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Mets’ situation hired Buck Showalter as new manager: Sherman




Mets’ situation hired Buck Showalter as new manager: Sherman

The situation hired Buck Showalter.

If I were a betting man, I would wager that the other two finalists for the Mets’ managing position — Joe Espada and Matt Quatraro — will be managers in the next 12-24 months. If I were going to play longer odds, I would say that Espada will rise from bench coach to eventually replace Dusty Baker in Houston and the similar DNA between Tampa Bay and Cleveland will lead to Quatraro going from the Rays’ bench to the Guardians’ dugout when Terry Francona is done.

In both situations, I am forecasting for an inexperienced manager to replace two of the most seasoned in the sport.

The Mets essentially could not take that roll of the dice. Not after the Mickey Callaway disaster and Luis Rojas apprenticeship. Not after Steve Cohen pushed so many chips to the middle of the table with a free-agent splurge this offseason that notably brought Max Scherzer and a $265 million payroll … and counting. Not when this is New York and the expectations are going to include meeting Cohen’s mandate to win a title in the next four years.

Espada and Quatraro might be Buck Showalter in 1992, ready to take off on brilliant careers as major league managers. But Buck Showalter was Buck Showalter in 1992, managing a New York team for the most demanding owner in the history of the game (ignore that George Steinbrenner was suspended at the time, he was looming over that Yankees team). He has spent a long baseball life proving he can handle what is coming with the present-day Mets.

Baltimore Orioles manager Buck Showalter (26) talks with the press at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., in an interleague game on July 8, 2014.
Buck Showalter

His résumé hung over this process as surely as Steinbrenner did those Yankees of three decades ago.

So the situation hired Showalter. It essentially had to be him. It had to be someone with which the guesswork was removed when it came to doing the job. He has had success in four locales — notably doing the kind of culture shift to professionalizing the clubhouse and dugout in The Bronx that is so needed now in Queens. With his hiring Saturday, Showalter is fourth among those active in games managed behind Tony La Russa, Baker and Francona.

He will not need a how-to book on how to handle the job or New York or a demanding owner or expectations.

Is he a perfect hire? Of course not. Just Gene Mauch and Baker have managed more games without winning a World Series than Showalter’s 3,069. Only Mauch has managed more games without winning a pennant. Is it possible that Showalter is the type of manager who can only get you so far? Maybe. But it isn’t like the Mets get that far with regularity. They have made the playoffs just two times in the past 15 years.

Showalter also can be polarizing. I suggest thick skin for those who work with him because he will challenge even people he likes and he will suffer fools poorly — Showalter has among the sport’s best fraud detectors. New GM Billy Eppler will have to work to keep Showalter from straying beyond his job description. But I think there is a chance for this to happen. One of Eppler’s mentors was Gene Michael, the first general manager to ever hire Showalter to a job — and probably the GM he respected most in all of his stops.

Also, Showalter has to see this as a last best chance. Showalter turns 66 in May. You never say never — not after La Russa returned following a decade hiatus and induction into the Hall of Fame — but this is probably Showalter’s final stop in trying to win a title. If he can do that, he will at least put himself into the conversation for Cooperstown.

Buck Showalter (right) with George Steinbrenner (left).
Buck Showalter (right) with George Steinbrenner (left).

Showalter managed a Yankees team from humiliation back to the playoffs, breaking in all the members of the Core Four in 1995. He got an expansion team to the playoffs in two years in Arizona. He had to confront Alex Rodriguez in Texas and tell his star to stop calling pitches from shortstop like his idol, Cal Ripken Jr., did. And he took an overmatched, underfinanced Orioles team that hadn’t sniffed the postseason for 15 seasons to the playoffs three times in a five-year period, breaking in Manny Machado along the way.

He has not managed for the past three years, but as his colleague at the MLB Network, I can vouch he was staying current and passionate about the game — seeing each issue that arose through the sight and thought of a major league manager. You could take Showalter out of the dugout, but you could not remove managing from his blood.

Now, he will be back in his preferred milieu — a major league dugout. He will bring his keen eye and sense of organization to a franchise that can use both. I know folks will bring up leaving Zack Britton in the bullpen waiting for a save situation that never came in a 2016 AL wild-card loss, but Showalter is the best game manager I’ve covered. I would be shocked if there is one-tenth the second guessing among Mets players of Showalter that there was for Callaway and Rojas. It is part of the reason it had to be him. The Mets couldn’t guess that Espada or Quatraro would be good under real-time duress.

Or if they could manage the alpha Scherzer, whatever the tension is between Francisco Lindor and Jeff McNeill, the return and perhaps role change of Robinson Cano, the ultimate emergence of Francisco Alvarez and Brett Baty, the looming spectre of Cohen and the boiling brew of New York fans, media and expectations.

This was the situation for the Mets, so the situation hired the person most proven at handling it all.


Sports world reacts to John Madden’s death




Sports world reacts to John Madden’s death

Legendary NFL coach and broadcaster John Madden died Tuesday morning at 85, the NFL announced. News of the football icon’s passing hit Twitter on Tuesday evening, and athletes, coaches and broadcasters from across the sports world reacted.

Fellow broadcasting legend Dick Vitale, who is currently battling cancer, called Madden “the greatest analyst of all time of any sport” in his Twitter tribute.

Former Yankees pitcher and notable Raiders fan CC Sabathia said “your legacy will live forever.” Madden coached the then-Oakland Raiders from 1969-78, a couple of years before Sabathia, a Vallejo, California native, was born. Lakers star LeBron James had similar words about Madden’s lasting legacy, adding an infinity emoji.

Former tennis star and social justice activist Billie Jean King recalled meeting Madden as a “privilege.”

Radio voice of the Rangers Kenny Albert, a five-sport broadcaster who’s been with FOX Sports since its inception in 1994, shared a photo circa 26 years ago to remember Madden.

ESPN’s Bomani Jones took a bit of a shot at current color commentators, noting that Madden “set an unreachable standard.”

Frank Caliendo, who’s made a career out of impersonations, including one for Madden, said he was surprised how emotional he felt.

Several football players, and others, including Saints running back Mark Ingram II and former Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant, credited Madden with being part of the reason why they love football.

Rams wide receiver and NFL MVP contender Cooper Kupp quote the late coach in his tribute: “The road to Easy Street goes through the sewer.”

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Miles McBride’s Knicks role will lessen with Kemba Walker’s resurgence




Miles McBride’s Knicks role will lessen with Kemba Walker’s resurgence

MINNEAPOLIS — The Knicks got back another body in rookie point guard Miles McBride, who was cleared from protocols Tuesday and rejoined the team in Minnesota.

But there is no longer any hype for the rookie’s return. Kemba Walker is back as the starting point guard and coming off winning Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors with four standout games, including his Christmas Day spectacular. The Knicks have gone 2-2 since Walker regained the starting job.

“It’s great,’’ coach Tom Thibodeau said. “He had a great week. He’s playing great basketball. The team winning helps him get recognized and he was a big part of driving that winning. It’s great for the team.’’

McBride was also spectacular in his last outing before getting COVID-19, when he played the entire second half Dec. 16 in Houston and seemingly earned a spot in the rotation. In fact, McBride had strung together two decent outings before he was ruled out. But things have changed since his emergence and McBride is likely back to being a bit player.

Without a practice, McBride wasn’t even expected to see time when the Knicks faced the Timberwolves to kick off a four-game road trip.

Miles McBride
NBAE via Getty Images

Of course, with Walker’s arthritic knee, anything is possible. The Knicks play Detroit on Wednesday in a back-to-back, so it’s uncertain whether Walker will complete both contests. In addition, Immanuel Quickley is out of COVID-19 protocols but Thibodeau wasn’t sure he was ready for meaningful minutes.

That left Walker against the depleted Timberwolves, who were missing their three top players (Anthony Edwards, Karl-Anthony Towns, D’Angelo Russell), all because of COVID-19 .

Kemba Walker
Kemba Walker

When McBride got sidelined by the virus and Derrick Rose needed ankle surgery, Walker was resurrected by Thibodeau and it’s been a stunning comeback story.

Though Thibodeau has clear reservations about Walker based on his nine-game banishment due to his defensive malaise as an undersized point guard, he admitted after the Christmas Day triple-double against Atlanta that Walker is playing “much more aggressive.”

Walker’s triple-double that featured 10 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds was a lot different than his prior outing, when he scored 44 points against Washington.

“I thought his passing was terrific,’’ Thibodeau said before the Knicks resumed their schedule.

“Kemba had control of the game. The game tells you what to do. That’s what I loved about the way he played. I don’t think he forced anything. They puts size on him and were aggressive in their pick-and-roll coverage. He didn’t fight it. He attacked pressure the way you like to attack pressure. You don’t fight pressure with pressure. Don’t try to split it. Get rid of it, go to the backside. Let the game tell you what to do.’’

The Knicks coach is finally seeing all the elements of what Walker can do. Before his demotion, Walker was nothing more than a no-defense, 3-point shooter whose plus-minus was an abysmal minus-122.

Thibodeau was also concerned about his durability in sitting out two of the three back-to-back sets. The last load management game in Atlanta in late November triggered Thibodeau’s decision.

But now it’s only superlatives from Thibodeau in judging the last four games.

“Sometimes it’s going to be his shooting, sometimes it’s his penetration and getting in the paint to force a collapse and sometimes they’re being aggressive with their traps get rid of the ball quickly,’’ Thibodeau said. “The overall play, his rebounding. When your guards rebound, those are key to fast breaks. The more guard rebounding we get the better we can be. ‘’

The Knicks still have three players in protocols — centers Nerlens Noel and Jericho Sims and the newly infected Wayne Selden. Quickley and Kevin Knox were cleared on Christmas but were held out for conditioning.

No matter. The Knicks go as Kemba goes.

“He’s much more aggressive,’’ Thibodeau said. “That was the challenge. At the beginning of the year he and Evan were two new starters. Sometimes guys are trying to fit in. he’s being very aggressive which is the way we want him to play. Not deferring at all. When he and Julius [Randle] are aggressive like that our team is different.’’

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Bar raises dramatically for Zach Wilson in matchup with Tom Brady, Buccaneers




Zach Wilson and Tom Brady

When Zach Wilson stares across the MetLife Stadium field at the opposite sideline this Sunday, it won’t be Trevor Lawrence he’ll be looking at as his game-day counterpart.

Lawrence, drafted by Jacksonville one spot before the Jets selected Wilson at No. 2 overall last April, is a contemporary.

This Sunday at MetLife, the Jets rookie quarterback won’t be staring at a contemporary on the other sideline. He’ll be staring at the GOAT.

Tom Brady.

The bar raises dramatically for Wilson and the Jets, who are coming off of their feel-good, get-well win over the woeful Jaguars and Lawrence this past Sunday.

Brady and Buccaneers, who are 11-4, NFC South division champions and seeking to repeat as Super Bowl champions, play the Jets, who are 4-11 and seeking more signs of development from their rookie quarterback.

To say this is a step up in competition for Wilson and the Jets going from Lawrence and the Jags to Brady and the Bucs is as obvious as pointing out that Tampa Bay receiver Antonio Brown has had a few off-the-field incidents during his otherwise stellar NFL career.

There hasn’t been a lot to keep the interest of the Jets fan this season — other than watching Wilson’s development. That took an unfortunate pause for the four games Wilson missed with a knee injury, but he’s been back for five games and has looked like a better quarterback, throwing only two interceptions in those games (none in the last three) since returning from his injury.

The problem, though, is that Wilson hasn’t been producing enough touchdowns, throwing for three of them and rushing for four others in the past five games.

Zach Wilson and Tom Brady
Zach Wilson and Tom Brady
N.Y. Post: Charles Wenzelberg; AP

Baby steps, though.

Wilson was the better quarterback this past Sunday when matched up with Lawrence, who threw for more yards than Wilson did, but Wilson ran for 91 yards, including his electric 52-yard scoring jaunt, and made key throws when he needed them.

Wilson will not win Sunday’s game against Brady and the Bucs throwing for the 102 yards he had against the Jaguars. He and the Jets will need more.

Consider this: Brady enters the game having thrown 37 TD passes and for 4,580 yards this season and averages a league-high 305.2 passing yards per game.

Then this: The Buccaneers average 29.5 points per game this season, second most in the NFL.

And this: Wilson doesn’t have a single 300-yard passing game, averages 183 passing yards per game and has thrown seven TD passes in 11 games.

Seven TD passes is a pedestrian two-game total for Brady.

Wilson and the Jets are playing with house money anyway in what always has been a developmental season, so Sunday against Brady should, at its very least, be a great measuring-stick learning experience for Wilson, who’s studied Brady on tape.

Wilson revealed this month that he watched film of Brady before the Jets played the Eagles on Dec. 5 in an effort to pick up tips on how Brady worked against the Eagles defense when he played them earlier in the season.

“I thought it was really cool to see kind of how he went through his whole process, how he navigated the pocket, different things like that,” Wilson said at the time.

On Sunday, Wilson gets to see that process up close as Brady tries to dissect a Jets defense that has yielded 29.9 points per game this season, the most in the NFL.

That puts an added onus on Wilson to produce on the other side of the ball, because he knows Brady is going to get his. Wilson will likely need to produce four TDs — any way he can — for the Jets to simply remain competitive with the Super Bowl champs.

That’s a lot to ask of a 22-year-old kid who’s produced just 11 TDs in his 11 starts, up against Brady, who’s thrown 618 TD passes and for 83,784 yards in his remarkable career.

It, too, is a lot to ask playing against an aggressive Tampa Bay defense that’s ranked No. 9 in the NFL in points allowed (20.8 per game) and is led by former Jets head coach Todd Bowles, who’d surely like to send a holiday message to his former employer.

If you don’t think Bowles will be blitzing the bejesus out of Wilson, then you probably think Antonio Brown is a living saint.

The good news for the Jets is that Wilson has shown incremental improvements, particularly when it comes to his decision-making and quicker releases on his throws.

“He’s coming along, he’s getting more comfortable, he’s calmer back there,’’ Jets coach Robert Saleh said Monday. “He’s in a great headspace and it’s going to be fun to watch him grow, continue to grow.’’

A big part of that growth will take place this Sunday as he watches the GOAT operate from the opposite sideline at MetLife.

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