New York Giants make Golden Tate benching official

New York Giants, Golden Tate

It’s been an interesting week for New York Giants wide receiver Golden Tate, and it will conclude with Tate missing the game against Washington. That’s because, after it was reported that Tate could face disciplinary action for multiple recent incidents, the team finally confirmed the punishment and the severity of it.

The team hasn’t opted to go for the softer route of not giving Tate the start but allowing him to play in the game with reduced snaps. Rather, they’ve made the decision to bench him entirely. Interestingly, Tate will be separated from the team to an extent during this time as he won’t travel with the team for the game.

There’s been speculation all week that the Giants might use other receivers thanks to Tate’s antics which landed him in the doghouse with Joe Judge. But without Tate so much as being on the sidelines as an available option for this game, it looks like that path is locked in.

Tate was rumored to be on the trading block before the trade deadline but the Giants were either unwilling to move the receiver or couldn’t find a deal they liked. It also doesn’t look like Tate remaining a Giant after this season is likely thanks to both his performance on the field and his incidents relating to team rules and discipline.

On the bright side, many will look at this decision as a good call from head coach Judge, who in his first season has shown that he can run a tight ship without alienating players in the process. That’s a valuable skill going forward, especially if Judge is at the helm when the Giants start playing in and winning meaningful games once again.

Quick like a Fox: Knicks’ prospect Kira Lewis stock on the rise in New York

New York Knicks

Alabama Crimson Tide coach Nate Oats tried to downplay his FaceTime call with the New York Knicks top brass and his speedy point guard Kira Lewis, Jr. last week. But there’s a link between him and the Knicks that’s too hard to ignore, making Lewis an intriguing possibility to land in New York on Nov. 18.

The Knicks, under Leon Rose, have been operating like a fraternity. The new regime is looking to score big by leveraging on relationships at its core. Tapping on Rose and his senior advisor William Wesley’s vast network, the moribund franchise has succeeded in luring great minds from inside and outside the league to come and help rehabilitate the Knicks.

It appears they’re operating the same way in their pre-Draft process.

In a draft that is so unpredictable, intel is king.

Without the NCAA March Madness and the benefit of a regular Draft Combine, those forged relationships and strong networks have come in handy for the Knicks.

The connections are coming from everywhere. It’s not just confined within the Creative Artists Agency where Rose was its former head of basketball or Kentucky, where John Calipari shares a strong bond with Wesley.

The ties that bind

The FaceTime call last week transported Oats back to his early days in his coaching career. 

When Oats got his first head coaching job at Romulus High School in Michigan in the early 2000s, he used to drive to Detroit and observed the Pistons’ practice. 

Around that time, the Knick’s current general manager Scott Perry was a Pistons’ team executive. At the same time, Williams was already a ‘players’ whisperer’ and was involved with The Family, an AAU basketball team based in Detroit supported by former Pistons’ guard Rip Hamilton. Wesley became a regular fixture at Pistons practices and games, especially when another close friend, Larry Brown, took the head coaching job in 2004 that resulted in one of the NBA’s unlikely championship runs.

“I’ve known those guys for a little bit,” Oats told Empire Sports Media during his zoom call press conference on Thursday. “They made a connection with Kira when they were interviewing him. They FacedTime me.”

“I coached Kira for a year. Kira is a great kid. They got great staff there in New York. [I have] No idea where’s that going, and I’m sure they are going around interviewing all kinds of people leading into the Draft. I don’t want people to take too much out of it. It’s just a common connection. I coached Kira, and I knew those guys during my time in Detroit.”

Oats tried his best to sell the FaceTime call short, saying it was merely a sort of introduction to make his point guard a little more comfortable during the meeting. But there’s a certain level of comfort and trust between Oats and the Knicks’ top brass that may pull Lewis to New York.

“They’re good guys, and I guess they just want Kira to feel a little bit more welcomed. We chopped it up and joked around a bit. We talked about Kira’s game for a minute then I got off. I know the Knicks are getting a lot of media attention there in New York, and they have a high draft pick,” Oats said. “They gotta make sure they get the right pick.”

Alabama’s sweet spot?

The Knicks are at an inflection point since Rose, a former player agent, took over from James Dolan’s right-hand man Steve Mills.

They are looking for a lead guard, and Oats’ connection with the past (Perry) and the new (Wesley) regime in New York could play a vital role in the franchise’s search.

“I think Scott Perry is going to be really good for them. Thibs (Tom Thibodeau) is going to get their defense squared up, and I think Kira’s defense got a lot better last year,” Oats said. “We talked about that.”

“I think he is a very talented kid. I think the way the NBA is played now — it’s so spread out and wide open — you can’t put your hands on guys defensively. With the speed and skill level Kira has, he can get in the paint whenever he wants and makes plays. He was great in our system. We played a lot like what the NBA is doing that is so wide open, and I think he’ll make a great NBA player.”

Lewis, a 6-foot-3 guard with a 6-foot-5 wingspan, has been a blur in the SEC ever since he stepped into Division I as the youngest player at 17 years old in the 2018-19 season. He skipped his senior year of high school and went straight to college.

“He’s really a smart kid. He was such a good student in high school that he only needs a couple of core classes to go and reclassify,” Alabama assistant coach Antoine Pettway told Empire Sports Media in a separate exclusive interview.

“So he had like either go up in high school and score 40 points a game or go to college. He always wanted to challenge himself and try to get to the next level.”

As the youngest freshman under former Alabama coach Avery Johnson, Lewis took over the starting role vacated by Collin Sexton, the eighth pick of the 2018 NBA Draft. The Knicks, barring any trade, are scheduled to select at the same spot where Sexton was picked by the Cleveland Cavaliers two years ago.

Will that eighth slot become Alabama’s sweet spot?

Leader by example

Pettway, who recruited Lewis to Alabama, observed that the 17-year old freshman was shy initially. But it didn’t take long before Lewis began to put his stamp on the team.

“Our team respects his work ethic, his talent. Coming in, he should have been a senior in high school and came in as a starting point guard on a pretty good team. It took him a little while before he warmed up to everyone, but I thought he made a lot of great strides his second year being more vocal, leading guys,” Pettway said.

As Lewis’ game expanded, so was his role in the team. He wasn’t only the Crimson Tide’s floor general. His leadership extended beyond the hardcourt.

“I always tell this story. He’s a guy that gets up at six in the morning and works out. And during the first couple of days, he hit it on his own. Then after a couple of weeks, he’s bringing the whole team with him; he’s already organizing. He’s the guy that leads by example. He’s very personable,” Pettway said.

