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MLB

Yankees’ Gerrit Cole caught up in a lawsuit: ‘Sticky situation’

Yankees ace Gerrit Cole has been caught up in a lawsuit involving the Angels and a fired clubhouse manager for the team after attorneys for Brian “Bubba” Harkins submitted a text message, allegedly from Cole, in Orange County (Calif.) Superior Court on Thursday, according to reports, including one in the Los Angeles Times.

“Hey Bubba, it’s Gerrit Cole, I was wondering if you could help me out with this sticky situation,” the pitcher, then with the Astros wrote on Jan. 17, 2019, adding a wink emoji, according to the reports. “We don’t see you until May, but we have some road games in April that are in cold weather places. The stuff I had last year seizes up when it gets cold.”

Harkins, who was fired in March after the Angels were informed that a Major League Baseball investigation had found he was providing banned substances to pitchers to enhance their grip on the baseball, filed a defamation suit against the Angels and MLB in August. The team and the league filed a motion in November to dismiss the suit. In response to that motion, which claimed the 55-year-old Harkins was being used as a “scapegoat,” his attorneys submitted evidence, including the text.

The origin of that information has not been verified and could be in question. More than a dozen other pitchers were also mentioned — both Angels and visitors — in the suit as having used the substance provided by Harkins. Pitchers have used similar substances through the years, but MLB has sought to crack down on the practice.

Last year, Trevor Bauer wrote in The Players’ Tribune that he was suspicious of how pitchers on the Astros teams Cole pitched for had improved their spin rate so dramatically.

“When I see a guy go from being a good pitcher for one team and spinning the ball at 2,200 rpm, to spinning the ball at 2,600 or 2,700 in Houston, I know exactly what happened,” Bauer wrote.

Bauer never mentioned Cole’s name in the story. The Post’s Joel Sherman asked Cole about the issue in February, after he signed a nine-year, $324 million deal with the Yankees. Cole did not respond to Bauer’s story, but regarding the notion the Astros were better at creating a sticky product or teaching how to use that product, Cole repeated three times, “No.”

In response to the L.A. Times story, Bauer wrote on Twitter, “It’s almost like it did exist. Wow. The more you know… how crazy.”

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MLB

Trades like Francisco Lindor blockbuster have always vaulted Mets into contention

There may or there may not be mad money to spend now that Steve Cohen is the man writing the checks at Citi Field. But what the Mets did Thursday in making a blockbuster trade for Francisco Lindor is well in keeping with a half-century team tradition.

When the Mets make a franchise- and destiny-altering move that lands them at the sport’s highest plane, it has always been of the old-school variety: our-guys-for-your-guys, let’s see who gets the better of the deal. Free agents have helped bring the Yankees multiple titles — start with Catfish Hunter and Reggie Jackson back in the day, CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira and A.J. Burnett in 2009.

The Mets? They go to the war room. They work the phones. They have been to five World Series. All five were set up the old-fashioned way. It started on June 15, 1969, when, at the old trade-deadline 11th hour GM Johnny Murphy sent five players (the most notable future big-leaguer Steve Renko) to Montreal for Donn Clendenon.

“At the time we didn’t realize what that meant because none of us had ever been in a pennant race and it was too early to say we were in one then,” ’69 stalwart Ron Swoboda recalled a few years ago. “But when we got into September and October and every time you look up Clendenon’s getting a monster hit … well, that’s when we knew.”

When the core of that team returned to the Series four years later, the biggest reason why was the acquisition of Rusty Staub by GM Bob Scheffing, a deal completed on the day Gil Hodges died — April 2, 1972 (though not announced until three days later). It was actually a costly trade — Ken Singleton was a borderline Hall of Famer, Tim Foli and Mike Jorgenson productive major leaguers — but Rusty was one of the main reasons the ’73 Mets could do more than simply believe.

Even the first powerful team the Mets constructed in the free-agency era wasn’t built on even one big-ticket offseason acquisition but a series of smart deals (Ron Darling/Walt Terrell for Lee Mazzilli, Terrell for Howard Johnson, Ray Knight for three players — most notably Gerald Young). And, of course, two blockbusters.

The first was June 15, 1983, and it delivered Keith Hernandez in exchange for Neil Allen and Rick Ownbey, and that was about as one-sided as the law allows. And the one that put the ’86 Mets over the top came almost 18 months later, Dec. 10, 1984, when Gary Carter was acquired for four eventual big-leaguers (Hubie Brooks the most prominent).

“That’s a classic example of team-building,” Hernandez said in 2016. “You look at what Frank Cashen knew he had in the farm system, he went about acquiring exactly the players he needed to put around them. It really was quite something.”

The Mets’ two most recent appearances in the Fall Classic were also the direct result of monstrous transactions. Free agent Robin Ventura was a key member of the 2000 team, but it was the Mets’ prior acquisition of two transient Marlins — Al Leiter first, then Mike Piazza — then a top-of-the-rotation pickup from the Astros (Mike Hampton) that ultimately bought them a ticket to the 2000 World Series.

