Category Archives: sports

Pirates outfielder Starling Marte suspended 80 games for PEDs

Pittsburgh Pirates All-Star outfielder Starling Marte has been suspended 80 games after testing positive for Nandrolone, a performance-enhancing substance, Major League Baseball announced. Marte will begin serving the suspension immediately.

The 28-year-old has been a mainstay in the Pirates’ lineup since 2013. He posted his best offensive season last year, hitting .311/.362/.456, with nine home runs. That performance earned him his first trip to the All-Star game.

Pirates outfielder Starling Marte was suspended for 80 games for a PED violation. (AP)
Pirates outfielder Starling Marte was suspended for 80 games for a PED violation. (AP)

Following the announcement, the outfielder released a statement apologizing for “unintentionally disrespecting” others. Marte says “neglect and lack of knowledge” led to his positive test.

Nandrolone typically has to be injected, leading some to question how Marte could be unaware he was using a performance-enhancing drug. Our own Jeff Passan points out that it is possible to get a positive test for Nandrolone through Deca Durabolin, a steroid that can be taken orally.

Pirates team president Frank Coonelly also released a statement saying the team supports the league’s drug program, and is disappointed Marte put the organization in this position.

Marte can return after serving his 80-game suspension, but will not be eligible for the postseason under MLB rules. Should the Pirates makes the playoffs, Marte will be unable to play in those games.

In the short term, Pittsburgh will have to figure out how to handle life without Marte on the fly. It’s unclear whether Andrew McCutchen, who the team moved off center field this winter, will continue to be used in a corner spot. The club also has top prospect Austin Meadows sitting at Triple-A, but he’s hitting just .162 over 10 games.

In the long term, the suspension could prove to be devastating. Many thought the Pirates were entering the end of their current contention window. Without Marte to help, the team could stumble and have to sell off parts by the trade deadline. And even if the team treads water without Marte, they won’t have him when it matters most.

Marte is hitting .241/.288/.370 over 13 games this season.

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Chris Cwik is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at christophercwik@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

Denna Laing finishes Boston Marathon, with a Bobby Carpenter assist (Video)

On New Year’s Eve 2015, Denna Laing suffered a devastating spinal cord injury while playing in an outdoor game at Gillette Stadium with the National Women’s Hockey League Boston Pride. She’s needed the assistance of a wheelchair since then.

Her story has inspired countless members of the hockey community, including Bobby Carpenter, the 53-year-old Stanley Cup-winning former NHL standout. He ran the Boston Marathon last year for the first time, and wanted inspiration for running it again.

His idea: Running it with someone that was unable to run it themselves.

So he reached out to Dennis Laing, Denna’s dad.

“At first I was a little hesitant just because I didn’t know really how I was going to feel about sitting in a chair,” Denna Laing told Amalie Benjamin of NHL.com.

But Denna was receptive to the idea once it was clear that she and Carpenter could use this moment to raise funds for Journey Forward, the rehabilitation facility that’s helped Laing in her recovery from that spinal injury.

On Monday, using a special racing wheelchair, Carpenter pushed Laing against the finish line at 4:32:30.

From NHL.com, a little more on their equipment and preparation:

They have leaned on others who have done this before, absorbing advice about how to stay warm, how to be comfortable, how to push the chair optimally, how much to stop and how quickly to run. Those tips have been invaluable in calculating how to attack the race and in easing their minds in the run-up to the event. That has included some advice from the Hoyts, the father and son who ran 32 Boston Marathons before retiring in 2014.

“I pretend I’m doing what he did, but it’s not even close because we have new technology. We have new equipment,” Carpenter said of Dick Hoyt, who pushed his son Rick in more than 1,000 races. “I can’t imagine what he had to go through 25 years ago. I can’t imagine.”

The initial fundraising goal for the duo was $53,000, and as of Monday they’re raised over $80,000.

As for the experience of competing in the Marathon, Laing said: “My voice is gone because I said hello to everybody in the crowd. I felt like everybody was screaming my name. It was so awesome.”

Greg Wyshynski is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter. His book, TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE PUCK, is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.

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Zack Kassian finally realizing dynamic potential in Edmonton

For a moment on Friday, as Zack Kassian created scoring chances and threw hits and killed penalties, it was possible to forget how tumultuous his professional career has been, and remember only the incredible potential that led to him being the 13th overall pick in the 2009 Draft.

Back then, he was a star forward for the Peterborough Petes of the OHL, a physical and offensive presence who promised to add a much-needed combination of size and skill to an undersized Sabres roster. It never really worked out that way, and by the time he joined the Edmonton Oilers (his fourth NHL organization) that early potential had been largely forgotten.

Kassian’s arrival in Edmonton came by way of the Montreal Canadiens. When Habs GM Marc Bergevin has needed to make a trade in recent years, he’s often dealt with the Oilers, and generally he’s done well. The 2015 deadline deal that landed Jeff Petry was a clear win. The more recent Brandon Davidson/David Desharnais swap is trending in that direction as well.  

The exception was trading Kassian for goaltender Ben Scrivens.  

Kassian was available not because of a lack of ability, but rather owing to off-ice issues. In October of that year, before he’d even played a regular season game for the Habs, an automobile crash left him injured and resulted in his entry into the league’s substance abuse program. Bergevin described the incident as reflecting “a lack of character” on Kassian’s part, and shipped him off to Alberta two months later.

After a brief trial run in the minors, Kassian was brought to Edmonton. He’s played reasonably well since, providing a little bit of everything as a third- and fourth-line winger. Friday’s game suggested he has more to offer.

Playing a paltry 14:07, Kassian scored a shorthanded marker, landed six hits and fired 11 pucks at the opposition net. Those are incredible numbers for any third-line forward, let alone one who spent nearly a third of his ice-time killing penalties.

That kind of game can be dangerous, though. It encourages extrapolation, and unrealistic expectations. The Oilers have got themselves into a lot of trouble over the years with exactly that kind of thinking.

Yet surely there’s a middle ground between ridiculous extrapolation and the status quo. Kassian is 26, has several strong indicators in his favour, and hasn’t exactly been blessed with bundles of offensive ice time since his return to the NHL.

Kassian’s a remarkably efficient scorer, something that becomes obvious when we look at his even-strength scoring rates. Points/hour in 5-on-5 situations is a useful statistic because it eliminates the effects of ice-time and power play usage. Kassian fares well in this view:

  • 2013-14: 1.91 points/hour (88th in the NHL, min. 400 minutes)
  • 2014-15: 1.84 points/hour (96th in the NHL)
  • 2015-16: 1.13 points/hour (264th in the NHL)
  • 2016-17: 1.74 points/hour (116th in the NHL)

The important number here is the NHL-wide rank, which is easiest to think of in terms of tiers. The top 90 players score at a first line rate (three per line, multiplied by 30 NHL teams). Players 91-180 score at a second line rate, 181-270 at a third line rate, and 271-360 at a fourth line rate.

Kassian scores like a top-six guy at evens in three of the last four years, with the only exception being the half-season after his arrival in Edmonton. He’s never been a big power play scorer, so his overall point totals won’t reflect it, but on offence he can play a top two line role at 5-on-5.

Edmonton Oilers forward Zack Kassian (44) celebrates a second period short-handed goal against the San Jose Sharks in Game 2 of the first round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers Place. (Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports)

This year’s numbers are especially spectacular considering that he’s a career 11.2 percent shooter who fired at just a 6.4 percent clip this season. He had goals disallowed, pucks go off the post, and even on Friday put a shot wide on a breakaway attempt. He’s due for a reversal of fortune there.

Where Kassian still needs to improve is on his two-way game. In every one of his six NHL seasons, his team saw its shot metrics dip when he was on the ice and rise when he was on the bench. Circumstances play a role in that, to be sure, and Kassian’s presence on Edmonton’s penalty kill shows that coach Todd McLellan believes he can be more reliable in that regard.  

It’s hard to find a 6-foot-3, 220-pound winger who likes to play physically and is capable of both killing penalties and scoring goals. Kassian is that player, and when everything comes together as it did in Game 2, it’s a difficult package for opponents to handle.

Not every night will be that perfect, but sprinkle a few more in with what he’s doing already and Kassian will be a very formidable player and an even greater asset to the Oilers.  

 

Calvert to have player safety hearing for Kuhnhackl cross-check (Video)

Screen shot of Matt Calvert breaking his stick on Tom Kuhnhackl.
Screen shot of Matt Calvert breaking his stick on Tom Kuhnhackl.

Columbus Blue Jackets forward Matt Calvert will have a hearing Saturday for his cross-check on Pittsburgh Penguins forward Tom Kuhnhackl in Game 2 of their first-round playoff series, the NHL’s Department of Player Safety announced.

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Calvert broke his stick on Kuhnhackl with the cross-check and then with Kuhnhackl doubled over, Calvert went back at the German winger and knocked him to the ice. This all occurred in the final minute of the game, a 4-1 Penguins victory over the Blue Jackets on Friday.

With the win, Pittsburgh took a 2-0 series advantage.

“The referees are going to do their job,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. “We’re going to do ours.”

Early on Saturday it was reported that Calvert’s aggression could just merit a fine.

Losing Calvert, a lower line energy player with some offensive upside who scored 10 goals in 65 games this season, should hurt the Blue Jackets as they try to get back into this series. Calvert also averaged 1:41 of penalty kill ice-time per-game during the regular season. This ranked second on the team amongst forwards behind Brandon Dubinsky. Game 3 between the two teams is Sunday in Columbus.

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Josh Cooper is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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How a deceased former NFL player saved Rod Carew's life

Rod Carew, one of the greatest hitters in baseball history, is alive today and that might not be the case if not for a former NFL player. In December, Carew, 71, received a heart and kidney transplant that prolonged his life after a massive heart attack in 2015 that doctors dubbed a “widowmaker.”

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Throughout last year, the ex-Minnesota Twins and California Angels star waited for a donor while also starting a campaign with the American Heart Association to raise awareness. When his name made it to the top of the transplant list, as chance would have it, Carew’s donor was an ex-pro athlete — from another sport in another city, but still part of the same fraternity.

As we learned on Friday in two touching stories — one from Garrett Downing at BaltimoreRavens.com and another from Daniel Brown at the San Jose Mercury News — the transplant came from Konrad Reuland, a tight end who played in the NFL from 2011-16, including four starts in 2015 with the Ravens. Downing died in December at age 29 of a brain aneurysm.

Rod Carew and Konrad Reuland (AP)
Rod Carew and Konrad Reuland. (AP)

When his family elected to donate his organs — per Reuland’s wishes — they didn’t know what would happen next, that Reuland’s heart and one of his kidneys would end up with Carew. Now the two are forever linked, the tight end and the Hall of Famer.

Mary Reuland, Konrad’s mother, figured out that her son’s heart might have gone to Carew, and tracked down Carew’s wife, Rhonda, to confirm. When they figured it out, the two families came together for a single cause. From the Mercury News:

The Reulands and the Carews, bound by a single heart, have joined forces to fight cardiovascular disease and to promote organ donation. Both families spoke to the Bay Area News Group this week.

They are going public, both families said, because they believe Konrad has deemed it so. Sometimes Carew sits at Reuland’s gravesite and talks it out.

“I just thank him for saving my life and putting a roaring heart inside my body,” the 18-time All-Star said. “We have a long way to go together.”

There were some stunning coincidences in the story: Reuland was 29 when he died. Carew wore No. 29 for almost all of his career and his effort with the American Heart Association was dubbed “Heart of 29.” The two also met once, years ago, when Reuland was in sixth grade.

Mary Reuland told BaltimoreRavens.com that she’s thrilled her son’s organs helped Carew:

“We lost a wonderful man, so it had to go into a wonderful person. I couldn’t be happier that it went to such a wonderful man.”

When you think about it, this whole thing is quite unlikely — that two men in professions that only a select group of people reach would be connected like this. Consider it a reminder that the universe often works in amazing ways.

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Mike Oz is the editor of Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at mikeozstew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

Damian Lillard (kind of) confidently predicts 'Blazers in six' against the Warriors

Damian Lillard will not go quietly into the night. (AP)
Damian Lillard will not go quietly into the night. (AP)

You do not transform from a 6-foot two-star point guard out of Oakland (Calif.) High to emerge after four years at Weber State as a lottery pick and flourish as a max contract two-time All-Star with a rap career on the side without considerable confidence, so keep that in mind about one Damian Lillard.

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It shouldn’t surprise anyone that, when asked on CSN Northwest’s broadcast of Portland’s regular-season finale on Wednesday, “Blazers in six or seven?” the point guard responded, “Blazers in six.”

Sure, the star-studded, top-seeded Golden State Warriors cruised to 67 wins sans former MVP Kevin Durant for seven weeks, and they’re a gargantuan first-round hurdle for the eighth-seeded Blazers to climb, but don’t tell me you want any player on your team who enters a playoff series thinking he’s got no path to victory. Honestly, I wouldn’t blame him if he said, “Blazers sweep,” if given the option.

From the outside, it might seem like the Blazers have no shot against the Warriors in their series that starts on Sunday, but Lillard actually has the proper perspective for anyone on the inside looking out.

“We’re not going into the playoffs saying, ‘Hey we made it, let’s bow out gracefully and be happy with what we did,’” Lillard told The Oregonian after Portland clinched a playoff berth earlier in the week. “We’re going in there to take a swing. We’re coming in there to try and shock the world.”

Added ultra-confident teammate Evan Turner of the two-time defending Western Conference champs: “We comprehend who they are and everything. But at the same time, underdog or whatever, I don’t think we really feel any pressure. I don’t really see any type of fear coming from the locker room.”

We are only a year removed from the Blazers being one overtime loss in Game 4 away from tying the conference semifinals against the Warriors, albeit in a series featuring Stephen Curry for only two of the five games, but hey — who’s to say weird stuff can’t happen, right? I mean, these Blazers did add Jusuf Nurkic, who’s been a revelation, and the Bosnian Beast might be back for the playoffs.

History would suggest Portland faces the longest of odds, considering only five No. 8 seeds have ever knocked off a top seed in the NBA playoffs — and only three have done so in a seven-game series (the Warriors over the Mavericks in 2007, Grizzlies over the Spurs in 2011 and 76ers over the Bulls in 2012). We should also mention the Warriors swept the Blazers in their four-game regular-season series.

And yeah, Charles Barkley might be the only one outside Portland who thinks the Blazers have a shot:

But none of this should prevent Lillard from entering this series with anything less than full swag. Besides, “Blazers in six” is tamer poster board material than what Lillard gave Golden State in October, when he was asked on SiriusXM’s NBA Radio about Durant’s decision to chase rings with the Warriors:

“I might have too much pride for that or be too much of a competitor where I couldn’t bring myself to do it, but it also makes it more fun. You get to take a monster down and that’s always fun.”

The Warriors, of course, are now welcome to add Lillard’s coerced playoff prediction to being dubbed “a monster” and use both as motivation, which might not work out too well for Portland. But I, for one, am sure glad somebody had the stones to add some intrigue to an otherwise predictable series.

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Ben Rohrbach is a contributor for Ball Don’t Lie and Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at rohrbach_ben@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

Paul Wolfe, Brad Keselowski's crew chief, will miss two more races as suspension upheld

Paul Wolfe and Brad Keselowski. (Getty)

A NASCAR appeals panel has denied Team Penske’s appeal of a penalty levied against Brad Keselowski’s No. 2 team, meaning crew chief Paul Wolfe will miss two more races.

The penalties date to the March 19 Phoenix race, when Keselowski’s team was popped for having more than 0.56 degrees of skew in the rear suspension. Keselowski lost 35 points, the team was fined $65,000, and Wolfe was suspended for three races. Wolfe sat out one race before appealing.

Wolfe was atop the box for Martinsville, a race which Keselowski ended up winning. After that race, team owner Roger Penske noted, “I need him on that box every weekend. I pay him to be on that box every weekend, not sitting in his motorhome looking at a bunch of monitors.”

“Who knows?” Keselowski replied at Martinsville when asked whether he could have won without Wolfe. “I ain’t thinking about that. I’m just glad I got a checkered flag and a clock.”

This marked the first violation of postrace skew rules since NASCAR rolled its three-tier penalty system into a single, severe penalty. Penske has the option of filing another appeal, and could request a deferral of the suspension as well. But the next two tracks, Bristol and Richmond, are not in the playoffs, while the five tracks following that are playoff tracks. Keselowski has clinched a spot in the playoffs with two victories as long as he remains in the top 30, which is fairly likely. Keselowski currently sits in fourth place, 41 points out of Kyle Larson’s lead with the penalty; without the points deduction, he would be in second place.
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Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports and the author of EARNHARDT NATION, on sale now at Amazon or wherever books are sold. Contact him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter or on Facebook.

Why hasn't Tony Romo had a retirement ceremony with the Cowboys?

Does anyone else think Tony Romo spending a day on the roster of the Dallas Mavericks?

Or better yet, does anyone else think that this — in essence — is Romo’s sendoff from Dallas sports?

It has now been a week since Romo announced his plans to retire from the NFL and accept a choice analyst’s gig from CBS, which was a fairly surprising elevation. But nothing has been more odd in the past seven days than the fact that Romo has not had an official retirement ceremony.

Tony Romo’s sendoff, in essence, will be in a layup line with the Dallas Mavericks, not in a press conference with the Dallas Cowboys. (AP)

Think about it. When he first spoke about retiring, it was on a CBS-orchestrated conference call, and listening to it, Romo’s ambivalence was evident. He refused to completely close the door on ever playing again, which only invited more speculation about whether he was truly done. Even on a more forceful, forward-looking interview Romo did the next day, it’s hard not to wonder what’s going through his mind.

But what about his old team? The Cowboys did not hold a traditional press conference. No ceremonial good-bye. What does that mean? We don’t know. It might mean nothing. But it’s a bit non-traditional, we’d say.

First off, Romo might have wanted it this way. He clearly praised Cowboys owner Jerry Jones in the aftermath and said Jones was looking out for his best interests while Romo pondered his future. There doesn’t appear to be bad blood there. Romo might have just told Jones: No press conference. It certainly had to be difficult for him to give his concession speech of sorts when he ceremoniously handed the baton to Dak Prescott late in the season, and it’s possible Romo just didn’t want to go through that gauntlet again.

But it’s not as if he’s not talking in public. This is at the Mavs facility on Tuesday:

The Cowboys Twitter account is there covering it like this is just part of the regular deal.

Except there’s really not much ordinary about the way the Cowboys and Romo are going about things. And that’s fine — they’re free to handle things the way they want, assuming this was part of a joint agreement. After all, Jones got the dream ending to a potentially awkward deal with Romo, and you’d have to think they would have had the metaphorical champagne on ice for him had he wanted it.

But the strange thing here is that Romo’s Dallas sports farewell — our final look at him as an athlete, really — will be in the Mavs’ layup line behind Dorian Finney-Smith and Yogi Ferrell. If Dirk Nowitzki retires in a few months, is he going to catch passes from Kellen Moore in the preseason finale against the Oakland Raiders? Is this some sort of superstar exchange program?

Look, there likely aren’t any dastardly intentions here from either side, and it’s not written into NFL bylaws that every great player has to have a retirement press conference. Heck, in five years maybe players will just Facebook Live their retirements from the privacy of their own homes.

We just can’t help but marvel at the strange week that has unfolded and continues to do so. And would the Cowboys have a retirement press conference for him now, eight or 10 days later? It doesn’t appear to be in the plans. We assume there will be a gameday ceremony planned for him next season. Maybe in the preseason. Maybe in a prime-time game. Who knows? Right now, we’re not aware of anything planned by the Cowboys for Romo.

Dallas, for the most part, loves Romo. His teammates have been all over social media praising the guy. The downtown area has been lit up with Romo’s No. 9, and the Cowboys new team facility also has displayed his uniform number for all to see. Jason Garrett, Romo’s coach for most of his career, will be at the Mavs game on Tuesday. No clear awkwardness there.

“It’s been overwhelming,” Romo said Tuesday. “I had close to 600 text messages that I’m still working on and then a hundred and something calls and a bunch of other stuff. I guess it just makes you feel like you’ve accomplished something in some ways, even though I feel like I left something out there that I always wanted to accomplish. And I’ve got to live with that. That’s part of playing sports. …

“This week has been special in the sense that people have made me feel that they appreciated me, that they enjoyed me playing and being the quarterback and that it meant something to them and they wanted to root for me and they were passion about it. I can’t say thank you enough. It really has been a very special week.”

And it really has been the Romo Appreciation Week. It just hasn’t happened the way we expected it to.

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter!

Former Braves outfielder Otis Nixon found safe after being reported missing

Former Braves outfielder Otis Nixon has been found safe. (AP Photo)

Former Atlanta Braves outfielder Otis Nixon has been found safe after being reported missing Sunday. Police in Woodstock, Georgia were able to locate the 58-year-old after asking the public for assistance on Twitter.

Nixon was last seen Saturday morning. He left his house to play golf, but never showed up at the course. His girlfriend reported him missing Sunday.

Police do not believe foul play was involved in his disappearance, according to Sports Illustrated.

The 17-year Major League Baseball veteran has a history of drug and alcohol addiction. Nixon was arrested on drug charges as a member of the Cleveland Indians in 1987. He failed a drug test with the Braves in 1991, causing him to miss the World Series.

Following his playing career, Nixon was arrested in 2013 after police found a crack pipe in his vehicle during a traffic stop. He was charged with possession of cocaine and possession of a drug-related object. 

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Chris Cwik is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at christophercwik@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

Marc Leishman kicks off Masters Sunday with an eagle on the par-4 7th hole

It’s Masters Sunday, everybody! We’re going to crown a new Masters winner later in the day, but, before the final groups of contenders get on the course, the rest of the weekend field gets a final lap around Augusta National.

Marc Leishman warmed up the patrons for the roars that’ll reverberate throughout the property later on Sunday afternoon with an eagle 2 on the par-4 seventh hole.

With a 149-yard second shot thrown toward the back of the putting surface, Leishman hit a ball with enough spin to come back down the slope and roll into the cup for a deuce. The eagle got Leishman to under par for his final round.

This week, the seventh hole has been the No. 10 handicap hole, making it one of the easier ones on the course. However, an eagle is an eagle, and Leishman will earn a goblet trophy for it.


Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.