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Carlos Beltran hasn’t played an inning in the outfield for the Astros since mid-May, the center fielder-turned-DH spending all of his time at the plate of late where he has been hitting a semi-concerning .231 (albeit with 11 homers and 35 RBI on the season).

So in honor of the glove outliving its usefulness for its owner and guardian, the Astros decided to have a little bit of fun before their game against the Mariners on Monday by holding an official funeral for Beltran’s mitt in the outfield.
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This will be Boston’s second road series against New York this season. The Red Sox are just 1-6 in their last seven games at Yankee Stadium, per the OddsShark MLB Database.

And it’s worked. I witness countless fans light up as it dawns on them that the Marlins man walking toward them is indeed Marlins Man. I see the moment when they realize that if they hold their phone in front of their faces and take a picture, they’ll be in on the joke, or a new member of the club, or whatever it is that Marlins Man commands. They’ll be a part of something that wouldn’t exist without him.

I’m a talking mascot, Leavy says, turning away from the latest group selfie to face me. The Marlins do have a mascot, but it doesn’t talk. I talk.

Before I leave him, Marlins Man tells me to take a picture with him on my phone. I oblige. After we say goodbye, he immediately turns to the person next to him and strikes up a conversation. I turn around when I reach the top of the stairs. They’re taking a selfie.

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The suspension of Ezekiel Elliott by the NFL for the first six games of the season certainly impacts the Dallas Cowboys. It also throws up in the air an NFC East that was seemingly tilted in the direction of the Cowboys, the prohibitive favorites to win the division.

While Elliott’s suspension helps the other teams in the NFC East, at least one player isn’t too happy about it: New York Giants safety Landon Collins isn’t giddy to see Elliott on the sidelines, even as his team opens the season against Dallas and won’t have to face the star running back.

Collins explained why he wasn’t pleased to see the Cowboys without Elliott, making his remarks following the Giants preseason opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Friday night.

“My dad’s been there every step of the way,” Melvin Gordon told the San Diego Union-Tribune in 2015. “That’s what people need to know. He’s not a deadbeat father. He’d die to be here with me right now.”

Gordon has said his father worked him out in drills as a young football player, gave him tips and showed him video of the game’s greatest running backs. The family often sacrificed to send the young Gordon to football activities.

And of course, Bo Gordon was at almost every one of his son’s youth and high school football games. That game-day experience is something he missed out on while in prison.

That will change Sunday, as Bo Gordon and his wife, Carmen, will be on hand when the relocated Chargers host the Seahawks in their first game at StubHub Center in Carson, Calif.

“Dad will be in the stands soon,” Carmen Gordon told Union-Tribune. “I can’t imagine. We’ll all probably be crying. It’s going to be something else, and Melvin is going to go off. ???? He’s going to go off because Dad is in the stands. They have a bond.”
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Nationals — Injuries have hurt Washington’s lineup, but they have received decent production from Adam Eaton and Trea Turner’s replacements. The bullpen, however, was one area the team has been struggling to get consistent production from all season.

Early additions of Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson helped quench the panic meter in Washington. But the Nationals weren’t content with the two new relievers from Oakland, so they went out and added Twins All-Star closer Brandon Kintzler on Monday at the deadline.

Victor Hedman Authentic Jersey The Nationals also added Howie Kendrick, who has quietly enjoyed a solid season despite injuries. If Turner and Michael A. Taylor return soon, this team could give the Dodgers some trouble in the postseason.

Astros — Injuries to Carlos Correa and George Springer have spun this team’s needle in the wrong direction, but there was hope from fans that it would add a couple pieces before the trade deadline ended.

Francona said that despite his desire to have members of the organization focus on baseball, many felt the need to check in with him constantly during his time away.

One of them was Mills, who has known Francona since 1977 when they were college teammates at Arizona. They also spent time together with the Phillies and the Red Sox organizations. The two communicated at least twice a day during Francona’s respite.

When you don’t have that extra voice or person to talk to talk to (before, during and after games), it’s a little different, Mills said. The biggest thing was the relief that he was OK, getting stronger every day and back to who he usually is.

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The Cubs may be without one of their more productive players.
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Willson Contreras pulled up lame after grounding out to end the Cubs’ half of the eighth inning in Wednesday’s 3-1 loss to the Giants.

According to the Times’ report, MLB also plans four spring training series in Mexico, Puerto Rico and/or the Dominican Republic from 2018-20, as well as tours to Japan after the 2018 and ’20 seasons and trips to Asia or Mexico after the 2017 and ’19 seasons.

This is not the first time MLB has attempted to increase international popularity of the sport. The Dodgers and Padres are reportedly considering a 2018 series in Mexico City next April. The Twins and Indians will play a 2018 series in Puerto Rico after plans fell through for a Pirates-Marlins series there in 2016. The game was moved to Miami over fear of Zika outbreaks.

MLB in 2016 also announced a partnership with China-based Le Sports, in which major league games would be livestreamed there for the first time.

Some teams are fortunate to have a bit of a balance at the top of the order. Yankees outfielder Brett Gardner has revamped his game into a combination of the old- and new-school thought process as a leadoff hitter. Gardner speaks like a player knitted from the old cloth.

My job up there is to get on base and get these guys behind me RBI opportunities, he told Sporting News. I feel comfortable (at the top of the order) and the goal is to get on base.

Game Mens John Johnson Jersey Gardner is an interesting subject when it comes to leadoff hitters. At 33, Gardner has altered his game from a 30-plus stolen base threat to a legitimate power source who maintains exceptional on-base prowess and above-average speed.

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Just eight days away from camp, the Carolina Panthers shocked the football world with the firing of general manager Dave Gettleman. The timing of this firing leads me to believe something emotional happened over the last week, and I’ll lay it out right here.
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When you fire a general manager at an odd time, normally there’s someone waiting in the wings. The theoretical general manager in waiting, Brandon Beane, left for Buffalo in early May. The Panthers don’t seem to have that person as of right now. I’d venture a guess that it’s too late to hire an outside person for the job, so someone within the Panthers will be given the job on an interim basis until the following offseason.

Jordan Reed remains one of the league’s premier tight ends, but he simply can’t escape the injury bug — a concussion and shoulder ailment limited him to 12 games last year. Washington needs him to stay on the field because he is Cousins’ most reliable red zone weapon, with 17 touchdowns over the last two years.

The running game is something of a muddled picture right now. Rob Kelley usurped Matt Jones as the starter last year, but he’ll be pushed by fourth-round rookie Samaje Perine, while Chris Thompson returns as the pass-catching back. Despite playing second fiddle to Joe Mixon at the University of Oklahoma, Perine was impressive in his own right and could have a clear path to the starting job if he outplays Kelley in training camp and preseason.

Washington’s defense could be best described as it exists. Despite boasting some star power, this unit was mediocre at best in 2016. Washington ranked 28th in yards allowed, 19th in points allowed, and 25th in DVOA, with Pro Football Focus ranking the secondary at No. 21 heading into this season.

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Wishing someone a happy birthday is a nice gesture, but it’s always a good idea to double-check that it’s actually that person’s birthday.

The Los Angeles Chargers fell into that awkward trap Friday morning when they wished rookie wide receiver Mike Williams a happy birthday on Twitter. The only problem is that it was exactly two months before his actual birthday on Oct. 4.

A herniated disc in Williams’ back may cost him his entire rookie season, and the Chargers have already ruled him out for all of training camp.

Hopefully when October rolls around, the Chargers still remember to wish their first-round pick a happy birthday. It’d also probably be for the best if they change up the message a bit. It’s the thought that counts, I guess.

“We think by having the player and the examining physicians and athletic trainers in the tent, we’ll get a better concussion screening examination done and it’ll improve our ability to diagnose and detect these injuries on the sideline.”

Players who meet certain criteria will still be required to go to the locker room for further testing and diagnosis. The use of the tent will not replace the formal evaluations that take place off the field. Instead, it will create a better environment for doctors to determine whether a player can return to the field or will need further monitoring.

“We will ask that all sideline concussion exams be done in the tent, but if the initial screening suggests a concussion, then the more extensive concussion evaluation will be done in the locker room just as we have previously done,” Sills said.

The pro game isn’t the only place you’ll see these tents. The University of Alabama was a pioneer in creating private examination spaces, using its own tent throughout the 2015 season and even bringing it to the College Football Playoff National Championship Game. Other schools, including Clemson, Ohio State, and Florida State, soon followed.

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While he told ESPN that he plans to play a full 16-game regular season, Bell can report to training camp whenever he wants and that means the Steelers may not see him until mid-to-late August, according to Adam Schefter.

Game Womens Robert Nkemdiche Jersey Bell, 25, averaged 105.7 rushing yards and 51.3 receiving yards per game last season after starting the year with a three-game suspension. That offseason was also hampered by recovery from a knee injury that ended his 2015 season, so it’s probably a safe bet that Bell won’t need many (or any) preseason reps to get back into top form.
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Last year, Kansas City Chiefs safety Eric Berry faced the same situation and didn’t sign his franchise tender until Aug. 28 — two weeks before the team’s regular-season opener. It didn’t negatively affect Berry’s play, and he earned First-Team All-Pro honors anyway before signing a six-year, $78 million deal in February.

Missing training camp time inevitably draws criticism, though. Even Bell’s teammate Antonio Brown called out the running back for not signing his franchise tender yet:

The National Football League has historically taken a tough stance on substance use. But now, the league says it is interested in working with the NFLPA to study the potential impact of marijuana for pain management, according to Mark Maske of the Washington Post.

Under the current policy, any NFL player who tests positive for marijuana will be entered into the league’s intervention program. They’ll have to undergo random tests, and a failed test will result in an automatic suspension. A missed test counts as a failed test, which is why Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell served a three-game suspension at the start of the 2016 season.

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A familiar face will be returning as the Sabres head coach next season.

Buffalo has hired Hockey Hall of Famer Phil Housley as its 18th coach in franchise history, the team announced Thursday.

Game Kids Kenneth Dixon Jersey Based on his experience as a player and coach, we think Phil is uniquely qualified to be our head coach and to help us achieve our organizational goals, Sabres GM Jason Botterill said in a team release.

There’s no question, Subban told The Associated Press on Thursday. We’re going to win the next game, and then we’ll move forward.

Subban cited the brief rough stretches as the reason his team is confident.

I mean, out of 120 minutes, maybe we’d like to take back six of them, he said. Ultimately, we have to be realistic with where we’re at. We’re down, two-nothing. We’re coming back in our barn, and we don’t lose here. So it starts Saturday.

The Predators are 7-1 on home ice so far this postseason and finished the regular season with a 24-9-8 record at Bridgestone Arena. Add that to the fact Pittsburgh is 6-4 on the road this postseason, and Nashville has reason to be confident.
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They just can’t let the Penguins go on another 3-0 run in a short span that keeps them playing catch-up.

TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reported Thursday Kovalchuk hasn’t closed the door on the KHL and is weighing his options in both leagues.

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Monday was an extremely awkward night for Rajon Rondo, but it wasn’t supposed to be. Before the season, the Chicago Bulls’ marketing team scheduled Rajon Rondo bobblehead night for Jan. 9 against the Oklahoma City Thunder, hoping to promote an epic point guard battle between Rondo and Russell Westbrook.

The only problem? Rondo didn’t even play in the game.
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To add insult to injury, Rondo was the ONLY player on the entire team who did not play against the Thunder.

Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg has benched the 30-year-old for five straight games.

Rondo, who signed a two-year deal with the team this offseason worth $28 million, last played in Chicago’s 111-101 loss to the Pacers on Dec. 30.
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Earlier this season, the Bulls suspended him one game for conduct detrimental to team.

Rondo has been vocal about not liking his role as a bench warmer and told reporters last week that if the benching continues, he’ll absolutely ask to be traded.

Even if Hayward plays his free agency straight and passes on the Designated Player chance, he will be eligible for a five-year deal from Utah worth about $180 million. The best the Celtics鈥攐r any other potential suitor鈥攃ould do would be four years, $132 million. That’s only a difference of about $6 million through four years, but the fifth guaranteed year (at $41 million) is a big advantage for the Jazz.

Hayward and Stevens have a deep bond that runs all the way back to Hayward’s middle school days. That’s a strong pull, and with the Celtics in position sign Hayward and leap into serious contention in the East, he will no doubt consider reconnecting with his old coach. But expect Utah, even with its coming payroll problems, to fight to keep Hayward. In the end, the Jazz could have just enough of a financial advantage to keep Hayward in place.

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LeBron James has had enough of Charles Barkley.

The Cavs star responded to Barkley’s recent comments on TNT saying James was “whiny” among other things in reference to the team’s roster.

“He’s a hater,” James said to ESPN of Barkley after Monday’s loss to the Mavericks. “What makes what he says credible? Because he’s on TV?”

Known for its bullpen prowess over the last three years, the Royals have struggled late in games earlier this season after the departure of Wade Davis and, in part, due to Strahm’s control issues.

After posting a 1.23 ERA last season, Strahm had a 5.45 ERA over three starts and 21 relief appearances this season before undergoing season-ending knee surgery in July.

Buchter, who has made 42 relief appearances with San Diego this season, going 3-3 with a save, posting a 3.05 ERA and recording 47 strikeouts. He should take over Strahm’s situational role in the bullpen while Maurer could share the eighth inning role with Joakim Soria.

Maurer has served as the Padres’ closer this season, converting 20 of his 23 save opportunities, including 15 in a row since May 28, despite a poor 5.17 ERA.

The Royals are hoping the trade for better pitching will help lower their staff 4.26 ERA and help the club reach the World Series for the third time in four seasons.

Why he fits: It’s World Series-or-bust for the Dodgers, and adding a veteran like Verlander to a playoff rotation that’s seriously lacking in playoff experience/success behind ace Clayton Kershaw figures to bolster their chances of at least getting to the championship for the first time since 1998. Verlander has been kind of hit-or-miss in the postseason; for example, he had a 5.31 ERA in 20 1/3 innings in the 2011 playoffs but a 0.39 ERA in 23 innings during the 2013 playoffs. Of his past eight playoff starts, though, Verlander has thrown at least seven innings while allowing zero or one runs six times. The Dodgers would love that.
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