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Imagine the Season When Thor Puts it All Together

ROBBINS NEST

By Lenn Robbins

New York Mets #34 Noah Syndegaard pitches in the 2md inning today 2/26/2020/Neil Miller/The New York extra copyright 2020

One of the first narratives regarding Mets pitcher Noah Syndegaard was not a positive one. He was spotted by David Wright eating in the clubhouse during an intrasquad scrimmage in March of 2015.

This was little more than a rookie error. Syndegaard should have been watching the action, learning one more piece of information or soaking up via osmosis what being a Major League pitcher is all about.

New York Mets #34 Noah Syndegaard warms up rior to the game on 2/26/2020 Neil Miller/The New York Extra /copyright 2020

Wright chewed out Syndegaard. Bobby Parnell tossed Syndegaard’s plate in the trash.

If this is the biggest mistake Syndegaard ever makes as a Met that would be OK. But OK, as the AT&T ad states, is not OK when it comes to Syndegaard.

From that rookie season when he struck out 166 batters in 150 innings, Syndegaard standing at 6-6 and weighing around 240 pounds with that lightning blond flow, began drawing hushed comparisons to other previous Texas flamethrowers such as Roger Clemens, Nolan Ryan or pre-injury Kerry Woods.

There was that game last May when Syndegaard four-hit the Reds and drove in the game’s only run with a solo homer. And the one in late-September when he two-hit the Giants, striking out 11 and walking one.

Every time Syndegaard dominated, he raised the bar for himself and for the Mets. Every time he didn’t reach those heights, as was the case at times last season (10-8, 4.28), there were whispers of doubt: Maybe he’ll never be destined for Cooperstown.

Edwin Diaz reacts after giving up a run in todays game 02/26/2020 Neil Miller/The New York Extra copyright 2020

Syndegaard did nothing to deflate expectations for this season. There were the shirtless photos of him early in camp, showing off that Greek freak physique. There was today’s first spring training outing when he worked the standard two innings, striking out two, allowed one hit and left with Mets fan feeling good until Edwin Diaz showed off his dreadful 2019 form.

Jake DeGrom /2/26/2020 /Neil Miller/The New York Extra /copyright 2020

With Jacob deGrom and Syndegaard, the Mets can have the best 1-2 front end of any rotation in baseball. That has been the hope for the last five seasons. But this could be the year that deGrom and Syndegaard combine to lead the Mets to an October parade.

New York Mets #34 Noah Syndegaard pitches in the 1st inning 2/26/2020 Neil Miller/The New York Extra /copyright 2020

Syndegaard, 27, spent the offseason in Los Angeles sharpening his mental approach to pitching. The hope is that a better plan, combined with his 97.6-mph four-seamer, his 91.1-mph changeup and an unhittable curve when the first two are working, will establish him as one of the best in the game.

 “It was a top-notch pitching program the performance people put together for me,’’ Syndergaard told The Post. “I followed it to a T. Previous offseasons I would go into spring training lackadaisical on the mound, figuring, ‘Oh, I will just figure it out there.’

“Now I’ve had 10 mound sessions under my belt already. Our analytics guys came out to LA a few times to really figure things out. I have a much better grasp now on everything.’’

Wouldn’t that be something to witness? Syndegaard standing on the mound at Citi Field, knowing his stuff can blow away any man in the box, knowing exactly what’s the best pitch to throw, and executing it? We’d cater the clubhouse spread.

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Mets Camp: Davis Expected To Be Okay And Tebow Hits A Home Run

Lakeland Fla. –  J.D. Davis became the first casualty during the Mets spring training camp Tuesday afternoon.  He left the game against the Tigers in the fifth inning after diving for a ball at third base and jammed his left shoulder.

Neil Miller/The New York Extra

An MRI is scheduled for Wednesday and the Mets will await the results.  Davis, slated to be the starting left fielder on Opening Day, could see some playing time at third base for manager Luis Rojas.

When questioned, Davis said to NewYorkExtra.com “I think it’s minor. Just achy and tight. Right now. We will see tomorrow.”

Neil Miller/The New York Extra

The Mets are hoping for the best. Last season, Davis, the surprising acquisition from the Houston Astros, hit .307 with 22 home runs in 453 at bats.  He had some lapses in left field and this offseason worked on correcting the flaws.

In the lineup, the Mets are that much better. Davis can be a cog at cleanup or batting third.  In the event of a setback pending the MRI, there are some positives. 

Yoenis Cespedes is working his way back to the lineup and that adds some depth for a Mets team that is in discussion as a possible winner of the NL East.

To win the division, or take a NL wild card, they will need the consistency of Davis in the lineup and on the field.

“It was a little bit of pain,” Davis said. “But it’s fine now. 

The MRI is precautionary and to assure there is no structural damage. The Mets have not had a share of any injuries since the start of camp. Most of the emphasis has been Yoenis Cespedes. 

Since his off-season run-in with a boar, their high profiled player with a restructured contract, has been on the field. Stretching, running, throwing in the batter’s box, and all looks good for Cespedes. 

That leads to optimism that the name of  Yoenis Cespedes will be in the lineup or off the bench in the first few weeks of the season. Davis also said he is not concerned this will be a setback. Again, the MRI will confirm more. 

“Three out of ten,” he said about the concern level.

And the Mets are hoping for a ten.  In the unlikely event that Davis is out for some time, the Mets, with  depth, could go with Dominic Smith in left. He is slated to get playing time off the bench and possibly backup Pete Alonzo at first.

Neil Miller/The New York Extra

THE LAST TIME FOR TEBOW? Tim Tebow hit his first home run in Mets camp Tuesday. It was his first ball hit out of the yard in his fourth spring training invite with the Mets.

And this could be his last hurrah. Time is of the essence. Tebow, 32- years of age, is not getting any younger when it comes to baseball standards to achieve his goal of being on the Major League level. 

 He signed as a Minor League free agent in September of 2016, and hit .163 last season for Triple A-Syracuse before sustaining a laceration to a finger that curtailed his time. The year before, at Double-A Binghamton it was a broken wrist that ended his season.

“I had a chance to see a few and just tried to be tight and on time,” Tebow said about the home run in the Mets 8-6 spring loss to the Tigers. 

The Mets have tried the Tim Tebow experiment and at times it has been a marketing ploy. After seeing some success at Double-A Binghamton, and a 2018 Eastern League All-Star spot, there was speculation  in 2018, when rosters expanded, that Tebow would make his Major League debut at Citi Field.

But that never transpired which leads to 2020 as being his last opportunity. With the Mets set in the outfield, and the game getting younger, that leaves Tebow with limited time to make the jump to the big leagues.

“I feel like I’m seeing the ball pretty good,” Tebow said.

He has been reaching base in three Grapefruit League games, walks, and of course the home ball that got the crowd popping in Lakeland. You see, Tim Tebow has always been that role model and fans do gravitate to him.

In the end, a roster spot, even with an extra man at 26, may not be enough. Tebow, though, is content and will continue to fulfill his goal as that two-star professional athlete.

“The good athlete that he is, and as coachable as he is, he’s going to keep improving in every area,” said Mets manager Luis Rojas.

And for Tom Tebow, that’s as good as it gets. 

Comment: Ring786@aol.com  Twitter@Ring786  Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso

Cole Case: Yanks $324 Million Man Brings the Heat

By Lenn Robbins

Neil Miller/The New York Extra

   For one night, call him the One and Done Kid.

  Gerrit Cole, the Yankees $324 million professor of pitching, has a plan for everything. Or he’s working on it.

  According to numerous reports out of Tampa, when Cole isn’t plying his trade, he’s talking about it, or studying it, or thinking it. Monday night was Cole’s turn to pitch in pinstripes for the first time.

NeilMiller/The New York Extra

He executed his plan almost perfectly: One inning pitched. No questions left.  

Cole threw 20 pitches, 14 of them fastballs. He hit 98. He threw 12 strikes.

“Yeah, that’s kind of why I try to keep it to one inning,” Cole told reporters when asked if his fastball is usually strong early in spring training.

Neil Miller/The New York Extra

“Some guys go two innings early. I like to take it one at a time for the first two or three until you build up that tolerance to up and down. Then you can extend the pitch count in certain situations here and there. For the first time go pitch for the one inning and do your best with whatever you got that day.’’

Cole struck out two and walked one.

Go ahead Yankees fans. Even with the injuries to James Paxton and Luis Severino, start dreaming.

NCAA Tourney Cheat Sheet Vol. II – Year of the Streaker

ROBBINS NEST

File photo Neil Miller/The New York Extra

By Lenn Robbins

When the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee arrives in New York the Tuesday prior to Selection Sunday they will be charged with one of the most daunting tasks in college basketball history:

Try to make some sense of this unpredictable season.

Why do we proclaim this season to be one of the hardest to predict in history? Consider the streaks we’ve seen this:

When Kansas edged Baylor 63-61 on Saturday it snapped the Bears 23-game win streak, which snapped the prior Big 12 record of 22 straight, held by, yep, Kansas. The Jayhawks also avenged a 67-55 loss to Baylor in Lawrence which snapped a 28-game home streak. Kansas has now won  12 straight.

Baylor’s five-week run as the nation’s No.1 team was the longest in the Associated Press since Kentucky in 2015.

BYU’s  91-78 upset of Gonzaga snapped the Bulldogs 19-game win streak. It also broke Gonzaga’s streaks of 40-straight regular-season wins in the West Coast Conference and 39-straight road wins in the WCC. against WCC opponents. The 40-game winning streak was the longest league streak in the nation.

UNLV took out the last remaining unbeaten, shocking San Diego State, 66-63. The Aztecs opened at 26-0 and unveiled its regular season conference championship banner before tipoff, something that wasn’t lost on the Runnin Rebels.

“They’ve had a historic year,’’ said UNLV coach T.J. Otzelberger. “Is there a chance it got talked about in our locker room before the game? Certainly, but I seem to forget what they said.” Doubtful.

In Volume I of our NCAA Tournament bracket cheat sheet, we named Mick Cronin as one of our coaches who is doing a terrific job. It’s only gotten better. Not only did the Bruins post their ninth straight win in their last 11 games, but the last victory was a 70-63 stunner at Colorado.

The Buffaloes were up 50-41 with 12:34 on Senior Night when the Bruins broke off a 20-3 spurt. UCLA’s bench outscored Colorado’s 28-16.

“It’s senior day, they’re playing for the Pac-12 title, it’s huge,” Cronin said. “Nine down with 12 to play, on the road against a great team. They’re playing all juniors and seniors, you’re playing freshmen and sophomores and you’re able to pull it out? It’s monstrous.”

Are the Bruins as dangerous as the Providence Friars? Not according to coach Ed Cooley.

“There’s no more desperate team in America than Providence College,” Cooley said after an 84-72 victory over Marquette.

Providence was 4-4 in the Big East and 11-10 overall after losing three straight. Earlier in the season the Friars suffered losses to Penn, Long Beach State and the College of Charleston.

The win over the Golden Eagles was Providence’s fourth straight over a Top 25 team and moved the Friars into undisputed fourth place in the Big East at 9-6 and 16-12 overall. On a personal note, here’s hoping the Friars get into the Big Dance. Cooley is a helluva coach and one of the great personalities in the game.

Seton Hall continues to be in first place in the Big East and the Pirates remain a legit Elite Eight or better squad but no team wants to face Creighton, which is one game back after winning 9-of-10.

 The Blue Jays shredded Butler, 81-59 by making 15-of-26 3’s. Creighton has three players shooting 40-percent or better on 3’s – guard Marcus Zegarowski (40-percent) set his career high with seven of Creighton’s season-high 15 treys, is Ty-Shon Alexander also is at 40-percent. Mitch Ballock is at 44-percent.

Creighton does this by making the extra pass. It had 19 assists on 27 baskets against the Bulldogs, who lost one of our favorite Big East players in Kamar Baldwin with an ankle injury.

Staying with the Big East, Villanova uses the 3 as well as any team in the league but there’s an edge to this season’s team that could serve them in NCAA play. In a 64-55 loss to the Wildcats, Xavier coach Travis Steele had this observation after watching the X-men score their fewest points at home since a 57-52 win over Temple in January of 2013.

“That’s the most physical team we’ve play all year, by far, and it’s not even close.”

The team that continues to streak is Dayton, which beat Duquesne 70-60 for its 16th straight. The Flyers (25-2) have won 16 straight and moved to 4th in the AP poll and 3rd in the coaches’ poll, their highest since finishing third during the 1955-56 season. They are dunk contest in action. If you haven’t seen this team play, they’re at Rhode Island on March 3rd (CBSSN) in what could be a streak  ender.

Maryland still has a two-game lead in the Big Ten and should win the regular season title but the Terps, 79-72, loss at Ohio State ended their nine-game win streak. Few teams have been streakier than the Buckeyes who won their first nine and were 11-1 after a 71-65 win at Kentucky before losing 6-of-7.

The Buckeyes win might have boiled some blood between the two schools. Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said Ohio State’s Kaleb Wesson was “allowed to be the bully offensively today. If he’s allowed to be the bully, he is a heck of a player.”

Wesson had 15 points and nine rebounds. Buckeyes coach Chris Holtmann didn’t take kindly to that.

“Mark said that? To each his own. His opinion can be his opinion. I thought Kaleb was physical and well within the rules.”

Staying in the Big Ten, Penn State has a legit conference player of the year candidate in Lamar Stevens but he can’t do it alone. After winning eight straight the loss of Myreon Jones (illness) finally kicked in. Jones has missed five straight including the last two losses, including a 68-60 setback at Indiana.

USA Gymnastics Falters With Its Bogus Settlement Offer

ROBBINS NEST

By Lenn Robbins

  In my first job at Greenwich Time, I had the bright idea of climbing up on a balance beam after a meet featuring the Greenwich High girls’ gymnastics team, a state power at the time.

 Upon getting to my feet I looked down and froze.

“How the hell does one get down, no less attempt to walk?”

That was the day I gained a full appreciation for the courage of gymnasts. And last Friday was the day I grew to fully despise the organization known as USA Gymnastics.

The organization released its proposed settlement in one of the most despicable sexual predator cases of all time.

Former Michigan State and national team doctor Larry Nassar, who is accused of having molested at least 250 young women, girls and one young man, pled guilty to seven counts of sexual assault of minors, three counts of sexual assault and possession of child pornography.

Nassar is now locked away for the rest of his life, which is not nearly a harsh enough punishment. He should be subjected to the Ludovic technique on a weekly basis for the remainder of his days.

One would think that the governing body of USA Gymnastics, which allegedly knew about the monster in its midst but dragged its elephant feet for years in a heinous attempt to protect its now sullied name, would realize upon being outed that there was only one course of action to take: Do everything (everything!), to help every athlete whose body and soul was desecrated by Nassar.

Instead USA Gymnastics offered the following proposal:

Women who were assaulted at the Olympics, world championships, national team training camps and national team events would receive over $1.25 million in compensation.

But for those women who were considered “non-elite” athletes, yet were still sexually abused at USA Gymnastics-sanctioned events, they would receive $508,670, less than half the “elite” athletes.

But wait, it gets worse, much worse. Athletes abused at non-USA gymnastics locations would get less than $175,000, while victims’ whose claims were brought by a shareholder, often on behalf of a corporation, would receive only $82,550.

Of course the proposal would also release the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committees, former USA Gymnastics CEO Steve Penny, and former national team directors Bela and Martha Karolyi from all claims, according to ESPN. Penny was arrested on a separate charge for tampering with evidence.

Let us boil this settlement down to its most pathetic base.

A non-elite athlete is valued as a human being far less, and therefore could not have been as horrifically violated, as an elite athlete. Thus, they should receive less compensation. If your daughter happens to be one of the millions of gymnasts participating in the sport at non-USA Gymnastics locations, the governing body of the sport is telling her she holds some tertiary rank as a human being.

There is a lot of legal wrangling and financial shenanigans that go on in these types of mass tort cases. For example, when USA Gymnastics filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in December of 2018, one of its explanations for doing so was that the action would, “expedite resolution of claims,” according to a statement from the organization.

Here we are, a year and one-half later, and there is no resolution. The proposed settlement is lacking in empathy, decency and remorse. It’s as if USA Gymnastics refuses to accept the enormity of this nightmare and its failure to protect its athletes.

Truth be told, the filing was a defense against the U.S. Olympic Committee, which is seeking to decertify USA Gymnastics, which has taken “Public Relations 101” steps such as seating a new board.

As for the victims, here’s their choice: accept the reprehensible offer and try as best as possible to move forward and heal. Or, reject the offer and sue, which could take years to work its way through the legal system.

Maybe we need to consider tiers for those in charge of USA Gymnastics:  Those at the top are Tier 1 lowlifes. Those in middle management are Tier 2 creeps.

Of course, USA Gymnastics can change all that by having the courage and concentration it takes to do a backflip on a balance beam by coming up with a sincere and empathic settlement. Something tells me they won’t.

2020 Yankees Already Haunted By Injury Demons

ROBBINS NEST

By Lenn Robbins

Derek Jeter used to joke that there were ghosts in the old Yankee Stadium. Those apparitions apparently have found their way across the street. Only now they haunt the home team.

File Photo /NeilMiller/The New York Extra

Yankees manager Aaron Boone revealed Thursday that pitcher Luis Severino has been shut down due to right forearm soreness and a loose body in his elbow. Severino of course, missed almost all of last season with rotator cuff inflammation and a lat strain.

 Any pitcher that has had a loose body in his or her throwing elbow knows this can become problematic at any time.

This alarming development comes almost two weeks to the day that the Yankees announced James Paxton would miss three to four months after undergoing a microscopic lumbar discectomy to remove a cyst.

 Any pitcher that has had back pain knows this can become problematic at any time.

File Photo ?NeilMiller/The New York Extra

And let’s not forget that Domingo German, who exploded on the scene last season, is suspended until June 5th for domestic violence offenses.

As we know, any man that has been found to be a domestic violence offender is capable – some would say prone – to committing such heinous acts again.

We are still more than a month away from opening day and the Yankees are already down two-fifths of their starting rotation (Severino and Paxton) and a valuable swing arm in German.

Never has spending $342 million on a free agent pitcher, Gerrit Cole, seemed like such a valuable signing. Paxton’s injury is more straightforward in terms of recovery than Severino but back injuries are always disconcerting. Severino, 26, is compiling a thick medical file.

08/15/19 Cleveland Indians vs New York Yankees at yankee stadium bronx ny #17 aaron boone takes #57 chad green out of the game after giving up 5 runs in the 1st innning

Boone said Severino’s latest injury activated after last start of the 2019 season, which was Game 3 of the American League Championship Series. General manager Brian Cashman said that Severino twice flew from his home in the Dominican Republic to New York to undergo two MRI exams and one CT scan. None of tests revealed any sign of serious injury.

Severino received anti-inflammatories upon arriving at spring training. He began by throwing only fastballs and sliders, but when he started to integrate his changeup, the pain returned.

“It’s Sevy, and there’s this discomfort that’s been off and on that’s continued,” Boone told reporters at George M. Steinbrenner Field. “That’s certainly concerning. We’ll just have to see how this continues to declare itself.”

The Yankees set an MLB record last season by having 30 players make a combined 39 trips to the injured list. They overhauled the training staff after the season in the hopes of keeping players on the field.

It’s early but the Yankees seem to have picked up where they left off. And that’s downright scary.

Dwight Gooden Continues His Recovery and Hopes The Same For Baseball

Doc Gooden has battled the demons with a history of alcohol and substance abuse. There are setbacks and the Cy Young Award pitcher of the Mets, who had a revival with the Yankees, is still coping and in therapy.

Rich Mancuso/The New York Extra

Late last year, Gooden, was arrested, not far from his home in Piscataway, New Jersey.  He was driving, incoherent, and pulled over by police officials. 

 For Gooden, who has been in and out of rehab the past few years, this was another setback. The demons still haunt the All-Star pitcher. perhaps, as many say, the best Mets pitcher next to Tom Seaver.

Rich Mancuso /The New York Extra

But for those who care, and many do, Dwight Gooden is fighting those demons and helping others to deal with alcohol, substance abuse, and the awareness of mental illness.  

Tuesday night, at the Regal Theatre in Times Square, there was Doc. He was part of a panel after viewing a screening of  “The Way Back” a Warner Brothers film starring Ben Alfleck that hits the screens on March 6th.

The synapsis:

Jack Cunningham (Ben Affleck) once had a life filled with promise. In high school, he was a basketball phenom with a full university scholarship, when suddenly, for reasons unknown, he walked away from the game, forfeiting his future. Now years later, Jack is spiraling down, triggered by an unspeakable loss, and drowning in the alcoholism that cost him his marriage and any hope for a better life. When he is asked to coach the basketball team at his alma mater, which has fallen far since his glory days, he reluctantly accepts, surprising no one more than himself. As the boys start to come together as a team and win. He would relapse, was dismissed as the coach, and entered therapy.  

“Mine was drugs, his was alcohol, the same thing,” Gooden said. 

The real Dwight Gooden, he  was speaking from experience. He bonded with Eric Kussin, Founder and CEO of “We’re All A Little Crazy” an organization that takes a message across the board in getting the message towards mental health awareness and substance abuse. 

They go under #Same Here.  Gooden, has made another rebound and is doing well. Next week, the Mets will welcome him for a week at their spring training complex in Port St. Lucie Florida. 

 He could relate to the trials and tribulations, a basketball coach, fighting the demons and  using sports as an outlet. There was a correlation here, Gooden and baseball as his outlet. This coach and basketball as the outlet.

“Getting back to something he truly loved,” Gooden said.  “ He had to fill that void. Once he went to treatment, he found peace and a way to forgive himself with alcohol.”

“Forgive,” Gooden said.

 He has seen that with family, friends,  more so, after his latest setbacks. Getting out there to the public, as he did Tuesday night, is the Dwight Gooden approach to feeling better and informing those about a way to seek help.

They relate to the athlete. They relate to the  exploits of Dwight Gooden. They understand the demons, a part of mental illness that are a part of the drug and alcohol abuse syndrome.

“With me spending time with my kids and grandkids, I can be there with my grand kids,” Gooden said. “That is part of his outlet. So are school activities, or sports.” 

So, Dwight Gooden continues with his recovery. He remains a part of the Mets family and baseball is his passion. This recent signal-cheating scandal, that has rocked Major League Baseball, is causing opinions and lots of that controversy.

The game could be in trouble. Dwight Gooden with 16- years of stardom and the accolades has his opinion.

“Cheating always been a part  of the game,” he said. “Technology,  unfortunately, makes it tougher with cameras and all that stuff. During my time third base coach, first base coach, tried to get the signs and motion to the hitter.”

That wasn’t fair, and cheating for the most part is a part of every sport if they don’t get caught red handed.  But the use of technology made it easier for the Houston Astros. 

By all means, this story is far from over. It has more drama than the upcoming Presidential election, and has the attention with a 2020 season ready to commence in five weeks. 

“For me, I’m ready for them to move on from this,” Gooden said.

Technology or not, hitters have a way of knowing what a pitcher is going  to throw. Gooden, discounts all of the buzz about that Jose Altuve walk-off home run off Aroldis Chapman.

The home run of 2019, not 2017, put the Astros in the World Series. The buzzer, Gooden has no theory. The Yankees, according to Gooden, did not hit  and that was a main cause for another postseason series loss to the Astros.

“Good hitters know what you are going to throw,” he said.  

Ask Gooden, the late Rusty Staub, on opposite sides, could always hit a Dwight Gooden heater. At that time, Staub, told Gooden, he was tipping those pitches.  

Years later, though, it’s technology that has caused all of the turmoil. It’s not getting the signs from a coach from that first or third base side. And it has nothing to do with tipping the pitches.

So, Dwight Gooden,and his recovery continues. Baseball had a setback and will eventually recover as the game did once with a nasty steroid scandal. 

Dwight Gooden, he  continues to love the game. That is his outlet.

More info about Eric Kussin: eric@wearreallalittlecrazy.org  #Same Here

Comment: Ring796@aol.com  Twitter@Ring786 Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso

Yoenis Cespedes Was Silent And We Need To Get Answers

“Not today, not tomorrow, not at all this year.” 

File Photo /Neil Miller/ New York Mets center fielder Yoenis Cespedes #52

Welcome to the 2020 baseball season of Yoenis Cespedes. Yes, those were his comments, Monday, when he emerged on the field down in Port St. Lucie. He saw the media and those were his first comments in over a year.

Nothing new, and of course nothing gained. This is the world of Yoenis Cespedes. This is common ground for the Mets high profiled player that will play out the final year of a contract that was restructured.

File Photo /Neil Miller/ New York Mets center fielder Yoenis Cespedes #52

So there was nothing interesting or new to report. Yoenis Cespedes, was himself and there should be no shock. However, he owes Mets fans more about today, tomorrow, and the months ahead. 

File Photo /Neil Miller/The New York Extra/ New York Mets center fielder Yoenis Cespedes #52

He said, “I don’t want to,” when asked for some comments. And from all indications, unless Cespedes, needs to acclimate again, we will never get a response about the new contract and incidents with wild boars at his nearby ranch that resulted in a fractured ankle

Before that, multiple surgeries to remove calcification from two heels. And all of this was unexpected. We needed more explanations and that hardly came. 

From the beginning, when he arrived in New York, the July 31, 2015 trade deadline, this has all been about Yoenis Cespedes. He hardly gave the right words, then, in a productive second half of the season that helped the Mets to the World Series. 

And he was a loss for words, after re-signing with the Mets, a lucrative three-year $75 million contract a year later with an opt out.  

And then more a loss of words, recurring injuries, that kept him off the field. His last game with the Mets, July 20, 2018, before the restructured contract from $26.million to $ 6 million with incentives.

We still want to know his outlook for 2020. How will Yoenis Cespedes work his way  back into a Mets lineup that could use his bat. Left field, first base? Off the bench?

Position and where in the lineup will be determined, a task for rookie manager Luis Rojas. Attitude and avoiding the media, a task. The frustration for yours truly and those who cover the Mets on a daily basis leaves room for more questions.

But nothing new, except this is the big market team. New York, and with a big market player that will eventually have to come out of hibernation and answer the questions. 

Most of all, Mets fans do deserve to get the answers. This was the high profiled free agent they wanted. The Wipons, they can;t be blamed. They pursued and signed the player, a free agent sort of a bust along the lines of Mo Vaughn and other bad contracts that arrived in Flushing.

So, don’t blame Fred and Jeff Wilpon here. They made the move, but it backfired.  But, Yoeneis Cespedes has to speak. Eventually he will. 

What is more important, and hoped, is a healthy Yoenis Cespedes on the field. In the  lineup, if productive, the Mets will be that much better and in the hunt for a division title or wild card spot.

 Luis Rojas, in the meantime, will do the talking for Yoenis Cespedes. The manager has a first hand look at the mood and updates where his high profiled player stands.

“It’s a big day for him,” said Rojas. “He joined the guys and that’s where our focus is going to be with him. He’s being able to progress into playing at some point. We don’t have a timetable. That’s our focus right now.”

But, Yoenis Cespedes will never help his cause, more so with the media, if he refuses to face the media. More importantly, the responsibility to answer comes with being that big time player in New York.

Over the years, Alex Rodriguez, amidst the controversy, would duck the media numerous times in a clubhouse across town in the Bronx with the Yankees. 

We adjusted then, Eventually, A-Rod would face the music, and In so many ways that was worse with a steroid controversy, At the time, a complicated contract, highest in the game, made it more difficult to get the answers.

However, through it all, Yoenis Cespedes, is no Alex Rodriguez. One World Series with the Mets, that was Cesepdes. Production on the field that came from A-Rod and a 2009 World Series for the Yankees. 

But the mood and character of the players, very similar, in a city of New York that expects a high profiled player to live up to the contract and face the music, either good or bad.

Tuesday is another day, Yoenis Cespedes will be on the field down In Port St. Lucie.

Not today, not tomorrow, not all year, is not what we want to hear.

Comment: Ring786@aol.com  Twityer@Ring786 Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso

1969 Redux – Are the Mets Poised For an Amazin Year?

ROBBINS NEST

By Lenn Robbins

We’re still smack in the dead of another bizarrely warm winter and with the way things are going we certainly could see snow on March 26, when the Mets host the defending World Series champion Washington Nationals.

File Photo Neil Miller/The New York Extra

It’s at this time of the year that the Gregorian calendar goes out the winter. The Mets held first full team workout today. Spring feels a little closer.

If you’re a Mets fan, you can’t help yourself. It’s in your DNA.

File photo Neil Miller /The New York Extra

Despite all the ridiculous chapters in Mets history, even recently: Yoenis Cepesdes breaks his ankle in a tangle with a wild boar; the sale of the team is deep-sixed at almost the 11th hour – again; Carlos Beltran doesn’t get to manage even one spring training game – Mets fans believe that this will be the year.

The feeling here is that this emotional state of being, call it the Miracle Syndrome, began in 1969, the greatest year in Mets history and one of the most amazin runs in sports history.

You know the story. You witnessed it yourself or heard it from your father or grandfather or uncle.

The Mets, who began their residence in Queens by losing 120 games, were nine and one-half games behind the Cubs in mid-August.

The rest is mystery.

Behind one of the great pitching staffs in baseball history the Mets overtook the Cubs and upset the mighty Orioles in the World Series.

There was no time to prepare for such exuberance. Teachers stopped classes and put radios on their desks for all to listen to playoff games. A city riddled with crime and graffiti needed a salve if not a savior, the Amazin Mets came through.

No wonder that no matter the number of broken dreams and tear-stained jerseys, Mets fans remain more exuberant than a rooster in a henhouse.

Which brings us to 2020, 51 years after the Miracle Mets. As was the case in 1969, when the Mets actually finished the previous season with some success, the 2020 Mets were in the 2019 playoff hunt until the final weeks.

As was the case in 1969, the Mets have one of the best pitching staffs in baseball. Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndegaard, Marcus Stroman, Steven Matz, Rick Porcello, and Michael Wacha offer dominance and depth.

File photo Neil Miller/The New York Extra New York Mets starting pitcher Steven Matz #32

The bullpen hopefully has been bolstered. Seth Lugo is proven. Robert Gsellman can swing from starter to pen. The acquisition of Dellin Betances could help. Edwin Diaz can’t be any worse.

File Photo Neil Miller The New York Extra

There are questions, of course, as is the case with most teams at this time of the season:

Luis Rojas seems universally liked in the organization and there’s no doubt he knows the game, but he’s never managed before and he never played in the Majors.

File Photo Neil Miller The New York Extra

Pete Alonso can own this town by notching another 40-plus home run season but opposing pitchers have had an entire winter to study him.

Were the Mets the team we saw in the first half of the season or the second?

08/24/19 atlanta braves vs ny mets at citi field queens ny #20 Pete Alonso hits a 3 run homer in the 5th inning Neil Miller/The New York Extra

 “We agreed on the things we need to do in order to get the edge that we need, as far as being successful this year and to achieve our goal — which is winning,” Rojas told reporters about his message to the team. “We have a lot of competition out there and this is where it starts.”

Yes, this is where it starts every spring for the Mets and their fans. They need the slightest of reasons to believe. This team provides many. Which means it also provides the perfect setup for more broken dreams and tear-stained jerseys.

Respect the Game: Hofstra's Mihalich's Path to 400 Wins

ROBBINS NEST

By Lenn Robbins

  HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. – There were about three and one-half minutes left in Hofstra’s game against North Carolina-Wilmington Saturday night and Pride coach Joe Mihalich was bellowing at the officials.

Hofstra Head Coach Joe Mihalich/Neil Miller/The New York Extra 02/15/2020

They had blown a seemingly meaningless call in a game Hofstra was leading by 15. After a solid 30 seconds of getting tongue lashed, the lead official, both arms extended and palms down, implored Mihalich to settle down.

If you wonder how a coach can win 400 games when none of his 21-plus years is in the first chair has been at ‘power school,’ here’s the answer:

There are no meaningless calls. There no meaningless practices. No meaningless games. Most of all, there no meaningless players. Because that would mean disrespecting the game. As long as a Mihalich is coaching, the game will never be disrespected.

“It’s a team game, right,’’ said Mihalich, after win No. 400. “Things like this happen. More importantly, way more importantly, [guard] Elijah [Pemberton] became the ninth all-time leading scorer in Hofstra basketball. It’s an incredible thing.

“He had exactly eighteen hundred coming in. Eighteen hundred and 23 now, right behind the guy, I forget his name, Speedy Claxton? I had explicit orders from Speedy, ‘When he gets close, take him out.’’’

Claxton is an assistant coach at his alma mater and a link to Hofstra’s glory years during the Jay Wright/Tom Pecora eras. Claxton donated money to the construction of the 5,203-seat David S. Mack Sports and Entertainment Complex, which is a terrific homecourt and begs the question why an announced crowd of only 2,506 attended The Pride’s sixth straight win, a 78-64 win.

Hofstra is the metropolitan area’s best kept basketball secret and Mahalich one of the college game’s best guardians of the game.

The Pride (20-7 overall, 11-3 and 1st in the Colonial Athletic Conference) took control early behind center Isaac Kante’s career-high 23 points and 13 rebounds. In the Pride’s last game, Pemberton matched his career-high with 28.

“The culture we built here over the past few years, guys just buy in,’’ said Pemberton, who had 23. “It’s a brotherhood from the last player on the bench to the coaching staff. I think we’re all comfortable with each other.

“It’s fun to win for a coach like this. And it’s fun to play for him when he lets you play your game.”

This has been the story of Mihalich’s career. He took Niagara to two NCAA tournaments and two NITs by pushing the ball and pushing guys with tough love. He won the Skip Prosser Man of the Year Award in 2013, given to the coach who exhibits strong moral character.

Consider this: Mihalich, 63, spent 17 years as an assistant at his alma mater, LaSalle – 17 years as an assistant! He stayed at Niagara for 15 seasons.

You know those coaches that always have one eye on the next job? Mihalich vests his one soul in working with the players he has.

“It’s from the heart,” said Mihalich. “We just got some T-shirts that say, ‘More Than a Team.’ It’s more than a team. As corny as that might seem, it’s a brotherhood in there. There’s a great brotherhood in there. There’s a love for each other.

“We have our tough times. I mean, I’ve gotten on this guy [Kante] and I’ve questioned his manhood, insulted him, but it’s because – it goes back to guys like [former Temple coach] John Chaney, who talked about tough love. It’s because I love you guys so much.”

Mihalich looks for six attributes in a player:

  1. Is he a good person?
  2. Is he a good player?
  3. Is he a good student?
  4. Does he love the game?
  5. Does he hate to lose?
  6. Does he work hard?

Call it what you will – corny, old school, cliché’ – the results speak for themselves. This is Mihalich’s eighth, 20-win season. His overall record is 381-287 (.570) in 21-plus season, the last six-plus at Hofstra, where he’s 116-84 (.580).

But really, he’s from the school of tough love. Mihalich was a walk-on guard who played for coach Paul Westhead at LaSalle. Joe Bryant, father of the late Kobe Bryant, was the star of that team which, which ran an up-tempo offense, a style Mihalich embraced.

Mihalich’s father, Joe, was a pitcher in the Yankees system, rooming with Whitey Ford. When arm trouble ended his baseball career, he became a professor of sports philosophy at LaSalle, which became the family’s second home. Mihalich’s son, Joe, is the coach at Penn.

They should have a box truck that reads – Mihalich and Sons, Respect the Game.

“He believes in you, he tells you he believes in you, it’s fun,” Kante said. “We love you too coach.”

Hofstra led by as much as 28 before Mihalich started running clock. The Seahawks (8-20, 3-12) are reeling, having fired their head coach last month. This was a bit of a trap game for The Pride. They were coming off a 76-63 win over a gritty College of Charlestown team and about to begin their last road trip of the regular season.

Mihalich hopes to take Hofstra to its first NCAA Tournament berth since 2001 and the second of his career.

“Climbing up that ladder, cutting those nets down, there’s nothing like it,” said Mihalich.

The Pride doesn’t know that feeling. They lost in the conference finals last season. Getting the No.1 seed in this year’s tourney means a first-round bye. Then every game becomes a trap game meaning Saturday’s win was worth remembering.

“I’m, just really proud of the guys for how they handled the day,’’ said Mihalich.

“They treated the game the right way. That’s been a battle cry of ours. ‘Respect the game. Respect yourself. Respect the opponent.’ Our guys did that.”

That’s how you win 400 games.

Quick Simple Healthy Meal

Welcome Back! On my quest to simplify healthy meals my first discovery is Amy’s Lentil soup, canned yet clean ingredients. All you need is the Amy’s soup, some fresh baby spinach [or veggie of choice] salt and pepper to taste and/or a little hot sauce. Shake Your Mama’s Bootie Mr. Peppers Hot Sauce Co is a great find, no preservatives, sugar or bad oils, use it on everything! [caution a little goes a long way]

Neil Miller/The New York Extra
Neil Miller/The New York Extra

Simply add soup to a pot, throw in 2 cups fresh baby spinach and heat until spinach is wilted. Season to taste. If you do dairy sprinkle with some grated cheese. As an accompaniment I used Mary’s Gone Crackers superseed everything , gluten free, crispy and tasty! Smear a little grass fed butter on them for a real treat. To finish off the meal add fruit of your choice. I used ready cut fresh pineapple and organic blueberries, delish!

This meal was really super quick, 10 minutes from pot to table. On those crazy busy days when time is of the essence ,with a little forethought and smart shopping options one can eat healthy, considering the alternatives. So don’t stop at those fast food chains or restaurants, lets shop around for healthier possibilities together. Be back soon!

Neil Miller /The New York Extra

TIP OF THE DAY: Trader Joe’s Green Goddess Salad dressing made with avocados is a real crowd pleaser. I use it for a dip with crudite. Plan on seeing this on future posts, I’m still thinking of its many possibilities.

Paxton And Rotation Void Await Yankees Spring Training Question

With James Paxton the Yankees are that much stronger with their starting rotation. He is the first and early casualty injury and out of the rotation for what is expected to be four months with spinal surgery to a herniated lumbar disc.

File photo Brian Cashman /Neil Miller/The New York Extra

You can say this is not a good start for the Yankees with pitchers and catchers reporting to Tampa. And  a record number of injuries last season, the Yankees were able to win 100 games, and get to the ALCS. 

So one would say the Yankees will be fine.

You can also say, the Yankees are deep without Paxton. You can say the Yankees with Geritt Cole are in a deeper position with their rotation.

Not bad with Cole, Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, and J.A. Happ. But they still need a number five starter and avoid the opener that became a constant last year..

 But this latest injury, and  by all standards, should not hinder their rotation. Though, there is the concern that the absence of Paxton will have an impact based on his finish in the second half last year with a 3.82 ERA,

And it is a blessing that the Yankees did not trade Happ, a  subject of trade talks this off-season.

GM Brian Cashman will be looking in.  That Number 5 spot in the rotation will become one of the few decisions to determine before Opening Day in seven weeks.

“There’s a competition now for whoever wants to step up and take it,” Cashman said.

The prevailing thought, and heard often, the Yankees could go with top prospect Deivi Garcia, or, 27-year old Jordan Montgomery. A longtime scout, and with knowledge of the Yankees, said that either would be the option.

But there is that caution with Montgomery. The 27-year old lefthander was limited to four innings last year after his recovery from Tommy John surgery.

“Montgomery is there but with that eye of caution,” he said. The obvious concern is the four innings after his recovery from  surgery and being placed in that fifth role.” 

With that being said, and with the loss of Paxton, there will be that question and who gets the fifth spot? One thing we know is the Yankees never fall short in getting their needs.

The thing here, it is not easy to fill a void in the rotation, more so with the unexpected circumstances of Paxton. The Yankees, though, saw that void last year without having  the availability of Severino until September.  

This year could be different with the addition of Cole, but that’s one part of the equation. You can’t expect Cole to duplicate his Cy Young Award season and be the complete piece every fifth day but the expectations are riding on him. 

 Manager Aaron Boone said about Montgomery “ He had a really good off season. He has proven himself at this level.”

Assume the  Yankees decide to slot in Montgomery as the beginning option. They can also put Garcia in the pen. Remember, also, this is a 26-man roster now.

Garcia or Montgomery could change roles, all depending of course on what transpires in those early season games of April. There is always a need to carry an added pitcher and with the roster expansion this could lead to more possibilities.

“They have depth,’ said the scout.

He mentions Jonathan Loaisiga, the 25-year old right-hander, 2-2 with a 4.50 ERA in eight career starts, 5.13 ERA in 16 relief stints  with the Yankees. Loaisiga, starter or could be dispatched out of the bullpen, and that is part of the depth.

Luis Cesa, “Capable and can give the Yankees some innings before going to the pen,” he said  Cesa, 27, has 234 innings on his resume and the most experience among the options.

Also,  24-year old right-hander Michael King, in the Yankees minor league system,  has developed a reputation for throwing strikes and getting the ground ball out.

Waiting, Domingo German, the most reliable Yankees starter last year. He has to fulfill a domestic violence suspension and won’t be available until June. 

So, yes, the loss of James Paxton will have an impact. But from the looks of things it’s not all that bad for the Yankees and this number five slot. 

Of course the expectations are Severino, Tanaka, Haap, and Cole will get it done.

In the meantime, filling that void for James Paxton will be one of the few storylines in the weeks ahead down in Tampa.

Comment” Ring786@aol.com  Twitter@Ring786 Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso

Who Will Host MLB's 2022 Postseason Show? Don't Ask

ROBBINS NEST

By Lenn Robbins

Ever hear something so preposterous your first reaction was to chuckle? You know, that, ‘Don’t Give Me That BS’ guffaw that conveys the message, ‘Pull the other leg it plays jingle bells.’

Credit Twitter

Like the time the guy at the corner deli who makes your bacon, egg and cheese said that Buster Douglas had knocked out Mike Tyson. Yeah, right.  

Or the time you flipped on SportsCenter and the score read Appalachian State 34, Michigan 32. Must be a misprint.

Or when New York Magazine reported that Angelina Jolie had married Billy Bob Thornton. What?!

Even after there was confirmation that all were true (they were), it still took a day for the news to sink in. That’s how the last 48 hours have been after hearing that Major League Baseball is planning on expanding its playoff format including a national televised show during which the top seed in each league would pick its opponent.

If you think you’ve heard the “No Respect,” card played before, just wait.

Why would a sport so steeped in tradition and history make such a move? Attendance has continued to drop and MLB has decided that the best way to reverse this trend is to go professional wrestling on us.

Commissioner Rob Manfred Mann has been blinded by his own marketing light. He’s decided that the best way to bring more fans to baseball is to turn to reality TV.

As reported by The Post’s Joel Sherman, under the new format, which would go into effect in 2022, the field will balloon from 10 to 14 teams. The team with the best record in each league would get a first round bye.

Those two teams would then pick its opponent – on national TV.  I’m not going to suggest that the sign-stealing league would attempt any trickery but didn’t the Knicks get to pick Patrick Ewing in the NBA’s first draft lottery?

Does the team picking give the team it picks a rose?

This is supposed to attract fans –  The Bachelor, MLB version?

And this doesn’t even address the issue of sub-.500 teams making postseason. Instead of 10 teams making the playoffs, 14 will.

If this format had been in effect last season, the Indians (93-69), Red Sox (84-78), Rangers (78-84) and either the White Sox (72-89) or Angels (72-90) would have been in.

Finishing 18 games below .500 is a lofty goal but somebody’s got to do it.

The NFL hasn’t had a sub-.500 playoff team since 2014, when the 7-8-1 Panthers snuck in. They won their wildcard playoff game, by the way, which should strike fear into any MLB No.1 seed.

There’s nothing better than postseason baseball. The teams that have made it have proven themselves over the course of a 162-game season, ensuring the best get in and usually yielding the best matchups.

Now Manfred wants to add the MLB’s Postseason Selection Show. What’s next, stadium-only betting on each pitch, hosted by Alex Cora, Carlos Beltran and A.J. Hinch?

Don’t give Manfred Mann any more ideas.

NCAA Tournament Prep Sheet: Volume I

ROBBINS NEST

By Lenn Robbins

Sooner rather than later, you’re going to fill out your NCAA Tournament brackets. So listen up: If ever there was a season to be a contrarian, this is it. Consider the weekend that was and the season that is.

file photo Neil Miller/The New York extra

San Diego State remains the only undefeated team in the nation. Michigan State, the preseason No.1, dropped out of the Top 25.

Penn State is tied with Illinois for second in the Big Ten (18-5 overall, 8-4 in the league). The Nittany Lions have qualified for the NCAA Tournament twice this century. North Carolina (10-13, 3-9), assuming it doesn’t win the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament, will miss the NCAA Tournament for the second time in 17 years.

No.1 Baylor is historically a bad NCAA Tournament bet. But the Bears won their 20th straight, a 78-70 win over Oklahoma State, so what’s to worry?

Baylor was a dismal 20-of-33 (60.6 percent) from the foul line. They are 206th in the nation with a 69.7-percentage in free throw shooting. Do you want them in a close first-round game that gets decided at the line?

Remember John Calipari’s 2007-08 team? Terrible all year from the line. Derrick Rose missed 1-of-2 free throws with 10 seconds left in regulation of the NCAA  title game. Mario Chalmers hit a 3 to force OT. Kansas won, 75-68. The Tigers were 12-of-19 (63.2 percent) from the game from the line. The Jayhawks were 14-of-15 (93.3).

MARCH WITH POINT GUARDS: Yes, I’m a firm believer of point guard play translating into tournament success. Dayton has a legit player of the year candidate in PF Obi Toppin. But in a 71-65 win over St. Louis, Toppin wasn’t his usual dominant self. Point guard Jalen Crutcher came to the rescue by making 8-of-8 free throws. He’s an 84.7-percent shooter from the line.

Which brings us to Duke, fresh off its stunning 98-96 OT win at North Carolina. The Blue Devils erased a 13-point deficit in the final four and one-half minutes and a five-point deficit in OT. Guard Tre Jones had 28 points, six assists and five rebounds, which is about as good as it gets, but not as good as LSU’s…

Skylar Mays, who had 30 points (10-for-10 from the line), eight assists, seven rebounds and just one turnover in 42 minutes of a 91-90 loss at Auburn. Auburn (21-2, 802) leads the SEC largely because the Tigers have the green light to shoot 3’s from anywhere on The Plains.

 Before you but Auburn consider its 31.6-percent shooting on 3’s, tied for 275th in the nation. If Auburn is hot in the tourney, War Eagle! But one off game and it’s time for spring football. Just ask Iowa, which….

Got dusted 104-66 at Purdue. The Hawkeyes have the nation’s most consistent inside player in center Luke Garza, who is one-tenth of a point away from averaging a points-rebounds double-double. Whoever faces Iowa in the tourney will have to drop down try to keep the ball out of Garza’s hands, which means open 3’s should be there.

 HOLD IT LIKE AN EGG: San Diego State is the nation’s last unbeaten team (24-0). The Aztecs are 13-0 in the Mountain West, the best start in conference history. In the Aztecs 89-74 win over Air Force, they committed a season-low six turnovers, one in the final 31 minutes and none in the final 21. The Aztecs are 8th in assist/turnover.  

STREAKS, OVER: Seton Hall has a northeast guard in Myles Powell who can flat out take over a game. But the best thing about these Pirates is the way they play. They are a throwback Big East team in terms of mental and physical toughness. Their 70-64 win at Villanova snapped a 17-game road losing streak to the Wildcats. Elite Eight, not so sleeper.

Kentucky has won 9-of-11 since losing two straight including W’s against Texas Tech and Louisville. The Wildcats won at Tennessee for the first time since Rick Barnes took over as head coach. Kentucky is tied for 6th in the nation in free throw shooting at 78.7-percent.

WELL DONE: The following coaches have done a great job.

Mick Cronin, UCLA – the Bruins will never dominate college hoops as they once did but Cronin, who re-established Cincinnati as a national power, is off to a 12-10 start (5-4 in the Pac 12) in his first season. With Arizona shaken by scandal, look for the Bruins to quickly return to the top of the league.

Joe Mihalich, Hofstra – Basketball fans in the Northeast know Mihalich’s Niagara teams were a bitch to play against. So are his Hofstra teams. The Pride (18-7) is in first place in the Colonial Athletic Association, playing the same fundamentally sound ball the Purple Eagles played. Mihalich is 133-91 in his seventh season on Long Island, 45-15 over the last two seasons.

Chris Mack, Louisville – It shouldn’t be hard to win at Louisville but if you don’t succeed there is a one-way ticket to a mid-major program and a lot less money. Big East fans know what a solid person, father, coach Mack is. He took over Louisville which was a mess and won 20 games last season. Mack has the Cardinals atop the ACC with a 12-1 record (21-3 overall)

Steve Pikiell, Rutgers – It’s been impossible to win at Rutgers. Pikiell and the Scarlet Knights found themselves in an unfamiliar position Sunday night in the RAC. They trailed Northwestern by 18. It was arguably one of the first time Rutgers, as a heavy favorite, didn’t take an opponent seriously.

The Scarlet Knights rallied in the second half to eke out a 77-74 OT win and remain undefeated at home and just 1.5 games back for the Big Ten lead. Pikiell has instilled a true team culture. One of his first big recruits, Gio Baker, now comes off the bench. He scored 23 of his 25 in the second half to lead the comeback.

SHADES PLEASE: Which was harder to look at? Oregon State’s upset of No.14 Oregon was secured by holding the Ducks without a field goal for nearly nine minutes in the second half. Oregon shot 22-of-55 from the field (40 percent) which isn’t horrendous. Going to the line just four times (and only making two) is. Or…

UCLA held No.23 Arizona to its worst shooting game in the McKale Center’s 47-year history. The Wildcats shot 15-of-59 from the floor (25.4-percent). They missed all 12 of the second half 3’s. Or…

West Virginia missed 20-of-31 layups in a 69-59 loss at Oklahoma. The Mountaineers were 24-of-76 from the field (31.6-percent).

“Seems impossible, but we missed 22 shots within two feet of the basket,” said WVA coach Bob Huggins.

2020 The Quest to Simplify Healthy Meals

Welcome 2020! May this year bring many blessings for us all! Im looking forward to new and exciting adventures and positive changes. One change I will be implementing is to SIMPLIFY. Time constraints have interfered with shopping, prepping and cook time. I usually spend several hours on my days off preparing healthy meals for the week. Well that’s not always going to be possible.

Neil Miller/The New York Extra

Though I always recommend first and whenever possible to eat clean, organic home prepared meals and snacks, I do realize with our busy schedules that’s not always feasible. Therefore my quest to simplify was born and it is a work in progress, Please take this journey with me. In order to simplify and as much as this pains me to say that means utilizing healthy prepared/packaged foods. It does not mean highly processed foods , preservatives, added sugars or unhealthy fats. Ha Ha,,, I know not easy.

Neil Miller/The New York Extra

Open the door and surround yourself with a rainbow of fresh fruits and vegetables. It’s easy to grab an apple, banana or any fruit, they transport easily. Humus with Mini cukes, rainbow carrots and bell peppers are good to go. Pack some olives or raw nuts of your choice in snack size baggies. Keep a jar of seed or nut butter on hand with some precut celery sticks, a quick and easy snack.

I go forward now in search of elusive healthy packaged foods. What will I find on my journey?? Stay tuned for upcoming dinner recipes. Be back soon! Wishing you peace.

Neil Miller/The New York Extra

TIP OF THE DAY: Stringless Snap Peas from Whole Foods and Galil Organic Roasted Chestnuts. Totally portable and easy peasy!!

Defense And No Offense Again For Fordham in Conference Loss

Again it was the Fordham defense that made it a game against Richmond up at the Rose Hill Gym Saturday afternoon. Similar to other outcomes it was the Rams inability to score that led to a 59-53 loss.

File photo /Neil Miller/The New York Extra

Fordham lost their fourth straight. It wasn’t their defense as they held Richmond, a team that can score, to 23 points in the first half. But as the conference schedule winds down, Fordham 7-15 overall, 1-9 A-10, can’t get both sides of the game on the same page.

Coach Jeff Neubauer, he  is looking at a way to get this offense going.  It has to be more than one that is open for the shot. It has to be making those baskets in a league that thrives on offense. 

Regardless, this was your typical brand of Fordham basketball. Yes, defense is good, Fordham leads the A-10 in scoring defense and is ranked 16th in the NCAA.

“Defensive effort in the first half is never perfect, but it’s amazing that’s what it’s gotta be,” Neubauer said.  “That’s who we are. Second half still good but needed to be amazing in the second half.”

He was referring, though. to that second half and inability to score.  Antown Portley scored 12 points, Ty Perry added 11 and Jalen Cobb 10. They have been part of the mix.

But the Rams need more. If not, all that defense won’t be enough to escape a bottom seeding next month in the conference tournament at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

 Portley, in his last four games after sustaining an early season injury to his leg, has scored 37 points.  But the senior- guard can’t do this alone with a need for others to get the offense going. 

Neubaurer, has always looked at Portley to take that open shot. Part of the Rams second half eight-point run, that gave them a 44-36 lead, was a run to the basket for Portley.

He also found an open and  converted a 3-pointer beyond the arch. Again, if it wasn’t for the defense, the final outcome could have been wider.

“Good to have him back,” said Neubauer. “His minutes helped. He’s one of our better players. We are a better team when he makes the shots.  We encourage in general that the ball moves.”

This is not to say that the Rams are overmatched. With their defense they have been in games. Last Saturday, at  8th ranked Dayton, it was a game before losing 70-56. 

“We play as a team,” Neubauer said. “When you gave a guy with creativity it makes us better.”

Portley has that creativity.

But this Richmond team, striving to move up the standings in the conference, they have it all.  They have deep scoring and that ability to stop a run at the right time 

Jacob Gilyard scored 23 points on 7-of-11 shooting. Blake Francis added 18 points for the balanced Spiders offense. 

The Spiders have won three straight, 17 of their last 18 meetings against Fordham, that included an elimination game at Barclays last March in the A-10 Tournament.

“Their style  for us to hold them to 59, there’s a lot of good defense in there but not enough for us to win,” Neubauer said. 

No, not enough Saturday to win a conference game. And with time running out the Rams are destined to finish last or next to last in the conference. The defense has been consistent the last seven games but  that offense has to chime in.

 If not,  it will be the same story Tuesday night at Davidson.

“We have to find  more baskets somewhere in our roster,” Neubauer said. “ More open looks. I’d like to see more guys produce more.  We need everyone to play a little better.”

He wasn’t kidding. Because at Rose Hill this has become a defensive game and you can’t win games in this conference without the offense.

Comment; Ring786@aol.com  Twitter@Ring786 Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso

These Will Be The Wilpon Mets And For a Long Time More

So what was going to happen was not with the Mets. The Wilpons sale to Steve Cohen is no more and the questions will continue as to why this deal went the other way.

Neil Miller/The New York Extra

You see, deals like this are difficult to understand. You put a billionaire hedge funder, Cohen, to the front.  And then there are Fred and Jeff Wilpon, who would be in the outfield and looking in within five years.

Of course as of now,  a sale of the Mets is a dead issue. The Wilpons will be at Citi Field Opening Day, March 26th. Steve Cohen, with his money,  a long time Mets fan, will be among the fans in the seats.

So, Cohen, took off on his yacht and left from Flushing Bay. The Wilpons, they will remain in control and seek another way to sell their interest with the Mets. 

But, as one insider said Thursday, “Take away the Mets from Jeff Wilpon and he will be a lost puppy.”

According to that  insider, Fred, the elder statesman, could go either way with this. Jeff, with his proficiency to be hated by Mets fans, well he is their biggest fan, He has a difficult time with that inevitable point of no longer having control.

And my friends this is about control. Take away the Mets from Jeff Wilpon, he is that lost puppy.

Have we not seen this mess more than once with the Wilpons ? It’s becoming old news in their so-called quest  to sell shares or a majority of them to an outsider.

File photo Neil Miller/The New York Extra

So, Fred and Jeff Wilpon, Saul Katz, and those in the hierarchy are making the Democrats in Iowa look like wizards.  The Mets move on and prepare for the start of the season in 49 days.

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, would not fault the Wilpons. And, despite reports, Steve Cohen had minimal influence in day-to-day operations with the Mets.

Could have been another few years before Cohen’s 80 percent and $2.6 billion had any influence on spending.  But now it’s back to square one for the Wilpons.

And the prevailing questions, if you can get the answers, do the Wilpons want to sell as part of their Sterling corporation?

“Sterling intends now to pursue a new transaction and has engaged & Company to manage that process.” a statement released by the Mets Thursday afternoon.

Believe the statement if you desire. And any impending sale is not happening anytime soon. This is a process and Major League Baseball is very involved and the proper foundation must be in place.

Steve Cohen, unless a deal can be restructured, he is on the sidelines. “I gave it a shot,” he said.  

Not what Mets fans wanted to hear Thursday when this all came down. Social media was buzzing and fans wanted the Wilpons to go. They want an owner who will spend.  They want to see that balance go their way when competing with the cross-town Yankees for the big time player.

 But, they have to wait. And this time the wait for their dream to rid the Wilpons of control could continue for another five years, because this is how long it takes to assume control of a Major League Baseball franchise.

This is not like purchasing real estate, a new car, or winning the lottery.

Then again, these are the New York Mets and a team with two new managers in a span of three months. Mets fans will say their team never gets anything right and all they want is a winning team.

Enough to digest the past few months with Carlos Beltran here and gone, and Luis Rojas an immediate replacement as the manager. Time to move on and get ready for pitchers and catchers in a few days down in Port St. Lucie. 

Neil Miller/The New York Extra

That is the emphasis for GM Brodie Van Wegenen, manager Luis Rojas and his coaching staff. 

Nothing has changed at Citi Field. Front office and Citi Field personnel are going about their business and preparing for Opening Day.

But one thing is certain, the Wilpons are still in control of the Mets. And they are not going on that yacht out of Flushing Bay anytime soon.

Comment: Ring786@aol.com  Twitter @Ring786 Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso

A Good Day For the Knicks? Yes!

ROBBINS NEST

By Lenn Robbins

It comes with an understandably fair bit of trepidation for any Knicks fan embrace what just occurred on February 6, 2020. There have been so many horrific trades and free agents busts that just the thought of the Knicks making a deal is enough to trigger deep breathing exercises.

But this time the president-less Knicks made what seems to be a slam dunk transaction, sending veteran forward Marcus Morris to the Clippers in exchange for former St. John’s star and Queens native Moe Harkless, a 2020 first round pick and a 2nd-round pick.

The happiest man might be Leon Rose who reportedly will be hired as franchise’s next prez. He gets another first-round and second-round pick and a talented 26-year-old forward with upside.

The Knicks traded away a very solid player and person in Morris, who is 30 and a free agent after the season. But a first round pick and a younger forward that could start immediately at the 3 is a win-win. Morris goes to a playoff-bound team.

Good for him. Good for New York.

The Knicks now have two 1st-round picks in 2020 and two second-round picks, courtesy of the Willie Hernangomez trade. The Knicks have two first round picks in 2021, courtesy of the Kristaps Porzingis trade.

After his rookie season, we railed that The Unicorn was not a foundation player to build a champion around. Every month that belief gets reinforced. He continues to be physically fragile, not necessarily his fault, and is one of the most narcissistic players to come out of Europe, which is his fault.

The Knicks also have another 2nd-round pick in 2021 as part of Hernangomez deal. They’ll have two first-rounds picks in 2023, when the second pick from Dallas for KP arrives.

One of the only smart, no less sane thoughts to come out of The Garden of late regarding the Knicks is a commitment to hoard No.1 picks. This becomes even more prescient with the expected decreases in the salary cap and luxury-tax threshold.

Add in these assets with Rose and here’s where it gets a little scary: A hoard of draft picks combined with an elite agent. Do we dare get excited? Yes!

Look at what former agents turned executives Bob Myers did in Golden State and Rob Pelinka has done with the Lakers. This doesn’t mean Rose is a slam dunk. Myers learned the ropes from Larry Riley and Pelinka sat at the knee of Magic Johnson. That’s like getting tutored by Newton in physics.

Rose, however, will have GM Steve Perry to bounce ideas. Since Rose has yet to be officially hired and Steve Mills thankfully is no longer at the controls, we can credit today’s trade to Perry.

There’s another reason to feel good about this day and that is Rose. He might be able to get a table at Rao’s these days but not because his father handed him a fortune and said, ‘Go Forth and Double the Family Fortune.’

He’s a South Jersey guy who got degrees at Dickinson College, a cool liberal arts school, and at Temple law, in the heart of blue collar Philly. His first job was as an assistant prosecutor in Camden County, which has never been dubbed the vacation capital of the New Jersey. His first clients were Philly guys such as Lionel Simmons and Rick Brunson.

The only damper on the day was owner James Dolan’s decision to issue the following statement:

“We are actively looking for a new President of the New York Knicks and hope to conclude the search as quickly as possible,” he said. “I am not selling, but I am determined to find the right leader for the Knicks who will ensure the long-term success of the team, just as we did with the hiring of Rangers President John Davidson.”

If Dolan won’t sell, maybe he won’t meddle. In that case, maybe the record will show that February 6, 2020 was the best day Knicks fans had in a long time.

J.D. Davis Reflects On Thurman Munson Award

Thurman Munson was a leader on and off the field and 40 years after his untimely death his legacy is constantly remembered.  Tuesday night at Chelsea Piers, the annual Thurman Munson Awards dinner continued to live that legacy.

The 40th Thurman munson Awards Dinner press conference From Left to Right Lou Piniella,Gleyber Torres ,Diana Munson,John franco ,J.D Davis, and Nancy Lieberman /Photo by Neil Miller /The New York Extra

This annual event raises money to support the AHRC New York City Foundation. The organization assists children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. 

Diana Munson /Neil Miller/The New York Extra

“I am most proud of the money we raised ,” said Diana Munson . “To be a part of it has meant a lot to my family.”

Widow of Thurman Munson, the  Yankees Captain and catcher, has also kept that legacy going with the Thurman Munson Award. Professional and Olympic athletes are recognized for their accomplishments and contributions to the community.

“It’s truly a tremendous honor,” J.D. Davis said.

J.D.Davis /neil Miller/The New York Extra

 The Mets outfielder and third baseman was honored along with Yankees shortstop Gleyber Torres, former Yankees outfielder and manager Lou Piniella, former Mets captain John Franco ,and Nancy Lieberman of basketball fame.

They all spoke about Munson. A week or so after the untimely death of Kobe Bryant, they also did not forget his legacy.  

So this was not only about baseball and basketball.  Over the years, those who have been honored at this event have been role models. They have exemplified the good character and dedication of Thurman Munson.

“I was a 90’s baby, unfortunately, I never saw him play,” Davis said. “But when I got the call that I was being honored, I knew who he was. How big of an icon he was in New York. I was pretty humbled by it.”

Davis, may not become that icon, but has those qualities to exemplify all the Thurman Munson attributes do fit his character.  

Last season, he had that breakout year with the Mets  and has adopted New York City as that second home. Davis, this off-season, made several trips to New York from his home in California for charitable events.

Quickly, Davis, has adapted to playing ball in this town.

There is the  understanding of  that significance of being in the spotlight and playing baseball in New York. Thurman Munson, when he donned the Yankees pinstripes also knew that giving back to the community was important. 

So, J.D. Davis, along with the others are not recipients of this award because of their name. They are special and are doing something significant as athletes here.

More than baseball or other sports they play for a living, It’s being role models off the field.

Of course, baseball was the talk and prior to the speeches and recipients getting the Munson honor. There was no talk about the recent baseball scandal, no discussion about the Mets ownership change that is in jeopardy.

Though, Piniella, always a good piece for conversation, did say that technology was good for baseball.

And for J.D. Davis, this could be the first of many more awards to come. Assume the Mets provide that opportunity for Davis, to be a vital cog in their plans going forward, helping the community will also be in his plan.  

And there is every intention of Davis being in that lineup often, in the outfield or at third base.

He is excited about the upcoming season, and prepared this off-season to get better by watching film. He dropped seven pounds and worked on various ways to get better in the outfield.

“ Reconnected with Luis Rojas,” he said about his new manager, the former quality control coach who  was by his side in the dugout last year.

J.D.Davi /Neil Miler/The New York Extra

There are those Thurman Munson qualities on the field for J.D. Davis. He has adapted after coming from Houston as the unknown player last season, possibly the best acquisition for Mets  GM Brodie Van Wegenen.

“Coming here to New York with these guys, with these teammates and coaches, showing your personality  showing you a little bit of flair, playing the game right,” he said. 

He got that right. Because, in New York, playing here is about doing the right thing and also being a part of the community. We always saw that in Thurman Munson.

And the best way to have fun, as Munson always said, was win ball games. The Mets won 86 games last year and made a postseason push in the second half. 

 Davis, and the Mets  are anticipated to win ball games this coming season.  They also don’t know what to expect from Yeonis Cespedes with a contract that was restructured and coming off surgery.

And then there is this part about J.D. Davis, that talk of getting better.  He reminds you so much about the qualities of Thurman Munson.

“Little ways, better at bats,” he said.  “Taking notes about failures and what I’ve learned.”

Sounds a lot like Thurman Munson.

Comment: Ring786@aol.com  Twitter@Ring786 Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso

With the Trade Deadline Approaching, Dolan Strikes Again.

ROBBINS NEST

By Lenn Robbins

“We hear from people all the time. From players, from representatives, it’s about who wants to come. We can’t respond because of the NBA rules, etc., but that doesn’t stop them from telling us, and they do. I can tell you from what we’ve heard, I think we’re going to have a very successful offseason when it comes to free agents.” – Knicks owner James Dolan, March 12, 2019, ESPN radio

Before Knicks fans replace “Sell The Team,” with “Hire Masai Ujiri,” they should remember the words spoken by their out-of-touch owner less than a year ago. The Knicks didn’t sign any of their elite free agent targets. They didn’t even get visits from some.

Credit Twitter

The fall guy for that, the Knicks 15-36 record, and most of all, those “Sell The Team” chants that reverberated around The Garden and into Dolan’s ears last Wednesday, was president Steve Mills. When “In Denial Dolan” feels he’s been wronged, a head has to roll.

“Steve and I have come to the decision that it would be best for him to leave his role as president of the New York Knicks,” Dolan said in a prepared statement. “We thank Steve for his many years of service to our organization and look forward to continuing our relationship with him as part of our board.”

Mills joins the legions of Knicks fans that have orange and blue pumping in our veins until they bleed out courtesy of all the cuts and slashes that Dolan inflicts season after season.

Consider the timing of this latest move: The NBA trade deadline is Thursday. Thursday! Dolan could not have picked a more tumultuous time to fire the team president, unless, of course, he did this tomorrow.

Dolan reportedly has had his eye on Ujiri for a while now. There’s a lot to like about Toronto’s president. Ujiri put together an NBA championship team in the toughest of places by making the most precarious of trades – rolling the dice on Kawhi Leonard.

Because of Canada’s high taxes, NBA players have been reluctant to go North. Raptors fans have long believed they are a victim of NBA conspiracy – they get the worst schedule and refs. They’re seldom on national TV.

But the fan base is flat out bonkers for their Oh Canada team. Ujiri embraced that, attending rallies before playoff games. He was fined prior to the 2015 playoff series against the Nets for telling the crowd to, “F$%k Brooklyn!”

Leonard did his championship one and done but the Raptors have kept winning, proof Ujiri built a franchise. He’s smart, knows talent, has a passion that would play here.

But does Dolan think Ujiri, and the rest of the NBA – players and executives, trainers and coaches – aren’t taking note of the toxic environment that hangs over the Knicks? Does Dolan think Ujiri doesn’t see the petty owner point out the teenager chanting, “Sell The Team,’ to security personnel.

Does Dolan think the revolving door of coaches and presidents, the ludicrous contracts given to disinterested employees (see Phil Jackson), the snubs by NBA free agents falls on deaf ears and blind eyes?

Does he think the bizarro timing of his latest head-scratching move goes unnoticed?

Yet Dolan has three things going for him, known them named James Dolan:

The Knicks again have nowhere to go but up. The Garden remains the most magical of basketball arenas. And Dolan is willing to offer life-changing contracts. It’s a hard combination to walk away from.

Getting Ujiri, who is under contract with the Raptors until the end of the 2021 season, would likely require a stiff price. It would be so typical of the Knicks, who have wisely held onto their first-round draft picks, to unload at least one of those No.1s on a president, not a superstar.

Regardless of what Dolan offers, it still might not convince Ujiri to leave Toronto. Because what Dolan sees and hears is not what the rest of the NBA does.

He Was "The Grandy Man" Curtis Granderson Calls It A Career

He Was “The Grandy Man” In New York

File photo Neil Miller/The New York Extra

Curtis Granderson called it a career Friday. Those who know the seven-team,  38-year old All-Star, are in agreement. Curtis Granderson, the good guy is bound to be seen around the game in some capacity.

 There will be baseball in some capacity for the veteran of 16 years.

Basically, the  three-time All- Star, has more to offer and most baseball personnel feel the same way. The familiarity was New York and Granderson, and that connection was  here playing with the Yankees and Mets 

File photo /Neil Miller/The New York Extra

The “Grandy Man” as known, is suited for another role. Broadcast booth, advisor to an upper office, a commitment to helping kids in the community who play the game, are possible.

You see, Curtis Granderson was that baseball player, easily a fan favorite.  Good teammate in the clubhouse, and media friendly leaves little room to debate. 

You could always get the proper quote from Curtis Granderson, all you have to do is ask those who covered him on the New York baseball beat.

We were patient. Curtis Granderson may have been the last to leave the clubhouse in the bowels of Yankee Stadium and Citi Field, and the deadline pressure to get the story did not matter.

No, because,  deadline was thrown out the door. We needed those quotes, the knowledge, and analysis before he exited the clubhouse door. 

The  baseball fraternity, at times with huge egos, and that was not a trait of Curtis Granderson. And a transition from player to broadcaster, in the studio or booth, will be easy with some prior experience working postseason games for TBS or ESPN.

That first time in New York, four seasons with the Yankees,  Granderson, made that impact as a leader in the clubhouse. The trade to the Yankees, more about a three team-trade, Max Scherzer, going to the  Diamondbacks from the Tigers.

He was that All-Star, and with the Mets, one of their high profiled free agents who also became that veteran and leader in the clubhouse. 

One of those postseason runs, 2015, was memorable.  Granderson, in his second World Series, helped the Mets as they came up short to the Royals. 

In essence,  Granderson was the team player. He would strike casual conversation and cared about the well being of 24 others in that room they call the clubhouse.

“Purely a good guy,”: Carlos Torres said.

Torres, was a part of that Mets pitching staff in 2015, a key cog of the championship run out of the bullpen. The manager then, Terry Collins, relied on his bullpen.

Spot starter, long relief, closer, Torres would have his moments. The bad moments, and there was Curtis Granderson by his side in the dugout.

“As a guy period, he was a phenomenal man and teammate,” Torres said from  his home in Kansas. “Someone who would help a rookie or veteran equally.”

