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Sports
News provided by MSNBC
FCC will consider petition to ban 'Redskins'

WASHINGTON -- The head of the Federal Communications Commission says the agency will consider a petition to ban the Washington Redskins nickname from the public airwaves. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler says Tuesday that the commission "will be dealing with that issue on the merits, and we'll be responding accordingly." A law professor has challenged the use of the name on broadcast television, saying it violates FCC rules against indecent content. Native American and other groups have demanded the name be changed, calling it a racial slur. Wheeler did not offer a timetable for a ruling on the matter. He has previously said he finds the name "offensive and derogatory," but that he hoped Redskins owner Dan Snyder would change it without any formal action. Snyder has vowed never to change the name.

Tue, 30 Sep 2014 22:27:00 +0000
Raiders make Tony Sparano interim coach

ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) Reggie McKenzie believes he put together a roster capable of competing for a playoff spot. When that roster got off to an 0-4 start and wasn't even competitive in two games, the Oakland Raiders general manager decided he needed to fire coach Dennis Allen. McKenzie replaced his hand-picked coach by promoting offensive line coach Tony Sparano on an interim basis Tuesday with the hopes that can spark a turnaround for a team that has lost 10 straight games dating to last season. "Yes, I do believe what we put together this offseason was a roster that could win," McKenzie said. "I'm not going to get into all the particulars of why it didn't work for Dennis. But the bottom line is it didn't work. For whatever reason, not only the 0-4 start but our play did not represent what we were capable of. That's the bottom line." Allen was the first head coach hired by Oakland after Al Davis' death in October 2011. His 8-28 record is the worst for the franchise since before Davis arrived in 1963. His contract was set to run through next season. McKenzie made the decision to fire Allen and then let owner Mark Davis know his plans. Davis supported McKenzie's call but now pressure turns to the general manager whose additions have not led to a better record. Allen is the third coach fired during the season by Oakland since Al Davis arrived. Mike Shanahan was fired after four games in 1989 and Lane Kiffin was let go four games into the 2008 season. "In my analysis, I think we do have players that can play in this game," Davis said. "I just think that there may be some changes in how the schemes are utilized." Sparano becomes Oakland's eighth coach in the past 12 seasons. The Raiders have not made the playoffs or had a winning record since winning the 2002 AFC championship. Sparano had a 29-32 record as head coach in Miami from 2008-11. He took over a one-win team in 2008 and led the Dolphins to an 11-5 record and an AFC East title. That was his only winning season and he was fired with three games remaining in 2011. Sparano said he was still working out particulars about play-calling and other details and would talk to his players on Wednesday about what changes he planned to make. While he was not ready to offer specifics on Tuesday, he did say there would be a philosophy change when the team returns from the bye week to play its next game at home against San Diego on Oct. 12. "We need to make sure we're asking our football players here as coaches to do the things that they do best," Sparano said. "We have some good football players here, a lot of them. They do a lot of good things. We need to let them do what they do best." Allen and McKenzie were hired after the team finished 8-8 under coach Hue Jackson in 2011, falling one game short of a playoff bid. They were expected to steady a franchise that fell into disarray during Al Davis' final years as owner. Instead, the team has only gotten worse, posting back-to-back four-win seasons before getting off to the 0-4 start this year despite adding players like Justin Tuck, LaMarr Woodley, Maurice Jones-Drew, Carlos Rogers, Tarell Brown, James Jones, Antonio Smith and Matt Schaub in the offseason. Even worse, the Raiders have looked overmatched at times. They fell behind 27-0 after three quarters of their only home game against Houston and trailed by 31 points after three quarters against the Dolphins. In all, Allen had more losses by at least 20 points (nine) than wins. It was performances like those that Mark Davis said he no longer wanted to see in Allen's third season and that ultimately led to his downfall. "To me, that's not what the Raiders are," Davis said. "And we're still trying to get to be what the Raiders are." Davis cited this year's draft class led by linebacker Khalil Mack, quarterback Derek Carr and guard Gabe Jackson as players who could form the foundation. But he was not willing to commit long-term to McKenzie, who has two years remaining on his contract, or Sparano. Davis said he would have more involvement in the hiring of the new coach than last time when he let McKenzie pick Allen. He also said he might reach out to former coach Jon Gruden about a possible return. "That's the future and I'm not going to talk about future coaches," Davis said. Sparano has 12 games to show that he should be that guy. --- AP NFL websites: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Wed, 01 Oct 2014 00:21:00 +0000
Michigan AD apologizes for mistakes with QB injury

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) Roughly 12 hours after embattled Michigan coach Brady Hoke said he'd been given no indication that quarterback Shane Morris had been diagnosed with a concussion, athletic director Dave Brandon revealed in a post-midnight statement that the sophomore did appear to have sustained one. That capped a bizarre day in which Michigan tried to address questions about the coaching staff's handling of Morris, who took a violent hit in the fourth quarter of Saturday's loss to Minnesota. "In my judgment, there was a serious lack of communication that led to confusion on the sideline. Unfortunately, this confusion created a circumstance that was not in the best interest of one of our student-athletes," Brandon said in a statement released shortly before 1 a.m. Tuesday. "I sincerely apologize for the mistakes that were made. "We have to learn from this situation, and moving forward, we will make important changes so we can fully live up to our shared goal of putting student-athlete safety first." Morris took a crunching hit from Theiren Cockran on Saturday and briefly looked as if he was having trouble standing, but he remained in for the next play and threw an incompletion before coming out of the game. Devin Gardner replaced him, but later on that drive, his helmet came off at the end of a play. While Gardner sat out for a play, as required, Morris went back in and handed the ball off to a running back. Asked Monday if Morris had been diagnosed with a concussion, Hoke said: "Everything that I know of, no." Hoke said Morris would have practiced Sunday night if not for a high ankle sprain. But in his statement, Brandon said: "As of Sunday, Shane was diagnosed with a probable, mild concussion, and a high ankle sprain. That probable concussion diagnosis was not at all clear on the field on Saturday or in the examination that was conducted postgame. Unfortunately, there was inadequate communication between our physicians and medical staff, and Coach Hoke was not provided the updated diagnosis before making a public statement on Monday." Brandon said he has had numerous meetings since Sunday to determine what happened with Morris. He said Morris had been treated for a sprained ankle earlier in the game, and medical staff on the sideline believed that was why he stumbled while trying to walk around after being hit by Cockran. "The team neurologist, watching from further down the field, also did not see the hit. However, the neurologist, with expertise in detecting signs of concussion, saw Shane stumble and determined he needed to head down the sideline to evaluate Shane," Brandon said. As for how Morris went back in after Gardner's helmet came off: "Shane came off the field after the (incomplete pass) and was reassessed by the head athletic trainer for the ankle injury," Brandon said. "Since the athletic trainer had not seen the hit to the chin and was not aware that a neurological evaluation was necessary, he cleared Shane for one additional play." Brandon said the neurologist and other team physicians were not aware Morris was being asked to return to the field, and Morris left the bench when he heard his name called and went back into the game. "Under these circumstances, a player should not be allowed to re-enter the game before being cleared by the team physician. This clearly identifies the need for improvements in our sideline and communication processes," Brandon said. Brandon said Morris was examined for a concussion after the game and wasn't diagnosed with one at that point. Hoke was already facing pressure over Michigan's performance this season. The Wolverines fell to 2-3 after losing 30-14 at home to Minnesota. If there was one major point Hoke seemed to stress Monday, it was that he doesn't have input into whether a player is healthy enough to play. If a player shouldn't be going back in the game, that is the trainer's call. "I knew the kid had an ankle injury," Hoke said. "That's what I knew."

Tue, 30 Sep 2014 06:57:00 +0000
NFL has laundry list of verboten celebrations

Dancing Billy "White Shoes" Johnson, shuffling Ickey Woods and the group high-fiving Fun Bunch? Their entertaining touchdown celebrations would be illegal in today's NFL. Though the league rulebook has some very specific examples of what constitutes a penalty, the gray area is as wide as ever. Take, for example, Husain Abdullah's drop to his knees after returning an interception for a touchdown Monday night. It threw the referees for a loop - and caused them to throw a flag. In their eyes, the Chiefs defensive back violated the language in Rule 12, Section 3(d) that states "Players are prohibited from engaging in any celebrations while on the ground." But Abdullah is a devout Muslim, who had always vowed he'd fall to his knees if he ever reached the end zone. Critics pointed out that many players have knelt in Christian player and weren't penalized, most notably Tim Tebow, who's one-knee genuflection became a meme. After further review, the NFL said since it was part of a religious expression, and Abdullah should not have been flagged. Highlights from the NFL's forbidden list, who may have caused it and who might get nailed today. -PROLONGED, CHOREOGRAPHED, EXCESSIVE CELEBRATION: It could be said that the "Fun Bunch" - aka Art Monk, Alvin Garrett and the rest of the Washington Redskins receivers in the early 1980s - took the fun out of the NFL. After touchdowns, they would form a circle and time a group high-five. In a 1983 game at Texas Stadium, Cowboys defenders tried to break up a Fun Bunch celebration by standing in the middle of it. A year later, the league passed a rule banning "excessive celebration." Just last week, Antonio Brown of the Steelers broke this rule, and about three others, when he spun the ball on the ground, pretended he was spinning like the ball, then fell to the ground. He was penalized 15 yards and a scolding from coach Mike Tomlin. Victor Cruz of the Giants says he's planning a new Salsa dance to celebrate TDs. -USE OF FOREIGN OBJECTS THAT ARE NOT PART OF THE UNIFORM: Would the white shoes Johnson wore when returning kicks for the Oilers back in the day have qualified as "foreign objects?" Who knows? But give these guys an `A' for creativity and advance planning: Terrell Owens pulling a Sharpie pen out of his sock and signing a ball after scoring. And Saints receiver Joe Horn reaching the end zone, then pulling a cellphone out of the padding on the goalpost and pretending to make a call. -SACK DANCES, HOME-RUN SWING, INCREDIBLE HULK: All are verboten if "committed directly at an opponent." Mark Gastineau of the Jets had one of the first (and possibly the worst) sack dance. It sparked a bench-clearing brawl in 1983 with the Rams and their Hall of Fame offensive lineman Jackie Slater, who said: "One lousy tackle and he puts on a big act. Why don't I dance every time I block him out?" Also forbidden under this category are home-run swings (Neil Smith), incredible hulk gestures (Clay Matthews used to do it. More recently, Packers RB Eddie Lacy cleverly bypassed this by wearing an Incredible Hulk shirt under his jersey) and military salutes (could've potentially put Terrell Davis and the Broncos famous Mile High Salute of the late 1990s in jeopardy). -THROAT SLASH, STOMPING ON TEAM LOGOS: Fred Taylor of the Jaguars got tagged a few times for a throat-slash gesture that was popular, especially in college football, about 10 years ago. Owens put team logos in the rulebook when, while playing for the 49ers, he ran to the star at the 50-yard line at Texas Stadium after a touchdown. Emmitt Smith responded by doing that himself a bit later. Then, Owens caught another touchdown and did it again, and Cowboys defensive back George Teague met him at the star and laid him out. -SPIKING THE BALL OVER THE GOALPOST: It had been one of the last bastions of good, clean celebration - that is, until Saints tight end Jimmy Graham knocked the post off-kilter on a slam last season in Atlanta, causing a lengthy delay. This preseason, Graham was penalized twice and fined $30,000 for breaking the new rule. His reaction: "You can't really have fun anymore." Well, Woods still can. The former Bengals runner is featured doing his once-famous Ickey Shuffle in a GEICO commercial that airs during NFL games.

Tue, 30 Sep 2014 20:35:00 +0000
A flawed Ryder Cup system for Americans

GLENEAGLES, Scotland (AP) Paul Azinger is not ruling out a return as Captain America in the Ryder Cup. But that's not what America needs. And neither does Azinger. His reputation only grows each time the Americans fail. Why would he want to risk that when there is no guarantee of reward? With so much focus on a dysfunctional U.S. team, it's easy to overlook that Europe might have been the stronger side, anyway. Azinger was in a Harley-Davidson bar in Florida on Sunday when the Ryder Cup ended. He answered his phone and said, "Dude, why is my Twitter blowing up?" The reaction to such a resounding loss and embarrassing exit in the Ryder Cup was to bring back Azinger in 2016 at Hazeltine. So when Derek Sprague takes over as president of the PGA of America the weekend before Thanksgiving, Azinger should be the first person he calls. Not to hire him. To listen to him. Azinger might be the one person responsible for giving the Americans their best chance in a game that has gone global. His greatest contribution had nothing to do with pods, rather how the team was chosen. He refused to take the captain's job for 2008 unless the PGA of America agreed to toss out its outdated qualifying system in which points were rewarded only to the top 10 at PGA Tour events. That stopped working as the tour became populated with the best players from around the world. And he somehow persuaded the PGA of America to copy the PGA Tour. The new qualifying system is just like the one used for the U.S. Presidents Cup team - based strictly on money dressed up as points. He also asked that the number of captain's picks be doubled to four players. That prompted Azinger to say, "If we win, I'll go down as having the lowest I.Q. of any genius who ever lived." He sure looked like one. His system of "pods" was genius. Three groups of three qualifiers told Azinger whom they wanted as a captain's pick (Steve Stricker was a pick but treated like a qualifier that year). They were accountable for each other as a pod, and ultimately a team. Phil Mickelson referred to it as a "winning formula." It's more about the philosophy than the details. And above all, it's about team. That's what Europe has figured out. The Americans had that under Azinger. They also had it under Davis Love III, except that Europe had better putters at Medinah, and that works in any format golf is played. But to identify the problem with the Americans is to study the team that keeps beating them. That starts with how the captain is selected. Paul McGinley wasn't chosen by a club pro. The 12 players on the tournament committee for the European Tour who put him forward as the captain, the same system that selected Jose Maria Olazabal and Colin Montgomerie. It will change for 2016, but the same principle applies. Getting the players invested started with having everyone under the same flag. The past three captains, one player from the tournament committee and European Tour chief George O'Grady are on the panel that picks the 2016 captain. How did PGA President Ted Bishop decide on Watson? Reading a book. He was coming home from the boondoggle in Bermuda known as the PGA Grand Slam of Golf when he read a book by the late Jim Huber on Watson's remarkable run at Turnberry in 2009, when he was an 8-foot putt away from winning the British Open at age 59. He called Huber about his "out-of-the-box" idea, and Huber loved it. Bishop consulted his officers, called Watson and a year later took a chance. "I think it's important for the people to understand that the PGA of America has an obligation to try to pick and find the captain that we feel is going to put our team in the best position to win," Bishop said when he introduced Watson as captain. "We feel he's certainly the perfect person to do this, based on his playing record in Scotland." It's hard to say which is more dreadful. That he would connect Watson's playing record in Scotland with his ability to lead players half his age? Or that the PGA of America alone decides to should be captain? Why not involve the players? Why not involve the past captains? Europe has a formula that began under Tony Jacklin and has been used in various capacities by just about everyone except Nick Faldo, whom Azinger referred to as the "lone wolf." Faldo brought his own system, and it was the one European loss in the last 15 years. All of Europe seems to be involved in the Ryder Cup. The PGA of America runs this show by itself, and there is a built-in disconnect because it has no involvement with PGA Tour players except at the PGA Championship every year, and the Ryder Cup every other year. There is no continuity in America, even on the rare occasion when it wins. The Ryder Cup is closely contested because the players are great. Even so, Europe has won eight of the last 10. And unless something changes, the gap will only widen.

Tue, 30 Sep 2014 14:44:00 +0000
Cardinals running back facing 9 charges for hitting wife

PHOENIX (AP) Arizona Cardinals running back Jonathan Dwyer has been formally charged with assaulting his wife during two arguments in July at their Phoenix apartment. An indictment publicly released late Friday charges Dwyer with felony aggravated assault and eight misdemeanors, including assault, criminal damage and disorderly conduct. Investigators say Dwyer broke his wife's nose with a head-butt during a July 21 argument and engaged in a dispute the following day in which he punched his wife and threw a shoe at his 17-month-old son, who wasn't injured. Dwyer had been booked on Sept. 17 on suspicion of aggravated assault against his son, but the indictment doesn't charge him with any crimes related to the child. Prosecutors say it's not unusual for grand juries to return slightly different charges than those initially brought in a case. A message left for Jared Allen, an attorney representing Dwyer, wasn't immediately returned Monday. Police say the first dispute between the couple erupted after Dwyer's wife learned about his recent phone contact with another woman and came to believe her husband was cheating. The arrest came at a time when the NFL and Commissioner Roger Goodell are under fire over a series of violent off-the-field encounters involving some marquee players, including Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson and Greg Hardy. The NFL has said the Dwyer case will be reviewed under the league's personal-conduct policy. The day after his arrest, the Cardinals placed Dwyer on the reserve/non-football illness list, meaning he can't play for Arizona again this season. An Oct. 6 status conference has been scheduled for Dwyer.

Mon, 29 Sep 2014 21:40:00 +0000
Twins fire manager Ron Gardenhire after 13 seasons

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) He was the third base coach who gave Kirby Puckett a high-five to punctuate his winning homer in Game 6 of the 1991 World Series. He was the trusting candidate who took Minnesota's managing job when many thought the Twins were about to be contracted in 2002. He was the affable everyman who presided over the team's turn-of-the-century renaissance and turned the AL doormat into a six-time division champion. Ron Gardenhire was just about everything in the 27 years he spent in the Twins organization. But even he couldn't survive the worst four-year stretch in franchise history. The Twins fired Gardenhire on Monday, saying it was time for a new voice after his 13-year tenure concluded with 383 losses over the last four seasons. "The reason for this change, I think it's safe to say, the last couple years we have not won enough games," Twins general manager Terry Ryan said. "That's what it comes down to. It's nothing more, nothing less than that." The move was made with one season left on Gardenhire's contract, ending the second-longest active tenure in the major leagues behind Mike Scioscia of the Angels. Gardenhire played an integral role in the franchise's turnaround, guiding the Twins to the playoffs six times in nine seasons from 2002-10. But Gardenhire's teams only got out of the first round once, and his postseason record was 6-21 with the last win coming in 2004. The Twins have long been the model of stability in not only baseball but major professional sports, with only two managers over the last 28 years and two general managers over the last 20 seasons. But all the losing of late became too much to overcome. Over the last four years, the Twins went 78-148 from Aug. 1 on for an abysmal .345 winning percentage. "I'm gone, I'm outta here because we didn't win," Gardenhire said. "That's what it gets down to in baseball. That's what it should get down to. You have to win on the field and these last four years have been tough for all of us." The Twins finished this season at 70-92, making Gardenhire just the fourth manager in the game's history to preside over at least four straight 90-loss seasons with the same team, joining Connie Mack of the Philadelphia Athletics (nine), Zach Taylor of the St. Louis Browns (four) and his predecessor with the Twins, Tom Kelly (four). Kelly returned for one more season after his streak, and he retired after an 85-77 finish in 2001. "One of the things we hope to get back to here is a winning culture across our organization, and not just with the major leagues," Twins President Dave St. Peter said, later adding, "That's clearly one of the goals with this move is to jumpstart that. Not to say that Ron wasn't capable of that ... but I think we believe very strongly that we've gotten away from that in recent years." In an era when job security for managers is seemingly measured in months, Gardenhire's longevity has been truly unique. The outspoken and fiery Gardenhire quickly became one of the faces of the franchise, as synonymous with the Twins as the interlocking T and C on their caps. He took over for the revered Kelly, who won two World Series championships, just as the organization was starting to regain its footing after years of bad baseball. "I feel like he's my brother, not my manager," said a glassy-eyed Ryan, who has known Gardenhire dating to their days together in the New York Mets system in the 1980s. Ryan spent some time away from the organization this year to get treatment for cancer. He said Monday that a recent physical came back favorable and that he will return to the Twins next season. Ryan offered Gardenhire a chance to remain in the organization, but Gardenhire doesn't believe he's done managing just yet. "I would have loved to have won a World Series, but that didn't happen," Gardenhire said. "Maybe it's still to come." Gardenhire clashed with some players over the years, but there was an expectation and hope among the players that he would return. "We as players had a responsibility to the organization, fans, and coaches to win this season," starting pitcher Phil Hughes tweeted. "We failed." Gardenhire joined the organization in 1987 and was added to Kelly's staff in 1991. His record as Twins manager was 1,068-1,039. He won the American League Manager of the Year award in 2010, the last time the Twins not only made the playoffs but had a winning record. "As good as it gets in my opinion. Comes to the park ready to win each and every day. Kind of a players' manager," second baseman Brian Dozier said last week. "Always in good spirits. He knows the game better than anybody I've been around. I 100 percent want him back." The contracts of Gardenhire's coaches were expiring, but some of them could be brought back. Bench coach Paul Molitor is sure to be considered for Gardenhire's replacement, but Ryan's search will spread outside the organization, too. "Sometimes people need to hear a different voice," Gardenhire said. "They need a new face. I just want this organization to win; I'll be rooting just like everybody else." The run of futility has disillusioned a once-passionate fan base, with attendance in Target Field's fifth year the lowest for the Twins since 2004. Owner Jim Pohlad said dwindling attendance had "virtually zero" impact on the decision and they would have brought Gardenhire back next season if Ryan recommended it. "He connected with me and our family way more than any single person in our entire career as owners of the team," Pohlad said. "He's just a special guy. He's loved. He's loved by us. I'll always remember him as a winner."

Tue, 30 Sep 2014 01:54:00 +0000
Europe defeats U.S. to win Ryder Cup once again

GLENEAGLES, Scotland (AP) The tone was set by Rory McIlroy, the best player in the world. The winning shot came from Jamie Donaldson, a Ryder Cup rookie. Europe added another layer to its Ryder Cup dominance on Sunday by leaving no doubt who had the best team, if not the best players. Behind two early comebacks that showed its resolve, Europe clinched the cup with four matches still on the course. With a 16 1/2-11 1/2 victory, Europe kept that gold trophy for the eighth time in the last 10 tries. McIlroy played some of his best golf this year - even for a guy who won the last two majors - by trouncing Rickie Fowler to put the first point on the board. Donaldson finished off the Americans with a 9-iron that settled 18 inches from the cup on the 15th hole at Gleneagles and set off the celebration. "It came down to me to close it out," Donaldson said. "But it's all about the team." That concept appeared lost on the Americans. Not long after the closing ceremony, Phil Mickelson said the Americans have strayed from the winning formula at Valhalla in 2008 under Paul Azinger - their only victory in these matches dating to 1999. Even with U.S. captain Tom Watson sitting six seats away, Mickelson said that American team was invested in each other, which was different from Watson's style of doing it his way. It was an awkward way to end another bad week for the Americans in the Ryder Cup. Watson defended his philosophy, though he conceded he might have erred in using some players who were too tired, leading to a 10-6 deficit going into Sunday singles. "The bottom line is they kicked our butts," Watson said. "They were better players this week." Watson said he had a pit in his stomach watching the Americans blow a 10-6 lead two years ago at Medinah. The PGA of America brought him back as captain - at age 65, the oldest in Ryder Cup history - hopeful he could repeat some history. Watson was the last captain in 1993 to win on European soil. It might not have mattered where this was played. Graeme McDowell rallied from 3 down after five holes to close out his match against Jordan Spieth on the 17th hole. Justin Rose was 4 down after six holes when he won four straight holes with birdies against Hunter Mahan, and got up-and-down for birdie on the 18th to give Europe a half-point. Rose went unbeaten for the week at 3-0-2. That set the stage for Donaldson, a 38-year-old from Wales playing in his first Ryder Cup. He seized control over Keegan Bradley at the turn, and then it was a matter of when Europe could pop the champagne. Donaldson was so locked in on his task that he was unaware that he had retained the cup for Europe when he was 4 up with four holes to play. From 146 yards in fairway, he fired a 9-iron at the flag and let the club twirl through his hands. It was close to perfect. Watson walked over and shook his hand, and then put his arm around McGinley as they headed to the green. Bradley got onto the putting surface, and as soon as he saw Donaldson's ball next to the cup, he removed his cap and shook hands. McGinley talked all week about a template of European success. The message was to embrace their role as the favorites, and to be proud that they had earned it. And the final instruction was to avoid complacency. Europe won the Sunday singles session for the second straight Ryder Cup. "I didn't execute the plan. All these guys sitting at this table did," McGinley said with the 17-inch trophy on display. "I know how difficult it is to play in a Ryder Cup. I know when your heart is jumping out of your chest how incredibly excited and nervous you are. But we relish this challenge. We did it with a smile on our face, which is so important. And we did everybody proud." The Americans had a few bright spots. Patrick Reed went unbeaten as a rookie. Reed and Spieth had to settle for a half-point Saturday afternoon, in part because Reed missed a 2-foot putt. The gallery heckled him before he teed off against Henrik Stenson, and it inspired him. Reed rallied from an early deficit, putting his finger against his lips to hush the crowd, and he won the point on the 18th hole when Stenson missed a 4-foot putt. Reed went 3-0-1 and earned the most points for the Americans. The three American rookies - Spieth, Reed and Jimmy Walker - contributed nearly half of the points for the U.S. team. Going into the Ryder Cup, Watson had singled out Ian Poulter as the European with the best record and the man to beat. Poulter wound up playing only three matches and he didn't win any of them, settling for two halves. It wasn't about Poulter, though. It was about Europe, a formidable team.

Sun, 28 Sep 2014 15:34:00 +0000
Zimmermann's no-hitter for Nats ends on great grab

WASHINGTON (AP) One out away from pitching the Washington Nationals' first no-hitter, Jordan Zimmermann watched his 104th pitch on a crisp, clear Sunday afternoon get smacked toward deep left-center. Zimmermann leaned his head back and winced. His first thought: "Double. No-doubt double." "And then," the right-hander said later, "he comes out of nowhere and makes that catch." Thanks to a dramatic, diving grab by little-used rookie Steven Souza Jr., who came on as a defensive replacement in the ninth inning, Zimmermann completed his gem, a 1-0 victory for the NL East champion Nationals over the Miami Marlins. "I thought there was no way this would ever happen. My career numbers are something like one hit per inning, so I figure if I can make it out of the first, the hit's coming in the second," said the 28-year-old Zimmermann, a quiet guy who was a second-round draft pick in 2007 out of Division III University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. "But today was one of those special days." Almost morphed into a one-hitter, though. With two outs in the ninth and a 2-1 count, Marlins leadoff man Christian Yelich turned on a 94 mph fastball over the plate. Souza was shaded well over toward the left-field line at a coach's prompting. "He probably couldn't have been more out of position," said right fielder Jayson Werth, who watched it all unfold from what became a nearly silent home dugout. "I was just thinking to myself, `It is not optimal to be Steven Souza right now, because as soon as you come into the game, every time, the ball's going to find you,'" Werth said. "I had a feeling something crazy would happen. But not that crazy, that's for sure." Souza sprinted, extended his glove and leaped for the sensational catch, using his bare hand to squeeze the ball in his mitt as he fell. "The one thing on my mind is, no matter how I'm going to get there, I'm going to get there," Souza said. "Getting there, I kind of blacked out." Souza held his glove aloft to show he had the ball. Zimmermann raised both arms. Nationals relievers in the home bullpen lifted their arms, too. So did thousands in the Nationals Park crowd of 35,085, who roared with every pitch late. "I don't think anyone in the stadium expected Souza to get to that," Zimmermann said. Indeed, Miami's Mike Dunn said he and other relievers in the left-field visitors' bullpen started cheering as the ball headed their way. "When he caught it," Dunn said, "it was just like, `Really? Did that just happen?'" Said Yelich: "With that on the line, that might be one of the best plays I've ever seen. Ever." Souza jogged in and Zimmermann greeted him with a hug. Souza handed over the baseball, which Zimmermann shoved in his back pocket. "It was too loud to hear everything he was saying," Souza said. "But I heard, `I love you' and `Thank you.'" Souza's name now belongs alongside those of other players delivering superb catches to save no-hitters. The name that kept coming up in the Nationals' clubhouse was Dewayne Wise, the defensive replacement whose juggling, tumbling grab in the ninth saved Mark Buehrle's perfect game for the White Sox in 2009. No major leaguer had thrown a no-hitter in Washington since Bobby Burke did it for the Senators in 1931 against Boston. Quite a way to cap a regular season in which the Nationals finished with the NL's best record, 96-66. Washington hosts San Francisco or Pittsburgh in Game 1 of a division series Friday. "Just an epic day for an epic season," said Denard Span, who set a Nationals season record with his 184th hit. Zimmermann (14-5) struck out 10 and allowed only two baserunners. After retiring the first 14 batters, he walked Justin Bourn on a low, full-count fastball with two outs in the fifth. In the seventh, Garrett Jones reached first base on a strike-three wild pitch; moments later, catcher Wilson Ramos picked him off. Zimmermann's accuracy was unassailable: 79 strikes and 25 balls. Starting on seven days' rest because his pitching shoulder got bruised by a line drive his last time out, Zimmermann poured in fastballs in the mid-90s mph, used his mid-80s slider to great effect and had his changeup fooling a Marlins lineup without NL home-run champion Giancarlo Stanton. It was the fifth time there has been a no-hitter on the final day of the season. Happened last year, too, when Henderson Alvarez of the Marlins did it against Detroit. On Sunday, Alvarez (12-7) was Miami's starting pitcher against Zimmermann, allowing Ian Desmond's 24th homer for the only run. With only a few clouds and the first-pitch temperature at 79 degrees, Zimmermann didn't need a whole lot of defensive help until Souza's memorable play. That might have been a good thing, because Nationals manager Matt Williams pulled his starters as the game went on. The closest Miami came to hits before Yelich were three liners in the fifth grabbed by backup infielders - Tyler Moore at first, Kevin Frandsen at third, and Danny Espinosa at shortstop. "Three rockets, and right at guys," said Zimmermann, who had shaving cream in both ears from the on-field celebration. "That's when I knew there might be something special happening." Frandsen wasn't so sure, saying: "Fifth inning's a little early to think, `He's got a no-hitter.'" Maybe. But after the third, pitching coach Steve McCatty pulled Williams aside to point out that their initial plan to let Zimmermann have a light day's work with an eye to the postseason might not hold up. "I said, `What do we do if we're going to give him six (innings) and he doesn't (allow) a hit?'" McCatty recounted. "He just looked at me and said, `That's not funny.' I said, `Well, there's a good chance that's going to happen.'" Thanks in part to Souza, it did.

Sun, 28 Sep 2014 19:48:00 +0000
Diamondbacks fire manager Kirk Gibson

PHOENIX (AP) Just days from the end of an awful season, the Arizona Diamondbacks fired manager Kirk Gibson. The firing was announced Friday, 15 minutes before a news conference to introduce new Diamondbacks general manager Dave Stewart. "It was my trigger to pull," Chief Baseball Officer Tony La Russa said. Bench coach Alan Trammell also was dismissed, but will stay on to manage the final three games, a weekend series against St. Louis. "We just decided that being fresh, starting fresh with not just the upstairs leadership team but downstairs, is more consistent with what we are doing as an organization," La Russa said at the news conference. Gibson took over as interim manager in 2010 when A.J. Hinch was fired, then got the job without the interim title. In 2011, his first full season, he led the Diamondbacks to the NL West title and was named major league manager of the year. But his next two teams went 81-81, and this year, with a squad riddled with injuries, the Diamondbacks are assured at least a tie for the worst record in baseball. The Diamondbacks were 63-96 entering Friday night's game. "I am extremely appreciative for this opportunity and I had a great experience with the Diamondbacks," Gibson said in a statement issued through the team. "I know we had a tough year and people will look at this as a negative, but we accomplished a lot of good things here. I told the team that I have nothing but the utmost respect for this organization and the people I've met along the way." Gibson and Trammell were teammates on the 1984 Detroit Tigers team that won the franchise's most recent World Series. La Russa called Trammell one of his favorite players and Gibson "one of the great competitors of our time." "So it is really not a reflection on them," La Russa said. "I know that sounds a little hollow, but I'm always sincere when I am serious. The situation was unfair enough that the losses piled up, but we are making a fresh start. It made sense in the end to start fresh with the manager." La Russa said Trammell was let go because he and Gibson "are so close." Reliever Brad Ziegler, in his fourth season with Arizona, knows more changes are coming. "There's going to be some player moves, too. It's not just coaching staff and front office changes," he said. "There's going to be some overhaul in the locker room, too." Ziegler said the players are "all accountable for what we did on the field, and hopefully everybody can walk away from it knowing we did everything (we could). But going forward, there's no question they're going to demand more of us." Arizona fired Kevin Towers as general manager earlier this month, but Towers stayed on to help La Russa while the GM search was completed. Towers was in the back of the room at the news conference, which mostly was dedicated to what Stewart and another newcomer, De Jon Watson, bring to the team. "I'm looking forward to the day-to-day challenges of bringing a championship caliber team," Stewart said. Watson, who came from the Dodgers organization, will hold a new position, senior vice president, baseball operations. He will concentrate on scouting amateur and professional players. Injuries were a big part of the problem this year. All-Star first baseman Paul Goldschmidt had his season ended after four months by a broken hand after he was hit by a pitch from Pittsburgh reliever Ernesto Frieri. Slugger Mark Trumbo, the team's key offseason acquisition, missed about two months because of a stress fracture in his left foot, and before the season, the Diamondbacks lost starter Patrick Corbin to Tommy John surgery.

Sat, 27 Sep 2014 01:14:00 +0000