New York Giants: Eli Manning working with ESPN, hoping to do more with Giants

New York Giants, Eli Manning

The time has gone by fast, but the New York Giants have gone a couple of seasons now without Eli Manning as their starting quarterback. Manning, as usual, kept a low profile when the team replaced him with Daniel Jones, and has since slipped into a comfortable retirement that comes with a newfound Twitter presence.

And according to a recent ESPN interview, it looks like life is going good for Manning right now. He talked about Twitter, sloppy Joes, and also his plans for the future. Interestingly enough, that might involve the Giants – but probably not in the coaching role some might have predicted when Manning retired.

“You’re a little bit limited on what you could do and what some options were, obviously, with a pandemic going on, so I just took this time to just reflect and dabble in a few things,” Manning said about his options in the future. “I am going to do some things with ESPN. I filmed a couple [episodes] of “Details” the other day on Mac Jones and Justin Fields.”

He said that he’s going to join his brother Peyton on his Peyton’s Places TV show, an exclusive of ESPN+. According to Manning, he’ll be involved in doing a college football version of the format.

Manning and the Giants linking up again?

Perhaps of more interest to Giants fans, Manning said he’s interested in doing more with the team.

“Hopefully I’ll be able to do some more things with the Giants next year as well. This year, it was new, didn’t know how much I wanted to be around [the team]. I think we both needed a break from each other, but hopefully I can do some more things related to the Giants.”

With Manning going into TV, it doesn’t seem like he’ll be a candidate to get on the coaching staff as an assistant. But there’s still plenty of other ways to remain tied to the team, especially if Manning embraces the TV journalist role like some other former players have.

Either way, New York Giants fans will be happy to see Manning around again after his retirement has so far been decently quiet.

Buffalo Bills headed to Kansas City for AFC title game

The Buffalo Bills will run into a familiar foe for their first AFC Championship Game appearance since 1994.

It would appear not much has changed in the American Football Conference after 27 years.

With the AFC Divisional playoffs decided, the Buffalo Bills will meet the Kansas City Chiefs in the 2020-21 AFC Championship Game. The game will be the latter segment of the NFL’s conference championship Sunday situation. It will kick off at 6:40 p.m. ET at Arrowhead Stadium and air nationally on CBS.

Buffalo (15-3) clinched their ticket to the AFC title game with a 17-3 win over the Baltimore Ravens on Saturday night, anchored by Taron Johnson’s 101-yard interception return for a touchdown and a three-yard scoring hookup between Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs. Meanwhile, the defending champion Chiefs (15-2) made their 2021 postseason debut on Sunday, topping the Cleveland Browns by a 22-17 final. Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce united for 219 receiving yards on 16 receptions, with the latter scoring a touchdown.

The Bills and Chiefs met once this season in Orchard Park, with Kansas City prevailing in a 26-17 decision. Buffalo was held to a season-low 206 yards in defeat, while rookie rusher Clyde Edwards-Helaire had 161 yards for Kansas City. The matchup was initially set to be held on a Thursday night but was moved to the following Monday after Buffalo’s prior opponent, Tennessee, experienced COVID-19 complications.

Buffalo and Kansas City previously met in the 1993-94 AFC Championship, with Buffalo earning a 30-13 victory to advance to Super Bowl XXVIII in Atlanta, clinching their ticket to the last of four straight Super Bowl appearances. Thurman Thomas stole the show, earning 186 yards and three scores on the ground. This will mark the third time that the Bills and Chiefs will meet with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line. Kansas City earned a ticket to the original Super Bowl, then known as the AFL-NFL World Championship Game, with a 31-7 win over the Bills in the 1966-67 AFL Championship. The two sides also met in the 1991-92 Divisional round, with Buffalo prevailing 37-14.

As the hype for the conference title game begins, the major headlines will likely center on the status of Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes. The defending Super Bowl MVP earned two scores in the Sunday victory over Cleveland (one on the ground, one in the air) but was forced out of the game after taking a tough hit that put him in concussion protocol. Veteran backup Chad Henne stepped in and managed things well, completing 6-of-8 passes for 66 yards. Henne threw an interception but later came up big on Kansas City’s final drive, with his 13-yard rush and five-yard toss Tyreek Hill clinching the game for the Chiefs.

