July 25, 2019
The last weekend of July will feature the American League East leading Yankees (66-35) taking on the 56-47 defending World Series champion Boston Red Sox in a four game series from Beantown, as the pinstripes look to extend their 11-game lead over their bitter rival.
After three wild offensive contests in the upper midwest against Minnesota — where the Yanks won two out of three — Masahiro Tanaka will toe the rubber inside Fenway Park Thursday, as much needed order needs to be restored to the Yankees' starting rotation.
Two strikeouts shy of 100 on the season, Tanaka (7-5, 4.00 ERA) will put his unbeaten streak of seven starts on the line.
However, he'll be looking to put behind him the "Rocky" outing against Colorado in his last start, where he surrendered five runs in six innings, and the deplorable two-thirds of an inning performance he put up against the Red Sox on June 29 in London.
The hot-hitting Yankees will oppose Rick Porcello, who is sporting an uncharacteristically pedestrian 8-7 record and a bloated 5.61 ERA. And as one of the hottest hitting Yankees Didi Gregorius told MLB.com's Bryan Hoch, the timing of this series couldn't be better.
"Every time we get a chance to play them and you get a chance to bury them, that’s all you want to do: keep expanding the lead."
If there is such a thing as "important" games in July, these are it. At best, the Yankees could leave Boston with a 15-game lead over them with 61 games to play. Worst case scenario, their lead over them shrinks to seven.
Either way, with the trade deadline looming, this will likely be the last series in pinstripes for some members of this Yankees team.
The rest of the series' probable matchups are as follows:
Fri., 7/26 at Boston LHP James Paxton (5-5, 4.20) vs. RHP Andrew Cashner (9-5, 4.19) 7:10 p.m. WPIX/MLBN Sat., 7/27 at Boston LHP CC Sabathia (5-5, 4.50) vs. LHP Eduardo Rodriguez (12-4, 4.10) 4:05 p.m. YES/FS1 Sun., 7/28 at Boston RHP Domingo Germán (12-2, 4.03) vs. LHP Chris Sale (5-9, 4.00) 7:05 p.m. ESPN
July 24, 2019
The sports world absorbed two sobering reminders earlier this week — in the span of 24 hours — with the passing of 28-year-old Russian boxer Maxim Dadashev, and Dwight 'Doc' Gooden's arrest after succumbing to substance abuse demons that he had seemingly fended off for the past decade.
Notwithstanding the different outcomes, both events are equally heartbreaking.
Dadashev — married father of one — came to the United States to pursue a green card and a better life for his family, as well as elevate his boxing career. And entering the ring last Friday night at the MGM National Harbor resort in Maryland, Dadashev had never lost a professional bout in 13 fights. However, after 11 rounds of punishment and a stoppage at the heavy hands of opponent Subriel Matías, Dadashev wasn't able to leave the arena under his own power.
He collapsed and began vomiting shortly after exiting the ring and was rushed to a nearby hospital where he underwent emergency brain surgery for bleeding on the brain. Dadashev — whose purse for the fight was $75,000 — died Tuesday morning as a result of the injuries.
In a statement Tuesday, Secretary general of the Russian Boxing Federation Umar Kremlev said “He was our young prospect,” adding “We will fully support his family, including financially."
Hours earlier and about 170 miles away in New Jersey, the once untouchable Gooden, 54, was arrested for the second time in as many months after reportedly driving the wrong way down a one-way street in Newark. While being booked for driving under the influence, the Mets legend peed himself, according to Essex County law enforcement. Back in June Gooden was arrested and charged with four counts related to cocaine possession and driving under the influence of cocaine.
With a painstaking admission as told to the New York Post, Gooden revealed “I’m very embarrassed. Very shameful. I feel bad for anybody I disappointed or let down.” Remorseful about his demons resurfacing, Gooden added “The support, that’s what makes it even tougher, when you get all this support.”
What makes Gooden's latest tailspin so sad, is the same thing that makes him so beloved — his charisma and ingratiating personality. This writer can attest to that firsthand, while on assignment to profile Gooden back in 2016.
So as one man lost his life before the age of 30, another continues his 30-plus year fight against substance abuse to regain his.
Different circumstances, but the heartbreak feels equal.
July 23, 2019
Amidst a slew of self-promotion and talk of branding mixed with reflection and proclaimed happiness — all of which was interspersed with Drake lyrics — minted Cleveland Browns receiver Odell Beckham Jr. unpacked a turbulent past several months in a Q&A featured in GQ Magazine.
I spent most of the time trying to decode Beckham Jr.'s provocations, yet one portion was clear and stood out to me. When asked how he felt after he was traded away from New York, Beckham Jr. said things like, "This is me being honest: This team has not been good for the last six years" and "They were getting prime-time games, still, as a 5-and-11 team. Why? Because people want to see the show. You want to see me play. That's just real rap."
I, like most people, have been let go from a job unceremoniously before, or harbored feelings of bitterness and unhappiness while at a place of work where I didn't feel valued, so I can relate to the source of Beckham Jr.'s reaction to being traded by the Giants. However, all that resonated with me was eclipsed by him prefacing his frustration with "This is me being honest."
Whenever I hear someone say that, I always think, "was everything they said before dishonest then?"
I don't know. Maybe it's nothing more than a cliche that people — especially those in the public eye — use to emphasize something that affected them deeply.
And while I get that this artificial-feeling Q&A is all about Beckham Jr.'s clean start and newfound happiness, I do think it is wrong to label him as immature. If anything, playing in New York gave him great perspective.
Regarding what critics and former ball players have said about him over the years, Beckham acknowledged that when people get upset if he looks unbothered after a loss, "It's like you don't care enough." And when people say he's too emotional during a game, "that I'm immature."
His maturity gets buried behind his often buzz-worthy quotes because that's increasingly the culture of journalism and what readers wish to consume, but I think Beckham Jr. made more new enemies with this interview than he did fans.
A figurine of "The catch" (immortalizing the ball he caught in a 2014 Sunday Night Football game against the Dallas Cowboys) sitting atop the hood of his new Rolls Royce was contextualized perfectly by the article's author when he writes, "Odell refers to The Catch as though it's a universally consequential event. Like the big bang."
But great moments like this that he contributed to the Giants' rich history didn't materialize into Beckham Jr. spearheading a championship. And winning — especially in New York — overshadows all noise.
Hey, I'm just being honest.
July 22, 2019
In news that should come as no shock to Yankees fans, the pinstripes are expected to add a headlining pitcher to their inconsistent starting rotation before the July 31 trade deadline.
A reporter for The Athletic even scribed that it was a "guarantee" that either Trevor Bauer, Noah Syndergaard, Marcus Stroman, Mike Minor, Matthew Boyd or Madison Bumgarner could fit the bill for the Yankees' needs.
Frankly, any of these front-end-of-the-rotation arms would provide a much needed boost as the Yankees starting rotation has hit a bit of a snag lately. Collectively, Yankees starters have allowed at least five runs in each of their last two games, which pales in comparison to them allowing just two runs or fewer in 11 of their first 14 games in July.
And with Luis Severino not expected to rejoin the club until September and Jordan Montgomery's return remaining hopeful but unclear because of recent minor setbacks, their pitching staff needs a shot in the arm. Especially if they want to keep pace with their National League counterparts, the Los Angeles Dodgers.
If it's ERA you want, look no further than Minor whose 2.86 is good enough for currently second best in the American League. Stroman's 3.06 ERA is fifth best in the AL, plus the last time the Yankees visited Toronto, Stroman hinted to reporters that he'd welcome a trade to the Yankees should those conversations be had.
However, if it's an innings eater you seek, check out Bauer, whose 144.2 innings pitched is the best in the AL. He and Syndergaard also both have one shutout to their credit this season. While Bumgarner's 125.2 innings pitched is fifth best in the NL, the multiple time World Series MVP has the second most starts in the NL with 21.
If strikeouts are more your speed, Bauer and Boyd are in the top-five in the AL with 170 and 160 respectively.
Any of these six arms can help rejuvenate a stalled Yankees rotation, now its just a matter of what general manager Brian Cashman is willing to give up for one, as the Yankees prepare for their seemingly annual run at the World Series.
April 20, 2019
This past Friday I wrote about Amir Khan in my latest article for Playboy, illustrating how the British-Pakistani's biggest fight is his struggle against prejudice.
Well, after Saturday night's loss to the still WBO welterweight champion of the world Terence Crawford, you can add quitter to Khan's legacy.
