New York Giants: Picking up Saquon Barkley’s fifth year option is no guarantee

New York Giants, Saquon Barkley

It seems like a sure thing that the New York Giants will pick up the fifth year option for Saquon Barkley. After all, Barkley is their best offensive weapon when he’s healthy and it looks like the Giants have based their rebuilding window partly on the contracts of him and Daniel Jones.

And when Barkley was drafted, one of the big concerns with fans wasn’t his skills but rather whether or not the Giants could win during his contract window.

That narrative has been disrupted by injury in Barkley’s third year in the league. Barkley only played in a couple games last season and hasn’t reached the expected heights projected from his first year. And according to Dave Gettleman who spoke on Tuesday, that could impact the team’s decision on his eventual fifth year option.

“Well, I think that’s part of the discussion and obviously we’re going to have to make a decision in the spring on whether we pick up his fifth-year option or not. You know, again, it comes back to that medical question. It’s unknown and what you have to do is get your trainer and your doctors involved and make your best decision,” Gettleman spoke.

This is a change from what moves were projected for the Giants by most – if you asked anyone last offseason if they would renew Barkley’s fifth year option, almost everyone would say yes.

But just like the career of Odell Beckham Jr., Barkley’s career has been disrupted by injuries and the Giants haven’t been able to get the most out of him. It makes the question of his contract more murky.

Hopefully, Barkley will be able to make a full recovery this season and that will be in the past. But, for a hard runner like him, that’s no guarantee.

After having winning streak snapped at UFC 259, what’s next for Drew Dober?

This past Saturday at UFC 259, Drew Dober (23-10) had the tough task of taking on Islam Makhachev (19-1). Makhachev is already being called the next Khabib and many are saying he will be a future UFC lightweight champion.

However, Drew Dober is not someone anyone should just look past. Heading into Saturday night, Dober had only lost one time since 2017. That one loss came against top ten lightweight Beneil Dariush.

Dober had won three fights in a row by stoppage. He has very good grappling skills and tremendous power on his hands. On paper, he looked like he was going to be a very tough test for Islam Makhachev at UFC 259.

However, when it came to the actual fight, the odds makers were right. Dober was a massive underdog which made many scratch their heads considering it had been a lengthy layoff for Islam Makhachev.

He didn’t fight in all of 2020 so nobody quite knew what to expect. Well, Makhachev was as advertised. He completely dominated Dober and took him down at will. In the third round, Dober was forced to tap from an arm-triangle choke snapping his UFC winning streak.

What’s next after UFC 259?

After this winning streak, UFC 259 proved to be a humbling moment for Drew Dober. The fight taught him a valuable lesson on the levels to the game of MMA and showed him where he needs to improve if he wants to compete with championship level fighters.

After that kind of a loss, it’s time for a reset for Drew Dober. He will need to take on someone with decent name recognition, but someone outside the UFC rankings. With that, there are a couple of names that come to mind.

One fighter that would make a lot of sense is Bobby Green (27-11-1). Green had a great 2020 where he went 3-1. He had to pull out of his last fight due to some weight issues, but by all accounts, he’s ready to get back into the octagon.

Another fun UFC matchup for Dober could be Clay Guida (36-20). Guida looked very good in his last outing against Michael Johnson. He proved that he’s as tough as ever with a grinding style that just doesn’t stop. Both of these matchups would be good and tough rebound matchups for Dober.

New York Jets: 3 reasons why the Marcus Maye tag works

The New York Jets franchise-tagged the safety Maye earlier this week, which will net him $10.6 million for a one-year deal.

Marcus Maye received a bit of an earlier birthday gift on Monday, as the New York Jets placed the franchise on the fifth-year safety and 2017 draftee. The Jets and Maye have until July 15 to come to terms on a long-term deal.

Maye is the first Jets representative to receive the designation since Muhammad Wilkerson in 2016. The Jets and Wilkerson wound up reaching a long-term deal and general manager Joe Douglas hopes a similar agreement can be worked out with Maye.

“Marcus is a valuable member of this organization,” Douglas said in a report from team writers Eric Allen and Ethan Greenberg. “Someone that started his career here, someone that’s been a pro’s pro. He’s smart, reliable, and has provided outstanding leadership. Our plan hasn’t changed. We’re in the process of working to have Marcus be here long term.”

