MLB Question: Has the Astros sign-stealing been forgotten? Not a chance! (videos)

Dodgers, Joe Kelly

To refresh the New York Yankees fans, and other MLB fans, the Houston Astros were caught cheating during the 2017 season.  When Astros Jose Altuve won the MVP that year ahead of the New York Yankees Aaron Judge. The Astros then went on to beat the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series.

Shortly before spring training this season, Commissioner Rob Manfred issued his report, detailing the sign-stealing scheme.  Several teams and players were hurt by this cheating.  Possibly the Yankees would have won the 2017 ALCS.  Most likely Aaron Judge would have been the MVP that year.  The Yankees and the Dodgers were not the only teams or players that may have had their stats lowered by the cheating.

The Houston Astros may have thought they had a pass when it was announced that the season would be shortened and played without fans in the stands to boo them in parks around the country.  They may not meet up with the New York Yankees this year.  But if how this season as gone so far indicates anything no one has forgotten what cheats they were. Many believe they continued cheating even though it wasn’t proved.  This writer can tell you that when the Astro do finally meet up with the Yankees the boos will be won’t be drowned out by any Astros supporter who dares to enter Yankee Stadium.

It all started in spring training when eight Astros players were hit by pitches during the first week alone. With 25% of the shortened season already played the plunking still hasn’t stopped. Some players have received a suspension for hitting Astros players, some haven’t. With less than 20 games played the Astros have already been involved in huge brawls, where social distancing was not thought of.

Last Tuesday Dodger Pitcher Joe Kelly was involved in an altercation with the Houston Astros.  More on that later.

This past Sunday Oakland Athletics outfielder Ramon Laureano   charged the Houston Astros’ dugout after an altercation with hitting coach Alex Cintron. Both are expected to receive lengthy suspensions from the league.

Joe Kelly has recently spoken out on a podcast, proving he is still angry with the Astros, even though he wasn’t a Dodger at the time.  Citing how the Astros brass got the punishment and not the players involved he let out his frustration:

“When you taint someone’s name to save your own name, that is one of the worst things that you could probably do as a person,” Kelly said on Ross Stripling’s podcast,  “It really friggin’ bugs me. I think I’ll be irritated forever.”

“Apparently my words again, or my cute face I made, enticed a whole team to come out of their dugout towards our dugout,” Kelly said. “Which is complete bullshit because I socially distanced. I walked away. I didn’t get close. I followed all the guidelines of the CDC, and people on the other side didn’t. They walked out of their dugout, walked towards us. Carlos Correa fucking spit at our team.”

It’s clear that the tensions between the Astros many of the other MLB teams have not subsided.  The Houston Astros will likely be involved in more controversies as the season continues and beyond.  Many in baseball will hold the Astros accountable for their deceitful actions for many years to come.

New York Jets: Positions to watch as training camp practices begin

New York Jets, Chris Herndon

For the first time in 2020, the New York Jets are having a practice. The team was originally supposed to play their preseason opener against the Giants and have an off-day today, but things changed. Regardless, seeing the team practice today is a welcomed sight.

With practices now beginning, there are a few position groups to watch for. The following groups are ones to focus on for battles and, simply, just for the possibility of new names pushing for more playing time:

Tight End

This is an interesting group to watch because the Jets have, ideally, two starting-caliber players: Ryan Griffin and Chris Herndon. The position was held down last season by Ryan Griffin, as Herndon played in just one game. Griffin totaled 34 receptions for 320 yards and 5 touchdowns across 13 games. With those 34 receptions, he posted a catch percentage of 82.9%, which is by far the highest of his career. His play earned him a three-year extension worth up to $10.8 million.

With his production and extension, the expectation is that Griffin will retain the starting tight end spot. However, once upon a time, Chris Herndon had Jets fans excited about his own play. Then, last season happened and he only appeared in one game due mostly to a fractured rib. The season before, however, he showed some promise as a rookie. During his rookie season in 2018, he totaled 39 receptions for 502 yards and 4 touchdowns.

If Chris Herndon can stay healthy and on the field, it’s going to be an interesting battle at tight end throughout the season. Both Herndon and Griffin are capable of making plays, but only one can be the number one guy.

Linebacker

C.J. Mosley is the best linebacker the Jets have. He opted out of the season. Now, Avery Williamson is expected to be the top guy for this group. Williamson missed all of last season with a torn ACL, but now that he’s assumed to be healthy and ready to go, he should get even more playing time and responsibility.

His first season with the team in 2018 was the best of his career. He totaled 120 tackles, 3 sacks, 2 forced fumbles and an interception. In a past article, I compared Williamson’s numbers to Seattle’s Bobby Wagner. I won’t be making another extremely bold point here again, but he can definitely produce like a number one linebacker.

Aside from Williamson, inside linebacker should also be played mostly by Neville Hewitt and new addition Patrick Onwuasor. A sixth-year player, Neville Hewitt had his best season last year. He finished his 12 games played with 75 total tackles, 3 sacks and 2 interceptions, to name a few of his statistics. He had a solid year, but nothing is promised for him.

Patrick Onwuasor has played the last four seasons with the Baltimore Ravens as a rotation player, for the most part. Last season, he played in 14 games, starting 6. In those games, he totaled 64 tackles, 3 sacks and a forced fumble. Onwuasor will most likely not be starting alongside Avery Williamson, but the Jets could make it an interesting group if all three are playing well.

Kicker

The Jets’ kickers haven’t been great in recent years, with an exception to the season Jason Myers had in 2018. Last season, the kicking role was controlled by Sam Ficken who made 70.4% of his field goals and 88.5% of his extra-point attempts. Those aren’t great numbers in any sense and, although they may go unnoticed at times, kickers are field goals are vital to wins. That was seen in Week 1 against the Bills last season when the Jets lost by one due to missed kicks.

Now, former Cowboys kicker Brett Maher has been brought in to compete for the job. With Dallas last season, Maher made just 66.7% of his field goals but converted all of his 36 extra-point attempts. Both kickers have to improve if they want to hold the starting job. If either struggle, we may see a week-to-week change at kicker.

 

These three positions are ones-to-watch during practices and this upcoming season. There may be more positions that could be intriguing, but these are the main ones in my opinion. One thing is for sure, these positions will all be fun to watch.

 

New York Jets: Adam Gase sounds reinvigorated and ready to change the narrative in 2020

New York Jets, Adam Gase

New York Jets‘ head coach Adam Gase has had a rough offseason. After finishing the season 6-2, the Jets went into the offseason with high hopes for the future. With Sam Darnold getting another year playing in Gase’s system, the return of two defensive leaders in C.J. Mosley and Avery Willamson, and the entire coaching staff returning, continuity was a big theme.

That continuity took a big hit when Robby Anderson and Quincy Enunwa, two of Darnold’s best weapons, ended up leaving (for two different reasons) New York. That was just the tip of the iceberg.

Then, Jamal Adams went on his campaign against the Jets organization with multiple public outcries and an exclusive with the Daily News that shined a light on the organizational instability and internal hypocrisy. The hypocrisy was directed towards Gase, who Adams said openly, never would talk to the team, or make adjustments. He delegated that to assistant coaches. Being able to admit when you’re wrong and make adjustments is what makes a good coach. When you fail to do that or fail to even address your team on your level, you not only lose the respect of the players, but you also build a culture of incompetence. That’s exactly what he’s done.

So, Gase’s reputation took a massive hit with the Adams saga, but then he was traded, and brighter days seemed to loom large. Then, the perspective captain of the defense in the wake of the Adams’ trade, Mosley, opted out for the safety of his family and himself. Now, the Jets defense will play this season without presumably, their two biggest stars.

