PFL announces welterweight and women’s lightweight season opener

MMA, PFL

The PFL announced today their third event of the 2022 season which will feature the kickoff for women’s lightweight and welterweight. The event will take place on May 6th on ESPN.

In the main event, PFL superstar Kayla Harrison (12-0) will start her quest for a third straight season championship. In her season debut she will be taking on Russia’s Marina Mokhnatkina (6-2).

Harrison was the biggest story over the past few months in terms of MMA free agency. At one point, it appeared that Harrison was destined to go to a new home, however, the PFL came forward with an offer that she couldn’t turn down.

Now, she will begin the quest for a third championship. Mokhnatkina will be making her second appearance with the promotion after debuting last August. She’s coming off of two straight wins as she enters this lightweight contest against Harrison.

Rest of PFL 3

Another noteworthy fight in the women’s lightweight division features the PFL season debut for Julia Budd (16-3). The former Bellator featherweight champion will be taking on Genah Fabian (4-2).

Fabian went 2-1 last season with the lone loss coming against Kayla Harrison. Many are already anticipating a lightweight finale this year featuring Harrison and the former Bellator champion.

In terms of the welterweights, Ray Cooper (24-7-1). will be looking to capture his third PFL championship and he will debut this year against the undefeated Magomed Umalatov (11-0). Cooper is coming off a sensational season that was capped off with his knockout win over Magomed Magomedkerimov.

Umalatov will be making the walk for the third time with the PFL. He won two fights in 2021 which included a knockout over Kyron Bowen. Rory MacDonald (22-8-1) is also on the card on May 6th as he takes on Brett Cooper (28-15).

Worth noting that the lightweight contest between Anthony Pettis and Myles Price has also been moved to this PFL 3 card. You can see the full card in the tweet below.

What Tom Thibodeau wants to see in Knicks’ remaining games

The New York Knicks are better off losing all their remaining games to increase their Draft Lottery odds. But don’t tell that to Tom Thibodeau, who doesn’t have ‘tanking’ in his vocabulary. Instead, he’s still searching for ways to win games at the end of a season filled with disappointments and shortcomings.

To him, every game still matters. There are no meaningless games as he approaches their final games to build on what he views as the team’s growth since the All-Star break.

After the Knicks trounced the league’s worst team, Orlando Magic, by 30 points last Sunday, a reporter asked what Thibodeau is looking for in terms of his lineup and rotation decisions that have become a sticking issue among the Knicks fan base on social media.

The two-time NBA Coach of the Year’s response was a window into his perspective and his reluctance to hand the keys to the Knicks’ young core on a silver platter.

“There’s always something that you could be working on, and it’s not about like everyone thinks, ‘oh, give this guy minutes, give that [guy],’ no, it’s not about that,” Thibodeau said. “It’s about making the team function well.”

“So, when you’re out there, can you execute? So, if someone’s running a stack pick and roll, does everyone understand all the details of that play? And who’s responsible for what? And that’s what I want to see. Do you understand what your job is? Because to guard players in this league, everyone has to be tied together. It’s not one-on-one. It’s not like you against somebody else. It’s the team.”

Thibodeau’s reputation was under attack for giving token minutes to the Knicks’ recent draft picks and favoring his veterans for much of the season. An issue that was exacerbated by heartbreaking losses and meltdowns. But even as the Knicks already got eliminated, the defensive guru that he is, Thibodeau is sticking to his game plan and principles.

“And then you have star players that are going to command two being on them. Do you understand your responsibilities? So, if there’s one guy that doesn’t do their job, you could give up a layup or a wide-open three. And sometimes you could do it perfectly, and they still can make,” Thibodeau said.

“So, can you execute a play? Coming out of a timeout, can you remember all the details of the play? And then, do you understand what the counters are? So, that’s what I’m looking for. So, when you get into games that are intense and that are tight, can you execute?”

During his first year, which led to a surprising playoff run, the Knicks had the top-four defense in the league (107.8 defensive rating). Thibodeau coached the Knicks on strings with rookies and unheralded players around his top guns, Julius Randle and RJ Barrett. But this season, the Knicks’ defense suffered despite the arrival of more talented players in Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier, essentially replacing Elfrid Payton and Reggie Bullock. As the Knicks head to their final three games, their defensive rating is ranked just outside the top-10, allowing 110.5 per 100 possessions, which is good for 11th in the league.

It didn’t help that the Eastern Conference has gotten stronger and deeper. And worse, the Knicks had significant injuries on key veterans (Nerlens Noel and Derrick Rose) that helped them last season. Thibodeau’s second season at the helm was a challenge. He reached deep and discovered that rookie Quentin Grimes could be a reliable rotation player. Then Obi Toppin, the Knicks’ former lottery pick, has been balling out since Randle was shut down for the remainder of the season due to a lingering sore quad.

Toppin has scored back-to-back career-high 20 points over his last two games, shooting better with more minutes to get into a rhythm on top of his usual burst of energy and speed to run the floor.

“So, we got a lot of young guys that are getting better every day. So, the older guys are getting the same thing with them. They’re being challenged in a different way. So, OB gave us really good minutes [against Orlando], too. So, we had a number of guys — it was good to get Quentin (Grimes) and Deuce (McBride) back out there. I thought [against Cleveland], Arch (Ryan Arcidiacono) gave us — the one guy that played really hard and really well,” said Thibodeau moments after raving about Immanuel Quickley’s triple-double performance.

The Knicks’ kids have three more games to show Thibodeau that they can be trusted with bigger roles. It will be crucial as the front office, heading into their third offseason, has tough decisions to make.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Mets’ Dominic Smith discusses trade speculation and his role with the team

dom smith, mets

New York Mets’ slugger Dominic Smith dreams about a scenario in which he can show his talents on an everyday basis. He knows that, with the Mets, that may be difficult, as they have enormous depth in the positions he can play: first base and corner outfield.

As a result, he has been in the middle of trade rumors for a long time now. It’s nothing new to him, even though it’s clearly something that’s not necessarily easy to deal with. Recently, media reported that the Mets and the San Diego Padres were close to agreeing to a trade that included Smith, with Chris Paddack and Eric Hosmer going to New York. It didn’t come to fruition.

“I’ve been a part of trade rumors my whole career,” Smith told Deesha Thosar of the New York Daily News. “This is something that’s not new to me, and it’s something that’s just going to be a part of the game. It’s obviously good to be wanted. It means you’re obviously a pretty good player, and that’s what Buck (Showalter) said.”

While he loves the Mets, it’s clear that Smith could take advantage of a situation in which he had more playing time.

“That didn’t come from my mouth (that he is unhappy with his role), but who wouldn’t want to play every day? That’s like common sense in my opinion,” Smith said. “I don’t think any player in the big leagues wants to be a backup player or a part-time player. If the opportunity is out there, like I said, who wouldn’t want to play every day?”

The Mets’ slugger wants to play

Smith continued: “It’s out of my control. I can’t trade myself, and I can’t put myself in the lineup. All I can do is show what I can and that’s what I do on the field, and that’s what I plan to do. Play hard and play well.”

He has had a terrific spring, but the Mets have Mark Canha, Starling Marte, and Brandon Nimmo as the outfield starters, and Pete Alonso as the first baseman. He can surely take some at-bats from the designated hitter spot, but Robinson Cano and JD Davis will, too.

Smith is batting .440 in Grapefruit League action. Even still, he doesn’t think the Mets owe him anything. It’s all part of the game.

“They don’t owe me an explanation,” Smith said. “That’s their job in the front office, to make the decision that is best for this organization and this club and this team. I think they’re going to make the best ones for this club and they’re continuously doing that. I’m just here to show up and play my game and play ball.”

Yankees promote former Astros utility-man to Opening Day roster

marwin gonzalez, yankees

A few moves trickled in on Tuesday with the opening day roster nearly set for the New York Yankees, starting with lefty relief pitcher JP Sears.

Sears was a long shot at making the active roster but impressed over three appearances this spring, despite one problematic outing against the Toronto Blue Jays, giving up five earned runs. However, he did enough to get a chance with the top team, but I wouldn’t expect the Bombers to utilize him in any high leverage situations.

Aside from Sears, manager Aaron Boone also connected with former Houston Astros utility-man Marwin Gonzalez, telling him he would also make the opening day roster, according to Marly Rivera of ESPN.

Gonzalez is an intriguing player at 33 years old, featuring with the Boston Red Sox and Astros last season after being traded. Gonzalez spent 2012-2018 with Houston, having a career-best season in 2017, hitting .303 with 23 homers and 90 RBIs.

Last year, Gonzalez hit a combined .199 with five homers and 28 RBIs over 91 games. His offensive capabilities have diminished over time, but he’s having a solid spring wearing pinstripes, hitting .364 with three homers and nine RBIs over eight games.

Aside from his offensive success this off-season, Gonzalez is capable of playing a multitude of defensive spots, providing even more value. Since general manager Brian Cashman DFA’d Tyler Wade, Rougned Odor, and Clint Frazier, a need was presented for a utility-man.

Gonzalez has played every infield and outfield position, giving the Bombers a key piece in case of injury or deficiencies. He spent the most time featuring at shortstop, enjoying over 2,300 innings. He has a career .969 fielding percentage at SS but has also shown he’s capable of taking over on the hot corner sufficiently.

Despite the rivalry between the Yankees and Astros, Gonzalez offers plenty of upside and has done enough this spring to guarantee himself an opening day roster spot.

Former Yankees and Mets infielder announces his retirement

After a long, fruitful career in which he was once one of the top power-hitting third basemen in the league, former New York Yankees and Mets infielder Todd Frazier announced that he is retiring from professional baseball.

The former Rutgers star played for 11 years in Major League Baseball. The news was announced by the New York Post.

“It’s been my love my whole life,” Frazier said Monday in a phone interview. “It’s very hard to let go. Don’t get me wrong, it’s one of the toughest decisions I’ve ever made in my life. But where I’m at in my career and where I’m at in my life, I think it was the right decision. I think it’s time to be that family figure that I’ve always wanted to be.”

Frazier came to the Yankees in 2017 and was an important piece in their postseason run that ended in the Championship Series defeat against the Houston Astros.

Yankees and Mets fans have fond memories of Frazier

With the Yankees, he slashed .222/.365/.423 with a 115 wRC+, solidly above-average production. He hit 11 home runs in 66 games.

Then he signed with the Mets in 2018 and stayed there until after the 2019 season, hitting 39 home runs in two years.

Last year, he played with the Pittsburgh Pirates, but didn’t perform well. He also won a Silver medal for Team USA in the Tokyo Olympics.

Frazier’s best years came with the Cincinnati Reds: he had 4.5 and 4.3-WAR seasons with them in 2014 and 2015.

Yankees and Mets fans have fond memories of Frazier.

“When I got traded to the Yankees, I was like, ‘Holy cow, this is unbelievable.’ … The next year, getting picked up in free agency by the Mets. Every time I go to my batting cage, I look at those two jerseys and it’s really cool,” Frazier told the Post. “I know a bunch of people have done it, but being from Jersey, some of your friends hate you at the time, then they love you because you’re with the Mets. So it made for good banter. It was awesome. I wish I could have stopped time during those years.”

He is retiring as a two-time All-Star with a .241 average and 218 home runs in 1,244 games.

One thing to love about Giants’ HC Brian Daboll’s strategy

Brian Daboll, giants

It is no secret that the New York Giants are at the beginning of a full-scale rebuild after former general manager Dave Gettleman put them in salary cap hell and missed on draft picks up more often than Ereck Flowers missed blocks when he played left tackle for Big Blue.

