Guest Blog: Yankees Defy All Odds, Win Big Vs. Division Rival

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By Ilan Luttway

On April 28th, The New York Yankees were down 9-1 to the Baltimore Orioles in the bottom of the 6th inning. All hope seemed to be lost. Even after Aaron Judge’s huge second home run of the night, his first multi homer game of his career, the Orioles came back with another 2 runs in the top of the 7th to make the game 11-4, diminishing all hopes of a comeback. But in the bottom of the 7th inning, after a single by Austin Romine on a soft ground ball to third baseman Manny Machado, and starting pitcher Kevin Gausman was replaced by reliever Vidal Nuno, a glimmer of hope for the Yankees emerged. After a double from the third baseman Chase Headley and a walk to designated hitter Matt Holliday, Jacoby Ellsbury came through and hit a grand slam to right field, the 100th home run of his career.

While the Orioles were still up 11-8 after the top of the 9th inning, Yankee Stadium felt as vibrant as ever… a comeback was on the way. After a walk to Chase Headley, a sharp single from Matt Holliday, and an RBI groundout from Jacoby Ellsbury, the score was now 11-9 in the bottom of the 9th with Starlin Castro up to bat. As Castro dropped his knee to the ground, as he often did on home runs, fans at Yankee Stadium and at home gazed at the ball traveling through the air and shouted with excitement. 11-11. As the top of the 10th came to a close for the Orioles batters, fans screamed and yelled, knowing that this was the moment for the young and talented Yankees roster to complete their heroic comeback. Reliever Jayson Aquino must have felt it too, dishing out two walks in a row to Aaron Hicks and Kyle Higashioka.

As Matt Holliday came up to bat with one out, runners on 1st and 2nd, everything began to slow down. As the first pitch breaking ball came running down through Aquino’s fingers, veteran Matt Holliday remained calm and put bat on ball, smashing a three run home run. Before he knew it, Holliday was being doused with water, jumped on by his teammates. Holliday’s walk-off three run home run capped off one of the most improbable comebacks in MLB history, a game that should never be forgotten.

But this game is only the beginning for the 2017 New York Yankees as they look to continue their success throughout May and make a statement to the AL East about who the best team in their division really is.

 

Grading the New York Giants’ Draft  

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Team needs prior to the draft: OL, RB, TE, DL, LB

1st round pick (23rd overall): Evan Engram, WR/TE, Ole Miss

Standing at 6’3” and 235 pounds, Engram is certainly a talented player with tremendous ability. Running a 4.42 and showing off a 36” vertical at the NFL combine, his speed along with his athleticism make him a matchup nightmare. However, his inability to effectively block as well as his lack of height for his position makes me think he is more of a wide receiver. With four lethal weapons on the field, the Giants’ potential in the passing game is high. However, the Giants went for flash and flare and ignored evident holes on their O-line and in their running game. With offensive linemen Ryan Ramczyk and Cam Robinson on the board, along with running back Dalvin Cook, I certainly question this move—not to knock Engram, because he can be special, but to knock Jerry Reese for blatantly ignoring the Giants’ dire needs and going for the “sexy pick” instead. Hopefully, Engram can show off his speed, because Eli may not have that much time to get rid of the ball!

 

Scouting report via A.R. Smith Scouting

Engram is a super athletic four-year starter from Ole Miss. He has the speed and agility be a threat against all defenders on any area of the field. Engram has naturally soft hands and displays great concentration on hard catches but struggles mightily when asked to catch through contact. Defenders often are able to separate the ball with simple contact. Engram doesn’t use his size to box out defenders nor does display the toughness to out muscle defenders at the catch point. Engram isn’t a great route runner. He was able to rely on using his speed to run away from slower defenders at the college level. Ole Miss also did a great job putting him in position where he could combine his speed with natural leverage, such as running an out route vs. a defender lined up towards the inside. He needs to learn to break down and explode out his cuts using his natural burst rather than running round routes. Engram also struggled when contacted during his routes. Even the slightest shove will throw him off his path and he takes too long to regain balance and is sometimes eliminated from the whole play. Engram has the vertical ability to compete for the ball at the highest point but in limited opportunities he didn’t show enough consistency. As a blocker he shows good effort but he needs to learn to keep his head up and rely on his arms to make contact first in order to whiff less. He also needs to gain strength to be able to block NFL defenders. While he does a good job driving his legs, his base can be a bit wide initially giving him less balance. After the catch Engram relies on his speed rather than attempting to elude defenders in the open field or break tackles. Engram is a TE with a super high ceiling. Passing teams will be able to line him up at all receiver and TE positions effectively. He needs to gain strength as well as sharpen his route running to become a better player. He’s a high upside early 2nd rounder.

Grade: B-/C+

Who I would have taken: Ryan Ramczyk, OL, Wisconsin

 

2nd round pick (55th overall): Dalvin Tomlinson, DL, Alabama

This guy is impressive on and off the field. He was offered an academic scholarship to Harvard, but chose to play football at Alabama instead—a good decision. At 6’3” and 310 lbs., Tomlinson can certainly fill the starting defensive tackle position which is vacant due to Jonathan Hankins’ exit. I love any defensive player who comes out of Alabama; they’re the best of the best! Tomlinson’s strength and ability to stuff the run can really bolster the Giants’ front four. While they need a linebacker, it is certainly the next best option since Hankins left. He will not necessarily be an immediate starter, because he will need to compete with Jay Bromley and Michael Thomas, but I think he will beat them out and be very effective this season.

Grade: A-/B+

Who I would have taken: Zach Cunningham, LB, Vanderbilt

 

3rd round pick (87th overall): Davis Webb, QB, California

We really needed a quarterback, and thank goodness we took one—oh wait, we have one. He’s 36-years-old, not 42. Eli Manning has a solid 3 to 4 years left of being a very good quarterback. No, he isn’t Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers, but last season he threw for over 4,000 yards while completing 63% of his passes on 26 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. This is Eli Manning, a two-time Super Bowl champion who does not need to be replaced for another few years. There was absolutely no need to take a quarterback this early, especially since we needed a top tier running back in this class, and yet again we passed on it. Next year’s quarterback class is supposed to be loaded, and no matter how much potential Webb really has, I don’t know if he’s really the guy we can mold into a franchise quarterback. Plus, weren’t we supposed to resurrect Geno Smith’s career? I’m not saying Webb can’t be good, because he can be, but it is not the right place or time to have him join the team. And while Webb has a lot of arm strength, he struggles with accuracy—something that’s very concerning when your job is to be accurate.

Grade: D

Who I would have taken: D’Onta Foreman, RB, Texas

 

4th round pick (140th overall): Wayne Gallman, RB, Clemson

Gallman won the National Championship at Clemson and ran a 4.6 at the combine—pretty middle of the road for his position. He knows how to win, having played with NFL-caliber players and against NFL-caliber opponents at Clemson.

Grade: B+

 

5th round pick (167th overall): Avery Moss, DE, Youngstown State

Scouts say that Moss reminds them of Robert Ayers, so essentially the guy could come in on first or second down to give JPP or Vernon a breather. Late round pick, so not much to lose here.

Grade: B

 

6th round pick (200th overall): Adam Bisnowaty, OL, Pitt

Reese finally realized he forgot that our biggest need was our offensive line. Good thing he realized this late.

Grade: A+

 

Overall draft grade: C+

Overall, the Giants had a slightly underwhelming draft. They took talented guys, but really ignored most of their core needs, waiting until the 4th round to pick a running back, and until the 6th to take an offensive lineman. They were ranked 27th in offensive efficiency last season, so taking one offensive player who will play in the first three rounds is unacceptable. They absolutely should not have taken a quarterback unless he is as good as Eli right now, because the fact is, Eli is still playing well and the next guy in line is probably someone in the next couple of classes. Reese is banking on the hope that Erick Flowers will improve and not be as much of a liability as he was last season, as well as on the hope that Webb can be molded into the next franchise quarterback. Hopefully, they’ll get their guys ready for opening night, and I can’t wait for Giants football this fall!

 

DISCLAIMER: Scouting Report on Evan Engram was written by @AdemiSmithScout. Share your feedback with him on twitter.

 

Image via http://nypost.com/2017/04/27/giants-snare-ole-miss-pass-catching-tight-end-with-23rd-pick/

 

About Me: I’m Spencer Alexander Zied, a 12th grader from New York, New York. I love to play basketball and tennis, and am a big fan of the Knicks, Giants and the Yankees. I’m also a big fan of First Take and Sportscenter on ESPN. You can email me at spencer.zied@gmail.com or connect with me on Twitter, on Facebook, or on Instagram (szied713).

Who’s the Real MVP?

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With the NBA regular season concluded, it is time to pick an MVP. Wait what? Don’t we need to see how the Rockets vs. Thunder series plays out?

No we don’t. It’s specifically a regular season award.

With historic seasons behind both Russell Westbrook and James Harden, there can only be one MVP.

The regular season MVP should be awarded to Russell Westbrook. Here is why:

Westbrook averaged a triple double, with 31.6 points, 10.4 assists and 10.7 rebounds per game. No, triple doubles are not overrated, especially for someone who is 6’3”. James Harden averaged 29.1 points, 11.2 assists and 8.1 rebounds per game. But Harden was only two rebounds away from a triple double average! But he didn’t have one. Westbrook did. Westbrook also had 3 50-point triple doubles. Harden had 2.

Westbrook only shot 42.5% from the field and 34.3% from three whereas Harden shot 44% from the field and 34.7% from three. Both shot the same from the free throw line. Splitting hairs. Irrelevant.

Harden shouldn’t get MVP when shooting less than 50%. Really? The Golden State Warriors, with the two best shooters of all time and the best scorer in the NBA, shot 49.5%. The median for field goals was 45.5%. Both Harden and Westbrook fall slightly below that.

For those of you who love the PER (Player Efficiency Rating) statistic, Westbrook finished first with a 30.7, while Harden finished fifth with a 27.4.

But the Rockets won 55 games and the Thunder only won 47!

Well, let’s talk about the supporting cast. After Kevin Durant left and Serge Ibaka was traded from the Thunder, Russell Westbrook decided to be bold and re-sign despite the team’s many young players. On the other hand, James Harden’s team, the Rockets, was short of legit all stars and certainly had no scrubs.

Lou Williams (15 PPG, 23 games), Eric Gordon (16.2 PPG), Ryan Anderson (13.6 PPG), Trevor Ariza (11.7 PPG), Clint Capela (12.6) and Patrick Beverly (9.5 PPG) averaged a total of 78.5 points per game.

Westbrook’s cast consisting of Victor Oladepo (16 PPG), Steven Adams (11.3 PPG), Enes Kanter (14.3 PPG), Taj Gibson (10.8 PPG), Andre Roberson (6.6 PPG) and Doug McDermott (9 PPG) averaged 68 points per game.

So, Westbrook’s supporting cast had an average of 10.5 fewer points per game than Harden’s. That’s a big difference.

So, if someone who averaged a triple double, had 2.5 more points and 2.6 more rebounds, and only 0.8 fewer assists, 0.4% less from three, and 1.5% less from the field, and a supporting cast that averaged 10.5 less points per game than that of his rival doesn’t deserve MVP, you lost me.

Again, the MVP is strictly a regular season award for the player who performed the best. I don’t even believe Westbrook is a better player than Harden—or Kawhi Leonard for that matter. But the man did average a triple double—something that hasn’t been done since the 70s. You think he will flame out in the playoffs? Fine! Doesn’t matter! The playoffs have zero effect on the outcome of the regular season MVP award.

What about Kawhi Leonard? He had a phenomenal season and has improved every season since his rookie year. He has become a superstar on both sides of the floor. The Kawhi Leonard argument is similar to the LeBron James argument— you can’t give the award to the best player every year. That isn’t how voting works. Otherwise, Michael Jordan would have 8, Kobe Bryant would have 7, Lebron James would have 7 and everyone else would have 0.

Kawhi Leonard plays on the great Spurs team. While he is not a “system player,” he certainly benefits from the system of coach Pop. He averaged 25.5 points, 5.8 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game on 48.5% shooting from the field and 38% from three. A phenomenal season nonetheless, but not to the level of Russell Westbrook or James Harden.

Neither of those two had a player at the level of Lamarcus Aldridge, who averaged 17.3 points and 7.3 rebounds a game on 47.7% shooting from the field.

Russell Westbrook deserves to win the NBA regular season MVP award. Regardless of how he performs in the playoffs and regardless of whether you believe he is worse than James Harden and Kawhi Leonard (I actually think Harden and Leonard are better than Westbrook). Westbrook was left hanging by Kevin Durant, and it gave him all the motivation in the world to break Oscar Robertson’s triple double record. And that he did.

