Devils Turn Plentiful Cap Space Into Second Round Draft Pick

Ray Shero still hasn’t made a single move I don’t like. The GM of the Devils just keeps impressing as he goes about fixing the mess that was left for him. Today he traded minor leaguers Graham Black and Paul Thompson to the Florida Panthers for 38-year-old Marc Savard and a second round draft pick in 2018. On its surface, the trade may seem a little odd seeing as Savard hasn’t played an NHL game since the 2010-2011 season. You’re reading that correct. The Devils just traded for a guy that hasn’t played in five years???? And it’s a good trade?????

Yes. It’s not just a good trade, it’s a brilliant trade. Let me explain. The Panthers want to add salary this season so they can hopefully make a deeper run in the playoffs than the first round exit they suffered this past season. They wanted to get rid of Savard’s $4M cap hit for this season so they could use it on a player that can actually help on the ice. In order to do so, they sent along a second round pick. It’s a very common practice for teams to trade draft picks along with “useless” big money contracts to teams that have a lot of cap space and need the picks to help along their rebuild.

You may be asking is it really worth it for the Devils to take on that $4M of cap space for a second round pick. Yes. A thousand times yes. Not only do the Devils need every draft pick they can accumulate, but they have loads and loads of cap space to work with this offseason. After this deal, the Devils have roughly $27.8M of cap space to use in a summer where there aren’t many big free agents to spend on anyway. This trade doesn’t hurt their ability to sign anyone at all. In actuality, it helps their ability to get a player this summer by adding another draft pick to Shero’s trade arsenal.

The Devils also aren’t even paying $4M to Marc Savard as his actual salary for this upcoming season is only $575K. So in terms of real money, the Devils actually saved a bit because Black and Thompson make a combined $1.225M. Shero also saved money because the Devils are below the cap floor. If you’re not familiar with the cap floor, NHL teams are required to spend a certain amount of the salary cap every season. Before the trade, the Devils were about $13M under the floor. By adding Savard’s contract, they’re now ~$9M under the floor. The Devils have to spend that money no matter what. What better way to “spend” $4M than by acquiring a guy that only makes $575K? It’s genius.

Now, for argument’s sake, let’s say the Devils somehow spend another $27M this summer and have virtually no cap space during the season. They will still be able to move Savard’s contract as well as Ryane Clowe’s to LTIR (long term injured reserve) where contract’s cap hits don’t count toward the overall team’s. Savard and Clowe’s contracts combined are almost $9M so Ray Shero could easily make plenty of cap space appear during the season if he were so inclined. If you want to look at it that way, the Devils really have about $36M of cap space to use up by the trade deadline.

This is one of those trades that’s a win for both teams. Florida gets rid of dead cap and the Devils pick up a very valuable draft pick. If Pavel Datsyuk does go home to Russia and leaves the Red Wings with his $7.5M cap hit, look for Detroit to make a similar deal.

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Rob Refsnyder Needs to be a Main Fixture in the Lineup

I’ll make this as simple as I possibly can: Rob Refsnyder needs to play every day. There’s just something about this kid that sparks the offense and we all know the Yankees desperately need that. This season has been abysmal for an offense that was second in runs scored last season and seemingly got even better in the offseason. However 2016 has been a nightmare for many players such as Mark Teixeira, Brett Gardner and Alex Rodriguez among others. Coming into the game tonight, the offense had mustered just five runs in the last four games.

Tonight they scored five in nine innings – actually two innings – and you can thank one man for the offensive outburst. His name is Rob Refsnyder. The night didn’t start out promising as the Yankees were held hitless for five innings and it looked like it was going to be just another one of those nights. Then Refsnyder stepped to the plate in the top of the sixth and ripped a leadoff double to left center. He would later come around to score on a sac fly and tie the game.

In the seventh, ARod and Chase Headley led the inning off with a pair of singles. After Austin Romine failed to lay down a sacrifice bunt, Refsnyder stepped to the plate again and ripped a ribbie single to left to give the Yankees a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. Aaron Hicks and Jacoby Ellsbury followed suit with RBI hits and the offense was alive and cooking. Five runs and eight hits for a team that can’t buy any right now is huge.