Arrowhead Stadium is now set to host the AFC title game for the third consecutive season. The Chiefs fell to New England in 2019 before topping Tennessee last year. Buffalo’s last playoff triumph on the road came in January 1993, when won in Miami to advance to Super Bowl XXVII.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Yankees: Tanaka reportedly seeking one-year deal worth $15-$20 million

New York Yankees, Masahiro Tanaka

According to an Andy Martino report, Masahiro Tanaka is asking for a one-year deal worth $15-$20 million to return to the New York Yankees.

Tanaka has been one of the Yankees’ most consistent pitchers during his seven-year tenure in New York. His career ERA sits at  3.74 with a 120 ERA+ and a 4.42 FIP.  In 1054.1 career innings, Tanaka’s punched out 991 batters and walked 208 while averaging 8.4 hits allowed per nine innings.

Despite his numbers being above league average, it’s growing increasingly likely that Tanaka won’t be a Yankee in 2021. With DJ LeMahieu and Corey Kluber’s signings on Friday, the Yankees sit just a few million dollars below the luxury tax, a threshold the team isn’t planning on surpassing. Signing Tanaka right now would bring the Yankees way over the Luxury Tax.

Regardless of if the Yankees sign Tanaka or not, the team will likely have to clear some cap space to fulfill all their needs. The Yankees remain interested in acquiring another starting pitcher, as well as bullpen arms, bench players, and potentially a left-fielder.

Adam Ottavino’s name has frequently been mentioned for potential trades, as he holds a $9 million salary to his name. Trading him could help give the Yankees enough room to take care of their other free-agency needs.

The team seems to be in on trading for pitcher Luis Castillo, a hard-throwing starter on the Cincinnati Reds. He has three years of team control left and would be a strong fit for the Yankees if the team can get him without giving up too much.

Acquiring Castillo to fill the rotation and clear cap space would be a huge win for the Yankees and put them in a good position to win a 28th World Series Championship.

But for Tanaka, it seems like his time with the Yankees has come to an end, no matter what other moves the Yankees make. With the money he wants, there isn’t a place for him on the team unless the Yankees are willing to exceed the Luxury Tax. If the Yankees don’t sign him, Tanaka will likely return to Japan and pitch. He’d be able to get the money he wants and be dominant.

Knicks gift Thibodeau a much-needed birthday win

The New York Knicks celebrated Tom Thibodeau’s 63rd birthday with a sensational win that snapped their five-game losing skid.

With their defense sharp and their offense on target, the Knicks obliterated one of the Eastern Conference’s top teams, Boston Celtics, 105-75, Sunday at the TD Garden.

It was the Knicks’ largest win in Boston since a 37-point victory in 1970.

The game was so lopsided that Thibodeau emptied his bench with more than three minutes left, giving the likes of seldom-used Ignas Brazdeikis, Theo Pinson, and Dennis Smith, Jr. some burn.

It was a total team effort for the Knicks, who rebounded from a tough loss in Cleveland.

Julius Randle continued his All-Star play leading the Knicks with 20 points, 12 rebounds, four assists, and three steals. RJ Barrett had another strong game stuffing the stats sheet with 19 points, 11 rebounds, three assists, and two steals.

Barrett has now put together a solid stretch in the last three games averaging 19.7 points on 50 percent shooting, 6.7 rebounds, and 3.0 assists.

Rookies Immanuel Quickley and Obi Toppin were also spectacular against the Celtics.

Quickley had his third straight double-digit scoring with 17 and added a career-high eight assists. Toppin, meanwhile, had his best game, finishing with 12 points, including an emphatic slam in the second half.

“We came out with energy and aggression right off the opening tip,” Barrett said postgame.

“We put in the work. It really felt good to get back on the track,” he added.

The Knicks improved to 6-8. Last season, they never reached sixth win until their 26th game.

