New York Yankees: Tampa Bay preview, unwanted baggage?

New York Yankees, Aaron Judge

On Friday, the New York Yankees will take on the Tampa Bay Rays in a three-game set at Tropicana Field In Tampa, Florida, and they will be carrying on the plane with them some unwanted baggage. The baggage they will take with them is Aaron Judge, who, just five games into the season, appears to be injured again, a shortstop that already has two errors in his first six games, and a catcher that doesn’t always hustle.

There is a bunch of good and bad news for the Yankee fans to digest in this very young season. After two series, the Yankees have a .500 record. That is both good and bad. At least they haven’t lost 6 straight. In fact, no MLB team is without a win in the first week. But at the same time, the Yankees haven’t won 6 straight. We call the Sox the lowly Red Sox, yet they have the same record the Yankees do. But let’s be real, it’s only one week, and the Yankees are still tunning up, plus they are going to face a much weaker Tampa Bay Rays team the whipped their butts last season.

Let’s examine the good news first. The New York Yankee front office has to be mostly tickled with both the Yankee starters and relievers; they have pitched for the most part really well in the first six games. Some anxiety has been relieved as all the pitchers seem healthy and confident, which was a concern with three starters not having pitched in nearly two years. Domingo German was the only downer in his start, but there is likely nothing to worry about after a stellar spring training. This week Gerrit Cole was totally dominant in his second start throwing to Kyle Higashioka. Yesterday the last Yankee pitcher to start the season, Jameson Taillon, pitched really well, giving up two runs, striking out seven with no walks.

In the first full week of play, the Yankee bullpen has been excellent. Leading the pack is Jonathan Loaisiga; in four innings of relief, he hasn’t allowed a run while striking out 5 and not allowing a walk. In spring training, in 14 innings of work, he allowed 2 runs, striking out 11, walking two with an ERA of 1.26. Next is Luis Cessa, Chad Green, Micheal King, Nick Nelson, Darren O’Day, and Aroldis Chapman, who have not given up an earned run. The only blemish has been Lucas Luetge, who gave up 2 runs in one inning. But the Yankees are not worried about that as he was their second-best pitcher in spring training. In 10.1 innings, he struck out 18 hitters for an ERA of 1.74.

The bad news going into the Tampa Bay series isn’t yet horrible but is concerning. First, the New York Yankees will have to endure the Rays celebrating their division and ALCS win at their home Opening Day celebration at 3 pm on Friday. Baggage to be dealt with includes Aaron Judge. Will he be healthy enough to play? It was revealed Wednesday that he was suffering from left side soreness. Is it an oblique strain for just some soreness? Aaron Judge didn’t seem overly confident that Judge would be in the lineup Friday.

Another baggage they will be carrying is Gleyber Torres, who has committed two errors already in just six games. Gary Sanchez didn’t exactly show a lot of hustle yesterday either. It wouldn’t be an issue, except he has been criticized for lack of hustle several times before. In yesterday’s game, he got a ground ball that he gave up on and was called out at first, barely. But if you watched the tape, he was hardly running when he reached first. The rule is you run like Brett Gardner because you never know someone may drop the ball. As far as Torres is concerned, he made a bad throw that may have cost the Yankees the Orioles’ sweep. Torres has to start charging the ball to give himself more time to throw an accurate throw.

The last bit of baggage the Yankee hope they can leave behind is their lack of hitting with runners in scoring positions. In the first six games of the season, when the bat wasn’t always active, the Yankees went 12 for 51 with runners in scoring position. It’s tough to win games when you leave that many in scoring position. The Yankees have to find a way to hit more consistently, especially with men in scoring position.

Tomorrow the Yankee’s Corey Kluber will make his second start of the season; he will face the lefty Rich Hill. In Hill’s first outing, he gave up 4 runs for an ERA of 9.00. On Saturday, Domingo German will face Ray’s Chris Archer, who has had a horrible start this season. He has an ERA of 13.50, although he has pitched well against the Yankees before. The finale on Sunday will feature an unknown Ray facing Jordan Montgomery, who had an excellent start in his first outing in a game the Yankees won. 7-0.

Over the offseason, the Tampa Bay Rays got rid of two of their best pitchers. They let Charlie Morton walk to the Braves, and they traded away Blake Snell, their ace, to the Padres. On paper, the New York Yankees seem to have the edge on the Rays this season. During this meeting, the Yankee pitchers will have to watch out for Randy Arozarena, who created havoc with the Yankees last season, and Austin Meadows likes to homer off Yankee pitching, however this season he will face a very different rotation.

The game on Friday will be at 3:10 pm and will be broadcast on the YES Network and in Florida on the Bally Sports Sun Network, the old FoxSports. The games on Saturday and Sunday will be at 1:05 pm.



The Islanders are “All In” with their latest move

All In.

That was the feeling that took over the blue and orange cult of fans that make up Islanders Country just before 8PM last night, when news broke that the team had acquired forwards Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac from the New Jersey Devils in exchange for two picks — a 2021 first-rounder, 2022 conditional fourth-rounder — and minor leaguers Mason Jobst and A.J. Greer. And with that one move the Isles made their intentions clear to the rest of the division and the league for that matter: they believe they can win a Stanley Cup.

Anticipation had been building that g.m. Lou Lamoriello was going to strike sometime before the trade deadline next Monday. Even prior to captain Anders Lee going down with a season-ending injury last month, there was plenty of chatter the Isles would be buyers. Lee’s setback only increased that thinking, as did his $7M cap hit which now became available for the organization to use. It seemed like something was afoot too from the outside when the organization’s top targets, Palmieri and Buffalo’s Taylor Hall, were being sat out by their respective teams over the past few games. Well, Lamoriello chose what he believed to be the better package, getting a two-for-one special.

The way the team responded to [Lee’s injury] and the way they came together, certainly played a role in whatever I could do to get them some support and some help,” Lamoriello said to the media following the deal. “Certainly a first round pick is what it is. I’m extremely excited about the young players we have and how they’ve come along and how they are going to gain experience through this process. I didn’t feel uncomfortable at all making the decision, especially when you’re able to acquire the two players that we did in Kyle and Travis.”

Palmieri and Zajac both bring something different to the table that won’t only help the Islanders down the stretch but in what they hope to be another long postseason run. The 30-year-old Smithtown, Long Island native brings his goal-scoring prowess to an already well-balanced attack. As my friend and colleague James Nichols pointed out this morning, Palmieri has scored 140 goals since the 2015-16 season & is scoring at a 41-point pace in 2020-21(19 goals, 22 assists). His teammate Zajac bolsters an already formidable bottom-six, is a stout penalty killer and brings plenty of veteran and championship experience. Zajac was on the Lamoriello-led Devils squad that made it to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2012.

He also waived his full no-move clause for the trade to go down yesterday.

That’s a testament to how the Islanders are viewed as a franchise now, one that keeps trending in the right direction and is going for it. “It’s a bolt of energy for sure,” Zajac said. “You’re excited to come in this situation and coming to a team that just does things the right way. They know how to win.”

The Islanders have been in “win-now” mode since Lamoriello arrived three years ago. He struck out the first time when he went for Mark Stone. Last year, he made his mark to get his club reinforcements — Andy Greene and J.G. Pageau — in the wake of devastating injuries. We all saw how those deals have played out. They’ve been a rousing success. But this time, he made moves to make a statement. That’s what Palmieri and Zajac are.

Lamoriello believes this group is good enough to win a Cup this year. He might not be done either.

One thing is certain, winning at all cost is the expectation now for the Isles. The moment was seized to get better and from here on forward this team is all-in on getting to the promise land.


New York Islanders: What will the lines look like after the Palmieri trade?

The New York Islanders have successfully completed two huge trades for top 6 forwards in the past two years. Last year, General Manager Lou Lamoriello traded away a bundle of picks for JG Pageau. That trade was regarded as one of the best trades of last year and possibly recent Islander history. Lamoriello might’ve struck gold two years in a row as he completed another trade with the New Jersey Devils last night.

The Islanders acquired Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac for this year’s first-rounder, Mason Jobst, AJ Greer, and a conditional fourth-round pick. The Islanders added 2 impact forwards who will be plugged into the lineup and play as soon as possible. Where will the new additions play, though?

Kyle Palmieri

Kyle Palmieri should be playing on Mat Barzal’s left-wing as he replaces fringe bottom 6 forward Leo Komarov. This move will undoubtedly improve Mat Barzal and Jordan Eberle’s assist and goal numbers. Palmieri brings the same physicality that Anders Lee always brought to the table. But, Palmieri also has an elite shot that Anders Lee does not possess. The only problem with Palmieri being on the first line is the fact that the Islanders would be brandishing three right-handed forwards on one line. It’s not a huge problem, as the second line powerplay features all left-handers, but it’s something to look out for. Palmieri brings a clutch factor that hasn’t been seen on the Island in forever and a nice power-play presence.

Travis Zajac

Travis Zajac was an interesting last-minute addition to the Kyle Palmieri trade. I believe the only reason the Devils added him to the trade was the fact that they didn’t want to resign him. Or, they felt that they couldn’t get a first-round pick for just Palmieri. Whatever the reason may be, the Islanders walk away with another good center. Zajac should not be playing center for the Islanders, though, as the Isles already have 4 good/great centers. Zajac will have to move to wing for the first time in his long, storied career. I believe he will fit in nicely on JG Pageau’s left-wing, as Oliver Wahlstrom stays at right-wing. Zajac brings experience, an excellent faceoff percentage, and an ability to play on the power play/kill.

UFC books Greg Hardy – Tai Tuivasa

The UFC is finalizing a big time matchup in the heavyweight division for their July PPV. MMA Junkie reported yesterday that the promotion was closing the deal on a heavyweight clash between knockout artists Greg Hardy (7-3, 1 NC) and Tai Tuivasa (11-3).

The matchup will take place at UFC 264 on July 10th. Greg Hardy has been asking for this matchup and the former NFL player is getting his wish. Hardy wanted someone to stand and trade with and he will get that in Tuivasa.

In 2020, it looked like Greg Hardy was taking a big step forward in his UFC career. He had a good decision win over Yorgan De Castro before knocking out Maurice Greene in October.

After that knockout of Greene, the UFC turned Hardy around quickly to have him fight Marcin Tybura in December. A win over Tybura would have likely put Hardy in the UFC‘s top fifteen in the heavyweight division.

In the first round, Hardy looked fantastic. His striking was good and his speed was giving Tybura fits. However, Hardy gassed out badly and in the second round he was taken down. Once on the ground, he looked completely lost and Tybura got the TKO over an exhausted Greg Hardy.

For Hardy to take the next step in his UFC career, he needs a signature win. He needs a win over a big guy with a good following behind him. He’s going to get that chance on July 10th.

UFC 264 heavyweight clash

In June of 2019, it looked like Tai Tuivasa was going to challenge for the UFC heavyweight title. The Australian was a perfect 9-0 and he was souring in the heavyweight division. That’s when he met former champion, Junior Dos Santos.

JDS knocked Tuivasa out in the second round. After that, the UFC gave Tuivasa the tough Blagoy Ivanov and Ivanov won by decision. At UFC 243, Sergey Spivak was able to secure an arm-triangle choke against Tuivasa in the second round.

After starting his career perfectly, Tuivasa has lost three in a row. With his back against the wall, the UFC gave Tuivasa a fight with Stefan Struve last October. Tuivasa got back to his winning ways with a first round knockout.

He followed that up with another first round knockout a couple of weeks ago over Harry Hunsucker. Now, with back-to-back knockout wins, Tuivasa looks to have his mojo back. Whoever wins at UFC 264 is going to take a big step forward and I think it’s safe to say this fight won’t go the distance.

Yankees: Good news and bad news in loss to Baltimore

gio urshela, yankees

The Yankees lost a heartbreaker against the Baltimore Orioles on Wednesday evening by a score of 4-3. Heading into extra innings, the Yankees gave up one run in the 10th and another in the 11th, failing to make a come-back and complete the sweep over Baltimore. Ultimately, the Yankees beat themselves in this game, as Gleyber Torres struggled defensively at shortstop, and their pitching collapsed when it mattered most.

However, walking away with two wins out of a three-game series was a positive, and while the Yankees sit at .500 on the season, they now had to Tampa Bay to take on the Rays.

Good news and bad news for the Yankees:

Let’s start with some positive news for the Yankees regarding the loss to Baltimore. Starting pitcher Jameson Taillon last 4.2 innings, giving up three hits and two runs but struck out seven batters.

Overall, I think he had a solid performance, considering he hasn’t pitched a meaningful game in over a year. He gave up two home runs, displaying a few poorly located pitches as the catalyst of his runs allowed. Nonetheless, it was a positive step for Jameson, who is still working his way back from Tommy John surgery last year.

From a statistical standpoint, the Yankees should’ve won this game with ease, as they posted 13 hits compared to Baltimore’s four and 10 strikeouts compared to 17. Leaving runners in scoring position is going to end up biting the Yankees in the butt, as it did in this defeat.

A few individual performances that stood out came from Gary Sanchez, who got on base three times over three at-bats, and Gio Urshela, who posted two hits after struggling to open his season. There are a few lingering injuries that are affecting players, including Urshela, and Aaron Judge, who is expected to miss Friday’s contest, according to Aaron Boone.

Boone said that it was too early to tell if a Judge would be available against Tampa Bay but that he’s dealing with a myriad of injuries, ranging from soreness in his side to an undisclosed illness. Judge would’ve been the catalyst the Yankees needed to overcome Baltimore in this context, but clearly, he’s dealing with something rather significant Boone wasn’t even willing to pinch-hit him when I needed him most. Without him, they don’t have the same pizzazz, and it’s showing.

As for the team’s relief pitching, they got the job done up until Chad Green allowed two runs over 1.1 innings. After Jameson’s day ended, the bullpen had racked up seven strikeouts and no hits allowed. Baltimore stole this one from the Yankees, and there’s no other way to look at it.

Knicks’ RJ Barrett has taken insane jump in important category

new york knicks, rj barrett

While the New York Knicks fell to the Boston Celtics on Wednesday evening by just two points, but second-year player RJ Barrett had another stellar performance. Barrett finished with 29 points, connecting on 10-of-14 shots from the field, and went 6-of-6 from downtown.

Barrett has taken a significant developmental leap this year, averaging 17.5 points per game over 52 contests, compared to 14.3 in his rookie season last year. His field goal percentage has risen from .402 to.450, and the three-point percentage skyrocketed. He currently sits at .380 on the season, finishing 2019-20 at .320.

His increasing efficiency from downtown has been a major turning point for the 20-year-old guard. His defense is already considered above average, and pairing it with quality offense will make him a star in the future. I would argue he’s well on his way to being considered one of the better players in the NBA, and at his age, next season could see him finally cement himself as a premium asset.

“I don’t know if I’m surprised because I see the time he’s put into it,’’ coach Tom Thibodeau said regarding his three-point production. “And when we’ve been home, he usually comes in every night to shoot and get extra shooting in. He’s really worked hard improving the shot and I think he’s gotten real comfortable behind the line. And I also think his teammates are also doing a good job looking for him. We’ve had good rim reads and a lot of spray-outs, so they’re good-rhythm 3s.”

The Knicks have a young player defining himself as a star:

Star players have a few defining qualities, and work ethic is one of them. Barrett is putting everything he has into the game of basketball, and it is clearly paying off on the court. For example, in a pivotal moment against Boston, he turned the ball over, dribbling it out of bounds. Just moments after, he returned the favor by draining a three-point shot to make up for his mistake. The resiliency and unwavering confidence are what stood out in that specific scenario, showing not only physical growth but mental.

“I just work at it,’’ Barrett said. “Going to the gym at night, the more you put into the game, the more you get out.”

Is Bellator’s Patricio Pitbull on the same level as Alexander Volkanovski?

Last weekend at Bellator 255, Patricio “Pitbull” Freire (32-4) choked out Emmanuel Sanchez in the first round of their title fight. The matchup was also the semi-final matchup in Bellator‘s Featherweight Grand Prix.

After the fight, Patricio Pitbull and his management have talked about how he’s the best featherweight in the world. They told ESPN’s Ariel Helwani this week that they are more than willing to take on the UFC champion, Alexander Volkanovksi (22-1).

A huge feather in the cap of Pitbull is his knockout of Michael Chandler. Chandler is getting ready to challenge for the vacant UFC lightweight championship and Pitbull knocked him out in the first round after catching him with a looping hook around the ear.

Granted, the stoppage was premature in my opinion, but nevertheless, that’s how Patricio Pitbull became a two-division Bellator champion. With that said, is Patricio Pitbull on the same level or is he even better than the best the UFC has to offer?

Bellator vs UFC

This is yet another time where we are comparing the two biggest MMA promotions. Is Bellator on the same level as the UFC? 99% of the time the answer to that question is going to be an emphatic no.

However, Patricio Pitbull is a very special fighter and many believe he is one of if not the best featherweight in the world. At the same time, I think it’s very important to remember the competition level here.

Let’s take a look at the last four wins for the UFC champion. Volkanovski has defeated Max Holloway twice, Jose Aldo and Chad Mendes. That is quite astonishing considering how great all three of those fighters are.

The last five wins for the Bellator champion include Emmanuel Sanchez twice, Juan Archuleta, Pedro Carvalho, and Michael Chandler. Archuleta is the bantamweight champion and Carvalho and Sanchez are not on par with UFC competition.

I will give the Bellator champion all the credit in the world for the Chandler win. That is by far the best win of his career. However, I just can’t say that Patricio Pitbull is better or even on the same level as Alexander Volkanovski.

ESPN’s divisional rankings have this one right. They have the Bellator champion in fourth behind Volkanovski, Max Holloway, and Brian Ortega. I think that’s where he should be. I believe he could be a top five fighter in the UFC, but in my opinion, he wouldn’t be the best.

Mets Game Preview (4/8/21): 1:05 p.m. vs. Miami Marlins (1-5)

New York Mets, Pete Alonso

The New York Mets host the Miami Marlins for their home opener at Citi Field after a disappointing series loss against the Philadelphia Phillies. Luckily, the Marlins are coming off a three-game sweep to the St. Louis Cardinals and are missing a couple of key rotation arms. The weekend series is a good chance for the Mets to get back into the win column a couple of times before the Phillies come back to town.

The Mets looked a step slow in multiple aspects of the game during their first series. The Mets bullpen pitched to an ERA close to eight and their offense was very inconsistent. It is understandable after getting an unexpected extra time off due to the Washington Nationals Covid outbreak. From game to game, they went from lacking timing at the plate to getting timely hits to leaving runners on base. The one constant was their ability to work deep counts, drawing 15 walks over three games.

The Mets are unlikely to play J.D. Davis in this series while he recovers from a hand injury from getting hit by a pitch. Davis will go for more X-Rays before the Mets make an official decision on his path back to the starting lineup. Luis Guillorme will continue to fill in during his absence.

The fish have been fried early this season with five losses in their first six games. Their offense is only hitting .219 with a .316 slugging percentage. Despite the team struggles, Jesus Aguilar and Starling Marte have started the season on a good note. Aguilar is 6-for-17 (.353) with four walks and has only struck out once. Marte has proven to be a key acquisition for them by starting the season going 8-for-23 (.348) with a stolen base.

Pitching Matchups

Taijuan Walker makes his Mets debut after a solid spring where he had a 3.27 ERA in 11 innings. Walker brings his fastball in the 93-95 range, a slider, changeup, and curveball. Much like Jacob deGrom and Marcus Stroman, we should see Walker stay in the 75-90 range with his pitch count.

The Marlins have not decided on a starter as of nine this morning but it will be either Nick Neidert or Paul Campbell. Neidert made four appearances in 2020 but never got started in any of his outings. Campbell made his MLB debut on Saturday and allowed three runs in two innings pitched.

Matchup To Lookout For

Taijuan Walker vs. Corey Dickerson: 3-for-6 (.500), Triple, 2 Home Runs, Strikeout

Why are the New York Knicks struggling late in games?

The New York Knicks have struggled closing out opponents roughly the last ten contests. With Mitchell Robinson’s injury, the Knicks are being outrebounded by a large margin on certain nights. Allowing offensive rebounds to the opponent gives them momentum and energy, and this almost never bodes well for the Knicks down the stretch, especially when there’s a lack of a true closer. What could be the reason for the Knicks’ struggles down the stretch in close games? Is it inferior and unsteady point guard play? Could it be a lack of closers on the roster? Or are the Knicks just going through growing pains while figuring out how to win close games?

This is the first time in years the Knicks are actually in the playoff hunt. New York’s favorite team is currently sitting at 8th seed in the Eastern Conference, and divisional play will be crucial the rest of this regular season. There is a high possibility that the Knicks just plain and simple don’t know how to win yet. What better way to learn than to go through excruciating losses? Tom Thibodeau is one of the best coaches to go through a rough patch with. Thibs is constantly teaching, amending, and reminding players of their duties in a detailed fashion on both ends of the basketball court. Every close Knick loss can easily be counted as another learning experience moment under Tom Thibodeau.

Overall, the New York Knicks are going through a rough patch with its young guys, however, fans shouldn’t count them out. Diamonds are made in ugly fashion, and one example of that is RJ Barrett’s three-point shooting as of late. Julius Randle is the engine of this Knicks roster, and as long as defense is the priority, everything else will eventually fall into place, especially next season, once our anticipation of a real floor general comes to fruition.

New York Yankees: 3 major takeaways from last night’s loss to the O’s

New York Yankees, Gleyber Torres

Last night the New York Yankees met up with the Baltimore Orioles in game 3 of a 3 game set, hoping to complete the sweep, but instead, they had a heartbreaking loss in the 11th inning. The game had a little bit of everything, stellar pitching, a huge error, comebacks, and a lack of clearing the bases. In the very long game, the Yankees lost to the Orioles in the eleventh inning by 4-3. The New York Yankees now have a 3-3 (.500) record on the season.

Taillon debut encouraging

Last night was the long-anticipated New York Yankees debut of Jameson Taillon. Although Taillon was not stellar, his start was very encouraging for a quality pitcher that hasn’t pitched in two years. He pitched into the fifth inning of the game, giving up two home runs while striking out seven Orioles and not walking a batter. After the game manager, Aaron Boone said he was delighted with Taillon’s first start.

Taillon’s bug a boo was two bad pitches that led to two home runs. Other than those two pitches, Taillon was mostly dominant, pitching two, one, two, three innings. He seemed to have good control and looked very confident. Taillon seemed to be happy with his first performance, as when he met up in the dugout with his friend Gerrit Cole he exhibited a wide smile.

Other than Taillon, the Yankees bullpen was stellar. Nick Nelson, Darren O’Day, Jonathan Loaisiga, and Aroldis Chapman, with one 102 mph pitch, did not allow a run or a walk. Chad Green’s inning was tainted by Torres’s throwing error that eventually allowed two runs to score. At one point, the bullpen put down eleven O’s in a row.

Throwing still dogs Gleyber Torres

Last night Gleyber Torres exhibited the reason he is not the best of shortstops. Torres still has throwing errors that have dogged him throughout his career. Last year Torres had more errors than all the MLB shortstops except for one.

Last night Torres had his second error of the young season, and this one may have cost the New York Yankees the game. In eighth, Sanchez singled, Mike Tauchman came in to run for Sanchez. Urshela doubled as Tauchman came sliding home to tie up the game. But in the tenth inning, Severino reached on a huge error by Torres, Santander scored for the O’s lead. Severino hit a single that should have been a ground out, but Torres made a poor throw to Bruce that landed at least 12 feet in front of Bruce, and Bruce failed to catch the ball when it bounced off his glove.

To be fair to Torres, a better, more experienced first baseman might have been able to make the play. However, that being said, Torres still exhibits a concerning trait, which is waiting for the ball to come to him rather the charging the ball giving him more time to make an accurate throw. Even Aaron Boone said after the game that Torres must make standard day-in and day-out plays.

Boys, you got to bring em home

In all but one game in this young season, the New York Yankees have left too many men on base. A failure of bringing men in scoring position home almost always leads to losing games. Last night that was again the case; the Yankees had 13 hits but only scored 3 runs. They went 3 for 14 with men in scoring position, leaving 12 Yankees on base. Several Yankees, including DJ LeMahieu, have had hitting problems as their timing is not yet where it should be. LeMahieu said after the game that he was close. The O’s had only 4 hits in the game leading to 4 runs.


Aaron Judge was not in the lineup last evening after suffering side soreness. As so often, little information is available. In Tuesday’s game, Judge seemed to run the bases gingerly and was removed from the game. Boone said he just wanted to get him off his feet. But then he wasn’t in the lineup last night. It was reported that Judge had left side general soreness. This is concerning because the hulk of a man has had oblique injuries to both sides of his body before. After the game, Boone didn’t sound encouraging, saying he didn’t know if Judge would be in the lineup on Friday when the New York Yankees meet the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field.