Yankees’ Aaron Judge happy to be back in the field: ‘I feel like the first day in school’

New York Yankees, Aaron Judge

The New York Yankees’ first game of the 2021 spring training calendar didn’t exactly go as planned, as they lost 6-4 to the Toronto Blue Jays. Mike King started and didn’t have a particularly good afternoon, but it’s still very early and these stats don’t matter too much. It’s all about preparation for when the real action begins.

However, that doesn’t mean that the Yankees and other teams aren’t happy to see fans in the stands, especially after having to play last year with empty stadiums and cutoffs.

Yankees’ infielder DJ LeMahieu had already stated how important it was to have fans in the stands, and now, star right fielder Aaron Judge is echoing those feelings. After all, the fans provide a unique atmosphere to the whole show.

The Yankees missed fans in the stands

“It felt great,” Judge said to the Yankees’ official page. “A couple of fans were yelling to play catch; I’ve missed having those moments. I had to just save it until my one last toss and let them keep the ball. With all of the rules we’ve got going on, I can’t be spreading [anything]. I tried to be smart about that.”

Per the Yankees’ site, Sunday was the Yankees’ first game with fans since March 12, 2020, a span of 353 days. According to the team, the official paid attendance was 2,637, “and within the walls of the home clubhouse, there was increased excitement as the minutes ticked down to the pregame ceremonies and right-hander Michael King’s first pitch.”

Prior to the game, Judge recalls telling Gleyber Torres and DJ LeMahieu: “Man, I kind of have little butterflies, getting back for my first at-bat.”

“We felt really great. We’re happy to see fans in the stands right now. I feel like the first day in school, being back. It’s amazing. I think fans in the stands help us to have more motivation and to be more focused on the game,” Judge explained.

New York Mets to open extension talks with Lindor, Conforto, and Syndergaard soon

New York yankees, Francisco Lindor

The New York Mets made perhaps the acquisition of the offseason when they swung a deal with the Cleveland Indians for All-Star shortstop Francisco Lindor and starting pitcher Carlos Carrasco. ‘Cookie’, the latter, is signed affordably for the next few seasons, but Lindor is slated to test free agency after the 2021 season unless, of course, the Mets can sign him to an extension.

The infielder has said he is open to the idea of negotiating an extension, but he is also on the record stating that he is not afraid of testing the open market.

The New York Mets know that the success of this offseason will largely depend on their ability to ink the star to a long-term deal before he hits the market.

Mets president Sandy Alderson said on Monday that he expects extension talks to start with Francisco Lindor “relatively soon.” Since the player doesn’t want talks to take place in-season, the two parties have some time before the real action starts.

The Mets should be prepared to pay dearly

The 27-year old is a proven star and still in his prime, and could potentially ask the Mets for $300 million.

There are other two pending free agents in the Mets’ agenda for extensions: Michael Conforto and Noah Syndergaard. Alderson expects the organization to start negotiations with both relatively soon.

“It would be natural for us to at least talk about it and explore the possibilities and options,” explained Alderson. “I expect that we will do that.”

Conforto was among the Mets’ best players in the 2020 season, with a .322/.412/.515 and nine home runs. Syndergaard had to miss the whole campaign while rehabbing from Tommy John surgery performed in March.

For the Mets, the priority order for offering extensions would be Lindor, then Conforto, and then Syndergaard, because he would have to prove that he can come back strong from his major procedure.

Yankees News: Mike Tauchman a trade candidate, but should they pull the trigger?

Mike Tauchman, New York Yankees

The New York Yankees brought on several outfielders to compete during spring training this year, and it could create a more difficult situation for Mike Tauchman to make the active roster. From signing Jay Bruce to Derek Dietrich, the position bottle for a depth spot in the OF will be ongoing during spring training.

Currently, the Yankees have Aaron Judge, Clint Frazier, and Aaron Hicks as their expected starters for the 2021 season. The depth pieces include Giancarlo Stanton, Brett Gardner, and a bevy of alternatives. Tauchman could be considered a trade piece given his value over the last two seasons, as he hit .277 in 2019 with 13 homers and 47 RBIs. An outrageous boost in slugging, Mike had never hit a major league homer until 2019, which could be coughed up to juiced baseballs.

