New York Giants CB Sam Beal pleads guilty in legal case from 2020

New York Giants, Sam Beal

New York Giants cornerback Sam Beal will have one less thing pressing on his mind while he competes for a spot at the competitive position this year. He came into this offseason with a legal case still pending after he was arrested in Ohio last year, but that looks settled after he plead guilty and entered probation.

According to records reported on by NorthJersey.com, Beal plead guilty last Friday in exchange for two years of probation which will allow him to avoid a conviction on his record. The original arrest, which happened last June, took place near Cleveland and saw Beal charged with illegally carrying a concealed weapon as well as marijuana possession and the improper handling of a firearm.

With this out of the way, it seems like there won’t be anything keeping Beal from playing this season. Despite the ongoing case, after all, the Giants kept him on the roster. It looks unlikely that the guilty plea will affect his standing with the team, since the Giants haven’t done anything about the situation so far.

Their decision contrasts with how they handled the situation with DeAndre Baker, but the far more minor nature of this case compared to the accused armed robbery saga that Baker was wrapped up in has likely played a part in that fact.

Beal missed last season after opting out, and will have to compete just to stay on the roster after playing in far less games than he should have since being drafted. He’s largely struggled with injury, and his opt out last season continues the trend of him not getting on the field.

With the cornerback position getting far more competitive since when the Giants brought him on, he’ll have to be on the top of his game to avoid ending up on the list of roster cuts before the season.

New York Giants: James Bradberry a true shutdown cornerback

New York Giants, James Bradberry

The New York Giants‘ defense was one of the best in the NFL last season. New York relied on the strength of its top-tier secondary, headlined by Pro Bowl cornerback James Bradberry. The Giants signed Bradberry in the 2020 offseason and the acquisition was instantly a home-run.

James Bradberry and the New York Giants agreed to a three-year, $43.5 million contract last offseason. This made Bradberry one of the highest-paid cornerbacks in the NFL and he met those expectations. James Bradberry earned his first career Pro Bowl selection in 2020 but was snubbed from the official All-Pro teams. Regardless, Bradberry established himself as a true shutdown cornerback and will continue to fit the bill in 2021.

James Bradberry stats and highlights

For the first four years of his career, James Bradberry spent his Sundays chasing around some of the best wide receivers in the NFL as a member of the Carolina Panthers. Playing in the NFC South, Bradberry had to face the likes of Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, Michael Thomas, Mike Evans, and Chris Godwin twice per year.

James Bradberry gained valuable experience during his time in Carolina. He brought that experience to New York last year and dominated nearly every matchup he faced. James Bradberry had a breakout year in 2020. He set a new career-high with 18 passes defended, tied for the second-most in the NFL and only two behind Miami’s Xavien Howard for the league lead (Giants.com).

While 2020 was looked at as a breakout season for James Bradberry, he has quietly been one of the best boundary corners in the league for his entire career. James “Blanket” Bradberry leads the NFL in forced incompletions since 2018 with 42 total, putting him ahead of other stud corners like Carlton Davis and Stephon Gilmore (PFF).

The New York Giants have now paired James Bradberry with another stud cornerback on the outside. Adoree’ Jackson was signed this offseason to play opposite of Bradberry in 2021 and beyond. This will be one of the league’s best cornerback duos. Being surrounded with greater talent could lead to an even greater season from James Bradberry in 2021. Opposing wide receivers will be on lock all year by “The Blanket Bradberry.”

UFC 263 Fight Preview: Israel Adesanya – Marvin Vettori

Tomorrow night in the main event of UFC 263, we will see a rematch for the middleweight title. The undisputed champion Israel Adesanya (20-1) returns to the middleweight division to take on a familiar foe in Marvin Vettori (17-4-1).

Back at UFC 259, Adesanya attempted to become a two-division world champion by moving up and challenging Jan Blachowicz. Ultimately, Blachowicz handed Adesanya his first professional loss and Adesanya came up short in his attempt to become a champ-champ.

Now, The Last Stylebender is returning to his home weight class where he’s been perfect. Nobody has ever defeated Adesanya at 185 pounds and that includes Marvin Vettori. The two previously met in the UFC back in early 2018.

Adesanya won a split decision and to this day, Vettori believes he won the fight. Since then, both men have gone on impressive streaks. Vettori has strung together five consecutive wins to earn this shot at UFC 263.

Stylebender won seven straight before he came up short against Blachowicz. During that stretch, Adesanya defeated the likes of Robert Whittaker, Yoel Romero, Paulo Costa, Derek Brunson, and Kelvin Gastelum. Simply put, Stylebender is one of the best that the UFC has to offer.

UFC 263 Prediction

When it comes to the main event at UFC 263, Adesanya is the betting favorite for a reason. While Marvin Vettori has been very impressive, he hasn’t gone on a streak like Adesanya. Adesanya has beaten the best of the best at 185 pounds.

That said, Jan Blachowicz did show some wrinkles in Adesanya’s game. The UFC middleweight champion is incredibly difficult to take down, but if you can get him down, he didn’t show a great ability to get back to his feet. Granted, he was fighting Jan Blachowicz and Marvin Vettori is not Jan Blachowicz.

That said, Marvin Vettori can take a few things away from that fight. If Vettori can pressure Stylebender and make this fight dirty, he can definitely create some close rounds. Is he good enough and can he do enough to win three out of five rounds?

I’m not convinced of that. I think this fight is going to be very competitive, but I think the UFC champion will have the bigger moments throughout. Adesanya really wants to finish this fight, but I think it goes the distance.

Prediction: Israel Adesanya by Unanimous Decision

Three lessons the New York Jets can learn from their Islander friends

The New York Jets have been staples of the Islanders’ postseason tour on Long Island. Perhaps they can learn a thing or two along the way.

In following the New York Islanders’ run to the Stanley Cup Final, the New York Jets have traded in green and white for blue and orange. They’ve engaged in (Bud) light debauchery and have gone viral in the process as the Islanders are halfway through their quest for a fifth Stanley Cup hoist.

The next step of the journey begins on Sunday afternoon when the Islanders battle the defending champion Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena (3 p.m. ET, NBC). Nassau Coliseum will host the third, fourth, and (if necessary) sixth games of the series, and it’s very likely that members of the Jets will attempt to take their usual seats for those contests. 

Is it possible that, in their fun, they might actually learn a thing or two along the way?

Class is in session, courtesy of ESM…

Have Depth Stars

On Long Island: Save for Mathew Barzal (appearances in the last two exhibitions), the Islanders are not a team of perennial All-Stars. John Tavares’ absconding for Toronto was supposed to be their downfall, but they’ve responded with playoff series victories in three consecutive seasons while the Maple Leafs have been relegated to opening round exits.

The Islanders are a team that has gotten by with a group of gritty, skilled players whose union has worked wonders. Nothing showcases their depth and consistency better than the grouping of Casey Cizikas, Cal Clutterbuck, and Matt Martin, a trio of bottom-six forward staples since 2014. Nicknamed the “Identity Line”, NYI head coach Barry Trotz says that the group sets the tone for what they’re trying to accomplish on the ice.

“They give you impact. When they are playing the right way, they give you a little of that bite that you want,” Trotz said after a dominant January 2019 over Tampa, per Cory Wright of NewYorkIslanders.com. “They give you sort of that determination and speed on the puck and sort of an Islander identity. If there’s a line that’s sort of an identity line, well that’s the best way to describe them better than a fourth line because they give us an identity.”

In Florham Park: The Jets tried to go the big-spending route over the last few seasons, but marquee signings have not panned out. Right now, they’re actively paying Le’Veon Bell and Trumaine Johnson to keep their distance, for example.

Blessed with one of the highest offseason budgets in the NFL, it would’ve been easy for the Jets to fall to temptation and spend big money on a blockbuster talent (i.e. J.J. Watt). But once it became clear that the big names wanted to move on to contenders, the Jets bolstered their depth so more parts of the depth chart provide production and security.

This offseason has still seen some big contracts bestowed…Carl Lawson and Corey Davis are a combined $26 million cap hit…but many others signings have been about providing depth. They’re not the flashiest arrivals by any stretch, not the type of names that one can put on a parking lot light pole’s banner, but they’re the type of depth options the Jets needed at this point in time.

Jarrad Davis is a redemption-seeking first-round pick whose success in the 4-3 sets of the Florida Gators could come up big. At receiver, Davis is one of several names with the potential to become a No. 1 target. Denzel Mims and Jamison Crowder return from last year’s team, while Elijah Moore was drafted in the second round. Uncertainty lingers at tight end and in the secondary, but the Jets’ thriftiness could pay big dividends, as undrafted free agents Kenny Yeboah and Isaiah Dunn could come up big.

Make Sure Special Teams are Special

On Long Island: Since Trotz took over in 2018, the Islanders have improved by leaps and bounds in almost every major statistical category with the exception of their power play. New York ranked 20th in the final regulars season rankings with a man advantage, though they were the only team in the NHL that did not allow any shorthanded goals.

The Islanders, however, rose to the occasion on the penalty kill, coming home sixth in the category over the regular season. Doing it in the postseason has been a work in progress…they’ve killed off only 61.5 percent of their infractions…but the power play came to life in spectacular fashion in Monday’s Game 5 showdown in Boston. Facing a Bruins squad that led the league with an 86 percent kill rate during the regular season, the Islanders scored three power play goals that forever changed the course of the series. Barzal scored on a chance in the first period, while Kyle Palmieri and Jordan Eberle earned extra-man tallies in the second.

The power play success not only provided the difference in the goal category but more or less shifted the entire course of the game. Taking advantage of the opportunities allowed the Islanders to not only withstand a late Boston rush, but they were able to earn a momentum-shifting victory on a night where they were outshot 44-19.

In Florham Park: There’s major hope for the Jets entering the 2021 season, even if reaching the playoff is still a tall task for the time being. But there’s no doubt that they’re still developing, still a work in progress, particularly on an offensive end that’s debuting a new quarterback and receiving corps. Thus, special teams must be addressed.

Confidence for a developing offense can be built by getting points on as many drives that end in opposing territory as possible. That comes through reliable field goal kicking, an area where the Jets have fallen woefully short since Jason Myers left for Seattle. Chris Naggar has been brought in to compete with incumbent Sam Ficken for that role. General manager Joe Douglas has shown that he’s not afraid to use valuable assets to address special teams. He used the last pick of his first draft to pick up punter Braden Mann and has tried to fill in the Jets’ Andre Roberts-sized void at returned through additions in the 2021 draft (i.e. Michael Carter).

Perhaps the most telling sign of Jets management’s willingness to bolster the special unit came through the retaining of coordinator Brant Boyer, who has now survived the purges of both Todd Bowles and Adam Gase’s doomed staffs.

It All Starts at the Head

On Long Island: Again, no one expected the Islanders to be in his position three years ago. This, after all, was a team that just lost the face of its franchise, perhaps the one thing it had going for it since the immortal early 1980s.

The hire of Trotz in 2018, however, may go down as one of the most fateful moves in franchise history.

Trotz had already developed a reputation as a strong nurterer of young talent and helping woebegone franchises find their path. He put the Nashville Predators on the NHL map as the franchise’s original head coach (serving 16 seasons at the helm after their 1998 inception). He then moved on to Washington, where he helped the Capitals removed the playoff monkey from their backs. Only under Trotz has Alex Ovechkin been able to reach hockey Nirvana in the Stanley Cup Final.

Once Trotz was voted out of Capitol Hill due to a contract dispute, the Islanders pounced and have been reaping in the benefits ever since. Under Trotz, the Islanders have won playoff rounds in three consecutive seasons for the first time since their quartet of Cup hoists (1980-83). Trotz’s status as a players’ coach that is nonetheless willing to hold his guys accountable has been a delightful contrast to the recent slew of also-rans. Doug Weight’s animated style, for example, was refreshing when he first took the reins but it quickly ran its course.

Trotz credits his success to looking at his status as a head coach as not a position of superiority, but one that leads to a partnership with his players.

“I look at coaching, my time, as I’m in a partnership with the players,” Trotz told Mollie Walker of the New York Post in March. “We’re in a partnership to win hockey games. The other partnership is to make you the best version of yourself, whatever that version is.”

