Frank Francisco arrived at camp with some inflammation following December surgery to remove a bone spur from his throwing elbow, but he managed to resume throwing earlier this week. Relievers generally don’t need much time to get tuned up for the season, but Mets manager Terry Collins isn’t counting on him. According to Adam Rubin…
Just about every NFL team had something interesting go down on draft weekend, whether round one, whether someone passed over, whatever. But a handful of teams on the Bears’ 2016 schedule, beginning with the Philadelphia Eagles (Week 2) trading up for quarterback Carson Wentz at No. 2, had drafts with a few quirks, and the Bears will be seeing seven of the top 11 draft picks this year besides their own Leonard Floyd at No. 9:
Packin’ on the pounds
Pal Bob McGinn up at the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel noted that where the Green Bay Packers’ 2015 draft had just one selection that weighed as much as 250 pounds, this year the Packers shopped by bulk.
Of Green Bay’s seven picks, “If [Northwestern defensive end] Dean Lowry were to eat a big steak dinner,” Bob writes, “then four would weigh at least 300 and two more are in the 240’s.” The seventh pick – Cal wide receiver Trevor Davis – was the only skill-position player selected.
The Bears face the Tennessee Titans on Nov. 27 in Soldier Field, unless the field tilts and slides into Lake Michigan when the Titans run out of that visitors tunnel on the stadium’s east side. One Tennessee’s concern this year might be whether their team buses are in violation of tonnage limits on bridges. The Bears wanted to get faster; the Titans wanted to get bigger.
While Bears fans lamented the suspiciously small size of No. 1 pick Leonard Floyd, the Titans were trading up to No. 8, one pick above where the Bears landed Floyd with a trade-up of their own, to take a guy to block Floyd: Michigan State tackle Jack Conklin. 322 pounds.
The Bears’ pass rusher (Floyd) weighs 240 pounds. The Titans got theirs in round 2: Kevin Dodd. 277 pounds.
The Bears strengthened their interior defensive line with Jonathan Bullard in the third round. 285 pounds. The Titans? Third-round’er Penn State’s Austin Johnson. 314 pounds.
The Bears beefed up their running game with Jordan Howard in the fourth round. 230 pounds. The Titans new running back: Derrick Henry. 247 pounds.
The Bears muscled up their offensive line with Cody Whitehair in the second round. 301 pounds. Titans' Sebastian Tretola. 322 pounds. And kind of a self-professed goon: “I’m trying to make me not want to play me anymore.”
Big is not necessarily better but the Park District may want to reinforce the concrete under the Soldier Field visitors locker room. Just sayin’.
The Minnesota Vikings under Rick Spielman have built themselves into a contender with impact draft picks, with a heavy dose of hits on No. 1’s and 2’s (Anthony Barr, Teddy Bridgewater, Sharrif Floyd, Eric Kendricks, Matt Kalil, Harrison Smith).
But last year’s No. 1 (cornerback Trae Waynes) started just one game, as a nickel corner, and did not have an interception, playing more on special teams. This year the Vikings took cornerback Mackensie Alexander, who didn’t have a pick in two seasons at Clemson. Deion Sanders never had stratospheric INT totals because teams threw away from him, so that number, like sacks, don’t always tell complete stories, and Vikings coach Mike Zimmer is a devout “deny the ball” guy, which Alexander may be. He’d better be.
Like the Bears with Kevin White, the Jaguars approach 2016 with de facto two No. 1 draft picks: defensive back Jalen Ramsey (No. 5 overall), in the discussion over the best single player in this year’s draft, and pass rusher Dante Fowler, the No. 3 pick of the 2015 draft but who missed the entire season with a torn ACL suffered the first day of the Jags’ rookie minicamp. And they used their pick in the second round to roll the dice on UCLA linebacker Myles Jack and his knees.
A lot of injury unknowns there, but the Jags’ is a defense that, like the Bears, added young speedballs at all three levels: Fowler, 4.6 40-yd. at 261 pounds; Jack, a rocket before the knee injury; and Ramsey, running 4.41, stunning for a DB 6-1, 205 pounds.
Detroit did what?
The Detroit Lions liked their 2016 draft how much?
After the Matt Millen Era, nothing that the Lions should come as a total surprise. But this?
Bob Quinn, hired as GM in January, fired two scouts. Not unusual. But this was AFTER last weekend’s draft, not after Quinn took over. Contracts expire this time of year, so changes aren’t unusual.
Leicester City just became the biggest sports story of the year.
If you're a soccer fan, you knew that already. If not, let me explain why the club from the Midlands in England shocked everyone, even the sportsbooks across the Atlantic, by winning the English Premier League title this season.
Those sportsbooks are a good place to start. Leicester City was a 5,000-to-1 favorite to win the Premier League this season. You won't find a professional sports team in this country that has odds that long to win a title.
The longest odds to win the World Series this year were the Philadelphia Phillies and Atlanta Braves at 500-to-1. The NBA's Philadelphia 76ers were 350-to-1, and that team won 10 games. Hockey's longshot was the Arizona Coyotes at 250-to-1. You can't get an NFL team at longer than 200-to-1 to win the Super Bowl right now. That makes Leicester 10 times less likely than any underdog champion this country can provide.
The upset title was such a shock to the sportsbooks in England that they were offering to cash out bettors at a discount price before Leicester clinched the title. In the end, England's biggest sports books combined to lose more than $11 million.
As ESPN's Paul Carr pointed out, 15-seed Cal State Bakersfield was 5,000-to-1 to win the NCAA Tournament this year. A 15-seed has never made it past the Sweet 16 and with all respect to how bonkers it would be if a 15-seed was to win the NCAA Tournament, that's just six games. Leicester City did this over 38 games.
By the time the Foxes play out the last two games, they clinched the title early for an extra ounce of insanity, they will have played each team twice, once home and once away. This isn't a miraculous play like a Hail Mary or a massive one-off upset like the Miracle on Ice. This is a full season where a team that was expected to finish towards the bottom of the league won the championship and led the league for most of the season.
There have probably been more incredible moments and more incredible games in sports, but maybe never a more incredible season than what Leicester accomplished this year.
Leicester City wins the Premier League. Greatest underdog story I've ever seen.— Grant Wahl (@GrantWahl) May 2, 2016
Good luck ever topping the Leicester City story, Sports.— Paul Carr (@PCarrESPN) May 2, 2016
The reason the odds were so long is because there is no salary cap and there is no draft. Each team is truly on its own when it comes to creating a good team and the playing field is not even.
Imagine the New York Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays fighting as division rivals in a world where instead of having a draft where the worst teams picked first, all amateur players entering the pros were free agents. Most of the players who would have been first round picks would wind up with the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers, etc. The poor Rays would have a lower payroll and no built-in mechanism to keep them competitive. That's what Leicester has to go up against when competing with the likes of Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester City.
Then there's the promotion and relegation system most of the world uses in soccer. Leicester City wasn't even in the Premier League from 2004-2014. Last season the team returned to the Premier League and barely survived relegation. They even had a stint in the third tier in the 2008-2009 season.
Leicester were essentially playing the equivalent of Class AA baseball in 2008-09. No one will ever be able to explain this ...— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) May 2, 2016
In the Premier League era, which started in 1992, no team has ever been lower than third the year before going on to win the title. Leicester was 14th last season.
The mesmerizing stats are countless, but to close it out it's worth noting that Leicester is a 132-year-old club. It had never won the top league in England. Even Cubs fans think that's a long time.
Leicester City. Champions of England. pic.twitter.com/WRwfysTn2N— Leicester City (@LCFC) May 2, 2016
PITTSBURGH — “Still smells like champagne,” said one wise guy walking through the visiting clubhouse at PNC Park late Monday night.
The Cubs had just beaten the Pittsburgh Pirates, with some of the same raw emotions from last year’s wild-card win resurfacing during a 7-2 win in early May. There’s that much at stake in the National League Central that maybe we shouldn’t spend so much time fixating on the St. Louis Cardinals.
The eye-for-an-eye moment came in the seventh inning, with Pittsburgh reliever Kyle Lobstein drilling Ben Zobrist with his first pitch. Home plate umpire Laz Diaz had already watched Cubs starter Jason Hammel hit Starling Marte with a pitch in the sixth inning and issued a warning to both benches.
Manager Joe Maddon yelled at Lobstein and Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli screamed at the visiting dugout, and it felt like October all over again.
“I was able to vent a little bit,” Maddon said. “It’s always fun to vent, isn’t it? I mean, we’ve all been there. You have to vent on occasion. That’s the worst thing you could possibly do for your health long-term — to hold that stuff in. I want to get it out.”
Maddon spent part of his pregame media session talking up Cervelli, calling him a “good dude” who worked out at his wife’s boxing gym in Tampa, Fla., during the offseason: “He came to my Gasparilla party, dressed as a pirate of all things.”
“It’s just a matter of judging intentions,” said Zobrist, who’s new to this emerging rivalry after earning a World Series ring with the Kansas City Royals last year. “As a team, you’re trying to think: ‘Well, was that intentional? Was it not?’ But I think in that situation it was pretty clear.
“Our whole team’s going to stick up for each other. Obviously, Joe took exception to it. I think a lot of other guys did, too. I’ve been around long enough — I’ve been hit before. I took my base and scored a run. That’s the way I look at it.”
Maddon had even more fun with the Pirates and the replay system in the seventh inning after Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle erased a double play with a successful challenge at first base. Maddon responded by using Major League Baseball’s new takeout rule to challenge Jordy Mercer’s slide into second base.
“I had no clue what I was doing,” Maddon said. “I just knew I could challenge. At that particular juncture, why not? Give it a roll. Bottom of the seventh inning, who knows what they’re going to think?”
Maddon kept rolling and filibustering during his postgame news conference, saying how much he loved the Pirates’ uniforms as a kid growing up in Pennsylvania and comparing this rivalry to his high-school quarterback days and Hazleton vs. West Hazleton.
“People in Pittsburgh can enjoy that,” Maddon said. “They can identify with ‘Friday Night Lights,’ ‘All the Right Moves,’ all of the above. I’m being this way specifically so I don’t comment on the hit by batter.”