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Thursday’s Morning Mashup: Team USA wins World Baseball Classic

03.23.17 at 10:02 am ET
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Good morning! Here is your Thursday Morning Mashup. For the latest news, start at our WEEI.com home page or click here for the top stories and scores from our news wire.

THURSDAY’S BROADCAST HIGHLIGHTS:
MLB: Pittsburgh at Boston, 1 p.m. (WEEI-AM 850)
MLB: NY Yankees vs. Tampa Bay, 1:05 p.m. (ESPN)
MLB: Cincinnati vs. Chicago White Sox, 4 p.m. (MLB Network)
MLB: LA Dodgers vs. Texas, 7:05 p.m. (ESPN)
NBA: Toronto at Miami, 7:30 p.m. (NBA TV)
NHL: Tampa Bay at Boston, 7 p.m. (NESN, WBZ-FM 98.5)
NHL: Pittsburgh at Ottawa, 7:30 p.m. (NHL Network)
College basketball: Michigan vs. Oregon, 7:09 p.m. (CBS)
College basketball: West Virginia vs. Gonzaga, 7:39 p.m. (TBS)
College basketball: Purdue vs. Kansas, 9:39 p.m. (CBS)
College basketball: Xavier vs. Arizona, 10:09 p.m. (TBS)

AROUND THE WEB: 

— Team USA beat Puerto Rico 8-0 Wednesday night to win the World Baseball Classic.

Marcus Stroman didn’t allow a hit until the seventh inning for the United States and was named the tournament’s MVP. He threw 73 pitches, 44 for strikes to go along with three strikeouts and one walk.

“I love pitching in these moments,” Stroman said afterwards. “I love the atmosphere. I feel like the bigger the game, the more I’m able to get up, the more effective I am.

This was Puerto Rico’s first loss in eight games.

“These guys were here to do their best,” said Team USA general manager Joe Torre. “The thing I marveled at was how quickly they came together, and [manager] Jimmy [Leyland] deserves a lot of that credit. They’re just a great group who understood what this event is all about.”

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred presented the trophy to Leyland, who dedicated the win to the country’s armed services.

“This is for the men and women who serve our country,” Leyland said.

“There was only one thing on our mind, was to win this thing and to do whatever we can to win,” said left fielder Christian Yelich. “That helped us come together.”

“Marcus set the tone right off the bat and just was dealing,” he went on. “And we kind of fed off that and we were just rolling ever since.”

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Our guys played like champions in the last 20 minutes, and we really were able to have a lot of things go right, which they needed to pretty much just had to fall the way they did or we would have been in trouble. So it was a great year and a great victory for our team.” — Bill Belichick, to Mike Krzyzewski, on the Patriots’ Super Bowl LI win 

NBA PB&J craze started with Kevin Garnett, Celtics

03.22.17 at 1:00 pm ET
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ESPNThe legend has been passed down by NBA generations, chronicled like a Homeric odyssey. The tale they tell is of Kevin Garnett and the 2007-08 Celtics, and the seminal moment of a revolution. Bryan Doo, Celtics strength and conditioning coach, recalls it as if it were yesterday, how before a game in December of that season, an unnamed Celtic — his identity lost to history, like the other horsemen on Paul Revere’s midnight ride — complained to Doo of incipient hunger pangs.

“Man, I could go for a PB&J,” the player said.

And then Garnett, in an act with historical reverberations, uttered the now-fabled words: “Yeah, let’s get on that.”

Garnett had not, to that point, made the PB&J a part of his pregame routine. But on that night in Boston, as Doo recalls, Garnett partook, then played … and played well. Afterward, from his perch as the Celtics’ fiery leader, Garnett issued the following commandment: “We’re going to need PB&J in here every game now.”

And so a sandwich revolution was born.

At the time, Doo notes, the Celtics not only didn’t provide lavish pregame spreads, they didn’t offer much food at all. But he soon found himself slapping together 20 PB&J’s about three hours before every tip-off, the finished products placed in bags and labeled with Sharpie in a secret code: “S” for strawberry, “G” for grape, “C” for crunchy. Of vital import: Garnett was an “S” man, and woe unto he who did not deliver him two S’s before every game. “If Kevin didn’t get his routine down, he’d be pissed,” Doo says. “Even if he didn’t eat them, he needed them to be there.”

From Doo’s perspective, PB&J’s were a far better option than players seeking out, say, greasy junk food from arena concessions. “It was a win-win for everybody,” he says. But as the Garnett-Paul Pierce-Ray Allen Celtics steamrolled to a 66-win season and an NBA title, the secret to their success, so cleverly disguised between two pieces of white bread, was eventually leaked. “Boston was doing it at a mass-produced level earlier on than I noticed other people doing it, for sure,” says Tim DiFrancesco, the Lakers’ strength and conditioning coach since 2011. “They were really on the forefront of this revolution.” In time, as visiting teams swung through Boston, opposing players caught wind that a new day had dawned. DiFrancesco recalls hearing from his troops during a visit: “Wait a minute, there’s PB&J’s in the Celtics’ locker room? Can we get some?” Doo’s colleagues around the league were less effusive. “B-Doo, I can’t believe you did this for the guys,” one told him. “Now you got me making them.”

There was no putting the jelly back in the jar. Over the course of the following seasons, as that Celtics championship run ran its course, the pieces of that team would be spread far and wide: Pierce and Garnett migrating the PB&J down I-95 to Brooklyn; Glen “Big Baby” Davis converting the Orlando Magic; Tony Allen spreading the bug to Memphis; coach Doc Rivers bringing the virus across the country to infect the Clippers.

And nothing would ever be the same.

We already kind of knew PB&J is popular in the NBA but this deeper dive into the trend paints the full picture of how much the sandwich means to the players. And I, for one, did not know it began in Boston with Garnett.

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Tinder might be a reason why NBA teams now win on the road more often

03.22.17 at 12:22 pm ET
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The Celtics are 21-17 on the road this season. (Kelley L Cox/USA Today Sports)

The Celtics are 21-17 on the road this season. (Kelley L Cox/USA Today Sports)

NBA teams win on the road more often than they used to. The advent of Tinder and other messaging apps might be one of the reasons why.

In an ESPN the Magazine feature, Tom Haberstroh examines the success clubs have enjoyed away from home in recent years. In the 1987-88 season, for example, the home team won 67.9 percent of games. Ten years later, that number dropped to 57.5 percent, before rising up around the 60 percent threshold for the bulk of the 2000’s.

So far this season, home teams have been victorious 57.4 percent of the time, which is an all-time low. According to one former All-Star, players are now more rested when they’re traveling, because they can line up their hookups from the comfort of their hotel room. There’s no longer a need to troll the clubs until the wee hours of the morning.

“It’s absolutely true that you get at least two hours more sleep getting laid on the road today versus 15 years ago,” the player said. “No schmoozing. No going out to the club. No having to get something to eat after the club but before the hotel.”

There are other possible explanations for this phenomenon, of course. Teams now fly charter instead of commercial, meaning players always travel in luxury. There also isn’t a lot of boozing on flights anymore. Players take much better care of their bodies.

The road lifestyle is far less taxing than it used to be. Even the act of lining up a hot date doesn’t take any more effort than just typing a couple of messages with your thumb.

Read More: NBA,

NFL will release video teaching players how to celebrate touchdowns

03.22.17 at 11:53 am ET
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It seems as if the NFL is going to continue cracking down on touchdown celebrations.

Troy Vincent, the league’s executive vice president of football operations, tweeted Tuesday the NFL is going to develop a video that teaches players how to act when they get into the end zone. Last year, the league levied out 30 “demonstration penalties” –– up from 29 over the previous two seasons.

While players should be expected to follow some rules for touchdown celebrations –– it’s not necessary for Odell Beckham Jr. to propose to the kicking net –– the league’s intensive focus on this topic is overblown.

Given all of the problems facing the NFL, including new revelations of systemic painkiller abuse, it seems like there are much bigger problems to worry about than how Antonio Brown acts after he catches a touchdown pass.

Read More: NFL,

Budweiser releases ‘Red Sox Nation’ beer can

03.22.17 at 11:17 am ET
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Prior to the start of every MLB season, Budweiser releases team-branded beer cans. This spring is no different, and the Red Sox design is … OK.

In a tweet Wednesday, ESPN business reporter Darren Rovell posted a photo of the limited edition MLB cans.

The “Red Sox Nation” monicker jumped the shark last decade, when the team monetized it and started to offer “official members” the chance to become president of the make believe organization. Jerry Remy was elected the first president of “Red Sox Nation” in 2007.

While the Red Sox design is a tad passé, the Cubs’ can is awesome. Nothing beats being called the “World Series champions.”

Read More: Boston Red Sox,

Sarah Palin takes shot at Colin Kaepernick for his Meals on Wheels donation

03.22.17 at 10:13 am ET
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Colin Kaepernick remains a lightning rod in NFL circles. (Robert Hanashiro/USA Today Sports)

Colin Kaepernick remains a lightning rod in NFL circles. (Robert Hanashiro/USA Today Sports)

Earlier this week, President Donald Trump took a shot at Colin Kaepernick, proclaiming his Twitter wrath is dissuading teams from signing the former 49ers quarterback.

Now former Alaska governor Sarah Palin is following suit.

In an article posted on Palin’s official website, writer Mary Kate Knorr calls Kaepernick’s Meals on Wheels donation a “political stunt.” Kaepernick recently gave $50,000 to the program, which delivers food for seniors and faces significant cuts under Trump’s proposed budget.

On Facebook, Palin implied Kaepernick’s political activism is the reason he’s still a free agent. “And he wonders why he can’t find a job,” she wrote as a teaser to the piece.

There seems to be a lot of truth to Palin’s comments. According to Bleacher Report’s Mike Freeman, 70 percent of NFL teams “genuinely hate” Kaepernick, because of his decision to kneel during the national anthem last year to protest racial discrimination and police brutality. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported earlier this month the quarterback will stand for the “Star-Spangled Banner” this season.

While Kaepernick’s protest may be over, it’s clear he remains committed to social advocacy. Last week, he also donated $50,000 to help fly supplies to famine-ravaged Somalia.

Read More: Colin Kaepernick,

Wednesday’s Morning Mashup: Punches thrown in Bulls-Raptors game

03.22.17 at 9:51 am ET
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Good morning! Here is your Wednesday Morning Mashup. For the latest news, start at our WEEI.com home page or click here for the top stories and scores from our news wire.

WEDNESDAY’S BROADCAST HIGHLIGHTS:
MLB: NY Yankees vs. Philadelphia, 1 p.m. (MLB Network)
World Baseball Classic: Puerto Rico vs. USA, 9 p.m. (ESPN2, MLB Network)
NBA: Indiana at Boston, 7:30 p.m. (CSN, WBZ-FM 98.5)
NBA: Atlanta at Washington, 8 p.m. (ESPN)
NBA: New York at Utah, 10:30 p.m. (ESPN)
NHL: NY Islanders at NY Rangers, 8 p.m. (NBCSN)
College basketball: Bakersfield at UT Arlington, 9 p.m. (ESPNU)

AROUND THE WEB:

— In a rare NBA occurrence, punches were thrown during the Bulls-Raptors game Tuesday night.

Chicago’s Robin Lopez and Toronto’s Serge Ibaka were both ejected after the physical fight broke out in the third quarter of the game at Air Canada Centre.

It started when Ibaka threw an elbow at Lopez after a shot made by Jimmy Butler. Lopez responded by grabbing the ball out of Ibaka’s hand and tempers exploded.

Lopez threw a punch at Ibaka’s head and Ikaka punched back, slightly swiping Ibaka.

Teammates and coaches rushed to calm the chaos and pulled the players apart. Both were immediately tossed from the game.

“What happened is we were playing physical basketball and he got frustrated,” Ibaka said after the game. “That thing happened where you just start pushing each other, like always happens when there’s contact, and then he throws a punch. You know, like a man, I had to defend myself. I’m not just going to be out there and watch a man like him punch me and just walk away. I had to defend myself.”

Lopez also declined to take blame for the incident.

“Things got heated, we exchanged a few words and it kind of went from there,” Lopez said. “I’m not too surprised [that it escalated]. It happens sometimes.”

As far as punishment from the league, Lopez believes he will be suspended, but Ibaka doesn’t think he should get the same punishment since he didn’t throw the first punch.

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Read More: Robin Lopez, Serge Ibaka,

Bill Simmons appears to chastise former Grantland colleague Jonah Keri for ‘stealing his idea’

03.21.17 at 3:10 pm ET
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One of Bill Simmons’ signature pieces is his annual NBA trade value column. In it, he ranks the most valuable players in the league.

And now he says his former Grantland colleague, Jonah Keri, is stealing it from him.

In a tweet Tuesday, Simmons appears to chastise Keri for publishing an MLB trade value column on Sports Illustrated. Keri first started applying the concept to baseball players when he worked under Simmons, who served as Grantland’s editor-in-chief.

It’s possible Simmons is tweeting in jest. For starters, Keri wrote the same article on SI last year, and Simmons didn’t comment publicly. He also gives Simmons credit at the end of the piece, along with Fangraph’s Dave Cameron, who writes a similar column on his website.

“Thanks as always to Bill Simmons, who came up with the idea to rank all NBA players by trade value many years ago and urged me to start an MLB Trade Value series. Special shoutout to FanGraphs’ Dave Cameron, who’s been doing his own MLB rankings for the past several years,” Keri writes.

Given Simmons’ history of petty feuds, it wouldn’t be shocking if he were genuinely peeved. If that’s the case, he has little ground to stand on, considering ranking players based on their trade value is far from an original concept.

Perhaps Simmons is still stewing over the cancellation of his HBO talk show, “Any Given Wednesday,” which was discontinued last year after just 25 episodes.

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Colin Kaepernick appears to be blackballed from the NFL, and that’s shameful

03.21.17 at 2:20 pm ET
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Colin Kaepernick opted out of his contract with the 49ers earlier this month. (Caylor Arnold/USA Today Sports)

Colin Kaepernick opted out of his contract with the 49ers earlier this month. (Caylor Arnold/USA Today Sports)

Colin Kaepernick’s NFL career probably wouldn’t be in jeopardy if he was busted for a DUI last year. But since he kneeled during the national anthem to protest discrimination and police brutality, he might be ostracized from the league. There’s something gross about that.

The speculation surrounding the reasons for Kaepernick’s unemployment reached a fever pitch last week, when Bleacher Report’s Mike Freeman quoted an anonymous AFC general manager who said 70 percent of NFL teams “genuinely hate him.” On Instagram Sunday, filmmaker Spike Lee posted a picture with Kaepernick, blaming his prolonged free agency on “subterfuge” and “skullduggery.” President Donald Trump, meanwhile, says he thinks his Twitter wrath is keeping the former 49ers quarterback sidelined.

“It was reported that NFL owners don’t want to pick him up because they don’t want to get a nasty tweet from Donald Trump,” he said Monday at a rally in Kentucky. “Do you believe that? I just saw that. I just saw that.”

Kaepernick’s proclivity for making outlandish statements hurts his cause. Shortly before Fidel Castro’s death last year, he praised some of the Cuban dictator’s domestic policies.

“One thing Fidel Castro did do is they have the highest literacy rate because they invest more in their education system than they do in their prison system, which we do not do here even though we’re fully capable of doing that,” Kaepernick said, via the Miami Herald.

Those glowing remarks about the despot who hired firing squads to kill political rivals jive with the Castro t-shirt Kaepernick wore to a press conference last summer. A few days after that wardrobe blunder, pictures circulated of Kaepernick sporting socks that depict police officers as “pigs.”

Any club that signs Kaepernick would risk facing some public relations backlash, and the truth is, many NFL teams probably don’t think he’s worth it. Since 2014, he’s completed just 59.7 percent of his passes and posted an 85.9 QB rating. The 49ers have gone 11-24 in games he’s started.

But in a quarterback-starved league, it’s difficult to imagine Kaepernick isn’t good enough to compete for a starting job somewhere. After all, the Bears recently signed career backup Mike Glennon to a three-year, $45 million contract. Just four years ago, Kaepernick’s electrifying play-making ability led the 49ers to a Super Bowl berth. He showed small flashes of that towards the end of last season, recording an 101.1 QB rating over the final four weeks.

It’s disingenuous to paint Kaepernick solely in a negative light as well. He donated $1 million to community organizations last year and helped secure an airplane that will transport supplies to Somali famine victims. The quarterback matches his words with action.

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Read More: Colin Kaepernick,

Tom Brady’s jersey thief once took selfie with him

03.21.17 at 11:05 am ET
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TMZ SportsThe man who allegedly stole Tom Brady’s Super Bowl jersey has been up close and personal with Tom, Robert Kraft and other Super Bowl stars for years … and TMZ Sports has the photo proof.

Mauricio Ortega made a habit of snapping selfies with the big stars from the Super Bowl games he covered during his stint as the news director for La Prensa — a Mexican media outlet.

We’re told the photo with Tom Brady was taken after Super Bowl 39 in 2005. Same with Robert Kraft.
Ortega also posed with Heath Miller at Super Bowl 40, Brandon Jacobs at Super Bowl 42. He also got one with Ben Roethlisberger.

The nerve of this guy.

Tom Brady is nice enough to take a picture with him and then he goes and steals TWO of the most important jerseys Brady has ever worn? Shame on him.

Not only does this guy have a little bit of a klepto streak, but he’s also really bad at taking selfies.