New York Liberty: 3 stars from Tuesday’s loss at Las Vegas

The New York York Liberty’s strong start in Las Vegas couldn’t be sustained, as they fell to the Aces on the road.

A visit to Las Vegas came up snake eyes for the New York Liberty, who were victimized by 32 points off the bench by Kelsey Plum. A stellar performance from Sin City’s reserves, as Dearica Hamby added 16 more en route to the hometown Aces’ 100-78 victory at Michelob Ultra Arena. The Liberty (6-5) got off to a strong start, leading by as much as 11 in the first half, but the Vegas onslaught proved to be too much to handle. New York had one of their own reserves stand out, as Jazmine Jones led the team with 17 points. This was the first part of a two-game set in Las Vegas, with the rematch coming on Thursday night (10 p.m. ET, CBSSN).

ESM has a trio of silver linings from Tuesday’s loss…

3rd Star: Betnijah Laney

15 points, 6 assists 

It was a bit of a frustrating night for Laney, who sank only one of five free throw attempts and also picked up a technical in the second half. But much like the injured Sabrina Ionescu, Laney managed to make a positive impact on the Liberty statsheet. Despite some stingy Vegas defense, Laney sank 7-of-12 from the field and also led the team with six assists.

2nd Star: Jazmine Jones

17 points (6-of 8 FG), 3 assists 

The most frustrating thing about the Twitter confrontation between Jones and Sunday opponent Skylar Diggins-Smith is that most mainstream outlets covering the dispute shrunk the New York’s sophomore’s WNBA impact down to the social media barbs. Jones, however, responded with some immediate energy off the bench, sinking her first four attempts from the field and reached double figures for the second straight contest.

1st Star: Kylee Shook

12 points, 9 rebounds 

If the Liberty emerge from this road trip from one thing, it’s the valuable souvenir of Shook emerging into a reliable shooter and all-around talent. The Shook that has emerged over the last two games looks different from even the one that began the year, as her confidence is apparent all over the court. Tuesday’s proceedings saw Shook put up career-bests in scoring, rebounds, and field goal attempts (11). If Shook keeps building this kind of confidence, the Liberty could well own the most dangerous opening five in the league once Ionescu makes her return.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

New York Yankees Recap: Yankees claw their way back to beat the Toronto Blue Jays

The New York Yankees tonight faced the Toronto Blue Jays at Sahlen Field in Buffalo in game one of a three-game set. The Blue Jays are one of the teams the Yankees trail in the AL East. So far this season, the Yankees have had trouble winning against the Canadian team. The Yankees broke their 3 game losing streak with a 6-5 comeback win over Toronto.

DJ LeMahieu led off the first inning with a single against Hyun Jin Ryu. Aaron Judge flew out to center field. Gleyber Torres ground to third with the Jays getting the force at second. Torres made second on a wild pitch. Giancarlo Stanton walked. Gio Urshela, with two on and two outs, ground out to second, leaving two men on base.

At the bottom, Marcus Semien walked off of Montgomery. Semien stole second base. Bo Bichette also walked for the second walk in the inning. Vlad Guerrero also walked, bringing on Matt Blake, the pitching coach. Teoscar Hernandez sac flew to center, driving in a run. Randal Grichuk flew out for the second out. Lourdes Gurriel, with runners on the corners and two outs, chopped back to Montgomery for the final out. Blue Jays 1 New York Yankees 0.

At the top of the second inning, Gary Sanchez homered into the left-field parking lot. Miguel Andujar worked a walk. Chris Gittens, still looking for his first major league hit, flew out to center.  Brett Gardner went down on strikes. LeMahieu walked. Judge with two on, and two outs struck out to end the half, but the game was tied. At the bottom, Joe Panik led off by flying out to Andujar in left. Riley Adams struck out. Santiago Espinal singled to left. Semien flew out to Judge. New York Yankees 1 Blue Jays 1.

The top of the third had Torres at the plate; he ground out to third. Stanton walked for the second time. Urshela hit into the Yankees 35th double play of the season to end the inning. Bichette led off the bottom and hit his fifth home run off the Yankees this season. Gerrero Jr. struck out looking. Hernandez ground out to Torres. Grichuk struck out to end the inning. Jays 2. Yankees 1.

Gary Sanchez led off the fourth by striking out. Andujar ground out. Gittens got his first big league hit with a homer (439′) to center field, tying up the game. Gardner ground out, but the Yankees tied the game. Gurriel Jr. led off the bottom and grounded out to first. Panik walked. Adams flew out to Gardner for the second out of the inning. Espinal singled up the center. Semien singled when Torres missed a bare-handed play Bichette at the plate; a ball got past Sanchez, and Espinal scored. Bichette singled as two Jays scored. Guerrero struck out on a ball in the dirt, but the damage was done. Blue Jays 5 Yankees 2.

At the top of the fifth, it was the top of the lineup for the Yankees. LeMahieu ground out. Judge grounded out to short. Torres also ground out to short for a 1-2-3 inning for Ryu. At the bottom, Hernandez flew out to right. Grichuk popped out to short. Gurriel went down, grounding out for a very fast inning for both pitchers. Jays 5 Yankees 2.

Giancarlo Stanton flew out to left in the top of the sixth. Urshela singled to right. Sanchez doubled for a man on second and third and only one out. Andujar ground out but drove in Urshela. After hitting a homer in the fourth, Gittens ground out to short, but the Yankees picked up a run. At the bottom, Panik flew out to the left side of short, and that was Montgomery’s night as Luis Cessa took over the pitching. Adams ground out to LeMahieu. Espinal going 3 for 3 on the night, hit a double to center. Semien struck out to end the inning. Jays 5 Yankees 3.

At the top of the seventh, Brett Gardner faced the new Jay’s pitcher Castro and homered to right-center to bring the Yankees within one. LeMahieu doubled to the left-field wall with no outs. Judge at the plate a wild pitch allowed LeMahieu to go to third base, but Judge ground out. Torres at the plate another wild pitch allowed LeMahieu to score and tied the game at 5. Torres walked. Stanton faced the new Jay’s pitcher Carl Edwards and almost homered to the right-field wall. Urshela faced the next new pitcher Tim Mayza. Urshela walked, making it two on and two outs. Sanchez ground out to third, but the Yankees tied the game at 5.

In the bottom of the seventh inning, Bo Bichette ground out to the new New York Yankees’ new pitcher Jonathan Loaisiga. Then, Guerrero singled, as did Hernandez. Finally, Grichuk ground into a double play stranding two Jays. Yankees 5 Jays 5.

At the top of the eighth inning, Miguel Andujar got a lead-off single to left field. Gittens struck out swinging. Tyler Wade came in to pinch run for Andujar; Clint Frazier came in to pinch hit for Gardner leading to another Jay’s pitching change. Jordon Romano faced Frazier, who, while at the plate, saw Wade steal second. Frazier had a huge RBI double to give the Yankees the one-run lead. LeMahieu with Frazier at second and one out ground out to short, but Frazier made it to third base. Judge struck out, but the New York Yankees had come all the way back to take the lead in the game.

At the bottom of the eight with the new Yankee pitcher Zack Britton on the mound, Gurriel led off by grounding out to Torres at short. Joe Panik walked. Adams grounded through Torres for a single and two on with one out. Biggio pinch ran from second. Espinal flew out to a running Tyler Wade. Semien, with two on and two outs, walked to load the bases for Bo Bichette. Bichette flew out to Judge in right to get Britton out of a bases-loaded jam. New York Yankees 6 Jays 5.

At the top of the ninth inning in Buffalo, Gleyber Torres led off flying out to center. Stanton flew out to right field. Urshela singled against the new Jays pitcher Tyler Chatwood. Sanchez struck out swinging, leaving the Yankees with a one runs cushion. At the bottom, the Jays faced the Yankee closer, Aroldis Chapman. Guerrero Jr. ground out to short. Hernandez struck out swinging. Grichuk ground out for the Yankee come-back win. The final score was the New York Yankees 6 and the Blue Jays 5. The winning pitcher was Jonathan Loaisiga, the loser was Tim Mayza, and the save went to Aroldis Chapman for his 13th save of the season.

 

Knicks: Randle caps best season with All-NBA Second Team honors

new york knicks, julius randle

New York Knicks’ forward Julius Randle added another feather on his cap on Tuesday when he was named to the All-NBA Second Team.

Randle joined Portland’s Damian Lillard, Phoenix’s Chris Paul, Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James, and Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid in the All-NBA Second Team.

The All-NBA First Team was headlined by league MVP Nikola Jokic of Denver, Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo, Golden State’s Stephen Curry, Los Angeles Clippers’ Kawhi Leonard, and Dallas’ Luka Doncic.

In easily his best season yet in the NBA, Randle emerged as an All-NBA player following his first All-Star appearance and winning the league’s Most Improved Player award. The seven-year forward averaged career-highs in minutes (37.6), points (24.1), rebounds (10.2), assists (6.0), three-point field goals (41%), and free throw percentage (81%) while shooting 46 percent from the field.

He was one of the only three players in the NBA history to average 20/10/5 on 40% three-point shooting. The other two were Hall of Famer Larry Bird and Jokic. But more importantly, he led the Knicks to the playoffs for the first time in eight years.

He was the first Knick to be named to an All-NBA Team since Carmelo Anthony in 2013. Randle is only the third Knicks player aged 26 years old or younger to make it to an All-NBA Team in the last six decades or since Patrick Ewing and Walt Frazier.

Randle earned 97 of the 100 ballots — 16 first-team votes, 46 second-team votes, and 35 third-team votes for a total of 253 points. Leonard was only ahead of him by 70 points.

 

Randle is in line for a lucrative contract extension that could be maxed out at a four-year, $106 million. But he could also defer and test free agency after next season for a much bigger deal.

Meanwhile, the All-NBA Third Team was composed of the Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert of Utah, Brooklyn’s Kyrie Irving, Washington’s Bradley Beal, Miami’s Jimmy Butler, and Los Angeles Clippers’ Paul George.

Notably absent in the All-NBA Teams this year are Irving’s teammates Kevin Durant and James Harden, Boston’s Jayson Tatum, Utah’s Donovan Mitchell, and the league’s triple-double leader Russell Westbrook of Washington.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Walker Strikes Out a Dozen in Mets 3-2 Win Over Cubs

Taijuan Walker has been the steal of the offseason for the New York Mets and had another fantastic start. He struck out 12 to take a second straight game from the Chicago Cubs by a score of 3-2. Walker’s previous season-high was nine strikeouts, and he blew right past that for his sixth victory of the season.

Early in his start, Walker did not look like he had the best command of his pitches. Walker immediately had a first and second, then bases-loaded jam in the first inning but struck out three to survive the inning. From that point, Walker slowly started to get himself in a grove and found command of all pitches. His best weapon was his two-seam fastball which drew flashbacks to Bartolo Colon. Walker dominated for seven innings, a dozen strikeouts, and just two runs allowed, which came on a Javier Baez homer.

Thank You Willie

Walker retired the last 12 batters he faced, then passed the baton over to Seth Lugo. He recorded his first two-inning save since last August by working a perfect eighth and an extremely hectic ninth. Lugo received help from Cubs’ third base coach Willie Harris who crazily sent Jake Marisnick to get thrown out at home plate on Eric Sogard‘s double. This game was a prime example of how dangerous the Mets pitching staff has become. Their number three starter led their way while their second closer came into shut the door.

The Mets’ offense was not at their best tonight. They had plenty of chances to tack on to the lead throughout the game but went 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position and left ten on base. Pete Alonso carried the load on offense with three RBIs, two coming on a single and the lead one with a sacrifice fly. Jonathan Villar also had a strong game with two hits, including a double.

Jacob deGrom returns to the mound to build upon his historic season after dealing with elbow issues. Robert Stock makes his Cubs debut, and first MLB start in game three of the series. The first pitch is once again scheduled for 7:10 p.m. ET from Citi Field.

How Roquan Smith is developing into the face of the Bears defense

Roquan Smith spoke in a tempered tone on Tuesday morning but still sounded like a player who’s ready to outperform anyone in 2021. The Chicago Bears linebacker heads into year four after having been snubbed from the Pro Bowl last offseason. Smith will enter year four with the goal of taking on more of a leadership role for the Bears.

Smith’s third season with the Bears with another opportunity to fulfill the expectations that saw him get drafted eighth overall. After a career-high 139 tackles, Smith continues to develop into the face of the Bears defense while also identifying that Chicago’s defense can be better heading into 2021.

“Last year, at the first half, we was playing some really good ball and then we fell off,” Smith said via the Bears official YouTube page. “And I can’t pinpoint a thing or two exactly, I just know we wasn’t getting the job done so I just know at the end of the day, we have to get the job done and at the tail-end, that wasn’t the way we played defense in Chicago so all we have to do is build from that and continue to get. better.”

Smith has seen how quickly Chicago’s defense burst onto the scene back in 2018 but also how the same defense, with a majority of the same starters, has taken a slight step back, leading many outside the Bears fanbase to question how good Chicago’s defense will really be in 2021. For Smith, the goal for Chicago’s entire unit shouldn’t be just padding the stat sheet, rather just playing at a high level, creating big plays throughout the process.

“I think it’s going to start with effort, being relentless and just not taking no for an answer,” Smith said. “And everyone just busting their tails in all facets of the game. I feel like if we all do that, the takeaways, turnovers, sacks, and everything like that, that’ll all come.”

Simply put, Smith isn’t just developing into a leader due to his experience. Listening to him speak on Tuesday afternoon, he’s now identifying what the Bears defense needs to do in order to get back on top but also continuing to lead by example by being one of the only defensive starters present for both phases of OTA’s throughout the first two weeks in June.

Who should return kicks and punts for the New York Giants in 2021?

New York Giants, Jabrill Peppers

The New York Giants possessed an inconsistent special teams unit in 2020. This was a surprise, being that the team’s rookie head coach Joe Judge has extensive experience coaching special teams. Judge was the special teams assistant for the New England Patriots from 2009 to 2014 before becoming the special teams coordinator in 2015 and manning that position through 2019.

In 2020, Judge was hired as the head coach of the New York Giants. This was a surprising hiring as the Patriots’ long-time special teams expert was anything but a household name. Joe Judge put together an impressive coaching staff in his first season, but left the special teams unit the same. Thomas McGaughey remained the team’s special teams coordinator.

Understanding the amount of attention Judge gives the special teams unit, many expected the Giants to have one of the best units in the NFL last season. However, expectations were not exactly met as the Giants’ special teams were in the middle of the pack. One area where the Giants struggled to find consistency was in the return game.

Running back Dion Lewis served as the primary kick returner last season, though he is no longer with the Giants so the team will need to find a capable replacement. Jabrill Peppers and Darius Slayton returned the bulk of the punts last season, but the Giants might now have a better option on the roster.

The punt returner

In 2021, the Giants should make a switch at punt returner. As exciting as it is to see Jabrill Peppers field punts, it is also a bit of a risk. Jabrill has struggled with some injuries in his career, one of which was suffered on a punt return. Peppers returned 15 punts in 2020, averaging a solid 12.5 yards per return.

Darius Slayton was the more efficient punt returner in 2020, returning 9 punts at an average of 21 yards per return. Slayton could see more opportunities as the punt returner this season since his role as a wide receiver is bound to reduce with the additions of Kenny Golladay and Kadarius Toney. But that new addition, Kadarius Toney, would likely make the most sense as the Giants’ new punt returner.

Kadarius Toney returned punts and kicks during his career at the University of Florida. He averaged 21.6 yards per return on kick returns and 11.3 yards per return on punt returns. In 2020, Toney returned 11 punts for 139 yards (12.6) and 1 touchdown. Toney is a tackle-breaking machine and a threat to take the ball to the house on any given play. He is the Giants’ best punt returner on the roster for those reasons and he should field the majority of punts this season.

Kick returner

As mentioned, Kadarius Toney is impossible to tackle. Toney forced a missed tackle on 35% of touches since 2018, first amongst all draft-eligible receivers in the 2021 NFL Draft class (PFF). This will be applicable to punt returns and kick returns, too. Toney is a solid option for the Giants as a kick returner, though the dangers of the kick return game might encourage the Giants to keep him out of that position. Instead, the Giants might opt to go with a career return specialist in 2021.

The New York Giants signed running back Corey Clement this offseason. Clement has experience as an NFL veteran returning kicks and contributing on special teams. He has averaged 25.1 yards per return on kick returns in his career. As a backup, Clement makes sense to return kicks for the Giants since he is not expected to play a major role in the team’s offense. Corey Clement could focus solely on special teams and contribute as a reliable kick returner.

Whether Kadarius Toney or Corey Clement earns the kick-returning role remains to be seen. Both players should be considered for the position, among other players on the Giants’ roster. Sixth-round rookie running back Gary Brightwell could be another intriguing option for the Giants. The goal for the New York Giants will be to promote a player who is reliable, durable, and explosive to the kick returner position. Luckily, they have a few options on their roster that fit the bill.

