5 Things You Need to Know To #Win Thursday

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo and the National Fantasy Football Convention play to depose NFL commisioner Roger Goodell as part of their $1 million lawsuit against the league for last year’s failed event.

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo and his National Fantasy Football Convention have no plans to back down on their lawsuit against the NFL for tortious interference in the canceling of last year’s event.

Romo and his partners are asking for more than $1 million from the league.

Not only are the two sides heading to court in Dallas on Monday for a hearing on a summary judgment on the NFL’s motion to dismiss the suit, but the lawyers for the NFFC have filed paperwork to depose league commissioner Roger Goodell.

The NFL has filed a motion to block Goodell’s deposition.


MLB-Lineups-Divisions

The NHL had a novel idea this season: It broke up its All-Star Game into semifinals, with the individual stars from each division playing short exhibitions against each other in a tournament format. They played a 20-minute semifinal — giving fans an actual All-Star bracket — and then a championship between the winners. A clever idea, to be sure, and one that not only made the All-Star format itself more exciting, but also allowed more star players to be seen by their fans. (It also ended up leading to the John Scott story.)

I’m not sure baseball should do this — it already has the best All-Star Game and doesn’t need to radically reinvent it, though getting rid of the “Now It Counts” business is long overdue — but it is an enticing thought experiment. Imagine if the All-Stars from each division played, say, a series of three-inning games in a double-elimination format that ended up determining the best division in baseball over a three-day stretch. It’s probably too much, but it’s fun to think about: Now that the divisions are more geographically aligned, there’s as much division loyalty, pride and solidarity as there is with leagues, maybe more.

It’ll never happen — and again, it probably shouldn’t happen — but I’m gonna take part in the thought experiment anyway. Let’s come up with a preseason All-Star team for each of the six divisions and imagine who would win such a tournament. Rather than go through matchup-by-matchup, we’ll just rank them.

Here’s how the teams might look. I’ll be cheating a little bit by just allowing for three outfield spots rather than LF/CF/RF, but hey: This is an All-Star Game.

Read: If each MLB division had an All-Star lineup, what would it look like?


LarryBird

For several days in the summer of 2014, I debated a question whose answer seems obvious. Was Larry Bird a pure shooter? I kept this debate internal — I drafted emails for friends and basketball writers asking for their opinions, but never sent them, for fear of their reaction and eventual abandonment. Instead, I went back and forth with the question. Calling someone a pure shooter can be used as an insult, if pure becomes synonymous with “only” or is the first half of a compound sentence that begins “He’s a pure shooter,” and ends “but he can’t play any defense or put the ball on the floor.”

Bird belongs in the discussion for the greatest shooter of all time, but simply calling him a pure shooter might erase the way he controlled the game with his passing, rebounding, tenacity, team defense and floor game. Is calling Larry Bird a pure shooter the ultimate compliment or an underestimation? Praise or pejorative? But then if Bird isn’t a pure shooter, who the hell is?

Regardless of definitions and labels, Bird’s greatness as a shooter can get lost when discussing his career. His all-around brilliance separated him from everyone else. He could dominate without taking a shot, but it was still that shot that made everything else possible.

Read: How the jumper turned Bird into Larry Legend.


Andy Pettitte had six heavy-use postseasons in his career. (via Chris Ptacek)

At the end of my last article at THT, “The In-Season Aging Curve,” I indulged in some speculation about whether older pitchers’ skills eroded faster during the playing season than in the offseason. The data I used gave me no grounds for a conclusion either way. Were the erosion to happen faster in-season, though, it raised the unfortunate possibility that pitchers who had longer seasons—meaning those who pitched deep into the postseason—would be worn down by the grind and pitch worse the next season, and possibly beyond.

I teased that I might have more to say on the matter in months to come. Teasing isn’t really nice, so I got to work on the matter right away.

I wound up both narrowing and expanding the question I posed. I looked at just the following year after a heavy postseason workload, and I did not limit myself to older pitchers. This was probably a wise shift, since two of the biggest controversies surrounding pitcher workloads and the postseason in recent years have involved younger hurlers.

Read: Pitchers and the Seven-Month Season – The Hardball Times


New York Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul sued ESPN and NFL reporter Adam Schefter on Wednesday for tweeting his medical records over the summer.

The lawsuit, filed in Miami-Dade County in Florida, alleges that Pierre-Paul’s privacy was violated — as was the state’s medical records statute — by the report. The lawsuit claims Schefter “improperly obtained Plaintiff’s medical records from a hospital” and then tweeted them out, writing that “ESPN obtained medical charts that show that Giants DE Jason Pierre-Paul had right index finger amputated today.”

Paul injured his right hand in a fireworks accident July 4. Schefter posted a photo of Pierre-Paul’s medical chart July 8

Read: Jason Pierre-Paul of New York Giants sues ESPN, Adam Schefter for posting medical records

What No One Tells You About #Winning Tuesday


All Aboard the S.S.TD:

The Gronk.  Lovable meathead, really good tight-end for the Patriots just disembarked from his “Party-Cruise”.  The debaucherous, drunken revellry seemed to be on par with another party that comes to mind in the Big Easy, and according to social media, it was.  However, while everyone was re-living the halcyon days of Sodom & Gamora and being tailed by “intrepid” journalists to “document” the event – we need to ask this question – How is Manziel any different?

Is it because Gronk is a Pro-Bowler, a Superbowl Champion and has never been accused of striking a woman?  Why do we treat Gronk as lovable meathead and Manziel a loser for being the same Teddy Bro-sevelt?  At some point we should stop demonizing notorious behavior while applauding another as we maintain our upright moral status with the rest of the swine.  Then again, how much could you have had on this hedonistic cruise?

+ Read: Let’s all have as much fun as Gronk’s Party Ship.

Then there’s the King of Berzerkers, the thorn in the SEC paw, the man in the khakis, hanging out at WWE Raw last night.  The most visible and entertaining coach in college football lately, is a self-avowed rasslin’ fan and was front and center at Joe Louis Arena.  How can you not love this guy’s headline making ways?

Welcome to @UMichFootball head coach @CoachJim4UM, ringside at @WWE#RAW in Detroit!! #Wolverinespic.twitter.com/II49BL7Cml

— WWE (@WWE) February 23, 2016


NBA

ATLANTA, GA - FEBRUARY 22: Andrew Bogut #12 of the Golden State Warriors dunks against Al Horford #15 of the Atlanta Hawks at Philips Arena on February 22, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia. NOTE TO USER User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

If you follow along with us, then you know Mondays are prettay prettaaay prettaaaay special when you read our 5pt plays and build your lineups with our LineupAnalyzer.  Or maybe you were too caught up in listening to another hit from the dark-side of the moon and the Apollo 10 astronauts…Either way, you can read The United Stats of #Murica #NBA edition for a review or read these 5 takeaways:

  • Warriors become the fastest team to 50 wins in NBA history by beating Hawks. It got interesting. Atlanta became the latest team to make a big run on Golden State and force a response. Portland did it most of the game, but the 13-turnover third quarter for the Warriors put that game out of reach. The Clippers game seemed to be in garbage time until a 13-0 run late gave Los Angeles a chance to tie (the shot fell short). Then Monday night the Warriors were in complete control up 23 in the third quarter, when the Hawks went on a 33-6 run and took the lead. These lapses are a combination of factors. The Warriors have some mental vacations, they get bored it seems, but also teams are not just rolling over for them. Good teams that have pride. The result is the Warriors having to work hard for games where it felt like they were in control.
  • Channing Frye makes his debut for Cavaliers but Pistons spoil the day. Cavaliers fans got to see the guy they gave up Anderson Varejao for Monday night (not that much was expected of Channing Frye in his debut, he’s had basically no practice time with the team). Frye played nine minutes for the Cavaliers, missed both his threes, and looked like the new kid trying to fit in. He’ll find a more comfortable groove.
  • Giannis Antetokounmpo finishes the off-the-backboard alley-oop. Yes, it still counts if you do it against the Lakers’ defense. The Bucks picked up a win and the Greek Freak had maybe the highlight of the night.
  • Pistons void Donatas Motiejunas trade with Rockets over concerns about his back.Stan Van Gundy has coveted Motiejunas for years — a true 7-footer who can bang inside and is shooting 41.2 percent from three this season. He’s a perfect fit on paper for the inside-out offense Van Guyndy is trying to set up in Detroit.
  • Kyle Lowry puts up triple-double. Does it still count if Jose Calderon is guarding him? Kyle Lowry and the Raptors went into Madison Square Garden on Monday night and looked every bit the second best team in the East, with an unstoppable backcourt led by Kyle Lowry. Going up against the porus defense of Jose Calderon, Lowry did what he wanted on the way to 22 points, 11 assists, and 11 rebounds, and the Raptors picked up a comfortable win 122-95.

Source: Five Takeaways from NBA Monday: Warriors become fastest team ever to 50 wins – ProBasketballTalk

Big man Hassan Whiteside continues to confound the Miami Heat by mixing in dominant performances with head-scratching mistakes that cloud his future with the team.

+ Read: Whiteside remains an enigma for Miami – Yahoo News

+ Read: NBA’s ‘haunted hotel’ strikes again — this time with bed bugs | New York Post


NFL

The NFL withheld a big chunk of money from the NFLPA. (USATSI)

The NFL Player’s Association (NFLPA) was on the winning side of an arbitration that’s expected to cost the NFL more than $100 million.

Arbitrator Stephen Burbank sided with the NFLPA over an issue that had to do with the pool of revenue (or shared revenue pool) that the NFL splits with its players. According to the Wall Street Journal, the league is going to have to return about $120 million in revenues that it wrongly collected over the past three years.

+ Read: Report: NFL withheld more than $120 million from players over 3 years – CBSSports.com

Let’s face it: All 32 NFL teams have plenty to do before the start of the new fiscal year, as well as the beginning of free agency on March 9.There are just some that have more to do than others.

+ Read: NFL Teams That Have the Most Work to Do Before Free Agency | Bleacher Report


MLB

Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Zack Greinke talks to the media during a press conference, Friday, Dec. 11, 2015, in Phoenix. Greinke could have stayed with the Los Angeles Dodgers or gone up the coast to the San Francisco Giants. Instead, he signed a massive contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks, dramatically shifting the landscape in the NL West.   (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

The phrase “play the game the right way” is vague, so it’s usually tough to know exactly what someone means when they use the phrase. Hitting batters as revenge, for example, could be “right” if you’re an old-school baseball type, or it may be wrong to someone else. NL West managers say the Diamondbacks “play the game the right way,” Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post reports.

+ Read: NL West managers say the Diamondbacks “play the game the right way” – HardballTalk


Overtime

+ Read: Nation’s fastest football player? LSU’s Donte’ Jackson can make that claim – CollegeFootballTalk

On Sunday, a relieved Bubba Watson interrupted his post-tournament press conference at the Northern Trust Open in Pacific Palisades, Calif., as the gleaming prize was placed beside him on the table. Though he had to pass a kidney stone earlier in the week, he still managed to rally back on the final day of action to win the tournament for the second time in three years.

In a thrilling final round packed with twists and turns, Watson closed out a one-shot victory over leader Jason Kokrak and 2013 Masters winner Adam Scott at Riviera Country Club. Bubba finished with a 15-under 269 total.

+ Read: Bubba Watson won the Northern Trust Open.

