Rangers forced to change groupings with more players absent from camp

New York Rangers, Artemi Panarin

Relax New York Rangers fans, though some big names were missing from practice on Wednesday, the vague explanations do not seem to reflect a Covid-19 issue.

When the New York Rangers hit the ice for practice yesterday a very noticeable smile was missing from the group. Artemi Panarin and Libor Hajek both sat out practice yesterday due to what Newsday reporter Colin Stephenson wrote as “procedural issues.”

They joined Mika Zibanejad, Justin Richards, and Keith Kinkaid, who has yet to practice this season, as the group who sat out Wednesday’s practice.

Quinn believes both Panarin and Hajek will be back on the ice for Thursday’s practice and scrimmage game.

Line Changes

Davis Quinn has been able to get some good looks at players with the absence of players who would normally fill out the lineup.  Wednesday say a reshuffling of group A with Brett Howden centering, Chris Kreider, and Pavel Buchnevich (Howden took Zibanejad’s place).

Ryan Strome centering Philip Di Giuseppe and Kaapo Kakko, Filip Chytil in the middle of Alexis Lafreniere and Julien Gauthier and Kevin Rooney centering Morgan Barron and Colin Blackwell.  Brendan Lemieux was the extra forward.

The defense pairings, four in all,  had Tony DeAngelo/Jacob Trouba, Ryan Lindgren/Adam Fox, Jack Johnson/Anthony Bitetto, and K’Andre Miller/Brendan Smith.

Alexandar Georgiev and Igor Shesterkin were the two goalies in the A group.

Missing Time A Concern

The Rangers have to be a little concerned with the time Zibanejad has missed already. General manager Jeff Gorton has announced prior to the start of camp that he was listed as day-to-day before camp started.

That has remained the status-quo with the club not detailing anything on the centers status. it is unknown when he will be able to get back on the ice or what his actual injury is.

 

The Rangers are back to work on Thursday which includes a night scrimmage between the two groups.

  • 10:30 a.m. – Group B pre-game skate
  • 11:45 a.m. – Group A pre-game skate
  • 7:00 p.m. – Scrimmage between Group A and Group B

 

UFC: If Henry Cejudo returns in 2021, who will he fight?

At UFC 249 in May of last year, Henry Cejudo (16-2) successfully defended his bantamweight title when he stopped Dominick Cruz (22-3). The fight capped off an incredible three-year run for Cejudo.

Cejudo lost a split decision to Joseph Benavidez (28-7) in December of 2016. However, after that loss, Cejudo would not lose again in the UFC. He climbed to the top of the flyweight division where he was the first flyweight to defeat Demetrious Johnson (30-3-1).

From there, he defeated TJ Dillashaw (16-4) before moving up to bantamweight. At bantamweight he stopped Marlon Moraes (23-8-1) to capture the title before of course stopping Cruz at UFC 249.

After the fight was over, Cejudo said that he was walking away on top. At just 33 years old, Cejudo seemed comfortable with his decision to retire. However, he’s been constantly active on social media over the last few months.

Cejudo doesn’t talk like someone who’s fought his last fight in the UFC. He’s hinted at returning to the octagon at some point and perhaps 2021 is the year. So if Cejudo does return, who should he fight?

Who would the UFC pair him with?

The fight that Cejudo really wants is a fight with the UFC’s featherweight champion, Alexander Volkanovski (22-1). Fighting Volkanovski would give Cejudo the chance to do something truly remarkable.

Cejudo is already an Olympic Gold Medalist and a two-division UFC champion. However, if he were to fight and defeat Volkanovski, he would become the first fighter in the promotion’s history to have held a title in three divisions.

However, given the landscape of featherweight, I think this is unlikely. Volkanovski has a big challenge in front of him in Brian Ortega (15-1, 1 NC). After Ortega, there is a plethora of top contenders waiting.

I can’t imagine the UFC giving Cejudo that fight because I don’t think he would commit to defending that title. I believe if he moved up for that fight it would be a one and done type of situation.

Now, if Volkanovski clears out the division over the next year or two, then I could see the UFC doing it. However, that division is too fluid right now to have a one and done type of title fight.

The same situation could be said about bantamweight. Petr Yan (15-1) and Aljamain Sterling (19-3) are getting ready to fight for that title. Bantamweight is one of the more stacked divisions in the UFC. I can’t see them letting Cejudo hold up the division.

Return to flyweight or a catchweight?

Of course that leaves flyweight and Deiveson Figueiredo (20-1-1). To me, this is the most likely fight as things currently stand. Figueiredo is set to have a rematch with Brandon Moreno (18-5-2) followed by a fight with Cody Garbrandt (12-3) should he beat Moreno.

If Figueiredo wins both of those fights, I could see the UFC pairing him up against Cejudo in a one-off fight. It would be a massive fight for Figueiredo who the UFC is putting a lot of stock into. They’ve already had some fun back and forth which could fuel the potential fight.

As you can see, there are a number of options across three divisions. If Cejudo commits to coming back and competing more than once, any of the divisions are a possibility. However, if it’s just a one-time deal it will likely be against the flyweight champion of the world.

New York Giants: 7 players the Giants need to part ways with in 2021

New York Giants, Nate Solder

The New York Giants might have missed the playoffs, but that does not mean they lacked roster talent at several key positions.

The Giants needed a little help from the Eagles to sneak in, but of course, they did us dirty in their tank-job. Either way, the Giants should have controlled their own destiny and made the postseason on their own. This team is still ways away from competing for a Championship. The G-Men have some very difficult decisions this offseason about this roster. There are a few easy decisions that the Giants have to do to create more cap space to sign and re-sign some key players to this team.

Here are the seven players that the New York Giants need to part ways within 2021:

LB Kyler Fackrell

The New York Giants signed Kyler Fackrell to a one-year prove-it deal, worth around $4.6 million. Most of Fackrell’s contract included guarantees, which were around $3.5 million.

The other thing Fackrell proved was he can not be a productive pass rusher this late in his career. He was a good rotational pass rusher for the Giants. Fackrell had 4.0 sacks, a forced fumble, and an interception which he returned for a touchdown against Dallas in 11 games.

The Giants are lacking a pass rush due to Lorenzo Carter and Oshane Ximines having season-ending injuries. They are also looking for a pass rusher either in free agency or in the draft.

RB Dion Lewis

The Giants signed Dion Lewis to a one-year deal worth $1.5 million. Obviously, they did not spend a lot of money on Lewis, but his performance tells the story of way.

Lewis has played 15 games for the G-Men, and the stats show for themselves why he should not be on this roster next season. Lewis only produced 108 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Lewis caught only 19 passes for 127 yards and a score.

Not only did Lewis struggle at running back for the Giants, but he also struggled to be the Giants’ return specialist. Lewis fumbled three times on kickoff.

Based on the lack of production, the Giants have no reason to re-sign him back in 2021.

LT Nate Solder

Before we start to talk about why the Giants need to cut him in 2021, I just want to say this is nothing personal. I have a lot of respect for Solder for putting his family first over football and money. It takes a lot of pride!

The New York Giants signed Nate Solder to a four-year deal worth $62 million. Solder has a cap hit of $16.4 million, but if the Giants wait to cut him post-June 1, the Giants would free up $9.9 in cap. It would leave them with $6.5 million in dead money.

It’s entirely possible that the 32-year tackle may just want to retire. If he does not, the Giants may have no other choice to cut him due to lack of production. Solder’s performance has been disappointing since his signing in 2018, allowing 18 sacks and 89 pressures in just two seasons.

I hope the best for Solder in what he chooses, if it’s to stay in the NFL or retire, but I do not see him in a Giants uniform in the 2021 season.

QB Colt McCoy

The Giants signed Colt McCoy to a one-year deal worth $2.25 million. McCoy deal is really friendly with the Giants, but with the injury history of Daniel Jones, the Giants need a more viable option at backup quarterback.

In the four games that McCoy appeared in, he has completed 60.6% of his passes for 375 yards and only one touchdown but one interception. The issue with having McCoy at backup is the Giants only scored a combined 13 points in his two starts.

With backup quarterbacks like Ryan Fitzpatrick, Andy Dalton, and Jameis Winston all becoming free agents this offseason, the Giants need to sign one of these guys that can come in and still compete.

RB Devonta Freeman

Big Blue signed Devonta Freeman in the middle of the season to fill in for Saquon Barkley when he went down with his ACL tear. Freeman signed a one-year, prove-it deal with the Giants only worth $1.35 million.

Freeman took some time to get up to speed but ultimately was very unproductive for the G-Men. Freeman logged 54 carries for 172 yards and only one touchdown. Freeman played in five games before going down with an injury and going on the injured reserve for the Giants.

Barkley should be ready for the 2021 season. With the lack of production during this season, there is no reason for the Giants to keep Freeman.

RT Cameron Fleming

The Giants signed Cameron Fleming to a one-year deal worth $3.5 million. Fleming, when signed, was not expected to be a starter, but when Solder opted out of this season, he was thrown right into the starting lineup at right tackle.

Fleming has struggled since Week 1 and has been rotating in and out with rookie tackle Matt Peart. Fleming has surrendered six sacks, four quarterback hits, and 35 pressures given up.

One of the biggest reasons why Fleming came to New York was because of Marc Colombo and Jason Garrett. When Colombo was fired about a month ago and Garrett now on the hot seat, it is really hard to see Fleming back in a Big Blue uniform in 2021.

WR Golden Tate

The New York Giants signed Golden Tate to a four-year deal worth $37.5 million in 2019. When this signing first happened, it seemed like the Giants did this to please the fans when they traded Odell Beckham Jr. shortly before.

The Giants could release Tate after the 2020 season and gain $6.1 million back on the cap. The Giants would have $4.7 million in dead money, but that will really open the receiver spot for the Giants to either sign or draft a weapon for Daniel Jones.

Tate is not the player he once was. He was been very injury prone over the last two seasons, had a disciplinary issue that made him get benched for a game in 2020, and suspended for PEDs in 2019. Even on the field, his production has been lacking. Tate, in the past, was a receiver that would get tons of separation and was deadly after the catch.

With Tate’s lack of production for the last two seasons, I do not see Tate playing another in a G-Men uniform in 2021.

 

 

What are the chances the New York Giants move on from Jason Garrett this offseason?

New York Giants, Austin Mack, Jason Garrett

Anemic would be a good way to describe the New York Giants’ offense in 2020. Averaging under 18 points per game, coordinator Jason Garrett displayed an inability to spur creativity and points production. Ultimately, second-year quarterback Daniel Jones took a step backward in multiple categories, but he did see his ball security improve gradually. After starting the season with his familiar fumbling problems, he cut down tremendously on the issue.

However, over a very similar sample size to his rookie season, Jones threw just 11 touchdown passes compared to 24 in 2019. Under Pat Shurmur, he was a far more productive quarterback through the air, averaging an additional 22 yards per contest as well as being sacked seven fewer times. Garrett’s system primarily focused on running the football, and the moment Saquon Barkley tore his ACL against the Chicago Bears in week two, the offense was castrated.

Nonetheless, the unit still managed to produce an average of 110.5 yards per game, as reserve backs Wayne Gallman and Alfred Morris lead the rushing attack. Surprisingly, they both performed adequately in Barkley’s absence, but there was a lot left on the table given his explosive playmaking absence.

While the running game was improved, the passing game was lackluster and desperately needs upgrading this off-season. That poses the question, should the giants consider moving on from Jason Garrett and his offensive system?

The New York Giants could see their OC walk all on his own:

Reports have indicated that Garrett is being considered for the Los Angeles Chargers vacant head coaching position, and if he goes, it might actually be a blessing in disguise for the Giants. His route concepts and lack of ability attacking man coverage have become apparent. His receivers can’t get open in cover 1 and the running game can only take him so far.

During Wednesday’s press conference with general manager Dave Gettleman, he stated that the idea of Garrett leaving makes him “antsy.” It would mean that Jones has to learn another offensive system, his third in three years given the scenario. Keeping things the way they are and providing some sort of continuity would be beneficial for the young quarterback, but as long as this passing attack remains anemic, it is impossible to feel confident moving forward.

Based on the way Gettleman responded to the question of Garrett potentially leaving whether it be in a head-coaching position or a firing, it indicates that they want to keep things the same in 2021. Obviously, the offense was the weakest link on the Giants this season, and if they were just average the Giants would currently be in the postseason preparing to face off against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Ranking second to last in the NFL in points per game says a lot about Jason and his inability to play to his player’s strengths. If it were my decision, I would move on in the blink of an eye, but it seems as if the Giants don’t feel the same way.

New York Yankees: Did Brian Cashman land another gem in speedy outfielder?

Greg Allen, New York Yankees

The New York Yankees might not be making any big splash moves, but you never know when general manager Brian Cashman is going to land another secret gem that over performs in pinstripes. If you recall, both Luke Voit and Gio Urshela were Cashman finds that ended up being significant pieces to the puzzle.

Since Voit was acquired from the St. Louis Cardinals, he has cemented the first base position and was one of the more consistent factors in 2020. Over 56 games, he launched 22 homers (league-high) and 52 RBIs, earning a career-low 23.1% strikeout rate and a fantastic .277 average. He is one of Cashman’s golden eggs, and without him, the Yankees would have a significant problem at first base after the Greg Bird debacle.

Then you look over to Urshela, who replaced Miguel Andujar on the hot corner after he tore his labrum in 2019. Ever since the former Toronto Blue Jay took over at third base, he hasn’t let go.

This past season, he played in 43 of 60 games, logging a .298 average with six homers and 30 RBIs. While his slugging ability took a bit of a dip compared to his 2019 statistics where he hit 21 homers, he was still very productive at the plate. His 10.3% walk rate was the highest of his career by nearly double, and he had a career-high of .368 in on-base percentage.

As you can see, Cashman has the talent and ability to find hidden production and players that have underwhelmed earlier on in their career.

Did the New York Yankees and Cashman find another gem in Greg Allen?

On Wednesday, the Yankees acquired outfielder Greg Allen from the San Diego Padres. He was previously designated for assignment by San Diego and will receive left-handed reliever James Reeves in return, per Joel Sherman of the New York Post.

Allen, who was raised in San Diego, is a speedy outfielder who made just one appearance this past season with the Padres. Over his career, Allen slashes .239/.298/.343 over 618 plate appearances. He has spent time with both the Cleveland Indians and Padres.

While Allen isn’t exactly an extraordinarily productive player, he seems to be eerily similar to Brett Gardner. A speedster with solid defensive abilities at 27 years old can only be beneficial for the Yankees, who could look to develop him and increase his contact ability, if possible.

Over four seasons, Allen has only been hit with three errors, indicating a strong presence in the outfield. While he’s not as offensively proficient as Gardner, the Yankees don’t want to pay him a significant amount of money at his age. Allen could likely supplement his loss defensively and, with a little hitting work, could improve and offer something at the plate in case the Yankees need to dip into their depth.

New York Mets: Brad Hand is a Tremendous Fit For Their Bullpen

The New York Mets need another good left-handed reliever after Justin Wilson became a free agent. If Steve Cohen owned the team when Brad Hand was waived, he would already be a Met. Now that Hand is a free agent, he would be a good fit in their bullpen.

Hand has a 2.70 ERA since his transformation to a full-time reliever in 2016. While the Mets want Liam Hendriks in the bullpen, they do not need him. Edwin Diaz, Seth Lugo, Trevor May, and potentially Dellin Betances are all late-inning relief options. Hand is an upgrade to Wilson and is much cheaper than Hendriks.

Freddie Freeman, Juan Soto, and Bryce Harper are just a few of the fearsome left-handers in the NL East. Hand can neutralize them while completing the ninth inning against right-handed hitters due to the three-batter minimum. Much like an offense, the more dynamic a bullpen can be, the better chance of success each reliever has.

While the Mets wait for a decision on Trevor Bauer and George Springer, Hand is a good signing which continues to solidify the roster. It is clear the Mets are interested, but can they seal the deal for their first signing of 2021.

 

The New York Knicks are getting the most out of one free agent signing

New York Knicks, Austin Rivers

The New York Knicks are red hot, and it has been years since we’ve been able to say that. Not only have they won five of their last six games, but they’ve been dealing with significant injuries that have decimated their frontcourt and forced players like Julius Randle to play extreme minutes. The extra work hasn’t bothered Randle one bit, as he continues to dominate. The Knicks have now scored 100+ points in three straight games, beating the Indiana Pacers, Atlanta Hawks, and Utah Jazz consecutively.

On Wednesday evening, the Jazz started off the contest with a healthy lead. At one point, the Knicks were in an 18-point hole, but magic from new free agent signing Austin Rivers propelled them to victory. The son of Doc Rivers scored 14 straight points in the second half, including four consecutive three-pointers to force the New York back into the contest.

Believe it or not, this is the best start the Knicks have had since 2012, as Rivers finished the game with 23 points and shot 9 of 14 from the field. After missing the first five games of the year with a groin strain, Rivers has made an emphatic return, proving that he is capable of starting on any team with his aggressive defense and clutch offensive performances.

“I’ll tell you one thing, he’s never lacked,’’ Thibodeau said. “He never lacked confidence.”

“He wanted to play them one-on-one, including Kevin Garnett,’’ Thibodeau said. “Rivers wanted to play (Kevin). Austin really thought he could beat him.’’

The New York Knicks are seeing their players reach their potential, but why?

Confidence and motivation are two things you find in star players, and while Rivers might not be an above-average player, he produces flashes of elite talent at times. His father convinced him to join the team in New York, where he could earn more starting minutes and feel as though he was needed instead of just a complementary piece.

The victory over Utah not only produced an impressive result, but it also was the Knicks’ lowest turnover game of the season with 12. Every starting player had a positive +/-. Kevin Knox and Immanuel Quickley were the bottom of the team regarding minutes played, as Rivers earned 32. That number continues to climb considering his performances as of late, but point guard Elfrid Payton has also taken how much larger role on this team, posting 22 points and shooting 10 of 15 in the win.

Ultimately, this is a squad that is playing for each other and seems to have something special. Sometimes, playing simple basketball instead of getting too intricate and analytical can be a positive thing. Thibodeau told Rivers to go out there and play, despite not knowing the system altogether and missing significant time to open the year. Having fun can be the ultimate reason for success.

New York Jets: Breaking down 3 confirmed head coaching candidates

New York Jets, Eric Bieniemy

Here we go, New York Jets fans! The coaching search has begun, and the Jets will look to hire their next head coach. The Adam Gase era is in the past, and the team will now look at guys who can lead the Jets for, hopefully, the next decade. Here are three of the most popular confirmed candidates so far, a summary of their background and how they could impact the team.

Brian Daboll OC Bills

Brian Daboll has an extensive coaching background. He has had the privilege to learn under two of the greatest coaches in all of football history at Alabama with Nick Saban and in New England with Bill Belichick. His history includes multiple roles on both sides of the role, but predominantly as an offensive coach.  The 45-year-old has been a coach in football since 1997 and in the pros since 2000. With over 20 years of knowledge, he has hit his stride in Buffalo. Daboll has transformed the Bills offense and completely shaped Josh Allen. When he inherited Allen, he was a raw player who still missed simple throws and needs grooming. Now, Allen looks like a top-five quarterback.

Daboll is a football guy. He is well-liked and well respected, and with the mentors he has had, he obviously knows the game well. Daboll is a hot commodity on the coaching market, and landing him will be tough if he is who the Jets end up liking most. Daboll seems to fit the leadership and culture-changing mold on the surface due to the impact he has had on the Bills offense, but with no past as a head coach, you have to wonder how he will do leading a roster of 53 men. Daboll is likely a front runner for multiple jobs, and it will be interesting to see if the Jets can get him in for at least one interview and potentially make a run at him.

Arthur Smith OC Titans

Arthur Smith did not have to be an NFL coach. The former college guard could have easily taken a role in the family business, FedEx. Smith’s father owns FedEx, but rather than pursue money, Smith pursued a passion and is doing a good job at it. Smith started coaching in 2006 as a grad assistant at his alma mater, UNC. He then carried that into jobs as a defensive assistant for the Washington Football Team and Ole Miss.

Since 2011,  Smith has been a coach on the Titans. Despite four regime changes, Smith has been the constant. Smith is highly respected and has taken his time moving up the ranks, learning, and not rushing anything. Then, when he saw Matt LaFleur heading to Green Bay, he jumped on an opportunity and approached Mike Vrabel about a promotion from Tight Ends Coach to Offensive Coordinator. Since then, the Titans offense hasn’t looked back. Ryan Tannehill is playing the best football of his career and has gone from a backup QB to a top 10 one. Not only that, but Derrick Henry is finally being used as the beast he is.

Arthur Smith is a go-getter and someone who is well-liked by his players. He commands respect and is a leader. As a former offensive lineman, he is sure to be someone who clicks with Joe Douglas. Smith has no previous head coaching experience, but his impact has been more apparent than that of Daboll on the offense. Smith is a highly respected coach and has been requested to interview for every opening. If the Jets can get a shot at him and he prefers to come here, I firmly believe he is a favorite to land this gig.

Eric Bieniemy OC Chiefs

Rounding out our list of most popular coaching candidates confirmed for an interview is perhaps the most popular one: Chiefs Offensive Coordinator and Super Bowl Champion coach Eric Bieniemy. Bieniemy has been a coach in the NFL since 2001, after taking two years off. He is a former pro running back and finished third place in the 1990n Heisman race. He has been an offensive coach and coordinator in both the college and pro ranks and has been a fixture on Andy Reid’s staff since 2013. Bieniemy is well-liked by his players and is highly regarded by Andy Reid. Bieniemy has reportedly played a key role in play-calling and in maintaining the offense.

Bieniemy is another real football guy. As another former player, there will be that admiration between him and Douglas. Here is the thing, I think their philosophies will lead to a massive disconnect. Where Smith and Daboll are more traditional football guys (Smith more than Daboll because of his playing days), Bieniemy is more modern. I think that Bieniemy will be a player first coach based on his reputation with the Chiefs and not the leader/CEO type the Jets need.

There are character issues with Bieniemy; he has faced harassment and assault allegations at multiple points in his playing and coaching career. He has also had a few issues driving, including a DUI in 2001. However, this was all 20 years ago, and Bieniemy strikes me as a guy who has turned over a new leaf. Still, there was a reason the Jets didn’t bring him back for a second interview a few years ago, and part of me wonders if it was due to the aforementioned character concerns. Nonetheless, Bieniemy has proved he deserves a shot as a head coach on the field, and if he interviews well and can explain his past, I think he ends up with a head coaching job; I just don’t think it will be for the Jets.

New York Yankees News/Rumors: Eight teams that are stuck in limbo this offseason

To say that this offseason is as bizarre as the shortened 2020 baseball season is an understatement. The New York Yankees and several other teams have been extremely slow to do anything to improve their teams for the 2021 season. The big shakers and movers have been the San Diego Padres and the Chicago White Sox. Some teams have let several pitchers walk, like the Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays. The Astros, with $55 million to spend have let their two best hitters in 2020 walk. Today we look at eight teams that seem to be doing nothing, as time is quickly running out. Spring training starts on February 21.

American League:

The New York Yankees:

The New York Yankees have been mostly silent, almost to the extreme of wondering if the front office is on vacation. The Yankees seem to be banking everything on the re-signing of DJ LeMahieu while having only one veteran experienced pitcher and a depleted bullpen. The Yankees also have questions at backstop and shortstop but have made it pretty clear that they will do little to provide an upgrade at those positions. With owner Hal Steinbrenner’s statement that he wants to spend $30-40 million less than last year, it’s doubtful that the Yankees will be spending this offseason. After losing three pitchers and a backup catcher, the Yankees are running out of time to fill those positions.

The New York Yankees 2021 payroll as of now, according to FanGraphs is projected to be about $75 million below what they would have spent in 2020. If they nonetheless fail to re-sign LeMahieu and significantly upgrade their starting rotation and bullpen, Yankee fans will see their World Series dought extend to twelve years. The Yankees have made two minor moves in adding Nestor Cortes Jr. to the bullpen, and they traded for Greg Allen for outfield depth, making the re-signing of Brett Gardner less likely.

The Houston Astros:

The Houston Astros, after being beat out by the lowly Tampa Bay Rays in the 2020 ALCS, will likely remain mostly static. There are several reasons for this. Probably the most important one is that they will likely have to spend big next year. Three reasons for their recent success are Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, and Zack Greinke. With Houston Astros, other than cheating, they have been all about starting pitching. This season they lost Cole to the Yankees in free agency, and after this season, they will lose both Verlander and Grinke leaving them with no pitching and big bills. They have lost their two best hitters from the 2020 season, but are not in the mix to re-sign them.

Minnesota Twins

The Minnesota Twins president Derek Falvey spent big on Josh Donaldson last winter (four years, $92 million). At the same time, however, most of Minnesota’s positions are filled, and the starting pitching market, one area of need, fairly weak. The Twins could play for Trevor Bauer and more likely will resign Nelson Cruz now that Bauer has said he wants a 5-6 year contract for big money. If the New York Yankees are in a staring contest with DJ LeMahieu the Twins are in the same staring contest with Nelson Cruz.

Boston Red Sox

The Boston Red Sox have done little more than the embarrassing re-signing of Houston Astro’s cheating developer Alex Cora. Like the Yankees, the Red Sox can fill Fenway park no matter how bad the team is and is only interested in cutting payroll, as exhibited by letting Mookie Betts go west. Obviously after finishing last in the American League East, the Red Sox need to do more than just retool. the Red Sox actually have a path to the top of the AL East in 2021. If they were to augment their core with a second baseman, a center fielder and pitching depth. But like the New York Yankees the Boston Red Sox will seemingly not have any big hires in their immediate future.

Kansas City Royals

The Kansas City Royals, once one of the toughest competitors for the New York Yankees, hasn’t been much of a team since then. Their last 100 game winning season was in 1977 when they lost to the Dodgers. The Royal’s are a sad team the doesn’t spend the money, and when they get an outstanding player, homegrown or not, they seem to trade them away and get little in return. The odd thing is that they have one of the most loyal fan bases in baseball for a small market.

Tampa Bay Rays

The Tampa Bay Rays although almost winning a World Series, are dumping payroll this offseason, first by letting Charlie Morton walk and then trading away pitching ace Blake Snell. Although the Rays have more than doubled their payroll in the past few years, don’t look for them to be spending big. The Rays have bigger problems like getting a new Stadium that isn’t the laughing stock of baseball. If anything, the Rays will likely remain crafty and rely on their strong farm system. You can be sure the the Rays will use what resources they have smartly.

National League:

The Washington Nationals are an interesting team to watch after many big acquisitions and winning the World Series in 2019; none of those expenditures paid off this year when then totally flopped. With Strasburg and Corbin’s big contracts on the books, don’t look for them to be big spenders. The Nationals’ offseason have consisted of a few minor-league signings, a slew of declined contract options, but have been going extremely slow with filling the many major holes. But unlike many of the teams on this list National’s GM Mike Rizzo explained Tuesday that they’re just getting started. So far those may not seem like moves made by a serious World Series contender.

The Philadelphia Phillies:

Philadelphia Phillies Club president Andy MacPhail has basically said to Phillies fans that the team is near broke. After getting Bryce Harper, Didi Gregorius, and J.T. Realmuto and not reaching the postseason the past two years, they will not be spending; they will be dumping. They are stuck with a huge Harper contract, much like the Yankees are on the hook for Giancarlo Stanton. The Phillies have already let Realmuto and Gregorius walk, saying they don’t have the money to pay them.

With MLB spring training starting on February 21st, even with these teams you have to assume that the coming six weeks will be more active than the first two months of the offseason. There are too many free agents out there unsigned and to many teams still have holes to fill.

Philadelphia’s folly vindicates New York Jets’ late season victories

After the Eagles’ embarrassing display on Sunday night, no one should fault the New York Jets for their pair of December victories.

The NFL playoffs are set to get underway this coming weekend and there is no shortage of storylines amongst the 14 participants. But the national conversation is focused on the four-win Philadelphia Eagles and their Sunday night excursion against the Washington Football Team.

Over the first 30 minutes of the 256th and final game of the NFL regular season, Philadelphia made it difficult for Washington to clinch their first division title since 2015. They even held a 14-10 lead until the final 20 seconds. The Eagles’ scoring was handled through the legs of Jalen Hurts, a rookie quarterback taking full advantage of relatively consequence-free football. His passing stats were nothing to write home about (7-for-20, 72 yards, and an interception), With two rushing touchdowns, Hurts was potentially on his way to an early signature moment: ending a division rival’s Super Bowl dreams, fantasies that would transfer over to the New York Giants upon a Washington loss. With the Eagles reportedly clashing with franchise face Carson Wentz, Hurts was in a position to get gameday experience and the joy of an NFL victory along the way.

But, to the bewilderment of the football-loving public and his own on-field constituents, Pederson pulled some of his starters…those who weren’t on the pregame injury list…headlined by switching subbing Hurts for Nate Sudfeld. A career journeyman more likely to appear in the third version of the XFL instead of the NFL in 2022, Sudfeld lost the ball on each of his first two drives. A stagnant Washington offense mustered only three points over the latter half-hour, but they still clinched the NFC East with a 20-14 victory thanks to an Eagle offense that only moved backward with Sudfeld in tow. It will be Washington, not the Giants, that will host Tom Brady and the Buccaneers in the last game of Saturday’s playoff festivities (8:15 p.m. ET, NBC).

Pederson’s gambit of defeatism has drawn the ire of not only the Giants (who only have themselves to blame for missing out on a playoff berth offered to them solely through divisional technicalities), but his own team. Lipreaders claimed that a visibly upset Hurts declared “it’s not right” as he watched Sudfeld (whose last NFL pass came in December 2018) take over. Running back Miles Sanders, one of the aforementioned injury departees, claimed that “nobody liked the decision” to pull Hurts. Jeff McLane of The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that two defensive players had to be held back when confronting Pederson about the decision.

The Eagles’ ultimate prize for the essential forfeit? The right to choose sixth in April’s NFL Draft in Cleveland, avoiding the three-slot drop a win would’ve obtained. Even with such valuable draft capital, a turbulent offseason awaits in The City of Brotherly Love. Wentz and his massive contract have to be moved, and he’ll likely be one of several staples from the team that made the victorious trek to Super Bowl LII.

Say what you will about the 2020 New York Jets…they didn’t do that.

Hurts’ benching swiped center stage in Week 17 compilation of football follies from the Jets, who finally bid farewell to Adam Gase after a listless 28-14 defeat at the hands of the New England Patriots earlier in the day. The meaningless visit to Foxboro was hardly the most football sin of Gase’s tenure but served as an appropriate end to a two-year term that produced only nine wins.

The Jets’ fortunes were among the most trivial of New York concerns in 2020, but it was still tough to bear from a football fan standpoint. Much like a doomed blockbuster, things went haywire right from the start. Some calamities were completely understandable in the wake of the ongoing health crisis, with linebacker C.J. Mosley opting out before the first snap of training camp. The cancellation of the preseason hurt the Jets more than most teams, denying a team with completely revamped blocking and receiving corps. Elsewhere, the climax of the Jamal Adams saga yielded two first-round from Seattle at the price of an All-Pro-sized hole in the secondary. Second-round deep threat Denzel Mims, among others, were lost to training camp injuries. Even before Le’Veon Bell’s unceremonious release in October, the most casual football observer could tell it was going to be a tough season for the Jets.

Sure enough, the Jets’ were more or less eliminated from the playoff conversation before the Yankees…maybe even the Mets as well. Once the season got underway, the promises of brutality became nightmarish realities. Bell’s departure only opened the floodgates for a veteran exodus, with the New York careers of Steve McLendon, Avery Williamson, Pierre Desir, and Gregg Williams all ending throughout the course of the season. The brutal start saw the Jets fall in each of their first 13 games…a number so garish even Rich Kotite’s doomed bunch manage to avoid it.

Yet…pulling a “Pederson” never seemed to be under consideration.

Indeed, there were plenty of times where the Jets fulfilled Adams’ most damning departing declaration…that the Jets “didn’t want to win”. Any 2-14 season is one for the football hall of shame and the Jets lost half of their games by at least three possessions. But any gameday decision was made with a win in mind. Granted, some decisions were questionable at best…the 37-year-old Frank Gore’s run tally perhaps at the forefront…but the modern Jets were never interested in a reward that some of them might never get to see.

“There’s been a lot of adversity,” Gase admitted to Andy Vazquez of NorthJersey.com after the first of two wins, a 23-20 triumph over the Los Angeles Rams. “The fact that it’s this late in the season, the way that they kept fighting, the way that they stuck together and found a way to play a good game in all three phases was something that our guys should have been excited about.”

That was obvious as the season went on and the Jets inched closer to 16-game imperfection. Observers tried to tell the team that losing, however, was good for them. Inclusion amongst the likes of the 2008 Lions and 2017 Browns was a small price to pay to be at the top of the draft board. All the Jets had to do was take a few losses toward the end of the year…something that, on paper, shouldn’t have been hard to do. Following their Week 10 bye, the Jets battled teams either in the thick of the playoff picture or finding their footing in tough times. The epitome of brutality came in when Adams and the Seahawks dominated the Jets to the tune of a 40-3 shellacking in the Pacific Northwest.

All the while, professional and amateur pundits alike, perhaps partly fueled by the theory that the concept of “LOL Jets” gets clicks, encouraged the team to complete the 16-game goose egg in the win column. Such an “accomplishment” would’ve allowed them to outright clinch a spot at the top of the 2021 draft board. Their lone competition, the Jacksonville Jaguars, appeared to embrace the Pederson method when they benched Gardner Minshew’s potential for the journeyman efforts Mike Glennon. The Jaguars perhaps only avoided such calls for tanking through a 15-game losing streak after kickoff weekend and the theory that prime Joe Montana himself could take over under center in Duval County and still struggle to win ball games.

The Jets’ participants still refused to justify the mere notion. Following the embarrassment at Seattle, they knocked off a pair of playoff-bound teams, the Los Angeles Rams and Cleveland Browns. These Christmas gifts were met with only disdain from the fanbase and observers, who torched the Jets for the sin of winning a game when a date with destiny in the form of Trevor Lawrence awaited. The woebegone Jaguars “took care” of business, headlined by their Glennon gambit, losing their final games in anticipated one-sided fashion. 

It didn’t matter to the Jets.

Already a ludicrous notion from the outset…asking professionals to intentionally toss contests in pursuit of an award they’ll never sow…players went for the jugular when it came to those who called for tanking.

“If you wanted us to lose, you’re not a real fan, honestly,” first-round rookie Mekhi Becton told SNY’s Jeane Coakley after the 23-20 win in Los Angeles. “We wanted the win and we got it. That’s our goal right now. We want to go get another win.”

That mission was accomplished the following weekend, as the Jets prevented their equally star-crossed brothers from the midwest from clinching a playoff spot, topping the Cleveland Browns 23-16. Cleveland was

Simply put, one (rightfully) thrashing the Eagles is a hypocritical move if they also criticized the Jets for going all-out in their final hours.

The era of Gase is one that many Jets would like to eradicate from their memories, Men in Black-style. But it was never one where the Jets outright sacrificed a shot at victory. It’s shameful that it’s something to be proud of these days, but Week 17’s action produced a green aura of defeatism on Sunday…this time, the Jets weren’t involved.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags