Aaron Pico looks to make it three in a row at Bellator 252

Tomorrow night, Bellator returns and one of their brightest prospects is back in action. Aaron Pico (6-3) returns for his tenth professional bout tomorrow night and he will be taking on John De Jesus (13-8).

Pico’s career has been interesting so far. There was so much hype behind him when Bellator signed him when he was still a teenager. Pico had incredible amateur boxing credentials and was looked at as an Olympic level wrestler.

His credentials along with his natural athleticism had many believing he could be like another Jon Jones. Just someone who could come along and dominate everyone and everything in front of him.

Pico signed with Bellator back in 2014 when he was just 18 years old. It wouldn’t be until 2017 when Pico finally made his debut. With all the cameras on him, Pico failed in his debut losing in just 24 seconds.

It was a come back to earth moment for Pico and Bellator. Since that moment, we have seen a lot of improvement from Pico, but there have been some slip ups. Notably the knockout losses to Henry Corrales and Adam Borics.

The knock on Pico so far in his Bellator career has been his lack of discipline. He is so gifted, however, he wouldn’t always go to his bread and butter. He would get drawn into firefights where his chin was cracked a few good times.

Bellator 252 Preview

Tomorrow night, Pico has the chance to make it three wins in a row inside the Bellator cage. In his last fight against Chris Hatley, Pico really showed off that he can fight with a calm and deliberate pace.

Facing an opponent with knockout power, Pico used his wrestling. While Pico does have good boxing and great speed, his wrestling is where he shines. He completely dominated Hatley on the mat on his way to winning by submission.

Now, his opponent tomorrow night is no slouch. While John De Jesus will come into the cage with a 13-8 record, he has won three in a row. He looked very good at Bellator 244 in his victory over Vladyslav Parubchenko.

De Jesus should provide Pico with another solid test tomorrow night. That being said, I think Pico can win this fight no matter where it takes place. This should be another night where Pico takes a step forward if he fights smart, and I think he will.

Prediction: Aaron Pico by TKO – Round 2

How the New York Rangers could have a different looking season in 2020-21

With an uptick of COVID-19 cases around New York and the world, it should be no surprise that the New York Rangers and their fans will see a very different season in 2020-21. Yesterday, Commissioner Gary Bettman revealed that the NHL will still try to target January 1 as the start of their season. This was the first of a multitude of plans that the NHL and the NHLPA will try to implement in order to start and complete a season.

Coming off the success of the playoff hubs, Commissioner Bettman said Tuesday that the NHL is exploring short-term hubs, temporary realignment and a reduced schedule as options for the 2020-21 season amid the coronavirus pandemic, especially as the number of cases rises in recent days.

“You’ll play for 10 to 12 days,” Bettman said in a virtual panel discussion during the 2020 Paley International Council Summit. “You’ll play a bunch of games without traveling. You’ll go back, go home for a week, be with your family. We’ll have our testing protocols and all the other things you need.

“It’s not going to be quite as effective as a bubble, but we think we can, if we go this route, minimize the risks to the extent practical and sensible. And so that’s one of the things that we’re talking about.”

Most of these issues will be discussed when the NHL updates its governors in a conference call scheduled for Thursday.

The League is exploring teams playing in their own arenas (with or without fans depending on the local situation), in hubs, or in a hybrid system, but Bettman reiterated that the NHL would not entertain the complete bubble that they instituted for the playoffs.

Another issue will be around temporary realignment, which would include an all-Canadian division.

“Obviously, we’re not going to move all seven Canadian franchises south of the 49th Parallel, and so we have to look at alternative ways to play,” Commissioner Bettman said. “And while crossing the U.S.-Canadian border is an issue, we’re also seeing within the United States limitations in terms of quarantining when you go from certain states to other states. It’s again part of having to be flexible. …

“As it relates to the travel issue, which is obviously the great unknown, we may have to temporarily realign to deal with geography, and that may make sense, because having some of our teams travel from Florida to California may not make sense.

“It may be that we’re better off, particularly if we’re playing a reduced schedule, which we’re contemplating, keeping it geographically centric, more divisional based, and realigning, again on a temporary basis, to deal with the travel issues.”

Any plan would be a collaborative effort between the NHL and the NHL Players’ Association, as was the 2020 Return to Play Plan. Though both sides are in constant and regular communication, there haven’t been any regular meetings.

 

 

 

New York Mets: The ‘Cohen effect’ is already working its magic

When New York Mets‘ owner Steve Cohen talked to the press on Tuesday, fans could feel a calm, composed tone but also a clear determination of succeeding and leaving his mark on one of the most storied fanbases in baseball. The new man in charge stated that he would like to lift the World Series trophy within the next 3-5 years.

But as it turns out, fans weren’t the only ones that loved his speech and tone. Starting pitcher Marcus Stroman, who had the team waiting on his decision whether or not to take a one year, $18.9 million qualifying offer, ended up accepting thanks, in part, to the impression Cohen’s remarks left on him.

Sure, the most likely scenario is that Stroman’s agency tested the market for a few days to see which kinds of multiyear deals were out there for him, and given the uncertain post-Covid market, he decided that the safest route was to take the New York Mets’ one-year deal and re-enter free agency after the 2021 season. But the player himself clarified that he is fully on board with Cohen’s project.

The Mets’ boss impressed Stroman

After Stroman confirmed MetsMerized’s announcement that he would take the qualifying offer, Cohen tweeted at him saying that he was very happy with his decision and he would call him later to thank him.

The pitcher, in a different tweet, said that he was “beyond excited” to play for Cohen after watching Tuesday’s press conference.

“After watching the presser, I’m beyond excited to play for you sir. I could feel the excitement and passion you’re going to bring daily. Let’s go be great!,” he said.

Cohen, a lifelong Mets’ fans, is already off to a strong start just by filling fans’ hopes with the promise of building a perennial contender. He wants to compete for the long haul.

Mets’ fans are sure hoping that the ‘Cohen effect’ works its magic with some of the top free agent targets in the market, such as starting pitcher Trevor Bauer and JT Realmuto. It is evident that Cohen wants to build a winning, sustainable franchise, and so far, he has said all the right words.

Mets and Yankees potential target J.T. Realmuto will reportedly reject qualifying offer

New York Yankees, JT Realmuto

The best catcher in baseball will officially hit free agency. J.T. Realmuto, who played the last couple of seasons with the Philadelphia Phillies, will reportedly reject the team’s qualifying offer and is now set to enter the market, one that could have a lot of suitors. Both the New York Yankees and New York Mets, especially the latter, could be tempted to make a competitive offer.

The fact that Realmuto will not sign the one-year, $18.9 million offer tells us that there should be quite a market for him out there. He is said to be seeking a multiyear offer that could be close to the $200 million range, although with the current market uncertainties, reaching that number could be difficult.

He should, however, get a higher annual value than the $18.9 million of the qualifying offer while securing multiple years. Realmuto is, without a question, the most talented backstop in the bigs, and the New York Mets happen to have a hole at the position after declining Wilson Ramos’ club option just a few days ago.

He would be a clear upgrade for the Mets

Tomas Nido, while a good defensive catcher, probably won’t be starting for the Mets. The team is fully expected to find an upgrade in the position, and while the price tag could be very high, Realmuto fits the bill in what new owner Steve Cohen and the team president Sandy Alderson are looking for: players who can contribute now but also have some staying power over the next few years.

The Yankees, meanwhile, have both Gary Sanchez and Kyle Higashioka in the position. Sanchez struggled so much during the 2020 season (.147/.253/.365 slash line) that he was benched in favor of Higgy during the postseason. The team may explore to trade the Kraken, bring Realmuto and keep Higashioka as a backup, but it is highly unlikely because of financial reasons.

Realmuto is fresh off hitting .266/.349/.491 with a .361 wOBA and a 125 wRC+, with 11 home runs, 33 runs, 32 RBI and even 4 steals in 47 games in 2020. He has virtually no weaknesses and could even fit in the middle of the powerful Mets’ lineup.

It remains to be seen if the Mets will splash the cash on Realmuto, if they will pursue starting pitcher Trevor Bauer, or if they focus on cheaper targets at both positions.

New York Yankees News: Marcus Stroman won’t be going to the Yankees, accepts Mets qualifying offer

New York Yankees, New York Mets, Marcus Stroman

The New York Yankees are looking for pitchers to fill the rotation; one pitcher is no longer in the equation, the New York Met’s Marcus Stroman has accepted the Mets $18.9 million qualifying offer to spend another year at Citi Field in Queens. Stroman was often mentioned as a solution to the Yankee’s need for a mid-rotation pitcher.

Last season the Yankees also considered Stroman in a trade with the Toronto Blue Jays, but that didn’t work out, and he ended up with the crosstown New York Mets. In this coronavirus season, Stroman was one of the players to opt-out, only playing a few games before injuring himself with a muscle tear in his left calf. His return was unknown, but then opted out of the season and didn’t play another game for the Mets.

“After watching the presser, I’m beyond excited to play for you sir. I could feel the excitement and passion you’re going to bring daily. Let’s go be great! @StevenACohen2,” Stroman wrote.

With Stroman now out of the picture, that is one less pitcher the New York Yankees have to consider in repairing their starting pitching rotation. The Yankees lost three pitchers that were not offered qualifying offers. Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton, and J.A. Happ. It appears the Yankees are not negotiating with any of them. If they attempt to bring any one of the back, it will be Masahiro Tanaka, but at a discounted rate for a short term contract.

Besides Stroman, the Yankees are looking at Corey Kluber, Kevin Gausman, and Charlie Morton of the Tampa Bay Rays. Morton is a solid pitcher with successful postseason experience with the Houston Astros and the Tampa Bay Rays. That experience might be very attractive to the Yankees to have a third or fourth starter should they reach the postseason.

 

New York Mets: Marcus Stroman Accepts Qualifying Offer

New York Yankees, New York Mets, Marcus Stroman

After Steve Cohen hit a home run during Tuesday’s press conference, it resonated throughout baseball. It led to Marcus Stroman returning to the New York Mets after accepting the one-year/$18.9 million deal to return to Flushing for at least one more season.

Stroman opted out of the 2020 season after the combination of an injury,, and COVID-19 scares kept him away. The new contract makes Stroman the third highest-paid player on the team and likely was more than he would have received in free agency after spending 2020 on the sidelines.

Stroman and Cohen seem to get along already just fine as a few friendly tweets were thrown each other’s way. There is strong character in both Stroman and Cohen, which makes it look like a good marriage for at least one more season.

New Mets Rotation

The Mets now have a rotation of Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and David Peterson to join Stroman. The final slot could go to Seth Lugo but he seems ticketed for the bullpen. Trevor Bauer is still on the marked along with a couple useful depth pieces.

Steve Cohen’s affect on the franchise is already showing as Stroman made it a no-brainer to return. Another owner called Sandy Alderson after the presser as well. Early on in this odd free agency period, it already looks like the Mets are in a spot they have not found themselves at in years.

Can the New York Yankees right their 2018 wrong?

New York Yankees, Charlie Morton

After the 2018 season ended, the New York Yankees knew that they needed to do something to address their starting rotation. They kicked off the offseason by trading for Seattle’s ace, James Paxton.

While that was a good start, the Yankees knew that they needed to do more to address their rotation. Back in the previous trade deadline, the Yankees had made a deal to acquire Blue Jays starting pitcher, J.A. Happ.

Happ was sensational when he came over to the Yankees. After getting traded to New York, Happ went 7-0 with a 2.69 ERA. However, Happ stumbled in the playoffs which was one of the reasons the Yankees were bounced in the first round.

Happ was a free agent after the 2018 season ended. The Yankees had Paxton, but they were examining the free agent market looking to secure one more starting pitcher. There were two pitchers they kicked the tires on.

They seemed to be interested in resigning Happ or potentially bringing in Charlie Morton. Morton had been a standout for the Houston Astros after seeing a career resurgance. In fact, Morton pitched the deciding game 7 against the Yankees in the 2017 ALCS.

Despite Morton’s dominance over them and his incredible 2018 season, the Yankees decided to move in a different direction. They decided to resign the familiar face in J.A. Happ. A decision that would come back to truly bite the bombers.

Yankees Giant Mistake

Charlie Morton signed with Tampa Bay while the Yankees resigned Happ. Both pitchers were signed to two year deals. However, it was clear from the very beginning that signing Happ was a mistake by Brian Cashman.

Happ was not just bad, but god awful in 2019. Happ was 12-8 with an ERA approaching five. He was so bad that he was kicked out of the starting rotation and barely appeared in the Yankees 2019 playoff run.

Meanwhile, Charlie Morton was sensational for the Rays. Morton was 16-6 with an ERA of 3.05 and he finished third in the Cy Young voting. Not only that, but Morton appeared in two starts in the postseason where he went 2-0 with a 1.80 ERA for the Rays.

Now, Happ had a better 2020 than Morton did. Morton battled injuries, however, when the postseason came around, it was a different story. He was dominant again in the playoffs going 3-1 with a 3.15 ERA.

Morton could have made a difference

Meanwhile Happ was lit up by the Tampa Bay Rays in his lone start in the ALDS. I’m willing to go out on a limb and say that if the Yankees signed Morton over Happ in 2018, they would’ve defeated the Astros to make it to the WS in 2019.

They also would’ve defeated the Rays this year in the playoffs. That decision was horrific by the front office, but they have the chance at Morton again. Morton is proven in the postseason, and despite his age, I think he’s a guy they should seriously target this offseason.

There are already reports around the Yankees interest. They need a starter outside of Gerrit Cole to come up big when it matters. There aren’t many big game pitchers like Charlie Morton available. I think they should do what they can to bring him in on a reasonable deal.

The Islanders’ “Reverse Retros” will be navy blue, and there’s nothing wrong with that

New York Islanders, NYI

The Islanders are going the simple route for their new uniform for this coming season.

After much speculation, it was revealed yesterday the Isles’ reverse retro outfit will have them sporting a navy blue jersey.

Adidas Hockey showed a preview of all the colors the 31 NHL clubs will be using for the special program to be implemented this coming season when it begins.

The Islanders’ sweater having the number 80 on the back prompted fans to believe the jersey could feature the aesthetics and logo worn during the dynasty era. This was also pointed out by the New York Post’s Mollie Walker.

I had speculated a few weeks back whether the Isles would go the direction of paying homage to those championship teams of the early ‘80s, albeit with orange as the primary base. Clearly Adidas and the organization would be better suited with navy blue. And as much as some of the fanbase will find that color boring — they’ve made those thoughts well known since the clip dropped yesterday — it sticks to what this organization is about now: not being flashy.

We’ve seen what has happened in the past when the Islanders have tried to be that way. It didn’t work out, some way worse than others.

But it’s ok the Isles aren’t looking to have a jersey that pops.

The franchise hasn’t shown any sense of that kind of pizazz under the Lamoriello-Barry Trotz regime, so why start now? That’s not the way a Lou Lamoriello-esque organization operates and it’s not the kind of image he wants people to think of. Even when the franchise introduced their current third jersey back in 2018-19, it was a simple design and didn’t have an overwhelming “wow factor” to it.

Those jerseys might I add, are pretty damn nice and have sold well.

Regardless, the navy blue can be considered as a retro color in the annals of the franchise. The team donned the tone as both a home and road thread from 1998 until 2010 before it was replaced by the royal blue shade the team sports now.

Who doesn’t remember the famed getup being worn by Alexei Yashin and his trademark turtleneck or dare we say John Tavares in the Reebok-Edge threads?

Those might have not been the greatest days for the franchise, but there was some success.

Fans will get to see the full Isles look a few days from now when Adidas is expected to have an event where every team’s jersey is unveiled.

It should be an unassuming yet hopefully a solid look. That’s just what the Islanders are now.

And there’s nothing wrong with that.

New York Yankees Breaking News: DJ LeMahieu has rejected the Yankees’ qualifying offer

New York Yankees, DJ LeMahieu

The New York Yankees have a new free agent. Today DJ LeMahieu rejected the Yankees qualifying offer of one year at $18.9 million, making him a free agent and able to test what the market has to offer. Reportedly there is a bevy of teams that will take a long serious look at acquiring the 2020 batting title champ. Among them are the Boston Red Sox, the Philadelphia Phillies, the Washington Nationals, the Los Angeles Dodger, and yes, the New York Yankees.  Today, rejecting the Yankees offer isn’t the end of the story; the Yankees can and will negotiate to keep the star in pinstripes.

The Red Sox need a second baseman and would love to see LeMahieu at second base playing against his Yankees. The Red Sox long time second baseman Dustin Pedroia has $12 million left on his contract. Although the Red Sox and their fans love the second baseman, he has played only nine games in the past three seasons, including one game during 2020. The money is on the Red Sox and Pedroia coming to an agreement and leading to his baseball retirement. The Red Sox with its new manager Alex Cora would love to see DJ leading off their lineup. Mookie Betts, that the Sox lost to the Dodgers, was their leadoff man for years.

The Philadelphia Phillies are also in play for acquiring DJ. Last year the Phillies acquired Didi Gregorius from the Yankees in free agency. To upgrade their shortstop, they moved Jean Segura to second base and slotted in Didi at short. Now Didi is a free agent. The Phillies could move Segura back to short and open up second base for LeMahieu.

After being 2019 World Champions, the Washington Nationals crashed back to earth, ending the 2020 season in fourth place in the NL East. The Nationals showed interest in LeMahieu before the Yankees acquired him from his days as a Colorado Rocky; there is no reason to believe that they won’t be interested in him this time. The Nationals last year used call- up Luis Garcia at second.  His .302 OBP and poor defense will likely have him back in the minors this year. That will open up second base for LeMahieu, but the Nationals would be happy to see him in any infield position for the 2021 season.

The big problem for the Yankees is that the wealthy Los Angeles Dodgers are interested in LeMahieu. The Dodgers are World Champions and would like to defend that and win their second Fall Classic in a row, there second since 1988. With all the platooning the manager Dave Roberts does, LeMahieu can play anywhere in the infield and is the perfect fit. The Dodgers are likely the only team with the money to compete with the Yankees in the offseason.

Lastly, but most importantly, the New York Yankees will do everything in their power to keep LeMahieu leading off for them and playing at second or another infield position. After acquiring DJ before the 2019 season, they gave him a $24 million contract keeping him in pinstripes through the end of this season. DJ has been a dream come true for the Yankees. He is called the “machine” for his ability to get on base. He led the Yankees both years in hits. In 2019 he was a Silver Slugger, this year, he is in the running to be AL MVP. He also won the batting title, the only player to win the award in both leagues.

Yankee general manager Brian Cashman will have to get creative in trying to keep DJ playing at Yankees Stadium. The talk is that he will most likely want a payday near double what he earned last year and will want a contract long enough to provide him with security in the coming years. At 32, he likely has four more good years in him. Although the competition for LeMahieu will be fierce, the Yankees may have the upper hand. DJ likes New York and playing for the Yankees. He has also has made it be known that he would like to continue playing for the Yankees,

 

 

Bellator 252 Preview: Patricio Pitbull – Pedro Carvalho

Patricio Pitbull Freire

Tomorrow night Bellator returns to action. In the main event of the evening, we will see the fight that was supposed to take place just before the pandemic shut things down. This card was hours away before production shut down in March.

Bellator two-division champion, Patricio “Pitbull” Freire (30-4), will be taking on Pedro Carvalho (11-3) in the featherweight division. The fight will be the first fight of 2020 for both of these top featherweights.

The last time we saw Pitbull in the Bellator cage, he successfully defended his featherweight crown against new bantamweight champion, Juan Archuleta. Pitbull is on a five fight winning streak with that last loss coming by way of injury.

Patricio Pitbull is the class of Bellator. The two-division champion is known as one of the best fighters in the world. In fact, he’s most known for his first round knockout of Michael Chandler who was a big recent signing by the UFC.

There’s a reason why Pitbull will enter the cage tomorrow as a big betting favorite. However, the challenger has a ton of hype around him and many feel that he is going to give Patricio Pitbull a run for his money.

Bellator 252 Main Event

Pedro Carvalho will enter the Bellator cage tomorrow night riding a six fight winning streak. He’s really taken off in his last three contests finishing all three of his opponents before hitting the third round.

Carvalho is extremely tall and lengthy for the featherweight division. He will have a six inch height advantage and a five inch reach advantage tomorrow night over the Bellator two-division champion.

When it comes to breaking this fight down, it will all come down to how well Patricio Pitbull can get inside. I think Pitbull is one of the best in the world at overcoming a reach disadvantage. He’s going to need those skills tomorrow night.

We could see a leg kick heavy attack from Pitbull tomorrow. However, I think Carvalho’s straight shots and jabs could give him issues. Carvalho’s skills on the ground and long limbs could make Pitbull’s top game challenging tomorrow night.

Ultimately in the end, I think the fight is going to take place predominately on the feet. I expect Carvalho to shock a lot of people with how well he’s going to do. However, in the end, it’s hard to bet against the champ. I’m expecting a war, but I’m rocking with Pitbull in a close one.

Prediction: Patricio “Pitbull” Freire by Unanimous Decision