Update on the latest sports
Betts lands huge contract…No Jays in Steel City
UNDATED (AP) – Mookie Betts has said yes to a huge contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers, while the state of Pennsylvania has said no to the Toronto Blue Jays.
Betts and the Dodgers have struck baseball’s first big-money deal since the coronavirus pandemic decimated the sport’s economics. The 12-year, $365 million contract runs through 2032 and removes the top offensive player from next off-season’s free-agent class.
The 27-year-old outfielder was acquired by the Dodgers from the Boston Red Sox on Feb. 10, along with pitcher David Price for three players. His deal is baseball’s second-largest in total dollars behind the $426.5 million, 12-year contract for Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout covering 2019-30.
The four-time Gold Glove winner captured the 2018 AL MVP award en route to Boston’s World Series title. He hit .295 with 29 homers and 80 RBIs last year, down from a major league-leading .346 average with 32 homers and 80 RBIs in his MVP season.
Meanwhile, Pennsylvania health officials won’t allow the Blue Jays to play at PNC Park in Pittsburgh amid the coronavirus pandemic. The state is the latest jurisdiction to say no to the team as the baseball season begins this week. The state’s secretary of health cited a significant increase in the number of COVID-19 cases in southwestern Pennsylvania as the reason to bar the Blue Jays from playing their home games in the Steel City.
Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins said this week his team has more than five contingency plans for a home stadium and was in talks with other teams. He declined to name them. Atkins said if the Blue Jays can’t find a major league park, their Triple-A affiliate in Buffalo, New York, would be their most likely site for home games.
In other major league news:
– Mike Trout has decided to play for the Angels in the shortened baseball season, although his year will be interrupted in a few weeks by the birth of his first child. The three-time AL MVP confirmed his decision Wednesday before his team’s exhibition game against the Padres at Angel Stadium. Trout expressed uncertainty earlier this month about the safety of this unique major league season, saying he wouldn’t risk his growing family’s health to participate.
– Mets pitcher Marcus Stroman has a torn muscle in his left calf and will be evaluated on a week-to-week basis. The All-Star right-hander was expected to follow two-time Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom in a rotation that already will be without No. 2 starter Noah Syndergaard all year because of Tommy John surgery. He was 6-11 with a 2.96 ERA in 21 starts for Toronto last season before going 4-2 with a 3.77 ERA for the Mets.
– Rockies reliever Scott Oberg will start the season on the injured list because of back soreness. Oberg was 6-1 with a 2.25 ERA and five saves in 49 games for the Rockies last season. He got a $13 million, three-year contract last winter.
– Royals outfielder Hunter Dozier has tested positive for COVID-19 and been placed on the injured list. The 28-year-old is coming off a breakthrough season in which he hit 26 homers, drove in 84 runs and tied for the American League lead in triples. He is expected to play a big role for the Royals during their abbreviated 60-game season, which begins against the Indians on Friday night in Cleveland.
– Freddie Freeman is back and ready to anchor the Braves’ lineup after a scary battle with COVID-19 earlier in summer camp. The 30-year-old Freeman had career highs last season with 38 homers and 121 RBIs. The four-time All-Star hopes to lead Atlanta back to the top of the NL East for the third straight season.
– Mets hitting coach Chili Davis hasn’t decided if he will rejoin the team at any point this season because of concerns about the coronavirus. The 60-year-old Davis has been working remotely from his Arizona home during the pandemic. On a video conference call with reporters Wednesday, he said he’s at risk due to underlying health conditions that he preferred to keep private.
– MLB players have the option of having a patch with “Black Lives Matter” or “United For Change” on a jersey sleeve on opening day of the pandemic-delayed season. Teams have the option of stenciling an inverted MLB logo with “BLM” or “United for Change” on the back of the pitcher’s mound during opening weekend games.
– The Nationals are planning to raise a new 2019 World Series champions flag before Thursday night’s opener against the New York Yankees. Other festivities include a ceremonial first pitch thrown by Dr. Anthony Fauci and a previously recorded Presidents Race to be shown during the fourth inning. The Nationals also say a Black Lives Matter stencil will appear on the pitcher’s mound during games on opening weekend.
– Umpire Angel Hernandez will serve as an interim crew chief this season after a dozen umps decided to sit out amid the coronavirus pandemic. Hernandez sued MLB in 2017, alleging race discrimination and cited that he hadn’t be assigned to the World Series since 2005 and hadn’t been promoted to head a crew. Eight crew chiefs and four other umpires have opted out of working this season.
– Fox Sports has revealed that it will include computer-generated fans beginning with their three games on Saturday. Fox begins its coverage with Milwaukee at the Chicago Cubs. That will be followed by San Francisco at Los Angeles Dodgers and the New York Yankees at Washington. Fox may draw some jeers for adding fans to empty ballparks judging how fan opinions about crowd noise being added to baseball games have been mixed. But Fox Sports vice president Brad Zager is hoping that people give it a chance before making a definitive opinion.
Westbrook set to return
UNDATED (AP) – Houston Rockets star Russell Westbrook is set to practice with the team for the first time since revealing that he tested positive for the coronavirus. Westbrook did not travel with the Rockets on July 9 when they flew to Florida for the NBA’s restart.
The nine-time All-Star revealed on social media that he had tested positive for the virus on July 14 and he did not arrive in Florida until Monday. Westbrook had to quarantine upon his arrival at Disney but was cleared to join the Rockets for their practice Wednesday. He said his only symptom was a stuffy nose.
Also in the NBA:
– Zion Williamson could still make reopening night of the NBA season. The New Orleans Pelicans said Wednesday that Williamson is being tested daily for the coronavirus and continues showing negative results. If that continues, Williamson may have to quarantine for only four days when he returns to the team.
NHL to be mum on injuries
UNDATED (AP) – The NHL is prohibiting teams from disclosing injuries as a way to maintain player privacy during the COVID-19 pandemic.
It’s an even thicker veil of secrecy for a sport that already uses vague terms like upper- and lower-body injuries. Players asked for the nondisclosure policy to prevent individual coronavirus tests results coming to light. Saying nothing has led to rampant speculation when prominent players like Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby or Chicago goaltender Corey Crawford are missing from practice.
In other sports news related to the pandemic:
– The NFL Players Association says 95 players are known to have tested positive for the coronavirus. That number is up from 72 in the union’s last report on July 10. The NFLPA and the NFL reached agreement Monday on COVID-19 testing as rookies begin reporting to training camps. Most veterans come in next week, though some players rehabbing injuries could report this week.
– The NCAA football oversight committee is asking the association’s Board of Governors to avoid making a decision later this week on whether to conduct fall sports championships. The board is scheduled to meet Friday as college sports leaders try to find a path to play during the pandemic. There has been speculation the board could decide to call off NCAA championship events in fall sports such as soccer, volleyball and lower-division football. That could increase pressure for conferences to cancel their seasons.
– Tulane says the COVID-19 pandemic has caused the cancellation of its college basketball game scheduled in China this November. The Green Wave were slated to play against Washington in the Pac-12 China Game in Shanghai. A Tulane spokesman says the decision to cancel the event was made in coordination with Washington as well as Chinese-based partners in the event.
– The International Tennis Federation plans to resume its lower-level World Tennis Tour the week of Aug. 17 and its junior and beach tennis tours two weeks later when the U.S. Open is scheduled to begin. All ITF tours have been suspended since March because of the coronavirus pandemic. The ITF also announced its COVID-19 protocols for its tournaments and players.
– The PGA Tour Series-China season has been canceled. The China-based tour’s executive director says attempts to move the qualifying tournaments to other sites in Asia were not practical and restricted access into mainland China made it too difficult to stage tournaments in 2020.
– The head of the Tokyo Olympics says the delayed games could not be held next year if conditions caused by the coronavirus pandemic remain as they are. But Yoshiro Mori says he expects conditions to improve and is hopeful a COVID-19 vaccine will be developed soon. The postponed Olympics open a year from now on July 23, 2021.
Charges dropped against Oliver
CONROE, Texas (AP) – Prosecutors have dropped the drunken driving and illegal handgun charges against Buffalo Bills defensive lineman Ed Oliver, who had been arrested in May during a traffic stop in Houston’s northern suburbs.
A spokesperson for the Montgomery County DA’s Office says the decision was due to lack of evidence after blood test results showed no intoxication.
Law and order at British Masters
NEWCASTLE-UPON-TYNE, England (AP) – David Law of Scotland shot a 7-under 64 to take a one-stroke lead over Oliver Fisher, Garrick Porteous and Renato Paratore in the opening round of the British Masters at Close House Golf Course near Newcastle on Wednesday.
Aaron Cockerill, Rasmus Hojgard, Lee Slattery and Pedro Figueiredo were another shot back in a share of fifth, holding off a gaggle of nine players on 4 under.
The tournament marks the start of the European Tour’s “U.K. Swing,” a series of six events played in England and Wales over the next six weeks devised primarily for ease of travel for players amid the coronavirus pandemic.
GOLF-WOMEN’S BRITISH OPEN
Women’s British gets sponsorship extension, new branding
ST. ANDREWS, Scotland (AP) – The Women’s British Open is keeping its title sponsor and getting a slightly different name.
The R&A announced Wednesday that New York-based finance and insurance group AIG.
And now that the R&A is charge on running the event, it said its official title will be the AIG Women’s Open. It previously was called the Women’s British Open.
Former Steeler, NCAA wrestling champion Haselrig dies at 54
PITTSBURGH (AP) – Former Pittsburgh Steelers player Carlton Haselrig has died at age 54. Haselrig was a Pro Bowl right guard for the Steelers in the early 1990s and also the only wrestler in NCAA history to win six individual national championships.
Pittsburgh-Johnstown wrestling coach Pat Pecora said Haselrig had been in declining health in recent years. Pecora molded Haselrig into a multiple heavyweight division champion at both the NCAA Division II and Division I levels in the 1980s
Haselrig didn’t play a down of college football after suffering an injury during his freshman year at Lock Haven. He spent five years in the NFL after the Steelers took him in the 12th round of the 1990 draft. His career was cut short in the mid-1990s due to a battle with alcohol and substance abuse.