The New York Jets might have a different version of Adam Gase this year:

When Adam Gase took the podium this week, one thing struck out to me that signaled a potential change of heart… accountability. Rumors swirled this offseason about tension between the Jets and one of their biggest offensive stars, Le’Veon Bell. Gase did something that has been a rarity in his career, take accountability for the way last season went, as he said:

“‘You’ve got make sure you’re using him the right way and making sure that we’re getting him to 16-plus games and not grinding him out, Last year, I feel like I did a bad job at the beginning of the season. I was really trying to get him going, and at the same time, teams kind of knew what we were doing and they were loading up the box and he was taking some shots. I’m sure that wore on him as the season went on.’”

This was a real big issue last season, as Bell was supposed to be the focal point of their offense. It was evident last season that Bell was struggling for a few reasons, poor blocking, fatigue as the season wore on, and poor game planning. If Gase is serious about working to make sure Bell takes more effective rushes, that can change the offense.

The offensive line is presumed to be improved with the overhaul, and Bell has been a gym rat and will hopefully be more physically ready for this season than last year, so those areas should improve. If Gase steps up like he says he plans to, that can not only change the rushing attack but rather the whole offense, and this was an offense that ranked in the bottom half of the league. Change is needed, and that change could be accountability by Gase. Still, actions speak louder than words, and if Gase can’t truly improve this season, then that needed change could be a new head coach of the New York Jets.

UFC: Ian Heinisch – Brendan Allen targeted for November 7th

A big time UFC middleweight clash between two of the brighter prospects in the division will happen on November 7th. Ian Heinisch (14-3) will be taking on Brendan Allen (15-3).

This is a fight that was originally supposed to take place on June 27th, but Heinisch was forced off the card. Allen would go on to face and defeat Kyle Daukaus in a close fight. The match between Heinisch and Allen was first reported by MMA DNA.

Two Bright UFC Middleweight Prospects

Both of these fighters will head into the November 7th contest coming off wins in their last performances. For Heinisch, he was able to get a much needed win over Gerald Meerschaert.

Heinisch was able to score a TKO within the first 90 seconds of the fight. Meerschaert is Allen’s teammate which adds an interesting dynamic to this fight. Heinisch will make the walk currently ranked 13th in the world in the UFC‘s middleweight division.

Allen will enter the cage riding a seven fight winning streak on November 7th. Allen was awarded a UFC contract after he won by first round submission on Dana White’s Contender Series. He has gone on to start his UFC career 3-0.

Allen did run into some trouble in his last fight against Daukaus. While Allen was able to get the win in that fight, he didn’t come out unscathed. In fact, he took some good shots on the feet and found himself in some vulnerable positions on the ground.

A fight like that is really good for an up and coming prospect. They need to feel that sting of vulnerability to keep their skills sharp. Allen really wanted the fight with Heinisch and made that clear in his post-fight interview.

New York Mets: Dwight Gooden rips Yoenis Cespedes

New York Mets, Yeonis Cespedes

New York Mets legend Dwight Gooden pointed his finger against Yoenis Cespedes for the way he handled his decision to opt out of the 2020 season, and said that he doesn’t think it was COVID-19-related.

On Sunday, Aug. 2, Cespedes didn’t show up to the ballpark in the Mets’ game that day, and it was later reported that he wasn’t playing in the season anymore. That day, the team issued a statement saying that the outfielder didn’t tell the team about his intentions.

According to Gooden, the situation could have been handled in a smoother way. He said to the New York Post’s Amazin’ But True Mets podcast that Cespedes “may get blackballed [in baseball] next year and I’m OK with that.”

Leaving the Mets in an uncomfortable position

“Number one, you put yourself in that position by the stuff you’re doing off the field. Now you miss two, three years when they said throughout baseball don’t give this guy a contract and the Mets did it anyway, and that’s the way you show them. You owe those guys. You owe your teammates, bro. That was a weak move. … I can’t agree with him on this move at all. That definitely wasn’t about COVID. I hope I’m wrong. … Now with your reputation, with everything that’s going on you, might get a team that will invite him to spring training. I don’t know. I’m not wishing bad on anybody, but that was just bad.”

