MLB-RED SOX-SIGN STEALING
Red Sox stripped of pick, Cora banned in sign stealing scams
NEW YORK (AP) — The Boston Red Sox have escaped the heavy punishment doled out to the Houston Astros in their separate sign-stealing scandals.
Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred has stripped the Red Sox of their second-round pick in this year’s draft while also punishing former Boston skipper Alex Cora for his role in the Astros’ sign-stealing maneuvers of 2017 and ‘18.
Manfred concluded Red Sox replay system operator J.T. Watkins broke rules by using in-game video to revise sign sequences provided to players. According to Manfred, Watkins was a “key participant” in the 2017 Apple incident, when the Red Sox used a smartwatch to relay decoded signs from the replay room to the dugout.
Watkins was suspended without pay through this year’s postseason and prohibited from serving as the replay room operator through 2021.
Meanwhile, Cora has been suspended through the 2020 postseason for his previous conduct as bench coach with the Astros. Cora became manager of the Red Sox in 2018 and left the team last winter.
Manfred found Boston’s conduct far less egregious than that of the Astros, whom he determined used video to steal catchers’ signs during their run to the 2017 World Series title and again during the 2018 season. Houston manager AJ Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow were suspended through the 2020 postseason on Jan. 13 and Houston was fined $5 million, the maximum under the Major League Constitution. The Astros were penalized their next two first- and second-round amateur draft picks.
Trade reunites Gronkowski with Brady in Tampa Bay
UNDATED (AP) — Rob Gronkowski has become an official member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The tight end will be catching passes from Tom Brady again after the New England Patriots agreed to send him to the Bucs, along with a seventh-round pick in this weekend’s draft. The Pats receive a fourth-round selection.
Gronkowski earned four All-Pro selections in nine seasons while serving as one of Brady’s top targets at New England. Brady signed a two-year, $50 package with New England past month.
The 31-year-old Gronkowski has one year and $10 million left on his contract. He comes out of retirement following a one-year absence.
In other NFL news:
— Giants defensive tackle Leonard Williams has signed his non-exclusive franchise tag. Williams will earn a salary in the 2020 season based on the average of the top five salaries from his position. The two sides can negotiate a long-term contract during the season. The Giants acquired Williams on Oct. 29 from the Jets for two draft choices.
— The head of the NFL Players Association says the new collective bargaining agreement does not have a similar clause to one that allows the NBA to start cutting players’ pay in mid-May. Executive Director DeMaurice (deh-MOHR'-ihs) Smith said Wednesday on a call with reporters that the CBA with the NFL does not have a provision that would prevent someone from fulfilling a contract because of unforeseeable circumstances. The NBA is using that clause to begin taking a 25% chunk out of players’ checks starting May 15 for a league that shut down March 11 because of the coronavirus pandemic. The NFL began its new business year March 18.
— The New Orleans Saints have canceled their offseason program because of the coronavirus shutdown and informed players they will not be required to report to club headquarters until training camp, whenever that may be. Saints general manager Mickey Loomis said coach Sean Payton informed players of the decision today, adding that the club will remain in regular communication with players between now and the opening of training camp.
— Percy Harvin is planning an NFL comeback, nearly four years after his last game. The former Florida star and first-round draft pick by Minnesota in 2009 expects to get invited to a training camp this season and show his 32-year-old body still has what it takes to be an elite playmaker. Harvin’s decision to resume his career comes after he underwent hip surgery last August. Doctors found a blockage he says may have been there since high school.
WOMEN’S COLLEGE BASKETBALL-NOTRE DAME-MCGRAW
Notre Dame's McGraw retires
UNDATED (AP) — One of the most successful coaches in women’s basketball history has stepped down.
Notre Dame’s Muffet McGraw has abruptly retired after a Hall of Fame coaching career that includes 936 victories and two national championships in 33 seasons. The 64-year-old McGraw became the 13th woman inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame three years ago, one year before her second NCAA title.
McGraw is one of five Division I men’s or women’s basketball coaches with at least 930 wins, nine Final Fours and multiple titles. She logged 842 over 24 seasons with the Irish.
Federer wants ATP-WTA merger
UNDATED (AP) — Roger Federer is calling for the merger of the governing bodies for the men's and women's professional tennis tours, sparking a conversation among players and fans.
The 20-time Grand Slam champion issued the notion in a series of tweets, saying it probably should have happened a long time ago and maybe now is really the time.
Those giving support to the idea include rival Rafael Nadal and 12-time major singles champion Billie Jean King, who founded the WTA and has long said men and women should share one tour. Women’s tennis stars Simona Halep (HA’-lehp) and Garbiñe Muguruza (moo-gah-ROO’-thah) have also voiced their approval.
Hornets coach says players aren’t in game shape
UNDATED (AP) — Toronto Raptors guard Fred VanVleet is bracing for the suspended NBA season not to resume, saying everyone is preparing for the worst-case scenario.
If the season should resume, VanVleet says he isn’t convinced health concerns can be adequately addressed as long as the coronavirus pandemic remains a threat. He described himself as a skeptic in a conference call Wednesday and questioned whether a return to action could be carried out safely. VanVleet also said he doesn’t relish the idea of playing in front of empty arenas.
In other virus-related developments:
— Charlotte Hornets coach James Borrego says he thinks some players could need “multiple weeks” to get back into true basketball shape if the NBA decides to return to action this season. The league hasn’t played games in nearly six weeks due to the coronavirus pandemic. Borrego says unlike when there was a lockout — and players gathered routinely for five-on-five pickup games in gyms — he knows some players who don’t have access to a court to work on basketball-specific drills.
— Louisville has furloughed 45 athletic department staffers for at least 60 days and eliminated 40 other support positions in the latest budget moves resulting from shutdowns caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Athletic director Vince Tyra also announced 4% pay cuts for staffers earning more than $100,000 in the next year, with those earning below that figure taking 2% salary cuts. The newest salary cuts do not include head coaches, senior staff or the AD, whose salaries were reduced 10% earlier this month.
— A staff member of the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee has tested positive for COVID-19. Tokyo organizers issued a statement Wednesday saying the male employee in his 30s worked at the headquarters building in Tokyo and was in quarantine at home. They said the area where he worked would be disinfected, and people who worked nearby have been told to stay home. The Tokyo Olympics were postponed last month until 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
— The Berlin Marathon says the race cannot be held as planned in September because of new restrictions in the city related to the pandemic. City authorities have extended a ban on major events with more than 5,000 people until October 24. More than 62,000 people took part in the marathon last year.
UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN-DOCTOR
Ex-Michigan tight end Chuck Christian says he was abused
ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) — The first former University of Michigan football player to publicly say that a team doctor abused him believes he would have sought medical help sooner for what has become stage 4 prostate cancer if he hadn't been victimized in college.
Chuck Christian said during a videoconferencing interview Wednesday that the late Dr. Robert Anderson gave him unnecessary rectal exams before he played for the Wolverines during the 1977-80 seasons. The 60-year-old Christian said he would have been quicker to seek cancer treatment if he wasn't emotionally scarred by Anderson's annual physicals.
Christian is one of hundreds of University of Michigan graduates who allege that Anderson molested them under the guise that the abuse was a normal part of the physicals they had to get in order to participate in sports.
Woods-Mickelson rematch to include Brady, Manning
UNDATED (AP) — Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson are primed for a made-for-TV rematch, and they’ll be paired with a pair of NFL rival quarterbacks.
Turner Sports says quarterbacks Tom Brady and Peyton Manning will join them for a two-on-two match to be aired on TNT sometime in May. Turner didn’t provide specifics concerning the exact date or location, only to say that tournament organizers would work with government and health officials to meet safety and health standards.
Turner said all donations and fundraising from the match would benefit relief efforts for the COVID-19 pandemic.
GOLF HALL OF FAME-MAXWELL BERNING
Maxwell Berning, winner of 3 US Opens, gets in Hall of Fame
UNDATED (AP) — Susie Maxwell Berning is the fourth and final person to be inducted next year in the World Golf Hall of Fame.
She won the U.S. Women's Open three times in a six-year span. Only five other women have won at least three U.S. Women's Open and all of them are in the Hall of Fame.
Maxwell Berning won a fourth major at the Women's Western Open. She had 11 career victories on the LPGA Tour while raising two daughters. She joins Tiger Woods, Marion Hollins and former PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem in the 2021 induction class.