MINOR LEAGUE BASEBALL

Pacific Coast League All-Stars 9 International League All-Stars 3

Dayton 6 Wisconsin 2

Came County 3 South Bend 2

Burlington 4 Fort Wayne 1

 

RICHMOND ROOSTERS BASEBALL

Richmond 3 Cincinnati Champions 1

 

NBA SUMMER LEAGUE

Detroit 96 Philadelphia 81

Dallas 79 Croatia 71

Chicago 75 Charlotte 72

Brooklyn 93 Orlando 85

Minnesota 90 Miami 87

New Orleans 99 Cleveland 78

Phoenix 79 San Antonio 78

New York 117 LA Lakers 96

Milwaukee 84 China 67

Golden State 73 Denver 69

SUMMER LEAGUE BOX SCOREShttps://www.nba.com/summerleague/2019/scores#/

 

WNBA

Atlanta 78 Connecticut 75

Phoenix 91 Washington 68

Las Vegas 74 Indiana 71

Minnesota 73 Chicago 72

 

TOP HEADLINES

Federer, Nadal to play at Wimbledon for 1st time since 2008

All these years later, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal will meet again at Wimbledon for the 40th installment of their terrific rivalry – and first at the All England Club since their memorable 2008 final.

“Such a long time,” Nadal said.

They moved on to the semifinal showdown everyone’s been thinking about since the tournament draw by each overcoming a tough opening set Wednesday.

A 4-6, 6-1, 6-4, 6-4 victory over Kei Nishikori gave the No. 2-seeded Federer his 100th match win at the All England Club, the first man to reach that total at any Grand Slam tournament. Not long after that ended on Centre Court, the No. 3-seeded Nadal finished off Sam Querrey 7-5, 6-2, 6-2 at No. 1 Court.

Friday’s other semifinal will draw far less attention: No. 1 Novak Djokovic, the defending champion, against No. 23 Roberto Bautista Agut, never before this far at a major.

Looking ahead to what comes next for himself, Federer said: “Obviously, I know people always hype it up.”

Well, why shouldn’t they? These are, after all, two of the greatest players in tennis’ long history, winners of more Grand Slam titles than any other men. Of Federer’s 20, a record eight came at Wimbledon. Of Nadal’s 18, 12 came at the French Open, where he routed Federer in the semifinals last month.

That gave Nadal a 24-15 career edge head-to-head, including 10-3 at the Slams.

But that one was on the red clay Nadal rules. This one is on Federer’s territory: grass.

This is their fourth matchup at Wimbledon – and first that won’t come in the final. Federer beat Nadal for the 2006 and 2007 titles, but Nadal won the championship 11 years ago in a 9-7 fifth set as dusk descended.

“Well, we have a lot of information on Rafa, and so does he about us,” Federer said. “So you can either dive into tactics and all that stuff like mad for two days – or you’re just going to say: `You know what? It’s grass-court tennis and I’m going to come out there and play attacking tennis.’ And if he can defend that, that’s too good. And if he can’t, well, then, that’s good for me.”

It is the 13th time that the Big Three of Federer, Nadal and Djokovic are in the semifinals at a major tournament together. On 11 of the previous occasions, one of them claimed the title.

There were some shaky moments for each Wednesday.

“The beginning,” Federer said, “was brutal.”

The eighth-seeded Nishikori jumped out to an early edge by breaking in the very first game, enough to give him that set.

But Federer quickly turned things around in the second, conjuring up whatever he wanted, exactly when he wanted it.

His approach shots were beyond reproach. His volleys vibrant. His returns were timed so well, and struck so violently, that one knocked the net-rushing Nishikori’s racket plum out of his hands.

And Federer’s serve? Sure, he faced break points, but he never allowed 2014 U.S. Open runner-up Nishikori to convert another.

“Overall, I’m just very happy how I’m hitting the ball,” Federer said. “Feel good off the baseline, too, which is clearly going to be important, maybe, for the next match.”

Yeah, maybe.

Nadal, of course, is still a ball-retrieving, shot-whipping machine at the back of the court.

He did have some trouble closing out the first set against Querrey, an American ranked 65th who was trying to reach his second Wimbledon semifinal.

Nadal wasted three set points at 5-3, then another before getting broken when serving for it at 5-4. Again serving for that set at 6-5, he erased a trio of break points for Querrey before holding – and finally was on his way.

“I definitely think he’s a guy that can win it again,” Querrey said about two-time Wimbledon champ Nadal.

Djokovic, eyeing a fifth trophy at the All England Club and 16th overall at Slams, used a 10-game run to transform what was shaping up as an even, entertaining quarterfinal into a 6-4, 6-0, 6-2 romp against 21st-seeded David Goffin.

“I felt,” Djokovic said, “like I managed to dismantle his game.”

Down an early break, the defending champion grabbed control midway through the opening set and never let go.

“He was everywhere,” Goffin said.

Djokovic did to Goffin exactly what he does to so many men on so many surfaces and at so many tournaments: He takes their best shot, deals with it and then wears them down.

“I sincerely hope,” Djokovic said, “that my opponent feels like he’s got to work twice as (hard as) against any other opponent to win a point.”

Bautista Agut, a first-time Grand Slam semifinalist, is supposed to be on the island of Ibiza right now, having a bachelor party with a half-dozen pals ahead of his November wedding. Instead, he will play on after beating No. 26 Guido Pella of Argentina 7-5, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.

“Well,” the 31-year-old Bautista Agut said, “it feels better to be here in London.”

Federer and Nadal are surely pleased to still be around, too.

Everyone else will be thrilled to see them trade strokes on Centre Court once more.

“I know they haven’t played here in a long time. It seems a little more exciting, more special, they are playing at Wimbledon, maybe, rather than outside of a Grand Slam,” Querrey said. “I’ll be watching on Friday.”

 

MLB NEWS: Jim Bouton, former pitcher, “Ball Four” author, dies at 80

Jim Bouton, the former New York Yankees pitcher who shocked and angered the conservative baseball world with the tell-all book “Ball Four,” has died. He was 80.

Bouton’s family said he died Wednesday at the Great Barrington home he shared with wife Paula Kurman. He fought a brain disease linked to dementia and was in hospice care. Bouton also had two strokes in 2012.

Published in 1970, “Ball Four” detailed Yankees great Mickey Mantle’s carousing, and the use of stimulants in the major leagues. Bouton’s revealing look at baseball off the field made for eye-opening and entertaining reading, but he paid a big price for the best-seller when former teammates and players and executives across baseball ostracized him for exposing their secrets. He wasn’t invited to the Yankees’ Old-Timers’ Day until 1998

Throwing so hard that his cap often flew off his head, Bouton was 21-8 with six shutouts in 1963 – his second season in the majors and his only year as an All-Star – and went 18-13 with four more shutouts in 1964. The Yankees lost the World Series both years, with Bouton losing his lone start in 1963 in New York’s loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers, and winning twice the following year in the Yankees’ loss to the St. Louis Cardinals.

Bouton injured his right arm in 1965, going 4-15 that season, and saw limited action the next three seasons with New York. He worked on “Ball Four” in 1969, a season spent with the expansion Seattle Pilots and Houston Astros, his fastball replaced by a knuckleball as he tried to prolong his career.

Nicknamed Bulldog, Bouton also pitched for Houston in 1970. He returned to the majors with the Atlanta Braves in 1978, going 1-3 at age 39. He finished his 10-year career with a 62-63 record and 3.57 ERA.

Bouton was a television sportscaster in New York City with WABC and WCBS, wrote other books, appeared in the 1973 movie “The Long Goodbye” and starred in a 1976 CBS sitcom based on “Ball Four” that lasted only five episodes. He and a former teammate developed Big League Chew, a bubble gum alternative to tobacco.

Born in Newark, New Jersey, Bouton was raised in New Jersey and the Chicago area. He pitched at Western Michigan University before signing with the Yankees in 1958. He made it to the majors in 1962, going 7-7, but didn’t appear in the Yankees’ World Series victory over the San Francisco Giants.

 

NBA NEWS: Adam Silver plans to address ‘disheartening’ trade requests

The NBA is seeing increased player and superstar movement unlike any other time in the league’s past. Between shorter contract lengths and superstars forcing their way out of teams, matters have been shifting constantly.

Anthony Davis was one star who demanded a trade during the season, while Paul George asked the Oklahoma City Thunder for a trade just a year after signing a long-term deal with them in free agency.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver has seen the trend and calls it “disheartening.” Silver spoke with the media at his annual July press conference in Las Vegas and talked about these matters. Silver also acknowledged that the league has “work to do” to make sure rules about free agency and tampering are followed.

Even though free agency was not scheduled to begin until June 30, deals and moves were clearly agreed to well before then. The problem with the process comes up in situations like what’s happening with Marcus Morris, who reportedly reached a deal with the Spurs but reportedly wants to back out and join the Knicks.

The NBA has more or less accepted that conversations are had well before free agency begins. The free exchange of information between agents, executives, and the media allows teams to set their plans and not be surprise when June 30 rolls around. Although stopping this so the rules are followed sounds great, it seems implausible at this point. The amount of stories that come out even before free agency also helps generate consistent buzz for the league and maintain fan interest at times when it might otherwise disappear.

As far as the trades go, there are a few sides. While the Thunder losing Paul George against their will is no fun, being able to extract the kind of compensation they received makes up for it and could help them become better off in the long run, so trades aren’t necessarily the worst thing. The downside is the creation of a situation where players constantly want to go to more desirable locations, putting teams in smaller markets seemingly at a disadvantage. But that doesn’t outright preclude them from competing; Milwaukee, Utah, Denver and Portland have all put together excellent teams simply by drafting and developing well.

Increased player movement has led to increased fan interest due to the constant stories about where players are going. The balance is making sure fans of the teams losing the star players don’t get discouraged. As long as teams are able to get a lot back in return for losing good players, trades are not the worst thing.

 

NBA NEWS: Should NBA Teams Tell Players A Max Deal Means No Trade Requests?

Jimmy Butler forced his way out of Minnesota, Anthony Davis forced his way to the Los Angeles Lakers, and now Paul George (with an assist from Kawhi Leonard) is a member of the Los Angeles Clippers.  When it comes to the NBA offseason, any year can become a free agency year for a player, and all a team can do is blow up their plans and go along for the ride.

In a sport where “max contracts” means five years is the limit and your earning potential has a known ceiling, the only leverage NBA players have left is being able to stand in the corner, hold their breath and tell their team to trade them, or they will be unhappy.  History has shown when a situation like this arises, the only thing a team can do, or at least has done so far, is comply with the player’s request and trade them, and in the process blow up their own plans and start all over again.  With stories now coming out that franchises are now upset that players use their power too much to go play with their friends, the conversation will likely start about what teams can do to stop it – the stark reality is that the answer is not much at all.

Sure, teams can deny a player’s request to be traded, leaving the franchise with a player who doesn’t want to be around in a locker room full of other players who will end up disliking that player and not trusting team management.  Imagine if the Oklahoma City Thunder didn’t accept the five first round draft picks and the rights to swap two more with the Los Angeles Clippers in exchange for Paul George, a player who wanted to join his friend Kawhi Leonard … Would you really want Paul George or any other player on your team knowing that they are unhappy and you weren’t able to get back anything for him after having that kind of offer on the table?  The fans of any team would go crazy, and rightly so.

Are we going to get to a point where teams are forced to ask for a no trade clause in their contract from a player?  How long will even the average player or an agent take before they stopped laughing at a team president or general manager after a request like that?  Can the NBA work out a deal with the players in the next collective bargaining agreement that says max contract players can’t be traded for a certain number of years during their five year deal?  Sure, but if I’m on the other side of the table, I will be asking for a lot in return for a concession like that; and the price will likely be too high for the franchises to stomach.

At the end of the day the management team for any NBA franchise can be blindsided by a trade request from any superstar at any time; and unlike the NFL, where players can be cut and lose the remaining salary on their contracts, NBA contracts are guaranteed.  So the only way to deal with a player in today’s game seems to be give them what they want despite what your future plans were.  In the future, will NBA teams have players agree not to request a trade while under a max contract?  I doubt it, which means teams should begin writing their plans on an Etch-A-Sketch to make it easier when their superstar wants to leave and join his buddy on another super team.

 

NBA NEWS: 2019 NBA free agency rumors: Warriors waiving key title contributor; Thunder taking Russell Westbrook trade calls

The 2019 NBA free agency period opened a little over a week ago with a chaotic start. Although there was no shortage of deals reached, players couldn’t officially sign contracts with teams until July 6 — when the Moratorium period ended. The most recent news was perhaps the biggest, with top free agent Kawhi Leonard reportedly agreeing to join the Los Angeles Cilppers, who have also reportedly traded for Paul George from the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Shortly after those two deals went down, the floodgates of free agency opened back up and there was a flurry of activity which included the Lakers adding players like Danny Green, DeMarcus Cousins and Rajon Rondo to their roster.

This year’s free agency has been one of the biggest and most eventful in a while. Several marquee free agents have already departed from their current teams, including two-time Finals MVP Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, who are both taking their talents to Brooklyn. Additionally, Jimmy Butler will be relocating from Philadelphia to South Beach, while Al Horford left Boston for South Philly. Not to mention there will be a second tier of star free agents who will be intensely pursued, including established veteran names.

With plenty of players already off of the market, here are the latest rumors and updates that you need to know now that free agency is officially underway.

 

NBA NEWS: NBA will add in-game challenges, make changes to replay for 2019-20

NBA Coaches will have the ability to challenge plays during the 2019-20 season, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter links). The rule will be implemented on a one-year, trial basis.

The league has also made changes to the use of replay. The NBA Replay Center will now be allowed to “trigger instant replay in certain circumstances,” per the league’s press release.

The league experimented with the possibility of challenges during the past two seasons in the G League and during this year’s Summer League. Coaches only received one challenge per game and they must have a timeout remaining to use it.

While the rule will be similar to the NFL’s challenge rule, NBA coaches will send a signal to an official rather than throwing a flag into the playing area. In the G League, coaches “twirl his/her index finger toward the referees,” as ESPN’s Zach Lowe recently explained.

Here’s how the new rule is expected to work, according to Lowe:

Coaches will get one challenge per game, whether or not it’s successful.

Called fouls, goaltending, basket interference, and out-of-bounds plays are the only calls that can be challenged. Uncalled fouls can’t be challenged.

Coaches must have a timeout available to use a challenge, and must use that timeout immediately after the call they want to challenge.

If the challenge is successful, the team will get its timeout back. If not, it will be lost.

The crew chief for that game’s referee crew will make the final call on challenges involving fouls. All other challenges will be decided by the NBA’s Replay Center.

 

NBA NEWS: Kawhi’s masterful power moves usher in NBA Era of Parity

It all makes sense now. The “Board” in “Board Man gets paid” was referring to the chess board Kawhi Leonard was operating on while the rest of the NBA was playing a simple game of checkers. After six days of nonsense, rumors and speculation, the Board Man called “checkmate” late Friday night (or was it Saturday morning?) when he signed with the Clippers and manipulated the Thunder into trading Paul George, the Pippen to his Jordan, to Los Angeles as well. Who could have guessed that “Board Man” was actually a double entendre this whole time?

These 11th-hour maneuvers, relayed to the basketball world via back-to-back, late-night WojBombs, ended the most anticipated free-agency decision since “The Decision” in 2010. Fittingly, it also brought the end to the Super Team Era -– an era best personified by LeBron James’ decision to team with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in South Beach that summer.

Easily the most impressive part of his behind-the-scenes scheming was that Kawhi didn’t just have NBA insiders like Adrian Wojnarowski and Marc Stein flummoxed as to which way he was leaning. He also had LeBron, quietly his biggest rival, tricked into believing the two of them and Anthony Davis would be forming the greatest Big 3 in the history of basketball for the next few years.

It was a cold, masterful manipulation, and it was the climax of player-empowerment movement. Kawhi’s decision not only had a huge impact on the Clippers, Lakers, Raptors and Thunder, but also the league as a whole. Gone are the days where you could pencil in the Warriors and LeBron into the Finals. Welcome to the Era of Parity in the NBA.

Little Brother No More

In their moment of truth, the Clippers were faced with an ultimatum: Find a way to acquire Paul George or spend the next half-decade wondering what might have been while Leonard hangs banners in the rafters for the Lakers. It cost them Danilo Gallinari, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, five first-round picks (four unprotected) and two pick swaps –- the largest price paid for a single player -– but Steve Ballmer, Jerry West and the Clippers’ impressive front office were able to trade for George, sign Kawhi and flip the tables on the big brother Lakers, becoming the betting favorite to win the 2020 NBA championship in the process. The Clippers finally have a seat at the grown-ups table, and they might just be at the head of the table.

The benefit to making smart front-office decisions years in advance of a major acquisition (or two), like the Clippers just made, is that the pantry isn’t empty after making the big move (see Lakers). Despite trading a ton of valuable assets, the Clippers still have one of the best pick-and-roll combinations in the NBA in Lou Williams (2018-19 Sixth Man of the Year) and Montrezl Harrell (third-place in the 2018-19 Six Man of the Year voting) coming off their bench as well as a bulldog defender and spot-up shooter in Pat Beverley (40 percent from three last year) and a young, gifted shooter in Landry Shamet (42 percent from three last year). Adding the consensus best player in the world, Leonard, who is coming off an all-time great playoff performance (31 points, nine rebounds, four assists and two steals per game on 49-38-88 shooting) and George, who finished third in the MVP voting last year (28 points, eight rebounds, four assists and over two steals per game with 39-percent shooting from three) to that mix is the recipe for a contender.

Thanks to Kawhi’s decision, there is the distinct possibility of an all-Staples Center Western Conference Finals in 2020.

Let’s not bury Lakers yet

In every “Winners and Losers of the Kawhi Leonard Decision” column you read, the Lakers and/or LeBron James are going to appear as a loser. NBA writers are going to troll Rob Pelinka for overpaying for Anthony Davis and getting strung out by Kawhi. In reality, the only thing that’s going to matter is whether James (28 points, nine rebounds, nine assists per game) and Davis (28 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks per game) play like they did in 2017-2018 or not. If they do, this team has more than enough of a supporting cast to compete for a title despite missing out on a number of early free agents.

In addition to Kyle Kuzma (19 points and six rebounds per game last season), the Lakers prioritized three-point shooting (second worst in the league in 2018-19) this summer by signing Danny Green and Quinn Cook (fourth and fifth best on catch-and-shoot threes last year). They brought in some good veterans with the signings of Jared Dudley and Rajon Rondo. And they made a savvy, low-risk, high-reward signing of DeMarcus Cousins to only a veteran minimum. Although they must rely heavily on LeBron to facilitate until the buy-out season presents them with additional options at point guard, the Lakers have improved in all facets from last season’s debacle.

What’s up with Toronto?

First thing’s first: The Kawhi trade for Toronto was more than worth it even though he left after one season. You’re in this business to win championships, and that’s exactly what Kawhi helped the Raptors do. But now that he’s gone, Toronto is in an interesting situation as it has a veteran-laden roster with a second-round ceiling. Losing Kawhi ironically gives team president Masai Ujiri an opportunity to do the very thing he was originally brought into Toronto to do: rebuild.

It should be a quick rebuild as Ujiri already has some of the building blocks in place, including reigning Most Improved Player (Pascal Siakam) and two solid, young role players (Fred VanVleet and OG Anunoby). He also has valuable veterans (Kyle Lowry, Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka) on expiring contracts whom he can flip to contenders for additional assets at the trade deadline.

While losing out on Kawhi might signify the end of the Kyle Lowry era in Toronto, at least the Raptors will always have the 2019 NBA championship. Imagine if all of those trying years never led to a title …

Making most out of tough situation

The glass half-empty view of the Paul George trade: This marks the end of an era where the Thunder drafted future league MVPs in three consecutive drafts, and ended up with only one Finals appearance (a 4 to 1 loss to the Heat in 2012) to show for it. The Thunder was built to dominate the NBA for the entire decade before it traded James Harden in the summer of 2012. OKC flirted with another Finals appearance the next four seasons, but always fell short because of injuries or superhuman performances by the Splash Brothers. Even after Durant left in 2016, GM Sam Presti was able to turn Serge Ibaka into Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis. Then he turned those two into Paul George. Unfortunately, that never worked either, and George’s trade is the domino that likely ends the Westbrook era in OKC. Talk about one of the biggest “what if” teams ever.

The glass half-full view of the PG13 trade: Presti absolutely fleeced the Clippers and jump-started the Thunder’s inevitable teardown and rebuild. While OKC wasn’t ready to rebuild this season, this trade maximized George’s value to a degree no one thought possible. The forthcoming Westbrook and Steven Adams trades will yield greater value this summer than they would at any point in the future. Only the Pelicans have anywhere near the type of draft capital the Thunder has. If Presti continues to nail draft picks as he always has, the Thunder will have one of the best young rosters in the league in no time.

The end of Super Team era

The Board Man’s choice to build his own contender officially ended the Super Team Era that had dominated the NBA since the Celtics original Big 3 in 2007. It’s tough to put an exact finger on what led to the end of this era. Some would point to the Sprawlball strategies like spacing the court, reliance on three-pointers and pushing the pace. Others might point to Collective Bargaining Agreement rules aimed at making it ungodly expensive for teams to go into the tax consecutive seasons. And others will point to the fact that at least one of the superstars ends up being relegated to a third-wheel role (see Chris Bosh, Kevin Love), an incredible sacrifice for a player who fancies himself a superstar. In reality, it’s probably a little of all of those.

Now, it’s all about dynamic duos surrounded by high-level role players. The Clippers have Kawhi and PG13. The Lakers have LeBron and AD. The Bucks have Giannis and Middleton. The Nets have KD and Kyrie. The Nuggets have Jokic and Murray. The Blazers have Dame and CJ. The Rockets have Harden and CP3. The Knicks have Randle and Portis (just kidding). The list goes on and on.

The only teams that still boast some semblance of a Super Team are the 76ers (Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, Al Horford, Tobias Harris) and Warriors (Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and D’Angelo Russell), and they both have potential fit, depth and injury issues.

The era of parity

The end of the Super Team Era means that we’re about to enter an Era of Parity that the NBA hasn’t seen since LeBron took his talents to South Beach (and probably further back than that). In addition to the above-mentioned dynamic duos and flawed Super Teams, the Jazz probably has the best top-to-bottom roster in the NBA with Donovan Mitchell, Mike Conley, Rudy Gobert, Bojan Bogdanovic and Joe Ingles leading the way. The Pacers could have the best defense in the NBA if Victor Oladipo returns to full health in December or January with Myles Turner protecting the rim and Malcolm Brogdon locking up the perimeter. And don’t sleep on the Celtics, who now have Kemba Walker, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and the assets to make another move at the deadline.

At least one-third of the league will begin the 2019-20 season believing that it has a legitimate shot at winning the title. Regular-season games will mean more. If you thought the second round of this year’s playoffs were great, get ready for an absolute battle royale in all four rounds and a star-powered clash in the Finals. The NBA is in a great place. I know the 2018-19 season ended less than a month ago, but I already cannot wait for the 2019-20 season!!

 

NBA NEWS:  Dwight Howard has lost 25 pounds, reportedly drawing interest from teams

Dwight Howard is essentially a forgotten man these days in the NBA, as he is currently on his fifth team in five years after appearing in just eight games with the Washington Wizards last season. However, the big man is expected to draw plenty of interest if and when he becomes a free agent.

Howard was traded to the Memphis Grizzlies last week, and he will likely be waived in the near future. He says he has lost 25 pounds since the end of last season, and Shams Charania of The Athletic reports that several teams are “intrigued” with the 33-year-old. One executive who recently saw Howard believes he is in his best shape in years.

Howard, who underwent back surgery last year, told Charania he has changed his diet and is a “full go” after rehabbing. He also said he has checked his ego.

“I don’t have an ego — it’s dead,” Howard said. “It had to die for me to be who I am. Sometimes when you want to become who you want to be, you have to die within yourself. Once you learn that you have to give up yourself for the team, that’s when things flourish.”

There have always been questions about Howard’s level of dedication, but he insists he became a changed man after the back injury.

“This last injury that I had with my back, I really got a chance to step back and get structure for myself. I have completely changed who I am,” Howard said. “I’ve changed who I am. I always have the same personality, but as far as my mentality, it’s way different.”

Those could simply be the words of a desperate, soon-to-be free agent who will turn 34 next season, but there are plenty of teams in the NBA in need of frontcourt help. Howard averaged 16.6 points and 12.5 rebounds in 81 games with the Charlotte Hornets two seasons ago, and he has long expressed a desire to change his image. It would be a surprise if there was no team willing to give him a chance to prove it.

 

NBA NEWS: Could Marcus Morris spurn Spurs for Knicks?

While Marcus Morris had previously agreed to sign with the San Antonio Spurs, he’s reportedly reconsidering his decision and thinking about the New York Knicks.

The Knicks, who had previously agreed to a deal with Reggie Bullock, are said to be reworking the terms (per Adrian Wojnarowski, ESPN). That could open for the door for New York to sign Morris, which is something he’s reportedly interested in.

Jabari Young of The Athletic reported that a one-year, $15 million deal is on the table.

Morris would definitely bolster the Knicks frontcourt. In 75 games for the Boston Celtics last season, Morris averaged 13.9 points and 6.1 rebounds. He shot 44.7% from the field, 37.5% on threes, and 84.4% on free throws.

 

NBA NEWS: Timberwolves don’t match Grizzlies’ offer sheet to Jones

The Minnesota Timberwolves are declining to match an offer sheet to guard Tyus Jones, clearing the way for him to join the Memphis Grizzlies.

Timberwolves president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas issued a statement late Tuesday saying, “We sincerely thank Tyus for his contributions on the court and Tyus and the entire Jones family for their genuine impact on the Twin Cities community.” Rosas adds, “We wish them nothing but the best in Memphis.”

ESPN had reported that Jones and the Grizzlies had agreed to a three-year offer sheet worth $28 million.

The 23-year-old Jones averaged 6.9 points, 4.8 assists and 22.9 minutes for the Timberwolves this past season.

The 6-foot-2 Jones had spent his entire four-year NBA career with the Timberwolves. The Cleveland Cavaliers selected him out of Duke with the 24th overall pick in the 2015 draft but immediately traded him to Minnesota.

 

NBA NEWS: New advanced NBA stat named after Draymond Green

Draymond Green is one of the best defensive stars in the NBA today. Now, thanks to Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight, there’s a new advanced stat named after him.

Silver, who runs the popular data-driven news and analysis website, unveiled the new rating — DRAYMOND — to honor Draymond Green, “who has long been one of the best players in basketball by opponent shooting” on Tuesday.

It’s an acronym, which breaks down like this:

Defensive

Rating

Accounting for

Yielding

Minimal

Openness by

Nearest

Defender

Silver broke down what they are looking for here with this new metric.

“…what we’re really interested in is how much value a defender provides relative to an open shot. That is to say, we generally don’t want to punish a player for happening to be the nearest defender according to the Second Spectrum data. Some defense is generally better than none; if Player X hadn’t defended the shot, it’s possible that no one else would have.”

He continued to explain how it works.

“Through trial and error, we found that DRAYMOND performs best if you assume that shooting percentages on open shots are about 8 percentage points higher than against average defense. For instance, if a certain type of above-the-break 3-pointer is made 34 percent of the time against average defense, we’d expect it to go in about 42 percent of the time if it was truly open.”

There is a lot more to it, and we highly encourage you to read Silver’s entire article for a greater understanding.

It’s hardly surprising that, after working out all the math and poring over the data, Draymond Green is actually the best defender according to DRAYMOND.

Here’s a look at the top-five defenders during the regular season and playoffs, according to DRAYMOND, for players who have at least 10,000 possessions going back to the 2013-14 season:

Draymond Green: +3.16 DRAYMOND Rating

Joel Embiid: +2.95 DRAYMOND Rating

Kristaps Porzingis: +2.57 DRAYMOND Rating

Rudy Gobert: +2.40 DRAYMOND Rating

Tim Duncan: +2.20 DRAYMOND Rating

It’s a pretty clear indicator of just how dominant a defender Green has been when it comes to contesting shots.

It’s also quite an incredible accomplishment to be so darn good at something that a company uses your name to come up with a new advanced stat to measure success.

 

NBA NEWS: UPDATED NBA FREE AGENCY TRACKER

– Kawhi Leonard agrees to a four-year, $142 million contract with the Los Angeles Clippers. The Oklahoma City Thunder also trade Paul George to the Clippers in exchange for a record number of draft picks plus guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Danilo Gallinari.

– Kevin Durant agrees to a four-year, $164 million contract with the Brooklyn Nets.

– Kyrie Irving agrees to a four-year, $142 million contract with the Brooklyn Nets.

– Kemba Walker agrees to a four-year, $141 million contract as part of a sign-and-trade with the Boston Celtics. The Charlotte Hornets receive Terry Rozier from Celtics. The teams also swap second-round picks in the 2020 NBA Draft.

– Jimmy Butler agrees to a four-year, $142 million contract with the Miami Heat as part of a sign-and-trade with the Philadelphia 76ers. Miami also receives Meyers Leonard from the Portland Trail Blazers and cash considerations from the Los Angeles Clippers as part of the four-team swap. The Philadelphia 76ers receive Josh Richardson and the Trail Blazers receive Hassan Whiteside from the Heat. The Clippers receive Maurice Harkless from the Trail Blazers, the draft rights to Mathias Lessort from the 76ers and a protected first-round pick from the Heat. The Clippers flip the pick to the Thunder in the Paul George trade.

– D’Angelo Russell agrees to a four-year, $117 million contract with the Golden State Warriors as part of a sign-and-trade with the Brooklyn Nets. Treveon Graham and Shabazz Napier are going to Golden State from Brooklyn. Golden State is sending Napier, Graham and cash to the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Warriors are sending Andre Iguodala and a future first-round pick to the Memphis Grizzlies.

– DeMarcus Cousins agrees to a one-year, $3.5 million contract with the Los Angeles Lakers.

– Al Horford agrees to a four-year, $109 million contract with the Philadelphia 76ers.

– Klay Thompson agrees to a five-year, $190 million contract with the Golden State Warriors.

– Khris Middleton agrees to a five-year, $178 million contract with the Milwaukee Bucks.

– Danny Green agrees to a two-year, $30 million contract with the Los Angeles Lakers.

– Kristaps Porzingis agrees to a five-year, $158 million contract with the Dallas Mavericks.

– Nikola Vucevic agrees to a four-year, $100 million contract with the Orlando Magic.

– Jamal Murray agrees to a five-year, $170 million contract extension with the Denver Nuggets.

– Harrison Barnes agrees to a four-year, $85 million contract with the Sacramento Kings.

– Marc Gasol exercises his $25.6 million player option with the Toronto Raptors.

– Paul Millsap has his $30 million team option exercised by the Denver Nuggets.

– Marvin Williams exercises his $15 million player option with the Charlotte Hornets.

– Bismack Biyombo exercises his $17 million player option with the Charlotte Hornets.

– Brook Lopez agrees to a four-year, $52 million contract with the Milwaukee Bucks.

– JJ Redick agrees to a two-year, $26.5 million contract with the New Orleans Pelicans.

– Patrick Beverley agrees to a three-year, $40 million contract with the Los Angeles Clippers.

– Marcus Morris agrees to a two-year, $20 million contract with the San Antonio Spurs.

– DeAndre Jordan agrees to a four-year, $40 million contract with the Brooklyn Nets.

– Nikola Mirotic agrees to a deal with Barcelona in the Euroleague.

– Derrick Rose agrees to a two-year, $15 million contract with the Detroit Pistons.

– Jonas Valanciunas agrees to a three-year, $45 million contract with the Memphis Grizzlies.

– Gerald Green agrees to a one-year deal to return to the Houston Rockets.

– Terrence Ross agrees to a four-year, $54 million contract to return to the Orlando Magic.

– Al-Farouq Aminu agrees to a three-year, $29 million contract with the Orlando Magic.

– Ricky Rubio agrees to a three-year, $51 million contract with the Phoenix Suns.

– Trevor Ariza agrees to a two-year, $25 million contract with the Sacramento Kings.

– Malcolm Brogdon agrees to a four-year, $85 million contract with the Indiana Pacers. Indiana will send a first-round pick and two future second-round picks to Milwaukee as part of the sign-and-trade for Brogdon.

– Bojan Bogdanovic agrees to a four-year, $73 million contract with the Utah Jazz.

– Thaddeus Young agrees to a three-year, $41 million contract with the Chicago Bulls.

– Rodney Hood agrees to a two-year, $16 million contract to return to the Portland Trail Blazers.

– Thomas Bryant agrees to a three-year, $35 million contract with the Washington Wizards.

– Tobias Harris agrees to a five-year, $180 million contract to return to the Philadelphia 76ers.

– Mike Scott agrees to a two-year, $9.8 million contract to return to the Philadelphia 76ers.

– Jeremy Lamb agrees to a three-year, $31.5 million contract with the Indiana Pacers.

– DeMarre Carroll agrees to a three-year, $21 million contract with the San Antonio Spurs.

– Nerlens Noel agrees to return to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

– Julius Randle agrees to a three-year, $63 million contract with the New York Knicks.

– George Hill agrees to a three-year, $29 million contract to return to the Milwaukee Bucks.

– Taj Gibson agrees to a two-year, $20 million contract with the New York Knicks.

– Ed Davis agrees to a two-year, $10 million contract with the Utah Jazz.

– Mike Muscala agrees to a deal with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

– Mario Hezonja agrees to a one-year, league-minimum deal with the Portland Trail Blazers.

– Robin Lopez agrees to a deal with the Milwaukee Bucks.

– Bobby Portis agrees to a two-year, $31 million contract with the New York Knicks.

– Reggie Bullock agrees to a two-year, $21 million contract with the New York Knicks.

– Cory Joseph agrees to a three-year, $37 million contract with the Sacramento Kings.

– Ish Smith agrees to a two-year, $12 million contract with the Washington Wizards.

– Tomas Satoransky agrees to a three-year, $30 million contract with the Chicago Bulls as part of a sign-and-trade with the Washington Wizards. The Wizards receive two future second-round picks and will have protections removed from the 2023 second-round pick they received from the Bulls in the Jabari Parker trade.

– Wayne Ellington agrees to a two-year, $16 million contract with the New York Knicks.

– Michael Carter-Williams agrees to a one-year deal with the Orlando Magic.

– Seth Curry agrees to a four-year, $32 million contract with the Dallas Mavericks.

– Austin Rivers agrees to a two-year deal with the Houston Rockets.

– Troy Daniels agrees to a one-year, $2.1 million contract with the Los Angeles Lakers.

– Elfrid Payton agrees to a two-year, $16 million contract with the New York Knicks.

– Maxi Kleber agrees to a four-year, $35 million contract with the Dallas Mavericks.

– Enes Kanter agrees to a two-year, $10 million contract with the Boston Celtics.

– JJ Barea agrees to a one-year, $2.56 million contract with the Dallas Mavericks.

– Richaun Holmes agrees to a two-year, $10 million contract with the Sacramento Kings.

– Edmond Sumner agrees to a three-year deal with the Indiana Pacers.

– Wesley Mathews agrees to a deal with the Milwaukee Bucks.

– Frank Kaminsky agrees to a two-year, $10 million contract with the Phoenix Suns.

– Matt Thomas agrees to a three-year, $4.2 million contract with the Toronto Raptors. He comes over from the Euroleague.

– Kevon Looney agrees to a three-year, $15 million contract to return to the Golden State Warriors.

– Isaiah Thomas agrees to a one-year deal with the Washington Wizards.

– Anthony Tolliver agrees to a one-year, $2.6 million contract with the Portland Trail Blazers.

– Dorian Finney-Smith agrees to a three-year, $12 million contract with the Dallas Mavericks.

– Daniel Theis agrees to a two-year, $10 million contract with the Boston Celtics.

– James Ennis agrees to a two-year, $4.1 million contract with the Phildelphia 76ers.

– Willie Cauley-Stein agrees to a deal with the Golden State Warriors.

– Brad Wanamaker agrees to a one-year deal with the Boston Celtics.

– Ryan Arcidiacono agrees to a three-year, $9 million contract with the Chicago Bulls.

– Glenn Robinson III agrees to a two-year deal with the Golden State Warriors.

– Noah Vonleh agrees to a one-year deal with the Minnesota Timberwolves.

– Jeff Green agrees to a one-year, $2.5 million contract with the Utah Jazz.

– Jared Dudley agrees to a one-year, $2.6 million contract with the Los Angeles Lakers.

– Luke Kornet agrees to a two-year deal with the Chicago Bulls.

– Emmanuel Mudiay agrees to a one-year deal with the Utah Jazz.

– Wilson Chandler agrees to a one-year, $2.56 million contract with the Brooklyn Nets.

– Garrett Temple agrees to a two-year, $10 million contract with the Brooklyn Nets.

– Rodney McGruder agrees to a three-year, $15 million contract with the Los Angeles Clippers.

– Darius Miller agrees to a two-year, $14.25 million contract to return to the New Orleans Pelicans.

– Boban Marjanovic agrees to a two-year, $7 million contract with the Dallas Mavericks.

– Markieff Morris agrees to a two-year, $7.4 million contract with the Detroit Pistons.

– TJ McConnell agrees to a two-year, $7 million contract with the Indiana Pacers.

– Jake Layman agrees to a three-year, $11.5 million contract with the Minnesota Timberwolves as part of a sign-and-trade with the Portland Trail Blazers.

– Raul Neto agrees to a one-year deal with the Philadelphia 76ers.

– Kentavious Caldwell-Pope agrees to a two-year, $16 million contract to return to the Los Angeles Lakers.

– JaVale McGee agrees to a two-year, $8.2 million contract to return to the Los Angeles Lakers.

– Quinn Cook agrees to a two-year, $6 million contract with the Los Angeles Lakers.

– Ivica Zubac agrees to a four-year, $28 million contract to return to the Los Angeles Clippers.

– Rajon Rondo agrees to a two-year deal to return to the Los Angeles Lakers.

– Alex Caruso agrees to a two-year, $5.5 million contract to return to the Los Angeles Lakers.

– Stanley Johnson agrees to a two-year, $7.5 million contract with the Toronto Raptors.

– Dwight Powell agrees to a three-year, $33 million contract extension with the Dallas Mavericks.

– Tim Frazier agrees to a one-year deal with the Detroit Pistons.

– Kyle O’Quinn agrees to a one-year, veteran’s minimum deal with the Philadelphia 76ers.

– Danuel House agrees to a deal with the Houston Rockets.

– Jordan Bell receives a one-year offer sheet from the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Golden State Warriors are not expected to match the offer.

– Rudy Gay agrees to a two-year, $32 million contract to return to the San Antonio Spurs.

– Delon Wright agrees to a three-year, $29 million contract with the Dallas Mavericks as part of a sign-and-trade. The Memphis Grizzlies will receive two second-round picks.

– Rondae Hollis-Jefferson agrees to a one-year deal with the Toronto Raptors.

– Tyus Jones signs a three-year, $28 million offer sheet with the Memphis Grizzlies. The Minnesota Timberwolves decline to match the offer.

– JaMychal Green agrees to a two-year, $10 million contract with the Los Angeles Clippers.

– Jabari Parker agrees to a two-year, $13 million contract with the Atlanta Hawks.

– Avery Bradley agrees to a two-year, $9.7 million contract with the Los Angeles Lakers.

– Alec Burks agrees to a one-year deal with the Golden State Warriors.

– Patrick McCaw agrees to a two-year, $8 million contract with the Toronto Raptors.

– Khem Birch agrees to a two-year, $6 million contract to return to the Orlando Magic.

 

NFL NEWS: Buccaneers’ Ryan Smith suspended 4 games by NFL

Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Ryan Smith has been suspended for the first four games of the regular season for violating the NFL’s policy on performance enhancers.

Smith is eligible to participate in all offseason and preseason practices and games. He will be allowed to return to the team Sept. 30, after Tampa Bay’s Week 4 game at the NFC champion Los Angeles Rams.

“We are disappointed that Ryan will be unavailable for the first four games of the season,” Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht said in a statement. “We do extensive training and education for our players regarding the league’s polices, but ultimately each individual is responsible for what they put in their bodies.”

Smith is entering his fourth NFL season with the Buccaneers. He was a fourth-round pick in 2016 by Tampa Bay.

 

NFL NEWS: Former NFL defensive lineman says he needs kidney transplant

Former Tennessee Titans All-Pro defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth says on social media that he needs a kidney transplant.

The 38-year-old Haynesworth posted on Instagram that he’s been battling kidney disease for a few years. He shared a photo of himself in a hospital bed and wrote that his kidneys failed him Sunday and he’s looking for a donor.

“It’s hard to believe from being a professional athlete to only 8 (seasons into) retirement that my body has taken another major blow,” Haynesworth said in the post.

Haynesworth added that he’s “in dire need of a kidney.”

Haynesworth played 10 seasons in the NFL. He spent his first seven seasons with the Titans, who selected him No. 15 overall in the 2002 draft out of the University of Tennessee. Haynesworth also played for Washington (2009-10), New England (2011) and Tampa Bay (2011).

He was selected as an All-Pro after the 2007 and 2008 seasons and had 30+ sacks in 123 games.

Haynesworth had his greatest season in 2008, when he had 8+ sacks while leading the Titans to a 13-3 record and the No. 1 overall seed in the AFC before they lost to the Baltimore Ravens in the divisional playoffs.

This isn’t the first health problem Haynesworth has faced since leaving the NFL.

Haynesworth told a Nashville radio station in 2016 that he dealt with a brain aneurysm in November 2014 that caused him to spend time in intensive care. Haynesworth referenced that issue in his Instagram post.

 

NFL NEWS: Jadeveon Clowney won’t get extension, likely to hold out ‘major portion’ of training camp

Jadeveon Clowney won’t get an extension from the Texans. The two sides aren’t going to get a deal done before the July 15 deadline, sources told Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle.

That means that Clowney, the first overall pick back in 2014, will play the 2019 season under the franchise tag. The deadline for franchised players to get a new deal is in less than a week, and we hadn’t heard of much progress between the two sides, so this isn’t too shocking. While pushing for a new deal, Clowney has been staying away from the team, and he didn’t attend the team’s mandatory minicamp last month.

Wilson reports that Clowney is “not expected to miss any games, but likely to miss at least a major portion of camp.” Clowney clearly isn’t too happy to be playing under the tag, and it sounds like he won’t show up until the last minute. After the Texans fired GM Brian Gaine, there were reports that his handling of the Clowney situation contributed to his firing.

The Texans are now in the unique situation of operating without a general manager. After they fired Gaine, they failed in their attempt to lure away Nick Caserio from the Patriots after New England filed tampering charges. Caserio’s contract is up after the 2020 draft, and the Texans are widely expected to make another run at him then. It’s possible that a new front office could be able to soothe things over with Clowney, but free agency will come and go by the time Caserio is out of his Patriots contract.

As of right now, it seems highly possible that this will be Clowney’s last season in a Texans uniform. He has played very well, making the Pro Bowl each of the last three seasons, but Houston seems reluctant to reset the market and break the bank for him. In 15 games last year, Clowney had nine sacks, 16 tackles for loss and three fumble recoveries.

 

NFL NEWS: Predicting the NFL’s eight last-place teams in 2019

We previously looked at the 12 teams NFL fans can expect to make this playoffs this coming season.

Sadly for the fans of the following eight teams, the playoffs don’t seem to be in the cards. Now, let’s check in on the NFL teams we fully expect to finish in the cellar this coming season.

AFC East: Miami Dolphins

Ryan Fitzpatrick or Josh Rosen? That’s the biggest question for Miami heading into what could be a lost season in South Beach. Regardless of who is under center, this team isn’t talented enough to be competitive. While he continues to show flashes in the offseason, DeVante Parker has proven to be a bust at receiver. Is Kenyan Drake really a top-end back? On defense, the Dolphins made Xavien Howard the NFL’s highest-paid cornerback. Is he set to take a step back? These are major questions for Miami heading into the season. In a division boasting the defending champion Patriots and two other improved teams, that means a last-place finish.

AFC North: Cincinnati Bengals

One enigma was removed from Cincinnati this past offseason when head coach Marvin Lewis resigned. However, Andy Dalton remains after an injury-plagued 2018 season. He’s no longer a top-20 quarterback. Meanwhile, A.J. Green has taken a step back at receiver. On defense, the Bengals don’t have much outside of the aging Carlos Dunlap and Geno Atkins. Without an influx of young talent, a team that won just six games last season isn’t going to contend in the competitive AFC North. That’s magnified by the presence of a young first-year head coach in Zac Taylor who has never even held a coordinator job in the NFL.

AFC South: Tennessee Titans

Marcus Mariota. At some point, Tennessee will have to realize that the former No. 2 pick is not the answer. That could come during a make-or-break 2019 season. Mariota has tallied 24 touchdowns compared to 23 interceptions for the past two seasons. He’s holding this team back, and it’s going to lead to a last-place finish. That’s magnified by the lack of proven weapons on offense and a defense that boasts high-priced free-agent busts Logan Ryan and Malcolm Butler. Things are not pointing upward in Nashville.

AFC West: Oakland Raiders

Despite pretty much turning over their entire roster this offseason, the Raiders have not improved a great deal. Sure, Antonio Brown is an upgrade at receiver. However, the additions of embattled veterans Richie Incognito and Vontaze Burfict don’t seem to mesh well with head coach Jon Gruden. On the field, Derek Carr struggled through a bad 2018 season. Rookie first-round pick, running back Josh Jacobs, has yet to sign. Fellow rookie, the overdrafted Clelin Ferrell, has a major task ahead of him to replace Khalil Mack. In short, Oakland’s final season in Northern California is not going to be pretty. That’s about as obvious as it gets.

NFC East: Washington Redskins

Sorry to tell you, Redskins fans, Dwayne Haskins will not be the savior as a rookie in D.C. this season. He might be the future at that position. But there’s nothing on the Redskins’ offense that suggests he can succeed out of the gate. Derrius Guice is coming off a torn ACL, while veteran running back Adrian Peterson might be on his last legs. Washington’s top returning wide receiver, Josh Doctson, recorded just 44 catches last season. On defense, Josh Norman continues to be a shell of his former self. Adding the overrated Landon Collins at safety isn’t going to help, either.

NFC North: Detroit Lions

Is it possible that Matt Patricia could turn this thing around after a disastrous first season as Detroit’s head coach? Yes. Sadly for the Lions, it’s not going to happen. Matthew Stafford has maxed out at this stage of his career. He’s dealing with an unproven running back group and will have to ease rookie first-round pick, tight end T.J. Hockenson, into the mix. Meanwhile, Detroit’s overpaying for defensive end Trey Flowers will do little to help a defense that finished in the middle of the pack last season. In what promises to be a really good NFC North, Detroit is behind the curve big time.

NFC South: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Is Bruce Arians an upgrade at head coach? Sure. Is he good enough to help Tampa out of the NFC South cellar? Nope. He’s looking to help James Winston rebound from a disastrous past couple seasons. He’ll be doing so without any real running back to speak of, and Tampa Bay moved on from DeSean Jackson and Adam Humphries at receiver. Defensively, the Buccaneers let all-time great defensive tackle Gerald McCoy walk. Who takes over the leadership role on that side of the ball? Rookie first-round pick, Devin White, might eventually be able to. But he’s as green as they come. Yeah, 2019 will not be a year of improvement in Tampa Bay.

NFC West: Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals might love Kyler Murray. He’s the reigning Heisman winner and will work under an innovative offensive mind in Kliff Kingsbury. Even then, Murray’s learning curve is going to be vast. That’s magnified by the recent struggles of running back David Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald’s regression at receiver. If that weren’t enough, star cornerback Patrick Peterson is suspended for the first six games of the season. In what promises to be an improved NFC West, these Cardinals are lagging behind big time.

 

NFL NEWS: Whitney Mercilus wants to remain with Texans

Whitney Mercilus is entering the last year of the extension that he signed with the Texans in May 2015, but there has been no talk about a new deal for the former first-round pick at this point. And from the team’s perspective, that makes sense, as Mercilus suffered a season-ending pectoral injury five games into the 2017 campaign, wasn’t particularly effective last year — though he appeared in all 17 regular and postseason games — and hasn’t totaled double-digit sacks since 2015.

But the lower sack totals, at least, are not too much of a concern at this point, as Mercilus is no longer being featured as a primary pass rusher. Last year, not only did his snap count drop (partially due to a sore hamstring that bothered him throughout the first part of the season), but he was also routinely asked to drop into pass coverage for the first time in his career.

As Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle writes, Mercilus concedes that the new responsibilities came with a learning curve. He said, “it was a new adjustment for me: understanding and dropping back into pass coverage, helping out there with the route combinations that were there and jumbling around in my head.”

But he believes that a fully healthy offseason and a year of experience in a different role will yield improved production, and he thinks that his newfound versatility will be a boon to him and to the Texans.

Mercilus is also hopeful that a better showing in 2019 will lead to a new contract with the Texans. When asked if he wants to remain in Houston, he said, “[o]f course. Once we cross that road, we will. Right now, I’m just focusing on having the most stellar season that I can.”

Houston’s coaching staff is confident that Mercilus’ athleticism and intelligence will allow him to thrive, and if he does, then the team would certainly be open to re-signing the soon-to-be 29-year-old. The fact that he is well-liked in the locker room and active in the community could also help his cause.

 

NFL NEWS: Why the Patriots dynasty will not end when Tom Brady is done

As another season approaches in the NFL, Tom Brady and Bill Belichick will be back together for a 21st season. Although the end is near, these two continue to consistently lead the New England Patriots to the playoffs and multiple Super Bowl appearances.

But, what happens once that ends? Tom Brady turns 42 in August and his window is closing very soon. Once he retires, the dynasty is going to continue. Now let’s explore why.

Bill Belichick: The football mastermind is regarded as one of the greatest coaches in the history of football. How will Belichick continue the dynasty?

Deja vu: Belichick has had success without Brady before. When Brady went down in 2008 with a torn ACL, the Pats still went 11-5 with Matt Cassel as the starting QB. They also had the seventh-best defense in the league that year.

Defensive wizard: With Brian Flores taking the head coaching job in Miami, Belichick will take over the defensive play calls. The last time Belichick was the defensive play-caller, the Patriots ended the 2011 regular season with a record of 13-3 and made it to the Super Bowl, where they lost to the New York Giants.

Experience: Winning a total of eight Super Bowls does not happen by mistake. As long as Belichick’s in the league, no one can ever count him out.

Great scout: As coach and GM, Belichick has an eye for talent that no other NFL personnel evaluator has. Many of the Pats’ draft picks pan out to be great under his system.

Solid defense: As stated above, Belichick is great at building a solid defensive unit. What makes this unit so successful for the future?

Grizzled vets: Dont’a Hightower, Stephon Gilmore and the McCourtys lead the list of veterans that make huge contributions to this defense. Their leadership helps guide these young players to thrive under Belichick’s system. The Pats are still a free agent destination as long as they are competitive.

Young guns: Belichick tends to draft and pick up young players who are not highly touted in college but succeed in the NFL. Deatrich Wise Jr., Derek Rivers and J.C. Jackson all stepped up this past season and will keep this team competitive for years to come.

Sleeper picks: With every draft comes some unheard-of prospects that Belichick finds. For example, Jackson went undrafted last season and ended up with a huge role in his rookie campaign. Do not be surprised if that happens with mid-round picks like JoeJuan Williams and Chase Winovich coming up.

It never ends: The cycle will continue as players come to the Pats to win a Super Bowl (or two) and then move on in free agency to get a big payday. With Belichick at the helm, that cycle never stops.

How about offense? When Tom Brady decides he is done quarterbacking the Patriots, the biggest question will be, what happens to the offense?

Here are some reasons why the Pats offense will still be successful without Brady.

N’keal Harry: The 6-foot-3 rookie was one of the top receivers in this past draft. Under the offense led by Brady, Harry could be one of the best receivers in the league. Look at what Brady did with Julian Edelman or Chris Hogan and those guys turned out great.

Solid wall: According to Pro Football Focus, The Pats offensive line ranked fourth in the entire league. Under O-line coach Dante Scarnecchia, this unit will continue its dominance as he is highly regarded at one of the best coaches at his position.

Been there, done that: As stated earlier, the Pats went 11-5 when Brady was out for the entire 2008 season. Matt Cassel stepped up nicely in Josh McDaniels’ offense, showing that if the QB is the right fit, this team can still be successful.

The bottom line: As long as Belichick is at the helm in Foxboro, the Patriots will continue their consistency of greatness with their great defense and smart coaching. There will be missteps and bumps in the road, but as always with the Patriots, they will again compete for a Super Bowl title.

 

NFL NEWS: Colts Wide Receiver Burning Questions Heading Into 2019 Training Camp

We are now two weeks away from Training Camp report day for the Indianapolis Colts.

A second year of camp at Grand Park will have the Colts on the practice field starting July 25, with 16 open sessions to the public up in Westfield, Indiana.

Here are our burning questions at the wide receiver position heading into the 2019 Training Camp:

  1. Does T.Y. Hilton have enough support?

Outside of health, this is the biggest on the offensive side of the ball for the Colts entering the 2019 season.

T.Y. Hilton has been nothing short of outstanding in his 7 NFL seasons. Hilton is, by far, the greatest move Ryan Grigson made during his tenure in Indianapolis.

But Hilton has been forced to carry too much of the wide receiver load as of late.

Well, the Colts decided to invest some significant resources this offseason in improving the wideout group.

In Devin Funchess and Parris Campbell, the Colts have a couple of very intriguing weapons, with unique skillsets. And the staff remains extremally high on Deon Cain.

On paper, this is probably the deepest and most diverse group of receivers that Hilton has had around him. But you have questions on Funchess (maturity/new offense), Campbell (rookie) and Cain (ACL rehab).

This stat is alarming on Hilton’s needed presence last year: In 2018, Hilton averaged 10.58 yards per target. All other Colts players averaged 6.47 yards per target.

That needs to change.

  1. Will the Devin Funchess experiment last past 2019?

Time at Grand Park is going to be vital for Funchess and Andrew Luck to build a strong, and necessary, rapport for success in 2019.

Funchess is coming off a season in Carolina where he struggled with drops, and in getting on the same age with Cam Newton.

With Andrew Luck and Frank Reich in place, Funchess couldn’t ask for much better in terms of a committed QB and play caller to accentuate the strengths of their new receiver.

The Colts like the route running from Funchess and were pleased with his aptitude in handling a new playbook this spring.

If Funchess, 25, can deliver and be a consistent big body target, it’s quite possible this marriage could last beyond the 2019 season.

But a one-year contract brings obvious uncertainty.

  1. How should the Colts handle rounding out their wide receiver group?

Let’s say the Colts keep 5 wide receivers in 2019, which is a number that Frank Reich has thrown out before.

It seems like 4 guys are pretty close to locks: T.Y. Hilton, Devin Funchess, Parris Campbell, Deon Cain (as long as he doesn’t fall on the PUP list to start camp, which doesn’t sound likely).

If that’s the case, that would leave the Colts with just 1 spot at wide receiver for Chester Rogers, Zach Pascal, Marcus Johnson, Reece Fountain, etc.

What we have to keep in mind with this final receiver spot is the importance of special teams.

Involving a 5th wide receiver in a weekly offensive game plan hardly ever happens.

So that player must fill a role on special teams, to really impact game days.

That is why the likes of Rogers and Pascal probably have a slight lead going into camp.

 

NFL NEWS: When does NFL training camp start in 2019?

From the NFL, here are all the rules regarding the start of NFL training camps in 2019.

Teams are permitted to open training camp for rookies and first-year players beginning seven days prior to the club’s earliest permissible mandatory reporting date for veteran players.

Veteran players other than quarterbacks or injured players may report to a team’s training camp no earlier than 15 days prior to the team’s first scheduled preseason game or July 15, whichever is later.

Veteran quarterbacks and injured players may be required to report to the team’s training camp no earlier than five days immediately prior to the mandatory reporting date for all other veteran players, provided the team has already opened (or simultaneously opens) its official training camp for all rookies and first-year players.

A three-day acclimation period will apply to players who are on a team’s roster up to and including the mandatory veteran reporting date. Players who rejoin the roster after that date may practice (including wearing pads) and play immediately after passing a physical.

Team Rookies Veterans
Arizona Cardinals 7/17 7/24
Atlanta Falcons 7/18 7/21
Baltimore Ravens 7/17 7/24
Buffalo Bills 7/22 7/24
Carolina Panthers 7/24 7/24
Chicago Bears 7/22 7/25
Cincinnati Bengals 7/24 7/26
Cleveland Browns 7/24 7/24
Dallas Cowboys 7/26 7/26
Denver Broncos 7/17 7/17
Detroit Lions 7/18 7/24
Green Bay Packers 7/22 7/24
Houston Texans 7/21 7/24
Indianapolis Colts 7/21 7/24
Jacksonville Jaguars 7/22 7/24
Kansas City Chiefs 7/23 7/26
LA Chargers 7/24 7/24
LA Rams 7/24 7/26
Miami Dolphins 7/21 7/24
Minnesota Vikings 7/22 7/25
NY Giants 7/22 7/24
NY Jets 7/19 7/24
New England Patriots 7/21 7/24
New Orleans Saints 7/18 7/25
Oakland Raiders 7/23 7/26
Philadelphia Eagles 7/24 7/24
Pittsburgh Steelers 7/24 7/25
San Francisco 49ers 7/26 7/26
Seattle Seahawks 7/17 7/24
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 7/21 7/25
Tennessee Titans 7/22 7/25
Washington Redskins 7/24 7/24

 

Cincinnati Bengals

(All times ET)

Date Practice time
July 27 2:30 p.m. (Dayton, Ohio)
July 28 3 p.m.
July 29 3 p.m.
July 30 3 p.m.
July 31 3 p.m.
Aug. 1 No practice
Aug. 2 3 p.m.
Aug. 3 3 p.m. (Game field)
Aug. 4 No practice
Aug. 5 No practice
Aug. 6 3 p.m.
Aug. 7 3 p.m.
Aug. 8 3 p.m.
Aug. 9 No practice
Aug. 10 No practice
Aug. 11 No practice
Aug. 12 3 p.m.

 

Indianapolis Colts

(All times ET)

Date Practice time
July 25 2 p.m.
July 26 2 p.m.
July 27 2 p.m.
July 28 2 p.m.
July 29 No practice
July 30 9 a.m.
July 31 9 a.m.
Aug. 1 9 a.m.
Aug. 2 No practice
Aug. 3 2 p.m.
Aug. 4 2 p.m.
Aug. 5 2 p.m.
Aug. 6 2 p.m.
Aug. 7 No practice
Aug. 8 No practice
Aug. 9 No practice
Aug. 10 9 a.m.
Aug. 11 9 a.m.
Aug. 12 9 a.m.
Aug. 13 No practice
Aug. 14 4 p.m. (Joint practice with Browns)
Aug. 15 4 p.m. (Joint practice with Browns)

 

COLLEGE FOOTBALL NEWS: Oklahoma favored to win 5th straight Big 12 title

Oklahoma is the favorite to win another Big 12 football title, according to the conference’s preseason media poll released Wednesday.

The Sooners have won the league the last four years and 12 Big 12 championships overall. Oklahoma also made the College Football Playoff three of the past four seasons.

Texas was picked second by media covering the league. The top two teams will meet in the conference championship game on Dec. 7. The Longhorns lost to the Sooners in the title matchup in 2018.

Iowa State, TCU and Oklahoma State round out the top five picks.

The Big 12 will have four new head coaches in 2019 with Les Miles at Kansas, Chris Klieman at Kansas State, Matt Wells at Texas Tech and Neal Brown at West Virginia.

 

COLLEGE FOOTBALL NEWS: Pruitt commits minor violation by saluting his high school

Tennessee football coach Jeremy Pruitt committed a minor NCAA violation earlier this year by tweeting out his congratulations when the high school he attended won an Alabama state basketball title.

Pruitt tweeted “Congratulations Robi Coker and Plainview High School on back to back State Championships! (hash)2muchblue (hash)PLV” on March 1. The tweet was deleted 37 minutes later, after a compliance official noted that it constituted an impermissible endorsement of a high school team and its coach. Compliance officials met with Pruitt and the staffer overseeing the football program’s Twitter accounts to discuss that particular rule, but that was the extent of any repercussions for his actions.

That was one of three football-related Level III violations Tennessee self-reported in the first six months of 2019. Tennessee also reported one Level III violation each in swimming, men’s tennis, track, softball, rowing and women’s soccer.

Details were obtained through a public records request.

“Level III violations are a byproduct of a healthy compliance program,” associate athletics director for compliance Andrew Donovan said in a statement. “There are thousands of NCAA rules and interpretations of those rules, so it is expected that inadvertent, minor violations may occur on occasion. We have a strong culture of compliance at the University of Tennessee. Our coaches and staff are fully committed to doing things the right way. They view compliance as a shared responsibility and hold themselves and each other accountable.”

The other football-related violations involved a non-coaching staffer driving family members of a recruit beyond the 30-mile radius of campus where contact is permitted and having three non-coaching staff members conduct an offseason conditioning session.

Tennessee officials said they initially arranged a car service for the recruit’s family before realizing he had eight siblings who couldn’t be left unattended while his mother visited campus. Tennessee instead had a non-coaching staffer drive the mother and siblings to and from their home, which was about 225 miles from Tennessee’s campus. School officials said no recruiting conversations occurred during the December trip.

The NCAA took away four recruiting evaluation days from Tennessee for that violation.

 

COLLEGE FOOTBALL NEWS: College Football Prepares to Celebrate 150th Anniversary

IRVING, Texas (July 10, 2019) – As college football embarks on its 150th season in 2019, The National Football Foundation (NFF) & College Hall of Fame today highlighted the numerous activities taking place in the coming months that will pay homage to the sport and its legacy of creating educational opportunities; building leaders; and enriching communities.

“More than 5.33 million people have played college football since the first game between Princeton and Rutgers on November 6, 1869,” said NFF Chairman Archie Manning. “Included in that number are many of our nation’s greatest leaders who often cite their gridiron experiences as the key to their success. Additionally, the sport is annually enjoyed by tens of millions of fans, and it has grown significantly over the years with new teams constantly added and more than 80,000 student-athletes slated to play for college programs this fall.

“So, I think it’s safe to say that college football has become an integral part of our national landscape, worthy of a major celebration during the upcoming season. Many of the key leaders of our sport have worked hard to put such a plan in motion, and we want to thank everybody involved in preparing for the game’s 150th anniversary.”

The College Football 150th Anniversary (CFB150) non-profit, headed by Executive Director Kevin Weiberg, was launched to stage several initiatives to commemorate the milestone, and several organizations have announced their own plans for celebrating the 150th anniversary. Joining the effort, the NFF has established a special ceremonial committee, the NFF 150th Anniversary Team of Excellence, which is comprised of NFF Board Members who played football and have gone on to great success in life, to oversee the organization’s plans.

“The NFF has been in the vanguard of promoting the game for the past 73 years,” said NFF President & CEO Steve Hatchell. “And we wanted to take a leadership role in celebrating the 150th anniversary, including providing the office space for CFB150 at our corporate headquarters; staging events at the Hall in Atlanta; and incorporating the milestone into all of our key messaging whenever possible. It’s a great opportunity for us to reflect on all of the amazing opportunities college football creates for the young people and the countless regions across the country who are enriched by having programs in their communities.”

The Chick-fil-A College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta, which is run by CEO Dennis Adamovich, has several initiatives. The CFB150 Specialty Exhibit, delivered by UPS, represents the most extensive project at the Hall. Open now and throughout the anniversary season, the special exhibit features dirt from the field where the first game in 1869 took place; the revised NCAA rule book after the 45 fatalities that took place between 1900-05; the first penalty flag ever used from 1941; and countless other rare artifacts covering all 150 years of college football. Click here to view a few of the many artifacts on display. Numerous other initiatives, which are listed below, are taking place at the Hall during the season as part of the CFB150.

Countless college and universities, conferences, bowl games and media companies have signed on to support the initiative this year. Stakeholder organizations supporting the effort include the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA), College Football Playoff (CFP), Football Bowl Association, Football Writers Association of America (FWAA), National Association of Collegiate Director of Athletics (NACDA) and the NCAA, NAIA and the junior college associations.

All of the organizations have planned a variety of different activations that will amplify the anniversary messages and build overall awareness for the effort. The special CFB150 logo has been widely circulated, and it will appear on uniform patches, helmet decals, field stencils, public service announcements, TV telecasts, social media channels and numerous other places during the season.

Several neutral site games at both the FCS and FBS levels have committed to highlight the anniversary with in-stadium promotions during their games. The NCAA, the CFP and the bowl games have similar plans during their respective championship games, which will conclude the historic 2019 season.

The CFB150 worked with the NCAA to establish a special “Week Zero” for the season, and the Kickoff Week will feature four games on Aug. 24. The two games at the FBS level are the Camping World Kickoff between Miami and Florida in Orlando, Florida, on ESPN and a game between Arizona and Hawaii in Halawa, Hawaii, on the CBS Sports Network. Two more games will take place at the FCS level: the Guardian Credit Union FCS Kickoff between Youngstown State and Samford in Montgomery, Alabama, on ESPN and Villanova against Colgate in Hamilton, New York, on the CBS Sports Network.

The CFB150 has also planned a special celebration week to commemorate the anniversary of first game, which took place on Nov. 6, 1869, between Rutgers and Princeton in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Running from Oct. 31 to Nov. 9, the CFB150 Anniversary Week will feature a special event at Rutgers in Piscataway, New Jersey, on Nov. 6 and a tribute game between Miami (Ohio) and Ohio in Athens, Ohio.

The NFL will also take part in CFB150 Anniversary Week with a special tribute to college football during the Nov. 4 Monday Night Football Game between the Dallas Cowboys and the New York Giants in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Celebration week will conclude with Princeton playing Dartmouth at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, New York, on Nov. 9.

“The storied success, tradition and leadership of the Princeton Football program is of great pride to our university and our athletics community,” said Mollie Marcoux Samaan, the Ford Family Director of Athletics at Princeton. “For 150 years Princeton football teams and players have achieved at the highest levels of the sport and have helped shape the game of football at every stage of its history. We are thrilled to celebrate our 150th season – including a match-up with Dartmouth at Yankee Stadium on November 9th – and Princeton Football’s important and pioneering role in the development of college football.”

“It’s a tremendous honor to take part in this game as part of the celebration of the 150th year of college football,” Harry Sheehy, the Dartmouth Athletics Director. “Playing a traditional rival at the iconic venue of Yankee Stadium makes for a sensational experience for coaches, players and fans alike. We look forward to Dartmouth fans flooding New York City to support the Big Green.”

“The New York Yankees and the New Era Pinstripe Bowl are thrilled to be hosting Princeton University and Dartmouth College on Saturday, November 9 as part of the 150th anniversary celebration of College Football,” said Mark Holtzman, Vice President, Non-Baseball Sports Events, New York Yankees. “Given that Princeton played in the first College Football game 150 years ago and Yankee Stadium will soon be celebrating its 100th anniversary of hosting college football as well as being the host over the last century for some of the most memorable college football games ever played—It’s only right for this game to be played at Yankee Stadium, the most famous outdoor sporting venue in the world that has played host to many of the world’s greatest athletes and teams.”

 

COLLEGE FOOTBALL NEWS: Mack Brown’s furious reaction scuttled Nick Saban to Texas

The agent for Nick Saban expressed to Texas several years ago that his client had serious interest in coaching the Longhorns. But a furious reaction from Mack Brown scuttled the deal.

Saban’s agent Jimmy Sexton spoke with Texas in January 2013 about the possibility of Saban coming to coach the Longhorns. Saban was fresh off coaching his team to its second consecutive national championship and third in four years. He was considering a move to Texas. The Longhorns wanted to make it happen too, but they needed cooperation from Brown that they did not receive.

Former Texas regent Tom Hicks (also the former Texas Rangers and Dallas Stars owner) was a guest on a June 27 podcast by Corby Davidson of SportsRadio The Ticket in Dallas. In that interview, Hicks shared just how serious Saban seemed to be about taking the Longhorns job.

“We had a call from his agent,” Hicks said, as transcribed by AL.com. “… Another regent and I had a conversation with Saban and his agent. He [Sexton] said ‘if Saban was a business guy, he’s what you’d call a turnaround artist, he’s not a long-term CEO. He’d go somewhere and fix it, win, and move on.”

“He knows he’ll never catch Bear Bryant’s legacy in Alabama. But he’d like to create his legacy that he’d won more national championships at more schools than anybody else. He’s already done it at LSU, he’s already done it at Alabama. He knows he could win a national championship at Texas. He knows he can.’”

“I went to see Mack two days later, we had lunch,” Hicks said. “I thought at the time Mack was ready to leave. He’d been telling people he was ready to leave. I said ‘Mack, I want to tell you about a conversation I had with Jimmy Sexton. If you want to retire, I think you can graciously have Nick Saban come in and take your place. It would kind of be your idea. That might be a nice way for you to end it.’

“And boy, Mack Brown turned bright red, steam started coming out of his ears. He said ‘that guy’s not coming here and winning a national championship with my players.’ I said ‘Mack, I’m glad to see you have that passion. I didn’t think you had that passion left.’ That’s what started the Nick Saban story.”

“I called the agent back and said ‘if this isn’t Mack’s idea [to step down], it’s not going to happen.’ I said ‘it’s not going to happen.’”

Word about Sexton’s talks with Texas actually was kept quiet for a while until a regent leaked it to the Associated Press in September 2013, leading to it becoming a story. That led to plenty of smoke later that year about Saban considering a move to Texas.

Brown resigned from his job at Texas in mid-December after going 8-5. Saban decided to remain at Alabama despite a report saying Texas was prepared to offer him $100 million to take over the program.

Texas ended up hiring Charlie Strong, who was a disaster and went 16-21 over three seasons. When Texas was considering firing Strong after his second season, rumors continued to tie Saban to the Texas job. That was in 2015.

Though Saban’s name comes up here and there for coaching jobs, he’s remained at Alabama long enough now where his denials are finally taken more seriously. But back in 2013, he did seem awfully interested in leaving for Texas.

 

COLLEGE BASKETBALL NEWS: NCAA charges NC State with 4 men’s hoops violations

The NCAA has charged North Carolina State with four violations, accusing a former assistant coach of providing payments and benefits connected to the recruitment of one-and-done basketball player Dennis Smith Jr.

The school said Wednesday that its notice of allegations was received Tuesday, and now has 90 days to respond.

The notice includes four serious charges, with two that are potential top-level charges. The NCAA alleges that from 2014-17, former assistant Orlando Early provided Smith and his associates approximately $46,700 in impermissible inducements and benefits – including $40,000 that a government witness testified he delivered to Early intended for Smith’s family in 2015.

The NCAA also said former coach Mark Gottfried, now coaching at Cal State Northridge, was “presumed responsible” and “did not demonstrate” that he monitored Early for compliance. It also accuses Gottfried of failing to monitor the program’s pass list, leading to a total 164 impermissible complimentary admissions to games.

The notice indicates the NCAA’s hearing panel could levy show-cause penalties against both Gottfried and Early.

The Wolfpack went 15-17 during Smith’s one season on the team in 2016-17, and the school fired Gottfried late during that season. Smith, a point guard with the New York Knicks, is entering his third season in the NBA.

Scott Tompsett, a Kansas City-based attorney who represents Gottfried along with Raleigh’s Elliot Abrams, said in a statement Wednesday night that his client is disappointed that the allegations have been brought against N.C. State and takes them seriously.

“While we disagree with the enforcement staff’s position that Coach Gottfried did not adequately monitor certain aspects of his program, we are pleased that the NCAA agrees that he was not involved in any illicit payments,” Tompsett said.

Cal State Northridge spokesman Nick Bocanegra issued a statement on behalf of the school saying it is aware of N.C. State’s notice and that Gottfried told school officials that he was not involved in, or had knowledge of, any NCAA rules violations – an affirmation that is a condition of his employment.

The notice came roughly a month after a key NCAA official said six schools could face allegations of Level I violations as part of the fallout in the college basketball corruption scandal. Stan Wilcox, vice president for regulatory affairs for the NCAA, said two high-profile programs would be notified in early July, the others at a later date.

While numerous schools, including Arizona, Kansas and Auburn, have been tied to the federal corruption case, N.C. State received a grand jury subpoena in 2018 for records tied to Smith, Gottfried and Early.

The staff of current coach Kevin Keatts, who replaced Gottfried in March 2017, isn’t linked to the case. The school received a verbal notice of inquiry from the NCAA last fall signifying the start of an investigation, and N.C. State said in its statement that it remains in communication with the NCAA.

“N.C. State is committed to the highest levels of compliance, honesty and integrity,” Chancellor Randy Woodson said in a statement. “As the university carefully reviews the NCAA’s allegations and thoroughly evaluates the evidence in order to determine our response, we are prepared to be accountable where we believe it is appropriate and to vigorously defend this great university and its Athletics program where we feel it is necessary.”

New athletic director Boo Corrigan said in an open letter to fans that the school is being transparent in acknowledging the receipt of its notice and “we will make every effort” to support Keatts and the current players and staff.

The NCAA also accuses Early of violating principles of ethical conduct by providing 44 complimentary admissions on the men’s basketball pass list to Smith’s then trainer, Shawn Farmer, on 26 occasions between January 2016 and March 2017 – with that benefit valued at $2,119. He is also alleged to have provided $4,562 in 106 impermissible complimentary tickets on 13 occasions between November 2016 and February 2017.

The less-severe allegations charge men’s basketball staffers with providing $862 in impermissible benefits in the form of 14 complimentary admissions in 2016, and accuse the school with failing to monitor the program’s use of complimentary admissions.

 

COLLEGE BASKETBALL NEWS: Ten programs that have undergone the most unexpected, significant changes since the end of the season

We’re almost halfway through the offseason, believe it or not.

The 2019 men’s national title game was played almost exactly three months ago, on April 8. The opening of the 2019-20 regular season is a little less than four months from now, on Nov. 5. And in the 92 days that have elapsed, a number of teams have undergone unexpected turnover. With all of the NBA Draft decisions, transfer choices and coaching changes, the auguries for more than a handful of programs have discernibly shifted from what was expected back in the early part of the spring.

Let us examine which schools have been most affected. Plenty of things have happened that will significantly shape the narrative of the forthcoming season. What I did not take into account: coaching changes that happened before the end of the season and the expected graduation/departure of seniors. (And given how Duke and Kentucky always undergo so much change annually, they were exempt from this list.)

Here are 10 programs that have withstood significant revamps — for good and/or bad — in the past three months, since the season officially ended. And this is going out before the NCAA’s enforcement division sends out Notices of Allegations against two prominent programs later this month — and four more later this summer.

1 CONNECTICUT

There wasn’t a coaching change, and no players were lost to early NBA Draft entry, but no program in college basketball got better news this offseason or underwent a more profound makeover than the Huskies. The move from the American Athletic Conference to the Big East won’t be official until July 2020, but it’s still a game-changer for the program, its lame-duck conference affiliation, its future conference and the fan base.

Donations and season-ticket sales have spiked in the two weeks since word leaked that UConn was going to reaffix itself to the Big East brand. Huskies coach Dan Hurley has already said there’s been a difference in recruiting. It’s a major change, of course, and it also might wind up being the thing that closes the loop on the 2010s decade of realignment, which saw more than a dozen major schools switch conferences.

 

2 MICHIGAN

The Wolverines had more change in significant personnel than any other school listed, starting with the the draft declarations of Charles Matthews, Ignas Brazdeikis and Jordan Poole. The latter two wound up being picked, while Matthews injured his ACL during a pre-draft workout, unfortunately. In early March, it wasn’t an outright expectation that all three of those players would leave; even two of the three returning was seen as possible.

That downgraded Michigan’s outlook on next season, bumping the Wolverines out of any preseason top 10.

Then, the biggest blow: John Beilein shocking the basketball world by leaving the college ranks at the age of 66 and taking the Cleveland Cavaliers job. Fortunately for Michigan, the Wolverines hired the most popular person conceivable to replace Beilein: Fab Five alumnus Juwan Howard. It was a good stopgap, even if Beilein’s departure meant Michigan missed out on a top-50 player (Jalen Wilson, who is now on his way to Kansas).

There’s even more. On Saturday, Michigan got a midsummer addition for next season. Franz Wagner, younger brother to former Wolverine Moe Wagner, was officially added to Michigan’s roster. The German forward equates to a top-50-level prospect. So much has changed in so little time for UM.

 

3 MARQUETTE

The stunner transfer decision of the offseason was in fact a joint one that happened in early April when Sam and Joey Hauser announced they were leaving Marquette. This came all but a few days after we learned that likely preseason All-American Markus Howard would return for his senior season. (Hmmmm.) Had the brothers returned, Marquette would have been a surefire top-20 preseason team. Instead, Marquette lost two of its four best players for next season. (Joey Hauser transferred to Michigan State; Sam to Virginia.) The Golden Eagles did land Jayce Johnson, a center from Utah who is a grad transfer and will play next season.

Those weren’t the only changes. Coaches almost never have to think about losing a top assistant in the summer to a head-coaching opportunity. But that’s what happened at Marquette last week when Golden Eagles assistant Brett Nelson was named the coach at Holy Cross. It’s a great opportunity for Nelson, who’s been scratching for his chance. It also tosses a wrench into the recruiting process for Marquette, as it loses a valuable assistant on the precipice of the all-important July recruiting period.

 

4 VA. TECH

I’m not even counting the departure of Buzz Williams here. Firstly, Williams’ exodus from the Hokies — to Texas A&M — was rumored for months before it became official. (Williams was replaced by Mike Young, formerly of Wofford, who seems like a good fit for that school.) For VT, the problem is the outgoing talent. Chris Clarke (who was suspended all of last season) grad-transferred to Texas Tech. Kerry Blackshear Jr. vacillated between going pro, staying with the Hokies or transferring elsewhere in a final year of college. Blackshear was regarded as a top-three transfer candidate this offseason; his ultimate choice of Florida, which came last week, vaulted the Gators’ outlook for 2019-20.

And, though unavoidable, the draft decision of Nickeil Alexander-Walker was a doozy for a program not accustomed to having top-20 picks on the roster.

Young was able to bring one talented Wofford player with him up to Blacksburg, Virginia: Keve Aluma, a power forward who will be a redshirt junior come 2020-21, could be a solid rotation player with a year of seasoning behind the scenes. But it’s almost certainly going to be a big step-back season for the Hokies after what was their greatest three-year run in school history.

 

5 UCLA

The Bruins qualify here, as Mick Cronin was hired at UCLA after the season ended; he agreed to become UCLA’s coach the morning after the national title game. This is a top-five all-time program, so a change in coach is significant, and it’s worth reminding you that it took UCLA more than three months to hire someone to replace Steve Alford, which was embarrassing for the school.

Outside of the drastic coaching change, the Bruins also lost Kris Wilkes, Jaylen Hands and Moses Brown to early NBA Draft entry. Credit to Hands, as he was the most shocking draft pick, in my most humble opinion. (He went 56th to the Nets.) The Bruins will be markedly different next season vs. last, and what’s interesting about that is it will be true despite the fact UCLA didn’t lose or gain any transfer of note. That’s rare in today’s college culture.

 

6 IOWA ST.

ISU took in a pair of sit-out transfers (Troy’s Javan Johnson and Penn State’s Rasir Bolton), but that’s not why Clones are on this list. Steve Prohm lost Lindell Wigginton, Cameron Lard and Talen Horton-Tucker, the last of whom went 46th in the NBA Draft. (Outgoing grad student Marial Shayok was also a second-round pick.) Horton-Tucker got picked because of his insane length and undeniable basketball savvy. It’s a blow for ISU; had Horton-Tucker returned, the Cyclones would have been viable to compete for the Big 12 title and he would’ve been one of the 15-20 best players in college basketball.

As is, ISU does get Tyrese Haliburton back for his sophomore season. It will come with great expectations: Haliburton was a star for the gold-medal-winning USA U19 team that just won the World Cup over the weekend. He seems set to be one of the five best point guards in the sport. From a talent perspective, ISU lost a lot. Prohm is sure to overcome any lapses there, though. He’s won 21 or more games in seven out of eight seasons as a head coach.

 

7 GONZAGA

Mark Few has operated the transfer wire as well as almost any coach in the past decade. Brandon Clarke turned into a first-round 2019 pick after leaving San Jose State to transform his game at Gonzaga. So while Gonzaga lost Clarke, Rui Hachimura and (somewhat unexpectedly) the undrafted Zach Norvell Jr., the Zags gained two grad transfers who will be huge next season. The first is Texas A&M’s Admon Gilder, a 3-and-D shooting guard who might step in and average 14 points. Gonzaga’s other transfer is North Texas point guard Ryan Woolridge, who plays the point but is going to bring a speed element to next year’s team that the 2018-19 squad didn’t have.

The Zags have eased into a position that was unthinkable a decade ago: they’re a power program not in a power league, and a outfit that can just as easily produce lottery picks, upgrade with transfers, maintain coaching stability — and still keep older, talented players around. On that note, Killian Tillie opted to return next season, which is huge for Gonzaga’s chances at being a top-10 team.

 

8 ST. JOHN’S

This is the one team pick where it’s mostly about the coaching change. For St. John’s, it was a necessary switch. The Red Storm lost Chris Mullin after the season ended — and this happened after St. John’s AD Mike Cragg sent out a statement at the Final Four that no changes were coming with Mullin. It was a weird deal, especially since things got noisy in late March that Mullin was going to be out.

When he finally left, there was a coaching search that played out publicly — and included multiple coaches turning down St. John’s — before Mike Anderson was hired on April 19. He might not have fully cleaned out his home in Arkansas by that point. The Anderson hire was questioned within the industry, but perhaps Cragg pulled off something better than anyone is expecting.

Player-wise, the early departure of Shamorie Ponds was expected. Ponds going undrafted, however, was not.

 

9  VIRGINIA

The moment Virginia won the national title over Texas Tech, things changed forever for the program and its coach, Tony Bennett. From a pure coaching perspective, Bennett has a case as the game’s best right now. I mean, Virginia bounced back from losing to No. 16 seed UMBC … by winning the whole freaking thing one year later. That’s an all-time story. That six-game win streak also induced a facelift for the 2019-20 season. Kyle Guy, Ty Jerome and De’Andre Hunter all left early for the draft. Guy leaving wasn’t anticipated, and had Virginia flamed out early in the Big Dance, it’s conceivable Jerome would’ve returned. (Good for him that didn’t happen: Jerome landed in Phoenix in the first round and figures to be a solid pro going forward.)

Things got a little more anxious than expected when Elite Eight hero Mamadi Diakite waited until the final hours before deciding to withdraw his name from the early entrant pool and return to UVA. That will be big. Also big, but on a delay: The Cavaliers brought in Sam Hauser, but he’ll sit next season before stepping in for 2020-21.

 

10 LSU

It’s only fitting to end this list with the Bayou Bengals. LSU played out the final few weeks of its season without Will Wade as its acting coach. It got Wade back on April 14 (after he eventually agreed to meet with school administrators), and shortly thereafter then-athletic director Joe Alleva announced he’d be leaving his post. The school and Wade also endured some bad press when the April trial looped in Wade once more — and not in a flattering portrait. Then there was the odd press conference Wade had in May at the SEC’s spring meetings, when he faced reporters and half-answered questions. Just a few non-denial denials there, no biggie.

But Wade is back, has appeased his bosses and LSU’s noisy start to the offseason only amplified a lot of the questions surrounding Wade and just exactly what did or did not happen with him.

Roster-wise, LSU lost Tremont Waters and Naz Reid to the NBA Draft. It retained Javonte Smart (he of the infamous “strong-ass offer”) and signed five-star Trendon Watford, who is on campus and ready to contribute this forthcoming season. Trite as it may be, it fits for LSU: the more things change, the more they stay the same.

 

MLB NEWS: Trade deadline looms as baseball resumes after break

Francisco Lindor and the Cleveland Indians, looking up at Nelson Cruz and the surprising Minnesota Twins. Matt Chapman and the Oakland Athletics, trying to run down Jose Altuve and the Houston Astros. Max Scherzer and the Washington Nationals, chasing Ronald Acuna Jr. and the Atlanta Braves.

Baseball ramps up again this weekend, and a handful of contenders have a lot of work to do.

Five of the majors’ six divisions feature deficits of at least 5+ games as play resumes after the All-Star Game, in which the American League beat the National League 4-3 Tuesday night. Life is pretty good for two iconic franchises, with Cody Bellinger and the Los Angeles Dodgers in control of the NL West again and Aaron Judge and the New York Yankees looking down on the rest of the AL East despite a rash of injuries.

“This team is capable of some great things,” Yankees pitcher James Paxton said. “You’ve got some really talented players here, guys with a lot of drive, great leadership. We’re set up really well to make a good run the second half here as well.”

The one exception at the moment is the crazy NL Central, where the Chicago Cubs have a 4+-game advantage – over last-place Cincinnati. Yup, that’s right, it’s just 4+ games from top to bottom, with Christian Yelich and Milwaukee a half-game back of Javier Baez and the inconsistent Cubbies.

“Nobody really wants to run away with it,” Cardinals shortstop Paul DeJong said. “That gives us confidence as a group to think that we can run away with it.”

It sets up for some very tough decisions ahead of the trade deadline after trade waivers were eliminated in the offseason, meaning no player can be traded after July 31 through the end of the regular season. Players who clear outright waivers can still be claimed and will be eligible for the postseason if they are in the organization before Sept. 1.

Buying or selling will be one tricky call for several teams, all the way to the final days of July. The hard deadline also could affect the prices for some of the top players on the market, possibilities like San Francisco pitchers Madison Bumgarner and Will Smith, Toronto right-hander Marcus Stroman and Detroit lefty Matthew Boyd.

“I know something could happen, but I don’t take a peek at what people are saying,” Smith said. “There’s so much out there, and you don’t know what’s true.”

Cleveland could inject some drama into the AL Central as soon as this weekend, when Minnesota comes to town for a three-game series. The Indians hit the All-Star break with the majors’ longest active win streak at six in a row, improving to 21-6 since June 1 and moving within 5+ games of the division-leading Twins.

“In the beginning it seemed like we were good, then all of a sudden in May we had that stretch where we weren’t playing as good as we wanted to play,” Lindor said. “But right now, we continue to play the game right and we’re enjoying it, we’re all having fun. We all get along, we love each other, we back each other up. We’re having a blast.”

Washington also is having some fun again, moving into position to shake up the NL East after a terrible start to the season . Led by a resurgent Scherzer, the Nationals have won 15 of 19 to pull within six games of the division-leading Braves.

Washington plays Atlanta 14 times in the last half of the season, including seven games in July.

“When we can go out there and play our best baseball and play mistake-free baseball, we’re a tough team and we can compete with anybody in this league,” Scherzer said.

The Nationals have seven players with at least 11 homers, led by Anthony Rendon with 20. But everyone is going deep these days.

Beginning with Thursday night’s Astros-Rangers game in Arlington, the game’s top sluggers resume their assault on an array of home run records. Yelich leads the way with 31 so far, putting together an appropriate encore to his NL MVP performance a year ago.

The majors are on pace for 6,668 homers, which would smash the record 6,105 hit in 2017, and the real heat of the summer, when hits pick up, is only just beginning.

“Guys are working year in and year out on their swings,” Pittsburgh first baseman Josh Bell said during the All-Star break. “We’re just focused on trying to put a show on for you guys.”

The show is on once again.

 

MLB NEWS: NFL, NBA and NHL should take page out of MLB’s book

Let’s face it. The general idea of an All-Star game in pro sports is pointless.

The recognition is great for each individual athlete. The corresponding bonus they receive is a welcomed addition to their pocketbooks as well. But do we really need to play a meaningless game to showcase the talents we see night in and night out?

No. Especially not when that game looks nothing like the everyday product.

The Pro Bowl is a glorified flag football game. Nobody tries. It’s a joke. Frankly, it’s more enjoyable watching the goofy skills competitions the day before more than the game itself.

The NBA All-Star Game is basically a 5-on-5 version of what we see on Saturday night. Dunks, 3-pointers, trick passes and a bunch of stars who don’t actually care about playing basketball. The feature of the entire weekend is clearly not the Sunday evening matchup.

The NHL plays a 3-on-3 tournament for their All-Star event. It’s a fun concept and provides an entertaining change of pace, but it’s still more about the show than anything else.

There’s only one All-Star game that has any semblance of meaning, and it’s happening tonight at Progressive Field in Cleveland.

For all the flak Major League Baseball gets for being behind the times, one thing the league does 100 percent right is the annual Midsummer Classic. The timing of the game, the combination of importance and fun, the inevitable late-inning drama and the collection of unsung heroes combine to create a thoroughly enjoyable experience year in and year out.

For whatever reason, it just feels right.

The Home Run Derby (even though the format seems to change every year and the best home run hitters aren’t always able to take part) adds to the experience. It’s a fun appetizer to the All-Star Game’s main course. The players are all in, the fans get their memorable moments and each moneyball is tied directly to charity.

Everyone wins.

Most importantly, the MLB All-Star game provides a product that stands out against the monotony of a 162-game regular season. I distinctly remember bits and pieces of All-Stars games spanning back more than a decade. Michael Young’s two-out, two-RBI ninth-inning triple off Trevor Hoffman to win the game in 2006. Ichiro’s go-ahead inside-the-park home run in 2007. Derek Jeter’s impressive performance in his final All-Star appearance in 2014. The wild final three innings of this past year’s game, which included 10 runs on six homers, culminating in back-to-back jacks by Alex Bregman and George Springer to win the game for the American League.

To be completely honest, I’m not sure I could recall one specific play or performance that stands out from any one of the other three league’s All-Star products. And yes, I’ve watched them all.

In the end, it all comes back to the fact that baseball has the only All-Star Game that makes an impact. Witnessing the best baseball has to offer is definitely an event worth stopping down and watching.

 

MLB NEWS: Boos and strikes: Chicago’s All-Stars have their moments in Cleveland

The Cubs got an earful. Lucas Giolito made a heartfelt tribute to a friend and James McCann made a diving catch of a foul popup to help stave off a late rally.

The Chicago guys had their moments in the American League’s 4-3 win in the All-Star Game on Tuesday night, which ended with former Cub Aroldis Chapman striking out the side in the ninth, finishing off a fast and furious Midsummer Classic at Progressive Field.

The game had a few laughs and tender moments, beginning with the pregame introductions when the three Cubs — Javier Baez, Kris Bryant and Willson Contreras — were roundly booed by Indians fans, who can’t seem to get over that Game 7 loss in the 2016 World Series.

“It definitely brought back that time in our lives,” said Bryant, who played left field instead of third base and joked he was the “utilityman” of the NL team.

“But if I was a fan, I’d boo too,” he continued. “That was such a crazy World Series. But really good to be back here and step on the field again. Really brought back a lot of memories.”

Baez pumped his fist in the air to answer the vociferous crowd, seemingly relishing a chance to show he was back and ready to do some more damage to Cleveland’s delicate psyche.

“I heard K.B.’s (boos) first,” Baez said. “I was just hoping mine wasn’t worse.”

Baez laughed.

“It was (worse),” he admitted. “It’s really fun to be back home in Cleveland.”

Giolito also had an enjoyable time, but he also took time to remember his friend Tyler Skaggs, the Angels pitcher who died last week at 27.

“It’s been tough,” Giolito said before the game. “It’s been weird because I’m here celebrating my accomplishments, but in the back of my mind it’s still fresh and at times doesn’t feel real.

“Grief is a tough thing. I just feel so sorry. It was such a horrible thing to happen to his family. I’m going to take him with me. I have him on my hat tonight.”

Giolito showed off his American League All-Star cap, having written Skaggs’ number 45 on the front. When he looks back on this special day years from now, he’ll always be reminded of his friend, who was honored before the game with a moment of silence and had his number sewn on the uniforms.

Giolito said he had some nerves at the outset. After being called on to pitch the fourth with the AL leading 1-0, he walked Freddie Freeman on four pitches, with the fourth sailing high. But Giolito settled down quickly, getting Cody Bellinger looking on a changeup, then inducing groundouts from Nolan Arenado and Josh Bell.

“Closest thing I could compare it to was my MLB debut,” he said. “A little bit of jitters obviously facing some of the best hitters in the game right now. …. To have a good clean inning right there, get it out of the way, family there to watch, I don’t have many more words.”

McCann made also made an impression, singling in the seventh and making a diving catch of Mike Moustakas’s foul popup to end the eighth with runners on second and third and a 4-3 lead.

“Sharing it with (Jose) Abreu is special, he’s been here before,” McCann said. “Sharing it with Lucas is a different kind of special. One, because of the relationship we’ve built this year. It’s a similar story for me, so being able to share the stage and that success after the failures together, that’s pretty amazing.”

Baez got off to a tough start in the first when he saw six straight fastballs between 96 and 97 mph from Justin Verlander before striking out on a slider. In the third he swung at a first-pitch curve by his brother-in-law, Twins pitcher Jose Berrios, and popped out to left. Baez held his right thumb and index finger together afterward to indicate he just missed it.

“Last year he threw me four fastballs in a row, so I knew he was going to throw me a first-pitch curve,” he said. “I just missed it a little bit, but it was fun facing him. It told him take it easy with me, I already have one strikeout. (Francisco) Lindor was getting on me too.”

Lindor said beforehand he was planning on “screaming” at Baez and laughing at his pal, and lived up to his promise.

“Lindor was yelling at me that (Berrios) was going to strike me out,” Baez said. “I told him it won’t be the first one or the last one. It was fun being around all these guys. He was talking trash, FaceTiming me. We’re brothers from different moms and have been around each other. Love these guys and looking forward to doing it next year.”

After he came out of the clubhouse in the sixth inning, Baez made a beeline to see his little boy, Adrian, and lifted him over his head.

“He’s starting to recognize me on the TV,” Baez said. “I was trying to wave to him when I was on deck, but I was kind of too far. As soon as he started seeing me in the uniform, he started getting really excited. I’m looking forward to seeing him playing baseball, see if he can take me out with a homer.”

 

MLB NEWS: Are the Dodgers and Yankees on a collision course to the World Series?

If I gave you $100 to bet on who would be in the 2019 World Series, would you take a Yankees/Dodgers matchup or the field? With the two coastal superpowers running away with their divisions, it is possible that the second half of the baseball season is for show, and it will be New York and Los Angeles fighting for it all come October?

FanGraphs is already calling the NL West race over by declaring the Los Angeles Dodgers have a 100% chance of winning their division.  In the American League, the Yankees, Astros and Twins are all given a better than 97% chance of winning their respective divisional titles.  The high percentage is most impressive for the Yankees considering that FanGraphs is giving a 60% chance to both the Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays to reach the playoffs as the American League’s two Wild-Card teams. Meaning the Yankees have a tougher field to overcome, but are still expected to do so in runaway fashion.

In the senior circuit, Atlanta considered to be the Dodgers biggest opponent for the National League pennant with the Braves given a 78% chance of winning the NL East and a 96% chance of reaching the postseason, only the Chicago Cubs and Washington Nationals are currently considered a better than 50-50 shot of playing postseason baseball in the National League.

The question for the New York Yankees has been and continues to be the starting rotation, with Brian Cashman saying that his top priority as team general manager is to find another starter before the July 31st trade deadline.  Adding a starting that can give the team six or hopefully seven innings a game would help rest a bullpen during the hot summer months and keep them fresher from the postseason when they will be called up at the first sign of trouble.  The Bronx Bombers’ lineup continues to produce from top to bottom despite Giancarlo Stanton missing most of the season due to injuries as the full 40-man roster takes turn carrying the team from series to series and even game to game.

The Dodgers will not be happy winning their third straight NL pennant this season after coming up short the last two years. Yet, the way their offensive firepower has allied with their lights out pitching staff, they might be the team to beat heading into the All-Star break.  “Pantone 294” has the pitchers, led by Hyn-Jin Ryu and his major league leading 1.73 ERA to smother the Yankees sluggers who hit only .237 against lefties. The Yankees lineup is stacked from top to bottom, led by Cody Bellinger, who entered the last weekend before the All-Star break with 30 HRs and 71 RBIs.

These two old rivals will face each other in Chavez Ravine on August 23-25 with both teams getting a chance to see each other in person only five weeks before the regular season ends.  If we are lucky, this series will be a championship preview before the teams match up for the 12th time in the World Series; a Fall Classic that I would sign up for right now and would bet that $100 on if I had the chance to.

 

MLB NEWS: Bud Selig says Barry Bonds ‘wasn’t likable,’ recounts ‘misery’ of watching him break home run record in new book

On Aug. 7, 2007, Barry Bonds officially became MLB’s all-time leader in home runs, sending his 756th career bomb into the seats at what was then called AT&T Park, breaking Hank Aaron’s record of more than three decades.

Bud Selig, the MLB commissioner at the time, was not in attendance for Bonds’ long-anticipated achievement. And as told plainly in Selig’s upcoming book, “For the Good of the Game,” he didn’t want to be.

Selig was infamously cautious in praising Bonds during the San Francisco Giant slugger’s record-breaking run amid controversy over the superstar’s alleged steroid use, which included a federal indictment on charges of perjury for lying during drug investigations. Years later, the commissioner has doubled down — and then some — on his distaste for MLB’s “asterisk” hero, recounting in an excerpt from his book the “misery” he encountered while traveling to watch Bonds’ pursuit of the home-run record.

“(The) summer of 2007 was unpleasant for me, and when I look back, that’s putting it mildly,” he writes. “It was one of the few times in my life I wasn’t excited about going to ballparks, and if you know me that’s all you need to know.”

Selig makes sure to note that “there was no way I was going to complain to anyone,” but he basically couldn’t stand watching Bonds become the new home run king.

“Everyone who knew me knew I was unhappy,” he says, at one point admitting Bonds “simply wasn’t likable” in contrast to Hank Aaron. “While I felt responsibility to be on hand for Bonds’s moment, I’ll admit I had a fantasy that I’d be spared when I went to Cooperstown to see (Cal) Ripken and (Tony) Gwynn be inducted into the Hall of Fame. Nobody would have blamed me for being there rather than on the road with Barry. But I received no reprieve, so I trudged on.”

It’s not as if Selig is against home runs, either. Addressing the current record pace of homers across the league on a visit to CBS Sports HQ this week, he downplayed the notion that lots of dingers are bad for baseball.

“Baseball is like everything else in life,” he said. “It goes through a lot of ups and downs … We go through certain phases. This is something that eventually will turn. Do I think it’s bad for the game? No, I really don’t think it’s bad for the game.”

 

MLB NEWS: Five teams reportedly interested in Madison Bumgarner

We’ll continue our evening trip around the summer starting pitching market in San Francisco, where top rental rotation piece Madison Bumgarner resides. Earlier today, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic (subscription link) updated the market for the burly southpaw, cataloging a variety of suitors.

The Astros, Braves and Brewers are newly added entrants to the mix, joining the already reported Twins and Yankees. We’ve certainly seen many or all of these teams cited as possibilities — among others, as MLBTR’s Connor Byrne explored a month back — but this is the clearest indication yet of the kind of competition that could be developing.

With all due respect, there are limits to Bumgarner’s appeal, as Rosenthal explores. We’ve hashed out many of the pluses and minuses of late; suffice to say that there are good reasons to think the long-time star still has some gas in the tank, but there’s no real reason to believe he’s the stud he once was.

Beyond that, there are also some clear alternatives floating around who will also draw attention from contenders. On the rental side, the Mets’ Zack Wheeler (latest rumors) has emerged as a younger, lower-salaried, and arguably higher-upside possibility. Teams that prefer future control could look to Marcus Stroman (latest rumors), Matt Boyd (latest rumors), and perhaps even Trevor Bauer (latest rumors).

Bumgarner’s no-trade rights could certainly play into the equation here, as he’ll have the ability to block deals to most of the interested teams. As Rosenthal originally reported a few months back, the savvy veteran put his eight-team list to full use by naming a host of clear contenders (Braves, Red Sox, Cubs, Astros, Brewers, Yankees, Phillies, Cardinals).

As Rosenthal rightly notes today, there’s also not much reason to think that MadBum would decline to facilitate a move. Beyond the obvious appeal of another shot at postseason glory after a few seasons away, the 29-year-old stands to shed the qualifying offer entering free agency.

The qualifying offer issue might not seem like a major factor for a player of Bumgarner’s stature, but the recent experience of Dallas Keuchel shows it’s still of real importance. Even though he placed fourth on the latest free-agent power ranking from MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes, just edging Wheeler, Bumgarner still faces plenty of variability in his ultimate earning power.

Even though Bumgarner left his last start with an elbow contusion, it seems he escaped a worrisome injury. There’ll be plenty of time still in the run-up to the deadline for Bumgarner to show off his form to interested clubs, including those listed above.

 

MLB NEWS: Newman: There’s no denying juiced baseballs are behind MLB’s historic home run surge

There’s an old expression in sports when there’s a particular play or issue in question: The ball don’t lie.

Make no mistake, baseballs aren’t lying this season. They’re juiced and there’s no denying it: Not by the historic home run surge, not by sabermetrics and certainly not by the eye test.

Major League Baseball is on record pace for 6,668 homers this year, which would shatter the previous single-season record of 6,105 set in 2017. And 16 teams are on track to break franchise records for home runs, including the suddenly big-swinging Twins, whose 166 home runs so far are the most first-half dingers in MLB history.

Don’t tell me the eye-popping spike in homers is because of a widespread emphasis on launch angle, or because hard-throwing hurlers are making more mistakes at the top of the zone. And it’s not because the majority of the league is suddenly using performance-enhancing drugs again.

This is about the ball (again). As commissioned independent reports from the historic 2017 season confirmed, and this year’s dinger numbers are proving once again, the balls are clearly more aerodynamic. Even Commissioner Rob Manfred admitted Monday on ESPN that “this year the baseball has a little less drag. It doesn’t need to change very much in order to produce meaningful change in terms of the way the game is played on the field.”

A “little less” drag? Manfred’s severely understating the effect, although he’s not wrong about the “meaningful change” we’re seeing.

As Dr. Meredith Wills explained in an in-depth piece for The Athletic, the ball’s seams are lower by a couple millimeters and the ball is slightly smoother than a year ago. Whether that’s a result of “variation year-to-year” as Manfred has explained it, or intentional juicing of the ball by the league in an effort to re-kindle interest in the game — MLB does own Rawlings, after all — there’s no denying that in 2019 the ball is behaving differently both off the bat (higher average exit velocities) and in the air (longer average distance).

Those within the game know. Astros’ ace Justin Verlander, the starting pitcher for the American League in Tuesday’s all-star game, told ESPN the balls are a “joke” and that he “100 percent” believes MLB is intentionally juicing baseballs.

Verlander’s comments came a day after Cubs manager Joe Maddon noted, “You could just have stamped Titleist on the side of these things,” and added that this year’s baseballs seem to be smaller to him. Meanwhile, Manfred continues to insist there’s been no change in the manufacturing of the baseball.

“Baseball has done nothing, given no direction for an alteration in the baseball,” Manfred told reporters Tuesday ahead of the All-Star Game. “The flaw in logic is that baseball wants more home runs. If you sat in owners meetings and listen to people on how the game is played, that is not a sentiment among the owners for whom I work.”

So what really is happening? Is Manfred and MLB’s front office really behind a juicing conspiracy to increase attendance, TV viewership and overall interest in a game that is having attendance issues? Can the trend be simply explained away as a side-effect of the Launch Angle Era, and the domination of Three True Outcomes? Or — gasp — are we seeing the roots of a Steroid Era 2.0?

I don’t have the full answer. But after watching a video-game Home Run Derby in Cleveland, and as balls continue to fly out of parks at a record pace, let’s not have the wool pulled over our eyes. Something artificial is afoot behind this surge in bombs, and it comes each pitch in a juiced-up ball.

 

MLB NEWS: Darryl Strawberry blames pitching, not juiced balls, on home run boom

New York Mets legend Darryl Strawberry has chimed in on the “juiced balls” debate, and he’s not buying the idea that the balls are the reason we’re seeing more home runs these days.

Instead, Strawberry said smaller ballparks, stronger players and especially a lack of quality pitching, are to blame for the home run boom.

“I wouldn’t know, because I’m not hitting,” Strawberry told Fox Business. “But I can tell you one thing, I think the ballparks are a little smaller than they used to be and I think the guys are a lot stronger. I don’t really think they’re juicing the baseball but, like I said before, I really couldn’t tell because I am not facing any pitches. I think pitching is not what it used to be, and guys get a better chance to hit home runs when your pitching is not as good as it used to be.”

Justin Verlander would certainly disagree with that assessment. So would MLBPA president Tony Clark, who said on Tuesday he does believe the baseballs are being juiced to produce more home runs.

For what it’s worth, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred denied that notion during a lengthy press conference Tuesday ahead of the All-Star Game.

Whatever you believe, the evidence is clear that MLB has never seen a home run boom such as the one it’s currently experiencing, for better or worse.

 

MLB NEWS: MLBPA head Tony Clark believes baseballs are juiced

Houston Astros star Justin Verlander made news earlier in the week when he blasted MLB and Commissioner Rob Manfred over juiced baseball.

Verlander’s comments come during a 2019 season that will likely break the all-time mark for homers. They also come with teams on record-setting paces.

In talking about this and more, MLBPA Executive Director Tony Clark did not put out the fire. In fact, he believes that there’s something different about the baseballs this season.

It really is hard to argue with that. Heck, Monday night’s Home Run Derby included record-setting performance after record-setting performance.

Stats don’t lie. Balls are being hit out of the park at a record clip. It really has been something to behold.

Conspiracy theorists out there have concluded that MLB decided to juice balls as a way to increase interest in the sport with NFL still being North America’s top dog and the NBA finding itself in a vastly improved position.

One has to wonder how much of a role this might play in ongoing Collective Bargaining Talks with the current CBA set to expire in 2021.

 

TENNIS NEWS: Serena Williams Reveals The Apology She Sent To Naomi Osaka After US Open

Serena Williams will never stop using her voice to speak out against injustice.

In addition to posing in untouched photos for Harper’s Bazaar’s August issue, the 23-time Grand Slam champion opened up about her controversial finals match at the 2018 U.S. Open against Naomi Osaka with a candid first-person essay.

“It’s the beginning of the second set, and the umpire thinks he spots my coach signaling me from the stands. He issues a violation—a warning,” Serena recalled. “I approach him and emphatically state the truth: that I wasn’t looking at my coach. ‘I don’t cheat to win. I’d rather lose,’ I said. I walk back to the court and lose the next point. I smash my racket in frustration; he issues another violation and gives a point to my opponent. I feel passionately compelled to stand up for myself.”

“I call him a thief; I again demand an apology,” she detailed. “I tell him he is penalizing me for being a woman. He responds by issuing a third violation and takes a game from me. In the end, my opponent simply played better than me that day and ended up winning her first Grand Slam title. I could not have been happier for her. As for me, I felt defeated and disrespected by a sport that I love—one that I had dedicated my life to and that my family truly changed, not because we were welcomed, but because we wouldn’t stop winning.”

Following the upset, Serena received tons of backlash for her court behavior, as many deemed her a “sore loser,” and slammed her for how she chose to “express her frustrations.”

” ‘If I were a man, would I be in this situation? What makes me so different? Is it because I’m a woman?’ Serena said she asked herself. “I stop myself to avoid getting worked up. I tell myself, ‘You’ve been through so much, you’ve endured so much, time will allow me to heal, and soon this will be just another memory that made me the strong woman, athlete, and mother I am today.’ But this was different. I was hurt—cut deeply. I tried to compare it to other setbacks I’d had in my life and career, and for some reason I couldn’t shake the feeling that this was about so much more than just me. I thought back to my first Grand Slam. It’s the one you remember best; it’s supposed to be the most special. This debacle ruined something that should have been amazing and historic. Not only was a game taken from me but a defining, triumphant moment was taken from another player, something she should remember as one of the happiest memories in her long and successful career. My heart broke. I started to think again, ‘What could I have done better? Was I wrong to stand up? Why is it that when women get passionate, they’re labeled emotional, crazy, and irrational, but when men do they’re seen as passionate and strong?’

After heavily reflecting on the incident and even seeking a therapist, Serena said she decided to reach out to “the person who deserved it the most.”

“Hey, Naomi! It’s Serena Williams,” the 37-year-old tennis star wrote to her 21-year-old opponenet. “As I said on the court, I am so proud of you and I am truly sorry. I thought I was doing the right thing in sticking up for myself. But I had no idea the media would pit us against each other. I would love the chance to live that moment over again. I am, was, and will always be happy for you and supportive of you. I would never, ever want the light to shine away from another female, specifically another black female athlete. I can’t wait for your future, and believe me I will always be watching as a big fan! I wish you only success today and in the future. Once again, I am so proud of you. All my love and your fan, Serena.”

 

NHL NEWS: Forward Micheal Ferland signs 4-year deal with Canucks

Forward Micheal Ferland has signed a four-year deal with the Vancouver Canucks.

The 27-year-old’s contract carries an average annual value of $3.5 million, the club announced Wednesday.

“Micheal is an energetic player that drives the play and can contribute in all three zones,” Canucks general manager Jim Benning said in a statement. “He’ll make our team harder to play against on a nightly basis and we’re excited that he’ll call Vancouver home.”

Ferland was an unrestricted free agent after putting up 40 points in 71 games for Carolina this past season.

He previously played four seasons in Calgary, scoring a career-high 21 goals in the 2017-18 season.

Selected 133rd overall by the Flames at the 2010 draft, Ferland has 129 points in 321 NHL games.

 

THIS DAY IN SPORTS HISTORY

JULY 11, 1989

ANAHEIM, Calif.-In his life and times as a big league baseball player, Bo Jackson has done the kinds of things expected of legends. He has made the spectacular diving catch, hit the electric home run, thrown out the runner sliding across the plate. He has done them often enough to be admired for his wondrous talent. But they are still merely glimpses.

Tonight, on one of the game’s grandest stages, Jackson took his rising star to another height. In the 60th All-Star Game, in front of 64,036 at Anaheim Stadium, the Kansas City Royals left fielder turned the night into something special. He hit a first inning homer nearly 450 feet, drove in two runs and stole a base, then was named the game’s most valuable player in the American League’s 5‚3 victory over the National League.

“He’s a very dynamic player,” said Wade Boggs, who followed Jackson with a home run of his own in the first. “He can do a lot of things: run, throw, hit, hit for power. He can do it all.” The victory was the A.L’s second in the last two years, the first time it has won consecutive midsummer games since 1957‚58.

In only his third full season in the league, Jackson is already considered an impact player. He earned the most votes among the fans in voting to determine the game’s A.L. starters, and he brought 21 home runs into the All-Star break. But there are still some who say he cannot continue to play both baseball and football-he works down the freeway for the Los Angeles Raiders during the fall and winter-on a professional level. “A couple of years ago, people said I couldn’t do both,” Jackson said when the night was over. “But that’s not fair to me, to say what a man can or can’t do.”

Only 26 years old, Jackson has made the most of his chance. The Royals regard him as a most valuable entity; the Raiders see him as one of their most important offensive players. To baseball, he is perhaps a legend in the making. One other player in All-Star Game history has hit a home run and stolen a base in one game: Willie Mays, who did it in 1960.

In December 1990 Bo Jackson became the only athlete in history to be named to both the All-Star and the Pro Bowl games. A month later he suffered a hip injury in an N.F.L. playoff game, which ended his football career. In April 1993, after a year-and-a-half layoff from baseball for hip replacement surgery, he homered in his first at-bat for the Chicago White Sox. He retired two seasons later.

 

TODAY IN BASEBALL HISTORY

1903      Waco Steers hurler Clyde Bateman makes baseball history again this season when fires a no-hitter, beating the Fort Worth Panthers, 2-0. In May, the 26 year-old Texan hit four home runs to become only the second player in Texas League history to accomplish the feat.

1914      Red Sox hurler Babe Ruth, making his major league debut, beats the Indians, 4-3. Duffy Lewis, pinch-hitting for the 19 year-old rookie southpaw, singles in the seventh inning, giving the future slugger the first of his 94 victories in 140 decisions.

1925      At Sportsman’s Park, George Sisler becomes a one-man wrecking crew when he comes to the plate with the bases loaded in back-to-back frames in the Browns’ 10-5 victory over Washington. The St. Louis first baseman drives in seven runs in two innings, tripling with the bases jammed in the third and hitting a grand slam in the fourth.

1939      All three runs in the American League’s 3-1 All-Star victory are driven in by a Yankee player when their ballpark in the Bronx plays host to the Midsummer Classic. The 20 year-old Indians fireballer Bob Feller steals the show at Yankee Stadium when he hurls 3.2 scoreless innings.

1944      At Pittsburgh’s Forbes Field, Phil Cavaretta sets an All-Star Game record by reaching base five consecutive times. The 27 year-old Cub first baseman’s triple, single, and three walks help the National League beat the Junior Circuit, 7-1.

1950      The Midsummer Classic returns to Comiskey Park, the site of the first game, and is won by the National League, 4-3, thanks to Red Schoendienst’s 14th-inning home run. It’s a game of firsts – first extra-inning All-Star Game, first time the NL wins at an AL park, and the first Midsummer Classic ever broadcast on national television.

1953      Giant rookie Al Worthington throws a four-hitter, blanking the Dodgers at Ebbets Field, 6-0. The whitewashing, which halts Brooklyn’s record NL streak of homering in 24 consecutive games and marks the only game this season the team will not a score, makes the 24 year-old right-hander the first National League freshman this century to throw consecutive shutouts at the start of a career, a feat that Karl Spooner will also match next season.

1954      Phillies rookie Jim Command’s first major league hit is a grand slam off Brooklyn’s Carl Erskine. The 25 year-old third baseman’s blow in the sixth-run eighth isn’t enough when Brooklyn hangs on to win the Ebbets Field contest, 8-7.

1954      In the first game of a doubleheader, Giants right fielder Don Mueller hits for the cycle in team’s 13-7 victory over the Pirates at the Polo Grounds. ‘Mandrake the Magician,’ who homers in his final at-bat to complete the deed, will be the only major league player to accomplish the feat this season.

1954      In the first game of a doubleheader, Giants right fielder Don Mueller hits for the cycle in the team’s 13-7 victory over the Pirates at the Polo Grounds. ‘Mandrake the Magician,’ who homers in his final at-bat to complete the deed, will be the only major leaguer to accomplish the feat this season.

1958      The Los Angeles city council declares today ‘Take Me Out to the Ball Game Day’ to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the iconic baseball song. In a pregame ceremony at the LA Memorial Coliseum, the Dodgers honor lyricist Jack Norworth, presenting him with a lifetime pass to any American or National League game.

1961      In the first of two All-Star Games played that season, the NL beats the American League, 5-4, on a very windy day at Candlestick Park. The contest features a record seven errors and the memorable sight of a 165-pound pitcher Stu Miller balking after being blown off the mound by a gust of wind, an exaggerated fact perpetrated over the years, according to the right-hander.

1967      Reds first baseman Tony Perez’ homer off A’s right-hander Catfish Hunter gives the Senior Circuit a 2-1 All-Star victory over the American League. The 15-inning Anaheim Stadium contest is the longest Midsummer Classic contest ever played.

1968      In Kansas City, ground is broken for the Harry S. Truman Sports Complex, which will include separate side-by-side stadiums built specifically for baseball and football. Arrowhead Stadium, home of the NFL’s Chiefs, will open in 1972, followed by the debut a year later of Royals Stadium, the new home ballpark of the American League’s franchise in the City of Fountains.

1968      After whiffing in the first inning, Bill Hands grounds outs in his next at-bat, ending his major league record-setting streak for consecutive strikeouts. The Cubs’ right-hander, who goes the distance, blanking New York at Shea Stadium, 2-0, sets the dubious mark when he strikes out in fourteen straight plate appearances.

1968      Rick Renick becomes the first Twin player to homer in his first major league at-bat when he goes deep off Mickey Lolich in Minnesota’s 5-4 victory over Detroit at Metropolitan Stadium. The 24 year-old shortstop’s second-inning solo shot will be the first of 20 round-trippers he’ll hit during his five-year career, spent entirely with the Twin Cities team.

1973      Jim Northrup knocks in eight runs and scores three times as the Tigers rout the Rangers, 14-2. The 3-for-4 performance by the Tigers’ leadoff hitter helps him record the 500th run and RBI of his career.

1976      Hank Aaron becomes the oldest major leaguer (42 years, 5 months, 7 days) to hit a walk-off homer when he goes deep in the bottom of the tenth inning off Steve Foucault in the Brewers’ 5-4 victory over Texas at County Stadium. The ‘Hammer’ will hold the elderly distinction until Cleveland’s Jason Giambi, who will be a month and 15 days older than Henry, at the time, accomplishes the feat with a pinch-hit game-winning round-tripper in 2013.

1976      At Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, thirty-four couples marry at home plate, and a wrestling championship match takes place in a promotion billed as Headlocks and Wedlocks. The Braves take down the Mets, 9-8.

1978      At Jack Murphy Stadium, Steve Garvey becomes the first two-time MVP in All-Star history. The Dodger first baseman’s game-tying, two-run single and a triple help the National League to beat the AL, 7-3.

1980      The Dodgers sell Charlie Hough to the Rangers. The 32 year-old knuckleballer will spend 11 seasons with Texas, posting a 139-123 record along with an ERA of 3.68.

1985      Astros’ fireballer Nolan Ryan fans Mets left fielder Danny Heep for his 4000th career strikeout. The ‘Ryan Express’ doesn’t get a decision, but Houston beats New York in 12 innings, 4-3.

1989      In a contest best remembered for the leadoff Ruthian blast to center field by Bo Jackson, the game’s MVP who will join Willie Mays as the second player to hit a home run and steal a base in an All-Star Game, the American League beats the NL’s best players, 5-3, at Anaheim Stadium. During the first inning of the Mid-Summer Classic, former U.S. President and one-time baseball announcer Ronald Reagan joins Vin Scully in the NBC broadcast booth.

1994      Handling four chances in the 8-1 defeat to the Rockies, Cardinal infielder Ozzie Smith passes Luis Aparicio and moves into the top spot on the all-time list for assists by a shortstop. ‘The Wizard of Oz’ will end his 19-year career in 1996 with 8,375 assists.

1995      “Don’t be like me, God gave me a body and ability to play baseball. I had everything, and I just…” – Yankee legend Mickey Mantle, lamenting about the effects of his hard living.

Mickey Mantle makes his first public appearance since undergoing a liver transplant in June. The frail-looking Yankee legend, who will die next month, tells the dozens of people attending the press conference at the Baylor University Medical Center he is not a hero, but an example of the worst sort.

1995      At the Ballpark in Arlington, Marlins outfielder Jeff Conine becomes the tenth player to homer in his first All-Star at-bat, and Frank Thomas becomes the first White Sox player ever to homer in the Midsummer Classic as the NL out-homers the American League, 3-2. Craig Biggio and Mike Piazza also go deep for the Senior Circuit.

1996      The United States Postal Service issues ‘Mighty Casey”, a commemorative stamp which depicts the title character of Ernest L. Thayer’s immortal poem, ‘Casey at the Bat.’ The maligned Mudville outfielder joins Paul Bunyan, John Henry, and Pecos Bill as part of a set commemorating American folk heroes.

1998      Padre reliever Trevor Hoffman, brother of opposing manager Glenn Hoffman, saves the Padres’ 4-1 victory over the Dodgers. It’s the first time in major league history a player has faced his brother as the skipper of the opposing team.

1999      The first MLB Futures Game provides a stage for future major-league All-Star Alfonso Soriano to shine when the Yankees farmhand goes 2 for 3, hitting two of the game’s three home runs in the World’s 7-0 victory over the USA at Fenway Park. The former Hiroshima Carp infielder, who now plays shortstop for the Columbus Clippers, is named the contest’s MVP.

2000      At Turner Field, the AL beats the National League, 6-3, in the 71st All-Star contest, dubbed the All-Scar game due to the many stars absent from both lineups because of injuries. Yankees’ shortstop Derek Jeter and Braves’ third baseman Chipper Jones provide the offensive punch, with both going 3-for-3.

2002      The Marlins are busy on the trading block, making separate deals with the Expos and the Reds. Florida deals Ryan Dempster to Cincinnati for Juan Encarnacion and gets four players, Carl Pavano, Graeme Lloyd, Mike Mordecai, and prospect Justin Wayne from Montreal in exchange for Cliff Floyd, Wilton Guerrero, and prospect Claudio Vargas.

2002      The Indians fire Charlie Manuel and name third base coach Joel Skinner as the interim manager, releasing their skipper after he issued an ultimatum to the front office about his status. The 58 year-old guided the team to a 39-47 record, 9 1/2 games behind the first-place Twins in the AL Central before his dismissal.

2004      Carlos Beltran, selected to be an American League All-Star, will now have an opportunity to patrol the NL outfield instead. The former Royals’ flycatcher, traded to the Astros last month, was invited by Senior Circuit skipper Jack McKeon to replace Ken Griffey, Jr., on the star-studded roster.

2006      Jim Eriotes leads off for the Sioux Falls Canaries against the St. Joe (Mo.) Blacksnakes and strikes out, including fouling off one of the four pitches he sees. The at-bat makes the 83 year-old former minor leaguer the oldest man to ever play in a professional baseball game.

2006      One strike away from ending a decade of dominance, National League closer Trevor Hoffman yields a two-run triple to Michael Young of the Texas Rangers, giving the American League a come-from-behind 3-2 All-Star Game victory at Pittsburgh’s picturesque PNC Park. The timely three-bagger keeps the Junior Circuit unbeaten in the Midsummer Classic since 1997, compiling a 9-0-1 record.

2006      Prior to the start of the fifth inning of the All-Star Game played in Pittsburgh’s PNC Park, Vera Clemente is escorted onto the field by 1960 World Series hero Bill Mazeroski to accept the Commissioner’s Historic Achievement Award on behalf of her late husband. With the scoreboard showing replays of Roberto, tears flowing from AL skipper Ozzie Guillen, and the heartfelt ovation from the crowd, the ceremony honoring the Pirates’ Hall of Famer becomes a truly memorable moment in the history of the Midsummer Classic.

2010      After firing Sean Berry as the club’s hitting coach, the struggling Astros name Jeff Bagwell to fill the position for the remainder of the season. The former All-Star first baseman, who retired with a lifetime .297 batting average, is the all-time team leader with 449 home runs and 1,529 RBIs.

2010      At Wilmington’s (DE) Frawley Stadium, the Blue Rocks celebrate the tenth birthday of Mr. Celery, the team’s beloved mascot who only appears when the team scores. The inception of the ’stalker,’ known for his CEL-ebratory dances to Blur’s ‘Song 2’ (Woo Hoo), was inspired by the discovery of a dusty celery costume housed in a warehouse for years.

2010      Long time Yankees public address announcer Bob Sheppard dies at the age of 99. The ‘Voice of God,’ a nickname bestowed by Reggie Jackson, informed patrons of the lineups and of the players coming to bat in over 4,500 contests during his 56 years behind the microphone in the ballpark in the Bronx.

2011      Robinson Cano, the fourth straight left-handed swinger to win the competition, beats Adrian Gonzalez with 12 dingers in the final round of the Home Run Derby. The highlight of the three-hour long contest comes when the Yankee slugger gives his father, a former major league hurler with the Astros, a huge bear hug on the mound and tells his pitcher, “I love you, Dad” after he ties the Red Sox first baseman for the lead.

 

MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL STANDINGS

American League
East
Team W L Pct GB Home Road East Central West Last 10 Streak
NY Yankees 57 31 .648 31 – 14 26 – 17 29 – 9 12 – 11 9 – 6 7 – 3 L 2
Tampa Bay 52 39 .571 6.5 26 – 22 26 – 17 19 – 17 14 – 10 10 – 8 6 – 4 W 2
Boston 49 41 .544 9 20 – 22 29 – 19 19 – 19 16 – 7 12 – 12 6 – 4 W 4
Toronto 34 57 .374 24.5 18 – 30 16 – 27 12 – 21 11 – 15 9 – 10 5 – 5 W 1
Baltimore 27 62 .303 30.5 11 – 31 16 – 31 13 – 26 7 – 15 5 – 15 5 – 5 L 1
Central
Team W L Pct GB Home Road East Central West Last 10 Streak
Minnesota 56 33 .629 28 – 15 28 – 18 17 – 9 19 – 11 17 – 9 4 – 6 L 1
Cleveland 50 38 .568 5.5 25 – 18 25 – 20 13 – 8 21 – 15 10 – 10 7 – 3 W 6
Chi White Sox 42 44 .488 12.5 25 – 20 17 – 24 13 – 17 22 – 16 4 – 6 6 – 4 W 1
Kansas City 30 61 .330 27 16 – 28 14 – 33 6 – 15 14 – 25 7 – 16 2 – 8 L 2
Detroit 28 57 .329 26 12 – 32 16 – 25 9 – 11 13 – 22 1 – 11 2 – 8 L 3
West
Team W L Pct GB Home Road East Central West Last 10 Streak
Houston 57 33 .633 33 – 14 24 – 19 13 – 10 12 – 9 26 – 7 7 – 3 W 2
Oakland 50 41 .549 7.5 26 – 20 24 – 21 13 – 14 10 – 2 22 – 22 7 – 3 W 1
Texas 48 42 .533 9 29 – 17 19 – 25 7 – 6 13 – 7 20 – 22 4 – 6 W 1
LA Angels 45 46 .495 12.5 22 – 21 23 – 25 11 – 7 7 – 8 18 – 27 4 – 6 L 2
Seattle 39 55 .415 20 19 – 29 20 – 26 7 – 8 10 – 13 19 – 27 2 – 8 L 1

 

National League
East
Team W L Pct GB Home Road East Central West Last 10 Streak
Atlanta 54 37 .593 28 – 19 26 – 18 22 – 14 17 – 9 11 – 12 6 – 4 W 1
Washington 47 42 .528 6 26 – 20 21 – 22 25 – 17 5 – 11 10 – 11 8 – 2 W 2
Philadelphia 47 43 .522 6.5 27 – 17 20 – 26 24 – 22 11 – 9 7 – 9 5 – 5 W 1
NY Mets 40 50 .444 13.5 23 – 19 17 – 31 21 – 23 7 – 14 7 – 9 3 – 7 L 1
Miami 33 55 .375 19.5 15 – 29 18 – 26 15 – 31 7 – 16 6 – 4 3 – 7 L 1
Central
Team W L Pct GB Home Road East Central West Last 10 Streak
Chi Cubs 47 43 .522 29 – 16 18 – 27 14 – 11 15 – 16 10 – 9 4 – 6 L 1
Milwaukee 47 44 .516 0.5 27 – 18 20 – 26 14 – 8 24 – 18 6 – 11 4 – 6 L 2
St. Louis 44 44 .500 2 24 – 18 20 – 26 16 – 14 15 – 17 7 – 6 4 – 6 L 2
Pittsburgh 44 45 .494 2.5 22 – 21 22 – 24 6 – 7 18 – 18 10 – 16 6 – 4 W 2
Cincinnati 41 46 .471 4.5 24 – 21 17 – 25 9 – 7 18 – 21 8 – 9 5 – 5 L 2
West
Team W L Pct GB Home Road East Central West Last 10 Streak
LA Dodgers 60 32 .652 37 – 12 23 – 20 11 – 3 19 – 11 29 – 15 5 – 5 L 3
Arizona 46 45 .505 13.5 20 – 22 26 – 23 10 – 7 8 – 5 19 – 29 6 – 4 W 3
San Diego 45 45 .500 14 23 – 24 22 – 21 10 – 10 9 – 11 19 – 21 5 – 5 W 3
Colorado 44 45 .494 14.5 24 – 19 20 – 26 10 – 12 7 – 6 20 – 21 3 – 7 L 6
San Francisco 41 48 .461 17.5 20 – 26 21 – 22 4 – 9 8 – 8 23 – 24 7 – 3 W 2

 

MAJOR LEAGUE SOCCER STANDINGS

Eastern
Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
Philadelphia 21 10 6 5 39 28 11 6-3-2 4-3-3 36
D.C. 20 8 7 5 25 21 4 5-4-2 3-3-3 31
Atlanta 19 9 3 7 27 23 4 6-3-1 3-0-6 30
Montreal 21 9 3 9 26 34 -8 5-1-3 4-2-6 30
New York City FC 17 7 8 2 30 20 10 4-4-1 3-4-1 29
New York 19 8 4 7 33 27 6 6-1-3 2-3-4 28
Toronto FC 19 6 5 8 30 33 -3 4-3-3 2-2-5 23
New England 19 6 5 8 22 36 -14 4-2-4 2-3-4 23
Orlando City SC 19 6 4 9 27 27 0 3-1-5 3-3-4 22
Chicago 20 5 7 8 31 29 2 5-4-1 0-3-7 22
Columbus 20 5 2 13 17 30 -13 4-2-6 1-0-7 17
FC Cincinnati 19 4 2 13 18 44 -26 3-1-4 1-1-9 14
Western
Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
Los Angeles FC 19 13 4 2 50 16 34 8-1-0 5-3-2 43
Los Angeles 19 11 1 7 26 22 4 7-0-3 4-1-4 34
Seattle 19 9 5 5 29 25 4 7-2-0 2-3-5 32
Minnesota 19 9 3 7 36 29 7 5-3-1 4-0-6 30
FC Dallas 20 8 5 7 29 25 4 6-4-1 2-1-6 29
San Jose 19 8 4 7 30 30 0 7-1-3 1-3-4 28
Houston 18 8 3 7 28 25 3 7-3-0 1-0-7 27
Real Salt Lake 19 8 2 9 25 29 -4 6-0-2 2-2-7 26
Portland 17 7 2 8 26 28 -2 2-0-1 5-2-7 23
Sporting KC 19 5 7 7 29 34 -5 4-3-3 1-4-4 22
Vancouver 20 4 8 8 22 31 -9 3-4-3 1-4-5 20
Colorado 19 5 4 10 29 38 -9 4-2-5 1-2-5 19

 

WNBA STANDINGS

Eastern Conference
W L Pct GB Home Road Conf Last 10 Streak
Washington Mystics 9 5 .643 4-2 5-3 6-2 6-4 2 L
Connecticut Sun 9 6 .600 0.5 6-1 3-5 5-3 5-5 5 L
Chicago Sky 7 8 .467 2.5 5-3 2-5 3-3 4-6 1 L
New York Liberty 7 8 .467 2.5 3-5 4-3 1-4 6-4 1 L
Indiana Fever 6 10 .375 4.0 2-5 4-5 3-3 3-7 1 L
Atlanta Dream 4 10 .286 5.0 3-5 1-5 2-5 3-7 1 W
Western Conference
W L Pct GB Home Road Conf Last 10 Streak
Las Vegas Aces 10 5 .667 6-2 4-3 4-2 8-2 4 W
Minnesota Lynx 9 6 .600 1.0 5-3 4-3 3-4 5-5 3 W
Phoenix Mercury 7 6 .538 2.0 4-2 3-4 3-4 6-4 2 W
Seattle Storm 8 8 .500 2.5 5-3 3-5 3-3 5-5 3 L
Los Angeles Sparks 7 7 .500 2.5 4-2 3-5 3-4 5-5 1 L
Dallas Wings 5 9 .357 4.5 5-3 0-6 3-2 5-5 1 W