New York Jets: Sam Darnold Could Be a Two-Sport Star

New York Jets, Sam Darnold

Beginning over the next few weeks I took a deep dive into the 53 man roster in order to identify a few guys who could make a transition to another sport. Not because it’s realistic, but because fun hypothetical scenarios can make the carry over to football a lot easier.

Sam Darnold: Basketball

Every diehard Jets fan has seen the video of Sam draining threes in California last offseason. His basketball career goes way beyond the smooth as butter jump shot. Growing up Darnold said he dreamt of playing basketball. Darnold’s dreams of basketball were directly tied to the late Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers. Darnold dreamt of repping the purple and gold long before the green and white.

The dreams were close to becoming a reality. Although Darnold was a stud on the gridiron, he also lit it up on the court. Looking back at his stats from San Clemente high school, they’re actually very impressive. Darnold played 49 games with 13.7 points per game, 6.5 rebounds per games, 2.6 assists per game and a 41% FG percentage. Darnold was a sharpshooter used all over by coach Marc Popovich for the Tritons. Darnold displayed leadership on the Tritons in route to a league MVP award in his Sophomore year of High School.

So where would Darnold have gone. Although he had dreams of being the next J.J. Reddick, Darnold chose the right sport. In high school, Darnold was a good enough basketball player to have likely played college basketball, but his highlights and his skill set likely wouldn’t have translated to much more success than that. His athleticism and build is much better suited for hurling the pig skin. Although Darnold may wonder what could have been, I’d say he’d have to be pretty damn happy to be a franchise QB for an NFL team as any consolation. 

Two years after John Tavares’ decision, the Islanders are in a better place than when he left

Today marks two years since the New York Islanders saw John Tavares walk out the door as an unrestricted free agent.

On that fateful day, Tavares made his decision to leave the Isles after nine seasons to sign with the Toronto Maple Leafs, whom he grew up rooting for. His selection — another supposedly huge setback, one the Islanders were used to so often — stung heavily for the entire organization and the fanbase.

Every Isles fan can recall that day and where they were when they heard the news.

Sidenote: For me, sadly enough I was in the backseat of a car with a few of my Ranger fan friends driving back from a flag football game and was about to take a nap. Then my buddy got a twitter notification and said loudly, “he’s gone.” I just sat there in silence, literally stunned.

It’s easy to see why that was my and many others’ reaction.

Tavares was the “Chosen One” and was brought to Long Island to be the savior back in 2009. The Islanders drafted him first overall that summer with the hope he would lead the franchise back to glory.

And there’s no question he did everything in his power to fulfill those lofty expectations.

He was everything and more than the Isles could have asked for in his years in orange and blue. Superstar. Captain. Leader. The face of the franchise. He put the entire team on his back to help them slay the dragon and win their first playoff series in 23 years in 2016. And even before he left, he was the one advocating for the team to return back to the Nassau Coliseum on a part or full-time basis.

All of that sentiment though faded for many that pivotal July afternoon. We all know about the treatment he received his first trip back to Long Island and the two other games he’s played as an Islander opponent. Even now, the number he donned for almost a decade — 91 — was retired this past season and hangs in the rafters with (Butch) Goring’s name on it. 


When Tavares announced he was leaving, the consensus from around the hockey world was the Islanders were left for dead. They had just come off a second straight season of missing the playoffs and were considered the worst defensive team in the NHL.

Looking back at it now, the critics were wrong.

Several things have changed dramatically for the franchise since Tavares’s departure, on and off the ice.

For starters, there are actual adults in charge of running this organization. Granted, Tavares was still a part of the Isles when ownership hired Lou Lamoriello to be the general manager and when Lou hired Barry Trotz as head coach, but that was only for a month at best. Lamoriello has restored accountability and true direction back to this franchise, while Trotz has created an identity and we-before-me mentality since taking over.

Both also have re-invigorated the pride and respect that comes with putting on an Islander uniform.

The team has a core who looks poised to be together and win together. Lamoriello has assembled a group of players who wanted to be here for the long-haul and who believe they can bring a Stanley Cup back to the organization. He’s done it with team-friendly contracts and key acquisitions.

A real head coach and actual structure. We don’t know if Tavares will ever be kicking himself for not sticking it out and getting to play for Trotz (seriously hope he does), but how Trotz has transformed the organization can’t be denied. Yes, JT was thrown a not-so-easy hand with Scott Gordon, Jack Capuano, and Doug Weight. Then again, neither of those three combined has the acumen and experience Trotz has delivered. Trotz’s structure has turned the Islanders into one of the top teams in the league defensively and has allowed several players to evolve into something no one thought they could be (looking at you, Adam Pelech). 

The organization has a number of talented prospects in the pipeline. One of Tavares’s main reasons for choosing Toronto was its highly-touted farm system. But the Isles have done a solid job themselves restacking the system. Rookie d-man Noah Dobson — drafted 12th overall in 2019 — was with the Isles this past season and has top-four potential; Oliver Wahlstrom, Kieffer Bellows, and Simon Holmstrom have the opportunity to add some real depth on the wing in the near future; Bode Wilde and Samuel Bolduc aren’t far off from adding to an already deep yet underrated d-corps. Oh and that Ilya Sorokin guy. A Russian phenom, Sorokin — whenever he finally does join the organization — will be the unequivocal future in goal.

A captain with character. Some might call this a shot at Tavares, but in retrospect, it’s not. Anders Lee has brought more personality while wearing the “C” on his sweater than Tavares truly did. Lee has become what the Isles needed in a leader to help establish that team-first mantra. He’s already well-respected by everyone in the locker room and is willing to do anything for the team to win.

A real home on the horizon. I can still picture the day back in December 2017 where Tavares and his teammates were at the celebration for the franchise winning the bid to build a brand new home at Belmont Park. It honestly felt that day would also be what caused Tavares to stay an Islander. Boy was that a pipedream of sorts.

During Tavares’ tenure with the Isles, there had been non-stop chatter about a new home for the organization. That was never a reality until now.

The new arena at Belmont is nearly halfway finished and is set to open for the 2021-22 season, but it has already made the Isles a destination once again and will be an even bigger game-changer once construction finally complete.

When Tavares left two years, this once-proud franchise looked to be on its last leg. That’s no longer the case.

They are in a much better position with a brighter future.

UFC: Halfway through 2020, what has been the FOTY so far?

We are officially halfway through 2020. The UFC has put on some incredible cards, and the UFC has overcame a worldwide pandemic over the last two months to bring sports back to the world. There have been some incredible fights so far in 2020, but what has been the fight of the year?

Best of the Rest

This year has been so much fun when it comes to the UFC. We have seen the return of Conor McGregor, we’ve seen highlight reel knockouts, and we’ve seen some unforgettable fights. I have come up with a list of the three best fights of 2020, but there are several fights beyond my list that have brought many to their feet. Some of the fights that come to mind are: Emmett/Burgos, Felder/Hooker, Yadong/Vera, and many more. However, the three fights I have picked, I believe stand above the rest.

Justin Gaethje vs Tony Ferguson – UFC 249

When this fight was announced in April, did you expect anything else? Tony Ferguson (25-4) was the boogieman of the lightweight division, and Justin Gaethje (22-2) lives up to his name in being the highlight of the lightweight division. After UFC lightweight champion, Khabib Nurmagomedov, was pulled from his fight with Ferguson due to COVID-19 restrictions, Gaethje stepped up.

The UFC booked Ferguson/Gaethje for the interim lightweight title at UFC 249. The smart money was on Ferguson leading into the fight. Ferguson hadn’t lost in eight years, and many believed that he was the best lightweight in the world. Gaethje might have been the most exciting fighter in the world, but his reckless style has caused him to drop a few of his bigger fights. However, it became very apparent from the beginning, this was not the old Justin Gaethje.

Gaethje immediately took the center of the octagon throwing sharp and crisp combinations at Ferguson. “El Cucuy” was fully prepared to go to war firing back. The first round was action packed with Gaethje hitting Ferguson often. However, most got the sense that Gaethje would slow down as the fight went on. In the second round, Ferguson picked up his pace and dropped Gaethje near the end of the round.

Personally, I thought Ferguson was going to assume control, but that wasn’t the case. Gaethje came right out in the third with the same pace he started with. However, he was much more calculated. Gaethje was smart and picked his shots wisely against the former UFC interim champion, Ferguson. After putting on a clinic in the later rounds, Gaethje smashed Ferguson’s nose which caused Ferguson to turn away. The referee stopped the fight giving Gaethje the interim title. Both men threw everything they had at the other in an absolute war for five rounds, but on May 9th, Justin Gaethje was the better man.

Dustin Poirier vs Dan Hooker – UFC on ESPN 12

Man, I think I’m still recovering from this one. This past Saturday at UFC on ESPN 12, Dustin Poirier (26-6, 1 NC) and Dan Hooker (20-9) put on an absolute show. The fight was booked earlier in the summer after Hooker had called Poirier out back in February. Poirier was coming off a title shot against Nurmagomedov, and was looking to get back to victory. A win for either man would put them squarely in title contention.

There was really no feeling out process with this fight. After throwing big kicks early, both men looked to focus completely on the other man’s face. In the first two rounds, Hooker did a fantastic job of landing clean and precise shots. Poirier was landing his shots too, but Hooker seemed to have the cleaner lands. Several times early, both men ended up in close quarters just throwing reckless power shots at the other.

Late in the second round, Hooker unleashed a combination that would have put most lightweights down. In fact, if it wasn’t for the cage, I’m not sure Poirier would have stayed on his feet. Poirier went back to his stool down to rounds to the contender from New Zealand. At this point, I thought we were looking at the next UFC title contender in Dan Hooker.

Starting in the third round, Poirier drastically turned the tables. Both men were still throwing all they had at the other, but it was Poirier who was now landing the cleaner shots on Hooker. Both men really started to fatigue in the middle rounds, but Poirier seemed to have just a little more in the tank.

The last two rounds were where Poirier really won the fight. Hooker had slowed massively, and Poirier was taking advantage. Despite getting caught a few times coming in, Poirier’s relentless pace took over in the later rounds. Both men were absolutely battered coming down the stretch of this one.

The fight went to the scorecards and all three judges gave the fight to Poirier. Hooker had won the first two rounds on all scorecards, but Poirier won the final three rounds. A tremendous back and forth battle that will go down as one of the better fights in UFC history.

Weili Zhang vs Joanna Jedrzejczyk – UFC 248

You really can’t get much better than the fight between UFC strawweight champion, Weili Zhang (22-1), and former champion, Joanna Jedrzejczyk (16-4). A few years ago, Jedrzejczyk was known as the best female fighter in the sport. Since losing the title back in 2017, Jedrzejczyk has desperately tried to get back to UFC gold. UFC 248 gave her the chance.

Weili Zhang is the first UFC champion to be born in China. She is turning into a superstar, but she needed an opponent that could truly shine a light on her greatness. She found that opponent back in March when she took on the former champion, Jedrzejczyk.

This fight was so special because it was on the highest of levels, and the action was non-stop. From the opening bell, both ladies threw precise combinations at the other. The pace was unlike anything that I had ever seen in a title fight. Both women were putting everything on their shots, but it wasn’t wild.

This was a striking match on the highest of levels. Jedrzejczyk was really light on her feet throughout the entire fight landing great shots from the outside. Zhang did a tremendous job at stepping in and countering as Jedrzejczyk threw. Both women hit the other frequently, and they hit each other clean. Watching this fight you just had to keep wondering when someone was going to get tired.

All the way into the championship rounds, the women never slowed down. Both ladies pushed forward throwing everything. You had spinning attacks, leg kicks, head kicks, straights, uppercuts, hooks, you know it. It was a striking clinic put on by both women. Both women were visibly beat up, and the fight was razor close.

Entering the final round, I don’t think anyone knew who was winning. The fight was dead even at all times. Every time one woman would land, the other would land a counter. The UFC fans were getting spoiled back in March. In the end, two of the three judges gave the fight to the champion, Weili Zhang. The fight was truly one of the best fights I had ever seen, and it was at the highest level of the sport for a UFC title.

The UFC’s FOTY in 2020 (So far)

All three of these contenders are excellent fights, but if I’m going to give the award, it’s going to Zhang and Jedrzejczyk. The fight was truly a thing of beauty. The perfect balance of technique and violence. It never turned into a brawl where technique went out the window, but you would think with the damage that both women suffered, it was a massive brawl with no defense on display. Also the fact that it was for the title puts it over the top. Women’s MMA has come so far over the last few years, but the fight that Zhang/Jedrzejczyk put on back at UFC 248 is the greatest female fight of all time, and it’s not close in my opinion.