The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal believes that Mike Tauchman could be cut due to depth in the outfield:

Brett Gardner, 37, would appear a lock to make the club after agreeing to a one-year, $4 million free-agent contract. Jay Bruce, who turns 34 on April 3, is in camp on a non-roster deal, but he offers one thing Gardner and Tauchman do not: the ability to play first base … Tauchman is out of options, so the Yankees cannot send him to the minor leagues without first passing him through waivers. A trade might be possible, particularly to a lesser team that could give him regular playing time. But the Yankees would need to be sure about Gardner and Bruce, both of whom are signed for only one year, to give up Tauchman’s four remaining years of control, including a salary in the range of the $570,500 minimum this season.

With the Yankees’ style of play, Jay Bruce may offer them a more productive alternative. He has hit double-digit home runs for the majority of his career, landing 26 two years ago. While he only played about half of the 2020 season, he recorded six homers.
Defense isn’t the hallmark of his game — he can contribute offensively and offer a lefty bat in the lineup. At 33 years old, Bruce is no spring chicken, but he might be a more beneficial add than Tauchman based on scheme fit.

UFC books Yan Xiaonan – Carla Esparza

Yan Xioanan

Over the weekend, the UFC finalized a massive fight in the strawweight division. MMA DNA was the first to report that verbal agreements were in place between Yan Xiaonan (13-1, 1 NC) and Carla Esparza (17-6).

The matchup is scheduled to take place at the UFC‘s Fight Night on May 22nd. Given the current ranking of both of these strawweights, the winner of this matchup will likely be the next in line for a shot at the title.

Last week we learned that the UFC was close to finalizing Zhang Weili – Rose Namajunas. That matchup would take place in April and the winner of this matchup would be ready to step in there next against whoever wins that fight.

It’s been an interesting run in the UFC for Carla Esparza. She made her debut with the promotion via The Ultimate Fighter. In the year she was on the show, the promotion had created the strawweight division. The winner of the show would be crowned strawweight champion.

Esparza would go on to submit Rose Namajunas in the finale to become champion. However, she lost her first title defense by TKO to Joanna Jedrzejczyk. Since then, Esparza hasn’t been able to work her way back to the title.

Every time Esparza has come close to another UFC title shot, she’s faltered. However, she’s currently on a four-fight win streak and she’s just one more win away from getting back to the title. However, there’s a stiff test in front of her.

UFC’s new top contender

When it comes to starting your UFC career, it doesn’t get much better than Yan Xiaonan. Xiaonan made her debut with the promotion back in 2017. Since her debut, she’s defeated all challengers on her way to a 6-0 record with the promotion.

Every time she’s fought, she’s looked better and better. Her competition level has risen every time the UFC has put her in the octagon as well. It’s been a slow build but her last three wins came against Angela Hill, Karolina Kowalkiewicz, and Claudia Gadelha.

All six of her wins have gone to the scorecards, but not a single one was a split decision. The UFC has been making a large investment in China over the last couple of years. Xiaonan is a big part of the promotion’s plan to expand in the Asian markets.

A dream scenario could be forming for the promotion should Xiaonan win in May and Zhang Weili win in April. If both of these strawweights win, the UFC could put together an event featuring an all-Chinese main event for the first time in history and they could do it in China.

You have to imagine with these matchups and the recent investment in that market, this is what the UFC is hoping for. However, both ladies have very tall orders in front of them and I’m just excited to see how it all plays out.

The New York Knicks are bringing the most out of their reserve big-man

nerlens noel, new york knicks

The New York Knicks earned an impressive win over the Detroit Pistons on Sunday evening, 109-90. Thanks to stellar defense, New York broke the .500 mark, taking control of fourth place in the Eastern Conference. Julius Randle once again had a fantastic outing, posting 24 points and eight rebounds. He also contributed six assists and connected on 50% of his three-pointers.

Acquisition Derrick Rose has once again proven to be a focal point for the team as a starter, putting up 14 points and five assists, but also contributing significantly on the defensive side of the ball. Youngsters RJ Barrett and Immanuel Quickley combined for 33 points, but Quickley’s inability to accrue any assists was a tad disappointing. Nonetheless, over 16 minutes, he provided a nice offensive spark.

The most underrated player on any given day and especially in this defensive domination of the Pistons, is reserve center Nerlens Noel.

Noel was fantastic in the contest, recording 11 rebounds, three steals, and three blocks, also contributing eight points.

“If you don’t know, you’re going to find out,’’ Noel said regarding rim penetrators attempting to drive the lane. “I’m protecting the rim by any means. It’s a great aspect to my game I try to play at a high level. Just do enough to change the game. Just come in and find out.’’’

Head coach Tom Thibodeau loves defensive players that play aggressively, and Noel is exactly that. He meets attackers at the point of execution, and blocks shots efficiently. Normally, the Knicks would feature Mitchell Robinson in that role, but Nerlens has gradually taking steps forward and is playing at a high-level. As long as his knees can hold up, Noel could see himself starting more minutes even when Robinson returns.

“I definitely don’t want anyone hurt on this team,’’ Noel said. “But I’ve taken that spot and made a focal point to man this team and be the anchor on the defensive end and do the small little things to help us win. I think I’ve been at a high level.’’

Healthy competition brings the best out in players, so Robinson will have to fight for his job back once he returns from a fractured hand injury. Noel, on the other hand, is averaging 10.3 blocks and 1.0 steals over the last 10 games, but a smaller sample size has offered five steals in four games.

Paulo Costa blames wine and lack of sleep for UFC 253 loss

We are a few months removed from UFC 253. That night, the middleweight champion, Israel Adesanya (20-0), took on the previously unbeaten challenger, Paulo Costa (13-1). The fight was one of the more anticipated matchups of 2020.

However, the fight failed to live up to the hype mainly due to the challenger. While Adesanya was brilliant in scoring the knockout win at UFC 253, Costa fought extremely flat. He didn’t land anything significant before Adesanya landed the finishing blows.

It was such an odd performance from Paulo Costa. Prior to that loss, Costa was always known as someone who pushes forward with a ridiculous pace. However, at UFC 253, Costa was stuck on the outside and he didn’t push forward at all.

This left a lot of fans scratching their heads. Costa is currently prepping for his next matchup against Robert Whittaker. Their fight takes place in April and the winner is likely going to get another crack at the UFC middleweight champion.

Costa has broken his silence about his last performance. Over the weekend, Costa took to his YouTube page to talk about the loss. In all honesty, I was a little surprised to hear what he had to say and what he attributes the loss to.

UFC 253 sabotaged by a hangover?

On the UFC 253 loss, Costa said, “I was kind of drunk when I fought, maybe hungover. I couldn’t sleep because of leg cramps. The UFC told us to wake up at 5 in the morning to go to the arena to fight. I hadn’t slept until 2:30.”

“It was my mistake and I don’t blame anyone else, it was something I chose [to do], but, in order to try to sleep, because I had to sleep since I was awake for 24 hours, I had wine, too much wine, a bottle to try to black out. I had a glass and didn’t work. Two glasses, it didn’t work. Half bottle, didn’t work. I had it all.”

Clearly, it doesn’t sound like the condition were ideal for Costa. However, it’s not like his experience on Fight Island was unique. All of the fighters had to go through the same issues when they were fighting in Abu Dhabi.

Now, maybe there were more factors at play here. Perhaps the nerves of the moment caused Costa to be anxious which prevented him from sleeping. There are a number of question marks, but it was clear that we didn’t see the usual Costa back in September.

When he steps into the cage next, he needs to prove to the UFC and himself that the last fight was a fluke. Costa must show the world that he’s still the Paulo Costa we thought he was if he wants any chance at a rematch with Israel Adesanya.

New York Mets: Noah Syndergaard Continues Progressing In His Rehab

Noah Syndergaard is continuing to progress nicely as he works himself back from Tommy John Surgery. Sunday was an important evaluation day for Thor and the New York Mets as he hit a key checkpoint in his recovery.

Syndergaard fiddled breaking stuff for the first time since surgery. He only threw three sliders as the Mets are taking baby steps towards bringing him back to the rotation.

Syndergaard was exactly 11 months removed from the operation and is still on a promising road to a complete recovery. The Mets also added 2020 draft pick, J.T. Ginn, to their spring training roster. Ginn also underwent TJS and threw with Syndergaard last summer.

“Sometimes when you feel good, you want to do too much, and when you don’t feel good, you want to do less,” Pitching Coach and two-time TJ recipient Jeremy Hefner said. “But trying to be as consistent and constant as possible will get a better outcome at the end of this thing.”

Syndergaard will retake the mound on Wednesday for another bullpen session. He will stick to a combination of his fastball, sinker, and change-up, continuing with a “one step at a time” mindset. There is no timetable for Syndergaard to face live batters at the moment, and there are no expectations for him to pitch in a spring training game.

Should the New York Giants target Corey Davis in free agency?

New York Giants, Corey Davis

Promises, promises, promises. That is all New York Giants management feels necessary to provide fans these days. Whether it be guaranteeing the solution to fixing the offensive line or that they will allocate resources toward offensive playmakers, nothing has seemed to come to fruition.

Of course, this off-season could be telling, simply based on the fact that head coach Joe Judge has changed the narrative surrounding the team the last few years. The culture has taken a massive shift, the Giants have one a few games to prove they are on an upward trend, and the coaching has been superior compared to the recent past.

However, drafting must improve significantly if the Giants wish to be an adequate team moving forward. They rank among the worst in the league when it comes to the number of wins produced by spending in free agency, which also indicates poor draft selections.

Last season we saw a bit of a shift, as even late-round picks were contributing toward the Giants’ production. Whether it be in an injury-riddled outside linebacker unit or in the secondary, we finally witnessed youth performing well.

This off-season, though, the Giants don’t have much money to work with and don’t have a fifth-round pick, which they sent to the New York Jets in exchange for Leonard Williams in 2019.

General manager Dave Gettleman believes that the Giants do you have money to spend this off-season, and he’s depending on Kevin Abrams to find it.

“We’ve got cap space, we’ve got room,” Gettleman said during his post-season press conference. “You never have as much room as you want to have. We’ve got cap space, we’ve got room to do the things we feel like we need to do initially. A lot of it is going to be about the drop it’s going to take. How far of a plunge is it going to take? We don’t know. They’re talking 175, who knows. We’ll plan and then once we know the number, we’ll get moving.”

With the cap expected to be no less than $180 million, the Giants have a bit more leeway than previously expected. They still need to allocate resources toward a wide receiver, and with Allen Robinson and Kenny Golladay projected to be franchise tagged by their respective teams, only Corey Davis of the Tennessee Titans and Curtis Samuel of the Carolina Panthers makes sense.

Should the New York Giants target Davis in free agency?

This leads us to our main topic, is Davis worth signing to be the Giants WR1? Davis had his best season in 2020 opposite AJ Brown, recording 984 yards and five touchdowns. He averaged 15.1 yards per reception and a catch rate of 70.7%, both being career highs.

However, you could make the argument that the attention Brown demanded allowed Davis to realize his potential. That argument would lead us down a path that justifies him being a high-end WR2 and not a premium WR1.

Nonetheless, the Giants don’t have a plethora of options to choose from, so Davis could be a solid option to add to the receiving corps. At 6’3” and 209 pounds, Davis is capable of being a solid possession receiver with above-average route running abilities. He can high point catches well and use his strength to muscle balls away from corners.

Realistically, any upgrade at the WR position will help Daniel Jones excel in 2021. To be quite honest, I would be ecstatic if the Giants fulfill that promise and allocate resources toward the position, one that desperately needs help.

New York Yankees: Good news and bad news following opening game loss

New York Yankees, Michael King

The New York Yankees faced off against the Toronto Blue Jays in the first game of spring training on Saturday afternoon. The anticipation for baseball leading up to this contest was significant, but the Yankees dropped their first game 6-4, with the Blue Jays taking advantage of Yankee pitching throughout.

Bad News:

Unfortunately, starter Michael King, who the Yankees have high expectations for, allowed three hits and three earned runs in just 2.0 innings. Of course, the sample size is small, and King has plenty of time to fix his problems, but not exactly taking the developmental leaps expected of him.

At 25 years old, King pitched 26.2 innings last year, earning a 7.76 ERA. A full off-season of work and preparation didn’t seem to translate in his first opportunity. He will gain another opportunity to showcase his abilities, but he wasn’t the only pitcher that struggled. Asher Wojciechowski replaced King in the third inning, giving up three hits and one run, but struck out two batters in the process. Both he and Kyle Barraclough allowed runs in their 1.0 inning samples.

Offensively, the Yankees experienced a spark in the fourth and fifth innings, led by two home runs, courtesy of Rob Brantley and Mike Tauchman. While the game ended in a loss for the Yankees, their primary players saw a bit of action in the beginning, with DJ LeMahieu recording the first of the game on a line drive and Luke Voit also getting on base.

Good News:

The Yankees are preparing to take on the Detroit Tigers on Monday at 2 PM. Expect this next month to be extremely busy, with games nearly every day leading up to the start of the regular season. If you are a baseball fan, you should be extremely excited for the days ahead, with plenty to watch as the Yankees look to make a World Series appearance for the first time in over a decade.

Hopefully, all of the risky moves GM Brian Cashman me this off-season will pay off in dividends.

New York Yankees: Major takeaways from the Yankees loss to the Jays

New York Yankees, Michael King

The New York Yankees came away from Sunday’s game with the Toronto Blue Jays with mixed results. Although they lost the game, there were some bright spots for the Yankees. The major plus was that Mike Tauchman, who didn’t have a home run all of last season, hit a monster blast that ended up on the pavilion roof far out in centerfield; it nearly carried out of the park. Tauchman, trying to find a place in the Yankees lineup, took his first step to that goal with that long ball.

Other pluses for the Yankees were that Clint Frazier handled left field pretty well, catching all the balls that came his way. DJ LeMahieu had a hit in a game that saw few for the New York Yankees. LeMahieu was the MLB batting champ last season when he hit .364 on the season. The Yankees went the first three innings without getting on base until LeMahieu had his single that eventually ended up allowing the Yankees to get on the scoreboard when pitch runner Andrew Velazquez crossed the plate on a Luke Voit single. Velazquez replaced Gleyber Torres in the game.

Robinson Chirinos made his debut in pinstripes in the game as he was the starting catcher Sunday. He handled the game well. While Chirinos was the catcher, Gary Sanchez was the DH and continued his play from 2020, striking out in his first appearance in spring training. Of course, that is a small sample size as he tries to right what went wrong last season.

Apparently, the so-called newly redesigned baseball was used yesterday with mixed reviews. Aaron Judge in batting practice thought the ball didn’t go as far as the similar ball last season. But still, he was surprised when a ball he hit during the game went further than he tought it would go. In tomorrow’s game against the Detroit Tigers at 1:05 pm at Steinbrenner Field, Yankee ace Gerrit Cole will get his hands on the new ball, something that he has wanted since the beginning of spring training. Cole will start the game for the Yankees tomorrow in a televised game.

Of course, with Sunday’s loss, all was not good for the Yankees. Starter Micheal King in two innings of work, gave up three runs to the Toronto Blue Jays while hitting two Jay’s hitters. King last year pitched 26.2 innings, earning a 7.76 ERA. More was expected of King after an offseason of work. He will undoubtedly will get more chances in spring training, but yesterday he did not look good. Asher Wojciechowski replaced King in the third inning, giving up three hits and one run, but struck out two batters in the process. He was followed by Kyle Barraclough, who allowed a run in his inning of work.

All in all, the Yankee’s pitching did not look good as they used a new pitcher in all the innings after the third. The Yankee’s offense didn’t particularly shine either. Michael Brantley hit a two-RBI shot, Tauchman homered back to back, and DJ and Luke Voit got singles, but the Yankees did not hit well off the Toronto Blue Jay pitchers. With a somewhat reduced AL East this year, the Blue Jays are expected by many baseball insiders to be the main competition for the Yankees this season.

But like they say in baseball, tomorrow is another day. The Yankees will face the Detroit Tigers tomorrow at home, and then on Tuesday will be away at the Baltimore Orioles. Because of coronavirus concerns, the New York Yankees will only face Florida west coast teams in this spring training; those teams include the Jays, Orioles, Phillies, Pirates, and Tigers. East coast teams like the Boston Red Sox will play only east coast teams. Just over 2,800 lucky fans got to sit in the stands socially distanced and watch yesterday’s game.

At the moment, at the start of the regular season, the Yankees will be allowed to have fans at Yankee Stadium, but only to 10% capacity. The Yankees will work seamlessly with New York Governor Cuomo, hoping to increase that by the Yankees’ opening day game at the Stadium on April 1.