Chris Sale leaves behind the only pitching coach he’s ever had as a pro

“When the Cubs pitched around him, if he was someone who had greater maturity and self-control — which I think he will still develop — he would’ve said, ‘F— it, if they’re gonna walk me, I’ll take it.’ But what he did was, he started to feel like he needed to produce and be the guy.”

“Hitting is the funnest part of baseball,” Thomas says. “That was probably the first time in Bryce’s life where, for an entire series, he didn’t get the opportunity to hit, where he didn’t get the opportunity to compete. Some people look at it and say it was the greatest strategy of all time. Other people think it’s crap because you’re not competing. All I know is, when you take the bat out of somebody’s hand — especially somebody that’s as competitive as Bryce is — it’s bound to have some kind of effect.”

Game Womens Lance Stephenson Jersey Because Sale spent only one month in the minors after being drafted in 2010, Cooper is practically the only coach he has ever had as a professional. When Sale gets into a jam on the mound, Cooper’s voice usually is the one he hears in his head. They grew so close over the years that they practically finished one another’s sentences.

“Coop knows me better than I know myself,” Sale said Tuesday.

Following his trade from Chicago, Chris Sale leaves behind the only pitching coach he’s ever had as a pro. Can he forge the same sort of bonds in Boston?
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And so, as he settles into spring training with the Boston Red Sox after a blockbuster trade two months ago, Sale’s biggest immediate challenge will be developing a rapport with Boston pitching coach Carl Willis, director of pitching development Brian Bannister and even manager John Farrell, a former pitching coach.

Morning Skate: The NHL’s silly season is finally here

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Lace ’em up. Time for the Morning Skate.

Consider the NHL silly season open for business!

As you were driving home from work yesterday, the Montreal Canadiens were pulling the trigger on a move that could change the landscape of the Eastern Conference playoff picture.

Michel Therrien is out. Claude Julien is in.

The NHL trade season has been stagnant for longer than usual, but it only takes one team to make a big move like this for the floodgates to open. We’ll see if Vegas moves to scoop up Jack Capuano or if other teams scramble to trade for big trade chips, afraid the Canadiens will first.

This season, UVA is KenPom’s third-most efficient defense and 13th-most efficient offense. Last year they were No. 8 offensively and No. 7 defensively. In 2014-15, No. 22 on offense and No. 2 on defense. Bennett’s teams have proven that this is not only successful, but entirely replicable with the right players.

Based on longevity alone, Brogdon was probably the poster child for what this program does on both ends under Bennett. He averaged nearly a steal per game over four years, shot 47 percent from two, and improved his three-point percentage each year.

But Perrantes, who’s a bit more dangerous from three (42 percent on his career), is still writing the end of his story at Virginia. Unlike Brogdon, who’s now a rising NBA talent, Perrantes has a chance to end things in the Final Four, or even win a national title.

But like previous UVA teams, that’s entirely reliant on dictating the proceedings.

You can’t beat Virginia playing their game

Brian Hoyer is a savvy veteran who has some familiarity with the Steelers’ offense.

Pick up Zack Martin’s fifth-year option. Martin, arguably the best guard in football, will be a bargain for the final time in 2017 at a cap hit of $2.9 million. His salary will rise to $8.5 million or so in 2018, and the Cowboys probably will give him one of their patented eight-year extensions.
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Resist the temptation to bring back all of their secondary. The Cowboys got surprisingly effective seasons at cornerback from Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne. Both had been massive disappointments before this season, Carr after arriving as a big-ticket free agent and Claiborne after being the sixth overall pick in the 2012 draft.

Both are now unrestricted free agents, but the Cowboys should be price conscious in deciding whether to retain their cornerbacks, given their inconsistent history of play. Claiborne also has battled injuries on an annual basis, and Carr’s advancing age is a concern — he turns 31 in May.

Womens C.J. Wilcox Jersey Brian Hoyer: He has been a solid option in his last three stops, with 25 touchdowns compared to seven interceptions over his past 17 regular-season games. He spent a brief period with Pittsburgh in 2012, so he’d grasp Todd Haley’s system quickly.

Landry Jones: He’s taken hundreds — no, thousands — of reps in that system. This qualifies him as perhaps the most equipped option out there. He recovered well from an uneven first two years on the job. The Steelers like the hard-working Jones. Overall, though, he doesn’t elicit a lot of confidence for the long term, so any re-signing would likely be on a bridge, two-to-three-year deal.

Matt Cassel: Not sure how much he has left at age 34, but he spent time with Haley in Kansas City and would be a valuable voice in the quarterback room.

Trotz had five seasons of AHL experience with the Portland Pirates

The Senators also don¡¯t want to see him become good elsewhere as mentioned in the last Friedman quote, which is eerily similar to what the team kept saying about Jared Cowen until they mercilessly got rid of him last February in the Dion Phaneuf trade. My hope is that the same thing does not happen with Lazar, because I just can¡¯t see his value increasing much higher.

His value has never been lower than it is right now, but who¡¯s to say it won¡¯t get lower? What if teams eventually think he isn¡¯t good enough to be in the NHL? There are certainly several teams that would be willing to give him a shot to play in their bottom six, right now and there¡¯s a chance that Ottawa would get something decent back. But the longer they wait, they risk getting even less.

It should go without saying that Vegas wants to be a contender almost right out of the gate. As the first new franchise in the city ¡ª and in the southwest no less, where teams apparently still have to prove that hockey belongs ¡ª Vegas has a lot more than their own franchise at stake with the success of their team.
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Considering what their coaching pool looks like, Vegas is already ahead of the curve in that regard. In fact, Vegas is by far and away the first expansion team in recent memory to have this many quality coaching options available.
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Some teams, like the Nashville Predators when they came into the league in 1998, didn¡¯t go the NHL coaching route. The league is actually better for what they did, as the Predators hired Barry Trotz as their first head coach. Trotz had five seasons of AHL experience with the Portland Pirates, but was otherwise green at the NHL level.

Falcons’ Sanu supremely confident

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During Deflategate and the #FreeBrady movement, Brady played the role of peacemaker once again. Yes, Brady has had some strange moments, most notably at his news conference before the Super Bowl two years ago. Yes, he was furious in private. In May 2015, when Patriots owner Robert Kraft accepted the NFL’s record penalty for Deflategate, it did more than anger many Patriots fans: It caused a lot of tension in the building, with factions developing and people in Brady’s camp wondering why Kraft didn’t seem to have the back of the player who transformed the fortunes and reputation of the entire franchise. As one team insider said a few months ago, “There’s a lot of repair to be done.”

“My mom spoiled all of us. To her I was the baby and to my dad I was the boy. So, I had the best. I wasn’t a troublemaker growing up. I was a peacemaker, with my mom.”

People will argue forever whether Brady is the greatest quarterback of all time, but one thing is certain: He’s the least-entitled superstar quarterback of all time. Beyond playing below market value, his behavior during his suspension this past September drove the point home. He worked hard, throwing on most days. Friends knew Sundays would be the hardest for him, watching the game move on without him, and so they sent him funny videos late on Sunday nights, not only so he’d go to bed laughing but also so he’d wake up Monday not feeling worse.

Authentic Cairo Santos Jersey Falcons’ Sanu supremely confident. After Atlanta jumped out to a double-digit lead in the first half, receiver Mohamed Sanu was on the sideline talking with receiver Taylor Gabriel and said, “Shaking his head, he ain’t ever seen something like this,” Sanu said, before Gabriel responded. “That’s Tom Brady.”

Edelman: ‘It’s going to be a helluva story.’ Trailing 21-3 at the half, Edelman was confident in a comeback. He said, ‘It’s going to be a helluva story” in the direction of Brady, who responded, “Hell yeah.” Later, Edelman told teammates in the huddle, and Bill Belichick in the postgame celebration, “You gotta believe.” Edelman’s reaction on his remarkable 23-yard catch was also notable.

There is high optimism around the league that McVay will eventually connect with and elevate Goff

After extending their streak of consecutive non-winning seasons to 13, the Rams aren’t getting any benefit of the doubt. Their young quarterback, Jared Goff, had the NFL’s lowest QBR among all quarterbacks who started at least four games. (The Rams were 0-7 in his starts.) They hired a 31-year-old head coach, Sean McVay, whose bright offensive mind is likely to be mitigated by inexperience in his first season. What’s more, the Rams don’t have a first-round draft choice, thanks to the 2016 trade to acquire Goff, to help upgrade an anemic offense that ranked last in the NFL — and it wasn’t close — in scoring 13.6 points per game.

Duke Johnson Game Jersey There is high optimism around the league that McVay will eventually connect with and elevate Goff. Perhaps that could come earlier than expected, and while he’s at it, maybe McVay can figure out how to reverse tailback Todd Gurley’s disappointing second season. Acquiring one or two legitimate playmakers — the Rams are projected to have more than $40 million in cap space — could make a big difference.

Everson Griffen Game Jersey Karl, under contractual obligation to not disclose any information about the workings of the team, declined to discuss the Kings for this story. Cousins likewise declined to address his relationship with Karl, offering only, “I wish George the best.” But sources with knowledge of Cousins’ thinking say there was very little the All-Star liked about Karl and his approach, from how Karl promoted his candidacy for the job in the media to his insistence that the modern game has no place for a player with Cousins’ size and skills.

(Indeed, Karl saw Cousins as the quintessential plodding half-court player who didn’t conform to a more improvisational game in which the element of surprise can overwhelm defenses, a template that had worked for him in Denver.) And while Karl might have felt Cousins’ behavior was unprecedented, Cousins couldn’t recall a precedent for a sitting NBA coach campaigning through the media to trade a team’s most productive player, as Karl famously did in June 2015.

The guy who pulled the intentional safety and the dropkick out of mothballs is still lurking on the sideline

Belichick saved his timeouts until after the two-minute warning against the Cardinals in Week 1 this season and had it work out again; the Patriots nursed a two-point lead, sweating out a potential game-winning Chandler Catanzaro 46-yard field goal attempt — a dangerous game for a guy who had been 16-of-18 on kicks between 40 and 49 yards up to that point. Catanzaro missed, bailing out Belichick yet again.

That’s a relatively minor fault, though, and Belichick often puts his team in the best position to win with his fourth-down and late-game decisions. The famous fourth-and-2 call against the Colts ended up going against the Patriots but made sense given the quality of the two legendary offenses in that game at the time. While the numbers in a vacuum were inconclusive, Belichick rightly chose to back his already-legendary quarterback with the game on the line instead of his defense.

The guy who pulled the intentional safety and the dropkick out of mothballs is still lurking on the sideline, though, and it would be foolish to assume he won’t try something unconventional if he thinks it will work. His creativity and aggressiveness make him the most trustworthy coach in close situations in the postseason.

That’s a relatively minor fault, though, and Belichick often puts his team in the best position to win with his fourth-down and late-game decisions. The famous fourth-and-2 call against the Colts ended up going against the Patriots but made sense given the quality of the two legendary offenses in that game at the time.

While the numbers in a vacuum were inconclusive, Belichick rightly chose to back his already-legendary quarterback with the game on the line instead of his defense. The guy who pulled the intentional safety and the dropkick out of mothballs is still lurking on the sideline, though, and it would be foolish to assume he won’t try something unconventional if he thinks it will work. His creativity and aggressiveness make him the most trustworthy coach in close situations in the postseason.

Kyle Lowry had the best summer of his professional career

Kyle Lowry had the best summer of his professional career, winning an Olympic gold medal by coming off the bench for Team USA. Lowry is poised to continue his rise in the NBA and wants to push the Raptors deeper into the playoffs.

Game Youth Travis Wood Jersey You didn’t get a chance to rest much. What was the USA Basketball experience like for you?

The combined six losses suffered by Cleveland, Houston and San Antonio last week convinced the Committee (of One) that the Warriors (34-6) deserved to reclaim their perch atop the rankings, even though their 14-point blown lead in the fourth quarter on the Cavs’ floor was just three short weeks ago.

We can’t wait to see what sort of shape the Warriors are in when we reconvene Monday. After playing the visiting Cavs at Oracle, the Warriors will host Russell Westbrook’s Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday before traveling to Houston to face James Harden’s Rockets on Friday. Even Sunday’s visit to lowly Orlando is worrisome, as it will force Golden State to play a game at noon ET for the first time in more than 20 years, dating back to March 1995.

Game Youth Vance McDonald Jersey Rest assured, there’s a lot to digest throughout our 1-to-30 ladder beyond just what’s happening at the top. Many thanks, as always, go to ESPN Stats & Info and the Elias Sports Bureau — with ESPN research ace Micah Adams running the point — for the considerable background data provided to assist the Committee’s efforts to set the rankings order properly.

Torrey Smith’s adorable 1-year-old son can’t stop dancing

Limited Cory Schneider USA Jersey Torrey Smith’s son can’t stop doing “The Whip” and the world is a better place for it. The other day Smith shared the first video of his son dancing, and this one is even better. The kid is just a year old and already a better dancer than I’ll ever be.

Torrey, if you’re reading this, please keep shooting these videos because they’re amazing and adorable at the same time.

The Packers have the best player at the most important position in the game of football in Aaron Rodgers. That almost alone gets them onto this list, but that’s not where their checklist stops. They’ve got an excellent GM-head coach pair in Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy. The two work together almost seamlessly to build their roster through the draft, while rarely venturing into the dangerous and unpredictable waters of free agency. This also keeps their salary cap healthy, which is one of the more underrated but important aspects of building a team.

Green Bay has remarkable stability and continuity in its offensive system, and while the defense has been up and down over the past couple of years, it invariably has a few vocal leaders and star players. The Packers have talent on the defense, and if they can click over the next few seasons, they’re going to be a team to reckon with because you can almost assume the offense will remain strong under Rodgers.

Limited Carlos Martinez Jersey The Packers won it all in 2010 and could tack that win onto a dynasty claim if they win a few more over the next couple of years. They’ve got many of the variables necessary to do so.

Whether or not Joe Flacco is #elite, he’s at least a franchise quarterback who has played some of his best football in the postseason. The offense looked good last year — finishing eighth in weighted DVOA — but similar to Seattle, Baltimore’s identity lies with its defense. The Ravens consistently field tough, hard-nosed defenses and always seems to have the intimidation game on lockdown.

Aaron Rodgers got help from everyone to send Packers to NFC title game

It is possible that no Green Bay Packers quarterback will ever make a play to match Bart Starr’s sneak to win the Ice Bowl a half century ago. In subzero, subhuman conditions, Starr beat the Dallas Cowboys on sheer willpower at a time when the NFL would never consider pushing back a game like it did on Sunday for the Pittsburgh Steelers and Kansas City Chiefs.

After the Packers QB lit up the Cowboys on the way to the NFC Championship Game — Green Bay’s eighth straight win — you might be wondering the answer. Our panel of NFL insiders weighs in.

All last week, the Packers faced the same question: Who would make up for the loss of Jordy Nelson? The answer turned out to be simple: Everyone.

Down 11 in the fourth quarter, the Texans drove to the Patriots’ 28-yard line. On fourth-and-4, O’Brien called again for a field goal to draw within eight points, which Nick Novak hit.

The argument that the Texans would eventually need a field goal while down 11 is foolish on its face. Think about how many things have to go right for that scenario to play out:
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You have to hit the field goal, which is hardly a gimme in its own right.

Limited Mens Robin Ventura Jersey You have to prevent the Patriots from scoring again.

You have to hope for a fourth turnover from a team which is famously loathe to give the ball away or expect to generate a long possession from your offense, which has been awful all season and produced just two drives of 30 yards or more all game, and those produced a total of three points.