The 34-year-old Cespedes hit two home runs, including one in Opening Day, but ultimately hit .161 in eight games before leaving for good.

First baseman/outfielder Dominic Smith has been filling in for Cespedes and has done very well at the plate.
Cespedes signed a free agent deal in November 2016, for four years and $110 millions, but he missed, according to NJ.com, more than 70 percent of the games after putting ink to paper on the pact.

New York Giants: Jabrill Peppers might not play the role we all expect him to

New York Giants, Jabrill Peppers

Transitioning from a James Bettcher lead defense to a Patrick Graham scheme will be simpler than you think. Former New York Giants player Avery Moss stated that Bettcher’s defense was one of the most difficult he’s ever had to learn. However, playing for Miami last season, Graham’s is much more manageable and utilizes basic concepts at an elevated level.

The entire unit will be different in 2020, from the way they line up and who is being featured at specific positions. Players like rookie Xavier McKinney and safety Jabrill Peppers have the diversity to change positions and give different looks throughout the course of a game. New head coach Joe Judge believes Peppers can be used in multiple ways.

Jabrill Peppers’ trainer, Brian Walker, spoke to the NY Post several weeks ago, indicating that he could play cornerback in 2020. He compared his frame to the likes of Stephon Gilmore and Byron Jones — a lofty comparison but an interesting one, nonetheless. He specifically thinks, “cornerback could be Peppers’ best NFL position.”

“You could see him with a Gilmore — same shape, same body — where he could lock down a half [of the field],” Walker said. “This staff is used to having really good, really strong cornerbacks. Personally, I feel like he could make the jump like Jones. Both athletic guys. They just needed more time to develop in terms of technique.” – Brian Walker via the NY Post

How will the New York Giants deploy Jabrill Peppers?

“We’re going to give him a swing of the bat at a lot of things,’’ coach Joe Judge said. “We’re going to shake it out week by week. However our opponent matches us up, he’ll be ready to take on a different position for us.’’

The Giants will utilize Peppers depending on their matchups, whether opposing offenses are run-heavy or pass-heavy. Peppers has experience in coverage and stopping the run in the box. While we might expect him to play strong safety predominately with the Giants, he has the build and athleticism to change positions at any moment. That’s part of the unpredictability factor the Giants are trying to incorporate into their new defense.

Despite Peppers going down with a season-ending hip injury on a punt return, it seems the Giants haven’t ruled out using him in that way.

“In terms of his spot on the defense, I’m not trying to be evasive on this, but it’s going to be whatever we need him to do right there,’’ Judge said. “With his skill set, he’s going to factor into a lot of sub packages. Traditionally, you’ve seen him play a lot in the box in different schemes and roles. He has that body type that still fits that. But he’s going to have to be able to play the deep part of the field as well as the box for us.’’

Jabrill has experience at both free and strong safety, giving him the ability to play multiple positions. While he hasn’t earned any live snaps at cornerback, the Giants are desperately looking for a CB2, and it couldn’t hurt to try him out there during training camp. There’s a lot left to do before the first regular-season game on September 14, but I fully expect things to look much different in 2020.

Should the New York Yankees consider benching Brett Gardner?

New York Yankees, Brett Gardner

The New York Yankees are off to a good start with a 3-1 record after defeating the Baltimore Orioles 9-3 on Wednesday night. The bats got rolling early with Aaron Hicks, Aaron Judge, and D.J. LeMahieu all going yard by the third inning. Some not so great developments, Brett Gardner and Gary Sanchez continued their beginning of the season slumps, going 0-3 and 0-4 respectively.

I’m not so much worried about Gary. Big MLB hitters tend to hit cold streaks, and this appears to be one of Sanchez’s. If this was happening in August, then it may be time to panic, but I don’t think it’s defcon five for Gary, at least right now. Gardner on the other hand is a different story.

Now don’t get me wrong, I was one of the many fans advocating to bring Gardy back for 2020. He had a very productive year for the team in 2019 and is one of the few veteran locker room presences for an otherwise very young team. But it may appear that Gardy’s best years are behind him. He is 0-10 with six strikeouts thus far this season and just looks lost at the plate. What makes it all the more frustrating is the fact that Clint Frazier is just sitting in Scranton twiddling his thumbs waiting for his next opportunity to be called up.

An easy solution: Bench Gardner. Move Stanton to left field where he can start every day so the outfield can consist of Hicks, Stanton, and Judge. Put Miguel Andújar as the every day DH. Andújar is one of the hottest bats on the roster and inserting him into the lineup is a significant improvement over Gardner as of right now. Brett Gardner is a smart veteran who knows how this game works. An unhappy decision, but an obvious and necessary one nonetheless. In a shortened season, the best way to expedite success is to insert your most talented players into the lineup to produce the best results to win ball games. Right now, Brett Gardner just simply isn’t contributing.

The Mets dodge a bullet as Jeff McNeil is diagnosed with a bone contusion

For New York Mets‘ fans, seeing Jeff McNeil suffering in pain after making a spectacular catch in left field was an ugly scene. They had feared the worst, especially since he was grabbing his left knee in evident pain. Fortunately, the injury gods, apparently, smiled to the Mets this time around.

McNeil underwent X-rays and they turned negative. Then, an MRI showed no structural damage and he was diagnosed with a bone contusion, which should allow him to avoid the injured list per Mets’ manager Luis Rojas. Bullet dodged.

McNeil wasn’t available for comment after the game, but several teammates expressed their happiness about the situation and the diagnosis. “He’s a fearless competitor,” said teammate Dominic Smith to Anthony DiComo of MLB.com. “Obviously, you don’t want to see a guy go down, but I love it. I just love how hard he plays.”

In the Mets’ 8-2 win against the Washington Nationals, Asdrubal Cabrera reached a low slider and drove it to left field. What appeared to be a double to the gaps turned out to be an out thanks to McNeil’s running catch.

A scare for the Mets

He ended up hitting the wall and fell to the ground in pain. A member of the Mets’ training staff met him, and McNeil tried to walk to the dugout. He couldn’t and had to be carted off. Billy Hamilton replaced him in the game.

“My first reaction was that it was a hell of a catch and it got us out of that tight jam,” starting pitcher David Peterson said. “Once he was down for a while, guys were kind of starting to be like, ‘OK, something might be wrong.’”

If the Mets choose to give McNeil a couple of days of rest, they have JD Davis and Dominic Smith capable of playing left field, and if they include Hamilton in the lineup in center, Brandon Nimmo could also fill in next to him.

McNeil was “very encouraged about getting the results from the X-ray,” according to Rojas.

“It just makes us want to play harder,” Smith said. “That type of energy that he brings, it’s just kind of contagious. It just makes us want to play harder for each other. Obviously, it sucks that he went down, but it just goes to show how hard we go out there and play and how fearless he is.”

McNeil has a .319/.382/ .502 career line with a .375 wOBA and a 139 wRC+. For the season, he was at .293/.358/.362 with a .319 wOBA and a 107 wRC+.

MLB: Will the New York Yankees or other MLB teams be active in this trade season?

New York Yankees, Miguel Andujar

The answer for the most part is no.  The New York Yankees have a powerful lineup and at the moment sufficient pitching to get to the postseason.  There are several reasons we won’t see much action in the next two weeks in MLB and here are a few:

  1. 16 teams able to reach the postseason, will make them less likely to move talented players.

  2. In this short season devoid of revenues, teams will not want to spend large amounts of money to acquire players.

  3. The opt-out situation.  With only 27 days left of the season at the deadline, would a team want to trade for someone that might opt out of the remainder of the season?

  4. The coronavirus factor: A team lets a talented prospect go for a seasoned veteran that reports the next day, but tests positive for the virus. A trade lost.

  5. Teams will be less knowledgeable as to who they might want to trade for.  In a normal year, scouts criss-cross the country looking at players they might want.  Not the case this short season.

  6. Even teams at the bottom of the rankings, like the Boston Red Sox or the Pittsburgh Pirates, are still only two or three wins from being in postseason contention.  If they have any players that are attractive, they may not want to go without them.

To get an idea where teams might be in their trade thoughts, let’s take a look at the New York Yankees.  Yes, the Yankees are near the top of baseball but they still have some inadequacies.  Gleyber Torres has not batted in any meaningful way, and of late is building up errors at shortstop. J.A. Happ doesn’t seem to be able to pitch this year.

With all the talent on the bench and really good pitchers coming along, would New York General Manager Brian Cashman want to deal any of the team’s brightest talents?  It’s doubtful. There is Miguel Andujar, who isn’t doing much this year, and really has no permanent place to play.  But even with Miguel, who surely has a bright future in baseball, would it be worth trading him away due to an offseason.  Probably not.

Even with stars Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge presently injured (although Judge may be back tonight), the Yankees have proved they have plenty of talent in the wings, like Mike Tauchman, Mike Ford, and Clint Frazier.

If the New York Yankees are going to do something, it will probably be to acquire a pitcher, caused by the poor pitching of J.A. Happ. But then again, there are still two weeks to see if the likes of Jonathan Loasigia, Micheal King, or Clarke Schmidt can fill that spot. My guess is that with spending big for Gerrit Cole and the lack of revenue this season, that the Yankees will not be active by the August 31 deadline, unless it’s a blockbuster move.

If a team is active, it will likely be everyone’s favorite sign-stealing team, the Houston Astros, that are really in bad shape this year, going into this weekend’s games.  The big blow to the team was the loss of ace Gerrit Cole during the offseason to the New York Yankees. They have also lost co-ace, Justin Verlander, to injury along with several of the bullpen being on the IL.  Although they still have a powerful lineup, have been ravaged by the absence of designated hitter Yordan Alvarez.  For this team headed up by Dusty Baker, not to make the postseason, in a season that it should be so easy too, would be a great embarrassment to a team that is already an embarrassment to baseball, it would be devastating.

New York Giants: Dalvin Tomlinson talks new defense, Dexter Lawrence

New York Giants, Dalvin Tomlinson

The New York Giants are learning a new defense under first-year head coach Joe Judge, administered by new defensive coordinator Patrick Graham.

Defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson is enthusiastic about the new defense, comparing it to his “Alabama days” (quotes are courtesy of Giants.com’s Dan Salomone)

“I’m super excited about the new defense. I want to help in the run and pass this year.” He says the scheme is “fun” and reminds him of his Alabama days in terms of technique.”

The Giants selected Dalvin Tomlinson with the 55th pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. Last season he totaled 49 combined tackles, three and a half sacks and nine quarterback hits. The Alabama product has started 48 games while totaling 158 combined tackles, four and a half sacks and 10 quarterback hits across his three-year NFL career.

Tomlinson is entering the final year of his rookie deal, making the 2020 season a money year. He’s one of four holdovers from former general manager Jerry Reese’s reign, wide receiver Sterling Shepard, tight end Evan Engram and running back Wayne Gallman being the other three.

The Giants projected starting defensive line features Tomlinson, Leonard Williams, and the second-year Dexter Lawrence.

Tomlinson sees Lawrence getting more “comfortable” at the NFL level in training camp.

“You get used to the NFL. You get a little more comfortable going into Year 2.”

General manager Dave Gettleman selected Lawrence with the 17th pick in the 2019 NFL Draft out of Clemson. He was one of the team’s three first-round draft selections, Duke quarterback Daniel Jones (6) and Georgia cornerback Deandre Baker (30) being the other two.

Lawrence started 16 games in his rookie season, totaling 38 combined tackles, two and a half sacks and nine quarterback hits.

Last season the Giants defense was third in the NFL in points surrendered (451), fifth in penalties (117), eighth in yards surrendered (6,037), 22nd in sacks (36), and tied for 28th in takeaways (16).