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The Astros earned their 11th straight win Monday with a 7-3 victory over the Royals.

It seems as though a new Astros player steps up every day. This time, it was Brian McCann. Despite entering the game with just one hit in 19 at-bats since May 16, the veteran catcher went 2 for 4 with a home run, two RBIs, a double and three runs scored.

Game Youth Luke Joeckel Jersey Normally known as a pull hitter, Smoak has been working the ball to opposite field more often this season. His on-base percentage has jumped from .299 and .314, during his first two seasons with the Blue Jays, to a healthy .347 this year. Smoak’s slugging percentage, which reached a career-high in 2013 at .412, is now at .565.

Basically, he is doing everything right so far this season after struggling to make consistent contact with the ball during the first seven years of his MLB career.

Blues Jays fans likely thought the loss of Edwin Encarnacion would be a huge detriment to the lineup. But heading into Wednesday’s game, the new Indians slugger had just 10 home runs and 22 RBIs.

Smoak has not only been better than Encarnacion through the first two months-plus of the season, he is among the American League leaders in home runs and RBIs, and his 1.5 WAR is on pace to set a new career high.

Why: It’s difficult for managers to get in the Hall of Fame, with just 23 men enshrined as managers. For whatever reason, though, it’s been impossible thus far for coaches to get inducted, even if cases could be made for a variety of men from Mazzone and Sain to hitting guru Charlie Lau to Tony LaRussa’s longtime pitching coach, Dave Duncan.

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The competition for “best Super Bowl ever” is tight, and it’s not hostage to recency bias, since one of the biggest contenders was the game just two years ago, involving one of the teams that played Sunday night.

But when things happen that have never happened before in the long history of the game, that tilts the argument in favor of one game. The greatest comeback ever, the first overtime ever … they make the Patriots’ 34-28 win over the Falcons in Super Bowl 51 No. 1.

It could be all let out now, in the next few days, by the time the parade in Boston is over and the streets swept up and the offseason gets into full swing.

All the hard feelings could be let out by then. Tom Brady has done a solid job of soft-pedaling all the revenge talk, right up to yet another awkward photo op with Goodell on Monday morning at the Super Bowl MVP award presentation. He got his version of the last word in that postgame commercial Sunday night.

Kraft has a team to run, fellow owners to bond with and a commissioner to work with against their real common enemies, the players.

Goodell has eaten all the crow he can stand by now. All the damage of the botched investigation has been done, and overcome.

It’s the perfect time and opportunity for Patriots fans to walk away, to assign this to the past. There will be another reason for some fans somewhere to grit their teeth about how this league is run soon enough.

But Deflategate will not be allowed to drift away. It will be anchored in place, ready for Goodell to catch another earful on opening night 2017.
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Youth Dwight Freeney Jersey “When it comes to questioning my character and what I did in that locker room, the thing that a lot of people are missing, is these coaches and these people are saying that I’m this type of person in the locker room, well who are those guys?” Owens said. “Nobody’s attaching any names to anything. They’re just saying, ‘Oh, this is what I heard.’ ”

“If you go look at a number of social media outlets and platforms, I’ve had a number of players that have played with me that have come out and said nothing but great things and said basically the polar opposite of what they’re claiming as far as me being a locker-room distraction or me being divisive.”

Simple things such as wide receivers catching everything thrown their way and cornerbacks being fluid in backpedaling into coverage can raise players’ stocks. Likewise, if a speed demon in the 40 can’t smoothly translate that here, it’s a red flag. Imagine that, football scouts judging football players most on football-like actions.

Youth Brandon Myers Jersey While most prospects have showed a clean bill of health from college through the draft process so far, this is the best chance for teams to check out the progress of players in recovery from something in their recent past or present. This year’s notables include a couple of linebackers, Notre Dame’s Jaylon Smith and UCLA’s Myles Jack, who both had their final college seasons cut short by knee injuries. No matter what it looks like now, teams need to be confident the player will be healed and ready for impact sooner rather than later. This also allows teams to sort out which players are just banged up vs. those who have longer-term durability concerns.

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If the Redskins can’t agree with Cousins on a long-term contract this year, the cost for them to keep him in 2018 would be an absurd $35 million, which would not make much sense for Washington.

At that point, the best the Redskins could do would be a third-round compensatory pick, which they would receive 2019. So an offer from the 49ers — perhaps the No. 2 overall pick in this year’s draft and one more selection — should be tempting for Washington if it dos not have long-term plans with Cousins.

The 49ers have the cap room to easily fit any contract for Cousins, and he already has a relationship with Shanahan. But, while the 49ers would be expected to improve to at least .500 with Cousins, a big jump from where they are now, such a high draft pick and a contract of $24 million-plus per year present a high price to pay.

Dwight Freeney is ready to play in Super Bowl 51 against the New England Patriots, but he isn’t a fan of the media circus leading up to the big day.

Game Will Fuller V Jersey In his third Super Bowl, the Atlanta Falcons defensive end knows what it’s like having to wait two weeks with the big game constantly on his mind and the media coverage that comes with it.

I think the process honestly sucks, because you’re waiting two weeks, Freeney told reporters Thursday. It’s not like a bye week where you get take your mind off of football for just a second, do whatever you want to do.
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No, it’s like you’re focusing on the game for two weeks straight. You just can’t wait until it gets here, partially just so you can stop talking about it and just do it. I think that’s the agonizing part about this whole entire process. It’s just that wait until the Super Bowl. That’s the pain, the pain is the wait until you get there.

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Bat flips. The bane of baseball fandom today. So, it shouldn’t shock anyone that Jose Bautista, bat-flip aficionado and drink-stirrer, is at the forefront of yet another bat-flip controversy. (Bat-flip controversy? That seems ridiculous to type. I digress.)

On Wednesday, Bautista got into it with the Braves after hitting a home run. The dinger didn’t tie the game, or give the Jays the lead, but it did pull the Blue Jays within four runs in the late stages of the game.

Not everything in this world is for everybody and nowhere does it say that to be a sports fan you have to like all sports equally. If you only like baseball for the brawls then you don’t actually like baseball — and that’s OK.

Everybody’s tastes are different. That’s why there are options. To me, a baseball-first sports fan, I want dramatic play on the field. Pitcher’s duels, flair, walk-offs and dancing. That is what makes baseball interesting.

Game Mens Marc-Edouard Vlasic Jersey I still hear about how batflips and celebrating home runs set a bad example for kids. The real bad example I’m seeing is the one that shows kids that throwing fastballs at people you’re mad at and then fighting about it is cool. It isn’t cool.

I would rather see players having fun than fighting. Fun is a much better example to set.

So thank you, Gio Gonzalez, Dusty Baker and the Washington Nationals. Thank you for not bowing to the old ways and rising above the idiocy.

Youth Zach Brown Jersey Now, please don’t make me look stupid and throw at Buster Posey tonight.

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The Chicago Bears surprised us all during the NFL draft by moving up one spot to No. 2 overall to select North Carolina quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. Yet the Bears had an idea of drafting him all along, but carried out measures to keep it a secret.

Five members of the Bears — GM Ryan Pace, head coach John Fox, director of player personnel Josh Lucas, offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains, and quarterbacks coach Dave Ragone — made the trip to Chapel Hill to evaluate Trubisky, according to the Chicago Tribune.

The Pro Bowl Skills Showdown — where players competed in games like dodgeball, precision passing, wide receiver drone drop, and a relay race — was even better than the game itself.

Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry made quick work of the Best Hands challenge. The Power Relay, where players had to work together to lift up a 250-pound wall and pull a 700-pound sled, ended with a running back smashing through a wall.

But the best event of the Skills Showdown had to be dodgeball. The NFC won, and Ezekiel Elliott was pretty pumped about it:

The NFL hosted the Pro Bowl in Honolulu’s Aloha Stadium for 30 straight years, starting in 1979. With the exception of a move to Miami’s Sun Life Stadium in 2009 and Arizona’s University of Phoenix Stadium in 2014, the Pro Bowl remained in Hawaii until the move to Orlando in 2017.

Despite low expectations, last season’s Pro Bowl was more exciting than we thought it’d be. Here’s hoping the second Pro Bowl in Orlando is even better.

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The Bills have released former second-round pick Cyrus Kouandjio weeks after a strange incident in which police found him roaming in a field in his underwear.

Kouandjio started just seven games in three seasons with Buffalo after being selected with the 44th overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. The former Alabama offensive tackle has dealt with several injuries during his time with the Bills and never made the expected impact on the field.

According to the NFL’s Next Gen Stats, Hill had the two fastest plays in the NFL last season, clocking top speeds of 23.24 mph and 22.77 mph on kick returns.

Redskins receiver DeSean Jackson measured the next fastest speed in the stats, hitting 22.60 mph on a long reception from Kirk Cousins.

T.J. Green Youth Jersey With Sunday being the biggest day in American motorsports, as both the Indy 500 and NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600 take place, the NFL tweeted out a video of the 10 fastest players from the 2016 season. We thank them for the enormously entertaining 2-minute video.
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It’s not surprising to see Hill and Jackson atop the list, but there were several surprises. Raiders wide receiver Johnny Holton, an undrafted free agent in 2016 who touched the ball only eight times from scrimmage last season, clocked 22.23 mph on an end-around. Minnesota cornerback Xavier Rhodes checked in at 22.40 mph on a 100-yard pick six.

The middle of summer 2015, Mauk had found out that his father was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer. His father, a highly successful high school football coach in Ohio, is someone he calls a friend, a mentor. He was crushed, as any son would be.

The diagnosis was grim, that Mike Mauk might not make it through his treatment. The son took it hard and admits he made some poor choices and, rather than seek support from his teammates and coaches, he hung out with the wrong crowd.

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Daniel Murphy’s first-inning grand slam Sunday night fueled the Nationals’ 6-3 win over the Mets, which completed Washington’s three-game weekend sweep at Citi Field, and Murphy’s teammates and coaches have a theory explaining why he’s so dominant when he plays New York.

I was surprised and excited to hear that I’m being inducted, Guerrero said in a release by the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame. I knew that I would need to wait at least one more year to join the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, but I’m very pleased to join the Canadian hall of fame first, since I was given my first opportunity to play Major League Baseball in Canada.
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Guerrero has as strong chance of induction into Cooperstown next year, as he was just 3.3 percent below the 75 percent of votes required to earn a plaque.

Halladay won’t be on the American ballot until 2019, but the ace who pitched for the Toronto Blue Jays for 12 of his 16 MLB seasons, will have a solid chance to eventually earn a spot, sporting two Cy Young awards, a perfect game and a postseason no-hitter on his resume.

A Denver, Colorado native, Halladay grew a love for the country up north. His 16-year-old son was born in Toronto.

Toronto has been my home away from home throughout my career and even to this day, Halladay said. It was a privilege to live and play in Canada for as long as I did. The people here were kind, supportive, respectful and always seemed to welcome me home even when I came to visit and sat in the wrong dugout.

Milan Lucic Elite Jersey Halladay and Guerrero join other superstars such as Jackie Robinson, Larry Walker, Roberto Alomar, Carlos Delgado, Gary Carter, Fergie Jenkins and Andre Dawson in the Canadian Hall of Fame.

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Pitcher wins and losses are stupid stats. Let’s start right there. Cards on the table.

That’s not a new stance, of course, and I’m not alone with this opinion. Far from it. It’s just on my mind at the moment after watching a relatively low-scoring slate of games in the big leagues Thursday. And it’s time to make a pledge.

Because the organization built by Epstein and Hoyer is deep, there are options for replacing Fowler, both atop the lineup (maybe Schwarber or Zobrist?) and in center field (Almora or Heyward). The Cubs have backups, and backups to the backups. That will certainly prove important, because 2017 will almost certainly be more difficult, in terms of injury issues.

Last year’s club lost Schwarber early, of course, and Fowler missed that bit of time with the hamstring issue. But six regulars played at least 142 games, and the three-headed catching rotation of Miguel Montero, David Ross and Willson Contreras stayed healthy. In the rotation, all five of the starters made at least 29 starts, which meant that the bullpen wasn’t taxed with extra innings — five relievers made at least 50 appearances, but none of them threw more than 65.2 innings.

Game Mens Washington Wizards Jersey It was almost like the Cubs saved their adversity for the postseason. They handled that well, obviously, but don’t expect the 2017 regular season to be equally smooth sailing.

Game Mens Josh Robinson Jersey Everybody’s going to be gunning for you, everybody knows how good you are, Dempster says. Everything went right for you, so how do you go out there and repeat that? I think it’s playing with that same kind of passion, that same approach of ‘just win today.’ Last year’s done with.

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The 2017 MLB offseason was fairly quiet, given the enormity of the 2016 season.

Not many big-name free agents hit the market this year — in fact, there were only a handful, if that.

But if there’s anything we’ve learned over the past few seasons, it’s that fringe moves usually help teams to make a run at a championship, or add much-needed depth and flexibility to build for the future.

Here’s a list of players who might have gotten lost in the shuffle after the 2016 season.

The analytics-driven Cubs were headed up by Joe Maddon, notorious for how much of a players’ manager he is and has been. The same can be said about Terry Francona, whose personality is beyond infectious.

Stats are great. Everyone knows that advanced stats are king in today’s game and the wave of the future. But we shouldn’t be so quick to say managers don’t do much. Managers get the feel of their club, and oftentimes are the heartbeat of their team.

Game Kids Antonio Gates Jersey The optimistic theory holds that McCown is just holding a place for the two youngsters, letting them grow, giving them a veteran to learn from, seeing once and for all if Petty, Hackenberg or both have it and being prepared to move on if they don’t.

Mens Hollis Thompson Jersey An even more optimistic theory is that it’s not Petty or Hackenberg (either, or both) for whom McCown is holding a place. It’s for whatever quarterback the Jets draft — sixth overall, or 39th or 70th, or whatever pick they make if they move up or down. Which means another youngster they’ll either develop, or not.

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