With this transaction, Maye, the newly minted 28-year-old, becomes the Jets’ unofficial first acquisition of the 2021 offseason, bringing back a familiar face in what’s sure to be an offseason of change. ESM has three reasons why the Jets got it right…

Nov 22, 2020; Inglewood, California, USA; New York Jets defensive end Henry Anderson (96) celebrates after a fumble recovery against the Los Angeles Chargers in the first quarter at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

It’s Easily Affordable 

We at ESM strongly advise against playing the “Drink every time a New York media outlet references the New York Jets’ excessive 2021 cap space” game. Already peaking at over $70 million as the offseason got underway, that number enjoyed a sizable boost last week upon the release of three-year defensive lineman Henry Anderson. The Jets netted back $8.2 million upon Anderson’s release.

Essentially, the Jets traded in Anderson, who failed to live up to the $25 million contract extension he earned in 2019, for a year of experimentation with Maye, who posted career-best numbers and took home the team MVP award named after Curtis Martin last season. Time will tell how Maye’s on-field future pans out in New York, but Douglas’ financial maneuvering is already paying off.

EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY – OCTOBER 13: Safety Marcus Maye #20 of the New York Jets celebrates a stop against the Dallas Cowboys in the first half at MetLife Stadium on October 13, 2019 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Al Pereira/Getty Images)

It’s An Audition 

Maye has been a rare silver lining of consistency over the past few seasons for the Jets, but silver linings can only slightly polish a 2-14 record. Sure, he can beautify the Adam Gase era as best as he can, but can he be a contributor for a contender? There will be no better time to figure it out than 2021, as the Jets have opted to leave their future in the hands of a respectable, accomplished defensive name in Robert Saleh.

The former San Francisco defensive boss has been at the Jets’ helm for less than two months, but it sounds like he has some big plans for the Florida alum.

“I know Joe holds him in very high regard,” Saleh said after his opening press conference, per notes from the Jets. “I know he’s got a tremendous reputation in the locker room and so being able to get on the tape and just study him and see how he fits and where. From my understanding, he’s a very, very, very talented young man. And within our scheme, safeties are, obviously, they’re important to everybody, but with how we do things, it sounds like he’d be a very versatile piece.”

Maye had his best season as a pro, and the analytics (fourth-best graded safety on Pro Football Focus) indicate he’s on the rise. But how is he going to fit into a new system? The Jets have just bestowed an affordable audition to see if he’s a fit for the future.

It’s a good first step forward

The Jets had enough chaos centered on a talented safety to last them for the rest of the decade…and parts of the next…with the Jamal Adams unpleasantness last season. That process threatened to repeat itself when Maye’s agent Erik Burkhardt brought it up earlier this month, threatening to fracture negotiations between the team and player before they ever truly got rolling.

But a franchise tag takes care of two issues surrounding Maye’s continuing New York career: the Jets can see how he performs in Saleh’s system before committing to the long-term while making it clear that they do appreciate his services and hope to keep him the potential glory days ahead. Additionally, Maye gets a sizable deal, as he is now amongst the 12 highest-paid safeties in football, joining the brotherhood alongside fellow franchise tag holder Marcus Williams in New Orleans.

One would think that there’s little value in bringing back any remnant of the Adam Gase era or even any part of a cursed 2017 draft class that also included Adams and the fact they chose ArDarius Stewart in the third round shortly before Chris Godwin, Kenny Golliday, and Jonnu Smith. But Maye is coming off a career-best season and did his part to at least keep the Jets in the SportsCenter Top 10. His veteran leadership could prove vital, as the Jets plan to showcase a lot of youth in their secondary (Bless Austin, Ashtyn Davis, Bryce Hall) with the post-Adam era officially underway.

“He’s one of those guys that works hard and doesn’t talk much, but he will speak up if he feels like he has to,’’ former Jets teammate and New York Giants franchise tag honoree Leonard Williams told Mark Cannizzaro of the New York Post in December. “I think it’s even more powerful sometimes when you hear something from a guy that doesn’t talk much. You know he means it.’’

An offseason of change likely awaits the New York Jets. But this retainer from some of the Jets’ darkest, even if it’s only temporary, could well pay off as the Jets embark on a new era.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Mixed forecast on Knicks’ playoff bid as third-toughest schedule begins

New York Knicks

The New York Knicks are ahead of schedule thanks to Tom Thibodeau’s maniacal preparation and tough coaching.

The much-maligned coach has led the same Knicks core as last year in the middle of the pack in the Eastern Conference that only a few saw it coming.

Under Thibodeau’s stewardship, Julius Randle made an incredible 360-degree spin from a selfish player into a leader. That earned him his first All-Star berth. Now, he’s setting his sights on his first playoffs berth.