Weekend Update: Boom Goes the Dynamite


Mo-Mo-Motorius:

In case you missed it – the Daytona 500 was this weekend and ther finish was the closest in the computer-timed era, that began in 1993 – .01 seconds.  Just watch the video and see an incredible final lap, even if turning left a-lot is not your forte.  Denny Hamlin passing three of his own teammates to squeek out a victory over Martin Truex – leaving Joe Gibbs to proclaim this #win over any Superbowl.

Maintaining the Motor theme – the Pistons wore Motor City on their jerseys last night and Anthony Davis motored right by.  Davis dropped the clutch on Detroit to a tune of 59pts and 20 rebounds in the Pelicans 111-106 win, (Davis was an 89 on #FanDuel and 93.5 on #DraftKings).

It was a career high for the “Brow” and also the highest total in the #NBA this season.  Fact: Only two other players have ever scored more than 55pts and grabbed at least 20 boards in a game – Wilt Chamberlain and ShaQ-Fu.


NBA

Kobe Is A Dick And Talks About It On HBO

Kobe Bryant is one of the greatest players in NBA history. Five NBA championships, 18 All Star Game appearances, one MVP award. Despite how unbelievably good Kobe is at basketball, no one has ever confused him with being a good teammate or a particularly nice guy. Although he’s currently on a Derek Jeter-like retirement tour, it’s not so much an admiration for the man himself, but rather an appreciation for the player that Kobe Bryant was.

+ Read: Kobe is a dick and talks about it on HBO

Since he was essentially anointed the next face of the NBA over the past year, Anthony Davis’ season has been a little disappointing on a number of levels. His per-game numbers are as good as ever — 24.3 points, 10.1 rebounds, 1.3 steals and 2.2 blocks — but after last year’s surprise playoff run, the Pelicans have underperformed due to injuries throughout the roster and an awkward coaching transition from Monty Williams to Alvin Gentry. In the eyes of the casual NBA observer, the next shiny toy to get excited about has already become Timberwolves rookie phenom Karl-Anthony Towns.

+ Read: Anthony Davis joins elite company with 59-point game.

The Donatas Motiejunas trade between the Pistons, Rockets and 76ers isn’t the only one held up by a physical.The Cavaliers’ trade for Channing Frye still isn’t complete, either.

+ Read: Channing Frye trade still not complete, as Cavaliers continue to test former(?) Magic player – ProBasketballTalk

It took a few days to finally happen but the New York Knicks signed Jimmer Fredette to a 10-day contract on Monday. This will be Fredette’s third attempt at sticking with an NBA team this season.

+ Read: Knicks make it official, sign Jimmer Fredette to 10-day contract – CBSSports.com


MLB

Jimmy Rollins

The White Sox announced on Monday that they’ve added shortstop and former Phillies cornerstone Jimmy Rollins on a minor league contract with an invitation to Major League Spring Training. Rollins is a client of MVP Sports.

+ Read: White Sox Sign Jimmy Rollins To Minors Deal – MLB Trade Rumors

Miami Marlins hitting coach Barry Bonds, baseball’s home run king, made it clear “I’m a Hall of Famer” at an introductory news conference Saturday.Bonds, in his familiar No. 25, wore a major league uniform for the first time in nine years this week — aside from a weeklong stint as a guest instructor with the San Francisco Giants two springs ago.

+ Read: MLB Notebook: New Marlins hitting coach Bonds introduced, says ‘God knows I’m a Hall of Famer’ | West Central Tribune

It came as a shock on Friday when the news broke that longtime former Major Leaguer Tony Phillips had died of an apparent heart attack. A man determined and fit enough to suit up for an independent league team last season is now gone far too soon, at age 56.Phillips stood out for his personality, but even though he enjoyed an 18-year career in the big leagues, his on-field accomplishments flew a bit under the radar. He never made an All-Star team, only once showed up on an MVP ballot and received a single vote in his only year of Hall of Fame eligibility.

+ Read: Phillips most versatile player in MLB history.


NFL

Plenty has been said about how the New England Patriots unearthed a gold mine when they selected franchise quarterback Tom Brady in the sixth round of the 2000 draft. Four Super Bowl rings, three Super Bowl MVPs and a supermodel wife — there isn’t much more for the future Hall of Famer to accomplish.

+ Read: 12 funny factoids about the 198 players picked ahead of Tom Brady in 2000 | FOX Sports

The NFL Combine has become very similar to the “Winter Meetings” of Major League Baseball over the last decade.The media interviews, workouts and drills are televised on the league’s network, but much more happens in Indianapolis during late February. Certainly, it’s a showcase for players to demonstrate their physical ability. It’s also a time for teams and player representation to come together and continue working on the offseason activities.

+ Read: 7 secrets of the NFL Combine | FOX Sports


College

A day before his team played for the national title in Glendale, Ariz., Alabama coach Nick Saban remained fired up about the same topic he had harped on six months earlier at SEC Media Days. After Clemson coach Dabo Swinney answered a reporter’s question about some of the Tigers’ best underclassmen mulling whether to stay in college or to enter the 2016 NFL draft, Saban chimed in with his own take.

“Could I make a comment about that? Because I’m going to call Dabo after the game, and last year after our game against Ohio State I tried to develop a little energy from college coaches who had players that are in this situation you just asked about, and the NFL moved the draft back. I wish they’d move the declare date back,” Saban said. “I wish they’d make a rule that says you can’t even give a player what his draft status is from the NFL [draft advisory] committee until they’ve finished their competition as a college player, so that you don’t put them and their family in this situation where there’s a big timing issue relative to competition.

+ Read: The case for an underclassmen NFL scouting combine

If there was a weekend to start getting fans excited about March Madness, last week was a good one. There was the Duke-Carolina game that lived up to its hype and a 31-point game from St. Bonaventure sophomore guard Jaylen Adams to lead his team to an upset over No. 13 Dayton.

+ Read: Louisville-Duke game was a great reminder that college basketball is broken | For The Win


Overtime

The daily fantasy sports industry is dominated by DraftKings and FanDuel. DraftKings has raised in excess of $500 million since 2012, while FanDuel has brought in over $300 million. The two daily fantasy sports entities lead the way in terms of user acquisition and retention, and they both continue to operate in the State of Florida despite legal concerns regarding same.

+ Read: DraftKings And FanDuel Are Playing With Fire In Florida – Forbes

Here are 5 things to count on before Opening Day #MLB

We’ve made it, everyone. Winter is giving way to spring. Baseball is here. And while it’s still true that Spring Training stats mean nothing, Spring Training is far better than the absence of pitchers and.

So as camps open, here are five predictions of things we might see between now and Opening Day in early April.

1. Trea Turner will give the Nationals a very difficult decision.

Turner, the Nationals’ hot-shot shortstop prospect, has the kind of skill set that seems to catch eyes in Spring Training. He’s fast, he’s an exciting defensive player, and he seems rather polished for a guy who has one full season in pro ball.

And he seems to fit right in with what the Nats are looking for. Check out the moves Washington has made this winter: The acquisitions of Daniel Murphy and Ben Revere seem to indicate a move toward a more contact-based offense, away from the homers-and-strikeouts style.

That is bad news for Danny Espinosa, whose offensive game includes copious quantities of homers and strikeouts.

To be clear: Espinosa is the favorite. There would be nothing wrong with Turner getting a little more seasoning. But don’t be a bit surprised if Turner makes it a very tough call.

2. By the end of March, youíll see someone predict Adam Wainwright for Cy Young.

OK, you’ll see a lot of silly predictions this spring. Everybody wants to look smart and find the next big thing, so you’ll also see things like Jonathan Schoop as an MVP candidate (actually, that’s less ridiculous than it might sound).

Wainwright won’t be a silly call. If he’s healthy, he’ll likely be a candidate. The point here is that he’s healthy, and you can bet he’ll be motivated. The veteran right-hander will impress early in camp, will pitch well in Grapefruit League games, and when people see him pitch, they’ll start thinking big.

Maybe it’ll go well in the regular season, maybe it won’t. But the prediction is this: Waino will impress enough in Florida that Cardinals fans will allow themselves to dream.

3. There will be overreaction in Mesa.

So, so much overreaction.

Look, barring significant injuries, the Cubs are going to be very, very good in 2016. They can hit and pitch and catch the ball, and they are deep and talented and exciting.

But they’re also extremely hyped. They’re this year’s darlings (and, again, understandably so). What that means is that when things go wrong, people are going to Freak. Out.

Jason Heyward has started 30 games in the big leagues in center field, and he’ll be re-learning the position in Arizona. That’s a tough assignment. Things will go wrong. Kyle Schwarber can absolutely rake, but he’s a bit of a man without a position. Things will go wrong for him defensively. Javier Baez is trying to cut back on the strikeouts, but he’ll still whiff. Jake Arrieta threw a combined 249 1/3 innings last year. He might not show up at absolute full strength.

All of these things are fine. But to read some of the coverage, you will think the 2016 Cubs are doomed. Don’t panic when that happens. They’re not.

4. At least one big name player will be traded.

There are always minor deals in Spring Training, as guys who would otherwise be waived instead get swapped. This is part of the deal. In this case, we’re talking a real deal.

Maybe not Jim Edmonds in 1999, but maybe something even that significant. Matt Kemp is the obvious name, as there have been rumors of him being shopped. Jonathan Lucroy is another name very much in the mix.

The trade market never really got burbling this winter, though there were some interesting deals. But plenty of teams have weird fits, like the Dodgers’ abundance of outfielders, the Rays’ glut of corner bats, and the Angels’ slew of starters. Somebody will find a match.

Typically July and the offseason are the two biggest times for trades, but this year, look for a trade with significant pennant-race impact before the spring is out.

5. We’ll start to realize just how good the Dodgers might be.

Sure, a lot can go wrong. Their starting rotation is a bit hazy. Some essential players need to show they’re healthy.

But Los Angeles’ depth is ridiculous. There are so many good players even as you get down the depth chart. Guys like Enrique Hernandez, Chase Utley and Andre Ethier could start a lot of places.

As day after day of camp goes by, and the Dodgers almost never trot out a lineup that looks like a “B game” lineup, it will become clearer just how much talent there is here, and how good this team can be if even a reasonable number of things go right.

Source: Here are 5 things to count on before Opening Day

Burning #SpringTraining questions: Who will lose 100 games? #MLB

These days, Major League Baseball is truly a 365-day-a-year endeavor — with plenty of overlap. The offseason truly never ends, as players remain unsigned even after the season begins. The so-called championship season stretches into October, followed by a postseason that will bleed into November.

And the concept of players “working their way into shape” once spring arrives is long gone; nowadays, it’s just a few weeks of recuperation and then back to fine-tuning their bodies to gain — or retain — any edge.

Still, while the grind never stops, there’s something to be said for the days pitchers and catchers report. The informal becomes just a bit more formal. Friendships are rekindled, and awkward greetings among new teammates commence.

There’s also this: Conflicts are either resolved or grow more worrisome as teams prepare to head for their permanent homes come April.

USA TODAY Sports examines the festering issues that will play out in the sunshine of Arizona and Florida.

***

It’s the aim of every team to win the final game of the season. So what’s a manager to do when his franchise has taken that goal off the table even before spring training?

That’s the quandary facing skippers of the Philadelphia Phillies, Atlanta Braves, Cincinnati Reds and Milwaukee Brewers.

All are rebuilding. Some are just beginning the process. Most will face the insinuation that their franchise is “tanking” in order to maximize their draft position and sweeten the pot with which they can acquire amateur players.

Somehow, four managers must pull together players who know the six weeks of spring training and the six-month season that follows almost assuredly will end in disappointment and possibly 100 losses.