Lewis comes from a small and simple family in Huntsville, Alabama. Their family owns a small barbershop. His basketball exploits are always a headliner in the barbershop talk. Recently, another member of the Lewis family has joined the conversation.

“His sister just got a degree from UAB (University of Alabama Birmingham). They’re really a tight-knit family. When you meet the rest of the family, you can see Kira has a really good upbringing,” Pettway said.

It wouldn’t be long before Lewis’ NBA exploits would soon dominate the barbershop talk when his name is one of the first to be called by league commissioner Adam Silver later this month.

“It will mean the world to them. His parents were there in every step of the way. His mom, Natasha, said she’s not going to cry when they put the hat on him, but I know a hundred percent it won’t be dry in that room when his name gets called,” Pettway said.

“It’s always good to see good things happen to good people. I’ve dealt with some good people from top to bottom and Kira is a product of that, you know Kira is a class A kid. As good as he is as a player, he’s even a better kid. And when you meet his mom and dad you’ll know why he’s a good kid.”

Love at burst sight

Pettway first scouted Lewis when he was a ninth-grader going up against Alabama’s older and better players. In a game that featured Lewis against Michigan State’s Joshua Langford, who was two years older, Pettway went to see what the hype was all about.

Pettway fell in love right away.

“He really held his own against Langford. He played really, really well. And you can just tell, his speed even at that age, oh man just the way he moves and gets into the lane and finish, how fast he was, you can really, really tell he’s going to be a good player. That’s my first time seeing him in person,” Pettway said. “He’s close to 15 (years old) at that time. I watched him that whole summer.”

Pettway recognizes a great point guard when he sees one.

Before becoming an assistant coach and the top recruiter in Alabama, he was the Crimson Tide star point guard during the school’s quarterfinal run in the 2004 NCAA tournament.

Pettway secured Lewis’ commitment after the latter’s stint in the 2018 Nike Skills Academy, an exclusive camp reserved for the top 25 high school players in the country.

Lewis didn’t disappoint because even when he was the youngest freshman, he played with so much poise. Pettway won’t forget the exact moment when he realized Lewis is special and has a shot at becoming their next NBA Lottery pick after Sexton.

The reckoning came in a tight game against the visiting Arizona Wildcats in December of 2018.

“It was a close game. We were up by two; Arizona just made a run,” Pettway recalled.

“He (Kira) drove hard right, and pulled back his dribble. He hit a big-time three-point shot with less than a minute to go to ice the game. That’s the first big shot he’s made here, and I looked at him, and I was like ‘yo, this kid is different!’”

Lewis didn’t look back since then.

He led Alabama in assists (2.9 apg), 20-point games (5), and minutes (31.6 mpg) and earned a spot in the All-SEC Freshman Team. The next summer, he suited up for the Team USA that won the gold medal at the 2019 FIBA Men’s Basketball U-19 World Cup.

Lewis was just getting started. He took off when Oats took over from Johnson.

Oats, the former Buffalo Bulls head coach, brought with him his coaching philosophy, which is based on “max effort, continuous growth, and selfless love.”

Lewis embraced Oats’ tenets, and he flourished in the new Crimson Tide’s up-tempo style.

Career game vs. The Ant

Lewis’ arrival to the national spotlight came at the expense of the potential No.1 pick Anthony Edwards.

He picked the right time to set a career record in scoring when he dropped 37 points against Edwards and Georgia in a 105-102 overtime victory. His arsenal was on full display. He completed his virtuoso performance with seven assists, five boards, two steals, and one block, which turned the heads of many NBA scouts.

Edwards had a double-double (14 points, 12 rebounds), but he was limited to 5-of-17 shooting and 0-of-6 from beyond the arc.

Lewis is the engine that kept the Crimson Tide’s high-octane offense humming. He’s the Michael Schumacher of Oat’s Ferrari.

Lewis’s blinding speed has an impact on both ends of the floor. He was a blur on offense and a disruptor on defense.

His sophomore year saw him record eight 20-point games and three 30-point explosions, two double-doubles (point and assists) and could have been more if not for the Covid-19 shutdown.

Lewis finished his last season in Alabama as the Crimson Tide leader in scoring (18.5 ppg with 46/36/80 shooting splits), assists (5.2 apg), steals (1.8 spg), minutes (37.6 mpg), and field goals made (206) and attempted (449). As if that’s not enough, he also led the whole SEC in minutes while ranking third in assists and steals and fourth in scoring.

His game’s only knock is his high turnover rate (3.5) and his finishing at the rim. But the inefficiency could be attributed to his high usage rate and heavy minutes playing at an ultra-fast speed. There’s a belief that once he goes up in the NBA and the game begins to slow down for him, chances are he could become more efficient.

He has the potential to become an elite scorer with that kind of blinding speed in the era of pace and space in the NBA.

“The speed, from baseline to baseline, I think he’s the fastest guy in this Draft. I think his scoring ability, his decision making, just his reads coming out of the ball screen, his skill set, being able to pass or get into the lane are already a given, but what’s going to surprise a lot of teams is how well he shoots the ball,” Pettway said.

“If you see him work out and watched him closely, he can really, really shoot the ball, especially on catch and shoot situations, and with all the space that they have in the NBA, he’s going to be a blur. He constantly gets into the lane and looks for scoring opportunity. And another underrated part of his game is his ability to take floaters. He has a really, really nice touch on his floater.”

Per Synergy, Lewis scored 1 PPP on all jump shots (73rd percentile), 1.238 PPP when shooting off the catch (89th percentile), and 0.926 PPP on shots off the dribble (79th percentile) during his sophomore year in Alabama.

Even Iowa State head coach Steve Prohm, who has his own point guard Tyrese HaliburtonTyrese Haliburton in the draft, was impressed with Lewis.

“He’s pretty good, a phenomenal kid. He has really elite quickness that can get the ball from A to B. He can get to the free-throw line, and he can shoot it,” Prohm told Empire Sports Media.

Quick like a Fox

Lewis already knew what he could do. But he’s not resting on his laurels.

He’s smart enough to realize that speed alone doesn’t cut it to the next level. A strong game to match his blazing speed is what he would need. Described as a gym rat by his coaches, Lewis tripled his efforts in preparation for the NBA.

“He’s working out every single day. He’s eating right. He’s done a great improvement with his body in terms of getting strength. He’s constantly in the gym working out two to three times a day,” Pettway said. When he’s away from the gym, he’s watching a lot of films.

Lewis has put on 15 pounds to his once scrawny 165-lb frame.

Derek Murray, Babcock Hoops director of scouting, recently saw a vastly improved and stronger Lewis scouting trip in Miami.

“Right off the bat, Lewis showed off his dazzling speed. It didn’t matter if he was in an isolation or in the pick-and-roll; he was easily getting around his man for easy lay-ins. He always got downhill quickly, staying on par with his success at Alabama. One of the most noticeable things during the runs, however, was how Lewis absorbed contact in the lane,” Murray said.

With a stronger body, Lewis exudes more confidence on the court attacking the rim.

His burst of speed reminded Pettway of another speedy playmaker — former Kentucky Wildcat and current Sacramento Kings’ lead guard De’Aaron Fox.

 

“That kind of speed is hard to deal with,” Pettway said. “Based on their finishing, I think De’Aaron is really good at finishing while Kira is a guy who’s crafty who knows how to finish. De’Aaron is probably bigger, longer right now, but Kira shoots better at this stage.”

Fox shot 25 percent from deep as a one-and-done under John Calipari. In contrast, Lewis shot an average of 36 percent during his two-year stay in Alabama.

Fox eventually improved his outside shot in the NBA, becoming a 33-percent three-point shooter in three seasons with the Kings.

Lewis’ shooting mechanics are more precise that more than makes up for his lack of size.

Murray also saw his potential as a small-ball two-guard in the NBA.

“We also saw Kira play next to Terry Rozier and operate a fair amount off the ball, something that he did not do very often while at Alabama. It was interesting to see him without the ball in his hands as both a cutter and a floor spacer. His ability to shoot off movement may unlock a whole other level to his offensive ceiling due to his speed; a defender tasked with chasing him off screens for extended periods of time would be in for a miserable evening. While he’s not regarded as a combo guard or off-ball shooter right now, we got a glimpse into that becoming a possibility,” Murray said.

Ready for prime time

Pettway believes Lewis is the type of player who can immediately impact any NBA team, whether he’s starting or coming off the bench.

“I think with the spacing in the NBA, he’s going to have the opportunity and will be a problem every single night that he’s on the floor. I think he’s going to fit wherever the situation he goes. If there’s a veteran guard whom they want him to learn from in a couple of years, he could fit in, and if he’s thrown into a situation where he has to be the lead guard from day one, he’s really capable of doing it,” Pettway said.

“Super respectful kid. He’s a joy to coach. You can push him hard, and he won’t complain. He’s never disrespected us. He just goes about him being coached the right way and applies it. He’s a dream to coach.”

Lewis said he has talked to “just about everybody” in the NBA, which Oats also had done the same, adding that teams have been very inquisitive.

“He’s got zero red flags as a kid. He’s a great person off the floor. He works hard. He’s always at the gym. That’s the type of stuff they want to know. They can see how good he is on film. And they want to know what it’s like being him off the court. They give you some really detailed questionnaires, like interesting questions that I told one of those guys to send me those questionnaires for me to ask the recruits when we recruit kids to come here. It’s a lot of interesting questions,” Oats said. 

But as the NBA Draft approaches, the Alabama coach said he’s still getting a decent amount of calls. And based on those conversations, he already has a pulse where his point guard might fall.

“Lately, those teams who are a little bit interested are those teams from the middle to the end of the lottery to mid-first round. And everybody on that range has reached out doing their homework. And there are a few others who are maybe looking to make trades. The team with the No.1 pick has reached out to us. I don’t think he (Kira) is going No.1 in the draft. Who knows? But I think those teams that are doing homework with the possibility of maybe there are trades going to come up, have reached out,” Oats said.

The Minnesota Timberwolves have indicated that they are open to trading the No.1 pick. Either Lewis is a trade-down candidate, or he’s on their radar for their No.17 pick. But it’s unlikely that he’ll still be on the board when the Wolves get their second crack.

In this unpredictable draft, analysts’ projections of Lewis’ draft position have been varied.

Jonathan Wasserman of Bleacher Report has him at No. 10 going to the Phoenix Suns. Both Kevin O’ Connor of The Ringer and Sam Vecennie of the Athletic peg him at No. 14 with the Boston Celtics while ESPN’s Jonathan Givony slots him at 20th pick with the Miami Heat. Babcock Hoops has him going to the Pistons at No. 7.

O’Connor noted that the Celtics are offering their three picks (14, 26, and 30) to move up in the Draft. It’s unclear if that’s enough to entice the teams in the upper echelon of the lottery. The Wolves and the Golden State Warriors are looking for an established player that fits their core’s timeline.

So far, Lewis has worked out with the Knicks, Orlando Magic (No.15), Pistons, and the Chicago Bulls (No. 4).

It’s going to be a shock if the Bulls pick him at No. 4. So he’s most likely on the Bulls’ radar as a trade-down candidate.

On the other hand, the Magic are intrigued in pairing Lewis with former top overall pick Markelle Fultz at their backcourt. But with Lewis’ stock rising after his impressive workouts, the Magic may need to trade up if they want the Alabama guard. Because the Kings, who are picking at No. 12, also have their eyes on him as Fox’s backup guard. It’s going to be wild to have both speedy playmakers in Sacramento’s backcourt.

The Suns are interested as well with their starting point guard Ricky Rubio entering his 30s.

Meanwhile, the Knicks and the Pistons are both in the hunt for a lead guard. And if the FaceTime call is any indication, you can tell Lewis’s stock is rising in New York.

Pettway loves the idea of Lewis going to the Knicks as a potential lead guard.

“I love it! They have some good pieces — Julius Randle, RJ Barrett, Kevin Knox and Mitchell Robinson. I think he will mesh with those guys. Kira is the kind of guy who comes along well with everybody. That speed that he has, he will fit anywhere, but I love it with the young core that Knicks have with just a few years in the league whom he can relate to; I love that fit,” Pettway said.

“I just think he’s going to make it work wherever he goes. Guys will like to play with him because he’s unselfish. He loves the game. He wants to succeed so badly. He’s so competitive and confident and he’s going to do whatever it takes and allows his team to win the game,” he added.

Thibodeau has never had a dynamic scoring point guard since he had a prime Derrick Rose in Chicago. None of the current Knicks’ point guards so far has panned out yet.

Lewis could provide that burst of speed and outside shooting that will put pressure on the defense.

