New York Giants: Retirement not off the table for OT Nate Solder

New York Giants, Nate Solder

Nate Solder is one face that we haven’t seen this season for the New York Giants. While Solder was one of the most high profile additions when he joined the team, he chose to opt out of this season due to his son’s health problems with cancer. Obviously, Solder has been taking increased precautions with coronavirus because of that health situation. And for the most part, we haven’t heard from Solder since then.

The Giants have moved on the best they could. Andrew Thomas was drafted at Solder’s position and the offensive line has reached a stable spot right now, even without Solder. But will we see the tackle again, or will the Giants move on permanently after figuring things out without him this season?

Nate Solder uncertain on future

Based on what he’s said to the New York Post, it doesn’t look like even Nate Solder has all the answers about his future right now. We may see him suit up for the Giants again, or we may not. The decision hasn’t been made yet, but we do know from his own words that Solder is at peace with it if a return doesn’t happen and this does spell the end of his career.

“I feel like I’m in such a blessed position because I’ve had a window into what life after football is going to look like. If it ends like this, I really enjoy what I’m doing and the opportunities I have,” Solder said. He also said that his retirement won’t necessarily come right now, however. “That does not mean it’s going to happen now. It could be in two, three years. I have not made that decision yet.”

But he also claims that the time away hasn’t taken away his playing skills. He still has, in his words, the ability to physically perform at a high level.

“Mentally, I’m getting healthy and I feel strong, and I have some pieces together that I didn’t have at this time last year. I’m going to wait to see what happens and what the possibilities are,” Solder added.

Looking to the future

Solder’s time on the field with the Giants has been shaky as best so far and the team drafted a player in the top five to play his position this year. Even without opting out, it looked like the Giants were making eventual plans to move on. So, it won’t be that surprising if the Giants ultimately do decide beyond this season that sticking with their current offensive line is better than adding Solder back into the mix.

But nothing is set in stone yet. And until next year when things will likely go back to normal in the NFL and opted out players return, it’s hard to say just what the exact outcome will be. As for Solder, he’s already a two time Super Bowl champion with the Patriots. If he wanted to walk away right now, he can easily do so as a fairly accomplished player.

Sources: New York Yankees, Pittsburgh Pirates in discussions about Josh Bell and Jameson Taillon

New York Yankees

Multiple sources have reported that the New York Yankees and the Pittsburgh Pirates have discussed a potential trade involving Josh Bell and Jameson Taillon of the Pirates.

The Yankees are in need of starting pitching and a left-handed hitter, and a trade could take care of those needs. However, it could come at the expense of Yankee first baseman Luke Voit.

Bell, a first baseman himself, is a left-handed power-hitting first baseman. He was an all-star in 2019, hitting 37 home runs, driving in 116, and recording an OPS of nearly .950. Bell struggled in 2020, hitting just eight home runs with an OPS well under .700. Many of baseball’s stars struggled in 2020, so it’s not something that could be a dealbreaker.

The big issue with Bell is his defense. Since his 2019 debut, Bell has a -7.0 dWAR and -37 defensive runs saved. In short, he’s a horrendous defender.

If the Yankees were to acquire Bell, they would have to make a decision: either play Bell at first, or DH him. Right now, the Yankees are planning to DH Giancarlo Stanton, but that could change if Bell becomes a Yankee. If they were to play Bell at first, it would likely be the end of the Luke Voit era. Bell would be the starter, and Voit doesn’t deserve to be on the bench. With the value that Voit provides, it makes you wonder what the Yankees are thinking by potentially pursuing Bell.

On the other hand, acquiring Jameson Taillon could help fill one of the spots in the Yankee rotation. Taillon has been on the IL since May of 2019, undergoing Tommy John surgery for the second time in his career.

But when healthy, Taillon is a very steady pitcher. He has a career 3.67 ERA, 3.55 FIP, and 1.247 WHIP. His fastball velocity sits around 95mph while his off-speed pitches average around 88mph.

Taillon could be a solid option for the Yankees in the middle of the rotation. He has two more years of team control, and makes a lot of sense for the Yankees.

Luke Voit confident that DJ LeMahieu will return to the New York Yankees in 2021

New York Yankees, DJ LeMahieu

In an interview with NJ.com on Wednesday, New York Yankees first baseman Luke Voit expressed great confidence that DJ LeMahieu will return to the Bronx in 2021.

”If I was a gambling man, I’d want to put money on DJ coming back. I think he wants to be back. I hope he’s back because he’s one of the best players in baseball, one of the best hitters I ever played with. I want him in the pinstripes for the rest of his career.”

Although LeMahieu has indicated that he’d like to continue his career in New York, negotiations between the two parties are at a standstill. LeMahieu is asking for at least five years, while the Yankees don’t want to go longer than four years. New York will likely offer a contract for around $20 million a year, a number that sounds as if it would satisfy LeMahieu.

Signing LeMahieu is a priority for the Yankees, but the team will have serious competition for him. The defending champion Los Angeles Dodgers are pursuing LeMahieu, along with the 2019 champion Washington Nationals.

In his two years in pinstripes, LeMahieu finished in the top five of MVP voting both seasons. He won the batting title in 2020 and finished runner-up in 2019, winning a pair of Silver Slugger awards along the way.

LeMahieu has a .336 average in 195 games with the Yankees, adding a .922 OPS and a 145 OPS+. He’s hit 36 home runs and driven in 129 runs during his New York tenure.

The New York Yankees absolutely can’t let DJ LeMahieu walk this off-season. His performance is invaluable, and his teammates want him back in pinstripes. The Yankees need to give him an offer he can’t resist, or else he could be playing for a new club in 2021.

Bellator 254 Preview

Tomorrow night, Bellator returns for the first time in a few weeks and they are bringing a great main event. In the main event of the evening, we will see a women’s flyweight title fight between two undefeated fighters.

Bellator flyweight champion, Ilima-Lei Macfarlane (11-0), will be taking on undefeated challenger, Juliana Velasquez (10-0). This is arguably the best Bellator women’s title fight we’ve seen in a very long time.

Macfarlane is one of the best in the world. She made her Bellator debut back in 2016 and she’s dominated every opponent that has stepped in front of her. If you’ve never seen Macfarlane in action, she’s incredible on the ground.

The 10th Planet Jiu Jitsu product is incredibly slick with her transition and her top game is nasty. Whenever she’s not looking for submissions, she’s looking to land big shots. She finished Veta Arteaga with a nasty elbow that caused a fight ending cut to retain her Bellator title.

If she can get the fight down to the ground tomorrow and be on top, it could be a quick night. However, she’s going up against an opponent who represented her country in the Olympics in Judo.

While Macfarlane is known for her skills on the ground, it should be noted that Juliana Velasquez is extremely good on the ground as well. I think because of her judo background, there will likely be some scenarios where we see Macfarlane on the bottom tomorrow night.

Bellator 254 Prediction

When it comes to Bellator 254, I think a good portion of the fight is actually going to take place on the feet. Going off of just the eye test, I’ve been more impressed with Velasquez on the feet than the champion, Macfarlane.

However, Velasquez sometimes doesn’t push the pace like she needs to while Macfarlane is always in attack mode. I think these two are so good that I don’t feel comfortable picking either to win by a finish.

I think the Bellator title fight is going to go the distance. I’m expecting a very back and forth fight. However, in the end, I think it’s the safe bet to ride with Macfarlane. I think she’ll push the pace enough and win enough positions to get the win tomorrow night.

Prediction: Ilima-Lei Macfarlane by Unanimous Decision

New York Giants: Leonard Williams earns NFC Defensive Player of the Week

New York Giants, Leonard Williams

The New York Giants just earned a clutch, statement victory on the road against the Seattle Seahawks. New York’s dominant defense held the high-flying Seahawks offense to only ten points. Two of Seattle’s twelve points came from a safety on special teams.

The Giants’ defense played out if its mind in Week 13. New York forced Seattle to turn the ball over twice. Seattle also went only 4-13 on third downs and 0-2 on fourth downs.

The Giants benefited from many great individual defensive performances, but none greater than that of defensive coordinator Patrick Graham and defensive lineman Leonard Williams. These two had insane performances that propelled the Giants to a crucial victory this week. Leonard Williams’ performance was so special that he earned the NFC Defensive Player of the Week honor.

Leonard Williams Week 13 Dominance

Defensive lineman Leonard Williams was dominant for the Giants in Week 13. Williams had a 2.5 sack performance, including a clutch sack on the final drive of the game to force the Seahawks into hail mary mode.

Williams pressured Russell Wilson seven total times in this matchup. He was constantly in the backfield, wreaking havoc on the Seattle offense. Big Cat’s 2.5 sacks tied a single-game career-high. Leonard’s 2.5 sacks all came in the second half of the game, but he was getting plenty of pressure in the first half. These 2.5 sacks also caused Seattle to lose a total of 25.5 yards.

Heading into this game, Williams had 6 sacks on the season. Now, after this stellar performance, Leonard has a new career-high in sacks with 8.5 on the season (tied-sixth in the NFL). Leo is having a breakout, career-year in his second season with the New York Giants. He has been one of the best interior defensive linemen in the NFL this year and should see himself make the Pro Bowl for the second time in his career.

Division realignment looks like a go for the New York Rangers

National Hockey League, NHL

A temporary division realignment is almost finalized for the New York Rangers for the upcoming season. The information comes from NHL insider Pierre LeBrun of TSN after the NHL held a Board of Governors call Wednesday.

The new realignment was also recently confirmed by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.

According to the information, this is what the league’s realignment currently looks like:

Toronto-Ottawa-Winnipeg-Vancouver-Calgary-Montreal-Edmonton
Boston-Buffalo-NYI-NewYork Rangers-New Jersey-Philly-Pittsburgh-Washington
Tampa-Florida-Nashville-Carolina-Columbus-Detroit-Chicago-Minnesota
San Jose-LA-Anaheim-Vegas-Colorado-Arizona-Dallas-St. Louis

This realignment would allow scheduling that the majority of players and owners think the upcoming NHL season should feature, which is MLB-style three-game series, as first reported by ESPN’s Emily Kaplan and Greg Wyshynski. Owners and players would prefer not to have any kind of bubble during the season, but having three games in five or six days would provide some kind of bubble-like protection.

With COVID-19 still rearing its ugly head across North America, using hybrid bubbles or hubs is still reportedly a possibility. If a hub city is used, teams would travel to a location for two weeks to play around 10 games. A squad would then return home for a week before going back to the hub. A hybrid bubble would be similar to the playoff bubbles in Toronto and Edmonton, but not nearly as strict.

New Jersey, Columbus, and Las Vegas are reportedly three U.S. cities receiving attention to be potential hubs. Arenas in all three areas are home to only one primary tenant, with two sheets of ice on-site or nearby and enough hotel accommodations. This would also keep the Rangers relatively close to home.

The downside of this plan is if it has to be implemented, it may push back the start of the season from its reported date of January 13. The two sides are aiming to play either a 52- or 56-game schedule, as opposed to the traditional 82-game season.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New York Knicks: Aggressive Dennis Smith Jr. shows up in training camp

New York Knicks, Dennis Smith Jr.

Dennis Smith Jr. is on a mission this season. In a lot of ways, he mirrors the New York Knicks.

Smith Jr. is trying to rebuild his shattered confidence. He’s hoping to regain the old form that made him a lottery pick and a member of the All-Rookie Second Team in 2018.

The Knicks have been trying to rebuild for years. They’ve brought back Tom Thibodeau, a coach who’s been part of their glorious past, hoping to recapture it once more.

“You see that with a lot of players — a young player who usually finds some bumps on the road, and he had those and find a way to rise above them and become successful,” Thibodeau said of Smith Jr. on his zoom call Wednesday.

Road bumps

Smith Jr. experienced road bumps in his career that stemmed off the court last season when his stepmother died. He wasn’t mentally locked in, and he fell off the rotation. His confidence took a massive hit.

In 22 games last season, the Knicks point guard put up career-low numbers — 5.5 points on 34 percent shooting, 2.3 rebounds, and 2.9 assists.

He was considered a special talent despite the lack of shooting coming into the NBA. With his burst of speed and athleticism, he was the Dallas Mavericks’ apple of the eye before Luka Doncic came. As a rookie, he averaged 15.2 points, 3.8 rebounds, 5.2 assists, and a steal. The only thing that kept him from really shining is his 39.5 percent field goal shooting.

On the night before he was traded to the Knicks, he turned in a triple-double special (13 points, 15 assists, 10 rebounds) as a parting shot to the Mavericks in the Madison Square Garden.

It went downhill from there.

A way back

This summer, Smith Jr. has started to find a way in the hopes of rising above the road bumps. He linked up with Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, one of the best NBA shooters in history, to repair his shooting mechanics and, in part, his confidence.

He showed up in the training camp a renewed man.

“He’s been very aggressive. I think each day. He’s gotten better and better. That’s what we’re asking him to do — to run his team, keep us organized, take advantage of what you’re strengths are, your ability to get downhill, force people to collapse, and then make the right play,” Thibodeau said. “He can score the ball. He’s shooting the ball pretty well right now. But he’s making good plays also.”

Confidence comes from preparation

Thibodeau has always preached the importance of practice. To him, confidence starts in those games played in empty gyms.

This season, that’s where Smith Jr. and the Knicks will play — in empty arenas with the global pandemic has yet to slow down in this part of the world.

Thibodeau is looking forward to seeing Smith Jr.’s brand new confidence and shooting in the games, starting with their preseason on the road in Detroit on Friday.

“That’s what you’re hoping to see, and we’ll know when we get into the games. A big part of shooting, of course, is your confidence and concentration,” Thibodeau said.

“So if you put the work in, obviously, you’ll get more confidence from doing that. And of course, being in great shape is a big part of being successful in this league. So he’s got to continue to work on conditioning, continue studying the league, and just concentrate on getting better every day,” he added.

Whether Thibodeau is genuinely giving Smith Jr. a chance to play heavy minutes or shot up his trade value is immaterial.

Smith Jr. is in the last year of his rookie deal. He has to find a way to rise above the road bumps, or his NBA journey could end up turning the wrong way.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

New York Yankees History: The best Yankee acquisitions during the Winter Meetings (video)

New York Yankees, Yankees, CC Sabathia

The New York Yankees, in their illustrious 107-year history, have made quite a few big-time purchases and trades. The biggest was the worst for the Boston Red Sox when their owner being money short for his other endeavors sold Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees, and we all know how that turned out. But in recent years, the Yankees have made some pretty impressive deals in the Winter Meetings. The first one was technically not during the meetings but a few days before at Dallas, Texas.

Mike Mussina (2000):

Just a few days before the Winter Meetings, The New York Yankees signed the Baltimore Orioles Mike Mussina. It turned out to be one of the best acquisitions of recent times. Mussina ended up spending eight highly successful years with the Yankees at the top of their pitching rotation. He had a 123-72 record with a 3.82 ERA.

From 1992 to 2008, Mussina never had a losing season. In fact, he is one of the only pitchers to ever have 17 consectutive seasons of winning 11 or more games a year. Mussina was a smart pitcher who pitched with amazing intensity. He also saved his greatest achievement for the very last game of his career. In his very last year, he became the oldest pitcher in baseball to achieve 20 wins in his last season.

I could insert a video here of his many strikeouts, but I would rather show you a video of his intensive pitching style. On May 31, 2006, Mussina held the Tigers in check for most of the night at Comerica Park, taking a shutout attempt into the ninth. After allowing a run, manager Joe Torre made motions toward emerging from the dugout to remove Mussina from the game. But “Moose” was not having it: Bellowing “No, stay there!” at your manager in the heat of the moment is a power move, for sure.
Mussina then buckled down, striking out Carlos Guillen to nail down the complete-game win on just 101 pitches.

CC Sabathia (2008)

The new Yankee Stadium was nearing completion, and the Yankees needed an ace to stabilize their rotation. Cashman and Sabathia met twice in Las Vegas, making some progress but unable to tune out distractions. With the rest of the baseball world preoccupied with slot machines and table games, Cashman slipped out of the Bellagio hotel and boarded a commercial jet to the San Francisco Bay Area, in hot pursuit of the game’s most prized free-agent pitcher.

Passing through Sabathia’s Vallejo, Calif., doorway, entering a sunken living room that he had previously seen on MTV Cribs, Cashman resolved to perform what he called his “best John Calipari impression,” intending to land the recruit. There, the GM and Sabathia hashed out the terms of a deal that would help produce the franchise’s 27th World Series title, agreeing to a seven-year, $161 million contract. Sabathia went 97-56 with a 3.73 ERA over the life of that original contract, then remained in New York for another four years.

Willie Randolph (1975)

In December of 1975, the Winter Meeting was held in Hollywood, Florida. The Yankees president Gabe Paul stepped to the plate with a pair of blockbuster moves, shipping outfielder Bobby Bonds to the Angels and right-hander Doc Medich to the Pirates. In return, the Yankees received five players. These three players would play key roles in helping the franchise reach the next three World Series.

The biggest pick up was Willie Randolph from the Pittsburgh Pirates. Randolph was surely one of the best second basemen in the baseball Minor Leagues at the time. They also picked up pitchers Ken Brett and Dock Ellis. California sent pitcher Ed Figueroa and outfielder Mickey Rivers to New York. The Brooklyn-born Randolph became a mainstay in the Yankees’ infield for 13 seasons, making five All-Star teams and winning an American League Silver Slugger Award in 1980. Ed Figueroa and speedy Mickey Rivers would also be big contributors to the New York Yankees.

Rickey Henderson (1984)

The 1984 Winter meetings were held at the Hyatt Regency in Houston, Texas. The New York Yankees, general manager Clyde King did no less than obtaining the services of Ricky Henderson, a four-time All-Star and the games’ number one leadoff hitter. The Oakland Athletics, just a few years away from being the Kansas City Athletics, felt that they would not be able to hold on to  Henderson long term, so the delt him the New York Yankees. The future Hall of Fame player was a Yankee.

The Yankees sent Jay Howell, plus four Minor Leaguers, and cash to get the Henderson deal done. Ricky Henderson was an All-Star in each of his four full seasons as a Yankee, and his 326 stolen bases were a franchise record until 2011. Henderson ended with the Yankees getting 78 home runs while batting .288 and with an OPS of .1048.

Curtis Granderson (2009)

The 2009 Winter Meetings were one of the coldest in recent memory, with temperatures in the single digits that week in snowy Indianapolis. The defending World Series champions added sizzle to the Hot Stove by participating with the Tigers and D-backs in a three-team trade, installing Granderson into the outfield as the Yankees prepared to move on from the Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui eras.

Left-hander Phil Coke, outfielder Austin Jackson and right-hander Ian Kennedy departed New York in the old-school swap, big names filling needs across the board. Coke, Jackson, Max Scherzer, and Daniel Schlereth went to Detroit, while Kennedy and Edwin Jackson went to Arizona. Granderson made two All-Star teams and won an AL Silver Slugger Award during his four years in pinstripes.

Giancarlo Stanton (2017)

The Marlins arrived at the Winter Meetings intending to rebuild, gauging trade interest in the reigning National League MVP Award winner. The Yankees already had Aaron Judge, a hulking slugger in right field, and the prospect of obtaining Stanton the 2017 National League MVP with 59 home runs was more than the Yankees could possibly resist.  The New York Yankees sent Starlin Castro, pitcher Jorge Guzman and Jose Dever to the Miami Marlins along with cash to make the deal happen, and Giancarlo Stanton was a New York Yankee.

Stanton’s blockbuster deal shook up the 2015 Winter Meetings at the Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin Resort. Later the Yankees announced officially at Yankee Stadium that they acquired Stanton standing next to owner Hal Steinbrenner. It was the joyest occasion. In 2018 Stanton would hit 38 homers for the Yankees with 100 RBIs. But that would signal the end of the Joy. Stanton has had only 41 homers in the last two years and has been off the field with constant injuries as much as on the field. Only history will tell if this is one of the worst trades the Yankees have made, right next to Jacoby Ellsbury.

What moves the New York Yankees will make during these virtual Winter Meeting has yet to be seen.

EmpireSportsMedia.com’s Columnist William Parlee is a member of the Society for American Baseball Research. Follow me on Twitter @parleewilliam.

 

Buffalo Bills: Josh Allen takes home 3rd AFC Player of the Week title

Allen’s latest weekly award stems from a four-touchdown performance in the Buffalo Bills’ win over San Francisco in Glendale.

Josh Allen’s propensity for weekly awards may be bringing a sense of routine into the Buffalo Bills’ unusual season.

The franchise quarterback has earned his third AFC Player of the Week Award of the 2020 season, earned through a stellar performance in the Bills’ Week 13 win over the San Francisco 49ers in Glendale, Arizona on Monday night. Allen took over the displaced proceedings, completing 32-of-40 passes for 375 yards and four touchdown passes in Buffalo’s 34-24 victory.

Other weekly accolades for Allen came in Weeks 2 and 9. He becomes the first Bills player to tally three Player of the Week Awards since kicker Steve Christie in 2000, and the first to earn at least three of the offensive variety since O.J. Simpson won four in 1973.

Allen has already set new career-highs in nearly every major passing category, including yardage (3,403) and touchdowns (26). His breakthrough season has been a major factor behind the Bills’ strong season and why they’re on pace for their first AFC East division title since 1995.

Originally seen as a polarizing pick out of Wyoming upon his NFL arrival in 2018, many have changed their tune on Allen, now seen as the strongest return from the year’s highly publicized quarterback class. Among his new fans is Rainn Wilson, best known for his role as Dwight Schrute on the NBC series The Office. During Monday’s performance, the actor tweeted out that Allen was his “second favorite quarterback”, to which Allen inquired whether he was “Assistant favorite Qb, or assistant to your favorite Qb?”, referencing a recurring gag that victimized Wilson’s breakout role of assistant regional manager/assistant to the regional manager Dwight.

Allen will get a chance to make his own memories on the Peacock Network this Sunday, as the Bills will partake in the prime time night game against the Pittsburgh Steelers (8:20 p.m. ET, NBC).

The Bills’ weren’t the only AFC East representatives on the Player of the Week ledger this week. New England punt returner Gunner Olszewski took home the special teams edition, while Miami’s Kyle Van Noy was named the top defender. Elsewhere in New York, Leonard Williams of the Giants took home that NFC’s Defensive Player of the Week honor for his efforts in an upset win in Seattle.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Giants preparing for the return of Daniel Jones, can he hold up?

New York Giants, Daniel Jones

Defending himself, that is the mantra New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones has accepted ever since entering his hamstring two weeks ago against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Despite the Giants traveling to Seattle knowing they would start back up quarterback Colt McCoy, the team still managed to extract an improbable victory over a winning opponent. The Giants’ victory was the first of any NFC East team against a winning squad, propelling the Giants to first place before the Washington Football Team secured a massive upset over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday night.

Jones has gone 2.5 games without turning the ball over, the longest streak of his career. The Giants’ running game has picked up the slack in recent weeks, posting four consecutive games with 140+ rushing yards. As they prepare to face off against the Arizona Cardinals, who have been slaughtered by the run this year, there is hope that Daniel Jones can make a comeback this upcoming weekend.

According to ESPN’s Jordan Raanan, the Giants are hoping Daniel Jones can make a return against Arizona:

“We’re going to give him every opportunity to go on the practice field this week and show that he can defend himself on the field properly,” Giants coach Joe Judge said. “If that’s the case, then we obviously want him to play. But we’re going to make sure we do the right thing by him.

“Look, I had to make the decision [Sunday at Seattle] to go ahead and hold him out. He was a little disappointed because he’s a competitive guy. But we have Wednesday, Thursday and Friday to get on the field. We’ll see how he looks in there, and we’ll make the best decision for him going forward.”

As a competitor, Jones wants to play in every game despite his injuries. So far this season, DJ has thrown for 2,335 yards, eight touchdowns, and nine interceptions. He has also rushed for 403 yards and one score. Fortunately, his fumbling problem has been improved, cutting his total by 11 compared to 2019.

He will look to finish off the season strong, making significant progress in his development this year, which was essential for the Giants as they contemplate a quarterback decision for the future. With the Giants now in line to make the postseason, Jones remains an integral part of their game plan, and beating Arizona has become ever more important.