Jordan Jefferson, the former LSU quarterback whose career was interrupted over a bar fight, reported to a Louisiana jail on Tuesday after a judge revoked his bond in a 2011 simple battery case. This follows Jefferson’s arrest last week with three other ex-Tigers on possession of marijuana.Jefferson’s simple battery charge stems from an August 11 preseason bar fight, when he was accused by authorities of beating a man near the LSU campus. He was indicted by an East Baton Rouge Parish grand jury in September 2011 and has pleaded innocent.On Tuesday, Jefferson reported to the jail of East Baton Rouge Parish.“I have one way of doing things. I try to be fair,” the judge said, according to The Advocate newspaper. “I have a problem with someone who’s out on bond being re-arrested. . . I have a real problem with what’s going on.”He had been free for more than a year on a $5,000 bond.Moore ordered Jefferson to undergo a substance-abuse evaluation. Jefferson was expected to appear before Moore again on Wednesday.Jefferson, 22, had been playing in the Canadian Football League as a quarterback but his lawyer says he is not playing there now.Moore also ordered that Jefferson be arraigned Dec. 12 in the case involving his arrest with the other ex-players.Lance Unglesby, Jefferson’s lawyer, said Jefferson is innocent of any charge prosecutors might issue against his client in the drug case.The attorney added: “Jordan is a humble, fine young man and looks forward to putting all this behind him.”Jefferson was arrested last week along with former LSU players Tyrann Mathieu, Derrick Bryant and Karnell Hatcher. They were taken into custody at Mathieu’s apartment after police said they found marijuana. They were booked into jail, but Jefferson has not been charged by prosecutors in that case.Mathieu, a one-time Heisman Trophy finalist, has no criminal record. He played cornerback until he was dismissed from the team in August after reportedly failing a drug test.
Tonight’s NFC North showdown between Minnesota (2-2) and Chicago (1-3) will mark a potentially historic moment for the Bears as quarterback-of-the-future Mitch Trubisky will officially take the reins of the reeling franchise. But how much can we expect from the No. 2 overall pick in last year’s draft? Watch the video above to find out.
7Roy HibbertDEN126.96.36.199.3 LEAST DEFENSIVE PLAYERAndrew Wiggins, Minnesota TimberwolvesThanks to a draft-day trade, Tom Thibodeau is reunited with defensive stopper Jimmy Butler, and not a moment too soon. Butler will be joining forces with the single most catastrophic defender in the league: Andrew Wiggins.Using the NBA’s player-tracking data to look at shots defended and how those shots turned out,1These values are based on shot location, defender location and other variables. The “expected” value is based on what a shooter would make against an average defender given shot distance and the time on the shot clock, and the net value displayed is the difference between that expectation and the result that the defender allowed. we can see who’s making a positive impact, who’s making a negative impact, and who’s making the most impact. WORST LINEUPLos Angeles Lakers’ youth On the one hand, it’s frustrating that the Lakers have to sell off their best young players in order to get out from under contracts that were bad news from the moment they were signed. On the other hand, hoo boy, those young players really, really didn’t play well when they were all on the court together.D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle, Brandon Ingram and Larry Nance, Jr. played 108 minutes across 20 games this season — not a huge sample, but not quite nothing, either. By pure net rating, they were the second worst lineup in the league (-28.3 points per 100 possessions), trailing an especially grim configuration of Sacramento Kings. But it’s not so much the margin that was demoralizing about the group as it was the humiliating way in which it was run up.Out of 103 non-free-throw scoring plays against this Lakers’ lineup, 24 were dunks. (For comparison’s sake, the league-average team would figure to allow 10.3 dunks for every 103 buckets.) Not mere layups, not simple wide-open shots — dunks! A quarter of all points from the floor scored on the Lakers’ Team Of The Future were on dunks, as though the goal of the defense was to corral the opposing team into the most efficient route possible on the way to the rim. MOST OVER-AMBITIOUS DUNKERMarquese Chriss, Phoenix SunsThe missed dunk is one of the more universal plays in basketball. In a split-second, it has a neat little narrative arc: the audacity to leap in defiance of gravity and the instant comeuppance. Some players experience this more than others. Marquese Chriss experiences it more than anyone.Chriss missed 26 dunks this season, four more than second-place DeAndre Jordan … on 146 fewer attempts. Chriss’s 79.8 shooting percentage on dunks is the worst mark Basketball Reference has on record for any player who tried at least 100 dunks in a season.Not all missed dunks are of equal difficulty, of course. Dwyane Wade getting stuffed by the bottom of the rim in a playoff game is not the same as Chriss blowing in-traffic NBA Jam dunks. But there’s a certain charm to Chriss’s misses, like he knows they aren’t “all worth two points” and he’s determined to collect the difference, even at the cost of the two points. Tonight at New York’s Pier 36, the NBA will host its first annual awards show, heaping praise on the best and most outstanding players of the season. We are here today to do the opposite. MOST OVER-AMBITIOUS SHOOTERMarcus Smart, Boston CelticsAt a certain point, you just have to admire the confidence.Marcus Smart was not the worst 3-point shooter in the league this season. But he was the worst 3-point shooter who routinely took a lot of threes. Smart took 4.2 3-pointers per game in 2016-17 and made 28.3 percent of them. Only two players in the 3-point era have taken four or more 3-pointers per game and shot a worse percentage than Smart did this season: Mookie Blaylock in 1997-98 and Latrell Sprewell in 1994-95. And it’s not like Smart was launching nothing but bad shots, either — 3.1 of his 3s per game came on spot-ups, which are usually high-quality looks. But Smart shot 31.2 percent on those.Smart contributes in other ways — mainly through being Point Guard Ben Wallace — and his shooting percentage did, briefly, see an uptick in the playoffs. That’s enough to make him useful, at least on a team that gets stomped by the Cavs. 1Jakob PoeltlTOR188.8.131.524.8 10Willie ReedMIA184.108.40.2069.1 9Omer AsikNOP220.127.116.118.5 PLAYERTEAMMIN. PER GAMEPTS. PER GAMEOFFENSIVE REBOUNDSTOUCHES PER 36 MIN. 3Salah MejriDAL18.104.22.1687.0 Possession by possession, there are a few defenders who are as bad as Wiggins. When Wiggins contests a shot, opponents have a 56.1 effective field goal percentage; when they are unguarded, they have a 56.4 eFG percentage. Fundamentally, getting a shot up against Andrew Wiggins is the same as getting an open shot.Wiggins’s deficiencies are too many to list quickly, but at root the issue seems to be basic effort. He barely jumps to contest shots, doesn’t run hard to close out, and gets lost watching the ball.But the truly destructive part of Wiggins’s defense is how much of it there was. In the way that defenders like Draymond Green or an in-his-prime Tony Allen seem to be in all places at all times, challenging seemingly every shot on the floor, Wiggins is omnipresent in his awfulness. He defended the 10th most shots in the league, by far the most by a below-average defender. Most teams do their best to hide their weak defenders, but opponents seek Wiggins out like no other defender in the league. Unsurprisingly, the list of players who don’t see much of the ball fit a profile: big men who are on the floor for defense and rebounding, not scoring. Strictly speaking, Jakob Poeltl and Lucas Nogueira see the least of the ball on a per possession basis, which is probably to be expected on a team with DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry. But a little ways down the list is another name, and a bigger number: Tristan Thompson played 30 minutes per game for the Cleveland Cavaliers, but was passed the ball just 14.6 times per game and 17.5 times per 36 minutes.Thompson isn’t as offensively bereft as many of the other players