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Astros Ink Verlander, 36, to Two-Year, $66 Million Deal

After announcing the signing of All-Star third baseman Alex Bregman to a $100 million extension on Friday, the Astros reached a new deal with Justin Verlander, a source confirmed to MLB.com. The two-year deal will pay Verlander $66 million.

The club has not commented, though Astros owner Jim Crane said on Friday that both sides were talking about a contract and that any extension would likely have to be finished before the club breaks camp on Sunday.

“I don’t think anything is final, but if it’s going to get done, it’s going to get done before we get out of here,” Crane said. “He doesn’t really like to do it during the season, but that could change, too. There’s interest on both sides, so we’ll see what happens.”

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Verlander, 36, was acquired by the Astros on Aug. 31, 2017, and helped them win their first World Series that year, when he was named ALCS Most Valuable Player. Verlander went 16-9 with a 2.52 ERA last year and led the AL in strikeouts (290) and quality starts (26), finishing second in the AL Cy Young race to the Rays’ Blake Snell.

Set to become a free agent after the coming season, Verlander said last month that he wasn’t dwelling on free agency, but he expressed happiness about pitching in Houston.

“The city, the fans, my teammates, the organization from top to bottom — from Mr. Crane all the way down to the locker room — stuff has made my transition easy and joyful,” Verlander said. “I felt accepted right away, and I really enjoyed my time here. That’s a testament to all those people.”

Boeheim, Mullin Job Security Being Openly Discussed After Tournament Losses – What Would You Do?

The Syracuse Orangemen and St. John’s Red Storm just suffered opening round losses in the NCAA tournament, so March Madness came into those two schools like a lion but disappeared in 40 minutes last night with nary a whimper, for the legendary basketball programs used to greater successes in the past.

The coaches of these programs, the guys who made the programs legendary in the first place, Jim Boeheim, the Hall of Famer for his coaching, and Chris Mullin, who was a Hall of Fame player at St. John’s but has yet to prove he has the same skills as a head coach, are now under fire, from alums and from the media who cover the schools.

Boeheim, 74, has spent his entire adult life at Syracuse University as a student, player, assistant coach or head coach for 58 consecutive years, beginning in 1962. He’s been leading the Orange for 46 years, guiding
them to ten Big East regular season championships, five Big East Tournament championships, and 33 NCAA Tournament appearances, including five Final Four appearances and three appearances in the national title game. In those games, the Orange lost to Indiana in 1987 on a last-second jump shot by Keith Smart, and to Kentucky in 1996, before defeating Kansas in 2003 with All-American Carmelo Anthony.

Mullin, one of the greatest players in NBA history and, the greatest player ever to play at St. John’s, has been leading the Red Storm since 2016, taking over a moribund program that had not won an NCAA tournament game since 2000 and whose best years were in the 1980s, when Chris Mullin was playing for the legendary Lou Carnesecca.

With two years left on his contract, Mullin fully plans on fulfilling his deal to lead his alma mater.

Chris Mullin
Mullin led St. John’s to a 21-win season but only 8-10 in the Big East

“100 percent,” he said, when asked if he planned to return next year following his team’s disappointing 74-65 loss to Arizona State in the First Four at University of Dayton Arena on Wednesday night.

Mullin just led St. John’s to its first winning season in four years, leading the Red Storm (21-13) to its first NCAA Tournament in five years. But many (mostly in the local NYC media) believe more was expected this season than finishing 8-10 in the Big East and losing a play-in game in the tournament.

His top two players, Shamorie Ponds and Mustapha Heron, could go pro after they both tested the NBA draft waters last spring. Marvin Clark II will graduate. Next year’s team may look very different.

So, the wolves are out for these two legends.

What would you do, if you were running these programs? Let us know, below.

Mandel’s Musings: Richard Pitino Beats School that Fired His Father, Rick Pitino

University of Minnesota head basketball coach, Richard Pitino, the 35-year old son of legendary coach, Rick Pitino, will never admit to getting a little more satisfaction than usual from today’s surprise win over the heavily-favored Louisville Cardinals, but you know he is dancing the two-step inside his head and his heart.

The satisfaction he is undoubtedly feeling comes from his 10th seeded underdog Gophers winning a huge opening round NCAA tournament game over the seventh-seed Cardinals, truly a landmark victory for Minnesota, never known as a basketball school, let alone a power in the sport.

But, the other reason Richard Pitino is doing his little dance is because of who he and his kids defeated this afternoon. The same school that fired young Pitino’s father two years ago after scandals in the athletic department and within the basketball program were, in part, blamed on his father’s malfeasance. To this day, senior Pitino denies any knowledge of what was transpiring around him but, school administrators had to blame somebody. Pitino, a Hall of Fame coach who has won two NCAA titles with Kentucky in 1996 and Louisville in 2013, along with head football coach, Bobby Petrino, were the scapegoats.

Younger Pitino’s Minnesota team defeated the Cardinals, 86-76, thereby busting everyone’s brackets on Day One. But the real storyline of this game remained the Pitino story, as much as the Minnesota coach tried to deflect interest in it.

And, now, Minnesota awaits the winner of the Michigan State-Bradley game, to decide which team will advance to the sweet 16. Nothing could be as sweet for the Pitino family than today’s victory over Louisville.

Richard Pitino, Minnesota head basketball coach, won’t admit extra satisfaction in beating Louisville, today

Mandel’s Musings: The Older LeBron May Not Be the Wiser LeBron

The kid from Akron, Ohio, LeBron James, is a generational talent and courageous athlete who has been an interesting guy to interview and be around. Nobody in sports has been more focused on success and championship missions than LeBron, unless your name is Michael Jordan or Bill Russell.

But, the more exposed the public persona of LeBron James becomes through his broadcasting projects, urban works, and his game time demeanor, such as his not participating in team huddles at timeouts, the less I’m appreciating him. Now 34 years old, he’s projecting a “get off my effing lawn” kind of approach around his teammates and the kids who make up the majority of the NBA, these days.

LeBron sees himself, and rightfully so, on the Mount Rushmore of the NBA, in fact, of sports history. But, as an increasing number of NBA free agent stars are publicly pronouncing no interest in playing on the same team as the ball dominant James, a little of his monument gets chipped away, in my view.

LeBron James, the athlete and civic leader, particularly in his hometown of Akron, does belong on Rushmore. It’s the other James, the aging, evolving, teammate/curmudgeon version of LBJ, that needs to become more aware of how he’s projecting to a society which looks to bring down idolatry.

Watch Presidential Candidate Cory Booker As a Tight End at Stanford – NFL Moves and YAC (Yards After Catch)

Cory Booker is running high on my list for POTUS…Any politician who played major college football and can make an inside cut along the sideline and add YAC’s (Yards After Catch) by making a future NFL star, Todd Lyght of Notre Dame look silly, gets my attention. He also found the seam on his second catch, a talent only future presidents and NFL tight ends, can develop.

Booker played football at Northern Valley Regional High School at Old Tappan (that’s the whole name) in New Jersey, where he saw reps at both defensive back and wide receiver/tight end. When Booker was there, he was a sought-after recruit.

If Booker were a recruit now, he’d probably be a four-star.

Booker didn’t play football until his freshman year of high school. As a senior in 1986, he was named the Gatorade New Jersey Football Player of the Year, and also earned a spot on theUSA Today All-USA high school team as a defensive back. That year, he caught 46 passes for 589 yards and six touchdowns, and he made 53 solo tackles and nine interceptions as a safety. He was an AP all-state DB in high school, too.

Booker ended up signing with Stanford, where he played tight end. His decision was mostly focused on academics instead of football.

“I’ll never forget that that year, U.S. News & World Report academically ranked the colleges and they ranked Stanford over Harvard and Yale as the number one academic school in the country,” Booker has said. “That sealed it for me. I was like, ‘If I have a chance to get a football scholarship to the top academic school, I’m going to take that opportunity,’ because even back then, I realized that football was going to be my ticket and not my destination.”

Before he signed, his recruiters included Duke’s Steve Spurrier, Notre Dame’s Lou Holtz, and even former president Gerald Ford, who wanted Booker to play at his alma mater, Michigan. Because he played defensive back, receiver, and tight end, it’s fair to guess Booker would have been listed as an athlete as a recruit. He appears to have had serious offers from Michigan and Notre Dame, and he racked up accolades in a state that now produces a good number of blue-chips. Four stars seems reasonable.

Senator Cory Booker showed his stuff for Stanford vs. Notre Dame
Senator Cory Booker showing his tight end skills for Stanford against Notre Dame

Dwyane Wade Was/Is One Classy Dude and Great Player

Dwyane Wade made what was probably his final appearance as an active player at MSG on January 27th.

