Mets: Taijuan Walker’s post All-Star struggles continue

New York Mets, Taijuan Walker

The New York Mets’ lead in the NL East is down to a game and a half, after Tuesday’s 5-4 loss to the Miami Marlins. It was their third straight loss.

In the middle of the struggles was, again, right-hander Taijuan Walker. His outing wasn’t a disaster – he conceded four runs and eight hits in 5 2/3 innings – but it was yet another disappointing start for the All-Star.

The Mets’ righty has allowed 15 earned runs in his last three starts, covering 14 2/3 innings. His season ERA stands at 3.86, but a few weeks ago, when he made the All-Star team, it was in the mid 2.00s.

Walker’s ERA in his last seven starts is 7.34, with a ghastly 1.66 WHIP. It’s clear he needs to get back on track for the Mets to have a chance at retaining their first place.

While Walker did retire nine of the last 10 batters he faced, the damage was done.

“I think I’m going in the right direction, honestly,” Walker told Newsday. “That third inning got away from me a little bit. But I felt good. I felt like I finished really strong at the end.”

The Mets need him to turn his season around

Home runs have been a problem for him recently. He allowed six in 16 games before the break but seven in his past three starts.

With the Mets currently going through an injury crisis at the rotation, they need Walker to be closer to his first half version.

The Mets currently have Jacob deGrom, Joey Lucchesi, Jordan Yamamoto, and Noah Syndergaard on the injured list.

The problem for Walker is that he was bound for some regression after a stellar first half. In fact, his current 3.86 ERA is almost an exact replica of his career 3.84 mark.

Which version of Walker will we see in the remainder of the season? It’s certainly one of the most important storylines of the Mets’ campaign.

New York Yankee Player Profiles: Joey Gallo trending up again?

yankees, joey gallo

One of the new New York Yankee acquisitions leading up to the trade deadline was Joey Gallo, an outfielder from the Texas Rangers who is a power hitter who has not got much attention because of another new player Anthony Rizzo who has been knocking the leather off the ball. Although he has gotten off to a slow start with the Yankees, much more is to come. He has already shown his worth in the outfield at Yankee Stadium, and the home runs are not far behind. Joey has never been a hitter for average, but home runs, no problem. In addition, he leads the Yankees with 25 long balls and will probably end up with 40 or more.

Since he has spent most of his time (seven years) with the Texas Rangers, many Yankee fans don’t know much about him, so it’s time to learn more now. Joey was born Joseph Nickolas Gallo in Henderson, Nevada; he is 27 years old. He is 6′ 5″ and weighs 250 pounds; he throws right but adds a left-hand bat to the Yankees lineup.

Gallo attended Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas. In his senior year, he was an All-American and was named the Nevada Gatorade Baseball Player of the Year. According to ESPN, he hit 67 home runs in 446 at-bats in his high school career. As a senior, he hit 21 home runs with a .509 batting average. After high school, he signed a letter of intent to attend Louisiana State University.

In the 2012 MLB draft, he was selected 39th overall by the Texas Rangers. He had to choose to go to LSU or choose the Rangers; he chose the Rangers and got a $2.25 million signing bonus. He started his career with the Arizona League Rangers. In his first year, he hit .293/.435/.733 with 18 home runs and 52 RBIs in 43 games. That performance got him named Arizona League MVP.

After a promotion and short stint with the Spokane Indians, he played the 2013 season with the Hickory Crawdads. He led the Class A South Atlantic League with 38 homers in 392 at-bats. He was a postseason All-Star. He became the first player to hit 40 home runs in a minor league season since 1962. Between the two teams, he hit .251 with 40 home runs and 172 strikeouts. Over the offseason, he worked with two former Yankees, Jason Giambi, and Troy Tulowitzki, at the Philippi Sports Institute in Los Vegas.

In 2014 Gallo played for two minor league teams and combined hit .271/.394/.615 with 42 home runs. He started the 2015 season with the Frisco Roughriders, but on June 1st, he was promoted to the major league. With the Texas Rangers on June 2nd, he hit his first home run and had 4 RBIs. He became the first Texas Ranger ever to have four RBIs in his debut game.  In 2015 in the majors, he batted .204/.301/.417 with 6 home runs and 57 strikeouts in 108 at-bats. In 2016, Gallo spent most of the season in the minors, appearing in only 17 games for the Rangers.

In 2017 and 2018, he hit 41 and 40 home runs, respectively. In 2018 he would also record his 100th home run with the fewest singles and the fastest player to reach 100 home runs, which Gary Sanchez has since surpassed.  2019 would be his first All-Star game. For the season he batted .258 with 21 home runs in 70 games. Although always having been an excellent defender in 2020, he won his first Gold Glove Award in the Rangers outfield.

In 2021 with the Rangers, he led the team with 25 home runs batting .216 and making his second All-Star game. Like I said before, don’t look for many ground ball singles; he elevates the ball for doubles and home runs. He averages a home run in every 12.5 plate appearances. He also seems to hit them in bunches with droughts in between. Because he stays healthy, he may be tuned to play in the most games of his career and hit the most home runs of his career in a single season.

The Texas Rangers will be paying the majority of this $6 million salary this season. He will be arbitration-eligible in 2022 and will become a free agent in 2023.  Just like Anthony Rizzo, Gallo is thrilled to be a New York Yankee. Upon becoming a Yankee he chose the number 13, being the first player to wear the number since Alex Rodriguez.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yankees News: Luis Severino update, Voit homers, two minor-leaguer’s dominate Baltimore

yankees, luis gil

The New York Yankees experienced something special on Tuesday evening as Luis Gil took the mound in his first-ever major-league start. Over 6.0 innings, Gil allowed four hits and zero earned runs, collecting six strikeouts over 88 pitches. For a minor-league player to display this type of adequacy, the Yankees should be considering him as a potential option early next week. With Ace Gerrit Cole currently on the COVID-19 list, the Yankees have relied on a few unreliable options.

For example, they rolled with Andrew Heaney on Monday, as the Bombers were plastered for seven runs. Gil performed far better, despite hosting a 5.64 ERA in Triple-A.

Aside from Gill, one other youngster dominated in his first MLB action. Stephen Ridings, who is classified as a starting pitcher but came in as relief, posted three strikeouts, hitting triple digits with his fastball. Ridings stated after the game that his grandmother had passed the day before, so his performance and experience were indescribable. After such a valiant effort, the Yankees should heavily consider giving both pitchers another opportunity in the near future.

Luis Severino injury update:

Severino pitched 2.1 innings for the Double-A Somerset-Patriots in an 8-4 win on Tuesday. He allowed two hits, two runs and struck out four batters over 43 pitches. This was his first rehab start, putting him in a good spot to potentially make a return in September. Severino has suffered multiple setbacks, including a groin strain several weeks ago that pushed his return date back. Hopefully, he can build off this performance, as it wasn’t exactly what the Yankees hoped for. It will take him time to work his way back into shape, but he’s on the right track.

First baseman Luke Voit cracked a homer with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in a 7-2 loss to the Worcester Red Sox. Unfortunately, the Yankees have already replaced Voit at first with Anthony Rizzo, who has been phenomenal offensively for the team since the acquisition. Voit will be fighting for a designated hitter role upon his return, as he will remain with the team for the rest of the season as the trade deadline has passed.

Get to know Stephen Ridings, the Yankees’ rookie reliever who impressed against the O’s

The New York Yankees battered the Baltimore Orioles 13-1 on Tuesday night, behind three masterful performances from rookie pitchers and, of course, a majestic offensive performance.

Luis Gil, the Yankees’ number six prospect, threw six scoreless frames and completely shut down the O’s offense with a three-pitch mix highlighted by a triple-digits fastball, a fantastic slider and a good changeup.

He was, undoubtedly, the star of the night for the Yankees. But two relievers combined to retire the other nine Orioles hitters. Stephen Ridings struck out three hitters in the seventh and worked around a Maikel Franco double, while Brody Koerner allowed a single run in a couple of frames.

Ridings, in particular, was thoroughly impressive. He flashed a fastball with ride that sat in the 99-100 mph range, and a wicked slider with sharp, late break. The Yankees, it seems, have a good one.

“It was our first time seeing [Ridings] in person,” Yankees’ manager Aaron Boone said to MLB.com. “The stuff was impressive from the side. He had a little strut out there. We were impressed with his demeanor.”

The Yankees’ newest scouting gem?

Ridings has enormous potential should the Yankees give him the opportunity to win a spot. He is a Long Island native and a St. Anthony’s High School grad. According to Minor League Baseball’s official page, he was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in 2016. He is a 6’8’’ right-hander, and is 25 years old.

He joined the Yankees in 2020. In 29 innings between the Double-A Somerset Patriots and the Triple-A Scranton Wilkes-Barre, he has a 1.24 ERA this season, with four walks and 42 strikeouts. He has been flat-out dominant.

His grandmother passed away Monday, the day before his debut with the Yankees.

“To be able to have this moment with my family in the stands was very special,” Ridings said. “In the midst of my family trying to figure out funeral plans and wakes and dealing with all that, getting the call today and having this moment with them was indescribable.”

 

Can Ridings be the Yankees’ newest scouting gem and stick in the bullpen?

Knicks land Kemba Walker on buyout with Oklahoma City, he’s coming home

In a massive splash move on Wednesday morning, the New York Knicks landed star point guard Kemba Walker, who is finalizing a contract buy-out with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Walker is coming off a four-year, $140.7 million deal and was projected to earn $36 million this upcoming season with a $37.6 million player option in 2022.

Instead, Walker will sign a brand new contract in New York after averaging 19.3 points, 4.9 assists, and shooting 42% from the field last season over 43 games. Having landed four All-Star appearances in the last five years, the Knicks finally have their point guard of the future, as the Bronx native has been eyeing a return home for quite some time.

Just two years ago, Kemba averaged 20.4 points, 4.8 assists, and shot 42.5% from the field with a 38% clip from the three-point over 8.4 attempts per game.

This massive move injects Walker into a point guard room including Derrick Rose, Miles McBride, and Luca Vildoza. However, Luca has a non-guaranteed contract, so the Knicks could theoretically let him go and save $3.3 million for the upcoming season.

As a fantastic ball-handler and offensive weapon, Cardiac-Kemba should add a significant name next to Julius Randle, taking a ton of pressure off the star power forward. The Knicks we’re looking to make a splash in free agency, and while they focused on bringing back some of their own, this undoubtedly takes the cake.

Kemba is expected to earn around $8 million annually, suggesting an absolute steal for the Knicks.

Knicks construct free agent contracts perfectly with final year outs

New York Knicks, NYK

The New York Knicks signed five free agents over the past two days, four of which are familiar faces from last season. However, the way they constructed their contracts allows them financial freedom after the 2022-23 season, which just so happens to be the year Zion Williamson’s contract expires.

Knicks’ free agent signings:

Derrick Rose: Three years, $43 million

Rose signed a three-year extension with the Knicks, and while it’s expected to be via the Early Bird exception, the front office should have around $5.5 million left to spend after bringing back Taj Gibson. However, the three-year deal is virtually a two-year deal, as the third season doesn’t have any guaranteed money attached.

Most believed the three-year contracts for Rose, Noel, and Burks were a bit overzealous, but two-year deals seem more efficient.

Nerlens Noel: Three years, $32 million

Noel is in a similar boat, as the third year is non-guaranteed, so the team can move on without any financial implications. Noel coming back averaging over 10 $million per season was undoubtedly a surprise, especially with Mitchell Robinson expected to hold down the starting job, barring injury. The former first-round pick played valiantly last season, though, averaging a career-high 2.2 blocked shots. While he doesn’t offer much offensively, he’s a stout defender, which fits Tom Thibodeau’s mold.

Alec Burks: Three years, $30 million

With Burks making $10 million per season, the Knicks can cut him after two years if they feel he isn’t offering them adequate value. Last season, Burks was one of their best pure scorers, averaging 12.7 points per game over 25.6 minutes. He shot 42% from the field and 41.5% from three. Bringing him back was likely a priority, as he plays a great complementary role.

Taj Gibson: One year, $2.7 million

The Brooklyn native will likely ride the pine during the 2021-22 season. At 36 years old, Gibson displayed fantastic intensity and effort during the postseason against the Atlanta Hawks, and while he doesn’t offer much offense at this point in his career, he’s a great leader and mentor to have behind the scenes.

Evan Fournier: Four years, $78 million

The Knicks might have overpaid for Fournier, but he is an upgrade over Reggie Bullock. With the ability to create his own shots and drive to the rim, Fournier should provide more weaponry on offense, taking some pressure off Julius Randle. This deal is essentially three years, as the fourth year is voidable with no guarantees attached. Essentially, the deal is a three-year, $58.5 million deal.

BKFC President: Paige VanZant in a must-win situation in her next fight

Last year, BKFC made waves in the combat sports world when they signed Paige VanZant (0-2). VanZant was a decent fighter in the UFC, but she was a star on social media and even competed on Dancing With The Stars.

PVZ had a decent run in the UFC, but when her contract ran out last year, she was one of the hottest free agents on the market. Bellator was seen as the early favorite, but BKFC came out of no where with a massive offer.

The offer supposedly pays VanZant more than 10 times what she was making in the UFC. VanZant signed the deal with BKFC and it took everyone by surprise. From a business standpoint, it was a great move by BKFC.

The promotion is still seeking mainstream appeal and they saw VanZant as the ticket to that mainstream appeal. However, PVZ was going to have to do her part by winning. The promotion was hoping to make her the face of the promotion.

PVZ’s Rocky BKFC Start

Things have not gone according to plan for PVZ or BKFC. VanZant made her debut back in February when she faced off against Britain Hart. She lost that fight and it was pretty one-sided on the scorecards. 

She then took on Rachael Ostovich at BKFC 19. The two ladies had fought in the UFC with VanZant picking up the win. However, Ostovich was able to defeat VanZant at BKFC 19 handing PVZ her second straight loss.

After the loss, VanZant stormed out of the ring and didn’t attend the post-fight press conference. This didn’t sit well with Dave Feldman who is the president of BKFC.

He sat down with MMA Fighting this week and made it clear that VanZant is in a must-win situation. In addition to voicing some frustration in her not attending the press conference, Feldman said, “I can’t keep saying ‘she fought really good, now let’s see what happens next time.’ She has to come out with a victory.”

It’s clear that VanZant’s next fight with BKFC is going to be a do-or-die situation. If she loses her third straight in Bare Knuckle, the promotion will likely close the chapter on PVZ in BKFC.

After dominant win at UFC Vegas 33, what’s next for Sean Strickland?

This past Saturday in the main event of UFC Vegas 33, we saw a showdown between ranked middleweights. Former Ultimate Fighter finalist Uriah Hall (17-10) was taking on a former training partner in Sean Strickland (24-3).

When Sean Strickland broke into the UFC, he was competing in the welterweight division. However, he was completely depleting himself to make 170 pounds. Strickland has since found a permanent home in the middleweight division.

Last year, he returned after a two-year layoff due to a motorcycle accident that almost ended his career. He returned last October and took on Jack Marshman. After winning that fight, he took a fight against Brendan Allen just two weeks later.

Strickland stopped Allen in the second round. He followed that up with another win in May and at UFC Vegas 33, Strickland was looking to pick up his fourth win in the last nine months.

I was expecting Saturday night to be competitive between Hall and Strickland. However, it was anything but. Strickland controlled the entire fight and spent the entire fight walking Hall down. A completely dominant shutout win for Strickland at UFC Vegas 33.

What’s next after UFC Vegas 33?

After his dominant win on Saturday night, Strickland jumped up to eighth in the UFC’s middleweight rankings. As mentioned, he’s now won four fights in the last year and he’s ready for a top ten challenge.

With that, who should the UFC pair Strickland up against? In looking at the division, I think a perfect fight for Strickland would be taking on Jack Hermansson (22-6). Hermansson is currently ranked sixth in the middleweight division.

The Joker has been in there with some of the very best that the division has to offer. Since 2018, Hermansson is 6-2 in the UFC. The two losses came against top middleweight contenders Jared Cannonier and Marvin Vettori.

Hermansson is coming off of an impressive win against Edmen Shahbazyan. I think the UFC should put these two against each other and if Strickland wins, you’re looking at a contender who’d be ready to take a shot at the top five. The fight make sense for all parties involved and I think it’s what should be next.

New York Yankees: Takeaways from a new Yankee pitching star

Last night after a sweep of the Miami Marlins and an embarrassing loss to the Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday night, the New York Yankees came roaring back with a season-high scoring 13 runs in which a trio of Yankee pitchers made their major league debut. It was the first time in the last 71 years that the Yankees debuted three pitchers in the same game. Lew Burdette, Dave Madison, and Ernie Nevel against Washington on Sept. 26, 1950.

Do we have a new Yankee star?

His name is Luis Gil (pronounced Heel); last night, seemingly out of nowhere stepped onto the mound and pitched six innings of four-hit scoreless ball while walking just one batter for the Yankees. I say seemingly out of nowhere because all the attention in the last two years has been on prospect Deivi Garcia, who made his major league debut in August 2020. Garcia has been a mixed bag and only pitched two games in the majors this year, both of which he lost. He is presently pitching poorly at Scranton.

Meanwhile, quietly working his way up through the minors was Luis Gil. Gil has been making a name for himself this season between the Somerset Patriots and the Scranton RailRiders. He has a blazing fastball that gives him the confidence to pitch in the majors. So when Gerrit Cole went on the Covid list, the Yankees had to choose between Nestor Cortes Jr. and Luis Gil. The Yankees, in a surprise move, selected Gil even though Cortes has been successful.

You could say that Gil last night said to Yankee fans and the Orioles that I am here throwing a 101 mph first pitch of the game. In his first six innings pitching in the majors, he has two 1-2-3 innings. He was nothing short of masterful. His last pitch of the game (88) was a strikeout. With both Cole and Domingo German now on the Covid list, Gil will surely get another start. The Yankees may have a new pitching star on their hands. Nestor Cortes Jr. will pitch later in the week.

Reinforcements are on the way

There is no question that the New York Yankees are short pitching with two starters on the Covid list and an overused bullpen. But reinforcements are on the way. General Manager Brian Cashman has said the both Luis Severino and Corey Kluber should be back with the club between August 20 and September 1st.

Meanwhile, with an overused bullpen, the Yankees brought up Stephen Ridings and Brody Koener. Ridings took the seventh inning after Gil made his amazing start. Ridings was no less; he struck out the side. At the top of the eight, Boone brought in Koener. Koener pitched the eighth and closed out the game in the ninth. He allowed two hits and one run in his debut. It now appears the Yankees have two other options out of the bullpen.

Yankee hit feast leads to an important win

Last night with the series win with the line, the New York Yankees exploded for 13 runs, and the win causing a rubber game tonight. After losing the first game against the Orioles with only 3 hits, last night, the Yankees erupted with a season tie 15 hits. All but one Yankees took part in the hit fest. Giancarlo Stanton led the charge with four RBIs in 5 plate appearances. He also hit a monster home run, his 17th in the fourth inning. The Yankees knocked starter Alexander Wells out of the game after just 2.1 innings.

Six Yankees had multiple hits, and Torres, LeMahieu, Sanchez, Wade had extra-base hits on the night. As a new New York Yankee, Joey Gallo has yet to heat up; he was the only Yankees last night not to get a hit. Nevertheless, the Yankees played a good game last night on all fronts, including errorless play.

 

Knicks: Why Derrick Rose’s impact will go far beyond his play on the court

knicks, new york knicks, derrick rose, miles mcbride

“Family,” that’s how PG Derrick Rose describes being a part of the New York Knicks. A special connection with his coaches and upper management lead to a three-year, $43 million contract, despite Rose headed toward father-time. His impact can still be exercised in multiple ways.

“It’s family here,’’ Rose said. “ I got Wes here. I got Thibs here. I got everybody that I’ve had success with here, laying down a foundation.’’

Bringing back Derrick Rose is about a lot more than his performance on the floor. His mentorship for young players like Immanuel Quickley and now Miles Mcbride holds invaluable benefit.

Rose spoke about Quickley last season as if he was his personal trainer, detailing his mentality to improve and learn:

“It shouldn’t be too hard with him,’’ Rose said. “We’re similar. He’s getting double-teamed in his rookie year. There ain’t too many rookies getting that type of attention. For him to see that kind of early, it’s just going to make his game better. The game is going to slow down more. And he listens. That’s the greatest thing about him, he listens. With that, you always got room for improvement. He’s a dog. He’s a dog. I can’t explain it. You’ve got to be a player to understand it. We’re in a fight, I know he’s fighting.’’

Quickley backed up Rose’s claim, indicating the ‘big-brother’ mentality the veteran had after being traded to New York from Detroit:

“He just stressed to me — first of all he gave me his number — said anything I need just hit him,” Quickley said. “But he sat down with me a little bit, me and Obi actually, just told us he’s here to help us, he’s here to help us grow and things like that.”

It’s clear Rose still has gas left in the tank, contributing as a player but also a leader for an extremely young team that just added three rookies in the 2021 NBA Draft — Quentin Grimes, Miles McBride, and Rokas Jokubaitis. The front office’s commitment to him speaks volumes of his value, especially at 32 years old and well past his prime.

Reviewing Rose’s performance last season as a player:

After spending the first half of the season with the Detroit Pistons, Derrick Rose played in 35 games with the Knicks, averaging 26.8 minutes per game.

The impact Rose had during his small sample size was tremendous, helping the team secure the 4th Seed in the Eastern Conference. He averaged nearly 15 points, 4.2 assists, and shot 48.7% for the field. He connected on a career-high 41% from deep, hitting 88% of his free throws.

Rose provided offensive efficiency but was also the glue the roster needed to bring the youth and veteran talent together in harmony. With holes all over the roster and deficiencies at multiple spots, they still managed to fight their way into the postseason, finishing the second half of the year in incredible style. Falling to the Atlanta Hawks isn’t something to be embarrassed about, as they made their way to the semi-finals before being knocked out.

Some might view his three-year contract as a bit optimistic based on his regression, but Rose is a legitimate starting point guard in the NBA, and he filled a massive gap for the Knicks upon his acquisition. Replacing the trio of Rose, Elfrid Payton, and Frank Ntilimina with Rose, Luca Vildoza, and Miles McBride represents an upgrade.

Another variable to consider is providing McBride with a mentor who can help him adapt and leave his mark during the 2021-22 season. McBride is known for his defense but was also a solid three-point shooter at the collegiate level, connecting on 41% of his shots. He averaged 15.9 points and 4.8 assists last year with West Virginia. It will take time for him to become an adequate PG at the next level, but having a veteran like Rose to look up two will make his transition that much easier.