Eddie Jackson sees similarities between Vic Fangio and Sean Desai

Entering his fifth NFL season, Chicago Bears safety Eddie Jackson has become a key part of the Bears defense. After a breakout season in 2018 that saw Jackson with six interceptions, Jackson has just two interceptions over the last two seasons, including none in 2020. Jackson wasn’t just successful in 2018 because he was a talented player, the former fourth-round pick was successful because then-Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio put Jackson in a position to succeed on every single player, utilizing the free safety to his strengths.

Entering 2021, questions revolve around whether Jackson can really be as dominant as he was in terms of production just three seasons ago. New defensive coordinator Sean Desai, the Bears third in four seasons under head coach Matt Nagy, is a former Fangio disciple, which Jackson sees as positive.

“Just the scheme-wise, you know, just the scheme-wise, he likes to do a lot of different things,” Jackson said via the Bears official YouTube channel. “I don’t want to put too much stuff out there. He does a lot of different things. He emphasizes the same things that Coach Vic emphasized on with disguise purposes. Just challenging us, coming in everyday and just challenging us on and off the field, being better players and teammates.”

Heading into 2020, Jackson’s running mate, strong safety Tashaun Gipson is also expected to return, marking the first time since the 2018 season that Jackson will have the same safety starting to him for the second consecutive season.

“It’s huge, it’s huge, I haven’t played with a safety two years in a row since Adrian Amos,” said Jackson. “So to come back and have that chemistry, it’s huge, especially back there. I’m in his head, he’s in my head. The type of athlete Gip is, he brings a lot of stuff that we can use, me and him together and also for the defense that Sean can for disguise purposes.”

Jackson could have a major year as the Bears continue to prepare for the 2021 season but the free safety’s confidence in his new defensive coordinator showcases that there could be a bit of a revival under Desai in 2021.

New York Jets: Jamison Crowder contract hints at Robert Saleh effect

New York Jets, Jamison Crowder

Crowder couldn’t be blamed if he wanted to move on, but his return to the New York Jets shows further hints at excitement for the Saleh era.

Upon ceasing the Adam Gase era, the New York Jets did everything short of the process Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet used to outright forget each other’s existence in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. The team spent this spring on a relative purge of the Gase era, starting fresh at several major outlets, including the almighty quarterback position.

Even the return of the most potent weapon on the team, the rare offensive silver lining, was highly in question.

No one in their right football mind could’ve found fault in a divorce between the Jets and Jamison Crowder. While Crowder (1,532 yards, 12 touchdowns) was the closest thing the Jets had to a consistent offensive highlight-maker, but that status probably said more about the state of the Jets than it did about Crowder. For his part, Crowder used the last two years to become one of the more reliable slot receivers in the league. But, set to turn 28 on Thursday, Crowder hasn’t reaped the true glory that the NFL has to offer. His career has been spent mostly in the football doldrums of Washington and Florham Park, his postseason endeavors limited to a single Wild Card weekend showing with former after the 2015 season.

Crowder’s co-workers are drastically changed as well, deskmates that could put a dent in the sizable numbers he has gotten used to. Instead of first-round also-ran Breshad Perriman and current lacrosse star Chris Hogan, Crowder now shares a playbook with Corey Davis and Elijah Moore, each accoladed in their respective veteran and rookie fields. Topping that with another veteran arrival boasting slot experience (Keelan Cole), the $10 million in cap savings due to the Jets upon his trade or release, and the fact that the final year of Crowder’s contract had no guaranteed money left, an amicable parting seemed like the best way to go.

Instead, Crowder is coming back to help author a new chapter of the Jets’ rebuild.

Ian Rapoport of NFL Network revealed on Monday that Crowder will be back in New York on a restructured deal. While official numbers have not been disclosed, ESPN’s Rich Cimini hinted that the Jets were seeking to convince Crowder to take “at least a 50 percent pay cut” on his $10 million salary. The extra money put toward the Jets’ $27 million in available cap space (third-best in the NFL behind Jacksonville and Denver) could possibly go toward blocking upgrades, as New York is rumored to be assessing Morgan Moses’ post-Washington situation.

Dec 27, 2020; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; New York Jets wide receiver Jamison Crowder (82) is tackled by Cleveland Browns cornerback Denzel Ward (21) during the first quarter at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

It’s easy and fair to avoid sentimentalities and chalk up the gambit to a mere business decision. Crowder presumably gets a guaranteed salary and gets to view the 2021 season as a chance to make a highlight tape that will presumably end up on the desks of the other 31 NFL general managers as soon as the final seconds ticks off of the Jets’ Week 17…erm, 18…contest. One can also argue that moving elsewhere this late in the postseason would have severely limited Crowder’s potential destinations.

But as the Jets’ rebuild edges closer to immortality, it’s hard not to view Crowder’s re-upping, if only for a short while, as yet another sign of how much Robert Saleh has changed the culture in his short time at the New York helm.

Even Jets fans might be tired of hearing about the Saleh effect, especially considering we’re still about three months away from playing meaningful downs. Part of the Saleh allure, even if his worshippers don’t want to admit it, is indeed recency bias. Things became so garish under Gase that anything short of Rich Kotite’s return would’ve been seen as an upgrade. Observing the Saleh effect also doesn’t mean one views the new Jets’ boss as infallible. One would think, for example, that his reputation could’ve secured a stronger secondary lineup.

If Saleh’s prescience did play a role, though, it’s fair to assess the work he’s doing in combating the “Same Old Jets” moniker.

Even if things worked out in relatively favorable fashion, the Le’Veon Bell debacle should’ve set the Jets’ free agency endeavors back at least a few years. What self-respecting free agent was going to look at what Bell went through…rumors of in-fighting, mismanagement…and say “Yeah, I want in on that”? One could easily cast the blame of the Bell trouble entirely on Gase, but that doesn’t erase nearly five decades of football follies that gain extra attention, if only because there’s a Jets logo on it.

Had the Butt Fumble, for example, happened anywhere else, the sensation probably would’ve died down in a month. But because Mark Sanchez’s infamous turnover happened with a green oval on his helmet, it became a non-perishable. Joe Douglas deserves some credit in freshening up the free agency welcome wagon as well. When things didn’t work out, he sent some valuable pieces off to more attractive situations that also fit their on-field needs (i.e. sending Steve McClendon to the eventual Super Bowl champions in Tampa Bay). But, from the moment he took the job, Douglas was fighting decades of jokes, many of them exaggerated, made at the Jets’ expense, one that painted (and frankly continues to paint) Florham Park as a football underworld.

Jan 3, 2021; Glendale, Arizona, USA; San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh against the Seattle Seahawks at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Jets stigma could’ve steered free agents, including Crowder, away. Even with so many improvements, asking the Jets to reach the playoffs is still going to be a tall task. Crowder would’ve been well within his rights to demand a trade to a contender or take his chances on the late offseason free agency market. After all, his skills as a reliable slot prescience could well complement a team at the cusp of a playoff spot or seeking to move further in the postseason.

Those unwilling to embrace the Saleh effect could further argue that, since Crowder has re-upped on a mere one-year deal and the prescience of young, lauded projects like Moore, he won’t be around to fully reap what the new guard is sowing. But, much like anointing Saleh (and/or Zach Wilson, for that matter) as the savior of green metropolitan football, it’s probably a bit too early to have any in-depth conversations about the future. If the Jets flash some hope beyond the expected improvement from a rock-bottom campaign and Crowder becomes further absorbed into the rebooted unit, a further commitment could be possible.

The most noticeable difference in Crowder’s New York career, at least from a leadership perspective, this time around is that of Saleh. The new head coach’s hire has earned vocal praise from players both domestically and abroad. Crowder’s decision to not only stay but return to a team eager to atone for a two-win campaign is, in part, another such statement.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

UFC booking Michael Chiesa – Vicente Luque

The UFC has finalized a pivotal matchup in the welterweight division. MMA Junkie was the first to report this afternoon that the promotion had finalized a matchup between top ten welterweights Michael Chiesa (18-4) and Vicente Luque (20-7-1).

The matchup will take place at UFC 265 on August 7th. Vicente Luque will look to continue his rise towards the top of the welterweight division next month. Luque made his UFC debut back in 2015 when he lost to Michael Graves.

Since that loss, Luque has gone an astonishing 13-2 with the promotion. His only two losses came against Stephen Thompson and Leon Edwards. The Wonderboy loss came back in 2019 at UFC 244.

Since that loss, Luque has won three straight. The last time we saw Luque was back at UFC 260 when he took on former welterweight champion Tyron Woodley. Woodley looked more motivated than ever heading into that fight back in March.

Woodley stormed out of the gate and actually was able to hurt Luque in the first round. However, Luque remained composed and ended up hurting the former champion badly. Ultimately, Luque was able to get the fight to the ground and submitted Woodley at UFC 260 picking up the biggest win of his career.

