A Quick Guide To: #SpringTraining

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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:

SchwarberPanikRamirez

 

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

Weekend Update: #World Series

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The Royals, the team that refused to go away, defying the greatest odds night after night this postseason, will go down as one of the most relentless teams of this generation.

The way it ended last year, with everything that happened,’’ Hosmer said, “it was such a magical run. You knew it couldn’t end like that. The ending of that story had to be way better than losing Game 7.

“Just to have the opportunity to come back with the same core group of guys, and have another chance to compete for a world championship is special in itself.

“We believed in each other, and we definitely made the most out of the opportunity.

“We refused to quit.’’

Oh, how they were relentless…...(continue reading)

Source: Nightengale: Royals find fitting end to World Series title

An unlikely hero clinches the Series for Royals

Christian Colon drove in Jarrod Dyson, sparking a five-run 12th inning by which the Royals won the 2015 World Series with a 7-2 victory over the Mets. Colon was only the third player to drive in the World Series-clinching run as a pinch-hitter. Ironically, the first was current Royals first-base coach Rusty Kuntz, as a member of the 1984 Tigers. Kuntz delivered Kirk Gibson with a fifth-inning sacrifice fly to give Detroit a 4-3 lead that it never relinquished. The other pinch-RBI to clinch a World Series was by Gene Larkin of the Twins in 1991.

Colon was also the first player to drive in the Series-clinching run on the first World Series plate appearance of his career.

Kansas City’s five runs in the 12th broke the World Series record for runs in one inning in extra innings. The previous mark was four by the Mets in the 12th inning of Game 2 against the A’s in 1973.

A first since the 1950 Yankees

Kansas City hit only two home runs in the 2015 World Series-solo shots by Alcides Escobar andAlex Gordon, both in Game 1. The Royals were the first team to win a World Series with only two runs scored on homers since the 1950 Yankees.

Kansas City rides late comebacks to World Series title

The Royals came from behind in each of their four World Series wins. That in itself is not rare. Five other teams did it in a best-of-seven format: the Pirates in 1925, Reds in 1975, Dodgers in 1981, Marlins in 1997, and Angels in 2002. But Kansas City was the first team to win three games in the same World Series in which it trailed in the eighth inning or later

What You Need To Know for #TNF and Other Stuff

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1. A Dolphin’s Tale?

Maybe the only thing to worry about – besides your lineup – is if Tom Brady takes a cheap shot.  The NFL Media and the Tennessee coaching staff went nuts on the low hit on Mariota, and it’s not inconceivable that Man Campbell hasn’t already ordered the “Code Red”!  Any team that Ndamukong $uh is on – you must keep a weathered eye…


2. When the Mountaineers Come Calling

7:30p EST FS1 – WV @ TCU
Trevone Boykin begins his push for the Heisman tonight.  Sure they haven’t played anyone yet and yeah, they get three opponents next month that are all in the top 14 currently – but the kid is fun to watch.  So in front of a primetime audience on the “FS1” at 7:30p EST check out the #2 guy in total offense and #5 in passing offense – because the only way this guy has a shot is to be undefeated.


3. #23 and Climbing

5:00p EST ESPN – UNC @ Pitt
Also tonight is the other college football game on that other network that sounds like mental telepathy from a sorority girl when she wears her Uggs to tight.  5p ESt on ESPN, UNC visits Heinz Field to take on a surprisingly good Panthers team from Pitt.  Nice job so far from new coach Pat Narduzzi who’s teams’ only loss is to Iowa.  Lots of coach speak will determine the outcome, such as: Special Teams will be important and who wins the turnover battle so should come out ahead as long as they score more points than the other guy.


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4. Nobody Knows You When You’re Down…0-2

Johnny Cueto tossed a complete-game two-hitter for the Royals as they defeated the Mets, 7-1, in Game Two of the World Series. Two weeks ago, Cueto pitched Kansas City into the ALCS by defeating the Astros in Game Five of the ALDS, allowing only two hits in eight innings. The only other pitchers who have had more than one postseason outing in their careers of eight or more innings in which they allowed no more than two hits are Nolan Ryan and Roger Clemens.


