Atlanta Braves RHP Kris Medlen will seek a second opinion before determing whether he needs surgery on an injured ligament in his elbow, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.Medlen exited Sunday’s spring training game against the New York Mets with a strained forearm. A Monday MRI of his elbow showed “some involvement in the ligament,” Braves general manager Frank Wren told the AJC. Medlen now is expected to cosult with Dr. James Andrews, who performed Tommy John surgery to reconstruct his elbow in August 2010.Medlen tore his right ulnar collateral ligament while pitching against the Mets on Aug. 4, 2010, and was operated on by Andrews that Aug. 18. Medlen didn’t pitch for the Braves again until Sept. 25 the following year.”MRIs on patients who previously had Tommy John surgery can be difficult to read, and the previous surgeon is consulted before any additional steps are taken after another injury,” the newspaper reports.Last season, Medlen posted a 15-12 record with a 3.11 ERA and 1.223 WHIP.For the Braves, pitching worries continue to add up. RHP Brandon Beachy exited Atlanta’s 8-1 Monday win over Philadelphia early because of tightness around his right elbow.MACHADO ON CONTRACT: ‘IT SUCKS’Manny Machado’s contract has been renewed by the Baltimore Orioles at a slight raise, albeit not nearly enough to satisfy the All-Star third baseman.The 21-year-old will receive $519,000 — $19,000 above the major league minimum — and would earn an additional $100,000 for winning the 2013 Platinum Glove Award as the AL’s best defensive player.Machado had a $495,000 base salary last season and earned $25,000 for making the AL All-Star team.Teams had until Tuesday to reach agreements with unsigned players on their 40-man rosters, and players not eligible for arbitration were subject to unilateral renewal by their clubs.”It’s the system, and the system is never going to change,” Machado said Tuesday. “It sucks. The only thing I can control is to go out there and play and be the best player I can be. Go out there and play. Play for the fans.”Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette felt it was important to reward Machado with a raise, but for the most part he stayed true to baseball rules that give control to the club.”The system is weighted more toward experienced players and we thought it was important to recognize Manny’s significant contribution, not just with attaboys, but also with a bonus for his work,” Duquette said.”The structure and the way it’s weighted that’s really an issue for the players and their union, not really an issue for the club,” Duquette said. “The club sometimes benefits from the structure and sometimes the structure goes the way of the player. That’s just the way the system works. We have a very precise and disciplined formula that we follow.”Machado has yet to play this spring training following offseason knee surgery. Since he can’t do anything about his contract, Machado will focus on getting back in the lineup.TANAKA STARTS SIMULATED GAMEJapanese star Masahiro Tanaka has made his third start for the New York Yankees in a simulated game.Tanaka, who signed a $155 million, seven-year contract in January, struck out nine of 18 batters he faced in four innings Tuesday. He gave up three hits, including a solo homer, to a pair of minor leaguers.Tanaka said through an interpreter that he worked on his split-finger pitch during the outing.This is the first time that Tanaka has pitched in the Yankees’ simulated game format, which uses only a pitcher, catcher and hitter. In two spring training games, Tanaka has allowed one run, four hits and struck out four over five innings.He is expected to start the Yankees third or fourth regular-season game.Contributors: Justin McGuire, Associated Press
SURPRISE, Ariz. — Just because it’s spring training doesn’t mean it’s time to stop answering your questions. If anything, it’s time to answer more of them! Welcome to the Tweetbag. If you have anything you’d like to ask, hop onto your Twitter machine and use the #AskSpector hashtag. I’m here every week. Well, not in Arizona, but on sportingnews.com. The real home run record is 73, set by Barry Bonds. Yes, we all know what he did, but he still hit those balls over the fence, and they all still count. Anyway, I don’t think Chris Davis is hitting 61 homers. I don’t think he’s hitting 50 again. Davis hit 31 home runs in the first three months of last season, a tremendous run of power hitting, but he slowed down to hit 22 over the final three months. I think that April-June of last year represents the peak of how he can hit, and that’s incredibly difficult to sustain. He can be a 40-homer guy again, but the hitters with multiple 50-homer seasons are Babe Ruth (four times), Jimmie Foxx (twice), Ralph Kiner (twice), Willie Mays (twice), Mark McGwire (four times), Ken Griffey Jr. (twice), Sammy Sosa (four times), and Alex Rodriguez (three times). Those are all either Hall of Famers (and Griffey) or PED rogues. I’m not saying Chris Davis is Brady Anderson. There’s no shame in being George Foster, though.False. Stranger things have happened than the Mets, as currently constituted, winning 90 games. I don’t think they will do it, but I don’t think whether or not Syndergaard is in the rotation is going to be what makes the difference one way or the other.It’s up to you how you feel. I don’t require that this be a forum for baseball questions only. A good question to ask about the Blue Jays would be when they can legitimately hope to win another American League East title. I have no idea what the answer is, but it’s a good question.I think that they’ve slipped a bit, losing Shin-Soo Choo and Bronson Arroyo, and even if Billy Hamilton and Tony Cingrani emerge as hoped, there is less depth in Cincinnati than before. To me, the Reds have failed to keep up with the Cardinals, and it would take stumbles by both St. Louis and Pittsburgh, along with Cincinnati playing better than expected, to win the Central. I think the Cardinals win the division.Dodgers and Tigers.I’d go for Mariners-Angels. The A’s don’t draw particularly well, especially early in the season, so the atmosphere is probably going to be better in Anaheim for someone who hasn’t been to a game before. The Mariners being a division rival of the Angels makes that matchup a bit more enticing than Mets-Angels.I’ll take the over. They’re probably the most likely team to make the playoffs that I didn’t pick to make the playoffs. Maybe I can make up for that by taking the over right now, but probably not. People will still point and laugh and say “Yankees! Hahaha! HOMER!” or “Red Sox! Hahaha! HOMER!” depending upon which one misses the playoffs and whether or not those pointing laughers know where I am from and how I have written in the past about how I’ve comfortably given up being a fan of any team.Marvelous advances in the field of elastic technology have helped to develop socks that stay up on their own. I like the high socks look, and so do a lot of players, but stirrups really are not necessary anymore to achieve it.I don’t think there’s even a question here. “I’ve never seen a diamond in October. I got my first foul ball from the bat, of Balboni. And I’m not sad about losing Zack. He’s in L.A. now, no DH envy.” Go from there. Six months until it’s a morning-zoo anthem for the playoffs in Kansas City.In the 1990s, at the peak of my comic book-reading days, DC had a character named Impulse who was basically a younger version of The Flash, but with no sense of danger. He had to be sent to live in Alabama and be tutored by Max Mercury on how to harness his speed to live in the world while he went through high school. There’s a lot of Impulse in Puig, I think.Ice cream in a hat, with rainbow sprinkles. I’m glad you said “snack,” because I’m free to avoid talking about hot dogs.I was very pleasantly surprised the other day by Maryvale Baseball Park, where the Brewers play. Parking was a breeze, the press box was easy to find, locker room access was fairly simple, and they brought the racing sausages down from Milwaukee. I may have different criteria for a favorite ballpark than other people.I would definitely visit North Korea, assuming that my safety was ensured. I would be fascinated to see what life is like there, and to go to a place where so few outsiders have gone would be an eye-opening experience for sure. I’m not interested in yukking it up with Kim Jong Un like Dennis Rodman, but to be able to go to what is basically a forbidden land would be an experience to remember for a lifetime. I feel the same way about Cuba. I’ve always wanted to see a place that is, in so many ways, frozen in time. I’m jealous of my Canadian friends and journalists who have gotten to take that trip.I’ll give you three. Taylor Swift doing “Informer” by Snow, Metallica doing “Ring of Fire” by Johnny Cash, and Hammer doing “Ice, Ice, Baby” by Vanilla Ice. As a bonus, Beyonce can do anything she wants.I just flipped a coin. Heads was Wacha, tails was Wheeler. It came up tails, so Wheeler.I think, pretty obviously, the coming public availability of a treasure trove of defensive data from MLB is most exciting. I can’t wait to see all of that put in place.I did not have time to do research on the total number of players, but Bob Walk would qualify, even if his name is a one-word command — that’s still a sentence: “Walk!” More urgently, the same goes for Rod Scurry, while Herm Winningham is not quite a sentence, but more a concept of winning ham.At “any” price, sure, but at a price he would actually accept, no. Reportedly, Callahan has dropped his seven-year demand, and would take a six-year deal, but I still would balk at that for an undersized but physical player who is going to be 29 years old later this month. There’s just too much risk there for a significant financial investment over that long of a term. If you’re going to go beyond four or five years on a player in the NHL, that player better be an elite talent. Callahan is a very good player, and very important to the Rangers, but he’s not so good as to be irreplaceable.I am an American, so I learned to spell the right way, without extraneous letters.You were probably a triceratops with a bad dispostion.No. Go away and bring me summer.The only movie I saw was “Gravity,” so that wins Best Picture for me, as well as my own personal Razzie for Worst Picture. Tough but fair.I wish I could say that a change in athletic directors would mean varsity hockey returning to my alma mater, but I’ve pretty much given up hope of that ever happening unless somebody who wants it agrees to fund it. Given that it’s Penn, that’s not impossible, but I’m not holding my breath.The Swedish Chef or Statler and Waldorf probably would have the greatest opportunity, as Hitler’s security detail presumably would not be as incompetent as many of the other villains the Muppets come across in their travels. Maybe Rizzo the Rat could bite Hitler and give him the plague, but Rizzo would have to take one for the team in that case, getting the plague and dying himself. The Swedish Chef could poison Hitler at a state dinner, while Statler and Waldorf could do a modified Inglorious Basterds and take Hitler out from the balcony. I think Statler and Waldorf would find that to be derivative, what with John Wilkes Booth and all, and they’re more critics than doers. Also, Sweden’s official neutrality during World War II would give the Swedish Chef more of an opportunity to get close to Hitler than a pair of English-speaking old men.I have no idea. I had a pretty nice hot dog with bacon bits and guacamole yesterday in the Angels’ press box. That probably doesn’t count. I’ve mostly eaten at In-N-Out Burger.”I’ve had burgers animal style, protein style and mustard grilled. I’ve had fries well done and animal style. I’ve had black-and-white and neapolitan shakes. I’ve also had grilled cheese. I haven’t gone for the 4×4, though maybe that needs to be my grand finale for this trip as I get into double-digit In-N-Out trips for the week.If you think I’m going to voluntarily get my blood pressure checked before May after this week, you’re sorely mistaken.1) Implosions are actually very rare, so if it’s one or the other, explosion is far more likely, although I certainly hope it does not happen.2) I’ve never seen pulled pork pizza. Given that I’ve had barbecue chicken pizza and cheeseburger pizza, I imagine that pulled pork pizza exists somewhere, but that would be the pizza I would be most interested to try that I have not seen. I’ve never really thought about having a specific favorite poem, and now that I do, I’m really struggling with it. Does Green Eggs and Ham count as a poem? Does The Odyssey? My grandfather and my dad are both published poets (as am I, on a much, much smaller scale), and I would have to put them in the conversation, which then seems entirely unfair. So I think I have to pass on this one, but I do not get tired of your questions.I will not. Sorry.
TAMPA — A Yankees-Red Sox game, even in spring training, is always a hive of activity, but Tuesday afternoon brought a honey of a development at Steinbrenner Field.A swarm of bees got loose during the third inning of the Grapefruit League encounter, delaying the game with New York leading, 5-0, in the bottom of the third inning. Fans were not left to brood for long, as the delay lasted only seven minutes. While groundskeepers sprayed the area where the bees were, Mark Teixeira came out of the dugout waving two bottles of honey. The Yankees’ first baseman escaped unharmed.Bee problem? Don’t worry! Mark Teixeira has some honey to try to lead them out of your way. #Yankees #RedSox pic.twitter.com/vY5AAbn8o3— Bryan Levine (@Bryan_Levine) March 18, 2014″I’m a big peanut butter-and-honey guy,” Teixeira explained after the game “Love it. So I always know where the honey is (in the clubhouse).”And what was the purpose of bringing the honey out? “What I thought was, if you could just do a line of honey out to the parking lot, the bees would maybe follow it, and then just leave us alone.”Teixeira had helped the Yankees get off to a flying start in the game, stinging the Red Sox by drawing a walk to help pollinate the bases in the first inning and swatting a two-run single off Felix Doubront in the second.Where did the swarm come from? None of your beeswax.
Duke wasted little time building off its successful 2013 season. The Blue Devils got their spring game in March 1. But most teams are just getting started — of will be soon — and here’s a look at the spring football schedule for the major conference schools: ACC April 12 April 12 March 1 | Blue Devils play spring game, keep momentum April 12 | WATCH: 56 spring game passes | Winston leads way for ’14 Heisman hopefuls April 18 April 11 | April 12 | April 12 April 12 No game; team will conduct practice instead April 12 April 12 April 26 | SN picks Virginia Tech’s 10 greatest players April 26Big 12 April 5 | SN picks Baylor’s 10 greatest players April 12 April 12 April 26 April 12 | Heisman sleeper: Sooners QB Trevor Knight April 5 | SN picks Oklahoma State’s top 10 players April 5 April 19 | April 12 April 12Big Ten April 12 April 12 April 26 | SN picks Iowa’s 10 greatest players April 11 April 5 | SN picks Michigan’s 10 greatest players April 26 | April 12 April 12 | April 12 April 12 | April 12 | SN picks Penn State’s 10 greatest players April 12 April 26 April 12 | SN picks Wisconsin’s 10 greatest playersPac-12 April 12 April 19 | April 26 April 12 May 3 May 3 April 12 | SN picks Stanford’s 10 greatest players April 26 | SN picks UCLA’s 10 greatest players April 19 April 19 April 19 April 26 SEC April 19 | SN picks Alabama’s 10 greatest players April 26 April 19 | SN picks Auburn’s 10 greatest players April 12 | SN picks Florida’s 10 greatest players April 12 | SN picks Georgia’s 10 greatest players April 26 April 5 April 5 | Ole Miss QB no novelty act April 12 April 19 | Pinkel to get new contract April 12 April 12 | SN picks Tennessee’s 10 greatest players April 13Others of note April 12 | SN picks Boise State’s 10 greatest players March 29 April 12 | SN picks Notre Dame’s 10 greatest players April 12
MARANA, Ariz. — Rickie Fowler was lining up an 18-foot par putt on the seventh hole Friday in the Match Play Championship when Sergio Garcia interrupted him.”He goes, ‘You want a halve?'” Fowler said. “I’m like, ‘What? What is he saying?’ He goes, ‘You want a halve? Excuse me?’ ‘Do you want a halve? Halve the hole?'” Fowler took the halve, also conceding the Spaniard’s 7-footer, and went on to rally for a 1-up victory at Dove Mountain.”I’m thinking in my head that, ‘I kind of want to just play it out there, but I’d be stupid not to take a halve. I’m twice the distance he is.'” Fowler said. “I really didn’t feel like it changed the flow of the match. He goes and makes birdie on 8 and goes 3 up.”Garcia made the gesture after feeling guilty about taking a long time to make two drops away from bees on the previous hole.”This is a gentleman’s game, and lately it hasn’t felt like it’s been like that,” Garcia said. “This is the way I was brought up by my dad. … I felt like my drop on 6 took too much time. If I would have been in his position, I would not have enjoyed waiting so long.”I thought it was the only thing I could do on 7 to make myself feel better and not feel guilty.”Fowler was OK with the time Garcia took on the drops on No. 6.”I wanted him to feel comfortable about the shot,” Fowler said. “There were quite a few bees around the sprinkler head, and his ball was probably a pace from it. It wasn’t exactly a safe situation.”The players are friends.”I’ve gotten to know Sergio quite a bit over the last year,” Fowler said. “We’ve had a lot of fun playing together. We did out there today, as well. … Just with feeling guilty about something and being able to get it off your chest, it definitely makes you feel better. I know that’s why he did it.”Fowler won Nos. 9 and 10 with birdies to cut Garcia’s lead to 1 up, and made another birdie on No. 11 for a halve.The American missed a chance to pull even on No. 14 when they halved with bogeys, and escaped No. 15 with a halve after Garcia missed a 5-foot birdie putt. On the short 15th, Fowler drove under a Buckhorn Cholla and played his second shot from his knees. He advanced the ball 25 yards and chipped to 5 feet for par.”I was just trying to make 4 and make him make 3,” Fowler said. “He did miss some short putts on 14 and 15. If he makes those, it’s probably a different story. I was able to hang around and made a few good putts coming in.”Fowler took the lead on the par-3 16th, holing a 15-foot birdie putt.They halved the 17th with pars, and Fowler won with a 4-foot birdie putt on No. 18.Fowler’s 95-yard wedge shot from the 18th fairway bounced onto the ridge above the hole and had just enough spin to catch the slope and trickle down.Garcia’s 140-yard shot from the left rough lacked spin and ended up on the top of the ridge. He missed from 18 feet, the same distance Fowler had on the conceded putt. Garcia was asked if he regretted the long conceded putt.”No, not at all. I don’t regret it at all,” Garcia said. “He played much better than me on the last 10 holes and he deserves a win.”Fowler will face Jim Furyk in the quarterfinals. Furyk beat Harris English 1 up.
Well this is fun.The Miami Marlins played the Boston Red Sox in a spring training game on Thursday. The Marlins charged fans premium ticket prices for a preseason game against “the reigning World Series Champions.” No harm in that, right?Wrong.You see, the team that took the field for the Red Sox was made up of just two players with MLB experience. Basically, it was a minor league team. Now, this is not all that uncommon. Spring training rosters are filled with minor leaguers. But Major League Baseball guidelines asks that spring training lineups have at least four regular players inserted every game. The Marlins were outraged. How dare the Red Sox do this to such a proud franchise.Boston GM Ben Cherington apologized to the Marlins and MLB, but team owner John Henry was clearly not on board.He thinks it should be the Marlins who apologize. They should apologize for their regular season lineup.— John W. Henry (@John_W_Henry) March 8, 2014Ooh, sick burn!Henry should know that the Marlins take spring training very seriously.It’s the only time of the year the team has any hope of making the postseason.
is scheduled to undergo an MRI exam on his left ankle Friday, which should determine the next step in his rehab from offseason surgery.Some fantasy baseball owners, however, aren’t waiting on the results to pass judgment. Take my H2H league, for example. We’ve advanced to Round 6 in our slow draft, and Kemp — ranked No. 23 in the Fantasy Source Top 300 — is still available. That doesn’t seem like proper treatment for a player who was one home run away from a 40/40 season in 2011. Why have owners lost that faith in Kemp? What is the hangup?Health is the No. 1 issue. Kemp likely won’t play in the season-opening series against the Diamondbacks in Australia on March 22-23. Padres sleeper | Latest Podcast | Join Fantasy SourceKemp has missed 145 games the past two seasons because of five DL stints. Those injuries include both hamstrings, his left shoulder his right knee and left ankle bone. Does anybody else have a sudden urge to play “Operation” — the wacky, doctor game where you are the wacky doctor?Those injuries have affected Kemp’s counting statistics. We mentioned his 39-homer, 40-stolen base season in 2011. He has totaled 29 homers and 18 stolen bases in the two seasons since. If Kemp isn’t running, then he isn’t helping your Roto team. Still, Kemp teased us with that 40/40 season, and keep in mind only four players — (1988), (1996), (1998) and (2006) — have 40/40 seasons. Like those guys, Kemp can aggravate fans. Like those guys, Kemp does have special talent when healthy.That explains why he’s ranked so high in our Top 300. He’s not going to be drafted in the second round; Kemp fell to the middle of the third round in our latest Experts League Mock. It’s reasonable for Kemp to fall to the fourth round, and in some leagues the fifth.In Round 6, however, Kemp has to come off the board. Do you trust him to stay healthy?
The Dallas Cowboys are releasing defensive end DeMarcus Ware, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram was first to report on Tuesday. The decision to let Ware go was made right before the kickoff of the NFL free-agent signing period at 4 p.m. ET, and confirmed by ESPN’s Ed Werder.The cowboys are releasing ware , per source— Clarence Hill (@clarencehilljr) March 11, 2014The Cowboys were trying to work with Ware to adjust his salary cap hit for 2014. He was set to count $16 million against the cap, but releasing him saves the Cowboys $7.4 million. The 31-year-old, seven-time Pro Bowler produced a franchise-record 117 sacks in his nine years with Dallas, the first eight as outside linebacker in a 3-4. He’s the leading pass rusher in the history of the Cowboys’ proud franchise. “A decision like this, involving a man who is a cornerstone player in the history of your franchise, is extremely difficult,” said Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones. “After meeting this afternoon, DeMarcus and I agreed on an understanding that would allow him to explore the options he will have for the 2014 season and beyond. We were also in very strong agreement that playing for the Dallas Cowboys would be one of the options we would both be exploring.”DeMarcus Ware, through his performance on the field and his outstanding character, is someone who is held in the highest regard within the Dallas Cowboys family. He is worthy of our greatest respect, and we want what is best for him and his family.”In 2010, Ware led the NFL in sacks with 15 1/2 znd had 19 1/2 the following year, but with injuries this season and while playing on the worst defense in the NFL, Ware’s productivity slipped this season.
We all hate saves, but we all need saves. It’s the biggest catch-22 in fantasy baseball and, perhaps, life.It wouldn’t be so bad if every team had a distinguished closer who stayed in that role through at least April, but we don’t even know who’s going to open the season in the ninth inning for several teams. As a result, it’s tough knowing when — and which — RPs to draft in the middle and late-middle rounds. Here’s the latest on the closer jobs that are still up for grabs:: 30 Sleepers | Podcast: OF preview | Join Fantasy Source: Tommy HunterIn the mix: Darren O’Day, Ryan Webb, maybe others: Hunter has been considered the frontrunner all spring, and despite giving up two homersin three innings so far, he still has that distinction. He might have dodged a bullet whenchose to sign elsewhere, aswas being rumored as a possible ninth-inning candidate. Right now, it looks like Hunter’s job to lose.: Nate Jones: Daniel Webb, Matt Lindstrom, Mitchell Boggs: Jones got a late start in the spring because of a strained glute, but so far so good for the fireballing righty. Lindstrom is dealing with a sore oblique, Boggs might not really be a serious contender after his disastrous 2013, and Webb only has 11.1 major league innings under his belt, so Jones would have to implode to lose this gig before the season opens.: LaTroy Hawkins: Rex Brothers: Managerhas already indicated that he’s not opposed to playing matchups with the righthanded Hawkins and the lefthanded Brothers, and Hawkins hasn’t pitched well in his first couple spring appearances. Brothers proved he could handle the job last year, saving 19 games, and even though Hawkins was presumably brought in to “be the closer,” this competition is probably much closer than most realize. It wouldn’t be crazy to draft Brothers ahead of Hawkins.: (Omitted): Jesse Crain, Chad Qualls, Josh Fields, Chia-Jen Lo, Matt Albers, everyone else: Crain seems like the best bet out of this group after a strong 2012 with the White Sox, but calf and biceps injuries have him doubtful for opening day. Qualls is getting the most buzz from other fantasy sites as the favorite, but that’s mainly just because he has some prior closing experience. Manager has given no indication that he prefers Qualls, so this one is a true competition. Fields is a sneaky candidate after finishing last year as Houston’s closer, but this will likely be a fluid situation all year.: Neftali Feliz: Joakim Soria, Tanner Scheppers Analysis: Feliz was the clear leader heading into spring training, but with his velocity hovering in the low-90s, managerrecently made some comments that indicated he was open to a closer-by-committee. It seems like the Rangerswant Feliz to seize the job, but with Soria pitching well so far this spring, he might quickly emerge as the favorite.Fantasy Source members can keep track of every ninth-inning situation all season with Fantasy Source’s Enhanced Closer grid:
The 2014 Major League Soccer campaign is upon us.Three months after Sporting Kansas City lifted the MLS Cup, the league is back for its 19th season. The offseason has been rather eventful league-wide, though it’s safe to say Toronto FC stole most of the headlines by adding the star power of Michael Bradley, Jermain Defoe and Julio Cesar. So has TFC done enough to win the MLS Cup? Or is another team poised to take the title? Which players are set to claim the league’s individual honors? And who will provide the biggest surprises in MLS this season? Goal USA’s Ives Galarcep, Allen Ramsey, Jon Arnold, Thomas Floyd, Keith Hickey and Seth Vertelney and Goal Canada’s Rudi Schuller provide their predictions below.MLS CUP Portland Timbers. After nearly winning the Supporters’ Shield last year, the Timbers have bolstered their roster with Argentine veterans Gaston Fernandez and Norberto Paparatto. Seattle Sounders. The offseason moves have been very good for building a different type of team, one suited to bringing out the best in Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins, and the club’s biggest stars will play with a point to prove. Sporting Kansas City. Battle-tested and with one more year of experience, Kansas City looks ready to repeat as champion. Portland. The Timbers were one of the league’s best teams last year and they have only gotten better. Diego Valeri and Will Johnson will pull the strings en route to a title. Seattle. An early lack of chemistry and the loss of Dempsey and Brad Evans to World Cup duty will put the Supporters’ Shield out of reach, but this team has the talent to put it all together come playoff time. Portland. The Timbers went from being one of the worst teams in 2012 to a hair off the Shield in 2013. Moreover, their playing style is one that lets them control games. Portland. The Timbers didn’t lose much, and more than made up for it by adding Fernandez, Paparatto and Caleb Porter favorite Steve Zakuani.SUPPORTERS’ SHIELD Sporting Kansas City. The MLS Cup champions have continuity on their side heading into the new season. Portland Timbers. The Timbers won’t be hit as hard by the World Cup as the other contenders and should have a consistent run throughout the season. Portland. The Timbers under Caleb Porter are a model of consistency and I see that as the key in a World Cup year. Portland. (See my answer above.) Portland. The deeper and more balanced Timbers will be the most reliable team in MLS this season. Portland. There is a minor question mark over the offense, but the Timbers are probably the best unit in MLS, and it might not even be close. Should be the hardest team to beat. Portland. The Timbers will pick up so many points at home that they just need to be decent on the road to be a Shield contender.SURPRISE CONTENDER Vancouver Whitecaps. The acquisitions of Matias Laba and Pedro Morales should help offset the unexpected sale of Camilo Sanvezzo. Toronto FC. For a team that has never made the playoffs, expectations are very high — and with good reason. TFC is a contender in the East in my mind, and that is somewhat surprising given the club’s history. Philadelphia Union. Given the amount of money that TFC spent, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that it’ll contend. As for the Union, they’re putting together a good team that could sneak into the playoffs and do some damage. Chivas USA. Oh, for the title? New England Revolution. Chivas USA will be heaps better, but it’s the Revs who can go for a deep playoff run with an attacking group that includes Kelyn Rowe, Lee Nguyen, Diego Fagundez and Teal Bunbury. Philadelphia. The Union almost made the playoffs last year despite a patchy roster. After filling those holes with Maurice Edu, Cristian Maidana, Vincent Nogueira, Austin Berry and Andre Blake, this team can compete in the East. New England. This will be a rebuilding year for a lot of Eastern Conference sides, but the Revs had a good core and some of the brightest talents in the league. They should be in better shape than most thanks to that continuity. FC Dallas. This is a tough one, as there aren’t a ton of options, but I’ll go with FCD. I like the Hendry Thomas acquisition to strengthen the midfield, and the Matt Hedges-George John center back pairing is one of the league’s best.MOST VALUABLE PLAYER Robbie Keane. The best player in the league, with fewer international dates to worry about and a stronger supporting cast of attackers in LA, should dominate. Michael Bradley. One of the main reasons Toronto should contend in the East. He’ll be the best box-to-box midfielder in the league and will get plenty of media attention in a World Cup year. Diego Valeri. The catalyst behind everything that Portland does offensively, Valeri this year will really make MLS his own. Valeri. The best player on the best team. If the Argentine can stay healthy, it will be tough to keep him from keeping Caleb Porter’s machine running well. Bradley. Much of the credit for TFC’s inevitable turnaround will rightfully go to Bradley, who immediately becomes the most complete player in MLS. Darlington Nagbe. Valeri is the obvious answer, but Nagbe is a much more intriguing prospect — one who could blossom into an MLS superstar. Keane. Think of this as his lifetime achievement award. He could (should) have won last season. With another standout 2014, it could finally be his year.GOLDEN BOOT Jack McInerney. He went through some growing pains in 2013, but with a revamped Union midfield creating more chances, McInerney should have a breakout season. Jermain Defoe. Here’s the other reason TFC should be a contender. The World Cup won’t get in the way of Defoe scoring goals all summer, plus he’s a forward who can get his own shot and doesn’t really need great service all the time to score. Defoe. It may take him a few games to adjust, but once he does he’ll prove lethal. The only drawback is that he might miss time as a bench player for England. Robbie Keane. With other high-powered attacks sharing the goals, Keane makes good on his recently signed contract extension and takes the league by storm again. Keane. Lighter international obligations and an improved Galaxy attack mean Keane will put up even bigger numbers in 2014. Keane. The Galaxy might be over-reliant on the veteran Irishman in 2014. Not so great for the team as a whole, perhaps, but he’ll continue to thrive as the focal point. Chris Wondolowski. The Earthquakes striker will be motivated to put a subpar (by his standards) 2013 behind him and make one last statement that he deserves a spot on the World Cup team.DEFENDER OF THE YEAR Matt Besler. Should only continue to improve with more international experience, and he now has a captain’s armband to live up to in Kansas City. Besler. Not only is Besler a high-quality player, he has help all around him and, like Bradley, will gain plenty of attention in a World Cup year. Besler. He was the rock of last year’s MLS-best defense, and there’s no reason not to expect him to maintain his high standard. Besler. Europe will continue calling Besler’s name after he excels in the World Cup. Norberto Paparatto. The Portland newcomer provides stability to what will become the league’s top defense in 2014. Aurelien Collin. Collin and Besler comprise the best defensive partnership in MLS, but Collin is way more fun. And he won’t miss any games because of the World Cup. George John. Always an underrated MLS performer, the Dallas center back could get his due in 2014 as other top candidates Omar Gonzalez and Besler head to the World Cup (and maybe Europe).GOALKEEPER OF THE YEAR Jaime Penedo. Showed in his late-season arrival in 2013 that he can be special. Should thrive behind LA’s solid defense. Tally Hall. He’s been very good since taking over in Houston and that should continue in 2014. Stefan Frei. One of the nicest guys in the league finally gets to show why he was rated so highly by TFC so many years ago, and Seattle benefits. Penedo. He’ll be given a bit to do with the Galaxy defense looking shaky, but after getting a full preseason with LA, the Panamanian keeper will show he’s the league’s best. Nick Rimando. The Real Salt Lake shot stopper somehow still hasn’t won this honor. Voters will amend their past mistakes this year. Rimando. Maybe the league’s best-ever keeper, he’s more than due for an individual accolade. Clint Irwin. A breakout star in 2013, Irwin will continue to improve in Colorado and push for national team status in 2014.COACH OF THE YEAR Oscar Pareja. With some good attacking pieces to work with, Pareja should be able to lead FC Dallas back to the playoffs. Ryan Nelsen. Again with the TFC picks. But with the club going from “never made the playoffs” to “contender in the East,” it seems logical Nelsen will get plenty of credit. Pareja. Dallas fell off a cliff in the second half of 2013, and Pareja could get the team to maintain its form throughout the season. Jay Heaps. Heaps has a young group that he’ll be able to steer to Eastern Conference glory. That’s enough for him to earn top honors. Sigi Schmid. The veteran coach will reward the Sounders’ faith by implementing an attractive system and leading his club to a high playoff seed. Caleb Porter. His team will not only win trophies, it will do so with unmatched style. Pareja. Pareja has shown he’s one of the best young coaches in the league, and he’ll be up for this award if he can get FCD into the playoffs after a rough 2013.NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR Gaston Fernandez. The Argentine forward should fit right into Portland’s system and thrive under Caleb Porter. Jermain Defoe. He is a good player and, more importantly, he’ll get plenty of goals, which will make him look better on paper than anybody else. Defoe. If he wins the Golden Boot then he has to win this too, right? Fernandez. Ryan Johnson scored nine goals for the Timbers last season. No disrespect to the Jamaican, but the former River Plate and Estudiantes man is a noticeable upgrade. Defoe. It’s hard to imagine Defoe not putting up big numbers, especially when considering the pieces TFC brought in around him. Defoe. Still a quality goalscorer, he’ll have the name recognition and the stats to make people pay attention. Defoe. No way he doesn’t hit double-digit goals. He’s too quick, too crafty and too good of a finisher. COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE YEAR Jay DeMerit. The Vancouver center back should step right in and reclaim his place as a force in the Vancouver defense. Marco Pappa. A literal comeback to MLS for a player who is silky smooth on the ball and will be playing with two of the best attacking players in the league, the best holding midfielder in the league and a U.S. national team regular. Sounds like a good comeback to me. Dwayne De Rosario. Back in his hometown, De Ro will be asked to provide a spark as the first man off the bench for Toronto. It’s a role he’s perfect for these days, allowing him to shake off a dreadful 2013 campaign. DeMerit. The Whitecaps defender will return from injury to anchor an improved Whitecaps squad. Pappa. After a rough stint abroad, Pappa will slide perfectly into a flank role in Seattle’s diamond midfield and get back on track while taking some playmaking pressure off Clint Dempsey. Maurice Edu. After a rough ending in Europe, Edu will have a soft landing with a Philly team perfectly suited for him. DeMerit. You can never count him out. After missing most of 2013 with a with a torn Achilles tendon, the veteran is back to full health, and ready to lead Vancouver’s back line again.ROOKIE OF THE YEAR Harrison Shipp. After winning a College Cup, the Chicago homegrown player should enjoy a smooth transition to the pros. Tesho Akindele. How can you not pick a guy from the Colorado School of Mines? Andre Blake. The Philadelphia rookie should wrestle the No. 1 shirt from Zac MacMath relatively early in the season and will become a big part of the Union’s turnaround. Shipp. I was on a radio show with this guy, and he was really nice. He’s also a talented player who can boost the Fire’s attack. Blake. Expect the Jamaican to win the starting job early and become a stabilizing presence behind a young Union back line. Steve Birnbaum. This year has a pretty mediocre draft class, but the highly regarded defender should get decent minutes alongside some toughened MLS vets. Tommy Thompson. I’m not confident that any rookie is going to start, but I’ve been hearing good things about San Jose’s Thompson, who is a creative attacking midfielder.BREAKOUT PLAYER Luis Gil. The RSL midfielder has improved gradually and should be poised to take on a bigger role with the reigning West champions. Jalil Anibaba. He’s a really nice fit in a Seattle team that should be very good. Could work well on the flank. Jonathan Osorio. Scored five goals playing in central midfield for the offensively challenged 2013 Toronto side, and now he gets to start alongside Michael Bradley and Jermain Defoe. Diego Fagundez. The Uruguayan-American will dazzle fans and destroy defenders in his last season before moving to a big European club and joining the Uruguay national team. OK, maybe not the latter, but definitely the former. Mauro Diaz. With David Ferreira gone, the diminutive Argentine playmaker will seize the midfield reins and thrive in Oscar Pareja’s 4-3-3 system. Fagundez. The kid is the real deal, and 2014 could see him make the jump from prodigy to bona fide star. Maximiliano Urruti. With Ryan Johnson gone, Urruti will have a chance to shine in Portland in his first full MLS season.
Some visitors to the Rangers’ Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas, showed that they are disgustingly lazy and disrespectful.Outside the ballpark is a statue dedicated to Shannon Stone. You might remember Stone’s tragic story.In July 2011, Stone fell to his death at the park after losing his balance while trying to catch a ball that outfielder Josh Hamilton had tossed to Stone’s 6-year-old son.The news of the tragedy rocked the entire major league.That winter, the Rangers announced they would be erecting a statue in remembrance of Stone outside the home plate entrance of the park.In the days and months since, it seems that statue has become a trash can and a dumping ground for cans and bottles.A picture that circulated Reddit on Monday showed hundreds of empty cans, Solo cups and bottles piled on top of the memorial by people either too lazy to find a trash can or unwilling to lose their place in line to act like a respectable human being.(Photo from Twitter)It’s unclear whether this is a recent photo, but it matters not.This behavior is absolutely unacceptable and disrespectful to not only the Stone family, but the entire Rangers fanbase.Some have raised the point that perhaps it’s a tribute to Stone; however, the statue’s proximity to the park’s entrance gates would seem to imply that this was the final (yet, still laziest) resting place for items that fans are prohibited from bringing into the stadium.And if it turns out to be the case that there are no trash cans in close proximity, that would be an egregious error on the Rangers’ behalf.The photo has caught the attention of the Rangers’ PA announcer, Chuck Morgan, who tweeted Monday night that he intends to inform ballpark operations.Sporting News has reached out to the Rangers seeking comment.Thanks everyone, I will talk to ballpark operations people and I am sure this issue will be taken care of— Chuck Morgan (@TEXPAMAN) April 1, 2014Let’s hope. In the meantime, USE A TRASH CAN!”The Rangers certainly regret and apologize for the trash that accumulated on the Rangers Fans statue at the home plate gate this afternoon. With thousands of opening day fans, many of whom had been tailgating, entering the park in the 30 minutes before game time, large amounts of cans, bottles, and other items that are prohibited in the park, accumulated at all entrances. Numerous clean up calls came into the maintenance department in this period, and the club utilized a large number of employees to continually remove the vast amount of trash that was accumulating. The debris on the statue was removed in a timely manner but it should not have been allowed to be placed there in the first place. The Rangers Fans statue is a cherished component of Globe Life Park in Arlington and the club will make certain this situation does not occur in the future.”
For years New York Islanders fans have wanted Charles Wang to sell the franchise. They might soon get their wish.Bob McKenzie of Canada’s TSN.ca reported Thursday night that Wang is willing to relinquish control of the team he has owned in whole or in part since 2000. NYI owner Charles Wang in talks to sell majority stake in NHL franchise. Nothing done yet, no telling if it gets done, but talks underway.— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) March 28, 2014Curious. The club is a year away from playing out its lease at outdated Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, N.Y., and moving to Barclays Center in Brooklyn, home of the NBA’s Nets. Does Wang not see a bright future for his team there? Or, is Wang in such bad financial shape that he needs to sell? TSN.ca noted the team reportedly is losing $10 million a year and Wang reportedly has a $75 million loan payment due after this season.The Isles have enjoyed little success since winning four consecutive Stanley Cups from 1980 to 1983. They’ve made the playoffs twice in Wang’s nine seasons as principal owner. They will miss the postseason again in 2014 and could finish last in the Eastern Conference.Wang, meanwhile, has seemed content to run a salary-floor team at least until the move to Brooklyn. New York’s payroll is 29th in the league, according to capgeek.com.
Brad Keselowski has won plenty of races. Going into the weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, he had won 10 Sprint Cup races and 27 in Nationwide.But never both on the same weekend. Then came Vegas, where Keselowski won the Nationwide race on Saturday and followed that up with the Cup win Sunday.Check off another item on Keselowski’s bucket list.They were two very different races for Keselowski, who led the final 38 laps in the Nationwide race but passed running-out-of-gas Dale Earnhardt Jr. on the final lap of the Cup race.“(Nationwide) was more about lap traffic and going through that,” Keselowski said. “(In Cup), lapped traffic played a little bit of a role, but not a significant role. That one lap I was able to get underneath Dale in (turns) 1 and 2, … I got a little bit of help in traffic, which was huge for us to be able to put pressure on him and certainly not good for Dale.“But those things considered, it was definitely different being the hunter instead of the hunted, but I had fun with it both days.”There was another big difference: The winner’s purse. Keselowski’s team winnings for the Cup win was $449,048 compared to $92,995 for the Nationwide race.Here’s a look at the best and worst from the Las Vegas weekend:Keselowski decided not to pit early when everyone else pitted on Lap 19. That kept him out front where he could learn how his car reacted in clean air as opposed to traffic. It also put him on a different pit sequence than the rest of the leaders and led to him having enough fuel at the end.David Ragan, Kyle Larson and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. all got pit-road speeding penalties for not getting slowed down when entering pit road. Considering there were 11 penalties for speeding entering the pits the day before in the Nationwide race (and 19 overall for pit-road speeding), it would seem drivers would have been extra careful.NASCAR took several laps to figure out the restart order early in the Nationwide race when a caution flag came out with the leader on pit road. It was a good move for NASCAR not to rush the restart and risk making a mistake. And there was another benefit: ESPN2 got to run several commercials, which meant it could show more of the race action later.It’s Vegas, so we’ll go with a gambling columnist: Micah Roberts of The Linemakers (which can be found here at Sporting News), wrote last Wednesday, “the driver we think presents the most value is Brad Keselowski at 10-to-1.”After a horrible test day Thursday, Greg Biffle said: “Last year I was the fastest on Thursday, probably the third-fastest on Friday, 12th on Saturday and I was 25th on Sunday. This year I’m 34th on Thursday, and hoping that I’m about 20th tomorrow and maybe 12th Saturday and win on Sunday.” Didn’t happen. He finished 22nd Sunday. The open drivers meetingat Las Vegas. The more fan access, the better. And this track has great fan access.Nothing. What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas, right?“Locked in the Chase early. I don’t have to hear that crap all year about not being in the Chase.” — Brad Keselowski
Long before Derek Jeter became the prince of New York and the envy of many a man, there was Joe Namath.On Monday, the two got together in Tampa before a Yankees exhibition. Namath, who was a pitcher in his youth, threw a strike to Jeter before the Bombers’ exhibition. Oh, the stories they could tell …Anyway, Namath made it clear that he’s a fan of the Yankees’ captain.”Over all the years, I’ve learned to respect what teammates and coaches have to say about the guys they work with, and I’ve only heard wonderful compliments about him,” Namath said. “And then we get to see him in person, or on the television, or how he conducts himself away from the game, or off the field. The scrutiny that he’s had over the years, and I can’t imagine how the guy could be an angel like this over the years. He’s to be respected for every phase of his life it seems.”Many of us fell short in some of that, but learned to bounce back,” Namath added. “It’s human to err, and I know about that. We do our best to come back. Derek hasn’t made many errors that I’ve been able to witness.” Surrounded by reporters in the Yankees clubhouse, Jeter noted how things have changed since Namath led the Jets victory over the Baltimore Colts in the 1969 Super Bowl after guaranteeing a New York victory.”Less Internet back then,” Jeter said. “Stories go viral now.”The Associated Press contributed to this report.
GOODYEAR, Ariz. — Cincinnati Reds closer Aroldis Chapman was undergoing surgery Thursday to repair a broken bone above his left eye but has no other serious injuries after being hit in the face by a line drive in a spring training game.Team medical director Dr. Timothy Kremchek said Chapman could begin throwing off a mound in six to eight weeks, a timetable that could get him back in games in late May. The left-hander with a fastball that has reached 105 mph could start exercising and throwing on flat ground in a couple of weeks, Kremchek said. The doctor called Chapman “a very lucky guy.”Kremchek said a metal plate will be inserted in the bone above Chapman’s left eyebrow, with perhaps a bone graft as well, and will remain there permanently. Chapman has a very mild concussion but no other brain injury and no injury to his eye, Kremchek said.”He’s feeling better and he has some pain management. We’re optimistic that he is going to be on the mend,” Reds manager Bryan Price said after meeting with players Thursday morning at the team’s spring training facility. “Obviously, we’ll stay in touch. We will make sure we follow the process as we continue to get familiar with the injury itself. We will let him know how much support he has and that we care about him. Hopefully, we will see him here very soon.”Catcher Brayan Pena, a fellow Cuban and Chapman’s close friend, was one of several Reds players who visited the injured pitcher Wednesday night and spoke to him on the phone Thursday morning.”He was talking to me and we joked a lot,” Pena said. “He just wanted to make sure for me to tell everybody that he appreciate so much the fans’ prayers, especially our teammates, our coaching staff, everybody around, how much support and how much love he received and got from all of us.”Pena said Chapman was very happy when they spoke Thursday, “talking and joking. He was talking a lot about some Cuban jokes and that’s good because that means his memory is still working pretty good.”The frightening incident, widely available on video via the Internet, occurred in the sixth inning of Wednesday night game at Kansas City’s spring training facility in Surprise, Ariz., when the Royals’ Salvador Perez lined Chapman’s 99 mph fastball into the pitcher’s face. Chapman was knocked backward to the ground, then rolled on his face, kicking in pain.Pena rushed to the mound.”Honestly when I saw it I wanted to cry,” Pena said. “That was my first feeling because it was very scary. It was very scary because I saw the line drive going straight for his face, and then I saw him bleeding and kicking and moving around the way he was.”Pena said Chapman “wasn’t even talking. He was just like moaning and making sounds and then when I got there I panicked because I didn’t know what else to do. Then the medical staff guys got there, and those guys were great.”Chapman was taken off the field in a stretcher as the crowd fell into an eerie silence and the game was called off.The pitcher was taken to a nearby hospital, then transferred to Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center in Phoenix. Kremchek said he expected Chapman to remain hospitalized for a couple of days, perhaps being released on Saturday.The ball hit Chapman in one of the most protected areas of the skull, the doctor said.”If you get hit in the side of the head, that could be disastrous,” Kremchek said. “Where Aroldis got hit, you don’t want to say he got hit in a good spot because he’s undergoing surgery, but it could have been a lot worse, a lot more injuries, a lot more permanent. He’s very lucky.”The 26-year-old Chapman has a fastball that regularly tops 100 mph. The two-time All-Star defected from Cuba in 2009 and made the Reds club in his first season of 2010. He had 38 saves each of the past two seasons, with 122 strikeouts in 71 2-3 innings in 2012 and 112 strikeouts in 63 2-3- innings in 2013.Price, a former pitcher, said pitchers are in a dangerous situation, “regardless of how hard you throw.””It’s hard to defend yourself from 53, 54 feet,” the manager said. “And everyone finishes their pitches differently. Everyone is not in a perfect fielding position and even if you are there is no guarantee that you can protect yourself when a ball’s hit that hard.”Major League Baseball approved a protective cap for pitchers this winter following several terrifying scenes similar to this one in the last few years. The hats were available for testing during spring training on a voluntary basis but most have rejected them. Besides, the hats would offer no protection to the face, where Chapman was hit.Chapman particularly wanted to thank the Royals organization for its support and offer assurance to Perez that it is just something that happens in baseball and was not his fault. Pena said he also felt some responsibility.”I kind of blame myself a little bit because I could have called slider or I should have called changeup,” Pena said. “That’s your thought process. Everything goes through your mind and you’re looking for answers. … You kind of put yourself in that guilt feeling.”But Chapman, Pena said, told him “‘You know, it’s not your fault. I should have thrown slower.’ I’m the one feeling very bad about it and he’s the one that’s cheering me up. He’s the one in the hospital.”