UFC attempted to make Chandler – Oliveira; Oliveira turned it down

The UFC lightweight division is in a very unique spot at the moment. It’s the most exciting division in the promotion, however, there is a lot of cloudiness surrounding the top of the division. Khabib Nurmagomedov (29-0) has said he’s retired, yet he’s still the UFC champion.

Back at UFC 257, Dustin Poirier (27-6, 1 NC) knocked out Conor McGregor (22-5) in the main event. In retrospect, that fight should have been for the vacant lightweight title with the assumption that Khabib is staying retired.

In the co-main event of the evening, Michael Chandler (22-5) knocked out Dan Hooker (20-10) in the first round. The win was a huge statement in the UFC debut of Michael Chandler. Chandler had spent virtually his entire career with Bellator to that point.

After the fights, Dana White said that the UFC was going to have to figure out what to do with the division. Obviously, Dustin Poirier would be fighting for the title next, but the promotion didn’t know who that would be against.

Poirier only seemed interested in McGregor, Nate Diaz (20-12), or Charles Oliveira (30-8, 1 NC). Meanwhile, Dana White seemed more interested in having Chandler fight Poirier for the lightweight title. This is an idea that Poirier was not a fan of because he felt Chandler hadn’t earned a shot in the UFC.

UFC attempted to book Chandler – Oliveira

Last week we learned that the co-main event of UFC 258 between Chris Weidman and Uriah Hall fell through. Also around the same time, Michael Chandler posted on his Instagram that he was Dana White’s new “Yes Man” which left people wondering what was going on.

Well, according to a report from AG Fight, Chandler was offered the co-main event slot at UFC 258. His opponent would have been none other than Charles Oliveira. This goes along with what Chandler told ESPN’s Ariel Helwani this week.

This is a matchup that would’ve provided a great deal of clarity in the lightweight division. However, Oliveira turned down the fight according to the report citing his desire to fight for the title next.

Granted, there might have been other reasons behind the decision, but nevertheless, Oliveira turned down the fight with Michael Chandler. If he couldn’t get ready in time, I completely understand. However, if this was a move out of principle, I really don’t agree with the move.

Charles Oliveira’s eight-fight win streak is incredible. It’s enough to warrant a title shot, however, as I put in my article yesterday, the UFC is not going to give him the next shot. At least, I would be extremely surprised if they do.

That said, this could have been a golden chance for Oliveira to force their hand. Had Oliveira fought and defeated the new company man, the UFC would have nothing left other than offering him a title shot. Time will tell if this was a smart decision or not, but as of now, I really don’t agree with it.

New York Giants: One interesting JJ Watt Scenario

New York Giants, JJ Watt

The New York Giants have several difficult decisions to make this off-season, especially when it comes to their available money. Free agency will likely be weaker than usual, as the Giants currently sit at about $3.4 million above the salary cap. With the likelihood that Nate Solder will be cut post-June 1 and Golden Tate will undergo the same treatment, the Giants can open up about $19 million in available money. However, that money won’t be available until post-June 1, so they will need to find ways to sign players without hurting themselves down the line.

Retaining Leonard Williams on a multi-year deal is likely a priority for the Giants, but there is one interesting scenario that allows them to move on from Williams and acquire an elite pass rusher for less money.

The New York Giants could consider a move on JJ Watt:

Rumors have indicated that the Houston Texans could cut or trade JJ Watt, who has only recorded 9.0 sacks over the last two seasons. Nonetheless, the Houston defense has been lackluster the past two years, with Watt representing their only true threat. Injecting him into a unit like the Giants with stellar coaching and better personnel, he would likely find himself hitting double digits in the sack category once again.

Some might be concerned about his injury history, as Watt has missed 8 games over the last three years. A player of his quality, though, is extremely impactful and would only help the defense moving forward.

There is an argument to be made that Leonard Williams is even more valuable, considering he’s never missed a game due to injury and racked up 11.5 sacks last year. It is clear that he can thrive under Graham on defense, but if the Giants are forced to let Dalvin Tomlinson walk, that dynamic duo could hurt Williams’ production in 2021. Watt has proven he can dominate and produce without stellar pieces around him, as he recorded 16 sacks in 2018. He also recorded seven forced fumbles in that season and two last year.

In this interesting scenario, the Giants let Williams walk, who is likely looking for $20+ million per season. They can wait until the Houston Texans inevitably cut JJ Watt and offer him $15-17 million per year for the next 2–3 seasons. By backloading his contract to the second year, they can also fit Tomlinson into their available cap space. It would essentially be a trade-off, Watt for Williams.

There are plenty of arguments to make against this scenario, notably that Williams is five years younger and is historically healthy. He also is coming off a phenomenal season and has a year of experience with Patrick Graham’s style/scheme. Watt will be entering a new media market and system, so it could take him some time to adjust. With that being said, he is so experienced that I wouldn’t put much weight into the adapting factor.

This is an intriguing idea that would lower the Giants’ financial obligations to the defensive line while also acquiring an elite talent that has a few years left to produce. The savings would also benefit Big Blue exponentially, allowing them to make the decision to keep Tomlinson and slide/or rollover more money into the wide receiver position.

New York Mets: Mickey Callaway is Not a Mets Issue, It’s a Baseball Issue

New York Mets, Mets, Mickey Callaway

Just two weeks after the New York Mets fired Jared Porter over unsolicited sexual messages; the same scandal surrounds former manager, Mickey Callaway. Major League Baseball has immediately launched an investigation into the allegations against the Los Angeles Angels pitching coach.

Callaway’s past employment links him with the Mets, but this issue encompasses the entire sport. The degrading responses from men regarding women in sports keep this behavior alive. We also cannot forget about the people with power who misuse it. Victims are afraid to come out and speak their truth for many reasons, one being the lack of action taken to punish the abuser.

Bring in More Qualified Women

After watching Mickey Callaway manage for two seasons, it is easy to say that there are plenty of women who would have been a better manager. The biggest challenge is getting those women the opportunities they deserve. Alyssa Nakken, Kim Ng, and Bianca Smith are the beginning of women receiving prominent baseball positions. Their credentials show they deserve their opportunities, but we can only imagine what they have dealt with on their way up.

Combatting this issue is a team effort. When men see or suspect this behavior taking place, there has to be something done about it. Stepping in, reporting it, or doing more than nothing is a way to fight the issue. Working together to keep predators out of the game will allow it to grow in character. Once Callaway is fired, it will be another person kicked out of the game for good. Hopefully, others are not far behind him.

 

Yankees News: Jasson Dominguez cracks another impressive list

New York Yankees, Jasson Dominguez

They call him “The Martian,” despite not having played a professional game yet. New York Yankees star prospect Jasson Dominguez is one of the most exciting young players since names like Bo Jackson crossed your screen. Just recently, Dominguez was reaching an exit velocity of 108 mph, and just to remind you, he is only 17 years old.

Baseball America has him at number 33 in their top 100 prospect list, and yet again, he hasn’t played a professional game. The slugger contains all five tools, hitting, hitting for power, running, fielding, and throwing. His catapulting up the prospect list has been extremely exciting, especially since the Yankees signed him to a large international contract, which will keep him in their farm system for quite some time.

Dominguez has cracked another list, though, and this time it was curated by the MLB.

MLB.com ranked Yankees’ star Jasson Dominguez as the 8th best outfield prospect heading into the 2021 season.

Signed for $5.1 million out of the Dominican Republic in July 2019, Dominguez is the most hyped and tooled-up international prospect in recent years. He has the potential for well above-average tools across the board and possesses the advanced instincts and skills to make the most of them.

For all the hyperbole surrounding Dominguez — and, yes, we’ll mention yet again that he has been compared to outstanding baseball athletes such as Bo Jackson, Mickey Mantle, and Mike Trout — the fact remains that he has yet to play a pro game.

The expectation is that Dominguez will reach the MLB stage in the next few years, but until then, the Yankees will roll with a squad consisting of Aaron Judge, Aaron Hicks, Clint Frazier, Giancarlo Stanton, and potential a free agent signing.
There is still hope that general manager Brian Cashman will bring back Brett Gardner on a one-year deal, but unless he’s willing to take a significant price cut, it is possible they move on from the veteran left fielder.

New York Yankees: Still many questions for the Yankees in 2021

This morning the New York Yankees are getting ready to get George M. Steinbrenner Field and training center ready for catchers and pitchers to report on February 17, after the MLBPA rejected the owner’s called for a 154 game season that would start on April 28th. The owners wanted the delayed season to give more time for more arms to be inoculated with the coronavirus vaccine and have a better chance of having some fans in the stands to generate revenue.

The Major League Baseball Players Association for the second time this offseason flatly and immediately rejected the idea. They said a compressed season would allow for more injures that outweigh the coronavirus risk. Also, the owner’s plan would move the end of the season from late October to mid-November. That in itself is problematic with the snow possibility in northern baseball parks. If you recall the contentious negotiations between MLB and MLBPA last before the start of last season, don’t expect this to be the final word. There is still time for several other fights over several remaining issues.

With questions on the coronavirus that is again ramping up around the country for the New York Yankees, several questions are still answered. The Yankees completely revamped their pitching rotation once they found out what funds they would have after re-signing DJ LeMahieu, which was their major priority. The Yankees have added two more pitchers to the starting rotation that did not pitch last season. They now have four pitchers with question marks next to their names, either returning from injury, surgery, or suspension.

Earlier in the offseason, when talking about Domingo German that was 18-4 before being suspended for breaking domestic violence protocol, owner Hal Steinbrenner made it clear that Domingo, would have to show him that he was a changed man to rejoin the team. That being said, very shortly thereafter, it was widely assumed that he would, in fact, be the number two starter behind Gerrit Cole at the start of the season. But the landscape has changed since then with the additions to the starting rotation. Now there are future questions that he may not even make the roster. The front office seems to be doubling down on the changed man factor. GM Cashman and manager Brian Cashman will sit down with him to discuss matters when he arrives at spring camp.

Again, earlier in the offseason, Brian Cashman said he was confident that Luis Severino would be rehabbed from Tommy John surgery and ready to rejoin the team in June or mid-July at the latest. Cashman dropped a bomb during an interview late last week when he said that Severino’s rehab is going well but said that he would be ready late in the summer. The time difference went unexplained. Severino has already had setbacks in his rehab.

With the absence of German and Severino, the New York Yankees starting rotation now looks like this: Gerrit Cole (healthy), Corey Kluber (injuries, hasn’t pitched in a year and a half), Jameson Taillon (coming back from his second Tommy John surgery), Jordan Montgomery (second season since his Tommy John surgery), and Deivi Garcia who made his Major League debut last season and has only 35.1 innings under his belt. Although there are tremendous upsides here, there a several performance concerns as well. The New York Yankees have considerable pitching depth, but will it be enough should one or two of these players be injured?

The questions don’t end with starting pitching. As far as the bullpen is concerned, the Yankees, rather than taking a chance on a rebound from Adam Ottavino, they in a salary dump moved him to the Boston Red Sox. They replaced him with one of the best relievers in the game by adding Darren O’Day to the pen. The Yankees also lost Tommy Kahnle to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Other than some mid-game relievers, namely Adam Warren and Nestor Cortes Jr., they really haven’t addressed the loss of Tommy Kahnle, so bullpen questions have yet to be fully resolved.

In other questions, success in the 2021 season may hinge on catcher Gary Sanchez and Gleyber Torres’s rebounding. Sanchez had a horrible season last year on both sides of the plate. He didn’t catch particularly well. His offense was mostly missing throughout the season, leading him to be benched for many games late in the season and during the postseason being replaced by Kyle Higashioka, who is better defensive-wise and was hitting well, even with power. The Torres situation is a little different, he wasn’t as bad as Sanchez, but he had only 3 home runs, compared to 38 in 2019. His batting average also dropped 30 points. The Yankees need him to return to his 2019 form.

In addition, the New York Yankees have not made a decision on the return of Brett Gardner for yet another season. There is a lot of sentimentalities here for the return of the 13 year Yankees veteran. Clint Frazier proved last year that he can handle left field but how he will perform in a 162 game season remains to be seen. He could share the duties with Mike Tauctman. The Yankees still have some money left over, the question will be will they bring Gardner back for his defense or will they spend it on another bullpen addition?

 

 

MLB offer rejected, 2021 expected to start on time

New York Yankees

MLB announced on Monday that the MLBPA officially rejected the offer of a delayed 154-game season and that the league will go forward with an April 1 Opening Day.

With COVID-19 cases rising in most parts of the country, MLB proposed a season shortened by eight games with a start date of April 28. The season would’ve ended early October with a universal DH and expanded playoffs implemented. However, players are worried about injuries in a condensed season and believed general injury risk is greater than COVID-19’s risk.

“In light of the MLBPA’s rejection of our proposal, and their refusal to counter our revised offer this afternoon, we are moving forward and instructing our Clubs to report for an on-time start to Spring Training and the season, subject to reaching an agreement on health and safety protocols,” said the league.

Spring Training will formally commence on February 17, but many players have already arrived at training facilities. The MLBPA will continue to work with MLB on finalizing health protocols in the coming days.

“Players know first-hand the efforts that were required to complete the abbreviated 2020 season, and we appreciate that significant challenges lie ahead. We look forward to promptly finalizing enhanced health and safety protocols that will help Players and Clubs meet these challenges,” the union said in a statement late Monday.

One surprising thing about the MLBPA’s rejection of MLB’s proposal is that they didn’t submit a counter-proposal asking for expanded playoffs or a universal DH. While only some liked expanded playoffs, a universal DH was widely praised across the league last season. However, reports say that the two could still be discussed before the start of Spring Training.

Now, there’s just one thing to do: Play Ball!