Review Category : National Sports

Manfred: MLB Could Consider Restriction on Relief Pitcher Use

Commissioner Rob Manfred prior to a regular season Sunday Night Baseball game (Photo by Phil Ellsworth / ESPN Images)(NEW YORK) — Major League Baseball could soon restrict the number of different pitchers teams use per game.

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred was a guest on ESPN Radio’s Mike & Mike Thursday morning, and listened to nine suggestions from the hosts on how to potentially improve the sport. One of those suggestions included a restriction on relief pitchers allowed either per inning or per game.

“I am in favor of something like that,” the commissioner said, adding that the league has spent “a ton of time on this issue in the last few months.”

Manfred also said that relief pitchers have become too dominant in the modern game. “The pitching changes themselves slow the game down,” he said, “and our relief pitchers have become so dominant at the back end that they actually rob action out of the end of the game, the last few innings of the game.”

The average length of a Major League Baseball game this season has been three hours and four minutes. In 2005, the average game was just two hours and 49 minutes.

Manfred said earlier this year that he was unhappy with the pace of games, and would entertain “creative ways” to improve the sport.

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Court Upholds Olympic Ban on Russian Track and Field Athletes

iStock/Thinktock(MOSCOW) — In an intensely watched decision, sport’s highest appeals court has ruled against Russian track and field athletes seeking to overturn a ban barring them from this summer’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

The ruling is a major setback for Russia as it awaits a decision from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on whether to ban all Russian athletes from the games over alleged state-run doping. This court decision potentially removes a major legal obstacle to the complete ban.

Since the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) on Monday recommended Russia be barred for what it said was an extraordinary state-controlled cover up of doping by Russian athletes, the IOC has faced intense pressure to ban the country from the Olympics.

The decision Thursday is seen as significant because it potentially sets a precedent that collective bans are legitimate and do not necessarily violate individual athletes’ rights, meaning that an IOC ban on Russia from the Olympics could be valid.

With the IOC decision looming, Russian authorities cancelled a traditional ceremonial send-off for the country’s Olympic team on Thursday, saying they would wait to see what happened.

The court decision upholding the track and field ban came from the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Lausanne, Switzerland. In a statement read outside the court, it said its three-man tribunal had “confirmed the validity” of a decision that suspended all Russian track and field athletes from competing in Brazil.

The court was ruling on a decision in June by track and field’s top international body, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), to keep Russia’s national track and field federation suspended during Rio. That IAAF decision said the state encouragement of doping in Russian sports was so extensive that no Russian track and field athletes could be permitted to compete at the Olympics, except for those able to meet strict criteria that proved they were clean.

Russia’s Olympic Committee and sixty-eight track and field athletes challenged that suspension on the grounds that it violated individual athletes’ rights, who had never been caught doping. But on Thursday, the CAS ruled the IAAF decision will stand.

The IAAF created the exception for those who could prove they were clean when it imposed the blanket suspension, calling it a “tiny crack” through which a handful of Russian track and field athletes could be allowed compete under a neutral flag — if they could show they were not “tainted” by the country’s systemic doping and could submit sufficient clean tests taken outside Russia. Sixty-seven of the Russian athletes appealed their rejections. But the IAAF though has so far allowed just two athletes through this loophole, rejecting the vast majority of other applications.

The CAS on Thursday also dismissed the appeals of those rejected by IAAF, confirming that virtually Russia’s entire track field team is excluded.

The ruling does not prevent other organization from making their own decisions. The court noted that its ruling was not binding on the IOC and said as the chief organizer it would still be up to the Olympic body to make a final decision on who would attend, leaving open the possibility that some Russian athletes could still be permitted to go.

“The door is open for the IOC to decide, to determine even on a case-by-case principle whether these athletes are eligible or not,” CAS general secretary Mattieu Reeb told reporters outside the court headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland. The tribunal also expressed concern that the IAAF criteria retrospectively requiring Russian athletes to have effectively trained outside the country was not just.

Russian officials nonetheless reacted to the ruling with indignation and largely hopelessness that track and field athletes would go. A spokesman for Russia’s foreign ministry, Maria Zakharova, called it a “crime against sport.”

In a lengthy news conference, Russian sports minister Vitaly Mutko said the decision “absolutely violates the rights of clean sportsmen,” and railed against the IAAF, whose former leadership is currently under criminal investigation.

“The International Federation is completely corrupted,” Mutko said on Russian state television. “IAAF’s behavior and stubbornness disturbs me to the depths of my soul. There is a criminal investigation open into its former president.”

Mutko said he thought ruling was “political and without legal basis,” but said it created “some precedent” that could affect the IOC’s decision.

The head of Russia’s track and field federation, Mikhail Butov, told Russian state TV that he thought there was now little chance the block on his athletes competing could be lifted.

The decision is a heavy blow for Russia’s track and field athletes, who insist they were not part of the doping system the country has been accused of running.

Speaking after the decision, the two-time Olympic champion pole-vaulter, Elena Isinbaeva, bitterly thanked the court for “track and field’s funeral” and told the TASS state news agency the ruling was a “purely political order.”

Most of Russia’s track and field athletes were gathered competing at the country’s national track and field competition outside Moscow. High-jumper Maria Kuchina, 23, told R-Sport she still hoped for something and was determined to still show a good result. Kuchina was one of Russia’s best medal hopes and has a clean doping record.

Ekaterina Koneva, a triple-jumper, said the decision made her feel “just emptiness.”

“Complete devastation. There isn’t anything else,” Koneva told the Russian sports site, Championat.ru.

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Kansas City Royals Take Over the White House

Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — It was Royals Day at the White House Thursday, with the 2015 World Series Champions’ visit even disrupting the normal daily routine as the press briefing was pushed back to morning so Kansas City native Josh Earnest could attend the official ceremony.

A signature at nearly every Earnest briefing is the White House press secretary’s blue KC coffee cup, and he regularly provides updates from the podium on the status of the Royals’ season, though he has been fairly quiet as of late — the Royals are currently just .500.

Thursday morning, Earnest tweeted a preview of his Royals socks, which he showed off at the briefing.

At the start of the briefing, the Royals’ storied manager, Ned Yost, along with star players Salvador Perez and Eric Hosmer, made their way out to surprise Earnest with an honorary jersey and signed World Series ball, joking that it was so he wouldn’t try to steal the jersey given to the president.

At the official ceremony, President Obama joked that Thursday was quite likely the best day of Earnest’s life, in competition with his wedding day and birth of his son, who was also in attendance.

Obama was playful during the ceremony, ribbing the Royals for their not-so-creative nicknaming abilities after listing off Eric Hosmer (“Hoz”), Mike Moustakas (“Moose”) and Salvador Perez (“Salvie”). Hall of Famer George Brett, who was last in the White House with the Royals in 1985, stood directly behind the president.

Sen. Bob Dole, dubbed Kansas’ favorite son, was also in the front row fresh off his appearance sitting next to vice presidential nominee Mike Pence at the Republican National Convention Tuesday. Obama called Dole a “true American patriot,” and the crowd gave him a standing ovation.

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Court Rejects Russian Appeal Against Olympic Ban on Track and Field Athletes

iStock/Thinktock(MOSCOW) — In an intensely watched decision, sport’s highest appeals court has ruled against Russian track and field athletes seeking to overturn a blanket ban barring them from this summer’s Olympics, a major setback for Russia as it awaits a decision from the IOC on whether to ban all Russian athletes from the Games in Rio-de-Janeiro.

The ruling comes as the IOC deliberates whether to exclude Russia totally from the Games over its state-run doping, and the decision potentially removes the last major legal obstacle to such a ban.

The IOC is facing intense calls to ban Russia entirely from the Olympics after the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) on Monday recommended the country be barred because it had run an extraordinary state-controlled cover up of doping by its athletes.

The decision is seen as significant because it potentially sets a precedent that collective bans are legitimate and do not necessarily violate individual athletes’ rights, meaning that an IOC ban could be valid.

Earlier the IOC said it was was exploring “legal options regarding a collective ban” and said its decision would hinge partly on today’s ruling.

The IOC has said it will hold a teleconference on Sunday to make a final decision on the issue.

In a statement read out outside the court in Lausanne, Switzerland, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) said that it had “confirmed the validity” of a decision that suspended all Russian track and field athletes from competing at Rio.

The court was ruling on a decision by track and field’s top international body, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), to keep Russia’s national track and field federation suspended from Rio. That IAAF decision said that the state encouragement of doping in Russian sport was so extensive that no Russian track and field athletes could be permitted to compete at Rio, except for those able to meet strict criteria that proved they were clean.

Russia’s Olympic Committee and 68 track and field athletes challenged that decision on the grounds that it violated individual athletes’ right, who had never been caught doping. But today, the CAS ruled the IAAF ruling stood.

67 Russian athletes had also appealed to overturn a decision by the IAAF to reject their requests to be allowed to compete through a loophole deliberately left open by the body when it barred them– that those who could meet its criteria proving they were clean could be allowed to compete under a neutral flag. The IAAF though has said only a tiny handful met this though, rejecting virtually all athlete’s applications.

The CAS also dismissed those athletes’ appeals against those rejections, meaning that only two or three Russian track and field athletes are eligible to compete in Rio.

Russia’s sports minister, Vitaly Mutko said he regretted the CAS decision and suggested he feared it had set a precedent for the IOC. But he said that they would not leave the situation unchallenged.

“Unfortunately, the introduction of collective responsibility has created some precedent, but we had not expected anything different,” Mutko told the Russian news agency, Interfax.

“We will be thinking how to proceed,” he said, saying “We will not leave this situation with track-and-field athletics as it is,” he said.

The decision is a heavy blow for Russia’s track and field athletes, who insist they were not part of the doping system the country has been accused of running.

Speaking after the decision, the two-time Olympic champion pole-vaulter, Elena Isinbaeva, bitterly thanked the court for “track and field’s funeral” and called it a “purely political order”. Isinbaeva told the TASS state news agency, she felt Russian athletes’ last hope now lies with the IOC.

Sergey Shubenkov, the world champion in 110m hurdles, ahead of the decision told the Russian sports site, R-Sport, if the ruling went against him: “I will get drunk.”

The ruling is potentially the last step in a convoluted saga moving towards Russia being excluded completely from this summer’s Olympics.

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Scoreboard Roundup — 7/20/16

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Here are the latest scores and winners:

INTERLEAGUE

Boston 11, San Francisco 7
Tampa Bay 11, Colorado 3
Toronto 10, Arizona 4

AMERICAN LEAGUE

N-Y Yankees 5, Baltimore 0
L.A. Angels 7, Texas 4
Minnesota 4, Detroit 1
Cleveland 11, Kansas City 4
Houston 7, Oakland 0
Seattle 6, Chi White Sox 5, 11 Innings

NATIONAL LEAGUE

Philadelphia 4, Miami 1
Washington 8, L.A. Dodgers 1
Milwaukee 9, Pittsburgh 5
St. Louis 3, San Diego 2
Cincinnati 6, Atlanta 3
St. Louis 4, San Diego 2
Chi Cubs 6, N-Y Mets 2

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Oklahoma City Thunder’s Kanter Received Death Threats Following Coup Attempt in Turkey

Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images(OKLAHOMA CITY) — Oklahoma City Thunder forward Enes Kanter has received numerous death threats on Twitter, he says, following last week’s attempted military coup in his home country.

The 24-year-old posted screenshots of the threats, which are written in Turkish. “Death threats continue to fall,” he wrote himself in Turkish, “prayer does not stand still.”

Last Friday, members of the military attempted to overthrow Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

In March, following a terrorist attack in Ankara, Kanter spoke out against Erdogan’s government. He criticized the country’s blocked access to social media and limited broadcast media coverage of the attack that killed 37 and left more than 100 injured.

Last June, Kanter claimed he was left off of the national basketball team for a European competition because of his politics, a claim that was denied by the team’s coach.

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Cowboys Rookie Tops NFL Jersey Sales

Photo by Joe Faraoni / ESPN Images(NEW YORK) — In just his first three months as an NFL player, Dallas Cowboys rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott has sold more jerseys than any other NFL player.

Drafted fourth overall on April 28, Elliott has sold the most jerseys on NFLShop.com of any NFL player between April 1 and June 30. He beat out New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton and Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski.

A fellow rookie, Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz, finished sixth in jersey sales.

The former Ohio State Buckeye has been known to wear his jersey in a unique crop top style. That won’t be allowed in the NFL, however, as rules mandate jerseys be tucked into pants and that they cannot be cut off.

The sales figures for Elliott’s jerseys do not include those sold through the Cowboys’ team store — which is run independently from the league’s other teams. The Cowboys are the only NFL franchise to distribute its own merchandise.

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Tom Brady Wishes Wife a Happy Birthday with Facebook Post

Allen Kee / ESPN Images(NEW YORK) — Happy Birthday, Gisele Bundchen!

In honor of his wife’s 36th birthday, Tom Brady, 38, posted a touching message and photo to his Facebook page Wednesday.

“Happy Birthday to the love of my life. May this year be your best and brightest and most fulfilling. We love you!” he wrote.

The couple wed in 2009 and have two children together.

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Dale Earnhardt Jr. Out for Next Two Races; Jeff Gordon to Replace Him

Allen Kee / ESPN Images(NEW YORK) — Dale Earnhardt Jr. will once again have to sit out his next two races due to concussion-like symptoms.

Earnhardt, 41, was scheduled to participate in Sunday’s race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and again the following Sunday at Pocono. Now, Jeff Gordon will step in for him.

Gordon, a four-time NASCAR Cup Series champion, last raced in 2015. The 44-year-old has attended a couple of races this year but as an announcer for Fox Sports.

In his Sprint Cup Series career, Gordon has raced 797 times and nabbed 93 wins. He’s also no stranger to Indianapolis, where he’s come out on top five times.

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Greg Biffle’s Father Passes Away

Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — Greg Biffle’s father has passed away.

The Sprint Cup Series driver shared the sad news with his fans Tuesday on Twitter. “My father/veteran Garland Jack Biffle passed away this morning at 10:32am.. He taught me [so] much in life and I will miss him greatly..RIP,” he wrote.

The elder Biffle was 75.

Greg Biffle is currently 22nd in the Sprint Cup point standings. The Roush Fenway Racing driver finished fifth in last weekend’s race at New Hampshire.

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