Starter Sonny Gray know about Reds’ history and ballpark
By JOE KAY
AP Sports Writer
Tuesday, January 22
CINCINNATI (AP) — Sonny Gray knows what he’s getting into even before he arrives in Cincinnati.
His father tried out for the Reds and failed to make the cut, but remained a huge fan. Gray attended his first major league game at Great American Ball Park, and he knows about the town’s affinity for a unique style of chili.
The starter also knows that Great American is akin to Yankee Stadium, where he struggled mightily last season. Gray agreed to a trade from the Yankees anyway, along with a $38 million, four-year contract adding $30.5 million in guaranteed money from 2020-22.
The deal announced Monday includes a $12 million club option for 2023 that could increase the value to $50 million for five seasons and has additional performance bonuses for innings and escalators.
“The relationships just felt right,” Gray said during a conference call Tuesday.
The Reds made their third off season move to upgrade their troublesome rotation on Monday, sending infield prospect Shed Long and a high pick in this year’s amateur draft to the Yankees in exchange for the 29-year-old Gray and left-hander Reiver Sanmartin. New York then sent Long to Seattle for 21-year-old outfielder Josh Stowers.
New York got Gray from Oakland in July 2017, but that relationship didn’t work out. He was dropped from the rotation in August and finished 15-16 with a 4.52 ERA overall for New York.
Gray had a 3.17 ERA on the road last season and 6.98 at Yankee Stadium. He’s moving to a ballpark that has been among the majors’ most homer-friendly every season since it opened in 2003.
“That never factored in to my decision,” Gray said. “I’m not huge into that type of stuff. I think if you can pitch and you’re comfortable pitching somewhere, honestly you can go out and get the job done, for sure.”
He can’t explain why his results were so much worse at Yankee Stadium.
“I’m not going to lie: I felt comfortable taking the mound,” he said. “I felt good. It just didn’t work out. I don’t know. I don’t have an answer for that.”
He felt comfortable joining the Reds in part because he’ll be reunited with pitching coach Derek Johnson, who was his coach at Vanderbilt. Plus, Gray was encouraged that the Reds are trying to resurrect themselves from four straight seasons with at least 94 losses. They’ve also traded for starters Tanner Roark and Alex Wood, giving their rotation an overhaul.
The Reds spent the last three seasons relying on young starters to emerge, but most of them struggled mightily. The three newcomers will join Anthony DeSclafani as a foursome with significant major league experience.
“It’s just some guys who have been around and know how to win and know the whole process, know what it takes to get through a whole season,” Gray said.
Gray’s lifelong bond with the Reds also contributed to his decision.
His father, Jesse, was a Reds fan growing up in Tennessee and tried out for their farm system but wasn’t chosen. His father usually wore a Reds cap and took Gray to his first major league game at Great American. He remembers trying the city’s version of chili — a Mediterranean-style meat sauce over spaghetti topped with cheese.
“It was a thing,” Gray said. “I remember that — some crazy little chili concoction that was delicious.”
Gray made the 2015 All-Star Game in Cincinnati but didn’t pitch because he’d started the previous Sunday for Oakland. He started at Great American for the Athletics on June 10, 2016, and gave up five hits, two runs and no homers in 7 2/3 innings of a 2-1 loss.
Now he gets to pitch for the favorite team of his father, who died in a highway accident.
“So I know he’s looking down with the biggest smile on his face right now,” Gray said.
Gray had agreed to a $7.5 million, one-year deal with the Yankees. The new contract adds a $500,000 signing bonus, annual salaries of $10 million from 2020-22, the option and $500,000 in annual performance bonuses for innings: $100,000 each for 150 innings and each additional 10 through 190.
His salaries from 2020 on, including the option price, would increase by $2 million for each Cy Young Award, $1 million for every second- or third-place finish, $750,000 for each fourth- or fifth-place finish, and $500,000 for each sixth-through-10th-place finish. They would go up by $2 million for each MVP Award, $1 million for every second-or-third-place finish and $750,000 for each fourth- or fifth-place finish, and by $200,000 for each All-Star selection. The option price also could escalate by $600,000 for innings in 2022: $100,000 for 150 and each additional 10 through 200.
Gray also can earn award bonuses and would get $1 million each time he is traded.
