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Sunday, August 20, 2017

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Joe Girardi declines to commit to Aroldis Chapman as Yankee closer

Aroldis Chapman Yankees

Struggling New York Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman did not get much of a vote of confidence after another horrendous outing Friday night against the Boston Red Sox.

Chapman was asked to pitch the eighth inning Friday with the Yankees down a run to the Red Sox, but the flamethrowing closer once again struggled, allowing two runs in his inning of work and failing to keep the deficit in place. It was the fourth consecutive outing in which he has allowed a run, having now given up seven in his last 4.1 innings of work. Moreover, he failed to back up home plate after giving up a hit in the outing, which got him an immediate admonishment from manager Joe Girardi.

After the game, Girardi did not exactly back Chapman to remain in the closer’s role.

It’s worth noting that Girardi had a very different message prior to this outing.

Chapman has dealt with a hamstring issue, which may be a factor in determining the way forward. Still, the Yankee closer hasn’t really been his dominant self all season and has been a huge disappointment, and with the team in a tight playoff race and other options with closing experience such as Dellin Betances and David Robertson available if necessary, the question has to be asked whether Chapman is still the right man for the job for the immediate future.

Blair Walsh explains why he taunted Vikings players

Blair Walsh

Seattle Seahawks kicker Blair Walsh had an interesting explanation when asked why he taunted his former Minnesota Vikings teammates: they started it.

Walsh, who spent the first five seasons of his career with the Vikings, raised some eyebrows during Friday night’s preseason game when he was spotted gesturing toward the sideline at some of his former Vikings teammates after converting a 52-yard field goal, but according to him, this was all instigated by the other side.

“I simply was just responding to getting taunted,” Walsh said, via Sheil Kapadia of ESPN. “I didn’t say anything. When you’ve got guys who were your teammates for five years yelling at you when you’re trying to kick, it’s just odd. And I hope they were in jest. And I hope they didn’t mean it because I didn’t mean anything with mine, but it was definitely not out of nowhere.

“I felt like it was nothing that was serious or meant to be hurtful, but I wanted to let them know that it just wasn’t going to roll off. I didn’t say anything though. Just looked at them.”

Walsh declined to say the nature of the taunting, implying that the words directed at him are not suitable for publication in a family-friendly outlet.

“Nothing I can repeat here. That’s for sure,” Walsh said when asked what had been said to him.

Walsh, of course, will be remembered in Minnesota for one of the worst missed field goals in recent NFL history, one that his confidence never recovered from and eventually led to his release. It’s easy to wonder if that’s the direction the taunting went in.

Justin Britt supports protesting Michael Bennett during anthem

Justin Britt

Michael Bennett asked for support from white players in seeking recognition of the social issues in America, and he received some.

Seattle Seahawks center Justin Britt stood by Bennett’s side during the national anthem prior to the Seahawks’ preseason game against the Minnesota Vikings on Friday night.

Cornerback Jeremy Lane also stood in front of Bennett and had his back turned to the field during the anthem.

Though Colin Kaepernick, the first player to protest by kneeling for the national anthem, is not in the league, Bennett and others are trying to continue the dialogue about the issues Kaepernick to which the unemployed QB was trying to bring attention.

Bennett sat during the playing of the national anthem in Seattle’s first preseason game and made some headlines, as did Marshawn Lynch. Bennett then said during the week that the country needs white athletes to stand with black athletes in order for matters to progress. The Eagles’ Chris Long took a stand when he put his arm around teammate Malcolm Jenkins during the anthem earlier in the week, and now Britt is doing the same. The center is doing so after signing a 3-year contract extension with the Seahawks on Thursday.

10 teams that improved the most this NBA offseason

Jimmy Butler

Though there was no single Kevin-Durant-to-Golden-State-sized splash in the NBA this offseason, teams made move after move to jockey with the Warriors in an attempt to interrupt their reign of terror.

The Rockets took a leap of faith and traded the farm for an aging Chris Paul. The Celtics used their cap space to reunite Gordon Hayward with Brad Stevens, then got rid of an asset in Avery Bradley to balance their checkbook. The Timberwolves suddenly became a legitimate Western Conference contender by ripping off the Bulls.

There were so many moves, in fact — so many trades and so many signings — that, now that the league’s transaction churn and burn has finally calmed, it’s hard to believe all that actually happened. To sum it up:

We’re going to see a lot of familiar faces in new jerseys come this fall (the preseason begins Sept. 30). But which of those players will make the biggest impact, and which teams will look the most improved? Which 2017-18 NBA squad will make the biggest leap?

It’s too early to know, of course, but below is my take on the 10 NBA teams that improved the most this offseason.

10. Denver Nuggets

(more…)

Max Scherzer scratched from start with neck issue

Max Scherzer

Max Scherzer continues to be plagued by neck issues.

The Washington Nationals ace was scratched from his scheduled start on Friday against the San Diego Padres after experiencing a neck problem. Matt Grace got the nod in Scherzer’s place.

Nats manager Dusty Baker could tell something was amiss when Scherzer was at Petco Park early.

Scherzer left his start on Aug. 1 after one inning of work. He had hit his first career home run in that game and then was unable to continue pitching because of his neck. He still made his next two starts, pitching nearly identical lines of five hits and two runs allowed over seven innings. But the neck issue resurfaced Friday.

MASN’s Dan Kolko says Scherzer will undergo testing to see if anything can be found concerning his neck. The Nats would obviously want to have some answers before the playoffs roll around.

Scherzer is 12-5 with a 2.25 ERA this season.

Michael Beasley tired of not being respected

Michael Beasley has heard every last one of your bust jokes and your marijuana punchlines over the years, and he is one hundred percent over it.

In an interview with Marc Berman of the New York Post on Friday, the former No. 2 overall pick said he is sick of not getting the respect he feels he deserves.

“Look at my nine-year career, I’ve always been close to a point a minute,” he said. “I’ve always been a walking bucket. Nobody can stop me, hasn’t stopped me my last nine years. Every time I’ve touched the ball, the defender’s scared … I’m just tired of not getting the acknowledgement of being who I am.

“I’ve always been the quiet, not-stand-up-for-myself-kind-of-guy,” continued Beasley. “Not being disrespectful. But I want my respect. For the last nine years, I’ve been a walking bucket, man. Anytime you want a point, I’ll give you a point, no matter what the circumstances, who the player is defending me.”

The 28-year-old Beasley, who turned down more money to sign with the Knicks this summer, has always been able to, as he says, get dem buckets. But his off-court incidents, various legal troubles, and overall failure to live up to his draft position have come to define Beasley in the eyes of many. Now it’ll be on him to prove in The Big Apple why he deserves some respeck on his name.

Chargers OL Russell Okung calls on white players to take public action

Russell Okung

Los Angeles Chargers offensive tackle Russell Okung wants more attention to be made to the issues of racial inequality in the country, and he thinks white athletes need to stand up for black ones in order for the public to start seeing things differently.

Okung’s former Seahawks teammate Michael Bennett said on ESPN’s SC6 Wednesday that things would really change when a white athlete took a stand for black players.

“It would take a white player to really get things changed,” Bennett said Wednesday. “because when somebody from the other side understands and they step up and they speak up about it … it would change the whole conversation. Because when you bring somebody who doesn’t have to be a part of [the] conversation making himself vulnerable in front of it, I think when that happens, things will really take a jump.”

Okung heard Bennett’s comments and sent a tweet on Friday in which he agreed with the Seattle defensive lineman.

Free agent longsapper Clint Gresham, who played in Seattle from 2010-2015, said he would join the movement if he were still on the team.

The closest sign of support came from Philadelphia Eagles defensive lineman Chris Long, who put his arm around teammate Malcolm Jenkins as the safety raised a fist during the anthem.

If more players embrace the movement, the conversation would certainly change.

Jay-Z says he bought three pairs of Big Baller Brand shoes

Jay Z

Big Baller Brand apparently has at least one notable celebrity backer.

In an appearance Friday on TIDAL’s “The Rap Radar Podcast,” rap mogul Jay-Z said he bought three pairs of Big Baller Brand shoes. Jay-Z gave credit to and expressed his support for LaVar Ball, as transcribed by JMKTV.

For his part, Hov obviously knows a thing or two about sports business and starting your own company from the ground up. While LaVar, son Lonzo, and the Big Baller Brand are often the butt of jokes, they are at least embarking on an admirable venture, and Jay-Z, for one, respects it.

H/T BSO

AJ Hinch has not heard from MLB about umpire criticism

AJ Hinch

Houston Astros manager A.J. Hinch has not heard from MLB despite criticizing the umpires from Thursday’s 4-0 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Hinch was especially upset with the way the game ended and criticized umpire Paul Nauert for calling out Marwin Gonzalez on strikes to end the game. Here were Nauert’s calls in the final at-bat of the game. The red balls represent what were strikes in the at-bat and the green means the pitch was called a ball.

As you can see, the final pitch (No. 7) was inside, though not quite as far inside as No. 3. Hinch complained after the game that the Astros were robbed in the final at-bat of the game.

Despite his criticism and comments, Hinch said on Friday that he hasn’t heard anything from the league yet.

Hinch certainly had a right to be upset when you see the calls made on Gonzalez to end the game. If this were the NBA, he would have already been hit with a fine.

New York radio host has epic meltdown on Aaron Judge caller

Don La Greca

New York sports radio host Don La Greca had a meltdown for the ages on Thursday when responding to a caller who suggested Aaron Judge should have been pinch hit for in a game.

La Greca co-hosts “The Michael Kay Show” with Kay on ESPN Radio New York. After he and Kay took a call from caller Steve in Brooklyn, who asked why Judge wasn’t replaced for a pinch-hitter, La Greca lost his mind.

La Greca, remaining a true pro, doesn’t drop any curse words while going on a massive rant.

Hey, if you were a Mets fan the way La Greca is, and someone suggested replacing a guy with 37 home runs this season, you would find them to be crazy too.

But wow, did La Greca go over the top or what? Sheesh.

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