New York Giants: No concern about Azeez Ojulari’s knee, says Gettleman

new york giants, azeez ojulari

It’s looking more and more like the New York Giants were able to get a steal in the second round of the NFL Draft. The team took Georgia pass rusher Azeez Ojulari, who was one of the top ranked prospects at his position and definitely a first round talent. One of the main reasons for his fall into the second round is a knee problem that was reported a week before the draft. However, that problem appears to be of little concern to Dave Gettleman and the Giants.

Gettleman came out on WFAN on Monday and said that he didn’t know where the knee rumors came from. He also pointed out that the Giants had no concerns about Ojulari’s knee.

This seems in line with Ojulari’s college career. He did suffer an ACL tear in high school, but was a healthy player throughout his college career and further examination by James Andrews reportedly didn’t turn up any problems. The rumors about a degenerative knee condition came up only a week before the draft, and the exact source of where these ideas came from hasn’t been revealed.

If it’s true that there’s no real knee problems with Ojulari, it looks like the Giants came away with a massive steal due to his highly rated status before the draft. After all, some had linked Ojulari to the Giants with their first round pick in the weeks before the event. But after his slide, the Giants were able to acquire him without even spending a first round pick.

New York Yankees Recap: Astros punished by the Yankees for cheating

New York Yankees, Giancarlo Santon

The New York Yankees met up tonight with its most hated rival, the Houston Astros, at Yankee Stadium for the first time since they were charged with sign stealing in the 2017 season. The Yankees lost out on a possible World Series appearance and a Rookie of the year award from slugger Aaron Judge in his rookie year. The tension between the two clubs was obvious, although several Astros players said it would be no different from the boos they have been getting since the MLB decision was reached. Tonight the Yankees Domingo German faced the Astros Zack Greinke.

In the first inning, Domingo German faced the most hated Astro in Jose Altuve, and he struck out. Michael Brantley ground out. Alex Bregman homered to left for the lead in the game. Yordan Alverez struck out, but the Astros picked up a run. At the bottom, DJ Lemahieu singled. Giancarlo Stanton hit a monster two-run home run to left. Aaron Judge walked. Gio Urshela singled, moving Judge to second base. Gleyber Torres, still with no outs, walked to load the bases. Clint Frazier hit into a double play. Aaron Hicks ground out, but the Yankees brought three runners home. New York Yankees 3 Astros 1.

Yuli Gurril stuck out at the top of the second. Gorrea ground out. Kyle Tucker struck out for a 1-2-3 inning for German. At the bottom, Kyle Higashioka led off for the Yankees by grounding out. Rougie Odor stuck out. LeMahieu walked. Stanton ground out for a scoreless inning for both teams.

Myles staw led off the third inning by grounding out to short. Martin Maldonado ground out to Odor. Altuve, still being loudly booed, struck out again. Aaron Judge led off the bottom and struck out against Greinke. Ursheal flew out. Torres ground out. Yankees 3 Astros 1.

Michael Brantley led off the fourth inning by hitting a blast into the upper stands of right field. Bregman struck out for German’s fourth strikeout of the game. Alverez singled to center. Gurril doubled, tieing the game at 3. Gorrea ground out, Gurril moved to third base. Tucker struck out for German’s sixth strikeout. Both teams tied at 3. Clint Frazier, at the bottom, went down looking. Hicks struck out. Higahisoka walked with two outs. Odor stuck out to end the inning. New York Yankees 3 Houston  Astros 3.

Myles Staw walked on four pitches to start the fifth inning. Staw was called out on review with a failed stolen base attempt. Maldonado flew out to Judge in right field. Altuve ground out to end the half. Top of the lineup for the Yankees at the bottom. LeMahieu faced Brandon Bielack and struck out. Stanton had standup double. Judge ground out to third. Urshela gave it a ride to the centerfield wall, but it was caught to end the scoreless inning. Yankees 3 Astros 3.

Domingo German out of the game, Lucas Luetge faced Brantley, who ground out to Urshela. Bregman singled to left. Alverez hit into a beautiful 6-5-3 double play turned by Odor to end the half. At the bottom of the sixth, Torres walked on four pitches. Frazier popped out behind first. Hicks singled to left, moving Torres to second base. Higashioka reached on a force out of Hicks. Odor faced the new pitcher Bryan Abreu and walked to load the bases with Yankees. LeMahieu doubled three runs in, but both Odor and the catcher Maldonado were hurt in the play at home. Odor had to be helped off the field. Maldonado finally left the field on his own power. Both were taken out of the game. Castro was the new catcher for the Astros. Stanton singled driving in LeMahieu. Judge went down on strikes to finally end the inning. New York Yankees 6 Houston Astros 3.

Gurril led off the seventh inning, singling off new pitcher Jonathan Loaisiga. Gorrea stuck out. Tucker hit into a double play ending the half. At the bottom, Urshela faced Andre Scrubb and flew out to center. Torres walked. Brett Gardner in for Frazier flew out to right for the second out. Torres stole second. Torres took third on a wild pitch. Hicks walked. Higashioka, with men on the corners and two outs, struck out, but the Yankees picked up another run. Yankees 7 Astro 3.

Wandy Peralta on the mound for the Yankees faced the Astro’s Staw, who struck out. Castro in for Maldonado singled to left. Altuve, still being booed, had a line drive directly to Tyler Wade at second. Brantley ground out to Wade to end the half. At the bottom, Tyler Wade in for Odor faced Joe Smith, ground out. Stanton got his fourth hit of the night. Judge singled, moving Stanton to third base Urshela walked, loading the bases. Torres ground out, leaving the bases loaded with Yankees. Yankees 7 Astros 3.

With last licks on the line for the Astros, Chad Green took to the mound to close it out for the New York Yankees. Alex Bregman struck out for the first out. Alverez singled over Urshela’s head. Gurril struck out swinging. And down to their last out, Gorrea flew out to Brett Gardner in left for the final out of the game.

The final score was the New York Yankees 7 and the Houston Astros 3. The winning pitcher was Lucas Luetge, and the loser was Brandon Bielak. The Yankees are now over .500.

 

UFC books Irene Aldana – Yana Kunitskaya

The UFC has finalized a matchup between top five bantamweights that will take place in July. Milenio was the first to report this evening that the promotion was booking a matchup between Irene Aldana (12-6) and Yana Kunitskaya (14-5, 1 NC).

The fight will take place at UFC 264 on July 10th. For Aldana, this will be her first fight since she lost to Holly Holm in October on Fight Island. Had Aldana won that fight, she might have earned herself a UFC title shot.

Heading into that fight, Aldana had gone 5-1 in her previous six UFC fights. Her best performance inside the octagon came at UFC 245 when she put top contender Ketlen Viera to sleep in the first round.

Aldana has incredible boxing and striking. However, she just couldn’t keep up with Holly Holm who looked better than ever in October. With how Amanda Nunes has dominated the UFC women’s divisions, she’s needing new contenders.

Neither one of these ladies has had a shot at Nunes. If Aldana is able to defeat Kunitskaya and do it impressively, she could be on the short list for Nunes assuming Nunes beats Julianna Pena at UFC 265.

UFC winning streak for Kunitskaya

Yana Kunitskaya had a UFC title opportunity back in 2018. Kunitskaya fought at featherweight and took on Cris Cyborg. Cyborg finished Kunitskaya in the first round and Kunitskaya returned to her natural division of 135 pounds.

Since moving back down to 135, Kunitskaya has gone 4-1. The lone loss came to Aspen Ladd in 2019 when she lost by TKO in the third round. Since then, she’s won back-to-back fights.

The last time we saw her was in February when she took on Ketlen Viera. The fight was pretty close, but a good closing round sealed the deal for Kunitskaya. If she’s able to defeat Aldana at UFC 264, it will be massive for her spot in the division. There is a lot on the line in this bantamweight matchup.

New York Rangers “Call Out” the NHL Department of Player Safety

The New York Rangers did something extremely unprecedented in sports history. In a Twitter posting, the Rangers called out the NHL and their Department of Public Safety over the lack of action in the Tom Wilson incident.

Also mentioned was the head of player safety, George Parros, as the Rangers all but called on him to resign.

Parros a retired American ice hockey player who played nine seasons in the NHL. Parros was part of the 2007 Stanley Cup-winning Anaheim Ducks. He was primarily an enforcer during his time in the NHL. Parros had joined the league’s Department of Player Safety in September of 2016. The next year, he was promoted to senior vice president of player safety. When he took the job, he was quoted as saying that “What uniquely positions me for the job is that I played the game as physically as anybody and I never once was fined or suspended.”

A person who has access to his Wikipedia page has added the word “clown” to his biography.

The New York Rangers are rightfully upset by the lack of action. On Monday night, Wilson pummeled a defenseless Pavel Buchnevich further into the ice and then “rag-dolling” a helmet-less Artemi Panarin. Between the two incidents, the Rangers clearly felt that was enough for Wilson to be suspended.

Instead, Wilson was hit with a small fine of $5000, the maximum allowable under the collective bargaining agreement, for “roughing” Buchnevich.

Earlier in the day, head coach David Quinn also condemned the league’s lack of discipline for Wilson, saying the Rangers as an organization was disappointed and that they believed what transpired “warranted a suspension.”

Quinn also talked about the team response of the Rangers, Other than talking about holding players accountable, he did not get into specifics about what that meant. He also did not comment about bringing up Hartford “enforcer” Mason Geertsen who is a 6-foot-4, 216-pound defenseman who has 43 penalty minutes in 18 games this season.

“We’ve talked about a lot of different scenarios,” was all Quinn would say publically.

 

New York Giants: There is still time to upgrade the offensive line

New York Giants, Cleveland Browns

The New York Giants just wrapped up a phenomenal 2021 NFL Draft. Dave Gettleman and the Giants traded down twice to get future picks and landed two first-round talents. Their draft class has been met with a ton of praise. However, one criticism of the Giants’ draft is that they failed to address the offensive line.

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.

Many New York Giants fans felt like the NFL Draft was the last opportunity to add upgrades to the offensive line. However, that is not the case. There is still time for the Giants to upgrade the offensive line.

How the Giants can still upgrade their offensive line

The Giants still have time to add reinforcements to their offensive line. New York’s front office and coaching staff has admitted they are far more confident in their offensive line than the general public, however, they did target offensive linemen in the NFL Draft. They were not able to draft the linemen they targeted, but they did sign two undrafted free agent offensive linemen (Brett Heggie, UF, and Jake Burton, Baylor).

There are also free agents currently on the market for the New York Giants to consider. One free agent offensive guard that makes sense for the Giants is Trai Turner. The former Carolina Panthers and Los Angeles Chargers offensive linemen has ties to Dave Gettleman. Turner was once regarded as one of the best offensive linemen in the NFL, making consecutive Pro Bowl appearances from 2015 to 2019. He struggled mightily in 2020, but he is only two years removed from a Pro Bowl season. The Giants could take a chance on Turner and hope to see him get his career back on track in 2021. Other intriguing free agent offensive linemen available are Lane Taylor, James Carpenter, Bobby Massie, Rick Wagner, and many others.

In addition to the offensive linemen already available on the market, there is certainly a new crop of hog mollies that will hit the market in the summer. As training camp inches closer, so does the wave of new cuts. Throughout training camp and preseason, teams will make cuts and a plethora of roster changes as they trim the fat and get down to the designated 55-man roster. The Giants will need to keep a close eye on the waiver wire this summer if they still want to find upgrades on the offensive line.

After loss at UFC Vegas 25, what’s next for Cody Stamann?

This past Saturday at UFC Vegas 25, Cody Stamann (19-4-1) was tasked with trying to stop Merab Dvalishvili (13-4). Dvalishvili had won five fights in a row leading into Saturday and The Spartan was trying to stop that winning streak.

These two men were scheduled to fight a couple of times over the last year. However, the fight always fell through. But, at UFC Vegas 25, we finally got to see these two talented bantamweights go to war.

Stamann was looking to bounce back after a loss in his last outing. On the UFC‘s first trip to Fight Island, Stamann took on Jimmie Rivera. It was a huge fight for Stamann, but he came up just a bit short.

Stamann started out his UFC career going 3-0. However, since then he was 2-2-1 heading into Saturday night. Well, unfortunately for Stamann, he wasn’t able to turn away the storm that is Merab Dvalishvili.

While Stamann was the one stepping forward throughout the fight, there was just nonstop action from Dvalishvili on Saturday night. Stamann had moments including getting the better of the grappling a few times, but ultimately, Dvalishvili controlled the fight. Ultimately, Stamann dropped a unanimous decision which brings him to just 2-3-1 in his last six fights.

What’s next after UFC Vegas 25?

Despite the loss, Cody Stamann remains in the UFC’s top fifteen at bantamweight. With the updated rankings coming out today, Stamann clocks in at the thirteenth position which is where he was before Saturday night.

With Stamann still inside the top fifteen, what should the UFC do with him next? There is one fight that I love for Stamann and the bantamweight division. That is a matchup with Casey Kenney (16-3-1).

Kenney is coming off of a loss to Dominick Cruz back at UFC 259. That loss snapped a three-fight win streak. Since making his octagon debut back in 2019, the only two men to have defeated Kenney inside the octagon are Cruz and Dvalishvili.

Kenney and Stamann find themselves in a very similar position. I think the best move would be the pair them up against each other to see who the better prospect is. Given the way their last fights went, I think the UFC could make this fight sooner than later.

Julius Randle becomes first Knick to win NBA Player of the Month since Carmelo Anthony

Julius Randle’s best NBA season yet has reached another new level.

After being named to his first All-Star Game and getting recognized with a Player of the Week honor recently, Randle got another feather on his cap.

Randle was named Eastern Conference’s NBA Player of the Month after leading the New York Knicks to an 11-4 record in April.

The Knicks’ hottest stretch in eight years saw Randle averaging 27.1 points, 9.0 rebounds, 6.3 assists, and 1.2 steals with 44/43/86 shooting splits. In that span, he had two 40-point games and seven games with at least 30 points.

He is the first Knicks player to average at least 25 points, five rebounds, and five assists, and 40 percent on three-point attempts in a calendar month, per Elias Sports Bureau.

The Knicks have won nine straight in April and have stayed hot, winning 12 of their last 13 games to firm up their hold of the fourth seed in the East with seven games left in their schedule.

Randle beat Washington’s duo Bradley Beal and Russell Westbrook, Atlanta’s Clint Capela, Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid, Cleveland’s Darius Garland, and Boston’s Jayson Tatum (BOS) in the East. Stephen Curry was named the Western Conference Player of the Month.

The 26-year old Randle became the first Knicks player to win the award since Carmelo Anthony did it in January 2014. Anthony made it twice as a Knick, while Patrick Ewing won the award five times during his illustrious run with the Knicks, making Randle just the third player in franchise history to get the award over the last 35 years.

This will not be the last time Randle will be recognized for his quantum leap this season. The Knicks’ All-Star forward is the frontrunner to win the Most Improved Player of the Year and is in the conversation for one of the All-NBA teams and perhaps can squeeze a few MVP votes.

Randle acknowledged the MVP conversation though he made it clear his focus is on leading the Knicks back to the playoffs after seven years of misery.

“For sure, I’m not going to shy away from it,” Randle said after he scored 28 points in the Knicks’ 14-point win in Memphis. “For me, it’s about getting better from game to game, improving as a player. I’m not focused on it. The praise obviously is great and everything but I’m not focused on it. For me, all I’m worried about is getting better, keep leading the team from game to game. Like I said before, our team, I feel like we can compete against anybody.”

The Knicks (37-28) currently have 1.5 games lead over the Atlanta Hawks (36-30).

Randle will have a chance to bolster his resume when the Knicks square up with the Denver Nuggets and MVP frontrunner Nikola Jokic on Wednesday.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

New York Yankees: Four prospects to watch as Minor League Baseball begins

New York Yankees, Austin Wells

After taking the 2020 season off due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Minor League Baseball is finally set to resume play. In the 18+ months since the last MiLB action, the entire farm system structure has changed, including a few affiliates being swapped for the New York Yankees. Scranton remains the Triple-A affiliate for the team, however, the Double-A affiliate is now the Somerset Patriots. Tampa has dropped down to Low-A, while the Hudson Valley Renegades have filled their spot as the High-A affiliate.

With Minor League Baseball resuming, that means that there will be plenty of prospects to keep an eye on throughout the season. Here is one prospect to watch for on each Yankees’ affiliate.

Low-A: Austin Wells (C)

2021 1st round draft pick Austin Wells will make his minor league debut with the Tampa Tarpons this week. Wells, 21, impressed throughout Spring Training and is a likely candidate to replace Gary Sanchez in the future.

That being said, Wells’s progression is something to keep an eye on throughout the season. If Wells performs well in 2021, he could potentially make it to Double-A come September, putting him in a position where he could be MLB ready by the end of the 2022 or the beginning of 2023.

High-A: Luis Medina (RHP)

Ranked 7th in the Yankees orgamization, Luis Medina is looking for a breakout season in the minors in 2021. He struggled in 2018 and 2019 in A-Ball, however, he’s two years older now and has had a ton of time to develop. The Yankees are very high on him and he could be an arm in the MLB rotation in a few seasons.

With prospects Clarke Schmidt and Deivi Garcia already proving themselves as MLB quality pitchers, Medina is essentially the No. 2 pitching prospect in the organization, only behind Luis Gil. If Medina starts off strong in 2021, he could quickly see a promotion to Double-A.

Double-A: Estevan Florial (CF)

Despite making his MLB debut in 2020, Estevan Florial finds himself in Double-A to begin the 2021 season. Currently the Yankees No. 2 outfield prospect behind Jasson Dominguez, Florial could potentially be an impact player for the Yankees this season. The team hasn’t had much production out of outfielders Clint Frazier, Aaron Hicks and Brett Gardner, meaning Florial could potentially be in the mix.

If Florial were to make the MLB roster at some point, a strong performance for him is key to his Yankee future. With Dominguez likely MLB ready in 2023, Florial would like to show that he belongs on the Yankees’ roster and that Dominguez’s route to the majors isn’t as easy as it’s hyped to be.

Triple-A: Deivi Garcia (RP)

Picking Deivi Garcia as the player to watch for this season in Triple-A is a difficult one. Many players on the Scranton/Wilkes Barre Railriders are either MLB veterans or lower-ranked prospects who have already made MLB appearances. However, with the expectation that Garcia will start games next season with the Yankees, we’ll go with Garcia.

2021 will likely see Garcia jump back-and-forth between the Triple-A and MLB roster, but he should hopefully get 25ish starts between the two teams. If Garcia can succeed at both levels this season, then it’ll put him in great shape to have a permanent MLB roster spot in 2022.

New York Mets: Francisco Lindor’s slump is getting ugly

One of the most disconcerting stories of the first month of the season, which is already on the books, is Francisco Lindor’s slump. The All-Star shortstop, appointed as the face of the revamped New York Mets when he signed a $341 million contract extension, has looked lost at the plate for much of the campaign.

Lindor went hitless again on Monday in the New York Mets’ loss against the St. Louis Cardinals, and is batting a putrid .163/.284/.209 with one home run and no stolen bases. The team offense appears to be in a nice little groove right now, having scored at least five runs in three straight games, but Lindor is still slumping.

To make matters worse for Mets’ fans, Lindor, a career .253 hitter with runners in scoring position, is hitting .063 this season in that particular scenario.

Lindor, the Mets’ second hitter, will probably stay there at least for a while longer, as manager Luis Rojas, according to MLB.com’s Savannah McCann, hasn’t mentioned the possibility of moving him down the order just yet.

“The last few days, with runners in scoring position, he hasn’t delivered,” said Rojas. “But think of it this way, where moving him to leadoff or to third, I mean, there’s not a lot of spots where you can drop in, because of what he can bring to a lineup. Being early May still, I think we trust that this kid is gonna turn around. He’s done it in the past.”

The Mets’ shortstop doesn’t have a hit in his last 24 trips to the plate

The Mets’ franchise shortstop doesn’t have a hit in his last 24 appearances, which raises some eyebrows.

“I think his presence, what he brings to the ballpark every day, all the guys energize from it, guys have gotten better because of him,” said Rojas. “You know, this guy’s not starting only because of his bat, he’s just starting because of all the other things that he does. Do we think his bat is going to come along? Yeah, I think his bat is gonna come along.”

Back in 2016 with the Indians, he had a 0-for-27 stretch. And everything turned out just fine for him.

He is still hitting the ball hard at a healthy rate, as his 40.5 hard hit rate suggests (similar to his registers in the last three seasons) but mostly to the ground: his 50.7 ground ball percentage is the highest since his rookie year.

When all is said and done, the Mets will be able to enjoy an All-Star shortstop. However, things are getting ugly right now.

The New York Rangers to lose Panarin after Wilson melee

After Wednesday’s practice, it was confirmed that the New York Rangers would be without Artemi Panarin for the final three games of the season.

Ryan Strome mentioned the news after Wednesday’s practice, as reported by the New York Post’s Mollie Walker. Head coach David Quinn later confirmed the news, stating that the injury did occur due to the actions done by Tom Wilson in Monday night’s game.

Walker reported that Strome made a point to say Wilson is a skilled player that can produce in this league but added, “I know it’s not my responsibility, but I just can’t believe that. It sends a bad message, in my opinion. I just think that the league missed one big time.” Strome also added that “I think it’s a joke, to be honest with you,” about the fine the NHL levied against Wilson.

Strome finished his statements about the NHL: “As players, you want the league to have your back in those situations. I just feel like they didn’t.”

Quinn echoed Strome’s sentiments, based on Walker’s reports of the press conference. “To me, anybody in hockey, certainly in our organization, is very disappointed. I certainly thought it warranted a suspension, which is really disappointing. A line was crossed. [Panarin] didn’t have his helmet on, vulnerable, he got hurt. You know, to me, there was an awful lot there to suspend him.”

Wilson only received the maximum $5000 fine from the NHL’s Department of Safety.

How will the New York Rangers respond?

Strome and Quinn were also asked how the Rangers would respond as the two teams meet again on Wednesday night.

According to Walker, Strome responded to the question of how the Rangers would respond by saying, “Just go and play hard. They have a big, strong team. They’re heavy. We know who we are. We know who they are. I don’t think there’s going to be anything crazy. It’s not the type of team we have.”

Some of the Ranger’s more physical players are out with injuries, including Chris Kreider and Ryan Lindgren. Quinn also stated that Lindgren and Jacob Trouba would miss the last three games of the season.

Quinn told the media that “We’ve talked about it as a team this morning. The fact is, we’ve got to protect each other. We’ve got to stick by each other, which is what we did last night. There are different ways to do it. The way we’re built, it’s not going to be a brawling situation.”

Walker asked Quinn about calling up Mason Geertson, a 6-foot-4, 216-pound defenseman with 43 penalty minutes in 18 games this season in Hartford. Quinn did confirm any scenarios but did say that “We’ve talked about a lot of different scenarios.”

The game between the two teams will be nationally televised on the MSNBC network.