Have Yankees’ Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton finally figured out how to avoid injury?

New York Yankees, NYY, Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton

The New York Yankees have been hit significantly hard by the injury bug the last few seasons, which has been a direct influence on their postseason strategy. In 2020, sluggers Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton missed a majority of the season. That doesn’t even begin to incorporate the pitching and their issues, with James Paxton missing a majority of the campaign and Tommy Kahnle undergoing Tommy John surgery.

In light of all these realizations, the Yankees fired their previous director of health and performance, Matt Kraus. They hired Eric Cressey to replace him, but with COVID-19 taking hold, he wasn’t able to implement his new strategies, which was obvious based on the injuries the team faced.

However, Cressey was able to implement his new system this off-season, and he will leave the players will be better off in 2021.

YES Network’s Meredith Marakovits interviewed Yankees’ director of health and performance, Eric Cressey, on Thursday, in which he indicated a stark difference in Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Santon’s workout routines this offseason.

“Both of those guys took a dramatically different approach this offseason from what they’ve previously done,” Cressey said. “I’d say in both cases, they lifted less than they have in the past.”

Over the past two seasons, Judge has played in 130 games, which doesn’t even equal an entire season. In 2020, he put together just 28 performances out of 60, a disappointingly low number that impacted the Yankees’ momentum and overall record.

Stanton was no better, as he played in just 23 games, hitting four homers and earning a .250 batting average during that span. Both players have been injured consistently over the past two years, but this new system will likely reduce their heavy lifting and improve their stamina and longevity.

Ultimately, improving power is beneficial, but not if you can’t stay on the field. The Yankees desperately need their biggest players to remain healthy, and with Stanton on a massive contract and Judge up for a new deal soon, they need to see more continuity.

With Cressey’s system in place, we could even see Stanton playing outfield again. He was confident that Stanton could’ve played during the postseason against the Tampa Bay Rays last year, but the Yankees ultimately took a more conservative route.

“I think particularly with Stanton, we saw really, really good glimpses of what G is when he’s going good,” Cressey. “There was actually a period in left field prior to Game 5, in that last series against the Rays, when he was out there doing some sprint work [at Petco Park]. It was as athletic as I’ve ever seen him. I was confident that he could have gone out there and played the outfield for us that night. And it was super-encouraging.

MLB Analysis: MLB and MLBPA just don’t like each other, you will pay

After last year’s contentious negotiations between MLB and the players union, MLBPA, that went nowhere and ended up with the Commissioner mandating a 60 game season, it should come to no one’s surprise that the union and owners don’t like each other at all. Although there are many underlying issues, the big problem between the sides is that the players see everything the owners do leads to a salary cap that the players vehemently oppose. The owners see everything the union does is to milk more money from the owners. Yes, it’s all about money.

As a fan of the game, you can’t believe what either side says about anything; it’s all a ruse that leads back to it’s all about money. If the owners say up, the players say down, and all this contentiousness leads up to the CBA (collective bargaining agreement) that expires at the end of this season. The owners have basically had their way with the union for the last several years, but that has come to an end, with the union trying to show strength by objecting to anything the owners want to do. Who will pay in the end are, of course, the fans. Because of all of this hostility, there is a 75% chance that the new CBA’s lack of agreement will likely lead to a baseball strike.

The last baseball strike was 26 years ago when the 1994 season came to an early end on August 12th. The fans were left with no postseason after watching their favorite teams all season long. It also caused the 1995 season not to start on time. Unless these two sides can find some common ground and not be as greedy on both sides, we are headed for another baseball strike.

To refresh your memory of the MLB 1994 New York Yankee season, the strike may have prevented the Yankees from winning another World Series. When the season was halted, the Yankees under Buck Showalter were 70 and 43, 1st in the East. Wade Boggs was hitting .342; pitcher Jimmy Key was 17-4 on the season. And reliever Mike Stanley was winning games at a .800 rate. The strike prevented Showalter from a World Series win; it prevented Key from a 20 win season. It also dismayed fans beyond belief. It was like reaching 200′ from the top of Mt. Everest and being told your time had run out, and you had to go home.

In the latest episode of the drama, the owners wanted to start the season a month later with a 154 game season with full 162 game pay for the players. As always, this ended up with another disagreement between Commissioner of Baseball Rob Manfred and the MLBPA executive director Tony Clark. Clark immediately refusing the owner’s request for a delay. The owners sighted that it would give more time for more arms to be vaccinated and create a safer environment for players, staff, and fans.

The union sighted that it was too late to delay the season, as players had already rented homes or had their cars on trains headed to Florida or Arizona. Of course, that was a factor, but only a minor one; here is where we get back to money. The union rejected it because it did not include pay for canceled games, delays, or if the season had to be canceled altogether.

So now we have a 162 game season with no expanded postseason, no universal DH. It is basically a return to the 2019 season rules.

All of this gobbledygook doesn’t seem believable on either side of the issue. If either side was concerned about health, which both sides say they are, why didn’t the union request a delay in the season to protect players? Why did the owners wait until the last moment to ask for a delay when they knew it would be rejected?

One player’s agent paints this MLB scenario:

“Players get to spring training. They go to the market to stock the refrigerator of their rentals. They go out to dinner, some go out to bars, some go to the mall, some to other things. Cumulatively that will exponentially increase the odds of some player getting (COVID-19) and transmitting it.

“How long before a camp is closed? How long before games are canceled? How long before spring training is delayed? What happens if it then drags into the season? More importantly, what happens if someone becomes seriously ill? How is any of those things defensible if it was all avoidable?”

The bottom line is that there is no way to know if, by delaying the season, any of this could be avoidable, but it certainly would make the likelihood less probable. This is just another example of how MLB and the MLBPA could not come to an agreement for the benefit of the game.

Knicks’ Elfrid Payton offers motivating words about team’s development

New York Knicks, Elfrid Payton

The New York Knicks currently said 10-13 on the season, but they have played well above their expectations heading into the 2020 campaign. Most expected them to be a struggling team, but head coach Tom Thibodeau is not known for putting together losing squads. In fact, he’s better known for his ability to reach the postseason and execute with his aggressive style of coaching.

Thibodeau demands stellar defense, which is something the Knicks are thriving in this season, despite taking a few weeks to find their sea legs. Composing a group of new faces and a fresh coaching staff is never easy, but the Knicks are once again defeating odds and are just three games back from .500. Most recently, they overcame the Chicago Bulls in the second game of a two-game series. Their defense once again showed up big, overwhelming Chicago and allowing players like RJ Barrett and Julius Randle to dominate in transition and take high-probability shots.

One player who has emerged as a consistent option is point guard Elfrid Payton. Payton signed a one-year, $5 million deal this past off-season with New York, and while he lacks the consistency to be a dominant PG in the NBA, he is a solid defender and makes flashy plays on occasion. He provides Thibodeau with exactly what he asks, defensive prowess, and the ability to run the offenses with pace.

Payton did state that the team is making significant progress, but it was never an overnight thing. They needed time together to refine their abilities and build chemistry, and it is finally taking hold in-game.

“Stuff takes time,” Payton said after the Knicks’ win over Chicago on Wednesday evening. “Everybody, we live in a world, they want stuff so instant. It takes time to learn people, it takes time for things to work. So I think playing a whole year together, learning each other, learning each other’s strength, working on their games, I think you’re seeing the fruits of their labor. Sometimes you’ve got to take a few L’s.”

The expectation is that the Knicks will continue to improve, especially as rookies Obi Toppin and Immanuel Quickley adapt to the league. The only way is up, and with stellar coaching and potential personnel decisions on the way, we should be optimistic about the teams future for the first time in years.

“Everyone’s role is different,” Thibodeau said. “Some guys play more than others. Some guys are just there to be ready when the opportunity comes. And it will come. That’s sort of the nature of this league. When that opportunity comes, be ready to go in and help the team.

UFC Vegas 18 Preview: Alexander Volkov – Alistair Overeem

Alexander Volkov, UFC

In the main event of UFC Vegas 18, we will see a big heavyweight clash. Top six contenders go head-to-head as Alexander Volkov (32-8) takes on The Demolition Man, Alistair Overeem (47-18, 1 NC).

Overeem started his MMA career back in 1999. He’s fought all over the world and captured multiple world titles in his career. However, the UFC heavyweight title has always evaded Alistair Overeem. At 40 years old, Overeem is currently on his final run to the heavyweight title.

Overeem came over to the UFC back in 2011 as the Strikeforce heavyweight champion. He defeated Brock Lesnar and that set him up for a title fight. However, a positive drug test got him suspended and he lost that opportunity.

Overeem wouldn’t have his chance at the title until 2016 when he took on Stipe Miocic. The fight started well for Overeem who dropped Miocic, but ultimately he ended up getting knocked out in the first. He hasn’t been able to get back since, but he’s 4-1 in his last five and is riding momentum.

Alexander Volkov came over to the UFC back in 2017. He started out 3-0 and that included a win over former heavyweight champion Fabricio Werdum. Volkov was seconds away from a fourth straight win and a title shot, but was the victim of a last second knockout from Derrick Lewis.

Since that loss at UFC 229, Volkov has gone 2-1. He’s still one of the top contenders in the heavyweight division and if he’s able to beat Overeem tomorrow night, he’ll only be a win or two away from a UFC title shot.

UFC Vegas 18 Prediction

The main event tomorrow is going to be so fascinating to watch. While Overeem is a former world champion kick-boxer, I would actually give the distance striking advantage to Alexander Volkov in this matchup.

Volkov’s striking in his last fight at UFC 254 looked sensational. Meanwhile, Overeem’s striking in recent years has lost a step. Instead, Overeem has leaned a lot more on his grappling which really showed in his last win against Augusto Sakai.

If this fight is a striking match from range, I think Volkov is going to get the win. However, I’m expecting Overeem to use a lot of clinch work in this win. For Overeem to win, he’s got to mix it up throughout. Chain his striking together with takedown attempts and the clinch.

One big weapon Overeem can use at UFC Vegas 18 is his knees. Overeem has some of the best knees in the business from the clinch. I wouldn’t be shocked by either man winning, but I think the multi-dimensional attack from Overeem will get it done over five rounds.

Prediction: Alistair Overeem by Unanimous Decision 

New York Mets: Trevor Bauer sweepstakes down to two teams, decision could come soon

trevor bauer, New York Yankees

The Trevor Bauer sweepstakes is down to two teams. The news was confirmed last night by the pitcher’s agent, Rachel Luba, via Twitter, amid growing speculation that the reigning National League Cy Young would sign his contract. One of those two clubs is the New York Mets, while the other is presumably the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Thursday night was a weird day in the Bauer race. During the afternoon, several outlets reported that the New York Mets were making significant progress in talks.

Several people in the media talked about a potential three-year deal worth between $90 million and $100 million, including one opt-out clause after the first year:

Bob Nightengale of USA Today broke the news that there was an agreement in place for the talented right-hander, who put a 1.73 ERA and a 2.88 FIP in 73.0 innings during the shortened 2020 campaign.

Not so fast, Mets!

However, less than ten minutes later, Mark Feinsand of MLB.com put water to the rumors and said that while the situation is fluid and there are ongoing conversations, the Mets and Bauer had not reached a del just yet.

It feels like it’s a matter of time for the news to break. A decision could come in the next few days, and quite possibly in the next few hours.

Bauer would greatly improve the Mets’ already-great chances of advancing to the postseason and making a deep run. If everybody is healthy and the signing materializes, they could have a top five of Jacob deGrom, Bauer, Carlos Carrasco, Noah Syndergaard, and Marcus Stroman, with David Peterson, Joey Lucchesi, Jerad Eickoff and Jordan Yamamoto as depth.

UFC Vegas 18 Preview: Frankie Edgar – Cory Sandhagen

Frankie Edgar

Tomorrow night in the co-main event of UFC Vegas 18, we will see a massive fight for the bantamweight division. Former lightweight champion, Frankie Edgar (24-8-1), will be taking on top contender, Cory Sandhagen (13-2).

The former UFC champion made his bantamweight debut back in August. Despite being a champion at 155 pounds and a top contender at 145 pounds, Edgar appears to be right at home at 135 pounds.

Edgar took on Pedro Munhoz back in August and the fight was fantastic. It was razor close, but ultimately the former UFC champion got his hand raised that night. That win has led him to this spot against Cory Sandhagen.

