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#pounditFriday, September 29, 2023


Bryce Harper goes off on Angel Hernandez over bad check-swing call

Angel Hernandez continues to add to his greatest hits collection.

The infamous MLB umpire Hernandez was working third base during Thursday’s Philadelphia Phillies-Pittsburgh Pirates game. With lefty Bryce Harper at the plate in the third inning, Hernandez rang up Harper for strike three after Harper checked his swing on a 3-2 pitch.

Harper, who was already taking off his gear to walk to first base, was totally livid and came all the way up the third-base line to give Hernandez a piece of his mind. The former NL MVP was quickly ejected by Hernandez but still got his money’s worth, getting right in Hernandez’s face before Phillies manager Rob Thomson stepped in to intervene.

Take a look at the video of the incident (which ended with Harper lobbing his batting helmet into the stands).

Here is another angle of the checked swing which shows how egregiously bad Hernandez’s call was.

Thursday’s game didn’t matter much for the Phillies, who already clinched a playoff berth. But this is just par for the course for Hernandez, who simply cannot stop making horrific calls even when he is not behind the plate.

Hernandez, having recently lost an appeal of his discrimination lawsuit against MLB, has had too many umpiring transgressions over the years to count. Maybe we can just limit it to the calls that Hernandez has blown at third base (which are already plentiful).

Pacman Jones continues to be banned from airport

Dec 10, 2017; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Adam Jones watches during warm ups prior to a game against the Chicago Bears at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

Pacman Jones continues to be banned from a regional airport in northern Kentucky.

Jones appeared at Boone County District Court on Thursday for a hearing and asked for his ban from Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport to be lifted. The judge declined the request, which keeps the ban in place. Jones otherwise remains free after posting 10 percent of his $5,000 bond.

The former NFL player was arrested on Sept. 11 after causing a disturbance aboard an airplane. Jones complained about his charging port not working and was seeking to switch seats. His citation says that he interrupted flight operations and smelled of alcohol.

The 39-year-old faces one count each of terroristic threatening, disorderly conduct, and alcohol intoxication in a public place. He has to appear back in court on Oct. 12 over the charges he is facing.

Jones now appears as a guest on “The Pat McAfee Show” and co-hosts a sports betting show. Jones was the No. 6 overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft. He had numerous legal issues early in his career and since then, but he was able to spend eight successful seasons with the Bengals as a defensive back. This was not the first time he has been involved in an incident at an airport.

Darvin Ham reveals interesting plan for Lakers’ starting lineup

Nov 30, 2022; Los Angeles, California, USA; Los Angeles Lakers coach Darvin Ham at a press conference during the game against the Portland Trail Blazers at Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Darvin Ham is trying his best to position the pieces on the chessboard.

The Los Angeles Lakers head coach Ham addressed the media on Thursday and revealed his interesting plan for the team’s starting lineup next season. Ham said that the Lakers’ starting backcourt will be D’Angelo Russell and Austin Reaves. Meanwhile, the third frontcourt spot next to LeBron James and Anthony Davis will be up for grabs in training camp, per Jovan Buha of The Athletic.

The Lakers have a good mix of bodies to contend for that fifth starting spot. Talented scorer Rui Hachimura should work for offensive-minded lineups while lineup connector Jarred Vanderbilt offers a slightly more defensively-oriented presence. The Lakers also brought in Jaxson Hayes and Christian Wood this offseason (though both, despite their athletic gifts, might be better off as bench pieces given their questionable fundamentals).

But perhaps the most interesting tidbit here is that Russell seems to be etched in stone as a starter. Though a former All-Star capable of 20 points a night, Russell was a big net negative for the Lakers during their playoff loss to the Denver Nuggets last season. He is a streaky shooter and consistently struggles on the defensive end. There is a real concern that the Lakers could hemorrhage points if they start Russell in the backcourt with Reaves (who works hard defensively in his own right but is still prone to getting beat).

The Lakers do have other good options at the guard position if Russell isn’t cutting it for them. But for now, it sounds like the backcourt duo is set for the purple and gold. The only question mark is the third starter in their frontcourt (which might not be that easy of a decision given the request Davis has reportedly made of the Lakers).

Is the Travis Kelce-Taylor Swift relationship just a fake PR stunt?

The relationship between Travis Kelce and Taylor Swift has been the talk of the media over the last few weeks, and things really kicked into high gear after Swift attended the Kansas City Chiefs’ win over the Chicago Bears on Sunday. There has been talk about how much Kelce’s jersey sales have spiked since he began Swift, and now there are reports saying she will attend the Chiefs’ Week 4 game.

As the Kelce-Swift relationship has taken over the news cycle, it’s fair to wonder whether the relationship is real or fake.

What are some signals that the relationship might be a publicity stunt? Typically when athletes and entertainers are in relationships, they try to keep things more private. They don’t freely admit on their podcast or show that they are dating. Photos and videos of them leaving a stadium and hanging out later don’t tend to leak out so readily.

The initial report about them dating came from a website called The Messenger, which also had a followup story they blasted out to other media sites. How is a newcomer to the game getting these stories so easily?

And when Swift was at Sunday’s game, it’s not like she was hidden or trying to keep things private. She was as public as possible, sitting in a luxury suite next to Kelce’s mother. FOX also showed her as many times as possible, as if they were given permission — if not outright instructions — to feature her often.

Then a report came out on Wednesday saying Swift would be at Sunday night’s game. That report oddly came from a sports media reporter, not a gossip website. If the news leaked out as part of relationship/gossip talk, that would seem more fitting. But the news coming from a sports media reporter seems like it’s a coordinated effort between some folks involved in sports media.

If the relationship is indeed a publicity stunt, trying to figure out how it started is a good question. Did the NFL spearhead and coordinate the efforts? Did the publicists for each respective party make it happen? Who knows, but the whole thing seems to be very carefully coordinated and is producing the intended effect.

And if you’re wondering why all the parties would have interest in a fake relationship, the answers are obvious. For the NFL and the Chiefs, it’s increased attention and publicity. The same goes for Kelce, who will now be famous with an entirely new audience, similar to what happened with Lamar Odom when he began dating Khloe Kardashian. His career after football is now made. He and his brother have also made it clear they crave attention beyond what they do on the field when they created their podcast last year. What could be better for their post-football careers than this sort of attention?

And for Swift, this further increases her popularity. And who knows? Maybe she’ll even get a song or two out of this.

Deion Sanders wowed by 1 figure paying attention to Colorado football

Apr 22, 2023; Boulder, CO, USA; Colorado Buffaloes head coach Deion Sanders during the first half of the spring game at Folsom Field. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Colorado Buffaloes have become a celebrity attraction under Deion Sanders this season, with famous figures from sports and entertainment showing up to games and contacting the coach. Sanders seems to take it all in stride, but he admitted there is one surprising figure that he was very excited to hear from.

Sanders said he talks regularly with Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid, and that their interactions stand out from the others.

“We just have this love,” Sanders said, via Brent Schrotenboer of USA Today. “I respect the heck out of him. You gotta know that. But just, you know, just coming in after practice and you look on there and there’s a text from Andy Reid. I’m like, ‘Wow! What’s up, Coach? Coach, can you help me with his running game?'”

Reid certainly isn’t the flashiest name Sanders has come in contact with, but there are few coaches in sports that are more accomplished. He and Sanders also go way back, as Reid would have seen plenty of Sanders when he was an assistant coach for Green Bay in the 1990s.

Sanders has had massive names interact with and talk to his Colorado team. It sounds like he would really love Reid to be among them.

Ex-Nationals All-Star announces his retirement from MLB

May 12, 2023; Washington, District of Columbia, USA; A detailed view of the Washington Nationals logo on a weighted bat during the seventh inning of the game between the Washington Nationals and the New York Mets at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Scott Taetsch-USA TODAY Sports

One former All-Star pitcher is letting the sun go down on his MLB career.

Veteran MLB reliever Tyler Clippard announced in a post to Instagram on Thursday that he is retiring from baseball. Clippard sentimentally reflected on his 20-year career in pro baseball and said that he was “ready to “turn the page to the next phase of my life.” After issuing his thank-yous, Clippard joked that “I’m ready to play some golf.”

You can see Clippard’s full post below.

Now 38 years old, Clippard was drafted by the New York Yankees in 2003 and made his Major League debut with them in 2007. He then went on to pitch for nine other teams, most notably the Nationals, whom he made two All-Star teams with in 2011 and in 2014. Clippard also won a ring with the Houston Astros in 2017 (as a member of the 40-man roster who did not pitch in the postseason) and helped the United States win a gold medal at the World Baseball Classic that same year.

The bespectacled Clippard, who was unsigned for the 2023 season, finishes his MLB career with a record of 56-48, an ERA of 3.16, 225 career holds, 74 saves, and 956 total strikeouts. The news of Clippard’s retirement comes just weeks after one of his former Nationals teammates decided to retire as well.

Justin Jefferson frustrated with trade speculation about Vikings

Sep 11, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) scores a touchdown on a pass from quarterback Kirk Cousins (not pictured) against the Green Bay Packers during the second quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson is already fed up with hearing talk about tanking and draft position after the team’s 0-3 start.

Jefferson said Thursday that he is “tired” of talk about the season already being a lost cause, and asserted that he believes the team still has the ability to turn things around.

“I’m tired of people saying that we’re looking into next season or all of the trades and stuff like that,” Jefferson said, via Kevin Seifert of ESPN. “We’re focused still on this season. We have a lot more games to go and we have a lot more things to accomplish this season. We’re still focused in, and we still have the same goal as we had before the season. We just need to fix a few things and I feel like we’ll be back on track.”

Obviously, it is too soon for Jefferson and his teammates to give up on the season, but the early returns are not promising. They lost in rather ugly fashion to the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 3, and they will need to beat Carolina in Week 4 to avoid the possibility of needing to beat the Kansas City Chiefs to avoid an 0-5 start. Notable players like Kirk Cousins and Danielle Hunter are in the final year of their contracts, which is only leading to more speculation.

Jefferson certainly has not been the problem. He has a league-leading 458 receiving yards through three weeks and appears on pace for another monster statistical season.

Ronald Acuna Jr. gets praise from rival in MVP race

Aug 18, 2023; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Atlanta Braves right fielder Ronald Acuna Jr. (13) runs to the dugout to change gloves against the San Francisco Giants in the ninth inning at Truist Park. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Ronald Acuna Jr. may be on his way to winning National League MVP honors, and his chief rival for the award seems to be on board with that possibility.

Los Angeles Dodgers star Mookie Betts showed some love to Acuna on Instagram Thursday, one day after Acuna became the first player in MLB history to reach 40 home runs and 70 stolen bases in a season. Betts shared a graphic celebrating the accomplishment, adding the comment “I hope y’all know how crazy this is.”

Betts has had a phenomenal year, but it is beginning to look like the award will go to Acuna. Betts is hitting .309 with 39 home runs while playing high-level defense, but Acuna bests him in most statistical categories, hitting .336 with the aforementioned 41 home runs and 70 steals. Even Betts cannot deny how ridiculous those numbers are.

Acuna has had a remarkable season in more ways than one. It looks set to end with an NL MVP award that even his chief rival is fine with.

Blazers looking to move another top veteran after Damian Lillard trade?

Oct 28, 2022; Portland, Oregon, USA; Portland Trail Blazers general manager Joe Cronin looks ion before the game against the Houston Rockets at Moda Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

The Portland Trail Blazers are ready to spam the hard reset button.

Michael Scotto of HoopsHype reports this week that Blazers forward Jerami Grant is expected to become available before the NBA trade deadline. This comes after the Blazers officially triggered a rebuild on Wednesday by trading away longtime veterans Damian Lillard and Jusuf Nurkic.

The 29-year-old Grant is a fine two-way bludgeon who averaged 20.5 points per game on 40.1 percent from three last season as a long, 6-foot-8 combo forward. But the Blazers had the misfortune of signing him to a cyclopean five-year, $160 million deal this offseason … days before Lillard officially asked out from the team. Now Portland is stuck with an albatross on the books as they try to start from scratch and build around fresh talent.

Since Grant was just signed to a new contract this offseason, the Blazers cannot trade him until Jan. 15. But once that date passes, expect Portland to do everything in their power to unload Grant (perhaps even engaging with this previously-rumored suitor for him).

Packers may lose key offensive player for rest of season

Nov 1, 2015; Denver, CO, USA; Green Bay Packers tackle David Bakhtiari (69) walks the sidelines late in the fourth quarter against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Broncos defeated the Packer 29-10. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Green Bay Packers have held up fairly well so far in the post-Aaron Rodgers era, but a significant injury will further test them.

The Packers placed veteran offensive lineman David Bakhtiari on injured reserve Thursday, ruling him out for at least the next four games. Ian Rapoport of NFL Network added that the state of Bakhtiari’s knee is bad enough that it is not clear if he will play again in 2023.

Bakhtiari played in Week 1 against Chicago, but has not been healthy enough to go since then. Since tearing his ACL in December 2020, Bakhtiari has required four knee surgeries, which limited him to 13 games since the start of the 2021 campaign.

Bakhtiari is a two-time first-team All-Pro selection, and the Packers still value him highly enough that they shot down offseason trade rumors surrounding the offensive lineman. He signed a four-year contract extension in 2020 that runs through next season.

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