The case for (and against) the Cubs bringing back Dexter Fowler

Only the Chicago Cubs could potentially let a catalyst like center fielder Dexter Fowler leave via free agency and still be considered a favorite to repeat as world champions.

That’s a testament to how deep they’ve Derek Anderson Authentic Jersey become now that Albert Almora Jr. and Willson Contreras have taken the next steps in their careers, not to mention the improvement of co-NLCS MVP Javier Baez. “Freaky” is how one longtime National League Central scout labeled the Cubs’ depth.

But that doesn’t mean that if Fowler left, it wouldn’t be a tough loss to stomach at the top of Chicago’s lineup.

“One might assume.” One might assume that, if Martin Perez’s WARs are 1.8, 1.8 and 1.9 (as they were in 2016), that Martin Perez is a 1.8- or 1.9-win pitcher. But we’ve already seen, with Ray, that one model of WAR can be wildly misleading. We’ve seen, in fact, that two can be. It’s not much of a leap to think even three could be, all at once, and in all the same ways, especially for unique players such as Zach Britton or Yadier Molina or David Ross or for players on the extremes.

Last week, Justin Verlander finished second in the AL Cy Young voting, as he was left off two five-person ballots entirely. I would’ve voted for him. His WARs were fairly tightly bunched, all at or near the top of his league: 6.8, 6.6 and 5.2 wins. The internet did what it does: It went after the two voters, tweeting at them that they were classless, clueless, hacks, morons, should have their voting privileges taken away, etc. It threw around slurs. “I hope you and everyone you love dies,” one person, predictably, tweeted (now deleted) at one of the voters. If you ever want an argument Devin Funchess Authentic Jersey against certainty, pick any well-traveled tweet and read the replies.

Those WARs for Verlander are compelling, and WAR as a framework is clearly the best, most comprehensive, most objective way for most of us to assess players. But baseball is not something we’ve cracked, and Robbie Ray is a good reminder that, until we do, we’re all still staggering, out of the darkness but blinded by too many lights. It isn’t a matter of whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing; it’s just a thing. Be grateful you aren’t the general manager of a team that has to make hundred-million-dollar decisions in this era.

Jay Cutler’s shoulder injury thrusts Matt Barkley into the starting lineup for Sunday’s game against Tennessee

Jay Cutler’s shoulder injury thrusts Matt Barkley into the starting lineup for Sunday’s game against Tennessee. Barkley’s only 2016 action occurred on Oct. 20 in Green Bay when he completed 6 of 15 pass attempts for 81 yards and two interceptions. Barkley’s career pass rating is 34.2. The Bears will also be without tight end Zach Miller (foot) and linebacker Jerrell Freeman (PED suspension). Linebacker Leonard Floyd (neck) avoided serious injury at MetLife Stadium but is currently in the NFL’s concussion protocol.

The will-he or won’t-he of linebacker DeAndre Levy’s return to the lineup could potentially C.J. Fiedorowicz Authentic Womens Jersey happen Thursday against Minnesota. He practiced all last week on a limited basis coming off his knee injury, and as long as he doesn’t suffer a setback before Thursday, there’s a chance he’ll suit up for the first time since Week 1. He’s a player the Lions could sorely use considering their issues covering tight ends throughout the season. If it isn’t this week, it would seem next week against New Orleans would be the target.

As for the here and now, Luck’s injury derails a team that on Sunday played with all of its offensive Chris Clark Authentic Womens Jersey starters for the first time since Week 2.

Luck had avoided the injury bug and taken every offensive snap this season. Although he’s absorbed an NFL-high 35 sacks, he succeeded with the aim to better protect himself by taking fewer risks when running, which included decisions to slide quicker and run out of bounds.

On the fourth-quarter play in which he is believed to have been injured, there was no escape as the pocket collapsed. Although Derrick Morgan and Austin Johnson split the sack, it was the 314-pound Johnson who landed on Luck to cause the quarterback’s head to bounce off the turf.

Luck didn’t exhibit any obvious symptoms afterward, and remained in the game. It seems more significant now that his next pass was incomplete and on the next series, he was intercepted on a throw that he lamented afterward was the result of a “bad decision.”

After not being examined during the game, Luck was seemingly healthy when he completed an 11-yard pass to T.Y. Hilton with two minutes left that sealed the victory.

LeBron James donates $2.5 million to a new Muhammad Ali Smithsonian exhibit

LeBron James is making a significant donation to a new exhibit honoring the life of Muhammad Ali at the Smithsonian National Museum of African-American History and Culture.

James, his business partner Maverick Carter, and his foundation will donate $2.5 million to help create the exhibit, called “Muhammad Ali: A Force for Change.” James is one of several notable Chris Mullin Authentic Womens Jersey NBA figures who have donated money, including a $5 million donation from Michael Jordan and at least $1 million from Magic Johnson and his wife Cookie, per USA Today.

Ali died this past June at the age of 74. Like many athletes, James was shaped by his character and influence.

“Expose him. Ruin his life.”

Then he dunked on Capela so hard that D’Antoni had to get mad at the ref for not preventing it. But it’s not the ref’s fault. He’s just the bystander to a crime. There wasn’t a five-second violation, but like all catastrophic events, time slows down and a second seems to last forever when you’re in danger.

Even the Rockets bench knew something terrible was about to happen once Westbrook got the ball. They went from being very animated at the beginning of the play to being as quiet as Black Bolt once he took off. It’s like watching little school kids in a classroom right before the principal walks in. They were aware that they all needed to think of different care packages to send their teammate. Maybe a card, some fruit, a teddy bear, and a video of Robin Williams reminding Capela that it’s not his fault.

Because this is just what Russell Westbrook does. He dunks on you unnecessarily, then yells at you as you struggle to regain your balance.

That might be worse than the actual dunk, because you never did anything to him. Why is he so David Lee Authentic Womens Jersey mean? All you wanted to do was play basketball, and now you’re going to have to avoid social media for a while because people are going to be tweeting videos of the incident with numerous flame emojis and jokes about how Westbrook made it hard for you to see a rim without being triggered.

And you were just seven seconds away from leaving the game with your dignity intact. That’s just tough.

Philly’s top performer? Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz has coaxed a lot out of this group

This is really more about the defense, which was supposed to be better and has instead been excellent from the jump. Philadelphia leads the league in defensive DVOA despite starting the likes of Nolan Carroll and Leodis McKelvin regularly at cornerback. The Eagles win by giving those corners help and getting pressure with their front four, which has finally unlocked Brandon Graham’s career-year mode. The Eagles are fourth in the league in both pressure rate and sack rate despite the fact that they blitz just 19.2 percent of the time, the Isa Abdul-Quddus Authentic Womens Jersey sixth-lowest rate in football. As is the case in Atlanta, the concern now might be holding onto defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, who rebuilt Philly’s defense on the fly.

The Giants remain incredibly unbalanced and have one of the worst running games in football, but with Odell Beckham Jr. catching six touchdown passes in five games, it doesn’t really seem to matter. (Remember when he went four games without scoring and people were blaming him for the Giants’ problems? Almost like that was a random fluke!) It’s no surprise that the defense is better after an enormous offseason spending spree, but the Giants are up to eighth in DVOA with the Bears and Browns on the schedule over the next two weeks, and it’s not just the big-ticket free agents who are producing. Jason Pierre-Paul is not generating a ton of sacks, but he has six knockdowns and five pass deflections in four games. Even better, second-year safety Landon Collins has turned into a star, leading the team in tackles, interceptions, and (in a tie) sacks.

I probably don’t need to explain this one, right? Dak Prescott didn’t just save the Cowboys this season; he fundamentally changes their next decade. Dallas was going to need to seriously try to find a replacement for Tony Romo as soon as this upcoming offseason. Now, they don’t have to use a first-round pick on a quarterback and can instead apply that to upgrade a perennially overachieving defensive line. With Prescott due to make a total of just under $2.2 million over the next three seasons, the Cowboys also can trade Romo and create a modest amount of cap space next year before freeing things up dramatically in 2018 and 2019, a move that will allow them to re-sign their own talent or go after top-level contributors in free agency for the first time in years. Finding a franchise quarterback in the mid-to-late rounds of the draft cures a lot of ills very quickly. The last two teams to do it were the Seahawks with Russell Wilson and the Patriots with Tom Brady. Worked out well for those teams, right?

Only some of this is chalked up to Carson Wentz, who has been James Ihedigbo Authentic Womens Jersey mediocre since his sizzling 3-0 start. Wentz is now down to 30th in opponent-adjusted QBR, below Osweiler, and is 22nd in adjusted net yards per attempt (ANY/A). To be fair, Wentz is also getting precious little help from his receivers, who are dropping 6.1 percent of his passes. Only the two 49ers quarterbacks and Matthew Stafford (a league-high 7.5 percent) are suffering from higher drop rates.

It’s unanimous! Corey Seager’s drive fuels quick rookie rise

Looking at Corey Seager’s June 3 game against the Atlanta Braves simply as the night he hit three home runs might be missing the point.

Sure, three-homer games are productive. And Authentic Dee Milliner Jersey sure, they lead to victories. In fact, every one of those three long balls was important in a 4-2 win.

To look at it another way, June 3 was one of 14 three-hit games that Seager produced. He collected at least one three-hit game in every month of the regular season, proving to be a stunning model of consistency — and that was every bit the reason he was named the 17th Rookie of the Year in Los Angeles Dodgers history.

Having witnessed the same shift in Boston, Theo Epstein knows this better than most. After almost 100 years of failure, the Red Sox still do business now the same as they did before winning the World Series in 2004-last winter, they signed David Price to a seven-year, $217 million free agent contract, just as they signed Manny Ramirez to an eight-year, $160 million contract in December 2000. But the national sympathy for their eternal heartbreak is gone. Even before Game 7, there was nothing cute or disadvantaged about the Cubs either, as evidenced by their enviable ability to Authentic Dennis Byrd Jersey sign Jason Heyward to an eight-year, $184 million contract-and bench him during the World Series.

The Red Sox marketed and sold themselves as a ragtag band of rebels fighting both the supernatural and the omnipotent Yankees. Fans of the Rays, who happened to be the real underdogs, even coined a term for Boston’s sly deception, referring to them as the Just as Evil Empire. Chicago, like Boston 12 years ago, can no longer claim the image of underdog on the field-especially since the Cubs are far from underdogs on the balance sheet, where they rake in profits. An identity change is coming, and they should embrace it.

In this money game, with no salary cap and limited revenue-sharing, the Cubs, in the third-biggest market in the country, should have been dominant for decades. Instead, they were baseball’s family screwup, partying with the trust fund money, winding up on academic probation. The generations of fans desperate for a winner have certainly suffered since 1946, but ownership certainly did not. The Cubs have been one of the richest teams in baseball. The team sold in 2009 for $845 million and in March was estimated by Forbes to be worth $2.2 billion, fifth best in MLB. The lovable loser narrative was lucrative-it sold lots of tickets, beer and T-shirts and allowed an enormous fan base to feel sorry for itself-but in reality, the Cubs were cursed only in one way: by their own ownership mediocrity.

Today, they have the opportunity to be the dominant team in the National League-and probably in baseball-for years to come. In Epstein, they have a president of baseball operations who knows how to build a farm system so well he can take big gambles on free agents, and the Ricketts family’s enormous resources can help the team survive even a deal like Heyward’s. With old money but a new-school attitude, baseball wants its teams built the Epstein way, lest they face oppressive luxury tax penalties.

He’ll make his debut Thursday night against the New Orleans Saints

He’ll make his debut Thursday night against the New Orleans Saints in what basically has become a playoff elimination game for Carolina (3-6).

“It’s a great opportunity,” Palardy said. “I hate it for Andy. It’s sad to hear stuff like that. I want him to recover as fast as he can, as best as he Brett Favre Authentic Womens Jersey can. I never wish ill upon anybody. We shared some conversations today, and I told him that.

“But while I’m here I’ll do the best I can to take advantage of this opportunity.”

“I’m building a chalkboard/coat rack with some two-by-fours and one-by-fours,” Palardy said. “It’s unfinished. It’s sitting in my garage. My fiancé is like, ‘You’ve got to get this out of here, you’ve got to get this done.’

“But …”

Once Palardy finished dinner and got his Brian Poole Authentic Womens Jersey 5- and 6-year-olds to bed, he was in his car for the three-and-a-half hour drive to Atlanta. He arrived around midnight, and on Monday he was punting and working on his holding with place-kicker Graham Gano.

Palardy was signed to replace three-time Pro Bowl punter Andy Lee, who was placed on injured reserve after suffering a hamstring injury in the first quarter of Sunday’s loss to Kansas City.

Palardy has never punted in an NFL regular-season game. His last punt in a game that counted was in 2013 for the University of Tennessee, where he averaged 45.9 yards a kick during his senior season.

The Cowboys’ decision to stick with rookie phenom Zak Prescott means the team — and Tony Romo — will have choices to make at season’s end.
“That’s all he had to show, for me,” one Cowboys official said nearly two months later, with the phenomenon in full flower. “He had to go into that game, without any warmup, against the best defense in the league, that was playing its starters, and he was just — like it was nothing. He was ready. Whatever we needed him to do, he was ready for it.”

Dwyane Wade wins in Miami return: ‘Couldn’t wait until it was over’

Dwyane Wade doesn’t hold back when describing what it was like to play in Miami for the first time as a visitor.

Chicago Bulls guard Dwyane Wade had 13 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists in a 98-95 win over the Heat on Thursday night, his first game against Aaron Nola Youth Jersey Miami since signing with Chicago over the summer.

All Josh Jackson could be sure of when he arrived at the Kansas campus in June was that a test of some kind — administered by veterans of a top-five team with deadly serious national title ambitions and taken by a hyper-talented freshman with a potential No. 1 NBA draft pick awaiting him 12 months later — was going to happen.

“I knew it was coming,” Jackson said. “Immediately.”

Fight back. Don’t waver. Don’t complain. Get angry but not too angry. Hide weakness at all cost. Forget your recruiting ranking; no one cares. Expect equal treatment. Take everything in stride. Absorb the larger stakes. Buy in.

Above all, understand that the whole point of all of this, at the end of the day, is to see if you can stand out and fit in — at the same time.

And?

“I think I passed,” Jackson said.

IT IS THERE, in that seemingly contradictory dichotomy between blending in and showing out, that the central promise of Jackson’s sure-to-be-short tenure at Kansas lies.

In the 13-year Bill Self era — the past 12 years of which have ended with a regular-season conference title, a rare statistic that can’t possibly be over-repeated — no player this talented has ever joined a team this experienced. Self has had his fair share of elite freshmen, of course; one doesn’t win 12 straight Big 12 titles in the one-and-done era without them. Still, the only player with as much or more hype than Jackson upon his arrival at KU was Andrew Wiggins on Carlos Ruiz Youth Jersey the 2013-14 team, which started three freshmen (Wiggins, Joel “The Process” Embiid and Wayne Selden) and one sophomore (Perry Ellis), with just two seniors (graduate transfer Tarik Black and reserve Justin Wesley) in the rotation.

The psychology behind Matt Ryan’s breakthrough

THERE’S A REVEALING moment in Steve Young’s new autobiography, “QB: My Life Behind the Spiral,” that made me think of Matt Ryan. During the 1991 season, Young’s first year as a starter with the San Francisco 49ers, the quarterback visited Bill Walsh. Young needed help. A few days earlier, after a bad loss to the Raiders, he’d sat in his parked car for hours, crippled by Glover Quin Authentic Womens Jersey the pressure of replacing Joe Montana. Young called friends for support, and then, at 3 a.m., having run out of people to call, he cried alone.

Now, in the office of the retired head coach who had believed in him more than anyone, Young hung his head, expecting a measure of empathy. Instead, Walsh scolded him.

“All you do is take the blame!” Walsh said.

“It’s a nonfactor,” Hahn said from the MLB general managers meetings. “It’s zero factor from our standpoint in terms of his fit with us or our belief that he can help be the anchor of a championship-caliber rotation.

“Whether it influences some other club’s view of him, I Golden Tate III Authentic Womens Jersey don’t know. I don’t think it should. I think a lot of what we’ve seen from Chris is part of what makes him great. It’s that competitiveness, that fight, that sometimes spills over a little bit into areas outside the white lines. It’s part of what makes him so good during the game.”

Sale is under contract for $12 million next season, and the White Sox have club options for $12.5 million in 2018 and $13.5 million in 2019.

Sale, Chris Archer, Zack Greinke, Justin Verlander and Sonny Gray are among the front-line starters who have been mentioned as potential trade targets in an extremely weak free-agent market. Rich Hill, Ivan Nova, Andrew Cashner and Jeremy Hellickson are the top available free agents.

“As a matter of fact I do coach my own guys and I’m proud of the team that I coach,” Ryan responded on a conference call on Tuesday. “We haven’t had the results that we shoot for every time but I’m proud of this group and yeah, I have no problem.

Cubs Kris Bryant, Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks up for major awards

Fresh off leading the Chicago Cubs to their first World Series title in more than a century, slugger Kris Bryant and several teammates could soon be hoisting more hardware.

Bryant is among the top three vote-getters Cliff Avril Jersey for the National League MVP award, with Cubs manager Joe Maddon and pitchers Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks in contention for other honors.

Maddon, Washington’s Dusty Baker, and Dave Roberts of the Dodgers are up for NL Manager of the Year. Cleveland’s Terry Francona, who guided his team into the World Series, Texas’ Jeff Banister and Baltimore’s Buck Showalter are the AL candidates. Those honors will be awarded Nov. 15.

The Cubs led the majors with 103 wins during the regular season.

Last year, Chicago won three major awards after reaching the NL Championship Series. In addition to Bryant earning rookie honors, Maddon was the NL Manager of the Year and pitcher Jake Arrieta took home the NL Cy Young Award.

“Ridiculous,” Ryan said after the game. “Absolutely ridiculous. [Officials’ explanation] doesn’t matter [because] it was wrong. It’s clear what happened: The guy roughed Cortez Kennedy Jersey our kicker. Jumps offside and roughs our kicker.”

Anderson defended his decision after the game.

“I didn’t feel like the actions and the contact, because we were shutting the play down, warranted a foul,” he told a pool reporter after the game, adding that the stadium was “loud” and that Sherman might not have known officials had blown the play dead.

Dean Blandino, the NFL’s senior vice president of officiating, was quick to tweet his acknowledgement of the officials’ mistake:

At the end of the half in #BUFvsSEA its unnecessary roughness for hitting the kicker. Foul means he can stay in the game.

Dolphins will ‘host’ the Saints next season in another bad London matchup

While Washington and the Cincinnati Bengals were playing in London Sunday, word leaked out about contests that will take place across the pound next year. Unsurprisingly, it’s a matchup that leaves a lot to be desired.

Maybe it was big meanie John Elway. The Broncos team president remarked this season about “deals you don’t make are the best ones,” which he Duke Williams Authentic Womens Jersey said about Osweiler. Elway offered Osweiler a contract very similar to what the Texans gave him.

For the Falcons, the win snaps a two-game losing streak, and fans can stop worrying about a repeat of last season, when Atlanta started 6-1 and then hit a six-game losing streak to finish 8-8. The Falcons took care of the football and didn’t commit any turnovers against the Packers, but penalties were a problem. They finished the day with seven penalties for 46 yards.

Atlanta was missing one key player, too, with running back Tevin Coleman sidelined with a hamstring injury. Terron Ward, who was activated from E. J. Manuel Authentic Womens Jersey Atlanta’s practice squad to fill in for Coleman, was the Falcons’ leading rusher with 46 yards.

After the Packers scored late in the fourth quarter on a 7-yard pass to Janis and Rodgers extended Green Bay’s lead to six points with a two-point conversion, the Falcons had an opportunity to regain a lead. They did so with just 31 seconds remaining on an 11-yard pass from Ryan to Mohamed.

Green Bay had one more opportunity to finish with a win, trailing 33-32, but the Falcons’ defense, which had struggled to contain Rodgers all day, forced a three-and-out, securing the win.

With fellow linebacker Dont’a Hightower and cornerback Malcolm Butler set to hit free agency as well in 2017, the Patriots clearly made some decisions about which players were and weren’t valued in the New England defense. Also shipped out was Chandler Jones, a Pro Bowl defensive end who was traded to the Arizona Cardinals in the offseason in exchange for Jonathan Cooper and a second-round pick.