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    These are the new sounds of spring for the Houston Astros: a fan banging on a trash can, another calling José Altuve a cheater. That's what greeted the Astros during their first full-squad workout at camp Monday. And with so many around baseball not ready to forgive or forget their sign stealing, this won’t be the last time they hear it. Meanwhile, the two-time AL champions say they are focused on ignoring the noise, and hope the official start of spring training can signal a step forward for their scandal-ridden team. “I understand the severity of the situation, I truly do,” outfielder George Springer said. “But I think ... the best thing for our game to try to do and especially for us is to try to put this behind us, however that’s possible.” The Astros have been bombarded with questions about the sign-stealing scam since arriving in Florida. A news conference last week with owner Jim Crane, Altuve and third baseman Alex Bregman featuring poorly worded apologies was roundly criticized and did little to quiet the furor around the league in the wake of the scandal. The barbs continued Monday when fans were allowed to view Houston’s workout. A man banged on a trash can while a group including Bregman, Altuve and shortstop Carlos Correa took batting practice. Altuve, considered one of baseball's most popular players before the scandal was revealed, quickly discovered the new norm. As he walked past a group of fans, a man yelled out, “Cheater!' The Astros were found by Commissioner Rob Manfred to have cheated during their run to the 2017 World Series and again in the 2018 season. The investigation found that Houston used the video feed from a center field camera to see and decode the opposing catcher’s signs. Players banged on a trash can to signal to batters what was coming, believing it would improve the batter’s chances of getting a hit. Manager AJ Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow were suspended for a year by MLB and subsequently fired by Crane last month. But many around the league feel that Houston’s players should have faced punishment, too and have been quick to express those feelings. Bregman refused to respond directly to any comments about his team from players across the league. “Everybody has the right to say whatever they want to say, and we put ourselves in that position,” Bregman said. “I think what we can do moving forward is learn and work extremely hard to regain the trust of baseball fans. We know that won't be easy, but we feel the responsibility to do that.” Veteran Dusty Baker was hired just before spring training to take Hinch’s place. And though he wasn’t part of the team during the scandal, the 70-year-old is front and center while the Astros try to put it behind them. “The players know the formula on how to get there and they just need me to help direct them and navigate them through this course we’re about to take,” he said. The Astros know they’ve become perhaps the most despised team in baseball, but are trying to stay positive and focus on their loyal fans who are still with them. “You get different opinions,” Correa said. “When I walk around Houston people are behind us, they love us. So, it just depends what you ask.” Houston hitters might also be concerned about getting beaned after several pitchers said they'd intentionally throw at the players they consider cheaters. Manfred addressed the issue Sunday and said there will be no tolerance for such behavior. 'I hope that I made it extremely clear to them that retaliation in-game by throwing at a batter intentionally will not be tolerated, whether it's Houston or anybody else,' Manfred said. “It's dangerous and it is not helpful to the current situation.” The Astros lauded the warning by Manfred and hope it keeps that from happening this season. “I don't think that's the first time he said that,' Altuve said. “He said that multiple times and it's (good) because that's dangerous.' At camp Monday, it was impossible for the Astros to ignore the fallout from their sign-stealing, and they know this season will have many challenges as they deal with it again and again. “The most important thing is to have the trust of the guys who are in this locker room,' Springer said. “Whether we're down, up, good, not good. That's why this is such a family and I think we're all going to rely on each other a lot this year.' NOTES: Houston signed RHP Jared Hughes to a minor league contract with an invitation to big league spring training on Monday. The 34-year-old right-hander was a combined 5-5 with a 4.04 ERA in 72 games for Cincinnati and Philadelphia last season. Hughes is 29-24 with a 2.88 ERA in 524 career relief appearances. ___ More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
  • Players who have won a World Series -- and those who have come up short -- seethed Monday at Commissioner Rob Manfred's reference to the sport's championship trophy as merely a 'piece of metal,' saying that comment reflected a disconnect between baseball's boss and those who produce the product on the field. 'It bothered me, man. I hated it. It made him sound really out of touch,' said reliever Sean Doolittle, a member of the 2019 title-winning Washington Nationals. 'That's the holy grail of our sport. That's what we show up for in the beginning of February, thinking about and working towards.' Added Doolittle: 'I just can't believe how out of touch that is. You're the commissioner of our game. You're the steward of this game. That's a really special thing. It's an iconic symbol of our game. Please don't say that, even off-hand, even tongue-in-cheek.' As with so many things being talked about around the majors as spring training gets started, this all stems from the Houston Astros' sign-stealing scam in 2017 and 2018. There have been calls for players involved to be punished in some way; MLB gave them immunity in exchange for cooperating with the investigation. 'I'm sure a lot of people were mad,' three-time AL MVP Mike Trout said at Los Angeles Angels camp in Tempe, Arizona. 'They think the punishment should be more or something.' Some think the Astros should be stripped of their 2017 championship, but Manfred said this on Sunday in an interview with ESPN: 'The idea of an asterisk or asking for a piece of metal back seems like a futile act.' That phrasing did not sit well. Doolittle and other players noted that the official name of the hardware itself is The Commissioner's Trophy. 'For him to devalue it the way he did yesterday just tells me how out of touch he is with the players in this game. At this point, the only thing devaluing that trophy is that it says 'commissioner' on it,' said Justin Turner, whose Los Angeles Dodgers lost to the Astros in the 2017 Series. 'It's pretty obvious what everyone thinks should happen. I mean, no one in this clubhouse or in this room is asking for a trophy to be handed us, by any means. ... But at the same time, we understand how difficult it is to win a World Series. It's hard. It's really hard. And it's something that you have to earn,' Turner said at LA's camp in Glendale, Arizona. 'It's pretty evident to me that it wasn't earned and it's not something that a banner should be hung in their stadium (or) a trophy should be put up wherever their trophies go.' Like Turner, Evan Longoria has been to a World Series but not won one. And as with Turner, Longoria was bothered by Manfred's words. 'Well, there's a couple of pieces of metal, right? You get a ring, too. That's a big piece of metal,' Longoria said Monday after the San Francisco Giants' first full-squad workout in Scottsdale, Arizona. 'I think everybody that plays the game knows it's not just a 'piece of metal.' It's the blood, sweat and tears that go into the, whatever, 175 games or whatever it is that it takes to win a World Series. The sacrifices. I don't know if he said that to make a funny or what, but it's obviously representative of something much bigger than that.' Joe Musgrove, currently with the Pittsburgh Pirates, pitched for the 2017 Astros and said he gets others' frustration with Manfred's comments. 'They don't just hand those out; there's a lot of work that goes into getting one of those. So I can understand why they're upset about it,' Musgrove said in Bradenton, Florida. 'For me, personally, I think the ring is something that everyone takes with them and that's a special piece you can carry with you forever. There's only one trophy that gets made. That might be more important to the manager than anybody. But at the end of the season, as a team, getting to hold that thing up is pretty special. I understand where their frustration comes in.' Doolittle spoke Monday about the feeling of first holding the trophy Washington won by beating Houston in Game 7 in October. 'There were tears, man. ... It's hard to put into words what it is like to actually hold that trophy above your head for the first time,' Doolittle said. 'We saw how much that 'piece of metal' meant to the fans, going up and down the streets of D.C. We all know what it means to guys who have spent their whole career in the league, grinding, and they finally got to hold that thing.' Manfred gets to take another swing at the topic when he holds a news conference in Arizona on Tuesday. ___ AP Sports Writers Greg Beacham, Will Graves and Janie McCauley contributed to this report. ___ Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HowardFendrich ___ More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
  • Greetings, from NASCAR. Seven NASCAR executives were stationed at entrances around Daytona International Speedway on Monday to welcome fans back to the rain-postponed Daytona 500. Lesa France Kennedy, the granddaughter of NASCAR's founder, and NASCAR chief operating officer Steve Phelps were among those greeting fans. Ben Kennedy, NASCAR’s vice president of racing development and the great grandson of NASCAR's founder, was checking bags at one injector. Jill Gregory, an executive vice president and chief marketing officer, was working another. Eric Nyquist, a senior vice president and chief communications officer, was greeting fans in the infield and thanking them for returning for the resumption of the race. It was a clear attempt at apologizing a day after rain dampened the 62nd running of “The Great American Race.” Fans complained about hour-long lines at gates, backups created because of heightened security that came with a presidential visit. Fans also sat through two rain delays totaling more than three hours and saw just 20 laps of racing Sunday. Some also may have been duped into staying at the track when NASCAR called for cars to be uncovered and drivers to return to them despite weather radars showing storms bearing down on Daytona. Minutes after those commands, the sky opened up again, as predicted, and flooded the track. That sent fans scrambling for cover and cars while drivers and crews headed back to their haulers. LAUNDRY LINES Firesuits, gloves and shoes were among the crew items drying in the sun Monday, making areas of the garage look more like backyard laundry lines. Crew members got caught in a heavy downpour minutes before NASCAR postponed the race Sunday night. It drenched their uniforms. While some might think that would mean a trip to the laundry mat, each suit takes up an entire dryer and would make for a tedious task and hours of extra work. It was a better job left to the sun, which was out and in full effect at Daytona on Monday. Crews hung them everywhere to catch some rays. They were scattered along fences, draped over tire towers and hanging from haulers. TV RATINGS More than 11 million viewers tuned in to Fox Sports to watch President Donald Trump give the command for drivers to start their engines. The network said it was a 32% increase from the start of last year's race and the best overnight ratings since 2015. The first 20 laps averaged 10,935,000 viewers, a 19% increase over last year’s full race average of 9,184,000 viewers. SIGN ME UP The teardown inside the garage started early Monday when teams ripped off signs of drivers' names above stalls and gave them to fans. Walter Goulet, of Massachusetts, said he raced against Daytona 500 driver Ryan Preece in quarter midgets and went to his No. 37 Chevrolet stall to snag a souvenir. 'I just walked over, pointed at the window and they said go ahead and take it,' he said. 'They didn't need it anymore.' Goulet gave the sign to a family friend, a little girl named Sophie Letourneau who proudly held the sign that was taller than her. FEELING FRIED Bojangles had race fans crying fowl after the fast food chicken truck did not return to the infield fan zone for the Daytona 500. Daytona 500 driver Timmy Hill wandered into the Daytona media center looking for a drink during a rain delay Sunday. Hill did have a bag of Bojangles fries, but the stand had already run out of chicken roughly 20 laps into the race. The truck said only fries were available and decided to shake a leg and bail early when the race resumed Monday. 'Thanks for allowing me to stop by. I appreciate all the food,' Hill said, after trading his fast car for fast food. ___ More AP auto racing: https://apnews.com/apf-AutoRacing and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
  • Los Angeles Angels owner Arte Moreno acknowledges he scrapped the proposed trade that would have landed Joc Pederson and Ross Stripling from the Dodgers. Moreno also says the Angels can make an even bigger trade for an elite starting pitcher if they get a chance this season. Moreno covered many topics in his annual informal conversation with reporters on the training fields outside Tempe Diablo Stadium. He is excited about the potential impact of $245 million third baseman Anthony Rendon and optimistic about his pitching staff's ability to improve after a poor season. Moreno also is eager to move on from the scuttled trade that would have sent infielder Luis Rengifo and a prospect to the Dodgers for Pederson and Stripling earlier in the month. Both veterans likely would have played immediately for the Angels, but Moreno called off the talks around the deal while the Dodgers' blockbuster deal with Boston was delayed for several days. “It wasn't all impatience,” Moreno said. “There were other things involved, too. ... I just would rather not talk about it. That wasn't going to happen, and it's not happening.” Later in the interview, Moreno said he realized Angels fans wanted more information about what went down. “There’s a lot of things that people would like to know, and they’re not going to know,” Moreno said. 'It’s water under the bridge. We’ve moved on.” Moreno has previously acknowledged he has a temper that sometimes affects his decision-making, but he was calm and upbeat throughout his discussion of the potential deal and the Angels' prospects for the upcoming season, which appear considerably brighter than they were last year. The Angels added Rendon at third base to an already solid lineup, and they added starters Dylan Bundy and Julio Teherán after they struck out on the biggest free-agent pitchers on the market — including Gerrit Cole. Moreno has come to terms with the Angels' failed pursuit of Cole, an Orange County native who agreed to a $324 million, nine-year deal with the Yankees, the most guaranteed money for a pitcher. 'We had a substantial offer on the table, but we were sort of walking in there knowing no matter what we did, we were going to get outbid,” Moreno said. “We had a pretty big number out there.” Moreno also admitted that the Angels' recent struggles hurt them. Los Angeles hasn't made the postseason since 2014 and hasn't won a playoff game since 2009. 'One of the things we knew early on was that he wanted a ring, and wanted to go somewhere where he had the best chance,” Moreno said. “He grew up being a Yankee fan. We did our homework and spent a lot of time. We had a great conversation. They’re nice people. And the Yankees gave him nine years.” Instead, the Angels made a hefty commitment to Rendon for fewer years. 'We just felt that our money, in the long term, would be better spent on Rendon, who was arguably the best position player available,” Moreno said. “We haven’t had a third baseman here in a long time.” He said the Angels aren't done looking to improve their rotation after last season's profound struggles, although Shohei Ohtani's return to two-way play should make a major impact. Moreno claims the Angels will be aggressive in looking for a difference-making starter. “We have the financial flexibility to add a starting pitcher, but we're looking for a pitcher that can substantially help us, and not a four or five (starter),” he said. ___ More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
  • The San Francisco Giants are putting up zeroes. They believe they might be doing something rarely seen: using uniform numbers 0 and 00 in the same year. When San Francisco added speedy outfielder Billy Hamilton with a minor league deal earlier this month, equipment manager Brad Grems called the league to make sure there's a difference between the two — because new first base coach Antoan Richardson aleady had claimed 00. “He's good with stuff like that,” shortstop Brandon Crawford said Monday of Grems' due diligence. Given the Giants have 11 retired numbers with their long list of Hall of Famers and 13 coaches and a pair of bullpen catchers in uniform under new manager Gabe Kapler, Hamilton's other choices were 96 or 98. San Francisco has 72 players in camp. Already having made history with the hiring of baseball's first female coach on a big league staff — Alyssa Nakken is wearing No. 92 — longtime equipment manager and current senior adviser Mike Murphy can't remember a time with both “0” numbers and neither can Grems as he begins his 21st season in baseball and sixth with San Francisco. Grems called MLB “to see if there was a difference between zero and double-zero. The NBA does it.' “That's the fun thing about spring training, you have so many guys come in and it's just kind of exciting to see who's going to step up and who's going to help the team out in the long run,” San Francisco first baseman Brandon Belt said. “That's kind of a cool thing we have so many people in here and we're having to look for more numbers because you don't really know exactly what you're going to get from everybody.” Former Giants left fielder Jeffrey Leonard wore No. 00 in 1987-88, changing from his original 26. At the time, Murphy had to run it by then-general manager Spec Richardson. In fact, Richardson called Leonard after the team's Fan Fest last weekend to get his blessing to wear “00.' Richardson's great-grandmother, Dame Albertha Isaacs, was born in 1900 in his native Bahamas. She was a renowned teacher, tennis player and women's rights activist. “I definitely have to mention PacMan Jeffrey Leonard because he's the original double-zero, so getting his blessing was really important to this process,” Richardson said. “So very thankful for him. The reason why I'm 00 is simple, my great-grandmother was born in 1900 and I think it was going to be a great honor to pay tribute to her and just my journey in life. So that's what made me choose double-zero.” Outfielder Brennan Boesch was given 00 by the Angels during spring training in 2014 and wore it for a time. In all, 20 major league players have worn double-zero — with Bobby Bonds, Don Baylor and Jose Canseco on that list — and 21 have had No. 0. Hamilton and Richardson are thrilled to be connected by their unique numbers after they once played winter ball together in Puerto Rico, not to mention the good-natured debate on who is the faster one. “He's faster, for sure,” Hamilton said. “That's really cool. I'm zero and he's double-zero,' Hamilton said before the Giants' first full-squad workout. 'He's the one I'm working with every day.” ___ More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
  • Ratings for the NBA All-Star Game were up 8% over last year, with an average of 7.3 million viewers watching Sunday night’s broadcast on TNT. About 8 million viewers were tuned in for the end of the game, where LeBron James’ team defeated Giannis Antetokounmpo’s team 157-155 in the first target-score format in All-Star history. The fourth quarter was untimed and was broadcast commercial-free. TNT’s pregame coverage, which included tributes to Kobe Bryant, averaged 6.3 million viewers. That figure represented a 19% increase over viewership for the same show last year. For the weekend — including Friday's Rising Stars game and Saturday's showing of the Skills Competition won by Miami's Bam Adebayo, the 3-point contest won by Sacramento's Buddy Hield and the dunk contest won by Miami's Derrick Jones Jr. — Turner Sports said ratings were up 15% from last year.
  • John Beilein has admitted that losing NBA games has hit him hard. Maybe too hard. The 67-year-old former Michigan coach struggled to get through the season's unofficial first half with the young Cavaliers, who have the worst record in the Eastern Conference. It's not clear if he'll make it until the end. Beilein and the Cavs have discussed the possibility of him stepping down before the end of the season. And while there has been no decision made about Beilein's future, the team plans to reconvene this week following the All-Star break as players, coaches and executives return from much-needed retreats. ESPN.com first reported the possibility of Beilein leaving the team before the end of the season on Sunday night as the All-Star Game wrapped up in Chicago. It's been a rough transition to the pro game for Beilein, who was wildly successful as a college coach — the past 12 seasons with the Wolverines. Beilein was a surprising hire by the Cavs, who convinced him he was the right choice and enticed him to leave the Big Ten powerhouse and sign a five-year contract in May. Along with their woeful 14-40 record, there have been reports that players have not been pleased with Beilein's coaching style, calling it simplistic with too much emphasis on fundamentals. Beilein seems to have his players' respect, but it's been a challenge for him to connect on the same personal level as he did with college kids. After a recent home loss, Beilein said he wasn't sure if players were still buying into him. 'I think that our guys have to measure themselves, are they bought into playing winning basketball?” he said. “I don’t think it has anything to do with a particular coach or coaches, whatever. They've just got to go and play hard. There’s moments that we have, that we have played really hard in a lot of adversity. 'I do know that I’m trying to do my job and work as hard as I can for them.” Beyond the team's on-court struggles, Beilein had to recently apologize to players after inadvertently calling them “thugs” during a team film session in Detroit. When they hired Beilein, the Cavs felt he was the perfect coach to help develop young players such as second-year guard Collin Sexton, rookie Darius Garland and forward Larry Nance. Jr. But Cleveland has been plagued by scoring droughts, poor defense and late-game collapses with the Cavs' inexperience emerging and hurting them at the worst possible times. A shake-up was expected at the trading deadline, but instead of dealing either star forward Kevin Love or Tristan Thompson, the Cavs acquired two-time All-Star center Andre Drummond in a deal with the Pistons. The Cavs were hoping the move would give them a spark or at least appease a fan base becoming more disenchanted with every lopsided loss. However, Cleveland suffered its worst home loss in 50 years in Drummond's debut before snapping a 12-game home losing streak with a win in the final game before the All-Star break. Beilein went 829-468 as a college coach. He won 428 games at Michigan and the Wolverines made the NCAA Tournament nine times and twice advanced to the Final Four in his 12 seasons. If Beilein does step down, associate head coach JB Bickerstaff would likely replace him. Bickerstaff previously coached for almost two seasons with Memphis. His father, Bernie Bickerstaff, is a senior adviser with the Cavs. It's likely the Cavs will have a better sense of Beilein's future by the time they play at Washington on Friday. They'll visit Miami the following day before hosting the Heat on Feb. 24. ___ More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
  • On the day position players reported to camp, the Washington Nationals finally got around to putting up a sign on the ivy-covered wall near the entrance to their spring training facility with a curly 'W,' a rendering of the Capitol dome and, most significantly, the proclamation '2019 WORLD CHAMPIONS.' 'Now we are happy to come back,' slugger Juan Soto said, 'and show the people we can do it again.' And two of the reasons the Nationals did what they did last season -- and, more significantly, figure repeating is a realistic goal to pursue this season -- also showed up Monday: Soto and an enthusiastic cabbage race. Say what? Yes, the daily schedule posted in the clubhouse proclaimed this 'National Cabbage Day,' alongside a separate piece of paper listing the rosters for two teams of 20 pitchers and catchers each, one captained by Max Scherzer, the other by Stephen Strasburg. At precisely 9:30 a.m., clubhouse and equipment manager Mike Wallace strode outside carrying a broom and dustbin for the cleanup after the contest that soon followed: Heads of lettuce or red cabbage were passed down two lines of players until the 'closer' -- Sean Doolittle for Scherzer's squad, Daniel Hudson for Strasburg's -- slammed the leafy spheres on the sidewalk. As general manager Mike Rizzo looked on with other front-office employees from an terrace overlooking the field, and with pride, then dinner, then $1,000 at stake — per hype man and first base coach Bob Henley — Scherzer's team went 3-0, to much hooting and hollering and group hugs. 'It's fun, but that's what they do for a living -- they compete every day and it's just something to take them off of just the everyday baseball thing. But they're competing,' manager Dave Martinez said. 'And when you've got a guy like Max, that loves to win in everything, they're going to compete. It's just a lot of fun to watch them loosen up and do those things.' The tradition was born a year ago, when Henley happened to see that Feb. 17 is, indeed, 'National Cabbage Day' (go ahead and Google it). It carried into the regular season, when players would sometimes celebrate victories by throwing cabbage on the floor, part of a general vibe that pervaded day-to-day life for a team that went from 19-31 to a title with dugout dancing after homers, mid-game hugs, special sunglasses and the strains of the earworm 'Baby Shark.' 'Last year, it was funny, because somebody dropped a cabbage, and Bob screamed, 'Who dropped the cabbage?!' And the whole team said, 'We dropped the cabbage!' That's pretty impressive,' Martinez said. 'So they get it. They understand it. And throughout spring training, we'll definitely incorporate a lot more things to do, because they definitely enjoy it.' As much as folks made about Washington's bonding and chemistry a year ago, they wouldn't have won without pitching and hitting. And few were as instrumental to the latter as Soto, who really made himself known to a wide audience during the postseason despite only turning 21 during the Fall Classic against the Houston Astros. Soto, a lefty-batting left fielder, hit .333 with three homers and seven RBIs in the World Series, capping a tremendous October that included producing the go-ahead run in the wild-card game off closer Josh Hader of the Brewers, and homering off such stars as Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers, and Gerritt Cole and Justin Verlander of the Astros. 'I mean, I'm going to always remember those moments. They're going to be there forever, for me and my whole team,' said Soto, who had 34 homers and 110 RBIs in just his second year in the big leagues. 'Everything we did, I'm never going to forget. I was on the best team of my life. It was a really good team. The energy we had, it was amazing.' Who knows what Tuesday — and the first formal full-squad workout of this spring — might bring? ___ More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