New GM Joe Schoen has done a solid job working around the salary mess, acquiring players who can compete for starting jobs with minimal cap hits. The team will have plenty of cash flow next off-season, but for now, they have to rebuild the old fashion way, utilizing the NFL draft.

The Giants have a totally new feel about them:

Management’s new strategy is quite different compared to Joe Judge’s system, which relied more on authority and discipline. That’s not to say that Schoen, a new head coach Brian Daboll won’t instill a sense of authority between the coaches and players, but the new operations seem to have more collaboration and synergy.

Given that Daboll is a new head coach, the Giants were able to start their off-season programming a bit early, which fans are used to over the past four seasons having multiple head coaches.

Daboll hosted a few meetings throughout the day on Monday. There’s already a sense of more collaboration, allowing others to talk and not taking over the meetings himself.

“I’d say it was a 20-minute meeting to start out and I’d say 10 minutes of those 20 minutes, I let other people speak – trainers, strength coaches,” Daboll said. “It was a good introductory meeting.

Daboll understands that chemistry needs to be built, which prioritizes communication.

“This is the first day where we’re all back in the building and can get to know one another. There’s a lot of things that we have to install in terms of schematics. But we also have to talk about expectations and standards and get to know one another. There’s a little over five months until we end up playing and a few months before training camp starts. So, this is really just the foundational piece to a long year ahead. We just try to get better each day and do the things that we need to do. Can’t look too far down the road on this thing, it’ll get you pretty quick.”

With the draft quickly approaching in three weeks, the Giants are having to adjust on the fly. Building relationships within the building and preparing for the draft are extremely difficult, but as Daboll suggested, they have five months before football officially begins in September, giving them a nice cushion of time to spark a productive rebuild.

Up to this point, the new regimen seems to be the polar opposite compared to Judge and his authoritarian style. That’s not to say discipline cant be a successful strategy, but having little experience on the job and a general manager in Gettleman that simply couldn’t do him any favors, it was always a recipe for disaster whether the fans remained optimistic or not.

Yankees execute rare trade with Tampa Bay Rays for pitching support

David McKay, yankees

The New York Yankees have executed two infrequent trades over the last few days, connecting with the crosstown rival Mets and division rival Tampa Bay Rays.

Interestingly, general manager Brian Cashman had his eyes on two pitchers, acquiring Miguel Castro from the Mets and recently David McKay from Tampa Bay. Castro is known for his awesome velocity, featuring a fastball that averages 98 mph. If Castro can gain more control, he could be a phenomenal addition to the bullpen at just 27 years old.

On the other hand, McKay made his last appearance in 2020 with the Detroit Tigers, pitching just 0.1 innings. In 2019, he spent time with Detroit and Seattle, recording a 5.47 ERA with 11.62 strikeouts per 9.

The Yankees scooped up McKay due to a clause in his contract, allowing him to change teams if Tampa Bay wasn’t going to activate him for the opening day roster. The Bombers traded cash considerations away for McKay’s services, despite being activated for the opening day roster unlikely.

The more probable scenario is that McKay starts in Triple-A with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, where he can tailor his game to the Yankees’ mold. Looking at McKay’s pitch repertoire, he features a fastball and curveball, throwing it at an average of 93.8 mph.

The former Ray isn’t known for his ability to create ground balls, but he doesn’t give him any home runs either, which is notable. Given McKay is just 27, the Bombers have a bit of time to help him develop appropriately and potentially tweak his fundamentals to get the most value out of him. Clearly, they saw something intriguing in the former 14th round draft pick back in 2016.

Yankees promote surprise young pitcher to Opening Day roster

jp sears, yankees

The New York Yankees have been looking to add left-handed pitching for their bullpen during spring training, acquiring Miguel Castro from the New York Mets over the weekend. However, one of their homegrown talents has made a lasting impression on management, earning himself a spot on the opening day roster, despite all odds.

Young LHP JP Sears will make his major league debut this season. At 26 years old, Sears was previously an 11th round pick in the 2017 MLB June amateur draft out of Charleston. The Seattle Mariners initially drafted him before making his way to Tampa, the Yankees’ minor-league affiliate, in 2019.

Over the last three years, Sears has worked diligently to climb the system, reaching Scranton/Wilkes-Barre last year, making 25 appearances, accumulating 104 innings of action.

Sears recorded a 2.87 ERA in Triple-A with seven wins and 65 strikeouts. He gave up five homers and 41 hits but recorded a career-low of 1.9 walks per 9 and a 5.91 strikeout/walk rate.

The Yankees protected Sears last year in the Rule-5 draft, despite it never happening. There weren’t many that expected Sears to make the opening day roster, but after experiencing his best performance on Monday, lasting three innings and giving up two hits, striking out three batters, manager Aaron Boone told him the good news.

His other two performances were solid aside from one poor outing against the Toronto Blue Jays on March 30, where he gave up seven hits and five runs in just 1.2 innings. He combined for 5.0 innings of action, giving up five hits and allowing one earned run with seven strikeouts to boot.

I highly doubt the Yankees will incorporate him in high-leverage situations early on in his MLB career, but easing him into the mix and getting him some action against lesser opponents would do him well, building confidence gradually. With a healthy sample size of action in Triple-A last year, the Yankees can feel confident regarding his promotion to the big leagues.

New York Giants 1st round Mock Trade: Wheeling and dealing with the Saints

Brian Daboll, giants

The New York Giants have a busy month ahead as the 2022 NFL draft approaches. Having attended the Pro Days of Cincinnati corner Sauce Gardner and Oregon stand-out pass rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux, there is obvious interest in the stud defenders.

However, the Giants also need a new right tackle opposite Andrew Thomas, a position they failed to address in free agency which suggests their plans in the draft. There have been talks of trading back and acquiring more draft capital this off-season, something the Philadelphia Eagles just executed on Monday, wheeling and dealing with the New Orleans Saints.

The Eagles send picks No. 16, No. 19, and No. 164 in exchange for the Saints’ No. 18, No. 101, No. 237, and a 2023 first-round pick and 2024 second-round pick.

With the Saints now having two 1st-rounders this year, they could leverage their spot to move up in the draft, and the Giants could be in a position to capitalize.

1st round mock trade between the Giants and Saints:

Saints trade: 16th, 19th, 98th overall pick

Giants trade: 5th, 147th overall pick

In this deal, new general manager Joe Schoen moves back to the middle of the first round, adding two first-round picks in the process, giving them a total of three. While trading the 7yj overall pick may be the more ideal scenario, the Saints are going to want to move up as high as possible, and they can’t risk the Carolina Panthers stealing their target with the 6th overall pick.

With that being the case, the Giants become the obvious trading partner, allowing them to land one of the top three offensive tackles at 7yj overall and having two first-rounders to work with later on in the draft. Realistically, the chances of landing Thibodeaux or Gardner are completely out the window if they go with a right tackle at 7 in this scenario.

Players that may be available include Clemson corner Andrew Booth Jr., IOL Zion Johnson, and edge rusher George Karlaftis out of Purdue. They could always go with one of the top linebackers in the draft, notably Devin Lloyd or hope that tackle Trevor Penning out of Northern Iowa is available.

Nonetheless, head coach Brian Daboll indicated on Monday that the Giants would take the best player available at their draft spots this year.

Ideally, we’re going to try to select the best player available. We’re going to start our meetings with the scouts here toward the end of the week with the coaches’ evaluations and the rankings of the players the way we see it and sit down with the scouting department and (General Manager) Joe (Schoen) and their staff and talk about it. At the end of the day, you set the board and we’ve always said let’s draft the best available player. Let’s not reach for a position just because it’s a position of need to build our roster. When those two match, a position of need and the best available player, that’s what we’re looking for.