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Well-traveled QB Gardner Minshew hoping to find NFL home
By JOHN ZENOR
AP Sports Writer
Tuesday, January 22
MOBILE, Ala. (AP) — Gardner Minshew carved his own meandering path from walk-on to NFL prospect.
He began as a walk-on at Troy, took a sharp left to junior college, bounced over to East Carolina, made a beeline toward Alabama and finally ended with one terrific final season at Washington State.
“I kind of took the long way around,” Minshew said Tuesday.
Whatever the route, the nomadic Minshew has landed in the Senior Bowl, along with quarterbacks like Duke’s Daniel Jones, West Virginia’s Will Grier and Missouri’s Drew Lock.
His goal remains the same: A chance to be a starting quarterback.
He got another shot after enrolling as a graduate transfer at Washington State in June, some six months after graduating from East Carolina.
Minshew made the most of his time in the Northwest. He won the 2018 Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award as the nation’s top senior or fourth-year junior quarterback. Minshew led the nation in passing yards per game (367.6) while also finishing in the top 5 with 38 touchdowns and a 70.7 percent completion rate.
His 4,779 yards set a Pac-12 Conference record. Minshew managed to fit in well with his new teammates at Washington State despite that late arrival, left tackle Andre Dillard said.
“There’s something special about that guy, for sure,” said Dillard, who’s also playing in the Senior Bowl. “He just has this energy and vibe about him that make others around him want to be better people in general and football players.”
Minshew is sporting a full beard at the Senior Bowl but previously his facial hair earned him the nickname the Mississippi Mustache. Cougars fans started posting selfies sporting fake mustaches.
Minshew enrolled at Troy in January 2015 as a walk on, saying a scholarship offer had been withdrawn after a coaching change. He left for Northwest Mississippi Community College after spring practices, with Brandon Silvers holding down the starting job.
He then spent two seasons at East Carolina , where he started two games as a sophomore and passed for 2,140 yards and 16 touchdowns as a junior.
Senior Bowl executive director Jim Nagy puts a positive spin on Minshew’s moves.
“This guy is constantly betting on himself,” said Nagy, a former NFL scout.
Nagy said Minshew approached him at breakfast Monday morning looking for phone numbers of the South centers and quarterbacks. He rounded up some footballs and got them together for some extra work on snaps.
“Obviously the background is incredible because it shows the resilience and the mental toughness,” Nagy said.
Minshew didn’t head directly toward his final college destination, Washington State. He planned to enroll at Alabama, if Jalen Hurts decided to transfer. Hurts stayed put despite ultimately losing the starting job to Tua Tagovailoa, who was Heisman Trophy runner-up, a few spots ahead of Minshew in the voting.
“At the time it looked like one of those guys two was leaving and I was walking in as No. 2 and splitting reps 50-50,” Minshew said. “I’ll take my shot with anybody when I get into a competition setting. Then it looked like both of them were staying and it was time for me to look elsewhere.”
Now, Minshew is auditioning for NFL teams and figures they’ll all ask about his circuitous journey. The explanation, he says, takes five or 10 minutes.
“It was different, that’s for sure,” Minshew said. “Definitely not how most people do it. You just learn so much as you go through all these different experiences, all the different guys you meet.
“I feel like it’s really prepared for me now.”
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Chiefs fire defensive coordinator Sutton after loss to Pats
By DAVE SKRETTA
AP Sports Writer
Wednesday, January 23
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Chiefs fired defensive coordinator Bob Sutton on Tuesday, just two days after Kansas City failed to stop Tom Brady and the New England Patriots on what turned out to be the only possession of overtime in a crushing 37-31 playoff defeat.
Chiefs coach Andy Reid announced the firing in a brief statement. It came one day after he said he would evaluate all aspects of the team but declined to address Sutton’s future specifically.
“Bob is a good football coach and a great person. He played an integral role in the success of our team over the last six seasons,” Reid said. “I’ve said before that change can be a good thing for both parties, and I believe that is the case here for the Chiefs and Bob.”
The 67-year-old Sutton had been defensive coordinator since 2013, when he joined Reid’s initial staff in Kansas City. The longtime college and NFL assistant had previously spent more than a decade with the New York Jets, including a stint as defensive coordinator.
