MLB News: AL All-Stars win the World Series home-field advantage again

Tonight all of baseball, regardless of team affiliation, MLB honored the All-Stars of 2021 at Coors Field, Denver, Colorado, at the annual All-Star game. The game was originally scheduled to occur in Atlanta, Georgia, but when Georgia passed suppressive voting rules, MLB took a stand and moved the game to Colorado, one of the state with the least restrictive voting rights laws. The winner of the game got the home-field advantage in the World Series, and that was the American League for the 8th time in a row..

The pregame led off with a tribute to Hank Aaron, one of baseball’s greats who passed away this year. Hank Aaron was one of a kind, a man like Jackie Robinson that paved the way for future black players. During his time in baseball, especially from the beginning, he endured extreme racism, but he did it with grace and professionalism. On  April 8, 1974, Hank Aaron of the Atlanta Braves hit his 715th career home run, breaking Babe Ruth’s home run record. After that, he started to receive the praise he deserved. Over the decades, he has become a true baseball legend. Unfortunately, Aaron died on January 22nd.

Only New York Yankee slugger Aaron Judge was selected to start the All-Star game in the right field in the months-long selection process. In a different selection process Yankees ace Gerrit Cole was selected to pitch in the game, although not as a starter; that honor went to Shohei Ohtani. Also selected was Yankee closer, Aroldis Chapman. Following the pregame ceremonies, the team lineups and starting lineups of the American and National League players were individually introduced. That was followed byt a park video again honoring Hank Aaron. Then, Yankee Aaron Judge walked his wife Bille Aaron onto the field to receive an Aaron jersey autographed by every All-Star player.

The national colors were presented with a field-sized American flag unfurled across the field as Hamiton star Christopher Jackson sang the national anthem and a military fly-over.

Then the 91st All-Star game started with Max Scherzer facing Shohei Ohtani, who ground out to second base. Scherzer started with a 1-2-3 inning putting down all he faced. Then, a the bottom phenomenon Shohei Ohtani was on the mound as the AL starting pitcher; he faced Fernando Tatis Jr., who flew out to left field. He put down all three players he faced, including Colorado’s favorite Nolan Arenado. No score.

The second inning was led off by New York Yankee Aaron Judge faced Corbin Burnes, and he walked on four pitches. Rafael Devers doubled down the right-field line moving Judge to third base. Semien singled, and Aaron Judge scored for the American League lead in the game. Perez, with two on and no outs, struck out. Hernandez struck out, leaving two on base, but the AL got the one-run lead in the game. At the bottom, Lance Lynn faced Freeman, who rocketed to first for the first out.  Castellanos skied out. Winkler walked. Realmuto went down swinging. AL 1 NL 0.

Mullins led off the third inning against Burnes out for his second inning and struck out. Ohtani ground out for the second time. Gurriel Jr. homered for the 200th home run in All-Star history for the second run for the AL.  Bogaerts singled. Aaron Judge lined out to short, but the AL picked up the two-run lead. At the bottom, Lyle Gibson faced Reynolds, who almost homered, but Aaron Judged reached over the wall and robbed him. Frazier singled. Tatis Jr. flew out to right-center. Muncy popped out. AL 2 NL 0.

The fourth inning was led off by German Marquez, who ground out Devers. Semien ground out to third. Perez struck out swinging. At the bottom, Nathan Eovaldi faced Arenado, who ground out to second. Freeman singled. Castellanos ground into a double play to end the inning. AL 2 NL 0.

Hernandez got a leadoff fifth inning double against Trevor Rogers. Mullins singled with Hernandez going to third. Rogers struck out. Guerrero ground out, but Hernandez scored for the third AL run. Bogaerts singled driving in another run. Judge flew out to end the half. At the bottom, AL pitcher Gregory Soto faced  Winker, who few out. Realmuto homered for the first NL run. Reynold tapped out. Frazier lined out to short. AL 4 NL 1.

Ramirez was led off the sixth inning facing Taijuan Walker; he flew out to far center field. Merrifield struck out. Zunino got the AL’s fifth run. Walsh flew out. At the bottom, Chris Bassitt pitching, Crawford popped out. Turner ground out. Machado singled but advanced to third on an AL error. Cronenworth walked. Soto walked to load the bases with NL players. Bryant at the plate a passed ball allow Machado to score, Bryant ended up striking out. AL 5 NL 2.

Garcia led off the seventh inning against Freddie Peralta and struck out. Martinez struck out swinging. Olson also struck out swinging. The bottom of the inning was led off by Narvaez facing new AL pitcher Andrew Kittredge and ground out up the middle. Taylor lined out to third. Albies ground out to first. AL 5 NL 2.

Bischette led off the eighth inning against former Yankee Mark Melancon and struck out. Gallo walked. Alex Reyes took over for Melancon, facing Wendal, who singled for two on and one out. Merrifield ground into a force-out, moving Gallo to third. Zunino ground out to end the half. At the bottom, Trey Turner flew out to right. Justin Turner singled. Escobar singled up the middle to two on and one out for the NL. Cronenworth ground out to short. Soto walked to load the bases for the NL for the second time. Bryant flew out to left leaving the bases loaded. AL 5 NL 2.

At the top of the ninth with Craig Kimbrel on the mound, Jared Walsh flew out to center. Garcia doubled to second. Nelson Cruz with 435 home runs ground out to first. The new pitcher was Zack Wheeler facing Matt Olsen struck out. The NL with the last licks on the line sent Narvaez out to face new AL pitcher Liam Hendriks and singled. Narvaez tried to advance on a passed ball that bounced back to the catcher and he got him out at second. Chris Taylor struck out swinging. Ozzie Albies got a two-out double. Craig Turner ground out to center to end the game and give the American League the home-field advantage in the World Series.

The final score was the American League 5 and the National League 2. The winning pitcher was Shohei Ohtani and the loser was Corbin Burnes. The save went to Liam Hendriks. It was the American Leagues’ 8th All-Star win in a row.  The All-Star MVP was Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

 

Volkanovski – Ortega and Shevchenko – Murphy booked for UFC 266

The UFC is planning a massive event for their September PPV. First we learned earlier today that the matchup between Nick Diaz (26-9, 2 NC) and Robbie Lawler (28-15, 1 NC) was finalized for UFC 266 on September 25th.

The rematch between the two legends will be a five-round, non-title, non-main event matchup. This is only the second time that the UFC has ever done this. Nate Diaz – Leon Edwards was the first matchup to get the non-main event five-round treatment.

Now, we have learned that the promotion is adding two title fights on top of it. Dana White confirmed with ESPN’s Brett Okamoto this evening that the promotion had finalized a featherweight title fight between Alexander Volkanovski (22-1) and top contender Brian Ortega (15-1, 1 NC).

Both men are fresh off of their coaching stints on The Ultimate Fighter and they are ready to battle it out. Originally, the two men were supposed to fight back in March. However, the UFC featherweight champion came down with COVID and the fight got pushed back.

The delay ended up being a blessing in disguise as the two men coached on TUF which created more intrigue around the matchup. While this featherweight title fight is exciting, it’s not the only title fight that’s heading to UFC 266.

UFC flyweight title on the line

White also told ESPN this evening that the flyweight queen, Valentina Shevchenko (21-3), will be defending her title against Lauren Murphy (15-4). The matchup will be the co-main event of UFC 266.

Murphy has won five fights in a row on her way to earning this shot at Shevchenko. She’s also one of the few flyweights in the top ten that hasn’t had a chance to fight Shevchenko. On September 25th, she will get her chance.

Lauren Murphy is going to be a massive betting underdog and for good reason. You can easily make the argument that skill-for-skill, Valentina Shevchenko is the best female fighter on the planet. Honestly, it is something truly special to watch her compete inside the octagon.

The only losses she has in the UFC have come against Amanda Nunes at 135 pounds. Granted, I still maintain that I thought Shevchenko won the last time they fought. At flyweight, Shevchenko is a perfect 7-0. During that stretch, she has four finishes and in her three decisions, she’s lost a grand total of two rounds.

31 questions to Bears camp: Will Desai maximize defensive talent?

The Chicago Bears opted to promote from within this offseason at the defensive coordinator position, giving Sean Desai the reigns. Desai, who’s been with the Bears organization since 2013 will now be tasked with getting Chicago’s defense back to the top, after two years of statistical regression.

In many ways, one could argue that Chicago’s defense is at a crossroads heading into 2021. Core players like Khalil Mack, Akiem Hicks, and Danny Trevathan are getting older, while younger players like Jaylon Johnson and Roquan Smith continue to emerge, giving Chicago hope for the future.

Desai has been praised by players this offseason, being labeled as a bright, young mind, who’s going to allow playmakers to flourish.

“I think Sean is one of the brighter young minds in the game so to have him as my defensive coordinator, I definitely understand what he can bring to the table,” Safety Tashaun Gipson said via the Bears official YouTube channel. “And with the talent he got on defense, it’s going to be a beautiful thing to see.”

Desai has made it clear he’s got a major vision for Chicago’s defense, one that will emphasize physicality, toughness, strength, and playing fast, elements that are essential for top NFL defenses to possess. Talents like Mack, Hicks, and Smith should be given additional opportunities to make plays, putting the Bears offense in a position to succeed.

“The good thing about our teaching philosophies is that we try and make sure guys know multiple spots,” Desai said via the Bears official Youtube page. “That helps us on gameday with the depth and that’s been a philosophy of mine and our defensive staff since the beginning.”

As Chicago continues to prepare for the 2021 season, a major defensive revival seems to be in the cards for Chicago’s defense, especially because a young, innovative mind like Desai has taken the reigns of a defense that many believe can still play at a high level, despite multiple starters above the age of 30.

New York Giants: Kadarius Toney’s elite YAC-ability could be game-changing

new york giants, kadarius toney

The New York Giants invested copious resources into the offensive side of the ball this offseason. After their offense ranked second-to-last in the league last year, the Giants made it a point of emphasis to upgrade their weaponry. The Giants’ offense averaged 17.5 points per game in 2020, an unacceptable number in the modern NFL.

To fix their offensive attack, the Giants made some big acquisitions this offseason. They made some splash signings with wide receiver Kenny Golladay and tight end Kyle Rudolph. The Giants then doubled down in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft and selected another wide receiver: Kadarius Toney.

Kadarius Toney is a dynamic talent that fixes a key deficiency from the Giants’ 2020 offense. In 2020, the Giants’ receiver failed to gain yards after the catch. Toney was the most explosive playmaker after-the-catch in this year’s draft class. He has the ability to be a game-changing playmaker for New York this season.

Kadarius Toney: YAC Monster

The New York Giants’ offensive weapons rarely created yardage after-the-catch in 2020. According to Ben Linsey of Pro Football Focus, the New York Giants ranked dead last in the league with the fewest yards after the catch per reception in 2020 at 3.0 yards per. Not only did the Giants’ receivers struggle to separate from coverage last season, but they also struggled to make plays with the ball in their hands.

That is where Kadarius Toney comes into play. On 177 touches in his collegiate career at UF, Kadarius Toney forced an insane 64 missed tackles (PFF). Toney was the best tackle-breaking wide receiver in this year’s NFL draft. When he gets the ball in his hands, Toney destroys ankles and gains yards after the catch with ease.

Kadarius Toney forced a missed tackle on 35% of touches since 2018, which was first among the 2021 wide receiver draft class (PFF). Toney forced 32 missed tackles on 80 catches the past two seasons (PFF).

Creating yards after the catch was a huge struggle for the Giants last season. But now, with Kadarius Toney entering the lineup, and Saquon Barkley returning to the lineup, it seems like the Giants have fixed this problem.

Taking a Look At The Other 2021 New York Mets Draft Picks (Rounds 2-5)

New York Mets

After the New York Mets made a big splash by drafting Kumar Rocker, they moved on to the later rounds of the 2021 MLB Draft. Here is a look at the Mets draft picks for rounds two through five in their first draft under new owner Steve Cohen.

Round 2 Selection: RHP Calvin Ziegler (St. Mary’s High School)

Ziegler is a native Canadian who had to move to Florida during last year’s pandemic to keep his draft hopes alive. He is six feet and 205 pounds, with a consistent low to mid 90s fastball. Ziegler has shown an ability to get into the high 90s at times. His secondary pitches are a curveball and changeup. The break on his curveball varies from a typical over-the-top movement one with more side-to-side break than most. His changeup sits in the mid-80s but rarely throws the pitch. Ziegler is not a lock to sign as he is committed to Auburn University.

Round 3 Selection: RHP Dominic Hamel (Dallas Baptist)

Hamel went undrafted in 2020’s five-round draft and is a 6’2″, 205-pound right-handed pitcher. He had a solid junior season with a 4.22 ERA and 13-2 record over 91.2 innings. Hamel had 136 strikeouts and held batters to a .204 average despite allowing 16 home runs. His fastball ranges from 90-94, but the Mets revamped analytics department was enamored with his spin rates. Hamel allowed 14 home runs on the heater, which shows how important his secondary pitches were.

Round 4 Selection: 1B J.T. Schwartz (UCLA)

The Mets ended their streak of drafting pitchers by drafting the 6’4″, 215 pound Schwartz out of UCLA. After a 2019 redshirt and COVID shortened 2020, Schwartz put himself on everyone’s radar during the 2021 season. Surprising for his size, he batted more like a contact hitter by hitting .405/.528/.635 with eight home runs and 45 RBIs. The best part of his game is his 35 walks to just 22 strikeouts. Despite the contact approach at the moment, he has the size to round into an all-around hitter.

Round 5 Selection: RHP Christian Scott (Florida)

The Mets went back to the trend of selecting right-handed pitchers with Scott. At 6’4″ and 215 pounds, he certainly projects to be a power pitcher as he matures. Scott pitched out of the bullpen for all but one of his 26 games but was a multiple inning pitcher, throwing 53 innings in those appearances. He was an outstanding control pitcher with just nine walks and 51 strikeouts. Scott is a power reliever who can reach into the high 90s with his heater and mid-80s with his slider.

Long-term talks stall between Marcus Maye, New York Jets (Report)

According to Ian Rapoport, there appears to be no long-term agreement in the near future between Maye and the New York Jets.

Per Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, no long-term contract deal is expected between the New York Jets and safety Marcus Maye.

According to Rapoport, the Jets “not responded to his last proposal and that offer has been pulled off the table”. The safety was franchise tagged by the Jets in March, signing the one-year tender worth just over $10.6 million two weeks later. Maye’s tag makes him with sixth-highest safety for the 2021 season, tied with Marcus Williams of New Orleans. He will play on that tag unless a long-term can be reached by Thursday.

Both sides have equal footing in the argument for Maye’s long-term deal. Maye has been labeled one of the better safeties in the NFL, boasting an 82.1 Pro Football Focus grade in 2020 (fourth-best amongst safeties). The Jets, on the other hand, may be reluctant to offer a safety that’s set to turn 29 next March a long-term deal.

Shortly after the NFL Draft ended in May, general manager Joe Douglas said that re-upping with Maye was a “priority” after the selections.

“It’s still a priority to keep Marcus here long term,” Douglas said, per Max Goodmanof SI.com. “We have had productive texts back and forth with his agent and we’re hoping to really dive into this now that now that the draft’s over.”

In that same month, head coach Robert Saleh said he understood Maye’s side of the story, but reiterated that Douglas and the front office were working “relentlessly” on a long-term deal.

“I think these kids have earned the right to ask for whatever they can, especially when they do things the right way like (Maye) has,” Saleh said, per Adam Maya of NFL.com. “We had a really nice discussion and obviously him and his agent are working with Joe on trying to get his deal done, and hopefully that happens soon.”

Maye skipped organized team activities but attended the Jets’ minicamp proceedings in June. He’s coming off a season that saw him earn a career-best 88 tackles (4 for a loss, including a pair of sacks) and 11 pass breakups.

Will this reported stall between Maye and the Jets affect the team moving forward

After destroying Greg Hardy at UFC 264, what’s next for Tai Tuivasa?

On Saturday night at UFC 264, Tai Tuivasa (12-3) took on Greg Hardy (7-4, 1 NC) on the main card. The battle of the heavyweight knockout artists promised to bring fireworks and it delivered on Saturday night.

After just a few seconds of feeling the other out, both men started throwing heat. Hardy actually landed the biggest shots early and appeared to briefly stun Tuivasa. However, Tuivasa had been there before and remained composed.

Hardy recklessly rushed in and Tuivasa blasted him with a left that put him down. While follow up shots were landed, they weren’t even needed as Tuivasa got the devastating first round knockout win at UFC 264.

Tuivasa has had a very up and down UFC career thus far. After starting out 3-0 inside the octagon, the Australian heavyweight lost three fights in a row. He has now responded with three consecutive first round knockout victories.

So, it’s been a wave of three fight streaks for Tuivasa in the UFC. Three straight wins followed by three straight losses and now three straight wins again. Perhaps “Bam Bam” could be gearing up for his first four-fight win streak.

What’s next after UFC 264?

The new UFC rankings came out today and Tuivasa didn’t crack the top fifteen after his win over Hardy on Saturday night. That said, I believe he is just on the fringe and having won three in a row, he should get a ranked opponent next or someone on the verge of being ranked.

With that, who should the UFC pair him with. Well, there are a few options, but one really jumps out at me. I would love to see the promotion book Tuivasa against top heavyweight prospect Tom Aspinall (10-2).

Out of Aspinall’s ten professional wins, not one has gone the distance. He’s got a tremendous skillset overall and he’s also currently just outside of the UFC heavyweight rankings. Both men are looking to crack the top fifteen and a fight between the two would get it done for one of them.

For Aspinall, it would be a massive fight to show off his toughness and his overall game. For Tuivasa, it would be a chance to show off that he’s still capable of being a top contender in the UFC’s heavyweight division.

New York Jets to host joint practices vs. Philadelphia

New York Jets

The New York Jets will now face the Eagles three times this year, as they’ll host a pair of joint practices prior to their summer clash.

Another chapter has added to the northeastern battle of green football.

The New York Jets announced on Tuesday that One Jets Drive will host joint practices with the Philadelphia Eagles at Atlantic Health Jets Training Center in Florham Park. These practices land on August 24 and 25, days before the teams face off in their respective preseason finales on August 27 at MetLife Stadium.

New York and Philadelphia have mostly kept their gridiron interactions limited to the final weeks of the summer due to their differing conferences, but are now set to meet three times throughout the course of the 2021 season. A regular season matchup looms on December 5 at East Rutherford, serving as the extra game in the newly-minted 17-contest schedule. The Jets have met the Eagles in an annual preseason contest since the turn of the century, their two-decade standing date broken only by the cancellation of the 2020 preseason amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. New York is winless against Philadelphia in 11 regular season meetings, the last showdown coming two seasons ago at Lincoln Financial Field.

In addition to the joint summer sessions with the Eagles, the Jets are also slated to visit Green Bay’s camp prior to their exhibition at Lambeau Field on August 21.

The announcement of Philadelphia’s invasion of Florham Park accompanied the reveal of Jets training camp practices that will be open to the public. Both of the Eagles’ visits are on the list, as is the Green and White scrimmage at MetLife Stadium, which will be the stadium’s first football hosted in nearly 18 months, dating back to an XFL contest between the New York Guardians and Los Angeles Wildcats.

Fans will also be welcome at the training camp practices in Florham Park on July 31st and August 2nd, 4th, 9th, and 11th. Autographs from players and staff will not be permitted, face coverings and proof of vaccination will not be required.

To download tickets to Jets training camp, click here.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Khabib Nurmagomedov remains firm in retirement from the UFC

Today we saw an interview drop from ESPN’s Brett Okamoto with former UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov (29-0). This was the first time since late last year that we’ve seen an in-depth interview with the former champion.

Nurmagomedov last fought at UFC 254 in October when he choked out Justin Gaethje in the second round to retain his lightweight title. An emotional Khabib collapsed in tears after the fight concluded.

Earlier in the year, Khabib had lost his father due to COVID-19 complications. Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov was not just Khabib’s father, but also his head coach. Khabib was incredibly close with his father and was transparent about how it was hard to compete without him.

Prior to UFC 254, Khabib made a promise to his mother that the October fight would be his final one. Being a man of his word, Khabib laid his gloves in the octagon after the win and officially announced his retirement.

However, that didn’t stop Dana White from trying to get him back. The UFC President tried for months to change Khabib’s mind. In fact, he recently offered Khabib a fight with fellow legend Georges St. Pierre (26-2). However, Khabib remained firm and stayed retired.

Would anything bring Khabib back to the UFC?

Months ago, Khabib’s friend and training partner Daniel Cormier mentioned a scenario that could bring Khabib back. The scenario involved Charles Oliveira (31-8, 1 NC) going on a massive run and defending his title multiple times.

Among those successful title defenses would be a win over Khabib’s protégé Islam Makhachev (19-1). Okamoto asked Khabib about this scenario and whether or not he would consider coming back to prove to the world that he’s the best.

With a smile, the former UFC champion said, “If everything happens like you say, I will say, ‘At that time, it was Khabib’s time, now it’s Charles’ time’. I’m not going to just jump to the media and say I’m going to fight this guy, that’s not interesting for me.”

Khabib is happy with the way his career panned out. The thing he takes the most pride in is that at the moment he retired, he was the UFC’s top pound-for-pound fighter in the rankings. Khabib said he doesn’t consider himself to be the greatest, but he considers himself to be on the level of the other greats.

However, at one point in time, he was without a doubt the best fighter in the world. Now, Khabib is focusing on his post-fighting career which focuses coaching. He said his father always wanted Makhachev to take over the lightweight division after Khabib retired from the UFC.

Khabib acknowledged with a smile that Islam is a little late on his end of the bargain. However, the former champion aims to do everything he can to make Islam Makhachev a lightweight champion in the UFC just like his father wanted. You can see Khabib’s full interview below.

Report: Collin Sexton will cost Knicks Obi Toppin, Kevin Knox and 2021 1st rd pick

collin sexton, knicks

Another offseason day, another point guard has been linked to the New York Knicks.

According to The Athletic report on Tuesday, the Knicks have emerged as the most aggressive trade suitor for Cleveland Cavaliers scoring guard Collin Sexton.

SB Nation’s Fear of the Sword Editor Evan Dammarell poured more fuel to the fire when he floated that a package of Obi Toppin, Kevin Knox, and one of the Knicks’ 2021 first rounders appears to be an option.

If the reports are true, Brock Aller’s imprint should be all over it.

After all, Aller, the Knicks VP for Basketball and Strategic Planning, started his career in Cleveland. He served as Dan Gilbert’s personal assistant before transitioning to a front office role, where he raised his profile as one of the finest capologists around the league.

Aller was part of the Cavaliers’ front office that drafted Sexton in 2018 using the eighth pick, the key piece in the Kyrie Irving trade with the Boston Celtics.

On top of landing Sexton, the Knicks would also open up an additional $4.6 million in cap space.

Sexton has blossomed into one of the better scoring guards in the league, increasing his scoring, assists, and efficiency throughout his first three years with the Cavaliers. But there was a red flag raised by another The Athletic report on May that painted him a “ball hog.”

“Various Cavs players still grow frustrated by the way Sexton dominates the ball, and opponents taunt them by saying during games, ‘You know he’s not going to pass you the ball,” Cavaliers’ insider Joe Vardon wrote.

It may also be one of the reasons why the Cavaliers are reluctant to keep him with his rookie extension on the horizon. But Aller’s valuable direct intel on Sexton could be the key in the Knicks pushing for a deal.

But to Collins’ defense, he played with a bad Cavaliers’ roster devoid of an elite offensive threat.

If the reported package is true, it’s going to be a low-risk, high-reward move for the Knicks akin to the Derrick Rose mid-season trade.

The bet is for Sexton’s ball-dominant style of play to impact winning and create space for Julius Randle. Sexton’s 28.6 usage rate this season ranked 17th among guards in the league, per NBA.com. Meanwhile, Randle’s 28.5 usage rate this season ranked 15th among forwards, per NBA.com.

There’s no question Sexton’s shotmaking and toughness, despite being undersized, will be a huge upgrade over Elfrid Payton. But the question is can he thrive more as a facilitator next to Randle?

Sexton will be aiming to raise his stock to get the rookie max extension he wants, which is roughly $168 million over five years.

At the very least, he can shot up his value next season while running the Knicks offense, hopefully back to the playoffs. Sexton’s value would still be relatively higher than Knox, Toppin, and the 19th or 21st pick combined. Then the Knicks will have to decide whether to keep him long-term or flip him in a sign-and-trade deal. Sexton’s value would still be relatively higher than Knox, Toppin, and the 19th or 21st pick combined in any deal next summer. At best, he becomes the Knicks’ best point guard in a long while.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo