The Last Dance Shows The Value of One New York Jets Player

New York Jets, Jamal Adams

The Last Dance has been the most talked-about fixture in the sports world as of recently. The documentary that highlights the career of Michael Jordan sheds light on what it takes to be great. Michael not only pushed himself to be the greatest player on the court at all times, but he pushed everyone around him to match his intensity. He was an intense leader devoted to helping his team perform at the highest possible level. That leadership style and overwhelming desire for success are what it takes to be a champion. In the past, there are very few New York Jets that fit into that category of guys “who hate to lose more than they love to win”, as Joe Douglas says. The Jets do have one player who fits the bill though, Jamal Adams.

Jamal Is A Jordan Esque Leader

Before you swipe to a different article, hear me out. I am NOT saying Jamal Adams is on Michael Jordan’s level of a professional athlete, however his leadership style emulates Jordan’s. Jamal is a vocal and outspoken leader. Connor Rodgers recently reported that many of his teammates get irritated by that aspect of his personality. The thing is, that’s what Michael’s teammates hated about him.

From saying “How bout them Cowboys”, after he helped the Jets upset his hometown team, to publicly calling out the Jets to give him help on both sides of the ball, to being the Jets’ biggest ambassador, Jamal has given the Jets an identity. Without Jamal, you can make the case that CJ Mosley and Lev Bell don’t come to New York. Jamal is the kind of guy who is capable and willing to change a culture.

Although his future is murky amid the reported contract impasse. Jamal has given everything to be a driving factor in the Jets turnaround. That emotion and drive is a part of the reason for the contract impasse. When the Jets floated his name around at the trade deadline, many within the organization said that Jamal felt personally betrayed. The New York Jets need to extend Jamal. Good teams don’t trade away their best players, and Jamal is undoubtedly the Jets’ best player. Although you can debate him on the field contributions based on positional value, nobody can debate his leadership value. If the Jets want to change the culture, the Last Dance documentary should be an example of the impact an outspoken leader, with an overwhelming desire like Michael Jordan and Jamal Adams to win, can have on a franchise and a city.

First-Round Opponent for the New York Rangers Voted “No” on Playoff Proposal

New York Rangers

On Friday, the NHLPA voted 29-2 for the league to proceed with a plan to allow 24 teams in this year’s paused season to be a part of the playoffs. However, one of the two teams that voted “no” on the proposal was the New York Ranger’s projected first-round opponent, the Carolina Hurricanes. The other team who voted “no” was the Tampa Bay Lightning, who have at least offered some reasons as to why they voted no, which you can read in an article that was published earlier here at Empire Sports Media. As of now, all we have is speculation as to why Carolina voted the way they did.

Could the Hurricanes really fear the New York Rangers?

That would be the most popular among some in Blueshirt nation, but others all share that opinion. According to ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski, the Hurricanes could have had issues with the playoff because they would likely end up playing the tenth-seeded New York Rangers, who are one of the most lethal offensive teams in the NHL. This is especially true now that Chris Kreider and the other banged-up Rangers should be fully healthy.

While this could be true, it seems quite unbecoming for a professional sports team to want to avoid someone if they truly believe that they have a shot at the Stanley Cup. After all, if the season went on as originally scheduled, there was still the chance that the Rangers could have made the playoffs while the Hurricanes watched the playoffs from home.

Although, Carolina may remember the last game the played against the Rangers. In a game that ESM covered live from the stands of PNC Arena in Raleigh-Durham, the Rangers easily handled the Hurricanes 5-2 and thereby sweeping the four-game season series. “For whatever reason, they usually play well against us,” Carolina captain Jordan Staal said after the game. The game was also noteworthy for being the Ranger’s seventh straight road win and was the final game in the ever-popular “mom’s trip” set of games.

Do the Hurricanes have other issues with resuming play?

The Hurricanes have had players that have privately stated that they are worried about the amount of time that they may have to spend away from their families in a hub community situation. Although details have not been worked out, the feeling is that players would have to be separated from their families for a great deal of time, possibly as much as four months. For example, the NHLPA Board Representative for the Hurricanes, Jordan Martinook, has a child under two years of age. Others on the Hurricanes like Jaccob Slavin and Jake Gardiner also have young children in the family and they might not want to be away from for weeks or perhaps months at a time.

Granted, there are many in the NHL that have family situations that would make being away difficult. But until we hear definitely from the Hurricanes, they will be faced with many difficult situations, including how they are going to plan against a young and explosive New York Ranger hockey

MLB News: New Plan to start baseball offered to players, details here

New York Yankees

The MLB will offer a new plan to players of the New York Yankees and the other 29 MLB teams on Tuesday.  The old plan that included a revenue-sharing provision was soundly rejected by the MLBPA (players union).  They saw that as a revenue cap, something the players have rejected since the 1970s.  The new offer hopes to break the stalemate of the last two weeks and meet the artificial deadline of June 1 so that baseball can start early in July.

The Atlantic was privy to the released information from those close to the negotiations and was reported by Ken Rosenthal.  The significant change in the new plan is that the owners will not propose a full revenue-sharing system to determine player salaries for the 2020 season. The league plans to offer an alternative proposal, leaving the union with a potential choice: to hold the league to the prorated salaries, the two sides negotiated in March, or accommodate the owners’ desire for a second, possibly percentage-based cut in some other fashion.

The trade-off the union might be most willing to accept is a plan to defer 2020 salaries in favor of postseason protection that would greatly benefit free agents and salary arbitration players.  Some players will see this as pushing the salary problem down the road to be resolved later.  By accepting this proposal, it will alieve immediate cash flow problems for many team owners.

The entire new plan is to at least partially address the player’s salary concerns and the financial needs of the owners who will not receive revenue from fans in the stands and concession sales.  The players have already agreed back in March to take a 50% pay cut based on an 82 game season.  Players may want more games to increase pay.  The health concerns of players were addressed in a 67-page health initiative issued last week by MLB.

The bottom line to all of this is that the coronavirus will ultimately control how much players and owners alike earn in a shortened season.  Players might like more games to increase their salaries. In comparison, owners will want fewer games so that an increased postseason can be expanded, increasing their chances for the more revenue from TV rights and the possibility of fans in the stands late in the season.

Agent Seth Levinson of the ACES agency said:

“Players must have some assurance that after the season that MLB will not abuse the blind faith extended to them. Based on MLB’s history, it is very reasonable to expect that clubs will eviscerate free agents and arbitration-eligible players to recoup their losses. Any agreement must protect the players heading into 2021, and that will require MLB to demonstrate its good faith.”

Other items being considered are the universal DH, which would benefit National League players as a DH is potentially paid more than an end of the rotation pitcher that might hit. Another consideration is the salary “floor” or minimum pay.  The union will not accept a salary maximum.

Clark and commissioner Rob Manfred spoke to each other on Thursday, sources said. The sides continue to negotiate health and safety protocols. Both the union and the clubs sent back suggested revisions to the league office. The most remarkable differences between the players and owners, for now, remain economical. All parties will want to keep any solution to both areas of concern as simple as possible. The clock is ticking on getting a second spring training started to have any season at all.

Both most players and all owners want to get the season started because the alternative of no season will not benefit either of them an could have long-lasting financial implications that reach far into the future.  That is the impetus to keep negotiations continuing this week with the hope of coming to a resolution by week’s end that will allow baseball this season.

 

 

New York Giants: Nick Saban breaks down why Xavier McKinney can be an elite defender

New York Giants, Xavier McKinney

The New York Giants could have gone multiple different routes with their second-round pick in the 2020 NFL draft. Ultimately, they drafted the best safety available in Xavier McKinney out of Alabama. McKinney is a diverse athlete that can move up into the strong safety position but also act as a ball hawk in the deeper portion of the secondary. He’s essentially the coverage version of Isaiah Simmons, playing snaps all over the defense for Alabama and displaying a unique set of quality attributes.

McKinney has many different positives to transfer over to the NFL, some of them being his turnover ability, recording for forced fumbles of three interceptions in 2019, his impressive tackling efficiency, and versatility you can’t often find at the free safety position.

Alabama closely mimics NFL style defenses, under Nick Saban. The legendary coach had nothing but great things to say about McKinney and his transition to the NFL while featuring on the “Giants Huddle” podcast recently.

“I think Xavier has a lot of diversity as a player,” Saban said. “He can play man-to-man, he’s got pretty good ball judgment, he’s a good tackler, he’s got a lot of toughness, he’s a very instinctive and effective blitzer. He’s got some burst and acceleration to come off the edge or blitz up the middle and he’s got enough power to take on a blocker if he needs to. So he can do just about all the critical factors in terms of what we look for in a safety here. As he got experience, he was smart enough to be able to play multiple positions.

“I think the guy’s got some dog in him. He’s a competitive guy. He’s a playmaker. We have a production point system here that we use, and he was always high on that board because he forces fumbles, shows up in the right place, does a good job of executing. He’s instinctive, he’s a quick reactor, he’s got a burst. He can be a knock-back tackler. So he’s always been a real playmaker for us and it comes in a lot of different ways, but that’s probably his greatest strength – his production.”

The New York Giants might have lucked out big time:

If Saban is right about the standout player, the New York Giants will have landed a premium safety in the second round of the draft. Xavier has already started off his tenure in New York on a high note, connecting with fans on social media and giving back to the community. His mentality and high character have shined in the early days, indicating he will be a staple for the Giants moving forward. If he can back up the hype on the field, the Giants’ defense could see a significant boost in 2020.

Can New York Yankees’ Brett Gardner replicate a stellar 2019 performance in 2020?

New York Yankees, Brett Gardner

Will Brett Gardner have another stellar season for the New York Yankees in 2020?

One of the bright spots for the New York Yankees in 2019 was veteran Brett Gardner, who posted some of his best offensive statistics over 12 years in the MLB.

Having recorded 20 home runs or more just once prior to the 2019 campaign, Gardner hit 28 long balls last season. At 35 years old, he logged the most in his entire career, likely due to juiced baseballs.

Gardner signed a one-year deal worth $12.5 million that includes a $20 million option for the 2021 season. While that is a boatload of money for a veteran outfielder who likely won’t start, it is always good to have a reliable player who can fill in at every outfield spot.

Before the coronavirus pandemic taking hold of society, Gardner stated that he wanted to play beyond 2020. Since the season will likely be shortened and Gardner won’t take on the physical toll of an entire 162 game campaign, playing next season should be an easy decision for him. While retirement loomed in 2019, hitting 28 homers and a career-high 74 RBIs only attests to the value he still holds.

“At this point, I’m just kind of taking things one year at a time,’’ Gardner said in spring training. “I’ve really always looked not too far into the future, obviously. The contract [one year; $10 million] that I signed, the Yankees have a team option [$10 million; $2.5 million buyout] on me for next year. In a perfect world for me, I stay healthy and have a good season, and they pick that option up and I come back and do it all over again.’’

While he will be 37 years old next year, Gardner could easily transition into a coaching option for the New York Yankees down the road. Nonetheless, he’s essential for the youngsters on the team and their development, not to mention the institution of the Yankee way. Clean-shaven, disciplines, and success-driven, Gardner contains all of those attributes. He helps in plenty of ways, tangible and intangible. Retaining him was a good decision for the Yankees, and while $20 million at his age is astronomical, he’s a legend in Pinstripes and deserves the respect he’s earned.

New York Yankees Top 10s: Check out the best Yankee acquisitions ever

In my New York Yankees top 10 series that has covered most aspects of Yankee baseball, today we take a look at the top 10 Yankee acquisitions in the modern era.  These acquisitions come from both signings and trades.  The Yankees have had many star players that were homegrown but also at times had to look outside their farm system to fill various needs.  Owner George M. Steinbrenner was the first owner to make big moves and set the tone for acquisitions for the future.  This has been the most difficult to complete top 10s so far.  I am sure many will disagree with the placements.

10. Ricky Henderson

Henderson was one of the longest-tenured players, playing for 25 years, 5 of them with the Yankees.  During his five years, he stole 326 bases, making him the all-time base stealer for the Yankees. During the span, he hit .288 and had 78 home runs while having an excellent fielding percentage in all areas of the outfield.  He was an All-Star every year he was a New York Yankee.

9. CC Sabathia

CC Sabathia was instrumental in the Yankees winning their last World Series in 2009.  Sabathia came to the Yankees from the Milwaukee Brewers. In his eleven years with the Yankees, he had a record of 134 and 88.  During the Yankees years, he was a workhorse always giving his best effort for a win.

8. Masahiro Tanaka

Brian Cashman brought Masahiro Tanaka to the Yankees from the Eagles of the Japanese league in 2013 in a seven-year contract that will end this season, whether there is one or not. During his time with the Yankees up to this year he is 75-45 with a 3.75 ERA. Tanaka has never had a losing season with the Yankees.

7. David Wells

The highlight of David Wells’s career was his perfect game on May 17, 1998, the tenth no-hitter in Yankee history.  Wells for the Yankees was 34-14 in his two-year stint, that’s a .706 winning percentage one of the best for the Yankees. Wells pitched 21 years all in the American League.

Wells was quite a character that didn’t care much for rules.  He has admitted he pitched his perfect game while nursing a bad hangover. In 1998 he would help the Yankees with his 18-4 record and propelled them to the World Series shut out of the San Diego Padres.

6. Reggie Jackson

Yankee owner George M. Steinbrenner made Reggie Jackson the highest-paid baseball player at the time when he hired Jackson from the Baltimore Orioles. Jackson was a controversial player as he was a bit of a show-off and Manager Billy Martin didn’t want the Yankees to hire him.  It didn’t help when he was quoted as saying “I’m the straw that stirs the drink” a phase that he never said, but caused a rift with Yankee catcher Thurmon Munson.

Jackson in his five years with the Yankees had many memorable moments including his three home runs that caused him to be called “Mr. October.” In 1977 in the sixth game of the World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Yankees outfielder Reggie Jackson hit three home runs off three consecutive pitches from three different pitchers. Jackson batted .284 with 144 home runs while a Yankee.

5. Mike Mussina

On this list, Mike Mussina is the one player that often flew under the radar. Mussina after being a Baltimore Oriole star pitcher became a New York Yankee.  In his eight years with the Yankees he never had a losing season winning 10 or more games every year.  Mussina was not only an outstanding pitcher but he was an excellent defender as any pitcher to ever grace the mound.

On some writer’s top 10 lists they don’t even include Mussina.  For the Yankees he was Mr. Steady being one of the Yankee’s most dependable pitchers during his time with the Yankees.  The highly intelligent Stanford grad, with a thinking pitcher that adjusted to every situation.  His performance never diminished with age. In the last year of his career he had his first 20 win season, becoming the oldest pitcher to have a 20 win season.

For his pitching with both the Baltimore Orioles and the New York Yankees on January 22, 2019, he was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, receiving 76.71% of the vote.  Mike has the distinction of being the first American League pitcher to win ten or more games in each of 17 consecutive seasons

4. Alex Rodriguez

Alex Rodriguez is a controversial New York Yankee to say the least.  Many fans cite his use of performance-enhancing drugs while with the Texas Rangers and tend to ignore his performance with the Yankee club. But the facts are still the facts.  During his 22 years playing the game he was one of the best in either league.

For his 12 years with the Yankees, he hit 30 home runs a year, with 1,100 RBIs while hitting .283. He was a seven-time All-Star and a seven-time MVP candidate, winning the prestigious award twice.  He would be a first-ballot inductee into the Baseball Hall of Fame if it was not for his drug use which most likely will never come to fruition.

I have to admit that I am a writer that does not place as much importance on drug use as many writers do.  My stance is that dozens if not hundreds of other players used some type of doping during that period that were never caught, thus many stats for that period may be in question.  In the case of Rodriguez, his career wouldn’t have been less impressive even if he hadn’t made the bad decision to break the rules.

3. Paul O’Neill

Paul O’Neil played for only two teams in his baseball career, nine years with the Yankees in the second half of his career.  At the end of the 1992 season the Red traded O’Neill outright for Yankee outfielder Roberto Kelly. In his first year, he batted .311 with 20 home runs and 75 RBIs.  O’Neill played with such vigor that owner George M. Steinbrenner would give him the nickname the “Warrior” which stuck.

In his second year he got the AL batting title batting .359.  If O’Neill missed a hit he thought he should have gotten, batting racks and water coolers often felt his wrath.  Stick Michael made the trade that would change the face of the Yankees for years to come.  Paul made amazing plays in defending the right field. He played fiercely and hurt, he was the ultimate warrior the Yankee fans loved.

2. Roger Clemens

The acquisition of Roger Clemens was one of the best the New York Yankees ever made. In 1996 the Yankees sent Graeme Lloyd, David Wells, and Homer Bush to the Toronto Blue Jays for their ace pitcher Clemens. In his first year with the Yankees he helped them win the 1999 World Series. In 2000 he almost single-handedly took them again to the World Series with his 20-3 season.  The Yankees would win that series as well. Clemens was never fully embraced by Yankee fans due to his long tenure with the Boston Red Sox.

Also in 2000 Roger would win the prestigious Cy Young Award at the age of 38.  Roger is one of the longer tenures pitchers in baseball, pitching for 24 years.  With the Yankees he would win twice as many games as he lost.  He went 83-42 in his six years with the Yankees for a .664 winning percentage.  It is outrageous that this 3 time Cy Young Award isn’t in the Hall of Fame.  This year he received 72.5% of the votes compared to the 75% needed to be inducted.  He has two years left of eligibility.

1. Babe Ruth

Babe Ruth isn’t a modern era Yankee acquisition but must be included in the list as the best move the Yankees ever made in procuring him from the cash strapped Boston Red Sox.  Following Ruth becoming a Yankee, he transformed himself into a great hitting outfielder. He really made his name with the Yankees as one of the best if not the best player to ever play the game of baseball.

Honorable mentions:

David Cone, Starky Lyle, Roger Maris, Tino Martinez, Scott Brosius, Curtis Granderson, and Nick Swisher.

Gerrit Cole could not be included for the Yankee top 10s as he hasn’t thrown a ball for the Yankees in the major leagues.  He however has to be mentioned as he may be in the future proclaimed one of the best Yankee acquisitions in history, only time will tell.

EmpireSportsMedia.com’s Columnist William Parlee is a member of the Society for American Baseball Research.  Follow me on Twitter @parleewilliam.

NASCAR: Brad Keselowski steals the Coca-Cola 600 in overtime

A perplexing decision by Chase Elliott in the final stanzas of NASCAR’s longest event gave Brad Keselowski his 31st career Cup victory.

Memorial Day weekend saw the No. 2 Ford become No. 1.

Brad Keselowski took advantage of a puzzling decision by Chase Elliott and his team to earn his first-ever victory at Charlotte Motor Speedway’s Coca-Cola 600 on Sunday night into Monday morning. The race, run annually on Memorial Day weekend since 1961, is the longest on the NASCAR’s premier Cup Series circuit. It’s the first such victory for Keselowski, the 2012 Cup champion.

“This was a big one along the way,” Keselowski said in a postrace Zoom video conference call. “I feel like I’ve had the shot to win this race probably four or five times. In 2011, I got caught up in a wreck at the very end. I think 2014, I had a loose wheel at the end. Last year, we led a bunch of this race, probably were the favorite to win it late, had a loose wheel. It just didn’t come together for whatever reason.”

“But today it came together and I’m super, super thankful. (I) hope we can do it again. I hope everybody that watched enjoyed it and remembers the reason why we get to do great things like this.”

Already known for its marathon tendencies, the 600-mile race ran deeper into Sunday night due to a 68-minute rain delay after 51 of 400 laps. Elliott, driver of the No. 9 Chevrolet, seemingly had the win wrapped up, maintaining an insurmountable lead over Keselowski with two laps to go.

However, Elliott’s Hendrick Motorsports teammate William Byron spun out after a tire went down on his No. 24 Chevrolet, bringing out a caution at the last possible moment. The resulting laps run under the yellow flag forced NASCAR to engage in overtime procedures, a two-lap dash to the finish.

Offered the chance to visit the pits before the final sprint, Keselowski stayed out while Elliott and a handful of the 19 remaining lead lap cars opted for service. Elliott’s shocking decision put Keselowski in the lead as the field realigned for the climax at the 1.5-mile oval.

Keselowski got off to a solid restart and managed to hold off another Hendrick Chevy, four-time Coca-Cola 600 winner Jimmie Johnson, for the 31st win of his Cup Series career. Johnson’s runner-up finish was later erased when the No. 48 Chevrolet failed post-race inspection.

“I just thought about getting the best launch I could get,” Keselowski said of his final restart. “Coming up in front of him down the backstretch, once we were clear, getting draft, that push, it all came together.”

The win also comes at an interesting time in the career of Keselowski, as he is in the final year of his contract with team owner Roger Penske. Keselowski has raced with Penske since 2009 and has driven the team’s iconic No. 2 Ford since 2011.

“I wish I had more news, but I don’t,” Keselowski said of his current situation. “I hope to continue to compete at a very high level and be able to win races for a long time.”

“I hope that I get to take and make something of that for years to come.  But it’s not all up to me.  A lot of things have to come together, whether it’s sponsors or whatnot, management things.  That hasn’t happened yet.  I hope it does because this is my 30th win at the Cup level with Team Penske.  That’s pretty special.  I think I got another 30 left in me.  I’d like to have the chance at that.”

Elliott rallied back to finish third behind Johnson, but is left with more lingering questions centered on what might’ve been. The Charlotte decision comes mere days after he was inadvertently spun out by Kyle Busch on the final green flag lap of Wednesday night’s competition at Darlington Raceway. Busch, who came home fifth, was later seen consoling Elliott in the race’s immediate aftermath.

“You just make the best decision you can based on the information you have,” Elliott said in another Zoom call. “When you’re leading the race like that, people behind you are going to do the exact opposite of what you do. That was the situation we were put in. (Crew chief Alan Gustafson) made the decision, we stuck with it, and it didn’t work out.”

The NASCAR Cup Series will run the Alsco Uniforms 500, the second half of a Charlotte doubleheader, this Wednesday night (8 p.m. ET, FS1). 205 laps (310.6 miles/500 km) will be run.

Race Notes

  • Yet another Hendrick car, the No. 88 Chevrolet of Alex Bowman, dominated the early portions of the race. Bowman took the lead from polesitter Kurt Busch immediately after the rain delay with a two-tire pit stop and went on to win the first two stages and lead the most laps (164). A poor final restart, however, relegated Bowman to a 19th-place finish, albeit one that came with a silver lining. With NASCAR eliminating qualifying procedures in its effort to keep post-coronavirus pause events to a single day, he will start in the front row on Wednesday with the 500-kilometer race’s first 20 starters determined by an inversion of Sunday’s final running order. Byron will start on the pole.
  • With a fifth-place finish, Kevin Harvick continues to be the only driver to finish in the top ten in every 2020 Cup Series event thus far. Harvick maintains a 23-point lead over Joey Logano, who finished 13th after winning the third stage after a two-tire stop.
  • NASCAR did host a qualifying session hours before Sunday’s race to determine the starting lineup. This is the only event scheduled to hold traditional qualifying as they resume racing. Kurt Busch (lap time of 29.790 seconds) won the pole and led the first 54 laps en route to a seventh-place finish.
  • Sunday was a wash in more ways than one for Denny Hamlin. The winner of Wednesday’s Darlington event was immediately mired in an inescapable hole when a piece of tungsten flew out of his car during the prerace pace laps. Tungsten ballasts are often added to cars to meet NASCAR’s minimum weight requirement. Removal of tungsten results in an automatic four-race suspension for the offending car’s crew chief, which doesn’t bode well for Chris Gabehart. Hamlin eventually brought the car home 29th, seven laps off the pace.
  • Keselowski and Logano’s Penske teammate Ryan Blaney finished third.
  • Rookie Christopher Bell earned the first top ten finish of his Cup Series career (9th). He finished right behind fellow first-year Tyler Reddick, who earned his second top ten over the last three races.
  • Clint Bowyer’smoky wreck on lap 96 brought out the first incident-related caution and relegated him to least-place finish before Johnson’s disqualification (39th). His No. 14 Ford was one of three cars that failed to finish the race along with Bubba Wallace (brakes) and JJ Yeley (damage clock).

For full results, click here

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Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags