Rory McIlroy is doubtful for next week's Open Championship after suffering an ankle injury while playing soccer with friends on July 4. 

McIlroy shared the news on Instagram, saying: "Total rupture of left ATFL (ankle ligament) and associated joint capsule damage in a soccer kickabout with friends on Saturday. Continuing to assess extent of injury and treatment plan day by day. Rehab already started..... Working hard to get back as soon as I can."

Though the world No. 1 didn't rule out competing at St. Andrews, it seems very unlikely at this point. Were he unable to play, McIlroy would not get a chance to defend the title he won last year at Royal Liverpool.


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

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Author: Ryan Ballengee
Posted: July 6, 2015, 11:15 am

Austin Dillon's car was catapulted into the catchfence in the Daytona International Speedway trioval during a massive crash at the end of Sunday night's Coke Zero 400 as Dale Earnhardt Jr. won the race.

One fan was taken to the hospital after it appeared some debris from Dillon's car flew into the grandstands.

Junior crossed the finish line ahead of a massive pack of cars typical of any restrictor plate race. Denny Hamlin got turned around behind Junior and chaos ensued. Dillon's car got launched from the inside line of the track over two lanes of cars and into the catchfence, where it hit bottom-side first.

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According to Daytona president Joie Chitwood, eight fans declined treatment in the grandstands following the crash. The person taken to the hospital was treated and released from Halifax Health early Monday morning.

13 fans looked at in stands, 8 declined care, 4 treated here, 1 taken to hospital stable

— Jenna Fryer (@JennaFryer) July 6, 2015

Fan treated and released from Halifax Health Medical Center.

— Bob Pockrass (@bobpockrass) July 6, 2015

Replays showed debris from Dillon's car making it through the catchfence towards the grandstands. Dillon walked away from the crash and waved to the crowd. He was released from the infield care center afterwards andsaid he had a bruised tailbone and forearm.

“I am just going to be really sore," Dillon said. "It got my tailbone pretty good and my arm. Should be fine, just go ice it up and get ready for Kentucky. But just thank the good Lord for taking care of me and for what NASCAR has done to make the sport this much safer. I just hope everybody in the stands is all right. That is the next biggest concern. Just praying for everybody and glad the good Lord looked out for me tonight.”

Here's what the crash looked like from the stands. It's terrifying, as Junior said.

"That scared the hell out of me," Junior said. "I'll be honest with you. I saw the whole thing happen. I was looking in the mirror the whole last lap and I saw [Hamlin] get turned, I guess that's how it started.

"That was just terrifying to watch. You know a wreck like that has a high potential for someone to get injured and you saw the car get high and into the fence and you just worry about everyone else in the grandstands and you just don't want to see that happen."

Jimmie Johnson said he was fearing the worst after watching the crash in his mirror.

.@JimmieJohnson: "I'm shocked that Austin Dillon's even alive after all he went through. I expected the worse." #nascar

— Nate Ryan (@nateryan) July 6, 2015

Daytona is in the midst of a massive reconstruction project. Part of the project is a remodeling of the grandstands. The portion of stands where Dillon's crash was is a completed section of the remodel and is situated further from the track than the old configuration. Replays appeared to show most of the debris from Dillon's car not making it into the grandstands.

The impact tore an incredibly large hole in the catch fence and ripped the engine block from Dillon's car. The engine was sitting in the infield of the track and smoldering after the crash. All that was left of Dillon's car was the roll cage encapsulating the cockpit and it came to rest upside down at the end of pit road after being hit by Brad Keselowski's car.

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The crash was very similar to one in the Xfinity Series in 2013 when Kyle Larson's car flew into the catchfence near the finish line. Over 20 fans were injured from crash debris.

The crash will again put the focus on racing safety following the race at the same track where Kyle Busch broke a leg and a foot in February.

Is it conceivable to have a catchfence design that doesn't tear cars apart like a can opener? Is there a way to modify the racing at restrictor plate races to prevent cars from getting airborne so easily? The situation could have resulted in more injuries.

Junior had the race's dominant car. He led the most laps and his car was able to consistently drive away from the field by a couple car lengths on every restart. The finish of the race was set up by a spin by Sam Hornish Jr. and Earnhardt was able to easily hold off Hamlin and teammate Johnson.

It's Earnhardt's second win of the season. He won in May at Talladega.

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Nick Bromberg is the editor of From The Marbles on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at nickbromberg@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: July 6, 2015, 6:59 am

Sunday's Coke Zero 400 was delayed over three hours because of rain. When it finally got going before 11 p.m. ET, it didn't take long for the first big crash to hit.

David Gilliland cut down in front of Clint Bowyer on lap three. He wasn't clear of Bowyer and went spinning off Bowyer's bumper. As drivers behind the two checked up, chaos ensued.

Your browser does not support iframes. Daytona 500 winner Joey Logano was involved as his car was damaged heavily. He was ordered back to pit road after the race went back green because the splitter was dragging on the track.

Another big crash struck with more than 50 laps to go in eerily similar circumstances when Matt Kenseth cut in front of Kasey Kahne and spun as he moved towards the inside.

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Nick Bromberg is the editor of From The Marbles on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at nickbromberg@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: July 6, 2015, 5:40 am

I mostly stayed away from Zack Greinke in my drafts before the season, worried about him having to receive a “lubricating injection” in his elbow in February. But that’s clearly been to my detriment, as his consecutive scoreless innings streak is now up to 27.2, a span in which he’s posted a 0.65 WHIP. He’s also allowed one run or fewer in 10 of his last 12 starts, yielding more than three in just one of 17 outings this season. Greinke’s LOB% (88.9) is the highest in MLB, so he’s clearly been lucky with runners on base, but no pitcher with a 1.58 ERA won’t have some statistical category that isn’t fortunate compared to league average. And while that will regress, Greinke has otherwise been unlucky with a modest seven wins while pitching so well for a Dodgers team with a 114 wRC+ that ranks second in all of baseball. He sports an 11.0 SwStr% and has been the No. 11 fantasy player over the past two weeks. Greinke has been one of the biggest fantasy steals so far this season.

This disc golf shot was no joke. 

This kid’s magic skills are ridiculous. 

This attempt to cut a watermelon didn’t go exactly as planned. 

Here’s an emotional reunion by former middle school classmates between a judge and defendant. 

Here are some crazy pool trick shots by a kid. 

Quick Hits: Mitch Moreland finished June with a .323-16-9-25 line in 25 games, when he was a top-15 fantasy player. He owns a .954 OPS against right handers this season and is on pace to smash all of his previous career highs across the board...Angel Pagan’s last homer came May 2, 2014. Over his past 687 at bats, he has three home runs...Alex Wood won a game for the first time at home this year Saturday, as he’s posted a 5.18 ERA and 1.70 WHIP in Atlanta...Marlon Byrd ranks top-20 in MLB with 12 homers since May began despite missing 17 days with a broken wrist. He’s currently owned in fewer than 40% of Yahoo leagues...This slide by Anthony Rizzo was legit...The Dodgers hadn’t stolen a base since June 7 (23 games) before Howie Kendrick swiped one Friday, ending a franchise worse streak dating back to 1900. Through 80 games last season, LAD had an MLB-high 81 steals, but they had an MLB-low 15 this year over that same span. The Dodgers’ team SB percentage (43.24) is not only last but way below the next lowest (54.35). Then again, they are the only team in MLB not to lose four straight games this season...Meanwhile, Billy Hamilton has more stolen bases (41) than 15 MLB teams, which is half the league by the way...Saturday’s start marked just the second time in Matt Harvey’s career in which he walked more batters than he struck out...Kris Bryant didn’t hit a home run in the first 20 games of his major league career and just ended another nine-game homerless drought Saturday, but if you prorated his numbers over 600 at bats, you’d get .279-101-28-112-18. He’ll be a top-15 fantasy pick in 2016.

Headlines of the Week: Woman Gives Birth, Fights Off Bees, Starts Wildfire In Northern California...Is This The World’s Fanciest McDonald’s?...Man Finds $70K Worth Of Uncashed City Of Phoenix Checks In Dumpster...Study Estimates Sugary Drinks More Deadly Than Violent Crime In Mexico...Hank Baskett Says Weed Deal Gone Wrong Turned Into Orgy With Transgender Women...Robot Kills Worker At Volkswagen Plant In Germany...Man Forgets Glasses, Mistakenly Buys Winning Lottery Ticket...Man Mocks Alligators, Jumps In Water And Is Killed In Texas...Optical Illusion Makes Beautiful Brunette Magically Appear On A Blank Screen...‘Cute Black Puppies’ Raised By Villager For Two Years Turn Out Endangered Black Bears.

Quick Hits Part Deux: Taijuan Walker has a 1.68 ERA and 0.79 WHIP with a 51:3 K:BB ratio over his last seven starts. He has a 10.1 SwStr% on the year and should be treated as a top-25 fantasy starter moving forward...Justin Bour recently homered in four straight games and has gone deep 10 times over just 132 at bats against righties this season...Over the last month, J.D. Martinez is batting .351 with 14 homers, 18 runs scored and 34 RBI, when he’s been the No. 1 overall fantasy player. His 43.4 Hard% ranks top-three among all hitters this season...Here’s Trevor Bauer imitating three teammates’ batting stances during what turns out to be a pretty impressive at bat...Here’s Josh Phegley saving a wild, wild pitch...Dee Gordon uses his speed and hits the ball on the ground to get on base, but it’s pretty crazy he owns a .342 batting average with the fifth-lowest Hard% (18.1) in MLB...The Angels have three straight games with 15+ hits...Marcell Ozuna joined elite company when he hit 23 homers as a 23-year-old last season, so it’s crazy to see him get sent to the minors, especially on a team not contending. Even with all his struggles he’s hit .317/.373/.467 against LHP this season...Speaking of disappointments, I wouldn’t let Jorge Soler be a free agent in any league in which he’s currently available, given his return from the DL. There’s still a lot of upside there...Moreover, Soler’s teammate Jason Motte is owned in only 15% of Yahoo leagues, and he very well might be the Cubs’ closer. Go add him.

Police Blotter: Squabbling, Hesitation And Luck Had Roles In Manhunt For New York Prison Escapees...Woman, 88, Charged With Assault On Officer...A Woman Calls The Police After She Was Unhappy With Her New Haircut...Man In Wheelchair Allegedly Robs Bank...Man Who Took 300-Mile Cab Ride To Surprise Fiancée Jailed For Not Paying $749 Fare...Woman Charged With Leaving Son, 4, Tied To A Bush...TV News Crews Robbed In S.F.; Cameraman Pistol-Whipped.

Longread of the Week: The Most Exclusive U.S. College You’ve Probably Never Heard Of 

Quick Hits Part Tres: Brian Dozier leads MLB by a wide margin when it comes to Pull% (63.6, with the next closest being Mark Teixeira at 56.3), which is helpful considering it’s tougher to shift against a right-handed batter compared to lefties. Teixeira, by the way, is on pace to finish with 117 RBI...Meanwhile, no player has pulled the ball less than DJ LeMahieu (21.7%), which is interesting considering his 27.5 LD% ranks top-seven...Clay Buchholz’s K-BB% (17.9) is somehow higher than Felix Hernandez (17.0), Greinke (17.7), Cole Hamels (17.7) and Sonny Gray (16.8)...Here’s Avisail Garcia robbing Chris Davis of a game-tying homer in the ninth inning...Stephen Strasburg to the DL again? It’s almost as if I shouldn’t have taken him in the second round in the majority of my leagues...I must admit, I didn’t expect the Astros to have nine more wins than the Red Sox at this point of the season...Since leaving the friendly confines of Chase Field, Mark Trumbo is batting .146/.176/.195 after joining Seattle. It’s a small sample, but he’s droppable...Matt Moore didn’t have a good first start back returning from TJ surgery, but he’s only owned in 31% of Yahoo leagues, which seems low given his potential, although to be fair his velocity is a concern...It’s even crazier Miguel Sano is owned in just 40% of leagues...Cesar Hernandez has eight steals over the last nine games, and while he’s obviously playing over his head, he’s been the No. 1 fantasy player over the past two weeks and is owned in fewer than 40% of leagues. There’s hardly any guarantee Chase Utley retakes this job. Those in need of steals should grab Hernandez.

Follow Dalton Del Don on Twitter.

Author: Dalton Del Don
Posted: July 6, 2015, 4:34 am

Take a look around the league with Big League Stew's daily wrap up. We'll hit on all of the biggest moments from the day that you may have missed, while providing highlights, photos and interesting stats.

The Washington Nationals played with nine fielders against the San Francisco Giants on Sunday, but they really only needed two. Jordan Zimmermann and Wilson Ramos starred as the Nats took the 3-1 victory over the reigning World Series champs.

On the mound, Zimmermann was fantastic. He allowed just one run on three hits over seven strong innings. Zimmermann walked one and struck out eight during the contest. His only blemish was a solo home run to Brandon Crawford in the fourth inning. Other than that, the Giants failed to get much going against Zim.

At the plate, Zimmermann's battery mate took center stage. Ramos broke a 1-1 tie in the sixth inning with a solo shot off George Kontos. He would also drive in the team's insurance run in the bottom of the eighth. Ramos finished 2 for 3, with two runs scored and two RBI. He also reached on a walk.

Over his past three starts, Zimmermann has been exceptional. In 22 innings, he's allowed just one earned run. He's posted a 17:1 strikeout to walk ratio over that period. Following Sunday's start, Zimmermann now has a 3.04 ERA. After a slow start to the year, he's starting to round into form.

With the victory, the Nationals improved to 46-36 on the year.

BIG ERV IMPRESSES IN SEASON DEBUT

The Minnesota Twins have already made surprised plenty of people this season. They've been able to do so without one of their best pitchers, Ervin Santana. Santana returned from his suspension Sunday and pitched well during a 3-2 loss.

Santana, who was suspended for the first 80 games of the season after testing positive for steroids during the offseason, looked great in his first game back. The 32-year-old allowed two runs on just three hits over eight strong innings. Santana walked three, but struck out eight during the outing.

Santana left with the game tied, receiving a no-decision for his efforts. The Kansas City Royals managed to scratch across a run in the bottom of the ninth inning, saddling the Twins with the loss.

Minnesota's rotation hasn't been particularly strong all season, so Santana should provide a nice upgrade. The club ranks 18th in starting pitcher ERA and 17th in FIP, just below the league average in both categories. 

With the loss, the Twins fell to 43-39 on the season. They are 4.5 games back of the Royals in the American League Central.

PHILLIES PULL OFF LATE RALLY

The Philadelphia Phillies haven't experienced a ton of highlights this season, but that changed Sunday. Philly rallied against the Atlanta Braves, scoring four runs in extras to pick up the victory.

While neither factored into the decision, both starting pitchers deserve a ton of credit. Cole Hamels tossed seven scoreless frames, giving up just six hits. He did not issued a walk, and struck out six during the outing. 

Shelby Miller wasn't as good, but his performance was still impressive. Over 6 1/3 scoreless innings, Miller gave up seven hits. He walked two and struck out eight. 

Both teams received strong bullpen work once their starters were removed. That lasted until the top of the 10th inning, when the Philly bats started to come alive. 

The club feasted on Nick Masset immediately. Odubel Herrera and Cesar Hernandez each singled to open the frame, and Maikel Franco walked to load the bases. Ryan Howard would come through with a sac fly, giving the team a 1-0 lead.

That wasn't enough. Carlos Ruiz would drive in two more runs on a double, and Freddy Galvis would single in the fourth run of the inning. 

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Jonathan Papelbon came on in the bottom of the ninth, and managed to shut the door. With the win, Philadelphia improved to 28-56 on the year.

MATZ DOES IT AGAIN FOR METS

By the end of the season, New York Mets might regret that they didn't call up rookie Steven Matz sooner. The 24-year-old was excellent his second time out, picking up the 8-0 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Once again, Matz contributed in both aspects of the game. On the mound, he gave up just two hits over six shutout innings. Matz struck out eight and walked two during the outing. 

At the plate, Matz picked up another RBI. He already has five RBI despite making just two starts in the majors. 

With the victory, the Mets improved to 42-41 on the season. The club remains 4.5 games out of the National League East lead. 

Want to see more from Sunday's slate of games? Check out our scoreboard.

More MLB coverage from Yahoo Sports:

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Chris Cwik is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at christophercwik@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Chris_Cwik

Author: Chris Cwik
Posted: July 6, 2015, 4:15 am

The Boston Red Sox started David Ortiz at first base Sunday, and wound up making franchise history. Given his lack of experience in the field, there was considerable concern that his poor defense could sink the club.

That wasn't the case. In fact, if you were evaluating Ortiz's defense at home, you didn't have much to go on. That's because he was almost invisible out there.

From @EliasSports: Today marked the first time in the franchise's 17,867-game history that the Red Sox did not have a 1B record a putout.

— Jon Shestakofsky (@Shesta_Sox) July 6, 2015

A quick look at the box score confirms that this is a fact. (Getty Images)

The Red Sox induced just two ground ball outs during the contest. Ortiz was involved in one of them, but flipped the ball to pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez for the putout. The second came when the next batter, Jake Marisnick, was called out on a bunt attempt due to batter interference.

Amazingly, every other out against the Red Sox was either a flyball or line drive to a position other than first base. That is pretty amazing!

The fact that Ortiz was involved only intensifies the weirdness of the situation. It was Ortiz's first start at the position in Fenway since 2005

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It's not often a team can get by without starting a first baseman, but you can argue the Red Sox could have done that Sunday. Ortiz was involved in just one freaking play. 

Coming into the contest, it was looking like Ortiz's start would be the strangest thing to happen on the field. The Red Sox somehow found a way to top that, and Ortiz still remained the focus. 

More MLB coverage from Yahoo Sports:

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Chris Cwik is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at christophercwik@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Chris_Cwik

Author: Chris Cwik
Posted: July 6, 2015, 1:13 am

Robert Streb almost won The Greenbrier Classic on Sunday playing the back nine at the Old White TPC with 13 clubs in the bag. You're allowed 14.

Streb broke his putter after the ninth hole in the final round, with the head of his Scotty Cameron flat stick coming off as he tossed it toward his caddie. Under the Rules of Golf, a player isn't allowed to replace a damaged club if that damage doesn't happen in the normal course of play, even if it happens innocently, as it did to Streb. So that meant Streb, who was 9 under par for the tournament at that point, needed to find a new putter for the back nine. He chose his sand wedge.

What a great choice.

Streb made five birdies in the final nine holes, including three of his first four, to get into a four-man playoff at 13-under-par 267. The first two birdies were a combined 4 feet of putts, but the birdie at 13 was nearly 27 feet and crucial birdies at 16 and 18 were no gimmes either.

For the playoff, Streb was allowed to put another putter he had in his locker into the bag. However, it didn't help. Streb missed the green long and left on the first playoff hole, the par-3 18th, and made a bogey that eliminated him. 

While Streb didn't get the win, he sure put on a show. Better still, he can get his regular putter fixed and have it back in the bag for his next start.


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

Follow @RyanBallengee

Author: Ryan Ballengee
Posted: July 6, 2015, 12:30 am
(Getty Images)

Forget about East Coast bias, it's time Major League Baseball started looking into their Midwest bias. They can start the investigation in Missouri. 

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The Kansas City Royals and St. Louis Cardinals fared well as the All-Star Game starters were announced Sunday. While neither team dominated the ballots the way they did a few weeks ago, both came away with some solid results.

The Cardinals came away with two starters in the National League, but many of their players finished second at their respective positions. 

The final NL voting results are in for the #ASG: pic.twitter.com/hcobcPsQFk

— MLB Communications (@MLB_PR) July 5, 2015

After weeks of intrigue, the Royals wound up with four starters in the American League.

Here are the AL final voting totals for the #ASG: pic.twitter.com/wpSgfrM7zT

— MLB Communications (@MLB_PR) July 5, 2015

In the weeks leading up to the announcement, Royals fans seemed to dominate the vote. At one point, the club would have had eight starters. Rival fans came out in force the last few rounds of voting, lowering that number to four. 

The Cardinals never had the same support, though fared exceptionally well throughout the voting. The team only has two starters, but that's because hometown hero Todd Frazier beat out Matt Carpenter in the past few days, and Buster Posey surged over Yadier Molina in that same timeframe. 

OTHER TIDBITS OF NOTE

  • Josh Donaldson was the top overall vote-getter. He actually set a new All-Star Game record with just over 14 million votes.
  • In the National League, Bryce Harper led the way. Harper received 13.8 million votes.
  • The NL outfield could look different on game day. Giancarlo Stanton won't be back from his injury, and Matt Holliday is still working his way back. Holliday told MLB.com reporter Jenifer Langosch that he plans on playing as long as he can return from his quad injury.
  • Miguel Cabrera will also have to be replaced at first base. He's out at least six weeks with a calf strain.
  • The biggest snub in the AL is probably Cleveland Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis. Jose Altuve isn't a bad choice, but Kipnis is hitting .342/.421/.506 this season while playing solid defense.
  • There are a lot of deserving candidate in the NL. Anthony Rizzo and Andrew McCutchen stand out. A.J. Pollack has been really good, but has flown under the radar since he plays in Arizona.
  • Todd Frazier is the only Red to start the game, which will be held in Cincinnati this year.
  • Overall, the fans cast 620 million votes, setting a new All-Star Game record.

The All-Star Game will take place July 14 in Cincinnati. Flip on the game, and cheer on your favorite players. For the first time in a long time, that might be tough to do if your team plays on the East Coast. 

Reserves, pitchers and final vote candidates will be announced Monday. Which players do you want to see make the final All-Star squad?

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Chris Cwik is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at christophercwik@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Chris_Cwik

Author: Chris Cwik
Posted: July 6, 2015, 12:14 am

At no point on Sunday was Tiger Woods a factor to win The Greenbrier Classic. However, Woods did wrap up at the Old White TPC with a bogey-free, 3-under 67 to carry some good feelings into his next start in two weeks at the Open Championship.

“Today was a good day. I played really well today,” said Woods, who finished T-32, six shots behind the score to get into a playoff. “It’s the best I’ve hit it in a very long time. I had full control over all the clubs. I hit it great, I had it shaped both ways, right-to-left, left-to-right, I had it all on call today.”

Woods' Sunday effort -- his first bogey-free round on the PGA Tour since Round 1 of the 2013 Barclays -- was more reminiscent of the opening 66 on Thursday, where Woods appeared in almost complete control of his game. In the final round, he hit 15 of 18 greens. However, he was unable to convert most of his scoring chances inside of 20 feet. The 67 could have been much lower had the putter been more cooperative.

“I made absolutely nothing,” he said. “I think we counted up, I had six lip-outs for birdie, so this could have been one of those special rounds, I really could have gone low.”

Despite the balky putter, Woods was encouraged by his ball-striking and shot-shaping.

“I had full control over all clubs," he said. "I hit it great. I had shapes both ways — right to left, left to right. I had it all on call today.”

That and lag putting will be crucial in two weeks at St. Andrews, where Woods won the Claret Jug in 2000 and 2005.


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

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Author: Ryan Ballengee
Posted: July 6, 2015, 12:07 am

The third time wasn't the charm for Kevin Kisner on Sunday.

Kisner played his way into a sudden-death playoff for the third time this PGA Tour season and, for the third time, he didn't come out the winner. The 31-year-old closed out The Greenbrier Classic with 6-under 64, including a 4-under back nine, to wind up as part of a four-man playoff at the Old White TPC at 13-under 267 along with David Hearn, Danny Lee and Robert Streb. 

However, on the first playoff hole, Kisner's tee shot to the par-3 18th went long and into deep rough. It took him a pair of tries just to make decent contact with the ball. On the green in three shots, Kisner was out of it. With a par on the second playoff hole, Danny Lee had won his first PGA Tour event.

Unfortunately, the loss comes with a somewhat unwanted distinction. Kisner is the first active PGA Tour player to have lost three playoffs in a single season. Four players -- Steve Elkington in 1992, Sergio Garcia in 2008, Bill Haas and Webb Simpson in 2011 -- found their way into a trio of playoffs in a single year, but all went 1-2. Kisner previously lost in overtime to Jim Furyk at the RBC Heritage and Rickie Fowler at The Players.

While Kisner is still looking for that breakthrough PGA Tour win, he chose to take the optimistic view that he will eventually find his way to the winner's circle if he keeps getting himself in position to take the trophy.

"It's tough to win out here, man. I've had a heckuva year," he said. "If I keep playing like this, I'll get plenty of wins."


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

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Author: Ryan Ballengee
Posted: July 5, 2015, 11:48 pm

As of publishing, there are 23 players who have elected salary arbitration proceedings to drive their contract negotiations. Only restricted free agents can opt-in to the hearings.

(For the first time in what feels like ages, Ryan O'Reilly and P.K. Subban are not listed.)

From the NHLPA, here's a list of the lucky contestants:

Arizona Coyotes
Mikkel Boedker
Phil Samuelsson
Brendan Shinnimin
 
Buffalo Sabres
Phil Varone
 
Calgary Flames
Lance Bouma
Paul Byron
Josh Jooris
 
Colorado Avalanche
Andrew Agozzino
Mathew Clark
 
Detroit Red Wings
Gustav Nyquist
 
Minnesota Wild
Erik Haula
 
Nashville Predators
Taylor Beck
Craig Smith
Colin Wilson
 
New Jersey Devils
Eric Gélinas
Adam Larsson
 
New York Rangers
Derek Stepan
 
Ottawa Senators
Alex Chiasson
Mike Hoffman
 
Philadelphia Flyers
Michael Del Zotto
 
St. Louis Blues
Magnus Paajarvi
 
Washington Capitals
Braden Holtby
Marcus Johansson

There are some heavy hitters on this list. Players and teams can continue to negotiate contracts up until the day of the arbitration hearing date (sometime between July 20 to August 4). Conventional wisdom is to try to avoid the actual proceeding because things can get ugly.

Each side puts in a contract number they think is reasonable, and a neutral third party hears why the number is or isn't justified.

Usually the player wants more than the team is willing to hand over. From there, the club puts up a 'this is why you suck' argument as to why they shouldn't pay what the asking price is. Hurt feelings taken away from this hearing (yes, it happens) can impact a player's decision as to if he wants to resign with the team when he hits unrestricted free agent status in the future.

Clubs have until July 6th at 5:00pm EST to declare if they are going to initiate arbitration proceedings with RFAs not listed here. Under the current CBA, a player can only go to club-elected arbitration once in their entire career.

(Read The Score's piece on the process from last summer for more detailed information.)

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Jen Neale is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email her at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow her on Twitter! Follow @MsJenNeale_PD.

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Author: Jen Neale
Posted: July 5, 2015, 10:22 pm

New York Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul will become the cautionary tale of not playing with fireworks.

Pierre-Paul, the Giants’ star defensive end who was given the franchise tag this offseason, reportedly suffered a severe hand injury during a fireworks accident on the Fourth of July holiday.

Andy Slater, a radio host in Miami for 930-AM WINZ, broke the news. Pierre-Paul was born in Deerfield Beach in South Florida and went to the University of South Florida. The report was confirmed by a few other outlets. TMZ later reported the injuries were to “some of his fingers and his thumb.” The injury happened while he was trying to light fireworks and he was treated at a hospital, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network said. ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported the injuries might not be career threatening, and Pierre-Paul might not miss any games as he awaited more clarity from the doctors.

Pierre-Paul has not signed his franchise tender, which is worth about $14.8 million. Pierre-Paul did not attend mandatory minicamp in June, hoping for a long-term deal. The New York Daily News said the Giants technically could rescind the franchise offer, making Pierre-Paul a free agent, but added that is "a highly unlikely move."

Pierre-Paul has 42 career sacks, including 12.5 last season. He’s just 26 years old, and a big-time athlete who is one of the best pass rushers in the NFL when he’s on. He has been a little inconsistent in his career, but he should be just entering his prime and is the cornerstone of the Giants defense.

The Giants and Pierre-Paul now wait to see if his fireworks mishap will affect his career.

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdown.corner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: July 5, 2015, 9:24 pm

The Chronicles of Stanley is an occasional series this summer that tracks the Chicago Blackhawks as they each get their special alone time with the Stanley Cup.

Did you know Scott Darling is the first Chicago-area raised player to win the Stanley Cup? True story.

Chicago's backup goaltender is from Lemont, Illinois, about 40 minutes (according to Google Maps) outside of the city. He was given the honor of being the first Blackhawks player to have his day with the Cup.

And how did he and his loved ones celebrate the championship? By getting tattoos, of course.

Prior to Lord Stanley's arrival, Darling went to Michael Figueroa at Spider Tattooz to get a large black and white tattoo commemorating the win. Also included in the drawing of the Cup and the Chicago skyline is a 'CR' in honor of the Blackhawks late assistant equipment manager Clint Rief who passed away during the season.

Check out the final product that took four hours to complete (via WGN):

Courtesy of WGN

Darling's tattoo is epic, but it's the surprise ink that made the celebration even better.

Unbeknownst to the netminder, the night before the party in Lemont, Darling's dad, Scott Darling Sr., went to Figueroa and had a tattoo of his own put on his forearm; one of his son lifting the holy grail. Dad unveiled the art to his son prior to the start of the festivities.

Courtesy of Mike Bolt/Hockey Hall of Fame

Mr. Darling is following the footsteps of proud fathers before him. Last summer, Tyler Toffoli's dad etched the Kings victory into his arm forever.

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Jen Neale is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email her at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow her on Twitter! Follow @MsJenNeale_PD.

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Author: Jen Neale
Posted: July 5, 2015, 9:23 pm

Anybody who has played sports knows they're at risk of catching one on the nose. We've all been there. Whether it's a ball, an elbow, a hockey stick, another elbow, a forehead or another person's fist, all it takes is that one direct shot to ruin your day.

With that in mind, it's not unusual to see an athlete sporting a bloody nose. However, in the instance of New York Mets ace Matt Harvey, who was spotted bleeding from the nose during his start against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Saturday, it was unusual because he wasn't on the receiving end of any intended or unintended physical violence.

Bloody nose Harvey again #mets pic.twitter.com/EjeTOoA7ib

— Earl (@EarlTSB) July 4, 2015

That was the scene during the second inning. It's actually the second time Harvey has experienced a nose bleed in the middle of a game. Back on May 7, 2013, Harvey pitched through a more noticeable nose bleed en route to his best major-league start — nine scoreless innings with one hit allowed and 12 strikeouts. 

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On Saturday, Harvey was able to complete the inning without a delay, but the reoccurring issue had people talking and wondering what the issue might be. Harvey attempted to explain that following the game.

From ESPN New York: 

Harvey said "sometimes the weather, travel, going on long plane trips" induces the issue.
"I've had them for a while," he said. "It's something I had as a kid, and I've kind of dealt with the last couple of years."

It's not a major issue, but it's probably a major annoyance.

Speaking of which, the Mets have several major issues that are also annoying. One of those would be the team's six-man rotation, which Harvey admitted had him out of rhythm on Saturday.

"With the six-man and then the day off, throwing last Saturday and then this Saturday is tough," Harvey said. "We're all having to deal with it. It's not an excuse why things didn't go well today. I just have to do a better job of finding a way to get a rhythm throughout an extended period of rest like that."
Harvey said he might throw off a mound twice instead of his customary once between starts to try to stay sharp.
"Obviously one bullpen didn't work this week," he said.

Harvey labored through five innings, allowing three runs on seven hits and five walks. If he wants to make an excuse, we'll excuse him while also nodding our heads in agreement. It's not a matter of finding his rhythm in this set up, it's a matter of creating a new rhythm, which is much easier said than done.

There's also the issue of New York's punchless offense, which only came to life after Dodgers starter Zack Greinke left Saturday's game. They made it interesting, but ultimately fell 4-3, falling back to .500 at 41-41.

What will it take to stop the bleeding following a red-hot start to the season? That's the big question, and the Mets have about four weeks to find some answers.

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Townie813

Author: Mark Townsend
Posted: July 5, 2015, 8:41 pm

After leaving his start early on Saturday afternoon with tightness in his left side, Washington Nationals right-hander Stephen Strasburg was officially placed on the disabled list Sunday with a strained left oblique.

It's already the second DL stint for the 26-year-old Strasburg. He was making his third start off the disabled list on Saturday after missing three weeks with neck and back tightness. He'd looked healthy and effective since his return, allowing just two earned runs in 15 2/3 innings. However, one wrong move seems to have created an entirely new issue. 

Strasburg suffered the strain while making a move to field Buster Posey's ground ball in the fourth inning. He came up holding his left side and wincing, but remained in the game to throw three additional pitches. Nationals manager Matt Williams and the team's athletic trainer eventually came out to talk to Strasburg and ultimately removed him from the game. 

"I think I wanted to at least get through the inning and see if we could do something about," Strasburg explained following the game, "but with how it feels right now I think it was the right move."

There's no initial timetable for Strasburg's return. With the All-Star break coming up, that gives the Nationals some flexibility to work around the injury. However, given the unpredictable nature of oblique injuries, there's no telling how much time he'll need to recover. 

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In the mean time, they've recalled Taylor Jordan to fill his roster spot. 

The Nats announce they've placed Stephen Strasburg on the DL with a left oblique strain. Taylor Jordan called up.

— Tom Schad (@Tom_Schad) July 5, 2015

Brutal news for Strasburg, who just came off the DL less than two weeks ago. Seemed 100% healthy for the first time all season. Then this.

— Tom Schad (@Tom_Schad) July 5, 2015

Tanner Roark, who would already be starting for several teams around MLB, will move from long reliever into the rotation. In five starts this season, he's 3-0 with a 3.86 ERA. 

As for Strasburg, his talent remains unquestioned. It's just a matter of staying healthy, and when healthy, staying consistent. The former is of much greater concern to Washington right now though, and it will be quite interesting to see how much of an impact he can have on their postseason push.  

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Townie813

Author: Mark Townsend
Posted: July 5, 2015, 7:53 pm

The Altoona Curve — Double-A affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates — are hoping Sunday will be a beautiful day in their neighborhood.

For this evening's game against the Harrisburg Senators, Altoona will join WPSU Penn State and The Fred Rogers Company in presenting "A Night in the Neighborhood," a celebration of the classic children's series Mister Rogers' Neighborhood and current PBS KIDS television show Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood.

Of course, the highlight of almost any minor league promotion is the uniforms. This will be no different, especially for those who grew up watching the original program or have become familiar with Mister Rogers' collection of cardigan sweaters that he'd pluck from the closet to begin every show.

July 5th is A Night in the Neighborhood w/Daniel Tiger + Mister Rogers' Sweater Jerseys. Be ours? #NeighborhoodNight pic.twitter.com/CD8fTVlQXI

— Altoona Curve (@AltoonaCurve) June 11, 2015

There was no greater symbol of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, so we applaud the choice.

Now, if they only came in several different colors, that would be perfect.

Oh well, we can't be too picky. And besides, they're also using this promotion to benefit the American Rescue Workers. That fact alone makes it a worthwhile promotion.

Here's more from the Altoona Curve website:

For the game on July 5, the Curve will also be holding a Daniel Tiger/Mister Rogers Sweater Drive to benefit the American Rescue Workers. People are encouraged to donate new or gently-worn sweaters, as well as other clothing, as they come to the game. Neighborhood Sweater Drive bins will be placed at each of the gates at Peoples Natural Gas Field as well as at the Laurel Eye Clinic Customer Service Booth. All of Fred Rogers' original sweaters were knitted by his mother.

That's a factoid you probably didn't know.

The event also sounds like a can't miss for kids.

WPSU will be at the ballpark that day and will hand out 500 books to children during the game. In addition, one special child could win a grand prize of a Daniel Tiger Prize Pack that will feature Daniel Tiger merchandise, including books, a plush toy, and additional items.

There's a little something for several generations to enjoy.

Now won't you grab those tickets, neighbor?

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Townie813

Author: Mark Townsend
Posted: July 5, 2015, 6:51 pm

St. Louis Blues fan Libby Lu captured the nation's attention after having an epic meltdown over T.J. Oshie being traded to Washington. We felt her pain.

(Admit it, you've been there. I melted down as a 16-year-old when Teemu Selanne was traded from Anaheim to San Jose.)

The five-year-old, clad in a St. Louis Blues jersey (and ironically, a red, white, and blue bow), could not be more adorable as she and her dad took to Sportscenter for an interview Sunday morning. When asked if she could pose one question for T.J. Oshie, what would she ask, she responded coyly:

"Does he have a swimming pool?"

Commence heart melting as the anchor brings in Oshie on the phone and the intense swimming pool discussion begins.

If that doesn't give you the warm fuzzies, then your heart is two-sizes too small, Mr. Grinch.

Got to love the attention span of a five-year-old. By the end of the interview, she was elsewhere, even as Oshie promised her free swag.

Stick-tap Sean Newell

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Jen Neale is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email her at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow her on Twitter! Follow @MsJenNeale_PD.

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Author: Jen Neale
Posted: July 5, 2015, 6:37 pm

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Looking to shake up his lineup a bit and buy some rest for veterans Mike Napoli and Hanley Ramirez, Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell wrote David Ortiz's name into the lineup at first base on Sunday.

That may not seem like a big deal on the surface, but it kind of is when you consider Ortiz has not started a home game at first base since July 16, 2005. That's a nearly 10-year stretch between home starts at first base. In fact, we're just 11 days short of celebrating the 10-year anniversary.

That's a long, long time, even in baseball years.

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Ortiz's first base appearances are typically reserved for Boston's interleague games in National League parks, when the designated hitter rule disappears. In fact, Ortiz hasn't even started a non-interleague game in the field since Aug. 5, 2006, when he also started at first against the Tampa Bay Rays. And even on those occasions it's a decision the Red Sox have to wrestle with. 

That speaks to how unusual the arrangement is, and, quite frankly, how ill-suited Ortiz is for playing in the field, especially now at age 39. But that doesn't mean he wasn't looking forward to it

"When I play first base, it’s kind of fun because I’m not just thinking about hitting," Ortiz said. "My only problem is I’m not 20 anymore, so it catches up with me at some point, but it’s fun. When I play first base every once in a while, it distracts me to something else, know what I’m saying? Which is good, because when you’re thinking about hitting, hitting, hitting, hitting, and at the time you’re not swinging well, you probably get stuck on that."

The distraction may do Ortiz some good. He enters play on Sunday hitting just .230/.322/.428 with 14 homers and 41 RBIs. The power numbers are on track and the overall numbers really aren't that bad for a 39-year-old DH. However, the Red Sox need more and Ortiz has shown he's capable of doing more, hitting .298/.389/.556 over the past four seasons.

The one start may or may not help Ortiz in the long run, but Farrell's focus is clearly on buying some rest for Hanley Ramirez and mental rehab for Mike Napoli. 

On Sunday, Ramirez is handling DH duties as a way to get him off his feet and out of left field, where he's struggled to adjust in Fenway Park.  He's actually done quite well in his DH starts already this season, hitting .333 with four homers in six games, so it's a role he seems comfortable in. 

As for Napoli, he gets the day off on Sunday after going 0-for-9 with four strikeouts and an error during the first two games against Houston. His season batting average dropped to .192. With Boston also off on Monday, he'll have two days to recharge and refocus.

“Today’s lineup, I think gives us the best lineup we can put on the field,” Sox manager John Farrell said. “Recognize that it’s been quite some time since David has played first base in an American League game. It also gives us the ability to put [Alejandro] De Aza in left field. It’s about putting the best lineup on the field today.”

That's an interesting quote that seemingly leaves the door open for Ortiz to play some more first base down the road. Farrell wouldn't confirm or deny any plans, simply stating that he didn't know how frequently he'd consider it. 

It's something worth watching at least, and we definitely will be watching on Sunday. 

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Townie813

Author: Mark Townsend
Posted: July 5, 2015, 6:03 pm
Nashville Predators' Colin Wilson, left, and Cody Franson, center, celebrate with Ryan Ellis (4) after Ellis scored a goal against the Montreal Canadiens in the third period of an NHL hockey game Tuesday, March 24, 2015, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

Cody Franson is still on the unrestricted free agent market. Yup, you read that right – a young, big, right-handed shooting offensive defenseman is still available.

Mind, blown – well not really, but Franson's availability is somewhat fascinating that he hasn't picked a team, or a team hasn't picked him, since free agency started July 1. 

At one point it appeared Franson was going to cash in mightily in this period. He’s 27 years old, 6-foot-5 and a right handed shot. But strangely, he’s still around for teams looking for blueline help.

As players got scooped up at a medium speed Wednesday, Franson bid his time.

Why has it taken this long? Generally blueliners of Franson’s 6-foot-5 size and offensive ability – he had 32 points in 55 games with Toronto last year – go in UFA pretty quickly.

Why the trepidation for the man who has signed three-straight one-year contracts just to get to this point – to choose a longer term deal?

According to Pro Hockey Talk, Franson’s agent Gerry Johannson is looking for ‘Jeff Petry money’ for the defenseman who made $3.3 million last year.

Johannson believes Jeff Petry’s new six-year, $33 million extension is the right “ballpark” for his client as he heads into the open market. Petry’s deal includes a full no-movement clause in the first three years of the deal and a 15-team no-trade clause for the final three years.

The way Franson didn’t mesh with the skating-oriented Nashville Predators probably didn’t help after mid-February trade. Especially the way the NHL is turning into a more speed-oriented league again.

But he was actually better than the classic eyeball test. He scored just one goal and had three assists while playing 15:25 per-game for Nashville. That was down from 21:23 he played with the Maple Leafs.

Via On the Forecheck.

Franson was a victim of being a good defenseman in the wrong situation. All of his underlying numbers were phenomenal: When adjusting for score, he saw 56% of all total shot attempts go towards the opposing goaltender, more than any other Preds defenseman. He also was only on the ice for 23.85 shots per 60 minutes, the fewest of any blue liner since joining the team.

Remember all those times he made a mistake to cost the team a goal? Well, you probably remember way more of them than there actually are. He was only out for nine 5v5 goals against, also the fewest of any regular blue liner.

Where does Franson now fit? The Vancouver Canucks says The Hockey Writers, as a potential Kevin Bieksa replacement. Also this would bring the Sicamous, B.C. native back to his home area. 

Causeway Crowd says the Bruins could be a good fit for Franson as a second pairing defenseman.

But a lot of this depends on what Franson wants. He’s been waiting on one-year contracts via tough negotiations just to get to this moment where he can finally have some level of security.

He has played in the Toronto fishbowl the last few years, and hasn’t won much. Is he fine with continuing to go short-term for a per-year raise (unlikely but possible) in hopes that the big deal is still right around the corner? Does he want to go to a contender for less money? Guess is he probably wants the years on a deal that he's never had in his career, but who knows. 

There’s a lot of questions about a guy who at one point many thought was the top unrestricted free agent defenseman on the market.  

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Josh Cooper is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @joshuacooper

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Author: Josh Cooper
Posted: July 5, 2015, 5:58 pm

This summer, NFL Films' Greg Cosell will be doing a series of posts for Shutdown Corner taking a deeper look into the finer points of football, explaining how fans can look for the subtle nuances that make the game so interesting beneath the surface.

On Sundays, I usually watch games without taking notes or looking at schemes or searching for details about why plays did or didn't work. I just watch casually. And I know most people watch games that way, and that's great. 

But I also love when I come to the NFL Films offices on Monday and start to look at the coaches' film to unlock why certain plays worked or didn't, and what makes players successful or not. Those nuances, to me, are what football is all about.

Since NFL.com introduced the all-22 film (that's the term for the high-angle coaches film you'll see on my posts at Shutdown Corner) on Game Rewind, many serious fans have taken advantage of it. But I've told people, breaking down NFL film isn't something you can do after dinner in 20 minutes. It took a lot of time before I knew what to watch for. Thankfully there are people who taught me various aspects of the game, like former Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Ron Jaworski teaching me how to watch from a quarterback's viewpoint, or former New England Patriots coach and longtime NFL defensive coordinator Rod Rust explaining defensive concepts. There have been many others I've learned from, and I'm always learning new things.

What I'd like to do in a series of posts here this summer is pass along some of the things I've learned to look for when watching a game. Some things can be picked up by watching the television broadcast though it can be a challenge because of the tight shots of game play at the stadium or watching film afterward. My hope is that some of these things help your appreciation of your favorite team, or football in general. I love the intellectual side of the NFL. To me, that's what makes the game great.

Here's an obvious starting point for this post: There are things you can note before the snap on each play. I've watched film for so long, checking for these keys before the ball is snapped has become second nature.

Let's use two plays from the Green Bay Packers' win against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 5 last season as examples. This was a second-and-7 at Green Bay's 34, in the first quarter. Here's the first picture of the play I see:

(NFL.com screen shot)

This looks like a typical football formation, but there's so much we can learn just from this one frame.

On offense, the first thing I look at is personnel. There was a player in the fullback position, and I can see right away that's not their normal fullback, John Kuhn (it's tight end Andrew Quarless). Then my eye goes to the fact that they have two split receivers. The Packers often run play-action from this look, though I know that from years of studying coach Mike McCarthy's offense. Then I noticed that the ball is on the right hash and the receiver at the right of the formation, Jordy Nelson, had tighter splits (meaning he was a little closer to the formation) than usual. I'm thinking, if this is a pass, Nelson will run some route that is taking him across the field. He has to get across the field, so he'll take a tighter split. It will take too long to get across the field if he's lined up wider. There was a reason Nelson is there. These are things you pick up the longer you study film.

After I've seen the offensive personnel and formation, I move to the defense. I've worked with Jaworski for years at the NFL Films offices, and he says about his pre-snap process watching film as a former quarterback: "I usually go from safeties to cornerbacks to the linebackers to the line."

I start with the safeties too. New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton told me years ago, if you reduce it to simple terms you're trying to see if it's a two-deep safety shell or a single-high safety, and then you look for blitz indicators. The Vikings safeties on this play showed a two-deep shell, which indicated a zone coverage. They could be disguising the coverage because neither safety is that deep. One could drop down right before the snap, in theory. Anything can happen with those safeties, but it was a two-deep shell zone look.

Then look at the corners, especially the corner on the bottom of the screen. They were lined up slightly to the outside of the receivers, which indicated they are anticipating inside help from the safeties. That means it's a zone coverage. Also, at the snap, if cornerbacks turn and face the sideline to push the receiver outside it tells you there's man coverage, and if the cornerbacks turn to face the field it's usually zone. And you can look at the linebackers' first steps; if their first steps are backward it's a zone coverage.

There was no blitz indicator from the Vikings on this play. If corners are playing tight man coverage, that could be a blitz indicator, but they weren't here. The linebackers were stacked behind the line, and that was an indication they would not blitz. It would be different if a linebacker was up on the line of scrimmage or creeping up to it. The safeties showed two-deep shell, and that's not a blitz indicator. Anything can change at the snap because teams will try to confuse the offense, but the Vikings' alignment indicated this was a zone coverage with no blitz. It's hard to blitz out of a two-deep shell, because you have two safeties deep and if you take another defender out of the front seven to blitz there are a lot of voids in the defense.

Keep in mind that Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers saw all of this and processed the information in about a second or so. And as we'll see, what he noticed mattered. As it turned out the Packers had a play called to beat the exact defense Rodgers saw.

The Packers went hard run-action to the left, the defense reacted (it was playing quarters zone coverage, with each defensive back being responsible for a deep fourth of the field). The safety to the run side was an "alley" defender, because he had run responsibility and he would run in the alley in run support if it's a handoff. Rodgers faked it, and rolled to the right. Nelson released inside and he ran straight at the safety. The other safety stepped up in run support because of the fake, and also the receiver on the left side ran a route to occupy that safety. Nelson was screaming at safety Harrison Smith, who is a very good player, but couldn't cover Nelson in that situation. Nelson caught a 66-yard touchdown.

(NFL.com screen shot)
(NFL.com screen shot)

That play was designed to beat a zone defense, to get Nelson running at the safety. That's why the first look at the Vikings' alignment, with all the clues of what defense they were running, mattered. There was a play earlier in the first quarter, and Rodgers called an audible to a run to beat a much different defensive look.

(NFL.com screen shot)

That was a lot different alignment by the defense. This appeared to be man-to-man coverage with a free safety, called "man free." You know it's man because the three cornerbacks were pressed up on the three receivers. Strong safety Smith was up on the line to the right side of the Packers' formation. The two inside linebackers were lined up hard inside, slightly inside of the guards. It looked like a blitz mostly because of Smith. The way the Vikings aligned should send alerts to your brain: man coverage and potential blitz.

I don't know if the Packers had a run or a pass called the same touchdown to Nelson we described above probably wouldn't have worked against this man defense, by the way but Rodgers called an outside zone run to the left. Why? Because the linebackers were hard inside, they couldn't stop Eddie Lacy outside. And it was to the left because Smith was lined up to the Packers' right side. Randall Cobb, from the slot, ran like he might catch a bubble screen and that took the slot cornerback out of run support. The extra defender was the free safety, lined up about 15 yards deep. The Vikings were in trouble before the ball was snapped. Lacy gained 29 yards.

(NFL.com screen shot)
(NFL.com screen shot)
(NFL.com screen shot)

That type of play is why coaches like Arizona's Bruce Arians say they don't want quarterbacks who didn't do anything at the line of scrimmage in college. Rodgers made this run by what he did at the line. If you just casually watched the game you might have thought it was a great play by Lacy, but in reality Rodgers deserved most of the credit for this. Rodgers was able to set up the run by diagnosing the Vikings' defense from the snapshot he got before the snap.

And now you can look for some of the same things before the ball is snapped.

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NFL analyst and NFL Films senior producer Greg Cosell watches as much NFL game film as anyone. Throughout the season, Cosell will join Shutdown Corner to share his observations on the teams, schemes and personnel from around the league.

Author: Greg Cosell
Posted: July 5, 2015, 4:30 pm

With Miguel Cabrera expected to miss six weeks with a Grade 3 strain of his left calf, the Detroit Tigers are losing an irreplaceable piece of their offense.

With that in mind, we're certain the veteran first baseman would have never even attempted making the catch his replacement Alex Avila pulled off on Saturday afternoon.

Typically the Tigers' starting catcher, Avila was making his first career start at first base in Cabrera's absence. It's a role he's expected to fill at least semi-regularly while Cabrera heals, and he made a great first impression with an outstanding catch while tumbling into the first row of seats down the right-field line at Comerica Field.

It wasn't the most convenient place in the ballpark to made such an attempt, either. Though the ball sailed beyond the Tigers first base dugout and beyond the tarp, Avila had to deal with some signage. Avila actually appeared to clip his right knee on the sign, which made his concentration and ability to hold on even more impressive.

It wasn't Josh Donaldson or Nolan Arenado good by any means. Both of those players literally launched themselves toward the stands with little regard for their health or well-being. Still, it was plenty good, and we're sure there were a few people in the Tigers dugout holding their breath as Avila neared and then impacted the wall.

Avila has only been back with the team for two days after spending nearly two months on the disabled list. Avila had been dealing with continued soreness in his left knee, which the team initially feared would sideline him for the rest of the season. The fact that his right knee clipped the sign had to be of some relief, but we're guessing the Tigers would prefer he avoid any type of contact with his knees.

Avila has also dealt with concussion issues, making the fall into the stands a bit scarier. 

(MLB.TV)
The Tigers probably figure playing Avila more at first base than catcher for the foreseeable future should keep him healthier, but efforts like Saturday's could cast some doubt on that. 

As it turns out, Avila was able to walk away here no worse for the wear. The Tigers are also 1-0 without Miguel Cabrera, as they cruised to an 8-3 victory against the Toronto Blue Jays. 

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Townie813

Author: Mark Townsend
Posted: July 5, 2015, 4:25 pm

Sunny days, sweeping the clouds away. Check that weather, run some lineups, set your dream team. We're here to help. 

J.D. Martinez, OF, vs. TOR (Estrada), $4300: He’s had a pretty good 22-game run, wouldn’t you say? It adds up to a .360/.396/.849 slash line, with 13 homers and 32 RBIs. Martinez’s best output this year has come at home (.983 OPS) and against right-handed pitching (.572 slugging percentage). Take some hacks in The D. Marco Estrada generally keeps the ball in the air, too. 

Gerardo Parra, OF, at CIN (Leake), $3000: Life is better with a little Rico Suave in your life. Parra carries a zesty .824 OPS against righties this year, and over the last month he’s a .356/.500/.525 man, with four homers and five steals. How is this cat owned in just 19 percent of Yahoo seasonal leagues? Did you lose your password? Start clicking, clickers. 

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Lance Lynn, SP, vs. SD (Kennedy), $9000: While he’s the third-largest ticket on the mound for Sunday, a 9K check won’t block you from signing anyone else you want. The Padres are 26th in weighted on-base average overall, and 27th against right-handed pitching. 

Justin Smoak, 1B, at DET (Verlander), $2900: I don’t blame anyone who eschews a value play at first base, because there are so many fun picks here. Nonetheless, Smoak has shown up in his last two starts (two homers, five times on base) and he has good history with Justin Verlander, if two homers in 12 at-bats matters to you. Runs are expected in this matchup, with the total set at nine. And Smoak is confirmed to start, slotted fifth in the best lineup in the majors. 

Brian Dozier, 2B, at KC (Duffy), $3600: Dozier has been one of my favorite players for a while, but you especially love him against a lefty. His career OPS jumps 171 points in the platoon advantage. How can some pundits continue to rank Robinson Cano over this stud? Oh well, makes the game easier for us to beat. 

Michael Bolsinger, SP, vs NYM (Matz), $6500: Although Bolsinger is the second-highest favorite on the Sunday card, he checks in as the No. 24 pitcher on Fan Duel. I like that kind of party. There’s short-inning risk for Bolsinger, of course, and he did leave his last turn early due to a touch of food poisoning, but you want to attack this Mets offense (last in wOBA, 29th in wOBA against righties) whenever possible. 

Ryan Howard, 1B, at ATL (Miller), $2400: He apparently likes the tilt of Shelby Miller: 5-for-11, three homers. The Philly offense is easy to laugh at in total, but at least Howard is working behind the two best assets here, Cesar Hernandez and Maikel Franco. 

Erick Aybar, SS, at TEX (Lewis), $2700: You’ll have to confirm the lineup slot, but I can’t imagine the Halos will sit Aybar after watching him go 8-for-12 (five runs, three doubles) in the first two games at Arlington. Coby Lewis will keep the ball in play, we know that to be true. 

Kole Calhoun, OF, at TEX (Lewis), $2500: Here’s another Anaheim batter tearing it up in the Arlington series, and he’s 8-for-16 career against Lewis. It’s a giveaway price, too. 

Adrian Beltre, 3B, vs. LAA (Wilson), $2600: Maybe he's not the same player he once was, but it's still a friendly park, a platoon advantage, and a come-hither price. Yo, Adrian.

Author: Scott Pianowski
Posted: July 5, 2015, 4:10 pm

Take a look around the league with Big League Stew's daily wrap up. We'll hit on all of the biggest moments from the day that you may have missed, while providing highlights, photos and interesting stats.

After a quiet June, it seems Kris Bryant may be getting ready to get hot again in July.

In the Cubs 7-2 victory against the Miami Marlins on Saturday, Bryant launched his first two home runs since June 22 — when he homered twice off Clayton Kershaw — and did so in each of the first two innings.

In the first inning, Bryant connected for a two-run homer off Miami starter Jarred Cosart that may have clipped the new left field videoboard. One inning later, Bryant unloaded against Cosart for a grand slam, which broke the game wide open and gave him a career-high six RBIs.

The Cubs wouldn't need any more offense the rest of the game, and wouldn't get any either. After Bryant's slam, they couldn't muster another hit against Miami's bullpen.

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Veteran left-hander Clayton Richard picked up the win for Chicago in his Cubs debut. That was interesting for a couple reasons. First, Richard was only acquired in a minor trade with the Pittsburgh Pirates on Friday. Second, he became the 2,000th player to suit up for the Cubs during a regular season game.

He celebrated the opportunity and the milestone with a quality outing, holding Miami to two runs over 6 1/3 innings.

ZACK GREINKE EXTENDS SCORELESS STREAK TO 27 2/3 INNINGS

If you're looking for the National League's starting pitcher in the All-Star game, look no further than Zack Greinke.

The Los Angeles Dodgers right-hander has been outstanding all season long, but he's taken his game to another level over this past four starts by posting 27 2/3 scoreless innings. That's a career best for Greinke, but he still has a ways to go to equal Orel Hershiser's all-time (and franchise) record of 59 consecutive scoreless innings

Greinke was good for seven scoreless in the Dodgers 4-3 win against the New York Mets on Saturday. Greinke allowed just four hits while striking out four. He finished strong, retiring the last 11 batters he faced, and left in good position with his Dodgers leading by four. However, the Mets made things interesting against the Los Angeles bullpen before ultimately falling short.

On the other side, Matt Harvey admittedly struggled getting into a rhythm with his extra day of rest. In five innings, he allowed three runs on seven hits and five walks. That's the very definition of laboring, and it's a concern if the Mets go with a six-man rotation for any length of time.

YANKEES MAKE IT BACK-TO-BACK WALK-OFF WINS

After entering the month of July without a single walk-off win this season, the New York Yankees made it two straight in Saturday's 3-2 win against the Tampa Bay Rays.

On Friday, catcher Brian McCann provided the heroics, launched a three-run homer in the 12th inning. On Saturday, it was the Rays doing the heavy lifting for New York thanks to a costly throwing error by reliever Brad Boxberger.

After Mark Teixeira started the ninth inning with a double and Chris Young drew a walk, rookie Ramon Flores dropped a sacrifice bunt attempt that Boxberger fielded and then threw wide to first base. As the ball skipped away, pinch-runner Jose Pirela raced around from second to score the winner.

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The victory was thrilling, but also somewhat bittersweet for New York. Starter Michael Pineda was excellent, shutting out the Rays on five hits over seven innings. He struck out 10. Unfortunately, closer Dellin Betances was unable to lock down the four-out save. In the ninth, he served up a game-tying home run to Steven Souza Jr. Souza had entered the game in an 0-for-25 slump with 15 strikeouts.

A win is a win, which extended the Yankees lead in the AL East to two full games over the Baltimore Orioles. A loss is also a loss for the Rays, giving them seven straight. They've gone from first place to three games back this week.

KENDALL GRAVEMAN OUTDUELS KING FELIX

As is seemingly the case every year, the Oakland A's have another outstanding young pitcher in Kendall Graveman that very few people are talking about.

The 25-year-old right-hander was sent to the minor leagues earlier this season for a minor tuneup. Since returning on May 23, he's posted eight quality starts in nine outings and hasn't allowed more than three runs in any of them. More recently, he's pitched at least seven innings in six straight without allowing more than two runs.

That hot streak continued on Saturday, as Graveman tossed seven scoreless frames to outduel King Felix Hernandez in Oakland's 2-0 victory against the Seattle Mariners.

Hernandez himself pitched seven innings, but was a bit shaky at times. Though Oakland only scored twice, Hernandez allowed a season-high 10 hits. He had a particularly tough time dealing with leadoff man Billy Burns. Burns reached twice, scored twice and stole a bag. Ben Zobrist was responsible for knocking Burns home both times, with a single in the first and sacrifice fly in the seventh.

With the win, Oakland moved to within one-half game of Seattle in the standings. The A's currently occupy the cellar in the AL West. Also of note, it's the first time Oakland has defeated Hernandez at O.co Coliseum in 13 starts.

Want to see more from Saturday's slate of games? Check out our scoreboard.

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Townie813

Author: Mark Townsend
Posted: July 5, 2015, 5:36 am

Holy cow! Chicago White Sox right fielder Avisail Garcia made perhaps the defensive play of the year on Saturday, robbing Baltimore's Chris Davis of a game-tying home run with a sensational leaping catch in the ninth inning.

After blowing a two-run lead and Jeff Samardzija's chance at a victory in the top of the eighth inning, the White Sox had regained the lead in the bottom half on pinch-hitter J.B. Shuck's RBI double. That set the stage for what momentarily felt like heartbreak again for White Sox fans, as Davis teed off against closer David Robertson.

As the baseball soared off the bat, everybody in the ballpark and watching at home anticipated the baseball landing in or perhaps clearing the Orioles bullpen in right field. Even those not watching would have anticipated the same thing based on the sound of the bat, the initial silence of Hawk Harrelson, and then his disgruntled tone as he finally described the action. 

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However, if you focus in on Garcia the whole way, you can see he had the baseball measured, and was just hoping to have enough space to make the play. He did, and with a perfectly timed leap snatched the ball out of the air to record a thrilling second out. One batter later, Robertson recorded the final out, striking out Matt Wieters to lock up the 3-2 victory. 

As Harrelson and broadcast partner Steve Stone later noted after calming down from the shear joy of Garcia's perhaps game-saving catch, it's a play an outfielder 6-foot-2 or under would have struggled to make. Even if the outfielder's name is Mike Trout, it would have required a Superman like effort to gain that much air while timing it all so perfectly. 

(MLB.TV)
Fortunately for the White Sox, Garcia is 6-foot-4. But it still wasn't easy for him physically. He just made it look easy. 

By the way, if you thought Garcia got some height on the first jump, check out his celebration. 

(MLB.TV)
You go, Avisail!  

It's not often you see a player celebrate his own defensive play like that, but in this case it was certainly warranted. 

Of course, one person who was even happier and certainly very much appreciative of Garcia's effort was Robertson. After the game, he decided it was appropriate to give Garcia the game ball.

Robertson said he gave the save ball to Avi Garcia for the home-run saving catch. It was deserved.

— Doug Padilla (@ESPNChiSox) July 4, 2015

Garcia was also a contributor at the plate, driving in Chicago's first run with a single in the first inning. But it's his defense that commands the headlines on this Fourth of July, as his leaping catch prevented some unwanted fireworks in Chicago. More MLB coverage from Yahoo Sports:

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Townie813

Author: Mark Townsend
Posted: July 4, 2015, 10:55 pm

A Saturday afternoon thunderstorm in the vicinity of Daytona Beach meant Dale Earnhardt Jr. will start first in Sunday's Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway.

Qualifying ended up being cancelled and the grid was set by the speeds in Friday's first practice session. Junior was fastest. So he's got the pole.

He's joined on the front row by Austin Dillon, who won the pole for the 2014 Daytona 500. The rest of the top five is comprised of Clint Bowyer, Paul Menard and Trevor Bayne.

The session was set to be the first time NASCAR used its new single-car qualifying format at Daytona. After pole qualifying for the 2015 Daytona 500 included drafting and crashes, NASCAR tweaked the qualifying format.

Cars are released one-by-one from pit road at an interval that doesn't allow them to draft. Each qualifier gets one full lap to post a speed. The top 12 cars then repeat the process for a second round and the fastest car in that round gets the pole.

Michael McDowell and Ryan Blaney will miss Sunday's race. Both drivers are running part-time schedules and were at the bottom of the qualifying cancellation hierarchy because of their limited number of race attempts.

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Nick Bromberg is the editor of From The Marbles on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at nickbromberg@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: July 4, 2015, 10:30 pm

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We're not going out on a limb when we say Cleveland Indians pitcher Trevor Bauer seems like a fun guy to have in the clubhouse.

Between his unique warm up routine, his desire to fly drones around spring training and his antics wearing boxing gloves during a game against the Kansas City Royals — who were recently in multiple altercations — he at least knows how to keep things interesting.

Such was the case again on Friday night, when Bauer used a rare plate appearance in a National League park to mimic some of his teammates batting stances.

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Let us repeat that again so it sinks in. Bauer used a plate appearance during a regular season game to mimic, and therefore amuse his teammates by copying their batting stances.

So much for being serious, right? Right?

Well, actually, he was serious. Throughout his seventh-inning plate appearance against Pittsburgh left-hander Antonio Bastardo, Bauer borrowed from Jason Kipnis, Mike Aviles and Ryan Raburn. And there really was a pay off beyond getting a few chuckles, as Bauer managed to work a nine-pitch walk.

(MLB.TV)
Perhaps that result was due to Bauer's razor sharp focus, as he obviously did not want to embarrass himself in the midst of all this. Perhaps the focus was due to Bastardo's focus being completely thrown off by Bauer's constant adjustments. Then again, maybe it was just luck.

Whatever the case, it worked, and it also kept Indians broadcasters Matt Underwood and Rick Manning and their production staff on their toes. 

Here's the final tally. 

For the record: Bauer used Aviles' stance four times, Kipnis' three times and Raburn's twice. This is very important stuff, folks.

— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) July 4, 2015

We applaud the creativity. We applaud the courage it must take to attempt such antics in a game that counts. But above all else, we applaud Bauer's all-around performance.

Though his walk didn't directly lead to a run, Bauer's pitching was the key in Cleveland's 5-2 victory. In 6 1/3 innings, he allowed just two runs on three hits to pick up his seventh win. 

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Author: Mark Townsend
Posted: July 4, 2015, 9:19 pm

American Madison Keys celebrated the Fourth of July with a third-round win, moving on to Wimbledon's second week for the first time in her career by defeating Tatjana Maria in straight sets, 6-4, 6-4. Keys' strong service game propelled her to victory, as she recorded nine aces and did not double fault in the match.

Fellow American John Isner had many wondering if he'd be playing another record-setting match as his third-round battle with Marin Cilic extended into a second day. But there would be no 11-hour marathon this time: No. 5 Cilic broke No. 17 Isner at 11-10 in the fifth to secure the win. Isner held off two match points in the game before committing a double fault to hand Cilic the 7-6, 6-7, 6-4, 6-7, 12-10 victory.

No. 22 Viktor Troicki ended the brilliant run of qualifier Dustin Brown, 6-4, 7-6, 4-6, 6-3. Brown had stunned Rafael Nadal in the second round. His third-round loss follows the precedent set by the last three men to upset Nadal in London.

All the #100+ ranked men who have beaten Nadal over the last four years at #Wimbledon (Rosol, Darcis, Kyrgios, Brown) exited in next round.

— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) July 4, 2015

No. 2 Roger Federer moved on with a four-set win over Sam Groth. It was the first time Federer has dropped a set this tournament. He advances with the 6-4, 6-4, 6-7, 6-3 win. Andy Murray, seeded third, moves into the second week with a 6-2, 6-2, 1-6, 6-1 win over No. 25 Andreas Seppi.

No. 13 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga is out, falling 7-6, 4-6, 7-6, 7-6 to No. 23 Ivo Karlovic.

In women’s action, No. 28 Jelena Jankovic upset second-seeded Petra Kvitova. Looking to defend her 2014 Wimbledon title, Kvitova was considered the biggest threat to Serena Williams' title hopes. Jankovic won 3-6, 7-5, 6-4.

No. 5 Caroline Wozniacki cruised to a routine 6-2, 6-2 win over No. 31 Camila Giorgi. No. 10 Angelique Kerber saw her tournament end earlier than expected as she fell to No. 20 Garbine Muguruza in three sets.

No. 13 Agnieszka Radwanska advanced with a 6-1, 6-4 victory over Casey Dellacqua.

Author: Danielle Elliot
Posted: July 4, 2015, 7:53 pm

In a world where 'Shark Week' is the most anticipated week of television every year, the 'Sharknado' franchise is now on its third television movie, and a shark is throwing out the ceremonial first pitch to Jeff "Shark" Samardzija, the following lawsuit only makes sense.

According to the Miami Herald, a fan who visited Marlins Park two years ago is now suing the Miami Marlins after alledgedly suffering neck and back injuries as a result of a “bite” from the team's shark mascot.

The fan, Beth Fedornak, was sitting three rows up from the field and watching the Marlins take on the San Diego Padres on June 29, 2013, when Bob the Shark approached her and pretended to bite her head. 

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Like many baseball teams do these days, the Miami Marlins feature an in-game race with giant mascots lumbering around the ballpark. Naturally, Miami's is called the Great Sea Race with Bob the Shark, Spike the Sea Dragon, Julio the Octopus and Angel the Stone Crab serving as the combatants.

The mascots also roam the ballpark, as Bob the Shark was that day two years ago, to interact with children and add to the family-friendly experience. The pretend head bite is all part of the usual routine to engage and excite the crowd, only this time the antics may have been too aggressive.

According to the lawsuit, Fedornak felt pain in her neck after the impact of the shark's head coming down on the top of her skull. The results of the encounter have allegedly caused Fedornak either permanent or continuing injuries in her neck and back, according to court documents, and have cost her more than $86,000 in medical expenses. Her ability to work has also been impaired, leaving her without a reliable source of income.

As a result, Fedornak and her attorney are suing the team on negligence and battery charges and seeking $15,000 in damages.

It's also noted that staff members at Marlins Park were notified after the initial incident, but the Marlins have yet to comment. 

BLS H/N: Hardball Talk

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Townie813

Author: Mark Townsend
Posted: July 4, 2015, 7:34 pm

Congratulations to the San Antonio Spurs, now quite clearly the biggest winners of the 2015 NBA free agency period. As reported by Yahoo's Adrian Wojnarowski, four-time All-Star power forward LaMarcus Aldridge will join the five-time champions on a four-year, $80-million contract with a player option for the final season. While the Portland Trail Blazers were expected to lose Aldridge, the Spurs beat out a host of suitors, including the de facto runner-up Phoenix Suns.

Aldridge confirmed the news in a tweet Saturday:

I'm happy to say I'm going home to Texas and will be a Spur!! I'm excited to join the team and be close to my family and friends.

— Lamarcus Aldridge (@aldridge_12) July 4, 2015

The addition of Aldridge immediately makes the Spurs, perennial title contenders anyway, one of the three biggest favorites to win the championship next June alongside the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers. Aldridge, who turns 30 on July 18, averaged 23.8 ppg and 10.4 rpg, the second consecutive season in which he posted 23 and 10, and logged a career-best 22.8 PER. He is one of the league's best mid-range big men, taking 57.1 percent of last season's attempts from between 10 feet and the three-point line, and excels in the pick and roll. A poor first-round playoff series against the Memphis Grizzlies ended his career in Portland on a down note, but the Blazers were extremely shorthanded and Aldridge proved his postseason worth by eviscerating the Houston Rockets in a 2014 series win.

Put more bluntly, Aldridge was considered the top player on the free-agent market for good reason. He has consistently been one of the best scorers in the NBA, rebounds well, and plays a style that would have allowed any new team to depend on him without totally overhauling its system.

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Aldridge should slide right into head coach Gregg Popovich and the Spurs' plans with minimal friction. He has made no secret of his desire not to play center, which might seem like an issue until you realize that Tim Duncan usually plays as a power forward in name only. Whereas Duncan thrives in the paint, Aldridge can occupy the mid-range to space the floor. He will also ease the Big Fundamental's workload, a notable concern given how much Duncan had to do in San Antonio's epic first-round loss to the Los Angeles Clippers. Yet this is a reciprocal partnership — Duncan will cover for Aldridge's defensive issues by guarding superior interior scorers and serving as a chief rim protector. Plus, Defensive Player of the Year Kawhi Leonard is perfectly capable of defending bigger forwards when called upon.

The benefits extend to many other players. Apart from general, team-wide positives like occupying defensive attention to free up open shots, the presence of Aldridge will lend the 24-year-old Leonard, himself the bearer of a brand-new max-level contract, a few more years of wiggle room to develop into the franchise's chief star. Leonard alternately thrived and struggled in that role in the Clippers series — there's little reason to be pessimistic about his future, but he looks like someone not quite ready to supplant Duncan and 33-year-old Tony Parker at the head of the pack. The latter figures to be very excited to have a new partner in the pick and roll after an inconsistent season of nagging injuries. It's also fair to expect Popovich, the best coach in the sport, to roll out some new wrinkles to amplify the impact of all these relationships.

These projections get a little cloudier whenever Duncan retires. Although the Spurs pitched Aldridge as the inheritor of the franchise icon's legacy, he is a different player whose skills won't easily replace those of Duncan. That's particularly true at the defensive end, where Duncan has served as an anchor for nearly two decades. San Antonio will also have to hope that Aldridge ages gracefully and healthily, always an unpredictable process. The good news is that the rising cap will give the Spurs the chance to bring in another top free agent, although they may need several as Parker also takes on a more minor role.

Yet these worries most certainly do not outweigh the positives of the Aldridge acquisition, particularly given that many West rivals look weaker than they did just a week ago. That assessment couldn't be more true of the Clippers, now a terribly unbalanced group with center DeAndre Jordan heading to the Dallas Mavericks. Meanwhile, the Blazers are certain to drop out of the upper tier of playoff teams and the Warriors, Houston Rockets, and Memphis Grizzlies have all made only minor moves.

It wouldn't be imprudent to name the Spurs the favorites to win the West. They have a stellar roster with a new star, the best coach around, and the experience and professionalism necessary to make it all work. Aldridge may not be the next Duncan, but he's a huge addition for a franchise who championship window just opened much wider.

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Eric Freeman is a writer for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at efreeman_ysports@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Eric Freeman
Posted: July 4, 2015, 7:22 pm

If you like your baseball a little weird, then Friday night was an especially good night for you.

Between Trevor Bauer's changing batting stances, the St. Louis Cardinals losing their fourth straight home game, and Tampa Bay's Kevin Kiermaier dodging a dive-bombing pigeon, there was plenty to make you scratch your head and/or laugh out loud.

Wait, did we actually just say Kevin Kiermaier dodged a dive-bombing pigeon?

Holy smokes, what in the world is going on out there?

There's Kiermaier, enjoying the fact his 12th inning single just gave Tampa Bay the lead. Then his joy turns to temporary panic as the angry New York pigeon responds with his own version of chin music.

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It appears the pigeon is donning Yankees' colors. He's obviously a fan, and very possibly a regular listener to the postgame show. Since he can't dial a phone, this is just one of the ways he vents his frustration. One of the cleaner ways we should add, because there are obviously much worse things he could have done to Kiermaier.

Here's hoping the pigeon found a good perch following his little stunt. In the bottom half of the inning, his Yankees rallied for their first walk-off win of the season on Brian McCann's three-run homer.

Everybody drove, rode the subway, or in the pigeon's case, flew home happy. And he even got a free dinner out of it.

What a life. 

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Townie813

Author: Mark Townsend
Posted: July 4, 2015, 6:04 pm

New York Jets owner Woody Johnson is an extremely rich man, but he's also very generous with his money.

Johnson attended a ceremony on Wednesday in which Army Sgt. Adam Keys, who was wounded by improved explosive devices five years ago in combat in Afghanistan, was given a "smart home" in Annapolis, Md., that allows him to live independently. Johnson gave $1 million to build the houses for Keys and Army Sgt. Bryan Dilberian, who was also wounded by explosive devices in combat. Dilberian's home is being constructed in Staten Island, N.Y. The Newark Star-Ledger wrote about Johnson's amazing gift.

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"These veterans have made the ultimate sacrifice for their country and deserve a home that supports their specific physical needs, to enable them to live independently," Johnson said in a press release when the donation was announced last year, according to the Star-Ledger.

The homes use special technology so the veterans can manage daily tasks without assistance, the Star-Ledger's story said. The Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation, named after a New York firefighter who died in the 9/11 attacks, builds the homes. By the end of the year, 42 of the homes will be finished, under construction or planned, the Star-Ledger said.

On a patriotic holiday weekend, it's great to hear about gestures like Johnson's generous one for wounded veterans.

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdown.corner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: July 4, 2015, 5:03 pm

How does Bryce Harper celebrate America's birthday?

The same way we all wish we could celebrate America's birthday. By playing baseball for a living, and using a Fourth of July-themed bat featuring the stars, stripes and the colors of the American flag.

Of course that's how Bryce Harper celebrates.

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But we know one thing for sure, Harper isn't just satisfied using a star-spangled bat. He had to make it memorable, and he did just that by connecting for his 25th home run off San Francisco Giants left-hander Madison Bumgarner.

Bryce Harper walked up to the plate with the DC / 🇺🇸 bat & hit his 25th home run (off of Madison Bumgarner) #Nats pic.twitter.com/T4KiWPQ0pd

— Danny (@recordsANDradio) July 4, 2015

That's World Series MVP Madison Bumgarner, but that wasn't a big deal to Harper or the Nationals early in Saturday's game. After the first two batters reached, Harper capped their first-inning rally with an absolute rocket to the Nationals bullpen in right field. That gave Washington a three run lead just five pitches into the game. It also tied Harper with Cincinnati's Todd Frazier for second in MLB in home runs, trailing only the injured Giancarlo Stanton.  

Harper finished the game 3 for 4, adding a double, single and walk to his total, as Wahington cruised to a 9-3 victory. 

As far as we know, Harper didn't immediately enjoy a celebratory hot dog in the dugout. That will likely come later. Still, this is about as America as it gets on July 4. 

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Author: Mark Townsend
Posted: July 4, 2015, 5:00 pm

For the first time in his 13-year career, Detroit Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera is headed to the disabled list. 

Cabrera was forced from Friday night's 8-6 win against the Toronto Blue Jays with a grade-three strain of his left calf, which is expected to keep him sidelined for at least six weeks. 

The injury occurred in the fourth inning when Cabrera was running the bases. Cabrera was stationed at first with no outs and a 3-2 count to Victor Martinez when the Tigers elected to put him in motion. Martinez fouled the pitch off, which ended up being the best-case scenario for Detroit as Cabrera was only able to make it half way to second base. After being tended to by the Tigers athletic trainer, Cabrera struggled to the clubhouse and now limps to the DL for the first time after 1,896 career games. 

Unfortunately, this news doesn't come as a surprise to the Tigers. Following the game, manager Brad Ausmus said Cabrera was in rough shape and unlikely to avoid the disabled list. 

''I'm not optimistic at all,'' Ausmus told the gathered media. ''When Miggy says he can't play, it is serious, because Miggy plays through everything.''

(AP)An MRI confirmed their fears, and now Detroit must move forward without its former MVP for the rest of July and the first-half of August.   

It should be said Cabrera hasn't necessarily been an iron man. He's missed games here and there over the years while dealing with various short-term ailments. He was even questionable to be ready for opening day this season after undergoing offseason ankle surgery. This is just his first truly significant in-season injury, and it comes at a bad time for the Tigers. 

Cabrera is still as good as they come at the plate. Through 77 games, he was hitting .350/.456/.578 with 15 homers and 54 RBIs. He ranks top 10 in MLB in each of those statistical categories aside from the home runs. 

Cabrera's presence is so important to Detroit's lineup because his production is impossible to replace. With Detroit already six games behind Kansas City in the AL Central and behind six teams in the AL wild-card standings, his absence could seal their fate.

If nothing else, it will definitely test their resolves.  

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Townie813

Author: Mark Townsend
Posted: July 4, 2015, 4:12 pm
Rich Clune calls out Twitter chirper... literally

Rich Clune’s story is also one of addiction and mental health awareness. The unrestricted forward has been sober for five years now and wears it like a badge of honor. And he’s gone to great lengths to keep it that way.

In the 2012-13 season with Nashville he got elbowed in the face and hurt his jaw. Instead of taking painkillers he took ibuprofen because was important for him to not trigger any addictive thoughts in his head.

“I had this nasty cut that wouldn’t heal and essentially my skin was just like pulling away from my jawbone,” he said.

Clune believes that life is about decisions. You either decide to make your existence better, or you don’t.

“Everyone has their own cross to bear and I think it’s OK to ask for help but ultimately you’re in charge of your own reality,” he said.

Clune has a lot of thoughts and many interests. He’s a hockey fighter along the lines of the current-day skilled enforcer. But he’s a deep thinker.

Ask about hockey culture and he brings up sociology studies.

Clune is currently living in Los Angeles. He’s working out, reading, writing and taking acting classes. He’s also trying to find that next contract. In spite of his role as a fighter, he can play.

As he likes to point out – he was once an NHL third-round draft pick. 

We talked with Clune about his life in hockey and what he thinks about hockey, sobriety and how the two can be difficult to intertwine.

Q: You recently wrote a piece about your battles with addiction. Why? What’s your message to players who want to get sober? 

Clune: I wanted it to be that … the biggest message was that I wasn’t passing blame on … I just think that people need to be responsible for their actions, whether they’re … I think the biggest takeaway is that people need to make the choice to change their life. They can’t sit around and blame their job or anything other than the fact they make decisions and they have to live with them, whether it’s they’re an alcoholic or anything. Everyone has their own cross to bear and I think it’s OK to ask for help, but ultimately you’re in charge of your own reality and I just didn’t want people to think that I’m blaming hockey for any of my (freaking) challenges. I could have done anything. Whether I would have … people would ask, ‘Well because you’re a hockey player you moved away from home and this is why you suffered from all this (crap)?’ I’m like, ‘No, it would have happened anywhere I went.’

My mind would have justified anything. If I went to a school to be a dentist, a lawyer or a doctor … it probably would have happened either way. I would have cracked under the pressure and self-medicated and all the reasons I did what I did would have come out anyway. It would have had nothing to do with ‘I’m a hockey player and I moved away from home and I started fighting when I turned pro.’ That stuff is all irrelevant. In my situation that would have probably been no different.

Anything I would have chose to do, the whole point of it is that I had to get out of my own way and that’s the biggest message of that story is that if you have challenges, you’re in your own way. You have to get out of your own way. It’s OK to ask for help, but it’s not OK to sit around and feel sorry for yourself and just living your disease and your addiction and make excuses and blame other people and that’s what my message is to people for the most part.

You mentioned the difficult nature of the Canadian Major Junior. What’s wrong with it? Do there need to be changes?

Well, I mean there are players that do go to these teams that don’t drink.

I’ve played with a lot of guys who stayed on the straight and narrow …

I think it’s just the nature of the way it’s set up. You move away from home at a tender age for the most part. You’re 15, 16, 17 and then you’re famous in the town you play in and it’s just … you play with guys who are 18,19, 20 – they can legally drink in Canada.

But at the same time too, it’s just ... it’s just a (freaking) … it’s tough to adapt at that age. But some people, there’s a few guys every year on teams that just seem like they don’t deal with it well and I was one of them. But like, I say this to people all the time, as a society, every group of people has these issues. You can just, it’s just the way the world is. You get a bunch of men who are a different breed and it’s just … I don’t need to point that out. It’s sociology, it’s the study of sociology. There’s a lot of factors that go into it. I’m not an expert on it. I can’t tell you, I just think that kids are really young and it’s just … that’s just tough to adapt at a young age.

You’re in acting classes and involved in other outside interests. Is the NHL or hockey an open place for players with desires outside of sports? Or does that get shunned?

It’s very hard to be good at something if you don’t put the hours in and not only the physical hours but the visualization and just constantly…

It’s hard enough to become a professional in one area of your life. There are a few guys that never (freaking) work out and they don’t have to train at it and they’re NHL players because they have that ‘god given’ talent. But for the most part people don’t get to become a professional at something for no reason.

I have interests outside of hockey that a lot of hockey players find kind of obscure and it’s maybe not common, but at the same time too, the only person that I would ever have to blame for not cultivating my interests for a little bit is myself because I could have done a lot of those things.

It was a full-time (freaking) job for me to be a (freaking) alcoholic and drug addict. It took up all my goddam time. People used to say, ‘Hey your partying and your drinking is getting in the way of hockey.’ And me being a smartass would say, ‘No it’s not, my hockey is getting in the way of my (freaking) partying.’ I’m not going to sit here and be like, ‘Yeah, the guys are going to make fun of an individual for wanting to explore other interests.’ But at the same time too, it’s very hard to become a very highly successful professional in anything if you don’t put the hours into it.

If you don’t take your work home with you, you have to. It has to become your life. Hockey became my life at a young age and I don’t feel bad about that, but at the same time, whatever, the guys all want to be on the same page so some guys might think that because a guy had an acting class on a Tuesday night he’s not thinking about the big game on Wednesday.

Whereas, I just think that’s dumb but it’s just … it’s competitive. Guys want to win and they want to make sure their teammates are bought in and I get that. And I have that too. I have that mentality too, I want my teammates focused and thinking about the task at hand, but at the same time I think it’s healthy to have other interests outside of the game. It’s definitely healthy and guys, the thing is most guys like to play golf and fish and do things like that… 

Athletic, ‘guy’ type things?

Yeah, guys are athletic, they always like to be around sports, it’s just when you meet a guy and, ‘Hey, maybe his interests don’t really match up with the norm.’ I just think that, at the same time too I have to be … when you really look into it, when you really get into it guys will always say, ‘I’ve been interested in that too, I just never had the confidence to try it. People always call me to do things during the week. I do my training in the morning for a few hours and I’ll relax in the afternoon whether I’ll nap or relax and then for the most part at night I’ll do other things, I’ll go to acting class I sit down and I write with my brothers, I read – I read scripts. I’m in scene study classes, involved in shooting a short film at the moment. I just never had time to pursue all this because once hockey was done I was so engulfed in my addiction. When I kicked everything, I was in recovery so much. I was going to meetings every night.

I went through a whole summer of treatment and it just took me a while to wrap my head around that. And now five years later I have a good grasp on what I need to do to remain healthy and sober and I also now have a lot more energy and my mind is clear and I now have a lot more time. I don’t waste time, that’s one thing if you ever hang around me, I do not waste a minute. And for me if I do give myself that 45 minutes to an hour to relax in the afternoon, that’s for a reason because once that 45 minutes to an hour is up now I’m back to doing whatever I’m doing.

That’s my one pet peeve is, I want people to live their own lives, but I’m a big believer in not wasting time and you can get a lot done in a day if you really want to.

Colorado Avalanche center Brad Malone (42) fights with Nashville Predators left wing Rich Clune (16) in the first period of an NHL hockey game Tuesday, April 2, 2013, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

None of your teammates ever gave you a problem for being sober?

That’s the honest truth. I’m not covering for anybody. I think the reason is because people I saw I was taking it serious, because there was a time in my life where I made promises to guys and I made promises to teammates and I told everybody, ‘I’m going to change’ and ‘I’m going to get sober’ and ‘You’ll see’ and there were so many times it was like the boy who cried wolf. Guys were like, ‘All right, I’ve heard you say this a million times. You’re a joke.’ And they had no choice but to not take me seriously because I didn’t take myself serious.’ 

The eyes don’t lie on a human. People could see in my eyes I wanted to make a change. I was doing the work. People had no choice but to respect it. I’ve had the odd guy who didn’t know … they couldn’t figure it out and were like, ‘Why aren’t you drinking?’ that could happen but did anyone ever say, ‘You’re a loser?’ It was like people were ‘OK, good for you. ‘ Mike Fisher was like a huge role model to me. Playing with him in Nashville was great.

He’s a very devout Christian and he lives his life the way he wants to live it. He was … some people may question the way he lived his life and the way he made decisions but he walks the walk and he doesn’t apologize for it. And I respect him so much and he was very accepting of me when I came in and I live my life the way I want to live it and I’m not going to apologize. I just respect people who stand for something.

I like people who, it doesn’t matter what a person does. In any walk of life in any type of profession, man, woman, whatever it doesn’t matter I gravitate people who stand for something and not march to the beat of their own drum, but sincere people who are the same person all the time. And there’s a lot of hockey players like that and I’ve met a lot of good guys I’ve looked up to over the years. 

How difficult is it to have an open relationship with a coach to let them know what’s going on in your head? You opened up about this in regards to your time with Barry Trotz in Nashville.

It was no secret when Nashville claimed me on waivers from LA (in 2013). (Former Kings assistant GM) Ron Hextall had kind of given David Poile my background and vouched for me and basically said, ‘This kid has his life in order, you don’t have to worry about that.’ So (former Nashville coach Barry Trotz) kind of had the heads up when I joined the team and Trotzy and I met before I started playing and he asked me a little bit about myself. He told me a little bit about himself and just kind of laid everything on the table. He said, ‘I coached Jordin Tootoo for a bit and I saw what he went through and I was really proud of him when he got sober and I was a very big supporter in that.’ So Trotzy sort of knew the deal. I didn’t have a shattered jaw. I had a bit of a fracture in a bone in my mouth.

I had this nasty cut that wouldn’t heal and essentially my skin was just like pulling away from my jawbone. They had to keep it protected with the visor and it just hurt man. It just hurt constantly for over a month. I took ibuprofen and that would not do much actually. The biggest thing was in my sleep I would wake up and it (freaking) hurt, or I would go to eat and there’d be food caught in there. A bunch of it got infected at one point and it was just nasty.

I wasn’t really into painkillers in my addiction. I dabbled in it, but immediately, this sort of part of my brain that probably has that trait associated with it. It was like, ‘Yeah, why don’t you just get zonked out on painkillers constantly to numb the pain, that would probably help.’ And it probably would have but I just knew I had come so far and I knew that if I put a substance like that in my body constantly, I don’t know what that would do. How will I react when the cut heals and the pain is done? Am I going to continue to take them? It could have led me back into drinking or doing other drugs and I just had come so far and learned a lot about myself. I knew that the pain wasn’t to the point where I wasn’t going to live.

It wasn’t going to kill me. So I had to figure a way of how to tough it out and the whole thing with the jaw visor. I was like, ‘Yeah I can’t fight’ and I was really stressed. I had only been on the team 3-4 weeks. And I was just playing everything out in my head. I was like, ‘(ugh), these guys are probably going to send me back down to the minors just because I had that kind of reputation coming in that I was brought in to provide energy and toughness. I know I can play without fighting. It’s just a matter of fact the team recognizing that. Trotzy saw that in me. I kept begging the trainers to take the visor off.

I was freaking out and telling them, ‘They’re going to send me down.’ Trotzy didn’t baby me, he just said man-to-man ‘I like the way you skate, use your speed get in on the forecheck. Play hockey. Play hockey … don’t you want to just play hockey?’ I was like, ‘Yeah, obviously.’ I mean I love getting into fights when it happens organically and like, something where there’s emotions involved. I’ve never been a fan of just going out there and teeing off at the other team’s fighter.

That’s good if it happens organically but just to go out and do it and then you go back to the bench and sit there for the rest of the game? No I mean, I’ve never liked that. It sucks, it’s stupid. Trotzy was cool about it. He was like ‘I’m going to give you a chance to play’ and that’s when I started to put a few points on the board. My minutes started to go up and it was really good for me. It was good for me to see and regain that confidence in myself.

NASHVILLE, TN - FEBRUARY 25: Rich Clune #16 of the Nashville Predators skates against the Dallas Stars at the Bridgestone Arena on February 25, 2013 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)

Is it easy or hard to confide in a coach?

Yeah, at the same time too, Trotzy could have just healthy scratched me until I got healthy. If he didn’t think I wasn’t capable of it, he wouldn’t have done it. This isn’t a charity case. I think if I couldn’t keep up and I was literally only there to fight I wouldn’t have played. I think the whole point was he noticed I was good enough and all I needed was that little boost of confidence to spur me on my way. I have trust issues with a lot of people, man, I have major trust issues. And when he kind of did that, it allowed me to trust him. It allowed me to play. I have a lot of trust issues inside of hockey and outside of hockey. Not every coach is going to be like that and I’ve had coaches that aren’t like that. But at the end of the day, does that make them a bad guy? Not necessarily. Everyone has their own style. It is what it is.

Seems like at the age of 27 you’ve got the hockey culture figured out? But it took a while.

It’s like anything in life. The more time you’re around it the more you learn and when you’re young you think you know everything and as you get older you realize you don’t know that much, so um, yeah I’ve enjoyed my hockey career. I train hard and I want to keep playing and I love to play. I love the sport of hockey. It’s been my life up until now and I don’t apologize for that. I don’t apologize when people say, ‘What do you do?’ and I say, ‘I’m a hockey player’ but at the same time too I’m a lot of other things, and I take pride in that as well.

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Josh Cooper is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @joshuacooper

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Author: Josh Cooper
Posted: July 4, 2015, 3:40 pm

Take a look around the league with Big League Stew's daily wrap up. We'll hit on all of the biggest moments from the day that you may have missed, while providing highlights, photos and interesting stats.

Detroit Tigers right-hander Anibal Sanchez nearly carved out a rare place in the history books on Friday night. The 31-year-old from Maracay, Venezuela came up five outs short of pitching his second career no-hitter in Detroit's 8-6 victory against the Toronto Blue Jays.

Yes, that score is deceiving. We'll get to that in a moment. 

As for Sanchez, he was looking to become the 28th pitcher in MLB history to throw multiple no-hitters. He also pitched a no-hitter for the then Florida Marlins on Sept. 6, 2006 against the Arizona Diamondbacks. The near nine-year stretch between no-hitters would have been the second longest between a pitcher's first and second. 

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It takes a special performance just to notch one no-hitter. That's why there have only been 289 of them in the league's history. Sanchez was close to that level on Friday, allowing just two baserunners on a pair of walks through the first seven innings. He just didn't have enough to cross the finish line. 

Sanchez ended up allowing four runs on three hits in the inning. That's because manager Brad Ausmus elected to stick with Sanchez despite his 110 pitches and the clear fact he was wearing out. The decision near'y proved disastrous as the Blue Jays offense caught fire and plated six runs before the eighth ended. Joakim Soria silenced them in the ninth for his 21st save. 

The results were good, but the news isn't all good for Detroit. First baseman Miguel Cabrera was forced to leave the game in the fourth inning with a strained left calf. He was placed on the 15-day disabled list Saturday morning for the first time in his 13-year career.

YANKEES PICK UP FIRST WALKOFF WIN IN 2015

The New York Yankees took their fans on a roller coaster ride Friday night, but made sure everyone went home happy with their first walk-off win since Derek Jeter's final home game last September.

Brian McCann played the role of hero, launching a three-run home run off Tampa Bay reliever Steve Geltz in the 12th to set off fireworks and wrap up the 7-5 victory. 

The Yankees needed another big swing just to get to that spot though. Trailing by three runs in the eighth, Mark Teixeira launched a game-tying three-run homer off Kevin Jepsen. That wiped out an excellent start from Tampa's Chris Archer, who tossed 6 2/3 scoreless innings with eight strikeouts.  

The resilient Rays pulled back ahead in the 12th on RBI singles from Kevin Kiermaier and Rene Rivera, but New York would not be denied. Brett Gardner, Alex Rodriguez and Teixeira all reached base to help set up McCann's big swing. 

ROYALS ALSO NOTCH FIRST WALKOFF WIN

The Yankees and Kansas City were the only two teams without a walkoff win entering play on Friday. That all changed in a matter of minutes. 

Thanks to the speed of Lorenzo Cain and a well-placed ground ball by Jarrod Dyson, the Royals celebrated a 3-2, 10-inning victory against the visiting Minnesota Twins. 

Cain led off the 10th with a double and went to third with one out on a wild pitch. Dyson then hit a chopper to first baseman Joe Mauer. Mauer fired home, but the tag was a split-second late as a headfirst sliding Cain got the plate with his left hand. 

With the win, Kansas City snapped a season-high four-game losing streak and moved to 4 1/2 games ahead of Minnesota in the AL Central. Wade Davis earned the win on the hill with a scoreless 10th inning. His season ERA was lowered to 0.26.  

 

 

CARDINALS LOSE FOURTH STRAIGHT AT HOME

It turns out the St. Louis Cardinals aren't unbeatable after all. After being swept in a quick two-game series by the Chicago White Sox, the Cardinals have now lost two straight to the San Diego Padres, running their losing streak to four.

On Friday, they fell 2-1 despite a strong effort from right-hander Michael Wacha. Wacha allowed just one run over seven outstanding innings. Closer Trevor Rosenthal, who had allowed just two earned runs all season, cracked in the ninth however, allowing a run on a Yangervis Solarte triple and Jedd Gyorko single. That run would be the difference. 

For San Diego, Andrew Cashner was on point, holding St. Louis to one run over six innings. Three Padres relievers combined to allow just one hit over three innings, with Craig Kimbrel picking up his 21st save. Gyorko was the offensive hero, knocking in both of San Diego's runs. 

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Townie813

Author: Mark Townsend
Posted: July 4, 2015, 7:10 am

Here are 10 DFS recommendations for Saturday but be sure to double-check the weather and lineups before first pitch approaches.

Carlos Martinez, SP, vs. SD (Despaigne), $10000 at FanDuel: His control could still use some improvement, but Martinez has a 25.9 K% combined with a 2.20 GB/FB ratio this season. He also sports a 10.4 SwStr%, so he’s become an elite pitcher, thanks mostly to his newfound ability to get left handers out. The Cardinals are one of the most favored teams Saturday (-185), while the Padres’ .668 OPS against RHP has been the fifth worst in all of baseball this season.

Joey Votto, 1B, vs. Mil (Nelson), $3400: He has nine homers over 127 at bats with a .406 OBP and a .504 SLG at home this year. In fact, he has more walks (31) than strikeouts (30) at GAB. Jimmy Nelson has allowed a .308 BAA with a 1.76 WHIP when facing LHB.

Robinson Cano, 2B, at Oak (Graveman), $2700: He’s 7-for-14 with two doubles and a homer over his past three games, so I’m going to continue to go with someone with such a strong track record at such a cheap price.

Adrian Beltre, 3B, vs. Tex (Santiago), $2600: Speaking of bargains with strong track records, Beltre hasn’t had an OPS lower than .879 over his previous five seasons before this one, and yet he’s not priced as a top-25 third baseman here. He also owns a career 1.335 OPS over 20 at bats versus Hector Santiago.

Ryan Raburn, OF, at Pit (Locke), $2400: It’s back to the well with Raburn, who’s batting .313/.402/.563 versus southpaws this season. He also usually hits cleanup against them, while Jeff Locke has a 1.57 WHIP when facing righties this year.

Alex Gordon, OF, vs. Min (Pelfrey), $2400: It’s not ideal where Gordon has been hitting in Kansas City’s lineup, but he owns a .392 OBP against RHP this season and a 1.212 OPS against Mike Pelfrey during his career.

Carlos Ruiz, C, at ATL (Wood), $2300: Cameron Rupp might very well be taking over the Phillies’ main catching job, but Ruiz is batting .333/.400/.476 against lefties this season, so he’s a bargain here assuming he’s back in Philadelphia’s lineup. Ruiz is also 6-for-9 with a walk and five RBI with no strikeouts against Travis Wood during his career.

Troy Tulowitzki, SS, at Ari (Corbin), $3700: He’s been a disappointment this year and typically is much better at home, but Tulowitzki has hit .424/.435/.661 against lefties this season, and he’ll be facing a southpaw Saturday who will be making his first start since 2013. Chase Field is also a great hitter’s park, and shortstop remains a really thin position, so this seems like a no brainer.

Mike Trout, OF, at Tex (Rodriguez), $5100: Just to let you know, Trout is really good at baseball, but he also owns a 1.036 OPS against LHP this season. To be clear, if you used the lineup listed so far with some big names, there would still be $400 available on FanDuel.

Manny Machado, 3B, at CHW (Samardzija), $4100: He’s 5-for-6 with two homers during his career versus Jeff Samardzija, which is both a small sample size yet pretty impressive nevertheless.

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Author: Dalton Del Don
Posted: July 4, 2015, 6:47 am

Friday was another reminder of just how unpredictable and unstable the career of a major-league reliever can be.

Veteran right-handers Joba Chamberlain and Neftali Feliz were both designated for assignment by the Detroit Tigers and Texas Rangers respectively, leaving both teams with 10 days to trade, release or place the relievers on waivers.

Chamberlain, 29, inked a one-year, $1 million deal with Detroit during the offseason in an attempt to rebuild his value. For Detroit, it was a cheap signing they hoped would add depth to their bullpen despite Chamberlain's up and down 2014.

Chamberlain had performed well in a relief role previously for the New York Yankees, It just didn't work out in Detroit. In 30 appearances, Chamberlain posted a 4.09 ERA and a 1.682 WHIP. He struggled avoiding contact as well, striking out just 15 over his 22 innings.

The final straw appeared to come in Wednesday's 9-3 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates. Pitching mop up duty in the eighth inning, Chamberlain allowed three home runs in the span of four batters. He walked off the field to chorus of boos that evening. He also walked away with a firm understanding that he'd let the fans and the organization down with his latest performance. .

From The Detroit Free Press: 

"I'd boo myself, too," Chamberlain told reporters after the game. "I mean, you can't be mad at it. You spend your hard-earned money to come see somebody be successful, and you don't be successful."

Self awareness is a good thing to have. Better execution and better results are the name of the game though, so for now anyway Chamberlain will be forced to take a step back.

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As for Feliz, the move comes as a bit of a surprise given his past success in Texas. He was removed from the roster so veteran starter Matt Harrison could be activated from the disabled list.

There's no doubt it has been a struggle for Feliz to stay healthy and remain consistent since undergoing Tommy John surgery in May 2012. Feliz missed the rest of the 2012 season and nearly missed the entire 2013 season, appearing in only six games. 

In 30 appearances last season, he showed promise, posting a 1.99 ERA over 31 2/3 innings. He also notched 13 saves. This season, he came out of the gate slow, posting a 5.09 ERA in 17 appearances, before landing on the disabled list with an axillary abscess on his right side. He ended up missing six weeks. 

Feliz was once an ace reliever, recording 72 total saves between 2010-11. The Rangers tried moving him to the rotation in 2012, which directly preceded the elbow injury. Whether or not that was a good decision was a hotly debated topic leading up to the change and continues to be debated in wake of his injuries. 

Perhaps it's a topic the Rangers have grown tired of, or more likely the Rangers have simply run out of patience.

It's reported the Rangers will look to trade Feliz in the coming days. Both Feliz and Chamberlain should draw interest given their experience. Chamberlain is the cheaper option with Feliz still due $4.13 million this season, but both have appeal.  Perhaps we'll even see them swap spots as both teams look for answers. 

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Townie813

Author: Mark Townsend
Posted: July 4, 2015, 4:34 am

We've already had our fill of scary flying bat incidents this season. That's why everybody watching cringed and held their breath on Friday night when San Francisco Giants pitcher Jake Peavy lost his grip and sent his bat barreling into the stands at Nationals Park.

Fortunately, when the camera quickly panned to the crowd, all we saw was a fan celebrating perhaps the biggest catch of his life.

Catching a bat > catching a ball. http://t.co/oQgNOjz9uq pic.twitter.com/dNtdOmyWyc

— MLB GIFS (@MLBGIFs) July 3, 2015

That man here is a hero, and to the hero go the spoils.

(MLB.TV)
So smooth. So casual. Well done, our man. She won't soon forget that one.  

It's a happy ending this time, but we should also use this as another reminder of just how important it is for fans to constantly pay attention at the ballpark. That's especially true of fans sitting around the home plate and dugout areas. It's a vulnerable position to be in when there's no netting around, and if you're not watching the action a bat or ball can get on you awfully quick.

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The rainy weather in Washington on Friday only served to make things more dangerous. Batters and pitchers both struggled with their grips and their footing as the conditions worsened, but fortunately no players went down with injuries either. 

After celebrating the catch, the fans were able to celebrate a victory as well. Clint Robinson's two-run homer in the seventh inning was all the offense Washington needed for a 2-1 victory. Buster Posey provided San Francisco's only offense with a solo home run off Gio Gonzalez. 

BLS H/N: Cut 4 

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Townie813

Author: Mark Townsend
Posted: July 4, 2015, 3:11 am

Rajon Rondo searches for a better opportunity. (Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)Rajon Rondo's 2015 free agency was always less about finding a long-term home than it was figuring out which NBA team allowed him the best chance to avoid taking a serious paycut while simultaneously finding a chance to rebuild his waning reputation. For the eternally enigmatic 29-year-old point guard, that pursuit almost assured that he was going to end up with the Sacramento Kings. As reported by Yahoo's Marc Spears, Rondo will join the Kings on a one-year, $10-million deal that frees him up to pursue new opportunities when the cap rises in 2016.

The salary allows Rondo to save face after a disastrous few months with the Dallas Mavericks. Following his trade from the Boston Celtics in December, Rondo turned one of the league's best offenses into a less potent unit while engaging in public disagreements with head coach Rick Carlisle over which man would exert greater control over playcalling (or a lack thereof). That relationship culminated in a spectacular flameout during their first-round series against the Houston Rockets, a one-sided five-gamer that saw Rondo play only the first two games "due to" a questionably serious back injury. The situation was so toxic that Dallas didn't even give Rondo a playoff share.

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The Kings seem to think they can unlock the old Rondo, although it's not apparent that they are a functional enough organization to put him in a position to succeed. Over the past several weeks, the Kings have gone through confounding internal power struggles and cleared cap space to set themselves for a free-agent bounty only owner Vivek Ranadive and lead personnel man Vlade Divac seemed to want. When targets Wesley Mattthews and Monta Ellis went elsewhere (for less money, in at least the case of the former), Sacramento settled for Rondo, who always appeared to be part of their plans, and ex-San Antonio Spurs shooter Marco Belinelli, also added on Friday at $18 million over three seasons. The eight-figure salary for Rondo seems high and potentially the product of a team bidding against itself, but that money had to go somewhere once Divac made it available.

In a way, then, the Kings have succeeded simply because they finally got a player they wanted. They (or maybe just Ranadive) clearly like the idea of Rondo applying his near-limitless creativity to an offense that ranked towards the middle in efficiency last season. Plus, past versions of Rondo fit into head coach George Karl's desire for a ball-dominating, creative point guard who can get out in transition.

However, what the Kings want in the short term does not necessarily match with what they need to become a better team. For one thing, Ranadive and Divac's front office appears to change its mind every few months, if not weeks, and operates with levels of ignorance and gullibility that approach willfulness. (The ongoing Karl kerfuffle is just the most obvious example — any organization that had researched his past would have known that he would not enjoy coaching DeMarcus Cousins and eventually want to trade him.) It's hard to believe that they or Karl will commit to giving Rondo the free rein he desires over the offense, because they have a habit of moving on to the next option at the first sign of difficulty or failure. As the Mavericks learned, an unhappy Rondo can create lots of problems for an otherwise stable team, let alone a mediocre one. Like Cousins, Rondo has a very clear sense of what he considers correct or logical. Imagine what could go wrong with a franchise that changes its lead executive or coaches every couple months.

In the presence of such fundamental issues, Rondo's on-court problems may end up having a minor impact on the Kings' win-loss record. Unfortunately, there are plenty of them. Never a capable shooter, Rondo is an odd fit in a contemporary NBA that prizes floor spacing and the presence of multiple playmakers. Those deficiencies are even more problematic given that Rondo is as ineffective a scorer as he's ever been — he shot 40.5 percent from the field in 22 games with Boston (in line with his 2013-14 numbers) before rising to 43.6 percent for a Mavericks squad with plenty of scoring options. This is not a pretty image:

Kings fans, here is Rondo's shot chart from last season. Enjoy. pic.twitter.com/hrhzNjoXAh

— Kurt Helin (@basketballtalk) July 3, 2015

Even worse, Rondo simultaneously saw his assist numbers dip to 8.9 per game with a 39.3 assist percentage last season, both among the worst marks of his career. Rondo used to be able to make up for his weaknesses by getting to and creating from spots other players couldn't, but he now has a hard time exerting that will over a game.

These tendencies all create problems for a Kings team that scores best when it goes through DeMarcus Cousins in the post. The presence of Rondo could allow defense to collapse on Cousins without fearing open shots on the perimeter. Rudy Gay likes to handle the ball, as well, and keeping Rondo off the ball is pretty much the worst thing an offense can do. Any offensive value he has exists when he's creating passing lanes with probing drives and elite court vision.

What about defense, where the Kings ranked 27th in points allowed per 100 possesions last season? Despite a reputation as an excellent defender, Rondo is not the ballhawk he was as a young star in Boston and often struggles at the point of attack. Incumbent starter Darren Collison isn't especially good in this area either, but he puts forth the necessary effort and isn't clearly worse on balance.

There is potential for Rondo to escape the doldrums of his career and recapture a significant portion of the form that made him one of the most fascinating and inventive players in basketball over many years with the Celtics. The best-case scenario likely involves Rondo focusing enough to improve his defense and to dominate the offense in a way that leads to plenty of assists. Yet that situation would allow him to prove his worth before he goes back on the free-agent market in 2016, at which point he probably won't want to play for the lottery-bound Kings much longer.

It is hopefully clear that this is a best case for Rondo, not the Kings. This franchise and roster needs too much for a resurgent Rondo to help them make the postseason in the loaded Western Conference. There are too many gaps across the squad, too many ill-fitting parts and areas of weakness that could only be fixed by one of the NBA's two or three greatest players.

It's a predictable move for a franchise that seems addicted to instant gratification. Perhaps the Kings will eventually learn that constructing a quality team requires more than chasing after one.

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Eric Freeman is a writer for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at efreeman_ysports@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Eric Freeman
Posted: July 4, 2015, 2:40 am

CP3 now has many more reasons to be upset at DeAndre Jordan. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)The Los Angeles Clippers learned Friday that the line between contention and also-ran status can be all too thin. With dynamic center DeAndre Jordan on his way to the Dallas Mavericks on a four-year, max-level contract below the Clippers' own offer, the West's No. 3 seed, a team that looked like a potential title favorite for a few weeks in April and May, now has serious questions about its ability to defend anyone, let alone compete with the likes of the Golden State Warriors, San Antonio Spurs, and Cleveland Cavaliers. No team with stars like Chris Paul and Blake Griffin will ever be seriously lacking, but the loss of Jordan puts the Clippers threatens to cap the Clippers' expectations for next season and beyond. Worse yet, it's not clear where they can turn for replacements and reinforcements.

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Although it's relatively easy to argue that the Mavericks have misjudged the breadth of Jordan's talents, the nearly 27-year-old center earned this contract by serving as an essential piece of one of basketball's best teams. As our Kelly Dwyer noted in his analysis of the deal, Jordan still has some bad habits as a defender and wasn't "clearly" the most deserving Defensive Player of the Year candidate, no matter how much Doc Rivers campaigned for him in the press. Yet he is also an elite rim protector who regularly frustrated the historically smooth Spurs in the first round of this past postseason. For that matter, Jordan's defensive skills also helped cover for lapses on the perimeter and kept Griffin from exerting too much energy. No matter who the Clippers find to replace him, the defense will need to be rethought and reimagined without Jordan.

The most efficient offense of 2014-15 will need its own adjustments without the hyper-athletic center. Although Jordan's notoriously poor free-throw shooting and propensity for dunks have sometimes caused fans and analysts to cast him as an unthinking golem, he has legitimate, hard-to-reproduce skills as a finisher and screener, particularly on alley-oop passes from Paul (and increasingly Griffin). Chris Paul was the architect of Lob City, but Jordan at least served as one of its chief foremen. For all that Paul does to find teammates for dunks, players like Jordan make his task much easier with their ability to catch, finish, and often redefine merely adequate passes. The Clippers can find someone to dunk, but they will almost assuredly not match the potency of this partnership.

That's largely because they have limited options via free agency or trade. SB Nation's Mike Prada put together a useful explanation of all available avenues, none of which suggest the ability to add a starting-caliber center. In short, the Clippers were only able to offer Jordan a max-level deal because he was already on their roster, so they don't simply gain $20 million in cap space with his departure. Losing Jordan puts the Clippers a hair below the salary cap, which would usually open up the mid-level exception at about $5.5 million. But the franchise just agreed to terms with veteran wing Paul Pierce for about $3.3 million per year for the full taxpayer's mid-level exception, which would have been the only available salary if Jordan had returned. Now, though, that $3.3 million is covered under the mid-level exception, which gives the Clippers a little over $2 million to spend on a new big man. While a veteran-laden contender can hope to add a similarly well-aged player at a cut-rate salary, much as they did with Pierce, the fact is that such big men are only available because of serious limitations and can rarely play more than 15 or 20 minutes per game.

Those figures mean that the Clippers will have to hope for the possibility of a sign-and-trade deal, but they have limited assets to make such a deal worth the trade partner. As Prada notes, that's especially the case if they try to negotiate with a team like the Mavericks or Memphis Grizzlies, in-conference rivals who must be thrilled to see a high-end contender with such a gaping hole in the middle.

So, where can the Clippers reasonably turn? Yahoo's own Adrian Wojnarowski mentioned Grizzlies free agent center Kosta Koufos as a potential sign-and-trade target, and he would seem to be the best available option if the two sides can work out a deal. However, that agreement could have to involve reserve scorer Jamal Crawford, a key player for Los Angeles for several seasons and potentially even more important now that the Clippers will have to play small more often. The Clippers can bring back veteran free agent Glen "Big Baby" Davis to play some center and probably will regardless of whatever else they do, but he's undersized and not equipped to play major minutes at the position.

Otherwise, the Clippers will be forced to turn to rapidly aging veterans like Kendrick Perkins and Amar'e Stoudemire, both of whom have been linked to the Clippers in recent reports. But neither is much of a defender at this point in their careers, although Stoudemire can at least score enough to help somewhere. Perk, though, is probably useful only as a reminder of his success alongside Rivers, Pierce, and Davis with the Boston Celtics.

Given all these issues, the Clippers' best option is to assume a dearth of rim protection and go small. Yet this roster is not necessarily in position to mimic the Golden State Warriors' brand of hyper-versatile switch-heavy defense. Apart from new addition Lance Stephenson, none of the Clippers is especially capable of guarding multiple positions on the same possession, although Paul and starting shooting guard J.J. Redick are both very good defenders in the backcourt. Essentially, Rivers will have to bank on smaller lineups with Griffin at the five and Pierce at the four out-scoring opponents so thoroughly that the quality of defense becomes incidental to their success. On the other hand, it's not obvious that a team full of veterans can sustain that style over a full season.

The Clippers have no easy way around these problems, because they were constructed to take advantage of Jordan's elite blend of defense, size, and athleticism. Regardless of whether he proves himself worthy of his new contract with the Mavericks, there was little doubt that Jordan was worth the max-level salary for the Clippers, a group whose championship window exists only as long as Chris Paul is still in his prime. Without their center, that opening may be all but closed for 2015-16.

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Eric Freeman is a writer for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at efreeman_ysports@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Eric Freeman
Posted: July 4, 2015, 12:22 am

Angels owner Arte Moreno and Josh Hamilton shake hands in 2012. (Getty Images)Just when you thought the Los Angeles Angels' week couldn't get any more dramatic, here comes a weekend series in Texas against the Rangers and former outfielder Josh Hamilton.

The story here has been told many times over the past few months. In February, Hamilton suffered a drug and alcohol related relapse, which the Angels condemned and attempted to use as a way out ouf Hamilton's bad contract.

Ultimately, they were forced to eat the majority of the deal in order to trade Hamilton back to Texas, which sets up Friday's big reunion.

A lot has been said about the Angels' lack of support for Hamilton during his difficult time. Many felt they portrayed themselves in a bad light by immediately shunning him and distancing themselves. Before his comeback last month, Hamilton even said that he was denied a meeting with Angels owner Arte Moreno, noting that the two hadn't directly talked since last season.

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That's a stunning lack of consciousness and tact on the organization's part, and it makes this request from Angels manager Mike Scioscia ahead the series sound rather ridiculous.

From USA TODAY Sports' Scott Boeck:

"I'm hoping he'll take an opportunity to thank the teammates that supported him, and to reach out to Arte and let Arte know that maybe some of the things he did weren't what he signed up to do," Scioscia told USA TODAY Sports. "We'll leave it at that."

(Getty Images)Yeah, that's probably a good place to leave it because there's no place else to take it that isn't completely out of touch with the actual situation.

For his part, Hamilton has expressed his gratitude to the former teammates who have remained publicly supportive. In fact, he already met with many of them when the team visited Houston earlier this season, where he was rehabbing from offseason shoulder surgery.

"It will be good to see the guys," Hamilton said of his former teammates. "All or most of them were behind me when we met in Houston and had lunch. Everybody was cool."

However, it should come as no surprise that Hamilton has zero intentions of seeking out Arte Moreno.

"No, I've tried many times in the past, even when I played for him. I've gotten turned down. As a player, I wanted to reassure him that I was doing everything I could as a player that he paid for. They said they got the message to him, whether they did or not is his own dealing.
"I can definitely say I can sleep fine at night knowing I tried."

One can't fault Hamilton for wanting to move on completely. If mending fences means that much to Moreno, he's the one who should be reaching out. Otherwise, it looks like he's trying to feed his ego.

As for Friday's game, Hamilton is starting in left field and batting fifth against Angels starter Garrett Richards.

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Townie813

Author: Mark Townsend
Posted: July 4, 2015, 12:10 am

Federal investigators have recommended charges be brought against at least one St. Louis Cardinals employee implicated in the probe of an alleged computer intrusion of databases belonging to the Houston Astros, according to a report from CNN.

Per the CNN report, the investigation is complete. It is not immediately clear which employee was in line to be charged or how high up the Cardinals' hierarchy that employee might be, but it's apparent they've pinpointed at least one individual's involvement.

Here's more from the CNN story: 

The probe by investigators at the FBI's Houston office is complete, according to officials briefed on the matter, but is awaiting action by the Houston U.S. attorney's office. A U.S. attorney spokeswoman didn't respond to a request for comment.

The FBI's Houston office declined to comment on pending charges.

"The FBI aggressively investigates all potential threats to public and private sector systems," FBI spokeswoman Shauna Dunlap said. "Once our investigations are complete, we pursue all appropriate avenues to hold accountable those who pose a threat in cyberspace."

As we learned Thursday, Chris Correa, the Cardinals' scouting director, was fired by the club following an imposed leave of absence. The team refused to connect Correa's firing to the ongoing hacking scandal, but the St. Louis Post-Dispatch revealed it has sources saying Correa was responsible for breaching an Astros database.

That would seemingly position Correa as the employee in question, but until that's confirmed or denied we're left with the same questions and the same uncertain answers. 

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Correa’s attorney responded on Thursday, saying his client did nothing illegal and sought only to assess whether Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow had taken proprietary information from the Cardinals when he departed for Houston. That may ultimately be true of Correa's role, but it's difficult to imagine that reasoning being justifiable.  

Officials looking into the computer breach were also known to be focusing on whether senior officials with the Cardinals were aware of the spying. Club chairman and CEO Bill DeWitt Jr. and GM John Mozeliak have both continued to deny any knowledge or involvement.

The plot thickens, though at least it would appear we're on the verge of pinpointing the key suspect and analyzing what this means for the Cardinals organization.  

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Townie813

Author: Mark Townsend
Posted: July 3, 2015, 11:25 pm

Brad Keselowski made contact with Kyle Busch in turn 2 during the first practice for Sunday's Coke Zero 400. A crash started from there.

Busch collected other cars including Martin Truex Jr., Jamie McMurray, Ryan Newman, Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle. Here's how it happened.

Your browser does not support iframes. Busch wasn't too happy that Keselowski got away from the crash without being involved heavily. Busch and Keselowski aren't exactly on friendly terms. Remember, Keselowski once called Busch an "ass" at driver intros in Bristol when their rivalry was at its hottest. Your browser does not support iframes. Keselowski said the wreck "stinks." Your browser does not support iframes. Since the crash happened on Friday and qualifying is on Saturday, drivers going to backup cars will not have to start at the back of the pack. If a driver qualifies the backup car, he or she can keep the starting spot earned.

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Nick Bromberg is the editor of From The Marbles on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at nickbromberg@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: July 3, 2015, 10:59 pm

The 2014 Xfinity Series and Camping World Truck Series banquets were held at Donald Trump's Doral resort in Miami. The banquets will be at a different location in 2015.

Following controversial comments by the business mogul and (again) presidential candidate, a NASCAR spokesperson said Friday that the sport would look for a different spot for the banquets.

Via Alan Cavanna's Facebook page.

"Everything weighs in. We started talking about this early in the week. Given all the attention brought to this matter and how it impacts our partners, sponsors, our teams and our drivers and certainly ourselves, it ultimately was a decision made today that we will not being going back there."

The media event before the final race of the 2014 Chase was also at the Trump National Doral.

Trump's comments in his presidential campaign publicity blitz about immigrants from Mexico have hurt his businesses. NBC has dropped his Miss Universe pageant and Macy's has also pulled his clothing line from its shelves.

“When Mexico sends its people they aren't sending their best,” Trump said at his June presidential event, “They are bringing drugs, they're bringing crime, they are rapists and some are good people but I speak to border guards and they tell us what we're getting.”

He has continued the sentiments in recent interviews.

Bill de Blasio, the mayor of New York City, called Trump's  characterizations "disgusting and offensive."

Marcus Lemonis, the CEO of Camping World, the title sponsor of NASCAR's third-tier series, said Friday in a public letter to NASCAR and chairman Brian France that he would not be attending any NASCAR events at any of Trump's properties.

Last year, our NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Awards Ceremony was held at the Trump National Doral in Miami, and due to recent and ongoing blatantly bigoted and racist comments from Donald Trump in regards to immigrants of the United States, I would like to inform you that I will not, nor will any representative of Camping World, participate or attend in the ceremonial event if it is held at any Trump property.  Our company will not stand to support any person or organization that associates with such beliefs and we feel strongly about distancing ourselves from any negative and discriminatory comments made against any gender, ethnicity, age group or so forth. I would hope that the entire NASCAR organization would agree with my sentiments.

Trump has polled as high as second in some Republican presidential polls. Is his momentum sustainable? Given the business backlash, we're betting heavily it's not.

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Nick Bromberg is the editor of From The Marbles on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at nickbromberg@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Nick Bromberg
Posted: July 3, 2015, 10:22 pm

Joel Ward and his glorious behind are going to the San Jose Sharks. 

The 34-year-old Ward signed a three-year $9.825 million for an annual salary cap hit of $3.275 million. 

This is a per-year raise from Ward’s prior deal, a four-year contract signed with Washington that paid him $12 million overall. Ward was one of the clutch glue type players on the free agent market, along with new Caps forward Justin Williams. The latter actually saw his salary drop to $3.25 million over two years as an essential replacement for Ward.

How does Ward fit with the Sharks? He’s a big, powerful forward with a strong cycle game. These attributes would fit nicely on Joe Thornton’s wing. But they have yet another 30 something under contract into the second half of that decade for a lot of money. However, he should fit nicely in the puck possession system favored by new coach Peter DeBoer.

"Joel is a quality veteran player who can score but also plays an extremely hard-nosed brand of hockey," general manager Doug Wilson said in a statement. "He meshes well with our core group of forwards and has a strong track record of playing his best hockey at crucial times of the season."

Said DeBoer in a statement:

"Joel is an identity player in that he plays exactly the way I want our team to play. He's big, strong, fast and hard to play against.  That's exactly what we are looking for." 

Ha, ‘identity player’ nice. I don’t know what that means, but each coach has his own lingo.

Ward had 19 goals and 15 assists last season in 82 games and nine points in 14 playoff games. He had 13 points in 12 playoff games in 2010-11 for the Nashville Predators. And his nickname is the ‘Big Cheese’ for reasons we don’t fully understand.

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Josh Cooper is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @joshuacooper

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Author: Josh Cooper
Posted: July 3, 2015, 10:03 pm

(AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)The NCAA is reportedly taking allegations made by the stepfather of Ole Miss offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil very seriously.

Tunsil’s stepfather, Lindsey Miller, said last week that his stepson was meeting with football agents on the night Tunsil was arrested for domestic assault against Miller. And according to The Clarion-Ledger, NCAA officials made the trip to Oxford Friday to speak with Miller regarding “an investigation into multiple alleged rules violations” by the Ole Miss football program.

Miller confirmed the meeting to The Clarion-Ledger and said he met with NCAA director of enforcement for football Chris Howard and another official for an estimated three hours. He declined to comment further about the meeting, but did tell the paper last week that he is aware of violations within the program.

From The Clarion-Ledger:

But on Thursday, Miller told The Clarion-Ledger that, in addition to the contact made by agents, he is aware of violations that occurred during Tunsil's recruitment as well, including claims of falsified academic records and gifts made by the university.

Miller also alleges that the agents have provided Tunsil with other benefits outside of transportation, including gifts of cash, clothes, help with car insurance payments and more.

An Ole Miss spokesperson told The Clarion-Ledger that the school has not had contact with the NCAA and was unaware of any representatives being in the area.

Miller told police last Thursday that he and Tunsil’s mother, Desiree Tunsil, were arguing about the star tackle “riding around with football agents” before Tunsil allegedly assaulted him. Tunsil, a projected first round pick, offered his own version of the incident to police, but his statement has not been released. Additionally, Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze said in a statement that Tunsil was protecting his mother from his stepfather.

NCAA athletes are permitted to speak with certified NFL agents as long as they do not accept impermissible benefits, such as accepting transportation.

"We are aware that Laremy and his family have met with potential agents, which is within his NCAA rights as a student-athlete," Freeze told The Clarion-Ledger earlier this week. "Regarding the altercation, we will continue to gather facts and cooperate with the proper authorities."

Tunsil and Miller have pressed charges against one another and have a court date scheduled for July 14.

For more Ole Miss news, visit RebelGrove.com.

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Sam Cooper is a contributor for the Yahoo Sports blogs. Have a tip? Email him or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Sam Cooper
Posted: July 3, 2015, 9:55 pm

Former Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan, shockingly, will leave tens of millions of dollars on the table to join the Dallas Mavericks. The athletic center will sign a four-year, $80 million deal with Mark Cuban’s team:

ESPN sources say DeAndre Jordan is on verge of accepting Mavs' four-year, $80M+ max offer. Dallas firmly in lead and decision likely today

— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) July 3, 2015

LAC free agent center DeAndre Jordan plans to announce that he will be signing with the Mavericks early this evening, a source told Yahoo.

— Marc J. Spears (@SpearsNBAYahoo) July 3, 2015

Ex-Clippers center DeAndre Jordan’s announcement he is signing with the Mavericks is expected to be around 5 P.M. CST, a source told Yahoo.

— Marc J. Spears (@SpearsNBAYahoo) July 3, 2015

The Clippers stated prior to the offseason that they would throw every bit of available money they had at Jordan, up to five years and $109 million. Rumors swirled that Jordan was both unhappy with an understandably contentious relationship with the perpetually disagreeable Chris Paul, and the idea that he was a tertiary figure on the Clippers’ totem under Paul and forward Blake Griffin.

Rumors also swirled, during this madcap first few days of NBA free agency, that the way to Jordan’s heart would be via the promise of increased visibility and more of a role on offense. How any of this will be possible in Dallas is unclear at this point.

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Jordan is from Houston, but Houston is not Dallas, and a 240 mile distance separates the two cities. The Mavericks have already lost scorer Monta Ellis to the Indiana Pacers, we have no idea how severe and potentially limiting Chandler Parsons’ knee surgery recovery will be, and franchise centerpiece Dirk Nowitzki recently turned 37 years old. Center Tyson Chandler, six years older but in several ways superior to Jordan, left to sign with the Phoenix Suns.

The Mavs recently signed Wesley Matthews, who suffered an Achilles tear in March, to a four-year deal. Three of those years will take place in his 30s, and though Matthews is one of the league’s more admirable players, even an ahead of schedule recovery from an Achilles tear doesn’t do much to bring NBA players back to an approximation of what they once were pre-tear. The team will still have a little bit of salary cap space left after pen is put to paper, which hopefully will solve the conundrum that is “Raymond Felton, starting point guard for the Dallas Mavericks.”

This signing, and to a lesser extent Chandler Parsons’ signing from last year, act as an end game for the four years’ worth of attempts to surround Nowitzki with a suitable supporting cast as he approaches retirement. The payoff, with no second round playoff appearances and even a lottery appearance in 2013, is more than a little disappointing.

This isn’t to the discredit the work of Cuban, general manager Donnie Nelson, or even Nowitzki – who took far less than market value to commit to a smaller contract last offseason in order to save money to acquire free agents. The Mavs’ braintrust made smart, calculated and forward-thinking decisions that for various reasons just didn’t end up benefitting the team. Through a string of bad luck and worse timing, the Mavericks had to fight for free agent scraps. And though they might feature perhaps the best coach in the NBA in Rick Carlisle, he’s been submarined twice by two franchise tilting talents in the mercurial Lamar Odom and Rajon Rondo.

This is just what happens, sometimes, when smart people take chances. It wasn’t hubris or poor reasoning that cemented the Mavericks within the realm of the mediocre following the team’s 2011 championship; which is ironic because each of the moves following that title were initiated because of attempts to stay out of that sort of NBA purgatory.

Jordan is not without his charms. Both technically and figuratively he is the perhaps the best finisher in the NBA, a lob machine that shot over 70 percent from the field last season. That’s not all due to the presence of Paul or the expertly-passing Blake Griffin, Jordan knows his angles and when to dash toward the front of the rim.

His defense in certain areas is suspect, he still harbors overarching bad pick and roll habits left over from Los Angeles’ Vinny Del Negro era, but defensive rebounds and blocks are still box score stats that matter. The idea that he’ll turn into a low post threat at (nearly) age 27 is a bit of a joke, and his free throw shooting (39.7) makes it so you do have to leave him off the floor at times, but Carlisle no doubt has a few tricks up his sleeve.

DeAndre Jordan is nothing to build upon in a post-Nowitzki future, even though the Mavs will have cap room (as everyone else will) next offseason and in 2017. Jordan also left a championship contender to play with this disparate group of Dallas Mavericks. This feels like a move that will disappoint two franchises at once, while costing the player $29 million.

So, why is this happening again? Chris Paul must be really, really mean.

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Kelly Dwyer is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at KDonhoops@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @KDonhoops

Author: Kelly Dwyer
Posted: July 3, 2015, 8:45 pm

When the Chicago Cubs initially announced the Wrigley Field renovations, not everyone was on board. Some argued that Wrigley had so much historical relevance that it would be blasphemous to add video boards to the iconic stadium.

Well, the Cubs found a excellent way to get angry fans back on board with all the changes Friday. During the seventh inning stretch, the team played a video of Harry Caray singing "Take Me Out to the Ball Game."

Harry Caray sing the 7th inning stretch at Wrigley Field on 7/3/15 from Billy Krumb on Vimeo.

That is exceptional!

Caray was famous for leading the crowd through the song when he was a broadcaster with the club. Following his death in 1998, the Cubs have opted to bring in celebrity conductors for the event. 

The team will continue to bring in celebrities, but the new video boards allow them to occasionally stray from that plan, according to Carrie Muskat of MLB.com.

“One of the things that we think would be really fun is to bring back a number of our departed historic figures, like Harry Caray, Ernie Banks, Ron Santo,” said Cubs president of business operations Crane Kenney. “We want to bring them back to the fans via the video board.”

The Cubs felt Friday was the perfect timing for Caray because they were re-opening the bleachers, which have been under construction as part of the ballpark’s renovation. Caray occasionally did his broadcasts from the bleachers.

“We listen to the fans,” Kenney said. “We’re learning from them.”

By all accounts, the Cubs' fans really seemed to enjoy seeing Caray on the video board.

Video of Harry Caray singing Take Me Out To The Ballgame showing on the #Cubs scoreboards. Crowd really loving it.

— Bernie Pleskoff (@BerniePleskoff) July 3, 2015

So, yeah, this is kind of excellent. Caray is a beloved figure to Cubs fans, so any chance to make sure he's still a part of the team is a big win. The club could probably get away with playing this video every day, but the fact that it will only happen occasionally makes it more special. 

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Not every supporter of the club will get on board with the Wrigley renovations, but you'll probably be hard-pressed to find one fan who is opposed to this idea.

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Chris Cwik is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at christophercwik@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Chris_Cwik

Author: Chris Cwik
Posted: July 3, 2015, 8:40 pm

I'm back from vacation, thrown immediately into the DFS fire. We have some wetness in the Friday forecast, so buyers beware. Prepare to tweak lineups as needed.

[Yahoo Sports Fantasy Football is back: Sign up for a league today!]

Michael Wacha, P, vs. SD (Cashner), $8600 at FanDuel: OK, sure, Kershaw is the best available starter on Friday, even if he's facing a pretty fair opposing starter (Syndergaard). But Kershaw is also Friday's priciest option, massively more expensive than Wacha, a guy with a 1.10 WHIP. St. Louis hosts the Pads, and San Diego enters the day ranked next-to-last in the N.L. in on-base percentage (.295).

Pablo Sandoval, 3B, vs. Hou (Straily), $2400: Straily is obviously a hittable right-hander and Sandoval is slashing .314/.366/.492 against RHPs this year. Panda's performance versus lefties has been atrocious, as most of you know, but he's a quality option in this spot.

Jonathan Lucroy, C, at Cin (Lorenzen), $3000: Weather is a concern in Cincinnati on Friday night, but Lucroy would be a terrific play, assuming no PPD. He's 8-for-15 over his last three games with a double, one walk and five RBIs. Signs of life, at last.

J.J. Hardy, SS, at CWS (Danks), $2600: John Danks is starting for the White Sox, and ... well, that's all you need to know. Please consider stacking a few O's.

Luis Valbuena, 3B, at Bos (Masterson), $3400: Masterson has not retired a left-handed batter since Tony Womack in 2005. Go ahead, look it up.

David Ortiz, 1B, vs. Hou (Straily), $2900: Papi has homered in three of his past five games, and Straily has allowed 37 bombs over 243.2 major league innings (1.37 HR/9). At this price, Ortiz frees up cash for a few luxury buys.

Ubaldo Jimenez, P, at CWS (Danks), $8400: If Ubaldo can simply hold Chicago to single-digit runs, he'll surely beat Danks. Jimenez didn't allow more than three earned runs in any of his six June starts, going 4-0 with 42 Ks in 35.2 innings during the month. He can handle the Sox here.

Rougned Odor, 2B, vs. LAA (Richards), $2700: The kid is simply scorching hot, with 11 hits (including four XBHs) over his last six games. Richards has owned him to this point in their careers (6 Ks, 1-for-9), but Odor seems to have unlocked some new level of performance. At this price, I'm playing the streak.

Kole Calhoun, OF, at Tex (Gonzalez), $2300: Stubborn though it may seem, I still have faith in Calhoun. He's hitting near the top of the order, ahead of Trout and Pujols, and Friday's matchup isn't so scary. Despite the stellar fantasy ratios, Gonzalez has only K'd 14 batters in his 41.2 major league innings.

Eugenio Suarez, SS, vs. Mil (Fiers), $2600: A quality hitter at a near-minimum price, facing a sketchy starter (1.47 WHIP). Let's not make this game any harder than it needs to be. If the rain stays away, Suarez will score.

Author: Andy Behrens
Posted: July 3, 2015, 8:20 pm

(AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)Thousands of current and former college athletes could receive money as a result of settlements from a series of lawsuits stemming from the use of football and men’s basketball players’ names and likenesses in video games.

According to legal documents obtained by USA Today, many athletes are “likely” to receive “at least $1,000” and some could receive “$6,700 or more.”

From USA Today:

The documents were submitted late Thursday night to U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken as part of the process to gain her final approval of a combined $60 million in settlements of claims against the NCAA, video game manufacturer Electronic Arts and Collegiate Licensing Company, the nation's leading collegiate trademark licensing and marketing firm.

The settlements -- which Wilken approved on a preliminary basis last July -- applied to athletes who were on the roster of a team included in a game that was published or distributed from May 2003 through September 2014. Athletes still playing college sports are allowed receive money from the settlements without affecting their NCAA eligibility.

Claims from athletes were due on Thursday and “nearly 16,200” had done so, documents said. According to USA Today, that figure represents approximately 16 percent of athletes who were eligible for the $40 million settlement with EA Sports and Collegiate Licensing Company and nearly 24 percent of athletes eligible for the $20 million settlement with the NCAA.

Per USA Today, athletes can receive money from “either or both settlements,” based on a number of factors.

-- The validated claims rates.

-- Whether a player's name appeared on a team roster.

-- Whether his assigned jersey number appeared on a virtual avatar.

-- Whether his photograph appeared in the game.

-- Which years he appeared in a game as an avatar and/or had his photograph used in the game.

-- The number of years in which a player was on a roster, appeared in the game as an avatar and/or had their photograph used in the game.

Some of the total $60 million in combined settlement money will go toward “fees and expenses sought by plaintiffs’ lawyers” and payments to named plaintiffs, including former UCLA basketball player Ed O’Bannon.

From USA Today:

Of the $60 million in combined settlement money that has been proposed, the lawyers are seeking fees not to exceed $19 million and expenses not to exceed $3 million. A total of nearly $200,000 would be set aside as "participation awards" for named plaintiffs, including former UCLA basketball player Ed O'Bannon, former Nebraska and Arizona State football player Sam Keller and former Rutgers football player Ryan Hart.

All athletes who made a valid claim will receive “at least $74.” Other monetary amounts depend on an athlete’s visibility in a game.

For example, an athlete who was in an EA game from 2005 to 2014 would receive “about $850 from the EA settlement and/or a little less than $500 from the NCAA settlement.” For each year a player appeared in a game, the total is multiplied.

From USA Today:

According to Thursday night's filings, based on the current claims rates and attorney fee-and-expense requests, an athlete who appeared on a roster in one of the games in one year and is not otherwise identifiable in the game would get $129 from the EA settlement.

A player depicted in one of the games or whose photograph was used in one of the games in one year from 2003 to 2005 would get about $230 from the EA settlement and/or about $130 from the NCAA settlement.

A player depicted in one of the games or whose photograph was used in one of the games in one year from 2005 to 2014 would get about $850 from the EA settlement and/or a little less than $500 from the NCAA settlement.

Those amounts get multiplied for each year of use of the player's name, image or likeness. So, as one of the documents filed Thursday night stated, the most any one athlete would get from the NCAA settlement is about $2,440 – an amount based on appearing in the game for five years. (The similar payout from the EA settlement would be about $4,260.)

Wilken could grant final approval for the payouts in a July 16 hearing.

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Sam Cooper is a contributor for the Yahoo Sports blogs. Have a tip? Email him or follow him on Twitter!

Follow @SamDCooper

Author: Sam Cooper
Posted: July 3, 2015, 7:52 pm

Ryan O’Reilly and the Buffalo Sabres have agreed to a seven-year, $52.5 million extension for the 24-year old forward. 

The cap hit comes in at $7.5 million per year.

O’Reilly, who spent the first six seasons of his NHL with the Colorado Avalanche, is another young piece acquired by Sabres GM Tim Murray. He’ll join 23-year old Evander Kane, who they traded for in February, 18-year old No. 2 overall pick Jack Eichel and 25-year old Tyler Ennis, who was extended last summer. 

The makeup of the extension is interesting. According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, all seven years come with a $1 million salary and the rest coming via signing bonuses. So O’Reilly protects himself from escrow and with all the bonus money, a buyout, sort of like what we saw with David Clarkson’s deal with the Maple Leafs.

The Avalanche were never going to be able to meet O’Reilly’s contract demands, so they found him a nice landing spot with the Sabres during Draft weekend.  And if you want to blame anyone for O’Reilly’s $7.5 million cap hit, blame the Calgary Flames, who signed him to that giant offer-sheet in 2013, which was the beginning of the end for his time with Colorado. 

That sound you just heard was Steven Stamkos laughing as he envisions the giant pile of money he’ll receive once he signs his extension.

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Author: Sean Leahy
Posted: July 3, 2015, 7:21 pm

Brandon Saad has been signed to a six-year contract worth a reported $6 million per-year by the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Saad, who was an integral part of Chicago’s last two Stanley Cups and was acquired by Columbus the day before his restricted free agency was set to begin. So the questioning starts – if you’re the Blackhawks, who at one point intimated they would go to the mat to re-sign Saad, would you have spent that type of money and term on a 22-year-old forward who has never scored 30 goals and hit a career-high of 52 points last season?

There was always the question of whether Saad was prone to an offer sheet with the salary cap strapped Blackhawks, and Chicago at least got NHL-ready players in Mako Dano and Artem Anisimov in the package for Saad.

Chicago is actually currently over the $71.4 million salary cap per General Fanager by about $418,000. This is without restricted free agent Marcus Kruger signed. Forwards Bryan Bickell ($4 million cap hit) and Patrick Sharp ($5.9 million cap hit) have been involved in trade rumors at some point.

As for the Blue Jackets … hey they have Brandon Saad for the next six years! And he will likely play alongside center Ryan Johansen to form an excellent 1-2 first-line combo.

The team seemed to give him a less-used nickname instead of the ‘Kneel Before Saad’ line we all used when he was with the Blackhawks.

It is time. #Saadfather pic.twitter.com/iXU8RXjcKH

— NHL Blue Jackets (@BlueJacketsNHL) July 3, 2015

Hey, at least it’s from another classic movie.

Said Columbus GM Jarmo Kekalainen in a team statement:

“Adding a player of Brandon's caliber is exciting for the Columbus Blue Jackets organization and our fans and we are extremely pleased to have reached this long-term commitment that assures he will be an important part of our team for years to come." 

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Josh Cooper is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @joshuacooper

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Author: Josh Cooper
Posted: July 3, 2015, 7:15 pm

Here are your Puck Headlines: A glorious collection of news and views collected from the greatest blogosphere in sports and the few, the proud, the mainstream hockey media. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com.

The thighs are great but this is still the best photo of Martin St. Louis and my life goal. pic.twitter.com/tKL16cy9j2

— Dave Lozo (@DaveLozo) July 2, 2015

• For your Hall of Fame consideration: Martin St. Louis laying on a gurney while having beer fed to him as he appears to be getting stitches. Like a boss. [@DaveLozo]

• Anaheim welcomes back another former member of management, and a former Toronto Maple Leafs GM, Dave Nonis, as assistant to the regional manager "Special Assignment Scout and Consultant to Bob Murray." [Ducks]

• Great first person read from Harley Haggarty on the life of a junior league enforcer. [Players Tribune]

• An offer sheet is seldom used anymore; however, the threat of an offer sheet tends to push teams into signing contracts, or making moves, quickly with those who are targeted. [AZ Central]

• "NHL Free Agency light on drama, heavy on absurdity." [Vice Sports]

• Down Goes Brown attempts to make sense of the Phil Kessel trade. [Grantland]

• No surprise: Kessel is excited to play on the wing of Sidney Crosby and/or Evgeni Malkin. [Trib Live]

• The Canadiens have a group of core players, but GM Mark Bergevin has yet to put his full faith into them. [EOTP]

• Oilers GM Pete Chiarelli made moves to bolster the Edmonton's defense. With the pieces they have in place and with the addition of Andrej Sekere, are they better or worse? [Oilers Nation]

• The Dallas Stars went all in (money wise) on goaltending with Antti Niemi and Kari Lehtonen. Is giving a ton of money to goalies worth it? [In Goal Mag]

• "Jim Benning and the Canucks do have a plan: Steve Stamkos." Stevie Y might have something to say about that. [Armchair Bluejay]

• Additions of Barrett Jackman and Cody Hodgson to Predators lineup prove David Poile is tinkering in the right ways. (Mike Ribero on the other hand...) [On The Forecheck]

• How will Brandon Saad impact the group in Columbus on and off the ice? [Along The Boards]

• In non-Jack Eichel news: Silver medalist and Team USA goaltender Brianne McLaughlin signed to play for the Buffalo Beauts of the NWHL. [What's Going On In Buffalo]

• Informative read on Mike Richards, the drug Oxycontin, and the termination of his contract. There's a brief look at the NHL's drug policy, as well. [Forbes]

• Current free agent, defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky, sits down for a Q&A. The 38-year-old doesn't think his hockey career is over just yet. [IIHF]

• Bob Boughner was added to Pete DeBoer's coaching staff in San Jose. He will remain the majority owner of the Windsor Spitfires of the OHL while working in the NHL. [Buzzing the Net]

• Mark Savard's contract may be in Florida, but the Bruins still consider him a 'foundational player.' [Bruins Daily]

• ATTENTION HOCKEY GAMERS: an in depth look changes, problems, and possible solutions for NHL16. [Operation Sports]

• Fantasy hockey look at the winners and losers of free agency from a salary cap prospective. [Dobber Hockey]

• A farewell montage to now-former Washington Capital, Troy Brouwer, and his Brouwer Rangers. [RMNB]

• Thoughts on Martin St. Louis's retirement from the fanbase that knew him best, the Lightning. [Raw Charge]

• The Canadians have their World Cup of Hockey management team in place. The Americans will announce theirs on August 6th. AMERICA! F-YEAH! [USA Hockey]

• Finally, Keith Olbermann destroys Toronto Sun columnist Steve Simmons for his parting shots on Phil Kessel, and really, all his shots at Phil over the years. (Scrub to 2:19 for the good stuff.) [PPP]

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Jen Neale is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email her at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow her on Twitter! Follow @MsJenNeale_PD.

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Author: Jen Neale
Posted: July 3, 2015, 6:47 pm

(AP Photo)Remember when New York Yankees designated hitter Alex Rodriguez hit his 660th home run all the back on May 1? While it was a significant moment for Rodriguez, it wasn't all smiles and sunshine.

The hit sparked a debate over whether Rodriguez would receive a "milestone" bonus in his contract. When Rodriguez re-signed with the Yankees, a clause was inserted in his contract that stated he would receive $6 million any time he tied a player on the all-time home run list. With his 660th home run, Rodriguez tied Willie Mays, making him eligible to receive his bonus.

Not so fast! Prior to the start of the season, it was reported that the Yankees would not pay his "milestone" bonus. The club no longer viewed Rodriguez's accomplishments as significant due to his suspension and admission to taking performance enhancing drugs. Because of that, the club felt they did not have to pay the bonus.

After the hit, Rodriguez had until the end of the month to formally file a grievance through the Players Association. Both sides agreed to push back that deadline, and were eventually able to come to a solution Friday.

Rodriguez will not receive $6 million for tying Willie Mays on the all-time home run list. In fact, he won't receive a penny according to the press release.

As part of this resolution, Mr. Rodriguez and the Yankees have agreed that a total of $3.5 million in charitable contributions will be made by the Club, with $1 million going to the following charities that have long enjoyed the support of one or both: the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, the Boys & Girls Club of Tampa, and Pitch In For Baseball; and $2.5 million going to the MLB Urban Youth Foundation, which will use the money to further programs and initiatives aimed at increasing youth participation in baseball, particularly in urban areas.  Commissioner Robert D. Manfred, Jr. will determine the initiatives to be supported by the $2.5 million contribution after consulting with Mr. Rodriguez, and taking into consideration the focus of Mr. Rodriguez’s past charitable contributions. 

Neither party will have any further comment on the specific terms of the agreement and both look forward to focusing their energies on winning another championship for Yankees fans.

Deciding to give $3.5 million to charity isn't a bad alternative. In fact, our own Mike Oz suggested A-Rod donate the money shortly after he reached the milestone. At the same time, it's unclear why the donation isn't the full $6 million.

There are some who believe the agreement reflects poorly on the Players Association.

Hey, MLBPA folded again! What a shock.

— Howard Megdal (@howardmegdal) July 3, 2015

That's not just a hot take, either. The Yankees and the League come out looking pretty good when you consider the terms.

Seriously, got A-Rod just over half the money he was likely going to get contractually, except MLB gets to choose where most of it goes.

— Howard Megdal (@howardmegdal) July 3, 2015

In the end, it's unclear if A-Rod really had another option. Sure, he could have fought the Yankees tooth and nail for the bonus, but why reopen old wounds? He's playing well, and the local fans have embraced him. There's no need to make himself the villain again.

[Check out Big League Stew on Tumblr for even more baseball awesomeness.]

By donating the money, both sides look good. Rodriguez doesn't look selfish, and the Yankees get to say, "see, we paid the bonus." It's not a perfect scenario, of course, but nothing is easy when A-Rod is involved.

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Chris Cwik is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at christophercwik@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Chris_Cwik

Author: Chris Cwik
Posted: July 3, 2015, 6:40 pm

Serena Williams celebrates winning a point against Heather Watson. (AP)Venus and Serena Williams walked onto their courts at precisely the same time on Friday, Serena to face British No. 1 Heather Watson; Venus to face Aleksandra Krunic. The sisters will walk out at the same time Monday again in the fourth round. This time, to face each other.

Serena defeated Watson 6-2, 4-6, 7-5, while Venus advanced 6-3, 6-2.

"[Watson] was just playing so good there was nothing I could do," Serena said after the match. 

Asked if she will speak to Venus over the weekend, Serena said, "I mean not about the match, but she’s in better form than I am, so I think she has a little bit of an advantage going into that match, but at least one of us will be in the quarterfinal so that’s good."

For Serena, the victory kept alive her hope of a Grand Slam of two sorts: she's won both Slam events this year, and with a Wimbledon victory will have won four straight dating back to last year's U.S. Open.

Watson played the match of her life, leading 3-0 in the third and nearly pulling off the stunning upset before Serena turned up her game.

Serena needed just 25 minutes to complete the first set, dropping only three points in her first four service games. Watson struggled with the strength of Serena’s second serves, looking overmatched against the veteran. She also struggled with her own first serves.

But the young Brit showed just how much fight she has in her during a colossal second set. She started playing more aggressively, jumping out to a 0-30 advantage with Serena serving at 2-2. When Serena earned the next point, the 20-time Grand Slam champ was clearly fired up, letting out a loud “Come on!” while pumping her fist.

Watson kept battling back, though, clearly understanding that winning this game could keep her alive in the match. It would prove to be the turning point. As Serena committed a rare error – she double faulted to give Watson the break and the 3-2 advantage – the crowd went wild.

No British woman has won Wimbledon since Virginia Wade did so in 1977. Watson was the last British woman remaining in this year’s singles draw, making her the nation’s great hope.

But this is Serena, and she was fired up. A fired up Serena is nearly impossible to beat. She broke Watson back to even the set at 3-3, then held for the 4-3 advantage. Battle on. Watson held for 4-4, then broke again as Serena sent a forehand wide. With Watson serving for the set, Serena failed to convert on a break-point opportunity. Watson capitalized, taking the set 6-4.

The third set was an all-out battle, the score not showing just how many games wavered between deuce, advantage, deuce, advantage. Watson came out on the winning end of the first three.

Trailing 3-0, Serena earned five break-point opportunities. Finally, on the sixth, she got it. She looked absolutely jubilant. She quickly held serve. At 3-2, Watson built a 40-love lead before Williams fought back to 40-40, then earned the break. She’d serve for the advantage. When Watson shanked a shot into the net, giving Williams her fourth consecutive game, the tables had clearly turned. Suddenly Serena’s story was back on track.

Suddenly it looked like Serena would be joining Venus in the fourth round. Venus had long earlier completed her win over Krunic.

Back at Centre Court, Watson held serve to even the set at 4-all. She broke Serena to take the 5-4 advantage, and everyone held their breath. They were watching the best match of the week, if not of the entire year. Watson had to serve out the win.

Watson held off two break points, but Serena converted on the third, then held serve in rapid fashion, taking the 6-5 advantage. Now, Serena needed one more break for the win. Watson went up 30-love, but then came Serena. She earned match point. Watson held. She earned another match up. Watson held. Third match point. And finally, it ended. Serena escaped with the win, nearly brought to tears on the final point.

She’d meet Venus in the fourth round. The story went according to plan. Serena is still on track.

This will be the sixth time the sisters meet at Wimbledon. Serena holds the 3-2 advantage in the series, and the overall 14-11 advantage in their 25 career meetings.

 

Author: Danielle Elliot
Posted: July 3, 2015, 6:37 pm

Becky Hammon is a decorated basketball player and a second-year assistant coach for the San Antonio Spurs.

[Follow Dunks Don't Lie on Tumblr: The best slams from all of basketball]

She will become the first woman to act as the head coach of an NBA Summer League team.

This is the usual plan for young assistant head coaches, as San Antonio’s previous young assistant Ime Udoka was the head coach for the Spurs’ entry in the 2014 NBA Summer League.

We are one more “first” away from this not being news, anymore. Just coaching as usual.

And that is a fantastic thing.

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Kelly Dwyer is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at KDonhoops@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @KDonhoops

Author: Kelly Dwyer
Posted: July 3, 2015, 6:09 pm

LISTEN HERE! [And if that doesn't work, try here.]

It's a (gettin' down on Fridays) edition of Marek vs. Wyshynski beginning at 2 p.m. ET/11 a.m. PT, and we're talking about the following and more:

Special Guest Star: Rob Rossi of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. 

• NHL Free Agency! 

• Hockey News and Views

Question of the Day: Who impressed you the most in the free agent frenzy!? Email puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or hit us on Twitter with the hashtag #MvsW to @wyshynski or @jeffmarekClick here for the Sportsnet live stream or click the play button above!

Click here to download podcasts from the show each day. Subscribe to the podcast viaiTunes or Feedburner.

***

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Author: Greg Wyshynski
Posted: July 3, 2015, 6:00 pm

You know what? I've been so wrapped up in all the free-agent wheeling and dealing that I haven't checked in on Kristaps Porzingis' Twitter account recently. Inexcusable, I know. So let's see what's up with everyone's favorite (OK, "favorite") brand new member of the New York Knicks:

[Follow Dunks Don't Lie on Tumblr: The best slams from all of basketball]

Check out the latest song from @Transleiteris made about me! 🔥🔥https://t.co/eZBTaSf3Xa

— Kristaps Porzingis (@kporzee) July 3, 2015

Yes, let's check out that song as soon as is humanly possible:

That, friends, is "#PORZIŅĢIS" by Latvian musical act Transleiteris — like you need me to introduce them; you're probably still bumping "Brālis Luī" and their take on "Gangnam Style" — and I think it's technically the song of the summer?

Sure, it's catchy as all get out, but you don't really "get it" unless you dive head-first into the lyrics, helpfully translated from Latvian by r/NBA user obliviouspeninsula. Here's a taste, though I wholeheartedly encourage you to pore over them in their entirety:

I see the most beautiful girl in the club
And tell her: I am your destiny
But she says to me, you're not tall
Like KRISTAPS PORZIŅĢIS
.. Kristaps.. PORZIŅĢIS (x6) [...]
I'm ice, honey, painting, sausage, yeah, yeah, yeah
Meanwhile Kristaps is getting buckets in the NBA, yeah, yeah, yeah
Meaning, fence, steel, cookie, blackness, yeah, yeah, yeah
Rarity, Age, luxury, pride, drinker yeah, yeah, yeah

A humble request of the Knicks' game operations crew: Please strongly consider cutting up the "KRISTAPS PORZIŅĢIS" part of the song and deploying it liberally throughout the 2015-16 season. Doesn't have to be every time he checks into the game or scores. Doesn't even have to be every night. But if you're going to go all-in on the future by taking a swing at the skilled 7-foot-1 shooter, you might as well celebrate him with full-throated, bass-booming Latvian rap music at least part of the time. That's just smart asset allocation, really.

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Dan Devine is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at devine@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter!

Follow @YourManDevine

Stay connected with Ball Don't Lie on Twitter @YahooBDL, "Like" BDL on Facebook and follow Dunks Don't Lie on Tumblr for year-round NBA talk, jokes and more.

Author: Dan Devine
Posted: July 3, 2015, 5:31 pm

The St. Louis Blues have solidfied their net for next season, inking goaltender Jake Allen to a two-year, $4.7 million extension on Friday, according to Jeremy Rutherford of the Post-Dispatch.

The 24-year old Allen, a two-time NHL All-Rookie Team netminder, was a restricted free agent as of Wednesday and sees a nice raise from the $850,000 he made in 2014-15.

This now means that both Allen and 1B goaltender Brian Elliott are on two-year deals. 

Allen played well down the stretch for the Blues, allowing two goals or less in 12 of the final 13 regular season games, but couldn’t help lead them past the Minnesota Wild in the first round. GM Doug Armstrong obviously feels confident in the 1A/1B setup, hoping both can continue pushing one another and find success. But the two-year term also allows some flexibility if the plan falls apart.

Armstrong said entering free agency that he would take care of the team’s RFAs before dipping his toes into the open market. Jori Lehtera and Robert Bortuzzo have been signed. T.J. Oshie was dealt. And now Allen is locked up. Next on his to-do list? The big-money deal for Vladimir Tarasenko, the last one on the list.

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Sean Leahy is the associate editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Sean_Leahy

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Author: Sean Leahy
Posted: July 3, 2015, 5:09 pm

It took just more than two weeks, but New York Yankees designated hitter Alex Rodriguez will finally receive his 3,000th-hit ball. The Yankees reached a deal with Zack Hample, the notorious fan who caught the ball. Hample initially told the team he was keeping the milestone souvenir. 

So, what did it cost the club to get the ball back? Quite a bit, it appears.

#Yankees will donate $150,000 to Pitch In for Baseball, a charity which @zack_hample has supported since 2009.

— New York Yankees (@Yankees) July 3, 2015

But wait, there's more.

Along with $150K donation for A-Rod 3000 ball, Yanks will give @zack_hample memorabilia, tickets & other perks

— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) July 3, 2015

On top of that, it appears Hample will present A-Rod with the ball at a news conference Friday. It's also probably not a coincidence that the Yankees mentioned Hample's Twitter feed in both of their posts about the ball. 

(AP Photo)

Hample is somewhat of a celebrity in the baseball world for his penchant for snagging baseballs. He literally wrote the book on the subject. Catching A-Rod's 3,000th-hit ball has only increased his status in recent weeks.

Not surprisingly, he's using that for all it's worth. Hample will receive a ton of perks from the Yankees for catching the ball, and will even be part of a news conference. 

[Check out Big League Stew on Tumblr for even more baseball awesomeness.]

We have to give credit where it's due, though. He got the Yanks to donate a large amount of money to charity, and that's a good thing. So, yes, he's using the situation to boost his own profile, but at least he's doing something positive in the process.

For Rodriguez, this probably comes as a relief. Things looked bleak for a while, but he will end up with the ball. It's a significant achievement, and it's no surprise why he wants to have it. He'll have to go through the theatrics of a news conference, but that's a small price to pay in this case. 

And so, this is how our story of unlikeable heroes comes to an end. Everyone winds up happy. Hample is happy, A-Rod is happy and the Yankees are happy. What a great day to be a fan of any of them!

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Chris Cwik is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at christophercwik@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Chris_Cwik

Author: Chris Cwik
Posted: July 3, 2015, 5:09 pm

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