on the list this season or in seasons past. He has good instincts in pick-and-roll and finds space off the ball (or at least, puts himself in positions where LeBron James can find him). But he also has by far the smallest offensive role on the team. Kevin Love, who has seen his role reduced drastically from his superstar days in Minnesota, got 37.8 touches per 36 minutes. James got 66.8; Irving got 67.2; even Iman Shumpert, who cannot dribble, pass or shoot, got 30.1. Richard Jefferson, who was drafted when Thompson was 10 years old, got 26.8.Like Marcus Smart, Thompson has other skills that are important to the Cavaliers. They trust him with important responsibilities. Just not with the basketball. 2Lucas NogueiraTOR19.04.41.416.7 4Noah VonlehPOR22.214.171.1247.5 Source: nba.com LEAST OFFENSIVE PLAYERTristan Thompson, Cleveland CavaliersThe player to whom no one passes the basketball is a typically a well-earned title, and one held by the inimitable Bismack Biyombo for the last few years. This season, however, Biyombo’s offensive role has, erm, flourished. He averaged a robust six points per game for the Orlando Magic after posting the highest usage rate of his career, at 13.2. But with Bismack abdicating the throne, who is the least passed-to man in the league?Finding players to whom no one passes is easy thanks to the NBA’s player tracking data. Take the number of “front court touches” (that is, the number of times a player touches the ball on the offensive end of the floor) and subtract the number of offensive rebounds he collected, and you’ve got something close to the number of times he was passed the ball. 8Miles PlumleeCHA10.82.50.818.3 5Tristan ThompsonCLE30.08.13.717.5 6Ed DavisPOR126.96.36.199.0 WORST SINGLE GAMEJamal Crawford, Los Angeles ClippersIn a lot of ways, 36-year-old Jamal Crawford is miraculous. In his 17th season, Crawford played 26.3 minutes per game and averaged 12.3 points on 52.6 percent true shooting, just a hair under his career mark. But on the nights he doesn’t have it, he really doesn’t have it.On January 8, Crawford played the single worst game of the season by any NBA player. In a home win against the Miami Heat, Crawford put in 31 minutes and went 1-for-12 on 2-point shots (0-for-4 from three) while collecting one rebound, one assist and two turnovers. He came out of the game with a break-even plus-minus, though any success the Clippers had was mainly due to a great game from Chris Paul (19 points, 18 assists, 1 turnover) and Heat players Dion Waiters, Rodney McGruder, Wayne Ellington and Willie Reed going a combined 7-for-32. The players no one passed toNBA players with the fewest touches per 36 minutes, 2016-17 WORST USE OF TIMEOUTSLos Angeles ClippersFor the most part, teams know that defenses play better coming out of timeouts than offenses. There’s no cross-matching to worry about, and no early-shot-clock semi-transition rush job to stamp out. Every time an offense called a timeout in 2016-17, the ensuing play was worth about 3.5 points per 100 plays for the defense compared to typical halfcourt offense. So the offense generally needs to cram enough value into that time to make it an even proposition — advancing the ball late in the game, or subbing in shooters, or trying to take the air out of a run. For some teams that’s possible. For a team that digs as deep a hole as the Clippers, good luck.The Clippers got 10 points worse per 100 plays every time they called a timeout. This is confusing, because the Clippers had one of the best halfcourt offenses in the league, ranking fourth at 98.6 points per 100 plays. But after timeouts, that rate shrunk to 88.7. It’s not just a matter of inferior bench players coming in after the timeout, either: Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, both excellent halfcourt players, fall off significantly after timeouts. Paul’s typical halfcourt offense is good for 101.2 points per 100 plays; he falls to 87.7 after timeouts. Griffin’s falls from 96.6 to 84.7.After timeout stats tend to be noisy, and in 2015-16 the Clippers were one of the better teams in the league in those scenarios. But in 2016-17, no team lost more steam during breaks than the Clips.
So, a streak like this isn’t all that uncommon, even among the league’s cadre of great players. But it’s still worth dissecting what’s wrong with Sid the Kid during this particular slump.For starters, the Penguins just aren’t lighting the lamp when Crosby is on the ice. In 19 games this season, they’ve scored only 23 goals during his shifts, and 14 of those have been on the power play. At 5-on-5, they’re notching only 1.5 goals per 60 minutes with Crosby in the game, which ranks 12th-worst among forwards who’ve logged at least 200 minutes. And defensively, the numbers have somehow been even worse — the Pens are yielding a staggering 4.4 goals per 60 minutes with Crosby on the ice during 5-on-5 play. Among that same group of qualified forwards, only his fellow Penguin Conor Sheary ranks worse. (It’s beginning to seem like the Pens have some defensive issues.)But the more troubling sign for Crosby is that he’s just not generating the same level of possession metrics we’ve been accustomed to seeing from him over the years. Crosby’s expected +/- — the plus/minus rating we’d expect a player to have based on the volume and quality of shots his team (and opponents) took while he was on the ice — is easily the worst of his career so far in 2017. For the past three seasons,2The stat is new, so it has only been calculated back to 2014. Crosby’s expected +/- has hovered around 15, but in 2017 it has dipped below zero. And it’s not just a quirk of one model: Crosby’s expected goals +/- at Corsica Hockey has also been in the red. Which is to say that, remarkably, in 2017, Crosby’s play appears to be hurting the Pittsburgh Penguins.To Crosby’s credit, he seems unfazed by his scoring dearth. “No matter who you’re playing against, just try to keep doing the right things and trust they’ll go in,” he told NHL.com.But it’s not like Crosby hasn’t had chances to score: In 2017, 61 percent of his possessions have begun in the offensive zone. That’s good for the second-highest percentage of his career, trailing only last year. The number of faceoffs you take in opposing territory can have an immense effect on your possession rates, so Crosby doesn’t have much of an excuse for not not converting some of those scoring opportunities into goals.During a season where goals are up and goaltending is down, you’d expect the most prolific scorer of his generation to be reaping the benefits — but so far, Crosby has been a ghost. As a result, his Penguins are reeling — they’ve lost more games than they’ve won, and if they hope to win a third consecutive Stanley Cup, they’ll need their captain to score some goals. Although some of Crosby’s woes will probably reverse themselves eventually, Pittsburgh will hold its collective breath until that happens. Of course, Crosby’s résumé as one of the greatest to ever play the game means that he is often held to an unrealistic standard. But his relatively precipitous dip begs the question: Are any NHL superstars slump-proof?Looking at the top 20 scorers whose careers started after the 2005 lockout, seven of them had an 11-game stretch that was worse than Crosby’s current skid at some point in their careers. (Crosby’s current teammate, Phil Kessel, had an 11-game streak with Toronto in 2015 where he notched only 3 points and posted a -16 plus/minus.) And now that Crosby has finally joined the club, every single player on the list can gripe about at least one 15-game run where their SGV was below replacement: Source: Hockey-Reference.com Jonathan ToewsCHI2017145-3-0.04 STATS DURING 15-GAME SLUMP Paul StastnyCOL2009246-10-0.56 Jeff CarterPHI2007033-11-1.52 Thomas VanekBUF2012224-8-0.48 Zach PariseMIN2016246-14-0.99 Claude GirouxPHI2010134-11-0.99 Corey PerryMDA2006033-6-0.64 Nicklas BackstromWSH2014167-9-0.37 Sidney CrosbyPIT2018437-11-0.17 Anze KopitarLAK2017257-13-0.72 Evgeni MalkinPIT2015/16246-7-0.12 Alex OvechkinWSH2014527-18-0.80 Joe PavelskiSJS2013123-5-0.58 Ryan GetzlafANA201211011-15-0.44 Patrick KaneCHI2009134-8-0.70 PLAYERTEAMSEASONGOALSASSISTSPOINTS+/-SGV Mikko KoivuMIN2006011-4-0.83 Steven StamkosTBL2009167-10-0.30 Jussi JokinenFLA2017101-9-1.35 Phil KesselTOR2015246-17-1.30 It’s time we talked about Sidney Crosby. Crosby is the best hockey player of his generation — and among the best to ever lace up a pair of skates — but he’s been a virtual nonentity on the Penguins’ stat sheet this season. You read that correctly — two-time Art Ross Trophy winner, two-time Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy winner, two-time Hart Memorial Trophy winner, and two-time Conn Smythe Trophy winner Sidney Crosby seems to have forgotten how to score.In his past 11 games, Crosby has scored zero goals, contributed just 3 assists, and has a -9 plus/minus. It’s the second-longest goalless streak of his career — but even during his longest goalless streak in 2011-12, he still dished out 17 assists in those 12 games. More importantly: That streak occurred when he was dealing with recurring concussion symptoms and actually bookends a three-month absence from the team.In terms of overall production, this is by far the worst 11-game stretch of Crosby’s career. We figured that out using a simple regression that estimates a forward’s goals versus threshold1GVT was developed by Tom Awad of Hockey Prospectus and is similar to baseball’s value over replacement player, in that it seeks to determine a player’s value in terms of goals above what a replacement-level player would contribute. based on his scoring stats, plus/minus and time on ice in a given game. Using this metric — which we’ll call “simple goal value,” or SGV — Crosby has been worth 1.1 fewer goals than a replacement-level scrub during this miserable 11-game streak. If you broaden the window slightly beyond his scoreless streak to look at his last 15 games, this has been the only 15-game period of Sid’s entire career where he performed at a below-replacement clip. John TavaresNYI2010044-15-1.64 Everybody’s gotta slump sometimeWorst 15-game stretches according to simple goal value (SGV) for NHL’s top 20 scorers whose careers started after the 2005 lockout, 2005-2018
Round of 64Davidson1261% Sweet 16Kansas State968 Is Kentucky’s toughest South region game already behind it?Kentucky’s pregame chance to win by round, according to ESPN’s Basketball Power Index Kentucky’s Elite Eight win probability is based on a weighted average of its chances of facing each opponent.Source: ESPN Stats & Information Group With two rounds of the NCAA men’s tournament in the books, it’s clear that there’s no overwhelming favorite to win the national title. No. 1 overall seed Virginia was gone less than 36 hours into the tourney,1Excluding the play-in games, because, come on. and defending champ North Carolina didn’t last a whole lot longer. Although most of the Cinderellas have cleared the dance floor (save for South region No. 11 seed Loyola-Chicago2Yes, Syracuse is also a No. 11 seed, but sorry — nobody is considering the six-time Final Four entrant a Cinderella.), the next few weeks could belong to any of about a dozen teams.Here’s what jumped out to us during the tournament’s first weekend-plus of action:This is the Strange 16Glance at the seed numbers of the teams left standing, and you’ll notice an odd mix. Only two No.1 seeds survived the tournament’s first weekend — the fewest since 2004 — and as many teams seeded seventh or worse (six) advanced as teams seeded in the top three of their regions. The resulting Sweet 16 isn’t necessarily stocked with scrappy opening-weekend flukes, as many of the first-round giant killers — such as UMBC, Buffalo and Marshall — didn’t make it past their second opponent. As a result, plenty of other years had more double-digit seeds reach the tourney’s second week. So this year’s Sweet 16 is just … well, strange.To measure this, I compared the distribution of this year’s Sweet 16 teams by seed to the average from 19853When the NCAA tournament’s 64-team era began. to 2017. This year’s glut of 5-, 7-, 9- and 11-seeds stands out, as does the general dearth of top seeds:In fact, if we compute the squared difference between this year’s number of Sweet 16 teams at each seed and the historical average for every year since 1985, this is the most aberrant distribution of seeds in any modern tournament, surpassing even 2000 (when 12 of the 16 surviving teams were seeded between slots 4 and 10).Underdogs are winning bigPerhaps more surprising than the barrage of upsets that highlighted opening weekend was the sheer magnitude of those unexpected wins. As No. 16 seed UMBC personified with its historic 20-point thrashing of No. 1 Virginia, these weren’t games in which the underdog squeaked by on a last-second shot; no, the favorites tended to be mercilessly crushed when they lost.Including both the rounds of 64 and 32, games won by lower-seeded teams this year have come by an average of 10.6 points, only the third time in the 64-team era that the average upset at this stage of the tournament came by a margin of 10.5 points or more. The others were in 2000 (yes, that tournament again), when underdogs won their games by an average of 10.9 points per game, and 1997, when they won by 10.6 on average. But those years’ first two rounds saw only 12 and 13 total upsets, respectively, by teams with an average seed number of 8.9. This year’s tourney has featured 15 upsets, by teams with an average seed of 10.1, which makes this collection of underdog landslides even more impressive.Kentucky can cruiseBefore the tournament, we relegated Kentucky to “dark horse” status in the South region, if simply