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

Sign of the Times: Cole Wins His First Day as a Yankee

credit Twitter

Robbins Nest

By Lenn Robbins

There is a commonly used expression when a newly hired coach or player is introduced that goes a long way to determining success:

He won the press conference.

Say something witty for the scribes. Make their job a tad easier. They’ll cut the new guy a little more slack when the early results are disappointing. Say something uplifting for the fans and they’ll forgive some missteps as part of the acclimation process.

Yep, if you win the press conference, you set yourself up to win, not just the day, but the town.

Congratulations Gerrit Cole, you just offered up a flawless primer in how to win the press conference, not an easy accomplishment when there are a lot of media and fans mumbling, “Is any player worth $324 million?”

That won’t be answered for a few years. If Cole leads the Yankees to multiple World Series titles (plural, as owner Hal Steinbrenner said) than $324 million is the down payment on a dynasty.

 If not, well, the Yankees are one of the few American sports franchises that prints its own money. They’ll sign a dozen more sponsors. Surely some auto parts company wants to be the official hubcap of the Yankees.

But neither Cole nor the Yankees have to fret over this signing today because of, well, a sign. The handmade sign that an 11-year Cole held up in Game 6 of the 2001 World Series in Arizona reads:

Yankee Fan Today, Tomorrow, Forever.

It was yellowed after spending the last 18 years in a closet in his parent’s house but what a time for that sign to come out of the closet – when he was officially introduced as the latest next great Yankee in the Legends Club.

“I just wanted to say I’m here, I’ve always been here,” Cole, 29, told reporters.

Yes, Cole is here, the No.1 starting pitcher believed by Yankees ownership and front office to be the missing piece needed to win the first World Series title in 11 years.

 Pressure? Not to Cole.

“Pressure is a privilege,’’ he said. “Pressure comes in situations that you’ve earned. You pitch in big games in September and October because you played well all year. With that in mind, you have to have a process that you know you need to stick to to perform in those games. We can say it’s just another game, but we know when you get to October, it’s really not.”

No, it’s not. The Canyon of Heroes has been litter-free in October since 2009. The Yankees have gotten close several times but close translates into failure for this franchise.

 Cole’s signing is a sign of the times. The Yankees have gone too long since winning title No. 27. It was time to break the bank.

“We have an incredible team right here, right now,’’ said Steinbrenner. “What happens three years from now, you can never predict. Clearly, I felt it was time to strike, to really get that final big piece that can make a difference with the way things have been going.

“We need to win some world championships and I believe we’re going to do that, sooner than later. I believe that. Plural.”

That’s the sign Yankees fans are looking for: World Championships, Today, Tomorrow….

It's Our Call: Safety Over High School Football Titles

Robbins Nest

The following article, written by Lenn Robbins, Editor-in-chief of the New York Extra is not endorsed by the ownership of the publication. However, Mr Robbins has complete editorial freedom to express his views and is supported in this regard. Neil Miller,publisher and owner,The New York Extra

By Lenn Robbins

   Maybe only those that have known the most unbearable sadness can truly experience the most unfetted euphoria.

  When Riley Ward ripped off his helmet to show the face of pure, unbridled joy, when he raised his left arm and pointed his index finger skyward, when he was mobbed by teammates, many of who were ecstatically screaming, “Oh My God!  Oh My God!” did the guy next to me, also transfixed by the images of the TV say:

 “That’s God at work right there.”

 This God entity can be challenging to understand. Some would say we’re not meant to understand. Certainly faith can help us make some sense, take some comfort, in the incomprehendable.

Maybe a higher power was at work Saturday night when the high school football team from the Connecticut town where Sandy Hook Elementary School is located, won its first state title exactly seven years to the day that a madman massacred 26 people, 20 of whom were six and seven-year-old children.

 Since this is a sports column, let’s give this higher power entity the benefit of the doubt,  and discuss religion another day.

  Which begs one question:

 If God was at work Saturday night, what the hell have our elected officials been doing  the last seven years? This isn’t a question for Republicans or Democrats. It’s a question for mothers and fathers, congressmen and senators, governors and the president.

 Why has there been no significant change in this country when it comes to making it  harder to buy weapons that have nothing to do with self defense but everything to do with mass slaughter?

 The second amendment is fine with me. If citizens in upstate New York did not have the right to bare arms, the escapees from Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora would have had many more places to find refuge.

 As someone who legally owned a gun when living in New Jersey, it was reasurring to have to attend a gun safety course to get that license. The instructor said (I’m paraphrasing here) if someone is intent on doing you harm and he or she doesn’t back away after hearing the chambering of a round, no gun in the world can keep you safe.

We need to keep ourselves safe which means exercising some commom sense.

 No assault rifles. No large capacity magazines. No bump stocks.

 Hopefully, prayfully, No dead children.

  What transpired Saturday night was beyond explanation, just as Mike Piazza’s home run 10 days after 9-11 was inexpicable and eternal.

  “I’m so proud of my kids for not giving up,’’ Newtown coach Bobby Pattison told reporters after the game. “We had moments in that game where it didn’t look too good for Newtown … I’m so proud of the kids. I couldn’t be happier.”

    Newtown beat Darien, 13-7, on the game’s last play when quarterback Jack Street found Riley through the fog for a 36-yard touchdown and the state LL championship.  Kudos to the Darien Blue Wave, a high school I once covered while working at the Stamford Advocate and Greenwich Time, which Tweeted:

  While a State Championship loss is never easy to swallow, the joy it is bringing @newtownfootball and the entire #Newtown community is certainly numbing our pain. #NightHawkPride #FootballBrothers

  Newtown linebacker Ben Pinto’s seven-year-old brother, Jack, was killed in that 2012 massacre. No one can imagine that family’s grief or the grief of any family that has lost a child, especially to gun violence because our “leaders” have shamefully gotten up every morning to their lattes instead of passing gun control legislation.

 Riley’s celebration was one for the ages. Like the late N.C. State coach Jimmy Valvano, who couldn’t find a player to hug after the Wolfpack won the 1983 NCAA Tournament, Riley, Lucky No. 13 in your books, raced through the end zone, a self-driving car that had malfunctioned.

 He was bathed in the love and joy of his teammates and townspeople. But wouldn’t it be so much better to live in a world in which a high school football team didn’t have to help a community heal because there was no manmade tragedy to recover from?

   Surely, we’d all trade a state title celebration for a state of safety for our children. Our “leaders” have no excuses. Get to work!

Crawford Needs The Fights For Those To Be convinced He Is The Top Fighter At 147

credit Top Rank

Egidijus “Mean Machine” Kavaliauskas was the latest victim of Terence “Bud” Crawford in the ring at Madison Square Garden Saturday night. He gave the defending WBO welterweight champion a fight.

But the pound-for-pound king Terence Crawford was too much. Crawford (36-0, 27 KOs) defended his WBO welterweight world title, knocking down Kavaliauskas three times en route to a ninth-round TKO in front of 10,101 fans at Madison Square Garden.

So after five rounds, Crawford, went into transition from southpaw to the orthodox stance. It was a better transition than what  has been seen from the Knicks on the Garden floor.

“I thought I had to entertain ya’ll for a little bit. He’s a strong fighter, durable, and I thought I’d give the crowd something to cheer for,” Crawford said. “I wasn’t hurt at all. I got up and went straight to him. I wasn’t hurt by no means. I walked through everything he threw all night.”

Exactly, This is what makes Terence Crawford, who should be rightfully proclaimed as the top fighter at 147. Perhaps, as many would say, Terence Crawford is the pound-for-pound king of boxing.

But that debate, pound-for-pound, has never been a priority on the list for Terence Crawford. He wants to fight the best and further cement his legacy in the sport.

The issue for Crawford, promoted by Top Rank and ESPN, of course is boxing politics. Top Rank and ESPN will need to further their efforts to enhance that opportunity for their champion, unify the titles, and the obstacle is working with the PBC.

The PBC has that lucrative financial deal with FOX and Showtime. The managerial company this past week also signed a five- year deal with On  Demand the Pay-Per-View distributor.

And the PBC also has control with the elite fighters who hold titles at 147, Shawn Porter, Panny Pacquiao, to name a few. Crawford was aiming for Errol Spence Jr. 

The WBC and IBF champion, was severely injured when he was ejected from his car in the Dallas area a few months ago.

Updates are not clear about the health of Spence. He  sustained a significant injury and possibly broke a hip which could keep him inactive for a year or jeopardize his career.

Regardless, Terence Crawford will move on. The champion is seeking that major opportunity as most in the boxing world look at him as the top fighter or second best when discussing pound-for-pound.

“I’m not ducking anyone on the PBC side or Top Rank platform. I want to fight all the top guys,” Crawford said in the ring.

Again, this is by no means the fault of Terence Crawford. When the big fights at 147 are discussed, the WBO champion seems to get bypassed, His promoter Bob Arum and Al Heyman (PBC) need to get it done.

That being said, getting it done is not easy. There have been discussions about a Crawford fight with Porter, the former champion who lost his WBC and IBF titles to Spence in September. 

 Crawford is a huge fan favorite in Nebraska and comfortable fighting at the Garden. 

Top Rank has a limited deal promoting fights at the Garden, “The Mecca.” The  PBC has a financial deal with boxing at the Barclays Center that is on thin ice as shows have not been a draw.

Then there are the networks, ESPN with Top Rank and the PBC with Fox and Showtime.  You get the idea as boxing politics could continue and stall the best fights for fans.

Terence Crawford will not get the deserved and proper recognition, that is of course if he fights Porter, technically a free agent, or any of the other top fighters at 147 that are under the control of the PBC.

The fight has to be done and there is a commitment to get it finalized. 

Kavaliauskas (21-1-1, 17 KOs) had some success early, even buzzing Crawford in the third round with a near-knockdown. Crawford rebounded, reloaded and dominated per usual, cementing his status at the top of the welterweight and pound-for-pound heap.

Terence Crawford had some difficulty getting it done Saturday night. He prevailed, now he has to prevail by getting the fights at 147 to make his claim as best pound-for-pound and king at 147.

credit Top Rank

Co-main event and another superstar: Teofimo Lopez has quickly become a rising star in boxing and Saturday evening at Madison Square Garden the Honduran native who resides in Brooklyn won the IBF lightweight title.

 Lopez (15-0, 12 KOs) blitzed Richard Commey (29-3, 26 KOs) in two rounds.  Lopez knocked Commey down with a right hand in the second round and followed up with a savage combination that forced referee David Fields to stop the fight. 

Lopez made history in becoming the first boxer of Honduran descent to win a world title. He is now on track to challenge unified champion Vasiliy Lomachenko in a fight that would crown an undisputed champion in 2020.

“I’m at a loss for words right now. This is a dream come true,” Lopez said. “{Commey} is a bad man. His shot could’ve done the same to me if he hit me with that shot.

“You all know who I want to fight next. 2020 is going to be a big year. ‘The Takeover’ has arrived, and you haven’t seen anything yet.”

Said Lomachenko: “We want to ‘unificate’ all four titles. Now he’s a world champion and now he’s in position to fight me.”

Details for an eventual fight with Lomachenko will come in the months ahead. Madison Square Garden could be the venue or Las Vegas with a possible date in April.

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

Danny Aiello Always Did The Right Thing; My Tribute To A Friend

When Danny Aiello crossed paths with yours truly in 1974, there was no conception who was on the microphone up in a small press box calling plays as the public address announcer at a DeWitt Clinton High School football game.

That voice was clear and distinguished and could be heard all over Paul Avenue and a block away on Mosholu Parkway.. He was very professional and at the time not the well known actor that he would become.

His two sons played football for the school, Danny and Rick ,who yours truly also got to know. Danny Aiello III died of pancreatic cancer in 2010 at the age of 53.

That loss for Aiello was difficult as was the early struggle and stumbling on a career that led to over 100 roles on the screen and the stage.

And today we sadly mourn his passing, 86-years of age after an illness. His big break, “Do The Right Thing” the Spike Lee film that earned him an Academy Award nomination in 1989. He was Sal the owner of a Brooklyn pizza shop and tried to keep peace in the community.

Thing is, Danny Aiello always did the right thing. From those days in the press box, a man who asked for a penny or a nickel, to his success, Danny Aiello was always there for the community, He was there for friends and a loyal role model to his wife of 64 years, sons, and grandchildren.

He never changed. He was my role model up in that press box. He guided me to do the same PA announcing as his acting schedule called on him. Directors and producers called on him and often.

He said then, in 1975, “You have a future as an announcer.” He started to follow me as a cub sports reporter in the Bronx and appreciated the devotion and covering high school athletes for the Bronx weekly newspapers.

They know, as yours truly did as a 17-year old in the Bronx, that Danny Aiello was going to be a hit. He wasn’t shy to ask for a nickle or a cigarette. He always said there would be a day he would not forget and return the favor.

He never forgot. And, Danny Aiello always remembered the community. His late mother was admitted to Providence Rest Nursing Home. He felt there was need to do better there and later became a Board of Director member at Providence Rest over in Throgs Neck.

Sports was his passion when not on the set.

“My Yankees, what’s wrong,” he said a few years ago as we met at Yankee Stadium. His nephew, Bronx native Michael Kay, is the voice of the Yankees on the YES Network and hosts a successful afternoon sports program on ESPN Radio.

Kay was in tears as he paid tribute to “Uncle Danny” Friday afternoon. It was Danny Aiello who pitched and believed in his nephew. Must run in the family because Danny Aiello was an avid sports fan and was also seen many times at ringside watching a fight at Madison Square Garden and the Barlcays Center in Brooklyn.

He always did the right thing, so appropriate and many years before the movie hit the big screen.

That was Danny Aiello, born in Manhattan but the Bronx and the people he met were always in his heart.

In many ways, this career was fit for me. You never know what will transpire as time goes on. But that day up in a small high school press box was one that gave me the opportunity to speak out loud.

Danny Aiello, as he did for many and yours truly was an inspiration. God Bless and Rest In peace. The The New York Extra offers prayers and condolences to the Aiello family, friends, and those who knew him over the years in the entertainment industry.

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

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The DeWitt Clinton HIgh School graduate, a school at the end of the Grand Concourse also known as “The Castle” because of distinguished alumni in all walks of life, was a proud alumnus who was instrumental in  staging more than 30 plays and musicals on Broadway in four decades.

“I see the potential in so many here in the Bronx,” Simon said when he was awarded by the DeWitt Clinton Alumni Association. He was one of the many at the time that graduated at the age of 16. And from Clinton it was either NYU or City College of New York. He chose NYU  and from there the rest is history.

Simon in 1983  was the only living playwright who had a theater named after him on Broadway, “The Neil Simon Theater.”

But his “Odd Couple” play, later an Emmy award winning television series, was Neil Simon and the creativity that consumed the entertainment world for years and still seen in syndication.

He was 91 years of age and passed away Monday morning in New York City with complications from pneumonia.

The Jimmy V Classic Reminds Us to Laugh, Think, and Cry

Robbins Nest

By Lenn Robbins

When I was in a very different place and time, I wrote a column about one of the most amazing speeches I’ve ever had a chance to witness:  It was when the late Jimmy Valvano accepted the Arthur Ashe Courage Award with his “Never Give Up,” speech at the 1993 ESPYs.

Less than two months later, Jimmy V was dead.

The cancer he so courageously and positively fought had prematurely claimed another life. Valvano, a Queens guy who played at Rutgers and coached at Iona, among other stops, before winning an NCAA Championship at N.C. State, was 47.

I was 33, pretty certain I had the world figured out.

The words from that speech that reverberated from heart to head, were, “Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up.”

Valvano said them with such promise, such belief, such sincerity, and such passion that the rest of his words faded – until December of 2018. That was a little more than one year after doctors removed the mass behind my right ear and cancer became an uninvited guest.

The Jimmy V Classic was being played at The Garden and for the first time in memory, I couldn’t go. Jimmy V’s speech was aired and this time it was another part of the speech that resonated:

To me, there are three things we all should do every day. We should do this every day of our lives. No. 1 is laugh. You should laugh every day. No. 2 is think. You should spend some time in thought. No. 3 is you should have your emotions moved to tears, could be happiness or joy.

But think about it. If you laugh, you think and you cry, that’s a full day. That’s a heckuva day. You do that seven days a week, you’re going to have something special.

Laugh. Think. Cry. Seems pretty simple on the surface. And you know what? It is.

It’s really easy to laugh, think, cry when you’re in The Garden and college basketball is being played, as was the case Tuesday night in the Jimmy V Classic.

 Texas Tech upset No,1-ranked Louisville, 70-57. It marked the first time in Tech history it upset the nation’s No.1-ranked team. Indiana edged UConn, 57-54, in the second game. The Huskies return to The Garden (and to the Big East) reminded us how electric this sport can be – even in December.

ESPN did a noble job of remembering Valvano and anchor Stuart Scott, who succumbed to cancer in January of 2015. Talk about a couple of guys who could laugh, think and cry. Robin Roberts and Holly Rowe reminded us to never give up.

Look around you. Chances are someone is fighting the fight. All you have to do is follow the words of Valvano. Chances are, it will be a pretty good day.

Jets vs Dolphins, a photo gallery of today's game by David Pokress,Staff photographer ,The New York Extra

And the Heisman Trophy Goes to: You Better Sit Down

Robbins Nest

By Lenn Robbins

  The Heisman Trophy has some very specific rules for its voters. Perhaps the most stringent is this: A voter cannot release his vote before the winner is announced. So, they’ll be no spoiler here.

What there is, however, is one conflicted voter.

Three of the four Heisman Trophy candidates are quarterbacks. Each makes a ridiculously strong case for winning the weighty 45-pound trophy, which is about one-one millionth of the pressure that comes with playing the glamour position at three of America’s most crazed college football schools.

In almost any other year any one of these quarterbacks would be considered a no-brainer to win the 13.5-inch trophy. This is no any other year.

Let’s consider these amateur athlete stat machines, in alphabetical order.

credit twitter

LSU’s Joe Burrow has had a statistical season for the ages – literally. His completion percentage of 77.9-percent is the best of all time. His passer rating, (you might want to sit for this), is 201.5 which is 11.5 shy of the temperature needed to boil water. Ouch!

credit twitter

Ohio State’s Justin Fields, in his first season as a starter, threw, (you might want to sit for this) 40 touchdowns and just one interception. Forty-to-one! Yikes! He threw at least two touchdown passes in every game, four TD passes in five games and three or more nine times.

credit twitter

Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts averaged 279.5 passing yards and 96.5 rushing yards and accounted for 51 touchdowns. His 19 touchdowns rushing and 114 points scored are tied with Navy’s Malcolm Perry for the most by a quarterback. Hurts (you might want to sit for this), rallied the Sooners from 25 points down at Baylor for a 34-31 win, the largest comeback in Oklahoma history. Geez!

At first glance, Burrow’s numbers give him a slight edge (feel free to argue any of these conclusions). But unlike Burrow, who played at LSU last season, Fields and Hurts had to acclimate after transferring, which is no easy task. In fairness to Burrow, LSU installed a completely new offense so all three had a lot of on-the-field adjusting to do.

Each has had to overcome adversity. Burrow started his career at Ohio State but after failing to win the starting job, transferred to LSU. Fields started his career at Georgia but after failing to win the starting job, transferred to Ohio State. Hurts was the started at Alabama, led the Crimson Tide to a national championship, but transferred to Oklahoma after getting beat out for the starting job by Tua Tagovailoa, who almost surely would be in New York if he didn’t suffer a season-ending hip injury.

So, you tell me: Who would you vote for?

Still unsure?

Burrow led the Tigers to an undefeated season, the SEC championship and the No.1 seed in the upcoming College Football Playoff. Fields led the Buckeyes to an unbeaten record, the Big Ten title, and the No.2 seed in the CFP. Hurts led the Sooners to a 12-1 record, a fifth straight Big 12 crown, and the No.4 seed in the playoff.

Still confused? Me too.

So, just to muddle the waters, a defensive player is among the finalists that will come to New York on Dec. 14th for the announcement.

 Chase Young was the Quarterback Ninja. Only Fields knows what’s it’s like to go against him on a consistent basis. Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence (he might want to sit for this) will try to avoid being Chased down when the Tigers and Buckeyes meet in their semifinal.

Young leads the nation with a school-record 16.5 sacks, the most in the Big Ten in 21 years. Young leads the nation in tackles for loss per game (1.91), is second with minus-129 yards on those tackles and is tied for fourth with 21 tackles for loss.

I can’t tell you who I voted for but I can tell you this: it was hard. Man was it hard.

Christmas Continues on Long Island by Toni Hoyos, Foodlady7

THE 24th ANNUAL DICKENS’ FESTIVAL

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

This past weekend December 7th and 8th commenced the 24th annual Charles Dickens Festival in the village of Port Jefferson. It was a weekend filled with holiday cheer! Starting it all off was the grand opening ceremony parade followed by an opening ceremony at The Village Center.

The Kuveikis Family of Pt Jeff Station comes to the Festival every year Neil Miller /The New York Extra
The combined families of the Badolato and Zimulis from Huntington ,N.Y. enjoy the happenings today Neil Miller/The New York Extra
Ben with his two dogs Chess left and Duke on Main street today Neil Miller/The New York Extra

Gallery /Neil Miller /The New York Extra

Volunteers dressed in time period appropriate wardrobe strolled the streets, there was Father Christmas, ghosts of Christmas past, present and future and the beggar boy to name a few. We encountered carolers Chercy, Cheryl, Keeley and Savannah from The United Methodist Church of Bayport who graced the streets with their singing. There was musical shows to enjoy such as a men’s choir, bands, Port Jefferson Elementary Chamber Choir and Orchestra, Christmas concerts and various street performances by Pirates of Fortunes Folly among others.

Family and children oriented activities included ice skating, a fire pit to roast marsh mellows , magic shows, holiday sing a longs, cookie making at Cookie Land, a Chocolate Extravaganza, horse and carriage rides with Oreo and friends. Plenty of hot chocolate and roasted chestnuts for your enjoyment! Tickets could be purchased for renditions of The Nutcracker performed by Harbor Ballet Theatre at PJ High School or A Christmas Carol at Theatre Three.

An event schedule and map of activities/performances was available at the Village center. There was something for everyone. Truly a good time to be had by all ! I’ve already made a notation to return next year as should you! The festival concludes with The passing of the Lantern of Life, a fabulous Pickwick’s Puppet Parade followed by a closing ceremony at Village Hall. Don’t miss out next year it is fun for the young and old alike!!

Charlo Defends Title in Brooklyn And More To Come

Jermall Charlo made a statement Saturday night at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn and with his seventh round knockout over Dennis Hogan defending his WBC middleweight title for the second time. He is now in position is a division that is wide open.

credit,,PBC

The 29-year old from Houston, 30-0, 22 KO’s, became the middleweight champion in June when Canelo Alvavrez went up in weight and vacated the title. Saturday night he dominated the fight.

Charlo made it known after the knockout that he is ready for the challenge. Hogan went down two times in the fight and for the third time in his career. This was a challenge that Charlo accepted and one that Hogan took for the first time at 160.

It opens up the door for Charlo. Will it be Canelo Alvarez, who may decide to return to 160 after winning titles at 168 and light heavyweight? Or will it be a showdown with Danny Jacobs?

Jacobs, of Brooklyn could also be on the agenda. 

“The middleweight division is wide open,” said a smiling Charlo. “I’m going to enjoy this. I’m here to fight whoever. You have to make the right decisions and do it at the right time. That’s what it’s all about.”

Despite throwing far fewer punches, Charlo had the more effective and efficient attack. Charlo landed 86 of the 266 punches he threw (32%) while Hogan landed just 71 of the 418 punches he threw (17%). Despite Hogan landing on 61 power punches compared to 57 for Charlo, Hogan was unable to hurt Charlo, as the trademark power resulted in another highlight reel stoppage.

“We’ve been working on that (the uppercut). I try to take him out with every punch and we work hard for it.  He got up and he fought like a champion,” Charlo said.  

The PBC promoted fighter, credited trainer Ronnie Shields for this latest win.

“ Ronnie told me to cut him off,” Charlo said. “I just threw the shot and I made sure I threw it right on the money.”  Hogan, 28-3-1, the 34-year old from Ireland, fighting out of Australia, lost his second straight title fight after losing to junior middleweight champion Jaime Munguia in April.

But this was all about Charlo, billed as the future of boxing, He went into this fight with knowledge that Hogan was not going to go down easy. The Barclays Center has become his second home and a potential fight with Jacobs, something that could occur, would put his undefeated streak on the line.

Jacobs, the top rated middleweight, is  scheduled to fight Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. in a supposed title eliminator Saturday December 20th streaming live on the DAZN  Network from Phoenix Arizona. 

“I want the most explosive fights,” Charlo said.  “I want to put myself to the test. It’s all about the time.I got the WBC belt moved up from junior middle. Don’t let the politics and networks fool you, I’m here to fight.  Canelo. I’m taking the fights as they come.”

And they will come more often. He is the champion and depending on what Canelo Alvarez decides next, that could be a championship fight to anticipate in 2020.

Credit PBC

In the co-featured bout, Chris Eubank Jr.‘s (29-2, 22 KOs) long-awaited United States debut ended in frustrating fashion as his opponent, Matt Korobov (28-3-1, 14 KOs), suffered a bout-ending injury at just :34 of the second round. Because it was ruled a self-inflicted injury, the result was officially declared a TKO victory for Eubank, who picked up the Interim WBA Middleweight Title.

Korobov, a top contender in the middleweight division, injured his left shoulder after throwing a punch that failed to land. After consulting with the ringside doctor, it was deemed that he would be unable to continue.

“I felt like I was about to get my swagger on,” Eubank said. “He just turned around and stopped. I was going to go jump on him. I guess something happened with his shoulder. There’s nothing to take from the fight. I threw like three or four punches. I was just warming up.” 

Eubank, son of former two-time world champion Chris Eubanck Sr. said he was looking forward to challenge for the other titles in the division. 

“I’m the winner, I’m going to move forward and challenger for these belts,” said Eubank. “This wasn’t my dream.  My dream was to come here to America and make a statement. Now that I’ve landed and I settled with the new promotional team, I feel I can get the ball rolling for an active 2020.  It’s a shame it had to start like this, but it is what it is.”

This was the first of consecutive Saturday boxing shows in New York City, Next Saturday night at Madison Square Garden, Terence Crawford defends his WBO Welterweight title against Egidijus Kavaliauskas on the Top Rank card that will be televised on ESPN.

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

Quick and Easy Clean Eating

SAUTEED SHRIMP AND SPINACH

I understand how with our busy schedules and time restraints it’s so tempting and easy to stop for fast food. Please don’t do it! In the long run your body will thank you. With a little forethought and prepping you can make simple, healthy, quick meals at home. I can hear you tisking that’s the last thing you want to do after a long hard day. I do hear you … but it is possible. Just be sure to stock up on some healthy options to have ready in a pinch. I always have a bag of frozen Trader Joes wild Argentinian Red shrimp on hand for just that purpose. You can take some out in the morning to defrost in the fridge or for last minute leave in the bag and immerse in cool/tepid water to defrost.

I always try to take some time to prep and prepare food for the week. It’s easy to make some soup and freeze half for another time. Dice/chop up raw carrots, beets, celery,radishes, etc to top your salad. Roast a tray of veggies to have ready. Use your imagination roast broccoli, cauliflower, red onion, bell peppers, parsnips, sweet potato or any vegetable you enjoy. Rienzi brand Lentils in a can have no preservatives or added salt, a better choice than fast food. These are just some examples to make having healthier meals more manageable.

Neil Miller /The New York Extra

For this meal you will need fresh organic spinach 10 oz, organic garlic, 1/2 a medium lemon, 1 tsp olive oil, grass fed butter, organic orange peel, herbs de provence, lemon pepper and of course trader Joes wild Argentinian Red shrimp. 7-8 pieces for a portion.

Take a handful of rinsed drained spinach cook in pan on medium flame, turning and adding more as it begins to wilt. Cook about 4 minutes. Add 1 tsp olive oil and 1 clove of minced garlic, sautee 2 minutes then set aside. take rinsed defrosted shrimp, pat dry with a paper towel place in preheated pan with a pat of butter. Cook 3 minutes, turn over and cook additional 2 minutes. Then reduce heat squeeze 1/2 a lemon over shrimp into pan, add pat butter, orange peel, lemon pepper, herbs de provence, cook 1 minute. Serve a top spinach with a little salad and beets. Ready to eat in just under 15 minutes!

TIP OF THE DAY : I am loving my new Red Copper cookware frying pan!! It cooks evenly, browns, makes a fabulous omelette, little or no oil needed and cleans with just a wipe! Give it a try, follow directions to bake before first use [season] pan. Red Copper is my new go too!

FYI : Though shrimp is high in cholesterol it is low in saturated fats, has antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids which has been shown to promote heart health. There is new information out there please investigate.

The Fizdale Era Ends But the Dysfunction Continues

Robbins Nest

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By Lenn Robbins

  So much for patience. So much for building from the ground up. So much for credibility.

The New York Knicks believability quotient ranks lower than a late-night ad for an anti-aging potion. There is no one – not the owner, not the president, not the GM – who can ever be given the benefit of the doubt. If their lips are moving, they are not telling the truth.

The most recent betrayal of the fans’ trust came Friday afternoon with the Knicks displaying their mastery of decades-long dysfunction. They fired coach David Fizdale after he ran practice. The team then jetted to Indianapolis although it might as well have flown to Planet Lovetron.

The Fizdale Era lasted a mere season and one quarter. When Mills and Perry hired Fizdale they stressed patience. The quick fix was done. They wanted assurances from Fizdale that understood the Knicks were building a new culture.

“I told them, ‘You don’t have to worry about me because I am in for the plan,’” Fizdale told Marc Stein last year. “The plan is we’re going after particular people who are trying to fit what we are trying to build. And if it doesn’t fall in line, then we don’t go down that road.”

That lasted 104 games.

The 4-17 Knicks are the NBA’s of version of 90 Day Fiancé’.

Certainly, Fizdale didn’t offer much cause for optimism that this marriage could turn. His record in New York was 21-83.

 After the team’s 44-point road loss to the Bucks on Monday night he said, “I think we didn’t come in with an idea we could beat this team from the beginning.” And he described Thursday night’s 37-point home loss to the Nuggets as “sickening.”

 Which might be how Knicks fans might feel about the way Mills and Perry have run this franchise. They bragged about their ability to attract top-tier free agents but got rejected by Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and never had a shot at trading for Anthony Davis.

With no shiny baubles interested in lighting up Broadway, they spent some $70 million in cap space on mid-tier players such as Bobby Portis, Marcus Morris, Taj Gibson and Julius Randle. What a waste.

It also completely torched the stated culture of developing young talent. Last year’s No.1 pick, Kevin Knox, has been anchored to the bench. Second-round pick Mitchell Robinson has been usurped by Gibson.

And this year’s top pick, small forward RJ Barrett, was played at shooting guard and occasionally at point guard, because hey, if that LeBron guy can go from power forward to point guard anyone can, right?

Barrett was hailed as the team’s new foundation leaving him to negotiate that awkward path while not alienating the Portises and Morrises of the world.

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What’s most galling about all this is the way Fizdale’s firing went down. According to reports, Mills and Perry, knowing they were about to ax Fizdale, were seen kibitzing with their dead man walking coach after he addressed reporters following practice.

Let us repeat together: Keep your friends close and your smiling, back-stabbing enemies closer.

“Today marks a culture change for our organization where we reestablish the pride, work ethic and responsibility that comes with playing for the Knicks and representing New York,” read a statement from owner James Dolan when he hired Mills and Perry.

 “I’m confident that Steve is the right person to take on this role, and ensure that we return to one of the elite teams of the NBA. He’s got an ambitious plan that centers on building a young team focused on player development, communication and teamwork.”

One problem. The man quoted is a nightmare of a communication and has created a culture of paranoia.

 Fans can’t heckle him. Reporters can be harassed for criticizing him. Former players can be banned for expressing their anti-Dolan sentiments. Decent employees are fired by Dolan for reasons only he can fathom.

This reign of odious ownership has resulted in 12 coaching changes but just one playoff series win. Forget patience and credibility. The Knicks are the most toxic organization in the NBA.

Anyone who enters this planet’s orbit does so at his own peril.

Holiday Cheer At Citi Field As Mets Have Busy Day

from right to left ,Brandon Nimmo,wifr Chelsea Nimmo, and J.D. Davis Neil Miller /The New York Extra

Brandon Nimmo played Santa and J.D. Davis was the elf Tuesday at the Mets annual Kids Holiday party held at Citi Field in the Foxwoods Club. The event has become a highlight of the Mets community initiatives and kids from a nearby public school were greeted and took part in gift giving.

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

But that wasn’t the only business at Citi Field Tuesday. The Mets continue to prepare for the annual baseball Winter Meetings in San Diego that commence Sunday.

And  Sterling Partners, Fred and Jeff Wilpon ownership, is reportedly in negotiations to bring in billionaire Steve Cohen as a major investor.

In the long run. Cohen could have complete control of the franchise and the Wilpons could have less of a say in the everyday control of financial matters. Most Mets fans are hoping that there is a complete change in ownership and in the  meantime this is still a team owned by the Wilpons.  

Either way, it is business as usual. San Diego here they come. The Mets, from various sources do intend to be busy. The immediate need is finding that gap in the pitching rotation that became a reality with the Zack Wheeler five-year $100 million deal to the Phillies.

They could be in the market for a lower tier free agent to fill the gap, possibly Rick Porcello. There is the intention to revamp the bullpen and if Seth Lugo comes out of the pen to fill the gap, well a need for that starter is more of a necessity.

Then there is the intention for outfield help. The Mets will be shopping.  They could also look at Davis as a trade chip. Or they could find a suitable team for Dominc Smith.

Smith, as known, serves a better purpose as your everyday first baseman, of course, NL Rookie of The Year Pete Alonso has that locked up. 

Davis, could be slated as the everyday left fielder or play his natural position at third. 

Neil Miller/The New York Extra

“ I do feel a little more comfortable at third base,” Davis said Tuesday. “Because that was where I was drafted. Just being a third baseman and playing most of my games at third, I prefer that.”

Davis, though, will go with the plan. He will resume offseason training activities when he leaves New York Friday and returns to Elk Grove, California.

“If it’s left field, so be it,” he said. “ Wherever the team needs me, I know we’ve got a lot of talent on this team. So wherever the team needs me, I’ll play.”

And by all means, the Mets need to hesitate in any plans to trade Davis. He spent considerable more time in left than at third, and there was a learning process in the outfield. 

 Davis did become an important cog in the lineup with a slash line of .307/.369/.527 in the 140 games he appeared. He was the ace of player transactions under rookie GM Brodie Van Wagenen.

And with Davis in the lineup, along with Alonso, Jeff McNeil, and Michael Conforto, the Mets have developed a good and young core.

Davis is going with the plan. He is optimistic that he will remain in New York as the Mets continue to build towards playing baseball in October.

“It was a little bit difficult coming from left field to third base because of 150 feet,” said Davis. “The ball gets on you a little quicker. But I play third base, just like anything, more reps over there I’ll be just fine.”

He added, “Just like anything, I’m comfortable. I’m confident over there and I’m excited.”

Neil Miller/The New York Extra

He said that Nimmo was a good Santa. And Nimmo, also a part of that young core is projected at this time to be starting in center.

“I’m working on controlling center field, until they tell me something,” he said. 

Nimmo is healthy and working on getting his neck stronger after missing most of his time in 2019 with a bulging disk.

“I think we’ll be good,” Davis said. The offense, we are a pretty tight group.”

Nimmo and Davis played their roles to perfection for the kids. Now they hope that role can lead to playoff baseball on the field in 2020.

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

Rock and Roll , Kevin Sheehan style by Neil Miller /The New York Extra

Why Kevin Sheehan has the pulse of Long Islands Rock clubs.

Neil Miller/The New York Extra

A few weeks ago, I reached out to Kevin Sheehan about doing an article of the 4 bars he now owns in South Eastern Nassau and Amityville . KJ Farrell’s, in Bellmore, has been a go to place in Nassau County for the best cover bands for years. Sure,there were other places around, but KJs was always busy.

With the addition of the much larger, The Warehouse, with in the past year,Kevin added an important piece in the local music scene.Not content to have just the status quo, he added a county night, and a Latin night, for variety.

The new The Local Tavern in Levittown is a neighborhood bar, which is home base for a lot of people. Laid back and a little smaller than the other bars, Kevin says, “It’s relaxed vibe,large craft beer selection and friendly staff makes it a neighborhood place to go”

Kevin’s newest bar in Massapequa Park will be called Prohibition. The music format hasn’t been decided on as of now, but Kevin says,”We are very excited to be apart of the dining and bar scene in Massapequa Park .We hope by offering area residents a different experience,they will stop in and visit”

One things for sure, where ever you go on the South Shore, Kevin’ s bars offer a lot of different choices for the club goer to enjoy every day.

PS! Don’t forget! East on Main,,,,,,,,,,,Kevin is affiliated with this restaurant on The North Fork in Mattituck .When you are doing a winery crawl stop in for some good eats!

The Knicks Phenomenon: If You Don't Build It, They Will Come

Robbins Nest

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By Lenn Robbins

  The wait has gone unrewarded.

  After Monday night’s utterly humiliating beat down at the hands of the Milwaukee Bucks, it seemed that Knicks management had to offer up some thoughts as to what has become of this season where this franchise headed.

  But as they say in a Grade B horror movie, “It’s quiet, too quiet,” on Seventh Avenue. We heard nothing from owner Charles Dolan, or team president Steve Mills, or GM Scott Perry in the wake of a 132-88 loss to Milwaukee.  The words that kept resounding where those of coach David Fizdale, who offered this soul less take.

“Personally, I think we didn’t come in with an idea we could beat this team from the beginning,’’ said Fizdale, who threw himself under the bus with that statement. How did he allow a culture in which a professional basketball team went into a game not believing it can win?

 “That’s what was most disappointing,” continued Fizdale, who threw his veterans under the same bus. “They got whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted. We never took a real stand.’’

So, there is no leader in the locker room that was able to implore his teammates to “Man Up!”  Not one veteran, Bobby Portis, who in fairness, has never known what consistent success looks like in the NBA having played for the Bulls, and not Marcus Morris, who has his MA in winning culture having spent the last three seasons in Boston, took a stand.

This 132-88 score looks like something you see in college basketball when the UConn women schedule Dayton and wins 75-37 as was the case earlier this season. This, however, is the NBA. The minimal expectation is that a team will come to compete.

“I felt the [lack of] morale at the beginning of the game,’’ Randle said about the Knicks pregame locker room. “A lack of energy. Our spirit has to be everything.’’

It wasn’t there from the opening tip. The Knicks fell behind 33-15 in the first quarter. They never challenged, which could be the story of the season. They’re 4-17, the worst 21-game start of any season.

   The Bucks are the more talented team, no doubt, led by the breathtaking Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Knicks have yet to find such a player. Kristaps Porzingis will forever be a benign unicorn, piling up impressive stats only to find camouflage when he’s muscled up.

The Bucks also hired a proven coach in Mike Budenholzer. Fizdale came with a lot of questions about his unsightly divorce in Memphis

 The failure of New York to bring these talents to the World’s Greatest Arena, falls on Mills and Perry, who a few weeks ago seemed ready to fire Fizdale. That would be the easy out. But there’s no guarantee the Knicks, over the long haul, would play and harder or better.

Which begs the question: Why would a Knicks fan watch one more game, buy one more overpriced beer in The Garden, gift an RJ Barrett jersey to a son or daughter over the holidays? I have friends around the country who are baffled by this Knicks Phenomenon.

 ‘Why does The Garden continue to sell out when the Knicks are awful?”  There is no sane explanation. Nor is there’s any motivation for the owner to demand excellence when, with the exception of some home playoff games, he wouldn’t make any more money.

If it’s broke and profitable, why fix it?

The Knicks have a coach that can’t impart confidence to his team. The team has no clear-cut leader. The president and GM lurk off stage, waiting for a scapegoat to come along. The owner plays a decent guitar but can’t put the pieces in place for a decent team.

Fisdale saved his most enlightening comment about the Knicks when as about Giannis.

“I watch and listen to him lead his guys,” Fizdale said. “He’s just impressive. The league is in good hands, I know that, when you’ve got a guy like that at the top.”

Can anyone honestly say that about the Knicks?

Heron Becoming That Impact Player on Court For St. John's

#0 Mustafa Heron Neil Miller/The New York Extra

Mustapha Heron scored 18 points Saturday at Carnesecca Arena. The St. John’s senior  guard was impressive as he scored a game-high in 16 minutes, 7-for-11 shooting, 3-for-6 from the line.

The Johnnies won their second straight and ran their early season record to 6-2 with their 86-63 win over Wagner. He also hit 3-for-6 from three-point range.

#0 Mustafa Heron blocks a shot in the Johnies last game against Wagner Neil Miller/The New York Extra

And if this type of effort continues, averaging 14.8 points per game, it could be something to anticipate before St, John’s begins Big East Conference play.  Heron is taking control and not bypassing a fact that St. John’s is playing good and winning basketball.  

Mike Anderson Neil miller/The New York Extra

“Those shots he was making, I thought it opened up the floor for our guys and we were able to attack early on and kind of set the stage,” said coach Mike Anderson. 

Point to this win, St John’s outscored Wagner, 29-3, in those important fast breaks on the court. You can get the idea here, Mustafa Heron is a major part of the scoring and  there are indications to be more double figure scoring in the box score. 

The  issues of staying on the court and avoiding foul trouble is a work in progress.   

“I thought I was just moving,” Heron said. “I thought I was moving a little better and took some good shots. It wasn’t anything spectacular. I just moved and took some good shots.”

But those good shots have been coming, even with the foul problems that kept him off the court in this latest win for St. John’s.  He scored a season-high 30 points last month as the Johnnies had an easy 87-57 win over Central Connecticut State.

So, when Heron gets the ball, and if Anderson has his team on the run, there could be more games of scoring 30 or more.  Of course, conference play opens up a different perspective as the opponents are that much tougher.

After that 30-point effort, Anderson said about his senior “He put the time in. He’s one of those guys who’s determined. I’m sure he’s got goals, and the best thing about it is that his major goal right now is St. John’s being the best team it can be.”

Heron watches the film and sees what can get better. That worked after not being satisfied with his previous game of scoring six points against UMASS and playing time of 16 minutes.

“I think every night it is important that I perform or the team is not going to be successful.” he said. “We pride ourselves on our depth and that we can go to the last guy on our bench and he can give just as much as a starter.”

St. John’s continues their five-game homestand with St. Peter’s Tuesday evening in another non-conference game. Heron will be on the court but he knows this is a team game and not just about him.

“Coach preaches that it could be anybody’s night on any given night,” he said. “That’s what we live by.”


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

Everything the Giants Do Must Be the in QB's Best Interests

Robbins Nest

#8 Dan Jones file photo Neil Miller /The New York Extra

By Lenn Robbins

  You know things have hit bedrock bottom when most social media posts and articles about the Giants’ latest meltdown don’t mention the franchise quarterback. Who knows. Maybe that’s a good thing.

Daniel Jones did what rookie quarterbacks usually do, but something he hasn’t done in a while. He threw interceptions in Sunday’s 31-13 loss to the Green Bay Packers.

. #8 Dan Jones Neil Miller /The New York Extra

 It was the Giants (2-10) seventh straight loss and in-house critic Janoris Jenkins should be applauded for pointing out shortcomings in the defensive scheme.  Coach Pat Shurmur’s seat is so hot he might have been the only person in MetLife Stadium who didn’t feel cold.

New York Giants head coach Pat Shurmur file photo Neil Miller /The New York Extra

One of the few players that must be made to feel comfy is Jones. He has shown more than enough to believe he has the skill, temperament and intelligence for Giants fans to feel comfortable they have their quarterback of the future.

His development, however, might be hampered by two factors: The organization for which he plays and the mistakes that he makes.

The loss to the Packers was the first time in three games he did not fumble. It also marked the end of his 110-straight pass attempts without a pick ended.

“Today, they weren’t fumbles, right?,” Shurmur told reporters. “These were throws, they weren’t fumbles. He’s gotta keep playing through it, and keep learning from every scenario. Unfortunately, we’re dealing with some mistakes that you hope you never see it again.”

The Giants thought they had addressed this weeks ago. Offensive coordinator and other assistant coaches have worked with Jones on ball security. There is no magic wand. Either a player learns to protect the ball or he’s out of the league.

The feeling here is that Jones will get it but in the meantime, he’s leaving the door of self-doubt open. He now has thrown eight interceptions and lost six fumbles. Those stats to a quarterback are like rust to iron.

“I feel like I’m making progress,” Jones said. “Obviously there’s still a lot to work on, and I understand that. I feel like I’m improving and the challenge is to continue to do that but do it faster, and play more consistently.”

Consistency has hardly been a Giants trademark of late. It stretches the management to think the Giants would be better off with another season under Shurmur. If a change is made, Jones will face another obstacle – learning an entire new system and staff.

The Giants have to conduct business with one thought in mind: What’s best for Daniel Jones?

Freeport High School wins Long Island Class 1 Championship by Neil Miller The New York Extra

Freeport High School football team celebrates its win over William Floyd High School for the Class 1 Championship Neil Miller /The New York Extra

Freeport High School once again has won a Class 1 football championship in 42-14 defeat of William Floyd .It was a fairly tight game until the 4th quarter.Freeport lead by only 7 points going into the final frame but pulled away with 21 points in the final quarter.

#2 Jayvian Allen runs in the 2nd half Neil Miler/The New York Extra
#5 Jinks ,left and #2 Allen celebrate a touch down in the 2nd half Neil Miller/The New York Extra

#5 Makhai Jinks scored on five touchdowns during the game with Jayian Allen adding on another td in the 4th quarter as well. Quarterback Terrace Edmond played pretty of a ground game given the abilities of Jinks running .

The Freeport defense was key in several take aways the lead to their victory.

The Grinch that stole Christmas

Or how the Town of Islip disappointed hundreds of Town residents at The Connetquot River Boat Parade

Tonight, hundreds of Town of Islip residents and families were very upset and confused at the annual Boat Parade at Great River Dock in East Islip. For years a parade of brightly lit boats in all their Christmas glory would make several passes up and down the river.

But,not tonite.Instead the boats seemed to congregate by the various restaurants further south on the river.Crying children and angry parents kept asking” Where is the parade? Why are they turning around before coming up to the dock?” FYI ,Great River Dock is one of the listed viewing sites for the Boat Parade. Upon looking at the contributor list to the event,The View ,Snapper Inn,and Oakdale Yacht are listed as top level donors.Is it posible this this played a role in spoiling alot of families fun tonight?? Only the Town of Islip knows.

Mets And Yankees Preparing For Winter Meetings and Their Needs

One week from tomorrow the baseball world will convene in San Diego for the annual Winter Meetings. The agenda at these meetings have become more business dealings for Major League Baseball and the trade market has shown minimal activity.

Regardless, the process to restructure for teams begins at these meetings as general managers and executives huddle in their suites. Rumors do become a spectacle as this has also become a media event.

So don’t expect anything significant to transpire with the exception of rule changes for the game and other business issues. There will be a transaction or two, and the stepping stones to more significant trades or free agent signings taking place when the meetings conclude.

Giancarlo Stanton #27 file photo Neil Miller/The New York Extra

The Yankees will be looking for additions to their bullpen and possibly seeking a player or two. GM Brian Cashman always comes out of these meetings with a missing piece, Giancarlo Stanton in 2017, though that signing has not paid dividends.

file photo Neil Miller/The New York Extra

Didi Gregorius, depending on what route he goes, well that obviously causes Cashman to go hunting for infield help.  Gerrit Cole, Stephen Strasburg, Zack Wheeler? Cashman may be in pursuit of one of the prime pitchers on the free agent market.

Again, all speculation as to where this goes.

The Mets, they need to be active. Carlos Beltran, a first year manager, inherits a team that won 86 games this past season. They are close to going that extra step and need those pieces to make it happen.

As expected, Wheeler is on the market. The Mets are not ruling out his return to keep a rotation in tact with Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Marucs Stroman and Steven Matz. 

No surprise here as a high ranking NL official said  to yours truly, “Teams with a strong and deep starting pitching staff will ultimately win. We see this with the Dodgers, Nationals, Astros, Cardinals, Braves, and Indians.”

The Mets won with a rotation in 2015, not so long ago.  That included a forgotten Matt Harvey and 27 strikeouts in the postseason, which by the way, is a top five club record.

 Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen, should expect Wheeler to be elsewhere and that causes a void. Either Robert Gsellman or Seth Lugo come out of the bullpen and fill the rotation spot. Or the Mets shop for a lower level free agent on the market.

But the bullpen needs a total revamp. Taking Lugo or Gsellman out of the pen causes another void. There is confidence Edwin Diaz and Jeurys Familia will turn things around. Justin Wilson, except for a limited time on the injured list, overall was proficient as the lefthander out of the pen.

Jeurys Familia #27 file photo Nil Miller/The New York Extra

So there will be decisions and some shopping for help out of the pen.  Take into consideration a Mets bullpen blew over 20 saves in 2019, and in the late innings.  Win those games, perhaps, that was the difference as to why the Mets were not one the NL wild card teams.

New York Mets left fielder Yoenis Cespedes #52 file photo Neil Miller/The New York Extra

And there is that possibility, from all reports, Yoenis Cespedes will be seen again. The Mets are looking to get him back on the field and be in that outfield mix that is minus Juan Lagares. 

Van Wagenen, has not ruled out a trade for an outfielder. Michael Conforto and  inconsistency has been an issue in the lineup. The Mets are rumored to be interested in signing a free agent, Starling Marte, and that could be something to keep an eye on in San Diego.

And then there is the business of baseball. The Mets seem to go along those lines in their process of decision making as they move towards 2020.

That same NL official said, “We see that clubs are resistant to signing older free agent players to long term contracts. Teams are cognizant of the declining value of that older player who then becomes an albatross in the latter stages of a majority of those contracts.

The Yankees have seen this and basically have gone away from signing players long term, the exception was that trade for Stanton in a financial deal with the Marlins.

But the Mets, a team that is criticized for not signing the free agent, they have been burned in the past. Yoenis Cespedes, though a boost in 2015, re-signed and that lucrative deal has not been to their advantage with a player that is prone to injuries.

So the Mets will be the active team in San Diego, maybe not a headline player or two, but stepping stones to get where they want to be in October.

Stay tuned for the next few weeks before the holidays kick in. It all starts in San Diego a week from Sunday for the Mets, Yankees, and 28 other teams who look to improve.

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

CHRISTMAS AT MILLERIDGE INN

Toni Hoyos/The New York Extra

The 2019 holiday season begins at the iconic Milleridge Inn Village starting with the annual Christmas tree lighting on Friday November 29. Thousands came to see the event and partake in the festivities which included carolers, a Santa village and of course the Grinch! The village is beautifully decorated with lights, garland, wreaths, snowmen, trees, holiday characters, a nativity display and so much more!

Toni Hoyos/The New York Extra

There was a fun area where you and your friends could take a picture with Santa or stop at the Cafe to grab some cider or hot chocolate. The stores were busy with shoppers and those just browsing. Surely a good time was had by all! Stop by to see the village in all its Christmas glory and check out up coming events.

Penny Wise, Schiano Foolish: Time For Rutgers to Invest in its Future

By Lenn Robbins

If you’re not familiar with how big-time college football works – and man, is it big business – Greg Schiano’s “list of demands” to return to coach Rutgers reads like a portrait in greed:

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A reported $25.2 million guarantee? The unlimited use of a private jet?

What is this, a new reality show, “Desperate Football Coaches of New Jersey?”

Not at all. This is the cost of doing business in a Power 5 conference, such as the Big 10.

In fact, if Rutgers had agreed to these “demands” about a week ago, it would have gotten Schiano on the cheap. His eight-year, $32 million deal would have put Schiano in the bottom third of Big Ten coach’s salaries. Rutgers drew a line in the sand at six years, $24 million – keep that $8 million in mind.

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That’s right, bottom third.

But AD Patrick Hobbs, who already screwed up his search for a men’s basketball coach, but was fortunate to find former Stony Brook coach Steve Pikiell, has been publicly and privately taking a flamethrower to the Schiano negotiation. Hobbs’ hiring of former coach Chris Ash (8-32), who was fired earlier this season, had failure written all over it from Day 1. He MUST make a great hire now.

Some might know that I’ve known Schiano for some 20 years and have a close, respectful relationship. I’ve had had no contact of any kind with Schiano, his family and his representatives since Sept. 30th.

As a long-time college football reporter, it’s been awful not having a successful big-time program in the metropolitan area. Despite Syracuse’s bogus claim of being New York’s college team, it still requires a four-hour drive, often with the help of a snow plow. Not very metropolitan.

There’s no better place to watch college football, and no program more steeped in tradition than Army. But the days of Army playing for a national title are over, and there’s no shame in that. Army has always had a higher calling.

Rutgers (2-9), which plays its final game of the season tomorrow at Penn State (9-2), joined the ranks of the Big Ten in 2014. It joined in name only.

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Its facilities are worse than some FCS programs. Its stadium, something named SHI Stadium, is not even on the list of the 50 best venues in America, according to Bleacher Report and anyone with eyes.

Penn State’s Beaver Stadium (106,572) is ranked No.1 Ohio State’s Ohio Stadium (102,821) is ranked third and Michigan Stadium (107,601), aka, The Big House, is ranked sixth. From Northwestern to Nebraska, Maryland to Michigan, Big Ten football, as its advertising campaign states, is life on the big stage.

Rutgers has tried to survive in the Big Ten on the cheap. Ash won three conference games in three-plus seasons. It’s not all his fault. It’s almost impossible to out-recruit schools with lesser facilities, not to mention far less tradition.

Michigan and Ohio State have set up satellite practice camps in New Jersey for the explicit reason of luring The Garden State’s top recruits. The only coach that has ever won his share of New Jersey recruits is Schiano.

There’s a reason for this: He’s a Jersey Guy. He understands the ethos of the state; how North Jersey and South Jersey have always had an uneasy relationship. The last thing the Rutgers coach can do is alienate either. Schiano did a great job of embracing both.

With Schiano, Rutgers reached its highest ranking ever in 2006 at No.7. It took him six years to build the program. And that was when Rutgers played in the Big East.

The next Rutgers coach will have an even more daunting challenge in the Big Ten. Jim Harbaugh, maybe the closest comparison we can make to Schiano, returned to his alma mater in 2015 with great fanfare. By 2017, after the Wolverines posted an 8-4 record, there were some screaming for change.

Most didn’t realize how drastically Michigan had fallen behind Ohio State, or been caught by programs such as Wisconsin and Iowa. Harbaugh, who is paid $7.5 million, will try to beat Ohio State tomorrow for the first time in his tenure. If he fails, no doubt there were will be ignorant calls for his firing.

While Ohio State was building its program with an influx of recruits and an increase in fundraising under the consistency of six coaches from 1951-2019, Michigan is on its fifth coach since 1989.

 Michigan’s administration has made what could prove to be brilliant decision. It believes Harbaugh is the man for the program and it’s providing him with the support and patience he needs to catch Ohio State. Michigan recently opened the $168-million Performance Center with a $100 million gift from Stephen Ross.

$100 million.

Rutgers balked at the $8 million difference between its offer and Schiano’s “demand.” Perks such as private planes (Wyoming has one, Wyoming!) and golf course membership is standard at Power 5 programs. It helps in recruiting and fundraising. It’s the cost of doing business in the Big Ten.

Over the last couple of days there have been reports that Rutgers and Schiano have re-engaged in talks. If Rutgers ever wants its best chance at becoming a winning big-time program, it will bring The Jersey Guy home. If not, Rutgers should withdraw from the Big Ten and call Mike Aresco at the American Athletic Conference.

The moment has come for Rutgers to state its intentions: Big Ten or Big Bust.

NYCFC Signs Academy Player From The Bronx To Roster

credit nycfc

Transition time continues for NYCFC before the start of their 2020 season. With a new coach set to be announced for the departed Domenec Torrent, New York City FC on Tuesday announced that Homegrown defender Tayvon Gray has signed his first professional contract with the Club becoming the first Bronx native to sign with NYCFC. 

It’s a homecoming for Gray and he will take his talents close to home. NYCFC home games are played at Yankee Stadium

credit nycfc

Gray said: “I’m very excited to sign with New York City FC. I’m a Bronx kid and this is my hometown team, so to start my professional career in New York City is a dream come true.

“When I first heard about NYCFC, the team was very new, but once I saw what the Club was all about, I definitely wanted to play for them. I’ll be proud to represent my team in the Bronx. My family is still here, so it will be very exciting to have them at games.

The 17-year-old and U.S. youth international is NYCFC’s fourth player to graduate from the Academy ranks, joining James Sands, Joe Scally and Justin Haak.

“There are too many people to thank. I’d like to thank God, my family for the support and love to help me get to this point, and everyone in the Academy staff. I’ve learned from some incredible coaches and played with some great teammates over the years and I wouldn’t have been able to get here without them.”

 NYCFC Sporting Director David Lee said: “Tayvon’s been in our Academy for the past few years and has really developed over the last 18 months and we couldn’t be more excited for him to join our First Team and be with us for the future   Signing the contract is the first step for him to continue his development. He has a lot of potential and can play a number of positions.”  

This past season, NYCFC finished as the top seed in the MLS Eastern Conference and lost in the conference finals to Toronto at Yankee Stadium. 

“We’ve seen him as a future Homegrown player for a while and we’re really delighted to complete the signing,” said Lee.

Gray has been a centerpiece of the NYCFC Academy since joining the Club in 2017 with the U-17s. In 2019, he anchored the backline on the U-19 team who became the first Club to win back-to-back U-19 U.S. Development Academy National Championships. 

NYCFC Academy Director Sam Pugsley said: “Tayvon’s pathway to professional soccer is a great success story. He started in the talent centers that we run and after performing well, he came into the Academy, and coming from the Bronx, it’s extra special.

“Over the years, with Rodrigo Marion and Matt Pilkington’s coaching, guidance and leadership on the field day-to-day, he really matured and got to the point he’s at today.

“Tayvon has been an integral part of what we’ve built here and the success we’ve had on the field. He’s a great person and you see his joy when he’s on the field and how much he enjoys playing soccer.” 

Gray was one of five Academy players to join the Club’s 2019 preseason in Abu Dhabi and continued to train with the First Team regularly throughout the season. 

Recently, Gray started two matches for the United States U-17 National Team at the FIFA U-17 World Cup in Brazil.

Gray will join the First Team full-time when the Club opens preseason on January 11.

The defender said: “Since I began with the Academy, my goal was to one day make it to the First Team. I’ve been able to train and go on preseason with them before, but to now sign a professional contract is an amazing feeling. I’m ready to work as hard as I can to help this team achieve what we all want, to win MLS Cup.”

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

QUEST FOR HEALTHY ALTERNATIVES

Sweet Potato casserole and Homemade Applesauce

Neil Miller /The New York Extra

Thanksgiving is such a festive time with friends, family and of course food! I like to lighten up traditional recipes and omit as much added sugar as possible keeping it simple and tasty. Lets start with the sweet potato casserole. You will need; 4 med/large organic sweet potatoes, organic unsweetened butter, ceylon cinnamon, 1/2 cup toasted pecans, organic coconut oil [or more butter] Swerve brown sugar replacement and a clementine or orange. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Neil Miller/The New York Extra

Peel potatoes then slice on a diagonal about 1/2 inch thick. Place a few thin pats of butter on bottom of a casserole dish. Add a layer of sweet potatoes to dish, sprinkle with cinnamon, top with a few more pats of butter then continue to layer in this manner until done. If desired squeeze the juice of 1 clementine or 1/2 an orange over top of casserole then sprinkle with cinnamon and add more butter. Bake covered approximately 40/45 minutes until soft not mushy, testing doneness at 30 minutes.

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

While casserole cooks dry pan roast pecans on medium/low heat a few minutes, stir and careful don’t burn. When ready let cool a couple minutes then add to a food processor with 2 teaspoons Swerve brown sugar, 1 teaspoon organic coconut oil or if you prefer use 1 teaspoon of butter. Pulse until they look like small chopped pieces. Add chopped pecans to top of sweet potato casserole bake an additional 5 minutes uncovered.

Neil Miller/The New York Extra

APPLESAUCE; 6-8 large Gala apples and cinnamon. Core apples, place in a microwave safe pan [apples will throw off liquid] and microwave for approximately 10-12 minutes or until soft but not mushy unless you like it that way. I prefer it to be a little chunky. Once done cut in half and let cool to the touch. Run thumb over flesh feeling for any core remnants and remove. Scoop out flesh using a tablespoon. Cut up any large pieces or mash with a fork if you like it smoother. Sprinkle with cinnamon if desired. These do not need anything else. Gala apples are naturally sweet and delicious! Enjoy!

Neil Miller/The New York Extra

INGREDIENTS USED: casserole-organic sweet potatoes,Trader Joe’s organic unsalted butter,Frontier organic Ceylon cinnamon, raw Pecans, Wellsley Farms organic virgin coconut oil. APPLESAUCE; Organic Gala apples, Frontier Ceylon cinnamon.

TIP OF THE DAY: Rather than using artificial or processed sugar Dates are a great way to get natural sweetness into your food. Chop or put in food processor, you can modify and add to recipes.