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The New Norm As We Adjust To The Pandemic

Monday, March 30, 2020: We begin the third week of this Coronavirus Pandemic and isolation period. From this perspective, it has been difficult with adjusting to a new lifestyle of staying  home and following procedures to stay safe.

With no sports, a lifestyle here that is a daily ritual, that called for adjustments. Social distancing, washing the hands more often, taking a quick walk to buy essentials, return home, and discover those other things to pass time are a new routine.

Today, this means another day without baseball and Game 4 off the schedule at Citi Field. The Mets were scheduled to open a three game series with the Phillies Monday night.

Instead of  preparing the bag for work with necessities of pens, laptop, notepad, information about the teams, a new routine is viewing news and updates regarding the Pandemic on CNN, Fox, local channels. Editors are revising their game plan and we are told to write about a virus and different routines that has put us in unchartered territory.

Tell you the truth, and as much as this sounds off the chart, I would rather be at the ballpark in a few hours after crossing the Whitestone Bridge from the Bronx to Queens. Seeing Citi Field and entering through the Gil Hodges Press Gate would be the routine.

Taking the press elevator, saying hello to security and stadium personnel, watching batting practice on the field by the dugouts, talking to the players, eating a press dining room meal with colleagues, and back to the press box should be the routine.

All ending with a visit to the clubhouses for postgame quotes. And the final culmination is writing,  filing that deadline content, returning home, with a similar routine the next day if there was not a postponed game that was caused by inclement weather this time of year.

Baseball is a long season. The routine for the players is the same for us in the press box. We are known as those creatures of habit. 

Instead, we are home. Isolation, if adjusted right, becomes a routine and time passes by with some writing, cleaning the closets, watching classic sports highlights. Calling and texting more with family, friends, and neighbors, and we should do that more often with no excuses for a crisis to do so.

Yes, we are a changing society and it came faster than a speeding bullet and strike of lightning.   So, up here in the Bronx, in proximity of Pelham Bay Park, it is quiet. 

The streets are quiet. Usually this is a boisterous neighborhood with traffic, honk of car horns, sirens of first responders and residents going about their business. Instead, there is silence and dark of one business after another with locks and chains on the door.

 Essential stores and pharmacies are open.  Restaurants, open during limited hours, have a reduced staff and there for takeout orders, Chairs and tables are uplifted to show they are following regulations of a city in a state of emergency.

You don’t know many, but now we all know each other. We are, as they say, in this together and sharing thoughts about this Pandemic is a form of therapy with different opinions and how we are adjusting to this new norm.

And with exception of the elevated and noisy 6 train, running on a limited schedule, that is the only sound of a neighborhood. Tell you the truth, a quiet neighborhood, without that constant rumble of a train, is good for the hearing.

Buses also are empty as one passes on a normal route. Boarding from the back and not the front, is no longer fare evasion but this is a Pandemic and people are staying home.

So why venture out? 

“Need to take that walk and stretch the legs,” said a quiet couple. “We keep our distance from others. We are making the adjustments.”

They wear the protective gloves for the hands and faces are covered with the masks which is also the  new norm. But, they, like many, don’t want to compare this to being a prison in our homes. Unfortunate, though, this crisis has left no other options but to stay home and be safe.

The new norm is also cooking the meals at home. Forgot to mention, writers are creative and that also applies to those skills in the kitchen. The baked ziti was good, so was a home cooked and good steak the night before. 

However, we would rather have baseball now. We would prefer watching all sports this time of year instead of catching up with a favorite TV series on the networks. 

Oh, the season finale of “The Walking Dead” will have to wait. Next Sunday night the series goes to pause with a penultimate episode as post production was stopped due to the Pandemic. 

And in many ways some have compared this adjustment to living in the walking dead,  with many theories, though we should not make that comparison.

But this is the new norm. The adjustments are necessary as the goal is to get that number down of coronavirus cases. Follow the procedures and in a matter of time we can slowly get back to normal.

Share your routine with others. Social media can be a good thing and we are hearing about the new routines.  Important as always, STAY SAFE. We are in this together!

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

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The Options For The Mets Without Noah Are There

Noah Syndergaard became the latest victim of a hard thrower that was added to the long list of Tommy John surgery. With baseball on hiatus, and with a season that is yet to be determined, this is the proper time for recovery.

#34 Noah Syndegaard at spring training 2020/Neil Miller/ The New York Extra/TheNYExtra.com

Though the circumstances, for Syndergaard, for all of us, was not expected. If anything, this Coronavirus Pandemic that has caused a shutdown for baseball works to an advantage of the Mets.

It works, also, to the advantage of Chris Sale and  the Boston Red Sox. Their ace left hander was shut down last week and will undergo ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction surgery to his left elbow.

Another Tommy John surgery procedure, thnis time for Syndergaard and Sale. That adds to the growing list of 25 of the hardest throwing pitchers since 2018 In that group, 11, for Tommy John surgery.

“THE HUMAN ARM , ELBOW, ETC. WAS NOT MADE TO DO WHAT THEY DO.”

Yes, they were not made to throw with that consistent rate of 100. Not for a fastball, slider, curve, or any pitch. The arms, elbows, can only take so much.

The Mets did not expect this. Neither did the Red Sox. This has become an epidemic for pitchers, and for baseball the shutdown can give some time to think about ways to change the statistics.

The game, as insiders say, can’t have enough pitching at this rate. So, unless the habits change, just like we have adjusted  with this Coronavirus Pandemic, there will be more of the Tommy John situations in the long run,

So the Mets are now in this adjustment, unexpected, and it’s more than assuring their roster is safe and healthy from the Coronavirus. They need another arm to fill the void. If and when this season begins, curtailed or not, there are options. 

And like the Red Sox, without Sale for 12-18 months as a recovery period, pitching is that commodity. You never have enough and the Mets at one time had that viable option to replace a starter in the rotation that went down.

We saw that over the years with the Mets, once an organization that had the top pitching prospects in the game. Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom. Zack Wheeler, Steven Matz, and Syndergaard.

Oh, by the way, Syndergaard joins that list of former or Mets pitchers that are on that list of Tommy John surgery. Wheeler, now with the Phillies, and you wonder if the Mets should have granted him the contract.

But that was then. This is now. The Mets don’t have the organizational depth with pitching as they once built under previous GM’s Omar Minaya and Sandy Alderson, many that were  traded for position players and deals that have not gone to their advantage. 

The options for the Mets, we will get to that in a moment as to how they can fill the void with the absence of Noah Syndergaard, who was to follow deGrom in the rotation.

Opening Day, tomorrow, was for deGrom. Syndergaard was to follow Saturday at Citi Field. Many connected with baseball, including yours truly, were tabbing the Mets as a favorite to win the NL East with that duo in control.

They were headed to the postseason, perhaps a NL wild card, because Degrom and Syndergaard were that one-two in the rotation. You can’t get any better than that.

Jake DeGrom at spring training 2020/Neil Miller/The New York Extra/TheNYExtra.com

The numbers tell the story. And back-to-back Cy Young awards for Jacob deGrom, you don’t need a better example. Syndergaard, developed a slider with velocity, and it was all good until the unexpected developments of Tuesday. 

Perhaps, Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg, duo of the defending World Series champion Washington Nationals, are just as good. 

But that old adage of, “you never have enough pitching” pertains now for the Mets.  

So where do the Mets go from here? Assume there is a resumption of baseball activities, to be determined if and when, there are options for the Mets to fill the void.

Matt Harvey? One insider said the Mets are not exploring a reunion with the Right-hander. “A Dark Knight” reunion in Flushing is not going to happen,” he said.

Harvey, without a team, brings that baggage and the insider said he observed a fastball that had no command last year  with the Angels. Harvey, then, gave up four home runs in a May start against the Twins. The $11 million dollar investment,  10 starts, a 7.50 ERA.

Though no fault of the Mets in parting ways with Wheeler, now with the Phillies, that looms to now be a major void in their rotation. Then again, it’s the business of baseball.

And a rotation now of deGrom, followed by Marucs Stroman and Steven Matz does not look bad.

GM Brodie Van Wagenen, to his credit, went with depth this offseason with additions of Michael Wacha and Rick Porcello to one-year contracts.. 

Yes, there was that competition for  two starting spots, Now, the three-way competition between Matz, Wacha, and Porcello is answered. 

As the insider said, about Porcello, from watching him up close in Grapefruit League play, “The movement of his curveball and the fastball looked like he could be headed to a comeback year.” 

So assume again, and this is speculation. that Porcello and Wacha have comeback years after allowing a combined 57 home runs in 200 innings with the Red Sox and Cardinals. The Mets were seeing the difference, down in Port St. Lucie, before baseball suspended operations.

There are very few and better options to replace Noah Syndergaard. The Mets don’t want Seth Lugo, projected to come out of the pen, to be that other starter unless they have limited options.

“I could see David Peterson get a shot at a spot,” the insider said about the Mets first round draft pick in 2017 who was slated to start at Triple-A Syracuse.

Walker Lockett, was not expected to make the 26-man roster. Corey Oswalt was not high on the depth chart. Erasmo Ramirez, the 29-year old right-hander and eight-year veteran, signed to a Minor League contract, could be in the mix.

“Saw him throw eight good innings in spring games and will tell you his command of his fastball and slider got some attention,” said the insider. 

So much as their minor league  pitching depth has gone from top to bottom, Van Wagenen, and the 20 other GM’s are never prepared to find a viable arm that goes down unexpectedly.

We have learned Tommy John surgery is successful  The Mets will get through this with some options. Noah Sydergaard, from baseball standards, is young and strong to make a comeback.  

The options are there for the Mets. But no surprise, they will miss the void of the guy they call “Thor.”

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

Difficult Without Sports But There Are Options To Our Isolation

Yes, this is difficult. We are home and staying safe. We are dealing with a Coronavirus pandemic and making that adjustment. This was supposed to be the first weekend of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. 

We were five days away from Opening Day of the 2020 baseball season. Instead, at Citi Field, a makeshift hospital and relief center is being planned

We are without sports.  We are adjusting to viewing daily updates from the White House, your Governor, and Mayor. We are isolated and hoping this crisis will pass soon.

Saturday and Sunday, and next weekend,  CBS Sports is televising memorable games from past NCAA tournaments. MLB Network, the regional networks, are also replaying memorable games.

The baseball fix in New York includes a Mets marathon on SNY. The Yankees showing their classic series on YES, and audio feeds of the Michael Kay sports talk show on ESPN Radio.

The NBA and NHL channels also do their part to keep us entertained. 

How the WWE will stage WrestleMania, a reformatted two day event, and with  no fans at their Orlando performance center in two weeks will be interesting and different. 

WrestleMania, a highlight show on the wrestling calendar for the WWE and fans, was supposed to be held before 75,000 or more at Raymond James Stadium, Sunday April 5 in Tampa .

Instead, the evening before, with reportedly some taped matches, will highlight the mega event. No pyro, no fans, and matches scrapped. Pro wrestlers are making the adjustments and it will be similar to a rehearsal or audition they have experienced before gaining their stardom to the top.

We are in this together. And, said here again, sports are not the priority here as much as the world of fun and games would be a diversion from this crisis that confronts our world and nation.

So without sports, there are some options as we continue to isolate in our homes. This past week, in between some writing and dealing with the isolation, there were some good options to get your fix.

Sports books, the classic events and movies to pass the time are becoming a norm.  Though there is nothing better than viewing a live event, and we could be without that for the next few months,  .

 Any hope for the start of the 2020 season is not anytime soon. The hope, as can be determined, MLB season openers are on hold at least to June.

And that is being optimistic, all depending of course on how long the Coronavirus Pandemic abates. Talking to numerous sports personnel over the past few days, and the overall opinion is MLB and other leagues will await the first move of the NBA when it comes to resuming their schedule.

Why the NBA? The National Basketball Association was the first to shut down and seem to be at the forefront of taking control. Other sports leagues will follow their path. 

In addition, with the 2020 MLB season, players would need another two-week spring training period for conditioning and the schedule would need a major readjustment. That means doubleheaders that are rare on a schedule and a shortened season which are not the norm.

Again, that is speculation as we go day-by-day with this crisis and hope for the best.

Pitchers were at the point of throwing at speeds where they should be. The hitters, always behind the pitchers, they will need more time to catch up and that is usually the case during a normal spring training period..

Let’s say 81 games or fewer, instead of a regular 162-game slate and no All–Star game. Players would get paid when the season begins. 

Now, as understood, the MLBPA and  owners are working out details of the specifics as to their contracts and payment and pertaining to  details about pay scales in cases such as a national state of emergency.

The other sports will deal with specifics, perhaps not as complicated for the NHL and Major League soccer.  Boxing will resume with lucrative network deals and promotions at Top Rank, PBC, Matchroom, Golden Boy, and others.

They  will saturate the market with events every weekend for the boxing fan as the non mainstream fighters train at home and await their next payday. Most, if not all of the boxing gyms have been closed due to the pandemic.

The Kentucky Derby, Masters Golf Tournament, major events on the spring calendar, have announced they are rescheduling their major events to a later time.  

Still up in the air is how the USTA will handle the U.S. Open In Flushing Queens. That was scheduled for the later part of August. 

In the meantime some books to suggest to get your fix:

  • Staying Positive The Story of The Real Paul Banke (Boxing)
  • Once There Were Giants. The Golden Age of Heavyweight Boxing (Jerry Izenberg)
  • Inside Pitch. My Life As a Major League Closer (Skip Lockwood)

More to come in the coming days as we go through the pile with some of the best books and classic sports to view.

Most of all be SAFE! We are in this together and will get back to normal in due time. 

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

We Are Coping Without Sports And So Is The Impact To Many

I am okay here in the Bronx and taking precaution.

Yes, we are changing routines and isolating and in due time this Coronavirus crisis will pass. So, before I head to a scheduled doctor appointment that was on the docket, here we go.

Sports are dark. My livelihood, as with others in all walks of life, has been disrupted. Sports have always been a diversion from a crisis but not now. We need to adjust, adapt, come together as a community.

You see, as the medical professionals handling this crisis say, we could be in this for the long haul. Adapting to no sports is an adjustment and you learn to do other things in the safety and comfort of your home.

Catch up on some reading. I have finished reading two books that were half way in.  Watch classic movies and relive the sports classics that are the alternative programming on various sports networks. 

 Of course, I will admit, “The Walking Dead” episode Sunday night had some shocking developments and outcomes. Though. admit. not the proper program to watch with our society in a crisis and keeping up with a television series did not change the routine. 

And reacquaint with your loved ones. We do tend  to get lost with our love and passion for sports. 

The only sports programming, and limited, bowling tournaments and NASCAR.  The NFL, the only sport in the offseason with their new labor agreement , trades, and free agency. 

Well, that is the only bit of news to talk and write about as Major League Baseball facilities are closed and the 2020 season is pushed back further into late May or June.

As Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen said, “This is bigger than baseball.” Indeed, baseball and all sports is not the priority now, The specifics of schedules, not just with baseball, will be determined. The economic impact, of course, will be huge.

The sport of boxing has come to a halt, and at a time when major fights have been put off the schedule. Top Rank, Premier Boxing Champions, and Matchroom Boxing, among the big three promotions, stand to lose a significant amount of revenue and at a standstill with new subscribers to their networks. 

Talent, the fighters, many who depend on a purse, are basically at a standstill and out of work as boxing gyms have closed their doors. The streaming networks  ESPN, DAZN, have to readjust when the sport resumes. 

According to a source, FOX Sports and Showtime, a major part of the boxing schedule, will be forced to double up shows on weekends which is good for the boxing fan. But, too much saturation of the sport, at the same time, could work to a disadvantage when the sport resumes with the chaotic rescheduling of fight cards. 

According to the promoters, all ticket orders will be refunded from the original point of purchase.   And for fans, many with a economic loss due to the Coronavirus pandemic, paying for the network streams could become a financial burden. 

“The health and safety of the boxers, fans, and those working the events are of utmost importance to us,” said Tom Brown, President of TGB promotions and lead promoter of the cancelled PBC shows. 

He added, “We are all disappointed and as we get more information we will address future events.”

And this goes beyond the major sports leagues and promoters.. The little guy and personnel. They secure safety of venues, ticket sales personnel, concession workers, vendors, and more feeling the impact of a sports shutdown.

They, too, are taking a hit and realizing safety is first. Many are paid seasonal, and a six month baseball season does pay the bills. Some security personnel, on a full time basis, have been asked to stay home.

“It will be a hardship,” said a seasonal worker that is employed as one of many security personnel at Citi Field and Madison Square Garden. It is expected with federal funding they will recoup some of their losses.

Some also will be able to qualify for unemployment insurance as seasonal employees at the ballpark qualify.

Regardless, sports in the dark is having that type of impact.

Impact of sports programming also is being felt with broadcast talent and production personnel. They are employed as freelancers and sitting on the sidelines. 

They, the freelance talent, will sustain a financial loss.  So, basically the impact is all around the sports industry. We as a society are all feeling the impact and need to adjust.

In the days and weeks to come, we will try on these pages to provide readers as to how this impact of the Coronavirus is having an impact. The impact on all walks of life no matter what you do.  

You see, it’s not just about sports going dark. It’s a nation, a city, and some points of the world all in that readjustment period of time. 