 

5. Few Games In – C’Mon Man!

Are The Rockets Doomed – Is Ricky Rubio already an All-Star PG – Is New Orleans turr-able – Is Jahlil Okafor the next one – and finally, is this the Knicks’ time?!  All these overreactions and more…

Source: Biggest overreactions to first batch of NBA games


6. Vlade-dadi We Like To Parde

It has been…an interesting time for the Kings. No one knows what the hell is going on (including those inside of the organization!). For a quick recap:

Last Season: The Kings rushed out to lead the Pacific Division, home of the NBA champion Warriors, before the floor fell out from underneath the team. Star center DeMarcus Cousins was diagnosed with viral meningitis and was sidelined for more than a month. The Kings faltered without him, and their record fell to 11-13. And then the Kings’ Chernobyl of a season began to crumble when owner Vivek Ranadive fired head coach Mike Malone, who was not only a favorite of the players, but had Sacramento ready to play. Mike Malone was fired after only 24 games, and according to Adrian Wojnarowski, the move created a sense of contempt among Kings players, especially Cousins who loved Malone and his system. The Kings then later fired interim head coach Tyrone Corbin, and hired George Karl to coach the team after the All Star Break.

Source: House of Cards: The Kings, Jokers and Chaos in Sacramento


7. The Kobe Bryant Experience

Kobe Bryant, who is older than hell, crankier than hell, and shackled to a misshapen Lakers team, looked better than he has in years tonight as his Lakers fell to the Timberwolves at home 112-111. This game was stuffed full of cool shit: the two teams’ tribute to the recently passed Flip Saunders; Nick Young hitting a half-court leaner to end the first quarter; the debuts of Karl-Anthony Towns, Julius Randle (his 14 minutes last season don’t count), and D’Angelo Russell; Kevin Garnett yapping at people; and Ricky Rubio dropping 28 points and 14 assists. But most of all, there was Kobe.

Source: Old Man Kobe And The Young Lakers Are Fun As Hell 

pablo (10)

Getting Smart With: The Best DiRT – 10-28-15

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I asked for weird baseball, and Game 1 of the World Series delivered. On Tuesday night, the Kansas City Royals and New York Mets played an epic marathon that ended in a Royals victory after 14 inni…

Source: Game 1 Of The World Series Was 14 Innings Of Weird | FiveThirtyEi


 

Right as Joe Buck was in the middle of reading a promo for a new show on Fox, the network’s World Series broadcast cut out Tuesday night, depriving audiences at home of a complete description of The Grinder.

Source: Relive Fox’s World Series Broadcast As Everything Went To Hell


It is still fun to watch the Warriors play basketball, plus three other things we learned on the NBA’s opening night.

Source: NBA scores 2015: Stephen Curry rips off 40 points on opening night and 3 other things we learned – SBNation.com


The 76ers are paying $26 million in dead salary just to hit the NBA’s salary floor. By doing so, they don’t have to pay the difference to players on the team.

Source: Philadelphia 76ers are paying $26 million in dead salary to hit salary floor – Business Insider


DeAngelo Williams and William Gay received fines for not raising cancer and domestic violence awareness in the league-mandated ways.

Source: The NFL is fining players for raising awareness about breast cancer and domestic violence – SBNation.com


About $4 million per year is donated to help former NFL players with medical expenses and financial hardship.

Source: Where does the money from NFL fines go? – SBNation.com


Minnesota coach Jerry Kill, who has dealt with the effects of epilepsy since 2005, has retired, effective immediately. Defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys will take over as interim coach.

Source: Jerry Kill retires as Minnesota Golden Gophers football coach


The East and West might appear to each have a veritable division championship, but remember when the Rebels beat Alabama? That still comes into play.

Source: Florida-UGA should decide the SEC East. The West has LSU-Bama, but don’t forget Ole Miss – SBNation.com


Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin were the perfect pair to bring the NHL to new levels of popularity, but the rivalry between the two greatest players of their generation dissolved over time.

Source: 10 years of Crosby and Ovechkin: Bad bounces derailed the rivalry | NHL | Sporting News


The prospects for the more than 300 employees laid off are bleak in a sports media industry riven by cutbacks, ageism and shrinking cable TV audiences.

Source: Soulful to soulless: Former ESPN employees blame overspending, Disney for layoffs


 

Source: Fantasy sports group aims to stem regulation by fixing self

pablo (10)

 

Getting Smart With The Best DiRT on Tuesday

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1. Nevermore

So Baltimore had a chance to tie the game until Count Flacc-ula threw an INT in the RedZone – just like in Denver.  Now the Ravens are 1-6 and all those losses have been by 8pts or less.  A few plays this way, other than that way and the Ravens could be 4-3 – but that’s football, and your record says who you say you are.  If Baltimore wants to defend Flacco for throwing that pick by saying they had no communication – then it is a sad statement that a Superbowl winning QB is incapable of making the right decisions on his own.  It’s ludicrous really and proves Flacco is who we thought he was.

MetsRoyals

2. Champion of the World

The World Series starts tonight and I find the NBA’s lack of patriotism disturbing.  Couldn’t the NBA wait until Wednesday to tip-off?  I mean does anyone really pay attention to the NBA until Christmas?  Me?  I’d rather watch Game 1.  Neither the Mets, nor the Royals have won since Reagan was President and there can only be one long-suffering fanbase that can party like it’s 1985, or ‘6

Schedule (with projected starters)

Game 1: Tuesday, Oct. 27, 7:30 p.m. ET air time, 8 p.m. game time, Kauffman Stadium, FOX (Harvey vs. Volquez)

Game 2: Wednesday, Oct. 28, 7:30 p.m. ET air time, 8 p.m. game time, Kauffman Stadium, FOX (deGrom vs. Cueto)

Game 3: Friday, Oct. 30, 7:30 p.m. ET air time, 8 p.m. game time, Citi Field, FOX (Ventura vs. Syndergaard)

Game 4: Saturday, Oct. 31, 7:30 p.m. ET air time, 8 p.m. game time, Citi Field, FOX (Young vs. Matz)

Game 5 (If necessary): Sunday, Nov. 1, 8 p.m. ET air time and game time, Citi Field, FOX (Volquez vs. Harvey)

Game 6 (If necessary): Tuesday, Nov. 3, 7:30 p.m. ET air time, 8 p.m. game time, Kauffman Stadium, FOX (deGrom vs. Cueto)

Game 7 (If necessary): Wednesday, Nov. 4, 7:30 p.m. ET air time, 8 p.m. game time, Kauffman Stadium, FOX (Syndergaard vs. Ventura)

  •  HOW THE WORLD SERIES WILL PLAY OUT – You can’t predict what’s going to happen in a random best-of-seven baseball sample any more than you could have predicted that Ruben Amaro Jr. would become a first-base coach or Ben Cherington would become an Ivy League professor.  Baseball’s weird, and we like it that way.  But baseball’s also fun. Or at least, it’s supposed to be. And what’s more fun than faulty predictions that could very well be rendered moot almost immediately? I can’t think of anything (though I admit that I’m not thinking very hard).I’m thinking, instead, about this World Series between the Royals and Mets, a fascinating contrast of clubs that defied expectations in their own way to get here. Are the Royals going to fulfill what they have long contended to be their destiny in this Fall Classic follow-up to last year’s Madison Bumgarner Show? Or are the Mets going to complete their shock to the system and go all the way, a la 1986?

    Here’s one attempt at an answer, game by game. Accuracy and satisfaction are not guaranteed……(continue reading)

Three questions for the Royals-(h/t Will Leitch)

Cueto? Cueto? Cueto? Johnny Cueto may be the key to the whole series for the Royals. If he pitches like he did in Game 5 against Houston, the Royals have the ace they so desperately need against a rotation like the Mets’. But if he pitches like he did in Game 3 against Toronto — in which he looked like a baseball diamond was the last place in the world he wanted to be — the whole thing might implode. If Cueto is terrible again in Game 2, the Royals probably won’t feel comfortable sending him back out again (they’re already avoiding him at Citi Field, a wise move) for a potential Game 6, which means they’re scraping the Kris Medlan bottom of the barrel at that point. The Royals either have a top-tier starter or a total disaster; they have no idea which. The answer might decide the series.

Can they catch up to the fastballs? Grantland’s Ben Lindbergh noted that the Royals hit fastballs asAltX.Logo.white well as any team in Major League Baseball. They might not prefer to face 98-mph flamethrowers every game, but if somebody has to, they’re probably the team to do it. As Lindbergh put it, “New York’s pitching strength plays right into the hands of Kansas City’s flame-retardant lineup.” Now, the Mets will happily take their chances with Harvey, Syndergaard and deGrom. But this perhaps the one team in all of baseball who will give them the most trouble.

Will we see any Ryan Madson? The Royals rode their three-headed monster bullpen of Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland last year all the way to Game Seven of the World Series. But this year, one of the heads has been lopped off: Holland had Tommy John surgery last month. He has
been replaced by Madson who was effective most of this year but has turned to dust this postseason: He has given up four homers in six games, which is a problem considering he only gave up five in 68 games during the regular season. If Ned Yost can’t trust him, he’ll have to stretch both Herrera and Davis and maybe get a little more creative than necessarily is in his comfort zone. The Royals’ biggest strength is still that bullpen … but it’s not as big a strength as it was last year.

Three questions for the Mets-(h/t Will Leitch)

Is there enough offense if Daniel Murphy cools down? Look, if Murphy continues to hit like Barry Bonds, the Mets are sweeping this series. But eventually — perhaps after this extended period of time off — he will remember that he is Daniel Murphy. Will the Mets hit well enough if he becomes a normal hitter again? Curtis Granderson, Lucas Duda (before Game 4), Travis d’Arnaud and Michael Conforto have all had their struggles at the plate this postseason, and Yoenis Cespedes, the fulcrum around which the whole offense pivots, isn’t completely healthy. The Mets’ offense has been a headache all season, something disguised by their late-season run, but still an issue. Murphy has made the offense look better than it is.

Can they get the game to Jeurys Familia? The Mets closer has ramped up his game in the playoffs: He has given up only two hits (and no runs) in 9 2/3 innings this postseason. But the setup guys have been a little shakier. Addison Reed, Tyler Clippard, Erik Goeddel, Jon Niese and Hansel Robles don’t put the fear of God into anyone, and Terry Collins has begun calling on Bartolo Colon in key situations. Colon is a delight and has been effective so far in the postseason … but you’re still playing with fire if you count on him for key outs. The Mets’ plan is basically to have their starters get to Familia, and that’s not a terrible plan. But if they need innings in the middle, it could get scary.

Who’s the DH? Of all the National League teams that made the playoffs, the Mets are least well-positioned for the extra batter in the lineup, which they’ll have for potentially four games this series. Kelly Johnson will get the nod in Game 1. But he won’t exactly have the Royals reaching for the Maalox, nor will Kirk Nieuwenhuis or Michael Cuddyer, should Collins decide to switch things up in Game 2. This is a general problem with the Mets’ bench, actually; other than Juan Lagares as a defensive replacement, there isn’t much there. This also makes you even more worried about Cespedes’ health.

pablo (10)

 

What You Need To Know To #OwnOctober

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1. We’re Going to Kansas City…

The Blue Jays before Game 5 were 3-0 in elimination games – make that 4-0.  Now they have 2 more to go and you gotta wonder if they should bring some talisman from home with them.  Game 5 may have delayed the inevitable, but we’ve seen this before with this team.

With their backs against the wall, the Blue Jays came up big — again. This time it was Marco Estrada doing the pitching and a bevy of batters doing the hitting in Toronto’s 7-1 ALCS Game 5. The Jays live to see another day — Friday, Game 6 in Kansas City.

Source: Toronto won another elimination game Wednesday.


2. Too Cubs For Comfort

It was Back to the Future Night and the Cubs couldn’t overcome Mrs O’Leary’s cow, the billy goat or Murphy’s Law.  Cubs Nation has been a long-battered, long-picked on group of lovable-losers that it still surprises how quickly they reached future expectations.  The 3rd best record in the National League, they were 7-0 against the Mets and they never led once in this sweep.

Sure Daniel Murphy hit another HR in his 6th consecutive game and sure no one has done that before in the postseason, but he shares another impressive stat with Lou Gehrig – 7 straight games being on base, having a hit and scoring a run.  He’s your NLCS MVP.  Murphy is playing himself into a nice contract when this is all done.  But the real question to ask is: What is Kyle Schwarber doing in Left Field?

Source: What The Hell Was Kyle Schwarber Doing In Left Field?


3. Blue Bye-You

The Los Angeles Dodgers and manager Don Mattingly have mutually agreed to part ways, according to ESPN sources familiar with the situation and published reports.  Mattingly had one year remaining on his contract, and sources indicated to ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne that the Dodgers offered him an extension this past weekend. But after years of uncertainty about the Dodgers’ long-term commitment to him — Mattingly has worked under two different ownership groups and two different general managers — he informed the team earlier this week that he preferred to move on.

Source: Don Mattingly out as manager of Dodgers, sources say

#BackToTheFuture and 5 Other Dimes

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1. Murphy’s Law

It appears Back to the Future II was wrong about the Cubs.  It was fun while it lasted, and how ’bout that Daniel Murphy.  I’m not sure, but he might be the first player ever to hit a HR in the postseason off of three Cy Young winners…Channeling his inner Carlos Beltran, Murphy has now tied a record by hitting a HR in 5 straight games off of guys like these: Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta.

In honor of #BackToTheFuture, I’ll give you this:  The last time a club had Theo Epstein as their GM, that also went 80yrs without a World Series, and was also down 0-3 to a team from New York in the LCS – that team then won the next 8 games to erase a curse…….not saying, just saying.

  • Mets playoffs: Breaking down Jason Hammel, Cubs’ Game 4 starter – spite trailing 3-0 in the National League Championship Series, the Chicago Cubs are sticking to their plan and starting Jason Hammel against the Metstonight in Game 4. Their alternatives would have been Jon Lester, pitching on three days of rest, or perhaps Jake Arrieta, pitching on two days of rest. The 33-year-old righty might not be in the game for long—by design—as the Cubs……(continue reading)

  • ROYALS ROUT BLUE JAYS 14-2, 1 WIN FROM WORLD SERIES RETURN –  Whether it’s a long ball by Ben Zobrist, a slashing single from Lorenzo Cain or another exhilarating trip around the bases for Alcides Escobar, these Kansas City Royals are relentless — and one win from a return trip to the World Series.  Zobrist hit a two-run homer on knuckleballer R.A. Dickey’s fourth pitch of the game, Alex Rios connected an inning later against his former team and the Royals romped past the Toronto Blue Jays 14-2 Tuesday for a 3-1 lead in the American League Championship Series……(continue reading)


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2. All We Are, Is Dust In The Wind Dude

Has there been any bigger flash-in-the-pan than Puig?  I still think he has a lot of talent and might need a new venue and new year.  So what better way to look at next year then some trade rumors.  Matt Fitzgerald breaks down the buzz of who might go where

  • MLB Rumors: Analyzing Trade Buzz on Yasiel Puig, Stephen Strasburg and More – The MLB offseason has officially begun for every team save the final four in the playoffs, so trade speculation will continue swirling from now through the Fall Classic and well into the winter.  If the caliber of players making headlines in the latest trade buzz is any indication of what’s to come, it could ignite a captivating series of transactions as front offices work to retool their rosters.  Three big names who have experienced……(continue reading)

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3. What #NFL Team Are You Stuck Watching

For those of you that still do not have the RedZone channel, and suffer from being skinny arms Peyton Manning – you’re stuck watching whatever game the networks tell you to watch.  Thankfully, the fellas at FiveThirtyEight.com broke down the #NFL’s broadcast deal.  You might be surprised who the NFL pushes us to watch as an alternate to your local 11.

  • Which NFL Team Are You Stuck Watching Every Sunday? – Like millions of other Americans, I watch the NFL on a regular basis. However, just like millions of other viewers, most Sundays I am not sure which games will be on my television. I live in Austin, so there’s a good chance I’ll get to see the Cowboys and Texans, but beyond that, there’s no way for me to know what to expect. Because of the nature of the league’s broadcast deal, and the realities of “regional coverage,” every Sunday the league’s national broadcast partners Fox and CBS assign different games to different markets, based on……(continue reading)

4. There Is Always Room at the Top

It’s time to count all your chickens before they’ve hatched and that is exactly what Rivers McCown has done for the Washington Post.  He has broken down the top 10 teams and their chances at the elusive College Football Playoff.  We have yet to have Halloween, but can still enjoy a snickers here and there, can’t we?

  • College Football Playoff Projection: Here are the 10 top teams in the nation right now – With most of this week’s games looking like they’ll play true to form — which seems to be a rarity this college football season — it’s worth looking ahead to what the top of the Playoff Selection Committee’s rankings might look like when they’re unveiled next week. At least, here’s what they should look like, right now, and what potential obstacles remain for each team before the season’s end……(continue reading)

5. Dime Bag

The NBA season is almost upon us and the SB Nation has broken down a team-by-team preview for the 2015 season for you.  SPOILER ALERT: No one picks the Nuggets to win it all.

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