Having come into the bout with the reputation of being a fighter that shows lapses of focus and has a glass chin, Khan didn't do himself any favors when he apparently told his trainer Virgil Hunter that he couldn't continue after absorbing an incidental low blow from Crawford in the six round.
However, in the post-fight press conference, he vehemently stated that he would never quit and that he'd rather be knocked out.
Which one is it? Because the referee afforded Khan five minutes to regroup before continuing, but that offer was rejected by Hunter on Khan's behalf.
Was Khan winning the fight? No. Was it likely Khan would have won the fight had it gone the scheduled 12 rounds? Barring a knockdown of Crawford, probably not.
Khan was caught by a stinging overhand right from Crawford in the first round that sent him to the canvas, but in the following four-plus rounds of action, Khan countered Crawford's assault fairly well.
It's widely known that a well-placed low blow can incapacitate a fighter, but that's not the story here.
The story here is that Hunter confirmed to the media that Khan told him in the ring that he wasn't able to continue to fight, even with the five minute break he was being given. Then Khan addresses the question of whether he quit and tells the media that he'd rather be knocked out than ever quit.
I mean, when is boxing ever not controversial, but on Saturday night, everybody loses. Not just Khan.
March 18, 2019
About an hour after the sun set on the east coast Monday, it was announced that the Yankees had brokered a deal with lingering free agent pitcher Gio Gonzalez.
And while it's more of a steal than a deal — a minor league contract with a $3 million major league salary should he make it, cushioned by an April 20th opt out clause — Gonzalez has a lot to prove in a very short span in terms of showing that he's a better option than Luis Cessa, Domingo German and Jonathan Loaisiga.
Yet largely evident by the late April opt out clause, it's as close to a guarantee that Gonzalez begins the year in the minors.
Regardless, it's a shrewd and astute orchestration by general manager Brian Cashman's recurring genius to make such a move.
Twice finishing in the top-10 for the Cy Young award (3rd in 2012 and 6th in 2017), the only edge I see the 33-year-old lefty having over Cessa, German, Loaisiga and Jordan Montgomery (when he returns from rehabbing Tommy John surgery), is experience along with a winning pedigree.
Having split the 2018 season between the Washington Nationals and Milwaukee Brewers, Gonzalez had his worst strikeout-to-walk ratio since his rookie season with the Oakland A's in 2008, and he surrendered the second most earned runs of his 11-year career last season with 80.
My immediate reaction to the Gonazalez is this: he's like insurance — nice to have, and you never know when you'll need it!
March 17, 2019
For the third consecutive St. Patrick's Day, Michael "Mick" Conlan fought Sunday night at his "home away from home," inside a very green looking Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden.
But based on his unentertaining performance, perhaps it should be a tradition that comes to an end.
Fighting for the 11th time as a professional and in his first action of 2019, Conlan and Ruben Garcia Hernandez brought the crowd, which didn't come close to capacity, to dead silence multiple times.
Outfitted in dark green shorts with gold trim, Conlan looked methodical and confident, yet relatively conservative, while the battle tested Hernandez brought little excitement to the fight.
Conlan won the 10-round fight in a 100-90 unanimous decision in what was his first action since his unanimous decision win over Jason Cunningham on Dec. 22 in Manchester, England, where he snatched up the vacant WBO Intercontinental belt.
The Irish faithful — that stayed — erupted in joy upon hearing the result of their countryman, yet I don't see Conlan's fighting style resonating beyond his fanbase.
Conlan's record may have improved to 11-0, 6 KOs, but he is not a true headliner.
Certainly not yet at least.
March 12, 2019
An emerging competition between starting pitcher hopefuls Jonathan Loaisiga and Luis Cessa is the loudest narrative of the Yankees camp, as we've reached the midpoint of spring training.
What we know:
The scheduled starters for the season opening series versus the Baltimore Orioles (March 28-30) have been set.
Masahiro Tanaka will toe the rubber on opening day, his fourth time receiving that honor. And lefties James Paxton and JA Happ will fill out the middle game and series finale.
And since CC Sabathia and Luis Severino won't rejoin the starting rotation until early April, manager Aaron Boone will need to decide who his fourth and fifth starters of the regular season will be sometime over the next week or so.
