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Mets should sign J.T. Realmuto in Steve Cohen’s first big move

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Mets should sign J.T. Realmuto in Steve Cohen's first big move

Many tests await Steve Cohen once he assumes control of the Mets, and for the purpose of this column, let’s assume that he’ll pass the entry exam of the approval vote by other owners.

After that, before the really heavy lifting, the first test looks easy:

Sign J.T. Realmuto.

“Wow,” Joe Girardi said Tuesday afternoon, before his Phillies opened a critical series with the Mets at Citizens Bank Park, “there’s so much.”

To be fair, I wasn’t asking Girardi about the amount of money his starting catcher Realmuto, the industry’s top free agent for the upcoming winter, should expect to pull down on the open market. Rather, I inquired of the former Yankees skipper, a catcher in his day, what impressed him most about the 29-year-old Realmuto.

“I think his durability is incredible,” said Girardi, who then acknowledged the irony of that statement, as Realmuto didn’t start Tuesday due to a mild strain of his hip flexor. “Just his preparation. A lot of times players are really gifted but [he] is really gifted and the preparation is outstanding. His homework that he does in how to get opposing hitters out. His homework that he does on when he can run and steal bases, who he goes from first to third on, studying the opposing pitcher that he’s facing that day.”

There’s more to come from that answer, yet to climb back to the peak of this issue, Cohen must decide who will run the Mets’ baseball operations. Unless Cohen opts to retain current general manager Brodie Van Wagenen, that person will have to make calls on deputies as well as a manager (even if it’s keeping Luis Rojas). And depending on the timeline of that owner vote, these crucial choices might be rendered after the start of free agency, which will be five days after the completion of the World Series.

The good news for Cohen is that any candidate who disagrees with signing Realmuto to a record deal for a catcher should be automatically disqualified.

Joe Mauer set the bar for catchers over 10 years ago when he signed an eight-year, $184 million extension with the Twins, bypassing free agency. Realmuto easily will beat that annual average value of $23 million and is a good bet to surpass the total package, even if it’s for fewer than eight years.

J.T. Realmuto
J.T. RealmutoGetty Images

Obvious red lights exist when you look at how catchers have aged in the drug-testing era. Mauer stopped catching in his age-31 season, the fourth year of his contract, due to concussions. Buster Posey, whom the Giants signed to an eight-year, $159 million extension in 2013 (Van Wagenen was his agent), slipped after his age-30 season in 2017, as did Cardinals icon Yadier Molina after his age-30 season in 2013.

What mitigates this is that Cohen, whom you might have heard is loaded even for an owner, can afford the slippage — shoot, he can afford to just release him and eat vast sums of money — in return for the reward of immediately firing up Mets fans and Jacob deGrom as well as weakening the rival Phillies with this signing. And Realmuto, as per his current manager, need not remain at catcher to offer significant value.

“He’s really an amazing athlete,” Girardi said. “I think you could put him a number of certain positions and feel comfortable with him there and know that he could do a really good job. And you don’t say that about all catchers. I know they didn’t say that about me.”

It was Phillies owner John Middleton who joked to USA Today a couple of years ago about being “a little bit stupid” when it came to aggressively pursuing free agents, and he wound up signing Bryce Harper to a roof-raising, 13-year, $330 million contract that offseason. Cohen, from everything we know about him, wouldn’t mind being similarly stupid in going wallet-to-wallet with Middleton for Realmuto’s services.

Cohen couldn’t ask for a simpler initial test of his mettle, his seriousness, his desire to differentiate himself from the people he’s replacing. Can he accept this gift of a gauge and give Mets fans the first of what they hope is many presents? It’s tantalizing enough to compel Mets fans, for the first time in forever, to look forward to the Hot Stove season.

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Christine founded Sports Grind Entertainment with an aim to bring relevant and unaltered Sports news to the general public with a specific view point for each story catered by the team. She is a proficient journalist who holds a reputable portfolio with proficiency in content analysis and research.

Christine founded Sports Grind Entertainment with an aim to bring relevant and unaltered Sports news to the general public with a specific view point for each story catered by the team. She is a proficient journalist who holds a reputable portfolio with proficiency in content analysis and research.

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Why Aouar is the answer to Arsenal’s midfield problems

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Why Aouar is the answer to Arsenal's midfield problems

For the last two decades, the No.8 has held a special status in Lyon.

Since Juninho pulled on the shirt for OL and inspired them to a record-breaking seven successive Ligue 1 titles, it has been a revered number among fans of the Rhone giants.

The Brazilian, who is regarded as one of the greatest free-kick takers the game has ever known, now pulls the strings behind the scenes at the Groupama Stadium and is set to preside over a critical week in the transfer market.

Among the deals waiting to be done is the sale of hometown hero Houssem Aouar, a 22-year-old midfielder who so looked up to the Recife-born star that he elected to inherit his number when he established himself in the senior squad.

Juninho was no traditional No.8 – more of a graceful playmaker than a link to the forward line – but Aouar is better suited to the usual, multi-purpose requirements of the role. 

At Lyon, though, Aouar’s versatility has proven as much of a blessing as a curse. Happily willing to play anywhere across the centre or left of the pitch, he has at times sacrificed his personal betterment for that of the team.

His ability to play deeper than a typical creator has tempted Lyon to utilise him in a system that has curbed his natural attacking instincts, restricting him to a modest three goals and three assists in 25 Ligue 1 outings last season.

Such statistics reflect badly but unfairly on a player so technically gifted that he has been hailed by Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola as “incredible”.

Indeed, City have been just one of many clubs linked with Aouar since he first broke through in the Lyon first team proper in 2017 as a teenager before rapidly becoming a key component of the starting XI thanks to his graceful nature on the ball, his keen eye for a pass and his ability to wriggle out of tight spaces.

It is with good reason that Chelsea, Liverpool, Paris Saint-Germain, Juventus and Real Madrid have all been associated with the player at one time or another, but as the race to sign him draws to a conclusion, it is Arsenal who are leading the pack.

Lyon have already fielded what president Jean-Michel Aulas bluntly called a “timid” offer from the Gunners, and said the Ligue 1 club are holding out for more than €40 million (£36m/$47m).

Given Lucas Paqueta is already on his way from AC Milan, it seems that Aouar, whose contract is up in 2023, will be granted the exit he craves, with the Emirates Stadium still looking the likeliest destination. 

And it is at Arsenal where the greatest opportunity to unlock his enormous potential lies.

Mikel Arteta plans to use him in a 4-3-3 formation as the foremost central player, where Arsenal are crying out for a player capable of operating comfortably in between the lines of midfield and attack.

It would also offer Aouar the opportunity to play in a system and position tailor-made to his game.

Getty

Aouar, who was only denied a first France cap earlier this month when he contracted Covid-19, has also already shown his ability to shine on the big occasion, positing a goal and six assists in just eight Champions League games, as OL made an unanticipated run to the semi-finals last season.

Lyon, as a whole, were better suited to playing counterattacking football than the monotony of breaking packed defences down, but by the time they made a decisive move to remedy that issue by signing Bruno Guimaraes in the winter window, the coronavirus crisis, which caused the Ligue 1 season to be aborted, was looming.

“When Houssem plays like a second striker, you lose him in the midfield,” Juninho explained in February. “We have to find balance and Bruno can give us that.”

They were on the field together for just 445 minutes last term, but during this time Aouar offered four assists and a goal – a decisive action every 89 minutes in comparison to his overall season figure of 171. 

This is all the more impressive given that among these fixtures were a 1-0 win over Juventus, a 3-1 defeat of Manchester City and a 3-0 Champions League semi-final loss to Bayern Munich in which Rudi Garcia’s side got far closer to the European champions than the scoreline suggested.

The evidence is clear: given the liberty to attack, Aouar will thrive.

Arsenal are ready to give him that freedom and if they can find a way to broker a deal, it promises to be the start of a special relationship.

Lyon’s beloved No.8 could become just as adored at Arsenal.

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Christine founded Sports Grind Entertainment with an aim to bring relevant and unaltered Sports news to the general public with a specific view point for each story catered by the team. She is a proficient journalist who holds a reputable portfolio with proficiency in content analysis and research.

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Doc Rivers Confirmed to Meet With Philadelphia 76ers For Potential Head Coach Job

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Doc Rivers Confirmed to Meet With Philadelphia 76ers For Potential Head Coach Job

With the offseason about to begin, we’ll get to see many changes within the teams and its management. However, it looks like the Clippers have already begun their refining process. After an embarrassing postseason, the Clippers had to bear the brunt of a lot of criticism.

The main target of this scrutiny were Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, and for the most part, coach Doc Rivers. With hopes to redefine the Clippers’ dynasty, Rivers was let go, and the number one candidate waiting to acquire the veteran coach are the Philadelphia 76ers.

Doc Rivers is expected to meet the 76ers

The Sixers have been on the lookout for a new coach for quite some time now. They have been linked to candidates like Billy Donovan, Mike D’Antoni, and Ty Lue to replace Brett Brown.

And now with Doc available in the market, the Sixers have been one of the first to approach him. According to Shams Charania, Doc will be meeting with the Sixers soon enough.

Fixing the Sixers could pose a great challenge for any coach that takes over. Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid together have proven to be a disaster on the offensive end, and filling the team with average shooters has only added to the problem.

If there is anybody who can get Embiid back into shape and Simmons to shoot three’s, it is Rivers. That being said, the 76ers need a guide, and that is a vacancy that the great Rivers is equipped to fill. He holds a startling resume that not a lot of coaches can boast of.

Is this the perfect landing spot for Rivers?

Rivers managed to bring the Clippers to the postseason every single time. The only aspect that was missing was infusing the chemistry within their star-studded roster. This is exactly what Rivers will be expected to do with the Sixers. They showcase a lot of promising talents that Rivers could extract in the best way possible.

It was a smart move on the Sixers’ part to not hire someone in a hurry. There was speculation that Rivers was going to be available, and now their moment is here. Do you think Rivers will be a good fit?

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Christine founded Sports Grind Entertainment with an aim to bring relevant and unaltered Sports news to the general public with a specific view point for each story catered by the team. She is a proficient journalist who holds a reputable portfolio with proficiency in content analysis and research.

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No more ‘token interviews’ in future

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Sandy Alomar

Sandy Alomar guided the Indians to a 28-18 record and a playoff berth as acting manager this season, but it’s unclear if the 54-year-old will ever get a chance to be hired to manage a team on a full-time basis.

Either way, Alomar made it clear he has no interest in being interviewed just so a team can check a box, something he feels has happened to him previously.

“I’ve had interviews in the past, three or four, and some of them were last-minute interviews when I didn’t feel like I was ever given a chance to go to a second interview,’’ Alomar said before the Indians’ season-ending 10-9 loss to the Yankees.

“Some interviews, to me, were token interviews,’’ said Alomar, who is filling in for Terry Francona, who missed much of the abbreviated regular season with health issues.

He didn’t specify which jobs those were for, but Alomar interviewed for managerial openings with the Cubs, Blue Jays and Red Sox nearly a decade ago before taking over for Manny Acta as interim manager in Cleveland to finish the 2012 season before Francona was hired and Alomar returned as bench coach.

Alomar, who played and coached for the Mets, was also in the mix for their managerial job in 2017, but the job went to Mickey Callaway.

“I feel like I’m ready enough to manage,” Alomar said. “I’ve never agreed with the interview process. [Being called] at the last minute, I never feel comfortable with that.”

Sandy Alomar
Sandy AlomarGetty Images

Alomar scoffed at the idea that a lack of experience in the dugout might have hurt him in some of his early interviews.

“I felt like I had a lot of experience before,’’ Alomar said. “I played 20 years in the big leagues. I wasn’t in the NFL. I do sabermetrics and all that stuff. I’m on top of all that, too.”

He’s not holding his breath for another shot.

“I understand you’ve got to go through the process, I get it. Right now, my daughter is in high school.I don’t need the job,” Alomar said. “If someone is interested and calls, we’ll talk. I’m not promoting myself. In other words, I don’t have a hidden agenda.”


The Yankees got their wish not to have to pitch J.A. Happ on Thursday night in a wild-card Game 3. The Yankees planned to fly to San Diego on Thursday morning after winning two straight from the Indians and advancing to the ALDS.

The best-of-five ALDS opens Monday at Petco Park and if Aaron Boone sticks with the same plan he had against the Indians, Happ likely would start Game 3 on Wednesday. Gerrit Cole and Masahiro Tanaka would work the first two games.

Happ had a vesting option for $17 million for 2021 based on making 25 starts or pitching 165 innings this season. Because the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a 60-game schedule, that was prorated to 10 starts, or 61¹/₃ innings. The veteran lefty started nine regular-season games and threw 49¹/₃ innings.

Despite being healthy, Happ made just three starts from Aug. 5 to Aug. 29.

Asked on Aug. 25 if he thought the lack of activity might be related to the vesting option, Happ said: “You guys [in the media] are pretty smart. It doesn’t take too much to figure out, sort of, what could be going on.”

Happ has opted not to discuss the situation lately.

In a three-start stretch from July 30 to Aug. 16 Happ went 1-1 with a 6.39 ERA and allowed 10 walks and struck out six in 12 ²/₃ innings. Puzzling was the fact hitters batted .217 against him during that stretch.

Provided more regular work in Boone’s rotation down the stretch, Happ went 1-1 with a 2.22 ERA, struck out 27 and issued four walks in four starts to close out the regular season.

With the vesting option not kicking in, Happ will join James Paxton and Tanaka as free agents following the World Series.


Yankees pitching coach Matt Blake worked for the Indians from 2016-19, holding a number of jobs, the last as director of pitching development.

So, did Boone go to Blake for information about the Indians’ pitchers heading into the wild-card series?

“Certainly leaned on him for some information and some things, kind of giving me some context of their starting pitchers he has been around and some of their relievers,’’ Boone said of his rookie pitching coach. “But along with our scouts who have been watching these guys for a couple of weeks now and coupled with the analytical information we get you add all that up and you feel like you have a pretty good idea of an opponent.’’

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Christine founded Sports Grind Entertainment with an aim to bring relevant and unaltered Sports news to the general public with a specific view point for each story catered by the team. She is a proficient journalist who holds a reputable portfolio with proficiency in content analysis and research.

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