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Thursday, February 27, 2020

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Report: Red Sox sign-stealing investigation to take at least another week

Alex Cora

Major League Baseball appears to be leaving no stone unturned in its investigation into allegations that the Boston Red Sox illegally stole signs during their World Series season in 2018.

While the feeling for weeks has been that MLB is on the verge of releasing its findings and levying potential disciplinary action against the Red Sox, Peter Abraham of The Boston Globe reported on Tuesday that the investigation will not be wrapped up until next week at the earliest. There were rumblings at one point that MLB would want to finish with the probe prior to spring training games, but it is already too late for that.

The investigation began six weeks ago after a report from the The Athletic cited anonymous sources who said the Red Sox illegally used their video replay room to steal signs in 2018. Former manager Alex Cora has been fired stemming from his role as one of the masterminds behind the sign-stealing scheme with the Houston Astros, but MLB chose to hold off on discipline for him until the Red Sox investigation is also completed.

There have been numerous reports that whatever the Red Sox were doing — if anything — was not nearly as egregious as what went on in Houston in 2017. Several Boston players have expressed confidence that MLB is not going to find anything substantial.

There has been a tremendous amount of backlash against MLB commissioner Rob Manfred for his handling of the Astros investigation, so that could be why the league is being so diligent with the Red Sox.

Luis Severino issues statement addressing need for Tommy John surgery

Luis Severino

New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman revealed on Tuesday that doctors have recommended Tommy John surgery for Luis Severino, and the right-hander has confirmed he will undergo the season-ending procedure.

Severino issued a statement saying he is “extremely disappointed” he will not be able to pitch in 2020 but assuring Yankees fans he will “come back stronger than ever to make the greatest fans in baseball proud.”

Severino made just three starts last season after battling arm trouble throughout the entire year. The 26-year-old threw 191.1 innings in 2018 and went 19-8 with a 3.39 ERA and 220 strikeouts. He was named to the All-Star team in both 2017 and 2018, so not having him this season will be a major blow for the Yankees once again.

The Yankees bolstered their rotation this winter with the addition of Gerrit Cole, but they will already be without another top starting pitcher in addition to Severino to begin the season. Their depth will be tested early, and it would not be a surprise if they make a move to add a starter at the trade deadline or sooner with Severino now officially out for the season.

Report: NFL teams ‘strongly against’ keeping pass interference reviewable

Rams Saints pass interference

The NFL’s decision to make pass interference reviewable last season did not have much of a positive impact on the game, and it should surprise no one that the league may scrap the experiment in 2020.

NFL teams are strongly opposed to renewing the replay rule making pass interference reviewable, Mark Maske of The Washington Post reports. On the NFL Competition Committee’s annual offseason survey, a whopping 21 teams said they do not want to make the rule permanent.

Overall, the ability for coaches to review pass interference calls and no-calls last season ended up being a sham. There were 101 such replays initiated either by coach’s challenges or booth reviews, and the call on the field was changed just 21 times. Referees consistently showed an unwillingness to change the call on the field, even when it was blatantly obvious that the wrong call was made or a call should have been made.

The NFL only decided to experiment with reviewing pass interference plays after one of the worst no-calls in football history cost the New Orleans Saints a trip to the Super Bowl. The rule change was a direct response to public pressure, but officials barely ever used it to correct themselves last season. If those reviews are going to be handled similarly in 2020, there’s no point in having them.

Steph Curry to return from hand injury for Warriors on Sunday against Wizards

Stephen Curry

Steph Curry said over the weekend that he was aiming for a March 1 return to action for the Golden State Warriors, and that apparently is going to happen.

Curry is set to play on Sunday against the Washington Wizards, Shams Charania reports. The game would mark Curry’s first since he broke his hand on a fall during an October 30 game.

Curry underwent two surgeries and has been rehabbing since. He has only played in four games this season but will be back for the last six weeks of the season.

