New York Rangers can begin voluntary workouts on June 8

New York Rangers, Chris Kreider

New York Rangers players will be allowed to have voluntary workouts at their team facility beginning Monday, June 8 with the NHL’s announcement that they will transition into Phase 2.  NHL players have been kept off the ice and in quarantine since the league issued a pause in the regular season on Mar.12.

Clubs will be permitted to reopen their training facilities in their home city to allow players to participate in individualized training activities both on and off the ice.

Per the NHL’s Return To Play guidelines, players will be able to work out in small groups, a maximum of six players at any one time, plus a limited number of team staff. The limited amount of players scheduled to workout is to help keep players safe and healthy.

On Mar. 24, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo authorized professional sports teams to start training in the state immediately. The Rangers and the NHL were not ready to start any workouts at that time.

The Blueshirts training facility is located in Tarrytown, NY. The organization has not made any statements regarding the start of Phase 2 but is expected to be open when players are ready to begin workouts. These voluntary workouts are not considered a training camp.

Players such as Mika Zibanejad, Kaapo Kakko, and Henrik Lundqvist who are currently overseas are not required to report to New York during Phase 2, but in order for then to return for training camp (Phase 3), they will have to stay in quarantine for 14 days upon their arrival to the United States.

The NHL is not anticipated to begin Phase 3 any earlier than July 10.

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New York Giants: Amani Toomer Harsh, Yet Accurate When Discussing Team’s WRs

New York Giants legend Amani Toomer recently gave his take on the state of the Giants’ roster. Toomer, a Super Bowl champion, spoke to the New York Post and made headlines for what he said about the team’s playmakers. Amani Toomer referred to the Giants’ wide receivers as a “lacking” unit.

Amani Toomer was hard on the Giants’ receivers. His criticisms were harsh- but they were valid. Toomer’s statements were accurate. The Giants’ wide receivers are lacking. Toomer made a few more specific statements on individual players and most everything he said was true.

The Giants’ “Lacking” Wide Receiver Group

The Giants’ wide receivers heading into 2020 are Sterling Shepard, Golden Tate, and Darius Slayton. This is a solid receiver corps, but it is indeed lacking. Mainly, the Giants are lacking a true number one receiver. That go-to guy for Daniel Jones to depend on all game is not there. Of course, New York had that but traded Odell Beckham Jr while his price was still high. That was a move that looked quite ridiculous at the moment but now seems to have been the smart move.

Regardless of whether or not the Giants were right to trade Odell, they are still lacking an explosive receiving threat. You could even argue the Giants’ best receiver is their running back.

Amani Toomer and I agree- there is potential in one of the Giants’ receivers to emerge as that true threat. Toomer said he thinks Slayton is the guy that “has the most upside.’’ Darius Slayton had an excellent rookie season. If he can take that next step in 2020 then he can blossom into a legitimate threat as New York’s number one wideout. But Slayton is more likely to thrive as a really good number two receiver.

Amani’s next criticism is again, highly accurate. When discussing the duo of Golden Tate and Sterling Shepard, Toomer stated, “I think Golden Tate is just a tougher version of [Shepard]. Basically they’re the same receiver, but Golden Tate is a tougher version of him.’’

Toomer tells no lies. Shepard and Tate are both similarly-sized slot receivers. Neither of them is particularly great at separating from defenders, but they both are sure-handed and reliable. Both receivers are explosive after the catch, Tate a little more than Shepard, though. Overall, Toomer is right. Sterling Shepard and Golden Tate are essentially the same players. One could argue that having two players so similar in the same offense creates dysfunction. Both of these players excel in the slot, but more often than not they are forced to alternating playing outside where they are less effective. This is something that the Giants will need to fix in the future to give Daniel Jones a more consistent offense.

Amani’s Peculiar Criticism Of Sterling Shepard

Amani Toomer did make one point that I do not necessarily agree with, though. When discussing Sterling Shepard, Amani said “I’m a little disappointed with Shepard, I don’t know.” He then continued, saying, “My dad always used to tell me, ‘He’s hell when he’s well, he’s just sick all the time.’ That’s what I think when I think of him. He’s just always, there’s always something hurt, or something.”