Fifteen years later, the Mets were languishing near .500, unable to make a push in the NL East until, a few minutes before the July 31, 2015, deadline, Sandy Alderson stunned most of baseball and almost the entirety of his fan base by pulling off a head-spinning deal: Yoenis Cespedes in exchange for one eventually serviceable big-league pitcher (Luis Cessa) and one could-be star sidetracked by Tommy John (Michael Fulmer).

Francisco Lindor trade Mets Indians MLB
Gary Carter and Keith Hernandez; Francisco Lindor; Mike Piazza
Getty Images (3)

As poorly as the Cespedes/Mets trade ended up, it’s still impossible for any Mets fan not to fondly recall August and September of ’15 when Cespedes hammered his way to a .942 OPS and 155 OPS+ and ignited the Mets to an improbable pennant.

“In my first tenure with the Mets we had a little better success with trades than with free agents,” Alderson said, laughing, Thursday afternoon. “Maybe that’s a good sign for this deal.”

He was asked what brings a GM more satisfaction: A big-ticket free-agent signing that works out or a trade that yields dividends?

“There’s a little more investment in time and effort and thought in a trade scenario,” Alderson said, though he added with a smile: “As long as the player turn out well, it really doesn’t matter how they were acquired.”

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MLB

Who are Josh Wolf, Isaiah Greene? Meet prospects Mets traded for Francisco Lindor

The first big move of the Steve Cohen era was made on Thursday, with the Mets landing All-Star shortstop Francisco Lindor and starting pitcher Carlos Carrasco in a trade with the Indians.

But it wasn’t without giving up some potentially good players down the road. In addition to sending infielders Andres Gimenez and Amed Rosario to Cleveland, the Mets also sent prospects Josh Wolf and Isaiah Greene.

Wolf and Greene are the team’s ninth- and 10th-best prospects, according to MLBPipeline.com.

The 6-foot-3 Wolf was a second-round pick in the 2019 MLB Draft out of St. Thomas High School in Houston. Pitching for the Gulf Coast League Mets in 2019, the right-hander had a 3.38 ERA over five starts and struck out 12 in eight innings pitched. The 53rd overall selection signed with the Mets for above slot money, receiving a $2.15 million signing bonus (where he was picked carries a value of $1.37 million). Wolf was signed to Texas A&M, but opted to go pro.

Josh Wolf, Isaiah Greene
Josh Wolf, Isaiah Greene
AP

Greene, meanwhile, was a second-round compensatory pick (69th overall) for the Mets in the 2020 draft. He has yet to play professionally due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A speedy outfielder from California known for his defense and running tools, he was ranked 49th by Baseball America entering the draft.

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MLB

Yankees, Mets should consider if Corey Kluber is a worthwhile risk: Sherman

A name like that of Corey Kluber in free agency always excites. Why not? For five years from 2014-18 he was arguably the majors’ best pitcher, combining durability and excellence.

But notice the last superb season was 2018. Kluber has made eight starts since, just one last year before succumbing to a shoulder injury with the Rangers. He turns 35 in April.

Still, that name. It pushes the mind to think, “What if my team signs him and he rebounds to even close to form?” Just know it doesn’t happen a lot. Usually a mid-30s broken-toy pitcher stays that way despite all the encouraging words about the rehab.

Conversely, John Smoltz missed his age-33 season following Tommy John surgery and returned, first, as an elite closer and then again as a quality starter. Of course, he is John Smoltz, Hall of Famer. Bartolo Colon did not pitch at 37 in 2010 due to multiple arm maladies. He came back to have more productive years. He also was suspended 50 games in his age-39 season for failing a test for illegal performance enhancers.

There are other examples. Just they are rare and often come with extenuating circumstances such as the pitcher was historically great or hopped up on PEDs.

Still, Kluber is holding a mound session on Jan. 13 at Cressey Sports Performance in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., and at least the dozen teams that have expressed curiosity will send a scout. The Mets will be among those, The Post has learned. The Yankees would not divulge if they will scout Kluber’s session, but it would be a surprise if they didn’t. Plus, they might have more insight into this player currently than anyone.

Eric Cressey, who runs Cressey Sports Performance, was named the Yankees’ director of health and performance last offseason and is training Kluber through rehab this offseason. Yankees pitching coach Matt Blake worked at Cressey Sports before joining the Indians as director of pitching performance in 2016 and, thus, was with Kluber for his final four Cleveland seasons.

The case for both New York clubs — or any team — to try to sign Kluber is easy if he is healthy, considering his pedigree and that the righty likely will have to sign a low-base contract with performance bonuses for innings and/or starts, tying a lot of money to his health. So is he healthy?

In a text, Cressey wrote: “Corey is doing great. It’s been a really smooth rehab with no hiccups and he’s already been off the mound several times.”

Due to first a fractured arm and then an oblique strain, Kluber made just seven starts in 2019. Yet, the Indians picked up his $17.5 million option for 2020 and traded him to the Rangers — again, the power of the name and history outweighed the mid-30s broken toy. Kluber then made one start for Texas on July 26, leaving after one inning with a tear in his shoulder, and the Rangers did not pick up his $18 million 2021 option.

Both the Mets and Yankees could use a surer rotation add. But if you want a reminder of why Kluber entices, then know his 2014-18 (ages 28-32) looks a lot like Jacob deGrom’s last five seasons (ages 28-32). Both Stetson alums (isn’t it amazing both went to the same school too) won two Cy Youngs in that term with Kluber also finishing third twice and deGrom once. Kluber had an ERA plus of 151, deGrom 153. Kluber walked 5.2 percent of batters faced and whiffed 28.5, deGrom 6.1 and 30.3. The slash line vs. Kluber was .220/.266/.353 with a .618 OPS, vs. deGrom’s .219/.269/.339 and .608.

Corey Kluber MLB free agency
Corey Kluber is throwing in a showcase for MLB teams on Jan. 13.
Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Kluber then collapsed physically, so the Mets need the comparison to stop now. For deGrom is their rotation certainty. Marcus Stroman had a calf injury and opted out of last season. Noah Syndergaard missed 2020 following Tommy John surgery and is not due back before June, though he also is training with Cressey, who reported Syndergaard is doing great. Can David Peterson repeat a fine rookie season over a full schedule? Is Seth Lugo a major league starter? The same could be asked of Steven Matz.

The Mets are not in on Japanese ace Tomoyuki Sugano, but they are considering other free-agent starters such as Jake Odorizzi. And this is an area in which Steve Cohen’s bankroll could make a difference. The Mets could sign, say, Odorizzi and if they like what they see from Kluber, Cohen could write a bigger check than others. If it succeeds, really great. If not, Cohen could easily write it off as the kind of one-year, not-huge-money (for him) risk that the Wilpons would not take.

This offseason the Yanks are more in Wilpon mode too. Their current intentions are to stay under the $210 million luxury tax threshold. That leaves roughly $30 million-ish to spend. They have to know how much of that DJ LeMahieu will take up (or not take up) before redirecting elsewhere. If they stick to this policy, it complicates even a performance-heavy deal because the Yanks would have to budget as if Kluber will earn them to assure they stay under $210 million.

Yet, if Cressey and Blake and the Yanks’ internal information says Kluber is a good bet then they have to consider this. Because they have Gerrit Cole and then … Like Syndergaard, Luis Severino is due back around June after Tommy John surgery. How much rotation quality and how many innings could the Yanks expect from Deivi Garcia, Domingo German, Michael King, Jordan Montgomery, Clarke Schmidt, Nick Nelson and Miguel Yajure?

A solid Kluber would fit in ideally behind Cole. But is he solid? Or a famous name and broken toy?

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Football USA MLB NFL

Football is destroying itself

You’re likely familiar with the “broken windows” theory. It’s used by urbanologists to describe neighborhoods lost to blight because, from the start, smaller things, such as broken windows, went unattended.

Football, at all levels, has surpassed its untreated broken windows stage. It is approaching free fall. And not a soul in charge with a net.

Friday, at the close of the Armed Forces Bowl between Mississippi State and Tulsa, a brawl erupted that soon escalated into mass tribal warfare — roughly 45 versus 45 student-athletes, kicking, stomping, punching one another. It was the latest “Breaking News!” that football is no longer a sport, but a clash between the easily influenced, mindlessly violent antisocial.

Mindless? The perps were easily identified by the large numbers worn on their fronts and backs. Afterward, heroic MSU coach Mike Leach played the “So what, that’s just football” card in exchange for the $5 million he’s annually paid to coach a state school in an impoverished state. Leach arrived from Washington State, where his teams led the nation for most arrests over a five-year span.

Wonder how many engaged in Friday’s riot wore social activism messages, such as “Respect”?

Late in the 2019 season, a once-cherished rivalry, the Egg Bowl between Mississippi-Mississippi State, ended when Ole Miss receiver Elijah Moore caught a 2-yard touchdown pass with 4 seconds left. The extra point would tie the game.

But Moore, who lacked both originality and judgment, determined this to be a good time to perform an end-zone dog-urination mime. Of course, he was flagged for being an idiot — 15 yards. Of course, Ole Miss then missed the extra-long extra point. Of course, Ole Miss lost its biggest game of every year.

All those quick-fix artists hollering to pay college athletes (as long as it’s not their money): How much would Moore have been paid to lose that game?

Naturally, those in a position to be heard to scream for reform are instead captains of the TV cheer squads. They may not even believe what they say; they may only be bound by their pandering obligations and fright to be condemned by yahoos and assorted other fools.

Late last year, the UNLV-Nevada football game ended much the way Friday’s MSU-Tulsa did: gang warfare, while they were pelted by bottles from the stands. You can still catch it on YouTube.

But back in ESPN’s studio, host Matt Barrie was pumped with Jeremiah Bullfrog joy to the world: “And look at this! Afterwards there was a fight! Love it! That’s what makes it special.”

No wonder Barrie has been promoted at ESPN.

On Dec. 19, the NFL quietly, politely — as if to protect his dignity — fined Ravens defensive back Marcus Peters for spitting toward Browns receiver Jarvis Landry — no sweetheart himself.

But let’s focus on Peters as an NFL keeper: As a junior at Washington, he was suspended, then dismissed, for “disciplinary issues.” He was still a first-rounder.

In 2017, with Kansas City, he was fined for a helmet hit on Raiders QB Derek Carr. That season, he was fined by the league and suspended by his team for a tantrum that included throwing a penalty flag into the stands against the Jets.

In 2018, with the Rams, he was fined for conspicuously grabbing his crotch in the end zone. His pandering young coach, Sean McVay, defended him for creating “a light-hearted moment.” Yep, one for the whole family!

Last season, with the Ravens, he had an endgame fight with Rams DB Jalen Ramsey that carried into the locker room, a la Ramsey and Giants WR Golden Tate this season, but Ramsey and Peters have rotten reputations to protect, and most recently, Peters was quietly fined for obviously spitting toward Landry.

As we journey down, we also note that the possession of loaded assault weapons has become a ho-hum, tired story among college, pro and even high school footballers. Why? Aren’t fans and patrons allowed to ask? Don’t we deserve an answer? What trouble do these players anticipate or plan?

On Christmas Day, Ty Jordan, Utah’s 19-year-old star freshman running back, was shot dead in what was described as a self-inflicted accident. But that’s hardly the point. He wasn’t accidentally in possession of a loaded gun.

Jordan’s sudden death once would’ve made huge, confusing, sensational news. Not now. Same with the arrest last year of another Ute football player for the rape of a minor. Now? Dime a dozen.

It started with broken windows and will end with a sport in voluntary ruin and pandering neglect.

How to make 2 minutes last forever

For a multitude of reasons, the NFL continues to make it easier to walk away and never return.

Here’s one: Sunday’s first-half two-minute warning in Giants-Ravens began with 1:58 left on the clock. It next took 23 minutes to complete the half — 23 minutes to play 1:58, no stoppages to treat injuries or await replay challenges.

Two timeouts called after the two-minute warning commercials break included five more minutes of commercials, two of them reruns from the previous commercial stoppage.

Of course, with no one in the stadia, no PSL suckers had to suffer the elements during those 23 minutes of commercial breaks waste before the 12- to 15-minute halftime break.


The Chick-fil-A Bowl, played Friday on ESPN, is my favorite for how it exposed an elite, socially awake university as dripping in deep-fried activist lard. In 2012, objecting to Chick-fil-A’s fundamentalist, religious-based issues with homosexual marriages, Duke tossed its Chick-fil-A’s eateries off its campus.

A year later, Duke was invited to play Texas A&M in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, a whole lot of money in that invite. Duke accepted, played. The courage of Duke’s conviction came with fries.

Curses! Bad example, CC

Apparently CC Sabathia remains unable to speak a sentence in public without including vulgarities. He claims to be a devoted father of four. Great. But what if his kids received that public treatment?


What color do you suppose the U.S. team wore in the World Juniors (under 20) game vs. the Czech Republic and Sweden? Red, white and blue, no? Nope, Nike black. (Thanks to reader Sheldon Burke for the heads-up.)


I’ve always enjoyed sports knowledge board games. There are now two out by MasterPieces, available through online stores: the “MLB Baseball Trivia Challenge” and “NFL Gridiron Trivia Challenge.” No bat-flipping or TD-dancing allowed.


ESPN must have an entire wing where people are assigned to come up with stupid ideas. Friday, ESPN included the repetitive graphic that the NFL draft is a mere 119 days away!

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Football USA MLB NFL

Gary Sanchez’s benching gall is perfect way to head into 2021

Out like a lion!

Who needs Dick Clark or Guy Lombardo when Gary Sanchez’s year-ending rendition of “Uncoachable You” — a great song, accordion to music critics — brings us into 2021 on a toe-tapping high note.

Sanchez, the worst two-way catcher since Bug Bunny’s Tea Totallers met the Gas House Gorillas, just couldn’t figure out why the Yankees mostly benched him during the playoffs, and why no one explained it to him, as if batting .147, striking out 64 times in 49 games and leading the league in passed balls for the third time in the last four years didn’t speak for itself.

Oh, and he often can’t be bothered to run on offense or defense.

But give Sanchez credit for gall. After his past season, sensible folks would’ve never brought it up or quickly changed the subject.

Ah, yes, what a year, filled with the weird, worrisome and widely unwelcomed. Or as reader Jack Baroody wondered, “The Nets played three games and Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant already needed a day off?” Couldn’t play 10 minutes each?

Hey, at a combined $73 million this year they’re entitled. Good thing the Nets and their opponents don’t yet have to try to sell bait-and-switch tickets to “rest games.” Post-COVID that’ll be headed commissioner Adam Silver’s way.

Not too many years ago, as the NFL and MLB proved that it would sell its souls at auction for TV money, I satirically predicted the time would come when both leagues would prevent games from appearing on maximum access TV — if the money were right.