Back in Feb., 2005, after his Miami Heat, led by the 22-year old Wade’s 30 points, defeated the Knicks in overtime, an exhausted (and aging) Shaquille O’Neal literally walked me from his visitor’s team locker over to a kid, standing in the center of the room, and said, “This is the guy you should be interviewing, not me. This is his team.” It was Shaquille’s way of passing the torch to the youngster, Wade, a developing new star of the NBA.

Wade was a painfully shy and stiff interviewee, answering every question in a clipped, brief fashion. Tonight, at 37, at MSG, he was a much different, more relaxed man who is enjoying his final ride through the NBA. He received an ovation from the NY crowd when he entered the game. Classy fans, here in NY cheering for a classy guy, Dwyane Wade.


Will Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant Team Up for Broadway Opening?

There’s a strongly held insider’s theory Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, who are good friends, intend to join up with the Knicks. After Kyrie finally publicly pledged to stay in Boston a few months ago, an NBA general manager said, with some skepticism, “We’ll see.”

Both players are mercurial, which is to say their flights of fancy often take off from the wrong airports and head to the wrong towns. For Durant, Oakland wasn’t exactly what he thought it would be. They didn’t need a savior as much as they needed another piece to fit in with Klay and Steph.

Despite Durant now fashioning not one, but two new rings as a member of the Dubs, his legacy still doesn’t make him the key player in bring a city an unexpected world championship.

Irving is in the same boat. He won in Cleveland, but, as great as he played there, particularly so during the championship series, most of the props (okay, all of the props) went to homeboy, LeBron. So, like KD, KI is searching for that legacy-building franchise.

Enter your poor, awful NY Knicks, who haven’t won a championship since 1973, only 46 years ago. The hometown is getting restless.

It’s a good setup for the two stars to join the ragtag Knicks, who will be getting one of the top five picks in the upcoming draft. Let’s face it. though, the only pick they want is Zion Williamson, of Duke. He is surely the best player in the NBA minor league, aka, the american university system. He may even be a top 10 player in the NBA, right now, his talent being so enormous at age 19.

So, hold tight. We shall see.

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Kyler Murray In The Mix For #1

Pro Football Focus, a highly respected chronicler of all things football, now has the NY Giants, with the sixth pick in the 2019 draft, choosing Kyler Murray, the Doug Flutie-sized QB from Oklahoma.

Murray just announced today he is declaring for the upcoming NFL draft instead of taking a standing $5 million offer from the Oakland Athletics baseball team to scratch his way up the minor leagues, albeit, as a rich man.

This kid is small, even for major league middle-infielder standards. He’s smaller and shorter than either Seattle’s QB, Russell Wilson, or Flutie, but is an athletic freak who also has excellent football instincts. The kid is a play maker with a strong arm and touch on his throws. But, he’s a freaking dwarf at 5’8 1/2″, 190 lbs. He’s listed at 5’11”. Yeah, right.

If PFF is correct in its assessment, the Giants, who in no particular order of importance need edge-rushers, linebackers, D-backs, and O-Linemen will set their franchise back several years if this quarterback is chosen, and he doesn’t make it. Since the NFL doesn’t have a whole lot of pint-sized QBs these days, it’s hard to project how Murray can operate behind behemoth offensive linemen or how quickly he’ll get up when he’s hit squarely in the chest by a 260 lb. human missile, aka, NFL linebacker who is just as fast as he is.

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Teams with 4-12 records must acquire game-changing, generational players in that first round, like Saquan Barkley, or Eli Manning.

I’m hoping, for the Giants’ sake, PFF is off the mark. Mistakes, particularly at the QB position, the most important position on the field, cannot be fixed in short order. Get it right the first time or, you won’t get another opportunity to go through the QB crap shoot in the draft unless you go 4-12 again. How fun that would be?

PFF also has Jacksonville, the team choosing behind the Giants with the seventh pick, going for the 6’4″, 240 lb. QB from Ohio State, Dwayne Haskins, a more traditional pocket passer with a gun for an arm.

I’m hoping the Giants take one of the safe and boring picks, if they drop down to them. Guys like the offensive lineman from the University of Alabama, Jonah Williams, or the shutdown cornerback from Georgia, Deandre Baker won’t excite the masses like a quarterback might but they will be boringly efficient or, maybe great, for the next 10 years.

This upcoming draft now has more than a little intrigue, with the teeny Oklahoma Kid now in the mix. The last short (in stature) QB to come out of Oklahoma was Baker Mayfield, who reignited Cleveland’s football heritage as a rookie this season. We will soon find out if it’s the system being coached in OK or if that school is having a run of extreme luck in producing small QBs with big talent.

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