This is the latest preview in a series examining the 2014 fantasy baseball outlook of each major league team. Today, a look at the San Diego Padres. For every team preview along with stat projections, player rankings, mock drafts and more, join Fantasy Source Baseball! The Padres did very little this offseason, adding and a couple high-strikeout relievers (, ) to their uninspiring collection of fantasy talent.Fantasy owners rarely look to San Diego, and when they did last year, they were largely disappointed. The top Padre in the Fantasy Source Roto Rater was (No. 106), who was one of just four San Diego players in the top 200.Shortstop likely would’ve cracked the top 100, but a 50-game suspension for PEDs ended his season in early August. Cabrera still finished ninth with 37 stolen bases.Many fantasy owners will probably ignore Cabrera’s PED suspension since he wasn’t a home run hitter, but he saw a noticeable rise in most hitting stats, including slugging percentage, so it would be naïve to think whatever he was on wasn’t helping him. He remains one of the best SB threats in the majors, but another .283 batting average might be asking a lot.Overall, San Diego doesn’t bring much to the table, and last year’s reconfiguring of PETCO Park’s dimension didn’t do a lot to spur offense (at least for righties).If you didn’t like San Diego’s hitters and viewed its pitchers as potential sleepers/spot-start options, well, then you pretty much have them nailed…again.Key additions: SP Joaquin Benoit, SP Josh Johnson, OF Seth Smith, RP Alex Torres. RP Luke Gregerson, 1B/OF Jesus Guzman, SP Edinson Volquez.Contract-year players: OF Chris Denorfia, 3B Chase Headley, Nick Hundley (club option), OF Carlos Quentin (mutual option), OF Seth Smith, SP/RP Tim Stauffer, Huston Street (club option).Padres team page Stat Projections Auction ValuesTwo years ago, Headley hit 31 HRs and led the NL with 115 RBIs. Last year, he managed just 13 dingers and 50 runs batted in.Headley got a late start last season because of a fractured left thumb, but he still played 141 games, never seeming to find a rhythm. It’s likely that some fantasy owners were already calling Headley a “one-year wonder,” and last season’s disappointment coupled with this spring’s calf injury aren’t helping him shed that label.It’s tough to know what to expect from Headley this year. His track record suggests 2012 was, indeed, pretty fluky, and not much has changed around him in San Diego’s lineup. Last year’s 13 homers were actually the second most in his career, and other than ’12, he’s never had more than 77 runs or 64 RBIs. It’s tempting to think the 29-year-old 3B has another good-to-great season in him since he’s in a contract year, but the evidence just isn’t there.When you factor in the calf injury that could keep him out for opening day, Headley doesn’t have much bounce-back appeal. He’s done it before, which is always a plus, but the odds of him doing it again are pretty low.HITTERSProjected Lineup 1. Will Venable, CF; 2. Everth Cabrera, SS; 3. Chase Headley, 3B; 4. Jedd Gyorko, 2B; 5. Carlos Quentin, LF; 6. Yonder Alonso, 1B; 7. Chris Denorfia, RF; 8. Nick Hundley, C. San Diego ranked 22nd in OBP (.308), 24th in runs (618) and seventh in SB attempts (152) last season. The latter number was largely made up by (49) and (28), but overall, seems willing to let his players run.San Diego has five returning regulars who had OBPs north of .340 last year, but is the highest of that group at .363. Base runners could be a problem all year, especially at the top of the order if (.355 OBP last year) regresses. only had a .312 OBP, so there easily could be changes throughout the year. Either way, it’s tough to bank on consistent runs or RBIs from anyone in San Diego’s lineup.The key for San Diego, aside from Cabrera maintaining last year’s pace, will be Headley and providing some pop in the three- and four-holes. Quentin is an “is-what-he-is” guy at this point (read: good power, but he’ll get hurt), and is still showing no signs of turning his doubles-power into HR-power (career .395 SLG that went down last year). The 25-year-old Gyorko seems like a good bet to improve on last year’s .444 SLG, but his batting average and OBP will still likely be average, at best. For more on Gyorko, check out preseason sleeper series.Position Battle: The Padres don’t have any true positions battles (unless you count vs. at catcher), but they could have an outfield platoon that becomes profitable for daily league owners. hits well against lefties (.308/.374/.459 for his career); Smith hits well against righties (.279/.357/.487). Put them together and you have a pretty decent fourth or fifth fantasy outfielder. They don’t offer as much value as some other outfield platoons because neither steals a lot of bases or hits a lot of homers (especially in San Diego), but clearly they can hit for a decent average and provide some runs and RBIs. Even if you don’t want to carry both, daily leaguers should be on the lookout for favorable matchups for both guys, especially on days when you’re not fielding a complete lineup. gets no respect — except from Fantasy Source’s resident Padres fan, Bill Bender — but fantasy owners should start taking notice after last year’s 22/22 season. The homers were a career high, and Venable’s 22 steals marked the third straight year he’s topped 20. What was most impressive about the 31-year-old outfielder’s season was that he actually hit better against lefties (.524 SLG) and at home (.530 SLG). This isn’t in line with Venable’s career numbers, so it looks like he took a step forward against southpaws and has been helped by the shorter fences at PETCO Park. Even if the former is a fluke, the latter will likely carry over. Venable is being undervalued in most drafts.PITCHERSProjected Rotation: 1. Andrew Cashner, RHP; 2. Josh Johnson, RHP; 3. Tyson Ross, RHP; 4. Ian Kennedy, RHP; 5. Eric Stults, LHP. : Robbie Erlin, LHP.Projected Bullpen: Huston Street, RHP; Joaquin Benoit, RHP; Alex Torres, RHP. San Diego tied for 19th with a 3.98 team ERA last year, but that number dropped to 3.24 at home.That doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone who follows baseball, but what might surprise you is that San Diego actually had a higher home ERA in 2012 (3.35) and a higher ERA from the first year PETCO Park opened in ’04 until ’12 (3.39).PETCO Park is still a good place to stream pitchers, and the Padres have several good options.Andrew Cashner (1.95/0.97 at home last year), (2.03/0.96) and (3.06/1.05) were all strong in San Diego, and also took to PETCO’s friendly confines in his six starts there last year (2.55/1.30).That obviously bodes well for newcomer , but his success hinges more on his ability to stay healthy (more on that below), something he’s done just once in the past three seasons. Both him and Kennedy are intriguing bounce-back candidates, while both Cashner and Ross are intriguing breakout candidates.Position Battle: is locked into the closer’s job — until he gets hurt or traded. Street has made a DL trip each of the past five seasons, and he’s even more of a trade candidate than usual since he’s in a contract year. Put it this way: If Street is closing for the Padres in September, it will be a surprise.Enter newcomers and . Benoit closed for much of last season in Detroit, saving 24 games before having some trouble in the postseason. Torres dominated out of the ‘pen for the Rays, posting a 1.71/0.90 line with a 9.62 K/9 ratio. Both have big upside in San Diego and can provide value even as setup men. Whoever wins the “next-in-line” spot behind Street is one step away from potentially being a top-10 closer.Sleeper: has been all over the Fantasy Source website this spring – so much so that he’s “earned” the nickname “TyRo,” and his owners have been dubbed “TyRomaniacs.” (Credit Brad Pinkerton for those gems.)What’s all the fuss about? For starters, Ross found an extra 1.5 mph on his fastball while also throwing more sliders last year. The net result was a big increase in ground-ball rate (54.9 percent) and K/9 ratio (8.57, up from 5.65) and an improved ERA (3.17) and WHIP (1.15). It would be premature to pencil in Ross for similar results this year, but clearly he’s on the right path. He might have even more value than , who significantly lowered his BB-rate but also saw a big drop in K-rate. Cashner is probably “safer,” but Ross might have more upside.MEDICAL REPORT: is already hurt. He has a strained right forearm and will miss all of April if not more. Stash him on the DL if you can, but don’t expect a quick return. Thisisn’t likely the last Johnson injury you’ll have to worry about either. … was originally supposed to miss the first two months of the season because of a ruptured left biceps tendon. However, after it was determined that he wouldn’t need surgery, the Padres are hoping he can return sometime in April. Maybin played just 14 games last year because of wrist and knee injuries. … (calf) is hoping to be ready for opening day, but there’s a chance he’ll spend the first week or so on the DL. He isn’t expected to be out for a significant amount of time. … is still recovering from surgery to repair a torn ACL, but he currently plans to be ready for opening day. Like Headley, he shouldn’t miss much of the regular season if he requires a DL stint. … has been slowed by a sore groin this spring, but he’s expected to be ready for the regular season. … is expected to miss the entire season while recovering from his second Tommy John surgery.PROSPECT WATCH: The Padres have no players on our Top 50 Prospects list, but they still have a couple guys who could have a little fantasy appeal at some point this year. The most well-known of the group is SP , but he underwent Tommy John surgery last April and won’t be ready until mid-April. Even if he does wind up starting for San Diego, he hasn’t shown a lot at the minor league or major league level, so it’s tough to imagine him having much value. … SP is another interesting prospect, as his high K-rate (9.7) gives him plenty of potential value. However, he actually walked more batters than he had strikeouts at Triple-A last year, so he clearly needs more seasoning. … might be most likely to make an impact, but he’s yet to progress past Double-A. He’s showed great command in the minors (8.8 K/9, 2.3 BB/9 ratio), and his repertoire should play well in PETCO. … OF is the best bet among position players to make a dent in the majors. He missed all of last year after injuring his elbow, but he stole 66 bases in 2011 and 32 bases in ’12.SABER SECTION: had a significantly higher FIP (4.92) than ERA (2.70) last year, thanks in large part to an unsustainable (and unbelievable) 99.5-percent strand rate. His K-rate significantly declined and his HR-rate significantly increased, so obviously he’s a major risk heading into this season. … A .297 BABIP isn’t usually anything to take notice of, but for , it’s well above his career average (.258). That means Quentin’s modest .275 batting average from last year will probably shrink this season. He can still get on base and hit some homers, but he’s more of a .250 hitter. … had a noticeable dip in strikeouts last year, which helped him post a much better batting average and get on base more. PEDs or not, that’s a good trend going forward. … The ERA (6.20) and WHIP (1.66) were ugly from ‘s injury-shortened season in Toronto last year, but there were some positives. For one, his xFIP, which neutralizes home runs, was a solid 3.58. That’s a great sign as he heads to a pitcher’s park. The other big takeaway was his rise in K-rate, which jumped all the way to a career-high 9.2. Johnson looms as a major sleeper once healthy.POSITION ELIGIBILITY: played 13 games at third base last season, which should help him maintain eligibility at second and third. … played 34 games at first base and 61 games in the outfield, so if he can find an everyday role, he should give owners dual-eligibility. … Utility infielder played 23 games at 2B, 13 games at SS, nine games at 3B and 95 games in the OF last year. He’s the ultimate Swiss-Army Knife if he gets regular playing time. … started in 16 of his 35 appearances, so he should have eligibility at both SP and RP. (26 starts, five relief appearances) might also be eligible at both. BALLPARK EFFECT: PETCO Park saw the second-most HRs in its 10-year history last year, but it’s still ranked just 27th in our Ballpark Power Index after yielding a 3.25 ERA (second lowest). The Padres’ lackluster offense certainly contributed to that, but PETCO is never going to be hitter-friendly. Statcorner.com shows that it plays a little better for lefthanded home-run hitters, but overall it’s a pitcher’s paradise. Arizona DiamondbacksCheck out our Ultimate Draft Tool. It’s like having a Fantasy Source expert with you at the draft!
Steve Masiello had a contract in front of him offering to pay about $1 million per year to become the coach at South Florida. He signed it. And yet he does not have a new job.The strange story of how USF came to pull its offer from Masiello no doubt will reveal several more chapters soon, but for now the Bulls are back in the market for a new coach and Masiello’s situation is uncertain. ESPN reported that Masiello had not graduated from Kentucky according to a UK spokesperson; his official bios on the Louisville and Manhattan websites indicated he had earned a degree from UK.The Tampa Tribune’s Joey Johnston reported that USF decided to kill its deal with Masiello, who spent the past three years as head coach at Manhattan, after “a previously undetected discrepancy” was discovered in a background check performed by the search firm Eastman and Beaudine.Masiello, 36, is a former Kentucky player and Louisville assistant who led Manhattan to a 25-8 record and the NCAA Tournament in his third season as Jaspers head coach. There, they were presented with a No. 13 seed and were locked in a close game with No. 4 seed Louisville until the final 4 minutes, when the Cards were able to pull away to a 71-64 victory.Masiello had worked for six seasons under Pitino and helped recruit the core of the team that earned Final Four berths in 2012 and 2013 and is now the reigning NCAA champion. That all set up Masiello to be an ideal candidate to replace Stan Heath, who was fired after coaching USF for six seasons that resulted in one NCAA Tournament berth. USF won just six conference games over the past two seasons, including a 3-15 mark in the inaugural season of the American Athletic Conference.According to the Tribune, Masiello’s candidacy was supported by USF booster Chris Sullivan, a co-founder of the Outback Steakhouse chain who is a friend of Pitino’s.The Manhattan student paper reported Masiello had informed his Jaspers players he had accepted the USF job.
In the end, NFL owners decided that extra-point attempts didn’t need a dramatic change, and that replay needed only a few tweaks.Owners at the NFL meetings in Orlando on Wednesday voted down the proposal to move the extra-point kick attempt — deemed too easy and non-competitive by many — back to the 25-yard line. However, the league will experiment with extra-point kicks from the 20 in the first two weeks of this year’s preseason. A proposal to move kickoffs back to the 40-yard line was defeated.Replay rules survived an even stronger challenge. The so-called NaVorro Bowman rule was passed, which adds fumble recoveries in the field of play to the list of reviewable plays — back when the San Francisco 49ers’ Bowman made his spectacular recovery of a Seattle Seahawks’ fumble in the NFC championship game in January, the referee could not use replay to get the call right.But a bid to make all plays reviewable — or open to coach’s challenges — was defeated; so was a separate proposal to add personal fouls to calls that can be reviewed.A proposal to add cameras to all boundary lines, such as the goal line and sidelines, was tabled while the NFL studies it more. The New England Patriots, led by coach Bill Belichick, had proposed the idea of expanding replay to everything, and of putting more cameras to use.The Washington Redskins asked to add personal fouls. Several coaches in Orlando this week, such asthe Baltimore Ravens’ John Harbaugh, supported a mass expansion of replay over small, incremental changes like the Bowman rule.The proposal to extend the height of the goalposts by five feet was approved; that will help officials judge whether kick attempts are good.
With Phil Jackson to the New York Knicks all but done, the next decision will concern the coach.While Mike Woodson does not feel he needs to audition to keep his job, there are rumors out about who will be the next Knicks coach. The New York Post reports that Milwaukee Bucks assistant Jim Cleamons, who worked under Jackson in Chicago and Los Angeles, could be a candidate. Cleamons won nine NBA titles with Jackson on the Bulls and Lakers and was a teammate of Jackson’s on the Knicks between 1977-79. Because of that connection to Jackson, there is an assumption out that he will be brought in to interview with the new Knicks president. Cleamons was reluctant to discuss the possibility of joining the Knicks, however. “I know the offense, but I don’t know what his plans are,’’ Cleamons said. “I’m worried about the Milwaukee Bucks. You have to ask Phil that question.’’Cleamons will be a good fit if the Knicks organization moves to the triangle offense, since he worked with Jackson and had a relationship with Tex Winter.“Phil is bright. He understands the game. He’s going to put good people around him,’’ Cleamons said. “That’s my feeling. I know nothing else.’’
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Jimmie Johnson ran out of gas coming to the checkered flag Thursday night, causing a wild melee that sent Clint Bowyer’s car into a flip in the second 150-mile Daytona 500 qualifying race at Daytona International Speedway.Johnson took the blame for the wreck, which left no one injured but at least six drivers needing backup cars for the big race Sunday. Bowyer laughed when watching video of his flip, which resulted in his car coming down on all four tires.“The biggest part is when you go up, you’re not worried about that, it’s like, ‘Oh no, what’s this thing going to do when it lands?’” Bowyer said. “Hell, it was on it’s (wheels), headed in the right direction. You can’t ask for much better than that.”A driver running out of gas is rare, Bowyer said, but he knew Johnson was running close on fuel, joking “maybe the way them engines run, maybe they drink that much gas.”“I knew the 48 (of Johnson) was up to something when they were saving gas … for three laps, and then they run out and wrecked a bunch of cars out there,” Bowyer said. “We’ve got to quit doing weird things.“I’m not pointing any fingers at anybody, but I’ve never seen anybody saving fuel to get to the end of one of these things unless they were trying to be tricky and doing something and in doing so tore up a bunch of cars again.”Johnson apologized for the accident and tried to wave his arm out the window as he ran out of gas so other drivers knew he had a problem.“I ran out of gas and I feel terrible that so many good racecars were torn up,” Johnson said. “Thankfully everybody is OK. To see the 15 (of Bowyer) upside-down and tumbling, man, I hate it.”It actually wasn’t all that bad, Bowyer said. Bowyer’s car got launched after getting hit from behind by David Ragan.“It’s an eerie silence. … It was fine,” Bowyer said. “That was as lucky as you can ask for. I’m just happy to survive. Anytime you can flip, it can be scary.” Drivers needing backup cars for the Daytona 500 after the accident are Johnson, Bowyer, Martin Truex Jr., Michael Waltrip, Ragan and Jamie McMurray.Truex was set to start on the outside of the front row but now will have to move to the rear when the race goes green Sunday.
It’s been 25 years since Jerry Jones bought the Dallas Cowboys on Feb. 25, 1989. A day later, Jones rattled “America’s Team,” the NFL and the entire sports world for the first time — but not the last — when he fired Tom Landry, the only coach the franchise had ever had.The rollercoaster has not stopped since. The Cowboys under Jones have experienced dizzying highs, stupefying lows and, lately, grinding mediocrity (they’re 136-136 since the 1997 season and have been 8-8 three straight years). Yet none of it packed the punch of the news that became official that Feb. 26. Here are his best and worst moments as Cowboys owner. BestBy any standards, it was a meteoric rise. The Cowboys were 3-13 the year before he bought them, and 1-15 in his first year, with rookie quarterback Troy Aikman taking the beating of his life. In Year 4, the 1992 season, they beat Buffalo, 52-17, in Pasadena to bring the Lombardi Trophy to Dallas for the first time in 16 years and justifying every brash move Jones had made.Once he had torched his relationship with Jimmy Johnson, then made the most out-of-left-field hire in memory with Oklahoma legend and NFL novice Barry Switzer, it was win or bust. It was bust in the first year, 1994, when the 49ers knocked them off their throne. Redemption came a year later when Switzer and the ‘Boys spanked the Steelers in Tempe, Ariz.If you can’t go to the big game (which the Cowboys haven’t since the aforementioned win over the Steelers), have the big game come to you. Jones was rewarded for his new palace, and wound up with a week of bad weather and bad luck; the fan lawsuits over seats not being ready when they arrived is still pending. But AT&T Stadium is in the Super rotation forever.Having nuked everything else that had defined Cowboys tradition before he took over, Texas Stadium in Irving was living on borrowed time. Jones’ dream of, essentially, a football amusement park seemed outrageous — and when it opened for the 2009 season, that’s exactly what it was. Again, he now hosts Super Bowls, Final Fours and major college football and basketball games annually.Another seemingly quixotic move that paid off. Walker was the ‘Boys’ lone asset, flying solo for a terrible team, so Jones as self-appointed general manager traded him to Minnesota at the deadline for five players and eight draft picks. Three of the picks were turned into Alvin Harper, Darren Woodson and … Emmitt Smith. The conventional wisdom at the time: The Vikings fleeced them, and Walker made them a Super Bowl contender.WorstJones has said that this was his biggest mistake, and to his credit, he made it immediately, with news leaking on the day of the sale and announced the day after. Maybe if the Celtics had fired Red Auerbach or the Packers booted Vince Lombardi, it would almost be comparable. Plenty swore off the team at that moment and have never come back. Everybody knew the Cowboys would never be the same.For the record, Jimmy Johnson resigned as head coach — Jones’ stunning hire to replace the revered Landry — in March of that year, two months after the ‘Boys’ second Super Bowl win. In reality, Jones pushed him out on the plank. The money quote: “Any one of 500 coaches could have won those Super Bowls.” Their feud went pyrotechnic from then on. Neither Jones nor Johnson has won another trophy since. Jones should, and will, forever be grateful that his hard-line stand against Smith in contract negotiations early that season didn’t blow up more in his face. It blew up just enough. Smith sat out the first two games. The Cowboys lost both games, and the locker room all but revolted. Jones caved. Smith was a monster the rest of the year on the way to a repeat Super Bowl.The player version of firing Landry. It was strictly a business decision, considering that Smith was turning 34, going into his 14th season, and was owed a ton of money. He also was an icon and had become the NFL’s all-time leading rusher. He was not, however, destined to retire a Cowboy; he played two seasons in Cardinals red that was as jarring as Joe Namath wearing Rams blue.Signing Terrell Owens was a solid football move. So was having Bill Parcells as coach. But adding Owens over the coach’s head was the beginning of the end of the last promising era of Cowboys history. The union went about as expected, from Owens’ bizarre emergency-room trip to Parcells refusing to refer to him by name — to a playoff loss and Parcells walking away.
Despite each team having scoring chances throughout, Mexico and Nigeria played to a 0-0 draw in front of a record crowd of 68,220 at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.The goalkeepers kept their respective teams alive, with El Tri’s Guillermo Ochoa making six saves and the Super Eagles’ keeper combination of Vincent Enyeama and Austin Ejide matching him at the opposite end of the pitch with five between them. In a World Cup preparation match for both teams, Mexico and Nigeria named strong sides that included European-based players.El Tri’s starting lineup was highlighted by Manchester United’s Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez and Bayer Leverkusen’s Andres Guardado. The Super Eagles featured Chelsea’s John Mikel Obi, Liverpool’s Victor Moses and CSKA Moscow’s Ahmed Musa.Playing in front of a pro-Mexico crowd in the United States, Nigeria looked like it was going to have a field day against El Tri shortly after the opening kick.In the 11th minute, Emmanuel Emenike beat Rafa Marquez to the right and forced Ochoa to make an outstanding save to prevent the first goal of the match. Seconds later, off a rebound from a corner kick, Ochoa was once again put into action, diving to his left to stop a bullet from Ogenyi Onazi outside the box.With the pressure already on Ochoa from the start, things started to get worse for the goalkeeper after he took a knee to the head during a collision with Ahmed Musa. He was down on the pitch for a couple minutes but remained in the game.It took Mexico 22 minutes to get its first shot off when Hector Herrera dribbled to the top of the box and fired over the crossbar with his left foot. El Tri’s first real scoring opportunity came in the 26th minute as Rafa Marquez nearly knocked in a header only for keeper Vincent Enyeama to get his left hand on the ball.From that point on, Mexico began to gain more control offensively and showed more intensity against the speedy Nigerians. The teams ended the first half with six shots apiece.Mexico entered the second half without Chicharito, who picked up a knee injury in the opening 45 minutes. But that didn’t keep the Mexicans from threatening the visitors at the beginning of the half, with Marquez nearly knocking in a free kick from just outside the six-yard box. In a back-and-forth match, Nigeria countered in the 55th minute when Ahmed Musa beat the back line and made Ochoa make another big save to keep the match scoreless. On the other end, Mexico’s second-half substitute Alan Pulido tested substitute keeper Ejide with a stinging shot only to be matched by a diving save.Pulido, who scored a hat trick in his Mexico debut against South Korea earlier this year, nearly put in a rebound in the 66th minute, but Ejide once again came out on top.Both teams made several substitutions in the closing minutes, taking out their big guns for more inexperienced players. But the results were the same as the two sides continued to have chances only to fall short of finding the net.
Matt Duchene will miss the first round of the playoffs. Because of that, the Colorado Avalanche are even more likely to miss the second round of the playoffs.Duchene is out for about four weeks with a knee injury, the team announced. That would set him up for a late-April return — or, in other words, the second round. That’s a problem for the Avs, given that they’re essentially guaranteed to play the Chicago Blackhawks in the first round. Even with Duchene, they’d have been easy to pick against; in close games at even strength, they take just 47.6 percent of unblocked shot attempts (Fenwick Close), which is fourth-worst in the league.That’s not a harbinger for playoff success, and it’s actually trended downward since mid-December; in 20 games since the start of February, the Avs have out-attempted their opponents at even strength exactly twice.In their last 10 games alone, per ExtraSkater.com, the Avs carry a 44.8 percent Fenwick Close, even while enjoying a fair amount of luck — and now their leading scorer, with 70 points (23G, 47A) is out of the equation. Compare that to the Blackhawks; a three-game losing streak aside, they’ve held steady at 55.0 Fenwick Close or better since Jan. 12 and are at 55.3 percent in their last 10. For the season, they’re at 55.7 percent, second-best in the league. A portion of that performance has come without Patrick Kane, though Kane’s even-strength effectiveness had been hampered by playing with subpar centers before his own knee injury.Factor in that Jonathan Toews’ shoulder injury doesn’t seem to be as serious as initially feared, and it’s easy to forecast doom for the Avs, whether they finish the season with more points than the Blackhawks or not. Semyon Varlamov is good enough to steal games, and may well pull it off, but that’s likely what it’ll take for Duchene to have a chance to play again at all.For now, Nathan MacKinnon, in the midst of an historically good rookie season, is taking Duchene’s spot between Ryan O’Reilly and Jamie McGinn. MacKinnon had most recently been playing wing with Gabriel Landeskog and Paul Stastny/John Mitchell.
SINGAPORE — Paula Creamer sank a 75-foot eagle putt on the second playoff hole against Azahara Munoz to win the HSBC Women’s Champions on Sunday for her first LPGA title since the 2010 U.S. Women’s Open.Creamer’s putt curled across the 18th green and then rolled slowly down the slope and directly into the hole. She ran across the green, then fell to her knees and put her head on the ground, laughing and pounding the grass. “It’s one of those putts where if you just get it in the right spot, it’s going to fall down,” she said. “But I could stand there all day long and putt that and I don’t think get it within six, seven feet.”Creamer and Munoz finished 72 holes tied at 10-under 278, one stroke ahead of Karrie Webb, who led after every round but bogeyed three of her last six holes to give up a three-shot lead and finish third.Creamer captured eight titles early in her career before getting her breakthrough win at a major at the U.S. Women’s Open.After that title, though, Creamer found it tough to win again. She came close on a number of occasions, only to fall short every time.Two years ago, she lost an LPGA record nine-hole playoff against Jiyai Shin at the Kingsmill Championship. She was also third here in Singapore last year and finished in a tie for third twice to start this season.”I just was struggling. I was enjoying what I was doing, but I wasn’t loving it,” she said. “My expectations were way too high.”In December, Creamer got engaged to Derek Heath, which she said put some of her past difficulties in perspective. Then came Sunday’s victory against one of the toughest fields outside the majors, featuring 19 of the top 20 ranked players. “It might be one of my favorite wins. … It’s been almost three years and so much has happened,” she said. “Holding that trophy, gosh, it was so nice.”World No. 1 Inbee Park shot a 68 to finish in joint fourth place at 7-under 281 with No. 2 Suzann Pettersen, So Yeon Ryu, Angela Stanford and Morgan Pressel.Michelle Wie and Teresa Lu were two strokes back in a tie for ninth.
Lewis Hamilton cruised to his maiden Malaysia Grand Prix win on Sunday, though Red Bull hinted at a challenge to Mercedes’ early dominance.The Brit led every single lap of the race having qualified on pole, and was joined on the podium by Mercedes colleague Nico Rosberg, who came home second. However, defending constructors’ champions Red Bull enjoyed a largely more positive day than in the season-opener in Melbourne as Sebastian Vettel rounded off the podium, and Daniel Ricciardo impressed once again.The Australian’s race was ruined late on as a pit-stop error cost him an entire lap, with subsequent front-wing damage and a drive-through penalty wrecking his chances and leading to a late retirement.A failing due to human error, rather than mechanical, may have been a silver lining for Red Bull, though Mercedes remain well ahead of the field as teams still struggle to cope with Formula One’s new regulations.Fernando Alonso pipped Nico Hulkenberg’s Force India for fourth place, with Mercedes-powered cars once again looking strong.McLaren duo Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen scored points in sixth and ninth respectively, while Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa secured Williams’ first top-10 double since the 2012 United States Grand Prix.Hamilton made an exceptional start off the line but Vettel, who qualified second, failed to fend off the challenge of Rosberg and Ricciardo behind him and ended the first lap in fourth–quickly making his way back past his team-mate with the use of DRS.The race reached halfway with little incident, only Jean-Eric Vergne (Toro Rosso), Jules Bianchi (Marussia) and Pastor Maldonado (Lotus) having to retire and join Sergio Perez in the pits after the Mexican’s Force India was kept out of the race by hydraulic failure.With Mercedes dominating, Hamilton and Rosberg’s engines were even tuned down to boost reliability, though that helped Vettel and Ricciardo close on the tail of Rosberg.Indeed the world champion fashioned a chance to overtake his fellow German on lap 35, but was denied by a yellow flag as another compatriot, Adrian Sutil, sat motionless on the home straight, preventing Vettel from using DRS and keeping him third. Six laps later, Red Bull’s frustrations were to be magnified as Ricciardo left his pit box without his left-front tyre secured.When he ultimately emerged in 13th, damage to his front wing caused him to pit again and, after receiving a penalty for the earlier unsafe release, Ricciardo called it a day and was classified 16th to compound the frustration of being disqualified in Melbourne two weeks previously.Vettel’s challenge also fell away as Hamilton and Rosberg comfortably secured Mercedes’ first F1 one-two since 1955’s Italian Grand Prix.
It’s just a good thing that Dirk Hayhurst is alive.The words “accidental mixture of alcohol and oxycodone toxicity” will forever linger in the mind as the cause of death for New York Rangers fighter Derek Boogaard in 2011. So, when reading Hayhurst’s new book, “Bigger Than The Game,” it was particularly striking to absorb his account of chasing pain pills and sleeping pills with beer as he battled depression while working his way back from shoulder surgery in 2010. Hayhurst’s latest tome follows two successful efforts, “The Bullpen Gospels” and “Out of My League.” It’s a much darker way to end a trilogy than “Return of the Jedi,” as instead of spending time with Ewoks on Endor, Hayhurst’s journey brings him into contact with practical-joking physical therapists in Birmingham, Alabama. Even through some of his lowest moments, Hayhurst maintains his sense of humor in telling his story, and that makes the book a fast and enjoyable read.The story revolves around baseball, but with the exception of a few reminiscences, Hayhurst hardly actually talks about the game, because he did not pitch at all in 2010. In a lot of ways, that will make “Bigger Than The Game” a much more relatable story to non-baseball fans. One scene in the Toronto Blue Jays’ cafeteria is a perfect picture of life never really changing that much after high school. In that high school scenario, Hayhurst plays the role of the outcast, one that he knowingly put on himself by writing and publishing “The Bullpen Gospels.” He admits to making mistakes along the way, but that also does not excuse some truly reprehensible social behavior toward him from teammates, whose names are changed and occasionally turned into amalgam characters, a choice Hayhurst explains as a way of trying to maintain at least some of the locker room code. That said, if anyone can’t figure out the real identity of “TJ Collins,” the bullpen leader who threatens to kill Hayhurst, they are not baseball fans.The drama of “Bigger Than The Game” is not in Hayhurst’s dealings with other players, though. It is in his own story, which scrapes so close to both premature personal mortality and forever-nearby professional mortality. Hayhurst never threw a pitch in the major leagues after 2009, but he made it back from shoulder surgery to pitch professionally again. It’s the personal side, the issue of a man so tied to baseball trying to postpone the inevitable end of his career for as long as possible, while preparing for its eventuality, that is really gripping. Spoiler alert: Hayhurst winds up a successful author.The issues that Hayhurst brings up for baseball are something else entirely. The easy availability of prescription drugs to be used with minimal, if any supervision is a big and obvious one, but not the only one. The difference in medical treatment on the major league and minor league sides of Blue Jays camp is flabbergasting. The stigma of depression also is noteworthy, though hardly an issue that baseball alone is facing.It is when Hayhurst gets into his own brain that he shows himself at his most vulnerable, and also his most relatable. Upon being told that his first book is a bestseller, he is somewhere far away from ecstatic, in part because he is near one of his lowest points mentally, but also because life-changing success can be harder to deal with than it feels like it should — what do you do after reaching a lifelong goal? What if reaching that goal isn’t all it’s cracked up to be? These are not baseball questions, they are life questions, and in that way, “Bigger Than The Game” is a perfectly apt title for a book that is about much more than a pitcher on the 60-day disabled list.
This is the latest of our 30 team previews, which will run through March 30.Craig Kimbrel has unfinished business. More accurately, he has “unstarted” business. The Atlanta Braves’ closer wanted the ball in the eighth inning of Game Four of the National League Division Series, as Atlanta held a one-run lead over the Los Angeles Dodgers. He never got the chance. Yasiel Puig doubled off setup man David Carpenter, Juan Uribe homered and all three Atlanta batters in the ninth inning struck out. It has been a long winter for Atlanta to think about the way the season ended, and wonder how good of a chance slipped away.Brian McCann is gone and so is Tim Hudson. As good as Atlanta’s bullpen was in 2013, with three pitchers — Kimbrel, Carpenter and Luis Avilan — combining for a 1.50 ERA over 197.2 innings, that kind of dominance is incredibly rare to repeat from a relief corps. Of course, regression to the mean goes both ways, and last year second baseman Dan Uggla and center fielder B.J. Upton combined for a .181 batting average.Andrelton Simmons (AP Photo)For a team of extremes, one thing the Braves expected to rely on was their starting pitching. But the team lost projected opening day starter Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy to season-ending elbow injuries in spring training. Braves general manager Frank Wren quickly signed free-agent Ervin Santana, but the rotation remains thin, especially early in the season. Mike Minor, who had a sore shoulder early in the spring, is expected to be ready in mid-April. Gavin Floyd, recovering from surgery to repair the ulnar collateral ligament and a torn flexor muscle in his right elbow, could join the rotation in May. Atlanta cut Garcia late in spring training and signed Harang after he was released from a minor league contract by Cleveland.If the bullpen is merely excellent rather than otherworldly, the Braves need their starters to bridge that performance gap.Another concern for Braves pitchers is that they will be throwing to a new catcher after the free-agent departure of McCann to the Yankees. Evan Gattis did catch in 38 games last season, so he is not completely unfamiliar with the Atlanta pitching staff, but with Gattis going behind the plate, there still is a hole in the Atlanta lineup where McCann used to be. Gattis hit 21 home runs as a rookie, spending most of his time playing left field. To shore things up, the Braves traded for versatile veteran catcher Ryan Doumit, who can provide some power behind the plate when Gattis plays the outfield.The Braves were fourth in the National League in scoring last year, with five players hitting 20 or more home runs, including McCann, but none more than 30. McCann also had the fewest strikeouts, 66, of any of the 20-homer hitters. Losing him turns the Atlanta offense into more of an all-or-nothing group.When the fall comes, the Braves are awfully tough to beat. The main cog in the lineup is Freddie Freeman, who already seems like he has been with Atlanta forever, but is just 24. Last season, he had a triple-slash line of .319/.396/.501 with 23 home runs to finish fifth in the MVP race.Atlanta has another 24-year-old run producer in Jason Heyward, who has alternated outstanding years with disappointing ones so far in his career — OPS figures of .849, .708, .814 and .776 have made him a bit tough to read. Injury was an issue for Heyward in 2013, as he missed a month after an appendectomy, and another month after getting hit in the face by a pitch. After he had his appendix out in April, Heyward produced an .823 OPS.Then there’s B.J.’s brother, Justin Upton, who is 26 and coming off a 27-homer campaign with an .818 OPS in his first season with the Braves after a trade from Arizona. A two-time All-Star, Upton has a chance to become a mega-star as he hits his prime. If he takes that next step, with Freeman and Heyward also improving, the middle of the Braves’ order will be incredibly dangerous, but will the lineup be as threatening from top to bottom as it was in 2013?Also worth keeping in mind is the best defensive player in the game, shortstop Andrelton Simmons, who hit .243/.282/.348 before the All-Star break, and .255/.316/.472 after. If the 24-year-old from Curacao has gotten more of a handle on the National League’s pitchers, he brings some of that depth the Braves need if Uggla and B.J. Upton do not bounce back.Freddie Freeman (AP Photo) RF Jason Heyward (.254, 14 HRs, 38 RBIs, 104 games), CF B.J. Upton (.184, 9, 26, 12 SBs, 151 Ks), 1B Freddie Freeman (.319, 23, 109, .501 slugging percentage), LF Justin Upton (.263, 27, 70, 94 runs, 161 Ks), C Evan Gattis (.243, 21, 65), 3B Chris Johnson (.321, 12, 68, 34 doubles), 2B Dan Uggla (.179, 22, 55, 171 Ks), SS Andrelton Simmons (.248, 17, 59). RH Julio Teheran (14-8, 3.20 ERA, 170 Ks), RH Ervin Santana (9-10, 3.24, 190 hits, 211 IP with Royals), LH Mike Minor (13-9, 3.21, team-leading 181 Ks), LH Alex Wood (3-3, 3.13, 31 games, 11 starts), RH Aaron Harang (5-12, 5.40, 26 starts with Mariners and Mets) or RH David Hale (1-0, 0.82, 14 Ks, 1 walk in 2 starts). RH Craig Kimbrel (4-3, 1.21, 50/54 saves, 98 Ks, 67 IP), LH Luis Avilan (5-0, 1.52, 75 games), RH David Carpenter (4-1, 1.78, 74 Ks), RH Jordan Walden (4-3, 3.45, 1 save).Scout’s viewA scout’s take on 1B Freddie Freeman:“I still think he can get even a little bit better. He had a great year and could have easily been the MVP. He’s a 20-plus home-run guy, big RBI guy, hit well over .300, almost .320. Absolutely, I think he can grow. He had a hell of a year and he’s an All-Star-caliber first baseman. He’s a major core player, a good young player.” Key statThe Braves have had three pitchers with 60-plus innings of work and sub-2.00 ERAs each of the past two years. Craig Kimbrel, Luis Avilan and David Carpenter did it last season, while Kimbrel, Brandon Beachy and Kris Medlen accomplished the feat in 2012.Bottom lineThe Braves had the majors’ best ERA in 2013, when they won the division even as Uggla and B.J. Upton hit below .200 and lost their starting jobs. The team expected to again lean on its pitching before losing Medlen and Beachy. Wood has impressed in spring training and could help replenish the rotation. The club invested in its future when it gave multiyear contracts to top young stars Kimbrel, Freeman, Heyward and Simmons this spring. Only Heyward’s two-year deal is for fewer than four years. Gattis showed impressive power as a rookie and now replaces McCann as the starting catcher. The injuries to Medlen and Beachy probably make the Braves an underdog to Washington in the NL East. A full, healthy season from Heyward and even modest improvements from Uggla and B.J. Upton could make the lineup stronger despite the loss of McCann.Some of this content originally appeared in the Sporting News 2014 Baseball Yearbook. To order a copy, click here.
The Denver Nuggets have agreed to a three-team trade that will ship exiled backup guard Andre Miller to the Washington Wizards, according to Yahoo! Sports.The Wizards will send forward Jan Vesely to the Denver Nuggets and move backup guard Eric Maynor and a second-round pick to the Philadelphia 76ers, according to the report. Several teams were interested in Miller, who was likely to either be traded or bought out because of his rift with Nuggets coach Brian Shaw. He will be an upgrade over Maynor in Washington, where point guard John Wall is playing major minutes because of the lack of bench options.Miller, who had averaged 5.9 points and 3.3 assists this season, because angry with Shaw when his streak of 239 consecutive games played was broken. It had been seven weeks since Miller last played for the Nuggets.BROOKS ON MOVEThe Houston Rockets have traded Aaron Brooks to the Denver Nuggets, netting wing Jordan Hamilton in the process, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports.As Wojnarowski noted, the move helps both sides, as the Rockets get the secondary wing player they coveted and the Nuggets get a backup for Ty Lawson after trading away disgruntled guard Andre Miller.This move also means that Rockets general manager Daryl Morey keeps up his streak of making trades on deadline day. We’ve reached seven straight years now.BOBCATS’ NEW SHOOTERThe Charlotte Bobcats have agreed to a trade with the Milwaukee Bucks that will net Gary Neal and Luke Ridnour in exchange for Ramon Sessions and Jeff Adrien, according to Marc Stein of ESPN.com.The Bobcats have been in the market for a shooting guard before the trade deadline, making plays for Evan Turner and Anthony Morrow prior to settling on Neal.Charlotte needs outside shooting, because starting shooting guard Gerald Henderson remains a reluctant 3-point shooter.To convince the Bucks to take Sessions in the deal, the Bobcats had to commit to taking on Ridnour’s contract, according to the report.It makes sense for the Bobcats to trade Sessions at this point. He was added after starting point guard Kemba Walker struggled through an unimpressive rookie season.HAWES’ NEW HOMEThe Philadelphia 76ers have traded center Spencer Hawes to the Cleveland Cavaliers in exchange for Earl Clark, Henry Sims and two 2014 second-round draft picks, according to a report from Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski.Hawes has been a serviceable player in his career and should add offensive punch to a Cavaliers team that still has hopes of making the postseason. While the Sixers have struggled, Spencer is averaging 13.0 points and 8.5 rebounds, and he is also one of the better 3-point shooting big men.The Cavaliers expected to have a big man in place, but center Andrew Bynum proved to be a disruptive force on an already distracted team. He was traded to the Bulls in exchange for forward Luol Deng. Bynum has since been waived and signed to the Indiana Pacers.Philadelphia was expected to be more active than most teams around the trade deadline, but this is the first move the team has made. There have been rumors surrounding guard Evan Turner and forward Thaddeus Young throughout the season, yet neither player has been traded with the deadline looming.COLLINS WORKS OUT FOR NETSJason Collins made waves last April when he came out and admitted he was gay.While still a free agent at the time, the power forward’s decision made him the first current athlete in the big four North American sports to do so. The 13-year NBA veteran had played for the New Jersey Nets, Memphis Grizzlies, Minnesota Timberwolves, Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics and, most recently, Washington Wizards.On Thursday, Billy King, the general manager for the now-Brooklyn Nets, confirmed that the team had worked out Collins. While King was not present at the workout, he said Collins was in good shape.“He’s obviously on the list (of potential free-agent additions),” King said, according to the New York Daily News. “We’re looking at any guy guys that are free agents and he’s one of the guys, but we’ve got other guys that we’re going to look at. (Coach Jason Kidd) and I will visit (Friday), he’s got the list, I’ve got the list, ownership has got the list … we’re going to look at it and try to find the best guy possible for us.” The Nets would be interested in signing Collins to a 10-day contract, and they have two open roster spots after being unable to land forward Jordan Hill from the Los Angeles Lakers in trade.While King said that Collins’ potential addition would be purely for basketball reasons, his arrival would certainly help break down the rigid boundaries that exist in professional locker rooms. With standout Missouri defensive end Michael Sam recently coming out, the discussion about homosexual professional athletes is louder than ever, which is exactly what the American sporting landscape needs.Contributors: DeAntae Prince, Troy Machir
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — One thing we all know about Charles Barkley is that he does not mince words.Such was the case as Barkley spoke on a national stage during the NCAA broadcast, pointing out on several occasions that he believed the NBA was in a worse space than it ever has been. It is not the first time he has made that comment, and it is unlikely to be the last. “Clearly, the NBA sucks right now,” Barkley said at a Tuesday event prior to his on-air comments. “The NBA is the worst it’s ever been. I feel bad for the fans because they are not getting a quality product. All the players are making a lot of money but these fans are not getting quality basketball.”There is one man who begs to differ with Barkley’s statement, and he happens to be running the league right now, a league he considers to be in great condition. Asked if the comments were simply Charles being Charles, NBA commissioner Adam Silver responded, “Yes, with all due respect.” “I think the league is in great shape,” Silver said. “I think the level of competition is terrific. I hear directly from fans as well. We’ve had some incredible matchups on the floor this year. Night in and night out, we have great basketball.”There are obvious points that help the commissioner’s case, with an ultra-competitive Western Conference and several players who will go down as some of the greatest to play basketball. The first examples that came to mind for Silver were Kevin Durant and LeBron James, who he plans to meet with on the future of sleeved jerseys after the season. In this case, his focus was on their back-and-forth exchange in this season’s MVP race. “We have some of the best players currently playing who may have ever played this game,” Silver said. “Even just to think about the sort of LeBron going back and forth with Kevin Durant this year as potential MVPs.”But, as we all know, there is an underbelly to the perception of competitive play within the NBA, and it lives in the Eastern Conference.Several teams on that side of the country are vying for playoff spots with sub-.500 records, while others sit at the bottom with hopes to land low enough to scrape up a player in this latest batch of lottery picks. Silver did not shy away from this topic, even discussing the Philadelphia 76ers’ 24-game losing streak as potentially detrimental to the franchise.Silver has repeatedly said he defines tanking as when coaches and players intentionally go out and try to lose games, and he does not see that as the case right now, not even in Philadelphia. Still, he is aware that the losses adding up for the Sixers can be bad for business. “You don’t like to see any team go through a losing streak like they currently are, or flirt with the longest losing streak in the history of the league,” Silver said. “That’s bad for everyone, it’s potentially damaging to the players involved and the culture they’re trying to create.” While the lows are especially low, the highs are plentiful. Silver chose to focus his final words on the stage of the league on that side — and his love for Barkley. “To me, the game can always get better and we’re constantly looking to tinker with the rules and get a group of players who are even more ready to play at this level of competition,” Silver said. “But I’m very satisfied with where the game is right now. And I still love Charles.”
The Rangers knew they had probably lost Chris Kreider for the rest of the regular season. After the forward underwent surgery on his left hand on Friday, it appears his playoff availability is also in doubt, according to a report by the New York Post’s Larry Brooks.The Rangers have declared Kreider is out indefinitely, which likely includes at least the first round of the playoffs. Brooks’ report also states Kreider wanted to play through the injury, but general manager Glen Sather vetoed that move, fearing the potential for long-term damage. Kreider was injured a week ago against the Columbus Blue Jackets.The Rangers got by without him Wednesday in a 3-1 win over the Philadelphia Flyers, but Kreider’s loss is a bad one. Aside from being tied for the second-most goals on the team, Kreider had the best Corsi Relative ranking (on-ice shots for/against vs. the shots/for against when the player is off the ice) of any forward on the Rangers. Overall, he was second best on the team behind defenseman Anton Stralman.The loss further emphasizes the need for the Rangers to get something out of Martin St. Louis, who has not scored a goal in 12 games since his trade to New York. Three assists over that span is not what the Rangers paid Ryan Callahan, and two high draft picks for.Elsewhere in the Metropolitan, the Penguins suffered yet another injury. Marcel Goc, acquired at the trade deadline to give some strength to the struggling Penguins bottom-six forwards, is out three weeks with a foot injury.The Penguins are down to just two healthy centers on the roster, Sidney Crosby and Brandon Sutter, after losing Goc and Evgeni Malkin earlier in the week. While Goc hadn’t been good (with Pittsburgh anyway), the injury won’t do anything for their lousy puck possession numbers.The good news for the Penguins is that at this point they really don’t have anything at stake. They are not catching the Boston Bruins for the top spot in the East; Boston has nine more points with both teams having nine games remaining. Neither the Rangers nor the Flyers are catching them for the Metropolitan, either, so the Penguins are essentially the second seed in the conference.So the Penguins have time to get healthy. Of course, getting healthy involves not only players returning, but also new players not getting hurt. We’ll see if the Penguins can get a bit more fortunate in that department going forward.BOZON BEATS MENINGITISMan, it was nice to see Tim Bozon on Friday.The 19-year-old Montreal Canadiens prospect, a few weeks after bacterial meningitis put him in a medically induced coma, left the hospital on Friday.“We are optimistic he will make a full recovery but it will take some time before that possibility could be realized,” Bozon’s neurologist, Dr. Gary Hunter, said in a release from his WHL team, the Kootenay Ice.Bozon, along with his father Philippe, a former NHL player, had a press conference on Friday. He’ll drop the puck at Kootenay’s game on Saturday.HASEK FINALLY TO BE HONOREDIn what should’ve been a foregone conclusion, the Buffalo Sabres announced that they’re retiring Dominik Hasek’s No. 39 jersey.The ceremony will be next season. The two-time MVP and six-time Vezina winner is the seventh Sabre to get that honor: Gilbert Perreault (No. 11, retired in 1990); Rick Martin (No. 7, retired in 1995); Rene Robert (No. 14, retired in 1995); Tim Horton (No. 2, retired in 1996); Danny Gare (No. 18, retired in 2005); and Pat LaFontaine (No. 16, retired in 2006). In the 90s, Hasek wasn’t just the Sabres — he was goaltending. So, the honor is richly deserved. Still, this probably means that a comeback is finally out of the question, and that’s a bummer.In any case, Buffalo released a pretty cool infographic for the occasion.Contributors: Ben Valentine, Sean Gentille