Lewis is ready for prime time.

Oats can’t wait to see his point guard star in the Broadway if ever he lands on the lap of his old friends in New York.

“It will be interesting to see what happens. I’d love for him to go to New York. I think he would be great there. Shoot, I’d like to come to New York and watch a few games. So give me a good reason to go to New York and watch some games when our season’s over.”

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

The New York Jets-New England Patriots rivalry hits new lows, yet has hope, on both sides

Seeking a win of any kind, the New York Jets can add to the New England Patriots’ woes or play an unwilling role in their redemption.

If you told New York Jets fans that their team would be only two and a half games behind the New England Patriots headed into a nationally televised Week 9 meeting, that would probably leave fans of the metropolitan green team with at least a sliver of hope. After all, New York fans have more or less grown accustomed to professional athletic dominance from the New England area over the last decade. If the Jets would be able to at least somewhat keep pace with the juggernaut from Gillette Stadium, that’d be enough to provide some warm feelings as the season grows colder.

Alas, it appears the Jets may finally be able to catch up to the Patriots…if only because New England has sunk with the face of its franchise absconding to Florida for a de facto early retirement.

The Jets’ ineptitude has perhaps taken the shine off the fall of the Patriots (2-5). It used to take two full years for New England to experience five losses. This time around, it took less than two months. Even the surefire staple of a win over the Buffalo Bills was denied to them in 2020, as the Patriots fell 24-21 to a team that held a 4-34 record against them since 2001. The Buffalo dilemma followed a 33-6 defeat to San Francisco…the worst loss the Patriots had ever suffered at Gillette Stadium since its 2002 opening. This active four-game losing streak even caused stoic head coach Bill Belichick to break character, remarking to former assistant Charlie Weis on SiriusXM NFL Radio that the Patriots had “sold out” in an attempt to immediately win more Super Bowls. New England’s four losses are the most consecutive defeats the team has suffered since Belichick’s debut year in 2000.

This comes while Tom Brady has resumed his status as an ageless wonder in Tampa Bay, to the tune of 20 touchdown passes (having thrown 24 over his final year in Foxboro) and a 103.5 passer rating. Several other familiar faces and contributors to the non-stop AFC East title-spewing machine (i.e. Julian Edelman and Stephon Gilmore) have missed time with injuries. But those in New England know that the way they’ve played during this streak is unacceptable no matter the circumstance.

“Losing is not acceptable in this locker room, in this county, in this state, in this area, in this region, so, Cameron Newton, you need to pick your (expletive) up,” Cam Newton, Brady’s successor, said after the San Francisco debacle, per Mark Daniels of The Providence Journal. “I understand that type of football play is unacceptable. I’m all about putting the football team in the best position to win. That’s what I have to do here moving forward.”

Much as they’d probably like to, the Jets (0-8) and their fans are in no position to laugh at and openly revel like the rest of the football world in New England’s demise. They continue to hunt for a mere single, though a close game would probably set off a parade down the Canyon of Heroes after enduring an average margin of defeat of three possessions over the first half of the season. The winless first half of the year was addressed by general manager Joe Douglas earlier this week. He immediately dismissed any idea of tanking and called the Patriots out by name in his statements, directly referencing the teams’ Monday night matchup (8:15 p.m. ET, ESPN) when asked about the idea of the Jets being better off with a loss.

“That’s not our thought process,” Douglas said. “We’re focused on the New England Patriots and we’re focused on getting better every day. As cliché as that sounds that’s, that we’re focused on.”

The Patriots’ struggles and the fact they’re traveling to MetLife Stadium on Monday have placed the Jets in a most unusual spot: even with no wins, they might just well be in a…trap game?

After all, if the Jets are going to eke out a win at some point, doing so against the cold Patriots might be the best chance left on their slate. With the exception of the Patriots and their first visit to SoFi Stadium to battle the Chargers in two weeks, each of the Jets’ remaining opponents are either in a current playoff spot or no more than a half-game out. Predictably, the players on the Jets’ current rosters are giving no credence to clinching the top draft pick. As the NFL’s only winless team, the Jets have the inside track for the top overall pick next spring. But doesn’t matter to the guys already dressed in green.

Starting quarterback Sam Darnold, 0-2 in his career against the Patriots, likely won’t play on Sunday due to a shoulder issue. But his words can serve as inspiration to he remaining teammates that will take the MetLife Stadium field on Sunday.

“Obviously everyone wants to win,” Darnold said, Dennis Waszak of the Associated Press. “That’s why we’re in this business. That’s why we’re professional football players. We got here by winning football games. For us, we’ve just got to put our heads down and go back to work. I feel like if we do that, we can win this game and worry about the next when it’s up.”

Darnold will likely be forced to give way to Joe Flacco, who knows at least a little something about getting the best of the Patriots. Though he’s 3-6 as a starter against New England, one of those wins came in the 2013 AFC title game, where he threw for three touchdowns in the Baltimore Ravens’ trek to Super Bowl XLVII.

But the true focus on the Jets’ young players, particularly on the offensive front. First-round choice Mekhi Becton will partake in the first of what’s envisioned to be many Jets-Patriots matchups. Fifth-round pick Bryce Hall will possibly taking on a bigger role in defense upon the release of Quincy Wilson. Denzel Mims has gotten off to a solid start after the second-round receiver was mostly forced to the bench with injuries.

Mims, chosen in the second round, is expected to be joined by Jamison Crowder and Breshad Perriman, each of whom have likewise missed time due to medical woes. Should they all partake in Monday’s game, it’ll mark the first time that the Jets have the the top receivers they envision having at the top of their depth chart at the start of the season.

“I think that’s really where we’ve got to make some strides there,” Gase said of his young receivers. “Just kind of like hearing the call and that picture pops in, you go to exactly where you need to go, you know the adjustments and you can play fast. And we’ve just got to keep working through all that stuff, that’s part of the growth process.”

Though the standings are a lost cause, to say the least, the Jets will have something major to play for on Monday, namely missing out on dubious franchise history. Should the Jets fall to New England, the 2020 edition would become the first team in franchise history to start 0-9. Even the one-win squad under Rich Kotite in 1996 avoided such a mark, doing so in Arizona in the ninth game.

On the other side, the Patriots aren’t so concerned about their recent dominance of the Jets as they are with getting back on track. New England still believes they can continue a postseason streak dating back to 2009, but any chance of continuing that hinges on a victory against the Jets. The Patriots currently sit two-and-a-half games behind Cleveland for the final AFC wild-card spot.

“I don’t think we’re a bad football team,” center David Andrews said, per Mark Daniels of Metro West Daily News. We don’t have a great record, but I don’t think we’re a bad football team.”

On the subject of winless teams, New England cornerback Jason McCourty has some prior knowledge. A former Cleveland Brown, McCourty was a part of the NFL’s last winless effort, the 2017 edition that joined the 2008 Lions in 0-for-16 infamy. Two early wins will help New England avert such a fate, but McCourty hopes that lessons learned during the harrowing 2017 campaign will help the his current compatriots get back on track.

“Don’t forget where you came from. I went through an 0-16 season and a 2-14 season and a 3-13 season. So, I’ve been through worse,” McCourty said in Daniels’ report. “You’re not going to change it by walking around here being negative or with your head down or declaring your season to be over. The only way you’re going to create change or get out of the situation you’re in, is to continue to work.”

“I think that if you’re negatively working, those are going to be the results you’re going to get. Something that’s often said around here is ‘turn the page’ and ‘On to whatever the next team is.’ For us right now, it’s the Jets. That’s our main focus. We can’t do anything about the loss to the Bills or the loss to the Niners.”

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Ex-Knicks coach Dave Fizdale weighs in on Chris Paul trade rumor: ‘Great fit but…’

The New York Knicks need Chris Paul more than he needs them.

That’s how ex-Knicks head coach David Fizdale sees the situation, reacting to Paul’s trade rumors heading to New York.

“I think the Knicks have to be open to a lot of different things, Fizdale said on ESPN’s “The Jump” on Friday. “Would he be a great fit for them? Absolutely. I think he would fit those kids — Mitchell Robinson going to the rim, they get more spacing, more shooting. Absolutely, he would fit. The big stage. He doesn’t get sick,” Fizdale said.

Paul would present both a short-term and long-term fix for the Knicks.

The 10-time All-Star would instantly help repair the Knicks’ credibility and become the face of culture rebuilt in New York that may attract marquee free agents to come and join him. At the same time, he will also fast-tracked the developmental timeline of their young core and perhaps lift them into a fringe playoff contender. However, Fizdale doesn’t see why Paul should want to go to a rebuilding team like the Knicks.

“His position fits the young players that they have. Mitchell Robinson needs a Chris Paul. RJ Barrett needs a Chris Paul. Kevin Knox needs a Chris Paul. Because of the position placement that’s why I say he could end up, especially in the bottom of the East you don’t know what’s gonna happen. He could squeak in probably if they have a couple of little things here and there but for him, I just don’t think it’s the right move for what he’s trying to get out of his career,” Fizdale explained.

Terrible fit

Even his co-guests analysts ESPN Insider Amin Elhassan and Paul Pierce agree that it’s a terrible fit.

“Awful fit! Awful fit on so many levels,” Elhassan said. “Number one, the Knicks’ whole thing on the summer of 2019, we missed out, guess what 2021 big free agents on the way, let’s keep that flexibility. So every deal they signed was either a two-year deal or a one-year deal. By doing this deal, they basically say: ‘you know what? Nevermind 2021!’ The plan, although we may not agree with what they did short-term. But in the long-term, the idea of kicking the ball ahead of 2021, that something we can get on board of, and when you talk about Chris Paul at his age and that salary the last couple of years of his deal, it just doesn’t fit with the timeline the Knicks are on it.”

“And from Chris Paul’s perspective, what am I gonna do? I’m going to a team and help them be the eighth seed and get swept in the first round? That’s not what he’s looking at this point of his career.”

Pierce would have wished for Paul to be in New York earlier in his career, but not this time where he should be chasing for a ring.

“C’mon man, you’re talking about a vet who’s obviously would be a Hall of Famer and a team that’s on a rebuild, a guy looking to secure his legacy by winning a championship. It’s a terrible fit just like what Amin said,” Pierce said.

Been there, done that

Fizdale, though, sees the wisdom of trading for Paul even if it hurts the cap space of the Knicks for the loaded 2021 free agency.

“I think you can’t try to go big-game hunting all the time,’’ Fizdale said. “You may plan for 2021, and think, I got this money. But that doesn’t mean you’re going to get the guys. I went through it.”

Fizdale and the Knicks sounded confident last year ahead of the free agency that they would net Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving after dumping Kristaps Porzingis to create a space for two superstars. But their plan backfired when the duo went instead to their across-the-bridge rival Brooklyn Nets, much to the Knicks fan base’s consternation.

Fizdale subsequently got fired in the middle of a disappointing season that saw the Knicks ending up in the lottery again. Erstwhile team president Steve Mills would soon follow months later.

Stay on course

Scott Perry remained the Knicks’ general manager, and Fizdale hoped that the organization had learned their lesson. 

“I think you gotta be meticulous about building your team and not think you’re just gonna land these big sharks all the time and so if you acquire winning pieces along the way that fit into the mentality you’re trying to build on your team, the type of guys you want to bring in to build your culture, you snatch them up while you can,” Fizdale said.

“And if a big fish is out there, yeah, you take him, but that should not knock you off from what you’re trying to do, or you see opportunities to improve your team along the way until 2021, you should take those opportunities.”

Fizdale’s advice is to stay on course with what Mills and Perry have envisioned. It remains to be seen whether Leon Rose’s leadership will produce better results that would bring the Knicks back into relevancy.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

New York Yankees Analysis: The New York Yankee’s life after DJ LeMahieu

New York Yankees, DJ LeMahieu

New York Yankee’s fans have to understand that losing fan favorite DJ LeMahieu is possible. We have to believe the Yankees will do everything they can to keep DJ LeMahieu in pinstripes for the foreseeable future while recognizing the reality that that may not happen and look forward to life without the Yankee star.

The fact is that DJ LeMahieu has been the best Yankee player for the last two years. This past season, he has been the best batter in baseball, winning the batting title and becoming the only player in baseball history to win the title in both the American and National Leagues. His success comes with a double-edged sword. His value has increased so much in the past two years that he may become too expensive for the Yankees to hold on to him.

LeMahieu was signed from the Colorado Rockies before the beginning of the 2019 baseball season. DJ saw it as an opportunity to play for a team that could get him a World Series win, and in so doing so, he signed a two-year $24 million contract. At the end of the World Series, that contract came to an end, and DJ became a free-agent. The New York Yankees picked him over all the other Yankee free agents to offer a qualifying offer for one year at $18.9 million. DJ knowing he is worth much more than that and is sure to reject that offer by the deadline to accept or reject next Wednesday.

That will put LeMahieu into the free-agent market and will test his value to any team that is interested in him, which will be many, including the cross-town Mets who are flush with new money, with their new owner Steve Cohen whose deal to become the sole owner of the New York Mets yesterday afternoon. DJ LeMahieu will demand much more money than his last contract with the Yankees and for a longer term. Some are saying that it may approach $100 million over four years. If it is that high, Yankee fans should prepare for life after DJ LeMahieu. The Yankees will not pay that much to keep DJ in the Bronx.

There are several reasons for the Yankees’ reluctance to overspend on LeMahieu. They are coming off a season that saw them lose the most revenue due to the coronavirus season that saw no fans in the stands and those associated revenues. They also have two high paid players in Gerrit Cole and Giancarlo Stanton. They have a bevy of arbitration eligible players that will be seeing 2021 raises. Add to that, the Yankees recognize their biggest problem is their pitching rotation, and that is where the Yankees will direct their resources and, at the same time, try to stay below the baseball luxury tax threshold.

Assuming the Yankees and LeMahieu part ways, what steps can the New York Yankees take to replace him? There are many free-agent players out that will be far less expensive than what DJ will be demanding.

Tommy La Stella

The 31-year-old La Stella is a free agent from the Oakland Athletics. No mistake about it he is not a DJ LeMahieu in his defense abilities or his hitting capabilities. But he is a solid player that can play any infield position, although he is mostly a second baseman. La Stella is hard to whiff (27 walks, 12 strikeouts in 2020). The lefty has a .295 average and .837 OPS versus righties over the past four years and has gone .306/.880 the past two seasons.

Cesar Hernandez

A switch-hitting free agent who does better from the left side. On the short-list for the best defensive second baseman. He hit an AL-best 20 doubles, but his overall offense will come in just about league average. Like he was for the Indians in 2020, Hernandez now is in one-year stopgap mode for a team. Would the Yankees be interested in a short term deal for a lefty in the lineup?

Whit Merrifield

Merrifield, like DJ is a hit machine. He is a second baseman that can play centerfield as well. One plus for the Yankees is that he would be the economic move as he is on a four year $16.25 million contract. He would be a free agent after the 2023 season. Would the Kansas City Royals be interested in Miguel Andujar in a deal to bring Merrifield to the Yankees?

Brandon Crawford

The New York Yankees could want to keep it all in the family by attaching themselves to Gerrit Cole’s brother-in-law. Crawford is married to Cole’s sister. The San Francisco Giants might be interested in offloading the $15 million remaining on Crawford’s contact and take Adam Ottavino and a few mid-level prospects in return. Crawford is interesting because he is a good defending shortstop that would allow Gleyber Tores to move to second base. Crawford last season was .256 with 8 home runs, which is nothing to sneeze about. Another plus is that he is a lefty bat.

Jose Ramirez

Ramirez is the closest thing out there to replace DJ LeMahieu. Ramirez is a switch-hitting power hitter. Ramirez is a third baseman by trade but can play second base. What will make Ramirez attractive to the Yankees is that his batting average of .292 is only overshadowed by his home run power. If this had been a regular 162 game season, Ramirez would have hit over 40 home runs. With a team that is centered on home runs, it could cause the Yankees to take a long hard look at Ramirez. Ramirez has finished in the top three of AL MVP voting in three of the past four years. He has $33 million left for three years with the Cleveland Indians. It will be interesting to see just how much payroll the Indians want to dump.

The bottom line

There are players out there that are free agents and others that can be traded for, but there is no other baseball player today that is better than DJ LeMahieu. The New York Yankees really need to assess their needs while making every effort to keep LeMahieu in pinstripes for years to come.

 

 

New York Jets: Mid-season team analysis

New York Jets, Adam Gase

The New York Jets are the lone winless team through eight games. How long can this remain the case? Well, the entire season, in fact. The Jets have the third-toughest remaining schedule, so they could realistically finish 0-16.

It’s widely known that they’re winless and haven’t looked competitive, but how exactly did they get to this point? This is how:

Total Offense (last)

Through 8 weeks, the Jets are ranked last in total offense, averaging just 259 yards per game. Not only is that the lowest total in the NFL, but it’s 32.8 yards behind the 31st-ranked offense of the 1-7 New York Giants. For some, 32.8 yards may not seem like a lot, but for the Jets, they have gone entire quarters, and even halves, with around that amount of yards.

Their total offense numbers are comprised of passing and rushing, obviously, but both areas are not indicative of their ranking.

The Jets do, in fact, rank last in passing yards per game with just 155.9. Their passing attack has been dreadful, to say the least. Some of it is on quarterback play, some is on play calling and some is on surrounding playmakers. Both Sam Darnold and Joe Flacco have started games at quarterback this season and neither has been impressive. Darnold, through six starts, has totaled 1,045 yards with a 58.64 completion percentage, three touchdowns and six interceptions. After watching the games and seeing those numbers, it’s hard to decide which is more putrid.

Joe Flacco has started two games for the Jets and it may become three if Darnold doesn’t play against New England Monday. He has played in three games, though, due to a lingering Darnold shoulder injury. Thus far, he has totaled 397 yards with a 51.9 completion percentage, one touchdown and one interception. Receivers have been out all year for the Jets also, primarily new addition Breshad Perriman and rookie Denzel Mims.

Running back has been somewhat of a carousel, as well. Le’Veon Bell was released a few weeks ago and both Frank Gore and rookie La’Mical Perine have seen carries, with neither clearly emerging as the best option. However, their rushing attack hasn’t been awful, which is the part of their offense that isn’t necessarily indicative of their ranking. They have the 22nd-ranked rushing attacks, averaging 103.1 yards per game.

I’m not going to get into the play-calling aspect, because the whole world seems to think Adam Gase doesn’t deserve to be an NFL head coach, so we’re all on the same page. However, if you want to laugh, I have a relatively funny stat for you:

The Jets are the only team yet to score 100 points this season, sitting at 94. That’s an average of 11.8 points per game. It’s not pretty, but sometimes you have to laugh at things you inexplicably love.

Total Defense (26th)

While Adam Gase is an “offensive guru,” Jets defensive coordinator Gregg Williams is a “defensive guru,” right? Wrong.

The Jets’ defense gives up an average of 398.9 yards per game, which ranks them 26th. Sure, one can argue that them being on the field the entire game since the offense can do anything is to blame, but it isn’t. Whichever cornerback you want to look at, they seem to be unable to stop receivers on third down. It seems as though every third down has an opposing receiver wide open, with no one within three yards of him. It’s frustrating to watch, even though it’s known there are no elite, let alone above-average, corners on the team. As a result, they allow the fourth-most passing yards per game with 282.8.

One relatively “bright” spot in this dull defense is their rush “prevention” group. They are ranked in the top half of rush defenses at spot 14. They allow an average of 116.1 rushing yards per game. That isn’t great, but it’s far better than their pass defense. In past years, their rush defense has usually been better than their pass defense, but it’s impossible to say either has been impressive this season.

On a good note, linebacker Neville Hewitt is in the top-10 for total tackles by linebackers with 67.

With the Jets hosting the Patriots on Monday, they could either be potentially tied with the worst record at 1-8 or hold on strong to being the worst at 0-9.

Bobby Marks: Brooklyn Nets’ big man Jarrett Allen looking for Clint Capela-type of extension

Brooklyn Nets, Jarrett Allen

Will the Brooklyn Nets extend or cash in Jarret Allen?

This is one of the biggest questions that Net’s general manager Sean Marks would have to address aside from re-signing Joe Harris and finding the third star to complement the returning Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.

Allen’s contract extension talks could be tied with the last one as his name constantly pops up in trade rumors.

Conventional wisdom says the Nets would likely play out Allen’s rookie deal and have him as a restricted free agent next year. But that would be tempting Allen to walk away after this season without getting anything in return.

Former Nets’ assistant general manager and now ESPN’s front office insider Bobby Marks recently weighed in on Allen’s contract situation.

“He’s looking for a Clint Capela-type of money,” Marks said on Brian Windhorst and the Hoop Collective Podcast.

Capela signed a five-year, $90-million extension deal with the Houston Rockets in 2018 before he was traded to the Atlanta Hawks last season. Capela was 24 at the time of the deal.

“I would think it’s hard for me to extend him to that type of number and the other thing is if you extend these guys, you’re basically off the board for a year because of the poison pill restriction in your contract. So it’s not like he’s tradeable so I think if I’m Brooklyn and if I can get him in that $12-14 million range, I’m looking for a below-market type of deal here,” Marks added.

But would Allen agree to a discount in a reduced role for the next three to four years?

 

Marks and Windhorst’s ESPN colleague Tim MacMahon chimed in, suggesting that it’s more complicated than it seems.

“The other thing is the strange dynamic with KD and Kyrie’s guy, DeAndre Jordan, as $10-million a year dude, paying him that much to play 18-20 minutes a game. Do they want DeAndre in the starting lineup? You can’t ignore that whole dynamic when you’re making these decisions and obviously, the Nets’ front office isn’t ignoring anything that KD and Kyrie have to say when it comes to making major decisions,” MacMahon said.

The 22-year old Allen was one of the homegrown Nets but could see himself as another casualty of the new order with the team’s championship window arriving.

The markings were on the wall when Irving left him out of their core during a controversial post-game talk early this year.

“Collectively, I feel like we have great pieces, but it’s pretty glaring we need one more piece or two more pieces that will complement myself, [Kevin Durant], DJ, GT, Spence [Dinwiddie], Caris [LeVert], and we’ll see how that evolves,” Irving said after losing to the Philadelphia 76ers in January.

Allen subsequently lost the starting job to Jordan after Kenny Atkinson, his biggest backer, left the team. While Allen has said all the right things since the demotion, it’s still a bitter pill to swallow after showing he’s a capable starter on a playoff team before last season.

Would he want to play as a backup in a championship contender or secure the bag and play as a starter with another team?

Nets owner and Alibaba co-founder Joe Tsai has no qualms about paying the luxury tax. Still, Bobby Marks, speaking from his experience with former Nets’ owner Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, warned that Sean Marks and the Nets’ front office could be courting trouble if they flame out while being the league’s top taxpayer.

“Here’s the deal with these guys (rich owners). They may be making 20 billion dollars a year and I’ve said this all along. When you’ve got to write a luxury tax cheque, or wire money for $40 or $50 million and you lose in the second round or conference finals, it’s not a pleasant meeting with the ownership. So I don’t care what they’re worth. Nobody wants to spend $50 million on tax,” Marks said.

Earlier, Marks told Empire Sports Media that a Harris deal worth $12 million annually would net the Nets a $50-million tax bill. A lucrative Allen extension would push Tsai to dig deeper into his pocket.

Even with a healthy Durant and Irving, the Nets are not a surefire favorite. They would have to contend in a crowded East with at least five more solid contenders in Miami, Milwaukee, Toronto, Philadelphia, and Boston.

Sean Marks showed his chops as an executive pulling the Nets out of the rabbit hole by extracting value out of nothing.

Now that he’s got something, will he keep it or flip it?

Marks has his work cut out for him.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

New York Jets: Who should replace Gregg Williams at defensive coordinator?

New York Jets, Gregg Williams

The New York Jets defense currently looks lifeless for a number of reasons. The biggest two, though, are coaching and lack of talented personnel. The primary excuse to this point has been, “the defense cannot get off the field” when in actuality, the Jets’ time of possession is only on average of five minutes or so less than their opponents. They fail to control the ball, which is true, but the team is so poorly coached; it is laughable.

With budding turmoil between head coach Adam Gase and Defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams, it is not a long shot to think that Williams could be axed soon, with Gase following eventually. Williams has regressed mightily this year, likely due to the talent drop-off and the poor leadership from Gase, Still, as the rift widens between the two, I decided to pinpoint one guy who makes sense to replace Williams as soon as possible.

Dennard Wilson Deserves A Shot

Dennard Wilson had a fairly impressive college football career at the University of Maryland. Wilson was a dynamic piece of the Terrapins secondary, playing in 42 games with 30 starts. In his senior year, he played well enough to earn an honorable All-ACC Mention and eventually a contract from the Washington Football Team. Unfortunately, a season-ending injury wrecked his pro career, but he quickly found his niche as a coach.

Fast forward to 2017, Wilson was brought on to be the defensive backs coach under Todd Bowles and the Jets. Wilson impressed so highly in his first year that he kept a job despite the coaching turnover. As of this season as well, Wilson even earned a promotion to Passing Game Coordinator/ DBs Coach. Wilson has quickly ascended the coaching ranks, and at 38, has made a name for himself in the NFL.

Despite having one of the least talented secondaries in the league, last season, the secondary was able to display potential with pieces like Brian Poole and Bless Austin earning long-term roles. Then this season, the team has improved its amount of turnovers and rotated in young corners to see what they are made of. The success of guys like Austin, UDFA Lamar Jackson, and Brian Poole can be attributed to the hands-on approach used by Wilson.

His coaching has led him to keep his job, and he evidently deserves a shot to prove himself as a coordinator. To put it frankly, Williams deserves a shot to go work under a competent young head coach, a la, Wade Phillips in LA. As for Wilson, the potential coaching ascension possibilities for him would be plentiful if he had success. He could remain on the staff as the coordinator if another head coach didn’t want to bring in his own guy or if the coach/organization sees potential in him. Not only that, but he could earn a potentially better opportunity as a coordinator elsewhere, or even as a head coach in New York if he does THAT good. The opportunities are endless, and the Jets should seize the opportunity to lessen the organizational dissension by axing Williams and giving Wilson a shot as the Defensive Coordinator.

New York Giants: Week eight stock report, ups and downs

New York Giants receiver, Sterling Shepard.

The New York Giants fell to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a heated divisional battle on Monday Night Football.

It was a heart-crushing 25-23 defeat for Big Blue on primetime. New York was up for most of the game and once again had many opportunities to win, but unfortunately, in the end, they were not able to pull through. The Giants are now 1-7 and last in the NFC East.

Here’s how this victory affected the stock of various people in the Giants organization.

Stock up

Coaching Staff

The entire coaching staff as a whole performed phenomenally in week eight. Even though they did not get the outcome they desired, this coaching staff proved that they can get their team to compete with anyone.

The New York Giants entered the game as double-digit underdogs but ironically jumped out to a double-digit first-half lead. Unfortunately, they ended up surrendering this lead; however, the coaches had the Giants in this game until the last seconds. They were a two-point conversion away from an overtime trip with a potential win.

The reason why the coaches were able to do this was that both Jason Garrett and Patrick Graham designed a phenomenal gameplan. Garrett relied on elaborate run schemes and quick passes to get the Giants offense looking at the best it has all year—23 points and 357 yards. While Patrick Graham got pressure on Brady and used a good mixture of zone and man to hold the Buccaneers to 25 points.

Sterling Shepard, WR

Sterling Shepard had his best game of the season on Monday.

The Oklahoma product is just finally getting healthy, and it is starting to show. Shep had eight catches for 74 yards on 10 targets against the Buccaneers. He has quickly become Daniel Jones’ most reliable target in this quick passing offense that the Giants are trending towards. Expect more big days from Sterling Shepard.

Leonard Williams, DT

Leonard Williams is continuing his campaign to get paid as he recorded his fourth sack in week eight. He played great all-around Monday as he recorded four tackles and a Pro Football Focus (PFF) grade of 85.7. He has become New York’s best defensive lineman and is not looking back.

Jabrill Peppers, S

Jabrill Peppers is another player that is starting to get healthy, and it is also showing. Since coming back from injury, he has played great, and in the most recent game, he recorded 10 total tackles (9 solo) and two passes defended.

Blake Martinez, LB

Blake Martinez has not only been the Giants’ best linebacker but arguably one of the best linebackers in the league. He currently has 83total tackles (tied for first in the NFL), seven tackles, and two sacks. Nine of those tackles came on Monday Night Football, and in that game, he also added a crucial forced fumble. The signing of Blake Martinez is proving to be one of the better signings in the NFL this past offseason.

Stock Down

Daniel Jones, QB

Do not get me wrong, Daniel Jones made some fantastic plays last week, including two touchdown dimes. But his turnovers have become an overwhelming issue.

The sophomore quarterback now has 34 turnovers in his first 20 games, and two of them came in last week’s game. Both were inexcusable as the young quarterback did not need to throw either of the balls. He could have simply taken the sack or thrown it out of bounds. However, like he normally does, Daniel Jones tried to do something with nothing, and it ended up biting him in the butt. Take away these two interceptions, and the result of this football game might have ended very differently.

Nevertheless, it seems as the Giants will be sticking with Jones for the foreseeable future, but his carelessness with the ball is starting to really rub Giants’ fan the wrong way.

Yankees fan favorite retires as a player but could return as a coach for the Bombers

New York Yankees, Erik Kratz

The New York Yankees will be losing a fan favorite player for 2021 and beyond. Catcher Erik Kratz elected to opt-out of playing in the future as a player, but very well could return as a coach.

“My next season will not be as a player, that’s for sure,” he said. “I am deciding not to play.”

Formally a 29th round pick by the Blue Jays in 2002, Kratz has enjoyed a lengthy career and is currently 40 years old. He made his major league debut with the Pirates back in 2010, making his way around the league and ending up with the Yankees in 2020.

Across 30 plate appearances, he slashed .321/.367/.393. His MLB career hasn’t been as productive but he’s always been a fantastic teammate and veteran leader for some of the younger guys on the roster.

Kratz ended up being a significant influence on young pitcher Deivi Garcia, who considers him his “padre.” After Garcia’s first game as a Yankee, Kratz broke down in tears with how proud he was.

The New York Yankees need to find a way to keep Kratz around:

Erik is one of the most caring players you will find, especially when it comes to younger athletes who are rising through the system. Not only would he be a phenomenal coach to add, simply because he cares so much, but he also has the baseball knowledge to help develop players over the long term.

Interestingly, Kratz understands that he’s been an up-and-down player his entire career and while stats are important, he’s found gratification in making connections with players in the minor leagues and watching them develop.

“It’s hard to explain,” Kratz said, via MLB.com. “Being a up-and-down type of player my entire career … personally, you want to have good stats, you want to have everything defensively, offensively all that stuff. Ultimately for me, the things I’ve found satisfaction and incredible gratification in is being able to make connections with players — in the Minor Leagues, in the big leagues, pitchers, position players, whatever it is — and hopefully go on to see them have success.

Even manager Aaron Boone sees how special of a person Erik is and the value he brings to the locker room.

“He’s beloved in that room by everyone, and it’s because of the joy he kind of lives his life with that’s infectious. The fact that you can’t help but notice how much he cares about other people. And at the age of 40, he’s still capable of going out there between the lines and impacting our club. We’ve been lucky to have him.”

By the reviews, Kratz gets from players and coaches alike, keeping him around the organization can only be a positive thing.