Mets’ Robinson Cano preparing for unfamiliar role

New York Mets, Robinson Cano

New York Mets’ infielder Robinson Cano had a really solid season in 2020, when he slashed .316/.352/.544 with 10 home runs in 49 games. But in November of that year, he was busted for PEDs use and suspended for the whole 2021 campaign.

Redemption, for him, starts now. He will have to make sure to find ways to contribute to the Mets, and not the other way around. The team, therefore, is looking to try him at an unfamiliar position to increase his versatility: first base.

He will play first base for the first time since 2018 on Thursday. He left his mitt at home, so he wil have to look for a borrowed one.

“I’ll figure it out,” Canó told the Mets’ official site, laughing. “Maybe I’ll play with my [second baseman’s] glove at first base. It’ll be easy.”

The Mets are looking for creative ways to fit Cano in the lineup

Cano, a natural second baseman, is projected to split his playing time between second base, third base, and the designated hitter spot. He probably won’t be an everyday player, but if he is hitting, the Mets will find ways to fit him in the lineup.

“I’m aware that there might be an adjustment,” Mets manager Buck Showalter said. “I’m sympathetic to that. But I think he’s so excited to be back with the team and be in a position where he can contribute. It’s going to be ‘where and when’ as opposed to ‘if’ right now.”

The infielder, who is 39 and probably on his last legs, is “happy to be in the lineup and be able to play.” Although he was skeptical about the first base experiment at first, he is open to finding creative ways to play as much as he can.

“I’m going to do my best, that’s what I know,” Canó said. “I know that’s a challenge. At the end of the day, the goal is to win. I’m willing to help.”

Randle denies asking trade from Knicks; Thibodeau slams rumor

The New York Knicks are on the brink of elimination after a 125-114 loss to play-in-bound Charlotte Hornets Wednesday night at the Garden that snapped their season-high four-game winning streak.

One more loss or an Atlanta Hawks win Thursday night will boot the Knicks out of contention — a disappointing sequel to their Cinderella run to the playoffs as the no. 4 seed last season.

But the biggest story revolved around disgruntled Julius Randle’s future with the Knicks after rumors swirled around that he wanted out following Monday night’s win over Chicago Bulls.

 

Randle denied the rumor despite hearing boos from the home crowd during the players’ introduction against the Hornets.

“That’s not true, bro. That’s just not true, simple as that, it’s not true at all,” Randle said Wednesday night with a chuckle. “If it didn’t come from me, it ain’t true.”

Asked if he is still committed to the Knicks long-term, his answer was decisive.

“My answer ain’t changing, bro,” Randle said.

Randle still believes he can turn things around in New York despite a tumultuous season where his every move and reaction was scrutinized. At a glance, his production — 20.1 points, 9.9 rebounds, and 5.1 assists — is still worthy of the four-year extension worth up to $117 million that will kick in next season. But a deeper look will show empty stats as his shooting accuracy and efficiency dropped, magnified by his inconsistent defensive effort and poor body language. His constant bickering with the referees and a strained relationship with the fan base cost him a career-high 12 technical fouls and over $100,000 in fines. He quickly turned him from hero to heel in New York.

Randle explained he was just caught in heated moments, and while he insisted that he’s okay with the jeering that’s becoming a regular occurrence, he’s more concerned about his first-born son, Kyden.

“That’s probably where most of my frustration comes from. I have my 5-year-old son that’s there, who is obsessed with the game of basketball, loves the game of basketball, and he doesn’t understand what’s going on,” Randle said.

Randle said he’s always leaned on his family throughout this whole ordeal. Kyden has always been his biggest supporter, endearing himself to the fan base during Randle’s Most Improved Player and All-NBA campaign last season.

“That’s probably my biggest frustration — coming from him. The time I sacrificed from him to put into this game. He’s daddy’s little boy. He loves his dad. So for him to experience that and being uncomfortable and having to leave the games and stuff like that, as a father, that’s what bothered me more than anything. But at the same time, you have to understand it comes with the territory. The narrative can always flip. I understand that. I understand it’s New York City and I understand how passionate our fans are. You just kind of have to live with the good and the bad.”

Against the Hornets, Randle started to flip the script with a solid start to finish with 21 points, seven assists, and five rebounds. The jeers slowly turned into cheers as the game wore on, especially late in the game, with his no-look assists to RJ Barrett for a slam that cut the Hornets’ lead down to five. Moments later, he followed that up with a three-point play that brought the Knicks within four, 109-105.

“Everything is a lesson. You learn from experiences like these and keep moving forward,” Randle said.

New York coach Tom Thibodeau, Randle’s constant ally, was animated before the game when the rumor was brought up.

“Are you serious? Are you serious? Come on,” Thibodeau said. “You know I’m not going to respond to something like that anyway. Let’s be real.”

But the reality is the Knicks are far from contention with Randle as the centerpiece. The one-time All-Star struggled to adjust early in the season, playing alongside Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier, who need the ball in their hands more than Reggie Bullock, and Elfrid Payton commanded last season.

He doesn’t have a lot of fans around the league, even during his outlier run last season. This season exposed Randle’s inability to co-exist with other ball-dominant players. The Knicks front office has to decide soon if he’s the right piece to attract stars in the near future as they plot their comeback from this disappointing season.

Randle insisted that he was fine despite his recent poor body language betraying his words.

“I’m cool. My goal and what I work hard for is to make the city proud, to make the fans proud. I play for my teammates. I play for my family. It’s as simple as that, bro. Nothing more than that,” Randle said. “From the inside looking out, it is what it is. You know? I understand that a lot of times, you’ve got to just let your game do the talking and go from there. Like I said, I love the city. My family loves it here. I’m a Knick. That’s what I love. I love being a Knick.”

Randle has to prove that love again and show it on the court before it’s too late.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Yankees’ Luis Severino dodges serious injury, passes first test

New York Yankees, Luis Severino

The New York Yankees are hoping starting pitcher Luis Severino will be ready for opening day on April 7. While Gerrit Cole will get the first start of the 2022 campaign, Severino is expected to be the No. 2 option behind him, but after sustaining general soreness after his most recent start, there is fear he could miss the start of the regular season.

“I woke up with general soreness. I was real tight more than normal,” Severino told reporters. “It got better the next day and the day after that.”

Severino was expected to pitch against the Toronto Blue Jays earlier this week, but unfortunately, his start was canceled, and he headed to the bullpen for a pitching session.

On Wednesday, the veteran starter threw 31 pitches, mixing in a variety of options, ranging from his fastball to change-up.

It is a great sign that Severino was able to get some action this week despite being sore. Of course, the team will be extremely conscience of his injury history and give him all the time he needs to return to his 2018 form.

“We just wanted to give it a couple extra days,” he said right before Severino took the mound on Wednesday.

Severino has only pitched 18 innings over the last three seasons, which is obviously problematic. Relying on him to be the No. 2 option behind Cole is optimistic, but with his velocity looking sharp, there is hope he can once again revive his career.

Pitching coach Matt Blake stated recently that Severino needed a couple more outings, maintaining velocity but failing with his execution.

“I think if we had three or four more outings, you’d see it iron out,” pitching coach Matt Blake said Monday. “But right now, it’s like we’ve got probably another seven-to-10 days to get this right and then continue to build on it in the season. It’s not going to be a finished product.”

I wouldn’t be surprised if the Bombers started him in a relief role and gradually increase his workload until he can make his first start.

Giants’ Brian Daboll details new approach toward building offensive scheme

new york giants, kenny golladay

The New York Giants have a tall task ahead of them, trying to rebuild the offense and situate a new scheme. Hiring Brian Daboll as the team’s new head coach and Mike Kafka to serve as offensive coordinator clearly indicates the team has a new mantra in place.

Management is committed to developing Daniel Jones for the 2022 season, but he is only as good as the pieces around him. The Giants have been the most injured team since 2009, with the majority of their weapons last year going down one way or another.

Daboll spoke to the media earlier this week, hitting on Saquon Barkley’s trade rumors and how he plans to build a scheme that extrapolates the strengths of each individual player.

“Look, with good players that’s what you need to be successful,” Daboll said. “Those guys are out there doing it and they’re out there playing the one on one game when it’s man to man coverage. Zone is a little bit different, we have to be pretty detailed on our zone assignments and understand the spacing on the quarterback and be where they’re supposed to be but absolutely. I think you’d be foolish if you don’t take input from the guys that are out there doing it.”

The Giants’ offense will likely feature more passing:

Daboll called passing plays at nearly a 70% clip during this time with the Buffalo Bills last season, indicating he wants his quarterback to sit in the pocket and allow his receivers to do the work. That method only operates efficiently if the OL can pass-block, something JM Joe Schoen has tried to solve this off-season despite having minimal salary space.

However, Daboll is connecting with each individual offensive playmaker, trying to figure out what makes them tick and what type of plays they prefer to run. One thing that I love about his coaching style is coordination and communication. He coherently soaks up information from the players and utilizes it to extract absolute value.

For example, the Giants may look to deploy Kadarius Toney in creative ways, getting him into open space with screen passes and slants. Kenny Golladay is a downfield receiver who dominates in man coverage. Allowing him to exercise those skills is essential, but former OC Jason Garrett failed to give him the proper opportunities.

So far, Daboll has the right idea regarding scheme development, but we won’t know how successful it is until the Giants put it on the football field. We’ve been stung by the optimism bug before.

Yankees’ GM Brian Cashman takes huge shot at Astros for halting their World Series aspirations

New York Yankees, Yankees, Brian Cashman

It is no secret the New York Yankees have failed to reach the World Series over the past decade, but they’ve gotten close on quite a few occasions. Whether it be lackluster starting pitching or deficient hitting, the Yankees have failed to get over the hump against teams with more consistency.

However, general manager Brian Cashman gets angry when people dismiss his team’s efforts, noting his success in signing free agents, trading players, and developing talent. He’s clearly not afraid to pat himself on the back despite a lack of success, but he didn’t hesitate to take shots at the Houston Astros for holding the Yankees back from reaching the World Series.

“The only thing that stopped (us) was something that was so illegal and horrific,” Cashman told The Athletic. “So I get offended when I start hearing we haven’t been to the World Series since ’09. Because I’m like, ‘Well, I think we actually did it the right way.’ Pulled it down, brought it back up. Drafted well, traded well, developed well, signed well. The only thing that derailed us was a cheating circumstance that threw us off.”

The Yankees also are being investigated for stealing signs, but not nearly to the extent of Houston, who used a myriad of different strategies to gain a competitive advantage.

Cashman aggressively disagrees with the notion that the Yankees aren’t a World Series caliber team, but the reality is simple, one good season isn’t good enough.

“People are like ‘Oh, we haven’t been to a World Series . . .’ and I’m like, ‘Yeah, I don’t think that’s as true a statement as it could be,'” Cashman said. “We had a World Series team. And either you get it done or you don’t.”

New York Yankee Top 10s: Best Second Basemen

1. Eddie Lopat 1948-1955

Lopat just missed being a Yankee legend. He pitched eight years with the New York Yankees. During his time with the Yankees, he had an outstanding career going 113-59 with an ERA of 3.19. He was an All-Star and a three-time MVP candidate. Lopat had four years with 15 or more wins. In 1951 he would have 21 wins, and in 1953, he had a winning percentage of .800, going 16-4. In 1953 he led the American League in both earned run average and won/lost percentage. Feel free to comment on any Yankee you remember as an unsung Yankee hero.

2. David Robertson 2008-2014, 2017 and 2018

It would be hard for David Robertson to become a huge star with the Yankees being constantly overshadowed by future Hall of Fame closer Mariano Rivera.  But nevertheless, he made his mark in his two stints with the Yankees. He pitched for the better part of 9 seasons; he would go 38-22 in 501 games. Even though he never started a game for the Yankees and often being called in in a rough situation, he managed a career of 2.75 ER

3. Ron Blomberg 1969-1978

Ron Blomberg is one of the most unsung Yankee players. Blomberg is mainly known today as one of the old guys who shows up annually for the Old Timer’s Day Game. Few remember that Blomberg is usually recognized as the first designated hitter in baseball. In his ten years being a DH and outfielder for the Yankees, he hit .302. In his first plate appearance as a DH in 1973, he walked with the bases loaded against the Red Sox Luis Tiant. The bat he used is in the Baseball Hall of Fame Museum.

4. Chien-Ming Wang 2005-2009

Wang is an interesting story while being sad at the same time.  The New York Yankees got Wang from his homeland of Taiwan, where he was a huge pitching star.  He was projected as a possible ace for the Yankees. In his first rookie year, he pitched to a 4.02 ERA. In his second year, he was 19-3 with an ER of 3.63. In 2007 he would come in second in the Cy Young Award Voting. He pitched two consecutive 19 win seasons. Then his future was turned upside down when he was injured running the bases. He would never return to form and never become the next big Yankee pitching star.

5. George Selkirk 1934-1942

During his nine years of Major League Baseball service, all with the Yankees, Selkirk appeared in 846 games, batting .290 (.265 in 21 World Series games), with 108 regular-season home runs, 131 doubles, 41 triples, 810hits, and 576 RBIs. Selkirk earned the nickname “Twinkletoes” for his distinctive way of running on the balls of his feet. Selkirk twice in his career recorded 8 RBI in one game, both against the Philadelphia A’s at Yankee Stadium after World War II; he managed at the A and triple A levels for the Yankees.

6. Joe Dugan 1922-1928

Joe Dugan is a New York Yankee player that most fans have not only not seen him play but probably have never heard of. He batted in his seven Yankee years .286 and was an MVP candidate in 1925. Although he was never a home run hitter, he had five straight seasons hitting over 100 hits on the season. But what made Dugan a Yankee worth remembering is that he was an excellent defender at the hot corner, leading the American League as a third baseman in fielding percentage in four consecutive seasons.

7. Ralph Terry 1956-1957 and 1959-1964

Ralph Terry was a Yankee pitcher for seven years in two different stints. In 1962 he had a 23 game winning season going 23-12 with a 3.19 ERA. He only had a no-decision in four games started. He also led all of baseball in wins in 1962. He was known as a “finisher.” In 1963 he completed a career-high 18 complete games

8. Aaron Small 2005-2006

Aaron Small is an interesting story that I remember well. Aaron Small was a Journeyman pitcher. Aaron Small was about to call it quits. He spent most of his career in the minors, and he wasn’t pitching well enough to be a serious contender for a spot in the New York rotation in 2005. Then, an injury bug hit, and Small found himself with a spot start in July. He would pitch well and would get a win. Small would then go on a tear, he ended the year 10-0, with a 3.20 ERA. Small the 33-year-old, his 2005 season helped the Yankees to clinch the division title.

9. Ronald Torreyes 2016-2018

Little Ronald Torreyes (5? 8,” 151 pound) was a fan favorite super-utility infielder for the New York Yankees for three seasons under manager Joe Girardi that frequently used Torreyes. He hit .281 for the Yankees, but 2017 was his breakout year when it seemed whenever Girardi would put him in for a hit, he seemed to not disappoint. In 2017 he led the team in batting average at .314. When Aaron Boone was named Yankee manager, Torreyes was traded to the Chicago Cubs.

10. Cecil Fielder 1996-1997

Cecil Fielder was never a big star with the Yankees, but in his two years, he hit .260. The All-Star and MVP candidate with the Detroit Tigers was traded to the Yankees. In just 151 games, he managed 26 home runs. Overshadowed by the likes of Derek Jeter and Bernie Williams, he never really endeared himself to Yankee fans. He had the distinction of winning the Babe Ruth Award for outstanding performance in the 1996 postseason. The Yankees would go on to win the World Series against the Atlanta Braves.

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

The ‘dream’ draft scenario for the New York Giants, but is it realistic?

evan neal, giants

With the 2022 NFL Draft quickly approaching, the New York Giants are gearing up to add multiple impact players in the first round. Of course, there is a chance they elect to trade back and gather more draft capital, but a dream scenario has been floated on social media the past few days, which would upgrade both sides of the ball and provide ample protection for Daniel Jones.

Based on the recent moves from GM Joe Schoen, it’s clear management has focused on rebuilding the offensive line, but right tackle remains a significant need. The expectation is they will target a player to fill the void with one of their two first round picks, but which of the top three tackles is most preferable?

Some might say Ikem Ekwonu out of NC State is a perfect solution given his ability to play guard and tackle. However, Alabama OT Evan Neal has the highest ceiling of any tackle in the draft given his unbelievable athleticism and power.

The dream scenario for the New York Giants:

5th overall: OT Evan Neal

Evan Neal is a freak of nature with almost unimaginable size and strength. Standing at 6’7″ and 337 pounds, Neal is projected as a Day 1 starter. Having started for three years with Alabama, one of college football’s most NFL-ready programs, he has the measurable’s and pedigree to make an impact immediately.

Neal projects as a starting left tackle, but he exercised on the right side during his Pro Day, showing versatility. In fact, Neal believes he could also kick into guard if need be, giving him even more value.

“You can pretty much plug me in anywhere other than center and I’ll be able to come in and make an impact,” Neal said, via Alex Scarborough of ESPN.com.

The Giants landing Neal at 5th overall would be an absolute miracle. It is unlikely, but hype building around quarterbacks could see him drop a few spots. Some teams have Ekwonu graded higher, but Neal has experience over college’s best talent, which is why I have him graded as the top tackle in the draft.

7th overall: Kayvon Thibodeaux

The Giants could decide that Cincinnati corner Sauce Gardner is the pick here, but landing Thibodeaux wouldn’t be a bad move either. The Oregon stand-out pass rusher has arguably the most upside of any edge defender in the draft class aside from Aiden Hutchinson out of Michigan. Thibodeaux’s statistics don’t jump off the page, collecting only seven sacks last year, but he is an elite pass rusher with a myriad of developed move and a speed/strength combination.

Pairing Thibodeaux with Azeez Ojulari would give the Giants one of the most highly touted young outside linebacker units in football. Having two players on cost controlled contracts is another enticing variable to consider, especially since high end edge defenders are one of the most expensive positions.

Landing Neal and Thibodeaux in the same draft is the dream scenario if Big Blue decides to stay put in the first round, laying the foundation on both sides of the football for the future.

Yankees might have made genius move at shortstop to fill stop-gap role

isiah kiner-falefa, yankees

This off-season has been a whirlwind for the New York Yankees, but things are coming together as spring training quickly comes to an end. Opening day is one week away, and while the starting rotation has had its fair share of hiccups, the team’s offensive prowess has been phenomenal, paired with quality defensive displays.

One of the biggest concerns this off-season was the shortstop position, which general manager Brian Cashman solved in a massive trade with the Minnesota Twins.

The Yankees acquired Isiah Kiner-Falefa, Josh Donaldson, and Ben Rortvedt in exchange for Gary Sanchez and Gio Urshela. Essentially, the Bombers took on the final two years and $50 million from Donaldson’s contract, but they had their eyes set on Kiner-Falefa as their stopgap shortstop.

Falefa isn’t known for his power hitting, smacking just eight homers last year over 158 games. However, he is a quality contact hitter that displays patience and maturity at the plate.

Last season, he hit .271 with just a 13.3% strikeout rate and a 4.1% walk rate. The Yankees have a slugging approach and have slowly been factoring in their fundamentals, giving Falefa a bit more power behind his swing.

This spring training, Falefa is dominating, posting a. 421 average, .924 OPS, eight hits, and just one strikeout over 19 at-bats.

When looking at the former Texas Ranger objectively, he’s not going to be a massive slugger in the middle of the order for the Bombers, but he fits a specific role perfectly.

The main benefit he brings — he can get on base frequently.

The Yankees have a plethora of heavy hitters scattered throughout the batting order, so Falefa getting on base will only drive in more runs. In addition, he’s a solid defensive player as well, featuring a .972 fielding percentage last year at shortstop over 1,360 innings.

The returns from Isiah have already been fruitful, but it is only spring training, and he needs to be consistent during the regular season. Nonetheless, this might end up being a magisterial move from Cashman, especially since Kiner-Falefa could transition to third base in the future once Donaldson’s contract expires and Anthony Volpe is ready for the big leagues.