New York Giants: Saquon Barkley in John Mara’s future plans

New York Giants, Saquon Barkley

2020 wasn’t the best year for New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley. The Giants were expected to lean on Barkley last year due to the lack of a real number one receiver and the presence of a still developing quarterback in Daniel Jones, but their plans were quickly shaken up when Barkley tore his ACL. The injury put him out for the year, and his future with the team is unclear.

The Giants will have Barkley back next season, of course – but it’s unclear what the plan with his contract situation is. The Giants have a fifth year option to keep Barkley after the 2021 season, and have the option of keeping him with the franchise tag beyond that, but the team hasn’t said too much yet about their plans in that area. Until now, that is.

When speaking to the media on Wednesday, co-owner John Mara confirmed that Barkley is part of the franchise’s plans.

“I certainly expect him to be a Giant for a very long time,” Mara said, in a statement that should shut down Barkley trade talks before they happen this offseason.

“He’s such an important part of this team, not only for what he does on the field but the leadership and all of the intangibles he brings to us off the field. That was really a gut-punch,” Mara continued, speaking on Barkley’s injury this season. “Listen, I’m still happy that we have him. I think knowing him, he’s going to come back stronger than ever and be a big part of this team next year. In terms of what the time table is, it’s hard to predict that right now.”

Barkley only played in two games this season and finished with 34 yards. He was only able to rack up 19 rushing attempts in the process. The Giants brought in Devonta Freeman following his injury and gave more playing time to Wayne Gallman, but much of their hopes in 2021 certainly rest on Barkley having a good comeback season.

Playing running back by committee was nearly good enough to get the Giants into the playoffs in 2020 – but next year, the Giants can’t expect as much luck to fall their way to keep them in the race.

Barkley is the team’s best offensive player, and the Giants will need him to play like that after his recovery this year.

New York Giants defensive lineman Leonard Williams named NFC Defensive Player of the Week

New York Giants, Leonard Williams

The New York Giants came out victorious in a thrilling Week 17 matchup with the Dallas Cowboys. Both teams were fighting for a spot in the playoffs, however, neither one was able to accomplish that goal. The two teams still fought hard until the end, knowing that their playoff hopes were on the line.

In the end, the Giants’ defense prevailed and helped secure the win for the Giants. There were excellent performances across the board on New York’s defensive unit, but none greater than that of defensive lineman Leonard Williams.

Leonard Williams stats and highlights

New York Giants defensive lineman Leonard Williams had a phenomenal performance to end the 2020 NFL regular season. This was a career-year for Leo, but his Week 17 performance was the icing on the cake. The Dallas Cowboys struggled to contain Williams all game as he went on to play one of the best games of his career.

In Week 17, Leonard Williams went off for a three-sack performance. He totaled a season-high seven combined tackles to go along with his career-single-game-high three sacks, five quarterback hits, and six pressures. This was Leonard’s second multi-sack performance of the season, his first being the team’s clutch win over the Seattle Seahawks in Week 13. Leonard Williams won NFC Defensive Player of the Week in Week 13, and now, he has done it again.

Leonard Williams was named the NFC’s Week 17 Defensive Player of the Week for his incredible performance against the Cowboys. This was his second time winning the award this season. Williams came up big down the stretch for the Giants, even pressuring Dallas quarterback Andy Dalton on the Cowboys’ final offensive play, leading to a game-sealing interception.

Leonard Williams was elite this season. He posted a career-high 11.5 sacks, his first time ever cracking double-digits. The Giants went into the 2020 offseason in need of a premier pass-rusher. It seems as though they already had one on their roster, they just needed to pair him with Patrick Graham and let him break out. Now, a free agent once again, Leonard Williams is in line for a huge payday as the centerpiece of the New York Giants’ defense.

New York Yankees News/Rumors: Brett Gardner’s future under more question with today’s trade

New York Yankees, Brett Gardner

Today the New York Yankees have acquired from the San Deigo Padres outfielder Greg Allen, putting the Yankee’s own veteran, Brett Gardner, in even more jeopardy for his return to Yankees Stadium. Joel Sherman, an MLB.com baseball insider, has reported that this afternoon the Yankees reached a trade deal with the Padres that will bring Greg Allen to the Yankee for James Reeves, a former 10th round pick of the Yankees back in 2015. The lefty pitcher has mostly served as a reliever for the Bombers in their minor league system, making it as high as Triple-A in 2018. He owns a career 2.30 ERA and 1.06 WHIP across 137 minor league games.