We are in this together. BE SAFE!

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

Sports Is Dark As We Await The Outcome Of This Coronavirus Crisis

Wednesday evening we left the Barclays Center in Brooklyn after the first round of the Atlantic-10 Basketball championship tournament. I had this empty feeling with the increased cases of the Coronavirus.

File photo Neil Miller/The New York Extra /copyright 2020

And then it happened. Sports were shut down. Not just the NCAA conference tournaments. Not the NCAA Mens and womens basketball tournaments of March Madness, but all sports.

One-by-one. The NBA, NHL, MLS, boxing, golf. And the anticipated start of Major League Baseball has been pushed back for two weeks, but that is just an estimate.

The start of the 2020 Major League Baseball season could be on hiatus and longer than that two week time period. 

It will take time to adjust as arenas and stadiums go dark. This is a circumstance, from this perspective, worse than the events and aftermath of September 11, 2001. Worse, because it has impacted you, me, the city of New York, the world.

The difference, an impact for a long period of time as we adjust. 

It’s about the individual well being of all. We can’t fight a virus that is not under control and this comes as the sports analyst and by no means is this writer a medical authority or pretend to be. 

It’s common sense and listening to the authorities that advise how to deal with this situation. But sports is on the sidelines. We are looking in, making adjustments, hoping for the best. 

The transition to do other things is here. There always will be things to write about. Pick up a book, watch a classic movie. Check on family, friends, and neighbors.

And in due time, like all bad situations, this will pass. The Coronavirus and implications will become history, talked about for years to come, and we can resume our daily routines.  

But, New York City in that state of emergency will not have a complete shutdown. A source, within New York City Government circles informed this columnist that a shutdown will not occur unless Coronavirus cases reach the thousands .

Thankfully, we are not at that point of this crisis. And hopefully we won’t get there.

In the meantime, the world of fun and games, sports as it is called, is on hiatus.

Down in Port St. Lucie Florida, at the New York Mets spring training complex, spring training games have been suspended. The game of baseball is in suspension.

“Obviously with the sensitive information , we have to take extra precaution,” said the Mets’ J.D. Davis.

 He continues  to stay prepared with the entire Mets contingent and hopes that the crisis will pass so the 2020 season can commence.

“As a team, we will continue to get ready for the season,” Davis said. “It’s definitely different. And we have to improvise to get better everyday and be ready. We don’t know the future, however, we have to have the mindset that we are having our opening day in two weeks.”

He said, the details are still coming in to players and personnel. Meetings are ongoing to answer any concerns with questions.

“Hopefully, in the next couple of days, we will have a better understanding on where to go from here,” Davis said.

That understanding could mean  the players leaving Florida, Or, they head to their respective homes or come up north to their seasonal homes in New York. 

The Mets season opener was two weeks from yesterday. It is assumed , when MLB resumes, that the team will still have their season opener at Citi Field.

Friday afternoon, the Yankees also remained in place down at their spring training facilities in Tampa. Similar to the Mets ,they are in a holding pattern. 

The team  released a statement to update fans and the media. They were scheduled to open the season at Baltimore two weeks from yesterday.

“The Yankees fully support this decision and will continue to proactively monitor current events in conjunction with medical experts, government officials and Major League Baseball,” said the statement.

The  statement continued “We recognize that our great fans have a variety of questions. However, given the unprecedented nature and fluidity of what is taking place, we appreciate your patience as we diligently work through the many aspects and details of this continually evolving situation.”

In the meantime stadium workers are also victims of this Coronavirus pandemic. Concession workers and security personnel at Citi Field, Yankee Stadium, Madison Square Garden, and the Barclays Center will lose a substantial part of their income.

The players will still get paid. though reductions will come to their contracts as it pertains to a national emergency when games are suspended. According to an agreement with owners and players.

But those who secure and provide at the venues, they will be hurt in the pocket.

“Understand, but safety does come first,” said a long time concession worker who works at Citi Field and Yankee Stadium They earn from the individual vendors that have contracts with the teams.

With March Madness gone, and with sports in the dark, the waging of sports is also taking a hit. That industry, too, is in a holding pattern and this time of year the NCAA Tournament does see sports wagering at a peak.

The NCAA and with a loss of games will lose millions with the CBS and Turner television contracts that deliver these games to us. The eligibility of senior student-athletes, many who missed an opportunity to compete for a championship, reportedly will be extended. 

Boxing promoters have cancelled their shows around the nation. Two in New York City in the span of four days, promoted by Top Rank and ESPN were called off Thursday evening.

The events were scheduled in the Hulu Theatre at Madison Square Garden. Initially, when the crisis in New York unfolded, fans were banned from events scheduled for Saturday night and St. Patrick’s Day evening. 

Thursday, Top Rank had a final press conference at the Garden. The fighters, officials, and personnel were there and the shows were still a go. 

Later, the New York State Athletic Commission got the call form Albany. The commission, that regulates boxing was informed to consult with Top Rank and cancel the shows for the safety of personnel and the fighters. 

The Garden is dark, could be for months, and with a state of emergency,  events with 500 people or more is a risk. The Theatre is in that category of risk. 

Millions of dollars are being lost. The estimates and figures will continue to pile as this crisis continues and when it is finally resolved.

Yes, sports are in the dark. Even media, many who depend on income to report the games and events will see cutbacks and a loss of income. 

Realize, we must stay safe. Take caution. The sports world will resume. And hope the Coronavirus, like a bad hurricane, will fly out to sea.

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

Fordham Advances As A-!0 Tournament Begins

Fordham was the last and 14th  seed in the Atlantic-10 Basketball Championship that commenced Wednesday at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Prior to their game, 12th seed George Mason advanced in the opening round with a 77-70 win over 13th seed Saint Joseph’s

03/11/2020 Fordham Vs. George Washington at Barclay Center: Joel Soriano during game. Photo by Joseph E. Amaturo

This first day, though, that belonged to the Rams. And they did not resemble a team that finished last in the conference, 2-16, 6-12 overall. Fordham took comamnd early and advanced to the second round with a commanding 72-52 win over 11th seed George Washington. 

Thursday night, Fordham will try and keep this going as they oppose 6th seed Duquesne, the finale of six games that tips off at 8:30PM

So, for the first time in five years ,the Rams have advanced to the second round. Then, in 2015,  Fordham lost to VCU under coach Tom Pecora.

And for coach Jeff Neubauer, this is the first time in five years he and his Rams’ are moving on in the tournament.

Realizing this conference is one of the elite in the NCAA, and with Fordham the extreme underdog, this win was special. Of course if they advance Thursday, then there will be talk about Neubauer and his Rams playing the Cinderalla story.

Aso realize, Fordham, should they advance, would get one the top seeds in the tournament. Top seed Dayton, also ranked third in the nation, begins their run to an NCAA championship with a noon game Friday.

“The goal of any coach, more importantly of any team is to play  the best basketball of the year and that was my message to this team after the game,” Neubauer said. “W’eve been building to this moment at the offensive and defensive ends.”

He said, “This is the best game we’ve played.”

The reality is, Fordham has been an improved team as the season came down the stretch. They also took three games from GW this year, including the tournament win Wednesday,

And the difference maker has come from a freshman Joel Soriano, who got more playing time. Sophomore forward Onyi Eyisi went down with a foot injury in mid February.

Soriano, 6-11, from Yonkers, adds that versatility. He came into the game recording a double-double in four of his past five games. He got the Rams going and put their first two points on the board.

Soriano finished with 14 points and 12 rebounds.

“When we recruited him, its obvious he’s going to be a terrific player ,:” Neubauer said. “It took him a little time to adjust to the divsion 1 level.   Onyi, got hurt giving him the oportunity and he seized the opportuity.”

He has been a major part of the Fordham offense. He can also grab the rebound.  

“A major reason we played well down the stretch,” Neubauer said about his freshman. And that the Rams did, play well. Beleive it or not, Fordham could have won 12 of the 16 games they lost, and that includes a 10-game losing streak down the stretch.

“Rebuilding my confidence each and every game,”Soriano said.  “Work and shoot the ball. Before the game we talked about this. We got the first one.”

Fordham looks like a team with momentum. Now the task is meeting Duquesne. The Rams lost in overtime, 58-56 on the road in their first meeting back in January. Three weeks ago, in their second meeting up at Rose Hill, the Rams made it close and lost it down the stretch 59-54.

But Thursday evening in Brooklyn, the difference could be Soriano. It could also come from the continued consistency of Jalen Cobb (15 points Erten Gazi (12 pointsO and Antwon Portley who added 10. 

“He’s been shooting the ball well from three, a big reason why we are playing well,” Neubauer said.

 Now the attention turns to Duquesne, a quick turnaround that surprised Neubauer. He said it will be an interesting matchup for Soriano.

“It will be interesting because Duquense is a paint team, they play close to the basket as they can. And other things effectively they do is the offensive rebound.  

And the short turnaround, said Neubauer, really is not a concern. Fordham has played a night after day this season In Jamaica.  But the coach was caught off guard.

He said, “Iiterally had no idea what time we played tomorrow, was shocked . Our guys will be very happy more than 24 hours to play our next game.. We’ve been through this.’’  

“We didn’t beat Duquesne, but our guys really fought and competed  overtime and one or two possessions at home. Will be a great game. a battle. It helps us.”

And the Rams have that momentum That is the key.

ADVISORY FROM THE ATLANTIC 10 CONFERENCE:

CORONAVIRUS CAUSES REMAINDER OF TOURNAMENT TO BE PLAYED IN EMPTY AREA: The Atlantic 10 Conference announced tonight that the 2020 Men’s Basketball Championship at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY., will be played without fans and spectators for its remaining games.

Beginning tomorrow, all remaining contests in the championship will be restricted to teams, network television, working media, essential personnel, and team affiliated families/guests. First round games were played today (Wednesday, March 11) at Barclays Center, with George Mason defeating Saint Joseph’s 77-70, and Fordham topping George Washington 72-52. 

“Although this was a difficult decision it’s imperative that the Atlantic 10 act in the best interest of our student-athletes, teams and member institutions. This is a very unique and serious situation given the global impact of COVID-19, and as disappointing as this is for our fans and spectators, this decision had to be made,” states Commissioner Bernadette McGlade. “I want to thank everyone who is and has been supporting our basketball programs this season and encourage all to tune in to our games on our television partners.”

Thursday’s games and Friday’s quarterfinal contests will be televised on NBCSN and accessed digitally on the NBC Sports App, starting at noon. Saturday’s semifinal contests will be aired on the CBS Sports Network, beginning at 1 p.m., and Sunday’s championship game will be televised on CBS at 1 p.m.   

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Dayton Top Seed Favor As A-10 Tournament Tips Off In Brooklyn

Welcome to March Madness.  Wednesday afternoon at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, the march to the “Final Four” of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament begins for the Atlantic -10 Conference. And there is a good chance that Dayton University could reach the Final Four at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta Georgia.  

One thing is certain, Dayton is favored to win the tournament and move on.  And unless an upset occurs, which happens in March, that should be the plan.  The Flyers, 2020 Atlantic 10 Regular Season Champion and No. 3 ranked team in the nation, will be the No. 1 seed.

With all 14 conference teams that qualify in the conference tournament it’s Dayton that stands out. They have it all with the offense, defense, and have been ranked in the Top 10 AP poll all season.

They have been here in the past and they know how to play in Brooklyn. They have won two conference championships at Barclays which propelled the Flyers to advance to the “Elite 8” of the NCAA Tournament in  2013-14.

The Flyers registered a league-tying 18 wins and secured only the fourth unblemished conference record (18-0) in A-10 history. After their season finale. Dayton locked up their third regular season title in the last five years  at home against Davidson and received one of four double byes in the A-10 Championship.

It will be difficult to stop the offense. Obi Toppin improved his chances of winning the national player of the year award after scoring 23 points on 10-of-11 shooting and grabbed 12 rebounds in the regular season finale.

Toppin, a forward was named the Atlantic 10 Conference Men’s Basketball Player of the Year while his coach Anthony Grant was voted A-10 Coach of the Year by opposing coaches. Toppin,  averaged 20 points, 7.5 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game, while shooting 63.3 percent from the field, which ranks fifth nationally.

Dayton shot 72.3 percent (34 of 47), the second-best percentage in school history. It tied the A-10 field-goal percentage record set by Duquesne (34 of 47, 72.3) against St. Bonaventure on Feb. 23, 1991.

In addition to Dayton, second-seeded Richmond (14-4), No. 3 Rhode Island (13-5) and No. 4 Saint Louis (12-6) earned byes into the quarterfinal round of the championship. Dayton plays at noon on Friday, followed by Saint Louis at 2:30 pm. Richmond opens the evening session at 6:00 pm and Rhode Island will play in the last quarterfinal at 8:30 pm.

Seeds five through 10 earn byes into the second round and will play Thursday on NBCSN. St. Bonaventure (11-7) is seeded fifth and will play the winner of No. 12 George Mason (5-13) and No. 13 Saint Joseph’s (2-16) at 2:30 pm Thursday. 

Mason and the Hawks will meet Wednesday in the first round at 1:00 pm on ESPN+. Saint Joseph’s earned the 13 seed by virtue of a head-to-head tiebreaker with Fordham.

Fordham, the local team in the tournament, would need to pull the upset. After another dismal season, the Rams will play the second game. The game between the Colonials and Rams will tip off at 3:30 pm on Wednesday on ESPN+.

After a season ending 65-61 loss to George Mason Saturday afternoon up at Rose Hill the Rams finished last again the Atlantic 10 Conference. It was another dismal season for the Rams, 8-22 overall, 2-16 in the conference.

Erten Gazi scored a career-high 22 points and had six rebounds for Fordham,  Antwon Portley added 11 points, and Joel Soriano had 10 rebounds and three blocks for Fordham in the season finale. 

 “We’re excited to head into Brooklyn on Wednesday to open the Atlantic 10 Championship,’ said coach Jeff Neubauer. “ It’s a new season and we have to get ready to play our best basketball of the year. We have been playing better lately and I hope that translates into a good performance at the Barclays Center.”

 But the Rams are not expected to advance to the championship final set for Sunday, March 15. They do have the distinction of leading the conference in scoring defense, among the top 10 leaders in the NCAA.

And the last four games the Rams got production from Josh Colon and Joel Soriano.  Soriano, the freshman forward has come off the bench and got the late season starts. He  recorded 14 points and 15 rebounds to carry Fordham to a 63-52 win over George Washington last  Wednesday night, breaking the Rams’ 10-game losing streak.

Colon, the junior guard, got better in the last five games and scored a career high 17 points against GW.

The Rams had a private practice the past two days as their campus up at Rose Hill in the Bronx has been closed due to the outbreak of the Coronavirus.

Other players to watch during the next few days could make an impact. Joining Toppin and Gilyard on the All-Conference First Team were Jalen Crutcher (Dayton), Fatts Russell (Rhode Island), Kyle Lofton (St. Bonaventure) and Jordan Goodwin (Saint Louis). 

The All-Conference second team consisted of Kellan Grady (Davidson), Marcus Weathers (Duquesne), Blake Francis (Richmond), Grant Golden (Richmond), Hasahn French (Saint Louis) and Mitchell. Jon Axel Gudmundsson (Davidson), Trey Landers (Dayton), Jeff Dowtin (Rhode Island), Osun Osunniyi (St. Bonaventure), Ryan Daly (Saint Joseph’s) and Perkins made up the All-Conference Third Team.

The 2020 Championship begins Wednesday with two first-round games that will be streamed on ESPN+. Thursday features four second-round games and the quarterfinals are Friday. Thursday’s and Friday’s games will be carried by NBCSN. Semifinals begin Saturday at 1:00 pm on CBS Sports Network and the Championship final is Sunday at 1:00 pm on CBS Sports. Tickets are available at Ticketmaster.com.

Let the Madness begin in Brooklyn.

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Polish Heavyweight From Brooklyn Has Implications Saturday on Division

Adam Kownacki will feel at home Saturday night at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.  The undefeated heavyweight, 20-0-15 KO’s) from Poland and residing in Brooklyn is in the title mix. Brooklyn is his home and awaiting is a 12-round WBA title eliminator that headlines a FOX PBC fight night card.

credit Stephanie Trapp/TGB Promotions

He knows the implications. A win and there are possibilities of being in that mix with Tyson Fury, Anthony Joshua, or Deontay Wilder.   All three are in that mix.

Fury, the WBC champion took the title from Wilder two week ago, their second fight, and a trilogy is set in Las Vegas come July 18th.  Joshua, the other half of this equation will defend the unified WBA/IBF/WBO titles against mandatory challenger Kubrat Pulev, at the new 70,000 seat Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London on June 20.

After the two Fury-Wilder fights, one that resulted in a draw and the other that received a lot of hype, this heavyweight division has created a buzz and new faces.

Though, Kownacki, Polish born and residing in Brooklyn, is no stranger to  the Barclays Center. This will be Kownacki’s 10th fight at the venue. He has not only become a fan-favorite, but established as a contender in the red-hot heavyweight division.

Also March 7,  Kownacki, has another opportunity to showcase what it takes to end up on top of the heavyweight ladder and eventual quest to become the first Polish heavyweight champion in boxing history.

 Though, this heavyweight has that share of convincing wins in Brooklyn, that road to reach Fury, or Joshua, may have to wait.  Basically, the heavyweight division has become more interesting and any potential title fight with one of the champions won’t come soon.

Doesn’t matter to Kowancki. He will await for the opportunity because the road to get here was not easy.

“The division is wide open,” said Kownacki. “Right now, Tyson Fury is considered number one. But his previous two fights before the Deontay Wilder rematch weren’t that great. So how good is Fury really?” he said.  

 Kowancki,  among the top-ten heavyweights, did make a good point. He is the only one with a clean record, no losses or draws.

“ On Saturday, March 7, I have to prove that I belong in a title fight,” he said this week. 

The 30–year old,  in August on FOX, was the headliner at Barclays. He won an exciting action fight against former title challenger Chris Arreola. Now he will face a new challenge in the veteran Helenius, who has faced top competition throughout the world. 

He stands over six-feet six-inches tall, making him one of Kownacki’s most imposing opponents to date.

Once, the boxing world did not look at Fury as a serious contender in the division. The British star, who overcame battles with depression and substance abuse, is now the sensation of boxing and the heavyweight division.

Kownacki. also has that potential, though he is not a Tyson Fury story.  He does not give that presence of throwing a power right, a punch that placed Deontay Wilder in the talk of an all-time heavyweight great.

But, Kowancki is a draw and has a good story.  Brooklyn has welcomed him with fans and billboards.  Quickly, though, Kownacki, has become a part of that mix in a heavyweight division that has that cast of characters.

“This will be my second time headlining at Barclays Center and having the whole New York community, especially the Polish fans, coming out to support me really feels amazing,” he said. 

He has to push, shove, box, and of course punch. This fight will not be a walkover, more so, the implications for an upcoming title fight are on the line. This is the heavyweight division, and Kownacki, is making it that more interesting.

 He says about his opponent, Helenius (29-3-0) of Finland, “He’s much taller, which poses a new set of challenges. Against Arreola, it was easy to get on the inside. With Helenius’ height, I’m going to have to work behind my double-jab and then let my punches go.”

Yes, that’s the height advantage, 6ft-6 inch. Helenius also brings a 56.25 percent knockout ratio to the ring in 32 bouts.

“He’s very experienced and he’s been in there with a lot of talented fighters,” Kowancki said.  

His opponent, a former European champion, has fought and gone the distance  with Derek Chisora and Dillian Whyte. Both are big time heavyweights.  

“His experience is something I have to be careful with. I’m not looking past him at all,” Kowancki said.   The motivation, again at Barclays Center, will be those fans from his nearby Polish community that will become a third man in the ring. 

Anything is possible. 

But in this new and revived heavyweight division the unexpected  has become normal. 

FOX PBC Fight Night begins at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT and features undefeated heavyweight sensation Efe Ajagba facing former title challenger Razvan Cojanu in the 10-round co-main event and rising heavyweight Frank Sánchez stepping in to face Philadelphia’s Joey Dawejko in the 10-round televised opener.

Viewers can live stream the PBC shows on the FOX Sports and FOX NOW apps or at FOXSports.com. In addition, all programs are available on FOX Sports on SiriusXM channel 83 on satellite radios and on the SiriusXM app.

Tickets are still available at the Barclays Center Box office and ticket outlets.

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The home Run Ball And Back At Short For Gleyber Torres

Gleyber Torres hit his first home run of the spring Saturday afternoon. The Yankees expect a lot of those long balls to be hit as Opening Day awaits in three weeks.  

#25 Gleyber Torres hits a 3 run homer on Feb 29,2020/Neil Miller/The New York Extra /copyright 2020

The home run went to the opposite field in right for three runs. Yes, a spring game and the pitchers at this juncture are still ahead of the hitters but this one was impressive.

And with the Yankees, expected to hit their share of home runs, perhaps without Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton in the Opening Day lineup, the bat of Gleyber Torres will be significant. 

“I don’t think about hits or home runs just winning the World Series,” said the 23-year old shortstop before heading to Tampa last month.

Though entering his third season, Torres has shown the home run ball has become a part of his routine. a natural swing, and it has quickly gained the attention of opposing managers and pitchers.

Simple, when Gleyber Torres comes to the plate the home run ball or hit is expected. He does admit, and says numerous times, “I am still learning and trying to get better.”

And it seems that getting better has come easy. Torres, already a two-time American League All-Star, is one of those Yankees’ “Baby Bombers’ ‘ that grew up fast. Basically, he is expected to produce at the plate and has become a difficult out.

“I want to be better every year,” he said. “Stay healthy is my first thing. Just be focused for the season and do my job to help.”

Last year: 38 home runs, 90 RBI, .871 OPS.  It’s simple, Gleyber Torres is not an easy out. The Yankees are in good hands from the right hand side in a lineup that has few left hand bats.

There has never been any doubts about Torres. He was acquired by the Yankees from the Chicago Cubs along with right-handed pitcher Adam Warren, outfielder Billy McKinney, and outfielder Rashad Crawford in exchange for Aroldis Chapman on July 25, 2016.

The trade, of course, all to the advantage of the Yankees. Chapman, re-acquired, is their outstanding closer. Torres, their future star up the middle in the infield.

And this upcoming season, Torres, goes back to his natural position at shortstop with the departure of Didi Gregorius to the Phillies. Second base, he handled, and for the most part there was that adjustment.

But being back at short in the Bronx, put it this way, that is a homecoming. 

He said, “I’m excited. I’m really comfortable at second base. I learned a lot about that position but I’m back at my position. I feel more comfortable. I don’t feel pressure in anything. I just want to play my game and try to win games.”

His presence in the Yankees clubhouse has grown. Torres, sits by himself, and it has been that way from the beginning. And, he  is not one to shy away from asking questions to some of the veterans that include longtime Yankees outfielder Brett Gardner.

