New York Giants to skip voluntary workouts due to COVID-19

New York Giants, Quest Diagnostics training center

The New York Giants had to deal with a shortened offseason last year, and that looks like the case again leading into the 2021 season. In this case, it’s at the very least the voluntary workouts that will be affected after the team’s players have decided not to attend these workouts in-person. The reason, of course, is fears of COVID-19.

Each team has the right to opt out under the current CBA, and the Giants are joining several other teams that have made the same decision. That list of teams stands at seven right now, not including the Giants, and includes the current Super Bowl champions.

What does this mean for the Giants?

The workouts were set to begin next Monday but it seems that the Giants will have to figure out an alternative to handling them in-person. Teams around the country had to deal with similar situations at both the college and professional level last year, and conducting workouts and playbook study over Zoom became the norm.

It’s easy to argue, of course, that this saw mixed results in terms of payoff. Some teams that were expected to do well underperformed, with bad offseasons being blamed. A reduced offseason was often brought up when discussing Jason Garrett’s underperformance as the Giants OC.

The team has released a statement through the NFLPA.

Our team is a strong, unified brotherhood of professionals who love the game of football and work year-round to perfect our craft. We also have to make the best decision to protect our health and safety, which is why players on our team are exercising our CBA right to not attend in-person voluntary workouts. We stand in solidarity with players across our league who are making informed decisions with the help of our union, both in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and what the data shows about the benefits to our overall health and safety.

The New York Rangers roll for a Second Straight win over New Jersey

Artemi Panarin scored two goals and added an assist to lead the New York Rangers to a 4-0 victory over the New Jersey Devils. The Blueshirts started the game hot as they scored three of their goals in the first period.

Igor Shesterkin shut out the Devils for the second game in a row, stopping all 16 shots. This was the first time that a Ranger goaltender has shut out a team in two consecutive games since it was last done in 1955.

Ranger nation was a little worried when the team announced that Panarin missed the morning skate due to maintenance. However, head coach David Quinn confirmed that he would be playing on Thursday night.

Quinn seemed very prophetic about Panarin’s performance as he discussed his star player in his pre-game Zoom conference.  “Artemi is a special player. There are not a lot of players in this league that can do what he does.”

Panarin scored the third and fourth goals for the Rangers. Jacob Trouba started the scoring for the Rangers and Ryan Lindgren tallied his first goal of the season for the first two Ranger tallies. Panarin has posted seven different three-point games at MSG this season. He is the first Ranger to post at least seven three-point games at home in the same season since Jaromir Jagr in 2006-07.

Colin Blackwell continues to do well with his promotion to Panarin’s line, adding three assists for the Rangers. Blackwell has established single-game career-highs with three assists and three points. Blackwell and Panarin were on the ice for each of the Ranger’s four goals.

The New York Rangers defensive unit has been excellent in all aspects.

In addition to Shesterkin’s fine play, the Rangers defense played well in front of him. The Blueshirts only allowed the Devils three shots in the first period and four shots in the third. The  Rangers were also credited for blocking 20 shots in the game.

The unit has not only been solid in their defensive end, but they have also contributed on the offensive end as well. Five different defensemen have tallied a goal over the last four games (K’Andre Miller, Libor Hajek, Brendan Smith, Trouba, and Lindgren), and each of the six NYR defensemen (Adam Fox, Miller, Hajek, Smith, Trouba, and Lindgren) have recorded a goal over the last six games.

Leading this offensive output has been Fox, who recorded his 35th assist of the season, establishing a career-high. He is the first Ranger defenseman 23 years old or younger to tally at least 35 assists in a season since Sergei Zubov in 1993-94.

The two teams meet again in a Saturday afternoon matinee at MSG.

 

 

 

Bellator books Douglas Lima – Yaroslav Amosov

The Bellator welterweight title is going to be defended in June. Yahoo’s Kevin Iole was the first to report today that the promotion had finalized a matchup between welterweight champion Douglas Lima (32-8) and unbeaten top contender Yaroslav Amosov (25-0).

The title fight will take place at Bellator 260 on June 10th. For Amosov, this is the opportunity that he’s been waiting for since he joined Bellator. “Dynamo” signed with the promotion back in 2018 and debuted against Gerald Harris.

After an impressive win against Harris, Bellator put Amosov in there with UFC veteran Erick Silva. Again, it was another impressive win for the welterweight out of The Ukraine.

After three more impressive victories, Bellator booked him against Logan Storley last November. The matchup against Storley told us a lot about how good Yaroslav Amosov can be.

The fight was razor close. While there were times where Amosov looked vulnerable, he ultimately pulled out the decision win at Bellator 252. That win was good enough for Scott Coker to make Amosov the number one contender at 170 pounds.

Bellator 260

At Bellator 260, we will see the welterweight return of Douglas Lima. Douglas Lima is one of the best welterweights in the world regardless of promotion. However, last fight took place at middleweight.

At Bellator 250, Lima attempted to become a two-division champion. Lima moved up to take on Gegard Mousasi. Lima had won three fights in a row and he was a popular pick on the betting lines.

Mousasi proved to be too much for the welterweight champion. Lima was extremely hesitant to pull the trigger and he just wasn’t active enough to earn himself a decision.

Now, Lima will go back to his natural weight class where the undefeated Ukrainian awaits him. We should see an incredible matchup at Bellator 260 and I expect the grappling of Amosov to push Lima hard. Will it be enough to take the belt away from him? Time will tell on that one.

Meet the 2021 New York Liberty draft class

ESM keeps track of all the New York Liberty’s happenings at the 2021 WNBA Draft, where they will first choose in the sixth slot.

The New York Liberty have four selections in Thursday night’s WNBA Draft (7 p.m., ESPN). ESM has the live tally below, as well as any Liberty-related draft happenings.

1st Round (6th overall): F Michaela Onyenwere, UCLA 

Onyenwere, standing at 6’0, could help at least partially fill the interior void Amanda Zahui B left behind and with Han Xu’s status in question. The former Bruins was second in the Pac-12 in scoring (19.1 per game) and fifth in rebounding (7.2). If the Liberty truly wish to embrace their youth movement, Onyenwere could work her way into the lineup fairly quickly. For her junior efforts, Onyenwere was named to the all-conference team alongside teammate Japreece Dean. She also has three-on-three experience and was part of Team USA’s Pan-American Games efforts in Lima. If the Liberty truly wish to embrace their youthful revolt, Onyenwere could well find herself a place in the starting lineup.

2nd Round (17th overall): G Didi Richards, Baylor

However long her stay in New York becomes, Richards hauls over a sizable trophy case, including the Big 12 and Naismith Committee’s Defensive Player of the Year Award. Though Richard’s shooting leaves something to be desired, she can be a decent offensive facilitator. In terms of training camp bodies, Richards should certainly keep things interesting on the practice courts.

3rd Round (25th overall): F Valerie Higgins, Pacific

The Liberty brought in yet another conference’s defensive heroine, with Higgins hailing from the West Coast Conference after spending her first year at USC. She led the conference with 99 steals, cementing her status as a strong ball defender and placing ninth in the nation.

3rd Round (29th overall): G Marine Fauthoux, France

The few, the proud, the Marines? That appears to be the case, as Fauthoux joins her fellow French national star Marine Johannes. The two previously collaborated on the team’s run to a silver medal EuroBasket Women’s 2019 in Latvia and Serbia.

Liberty general manager Jonathan Kolb and select picks will speak at approximately 9:15 p.m. Follow @GeoffJMags for updates.

New York Giants could roll into 2021 with an unaltered offensive line

New York Giants, Matt Peart

The New York Giants are preparing for the 2021 NFL Draft, which takes place in just two weeks. The Giants did a tremendous job this offseason addressing their needs in free agency. New York signed wide receiver Kenny Golladay and tight end Kyle Rudolph to give Daniel Jones the weapons he needed. They also took a risk and signed cornerback Adoree’ Jackson to a big deal to solidify their secondary.

There is one area on offense, though, that went mostly untouched through free agency. Many consider the Giants’ offensive line to be the biggest weakness on the team’s roster. But, looking ahead to the draft and regular season, it appears that the Giants might not feel the same way. It seems like the Giants are confident in their young offensive linemen and expect them to thrive in expanded roles this season.

What will the 2021 offensive line look like?

The tackles

General manager Dave Gettleman and the Giants are confident in what they have at right tackle. New York went offensive line in the first, third, and fifth rounds of the NFL Draft last year. In round three, the Giants selected offensive tackle, Matt Peart, out of UConn. The rookie tackle looked like a solid contributor in his rookie season when he saw the field, albeit in a limited number of snaps. But Gettleman gave his public show of support to Matt Peart, saying he is confident that Peart can start at right tackle this season.

Additionally, the Giants are getting Nate Solder back on a reworked deal after he opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19 concerns. Solder could be a key addition to the lineup, whether he ends up playing right tackle or kicking out to swing tackle. Regardless, the Giants are comfortable with what they have on the right side of the line and are unlikely to reach on a tackle at any point in the draft.

Andrew Thomas was the fourth overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft for the Giants. He had his ups and downs in his rookie season, but Thomas flashed enough and looks like he will turn into a quality long-term starter to protect Daniel Jones’s blindside.

The interior

On the interior of the offensive line, the Giants have some major question marks. New York cut their best lineman, right guard Kevin Zeitler, as a cap casualty. Now they are left with some questionable starters.

Shane Lemieux started the final 8 games at right guard for the Giants last season. He showed some potential as a decent run blocker but struggled severely in pass protection. There is a lot to like about Lemieux’s game and demeanor, and the Giants seem to be very high on Lemieux, but New York needs him to take a huge step forward to feel comfortable with him as a starting guard in 2021.

Assuming Lemieux continues as the starter at left guard, who will be the new man at right guard? The Giants potentially have that guy on their roster already. Through the first eight games of the 2020 season, Will Hernandez started at left guard, as he had the past two years as well. But Hernandez struggled a lot in the first half of the season and ultimately lost his starting position.

Could the Giants plug Hernandez back in the starting lineup this season? It is very possible that they go that route. Hernandez is a former second-round pick that showed a lot of promise as a rookie. But the Giants could potentially address the interior of their offensive line in the second round of the NFL Draft.

One position on the interior where continuity is expected is at center. Nick Gates impressed the fan base and the coaching staff in 2020. Last season was Gates’s first year playing center. Gates showed a lot of growth as the season went on and looks to be a quality starter going forward.

Why fans think the line is in need of an upgrade

The Giants seem pretty confident in this young group of guys that it has on the offensive line. But fans are skeptical. The Giants’ pass-block win rate in 2020, according to ESPN, ranked dead-last in the NFL at 46%. Their run-block win-rate ranked 18th at 70%, which is about average or slightly below. So while the Giants did upgrade Daniel Jones’s weapons in free agency, fans feel like they still desperately need to fix the offensive line in front of him. It will be intriguing to see whether or not the Giants address the offensive line in the 2021 NFL Draft at the end of this month.

What is going on with the New York Yankees’ offense?

gio urshela, yankees

The Yankees are 5-6 to start the 2021 season. Their pitching has been great, but their offense has been a disappointment. As a team, putting runs on the board hasn’t been an easy task. Most experts around the league view this offense as one of the best in the league. That’s why watching them struggle is such a frustration. The constant lack of run support has been the Yankees’ number one problem thus far.

The Yankees’ loss to the Blue Jays was another terrible performance offensively. The inability to get anything done early on gives pitchers little to work with. Most recently, Taillon struggled to get outs. He was able to get ahead in many at-bats but couldn’t finish. His inability to string together outs caused his start to last less than four innings.

New York was faced with a five-run deficit heading into the fifth. Again, there was no answer offensively. The Yankees ended up being down 6-0. Finally, in the 7th, the Bombers were able to get on the board. A ground out from Odor with men on second and third gave the Yanks a run. Then in the 8th, the Yankees started to rally. Stanton was up with two men in scoring position and ripped a 120mph single up the middle. That shortened the lead to three. Judge flew out, and Sanchez walked. Hicks was up with men on first and second. A passed ball allowed Stanton to get to third. However, Sanchez’s hesitation on the base paths led to him getting caught in a rundown to end the inning. 

The Blue Jays responded with a run of their own with no response from New York in the ninth. Another disappointing performance offensively led to a Yankees defeat. 

A killer for the Yankees so far this year has been the mass amount of double plays. They’ve hit into a league-leading thirteen double plays. That alone is very concerning. It is an extreme momentum killer.

The Yankees will look to snag a series victory over Toronto tonight at 7:07 pm EST. Corey Kluber will be on the mound as New York will look to get things going offensively. 

BREAKING: UFC books Amanda Nunes – Julianna Pena

Amanda Nunes (21-4) is officially set for her first UFC bantamweight title defense since December 2019. Dana White told ESPN’s Brett Okamoto today that The Lioness is returning to bantamweight in August to defend her title against Julianna Pena (10-4).

You can imagine that this matchup at UFC 265 is going to have a ton of heat behind it. Back at UFC 257, Pena defeated Sara McMann by third round fear-naked choke. After the fight was over, she started calling for a fight with Nunes.

Pena stated that the UFC‘s two-division champion had been ducking her for years. The callouts were odd to me considering where Pena was in the division. The Venezuelan Vixen is just 2-2 in her last four and was put to sleep against Germaine de Randamie last October.

Nevertheless, the trash talk seemed to work and the UFC decided to give Pena the fight. If the current rankings hold, Julianna Pena will enter the cage in August as the sixth ranked bantamweight.

UFC 265 Grudge Match

Amanda Nunes is the greatest of all time and let’s be clear, Julianna Pena really doesn’t deserve this shot at UFC 265. Her resume doesn’t exactly make her the number one contender. Especially considering the top contender just put her to sleep six months ago.

However, Pena called out the champion and that’s what she’s getting. Nunes has defeated the best the UFC has to offer at both 135 and 145 pounds. Pena is one of the few bantamweights that Nunes hasn’t had the privilege of fighting yet.

Perhaps that had a lot to do with this booking as well. Either way, it should be a fun buildup to UFC 265. The last time we saw Nunes was last month when she demolished Megan Anderson at UFC 259.

The win was Nunes’ second straight defense of her featherweight title. Now, Nunes will return to the division that made her a champion for the first time. This should be a fun matchup when August rolls around.

New York Yankees: Jackie Robinson paved the way for Yankee Elston Howard (video)

The New York Yankees will celebrate Jackie Robinson Day tomorrow when they meet up with the Tampa Bay Rays at Yankee Stadium. All of baseball celebrates the day honoring the major league’s first black Major League player traditionally on April 15; however, for teams that have the day off as the Yankees do, it is celebrated on Friday. All players will wear his number 42 to honor him.

Jackie Robinson paved the way for black players to eventually move from the Negro Leagues to the majors, including the Yankee’s Elston Howard.  On April 15, 74 years ago, Robinson became a Brooklyn Dodger. He was the first African-American in all of baseball to break the color barrier. One day earlier but eight years later, the New York Yankees acquired their first black player in Elston Howard.

Early on, when black players entered the majors, they didn’t have it easy. Some had acceptance problems even from players on their own team. Some could not eat with or stay with their white counterparts. Many eating establishments and hotels at that time still would not allow blacks. When the New York Yankees hired Elston Howard, they made sure that they would only stay in hotels that accepted blacks.

Before the Yankees added a black player to the team, they waited to find the perfect man to add. That man was Elston Howard, a fine gentleman of high moral character. His teammates immediately accepted Elston. He was further endeared to the team and fans alike for his baseball abilities as a catcher and ballplayer.

Elston Howard played for the New York Yankees for 13 years from 1955 to 1967, when he was traded to the Boston Red Sox. During his time with the Yankees, he amassed a .279 batting average with  167 homers and batting in nearly 800 runs. He was a 12-time All-Star, won the Gold Glove Award twice, and was an MVP candidate five times, winning the prestigious award once. In 1982 the New York Yankees retired his number 32 and installed a plaque in Monument Park. Had it not been for a few disastrous seasons late in his career, caused by an elbow ailment, he would surely be in the Hall of Fame.

Jackie Robinson Day has been celebrated every year since 2004.  Robinson’s number 42 was retired by all of MLB in 1997. Every year on his day, every on and off-field personnel of all teams wear his number 42 since 2009, celebrating his legacy. In Robinson’s major league career, 10 years with the Brooklyn Dodgers, he batted .311. He was an All-Star six times and was an MVP nominee eight times, winning the award in 1949.

Robinson’s personality was one of high moral values and non-violence that challenged the stereotypical opinion about black men. He was very popular and influenced the culture of the day. He was also greatly involved in the civil rights movement. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 opened public facilities to all races. But the movement against segregation after World War II really began in 1947 with Jackie Robinson. Robinson, after his playing days, was the first black television baseball analyst. He was also vice president of Chock full o’ Nuts corporation. He helped establish the Freedom National Bank, and in 1972 was awarded the Congressional Medal of Freedom for his achievements on and off the field.

Robinson also established the Jackie Robinson Construction Company to build housing for low-income families. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on  July 23, 1962. On October 15, 1972, in his last public appearance, he threw out the first pitch before Game two of the 1972 World Series; he died nine days later at his home in Stamford, CT. He died from complications arising from both heart disease and diabetes age the age of 53.

 

 

 

New York Yankees: “Starting left fielder” Clint Frazier has spent a lot of time on the bench of late

New York Yankees, Clint Frazier

Early on in Spring Training, New York Yankees‘ manager Aaron Boone was quick to name Clint Frazier as the starting left fielder this season. Boone has said countless times that Frazier earned the opportunity and that Brett Gardner would act as his backup.

However, just two weeks into the season, it already appears that Frazier’s role within the team is changing. Frazier’s sat four of the past seven games, albeit some struggles at the plate. Boone’s blamed this on wanting to get an extra lefty in the lineup when a right-hander pitches, which happens more frequently than left-handers pitching.

It’s funny that Boone would rather have Frazier sit against righties since his numbers are actually better than that to lefties. In over 400 at-bats against right-handers, Frazier bats .258 with a .796 OPS. Gardner’s career stats are very similar against righties, batting .264 with a .768 OPS when facing them.

With the Yankees getting off to a rough start, there’s no shame in putting Gardner in the lineup for a day or two to try and give the team an offensive jolt. However, it shouldn’t come at the expense of Frazier being on the bench almost every other day. He’s certainly not gotten off to the start he’d like with just 6 hits in 30 tries, but the Yankees cannot give up on him this early. Frazier provides value on both sides of the ball, and it’s just a matter of time until he snaps out of his slump. It’s not like almost every other Yankee is having trouble hitting the ball anyway.

Going forward, the Yankees need to stick to their word and continue to give Frazier a shot. It’s too early to give up on him as the starter, and it’s only fair to him for what he’s gone through the past few seasons with the Yankees.

Bellator books Michael “Venom” Page – Derek Anderson

Bellator has finalized a big time welterweight matchup for one of their upcoming cards. ESPN’s Ariel Helwani was the first to report today that the promotion had finalized a matchup between Michael “Venom” Page (18-1) and Derek Anderson (17-3, 1 NC).

The matchup will take place on the main card at Bellator 258 on May 7th. Originally, these two men were supposed to meet back in 2017. However, MVP was forced out of the matchup and they haven’t been rescheduled until now.

Derek Anderson will enter the Bellator cage on May 7th having gone 5-1 in his last six matchups. The lone loss came to Derek Campos by decision, but after that loss, Anderson has won three fights in a row.

The last time we saw Anderson was at Bellator 251 in November. Anderson took on Killys Mota and was able to win with a second round soccer kick for the knockout. He’s looked very impressive over his last few wins.

The one issue with Anderson has been his activity level. As mentioned, he’s gone 5-1 in his last six Bellator matchups, but those spanned over five years. Hopefully we will start to see Derek Anderson be a little more active moving forward.

Bellator 258 Welterweight Matchup

Michael “Venom” Page is one of the flashiest fighters that Bellator has. He’s got a very interesting striking style and he goes for techniques you normally don’t see in a MMA matchup.

However, his style led to his one loss against Douglas Lima back in 2019 by knockout. Since that knockout loss at Bellator 221, MVP has gone 4-0. The last time we saw him was at Bellator 248 last October.

Page took on Ross Houston in that matchup. MVP had a lot of momentum leading into that fight having won three straight by knockout. However, the Houston fight failed to live up to expectations. MVP still got the decision, but fans were not thrilled with the performance.

You have to think that the Bellator welterweight is going to look to make a statement on May 7th. If he’s able to get a win in a few weeks, it might be time that he gets another crack at the welterweight title.