This move should dull the news that the Yankees might be considering Yasiel Puig. With the trade for Allen, it makes the second outfield backup move that the Yankees have made, earlier signing Socrates Brito to a minor league deal to provide the team with depth. With these new additions, it makes one wonder what lies ahead for the future of Brett Gardner and Mike Tauchman.

Allen came to the Padres in the Mike Clevinger deal but only played in one game. In 2020 he got one home run and batted just .154. In his career for the Cleveland Indians and San Diego Padres, he has a batting average of .239 with just eight home runs over his four years in the majors. Neither of these additions seem not to be upgrades over either Gardner or Tauchman. It’s hard to understand some of the moves the New York Yankees have made this offseason while they seem to be doing nothing of substance while they play wait and see if they can re-sign DJ LeMahieu.

New York Yankee legend Tommy John hospitalized with COVID-19

New York Yankees

According to reports, New York Yankee legend Tommy John has been hospitalized with COVID-19. He’s been hospitalized since December 13th in Southern California.

However, John doesn’t seem worried about his health status, as he and his son doubt whether the pandemic is real.

“I’d leave right now if they’d let me walk out,” the 77-year-old told the Daily Beast. “These people here would put you on anything.”

John’s son, Tommy John lll, has expressed his thoughts against the COVID-19 pandemic on Twitter. He’s claimed that the virus isn’t real, that masks don’t work, and that vaccines “don’t eradicate anything but healthy children”.

John lll has no concerns about his father, even though COVID-19 continues to rage through the country. Over 21 million Americans have tested positive for COVID-19, with over 350k deaths. Other former MLB stars have passed away from the virus, but that doesn’t seem to bother John lll about his father’s wellbeing.

John, a career 288 game-winner, posted a career 3.34 ERA with a 1.283 WHIP and a 3.38 FIP. He pitched 12 seasons with the Indians, White Sox, and Dodgers before being sidelined for the 1975 season with an elbow injury. He underwent a special procedure to reconstruct the ulnar collateral ligament. The procedure would eventually be named after him, and he’d go on to pitch 14 more Major League seasons.

The pitcher spent parts of eight seasons as a member of the Yankees, the most of any team in his career. He won 91 games and pitched nearly 1400 innings in pinstripes.

John turns 78-years-old in May.

New York Yankees and San Diego Padres swing a trade

The New York Yankees made a somewhat surprising trade on Wednesday, flipping left-handed reliever James Reeves in exchange for outfielder Greg Allen. Both players are 27 years old, but the hurler hasn’t yet pitched past Double-A while Allen has four years in the bigs.

The transaction is somewhat surprising because the Yankees are actually needing some reliable bullpen arms. Now, Reeves hasn’t even sniffed MLB yet, but given his minor league numbers, he has plenty of potential to have a successful career in the bigs. San Diego had designated Allen for assignment a few days ago, so the fact that they were able to net a promising lefty was very good for them.

The Yankees are getting a career .239/.298/.343 hitter at the major league level in Allen. He has eight home runs and 32 stolen bases in 221 games. He is known for his legs (92nd percentile in sprint speed) and is a good defender in the corners. He can also play some center in a pinch.

His offensive profile, however, is middling at best. His career xwOBA is less than .300, at .296, and his wRC+ is a very poor 69. To get him, the Yankees had to deal the talented Reeves, who may be old for Double-A, but he is skilled.

The former Yankees reliever could be a gem

In 293 1/3 career minor league innings, the southpaw has a 2.30 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, and 350 strikeouts. He could be a nice pickup for a surging Padres team that is apparently going all-in this season.

The New York Yankees took Reeves in the 2015 June Amateur Draft, specifically in round 10, with the 303rd overall pick.

For the Yankees, Allen provides depth in the position and insurance in case Brett Gardner doesn’t come back for the 2021 campaign. The team still needs at least a couple of starters and relievers, though, so the work during the offseason is far from over.

Who will be the UFC champions after 2021? (Flyweight – Lightweight)

Conor McGregor, UFC

2021 is already looking like an incredibly exciting year for the UFC. After a big year despite the pandemic in 2020, the promotion is riding a wave of momentum that should carry them to a huge year in 2021.

2020 was remarkable in the sense that no UFC champion lost their title inside the octagon. Sure, there were titles that were vacated, however, if a champion made the walk to the cage as a champion, they left as a champion.

We might never see another year like that in the UFC. With how good the competition levels are, every year you’re virtually guaranteed to see at least one champion lose their title. We should expect this in 2021.

Earlier this week, we posted an article on which UFC champions would likely lose their titles in 2021. However, I wanted to dive a little more in-depth and make predictions on who exactly I believe will leave 2021 a champion.

In this article we will go through the lower men’s divisions starting with flyweight. We will continue to go through the rest of the divisions and the women’s divisions throughout the week. So, who will walk out of 2021 a UFC champion?

UFC Champions after 2021

Flyweight – Deiveson Figueiredo

The first division we will look at features the 2020 UFC fighter of the year, Deiveson Figueiredo (20-1-1). Figueiredo captured the flyweight title this year after it was vacated by Henry Cejudo in late 2019.

He captured the title after dominating Joseph Benavidez twice. From there he defended his title against Alex Perez before running into Brandon Moreno (18-5-2). Moreno and Figueiredo fought to a draw at UFC 256.

Their fight was a fight of the year candidate. A back and forth war that ultimately saw the hands of both men raised. The UFC is planning on them rematching at some point in either April or May.

I believe that Figueiredo will win that rematch. From there, I’m expecting Figueiredo to face former bantamweight champion, Cody Garbrandt (12-3). I also believe that Figueiredo will turn away Garbrandt on his request to capture another UFC title.

That might be the only two times we see Figueiredo in 2021. I believe that the Moreno fight is going to be another war which might cause him to take some time off. Expect the Garbrandt fight in the second half of the year. Two tough fights might be it for Figueiredo.

Bantamweight – Aljamain Sterling

I believe that we are going to see a new UFC bantamweight champion in 2021 and his name is Aljamain Sterling (19-3). Sterling is currently waiting on his title shot against bantamweight champion, Petr Yan (15-1).

I’ll start by saying that I believe Petr Yan is incredible. If I was told that he will go through 2021 and remain the champion, I wouldn’t be shocked at all. However, I just have this feeling about Sterling.

Sterling has really showed me a lot over his last five performance. His striking is looking so much better and he’s incredibly slick on the ground. His domination of Cory Sandhagen was jaw dropping.

These two bantamweights are so good and I’m anxious for the UFC to book the title fight between the two. The bantamweight division is insanely stacked, but in my heart, I believe that Sterling is the best of the bunch right now.

Featherweight – Brian Ortega

Back in October, I believe we saw the best featherweight in the UFC compete. His name is Brian Ortega (15-1, 1 NC). Ortega fought for the first time in almost two years against The Korean Zombie.

I picked Ortega to lose because the Brian Ortega who fought Max Holloway in 2018 wouldn’t have outstruck Chan Sung Jung. However, the Brian Ortega we saw in October on Fight Island looked like a completely different fighter.

T-City showed incredible striking that night beating up TKZ. We already know the skills he possesses on the mat so there were just questions on if his striking could get to that same level. I believe that they have.

Ortega will be taking on Alexander Volkanovski (22-1) in the first part of this year for the featherweight title. I believe this is a perfect fight for Ortega when it comes to the style. His rangy striking along with his grappling skills should create problems for Volkanovski.

I’m expecting Brian Ortega to get his hand raised when the two men fight. Expect Brian Ortega to hold onto that UFC title once he gets his hands on it. T-City is a problem and he’s just getting better.

Lightweight – Conor McGregor

I can already feel a portion of the UFC fan base rolling their eyes reading that. Yes, I believe that Conor McGregor (22-4) is going to leave 2021 as the UFC lightweight champion. There is plenty of reasoning behind this.

First and foremost, I believe that McGregor is going to defeat Dustin Poirier (26-6, 1 NC) at UFC 257. McGregor’s next fight after that will be for the lightweight championship. Likely coming against Justin Gaethje or Charles Oliveira. 

Let’s say that McGregor fight’s Justin Gaethje (22-3). I really like McGregor’s chances in that matchup. While we’ve seen such good performances from Gaethje, I think McGregor’s clean straight striking would give him a lot of problems.

I only see McGregor fighting twice at lightweight in 2021 which is why I believe he will be the champion. However, should Khabib Nurmagomedov (29-0) not retire, I believe Nurmagomedov will leave 2021 the champion.

The toughest test for McGregor in 2021 will be Charles Oliveira (30-9, 1 NC). Based on what we’ve seen from Oliveira lately, that is a very tough matchup for McGregor.

However, I still believe in the end, McGregor is the second best lightweight in the world only behind Nurmagomedov. If there’s no Khabib, then lightweight will see the second title reign of The Notorious Conor McGregor in 2021.

Open scoring in the UFC? Count Dana White out

UFC, Dana White

One of the most controversial topics in the UFC is judging. Really, it’s a problem in combat sports as a whole. How many times have we seen fights where someone was robbed because the judges seemed incredibly incompetent?

We’ve seen UFC President Dana White on a number of occasions blast the judging. After UFC 251, White was very vocal about the fact that he believed Max Holloway defeated Alexander Volkanovski. 

With so many bad decisions in the world of MMA, open scoring has been a topic that is discussed. Open scoring would allow the fighters to see where they stand in between rounds.

It would completely take away the suspense from UFC fights in terms of scoring, however, at least the fighter would know where they stand. There would be no heartbreaking surprises whenever Buffer reads off the scorecards.

However, there are some major concerns about open scoring as well. In a live Q&A on ESPN+, White was asked about his take on open scoring making it’s way to the UFC. White was adamant that he’s not a fan of the concept.

White said, “If a guy knows that he’s up two rounds and you’re a professional fighter, you can absolutely stay away from a guy for an entire round and make the fight completely horrible. Would make for a lot of bad third rounds.”

Should the UFC do open scoring?

I don’t always agree with Dana White, but I’m 100% behind him here. Yes, there would be a big advantage for fighters knowing exactly where they stood in between rounds during their UFC fights.

However, from a fans perspective, this would be a nightmare. As White mentioned, if fighters know that they are up 2-0 or 3-1 in main events going into the final round, they would essentially run for five minutes and secure the win.

There would be so many UFC fights that would lack action in the final round. The exciting part of a lot of fights is the unknown. The unknown pushes fighters to put exclamation points on their potential victories in the final round.

However, without that suspense, you’re going to see a lot of fighters playing it safe. There would be a lot of booing (assuming fans are back) and a lot of evasive tactics. Now on the other hand, you might see the losing fighters go crazy knowing they need a finish.

You would see extremes in those situations. One fighter would be trying to run while the other would be desperate for a finish or a 10-8 round. In my opinion, the cons outweigh the pros and for that reason, I don’t want to see open scoring make it’s way to the UFC.

New York Giants: One John Mara quote that stood out in season-ending press conference

New York Giants, John Mara, Dave Gettleman

New York Giants co-owner John Mara and general manager Dave Gettleman featured in a press conference on Wednesday regarding the state of the team following a disappointing 2020 season.

The Giants won six games, marking 15 wins over the past three years that Gettleman has been vice president and general manager.

Ultimately, vast improvements are needed across-the-board, but Mara believes the team is trending upward, and they have enjoyed progress this season, despite the miscalculations and mistakes they made back in 2018. New head coach Joe Judge has really turned the page in the locker room, implementing disciplinary measures and instituting a culture that demands respect.

While the defense did perform exceedingly well in 2020, under Patrick Graham, the offense was disappointing, with Jason Garrett at the helm.

Optimistically, Garrett stated that the offense does need an influx of resources, so we should expect to see some movement on that side of the ball.

This past season, the Giants’ offense ranked 31st in points per game with 17.5. They were only above the New York Jets, who averaged 15.2 points per contest. Regarding the passing game, they recorded the 29th least yards through the air per game.

While the running game was considered average, upgrades need to be implemented at multiple positions. The Giants desperately need more talent in the wide receiver corps, as we should expect them to consider a free agent signing or allocate their first-round pick toward a player like Jaylen waddle or Devonta Smith.

The New York Giants should see an improved offense in 2021:

With Saquon Barkley expected to make a full recovery and return for the start of the 2021 regular season, the continuity on the offensive line should prove to be significant. The line took major steps forward in run blocking this year, which should help Barkley return to form and dominate moving forward, barring any setbacks. Acquiring a top receiver would also open up the passing game and move linebackers and safeties away from the box, forcing them into coverage and allowing Barkley to navigate the line of scrimmage more efficiently.

Of course, there’s the question of Jason Garrett and if he deserves to stick around for another season. While the running game was much improved, his route concepts and passing attack were lackluster. There are plenty of options that could be a better fit for the Giants, and the job would undoubtedly be attractive with a promising quarterback in Daniel Jones and several pieces to work with moving forward.

Matt Martin’s new deal makes him an Islander for life, and that’s exactly the way it needed to be

New York Islanders, Matt Martin

Sometimes loyalty means more than the dollar amount in sports. It doesn’t occur often in today’s landscape, but when it does you know it’s meant for a specific purpose.

Thats the case with Matt Martin and what he means to the Islanders.

Martin is now basically an Islander for life after yesterday’s news that he and the organization came to terms on a four-year contract that will keep him in blue and orange till age 36.

The deal was first reported by Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman in his weekly 31 Thoughts and than later confirmed by The Athletic’s Arthur Staple and The New York Post’s Larry Brooks. The theme behind the deal goes back to the affinity the Isles have for Martin and vice versa.

And while many aren’t to keen on how long the deal goes, it’s hard to argue against why he was brought back.

Martin is the modern day Bobby Nystrom to this generation of Islanders fans. You can’t say that about many of the players that have called Long Island home in the post-dynasty era.

He’s the heart and soul of the franchise; it’s been that way since he first joined the team over a decade ago. He’s a folk hero and been dubbed the “Mayor of Long Island” for how beloved he is around these parts and the work he’s done in the community. More importantly, he’s the standard for the culture that has been helped restored in the franchise as a part of the club’s “Identity Line”, aka the fourth line.

Matt has a lot of the intangibles,” head coach Barry Trotz told reporters yesterday. “The type of player that he is, everyone is well aware of that. He’s a good piece of the culture on the Island.”

In those playoffs Trotz was referring to, Martin accounted for five goals in the Isles’ run to the Eastern Conference finals. Every one of them bigger than the last. But the goals are just the tip of the iceberg. Martin was one of the best players for the team in the postseason period.

“I think you saw in the playoffs how valuable Matt is on our team, from a standpoint of bringing the physical attributes. He’s just a good, reliable pro,” added Trotz.

Martin could have easily cashed in this offseason as a free agent after his big playoff according to his father-in-law Boomer Esiason. Esiason noted that Martin had three or four other clubs who came hard after his services were offering more money than he is receiving from the Isles, $6 million. But with how much the Islanders value him and how much he loves his teammates and wearing the blue and orange, he took less.

Another example of how his loyalty to the Islanders knows no bounds, a quality that is highly-treasured by general manager Lou Lamoriello.

By the time his new deal ends, Martin will have played just a shade under 15 years with the Islanders. The last player to do that has his banner hung in the rafters: Bryan Trottier. Martin probably won’t receive the same honor, but he will most likely be recognized in some way by the franchise. Personally an award in his name would be excellent.

He deserves it for how he’s represented the Islanders throughout his career.

There’s always players that come along who you want to see be with one team for their entire career. Matt Martin is definitely one of them (even with his two-year stint in Toronto).

He is now an Islander for the rest of his career, and that’s exactly how it needs to be.

—

The Islanders are finally getting some much-deserved spotlight. Last week it was reported they’d only be featured twice on national TV this year.

Well how about seven time now?

MSG’s Eric Hornick tweeted the Isles will be seen an additional five games all over the country. Great stuff.

Mets’ target Jake Odorizzi wants three-year deal worth between $36 million and $42 million

New York Yankees, Jake Odorizzi

The New York Mets have some funds to invest in the team, the willingness to do it, and a group of free agents that may fit in their roster. They have the perfect opportunity and timing to inject more talented to an already skilled group.

The Mets are said to be in on center fielder George Springer, and they have already added reliever Trevor May and catcher James McCann. However, their starting pitching is still in need of one or two additions if they want to compete for a playoff spot and more.

According to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, he heard from a team in contact with Jake Odorizzi that the free agent starter “expects to land a three-year contract in the $36 million to $42 million range.”

Odorizzi is a realistic target for the Mets, especially if they sign Springer and don’t want to splurge on Bauer. He has worked with current Mets’ pitching coach Jeremy Hefner back when they both were with the Minnesota Twins, and he knows May, too.

If Rosenthal’s report is true, it seems a tad high for a guy who was injured for most of the 2020 season and didn’t pitch all that well when he was healthy (6.59 ERA and a 6.12 FIP in 13.2 frames.) However, there is a lot of talent in Odorizzi’s right arm.

Odorizzi would improve the Mets rotation

The 30-year-old hurler has a career 3.92 ERA and a 4.12 FIP in 1,042.1 innings. He was particularly effective in 2019, with a 3.51 ERA and a 3.36 FIP in 159 frames, with a 10.08 K/9.

Another sign that the Mets could make a run at Odorizzi is that he isn’t tied to draft pick compensation, having accepted the Twins’ qualifying offer last season.

However, the Mets have competition. According to MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand, the Red Sox are among the teams showing serious interest in the 30-year-old right-hander.

The Mets could slot Odorizzi behind Jacob deGrom, Marcus Stroman, and Noah Syndergaard, when he’s healthy, and ahead of David Peterson. He would be a very good fourth starter in a contender.