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Monday’s Morning Mashup: Cubs reportedly close to landing Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman

07.25.16 at 8:10 am ET
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Welcome to Monday’s Morning Mashup. For the latest news, start at our home page or click here for the top stories from our news wire.

MLB: Tigers at Red Sox, 7:10 p.m. (NESN, ESPN; WEEI-FM)
Basketball: Women’s exhibition, United States vs. U.S. Select team, 10 p.m. (NBA TV)
Soccer: Champions Cup, Manchester City vs. Manchester United, 8 a.m. (ESPN2)


Aroldis Chapman

Aroldis Chapman

— The Cubs already have the best record in baseball, and now they’re apparently closing in on landing the game’s most intimidating closer. According to multiple reports, Chicago is close to acquiring Yankees left-hander Aroldis Chapman in a deal for 19-year-old shortstop prospect Gleyber Torres.

Chapman, who has 20 saves in 21 chances in his first season in New York and has touched 105 mph on the radar gun, confirmed to reporters that the Yankees have talked to his agent, and he expressed mixed feelings about leaving the Bronx.

“It’s tough. I feel comfortable here,” he said through an interpreter. “I feel like part of the family here.”

The 28-year-old Cuban added that if he were traded, he’d consider returning as a free agent in the offseason.

“Oh yeah, if there’s a possibility, and God willing, yes,” he said.

The Yankees beat the Giants on Sunday to improve to 50-48, matching their season-best mark of two games over .500. They are 7 1/2 games behind the first-place Orioles and 4 1/2 games behind the Blue Jays for the second wild card, leaving some in New York to believe that ownership should give the team a chance to compete.

“We’re very much in this,” Brett Gardner said. “There’s no point in me sitting here campaigning for us to stay together.”

Said first baseman Mark Teixeira: “We don’t want to see him go. We’re trying to win games, and he’s a big part of that.”

— Four people were killed Sunday afternoon on an Arizona highway when their van collided with a bus carrying Cowboys staffers to a fan event in Las Vegas.

None of the Cowboys employees were seriously injured.

“All on the bus came through OK with some bumps and bruises,” team spokesman Rich Dalrymple told ESPN.

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Thinking Out Loud: Big 12 expansion unlikely to include UConn

07.22.16 at 5:51 pm ET
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Rooke_JohnThinking out loud … while wondering whatever happened to Burt Ward.

— As Gotham’s Dark Knight, Batman, once said, “Storm’s comin’.” The Big 12 football media days wrapped up this week in Dallas, and the final item on the agenda involved the dreaded “E” word — expansion. The league has all but decided that expanding back to 12 teams (from the present 10) is the way to go — and don’t be surprised if the conference eventually moves to 14 teams.

— Why? The Big 12 seemed relatively happy with the 10-team setup, and with newest partners West Virginia and TCU now cut in on full league shares (the pot o’ gold at the end of the rainbow), no school was eager to cut into their slice of the pie. Until mo’ money, mo’ money, mo’ money came into the picture. In clear color.

— That’s right. Several studies, one notably by, have indicated mo’ money for all teams by raising membership and conducting a conference football championship game once again, which the league will reintroduce by 2017. And there’s another catch.

Jimmy Burch of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports the lure of added TV money from the existing Big 12 media partners requiring the current carriers to pay league market value for each additional member is a big reason for potential expansion. The networks have to pay new schools like they pay everyone else. Now, the new schools could agree to partial shares (like TCU and West Virginia did) and work their way into full shares. In the interim, it’s a short-term money grab (there’s that word again) for everyone else.

— Big 12 members made more than $30 million each after disbursing revenue earned for this past year. Those are numbers that make schools like Brigham Young (an independent in football), UConn, Cincinnati, Houston, Memphis, Central Florida and South Florida all shake in their shoes. Presently, these schools earn in the range of $2 million-$4 million. Per year. The difference is palpable.

— The American Athletic Conference — the remnants of the former Big East, based in Providence — is under siege once again. Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby says he hopes a decision on expansion is reached prior to the 2017 football season kickoff. For my money, I’m taking BYU and Houston as the lead horses in this race, with Cincinnati in the lead pack of contenders.

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Report: Steelers RB Le’Veon Bell facing 4-game suspension

07.22.16 at 11:45 am ET
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Le'Veon Bell

Le’Veon Bell

The Steelers could be without running back Le’Veon Bell for the first four games of the season. According to ESPN’s Dan Graziano, Bell missed a drug test, which triggered the suspension. Bell has appealed, but no date has been set for the appeal hearing.

Bell was suspended for the first three games of last season after he was arrested for marijuana possession and DUI in the summer of 2014, but he ended up only missing the first two games after an appeal. Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount (then a member of the Steelers) was with Bell during the 2014 incident and also was arrested and suspended one game by the league.

Between the suspension and then a season-ending MCL injury, Bell played just six games last season, rushing 113 times for 556 yards and three touchdowns, while catching 24 passes for 136 yards.

DeAngelo Williams and Fitzgerald Toussaint figure to be getting the carries if Bell is out. Williams ran for 907 yards and 11 touchdowns last season, his first in Pittsburgh after nine years in Carolina. Toussaint saw spot duty in five games last season, his first with the Steelers after appearing in four games with the Ravens as a rookie in 2014.

The Steelers — expected to be the Patriots’ biggest challenger in the AFC — already will be without receiver Martavis Bryant for the entire season because of a substance-abuse policy violation.

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Friday’s Morning Mashup: NBA stars voice support after league pulls All-Star Game from Charlotte

07.22.16 at 8:18 am ET
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Welcome to Friday’s Morning Mashup. For the latest news, start at our home page or click here for the top stories from our news wire.

MLB: Twins at Red Sox, 7:10 p.m. (NESN; WEEI-FM)
MLB: Giants at Yankees, 7 p.m. (MLB Network)
Basketball: Exhibition, United States vs. Argentina, 9 p.m. (NBA TV)
Soccer: Women’s exhibition, United States vs. Costa Rica, 9 p.m. (ESPN)
Cycling: Tour de France, 7 a.m. (NBCSN)


Kevin Durant

Kevin Durant

— Hornets owner Michael Jordan and some of the league’s star players expressed disappointment but understanding after the NBA’s decision to move the 2017 All-Star Game out of Charlotte due to the state’s HB2 law that limits anti-discrimination protections for lesbian, gay and transgender people.

The league made its announcement Thursday, stating: “While we recognize that the NBA cannot choose the law in every city, state, and country in which we do business, we do not believe we can successfully host our All-Star festivities in Charlotte in the climate created by HB2.”

Jordan said he’s hopeful the game will be returned to his state in three years, assuming there is progress on changing the law.

“We understand the NBA’s decision and the challenges around holding the NBA All-Star Game in Charlotte this season. There was an exhaustive effort from all parties to keep the event in Charlotte, and we are disappointed we were unable to do so,” Jordan said in a statement. “With that said, we are pleased that the NBA opened the door for Charlotte to host All-Star weekend again as soon as an opportunity was available in 2019.”

Warriors star Steph Curry, who grew up in Charlotte while his father, Dell, played for the Hornets, said the game would have meant a lot to the city.

“We support [the decision],” he told ESPN, “but at the end of the day, I love Charlotte. I love the city.”

Tweeted Kevin Durant: I recognize this was a tough decision for the NBA but I respect the choice. Discrimination of any kind cannot be allowed.

North Carolina’s Republican-led government passed the law in March. As part of it, workers are allowed to use state law to sue over employment discrimination on the basis of race, religion and other factors, but sexual orientation and gender identity were excluded. The law also overruled a Charlotte ordinance that would have allowed transgender people to use restrooms related to their gender identity.

Already, a number of entertainers have canceled events in North Carolina, and Albany had to cancel a basketball game scheduled next season at Duke as New York imposed a travel ban to the state.

North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory issued a statement reacting to the NBA’s decision and criticizing those who have taken a public stance against the law.

“The sports and entertainment elite, Attorney General Roy Cooper and the liberal media have for months misrepresented our laws and maligned the people of North Carolina simply because most people believe boys and girls should be able to use school bathrooms, locker rooms and showers without the opposite sex present,” he said in a statement.

Multiple lawsuits related to the law have been filed in federal court, and they’re expected to go to trial this fall.

— Greg Hardy, a free agent since playing last season for the Cowboys, had a workout with the Jaguars on Thursday. A team spokesman confirmed the workout but did not indicate if the team would pursue a contract with the defensive end.

According to Pro Football Talk, Jacksonville will not sign Hardy now but wanted to learn more about him in case a need arises later. The Jaguars have a young and unproven rotation at pass rusher.

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Thursday’s Morning Mashup: NFL legend Mike Ditka passes on RNC despite support of Donald Trump, calls Deflategate ‘overblown’

07.21.16 at 8:27 am ET
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Welcome to Thursday’s Morning Mashup. For the latest news, start at our home page or click here for the top stories from our news wire.

MLB: Twins at Red Sox, 7:10 p.m. (NESN; WEEI-FM)
MLB: Dodgers at Nationals, noon (MLB Network)
MLB: Orioles at Yankees, 3 p.m. (MLB Network)
MLB: Tigers at White Sox, 8 p.m. (MLB Network)
MLB: Rays at Athletics, 11 p.m. (MLB Network)
WNBA: Fever at Liberty, 11 a.m. (NBA TV)
Cycling: Tour de France, 8 a.m. (NBCSN)


Mike Ditka (Kyle Terada/USA Today Sports)

Mike Ditka downplayed the Deflategate controversy. (Kyle Terada/USA Today Sports)

— Mike Ditka won’t be appearing at the Republican National Convention, but the ESPN NFL analyst isn’t hiding his support for Donald Trump.

The 76-year-old Ditka, who describes himself as “ultra-ultra conservative,” said he passed on an offer to speak at the RNC in Cleveland.

“I support Trump all the way, I really do. I just don’t think that’s where I belong, in Cleveland right now, I really don’t,” the former Bears coach told the Sporting News.

Ditka, who last year called Barack Obama the worst president in history, is aware that other analysts have run afoul of ESPN by speaking out on political issues (hello, Curt Schilling), but he said he has no plans to hide his opinions.

“I’m not going to change,” he said. “Eventually, I’ll say something that will probably aggravate people. That doesn’t work either, today, you know that?”

As for critics of America, he stated: “If you don’t like the way that our democracy was set up, haul your ass out of the country. Go somewhere else.”

Touching on Deflategate, Ditka said the issue is not worth the attention it’s been getting.

“I think it’s overblown, but that’s only my opinion,” he said. “I don’t think the New England Patriots or Tom Brady have to cheat to win. That’s only my opinion. You can spin it any way you want to and say, ‘Well, you can’t doctor the ball.’ … When I was playing, we played in the cold at Wrigley Field. Balls have kind of a wax on them when they’re new. We had a solvent solution. We had all the ball boys and managers scrub all the wax off of them. When we played with a ball at Wrigley Field, it didn’t have that shiny look. We took it all off. That was so you could grip it. It was only common sense. I mean, it was below-zero weather sometimes. You had this shiny stuff on it. That’s not conducive to good football, whether kicking it, throwing it or catching it. I could remember we did that. I can honestly say that. That’s when I was a player.”

— Four years after Linsanity gripped New York, Jeremy Lin was introduced Wednesday as one of five new members of the Nets, and the Harvard product looked back with mostly fondness on his breakthrough in the NBA.

“When it first started, I’m not going to lie, it was cool, and then it became a burden,” he told reporters in Brooklyn. “I didn’t really know what I had gotten myself into. One, two, three, four years later, every year I embrace it more. Every year I’m more appreciative, every year I love it more.”

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Clayton Kershaw’s return uncertain after ace shut down by Dodgers

07.20.16 at 12:34 pm ET
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Clayton Kershaw

Clayton Kershaw

It looks like Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw will not be making a return to the mound anytime soon.

Currently on the disabled list with a mild disk herniation, Kershaw had a simulated start on Saturday but continued to feel back discomfort. The Dodgers were hopeful that the 2014 National League MVP would make a return sometime this week, but Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said Kershaw’s return is “uncertain.”

“After he threw that live session, the next day Sunday didn’t feel great,” Roberts said Tuesday. “I think that at that point and time he let us know that we had to be a little more on the cautious side. I don’t know if it’s a step back, but we’re going to let the back pain subside and see where we go.”

Kershaw, who has an 11-2 record and an NL-best 1.79 ERA, has not pitched since a June 26 loss at Pittsburgh. He was placed on the disabled list later that week.

The three-time Cy Young winner is not the only Dodgers pitcher who is dealing with an injury. Brett Anderson has been dealing with back pains since spring training, and Alex Wood has missed most of the season with an elbow injury. The Dodgers have put together an 11-6 record without Kershaw, but the number of injuries to the starting rotation may force Los Angeles to make a deal before the Aug. 1 trade deadline.

For now, the Dodgers are first in the wild card standings, with the Marlins, Mets, Cardinals and Pirates close behind. Los Angeles likely will need Kershaw to return this season in order to clinch a playoff spot.

“Clayton will do everything he can to get back,” Roberts said. “We’re better when he is active, obviously. It’s something we have to deal with and we have to continue to try and win baseball games.”

Read More: Clayton Kershaw, Dave Roberts,

Wednesday’s Morning Mashup: Ryan Fitzpatrick’s stalemate with Jets shows no signs of ending

07.20.16 at 8:20 am ET
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Welcome to Wednesday’s Morning Mashup. For the latest news, start at our home page or click here for the top stories from our news wire.

MLB: Giants at Red Sox, 7:10 p.m. (NESN, ESPN; WEEI-FM)
MLB: Braves at Reds, 12:30 p.m. (MLB Network)
MLB: Mets at Cubs, 2:20 p.m. (ESPN)
MLB: Astros at Athletics, 3:30 p.m. (MLB Network)
MLB: Rangers at Angels, 10 p.m. (MLB Network)
WNBA: Sun at Wings, 12:30 p.m. (NBA TV)
WNBA: Stars at Storm, 3 p.m. (NBA TV)
Cycling: Tour de France, 8 a.m. (NBCSN)


Ryan Fitzpatrick

Ryan Fitzpatrick

— Ryan Fitzpatrick’s stalemate with the Jets has shown no signs of ending. If anything, recent signs appear to indicate the chasm is growing wider with the start of training camp just one week away.

The Jets’ most recent offer (at least via reports) was a three-year, $24 million deal, but with only one year at $12 million guaranteed, which is a concern for the 33-year-old Harvard product who is coming off his best season (passing for 3,905 yards and 31 touchdowns).

According to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, there have been no discussions for the last few weeks. Tweeted Fowler on Tuesday night: Ryan Fitzpatrick and Jets have time to close gap, but I’m told as of now both sides haven’t talked in over a month.

Meanwhile, wide receiver Brandon Marshall, one of Fitzpatrick’s biggest supporters, said over the weekend that Fitzpatrick has stopped returning his texts.

“I don’t know what’s going on. To be honest, me and Fitz talk every day, all the time, but I texted him the last two weeks three times and there’s no response,” Marshall said on Michael Rapaport’s “IAM RAPAPORT” podcast. “The only thing that he can do to make this right is to say he was on vacation, ‘I was out of the country.’ It’s not like him. It’s scaring me right now. It’s scaring me that my guy hasn’t texted me back.”

Lastly, according to, the lease on Fitzpatrick’s rented home in Chatham, New Jersey, has been made available ($9,500 per month for the eight-bedroom, nine-bathroom house). However, Fitzpatrick appears to still be living in the home for the time being.

— Browns running back Isaiah Crowell made amends for his recent anti-police social media post by attending the weekend funeral of one of the five police officers slain in Dallas.

Crowell — who had posted an illustration of a policeman having his throat slashed in response to the shootings of black men by police in Louisiana and Minnesota (he quickly deleted the post but not before it made its way around the web) — accepted an invitation from Dallas Fallen Officer Foundation president Sgt. Demetrick Pennie to attend the funeral for Patrick Zamarripa on Saturday in Fort Worth, Texas.

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Carmelo Anthony says ‘the front office stepped up,’ Knicks now a contender

07.19.16 at 12:38 pm ET
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Carmelo Anthony

Carmelo Anthony

Speaking publicly on Monday for the first time since Knicks president Phil Jackson made a series of roster moves, Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony applauded the front office and was hopeful about the team’s chances of being a contender in the Eastern Conference.

“The front office stepped up,” said Anthony, an 11-time All-Star who has been a Knick since 2011. “It was a collective effort. They did their job and they did what they had to do to make some moves and make things happen. They put us in a situation to give us an opportunity. All we have to do is take advantage of that.”

“I think we have a good opportunity to do some things this year. It’s all about what we do. It’s all about us now. It’s all about how we come together, how we jell together. For the most part, the pieces are there, so it’s up to us.”

The Knicks, who have not had a winning season since they won 54 games in 2012-13, were able to trade for point guard Derrick Rose from the Chicago Bulls the night before the NBA draft. Jackson and the front office brass then had the cap space to sign Rose’s teammate Joakim Noah, swingman Courtney Lee and point guard Brandon Jennings.

Although Anthony believes the Knicks “have a very special team on paper,” there are plenty of red flags. Noah and Lee are 31 and 30, respectively. Jennings, once a top young star in the league, averaged seven points per game with Orlando last season. And Rose, the 2011 league MVP, is 27 years old and injury-prone. He has not played more than 70 games since that MVP year.

Despite the injury concerns with Rose, Anthony said he is not worried about the point guard’s health.

“As far as injuries go, it happens,” Anthony said. “But I think sometimes you just need a breath of fresh air, in Derrick’s case. I talked to him maybe once or twice, but he’s locked in right now. He’s focused. I’m hearing he’s healthy.

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Read More: Carmelo Anthony, Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, New York Knicks

Tuesday’s Morning Mashup: ‘Truly sorry’ Johnny Manziel promises fans, ‘I’ll be back’

07.19.16 at 8:12 am ET
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Welcome to Tuesday’s Morning Mashup. For the latest news, start at our home page or click here for the top stories from our news wire.

MLB: Giants at Red Sox, 7:10 p.m. (NESN: WEEI-FM)
MLB: Mets at Cubs, 7:05 p.m. (ESPN)
MLB: White Sox at Mariners, 10 p.m. (MLB Network)
WNBA: Sparks at Fever, 8 p.m. (ESPN2)


Johnny Manziel

Johnny Manziel

— Johnny Manziel finally responded to a wave of criticism for wasting his football potential, promising fans, “I’ll be back,” despite remaining unsigned since being cut by the Browns earlier this year.

The hard-partying Manziel, whose immature behavior and legal problems have overshadowed his performance on the field since he won the Heisman Trophy at Texas A&M as a redshirt freshman in 2012, sent a message to fans of his alma mater after someone posted a video of one of Manziel’s touchdowns from his final season at the school in 2013.

Wrote Manziel: chills* I love A&M with all my heart I’m truly sorry. I’ll do whatever I can to make it right.I’m an AGGIE for life.

Later Monday, Manziel put up a post on Instagram with the caption: You all write about a day in my life and what goes on…here it is. No secrets, no hiding, I”m not what you read about. I’ll be back… In time. It can’t end like this…it won’t. I love you all even though your comments suck.

Last month the NFL announced that Manziel was suspended four games, reportedly for a violation of the league’s substance-abuse policy. The 23-year-old quarterback also is likely to face further discipline related to his domestic abuse case in Texas, for which he has been charged with misdemeanor assault.

Two agents have dropped Manziel since the season ended when he did not adhere to their demands that he seek treatment for drug and alcohol abuse. His family also expressed concern for his well-being.

— The former scouting director of the Cardinals apologized in federal court after being sentenced to 46 months in prison for hacking into the Astros’ player personnel database and email system in 2013.

Christopher Correa, who pleased guilty in January, also was ordered to pay $279,038 in restitution.

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Monday’s Morning Mashup: NFL reportedly finalizing plan to insert computer chips in footballs

07.18.16 at 7:44 am ET
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Welcome to Monday’s Morning Mashup. For the latest news, start at our home page or click here for the top stories from our news wire.

MLB: Mets at Cubs, 7:05 p.m. (ESPN)
NBA: Las Vegas Summer League championship, Timberwolves vs. Bulls, 9 p.m. (ESPN2)
Cycling: Tour de France, 8 a.m. (NBCSN)


— The NFL reportedly is close to finalizing a plan to insert computer chips into game balls used in the upcoming preseason and in Thursday night games. And no, this has nothing to do with Deflategate.

The chips could help determine where the ball should be placed when a ball carrier is ruled down. They also would provide data on how close kicked balls come to the uprights, helping the league determine how much of a difference it would make if the uprights were moved closer together.

There was a small reduction in conversion rates on extra points last season after the league pushed back the spot so that it’s a 33-yard kick. But field goal rates continue to be exceptionally high, with last season’s 84.5 percent rate the second highest in league history.

According to an ESPN report, the league sent chip-equipped footballs to some veteran quarterbacks for them to test out and ensure they did not feel or travel through the air differently than the current balls used in games. Then the league contacted all 32 teams to inform them of the plan to used the technology.

— MMA fighter Evangelista “Cyborg” Santos is recovering in England after suffering a fractured skull during his loss to Michael Page on Saturday night.

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