Sunday, June 22, 2014

Padres fire General Manager Josh Byrnes

The struggling San Diego Padres have fired general manager Josh Byrnes.

The team announced the dismissal in a release Sunday, just minutes before the Padres were to face the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The Padres are 32-43 and 12 1/2 games out of first in the NL West. They finished 76-86 in each of Byrnes' first two seasons in the position.

Ownership has expressed a desire to have a more competitive team year in and year out. 

“This ownership group is committed to fielding a team that consistently competes for postseason play,” said Padres President and CEO Mike Dee. “Thus far this season, the results on the field have been mixed at best and clearly have not lived up to expectations. After a lengthy evaluation of every facet of our baseball operations, we have decided to make this change today.”

“The search for a new General Manager begins immediately,” Dee said. “We are looking for someone who can define, direct and lead this franchise’s baseball philosophy for years to come.”

For now Senior Vice President, Baseball Operations Omar Minaya and Assistant General Managers AJ Hinch and Fred Uhlman, Jr. will man the general manager's position until the Padres find a replacement.

I don't think this will make a difference in the team's performance for the rest of the season as I suspect manager Bud Black will be the next to go and some of the team's high priced veterans will be traded.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Elijah Holyfield offered football scholarship by Michigan

Elijah Holyfield, the son of former heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield has built quite a reputation on the  football field.

Elijah, who is a running back in Atlanta is  big time recruit and has been offered by a number of big time programs such as Wisconsin, Ohio State, Tennessee, Ole Miss and Mississippi State. Holyfield, who plays for the Woodward Academy in Atlanta, has been offered a scholarship in the 2016 class by the Michigan Wolverines.

The Wolverines are trying to get their program back to a championship level are hoping that Holyfield's championship pedigree can rub off on the rest of the team. I'm sure Brady Hoke is hoping that Holyfield is the real deal like his father once was.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Sheldon Richardson wants the Jets to give Muhammad Wilkerson a new contract

Sheldon Richardson isn't afraid to speak his mind. Whether it be about an opponent or his ability Richardson will let his opinion be known. In this case it's about keeping a teammate around.

 Muhammad Wilkerson earned a base salary of $1.2 million this season along with $975,000 in bonuses. The Jets picked up a fifth-year option on Wilkerson for 2015, when he will make $6.9 million. In Richardson's mind that has to change. He wants the Jets to give Wilkerson a nice contract extension.

“Hopefully, they do the right thing and pay the man,” Richardson said. “That’s coming from me. That’s somebody I want around. But it’s just business. You have no control over it.“He’s due for a paycheck, though. Believe that, he’s due for a paycheck.”

It is not likely to influence the leaders and Richardson doesn't call any shots in the organization, but Wilkerson will be glad to know that he has the support of his teammates.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Gary Payton says Damian Lillard must get better on defense

Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard has become one of the fastest rising stars in the NBA. Lillard along with LaMarcus Aldridge have transformed the Blazers into a threat in the Western Conference.

Even though Lillard has shown that he is one of the better players in the league, former NBA All-Star, Hall of Famer and fellow Oakland native Gary Payton says that Lillard must become a better defender to make his team better and become an elite player.

“He can be like Patrick Beverley [of the Houston Rockets] if he wants to, but that’s a mindset,” Payton told Chris Haynes of Thursday night at American AirlinesArena. “I think Damian has to be willing and ready to play that type of way. Right now, he’s scoring so easily and he’s so good at the offensive end, he doesn’t have to think about defense. He doesn’t have to think about it because he knows he can outscore somebody.

“He can have 35 [points] when he wants to and that’s where the game is going right now. But we have to get that out his mindset. If he wants to be a two-way guard and have his name in a legacy for being that way, he has to step it up on the defensive end.”

Payton and Lillard were supposed to workout together last summer but their scheduled didn't vibe. Payton in dogging Lillard, he just wants to see him be one of the best and perhaps get his team to a championship level. Payton feels that being an elite level defender is a state of mind more than scheduling workouts.

“It’s all about your mentality. You can’t teach nobody nothing about good defense,” Payton says. “All you can do is if you have good hands, good feet and you get the mindset that you’re going to sit down and lock somebody up. You have to want to learn how to do it and watch yourself do it. That’s when you become good. I can’t go out there and say, ‘Okay, move your feet, do this, move this, move your hands right there.’ No, you have to have instincts with the game. It’s a mentality. Defense just isn’t a part of our game nowadays.”

“Just like John Stockton, he was a two-way guard. He played defense and he played offense and he went into the Hall of Fame averaging 12 points and 12 assists. So that’s just the way people have to do it in my opinion. That’s the way I came up playing against basketball players like that."

If Lillard is going to get tips from anyone defensively why not from one of the better defenders that played the game. Payton has thrown down a challenge to Lillard but not in a negative way. Payton knows there are more ways to impact a game.

“I think Damian has the potential to be a dominant defender and I think he wants that because he’s a smart basketball player and he wants to get better every year,” he said. “I think he’s going to go in and see the way he’s not stopping guards that he should be stopping. There’s no way that you can stop guards in the NBA right now anyways with the rules. All you can do is contain them and if you can contain them, you’ll disrupt their rhythm. I’m hopeful he’ll get it.” 

Lillard isn't terrible but the series against the San Antonio Spurs showed that he needs to be able to contain players like Tony Parker in order to become a championship team instead of facing first or second round playoff exits.


Thursday, June 12, 2014

Greg Oden wants to play more next season

Center Greg Oden was signed by the Miami Heat as an insurance policy in case the team needed to go big in the playoffs, mostly to combat the Indiana Pacers' Roy Hibbert. Oden wasn't used since Hibbert had a horrible playoff season.

Oden didn't play much this season, but the biggest bust this side of Sam Bowie isn't done playing. Oden says he plans on playing next season whether it be in Miami or somewhere else. He also would like to see more playing time than he did this season.

Oden, who will be an unrestricted free agent, is disappointed how things turned out, but is taking it all in stride.

“Yeah, I’m sure I’m playing again next year but honestly I haven’t given that much thought,” Oden told's Chris Haynes Wednesday after practice. “I’m trying to concentrate on this and getting this ring first and after that, that’s part of the thought process. My body feels good. I can still play.  I’ll be alright….

“It wasn’t what I was hoping it would be,” the big man said. “I would definitely like to have played more but you know, everything that I’ve been through, I’m just happy to be out there and being on a team. Last year  I wasn’t and this year I’m on a team that possibly can win the championship. I’m happy in that, but personally, playing wise, I’m not has happy as I want to be.”

You have to give Oden credit for coming this far in his recovery from multiple knee surgeries. His best bet though is for him to be a piece on a contending team more than going to a team where fans and teammates might expect a bit more out of the former number one pick.

Even though it's hard to feel sorry for someone who has millions in the bank, you almost have to feel sorry for him. He'll always be labeled as a bust, not because he couldn't play, but because he was always hurt, Kevin Durant's meteoric rise to stardom and the fact that he was the number one pick. Someone will give Oden a shot but it might be a long shot if he's anywhere near productive.    

Seahawks sign former Vikings All Pro Kevin Williams

The Seattle Seahawks have bolstered their depth on their defensive line by reportedly signing former Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle Kevin Williams. 

Williams will be entering his 12th season in the NFL, having spent his entire career until now with the Minnesota Vikings. Williams started 15 games last season for the Vikings with 3 ½ sacks and an interception.

It's almost a case of the rich getting richer as the Super Bowl champion Seahawks will be getting a six time Pro Bowler and five time first team All Pro player. Williams had contemplated retirement if he couldn't find a team that would give him a fair deal.

Williams won't be used as much as he was in Minnesota as the Seahawks favor a deep rotation for their defensive line.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Indiana quarterback Tre Roberson to transfer

After taking part in a two quarterback system last season with Nate Sudfeld, Tre Roberson has announced that he'll be transferring from the Indiana football program. Roberson's departure along with Cam Coffman's means that Sudfeld will be the Hoosiers' clear cut starter this season.

Roberson, who was Indiana's Mr. Football in 2010 was the program's first true freshman starter in 2011. A broken leg wiped out most of his sophomore season. He came back in 2013 to share the job (four starts) with Sudfeld. Head coach Kevin Wilson planned to employ the same two quarterback system that he used last year, which might've contributed to Roberson's departure.

“I want to thank the coaching staff, my teammates and Indiana University for all of their support over the last three years,” Roberson said. “My time in Bloomington will always hold a special place in my heart. I wish everyone at IU all the best as I move on to the next chapter in my life.”

For his career, Roberson threw for 2,433 yards, 20 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.  He added 10 touchdowns running the ball.

This comes as a surprise to many in the IU community as none saw this coming. I don't think pundits around college football or Wilson saw this coming, although he sounds content on move on with Sudfeld as his starter.

“We appreciate and thank Tre for his contributions to our football program both on and off the field,” Indiana coach Kevin Wilson said. “He is an outstanding player and a great young man. We wish him well as he moves forward with his career.”

Roberson is a dual threat talent who will be a sought after transfer. With his ability to make plays through the air and on the ground, look for plenty of high major schools to try to woo Roberson to their campus.  


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Jury convicts Jason Mitchell in Sean Taylor murder case

A man identified by prosecutors as the greedy organizer of a bungled 2007 Miami-area burglary that ended with the fatal shooting of Washington Redskins star Sean Taylor was convicted Tuesday of murder and burglary, and immediately sentenced to life in prison without parole.

A 12-person jury deliberated nearly four hours before finding Jason Mitchell, 25, guilty of first-degree felony murder and armed burglary. Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Dennis Murphy swiftly imposed the mandatory life sentence for murder, plus 40 more years for the burglary conviction.

Although trial testimony showed Mitchell did not fire the fatal shot, prosecutors say he is equally responsible for the slaying under the law.

Assistant State Attorney Reid Rubin said Mitchell hatched the plot that eventually involved five Fort Myers-area men after spending time at Taylor's home near Miami, where he saw the player giving friends and relatives thousands of dollars in cash. Rubin said Mitchell initially tried and failed to burglarize the home alone in mid-November 2007, returning with the group on Thanksgiving weekend to finish the job.

"It doesn't matter whether they planned to kill him (Taylor) or intended to kill him, he died as a result of that burglary and they are all responsible for it," Rubin told the 12-person jury in closing arguments. "At the center of it all was Jason Mitchell."

Mitchell did not testify in his own defense but he did confess to police in a sworn, videotaped statement. The man blamed for shooting Taylor, Eric Rivera Jr., was convicted last year of second-degree murder and sentenced to 57 years behind bars. Mitchell's lawyer, Robert Barrar, said Mitchell should be held responsible only for burglary, not for Rivera's actions.

"Sure Jason Mitchell was there. But Eric Rivera did it on his own, on a whim," Barrar said. "Jason Mitchell was not a part of any plan to kill anybody."

Mitchell showed no emotion when the verdict was read.

Taylor, 24, was shot in the upper thigh after confronting the group of burglars with a machete outside his bedroom door. The bullet severed Taylor's femoral artery, causing him to quickly bleed to death. In the bedroom when the shooting happened were Taylor's girlfriend and their infant daughter.

Police say the burglars thought Taylor would be out of town at a Redskins game, but he was home nursing a knee injury.

Aside from the confession, investigators found shoe prints at Taylor's house that matched Mitchell's sneakers and had cellphone evidence showing that Mitchell phoned another member of the group in the vicinity of the slaying that night.

Three other men were charged in the case and two are awaiting trial. Venjah Hunte, 25, previously pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and burglary charges in a deal that calls for a 29-year prison sentence.
Taylor was a Pro Bowl safety who had starred at the University of Miami. A first-round Redskins draft pick in 2004, Taylor signed an $18 million contract with the team and was becoming one of the NFL's top defensive players when he was slain.

"He had everything to live for," Rubin said. "Sean Taylor was on top of the world."

Just because Mitchell wasn't the trigger man doesn't mean he isn't equally responsible for the crime. It's good to see that justice has been served in this particular case.

Falcons' LB Sean Weatherspoon ruptures achilles; will miss 2014 season

The Atlanta Falcons defense was a weakness last season and were hoping to improve on last season's performance. The unit took a major hit today. Falcons linebacker Sean Weatherspoon has ruptured his Achilles tendon and will miss the 2014 season.

Weatherspoon suffered the injury on Tuesday while running under the supervision of the team's medical staff. Weatherspoon had been held out of the organized team activities as he was continuing his recovery from a foot injury that limited him to only seven games in 2013.

The loss of Weatherspoon, the team's first-round pick from Missouri in 2010, is a blow to the Falcons, whose 2013 season was marked by a string of injuries. Weatherspoon has eight sacks and two interceptions in his first four seasons.

Coach Mike Smith said in a statement released by the team on Tuesday night that Weatherspoon will have surgery and is expected to make a full recovery.