“We’re growing as a team, growing as a unit,’’ Randle said after leading the Knicks to a 19-18 record in the first half, good for the fifth seed in the bunched-up East. “We got to go into the break and stay ready because the second half will be a beast. The first half was great for us, but we know we can keep improving and get better as a team, and we will.’’

They have no other recourse.

After having the easiest schedule in the first half, the Knicks are bracing for the third-toughest schedule in the second half, according to FiveThirtyEight metrics.

FiveThirtyEight’s Neil Paine arrived at that conclusion by using their classic Elo ratings, and he adjusted for the home-court advantage. The Elo ratings, which the analytics-driven opinion website uses both in its NFL and NBA forecasts, determine a team’s strength at any given time based on game results.

Killer road trips

The Knicks will have 17 of their last 35 games on the road, with two killer stretches at the start and tail end of their grueling second-half schedule.

A four-game road featuring the East’s top three teams awaits Randle and the Knicks after the All-Star break. They will be in Milwaukee tomorrow (Thursday), Oklahoma on Saturday, Brooklyn on Monday, and Philadelphia on Tuesday.

Then their longest road trip of the season— a six-game West Coast trip in May would determine their fate.

In a span of 10 days, the Knicks will face Houston, Memphis, Denver, Phoenix, and the two Los Angeles teams.

In the bunched-up East, where 2.5 games only separate the Knicks and the 11th seed Atlanta Hawks, a losing streak could be fatal for the Knicks’ chances of ending a seven-year playoff drought.

Contrasting forecasts

ESPN Analytics forecasts the Knicks to finish at 31-41 with an 18.7 percent chance of sneaking into the playoffs via play-in tournament. ESPN uses its NBA Basketball Power Index (BPI) to measure a team’s performance for the rest of the season. It accounts for game-by-game efficiency, the strength of schedule, pace, days of rest, game location, and preseason expectations. Before the season, ESPN gave the Knicks only a 2 percent chance via their RPM projections.

Meanwhile, ESPN’s Power Rankings boldly predicts that the Knicks will miss the playoffs.

In contrast, FiveThirtyEight’s forecast is sunnier.

Based on their Elo forecast, the Knicks currently have a 58 percent chance of making the playoffs and could end up with a 35-37 record and the seventh seed in the East. It’s a significant increase since their Elo-based metric pegged the Knicks to have just a 21-percent playoff chance before the season started.

But just like any forecast, different factors such as injuries, health protocols, and other unforeseen circumstances that may arise can instantly change the trajectory of the Knicks’ season.

If their first-half performance is any indication, expect this Thibodeau-coached Knicks to be competing until the end.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

MLB details changes in the 2021 Minor League season

New York Yankees

During the 2020 MLB and New York Yankee season, it was announced that there would be no minor league games. This was due to the coronavirus and was blow to many minor league players that were hoping to be given a chance to advance to the majors during the season. Back in February, the Triple-A teams announced that regular-season games would start on April 6 just a few days after the Major League season started, but two weeks later MLB moved that date to May 4th, the same dates as the lower level teams.

Although there will be a 2021 minor league season, it will not look comparable to the 2019 season. The main cause of the delay in the start of the season is due to changes in the coronavirus vaccine distribution. The Biden administration now says that there will be enough vaccine for all American adults by the end of May.

The New York Yankees have been given guidance from MLB that the minor league roster size will be 28 players for double and triple-A teams. High A, low A, and Rookie levels will be allowed 30 man rosters.  Last year MLB allowed a three players taxi squad to travel with Major League teams, this season that will be expanded to five players. Taxi squad players are not on the Major League roster but are allowed to participate in workouts to be ready to play in case of injuries, however, they must not be uniformed in the dugout. Taxi squad players do not accrue Major League playing time unless used. If not used they receive a $110 payment per day in the taxi squad. After the team returns from road trips, the taxi squad will return to the alternate site.

Minor league health protocols are more stringent. Players must spend as little time inside as possible. Players will arrive at the park suited up and are to spend as little time in the locker rooms and showers after games. Also, teams will only play teams within driving distance. In spring training players will be encouraged to spend as much time away from the field when possible and not playing or working out.

New York Giants release Kevin Zeitler, save $9.6 million in cap space

New York Giants, Kevin Zeitler

The New York Giants have made another move to clear cap space ahead of the new league year. Last week, the Giants made news when they cut Golden Tate and David Mayo to clear about $8.5 million in salary-cap space. They also restructured Levin Toilolo’s contract and cut Cody Core. Now, the Giants have made another, cutting starting right guard Kevin Zeitler in order to save $9.6 million in cap space.

