MLB: Phillies-Blue Jays weekend series postponed; likely to impact Yankees

The Marlins’ coronavirus outbreak, according to Commissioner Rob Manfred, hasn’t reached nightmare status, but is sure giving MLB a big headache. Miami and the Philadelphia Phillies haven’t played since the weekend, and as it turns out, the Phils won’t return to play on Saturday as it was previously scheduled.

A Phillies coach and a stadium staffer tested positive for COVID-19 just days after the Marlins played in town. Now, as a result, and despite no players testing positive, the team won’t play against the Toronto Blue Jays this weekend. That will likely affect the Yankees, as well, as we will explain.

Per Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith reports the Phillies’ weekend series vs. the Toronto Blue Jays has been postponed. The two clubs were slated to play a doubleheader on Saturday and another game on Sunday, but that plan is now out the window.

Both the Marlins and the Phillies haven’t played since last Sunday, when they faced each other at Citizens Bank Park. Since last week, a total of 17 Marlins players plus two coaches have contracted the disease. MLB says the season isn’t in jeopardy, but this has to be an inconvenient turn of events for the league as it tries to navigate through the season.

MLB is maneuvering on the go

The Phillies, upon receiving the news of the two positives, canceled all stadium activity at the Citizens Bank Park, including a team workout.

“The Phillies have received the results of yesterday’s testing,” the team said in a statement. “While no players tested positive for COVID-19, there were two staff members that did test positive. One is a member of the coaching staff and one of a member of the home clubhouse staff. All activity at Citizens Bank Park has been cancelled today and until further notice.”

Citizens Bank Park was going to be the venue in which the Phillies and Blue Jays were going to play on the weekend. Now, MLB’s COVID-19 crisis has affected yet another team’s schedule: the Blue Jays.

Toronto remains with no home and now, with no opponent. It will play in Buffalo but the stadium isn’t yet ready.

As of now, the Phillies are scheduled to play the Yankees on Monday and Tuesday at Yankee Stadium, then Wednesday and Thursday at Citizens Bank Park against the Bombers. COVID-19 will have the last word about that four-game series.

Three Takeaways From the New York Rangers Loss to the Islanders

New York Rangers, Kaapo Kakko

The New York Rangers really needed to kick off the rust last night in their 2-1 loss to their cross-town rival Islanders. The lack of game of real game sharpness and the style the Islanders play made for a very frustrating night for the Blueshirts. However, there are some positives that came out of this contest.

The New York Rangers know that Carolina and the Isles play very different styles

The clogging, suffocating defensive style that the Islanders play has always given the Rangers some issues. The Blueshirts usually play better against faster teams and even the tougher teams. But teams that are good at clogging the neutral zone make it tough for the Rangers to get their transition game going.

Post-game, head coach David Quinn thought they got frustrated as the game went on, that their transition game stalled and they got bottled up a little bit in the neutral zone.

Another thing that makes it tough is when a team has to spend a lot of time killing off penalties. In the first period, the Rangers spent three and a half consecutive minutes of the first period killing penalties, including 33 seconds of five-on-three. They did a really good job of killing penalties, but it means that you spend less time getting your offense going, against the team that excels at stifling offensive production. This is was really the main reason why Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad did not look good, something that Quinn is not expecting on Saturday.

Kaapo Kakko looks much improved coming off the break

One of the more pleasant surprises in last night’s game was the play of forward Kaapo Kakko. For many games during the season, Kakko was criticized for hesitating, or passing the puck, instead of shooting it. Not last night. Kakko was aggressive with his shots including the time when he came out of the penalty box, made a little move against an Islander defender, and got off a good shot that was stopped.  Kakko also got a few shifts on the Artemi Panarin-Ryan Strome line in place of Jesper Fast.

Quinn told the media after the game that Kakko won’t start in the top six on Saturday, but it is a possibility if he’s trying to get some different looks.

The New York Rangers defense looked a little different

Many in Rangers nation celebrated the fact that former defensive assistant Lindy Ruff took a head coaching job in New Jersey, as Ruff was the brunt of much frustration when the Rangers defense broke down in the season.

In his post-game media availability, Jacob Trouba talked about the effect that Gord Murphy has had on the defense. “Obviously, Gord’s here now and Lindy moved on so that’s a little bit of a different voice. PK is something we went over a lot the last week or so.” Trouba said. “A little bit of a different feel. It was nice to get some practice in today because there are a couple of changes with a different voice leading the way.”

