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Friday, August 18, 2017

Stories by Grey Papke:

Each MLB team’s top performer this season

Bryce Harper

Every baseball team needs a star — someone who can pace the team either offensively or defensively — or perhaps both. On the pitching side, a star can be the ace of a staff or the stopper in the bullpen.

Here’s a list of each MLB team’s top performer so far in 2017.

Arizona Diamondbacks — Paul Goldschmidt

One of the league’s most complete first basemen, Goldschmidt remains Arizona’s biggest star. Beyond playing quality defense, he has hit .319 with 29 home runs while also stealing 16 bases. His contributions are a big part of why Arizona is poised for their first playoff appearance since 2011. He also is a top contender for NL MVP.

Atlanta Braves — Freddie Freeman

Freeman has been limited to just 72 games by injury in 2017, but he’s still been Atlanta’s best player. Not only has he been his usual productive self offensively, hitting .321 with 21 home runs, he has taken a shot at a new position, stepping away from his usual first base and helping the team by playing some at third.

Baltimore Orioles — Jonathan Schoop

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Broncos reportedly giving Paxton Lynch more first-team reps

Paxton Lynch

Read into it what you will, but the Denver Broncos are reportedly spending the week taking a long look at Paxton Lynch.

According to Mike Klis of 9News, the second-year quarterback is getting “considerably more first-team reps” than he has at any point in the offseason.

It is unclear what this means, especially as, according to Klis, Trevor Siemian has largely outperformed Lynch during training camp. One possible explanation is that the Broncos are simply giving Lynch an opportunity to stay sharp with the first team before he is ultimately put behind Siemian for good.

By all accounts, Siemian is winning the battle by a significant margin. It would be a huge surprise if Lynch was under center for Week 1.

LeBron James’ camp strongly denies report he intends to leave Cavaliers

LeBron James

Sources close to LeBron James are strongly denying a report that surfaced Wednesday stating that the star forward is certain to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers when his contract expires.

On Wednesday, a report emerged stating that James was “100 percent leaving” the Cavs. The report stated that James’ relationship with owner Dan Gilbert is irreparably broken.

Sources close to James dismissed this story as nonsense.

What’s the truth? James probably hasn’t even made anything close to a decision yet. That said, it’s easy to imagine James deciding to close the book on Cleveland once again. The Cavaliers know enough to be prepared for that possibility.

Sean Payton explains Saints’ decision to fire orthopedists

Sean Payton

New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton explained why the organization parted ways with a pair of orthopedists.

It was widely reported that the orthopedists, Deryk Jones and Misty Suri, were fired in light of a significant misdiagnosis of cornerback Delvin Breaux. Breaux was found to have a fractured fibula after the team doctors diagnosed him with a contusion. Payton contended that the firings were not in response to a single incident.

“You’re always trying to get the best opinion possible,” Payton said, via Josh Alper of ProFootballTalk. “It’s one of those positions with every team that there’s always that level of importance to come up with the right opinion. For years, those guys have done a great job and yet there was a point at which we just felt as an organization that change was going to be necessary for us.”

The Breaux situation was a significant, embarrassing misdiagnosis that likely left the Saints with little choice but to make a change — especially after Payton was rather public about pushing the cornerback to get back on the field based on the bad information he was given.

Report: Marlins open to Giancarlo Stanton trade talks

Now that they know who their next owners will be, the Miami Marlins can begin assessing the future of their franchise — and it’s not clear whether Giancarlo Stanton will be a part of it.

According to Jon Morosi of FOX Sports, the Marlins are now “willing to engage” in trade talks about Stanton, but nothing appears to be in the pipeline.

Stanton’s value may never be higher — he’s homered in six straight games and looks well on his way to a 50 home run season — and his huge contract has already cleared waivers. Still, that would only be one step toward making what would be a very difficult deal. There are questions as to whether the Marlins would pay some of Stanton’s salary and what the prospect return would be. There is very clear interest, but there’s a reason trades of this magnitude almost never happen in August. The offseason may be more realistic.

NFLPA calls out NFL ‘hypocrisy’ in latest statement

Ezekiel Elliott Ohio

The NFLPA is not taking the NFL’s accusatory statements lying down.

After the NFL slammed the NFLPA in a statement Wednesday over Ezekiel Elliott’s domestic violence case, the players’ union offered a strongly-worded response to the league’s accusations of misinformation and victim-blaming.

The union does not hold back, accusing the league of “hypocrisy” and claiming they lack credibility.

This public battle began with this story, which the NFL believed was spread by the NFLPA in an attempt to undermine the credibility of Elliott’s accuser, Tiffany Thompson.

Jim Mora thinks Josh Rosen will stay at UCLA after 2017

Josh Rosen

UCLA coach Jim Mora has a rather interesting prediction about quarterback Josh Rosen’s NFL Draft future.

At the moment, Mora believes Rosen will elect to pass on the NFL Draft in 2018 and stay with the Bruins for his senior season.

“My firm belief is that he will not leave,” Mora told Pete Thamel of Yahoo Sports on Sunday. “I don’t think he’ll leave. I want a disclaimer, I have an option to change my opinion. But as we sit here right now, I can really honestly say I don’t think he’s going to leave.”

On one hand, Mora and Rosen are particularly close, with Mora comparing his quarterback to his own son. On the other hand, this seems like wishful thinking. A good season would put Rosen in contention for the No. 1 overall pick, and he’s already made clear how he feels about balancing being an athlete with being a student, over which he has drawn criticism. Never say never, but the odds are against Mora right now.

Gary Sanchez credits Alex Rodriguez and J-Lo for helping him through slump

New York Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez has endured a lot of criticism over his defense recently, but he got through it with the help of two very famous mentors.

Sanchez talked about how he had lunch with former Yankee Alex Rodriguez and singer J-Lo, both of whom helped him work through his defensive slump.

“We talked about pretty much everything,” Sanchez said via an interpreter after homering in Tuesday’s win over the New York Mets, via Pete Caldera of USA Today. “Everything that comes from him, it’s positive. We talked a little bit about defense, creating a routine, following your routine, preparing for games.”

Though Rodriguez was the ballplayer, it didn’t stop his very famous girlfriend from offering some words of encouragement too.

“(It was) positive advice, positive thinking,” Sanchez said of J-Lo’s advice. “She’s a superstar at what she does, a great singer and actress and Alex is a superstar in baseball. Any advice coming from them, I’ll listen to them.”

It’s been a little over a week since manager Joe Girardi benched Sanchez to send him a message about his defense. Since then, he’s not only steadied himself, but he’s gone on a huge hot streak offensively, hitting .407 with four home runs in the eight games since his return from his brief exile. Whatever A-Rod and J-Lo told him seems to be helping.

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