Why 2021 will be one of NASCAR’s most important seasons yet

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, NASCAR surpassed expectations and managed to have a successful 2020 season. From hard racing, big wrecks, and even a new track, NASCAR seemed to take a step back in the right direction towards gaining new fans and getting old ones to return.

As big as 2020 was for the sport, 2021 will be even more important. Several new tracks and configurations will hit the circuit, and some of the biggest faces are changing places. Here’s why the 2021 season will be one of the most important ones in NASCAR History:

Big names are changing places

This year’s “silly season” saw a lot of changes, including the retirement of three of the faces of the sport: Jimmie Johnson, Clint Bowyer, and Matt Kenseth. Johnson will run IndyCar races in 2021, and will experiment with other types of racing. However, it’s possible Johnson could appear in the Cup Series again on a part-time basis. Bowyer will transition to the FOX booth for Cup Series races, with future part-time racing opportunities not completely out of the question. Kenseth likely won’t run any more NASCAR races.

With three faces of the sport leaving full-time competition, it leaves big shoes to fill. Johnson and Bowyer are two huge fan favorites, while Kenseth remains well liked throughout the sport. On the track, the three have combined for well over 100 wins and eight Cup Series Championships (Johnson x7, Kenseth, x1). Not seeing those three faces on the track anymore could hurt ratings, so it’s important to have a good 2021 season to the keep fans of the three retiring drivers.

Additionally, many active drivers are changing teams for the 2021 season. Christopher Bell will take over the No. 20 machine at Joe Gibbs Racing, while Erik Jones will pilot the No. 43 for Richard Petty Motorsports. Bubba Wallace will drive the No. 23 for the newly formed 23XI Racing, while Ross Chastain will take over for Kenseth as driver of the No. 42 for Chip Ganassi Racing.

At Hendrick Motorsports, Alex Bowman will take over the No. 48 from Johnson, with the No. 88 being changed over to No. 5 with Kyle Larson at the wheel. Additionally, Chase Briscoe will drive the No. 14 at Stewart-Haas Racing, taking over for Bowyer.

With so many drivers changing teams, it’ll add a fun aspect to the 2021 season that could help continue to boost ratings.

New tracks

The NASCAR Cup Series will run at three completely new tracks in the 2021 season and at two tracks with new configurations.

New to the Cup Series will be the Nashville Superspeedway, Road America, and Circuit of the Americas (COTA). Nashville held Truck Series and Xfinity Series races through 2011, while Road America hosts an annual Xfinity Series race. 2021 will be the first time any NASCAR sanctioned series races at COTA.

The two tracks with new configurations will be Bristol Motor Speedway and Indianapolis. Bristol will run a dirt configuration in the spring, while Indianapolis shifts to the road course. The Xfinity Series ran the Indianapolis Road Course in 2020 in conjunction with the IndyCar weekend.

Having new tracks and configurations give those races more anticipation and higher ratings. The 2021 Cup Series features seven road courses, a track type that thrives under the current Gen-6 car.

There’s a lot to look forward to in the 2021 NASCAR season. That being said, it’s important for NASCAR to have a great season with entertaining racing to help boost ratings and gain back lost fans. If 2021 doesn’t live up to expectations, more fans could leave and NASCAR’s downfall could continue.

New York Yankees News/Rumors: Tanaka likely to be a Yankee, Garcia maybe not, and much more

New York Yankees, Deivi Garcia

With no decisions made, New York Yankee fans are getting antsier by the day while waiting to see what their team will look like in 2021. It appears that general manager Brian Cashman has everything on hold until he finds out if the team can resign the second baseman and batting title holder DJ LeMahieu. It now appears that if they can get a deal done, even if it’s a compromise, it will cost them more than they wanted.

Although the Yankees would love to resign their best player, it does present problems in an offseason where the front office doesn’t want to spend much money to stay below the luxury tax threshold after tremendous losses last year due to the coronavirus and the unclear outlook for 2021. The Yankees, after the season, let three pitchers walk, Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton, and J.A. Happ. Previously it only seemed that they might be interested in only resigning Tanaka, but that might not be the case.

For years Masahiro Tanaka has said that he would like to end his baseball career back in Japan with his team, the Rakuten Golden Eagles, who he last pitched for in 2013. Tanaka is a national hero in Japan. But that might be delayed. He recently admitted to NJ.com that he wants to remain a New York Yankee and will not consider playing for another American team in favor of returning to his homeland.

That statement may make it easier for the Yankee front office to resign the pitcher that has been good to very good for five of his seven years with the team. As the days pass, it seems likely that the Yankees will offer Tanaka a contract for one or two years at roughly half what he earned in 2020, if that. Tanaka had a solid 2020, finishing with a 3.56 ERA, 44 strikeouts even though he went only 3-3 in ten starts. Seeing that Tanaka has indicated he won’t likely deal with another team may get a deal done.

Four Players the Yankees could trade, two will shock you!

The New York Yankees will not be spending big to improve the team for the 2021 season, or at least it appears that way as they look to cut $30-40 million off their 2020 payroll expenditures. With that in mind, general manager Brian Cashman will be forced to trade off some players he may not want to, to make improvements in the team, most likely before spring training.

Even though the New York Yankees have pretty much been dead in the search for free agents, once they know the outcome of their priority to re-sign DJ LeMahieu, things will shift into high gear. If they can’t resign him, they will have $20 to $25 million more to spend. Although that amount may seem like a lot, just one number two-like starter could eat all that up. The answer is to trade prospects to get what they need.

Two of the most likely to be traded are Miguel Andujar that they don’t have much use for and number two pitching prospect Clarke Schmidt. The other two would shock Yankees fans, Deivi Garcia or Luke Voit. Although Voit would be the last resort after hitting the most home runs in baseball, Garcia could be in the mix. There is no question that if the Yankees are to make improvements, mostly in the starting rotation and the bullpen, they will have to make some trades that will hurt to get deals done.

Could the Yankees be taking a second look at James Paxton?

With the only pitchers in free agency that would dramatically change the Yankees’ chances of getting to another World Series after a very long drought being very costly, the Yankees will be looking for mid-rotation pitchers for relief. It appears the Yankees will need one veteran pitcher that can give them innings. They also need a good arm to replace Tommy Kahnle that has now signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers for the next two years and the faltering Adam Ottavino.

Reports are that the Yankees are not all out on the familiar James Paxton for another try. Paxton went 1-1 with an ERA of 6.64 this past season as dogging surgery issues allowed him only 5 starts on the season. A completely rehabbed Paxton could be a solid addition to a rotation that will lack veterans. He is 57-33 in his career and was one of the best 2019 pitchers for the Yankees when he recorded 15 wins against only six losses.

If the Yankees decide to sign Paxton for the 2021 season, it will not be near his 2020 salary after his poor showing. It is also not likely that other MLB teams will throw a lot of money at him either. He will likely only earn in the $7-10 million range for the 32-year-old. In this cost-cutting year, if the Yankees re-sign Tanaka and Paxton, they will get solid production near half the cost of last year.

Plan B is more likely by the day

With each passing day, it is less likely that the New York Yankees will be able to re-sign Yankee star player DJ LeMahieu. According to who you want to believe, the deal could be off the table due to the sides being off as much as $50 million in money and two years in contract length.

All of this, as other teams are hot on the trail of tieing up the star for a multi-year deal. The Los Angeles Dodgers have already taken star relief pitcher Tommy Kahnle from coming back to the Yankees also want DJ LeMahieu for his hitting ability and ability to play any infield position. Most industry insiders feel that DJ will end up with the Toronto Blue Jays, which would be the Yankees’ worst nightmare.

It appears that the main sticking point to the Yankees making a deal with LeMahieu is not money; it’s contract length. DJ is demanding five years of security, and the Yankees don’t want to go for more than three years. If the sides could both compromise for a four-year deal, DJ might accept it. However, if the Dodgers or Blue Jays drop five years on DJ, he will be gone, leaving the Yankees with a whole new plan to improve the team.

If unable to sign LeMahieu, it will leave the team with an additional $25 million to get a hard-hitting shortstop or second baseman possibly. They could also further address the catching situation. Not signing LeMahieu will turn the offseason for the Yankees on its head. There will be acquisitions and, more likely several trades on the block for a team with early exits in the postseasons and has not had a World Series win since 2009.

 

 

 

 

 

New York Mets: 2021 Marks The First Full Year Without The Wilpons

In 2020, New York Mets fans got their wish of getting rid of the mediocre filled Wilpon’s leadership. Steve Cohen brought 95% of the franchise, putting an end to years of circus shows and meddling in failure. As we flip the calendar to 2021, years of positivity lie ahead.

Under Cohen, Team President Sandy Alderson has brought in a revamped front office focused on sustained success. Jared Porter is the new GM, and Zack Scott recently joined the team as the assistant GM. Qualified personnel with plenty of experience control the baseball decisions, which is a breath of fresh air to fans.

New Player Acquisitions

In a slow offseason, the Mets have done the most work. Their biggest moves (so far) are signing Trevor May and James McCann to fill two big holes on their roster. They also got Marcus Stroman to accept the qualifying offer and avoided arbitration with Noah Syndergaard. Multiple minor league signings, including Jerry Blevens and Jerad Eickhoff, also give the Mets good depth that was missed in 2020.

There is plenty left for the Mets to complete during the first month of 2021. The George Springer battle is between the Mets and Toronto Blue Jays, while the starting rotation still needs another arm of two. Whether that arm is Trevor Bauer or a couple of lower-level pitchers, the Mets rotation needs help behind their front three. The final bit of business may not be on the top of the list, but Michael Conforto also needs a contract extension.

With the small track record Cohen has so far, there is no reason to doubt the Mets. 2021 looks to be the first of many successful seasons under brand new ownership.

 

How the New York Giants could land Kenny Golladay on a cost-efficient deal

New York Giants, Kenny Golladay

The New York Giants have one of the worst offenses in the NFL, thanks to a lack of wide receiver talent and an injury to star running back Saquon Barkley in week two against the Chicago Bears.

Barkley’s torn ACL has kept him out of the entire 2020 campaign, but he’s expected to make a full recovery and return in 2021. It could be a while before he shakes off the rust and feels confident on his surgically repaired ligament, but just his presence on the offense demands attention from opposing defenses. That is a primary reason why Daniel Jones had a better season in 2019, aside from the difference in playcalling. Coordinator Jason Garrett has done a poor job developing route concepts for his receivers to get open.

However, they must find a WR1 if they want to see Jones’  full potential. While Sterling Shepard is a solid pass catcher, he lacks the speed to get downfield quickly and is more of a short/intermediate threat. Garrett has not used Shepard properly in the red zone as the Giants would rather call trick plays with their punter throwing to their center in triple coverage than actually use their talent to score points.

Nonetheless, this upcoming off-season presents a challenge for a Big Blue, as they have minimal cap space and will have to make some tough decisions. Those decisions range from letting Leonard Williams walk in free agency or allowing elite run-stopper Dalvin Tomlinson to take his talents elsewhere.

They will have to find ways to fit their cap properly in 2021, as COVID-19 is expected to lower team salaries by as much as $20 million. The expectation is that it will lower about $7 million, which still poses a significant problem for teams that need free agent support. The Giants are one of them, and they could look to one talented wide receiver to solve some of their issues on a “prove-it” deal.

Detroit Lions star receiver Kenny Golladay is a potential option for the Giants in free agency. In 2019, he made a Pro Bowl appearance, hauling in 65 receptions for 1190 yards. He also scored 11 touchdowns, averaging 18.3 yards per reception. He’s a phenomenal downfield threat with the perfect frame for Daniel Jones to target in coverage.

What would Kenny Golladay bring to the New York Giants?

He is 6-foot-4 and 214 pounds, but he has only played five games this season due to a range of injuries. Considering he is on his rookie deal still, the Giants could land him on a cost-efficient prove-it contract with the promise of WR1 duties.

Even if the Giants decided to allocate a draft pick towards a pass catcher, Golladay has the experience and proven talent to upgrade the offense considerably.

Of course, injuries are a problem and should be taken seriously, but the lingering problems he’s dealing with should be alleviated by 2021. If they can land him on a one year deal worth about $10-15 million, it could be a perfect fit. Best case scenario, he has great chemistry with Daniel Jones, and they see fit to extend him after the 2021 campaign.

Yankees News/Rumors: Two familiar starting pitchers could be in play to return to the Bronx

New York Yankees, James Paxton

The New York Yankees have to allocate resources toward the starting pitching rotation whether they like it or not. With three starters hitting free agency, they must supplement their losses, and Luis Severino cannot be trusted to hold down the fort.

Severino isn’t even supposed to return until after the start of the 2021 regular season, so general manager Brian Cashman must take that into account.

Severino last pitched in 2018, going down early this past year and needing Tommy John surgery. In his prime, Severino was close to reaching ace status, but after two years without a significant sample size, going into the 2021 season, expecting him to be the number two behind Gerrit Cole would be an optimistic decision.

Then there is Domingo German, who the Yankees expect to gain back after being suspended for a domestic violence dispute. He has been hit around in the Dominican Republic, as he participates in winter ball with Gary Sanchez and a few other Yankees.

However, there are familiar faces that Cashman could consider, especially if he feels uncomfortable bringing in new players on cost-efficient contracts that might not represent quality.

The New York Yankees could consider retaining a familiar face:

James Paxton:

Paxton is a good option for the Yankees if they want to sign a player with ties to the team on a minimal deal. He pitched in just 20.1 innings this past year, so the Yankees could probably retain him on a short contract that wouldn’t eat up too much salary.

When at the top of his game, Paxton is a dangerous lefty pitcher who adds plenty of value to the rotation. It seems as if he is back to full health, recently pitching for 20 teams and hitting as high as 94 mph with his fastball.

Masahiro Tanaka:

Reports have indicated that Masahiro Tanaka will likely head back to Japan if the Yankees don’t offer him a new deal. Tanaka had a solid 2020, finishing with a 3.56 ERA, 44 strikeouts, and 8.25 strikeouts per nine. It has become clear that Tanaka is not a high strikeout pitcher but utilizes his finesse to create ground balls and easy out opportunities.

He did allow nine homers this past season and had a few tough performances, especially in the postseason. Usually, Tanaka is a consistent pitcher that the Yankees can rely on, but he’s no longer worth the $26 million he was set to make in 2020.

If the Yankees offered him a two-year deal worth $15-16 million per season, I would be happy with it. He’s one of the better options on the market that won’t cost upwards of $20 million, so he represents a possible option for Cashman as he navigates this strange off-season.

Too much of the Yankees’ off-season plans revolve around the extension of DJ LeMahieu, so I wouldn’t expect much action until they figure out that deal.