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Alex Caruso Jersey Lakers

Phenomenal. Eye-Popping. Tenacious. These were just a few of the glowing adjectives used to describe Lakers guard Alex Caruso in his DraftExpress scouting report ahead of the 2016 NBA Draft. That may be surprising to some who didn’t see the unheralded, undrafted guard coming, but the praise is indicative of the on-court abilities that Caruso is still trying to hone and prove to this day.

After finishing four collegiate seasons and setting all-time records in assists and steals at native Texas A&M, the lanky guard set out to do what so many before him have attempted, and failed to achieve — play in the NBA.

On that anxious night of the draft in Brooklyn, Caruso would not be amongst the 60 players who had their dreams fulfilled by being selected. He would not walk that illustrious stage, he would not shake the commissioner’s hand, nor would he hear his name called.

But three years later, Caruso would sign a multi-year deal with the Los Angeles Lakers and in the process, see a phoenix-like mythology that was crafted in his honor by fans of the team become reality in front of his very own eyes.

But the cruel reality of expectations for an athlete is that once they are exceeded, there is no returning to the moment before they were birthed. A new standard has been set, and later tattooed in the form of a contract as a reminder of the benchmarks that should be met, if not hurdled over again. It’s a treacherous cycle that Caruso is on the precipice of.
Utah Jazz v Los Angeles Lakers
Photo by Yong Teck Lim/Getty Images

After wowing and stealing the hearts of the Lakers’ fanbase in his limited playing time over the past few seasons, the team committed two years and $5.5 million — actual NBA money and a non-two-way roster spot — to Caruso over the summer. It was a signal that a player who was intertwined with tongue-in-cheek hyperbole and countless memes and nicknames should now be taken seriously.

And although preseason basketball shouldn’t be overanalyzed, there have already been indications both on and off the court that suggest Caruso is beginning to feel the pressure to perform.

Caruso shot a mere 24% from the field (worst amongst Lakers who attempted at least ten shots) and coughed up a team-high 18 turnovers in his 118 minutes played during the exhibition stage. While the numbers alone should not be the central cause for concern, the visual manner in which Caruso pressed and was utilized was far more troubling.

Often slapping his hands in frustration after a bad pass, wildly bulldozing into traffic and routinely getting his shots stuffed from opposing guards and bigs alike, the overall viewing experience and the composure of the fan-favorite felt different. It very much had the appearance of a player trying to imitate someone or something else.

”I’ve just been focused on making the right reads and trying to be aggressive. I really don’t think I’ve been doing that well of a job personally”, Caruso told reporters last week. “I know it’s preseason, and I’m kind of getting back in the swing of things, but I want to be playing better, so hopefully I use these last two games to round into form for next Tuesday.”

It’s difficult to argue that Caruso has succeeded in accomplishing what he says he set out to do — and to be fair, it seems even he would make the opposite argument right now. He has dished out 25 assists (tied with LeBron James for team honors) but as his aforementioned high turnover rate and low efficiency numbers suggest, he’s also made misreads.

One potential variable that could be driving him to press besides living up to his new contract and the fanfare he’s received could be the raised stakes.

Caruso no longer has the benefits that come with playing freely on a mostly young and lax team. Nor does he have the “just go out and play” essence that comes with playing in garbage time and in games with no playoff implications.

That changes this season as the Lakers will have clear and legitimate championship aspirations when the ball gets tipped Tuesday night. Anyone who takes the floor will be expected to augment such expectations.
Los Angeles Lakers v Golden State Warriors
Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

There is reason to wonder how many minutes Caruso will see under new Lakers head coach Frank Vogel. Although he tallied the most minutes of any point guard on the roster this preseason, Caruso also received minimal run with the expected starters. More prominently, he get close to no exposure next to James and Anthony Davis. A potential red flag for those pining for the guard to start.

When asked about Caruso’s struggles, Vogel said Caruso shouldn’t beat himself up for his play too much, and seemed to understand the context of it.

“First of all, he hasn’t shot the ball well, but he’s played pretty well. Especially on the defensive end,” Vogel told reporters during a recent shootaround.

“And I’m not really measuring too much on the last two games in light of the difficult circumstances in China and the difficult circumstances with the trip back from China, and playing basically 48 hours later. I’ll reserve basically any real evaluations from those games, understanding that those are both difficult circumstance types of games. I’m not unhappy with his play.”

While obviously struggling on offense, Caruso has once again been one of the standouts on the team on the defensive end, and easily projects to be the best defensive option amongst the other point guards on the roster. Caruso’s absurd hustle and instincts will likely allow that to translate to when the games start to count.

In terms of the other contextual facets Vogel mentioned, they likely too have also played a role, but the head coach also shares some blame, as he has not done his point guard any favors in terms of his deployment.

Amongst Caruso’s play-type frequency in the preseason, 41.5% of his offense has come as the pick and roll ball-handler, according to Synergy. Within those possessions, he has converted only two of his 12 field-goal attempts.

When combining his passes out of these chances as well, his pick-and-roll-derived offense has a cumulative 20.8% conversion rate from the field. That’s not great.

Even tracing back to last year, Caruso has performed much better as an off-ball threat rather than having to serve as the team’s primary creator, posting higher points per possession on nearly every other play-type besides pick and rolls. It’s another reason why he excelled playing beside James last season, and potentially why he has struggled thus far.

To make a brutal start to the year even worse, Caruso also suffered a “bone-contusion” in his pelvis during the team’s final preseason contest against the Warriors after suffering a rough landing on a lay-up attempt.

He is now day-to-day, and the injury only further emphasizes that this has been about as unfortunate of a beginning as possible to the 25-year-old’s year. Hopefully just a blip in what will be an otherwise successful campaign.
NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at Los Angeles Clippers
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

There is no question that Caruso’s path has been one of the most unique and successful routes in recent league memory when comparing it to the initial expectations for him. From going undrafted that night in Brooklyn, to playing with a game-seven-like intensity against De’Aaron Fox in Summer League and then serving up a seismic poster on Kevin Durant, it has all led him to this moment. It has all helped write the myth of CarusGAWD.

However, for as enjoyable the social-media campaign has been, and as popular he has become, it is has been on the back of his tireless hard-work. From chasing after loose balls to making winning play after winning play, Caruso has earned his spot in the league.

He has show he’s a capable and damn good NBA player when he plays his game. It will be up to his teammates, his coaching staff and ultimately himself to make sure he continues to do what has gotten him here.

Because the hardwood is his version of the Barclays Center stage he never got to walk, his teammates’ hands are the ones he now gets to shake after making a crucial play and the screaming fans are the ones that will make sure his name get’s called so he never forgets it.

Nick Van Exel Jersey Lakers

Nick Van Exel was drafted by the Lakers with the No. 37 pick in the second round in 1993 and played five seasons in L.A. before he was traded to Denver for Tony Battie and Tyronn Lue. The 6-foot-1, 170-pound guard went on to play 13 seasons with six NBA teams before calling it a career after the 2005-06 season. Van Exel ranks No. 14 on the NBA’s all-time 3-pointers made list with 1,528. He is now an assistant coach for the Atlanta Hawks and ESPNLA.com caught up with him before the Hawks played the Lakers earlier this week.

What’s your favorite memory from your time with the Lakers?
Nick Van Exel, now an assistant with the Atlanta Hawks, spent the first part of his NBA career with the Lakers from 1993-98. Brian Drake/NBAE/Getty Images

“Favorite memory? Hmm. I’ll probably say two. Just the draft night, being drafted by the Lakers was special coming from where I had come from — a small town in Wisconsin. It was a pretty big event for me. I’ll say three [memories]. Of course, making big shots in the playoffs, just the excitement, you hear the crowd and probably being on the team when Magic [Johnson] returned. That was special.”

You were a second-round draft pick, so there was nothing guaranteed to you. Looking back at that time, was there anybody in the organization that was really backing you or helping you and pushing for your success?

“Yes, the head man, Jerry West. The Logo. He was really a big fan. I can remember playing down in, I want to say Irvine, Calif., for the rookie summer league games and I played terrible. I played terrible and I thought, ‘Man, I may not make the team!’ I really didn’t know much about the NBA. I played so bad that they signed me after like the third or fourth game [because they kept waiting for me to play better]. I was playing so bad. Definitely Jerry West had my back.”

Through your scouting you might have heard of Andrew Goudelock, a rookie on this Lakers team. Your name has been attached to him a little bit in terms of being a high-scoring guard, a second-round draft pick with nothing guaranteed. Is there something about the character of a guy to be able to do that? To make it when the odds are against you?

“I really believe it’s just no fear, man. For me, I never thought I would fail. Every shot I took, I thought it was going in. Even when I was in the second round, a lot of people didn’t know if I would make it or not, I never questioned whether I would make it the team or anything like that. So, I think with him, it seems he has that no-fear attitude. When you can go out there and come off a pick-and-roll and just pull up for 3 when you got Kobe [Bryant] on the court with you, you’ve definitely got a no-fear mentality.”

Did you have any thoughts when you saw that Kobe passed Shaquille O’Neal on the all-time scoring list?

“The thought I had was, it was just when. When is he going to do it? The kid worked so hard coming in as a rookie. He definitely worked harder than anybody else. He has that kind of the Michael Jordan, the Magic Johnson, the Larry Bird, he has that ‘it’ about him. There’s not many guys that have that. Kobe has it and that’s why he’s special.”

Could you tell back then?

“Easy. You could tell he was going to blow the league away eventually because his mindset was, as an 18-year-old rookie coming in, was, ‘I’m the best one-on-one player in the league.’ Like, that’s what he thought when you had Michael Jordan, you had some great players [playing at the time], he felt he was the best player in the league at 18 years old.”

When you think back to those Lakers teams, unfortunately you didn’t get a chance to get a ring with those guys, but those teams had you, Eddie Jones, Kobe, Shaq … There was a really strong collection of talent. What do you think about when you think about those teams?

“Just young. We were just young. I was five [years] in the league when I got traded. Eddie was four, Shaq six, Kobe 2-3. We was just young. Young and dumb and just trying to find our way through it and unfortunately we didn’t get a chance, but there’s still some great memories.”

You played for Denver, you played for Dallas, you played for five or six teams, do you associate yourself with any one team? Do you think of yourself as a Laker? Do you get people coming up to you to reminisce about those days?

“I’ll say this, the most it happens if somebody comes up to me it’s, ‘Yeah, I remember you from the Lakers.’ They say that. You got the Dallas fans too, because I live in Texas, but you get mostly Lakers because the Lakers are who they are. Historical.”

Something I was always curious about as a fan growing up watching you: What was with your free-throw routine?

“(Laughing). My free throw was, I shot free throws so bad from the normal stripe, when I missed I always hit the back of the rim. So, I decided to move back a little bit and it just became a natural shot. That was basically telling me my midrange game wasn’t as good as Sam Cassell’s midrange game, so I had to move back a little bit.”

Editor’s Note: Van Exel finished with a 79.4 percent career mark from the foul line and had six seasons when he shot 80 percent or better.

Did you come into the league doing that? Or when did you make that change?

“I think I started it in Denver. But, I knew throughout my career, I was probably [shooting] in the 70s [percentage wise] from the line, so I knew I was a better free-throw shooter than that. I had to figure out someway so I moved back.”

And it went up once you did it?

“Yes, I think I finished around 80 [percent], so I could have been better if I was smart enough early on. Like I said, I was young (laughing).”

You did enough in your career that the name ‘Nick Van Exel’ is obviously part of NBA history, but is that funny to you to think that just your actual free-throw routine is one of the little quirks of the league?

“I don’t think about it. Everybody else might. For us, it’s just normal things we do. I don’t think much about it.”

Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.

Bryan Trottier Jersey Penguins

It was Halloween Night at PPG Paints Arena, and the Philadelphia Flyers left feeling spooked.

The Penguins, led by their captain Sidney Crosby, scored four goals in the first period en route to a 7-1 drubbing on Tuesday night.

Crosby, 32, scored a goal and three points in the contest, and he looked like, well, Sidney Crosby. Meaning he was relentless at both ends of the rink and completely dominant on every shift. And the stat sheet bore out that result.

Goals: 1
Assists: 2
Points: 3
Plus-minus: +3
Shots: 6
Faceoffs: 8-6 (57 percent)

Heck, he even threw in two penalty minutes for good measure. If it weren’t for him seeing limited ice time in the third period with the lopsided score (he finished with 16:51 minutes in the game), Crosby could have finished with four, five, even six points on the evening.

Crosby always gets up for contests against the Penguins cross-state rivals. He now has 102 career points (42G-60A) in just 68 career regular-season games against Philadelphia.

“You knew there is always a little more in those games (against the Flyers),” Crosby said.

That moved him past Wayne Gretzky for fourth place on the all-time points list against the Flyers – behind only three former Penguins (Mario Lemieux, 124; Jaromir Jagr, 120; Bryan Trottier, 117).

“I wasn’t aware of that. Those are side notes that you guys keep track of,” Crosby said. “That’s good. Those are big games and you want to play well in those ones.”

Crosby set up the Penguins’ third goal of the evening to get his first point of the night. He won a puck battle in the corner and found linemate Dominik Simon streaking into the circle. See-pass-shot-goal.

Simon buries wrist shot
00:57 • October 30th, 2019

Next, Crosby took matters (or the puck) into his own hands. He backpedaled through the slot with the puck on his stick. He waited, waited, waited, boom. Top shelf and a 4-0 lead for Pittsburgh.

Crosby roofs sharp-angle shot
00:54 • October 30th, 2019

Was the captain satisfied with that? Of course not. Set scene for the second period. A loose puck was bouncing around the Flyers’ crease. Crosby was battling at the post with Ivan Provorov. Jake Guentzel’s shot from the slot went off the post, and Provorov accidentally knocked the puck into his own net due to the pressure from Crosby.

Guentzel scores from one knee
01:04 • October 30th, 2019

Crosby played the contest wearing protective face gear around his chin after getting hit in the face by a shot last Saturday. He noted that the gear makes it harder to see when you look down. It didn’t seem to bother him too much on this evening.

Though he did think that he would have scored on Guentzel’s goal had he been able to see the puck in his feet.

“I would normally have that one, I’d like to think,” Crosby said. “A few around the net when the puck’s in your feet it’s harder to pick up.”

Perhaps most impressive though is the plays that don’t end up on that stat sheet. Crosby was strong on the puck in the offensive zone, circling around the goal and using his strong frame to guard against checkers. Whenever he lost the puck, Crosby was quick to retrieve it.

Crosby took a heavy hit from Philadelphia’s Matt Niskanen. His response? Got right back on his feet, charged to the net and got off a shot.

And those are the plays that set the tone for the rest of the team. As defenseman Brian Dumoulin said of the top line: “They are the horse that drives the cart.”

As Crosby leads, the Pens will follow. And they followed him to a 7-1 victory.

Masahiro Tanaka Jersey Yankees

The offseason has barely begun, with the GM meetings taking place next week and a whole bunch of MLB clubs starting their internal hiring processes. Yet in Yankeeland, we’re already thick in the debate about what the team should do this winter, specifically with respect to the two star starting pitchers on the free agent market.

CC Sabathia and Giancarlo Stanton have already voiced their desire for the Yankees to sign Gerrit Cole, or Stephen Strasburg, or both of them. We’ve heard both sides of the debate before, last year around Patrick Corbin, two years ago when Yu Darvish was a free agent, and on and on. The position of the Yankees has been the same; the team hasn’t signed a “real” free agent – a pitcher that wasn’t on the team at the end of the preceding year – since 2014.

And what a signing that was, when the Yankees landed 26-year-old NPB star Masahiro Tanaka. New York inked Tanaka the old fashioned way, by offering a player the most money. It wasn’t a value play, and there wasn’t talk about dollars per WAR. The team just bid the most and got the guy they wanted.

Since then, Tanaka has legitimately been one of the 20 or so best starters in the game:

He has been in the top 20 in fWAR, top 25 in innings pitched over the last five seasons and K-BB%, and of course has the third-best postseason ERA in baseball history. That’s a pretty good resume for a guy who hasn’t quite been anointed an “ace.”

If you’re one of the new kinds of Yankee fans – or Brian Cashman himself – and obsessed with maxing out “value,” the news is even better. Those 18 wins Tanaka has accrued, if you assign a relatively conservative $8 million per win, means he’s been worth about $15 million more than the money he’s been paid. That’s a pretty good return for any club.

There’s a lot of risk in free agent deals – they’re given out to guys that are a little older, probably with a fair amount of mileage on the arm, and often come along with accouterments like no trade clauses that limit the yearned-for “roster flexibility.” And yet sometimes, it just works out. Sometimes, signing the big name to the big contract is the right move.

Tanaka was the right move, he’s been worth $15 million. Max Scherzer was the right move, he’s been worth more than a hundred million dollars to the Nationals. The big free agent signing the Yankees made before Tanaka was CC Sabathia, who also proved his worth. This winter provides another opportunity for the Yankees to sign the big name to the big contract, and once again all signs point to it being the right move.

Gerrit Cole is fresh off a two-season run as dominant as any pitcher of his era. His 2019 was so stellar, if he started every at-bat down 1-0 in the count, he would have finished with the third-highest strikeout rate in baseball. He’ll cost a truck load, but he’s the absolute best in the game right now.

Stephen Strasburg is coming off a dream October, and a 200-inning season that would have had him head and shoulders above any Yankee starter. He’s a post-hype star at this point, and he’s still worth the big deal.

Free agents carry risk, but the right one can be all the difference in October, and come out of the wash being worth more than the deal. Tanaka was one, and he was the last one the Yankees have enjoyed. It’s time for them to make the splash again.

J.A. Happ Jersey Yankees

Take any pitching staff. It will have flaws.

Last season, the Yankees won 103 regular season games and the American League East crown despite posting a 4.31 staff ERA that was just 14th-best in baseball.

New pitching coach Matt Blake, whom the Yankees reportedly hired Thursday, will have some problems to solve.

Here are four quick Issues. Let us know what else he must do in the comments below:

Help J.A. Happ rebound: Happ posted a 2.23 ERA over his final six games (five starts) of the regular season, striking out 35 hitters over 32 1/3 innings. Before that, he had a 5.85 ERA over 25 starts? The Yankees will pay Happ $17 million next season. He’s almost assured a rotation spot. He should be priority No. 1. The 37-year-old appears to still have the stuff to be a plenty capable big-league starter.

Luis Severino’s changeup: Sure, it might be splitting hairs to complain about Severino, whose fastball-slider offering could be among the best in the game. But it’s when hitters have to also respect his changeup that he’s able to pitch deeper into games. It was a weapon he trusted more in the minors, he’s said, than he has in the majors. Making it consistent could lift him from potential No. 1 to bonafide ace.

Masahiro Tanaka’s splitter: Tanaka’s trademark pitch abandoned him for large stretches of 2019. He seemed to find it late in the year, thanks to a new grip, and he was as good as ever in the playoffs. Tanaka complained last season that the juiced baseball’s seams felt too low and the ball felt too hard, perhaps contributing factors to the fall off of his splitter. Bringing it back would do wonders for the veteran.

Buy Yankees gear: Fanatics.com, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Champs Sports, MLB.com, Lids

Finish Deivi Garcia’s development: The 20-year-old right-hander blitzed through the organization in 2019, going from High-A and tearing through Double-A before stumbling a bit at Triple-A. Former pitching coach Larry Rothschild said he thought that dealing with more advanced hitters and some fatigue were to blame for Garcia’s rough time at Triple-A. Of course, Blake will be guiding the big-league staff. Getting Garcia over the finish line will be up to the minor-league staff and player development head Kevin Reese. But Blake will have his hands on Garcia during big-league spring training.

Domingo German Jersey Yankees

Before we get started, domestic violence should not be tolerated or justified, even if a New York Yankees player commits it, in this instance, starting pitcher, Domingo German. The negative attention and press an event like this causes for a prestigious team like the Yankees can spell the end of a player’s career in the Bronx, but it seems as if the organization is behind German.

According to Ken Davidoff of the New York Post, the MLB is coming to a conclusion in regards to German’s case, who will likely walk away with a minimal suspension after reportedly striking the mother of hid children, Mara Vega, in public, on the evening of September 16.

Without a police report being filed, there’s little evidence and cause for a lengthy suspension for the young pitcher. Teammate Aroldis Chapman was suspended for 30-games in 2016 and Houston Astros’ Roberto Osuna, missed 75 games in 2018 on domestic violence charges.

The offseason for the Yankees could be determined by the result of the case against German, who is set to be a consistent starter for the next several seasons.

Drew Brees limited in practice, but Sean
Payton won’t name starter for Cardinals vs Saints

How did Domingo German perform for the Yankees in 2019?
The Dominican starter had a career-high season in 2019, finishing 18-4 with a 4.03 ERA, 1.147 WHIP, and 153:39 K:BB ratio over 143 innings. At just 27-yeard-old, the Yanks are expecting him to grow into an ace that can help solidify one of the best starting units in baseball.

Despite the concerns regarding Domingo, the Bombers are known for giving player’s multiple chances to redeem themselves unless you’re Clint Frazier, of course, who was sent to the dog house for being negative towards reporters last season.

I anticipate the committee will impose a 30-game suspension for German, who likely won’t miss the majority of the 2020 season. Having him in the starting rotation will undoubtedly give the Yankees an edge, and if they manage to sign a big-name arm this offseason, they could be walking into next year with an exceptional rotation.

Joe Torre Jersey Yankees

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Aaron Boone finished as a close runner-up, again.

Boone, the Yankees’ second-year manager, placed a tight second behind Twins rookie skipper Rocco Baldelli in the race for American League Manager of the Year, the Baseball Writers Association announced on Tuesday.

With 30 voters, two representing the markets from each of the 15 AL cities, Boone and Baldelli each received 13 first-place votes. However, Baldelli notched 13 second-place votes to Boone’s nine. Boone got four third-place votes to Baldelli’s two, and in the 5-3-1 scoring system, that gave Baldelli the 106-96 edge in points.

Baldelli guided his Twins to a 23-game improvement, from 78-84 to 101-51, giving the team its first AL Central title since 2010. The Twins proceeded to get swept by the Yankees in the AL Division Series. Ballots are turned in prior to the start of the postseason.

In Boone’s second year managing the Yankees, the team overcame a record-setting flurry of injuries — they set a known mark with 2,433 injured-list days, as per Major League Baseball — to go 103-59. The Yankees advanced to the AL Championship Series before falling in six games to the Astros for the right to represent the AL in the World Series.

Boone drew praise for his unshakeable nature, except when it came to defending his players against inexperienced umpires. In one such rant, July 18 at Yankee Stadium during a game against the Rays, Boone called his hitters “savages in the (bleeping) box,” getting ejected and subsequently suspended, earning the players’ wrestling belt as the star of the contest and launching a new marketing campaign for the club.

The last Yankees manager to win this honor was Joe Torre in 1998, when his Yankees set a major-league record with 114 regular-season wins.

Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash placed third with 33 points. In his fifth year running the Rays, Cash led the low-payroll entity to a 96-66 mark which landed them the second AL wild card, the franchise’s first postseason berth since 2013. Tampa Bay defeated Oakland in the wild-card game and extended the Astros to the maximum five games in the AL Division Series before getting eliminated.

Others receiving votes were the A’s Bob Melvin (19 points), the Astros’ A.J. Hinch (10) and the Indians’ Terry Francona (1).

Jackie Robinson Jersey Yankees

The annual struggle to define what makes a baseball manager great played out this year in a delicious jumble of a vote, culminating in victories by Rocco Baldelli of the Minnesota Twins and Mike Shildt of the St. Louis Cardinals for manager of the year honors in the American League and National League, respectively — despite neither winning a majority or even an outright plurality of first-place votes.

Each was in his first full season as manager, and both had strong cases for the award — Baldelli for guiding the Twins to a 101-win season and an AL Central title in his rookie season on the bench, Shildt for taking the Cardinals from below .500 as late as July 12 all the way to the NL Central title — but neither was considered a clear favorite.

With their victories, both Baldelli, 38, and Shildt, 51, made history — the former as the youngest winner ever and the latter as the first to have never played professionally.

Both races were decided by just a handful of votes. In the AL, both Baldelli and Aaron Boone of the New York Yankees received 13 first-place votes out of 30 cast by members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. The difference: the 13 second-place votes Baldelli received compared with nine for Boone. Four voters left Boone out of their top three, while only two left Baldelli off. Tampa Bay’s Kevin Cash received three first-place votes and finished third in balloting.

In the NL, Shildt’s victory came despite the fact he received fewer first-place votes (10) than runner-up Craig Counsell of the Milwaukee Brewers (13). Shildt received 14 second-place votes to six for Counsell, and only three voters kept Shildt out of their top three compared with six who omitted Counsell.

Washington Manager Dave Martinez was a distant fifth in the NL, behind Atlanta’s Brian Snitker and the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Dave Roberts, receiving three ­second-place votes and six third-place votes. Voting was completed before the postseason, so Martinez’s World Series title with the Nationals was not a factor.

Baldelli, the youngest manager in the majors, took over a Twins team that won just 78 games in 2018, leading to the dismissal of Paul Molitor, and guided them to 101 wins and the AL Central title. He became just the eighth manager to win the award after his first full season on the job — and the first since Arizona’s Torey Lovullo in 2017 — as well as the eighth manager to win following a 100-win season, the last being Seattle’s Lou Piniella in 2001.

“Nobody takes on a job like this for personal accolades,” Baldelli told MLB Network following the announcement. “You take these kinds of roles because you want to do everything you can for your players, your staff and your organization.”

Shildt took a Cardinals team that was 44-44 at the all-star break and guided it to a 47-27 record in the second half to hold off the Brewers and Chicago Cubs for the Central title, the Cardinals’ first since 2015. He ascended to the manager’s job on an interim basis in July 2018 following Mike Matheny’s firing and was given the full-time position at the end of that season.

Shildt, whose mother, Lib, died last week, choked up after the announcement that he had won and said: “I set my sights on being the best coach I could be. The journey has led me here. I’m grateful for it.”

The AL race, in particular, offered a perfect case study in how to define a manager’s greatness, with the three finalists offering vastly different attributes and résumés. While Baldelli could claim the biggest single-season turnaround, Cash did the most with the least, taking the Rays to 96 wins and an AL wild-card berth despite having the majors’ smallest Opening Day payroll.

Boone, meanwhile, nearly overcame voters’ traditional bias against high-payroll teams. His case was built around the Yankees’ 103 wins in a season in which the team placed a major league-record 30 different players on the injured list, with some of the team’s best players lost for large chunks of time.

On the surface, those three seasons were almost impossible to compare on a head-to-head-to-head basis — and the same was true, for that matter, in the NL. And absent any better system for judging managerial greatness, that is precisely why these votes played out with such a chaotic lack of consensus.

Baseball’s awards week continues with the announcements for the Cy Young awards on Wednesday and the MVP awards on Thursday.

Yordan Alvarez, Pete Alonso win rookie of the year
The historic rookie campaigns of Houston Astros designated hitter Yordan Álvarez and New York Mets first baseman Pete Alonso were validated Monday with landslide victories for the Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year awards. Álvarez won unanimously in the American League, and Alonso was a near-unanimous pick in the National League.

Álvarez, 22, became the first unanimous winner since Aaron Judge (AL) and Cody Bellinger (NL) swept the first-place votes in 2017. Alonso, 24, missed being a unanimous winner by just one vote. Voting was conducted by members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America and was completed before the start of the postseason.

The honors for Álvarez and Alonso came following remarkable, history-making debut seasons. The former amassed the highest on-base-plus-slugging percentage in history for a rookie with a minimum of 350 plate appearances — 1.067 — and the latter slugged 53 homers for the Mets, breaking Judge’s major league rookie record.

Asked for his reaction following the announcement, Alonso, on the live MLB Network telecast, answered, “Holy expletive.”

Baltimore Orioles left-hander John Means — who went 12-11 with a 3.60 ERA for a pitching staff that ranked among the worst in modern history — was the runner-up in the AL, followed by Tampa Bay Rays and former University of Maryland infielder Brandon Lowe. Atlanta Braves right-hander Mike Soroka received the one first-place vote that didn’t go to Alonso and was the runner-up in the NL.

The AL rookie of the year race was never the same after June 9, the date Álvarez was promoted to the majors. Though he would amass only 369 plate appearances — not enough to qualify for the batting title — Álvarez’s OPS from that point was topped by only Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels and Christian Yelich of the Milwaukee Brewers, top contenders for MVP honors in their respective leagues, and he hit 27 homers, drove in 78 runs and batted .313.

Álvarez’s 87 games played are the fewest for a position player named AL rookie of the year, and only Willie McCovey, who played 52 games for the 1959 San Francisco Giants, played fewer among NL winners of the award.

The NL award could have been more of an actual race had San Diego Padres shortstop Fernando Tatís Jr. not suffered a back injury in mid-August that cost him the rest of the season. At the time, Tatís, 20, had a .317 batting average, a .379 on-base percentage and a .590 slugging percentage — for an OPS of .969, 56 points higher than Alonso’s on the same date — with 22 homers and 53 RBI in only 372 plate appearances.

Soroka, 22, had the kind of rookie campaign that might have won the award in any other, non-Alonso season. He went 13-4 with a 2.68 ERA — the latter mark topped by only four other qualified pitchers in the majors — and emerged as the ace of the NL East champion Braves’ staff. Though it didn’t factor into the voting, Soroka also won his only start of the postseason in dominant fashion, limiting the St. Louis Cardinals to two hits and one run over seven innings in Game 3 of the division series.

Here are the finalists for each award and our predictions.

Rookies of the year
Announced Monday. The Post’s predicted winners are marked with an asterisk (*). Actual winners are in italics.

NL finalists:

Pete Alonso, New York Mets *
Mike Soroka, Atlanta Braves
Fernando Tatís Jr., San Diego Padres
AL finalists:

Yordan Álvarez, Houston Astros *
Brandon Lowe, Tampa Bay Rays
John Means, Baltimore Orioles
Managers of the year
Announced Tuesday at 6 p.m. on MLB Network. The Post’s predicted winners are marked with an asterisk (*). Actual winners are in italics.

NL finalists:

Craig Counsell, Milwaukee Brewers *
Mike Shildt, St. Louis Cardinals
Brian Snitker, Atlanta Braves
AL finalists:

Rocco Baldelli, Minnesota Twins
Aaron Boone, New York Yankees *
Kevin Cash, Tampa Bay Rays
Cy Young awards
Announced Wednesday at 6 p.m. on MLB Network. The Post’s predicted winners are marked with an asterisk (*).

NL finalists:

Jacob deGrom, New York Mets *
Hyun-Jin Ryu, Los Angeles Dodgers
Max Scherzer, Washington Nationals
AL finalists:

Gerrit Cole, Houston Astros
Charlie Morton, Tampa Bay Rays
Justin Verlander, Houston Astros *
MVPs
Announced Thursday at 6 p.m. on MLB Network. The Post’s predicted winners are marked with an asterisk (*).

NL finalists:

Cody Bellinger, Los Angeles Dodgers *
Anthony Rendon, Washington Nationals
Christian Yelich, Milwaukee Brewers
AL finalists:

Alex Bregman, Houston Astros
Marcus Semien, Oakland Athletics
Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels *

Connie Hawkins Jersey Lakers

On a bright sunny day in Brooklyn New York less than a dozen people turned out to celebrate the life and legacy of NBA Hall of Famer, Connie Hawkins a stark contrast to a few months ago, in Brooklyn, when a crowd, in a torrential rainstorm, paid tribute to the late Biggie Smalls on the naming of a street in his honor. A Brooklyn politician who was scheduled to speak did not show up but that didn’t phase Isaiah Hawkins (brother of Connie Hawkins), Mel Davis (NY Knicks), Ted Gustus, Coach Ruth Lovelace (Boys & Girls High School), Ray Haskins (LIU, Alexander Hamilton High School) and Judith Brown (sister of ABA Great Roger Brown) who all stood outside Barclay’s Center fielding questions with only three media outlets, of which we were included.

There is a lesson here. It wasn’t that long ago when the name Connie Hawkins aka “The Hawk” soared like the predatory bird he was named after. He was a dazzling vision on New York playgrounds before he caught the eye of the NBA and eventually soared to such heights that he earned a spot in the Hall of Fame. When he passed in power in 2017 he was 75. Everyone acknowledged that he is a legend.

Born in 1942 he called Brooklyn home and by the age of 11, his dunk ruled the asphalt playgrounds across the city.

“One of the first players to play above the rim,” Isaiah Hawkins brother of Connie Hawkins said, “ he laid the groundwork for those that followed like Julius Erving.”

He was known for blowing by defenders gripping the ball in one hand,

and making sure his slam was amplified. “They say, on the court, the Hawk, my uncle, seemed to defy gravity,” added Isaiah Hawkins, the nephew of Connie Hawkins.

The Hawk left big shoes to fill. He’s credited with revolutionizing the game and toured the world with the Harlem Globetrotters. Later he played two seasons in the ABA and was the league’s Most Valuable Player in 1968, helping the Pittsburgh Pipers to a title.

(Courtesy photo)

He was 27 when he started playing in the NBA due to a college point-shaving scandal in New York City of which, Hawkins claimed he was innocent. In 1961, the then-commissioner J. Walter Kennedy lifted the ban. “Once he became an NBA player, “ added Isaiah Hawkins, “he never looked back. People would ask him if he was bitter but he told them all the same, that he was glad to play.”

The Hawk also played for the Los Angeles Lakers and Atlanta Hawks before retiring in 1976.

To keep his legacy alive the NBA, ABA, Pittsburgh Pipers, Harlem Globetrotters, the Hawkins family, Boys and Girls High School, CC4Change Sports, Council Member Robert Cornegy and the community will host three events in Brooklyn, in the fall of 2019, to honor the life, legacy, and contributions. The three events include the renaming of the St. Andrew’s playground basketball courts in his honor, an art show lead by curator Andrew Nichols along with a community barbecue which will be held at Hawkins Alma mater Boys & Girls High School.

There is also a red carpet Gala event being planned that will be held at the Brooklyn Museum with the list of speakers still being firmed up but to date include

(Courtesy photo)

Joe Newman, co-owner of the ABA and Dennis Page, owner of Slam magazine.

Standing proudly in front of Brooklyn’s Barclay Center the assembled recognized that the lack of attendance was, in part, their fault.

“We blame the kids for not knowing the history, “ says PSAL Brooklyn Commissioner Ted Gustus,” but it’s not the kids. It’s us. It’s our job to educate our kids about our Black sports legends. It rests on us. ”

Bill Dickey Jersey Yankees

WASHINGTON — Once again Saturday night, it was the veteran presence of Robinson Chirinos behind the plate, and his reassuring right hand on the shoulder of Jose Urquidy, that got another Astros pitcher through another successful outing.

And for the second night in a row, it was Chirinos’ bat that provided a critical charge to the Astros’ offense, enabling Houston to deadlock the World Series at two games each and to ensure a return Tuesday to Houston for Game 6.

The hand on the shoulder during mound conversations is a Chirinos trademark, be it offered to a veteran like Justin Verlander or a rookie like Urquidy that requires counsel.

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Homers by a catcher in back-to-back World Series games, however, are another matter.

Chirinos is the first to do so since Ted Simmons of the Brewers in 1982; it previously was accomplished by Gene Tenace of the A’s in 1972 and Hall of Famers Roy Campanella of the Dodgers in 1955, Bill Dickey of the Yankees in 1939 and Mickey Cochrane of the A’s in 1930.

“I’ve been working so hard in the cage to be consistent and to be sure I put a good swing on the ball,” he said. “(Friday) night, I was swinging at strikes and staying in the middle of the plate and going to the middle of the field, and did it again tonight.”

The homer, he said, came on a mistake by lefthander Patrick Corbin, who was trying to go down and away and let a pitch leak over the middle of the plate.

“I’m proud to help my team win,” he said. “You can hit homers, and if you don’t win, it doesn’t mean anything.”

Granted, his two-run shot in the fourth was something of a get-even moment. After the Astros scored twice in the first inning, Carlos Correa walked as the fifth consecutive Astros player to reach base with one out, and Chirinos grounded into a double play with the bases loaded.

Chirinos delivered, however, on his next opportunity. After Correa again walked to lead off the fourth, Chirinos took a 1-0 changeup from Corbin and drove it 404 feet to left field to double up the Astros’ lead.

Friday night, he clanked one off the left field foul pole for the final run in Houston’s 4-1 win, its first of the World Series. He previously homered for the Astros’ only run in a 4-1 loss to the Rays in Game 4 of the American League Division Series.

Chirinos added a ninth-inning double, giving him back-to-back multi-hit games, but was thrown out at the plate trying to score on a Jake Marisnick base hit.

He said he tweaked an ankle during the at-bat, which prompted a visit from manager A.J. Hinch and the athletic training staff, but was able to complete the at-bat.

Behind the plate, he got Urquidy through five scoreless innings in his eighth major league start. The rookie held the Nationals to two hits with four strikeouts.

“Chirinos has been incredibly important to me, and he’s helped me out so much behind the plate,” Urquidy said. “He’s someone that I trust 100 percent with every pitch, and he’s been an incredible help to me and to all the pitchers.”

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The hand on the shoulder, righthander Roberto Osuna said, can mean everything to a pitcher facing a tough situation.

“It means that he’s with you,” he said. “There are tough situations in the game where you need that kind of support, and that is what he gives you. He gives you confidence and strength.”

Chirinos signed with the Astros during the offseason to replace the veteran presence offered by Brian McCann, a stalwart for the World Series champions in 2017 who opted to return to the Atlanta Braves for his final major league season.

“He’s gotten so much better since he’s been here, with pitch framing and pitch spots,” said reliever Brad Peacock. “He’s here to worry about everybody else (and) helps us out big time.”

He’ll be on the bench for Sunday’s Game 5, since Martin Maldonado has been Gerrit Cole’s regular catcher since he rejoined the Astros at the trade deadline, but almost certainly will return for Game 6 with Verlander getting the start.

Before he came to Houston, Chirinos played a decade in the minors before his major league debut in 2011. He said the long slog helps him appreciate moments such as Saturday’s performance.

“You have a guy in the World Series like (Urquidy) in his first year in the big leagues and me playing my 19th season,” he said. “Everything I went through made me the player I am now. I thank God, because it made me grow, those years in the minor leagues, and made me a better teammate and person.”