Did Yankees’ Aaron Boone deserve manager of the year in 2019?

New York Yankees, Aaron Boone

Yankees’ Aaron Boone was outvoted by Twins manager Rocco Baldelli to win Manager of the Year in 2019. Baldelli led his team to a 101-61 record while Boone and the Yankees finished 103-59 in 2019. But did Baldelli deserve it?

Before the season, nobody thought the Twins would be a 100-win team. They seemed to have a lot of chemistry. Minnesota surprised the whole league by outlasting the Indians and taking control of the AL Central. They set the record for most home runs as a team in a single season, beating the Yankees’ previous record. But, they never had to deal with injury problems. For most of the year, Baldelli got to sit back and create lineups with the same players every night. 

Unlike the Twins, the Yankees were expected to go far into October and fight for a chance at a championship. But, they were hit with a plethora of injuries along the way. Aaron Boone had to deal with 30 Yankees being put on the IL list including 8 players that suffered season-ending injuries. It seemed like every day last season, someone was making their major league debut. Aaron Boone had to preach his next man up mentality every week because of new players in the Bronx. Despite all of that, the Yankees finished with a 103-59 record and won the AL East. With that, Aaron Boone became the first manager in baseball history to have back-to-back 100 win seasons in his first two seasons as a manager. 

Aaron Boone and the Yankees dealt with adversity throughout the season and still exceeded expectations along the way. Don’t get me wrong, the Twins had a very impressive season. But, Aaron Boone dealt with something that coaches rarely do. To not honor him as the manager of the year after all that,  I thought it was unacceptable. 

All of those new players having the success that they did, was not a mistake. Aaron Boone and the rest of his staff did a great job at saving the season and now have nothing to show for it.

New York Liberty: Walt Hopkins speaks after first day of practice

From the courts at IMG Academy, New York Liberty head coach Walt Hopkins and two of his proteges spoke after the first day of workouts.

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Back in the lab #LibertyLoud🗽

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Most New Yorkers abscond to Florida to relax, maybe even retire. The New York Liberty are doing the exact opposite.

Two weeks from Saturday, the WNBA will commence its 24th season of operation at IMG Academy in Bradenton. By the end of this weekend, each of the league’s dozen teams will have made the trip south and the Liberty officially got things rolling with their first organized workouts.

Hopkins spoke with the media afterward, enthused by the first on-court happenings. Counting Hopkins himself, the Liberty feature seven rookies on their roster, not counting ninth overall pick Megan Walker (who has not reported to Florida after testing positive for COVID-19). That group is headlined by top overall selection and queen of the NCAA triple-double Sabrina Ionescu. If videos shared by the Liberty’s official accounts are any indication, it appears that Ionescu is already forming a rapport with All-Star teammate Kia Nurse.

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@kianurse x @sabrina_i, get used to it 💥🗽

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Day 1 done. 🎤 🔥

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“It was a really good first day,” Hopkins remarked in a Zoom teleconference. “Having young legs, having people who aren’t used to what the WNBA normally looks like, this is an experience for them no matter where we’re playing or what the conditions are. It’s been nice. The energy has just been so positive and the older players on the team have really been good in terms of bringing them along and really being supportive. We have a great group.”

Hopkins takes over the Liberty duties after three seasons as an assistant with the Minnesota Lynx (ironically, former Liberty head coach and Naismith Memorial Hall of Famer Katie Smith took Hopkins’ seat on the Lynx bench). He hails from Brooklyn, where the Liberty were set to christen Barclays Center as their new home arena before the pandemic forced the league to form the bubble at IMG.

Save for losing his voice in crowded surroundings, as the Liberty’s competition is likewise preparing, Hopkins is pleased with what he’s seen in the so-called “Wubble”.

“It could be a consequence of having more than half the team be rookies, but they don’t look like rookies,” Hopkins said. “They don’t like scared or have the blank look on their face when you’re trying to explain an action or they don’t understand terminology. I think (thanks to) the lead-up that we had, discussions with our quarterback club and Zoom meetings, and things like that, the familiarity with what we’re doing has been really high. We’ve been able to dive right in.”

The feeling was mutual amongst Hopkins’ freshest newcomer, Joyner Holmes. A Texas alumna, Holmes was added to the team after reserve forward Rebecca Allen opted out of the 2020 proceedings.

Holmes explained that Hopkins and his rapid approach to the game was one of the biggest things that attracted her to New York. She was originally chosen in the second round of April’s draft by Seattle (19th overall) but was let go in the first series of roster cuts to ensure players would receive their full salaries.

“The coaching staff, for me, was a really big plus,” Holmes said. “I like Walt a lot. He’s really free-range and willing to let us do whatever, try to follow his system. That was a really big target for me.”

“I wouldn’t say I’m surprised by Joyner’s skillset because she got to show it off a bit at Texas,” Hopkins added. “She’s really skilled. She really does have guard skills for her size (6’3), she can play multiple positions, guard multiple positions. She’s an eager learner, has totally bought in and responded to anything we’ve needed. We’re really excited about her.”

Along for the ride is a select handful of veterans, including center/forward Kiah Stokes. Things are just a little bit different since Stokes last wore the Liberty’s brand of seafoam green. Stokes is returning to WNBA action after taking a year off from New York exploits for personal reasons. Having last donned the Liberty colors in 2018, Stokes will be joined by only two comrades from that squad. She’s particularly close to both, as she’ll be reuniting with Nurse, a fellow champion from the University of Connecticut. Stokes will also be manning the interior with center/forward Amanda Zahui B.

The all-time leading blocker in WNBA history only turned 27 in March but is the second-oldest member of the modern Liberty behind free agent addition Layshia Clarendon (29). Stokes said she will be embracing her role as a new team leader.

“I’m looking forward to it. Me, Zahui, and Kia kind of joke about it, we’re the vets now, though we’re pretty young,” Stokes said with a smile. “It’s crazy to think how much our team has changed already. But I’m really looking forward to it. I think it will help push me to become a better player, a better leader.”

Along with Clarendon, Stokes is also a rare member of the Liberty who has experienced the joy of the WNBA Playoffs. In her rookie campaign of 2015, Stokes was the heroine of an Eastern semifinal, win-or-go-home matchup with Washington, sinking the layup that put the Liberty ahead for good and blocking the Mystics’ attempt at tying the game on their final possession.

“I think this is going to be a fresh start. When I came into the league, we were pretty good and then we kind of had a falling off. But I think this is just a brand new start. We have the opportunity to make a statement. Such a young team can grow together, build together and I think that if we all just buy in and work really hard, we can become something really, really special.”

The WNBA season is scheduled to open on July 25.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Giants: Replacement Options For DeAndre Baker

New York Giants, Julian Love, DeAndre Baker, Julian Love

The New York Giants are once again in the news for the wrong reasons. Second-year cornerback DeAndre Baker has been dealing with quite a bit of legal trouble this offseason that has been made very public news. In May, Baker was accused of armed robbery. Since then, the little bits of news and updates on Baker’s legal situation have been mostly positive. Information was even brought to light that indicated Baker was innocent.

Those who accused Baker of these crimes eventually recanted their statements. But now, according to a report by Pat Leonard, a search warrant obtained exclusively by the NY Daily News seems to indicate that Baker had a payoff cover-up that further implicates him in the crime.

After the warrant by the NY Daily News was made public, reports stated that the Giants are expected to cut DeAndre Baker. Without DeAndre Baker on the Giants’ roster, there is a major hole at the Giants’ second outside cornerback position. Who could fill that role for the Giants on short notice in 2020?

Logan Ryan

Logan Ryan is a veteran slot cornerback who had a statistically incredible 2019 season as a member of the Tennessee Titans. As a cornerback, Ryan totaled an insane 113 combined tackles last season. Ryan was also a tremendous playmaker, forcing a career-high 4 fumbles, racking up another career-high 14 passes defended while also adding 4 interceptions.

Ryan has been in the NFL for seven seasons. He spent his first four years in New England before signing with the Tennessee Titans in 2017. Over the years, Logan Ryan has been one of the most consistent nickel cornerbacks in the NFL, but he is also capable of playing on the outside.

According to Pro Football Focus, “Ryan is by no means an elite slot corner — in fact, he surrendered over 1,000 yards in coverage in 2019 and was constantly picked on.” The former Titans corner might be past his prime, but PFF concedes he is “still an average player at the position — he was the 48th most valuable corner in 2019.”

Acquiring Logan Ryan’s talents would not come cheap, though. The cornerback reportedly “is not willing to accept less than $10 million annually.” The Giants might not have the cap space available to comfortably sign Ryan at the moment, however, if the team does decide to cut DeAndre Baker, Logan Ryan’s contract will become much more affordable.

Sam Beal

The Giants had high hopes when they selected Sam Beal in the third round of the 2018 Supplemental Draft. So far, he has not exactly lived up to expectations. Injuries held Beal back in his first two seasons, but he was not overly impressive when he found the field.

Sam Beal played in 6 games and started 3 games in 2019. In those games, Beal allowed a 76.2% completion percentage when targeted. He allowed opposing receivers to gain 171 yards and 1 touchdown. Opposing quarterbacks recorded a passer rating of 115.4 against Sam Beal. If Beal is going to replace DeAndre Baker, the Giants will need him to improve his performance significantly.

Julian Love

Julian Love started five games at safety for the Giants in 2019. He was expected to continue in a rotational safety role in 2020, but expectations have been subverted by DeAndre Baker’s incident. This makes Julian Love a potential option at outside cornerback.

Julian Love played safety as a rookie in the NFL, but he played cornerback in college. At that position, Love recorded 32 pass breakups and 4 interceptions over his last two years at Notre Dame.

“Pure and simple, Love is a cover guy who possesses the feet, hips, instincts and competitiveness you want in a corner.” – NFL.com analyst Lance Zierelein

New York Yankees’ Aaron Judge removed from lineup with injury

New York Yankees, Aaron Judge

The New York Yankees hosted a third intrasquad exhibition game on Saturday night. With J.A. Happ on the mound, he allowed a run-scoring double from Gary Sanchez in the first inning, but the bigger news was the absence of Aaron Judge.

Judge, who is returning from a stress fracture in a rib, was removed from the lineup due to a stiff neck. Hopefully, this injury does not affect him long-term and he can pick up where he left off in the next few days. He had made significant progress batting and taking fielding reps the past two weeks, but injuries continue to plague his young career.

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The Yankees desperately need their star slugger to remain healthy for a condensed 2020 season. His offensive abilities and defensive prowess make him an essential piece to the lineup. Losing him would be a significant blow, but luckily the injury does not seem serious and a bit of rest should do the trick.

New York Jets Who Could Be Two Sport Stars: Le’Veon Bell

New York Jets, LeVeon Bell

LeVeon Bell joined the New York Jets prior to last season on a four-year, $52.5 million deal. Rumors have swirled about what his future may look like in the Green and White, however, heading into next season he is a Jet.

The former All-Pro back will have a much-improved line blocking for him next season and looks to recreate some of his old magic from Pittsburgh. With that said, what if there was no magic in Pittsburgh, or what if Bell wasn’t a football player. What if Bell was a high jumper instead.

Le’Veon Bell: High Jumper

Bell was an All Ohio Capital Conference First Team running back his senior year. Despite having over 1,300 yards and 21 TDs, he was still a two-star recruit out of high school. Despite that, Bell eventually found a home at Michigan State, where he tore it up for the Spartans.

Bell still played other sports in high school and did very well. At 6-foot-1 and 225 lbs, Bell was a very good basketball player. Bell’s stats were unavailable, but he was a second-team All Ohio Capital Conference member for his senior season.

So you may think, why didn’t I say Bell should play basketball? Well, because his size and stature would be a poor fit in basketball, and his stats were unavailable for the sake of this piece. With that said, high jumping was where Bell really impressed.

He was recognized as one of the best high jumpers in all of Ohio. His best was 2.03 meters, which is incredibly impressive. The athleticism and hops he had and further developed in basketball, paired with the lateral quickness he has developed throughout his football career, would make for the makeup of a scary good jumper.

Matched with the level of skill you have to have to succeed in one of the best athlete breeding states in Ohio, that shows how much potential was truly there with his high jumping abilities. Although Bell is an incredible back with a distinguished resume, what if he held out entirely and went out for the Olympics in 2018, or better yet, what if Bell was a high jumper out of high school rather than chasing his dreams of football? Would we be talking about Lev Bell, the olympian instead?

New York Mets: Cespedes Opening Day Ready, Cano and Brach Still Out

New York Mets, Robinson Cano

We are just one week away from the New York Mets, taking the field for their first exhibition game of summer camp. The Mets are extremely encouraged with the progress of Yoenis Cespedes, but the absence of Robinson Cano and Brad Brach are growing issues for the team.

Cespedes has drawn high praise throughout summer camp, and players compared him to being on the same level he was on in 2015. He proclaimed that he will be ready for Opening Day and will be 100% the Cespedes everyone hopes he can be.

Cespedes has not played in two years but is smashing the ball during intrasquad games at Citi Field. Ideally, Cespedes plays left field more than designated hitter because over his arm and gold glove ability. With his injury history, the Mets will handle Cespedes carefully throughout the 60-game stretch. Not only is he playing for 2020, but the 34-year old is playing to earn a lucrative deal in the offseason.

Cano and Brach Missing in Action

The absence of Robinson Cano and Brad Brach are lingering problems that grow worse for the Mets each day. Neither has attended any workouts and as usual, under the Brodie Van Wagenen regime, their reasons for absence are a secret. We will not hear the reason either until the players themselves release it due to the organization’s policy during this COVID-19 shortened season.

The Mets did have one player test positive before summer camp, but they never confirmed the player. Cano was present during the first couple of days but is a mystery man now. The high priced veteran is the everyday second baseman. Brach has not been present at any workouts, but the Mets hope to see both of them soon.

Sean O’Malley-Marlon Vera targeted for UFC 252

The “Suga” Show is returning to the UFC APEX. Per MMA Junkie, the UFC is booking Sean O’Malley (12-0) and Marlon Vera (15-6-1) for the main card of UFC 252.

The Suga Show is on his way to UFC stardom

O’Malley has been on fire since returning this year after a two year layoff due to some USADA issues. The charismatic bantamweight has two first round knockouts, the latest coming at UFC 250 against Eddie Wineland. O’Malley has a ton of hype behind him and he’s one of the UFC‘s potential superstars.

“Chito” Vera was on a five fight winning streak leading into his fight with Song Yadong back in May. The fight was razor close, but the judges gave the fight to Song. Many people believe that Vera won the fight. After O’Malley’s knockout of Wineland at UFC 250, he said that he would be interested in fighting Vera next. The two men have had some back and forth, and now it looks like were going to get to see them fight.

This is going to be a fascinating fight for both men. No disrespect to any of his previous opponents, but UFC 252 is going to be Suga’s toughest test to date. Both men are in about the same position inside the UFC‘s rankings. A win for O’Malley could vault him into the top ten in the UFC‘s bantamweight division. If O’Malley looks like he did in his last couple of fights, we could be talking about O’Malley’s title shot next July.

Bubba Wallace Is Becoming The Tiger Woods of NASCAR

Racial integration is something that has been a fixture in our nation’s history for the longest time. In terms of sports, it was not easy. Barriers had to be broken down for African Americans to earn the opportunity to compete at the highest level in their respective sports.

Now, as the national climate changes, a traditionally caucasian dominated sport has found it’s newest star in trailblazer, Bubba Wallace.

Tiger Woods was a star golfer from a young age. From putting against Bob Hope on the Mike Douglas Show, his stardom has only blossomed. Yes, there have been many bumps in the road with injuries and controversy, but Tiger has done something that Bubba has begun to emulate.

Breaking into a white-dominated sport and having success. Tiger was able to do it and do it in a big way by becoming one of the best to ever do it.

Bubba has yet to win a race yet, but whilst driving the number 43 machine for the king, Richard Petty, he has had success. With a handful of top tens in the cup series, Bubba has continued to develop as a racer.

Although he hasn’t had substantial on-track success, off the track he has brought in a new fan base to the sport. African Americans are seeing Bubba as an inspiration and hopefully will flock to racing.

Right now, Bubba is not on the Tiger Woods level of success in terms of accomplishments. However, he could be soon. The notoriety Bubba has gained has made him a household name in mainstream media. He’s dominating the All-Star fan vote and becoming a serious merchandise seller. This revenue could lead some more successful teams with top tier machines to give Bubba a shot.

A team like Hendrick Motorsports could tap Bubba to replace Jimmie Johnson, in what would be a huge move. Or, even another top team like Stewart Haas or Chip Ganassi Racing could give him a shot. Despite significant on track success, Bubba is making a huge impact. Bubba is helping NASCAR make great strides in their continued mission to preach diversity and inclusion in racing as they truly modernize and adapt to society.

NASCAR sends memo to teams about mask use and coronavirus exposure

This week, NASCAR sent a memo to teams about crew members not fully following coronavirus protocols. Several team members have been caught not wearing masks properly or at all, and some may have lied about coronavirus exposure.

This comes as coronavirus cases rise down south and out west. A lot of the locations with the rising cases are places where NASCAR is expected to host events in the near future.

Additionally, this is after Jimmie Johnson became the first driver to test positive for the virus. He got it from his wife who was having mild symptoms. After a short quarantine period, he tested negative twice and was cleared to return to racing. He missed just once race.

Although NASCAR won’t release how many tests have came back positive throughout the sport, it’s presumed that the number is rising. If team members weren’t following guidelines and numbers weren’t going up, then I doubt NASCAR sends out the memo. Policies haven’t been enforced very strictly, but that could change for the coming events.

Here’s the memo below:

The memo seems to be a warning to the teams, and a strong reminder about the impact that coronavirus can have. Coronavirus shut down the sport before, and it could do it again if the situation in the sport worsens.

Hopefully, NASCAR won’t see many more coronavirus cases and teams will effectively be warned from the memo. Ratings have been improved since the return in May, and staying in business would be great for the sport. The playoffs are nearing and the intensity is rising, with a lot of racing ahead. It would be a shame if NASCAR got shut down again.

Yankees’ closer Aroldis Chapman tests positive for COVID-19

New York Yankees, Aroldis Chapman

Yankees’ manager Aaron Boone has told reporters that LHP Aroldis Chapman has tested positive for COVID-19. Boone says that Chapman is showing mild symptoms and is doing well. 

So what does this mean for the Yankees?

Well, Aaron Boone said that “(Zack Britton) naturally could fill the (closer) role” and that “Britt would be a natural guy (to close games) if Chappy is not able to go.”

Zack Britton had experience as a closer in Baltimore which is why he would be the go-to to replace Chapman. The season starts in less than two weeks and seems unlikely that Chapman will have enough time to get better.

He needs to test negative twice in order to be cleared and it doesn’t seem like the timetable is in his favor right. Chapman reported to Summer Camp last week and if he had it at any point last week, chances are he’s not the only one that might not be ready for the season

Chapman was an all-star and finished the season with a 2.21 ERA in 2019. This is definitely a big blow for the Yankees as we approach Opening Day.

Updates will be posted as more information comes out.