Chiesa looks to remain perfect in UFC’s welterweight division

For years, Michael Chiesa struggled to make the UFC’s lightweight limit. 155 pounds was always a struggle and after missing weight at UFC 226 for his fight with Anthony Pettis, Chiesa announced he was done with lightweight.

Chiesa lost that fight to Anthony Pettis. However, that was the last time that Chiesa has tasted defeat inside the octagon. After moving up to the welterweight division, Chiesa has gone a perfect 4-0 including a win over former UFC champion Rafael Dos Anjos.

Back in January, Chiesa took on the tough Neil Magny in a main event. Chiesa completely dominated Magny and stayed perfect at welterweight. There’s been talk that Chiesa is close to a title shot and if he wins at UFC 265, he just might be in a good position to fight for the title or fight in a title eliminator.

New York Yankees: How many Yankees will be named to the All-Star Game?

New York Yankees, Aaron Judge

It’s the time of the year that New York Yankees fans start to wonder if their favorite player will be a starter or named to the All-Star Game. The All-Star Game this year will be at Coors Field, home of the Colorado Rockies, after being moved from Atlanta by MLB who disagreed with new laws it saw as lessening the ability of citizens from voting in federal elections. It was a controversial change, but it is what it is. Many thought that politics should not enter the baseball arena.

On June 3rd MLB opened the voting for your favorite player to be named to the All-Star game The voting will end on June 24th. Yesterday MLB gave an update of how the different players are doing.

Here are the official MLB rules.  The 2021 Google MLB All-Star Ballot will determine the eight (8) position players in the American League and the National League, and the one (1) designated hitter for the American League, who will start the 2021 MLB All-Star Game presented by Mastercard. Earlier this MLB season, each MLB Club nominated one (1) player for each infield position and three (3) for the outfield, and each American League Club nominated one (1) player for the designated hitter spot.

Voting will take place in two phases. The first phase will begin at 11:59 a.m. ET on June 3, 2021, and end at 3:59 p.m. ET on June 24, 2021. For fans voting on MLB.com during the first phase, there is a limit of five (5) ballot submissions per single, valid email address during any twenty-four (24) hour period (with that twenty-four (24) hour period to begin tolling at the time of such fan’s first ballot submission; following the expiration of the initial twenty-four (24) period, the next twenty-four (24) hour period begins tolling at the time of such fan’s next ballot submission).

In the information released yesterday, it looks like Aaron Judge is the only New York Yankee to have a clear shot at playing in the All-Star Game. After him, DJ LeMahieu appears to be a long shot at this point due to his mediocre play this season. Judge presently ranks second in the outfield voting with 538, 448 votes. The Angels Mike Trout leads the pack with 706, 503. Buxton of the Twins is third. Considering that both Trout and Buxton are on the IL, Judge pretty much has a lock on being an All-Star.

However, being a top vote-getter doesn’t mean you will automatically be at Coors Field. There is another new hoop to jump through. After June 24th, the top three vote-getters at each position and the top nine outfielders will move on to a new four-day voting period to determine the starters among the finalists. Judge would have to go in the IL or dramatically fall off in performance to exit the top nine.

Here are where the other New York Yankees fall in the voting.

  • Catcher: Gary Sánchez ranks No. 7 in voting, ~25,000 behind No. 3, Martín Maldonado (Astros), and ~607,000 behind No. 1, Salvador Perez (Royals)
  • First base: Luke Voit ranks No. 9 in voting, ~86,000 behind No. 3, Yuli Gurriel (Astros), and ~813,000 behind No. 1, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (Blue Jays)
  • Third base: Gio Urshela ranks No. 6 in voting, ~91,000 behind No. 3, Alex Bregman (Astros), and ~348,000 behind No. 1, Rafael Devers (Red Sox)
  • Shortstop: Gleyber Torres ranks No. 7 in voting, ~99,000 behind No. 3, Tim Anderson (White Sox), and ~424,000 behind No. 1, Xander Bogaerts (Red Sox)
  • Designated hitter: Giancarlo Stanton ranks No. 6 in voting, ~61,000 behind No. 3, Yordan Álvarez (Astros), and ~444,000 behind No. 1, Shohei Ohtani (Angels)

If you want your favorite Yankee to be an All-Star you have to vote. On MLB platforms, you can submit up to five ballots per 24 hour period. Anotherwards is you vote at 9 am today you can vote four more times before 9 am tomorrow morning.  To vote go here.