Sandhagen found himself in a title eliminator back at UFC 250. That night he took on Aljamain Sterling and the winner was going to get a title shot. Sandhagen was the favorite in many eyes but was destroyed by Sterling.

The Sandman bounced back and knocked out Marlon Moraes on Fight Island to get back on track. Now, at UFC Vegas 18, Sandhagen is looking to reestablish himself as the top contender at 135 pounds.

UFC Vegas 18 Prediction

Over the past few weeks, I’ve gone back and forth on this UFC Vegas 18 prediction. When you look at the two men on paper, you’d have to favor Sandhagen. He’s got great striking, he’s got great jiu jitsu, he’s lengthier, and he’s younger.

However, Frankie Edgar always has this unseen advantage. The toughness and never say die attitude of the former UFC champion cannot be measured by typical tale of the tape stats. He’s just got a bit of an it factor about him.

For Sandhagen to get it done tomorrow, I believe he needs to keep this fight at range. Yes, he’s very good on the ground, however, his key to this fight is going to be using his striking from range. Sandhagen needs to have a kick heavy attack tomorrow night.

Edgar on the other hand needs to get this fight close. The former UFC champion needs this fight to stay within his range and look for him to utilize the clinch and some of his wrestling tomorrow. I would also expect a very high output from the former champion which will be key.

I love both of these contenders and I think either would make for a great challenger. While I would lean towards Sandhagen for all the things you see on paper, I just have this weird feeling Edgar gets it done. I think the fight will be at his pace and his activity will be enough to squeak out a decision. Call me crazy.

Prediction: Frankie Edgar by Split Decision

Yankees News/Rumors: Yankees have money to spend, prospects move on up, and more

New York Yankees, Brett Gardner

Yankees still have some money to spend

According to who you want to believe, the New York Yankees have between $6 and $8 million left in the purse while still staying below the luxury tax threshold. The question is will the Yankees spend it, or will they save it for later in the season when they have a better handle on their needs to get to the postseason?

One obvious move they could make before spring training is bringing back Yankee fan-favorite Brett Gardner for outfield backup and a lefty bat in the lineup. No matter what the Yankees say, they can’t be happy with the possibility of injuries in the outfield. If history says anything, there likely will be some. Neither Aaron Judge nor Aaron Hicks has been able to stay on the field during the last two years, and they have already given up on Giancarlo Stanton in the outfield.

Clint Frazier in left field fairs a bit better; his injuries have not been related to his body breaking down. Having another more than capable and durable arm out there makes sense. Although the Yankees have some lefty hitters on the bench, none are the constant quality of Gardner. The Yankees would probably land Gardner back in the Bronx $2.5 to $3.5 million for a year or maybe even less on a two or three-year contract. Gardner has made it clear that he wants to retire as a New York Yankee.

I also feel that before spring training Yankee general manager will come up with another surprising arm to bolster the bullpen. The Yankees have added some arms that can eat up some innings early, but no reliable arms of the quality of Tommy Kahnle that is now with the Los Angels Dodgers. Right now, the bullpen is late innings heavy. With the recent acquisition of Darren O’Day, Zack Britton, and Aroldis Chapman, any of them could close games for the Yankees.

Yankee farm system in flux

This will be an interesting year for the New York Yankees farm system as they try to condense two teams into the remaining teams after the minor league consolidation. With the realignment, the Yankees had to close down the Pulaski Yankees and the Staten Island Yankees. The Yankees now have to merge all those players into the remaining teams. Add to that; they have moved the Charleston River Dogs and the Trenton Thunder to new locations.

The Yankee’s recent moves to send one high-profile prospect and three lesser ones to the Pittsburgh Pirates in the trade deal for the new Yankee starter Jameson Taillon allows four other prospects to move up the ladder and closer to Yankee Stadium. One of them is pitcher Glen Otto who was a closer for Rice University. Otto comes armed with a plus fastball and a nasty 12-6 curveball. He will likely get some starts with Double-A Somerset. If Otto can improve his control, he will be on his way.

Brooks Kriske, who Yankees fans are likely familiar with based on his 2020 time with the big league club, is moving up. Outfielder Josh Stowers was traded to the Yankees as part of the Sonny Gray deal. Stowers has slightly above average speed and put up a strong .273/.386/.400 line in Low-A Charleston while playing right field. And finally, Jake Sanford also joined the Yankees’ list of prospects with the recent moves. Sanford was the Yankees’ third-round draft pick in 2019. Sanford has immense power from the left side of the plate but is still considered a work in progress by many evaluators.

Who won in the Ottavino trade?

Fans of both the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox were amazed by Ottavino coming to the Red Sox. First of all, it’s only the second time this century that the two teams have been involved in a trade. Although it was purely a salary dump for the Yankees, if Ottavino can regain his previous form, the Yankees could have to face him 19 times in the upcoming season. From that aspect, the Yankees could be sorry they made the trade.

From the Yankee’s perspective, they found $9 million to spend on their other needs. Probably the biggest surprise is that they got the Red Sox to absorb almost all of his salary. That was a big win for the Yankees. In the trade, the Yankees also sent a diamond in the rough with Frank German, a righty pitcher. If either of these pitchers ravages the Yankees’ right-hand heavy lineup, it could be considered a big loss for the Yankees, but if it doesn’t pan out that way, the Red Sox could be the big losers in this trade. Time will tell, but it gave the Yankees the short-term gain they have put to good use.

Who will anchor the starting rotation?

With the start of spring training just two weeks away, the New YorkYankees’ starting rotation has pretty well firmed up. Of course, the Yankee ace Gerrit Cole will be on the mound for the beginning of the regular season, when the Yankees face the Toronto Blue Jays on April 1. He will be followed by dual Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber, after him will be Jameson Taillon followed by Jordan Montgomery.

The big question or problem is who will fill out that last spot in the rotation. Actually, it’s a pretty good problem to have. The Yankees can choose between Domingo German, Deivi Garcia, or even Clarke Schmidt. My guess is that it will at least Initially be Domingo German.  If either German or Montgomery falter we will again see Deivi Garcia on the mound at Yankee Stadium. If any become injured, the Yankees still have Schmidt, Loaisiga, and later in the season, Luis Severino’s return.

How all of these pitchers pitch during spring training could alter this rotation, and of course, there is always the possibility of an injury during training camp.  The Yankees seem sure that their pitching depth can handle what is thrown at them.

Should the New York Giants consider a trade-back in the 2021 NFL Draft?

New York Giants, Dave Gettleman

The New York Giants have a very difficult decision to make with the 11th overall pick in the 2021 NFL draft, as one of the top three wide receivers could fall to them. Of course, there is a possibility that star linebacker Micah Parson also ends up available, but nothing is guaranteed in the draft. The likelihood of one top-10 player falling to 11 is almost guaranteed, as teams try to fill specific needs, and pre-draft concerns always bubble to the surface.

However, the Giants should consider trading down in the draft to acquire more assets, which would allow them to solve more vacancies in the mid-rounds. For example, if the Giants were able to secure another second-round pick by moving back, they could solve not only the CB2 spot but add a pass rusher with upside that will fit the Giants’ 3-4 scheme.

The New York Giants might have to fight their GM to do it:

The problem, general manager Dave Gettleman has not been proactive when it comes to taking calls in the past in potential trade down scenarios. When he drafted Saquon Barkley second overall in 2018, he refused to even pick up the phone, and Barkley has missed a majority of his young career due to injury. With head coach Joe Judge in place, the expectation is that the Giants will consider all moves, which would be the logical thing to do.

Even if a premium draft pick falls to them, there could be a team looking to trade up and acquire a said player, especially if there’s a quarterback on the board like Zach Wilson. QB-needy teams are always looking to splash draft picks for ‘their’ guy. If the Giants moved back a few spots and landed more draft picks while still be in range for a dropping top-prospect, that would be ideal.

As we comb through prospects like Kyle Pitts, Rashod Bateman, Caleb Farley, and Patrick Surtain, the reality is the Giants can land a quality player in the middle of the first round, while acquiring more draft capital. They desperately need wide receiver talent, and with the draft stacked at the position, trading back could provide them with the ammo to bolster another weak spot. Realistically, the Giants have weaknesses at LB2, OLB, CB2, RT, and both guard spots depending on if they cut Kevin Zeitler.

More times than not, teams will usually go with the best player available in the first round, so adding more draft capital is only beneficial to their long-term plans of injecting youth with reasonable contracts. Cost-efficiency is going to be a major point in the NFL this upcoming season, with the cap expected to drop significantly, even as low as $175 million (down from $198M).

Teams are going to have to make difficult decisions on players, cutting veterans and trading away expensive commodities. The Giants are in a decent spot, with plenty of money in 2022. However, they can help themselves by adding youthful talent to fill positions that desperately need draft allocations.

New York Mets: Is Rich Hill Worth The Risk As A Depth Piece?

There once was a time when the New York Mets employed a 41-year old left-handed pitcher named Tom Glavine. With Rich Hill on the Mets’ radar, he could become the oldest pitcher to start for the Mets since 43-year old Bartolo Colon in 2016.

Hill is still an effective pitcher, but it just depends on how much body wants to let him compete. Since 2015, Hill has a 2.92 ERA but has only averaged 16 starts and 84 innings. Hill is a good replacement if the Mets are not sold on Joey Lucchesi as their fifth starter. He will pitch well until Noah Syndergaard returns, and there is no long term commitment with the veteran.

Hill still has one of the best fastball/curveball combinations despite barely breaking 90 on the radar gun. His curveball is very loopy and about 15 mph slower than his fastball. This allows Hill to work up in the zone with his heat and keep hitters off balance despite the lack of velocity.

The Tampa Bay Rays and the Milwaukee Brewers are the other teams with interest in Hill. Like Trevor Bauer, the Mets will not outbid their competition when their current rotation is set for the upcoming season.

3 major risks the New York Yankees are taking with 2021 roster

New York Yankees, Gary Sanchez

The New York Yankees have a lot riding on suspect talent going into the 2021 season. General manager Brian Cashman has done his best to solidify the starting pitching rotation, bolster the bullpen, and solve a few consistency issues at specific positions.

However, the risks he’s taken could easily fall short of elevated expectations. For Yankee fans, every year, we expect to reach the World Series, but it has been over a decade of missing the mark. Despite having the highest salary in baseball, the team continues to make the postseason but fails to make the WS.

While you could make the argument that the current roster is improved compared to 2020, one could also come to the conclusion that the risks taken are a bit optimistic.

Three major risks the New York Yankees are taking:

1.) Gary Sanchez

The Yankees are once again rolling with Gary Sanchez at catcher, despite a disappointing 2020 season. Over 49 games, he posted a .147 average with 10 homers and 24 RBIs. He logged a career-high 36% strikeout rate and a negative WAR for the first time. Brian Cashman recently responded to his comments regarding his benching prior to the postseason. Sanchez stated that he was confused and didn’t understand why he was benched, and Cashman was perplexed at his confusion.

Cashman went as far as to say — all Sanchez had to do was look at his production and numbers, and he would’ve understood the decision. Nonetheless, the Yankees offered him a slight raise over one year to prove his worth. This is Sanchez’s final opportunity to lock down the catcher position long-term, but based on his recent progression, it will be a tall task.

2.) Jameson Taillon/Corey Kluber

Cashman did agree with the sentiment that he took multiple risks this off-season that could end up failing. Investing in Corey Kluber over one year and trading for Jameson Taillon could end up backfiring, as both are coming off significant injuries. Taillon, who previously played for the Pittsburgh Pirates, has only pitched 37.1 innings over the past two years. Kluber, on the other hand, has only pitched 36.2 innings over the past two seasons, barely making an appearance in 2020.

While both players have spoken out about their progress and positive health, nothing is guaranteed. The Yankees have consistently dealt with injuries the past few years, and they could very well deal with them again in 2021. Luckily, they have some solid depth and youth pieces to rely on just in case.

3.) Gleyber Torres at SS

One major question this off-season was Gleyber Torres at shortstop and if the Yankees might elect to trade for Francisco Lindor, a star at the position. Torres has struggled the past two seasons defensively at SS, but that hasn’t deterred the Yankees from starting him there in 2021. While he does make some flashy plays, he struggles with routine ground balls, logging nine errors over 40 games this past season.

He posted a .933 fielding percentage, well below the league average. What he lacks with his defense he makes up for on offense, though, which is why the Yankees are so high on him.

The Yankees are still hopeful he can lock down the position, but if he struggles once again this upcoming season, next year’s free-agent market will provide plenty of supplements.