The Knicks put in the work early, racing to a double-digit lead in the opening quarter.

The Celtics, who entered the game with a five-win streak and the East’s best record, didn’t know what hit them.

Mitchell Robinson’s putback slam to open the game set the tone for the rout.

The Knicks led from start to finish riding on their defense. They held the Celtics to a season-worst 29.8 percent from the field, including 7-for-46 from three.

Kemba Walker struggled in his season debut, shooting just 3-for-13 for nine points.

Jaylen Brown’s 25 points on 9-of-20 shooting paced the Celtics, who sorely missed Jayson Tatum (safety and health protocols).

The Knicks will only have less than 24 hours to enjoy this victory, though.

The Knicks hope to build on this big win when they face the Orlando Magic Monday noon at home before flying to West Coast for another back-to-back set.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

New York Yankees News: With signings done, where do the Yankees go from here?

New York Yankees, Luke Voit, DJ LeMahieu

The New York Yankees made big waves in the baseball world this week. They achieved their number one offseason priority re-signing DJ LeMahieu, and they did it for less than they thought it would cost them annually. In turn, they gave LeMahieu a six-year deal that will likely carry him into retirement. Because of the annual money they saved, they were able to jump on a deal they had been negotiating and signed two-time Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber to a one-year $11 million deal, strengthening a pitching rotation that lacked any veterans behind ace Gerrit Cole.

This reporter believes that those expenditures will pretty much do it for the Yankees unless they can pick up a quality reliever relatively cheap. That’s not to say that there won’t be more additions to the team, but if there are they will likely be by the way of the trade. For instance the New York Yankees have shown and interest in Luis Castillo who is with the Cincinnati Reds. That could be accomplished by the Yankees giving up probably three prospects in order to bring Castillo to Yankee Stadium.

According to Roster resource the Yankees payroll stands at $201 million with the signing of both LeMahieu, Kluber and the arbitration raises. The Yankees luxury tax ledger is estimated at just over $207MM. Add to that Yankee owner Hal Steinbrenner said earlier in the offseason that he want to stay below the threshold of $210MM. With that in mind and the acquisition of Kluber it pretty much precludes the Yankees from bring back pitcher Masahiro Tanaka that just finished his stint with the Yankees.

If they chose to spend the remaining money they do have enough to bring back the veteran Brett Gardner or pick up a low priced middle inning reliever and still stay below the threshold. However, there is another possibility, that the Yankees actually find a perfect fit for the team and chose to go over that limit, which is unlikely with still not having a clear picture of what the 2021 season will look like financially.

The New York Yankees and all the other MLB teams know that the league will try to complete a 162 game season. It is also known that MLB will allow fans in the stands this season. However, the final say on that is in the hands of the local health or government officials. The more games MLB plays without fans in the stands, the money those teams will lose. At the present moment New York state is banning large gatherings in venues. Although Governor Cuomo of New York did allow limited fans in the stands for Buffalo Bill’s games.

Assuming the coronavirus vaccines are successful most teams will have at least a limited amount of fans to create revenues and reduce costs. The Players Union (MLBPA) has made it clear that they want players paid for the full 162 games season whether there are fans in the stands or not.

After getting battered at UFC Fight Island 7, what’s next for Calvin Kattar?

UFC

UFC Fight Island 7 was an opportunity for Calvin Kattar (22-5) to have a big coming out party on the biggest of stages. The promotion was making their debut on ABC and Kattar was in the main event against former featherweight champion, Max Holloway (22-6).

Kattar is known for his incredibly crisp boxing and he talked a lot about it during the leadup. Hell, even I said in my preview of UFC Fight Island 7 that Max Holloway would need to mix it up a lot in order to win. I wasn’t sure how he would do in pure boxing with Kattar.

Well, there’s not an aspect of striking where Max Holloway didn’t dominate at UFC Fight Island 7. This fight was supposed to be very close on paper, however, Max Holloway simply showed the world that there are levels to this.

Calvin Kattar was completely dismantled over five rounds by the former champion. Kattar landed some good shots here and there, but at the end of the day, this was an extremely one-sided beating by Max Holloway.