because its path to the Final Four was shaping up to be a daunting one: First, a tough Davidson team in the round of 64; then, most likely, Arizona, Virginia and Cincinnati, all in a row. For all of Kentucky’s talent, that seemed like a tall order.Then, Arizona lost. And Virginia. And now, Cincinnati. (Not to mention Tennessee, Miami and Texas, too.) Suddenly, Kentucky finds itself as the sole team seeded better than seventh in its region, with a relatively clear road ahead. Our model currently gives UK the best Final Four odds of any team remaining in the field, at 57 percent.According to the Basketball Power Index system developed by ESPN’s Stats and Information Group, Kentucky’s toughest game along its path to the Final Four will end up being its opening-round matchup against Davidson — which is an astounding testament to the ease of the Wildcats’ path if they do wind up winning the South: Round of 32Buffalo1376 Elite EightLoyola-IL/Nevada11/766 RoundOpponentSeedWin Probability Of course, given the underwhelming performances by favorites in the tournament so far, there’s no telling if Kentucky will be able to take advantage of its big opportunity here, either. But no team can potentially benefit from the opening weekend’s shake-ups as much as the Wildcats — and it’s not even close.There’s still no tournament favoriteFor all the wackiness of the tournament’s first weekend, a look at our model’s list of most likely tournament winners reveals plenty of tried-and-true programs at the top, from 2016 champion Villanova at No.1 to 2015 winner Duke in second place, 2012 champ Kentucky in third and ‘08 winner Kansas in fourth. Although some would-be inaugural champions — such as Gonzaga, West Virginia and Texas A&M — are lurking right below, the odds are pretty strong we’ll see a familiar team cutting down the nets in San Antonio a few weeks from now.However, it’s still anybody’s guess which team that will be. Even Nova, as the nominal favorite, has but a 22 percent probability of winning the championship, according to the FiveThirtyEight model. Only four teams have double-digit title chances right now, which is just one more than there were before the tourney began. And remember, last year’s champ, North Carolina, was only at 9 percent at this stage of the NCAAs.It’s only fitting that a season as wide-open as this one continues to be clouded with uncertainty about who the best team is — and whether it will even be the last one standing in two weeks. After a wild, weird first two rounds of the tourney, we can only hope for more of the same when play resumes Thursday.CORRECTION (March 19, 2:45 p.m.): Because of an error in data collection, 38 games from the 2015, 2012, 2009, 2003, 2000, 1999, 1997, 1990 and 1987 tournaments were not accounted for in the original article, while 38 games were counted twice. This caused several factual errors in the distribution of seeds in the Sweet 16 and margin of victories for those years. All text and charts have been updated with correct numbers.
The Cleveland Indians have had a rough start to the 2010 season with a 10-14 record, and many fans are ready to see if some of the top prospects from the Class AAA Columbus Clippers can make a difference.The player that many are eager to see in an Indians uniform is Columbus Clippers catcher Carlos Santana.In 2008, Santana was acquired along with pitcher Jon Meloan in a trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers for Casey Blake.Santana, a switch-hitter, has proven to be valuable on offense and defense for the Clippers, and is considered the top prospect in the Indians’ organization.Offensively, Santana has started off the 2010 season with a .324 batting average, five home runs, and 22 RBIs.“I think he has a really great bat,” Clippers infielder Brian Bixler said. “He’s a great player. He has a plan when he’s at the plate and you can see that.”Santana leads the team in walks, home runs, RBIs and on-base percentage, and was the International League Player of the Week in his first week with the Clippers.“Right now, I’m happy to be thought of as a top prospect,” Santana said. “I’m continuing to put in the hard work especially on the defensive end.”Last year, Santana played for the Class AA Akron Aeros, for which he hit .290 with 23 home runs and 97 RBIs.Santana was named the MVP of the Eastern League in 2009, becoming only the third Aero to earn the award along with Jordan Brown and Victor Martinez.This was his second-straight league MVP award as he earned MVP of the California League in 2008.While he spent the final six weeks of the 2008 season with the Class A Kinston Indians in the Carolina League, he finished second in the California League with a .323 batting average. He also had 96 RBIs, 69 walks and a .431 on-base percentage.The Indians hope that Santana can step in and produce as they try to replace departed catchers Victor Martinez and Kelly Shoppach.Martinez was traded last July for pitching prospects Justin Masterson, Nick Hagadone and Bryan Price. Martinez, who played for the Indians for eight seasons, consistently hit for power and a strong batting average.Shoppach was traded to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays after the 2009 season for pitchers Saul Rivera and Mitch Talbot. Shoppach showed some promise for the Indians, batting .261 with 21 home runs in 2008.The Indians have featured two catchers this season, Lou Marson and Mike Redmond.Marson has received the majority of the playing time and has a .224 batting average, with no home runs or RBIs in 16 games played.Redmond has a .233 batting average with two RBIs and no home runs in nine games.While Santana has only played catcher for three years, he has proven to have the talent and arm strength to contribute from the position. He previously had played third base and outfield.“It’s a great feeling as a pitcher to have somebody back there with a really good arm, and knowing that you have somebody behind the plate that will give you a good chance of throwing a runner out if you make a bad pitch,” Clippers relief pitcher Jess Todd said.In spring training with the Indians, Santana batted .250 in eight games, but was sent to the Clippers for the start of the season to improve his defense.“I think I’m having a good season,” Santana said. “I’m just working with the pitchers and trying to improve at game-calling. After playing with the Indians in spring training, I feel comfortable with their pitchers. I know what kind of arms they have and some of their pitches so I would be comfortable with them.”There has been no word of a possible call-up to the Indians at this point in the season, even given the struggles of Marson and Redmond. For now, Clippers fans have an opportunity to watch one of baseball’s top prospects in a minor league uniform.“He’s here until further notice,” Clippers manager Mike Sarbaugh said.
Following the resignation of Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel, The Columbus Dispatch reported that quarterback Terrelle Pryor — already facing a five-game suspension — is being investigated by the NCAA for receiving discounts on cars and other improper benefits. The report said the NCAA and OSU’s compliance department are conducting a separate investigation of Pryor involving allegations that he received discounts on cars and questioning his relationship with Ted Sarniak, a 67-year-old business man from Pryor’s hometown of Jeanette, Pa., who has been described as Pryor’s mentor. Pryor has been connected with more than six vehicles since he arrived at OSU in 2008, according to the report. Pryor has been stopped three times while driving cars owned by car salesman Aaron Kniffin or a Columbus used-car dealership where Kniffin worked. Kniffin told The Dispatch that he allowed Pryor to drive a car to Jeanette to show his mother. He said Pryor did not purchase the vehicle. OSU spokesman Jim Lynch said he could not comment on the investigation of Pryor. “The university continues to work with the NCAA as they investigate matters involving our football program, and we will continue to do so until the conclusion of the investigation,” Lynch said. “We are unable to comment on specific players’ situations because of federal law.” Pryor, along with teammates Dan Herron, DeVier Posey, Solomon Thomas and Mike Adams, was suspended for the first five games of the 2011–12 regular season for receiving improper benefits, but was allowed to participate in OSU’s 31-26 victory against Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl. It later was revealed that Tressel knew about the infractions and failed to report them. Tressel resigned Monday. A Sports Illustrated report published Monday night said Pryor personally brought in more than 20 items, including helmets, Nike cleats and game pants, to Fine Line Ink, a Columbus tattoo parlor. In 2008, Pryor was investigated for the ownership of a vehicle before he arrived on campus for his freshman year. He later won the starting quarterback job from senior quarterback Todd Boeckman, becoming the first true freshman quarterback to start at OSU since Art Schlichter in 1978. In 2009, Pryor raised eyebrows for his defense of Michael Vick after the NFL quarterback was accused of participating in illegal dog fighting rings. “I mean, everyone kills people, murders people, steals from you, steals from me, whatever,” Pryor said. “I think that people need a second chance, and I’ve always looked up to Mike Vick, and I always will.” Pryor won the Rose Bowl MVP in 2010 and passed for 266 yards and two touchdowns as the Buckeyes defeated Oregon, 26-17.
Ohio’s two Major League Baseball clubs had two very different tales to tell at the end of last season. Up in Cleveland, the Indians put together one of the most painful seasons in franchise history, erasing a strong start with an unfathomable 5-24 record in August, putting them at 68-94 for the year and in desperate need of some changes. At the other end of the state, the Cincinnati Reds enjoyed their second National League Central division title in three seasons, finishing with the National League’s second best record at 97-65. While the season would eventually end on a sour note after blowing a 2-0 series lead over the eventual-champion San Francisco Giants in the National League Division Series, the Reds were put in good position to only improve on an already balanced club. For the Indians, it was a mystery to everyone involved what general manager Chris Antonetti’s approach to the offseason would be after the abysmal year. As it turned out, the club decided to open up the checkbook and make a series of unprecedented moves. Never known for spending much on free agents, the Indians signed two of the biggest ones available, first baseman Nick Swisher and center fielder Michael Bourn. That was not all for the Tribe in the free agent market, as they also inked designated hitter Mark Reynolds and starting pitcher Brett Myers to sizeable deals. Antonetti also tried his hand in the trade market, opening the offseason with a minor deal, moving relief pitcher Esmil Rogers to Toronto for utility infielder Mike Aviles, and later making a huge splash, trading right fielder Shin-Soo Choo to the Reds as part of a three-team deal, getting back outfielder Drew Stubbs from the Reds, and top pitching prospect Trevor Bauer from the Arizona Diamondbacks, along with two relief pitchers, Bryan Shaw and Matt Albers. Many attribute this aggressive offseason to new manager Terry Francona, whose presence and influence seems to have ushered in a new era of Indians baseball. Signed as a bit of a surprise move in October following the firing of former skipper Manny Acta, Francona brings with him two World Series rings from Boston and a great deal of respect from around the league. So what can be expected from Francona’s Indians this year? The lineup certainly looks dangerous on paper, blending speed from Bourn, Stubb and Michael Brantley; power from Swisher, Reynolds and Carlos Santana; and all-around hitting from Jason Kipnis, Asdrubal Cabrera and Lonnie Chisenhall. The individual team defense, especially from the outfield, is among the league’s best, and should be able to save the pitchers several runs. The Indians also bolster a strong bullpen, led by closer Chris Perez and set-up man Vinnie Pestano. What will likely keep the Indians out of the postseason, however, is the starting rotation. Their ace, Justin Masterson, had a 4.93 ERA last season, Ubaldo Jimenez has been a disaster since being acquired from Colorado in 2011, Myers did not start a game for Houston or Chicago last season, Zach McAllister is unproven, and Scott Kazmir was last seen struggling for the independent Atlantic League Sugar Land Skeeters after pitching his way out of the MLB. The Indians do have strong depth for the bottom of the rotation at Triple-A Columbus, including Bauer, Carlos Carrasco and Daisuke Matsuzaka, but the holes at the top are just too big for a strong lineup to overcome. Expect the Indians to finish with about 80 wins, though it’s not unreasonable that they could contend for a wild-card spot if Masterson or Jimenez can regain their old form. Moving south, the Reds had a far less busy offseason. Already owning an elite lineup, rotation and bullpen, anything they added would simply be icing on the cake as they go for their second consecutive NL Central title. As a result, the Reds will be putting out a very similar team to the one Cincinnati fans witnessed last season. The only major change is in center field, where Stubbs was swapped with Choo. The rotation of Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, Bronson Arroyo, Homer Bailey and Mike Leake is identical to last season’s, as is the bullpen, led by all-star closer Aroldis Chapman, who was considered being moved to the rotation but ultimately stayed in the bullpen, and set-up men Sean Marshall and Jonathan Broxton. The lineup also remains strong, adding Choo to a group that includes all-stars Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips and Jay Bruce, as well as power hitters like Todd Frazier and Ryan Ludwick, and defensive specialists Zack Cozart and Ryan Hanigan. Visit www.thelantern.com to read the rest of this story. If a weakness had to be pointed out for Cincinnati, it would have to be its outfield defense. Choo, who struggled in right field for several years in Cleveland, is now being forced to play the more treacherous center field by default. If he struggles, manager Dusty Baker might be forced to explore other options. This could open the door for top prospect Billy Hamilton to make his debut. Hamilton, who stole a minor league record 155 bases last season, is considered one of the most exciting prospects in baseball. There’s not a ton of mystery for how strongly a team as well-balanced as the Reds will perform. St. Louis could challenge for the NL Central title, but it’s hard to imagine the Reds falling short of a wild-card berth. Pencil them in for 88-96 wins and a third trip to October baseball in four years.