Young Yankees live their dream through support of familiar farmhand faces

Clint Frazier didn’t get to celebrate the night of his promotion to the majors.

There were too many boxes to check off on a suddenly existent to-do list. The outfielder had to race back to his Boston hotel room, pack a bag and get to bed. A 7 a.m. flight would deliver Frazier to Houston, where he would debut with the Yankees on July 1.

Orioles (vs. Rangers)
Status heading into series: 42-49, 9 back in the NL Central, 5.5 out of a wild-card spot
The bright side: The window on this current group is closing (more on that in a moment), and if they sweep the Rangers, one of the teams above them in the wild-card race, maybe it’s worth a push. That Orioles’ lineup is still powerful, with Adam Jones, Chris Davis, Johnathan Schoop, Manny Machado, Mark Trumbo and Trey Mancini leading the way.

On the other hand: Their rotation is kind of awful, and it’s hard to imagine that group making a playoff push. The Orioles just don’t have the prospects necessary — their farm system is in the bottom third of the majors in terms of talent — to trade for the starters they’d need to upgrade that group, either. Speaking of that, look at the group of players eligible to become free agents after either 2017 or 2018 — Manny Machado, Adam Jones, Zach Britton, J.J. Hardy, Wellington Castillo and Brad Brach. Moving those guys now or in the offseason would provide an instant influx of talent in the farm system and greatly improve the franchise’s chances of contending for a World Series title in 2019-20. broncos_006

Patriots owner Robert Kraft says Roger Goodell is welcome in Foxborough

Roger Goodell said Wednesday that he’d return to Foxborough if invited. Well, Mr. Commissioner, consider the invitation sent.

Patriots owner Robert Kraft said in a statement to ESPN that Goodell would be welcome at Gillette Stadium. Should the Patriots beat the Falcons on Sunday in Super Bowl 51, Kraft even set a date.

Foster later retweeted several messages from U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., blasting the DOJ’s decision. The serious nature of the topic aside, it’s nice to see Foster has found a pastime to keep him busy in his retirement.

Foster retired in December at age 30 after eight NFL seasons, spending most of his career with the Texans before finishing in Miami last year. The four-time Pro Bowler finished with 8,873 yards and 68 touchdowns.

Freeman, who says he wants what is best for his future but also the team, could resort to a holdout or a trade request to land a new contract. That could be hard for the team to pull off, however, if Blank offers Ryan a massive deal.

“When Matt was being interviewed this week, somebody asked him, ‘What do you think about Tom Brady, his age, being 39 and will be 40 in August?’ and Matt said, ‘I’d like to play as long as Tom,”’ Blank said.

“That’s when I jumped up off the sofa and starting clicking my heels. We have a lot of young talent on both sides of the ball. But to have our quarterback in place for an extended period of time will be incredible news for Atlanta. Matt is in great shape and takes wonderful care of himself. So, I’m excited.”

Despite Freeman’s stellar play, he’s losing carries to the bigger and younger Tevin Coleman. In the NFC championship game against the Packers, Freeman got 14 carries to Coleman’s 11. Giving a running back in a timeshare an “elite” contract seems unlikely, but this will be an interesting storyline to follow this offseason. seahawks_102

The Lions struggled with defensive depth for a while now

Davis is a bit undersized, which will anchor him to the middle of the field rather than in a more desirable outside linebacker role. He’s at his best when he has room to move, but he has trouble shedding blockers and tends to be erased from plays when engaged with bigger linemen. That was an NCAA problem that will only get worse in the NFL.

He can be overaggressive when pursuing ball carriers, aiming for a highlight-reel tackle when simply wrapping up would suffice. He’s also susceptible to cutback runs, often leaving an open gap for runners to exploit while he gets swallowed up at the line of scrimmage. Davis brings tremendous energy to the field, but sometimes overexerts himself rather than staying disciplined.

And there are also the inevitable questions about his ability to stay healthy. In addition to the high ankle sprain, Davis missed three games in 2014 with a torn meniscus. Teammates and coaches will rave about his toughness, but there are some questions about whether Davis can be an every-down player in the NFL.

Even with those concerns, Davis projects to be a strong run-stopper and team leader, with a potentially high ceiling if he avoids those nagging injuries.

The Lions struggled with defensive depth for a while now, so Davis should immediately bolster the linebacker corps and provide some much-needed support in run defense.

The wideout showed during the 2016 season that his leg injuries were a thing of the past, regularly making big plays off explosive jumps. He didn’t run the 40-yard dash at the combine, but he did participate in other drills before doing a complete workout at Ohio State’s pro day.

“Right now, I feel completely healthy. I feel I’m probably in the best shape I’ve been in. I’m excited for what’s to come.”
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Why isn’t Chris Berman on ESPN’s NFL draft coverage?

ESPN’s NFL draft coverage will be missing a familiar voice on Thursday night. The 2017 draft will be the first in nearly three decades without longtime analyst Chris Berman behind the broadcaster’s desk.

Follow the action with our 2017 NFL draft tracker with pick-by-pick results and analysis updating in real-time for all seven rounds.

Berman was best known for his NFL coverage as the host of programs like Sunday NFL Countdown, Monday Night Countdown, and NFL Primetime. While he still has a reduced role with the company, the ESPN fixture stepped down as the network’s NFL lead after Super Bowl 51.

The network announced he would miss this year’s coverage in a statement released in January.

Take Myles Garrett with the first overall pick. Garrett is a game changer, and could single-handedly overhaul Cleveland’s pass rush, which ended last season with the second-fewest sacks in the league. Garrett had 24 sacks over his first two years at Texas A&M. He was injured last season, but still managed to notch 8.5 sacks. He’s got rare explosion and athleticism, and teams don’t often get the opportunity to draft this caliber of player. Do not pass on him.

Draft a quarterback, but don’t reach for one. So in other words, do not draft Mitchell Trubisky first overall. There’s also a rumor that they could trade back into the top 10 picks for Trubisky, which would be a bad idea. This isn’t the strongest quarterback class, and if the Browns are not in love with any of these guys, they should wait. This is a lesson they should have learned after Couch. And Quinn. And Weeden. And Manziel. If need be, the Browns could just give Cody Kessler a shot next season while the quarterback of the future develops. Kessler showed potential last year when healthy.
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NFL roundup: Russell Okung activated, Matt McGloin to start and more

The San Francisco 49ers need to find a franchise quarterback. It might not happen this offseason or even in 2018, but Kyle Shanahan knows that, at some point, the team needs to find the building block it can’t rebuild without.

The Falcons had the first Super Bowl victory in franchise history within reach in February, and the inexplicable refusal to run the ball in field-goal range — in the fourth quarter with an eight-point lead — was the exclamation mark on a devastating loss.

“That’s that fine line between ‘Man, that’s a gutsy call,’ and ‘that’s a bad call,’” Quinn said.

The Panthers offense has been less impressive, especially in the 10-point performance last week in San Francisco. Cam Newton only threw for 169 yards and had no touchdowns in the win, but has completed 66 percent of his passes at home this season. New England’s defense ranks 30th in the league against the run, so DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart could be set for a big day on the ground.
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NCAA basketball bracket 2017: West region led by Gonzaga, Arizona

The NCAA tournament’s field of 68 was unveiled Sunday night. They’ll have a fight on their hands, but Mark Few’s Gonzaga Bulldogs are the West region’s top seed.

You can check out the full bracket right here, and find a printable bracket here.

Gonzaga has had a remarkable season. The Bulldogs finished the regular season with a loss to BYU, then recovered in time to win the WCC tournament and lock in the West’s top seed. Their task now: to finally reach a Final Four after more than a decade of contending and then failing sometime in March.

The Zags have been consistent for a long time, and this season was no exception. They’ve made every Big Dance since 1999, a streak that started in Dan Monson’s last year running the program and that’s continued under Few.

Wizards forward Markieff Morris stepped out of bounds shortly before hitting a game-winning jump shot with 0.4 seconds remaining, but officials were unable to review the play because the rulebook does not permit it. Damian Lillard missed a near halfcourt heave on the ensuing possession.

Still, games are not won or lost on the final possession, especially when a team blows a 21-point lead.

John Wall powered Washington with 39 points on 13-of-23 shooting from the field. He finished with nine assists, diming five other players to score in double figures. Bradley Beal also helped pick apart the Trail Blazers defense for 26 points on 5-of-10 shooting, and Washington outscored Portland by 27 with Marcin Gortat on the floor.

The Wizards won despite a monstrous effort from Lillard and C.J. McCollum, who combined for 67 points on 26-of-50 shooting. Skilled big man Jusuf Nurkic got into foul trouble and only posted seven points and seven rebounds, though he was able to block three shots in his 28 minutes on the floor.4

The Denver offense was bogged down by inexperience at quarterback coupled with an inability to consistently run the ball.

Starting Trevor Siemian with a splash of Paxton Lynch probably isn’t what the Broncos had in mind for 2016 after winning Super Bowl 50. Brock Osweiler was supposed to take over for Peyton Manning, but left in free agency, which may have been a bullet dodged by the Broncos.

The Denver offense was bogged down by inexperience at quarterback coupled with an inability to consistently run the ball.

Lynch may be the Broncos quarterback of the future, but getting an established veteran to serve as a bridge while the 2016 first-round pick is groomed for the role would make sense.

The Broncos aren’t loaded with cap space, but could certainly fit Romo into the budget and could make it even easier by clearing $10.9 million by releasing Russell Okung.

Either way, Romo in Denver is a scenario that has made sense for months.

It takes a rough rookie season for Nowitzki to adjust to the NBA before emerging as a star his second year. His transition off the court might have been even more difficult, though. Nowitzki couldn’t figure out the postal system, didn’t know how to pay his bills, and left his apartment unfurnished for weeks. It wasn’t until Cuban bought the Mavericks in 2000 that the team hired a dietitian. Before that, Nowitzki’s pregame meal was usually a Snickers and some chips.

“He had a phone bill, and a cable bill, and I had to go show him how you pay it, and how you write a check,” Steve Nash said in a 1998 television interview.

One discovery that helps Nowitzki feel more at home was a German restaurant called Kuby’s, located in Highland Park just a few miles north of downtown. There, Nowitzki finds some hometown comfort in the German dish of schnitzel.

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Josh Ho-Sang got called up to the Islanders this week. And he chose the number 66.

Harden, meanwhile, continues to put up absurd numbers regularly for a very good team. Oh, and LeBron James is putting up career numbers in assists and rebounds, which says something considering we’re talking about LeBron Freaking James.

It’s here where I note that I declared Kawhi the victor after his transcendent moment against Houston; never forget that Twitter isn’t real and I am not an authoritative voice on anything, much less basketball. I have also in the past made the case for Harden over Westbrook, and I have been sympathetic to Paul Flannery’s argument that it should go to LeBron based on his regular season excellence and his inevitable postseason dominance.

Really, instead of making grand declarations in early March, we should appreciate how strong the four cases are and let this play out over the next five weeks.

A player whose outspoken, contentious comments about his abilities, his place in the game and his perceived mistreatment throughout his career stand in stark contrast to the team-first, me-last culture that hockey’s most die-hard supporters aim to instill? Is Ho-Sang a selfish malcontent? A problem child? Or is he just a confident kid being himself?

Good question! I’m going to lean toward the latter. But his first week in the NHL shone a gigantic spotlight on the exhausting conflict between the NHL’s ultra-sensitive culture when it comes to #respectingthegame. Or whatever.

You see, Josh Ho-Sang got called up to the Islanders this week. And he chose the number 66. He wore it all through juniors. His idol is Pittsburgh Penguins legend Mario Lemieux.

And suddenly this is a thing. People are not happy. People like well-respected NHL writer Michael Farber.
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Andrew Bogut officially joins LeBron James’s Cleveland Cavaliers

ANDREW Bogut is officially a Cleveland Cavalier, the reigning NBA champion franchise announced on Friday (AEDT).

Cavaliers general manager David Griffin confirmed the news to nba.com after Bogut chose to join LeBron James’s team via free agency on Wednesday.

Cleveland.com reports that Bogut will make about $385,000 on the contract through to the end of season – a prorated amount on the NBA veteran’s minimum of $1.55 million.

“It was a team that showed interest in the off-season in signing me. … I think my name was thrown around all season and so I know a lot of the guys on the team. You know playing with LeBron in the Olympics. I played with Kyle (Korver) and he’s one of my good friends and we still talk until today. I just feel like I’ll be comfortable here. I’ll have a significant role here.”

Williams said he’s willing to play fewer minutes to help the Cavs win, although he joked that general manager David Griffin promised him he would start.

And his signing may not be the last for Cleveland, which has expressed interest in centre Bogut, who was waived by Philadelphia.

Williams played with Bogut and smiled when asked if he had any pull in getting the big man signed by the Cavs.

“We’ve been in contact,” he said.

Cavs coach Tyronn Lue will likely have Williams run the offense for Cleveland’s second unit, plus Williams will allow the Cavs to rest both Irving and James, who returned to the line-up on Monday against Milwaukee after missing one game with strep throat.

“Our primary objective and focus remains to protect his long-term health and ability to perform on the basketball court,” said Bryan Colangelo, the 76ers’ president of basketball operations.
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NFL’s best and worst trades of the last 5 years

3Blockbuster trades don’t happen as often in the NFL as they do in the other major sports. But when they do, right around the start of the new league year is the time they generally occur — or at least when the rumors starting heating up.

This year, the early trade rumors involved Tom Brady’s No. 2, Jimmy Garoppolo, until the Patriots shut down those reports. Now, attention turns to Eagles backup quarterback Chase Daniel and New Orleans Saints receiver Brandin Cooks. Both players are reportedly receiving interest from other teams, and both could net a quality return for their current team.

It’s too soon to tell if any big names will be traded this offseason, but it’s always exciting when it happens. With the 2017 league year fast approaching on March 9, let’s revisit a few of the NFL’s best and worst trades over the past five years.

“I don’t think that’s what’s important,” Jackson said. “If a guy demonstrates the characteristics of what you’re looking for, I think it’s important to keep digging and finding out more. I don’t get concerned about that part of it, as long as that guy can do what he needs to.”

Jackson admitted it’s too soon to find out if any of the college quarterbacks can be immediate starters in the NFL, but he plans on interviewing all the top ones while at the combine. But considering Jackson’s size criteria and a lack of veteran options, signs are starting to point to the Browns taking a quarterback early.

Smart drafting and good coaching have eventually helped Oakland re-establish itself as a contender, but trading a franchise quarterback for a couple of scrap picks was one of the biggest flubs in recent NFL history.