He added, “Curtis was well spoken and would talk baseball as much as complex social economical issues just as casual conversation.”

Granderson, in his career played 2,057 games. He totaled 1.800 hits, 344 home runs, 154 stolen bases. 937 RBI and 1,217 runs scored, and  with 95 triples was the Major League active leader,

A career with the Tigers, Yankees, Mets, Dodgers, Blue Jays, Brewers and Marlins, does not have Hall of Fame numbers. 

Most Valuable Player to baseball and the community, that was Curtis Granderson. And his commitment to kids, that continues with the “Grand Kids Foundation.”

“I had a girlfriend years ago from Chicago,” Torres said. “She actually asked me to thank Curtis because he donated millions to schools in Chicago.”

No, we have not seen the last of Curtis Granderson.

 “Thank you to Major League Baseball, MLBPA (Major League Baseball Players Association), my teammates and coaches, front office staff, members of the media, partners, and the fans for the ride of a lifetime,” Granderson said in a statement. 

And we can say, from a distance or personal standpoint: Thank You Curtis Granderson!

Comment: Ring786@aol.com  Twitter@Ring786 Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso

How Knicks Fans Can Get Dolan to Sell: Volume II

Welcome to The World’s Most Infamous Arena.

A perfect storm hit Madison Square Garden Wednesday night.

The Knicks got decked 127-106 by a mediocre Memphis Grizzlies team. The Knicks showed their only fight of the night with 47 seconds left when Elfrid Payton took exception to a Jae Crowder punk 3-point attempt and shoved the Memphis forward out of bounds. What followed wasn’t Malice in the Palace as much as Misery in Madison.

Crowder, Payton, Julius Randle, Marcus Morris and Damyean Dotson showed more hostility than Cowboy Cerrone. Payton, Morris and Randle were tossed. Payton likely will be suspended.

Knicks fans, who seem to be numb to dysfunction, crossed over to simmering outrage. Maybe Crowder’s utter disrespect for the Knicks was the tipping point. Would he have done this against the Lakers in Staples Center or the Celtics in TD Garden or the Sixers, Bucks, Nuggets, Rockets, etc.? No.

The fans began chanting, ‘Sell the Team.’ Since James Dolan was the only Knicks owner at the game, we’ll assume it was directed at him.

After 20 seconds of being serenaded, Dolan left his seat, but not before screaming at security personnel, who do a great job night in and night out, but can’t secure their boss from the anguish of 18,000 long-suffering fans.

After the on-the-court nonsense came the postgame show, kind of like fireworks after a Mets game. Morris, a veteran who would be a welcome addition in any NBA lock room, something the Knicks should consider as the trade deadline approach, went Neanderthal on Crowder.

“He’s got a lot of female tendencies on the court, flopping and throwing his head back,’’ Morris said of the player he’s had a history of disdain for. “He’s soft, very woman-like.”

Morris later apologized on Twitter, hopefully before Rhonda Rousey boarded a flight to New York.

Then came Ja Morant’s claim that The Garden is in a need of a plumber.

“This is beyond me,” Morant told reporters after the game. “I’ve taken cold showers before, but at least I had water pressure.”

Who knows how many Knicks fans return home from The Garden needing a cold shower. Dolan should have one in his office, one with a noise cancelling feature so he can tune out the ‘Sell the Team’ jeers.

Yes, it would be great if Dolan sold. But with the Knicks valued as the 5th most valuable franchise in the world and the most valuable in the NBA at $4 billion, per Forbes, what would motivate him to sell?

After all, he’s a filthy rich egomaniac. Every time he hears those jeers, he digs in. Every time he gets spurned in free agency, he digs in.

How do we get such a man to do what we want? Here’s a plan:

Many who know Dolan say he’s truly a Knicks fan. He desperately wants them to succeed.

That’s where Knicks fans need to focus their strategy. They need to appeal to Dolan’s love of the Knicks and the shared misery between the fans and the owner.

The fans should take out an ad in The New York Times and TheNYExtra.com. Buy an ad on MSG Networks (O.K., not likely) – and ESPN.

Dear Mr. Dolan, we the fans thank you for years of doing your best to restore this franchise to greatness. We know this because you gave Jackson $50 million. It’s not your fault Jackson thought this was for meditation classes. We know you are as disheartened as we are by the team’s struggles. (O.K. that’s a hard line to swallow, but we have an ulterior motive). For the sake of the franchise we love, we ask that you sell the team and let another owner try his luck. Of course, you can keep your courtside seat (we’ll have a word with security) and we will hold a parade in your honor in the Canyon of Heroes. From one disheartened Knicks fan to another, thank you for being big enough to do what’s in everyone’s best interest. Sincerely, Suffering Season Ticket Holder Since 1973.

Until then, remember, the 10 worst seconds are the first ones upon stepping into that icy, cold shower.

Offense Not Defense Is Issue For Fordham

Fordham took St. Bonaventure to overtime Wednesday night up at Rose Hill. Coach Jeff Neubauer, after a 62-55 loss in overtime, said his team played their best game of the year. 

credit Robert Cole

But it was the Fordham defense that kept them in this one.

The Rams lead the Atlantic 10 in scoring defense and rank 15th in the NCAA and that came up strong again allowing the Bonnies to 21 points in the first half.

The offense was a difference which attributed to this loss, and In this conference, you need to score. The Rams scored 22 points in the first half, were 19-for- 58 from the floor, 12-for-33 when shooting for three.

Saturday, Fordham scored  a season low 39 points in a loss at Saint Louis.  

“Our biggest offensive challenge is we cannot make two point baskets,” Neubauer said. “ 

 And making those baskets are so important in the A-10, a high scoring league.

credit Robert Cole

Fordham dropped their seventh game in their last eight. Their overall mark is 7-13, and the Rams  stand next to last in the Atlantic 10 Conference at 1-7.

Saturday, they travel to  Dayton (18-3) the top scoring team in the conference, ranked 7th in the nation. So, the Rams will need to score and not rely solely on their defense.

But the Rams did step up and send the game into overtime. Antwon Portley, limited in his second game back  from injury, forced overtime with a running one-handed shot with 2.8 seconds left.  

He also had a key 3-pointer down the stretch that tied the game at 53. 

Thing is, the Bonnies got the ball and made their shots, outscoring Fordham 9-2 in the extra period. Dominick Welch, a career high 22 points made three free throws that got the Bonnies a two-game sweep against the Rams this season. 

Again, the Rams need to convert their baskets. Though, Portley, does help with his return to the floor. 

“He made clutch shots; that’s who he is,” said Neubauer.

Despite those offensive struggles the Rams in three prior games saw their freshmen and sophomores account for 82.6% of their scoring, 138 of 167 points. 

Neubauer said about this loss, “The offensive rebounds we gave up,  hard to win, 12 rebounds in 25 minutes.” 

And if there is any chance of giving Dayton a game, Fordham has to score.  Their defense has not been the issue.

Neubauer was asked about that Dayton game that awaits. Saturday. He said it will be  a challenge.

“Good challenge as a team and as a coach,” he said.  “ My feeling is that tonight is that game we’ve played really talking about our defense. Our defense had gone to an amazing level.”  

Another conference loss for Fordham. But one they hope to build on with Dayton.

Comment: Ring786@aol.com  Twitter @Ring786  Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso

Kobe Just Might Have Made His Most Important Play

ROBBINS NEST

file photo /Neil Miller /The New York Extra

By Lenn Robbins

It’s taken two days to see.

Since the first alert on my phone Sunday morning stating the unfathomable had happened – Kobe Bryant, 41, his daughter Gianna, 13, and seven other human beings – taken from us in the blink of a text, we’ve been blinded by grief and uncertainty.

The Lakers-Clippers game was canceled last night, as it should have been. But when do the Lakers return to the court in spirit as well as body? A week? A month? A season?

Prior to the tipoff of Monday night’s prep game between Friends Seminary and Packer Collegiate Institute, the rivals huddled at midcourt, arms around each other’s shoulders, as a 24-second shot clock ‘violation’ counted down.

Generations of Americans are hurting.

There are memorials at Staples Center and the House of Kobe Gym in the Philippines and Lower Merion High School outside of Philadelphia and Mamba Sports Academy, and Reggio Emilia in Italy and the Bryant Park subway stationed unofficially renamed Kobe Bryant Park.

(Memo to City: Don’t change that).

Should everything go back to the way it was before Kobe died or should it never be the same?

Does a reporter continue to write about Kobe or the suddenly surprising Knicks or disappointing Nets?

How do we evaluate any NBA team going forward when so many players lost a friend, idol, mentor, role model, former teammate or opponent?

How can we attend a Super Bowl party on Sunday, cheer and laugh, when four families are in the soul-numbing process of planning a funeral they never expected to plan so soon?

How do we go to church or temple this weekend knowing that Bryant and his daughter reportedly attended Mass Sunday morning at Our Lady Queen of Angels Catholic Church in Newport Beach, just hours before they died?

A parishioner there, Julie Hermes, told NBC-LA that she recalled watching Kobe with his four daughters after Mass one day.

“He was showering them with cupcakes, and he put them in car seats and buckled them in so carefully,” Hermes said.

That’s what love looks like. And this is Kobe’s last and possibly greatest legacy.

We’ve see men, seemingly the most manly among us, publicly showing their emotions in tears and tributes. LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, Spencer Dinwiddie crying. Barack Obama, also a father of daughters, and Kareem Abdul Jabbar, expressing their sadness.

“[He was] and a leader in a lot of ways,” Abdul-Jabbar said on social media. “He inspired a whole generation of young athletes.”

Imagine that. A whole generation of young athletes seeing Kobe memorialized as a father and husband more than a player. A whole generation of young athletes overtly and covertly getting the message that there is more to life than a ball or a puck. A whole generation of young athletes seeing men that express their emotions as strong and sensitive.

Imagine this: In death, Kobe has made his most important play.

A Father, a Daughter, And a Love of Basketball.

ROBBINS NEST

File photo/Neil Miller /The New York Extra

By Lenn Robbins

It was early January of 2013 when I bumped into World Metta Peace in the bowels of Madison Square Garden. He broke into a huge smile, gave me a neck-cracking hug and we settled into a couple of chairs courtside to do some catching up.

I had forged a bond with the young man then known as Ron “Ron-Ron” Artest Jr. years earlier when he played at St.  John’s. Anyone in the metropolitan area basketball world knew of Ron-Ron, his acts of generosity and volatile personality. He was ‘real,’ as they say, a kid out of Queensbridge who marched to his own thumping, erratic drummer to the NBA.

File Photo/Neil Miller/The New York Extra

There were the really good years in Indianapolis, ended by the notorious Malice in the Palace brawl; the solid years in Sacramento and Houston, followed by the magical season when Artest and Kobe Bryant won the 2010 title together with the Lakers.

“Man, Kobe and I went at it before the Lakers,’’ Metta Peace told me. “I was worried we weren’t going to get along when I signed with them. It wasn’t that we didn’t like each other. We wore different jerseys, came from different places.

File photo/Neil Miller/The New York Extra

Bryant had lived in Europe as a child, where his father, Joe ‘Jellybean’ Bryant played professionally. Kobe was fluent in Italian and Spanish and later educated at Lower Merion High School on Philadelphia’s exclusive Main Line.

Artest’s world was a housing project in Queens and a struggling Catholic school on Manhattan’s Lower Eastside – LaSalle Academy.

‘Kobe, people would see his smile, right,’’ said World Peace. “And he can speak, like five languages or something. Nice suits. I’m all ghetto. But we would kill you to win a game. Kill you. That’s what we had.”

We will never see Kobe Bean Bryant’s luminescent smile again, which is almost as tragic as the fact that we will never see the smile of his daughter – Gianna Maria Bryant. Kobe, 41, and Gianna, 13, were both killed in a helicopter crash outside of Los Angeles on Sunday.

The Black Mamba, a nickname Kobe gave himself, is dead. Unfathomable.

Kobe still had so much of life to live but he had accomplished so much in such a short time. It was 14 years ago this week that he scored 81 points in an NBA   game. It was just Saturday that LeBron James passed Kobe for third on the NBA’s all-time scoring list.

 James wrote “Mamba 4 Life” on his sneakers in Sunday’s game against the 76ers.

Bryant is a member of the most exclusive sports club – Pele, Serena, LeBron, Kobe.

And he was on the cusp of business and creative greatness. He won the 2018 Oscar for Best Animated Short Film for “Dear Basketball,” a six-minute film based on a poem Kobe wrote. He parlayed a $6 million investment in sports drink BodyArmor into a $200 million payday when Coca-Cola bought the company.

Most of all, he was scratching the surface of being a father. Bryant was taking Gianna to one of her travel basketball games. Gianna had dreams of playing at Connecticut, the Lakers and Celtics of women’s college basketball rolled into one.

Gianna had her entire life ahead of her. There will be no WNBA title, no opportunity to write a poem or become a businesswoman. Unfathomable.

One of the few truths we know is that no parent should have to bury a child. Now Vanessa Bryant, Kobe’s high school sweetheart, will have to bury a husband and child, and find a way to raise daughters Natalia, Bianka and Capri.

In a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Kobe was asked if he had any regrets.

“Probably the amount of time spent on my craft and spent away from my family,” he said.

Unfathomable.

So what do we now, how do we process this tragedy?

Here’s the only consolation I can find. In their final seconds, Kobe and Gianna had each other. A father and a daughter together because of their love of the city game.

“He loves the game so much,’’ Artest said of Kobe. “You have to take his life to take that game from him.”

Mets hold Fanfest 2020

The first annual Mets fanfest at Citifield Queens, N.Y. by Neil Miller ,The New York Extra

From left to right,Turk Wendel, Edwin Diaz,Robinson Cano and Jeff Mc Neil load the truck headed of to spring training

This was a great event today for Mets fans. There were choices of batting cage hitting, tours of the stadium,autograph sessions and much more with many Mets players to interact with.

For the media however, this was a banner day to interview many of the Mets stars on the past and current events going into the 2020 season.

Please view the gallery to see some of the images of Mets players.

The Right Choice Was Luis Rojas But Time Will Tell

Luis Rojas is a manager and in the spotlight. That unexpected Mets’ vacancy occurred with the departure of Carlos Beltran. Now, sooner than expected, Rojas at 38, becomes the second youngest manager in baseball.

Luis Rojas /Neil Miller/The New York Extra

So there was, Rojas at Citi Field Friday afternoon. He put on the jersey with Number 19.  Seems like yesterday, Carlos Beltran was doing the same thing.

And this will not be that difficult transition for the Mets. Rojas, was the supposed runner-up to succeed Mickey Callaway. He was the quality control coach last season and that familiarity was a helping hand.

Brodie Van Wagenen/Neil Miller/The New York Extra

“We got to promote one of our own to be the leader and face of our Major League team,” said GM Brodie Van Wagenen.

Again, it was familiarity with the roster and organization . That leads to optimism and a positive point as to why, Rojas, the 23rd manager in Mets  history was a good choice,

Luis Rojas /Neil Miller/The New York Extra

Perhaps, Buck Showalter or Dusty Baker would bring that experience as tenured managers and who knows they may have come with a hefty price.

But with little time to spring training, and a coaching staff in place, it made perfect sense for the Mets hierarchy to go this route.  

First impressions at  his introductory press conference, well there was confidence from the new manager. Thank you to everyone that got him to this level after 13 years in the Mets organization as a coach in their minor league system

Thank you also to his family.  His father, Felipe Alou (former player and manager) and Moises, his half brother and one-time player with the Mets.

He learned from them. 

“I think every single thing has led to this,” he said. “From conversations with my relatives to the experiences in the Minor Leagues and winter ball. There have been a couple of championships as a manager and a coach. Those are the things that we can employ and use for our team.”

And time will tell, is Luis Rojas the proper choice to take over a Mets team that is expected to contend?

Credit/Neil Miller/The New York Extra

 Mets CEO Jeff Wilpon, said the new manager has the skills. 

“ Very good skills and he will be an excellent manager,”Mets CEO Jeff Wilpon commented to THENYEXTRA.

It also goes to Rojas’ advantage, knowledge and working with Pete Alonso, Jeff McNeil, Amed Rosario, and many more of this young Mets core. 

 He inherits a roster that should contend with three All-Stars, in Alonso, McNei,l and Jacob deGrom the two-time NL Cy Young Award winner.

So this manager will be tested in the first few months. Like Beltran, he will be reviewed and that comes with those daily meetings prior and after a win or loss with the media.

First impression, with notepads and microphones, Luis Rojas was brief and to the point.  Dominican born and proud, he went with the flow. Those in game decisions will be determined.

However, a consensus among baseball personnel, including those who have worked with him in the Mets system, all said this day was coming. But this first managerial job came sooner than expected.

“A baseball rat, excellent poise, demeanor and professionalism,” said Tom Gamboa, a former manager with the Brooklyn Cyclones Mets Penn League affiliate.

Gamboa added “I thought he might be Major League material someday but surprised it happened so fast at age 38. Great potential. Only lacks Major League experience but he has managed McNeil, Rosario and Alonso.”

And those words of poise and demeanor, all attributes that remained during this rapid search for a new manager.

Are the Mets in the proper direction with Rojas? He signed a multi-year contract that is assumed to be three years, and that should be ample time to take this team where they want to be.

Mickey Callaway was supposed to be the proper manager to get them there and to a World Series.  There was Carlos Beltran with the unfortunate circumstance of a baseball cheating scandal that got in the way.

Now, this Mets team belongs to Luis Rojas. He is expected, as the manager for Brodie Van Wagenen, to be the guide and at the forefront of assuring the Mets get to that championship level.

“I will lead this team into success,” said Rojas. 

And of course, time will tell. But we have to give the new Mets manager a chance in the months to come.

Comment: Ring786@aol.,com  Twitter@Ring786 Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso

Eli Manning and NY: One of the Great Sports Love Stories

ROBBINS NEST

Eli Manning, on his retirement day 01/24/20, Neil Miller/The New York Extra

By Lenn Robbins

At his last official press conference as a Giant, Eli Manning presented one side of the best love affairs New York has ever had with one of its athletes.

“It’s impossible to explain the satisfaction, and actually the joy I’ve experienced being a Giant,’’ he said Friday.

Eli Manning, on his retirement day /Neil Miller /The New York Extra

There’s no question he loved donning that red, white and blue No. 10 jersey. No doubt he felt playing quarterback was the greatest gig on Earth and this was the place to do it.

Manning made that clear prior to the 2004 when he let it be known he had no intention of playing in San Diego. He wanted New York.

This laidback son of the South, who had to navigate his way out of the shadow of his father, Archie, and his older brother, Peyton, now wanted to take on New York, not with a bullhorn or a billboard, but with himself.

“From the very first moment, I did it my way,’’ Manning said Friday at his retirement press conference. “I couldn’t be someone other than who I am.

“Undoubtedly, I would’ve made the fans, the media and even the front office more comfortable if I was a more rah-rah guy. But that’s not me. Ultimately, I choose to believe that my teammates and the fans learned to appreciate that. They knew what they got was pure, unadulterated Eli.”

And wasn’t that marvelous? No ranting at an offensive coordinator on the sideline. No dodging the media. No suggesting a teammate had missed his assignment.

Elisha Nelson Manning IV.put himself out there. We took him in. Pure, unadulterated Eli.

Accountable. Predictable. Dependable.

Despite being listed as 6-foot-5, 218 pounds, Manning always seemed smaller in his high school, wide receiver-sized shoulder pads. He had seasons in which he took more pounding than a crash test dummy. Never missed a game due to injury.

Consider the circumstance in which Manning arrived in New York. He forced that trade with the Chargers, which owned the No.1 pick in the draft. The Giants sent the No.4 overall pick and a slew of other picks to San Diego in exchange for Manning.

That’s the closest Manning came to being a prima donna. And really, if you’re intent on becoming a star quarterback, what better place to do it than New York?

When one considers the enormity of that trade, the odds of it becoming a success (for both franchises) was lower than the odds of it being a colossal failure – especially in the Big Apple where everything is bigger.

Manning, with his aw-shucks persona, made it in New York because he didn’t try to be anything other than authentic, which is what hooks a New Yorker every time.

He put on no airs, demanded no special treatment, didn’t romp around the city with a flock of Victoria’s Angels – not that there’s anything wrong with that. It just wasn’t Eli.

Eli Manning and family,on his retirement day, Neil Miller /The New York Extra

He married his beautiful Ole Miss college sweetheart Abby McGrew. They were married in Mexico, just a couple of months after Eli handed the Pats a stunning defeat in Super Bowl XLII. They have four children.

“When we have the whole family together, maybe bath time when I have both kids in the bathtub and they start splashing each other and making each other laugh. That usually gives me my biggest smile — when I see both my girls interacting with each other,” Manning told Parade magazine in 2014.

This is something all the Manning boys – Cooper, Eli and Peyton – got from parents Archie and Olivia: Being a good family man, a good neighbor, a good teammate is more important that being a quarterback.

But Eli did that, too. The Giants need a new quarterback section in the record book. Manning threw for 57,023 yards and 366 touchdowns in 16 seasons. He’s one of just five players to have won Super Bowl MVP honors multiple times.

Eli Manning ,on his retirement day/Neil Miller/The New York Extra

“He represented our franchise as a consummate professional with dignity and accountability,’’ Giants owner John Mara said in a statement. “It meant something to Eli to be the Giants quarterback, and it meant even more to us. We are beyond grateful for his contributions to our organization and look forward to celebrating his induction into the Giants Ring of Honor in the near future.”

Honor. So often our star athletes turn out to be less than what we built them up to be. There’s the arrest on accusations of spousal abuse, or the old Facebook post containing racist comments, or the video of a drunken fool outside of a bar at 4 a.m.

Not Eli Manning. Never Eli Manning.

He gave us his side of the story Friday – “the joy I’ve experienced being a Giant.”

The other side of the story is ours to tell: The joy we experienced watching a helluva quarterback and an authentic man give us everything he had for 16 seasons.

Paging the Missing Derek Jeter Hall of Fame Voter

file photo ,Derek Jeter hits his 300th hit/Neil Miller/The New York Extra

ROBBINS NEST

By Lenn Robbins

He or she is out there, perhaps hiding in plain sight in Times Square, fending off a photogenic Mickey Mouse, or in witness protection in Arizona, wearing a floral shirt and golf hat.

Family won’t take him or her in. Friends are strongly advising he or she go to the authorities. Co-workers won’t make eye contact.

“My desk is right next to his and I never knew!” one claims.

He or she has been designated Voter No. 397.

Three hundred and 96 Hall of Fame voters wrote the name Derek Sanderson Jeter on their ballot. One did not – No. 397. Not since Ricky Ricardo has someone had this much ‘splaining to do.

“I look at all the votes that I got,” Jeter told reporters Tuesday night in a conference call. “It takes a lot of votes to get into the Hall of Fame. Trying to get that many people to agree on something is pretty difficult to do. So that’s not something that’s on my mind. I’m just extremely excited and honored to be elected.”

Now more than ever we’re aware of just how difficult it is to get people to agree on something, anything. Or lawmakers can’t even agree on how to run an impeachment trial, no less weather to impeach someone.

Yet I’m willing to bet even the senators from Massachusetts, who would rather eat pine tar than Manhattan clam chowder, would vote for the Yankee named Jeter. His credentials are overwhelming, indisputable:

Five World Series titles including one MVP. Fourteen All-Star appearances and the Rookie of the Year Award in 1996. A postseason slash line of .308/.374/.465. That ridiculous flip to Jorge Posada that nailed Jeremy Giambi at the plate in Game 3 of the 2001 ALDS. Mr. November. Captain.

Each voter can list 10 players (who have been previously screened!) on his or her ballot. Even if a voter didn’t think Jeter was the No.1 candidate, there were nine other slots on the ballot. Heck, even Tom Steyer got on the last Democratic debate.

We can be a forgiving society. Sooner or later we can forgive the contrarian fool that didn’t put Jeter on his or her Hall of Fame ballot. But we need an explanation. We need to get inside the mind of this baseball sociopath and try to understand why he or she opted not to Re2pect the man that played shortstop and conducted himself as regally as Jeter.

This is America of course and the right to vote is sacred. No citizen need to explain his or her vote for mayor or governor or president. But these sacred society voters, such as those that  determine who gets into the Hall of Fame, have a duty to the fans.

It’s not easy. I didn’t have Joe Burrow on my Heisman Trophy ballot and one Internet troll wrote that anyone who didn’t have the LSU QB in his top three should be fired. My rationale, which I understand is up for ridicule, was this:

The Heisman Trophy is supposed to go to the best player in college football. In reality, we know it goes to the best offensive player. All you offensive linemen and cornerbacks might as well head to the weight room for some extra reps.

The difference among Burrow, Ohio State QB Justin Fields and Oklahoma nee’ Alabama QB Jalen Hurts was microscopic. All three were fantastic. So was Chase Young and Ja’Marr Chase and the four running backs that ran for more than 2,000 yards.

A Heisman ballot has three slots. Three, not 10. That’s a tough vote.

Jeter for the Hall of Fame? That needed a nanosecond of thought. So, whoever you are who didn’t vote for Jeter, come forward and explain yourself. Fear not. Security will be provided by the Astros or Red Sox.

Not Unanimous For Derek Jeter But The Hall Of Fame Is

File photo/Neil Miller /The New York Extra

One vote. That denied Derek Jeter as a unanimous selection to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and that should not matter. So fans that are outraged about Jeter not joining Mariano Rivera, his teammate, back-to-back as unanimous choices need to take a break.

Derek Jeter, unanimous or not, is one of a kind and there was never a doubt when his eligibility came for the call to the hall  Perhaps, not the greatest shortstop, or Hall of Famer, but one of the best of the modern baseball era. 

Here are some of the accomplishments:

A five-time World Series champion.  He is the Yankees’ all-time career leader in hits (3,465), doubles (544), games played (2,747), stolen bases (358), times on base (4,716), plate appearances (12,602) and at bats (11,195). 

His accolades include 14 All-Star selections, five Gold Glove Awards, five Silver Slugger Awards, two Hank Aaron Awards, and Roberto Clemente Award. Jeter was the 28th player to reach 3,000 hits and finished his career ranked sixth in MLB history in career hits and first among shortstops. 

The Yankees retired his Number 2. He was the longtime face of the franchise and part of that “Core Four” and four straight World Series championships under manager Joe Torre.

“”A Derek Jeter comes along once in a generation,” Torre said in a statement. “It was a true privilege to watch Derek and to be his manager for 12 years. To this day, he still calls me ‘Mr. Torre.’ Today, it is a pleasure to say, ‘Welcome to the Hall, Mr. Jeter!’ You did it with class and grace.”

This writer does not have a vote in the Hall of Fame balloting. If so, Jeter gets a vote here as a first ballot Hall of Famer. He was the epitome of a New York Yankee and an asset for the game of baseball.

More than his credibility, which was never an issue, the unanimous vote would have been  icing on the cake. Derek Jeter, though. played the game and did his business as that longtime 20-year shortstop for the New York Yankees.

The Hall of Fame was never in the picture. He made this a Hall of Fame career. 

Though the persona and character of a player should have no impact on the vote for enshrinement, Jeter, could be an exception. His teammates, prior, during, and after the championship years all saw this coming.

The opposite players on the field all saw this coming. And that word respect, all  for Number 2, they will be there with Jeter up in Cooperstown in July.

“It’s going to be a very special day standing next to Derek in Cooperstown this summer,” Mariano Rivera said in a statement. “ He had such a deep desire to win, and that singular commitment to his team is what made him so special. Derek prided himself on being a consistent presence.”

He added, “ No moment was too big. He was fearless, and he was the type of leader we knew we could count on year after year. I feel so fortunate that he was a teammate and friend for my entire career, and I congratulate him on this great honor.”

 Rivera will hold that distinction as the first unanimous player voted into the Hall and there may not be another one, that is, unless another Derek Jeter or Mariano Rivera comes along.

And with the media that respect was also a part of Derek Jeter on and off the field, tough the writers who get this privilege look at the numbers and contribution for Hall of Fame credentials. 

“The Captain” of the Yankees was always available after a loss. There was always time to answer the questions, the last one reporter to ask always got the proper response which also defined his leadership in the Yankees clubhouse.

Off the field, Derek Jeter went his business. You never heard about controversy, or being in the wrong place at the wrong time.He represented the Yankees pinstripes and all in good standing.

A managers type of player. And for the media, their type of player. Recall after the Yankees bitter 2001 World Series loss to the Diamondbacks, after Luis Gonzalez got that hit through the infield off Mariano Rivera in Phoenix.   

In the visitor’s clubhouse, at his locker stall, there was Derek Jeter. In that quiet and hush Yankees’ room, after contemplating the loss with his head bowed  and a bat by his side, , Derek Jeter was ready to talk,

Like all baseball players who talk after a bitter loss, he said “This is baseball.”  But, Derek Jeter offered more than that standard quote. He was the person offering a perspective with minimal talk about analyzing what went wrong.

It was a simple conversation. This was a part of the moment and showing that baseball is a game. Recall,  as we all do, that was a year of baseball coming off the tragic terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

That was Derek Jeter. The person and baseball player that you could never criticize. No ego to him and a team player.

His day arrived. The attention will be about Derek Jeter in the months ahead and we will never get tired of cheering the newest Hall of Fame inductee.

Unanimous or not and well deserved. One of a kind is Derek Jeter. And, he continues to make an impact as co-owner of the Miami Marlins.

But there is that distinction over many who played the game and that is the Hall Of Fame.

Comment: Ring786@aol.com  Twitter@Ring786  Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso

Mostert is the Land Shark That Could Devourer the Chiefs

ROBBINS NEST

By Lenn Robbins

Now that the 49ers are about to transition from reveling in their demolition of the Green Bay Packers to preparing for the Super Bowl, the first thing San Francisco coach Kyle Shanahan should do is confiscate Raheem Mostert’s surf board.

Super Bowl LIV will be played in Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium, a four-hour drive from Mostert’s home town of New Smyna Beach, Fl. New Smyna Beach is the unofficial “Shark-Bite Capital of the World.”  

According to National Geographic, anyone who has swam in the waters off New Smyna Beach has been within 10 feet of a shark. Ten.

So, of course, Mostert took up surfing.

Now let me ask you: If the possibility of getting eviscerated by a distant cousin of Jaws wasn’t going to deter Mostert from surfing, do you think getting cut from six NFL teams, including the Jets, would scare him away from making his pro football dream come true?

It was Mostert, one of the three backs that comprise San Francisco’s running game, who ran the Packers back to Green Bay on Sunday in a 37-20 NFC Championship game victory. He set a career franchise with 220 yards rushing on 29 carries. It’s also the second highest total in postseason history.

“I did have a lot of doubters and naysayers,” Mostert told reporters after making chum of the Green Bay defense. “Now I actually tell them, ‘Look where I’m at now.’ I never gave up on my dreams.”

The 49ers will meet the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV in two weeks with Mostert emerging as the best surprise of the postseason. He started the season a distant third on the depth chart behind Matt Breida and Tevin Coleman, both of whom battled injuries.

Enter Dominque Raheem Mostert, who has fallen through the cracks more than a penny. He led the 49ers with 772 yards rushing and eight touchdowns. He was a three-star recruit coming out of New Smyna Beach High School, choosing Purdue over several schools including Miami, Rutgers and the Naval Academy.

 He also ran track, winning many Big Ten titles. But he went undrafted and his NFL free agent tour began. The 49ers, who place a premium on speed, signed him in 2016.

Coleman suffered what has been a reportedly severe elbow/shoulder injury against Green Bay meaning Mostert is likely to be San Fran’s No.1 rusher.

Once again, he also will be playing second fiddle to someone, in this case Kansas City’s Tyreek Hill. Hill is the fastest player in the NFL. Mostert, who played at Purdue, is the second according to NFL.com.

He was clocked at running 21.87 MPH on his 36-yard touchdown run Sunday.

“He’s so fast,” tackle Joe Staley told reporters. “He’s incredibly fast. He’s fearless going through the hole.”

Of course, he’s fearless. He swam with sharks.

March Madness is Just What Major League Baseball Needs

ROBBINS NEST

By Lenn Robbins

File photo Neil Miller/The New York Extra

  Pitchers, catches and cheaters report in less than four weeks.

The winter stretch from late-January to March has traditionally been a slow spell in sports. That’s one recent Sports Illustrated used to give us the swimsuit edition in February. Now it’s May. Enough of that.

This is not your typical year. MLB is giving us the Rocky Horror Sign Stealing Show.  Need to focus on the something less tainted? Consider this:

 Based on the many college basketball results in this week alone we’ve seen enough head-scratching results to make a safe bet, (sorry MLB)  that this has the potential to be the most maddening, thrilling, impossible to predict NCAA Tournament in recent time – if not all time.

Considered these results:

Unranked Alabama crushed No.4 Auburn, 83-64.

No. 18 Seton Hall slapped No.5 Butler, 78-70 in Indianapolis. South Carolina stunned No. 10 Kentucky, 81-78. Fear not Kentucky, here’s as good a place as any to point out that the Gamecocks got plucked by Northern Iowa, 78-72.

Struggling Georgetown edged No. 25 Creighton, 83-80.

Clemson shocked No. 3 Duke, 79-72.

Wisconsin tripped up No.17 Maryland, 56-54.

Minnesota banged No. 19 Michigan, 75-67.

Oregon State humbled No. 24 Arizona, 82- 65.

And Purdue humiliated No. 8 Michigan State, 71-42.

Defending national champ Virginia is not ranked.

Indiana and Syracuse (see 1987 NCAA National title game finalists) are not ranked.

Man, this his is fun:

Duke was upset at home by Stephen F. Austin, 85-83.

“We played young,” Coach k told reporters. “You gotta get old. You get old by experience, and I can’t teach them to be 22. They’re 18, a lot of them.”

Young gets you beat in the big Dance.

Kentucky fell at home to Evansville, 67-63.

“Stuff like this happens,” Kentucky coach John Calipari told reporters. “You wanna grow from it, you wanna learn from it. We may look back in a couple weeks and say ‘this is the greatest thing that happened to this team.'”

Or not.

Georgia was blown out at Dayton, 80-61.

“I knew we were going to be coming in against a whole different level of intensity, physicality, the way guys play,” Bulldogs coach Tom Crean told reporters. “That’s where we’re at and we got exposed by that.”

Exposed.

LSU got manhandled at home by East Tennessee State, 74-63.

“Obviously, this was a tough night,” LSU coach Will Wade told reporters. “East Tennessee had a great game plan. They shrunk the paint on us and then just pinned their ears back and killed us on the offensive glass. They got 15 more shots than we did and that really, really hurt us. It was too much for us to overcome.”

Killed us.

Boston College has become an attractive game for every mid-major, having lost to St. Louis, 64-54, and Richmond, 64-44. Richmond also owns a 93-92 win over Vanderbilt.

Santa Clara might be pushing for membership in the Pac 12 after knocking off Washington St., 70-62 and Cal, 71-52.

And our most convincing argument for March insanity is this:

North Carolina isn’t even listed in ‘Others Getting Votes.” North Carolina. Take that Rob Nelson, Channel 7!

“I want to apologize to all the North Carolina fans, the people that care about our basketball program, former players, everyone that cares about us,” Roy Williams said after a 79-76 home loss to Clemson, which had lost 60 straight to the Tar Heels in Chapel Hill.

Why apologize? It’s not like anyone cheated. In fact, North Carolina could have a starring role in the maddest March of all time.

Mets Move On Without Beltran As Damage Control Begins Also For MLB

File photo Brodie Van Wegenen /Neil Miller/The New York Extra

Direct your attention to Carlos Beltran, the Mets, and baseball hovering over a dark cloud. The game is in trouble and this baseball cheating scandal is far from over.

Beltran, the lone player implicated with that 2017 Astros’ championship team, is no longer the manager of the Mets, a brief tenure that stands second in the annals as the shortest reign, next to Wally Backman who lasted four days with the Diamondbacks.

But the Wally Backman situation was different, taxes and personal issues. The Carlos Beltran situation was being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and one of the culprits that has put Major League Baseball in a bad situation.

And all of this will be discussed in years to come, and technology advancement, attributed to three managers losing jobs, is another issue and one that baseball has to address as they try and recover from this black eye.

But the reality now, and for the Mets, they are without a manager. They were supposed to have Carlos Beltran for three years, maybe more, to guide them to a championship. 

Beltran, a choice of GM Brodie Van Wegenen, will resurface and perhaps as a manager, He is tarnished as much as the game is. You can rule out a potential Hall of Fame induction in a few years when his name comes up for consideration,

In essence, this scandal of cheating to steal signals from opposing pitchers, is difficult to digest. Baseball fans will forgive to an extent and only because they want their team to win.

Except, cheating, as was with the steroid scandal, the Pete Rose gambling issue, and the Black Sox scandal, is hard to tolerate. 

The billionaire dollar industry, as baseball is, got them caught. It cost AJ Hinch, Alex Cora, and now Beltran their jobs. It will be difficult to recover for them, even if they deny they were culprits to get their team wins and collect more of that revenue that is always available.

So the Mets, and unexpectedly, once again are on a managerial search. They want to move on and get by this black eye, Though, again, Carlos Beltran was a culprit in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The search is on as the healing begins.

 Mets Gm Brodie Van Wagenen, said Thursday afternoon on a conference call with media, “I don’t think the values we that we’re looking for have changed.”

He said, “This team is one that we believe in. This team is one that we believe can contend and we want to make sure that we have the right support around them to achieve their success.”

Carlos Beltran was the one to do that. The former and popular player, forgiven for making that last out in the 2006 NLCS at Shea Stadium, was the perfect candidate in a long managerial search to succeed Mickey Callaway.

Thing is, there are 28 days before pitchers and catchers report to Port St. Lucie and that does not leave much room to anoint a new manager. Last thing the Mets want is entering spring training without a leader.

But they did not expect this turn of events. Even as the day transpired, Wednesday into Thursday morning, there was that slim chance, Carlos Beltran would survive this scandal.

He wasn’t the manager that was implicated, one of the players that reportedly orchestrated this cheating scheme in his final year as an active player on that 2017 Astros team, and now  a negative part of the baseball annals.

And this is no longer an issue as to how the Mets handled this. Did, Brodie, a key part of  the hiring process, have knowledge that Carlos Beltran was a part of this scandal?

That issue was clarified as no, according to a timeline that the GM outlined on Thursday.  But, Beltran, as is, may not have taken all of the skeletons out of his closet.

So, the prevailing question now, as the Mets go forward, who is the next manager and when will that come to fruition?  We know, this process will be rapid. There is precious time with that timeline drawing in on spring training. 

The next manager has to have the same goals and guidelines.

 Who will that be? Luis Rojas, Eduardo Perez, Buck Showalter? Tony DeFrancesco, who managed the Mets’ Syracuse Triple-A affiliate was in place as the first base coach. 

He is not a logical choice, interim manager for the Astros and prior to Hinch and that 2017 team, and the Mets would not want to go that route. Hensley Meulens? He was appointed bench coach, for Beltran, with no previous managerial experience.

Fiel photo Terry Collins/Neil Miller/The New York Extra

Terry Collins, a longshot, even if it became an interim basis. He could leave the chair for David Wright, a fan favorite who goes by the book, but Collins and his days as an active manager are over.

File photo David Wright /Neil Miller/The New York Extra

Yes, lots of damage control that will be difficult and more so for Major League Baseball.  The Mets will overcome this adversity that was not expected.

The unfortunate thing, we never will see how good a manager Carlos Beltran could have been.  Greed, though, and technology with a billionaire dollar industry of Major League Baseball got in the way,


Comment: Ring786@aol.com  Twitter@Ring786- Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso

Beltran Gone as Suspicion Has a Seat in Every Dugout

ROBBINS NEST

By Lenn Robbins

JOB OPENING: Looking for a man or woman with integrity who is willing to sit in an MLB dugout and monitor all actions of the manager, coaches, players and equipment personnel. Candidates should have a working knowledge of baseball signs. Candidates must be willing to contact MLB at the first sign of any abnormality. What constitutes an abnormality? Therein lies the problem with this job. 

From now on, the 2017 Houston Astros and the 2018 Boston Red Sox slink with the 1919 Chicago White Sox. They are the cheaters, the scum of sports, the cruchers of dreams, the destroyer of heroes.

As bad as their behavior is, it is the filthy lens through which every at-bat, every game, every season, every team will be viewed that is worse. Suspicion now has a seat in every dugout.

Any player that starts drawing walks at an unusually higher rate than his norm will be scrutinized. Any player that suddenly goes on a home run tear, any player that gets sizzling hot, any baserunner that suddenly starts racking up steals, will be looked at with a hairy eyeball.

That will be the horrific fallout of the sign-stealing scandal that has placed a scarlet letter next to the letters of every major league team’s logo. is he a cheater? Are they cheaters? 

Unfair, you decry?

Consider this harrowing reporting from Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich of The Athletic. They quote an MLB manager that says:

“It’s an issue that permeates through the whole league. The league has done a very poor job of policing or discouraging it.”

Even the league office, which sought to stake claim to the high ground by penalizing and fining the Astros and Red Sox can’t be trusted. Unless you’re an owner of course. 

We’re supposed to believe that Houston owner Jim Crane knew nothing about what his employees were doing every day for the better part of seven months. No wonder why there has never been an Undercover Owner of an MLB team.

They are all in on it. Apparently every GM, manager and coach is in on it. Every player is in on it. Every equipment manager? Every scout? Every ballboy?

Good Lord, not the ball boys?!

Are we supposed to believe now that Rob Manfred has disingenuously shed a spotlight on a contamination he only needed a penlight to spot that baseball has been baptized into cleanliness?

 What did that manager say? Permeates through the whole league.

Carlos Beltran became the first player to have the next step in his career halted by this toxic scandal. Before he got to manager one spring game for the Mets, the organization announced the parties had a agreed to part weeds.

When Manfred handed down the penalties to the Astros and Red Sox he said players had not been disciplined because it would be “difficult and impractical” to weed out who did what. Of course, Manfred’s fear is that if the league begins looking at players, there might not be an MLB when he’s done.

Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil is the better of bad options for baseball but it only enhances the suspicion mindset. If Beltran, who was a true professional throughout his time as a player, was a sign-stealing master, who else should we suspect? Everyone?

Those of us old enough to have lived through the Mark McGuire/Sammy Sosa steroid scandal, the NBA/Tim Donaghy betting scandal, the point-shaving scandal at Boston College learned long ago that professional athletes, and coaches and managers are no better or worse than you or me.

But those Little League kids that we celebrate every summer at Williamsport, or cheer for every weekend from Greenwich Village Little League to Inwood, from Peter Stuyvesant to Harlem, from Brooklyn to Queens, Nassau to Suffolk Counties, MLB just revealed there’s no such thing as the baseball equivalent of Easter Bunny or Santa Claus.

Has Mike Trout been stole signs? Pete Alonso? Aaron Judge? All of the Red Sox? All of the Astros?

What’s worst then answering that question with a definitive ‘Yes’ or ‘No,’ is having to pause and wonder, ‘Maybe.’ Maybe my guy’s a cheater.

Now, who wants to sit in a dugout and find out for sure?

Credit twitter

Beltran May Be Safe But Needs To Answer

credit twitter

Carlos Beltran is guilty. So are dozens of others among the 2017 Houston Astros and Boston Red Sox players involved with the sign-stealing situation that has rocked Major League Baseball. He was instrumental in discussing the scheme to stealing signs from the opposing pitcher that was attributed to technology.

Yes, technology is the culprit and so is Beltran.  However the findings and determination of MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said, “Assessing discipline of players for this type conduct is both difficult and impractical.”

Mandfred added, “I am not in  position based on the investigative record to determine with any degree of certainty every player who should be held accountable.”

The accountability cost Astros’ general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager AJ Hinch their jobs and suspensions. Speculation is Alex Cora,  bench coach under Hinch, also a culprit, will lose his job as manager of the Red Sox.

And the players associated with this have that protection of their union. The Astros’  2017 World Series championship stays in the record books. Findings and repercussions around the Red Sox will not nullify their championship of 2018.

The Mets have not commented about Beltran. The rookie manager will surely have to answer a ton of questions when pitchers and catchers report to Port St. Lucie in four weeks.

And the last thing the Mets don’t need is for  this situation to linger. Modern technology has caused this dilemma, the game of baseball has changed, and that has to be addressed.

But Carlos Beltran has to answer the questions, and  unless Major League Baseball says otherwise, he has to face the music. 

The prevailing question, as this investigation continues to unfold that caused the latest black eye for baseball, what’s next? Does Carlos Beltran avoid suspension? Is Beltran safe?

As of Tuesday, the Mets are not commenting.CEO Jeff Wilpon and GM Brodi Van Wagenen are scheduled to appear Thursday morning in Port St. Lucie to officially announce a change to the name of the Mets’ spring training complex and they could avoid the questions.

There are numerous current and former players associated with the Mets manager and they are not commenting. So we are all in the dark with this.

And this is expected to continue as the dark eye for baseball. The newest scandal goes in the books as a substantial issue and in the categories with the steroid scandals, Pete Rose, and the Black Sox era.

Where does Carlos Beltran stand? Unless, the Mets believe that Beltran and his association with this are detrimental and a distraction, his position is safe. The Mets do not need further distractions as they prepare and expect to contend with a new season on the horizon.

Though, to put this to rest, Carlos Beltran will need to answer the questions. He is no longer a player and now a part of management. He needs to answer to clarify his role and admit to the mistakes.

Now, on the other hand, Alex Cora up in Boston is the predicament. If the further findings of the commissioner go further, if the Red Sox follow the role of the Astros and dismiss Cora, then the Mets are put in a position.

Carlos Beltran could survive this, or the Mets can decide to make a statement and reprimand their new manager. In other words, the Mets could have the final decision.

Beltran, not receiving favorable headlines,  can deny he was wrong. But the findings of this investigation are saying otherwise.

In the best interest for the Mets and for their fan base, Carlos Beltran must respond.and the best approach is to make a statement in front of the cameras and notepads.

Either way, Carlos Beltran will be writing out the Opening Day lineup for the New York Mets, regardless of this black eye and being a culprit to this mess.

The damage control for Major League Baseball is now the issue. This will not go away, and the technology experts that have control will need to improvise their system and assist with the damage control.

This was bound to occur as stealing signals and signs have always been a part of baseball but not at this magnitude, Carlos Beltran can provide some closure.

It’s closure for the Mets and for Beltran’s reputation as that “Mr. Good Guy” in baseball, and for the fans here in New York.

Comment: Ring786@aol.com  Twitter@Ring786  Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso

Thanks Pats; This Final Four is Wonderfully Flawed

Tom Brady file photo Photo by David L. Pokress/ The New York Extra

ROBBINS NEST

By Lenn Robbins

It’s time to thank the New England Patriots for becoming the first 12-4 team to possess one of the epically awful offenses of all-time.

Amen.

That offense led to the Pats getting sent home by the Tennessee Titans, 20-13, leaving us with one of the most wonderfully flawed Final Fours in NFL Playoff history. Forget the fact that we don’t have a clear-cut favorite. We have four teams that make you wonder how they’re still standing.

As of Monday morning, the Chiefs had been installed as 11-10 favorites. This is the same Chiefs team that allowed 128 rushing yards per game this season and trailed 24-0 at home in its divisional game against the Texans.

Fortunately for the Chiefs they have a 24-year-old quarterback in Patrick Mahomes, the likes of which we’ve never seen, coached by an unappreciated 61-year-old wunderkind who draws up plays on diner napkins – true. The Chiefs’ offense was on full display in the final three quarters scoring 51 points in a 51-31 win.

The 49ers appear to be the most balanced team left and they are 7-5 to win it all. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo threw 13 interceptions this season, only two less than Mahomes (5), Aaron Rodgers (4) and Ryan Tannehill (6) combined. The 49ers try to compensate for the lack of a bell cow back with a committee of three backs, none of whom ran for 800 yards.

Fortunately for the 49ers they have an imposing front seven which is getting healthier. San Francisco, which gets the Pack at home  again, throttled the Minnesota Vikings, holding them to 147 yards and seven first downs.

The line drops significantly with the Titans at 15-2 to win it all. Tennessee has gone back in time offensively. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill has attempted just 29 passes (completing 15) for 160 yards and two touchdowns. Mahomes threw for 95 yards and four touchdowns in just the second quarter of Sunday’s win against Texas.

Fortunately for the Titans, they have a defensive end playing running back. Derrick Henry, the 6-3, 247-pound battering ram of a man, has rushed for 377 yards on 64 carries (5.9 yards per carry) and one touchdown. He did this against two elite defenses – New England and Baltimore. Tannehill doesn’t throw often because he doesn’t have to.

Bringing up the rear is Green Bay, which boasts the old-school blueprint of an elite QB (Rodgers), running back (Aaron Jones) and wide receiver (Davante Adams). Green Bay needs all three to be at the top of their game because there are no other weapons that really strike fear in a defensive coordinator’s heart. The Packers suffered their worst beat down of the season in a 38-7 shellacking at San Fran on Nov. 24. Aaron posted an 8.5 QBR, Jones averaged just 2.9 yards per carry and Adams was held in check – seven catches for 43 yards.

Fortunately for the Packers, their Big Three is playing well at the right time. Rodgers threw for 243 yards and two TDs, Jones ran for 62 yards and two TDs and Adams, caught eight balls for 160 yards and two touchdowns in a 28-23 win over the Seahawks. If they play at the level, Green Bay can beat anyone.

Before the season started the pick here was Kansas City over Seattle. One down, one still in. We’ll stick with Chiefs over the 49ers. Thanks New England, this should be fascinating final three games of the season without those Pats around.

Three Goalies? Mike Richter Has Been There, Done That

Mike Richter,Rangers great, skates during an intermission of the Yale/Harvard hockey game at Madison Square Gardens,NYC,NY 01/11/20 .Photo by Neil Miller /The New York Extra

ROBBINS NEST

By Lenn Robbins

Rangers great, Mike Richter talks to Lenn Robbins of The New York Extra at the Yale /Harvard hockey game 1/11/20 at Madison Square Gardens NYC,NY. Photo by Neil Miller /The New York Extra

There might not be a person on the planet who has a better sense of what’s going on with the Rangers’ three-headed goaltending situation then Mike Richter.

Richter, the star goaltender on the 1994 Stanley Cup Champion Rangers’ team, was back in The Garden Saturday night where he served as the ambassador for the Harvard-Yale Rivalry on Ice.

It is that same ice that three Rangers’ goalies – future Hall of Famer Henrik Lundqvist, his once-presumed replacement, Alexandar Georgiev and rookie sensation, Igor Shesterkin – have to share.

In the world of goaltending, where three’s a crowd, Richter knows something’s gotta give.

Rangers great, Mike Richter talks to Lenn Robbins/The New York Extra at the Yale /Harvard hockey game at Madison Square Gardens,NYC,NY/ Photo by Neil Miller /The New York Extra

“I think this is the sign of a great organization, right,’’ Richter told TheNYExtra.com. “They’re drafting well and they’re developing very well. And so, they are blessed with three world class goalies.

  “Does that mean that somebody’s going to have to be moved? Eventually, yeah. And when I say move, when I came here there was Bob Froese, John Vanbiesbrouck and myself and you’d rather have strength at the position.

 “The nature of it is injuries, people getting older you always have to have the ability to create new, great players from within the organization. You can’t always pick them. So yeah, I think that’s a real indication that they’re doing something well. These are hard guys to get.”

Since 2005, Lundqvist has given the Rangers amazing stability at the most important position on hockey. He made his first start when Kevin Weekes was injured.

Cam Talbot seemed on track toward replacing The King, after he got injured. The Rangers traded Talbot to Edmonton for three picks in the 2015 draft.

Georgiev came on the scene in 2017 and by the end of last season had tongues wagging that the Lundqvist Era was nearing its end. Enter Igor.

It’s been more than five years since the Rangers took Shesterkin in the fourth round of the 2014 entry draft. If he’s returned to the Hartford Wolf Pack he has the option of returning to play in Russia, or elsewhere.

After a shaky start against the Colorado Avalanche, a 5-3 Rangers win, Shesterkin settled down. He’s 2-0 with a 3.01 GAA and .926 save percentage.

So as Richter said, eventually someone is going to have to be moved.

“Well, you never know where everybody’s going to end up,” said Richter. “I was in that position. I was in the lucky position of the new guy coming in. It’s harder on the older guys, when the young guy comes up, if you’re already established.

“I think time will tell because nowadays its almost impossible to answer in less you have all the information on the table. There’s salary caps, there’s no-trade clauses, there’s the ability of Shesterkin to go back. All of these things factor in.

“One thing you don’t want is to be left with nothing. If I’ve got wealth in this position, how do I parlay that into strength for my organization? But you’re never in that position unless you’re doing two things – drafting well and developing players within your organization.”

#13 Nathan Krusko from Havard , is checked into the boards by #10 Chandler Lindstrand from Yale, at the Yale/Harvard hockey game at Madison Square Gardens NYC,NY 01/11/20 Photo by Neil Miller /The New York Extra
#33 Corbin Kaczperski ,Yale, looks behind him after being beaten for a goal by #18 Jack Drury, Harvard in the 1st period of the Yale/Harvard hockey game at Madiosn Square Gardens NYC,NY 01/11/20. Photo by Neil Miller /The New York Extra

NOTES: Richter, a Yale alum, is a strong supporter of finding ways to reverse global warming. He skated with Last Game in between the first and second periods of Harvard’s 7-0 win over Yale.

Founded by former New Jersey Devils great, Slava Festisov, Last Game is a series of hockey games that strives to bring awareness to the devastating effect of climate change. Last Game is trying to schedule a final game in the North Pole.

“We have a lot of really smart people in this country that working together, can find solutions,’’ Richter said. “This is something we should have been addressing 20 years ago. It’s not a political issue. This affects all of us.”

Third Base Is Position To Watch For The Yankees

Credit Twitter

Gio Urshela and the Yankees reportedly agreed to a one-year contract of $2.475 million on Friday which was the deadline for arbitration eligible players.  For Urshela, with that breakout year in 2019, and unexpected as the unknown player, a well deserved deal.

So the Yankees will go into spring training with an interesting situation.  Urshela provided that unexpected production in the lineup who became a highlight reel at third base. 

 Miguel Andujar, recall,  a Yankees “Baby Bomber” came up short in 2018 for AL Rookie Of The Year honors but a season ending injury to his shoulder gave, Urshela the opportunity in 2019. 

The Yankees got a pleasant surprise from Ursehla, the 28-year old and part time player acquired from the Cleveland Indians. He Completed the season batting .314 in 132 games, 21 home runs, and 74 RBI in 132 games. 

All good of course. Urshela was one of the sparks for a Yankees roster that sustained numerous injuries and he filled the void under a contract that paid him a Major League minimum salary of $555.000.

 GM Brian Cashman has assured, Andujar is not out of the picture. In other words, and assuming Andujar is healthy, he will be in the mix at third base but it will be his job to win. This is certain to be a storyline going into spring training and something that will transpire.

Andujar, from reports out of the Dominican Republic, has resumed throwing and fielding. He has reportedly recovered from surgery to his right shoulder. The 24-year old appeared in 12 games last season.

While Andujar has to prove that this will be a comeback, and time will tell, the Yankees also have options. They have that flexibility to pull off a trade, even though, Andujar, and his value has diminished on the market due to the inactivity.

Regardless, of the trade talk and speculation, Miguel Andujar remains in the plan. The value of Urshela is also significant and he could be used as a designated hitter or off the bench.

So where does this stand? Do the Yankees bank on  a healthy Miguel Andujar and use Urshela to their advantage?

Manager Aaron Boone and some of the Yankees’ staff  plan a visit to the Dominican Republic in the next few days and gather a further evaluation.of Andujar.

“We believe he is going to be totally healthy as we enter Spring Training and good to go,” Boone was quoted as saying this week. 

And from the reports, Andujar has been taking ground balls and throwing.

“He’s good to go right now,” Boone said. “We feel like he’s in a really good spot physically. We’ll get to spend a little bit of time with him and put our eyes on him a little bit.”

Again this is a good sign. And, unless an offer is too enticing  for the Yankees, that would get them something valuable in return, expect a nice battle to determine who will start at third for the Yankees come Opening Day.   

Brian Cashman, a believer in both,  has said that third base for now is in the hands of Ursehla. And when it comes to making contact at the plate, Urshela and Andujar hit the ball on the screws.

Consistently hitting the ball on the screws is part of the equation and the Yankees interest in DJ LeMahieu was drawn, in particular,  by DJ having the highest percentage of hard hit balls in the game.

Though the ground ball rate was above average.  The same applies to Andujar and Urshela. 

Said a high-ranking baseball official, “The ALCS with the Astros showed that Ursehla was one of two Yankees with DJ that the Astros played straight up. They shifted effectively on the rest of the lineup.”

And when you come down to it, that’s what makes this a great situation for the Yankees.   So let the battle begin in four weeks or so when Aaron Boone begins his third season as the manager.

It could be a job that Miguel Andujar has to battle for. Then again, either way, third base, designated hitter, or even the outfield for Gio Urshela is not a bad option.

Comment: Ring786@aol.com Twitter@Ring786  Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso

Judge Comes Out Swinging, Now He Has to Prove he Can Connect.

ROBBINS NEST

By Lenn Robbins

Credit Twitter

  Joe Judge was a sight and sound to behold in his first press conference as the coach of the Giants.

Everyone with any blue in their veins had to feel as if the conference coincided with happy hour. Judge was polite, impassioned, and emphatic. He chased shots with shots.

When asked his vision of Giants football, grandfathers around the metropolitan area were ready to run through a brick wall.

“We will punch you in the nose for 60 minutes, we will play every play like it has a history and a life of its own,’’ said Judge.

Damn, for a franchise that has compiled a 12-36 record the last three seasons with teams that often hit opponents in the thigh with a pillow, this alone would be a huge step in the right direction.

Judge clearly won the day, arriving early to meet the media and embrace Giants past and presence. Nothing was not to like, right?

Judge, 38, has never been a head coach, or an offensive or defensive coordinator, on any level. He sounded a little like a college football coach, say at Mississippi State, his alma mater which was itching to bring him back to Starkville, or a young egomaniacal GM.

It was Brady Van Wagenen who told NL East opponents to come get the Mets. They did.

It was former UConn football coach Bob Diaco who claimed in August of 2015 that the Huskies would win the national championship. They didn’t and Diaco was fired in 2016.

What happens on press conference day means zero when Judge gets before the entire Giants team and lays out his vision. Will pro football players buy into a young, inexperienced coach who gets an A+ in talking the talk but has to prove he can walk, talk, call a good game, manage the clock, challenge calls when there’s a chance of not losing a time out, and about 200 other responsibilities?

“I want the people of New York, North Jersey and South Jersey, knowing when they pay to watch our product, our team is a representative of their blue collar mentality and that they can be proud of,’’ announced General Judge.

Give Judge credit for this: He was prepared enough, impassioned enough and authentic enough to have earned some grace with the media and he assuaged the fan base, many of whom were still asking, “Joe Who?”

And you can bet you’re favorite Giants hoodie that Judge knows the hard work starts now.

He has to build a staff. He has to win over the veterans. He has to do a crash course on preparing for the NFL Draft, the most important day in every franchise’s year, which is only about 14 weeks away.

So, kudos to Judge for looking the part, delivering a clear message and coming across as a man of conviction. All he has to do is turn losers into winners, which is as easy getting every player to play every play like it has a history and a life of its own.

New Coach Hired For NYCFC With Expectations

Credit nycfc

Ronny Deila is the new coach in town. Soccer fans are aware of his background and soon the third head coach for New York City FC will look to get them their first MLS Championship. 

He succeeds Domenec Torrent. He guided NYCFC to to the MLS East division title last season. The team lost to Toronto in the MLS Eastern Conference finals at Citi Field and came up short for the second straight year,

Coaching, though, is not the reason NYCFC failed to advance. Not anything like other pro sports in this town, Major League Soccer is a league of international talent. Coaches come and go as they are offered lucrative opportunities to take on responsibilities to guide prominent teams that play abroad.

So, NYCFC, once again begins the transition before their official season opener at Yankee Stadium in March,  

Deila, a three-time title winning manager at multiple European clubs including Celtic FC in Scotland, joins NYCFC from Norwegian club Vålerenga where he served as manager beginning in 2017. He has signed a three-year contract with the Club and will join NYCFC pending the approval of a U.S. work permit.

After an extensive playing career, most notably at Odds BK in his native Norway, he took charge of Strømsgodset in 2008. Deila won his first trophy in 2010 capturing the Norwegian Football Cup and then led the club to its first league title in 43 years in 2013.

Deila left Strømsgodset for Celtic FC in 2014 and won back-to-back Scottish Premiership titles during his time in Glasgow. Additionally, Deila has managed in both the UEFA Champions League qualifying rounds and UEFA Europa League, and won the Scottish League Cup in 2015.

 “When the opportunity came up to join New York City FC as their new Head Coach, it was a dream come true for me to manage an amazing Club in a great city,” Deila said Tuesday.

“When I come in, it’s important to continue to build on what’s already proven to be a strong foundation and to get some of my ideas across. The way I want to play and the way NYCFC has played is very similar. I’m a very attacking coach. We want to have the ball as much as possible, but also try to be direct when you have those opportunities.”

Sean Johnson, the perennial NYCFC goal tender, will return and that will also help the new coach get off to a good start. The past three seasons, Johnson has led the league in goals saved and become a leader on the field and in the locker room.

NYCFC is set to return nearly 95 percent of last season’s goal scorers as well as four defenders who started more than 24 games from the league’s fourth ranked defense. Club Captain, Alex Ring, and United States Men’s National Team goalkeeper, Johnson, will also be back in 2020.

But it has been the attack of NYCFC teams that has attributed to their success of reaching the MLS postseason the past two years. 

“I’m really looking forward to getting going and getting to know the players in preseason and begin my time at NYCFC,” Deila said. “I’m ready to see our supporters and hopefully we’ll have a wonderful relationship. I’m going to do everything I can to play good football the City way and I’ll give everything from myself to the Club and I’m sure we’re going to achieve fantastic things in the future.” 

And the future is a key component with the hiring of this new coach. He has a reputation of winning and building a foundation which is important in this league. 

 NYCFC, the 20th MLS franchise, first to compete in New York City, has had one knock since their inception in 2015 and that has been their inability to retain a coach. 

Patrick Vieira, appointed their first coach in March of 2015, guided NYCFC to the Eastern Conference semi-finals in 2017. He left mid-season in 2018 for a lucrative opportunity to manage Nice an elite football club in France.

In his past stops, Deila established a reputation for recognizing and developing young talent. Throughout the past decade, Deila took numerous Manchester City players on-loan at his clubs including Jason Denayer, who is currently vice-captain of Olympique Lyon, Patrick Roberts and Dedryck Boyata.

So, this appears to be the proper move for a team that has goals to go that extra step and bring the MLS Cup home to New York.

 NYCFC CEO, Brad Sims, said: “We’re extremely excited to have Ronny join us, and after a thorough coaching search, we’re confident we’ve found the perfect fit for New York City FC. He’s an experienced manager that has succeeded in winning trophies at clubs with high expectations like we have here at NYCFC.”  

Deila will take the reins of the Club coming off its best season in franchise history. NYCFC finished atop the Eastern Conference in 2019 and qualified for the Concacaf Champions League for the first time in Club history.

 “I think consistency is an important thing,” Deila said. “ Consistency in the way we play and to keep on improving in the City style. The group of players have been here for a while and they’re ready to take the next step together. Winning a title will be a big goal for myself and for the Club.”

He said the expectations are high but that consistency on the sidelines, and In this case retaining a coach is important. The players, and of course that important fan base surely hope they have a long term coach to guide them in the new decade.

“The expectations from the fans are high and I’m going to show them that my expectation is the same,” Diela said. “ We are here to win and that’s why I’m coming because it’s another opportunity to win a title.”  

Comment: Ring786@aol.com  Twitter@Ring786 Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso

The Hiring of Joe Judge Speaks Volumes About the Giants

credit twitter

ROBBINS NEST

By Lenn Robbins

The hiring of Joe Judge says more about the state of the Giants than it does about the relatively unknown quantity that is about to become the 19th head coach of what once was one of the premier sports franchises in American sports.

Only the most diehard football fans knew who Judge was before Tuesday’s stunning announcement that he would sit in the office as Allie Sherman, Bill Parcells and Tom Coughlin.

Judge has worked for highly successful organizations, as Alabama’s and, most recently, New England’s special teams coordinators. Judge also was the Patriots receivers coach. He knows what success looks like and feels like but he can create that for the Giants? Who knows.

Judge was quickly moving up the list of intriguing young coaches. Mississippi State was poised to make Judge, a former Bulldogs player, its head coach. And when Pats offensive coordinator Josh McDaniel accepted the Indianapolis Colts job, if only in Central Belichick Time, he tabbed Judge as one of his lieutenants.

We know that people in the know hold Judge in esteem.

But apparently the Giants no longer are held in high esteem, which should be just as disconcerting as who the Giants have hired.

Mike McCarthy reportedly was high on the Giants list of candidates to replace Pat Shurmur. He chose the Cowboys.

Matt Rhule was supposed to interview for the Giants job on Tuesday. He literally took the money and ran, getting a seven-year, $60 million deal from the Panthers. Rhule reportedly called the Giants hoping to leverage a similar deal from his hometown team and dream job.

Apparently, it’s not as dreamy as it once was, although Rhule got 60 million reasons to find in a new dream in Carolina.

That left the Giants feeling a little more squeezed. McCarthy was gone. Rhule was gone. Judge was on the verge of being gone to Mississippi State.

Think about that – the Giants found themselves competing with a second-tier SEC team located in Starkville, MS.

Judge just turned 38 on Dec. 31st. He is the third youngest head coach in NFL. He has never run an offense or a defense. He is not a quarterback whisperer. He reportedly is a no-nonsense coach not afraid to challenge players.

He could be a remarkable head coach, a diamond in the rough. He could be in way over his head. New England assistant coaches don’t engage with media. New York coaches can’t escape it.

Yes, there are a lot of question marks regarding one Joe Judge. But there is no question about how far the Giants have fallen.

How' Bout Them Cowboys! Can Dallas Return as the Team to Hate?

Robbins Nest

By Lenn Robbins

Credit Twitter

America’s Team has a new coach.

He is not a wunderkind such as Kliff Kingsbury, who got fired from his college job (Texas Tech) and barely had time to update his resume before being hired by the Arizona Cardinals. Nor is one of the NFL’s perceived young studs – 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh or Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll.

In a stunning departure from how and who NFL franchises are hiring, the Cowboys marched to their own tune. Whether it turns out to be a celebration parade or a funeral march is impossible to predict.

What is almost certain is this: If Mike McCarthy doesn’t succeed, America’s Team might become as abstract as a central American country, say Uruguay or Paraguay. And owner Jerry Jones might not get another crack at hiring a head coach.

Of paramount importance to Giants fans, and the rest of the NFL, is the former. The Cowboys, by most talent evaluator’s assessment, have the most impressive roster in the NFC East. Many of their stars are in the prime of their careers and could form an immovable object for the rest of the division.

Considering that Jones hasn’t been a trigger-happy owner when it comes to firing coaches suggests that McCarthy, who reportedly will get a five-year deal, will be given time to succeed or fail. If he fails, the Cowboys might go another decade without getting to an NFC Championship game.

At first glance the hiring of McCarthy seems curious at best. After compiling a 125-77-2 record with a 10-8 mark in the postseason including one Super Bowl victory, two NFC title game appearances, McCarthy was fired late in the 2018 season when the Packers were 2-7-1.

Of course, the bigger issue was the reported estrangement between McCarthy and all-world quarterback Aaron Rodgers. The quickest way for a coach to get hired, or fired, in today’s NFL, is his relationship with the quarterback.

It seems as if Adam Gates got that part right. We’ll see.

By not getting hired in 2019, McCarthy, accurately or not, got a rep as being too old school, which is a nice way of saying out-of-touch or over-the-hill, euphemisms for ageism. Now comes word that McCarthy, suddenly a youthful 56, is a renaissance coach, one into analytics and has been hosting a meeting of the McCarthy Group, a convent of ex-coaches that are re-evaluating their craft.

Now word comes that Bill Belichick, at a 2015 owners meeting, reportedly said McCarthy is one of the best coaches he ever went up against. Now comes word that Brett Favre says McCarthy is very bright, very understandable and can relate to players the way Daboll does.

Of course, there are many that believe all those criticisms of McCarthy are legitimate and he’s little more than a more successful Jason Garrett. There are legions of Cowboys haters, led by the irrepressible Stephen A. Smith, who are thrilled that Dallas made a hire that has absolutely no sex appeal but might have success appeal.

Look, this could be exactly what the NFL needs. The Patriots dynasty, if not over, is gasping. The NFL needs a team to hate, Who better than, “How ‘Bout Them Cowboys!’”

Yoenis Cespedes Is The Mets Question

Yeonis Cespedes file photo /Neil Miller/The New York Extra

What can the Mets expect from Yoenis Cespedes and does the often injured and controversial outfielder fit in the plan? We have come to know there is never a dull moment.  

And GM Brodie Van Wagenen knows that Cespedes, the contract, and playing time is in his hands.

File photo Neil Miller /The New York Extra

We do know, as witnessed in the Mets’ 2015 championship run, that Yoenis Cespedes,  when healthy, can be a cog in the lineup. But when not, the Mets have survived and can do without him.

So last week it was here we go again, a contract that was restructured for the 2020 season, $29.5 million in the final year of a four-year deal to a guaranteed $ 6 million.

 Cespedes and a run-in with a boar at his ranch was the story.

Instead of chasing fly balls in the outfield, hitting home runs out of the ballpark, Cespedes, a horse at his ranch, caused a violent fall.  Two right fractures to his ankles that kept him sidelined last season were finally the official cause. 

Mets officials and his representatives visited the ranch. MLB Commissioner office officials and those from the players Association also knocked on his door.

And so it goes, you know the story,  The Yoenis Cespedes mess with the Mets drags on and gets more interesting with the complications.

File Photo Neil Miller /The New York Extra

Cespedes, according to sources, is in playing shape. He was quoted last week saying he will hit over 40 home runs this coming season. Cespedes said this will be a breakout year in the walk-off deal of a contract with the Mets that could increase to $11 million if he is on the Opening Day roster. 

The contract can be prorated if he misses more time and joins the team later.

Complications, yes, because the Mets need to make decisions as to where their troubled and high profiled player belongs. And there is not much time to make those decisions with spring training on the horizon in six weeks and still with decisions as to who will command the outfield. 

File photo Neil Miller /The New York Extra

In many ways, the Cespedes situation can be seen as fulfilling a contract and the Mets hierarchy would rather not eat the remaining part of this. 

Allowing their problem to walk away, that’s a predicament. 

Because a healthy and effective Yoeneis Cespedes, for the Mets, or any other team, can make a difference and that is the predicament. You just don’t know and the Mets protected themselves with the restructured contract.

So, let’s play the role of the GM here. Let’s project that Yoneis Cespedes is in the starting lineup at Citi Field come Opening Day, March 26th at Citi Field.

Assume that Cespedes is in the lineup, then project him in the third slot or cleanup and starting in right or left.

If no Cespedes, and if GM Brodie Van Wagenen does not pull off another of his creative moves, assume J.D. Davis has an outfield sport or newly acquired Jake Marisnick.

Otherwise the lineup could look like this: 

Brandon Nimmo- Centerfield , Jeff McNeil at Third, Pete Alonso First Base, Robinson Cano at Second, J.D. Davis Leftfield, Michael Conforto Rightfield, Wilson Ramos-Catcher, Amed Rosario- Shortstop.

Bench: Cespedes (If on roster), Jed Lowrie (If not traded), Dom Smith (If not traded) and Marisnick to start the season. There is flexibility here and again, just an assumption, so don’t draw conclusions.

Basically, it comes down to where and how Yoenis Cespedes will fit into this entire equation. Do say this, if Pete Alonso continues where he left off, a rookie home run record (53), and if Cespedes becomes an everyday player and hits those 40 or more home runs, the Mets have a potent lineup.

But let’s wait. Because the Yoenis Cespedes drama has not reached a final chapter with the New York Mets.


Comment: Ring786@aol.com  Twitter@Ring786  Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso

The Patriots Have a Decision to Make And Its Name is Tom Brady

File photo Patriots QB Tom Brady looks to pass to tight end Ben Watson, right. Photo by David L. Pokress/The New York Extra

ROBBINS NEST

By Lenn Robbins

The end?

Does Tom Brady’s illustrious career end with a pick six that sealed the Tennessee Titans’ stunning 20-13 upset victory on Sunday?

  The greatest quarterback of all time said it’s “pretty unlikely, hopefully unlike,’ that he will retire at the age of 42 after 20 seasons. But maybe the Patriots should consider where they are after the 2019 season and ponder the unthinkable:

Maybe they’re better off moving forward without the GOAT?

Heresy you scream?!

Perhaps. We are talking about an athlete who has been nothing short of remarkable, set a new standard for the position and has been a great, albeit, demanding leading. But no player is indispensable. No organization is more cognizant of this than New England.

File Photo Patriots head coach Bill Belichick Photo by David L. Pokress/The New York Extra

Bill Belichick has a roster of former Patriots that he let go in order to maintain the New England dynasty – Richard Seymour, Chandler Jones, Brandon Cooks, Malcolm Butler. No New England player is untouchable. Belichick was always looking two, three years down the road, which made the trading of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo such a lightning rod move.

New England had its heir apparent to Brady. Whether or not Brady forced the trade, or there was some friction among owner Bob Kraft, Belichick and Brady won’t be answered until all are out of football, if then.

So here sit the Patriots with a roster that suddenly seems to have more questions than at any time in the recent past. We’ve known all season that Pats desperately needed another outside weapon for Brady and the offense. Rookie N’Keal Henry is applying aloe vera gel to the burns he got from being on the receiving end of Brady’s fury, if not his passes.

But the lack of another weapon wasn’t the only wart we saw yesterday.  The defense, which had been so good early in the season, got steamrolled by Derrick Henry and the Titans. Henry gashed the Pats for 183 yards on 34 carries.

The Pats inability to score took a toll on that defense throughout the season, including Sunday. They were often worn down. Henry became the first running back to rush for 100 yards against the Pats in the playoffs since 2014 when Marshawn Lynch gained 102 in Super Bowl XLIX

The offensive line was solid, only giving up one sack, but Brady was forced off his spot on many occasions. Unlike many of the quarterbacks that played on Wildcard Weekend, Brady doesn’t offer a run threat.

 Led by Lamar Jackson, NFL teams are looking for mobile quarterbacks, even if that just means the ability to slide in the pocket. The Patriots need to take a hard, uncomfortable look at their quarterback heading into the next decade.

 Brady’s contract voids on March 18, the turn of the NFL calendar. The Giants acknowledged wasting $23 million in cap space by giving Eli Manning to extend his time in New York.

“Everybody’s situation on the team is different,’’ Belichick told reporters Sunday morning. “There are no two that are exactly the same, but the future’s the future for all of them just like it is for Tom and anybody else you want to bring up.

“Certainly Tom is an iconic figure in this organization and nobody respects Tom more than I do. I respect all the other players and all the other coaches in this organization, too. I think that everybody that is part of it is an important part of it and I want to give the proper attention and communication and detail and thought into my input into those decisions, but any decision that’s made, it’s not an individual decision.”

New England has a first-round pick, three third-round picks, a fourth-rounder, four sixth rounders and a seventh rounder. There’s a package to be made if New England wants to move up in the draft to take a quarterback.

Or England can decide to stay the course with Brady under center. They can draft a receiver and bolster both lines. This is the easiest decision to make from afar and the most difficult to make inside New England’s practice facility in Foxborough.

“I love the Patriots,” Brady told reporters after the game. “I would say it’s pretty unlikely, hopefully unlikely (I’ll retire). I love playing football. I don’t know what it looks like moving forward.”

Maybe the Patriots don’t know as well.

Betances Introduced And Mets Bullpen Could Be Lethal

Dellin Betances said Thursday at Citi Field about the Mets, “I’ve heard a lot of good things about the organization. I’m excited. I’m already at home.”

And it did not take long for Betances, now a key part of a revamped Mets bullpen, to make his decision to jump across town. Carlos Beltran, a former teammate with the Yankees is his manager.

 Beltran may have been the instrumental part of this one-year deal of $10,5 million and vesting options for the 2021 and 2022 seasons.

The Mets are better in the bullpen, assuming as stated here,  turnaround seasons come  Edwin Diaz and Jeurys Familia.  Justin Wilson and Seth Lugo are expected to continue where they left off and be as reliable as they were in that second half run of last season.

They have Brad Bach, Robert Gsellman and the addition of Michael Wacha. Some are saying this is a lethal bullpen and that remains to be proved after finishing  next to last in baseball last year.

So there will be skepticism based on many factors, mainly,  Betances, rebounding from a  right shoulder injury and partial Achilles tendon tear. After a 60-day stint on the injured list, his September 15 season debut in the Bronx was cut short with the low-grade lat strain.

 But there could also be room for optimism with this bullpen. Betances did not get surgery and said he is ready for spring training. And, if healthy, this could be the key for a turnaround that puts the Mets in good position.

“ Our expectation is he should be ready to go,” said General Manager Brodie Van Wagenen. “I don’t think there will be any restrictions once we get to Spring Training.”

Beltran was not available. He was enjoying those last days of a vacation at his home in Puerto Rico. When the season begins, and if this bullpen is as lethal as it looks, the rookie manager will have plenty of options and flexibility. 

Betances talked about his role with the manager. The Mets were a good fit.  Betances said, he is home and is expected to be the late inning stopper. The Yankees are in the past, and  according to sources were never in the process of re-signing the Right-hander.

Beltran has the options. If Diaz can’t revert to that 57-game closer, and that may be asking too much, Betances could become the closer. He has that experience.

“Whatever they see me in, I want to do whatever I can to help the team win,” Betances said. 

He has posted a 2.36 career ERA (100 earned runs/381.2 innings) with 36 saves and 621 strikeouts in 358 major league games with the Yankees. Betances also  established a record with 100 strikeouts or more in five consecutive seasons with the Yankees. 

If effective, the fastball and slider are lethal and the Mets could not get that type of production last year out of the pen.

“He didn’t want to just restablish himself ,” Van Wegenen said. “He didn’t just want to go out and perform his normal job. He wanted to dominate, and he expressed that very clearly.”

And that is what the Mets hope to see- dominance from the bullpen. They could have that weapon, possibly the best bullpen in the NL East, a top three in baseball if effective, and again that word is dominant. 

It was the mission of the general manager to revamp a part of this team that was a major failure.  

Betances had that different look when he stood at the podium Thursday. The facial  hair, not a part of the Yankees look, and of course the Mets blue and orange was obvious a difficult take for a Yankees fan.

A welcome addition for Carlos Beltran. He had something to do with this for Betances to stay in New York.

“As soon as he got the managerial job, I think he kind of pushed the name Dellin Betances, as far as management, so he definitely played a big part,” Betances said. 

“Always one of the topics was, “We would love to have you. And I’ve told them all, the management, that we want you. So hopefully we get to have you’ And now, it happened.”

Yes, it did happen. And Brodie Van Wagenen was not talking about this being a risk. This was about his mission of improving the Mets bullpen.

“We believe that a healthy and dominant Dellin, combined with Edwin Diaz and Seth Lugo and Justin Wilson, Jeurys Familia, Brad Bach,, Robert Gsellman, this collective group has the potential to be one of the best bullpens in baseball,” he said.

Time will tell.  Dellin Betances stayed in his surroundings of New York. In  August, we will determine if Betances and the others have made this one of the best bullpens in baseball.

Comment: Ring786@aol.com  Twitter@Ring786  Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso


From the Deli to the Penthouse: Stern Lifted the NBA to International Fame

ROBBINS NEST

By Lenn Robbins

Before there was Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, before there were vloggers and people earning a living as influencers, heck, before there was an Internet, there was a force of nature known as David Joel Stern.

Almost anything and everything you see today in marketing and branding, probably makes its way back to the man who took the National Basketball Association from the brink of irrelevancy to one of the most successful sports leagues in the world.

Many NBA fans are young enough to not know of a league in which playoff games took place with little or no television coverage. Or an NBA Draft Lottery that didn’t exist.

“David took over the NBA in 1984 with the league at a crossroads,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said of his friend and mentor. “But over the course of 30 years as Commissioner, he ushered in the modern global NBA. He launched groundbreaking media and marketing partnerships, digital assets and social responsibility programs that have brought the game to billions of people around the world.

“Because of David, the NBA is a truly global brand — making him not only one of the greatest sports commissioners of all time but also one of the most influential business leaders of his generation. Every member of the NBA family is the beneficiary of David’s vision, generosity and inspiration.”

Stern died yesterday at the age of 77. He suffered a brain aneurysm hemorrhage about three weeks ago and never recovered. Stern was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2014.

Under Stern’s New York City brash and confident persona (he worked at his father’s Manhattan deli), the NBA saw the birth of seven new franchises, the relocation of six other franchises and the creation of the WNBA and the D-League (now the G-League).

The value of franchises exploded. Jerry Reinsdorf bought the Chicago Bulls for $16 million in 1985. Less than 30 years later (2014), Steve Ballmer bought the L.A. Clippers for $2 billion.

The secret to Stern’s success was as simple and complex as this: He marketed the league’s stars as never before. He became commissioner just as Michael Jordan was emerging as a star of stars. Stern road Jordan, Magic, Bird, Charles Oakley and Patrick Ewing to international superstardom.

It was Stern’s vision to sell the stars that ingratiated the commissioner to the players even as he played hardball in negotiating. The NBA endured its first four lockouts under Stern.

By the time Stern handed the reins to Silver the NBA had a unique dynamic with its players: We’re in this together. The end result was that the players went from well-paid to millionaires and the owners left the millionaire club to become billionaires.

During his tenure, the league went from about $10 million a year in television revenue to more than $1 billion. NBA games became a place to seen by actors and musicians. Prince William and Duchess Kate attended a Brooklyn Nets game with Jay Z and Beyonce’!

“Without David Stern, the NBA would not be what it is today,’’ Jordan said in a statement. “He guided the league through turbulent times and grew the league into an international phenomenon, creating opportunities that few could have imagined before.

“His vision and leadership provided me with the global stage that allowed me to succeed. David had a deep love for the game of basketball and demanded excellence from those around him — and I admired him for that. I wouldn’t be where I am without him.”

Giants Need Stability With A Coach To Get this Right

File photo /The New York Extra /New York Giants head coach Pat Shurmur

Pat Shurmur was not the answer. The Giants have lost a lot of games since 2017, (36) more than any other NFL team and now they are searching for their fourth head coach in the last six years.

And so it goes.  The Giants have become a revolving door of head  coaches and stability is important when it comes to winning ball games. You see this too often when a team fails in any sport.

However, the NFL is different and 16 games can determine the faith of a franchise. Though in this case, GM Dave Gettleman, at the helm since 2017, stays where he is.

Gettleman took over to rebuild a franchise. Two years later, the Giants start all over again to rebuild. It is now in the hands of this GM to restructure and get this franchise back to respectability.

Basically, it starts at the top. The Giants are in that position, in the largest market, the biggest media market. Shurmer, this time was the culprit and his successor will also confront a similar situation. 

So, who will now attempt to get this storied franchise back on track? That will be determined by Dave Gettleman. With a reprieve, he will now be analyzed and has another year to get this right.

Perhaps, and a prevailing opinion, ownership does believe the GM  made the right choice in drafting Daniel Jones to succeed Eli Manning and that was the difference. 

And in due time, Jones will amount to be that successor, though we can be asking too much for him to duplice two Super Bowl championships that Manning delivered as the franchise quarterback. 

The issue here,  minimal tolerance with that lack of stability as to who guides this franchise on the sidelines.  The Ginats fan base is angered and in New York this is so important. We have seen how it works in this market and use the Yankees as an example.  

Joe Torre and Joe Girardi, their long tenures as managers got the support of management, then again, they had the players and resources to be successful.

It starts at the top and the GM and new coach need this lasting relationship to make it work. The Giants need that stability to guide them. 

So where do the Giants stand? Their loyal fan base wants to see a winner. 

Sam Garnes, 5th round draft pick of the Giants in 1997 and later played a year with the Jets, offered an opinion to nyextra.com.  

“I look forward to seeing who the next coach is just like everyone,” said the former defensive back. “I think great defense and complimentary offense is what gets this fan base excited.”

Oh, that fan base is looking for the proper direction. Immediate names that could appease this fan base are Mike McCarthy- a Super Bowl winner with the Packers.

 Ron Rivera, recently released with the Panthers, took his team to a Super Bowl, regardless there has to be stability and more than two years for a coach to guide this franchise on the sidelines. 

But, after two seasons, 9-23, will show there needed to be another change. 

 Giants co-owner John Mara said the GM “is the right person to lead us going forward. Dave has a long record of success. We think he’s capable of putting a great team together and he’s going to get that opportunity.”

Apparently Pat Shumer wasn’t the answer. Neither was  Steve Spagnuolo or Ben McAdoo. They could not fill the shoes of their predecessor, Tom Coughlin and his two Super Bowl championships.

This is in the hands of Dave Gettelman. He got the vote of confidence. And that confidence begins with stability, and getting the right coach with experience who can turn this darn thing around.

Comment: Ring786@aol.com  Twitter@Ring786 Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso

Changes in the NFC East Mean the Giants Must Get it Right

File photo Pat Shurmur

ROBBINS NEST

By Lenn Robbins

If nothing else, the Giants acted swiftly and decisively, firing coach Pat Shurmur even before the Cowboys and Jason Garrett parted ways and less than 24 hours after the Browns made the easiest coaching change since Ray Handley.

Once one of the most well-run, classiest operations in all of sports can now be found at your local toy store in the form of a Big Blue piñata.

No NFL team has lost more games since 2017 than the Giants, who have had four coaches in the last six years. Only White Island has been more unstable.

Despite this Mess at the Meadowlands, the Giants predicament is not nearly as bad as it could be. The NFC East has been the perfect home for any franchise hoping to win the division at 9-7, as the Eagles just did.

But that’s about to change.

The Redskins, under racist, one-tenth-of-one-percent owner Dan Snyder, have taken a giant step forward with the firing of president of suits Bruce Allen and the imminent hiring of former Panthers head coach Ron Rivera. Rivera is as respected as it gets.

It’s still unknown if the Redskins have a quarterback. Dwayne Haskins played worse than most rookie QBs do and Alex Smith’s leg remains a question mark. But the Skins have some talent and they’ll get more with the No.2 pick (Chase Young) in the upcoming draft.

The Cowboys have the most talented roster in the division but Garrett, a truly standup guy, was never able to get them to a Super Bowl. For the first time ever the Cowboys have gone two decades without an NFC Championship game appearance.

 Jerry Jones, for whatever you think, certainly gave Garrett the time and resources. If the Cowboys get it right and score a touchdown with their hire (Urban Meyer? Matt Rhule?) the Giants will face a more dangerous Dallas team in 2020.

Philadelphia won the division almost by default. The Eagles were the Yankees of the NFL this season, parading injured players to the treatment room and back. But Philly has a proven coach in Doug Pederson and quarterback Carson Wentz played almost every snap of every game.

It’s a safe expectation that the Eagles won’t go through a second season of injury plague and if they shore up their secondary, Philly also will start 2020 ahead of the Giants.

Never has it been more crucial for the Giants to get it right than now.

The other three teams in the division are about to improve significantly. The Giants can’t be searching for another coach in two or three years. Saquon Barkley, the exquisite running back, might be battered into mediocrity by then. The rest of the division might be too far ahead.

No, the Giants have to get it right now.

Rhule is an intriguing proposition and he might choose the Giants over the Cowboys because he has New York roots and was an assistant line coach with Big Blue for a cup of coffee.  But objectively, which roster would you rather inherit – New York or Dallas? ‘Nuf said.

There’s also been call for the Giants to cut ties with GM Dave Gettleman. More coaches want a greater say in the draft process and roster building. Gettleman inherited a depleted roster and an inflated salary cap – the one-two knockout punch of NFL GMs.

Whether by luck or skill or both, he’s given the Giants Barkley, Daniel Jones, Will Hernandez, Dexter Lawrence, etc. There are 32 head coaching jobs in the NFL and if Gettleman’s presence pushes away a candidate, so be it.

Gettleman faces the decision of his professional career. He can’t get this wrong.  The Giants are battered and wobbly but they’re not out of their weight class.

 If the Giants don’t get this hire right, they could be the Bengals, or, well, the Bengals.  The Giants could find themselves buried so deeply that they’ll have to turn to a 76ers-like rebuild.

When has New York ever turned to Philly for anything other than a cheesesteak for the road?

Michigan State Had The Plan And Takes The Pinstripe Bowl

Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson did not have a successful Bronx homecoming at Yankee Stadium Friday. The former head coach at Fordham University built a program up a few miles away at Rose Hill for three years and moved on before taking over at Wake Forest in 2014.

“This is the palace; this is the most famous place in the Bronx,” he said this week about coaching at Yankee Stadium leading up to the 10th annual New Era Pinstripe  Bowl against Michigan State. 

But the Palace did not treat him well. There was a moment when his Demon Deacons had control and appeared to be going home with their fourth consecutive bowl victory coached under Clawson.

Michigan State had other ideas as their defense came up strong. And  Brian Lewerke, in his final game, threw for 320 yards and a touchdown. He also ran for a score and copped MVP game honors in leading Michigan State to a 27-21 victory. 

“They did a good job of pressuring us,” said Clawson. “I thought their defensive line did a good job of rushing the passer. We just didn’t get open on the perimeter. We didn’t make enough plays. Credit to them, they did.”

Clawson was proud of his players. Not every team gets that opportunity to compete in a late December football game at Yankee Stadium, and this Pinstripe Bowl has become a premiere event.

Syracuse, Penn State, Rutgers, and Notre Dame have been there. They also battled on the turf at Yankee Stadium in previous years in the Bronx. 

 Clawson and his team knew this was going to be a struggle against that Spartans defense and a historic program that appeared in their 29th Bowl game. 

“I’m proud of the way our players competed, battled,” Clawson said. “ We got really thin. That was a little bit the story of our season. I think when we were a healthy football team, we could play with pretty much anybody in the country.”

Yes, Clawson had to battle and keep his players on the field during a 8-4 season, 32.8 points per game that was second in the ACC.

Junior quarterback Jamie Newman, an all ACC honorable mention selection, second in the conference with 289.1 yards of total offense per game, threw three touchdown passes in the first half.

But his team with 250 yards offense in the first half could only compile 101 in the second. That also told the story of this 2019 Pinstripe Bowl.

“I thought we missed some throws,” Clawson said. “ We ran that little speed-out a couple times. Didn’t throw that well. We had opportunities to make plays. We’ll go back and watch that film. We’ll have a hard time sleeping for a couple of days.”

Similar to his days at Fordham, when his team lost to good teams in the Patriot League, Clawson provided the proper analysis ro this loss.

“There were chances to win that game,” he said.” I think as we became one-dimensional, we played from behind, they did a pretty good job rushing the passer. Again, credit to Michigan State. They’re a good football team. Sometimes when you don’t make plays, the opponent has something to do with it. I certainly want to give them their credit and their due.”

Michigan State finished the decade 92-40, though they finished 7-6 two straight years.  And they were able to contain Newman in the second half, which also contributed to their win.

And for Mark Dantonio, the Spartans’ all-time winningest coach, this was his sixth Bowl Game victory that goes with three Big 10 championships.

“ I thought we did a pretty good job rushing their tackles back into the quarterback’s lap pretty much, cut down his running opportunities,” Dantonio said. 

About Newman, he said, “A good football player. To look at it, 17 rushes per 112 yards for their quarterback. He threw the ball down the field effectively, as well. Good football player. We needed to contain him.”

 This wasn’t the Penn-State 31-30 thriller and win in overtime against Boston College in 2014. But this was a good one as the college football tradition continued at Yankee Stadium and Michigan State took home the George M. Steinbrenner III Trophy.

“Obviously when you win the football game, it’s sort of icing on the cake,” Dantonio said. “We had a great experience here.”  

Comment: Ring786@aol.com  Twitter@Ring786 Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso

Need a Resolution? Stop Going to Knicks Games

ROBBINS NEST

By Lenn Robbins

File photo /The New York Extra

Unless you’re in that top one-tenth of one percent, it’s difficult to think your voice matters. It does.

Consider what recently transpired at Rutgers University. Fans, alums, students, professors had one wish for Christmas – Greg Schiano.

The former football coach is the only man to have turned the Scarlet Knights from a punch line to legitimate program. When negotiations broke down between Schiano and the athletic director, everyone with a scarlet sweater went bonkers.

They rose up with a passion and intensity usually reserved for regime changes. They threatened to withhold their donations, big and small. It worked.

Schiano now is back on the banks and hope floats at the state university of New Jersey.

Back across the river, smack dab in midtown, another fan base has been pushed to its limit. The Knicks have become to the NBA what the sideshow used to be to the circus – something freakish at which to gawk.

Like the world’s strongest man, the sword swallower, the elephant man, the Knicks have gone from sideshow to sideshow under James Dolan’s 20-year ownership.

He’s overpaid for past-their-prime free agents and has funded Phil Jackson’s retirement account. He’s brought in general managers that believed The Garden demanded superstars, to GMs that preached patience and player development.

There has been one constant with Dolan – losing. Miserable, astonishingly consistent, losing.

In the last 20 years the Knicks have had four winning seasons. Four! They’ve won one playoff series. One! Dolan has gone through 12 coaches, one for each day of a scrooge Christmas.

Dolan is almost always at Knicks games, sitting in his courtside seat wearing funereal colors, black on black. Dolan has said he attends games to show fans that he’s engaged, that he cares.

But what if there were fewer fans in The Garden to see the Ringmaster of Losing? What if Knicks fans, some of whom come to be seen and care little about basketball, simply stopped being witnesses to one of the worst franchises in sports history?

The Knicks are 9th in attendance in the NBA, one of only two franchises in the Top 10 with a losing record. The other is Portland, a playoff team last season, that has one of the league’s best backcourts but whose frontcourt has been ravaged by injuries.

There still is hope in Portland. Not in New York.

Coach David Fizdale was fired on Dec. 6th, just 22 games into his second season. President Steve Mills and GM Scott Perry could be (should be) next. 

credit Twitter

But will that change anything? Dolan has tried to sell the narrative that he leaves the basketball decisions to the basketball people, that he is not involved in the day to day.

Perhaps. But losing season to losing season, Dolan is the constant. And he has no motivation to sell. Not when an average 18,928 fans show up for every home game and many purchase $12.50 beers.

Knicks fans need to pull together and allow their anguish and frustration to be seen as well as heard. They need to stop going to Knicks games. Just stop.

You might wonder why we write this now, why today? The Knicks are coming off a respectable win, 94-82 over the Nets in Brooklyn. The victory gave interim Knicks coach Mike Miller a 4-6 record since Fizdale was fired.

There’s a sense of resignation, of learned helplessness. Knicks fans have been so abused that 4-6 seems like a good deal. Heck, if the Knicks can win 40-percent of their remaining games, they’ll finish 28-54, which looks good compared to the 15-win pace they were on under Fizdale.

It’s not a good record. It’s terrible. It’s more losing. It’s another season of losing, of no playoffs, of another coach and probably another front office.

The Knicks, no longer worthy of Christmas Day TV games, play at the Washington Wizards on Saturday. Don’t watch. They return home on Jan. 1st to face Portland. Don’t go.

If you’re a Knicks fan without a resolution, consider this: Don’t attend another Knicks game until Dolan sells. Honestly, what will you miss?

Let's Wait Til August And Determine The Worth Of Dellin Betances

file photo The New York Extra

There is this assumption, Dellin Betances is the answer.  The Mets hope he is that difference maker out of the bullpen with this one-year $10.5 million guaranteed contact with options for the 2001 and 2002 seasons. 

And to most insiders, the Mets will have that difference maker, assuming the 31-year old Right-Hander recovers from a shoulder injury and partial Achilles tendon tear.

Said a NL insider to yours truly, “Betances is a risk. If he stays healthy, the Mets got a bargain and will have that lethal bullpen.”

As good as this signing is, assuming again that Betances stays on the mound, the Mets did get that missing piece in the bullpen. The objective and mission of  GM Brodie Van Wegenen, revamp and obtain their need. 

The addition adds to other issues before making more assumptions as to the Mets now having that lethal bullpen. They need a turnaround seasons from Jeurys Familia.  

Most of all they need that turnaround from Edwin Diaz, the offseason bust of last year. Diaz, has to rebound and become the closer, a stopper who saved 57 games for the Mariners two years ago.  

Justin Wilson and Seth Lugo are expected to continue where they left off and be as reliable as they were in that second half run of last season.

And if Brad Bach, along with the addition of Michael Wacha are successful, rookie manager Carlos Beltran could have that lethal bullpen. Then again, the reliable bullpen guys in baseball could also have a downfall, so anything is possible during the span of a 162-game baseball season.

And all along, it was the failure of the Mets bullpen that cost them to do something more last season. 

But,  let’s look at the positive here and talk more about this in August. By then, Dellin Betances, a top and late innings reliever, could be a bust or a success. 

If anything, this could be a low budget risk.  Or it could be a low budget highlight for the Mets 2020 season that does not seek a repeat of 2019 disasters out of the bullpen. 

The Mets were not supposed to be in this hunt. Last week there was talk the Dodgers, Phillies, or the Twins were the teams in the mix, and that NL insider said, “Those teams were not willing to go with the risk.”

The risk, Dellin Betances would not be effective and continue to have issues with the shoulder or the Achilles. Mets hierarchy had a different opinion and claim their latest weapon will be ready to go when pitchers and catchers report to spring training in seven weeks. 

Next week, at Citi Field, Betances will be formally introduced. He will have facial hair that is not accepted in the Bronx. We are aware of his history with the Yankees after eight seasons, and a familiarity this  native New Yorker brings to the table as a perennial All-Star and strikeout artist.

Betances has posted a 2.36 career ERA (100 earned runs/381.2 innings) with 36 saves and 621 strikeouts in 358 major league games with the Yankees. He established a record with 100 strikeouts or more in five consecutive seasons with the Yankees. 

He and Diaz gives the Mets two of the top strikeout leaders coming out of a bullpen that baseball has seen two of the last three years.

This all looks good and the Mets may have the ”Four Legged Monster” out of the bullpen with Diaz, Familia, Betances, Wilson, or Seth Lugo. 

But the results have to show on the mound and they need to remain healthy. 

For now, we will give this a chance. Because the Mets had that need to revamp an area that failed them last season. 

Comment: Ring786@aol.com  Twitter@Ring786  Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso

Jets and Steelers,A photo gallery by David Pokress,Staff Photographer,The New York Extra

Some Holiday NY Sports Cheer

So it goes. Another holiday season is here and from yours truly to yours a Merry Christmas and Happy holidays.

There were the usual highs and lows during the 2019 sports year in New York. From the abysmal Knicks, to the continued regression of the Jets and Giants, the Yankees failure to close the decade without another championship. 

And the Mets, of course, awaiting the check book of billionaire Steve Cohen as they try to contend and deliver.  Hockey is healthy as the Rangers and Islanders are at a pace to be contenders for playoff position.

With all of this, and more, here is that annual Christmas list for the New York sports fan. A little of everything and not being naughty but nice.

Yankees: The Gerit Cole signing to a record nine-year $324 million contract is the missing piece, so says the Yankees hierarchy. Though, as mentioned on  these pages,a pitcher with that long term deal is expected to deliver.

 The Yankees, as that holiday gift for their fans, got them Cole. It means the supposed best pitcher in baseball is expected to deliver, and at a risk in this long range plan to end their decade drought without a World Series championship.

Though, the appropriate gift of cheer for the Yankees is to get the timely hits in the postseason, which was more of the contributing factor of their failures to go deep in another postseason series loss to the Astros.

METS: The gift has been Michael Wacha and Rick Procello, two pitchers at low cost that add to their depth. If anything, rookie manager Carlos Beltran has been granted some flexibility. 

Seth Lugo, the Mets most reliable reliever, can stay in the bullpen as does Robert Gsellman. The need was to revamp a bullpen that was second worst in baseball to the Red Sox in 2019.

The gift this holiday season for the Mets, another bat in the lineup before Opening Day and possibly a healthy Yoenis Cespedes in his final year of a revamped contract.

Most of all, the best gift here? A turn-around 2020 out of the pen for Jeurys Familia and Edwin Diaz. Late inning outs and saves cost the Mets in 2019. Familia and Diaz could be a difference maker, along with Justin Wilson in the mix.

Giants: Yours truly will be the first to admit this is not an area of expertise. However, it is easy to comprehend that stability on the coaching end is important, why it is important to give another year to Pat Shurmur.

There are signs of progress. No more Eli Manning. Daniel Jones is improving, five touchdown passes Sunday against the Redskins.  The gift is acquiring a top draft choice, improve the defense. We haven’t seen Saquon Barkley at his best and healthy. 

Jets: Same situation with the Giants and that’s coaching stability.  Adam Gase? He needs another year. Disagree, of course Jets fans would. You see the continued development of a quarterback, Sam Darnold, and how he can control the ball out of the pocket. 

Again, a gift here for the Jets is patience. They are close. And the draft picks will be significant as the long and championship reign of the Patriots is on a decline, which makes the Jets a team to be enthused about in the AFC East.

Knicks: Sell the team. This is not a coaching situation. The answer is get rid of Dolan. A gift of joy for every Knicks’ fan is becoming that franchise champion again that takes the court in the “Mecca” of Madison Square Garden, and having the appropriate basketball personnel to run the show. 

NETS:  Did you say, can’t wait for Kevin Durant?  That 26.0 points per game is a void and a difference maker.

Rangers:   Sunday, Henrik Lundqvist made his first start in a week and stopped 19 of 20 shots that prevented the Rangers from losing their fourth straight. And that is the difference, because the veteran in goal can lead this team in his final years. 

You want to see a good old NY rivalry on ice with the Rangers and Islanders. It can get there again, of course it begins with the consistent play in goal from the veteran.

Islanders: All good in Nassau County and Brooklyn. The Islanders are leaving a gift this season and striving to become another dynasty before moving to their new digs in a few years over at Belmont Park.

NYRA:  Can we get another Triple Crown winner at Belmont Park?

NYCFC: Two years of semifinal and final conference elimination for an MLS CUP. The gift is go another step. The added gift is securing a stadium they can call home as the Yankees kick them out of the ballpark to avoid disrupting their sacred field during playoff time. 

Boxing: The sports deserves more championship fights in New York. Barclays Center in Brooklyn is in survival mode as a host for major fights and Madison Square Garden, well the “Mecca” always finds a place for the big fight.  Then again, the sport is healthy but no longer in that category of mainstream.and deserves a gift of returning to the heyday of Ali, Frazier, Holmes, Hagler, Hearns, and Leonard.

There you have it. Just some thoughts. From all of us at TheNYExtra.com a healthy and happy holiday season with the gift of joy and a championship. 

Comment: Ring786@aol.com  Twitter@Ring786 Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso

A Giants Vision of the Future: Barkley and Jones

ROBBINS NEST

File Photo Neil /The New York Extra

By Lenn Robbins

There were so many warts on the Giants’ 41-35 overtime victory against the Redskins Sunday in Landover, Md. it could keep a dermatologist working through Christmas.

Big Blue led 28-14 at halftime and 35-21 with less than 15 minutes left in regulation. The defense allowed Washington, behind fourth string (give or take a string) quarterback Case Keenan, to rally the lowly Redskins to a 35-35 tie with 29 seconds remaining.

The Giants allowed the Redskins to go 99 yards on that possession – 99!

 The Giants allowed the team with the worst offense in football, averaging a meager 268.8 yards per game, to gain 361. And the Giants gave up 35 points to a team that was averaging 15.4.

Yet it might be the most beautiful win Giants fans remember if their team wins a fifth Super Bowl in the near future. The Giants (4-11) saw their top draft choices in 2018 (RB Saquon Barkley) and 2019 (QB Daniel Jones) turn in record-breaking performances.

“I think that is what they kind of envisioned when they drafted DJ and drafted me,” Barkley told reporters after the game. “I think we both have the potential and talent to play well together and open stuff up for each other. We showed that today with the help of everyone else and we were able to find a way to get the win.”

Barkley ran for a career-high 199 yards and one touchdown. He caught four passes 90 yards and another score. He left tacklers scratching their heads.

“My job is to make that one guy miss,” Barkley said. “Sometimes they’re going to make a play, but I believe that with the ability I have, more times than not I’m going to make that person guy miss.”

File photo #8 Daniel Jones Neil Miller ?The New York Extra

Jones threw five touchdown passes, no interceptions, and orchestrated his first game-winning drive in OT. Jones joined Detroit’s Matt Stafford as the only rookie QB’s since 1950 to throw for 300 or more yards and at least five touchdowns. Jones threw for 352 on 28-of-42 passing.

After the Giants won the coin toss in overtime, Jones knew he had the kind of chance every quarterback craves.

“You see it as a huge opportunity, and you’re excited for that,” he said. “That’s kind of what you look forward to, what you play for is an opportunity to do that — to go down and win the game.”

Perhaps it was a vision of the future. Barkley and Jones are proving to be special talents. The defense needs an overhaul and by beating the Redskins the Giants might have cost themselves a chance to draft Ohio State defensive end Chase Young.

For one afternoon, it was easy to overlook the warts and not wince at what be lost on draft day. The sights worth beholding wore No. 26 (Barkley) and No. 8 (Jones). Might be worth playing those numbers. Make sure to save the winning ticket.

End Of a Dynasty? The Pats Didn't Get the Memo

File Photo Patriots head coach Bill Belichick. / Photo by David L. Pokress/The New York Extra

ROBBINS NEST

By Lenn Robbins

When the Buffalo Bills pulled a Bill Belichick on the Patriots, a bracing Northeast wind seem to blow from Foxboro to San Francisco, from Boston to Baltimore.

Some thought it was the wind of change.

The Bills had just scored a touchdown with one second left before halftime to tie this AFC East title game, 10-10. And the Bills were set to receive the second half kickoff.

How many times in the course of 11 straight AFC East titles have we witnessed the Pats parlay late first-half points with second half score that turned a game?

That was one of Belichick’s trademarks. And the Bills were poised to turn the table on the defending Super Bowl champs. 

The Bills didn’t score on their first possession of the third quarter but they did take a 17-13 lead to the fourth. The Pats had been outgaining the Bills by an almost 2-to-1 ratio but Buffalo was able to do what the 2019 New England couldn’t do – make big plays.

So the emergency call went out – again:  New England’s dynasty was in critical condition.

File Photo Patriots QB Tom Brady looks ,Photo by David L. Pokress/The New York Extra

The Pats have been pronounced dead on the scene more times than a fentanyl addict. Each time a surgeon named Tom Brady, or the chief of staff known, as coach Belichick worked some miracle.

Such was the case Saturday afternoon in New England’s 24-17 come-from-behind victory over the surging Bills in Gillette Stadium. Brady was precise, leading the big-play-challenged Pats to 11 fourth quarter points. Belichick’s defense was stifling, shutting out the Bills who had scored on a 53-yard touchdown pass.

This win doesn’t guarantee the Pats a 7th Super Bowl crown since the turn of the century. If the Ravens win out, they’ll have home-field until the Super Bowl.

And even the most fanatic Patriots fan must acknowledge this is a flawed offensive team. New England’s receivers averaged10.4 yards per catch. Buffalo’s averaged 16.

But the Pats still have the greatest quarterback of all time. At 42, Brady has nursed an assortment of hurts, especially an elbow injury, the most worrisome of his pains. Still, he made all the clutch throws, especially in that fourth quarter when he capped a touchdown drive with a two-point conversion dart to Julian Edelman

“He’s the heartbeat of this football team,” special teams captain Matthew Slater told reporters. “We’ve been one of the most fortunate organizations the last 20 years to have that guy at the helm. He proved it again tonight.”

The defense, as has been the case for most of the season, held at the very end. They stopped the Bills at the New England 15.

File photo Patriots defensive teammates. Photo by David L. Pokress/The New York Extra

“Obviously they’re AFC East division rivals and that’s their consecutive whatever-it-is year winning the division,” Bills QB Josh Allen to reporters. “We’ve got to find a way to get over that hump.”

The other three teams in the AFC East have uttered similar words.

And every team in the league had hope the dynasty would end when Brady tore his ACL in 2008, or in 2017, when the Falcons led Super Bowl LI by a score of 28-3 at halftime, or in 2018, when there were reports that Belichick, Brady and owner Bob Kraft at odds.

The dynasty didn’t end then. Will end this season?

The 49ers are balanced and physical. The Ravens smacked the Patriots 37-20 earlier this season. And the Chiefs, a popular pick to win the AFC, are getting healthy for a stretch run.

So before declaring any NFL better than the Pats, remember, “The Dynasty” just won its 11th straight AFC East title. And that’s not their goal. According to published reports, in post-game locker room, the Pats wore T-shirts with these words:

“The East is Not Enough.”

Betances Would Be Risk For Mets and Here Is Why by Rich Mancuso/The New York Extra

File photo Neil Miller ?The New Yrok Extra

Dellin Betances is the subject of rumors and the Mets are still in the game to acquire the former Yankees reliever. Betances, coming off a 2019 season that included a partial tear of his left Achilles Tendon is one of those prime names that remains on the market.

This has been an active free agent off-season which throws away the debate about collusion and the owners.  At this juncture last year, baseball free agency was all about collusion and big names remained on the market.

 Manny Machado signed a multi-year contract with the San Diego Padres and Bruce Harper the same with the Phillies as the two top targets in free agency. 

The contracts came late in the game and a few weeks before the start of the season.

Not this time around. That debate about collusion from the owners was short lived. More so, the hefty contracts of half a billion dollars granted to pitchers, Gerit Cole (Yankees) and Stephen Strasburg (Nationals) signed the past few weeks. 

Much earlier  than last year, and at a feverish pace, again throw away a debate that owners were holding back on mega contracts for players. 

The game is healthy, though Mets fans,  accustomed to being bypassed, await the billion dollar check book of Steve Cohen.

The Mets could use Betances, and there is that need for GM Brodie Van Wagenen to make the improvements in the pen, of course with hopes that Jeurys Familia and Edwin Diaz will have that turnaround.

And yes, a bullpen with reliable Familia, Diaz, and Justin Wilson could make a difference for the Mets to play baseball in October. It was that pen that blew 21 saves and was next to worse in baseball.

Only the Boston Red Sox bullpen was worse in 2019.

So, adding Dellin Betances to the Mets bullpen mix, a one-year deal at a low cost, does seems viable.  The Phillies and Twins have also been reported to be looking at signing Betances.

In 2018, the Betances numbers with the Yankees,  2.70 ERA and over a 40 percent strikeout rate, that went a long way. And as a late innings reliever, Betances is that threat coming out of the pen, again a perfect for the need of this Mets bullpen,

But consider what one NL insider said to yours truly. “A risk  signing coming off an injury and the last thing the Mets need is another bust coming out of the bullpen.”

Yes, Mets fans saw too much of that in 2019 with the failure of Edwin Diaz and his 7 blown saves. And that goes with the failure of infielder Robinson Cano, who came to Citi Field with Diaz in the first splash made by Van Wegenen.

Let’s be the GM here. Assuming, Jed Lowrie and $10 million could be free, assuming Van  Wagenen can work a deal with another team, though Lowrie brings that injury plagued season of 2019 to the table, it is possible that a low cost and one-year deal can be had for Betances.

Creative, we know about the Mets’ GM.  He has shown that ability to make moves, though awkward to say the least. 

Gio Gonzalez is another name off the table. Mets fans know him well, a 11-1 record when pitching on the other side at Citi Field, bypassed as a free agent last offseason who could have filled a starting or bullpen role.

But the Mets bypassed him last offseason, and Gonzalez signed a one-year $5 million deal with the White Sox that also has club options.

Dellin Betances is in line for a similar deal. But, coming off an injury and with limited innings pitched in 2019, the right-hander could be a risk for the Mets. 

Their offseason needs have included the signing of pitchers Michael Wacha and Rick Porcello, one-year deals that added more depth to the rotation and either could be used out of the pen. 

Outfielder Jake Marisnick? Not the big splash. The 28-year old, with good defensive skills, comes to Citi Field after six years with the Astros.

There is flexibility here for the Mets. They can take a low budget risk and sign Dellin Betances.

But the last thing the Mets’ GM needs, is another bust. There are other options and Dellin Betances is not the answer for a bullpen that needs to perform for the Mets to play baseball in October that has not happened since 2016. 

Comment: Ring7686@aol.com  Twitter@Ring786 Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso

Amazing Chocolate Seed Treat

Neil Miller/The New York Extra

HEALTHY ALTERNATIVE TO STORE BOUGHT SWEETS

My friend turned me on to this delicious chocolate treat, now I’d like to share it with you. It’s quick, easy and very yummy! Great to give out as holiday gifts or a hostess gift any time of the year. Just use appropriate holiday/occasion wrapping of your choice! This recipe is courtesy of Dr. Eric Berg DC, you can find it on You Tube. Check it out to watch his video if you like visual aspects.

This recipe calls for 5 cups of raw seeds. Seeds are high in protein, fiber and healthy fats, they also do not irritate the gallbladder. If you wish you may use any combination of seeds and nuts for this recipe. I would recommend using a food processor to break down large nuts like walnuts and almonds. A quick pulse or 2 just to have smaller pieces.

You will need 5 cups of seeds [or combination seeds/nuts] , 1 9 oz bag Lilly’s dark chocolate chips, 3 tablespoons coconut oil [to thin out and make chocolate spreadable] and approximately 1 tsp pure Vanilla extract, a large bowl for the seeds and a prepared large baking pan lined with parchment paper.

Neil Miller/The New York Extra

Melt chocolate on stovetop using a pot with some water in it and a smaller pot that will sit into the larger one , pour the chocolate into the smaller pot and stir on medium heat until all chocolate is melted.Once melted pour chocolate over seeds in bowl, add 1 teaspoon vanilla and stir together. Pour seed/chocolate mixture onto prepared parchment lined pan. Spread out using a spoon or spatula to a very thin layer then freeze for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes remove from freezer and break into small pieces. Taste and enjoy! Careful though, I find these treats addicting, YUM!

Neil Miller ?The New York Extra

TIP OF THE DAY: These chocolate treats make for great gifts with a homemade touch. I’m making up Christmas bags for everyone to enjoy! Store in the refrigerator or freezer. I like to eat them straight from the freezer.

Millrose Games Of Tradition And Record Holders Continues Next Month

For years the Millrose Games has featured more than one record holder at Madison Square Garden. The historic NYRR Millrose games have moved from the Garden and moved to the The Armory’s New Balance Track & Field Center and next month  will feature dozens of Olympians and world championship contenders as they look toward the Olympic Games this Summer In Tokyo.

An anticipated race will take place Saturday February 8th at the 113th edition of the Games. The men’s 800-meter run will feature world champion and American record holder Donavan Brazier and defending Millrose champion and NCAA record holder Michael Saruni.

 “The rematch of Donavan Brazier and Michael Saruni may be one of the highlights of the indoor season,” Armory Foundation Co-President Jonathan Schindel said.

 “But anything can happen with so many of the world’s best 800-meter runners back at the NYRR Millrose Games.”

Brazier is considered the outstanding 800m runner in the world. At the games last year, Brazier, ran an indoor American record of 1:44.41. In a subsequent race he set an indoor world best over 600m at the USATF Championships.   Outdoors, Brazier collected another U.S. championship before claiming the Diamond League trophy in Zurich with a historic come-from-behind victory over Nigel Amos.

 Brazier then capped his season in style, destroying the field at the World Championships in Doha to win the gold medal, running 1:43:34 to break Johny Gray’s 34-year-old American record. 

 “After a successful 2019 season, I’m looking forward to running at the Millrose Games for the fifth year in a row,” Brazier said.

Brazier’s primary competition will come from Saruni, the man who bested him at Millrose in 2019. Saruni blasted a 1:43.98 in that race, making him the second-fastest indoor performer at all times. Despite being hampered by an injury outdoors, Saruni still managed a season best of 1:43.70 in Monaco. 

His personal best of 1:43.25 still stands as the NCAA record, and the 24-year-old Kenyan will surely be a threat.

Joining the field is 2019 breakout star Bryce Hoppel.

 The former University of Kansas standout won both the indoor and outdoor NCAA 800m titles during a 21-race winning streak. Hoppel went on to place third at USAs to punch his ticket to Doha, where he exceeded all expectations by finishing fourth in a personal best of 1:44.25. 

Entering 2020, Hoppel will look to establish himself as a medal contender in Tokyo with a strong performance at Millrose.

The race is more enticing with Isaiah Harris. The former NCAA champion, a star at Penn State, competed  at the 2017 World Championships, and he will attempt to reclaim that form heading into the Olympic year.

 Rounding out the field is the reliable veteran and Millrose stalwart Erik Sowinski, a former  world indoor bronze medalist, and one of the most consistent middle-distance runners in the world, especially indoors.

]

The NYRR Millrose Games is the most storied event in indoor track and field. The tradition will continue in New York City and more athletes and fields will be announced for the NYRR Millrose Games in the coming weeks.

 Already announced is a thrilling shot put duel between Ryan Crouser and Joe Kovacs, along with world record holder Keni Harrison opening her season in the 60m hurdles and newly-crowned NCAA Cross Country champions Edwin Kurgat, Iowa State University. 

The Millrose Games moved to The Armory’s New Balance Track & Field Center in Washington Heights in 2012 after having called Madison Square Garden home from 1914 to 2011.  More than 200 athletes share the distinction of being both Millrose and Olympic champions.  

 Visit www.nyrrmillrosegames.org or call 212-923-1803 x7200 to purchase tickets.

 Comment: Ring786@aol.com  Twitter@Ring786 Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso