Ryan Zimmerman hasn¡¯t been good for three years, according to Baseball-Reference¡¯s WAR

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Ryan Zimmerman hasn¡¯t been good for three years, according to Baseball-Reference¡¯s WAR, but the Nationals gave him more than 400 at-bats last season because, well, they¡¯re paying him, and the abject misery of his 2016 season crept up on them.

Jayson Werth hasn¡¯t been good for two years, according to Baseball-Reference¡¯s WAR, but the Nationals gave him more than 600 at-bats last season because, well, they¡¯re paying him, and it¡¯s not like they were overflowing with better options.

This is the year where it will be much, much easier for the Nationals to make an upgrade. Zimmerman¡¯s contract isn¡¯t up for three more seasons, but there isn¡¯t a team in baseball that would put up with another season like his 2016. Werth¡¯s contract is up this year, and the light at the end of the financial tunnel will make it easier mentally to transition to a new solution.

They’re still looking to collect their first power-conference scalp since moving to FBS, but it’s only a matter of time. They get shots at Georgia and Wake Forest in 2017, Penn State in 2018, and North Carolina in 2019. Someone’s going down at some point.
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It’s incredible to step back and realize how smoothly Appalachian State has acclimated to a higher weight class. It’s easy to skip straight from “The Mountaineers were the class of FCS in the mid-2000s” to “They might be the Sun Belt’s surest thing” and ignore what came in between, but this program briefly lost its way.

Following the title run of 2007, the Mountaineers continued to win under legendary Jerry Moore but lost their edge. They went from averaging 13 wins to 11 and fell in earlier rounds of the FCS playoffs to emerging powers like Richmond, Montana, and Villanova. Then, in 2011-12, they went just 8-4 each year.

Durant’s inability to knock down 3-pointers (2-of-8 beyond the arc) was the only blemish on an otherwise impressively versatile stat line

Ben McLemore Game Jersey It is actually Amari Cooper’s polish that hurts him in a situation like this, I’m sad to admit. You would think the guy who goes out and works on his craft to the point of excellence while in college would be rewarded for putting in that kind of effort. Instead, most teams would rather pick the raw guy with tons of athletic ability in the first round figuring they can always “coach ’em up.” I’m just telling you there are talent evaluators who work for NFL teams watching Amari Cooper’s film who will say that what they saw from him at Alabama is likely as close to the best you’ll ever see out of him.

Youth Dave Dravecky Jersey From the early stages, Steve Kerr and his Western Conference teammates made an effort to win Davis the MVP in front of his home fans. The result: Davis scored 52 points on 23-of-39 shooting, smashing the 55-year-old All-Star record of 42 points set by Wilt Chamberlain the season he averaged better than 50 points per game. Davis threw down an incredible 18 dunks, most of them alley-oops that showcased his leaping ability. When he strayed from the paint, Davis missed all four of his 3-point attempts. But on the first play of the game, Davis served as point guard and hit a jumper over Kyrie Irving after drawing a switch. That set the tone for a historic night.

Durant’s inability to knock down 3-pointers (2-of-8 beyond the arc) was the only blemish on an otherwise impressively versatile stat line. Durant added 10 rebounds and 10 assists to his 21 points for a triple-double. But all anyone will be talking about is the alley-oop he threw former teammate Russell Westbrook as part of a give-and-go.

That will be debated for a long time. The Kings have been offered numerous better deals for Cousins over the last several years than the one they took. Only the Kings truly know what the other offers were.

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.

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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.