McBride, Quickley power Knicks past Rockets with 39 combined points

immanuel quickley, knicks

Despite the loss of RJ Barrett, Obi Toppin, Quentin Grimes, and Kevin Knox due to COVID-19 health protocols, the New York Knicks still powered past the Houston Rockets on Thursday night to snap a four-game losing streak.

Despite a thin bench, the Knicks’ second-team stepped up big in the win, with a pair of young guards showcasing fantastic defense and even better offensive production. Rookie Miles McBride played 36 minutes compared to 12 from Derrick Rose, posting 15 points, nine assists, three rebounds, and shot 6 of 11 from the field.

It is clear that McBride is becoming a bright young player for New York and is well-deserving of more minutes after a stellar first performance against the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday night. McBride has now strung together two productive outings, meaning head coach Tom Thibodeau will likely keep him in the rotation even when their injured players make a return from the Covid list.

However, McBride wasn’t alone in his quest for success, as second-year guard Immanuel Quickley matched his efficiency and then some. Quickley posted 24 points, four assists, and shot 70% from three-point range, hitting 7 of 10 shots. The duo combined for 13 assists and 39 points, leading the way for New York, who had two starters post zero points.

Aside from the young guards, Julius Randle added 21, and Evan Fournier contributed 23; however, both posted a negative +/-.

The Knicks needed their youngsters to step up and play well, and the emergence of McBride is yet another sign of optimism for a team that continues to rely on their youth to pick up the slack. Luckily, they were up against a weak Houston squad who had dropped three of their last four games heading into Thursday night.

As a team, the Knicks hit 47.2% from deep and 47% on the field, contributing 40 rebounds and 25 assists. They held the Rockets to 34.4%, shooting from three-point range, 24 rebounds, and 29 assists. They out-rebounded Houston by 11, including 10 added offensive rebounds.

This was the high-energy performance Thibodeau needed from his team to get back in the win column, and they can look ahead to the Boston Celtics on Saturday night with a hopeful return of some of their impact players.

With UFC decision looming, Kayla Harrison issues a warning to Julianna Pena

MMA, PFL

Last weekend at UFC 269, we saw one of the biggest upsets in MMA history. Julianna Pena (11-4) shocked the world when she dethroned Amanda Nunes (21-5) and became the bantamweight champion of the world.

However, it wasn’t just the fact that Pena beat Nunes, it was the way she beat her. Pena stood toe-to-toe with Nunes in the pocket and backed the champion down. Nunes was forced to clinch and Pena threw her to the ground.

Once there, Pena was able to get her back and submit her. The result sent shock waves throughout the UFC audience. One member of the audience who was especially upset was the hottest free agent on the MMA scene, Kayla Harrison (12-0).

The two-time Olympic Gold Medalist and PFL champion was there to watch her teammate Amanda Nunes. However, Harrison is also being courted by the UFC and was given the free agent camera treatment.

The promotion has expressed interest in booking Harrison against Nunes at 145 pounds. Dana White said after UFC 269 that a bout between Nunes and Harrison would be one of the biggest fights in women’s MMA history.

However, that’s been put on ice for the moment due to Nunes’ shocking loss. Pena was asked about Harrison this week and she labeled the PFL champion the lesser of the two referring to her and Nunes.

Harrison didn’t take kindly to those comments and she made that clear on Ariel Helwani’s MMA hour. She made it clear that if she signs with the UFC, Pena needs to watch where she steps.

Will Harrison sign with the UFC?

Harrison made it clear that Pena needs to watch what she says because she’s not one to just talk about things. She also said that she could beat Julianna Pena with one arm taken away.

Should Harrison sign with the UFC, she would be fighting at 145 pounds. Pena has never expressed interest in moving up, in fact, she’s talked about even trying to make 125 pounds to fight Valentina Shevchenko.

However, her talk of Harrison this week makes me wonder if she’d ever think of competing up in weight. If she did, Kayla Harrison would be glad to take that fight. Currently, Harrison is trying to decide where she wants to sign.

The UFC, Bellator, and PFL are all making plays to sign Harrison. She told Helwani yesterday that PFL is making the biggest financial offer which should come as no surprise. PFL has made her a start and they can’t afford to lose her.

However, she also knows that the UFC and Bellator contain a higher level of competition. She said she’s currently weighing her options factoring in compensation as well as her legacy.

When this free agency began, I thought she might end up in Bellator or resigning with PFL. However, I’m really starting to think she’s leaning towards the UFC and ultimately, I think she ends up in the octagon.

With that being said, Julianna Pena might have to see Harrison at some point.

Extra Butter and Mitchell & Ness to drop limited edition Knicks collection

Are you looking to update your wardrobe for the New York Knicks games?

The hunt is over this Friday.

Extra Butter, the premium and progressive New York boutique and independent lifestyle brand, has partnered with the New York Knicks and Mitchell & Ness to release a limited-edition capsule collection in celebration of the basketball franchise’s 75th anniversary season.

Extra Butter and Mitchell & Ness Knicks collection

The collaboration will be exclusively available on December 17 at Extra Butter’s Long Island City location.

“To kick off this partnership, we felt it was important to look back at where the Knicks started,” said Extra Butter Creative Director Bernie Gross. “The team has been around just as long as the NBA itself. There’s some serious heritage to honor here — most notably, the Knickerbockers origin of the team name and the character itself. The collection features vintage graphics and type treatments from the Knicks iconography. We’re very excited to continue working closely with the Knicks organization to keep bringing stories relevant to the die-hard fans of New York.”

Extra Butter will highlight the Knickerbockers collection at its Long Island City store with a pop-up space that will feature a Pop-A-Shot for customers to shoot hoops and decor courtesy of vintage collector Mr. Throwback. Extra Butter has also partnered with Chase, a marquee partner of Madison Square Garden, to elevate the experience for fans. They will offer a complimentary commemorative enamel pin set for every purchase with their Chase credit or debit card.

commemorative enamel Knicks pin set

After the Friday exclusive drop at the Extra Butter store, the capsule will also be in stock online at Shop.MSG.com and extrabutterny.com on the next day, December 18 at 11 am EST, and at the MSG Team Store inside Madison Square Garden beginning on December 21 when the Knicks host the Detroit Pistons.

The collection will feature hats, sweatshirts, tees, shorts, and hoodies carefully crafted by Mitchell & Ness, who, for over 100 years, has been pioneering the resurrection of authentic jerseys and headwear significant to sports history.

Extra Butter unveiled the collection Thursday night in a private event at their Long Island City store.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

 

Yankees News and Rumors: Does first baseman Anthony Rizzo know something we don’t?

anthony rizzo, yankees

The New York Yankees finished the 2021 season with Anthony Rizzo manning first base after being acquired from the Chicago Cubs at the trade deadline. The lifelong Cub made the transition successfully from Chicago to New York with ease, saying he loved playing in the Bronx. He started out with a bang at the plate but quickly cooled off, although his stellar defense at first base continued. At the end of the season, he became a free agent for the first time in his life, leaving the Yankees without an everyday first baseman.

Before the MLB imposed lock-out, the Yankees did little to improve the team with several holes to patch up if they want to build a championship team for 2022. The Yankees made it known immediately after the World Series that their number one priority was getting a star-like shortstop to replace the failed experiment with Gleyber Torres, the everyday second baseman. They also acknowledged that they needed to address not having a valid number two starting pitcher, with the exit of Corey Kluber, a first baseman, and help in center field to back up the often unhealthy Aaron Hicks. 

The Yankees have options at first base; they held over former first baseman Luke Voit putting him on the 40 man roster. They also are considering Matt Olson, Freddie Freeman, among others, including bringing back Anthony Rizzo, but in the usual manner, the Yankees have been tight-lipped about any pending moves. General Manager had stated that they had contacted Rizzo’s agent, although it is unclear if ongoing talks before the lock-out had advanced.

Rizzo has a history of freely buying homes and selling them, most recently selling a Parkland, Florida $2.5 million mansion in favor of an upgraded $4.5 upscale property in Fort Lauderdale. The two homes are just 30 minutes apart. But now news has surfaced (unverified) that the superstar first baseman has purchased a new home in southeast Connecticut. Rizzo has made it clear he wants to stay playing in New York. Does he know something we don’t?

During a recent podcast, Rizzo had this to say about living in New York:

“Our time in New York was great. We loved it,” Rizzo said. “We lived in the Upper West Side. Lived near (Central Park). Took Kevin (his dog) to the park pretty much every day in the morning, a nice stroll through Central Park. Got to basically live in the city for two or three months and enjoy New York City for those two or three months and then playing baseball for the Yankees, it was a good time. We really enjoyed it …”

“You put that uniform on for the first time, it’s definitely special. … There’s only a few jerseys around this league that when you put them on, it’s different, and the Yankees are definitely one of them.”

“It was great,” Rizzo told “The Compound Podcast” with Ian Happ. “You go from playing at Wrigley Field and the Cubs to New York (and) Yankee Stadium. What more can you ask for?”

Anthony Rizzo came to New York in a trade with the Chicago Cubs. Rizzo has spent his entire major league career with the Cubs, where he was one of the most beloved players on the team. He played a big part in the Cub’s first World Series win in 107 years. The eleven-year veteran player has a 36.8 WAR with 244 home runs and a career batting average of .269. During his Yankee debut, he walked, had two hits, and hit his 15th home run of the season.

Rizzo turned 32 last season. He is a native of Parkland, Florida, and attended the same school, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. He was selected in the sixth round of the 2007 draft by the Boston Red Sox. Rizzo’s minor league career started at 17 in 2007 in the rookie class with the Gulf Coast League Red Sox. He was an immediate success.

In December of 2010, Rizzo was traded to the San Diego Padres. After not making the team in spring training to start the 2011 season, he was assigned to the Tucson Padres. Rizzo was called up to the majors after hitting .365 with an OPS of 1.159 and 16 home runs and 63 RBI in 200 at-bats over 52 games in Tucson. He hit his first major league home run on June 11, 2011.

During the winter of 2012, he was scheduled to be the Padres starting first baseman because of his excellent play, but the Padres acquired Yonder Alonso, who ended up getting the job. Shortly thereafter, Rizzo was traded to the Chicago Cubs.

Rizzo started the 2012 season with the Triple-A Iowa Cubs. His results with the Cubs were the same as with the Padres. He batted .342 with 23 home runs and 62 RBIs. The Cubs promoted him to the big team, where it was hoped he could help the teams’ struggling offense. He became the first player in Cubs history to have three game-winning RBIs in his first five games. In July, he was named Rookie of the month. He ended his first season with the Cubs with a .285 batting average and 15 home runs.

In 2013, Rizzo cemented himself as a great player and fan favorite. Fans learned that not only was he a good player but a really nice person. In 2014, he earned his first All-Star game and came in 10th in the MVP voting. He would be an All-Star for the next three years and an MVP candidate for the next five years. He was also a Silver Slugger and a four-time Gold Glover. In 2016, he helped the Chicago Cubs win their first World Series in over 107 years, the longest World Series drought in baseball history.

He was an integral part of the last three victories over the Los Angeles Dodgers. He led the team to their first World Series appearance since 1945. He would have 5 RBIs in the World Series and would score 7 runs that led the Chicago Cubs to their first World Series win since 1908. That year he would also win the Esurance MLB Award for the best media personality. He also won the defensive award saving 11 runs for the Cubs and led all first baseman getting him his first Fielding Bible Award. He was also nominated for the Roberto Clemente Award. He also got his third MLBPAA Cubs Heart and Hustle Award.

On September 2, 2017, Rizzo became the fourth Cubs player to hit at least 30 home runs, 30 doubles, and 100 RBIs in three or more seasons. For the season, he batted .273/.392/.507 with 32 home runs and 109 RBIs. Unfortunately, he also led the major leagues getting bonked 24 times. On October 27, Rizzo was named the 2017 recipient of the Roberto Clemente Award for his charity’s work to find a cure for childhood cancer. Of winning the award, Rizzo said, “This is amazing. The greatest award you can win. It will go front and center in front of anything I’ve ever done.” In 2018 he had another 101 RBIs. In 2019 he had the highest batting average of his career (.293) with 27 home runs.

The shortened 2020 season was a disappointing season for Rizzo, as it was for many players. He hit only .222 on the season. But he still got the equivalent of 23 home runs and earned his fourth Gold Glove Award at first base. This season he has bounced back with 14 home runs for the Cubs and a batting average of .248. The Cubs offered Rizzo a five-year $70 million extension earlier in the season, which he refused.

With the extension refusal and becoming a free agent in 2022, the Chicago Cubs made the difficult decision to let loose of their long-time favorite player and trade him to the New York Yankees. Anthony Rizzo is probably not the player he was in his prime, but he could help the Yankees to their first World Series since 2009. The Cubs were so appreciative of Rizzos’ time with the Cub, and for the man he is, they produced a short video honoring and thanking him.

With the Yankees last season he hit 249 while hitting 8 home runs in just 49 games. Not only does Rizzo produce at the plate, but he also gives the Yankees defense at first base that they have not seen since Mark Teixeira. However, questions still are unanswered as to if he will return in pinstripes. Although the home purchase in Connecticut can’t be verified, Rizzo has said he sold his home in Chicago.

Knicks need ‘aggressive’ Julius Randle as COVID-19 continues to strike

The New York Knicks are down four men as they embark on a two-game road trip in Houston and Boston to end the week.

Kevin Knox joined RJ Barrett, Obi Toppin, and Quentin Grimes in the health and safety protocols, the team announced on Thursday morning, less than 12 hours before tipoff against the Rockets.

With Knox out, it’s almost certain that Julius Randle’s playing minutes will reach the 40s. New York coach Tom Thibodeau will have to break the glass and pull out emergency backup big Taj Gibson to spell Randle some breather, especially when the Rockets play rookie power forward Usman Garuba off the bench.

Garuba played 17 minutes in the Rockets’ 124-89 loss to the Cavaliers Wednesday night in Cleveland.

Coming off a 31-point explosion in the Knicks’ latest loss to the Golden State Warriors at home, Randle is looking to have another big night. He should have an easier time against 6-4 Jae’Sean Tate and 6-6 KJ Martin, the two Rockets’ undersized forwards.

Randle regained his shooting touch in the second half against the Warriors. The 6-foot-8, 250-pound Knicks forward scored 25 of his game-high 31 points in the final two quarters. He went 5 for 6 from deep, catching rhythm as he abandoned his pump fakes and fired without hesitation.

“I just locked in and said I’m going to be aggressive,” Randle said after the loss. “I think when I overthink, naturally I try to be unselfish and try to kind of think the game and get everybody going and stuff like that. But I just said I’m going to be aggressive and kind of let my instincts take over.”

According to NBA’s tracking data, Randle hit 50 percent of his catch and shoot attempts, including 4 for 7 from the 3-point zone. In the eight games before the Warriors’ game or since Kemba Walker was out of the rotation, Randle only shot 25 percent off catch and shoot, including 26.1 percent from the outside.

“When I’m naturally just myself, I naturally do those things,” Randle said. “I’m hesitant and overthinking and I got an open shot and I don’t shoot it or whatever it is or I’m trying to play the right way and get other people going, it kind of takes me out of rhythm. It takes away from my aggressiveness.”

“It’s crazy because then I start to get turnovers and stuff like that. When I’m naturally aggressive and playing with force, everything falls into place. I get in a rhythm and I start not overthinking, open and shoot it, if they close out, then get into the paint and find people.”

Randle was prolific in the second half, hitting 7 of 12 shots, and only had one turnover in 20 minutes against the Warriors’ league-best defense. He also attacked the rim and made 6 of 6 free throws. In the first half, he had zero attempts from the stripes.

Overall, Randle made 4 of 7 shots within 10 feet from the basket, on par with his average attempts during the eight-game stretch entering Tuesday’s game. His attacking threat gave him some open looks from the outside. He had 12 open shots (4 to 6 feet from the closest defender), and he sank five of them. In the last eight games before Tuesday, he was only hitting 38.5 percent on 4.9 open look attempts.

“When he’s aggressive like that, it makes us better. And I love to see him when he’s attacking the rim,” Thibodeau said. “That puts a lot of pressure on people and it opens up things for us. And then I think he got into a good rhythm doing that. But we need everyone.”

Randle only had three assists, one in the second half. But it wasn’t like he did not try to move the ball and find his teammates. According to the NBA tracking data, Randle made 62 passes, resulting in 15 field goals for his teammates. Unfortunately, his teammates only hit 4 of 15.

Randle is still trying to strike a balance between when to pass and when to take over. But with their roster gutted out by COVID-19, the Knicks need an aggressive Randle to charge up their flailing offense.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

 

Yankees might have a secret ingredient with new pitching coach hire

New York Yankees, Gary Sanchez, Gerrit Cole, Aaron Boone

After an inconsistent year with the starting rotation, the New York Yankees are looking to bolster the unit this off-season via free agency or trade. They still have quality arms to utilize during the 2021–22 season, including Gerrit Cole, Jordan Montgomery, Jameson Taillon, and the return of Luis Severino. I’d be remiss not to mention Domingo German signing a short-term extension to stick with the team, but the Yankees desperately need more support, and they’re going to have to spend to get it.

General manager Brian Cashman had $25 million on the table for Justin Verlander over one season, but he elected to stick with a Houston Astros on a two-year, $50 million deal with a player option for the second year.

However, the Yankees aren’t only focused on adding players, they also elevated a fantastic young coach to the Major League roster after spending time in the minor-league system.

Desi Druschel is being elevated from the team’s minor-league manager of pitch development to an assistant pitching coach under Aaron Boone’s revised staff.

Druschel will join Matt Blake and Mike Harkey as the team’s primary pitching coaches, and given his work ethic and knowledge, it is entirely possible he becomes a secret ingredient for their success moving forward.

Brendan Kuty of NJ.com spoke to Rick Heller, the University of Iowa head baseball coach, regarding the elevation of Desi Druschel to a top pitching role within the Yankees’ organization:

“His work ethic is off the charts,” Heller said. “An elite level. He’s brilliant. He’s got savvy. He’s going to constantly keep pushing the envelop to learn more and be on the cutting edge that’s out there with his job.

“He’s constantly searching for something that is going to help his team and help the players get better, the best way possible. He’s never going to sit back and just think he knows it all. That’s the beauty of what Desi does. He’s constantly trying to learn and get better.”

Heller’s comments describe a forward-thinking coach that is on the cutting edge of technology and modern knowledge of pitching. Whether it be velocity or spin rate, Desi is clearly ready to take the leap to the Major League system or he can make a significant impact on a group of players with immense potential.

However, Cashman is still likely to bring in another quality arm to bolster the rotation, giving the trio of coaches even more talent to work with.

Knicks rule out 4 players ahead of clash with rising Houston Rockets team

new york knicks, rj barrett

The New York Knicks are staring a significant challenge right in the face as they prepared to take on an elevating Houston Rockets team on Thursday night. On the back of four consecutive losses, the Knicks are desperate for a win, watching their record drop to 12–16, good for last place in the Atlantic standings behind Toronto, Boston, Philadelphia, and Brooklyn.

If the postseason started today, the Knicks wouldn’t even be a play-in team, but they have plenty of time to make up ground and string together a few wins to build confidence.

However, their matchup against Houston got a lot more difficult on Thursday, as the team announced reserve forward Kevin Knox will be out due to health and safety protocols.

The Knicks will roll on without Knox, RJ Barrett, Quentin Grimes, and Obi Toppin. Barrett and Toppin are expected to make a return in the coming days as they inch toward the 10-day minimum for Covid related suspension.

In the Knicks’ most recent lost Golden State, they heavily relied on reserves like Miles McBride and Knox, who posted 20 minutes in the loss. They may have to bring Kemba Walker back into the lineup with so many players out, despite head coach Tom Thibodeau trying his best to avoid that situation, given the optics.

However, giving Walker a chance to redeem himself and showcase better efficiency could be a reasonable way to spark the team and provide a different element that Houston isn’t entirely expecting.

Houston is coming off a blowout loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers, allowing 124 points. Their primary players are Christian Wood, Eric Gordon, and rookie Jalen Green.

The last time Houston faced off against New York, they fell 106–99, watching Alec Burks post 20 points and hit 6 of 7 three-point shots off the bench. They will have a far more advantageous situation given the Knicks’ depth situation at the moment. In addition, since they lost to New York, Houston has won eight of their last 11 games but have dropped three of their last four. Their most recent victory against the Atlanta Hawks was a masterclass of offensive production (132 points).

Despite New York’s inept defense this year, Houston ranks even worse in defensive rating at 25th compared to New York’s 23rd. In addition, they are the 21st ranked three-point shooting team and 24th ranked team in field goal percentage.

Yankees’ trade deadline acquisition loved his time in New York: Will he come back?

anthony rizzo, yankees

In more than a few ways, first baseman Anthony Rizzo was a solution for the New York Yankees when he came over from the Chicago Cubs right before the trade deadline. The team wasn’t getting any production from the first base position, as Luke Voit spent a lot of time on the shelf, and they needed some offensive and defensive stability, a left-handed hitter, and a veteran presence.

For the most part, Rizzo delivered, even if his offensive numbers were underwhelming. With the Yankees, he hit .249/.340/.428 with eight home runs and a 113 wRC+: it was far from the 145-155 wRC+ he used to have at peak, but age and decline come for all of us, and the 32-year-old slugger isn’t the exception. His best years do seem to be behind him.

Despite the somewhat disappointing offensive output, Rizzo was a worthwhile addition for the Yankees. He was a veteran leader, a clubhouse darling, he got on base, and played some very good defense, as always. Most importantly, he apparently had a good time in the Bronx.

The Yankees could still bring back Rizzo

“The time in New York was great. We loved it,” Rizzo said on Jomboy Media’s Compound Podcast (link to SI.com article here). “We lived in the Upper West Side. Lived near (Central Park). Took Kevin (his dog) to the park pretty much every day in the morning, a nice stroll through Central Park. Got to basically live in the city for two or three months and enjoy New York City for those two or three months and then playing baseball for the Yankees, it was a good time. We really enjoyed it.

“You put that uniform on for the first time, it’s definitely special. … There’s only a few jerseys around this league that when you put them on, it’s different, and the Yankees are definitely one of them.”

Voit’s future with the Yankees is uncertain, and there is a fair chance the team brings back Rizzo for 2022, depending on their pursuit of fellow first baseman Matt Olson (via trade) and Freddie Freeman (via free agency).

Yankees’ Anthony Rizzo makes bold claim about baseballs from 2021

anthony rizzo, yankees

The New York Yankees and the other MLB teams were surprised when MLB changed the baseball that was in play mid-season. Understandably the baseball is the most important piece of equipment in the game. It affects the pitcher, as does the hitter.

Over the last several seasons, the ball has changed from year to year. Players were both surprised and disturbed that it was changed mid-season during 2021. It appears that keeping the ball the same is not a priority for MLB. It should be something to be discussed during the present CBA talks for a new contract. In just the last few years, we have gone from an ordinary ball to a juiced ball and then to a dead ball in 2021.

Take a look at these numbers:

  • 2014: 0.86 home runs and 4.07 runs per team per game (lowest-scoring season since 1981)
  • 2019: 1.39 home runs and 4.83 runs per team per game (most prolific home run season ever)
  • 2020: A juiced ball that saw more home runs than in the past decade.
  • 2021: MLB introduced the dead ball, the results were noticeable. There were 873 home runs in 2021 compared to the last 162 game season with 1,144 in 2019.

Changes in the ball shift the game beyond what most fans realize. Launch angle changes, defense, and offense also both change. In 2014, the league slugged .386, but that has increased to 4.35, a 58 point increase over the past five years. Another problem for pitchers and hitters alike is the MLB is not always transparent with these ball changes. They did announce before the 2021 season that there would be very minor changes to the ball, it deadened it for 2021. The result was fewer home runs, but then they changed the ball again mid-season leading to more home runs in the second half.

The deadened ball was a boon to pitchers but didn’t please hitters as fewer balls traveled over the fences. Just a minor change in the ball can keep it from going just a few extra feet, resulting in fewer home runs in all parks. One player that commented on the change was the Yankees’ first baseman, Anthony Rizzo.

Free-agent first baseman Anthony Rizzo claimed during a podcast appearance this week that he noticed the change in the baseball last season that MLB used. 

“I would take the balls this year and feel on them and be like, ‘Man, this seems harder,'” Rizzo said on Compound Podcast, hosted by his former Chicago Cubs teammate Ian Happ, per NJ.com’s Brendan Kuty. “And then you take some of them, and you’re like, ‘Feel how soft this is compared to what they were.’ It’s crazy.” Happ, agreed with Rizzo. He added: “They started flying in the middle of the year and you’re like, what’s going on?”

Commissioner Rob Manfred has been criticized for many things during his tenure, and this was just another one. Manfred and MLB have experienced some controversy over how the baseballs are made or weighted for years now. The league even investigated in 2019 when they commissioned their look into the subject. They found that the ball was not intentionally changed, and instead, it credited the change to hitter behavior, causing more home runs. Since then, we learned the ball was fiddled with, making it travel further.

Fans, pitchers, and hitters all believe the ball should not be tinkered with from year to year and that in no case should it be changed during the season. MLB and the players union should decide on a ball and stick with it. After originally saying there wasn’t a change in the ball, this season finally admitted that the ball changed but not on purpose. Due to the pandemic, there was a shortage of balls, and MLB had to change suppliers.

Rizzo, who played for the Cubs and Yankees this past season, is now a free agent. He has let it be known that he would like to stay in New York, but the Yankees have made no decision on who will be the starting first baseman this coming season. They did retain Luke Voit, leaving him as an option.

New York Yankees Bio: Aaron Judge, the man, and the myth

New York Yankees, Aaron Judge

New York Yankee superstar Aaron Judge has been in the news a lot this week, as he tied the knot in Hawaii this past weekend. But, also in the news is whether the Yankees will extend him a mega-contract keeping him a Yankee for life.

The slugger Aaron Judge burst onto the Major League scene in 2017. He played in 155 games, getting 52 home runs and hitting .284 with 114 RBIs. He was heralded at the new Yankee Star, the new Mickey Mantle. He was a Silver Slugger, Rookie of the Year, All-Star, and came in second in the MVP voting. However, he was never the same again with all of those accolades until this past season.

From 2018 to 2020, Judge was riddled with a myriad of injuries keeping him off the field and from performing. During those three years, he played only an average of 80 games a season. His home runs were gone, and his strikeouts stood out. He never could regain his 2017 form.

Fast forward to the 2021 season; a new healthy Aaron Judge appeared on the stage at Yankee Stadium. He was the most dependable and consistent player all of last season. He hit some runs, singles, doubles, and got on base. His .383 OBP is the best since 2017. Plain and simple, he carried the Yankees on his back even during the horrid first half of the season.

Judge ended the season hitting .287 with 39 home runs while playing in a career-high 148 games. 

Here is some useful information to get you to know the man Aaron Judge. On April 27, 1992, Wayne and Patty Judge adopted an African American biracial baby a day after he was born; that baby was Aaron Judge. When Judge was old enough to understand, his parents told him, he was adopted.

Growing up in California, Judge was a San Francisco Giants fan. Judge attended Linden High School, where he was a three-sport star. He played as a pitcher and first baseman for the baseball team, a wide receiver for the football team, and a basketball team center. He set a school record for touchdowns (17) in football and led the basketball team in points per game (18.2). In addition, he was part of the Linden High School team that made the California Interscholastic Federation Division III playoffs in baseball.

You can imagine with this sports record that Judge was heavily recruited by teams like Notre Dame, Stanford, and ULCA as a tight end, but Judge wanted to play baseball. He was selected in the 2010 draft by Oakland but wanted to attend college instead. He played for Fresno State, where he was named a Freshman All-American. In 2012 he won the TD Ameritrade College home run, Derby. During the summer of 2012, he played for the Brewster White Caps of the Cape Cod League.

This is where I may have seen him play. He was drafted #1 by the New York Yankees. In his junior year with Fresno, he led the team in home runs, doubles, and RBI’s. In 2013 the Yankees selected him in the draft, and he signed with the Yankees for a 1.8 million signing bonus. He joined the team but was injured in running drills that kept him out of the season.

So what have we learned about that superstar Aaron Judge? Obviously, he’s a star baseball player, but he also loves football especially watching the playoff games. He loves his friends and fellow players; he instead praises a fellow player than talk about himself. He loves dogs and is a big fan of children that love baseball. He is more profound than many may think. His Twitter header carries the Corinthians “For we live by faith, not by sight.” His very first post reads as follows: 

Christian. Faith, Family, then Baseball. “If what you did yesterday still seems big today, then you haven’t done anything today!”

Judge loves children. He makes every attempt to greet them to sign baseballs and give them his gloves, bat, or cap. He frequently pulls them from the stands so their parents can get a photo of their child with the Yankee star. Many would feel that doing this was a chore but watching Judge, you can tell he loves it, even seeking out young Yankee fans in away parks. It is not uncommon to see him play catch with young New York Yankee fans when there is a play pause. 

Apparently, Aaron Judge is a one-and-done kind of guy, as he culminated a more than ten-year relationship with his high school sweetheart, Samantha Bracksieck, and this weekend, he sealed the deal with a passionate kiss after the pair made their vows. This is even more exciting because the pair managed to keep the impending nuptials mostly secret. Bracksieck was shown months ago with what appeared to be an engagement ring, indicating that an upcoming wedding might be in the books.

The two were married on Saturday, December 11, 2021. It was said to be an intimate wedding with only family and a few of the closest friends in attendance at the Montage Kapalua Bay resort in Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii. The nuptials were enjoyed oceanside with views of other Hawaiian islands. John J. Judge is Aaron’s older brother. They have different blood in their genes, but that doesn’t prevent them from being two peas in a pod. John and Aaron are very close! John is an educator, as are Aarons’ parents. Simply put, this hulk of a man is a softy and of high moral values that cherish being a Yankee and all that that involves.

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