New York Rangers: Viva Las Vegas?

New York Rangers

It appears that the New York Rangers will be heading west for the playoffs, as The Las Vegas Review-Journal has put out a story saying Vegas will be confirmed as a hub city for the Stanley Cup Playoffs by June 22.

The reports stem from sources who stated that when the NHL and NHLPA met for the first time Friday, the players were told that Las Vegas was the frontrunner to be one of the hubs.

It is also noted that nothing official has come from the NHL and that The NHLPA executive board is expected to meet as early as Monday to discuss hubs.

Regardless of what happens with Canada and their 14-day quarantine rule, Las Vegas appears to be the front runner for a hub city. The league would like to have Toronto be the other hub city, but if Canada does not ease that restriction, the hub will go somewhere else. The NHL would prefer East-West hubs so that they can send the conferences in their opposite directions and not let a team have home-ice advantage. Los Angeles is an option because neither the Kings nor the Ducks are playoff-bound and therefore could host the Western Conference teams.

What can Las Vegas offer as a hub city to the New York Rangers?

The NHL has a list of expectations that they would like to see in a to create a “bubble” for players and staff to be in so they can protect them from COVID-19 as much as possible.

With Las Vegas, it is not exactly as you think, as the players will not be allowed to roam around the Vegas strip. The NHL wants large, luxury hotel properties not only because of logistics, but they want to assure that players that are there for a long time have a somewhat enjoyable experience.

The brand new Park MGM is very close to the Golden Knights’ T-Mobile Arena and has lots of restaurants and ample hotel space. The league could manage all of the surrounding restaurants along the arena’s corridor between Park MGM and potentially NewYork NewYork, and it would be easy to block this area off the area with security checkpoints.

In case you are wondering, the NHL plans to basically temporarily “own” top-quality restaurants outside of the hotels for the entire length of the tournament for players to dine at.

However, it might be possible for the players to enjoy some parts of Las Vegas, as the NHL would like to provide everyone with multiple entertainment options, from excursions to golf courses (tough to do in 100-degree heat during Vegas summers), as well as movie theaters and of course, quality restaurants.

With all of this, the regions COVID-19 would still also have to be relatively stable. The NHL will monitor all of the locations up until the time they need to make an announcement and finalize plans with the respective cities.

 

 

 

Do the New York Giants have their long-term center in Nick Gates?

New York Giants, Nick Gates

The center position for the New York Giants remains one of the bigger weaknesses is going into the 2020 season. Currently, they are scheduled to develop a position battle, consisting of Nick Gates, Jon Halapio, Shane Lemieux, and Spenser Pulley.

The primary issue is, none of these options are established or considered to be above average at the position. Halapio has struggled in recent years and is recovering from a torn ACL, Pulley is serviceable but not above average by any means, and Lemieux/Gates have never taken a live snap at the position.

Nonetheless, Gates has been practicing in Nevada with Raiders’ quarterback Derek Carr. Taking snaps under center, Gates is developing a skill set prior to the start of training camp and preseason. This should give him a leg up and allow him to potentially steal the starting position for the foreseeable future.

Gates stated in the past that he prefers to play guard over tackle, and moving to center would put them on the innermost workings of the offensive line. I believe he has a toughness and frame to excel at the spot, but he needs more live reps to be considered at this as a starter for 2020.

General manager Dave Gettleman is excited about Gates and what he brings to the table. He expressed confidence in him several months ago before the NFL draft.

“The thing you love about Nick is just how tough he is, because it’s a fist fight in there,” Gettleman said. “History tells you that the toughness of your team is really, really indicated by the toughness of your offensive line.”

Gates grew up around construction as a child in Nevada, which he factors into his toughness.

“My toughness comes from that,” Gates told The New York Post. “We used to go at it and I had to hold my own. I was the youngest [for a long time], so everybody kind of picked on me. You have to be tough when you are the youngest. Playing football or wrestling, one of us gets mad and it starts off from there.”

The New York Giants could use a boost at center

If Gates can establish himself as a starting player at the center position, the Giants will be in good shape. They currently have No. 4 overall pick Andrew Thomas at left tackle, Will Hernandez at left guard, Kevin Zeitler at right guard, and Nate Solder at right tackle. This unit could be mixed up a bit, with Thomas possibly projecting as a right tackle next season — nothing is set in stone just yet.

Nonetheless, the former Nebraska lineman has the talent to move inside and showed promise at both guard and tackle positions in 2019. If the Giants can elevate him from undrafted free agent to starting center, they will have some financial flexibility next off-season in free agency.

New York Yankees News/Rumors: Yankees sign RHP Carson Coleman, Season will be more than 50 games, more

Yankees add Carson Coleman to the Farm System

The New York Yankees picked in the first round of the draft Austin Wells a catcher out of Arizona. The Yankees went after him in the draft three years ago when he was at Las Vegas High School. Wells chose college instead and enrolled at the University of Arizona, where he has honed his skills and has proven to be a powerful left-hand hitter.

In their second pick, the New York Yankees picked up another left-hand bat to add to their farm system, Trevor Hauver.  Although not the power hitter as Austin Wells is, he is a solid bat.  While scouts list him as an outfielder, the Yankees drafted him as a second baseman. The New York Yankees used their third and final pick on Beck Way, a 20-year-old right-handed pitcher from Northwest Florida as their fourth-round selection.

Forty-eight hours after the final pick, the Yankees and other MLB teams may sign any undrafted free agents.  Yesterday the Yankees signed Carson Coleman, a right-hand pitcher, out of the University of Kentucky. Coleman, 21, was previously drafted by the Rays in the 33rd round last year, but he opted to go back to school for his redshirt junior season.

In an abbreviated college season, Coleman struck out 13 batters in 5 ²/₃ innings. Yankees scouting director Damon Oppenheimer recently said that he has used player’s performance in the Cape Cod League this past summer more as a guide in selecting players due to the shortened college season.  Like Yankee Aaron Judge Coleman played in the summer league. As Wildcat, he struck out 81 batters in 53 2/3 innings.

ESPN’s Jeff Passan yesterday said for players who sign today as an undrafted free agent for $20,000 max: I’m sorry your indoctrination into the professional game involves receiving a fraction of what you’d be worth if you weren’t used as pawns in a labor fight that has gone absolutely nowhere. It’s shameful.

MLB baseball season will be more than 50 games

John Heyman, an MLB insider, reported yesterday some mildly positive baseball news (very mild): If a season is mandated by the commissioner (as allowed by the March 26 agreement), it wouldn’t be for just 48 games. I hear the number of games would start with a 5.

Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic said the season would begin on approximately July 14 with the exact date to be determined and end on Sept. 27.

The final details of what the season will look like with be forthcoming quickly as the teams prepare for spring training 2.0.  With an expanded postseason, the World Series should be completed before November.

Kids baseball to start July 6th in New York

While the New York Yankees look to spring training, kids in New York state will be able to play as well. Governor Cuomo has announced that “low-risk” youth sports such as baseball and softball can begin as of July 6th in regions approved to enter Phase III of reopening. In the approved areas, two fans will be allowed per child playing while practicing social distancing and wearing masks.

 

Could the Yankees move Gleyber Torres back to second base in 2021?

New York Yankees, Gleyber Torres

With the New York Yankees letting Didi Gregorius walk in free agency, where he subsequently sign with the Philadelphia Phillies, they placed a lot of trust and confidence in Gleyber Torres, their young stud. Torres, who has questionable footwork and struggles with inaccurate throws at times, is being asked to take over the most important defensive position in the infield.

While Torres has little trouble at the plate, his defense could be a significant issue for the Yankees moving forward. With the 2020 season being slashed due to the coronavirus, players are preparing to suit up for a minimal number of games. The minimum currently sits at 48, with a postseason that would last beyond October.

The New York Yankees needed to see Gleyber Torres for an entire season at SS:

One byproduct of this reality is a smaller sample size for Torres at shortstop. The Yankees were banking on a large sample size of reps to evaluate the position this upcoming off-season. With players like Francisco Lindor possibly available in free agency or in a trade, determining whether Torres can remain at shortstop is a big question for the future. DJ LeMahieu also plays into this equation, as he is in the final year of a two-year contract he signed with the Yankees in 2019.

Torres did play 77 games and 659.2 innings at shortstop in 2019. He committed 11 errors and logged a .961 fielding percentage. He ranked below average in most categories defensively, allowing -2 defensive runs saved above average at SS and .26 at 2B.

One additional thought is that Torres isn’t elite at second base either, which really is a testament to his deficiency on defense altogether. He needs to work on footwork and consistent throws to cement himself in the infield.

On a brighter note, if Torres can manage to solidify the shortstop position and becomes a long-term option there, the Yankees can begin to fill second base and first base accordingly. LeMahieu is traditionally a second baseman and is one of the best defensive players in the MLB; Luke Voit is also a capable first baseman with a slugger mentality at the plate.

A lot relies on Torres developing in his new role, and if he doesn’t, the Yankees will face a number of struggles in the near future.

NASCAR: Denny Hamlin takes home Cup Series-best third victory of 2020

Denny Hamlin swept all three stages of the Dixie Vodka 400 en route to the 40th victory of his NASCAR Cup Series career.

Denny Hamlin is giving an all-new definition to “Florida Man”.

Nearly four months after his victory at the season-opening Daytona 500, Hamlin pulled off a clean sweep at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota won all three stages en route to victory, his third of the 2020 season, at the Dixie Vodka 500. It’s Hamlin’s third victory at Homestead and the 40th of his Cup Series career. He joins 19 other drivers in that exclusive realm. Every member of the club has reached the NASCAR Hall of Fame with the exception of Hamlin and the three other active drivers (Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick). Hamling previously took home the Toyota 500 at Darlington Raceway last month.

Weather threatened to end Hamlin’s dominance before it truly began. Rain showers delayed the start of the race by over an hour before a brief five-lap run that was stopped by lightning. Further strikes led to a delay of over two hours and one more awaited the drivers at lap 34.

Once the skies became relatively clear, Hamlin took over. He led a race-high 137 laps and became the first 2020 driver to take all three stages in his victory trek. The winning move came on lap 238 of 267 when he took advantage of pesky lapped traffic in the form of Joey Logano to pass Chase Elliott’s No. 9 Chevrolet. Elliott kept pace with Hamlin for a majority of the final laps, but an overzealous challenge at the lead in the last stanzas forced him to settle for the runner-up spot. Hamlin won the race by an 0.895-second margin and replicated Michael Jordan’s famous shrug after exiting the No. 11 Toyota for his postrace interview with Fox. The Jordan Brand is one of No. 11’s sponsors and Hamlin later revealed that the NBA legend was among the first to congratulate him on his victory.

The victory was the finishing touch on a joyful return for Hamlin’s crew chief Chris Gabehart. Hamlin’s second-year pit boss was suspended for four races when ballasts fell out of the No. 11 at the start of the Coca-Cola 600 on May 24 in Charlotte. The two have since united for nine wins in 48 races together and collaborated on a fourth-place finish in last season’s championship standings.

Elliott settled for second-place, his third top pair placing over the last seven races. Ryan Blaney also continued a hot streak in third (his fifth top-four finish over the last six events) while rookie Tyler Reddick came in a career-best fourth. Aric Almirola rounded out the top five, his first such finish of the season.

The NASCAR Cup Series returns to action next Sunday afternoon for the GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway (3 p.m. ET, Fox).

Race Notes

  • Spectators returned to the track on Sunday, as 1,000 South Florida servicemen and women and first responders were welcomed into the grandstands. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis was also in attendance and opened the race by waving the green flag prior to the first lap. Next weekend’s event at Talladega, Alabama will up the ante with 5,000 fans in attendance.
  • New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara was also in attendance, welcomed as a guest by NASCAR. Kamara was adorned in gear supporting Bubba Wallace, who drove the No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Chevrolet to a 13th-place finish.
  • Back in March, Hamlin also won the Dixie Vodka 150 at a virtual recreation of Homestead on the iRacing platform. The event was part of the eNASCAR Pro Invitational iRacing Series formed during the coronavirus-induced pause.
  • Hamlin is one of three of Homestead Cup Series winners that has yet to win a Cup title, joining Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards (the trio own a combined 77 circuit wins between them). Each of the 11 other winners has won at least one championship on the premier circuit.
  • All three NASCAR national series ran races at Homestead this weekend, but, for the first time since 2001, the track will not play host to the circuits’ season finales. Phoenix Raceway will have the honors for the first time in November.
  • Sunday was an eventful excursion for Austin Dillon. Hours before the race, Dillon and his wife Whitney welcomed their first child, a son named Ace. Dillon later overcame a pit road penalty to pilot his No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet to a seventh-place finish.
  • Reddick’s fellow Rooke of the Year contender Christopher Bell finished a career-best eighth. The two became the first rookies to finish in the top ten at Homestead since David Ragan did so in 2007.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags