New York Yankees promote Balkovec; becomes first female minor league manager

Per reports, the New York Yankees have promoted Rachel Balkovec to manager of the Low-A Tampa Tarpons. Balkovec, 34, will become the first female to manage a minor league baseball team.

The Yankees signed Balkoveic in 2019 as a minor league hitting instructor. Before joining the Yankees’ organization, she served in strength and conditioning roles with the Chicago White Sox, the St. Louis Cardinals and the Houston Astros.

Prior to coaching, Balkovec played four seasons of Division I softball. She enrolled at Creighton University in 2005 before transferring to the University of New Mexico and graduating in 2009.

Balkovec will take the role from David Adams, who managed the club last season. At this time, Adams’ future role with the organization is unclear.

It’s expected the Tarpons will have top prospect, Jasson Dominguez, on the roster in 2022. The team could also host Trey Sweeney and Yoendrys Gomez, both of whom are top-10 prospects in the Yankees’ organization.

Balkovec’s promotion to manager is historic. Only a few women are employed in coaching roles by MLB organizations, and she’ll be the first to call the shots for an affiliate.

Notably, late last year, the Pittsburgh Pirates signed Caitlyn Callahan to become the first in-uniform female coach. On Jan. 4, the Boston Red Sox signed Bianca Smith to serve as a minor league coach. Smith is the first Black female to coach in an MLB organization.

Amid lockout concerns, the start of the 2022 MLB season is in jeopardy. However, the minor league season will start regardless, meaning Balkovec will manage her first game on April 8 against the Lakeland Flying Tigers.

 

Chicago Bears: Vikings trump Bears in season finale

bears, matt nagy

Minneapolis, MN.– In a meaningless game for both teams, the Chicago Bears would fall to the Minnesota Vikings 31-17 to wrap up the 2021 regular season. The Bears will finish 2021 with a final record of six wins and 11 losses, marking the franchises’ first true losing season since 2017, when the Bears finished with just five wins.

The Bears scoring summary was simple. Kicker Cairo Santos converted three field goals while Andy Dalton connected with running back Damien Williams for a 23-yard touchdown in the first half. The second half was a different story for Chicago. Minnesota scored 21 unanswered points in the fourth quarter, including a 66-yard pick-six by cornerback Patrick Peterson and a 45-yard touchdown pass from Kirk Cousins to Justin Jefferson.

In the final game of the Matt Nagy era, the Bears cruised to a 14-0 lead before Minnesota scored 28 total points in the second half to finish off the comeback. The Bears, despite a strong start, did have some struggles in this game. Head coach Matt Nagy, who was coaching in his final game, opted to go for it on fourth down, on six different occasions. The Bears would convert just once.

In what is also his final game as Bears quarterback, Dalton was sacked seven times for 59 yards. The 11-year veteran would finish the afternoon 33-for-48 with 325 passing yards and one touchdown, averaging 6.8 yards per attempt. After signing a one-year deal worth $10M in free agency, Dalton’s 2021 season was mediocre for the Bears, even after being guaranteed the starting job.

The sole positive for the Bears on offense was second-year wide receiver Darnell Mooney who had 12 receptions for 126 yards, averaging 10.5 yards per reception. The 2020 fifth-round pick eclipsed the 1000-yard mark, finishing off his sophomore season with 1,055 receiving yards, 81 receptions, and four touchdowns.

As Chicago now looks towards the offseason, 2021 is solely in the rearview mirror, and 2022 will bring winds of change to the Bears franchise, which now moves forward with quarterback Justin Fields as the face of the franchise.

New York Giants finish season 4-13 losing season finale against Washington

giants, joe judge

The New York Giants‘ 2021 season is officially over. The Giants were eliminated from playoff contention weeks ago. Today, they played the last game on their regular-season schedule against the Washington Football Team. Washington came out on top of this contest, as they did in Week Two. The Giants have ended their season getting swept by Washington and falling to a putrid 4-13 record.

In this regular-season finale, the Giants hosted the Washington Football Team and lost with a final score of 22-7. New York did manage to score a touchdown this week, something they have failed to accomplish in recent weeks. However, the one measly meeting in the end zone was not enough to get the win against a competitive Washington Football Team that was playing with a chip on its shoulder.

Key stats

New York Giants

  • QB Jake Fromm: 15/31, 103 YDS, 1 TD, 2 INT
  • WR Darius Slayton: 2 REC, 29 YDS, 1 TD
  • LB Lorenzo Carter: 10 TAK, 1 SACK, 1 TFL, 1 PD

Washington Football Team

  • RB Antonio Gibson: 21 CAR, 146 YDS, 1 TD
  • WR Terry McLaurin: 4 REC, 93 YDS
  • S Bobby McCain: 3 PD, 1 INT, 1 TD

Going forward for the Giants

Much is still up in the air regarding the future of the New York Giants. According to most reports, General Manager Dave Gettleman will no longer hold his position with the team starting tomorrow. However, Head Coach Joe Judge’s status is now also in question. Some reports were indicating that Judge had a 50/50 chance of keeping his job entering Sunday’s matchup.

Tomorrow is “Black Monday” in the NFL. This is the day in which teams make their final decisions regarding head coaches, general managers, and others, and many lose their jobs. The Giants are certain to make a change in the front office. The question is, will Joe Judge also get his key card swiped on Monday?

New York Yankees: MLB/CBA negotiations to restart soon?

The New York Yankees and the other 29 MLB teams have been sitting idly by, unable to make any transactions to improve their teams as there is an MLB lockout in effect due to the sides not coming to a new agreement. Commissioner Rob Manfred immediately instituted a lockout when the Collective Bargaining Agreement expired on December 1, 2021. Since then, no substantial talks have taken place.

With just about six weeks left before pitchers and catchers report to spring training, The Athletic’s Evan Drellich reports that there are hopes that discussions will begin again to address the economic issues that caused the lack of an agreement. However, if they don’t start soon, it could affect the start of spring training. Drellich reports:

Major League Baseball is preparing new core economic proposals to deliver to the Players Association. When they’re presented, likely this month, core economic talks in the sport will have restarted for the first time since owners initiated a lockout on December 2, marking a positive development.

The two sides are so far apart that the money issues for both sides probably won’t be resolved quickly or easily. Because it is labor vs. owners, the primary issue is money, who gets it, and how much, and when. These problems will be contentious because the players feel the owners have had their way with them in the last several agreements, and they are not going to allow that this time.

The players want more of the revenue coming to them, as the last several seasons, their share and shrunk. In addition, they want to see an end to the occasional practice of service-time manipulation (i.e., when teams hold back a clearly ready prospect to delay his free agency and arbitration eligibility for an entire year) and the “tanking” problem, among other matters. This amounts to wanting more pay earlier in their careers. They will also be seeking incentives to make teams more competitive. They also want to see an end to the luxury tax ceiling to accomplish this.

Hal Steinbrenner and the other owners would like to keep everything just like it is, maintaining the status quo. They believe things as they are, have worked out for them just nicely. So for them, they don’t want to see a change in timelines for arbitration eligibility — currently three years of MLB service time in almost all instances — and free agency — now six years of MLB service time. Although those are the major issues, many other issues, including play rules, could cause the talks to come to another halt. 

None of these issues are new, being discussed several times before. That being the case, even those talks supposedly started again don’t look for early resolutions. Add to that the growing animosity between the two sides, and it is not looking good. Manfred, for his part, should be the man to get an agreement done. He is a lawyer and has a degree in labor relations. Unfortunately, he seems to be owned by the MLB owners. Regardless look for at least some action during January; time is running out on getting the 2022 baseball season.

Yankees should execute ‘blockbuster’ deal to solve No. 2 spot in rotation

New York Yankees, Luis Castillo

The New York Yankees can’t roll into the 2022 season with their current starting pitching rotation. While they have several players returning from injury, they’ve proven to be liabilities, making an acquisition that much more important for general manager Brian Cashman this off-season.

Cashman unloaded a one-year, $25 million offer for Justin Verlander before the lockout commenced, so showing his aggression when it comes to finding a perfect number two behind Gerrit Cole.

This past season, Cole struggled at specific points, finishing with a 3.23 ERA, 12.06 strikeouts per nine, 2.93 SEIRA, and 2.93 xFIP. His xFIP was simply fantastic last season, meaning he was dominant outside of allowing home runs.

Ultimately, the Bombers need to find a great pairing with their star Ace. One option that could fit the bill is Luis Castillo of the Cincinnati Reds, coming off a 3.98 ERA season with 9.21 strikeouts per nine and a 71.5% left on-base percentage. Castillo lost 16 games, but you can justify overlooking that number when considering his individual statistics.

After May, Castillo posted a 2.73 ERA, showcasing incredible growth as the season progressed. He finished with a 4.03 SIERA and 3.63 xFIP. Overall, Luis had his fair share of struggles, but the Yankees would be able to unlock his true potential, and he’s connected to them almost every off-season.

Here’s what a proposed trade may look like between the Yankees-Reds:

Yankees Receive:

-Luis Castillo

Red Receive: 

-Domingo German

-Jonathan Loáisiga

-Oswald Peraza

In this scenario, the Bombers get a starter who can lock down the No. 2 spot with team control until 2024, and they offer up a struggling starter in German, a great relief arm in Loáisiga, and top SS prospect, Peraza. At this point in time, with the reviews of Anthony Volpe, the team is better off using Peraza as a key piece in a trade, and given the Reds don’t have a player of his capacity in their minor-league system, he would be a pretty penny.

Ultimately, the Yankees would hate to lose Loáisiga, and if there’s another way to acquire Castillo without including him, that would be ideal, but given what Castillo’s value sits at, it’s necessary.

[wpdiscuz-feedback id=”4uenkfdxur” question=”What do you think?” opened=”0″]What do you think of this trade, and if you disagree, who would you consider? Comment here![/wpdiscuz-feedback]

What the Knicks need to be a legit contender this season

The New York Knicks are a good team, but not good enough. Having one star in Julius Randle simply doesn’t push them across the threshold to be an above-average team. Even if you take a look at their next-door neighbors, the Brooklyn Nets, they have had their fair share of struggles this season, despite a 24–13 record.

Despite having Kevin Durant, James Harden, and the return of Kyrie Irving, they have lost four of their last five games. The Knicks don’t have nearly as much star talent and sit below .500 on the year.

If Tom Thibodeau really wants his team to be a legitimate contender this season, the Knicks need to look outside for help at the trade deadline. Randle has had performances where he takes over, for example, his 30-point, 16 rebound outing against the Indiana Pacers on January 4, but he doesn’t do that every night.

The front office assumed Evan Fournier and Kemba Walker would provide the missing pieces to jolt the team into a more prominent seeding. However, injuries and inconsistencies this season have plagued New York, especially on the defensive side.

On Saturday night, it was their offense that failed to get going, scoring a measly 75 points against the Boston Celtics after winning on a buzzer-beater 108–105 on Thursday.

Without Fournier’s anomaly of 41 points, the Knicks looked flat and sloppy, with Immanuel Quickley posting 18 points in supplement of the French native. After Randle’s outburst, he backed up his anger with 13 points and a -17 +/-.

It has become clear that the Knicks need to find a complementary star next to Randle, as he can’t shoulder the burden by himself in a market like New York. A recent report indicated that Donovan Mitchell desires a bigger market where he can increase his brand awareness and showcase his talent on the best stage, but that could be hearsay until further proof is released.

Of course, Leon Rose and the Knicks’ front office have been intrigued by Portland’s Damian Lillard in the past, but it’s unlikely they make a run at him at the deadline. Indiana center Myles Turner is another name that has bubbled to the surface in recent weeks, representing a scoring five who can contribute in a myriad of ways to help a feeble Knicks offense.

The unfortunate truth is that unless the team brings in a secondary star or superstar to team up with Randle, Thibs will find his team fighting for a play-in spot at the bottom of the chart.

The main reason the Yankees won’t go all-in on a shortstop like Carlos Correa

anthony volpe, yankees

The New York Yankees have two young shortstops climbing through the minor-league system, being Oswald Peraza and Anthony Volpe.

Peraza may be a bit closer to making his MLB debut if the Yankees don’t view him as a trade piece this upcoming off-season after the lockout ends, but Volpe isn’t close behind as he prepares to make the jump to Double-A ball.

In fact, the Watchung, NJ-born shortstop is already gaining serious momentum as one of the top prospects in baseball with his performance in 2021.

MLB Pipeline has Yankees’ Anthony Volpe as the No. 1 shortstop prospect by the end of 2022:

“I don’t think there’s any way Anthony Volpe gets to the big leagues this year. At least not enough to release his rookie status. … This is a guy who just had an unbelievable year. Among the Minor League leaders in just about every category: 27 homers, 33 steals. I think he could wind up having that year again, very similar to what Bobby Witt Jr. just had … and he might be in the running for Pipeline Hitter of the Year, too.”

Volpe is only 20 years old and coming off a season where he hit. 294 with 27 Homer, 86 RBIs, and 33 stolen bases. His incredible athleticism, paired with impeccable tangible traits, builds a player capable of being elite. However, he’s not only a phenomenal athlete but also a fantastic human, showcasing his humility and mentality toward success in interviews this off-season.
Yankees skipper Aaron Boone had nothing but great things to say about Volpe, building on the positivity from MLB Pipeline.

“I’ve gotten a little peek into some of those intangible things, the way he carries himself, the way he communicates, the way he talks,” Boone said, per NJ Advance Media. “Obviously, there’s an incredible work ethic there. There’s this confidence with humility mixed in. I’m really excited about the player but also the person that I’ve gotten to see so far.”

Trading Peraza may be on the docket for the Yankees considering they have Anthony climbing the system quickly. A stopgap shortstop makes the most sense if they believe he can take over the starting gig in the next two years. At such a young age, he still has plenty of time left to continue development, but eventually, the Yankees want to give him the reigns without having to spend big money on a player like Carlos Correa on a decade-long contract.