Monthly Archives: August 2016

red soxs mookie betts hit 30th home run

The emerging power of Mookie Betts allowed the recently installed cleanup man to reach a special place in Red Sox history on Monday night.

When Betts clubbed his 30th homer run, a towering shot off of a sign behind the Monster Seats in the bottom of the second inning against the Rays, he became just the third Boston player to reach that number in a season before turning 24 years old.

The others? Hall of Famer Ted Williams, who did it in 1939 and 1941, and Tony Conigliaro, who achieved the feat in 1965.

Betts turns 24 on Oct. 7, five days after the regular season ends. At that point, the right fielder hopes to be participating in the postseason for the first time.

When the Red Sox drafted Betts as a middle infielder in 2011, it was hard to envision he would develop this type of power. His career high in the Minor Leagues was 15 in 2013. Betts used to be known more for his speed than his power. But his lightning quick hands have helped turn him into a home run hitter.

If the Pirates need further rotation help in Cole’s absence, they could turn to Triple-A, where their options include top prospect Tyler Glasnow, prospect Trevor Williams and right-hander Drew Hutchison, acquired in the Liriano trade.

The Dodgers tried all this before, of course, having Quakes batters face Kershaw at Dodger Stadium on July 16, but a setback that day caused Kershaw to restart his rehab all over again. But where that start was 20 days after he last pitched, Tuesday’s outing will come 45 days after he last faced hitters.

“Kersh is still on track,” manager Dave Roberts said Monday from Denver, where the Dodgers were set to open a three-game series against the Rockies. “We’re encouraged, so we’ll see what happens after that.”

Kershaw actually flew with the team to Colorado on Sunday night but returned to Los Angeles on Monday. Other injured pitchers such as Scott Kazmir, Alex Wood and Brandon McCarthy did the same, and all four played catch at Coors Field on Monday afternoon before returning home. Those players made the trip to take part in the draft for the team’s annual fantasy football league.

McCarthy and Brett Anderson are also expected to participate in Tuesday’s simulated game.

Assuming all goes well, Kershaw could pitch in a minor league game on the upcoming weekend. If he does, it would be his only regular-season minor league game since the schedules at Single-A, Double-A and Triple-A end next Monday. Single-A Rancho Cucamonga and Triple-A Oklahoma City are playoff eligible.

Bill Walton still blames self for Clippers’ departure from San Diego

San Diego hasn’t had an NBA team in more than three decades and is unlikely to ever get one again — and Bill Walton still blames himself.

Walton recalled a time Hayes phoned his house, and his mother answered.
In an attempt to muster up support for the cause, Nazari wrote:

“Ladies and gentlemen, the great state of Oklahoma has been betrayed. As many of you know, Kevin Durant has left our state, torn out our hearts, and left our beloved Oklahoma City Thunder in depleted shape. All of this after even being offered a cabinet position for the State of Oklahoma. It is because of this heinous action that I believe the State of Oklahoma has a responsibility to change the name of the City of Durant to Westbrook, the man who is loyal, whom we believe in, and who will lead our team to glory. Yes, it is understood that the city Durant was not named after the evil Kevin Durant, but it is just another hideous reminder of what happened to our community.”

One fan, though, decided to take even more drastic action this week. Ryan Nazari of Edmond, Oklahoma created a petition asking for 1,000 online signatures to try to get the city of Durant, Oklahoma, changed to Westbrook, Oklahoma, in honor of guard Russell Westbrook, who signed a contract extension with the Thunder earlier this month.

“All we do [with Spain] when we click is put all the egos apart and really click as a team,” Rubio said. “The guy who really knows how to [play] defense, put him in on defense. The guy who is exceptional on offense, give him credit and give him the ball. Put everything apart and the team first.”

“I wouldn’t say it if I didn’t believe it,” he said. “I was injured literally the whole time. If I could have played we would still have NBA basketball in San Diego. If I was any kind of a man I would have just quit on the spot when the team moved to Los Angeles and said, ‘I’m staying here.’ But I wasn’t in a good place. I wasn’t healthy. I was not strong enough to stand up for what was right. I should have stayed in San Diego and done something else. I was very sad.”

We know that the international 3-point line — 22 feet, 1.75 inches from the rim, more than a foot and a half closer than the NBA version — has been crucial to Anthony’s success in FIBA competitions, and that in the past he’s brought the improved stroke home with him after an Olympics. And we’ve seen how Team USA carves up zone defenses, not just because it has athletes who are threats to drive and shoot, but because it’s stocked with players who can see over the zone and pick out players in threatening positions.

But these are the symptoms of the most basic difference: Team USA has a lot good players, and the New York Knicks do not. More to the point, the U.S. team has access to good players, while the Knicks in recent years have not, either because they’ve been maxed out under the salary cap or because they’ve rebuffed by the free agents it could afford. You can see Anthony’s salary relative to that of his NBA and Team USA teammates below.

One popular theory around these parts on what’s held back the Knicks is that Melo is worth a max contract, but not worth much more. The true value of a “max” slot on a roster is that it allows teams to amass surplus value by putting a ceiling on what the very best players in the league can earn under the salary cap. This is how you get LeBron James producing $64 million worth of value, relative to free agent market prices, while being paid just $23 million in salary. Carmelo has always been paid fairly relative to his production (he was “worth” $24.8 million last season and made $22.9 million), and that makes him far less valuable than some of his max-contract peers.

To hear him tell it, he has shed those other disappointments like old snakeskin. But make no mistake: Gregg Popovich’s appointment as coach of the USA basketball team for the 2020 Olympics is a significant personal triumph. Popovich will take the reins of the Olympic basketball program in the wake of an uninspiring showing in Rio that, while producing the expected gold medal, raised questions anew about the United States’ ability to cobble together a collection of superstars on short notice and implement elite results. Popovich, whose teams in San Antonio have come to symbolize cohesion, has been lauded as the natural choice to lead a meld of substantial egos on the path to world success.

“But if you think this has all been easy for Pop,” says former Spurs assistant (and current New Orleans head coach) Alvin Gentry, “then you don’t know his story.”

“I think a lot of times we have a tendency to dislike each other on the court. … We’ve got to be able to put that to the side,” Wall, the 2010 No. 1 overall pick, told Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic. “If you miss somebody on one play or don’t have something go right … as long as you come to each other and talk. If I start arguing with somebody I’m cool. I’m just playing basketball.”

Beal agreed with the root of the pair’s problem.

“Sometimes I think we both lose sight of the fact that we need each other,” Beal told the network. “I wouldn’t be in the situation I’m in without John. John wouldn’t be in the situation he’s in without me, without the rest of the team. It goes hand-in-hand, so it’s kind of a pride thing. We’ve got to [hash] out our pride, figure out what our goals are individually, help each other achieve those goals, figure out what our team goal is, where do we see ourselves five years from now, 10 years from now and go from there.”

Dez Bryant out vs. Seahawks after suffering concussion in practice

FRISCO, Texas — The preseason could be over for Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant.

I promise I’m ok Cowboy nation #x..

— Dez Bryant (@DezBryant) August 23, 2016
In two preseason games, Bryant has four catches for 74 yards and two touchdowns, as he returns from a broken foot that required two surgeries and limited him to nine games last year.

Bryant has had a productive training camp after being limited in his offseason work following a bone graft surgery in January.

As the Cowboys left Oxnard, California, he said it was the best training camp he has had in his career. He was given one day off in camp to rest.

“My mind is right,” Bryant said last week. “My confidence is sky-high right now. I think it’s the best it’s ever been.”

Bryant caught a career-low 31 passes for 401 yards and three touchdowns last season. He missed five games after undergoing surgery after breaking the fifth metatarsal in his right foot the day after the season opener. He hurt his knee in his second game back and struggled to make an impact as the Cowboys suffered from substandard quarterback play.

Once the Cowboys were eliminated from playoff contention, Bryant was inactive and eventually placed on injured reserve.

To be fair, that “girl” has been on the international gymnastics stage for years now, and when three-time Olympic gold medalist — and ESPN The Body Issue participant — Aly Raisman accepts a professional football player’s advances, people talk.

Especially on social media.

In fact, it was in a video where Underwood made his inquiry, and on a responding video where Raisman accepted.

Those videos, though, have been playing on a loop in the Raiders’ locker room, much to Underwood’s chagrin. Even if his colleagues are paying him respect.

“I was like, ‘Hey man, you put yourself out on a limb there, bro,'” quarterback Derek Carr said with a laugh.

“That’s a lonely feeling being out there on a limb, man. I’m happy for him, and she made a good decision saying yes, because he’s a really good guy. He really is. Besides all the football stuff, he’s a really good person, so I hope it works out for him.”

Coach Jack Del Rio agreed.

“We have a celebrity in our midst,” he said. “It’s amazing how things get traction. I think young men doing what young men do, and [he] invited out a really decorated Olympian, so that’s a pretty neat story.

Memo to Jets: More not always merrier when it comes to quarterbacks

A look at what’s happening around the New York Jets:

1. Four! It might seem crazy to some, but the Jets are trending toward keeping four quarterbacks on the 53-man roster. Some perspective: In 2015, nearly half the teams (15) opened the season with only two quarterbacks, while 17 (including the Jets) began with three on the roster, according to ESPN Stats & Information. The most recent team to carry four was the 2013 Washington Redskins.

2. Masking other problems: The Jets must be a pretty good team if the hottest preseason issue is the backup quarterback.

3. Geno speaks: Geno Smith ended his weeklong media silence on Friday, when he spoke to reporters after the loss to the Redskins. He apparently was upset by stories that observed the one-year anniversary of the IK Enemkpali incident (Aug. 11). A couple days later, he tweeted, “If they don’t have a story these days, they’ll make one.”

Smith’s response was surprising because the stories actually portrayed him in a positive light; they provided him a forum to tell the world how the jaw-breaking punch changed his perspective on football and life. Pouting about media coverage certainly doesn’t support his case.

“Geno’s success will be determined by how much he grows off the field. That’s it,” Brandon Marshall told me. “It has nothing to do with his talent or if he’s smart enough. It’s just him continuing to grow at the rate he is, and that’s all it is for Geno.”

Like him or not, Smith is here to stay — for one more season, anyway.

4. Hand it to the scouts: Remember the days (circa 2012) when the Jets were so bad at wide receiver that Antonio Cromartie volunteered to play two ways? My, how times have changed. The Jets have a lot of intriguing, young talent at the position, including Robby Anderson, Jalin Marshall and Charone Peake. They’re all rookies and all hungry after being humbled by the draft experience. Peake was a seventh-round pick, while Anderson and Marshall weren’t drafted at all.

Kudos to Mike Maccagnan’s scouts. Whenever low draft picks and undrafted free agents emerge, it’s usually the handiwork of the scouts, the grinders who find the sleepers. They’re particularly high on Anderson, who had a huge game against the Redskins. Maybe he can be the vertical threat Devin Smith was supposed to be.

5. Money matters: The Jets have only $1.2 million in salary-cap room, per NFLPA records — the lowest in the league. They’ll have to create more space in the coming weeks because they need money for a practice squad (about $1 million), an additional two players on the cap (currently, only 51 count) and potential injury replacements. Ideally, you’d like to go into the season a few million under the cap — fudge money, as Bill Parcells used to call it.

There’s not much fat on the roster, in terms of possible cap casualties. I’m curious to see what happens with Breno Giacomini, who hasn’t practiced because of a back injury. The team can save $4.4 million by cutting him, but he’s the only experienced right tackle.

6. Up for a fight: It raised some eyebrows in the offseason when Jarvis Jenkins, a solid starter for the Chicago Bears, decided to sign a free-agent contract to play for the Jets, with one of the most talented defensive lines in the league. Jenkins said he had opportunities to start elsewhere, but he chose to play with Muhammad Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson and Leonard Williams because he wanted to challenge himself. “Even though I’m older than these guys, I look up to them because these guys can show me how to take my game to another level,” Jenkins said. A nice contract helped too. He will make starter’s money ($3 million), even though he’s projected as the fourth or fifth lineman.

Jenkins looks like a terrific depth signing. Defensive coordinator Kacy Rodgers can take one of the Big Three off the field knowing there won’t be a significant drop-off. The Jets did not have that luxury last year.

7. Chris Ivory 2.0: Yes, Khiry Robinson has heard the Chris Ivory comparisons. They’re unavoidable. After all, both are small-school players, both went undrafted, both began their careers with the New Orleans Saints, and both have a punishing style of running. Robinson has never met Ivory, but he admires him.

“We’ve walked in the same shoes,” Robinson said. “I respect him. I heard we’re kind of alike. I appreciate guys like that, paving the way. I’ve been told we run similarly. I appreciate it. That’s a good compliment.”

Robinson, who spent the past eight months rehabbing a broken leg, is close to making his Jets debut.

8. Timeless Cinderella story: Retired wide receiver Wayne Chrebet, who visited practice last Sunday, noticed the difference between the 2016 training camp and that of, say, 1995, the year he broke into the league as the ultimate Cinderella story. Nowadays, they practice only once a day, not twice, and the amount of contact has been reduced significantly.

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Sunday’s wake-up call, Day 26 of New York Jets training camp:

The Jets suffered a few injuries, none of them believed to be serious. Nevertheless, we’ll have our eyes on the practice field, observing their status. Cornerback Dee Milliner (left biceps) “will be fine,” Bowles said after the game, but Milliner warrants attention because of his long injury history. Receiver Quincy Enunwa (concussion) and linebacker Erin Henderson (stinger) also got hurt against the Washington Redskins. Presumably, Enunwa, who also plays H-back, will be sidelined at least a week, meaning more reps for Jace Amaro.

The main story involves previously injured players, namely right tackle Breno Giacomini (back), who remains on the physically unable to perform list. The team hasn’t made Giacomini available to the media, fueling the perception there’s something seriously wrong. If he misses a third preseason game, it will be time to worry. … This is a big week for defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson (leg), who was held out Friday night. “I still think he needs another week to get his legs under him,” Bowles said. You can put running back Matt Forte (hamstring) in the same category. … Backup cornerback Dexter McDougle (hamstring) needs to get back in a hurry because his roster spot is in jeopardy.