Former New York Yankees manager Joe Torre is still “nervous” about COVID-19 pandemic

New York Yankees, Joe Torre

Joe Torre is part of a rich tradition of winning managers of the New York Yankees‘ franchise. After all, he was the leader of the late-90s dynasty that won four World Series in 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2000.

That’s why his voice is, and should always be, important to the Yankees community. This time, he raised it to let people know he’s concerned about public safety because of the coronavirus pandemic that is not only ongoing, but is starting to grow in cases, once again.

“I’m nervous and I’m nervous based on just the pandemic,” Torre said in a telephone interview with Newsday. “Any baseball we can have is a bonus for us, but it’s a time we’ve never dealt with .. and we have no idea when it’s going to end. I look forward to this baseball season, but it’s with a ‘I hope everybody’s going to be okay’ [mindset]. … Baseball will survive. Baseball will find a way to be flexible enough to still be there for people. I just hope when we’re able to play we’re seeing the game the way it was meant to be played.”

The Yankees will open the season in Washington

The league will begin its season on July 23 with an attractive duel featuring the current World Series champions, the Washington Nationals, facing the New York Yankees in the nation’s capital city.

Regarding the place in history of the team that ends up winning it all in 2020, Torre believes that “people may look back on it and say somebody stole one. But I don’t think anybody’s going to judge it ‘til they look back on the season and possibly think it should have an asterisk. One thing about our game is that when you played 154 (games) or 162 (games), the best teams got to the postseason. … But it’s going to be a real postseason with tough games you have to win – if and when we get started.”

New York Mets: Sports stars join “J-Rod” bid to buy the team

New York Knicks, Marcus Morris

The race to buy the New York Mets from the Wilpons is on. Former baseball star Alex Rodriguez and his fiancée, successful singer, actress and entrepreneur Jennifer Lopez, are leading a group of investors that just got bigger.

The famous pair has managed to recruit a star-studded cast of investors in their bid to acquire the Mets. It looks like this, according to Vaughn McClure of ESPN:

  • Former NFL linebacker Brian Urlacher
  • Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce
  • Three-time Pro Bowl running back DeMarco Murray
  • Former NFL offensive lineman Joe Thomas
  • Current Washington Wizards shooting guard Bradley Beal
  • Current Denver Nuggets center Mason Plumlee

The day set by the managing firm for interested parties to submit their bids was July 9. A-Rod and J-Lo’s group made an initial bid of close to $2 billion, significantly more than the $1.7 billion that was initially reported.

Reports indicate that “J-Rod’s” bid is very competitive and close to what billionaire hedge funder Steve Cohen offered this time around.

Cohen still interested in buying the Mets

It is important to remember that Cohen was very close to acquiring the New York Mets before the transaction fell through back in February. Back then, the franchise was valued at $2.6 billion.

Indications are that the Wilpon family would prefer to sell to Rodriguez and Lopez’s group if the bids are close enough.

“Being a former athlete and having a chance to be a part of a group trying to purchase a professional team, it’s pretty cool,” Urlacher said on Monday. “It’s especially cool to be involved with Alex. Alex is the man. You’ve got Kelce, Joe Thomas, DeMarco Murray. It’s great to be in a group with them.”

For now, the Mets are currently preparing their season while hosting training camp at Citi Field. They will play against eastern foes, meaning that they will face the New York Yankees, Tampa Bay Rays, Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox and Toronto Blue Jays in addition to their regular rivals: Atlanta Braves, Miami Marlins, Philadelphia Phillies and Washington Nationals.

New York Yankees Player Profiles: What can Luke Voit offer the Yankees this season?

New York Yankees, Luke Voit

Luke Voit is a 29-year-old first baseman for the New York Yankees. Luke has had a relatively unremarkable baseball career, but how he got to the Yankees and what he has done while here, is an interesting story.

Luke was born in Wildwood, Missouri, and attended Lafayette High School there. In high school, he played football as a fullback and middle linebacker. He also played baseball where he got a lot of experience. In his first three years, he played first base and third base. Interestingly in his senior year he played catcher. Shoulder injuries while in high school ended any career he may have had in football.

After his senior year at Lafayette, he was selected in the 22nd round of the
2013 MLB Draft by the St. Louis Cards. He made his professional debut with the State College Spikes of class A, New York/Penn League. That year he batted .242 with 2 home runs and 16 RBI’s in 46 games played.

Throughout his minor league career, he was always on the edge of being good. In June of 2017, the Cards promoted him to the bigs. In July of 2017, In his very first at-bat, he was plunked in the back. After 114 at-bats he hit his first home run. He ended the season with a batting average of .246 with four home runs and 18 RBI’s, still unremarkable but good enough to be used in a trade by the Cards to get players they needed.

In July of 2018, the Cards traded Luke Voit to the New York Yankees along with bonus pool money so they could get pitcher Chasen Shrive and Giovanny Gallegos. The Yanks assigned him to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. The Yanks swiftly promoted him to the majors, in part to play first, in the absence of Greg Bird, but after batting .188 in five games they demoted him back to Scranton. After playing better in the minors and with the injury to Didi Gregorius he was again called up to the Stadium. This time something happened, he seemed to embrace the limelight and energy of New York.

Playing for Greg Bird, he soon had hit ten home runs, and after hitting .458, he was named MLB player of the week on October 1st. He ended the season hitting .333 with 14 home runs and 33 RBI’s in just 39 games. In the 2018 Wild Card game, he hit a two-run triple to help the Yankees win 7-2. That triple seemed to have given Luke a place as a Yankee favorite.

During spring training last year, he with Bird back playing, was in a competition for playing first base when the season started. Since then with Bird back on the IL, and his play at 1st, and better hitting than Bird, it was almost solidified that he will be our 1st baseman. On April 29, 2019, he
was named AL Player of the Week hitting .433 with 13 hits, 4 home runs, and 10 RBI’s in the previous week. It appeared that found his place with the Yankees and the Yankee fans.

However, Voit didn’t escape the injury plague that hit the team in 2019. An abdominal injury right around the London series sidelined him, and continued to be problematic upon Voit’s return, and eventually required surgery once the Yankees were eliminated from the playoffs. Voit was dreadful after getting hurt, but I think his performance pre-injury gets overlooked easily. Voit in 2019 was out for two stints. That injury caused him to play in only 118 games.

Before his season was derailed he led the New York Yankees, he led the team in home runs and was having a better season than Miguel Torres or DJ LeMahieu. At the plate, he seldom wasted an at-bat. He doesn’t swing at bad pitches and only had one pop up in the first half of the season.

Luke Voit should be the 1st base starter for the Yankees. Voit is just too good as a hitter to be relegated to being a part-time player.  Even in a short season, Mike Ford will be used at first to rest Voit. If Voit can remain healthy, which there is no reason to assume otherwise, and can start off 2020 as he did in 2019, he could equal all of last year in just 60 games.  You have to remember he was so bad in the second half that it dragged down his 2019 stats.

Giving the chance Voit has the potential of being an elite player for the New York Yankees despite his only adequate defense at first base.  Look for Voit to try and impress the Yankees and get as many at-bats as possible.

During the offseason along with staying in shape, Voit wrote a children’s book. “Luke’s Baseball Story.” It’s a book about his baseball life as a child and today.  Luke said the original intent was to take the book and read it to kids’ classes in the Bronx.  That plan fell through when the coronavirus pandemic made that impossible.  He remembered when he met a famous athlete as a kid, he was overwhelmed and wanted the kids to experience that, as he taught them about hard work to made their dreams come true.

Luke Voit, during August of last year, married his longtime sweetheart  Victoria Rigman.  They both attended the same school; Lafayette High School. Interestingly, Luke was on the baseball team, and Tori was a cheerleader for the school team. Luke has a younger brother John, who played defensive tackle with the Army Black Knights football team. Luke works out regularly and continues to challenge himself to be the best he can be.

Tennessee Titans Anthony Firkser Has a Caring Heart

During the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic most people became apprehensive of helping others due to a number of reasons whether it be a fear of contracting the virus or because some have fallen on hard times.  However, for Tennessee Titans tight end Anthony Firkser, he saw this as an opportune time to help those in need.

Firkser became involved in the charity Caring Hearts Ministries of Mexico after meeting his wonderful girlfriend Natalie Hennessy, who works extensively with them.  The couple dedicate their lives to ensuring that the lives of those less fortunate are given the same opportunities that everyone else has.

The power couple recently ran a virtual 5k to raise money for Caring Hearts Ministries, helped build shelves for a girls home and gave out food to those that need it most and cannot obtain groceries because of the pandemic.  They also work with Oasis Boys part of Caring Hearts Ministries, which helps house young boys who are either orphaned or their parents do not have the means to support them.  They set them up for a better life by providing them with the resources they need to have  a successful and productive life while also administering encouragement and guidance.  To sponsor one of these wonderful boys please visit their website https://www.caringheartsmexico.org/oasis-boys/ .  Another program that Caring Hearts Ministries does is the #FemininaFuerte campaign which ensures that all girls feel loved, beautiful and empowered by showering them with nourishment of the body, mind and soul.  To raise awareness and help these sweet, precious angels be sure to visit https://www.caringheartsmexico.org/girls-home/  The charity also works hard to extirpate food insecurity by providing sustenance and also clean water for those who cannot access it easily.  In addition they help those that are blind access opportunities to shine and advance their skills so that they can work.  For those suffering with addiction, which so devastatingly and severely effects families, they equip men with the ways and means to get better in every way and be the strong men their families need.    

Firkser says that now more than ever we need to help others because those that are already struggling are struggling even more, grappling with hunger and other instabilities.  He also says that helping others is rewarding and fulfilling for all parties involved because he was lucky to grow up fortunate so now that he is in the position to help others he has made it his goal to help ease and ultimately eradicate the issues and problems plaguing communities stricken with poverty, hunger and other hardships.

To help out and do your part visit https://www.caringheartsmexico.org/

The couple are truly angels, with pure hearts of gold, devoting their time to making the world a better place.  They are selfless, caring, generous and all-around wonderful people.  The world most certainly needs more magnanimous people like Anthony and Natalie now more than ever!

Did the Giants land a darkhorse defender in Dravon Askew-Henry?

New York Giants, Dravon Aksew-Henry

The New York Giants need all the help they can get in the secondary. After consecutive seasons of a shaky defensive backfield, the Giants finally went out and spent a high round draft pick on a free safety. Landing Xavier McKinney, in the second round of the 2020 NFL draft, should see positive returns.

McKinney will permanently replace Antoine Bethea, who struggled to lock down the deep half of the field. He was more efficient in stopping the run in a strong safety role. McKinney has excellent tackling fundamentals and elite game speed, making him a threat in every facet.

The Giants have a few other safeties that are looking to earn playing time or at least find a spot on the roster. One of them is Dravon Askew-Henry, formally a player on the New York Guardians. The XFL stand-out was signed by Big Blue to shore up the depth at safety.

Dravon Askew-Henry has the genetics

Interestingly, Henry is a cousin of former New York Jets All-Pro cornerback, Darrelle Revis. The former Guardian has spent time with the Jacksonville Jaguars and New England Patriots before landing in the XFL. He played under former Giants coach Kevin Gilbride.

The Pennsylvania native comes from a long lineage of NFL players, making him the next in line for success. The problem is, he has plenty of competition. Players like McKinney, Julian Love, and even Corey Ballentine, Darnay Holmes, and Chris Williamson represent alternatives at safety and cornerback.

Henry possesses the athletic ability but lacks the fundamentals and instinct to be a premium player in the NFL. Given his inability to stick on NFL teams in the past, history would tell us that he won’t amount to much. However, it is possible he could land a special teams gig and sneak his way onto the active roster.

Writing him off too early would be ignorant, and giving him the preseason and training camp to adapt to the Giants’ defense could surprise us. Scheme fits can often be detrimental to a player’s success or failure. With Patrick Graham bringing a heavy man coverage scheme to the Giants with frequent blitzing, Henry could find himself in a position to succeed and stick with an NFL team for the first time in his career.

Dana White: August events might have to move to Fight Island

UFC, Dana White

The UFC is getting ready to host their second event on Fight Island, but Dana White is concerned about the promotions return to the US.

With the ongoing pandemic, restrictions are starting to be enforced again in Las Vegas where the UFC APEX is located. When asked if he was concerned about the August events, White simply responded with, “Yes.”

Reporters at today’s media scrum followed up asking White about potential backup plans if the promotion was not able to host events at the APEX.

“My backup plan would be Fight Island. We might be living here. If Nevada shuts down and doesn’t allow us to have fights, I’m going to be spending a lot of time in Abu Dhabi,” White said.

UFC’s resilience is astonishing

On July 24th, Bellator will be hosting it’s first show since February. The UFC has been cranking out shows since the beginning of May. No matter what has come their way, the UFC has continued to figure things out.

If Nevada shuts down completely, this will just be another hurdle that the promotion has to overcome. However, they already have the infrastructure in place to make it happen. The UFC‘s partnership with Abu Dhabi is keeping the promotion going.

White has alluded to the fact that the UFC would have burned through US talent without Abu Dhabi. Since the launch of Fight Island, the UFC has a place they can host fighters from all over the globe.

The UFC was planning on making a return to Fight Island later in the year after the August events. However, they might be forced to stay put if the pandemic shuts down Nevada once again.

New York Yankees: Two players to watch during this season

New York Yankees, Clarke Schmidt

It’s finally happening. The New York Yankees will take the field in 2020 and be on the quest for ring number 28. Big players such as Gerrit Cole, Aaron Judge, Gleyber Torres, DJ LeMahieu, and Gary Sanchez. The Yankees already have a core group of guys that are the main reason for the team’s success, but there are some under the radar players that could have a dominant year this season.

Clark Schmidt

After just two seasons in the Minor Leagues and undergoing Tommy John surgery, Clark Schmidt has impressed many during his last two outings during the Yankee intrasquad games. Even though hitters aren’t 100% up to speed with pitchers yet, all of his pitches look MLB-ready. He commands his fastball very well and flashes a strong breaking ball.

YES Network broadcaster Michael Kay has extremely high expectations for Schmidt this season: “I’d go with Clarke Schmidt. So far, he’s shown me he can get outs in the big leagues. He’s got something to prove, he carries himself with a chip on his shoulder… and the guy looks like he has three to four big-league pitches… He has shown them a lot, not only in spring training but also in the intrasquad games here… I would give him that reward.”

I believe Schmidt will be called upon early in the season to allow the rotation an extra day of rest. He may also be utilized as an “opener,” the strategy that was used several times last season. He has proved so far that he can get outs against a power lineup so there should be no surprise if Schmidt gets quality innings this season.

Kyle Higashioka

Most people don’t know this, but Kyle Higashioka is the longest-tenured player in the Yankee organization on the roster Major League roster. The Yankees must love Higashioka’s game to keep him for so long, and it’s finally paying off this season. After letting Austin Romine walk to free agency this offseason, Higashioka will be the backup catcher for Gary Sanchez.

Higgy has only played 56 games in the Major Leagues but shows promising talent at the plate and especially behind the dish. “He’s earned this spot, this opportunity,” manager Aaron Boone said about Higashioka’s promotion. “He’s put himself in a really good position to be that guy and I have a lot of confidence in him.”

New York Yankees fans should look forward to watching Higashioka behind the plate when Sanchez has a night off. He’s proven to be an above-average defensive catcher that has a little pop in his swing.

The Yankees are taking an unnecessary risk with DJ LeMahieu

New York Yankees, DJ LeMahieu

The New York Yankees need to make the logical decision to DJ LeMahieu

DJ LeMahieu is the epitome of a New York Yankee. His professional approach and humble style represent the values George Steinbrenner put in place many years ago. The former Colorado Rockie entered the fold in 2019 when he won a Silver Slugger award and slashed .327/.375/.518 with 102 RBIs and 26 homers.

Even though he has played just one season in the MLB with the Yankees, he has become the heart and soul of a roster built on sluggers. The Yankees focus on the long ball, maximizing runners on base and putting plenty of runs on the board. His 26 homers in 2019 was a career-high and nine more than his previous record. His 102 RBIs nearly doubled his second-most, showing what type of player he is.

In a hitter-friendly park in Colorado, LeMahieu dominated. That made his transition to Yankee Stadium a bit more interesting. However, he picked up right where he left off and continued his impressive consistency.

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The Yanks need DJ’s clutchness

Last season, in the ALCS against the Houston Astros, with just one out remaining in the ninth-inning, LeMahieu stepped up to the plate. Playing away in a hostile environment, LeMahieu didn’t seem phased one bit by the immense pressure on his shoulders — the season was at stake. He slapped an opposite-field home run just over the wall, tying the two teams and giving the Yankees one final chance at recovery. While Aroldis Chapman allowed a walk-off home run to Jose Altuve moments later, LeMahieu’s heroics did not go unnoticed.

Aside from his incredible offensive capabilities, DJ’s defense is one of the best on the team. His significance as a utility player in the infield makes him invaluable, and the Yankees allowing him to play out the remainder of his contract without an extension is risky.

Extending LeMahieu is imperative after he signed a two-year, $24 million deal in 2019. At 32 years old, DJ is open to a new deal.

“Absolutely,” LeMahieu said regarding the end of his contract “I love it here.”

It is possible that Brian Cashman might give him a short term contract with a high payout per season, considering his age. However, offering him a longer deal in the 5-6 year range could be beneficial for the Yankees. A consistent defender and above-average hitter is useful. Just imagine what the infield would look like without him and you realize his value.

New York Knicks Amongst Others Are Keeping Tabs On Talented Draft Prospect Deni Avdija

New York Knicks, Deni Avdija

The New York Knicks are keeping tabs on many draft prospects. One prospect who some within the organization are high on is currently playing winning basketball overseas for the powerhouse Maccabi Tel Aviv team in the Israeli Basketball Premier League. Deni Avdija is wowing scouts with his feel for the game, his sudden improved shooting ability, and his overall savviness on both ends of the court. The 19-year old is looking like a seasoned veteran according to some.

Avdija is currently averaging 18.2 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 3.2 assists per game for Maccabi Tel Aviv in the Israeli Basketball Premier League. According to an Israeli NBA reporter by the name of Eran Soroka, who has been keeping a close eye on Deni Avdija, the young prospect is relishing the big stage. This kind of player would definitely relish Madison Square Garden.

The Israeli NBA reporter Eran Soroka also went on to describe Avdija’s play recently according to SB Nation.

Soroka: “He’s playing on the big stage. The EuroLeague is the second-best in the world. He played well at a younger age, like at the Under-19, and Under-21 tournaments, and led Israel —which had never won a championship— to two straight titles. He played dominant basketball, and was amazing on both sides of the court. He played above the level of the rest, and did it so graciously. He makes things looks easy. The way he dominated reminded people of Luka Doncic, now he’s not Luka Doncic, but he showed how good he can be. When Maccabi Tel Aviv started at the beginning of the season, they had Omri Casspi, and they had a full squad with [former NBA players] Quincy Acy, Tarik Black, but as the season progressed, a lot of players went down with injuries.
Once Caspi went down, Deni started to get his minutes because of all the injuries, and started to get a lot of playing time. When he got the playing time, he got the confidence, which is all he needed. Then, he started to perform at a very good level. He made some amazing plays in a game against one of the top teams in the EuroLeague. He had some big dunks, and an in-your-face 3-pointer after making some beautiful moves over Jan Vesely, who is one of the top two-or-three players in the EuroLeague.
This game was the coming out party, he proved to the people who weren’t sure that he was able to do it. He wasn’t a dominant player, for me he’s like a Joe Ingles type player. He makes everybody better, smart passes, smart cuts, he can dominate without having the ball in his hands. When he does have the ball, he can beat you with a lot of savviness. Then they had a game against Anadolu Efes Istanbul, which is one of the best teams. They have Shane Larkin, who is the MVP of the EuroLeague.
At the end of the game, Anadolu setup a play to get Larkin the ball in isolation. Avdija was guarding him, so Anadolu kept running a pick-and-roll to get the switch, but Avdija ditched the switch, and made Larkin take a tough 3-pointer to win the game, which gave Maccabi a big win over the top-team in Europe. The maturity of guarding the best player in Europe, and making him miss was a good measurement of his growth. He’s playing with a lot of swag, he can go right, he can go left, and he can shoot from the outside. After Doncic’s rise, it made a lot of people notice Advija. When they saw at the age of 19 that he can do such things against quality opponents, and good former NBA players, it made his stock even higher.

The Islanders’ future is full steam ahead after the Sorokin signing

New York Islanders, Ilya Sorokin

It has finally happened!

After a long, six-year wait, Ilya Sorokin is now a member of the New York Islanders.

The Isles made it official this morning that Sorokin had now signed on for the 2020-21 season. So in essence it was two deals in two days for the club; the other from the contract announced yesterday where Sorokin had signed only for the remainder of this season, which his agent Dan Milstein tweeted.

Islander fans can now take a deep breath. In reality, though, Sorokin signing felt like it was going to happen for the past few months.

Isles g.m. Lou Lamoriello remained firm in his stance that Sorokin would join the organization, this going all the way back to the start of the new year. Sorokin made his intentions clear back in April he was ready to sign once his KHL contract finished on April 30th. But the coronavirus pandemic and the league threw a wrench into those plans.

Fast forward a few months later, he and Milstein had waited patiently for the NHL to come to a decision whether the former could sign and join the organization for Phase 3 of the league’s Return to Play Plan. The NHL finally relented its previous decision, which led to Sorokin and the Isles immediately talking a contract.  Which finally brought us to yesterday.

So now it’s official. Sorokin is Long Island-bound. And for the Islanders? Their future now has another gear.

You want to know how long the franchise has been searching for their answer in net? Try Billy Smith. That’s almost 30 years already!

But you watch those highlight films of Sorokin, and you’ll fully understand why the organization and the fans were so keen on finally getting him to make the transition.

His resume? It speaks for itself.

Sorokin is a multiple-time champion, has crushed countless records, and has several other accolades. All of that makes him a candidate to come in and have an immediate impact even if it won’t come until next season.

Did we mention he’s only 25? Sorokin hasn’t even reached his prime yet and is already one of the best in the world. Coming in at that age is perfect for a guy who wants to rule the team’s net for the next decade and for an organization who has been building a foundation in recent years.

Speaking of that foundation, Sorokin’s arrival signals another piece added to the core that will be a consistent contender for years to come.

The Isles already have a star in Mathew Barzal, some quality youngsters in the pipeline at both ends of the ice, and a very underrated defense.

Sorokin is different though.

Goaltending, you could argue, is the most important key to a team’s success, and it’s something the Islanders have needed for too long. Sorokin being in the fold gives the Isles a major boost in attaining that success. Him having the opportunity to work with goalie guru Mitch Korn and coach Piero Greco even before he gets to start a game as well? It’s an advantage that could make him even scarier by the time the Isles will really need him.

It’s hard not to get excited about the prospect of Sorokin becoming one of the elite goalies in the league and the Isles becoming the powerhouse they once were in the early ‘80s. But now it’s a real possibility. Their future is finally here. And yes, we’ve used that cliche many times over. I’ve even lost track myself how much I’ve said it the last five years. 

Now it’s different. Now that anticipated return to glory is ready for its next phase.

Ilya Sorokin has arrived.

Full steam ahead.