Richard Sherman thinks Reuben Foster will be fine

49ers linebacker Reuben Foster will find out this week if he is going to stand trial on domestic violence charges and the chance that the trial will happen seemed to drop when his ex-girlfriend recanted her accusations during a hearing last Thursday.

Even if Foster avoids prosecution on those domestic violence charges, he still has a June court date related to a marijuana arrest that could lead to league discipline during the 2018 season and the events of the offseason have led some to question whether the 49ers can count on him. New teammate Richard Sherman, who accompanied Foster to an earlier court hearing, believes things will work out well.

All of those pieces of the agenda remain significant this week. But none – not even the gambling developments – will come close to approaching the hot-button status of player protests. Maybe because it continues to roil the ownership ranks and league office. Or maybe because it’s not going away without a line-in-the-sand moment created by a rule change. Why owners like Jerry Jones see it as a political problem There are reasons to believe this is an unsolvable riddle for the NFL because there are two things we have learned about owners over the past year when it comes to players protesting on the sidelines of a football field.

He announced the donation on Twitter, and issued a statement of support.

“Initiative 1639 is a reasonable and necessary measure that will improve the safety of our schools and our communities, which is why I have contributed a million dollars to the campaign,” he said. “I hope people throughout the state will support the campaign, so that we can qualify and pass this important initiative into law.”

It’s not the first time he’s dropped a big check on gun reform initiatives. In 2014, he donated $500,000 to a campaign which sought to expand background checks on gun sales in his home state.

Washington lawmakers declined a chance to raise the age to buy semi-automatic rifles after February’s school shooting in Florida, which, as it happens, was not the last school shooting in America.

Winning close regular-season games can punch your card to the playoffs, but it does not translate year to year. Great teams aren’t overwhelmingly better at winning games decided by one score; they’re overwhelmingly better at winning games decided by multiple scores.cowboys_001

High asking price in trades could mean it’s a matter of when Giants trade Odell Beckham

Wednesday’s flood of fluctuating trade prices for Odell Beckham Jr. reflected an active and competitive dialogue between the Giants and other NFL teams.

The Giants have asked teams for at least two first-round picks in a trade for Beckham, sources told ESPN, which means the club is 1) continuing to talk to teams and listening to OBJ trade offers and 2) smartly trying to exercise the leverage gained when more GMs entered a bidding war.

So it wouldn’t be surprising if this were a tactic by the Giants to draw initial lowball offers back into their preferred territory of a first-round pick plus, the starting price the Daily News first reported on Monday.

For not long after ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported the Giants’ asking for two first-round picks, he estimated that Beckham’s final trade price would land in exactly that neighborhood: a first and third-or-fourth-round pick. Other reports reiterated that the Daily News’ first-round pick plus price, or perhaps slightly less, could get it done.

NFL Network also reported that a team had taken a stab at trading for Beckham on the cheap right after his viral video with pizza and potentially drugs had hit social media in early March. Again, the Giants’ response to any idea they’ll sell Beckham on the cheap is naturally to fire back with a high price to make sure they get value.

Bell tweeted on Thursday afternoon that he thinks he’s been villainized in Pittsburgh.

It’s so hard to be a hero in a city that paints you out to be the villain, Bell wrote.

It’s unclear precisely what Bell was referring to, but he may be blanching at suggestions that he’s looking for too much money.

The Houston Texans and defensive end Jadeveon Clowney are making a lot of progress on a mega-extension, according to a report from The MMQB. Per The MMQB’s Albert Breer, Clowney’s new contract will set the floor for defensive end Khalil Mack’s eventual extension from the Oakland Raiders, which the sides are expected to work toward this offseason. It also might impact defensive tackle Aaron Donald’s negotiations with the Los Angeles Rams. Texans general manager Brian Gaine indicated in February at the combine that the team was looking into extending Clowney. That’s something that we’re currently evaluating right now, about the feasibility of that, he told reporters at the time. patriots_013-223x223

Broncos work out Sam Darnold on Friday

The Broncos worked out Sam Darnold on Friday as they continue to scout the draft’s top quarterbacks.

President of Football Operations John Elway and head coach Vance Joseph were among the team’s contingent in Los Angeles,
Aric DiLalla of the team website reports.

Denver hosted Josh Rosen at its training complex Wednesday.

Darnold completed 63.1 percent of his passes for 4,134 yards and 26 touchdowns last season as the Trojans earned a Cotton Bowl berth.

James was asked if Cleveland’s roller-coaster regular season, now mercifully entering its final week, has prepared the Cavs more for a postseason run than a tamer season would have.