To give you an idea of how lopsided it was, think about this. Holloway landed a UFC record 445 significant strikes. Calvin Kattar only landed 133. Holloway landed 312 more significant strikes and the scorecards read 50-43, 50-43, 50-42.

What’s next after UFC Fight Island 7

Let me just say this, Calvin Kattar is still one of the better featherweights in the UFC. You can’t just have the 2020 that he had without being near the top of the division. However, Max Holloway showed us that Kattar has a long ways to go.

I think it’s going to take some time before we see Kattar again in the UFC. With the beating he took, he’s going to need some time to recover and regroup. Considering his place in the division and who he’s already faced, I think there are a couple of options for his return.

One of the options I really like is a fight between him and Josh Emmett (16-2). Emmett is one of the most powerful strikers in the UFC’s featherweight division. He’s also riding a three-fight winning streak. However, he’s recovering from knee surgery.

As of now, there’s no real timeline for his return, but I think him and Kattar would match up well. Another option would be Sodiq Yusuff (11-1) who’s currently ranked tenth in the featherweight division.

Yusuff is unbeaten in the UFC and that would be another fun matchup for Kattar upon his return. Calvin Kattar is still going to be a factor at 145, but yesterday was a harsh dose of reality in that he’s not quite ready for the very best.

Khabib and Dana White to meet one final time after UFC 257 in Las Vegas

This weekend, Dana White and UFC lightweight champion, Khabib Nurmagomedov (29-0), had their much anticipated meeting. The world was expecting a final resolution after the meeting. White teased that an announcement would be made at UFC Fight Island 7.

Well, White did announce the results of that conversation yesterday. However, in the end, nothing new came of it. According to White, Khabib is going to sit back and watch UFC 257 and see if any of the four top lightweights competing entices him to come back.

Khabib has apparently told White that he doesn’t want to tie up the division. He apparently has been very impressed with Charles Oliveira (30-8, 1 NC) as of late, but he’s still not 100% sure he will come back. He’s looking for something that excites him to make him come back.

While that’s certainly not a yes, the more important thing is that it’s not a no. With Khabib telling White that he’ll sit back and wait, you can tell that the UFC lightweight champion is still interested in competing. Otherwise, he wouldn’t think twice about UFC 257 next weekend.

UFC’s plan with Khabib

Dana White told the media at the UFC Fight Island 7 post-fight press conference that Khabib is leaving Fight Island after the Wednesday card. However, he’s not flying home to Russia, but instead, he’s flying to Las Vegas.

After the UFC’s current stint on Fight Island wraps up, White will be returning to Las Vegas as well. White said that the current plan is for him and Khabib to meet up for dinner after he returns home from Fight Island.

Apparently, that is the meeting where the final decision will be made. After next weekend, Khabib will decide whether there are any challenges left for him in the UFC that interest him. If so, he’ll come back to defend the title. If not, he will vacate the title for the division to move on.

It’s not a secret, but the desire for the UFC is to have Khabib defend his title in a rematch against Conor McGregor (22-4). McGregor of course headlines UFC 257 against Dustin Poirier (26-6, 1 NC). Should McGregor win, that will be the fight the UFC pushes for. It’ll be interesting to see if Khabib is interested.

What would the New York Yankees have to give up for star pitcher Luis Castillo?

New York mets, Luis Castillo

The New York Yankees stayed utterly silent until this past Friday when general manager Brian Cashman emerged from his cave like a hibernating bear. He was seeking fresh food and ended up with a massive haul following his silence. He walked away with star infielder DJ LeMahieu on a six-year, $90 million deal, and former Cy Young pitcher Corey Kluber on a one year, $11 million deal. Cashman went above and beyond with his available finances this year, and he still has a bit of wiggle room to capitalize on.

While LeMahieu is a proven commodity who has proved himself in pinstripes over the past two years, the Yankees are thin in the starting pitching rotation. Kluber represents one of the best pitchers in the MLB, but two years ago in 2018. He’s only pitched 36.2 innings since suffering a broken right forearm in 2019. A bevy of different injuries have taken their toll, and during a workout, on Wednesday he reached 90 mph with his fastball. His career average is 92, so the difference isn’t too significant, and he should be able to work his way back up over the course of the next few months.

Nonetheless, having a more established starter in the rotation would be beneficial, which leads us to Cincinnati Reds star Luis Castillo.

While Blake Snell and Yu Darvish were plucked up by the San Diego Padres, the Yankees stayed in the back-burner, waiting for their opportunity to pounce. Castillo is 28 years old and the Reds are looking to deal. He’s a free agent in 2024 and arbitration-eligible in 2022, which would give the Yankees multiple years to utilize his services.

The question is, how much would it take to acquire him. Here is a potential deal they could consider.

Reds Receive:

-Miguel Andujar

-Clint Frazier

-Luis Gil

Yankees receive:

-Luis Castillo

-Rece Hinds

The New York Yankees would solve their pitching problems:

This would be a major, blockbuster trade for the Yankees, and it wouldn’t come cheap by any means. Giving up Andujar and Frazier would mean parting ways with two starting level players, something the Yankees probably don’t want to do.

However, Castillo is that good, posting a 3.21 ERA in 2020 and 11.44 strikeouts per nine. He has the ability to be a bonafide ace, and with the depth in the starting rotation currently, he can slide in right behind Gerrit Cole with Kluber in the third spot.

This was shore up the rotation for years to come, and the Yankees can afford to part ways with Andujar and Frazier if they feel comfortable relying on Mike Tauchman and signing Brett Gardner to another one year contract.

In addition, I included Reds prospect Rece Hinds in the deal, as a potential third base option down the line. He’s a 6-foot-4, 250-pound infielder, providing some great size.

Let me know in the comments if you think this is a reasonable trade for the Yankees, who could acquire a fantastic starting pitcher in Castillo with four years of control.

New York Knicks: 3 keys to beating the Boston Celtics

New York Knicks, Julius Randle

The New York Knicks are currently on a five-game losing streak, with their last defeat coming against the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Knicks lost by just three points, making it their ninth straight game where they’ve allowed more than 100 points to their opponent. They are currently four games behind in the Atlantic standings, preparing to face off against the Boston Celtics, who are currently in first place and on a five-game winning streak.

This season has been incredibly difficult for the Knicks so far, forcing them to travel routinely. For new teams with new coaching staff’s and faces, the lack of preseason and time to iron out the kinks was unavailable. The NBA jumped right into things, and NY has been trying to play catch-up ever since.

“That’s the challenge of the season,” coach Tom Thibodeau said Saturday after practice in Boston. “Shortened training camp and we started with a schedule that’s a little unusual in terms of the travel part of it. So you have to manage it as best you can. So it’s a lot of film sessions, there’s a lot of individual film sessions, there’s walkthroughs in the ballroom. Then when we have the opportunity to get over to practice, we want to take advantage of that.

Ultimately, becoming a quality team starts in practice. Playing hard against each other and refining their fundamentals is what needs to be done, and Thibodeau understands that playing hard in practice translates to the real thing.

“We said at the beginning, the first step was to become a great practice team. I think we’re making some steps in that direction. I know when we practice well, we usually play well.”

“I think the way we’re practicing right now, when we do get the opportunity to practice, has been very positive,” Thibodeau said. “We’ve fallen short in this streak. But I do want us to focus on that improvement and getting better. As we get guys back, I think we’ll get a rhythm offensively in terms of making shots. And then we gotta get our defense going. When we do that, we’ll win.”

The Knicks are going to need a bit of luck to beat the Celtics, who are currently 8-3 and 4-1 at home. According to ESPN’s Basketball Power Index, the Celtics have a 74.4% chance of emerging victorious against the Knicks on Sunday afternoon.

Three keys for the New York Knicks to beat the Boston Celtics:

1.) Limit the turnovers

The Knicks have committed unnecessary turnovers during their losing streak, but have improved in the category gradually. Against the Cavaliers, they turned the ball over just 12 times, far less than the 15 average several games prior.

Against the Brooklyn Nets, they turned it over just nine times, so it is clearly a priority for them during practice. Being disciplined with the ball in your hands is essential, but they still need more work and consistency there.

2.) Start Immanuel Quickley

The New York Knicks need to make the executive decision to rotate Elfrid Payton from the bench and not start him regularly.

Immanuel Quickley is proving to be the better offensive player, and his tenacious defense is exactly what head coach Tom Thibodeau is looking for.

Against Cleveland, Quickley played in 28 minutes compared to Payton’s 20. During that time, he scored 23 points and shot 9-of-17 from the field. He also picked up four assists, indicating better court vision. His development has been one of the single positive things for the Knicks this season, so far, and elevating him to the starting squad should happen sooner rather than later.

3.) Play more aggressive defense and contest 3-pointers

One of Thibodeau’s primary fundamentals is playing aggressive defense. As stated before, the Knicks have allowed 100 points or more in nine straight games, which can’t make the veteran head coach happy.

Thibodeau is undoubtedly utilizing practice time to increase his players’ defensive abilities, as he believes the shots will come. Spreading the floor and opening up high-probability shots is his game, but the Knicks simply haven’t lived up to his expectations on defense. The Celtics have a fantastic offensive team, so slowing them down will be a priority for New York.

Yankee News/Rumors: Two pitching prospects could be impactful this season

The New York Yankees got a huge pick for the starting rotation this week, signing two-time Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber to the pitching staff. The Yankees now have a true number two starter behind ace Gerrit Cole, at least at the start of the season. With Domingo German ready to start the season and Luis Severino coming at some point in the first half of the season, the Yankees starting pitching is looking a lot better than it did just a week ago. There is also scuttlebutt that says the Yankees are also looking for even more upgrades, talking to the Cincinnati Reds about Luis Castillo.

As well as things are looking for the starting pitching, the bullpen is a different situation. The Yankees have picked up old friends Adam Warren and Nestor Cortes Jr. They will help in early relief when things don’t go well for a starting pitcher. But the Yankees still lack late relief. With the questionable relief of Adam Otttavino and the loss of Tommy Kahnle to the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Yankees need at least one more reliable arm ahead of Zack Britton and Aroldis Chapman.

Any fan who keeps track of the Yankees is at least familiar with Deivi Garcia and Clarke Schmidt’s names that made their major league debuts last season, Luis Gil, and even pitching prospect Alexander Vizcaino. Most of these are pitchers you have heard about. But under the radar are pitchers that have not made much news for one reason or another. Two of those pitchers are Greg Weissert, who is said to have the best slider in the New York Yankee’s minor league system, and Glenn Otto is known for his fastball and great strikeout rate.

These to unheralded prospects you can expect to hear a lot more about this season. Weissert was an 18th round draft pick out of Fordham University in 2016. After working mostly as a starter in college, the Yankees moved him to the bullpen. That move began a steady rise through the system, peaking with Double-A Trenton in 2019. Armed with the plus slider, he has consistently been able to miss bats while recording an 11.5 K/9 in four minor league seasons. Weissert did not pitch in 2020. His greatest need to get him to the majors is his control. Although his strikeout rate is amazing, so is his walk rate of 4.9 per nine.

Glen Otto is a year in back of Weissert, having been drafted when Weissert was completing his first year in the minors. The New York Yankees drafted Glenn Otto with their fifth-round selection in 2017. After working as a closer for Rice University. The Yankees see the 240 pound Otto as a starter and are preparing him as such. The has a strong fastball and a 12 to 6 curve that produced lots of strikeouts. A 2018 blood clot in his shoulder cost him most of the season, but he came back strong in 2019. The Yankees sent him to the fall league in Arizona, where he also pitched well, striking out more hitters than innings pitched. Like Weissert, he also has to gain more control and walk fewer batters.

Both of these prospects are on the cusp of breaking into the Major Leagues. With a Minor League season this year and some tweaking in their development, you may see them at the Stadium later in the season when some bullpen arms will need some rest. However, Otto is being primed as a start that may be a few years away.