The headline of the game will be Michael Pineda, and deservedly so. Pineda was terrific going 5.2 innings, giving up one run and striking out eight. Coming into the game with a 6.92 ERA, his job was on the line and he answered the call in a big way. However, Pineda’s start would’ve been for naught if it wasn’t for the bat of Rob Refsnyder. The 25-year-old is a natural hitter and needs to be in the lineup every day. He’s 4-10 this year with three doubles and three RBI. He’s over .300 in his limited career. The kid can flat out hit.

Here’s the one problem… where exactly does he play? It’s great to say Refsnyder needs to be in the lineup every day but he needs to have a position. An easy answer would be to DH him, which would be perfect if it wasn’t for ARod and Carlos Beltran taking up all those at bats. Seeing as he has to play the field and he has a below-average glove, there’s no obvious answer.

My suggestion is to use him like a Brock Holt or a Ben Zobrist. Play him in right field on days Beltran DHs for ARod. Left field on days Gardner rests against lefties. Second base (with Castro at short) when Didi gets a day off against a lefty. Third base when Headley needs a day. First base when Tex is off, or even to just bench him if he doesn’t start hitting similar to Gardner. It’s not ideal because he’s not a proven defender at really any position, but his bat is simply too potent right now not to play. With the offense mired in a season-long slump, you have to put him in the lineup. It’s worth it to take a slight hit on defense for a much needed infusion of offense. Plus, you can always take him out late in the game for defense like they did tonight.

That being said, HOLY DEFENSE DIDI GREGORIUS!! Didi saved the game with his defense tonight. That throw home to end the eighth and the double play turned with Starlin Castro in the ninth were things of beauty.

Joe, play Refsnyder. Every day. That is all.

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Joe Girardi is Overworking His Bullpen for No Reason

At this rate, the Yankee bullpen is going to be burned out by Independence Day. Ever since Aroldis Chapman returned from his suspension, Joe Girardi has gone to his Big 3 of Chapman, Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances over and over and over again. I mean hey, if you got the horses then let them run. What’s the point of having the best bullpen trio in baseball if you don’t use them, right? On the surface it makes sense, but if you’ve watched the last two games then I don’t know how you can agree with the way Girardi has managed his bullpen.

Wednesday night, Nathan Eovaldi pitched one of the best – if not the best games of his life. He gave up a fluke double to start off the game and then went on to retire the next 18 batters in a row. You heard that correctly. 18 straight D-Backs retired and they didn’t even come close to hitting him. Eovaldi stood at 85 pitches after six and there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that he was coming out for the seventh. Ha ha ha, guess again. Girardi decided to call on Betances for no reason and the big man needed 31 pitches to work around a pair of walks. Sure he didn’t give up a run and the Yankees ended up winning the game, but it was such panicky managing that it didn’t even feel enjoyable.

Fast forward to tonight and Ivan Nova is on the bump. Nova, who recently returned to the rotation after some injuries, has been pitching well and this game was no exception. Nova threw six terrific innings with the only blemish coming on a Josh Reddick home run. One run in six innings while throwing just 62 pitches? GOTTA GO TO THE BULLPEN AGAIN. Are. You. Kidding. Me? Even the Yankees’ beat writers lost it and starting roasting Girardi for his absurd move.

Go through his tweets, there are some gems there. I have so much respect for Mark Feinsand for saying what all of us fans feel. There is no way you can justify taking Nova out at 62 pitches when he’s cruising. This isn’t a World Series game or a must-win game in September. It’s the middle of May and Girardi is managing like it’s an elimination game.

What’s so annoying is that the Yankees have two serious issues when it comes to their pitching staff: lack of length from starters and an overworked bullpen. Sure sometimes the starters are ineffective and the bullpen needs to be leaned on, but many times those two issues are directly from Joe Girardi making some of the most questionable moves I’ve ever seen.

All we heard all Spring was how Girardi wanted to avoid using the Big 3 in the same game as much as possible to ensure at least one was always available. That makes sense. Sometimes you’ll use all three when necessary, but avoid it when it’s not. However, when you’re in last place you panic and completely go off the rails. You take out a pair of starters who are dealing without a worry in the world and go to the big boys in the pen. In the last six games, Girardi has used the Big 3 in the same game FOUR times. FOUR. Two of those games they were all needed, but the last two they weren’t. You could’ve gotten through last night by using one or two and the same could probably be said about tonight’s game.

Why is it such a big deal aside from the obvious side effect of burning them out? Well Girardi has a rule where pitchers can’t pitch three days in a row. I personally like the rule, although I think there are times when it should be broken, but I digress. Anyway by using the Big 3 on back-t0-back nights, now none of them (maybe, MAYBE one if it’s crucial) are available tomorrow. Going into a game knowing half your bullpen is unavailable is terrible, especially when it could have easily been avoided.

CC Sabathia is starting tomorrow, coming off the DL, and he has trouble going past six innings. That’s the kind of game you’d love to have your big relivers available. Thanks to Girardi, presumably none of them will be. I’m all for winning today and worrying about tomorrow, tomorrow… but when you panic like crazy to win today and totally dismiss tomorrow, that’s where you lose me. Girardi has been managing this way for years and frankly I’m sick of it.

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NBC Drops Ball with Coverage of Tim Howard’s Final Everton Match

Over the last few years, NBC’s coverage of the Barclays Premier League has grown exponentially. As interest in English football here in the United States grew, EPL coverage followed suit. Now not only do you get the regular games on NBCSN and NBC, but USA Network also airs matches in the 10:00 AM slot when most of the week’s schedule takes place. And if you team’s match isn’t on one of those channels, you can always watch the games on the NBC Sports Live Extra app. It’s pretty impossible to not be able to watch a game… or so I thought.

Today is the final day of the 2015-2016 season and as is the new norm for NBC and its family of channels, they air every single match live on TV. Every. Single. One. Ten matches, ten channels, twenty teams. It really is a fantastic way to end the season, except if you’re an Everton or Norwich City supporter. That match was put on Esquire Network which I came to find out I do not have. As it turns out, many people don’t have the channel and those that do only have it in standard definition. Maybe it’s different for other cable subscribers but for DirecTV customers there’s nothing that can be done. You can’t even get access on the online app because the channel is not supported.

Normally I wouldn’t mind Everton and Norwich City being on an obscure channel that nobody gets, but today is different. In an absolutely dreadful season supporting Everton, this was the one match I was looking forward to. Today is Tim Howard’s final appearance for the Blues after ten terrific seasons with the club. As an American who only got into soccer within the last decade, Tim Howard is the reason I became an Everton fan. The star keeper for the United States Men’s National Team played in England? I knew that was the club I wanted to support. And I wasn’t able to watch his final match.

I’m sure I’m not the only one. Even though Howard has declined in recent years, he’s still the #1 keeper for the USMNT and has a huge following here in the States. Everton supporter or not, those here in the USA would’ve loved to watch Timmy’s final hoorah in blue. That’s why I don’t understand why the match was put on an obscure network to begin with. Sure the match means nothing, but it means everything to those here in America. Not saying the match should’ve been on NBC, but at least SyFy or E!

To make matters even worse, as if that was possible, NBC’s execs were given a second chance. The Manchester United/Bournemouth match that was set to air on NBCSN was postponed. All they had to do was slide Everton/Norwich City to the now vacant channel and all would’ve been forgiven. However, they decided to put on the Manchester City/Swansea match that is already airing on NBC. People with the most basic of cable get NBC. Why does the same match need to be on the two most popular channels when one match can’t even be viewed by most of the fans?

NBC, your EPL coverage is usually spot on, but you dropped the ball on this one… big time.

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Yankees Waste Tanaka’s Gem with Putrid Offense and Bad Managing

It’s not what you want. Just when you think the Yankees might turn a corner, they go and waste an absolute gem from their ace and lose 1-0 to the Orioles in ten innings. After CC Sabathia’s terrific outing last night, Masahiro Tanaka followed suit throwing eight shutout innings with seven strikeouts. Tanaka was so dominant, he didn’t allow a runner past second base all night. He now has a 2.29 ERA to go with his 1-0 record. Tanaka hasn’t allowed more than two runs in any start this season and yet he has just one win. That tells you just how pathetic the offense has been.

When you get eight shutout innings from your starter, you better win that game. That’s exactly what the Orioles did. The Yankees decided to throw it away. Baltimore’s starter Kevin Gausman was terrific as well tonight, but the Yankees had their chances. In the third inning, Starlin Castro hit a leadoff double and then moved to third on a flyball. Runner on third, less than two outs: the Yankees’ weakness. Mark Teixeira grounded out to first and Carlos Beltran popped up. Yet another wasted chance in a game where one little run gets you a win. Then in the ninth inning, Castro is at second with two outs and Brian McCann at the plate. What happens? Castro gets picked off. Inability to score runners and bonehead mistakes. This is what Yankee baseball is right now, sadly.

Off to the bottom of the ninth we go and Dellin Betances enters. Tanaka was at 102 pitches. Bringing in Dellin was a no-brainer. After walking Mark Trumbo, Matt Wieters sent a towering fly to right field. Novice right fielder Dustin Ackley made one of the plays of the year as he leaped high against the wall and robbed what would’ve likely been a game-winning double. He then doubled off the runner at first and ended the inning. At this moment, I was thinking maybe this is the play that sparks the guys and really turns this thing around. Nope.

It’s no secret I’m not a fan of Joe Girardi as a manager. I disagree with him all the time and hate his managerial style. Tonight he got ejected in the fourth inning arguing with the umpire over a balk of all things. I looked at replays and I didn’t see a balk so I have no idea why he was so irate. The frustration finally boiled over and he would manage the rest of the game from the clubhouse. Bench coach Rob Thomson took over in the dugout and eventually it was their decision-making that would cost the Yankees the game.

First off, why the heck is Chase Headley pinch-hitting for Ronald Torreyes to leadoff the ninth inning? Headley is hitting a buck fifty with ZERO extra base hits this season and has looked lost at the plate. Torreyes meanwhile has hit well in his limited playing time and is a great candidate to get a single and start the inning off well. Instead Headley hits a weak grounder to second on the first pitch. That move made absolutely no sense whatsoever. However, it was the second bad decision that would ultimately doom them.

Girardi and/or Thomson decided to bring out Johnny Barbato to start the bottom of the tenth. Ummmm? I like Barbato but you do know you have Andrew Miller and his 0.00 ERA in your bullpen right? Girardi said he wanted to save Miller for a lead. Ya. How’d that work out for you? After Barbato allowed a pair of singles to start the inning, they went to Miller anyway. Just have him start the inning. Who cares if you bring your closer in for a tie game on the road? Better than losing the game…

Or why not just leave in Betances who threw six pitches last night and only ten in the ninth inning? According to Girardi’s “can’t pitch three days in a row” rule, Betances is likely unavailable tomorrow. 16 pitches in two days, not bringing him back out for another inning and probably won’t pitch tomorrow. Just brilliant. I’ve avoided blaming Girardi this season because he isn’t the one failing to get hits with RISP or the one with a bloated ERA, but tonight was unacceptable. That was horrific managing and sadly it’s nowhere near the first time that’s happened.

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The Yankees Will Turn This Season Around

It’s May 5th and the New York Yankees are 9-16, six games back of the first place Boston Red Sox and sitting in the cellar of the AL East. Safe to say things are not good in the Bronx, but I’m optimistic they will turn it around. The team is simply too talented and too experienced not to. There’s always a chance that this season is a blip in the radar and the Yankees just happen to have a bad year. They haven’t been under .500 in 24 years so perhaps they’re due for a stinker. However, I truly don’t believe they’re as bad as they’ve been for the first month of the season.

It’s been such a weird month so far for the Yankees because they looked like an absolute powerhouse the first series of the season. They lost the opener to Dallas Keuchel and the Astros with the help of a fluky play in the 8th inning but then scored 24 runs the next two games to take the series. Then they split two games in Detroit, getting shutout in one but scoring eight in the other. So the Yankees scored 35 runs in the first five games – seven runs a game, which is fantastic. The next 20 games? They scored 54 runs, or 2.7 a game. That is beyond atrocious. Unless you have a starting rotation like the Mets do, you’ll never survive scoring less than three runs a game.

Why am I not concerned about the offensive struggles? Because the biggest issue with the team is their inability to hit with runners in scoring position. Entering last night, they were hitting .201 with RISP which was dead last in the league. The Yankees get runners on base alllllll the damn time, but they simply cannot get them home. A lot of the time they have a runner on third with less than two outs, which just takes a productive out and they still cannot score the run. At some point, that has to turn around. As I said, there’s too much talent and experience for this team to keep failing in those situations.

I’m hoping that last night’s seven run outburst in Baltimore was a sign of things to come. They did score seven runs in Boston on Sunday night as well, but last night felt different; they did it without home runs. Entering the top of the sixth, the Yankees had one hit – a leadoff double by Jacoby Ellsbury – but that was about to change. The offense finally woke up in a big way. Ellsbury knocked a one-out single and then promptly stole second. Brett Gardner followed up with a single to set up men on the corners. Carlos Beltran hit a sac fly to center to plate Ellsbury. After a Mark Teixeira walk, Brian McCann ripped a two-out two-RBI double down the line. Beautiful, clutch, productive baseball.

We all know the Yankees live and die with home runs, but that is the kind of rally they need to survive. Home runs will always be a part of this team… stringing together singles, walks, productive outs and clutch hits with RISP needs to be as well. When the Yankees go cold, it’s because their power is in short supply. If they focused more on hitting the ball the other way and keeping the line moving instead of always trying to mash a three-run homer, the offense would be much more consistent. That inning last night was very similar to the one they had in Game 2 of the season and something that I want to see more of. Home runs are fun, but a rally where everybody chips in is even better.

Not to be lost in last night’s offensive awakening was the performance of CC Sabathia who was spectacular! Seven shutout innings against a team that hit him well even in his best days in a ballpark that gives him fits. CC was lights out and has actually been the second best starter this season behind the team ace Masahiro Tanaka. CC now has a 3.81 ERA which every fan, player and coach would sign up for and is second behind Tanaka’s 2.87 mark.

This is why I’m optimistic. CC and Tanaka have been terrific while Nathan Eovaldi, Luis Severino and Michael Pineda for the most part have not. Eovaldi had a dazzler in Texas and Severino looked better on Tuesday, but those three all need to step it up… which I believe they will. Larry Rothschild is too good of a pitching coach to let their struggles linger for much longer. Pineda has a career 3.81 ERA. Severino was brilliant last season when he came up. Eovaldi in the second half was one of the best pitchers on the team. They will turn it around, I have faith. Those high six ERAs will not last. They just can’t.

As far as the bullpen is concerned, aside from Dellin Betances’ hellish week – that only the most fickle of fans turned on him for – they have been stellar. Have I mentioned that Aroldis Chapman returns in four days? Yeah, that’s happening. Talk about a spark plug. Andrew Miller, Betances and Chapman are going to be soooooo much fun late in games.

Yankees fans, take a deep breath. The team has been really, really bad this season. There’s no denying it. But for the most part they are beating themselves with dumb mistakes and just overall bad baseball. That is the easiest thing in the sport to fix. Slumps will end, poor starts will end, a reliever’s bad week will end. Losing happens. I’ll never be mad at a team for getting beat. What upsets me is when they sabotage themselves. If the Yankees just clean up their act and start playing the game the right way, they’ll be back where they’re supposed to be.

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New York Jets Address Many Needs with 2016 Draft

I’m certainly no NFL Draft guru nor do I pretend to be one, but I was very happy with how GM Mike Maccagnan and HC Todd Bowles drafted over the last three days. Both Macc and Bowles are in their second season at the helm of the New York Jets after a very promising first year. Although the Jets did not make the playoffs, they finished 10-6 and came within one game of the postseason. Many young players made big improvements and the veterans gelled really well.

Last year, Maccagnan made his two best moves with draft picks… although neither was actually a draftee. He used a fifth round pick to grab Brandon Marshall from Chicago while using a sixth round pick to pick up Ryan Fitzpatrick from Houston. Both players had historic seasons for the franchise and were two of the biggest reasons the Jets were on the cusp of the postseason. This year Macc made another key move trading away a fifth round pick for left tackle Ryan Clady from Denver. After the retirement of D’Brickashaw Ferguson, the Jets had a gaping hole on the line and the addition of Clady will hopefully fill it. Only time will tell if this move works out as well as the other two did, but it’s a terrific gamble either way.

As for the 2016 Draft class, here is who the Jets added:

  • 1st round, Darron Lee, ILB/OLB, Ohio State
  • 2nd round, Christian Hackenberg, QB, Penn State
  • 3rd round, Jordan Jenkins, OLB, Georgia
  • 4th round, Juston Burris, CB, North Carolina State
  • 5th round, Brandon Shell, OT, South Carolina
  • 7th round, Lachlan Edwards, P, Sam Houston State
  • 7th round, Charone Peake, WR, Clemson

Mike Maccagnan picked up three defenders, three players on offense and a special teamer. That’s some nice balance while addressing multiple areas of need. Everyone was hoping the offensive line would be helped, which it will with the Shell pick. I’m very optimistic about this pick because of what the Jets gave up to get him. They traded a fourth round pick in 2017 to draft Shell in the fifth round. On paper that’s silly, but Macc explained that they were considering drafting Shell in the fourth round but chose Burris instead. When he slipped to round five, they felt it was worth moving next year’s fourth. It makes sense to me. You get a guy you are high on, for this season, and it cost you a pick in the round you valued the player at.

While the pick of Shell doesn’t solve the offensive line questions, it does help. Now while the O-line could certainly use more upgrades, it was nowhere near as bad as the linebacking corps was heading into the draft. David Harris is as solid as they come, but he’s also getting up there in age. Erin Henderson and Bruce Carter are nice players and Lorenzo Mauldin just started coming into his own at the end of his rookie season. It was clear though that the Jets really needed to address this group and they did with the picks of Lee and Jenkins. What’s nice about these picks is that they are versatile linebackers who each bring something different to the table. Lee is known for his sideline-to-sideline speed, which lawd knows the Jets could use, while Jenkins is more of a physical presence. Although neither is known as a pure pass rusher, something the Jets still would love to add, both will definitely help out in all situations. Here’s to hoping these guys know how to cover running backs and tight ends!

The other player the Jets added on defense, Juston Burris, will step right in and compete with the other corners on the roster. I didn’t feel the Jets needed to add another corner to the mix, but I’m sure he was one of the best players available on their board so it’s still a solid pick. Darrelle Revis is still Darrelle Revis, just maybe a step slower. Marcus Williams had a breakout season and Buster Skrine was terrific as well. That’s the starting three corners at the moment, and it’s a pretty good group. After that however there’s a ton of competition. Dexter McDougle (3rd round, 2014) and Dee Milliner (1st round, 2013) both need to show something this season. Both have dealt with injuries, but you can see the talent that is there if they can find a way to stay on the field. Competition is never a bad thing and the Jets have six good to great corners to battle with each other on a daily basis.

Not often do seventh round picks get you excited, but this year is different. I may be more excited about the two guys the Jets grabbed at the very end more than anyone else. The wide receiver they drafted with their last selection had a round three projection with 4.37 speed. FOUR THREE SEVEN. That’s blazinggggg. Put him on one side and Devin Smith on the other and watch them goooooo! At the very least he should definitely help out on special teams coverage when our new punter (THANK GOD) blasts the ball down the field. I could not take anymore 25 yard kicks with no hang time. Could. Not. Take. Anymore. Just watch this Aussie kick. It’s a thing of beauty.

Is that 80 yards with six seconds of hang time??????? CAN’T WAIT.

Last but not least, Christian Hackenberg. Everyone has their opinion on the quarterback, but I’ll reserve judgement until we see him out on the field – with a sturdy offensive line and some serious weapons around him. This article from Brian Costello (@BrianCoz) of the New York Post highlights just how hard Hackenberg worked to prepare himself for the NFL. If I had any doubts, they’re gone after reading that. Maybe he won’t ever live up to his potential or draft position, but it won’t be because he didn’t work hard enough. I’m already impressed. Give him a season or two to learn from Ryan Fitzpatrick – come home Fitzy – and the sky is the limit.

Mike Maccagnan and Todd Bowles have given me no reason to doubt them. I love everything they do and the things they say to back up those moves. Is it September yet?

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Banning Shifts in Baseball is Unnecessary

This past week Yankees manager Joe Girardi said that he would ban infield shifts if he were the commish. When I first heard his comments it didn’t make much sense to me. Girardi just said he wants to get rid of shifts, but the Yankees are one of the teams that uses them the most? Something isn’t adding up there. His defense of that confusion was that he’s going to use them as long as they’re legal but he wishes they weren’t. So maybe he thinks they’re extremely effective, just maybe too effective?

Jared Diamond, the Yankees writer for the Wall Street Journal, dove into this topic with an article on how shifts are killing the Yankees on both sides of the ball. In his article he notes how the Yankees use shifts the fourth most out of any team in baseball but have the third worst batting average against in those situations. On offense it’s just as bad if not worse as the Yankees get shifted against more than any other team and they hit a horrific .193 against them. So shifts aren’t preventing hits for the Yankees, just against them. It’s clear why Girardi hates them when they do nothing but hurt the team.

That being said, I still don’t really get his frustration with shifting. It’s not like shifts are illegal in any way or that they’re impossible to beat. If your defense is getting burned by shifting… then maybe don’t shift as much? If your offense is getting defeated by shifts… then maybe hit the ball the other way or bunt? It’s not rocket science.

The Yankees have a roster full of players who are dead pull hitters. Mark Teixeira is probably the most pull-heavy hitter on the team especially when he’s hitting left-handed. Tex is always looking to hook the ball to right field, which is fine in the right situations. Tex, Brian McCann, Alex Rodriguez, Carlos Beltran and so on are paid to hit home runs. Nobody wants them to bunt every time up and hit a bunch of singles for six months, but something has to give.

For me, it’s all about the situations. If the count is 2-0 and it’s early in the game, by all means look for something to pull over the fence. However if it’s a bad count such as 0-2 or it’s late in the game and the Yankees are down by two with nobody on, why not poke one the other way and take the FREE HIT. Teams are basically saying “here is a FREE BASE” and the Yankees refuse to take it. I don’t buy the excuse that players can’t hit the ball the other way for one second. If the situation is right, go the other way, take the hit and get a rally going instead of relying on home run after home run.

If a player who gets constantly shifted against would take the free single one time a week – one measly at bat – his average would skyrocket. Let’s just say a player gets 600 at bats a season or about 100 per month. If a player were to get 150 hits on the season, he would have a .250 batting average which is nothing special. If that player added a free hit even three times a month – about 18 more hits a season – his average would jump up to .280 which is very respectable. Thirty points added to a batting average by beating the shift just three times a month which is even less than the once a week I advocate for. 18 at bats a season in the right situations help out both your average and the team. There’s no reason players should continue to be stubborn and try to hit through or over the shift in every moment.

So no Girardi I don’t agree with you about banning shifts. They are a great tool when used properly; the Yankees just don’t use them the right ways. It’s not necessary to shift against every single batter and it’s also not necessary to try and pull every pitch thrown to you. Other teams have figured out how to beat the Yankees’ shifts, why can’t the Yankees adjust as well?

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Patrik Elias, Devils Cap 2015-2016 Season in the Most Perfect Way

Coming into the season, nobody expected the Devils to be any good. Most had them in the bottom five in the NHL. A few eternal optimists thought they could grab a wild card spot and make the playoffs for the first time since the 2011-2012 season. Well, none of that happened. The Devils fought hard all year but came up just a little bit short. In the end, they did miss the playoffs for a fourth consecutive season however this year had a different feel to it. With a new regime in place as well as some new impact players, along came new hope and ambition. Any year you don’t lift Lord Stanley’s Cup is a disappointment on some level, but the Devils took large steps to building something special this year. It took 78 games to eliminate them which is mighty impressive considering where they were pegged to finish. I’m so proud of the way this team battled all season long and cannot wait to see what Ray Shero, John Hynes and the rest of the organization has in store for us next year.

IMG_0757As I mentioned, no the Devils did not make the playoffs… but wow did they end the season in style. On the surface it was just meaningless game #82 against the Toronto Maple Leafs, but deep down there was so much importance to it. To start things off it was the NHL debut for three of the Devils’ top prospects. Center Pavel Zacha, the #6 overall selection in the past draft and the team’s top overall prospect, was called up after his Sarnia Sting were eliminated from the OHL playoffs. Defenseman Steve Santini (2nd round, 2013) and left wing Miles Wood (4th round, 2013) were both signed on Friday after Boston College was beaten by Quinnipiac in the Frozen Four. Nobody ever wants to lose in the playoffs, but those losses did allow this final Devils game to be extremely memorable for all involved.

IMG_0744All three debutants played really well, but it was Zacha who stole the show. He was on a line with Czech countryman and Devils legend Patrik Elias as well as new fan favorite Devante Smith-Pelly and maaaaan did that line do some damage. Zacha and Elias had immediate chemistry creating chance after chance in the first period. Halfway through the first, Zacha would pick up his first NHL point as he won a faceoff and poked the puck to DSP who swatted it into the net. If that was the only thing to happen last night, that would’ve been plenty of excitement. However the Devils had more in store for their devoted fans.

IMG_0753Entering the final contest of the season, the Devils had a pair of players on the cusp of 30 goals. Kyle Palmieri had been stuck on 29 for what seemed like the longest time and Adam Henrique was sitting at 28. Everybody was hoping like hell that at least one of them could hit the magic number. In the second period, Henrique knocked in the rebound of an Adam Larsson point shot for his 29th – also assisted by Elias, yay. Then moments later he would take a feed from Tuomo Ruutu (his first point of the season) and backhand it home for the big three zero. It was awesome, but they weren’t even close to being done. IMG_0761As the clock was winding down in the third, the Maple Leafs pulled their goalie and left the window open for Palmieri to net his 30th as well and that’s exactly what he did. Zacha and Elias worked hard to set up Palms and you could see the relief on his face. Seeing both Adam and Kyle get to 30 in the final game of the season was just fantastic.

IMG_0768BUT THAT’S NOT ALL FOLKS. I know what you’re thinking. “There’s more???” Oh yes there is! The only way the game could get better was if Patrik Elias was able to grab a goal. Nobody, not even Patty, knows if he will be coming back next season or what his future holds. This game could very well have been Elias’ final NHL game or final game as a Devil. It was only fitting that Palmieri stripped the puck behind the Leaf net and found Elias all alone in front with 16 seconds left. The puck hit the twine and the sold out Prudential Center went nuts. Our hero, our legend, our own Patrik Elias just scored to cap off the season and perhaps his Hall of Fame career. Naturally he was the first star of the game and the crowd serenaded him with chants of “Patty!” and “One More Year!” It’s clear the fans want him back and he wants to return if he’s healthy. Make it happen Shero.

IMG_0740Lost in all the frenzy was a real touching tribute to former general manager Lou Lamoriello to which he got a standing ovation and a chorus of “LOUUUUU” which is only fitting. Jersey will always love ya Lou. Cory Schneider also set his career high in wins (27) with the victory which was nice to see. Cory was a rock all season and there’s no doubt he’ll set another career high next year.

It was the perfect ending to a fun regular season. Paying homage to the past while getting a glimpse of the future. Next year should be even better. One more year, Patty. One more year.

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Maybe Don’t Rest Your 3, 5 & 6 Hitters in the Same Game?

After the Yankees scored 24 runs the last two days in a pair of victories over the Astros, they were feeling pretty powerful heading into their clash with the Tigers. That is until they saw the lineup that was posted. Instead of the same nine that started the last two games, there was a severe shake-up in the heart of the order. Instead of the familiar 3-6 of Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann the manager decided to give three of them the day off. The other, Teixeira, was the DH giving him half a day off.

It’s no coincidence that the Yankees were easily dominated by Jordan Zimmermann who allowed just two singles and three walks over seven shutout innings. Zimmermann is an extremely good pitcher, but he wasn’t facing nearly a full lineup today as the Tigers took care of the Yankees with a 4-0 victory. The Yankees managing just three measly singles in nine innings is pathetic on its own, but even more sad considering how dynamic the offense was the past 48 hours. That’s what made Joe Girardi’s decision to bench three of his four best power hitters so confusing.

The Yankees lineup is full of older players who are prone to breaking down. We all know they need many days of rest throughout the season. However, do they really need rest in game four? That’s a little extreme, no? Even taking into consideration that it was an early 1:00 PM start and the Yankees did get into Detroit pretty late, was it really wise to sit everyone at once? I could’ve understood giving McCann the game off seeing as he’s the catcher OR Beltran because he’s 38 and did play three straight days in the outfield OR Rodriguez because he’s 40… but not all three… at the same time… when they’re all hitting well… in the fourth game of the season.

I understand Girardi wants to keep his guys healthy and productive all season to avoid the end of year swoon the team suffered last August and September, but this was not the right way to go about it. If you really needed to sit players this early in the season, why not just sit one of the three each of the next three days and then DH Teixeira the day ARod isn’t playing? That way you still have a powerful heart of the order and you’re not basically just throwing away a game. I just didn’t get the lineup today and clearly it didn’t work.

In fairness to Girardi, it wasn’t just his questionable lineup that hurt the Yankees today. The bats he did have in the lineup didn’t do anything at all. Luis Severino had good stuff today but the Tigers had a great approach singling him to death. Also the defense wasn’t that great as Jacoby Ellsbury misplayed a ball in center that led to a big inning and Dustin Ackley had a few tough plays at first he couldn’t handle. Of course, if Teixeira is at first he probably makes those plays but it is what it is.

Anyway, today just wasn’t meant to be. The lineup was missing 33% of its juice and the team as a whole just didn’t play well. At least Johnny Barbato was extremely impressive out of the bullpen and Luis Cessa had a decent ML debut. Hopefully they show up tomorrow and support C.C. Sabathia as he takes on Mike Pelfrey. Let’s just hope the lineup is more substantial than it was today.

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