Well, here we are. MLB now sells at least half-a-dozen games exclusively to Facebook streaming, and NFL does similar with Amazon. Saturday’s playoff-significant game between the Niners and Cardinals — during a holiday break on a Saturday afternoon, no less — was not available on TV as the NFL sold the telecast to Amazon streaming. And bad reception was reported in some regions.

But what changes ever benefit a fan, at least those who don’t bet on games?

And just when you think our sports can’t grow any greedier, especially with the country in such great financial peril that no league can even take another five fans for granted, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell throws down a double-dare.

Imagine that chat among Goodell, team owners and the Amazonians. Goodell: “So let me get this straight. On a holiday Saturday afternoon you want me to take this Amazon money to prevent our fans from seeing a game of postseason importance.”

“Yes, Mr. Commissioner. And for this much money.”

Goodell: “Where do I sign?”

And, of course, if Goodell expected no blowback, just almost total news media compliance, he was right.

Speaking of media, reader Mark Elder wants all the football experts who bashed those teams for allowing sure-thing Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins fall to No. 15 in the 2019 draft providing Washington the misfortune to draft him, to stand and be recognized.

Haskins, another socially dubious young fool who was recruited by and trained under OSU coach Urban Meyer, the latter quickly signed by Fox when OSU could no longer cover for him.

New Mets’ coach Tony Tarasco grew up in California as a member of the Santa Monica Graveyard Crips. The Mets mostly wear blue, as do the Crips.

Washington
Dwayne Haskins
AP

In addition to being yet another analyst who needs to, well, frankly, shut up, Fox’s Brock Huard, during Sunday’s Giants-Ravens, declared NY defensive end Leonard Williams “Was snubbed. He should have been a pro bowler.” Strong stuff! But an easy, old one. Huard didn’t name the guy who didn’t deserve to be selected ahead of Williams.

CBS’s lead sideline reporter Tracy Wolfson now co-stars in TV ads with Cowboys’ QB Dak Prescott. Modern journalism!

Good to see the Vikings perform obligatory end zone boogies en route to a 52-33 loss to the Saints on Friday.

The Knicks, team colors orange, blue and white to proudly reflect New York’s before Nike bought the rights to do as it pleases to sports, wore all black in their home loss to Philly, Saturday. The Nets? Do they even have team colors? They wear a new urban monstrosity — white, gray, black, some orange and blue tossed in — almost every game. But ’em all!

Nothing more laughable than COVID-canned cheering. Saturday on the NFL Network, a false start, 5-yard penalty against the Bucs brought raucous approval from the Lion’s home crowd — an odd response with the Lions down, 47-7.

You could almost smell the academic fraud stink surrounding this Army football team all season long, just by watching them play with a self-important swagger that betrayed the conduct of past West Point players.

In Washington, DC, the William Hill sports gambling giant has launched a Bet-Mobile, similar to a Good Humor truck or a rolling library truck, that will book bets near the Capital One Arena. Should make a great truck-jacking target.

First LSU exploited a losing, COVID-infected season to declare it will punish itself to delouse itself for violations by not accepting bowl bids this season, even a big-dough bowl bid was already eliminated from consideration. Now Arizona men’s basketball is pulling a similar no-postseason transparency. What a bunch of see-through phonies.

Sean Miller
Arizona coach Sean Miller
AP

Reader Richard T. Monahan asks why, with a chance to beat Memphis at the end of regulation with a two-point shot, why the Nets chose to shoot a low percentage 3-pointer, eventually to lose the game in OT? ESPN doesn’t show two-pointers as highlights unless they’re slams.

Saturday, with 20 seconds left in their game against Vegas, ESPN reported the Dolphins had a 99.9 percent chance to lose. Twenty seconds later that became a 100 percent chance to win. But such numbers reflect the misapplied intellects of the networks. The joke is on the teller.

On-the-record anti-Semite DeSean Jackson returned to the Eagles from a two month injury, Saturday, but that didn’t prevent him from somersaulting into the end zone — even if the fool had been injured and had lost his first NFL TD to a premature spike. By the way, still not a public word of condemnation from selectively moved Goodell for Jackson’s hateful bigotry.

The 5-10 Giants are still alive for the playoffs? Still eligible to win the Super Bowl? Sad but unsurprising. Follow the TV money.

Reader Lee Livingston: “If a star player tanks to lose a game, he’s investigated, condemned and could land in prison. If he tanks for an improved draft pick the fans love him.”

Categories
MLB

Juan Soto, Fernando Tatis Jr. and everything we hope for from MLB in 2021: Sherman

COVID-19 will continue to have its input, and so will MLB owners and the Players Association.

But I am hoping for baseball in 2021 to be as close to normal as possible.

For I want to look forward optimistically to something because looking back at the last year is so dismaying and disheartening. For the planet. For the sport.

And yet in my little corner of the world …

I saw enough of Juan Soto in a limited 2020 season to want more. Much more. I generally grimace at hyperbole and only make predictions when someone who pays me forces me to do so. Yet, I wonder if I am watching the opening act of the greatest hitter ever. Soto is Miguel Cabrera’s precociousness, Joey Votto’s eye, Big Papi’s sense of the moment and Albert Pujols’ impact.

The only players who batted at least 1,000 times and had a higher OPS-plus through their age-21 season than Soto’s 151 are five Hall of Famers (Ted Williams, Stan Musial, Ty Cobb, Jimmie Foxx and Eddie Mathews) and two future Hall of Famers (Pujols and Mike Trout).

So do I want to see him bat as much as possible in 2021? Yes …. Yes, I do.

And give me more of Trout too. This will be the season in which he will turn 30 in August. Can the Angels muscle up so he can play important games in September, if not October? The sport would be so much better if Trout had a meaningful forum to display his skills, even if it is just in a tense race for the postseason.

Yet, give me as much 2021 baseball as possible because I think this could be a torch-passing year — Trout to Fernando Tatis Jr. as the best player in the game. Tatis Jr. turns 22 on the second day of 2021. Yet it doesn’t take 20-20 hindsight to see that 2020 set the stage on offense, defense and charisma for Tatis Jr. to be the standard in the game. Yep, count me in for seeing if that transfer of power takes hold.

MLB 2021 Juan Soto, Fernando Tatis Jr.
Juan Soto, Fernando Tatis Jr.
Getty Images (2)

But maybe that transfer of power already took place. Mookie Betts’ team won the 2020 World Series and won it not insignificantly because everything you can do well on a field — big or nuanced — Betts excels at. He is baseball as it could be: talented, athletic, heady. He is a triple-double come to MLB because he impacts the game so greatly at the plate, in the field and on the bases.

We are playing a game for all your money tomorrow and you have the first pick in the draft — is there a player who would help you win more than Betts?

I can’t take my eyes off of him when he is just leading off first base. So, again, as much Mookie as possible in 2021.

And as much Betts’ Dodgers vs. Tatis Jr.’s Padres as the schedule can afford. Los Angeles has won the NL West seven straight years and will be defending World Series champs and I can’t wait to see what this assemblage of talent in San Diego can do about that. There is combustibility with the Padres. But also a ceiling as high as any team in the sport. This is going to be the best rivalry in the game in 2021. A three-game series of Yu Darvish, Dinelson Lamet and Blake Snell vs. Walker Buehler, Clayton Kershaw and David Price is must see, along with the tag team of Tatis Jr. and Manny Machado vs. Betts and Cody Bellinger.

As far as matchups go, if I heard Mike Brosseau were batting against Aroldis Chapman today on Wall Street, I’d put on a mask and get there. So, yeah, let’s hope some ninth innings find them together again in 2021.

Also, put me down for Jacob deGrom vs. Gerrit Cole. Neither faced the other New York team in 2020 (the Buffalo Blue Jays don’t count), much less each other. That needs to change in 2021.

The best offseason plot around here is if Steve Cohen and Sandy Alderson and Jared Porter can assemble a team worthy of deGrom. The greatest pitcher in Mets history, Tom Seaver, passed away in 2020. The second best has a 2.10 ERA over the last three seasons, throws 93 mph sliders and struck out nearly 40 percent of the hitters he faced last year.

The second best offseason plot around here is whether the Yankees are retaining DJ LeMahieu. As someone who counts the rarer and rarer half innings that don’t include a strikeout, walk or homer, I want more of LeMahieu going line to line. Nicknames are often tortured. But “The Machine” feels right for his Terminator-esque relentless, emotion-free, pressure-impervious at-bats.

Give me a 2021 with the aesthetic joy of Nolan Areando at third and Kevin Kiermaier in center. For seeing if this is the year Jose Berrios and Luis Castillo become household names. For Javier Baez, Carlos Correa, Francisco Lindor, Corey Seager and Trevor Story dueling to see who emerges atop the best free-agent shortstop class ever.

Devin Williams’ changeup and Garrett Crochet’s fastball. Giancarlo Stanton’s exit velocity and Wander Franco’s entry date. Freddie Freeman in the clutch and Trea Turner in fourth gear.

Here is hoping for a better 2021.

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MLB NBA & WNBA

CC Sabathia talks to Jalen Rose about grief — and throws heat at Michael Jordan

CC Sabathia is fearless. The future Hall of Famer, World Series-winning pitcher who played for the Yankees for a decade, has faced some of baseball’s most powerful hitters and his own demons. On this week’s episode of “The Renaissance Man,” he’s throwing heat at the GOAT.

I asked him, if he had the chance to strike out either LeBron James or Michael Jordan, who would he chose? I could barely get the question out before Sabathia answered.

“MJ for sure. Because he talks so much s–t. Even now, like, my shoulder’s broken I want his ass to get in the box right now and strike him out. Last time he came to one of my starts, I think I had like three or four walks, and I come out of the tunnel and … before he gave me a five, he was like ‘Why you walking so many guys?’… ‘I was like dawg I’ve seen the back of your f–king baseball card.”

Extremely bold.

But then again, that’s Sabathia, and he seems to be allergic to sugarcoating anything these days. In his HBO documentary, “Under the Grapefruit Tree,” he tells the story of his upbringing in the Bay area, his major league career and how close he was to losing everything because of his addiction issues that stemmed from all of the loss he had in his life. The title is a nod to the grapefruit tree that his grandmother had in her backyard. He’d set up a folding chair and launch the grapefruits that had fallen on the ground as if he were former Dodgers and A’s pitcher Dave Stewart. It sounds like a tale concocted by Hollywood, but that is literally how he learned to pitch — with a citrus fruit.

But a major part of his story is his rehab stint in 2015 for alcohol addiction, and he vividly described his own version of rock bottom.

“My No. 1 low point is when I decided to go to rehab … I’m basically in like a mental ward of the rehab facility when you first check in. They gotta detox you … I got my sweats on, they’re inside out and I basically have on a medical gown … I’m sitting here and watching the Yankees play against the Astros in the AL wild card game … It’s almost like it wasn’t me, sitting there. It was the weirdest experience I’ve ever had in my life. And as I am sitting there watching that game is when I made the decision that I wanted to get my s–t together … I don’t want to be this person. I don’t want to be this sad story, that’s the headline in The Post…I didn’t want to go down that path.”

No one in the facility approached him during that game, but they just watched him to see how was going to react. He is still CC Sabathia. You can’t turn off your celebrity. It’s the same recognition whether you are signing autographs after winning the World Series or watching your team play as you sit a clinic.

He said he learned that he had never quite unpacked grief properly. He lost his grandmother just before he was drafted in 1998, his father in 2003 and many other close family members in quick succession. He credited therapy and rehab with helping him tap into his emotions.

CC Sabathia
CC Sabathia at the 2020 Baseball Writers’ Association of America awards dinner in January.
MLB Photos via Getty Images

“I had to go to rehab to be able to get those feelings out and get those emotions out and really take a look and sit back, and mourn and grieve and give yourself a chance to breath. And it’s OK to cry,” He now understands that grief is a crafty thing. It can come in waves and hit you at the most bizarre moments, and for him, even watching the Raiders play brings back a flood of emotions.

As an athlete and also as black men, you build up a wall of strength and invincibility in order to put yourself in a position to conquer each moment and chase your goals. You mask your pain, and most of the time you don’t address your anxiety or disappointment because it isn’t the macho thing to do. Of course we recognize how important mental health is, but I applaud Sabathia for his openness, his self-awareness and being brave enough to talk about the moments in his life that most people would rather forget.

That kind of candor also makes for a great interview. But he’s an ace storyteller with an incredible capacity for knowledge and the history of the game of baseball. He plans on doing more of that in retirement, which he says has been incredibly fun. He wants to make documentaries and tell some of the rich and untapped stories from the Negro League.

And now that we have that Jordan challenge in the open, why not make it official. Let it be a nationally televised event like “The Match” with Peyton Manning, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Tom Brady. We’re talking ratings bonanza.

And sorry, MJ. I’m putting my money on CC.

Detroit native Jalen Rose is a member of the University of Michigan’s iconoclastic Fab Five, who shook up the college hoops world in the early ’90s. He played 13 seasons in the NBA, before transitioning into a media personality. Rose is currently an analyst for “NBA Countdown” and “Get Up,” and co-host of “Jalen & Jacoby.” He executive produced “The Fab Five” for ESPN’s “30 for 30” series, is the author of the best-selling book, “Got To Give the People What They Want,” a fashion tastemaker, and co-founded the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy, a public charter school in his hometown.

Categories
MLB NBA & WNBA NFL

The Post’s sportswriters make their wish list for 2021

You probably already know this, but we have a hell of a good time here. At The Post, in this section, every day is a chance to take you along with us for one crazy, unpredictable ride after another. We get to watch sports every day. We get to argue about sports every day. We get to fire the manager and trade the quarterback and release the goalie.

We raise our voices sometimes.

We laugh a lot.

We hope you do the same. We know it wasn’t always easy in 2020. The world got in the way. The front of the paper sometimes interrupted our fun. It happens. But then we catch our breath, and we go through the various and splendid alphabets of our sporting life — to ESPN and FS1; to SNY and MSG and YES — and we find it again. We find all of it again.

And look: 2020 was a lot like other recent years around here. Nobody won a title. Nobody even got to a league final. The Islanders gave us a few thrills. The Yankees had a few October moments. Jacob deGrom threw 99 mph a lot, and Kevin Durant took an opening bow, and the Giants proved you don’t have to win more than 33 percent of the time to be considered a contender.

But this wasn’t 1956, when the Yankees and the Giants teamed to give us one of the great calendar years we’ve ever seen. It wasn’t the 17-month dream ride from Jan. 12, 1969, through May 8, 1970, when the Jets, Mets and Knicks conquered the world together, or even 1986 when the Mets won 116 games and the Giants went 17-2 and rolled over all comers.

You know what we want for you?

We’re hoping fans of all teams will be able to return to fields and stadiums.
Robert Sabo

Well, for one, of course: a year that isn’t ransacked and roughed up by the virus. That’s on and off the court. All of us have been touched by it. All of us have been hurt by it. And normal won’t really feel like normal again until we can stand on long lines again for beer, for hot dogs, for ice cream. We need a time of good health again in order to usher in a time of good cheer again. And cheers again.

But we want this, too: We want a year like ’56 and ’86 for you, a year for you to scream yourself hoarse day after day until your larynx sues for peace. We want you to collect our back pages in your den, in your man cave, in your office, headlines that scream of victory and triumph, glory and grit. We want what you want: a year out of our dreams. We’re going to get that some year, you know. Why not this year? Why not this year?

And here’s a few other things we want:

Marc Berman: The hope is by April, Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau will hear his first loud and live “De-fense!” chant shaking the Garden. The fake noise being pumped inside “The World’s Most Emptiest Arena” in 2020 is, frankly, depressing.

Peter Botte: My wish is to see Noah Syndergaard and Luis Severino back on the mound, Saquon Barkley back on the field, Spencer Dinwiddie back on the court and Henrik Lundqvist back on the ice in 2021.

Zach Braziller: My hope for 2021 is that the NCAA finally ends the charade of amateurism and allows student-athletes to profit off their names and likenesses, no strings attached.

Larry Brooks: I wish for a full recovery and good health for Henrik Lundqvist. And then jumping ahead, a number retirement for the ages at the Garden.

Henrik Lundqvist
Henrik Lundqvist
Paul J. Bereswill

Mark Cannizzaro: No more Zoom athlete interviews. As convenient as they may be to some industries, these are debilitating to writers who make a living developing trust and relationships with players through face-to-face locker room time.

Ken Davidoff: An MLB playoff spot gets determined by an automatic runner stealing home in the final regular-season game.

Ryan Dunleavy: I wish for the return of one of the great NFL traditions: Fans in attendance for the first night of the NFL draft to boo commissioner Roger Goodell, quizzically look around at each other no matter who the Jets pick, and convince themselves this pick is the player that finally restores greatness to the Giants.

Greg Joyce: Here’s wishing for all the Game 7s possible with crowds that shake the building and raise the hairs on your neck.

Howie Kussoy: I hope to watch Selection Sunday, to fill out a bracket, to see a Cinderella buzzer-beater, to enjoy “One Shining Moment” once more.

March Madness 2020 no NCAA brackets coronavirus
There was no March Madness in 2020. Let’s hope that isn’t the case again.
Getty Images

Brian Lewis: I hope the NBA’s short offseason and condensed regular season doesn’t lead to too many injuries, after watching Spencer Dinwiddie, Ja Morant and Kevin Love all go down in the first week.

Andrew Marchand: I hope broadcasters return to traveling as they did before. If stay-at-home calls ever became the norm, then so much knowledge will not only be lost, but never gained.

Phil Mushnick: My most earnest wish for 2021 is that folks cease vowing to become “more transparent” and instead start telling the truth.

Mike Puma: I wish for a day this summer that 41,000 fans can pass through the Citi Field turnstiles for a ceremony and proper farewell to Tom Seaver.

Paul Schwartz: My wish for Giants fans is for their passion to stay strong but for the vitriol to come down several notches.

Steve Serby: Hearing the crack of an Aaron Judge or Pete Alonso bat, the barking of the hot dog and beer vendors.

Joel Sherman: Six hundred plate appearances for Juan Soto because he has a chance to be among the greatest hitters ever.

Mollie Walker: My wish is for Rangers and Islanders fans to be blessed with eight straight Igor Shesterkin-Ilya Sorokin matchups.

Categories
MLB

Steve Cohen can’t wait for 2021: ‘Bring on Mets baseball’

Steve Cohen is ready to turn the page on 2020.

While it’s been a brutal year, Mets fans have taken solace in Cohen becoming the team’s new owner — a fan himself who is as excited as anyone to get the new year and MLB season started.

“Happy Holidays to all . Bring on Mets baseball in 2021,” Cohen wrote on Twitter on Christmas Eve.

The 2021 Mets will look different than the team that went 26-34 and missed the playoffs during this year’s shortened MLB season. Along with the return of Sandy Alderson and the hire of new general manager Jared Porter, the Mets have made two key free-agent signings thus far in catcher James McCann and reliever Trevor May.

They haven’t yet splashed some of Cohen’s billions on one of the top-tier free agents like George Springer and Trevor Bauer, though they’re in the hunt for both. Cohen said this week he is focused on a long-term approach rather than a quick fix.

“As a fan they want me to sign everybody tomorrow, but is that a sustainable strategy?” Cohen said Wednesday in a Q&A session hosted by Howie Rose. “Ultimately you want to develop talent. You want to develop your farm system. To me that is the most sustainable way to create a winning team year in and year out. Yes, you can go buy players, but you buy players that are in their 30s potentially and we know there’s plenty of data that suggests performance of players tends to decline once they are in their early 30s.”