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USF men keep it close against St. Mary’s before falling

Sun, 8 Jan 2017 07:02:05 UT

Randy Bennett walked onto USF’s Memorial Gym court just before introductions and made a beeline for Kyle Smith. The scene provided a nifty backdrop to a reunion of two buddies who used to coach together. Smith is trying to achieve what Bennett has at St. Mary’s, a winning program in the WCC, and Smith’s Dons took a promising step in Saturday night’s 63-52 loss to Bennett’s Gaels. “I really don’t like playing against my friends,” Bennett said after the Gaels improved to 4-0 in conference and 14-1 overall. St. Mary’s had beaten USF in 21 of 22 meetings, and the Dons put a scare in the 19th-ranked Gaels by leading at halftime 28-26 and continuing to put up a fight for most of the second half. Three-pointers by Dane Pineau and Tanner Krebs gave the Gaels an 11-point lead with 4½ minutes to go, and the clock ran out on USF. No one else scored in double figures for the Dons, who slipped to 11-6 overall and 1-3 in conference. After six seasons in the Ivy League, Smith returned to the WCC as USF’s lead man, replacing Rex Walters.



St. Mary’s holds off determined USF

Sun, 8 Jan 2017 06:56:35 UT

Randy Bennett walked on USF’s Memorial Gym court moments before introductions and made a beeline to Kyle Smith. The scene provided a nifty backdrop to a reunion of two buddies who used to coach together. Smith is trying to achieve what Bennett has at St. Mary’s, a winning program in the West Coast Conference, and Smith’s Dons took a promising step in Saturday night’s 63-52 loss to Bennett’s Gaels. “I really don’t like playing against my friends,” Bennett said after the Gaels improved to 4-0 in conference and 14-1 overall.. St. Mary’s had beaten USF in 21 of 22 meetings, and the Dons put a scare in the 19th-ranked Gaels by leading at halftime 28-26 and continuing to put up a fight for most of the second half. Three-pointers by Dane Pineau and Tanner Krebs gave the Gaels an 11-point lead with 4 ½ minutes to go, and the clock ran out on USF. No one else scored in double figures for the Dons, who slipped to 11-6 overall and 1-3 in conference. After six seasons in the Ivy League, Smith returned to the WCC as USF’s lead man, replacing Rex Walters.



Gonzaga too much for USF on the Hilltop

Fri, 6 Jan 2017 07:17:18 UT

USF, three games into the WCC season following an encouraging nonconference performance, drew a standing-room-only crowd Thursday night because the Dons were hosting undefeated Gonzaga, ranked fifth in the nation. The Dons hadn’t beaten a top-five team since December 1981, and they were sixth-ranked at the time, so the atmosphere was lively Thursday. With legend Bill Cartwright at courtside, in eyesight of his retired No. 24 jersey, and career steals leader Gerald Walker in the house, the Dons had a chance at history. The Dons (11-5, 1-2) rallied before the half and went into intermission trailing by 10 but didn’t threaten much in the second half against the Zags’ swarming exterior defense and inside presence of 7-foot-1, 300-pounder Przemek Karnowski and other big men. [...] there’s reason for optimism under Smith, a first-year coach, especially after the Dons went 10-3 in nonconference play and split their first two conference games, thanks largely to sharp-shooting beyond the three-point arc. Mathews’ father, Phil, coached USF from 1995 to 2004 and led the last Dons team to reach the NCAA Tournament. A lot of rough seasons ensued, and it’s Smith’s turn to try returning USF to some level of prominence. Before the game, the public-address announcer referred to the home team as “your three-time national champion USF Dons.”



Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant lead Warriors past Blazers

Thu, 5 Jan 2017 07:39:08 UT

Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant lead Warriors past Blazers The Warriors had every reason to take Wednesday night’s foe for granted. Lillard, an Oakland native who’s at his best when playing his hometown team, missed Wednesday’s game with an ankle sprain. The Warriors overcame the scare as Stephen Curry scored 35 points, Kevin Durant added 30 and Draymond Green had 11 assists to highlight a 125-117 victory, their 10th win in 11 games. The momentum changed in the third quarter, the Warriors focusing on stopping McCollum and taking a 99-92 led. Shaun Livingston’s jumper put the Warriors above 100 early in the fourth quarter, and his dunks with 6½ minutes to go (making it 111-103) and 3½ to go (116-107) helped sink the Blazers. [...] Portland missed Lillard. Durant blocked consecutive shots and hustled down the floor to hit a three-pointer in transition. Another time, just before the half, Durant won a jump ball, raced to the three-point arc, took a feed from Andre Iguodala, hit the shot and was fouled. The Warriors made four straight three-point shots for their first 12 points, and four men took turns hoisting. The three-point attack resumed with the Warriors attempting 13 first-quarter shots beyond the arc and making seven — six players sank threes in the period, the aforementioned four plus Iguodala and Ian Clark.



Festus Ezeli back in town, not back on court

Thu, 5 Jan 2017 05:03:11 UT

[...] popular in these parts, Festus Ezeli had lively conversations with several former teammates and received warm hugs and handshakes from several fans. After playing three seasons with the Warriors, the 6-foot-11 center signed in July with the Trail Blazers but still hasn’t played with Portland because of left knee woes. “As of right now, I’m still considering all the options and trying to make sure I’m healthy and make sure when I’m back on the court, I can play to the best of my ability,” Ezeli said. Portland head coach Terry Stotts, whose team lacks a prototypical interior defender and could use a healthy Ezeli, said, It’s his decision to do whatever needs to be done. Despite not suiting up, Ezeli has tried to take an active role during a disappointing season, but his message hasn’t always been received. According to the report, Ezeli had given a “stern speech” on playing with urgency after a loss two games earlier. Point guard Patrick McCaw returned Wednesday after missing two games with flulike symptoms.



White Sox claim minor-leaguer Dylan Covey from A’s

Fri, 9 Dec 2016 03:05:31 UT

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — The only winter-meetings transaction for the A’s involved a player they lost. Pitcher Dylan Covey, 25, was taken by the White Sox in Thursday’s Rule 5 draft after an impressive showing in the Arizona Fall League. Covey was available because he wasn’t protected on the A’s 40-man roster and must remain on Chicago’s big-league roster all season or be offered back to Oakland. The A’s priority is finding a center fielder, and they remain linked to Kansas City’s Jarrod Dyson, but they say they’ve got multiple options in both the free-agent and trade markets. Rajai Davis and Austin Jackson are possible free-agent fits, and the Reds are shopping Billy Hamilton. Outfielder Matt Holliday, who played 93 games for the 2009 A’s, signed a one-year deal with the Yankees, and the contract prohibits a trade to one team: the A’s.



A’s continue outfield pursuit, Giants trade Heston

Thu, 8 Dec 2016 06:42:17 UT

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — With Jarrod Dyson remaining a possible center-field fit for the A’s, general manager David Forst said it’s unlikely the team would add a player before the winter meetings end Thursday. Just things move at different speeds, said Forst, suggesting there’s no rush to make a trade or sign a free agent. Dyson, who hit .278 with a .340 on-base percentage and 30 steals for Kansas City, would fill holes in center and atop the lineup. The Royals, after dealing closer Wade Davis to the Cubs for Jorge Soler, will keep trying to move players, including Dyson. Chris Heston was a prominent piece of the Giants’ rotation for much of 2015 and no-hit the Mets that June. The Giants had to remove someone from the 40-man roster to make room for new closer Mark Melancon.



Giants maxing out on payroll, relying heavily on Matt Cain

Thu, 8 Dec 2016 06:19:56 UT

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — The Mark Melancon signing pretty much ended any talk of the Giants adding another player with a big contract. The only way the team could take on that type of player — J.D. Martinez, anybody? — is by moving a player with a similar salary, according to general manager Bobby Evans. “We just don’t have that kind of tradeable contracts,” Evans said Wednesday at the winter meetings, suggesting the Giants’ payroll is close to maxing out. The Giants have 11 big-money players signed to multiyear deals, all but one with secure jobs in 2017. [...] no, the Giants don’t intend to try to trade the 32-year-old pitcher in a dollar-for-dollar transaction. Approaching the end of his six-year, $127.5 million contract, Cain is the favorite for the final rotation spot. “I’ve talked with Matt at length already this winter,” Evans said, and his expectation and commitment is to come in here and fight for that fifth spot. Along with left field and a bullpen spot or two, Cain is the biggest unknown on the roster. “I expect him to come in camp probably in the best shape he’s ever been in,” Bochy said, as determined as ever to win that spot in the rotation. Before the meetings, the Giants were linked to Martinez — who’ll make $11.75 million — as a possible left fielder, but the Giants have 62 million reasons after signing Melancon on Monday to open left field to internal options Mac Williamson and Jarrett Parker. Over the winter, the Giants will be open-minded to adding an outfielder and relief depth — but only on the cheap, apparently.



A’s eye Dyson, Giants ‘fine’ with Posey in WBC

Wed, 7 Dec 2016 15:56:15 UT

Multiple reports Tuesday night, including from the New York Post, linked the A’s to Dyson, who has one more year on his Royals contract before he enters free agency. Dyson, 32, hit .278 with a .340 on-base percentage, one homer, 25 RBIs and 30 steals in 107 games in 2016. The Royals and Cubs reportedly were working on a trade that would send Kansas City closer Wade Davis to the World Series champs. “There is a deal or two that I know is getting ready to happen that may trigger some things that may involve us,” said Oakland’s executive vice president of baseball operations, Billy Beane, not speaking of specific players. The A’s seek insurance at second base — Jed Lowrie is recovering from foot surgery, and Joey Wendle is untested beyond a fine September — and could add a veteran pitcher for a short-term rotation fix. The Giants’ brass undoubtedly are concerned with players appearing in next spring’s World Baseball Classic, especially after some Giants weren’t at the top of their game after the 2013 WBC. [...] manager Bruce Bochy, in the spirit of international competition, said he’s OK with catcher Buster Posey playing for Team USA. New rules will be added to help protect players from injuries, including the addition of two extra pitchers per round. The Giants are considering adding an outfielder and leaning toward the trade market rather than free agency. With Eduardo Nuñez approaching his final season before free agency, the Giants see Christian Arroyo as their third baseman of the future, and he will play mostly third next season, probably at Triple-A Sacramento.



Billy Beane’s A’s strategy for ‘good young team that’s sustainable’

Wed, 7 Dec 2016 06:53:30 UT

Suddenly, the baseball department has a new strategy, and it’s geared toward the opening of a new park, whenever (or if) that day comes. “Given where we are at the major-league level, I’m not sure there’s one silver-bullet player out there who jumps you from where you are to where you want to be,” Beane said Tuesday at the winter meetings. [...] I think right now, our focus, the investment that we have, is not so much in the major-league payroll but in the rest of the operation that has a long-term benefit. The A’s vice president of baseball operations said the team will beef up its scouting department and international operations, which would strongly enhance player development. The A’s rank last in the majors in manpower, said Beane, who credited scouting director Eric Kubota and former scouting director Grady Fuson, now Beane’s special assistant, for doing “an amazing job with very little.” Beane said the plan was implemented after he and general manager David Forst made the recommendation to owner John Fisher with an eye on a new stadium in Oakland that would generate handsome revenues. Kaval said he’s in the process of identifying a site and claimed every dollar generated from the team will go to “the on-field product and the fan experience.” Beane cited the successful model of the 1990s Indians, who built a foundation with promising young players and signed them long term before their peak years. The Indians had a complete tear-down, and they were disciplined. Fans are tired of rooting for young players and seeing them dealt before free agency, and the question must be asked:



Giants sign Melancon: ‘lockdown guy for the ninth’

Tue, 6 Dec 2016 06:11:11 UT

On the first day of the winter meetings, the Giants signed All-Star Mark Melancon to the biggest contract in history for a closer: four years and $62 million. “It gives all of the club peace of mind and confidence with as many close games we play that we have a lockdown guy for the ninth,” general manager Bobby Evans said Monday. Melancon, who turns 32 in March, will receive a $20 million signing bonus ($12 million up front, the rest due after the contract) with salaries of $4 million in 2017, $10 million in 2018 and $14 million in both 2019 and 2020. “You would have loved for this market to have been more in line with past markets, but the demand for the closers was high, and there were some big clubs pursuing,” Evans said. The Giants met with Melancon in the Bay Area, including a ballpark visit, and with Jansen but not with Chapman. The signing comes in the wake of the Giants’ ugliest inning of the season, the ninth inning of Game 4 of the Division Series in which the Cubs scored four runs to clinch the series, the first postseason step to their first World Series championship since 1908. Santiago Casilla lost the closer’s job in September and wasn’t trusted to appear in the fateful inning. Melancon saved 47 games and posted a 1.64 ERA last season for the Pirates and Nationals, and Evans said he likes the rest of the bullpen: right-handers Derek Law, Hunter Strickland, George Kontos and Cory Gearrin and lefties Will Smith, Josh Osich and Steven Okert. Evans plans to invite nonroster pitchers to spring training to deepen the competition. The Giants anticipate their 40-man roster payroll topping the $195 million tax threshold, so they’d be taxed for the third straight year, this time 50 percent for everything above $195 million. Evans said the Giants checked on Yoenis Céspedes, who re-signed with the Mets, and Andrew McCutchen, who’s being shopped by the Pirates, but might go with Mac Williamson and/or Jarrett Parker. “When you invest heavily in your rotation and you invest heavily in your bullpen and you invest heavily in your first baseman, your shortstop, your catcher, your right fielder, your center fielder, at some point, you need your farm system to raise up,” Evans said. Successful organizations give their farm systems a chance to produce, and some of that production doesn’t get realized until it’s at the big-league level. For now, the Giants don’t seem willing to add more relievers or an expensive outfielder, but the market tends to change over the winter, and if players become available at the right price, the Giants would be open-minded.



Giants, Mark Melancon settle on record deal

Tue, 6 Dec 2016 01:15:37 UT

On the first day of the winter meetings, the Giants finalized the signing of the closer they desperately needed. Melancon, who turns 32 in March, will receive a $20 million signing bonus ($12 million up front, the rest due after the contract) with salaries of $4 million in 2017, $10 million in 2018, $14 million in 2019 and $14 million in 2020. “You would have loved for this market to have been more in line with past markets, but the demand for the closers were high, and there were some big clubs pursuing,” general manager Bobby Evans said. The Giants, whose bullpen woes were costly in 2016, believed the record contract was worth the risk. “It gives all of the club a peace of mind and confidence with as many close games we play that we have a lock-down guy for the ninth,” Evans said. Melancon saved 47 games and posted a 1.64 ERA last season with the Pirates and Nationals. Evans said he likes the bullpen as is — right-handers Derek Law, Hunter Strickland, George Kontos and Cory Gearrin and lefties Will Smith, Josh Osich and Steven Okert — and plans to invite non-roster pitchers to spring training to deepen the competition. The Giants met with Melancon in the Bay Area, including a ballpark visit, and with Jansen in Arizona. The Giants anticipate their 40-man roster payroll topping the $195 million tax threshold so they’d be taxed for the third straight year, this time 50 percent for everything above $195 million. Santiago Casilla lost the closer’s job in September, and the Giants’ bullpen deficiencies were exposed in the ugliest inning of the season — the ninth inning of Game 4 of the Division Series in which the Cubs scored four runs to clinch the series, their first postseason step to a World Series title.



Bud Selig’s latest words on A’s and Barry Bonds

Tue, 6 Dec 2016 01:11:41 UT

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — On Bud Selig’s watch as commissioner, many teams got new ballparks, including the Giants, but the A’s keep waiting. Selig was selected to the Hall of Fame on Sunday in voting by the Today’s Game Era Committee, an offshoot of the old Veterans Committee, along with longtime Braves executive John Schuerholz. Last month, the A’s shook up their ownership when John Fisher replaced Lew Wolff — Selig’s friend since their days at the University of Wisconsin — as managing general partner. Dave Kaval replaced Mike Crowley as president and is point man for the stadium pursuit. In the new collective bargaining agreement, reached last week, the A’s will lose their generous revenue-sharing checks over the next four years, creating more of an urgency to get a ballpark. Selig formed a three-man committee in March 2009, 93 months ago, to examine the A’s ballpark situation. Selig was commissioner for much of the steroid era and was criticized for not doing enough to stop it. Bonds broke the single-season home run record and career record, previously owned by Selig’s longtime friend, Hank Aaron. [...] we solved it a lot better than I think any of us had a right to believe. Hall of Famer Andre Dawson, who voted for Selig, was asked if the Selig selection will make it more possible for players linked to PEDs to get elected.



Giants’ expensive pursuit of a closer

Mon, 5 Dec 2016 04:49:18 UT

With the winter meetings opening Monday, the Giants are hot and heavy in the closer sweepstakes and reportedly are in serious negotiations with Melancon, meaning they’re willing to spend unlike they’ve ever spent on a closer. The Giants have not spent as much as $10 million in any season on a closer, but two things are triggering their through-the-roof approach this time: the market, and their desperation. The lasting memory of the Giants’ season was their ninth-inning wipeout in Game 4 of the Division Series, when five relievers contributed to wasting a three-run lead. With Johnny Cueto scheduled to start Game 5 and Madison Bumgarner in relief, the Cubs’ drought might have been extended to 109 years. Both Chapman (Cubs) and Jansen (Dodgers) were used in nontraditional roles, as was Andrew Miller (Indians). Signing a reliever to a big-money contract is extremely risky unless it’s for Rivera, who was unique in his combination of dominance and longevity, and several of the multiyear deals the Giants have given closers didn’t end well. Robb Nen got a four-year, $32.5 million contract and helped the Giants to the 2002 World Series, but arm issues shelved him the final two years. Brian Wilson was the closer in 2010 when the Giants won their first World Series championship in San Francisco.



New A’s president on CBA, revenues and ‘fan experience’

Sat, 3 Dec 2016 07:02:28 UT

Prettying up the Coliseum is as tough as prettying up Candlestick Park back in the day, but with revenue-sharing checks evaporating, the A’s will be forced to change how they conduct business at 7000 Coliseum Way. Kaval said every dollar of revenue generated will go to “the on-field product and the fan experience.” “We’re 100 percent focused on reinvesting all the revenues that we have on the Coliseum as well as the on-field product and making sure we can be as good as we can, getting the resources necessary to Billy (Beane) and the team to be successful,” Kaval said on a conference call. Kaval said extra revenue could be generated from ticket sales, sponsorships and other sources. The reality is, when you have a vibrant, energized Oakland Athletics fan base at the Coliseum, that’s one of the best experiences in professional sports. Every week for two hours, beginning at 3 p.m., he welcomes fans to visit at the Coliseum owners’ suite. The A’s have reached a contract agreement with first baseman Yonder Alonso. The A’s tendered contracts to all their arbitration-eligible players, including Sonny Gray, Khris Davis, Stephen Vogt and Liam Hendriks. Friday was baseball’s non-tender day, and any players eligible for arbitration who weren’t tendered become free agents. [...] infielder Rangel Ravelo, who was designated for assignment Wednesday when the A’s signed outfielder Matt Joyce, was outrighted to Triple-A Nashville and will be a nonroster invitee to spring training.