Loaisiga, who gets the start against the Orioles Tuesday night in the Yankees' 17th game of the spring, will be making his third start (fourth appearance) and look to rebound from a losing effort a week ago where he surrendered 4ER in 2.1 IP to the St. Louis Cardinals.
Cessa, who many perceive as the strongest candidate to land a starting role while Sabathia and Severino are injured, has retired 26-of-31 batters faced, and allowed just 1ER on 5H. He's also punctuated that efficiency with no walks and 10 strikeouts in 9.0IP.
Boone can also decide to "bullpen it" in lieu of a starter when the Yanks open up their three-game set with the Detroit Tigers April 1-3, which he's publicly said is an option, but since Sabathia and Severino are likely to miss their turn in the rotation at least once, that leaves 2-3 starting opportunities.
Domingo German is also a candidate vying for the temporary starting role, but his struggle to command all his pitches should make him more of a long shot.
It'll be interesting to follow along and see which young arm makes the most out of this competition.
March 8, 2019
New York Yankees second-year manager Aaron Boone dug his heels in the ground Thursday, saying that he doesn't plan to carry two first basemen when the team breaks from spring training at the end of the month.
He, of course, is referring to the tight competition between Luke Voit and Greg Bird, acknowledging how well both are playing.
While it may seem as if the competition between Voit and Bird started when spring training commenced, Voit began taking calculated measures back in December of last year to ensure that he’d win the job by the end of March of this year.
Yankees beat writer for ESPN, Coley Harvey, told me last week on my podcast that Voit informed him that before he went back home to St. Louis for the winter months, he went down to the Yankees complex in Florida to work with the team's infield coach Carlos Mendoza on his defense.
Specifically, Mendoza positioned several video cameras around Voit as he fielded the position, so the 28-year-old could study his good and bad habits, and see himself from different angles.
Voit, who admitted to Harvey that he didn’t work on his defense at all while he was in the minor leagues, appears to be taking it seriously now.
But so far this spring, Bird and Voit have fought to outdo one another offensively.
As enticing as it is to have a power lefty bat in the lineup with Bird, the right-handed Voit hits to the opposite field with power as much as anybody up and down the Yankees batting order.
Also, consider this comparison:
In 82 games in 2018, Bird hit .199 (54-for-272) with 23R, 16 doubles, 1 triple, 11HR and 38RBI. Yet, in 47 games in 2018 (combined with the Cardinals and Yankees) Voit hit .322 (46-for-143) with 30R, 5 doubles, 15HR and 36RBI.
To no fault of his own, Bird's injuries over the past three seasons have put him in the position where he is beginning to regain the Yankees' trust.
Conversely, Voit already has Boone's and the Yankees' trust and confidence, which is why I expect him to make the opening day roster at first base over Bird.
March 7, 2019
Upon learning the news of Luis Severino being unavailable to take the ball for the Yankees on opening day March 28, compounded by the fact that CC Sabathia will serve a five-game suspension to begin the season, I just naturally assumed that the Yankees will have to scramble to select the right starter.
James Paxton, JA Happ or Masahiro Tanaka would do fine, I thought. Then it occurred to me: I’m guilty of an old way of thinking.
The Tampa Bay Rays proved last season that a team can start a game with a reliever and just cycle through half a dozen bullpen guys, doing away with the concept of a starting pitcher all together.
Days of thinking that an unavailable starter must be replaced with an available starter are fading like the shadows that stretch across Yankee Stadium at dusk.
While Aaron Boone told the media Wednesday that he doesn't see them employing the "bullpenning" tactic often, especially when they're healthy, the fact remains that he's faced with starting the season with the absence of both Severino and Sabathia. Therefore, it's not impossible to see the Yankees kick off 2019 with some "bullpenning" against the rebuilding and non-threatening Baltimore Orioles.
And this possibility should be encouraging. Consider this:
Oh yeah, and they added to their historically dominant pen with the offseason signing of Adam Ottavino, who last season for the Colorado Rockies held opponents scoreless in 60 of his 75 appearances. Hitters also managed a bleak .158 batting average against Ottavino.
With a bullpen like the Yankees have, why not show it off?
March 6, 2019
Florida may be 1,000 or so miles from New York, but news Tuesday afternoon of the Yankees scratching ace Luis Severino minutes before his spring training debut reached fans about as quickly as one of the triple-digit fastballs he was supposed to unleash.
What was first self-diagnosed as "discomfort" in the shoulder area of Severino's right arm by second year manager Aaron Boone was quickly upgraded to rotator cuff inflammation, which an MRI revealed.
While the word "discomfort" is relatively disarming and open to interpretation, "MRI" and "rotator cuff" are definitive and nerve-wracking words to hear associated with your ace pitcher, especially one that just received a four-year, $40 million extension.
However, the Yankees appear to be treating the situation with the gravity it deserves, shutting Severino down, halting any/all throwing activities for the next two weeks, while he's treated with anti-inflammatories.
Likely to miss his opening day start, Boone will now be forced to choose a different hurler for the Yankees home opener against the Baltimore Orioles on March 28. Luckily for him, he has a wealth of guys to pick from, any of whom could rise to the occasion.
CC Sabathia, who earlier this spring announced that 2019 will be his final season, would be a sentimental choice. J.A. Happ, who went 7-0 in 11 starts for the Yankees since being acquired from the Toronto Blue Jays last July, would be a fine pick. Newest Yankees pitcher James Paxton, who was ninth in the American League in strikeouts in 2018 and acquired in the offseason from the Seattle Mariners, would be a bold, yet exciting decision. That leaves Masahiro Tanaka.
The Japanese-born 30-year-old is most likely the one to supplant Severino as the opening day starter. Tanaka made three consecutive opening day starts for the Yankees from 2015-17, and for all intents and purposes, Hal Steinbrenner and Brian Cashman probably envisioned Tanaka as the Yankees ace and perennial opening day starter when they signed him to a seven-year contract back in 2014.
Whoever gets the nod for the Bombers in game one of 162, fans can take solace in the fact that Severino's shoulder is just inflamed and not damaged. And considering that Severino is the first Yankee to have multiple 30-start seasons by the age of 24 since Steve Kline did so in 1971-72, being cautious with the fireballer makes sense.
Yet, the Yankees are 44-19 in Severino's 63 starts since the 2017 season, which also happens to be the most team wins started by a pitcher in Major League Baseball in that span.
And there's no replacing that stat!
So hopefully for Severino and the Pinstripes, it will just be the first game of 2019 that he misses.
In this episode, Coley joins me to talk about all the inside information he's seeing, hearing and learning from the Yankees 2019 spring training camp.
December 16, 2018
The weather conditions that settled over Madison Square Garden Saturday night toggled between an uneventful calm and an eventful unrest, which seemed to perfectly underscore the boxing action that transpired inside the world’s most famous arena.
Sustained moments of tepid action by veteran brawler Mauricio Herrera, bookended by the ferocity of rising star Ryan Garcia and technician-like power and speed by the brilliance of Canelo Alvarez, largely summed up the evening.
While most boxing cards strive to emulate this sort of variety, Saturday was made even more special because everything that unfolded did so on the debut of DAZN — the newest streaming service to join a recent trend in how boxing is being broadcast.
Along with the end of the 45-year run of HBO Boxing, no longer are the days when fight fans will be asked to fork over upwards of $80 or more just to watch a big contest. The roll out of DAZN’s promotion asks fans to pay $9.99 a month in exchange for ongoing combat sports entertainment.
At the helm of this monumental shift in boxing consumption is Golden Boy Promotions Chairman and CEO, Oscar De La Hoya. And if this may seem ironic to you, that’s because it is.
De La Hoya is someone who built his hall-of-fame boxing career by headlining on HBO pay-per-view cards, but the fighter-turned-promoter didn’t hesitate or mince words when he spoke Thursday at a press conference.
“Pay Per View is dead. I’m actually happy to announce that Pay Per View is dead,” De La Hoya emphasized with deliberation.
The details of Golden Boy’s deal with DAZN have not been disclosed, however, the contract that De La Hoya facilitated for his superstar fighter Alarez have been: five years, 11-fight deal worth a minimum of $365 million.
When you consider that Alvarez’s deal makes him the highest paid athlete in sports history, and throw in how the first of his 11 bouts under the DAZN banner was also his first-ever fight at Madison Square Garden, Saturday night was a success for all involved.
And on this evening of firsts, Canelo assaulted Rocky Fielding with punishing blows and well-placed kidney shots, resulting in a third-round technical knockout to the delight of 20,112 in attendance.