The reason I disagree with Amani here is that Shepard is not at fault for this. Sterling has not disappointed me by being concussed. Sure, he missed a lot of time in 2019 dealing with injuries. But those injuries were concussions that could have dramatic effects on Sterling’s long-term health. It’s not like he’s missing four weeks with a sore hamstring. He’s been dealing with bruises on his brain. In fact, Shepard, in my opinion, is one of the tougher players on the Giants.

In 2017, the Giants were ravaged with injuries. In the same game, Odell Beckham, Brandon Marshall, Dwayne Harris, and Sterling Shepard were injured. Beckham, Marshall, and Harris’s injuries were all season-ending. Sterling managed to recover rather quickly from his injury and come back three weeks later. It was a pretty nasty ankle sprain for Sterling, and in a completely lost season that ended in a 3-13 record. Sterling plays through injuries when he can.

Overall, Amani Toomer was harsh, but he was accurate. He gave his opinions and I do not agree with everything he said, but he is correct in stating that the Giants’ wide receiver corps is “lacking.” Hopefully, in a new offensive scheme, Daniel Jones and the Giants can get the best out of their receivers and find success on offense in 2020.

Listen to Episode 24 of Fireside Giants: Breaking down the New York Giants’ pass rush

New York Giants, Fireside Giants

In this episode of Fireside Giants, the gang dives into the pass rush to talk about their potential success and if they are capable of producing at a high-level. Currently, the Giants have Kyler Fackrell, Lorenzo Carter, Oshane Ximines, and potentially Markus Golden as their primary pass rushers. Relying on them might be a bit problematic, considering their inconsistency and lack of production over a larger sample size, but a lack of cap-space has forced the Giants into this position.

Alex, Anthony, and Mike dive into each player and what we should expect from the pass rush next season under Patrick Graham. Graham formally acted as the defensive coordinator for the Miami Dolphins in 2019, utilizing a primary 3-4 bass defense. He often activates his safeties and linebackers to blitz and creates unpredictability in hopes of confusing opposing offenses.

iTunes Link

The guys also speak about the difference in size regarding players from many years ago and what it would be like to potentially meet Brandon Jacobs in the hole. Anthony’s inability to move due to fear highlights the episode, but rather the start of sports motivates us to continue producing content on a regular basis.

Saquon Barkley and his ginormous thighs are also a prevalent topic during this episode, based on a recent video of him squatting. Is Barkley actually a Martian? It is certainly possible considering his agility and athleticism at 235 pounds.

Please make sure to leave a review on iTunes if you enjoy the podcast episode, it would be greatly appreciated and we look forward to including more fan interaction in the future.

New York Rangers will need 19 wins to hoist the Stanley Cup

New York Rangers

The New York Rangers road to the Stanley Cup will be one of the hardest to achieve in its rich history.

The National Hockey League announced the playoff format should the time come that teams can get back on the ice. It appears the New York Rangers, who will play in a best of five qualifying round, will need to win a total of 19 games to hoist there first Stankey Cup since 1994.

The New York Rangers organization now sees what is in their way of pursuing their first Stanley Cup in 26 years.

The NHL and NHLPA have been working out the details for the playoffs over the last two weeks. The two sides have been on the same page throughout the process and worked out the following details announced on Thursday afternoon.

  •  There will be a Qualifying Round consisting of a best-of-five series.  Following that series, all rounds will be a best-of-seven format.
  • Seeding Format- In each round, the highest remaining seed in each conference will face the lowest seed, the second-highest seed will face. the second-lowest seed on so on.
  • The Round Robin tiebreaker will be broken by the regular-season points percentage. The seeding order for these teams will remain the same throughout the playoffs.

If you add up the wins needed to advance to the next round, which is now at five rounds for the qualifying clubs, 19 is the magic number. The Rangers will have their work cut out for them with this format.

The scarier number is the number of games that might be needed to reach their championship goals. Should the Blueshirts need all five games of the qualifying round and every game of the next four rounds, the Rangers could potentially play in 33 more games this year.

The Rangers may need to use all three of their goalies at one time or another to get the job done.

 

UFC: Ian Heinisch out of UFC 250 after cornerman tests positive for COVID-19

UFC 250 has lost one of it’s featured prelims for Saturday night. Multiple reports have come out stating that a member of Ian Heinisch’s corner has tested positive for COVID-19. As a result, the UFC has decided to pull Heinisch from the card.

Heinisch (13-3), is currently ranked as the thirteenth best middleweight in the UFC according to the UFC’s official rankings. Heinisch was looking to use this fight against Gerald Meerschaert (31-12) as a way to get back on track. Heinisch was riding high last year entering his fight against Derek Brunson back at UFC 241. Many people were considering Heinisch to be a rising star in the division with a record of 13-1, and the Brunson fight was considered his first big step up in competition. Heinisch went on to lose that fight then he lost a decision to Omari Akhmedov back at UFC 245. Heinisch is still in the top fifteen, but needed a solid performance on Saturday night to right the ship.

As of right now, there is no word on what the UFC is going to do. There is no word on if Meerschaert will stay on the card or if they are going to move this fight to a later date. The UFC has enacted strict testing measures with the pandemic going on, and this is the second fight that has been cancelled due to COVID-19. At UFC 249, Jacare Souza tested positive for COVID-19, and his fight with Uriah Hall was cancelled. This has to be frustrating for Heinisch who by all signs tested negative for the virus, but the UFC is taking no chances with the pandemic going on. Assuming Heinisch does not test positive, you will likely see the UFC get him a fight as soon as possible even if the opponent is not Meerschaert.

New York Mets: What will the future hold for Wilson Ramos?

The New York Mets, despite losing star pitcher Noah Syndergaard to Tommy John surgery, are expected to be contenders in 2020. They sure are expecting that there is a season because they won’t want to waste the last year of Marcus Stroman and Yoenis Cespedes’ deals, not to mention another year of deGrom’s prime and Pete Alonso, Jeff McNeil, JD Davis and others’ cheap contract years.

In fact, after the 2020 season, it will be decision time for the front office. Besides the mentioned contracts that will be coming off the books, plus a few more, the Mets will need to decide whether to keep starting catcher Wilson Ramos or let him walk.

Before the 2019 season, the New York Mets signed Ramos for two years plus a $10 million option for 2021. If they let him go, they will pay him a $1.5 million buyout.

For a player known as an offensive catcher, Ramos didn’t have the best of seasons in 2019. He was far from an embarrassment, don’t get me wrong, but he knows he can do better than a .288/.351/.416 line with 14 homers in 524 plate appearances.

The average and the OBP are more than fine, especially for a backstop, but that slugging percentage was the lowest since 2015.

Will the Mets get defensive?

Defensive metrics didn’t speak too highly about the Mets’ regular catcher, and neither did some of the rotation’s top arms, most notably Syndergaard. They said they preferred to pitch to Tomas Nido and Rene Rivera (both superior options with the glove.) That appears to be on the rearview mirror, however, especially after reports that Ramos has been working hard to improve his game behind the plate.

The Mets have some catching prospects near the majors, such as Ali Sanchez and Patrick Mazeika, but they don’t exactly profile as top-flight regulars. The best of the bunch is Francisco Alvarez, but he is far away down the ladder, still.

So what will the Mets do with Ramos? He is not precisely young, as he will be 33 in a couple of months. If the Phillies don’t sign JT Realmuto to a long-term extension, the Mets could be players, as he is set to enter free agency after the season.

Only time will tell.

New York Yankees: Minor leaguers were “shocked” after cuts

The New York Yankees, just like most of the teams in MLB, announced 45 minor league cuts on Monday. Players and fans alike were hoping that the Bombers wouldn’t have to make such a decision, but unfortunately, they proceeded with that plan and have taken heat for it.

Outfielder Alex Junior and infielder David Metzgar were among the cuts, according to NJ.com’s Brendan Kuty. The latter said that he received a call from Yankees’ player development director Kevin Reese at around 9 a.m., and he refused to believe it.

The 26-year-old player didn’t hide his disappointment. “All of a sudden we got cut. It was a shock.” Junior said that “it sort of came out of nowhere.”

The reported exceptions to the minor league cuts are, so far, the Minnesota Twins and the Kansas City Royals. Most of the remaining ballclubs made cuts en masse because of the uncertainty regarding the minor league season, which is looking more and more like a longshot for 2020.

Royals general manager Dayton Moore said he thought it was “really, really important not to release one minor-league player during this time, a time we needed to stand behind them.” After those comments, Damon Oppenheimer, the Yankees’ vice president and director of amateur scouting for the Yankees, said via Twitter that Moore is “pure class.”