“No,” James said. “Not really. I really don’t need much more. I always talk about how experience is the best teacher in life. I got enough experience. I don’t need much more to kind of set me up for what’s to come. I know what the playoffs is about. I know what the journey is about. I’ve been a part of it for so many years. The ups and downs. The great, the bad, the good and ugly and all that and anything in between. Whatever. So I know what it’s about, and I know what to expect.”

Ginobili drove past Aminu for a right-handed finger roll with 6 minutes, 3 seconds remaining in the game to cap a personal 8-0 run that helped lift the San Antonio Spurs to a 116-105 win Saturday over the Portland Trail Blazers, while keeping alive their once-fading postseason aspirations. If the Spurs defeat the Sacramento Kings on Monday, they’ll advance to the postseason for the 21st consecutive season.

San Antonio can also slide into the postseason with a loss on Monday by either the Minnesota Timberwolves or the Denver Nuggets.

The Spurs can thank Ginobili for this latest run of good fortune with the Western Conference playoff race tightening down the stretch. In a span of 49 seconds, the 40-year-old turned a four-point lead into a 12-point advantage for a San Antonio squad that has given up fourth-quarter leads this season like candy at Halloween. During Ginobili’s game-sealing 49-second sequence, the veteran hit two 3-pointers, snagged a rebound and nabbed a steal before streaking past Aminu for the finger roll which made the score 101-89.
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Smith probably would have struggled to get the two years and $10 million left on his deal as a free agent.

Jeffery came to the Eagles after a career with the Bears marred by injury and suspensions for performance-enhancing drugs. Torrey Smith joined Philly after being cut by the 49ers following the 2016 season in which he snagged receptions for just 267 yards. Jeffery played through a torn rotator cuff in 2017 and still put up 789 yards and eight touchdowns last season. Smith was more of a complementary player, with 430 yards and two scores.

The Eagles ended up with the third-ranked run game in the NFL last season, in part because they snagged Blount in free agency. Blount was fresh off of a career season in 2016 with the Patriots, and he ran for 766 yards and two scores last year.

In lieu of possibly netting a compensatory pick for Smith, the Eagles instead take home another cheap cornerback in Worley, who started 25 games over his two seasons in Carolina.

Worley hasn’t developed as much as fellow 2016 draftee James Bradberry and fell into a rotation at times with Kevon Seymour, who should now have a clear path to a starting role.

The Eagles want to spend money at just about every position besides running back and cornerback, and Worley gives them another low-cost option as they try to replace Patrick Robinson, who will likely leave in free agency this offseason.

He averaged just 184 passing yards in those games, stalling an offense that averaged 376.9 yards in Dalton’s 13 starts. With McCarron at the helm for the final three games, Cincinnati averaged 276 yards and couldn’t top 300.

That continued into the postseason, where the Bengals lost 18-16 to the Steelers and were outgained 369 yards to 279.

Even during McCarron’s days at Alabama, he had a reputation as a game manager who leaned on a strong running game and an NFL-caliber cast around him. Hoping he can generate offense on his own and lead a team to points with his arm may be too much to ask.

Crucially, the Denver running game isn’t as effective as Minnesota’s, given that the Broncos ranked 23rd in DVOA last season.

(The Vikings were 18th.) The Broncos also lack a useful tight end in the passing game, as they appear set to turn things over to rookie Jake Butt after he missed his entire rookie season recovering from an injury. ravens_182

Stat to the Future: Explaining WAR and why it’s still an imperfect stat

As a result, it would seem as though WAR is undervaluing the first player, and overvaluing the second player. Judge consistently performed poorly in high-leverage situations: he recorded the worst Clutch score of any player in 2017 per FanGraphs, despite leading the MLB in fWAR.

At the same time, the context neutrality of WAR is considered by proponents of WAR as important and necessary. If we look at Judge’s performance and remove the context of that performance, Judge was stellar in 2017: Judge can’t control how frequently he comes up to the plate with runners on and the game on the line, so if WAR was adjusted to take that into account, Judge would be punished for factors out of his control.

Gettleman gives up fourth- and sixth-round picks to the Rams, who send a 2019 seventh-rounder back as part of the deal.

The Giants managed to avoid sending the 102nd pick and instead sent their later fourth-rounder, the 135th selection, but they’re not in a position to trade away draft picks given how bereft the back of their roster is at the moment.

This is a better swap for the Rams.

In the 1993 NLCS, the Braves had a 2-1 series lead against the Phillies, led Game 4 before losing, and squandered a chance to win Game 5 in the ninth inning. They lost in six.

And in the 1996 World Series, the most painful loss of all, the Braves had a 2-0 series lead on the Yankees, had a 6-0 lead in Game 4 and seemed to be cruising toward a 3-1 lead in the series (with Smoltz ready in Game 5), only to see the Yankees claw back and have Jim Leyritz steal the show.

Woulda, coulda, shoulda.

Alas, dissecting postseason losses isn’t the point behind “Atlanta Rules.” Rather, it’s to appreciate what it took to get there in the first place, to celebrate 14 magical seasons, regardless of how those seasons ended.

Grade for Rams: B+ Grades for the Marcus Peters trade: The Chiefs get a C for their end of the swap, in which they sent Peters and the 196th pick to the Rams for the 124th selection and a 2019 second-rounder. packers_141

MLB scouts certain Shohei Ohtani can’t hit big-league pitching

Shohei Ohtani is not going to be able to be a two-way player in MLB this season, at least not an effective one. That according to eight scouts who talked to Yahoo Sports this week.

The problem for the 23-year-old player lies in faulty mechanics and a lack of exposure to good MLB curveballs. Not breaking pitches, but curveballs specifically. The weapon of choice in Japan is the split-fingered fastball which is essentially a change-up, albeit one with much sharper movement.

A 27-year-old left-handed hitting catcher coming off back-to-back All-Star selections and averaging 19 home runs the previous three seasons, Gedman — you guessed it — didn’t receive any serious offers in the offseason. He begrudgingly returned to the Red Sox on May 2, but was a shell of his former self; he hit just .205 with one home run in 52 games. In fact, he hit just .206 in 377 career games after 1986.

Clemens, by the way, was his Boston teammate at the time, and he won the AL Cy Young award in both 1986 and 1987.

According to MLB Network, the deal is worth $12 million and it could increase to $14 million with performance bonuses.

Since Lynn was given a qualifying offer by the Cardinals, the Twins will give up the No. 95 pick in this year’s MLB draft as compensation.

Ohtani truly needs time to adjust to MLB-level pitching. He has seen some good pitchers in Japan, but if Miles Mikolas’ transition back into baseball in America is any indication, the level of the hurlers is not up to par with those Ohtani will face this coming season.

Ichiro Suzuki, the 44-year-old baseball legend, is back with the Mariners and in the same division with 23-year-old Japanese phenom pitcher/DH Shohei Ohtani of the Angels.

“I can’t wait to hit off him when he pitches,’’ Ichiro said during his introductory press conference Wednesday. “And when he hits, I’d like to pitch against him.’’

Ichiro has 3,080 career hits in MLB and should have plenty of opportunities to get a few off Ohtani this season. However, he likely wont have the same success if he deals to Ohtani from the mound. Ichiro did pitch one inning for the Marlins in 2015, giving up one earned run on two hits.
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Rob Gronkowski’s house broken into, ‘multiple safes and possible guns’ reported missing

Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski returned home from a crushing Super Bowl loss only to be knocked down again — this time finding his home had been broken into. Foxborough police responded Monday night to investigate a call at Gronkowski’s home that could have led to the theft of “multiple safes and possible guns,” according to police dispatch messages obtained by the Boston Globe.

“It’s a tough combination to have suffered this unfortunate loss, and then to get home and be a victim of this kind of crime which really has a profound effect on everybody who is a victim of this crime when your personal space is breached like that,” Baker told reporters.

Hopefully the investigation will turn up leads quickly and Gronk can return to life as normal. Having your place broken into sucks, whether you make minimum wage or are an NFL superstar.

With 1:05 left for all the marbles, Tom Brady and the New England Patriots’ offense sat on the sidelines ready to go. The Pats would fail on their final drive, and a final pass attempt would fall incomplete, ending New England’s back-to-back Super Bowl dreams.

Kickoff coverage is about two things: where the ball is kicked, and the lanes the coverage team takes down the field. The kicker has to put the ball in the right place if he’s not going to boot it into the end zone, and the coverage team has to stay disciplined and set the edges outside to keep things funneled to the inside.

After the game, the Patriots talked about what happened from their end.

“They had great placement on that kick and made it real tough on our guys,” special teams captain Matthew Slater said. “They made it tough for us to get leverage and we didn’t handle it well. Tip your hat to them – they kept it in play and they hadn’t been doing that.”
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Mark Cuban fined $600,000 by league for tanking talk

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has been fined $600,000 by the NBA for saying his team should tank this season.

Cuban called tanking “brutal” but acknowledged that he told his team that it would be best to lose for the rest of the 2017-18 season.

“I earned it,” Cuban told The Associated Press when asked about the latest fine. “I got excited talking to Dr. J and said something I shouldn’t have.”

Responding to Cuban’s tanking comments, Mavs star Dirk Nowitzki said Wednesday that he’ll “never stand for losing on purpose. That’s not who I am.”

“I’ve been around too long,” Nowitzki said. “We’re all competitors. I think the young guys, when you’re out there, you’ve got to compete. If you don’t, you lose market value. You might get hurt. There’s all these things that can happen if you don’t play your minutes hard. That’s my advice to all the young guys — play your minutes hard, get better and whatever happens, happens.

In the 2008 season, a nine-win Eagles team rallied all the way to the NFC Championship, but a loss against the Arizona Cardinals proved to be the last gasp for head coach Andy Reid and his Pro Bowl quarterback — even if they didn’t know it. Their return to the postseason in 2009 led to a decisive defeat at the hands of the Cowboys. That offseason, McNabb was traded to Washington for second and fourth-round draft picks.

Still, a record-breaking contract is a significant investment in a player with just seven career starts and 12 touchdowns over four years.

The contract details were released Friday via ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Garoppolo’s total income over the first two years of the contract will be $61.2 million, which is $10 million more than he would make if the 49ers applied the franchise tag to him for two consecutive seasons.
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NBA All-Star Weekend has seen its highs and lows through the dunk contest, which has historically made or broken the midseason festivities.

There were the good years of Michael Jordan jumping from the free throw line, Vince Carter putting his elbow through the rim and Nate Robinson and Dwight Howard playing the roles of Superman and kryptonite, but as we’ve seen more recently, the event hasn’t been all that fun for its lifespan.

2Ball was a shooting event, where teams consisted of one NBA and one WNBA player who played in the same city. Each team was given one ball and sixty seconds on the clock, as each teammate alternated shooting and rebounding with each other at one of seven different locations. Each spot was a different distance from the hoop, and worth a different point total (layups were two points, and three-pointers were eight points.)

A 10-point bonus was given to any team that made a shot from each of the seven distances, and a 10-point deduction was given for any team that didn’t at least attempt a shot from each distance.

Such shifting demands constant re-evaluation of what constitutes the best measure of player skill. And when it comes to pitching, it means that what was once considered a good measure of a pitcher’s strikeouts is now a well-below-average number.

A 16 percent strikeout rate once met this column’s demands. Last season, 58 pitchers met the qualification for the ERA title, and only six of them — Ty Blach, Andrew Cashner, Jeremy Hellickson, Martin Perez, Zach Davies and Jose Urena — fell short of that strikeout-rate threshold.

Chinese skater Yan Han was a potential darkhorse contender, but ended up placing 19th.

After a brief intermission, we came back with Ukraine’s Yaroslav Paniot, who suffered multiple ugly falls and came in dead last with 46.58 points.

The Philippines are competing in the Winter Olympics for just the second time, and Michael Christian Martinez won the crowd over with a spirited program, even if he finished near the bottom of the standings.bears_276

Flowers has been harangued for his mistakes in New York, leading to speculation regarding whether or not he’ll be with the Giants again in 2018.

Henry dismissed any suggestions of collusion between the teams as ridiculous. He believes this winter’s inactivity was driven by several market forces and warned against expecting an annual feeding frenzy for free agents. Henry and Werner also suggested the Red Sox could wind up with the highest payroll in baseball this year, especially if they eventually land Martinez, as most insiders still expect they will.

I really don’t want to talk about free agents — J.D. Martinez or anyone else, Henry said. We are very happy with our roster. I think we do have the highest payroll in baseball, and again, we’re defending American League East champions. I think we’ve done what we needed to do to improve this team.

If anything, Werner said Ortiz’s absence likely contributed to the diminished TV ratings or other anecdotal signs that the Red Sox’s popularity might be waning. But Werner doesn’t expect the Ortiz hangover to drag into this year, too, especially if the Red Sox win the division again.

The University of Miami product has failed to live up to his billing as the No. 9 pick of the 2015 NFL draft, often playing turnstile at right tackle for a dysfunctional team. Despite that, he’s still a young prospect who is solid enough as a run blocker to merit a second chance. Playing for the Giants wasn’t kind to young players in 2017 — just look at Eli Apple — and Flowers could still pay off as a low-risk pickup should he be released or traded this spring.

In addition, Martinez tends to miss games, meaning either Moreland or Ramirez could step in and handle the DH spot. There is nothing wrong with depth, but do not presume either will surpass 500 at-bats, as each did in 2017. Meanwhile, Boston’s projected hitters leading the lineup figure to score more runs, which is good for outfielders Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi and perhaps shortstop Xander Bogaerts, depending on his lineup spot.

As for the Diamondbacks, they acted quickly to replace Martinez, in theory, by signing speedy Jarrod Dyson. Remember, once the organization announced it would store baseballs in a humidor for this season and perhaps beyond, it made a Martinez return there not as palatable, perhaps for the player and fantasy managers. Dyson does not hit for power, though he runs and is excellent defensively. Stolen base production is not going to be curtailed by a humidor. This also opens up opportunity for the somewhat forgotten Yasmany Tomas, the inverse of Dyson in many ways, but I will not be going out of my way to select him.bears_001