The 31-year-old guard is averaging 20.3 points per game this season. The Warriors have the worst record in the league at 12-45, but they would have a much stronger shot of winning games after Curry returns.

ESPN Cleveland’s Tony Grossi apologizes for Baker Mayfield comment

Tony Grossi

ESPN Cleveland Browns reporter Tony Grossi issued an apology on Tuesday, hours after being suspended for a comment about Baker Mayfield.

Grossi was at the NFL Combine and joining ESPN Cleveland/WKNR show “The Really Big Show” for an interview. The show is also aired via video feed on TheLandonDemand.com, which is where Grossi’s comment calling Mayfield a “f—ing midget” aired on the video feed.

Here is the video clip:

Good Karma Brands, which owns ESPN Cleveland, issued a statement apologizing for the comment. They said they were suspending Grossi indefinitely for his comment.

Grossi later issued a statement of apology.

“I am truly sorry for my language and choice of words in a remark I made about Baker Mayfield that was captured on our live feed on TheLandOnDemand. I sincerely apologize for using a word that is a derogatory slur. There’s no excuse for using that language in any context. It was said without malice but also without thought,” Grossi wrote.

“It is well known that Baker and I have had our differences, and in the course of this experience, I’ve had to question my role in the erosion of the relationship. I have always endeavored to report and comment on him and the team fairly, and am shaken by these events. I will strive to be a better person and professional.

“I apologize to little people, Good Karma Brands, the Cleveland Browns, Baker Mayfield, to our listeners and to anyone who was offended by my remark.”

Grossi has a lengthy negative history with Mayfield that we’ve detailed before. Grossi accused Mayfield of being a high-maintenance person during the predraft process. Since then, Mayfield has been openly defiant when fielding questions from Grossi. The quarterback walked out of a press conference last season following a heated exchange with Grossi.

Grossi used to write for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, and he was pulled from the Browns beat years ago for criticizing the team’s owner in a tweet.

Ben Simmons out at least two weeks with back injury

Ben Simmons

The Philadelphia 76ers did not get great news on the status of guard Ben Simmons.

According to multiple reports, Simmons will be re-evaluated in two weeks after being diagnosed with a nerve impingement in his lower back. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski added, however, that Simmons is not expected to be ready to return at that point.

This is a significant blow for the Sixers, who are stuck in the middle of the Eastern Conference playoff race. Simmons is averaging 16.7 points, 8.2 assists, and 7.8 rebounds per game, and is a huge part of the Philadelphia offense despite his limitations as a jump shooter.

If it’s true that Simmons will likely miss more than two weeks, it could be that he doesn’t play until mid- to late-March. That would very much hurt Philadelphia’s hopes of getting a better playoff seed, but as long as they can get Simmons back before the postseason, it’s not entirely the end of the world. They can’t really thrive without him, though, even despite rumors of a rift with his All-Star teammate Joel Embiid.

Pete Carroll leaves door open to another Marshawn Lynch return

Marshawn Lynch

Marshawn Lynch has already come out of retirement twice. He hasn’t officially retired again, but another return is apparently possible.

That’s according to Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, who clearly left the door open for a potential Lynch return in 2020.

Lynch rejoined Seattle late last season as the team suffered a major running back injury crisis. He wasn’t a major factor, but there was a buzz every time he touched the ball and the Seahawks seemed to enjoy having him around.

Lynch’s latest great catchphrase seems to be more of a parting message than anything else, but you truly never know with the running back. He turns 34 in April, and it may be up to him if he wants to play some more.

Patrick Mahomes sends great message to Joe Burrow about small hands

Patrick Mahomes

Joe Burrow has some of the smallest hands of any quarterback in the 2020 NFL Draft class, but he is not the least bit concerned about the football nerds who take those measurements seriously. Patrick Mahomes is someone who knows all about hand size becoming a topic of discussion, and the Super Bowl MVP had a great message for Burrow about it.

After his hands measured at “only” nine inches, Burrow joked in a tweet that he is contemplating retirement because he won’t be able to properly grip the football. Mahomes, whose hands measured at 9.25 inches when he was coming out of Texas Tech, chimed in with an awesome response.

Mahomes has arguably the strongest arm in the NFL, and his hand size wasn’t enough to stop him from winning a Super Bowl MVP and an NFL MVP. While Burrow’s hands may be unusually small for a 6-foot-4 quarterback, he threw for 5,671 yards, 60 touchdowns and only six interceptions while playing in one of the most competitive conferences in college football last year.

Hand size may matter, but you don’t ignore everything a player has accomplished just because he has smaller hands than some of his peers. The Bengals don’t care if Burrow has nine-inch hands, 12-inch hands, or 7-inch hands. They’re almost certainly going to draft Burrow, and Mahomes’ success is a nice reminder than hand size can mean absolutely nothing sometimes.

Are Mets breaking promise to Michael Wacha about starting in 2020?

New York Mets

The New York Mets have six starting pitchers for five spots in their rotation, which is not abnormal for many teams in spring training. What is abnormal is telling all six of those pitchers that they intend to be used as starters before considering some unusual options for the fifth rotation spot.

According to Joel Sherman of the New York Post, the Mets are considering some unconventional options for their fifth starter spot. Among them is using both Steven Matz and Michael Wacha in the role depending on whether a lefty or righty would match up best against that day’s lineup. The Mets are also considering using an opener and then using Matz or Wacha for bulk innings afterwards.

This may come as news to Wacha, who believed he was in a battle with Matz for the traditional fifth starter’s job.

“They told me I’m a starter, so that’s what I’m here for,” Wacha said, via Scott Thompson of SNY.

There may have been reason for Wacha to be suspicious when signing his contract. According to Sherman, Wacha’s deal with the Mets includes various bonuses based on relief appearances. Wacha signed with the Mets believing he’d get the chance to start, and if he didn’t know about those clauses, it’s probably on his agent.

The Mets have something of a reputation of being an organization that can be unfriendly to its players. If the Mets aren’t being honest with Wacha and Matz about what they’re considering doing rotation-wise, it will only add to that narrative.

Kendrick Perkins criticizes Joel Embiid, ‘frontrunner’ 76ers

Joel Embiid

Joel Embiid had his best performance of the season on Monday night when he dominated the Atlanta Hawks, but former NBA big man Kendrick Perkins is not impressed with anything he has seen from Embiid or the Philadelphia 76ers.

Embiid looked like he was on a mission in Philly’s 129-112 win, scoring a season-high 49 points and grabbing 14 rebounds in 36 minutes. He showed how capable he is of taking over a game by going 17-of-24 from the floor and 14-of-15 from the free throw line. While Sixers fans certainly enjoyed it, Perkins called out Embiid during ESPN’s “Get Up!” on Tuesday for being “all hyped up because he dominated the worst team in the league.”

The Hawks have just 17 wins on the season and are the second-worst team in the Eastern Conference, in front of only the Cleveland Cavaliers. Perkins questioned why Embiid did not show the same type of energy in Saturday’s loss to the East-leading Milwaukee Bucks, when Embiid had 17 points on 5-of-17 shooting.

“To me, Joel Embiid and the 76ers are frontrunners,” Perkins said. “They’re a tight contender at home, but on the road they’re a lottery team.”

Perkins isn’t exactly going out on a limb. The 76ers are 27-2 this season at home and 9-20 on the road. That inconsistency could be a huge problem for them in the postseason, especially if they don’t earn one of the top four seeds. They entered Tuesday as the No. 5 seed in the East.

Perkins has carved out a nice career for himself as an analyst by not being afraid to rip on star players, but he’s right that the 76ers need to show they can beat good teams on the road. That doesn’t mean Embiid should avoid beating his chest over a 49-point performance, but the Sixers would be in much better shape if he could find that next gear against playoff teams.