Jared Hughes Signs With The New York Mets

Simeon Woods-Richardson

The New York Mets continued adding to their veteran reserves as they sign veteran reliever Jared Hughes. He agreed to a one year deal worth a pro-rated $700K, which equals about $260K in the modified 60-game season. Hughes will also join the Mets 60-man player pool at Citi Field.

Hughes turns 35 in a couple of days and is heading into his 10th season in the big leagues. The 6’7″ right-hander is known for his hard, diving sinker and his comical antics off the field. With the track record Hughes has, he could end up being a huge steal for the Mets. He could earn an extra $300K in incentives should he spend a set amount of days on the active roster.

Bounce Back Season

Baseball is a game all about “what have you done for me lately?” Hughes struggled in 2019 with a 4.04 ERA and a career-high 1.6 HR/9 with the Cincinnati Reds and Philadelphia Phillies. He pitched even worse during Spring Training with a 6.35 ERA in 5.2 innings with the Houston Astros. They released Hughes about a week into the postponement of the MLB season.

Before 2019, Hughes pitched to a 2.69 career ERA, a 0.6 HR/9, and averaged 56 games per season. He was one of the most underrated relievers in all of baseball. His antics of sprinting from the bullpen and wacky photos overshadows his quality pitching.

The move is the best insurance policy the Mets have from any veteran they have. Hughes fits right into the bullpen should Drew Smith require more time to recover from Tommy John Surgery. He also is insurance if Edwin Diaz or Jeurys Familia continue their poor pitching from the 2019 season.

Spring Training 2.0 Has Arrived and The New York Mets Are Back

New York Mets, Pete Alonso

Throughout all of the back and forth of a difficult negotiation, Major League Baseball can finally open up Spring Training 2.0. The New York Mets and their pool of players embark on their restarted journey towards a World Series championship.

There are not many details based on how camp will operate, but health is their priority. Brodie Van Wagenen said the designed workouts keep players as socially distant as possible. Luckily only one player on the 40-man roster tested positive for the COVID-19 and is recovering fine. Holding their Spring Training at Citi Field allows them to train in a safer area compared to the COVID-19 epicenter that Florida has become.

One Field, For 50-Plus Players

The Mets have to make use out of their limited space at Citi Field. Unlike their Port St. Lucie facility, they only have one field to use. Outside of the main field in the stadium, the Mets have four mounds in the bullpens along with the home/away hitting tunnels. Extra mounds could set up in the outfield and foul territory as well. If the Mets needed additional space for pitchers, they could also use the walkways and parking lost of Citi Field as well.

MCU Park in Brooklyn is another option for the Mets to transport players. Any thought of that is just talk right now and would only happen if things became too hectic at Citi Field. The Mets have stayed quiet on the topic of how things will run, but we will get a good idea of it within the first few days. Simulated games could happen as soon as this week for pitchers who were throwing before July 1.

Exhibition games are a tougher question for the Mets. The only local team is the crosstown Yankees, who they will see during the regular season. To prevent extra travel, the Mets might be better off with intersquads before the season beginning.

The top things Mets fans want to see are a healthy Yoenis Cespedes, Dellin Betances, Michael Conforto, and hopefully Jed Lowrie. On the pitching side, there is Jacob deGrom, Marcus Stroman, along with how Edwin Diaz looks in a potential rebound season. Hopefully, the Mets answer most of the questions regarding the restarted Spring Training during day one and if not during week one.

New York Mets: Bobby Bonilla Isn’t The Only One Getting Paid Today

For the New York Mets and their fans, the dreaded Bobby Bonilla day has arrived. Just like every July 1 until 2035, Bonilla receives his $1,193,248.20 in deferred money. What most fans do not realize is that Bonilla is not the only one receiving deferred money.

Every team in baseball has at least one deferred contract they regret. Unfortunately for the Mets, Bonilla won the grand prize for his lack of production and length of his deferred payments. In 1999, he batted just .160 in 60 games and was a huge distraction which caused the Mets to part ways with him after one season. Bonilla was no longer an issue for the Mets on the field but his journey to becoming a burden on the Mets payroll was just starting.

Other Mets With Deferred Money

Bret Saberhagen has received $250K every year since 2004 and the payments do not end until 2028. The Mets got one All-Star appearance and a 3.16 ERA over the three and a half years the control specialist spend in Queens. The Mets ended up trading Saberhagen to the Colorado Rockies for scraps.

Jeurys Familia deferred $1 million for the 2020 and 2021 seasons. He will receive his money in two separate dates during 2022. Hopefully, the Mets can squeeze out production from Familia before his contract runs out.

Jacob deGrom deferred $52.5 million when he signed his contract extension. Thankfully, the Mets have already received two Cy Young season from him and expect another by the time he is done. deGrom will receive his money from 2035 to 2039. Barring injuries, this one works out well for the Mets.

David Wright has an interesting breakdown. He will receive $6 million with 2.5 percent interest compounded monthly from July 1, 2021, to July 1, 2023. At the end of 2023, Wright receives full interest. Unfortunately, Wright’s body gave up on him which forced him to retire earlier than he should have.

These payments are laced throughout baseball and some work out better than others. What makes Bonilla’s the worst one is how poorly he played, how long his payments are for and the fact the contract should not have been offered to him in the first place.

New York Giants’ James Bradberry a major upgrade over Janoris Jenkins?

New York Giants, James Bradberry

When the New York Giants reached out to James Bradberry to mull over the idea of a contract, he was most surprised his former general manager would look his way in free agency. With reports indicating the Giants’ interest in Byron Jones, star corner for the Dallas Cowboys, and now Miami Dolphins, Bradberry was left as second-pickings.

However, he was caught by surprise and earned a three-year, $43.5 million deal in the process.

“Honestly, he reached out to my agent. I really didn’t talk to (Dave) Gettleman. They came out of nowhere and made an offer, I didn’t even expect them to make an offer. He already knew the type of guy I was, and I already knew the type of guy he was. I already knew what type of organization he was trying to build over there in New York. I knew it was nothing but positive.”

The Giants replaced former corner Janoris Jenkins with Bradberry, which on paper seems to be an improvement. Comparing the two, Jenkins posted lofty missed tackle rates over the past two seasons, missing 17.6% of his tackles in 2018 and 14.3% in 2019 over 13 games with the Giants.

He also allowed three touchdowns last season while Bradberry allowed just one, but did post a slightly better completion percentage against at 53.8% with Big Blue compared to Bradberry with a 59.8% completion rate with Carolina.

An interesting fact

Interestingly, Jenkins was targeted just 88 times in coverage while Bradberry was targeted 97 times, allowing 58 completions. This would indicate that James is lining up against opposing number one wide-outs. This is true based on the elite status of the players he faces off against on a yearly basis. He will face far less quality in the NFC East, aside from the Cowboys who recently drafted CeeDee Lamb and already having Amari Cooper.

Twice per season, Bradberry was forced to face off against Julio Jones, Michael Thomas, Chris Godwin, and Mike Evans. Bradberry often shadows top targets on opposing offenses, which would attest to the high target totals he experiences yearly. He also enjoyed three interceptions last season, which is higher than any previous year.

Overall, the former Panther showed an elevation in most categories last season, justifying his contract with the Giants. Gettleman and Co. have made it a priority to sign free agents to three-year deals, front-loading contracts to give them flexibility after the second year. Bradberry earned $32 million guaranteed, but will only count $3 million dead cap in 2022, giving the Giants a way out just in case.

New York Yankees projected batting order for the 2020 regular season

New York Yankees, Yankees, Giancarlo Stanton

The New York Yankees are scheduled to attend spring training 2.0 in the Bronx in just one day. What a wait it has been for fans of baseball and the Bronx Bombers, having dealt with the MLB and Players Association going back-and-forth on financial negotiations. However, the day has finally come where can begin to let our excitement get the best of us.

Now we can start to iron out how the active roster will look.

The Yankees released their summer camp roster, which is composed of 58 players, some of which will be battling for the final four spots on the active roster. Due to a condensed schedule, the league has expanded the roster from 26 to 30 players.

The player pool established by the team will have to be cut down to 30, but the original 40 man roster remains pretty much intact. Now, due to injuries prior to spring training, the lineup looked quite different several months ago. The Yankees were set to start the season without Aaron Judge, Aaron hicks, potentially Giancarlo Stanton, and without several starting pitchers.

They have been given extra time to heal and recover from their individual injuries, and reports indicate that judge could be ready for the start of the regular season in late July, and Hicks will also be available to start in centerfield.

Here’s a look at the projected batting order for the New York Yankees:

  1. 2B DJ LeMahieu
  2. RF Aaron Judge
  3. CF Aaron Hicks
  4. DH Giancarlo Stanton
  5. SS Gleyber Torres
  6. C Gary Sanchez
  7. 1B Luke Voit
  8. 3B Gio Urshela
  9. LF Brett Gardner

This order looks similar to 2019, especially with DJ LeMahieu leading off and Judge following close behind. While I might prefer Torres to hit in the No. 3 spot instead of Aaron Hicks, inserting a switch hitter, could be beneficial to create diversity.

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Hicks hit .222 with six home runs in the three spot last year, which might convince manager Aaron Boone to consider another player there. The Yankees’ lineup is strong from top to bottom, giving them more than enough talent to supplement moving Torres up two slots.

Nonetheless, Sanchez and Voit hitting back-to-back give the Yankees two sluggers who can put runs on the board at any given moment. Behind Torres, who can get on base at a high-level, this seems to be a tactical move. I do like Urshela and Gardner in the eight and nine spots given their minor unpredictability, but both represent quality.

New York Yankees News: Don’t expect the Yankees to run away in a short season

Today the New York Yankees will open spring training camp 2.0, this time at the fabled Yankee Stadium.  Some players from foreign countries may not have arrived yet, but will shortly. The Yankees crew has been working feverishly to sterilize everything at the stadium.  All the health protocols are in place to protect your Yankee players.

The New York Yankees are favorites to get to the World Series, but in this shortened season, don’t expect them to run away with the division.  This season will be unique in that player travel will be limited with the new three-division MLB setup.  The Yankees will play their traditional East Coast rivals.  The Yankees will see the Toronto Blue Jays, Boston Red Sox, Baltimore Orioles, and the Tampa Bay Rays at least twice for three or four-game series.  But this year they will also face their cross-town rival Mets, the Phillies, Nationals, Braves, and the Marlins.  They will not see the National league teams as frequently.

Other than the new division challenge, the Yankees have not always started out the season hot.  During the past three years, the Yankees new superstar pitcher Gerrit Cole has shown that if he falters it’s usually in the first third of the season, that mathematically equates to the length of this shortened season. In 2017 he went 3-5 in his first twelve starts. In 2018 he went 6-1. In 2019 he was 5-5. So in the past three years, over twelve starts, he is 14-11.  Based on his performance for the past three years, fans can expect him to go roughly 6-3.  Nevertheless, that is nothing like the 20-5 record of last year.  That means in this short season the Cole effect will have less of a positive impact for the Yankees.

The are other reasons the New York Yankees’ chances of reaching the postseason with ease will be diminished includes Giancarlo Stanton’s notoriously slow season starts. Stanton’s batting average over the first 50 or 60 games of the season has never reached over .232 in the last four seasons.  Even in his MVP 59 homer season of 2017, the exception, he only hit only .242 in his first 26 games.  2016 and 2019 were disasters for Stanton.  in 2016, in sixty games, he hit just .211. Last year he hit .305 but had only eight at-bats in the first two months due to injury.

Other Yankee position players that aren’t at their best at the beginning of the season include DJ LeMahieu, Miguel Andujar, Gary Sanchez has averaged just .244 over the last three years.  Mike Tauchman is just plain horrible early in the season. Over the past two years, he has hit just .178 in his first 60 games. By contrast, he hits .290 after his first sixty.

Pitchers that have early-season problems include Masahiro Tanaka and J.A. Happ. Tanaka, in 2019 was 3-4 in his first twelve starts.  Happ was not as bad, but he went 5-3.  Something that will be missing this year for the entire season is Domingo German, who will be suspended for the entire 60 games regular season.  Last year he was the Yankees best pitcher going 9-1 in his first twelve starts.

On the bright side, Brett Gardner, Clint Frazier, Aaron Judge, Gleyber Torres, and Aaron Hicks all play more productively in the first sixty games than after those games.  A significant factor for this short season will be if Aaron Judge can play at the beginning of the season.  In the past three years, Judge has hit .304 with 47 home runs in his first sixty games.  In his last 102 games over the same period, he has hit just .264 with only 63 home runs.  Yesterday in a conference call I was in GM Brian Cashman said that he was optimistic that Judge will be ready to play.

The New York Yankees season will depend on not having COVID-19 related trips to the IL, along with other injuries.  They must get off to a fast start and not have any prolonged periods of poor play.  In a season this short, anything can happen, but previous to the shutdown, the Yankees seem likely to breeze through the season.  Now in a short season, don’t expect that.  The distance between teams in all divisions will be tighter than expected, except for the traditionally bad teams, notably being the Orioles and Marlins.

If the Yankees can attain a 36-24 season, they will be in good shape, going into an exciting expanded postseason.  Based on how the New York Yankees fair the coronavirus, they will be at their best in the postseason. A World Series win for the Yankees will be very possible.

 

 

New York Rangers’ Artemi Panarin: One fabulous year on Broadway

Artemi Panarin and the New York Rangers have been a perfect match. Today is the one year anniversary of the Blueshirts signing last summers best free agent. The breadman has proven to be worth every cent of the seven-year, $81.5 million contract that brought him to the city that never sleeps.

President John Davidson knew Panarin wanted to be in New York with the Rangers. He was very familiar with the superstar Russian when they were both with the Columbus Blue Jackets.

“We know he definitely wants to be here in New York, specifically with the Rangers, It’s a perfect fit.” J.D. went on to say to Greg Wyshynski of ESPN following the signing, “There’s something special about Panarin and the way he plays the game, the way he looks at the game, and the way he thinks about the game, I’m ecstatic about getting Panarin here to join this group.”

The Breadman Did Not Disappoint

Panarin wasted no time doing what he does best. He scored in his first game as a Ranger during the teams 6-4 win over the Winnipeg Jets on opening night. His power-play goal 27 seconds into the second period gave the Rangers a 2-1 lead at the time and gave the fans a look at what he brings to the ice every night.

His infectious smile and hard work make every player around him a better hockey player.  Linemate Ryan Strome has taken full advantage of playing alongside the 28-year-old. Strome recorded 18 goals with 59 points this season. The 59 points were the most Strome recorded in his eight years in the NHL.

Teams leading scorer

Panarin led the team in scoring this season netting 32 goals with 63 assists for 95 points. His 32 goals were second on the team behind Mika Zibanejad (41). The 63 assists were tops for the team which included 17 helpers with the man advantage. If not for the shortened season due to the global pandemic he would have surpassed the 100 point mark this year.

Signing the biggest free agent last summer was not a sure thing. The Florida Panthers and the New York Islanders were in contention up till the last minute. Florida signed Panarin’s best friend and former teammate with Columbus, Sergei Bobrovsky.  The two had hoped to sign together as both were unrestricted free agents, but that opportunity never developed luckily for the Rangers.

The signing of Panarin signaled the conclusion of the club’s rebuilding plans. The newly signed high scorer along with the team’s selection of Kaapo Kakko the month before at the NHL Draft gave the team a spark the club was missing since the days of Jaromir Jagr.

The Dynamic Duo

The hope when the team signed Panarin was he and center Mika Zibaenjad would form a deadly one-two punch that would put fear throughout the league. At the start of the New Year in January the two players were on fire. Though they were not on the same lines, they were often on the same power-play unit and often found themselves together during many overtime periods.

A great example of the connection the two have was during Zibanejad’s five-goal game against the Islanders. In overtime, Panarin skated down the ice into the Islander’s offensive zone drawing two players to him. Panarin was able to chip the puck to the top of the circle where a streaking Zibanejad one-timed the puck past the Isle’s goalie for the OT winner.

Hart Trophy Talk

With the Rangers success this season and subsequent advancement to the NHL Qualifying Round of the Stankey Cup Playoffs, Panarin has had his name mentioned as a Hart Trophy candidate. He is worthy of the league’s Most Valuable Player award playing on a team with little chance of a playoff bid when the season began back in October.

The Rangers now will rely on a well-rested Panarin to continue his scoring touch with the club heading into the playoffs for the first time since 2017. The pressure to move deep into the playoffs will be unlike anything he has experiences in his short NHL career.

It will be interesting to see if he can find the magic he displayed throughout the year in what many consider to be the hardest playoffs to win the Stanley Cup.