Baseballs have been tested repeatedly and “I know with absolute certainty” that baseballs are within specified limits.

While some of these kids make it look easy, being a 20-something-year-old thrust into the majors is a difficult task. They’re called the minor leagues for a reason, as Jordan Montgomery will attest to.

“It’s a whole different atmosphere, man,” the 24-year-old southpaw, who debuted in April, told SN. “You’re going out there in front of 50,000 people. [There’s] a little more pressure on the games and you’re just trying to do your best to bring what you can to the table.”

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Status heading into series: 46-47, 2.5 out of a wild-card spot
The bright side: The Mariners haven’t made the playoffs since 2001, the longest current drought in the majors, and they’re within 2.5 games of the second wild-card spot. This season has been frustrating at times with injuries and inconsistencies, but the bottom line is they’re still in relatively good position. They have to make a run, right?

On the other hand: If they get swept by the Astros — a distinct possibility, considering Houston has the AL’s best record — they could drop further back in the race, with as many as five teams to climb over to get to that wild-card berth. Almost all of the primary figures on this team are under contract for next year, so maybe it would be more prudent to put all their eggs in 2018’s basket.

Darn fine question, Mr. Strasburg. It’s a question that was asked many times during the media session at Marlins Park on Monday, hours before the Home Run Derby showed exactly why fans love the type of power they’re seeing on a nightly basis this season. I asked some of the questions, and some were asked by other reporters in the group.

First, though, a response from MLB commissioner Rob Manfred about the possibility that baseballs are somehow “juiced” this season.

Manfred: Baseballs have been tested repeatedly and “I know with absolute certainty” that baseballs are within specified limits.broncos_116

Draymond Green finds his rhythm — and that’s bad news for everyone else

If there was something that might hold back the Warriors this year, if there was a weak link in their four All-Star chain, if there was a glimmer of hope for the rest of the Western Conference, it was that Draymond Green was not quite himself offensively throughout the regular season.

So much for that. Green is back, in full, and was a key component in the Warriors’ sweep of the Jazz, finishing them off with a Game 4 triple-double — 17 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds. Golden State was a great team even without a stellar offensive year from Green, but his postseason re-emergence has transformed the Warriors back into the Western Conference wrecking ball we thought they’d be this season.

While the West was set (apart from seeding in the Clippers-Jazz series), the East playoff picture became clear once the Pacers and Bulls won Wednesday, eliminating the Heat after a valiant effort down the stretch. At the top of the East, the Celtics captured the No. 1 seed with a win over the Bucks as the Cavs punted on trying to take the conference crown.

Since the regular season has come to a close, let’s take a look at the final NBA standings and first-round matchups in the NBA playoff bracket.

The Celtics took care of business against the Bucks to ensure the top spot, and that’s important for a team that went 30-11 at home in the regular season. The Bulls easily defeated the Nets after Brooklyn decided to rest several players in the regular-season finale.
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With Tony Parker out, expect more Kawhi Leonard as Spurs’ top ballhandler

If ever the Spurs have a problem, Kawhi Leonard seems to be the answer.

Facing an 0-1 deficit after an embarrassing 27-point loss on their own floor to the Rockets in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals, they turned to the two-time defending NBA Defensive Player of the Year to take on the challenge of checking MVP candidate James Harden. Leonard was the main reason Harden had the worst playoff performance of his career, scoring just 13 points on 3-for-17 shooting and reaching the foul line just twice as San Antonio evened the series with a 121-96 Game 2 victory Wednesday night.

But there’s also the matter of Chicago’s alternatives should they let Rondo walk. Second-year man Jerian Grant played well in 28 games as a starter, but he might not be ready for that role full-time. The Bulls traded for Cameron Payne at the deadline, too, and though he did not play much for Chicago, the team was intrigued by his potential before he was a lottery pick for the Thunder in 2015. If the Bulls let Rondo walk, they’ll be looking at two very untested options at point guard.

Green worked with former teammate and trainer Travis Walker ahead of the postseason to get that rhythm back. And it has arrived in force, with Green now averaging 14.9 points on 50.0 percent shooting and an incredible 51.2 percent 3-point shooting in the playoffs. Green has made 21 3-pointers in just eight playoff games, which is as many as he made in any month this season (he made 21 in 15 games in December). In fact, in these eight games, he has made a quarter of the number of 3s he made all year.

Of course, Green is doing his usual playoff things, too. He has been outstanding defensively, and is averaging playoff career highs in blocks (2.6), steals (2.0) and assists (7.3). The Warriors’ defensive efficiency has been the best in the playoffs (96.9 points per 100 possessions), no small feat for the team that also plays the second-fastest pace (101.3 possessions per 48 minutes).

NBA free agency: Pacers reportedly sign Darren Collison to help fill Paul George’s shoes

With Paul George in Oklahoma City next season, the Pacers took the first step to attempt to build a roster in wake for their superstar’s absence by signing a familiar face in guard Darren Collison to a two-year deal.

According to ESPN, Collison’s deal with Indiana is worth $20 million, nearly doubling his $5 million per year contract he had with the Kings the past three seasons. Collison, a first-round pick of the New Orleans Hornets in 2009, spent his second and third year in the league with the Pacers, averaging 11.9 points, three rebounds and five assists in 135 games started.

The NFLPA also detailed a history of criminal charges and fraud claims against Burgess dating back to 1988, as well as a lengthy list of other active businesses to which he is connected.

No claims of illegality were made by the NFLPA against Burgess in a memo that was circulated to all current and former union members for what was listed as “informational purposes.” However, that doesn’t discount the possibility of legal action against Burgess by players in the future.

The NFLPA works to warn members about being exploited by financial advisors and the like, which remains an ongoing problem despite efforts by the union and NFL to better educate players about protecting their earnings.

Burgess, 67, is listed as residing in North Barrington, Ill.
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With Chargers’ move, NFL’s L.A. love affair breaks yet another city’s heart

We all should hope that somebody in our lives loves us as much as the NFL loves Los Angeles.

it’s a never-ending, unconditional love, at the expense of everything and everyone else. Definitely at the expense of half the cities in the NFL over the past two decades plus, the ones that used L.A. as leverage to extort their hometowns into providing new or improved stadiums.

And, in the past year, at the expense of two long-time pro football-loving fan bases.

Dont ever again delude yourself into thinking that the people who hold the power to give and take away a team really care what you think. St. Louis loved it’s teams the Cardinals once upon a time, then the Rams. San Diego whoa, did it ever love the Chargers.

The NFL doesnt care about that, because it’s love of L.A. overrides all.

John Schneider and Pete Carroll are almost beyond reproach at player evaluation and personnel decision-making. But theyve tried to get away with too much while constructing that line, and theyve failed.

The Falcons game epitomized that, with the Falconsvery vulnerable front seven chewing the Seahawks up and spitting them out up front and with Wilson running for his life all day.

The loss not unexpected, but more lopsided than it should have been brought the Seahawks to a crossroads. Theyre still in the elite conversation. Carroll alluded to that afterward: It aint over, were right in the middle of it. Were still in the process, That’s what it feels like. Were in the middle of it, not at the end of anything.

But those holes up front have to be sewn shut. They dont actually need that much more. But that is a lot.
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NFL reports decrease in concussions in 2016

Minimizing concussions has become one of the NFL’s greatest challenges in recent years, and the league may be winning the battle.

Injury data released by the NFL on Thursday showed a decrease in concussions from 2015 to 2016, according to NFL.com.

The data was compiled by QuintilesIMS Injury Surveillance and Analytics, which noted an 11.3 percent decrease in concussions (from 275 to 244) in 2016.

Since Hue Jackson is coaching the Senior Bowl this week, he’s forced to discuss these topics as they relate to his team. He admitted that a good quarterback is better than an elite non-quarterback, but he’s still going through the process of determining what’s right for the roster.

‘I think you have to go through it and weigh what’s best. Who is the best player We haven’t determined that. Is the best player a defensive end Is it a quarterback Is it a defensive back I don’t know yet until you can evaluate them all and line them all up and see where they are and see what’s best, Jackson said, via the Akron Beacon Journal.

‘We all a know a quarterback is very important to our football team. But is he the best player We’ve got to find that out. We need to put one on our team. We’re going to find one. I promise you guys that. We’re going to do that. I think that’s imperative. I think we all know that, and that’s what we’re going to accomplish.’

Jackson’s discussions with his coaches and staff will likely be centered around North Carolina’s Mitch Trubisky, Clemson’s Deshaun Watson and Notre Dame’s DeShone Kizer. If Jackson decides going with a young quarterback is in his best interests, the team could decide not to pay RGIII’s $750,000 roster bonus in March, which would make him a free agent.rams_028

Griffey’s story is well known. He would go on to hit 630 home runs and earn 10 gold gloves in 22 seasons in the majors.

Greene, a high school senior from southern California, may have the most raw-talent in the entire draft, as the 6-3 right-handed pitcher routinely runs his fastball into the triple digits and can maintain mid-90s velocity deep into his starts. He also has the advantage of youth, as the Notre Dame High School star will not turn 18 until August.

Wright, a 6-4, 220-pound right-handed pitcher from Vanderbilt University, possesses some serious zip on his fastball as well, usually sitting in the 93-95 mph range, but showcases more refined secondary pitches than Greene. He is widely thought to be the “safest” pick near the top of the draft given his body of work. Either prospect would be a nice selection for the Twins, Greene for his age and enormous upside, or Wright for his track record and pedigree coming from an institution that has produced current MLB pitchers David Price, Sonny Gray and Mike Minor.

That Hall of Famer is Ken Griffey Jr. Back in June 1987, 30 years ago last week, the two were linked. Both were star high school outfielders and considered among the top prospects available in the MLB Draft. Seattle and Pittsburgh agreed. The Mariners made Griffey the top overall pick and the Pirates chose Merchant at No. 2.

Griffey’s story is well known. He would go on to hit 630 home runs and earn 10 gold gloves in 22 seasons in the majors. He was a near-unanimous selection to the Hall of Fame in 2016.

Merchant, however, never spent a day in the majors. He played 12 years of minor league ball for five organizations, including 85 games at the Triple-A level.nike_cardinals_310

USF’s Rodney Adams will have the most heartwarming workout at the Combine

The higher Rodney Adams can leap at the NFL Scouting Combine, the greater the number of grieving children who may be able to jump for joy once again.

Adams isn’t just aiming to enhance his draft stock next week in Indianapolis. The University of South Florida wide receiver is using the platform to raise money via internet fundraising for Experience Camps, a program designed to provide a one-week getaway for youngsters who recently lost a parent, sibling or primary caregiver.

Adams hopes to solicit $3,000 in donations through pledges for each inch he soars in the vertical jump. Adams was already 70 percent to his goal Tuesday morning through Pledgeit.org.

“It’s a difficult time for those kids being that they don’t have that parent,” Adams told co-host Zig Fracassi and me on SiriusXM NFL Radio. “It’s tragic. We wanted to do this cause to raise money and let them have a week of fun to forget about all the bad things that have happened.”

“I don’t know what the dang rule is …. but I’m pretty sure I caught it.”

For great tipped passes in the biggest game, that ranks with Swann’s legendary catch in Super Bowl 10 for the Steelers against the Cowboys — except that wasn’t in nearly as dire a spot. Edelman’s came right before the two-minute warning, with the Patriots trying to tie the game after falling behind 28-3. The Jones catch came on the previous Falcons possession, which went to pieces in hideous fashion and ended in a punt.

Edelman’s miraculous grab, however, put the Patriots in Falcons territory, and four plays later, they did tie the game at 28. It was the fourth of his fifth catches, for 23 of his 87 yards. It was the biggest of the night.

It put him in exalted company. The competition just this postseason has been stiff, with Jones’ catch and with Jared Cook’s clutch sideline reception that set up the Packers’ overtime playoff win over the Cowboys.seahawks_084

Top prospect Malik Hooker to miss NFL combine after surgery

Danny Amendola, Chris Hogan and Bennett — all major contributors in the championship effort — are among the players who have come aboard to help Brady and the passing game in recent years. And let’s not forget that the Patriots won Super Bowl 51 without the best tight end in the NFL, Rob Gronkowski, who will return from his back injury next season.

Complacency is another problem that often confronts Super Bowl-winning coaches. Not the case for Belichick, who always makes sure the previous season is quickly put in the rear-view mirror with the expectation for success in the coming season. That mindset then is reinforced by Kraft and the New England fan base.

Malik Hooker’s NFL career is being affected by injuries before it’s even started.

The former Ohio State safety and top prospect in the 2017 NFL Draft won’t be participating in the scouting combine after undergoing surgeries Tuesday to repair a torn labrum and hernia.

According to Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller, who first reported the news, Hooker played through the pain of the injuries late this season and won’t be ready to work out for scouts in March.

Hooker, who had two years of college eligibility remaining before declaring for the draft Jan. 2, had seven interceptions, three for touchdowns, and 74 tackles in 13 games en route to unanimous All-America honors this season.
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Tom Brady is a reminder that the NFL still has work to do on concussions

The No. 1 threat to the future of the NFL is the concern surrounding the long-term effects of head trauma. On Wednesday, head trauma made news again when Gisele Bundchen, wife of New England Patriots superstar quarterback Tom Brady, mentioned in an interview that her husband played through a concussion last season.

Brady wasn’t listed on any injury report this past season for a concussion. Gisele’s comments made the news because a) it’s Tom Brady and b) it’s the New England Patriots, who in the past have skirted the rules.

There is no doubt for a long time the NFL ignored the effects of head trauma. I didn’t play in that time period, so it’s hard for me to comment on the process of determining and reporting concussions. Now, teams are ultra vigilant regarding concussions.

“I think that Kaepernick getting the opportunity to be on our team would be really cool, would really be a good place for him because you have a coach like coach [Pete] Carroll who is up for challenges like that,” Bennett told John Clayton and Gee Scott on 710 ESPN Seattle.

Bennett also mentioned how other Seahawks were similar to Kaepernick in their off-the-field interests.

“You have an owner [Paul Allen] who spends and gives back to the homeless. You’ve got players on your team that give back in the community. You’ve got Russell Wilson who shows that our team is built around community. So this is a perfect place for him.”
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