New York Giants: New information indicates DeAndre Baker is innocent

New York Giants, DeAndre Baker

New York Giants’ DeAndre Baker likely to win his legal battle:

The New York Giants haven’t been able to escape legal troubles this off-season, as DeAndre Baker was arrested on armed robbery charges, and Aldrick Rosas was caught drunk driving after hitting a vehicle going over 100 mph.

While Rosas seems to be in big trouble, Baker is all but exonerated from the incident that stemmed from a house party involving gambling a few weeks ago. Initial statements from witnesses claimed that Baker held the party at gunpoint as he robbed individuals and took off with accomplices. The two witnesses that confirm these statements have since recanted their comments and have stated on the record that Baker did not pull a gun on anyone at the party. The incident also involves Quinton Dunbar of the Seattle Seahawks.

According to TMZ, the two witnesses have given sworn affidavits stating that Baker is essentially innocent. This would give the Giants their starting cornerback, his freedom, and the ability to play during the 2020 season.

“Deandre Baker was near me, and he never pulled out and/or pointed a firearm at anyone at the party.”

Baker struggled during his rookie season in New York, but he showed improvement toward the end of his first campaign in the NFL. The expectation is that he will pair with James Bradberry, who signed a three-year deal with the Giants this offseason. Baker has the potential to be a stellar player at the professional level, and hopefully, this incident opens his eyes.

I imagine DeAndre will learn a thing or two about himself and how people will try to take advantage of professional athletes. While Baker might be exonerated, the Giants could still punish him in some way. Nonetheless, if his legal issues disappear, he will likely remain on the roster for the foreseeable future.

New York Yankees: The Hot Stove will be back! MLB trade deadline set for August 31st

New York Yankees, Brian Cashman

One of the most exciting parts of the season is the trade deadline. Every year, New York Yankees fans all congregate around to figure out who the Yankees might make a deal for. In the past couple of years the deadline hasn’t been the most exciting for Yankees fans, but it always keeps fans on the edge of their seats. With the shortened season, many were wondering about the trade deadline. With a 60 game season, would there be a trade deadline or would teams lose the opportunity to try to improve their team? Well, Tuesday evening we got our answer per Jayson Stark.

A little over one month after the season gets underway, we will see a trade deadline. This might be one of the more fascinating deadlines we’ve ever seen. It’s either going to be filled with rapid transactions or nothing will happen. Every year, Yankees fans start thinking about the July deadline. They think about the moves that Cashman can make the team better. They also start demanding that some players get traded after slow start. Well, normally players have a couple of months to go through up and downs. A player might have a down April, but if they really turn it on in the later months, they become a hot commodity on the trade market. We also see players start out incredibly hot, but fade quickly which makes them less hot on the market. Well, those hot starters are going to be the ones that teams are targeting if they need a boost in September.

Will the Yankees make any moves?

Given the current configuration of the Yankees roster, I doubt they try to make any big deals when this August deadline rolls around. Now, the injury bug could rear it’s ugly head in the first month which obviously could change things. The first month of the season is going to be wild. We are going to see teams going all out from the jump, and we are going to see trade conversations begin almost immediately. Get ready Yankee fans because this season is going to be fast and furious.

NASCAR: FBI concludes investigation at Talladega, declares no hate crime against Bubba Wallace

The FBI declared that no hate crime was committed against Bubba Wallace in the Talladega garage. NASCAR will continue its own investigation.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has declared that NASCAR Cup Series drivers Bubba Wallace was not the target of a hate crime during the circuit’s weekend proceedings at Talladega Superspeedway.

NASCAR previously announced that a noose was found in Wallace’s garage stall after the GEICO 500 event was postponed due to inclement weather. Wallace is the only African-American driver in NASCAR’s premier series and is the driver of the No. 43 Chevrolet for Richard Petty Motorsports. A crew member found the noose in the stall and reported it to NASCAR.

The FBI investigation concluded that the alleged noose was a garage door pull rope that was fashioned in a noose-like knot. Photographic evidence revealed that the rope was there when Paul Menard’s No. 21 Wood Brothers Ford team occupied the stall during last October’s Cup Series race at Talladega.

“The FBI has completed its investigation at Talladega Superspeedway and determined that Bubba Wallace was not the target of a hate crime,” a Tuesday statement from NASCAR reads. “We appreciate the FBI’s quick and thorough investigation and are thankful to learn that this was not an intentional, racist act against Bubba. We remain steadfast in our commitment to providing a welcoming and inclusive environment for all who love racing.”

With Sunday’s race postponed to Monday afternoon, drivers rose up in support of Wallace. Prior to the invocation and national anthem, they pushed his No. 43 Chevrolet to the front of the field. Wallace has previously spoken in support of the national protests and demonstrations against systemic racism and police brutality against African-Americans. He was also one of many drivers who advocated for a ban against spectators brandishing Confederate flag imagery, which NASCAR enacted earlier this month.

NASCAR President Steve Phelps briefly addressed the media in a conference call after the statement’s release but did not take questions. He revealed that while the federal investigation has concluded, NASCAR would continue its own inquiry into the incident.

“For us at NASCAR, this is the best result we could hope for,” Phelps said. “It was disturbing to hear that it was thought that one of our own had committed this heinous act.  It is fantastic to hear from the FBI definitively that there was not a hate crime.”

Phelps further clarified that neither Wallace nor his team should be blamed for the outcome of the investigation. In another conference call held hours before Monday’s race, Phelps revealed that he was the one who informed Wallace of the situation.

“I want to be clear about the 43 team. The 43 team had nothing to do with this,” he said. “The evidence is very clear that the noose that was in that garage had been in the garage previously. The last race we had had there in October, that noose was present, and it was. The fact that it was not found until a member of the 43 team came there is something that is a fact. We had not been back to the garage.  It was a quick one-day show. The crew member went back in there. He looked and saw the noose, brought it to the attention of his crew chief, who then went to the NASCAR series director Jay Fabian, and we launched this investigation.”

“To be clear, we would do this again. Of the evidence that we had, it was clear that we needed to look into this.”

Wallace and Richard Petty Motorsports have not yet commented on the developments. This marks his third year driving the No. 43 Chevrolet on a full-time basis. The 26-year-old has earned 12 wins in NASCAR’s lower-tier national series (the Xfinity and Gander RV & Outdoor Truck Series) and currently sits in 21st place in the Cup Series standings. He finished 14th on Monday afternoon.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

UFC Welterweight champion, Kamaru Usman, changes camps ahead of UFC 251

One of the more interesting storylines going into UFC 251 was the fact that champion, Kamaru Usman (16-1), and challenger, Gilbert Burns (19-3), both were training partners. The two men have trained together for a while under Henri Hooft at Hard Knocks 365. Well, just weeks before the two teammates square off, Usman has decided to leave the camp, and the state of Florida.

Per ESPN’s Brett Okamoto, the UFC welterweight champion will be moving his camp to Denver. He’s going to be training under Trevor Wittman who is the lead trainer for Justin Gaethje and Rose Namajunas. Namajunas is also fighting on the July 11th card. Wittman is notorious for only working with a few fighters. He likes to give all of his attention to his select fighters. Justin Gaethje might be in the corner for Usman’s title defense against Burns.

The UFC welterweight champ could get even better

“But I wanted a little more specific attention at this point in my career — someone to be able to say, ‘You’re going to come in at this time and work on this particular skill.’ It’s very tough to do that when there are 40 to 50 guys in the room with you who also need to get attention,” Usman said to Okamoto. Again, Wittman is very focused on his particular fighters, and this move will likely benefit the champion. Plus, it doesn’t hurt having a training partner like the great Justin Gaethje.

I cannot wait for the UFC welterweight title fight on July 11th. I’m very curious to see how Usman looks in his first camp outside of Florida. We know that Usman is already elite, but working with a coach like Trevor Wittman could take him to the next level. It’s going to be a fun month culminating in a big-time fight at UFC 251.

Knicks interviewing Jason Kidd, making him 11th reported head-coaching candidate

New York Knicks, Jason Kidd

The New York Knicks have received permission from the Los Angeles Lakers to interview Jason Kidd for their head-coaching vacancy per Marc Stein of the New York Times.

Kidd is currently in his first season as an assistant with the Lakers on head coach Frank Vogel’s coaching staff.

Steve Popper of Newsday says that Kidd would have “interest” in coaching the Knicks. Popper also says that some teams see the former point guard as a “link” to Milwaukee Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo, a free agent after the 2020-21 NBA season.

Kidd rounded out his NBA career with the Knicks (the 2012-13 NBA season) and is a 2018 inductee into the Naismith Hall of Fame. Outside of the Knicks, he played for the New Jersey Nets, Phoenix Suns and Dallas Mavericks (twice).

Kidd was named the head coach of the Brooklyn Nets in 2013 and had a reported power struggle with management after the 2013-14 season, leading Kidd to be traded to the Bucks. He coached the Bucks for three and a half seasons. Kidd was fired during the 2017-18 season and didn’t coach in the NBA the ensuing season.

Kidd is the 11th reported candidate for the Knicks’ head-coaching position. The others are interim head coach Mike Miller, former Minnesota Timberwolves head coach Tom Thibodeau, former Brooklyn Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson, former Knicks head coach Mike Woodson, Philadelphia 76ers assistant Ime Udoka, Orlando Magic assistant Pat Delany, Chicago Bulls assistant Chris Fleming, San Antonio Spurs assistant Will Hardy, Dallas Mavericks assistant Jamahl Mosley and Golden State Warriors assistant Mike Brown.

The Knicks fired head coach David Fizdale in December 2019 and promoted Mike Miller. President Steve Mills was fired in February and replaced by former agent Leon Rose.

Thibodeau, a former CAA client under Rose, has been considered the favorite for the job. The former Timberwolves and Chicago Bulls head coach was an assistant for the Knicks from 1996-2003. According to SNY‘s Ian Begley, Atkinson has “legitimate internal support within the organization” to get the job.

Eli Manning wins the Pro Football Writers of America’s Good Guy Award

Eli Manning, New York Giants

It has been a wonderful week for newly retired New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning. After receiving news that he would be having his college jersey retired at Ole Miss, his alma mater, it was announced on Tuesday that Manning would be recognized as the 16th recipient of the Pro Football Writers of America’s Good Guy Award for his second-to-none professionalism and cooperation with the media throughout his sixteen-year career.

The Good Guy Award is an annual award that’s given to an NFL player who displays an admirable and top-notch relationship with the media, which can be a challenging thing to do. Manning has been repeatedly praised for his respectful behavior and kind attitude towards the New York/New Jersey media, which is widely considered to be arguably the toughest media market in sports. The fact that Manning was able to maintain his composure and class through the good moments and the bad for so long is truly remarkable.

There have been countless times when Manning has been portrayed negatively by the media, but not once did Manning ever fold or succumb to the headlines. He always managed to remain a class act and answer every last question reporters asked him, no matter how difficult the question may have been. Manning joins Tiki Barber, who won the award in 2006, as the second Giant to earn this achievement.

PFWA President and Newsday NFL columnist Bob Glauber, who covered Manning over the course of his entire career, had this to say about the Giants legend: “Eli Manning exemplified professionalism with the media since his rookie season in 2004, and he did so in the league’s largest market. Eli often spoke of the example set by his father, and being around Archie Manning was certainly a great way to learn about being around the media. Even so, playing in New York has unique pressures that Eli dealt with consistently and fairly. Media sessions at his locker would often start with as many as 50 reporters, photographers and camera operators, but he answered every last question – even when only one reporter was left. A pro’s pro.”

If there was one athlete, no matter the sport, who you should model your relationship with the media after, regardless of where you play, it’s without question, Eli Manning. He was the definition of a pro’s pro and a class act in the world’s toughest market for nearly two decades, and Manning will forever be remembered for it just as much as he’ll be remembered for his many achievements on the field.

New York Giants: Julian Love talks offseason, how he wants to be a ‘factor’

New York Giants, Julian Love

Like the rest of the NFL, the New York Giants are in the midst of a virtual offseason due to the COVID-19 pandemic. That said, defensive back Julian Love feels the offseason is going well.

In an appearance on the “Giants Huddle” podcast, Love said the Giants have worked trivia about their teammates and the New Jersey area into the mix.

“There’s an importance on getting to know the area because we’re the New York Giants and we encompass a lot of demographics, a lot of people, a lot of areas geographically as well,” Love said. “So part of it could be know the New Jersey area, know different areas of New York in trivia and geographic ways, and then there is get to know your teammates. It could be where somebody is from, what high school they went to, their picture and name this person – coaches as well. Everybody is involved into who could pop up on the trivia. So that’s a conversation starter with that person going forward. You learn such interesting [backstories] on people. I think you learn more doing that than you do in person with each other in a way.”

“That implementation has been awesome. I really enjoyed each day hopping online to meet with people and meet with teammates and to see what the new challenge is for that day. Communication has been flowing, very fluid and open. I think that’s important right now to build that camaraderie, which we’re not able to because we’re not in the facility together.”

Love feels he has been able to grasp new defensive coordinator Patrick Graham’s playbook.

“It’s tough at first, but they’ve done a great job setting up film, setting up meetings, certain PowerPoints,” Love said. “Some coaches might step back in the camera and demonstrate something, which is kind of funny. But I think it’s gone well. None of us can control what is happening right now and why we’re in this virtual setting, but all we can do is our very best to learn as much as possible in this setting. And I think we’ve done a great job so far. Everything is very easy, they put it in front of you, a lot of guys are asking a lot of questions, and I think that’s a start of building something great.”

Love finds that applying pressure is pivotal to one’s growth.

“I like to say I’m always confident in my abilities and learning playbooks and being intelligent, just learning to grow – and I am,” Love said. “I’m excited for all that, but then you’ve got to have that element of pressure behind you to be able to grow and get better. I think that’s kind of what I’ve always done every year of football no matter what level I’m at, no matter what I accomplished the year before. You’ve got to feel that element of pressure in order to grow.”

Love expresses how he wants to be a “factor” for the Giants.

“I want to just be a factor,” Love said. “I want to contribute in a positive way and do whatever I have to do to do that. Last year – I don’t want to talk about last year too much – but I tried to be there in any way I could [by] knowing the playbook, knowing different things I could do to see the field and just try to help. And it’s not for, ‘Oh, I want to play, I want to play.’ No, I want to help. I want to build on this. So my personal goal is just to be ready for that.”

The Giants selected Love with the 108th pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. He was inserted into the starting lineup when safety Jabrill Peppers suffered an injury in a Week 12 matchup against the Chicago Bears. Love started five games, totaling 37 combined tackles, five tackles for loss and one interception.

New York Yankees: With the shortened season, J.A. Happ will not return in 2021

New York Yankees, J.A. Happ

The great news for New York Yankees fans is that baseball is coming back. Commissioner, Rob Manfred, is implementing a 60 game season that is expected to begin in late July. After all of the back and forth between the union and the owners, we are finally going to see some baseball. The season is going to be very interesting given the limit in games. I started thinking about the Yankees roster, specifically the starting rotation. One name caught my attention. The name that caught my attention was the name of the player that I wrote in my first article about for Empire Sports saying this man was inevitably going to be traded. That man would be starting pitcher, J.A. Happ.

The Yankees Vesting Mistake

So why did Happ’s name get my attention? Well the Yankees shopped Happ around in the winter after his horrendous 2019 season that saw him go 12-8 with a 4.91. If you take out his September which was actually really good, his numbers looked far worse. The Yankees signed Happ to a two-year deal worth $34 million in the 2018 offseason. Happ was a hot commodity and to sweeten the pot to secure the deal, the Yankees added in a vesting option for Happ. If he pitched over 160 innings during the 2020 season, Happ would automatically get a third year worth $17 million. Obviously, the Yankees regretted giving Happ this deal.

No innings, No 2021 pinstripes for J.A. Happ

I thought the Yankees would try to manipulate the innings somehow to prevent Happ from reaching his innings milestone. Given the amount of money the Yankees gave Gerrit Cole, and considering that they’re going to have others to pay, you had to think the Yankees were desperate to shed that contract. Well, now the Yankees don’t have to worry about it. With a 60 game season, there is going to be no way for Happ to hit his innings in 2020. With that in mind, the Yankees will let Happ walk after this year. The Yankees have plenty of options to fill his spot in the rotation, a spot that wasn’t even guaranteed going into this year. When the season starts, I hope that we see the Happ that we saw near the end of last season. If we see that guy, he will leave a good taste in the mouths of Yankee fans everywhere. Given the young talent the Yankees have, and their rotation depth, once the 2020 season is over, it’s time to say goodbye to ole J.A. Happ.

