Pete Rose torches Yankees’ Wild Card lineup, questioning Aaron Boone

joey gallo, yankees

There is no doubt that New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone displayed a few interesting lineups throughout the 2021 season. Most would argue that he could’ve chosen more efficient batting orders, as the bottom half during the Wild Card was extremely inefficient.

Beyond the first five batters, the Yankees hosted Brett Gardner, Gio Urshela, Kyle Higashioka, and Andrew Velazquez. Unfortunately, they were only able to curate one hit between all of them, striking out a combined seven times.

Former manager and player Pete Rose had some harsh words for the batting order, specifically Joey Gallo, who struggled significantly in the strikeout department last season. Gallo recorded a measly .199 batting average, striking out 34.6% of his 616 plate appearances.

“That was the worst (bleeping) lineup they could have put on the field,” Rose said to USA Today’s Bob Nightengale. “Their 6,7,8,9 hitters were all out-men. They had to have (Aaron) Judge and (Giancarlo) Stanton do something. If they didn’t, all of the pressure was on Joey Gallo. You saw how that worked out.”

Rose was undoubtedly a bit dramatic with his take, but Gallo did strike out a behemoth 213 times. He did manage to post the best walk right up his entire career at 18%, a near 5% increase compared to 2020.

“How does someone who didn’t play every day strike out 213 times?” Rose says. “Ray Charles wouldn’t strike out that much. I just can’t imagine striking out 213 times without killing myself.”

Gallo is capable of being a great player, as he showed back in 2019 when he recorded a .253 average with 22 homers and 49 RBIs. He hit 38 home runs this past season, but his inability to contact hit hurt the team at times.

With Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton performing at a well above average level, they need to find a contact hitter behind them who can drive them in from the base paths. Gallo hit more homers than doubles and triples combined, and had only nine more singles than long balls.

The future for the Yankees needs to be a bit different, as relying on the HR has not worked the past few seasons. They need solid contact hitting with good base runners injected into the middle of the lineup.

Do you agree with Pete Rose’s take here? Comment here!

Chicago Bears: Aaron Rodgers praises the Bears defense

Ahead of the Chicago Bears Week 6 matchup against the division-rival Green Bay Packers, the Bears will welcome Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers to town for potentially the last time. Rodgers, who’s become a defining factor in the NFL’s most storied rivalry over the last few years has seen plenty of Bears defenses throughout his tenure.

Through five games in 2021, Chicago is allowing just 20 points per game, good for 7th overall in the NFL. Pass rushers Khalil Mack and Robert Quinn have combined for 9.5 sacks, while Roquan Smith has 50 tackles. Chicago currently has 18 sacks, leading the NFL while allowing eight yards per pass attempt.

“Yeah I mean they’re a great defense, they’ve always been, been a solid defense over the years,” Rodgers told Packers reporters on Wednesday. “It’s some familiar names who are studs and, and you know Robert Quinn’s having a nice season, getting after the quarterback. Obviously, Khalil (Mack) is still one of the top players in the league. Akiem Hicks, when healthy, is as disruptive as he possibly can be. Roquan (Smith) has emerged as a top-tier linebacker, I mean he’s kind of been in that position since he got in the league but he’s steadily improved every single year. He’s a complete linebacker. Backend is very solid, they’ve got some younger players but they’ve definitely improved and been playing well.”

For Rodgers to praise the Bears defense isn’t anything new but we must also keep in mind that the Bears have beat Green Bay just once since 2018. For many, the Bears drafting Justin Fields, combined with 2021 potentially being Rodgers’ final season with the Packers means a changing of the guard could soon be happening in the NFC North.

Chicago’s defense will look to be competitive on Sunday afternoon and employ a bend-don’t-break type mentality. The Bears may not be able to stop Rodgers entirely, instead the focus will shift to neutralizing Rodgers as much as possible, hoping the Bears offense can complement the defense by moving the football and scoring enough points to win the game.

 

Chicago Bears: Physicality now a part of offensive identity

Cody Whitehair, bears

Every year in the NFL is a different team and for the Chicago Bears, 2021 has been much different than most expected. After an up-and-down start to the regular season, Chicago opted to make changes on offense. Veteran quarterback Andy Dalton was benched in favor of rookie Justin Fields while offensive coordinator Bill Lazor was dubbed as the primary playcaller, taking duties from head coach Matt Nagy.

Switching to Lazor and Fields has given the Bears new life. No longer are the Bears are dink and dunk offense each week. Over the last two games, the Bears have been running the ball consistently, employing a run-first philosophy. This shift in offensive philosophy has the Bears’ offensive line playing more physically, dominating opponents at the point of attack.

“You could just tell the mentality changed throughout the team in practice, meetings, and then everything’s translated over into games,” said offensive lineman Cody Whitehair. “I like where we’re at right now and we just got to keep it going moving forward.”

The undisputed leader of the offensive line, Whitehair and right guard James Daniels are the only remaining pieces that were on the 2018 Bears, a team that featured a solid offensive line, A unit that struggled over the last two seasons has quickly stabilized itself and hopes to turn into a strength for the Bears moving forward.

“Guys just coming out to practice and wanting, the coaching wanting to get better, the relentless effort to try and get things right,” said Whitehair.

On paper, one would look at Chicago’s offensive line and assume it’s a unit that is still learning how to play together. However, the numbers speak for themselves. On offense, Chicago averaged 4.2 yards per play against the Las Vegas Raiders in week 5 and controlled the line of scrimmage, allowed just two sacks. The Bears are quickly turning into a more physical brand of football which should cater to the offenses’ strengths as the weather continues to change over the next two months in the Windy City.

Giants Injury Update: Daniel Jones trending up, Andrew Thomas poses question mark

New York Giants, Daniel Jones

The New York Giants are heading into Week 6 with a nasty case of the injury bug. With the Los Angeles Rams coming to town, the Giants have a ton of questions left to be answered. Regarding injuries, the Giants lost a bevy of players to the Dallas Cowboys in Week 5, and there’s a solid number that won’t be available for the next week or two.

One player who missed the Week 5 contest is left tackle Andrew Thomas, who the team sorely missed as Nate Solder put forth an awful performance. In the loss, Solder allowed three QB hits, five hurries, and eight pressures, all more than Thomas has allowed in the first four weeks of the season.

At this point, the team desperately needs their stud left tackle, but he was unable to practice on Wednesday, or at least the team had him sit out of caution. Considering Thomas suited up and was prepared to play against Dallas if need be.

I believe this is more maintenance-related, as they feel he can step in and perform well without physically practicing this week. This is probably a smart move as they try to avoid any potential re-aggravation of the injury.

How is Daniel Jones progressing for the Giants?

The Giants are also closely monitoring quarterback Daniel Jones, who suffered a scary concussion against Dallas in which he stumbled over his own feet, putting doubt into his availability moving forward.

However, Jones was able to throw the football around on the practice field and run without any limitations. While he was listed as a DNP, there is hope that Jones can pass the concussion protocols and play against the Rams this upcoming weekend.

Reports indicate that Jones is on step three of a five-stage protocol for concussions, which bodes well for his chances. However, given the fact that the Rams are a strong opponent, the Giants might be wise to sit DJ one extra week to ensure he is 100% healthy.

With that being said, general manager Dave Gettleman is not in a position to lose games purposefully, so if he is able to go, we should expect to see Jones suiting up.

Knicks Notes: Julius Randle in mid-season form, Taj Gibson adds new element to his game

julius randle, knicks

The New York Knicks overcame the Detroit Pistons by a score of 108–100 on Wednesday evening. The Knicks have now scored over 100 points in all three of their preseason games, with the final contest coming on Friday against the Washington Wizards at 7:30 PM.

In the victory, the starting team contributed significantly aside from Evan Fournier, who posted just five points in 26 minutes. However, the contributions of Julius Randle and Taj Gibson stood out the most, combining for 50 points on the evening.

Randle seems to be in mid-season form, shooting 11-of-19 from the field and connecting on 4-of-7 three-point shots. He also contributed 11 rebounds, five assists, and one steal. If Randle can continue building upon his first All-Star performance in 2021, the Knicks will find themselves in a great position after the additions of Fournier and Kemba Walker, who upgraded the shooting guard and point guard positions.

While Randle started the game slowly, late in the third quarter, he posted 16 of his 29 points. He shot just 40% from the field in the first half, but Randle shook off intense defense by Jerami Grant and began knocking down shots at an efficient rate.

However, Julius wasn’t the only player to dominate with his shooting, as a big man Taj Gibson also had an impressive outing, contributing 21 points. Gibson shot 9-of-14 from the field and even hit a three-point shot while picking up nine rebounds to assist and two blocks.

Gibson displayed his shooting abilities from the mid-range, bringing another element to a team that lacked a scoring center. While Gibson is a reserve option as Mitchell Robinson is expecting to make a return in the final preseason game, he can clearly constitute in a unique way.

The Knicks have also asked Nerlens Noel to begin taking shots and helping the offense in that fashion, so we could see a more modernized approach from Tom Thibodeau’s team this upcoming season.

Nonetheless, the Knicks are off to a phenomenal start having beaten all three of their preseason opponents by eight points or more. While the preseason doesn’t exactly indicate how the team will perform during the regular campaign, it gives us a good idea of the player’s chemistry and momentum as we near October 20 against the Boston Celtics.

Rangers’ loss in Washington displays team’s inefficiencies on the ice and behind the bench

The New York Rangers’ loss to the Capitals on Wednesday night confirms that this team has plenty of work ahead of them, on the ice and behind the bench.

The New York Rangers began their 2021-2022 season with a 5-1 loss to the Washington Capitals. It is only one loss, game one of 82 on the schedule, but there were some familiarities to last season the club needs to get away from if they want to put together wins.

Georgiev Gets The Start

The lineup was questioned almost immediately when Alexandar Georgiev led the team onto the ice.  Why was Igor Shesterkin sitting for the first game of the season? Did the back-to-back schedule of games having the team in Washington on Wednesday and then playing their home opener on Thursday play that big of a factor in this decision?

Gerard Gallant was asked about his decision in his post-game presser and really didn’t have a concrete answer as to why he went with Georgiev telling Vince Mercogliano,

“No, not really. Obviously, we’ve got back-to-back games and I think Georgie played real well. I don’t think there’s any issue with the goals with Georgie.”

Georgiev made some good saves, but overalled seemed to struggle at times.  The Rangers gave up two goals in 24 seconds in the second period giving the Capitals a 3-0 lead at the time.  That third goal is one Georgiev would definitely want back. It once again showed that he needs to find a way to make the big save that can stop the opposition’s momentum.

Georgiev made 22 saves on 27 shots in the game taking the loss.

Unusual Lineup

An opening night lineup that saw rookie Nils Lunkvist watching the game, and Jared Tinordi lacing up his skates for the game was a direct result of the club being concerned about the rough style of game that was anticipated to have. This team already had a hard-hitting Sammy Blais and Ryan Reaves penciled in to play, why sit Lundkvist then?

The bottom six of the team’s lineup had Filip Chytil centering Sammy Blais and Barclay Goodrow and Kevin Rooney in the middle of Ryan Reaves and Dryden Hunt.

Other than some big hits, neither line produced many scoring chances.

The Rangers scored just one goal, on the power play, by Chris Kreider in the third period.  The special teams were a thorn in the team’s backside throughout the game.

The team took nine penalties allowing four power-play goals. With the man advantage, the Blueshirts managed just one goal in eight opportunities.

This is an area the club had relied on to improve in the offseason, but it is apparently more work is needed to be done.

A New Day

Tonight the Rangers will be back on the ice again, this time at Madison Square Garden. Their home opener welcomes the Dallas Stars and hopefully a better outcome than on Wednesday night.

Gallant has already announced the Igor Shesterkin will be in the net and one could assume that the head coach will insert Lundkvist and forward Julien Gauthier into the lineup in hopes of generating some more offense.

It may be early in the season but this team needs to find its identity early and get some good line chemistry with the tough schedule the team has ahead of them. The Blueshirts only have two home games, after tonight’s game, in the next 10 games.

This team needs to do everything it can not to fall into the quicksand and find ways to keep even with the rest of the league and division.

Tom Thibodeau coaches Knicks hard in preseason win against Pistons

tom thibodeau, knicks

The game was practically over as the New York Knicks were up by 11 with 23 seconds to go. But Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau was still in a competitive and combative mood. He argued with the referee on what he felt was a non-call after a defender charged at his rookie guard, Miles McBride, that led to a turnover.

It was a recurring scene on an October night that had the intensity of June.

“Everyone has to be themselves. I’m not saying my way is for everyone. I know my way is for me, and everything matters to me,” said Thibodeau, explaining his serious approach to a preseason game that holds no bearing in the standing.

In the opening half, the Knicks were uncharacteristic and erratic, where an injury-plagued and a young Detroit Pistons team led by as many as eight points. They were a step slow against the Pistons, which played like a well-oiled machine despite missing eight players, including top overall pick Cade Cunningham (right ankle) and their top sophomores Saddiq Bey (left ankle) and Killian Hayes (concussion).

The Knicks had to dig deep and needed a big second half from Julius Randle to rally past the Pistons, 108-100, Wednesday night in the Garden and stay unbeaten in preseason.

They improved to 3-0 and 6-1 overall under Thibodeau in meaningless games (dating back to last year’s preseason) that mean everything to him.

“For us, we’re an organization that’s building right now. We want to get established. Our fight is continuing every day. And I love the fight in our guys,” Thibodeau said.

When push came to shove, the Knicks turned to their bread and butter that fueled their stunning fourth seed finish in the East last season — Randle and their defense.

Randle started slow after skipping Saturday’s win in Washington to attend to his wife Kendra, who delivered their second child last Friday. But he found his rhythm in the second half, leading the Knicks’ comeback.

The 26-year old forward was unstoppable in the third quarter, unloading 16 of his team’s 30 points.

Randle drilled in three straight three-pointers during a torrid stretch that enabled them to grab the lead. A 10-0 run to end the quarter turned a 56-52 halftime deficit into an 82-77 Knicks lead.

Their defense roared back to life in the second half and forced the Pistons to 38.6 percent shooting.

Matched up against Jerami Grant, the Pistons’ go-to guy that he beat for the Most Improved Player award, Randle flashed his All-Star and All-NBA form, finishing with 29 points, 11 rebounds, and five assists in 34 minutes. Grant led the Pistons with 18 points and four rebounds in 31 minutes. 

“Every game is gearing towards the real thing, so that’s what it’s about,” said Randle, who didn’t mind the big minutes in the preseason, whereas around the league, the starters are either getting rested or playing token minutes.

“Actually, I’m happy we had a game like this where we weren’t shooting well and weren’t in a great rhythm and had to figure it out. So it’s a good test for us mentally to get ready for the season.”

The Pistons gave them everything they got. But no offense to Detroit, this game was supposed to be a walk in Madison Square Park. In their first two preseason games, New York won by an average margin of 19.5 points.

After throwing up 37 and 52 three-point attempts in their first two preseason wins, the Knicks were held down to 33 but still made 13 of them for still a respectable 39.4 percent clip.

Taj Gibson even hit one as he turned back the clock in a vintage performance.

Gibson exploded for 21 points in his third straight start and came one rebound shy of a double-double. When asked where he found the fountain of youth, the 36-year old Brooklyn native answered the question with a real New Yorker sense of humor.

“I guess it’s the New York’s Bodega’s bacon egg and cheese,” said a smiling Gibson referring to the menu staple of the small-owned, operated convenience stores in every corner of New York.

Gibson and his forever teammate Derrick Rose were the only bright spots in the Knicks’ sluggish first half.

Rose, who started for Kemba Walker (rest), scored 12 of his 14 points in the opening half. The former MVP added five assists and two steals in 30 minutes.

Veteran guard Alec Burks was the only New York reserve in double figures with 12 points.

In the second half, Thibodeau yanked rookie Jericho Sims in favor of undrafted Aamir Simms, who is vying for a two-way spot with the team.

Simms made a good account of himself, providing solid interior defense while contributing two points and four rebounds in 12 minutes. Sims, the 58th overall pick, was scoreless in six minutes.

Playing time for the two rookie big men and even Gibson would become scarce once Mitchell Robinson (broken foot) and Nerlens Noel (sore knee) return to the lineup, which could come as early as Friday’s preseason finale.

“At halftime, right before [Thibodeau] walked in, I was telling the young guys [whenever they miss a play] ‘do not look over to the sideline.’ Like if you look at him, it’s going to f–k up your game,” said Rose as the media room burst into laughter. “So do not look at him. Just raise your hand, everybody knows you messed up, you made a mistake, and just keep it going, and gotta give that same effort throughout the entire game.”

“When I was younger, I used to look over to the sideline a lot, and you feel his emotions, which is kinda strange, bro. I thought, ‘wow’ then I just raise my hand,” said Rose cracking a smile, “and put my head down. But even then, he’s a winner. So you can express yourself — how you want to — as a man. You could be vocal with him, yell, but right after that, you got to get right back on track to understand that the goal is to win the game, and that’s something Thibs is great at.”

Rose, who has become immune to Thibodeau’s outbursts, said that it’s just part of his competitive nature. And after each game, it’s like nothing happened, like his long-time coach is suffering from amnesia.

Thibodeau was yelling at his players, challenging calls, coaching them hard in every possession while completely ignoring the scoreboard. Preseason games may not count, but Thibodeau views them as opportunities to get better, which is what truly matters.

Meaningless games in early October is Thibodeau’s final test run before unveiling his refurbished toy, reloaded with new offensive weapons, that he hopes would work and grind its way to perfection and finally outrace the competition.

“We can’t fool ourselves into thinking that we’re ready,” Thibodeau said. “Being honest with ourselves, looking at the film, understanding why we either won or why we’ve lost. And to focus on that improvement is critical each day.”

At the end of his post-game presser, Thibodeau cracked a joke: “I’m just a laidback dude.”

But during the final seconds of an impending victory in a meaningless game that matters to him, Thibodeau was in all his glory with his hands up in the air and his head shaking.

“Are you all surprised? Nothing’s going to change, bro,” Rose said. “If you’re a winner, you can respect that all the way through.”

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo