New York Giants Could Play 2020 Season In Front Of (Some) Fans

New York Giants, Jabrill Peppers

For much of the year, it’s looked like the reality for the New York Giants and the rest of the teams around the NFL could be a season without fans in the stands. The sports world was expected to be one of the last things to return from pandemic related shutdowns, thanks to its non-essential nature and the potential for viruses to spread in the typical sports environment, but things have been moving somewhat faster than some timelines have predicted.

One thing that could happen sooner than expected is having fans in the stands at NFL games, including the games of the Giants and Jets.

That’s not just blind conjecture, but something that New Jersey governor Phil Murphy hasn’t ruled out yet after speaking with the league.

“I’ve spoken to Roger Goodell, we speak with the Giants and the Jets all the time. I think it’s too early to tell on fans. We’re taking at this point, baby steps and slowly but surely trying to get there beginning with the staffs, the coaches, the players and I think we have to see where it goes from here,” Murphy said to Sports Illustrated.

While this matter is still uncertain, things have been improved enough in New Jersey for the Giants to start opening their facilities in preparation for training camp. Players haven’t shown up yet, but front office staff including Dave Gettleman and some support staff members have shown up so far. With training camp still on by all accounts so far, more will likely show up in the coming days and weeks.

Fans should still expect the atmosphere to be different even if fans are allowed at games, however, because having fans in the stadium is a different story than having a full stadium. Stadiums around the league will almost certainly be under capacity, not for lack of ticket sales but because sports leagues around the world will avoid tightly packed crowds for the time being.

Of course, this is still likely preferable to only being able to watch the games on TV. But at this point in time, it’s not a certainty that there will be anyone in the stands. That will depend on how things develop over the rest of the offseason, and as seen by the adjustments in predictions on the matter, changes don’t always take long to happen.

NASCAR: Kevin Harvick dominates the final stage of another win in Atlanta

Martin Truex Jr. won the first two stages, but Kevin Harvick led all but three of the final 108 laps to win NASCAR’s yearly visit to Atlanta.

Time will tell when Trae Young and Matt Ryan are allowed to provide the Atlanta area some clutch fourth quarter antics again. Kevin Harvick was more than happy to fill the quota on Sunday at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

The driver of the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Ford led all but three of the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500’s final 108 circuits en route to his second win of the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series campaign. His second win of season, both coming during NASCAR’s ongoing return from the coronavirus-induced pause, has now afforded him a 48-point cushion in the Cup Series points standings.

Harvick previously won The Real Heroes 400 last month at Darlington Raceway.

Atlanta has always been a special place for Harvick. The 1.5-mile oval played host to Harvick’s first Cup Series victory back in 2001. Then driving the No. 29 Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing, it was only his third start in NASCAR’s premier division after replacing the late Dale Earnhardt Sr. in his rebranded No. 3 car. Harvick held off Jeff Gordon by .006 seconds to secure the emotional win.

No such dramatics were needed on Sunday. After leading 46 laps during the opening stage, Harvick retook the top spot from Kyle Busch on a semi-permanent basis at the onset of the third stage. The three-lap mercy was granted only when Harvick made his final pit stop on lap 269 of 325, forcing him to briefly relinquish the lead to Ryan Blaney and Joey Logano. He would retake first place after the two fellow Fords made their own stops for service and faced little resistance en route to victory lane with a 3.527-margin over the aforementioned Busch.

Harvick commemorated his latest win as he did his first, wielding three fingers from his car as he made a victory lap around the track to pay tribute to Earnhardt. The seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion passed away in a crash on the final lap of the 2001 Daytona 500. Overall, Harvick has now won three races at Atlanta, the second coming in March 2017. 

The newest Atlanta triumph was historic in several ways. For one thing, it came as Harvick’s crew chief, Rodney Childers, celebrated his 44th birthday. They have been paired up since they each joined Stewart-Haas Racing in 2014. Together, they have finished the final standings’ top three in all but one of their six full seasons, the first of which ended with the Cup Series title. 

Additionally, Harvick’s 51st Cup Series victory earns him sole possession of 12th-place on the circuit’s all-time wins list. He was previously tied with NASCAR Hall of Famers Ned Jarrett and Junior Johnson.

Martin Truex Jr. won the first two stages of the race, his first pair of the season. He finished third after a hard-fought battle with his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Busch, while Blaney and another Gibbs Toyota, that of Denny Hamlin, rounded out the top five.

The NASCAR Cup Series will quickly return to action, as series travels to Martinsville Speedway for the Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500 on Wednesday night (7 p.m. ET, FS1). Martinsville’s starting lineup will be determined by a tiered draw based on car owner points.

Race Notes

  • Prior to the start of Sunday’s race, NASCAR addressed the ongoing nationwide protests against systematic racism and police brutality against African-Americans. With each of the 40 participating cars stopped at the start/finish line, NASCAR President Steve Phelps addressed both drivers and fans about the current events, encouraging action in fighting racism. “Our country is in pain and people are justifiably angry, demanding to be heard,” Phelps said. “The black community and all people of color have suffered in our country, and it has taken far too long for us to hear their demands for change. Our sport must do better. Our country must do better.”
  • After Phelps’ speech, several renowned drivers appeared in a video urging fans to take action in the battle for justice and equality.
  • Bubba Wallace, the only African-American driver on the Cup Series level, was seen sporting a shirt bearing the words “I Can’t Breathe” and an American flag face mask during the prerace ceremonies. The shirt’s words refer to Eric Garner and George Floyd, African-American victims of police brutality six years apart. Members of Wallace’s No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Chevrolet crew were also seen holding the shirts.
  • After finishing 21st on Sunday, Wallace appeared to faint during separate interviews with Fox Sports’ Jamie Little, an apparent result of exhaustion and dehydration. Wallace was later examined and released from the infield care center.
  • Kurt Busch (brother of Kyle) was forced serve a pass-through penalty on pit road after his No. 1 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet failed prerace inspection three times. Busch lost a lap, but earned it back prior to a competition caution on lap 25. He would go on to recover and finish sixth.
  • In addition to the competition caution, only four other yellow flags came out on Sunday. Two signaled the end of the first two stages, while the others accounted for separate spins from Front Row Motorsports teammates John Hunter Nemechek (lap 96) and Michael McDowell (lap 203).
  • B.J. McLeod (clutch) and Timmy Hill (electrical) were the only two cars that failed to finish the race.

For full race results, click here

For full standings, click here

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Giants: Darius Slayton Needs To Take A Big Step In 2020

New York Giants, Darius Slayton

The New York Giants‘ offense is one that could surprise people this season. Daniel Jones is entering his second season and will have to learn a new offense. The Giants hired former Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett to serve as the team’s offensive coordinator. Garrett has been considered a quarterback guru of sorts and led the Cowboys’ offense to consistent top-ten finishes.

The combination of Saquon Barkley, Daniel Jones, and Jason Garrett’s run-heavy/play action-filled offense could be deadly. But New York is going to need the rest of the playmakers to step up. In particular, the Giants are going to need a big season out of wide receiver Darius Slayton.

The Giants’ receiving corps has some solid talent. However, the team lacks a true number one receiving threat. Darius Slayton has the potential to become that primary threat, but he is going to need to take a big step in 2020.

Darius Slayton Rookie Season Stats and Highlights

Darius Slayton was one of the biggest surprises for the Giants in 2019. New York drafted the wide receiver out of Auburn in the fifth round of the NFL Draft. The expectations for a fifth-round wide receiver were pretty low, and he easily exceeded them.

Slayton quickly turned into the Giants’ best receiving threat. He ended up catching 8 touchdown passes in 9 starts to go along with 48 receptions and 740 receiving yards. Slayton is a breakout candidate heading into the 2020 NFL season, but what does he have to do to become that number one receiving threat?

How Slayton Can Improve In 2020

Early on in the 2019 season, Slayton was primarily running just vertical routes. The receiver nearly never had opportunities to catch passes underneath or over the middle of the field. As the season went on, though, Slayton’s route tree became a little more diverse. However, most of his routes were still deep routes. Here is an example of Slayton’s route chart from Week 8 against Detroit, where Darius was used almost exclusively as a deep threat.

As stated earlier, Slayton’s routes became more diverse later on in the season. What is encouraging about this is that, once his routes became more diverse, Slayton became more productive. Take this chart from Darius’s Week 10 performance for example. Slayton proved he can make plays underneath (charts via Next Gen Stats).

Darius Slayton Week 10 Route Chart

To take that step in 2020, Slayton needs to become a more versatile and dependable receiver. The Giants need to see Slayton run effective routes at all levels of the field. Whether they are targeting him on a drag underneath, an in-cut in the intermediate, or a deep post, Slayton needs to get open. Once he proves he can make plays at all levels of the field, Darius Slayton’s role in the Giants’ offense will expand even further and he will become a number one receiver.

Darius Slayton also needs to improve his catch rate. Since he was mainly targeted downfield, his catch rate was about 57.1%. This is about average. If Slayton is going to be a receiver for Daniel Jones to depend on, he is going to need to catch a higher percentage of his targets. If Slayton can run a more diverse route tree and catch over 60% of his targets in 2020, then he will be looked at as a true number one receiver.

Brooklyn Nets: Rest of Season will not include Kevin Durant

Kevin Durant, Brooklyn Nets

Since the NBA season was suspended in mid-March, one of the hottest trending topics for NBA fans to debate has been the return of Kevin Durant. Many predicted that due to the added break in time during the suspended season, that both Durant and Kyrie would be able to finish their rehab and contribute when the season resumed. Unfortunately, this narrative was shared by the majority of #NetsTwitter, only to be let down when Anthony “Pooch” Puccio of NetsDaily when he tweeted the following:

This news was confirmed hours later by Marc J. Spears, who posted an interview with Kevin Durant that he had conducted on The Undefeated. When asked about if he would be playing for the Nets in Orlando when the season returns, Durant responded by saying “My season is over. I don’t plan on playing at all. We decided last season when it first happened that I was just going to wait until the following season. I had no plans of playing at all this season.” You can read the whole interview below:

As for Durant’s teammate Kyrie Irving, news surfaced yesterday regarding his status as well. Irving is interested in traveling with the Nets to Orlando, he just won’t be in uniform. Woj reported the following on Irving’s status:

So no Kevin Durant or Kyrie Irving when the NBA resumes play in August. We will ride with our Spencer Dindwiddie & Caris Levert led team, who happened to finish the season on a hot streak with interim Head coach Jacque Vaughn.

Check out our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for your latest Brooklyn Nets news and listen to the Fireside Nets w/ Spen & Nick podcast!

New York Giants: Ranking the top 3 playmakers on offense

New York Giants, Saquon Barkley, Darius Slayton

The New York Giants might be in the middle of a full roster overhaul, but they still have plenty of playmakers than can change the course of a game at any moment. The offense specifically is in much better shape than the defense, but general manager Dave Gettleman and new head coach Joe Judge are looking to even out the playing field.

The success of the defense correlates directly with the offense staying on the field and putting more points on the board. However, without playmakers, having success on both sides of the ball is extremely difficult.

Let’s take a look at three of the New York Giants‘ best playmakers on offense:

3.) Evan Engram

While I’m hesitant to put Engram on this list, his play-making ability is by far one of the most elite on the team. The issue is health when it comes to his production, having only played in eight games last season.

Engram’s production has decreased since his inception in 2017. The Giants did pick up that his fifth-year option, keeping him on the team until after 2021. If he can remain healthy, Engram is immediately an indispensable part of the offense and a heavy usage player in 12 personnel. However, two seasons of injuries and the latest requiring foot surgery does not bode well.

In 2019, he posted his lowest yards per reception, tied for his lowest touchdown total with three, and posted his lowest yardage totals. On the bright side, if healthy, he can only go up from here.

2.) Darius Slayton

Slayton might have been rookie, but he excelled in 2019. In just nine starts in 14 games, he posted 740 yards and eight touchdowns, leading the team in receiving yards and was tied for first with D.K. Metcalf in touchdowns for rookie wide receivers.

While he does need to improve his catch rate, where he logged a 57.1% success rate last season, he averaged 15.4 yards per reception, which is a nice number for Daniel Jones in the intermediate passing game.

For comparison sake, Slayton posted a 2.4% drop rate while Odell Beckham Jr. posted a 5.3% drop rate. While Beckham’s sample size was exponentially bigger than Slayton’s, it’s a positive sign to see Darius’ ability to hold onto the football.

I expect Slayton to improve on his production moving forward, as he showed the potential to be the Giants’ top wide receiver. If he can improve on his 2019 statistics, Daniel Jones might have himself a number one wideout drafted in the later rounds. That’s a move that could save Dave Gettleman’s job in the future.

1.) Saquon Barkley

Of course, Saquon Barkley ranks out at number one based on his overall potential and what he brings to the team. In his rookie season two years ago, he rushed for 1307 yards and gained 720 yards through the air. He posted 15 total touchdowns and averaged 81.7 yards per game. Last season, due to a high ankle sprain, he played in 13 games and earned only 1003 yards on the ground. He posted 438 receiving yards and scored eight total touchdowns.

Considering he broke 1000 yards rushing with a bad ankle is quite impressive, and that attests to the talent he brings to the table and how integral he is to the offense’s production. Barkley has the ability to break free on any given play and can change the course of the game, making him the Giants’ top playmaker on offense.

Five Fights to Make after UFC 250

UFC, Dana White

Last night, the UFC made it’s PPV return to the fight capital of the world, and the card did not disappoint. There was a leg-kick TKO, two walk-off knockouts, and a brilliant performance from the greatest female fighter of all time. With that being said, let’s talk through five matchups that should be booked following UFC 250.

Suga Sean O’Malley vs Top Ten Opponent

Before last night, I said that the UFC did a great job of booking Eddie Wineland as an opponent for Suga Sean. O’Malley (12-0) is an elite striker, and he does a fantastic job at fighting from range. I thought it was the perfect showcase fight for him, and he did not disappoint. About halfway through the first round, O’Malley uncorked a right straight that put Wineland to sleep. O’Malley’s star is only going to continue to shine brighter, but I think the UFC needs to bring him along gradually. They need to use a similar path that they used with Conor McGregor.

O’Malley needs to fight someone in the rankings for his next fight. If you ask me, I would give him someone like a Rob Font (17-4). Font is currently ranked as the tenth best bantamweight in the world according to the UFC rankings. Font is coming off back to back wins, and he would be a good test for O’Malley. Font has been in there with some of the best guys in the world, and has only lost three times since 2016 to John Lineker, Pedro Munhoz, and Ralphael Assuncao. This is another winnable fight for O’Malley, but it would be a fight that would give him some top ten experience. Another win would vault O’Malley closer to the top five and a potential title shot.

Cory Sandhagen vs Jimmie Rivera

Last night did not go as planned for Cory Sandhagen (12-2). Sandhagen entered the matchup riding high having been unbeaten in the UFC. Sandhagen was submitted early in the first round by Aljamain Sterling (19-3). The only positive for Sandhagen was that he didn’t take damage in this fight. Sterling was able to get his back very quickly, but didn’t land a ton of shots. Instead, Sterling used his diverse ground attack to lock up a rear naked choke. With the loss, it’s back to the drawing board for Sandhagen.

To me, Jimmie Rivera (22-4) would be a good next opponent for Sandhagen. Rivera is currently ranked eighth in the world, but he’s coming off of back to back losses to Petr Yan and Sterling. Rivera is a tough guy who has consistently been one of the best in the world at bantamweight. Rivera hasn’t fought since last June so you have to believe he’s looking for a fight. With the limited damage, I’m guessing Sandhagen would like to get back in there as soon as he can. This would be a solid matchup of two top ten bantamweights who are looking to get back on the right track.

Cody Garbrandt vs Marlon Moraes

Cody Garbrandt (12-3) might have landed the best clean walkoff knockout of all time last night. Garbrandt had his back against the wall and he was facing a very tough challenger in Ralphael Assuncao (27-8). Garbrandt showed massive improvements last night in terms of his fighting IQ. Garbrandt stayed on the outside and used his speed brilliantly in this fight. Just before the second round ended, Garbrandt unleashed a right hand that put Assuncao to sleep. After getting knocked out three times in a row, this is exactly the type of win that Garbrandt needed.

“Magic” Marlon Moraes (23-6-1) is in a very weird spot in the bantamweight division. Moraes is currently the number one ranked bantamweight and he’s coming off of a win against the man who is getting the next title shot, Jose Aldo. Moraes is 5-1 in his last six fights with his only loss being to former champion, Henry Cejudo. It’s very clear that Aljamain Sterling is getting the next title shot, but a Garbrandt/Moraes fight would be perfect to setup the next challenger. Yan and Aldo will fight this summer, but maybe the UFC looks to book Sterling against the winner with Garbrandt/Moraes on the under card. Either way, I think this is the fight that makes the most sense.

Aljamain Sterling vs Winner of Yan/Aldo

There is no one in the UFC right now that is probably more deserving of a title shot than Aljamain Sterling. Sterling has now won five straight fights since his last loss to Marlon Moraes. Sterling has looked sensational in his last three fights, but last night he went to the next level. He went through the fourth ranked bantamweight like he was nothing. Sterling made an emphatic statement that he is next for the title, and honestly, he should be fighting for the title now.

Petr Yan (14-1) and Jose Aldo (28-6) have their fight finalized for sometime in July. Dana White announced that the fight was done and would take place in July. Sterling will be watching this fight very closely to figure out who he’s going to be taking on for the title.

Amanda Nunes vs Megan Anderson

To be honest, I really don’t know what to do with Amanda Nunes (20-4). She looked better than ever last night completely out-classing poor Felicia Spencer (8-2) over the course of a five-round beat down. Nunes is so much better than her competition it’s not even funny. I don’t see anyone in either of her two divisions giving her a challenge. Her only realistic challenger would be the UFC’s flyweight champion, Valentina Shevchenko. I previously said it’s a super fight the UFC needs to make, but last night, Dana White said that fight wouldn’t be happening anytime soon.

With that in mind, we look at her two divisions for some challengers. After previously defending her bantamweight title a couple of times in a row, I think Nunes will look to defend her featherweight title for the second time in a row. The logical choice for a challenger would be Megan Anderson (11-4). Anderson is 3-1 in her last four fights with her only loss being to Felicia Spencer. Anderson is a very tall woman and could pose some interesting challenges for the champion. However, I don’t think anyone would give Anderson much of a chance in this one. Nunes is just so much better than anyone which is why she is the greatest of all time.

NASCAR: Two Young Guns Flying Under The Radar to Become New Stars

NASCAR, Tyler Reddick

As Jimmie Johnson prepares to join former Hendrick teammates, Dale Jr., and Jeff Gordon, in retirement, another star leaves the sport. NASCAR built its fan base around those 3 among other stars.

As every sport does, NASCAR is seeing new stars emerge as faces of the sport. Veterans like Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr., Denny Hamlin, and other stars continue to lead the way. Along with younger guys like Chase Elliot, Ryan Blaney, Joey Logano, among others, taking over the limelight, more stars continue to emerge. As NASCAR undergoes a landscape shift in terms of star power, two young drivers have had a strong start to their careers.

Tyler Reddick

Tyler Reddick was an up and coming driver when JR Motorsports tapped him to take over for William Byron. Reddick won the season opener at Daytona in the closest finish in the history of NASCAR.

Although he didn’t win again until the final race of the season, his consistency allowed him to remain in contention. He then pulled off an upset and won his 1st Xfinity title in his rookie season.  Reddick then made the surprising move to jump ship to Richard Childress Racing. The move was made to speed up the process to the Cup Series in Reddick’s eyes. In 2019, Reddick dominated the series. With six wins, he, Christopher Bell, and Cole Custer shined above the rest.

When Homestead came, Reddick shined again. He won his 2nd title in 2 years in the series. This was the end of his Xfinity career. He took over Daniel Hemric’s ride in the 8 machine. He’s already flashed his skill with solid performances, including a 7th place finish in Darlington and an 8th place finish in the Coke 600. Reddick is a guy who has been labeled by some as a future star, and he could jump from RCR if Hendrick or Stewart-Haas targets him. Reddick has a bright future and is one to watch.

John Hunter Nemechek

The Front Row Motorsports machines tend to struggle to maintain a competitive machine. More often than not, a top 15 finish for them is a good day. Their newest addition, 22-year-old John Hunter Nemechek, has the potential to change that.

In his Truck Series career, in 101 races, Nemechek had 6 wins and 50 Top Tens. Nearly half of the races Nemechek ran, he was in the top 10. In the Xfinity Series, Nemechek raced in 51 races with 1 win and 30 Top Tens. Nemechek has been the picture of consistency in his career to this point. Now at 22, he has been impressive in the 38 machine.

He’s brought the machine towards the front with good runs. He’s had 1 Top Ten in 9 races and an average finish of 19th. That may seem low, but prior to this season, David Ragan never drove the 38 machine to a higher average finish than 22.9. Nemechek has the potential to vault himself into a premier car at some point if he can continue to be consistent. 

MLB News: What the most at risk managers and coaches are saying, find out

The New York Yankees manager is Aaron Boone, and at 47 years old, he is not in the high-risk category that 34 other managers and coaches are just because of their age.  There are many in their 60s and even 70s.  The Houston Astros have the most in baseball with three that are over 70.  There are some in that group of 34 that are not only on the list due to age, but some have underlying health conditions as well, putting them at even more risk during the coronavirus pandemic.

For the purpose of this article, I will center on just two MLB members of the group.  Manager Ron Gardenhire (62) for the Detroit Tigers he has health issues, and Joe Maddon (66) of the Chicago Cubs who does not have any underlying health issues.

Assuming that the MLB players and owners can come together and reach a compromise on monetary issues, and there will be a baseball season this year, all baseball personnel will be subject to some virus risk.  For the players, MLB has issued a 67-page health initiative to address those concerns.  Still, there is a risk involved.  But for managers and coaches, the risk is even greater, and they will endure those risks for far less pay in most instances, yet all seem ready and more than willing to get going and play ball.

Changes for players will include everything from no gang showers to no spitting, it will be just a start in what will be an entirely different looking season.  But for players how they play the game will see a few changes.  For managers and coaches, it will completely change their management style. There will be no fist pumps, no hugging, and no shouting in the faces of umpires.

For Ron Gardenhire of the Tigers, he has diabetes and has had cancer, putting him at high risk if he catches the COVID-19. 

“I mean, obviously, when we start talking about health concerns and all those things, and how this thing is going to go down, and we know baseball’s not going to be normal, I think about that an awful lot. But I also have committed to this team. And I’m not one to shy away from things like this.

“I respect my players,” he said. “They want to play. And my coaches – they all want to get back to baseball. But things do go through your mind when you’ve been through some of this stuff.”

Gardenhire cited an analogy that was made to him by Kuntz, a coach for the Kansas City Royals.  You went into a store with a mask on and gloves and met workers that you have no idea where they come from or in what health concerns they may have.  He then cited that his comfort level was an 8 out 10 and that his comfort level was much greater with the health protocols that baseball will endure. You’ve got to go through the testing. You’ve got to do the saliva test, the temperature test.’

The Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon is a health freak.  He has been riding his bike 60 to 100 miles a week for years. He has a vitamin regiment, eats healthy, and doesn’t drink or smoke.  He is in the high-risk category because of age, but because of his condition doesn’t believe he is at high risk.

Maddon, when the MLB baseball season came to a halt, vowed to get even more healthy and build up his immune system.  He recently said:

“I went spartan for a bit,” he said this week. “I was in a very strict diet. I was in a strict exercise program. I was in a strict sleeping program. I was mentally as deeply into my thoughts as I’ve been since the mid-’80s. And that’s why I’m going back to that, to where my philosophies were born.…

“So my point is, my thought was to get in as best shape as I possibly can at this age. And then after that? The doctors. I have not had any negative response from any doctors. No doctor has flipped any concerns my way. So my plan is to approach this like I approach everything else. Except that I have taken what I thought were the right steps to be ready for this moment and see how that plays out.”

These quotes are attributed to Jason Stark of The Atlantic, who interviewed several coaches and managers.  The conscious of all of the managers and coaches is that they are ready to play ball.  Even some of the younger ones that have underlying conditions like Nationals manager Dave Martinez, who has a heart disease history and Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, with cancer concerns.  Even while many players still in the youth of their lives are complaining about the risk, these over 60’s are ready to go.

Baseball players will suffer the changes in the game and their contact with others in a similar nature as all Americans in their daily lives, but do it at a much higher pay scale than most fans. What the players and owners need to do is a compromise on monetary issues in order to have some kind of baseball this season.  Time is running out.

New York Yankees Prospects: Diego Castillo

New York Yankees, Aaron boone

Back in December of 2014, the New York Yankees signed a talented infielder out of Venezuela to a minor league contract. That prospect is turning into a pretty solid infielder within the Yankees organization. That prospect would be the 22-year-old shortstop, Diego Castillo. Castillo made his professional debut in the Yankees organization back in 2015. Since joining the Yankees, Castillo has bounced back and forth between shortstop and second, but I think he’s at home at short. Castillo has pretty good range and a decent arm for that position. When he’s at the plate, the right-handed Castillo sprays line drives to all sides of the field. He does not generate a lot of power, but he does make solid contact quite often when he’s at the dish.

Step-Back 2019

2019 was the second consecutive year that Castillo spent the entire season with the Tampa Tarpons. In 114 games for the Tarpons last season, Castillo hit .248 with an OBP of .310. Again, Castillo is never going to be the type of player who is a power threat only hitting four home runs and driving in 33 runs. Overall, his year at the plate was a step back from the year prior. In 2018, Castillo was able to drive in 18 more runs and had an average of .260. Castillo did show off some decent range last year, and to me proved himself to be a solid utility candidate in the Yankees organization. He’s not going to blow you away with much, but he’s the kind of player who is always going to give you his best effort.

Solid Utility Potential

In looking at Castillo as a prospect, I’m struggling to see a guy who will develop into a major league starter. I do believe that he can make a major league roster with time, but he’s going to need to improve offensively. He’s got very good range at the shortstop position, but there were times last year where I saw his throwing as a little inconsistent. If he can keep his throws consistent, I think he can develop into a plus defender. Again, he’s never going to be a power threat, but I do believe he has room to grow offensively. He needs to get better at pitch recognition. When he makes contact, he does a fantastic job of going with the pitch. He doesn’t try to pull the ball which is beneficial to a hitter with his abilities. If he can get his batting average up and be more consistent with his throwing ability, I think you should see him make the jump to AA next year. I think he can be a solid utility piece down the line for the New York Yankees.

UFC: Jorge Masvidal Wants Answers from UFC after failed negotiations

One of the UFC’s brightest stars is asking for some answers from his employer. Jorge Masvidal became a huge star during 2019 after he knocked out Darren Till, Ben Askren, and won the BMF title against Nate Diaz back at UFC 244. Masvidal’s huge year made him the number one contender in line to fight the winner of the Kamaru Usman/Colby Covington fight back in December. Usman went on to win that fight which would setup the big title fight with Masvidal. All year long, this fight was anticipated to headline the UFC‘s big July PPV. Even after the pandemic hit, the UFC seemed to be pushing to book this fight for July 11th. Those talks have come to a screeching halt.

There seemed to be some back and forth going on with negotiating the finances for the fight. Masvidal said in an interview with ESPN’s Kenny Mayne that when the Jon Jones situation was going on, he started taking a look at the holdup in his own negotiations. Masvidal stated that the UFC decided to pull his offer off the table, and offer the title fight to another fighter for a lot less money. He said that the fighter is willing to take the fight which leaves him in a weird position. We can all assume that the fighter he’s talking about would be Gilbert Burns. This week, Dana White said that Burns would likely be next for the title after his win against Tyron Woodley.

Revenue Split

Masvidal mentions in his interview that most major sports in America have about a 50/50 revenue split between the owners and the athletes. He mentions that the deal that was being offered to him or the athletes was for about 18% of the revenue. Upon investigating the numbers further, Masvidal wants answers from the UFC, which is why negotiations have gone south quickly. White came out this week and said that they will not beg anyone to fight with everything going on. There are a lot of fighters who just want action, but the top draws are still wanting their money.

Where to go?

To be honest, I’m really not sure where we are going to go from here. Gambred has mentioned that if he doesn’t get compensated fairly, he would like to be released. Masvidal joins Jon Jones as the second fighter to ask for a release due to failed negotiations with UFC brass. White came out this week said this week that he was confident the UFC would work things out with Jones. They will likely get this figured out with Masvidal as well. It’s clear that some issues have come to the surface recently between the UFC and some of their top athletes when it comes to fighter pay. With everything going on, Burns is likely going to get the next shot at Usman which will leave Masvidal without an opponent. Maybe the UFC tries to book a fight with Gamebred and his former friend, Colby Covington. Honestly, that fight might sell more than Masvidal’s fight with Kamaru Usman. Time will tell, but you can catch Masvidal’s entire interview with Kenny Mayne below.