In Florham Park: There’s no doubt that, despite the nine-win ledger, that the Jets had some talent on their roster over the last two seasons, better known as the Adam Gase era. Look no further than the names the Jets gave up on before him: Robby Anderson, Avery Williamson, Le’Veon Bell, and Steve McLendon accounted for only part of the list. But help has arrived in the form of Robert Saleh,  whose hiring has been universally praised.

The difference between the arrivals of Saleh and Gase are best contrasted by player reaction to the news. While Gase’s landing was met with mostly indifference…and whatever honeymoon there was quickly ended when he won a power struggle against Mike Maccagnan…Saleh’s arrival has been praised by players both domestically and abroad. It’s created an energy field in Florham Park not seen since, arguably, the Rex Ryan days.

“You have to give him an unusual amount of credit, and I don’t think he’s getting enough credit not only here but in the league, in general,” former Saleh pupil Richard Sherman said of his potential as a head coach in December, per the Associated Press. “He’s able to rally men. He’s a leader of men and that goes a long way.”

As the Gase era showcased all too well, talent means nothing when the right man isn’t in charge. Though vital downs have yet to be played, it’s safe to say the Jets feel that they have found the perfect curator and developer in Saleh.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Yankees: Jameson Taillon defends Cole’s sticky situation

New York Yankees, Aaron Boone, jameson taillon

The Yankees pitching has been very reliable for New York this year. With up and down offensive performances, having a strong rotation and bullpen has been very important. They’ve been one of the most dominant pitching groups in baseball. A big reason for that is the presence of Gerrit Cole.

Gerrit Cole has been everything the Yankees could’ve imagined since signing him in 2019. This year specifically, he’s been putting up CY Young numbers. Recently, he’s been shaky. However, a great performance against the Twins on Wednesday put him back on track. 

It was especially encouraging to see Cole perform well with all the pressure from the media. Twins’ Josh Donaldson outed Cole as a possible foreign substance user. That made this matchup gain nationwide attention. Cole finished pitching six innings with only two runs allowed and punched out nine. Donaldson went 0-3 with two strikeouts against Cole. It was a great response from the Yankees’ ace.

Before the Twins’ dumbfounding comeback win last night, Jameson Taillon made comments regarding Cole and the situation. Taillon and Cole have a great relationship dating back to their days with the Pirates. They’ve become good friends throughout their careers.

Taillon started by saying that if the MLB is actually “taking things seriously,” (regarding illegal substances) then he’s “really excited” about it. He thinks “eliminating” the sticky stuff will help them as a group. Saying that he really wants the MLB to go clean and “level” the playing field. 

Regarding Gerrit Cole specifically, Taillon stated that “as a friend” it was tough to see. But he was “happy” Cole went out there on Wednesday and had a great start. He said he “doesn’t think sticky stuff is what makes Gerrit Cole, Gerrit Cole.” Taillon said he’s watched Cole throw bullpens and prepare for starts and thinks he will be the same if not better after this. Saying that this “might’ve” lit a fire under Cole.

Throughout the entire press conference, Taillon was very transparent about the situation. He gave some really good insight into the problem as a whole. Taillon seemed very confident that the Yankees would only improve from this being enforced more. It didn’t seem like he thought this would be a problem for any Yankee pitchers. 

After a very rough ending to a three-game set in Minnesota, the Yankees will travel to Philadelphia. Tune in as Taillon starts things off against the Phillies tomorrow evening!

Mets Game Preview: (6/11/21) vs. San Diego Padres (37-27)

The New York Mets and San Diego Padres have a rematch of last weekend’s thrilling series at Citi Field. After a terrific 14-1 victory to finish off the road trip, they will try to rekindle the output against the Padres dominant pitching staff. The first pitch from Citi Field is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. ET.

The Mets have found a way to survive their typical June swoon so far by going 4-4 this month. They are happy to return home after their long road trip and begin their homestand, where they have found plenty of success. Despite playing the least amount of home games (20), they have more home wins (15) than nine other teams. Pitching is the main reason why they are playing well at home with a 1.81 ERA and allowing just seven home runs at Citi Field. The Mets will also play in front of their largest home crowd of the season at just over 23,000 fans.

The Padres wish they played in the NL East, where they would be in first place with their 37-27 record. However, everyone with the Mets is thankful they only have to worry about the dynamic Fernando Tatis Jr. twice a season. The MVP caliber shortstop has 17 home runs, 13 stolen bases and is well on his way to a 30-30 season; the first Padre to accomplish the feat. Tatis Jr. running ability translates to a team that leads MLB with 65 stolen bases, with the second-best team only having 43 steals.

Pitching Matchup

Jacob deGrom and his 0.62 ERA faces off against the Padres for the second consecutive start. He was magnificent in his last start, pitching seven shutout innings with 11 strikeouts and holding the Padres to three hits. deGrom needed just 85 pitches to get through his start and should get to the 100 pitch plateau tonight. Then, of course, the heavyweight matchup of deGrom vs. Tatis will be on full display for the enjoyment of all baseball fans.

Blake Snell also faces the same team for the second straight start and dominated the Mets. Snell carried a no-hitter through six innings to complete seven scoreless with just one hit allowed. Over three career starts at Citi Field, Snell has a 2.00 in 18 innings pitched. The matchup between deGrom and Snell features three Cy Young Awards between them.

Matchups To Lookout For

Blake Snell vs. Kevin Pillar: 7-for-19 (.368), 2 Doubles, Walk, 2 Strikeouts

Jacob deGrom vs. Victor Caratini: 4-for-12 (.333), 2 Home Runs, 2 Strikeouts

Jacob deGrom vs. Manny Machado: 6-for-18 (.333), Walk, 6 Strikeouts

Jacob deGrom vs. Wil Myers: 4-for-22 (.182), 2 Doubles, Home Run, 2 Walks, 10 Strikeouts

UFC 263 Preview: Deiveson Figueiredo – Brandon Moreno 2

In the co-main event of UFC 263, we will see a flyweight title rematch from one of the fights of the year in 2020. The flyweight champion Deiveson Figueiredo (20-1-1) is back to defend his title against top contender Brandon Moreno (18-5-2).

These two men first met back at UFC 256 in December. In late November last year, Figueiredo successfully defended his title against Alex Perez. Figueiredo won quickly in the first round while taking no damage.

Earlier that evening, Brandon Moreno won in the first round as well. The UFC needed a headliner for their December PPV after the card had been hit by injuries. With both flyweights coming out of UFC 255 clean, the promotion turned them around and had them headline the December PPV.

The two men went to war in an instant classic. Figueiredo started extremely fast looking for the finish, but Brandon Moreno was game. Moreno took the best shots from the champion and would fire right back.

Overall, Figueiredo was getting the better of Moreno ever so slightly in December. However, a massive kick that landed low cost Figueiredo a point. That one-point deduction took away a decision win for Figueiredo and made the fight a draw.

Since the two men fought to a draw, the UFC decided to run things back tomorrow night. This is a popular pick for fight of the night and it’s easy to see why. I don’t see how these two are even capable of putting on a boring performance.

UFC 263 Prediction

The UFC 263 co-main event is going to be a sensational fight. I honestly can’t wait to watch this rematch between Deiveson Figueiredo and Brandon Moreno. Now, going into the fight, Figueiredo should be a decent sized favorite.

I believe that both men fought well in December, but Moreno fought a lot closer to his potential than Figueiredo in my opinion. With Moreno fighting one of the best fights he could possibly fight, he still would have lost if it wasn’t for a low blow.

Not too mention that the UFC confirmed that Figueiredo spent the night before the fight in the hospital. The best Moreno still couldn’t beat Figueiredo when Figueiredo wasn’t at his best.

Ultimately, I just believe that Deiveson Figueiredo is the best flyweight in the world. I’m expecting these two to go to war again, but I think Figueiredo will find his finishing blow this time. I believe Figueiredo will become the first man to finish Brandon Moreno at UFC 263.

Prediction: Deiveson Figueiredo by TKO – Round 3

Yankees get some good news on a pair of injured stars

yankees, luke voit

The New York Yankees took their series against the Minnesota Twins to open the week, even though they were stunned yesterday in the ninth inning and couldn’t complete the sweep. They have suffered some key injuries like Aaron Hicks, but at least they received two positive reports on the injury front in the last few hours.

Yankees’ first baseman Luke Voit, currently on the shelf with a Grade 2 right oblique strain, could potentially begin a rehab assignment on June 13 or June 15, per information provided by manager Aaron Boone by MLB.com.

That way, Voit would then build at-bats throughout the week. Boone also suggested that the slugger, who has missed most of the season with two separate injury list stints, may be able to come back by the beginning of the following week. The two potential dates are June 20 or June 22

The Yankees haven’t been able to enjoy much of Voit, who was last season’s home run leader with 22. A partially torn meniscus put him out of play until mid-May, and after a handful of games, he injured his oblique.

Yankees’ Zack Britton is a possibility for the weekend

Boone told reporters this week that left-handed reliever Zack Britton could “definitely” be back before the end of the Yankees’ road trip.

While the results of his rehab assignment haven’t been great – he recently allowed four runs in one third of an inning in an outing – he has experienced no setbacks, and threw a scoreless inning last night.

The current road trip ends next Thursday with a matchup against the Toronto Blue Jays in Buffalo, so Britton will surely return before that day.

However, there are still internal discussions in the Yankees’ offices about bringing him back this weekend or letting him pitch a couple of additional rehab games before inserting him back in the roster.

Meredith Marakovits reported yesterday that “there is a possibility Zack Britton could rejoin the team in Philadelphia this weekend.”

New York Yankee Profiles: Aroldis Chapman, Mr. almost perfect

New York Yankees, Aroldis Chapman

The New York Yankees closer is Aroldis Chapman. As they age, they evolve, or they are not as effective as they once were for starting pitchers and relievers alike. This is particularly true of flame throwers. They lose velocity on their fastball. Chapman is known as the “Cuban Missle,” is hardly deteriorating, but he won’t be throwing many 100 mph plus fastballs for much longer. His answer to that was reviving a pitch that he used as a starter.

Speaking of starter, let’s start at the beginning and how he evolved and became a New York Yankee. Chapman was born Albertin Aroldis Chapman de la Cruz in Holguin province, Cuba, on February 28, 1988. Although he is called the “Cuban Flamethrower or Missle, he is actually of Jamaican descent. His grandparents emigrated to Cuba for a better education. As a child, he played ball with other kids in his neighborhood. Then, at the age of 15, a friend invited him to join the local Hoguin baseball team.

Even at that young age, local coaches noticed that the young boy had the potential to be a pitcher. So in 2003, he switched from first base to the pitcher’s mound. In 2006 he joined the Cuban National Series League playing for the Holguin Sabuesos. He compiled a 24-19 record as a starter in 327 innings. His ERA of 3.74 with 365 strikeouts. He did make eleven relief appearances.

Chapman wanted out of Cuban and tried to defect but failed. Being a significant star, he met with Castro in 2008. Castro gave him a conditional reprieve but suspended him from the remainder of the season and kept him off the summer Olympics national team. He did allow him to return in 2009 to the World Baseball Classics representing Cuba. Still determined to defect, when playing in Rotterdam, the Netherlands in the World Port Tournament, he did it. One morning he walked out the door of his hotel, not to be seen again until he took up residency in Andora in the Pyrenees.

While in Andora, he petitioned MLB for free agency, which was granted. In January of 2010, Chapman signed a six-year contract to play for the Cincinnati Reds. On August 31 of that year, he made his Major League debut striking out the side with just nine pitches. In 2011 he was solely a reliever and in 2012 named the team’s closer. In 2014 he was hit in the head by a comebacker and underwent surgery to fix a skull fracture above his left eye. A metal plate was inserted into his head to stabilize the fracture.

For the 2015 season, Chapman had the highest average pitching speed in baseball at 100 mph. His record was 4-4 with a tiny ERA of 1.63 and 33 saves on the season. After the season, the Reds traded Chapman to the New York Yankees for four Yankee prospects. Before spring training, the then-manager Joe Girardi named Chapman the new Yankee closer.

Aroldis Chapman becomes a New York Yankee

Chapman didn’t start well for the Yankees; he was suspended for the first 30 games of the season due to an off-season personal conduct policy violation related to domestic violence. Then, in July, he was traded to the Chicago Cubs, bringing Gleyber Torres, Adam Warren, and Billy McKinney to the Yankees. The Cubs were going to the postseason, and the Yankees weren’t. With the Cubs, he had his fastest recorded pitch at 105.1 mph. Then, in the last inning of the last game of the World Series, Chapman went into a game-winning 10th inning, and his first World Series win.

As a free agent, the New York Yankees wanted him back, and he signed a record for a reliever an $86 million contract. His four-seam fastball had the highest average speed of any MLB pitcher’s pitches in 2017, at 99.7 mph, but a reduction from 2015. In 2018 he had a 104.1 mph pitch. Chapman has been successful for the Yankees. His record is 14-6 over five years, with an ERA of 2.54. But no matter how successful, he has failed the Yankees at key times in the postseason. Most recently when Mike Brosseau homered off him, causing the Yankees to exit the 2020 postseason.

Chapman realizes that his four-seam fastball is losing some velocity and is adding a new old pitch to his arsenal. Last year Chapman recorded an average of 98.7 mph, the lowest average speed for his fastball. I say new old because he used the pitch many years ago when he was a starter in Cuba. Chapman, when speaking with The Athletic, had this to say about his pitching?

“I’m not 25 anymore,” Chapman said. “I’m older, I’m not throwing 105 miles per hour every day. That’s the reality. Believe it or not, I used to throw a splitter back in Cuba when I was a starter,” Chapman told The Athletic recently through a translator. “It was a pitch that I had used way back, then later on when I came to MLB and I started pitching, they basically told me to not use the splitter anymore. That being said, it has always been a pitch that I felt comfortable throwing — in fact I feel more comfortable throwing a splitter than a changeup.”

Chapman started using the spitter late last season and has refined it over this offseason. The addition of that one pitch has made him one of the most effective closers in the game. Until last night, he had given up one run in 22 appearances with a 0.39 ERA, the best in baseball. Last night he took his first loss, but a game doesn’t make a season.

Like many Yankees players, Chapman is relatively private about his personal life. However, we do know he has one daughter, Ashanti Brianna, with Mendosa Santiestelas. In addition, he had a son named Atticus in 2014. Chapman is now 33 years old.

EmpireSportsMedia.com’s Columnist William Parlee is a member of the Society for American Baseball Research. Follow me on Twitters @parleewilliam

UFC 263 Preview: Belal Muhammad – Demian Maia

Tomorrow night on the main card of UFC 263, we will see a showdown between two top fifteen welterweights. 12th ranked Belal Muhammad (18-3, 1 NC) returns as he takes on the MMA legend Demian Maia (28-10).

What a career it’s been for Demian Maia and UFC 263 might just be the end. At 43 years old, Maia might be gearing up to hang up the gloves. Maia made his UFC debut in just his seventh pro fight all the way back in 2007.

He’s been fighting with the promotion an astonishing 14 years and holds a UFC record of 22-10. During that stretch, Maia has challenged for both the UFC middleweight and welterweight championships.

While he’s never won a world title, Maia has proven to be the model of consistency. When he lost to Gilbert Burns last March, that snapped a three-fight win streak. Had he won that fight with Burns, he might’ve gotten another UFC title shot.

Standing across from Maia tomorrow night is Belal Muhammad. Back in March, Muhammad had a golden opportunity. On short notice, the UFC gave him a main event slot against Leon Edwards. If Muhammad won that fight, he would’ve jumped right into the title picture.

However, an accidental eye poke in the second round by Edwards ended the fight in a No Contest. That NC snapped a four-fight winning streak. Muhammad is looking to get back on the winning track tomorrow night at UFC 263.

UFC 263 Prediction

When examining this matchup at UFC 263, I can’t help but think it’s a tough one for Demian Maia. Maia is one of the best jiu jitsu practitioners the UFC has ever seen. However, we’ve seen him struggle to get fights to the ground especially against top level wrestlers.

Well, Belal Muhammad is a very good wrestler. On the feet, I think Muhammad is going to have a clear advantage. I’m expecting a ton of pressure from Muhammad and I think we are going to see even more improvement in his striking.

In his Dhiego Lima fight back in February, I was incredibly impressed with the boxing of Belal Muhammad. I don’t think Maia will get this to the mat, and I just see Muhammad winning the striking exchanges at UFC 263. Don’t think we see a finish, but I think we will see a clear win for “Remember the Name”.

Prediction: Belal Muhammad by Unanimous Decision