The Giants were $8 million over the cap prior to this move. Placing the franchise tag on Leonard Williams put New York over the cap and they have been working hard to get back under before the deadline next week. Cutting Kevin Zeitler was a move that was expected as the Giants were reportedly shopping him last week.

Kevin Zeitler will now hit the open market as a 31-year-old offensive guard that started 31 of the Giants’ last 32 games. Zeitler was the Giants’ best offensive lineman over the past two years and he will not be easy to replace. Kevin Zeitler has recorded a 72.4 PFF Grade since 2019 (17th). Zeitler allowed only 28 pressures in 2020.

The Giants are now extremely young and inexperienced on the offensive line. The unit was one of the worst in the NFL last season and has now lost its best player as a cap casualty. New York will likely prioritize upgrading the offensive line this offseason to make up for the loss of Kevin Zeitler.

The extra money that the Giants saved by cutting Kevin Zeitler should help the team in its free agency efforts. The Giants are expected to pursue a top-tier offensive playmaker, but they also need money to retain Dalvin Tomlinson and Leonard Williams. Cutting Kevin Zeitler gives the Giants some breathing room ahead of the new league year which begins on March 17th.

New York Yankees: Lucas Luetge’s big chance, Tauchman out of options, and more

Mike Tauchman, New York Yankees

New York Yankees assistant GM Mike Fishman pursued Lucas Luetge each of the past two years and signed him to a minor league deal this offseason, he said, “A lot of people are talking about him [in camp]. He is opening eyes with how he is performing — and the quality of the stuff, too. He has swing-and-miss pitches.” Luetge has been trying to get from the minors to the majors for the last six years. He did it for just one game back in 2015. He pitched 2 1/2 innings of shutout ball. But his return to the majors has been elusive.

For the Yankees, Luetge has faced 11 hitters in three spring games and struck out eight. On Sunday against Philadelphia, he wiped out the 1-2-3 of the order — Andrew McCutchen, Didi Gregorius, and Bryce Harper. The Yankees are impressed, but will he make the 26 man roster? After June 1st, he can get out of the Yankee deal.

He started his pitching career with the Seattle Mariners and was with them for four years, but he was given assignment after his major league start. Since then, he has been in the minors for the Brewers, Angels, Reds, Orioles, Diamondbacks, Athletics, and now at age 34, later this month, he may have his best chance of a Major League spot. However, he will have to fight for that chance with other lefties.

What lies ahead for Mike Tauchman?

This spring is either do or die for Mike Tauchman; if he doesn’t make the 26 man roster out of spring camp, he is a goner; no options remain. Or he could be traded before the deadline. The 30 year-old outfielder, who broke out in the second half of 2019 but struggled in 2020, is on the 26-man roster bubble and has no minor league options remaining. The problem for the New York Yankees is that Jay Bruce, Derek Dierich and Tauchman are all competing for the same last bench spot.

Right now Jay Bruce seems to have the edge in making the 26 man roster. He has two home runs and is batting .455. Tauchman is doing himself no favors, he is batting just .167 after a poor season last year. The present bench in the 26 man roster includes a guaranteed set for Kyle HIgashioka, Brett Gardner, Miguel Andujar, and that one vacant seat. It is assumed that Mike Ford and Tyler Wade will start in the minors. Bruce could drop out of the equation if he opts out of his contract on March 25th. If the Yankees are not going to keep T-Man in the majors they will have to trade him before the season starts or the will get nothing for him and he will be gone forever.

Domingo German pitches tonight

The New York Yankees will face the Pittsburgh Pirates tonight at the Yankee home. The Yankees have announced that Domingo German will be starting the game, with a lineup headed by DJ LeMahieu, Aaron Judge, and Brett Gardner leading off in the first inning. German will be facing the Pirates pitcher Tyler Anderson.

In his outing last week, German was near perfect, pitching two innings while allowing only 1 single and no walks. He struck out 4 hitters; that’s 18 per nine innings.Tonight he will likely be extended to three innings of work. The game tonight is at 6:35 pm and will be televised on the YES Network.

 

 

UFC books Cody Stamann – Merab Dvalishvili

The UFC is finalizing a fun matchup in the bantamweight division for the third time. MMA Junkie was first to report this afternoon that the promotion has verbal agreements in place for a bantamweight matchup between Cody Stamann (19-3-1) and Merab Dvalishvili (12-4).

The matchup will take place at the UFC‘s Fight Night on May 1st. As mentioned, this is the third time that the promotion has tried to pair Dvalishvili up with Stamann. However, the previous two matchups fell through.

