look into the good he’s doing for the Stamford community.