Image via https://www.si.com/nba/2015/04/07/nba-scoring-title-race-james-harden-russell-westbrook

About Me: I’m Spencer Alexander Zied, a 12th grader from New York, New York. I love to play basketball and tennis, and am a big fan of the Knicks, Giants and the Yankees. I’m also a big fan of First Take and Sportscenter on ESPN. You can email me at spencer.zied@gmail.com or connect with me on Twitter, on Facebook, or on Instagram (szied713).

Five Important Tips to Tackle the College Process

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As an incoming senior, I’m sure you have many fears and trepidations about this so called “college process.” Let me start out by telling you that this process is extremely random and seemingly unfair. It’s important to not take any decision personally, and to not try to make sense of any particular decision. Sometimes there’s no clear or rational answer.

Here are some tips to help put you in the best possible position to get through the college admissions process:

1) Start the common app in August.

Early Action deadlines are November 1st or November 15th. While they may seem far away, it’s good to get a jump-start on them, especially because you want your essays and supplements to be of high quality. It is especially important to spend time on them, especially if you plan to apply to a lot of schools.

2) Apply early to schools with rolling admission.

Rolling admission means that once you send in your application, the school will read it and send you a decision within a few weeks. Some schools with rolling admission include University of Pittsburgh, Indiana University, Michigan State, Quinnipiac, Rutgers, University of Minnesota and Penn State. If you are going to do this, make sure your transcript and recommendation letters are ready to be sent as well so your application can be complete.

3) Take advantage of Early Decision.

Many people say “don’t apply ED to a school unless you’re 100% sure about it.” While that has some merit, I don’t necessarily agree with that. If you like a school a lot and believe you would enjoy being a student there, you might want to submit an Early Decision application; if you’re admitted, you have to go there. Regular decision applications are higher in quantity, making it more difficult to gain acceptance at many schools. If you are 85 to 90% sure about a school, apply ED there because your chances of getting in will skyrocket.

4) Play it safe. 

As much as you may dread it, if you want to go to college directly after you graduate, you need to apply to a couple of so-called “safety schools”—schools that you know you can get into and that if worse came to worse, you’d be happy to go to.

5) Know that whatever happens is not permanent. 

With the college application and admissions process comes a lot of excitement, uncertainty and disappointment. Just remember that whatever school you commit to is not necessarily your destination. If you are waitlisted, you could potentially get off the waitlist. Maybe you’ll love the school you end up going to even though it wasn’t your first (or even fifth) choice. And if you don’t love the school you commit to, you can always transfer. Just try to have an open mind about it.

 

About Me: I’m Spencer Alexander Zied, a freshman at the University of Miami and am from New York, New York. I love to play basketball and tennis, and am a big fan of the Knicks, Giants and the Yankees. I’m also a big fan of First Take and Sportscenter on ESPN. You can email me at spencer.zied@gmail.com or connect with me on Twitter, on Facebook, or on Instagram (szied713).

NBA Player Power Rankings 2016-17

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With all the hype around this NBA season, let’s not forget to take the time out to appreciate the talent of many great players. Here are my ranks for the top 10 players at each position. Admittedly, they are based not on science, but on my personal opinion.

Here they are.

Point Guards:

  1. R. Westbrook
  2. S. Curry
  3. K. Irving
  4. J. Wall
  5. D. Lillard
  6. I. Thomas
  7. C. Paul
  8. K. Lowry
  9. K. Walker
  10. E. Bledsoe

 

Shooting Guards:

  1. J. Harden
  2. K. Thompson
  3. J. Butler
  4. D. Derozan
  5. C. McCollum
  6. B. Beal
  7. D. Wade
  8. D. Booker
  9. A. Bradley
  10. L. Williams

 

Small Forwards:

  1. L. James
  2. K. Durant
  3. K. Leonard
  4. G. Antetokounmpo
  5. P. George
  6. C. Anthony
  7. G. Hayward
  8. A. Wiggins
  9. T. Ariza
  10. C. Parsons

 

Power Forwards:

  1. A. Davis
  2. L. Aldridge
  3. B. Griffin
  4. K. Love
  5. P. Milsap
  6. D. Green
  7. P. Gasol
  8. K. Porzingis
  9. T. Thompson
  10. A. Horford

 

Centers:

  1. D. Cousins
  2. K. Towns
  3. J. Embiid
  4. H. Whiteside
  5. M. Gasol
  6. A. Drummond
  7. N. Jokic
  8. D. Jordan
  9. R. Gobert
  10. B. Lopez

 

Agree? Disagree? Don’t worry, there is a method to the “madness” and I will gladly explain why these are the way they are.

*Ranks don’t account for injury.

Image via http://www.knbr.com

About me: I’m Spencer Alexander Zied, a  12th grader from New York, New York. I love to play basketball and tennis, and am a big fan of the Knicks, Giants and the Yankees. I’m also a big fan of First Take and Sportscenter on ESPN2. You can email me at spencer.zied@gmail.com or connect with me on Twitter, on Facebook, or on Instagram (szied713).

What DeMarcus Cousins to the Pelicans really means

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DeMarcus “Boogie” Cousins Has Been Set Free!

DeMarcus Cousins has been traded from the Sacramento Kings to the New Orleans Pelicans in exchange for Buddy Hield, Langston Galloway, Tyreke Evans, and a future first and second round pick.

The last time Evans was in Sacramento, he was actually relevant.

As most of you know, I am a big fan of DMC. His post game is exceptional and his mid-range game is lethal. He even puts up a three from time to time.

Cousins has been ridiculed for his “bad behavior” in Sacramento, deservingly so. But hey, who wouldn’t be upset to have to play on the Kings? This exit could not have been better for Cousins, and it came at the perfect time.

He is a top two big man in the league, and will now play alongside the number one player, Anthony Davis. This season, Cousins has averaged about 28 points, 11 rebounds and has shot 45% from the field. On the other hand, Davis has averaged 28 points, 12 boards and 2.5 blocks per game. As this two-phenom team up has just taken place, the rest of the league should worry, shouldn’t they? Not necessarily.

While this may be the best big-man duo in league history in terms of pure talent, the players who surround these two Kentucky bigs aren’t much of a threat. Jrue Holiday is a solid player, yet the Pelicans are going to need a few more puzzle pieces in place to compete for a championship.

I believe the Pelicans will make some more moves before the trade deadline, and will have a good shot at making the playoffs, barring injury.

AD and DMC are the perfect combination. They are both excellent down low in the post, can shoot from anywhere on the floor, and are versatile. Cousins provides toughness down low while Davis has an unmatched athletic prowess and is a defensive terror.

While the Pelicans sit at 23-34, they are only 2.5 games out of the 8th seed in the Western Conference.

Can these two average over 50 a game combined? Can they make the playoffs? Will Cousins even resign? Who will they get next?

With all these questions looming, we will need to wait and see how this plays out. If nothing more, we will definitely be entertained.

Maybe that all-Kentucky NBA team can become a reality after all.

Image via www.chatsports.com

About me: I’m Spencer Alexander Zied, a  12th grader from New York, New York. I love to play basketball and tennis, and am a big fan of the Knicks, Giants and the Yankees. I’m also a big fan of First Take and Sportscenter on ESPN2. You can email me at spencer.zied@gmail.com or connect with me on Twitter, on Facebook, or on Instagram (szied713).

NFL Playoff Predictions 2017

The regular NFL season has ended, and the fields are getting set for the playoffs. Who will lead their team to victory?

As an avid New York Giants fan, I sincerely hope they can win the Super Bowl. They have an amazing defense, and can really give offenses trouble. However, I see too many problems on the offensive line and anticipate that they might not be able to adequately protect their quarterback Eli Manning.

We all know what happens when Manning gets pressured—he either falls down (regardless if there is contact) or he throws an interception.

That being said, here are my playoff and Super Bowl predictions:

 NFC

 Wildcard

Packers beat Giants 24-13

Seahawks beat Lions 20-16

Divisional

Cowboys beat Packers 34-31

Falcons beat Seahawks 26-17

Championship

Cowboys beat Falcons 31-27

AFC

Wildcard

Raiders beat Texans 23-13

Steelers beat Dolphins 31-14

Divisional

Patriots beat Raiders 27-16

Steelers beat Chiefs 23-20

Championship

Steelers beat Patriots 30-24

Super Bowl

Cowboys beat Steelers 28-24

What are your predictions?

Image via NFL.com

About me: I’m Spencer Alexander Zied, a  12th grader from New York, New York. I love to play basketball and tennis, and am a big fan of the Knicks, Giants and the Yankees. I’m also a big fan of First Take and Sportscenter on ESPN2. You can email me at spencer.zied@gmail.com or connect with me on Twitter, on Facebook, or on Instagram (szied713).

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