Manny Machado answers trade, free-agent questions — in Chicago, this time

The Orioles are visiting the south side of Chicago for a four-game set with the White Sox, but the possible future of Baltimore star Manny Machado with the north side’s Cubs was all the rage Monday.

As he’s done all season, Machado defected questions swirling around trade rumors and his impending free agency this offseason.

I go out there and play baseball. I’m not getting distracted by any of this, Machado told reporters. All these talks, rumors, they’re all rumors and talks. At the end of the day I got to go out there and perform and win games for this ballclub.

The Cubs are considered a favorite to land Machado if/when he changes uniforms. At 25-19 they trail the Brewers and Cardinals in the NL Central and haven’t gotten much production from 24-year-old shortstop Addison Russell, who is batting .262/.316/.404 with only one homer run and 10 RBIs in 41 games.

By effectively cutting ties with the veteran, the Red Sox will have to eat the more than $15 million Ramirez, 34, is owed for the rest of the 2018 season. But, as The Boston Globe noted, the Sox avoid a potentially awkward situation related to his $22 million vesting option for 2019 had he reached 497 plate appearances this year, which at his current pace — he has 195 — seemed all but assured if he remained in the lineup.

The situation is an odd turn in a season in which Ramirez began as a force in the middle of the AL East-leading Red Sox’s lineup. Proclaiming himself fit after offseason left-shoulder surgery, he slashed .330/.400/.474 with three homers in April. Things have fallen off since, and yet he ranks third on the team with 44 starts and has batted in the No. 3 spot in the lineup in 38 of the team’s 50 games.

Through 44 games, Ramirez is hitting .245/.313/.395.

In short, his continued struggles, which reminded the team of his problems in 2017 and back to 2015, left him vulnerable. His defense at first base couldn’t make up for his offensive liabilities, especially with former Gold Glover Mitch Moreland also available.



Kraft: Gronkowski trade rumors ‘a bunch of hogwash’

The NFL rumor mill is working overtime in New England this offseason, churning out so many tall tales that Patriots owner Robert Kraft feels compelled to set the record straight.

As Rob Gronkowski angles for a new contract, the latest balderdash came late last week via a local freelance reporter who claimed coach Bill Belichick wanted to trade his All Pro tight end until quarterback Tom Brady threatened to retire.

Since then, Gronkowski and the organization have vigorously refuted the report.

Time will tell how strong the relationships remain among a legendary quartet comprised of the most successful owner, coach, quarterback and tight end of this century. When they descend on Gillette Stadium late next month, they will open camp, once again, as the AFC’s prohibitive favorites.

He’s doing well, coach Bill O’Brien said Tuesday, via the Houston Chronicle. He’s a smart guy. I think he’s picked up the things we’ve taught him. He’s picked them up well and I think he has a good future here. We’ll see how it goes.

Although Rankin is expected to return in time for the start of the regular season, his availability for training camp is less certain.

A left tackle at Mississippi State, Rankin was viewed by many scouts as an interior lineman at the pro level. The Texans announced him as a tackle, however, and planned to throw him into the blind-side mix with Julie’n Davenport, Seantrel Henderson and perhaps even converted guard Jeff Allen.

If Rankin is a realistic candidate to start in Week 1, he can’t afford to miss valuable practice reps as O’Brien installs a new offense that plays to Watson’s strengths.

In the meantime, Ingram said he will attend training camp and he understands the responsibility to help ensure the running back group is ready for the regular season while he serves the four-game suspension.

 

Report: Packers not expected to sign Dez Bryant

Jason Witten thinks Dez Bryant is going to sign with the Packers, but Witten was hired by ESPN to be an analyst, not a reporter.

According to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, the Packers are not expected to sign Bryant.

The Packers did have some interest in Bryant when he was first released by the Cowboys, according to the report. But after the Packers drafted wide receiver J’Mon Moore in the fourth round, wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling in the fifth round and wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown in the sixth round, that interest waned.

“For me, I use the hell out of my Adidas merch because if everybody has their style — JC’s got his streetwear, Swish has got Supreme — if you had to describe mine in one word, it would be ‘comfort,'” Larry Nance Jr. said, comparing his usual clothing to that of teammates Jordan Clarkson and JR Smith.

After going 1-15 in 2016, Jackson promised to take the plunge if the Browns finished with the same record in 2017. Of course, the Browns notoriously went winless last season.

“It’s going to be a cleansing of the Cleveland Browns,” Jackson said at the NFL Scouting Combine. “That’s what it will be.”

To sweeten the deal, Jackson vowed that, for every franchise employee who joins him in the water, he will donate $100 to his foundation that fights human trafficking.

Jackson’s jump will be held at a private location and be open to employees only.

“At the beginning of the year, we weren’t playing nearly as well as we are now because there was an adjustment period,” said Carlson.

It was a learning experience for both the veterans and the rookies.

A few years ago, the Steelers moved $4 million in wide receiver Antonio Brown’s salary from later contract years to earlier contract years in order to avoid a holdout. It did not change the fundamentals of the contract; it simply altered the pay schedule. Last year, the Patriots added incentives to tight end Rob Gronkowski’s contract and gave him a chance to earn an additional $5.5 million. This year, the Broncos did something similar for cornerback Chris Harris.ravens_006



Was Tom Brady’s “I plead the fifth” a joke?

Some have suggested in the wake of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady‘s invocation of the Fifth Amendment when asked whether he feels appreciated by the Patriots that it was all a joke. And maybe it was. But here’s the real punchline to “I plead the fifth”: By resorting to humor, Brady avoided answering.

Eventually, he called it a “tough question,” before saying that everyone wants to be appreciated by their employer. So he didn’t say yes. And this is one of those situations in which anything other than yes necessarily means no.

If there’s anything to that, it’s fair for players like Brady and tight end Rob Gronkowski to wonder whether Belichick deviated from his “do your job” mantra to allow something other than a laser-focused desire to win a Super Bowl to influence his thought processes. If the Patriots had won (and they nearly did), it wouldn’t have been an issue. They didn’t, and many think Butler’s absence from the game made the difference.

The loss has, for the second time in three years, put Butler in the middle of a Super Bowl hangover (bringing a much different fifth into play). Butler’s interception to clinch Super Bowl XLIX threw the Seahawks into disarray, and Butler’s presence on the sidelines has potentially knocked a dynasty off its axis.

During an interview on WFAN, the 37-year-old Manning said he tried to not let it overwhelm him.

“For the first time ever, I didn’t know what the future held,” he said, via the New York Daily News. “I tried not to overthink it and draw conclusions off information I didn’t know. Just had to say, ‘Hey, I have to be positive through the season, offseason, and just work out and be ready for whatever is thrown at me.’

“Obviously, I was very excited to hear news from Mr. Gettleman and Mr. Mara they wanted me back. I work extremely hard to keep my job and when you almost lose something it makes you appreciate it even more. That’s certainly the case here.”

Had the Giants invested in a quarterback with that pick, it would have started a clock that might have had a year or two, or perhaps much less time. But they made a conscious decision to build around him for the two years left on his contract, assembling what could be a very productive offense.broncos_065_bd10520178894a2b-180x180



Aaron Judge reminded Boston Red Sox catcher Christian Vazquez that he’s more than just a big bat.

The Yankees slugger showed off his arm strength and accuracy when he unleashed a pinpoint throw from the right-field corner to cut down Vazquez while attempting to turn a single into a double on Tuesday at Yankee Stadium.

Will Yankees-Red Sox in London break the NFL’s UK stranglehold?

Russell Wilson expects Seahawks to franchise tag him in 2020 More As more and more quarterbacks like Matt Ryan and Jimmy Garoppolo are signing massive contracts, the Seattle Seahawks are reminded of an important deadline extending their own franchise signal caller. Quarterback Russell Wilson has two years remaining on his contract he signed in early 2015. However, Wilson and his camp are not expecting a long-term extension once the deal expires in 2019. According to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, Wilson expects to be franchise tagged by the Seahawks, similar to former Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins in Washington.

I would say that it’s right for him to be bothered by that; we were bothered by that, Glasgow said. It’s frustrating in a lot of ways for us. I mean we were our own harshest critics, and I think that is something that we took very personally and we tried to get that worked out and I think that that’s something we will also improve this year.

Where Glasgow lines up his third season remains undefined. The Lions have touted his positional flexibility since drafting him in the third round out of Michigan two years ago, but the outside-looking-in assumption projected a full-time move to center once Travis Swanson’s contract expired.

I think I’m an interior offensive lineman, he said. I’ll play left guard, I’ll play center, I’ll play whatever they ask me to do.

The Lions added Frank Ragnow in the first round of this year’s draft. He is coming off back-to-back dominant seasons snapping the ball for Arkansas, and was considered by most analysts as the best center in the draft. Plus, his experience at guard was on the right side, where T.J. Lang is firmly entrenched.

Reading the tea leaves, it seems likely the rookie will play center and Glasgow will stick at guard.sharks-003



Snell strikes out 9, Rays top Red Sox for 7th straight win

Blake Snell worked into the eighth inning and struck out nine, and the Tampa Bay Rays held off the Boston Red Sox 4-3 on Friday night for their seventh consecutive victory.

Wilson Ramos hit a two-run homer in the first inning for the Rays, who handed the Red Sox just their second loss in 10 home games and spoiled Xander Bogaerts’ return to Boston’s lineup. Rob Refsnyder and Daniel Robertson also homered for Tampa Bay.

Bogaerts had Boston’s first hit off Snell (4-1), a leadoff single in the fifth. He went 3-for-4 in his first action since missing 15 games with a broken bone in his left ankle.

Betts doubled again in the eighth off Chaz Roe and scored on a single by Martinez.

Rays: Activated 3B Matt Duffy (strained right hamstring) from the 10-day disabled list and optioned RHP Austin Pruitt to Triple-A Durham.

Red Sox: Activated Bogaerts and placed IF/OF Brock Holt on the 10-day DL because of a strained left hamstring.

Rays: RHP Yonny Chirinos (0-1, 2.92 ERA) went 4 2/3 innings Sunday while allowing two runs on four hits in his first appearance as the Rays’ fourth starter.

Red Sox: LHP David Price (2-2) gets his third start in the first month of the season against his former club. Price pitched seven scoreless innnings in each of the first two starts against the Rays.

That’s according to Fanatics, which runs the official NFL online shop and is the world’s largest online seller of licensed sports merchandise.

The private company won’t divulge specific numbers, but a Fanatics official told ESPN that Barkley sold more jerseys on draft night than any other player in its history.

All drafts aren’t exactly equal, as marketing speed gets quicker each year. On Thursday night, for example, Fanatics started selling jerseys within minutes of a player being drafted.

The previous best-seller for Fanatics on draft night was Johnny Manziel in 2014. Because Manziel was drafted 20 picks behind Barkley, the Giants’ newest pick had a jump start of a couple of hours.dolphins_003



Gonzales, Mariners edge sagging White Sox 1-0

The Chicago White Sox experimented with an unusual 4:10 p.m. start time Tuesday, and the early returns are in.

“I love it,” Seattle Mariners pitcher Marco Gonzales said, “Talking to a couple hitters in the first inning, guys just said, `Anything that comes out looks like a fastball. You don’t know what it is.”

Seattle broke out on top against fill-in starter Chris Volstad (0-1) in the fourth when Kyle Seager doubled and scored on Haniger’s hard grounder up the middle, both with two outs.

“Definitely didn’t see the ball as good as yesterday, but it’s the same for both teams, so you got to get the job done any way you can,” said Haniger, whose streak of four straight games with a home run came to an end. “Just trying to hit the ball hard, and it squeaked through and got the run across.”

After Yoan Moncada’s leadoff double chased Gonzales in the seventh, reliever Dan Altavilla retired the next two batters before Marc Rzepczynski got the final out of the inning.

Juan Nicasio pitched the eighth and Edwin Diaz worked the ninth for his ninth save in as many tries.

Differences of opinion are to be expected, and the truth is that typically when a critic is laser-focused on one or two names that seem out of place to them, it means that they actually agree with most of the rest of the list. And there’s nothing wrong with this. It’s actually a feature of fantasy baseball, and not a flaw. If you were in a league with me and we had a distinct difference of opinion on one or two players, the end result could well be a trade in which we both think we’ve gotten away with a steal.

However, when we’re talking about rest-of-season rankings and it’s still April, there seems to be more of a disconnect in terms of why some players move up after a bad start or down after beginning the season on a tear. The reason for this counterintuitive player movement is because after such a small sample of at-bats, with very few exceptions, there’s no real reason to change our preseason view of what we expect players to accomplish.

By way of example, let’s compare Ian Happ and Javier Baez — a pair of Chicago teammates who were ranked within a round of each other heading into the season, with the following projected 2018 stat lines:

However, here’s the thing. We can’t suddenly assume that either of these players will produce at this pace the rest of the season. If we did, then we’d also have to assume that Jed Lowrie will be a .363 hitter when the season comes to a close, and I don’t think anybody out there — save for Lowrie and some family members, perhaps — believes that to be the case.jets_053



NFL Draft: The best chances from Down Under

Hopefuls from Australia and New Zealand are not foreign to the NFL Draft.

The first Australian ever drafted was defensive and tight end Colin Scotts, who was taken at Pick No. 70 by the St.Louis (now Arizona) Cardinals in 1987.

But history tells us the Kiwis got in first, with Christchurch-born USC linebacker Riki Ellison taken in the 1982 draft at Pick No. 111.

Punters almost never declare for the NFL Draft early – according to ESPN Stats & Information, only two punters who have left college early to enter the NFL draft having been selected: Bradley Pinion (drafted 165th overall by the San Francisco 49ers in 2015) and Chris Gardocki (No. 78 by the Chicago Bears in 1991).

With the Bears and Oakland Raiders in need to fill that position, expect Dickson to be a name called out early on Day 3 of the draft.

A professional athlete who stands over two meters tall and weighs more than 150kgs is rare. It’s even more rare if an athlete of that stature can run 5.12 seconds in the 40-yard dash with an arms measure of 90cm. Meet ex-South Sydney Rabbitohs player Jordan Mailata. Mailata is an enormous athlete aiming to make the transition from the NRL to the NFL.

The Pelicans went 1-3 against the Warriors this season, the win coming April 7 in a game in which Warriors guard Stephen Curry (knee) didn’t play. Curry remains questionable for Saturday’s game as he continues to recover from the same MCL sprain in his left knee.

But the Pelicans are riding high given just how dominant they performed in a sweep of the Portland Trail Blazers in the Western Conference first round.

Their optimism is largely based upon just how dominant Davis was in that series. The 25 year-old All-Star averaged 33 points and 11.8 rebounds in the series, setting a tone that the rest of his teammates followed. When asked what he expected to see from Davis in this series, teammate Jrue Holiday responded with a confident answer.

“What happened last series,” Holiday said.

Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry is trying to instill that confident belief within his team before the series begins. Like Davis, he believes that the young group is ready for prime time.

“I tell the guys all the time they should embrace this opportunity to compete against this team,” Gentry said. “Because what they’ve done the last four years has been phenomenal, really. An opportunity to win two championships and lose another that everyone thought that they may have an opportunity to win. It gives you a great gauge as to where your franchise is, and where your team is, and where you need to get to really.”jets_106



Student jailed over school shooting threat on Julian Edelman’s Instagram

A 14-year old boy in Port Huron, Michigan, has been jailed for posting a comment on Patriots receiver Julian Edelman‘s Instagram, threatening a school shooting.

Edelman received a direct message from a follower telling him that someone had posted a threatening comment and asked his assistant to check his Instagram to find out what it referred to. When his assistant found a comment saying, “I’m going to shoot my school up watch the news,” Edelman asked her to call 911. Edelman said that after the recent focus on school shootings, he felt that he couldn’t dismiss the message.

This year’s draft is being held at the Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Believe it or not, this will be the first draft held in an NFL stadium.

This year’s draft will be covered by two broadcast networks (Fox and ABC) and four cable outlets (ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN Deportes, NFL Network). For the first time, all seven rounds of the three-day event will air live on broadcast TV.

Round 1 on April 26 (8 p.m. ET) will air on five channels: NFL Network, Fox, ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes. Troy Aikman, Fox’s lead NFL analyst, will join NFL Network’s Rich Eisen and Mike Mayock at the analyst desk.

Newton’s been out since rupturing the patellar tendons in both knees in Week Six of 2016, but Texans coach Bill O’Brien said he’s been impressed with what he’s seen so far.

“I would say he’s on schedule, but I wouldn’t say that he’d be able to a ton of things this spring,” Texans coach Bill O’Brien said, via John McClain of the Houston Chronicle. “Nobody’s worked harder than Derek Newton to try to get back to where he is.

“He’s a very hardworking guy. The guy’s been in there every single day at 6 a.m. five days a week. He probably comes in on the weekends on his own. I would say he’s probably not [going to be] able to do a bunch of field work. He can, rehab-wise, but not in team periods and things like that.”

The Texans offseason program begins April 16, though it appears training camp would be a better barometer of his progress. And honestly, anything they get out of Newton would probably be a bonus, after such a traumatic injury.bills_063