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Category: baseball

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

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The Season of the Asterisk Claims Mets Syndegaard Pitcher

ROBBINS NEST

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

By Lenn Robbins

Let’s be honest. This 2020 MLB season, if it’s ever played, is going to come with an asterisk.

If a player gets off to a horrid start, (asterisk!) it’s because spring training was halted, throwing off his rhythm. If a player hits 25 home runs in, say, an 80-game season (asterisk!), fans will wonder if he could have kept up that pace.

Every accomplishment or failure will come with an asterisk: Yankees win the World Series – * season shortened.

It’s a can’t win season. Same with the NBA and NHL and all the other seasons that have been interrupted by this plague known as COVID-19. The season of the asterisk is the tertiary damage of the novel coronavirus.

Years from now, any athlete that misses this season won’t be differentiated from athletes that play.

So, although Mets pitcher Noah Syndegaard will not pitch in 2020 because he needs Tommy John to repair an acutely torn UCL with acute compression of the ulnar nerve, it’s the perfect season to miss. The season with the asterisk.

Don’t be mistaken. This is a sad turn for the Mets pitcher who has teased us with his Viking god-like physical stature and power pitching. It’s a sad turn for the Mets who still might be considered a playoff team but that road just got more daunting.

It’s not as if Syndegaard had a choice. The injury needs surgery and it needs it now. If all goes well, Syndegaard could be back on the mound by June of 2021.

Boston’s Chris Sale also will have Tommy John surgery. According to ESPN’s Jeff Passan, Sale decided to have his surgery now to avoid missing significant time in 2021.

It doesn’t matter. Five, 10 years from now, the empty stat line for Syndegaard and Sale won’t warrant a second glance. This is the season of the asterisk.

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

Mets Fans Know Exactly How Pats Fans Feel Today

ROBBINS NEST

East Rutherford, N.J., Monday, October 21, 2019. Patriots QB Tom Brady looks to pass to tight end Ben Watson, right. (Photo by David L. Pokress,The New York Extra/TheNYExtra.com)

By Lenn Robbins

The beauty and curse of being a sports fan is that you never forget some days.

June 15, 1977. I was working a summer job at a pool club Canarsie when the news began to spread. Unbelievable news in the sense that it simply could not be true. It was unbelievable. Then it became friggin’ unbelievable! And then all sight and sound became a jumbled cacophony. Everything happened in slow awful motion.

The Mets were trading Tom Seaver.

It couldn’t be true.  But that night, there was the most Amazin of Mets crying on television. We cried, too. It was dubbed the Midnight Massacre and surely thousands of Mets fans felt a piece of themselves get killed that night.

Patriots fans woke up Tuesday morning to their own version of The Seaver Nightmare: There will be no Brady sequel.

Brady announced he was ending his 20-year marriage in New England, with Boston, with Patriots Nation. He’s packing up his six Super Bowl rings, four Super Bowl MVP trophies, three NFL MVP awards and deflated balls and heading to where?

Tampa? Some nice beaches for sure, but it pales in comparison to the culture of Beantown and the close-knit community that is New England.

San Diego? Can’t beat the weather but the Chargers have flipped that city the birdie by moving to Inglewood and sharing a stadium with the Rams. Nothing like eight road games and eight neutral site games to end your career.

Chicago? Wonderful second city with an odd attempt at pizza, but if Brady wants to win another ring, the Bears don’t have better weapons than the Patriots. And Chicago’s line was rated 29th in the league in 2019 meaning Brady might want to pack his Cape Cod Beach Chair.

You know what? Who cares?

It doesn’t matter where Tom lands. It’s where Tom is leaving.

Mets fans didn’t care what team their Tom had been traded to. Cincinnati? Where? What? They were despondent that No. 41 would be wearing a different jersey, dazzling another fan base, making hitters look the fool.

Of course, there are differences between their Tom leaving and our Tom leaving although both moves were tied to free agency, the bane of every sports fan everywhere. Never again can fans embrace a player as theirs. Just ask Cavaliers’ fans.

Seaver was already in a brutal, year-long conflict with owner M. Donald Grant over the direction of the team. He was livid the Mets did nothing to improve the roster after a new Collective Bargaining Agreement was reached the previous summer. He wanted to remain a Met but felt he couldn’t under Grant’s penny pinching and elitist attitude.

