Facebook gets exclusive rights to 25 afternoon MLB games

In a move that further confirms the shift in how sports leagues are delivering their content to fans, MLB and Facebook have struck a deal under which the social networking platform gets exclusive rights to 25 afternoon games this season, Bloomberg News first reported via Twitter.

Most of the MLB games Facebook will webcast are on Wednesdays, and the package begins April 4 with Phillies vs. Mets.

Also on the docket: Brewers vs. Cardinals on April 11; Royals vs. Blue Jays on April 18; and Diamondbacks vs. Phillies on April 26, a Thursday

From a consumer’s perspective, the deal makes all kinds of sense. Many people have access to computers at work, but not televisions. Some of these folks will surely appreciate the opportunity to catch some baseball on a Wednesday afternoon, while their bosses probably would rather they be working.

The league announced Saturday, the 24-year-old’s suspension will begin at the start of the season.

This is Bonifacio’s first positive test for steroids.

Bonifacio batted .255 with 17 home runs and 40 RBIs in 113 games for the Royals in 2017.

Prior to the season last year he was the Royals’ No. 6 overall prospect in 2015, according to MLB Pipeline.

He was a Marlin. Then he was a Ray. Now he’s a Maray. Hechavarria can really pick it at the six, but don’t expect all that much offense. His career .291 OBP just about tells the whole story. But seriously, he’s got an excellent glove.

Out of the rotation, Ohtani is capable of bringing triple-digit heat, and he has already shown off an impressive breaking pitch in his first spring start. His numbers in Japan make it plain that Ohtani is capable of claiming a regular spot in the lineup as an outfielder or designated hitter. That’s going to mean stealing at-bats from Kole Calhoun and Albert Pujols, but Ohtani is talented enough to do it.seahawks_030_d104c3caab541be1-180x180

DH or not, J.D. Martinez can be a fantasy star in Boston

Every American League team hit more home runs than the Boston Red Sox last season, so adding a power bat was clearly an offseason priority. Long linked to free-agent outfielder J.D. Martinez, the Red Sox came to an agreement with the player Monday on a deal that makes a lot of sense for all. No player hit more than 24 home runs for the 2017 version of the Red Sox. Martinez, in a mere 62 games with the Arizona Diamondbacks after coming over from the Detroit Tigers, managed to hit 29.

Austin Dillon, driving the No. 3 car made famous by Dale Earnhardt, took the lead late to win the Daytona 500. It was Dillon’s only lap led. Rookie Darryl Wallace Jr, driving the 43 in his first Daytona 500, finished second. Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano, and Chris Buescher rounded out the top five.

Dillon celebrated the victory by sliding through the infield grass just as Earnhardt did when he won his first Daytona 500, 20 years ago.

Presley plays all three outfield positions. He stole five bases without being thrown out last season.

Baltimore, which announced the deal Monday, had been in the market for a left-handed hitting outfielder. Presley will compete with Jaycob Brugman, acquired from Oakland last November.

The thought with the talent angle is that, at the bare minimum, you’re supporting your ratios while you wait for a role to present itself (the Bradley approach). The résumé idea is more of a short-term plan, hoping that loyal managers look in the past to determine whom they hand the ball to in the ninth (the Melancon-rebound approach).

I prefer the Bradley approach, as there is less risk involved, but it is important to understand that you are not the only manager struggling to secure saves (29 players had 15-plus saves last season, but only 10 had more than 30), and that this category is often decided during the season.

Trump has poured fuel on the flame of a simmering culture war and has further pushed sports deep into the political arena

“Standing with locked arms is good, kneeling is not acceptable. Bad ratings!” Trump said.

The tweets continue a three-day crusade by the president to pressure the league to fire players who have taken a knee to protest police violence against minorities.

Among players, coaches and team owners, the public reaction has been sharply negative of his comments.

While the NFL continues to look into whether the Seahawks violated the concussion protocol in their treatment of Russell Wilson on Nov. 9, the quarterback was focused on the pain in his jaw, telling reporters it was nearly broken by a Karlos Dansby hit that kept him on liquids through last weekend.

“It was pretty close,” Wilson said of the near-fracture Friday. “The doctor was like, ‘Man, any harder, we probably [would have] had to wire your mouth shut,’ so that was a good thing that didn’t happen.”

It’s too early to say that the Seahawks have found their new bell cow back, but Chris Carson staked a strong claim Sunday, rushing for 93 yards on 20 carries in Seattle’s 12-9 win over San Francisco. Thomas Rawls, coming back from an ankle injury that sidelined him in Week 1, got the start but gained just four yards on five carries, while Eddie Lacy wasn’t even activated for the game.

The 5-foot-11, 218-pound Carson, a seventh-round pick out of Oklahoma State, got stronger as he went along. On the Seahawks’ final drive, as they were trying to ice the game, he had carries of nine, 12 and 16 yards.

In Kansas City, Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt has emerged as a full-fledged fantasy darling. The rookie, who rushed for 148 yards in the opener against New England, carved up Philadelphia on Sunday, scoring on two touchdown runs and rushing for 81 yards. One went for 53 yards and the other, well, it generated the best TD celebration of the day.jaguars_085

Who has two thumbs and pushed his team up to the No. 2 spot? This guy.

Do that, get ahead on them and you can force their offense to become one dimensional in a way they don’t want to be. The defense has actually been playing a lot better over the last few weeks — they haven’t given up more than 30 points since their blowout loss to the Steelers in Week 11. Maybe they have more upside than I think, but I could see 10 other teams strangleholding the Titans in a first round matchup.

The Bills are the best STORY in the playoffs, but not the best team. In fact, with LeSean McCoy nursing an injured ankle, it would be hard to imagine the Bills getting out of the first round. It’s awesome that Andy Dalton threw a miracle touchdown pass and is now generating over $250,000 in donations from Bills fans who are throwing $17 increments his way.

But it’s also not a team that feels like a sustainable playoff contender because of the limitations on offense. They are well coached and will be emotionally fueled for whoever they play (in this case Jacksonville) but the Bills are probably out in the first round regardless.

This is on the way the rebuilding process has been conducted and the unnecessarily roundabout route being taken at the quarterback position. The QB of this team right now should be Carson Wentz or Deshaun Watson, not DeShone Kizer. The Browns basically went out of their way not to get Wentz or Watson in the past two NFL drafts and they are paying the price for it.

Darnold wasn’t great in 2017, unable to build upon the excitement from his Rose Bowl performance a year ago. But he flashes comparable play to that of Jameis Winston, Carson Wentz and a young Eli Manning. It would be a surprise if the Browns opted for anyone else.

Rosen is expected to be the No. 2 overall pick, but it is still to be determined whether the Giants will be the team making this selection. Drafting Rosen gives the Giants (and their new regime) a quarterback with which to build after Eli Manning. But a few teams, most notably the Cardinals and Bills, might aggressively try to trade up to draft Rosen if the Giants want to give Manning another Super Bowl run.jaguars_045

All things considered and on and off the field, that’s a lot Newton had a strong bounce-back season.

Heinz Field received a similar threat from the 30-year-old that was uploaded to the facility’s website, and officials were able to get a user name and IP address. KDKA and Heinz Field officials sent the information to the FBI, which was then able to identify the suspect.

If he gets in top shape and avoids substance abuse and legal issues, he’ll play in a league in which the game looks tailor-made for Manziel’s skill set of a strong arm, excellent mobility and playmaking ability when things break down. The league rules also can help him be a dominant player with the wider field (by 12 yards compared to the NFL) and more eligible receivers helping a mobile, creative QB such as Manziel. Also, three downs to pick up 10 yards leads to more of a quarterback-driven passing league than the NFL’s four-down model.

With the defense and the running game doing their things, Bortes can reset himself with a mistake-free game as a caretaker, hurting the Bills’ chances to get key takeaways. It will be a quick afternoon for Jacksonville as it advances to a rematch with Pittsburgh in the divisional playoffs.

94%: The defensive side of the ball. They had zero pass rush in 2017, and they also couldn’t cover anyone. That’s not an ideal mix, and if ageless CB Brent Grimes retires or signs elsewhere this offseason, it becomes an even bigger issue. The easiest way to fix things would be by adding an impact edge rusher—easier said than done even with a lot of cap space and a high draft pick (unless Demarcus Lawrence hits the market it’s a soft free-agent class and an underwhelming draft class for edge rushers). They could also come up with a more creative solution.

Like a more blitz-heavy approach in 2018. It’s not that hard. The Panthers, primarily a four-man pass rush for most of the last decade, went blitz-heavy under new defensive coordinator Steve Wilks this season and didn’t have to blow up the roster or the scheme to do so. Like Carolina, the Bucs have the speed at linebacker to make it work. Or, Tampa could just accept they might be multiple years away from competing in a strong NFC South.

It’s a tough angle for the official to make the call, but the real question is how Marrone watched the play from his vantage point and chose not to challenge?

He didn’t have much time to make the decision with the Bills rushing to the line to run another play, but how much time did he need? It was right in front of him and clearly appeared short.patriots_094_841eeb064ed39b39-180x180

NFL reportedly discusses Jameis Winston with Buccaneers security director

The NFL began its probe of Jameis Winston last week, and started by speaking with Buccaneers’ head of security Andres Trescastro.

According to ESPN, which cited an unidentified league source, the league’s talks with Trescastro were “more introductory and exploratory.” The investigation into allegations against the Bucs quarterback will continue but is not expected to be completed by the end of this season.

Winston, who settled a civil lawsuit stemming from the rape accusations in 2012 nine months after the alleged encounter with Kate, denied the incident and asserted that Kate “was confused as to the number of passengers in the car and who was sitting next to her.”

Winston is currently dealing with a sprained AC joint he sustained in Week 6 that has forced him to be sidelined for his third straight game Sunday against the Falcons.

Here’s a look at what has been going on in the prospect pipelines for each team in the Central Division, including our way-too-early 2018-19 watch for players who can make an impact a year from now.

The Blackhawks are in a bit of a transitional phase; this isn’t uncommon territory for them, but this time it seems to be a little rockier as their core continues to lose pieces and ages. Despite years of either trading away their picks or finding themselves lower in the first round, the Hawks have managed to maintain a decent prospect pipeline. There isn’t a lot of great depth at this point, which is the primary concern, but a few middle-round picks are starting to emerge as potential options down the line.

Henri Jokiharju, the team’s most recent first-round pick, has been having a sensational season for Portland in the WHL. The defenseman is averaging over a point per game and is expected to play a substantial role for Finland at the World Juniors.canadiens_1236_007e8cfdd038112c-140x140

NFL schedule: Week 13 game times, TV coverage

Coming off one of the best games of his career, a 30-10 victory against Indianapolis, Bortles was equally efficient and effective against the Seahawks.

Two of his better throws ended up in the end zone. He floated an 18-yarder early in the third quarter to rookie Dede Westbrook, the first for the 2016 Heisman Trophy finalist. Bortles’ second one was even better, a deep pass that hit Keelen Cole in stride and went for 75 yards.

Cole’s second touchdown in as many weeks came on the ensuing play after Wilson connected with Doug Baldwin for a 26-yard score that tied it at 10.

Morrissey scored his fourth goal of the season with a redirection on a 3-on-1 with Adam Lowry and Andrew Copp at 11:38 and Perreault finished it off with the 100th of his nine-year career.

Winnipeg was without defenseman Dustin Byfuglien, who was put on injured reserve with a lower-body injury suffered in last Saturday’s 4-3 overtime loss to Tampa Bay. Head coach Paul Maurice said he didn’t expect him back on the ice until after Christmas. Rookie Tucker Poolman took his roster spot.

Cleveland has won 14 of 15 without Thompson, including a 121-114 victory over Atlanta on Nov. 30.

“Everyone goes through it and Tristan is a big part of what we do, so we gotta figure out how we got to use him,” Lue said. “We gotta do that so I have a plan in place and we’ll see how it works.”royals_016

Smith wasn’t exactly thrilled with the situation but handled it all professionally.

“Oh man, it’s going to be exciting, especially this week,” Andre Ellington told reporters. “There’ll be a lot of smack talk around here.”

Andre, a sixth-round pick of the Cardinals in 2013, has played sparingly this season with just 15 carries for 53 yards and a touchdown. He has 1,750 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns over his five-year career. The Texans need help at running back after a season-ending injury to rookie D’Onta Foreman last Sunday.

McAdoo and general manager Jerry Reese have since been fired. Manning was reinserted as the starting quarterback for Sunday’s game against the Cowboys.

“I wasn’t,” he said earlier this week. “Any competitor wouldn’t be. To be put in that situation where you get a chance to play, and then you’re being pulled, but it’s not because you played bad, so you try to figure out why. But you got to understand that some things happen in this business, and you just got to roll with it.”

Sunday’s key late game was an NFC South clash between the Panthers and Saints. With its win over Carolina, New Orleans maintained its hold on first place in the division and a home game in the postseason.

Sunday’s nightcap was an intriguing game in Seattle, where the visiting Eagles, the best team in the NFL record-wise, looked to extend their streak of dominance. The Seahawks didn’t exactly roll over for the Eagles, though, as the hosts kept pace with the Rams in the NFC West with a one-sided victory.

The source said Caldwell’s extension is guaranteed for only 2018 with team options beyond that, so if the Lions decide to fire Caldwell, they would have to pay him for next season only.panthers_052

Jaguars VP Tom Coughlin gives Jalen Ramsey his support

Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey was ejected Sunday against the Bengals for his role in an altercation with A.J. Green, but he had at least one fan within his organization.

Jaguars executive vice president Tom Coughlin praised Ramsey for physical play and a calm head even after Green brought him to the ground and started punching him.

Maxwell and Jeremy Lane — who’s starting at left cornerback in Sherman’s absence — were both flagged for pass interference penalties that cost Seattle a total of 41 yards. Carroll noted the impact of those penalties but said Maxwell held up well.

I feel like today we were out there playing hard as hell. I didn’t feel too soft today out there. I felt really good. That’s just constructive criticism that, as a man, you’ve got to take it.”

Backstrom remains without a goal in his last 16 games.

Jones explained some of the issues he has with Goodell’s contract extension, the biggest being that he thinks the contract should be approved by all 32 NFL owners.

“I basically feel this extension of Roger should go and be reviewed and approved by all the owners, not just a few of the owners,” Jones said. “The committee that basically negotiates the salary with our commissioner is taking the view, especially the chairman, that they, in a limited group, can complete this agreement.

Two GOATs? Apparently so, according to Miller, who won is lone Super Bowl to date with Manning under center in 2015. nike_bears-407

NFL letter to Jerry Jones accuses him of detrimental conduct, reports say

The NFL has had enough of Jerry Jones.

“Someone who is genuinely concerned ‘that the owners know the truth about the negotiations’ would not deliberately distribute such an outdated document, particularly when he has in his possession drafts that are current and accurately reflect the actual state of negotiations, or threaten to sue the league and its owners if he does not get his way,” the letter said.

A ProFootballTalk report suggested that “multiple owners” have discussed the possibility of trying to force Jones to sell his team, though Cowboys executive VP Stephen Jones, Jerry’s son, found the notion “laughable,” adding (via 103.5 The Fan), “We don’t take it serious.”

The league potentially could revert to a previous approach in which players stay in the locker rooms while the national anthem plays, the Washington Post reported.

The change was made in 2009, requiring players and coaches to be on the field during the anthem. While the current NFL policy does not require players to stand during the anthem, it strongly encourages them to do so.

It is still too early to know what exactly will happen with the policy, but one unidentified owner told the Post that they were “not sure” if a formal vote from the owners would be required, however, the owner indicated that “most owners would support it, particularly if players continue to kneel this season.”

Several other unidentified sources shared the same sentiments around the anthem policy, but also warned that there have been no “detailed discussions” yet because owners did not think it is appropriate to make an in-season change to the policy. There is an annual league meeting in March when the anthem policy issues could be addressed.