Last season, the two could be seen chatting on the field. In the home clubhouse in the Bronx, Torres, a native of Caracas Venezuela, will chat with Gary Sanchez, and with the many Latino talent that comprise the Yankees roster.

And now in his third year, he is no longer known as a “Baby Bomber.” It’s the long home run balls he has hit out of the yard that have made him a promising part of this Yankees future.

That first spring home run is expected to be one of many more in 2020. His debut in 2018, and Torres became the second player in Yankees history to record at least two multi-home run games before turning 22 years old, joining Joe DiMaggio who had three in 1936.

Then he said, with his ability to speak English well, “ I just go with the pitch. I am never thinking home run ball.”

Last year, there were five multi -home run games, seventh of his young career.  He does have power, also, to all fields.

“ Definitely a big part of our going forward this year,” said manager Aaron Boone who has never had doubts. So Opening Day. at shortstop, Gleyber Torres will be slotted in the lineup.

Multi-home run games in Baltimore? That has become his favorite ballpark, 19 dingers out of Camden Yards last season. And a home run hitting ballpark in the Bronx can also add to his numbers this season.

But it’s not about the numbers. For Gleyber Torres, and the Yankees, It’s all about that one goal and winning the World Series.

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Frazier Looking For Roster Spot As Yankees Look For Results

Tampa-  Clint Frazier is vying for an outfield spot on the Yankees roster and came to camp with that one goal to head north in four weeks. And if he is a part of the Opening Day roster there is every intention of Frazier getting playing time.

Clint Frazier hits a home run in the 1st inning of todays game feb 27,2020/NeilMiller/The New York Extra/copyright 2020

Time may be running out for the 25-year old, though relatively young, he has never shown the potential. Rumors of off-season trade talks the past two years and, Frazier is still wearing pinstripes. 

A fifth round selection in the 2013 MLB draft, Frazier, highly touted, has never lived up to potential for any number of reasons. 

He has the ability and there has never been a doubt about the production.  Frazier is a run producer, has power, and speed. The flaw has been lapses at times  in the outfield. He has always attributed that to mental mistakes.

But with an influx of outfielders on the Yankees 40-man roster, there is no room for mental mistakes.

And there was a concussion that limited his playing time last year. Clint Frazier, as baseball people will tell you, is a ballplayer. The Yankees have to make a decision about that roster spot.

The Grade-A calf strain injury to Giancarlo Stanton, that could open up the door for a roster spot.  Chances are, Stanton, does not rejoin the Yankees anytime soon, four weeks or more, and that rules out Opening Day for the often injured Yankees high priced slugger.

 In late September, as the Yankees prepared their roster for the postseason, the name of Clint Frazier was not there. Because the Yankees have had that influx in the outfield  it has been difficult to show that ability.

And with another season approaching the name of Clint Frazier will come up.  Do the Yankees pull the plug with a trade if there is no opportunity in the Bronx?

Frazier needs that opportunity to play everyday. The Yankees, his home grown team, may not be the answer.

“He’s had some bumps along the way, but I’ve never questioned how hard he’s worked at things,” said manager Aaaron Boone. “I will say there has been a real level of  focus and enthusiasm. Early on, he’s getting good results out of it.”

Thursday afternoon, Frazier, in his first at bat hit a home run. That paved the way for the Yankees in their 7-1 spring game win over the Tampa Bay Rays.  

The home run showed his power.  So does the bat speed that was never an issue. It impressed his manager.

Of course with more playing time this spring, Stanton out of the outfield equation, Aaron Hicks recovery from Tommy John surgery, more power from the right side will make the answer easier for Aaron Boone.

However, consistency has to be the key.  Frazier has never denied that was the issue. He wants to play, stay healthy, and be consistent.

“I still have to finish the camp healthy,” Frazier said. “I still have to go out there and perform and ultimately show them I  might be able to play the position the way they want me to if called upon.”

He will get his looks. Again  playing time and consistency will be the key. Most likely, a roster spot at this point does favor Mike Tauchman. He was the surprise addition last season that came through with a record number of Yankees injuries.

 Miguel Andujar is also getting some looks in left field after missing all last year with surgery to his right shoulder.

J.A.Happ pitches in the 1st inning on 02/27/2020/Neil Miller/The New York Extra/copyright 2020

ON THE MOUND: It’s no secret that J.A. Haap is now a key component to the Yankees pitching rotation with the season ending loss of Luis Severino and minus James Paxton, and Domingo German.

 Severino had successful Tommy John surgery in New York Thursday morning and will miss this season and most of next.

Gerrit Cole pitches on feb 25,2020/Neil Miller/The New York Extra

Haap will follow Gerrit Cole and Masahiro Tanaka in the rotation. 

Thursday, Haap, pitched three innings. One run, two hits, two strikeouts.  11 batters. Rookie Michael King, the Yankees top right-handed prospect would follow and tossed two innings of scoreless ball on two hits.

File photo, Jonathan Loaisiga/Neil Miller/The New York Extra /copyright 2020

Jonathan Loaisiga, 31.2 innings pitched, 4.55 ERA last year, stands the best chance of making the rotation as a possible fifth starter with a void in the Yankees rotation.

Deivi Garcia, the Yankees other top prospect will also get a look and will start Friday against the Braves.

“That’s one of my favorite things about this camp,” said Boone about the young pitching. “The amount of talented young pitchers we have that are starting to knock in that door a little bit.”

Thursday, 25-year old  Loaisiga, allowed no hits,  and struck out four of six. He has also pitched one hit of hitless ball in the first week of spring play.

Though, early,  Loaisiga is making an impression. Boone said the right-hander is in the plan but would not commit on a rotation spot. Again, pitching is a commodity and the Yankees are aware you never have enough.

You get the impression, Loaisiga will have a role.  “It could be some different roles,” Boone said.  

 Haap, more importantly, has to play a role and the Yankees decision  to not trade him this off-season has turned out to be the proper move.

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