New York Giants set to have rookie minicamp in-person

New York Giants, Quest Diagnostics training center

Following the NFL Draft, some may have wondered when the New York Giants will get to work with their rookies in-person. These last two offseasons, of course, have been odd because of COVID-19. The Giants players already announced earlier in the offseason that they’d skip voluntary workouts, as permitted by the CBA. However, it looks like the in-person minicamp workouts scheduled for the newly drafted rookies aren’t going to befall the same fate.

Tom Rock from Newsday has reported that the team is set to have rookie minicamp in person. Fans will only have to wait a couple weeks to see the new players in pads as the minicamp is set to happen from the 14th to the 16th of this month.

The minicamp will also, of course, include any players the Giants have picked up as undrafted free agents. Right now the Giants haven’t brought in many players from the undrafted pool, but it appears the team is looking into options on the offensive line after they passed on taking an offensive lineman with any of their picks.

The Giants have reportedly signed two offensive lineman as undrafted free agents, specifically center Brett Heggie from Florida and Jake Burton from Baylor, who played multiple positions during his time there.

The other free agent signing for the Giants appears to be Raymond Johnson III, a defensive end from Georgia Southern that will join the other two additions to the defensive front that the Giants made through drafting Azeez Ojulari and Elerson Smith, both outside linebackers.

Mets Escape Philadelphia By Inches In 8-7 Victory Over Phillies

What the hell just happened?

The New York Mets survived the final game of their three-game series against the Philadelphia Phillies thanks to the convenience of instant replay. Rhys Hoskins seemed to rip out the hearts over every Mets fan with a three-run game-tying home run off Edwin Diaz in the ninth.

Thanks to the wonders of instant replay, Hoskins hit the tippy-top of the fence, which changed his home run to a double. Unfortunately, Diaz had to leave the game with an undisclosed injury. Jeurys Familia came in with ice in his veins to strike out Bryce Harper and allow the Mets to crawl away with a victory.

On the offensive side for the Mets, Jose Alvarado made a horrible mistake by waking up a sleeping giant on Friday. Donnie Stevenson was born and has led the Mets to two victories against the Philadelphia Phillies.

Before diving into Alvarado’s lack of control, who would have thought Kevin Pillar and Jonathan Villar would begin a Mets comeback? In the eighth, Pillar brought the Mets within a run with his home run against Brandon Kintzler. Villar found just enough space to record a single up the middle, then wreaked havoc on the bases.

Bullpen Issues on Both Sides

Kintzler spent plenty of time occupied with Villar’s speed over the next two batters. With Villar on the move, Jose Peraza lined a single, and it banged right off the first baseman Hoskins glove. If Hoskins snagged it, the Phillies get a double play to end the inning, but it kept the Mets alive. Once Hoskins picked up the ball to make matters worse, he lobbed it back to the infield, and aggressive baserunning from Villar caught the Phils napping to tie the game.

Revenge is a dish best served cold, and the Mets handed a frozen platter to Alvarado. After allowing a first-pitch single, Alvarado walked Francisco Lindor and Michael Conforto consecutively to give the Mets a 5-4 lead. Phillies manager Joe Girardi turned the ball over to David Hale, who provided little relief. Pete Alonso blew the door wide open with a bases-clearing double to cap off the rally and give the Mets an 8-4 lead.

David Peterson looked like he would leave his start early after the Phillies were hitting rockets off him. A masterful double play from McNeil and Lindor gave Peterson all the momentum he needed to allow him to survive. Peterson did more than survive by getting through five innings, holding the Phils to just one run, and recording eight strikeouts.

Why Diaz?

For both team’s bullpens, making it out alive was the name of the game. At first, it looked like Miguel Castro would become the only casualty. Castro allowed a three-run homer to Didi Gregorius in the sixth inning, giving Phillies a 4-2 lead. The bullpen was due to hit a bump in the road. Heading into the night, they had thrown 18 consecutive scoreless innings.

Manager Luis Rojas managed the game very well until he decided to use Diaz when he did not need to. Rojas easily could have turned to Familia, Sean Reid-Foley, or Robert Gsellman with Diaz as an insurance policy. It was evident from a four-pitch walk that Diaz would not be at his best and resulted in suffering an injury.

Somehow the Mets are 11-11 and back to a tie for first place in the NL East. They will head to St. Louis to face the Cardinals for a four-game series starting on Monday. Even though it was ugly, the Mets needed to get a couple of wins on the board and hope to carry their momentum on the rest of the road trip.

 

Knicks sweep Rockets for the first time in 18 years, inch closer to playoffs

Houston Rockets rookie coach Stephen Silas first saw this type of New York basketball almost three decades ago when he was a Knicks ball boy.

His father, Paul Silas, was one of former Knicks coach Pat Riley’s assistants in 1992. The younger Silas, a high school kid back then, relished the moment of picking up the ball for Patrick Ewing and co. and watching them play tough and physical from the Garden stanchion during the Knicks’ glory days. 

On Sunday night, he watched a reincarnation of that old Knicks squad crushed his young Rockets team in a 122-97 masterclass at the Toyota Center.

“They will try to grind you down, almost like they used to be when I was a ballboy for the Knicks with Patrick (Ewing) and Oak (Charles Oakley) and Mark (Jackson,)” Silas said before the game. They are a tough team.”

On top of that impenetrable defense, the Knicks continued to showcase their impeccable outside shooting. They fired 18 threes on an efficient 51.4 percent clip to kickstart May after leading the league in three-point accuracy (42.2 percent) last month. 

Tom Thibodeau, who indirectly came from the Riley coaching tree via Jeff Van Gundy, has successfully blended the old Knicks’ defensive toughness with an offense that is more in tune with modern times. 

The Rockets fell prey to the league’s top three-point defense, hitting only eight three-pointers. The Knicks held them to 43 percent shooting from the field and 22.9 percent from deep.

Julius Randle got plenty of rest for the second game of their back-to-back schedule tomorrow night in Memphis.

Randle led the Knicks with 31 points in just 30 minutes. It was the eighth time in the last 10 games Randle put up at least 30 points.

The first-time NBA All-Star added seven rebounds and six assists as he received MVP chants on the road. After Randle knocked down back-to-back treys that broke the game wide open in the third quarter, Knicks executive vice president and senior advisor William Wesley aka World Wide Wes, could not contain his emotion and admiration. The Knicks top executive’s animated celebration appeared to be a validation of his offseason move that pushed Randle to All-Star level.

Already assured of at least a play-in spot, the Knicks have higher aspirations, and it showed in their performance tonight that set the tone for their six-game West Coast trip.

The win pushed the Knicks closer to ending their seven-year playoff drought. Even if they drop all their remaining games, the Knicks are still assured of a .500 season. The hottest team in the league, winners of 11 of their last 12 games, continue to hold 1.5 games lead over the Atlanta Hawks and the Miami Heat — both sporting a 35-30 record — for the fourth seed in the East. The Knicks hope to maintain that sole position that comes with a homecourt edge in the first round of the playoffs.

But the win proved costly, though as Nerlens Noel rolled his ankle with 6:57 left in the third quarter and did not return.

The Knicks are already without Mitchell Robinson, who Thibodeau said has no timetable yet for his return. 

The ageless Taj Gibson gave the Knicks a huge lift off the bench with six points and five rebounds in 31 minutes. He had a game-high plus/minus plus-36. Derrick Rose came next with plus-35 in a huge offensive night.

Rose caught up with his former Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek, who currently serves as a Rockets assistant, before the game. Then he proceeded to match his season-high scoring with 24 points on 8-of-11 shots. Ten years removed from being the league’s youngest MVP, Rose is blooming once again. The 32-year old guard added six rebounds, four assists, and one steal. 

He spearheaded the Knicks bench which exploded for 50 points that complemented Randle’s big night.

Immanuel Quickley joined the party with 13 points and three threes, including one near the center court logo.

RJ Barrett barrelled his way to 21 points, seven rebounds, five assists, and two steals in 40 minutes.

The Rockets gave Silas a semblance of hope when they led, 15-10, in the first quarter. But it turned out to be their last gallant stand as he was quickly reminded of the old Knicks team he used to watch up close in the 90s. 

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

NASCAR: Kyle Busch earns a birthday sweep at Kansas

A multitude of cautions led to a two-lap shootout at Kansas, where birthday boy Kyle Busch won his first NASCAR Cup Series race of 2021.

With a name like the Buschy McBusch Race 400, it was only appropriate that one of the Busch brothers earned their first NASCAR Cup Series win at Sunday’s event at Kansas Speedway.

The younger Kyle Busch took the honors on Sunday, celebrating his 36th birthday with the 58th victory of his Cup Series career. Busch also won the Camping World Truck Series event on Saturday night. On the premier Cup level, he survived a wild two-lap shootout brought on by a late multitude of cautions to earn the victory. Kevin Harvick finished second, followed by Brad Keselowski, Matt DiBenedetto, and Chase Elliott.

Busch’s win is involved in several historical marks. He reties Harvick at 58 career Cup Series wins, becoming the 10th driver to reach that tally, and has now won at least one Cup race in each of the last 17 seasons, tying David Pearson for the second-longest such streak of all-time (Richard Petty leads at 18). Busch also becomes the second driver to win multiple races on his birthday, joining Cale Yarborough. A previous celebration came at Richmond in 2009. The victory also came at an emotional time for Busch, as he and his wife Samantha have been open about their struggles with fertility. Samantha did not attend Sunday’s race, encouraged by Kyle to take their five-year-old son Brexton to his own racing event.

The Kansas race ran incident-free for over 200 laps before the course of the event changed during the final cycle of green-flag pit stops. A loose tire from Tyler Reddick’s No. 8 stall landed at the edge of the divide between pit road and the infield. Race officials opted to wait until every car pitted before waving the yellow flag for debris.

That yellow ended the domination of Kyle Larson, who led a race-high 132 laps and held a large lead over Busch when the yellow came out with 37 laps to go. That caution begat three others, as separate incidents removed Denny Hamlin, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., and Christopher Bell from contention. Busch took the lead at lap 257 of 267, shortly before a wreck between Bell and Stenhouse also took out Ryan Preece.

Busch’s No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota began the final restart starting next to Ryan Blaney, who a push from Larson behind him. That shove was a bit too strong, as Blaney got loose, removing them both from victory consideration, and relegating Larson to 19th and Blaney down to 21st. Busch thus drove away for the win, becoming the 10th different driver to win over the 2021 season’s first 11 races. Kansas will host one of the ten playoff races later this fall.

The NASCAR Cup Series will return to action next weekend at Darlington Raceway, as the circuit celebrates its annual “throwback weekend” on Mother’s Day through the Goodyear 400 (3:30 p.m. ET, FS1).

KANSAS CITY, KANSAS – MAY 02: Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M’s Mix Toyota, celebrates after winning the NASCAR Cup Series Buschy McBusch Race 400 at Kansas Speedway on May 02, 2021 in Kansas City, Kansas. (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images)

Race Notes

  • William Byron finished ninth, extending his streak of top ten finishes to a series-long nine.

 

  • With his fourth-place finish, DiBenedetto is now the current holder of the final NASCAR Cup Series playoff spot, holding it by 12 points over Kurt Busch.

 

  • Keselowski, the pole sitter, led the first 72 laps after winning last weekend’s race at Talladega.

 

  • Matt Mills made his Cup Series debut in a Ford owned by competitor BJ McLeod, finishing 38th.

For full results, click here

For full standings, click here

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

Newly-obtained future draft picks give the New York Giants insurance at quarterback

New York Giants, Daniel Jones

The New York Giants are a rebuilt team with an incredibly bright future. That is more evident now than ever after the 2021 NFL Draft.

The Giants operated like a brand new team during this year’s draft. Dave Gettleman did what he has never done before and traded down. Gettleman and the Giants traded down not once, but twice in this year’s draft. The Giants made the big move to trade down in the first round with the Chicago Bears, fielding a 2022 first-round pick, a 2022 fourth-round pick, and a 2021 fifth-round pick.

The Giants gained incredible value when acquiring those future draft picks. Those picks make the Giants’ future even brighter as they continue to build a young, talented, and competitive roster. But those picks also give the Giants insurance for the future regarding the most important position in sports: the quarterback.

How the future capital gives the Giants quarterback insurance

The Giants’ future draft picks obtained via trade this past weekend are hugely important. Not only does the capital give the Giants extra picks to add more young talent to their roster, but it also gives them flexibility going forward with their quarterback situation.

Daniel Jones, right now, is the guy. But this is widely considered to be his “prove-it” year. If Jones cannot succeed and compete now with the number of weapons New York surrounded him with this offseason, then it is hard to see him turning it around at any point.

First-round picks are the most valuable commodity in the NFL other than the quarterback position. But first-round picks are also used to obtain greater quarterback talent. The 49ers had to give up three first-round picks and more to obtain the third overall pick in this year’s draft and draft a quarterback.

If Daniel Jones does take the Giants to the playoffs in a breakout season, then New York can sit happily knowing they have their guy and have extra draft picks to continue building around him next year and beyond.

If Daniel Jones proves that he is not the guy this year, the Giants now have some extra capital to move up and get a new signal-caller in next year’s draft class (which is projected to be loaded with quarterback talent). New York gave themselves insurance and flexibility at quarterback by obtaining extra picks in next year’s draft.

Yankees: Corey Kluber breaks down his shutout performance versus Detroit

New York Yankees, Corey Kluber

The Yankees took down the Tigers by a score of 2-0. It was New York’s second shutout of the series and their 14th win of the year. They are finally back to .500 after a big sweep of Detroit this weekend. 

Corey Kluber was fantastic. After a dominant start against the Orioles last Tuesday, Kluber began right where he left off. Within the first four innings, Kluber had tallied eight strikeouts. He also only allowed one hit through his first five innings. The use of his changeup was the difference in this one. He had fourteen swings and misses on his changeup. His career-high before today was only seven. Kluber finished his outing with eight innings pitched and ten strikeouts. That was his first ten strikeout performance since 2018. 

Even though Kluber started the season slowly, his stuff had been getting better after each start. He remained confident that his movement pitches were improving and that his accuracy was becoming more consistent. With back-to-back impressive outings from Kluber, I think it’s safe to say he’s in his mid-season form.

So, what changed?

After the game, Kluber was asked about his performance. He said, “it felt good to go out there and execute from start to finish,” and that it was “fun” to go out there and pitch well. He also said his success today was because of his ability to “mix pitches.” He said they could tell the lefties were “jumping” on the inside pitches, which allowed him to mix it up. Kluber finished by saying that this was a continuation of his start in Baltimore and that he is finishing his “building up” process. 

The media also met with Kyle Higashioka after today’s win. He said that the first time through the order is when he realized Kluber had his stuff. Saying that he thought he was really “locked in.” He said that when a pitcher throws the way Kluber did that it’s “really fun” and that Kluber’s stuff was something out of a “video game.” Higashioka also said he was very impressed with Kluber’s changeup. Stating that “the change in speeds” and ability “to move it all around the zone” was very impressive. 

Overall, you can tell Kluber was locked in today. The way he located his pitches from start to finish was something we haven’t seen from Corey this year. Kluber established some consistency with back-to-back great outings. In Kluber’s first four starts, he only pitched a total of 15 innings. However, in his last two, he’s pitched 14 innings. Kluber is now providing much-needed length and efficiency for New York. 

New York Yankees Recap: Kluber’s brilliance wins a pitcher’s duel for the sweep

The New York Yankees met the Detroit Tigers today for the finale of the series, hoping for a sweep of the Tigers. Today Corey Kluber was on the mound for the Yankees and Jose Urena for the Tigers. The Yankees have scored 16 runs in the first two games and the Tigers only 4. The Yankees have won 7 of their last 10 games, the pitching has been there, and the hitting has picked up dramatically.

In the first inning, Robbie Grossman faced Corey Kluber, and he ground out to first. Jeimer Candelario struck out, and Miguel Cabrera ground out to third for a 1-2-3 inning for Kluber. At the bottom of the first, DJ LeMahieu faced Jose Urena, and he ground out to short. Giancarlo Stanton had a line drive single to short. Aaron Judge hit a long fly out to center. Rougie Odor ground out to second to end the scoreless inning.

At the top of the second, Jonathan Schoop led off by striking out. Harold Castro struck out swinging. Niko Goodrum struck out also for a strikeout of the side. Gio Urshela played shortstop today; he singled on a slow roller. Aaron Hicks walked, and Urshela moved to second on a loose ball. Mike Ford hit a long fly out to moving Urshela to third base. Kyle Higashioka lined a double down the left-field line scoring Urshela and moving Hicks to third. Brett Gardner sac flew to the right-field wall scoring Hicks. LeMahieu struck out. New York Yankees 2 Tigers 0.

Wilson Ramos led off the third inning with a walk. Akil Baddoo broke his bat, then got Kluber his 5th strikeout. JaCoby Jones singled to no man’s land in center, moving Ramos to second. Grossman was getting a changeup, the ball got loose from Higgy, and the runners moved up. Grossman struck out for Kluber’s sixth strikeout. Candelario made it seven strikeouts. Stanton led off the bottom, flying out to shallow center. Judge chopped out to third base. Rougie Odor ground out to end the inning. Yankees 2 Tigers 0.

At the bottom, one short of Babe Ruth’s record of 2,873 hits, Miguel Cabrera, but he struck out. Schoop popped out to third. Castro ground back to Kluber for another 3 up 3 down inning. Urshela led off the bottom, grounding out to short. Hicks ground out to first. Ford ground out to third as the Yankees went down in order. Yankees 2 Tigers 0.

Goodrum led off the fifth and ground to second. Ramos ground out to Odor. Baddoo swing and a miss for Kluber’s ninth strikeout. At the bottom, Higashioka struck out. Gardner ground out. LeMahieu ground out for a very fast inning for both pitchers. Yankees 2 Tigers 0.

Starting the sixth inning with Kluber still on the mound with 72 pitches, Jones ground out. Grosman lined out sharply to Odor. Candelario singled for the second Tiger hit. Cabrera chopped to third, ending the half. At the bottom, Stanton led off striking out swinging. Judge struck out. Odor full out as the Yankees went down 13 in a row. Yankees 2 Tigers 0.

Schoop led off the top of the seventh inning by grounding out. Castro ground out to Urshela. Goodrum ground out for another 1-2-3 inning for Kluber. Urshela struck out at the bottom. Hicks went down looking. Mike Ford went down looking. Urena had put down 16 in a row for the Tigers. New York Yankees 2 Tigers in what had become a pitchers duel.

The eighth inning, with Kluber still on the mound, Ramos ground out. Baddoo popped out to foul territory in right. Jones struck out for Kluber’s 10th strikeout in a brilliant outing.  Higashioka led off the bottom, striking out. Gardner struck out. LeMahieu ground out. Yankees 2 Tigers 0.

With the last licks on the line for the Tigers at the top of the ninth, Robbie Grossman faced the New York Yankees closer, Aroldis Chapman. He flew out to Hicks. Candelario struck out Miguel Cabrera struck out for the final out of the game. The final score was the New York Yankees 2 and the Detroit Tigers. The Yankees got the sweep of the Tigers. The winning pitcher was Corey Kluber, and the loser was Jose Urena, with the save going to Aroldis Chapman.

 

Why the New York Giants’ offensive line might be better than we think

New York Giants, Andrew Thomas, Matt Peart

Many are still concerned about the New York Giants’ offensive line heading into the 2021 season. According to PFF, their OL ranked near dead last in pass-blocking efficiency last year and average in run blocking, indicating upgrades are required. Still, there are a few factors we should consider before claiming this unit has terrible.

In fact, when you look at each individual position, you see plenty of reasons why they struggled in 2020, which is why last year isn’t a good sample size to utilize for their future potential. That is a primary reason why general manager Dave Gettleman and head coach Joe Judge didn’t jump to conclusions and draft an OL with a high draft selection.

Going through each position on the New York Giants offensive line:

LT: Andrew Thomas

When looking at Andrew Thomas objectively, you quickly see that he allowed 10 sacks and 39 hurries last year in his rookie season. He struggled considerably at times, but after Marc Colombo was fired, he saw improvements across the board, especially in pass blocking.

However, Thomas dealt with an ankle sprain injury that required surgery in the off-season, which he suffered during training camp before the regular campaign even began. He battled the entire year with discomfort and having alleviated that pain, he should be 100% in 2021 with even more consistent coaching.

I believe Thomas will have a nice bounce-back season in year two, and having a bit of continuity in the trenches is also beneficial. The same offensive scheme under Jason Garrett, with additional layers added, will be helpful in his progression and harass coach Joe Judge made sure to get him the proper coach to help build strengths and not work backward with Rob Sale.

LG: Will Hernandez

One of the weaker players for the Giants in 2020 was Will Hernandez, who had trouble next to Thomas at left guard. When your left tackle is being beaten inside, a cardinal sin for OTs, it causes problems for everyone around him, including Hernandez, who was hit with one sack and allowed 19 hurries. In addition, Hernandez contracted COVID-19 and never returned the same, battling fatigue for the second half of the season.

Hernandez seems to have lost a bit of weight to fit the Giants’ schematics more appropriately. They like to utilize pulling guards across the formation, and Hernandez should have a bit more agility and quickness to his game this upcoming season, which I think will be an added benefit.

C: Nick Gates

Nick Gates spent his 2020 season adapting to an entirely new position he had never played before. Having played right tackle and right guard previously with the Giants, he made a swift transition to the interior, getting better as the season progressed. However, it was only fair to give him time to learn the ropes at his new position, and he ended up being one of the stronger points on the line to close the campaign. 2021 should offer a far more consistent season with more continuity around him.

RG: Shane Lemieux/Zach Fulton

The real problem is right guard, a position the Giants didn’t address in the draft after cutting Kevin Zeitler to leave a void. They currently have Shane Lemieux and Zach Fulton as their two options, and while there’s reason to believe that Lemieux can develop adequately, there’s not enough proof to justify him being the only option. Without a preseason last year or in-person training, Lemieux did not get the proper coaching entering the 2020 season. However, with a full off-season of work and a real training camp to get things going, I believe them you will take a step forward, which will prove to be beneficial.

Shane was PFF’s worst graded guard in 2020, but based on the factors that influenced not only him but every other player on the line, we should give him the benefit of the doubt going forward.

RT: Nate Solder/Matt Peart

The right tackle position is another one that might cause confusion for fans. Nate Solder opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19, and Matt Peart contracted the virus, which limited his snaps down the stretch and hurt his stamina. I do believe a rotation at RT would be beneficial as they start the new season, allowing them to engage in a position battle. Solder hasn’t played right tackle since his rookie season, and Peart is going into his second year in the NFL, so the Giants are hoping for a nice jump in efficiency.

Ultimately, Matt did show prowess in the run-blocking category but struggled in pass protection. He has the adequate size and strength to be a great option on the right side, but he needs more live reps to get to where he needs to be.

I believe the Giants are higher on Peart than we think, and I see why based on his tangible traits. He’s another player that deserves another opportunity to show he can be an answer instead of a problem at right tackle.

Knicks News: Alec Burks COVID update, Rockets must be crushed

New York Knicks, Alec Burks

After a few days of rest, the New York Knicks are gearing up to take on the Houston Rockets on Sunday, and veteran guard Alec Burks is available to return. However, the Knicks are taking it easy with the former first-round pick in 2011, as he fights his way back from COVID-19 in the fatigue that comes with it.

Head coach Tom Thibodeau wants to make sure that Burks is 100% healthy and his stamina is up to par before utilizing him in one of the most important road trips of the year for New York. The Knicks will take on the Houston Rockets on Sunday and take their talents to the West Coast shortly after, where they will play the Phoenix Suns, LA Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers, and San Antonio Spurs.

Having Burks available will be extremely influential, and while the Knicks managed to win without him while he recovered from Covid, he has played a massive part in their success this year.

“He’s got to get his conditioning up to speed,” Thibodeau said. “When he’s comfortable, we’ll get him in there.”

Burks is averaging 12.6 points, 2.2 assists, and 4.5 total rebounds per game over 25.8 minutes. He is shooting .414 from the field and .408 from beyond the arc, the best success rate in his entire career. As not only a veteran mentor for the youngsters, he curates instant offense for a team that has lacked in the category at times.

Despite his loss the past few weeks, Thibodeau understands that his team is extremely deep, and they managed to win games without him, but gaining him back is important.

“I think it’s one of the strengths of our club in that we do have a deep team,” Thibodeau said.

Not only do the Knicks have an extremely deep team, but they all also have the same mindset and mentality towards victory. They understand that every single game has significant importance toward their playoff hopes, as they currently said, 1.5 games ahead of the Atlanta Hawks and Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference.

New York Yankee Legends: Tough love Joe Girardi, Mr. determination

New York Yankees, Yankees, Joe Girardi

The New York Yankees had Joe Girardi both as a player and a manager. Joe’s middle name is Elliot, but it should be determined. Joe Girardi was a pretty average player and a catcher with little hitting ability, and often as a catcher let runners run on him, but he was determined to get better. He was determined to call the best game he could in handling pitchers, and that he did.

He was determined to take a young inexperienced Florida Marlins club, a club with the lowest payroll in baseball, to heights it had not seen, and he did, almost to the wild card game and was named the Manager of the Year. He was determined to take the Yankees to another World Series, and he did that too. After not having his Yankee contract renewed, he was determined to get back as a manager; he did that, in 2020, he was named the new manager of the Philadelphia Phillies.  They ended the season third in the NL East; this year, they are number one.

Joe Girardi’s style was to be strict but not any more demanding of others than himself. Born on October 14, 1964, the fourth of five children, he grew up in Peoria, Illinois. His Dad Jerry was a salesman but did a variety of other jobs. His Mom Angela was full-time as a child psychologist. His mother and father died early in life, his father of early-onset Alzheimer’s, and his mother of ovarian cancer.

Joe credits his father with his determination and the many things he taught the young Joseph. At the age of 12, he would play with his older brothers and their friends; Joe liked playing shortstop but caught because no one else would do it. He later in life would credit his brothers for helping him improve his game. He would say when you play with those older than you, you are forced to get better.

Joe’s sports history

The young Girardi was multi-talented, playing basketball, football and baseball through high school. In 1983 he would enroll in Northwestern University. He played for the Northwestern Wildcats baseball team, where he was a two-time All-Big Ten selection and a three-time Academic All-American. At the end of the 1986 semester, he would earn his bachelor’s degree in engineering. Girardi was a popular student at Northwestern; he was the first-ever freshman to be elected president of a fraternity at Northwestern.

The Chicago Cubs drafted him in 1986 and sent him to Single-A Peoria. He got off to a hot start hitting near .330. He ended the season batting .309 with Peoria, .280 with Carolina in 1987, and .272 with Double-A Pittsfield in 1988. In 1989 he would meet Don Zimmer, who was then the Cubs manager. He would make his major league debut on April 4th. He hit a single and scored the first run of the season for the Cubs. In his rookie year with the Cubs, Girardi batted .248 with a home run and 14 runs batted in (RBIs) in 59 games. In 1990, he played in 133 games, batting .270 with a home run and 38 RBIs. In 1991, he played in only 21 games, batting .191 with 6 RBIs. In 1992, he played in 91 games, batting .270 with a home run and 12 RBIs.

After the 92 season, he was traded to the Colorado Rockies. Joe loved playing at Mile High Stadium. In his first year with the Rockies in 1993, he played in 86 games, batting .290 with five triples, three home runs, and 31 RBIs. In 1994, he played in 93 games, batting .276 with four triples, four home runs, and 34 RBIs. In 1995, he played in 125 games batting .262 with a career-high 8 home runs and 55 RBIs. At the end of the season he would be traded to the New York Yankees.

Joe Girardi becomes a New York Yankee

Joe would become the New York Yankee’s catcher. On May 14, 1996, Girardi caught Dwight Gooden’s no-hitter. Girardi played in 124 games during the 1996 season, batting .294 with two home runs and 45 RBIs. During the World Series against the Braves, Girardi would hit a triple that helped the Yankees win that game, and ultimately the World Series. In 1997 Girardi would get a new backup catcher in the 25-year-old Jorge Posada; the pair would share the backstop position for the next 3 years when Posada would become the primary catcher. In 1999 his last year with the Yankees, Girardi would call his second perfect game, this one for David Cone. There are very few catchers that have ever caught two perfect games.

In 2000 Joe would be back with his debut team, the Chicago Cubs. He would be named to the All-Star team that year. But in 2002, he would be called upon to speak to the Cub crowd at Wrigley Field. The game that day was nationally televised between the Cubs and the Cardinals. The Cardinal pitcher was to be Darryl Kile, but Kile had been found dead at his home. Girardi approached the mic before stands filled with fans and announced “due to a tragedy in the Cardinal family” that there would be no game that day. He asked all fans to be respectful of the matter as they found out about it on their own and to pray. After the season, Joe would play in 16 games with the Cardinals. With his hitting declining, he would retire as a player after the season. He would become a YES Network commentator in 2004.

Joe’s coaching and managerial career

Joe Girardi became Joe Torres bench coach in 2005, while still holding down some of his YES work in the “Kids on Deck” program. Girardi was a broadcaster for the third, fourth, and fifth games of the 2006 World Series on the Fox Network. During the offseason in 2005, Girardi would be named the new manager of the Florida Marlins. He had a young inexperienced team that had the lowest player salary in the majors.

He often had fights with owner Jeff Loria. In 2006 Girardi brought his hapless team almost to the Wild Card game and was named Manager of the Year, but he would be fired due to conflicts with Lori. After being considered as the manager for the Cubs and Nationals, he returned to the YES booth in 2007. Joe Torres winning ways would come to an end when Torre and the Yankees couldn’t agree to a contract. The Yankees considered Don Mattingly, Tony Pena and Girardi, they ultimately gave Joe the job, and he signed a 3-year contract.

In 2008 Joe would appear on the field with the number 27 on his back, signaling that he was bound and determined to get the New York Yankees to their 27th World Championship. In 2008 the Yankees would miss the playoffs for the first time in fourteen years, and fans would say they should never have gotten rid of Joe Torre. But the fact was they won 89 games with a flawed team that was poorly caught and ineffectively pitched. In 2009 the New York Yankees management brought on CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Nick Swisher, and Mark Teixeira. In his second year, Joe Girardi would take the Yankees to their 27 World Series win defeating the Philadelphia Phillies.

Although the 2008 team through the 2010 team appreciated Girardi’s tough-love approach to managing, future teams would not be as accepting of it, and it would eventually lead to his contract not being renewed. In 2017 Girardi managed aggressively, and they won the AL East. With the new “Baby Bombers” Aaron Judge and Luis Severino leading the team in the battle for the East, Girardi would yank Severino in favor of reliever Chad Green and the Yankees would win 8-4 and advance to the ALDS.

In the ALDS against the Twins the New York Yankees would lose game one. In game two, Joe would mismanage horribly, yanking the starter CC Sabathia early in favor of Green. Green would load the bases, and Francisco Lindor would hit a grand slam for the Yankee loss. The Yankees would go on to win all of the elimination games and win the ALDS. The Astros would take the ALCS in seven games and, Joe’s time as the manager would be over. Several of the youngest players would express their disdain for Girardi, some saying it’s a long season; he wears you down.  Had the Astros not cheated in the 2017 ALCS,  Girardi may not have been fired, something we may never know.

Since Joe’s departure, there has been an ongoing conversation on social media about the approach Girardi took to managing and that of Aaron Boone. The basic difference is that Boone is everybody’s friend, where Joe was the tough love father to the players. In an interesting piece today, EmpireSportsMedia.com’s Nathan Solomon made a Girardi/Sanchez comparison:

“Ever since Joe Girardi was fired by the New York Yankees, Sanchez hasn’t been the same. His average since the beginning of 2018 is just .199 with a .741 OPS. One of the main reasons why Girardi was fired had to do with his relationship between him and the catcher before Sanchez’s struggles began. But now, looking in hindsight, it may not also be just a coincidence that Sanchez has struggled since Girardi’s departure.”

Joe the broadcaster and Phillies manager

After the season Girardi would again go into broadcasting with several outlets, including the MLB Network. From the time he left the Yankees at the end of this season, Joe Girardi’s name came up several times as managerial openings came up. After two years in broadcasting, Joe Girardi is now the newly hired manager of the Philadelphia Phillies. Joe is still young (56), and it is too early to evaluate his managerial career. Joe is still loved by the Yankee faithful and several of the players. The Phillies will meet the Yankees at the Stadium on July 20th.

Personals

One thing that has never changed is that Joe carries his emotions on his sleeve. Things and events deeply touch him, never shy about showing his anger toward an umpire that he thought had made a bad call against the Yankees.  Tears ran down his face when he spoke about Yogi Berra’s death.  He visibly cried when both Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera left the field for the last time.  Joe Girardi is a good man, a very good man.

In 1990, he married his lovely wife, Kim Innocenzi-Girardi. The couple is also blessed with three children that are all now adults, named Lena Yvonne, Serena, and Dante. He is leading a blissful and happy family life. Her husband understands her profession and gives her the freedom to do her work the way she wants. The couple is enjoying their life a lot at their home that Joe purchased when with the Yankees, in Purchase, New York. In summer 2019, Wilson Premier League Joe coached his son, that looks remarkably like him.