Now, the UFC is hoping to finally put these two top fifteen bantamweights against each other. For Cody Stamann, he’s going to be trying to get back on the winning side of things. Stamann last fought on Fight Island against Jimmie Rivera.

That night, Stamann lost a decision. That loss put Stamann at 6-2-1 in his nine fights in the UFC. The only two men who have gotten the better of him have been Rivera and the current bantamweight champion, Aljamain Sterling.

Dvalishvili looks to continue UFC winning streak

Speaking of Aljamain Sterling, he’s one of the lead training partners for Merab Dvalishvili. Dvalishvili got off to a really rocky start in the UFC. The bantamweight from Georgia lost his first matchups inside the octagon.

However, that is when his career started turning around. Since September of 2018, Dvalishvili has won five consecutive fights including wins over Casey Kenney and former UFC title challenger and Ultimate Fighter winner, John Dodson.

Dvalishvili’s wrestling has made him a problem for all of the opponents that have stood in his way. He’s also been showing some improved striking in his last couple of matchups which make him even more dangerous.

This is going to be a fun matchup of grapplers. Usually when you see these kind of matchups in the UFC, you’ll see more striking because the grappling will cancel each other out. These guys are ranked 12th and 13th and I’m excited to finally see them square off inside the octagon.

WATCH: Yankees’ Clint Frazier has scary moment running into outfield wall

New York Yankees, Clint Frazier

The moment New York Yankees outfielder Clint Frazier went crashing into the wall attempting to make a spectacular catch, you can only imagine the fear and nostalgia that occurred all at once. Frazier has experienced this once before in the past, running into a wall covered by a chain-link fence in Bradenton, which caused lasting concussion effects.

“I felt like I wasn’t physically there, like something I couldn’t get out of. I was scared,” Frazier said years ago regarding his concussion symptoms. “There were times I’d be driving, like I was on auto-pilot or something. I’d look around and think, ‘How did I get here?’ ”

Luckily, this time around was much different. Frazier gave himself a good scare and the rest of his teammates, but after being checked on, he remained in the game and toughed it out.

“He came out fine,’’ Aaron Boone said. “He was very clear-eyed and said he was fine. He said, ‘I know what it feels like when I hit the wall [with my head] and this was nothing like that.’ ”

“He hit the wall pretty well right there,’’ Aaron Hicks said. “He seemed like he was doing OK. Hopefully that continues.”

 

Regardless of the minor scare, Frazier is in line to take over the starting left-field job with Brett Gardner taking on a reserve role. The Yankees did retain Gardy for the 2021 season and a club option for 2022 — he understands that Clint will likely be the starter. The 26-year-old posted a .267 average with eight homers and 26 RBIs in 2020, and he earned himself a Gold Glove finalist accolade. He proved himself defensively and with more at-bats, Frazier is capable of being an elite offensive player. He’s not the traditional slugger the Yankees desire in the outfield, but he makes solid contact and has hidden power that flashes occasionally.

Mets’ Carlos Carrasco is feeling some elbow soreness and is shut down for a couple of days

New York Mets

The New York Mets’ pitching plans during the offseason revolved around right-hander Carlos Carrasco. They didn’t sign Trevor Bauer, Jake Odorizzi, James Paxton, Charlie Morton or Corey Kluber in part because they were already acquiring a proven star hurler with years of experience at the highest level in MLB.

They did add Joey Lucchesi via trade and signed Jordan Yamamoto and Taijuan Walker, but as far as pitching goes, Carrasco was the Mets’ biggest addition. That is why any developments that have to do with the health of his elbow will fire the alarms in Queens.

According to what Mets’ manager told the press on Wednesday morning, Carrasco has been experiencing some soreness in his elbow, but he did explain that there is not too much to worry about in this specific case.

“We expect him to be back maybe by the end of next week, facing live batters,” Rojas said, clarifying that this is something that Carrasco has felt over the course of his long career in Major League Baseball.

The Mets hope to have him back soon

The righty will rest for the next few days and the Mets expect him to be back facing live batters next week if all goes well.

Carrasco had been absent from Mets’ camp as he was undergoing additional medical screening related to his 2019 case of leukemia. He threw live batting practice session on Monday and that’s when he felt the reported discomfort.

Injuries and bad performance hindered Carrasco’s first four years of his professional career, but ever since 2014, he has pitched like a top of the rotation pitcher with the Cleveland Indians. For his career, he has a 3.77 ERA and a 3.42 FIP in 1242.1 frames, and the 2021 season will be his first with the Mets after the team acquired him along with star shortstop Francisco Lindor.