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Brief chronicles of our sporting times.

Michael Sam’s Combine Report: Meh



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Via Bleacher Report on DE Michael Sam’s combine results:

Sam’s drill performances and athletic times were a mixed bag, as the former Missouri standout finished about average among defensive ends. [. . .]

Gil Brandt of NFL.com makes a strong point about Sam based off his performance in Indy: “Going into the conbine I thought Michael Sam was a man w/out a position in NFL. His 4.91 today might have confirmed it. .”

Teams expecting to see a guaranteed superstar in the making were probably disappointed. But for those hoping for splits that put Sam well within the “draftable” range, there is little reason to feel he’s fallen off any draft boards. [. . .]

The number that sticks out most, arguably, is Sam’s disappointing performance in the bench press. Those concerned about his strength aren’t going to walk away assuaged. Sam’s total of 17 reps at 225 pounds was one of the lowest figures among defensive linemen, better than only UCLA’s Cassius Marsh.

For comparison purposes, let’s take a look at how the top offensive line prospects did at the combine:

40-yard dash

1. Taylor Lewan (Michigan) – 4.87
2. Greg Robinson (Auburn) – 4.92
3. Trai Turner (LSU) – 4.93
t-4. Joel Bitonio (Nevada) – 4.97
t-4. Matt Patchan (Boston College) – 4.97

Bench press

1. Russell Bodine (North Carolina) – 42
t-2. Matt Feiler (Bloomsburg) – 36
t-2. Tyler Larsen (Utah State) – 36
t-2. Corey Linsley (Ohio State) – 36
t-2. Antonio Richardson (Tennessee) – 36

You can’t be a star defensive end in the NFL is you’re not faster or stronger than the offensive line.

Sam will be lucky to be drafted with these numbers.

 

Tags: NFL

Reveille 2/24/14



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Good morning.

Here are several links from the past week that will make your spring training Monday a bit more bearable:

  • In his annual list of top offseason acquisitions, Fangraphs’ Dave Cameron gives the Nationals top honors for the acquisition of Doug Fister from the Tigers:

We haven’t seen a player this good get traded for this little in years, and it’s mystifying how Mike Rizzo managed to get Fister for this price. This deal put the Nationals right back in playoff contention, and it did so for such a low cost that I still haven’t found anyone who thinks the Tigers made a good trade. When a deal is universally accepted as a heist, you’ve done something very right.

  • Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports offers an explanation (not to be confused with justification) as to why the trade, which netted the Tigers a utility player, southpaw bullpen specialist, and “modest pitching prospect” Robbie Ray might make sense from Detroit’s perspective:

A more manageable payroll was one motivation, just as it was in the Prince Fielder-for-Ian Kinsler deal. Dombrowski said that if the Tigers had kept their club intact, their payroll might have approached $200 million. Remember, right-hander Max Scherzer is eligible for free agency after this season, first baseman Miguel Cabrera after 2015. . . .

So, money was a part of it, but perhaps a bigger part was the Tigers’ desire to make [Drew] Smyly a starter. Smyly, 24, will be the only left-hander in the team’s rotation.

  • The Braves continued locking up their young talent, this time reaching agreement with Andrelton Simmons on a seven-year, $58 million contract extension, even though the defensive wizard barely has more than on year of big-league service time under his belt. SB Nation’s Marc Normandin says this deal demonstrates that general managers of today are willing to pay more for defense.
  • Brett Gardner elected not to test free agency after the upcoming season. Instead, he and the Yankees agreed to a $50 million, four-year extension with a $15 million team option or $2 million buyout clause following the 2018 season.
  • The Dodgers agreed to terms with Cuban defector Erisbel Arruebarruena. As Steve Adams of MLB Trade Rumors points out, Arruebarruena serves as an insurance policy at shortstop in case a contract extension with Hanley Ramirez doesn’t materialize.
  • After the chances of a multiyear contract had faded, Nelson Cruz settled for a one-year pillow contract with the Orioles. According to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe, this deal and others like it are of concern to Major League Baseball Players Association boss Tony Clark:

Clark spoke to the players about any issues concerning them. One issue on the forefront is re-opening the discussion about free-agent compensation, which has affected a few players who have not yet signed because teams are unwilling to part with draft picks, particularly first-rounders, if they sign a free-agent who was made a qualifying offer by his old team.

  • Bartolo Colon will be pitching in the bigs for a 17th year, but this will be the first time that he’ll start the season in the National League. Assuming the rather portly right-hander remains healthy, Met fans can expect to see the above, disquieting image, courtesy of SB Nation’s Grant Brisbee, an awful lot in the months to come.

That’s it. Have a walk-off week!

Tags: MLB

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NFL Prospect Michael Sam Faces the Media



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Yesterday was “media day” for defensive linemen entering the 2014 draft, and there was a “crush” waiting for Michael Sam with many questions on his sexuality. Via the Chicago Tribune:

Sam, attempting to become the first openly gay player in the NFL, faced an enormous media crush and a 35-question, 12-minute session at the NFL scouting combine at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Sam came to the combine with a hope of elevating his draft stock. Here is some of what he had to say Saturday as he took questions from the media.

On whether he has any concern of experiencing any harassment or torment from fans of opposing teams in the NFL:

“No, I’ve been getting all kinds of great, positive (reaction) from all kinds of fans. When I’m on the field, I really don’t focus on fans. So I just focus on my responsibility, which is the guy right across from me.”

On whether he’d be comfortable in a locker room like Miami’s, in the wake of the bullying details that recently surfaced in the Jonathan Martin-Richie Incognito situation:

“If the Miami Dolphins drafted me, I would be excited to be part of that organization. But I’m not afraid about going into that environment. I know I have a handle of myself. I know how to communicate with teammates and communicate with coaches and whoever I need to communicate with.”

On whether he’s been overwhelmed by the volume of coverage his story has gotten this month:

“I’ve been missing in action. I haven’t really been paying attention to the media, so I don’t really know.”

On whether he noticed any difference in his relationships with teammates after he revealed to them he was gay:

“No, not at all. It was the same as the first day I was there.”

But Sam doesn’t want to answer all these questions about his sexuality:

On if he wishes his sexuality wasn’t a major story:

“Heck yeah. I wish you’d say, ‘Hey Michael Sam, how’s football going? How’s training going?’ I’d love for you to ask me that question. But it is what it is. I just wish you guys would see me as Michael Sam the football player, instead of Michael Sam the gay football player.”

I get that, but at some point Michael Sam has to stop feeding the beast. For example, Sam showed up to yesterday’s news conference wearing a rainbow-colored “I Stand with Sam” pin, which helped feed the story that Sam says he’s trying to downplay. The pin made it into hundreds of stories about yesterday’s news conference. 

If Sam doesn’t think the questions about his sexuality are important, he does have the option of not answering them. 

Exit question: The Tribune reported that Sam answered 35 questions in 12 minutes. Is it too much to ask that press secretary Jay Carney, President Obama, and all politicians learn to answer questions with the same speed and clarity?

Tags: NFL

Ukrainian Women Win Gold in Biathlon Relay



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Let’s hope this is just the start of the good news for Ukraine.

AP:

Four teammates stood proudly behind the Ukraine flag, smiles beaming, celebrating their country’s first gold medal at the Sochi Olympics.

Parliament paused in the deeply divided Ukraine to mark the occasion.

After days of deadly anti-government protests, and as government and opposition leaders worked on a political solution to the months-long crisis, the Ukrainian women provided some good news with their victory Friday in the 4×6-kilometer biathlon relay — Ukraine’s first Winter Olympics gold medal in two decades.

“Great proof of how sport can unite the nation,” Sergei Bubka, the pole vault great and leader of the Ukraine Olympic Committee, posted on Twitter. “Moments after girls won gold Ukrainian Parliament stopped discussions …. Speaker greeted the team, MPs sang national anthem! It is a day of crucial decisions in Parliament. Hope the power of sport help to find unity.”

“I am very proud,” Bubka said. “The girls brought such a fantastic success, which really we needed today for the Ukrainian people, to bring the light, to bring the bright future and to show that Ukraine exists, the Ukrainian people together.”

It was a momentum shifting day for Ukraine, with Parliament voting to restore the 2004 constitution that limits presidential authority, clawing back some of the powers that President Viktor Yanukovych had pushed through after being elected in 2010.

“My country has big problems but those are very good results for the people in Ukraine,” Volodymyr Brynzak, president of Ukraine’s biathlon federation and vice-president of the national Olympic committee, told The Associated Press. “Today’s victory in Parliament and now by the team in this competition, it is two victories for Ukraine today.”

The rest here.

 

Tags: Olympics

Desde aquí apoyando Venezuela



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From Tom Gage of the Detroit News, who is with the Tigers in their spring-training facility in Lakeland, Florida:

In a rare, but unified display of national politics in a major-league clubhouse, the Tigers who are native Venezuelans demonstrated their support for the protesters in their country on Friday by posing together with banners, flags and slogans.

The group of 12 included Miguel Cabrera, the Tigers’ two-time most valuable player; Victor Martinez, coach Omar Vizquel and pitcher Anibal Sanchez.

Some of the players held flags on which they printed “SOS Venezuela” and “Pray for Venezuela,” but there were also slogans in Spanish that conveyed the players’ support. . . .

[Hernan] Perez said it was the group’s intention to bring attention to the protests because the people, including their families, within the country are prevented from seeing updates on television.

Former Tiger slugger Magglio Ordonez , the pro-regime mayor of Sotillo, was unavailable for comment.

More here.

 

Tags: MLB

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NFL Combine Report: Johnny Manziel



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Scouts are worried Manziel is too short to play QB in the NFL, but he has the hand size:

A week after promising he would measure “72 inches on the dot” at the NFL Scouting Combine, quarterback Johnny Manziel came up just short of the mark in the official measurement early Friday morning.

The former Texas A&M quarterback many expect to be taken in the top three picks in the NFL Draft, came in at 5–foot-11 3/4, and weighed 207 pounds, according to NFL Media analysts Gil Brandt and Daniel Jeremiah.

Manziel’s height is among NFL scouting concerns about his pro potential, although he is widely considered one of the top three quarterbacks in the draft, along with Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater and Central Florida’s Blake Bortles.

Manziel’s hand size, also important to NFL scouts for quarterback evaluations (particularly smaller quarterbacks), measured large as advertised at 9 7/8 inches.

For comparison purposes, third-round pick (2012) and now NFL-Super-Bowl-winning QB Russell Wilson from the Seahawks measured in at 5′11″ with 10 1/4″ hands

And I found this amazing stat:

Not a single quarterback under 6’0” has been drafted in the first two rounds since the 5’10” Ted Marchibroda went No. 5 overall to Pittsburgh in 1953.

Looks like Manziel will break that streak.

Tags: NFL

Bring Back the Gulag



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After the Russian men’s hockey team was eliminated from medal contention last night by Finland, an angry fan suggested sending the team to Siberia.

As the majority of the Russian team currently makes its living in the NHL, I doubt the Siberia option is workable. Oh, how Russia longs for the good ole days when their dictators could sufficiently punish such a public loss. 

Tags: Olympics

Possum Play at Phillies Camp



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Raccoons have the run of Steinbrenner Field; via a reporter from the Philadelphia Inquirer and photographer from the Philadelphia Daily News, we discover that possums are Phillies fans:

Give that little guy a contract! (And then call animal control.)

Tags: MLB

A Raccoon Invades the Cheap Seats



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In case you missed the weekend’s big spring-training news:

Raccoons are a common sight throughout Tampa and St. Petersburg, but few are known baseball fans.

Eagle-eyed Post photographer Charles Wenzelberg spotted the raccoon and acted fast to snap this incredibly cute image.

“If was a freaky moment and I happened to get it,” Wenzelberg said.

The Post lensman had been in the outfield photographing a rainbow that had appeared over Steinbrenner Field. Then a loud noise startled Wenzelberg — and the raccoon.

More here.

Tags: MLB

How Not to Canonize Jeter



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Last week here, you read excerpts from a couple of the countless accolades (and a wee bit of snark) about Derek Jeter, who announced that 2014 will be his last season in the bigs as a player.

So must we now be subjected to Salon’s Allen Barra, who constructs his straw man in an article subtly entitled “Shut up, stats nerds and haters: You’re wrong about Derek Jeter,” as if the analytic community believes that Jeter is undeserving of entry into Cooperstown? (Hint: It doesn’t.)

If one had to synthesize most of the recent Jeter coverage under one headline, it would be: Is Derek Jeter a True Hall of Famer or Is He Overrated?

Another writer, Dan Pietrafesa of the Poughkeepsie Journal, pleads with the Baseball Writers’ Association of America to allow Jeter and Mariano Rivera, both certain first-ballot Hall of Famers, to enter Cooperstown in the same year, 2019, even though Mo retired one year earlier than Jetes:

This is a plea to the Baseball Writers’ Association of America to bend the rules. It’s been done before, so do it again.

Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera deserve to be inducted together into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2019.

It’s the right thing to do. Jeter and Rivera came up through the New York Yankees organization together, won five World Series titles together with class on and off the field, and belong together on the stage in Cooperstown delivering their induction speeches on the same July day in 2019.

Yes, this will require bending the rules because a player must be out of the game for five years before being on the Hall of Fame ballot. Jeter and Rivera are deservedly both first-ballot Hall of Famers, but are slated to enter the hall one year apart if chosen on their respective first ballot.

Never mind too that the Hall and local businesses, which have suffered from a lack of star power at recent induction ceremonies, could really use a second August inundated with tens of thousands of free-spending Yankee fans?

And of course, if the two Yankee greats felt so strongly about the issue, instead of pestering the BBWAA, Rivera could come out of retirement this April to pitch to one big-league batter, thereby pushing back his Cooperstown eligibility to (drum roll, please) 2020!

In a breathlessly written love letter more than 1,700 words long, the usually sane Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated willingly ignores the shortstop’s defensive liabilities and heaps lavish praise on the intangibles:

It is true enough; such was Jeter’s natural savoir faire in and out of spikes that he is the rare person whom men, women and children all wanted to follow. But the greatness of his ability actually became underrated because of the attention given his intangibles — the way a casual fan praised them and the way a sabermetrician dismissed them. . . .

None of them match Jeter when it comes to the totality of the career at shortstop: the numbers, the longevity and the championships. Only Wagner has more hits, only Rodriguez has more runs, and, assuming Jeter plays at least 40 games there this year, only Omar Vizquel will have played more games at the position. Now when you add on the intangibles, Jeter becomes even more of the once-a-century shortstop. At the root of those intangibles are his parents, Dot and Charles. When you are around Jeter enough you cannot help but be impressed with how he was raised. In manner and strength, his reliability is extraordinary.

As Brian Kenny of MLB Network has pointed out on numerous occasions, why waste time focusing on intangibles, impossible to quantify by definition, when there’s so much good to say about his value as one of the all-time great-hitting shortstops?

But nothing says chutzpah like these three sentences from Richard Justice of MLB.com:

Jeter’s place in Yankees history will be debated and discussed forever. Was he greater than DiMaggio or Mickey Mantle? Does Jeter deserve to be mentioned in the same breath with the Babe or Yogi?

That we’re even having this conversation tells you what Derek Jeter has meant to baseball, how much he has given and how he’ll be remembered. . . .

Dude, you’re the one who brought it up. Enjoy your gift basket and leave the rest of us alone, okay?

More here, here, here, and here.

Tags: MLB

Reveille 2/18/14



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Good morning.

Here are several links from the past week that will make your post-holiday weekend Tuesday a bit more bearable:

A nine year deal means that Trout would be selling five of his free agent years. What should those years cost? This is where it gets a little trickier. The recent trend in early career extensions has been to essentially pay something close to current market price for future free agent years. Essentially, teams are buying out future inflation and paying for the right to not have to sign a long term deal that takes a player into his mid-30s, and in exchange for those benefits, the player gets something close to the $6 million per win market rate for their FA years.

Well, that presents a little bit of a dilemma with Trout, because $6 million per win for a +9 WAR player leads to a $54 million per year salary. As good as Trout is, he’s not getting $50+ million per year four years from free agency. [Clayton] Kershaw’s just-signed $215 million extension guaranteed him an average of roughly $32.5 million per year the six free agent years he sold, and while I believe that Trout will beat that AAV, we’re not going to see a leap from $33M to $50M, especially considering their relative proximity to free agency.

But as good and as young as Kershaw is, the reality remains that Trout is significantly better, projecting for roughly +4 WAR per season more than Kershaw going forward. In fact, Trout’s forecasts suggest he is, by himself, as valuable as Kershaw and Freeman put together, and they combined to sell their FA years for pretty close to that $54 million per year mark. While we could put together a reasonable argument that Trout is worth $50M per year for his free agent years, he’s not going to get that; it’s just too far removed from the norms of the day.

As crazy as it sounds, $40 million per year for those five years would actually represent something of a discount, given Trout’s expected production going forward. Even though it’s quite a bit more than Kershaw got, Trout is quite a bit better than Kershaw, and comes with less risk since he isn’t a pitcher. And the separation would be large enough that Trout would likely remain the game’s highest paid player even with future inflation, as that AAV in those years is unlikely to be surpassed any time soon.

If free agent negotiations were like a college class that let you drop your worst exam when computing your final grade, Ubaldo Jimenez would have already signed a very lucrative contract. If 2012 hadn’t happened, he’d probably have been looking at a $100 million deal. Unfortunately for Jimenez, the free agent market doesn’t work like that and he’s likely to get something closer to $30 million or $40 million.

Year IP ERA FIP
2011 188.1 4.68 3.71
2012 176.2 5.40 4.98
2013 182.2 3.30 3.62

Jimenez had excellent numbers during his time with the Rockies but struggled mightily during his first year and a half in Cleveland before finishing strong in 2013. The team that signs Jimenez is betting on the down year being the blip and the bounce back being the reality, but the uncertainty surrounding that dichotomy is keeping teams at bay. A lot of teams could use Jimenez in his 2013 capacity, but everyone would be wise to avoid him if he’s planning on returning to 2012 form.

[After this post got filed, Jimenez and the Orioles reached an agreement on a $50 million, four-year contract, pending a physical.]
 

That’s it. Have a walk-off week!

Tags: MLB

Why Isn’t Sports Illustrated’s 2014 Cover a ‘Distraction’?



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Let’s see if those in the sports world who fret over how a gay football player will be treated in the locker room expend the same energy writing about the latest cover of Sports Illustrated’s annual swimsuit issue. It is the first time in history — in history! — that the models on the cover are shown touching each other’s tushies. (Although I can see how 2006 made 2014’s cover possible.) News is being made here, folks, and the sportswriters are ignoring it:

 

Tags: Sports Media

Michael Sam and Gays in the Military



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I was chatting with an Army friend of mine today about Michael Sam and if he thought Sam’s sexuality would be a “distraction” to a NFL team based on his experience with the military’s policy of allowing openly gay soldiers to serve. His response:

From my perspective as a senior officer with multiple deployments, there’s been zero fallout.  None.  It’s a non-issue in the military in my experience.

If a gay soldier in combat isn’t a distraction to his non-gay comrades, why should a gay player be a distraction to his non-gay teammates?

Discuss.

Tags: NFL

Jeter’s Final Season



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In case you missed it, Derek Jeter announced on Facebook yesterday that this season will be his last as a player.

As Jeff Todd points out at MLB Trade Rumors:

The coming season will be Jeter’s 20th MLB campaign (though he saw just 51 plate appearances in his first taste of MLB action at age 21). Taken with the sixth overall pick of the 1992 draft, Jeter performed consistently in his rise through the system, and never looked back upon making the Yankees. Since becoming a full-time big leaguer in 1996, Jeter went 17 straight years with at least 542 trips to the dish. Over that stretch, Jeter posted a composite .313/.382/.448 line with 255 home runs and 348 stolen bases. Needless to say, his standard of consistent excellence has been matched by few others.

Even Sports Illustrated’s Jay Jaffe, who long ago took note of Jeter’s defensive limitations, still ranks him among the greatest shortstops ever:

Even if he’s unable to rebound to anything close to his 2012 form after missing nearly all of the 2013 season, Jeter has already done more than enough to guarantee a first-ballot election, likely with more than 95 percent of the vote from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. …

He would rank higher on that table above if not for his defense. Sure-handed, blessed with a strong arm (think of those jump throws from deep in the hole) and a preternatural awareness of the action around him (think of that 2001 Division Seriesflip play), Jeter was certainly capable of making plays that gave the impression he was a fielding whiz. Even so, his limited mobility — particularly to his left — meant a whole lot of balls in play that he never got a glove on, and it’s there where the metrics take their toll. …

For all of that, the entire package of bat and glove was still a very valuable one. If 2.0 WAR is an average season for a full-time regular, Jeter had 14 that can be considered solidly above average (3.0 or more), including five that are more or less All-Star caliber (4.0 to 7.0) and two more that were borderline MVP caliber (7.5 and 8.0, from 1998 and 1999, respectively). On a per 162-game basis, he’s been worth 4.5 WAR, the kind of building block any general manager would kill to have.

Naturally, the commenters at Baseball Think Factory responded with the usual snark:

I guess Jeter took a look at Mo’s farewell tour and thought “I want to get me some of that.”

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He deserves a gift basket from all 29 other teams.

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Maybe the Red Sox fans can chip in and buy him an air conditioner to keep him cool when he goes to hell. :)

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A-Rod finally gets to play shortstop for the Yankees.

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So the Mayans were off by two years.

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Is this even legal?

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Just bought tickets to the last game. I may cry.

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Note to self: Try to ignore the living #### out of baseball this season.

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I just hope that last game isn’t sometime in June or July.

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Since high school, I’ve been using the phrase “I’ll be old when Derek Jeter retires.”

…ugh.

And here’s my favorite:

Is Vegas offering odds right now on who the All-Star Game MVP will be?

More here, here, and here.

Tags: MLB

Cleveland Browns Fire CEO, GM



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Too bad Haslam can’t fire himself:

Browns owner Jimmy Haslam said this morning that streamlining the organization’s structure and setting the stage for success drove today’s announcement that Ray Farmer has been promoted to general manager and that CEO Joe Banner and general manager Mike Lombardi will leave the team.

Banner also confirmed that president Alec Scheiner will continue in charge of the organization’s business operations. Last month, the Browns hired former Buffalo Bills defensive coordinator Mike Pettine as their new head coach.

“I felt like the previous setup was cumbersome, and this new arrangement is much more streamlined and in line for what we want,” Haslam said at the 11:30 a.m. press conference. 

“I think this will work well. . . . We just took a step back. It was a normal time to do it with Pettine coming in. If we’re going to whiteboard this, we felt this was the best way to set things up.

“. . . For us to be successful, what does the (organizational) chart need to look like? Those are not easy decisions, but we feel Ray gives us a great chance to be successful in in free agency and the draft.

“We’re going to go to work, and we’re fully committed to make this organization a winner.”

The rest here.

Tags: NFL

Will Michael Sam’s Coming Out Affect His NFL Draft Status?



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Ever since Michael Sam declared he was gay over the weekend, the question in the sports-world is how his sexuality may or may not affect his draft status. For example, Rob Rang at CBS Sports seems to think it will, calling it a ”distraction” teams won’t want:

Sam’s homosexuality isn’t the point. There are gay players in the NFL now and almost surely teammates, coaches and front office executives who know about them. But by coming out, Sam turned a very bright spotlight on himself.

And the reality is teams would rather the bright lights shine on their superstars on game day. Any club drafting Sam would add distractions for players, and teams normally work to avoid any distraction.

I can see Rang’s point, but don’t agree with it. Sam’s sexuality will be a distraction if the people who cover the NFL in the media make it one. Sam told his teammates at Missouri before the season started last year about his sexuality and that didn’t seem to be a distraction to the team, so why would it become one just because he’s now playing in the NFL? 

Right now, Sam, according to CBS Sports, is ranked 110 in the draft and the 11th best defensive end in the draft which should make him a third- or fourth-round pick. And as far as I can tell, the only thing that’s dropped Sam’s prospects from a second- or third-round pick was his performance in the Senior Bowl on January 25, not his recent announcement. 

Sam’s next big challenge is the NFL combine. His 40 time and his bench-press reps will be much more important than who he dates in determining where he gets drafted.

 

 

Tags: NFL

Reveille Rainout



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Good morning.

A busier-than-expected schedule in Turkey is resulting in this week’s Reveille being washed away. Reveille will appear next on Monday, February 17, İnşallah.

However, I still bring a healthy measure of good cheer, courtesy of the Associated Press, and featuring Brandon McCarthy, his Diamondbacks, and the Dodgers.

Spring training officially began Thursday when Arizona Diamondbacks pitchers and catchers reported, with their first workout set for Friday.

On the other side of suburban Phoenix, in Glendale, Los Angeles Dodgers pitchers and catchers report on Saturday.

Full-squad workouts for both teams begin next week.

The Diamondbacks and Dodgers get an early start because they will open the MLB season with a two-game series in Australia on March 22-23.

The rest of the teams begin workouts next week at their spring training haunts in Arizona and Florida.

That’s it. Have a walk-off week!

Tags: MLB

In Russia, Bathroom Door Locks You In



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But a jammed bathroom door was no match for American bobsledder Johnny Quinn:

 

Tags: Olympics

Costas Gets Political at the Olympics



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NBC’s Thursday night coverage of the Olympics featured Bob Costas interviewing journalists David Remnick and Vladimir Pozner where the hot-button topic of LGBT rights in Russia was front-and-center. Here are some of the excerpts from that interview. In summary, Putin is much more concerned about terrorists disrupting the games than he is of public-opinion on his views on the LGBT community:

♦Olympic correspondent and Pulitzer-prize winning editor of The New Yorker David Remnick on Putin: “What Vladimir Putin wants to do is reassert Russia on the world stage and the Olympics is the greatest pop culture stage that there is.  It doesn’t happen very often.  If it goes well – if there is no terrorism, no violence and things work – for him it’s a great success, by his domestic terms.  On the world stage though, remember, he is an autocrat. He is no a democrat. He has no interest in LGBT issues or human rights, all the things that are being discussed.  He doesn’t care that you care that much.  What you may think is a downside is not of great concern to him, unless there’s an incident of some kind.”

♦Olympic correspondent and Russian-American journalist Vladimir Pozner on Putin: “I think [Putin] cares much more about how people in this country [Russia] feel about the Olympics and how they go, than how people outside this country feel about that. So if there is nothing bad — like a terrorist attack — if these are successful Games, the majority of people in Russia are going to be happy with that.”

♦Pozner on effect of the anti-gay propaganda law on athletes and visitors: “I think zero. No effect at all. I don’t see anything happening at all.  In fact, I think the powers that be are going to be super careful to see that nothing happens to any gay athlete or guest during the Olympics… Gay Russians have a very tough time.”

And here’s a Costas monologue of sorts on Vladimir Putin where it looks like NBC will go out of its way to paint Putin in the best possible light. Emphasis mine: 

Costas on Russian President Vladimir Putin: “The Sochi Olympics have been an object of fascination and controversy for months now. At the center of every question is the country’s president, Vladimir Putin. He was the central force behind bringing these Games here and was also involved in just about every detail of their planning and presentation. It’s a pivotal and controversial juncture in his ongoing effort to lead his country back to prominence.

“Putin has been a fixture on the international stage for almost 15 years as either president or prime minister. That’s far longer than any other leader among the world’s most influential nations. Just in the past year, Putin brokered a deal to allow Syria to avoid a U.S. military strike by giving up its chemical weapons and helped bring Iran to the negotiating table over its nuclear intentions. He has repeatedly showcased his confidence to take on the West, particularly the United States, offering asylum to National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden, enticing Ukraine to back out of a deal to join the European Union, and passing laws viewed as repressive to members of the gay community and their supporters. He even wrote an op-ed in The New York Times published last September 11 explaining his view of the situation in Syria and chastising President Obama for calling America ‘exceptional.’ A month later, Forbes magazine named Putin ‘The World’s Most Powerful Person,’ knocking Obama down to No.2.”

Costas’s portrayal of Putin as peacemaker in Syria and Iran is far too generous. As for Ukraine, maybe Costas should turn on the TV and see for himself Putin’s style of enticement.

If Costas thinks this cupcake coverage of Russia and Putin is going to cut it over the next few weeks, he’s sadly mistaken. Maybe some of the hundreds of sports journalists in Sochi can stop complaining about their hotel rooms long enough to do some real reporting on what’s going on inside of Russia.

The political coverage continues tonight when NBC will air Costas interviewing President Obama. Stay tuned. 

Tags: Olympics

RIP, Ralph Kiner, 91



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Hall of Fame outfielder, one-time Elizabeth Taylor boyfriend, and longtime Mets broadcaster Ralph Kiner has died, reportedly from natural causes. He was 91 years old.

Ralph slugged 369 big-league home runs over a mere ten seasons (1946–55), most of which were spent with the usually hapless Pirates. It is possible that the Second World War shortened his playing career. (According to Bill Madden of the New York Daily News, Ralph was playing in Triple A in 1943 but joined the Navy halfway through the season.) However, he retired while still 33, thanks to a chronic back condition that was affecting his play.

In 1962, Ralph joined Lindsey Nelson and Bob Murphy as the expansion Mets’ television and radio team, a threesome that remained together for a record 17 years. Starting in 1982, Ralph called games exclusively on telecasts and remained a regular in the TV booth until 2006.

Let’s be clear: Ralph could never be confused with Vin Scully, but he was no slouch either. Listening to him as a youngster in the late 1970s and throughout the 80s, I knew Ralph as a credible narrator of what was taking place on the diamond. His trademark home-run call was understated yet unmistakable: “That ball is going, going, gone, good-bye.”

Perhaps even more important, during lulls in the game he would tell simply fabulous stories covering a variety of topics: Branch Rickey, Hank Greenberg, Casey Stengel, Marv Throneberry, Ms. Taylor and other Hollywood celebrities, charity golf tournaments, dry cleaning — you name it.

Every Mets fan of a certain age fondly remembers Kiner’s Korner, the breezy, postgame wrap-up show on WOR-TV (channel 9 in New York), which typically included an interview with one of the key players from the winning squad.

And as Ralph aged, he also became known for his unwitting embrace of malapropisms. One of my all-time favorites: “If Casey Stengel were alive today, he’d be spinning in his grave.”

Gone, good-bye, Ralph. Rest in peace.

Tags: MLB

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