Alvarez — fighting up in weight class at 168 pounds — captured the WBA super middleweight title, making it the third time that he’s won a belt in a different weight division.
Several fights earlier on the Canelo-Rocky undercard was Golden Boy upstart, Garcia. Rumored to be equally famous for his Instagram following as he is for his unblemished record in the ring (16-0, 13 KOs heading into Saturday’s fight), Garcia wowed the predominantly Mexican crowd, securing his 17th win by way of his 14th knockout, as he got past a pesky Braulio Rodriguez.
Garcia, also making his Garden debut, punctuated his win with an inspired message, specifically tailored to the Mexican fans in attendance and watching on DAZN.
“I may not speak Spanish, but I got the Mexican blood in me and that’s all that matters. Viva Mexico! Let’s go!” he screamed to the shrieking fans.
Garcia, who is drawing comparisons to De La Hoya from many in the boxing community because of his good looks and meteoric rise, is expected to fight for a world championship in 2019.
Herrera, conversely, who followed Garcia in the ring, showed that he was just trying to keep his name in lights. Arguably, the 38-year-old’s career arc came in 2014 when he defeated Johan Perez for the WBA interim light welterweight title four months after he lost a highly controversial decision to Danny Garcia for the WBC, WBA (Super) and The Ring light welterweight titles.
As Herrera explained from his hotel a few blocks from the Garden — which seemed like a few miles away from the press conference staging in the bowels of the arena — he was resigned to the thought that it simply felt good to be back fighting after a nearly 17-month hiatus.
“I just wanted to kind of soak it all in. I was taking my time in the fight at times, not throwing anything, but just trying to get really… I think at this stage in my career you learn every fight. And this fight I finally got to be really comfortable in the ring. Even though it wasn’t a spectacular fight and all that action, I got to be a little bit at peace in the ring and felt comfortable. But I knew the layoff was hurting because I couldn’t… I was hesitating to throw shots and felt actually really strong, like, ‘man I can really hurt this guy’ but it just wouldn’t let through.”
People ask me all the time what it is about boxing that I like, and I often search for the words to explain why it is so exciting and interesting to me. However, nights like Saturday, I think, help bring into focus what I sometimes struggle to articulate.
Three fighters on the same card, all at very different stages of their careers, with different goals and takeaways, sharing in one of the oldest and simplest acts of fighting for oneself.
That’s what I saw exemplified Saturday night.
But, since this is not always the case when boxing cards are pieced together, I think DAZN might be onto something with their model of an inexpensive monthly subscription as a way to both popularize boxing, but also offset its constant struggle to capture and hold onto mainstream interest.
December 9, 2018
Former heavyweight champion of the world James "Buster" Douglas joined me to relive his upset over Mike Tyson in 1990. ESPN Emmy award winning filmmakers Jeremy Schaap and Ben Houser also came on to discuss their interest in Douglas and shared passion for finally telling his story.
September 23, 2018
In this episode, Sweeny and I talk about the ups and downs the Yankees have had this season, and preview potential playoff scenarios. I hope you enjoy the episode, and as always, please review and subscribe to my podcast.
In my experience as a member of the media — albeit only six years — it’s discouraging that the journalism landscape has become overrun with slideshow “articles” and “top-10 reasons why...” pieces.
In spite of this reality, as a storyteller, I am very fortunate to have met Influential people in media and editors at highly-visible publications (all will remain nameless). However, virtually every one of them has confessed some version of the following to me:
To paraphrase...“You can be the most amazing writer, and secure the best interviews, but if you don’t have a huge social media following, none of it matters.”
While I always get different answers about what constitutes a “huge” following, I constantly wonder — is this true?
Have the values of hiring editors and PR hustlers disintegrated so much that their idea of what readers want to consume is solely based on a writer’s following, shallow content and a “click bait” headline?
Perhaps nobody cares about a good story anymore. But I do. And I know that puts me in the minority.
Yet, I don’t ignore the social media aspect of journalism, I just refuse to trade in quality writing for cookie-cutter articles with the purpose of creating pseudo controversy.
I’ll leave you with this.
Ever wonder why you can remember events in history, but not always the dates? Simple. Because our brains process stories better than facts.
So if you’re looking for a great storyteller, contact me!