WATCH: Yankees’ Mike Ford smashes moonshot to tie game in 9th inning

New York Yankees, Mike Ford

Just because it was an exhibition game doesn’t mean it wasn’t valuable. The New York Yankees entered the ninth inning down 2-1 against the Philadelphia Phillies when pinch-hitter Mike Ford stepped to the plate.

Ford is an easy player to like, as he joined the Yankees in 2019 for 50 games. Over 143 at-bats, he posted a .259 batting average with 12 homers and 25 RBIs. He supplemented Luke Voit at first base when he went down with a sports hernia. Over 29 games at first, he logged a .985 fielding percentage with three errors.

In the final game before Opening Day on Thursday against the Washington Nationals, Ford had a last-second home run to tie the game against the Phillies. It was another justification for his talent and raw power in the batter’s box.

New York Jets: Mekhi Becton set to ink guaranteed deal (Report)

New York Jets, Mekhi Becton

The New York Jets signed the 11th overall draft pick on Monday, as both he and the team were happy to reveal.

The New York Jets have announced the signing of first-round pick and offensive lineman Mekhi Becton. This signing comes hours after the team confirmed they were set with fellow selections Jabari Zuniga and James Morgan.

Becton himself confirmed his signing on social media in capitalized fashion.

Per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the deal is worth a fully-guaranteed $18.45 million over four years. Rapoport has also stated that Becton is in the New York area, hinting that he will be ready to report to training camp on Tuesday with other first-timers.

The Jets chose Becton with the 11th overall pick out of Louisville in April’s NFL Draft. It marked the first time the Jets had taken an offensive with their top pick since 2006, when they chose D’Brickshaw Ferguson sixth overall. He was the third lineman chosen in 2020, following fellow tackles Andrew Thomas (4th, NY Giants) and Jedrick Wills (10th, Cleveland). The Highland Springs, Virginia native is set to play a major role in the Jets’ offense, namely as a left tackle protecting the blindside of quarterback Sam Darnold.

Becton established himself as one of the most dominant linemen in the nation during his time as a Cardinal. He started 23 games at Louisville and later earned first-team All-ACC honors. The Cardinals surprised many with an 8-5 record last season, though Becton skipped the team’s Music City Bowl victory over Mississippi State.

“I want to start as a rookie and I want to make the playoffs. I would say those would be my rookie goals,” Becton said in a write-up by Eric Allen of NYJets.com. “I like to finish and I like to dominate in the run and in the pass. That’s what I’m going to bring him to the table.”

With the signing of Becton, third-round choice Ashtyn Davis remains the only draft pick that hasn’t inked his first green contract.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

WATCH: Yankees’ Aaron Judge launches home run in strangest 3rd-out scenario

New York Yankees, Aaron Judge

When the YES Network broke away to commercial, the New York Yankees and Aaron Judge didn’t even consider taking a break. In the strangest third-out scenario, which seems to only exist in these exhibition games, the slugger launched a home run to right-centerfield. This followed a Gleyber Torres strikeout.

Judge, who hit two home runs on Sunday night against the New York Mets, continued his impressive streak of hitting against the Phillies. Just before Vince Velasquez left the game, he gave up the home run. He had previously pitched 5.0 innings of zero run baseball, recording six strikeouts and allowing three hits.

Here is the dinger Judge hit while YES went to commercial break.

 

New York Jets sign trio of 2020 draft picks (Report)

DL/LB Jabari Zuniga, QB James Morgan, and P Braden Mann are the latest New York Jets draft picks to officially sign their rookie deals.

The New York Jets revealed that two more draft picks signed with the team on Monday evening. New York confirmed that they signed defender Jabari Zuniga and quarterback James Morgan, while Manish Mehta of the New York has stated that the team has also officially added punter Braden Mann.

Mehta also had the financial terms for each first-year. Each is worth four seasons, with Zuniga earning $4.73 million, Morgan getting $4 million, and Mann rounding it off with $3.47 million.

Zuniga was the latter of the Jets’ pair of third-round picks, chosen 79th overall out of Florida. Injuries limited Zuniga to five games in his senior season, but he nonetheless managed 33 sacks over four seasons in Gainesville. Capable of playing on both the line and at linebacker, Zuniga was placed on the Chuck Bednarik Award watchlist (awarded to the nation’s top defensive lineman) during a junior campaign that saw him earn 45 tackles, including 11 for a loss, and 6.5 sacks.

Morgan is set to partake in the Jets’ competition for the backup quarterback job behind Sam Darnold. He was chosen in the fourth round (125th overall) out of Florida International. Despite spending only two seasons with the Golden Panthers, having transferred there from Bowling Green, Morgan ranks second in FIU history in passing yardage (5,312) and touchdowns (40).

Mann was the Jets’ final pick of the April proceedings, having his name called with the 191st overall pick. The Texas A&M product was one of the most prolific punters in college football history, earning unanimous All-American honors and the Ray Guy Award (bestowed to the nation’s top punter) after his junior season. His 51.0 average is the best in NCAA history.

With these signings, first-round pick Mekhi Becton and third-rounder Ashtyn Davis are the only Jets selections who have yet to sign.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

New York Giants: What Will The Starting Offensive Line Look Like In 2020?

New York Giants, Nate Solder, Andrew Thomas

The New York Giants have had one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL over the past few years. The team has struggled to find consistent offensive tackle play since investing a top-ten pick in Ereck Flowers in 2015. From Flowers to Solder, the Giants have been disappointed by their recent expensive offensive line investments.

New York is hoping that that trend of disappointing offensive line investments ends after this season. This offseason, the Giants invested heavily in their offensive line, drafting three linemen in the 2020 NFL Draft. The Giants also signed an offensive tackle in free agency and significantly upgraded their offensive line coach.

Giants fans are hopeful about their offensive line for the first time in a while. Andrew Thomas was drafted fourth overall, signaling a cultural shift by the Giants towards a more traditional team-building philosophy. The Giants are prioritizing the offensive line and finally, for the first time in years, have depth in the positional group.

Projecting the 2020 Offensive Line

 

  • LT – Andrew Thomas
  • LG – Will Hernandez
  • C – Nick Gates
  • RG – Kevin Zeitler
  • RT – Nate Solder
  • Depth – Spencer Pulley, Shane Lemieux, Cameron Fleming, and Matt Peart
  • OL Coach – Marc Colombo

The Starting Five

The Giants drafted Andrew Thomas to be the team’s left tackle of the future. Some have suggested that Thomas should start his career at right tackle, but in my opinion, Thomas should start at left tackle right away.

Nate Solder allowed 11 sacks in 2019 according to Pro Football Focus, the third most out of any offensive tackle in the NFL. To make matters even worse, Solder allowed 57 pressures in 2019. This was the most of any offensive lineman in the NFL. Andrew Thomas played 1,075 pass-block snaps in his collegiate career. On those snaps, Thomas allowed only 37 total pressures. He also has not allowed more than 2 pressures in a game since 2017 (his freshman season at right tackle). It is highly possible that Andrew Thomas is the best left tackle on the Giants’ roster despite never playing a snap in the NFL.

Will Hernandez is entering his third NFL season after taking a small step back in 2019. Big Will looked promising as a rookie but struggled to develop as a sophomore. This could have been for a couple of reasons: Hernandez was playing between two bad players, and the Giants’ coaching staff was one of the league’s worst. Luckily for Hernandez, both of these problems seem to have been fixed. This could be his breakout season.

The center position is by far the biggest question mark on the Giants’ roster in 2020. There will be a positional battle at center during training camp and preseason. In my opinion, Nick Gates is the top candidate for the position. Gates finished the 2019 season with a 77.0 overall grade and only 1 sack allowed in 290 snaps (Pro Football Focus). However, Spencer Pulley could win the job based on seniority and past experience. Gates has never played center before but has been impressive in limited snaps at offensive guard and offensive tackle.

Despite never making the Pro Bowl in his career, Kevin Zeitler has been one of the best pass-blocking offensive guards in the NFL. Also according to Pro Football Focus, Zeitler finished with the sixth-best grade among guards and posted a strong 75.0 pass-blocking grade — the sixth-straight year he’s achieved that mark. Zeitler is a lock for the Giants’ right guard position and should get a contract extension after his contract expires next offseason.

Solid Depth

Nate Solder is likely to move over to right tackle, but if that does not go well, the Giants have solid depth pieces behind him. New York signed Cam Fleming this offseason to be a swing tackle or backup offensive tackle. They also drafted Matt Peart out of UConn in the third round. Peart is not likely to be ready for NFL action in his first season, but he has a lot of potential down the road as a starting offensive tackle.

An Improved Coaching Staff

The hiring of Marc Colombo was huge for the Giants. Colombo has helped maintain the Dallas Cowboy’s offensive line’s status as one of the best in the NFL. Cowboys players have stated that Colombo’s relatability in his youth helped the offensive line grow and gravitate towards its coach.

“I’ve had the pleasure of being around a lot of people in this game. But Marc is in the front of the class. That’s the ultimate compliment I can give him. You get inspired by Marc every day you’re around him.” – Jason Garrett on Mar Colombo via ESPN

 

New York Mets: Luis Rojas explains hitting Robinson Cano third

New York Mets, Robinson Cano

The New York Mets lost back-to-back exhibition games against the New York Yankees over the weekend, 9-3 at Citi Field and 6-0 at Yankee Stadium. One of the talking points surrounding the Mets has been second baseman Robinson Cano hitting third in both games.

Manager Luis Rojas cited Cano missing summer camp practices/intrasquad games as a reason for hitting him in the middle of the order (quotes per Dan Martin of the New York Post).

“With Cano, having him in the middle of the order, we want to get as [many] at-bats as we could get with him missing a little bit of camp,’’ Rojas said of Cano being absent for unspecified reasons during spring training 2.0. “His profile is to hit there in the middle. He showed up in great shape and with his bat, we all feel comfortable he will deliver for us.”

Cano was limited to 107 games last season due to a handful of injuries. He hit .256 and posted a .736 OPS while totaling 13 home runs and 39 RBIs.

Rojas explains how the team’s lineup in these exhibition games isn’t necessarily indicative of what it’ll be when the regular season begins.

“We’re playing a lot of games,’’ Rojas said. “Guys are hitting in different spots in the lineup. We’re just getting guys at-bats. … It’s nothing in particular to do with what we do in the season. We’re not there yet.”

Rojas feels the Mets, who had three hits against the Yankees on Sunday night, “chased a lot of pitches.”

“I’ve said the guys’ timing at the plate has been really good,’’ Rojas said. “Tonight, that wasn’t the case. I thought we chased a lot of pitches. We were late on some fastballs. We only had a few hard-hit balls.”

The Mets open the 2020 Major League Baseball season at home against the Atlanta Braves on Friday.

New York Mets: Repole-Lopez-Rodriguez group is very much alive in race to buy the team

New York Yankees, Alex Rodriguez

Over the weekend, it was reported that Alex Rodriguez, Jennifer Lopez and Mike Repole may be out of the bidding for the New York Mets. According to Charles Gasparino of Fox Business Network, the group allegedly didn’t have enough money to compete for the team and the process would be down to Steve Cohen and the Josh Harris – David Blitzer pair. However, Ken Rosenthal reported quite the opposite on Monday.

Repole dismissed the notion that the group can’t hang around with Cohen and Harris Blitzer, and stated that “one hundred percent, we can be competitive. The entire group has more than enough money.”

The New York Mets’ sale process is being overseen by Allen & Company, and is currently ongoing. The Wilpons are hoping to sell the team by October, so a resolution isn’t too far off.

The best for the Mets, they say

Repole also went on to elaborate why he thinks his group will be the best option for the Mets and the baseball industry, in general.

“This is the best ownership group, not only for the Mets but for New York and definitely for baseball,” Repole said. “I pride myself on being a marketer. Baseball needs a little bit of a marketing wake-up call, a marketing shot in the arm. Obviously with Alex and Jennifer and what I’ve done with brands all my life, if I’m among the 29 other baseball owners and I’m Manfred, this is the team I want to own, the New York Mets in the New York market.”

Several sports stars reportedly joined the Repole – Rodriguez – Lopez group, including former NFL stars Brian Urlacher, Joe Thomas and DeMarco Murray, current player Travis Kelce, and NBA players Mason Plumlee and Bradley Beal.

The Mets, meanwhile, got swept in a two-game exhibition series against the Yankees over the weekend, and will start their 2020 season this week. The team is expected to contend for a spot in the playoffs.

New York Yankees: Jordan Montgomery, Aaron Boone talk southpaw’s growth

New York Yankees, Jordan Montgomery

Jordan Montgomery took the hill for the New York Yankees in their Sunday night exhibition at home against the New York Mets. The left-hander surrendered no runs and three baserunners while logging six strikeouts across five innings (59 pitches) en route to a Yankees’ victory.

Montgomery says “everything” feels different on the hill (quotes per NJ.com’s Brendan Kuty).

“Arm speed, conviction, strength,” Montgomery said. “Everything, really.”

Montgomery made 29 starts for the Yankees in 2017, recording a 3.88 ERA and 1.23 WHIP. He has made just seven starts since 2017 due to an elbow injury. Montgomery has a chance to round out a rotation that’s expected to include Gerrit Cole, James Paxton, Masahiro Tanaka and J.A. Happ.

Yankees manager Aaron Boone is “really proud” of how far Montgomery has come.

“I’m really proud of Monty on where he’s at,” Boone said.

“For how good as he was in spring and then again so far here in summer camp, I think he even put it all together for his entire outing,” Boone said. “You saw everything and that’s a good lineup over there. The ability to pitch with the fastball, the cut fastball has become a real factor for him. The changeup and curveball. A number of really quality pitches he made to get swings and misses, weak contact, whatever it was.”

Montgomery says he feels “really good” about where he’s at.

“I was really excited after spring (training) and I was in a good place then,” Montgomery said. “It was just a little extra hold off. The excitement is still there. I was excited (Sunday). Just ready to get out there with the guys.”

He added, “I feel really good about where I’m at and only going to keep getting stronger the more pitches I throw.”

The Yankees open the 2020 Major League Baseball season on the road against the World Series-champion Washington Nationals on Thursday.

New York Jets, Giants announce they will play without fans

New York Jets and Giants games at MetLife Stadium will be empty until further notice, the teams announced in a joint statement on Monday.

Fans of the New York Jets and New York Giants will have to wait a little longer to make the traditional trek down Route 3.

The teams announced in a joint statement on Monday that any game at their shared home of MetLife Stadium will be played without fans in the wake of the ongoing health crisis. This announcement comes after New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy told teams that his 500-person limit on outdoor gatherings would apply to events at their East Rutherford dwelling.

“We support Gov. Murphy’s decision in the interest of public health and safety and, until circumstances change, both the Jets and Giants will play our games without the benefit of fans in attendance,” the statement reads in part. “Although we would prefer to have fans at MetLife Stadium for our games, we will continue to work with Gov. Murphy’s office and will provide updates if necessary.”

Each team also announced that their training camp activities will not be open to the public this year. The Giants previously announced that they could conduct their own training camp activities at MetLife, which neighbors Quest Diagnostics Training Center.

Murphy’s decree is also set to affect Rutgers Scarlet Knights college football, per Steve Politi of NJ Advance Media. The Big Ten Conference recently announced that, if their season were to come to fruition, that they would revert to a conference-exclusive schedule, canceling matchups with Monmouth and Syracuse.

The teams’ annual preseason meeting is still scheduled for August 13, though NFL Players Association reps are currently advocating for no preseason games as a training camp report date of July 28 looms. Regular season proceedings are slated to begin with a Monday night opener on September 14 between the Giants and Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Jets and Giants are the first NFL teams to officially confirm that their games will be played without fans. Philadelphia city officials announced last week that fans would not be able to attend Eagles games at Lincoln Financial Field, but the team has yet to comment.

New York sports fans saw their first taste of spectator-free sports over the weekend, as MLB’s New York Yankees and New York Mets met for an exhibition doubleheader prior to the start of the 2020 season this week. Both Citi Field and Yankee Stadium have pumped in artificial crowd noise during exhibitions and intersquad scrimmages to simulate fans in the stands. The Mets took it a step further, allowing paying customers to place a cardboard cutout of themselves in the Citi Field seats.

In a Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Thairo Estrada has a strong case to be the MVP of the New York Yankees’ summer camp

New York Yankees, Thairo Estrada

We are in an atypical position, as we are currently seeing a version the MLB’s spring training being played in summertime. Baseball has referred to it as “summer camp.” And since it is an atypical moment, we also may have an atypical star in the New York Yankees.

Thairo Estrada has always flashed his good leather in the infield’s middle positions, shortstop and second base. He is, however, adding an offense element to his game that will also make him a dangerous hitter, still developing game power to go with his contact ability, good wheels and sound defense.

He was the star of the New York Yankees’ intrasquad games, with three home runs, doubles, singles and solid contact in general. And, against the New York Mets at Citi Field on Saturday, the 24-year-old had an RBI single in the ninth inning to help contribute in his team’s 9-3 win.

Yankees’ manager Aaron Boone himself has proclaimed Estrada as the “MVP of Summer Camp.”

The Yankees may have an opening for him

That is a positive development for him, as DJ LeMahieu, the Yankees’ second baseman. is uncertain to be ready for the start of the season after reporting to camp just a couple of days ago. Estrada, Tyler Wade and Matt Duffy are candidates to replace him for a few days if he is unable to occupy his position from the go.

“Versatility is certainly one of the things that’s very appealing about Thairo,” Boone said, noting Estrada’s ability to play three infield positions and the outfield. “He did a good job with the bat last year. I feel like he’s even better this year, and I just love the makeup of the person. There’s a lot of things that Thairo brings to the table, and his performance has been outstanding. Add all those things up and he’s very much in play.”

Estrada slashed .266/.313/.452 and hit eight home runs in 60 games at Triple A in 2019, and in 35 games with the Yankees he hit .250/.294/.438 with three homers and four thefts. After years of sub-.400 slugging percentages in the minors, he has been working on developing power, and it has paid off.