July 26, 2012

Associated Press


Former NL batting champion Hanley Ramirez was traded from Miami to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Wednesday July 25, part of what appears to be the third big fire sale in Marlins’ history.

Left-handed reliever Randy Choate also was dealt to the Dodgers. The Marlins received right-hander Nathan Eovaldi and minor league pitcher Scott McGough.

The trade came two days after the Marlins sent pitcher Anibal Sanchez and infielder Omar Infante to the Detroit Tigers for pitching prospect Jacob Turner and two minor leaguers.

“We weren’t winning with the group we had and we want to make changes,” Marlins president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest said.

As the team prepared to move into its new $634 million retractable-roof ballpark, Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria hired Ozzie Guillen as manager and committed $191 million in a five-day span during the offseason to sign All-Stars Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and Heath Bell. The team agreed to star in a Showtime reality series, “The Franchise.”

In their colorful new uniforms, the Marlins were 31-23 through June 3, just percentage points out of first place, then lost 17 of their next 20 games. They started Wednesday 45-52, fourth in the NL East and 12½ games out of first place.

“These are tough trades, but when you underachieve at the level this team has underachieved and has not won at the level we expected it to — we have talked about restructuring and this is part of it,” Beinfest said.

Miami might not be done, with pitcher Josh Johnson and Bell also trade possibilities before a July 31 deadline to make swaps without waivers.

“Be careful with what you think, what you say, and how you smile because you might be next (to get traded),” Guillen said. “That’s the way it has to go if you don’t perform. That’s business.”

After winning the 1997 World Series, the Marlins jettisoned high-priced stars Moises Alou, Kevin Brown, Al Leiter, Robb Nen, Jeff Conine and Devon White. They won the Series again in 2003, then allowed Ivan Rodriguez, Ugueth Urbina, Derrek Lee, Mark Redman, Braden Looper and Juan Encarnacion to depart.

The 28-year-old Ramirez is hitting .246 with 14 home runs and 47 RBIs, far from his big season in 2009 when he hit a league-leading .342 with 24 homers and 106 RBIs.

“I am sad to go,” Ramirez said. “This will be always be my home, but it will just be a little different.”

A three-time All-Star, he shifted from shortstop to third base this season to make room for Reyes.

“It’s sad to see Hanley go to another team,” Reyes said. “We developed a great relationship. I feel he was one of my real good friends on the team. Anytime someone close to you goes to another team it kind of surprises you a little bit and you get sad a little bit, but still need to go out on the field and play the game.”

He joined several other stars who changed teams in recent weeks, including Ichiro Suzuki, Wandy Rodriguez and Kevin Youkilis.

“He meant a lot to this organization, a premium talent, an uber talent in a lot of respects,” Beinfest said.

Los Angeles is 2½ games behind NL West-leading San Francisco. After a 32-15 start, the Dodgers are just 21-30 since.

“You never know what a change of scenery will do for somebody,” Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said. “We see him as one of our main guys.”

After filing for bankruptcy in 2011, the Dodgers were bought from Frank McCourt for $2 billion on May 1 in a move that led to Stan Kasten becoming team president.

Ramirez has a $15 million salary this year and is owed $15.5 million next year and $16 million in 2013.

“We’re not going to let money stand in the way of a true baseball deal. And if we can improve the club, the financial piece of it will always be there,” Colletti said. “It’s kind of a liberating thing because we’re able to make a baseball trade. We found a player that we really like, that we think can add to our lineup and at the same time show the guys who have been busting their tail for the last three months that we acknowledge how hard they’ve played and to get them the support that we can. It’s good to not have to worry too much about what it’s going to cost you from a financial standpoint. This (ownership) group is in to win.”

Ramirez will play shortstop for now for the Dodgers. Dee Gordon is on the disabled list with a torn ligament in his right thumb that could sideline him until mid-August and is batting only .229 with 17 RBIs.

“I look at it as he has a clean slate,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. “Anything that’s happened in his past has nothing to do with me, has nothing to do with the Dodgers. It’s basically moving forward.”

Choate, a 36-year-old lefty, is 0-0 with one save and a 2.49 ERA in 44 games. He began his big league career with the New York Yankees in 2000 and also has pitched for Arizona and Tampa Bay.

Eovaldi, a 22-year-old righty, is 1-6 with a 4.15 ERA. He made his major league debut last season. Eovaldi made his Marlins debut on Saturday in a start against San Diego.

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July 26, 2012


Associated Press


Serena Williams has had enough rest, a week away from the courts. She’s also spent enough time away from Centre Court, and is more than ready to go for another title at Wimbledon.

But whether it’s for three Olympic golds or just two remains to be seen.

Less than three weeks after winning her fifth Wimbledon trophy, Williams is back in London, looking for the only major singles title to escape her. And even though she pulled out of a World Team Tennis match in Washington recently to rest her back before the Olympics, she insisted Tuesday July 24 she's fully fit and ready for a quick return to the All England Club.

“I feel really good going into these Olympic Games, and wanting to do really well,” Williams said at a news conference with the rest of the U.S. team. “I think it’s exciting to be back so soon. Usually we have to wait 12 months to walk back on Centre Court and kind of feel that moment that we felt (at Wimbledon). So for me, I'm going to be really excited with such a quick turnaround and get back on the grass where I love to play.”

The Williams sisters will be defending their gold medal in doubles as well, but it’s still unclear whether either will play mixed doubles. The mixed teams will not be decided until July 30.

Venus said she and Serena have the ability to win all three tournaments, but “we know we have to be in the ultimate fitness level to do so.”

“At the end of the day it’s really up to what our team captains want, and obviously being realistic and seeing who really has the best chance to win because we really want to bring medals home,” Venus said. “So it’s just about the betterment of the team and where we can do the best for USA, so I think that’s what it will boil down to.”

Venus was eliminated in the first round of Wimbledon and is still dealing with the effects of an autoimmune disease that can cause fatigue and joint pain. However, she and Serena still partnered to win the doubles title and are favorites to win a third gold medal together next month.

Serena, for her part, seems to have limitless energy these days, having recovered from her own injury and illness problems that kept her out for nearly a year following her 2010 Wimbledon title. Right after her latest title at the All England Club, she flew back to California to successfully defend her Stanford title the following week. While she then pulled out of her World Team Tennis match, she referred to that on Tuesday as simply “taking a little time off.”

“In order to play a tough schedule you have to kind of prepare your body,” she said. “I was pretty fit at Wimbledon, and (am) continuing that fitness.”

Serena has won 14 major titles and a career Grand Slam, to go with Olympic doubles gold with Venus in 2000 and 2008. A singles gold medal would add even more luster to her collection.

“I think growing up as tennis players we always dream of winning Grand Slams and doing well at tournaments like Wimbledon,” Serena said. “But to have the opportunity to win a gold medal and be mentioned among the great athletes ... it’s an honor. And for me, of every tournament that I won, I really enjoy my (doubles) gold medal probably the most.”

The All England Club will look a lot different, with the traditional all-white dress code not in place. Venus is already doing her best to flaunt some red and blue as well.

She also arrived in London with her hair done up in thin braids, with extensions inserted in various variations of red, white and blue. To that she added plenty of blue eye makeup and bright red lipstick, completing a distinctly patriotic look.

“I’m here to represent the U.S., from head to toe basically. Hair right down to the finger nails,” Williams said. “It’s just so much fun. I think we all find how proud we are of where we come from when these weeks come around. It’s just fun and amazing to just represent, we all feel that way.”

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July 19, 2012

Associated Press


Robert Griffin III remained unsigned as the Washington Redskins opened the second day of their five-day rookie camp.

The Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback from Baylor was the second pick in this year’s draft. The team’s third-round selection, offensive lineman Josh LeRibeus, was also absent again Tuesday July 17.

The two aren’t considered holdouts because training camp doesn’t officially begin until July 26. Neither can be on the field with their fellow newcomers until they have signed their contracts.

The collective bargaining agreement that was ratified by the NFL and the union to end last year's lockout was supposed to make rookie deals easier to complete with a system of slotting that paid players based on their draft position. It worked well for the Redskins for their choices from the fourth through seventh rounds, all of whom were signed by early June.

Griffin is due for a four-year contract worth about $21 million, roughly two-thirds of which would be the signing bonus. The hang-up apparently is “offset” language that would govern the guaranteed money in the event Griffin is waived before the contract’s expiration.

LeRibeus’ agent, Jordan Woy, said he had been talking to the Redskins on a daily basis, but they have yet to close the deal.

Griffin’s agent, Ben Dogra, was unavailable for comment. His client attended the exhibition basketball game Monday night between the American and Brazilian men’s Olympic teams at Verizon Center in Washington.

Fourteen of the 32 first-round draft choices, including top overall pick Andrew Luck, and 12 of the 32 third-round selections remain unsigned.

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July 26, 2012

By Kenneth Miller

LA Watts Times Correspondent


Just as the Joe Paterno statue was being removed in the middle of the night from Beaver Stadium in Happy Valley and while the NCAA was leveling the Penn State football program with the most severe penalties in the history of collegiate sports, officials in the small town of Grambling, La were petitioning to restore the legendary Eddie Robinson as the all time victory leader in college football.


According to a recently published article in USA Today, Cynthia Breedlove, an attorney for the city of Grambling, petitioned to the NCAA to vacate some of Paterno’s wins in hopes of getting Robinson restored as the recordholder. She did so with the backing of Grambling Mayor Edward Jones.


Then on Monday, when the NCAA wiped out 111 wins from Paterno, Jones said the city was "elated" that Robinson has the record back. But he said the city's foremost thoughts were with the victims of the abuse, adding, "It's our prayer that everyone involved will heal."


The mayor said the petition was never meant to alter the NCAA process, just to voice the city's position.


Robinson led Grambling for 57 seasons to 408 victories before his final game in 1997. He died gracefully as he had lived at the age of 88 in 2007.


The coach affectionately called Coach Rob is responsible for 200 players making it to the NFL, but his legacy is not that he just won football games it is how he molded boys to become men and productive citizens of society.


Coach Robinson did not have an unlimited budget, the best equipment and the most sophisticated facilities during his illustrious reign as his white contemporaries such as Paterno and Florida State’s Bobby Bowden had.


Paterno was considered as the winningest coach until the NCAA hammered Penn State for the cover-up during the horrific Jerry Sandusky child molestation scandal that has since tarnished his legacy.


Even Bowden had victories vacated for NCAA sanctions, but Robinson’s sterling legacy has--- at a historically Black college where many of his players were not recruited at major white universities---  never been questioned or tarnished.


He simply did more with less.


Former Grambling star Doug Williams who became the first Black quarterback to win a Super Bowl with the Washington Redskins and is currently the head coach at his alma mater did not celebrate in the demise of Paterno.


"Today doesn't change any player's opinion of Coach Rob," Williams said. "Players like Franco Harris that played for (Joe Paterno) held him in high esteem, and players that played for (Robinson) feel the same way.


"I don't think (Robinson) would be happy today."


"Today is mixed emotions for me," Robinson’s son, Eddie Robinson Jr. said. "I've talked to a lot of people who've asked me if I was happy. I can't truly say that I am.


"I've known Coach Paterno for years, and the only thing I can say that I knew about him … is that to me, he was a great coach and a class individual.


"As far as what has happened, I don't have all the investigative facts and I'm not close enough to it to say what it should be and what it shouldn't be."


Grambling President Frank Pogue said he didn't think Robinson would have been celebrating Monday, either.


"Eddie Robinson would have been the first to express regret at this situation," Pogue said. "We at Grambling State University will always feel that Eddie G. Robinson was the smiling face of this university.


"The reason he will be known as the winningest Division I coach here is larger than football. He took men largely from small towns with virtually no equipment to play with compared to Penn State and most of the larger universities.


"He was able to say to those men that you are somebody and you are attending Grambling and Grambling is the winning spirit of football and athletics."


In 2006 the NCAA during reorganization renamed a separate Football Championship Subdivision to only include colleges that qualified under the Bowl Championship Series format, thus separating the records of both Paterno and Bowden from the record of Robinson.


Therefore, many consider Bowden as the winningest college football coach now because of the grouping, but the record is clear as far as Division I victories and Robinson is the all time leader.


Following Robinson’ s death the Football Writers Association of America


Named its coach of the year award for Robinson. The first recipient was Joe Paterno.








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July 19, 2012

By NOMAAN MERCHANT, Associated Press


Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant is in trouble again.

The talented wide receiver was arrested July 16, after being accused of attacking his mother during an argument, hitting her arms and face. He faces a charge of family violence, a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a $4,000 fine.

The Cowboys had no comment on the latest stumble by Bryant since the Cowboys drafted him out of Oklahoma State in 2010.

Bryant had spent this offseason watching film, working on his conditioning and staying out of trouble off the field. Others noticed he was in better shape and more focused.

The 23-year-old Bryant surrendered after police in DeSoto, south of Dallas, issued a warrant. Police said Angela Bryant called 911 July 14 to complain her son was assaulting her. Police arrived to find her with a swollen wrist and thumb and bruising on her upper arms, police Capt. Ron Smith said. She told police she had grabbed Dez Bryant's shirt and he forcefully knocked her arms away, Smith said. Police say he hit her on the face with a ball cap and pushed her in the chest.

Bryant was released a few hours later without talking to detectives, Smith said. His attorney, Royce West, said Bryant posted $1,500 bond.

Smith declined to say what caused the argument.

"I don't know what the exact startup was, what caused everything," Smith said. "I just know that his mother got involved and got injured."

Police planned to send their case later this week to Dallas prosecutors, Smith said.

West said that he was still investigating the circumstances of the incident. One of his primary goals, he said, was to "make certain that the family heals."

"I know that Dez loves his mother," West said. "I know his mother loves him."

West declined to say if Dez and Angela Bryant have spoken since July 14 or what may have caused their argument.

Drafted by the Cowboys in the first round, Bryant entered the league having his last year of college nearly wiped out by an NCAA suspension for lying about having dinner with Deion Sanders. He ran up hundreds of thousands of dollars in bills on game tickets and jewelry — and was sued by alleged creditors. Last year, he was kicked out of an upscale Dallas mall for wearing sagging pants. In January, he was reportedly involved in a fight with the rapper Lil Wayne at a Miami nightclub.

"All of us have had some youthful indiscretions," West said, adding that he questioned the truth behind some of the allegations. "We learn from those indiscretions and we move forward."

Bryant's potential has always been clear. A standout at Oklahoma State, Bryant caught 45 passes for 561 yards in 12 games in his rookie season. Last year, he had 63 catches for 928 yards and nine touchdowns.

He had mostly stayed out of the news this offseason, besides tweeting that his body fat was down to 3.1 percent. Owner Jerry Jones said in June that he saw more maturity and focus in Bryant, and quarterback Tony Romo predicted he would get better every year if he worked at it.

"I feel that I have learned a lot from all aspects, on the field, off the field," Bryant said then. "I see a lot of things more clear now, and I'm more confident in everything that I do. On the field and off the field, I try to make the best choices possible, and I feel like I'm doing a great job of that."

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