“During Sean’s run today with our medical staff, he suffered an injury,” head coach Mike Smith said. “We sent Sean to the doctor for some additional testing and evaluation and unfortunately the results showed that he ruptured his Achilles tendon. Sean had been working extremely hard to get back on the field, but regrettably he will miss the entire 2014 season. He will have a procedure done in the near future and we expect him to make a full recovery.”

This will be a big loss unless someone steps up in his place. It's a major opportunity for someone to come in and make a name for himself.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Glam Girl of the week: Nisey Kamai

The Just Sports & Just Us Glam Girl of the week is Nisey Kamai.

The Detroit Lions keep neglecting their defense

As the NFL offseason progresses I've noticed one thing. Even though the Detroit Lions have changed coaches (again), the organizational philosophy remains the same. The team keeps trying to acquire offensive talent instead of trying to build on both sides of the ball. The pick of tight end Eric Ebron  and signing of wide receiver Golden Tate kind of proves my point. Jim Caldwell was hired as the new coach to help quarterback Matthew Stafford reach his potential and stop throwing so many game killing interceptions. They hired Joe Lombardi away from New Orleans to try and make him into a Drew Brees clone.

While it's true that having a high powered offense will excite the fans, it's defense that will carry a team to the next level. Although the Lions went defense heavy on the last two days of the draft the players picked aren't difference makers and will leave the Lions trying to finagle the salary cap and look for veteran help over the summer. And some of the available help has seen better days. The Lions had needs and a tight end or receiver wasn't necessarily one of them. The only player that has me excited is Kyle Van Noy.

Just to illustrate my point, remember when Wayne Fontes went through multiple quarterbacks with the hope that one of them would lead the Lions to a Super Bowl. Fontes said it about Andre Ware, Rodney Peete, and Scott Mitchell. Over the years the team has always tried to draft weapons to surround their quarterback on offense. Matt Millen drafted heavily at the receiver position. If you go back to the 80s they tried to get players to complement Billy Sims.

Either the front office knows something the fans don't or they're just trying to be the smartest guys in the room. Ebron better turn out to be the truth because if he isn't and the rest of the players in the 2014 draft class are projects and hardly see the field, GM Martin Mayhew needs to be fired. If the team was serious about contending this season and beyond they would've drafted defense in at least three of the first four rounds of the draft and got some much needed help on that side of the ball.  

Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo to be represented by Jay-Z's Roc Nation Sports

Roc Nation Sports has made yet another splash by agreeing to represent Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo.

Castillo, 26, is free to sign with a major league team. He has acquired permanent Haitian residency papers, an unblocking license from the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) and been declared a free agent by Major League Baseball. Castillo has been training in the northern region of the Dominican Republic, though he had to take time off recently due to a finger injury.

Teams are preparing for Castillo to have a showcase soon, either in the United States or the Dominican Republic, though the dates and locations of the showcase are still unknown. Other clients of Roc Nation Sports, a joint venture with CAA, include Mariners second baseman Robinson Cano and Yankees lefthander C.C. Sabathia.

Scouts don’t expect Castillo to be an immediate impact player along the lines of Yoenis Cespedes or Jose Abreu, but several scouts who have seen Castillo before he left and since he has been in the Dominican Republic have been impressed, though there’s a split on whether he profiles as an everyday player or a fourth outfielder.

At 5-foot-9, 185 pounds, Castillo has good strength for his relatively short stature and is an athletic player whose best tool is his plus-plus speed. He was one of the better base stealers in Cuba, going 22-for-29 in steals in 2011-12 to rank third in the league in stolen bases, one year after leading the league with 29 bags in 35 attempts.

Castillo can sting the ball from the right side of the plate, projecting as a line-drive bat who hits a lot of doubles and triples rather than home runs. He’s an aggressive hitter with good bat speed, though his swing can get long at times and he will expand his strike zone.

Castillo mostly played center field and right field in Cuba. He does have a small amount of history in the infield, but he has been working out for teams as a center fielder and is expected to sign as an outfielder.

In his final season in Cuba playing for Ciego De Avila in 2012-13, Castillo hit just .250/.352/.342 in 43 games. It was an uncharacteristically poor season for Castillo, who in 2011-12 hit .332/.395/.545 in 420 plate appearances with 16 home runs, 32 walks, 42 strikeouts and a league-leading 28 doubles.

Castillo’s international tournament exposure had been limited since November 2012, when he travelled to Taiwan and Japan for an exhibition series with the team Cuba would end up sending to the World Baseball Classic last year in March. Castillo was left off the WBC roster, however, and before Castillo left Cuba, he had been suspended for trying to defect from Cuba.

His best showing at an international tournament came in October 2011 at the World Cup in Panama. Castillo made the all-tournament team by leading the World Cup in batting average and slugging with a .512/.524/.854 slash line in 10 games, going 21-for-41 with two home runs, two triples and four doubles.

While it is still far too early to predict where Castillo will sign, the Baltimore Orioles and the Los Angeles Dodgers are among the clubs that have reportedly scouted him recently.

I don't think Castillo has the star power of other Roc Nation clients but this is just a start for the agency getting into 'international waters'.  

Magglio Ordonez's son taken by Tigers in MLB draft

The Detroit Tigers picked a familiar name in the MLB draft Saturday. The team reached back to it's recent past and took the son of playoff hero Magglio Ordonez in the 38th round of the draft, who also goes by the same name.

For those that remember, the elder Ordonez hit the game winning home run to send the Tigers to the 2006 World Series.  His son is a senior at American Heritage High School in Plantation, Florida  and was drafted with other sons with major league ties. Sons of Bobby Bonilla, Cal Ripken Jr., Mariano Rivera, Lenny Dykstra, Paul Byrd, Charlie Leibrandt and Benito Santiago.

The younger Ordonez will have the chance to climb the ladder and make it to the majors on his own merit.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Former NHL player Kevin Miller ordered to pay $1.1 million for career ending hit

Back on October 31, 2000,former NHL player Kevin Miller landed a hit on Canadian hockey player Andrew McKim in a game in Switzerland. The hit eventually ended the career of McKim and will cost Miller $1.1 million. Miller previously refused to pay the fine.

A federal judge upheld a Swiss court's judgement against Miller after Allianz Suisse Versicherungs-Gesellschaft, a Swiss insurance company that covered McKim, filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Grand Rapids to enforce the judgment it obtained in Switzerland in 2010.

Miller played for HC Davos in the Switzerland National Hockey League. During the game against the ZSC Lions, he hit McKim from behind, a check that resulted in a five-minute penalty and a playing-time disciplinary penalty. McKim fell forward on the ice which resulted in a concussion and other injuries.

On Dec. 10, 2004, the prosecutor’s office of the Canton of Zurich charged Miller with malicious simple bodily injury and grievous bodily injury. The trial, at which Miller testified, began the following August.

“Miller admitted that he checked McKim, injuring him ‘at least lightly,’ but denied his actions resulted in the serious injuries that McKim sustained when he hit his head on the ice,”U.S. District Judge Gordon Quist wrote in his 17-page opinion.

“In concluding that Miller was responsible for the damages resulting from the ‘check,’ the judge observed that Miller must have recognized that he could not have made a legal body check on McKim, that Miller had sufficient time to avoid the improper contact with McKim, and that Miller must have known of the risk that he could inflict serious injury on McKim with contact from behind.”

Keep in mind McKim was not the one that filed suit. It was the Swiss insurance company that wanted to recover the costs paid out to McKim.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Oklahoma State freshman Devon Thomas facing armed robbery charge

Oklahoma State freshman running back Devon Thomas was arrested Wednesday night following an armed robbery on Tuesday.

The incident is being looked into by the Broken Arrow Police Department as an armed robbery and shooting with the intent to kill at 113 East Madison.

The victim said Thomas, 18, robbed him at gunpoint with a handgun along with three other suspects. The victim told police that the suspects robbed him of marijuana, money, shoes and clothing. The suspects then reportedly told the victim to leave because they were about to "bust a cap."

When the victim was driving away, the suspects allegedly fired at least one round at the vehicle, one of which narrowly missed the victim's head. The victim said he has known Thomas for several years.

Thomas is scheduled to be a freshman at Oklahoma State in the fall after they recruited him. OSU released the following statement: "OSU is gathering information and has no further comment at this time."

He was arrested on complaints of robbery with an firearm and shooting with the intent to kill. Thomas is being held in Tulsa County Jail on $125,000 bond.

Three other arrests have been made in the incident. 18-year-old's Eduard Smith and De'Carrio Taylor were also arrested on robbery with a firearm and shooting with the intent to kill complaints. They are also being held on $125,000 bond.

One other juvenile suspect was arrested.