Brady, knowing a new CBA would likely be reached this year, insisted the Patriots deal he signed last season prevented New England from slapping the franchise tag on him. When the new CBA was approved on Sunday, Brady was a free agent. He wanted to find another home.

In about as brutally timed announcement as imaginable, Brady took to Twitter on a St. Patrick’s Day like never before. Bars and pubs are closed because of Covid-19. There’s not even a place to drown one’s sorrows with other mourners!

You know what? Who cares?

Patriots fans know one brutal truth today – their franchise is done. The Greatest of All Time is leaving. New England is just another team on the NFL map.

Sure, there will be storylines to follow: Is Jarrett Stidham the answer? Is Phillip Rivers a good stopgap for a season or two? Is the replacement in the upcoming draft and will the Pats will make a stunning deal to move up?

You know what? Who cares?

This is not to say we feel bad for New England. Hell no. It just means Mets fans know the feeling that Pats fan are experiencing today. It will never be forgotten. They’ll never forget where they were today. It’s a wound that never heals.

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

COVID-19 CAN STEAL OUR SPORTS BUT NOT OUR SOULS

ROBBINS NEST

By Lenn Robbins/An editorial by The New York Extra,Editor – in- Chief

COVID-19 is a thief.

It has no conscience, no empathy. It will steal the most precious heirlooms – family and health – if we allow it.

Already it has stolen all of our spring conference tournaments, the NBA, the NHL, Spring Training, and pushed back Opening Day, soccer and tennis matches. You name a sporting event, chances are it’s gone for the foreseeable future.

New York, NY. Thursday, March 12, 2020. Big East commissioner Val Ackerman announces the cancellation of the Big East Tournament during halftime of the St. John’s-Creighton game. St. John’s vs. Creighton at Madison Square Garden.

“I’ve got to tell you, it breaks my heart,” Big East commissioner Val Ackerman said Thursday after canceling her conference tournament midway through the St. John’s-Creighton game. “This is the greatest college basketball tournament ever. But we respect the decision of authorities. We’re very mindful about what’s happening nationally. We do not want to be imprudent as it relates to the safety of our participants and our fans.

New York, NY. Thursday, March 12, 2020. Nick Rutherford of St. John’s drives to the basket while defended by Jett Canfield (10) and Mitchell Ballock of Creighton. St. John’s vs. Creighton at Madison Square Garden.

“And it’s terrifying, frankly, what’s evolving here as the science and the assessments of the science are progressing. And I don’t think any of us know what’s going to happen tomorrow.”

We don’t.

It was disheartening to turn on the TV at 7:00 p.m. and not to choose between the ACC and Big East tournaments.

It was jarring to receive texts from my Rutgers students asking what would comprise the midterm exam now that there is no Selection Sunday to cover.

It was surreal walking into my CVS and seeing empty shelves where there had once been five brands of toilet paper.

And yet all of us can be the lucky ones.

As I passed a neighborhood schoolyard, I saw a father and his junior high school aged daughter shooting hoops. A couple of friends played ping pong. A group of grade school kids played pickup basketball. Couples and families and friends strolled to the rhythm of their own laughter.

It is not the fault of COVID-19 that we have been increasingly isolated by the greatest communication tool in history – the Smartphone.

It is not the fault of COVID-19 that streaming has replaced conversation at the dinner table.

It is not the fault of COVID-19 that texting is replacing talking as the favorite means of communication for teenagers.

COVID-19 can push us further apart or we choose to draw closer together.

We can mourn the loss of sports, or we can try to help low-wage workers whose income is dependent on taking tickets or serving hot dogs or cleaning arenas.

We can mourn a spring without NCAA and conference tournaments, or we can support all of the seniors who will miss a chance to make a priceless memorial.

We can the mourn the possibility that we might have witnessed the end of some of our favorite professional athlete’s career or we can hold on to the memory of the joy they provided.

This is what we can make sure COVID-19 doesn’t take. As social animals, we need each other. We need compassion and empathy. We might not be able to congregate in large numbers but we can offer large and open hearts.

Many around the world have lost friends and family. COVID-19 will take more lives. It will take more sports. But it can’t take our souls. That’s worth any sacrifice we have to make.

Aaron Judge’s Rib Injury is a Concern of Biblical Proportions

ROBBINS NEST

By Lenn Robbins

The troubling part of great expectations is the slow dissent into the possibility of greater disappointment.

06/18/19 Norfolk Tides Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders at PNC Park Wilkes Barre Scranton Pa Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders right fielder Aaron Judge #99 at batting practice/Neil Miller/The New York extra/copyright 2020

Friday was another day of disappointment for the Yankees with news that Aaron Judge has a stress fracture of the first right rib. Manager Aaron Boone told reporters in Tampa that surgery is not off the table.

Let’s consider where the Yankees were in mid-December and where they are now:

Gerrit Cole/Neil Miller/The New York Extra

They had just signed Gerrit Cole away from the Houston  Astros, giving them an ace of aces, a Game 1 starter, a losing skid ender, a pitcher who possesses a $324 million arm and a master brain. The one glaring hole in their championship plan had been filled in extraordinary fashion.

Meanwhile, their top contender in the AL, those same Astros, were exposed as low life cheaters. Although no players were penalized, the pressure Houston will face every day of the season could break them by the All-Star break.

The Boston Red Sox came to the realization that any franchise that tries to go dollar for dollar with the Yankees does so at its own financial peril. They traded Mookie Betts and David Price to the Dodgers.

It was as if the highway to the World Series contained one Heavyweight Occupation Lane for the Yankees and the rest of the AL can get jammed up on the rest of the road. (The Dodgers their owns lane in the National League).

Now suddenly the Yankee’s express lane is starting to look like the Cross Bronx Expressway with a pothole here a stalled car there and an 18-wheeler belching more smoke than a coal plant.

James Paxton needed back surgery. Luis Severino underwent Tommy John surgery. Giancarlo Stanton got injured – again. This time a calf muscle.

Now Judge might have to have surgery and lose that rib. He’s on the brink of going from Aaron to Adam in what could turn out to be a disappointing season of biblical proportions for Judge and the Yankees.

Opening Day is three weeks away. Is Disappointment Day that far behind?

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.

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

Jordan Rules: Montgomery Filling the Pitching Void

By Lenn Robbins

File photo /NeilMiller/ The New York Extra/copyright 2020

When the Yankees opened the vault and gave Gerrit Cole a $324 million deal, they all but took out an LCD billboard in Times Square: Title No. 28, No Excuses.

Even after learning that Jim Paxton would miss at least the first two months of the season after undergoing a micro discectomy to remove a lower back cyst, and losing Luis Severino for the season to Tommy John surgery, manager Aaron Boone didn’t blink.

“I don’t want to sugarcoat the fact that being without Sevy, that’s a blow, but it doesn’t change our expectations and what we’re truly capable of,” Boone told reporters recently. “So, no, nothing changes.”

It may not if Jordan Montgomery pitches as he has this preseason.

Montgomery, who won the No.5 starter spot in 2017 only to lose most of 2018 and ’19 to the knife, struck out four and allowed just one hit in two innings against the Red Sox. He struck out three and walked one in his first preseason outing.

“I’ll treat it like 2017,” Montgomery told reporters about how he’s approaching this preseason. “I’ll do my best to compete. Things always happen, so the more arms you have the better. I’ve got to be ready.

“I just want to pitch and be healthy. Whatever the Yankees need, I’ll bring something to the table. I had a normal offseason, finally. Good to get home and just work out and throw. I feel pretty strong right now. It’s good to have a new arm.’’

The old one wasn’t too bad. He went 9-7 in 2017 with a 3.88.

 Unlike 2017, Montgomery has the added confidence of having done it in 2017 and returning to the mound at the end of last season. At 6-foot-6, 228 pounds, Montgomery is mostly a curveball/slider pitcher but he hit 94 on the radar gun in his first Grapefruit League game.

“I think he has proven himself at this level. For him to get back last year was big, just for his frame of mind,’’ Boone said. “The fact he was able to make it back and get some work done, get into some games, I think was big for him and his mindset moving forward.’’

With Paxton and Severino out, Montgomery’s arm could big for the Yankees.