Speaking of the defense, Marc Staal had a minor injury but was held out due to precautionary measures. Quinn expects him to play Saturday in game one against the Hurricanes.

New York Giants: Reviewing 3 competitors for the starting right tackle spot

New York Giants, Nick Gates

With Nate Solder electing to opt-out of the 2020 season citing family and health concerns, the New York Giants now have to find their starting right tackle a different way. Previously, the expectation was that they would utilize Solder in a position battle at right and left tackle to see where he shook out.

However, things have changed quickly, and fourth-round pick Andrew Thomas is now more inclined to start at left tackle. While some may argue that it is better to insert him on the right side to develop, you don’t draft a player in the top five picks not to utilize him in his intended fashion.

Let’s take a look at three competitors for the New York Giants at right tackle:

1.) Nick Gates

The Giants love Nick Gates and the tenacity he brings to the offensive line. Having spent time at right tackle and right guard in 2019, he showed the ability to adapt and play well at both positions. While he’s been projected as a center competitor during training camp, the Giants will undoubtedly slide him in on the right corner to battle it out. Ultimately, it might be in his best interest to become a starting right tackle in the NFL, as they get paid far more than centers.

However, he has been working with Las Vegas Raiders quarterback, Derek Carr, featuring under center. Nonetheless, he filled in for guard Kevin Zeitler last season with an 82.1 overall grade, according to PFF. Against the Dolphins, he didn’t allow a single pressure, and with Zeitler expected to return to the lineup in full force, right tackle and center seem to be his best chance at earning a starting spot.

New York Mets’ Marcus Stroman is throwing “full tilt” bullpen sessions

yankees, New York Mets, Marcus Stroman

The New York Mets got some good news this week, as rookie David Peterson showed he can handle a major league lineup while stiffling the Boston Red Sox for 5 2/3 innings of two earned runs. However, that doesn’t take away the fact that they need Marcus Stroman, one of their most dependable starters, to get back on the mound as soon as possible.

His return is treated as a “week to week” proposition, rather than the more optimistic day to day. Stroman, who was slated to be the New York Mets’ second starter this season following Noah Syndergaard’s Tommy John surgery in the spring, suffered a left calf tear on July 12 and has been on the shelf since that day.

However, according to New York Daily News’ Deesha Thosar, the Mets’ righty is throwing “full tilt” bullpen sessions. That’s what manager Luis Rojas told her, which leads us to believe that he will back eventually and his arm won’t have suffered that much from the extended break.

The Mets will proceed with caution

Mets’ fans need to pump the brakes, however. Pitching coach Jeremy Hefner detailed that Stroman still isn’t able to sprint because of his injury, and he has said in the past that he needs to field his position with no limitations before thinking about coming back to play.

Upon being placed on the injured list, Stroman told the press that he could see himself making a swift, quicker-than-anticipated recovery from his ailment, and according to his progression and the latest reports, a mid-August return seems like a realistic target for the talented hurler.

Since suffering the injury, Stroman hasn’t stopped throwing. The pitcher is in the last year of arbitration elegibility and will enter free agency after the season. He is motivated to come back, help the Mets reach the playoffs, and put up good individual numbers as he thinks about his next payday.

New York Knicks officially hire Tom Thibodeau as head coach

New York Knicks, Tom Thibodeau

The New York Knicks announced on Thursday morning that they’ve hired Tom Thibodeau to be the 31st head coach in franchise history.

Team president Leon Rose calls Thibodeau a “proven winner” who brings “leadership” to the table.

“Tom Thibodeau is a proven winner who gets the most out of the players and teams that he has coached,” said Leon Rose, president, New York Knicks. “He will bring leadership, accountability and a hard-working mentality to our organization. We are excited to bring him back to New York and look forward to collaborating with him and his staff toward a successful future.”

Thibodeau says he’s “grateful” for the opportunity to coach the Knicks.

“I’m grateful for the opportunity to return to this historic franchise as head coach and work alongside a talented front office that I have great trust in and respect for,” said Thibodeau. “I know what New York is like when the Knicks are successful and there is nothing comparable. I look forward to being a part of what we are building here and can’t wait to get to work.”

Thibodeau was most recently the head coach and president of basketball operations for the Minnesota Timberwolves from 2016-19. Prior to patrolling the sidelines in Minnesota, Thibodeau was the head coach of the Chicago Bulls from 2010-15, where he won Coach of the Year honors in 2011.

Thibodeau has 20 seasons of experience as an assistant coach under his belt split between the Knicks, Timberwolves, San Antonio Spurs, Philadelphia 76ers, Houston Rockets and Boston Celtics.

The Knicks fired head coach David Fizdale 22 games into the 2019-20 NBA regular season (4-18) and promoted assistant Mike Miller. As interim head coach, Miller went 17-27.

President Steve Mills was fired in February and replaced by Leon Rose, who has retained general manager Scott Perry while hiring Walt Perrin as assistant general manager, William Wesley as executive vice president/senior basketball advisor and Tom Thibodeau as head coach.

Breaking News: Philadelphia Phillies likely infected by the Miami Marlins

New York Yankees, Yankees, Joe Girardi

Jeff Passan of ESPN has reported that the MLB Philadelphia Phillies have canceled workouts today after a coach and clubhouse attendant tested positive for coronavirus. Activities are shut down “until further notice,” according to the team.

Joe Girardi‘s Philadelphia Phillies were exposed to the virus during a weekend series with the Miami Marlins.  Since the first day of the Marlins/Phillies series, more than half of the Marlin’s team has become infected by the virus, including some of the crew.

The incubation period for CV-19 is such that more positives for the Phillies are likely coming in the next few days.  They were scheduled to play the Toronto Blue Jays in the coming days.  That now likely will not happen. All of the baseball world thought or at least hoped that the two games postponed on Monday would be the end of this.  This new news put the future into even more unknown.

Further, the Marlin’s had another positive test today according to Ken Rosenthal.  That brings the total of Miami Marline infected to 17. MLB will wind their way through these outbreaks as it endeavors to complete a 60 game baseball season.

Stay with EmpireSportsMedia.com for future updates on the continuing baseball news.

 

 

Darren Till tore his MCL at UFC Fight Island 3

Top UFC middleweight Darren Till suffered a tear of his MCL in his fight with Robert Whittaker last weekend at UFC Fight Island 3.

During the middle rounds, Till could be heard telling his corner that his knee was gone. He told his corner that he had no bounce. Till said in the post-fight press conference that he believe he tore his ACL.

Till’s head coach told ESPN today that The Gorilla tore his MCL. “Torn MCL, doctors are amazed he was able to stand up for the last three rounds. . . He is in a cast for six weeks then we’ll reassess, hopefully it will start to knit while immobilized,” Till’s coach said.

What’s next for the UFC’s Till?

The fight at UFC Fight Island 3 was razor close with Whittaker. It’s pretty astonishing how well Till fought considering he couldn’t really plant much on that knee.

Till fought fantastic and I actually scored the fight for Till including giving him the final two rounds. Even in a loss, Till proved that he is one of the very best in the UFC‘s middleweight division.

Obviously it’s going to take some time for Till to heal. We don’t have an exact timeline on when he’s coming back. Once he returns, there are a couple of options that I have in mind for his next contest.

One option is he could fight the winner of Edmen Shahbazyan and Derek Brunson who fight this weekend. Another option is he could fight the winner of the Yoel Romero – Uriah Hall matchup that takes place later in August.

If those are not options for the UFC another great option would be fighting the loser of the Adesanya – Costa title fight in September. No matter what, Till needs a top level opponent whenever he’s healthy and ready to go. Who do you think the Gorilla should fight next?

MLB COVID-19 outbreak: Another Marlin tests positive; Phillies cancel stadium activity

The fallout of the Miami Marlins COVID-19 outbreak continues, as the team, per information reported by The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal, informed about a new player that tested positive in the latest round performed by MLB.

Additionally, Rosenthal reports that the Marlins “anticipated this result from its contact tracing,” but that doesn’t take away the worries that the team returns to play eventually and may infect other clubs’ players and coaches.

As of now, the total tally of Marlins’ players that have tested positive for coronavirus is 17, plus two coaches. The ball is in MLB’s court now, but despite the fact that the league said the club would return next week, it is difficult to see it if more positives continue to pop out. At this point, it is hard for Miami to field a competitive roster even if it has, like every other team, a 60-man player pool.

For now, the MLB season is still going on with 28 teams, everyone except for the Marlins and the Philadelphia Phillies, the club that last played against Miami, last weekend at Citizens Bank Park.

The Phillies report two positives: a coach and a staffer

Speaking of the Phillies, the team has canceled all workouts Thursday at Citizens Bank Park after a coach and home clubhouse staffer tested positive for the virus. The situation is unfortunate, but there is a silver lining: no players have contracted COVID-19, at least no one has tested positive.

According to the press release, Citizens Bank Park will be off limits until further notice after the two positives. Daily testing for the Phillies’ players is expected to continue, as the team is slated to return to play on Saturday against the Toronto Blue Jays. That is MLB’s plan, but it remains to be seen if it can be completed.

MLB is maneuvering on-the-go against the adversity that COVID-19 represents, so plans and schedules are basically fluid right now.

Yankees: Should we be concerned about Gary Sanchez’s slow start?

New York Yankees, Gary Sanchez

The Yankees got their third win of the season after taking down the Orioles by a score of 9-3. New York looked very good offensively and defensively last night, but there is one player that hasn’t contributed to the Yankees’ success. Gary Sanchez hasn’t gotten a hit yet in the first four games of the season, and some fans are concerned about the 27-year old. 

Sanchez has been known to be cold for long periods of time. To me, this is none other than another one of these times. Lots of big-time hitters in the MLB are getting off to awful starts, and you can help but think it’s because of the little time they had to get prepared for the season. Especially for a catcher. To be successful on both sides of the field as a catcher, you need to have a lot of endurance. Sanchez’s endurance will get better the more innings he plays. That will help him focus more and have better at-bats at the plate. 

What is the main concern?

Sanchez is, however, one of the players in the MLB that’s OBP has gotten worse throughout his career. That’s the part that I see most concerning. Sanchez is really starting to become a home run and strikeout only hitter. He is lucky that the Yankees are so stacked on offense because he is able to have bad games like this and have New York win loads of games. 

It seems like over-time, Sanchez has been so focused on improving his defense, he has stayed on the same level hitting wise. In Aaron Judge’s rookie year, he was really bad at avoiding breaking pitches out of the zone. However, Judge has gotten better with that throughout his career. Sanchez, on the other hand, still whiffs at pitches outside the zone the way he did in his rookie year. We haven’t seen much improvement from him in that regard, and that could turn out to be more concerning in the future.

Gary has been noticeably better behind the plate with the help of new catching coach Tanner Swanson. I think it’s time he starts focusing on his struggles offensively, which will make him a more dynamic player in the future.

Sanchez’s power numbers have been off the charts from a catcher standpoint. If he figures out a way to get on base more often, he’ll be the best catcher in the MLB. Until then, he will still hit 25-40 home runs a year and come in the clutch a few times a season. His value will skyrocket if his singles and doubles can outweigh his home runs. Look to see how Sanchez will help the Yankees offensively this season.

New York Knicks: Mental Fortitude Is Vital For Tom Thibodeau’s System

New York Knicks, Tom Thibodeau

New York Knicks Head Coach Tom Thibodeau‘s style has always been hard-hitting when it came to getting the most out of his players on both ends. However, stingy defense along with hustle plays is what Coach Tom Thibodeau holds near and dear to his heart. The young New York Knicks core will find out real soon how vital mental fortitude is for Tom Thibodeau’s system.

Jonathan Macri of Knicks Film School interviewed aspiring journalist Adam Taylor who’s currently the lead writer for CelticsBlog.com. The interview was on July 28th, 2020 on The Hoops Spy Podcast. At the 5:11 segment of the podcast, Jonathan Macri asks Adam Taylor for his opinion on Tom Thibodeau’s coaching in New York. Adam Taylor responded with the following statement:

I was against it when it first dropped. My concern was, with the youth you guys got in New York, I always believed Kenny Atkinson was the guy for the job. I kind of convinced myself that he was going to get it because I believed he deserved a shot at that young core, he was the best for player development. Thibs could be the guy that comes in, slowly brings along these guys and he’s going to test the mental fortitude of the core that’s there and the ones who aren’t mentally strong enough are the ones that are going to go. To be honest with you if your going to win an NBA championship, if your going to be the best then you’ll need that mental fortitude. So maybe he’s in the right place at the right time to weed out the guys that aren’t mentally strong enough to make it to that next level.