The future is always an easier sell for upper management. “I think this is a great opportunity to see these young guys play and watch them develop,” Reds President Walt Jocketty said to a fan on the club’s winter caravan stop. “There’s a lot of new faces. I’m looking forward to spring training to see what we have.”

The task might be less pleasant for manager Bryan Price. He’ll have a second baseman, Brandon Phillips, that the club tried to deal to the Washington Nationals, only for Phillips to exercise his no-trade clause. His right fielder, Jay Bruce, will hear his name in trade rumors until opening day — and again weeks later if he’s still around.

His first baseman, Joey Votto, will have to put a good face on it all, knowing it might be years before he’s surrounded by a contending team again.

It will be no different in Brewers camp, where All-Star catcher Jonathan Lucroy knows his weeks might be numbered, or in Clearwater, Fla., where the Phillies’ Ryan Howard reaches the end of a $125 million deal facing an uncomfortable platoon.

It’s a no-win situation for all involved, but a grim reality in this era of extreme teardowns.

Source: Burning Spring Training questions: Who will lose 100 games? 

A Quick Guide To: #SpringTraining

mlb.team_.logos_.version.3.small_-672x372

Spring Questions For All 30 Teams:

Will the Cubs live up to the rampant World Series expectations? Are the D-backs for real? Can David Price make his contract worth it? Are the Royals a dynasty in the making? Do the Blue Jays, Astros and Mets have staying power?

Spring Training preview materials will be loaded with these questions and more, but the obvious truth is that Spring Training itself can’t answer those questions. So the goal in this particular preview, mere days away from pitchers and catchers report dates, is to pose an actual, spring-specific question each Major League club is facing on the cusp of camp.

I’m dedicating this column to the memory of my friend and teammate Tom Singer, who suddenly passed away earlier this week. Tom was one of the more inquisitive and creative minds in the business, and I know he was looking forward to showing up at Spring Training camps and asking unique questions of his own.

Here we go….

NL East

Mets: How carefully should the young starters be eased into the season?

For the Mets, it will be a delicate balance between overworking and underworking Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard after they all saw significant innings increases due to the postseason run. Syndergaard jumped 65 2/3 innings from his 2014 total in the Minors, while deGrom and Harvey jumped 37 2/3 apiece. Because of injury, Steven Matz (15 2/3) didn’t see quite as big an increase, though he, like Syndergaard, is entering his first full Major League season, an adjustment in and of itself. These guys need to be properly prepared for the every-five-day grind, but they should also probably see a less rigorous spring workload than the typical big league starter.

Nationals: Is Trea Turner ready for the big leagues?

The Grapefruit League will be a great test of the Nats’ new-look infield. Anthony Rendon is moving back to his natural position at third base — a fine move in isolation (he grades out better defensively there than at second base). But some scouts believe Daniel Murphy would be far better suited at third than at second base and that Rendon is the better defensive option at second. And then, of course, there’s the big question at short, where the Nats’ options come down to a utility guy (Danny Espinosa) who has spent far more of his career at second, a light-hitting free-agent signee (Stephen Drew) and the top prospect (Turner), who has only played 212 games in what has already been a whirlwind pro career (including 27 with the Nats down the stretch in 2015). Lots of questions in this infield.

Marlins: Can Barry Bonds help Marcell Ozuna’s swing?

New manager Don Mattingly and new hitting coach Bonds pleaded with the front office to keep Ozuna despite the rampant trade rumblings and the disconnect between player and organization last season. Ozuna was one of eight players identified as above-average in each of the five-tool categories by Statcast™, so the potential is off the charts. But his decline in production last season — leading to a controversial stay in Triple-A — was as swift as it was stunning, and spring is an important time for Ozuna and Bonds to develop a positive working relationship.

Braves: Will Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn open any eyes with their spring at-bats?

It’s no secret the Braves would love to move one or both of these guys. So they are destined to receive a steady dose of Grapefruit League at-bats as the Braves try to garner enough interest for a salary dump swap. With Freddie Freeman working his way back from a wrist injury, perhaps Swisher will see some time at first base.

Phillies: Is Tyler Goeddel the next Odubel Herrera?

Last year, Herrera arrived as a Rule 5 Draft pickup and wound up leading the Phillies in WAR (and yes, that says as much about the Phils as it does Herrera). Now, Goeddel is the marquee Rule 5 Draft addition (the first overall pick). That he’ll make the big league club is a foregone conclusion, because the Phillies have nothing to lose by keeping him. The question is how much the athletic but unpolished Goeddel will separate himself from Aaron Altherr, Peter Bourjos and Cody Asche in the battle for playing time in Pete Mackanin’s lineup.

AL East

Blue Jays: Will Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion agree to extensions?

In the lead-up to Opening Day, the new-look front office will have to weigh the attraction of satiating the fan base and ensuring stability in the long-term lineup against the obvious risks that come with power hitters in their mid-to-late-30s. These discussions will take place when all parties arrive in Dunedin, Fla., later this month.

Yankees: CC Sabathia or Ivan Nova?

The last rotation spot is the lone source of genuine positional intrigue in Yankees camp. (That said, Starlin Castro’s continued immersion at second base and first-ever trial at third base, where the Yanks might need him as a Chase Headley backup, is interesting). Sabathia is the former Cy Young Award winner coming off a homer-prone year that ended in alcohol rehab. Nova is the Tommy John alum the Yanks tried to trade. General manager Brian Cashman has said Sabathia’s $25 million salary wouldn’t preclude the Yanks from sticking CC in the bullpen if somebody else (Nova is the obvious candidate, though Bryan Mitchell is another) wins the job outright.

Orioles: What’s the outlook for the outfield?

They’re reportedly making progress with Yovani Gallardo to fill a big hole in the rotation, so let’s focus on the outfield here. Big-bodied Hyun-soo Kim, fresh off signing a two-year contract with the O’s, will arrive from South Korea and try to prove he has the range and athleticism to handle the everyday left-field assignment. Adam Jones was tasked with covering a ton of outfield ground last year, and his performance tailed off in the last two months of the season. At the moment, right field likely belongs to Nolan Reimold, though an O’s team familiar with in-spring splashes could still sign somebody to support or replace him.

Rays: Will James Loney, Desmond Jennings or Brandon Guyer be moved?

It’s a question that presumes a healthy camp, of course, but it would solve a logjam. Dealing Loney would allow Logan Morrison and Steve Pearce to share first, Corey Dickerson to spend the bulk of his time at DH and Jennings, Kevin Kiermaier and Steven Souza Jr. to provide dependable defense in the outfield, with Guyer as a bench option vs. lefties. Or the Rays could move Jennings or Guyer and open up more at-bats for Pearce and Morrison. Whatever the case, one presumes the Rays would be seeking relief help in any deal involving their position player depth.

Red Sox: Can Hanley Ramirez handle first base?

The Red Sox don’t have any position battles, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have position issues. Hanley’s position switch last year — from shortstop to left field — wasn’t subjected to any truly challenging plays during the spring schedule, but obviously the ball is going to find him at first. Because they’re paying Ramirez a ton of money, the Red Sox have no choice but to hope this works — and the same goes for Pablo Sandoval at third. The Panda’s physical condition will, naturally, be a spring storyline all its own.

NL Central

Cardinals: What is Yadier Molina’s timetable?

Molina will spend camp’s early days not swinging the bat or catching bullpen sessions, but building strength back up in his left thumb after having a second surgery this winter. Because there’s no telling how long that process will take and how much it will affect his season preparation, it’s hard to know if Molina will be ready by Opening Day. To say getting him back in a timely matter is important for the Cards is, of course, an understatement.

Pirates: How well is Jung Ho Kang progressing?

Because of the division’s demands, the decisions to deal Neil Walker and non-tender Pedro Alvarez, and the lack of additions of bankable depth options, the Pirates can ill-afford any medical setbacks for Kang, who suffered a fractured tibial plateau and torn lateral meniscus on an ugly takeout slide by Chris Coghlan last September. The move to third base (with Jordy Mercer at short and Josh Harrison replacing Walker at second) will limit Kang’s lateral movement when he returns. As of now, the Pirates are expecting him back in April, with Sean Rodriguez (last seen assaulting a water cooler) filling in and Minor League free agent Cole Figueroa competing for a bench job.

Cubs: Can Kyle Schwarber improve in left field?

As much as we love this Cubs lineup, there’s no denying there are defensive concerns in the outfield, where Jorge Soler had some surprising struggles in ’15, Jason Heyward is moving from right to center and, most importantly, Schwarber was a mess during the NLCS. Schwarber has been working on his first step and flexibility this winter, and that work will be put to the test in Arizona. But his efforts in left coincide with his work behind the plate, where he still hopes to remain an option long-term. Combine all of this with Schwarber’s bid for more at-bats against left-handed pitching, and the kid’s got a lot on his plate.

Brewers: How’s Ryan Braun feeling?

Not that the Brewers are making an earnest effort to contend in 2016, but Braun could stillpotentially play himself into a viable trade chip (provided the Brew Crew is willing to eat some cash, of course) if he’s healthy and producing the way he did for much of ’15. Braun had surgery for a herniated disc in the offseason, but he won’t have a clear idea of how well his back is responding until the regular swings that come in the Cactus League.

Reds: Will a market develop for Jay Bruce?

He only remains in Cincinnati as a function of the unusually deep and late-developing free-agent outfield market this winter, because the Reds, now in full-on rebuild mode, were motivated to move him. Most likely, Bruce will start the season with the Reds and try to piece together enough of a bounce-back campaign to become July trade bait. But all it takes is one spring injury elsewhere to suddenly make the idea of dealing for Bruce more palatable for a contending club. The Reds also have to hope Zack Cozart’s grisly knee injury last year hasn’t affected his defense at short, because he, too, could play himself into trade-chip status.

AL Central

Royals: Can Christian Colon steal playing time from Omar Infante?

In the third year of a four-year deal, Infante will make $7.75 million, and there was a time when that fact alone would settle him into a starting spot for this small-market club. But you might have noticed things are a little different in the realm of the Royals these days, and they’re calling this a legitimate position battle between Infante and Colon, who drove in the winning run in the World Series Game 5 clincher. (Top prospect Raul A. Mondesi will also get consideration but is far more likely to start the season in the Minors). Sure, the Royals are paying Infante a good amount of money, but, hey, they took Colon ahead of Matt Harvey in the 2010 Draft! One way or another, they’ll look for better returns on both of these investments.

Twins: Will Miguel Sano stick in right?

Byung Ho Park’s transition to the bigs is also a major matter in Minnesota, but Sano’s defensive work — directly related to Park’s arrival — will be a more pressing spring concern. Torii Hunter will be in camp as a special assistant to work with the 6-foot-4 Sano in the outfield, and the Twins’ lineup alignment demands that this experiment be successful. Sano was tasked with dropping 20 pounds this winter. Citing a desire to maintain his power, he dropped just five. He’s agile for his size, but this is undoubtedly a big test for him.

Indians: Will Michael Brantley continue his rapid recovery?

He’s the key to the whole darn thing for an Indians team projected by FanGraphs to have the best record in the division despite a less-than-dynamic winter. Brantley didn’t have surgery on his lead shoulder until early November, which means you can count him out for Opening Day and likely all or most of April. But because his recovery has progressed so well so far, Brantley must avoid the temptation to do too much too soon, lest he suffer a setback that crushes a Tribe club already prone toward slow starts.

White Sox: What’s up at short?

Tyler Saladino played terrific defense at third base for the Sox down the stretch last season, but his 68 OPS+ detracted from his value. So it’s an open question whether he’s ready for prime time at a prime spot, and he could be pushed in camp by top prospect Tim Anderson. The other, still-lingering question here is whether the Sox will wind up too tempted by Ian Desmond’s reduced price tag to pass him up. With a protected top-10 Draft pick, the White Sox are better positioned to sign Desmond than many others in the market.

Tigers: Can Bruce Rondon work his way into the bullpen plans?

Well, obviously we’ll be playing close attention to the statuses of Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez. But they’ve both had a healthy offseason, so, at this point, there’s little reason to doubt they’ll be in the Opening Day lineup and, hopefully, ready to produce. But Rondon’s dismissal from the club due to a lack of effort makes him an interesting figure in camp. The Tigers’ bullpen has a new closer in Francisco Rodriguez and better balance overall, but there’s always room for a motivated flamethrower. We’ll soon learn for sure if Rondon is committed to winning the respect of his teammates.

NL West

Dodgers: Will Hyun-Jin Ryu be ready by Opening Day?

And if so, what does that mean for fellow lefty Alex Wood? The Dodgers have assembled rotation depth to allow Ryu to ease into action, rather than rush back from labrum surgery. So the most likely outcome is that he starts the season in extended Spring Training or on a rehab assignment. But the Dodgers could also be tempted to take advantage of Wood’s ability to be optioned to Triple-A Oklahoma City.

Giants: How is Joe Panik’s back?

He’s 25 years old and coming off an All-Star season. But that season was cut short by back woes. Doctors have not discovered any structural damage, so Panik did not have surgery. But only time and performance will dictate whether this will be a persistent problem for a club all too familiar with back issues involving their second basemen (see: Sanchez, Freddy and Scutaro, Marco).

D-backs: Can Yasmany Tomas acquit himself in the outfield?

In their bold bid to take a major competitive step forward, there’s no denying the D-backs sacrificed defense by involving Ender Inciarte in the Shelby Miller swap. The question is how much. Tomas enters the year as an everyday corner outfielder (Arizona is still unsure whether he’ll remain in right or swap spots with left fielder David Peralta) after proving he can’t handle the hot corner. Tomas has indicated he’s more comfortable in right field, though the D-backs might prefer to have the better defender there and use this spring to get Tomas acclimated to left. And oh by the way, Tomas, who had a .707 OPS last season, needs to hit, too.

Padres: Can Andrew Cashner limit walks and neutralize lefties?

Yeah, yeah, the spring results don’t matter. But scouts are in the stands for a reason. Cashner is a guy with ace-quality potential when he’s right — and that’s a big deal for a Padres team either hoping to surprise some people in the NL West or use Cashner as a valuable trade piece midseason (or even sooner). Last year, Cashner’s effectiveness against left-handed hitters spiraled (.383 wOBA vs. a .294 mark a year earlier), and his overall walk rate jumped to 8.2 percent.

Rockies: What will Jose Reyes’ punishment be?

In invoking punishments under the sports’ domestic violence policy for the first time, Commissioner Rob Manfred has big decisions to make with Reyes, Yasiel Puig and Aroldis Chapman. But Reyes is the only member of that group who is facing a criminal procedure. He has pleaded not guilty to domestic abuse charges, and his trial is slated to begin April 4 (Opening Day, of course). Manfred can make his decision independent of those proceedings, and there’s no telling how stiff the penalty will be. Reyes is the Rockies’ highest-paid player and a guy they hoped would rebuild his offensive value (and, ergo, his trade value) at Coors Field. Right now, there’s no way of knowing when or if he’ll be on the field in 2016.

AL West

Rangers: Can Jurickson Profar get back in baseball shape?

We’ll venture away from the obvious intrigue surrounding Yu Darvish’s timetable, because, by all accounts, he’s still on track for a May return. Profar provides intrigue of his own. This is a guy who was once considered the top prospect in the game, but hasn’t played a single inning in the field the last two years because of shoulder issues that eventually required surgery. Profar’s bat action as a designated hitter in the Arizona Fall League caught the attention of scouts, and several teams contacted the Rangers in an attempt to buy low on the middle infielder. The Rangers wisely held onto him, and they’ll ease him back into action in the field this spring. His odds of making the big league club are slim to none, barring injury to somebody else. But the Rangers are about to see if Profar can emerge as an important depth piece in their bid to win the AL West again.

Astros: Will Evan Gattis be ready for Opening Day?

It was revealed this week that Gattis required surgery for a sports hernia, sidelining him for four to six weeks. That’s going to hurt his ability to get his timing back before the end of Grapefruit League play, so the Astros will dole out more playing time to Jon Singleton, Matt Duffy, A.J. Reed, Tyler White and Preston Tucker. While the Astros, in letting Chris Carter walk, might generally be trying to get away from the all-or-nothing approach that was one of their calling cards in ’15, Gattis is still clearly a key cog in this offense. He was also hopeful of increasing his value to the team beyond his DH duties, losing weight and doing catching drills in the offseason.

Angels: What’s Albert Pujols’ timetable?

The Angels are getting crushed in many corners for not doing more to improve their production potential around Mike Trout, opting instead for a more contact-heavy approach. Maybe the Halos have it right, but there’s little denying that their lineup look demands healthy and productivity from Pujols, who is working his way back from November surgery on the plantar plate of his right foot. Pujols is already hitting off a tee but is not expected to resume full baseball activities until March, putting Opening Day in jeopardy. Pujols rushed back to action too quickly in 2013, to the point that it affected his performance, and the Angels don’t want that to happen again.

Mariners: Can James Paxton win a rotation spot?

Technically, it’s Taijuan Walker, Nate Karns and Paxton for two spots, though you’d have to imagine the 29 starts and the progress Walker made as ’15 evolved give him the inside edge on one of those. Karns was Dipoto’s first addition in a busy offseason, but Paxton is the guy who was long lauded as one of the M’s prominent prospects. Injury issues have limited Paxton to 30 career starts over parts of three Major League seasons, but the left-hander has dropped some pounds and will come to camp intent on proving he’s ready to turn his potential into production. Other guys potentially in the mix for that last spot are Mike Montgomery, Joe Wieland and Vidal Nuno. Paxton seemingly has the most upside of those options, but he’s got to earn it.

Athletics: What is the rotation beyond Sonny Gray?

Oakland has probably one of the most — if not the most — unsettled rotation situations in the big leagues. The A’s signed Rich Hill with the intent of inserting him into the rotation, though he hasn’t been a regular starter at this level since 2009. After Gray and Hill, it’s a wide-open competition involving Kendall Graveman, Jesse Hahn, Chris Bassitt, Sean Nolin and possibly even Jarrod Parker (who is attempting to come back from two elbow surgeries) and Sean Manaea (a promising trade acquisition who hasn’t pitched above Double-A but who manager Bob Melvin has called a “wild card” in the rotation battle). Should be fun to watch this evolve.

Source: A Spring Training question for all 30 MLB teams.

Power Ranking All 30 MLB Starting Rotations Entering 2016 Spring Training:

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Rejoice! Spring training is almost upon us, bringing to an end what has been a hectic offseason, one that saw a slew of starting pitchers change uniforms, whether via free agency or trade. Keeping up with what your favorite team’s rotation looks like, much less the competition’s, has been challenging at times.

Read: Power Ranking All 30 MLB Starting Rotations Entering 2016 Spring Training

What You Need To Know About #NBAAllStarWeekend

Toronto Shine:

When it comes to all-star game affairs, nobody can do glitzy better than the National Basketball Association.

And this weekend’s festivities in Toronto, the first time the NBA has agreed to stage the three-day gala outside of the United States, will afford Canadians their first opportunity to witness all the excess up close and personal.

From Drake and Shaq to Kevin Hart and Snoop Dogg, anybody who is anybody can be expected to be on hand to take a well-publicized bow, either at Sunday’s game at the Air Canada Centre or by attending one of the countless star-studded parties that are staged to court everybody’s inner Basketball Jones.

“If you’re a limousine owner, this is the weekend you look forward to,” said Brian McIntyre, the now-retired media information director for the NBA who has been at almost every all-star game since 1978.

Read: Get ready for a glitzy NBA all-star weekend in Toronto – The Globe and Mail

NBA All-Star Game Events Schedule:

Friday, Feb. 12

(All times Eastern)

9:30 a.m.: Rising Stars practice, NBA TV

11:30 a.m.: NBA All-Star Media Day, NBA TV

1:30 p.m.: Hall of Fame Announcement, NBA TV & NBA.com

6 p.m.: The Starters | NBA TV

7 p.m.: NBA All-Star Celebrity Game, ESPN

9 p.m.: Rising Stars Challenge, TNT

11 p.m.: Rising Stars Challenge news conferences, NBA.com

Saturday, Feb. 13

(All times Eastern)

11 a.m: NBA All-Star Practice, NBA TV

1:30 p.m.: The Starters, NBA TV

2 p.m.: NBA D-League All-Star Game, NBA TV

7 p.m.: TNT NBA Tip-Off, TNT

7 p.m.: Commissioner Adam Silver media availability, NBA TV & NBA.com

8 p.m. : All-Star Saturday Night (Skills Challenge, Three-Point Contest, Slam Dunk Contest), TNT

10:30 p.m.: All-Star Saturday Night news conferences, NBA.com

Sunday, Feb. 14

(All times Eastern)

11:30 a.m.: NBA Legends Brunch, NBA.com

5 p.m.: NBA GameTime, NBA TV

7 p.m.: NBA Tip-Off, TNT

8:30 p.m.: NBA All-Star Game, TNT

The Chase:

Wednesday Night, Golden State handed the Suns 112-104 defeat tomaintain their edge over the ’95-’96 Bulls in the Grand Prize Race towards immortality.  The reigning champs notched victory 48 in only their 52nd game.  Twenty yars ago, the Bulls started 48-5 on their way to a record 72 win season.

The ’95-’96 Bulls squad that Kerr was on had an average win-margin of 13.2pts in those 48 wins.  These Warriors are doing it at 14.7pts.

“Satisfying is not the word,” Kerr said.  “It’s shocking really.”

But he sounded subdued, not awed. The team’s 48-4 start notwithstanding, it has been a difficult past few months for Kerr, 50, who continues to endure painful headaches from a spinal fluid leak caused by back surgery over the summer……

Read: Steve Kerr Leads Warriors’ Chase of a Record He Helped Set – The New York Times

Is Pujols Under-Valued?

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Just last week, baseball celebrated the life and career of perhaps the greatest right-handed hitter who ever played the game. Hank Aaron’s 82nd birthday offered yet another opportunity to appreciate a brilliant career, one filled to the brim with “black ink” — representing times he led the league in various categories.

Now, as Spring Training 2016 approaches, we turn our eyes to the greats of the game today. And while it’s easy to focus on the staggering wave of young talent, let’s take a moment to appreciate the man who is by nearly any reasonable measure the best right-handed hitter since Aaron hung them up.

No, that’s not Miguel Cabrera — not yet, at least. And while A-Rod is certainly in the conversation, it’s not him either.

It’s Albert Pujols.

Somehow, despite 560 home runs and an eye-popping contract, Pujols doesn’t seem to get the reverence he’s due these days. But even as Cabrera has thrived into his early 30s, and even as Pujols has begun his decline phase, Cabrera has not yet caught up to Pujols.

Read: Pujols is the greatest right-handed hitter since Hank.

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