His defenses performed reasonably well the first few seasons in Kansas City, but the bend-but-don’t-break approach began to grow stale. The Chiefs struggled to stop anybody last season, and many fans called for Sutton to be replaced then, only for Reid to give him another chance.
Despite investing heavily in the defense, both through free agency and the draft, the unit fared even worse this season. Kansas City allowed 405.5 yards per game, better only than Cincinnati, and was the ninth-worst scoring defense in the league. The Chiefs were especially poor against the run, and it showed in Sony Michel’s success against them in the AFC championship game.
Michel ran for 113 yards and two touchdowns, while Brady threw for 348 yards and another score, as the Patriots dominated time of possession and piled up 524 yards.
That includes 75 yards in overtime, when the Patriots won the coin toss and marched downfield for the winning touchdown. All-Pro quarterback Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs offense, which led the NFL in scoring this season, never got an opportunity with the ball in overtime.
Even more damning to Sutton was the call by CBS analyst Tony Romo on the TV broadcast. Romo was uncanny in predicting exactly what New England would do, yet the Chiefs were unable to stop it.
“We wanted to do better there,” Reid said during his end-of-season news conference Monday. “When it comes down to the last drive, you magnify where it is, but this was the championship game. It was in overtime. When you really cut to the chase of it here, the few games we lost, we lost by minimal points, so we were obviously doing something right.”
Yet the Chiefs allowed an average of 37.6 points during their four regular-season losses and their playoff defeat. And while they were among the best in the league at rushing the quarterback this season, they failed to sack Brady during the AFC championship game.
“I put this on the defense,” Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones said afterward. “We’ve got to build from it, learn from it and we’ll be better next year.”
Reid did not indicate who his new defensive coordinator might be, though there are unsubstantiated reports Tuesday that there was mutual interest with longtime NFL coach Rex Ryan. Reid could also promote from within his own staff, something he has chosen to do often with offensive coordinators.
The job should be attractive on a number of levels.
The Chiefs have several building blocks in place, including Jones and pass rushers Dee Ford and Justin Houston, and are poised to invest even more in the defense this off season. They have three draft picks in the first two rounds, giving them a chance to plug up some of their biggest holes.
They are also well-positioned to compete for championships for years to come with Mahomes entering his third season and a bevy of play makers around him, such as Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill.
“I will tell you, this is a good group right here of young guys, the nucleus of this group,” Reid said. “And it is important in today’s football that the nucleus of this group gives you an opportunity to win football games and strive to win the championship.”
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Ex-Arizona assistant coach pleads guilty to bribery charge
By LARRY NEUMEISTER
Tuesday, January 22
NEW YORK (AP) — Former University of Arizona assistant coach Emanuel “Book” Richardson on Tuesday became the latest person to plead guilty in a federal prosecution that exposed corruption in college basketball recruiting.
Richardson, 46, wiped tears from his eyes after telling the judge he accepted $20,000 in 2017 in exchange for a promise to steer student athletes potentially headed to the NBA to an aspiring business manager, Christian Dawkins. Prosecutors said Richardson planned to use $15,000 of the money to entice one prized recruit to attend Arizona.
Richardson said he “knew this conduct was wrong.”
“Did you know it was against the law?” Judge Edgardo Ramos asked.
“Yes, your honor,” Richardson answered.
Sentencing was scheduled for April 24.
Richardson, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery, was among 10 college basketball figures arrested in September 2017 in a scandal that exposed a network of personal managers and advisers who paid bribes to coaches and parents of highly touted recruits to steer top athletes to schools.
Dawkins, an Adidas executive and another recruiting insider were convicted in the fall. Earlier this month, former University of Southern California assistant basketball coach Tony Bland pleaded guilty to accepting $4,100 in cash to steer USC players to certain financial advisers and business managers.
A plea agreement signed with prosecutors calls for Richardson to forfeit $20,000. He can also face a fine. The deal includes an agreement that Richardson will not appeal any sentence of two years or less in prison.
Richardson’s lawyer, Craig Mordock, said outside court that the plea agreement does not include a cooperation deal.
In a statement, U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said Richardson abused his position as a mentor and coach.
“Richardson, entrusted to help players develop as athletes and young men, instead helped himself to the cash offered by unscrupulous agents and financial advisers,” Berman said.
Prosecutors said Richardson accepted the bribes with the understanding that he would steer college athletes to use Dawkins’ new sports management company.
In one taped conversation described by prosecutors, Richardson was captured telling an undercover FBI agent and others: “I used to let kids talk to three or four guys, but I was like, why would you do that? You know that’s like taking a kid to a BMW dealer, a Benz dealer, and a Porsche dealer. They like them all. … You have to pick for them.”
Richardson had been scheduled to go on trial with former Oklahoma State assistant Lamont Evans in April. Former Auburn assistant coach Chuck Person and another man are scheduled to go on trial June 17. Evans and Person have pleaded not guilty.
Women are better than men at the free throw line
January 23, 2019
Author: Larry M. Silverberg, Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, North Carolina State University
Disclosure statement: Larry M. Silverberg does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Partners: North Carolina State University provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.
As basketball season comes into full swing, consider another competition – the one between the blue and pink teams.
The battle of the sexes is as old as time. It is the subject of conversation in any endeavor in which both men and women participate. And historically, when it comes to sports, the bragging rights often go to the men.
But, in a longitudinal study that I and engineer Chau Tran published in December, we examined men and women free-throw percentages in NCAA basketball over a 30-year period. We found that women shoot at 3 percent higher consistency than men. Men and women are very close, but the women edge out the men.
History of the free throw
Even though free throw shooting percentages vary from player to player, the average free throw shooting percentage in the NCAA has hovered at around 68 percent for both men and women for more than 30 years.
The top NBA player, Steve Nash, shot at about 90 percent, and the top WNBA player, Delle Donne, shoots at about 93 percent. But these superstars follow best practices, which is the great exception, and their shooting percentages don’t significantly affect the averages. The average free throw shooting percentages in NCAA don’t typically vary by more than 1 percent from year to year.
So, if the shooting percentages for men and women have been so close, then what about the physical differences? On the one hand, the man’s basketball is larger than the woman’s, making the free throw more difficult for men. On the other hand, the woman’s ball is more bouncy and women are on average shorter than men, making the free throw more difficult for women.
Estimating free throw consistency
With the average free throw percentages so close for men and women, the better sex would be determined by the one who is the most consistent, taking into account the physical differences between basketball size and the height at which the ball is released.
No player releases the ball exactly the same way each time. Differences occur in the release speed, release angle, release height and so on. Our previous work shows that consistency in release speed and release height are the two most important factors behind free throw consistency.
So the question was this: Which gender, on average, shoots with the most consistent release speed? We measured this by looking at the standard deviation in the release speed of the ball, taking into account release height, too. The standard deviation of the release speed is just the mathematical way of expressing consistency. The lower the standard deviation, the more consistent the shooter’s release speed.
To find the standard deviation in the ball’s release speed, we began by resurrecting a technique we developed in 2003 for estimating basketball shot consistency. The technique estimates the consistency from many thousand simulated trajectories, each of which matches real trajectories almost perfectly, including how the ball bounces off the rim and the backboard. We varied the initial conditions of the free throws to find what standard deviations in release speed lead to the NCAA average shooting percentages.
Because the differences in shooting percentages between men and women are so small, the code would now have to consider many million trajectories. It would take more time to run, so we replaced our old numerical method with a much faster method, customized for the free throw.
First, we found the standard deviations in free throw launch speed that produced the NCAA average shooting percentages. They depended on the different release heights of the ball from the floor, so we looked at them assuming different release heights.
When we assumed that the ball was released from a height of 5.5 feet (1.67 meters) from the floor, the men appeared to be more consistent than the women. However, it isn’t fair to consider the data this way, because the average height of a male is significantly different than of a female and therefore so too the average release heights of the basketball. What we really needed to do was to compare performance across respective average release heights of the basketball.
When we looked at the data this way, we saw that the standard deviations for the women were about 3 percent smaller than for the men, taking into account physical differences in basketball size and average player’s height. In other words, on average, women need to be 3 percent more consistent than men to achieve their average shooting percentages reported by the NCAA.
This season, as you follow the great competitions between the basketball teams, also remember the age-old competition between genders – and that in the free throw one point goes to the pink team.