What does the future hold for Yankees’ minor leaguers?

For now, the Yankees aren’t playing because MLB decided to halt its operations in mid-March due to concerns regarding the quick spread of the coronavirus, a pandemic that has taken thousands of lives and millions of jobs around the world.

For now, the New York Yankees said they will pay minor leaguers on the team their weekly $400 through the end of June. Some teams only paid their non-40-man-roster players until May 31.

The Yankees, even after the cuts, still have around 300 minor league players. The team will add a few more with the June 10 amateur draft.

Metzgar says, despite the situation, that he is not holding a grudge.

“All of us that got released could say, ‘You have all this money, why did you have to do it?” he said. “But we also need to be realistic and understand there’s no room,” referencing the draft and further additions after it.

Obscure All-Stars to Play for the New York Mets: Jose Valverde

The three-time All-Star, Jose Valverde, found his way to the New York Mets in hopes of squeezing another year out of his career. Papa Grande was just two seasons removed from his last 30-save season but was looking to bounce back from a sub-par 2013.

Valverde signed with the Mets heading into the 2014 season after his best years came with the Detroit Tigers. The contract initially was for Valverde to pitch in the minors, but his Spring Training was enough for him to earn a spot in the Mets bullpen.

Back in the Ninth Inning

Bobby Parnell was supposed to be the closer but injured himself during the first series of the season. The Mets had to pick between experienced arms in Valverde and Kyle Farnsworth or a young upstart Jeurys Familia. They opted to use Valverde, and his 286 saves to replace Parnell.

Things started smoothly for him as he pitched five scoreless outings and was 2-for-2 in save opportunities to start the season. Both saves can are on YouTube, and unfortunately were Valverde’s only highlights with the Mets.

The Mets were asking a lot out of a 36-year old reliever who was declining in the previous two seasons. His renaissance came to an end quickly through his final month and a half in the big leagues. In his next 16 outings, Valverde had a 7.63 ERA and lost his closer position before April even ended. The Mets finally released Valverde after four-run outing against the Pirates, costing Jacob deGrom a victory.

Despite no longer possessing the same dominance, the Papa Grande energy remained. His velocity did not see too much of a spike, but his forkball was no longer the dominant go-to pitch it once was. The silver lining from his time with the Mets is that his release allowed two young pitchers to shine. Familia became a key set-up man, and Jenrry Mejia became a closer the Mets thought they could depend on in the future.

Since 2015, Valverde bounced around the minors then drifted into the Mexican League in 2019. At 41-years old, he posted an ERA over six and was released halfway through the season. Valverde has not announced his retirement yet, but his MLB career is long over.

 

New York Giants Slowly Reopening Facilities

New York Giants, Quest Diagnostics training center

The New York Giants haven’t been having a normal offseason up to this point, just like the other teams in the NFL, but things are starting to turn around as shutdowns are being reversed and the sporting world is able to start making a return. The NFL has begun allowing teams to open their facilities once again and after the state of New Jersey also gave the go ahead for this, the Giants have begun opening their own facilities – but the process doesn’t look like it’s going to be a fast one.

According to Kimberly Jones from NFL Network, the Giants have only brought back 15 to 20 people so far. None of them are players and, more significantly than that, none f them are coaches. Rather, it seems like it’s just support staff and front office members returning to the facilities for now. However, that doesn’t mean it’s just lesser known personnel showing up, as John Mara was also reportedly at his office.

The Giants have already lost some valuable hands on time working with their players before the start of the preseason and they’ll likely end up losing some more in the time between now and the start of training camp. According to reports from Adam Schefter, the league isn’t expecting players to make a return to facilities until training camp.

Discussions about when to allow players to return are ongoing, sources said, and neither the NFL nor any teams have announced official dates for when training camp will begin.

That means that even if the Giants are opening their training facilities now, fans shouldn’t expect too much to come of it until a bit later in the summer when training camp is supposed to be held. There won’t be many complaints about that, however. The situation is better than some imagined it would be by this time of the year, and while the Giants will have to wait to bring their players back, it looks like no drastic actions such as cancelling training camp altogether or moving it from the usual location will have to be taken.