  • Red Sox owner John Henry says he knows why Boston fans are angry the team traded Mookie Betts. “When I say I understand how many of you feel about this trade with the Dodgers, I know many of you — particularly our youngest fans — are disbelieving or angry or sad about it. I know it’s difficult and disappointing,” Henry said Monday, reading from a statement on the first day of full-team workouts. Henry answered questions for about 30 minutes along with chairman Tom Werner and team president Sam Kennedy. Half of them addressed the trade of Betts and David Price to Los Angeles for outfielder Alex Verdugo and two prospects: infielder Jeter Downs and catcher Connor Wong. Boston will send $96 million to the Dodgers, which matches half of the $96 million owed to Price for the next three seasons, and shed itself of Betts' $27 million salary for this year. “This trade gives us a lot of flexibility,’ Werner said. “We have made unpopular trades — not all of them have worked out right.” The trio tried to downplay it as a salary dump, even though it dropped Boston's projected luxury tax payroll below the $208 million threshold for the competitive balance tax. “We tried to be clear that this not exclusively about the CBT and getting under the CBT threshold,” Kennedy said. “There would have been other ways to do that. You don’t trade Mookie Betts to get under the CBT. We traded Mookie Betts and David Price to get substantial value for the return.” The 70-year-old Henry used an example how he would have felt if Stan Musial, his favorite player growing up, been dealt by the St. Louis Cardinals. “My heart would have broken if Stan the Man had ever been traded — for any reason,” he said, addressing fans. “Your parents or your grandparents surely felt the same way about Ted Williams and Yaz.” Betts is eligible for free agency after this season. Werner insisted the team tried to sign Betts to a long-term deal many times. “We had repeated conversations with Mookie over a number of years to try and hold onto him for the length of his baseball career,” he said. “They just didn’t get worked out. “We also understand — as John says — in the short run this is going to be painful. It’s painful for us.” ___ More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
  • Mickey Wright, the golf great with a magnificent swing who won 13 majors among her 82 victories and gave the fledgling LPGA a crucial lift, died Monday of a heart attack. She was 85. She had been hospitalized in Florida the last few weeks after a fall, said her lawyer, Sonia Pawluc. Wright joined the LPGA in 1955 and the Hall of Famer's 82 wins place her second on the all-time list behind Kathy Whitworth, who won 88. The Associated Press in 1999 named Wright the Female Golfer of the Century and Female Athlete of the Year in 1963 and 1964. A Golf Magazine poll of experts in 2009 called her the best female golfer ever, and men's champions Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson said Wright had the best swing they ever saw. “She was the best I’ve ever seen, man or woman,” Whitworth told espnW.com in 2015. “I’ve had the privilege of playing with Sam Snead and Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer and all of them. And some of our ladies had wonderful swings. But nobody hit it like Mickey, just nobody.' Mary Kathryn Wright was born in San Diego on Feb. 14, 1935. She started playing golf seriously at age 11 and in 1952 at 17 won the USGA Girls' Junior Championship. In 1954, she won the World Amateur. She studied psychology for a year at Stanford before dropping out in 1955 to pursue a professional golf career. “I've earned my own version of a master's degree in psychology in study and experience, trial and error, on golf courses throughout the United States. For psychology ... is as integral a part of good golf as an efficient swing,” she said, according to the World Golf Hall of Fame. She was inducted in 1976. Her first tournament win came in 1956 in Jacksonville, Florida, and by 1961 she was dominating the tour, winning at least 10 tournaments annually from 1961 to 1964. Among her major wins were four U.S. Opens and four LPGA Championships. Wright retired from the tour in 1969 because of foot issues and mental fatigue: she was the biggest draw on the LPGA Tour and played constantly to help it thrive. “It was a lot of pressure to be in contention week after week for five or six years,” Wright told Golf World in 2000. “I guess they call it burnout now, but it wore me out. Unless you’re a golfer, you can’t understand the tension and pressure of tournament play. And it was the expectations: It was always, ‘What’s wrong with your game? ‘Are you coming apart?’ Second or third isn’t bad, but it feels bad when you’ve won 44 tournaments in four years.” Whitworth said her friend and rival had to play almost every week for the tour to survive. “Sponsors threatened to cancel their tournaments if she didn’t play. And, knowing that if they canceled, the rest of us wouldn’t be able to play, Mickey would always play,” Whitworth said. Wright's last tournament victory came four years after leaving the tour, the 1973 Colgate-Dinah Shore Winner's Circle. That was before that tournament was considered a major. Wright moved to Stuart, Florida, in 1974, where she lived the rest of her life. She survived breast cancer in 2007. The Stuart News in 2012 said Wright spent most days gardening, fishing and playing the stock market and crossword puzzles. For golf, she hit wedges off a practice mat on her patio onto the 14th fairway of an adjoining club. When she donated 200 items to the United States Golf Association in 2012, she said she hated giving up that mat. The course ranger gave her a new one. ___ A previous version of this story incorrectly identified the 1973 Colgate-Dinah Shore Winner's Circle as a major.

Georgia Sports News

  • ATHENS Georgia has the best quarterback-receiver duo in the SEC, 'easily,' according to advanced metrics website Pro Football Focus. The PFF website, which grades and charts every player in every game at the NFL and FBS level, ranks Bulldogs' incoming graduate transfer Jamie Newman and returning sophomore receiver George Pickens among the top 10 returning players in the SEC. We @PFF_College are looking forward to the Jamie Newman George Pickens combo.. @PFF_Anthony 'The Bulldogs have easily the best quarterback-receiver duo in the SEC and one of the best in the country.' https://t.co/gumzly4rs5 Brent Rollins (@PFF_Brent) February 17, 2020 LSU cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. was rated by PFF as the No. 1 returning player in the league. Stingley Jr. raved about Pickens when asked by DawgNation to assess him at the College Football Playoff Media Day in January. The PFF staff rated Newman the No. 3 returning quarterback in college football behind Clemson's Trevor Lawrence and Ohio State's Justin Fields earlier this offseason. Most recently, PFF ranked Newman the No. 3 player in the SEC behind Stingley Jr. and LSU receiver Ja'Marr Chase. From the PFF assessment: ' No quarterback was forced to throw into a tight window more than Newman last season, and he overcame that to produce the second-highest passing grade on those throws behind only Joe Burrow and the third-lowest rate of uncatchable passes. Newman's arm strength and accuracy will give Georgia an added boost in the deep passing game, an area it was average in at best last season. PFF noted Newman trailed only Burrow on his passing grade on throws of 20 yards or more. Former Georgia football coach Mark Richt, now an analyst for the ACC Network, told DawgNation that Newman could fit into any kind of offense. Of course, Newman hasn't even won the starting job with the Bulldogs yet. Incoming freshman Carson Beck expects to challenge, as do returning redshirt freshman D'Wan Mathis and redshirt junior Stetson Bennett. RELATED: Carson Beck making easy transition to Georgia football program Of Pickens, PFF penned, the Bulldogs' freshman displayed 'a massive catch radius and sure-fire hands . the man would catch any catchable ball thrown his way.' WATCH: The Pickens Plan, LSU defensive coordinator reveals special plan for Georgia WR Pickens was ranked No. 7 in the SEC coming off a season that saw him have the third-most catchable targets (49) without a drop last season. Georgia's George Pickens had the third most catchable targets without a drop in college football at 49 as a true freshman (per @PFF). His catch radius and hands are flat out unbelievable for his age. Pickens is easily one of the top-10 returning players in the entire SEC. pic.twitter.com/C5M2FtCSFi Anthony Treash (@PFF_Anthony) February 17, 2020 Georgia football newcomer stories Key takeaways on Georgia football newcomers Numbers game: Comparing Jamie Newman to Jake Fromm 3 things about Georgia freshman Carson Beck Kendall Milton making quick fit into Georgia football Podcast: Major Burns had best reason for choosing UGA Carson Beck making easy transition into Georgia QB Trainer: Jamie Newman fits direction of Georgia football offense Kirby Smart talks Broderick Jones 2020 signees best positioned to make Georgia impact WATCH: Mark Richt gives straight-forward analysis on Jamie Newman The post Georgia football has highest-rated quarterback-receiver combo in SEC, per PFF advanced metrics appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS Georgia football is a work in progress, but some areas require more construction than others. Kirby Smart and his staff planned ahead well, in terms of procuring key graduate transfers and utilizing the recruiting process to find impact players and restock need positions groups with top prospects. RELATED: Early takeaways on Georgia football newcomers, good news The final rank for the 2020 Class was No. 1. But Smart was more concerned with checking all the boxes. More underclassmen are leaving Georgia, leaving gaps that need filling. Five of the departing underclassmen landed NFL combine invites. Here's a pre-spring good news/bad news look at each position group for Georgia, as Smart readies for what should another run at the College Football Playoff: Quarterback Good news: Wake Forest graduate transfer Jamie Newman (6 foot 4, 230 pounds) brings a new dual-threat option to the offense. Incoming freshman Carson Beck is a capable competitor and D'Wan Mathis is optimistic he'll be completely cleared in May. Bad news: It's essentially an overhaul at the position. There figures to be a lot of newness with coordinator Todd Monken and offensive line coach/associate head coach Matt Luke added to the staff. Running back Good news: Georgia scored well in recruiting with California blue-chip Kendall Milton (6-1, 227) and South Georgia back Daijun Edwards (5-10, 201). The Bulldogs have just about every type of back to choose from. Bad news: D'Andre Swift was essentially 'every type of back' rolled up into one and will be difficult to replace. None in the stable currently project to fill Swift's shoes, it will take a committee effort. Receiver Good news: Smart went deep addressing this position. Georgia landed five receivers and two incoming tight ends to ensure talent and depth at the position. RELATED: George Pickens graded top true freshman in nation by PFF Bad news: The 'newness' factor once again. The only one of the seven new pass catchers to early enroll is Justin Robinson, meaning a lot of the work and timing can't get done until voluntary summer drills and fall camp. Offensive line Good news: Matt Luke proved a capable recruiter, securing elite offensive tackles Broderick Jones and Tate Ratledge, along with the nation's No. 1 center, Sedrick Van Pran. Bad news: It's hard to imagine anyone filling Andrew Thomas' shoes at left tackle, commonly referred to as the most important line position on either side of the football. Defensive line Good news: Malik Herring's decision to return for his senior season and former starter Julian Rochester getting a redshirt means strong experience returning. Freshman Jalen Carter is good enough to make the rotation. Bad news: If Georgia could put more pass rushers on the field at one time, it would. Azeez Ojulari, Nolan Smith, Jermaine Johnson, Adam Anderson and newcomer MJ Sherman are forces. Linebacker Good news: Middle linebacker Monty Rice heads into the offseason healthy and ready to improve himself and lead the others around him. The linebackers took a step forward last season. With Nakobe Dean a quick learner, the group figures to be even better in 2020. RELATED: Adam Anderson turning heads in Georgia football offseason Bad news: Teams went after Georgia's linebackers in pass coverage, and the tackling wasn't always the best in the open field. There's room for improvement in both areas along with a need for more playmaking in the form of forced turnovers. Secondary Good news: Richard LeCounte's decision to return seemed to set the trend on defense, and the talented rising senior should emerge as a permanent captain. Lewis Cine showed he could fill J.R. Reed's shoes in the Sugar Bowl. Georgia has four NFL talents at corner with the addition of Kelee Ringo. Bad news. None. Special teams Good news: Jake Camarda is back for his junior season. Most probably don't know his 46.8 average last season is third highest among the returning punters in the nation. UGA has several fleet-footed incoming freshmen who could spice up the return game, which took a hit last season with Mecole Hardman moved on to the NFL. Bad news: Rodrigo Blankenship is headed to the NFL, so Smart will have a new kicker for the first time in his tenure. Dominick Blaylock had earned Smart's trust on punt returns, but he underwent knee surgery in January and the timeline for his return is uncertain. DawgNation Georgia football Kirby Smart curiously short on early Todd Monken praise 21 names to know for Georgia football 2021 recruiting class Brandon Adams podcast: Recruiting key to national titles Freshman RB Kendall Milton finding quick fit at Georgia Jeff Sentell: How the nation's No. 1 class came together Georgia football produces 10 NFL combine invites Pre-combine Georgia NFL draft projections, top 3 rounds The post Georgia football: Good news, bad news offseason outlook in position groups appeared first on DawgNation.
  • UGA has a pretty illustrious sports history, including having produced such stars as Dominique Wilkins, Teresa Edwards, Frank Sinkwich, Courtney Kupets, Spec Towns, Charley Trippi, Fran Tarkenton, Bubba Watson and, of course, Herschel Walker, recently named by ESPN as the second-greatest college football player in the history of the game. You'd expect an athletics program with such a storied history to be celebrated on campus in high style, as a way of commemorating past accomplishments, inspiring current student athletes and impressing future enrollees. Perhaps a statue like the University of Florida has for Tim Tebow? Maybe a street named after them like Peyton Manning has in Knoxville? No? Well, surely, there's at least a first-class museum or hall of fame paying tribute to UGA's past athletes, right? Unfortunately, that's not the case either, a point driven home to me this week when I stopped by Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall in Athens to drop off my annual Hartman Fund contribution, and I spent some time in the athletics headquarters' rotunda, perusing the somewhat underwhelming historical displays (you can't really call it a 'museum,' despite the Explore Georgia website optimistically trying to do so ). The best thing you can say is that there's a display case for every varsity team that UGA fields, men's and women's. Plus, there are displays for three of UGA's football coaches ( Harry Mehre, Wally Butts and Vince Dooley), cases for Sinkwich and Walker that include their helmets and their Heisman Trophies, and a display paying tribute to longtime UGA publicist and tennis coach Dan Magill. Another case shows the evolution of football helmets through the years. Although all sports are represented, the emphasis is on football. Kupets winning the 2008-2009 award as the national women's athlete of the year is noted inside the Gymdogs' case, rather than in a display of her own. Around the rotunda are wall displays with photos and artwork depicting different eras of UGA football (the early years, the Butts years, the Dooley years, and 1989 to the present). There's a wall case with the four retired football jersey numbers (Sinkwich's 21, Trippi's 62, Theron Sapp's 40 and Walker's 34), and another display listing all of UGA's SEC championships. The national championship crystal football trophy is on display, too. Also in the building is the Larry Munson Trophy Room, featuring awards and trophies Georgia football has garnered through the years, but that's on the second level (one floor down from the rotunda), where fans aren't as likely to roam. (It's aimed mainly at recruits, I think.) Still, the most prominent display area is in the rotunda, where visitors have more immediate access. Unfortunately, my latest visit to the rotunda displays left me with the feeling the athletic association is not really trying much anymore when it comes to celebrating UGA sports history. The touch-screen audio-video displays with vintage footage and Munson calls that my son used to check out when he was a kid? Gone. And, I noticed the bowl history display hasn't even been updated since 2014! The SEC championship display does at least include 2017, but that is the rotunda's only mention of that fairy-tale football season. (Thankfully, over on the other side of campus, the Hargrett Library's current football exhibit, 'Beautiful and Brutal: Georgia Bulldogs Football, 2017,' runs through Feb. 29. Thank goodness for Hargrett!) Senior Associate Athletic Director Claude Felton explained that 'most of our individual sport museums' are spread around at the respective sport facilities. We have lots of special displays in various facilities the Boyd Golf Center, Stegeman, in and around the men's and women's basketball and gymnastics areas, equestrian facility, etc. All have historical displays (and graphics) of those particular sports.For example, we have a Teresa Edwards display in Stegeman that includes some of her Olympic medals, jerseys, etc.' That's fine, but I believe such displays would have a greater impact (and the historic artefacts more easily could be maintained and protected) if they were gathered together in one proper museum space. I asked Athletic Director Greg McGarity whether, in the current $80 million expansion of Butts-Mehre, there are any plans for the history display area to be expanded/changed/moved at all. Any thought given to a more elaborate museum covering Georgia athletics? 'We do not have any current plans to renovate this space; however, we do have future plans that would address updating this area of the Butts-Mehre,' he said, adding that the timing is still to be determined. As for what happened to the touch-screen displays that my son used to use? 'There were those kinds of screens years ago, but they always malfunctioned, so I assume they were never replaced,' McGarity said, adding that 'they were not here when I returned in 2010.' The only touch-screen they have now is 'a display that indicates the hometowns of our football players, and it's located outside the public entry of the football offices on the second floor,' one level down from the rotunda display. It is open to the public. Also, McGarity said, 'We have TV monitors that display content throughout the indoor [practice] facility, as well multiple areas throughout the entire facility. We have a mix of static' displays and a mix of the monitors that provide content change throughout the year.' However, the indoor practice facility is not open to the general public. So, a proper athletics museum may not be in the cards any time soon, but at least the recognition of UGA's past glories has improved a little bit at Sanford Stadium in recent years, with the addition of wall graphics, such as one emblazoned with 'Oh you Herschel,' borrowing a phrase from Munson. But, aside from the SEC championship banners and the mascot cemetery, that's about it. It seems like they could at least add some plaques or busts or something to Reed Plaza. As I've written before, I've often wondered why you see so little of UGA's football history at Sanford Stadium, in contrast to schools like the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, where Tar Heel history is a tangible presence at Kenan Memorial Stadium. UNC generally isn't thought of as a football power these days, but it has a statue of Charlie 'Choo Choo' Justice. Speaking of statues, aside from an 8-foot-long bronze likeness of former mascot Uga VI outside the veterinary school and another small statue of one of Uga's predecessors, Mike, in front of Memorial Hall, the only athletics-oriented statue at UGA is that of Dooley, located at the southernmost tip of the campus, in the athletic complex named for the coach. It's not for want of trying. Athens sculptor (and UGA alum) Stan Mullins, who did the bronze statue of Dooley being hoisted by some of his players, also has created an 8-foot-tall bronze sculpture of Walker, but so far has had no luck getting the athletic association interested in putting it on display. When he approached UGA few years ago, he said, 'the initial pushback was that they needed to honor Sinkwich and Trippi first.' So, Mullins also created clay models of those two players. His grand plan, dubbed the Crowns of Glory Project ( which has its own Facebook page ), called for monuments at the four corners surrounding the stadium, with the Walker statue to be at the bookstore end of the Sanford Drive bridge, a Trippi statue at the other end of the bridge, and a Sinkwich statue near Gate 6 on the east side. A fourth monument, located at the other eastside corner, would have an uncarved 12-ton Carrara marble block as an unfinished sculpture, which Mullins views as a recruiting tool and incentive for players, showing that Georgia is waiting on its next hero. Mullins self-financed the casting of the bronze statue of Walker out of money he made doing a monument at Marshall University, and he unveiled it in 2016. The Walker sculpture spent time at various locations around Athens, and several months at the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame in Macon, before settling down at Mullins' studio, a renovated and redesigned 18thcentury cottonseed oil refinery on Pulaski Street in Athens. 'He's attacking the Greenway, the entry way to the river,' Mullins said of the Herschel statue this week. The public is welcome to visit the statue there and take pictures, he said. I asked Mullins about the status of his efforts to have the sculpture put outside the stadium. 'I don't know,' he said with a sigh. 'I stopped trying. I kept hitting resistance. ' It seems like everybody else has one,' he added, referring to athletic statues on other campuses. 'It does not make sense. ' McGarity said the issue of adding statues 'will always be an item for discussion moving forward,' but he added that there are 'no firm plans.' These days, Mullins is busy working on a sculpture of Tomochichi, a Yamacraw chief instrumental in Georgia colonial history, to be located in a park near Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. He made the point that commemorating past heroes with monuments is all about inspiring future heroes. 'The pageantry of sports leads to the pageantry of humanity,' Mullins said. 'And, if we don't celebrate it, it goes away.' I've never understood the reluctance to do more to celebrate UGA's athletics history. Whether it's the statues offered by Mullins, or monuments created by someone else, UGA athletics should do more to embrace its past, and not just Walker. As a friend put it, 'We have such a rich history, and I think we undersell it; we're more than just Herschel, as great as he was.' On Georgiadogs.com, it says that part of the UGA Athletic Association's mission is 'to serve as a source of pride, a rallying point, for the legions of supporters that follow its teams.' I think that's one area where greater effort is warranted. The post UGA athletics needs to do more to celebrate its history appeared first on DawgNation.
  • It's February, and we are in full-blown hype mode for the upcoming NFL Draft. It's the season for bold opinions and draft projections seemingly out of nowhere. That's what makes it so fun. If you can remember this time last year, draft 'experts' had former UGA defensive end D'Andre Walker and Bulldogs receiver Riley Ridley going in the first round. Nevertheless, if there's one consistency for this year's crop of NFL-bound Bulldogs, it's offensive lineman Andrew Thomas being drafted in top half of the first round, and D'Andre Swift being one of the top three running backs off the board. Swift, who stepped up as UGA's locker-room leader on offense this past season, got some love from two notable NFL analysts this week. He was compared to two of the best NFL running backs this past season: To Dalvin Cook, by ESPN's Matt Bowen; and to Alvin Kamara, by Bleacher Report's Matt Miller. The arrow is definitely pointing up for Swift, and he could even rise higher with a strong performance at the NFL Combine, which kicks off on Feb. 23. Love it. My comp is Kamara. Excellent receiving option. Hate that he got banged up late but saved some tread on his tires Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) February 4, 2020 The post D'Andre Swift compared to two of NFL's best running backs appeared first on DawgNation.
  • It's referred to as the NFL draft 'process' for a reason. The millions of dollars and championship hopes at stake are two reasons for that, and the NFL teams' changing needs and players' changing bodies and stock value are others. The game film and postseason all-star games are in the books, and next up is the 2020 NFL Combine in Indianapolis from Feb. 23 through March 2. This year's event will have some prime-time evening viewing, so the drill work and testing figure to get more public attention than ever before. Georgia football will have 10 players taking part in the combine tied for second-most among SEC teams with Alabama, behind only LSU. RELATED: The 10 Georgia football players invited to 2020 NFL Combine The players' performances have the potential to greatly effect their draft stock, for better or worse, as they move up or down the totem pole at their respective positions. RELATED: Andrew Thomas first-round NFL draft lock The interest level in the NFL is such fans can't wait for the actual draft April 23-25 in Las Vegas hence the proliferation of mock drafts. The first round takes place on the first day, the second and third rounds take place on the second day and Day Three consists of the final four rounds of the 255 players who will be selected. A consensus is beginning to shake out that Georgia will have five players selected in the first two days, and possibly six. Related: Jake Fromm more than ready for NFL, per Senior Bowl director NFL.com and CBSSports.com both have at least four Bulldogs going in the first three rounds NFL.com analyst Chad Reuter 2020 NFL Draft First Round No. 18 OT Andrew Thomas, Miami Dolphins No. 26 RB D'Andre Swift, Miami Dolphins 2020 NFL Draft Second Round No. 38 QB Jake Fromm, Carolina Panthers 2020 NFL Draft Third Round No. 67 OG Solomon Kindley, Detroit Lions No. 71 OT Isaiah Wilson, Los Angeles Chargers CBS.com analyst R.J. White 2020 NFL Draft First Round No. 10 OT Andrew Thomas, Cleveland Browns No. 29 RB D'Andre Swift, Tennessee Titans 2020 NFL Draft Second Round No. 61 QB Jake Fromm, Carolina Panthers No. 64 OT Isiah Wilson, Seattle Seahawks 2020 NFL Draft Third Round No. 94 OG Solomon Kindley, Green Bay Packers No. 99 FS J.R. Reed, New England Patriots DawgNation: Georgia in the NFL draft Jake Fromm evaluation, comparison, per former Super Bowl scout ESPN labels Georgia a 'loser' in NFL early entry process Evaluating Andrew Thomas, why he's a first-round lock Eli Wolf, Charlie Woerner, Brian Herrien, Tyrique McGhee shine in all-star games Todd McShay projects Georgia QB Jake Fromm to have first-round talent Closer look at Jake Fromm's decision, factors and faith The post Pre-combine Georgia football 2020 NFL Draft projections: Jake Fromm staying down South? appeared first on DawgNation.