MLB: Players gave up millions for the right to sue; will it work?

On Monday evening, the MLB Players Association (MLBPA) voted to reject the latest owners’ offer of 60 games and full prorated salary, a guaranteed $25 million in playoff pools in 2020, $33 million in forgiven salary advances that would increase the take home pay of 61% of Major League players, and the universal DH for two years.

They turned that down to retain the right to sue MLB owners for not acting in “good faith” during negotiations. And they may have a case.

MLB Network Jon Heyman said the MLBPA believes it can win $900,000 to $1 billion in an unfair labor practice grievance against owners, who have been accused of “stalling to assure a shorter return-to-play season.”

However, former MLB player and current MLB Network host Harold Reynolds thinks that the players won’t win a hypothetical grievance.

“The grievance, they’re going to lose. That’s just the way I see it,” he said, on the basis of the fact that players demanded full prorated salaries and eventually were offered that last week.

“Any judge is going to say (Manfred) acted in good faith,” Reynolds predicted in his analysis. “He met you where you wanted to be met at. I think you’re talking about filing a grievance on something that’s very dicey.”

What will MLB players do?

And the fact that Commissioner Rob Manfred mandated a 60-game season may work in the owners’ favor.

“I think that they feel they have a chance with the grievance,” Heyman said on MLB Tonight. “I’m not a lawyer. I’m not sure that they do. We only have time for 60 games. But I hear that the union believes the grievance is up to $1 billion. Thirty-five (more) games or so would be $900,000. They feel it was perhaps stalled by 35 games. I’m not sure that the likelihood that they win that grievance.”

The season is expected to begin on July 24, with players reporting to camp on July 1st. That is if players approve health and safety protocols.

New York Giants: Does Evan Engram has Pro-Bowl potential in 2020?

New York Giants, Evan Engram

Staying healthy in the NFL is a tough challenge, even when you’re not on the field. Philadelphia Eagles star guard Brandon Brooks recently suffered a torn ACL prior to the beginning of training camp or any regulated football activities. For the New York Giants, injuries have plagued them in the receiver corps and at tight end in recent years.

The New York Giants need to find a way to keep their top tight end healthy:

Former first-round pick Evan Engram has been at the forefront of injury, suffering a sprained foot in 2019 that required surgery and forced him to miss half the year. It took him months to get out of a walking boot and off crutches, but reports have indicated he is making good progress and should be available for the 2020 season. The significant factor regarding Evan is health, as he’s one of the better pass-catching tight ends in the NFL.

Engram is a remarkably athletic and speedy player, which makes him a dangerous threat in the passing game. He can be Daniel Jones’s top security blanket, but he hasn’t been able to stay on the field over the past two seasons. As a rookie in 2017, he played in 15 games and 11 starts. After Odell Beckham Jr. went down, he posted 722 yards and six touchdowns on 64 receptions. He earned a spot on the Pro Football Writers Association’s All-Rookie Team, but since then, things have only spiraled downward.

SINow’s Conor Orr believes Engram has the potential to be a Pro Bowl-caliber player in 2020:

As Orr writes, “An infusion of two minds that value the tight end position significantly, Joe Judge and Jason Garrett, could be a major boon for Engram. He has been on torrid stretches before in his career and still might be one of the more athletically unique players in the conference. Extending his 2019 numbers out to a full season shows a player who does not drop a ton of passes (three in half a season) and gets a decent amount of yardage after the catch. Last year, Engram seemed to be settling into a role where he was comfortable catching more medium-range passes as opposed to mostly intermediate range balls.”

There is no question that Engram can have a fantastic season in 2020, but again, his production heavily relies on staying active and healthy. Engram plays his best football on mesh and streak routes, and we can expect Jason Garrett to utilize heavy 12 personnel sets. This should give him the freedom to utilize his speed in unpredictable ways, as Levine Toilolo and Kaden Smith will also be active in keeping defenses honest.