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Monday, July 13, 2020

Stories by Grey Papke:

Video: Jason Varitek serves as umpire for Red Sox, has epic punchout move

MLB teams are doing a lot of intrasquad games during summer camp. That means they need to come up with their own umpires, and the Boston Red Sox have a creative solution for that.

Jason Varitek, longtime Red Sox catcher and current special assistant, put on the gear Thursday and got behind the plate to call balls and strikes. His extensive experience as a catcher would figure to serve him well here. While we can’t vouch for his strike zone, we can definitely draw attention to his ridiculous way of calling a third strike.

Here’s a better look from the center field camera.

Yeah, that is absolutely ridiculous in the best way. Varitek’s wife Catherine agreed, noting that she was going to be letting him hear it for this when he got home.

There’s been talk that Varitek has been earmarked for a potential future coaching role with the Red Sox. Maybe he should try his hand at full-time umpiring instead.

Anthony Rendon has hilarious analogy for piped-in crowd noise

Is piped-in crowd noise a good or bad idea? Several leagues are apparently considering it for games without fans in 2020, but one MLB player really hates it.

Los Angeles Angels third baseman Anthony Rendon is firmly opposed to piping in crowd noise during games in empty stadiums. In fact, he had quite the analogy when describing the practice.

Honestly, we get it. Watching at home, it’s a bit strange to hear crowd noise on TV only to look up and see seats covered in a tarp. It’s even disorienting a little bit. If the noise is being piped in directly to stadiums, it would be even more confusing for players.

The NBA has looked at some interesting things relating to crowd noise. No word yet on how MLB will handle it, both in stadiums and on television broadcasts.

5 NBA players who need to win the championship the most

Giannis Antetokounmpo

It almost feels like there’s even more at stake in this year’s NBA playoffs than usual. Due to the pause in NBA action, teams that will be involved in the playoffs have had extra time to think ahead and plan and consider the repercussions of what a bad playoff run could mean. Multiple superteams will feel that they don’t have an indefinite amount of time to win a championship. Players are inching closer to free agency. Some teams, as built, may not be able to continue to exist in their current form.

Which players really need to win a title sooner rather than later? These five could face serious consequences if things don’t go their way in the postseason.


Ex-teammate thinks Cam Newton ‘took names’ while waiting in free agency

Cam Newton tie

Cam Newton may be a very motivated man playing for the New England Patriots this year, at least according to one of the quarterback’s former teammates.

NFL Network’s Michael Giardi spoke to an anonymous ex-teammate of Newton’s in Carolina. That player is expecting the Patriots to get a very motivated quarterback — one who has made a note of every team and coach that passed on him during his lengthy offseason wait to be signed.

Newton has to win the job first, which he seems to understand. There’s a great degree of confidence that he’ll be able to do that. Newton was a league MVP not long ago, and getting back to that level will be a huge motivator for him. Plus, with a one-year deal, he can get the contract he probably thinks he deserves if he performs well in New England.

This teammate isn’t the only one who knows Newton well who thinks this is going to end up being a great fit for the quarterback.

Athletics players wear hilarious Mike Fiers-themed facemasks during workout

Mike Fiers beard

Things are a bit different in MLB summer camps, with players wearing facemasks during some workouts. The Oakland Athletics are determined to have fun with it.

Several A’s players wore custom facemasks that emulated the bizarre facial hair pitcher Mike Fiers donned last September.

These are weird times, and you have to have fun with them. The Athletics are certainly doing that. Fiers probably loved it, too.

The A’s social media accounts dubbed Fiers’ original look the “cinnamon roll.” Now the challenge is whether any other A’s players are brave enough to emulate it for real. It didn’t bring Fiers great luck, but maybe it would do better for someone else.

Jim Harbaugh says pandemic derailed contract extension talks

Jim Harbaugh

Jim Harbaugh is definitely still in Michigan’s good graces, if his comments on Wednesday are any indication.

The Wolverines head coach said he was close to a contract extension with the school before the COVID-19 pandemic put the discussions on the backburner.

“There’s bigger fish to fry for our athletic director, or our administration, me as a coach,” Harbaugh told reporters during a Zoom interview, via Larry Lage of the Associated Press. “It hasn’t been on the top of the priority list. I would expect something, that there would be an announcement at some time.

“It was kind of right there last February, where it was being discussed, and then the pandemic hit.”

There have been numerous rumors that Harbaugh is looking at an NFL return in light of his perceived underachievement at Michigan. Harbaugh has shot those down before in no uncertain terms. Assuming he’s telling the truth here, that’s still the case.

Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel has previously said that he would like Harbaugh to retire at Michigan. For all the rumors and speculation about the coach’s future, it seems the school is happy to stand by that.

Raheem Mostert requests trade from 49ers

The San Francisco 49ers have a headache to deal with as training camp approaches.

Raheem Mostert, the team’s leading rusher in 2019, has requested a trade, according to agent Brett Tessler. The team’s failure to adjust his contract was cited as the reason for the request.

Mostert is due to earn a base salary of just over $2.57 million in 2020. He’s signed through 2021 and is definitely underpaid relative to his on-field performance. The 49ers seemed to know that, as there were rumors of a contract extension in the offing as recently as last month.

The 28-year-old ran for 772 yards and eight touchdowns last season, and appeared in line for a bigger workload ahead of Tevin Coleman after Matt Breida was shipped to Miami. Mostert clearly wanted to be paid accordingly, and the 49ers have yet to oblige. Considering the running back’s NFL journey has left him with a pretty big chip on his shoulder, his reaction to that is understandable, if not frustrating from San Francisco’s perspective.

Amazon becomes latest retailer to pull Redskins merchandise from website

The Washington Redskins appear to be in the process of changing their team nickname, but if they weren’t already, the latest blow may push them closer to doing so.

Amazon said Wednesday they would stop selling all Washington merchandise on its website, and also sent a notice to affiliated third-party sellers to remove any flagged items within 48 hours.

“With the announcement from the Washington team and the NFL, we are removing products with the team’s name and logo from our stores,” Amazon told sellers in a notice obtained by Annie Palmer of CNBC. “Failure to properly close or delete all restricted product listings from your inventory may result in deactivation.”

The writing is on the wall for Washington now, if it wasn’t already. Nike removed all Washington merchandise from its store, and stadium sponsor FedEx also publicly asked Washington to change the name. With that much public pressure being put on the franchise, it’s no wonder that reports indicate a name change is likely.