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Tag:The Hold Steady
Posted on: June 13, 2010 8:19 pm
 

Strasburg-Storen could be winning combo for years

CLEVELAND -- Sunday was the perfect glimpse into the future for Washington, and it wasn't simply because Stephen Strasburg was nearly unhittable again.

No, the future came in the combination of Strasburg and the Nats' other first-round pick last year, Drew Storen.

Storen, who beat Strasburg to the majors by a few weeks, relieved him in the sixth inning with one out, the bases loaded and the Nationals leading 6-1 Sunday. Storen induced a pop to second from Russell Branyan and then struck out Jhonny Peralta to end the threat.

It was the first time Strasburg and Storen, the Nats' closer of the future, have formed a tag team in the majors.

It should not be the last.

"I think I've blown two no-hitters for him this year [in the minors]," Storen said, chuckling. "Not tight spots like that. Hopefully, that's the first of many to come."

Storen and Strasburg now have been teammates in the Arizona Fall League, Double-A, Triple-A and, now with the Nats.

And while Strasburg is getting about 99.9 percent of the buzz, Storen now has inherited 12 runners and has not allowed any to score.

When he left the bases loaded Sunday, it not only helped preserve Washington's victory, it helped keep Strasburg's ERA low. It's 2.13.

"I was telling him I was probably more fired up for him in his last outing than I have been for myself in any of my outings," Storen said.

Likes: Washington third-base coach Pat Listach getting razzed from the elephant-memoried fans in the stands behind him who still hold a grudge that he won the 1992 AL Rookie of the Year award, when he was playing for Milwaukee, over Kenny Lofton. "A security guy came by and said, 'You know, your Rookie of the Year award is in dispute around here,'" Listach said, chuckling. "It was a long time ago, but these fans here are good. They don't forget anything. ... Paul Hoynes' press box hawk call Sunday. It's a Friday night tradition around here with Hoynes, the long-time beat writer for the Cleveland Plain-Dealer, but he was off Friday and Saturday and so Sunday was this week's makeup date. He's been doing it for the better part of three decades now. At one time on Fridays they had a press box pool as to what inning Hoynes would do it. Not sure if that's still the case, but it's one of those cool and quirky moments in baseball that you appreciate -- even if it doesn't carry the Strasburg hype. ...The crawfish etouffee and gumbo at Fat Fish Blue, a downtown Cleveland Cajun joint.

Dislikes: Come on Tom Izzo, stay put at Michigan State. You don't belong in the NBA. You're too good for the NBA.

Rock 'n' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"It's a long way from Cedar Riverside to Cedar Sinai
"Three times St. Paul to Cheyenne
"And it's a long way from Sacramento too
"We were bored so we started a band"

-- The Hold Steady, The Sweet Part of the City

Posted on: May 6, 2010 8:19 pm
Edited on: May 6, 2010 9:09 pm
 

Glavine makes his next pitch

Most ironic development in the 2010 season?

Retired ace pitcher Tom Glavine, now a special assistant to Braves president John Schuerholz, signing on as a spokesman for the company that developed and licensed the technical aspects of a certain computer program to ... Questec.

As in, the computerized strike-zone grading mechanism that caused freaked-out umpires to squeeze the zone a few years back ... which nearly blew up Glavine's golden years in the game.

Funny how in life our enemies can become friends, and vice-versa, huh?

The pitching program Glavine liked well enough to sign on with is called PitchSight, and it was developed by L-3 Communications of Burlington, Mass., about a year-and-a-half ago.

In a nutshell, PitchSight is a computer-based system that has the capability of tracking a number of elements designed to aid a pitcher's growth and development. Two cameras and a computer help spit out graphs charting a pitcher's release point, pitch speed, arm angle, the break of a pitch and the location of a pitch.

The intent is that by using the program, a pitcher will be better able to repeat arm angles, pitches and other technical aspects that needs repeating to be successful.

Glavine, who won 305 games in the majors and should be inducted into baseball's Hall of Fame in 2014, likes and believes in PitchSight for several reasons.

"It's pretty simplistic -- there are not a lot of bells and whistles," he says. "You can get instantaneous feedback. You can be in the middle of a bullpen session, stop and immediately dial up a pitch and get information that is pertinent with no guesswork.

"One thing that separates it from video is that in video, there's some gray area as to what you think you're feeling and what you see when you're watching."

By its graphic nature, Glavine says, with PitchSight, "what you see is what you get. There is no guesswork."

"Virtually every year down the stretch, I'd go through a period where I wasn't comfortable," says Glavine, who also offered tips and helped tweak the program while it was in development. "Sometimes you feel way off when in actuality you may be only a little off. Sometimes you feel just a little off when in actuality you may be way off.

"Sometimes you'd watch video, but there was still room for interpretation."

Glavine thinks this program would have helped him ("I'm not saying I would have won 100 more games").

And just think, if he's right, it probably could have done so with far fewer words than it took, say, former Braves pitching coach Leo Mazzone.

"And less expletives," Glavine says, chuckling.

The system sells for $30,000, plus installation. Ken Riddle, L-3 Communications vice-president, says Boston College is among those currently testing the system. The company is hoping its system will catch on with some major-league teams, which it thinks could benefit in expediting the development of younger pitchers in minor-league systems.

As for the idea that it's revenge for Questec?

"This is absolutely something to help pitchers out," Riddle says, chuckling. "I'm not sure I'd call it revenge. It's a different application of technology."

Or, as Glavine says, "You're stealing an evaluation tool pitchers were not real fond of, and now it could be an evaluation tool that is beneficial to pitchers. That's why I like it."

Likes: Still love the XM radio baseball package where you can listen to every game every night (and the MLB Extra Innings package on the tube, too). If only XM had been around a couple of decades ago, just think how many folks could have heard Ernie Harwell then. ... How about the play of Andruw Jones this year? White Sox fans may love it, but Dodgers fans surely are thinking about how badly Jones stole Los Angeles' money. Michigan summers. ... The Hold Steady at the Belly-Up Tavern in San Diego (actually, Solana Beach) on Tuesday night. Their new disc, Heaven is Whenever, sounds great and the show was stellar. Constructive Summer and Stay Positive were among the many standout numbers in the live show. ... These opening acts for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers' summer tour: Joe Cocker, Drive-By Truckers, ZZ Top, Buddy Guy, My Morning Jacket and Crosby, Stills & Nash. Now that's strong. ... Finally, season four of Friday Night Lights debuts on Friday night. Nice job, NBC, keeping it on ice for so long that it again faces long odds of getting good ratings. Talk about giving a great show no chance. Of course, there was no room on the schedule, I know, with the lame Jay Leno 10 p.m. show going.

Dislikes: Farewell, Hall of Famer Robin Roberts. What a bad week. First Ernie Harwell, now the ace of the Phillies 1950 Whiz Kids.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Mama, take this badge off of me
"I can't use it anymore
"It's gettin' dark, too dark to see
"I feel I'm knockin' on heaven's door
"Knock, knock, knockin' on heaven's door
"Knock, knock, knockin' on heaven's door
"Knock, knock, knockin' on heaven's door
"Knock, knock, knockin' on heaven's door
"Mama, put my guns in the ground
"I can't shoot them anymore
"That long black cloud is comin' down
"I feel I'm knockin' on heaven's door
"Knock, knock, knockin' on heaven's door
"Knock, knock, knockin' on heaven's door"

-- Bob Dylan, Knockin' on Heaven's Door

Posted on: April 29, 2010 12:17 pm
Edited on: April 29, 2010 1:37 pm
 

U2, the DH and the baseball schedule

Don't know whether or not Bono favors the designated hitter rule, but based on U2's summer concert tour, they're definitely American Leaguers.

The band is playing Angels Stadium (June 6-7), the Oakland Coliseum (June 16) and Toronto's Rogers Center (July 3) before, finally, landing in NL Florida's Landshark Stadium (or whatever they're calling it now, on July 9).

And it wreaked havoc with the 2010 schedule.

"They've become my least-favorite band -- which has nothing to do with their songs, talent or anything else," jokes Katy Feeney, the longtime National League media specialist who now helps handles major league baseball's club relations and scheduling issues.

Putting together the major-league schedule is always a chore because it has an incredible number of moving parts, and this year's was even more difficult based on the band from Ireland.

Because of the magnitude of the tour and sheer size of the stage, Feeney says, "they require 10 days to set up the concert and then break it down. That's an unusually long period of time [compared to other concerts].

"And that means a team has to be on the road for three series' over a week-and-a-half."

The problems, for example, didn't necessarily occur with sending the Angels on the road for a 14-game trip from May 31-June 14 to make room for U2, or with sending the A's on a nine-game trip from June 11-21 to accommodate Bono and the boys.

"Unfortunately, everything has a ripple effect," Feeney says. "And the number of actual teams hosting the concert, other than those 10 days, may not feel as many consequences as some other clubs."

It could have gotten more dicey. St. Louis initially asked to hold dates for U2, but for whatever reason, the band didn't fit Busch Stadium into its itinerary. And while the band is playing major-league cities Denver (June 12), Seattle (June 20), Minneapolis (June 27) and Chicago (July 6), those concerts are all in football stadiums.

"It wasn't as bad as the year the Republican National Convention was in Houston," Feeney says of the 1992 gathering. "The Astros had to be on the road for a month that year.

"Every year has something. Hopefully, everybody enjoys the U2 concerts in baseball stadiums. And hopefully, the stadiums will be full."

Maybe Bono will write about it in one of his New York Times Op-Ed columns.

Likes: Colleague Mike Freeman's column lobbying baseball to consider moving 2011 All-Star Game out of Arizona if the state does not change its new immigration law. ... Cleveland's Shin-Soo Choo, the game's next superstar. ... Baltimore wins two in a row this week! ... Former Indians pitching coach Carl Willis as the roving pitching coordinator for the Mariners' minor-league system. He'll be back in the bigs soon. ... First three episodes of HBO's Treme have been solid. Very promising New Orleans-based show right there. From David Simon, who did Homicide: Life on the Street and The Wire. ... New release from The Hold Steady next week. ... New DVD coming in June from Bruce Springsteen and the E St. Band, London Calling. ... Finally started reading Nick Hornby's Juliet, Naked. Not too far in yet, but anytime I'm reading a Hornby book, it's good with me.

Dislikes: The Giants' ninth inning Wednesday following Tim Lincecum. ... The Brewers' ninth inning Wednesday with Trevor Hoffman. ... The Royals' eighth and ninth innings Tuesday following Zack Greinke. ... Regarding the above on David Simon, I still haven't caught up with The Wire, which I hear is superb. It's on my list.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"The more you see the less you know
"The less you find out as you go
"I knew much more then, than I do now
"Neon heart, day-glow eyes
"A city lit by fireflies
"They're advertising in the skies
"For people like us"

-- U2, City of Blinding Lights

Posted on: March 22, 2010 7:31 pm
Edited on: March 22, 2010 8:57 pm
 

Reds hold breath with Chapman's stiff back

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- A breezy and optimistic spring training for the Reds paused hard Monday when Cuban sensation Aroldis Chapman was removed from his Cactus League outing against Colorado early because of a stiff lower back.

Chapman, a favorite to win the Reds' fifth slot in the starting rotation, said his back has been bothering him much of the past week -- though later he amended that and indicated that the issue just came up. He also said he has never before had back problems.

"We don't think it's anything serious," Reds manager Dusty Baker said following the Reds' 9-1 loss to the Rockies. "We took him out before it got any worse."

The Reds issued a statement later Monday that Chapman left Monday's game because of back spasms. He will be treated and re-evaluated later this week.

Chapman, through translator Tony Fossas, the pitching coach at Class A Dayton, said he is "not really hurt" and described it as "a little problem with my back I've had all week."

As long as it is a "little" problem, the Reds will breathe easy. Chapman, in competition with Mike Leake, Travis Wood and Justin Lehr for the final rotation spot behind Aaron Harang, Johnny Cueto, Bronson Arroyo and Homer Bailey, had allowed only one run in seven spring innings before Monday, striking out 10 and walking only two.

Coming in after Bronson Arroyo to start the sixth, Chapman mowed down Troy Tulowitzki (swinging strikeout), Miguel Olivo (pop to shortstop) and Melvin Mora (grounder to third) on just eight pitches -- six strikes.

But during a 31-pitch seventh, he suddenly changed gears and started throwing more sliders and change-ups than fastballs. And where his fastball ranged from 93 to 97 miles an hour in the sixth, it was mostly in the 91-93 m.p.h. range in the seventh. In his previous outing, he had touched 102.

"The warning signs were I didn't think he was attacking the hitters," said Reds pitching coach Bryan Price, who visited Chapman on the mound a couple of batters before he returned with Baker and Reds trainer Paul Lessard. "He was trying to get guys out with his change-up and slider.

"I wanted to remind him, 'You've got a good fastball. Use it.'"

Not long after that mound visit, Price and the Reds' staff noticed Chapman stretching on the mound. When Price, Baker and Lessard went to the mound at that point, Chapman at first wasn't too forthcoming.

"I guess guys in Cuba are taught not to say much or complain," Baker said of Chapman, who signed a six-year, $30.25 million contract with the Reds on Jan. 11. "He really didn't have the same stuff. He really didn't have the same fastball, anything. We went out, and it was hard to pull it out of him."

Chapman, who wound up allowing four unearned runs, two walks, a wild pitch, a single and a double in 1 2/3 innings, was to be further examined by doctors later Thursday -- again, more precautionary than anything, the Reds hope.

As for how it may affect the battle for the fifth spot in the rotation if Chapman has to be shut down for a few days, well, let's say that's not first on the list of things Baker would like to think about right now.

"I don't know, man," Baker said. "Let's not speculate until we find out [if he has to miss time]."

Sunblock Day? Lovely day in the 80s in Arizona. Dare we declare that the cold stuff is past us and it's baseball weather from here on out.

Likes: Joe Mauer in Minnesota, long-term. ... Albert Pujols in St. Louis short-term, for now, and long-term later (it's gotta come eventually, right?). ... Vin Scully back at work. And his tremendous description of doctor's orders for him reducing his activity: "I'm supposed to cut back on dangling participles and I'm not allowed to split an infinitive for at least another week, but otherwise, no." ... How's this for percentages: There were 13 people on the writers' side of the press box for the Reds-Rockies Cactus League game in Goodyear on Monday, and two of them are in the writers' wing of the Baseball Hall of Fame: Hal McCoy, now blogging on the Reds for his old paper, the Dayton Daily News, and Tracy Ringolsby, who's got a regular gig on the Rockies' pre- and post-game telecasts for Fox Sports Rocky Mountain. ... Reds media relations director Rob Butcher, one of the very best in the business, training for the Boston Marathon on April 19. ... Fine, fine production of The Beauty and the Beast at Calavera Hills Middle School over the weekend in Carlsbad, Calif. The kids weren't simply acting, they became the characters. The sets were terrific. The sound was exceptionally clean. The production was top-shelf. The costumes were Academy Award-caliber. Phenomenal enough that I'm going to have to get to know some of these folks. Oh wait ... was the costume director really my wife? And one of the crack backstage crew members really my daughter? Man, I need to get home more. ... Jimmy Buffett and the Zac Brown Band on Crossroads, currently running on CMT. Fabulous pairing.

Dislikes: The guy in front of me in the airport security line Monday morning who was so clueless that, as he was removing the change out of his pockets, his belt and other metal objects actually had to remove suspenders from underneath his shirt as well. He had absolutely no idea. Airport security basically had to guide him through everything as he held up the line for at least five minutes. It was Airport Security for Dummies, to be sure. ... Sure do hate to see Michigan State guard Kalin Lucas sidelined the rest of the way.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"When I left I wasn't thinking
"That I wasn't coming home
"But first Al Green
"And then Barry White
"Convinced me not to go
"And I didn't come home for fighting
"I came to bandage up my hand
"And if you're gonna talk to me like that
"Then I'll just go back out again
"Wipe that chip right off your shoulder
"We ain't getting any younger
"Some things are getting bigger
"Some things are falling off
"Some things they seem much harder
"Some other things stay soft"

-- The Hold Steady, Cheyenne Sunrise

Posted on: September 10, 2009 6:41 pm
Edited on: September 10, 2009 6:42 pm
 

Short Hops: The Sequel

 Why the Dodgers are still first in the NL West: Thanks to gritty starting pitching and a stellar bullpen, they're surrendered four or fewer runs in 27 of their past 29 games.

 The Dodgers' latest challenge: Lefty Randy Wolf, their most consistent starter this season, has a sore left elbow and will skip the opener of this weekend's big series in San Francisco. So, to review: Wolf is ailing, Chad Billingsley appears to have hit a wall and youngster Clayton Kershaw (non-pitching shoulder) is skipping a start.

 The way things stand today, it'll all eyes on the field generals come October: The managers from the eight clubs would comprise the most experienced group of managers in one postseason since the wild-card format started in 1995. Jim Leyland, Mike Scioscia, Terry Francona, Charlie Manuel, Tony La Russa, Joe Torre and Jim Tracy will have combined for 51 postseason appearances (including 2009), 17 pennants, 11 World Series titles and 11 manager of the year awards. (The Yankees' Joe Girardi would be the lone man of the eight to have never managed in a postseason).

 Reasons why the AL West race is not a foregone conclusion: Sure, the Angels lead Texas by 4 1/2 games with little more than three weeks remaining, BUT: While the Angels still have four games left with the Yankees, three against Boston and seven against the Rangers, Texas' mix includes six games against Seattle (72-68) and three against Tampa Bay (72-68), decidedly less fierce than that Yankees-Red Sox tango. And the Rangers have beaten the Angels in nine of 12 games so far this summer.

 Reasons why the AL West race could be a foregone conclusion: While the above is true, so, too, is this: While the Angels are only 19-23 against the AL West this season, they're 24-12 against the AL East. Texas is 24-13 against the AL West and 25-19 against the AL East.

 Twins manager Ron Gardenhire and pitching coach Rick Anderson both think left-hander Francisco Liriano, 5-12 with a 5.80 ERA this summer, is going to come back strong in 2010 based on being two years out (by then) from Tommy John ligament transfer sugery. Liriano finally has regained his strength but couldn't repeat pitches this summer, especially his slider. "He'd throw two nasty sliders and then not get on top of the next one, leave it down in the zone and whack," Gardenhire says.

 He's out now with a plantar fascia injury, but Kyle Blanks has made a good early impression in San Diego (10 homers and 22 RBIs in 54 games). And it's easy to see why the 6-6, 285-pounder was who Tampa Bay targeted in trade talks last spring when the Padres came asking about right-handers Jason Hammel and Jeff Niemann. The Rays' answer was no, and Tampa subsequently wound up dealing Hammel to Colorado for minor-league pitcher Aneury Rodriguez on April 5. Rodriguez went 9-11 with a 4.50 ERA, with 111 strikeouts and only 59 walks over 142 innings pitched (27 starts), for Double-A Montgomery this summer.

 Maybe the Royals should zero in on second baseman Placido Polanco this winter on the free agent market. The Tigers' infielder is batting .337 (66 for 196) with 10 doubles, a triple, two homers and 24 RBI in 45 career games at Kauffman Stadium. The .337 average is seventh among active major leaguers at the K.

 Only two AL pitchers since 1988 have won 12 or more games in a season before turning 21: Seattle's Felix Hernandez and, now, Detroit's Rick Porcello. In Motown, Porcello's 12 wins is the most in one season by a Tiger 20 years old or younger since Dave Rozema won 11 in 1977 before he turned 21 that Aug. 5.

 Boston general manager Theo Epstein's line about the possibility of Curt Schilling running for Senate in the spot vacated by the late Ted Kennedy, that Schilling "would be good at filibustering", is one of the summer's classics.

 Bob Watson, vice-president of major league baseball's on-field operations, is recovering from back surgery this week.

 Hilarious piece on a new Jeter "movie", Pride of the Yankees 2, from my buddy Jim Caple.

Likes:
Looking forward to reading Cardboard Gods: An American Tale Told Through Baseball Cards by Josh Wilker, due out next spring. Anybody who's ever read Wilker's Cardboard Gods Web site knows the guy can write. I read the Prologue and an excerpt written around the Rudy Meoli Topps 1975 No. 533 card and the book, part-memoir, part-Valentine to baseball, and based on what I've seen written about it, it looks like a winner. ... Here's a New York Times piece on Wilker. ... St. Mary Catholic Central High School (Monroe, Mich.) gained a nice bounceback win over Riverview last week and travels to Flat Rock to face the Rams on Friday night. Nice job so far by Coach Jack Giarmo's Falcons.

Dislikes: I'm already stocked up with reasons enough, but Ellen DeGeneres signing on with American Idol gives me one more reason not to watch.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Back then it was beautiful
The boys were sweet and musical
The laser lights looked mystical
Messed up stuff felt magical
Girls didn't seem so difficult
Boys didn't seem so typical
It was warm and white and wonderful
We were all invincible"

-- The Hold Steady, Joke About Jamaica

 

Posted on: February 16, 2009 10:12 pm
 

Atlanta makes more sense than Seattle for Griffey

TAMPA, Fla. -- As Ken Griffey Jr. sleeps one more night while rasslin' with what probably will be the last big decision of his career, the parameters are pretty simple.

Atlanta by far offers him the best situation, personally.

Seattle clearly is where he should go, professionally, from strictly a save-the-legs, extend-his-career point of view.

Assuming the money is roughly equal -- a year, somewhere between $1 and $2 million -- this doesn't make the decision any easier. But the parameters are very clear.

Remember when Junior asked the Mariners to trade him to Cincinnati so he could go home?

Turns out, he rarely felt at home.

Atlanta offers a far better home situation than Cincinnati ever did. He lives in Orlando, 15-20 minutes from the Braves' complex. He literally can live in his own house an extra six or seven weeks this year during spring training (as opposed to having to pack up and spend February and March in Peoria, Ariz.).

Atlanta, the city, is geographically closer to his Orlando home than Cincinnati is. At an hour away by air, Griffey could head home to Florida on off days if he wanted.

If he signs with Seattle, of course, he can't. But he may be able to acquire several more at-bats as a DH than he would as a platoon left fielder in Atlanta.

Meantime, while the Braves aren't necessarily favored in the NL East, they probably can hang with Philadelphia and the New York Mets longer than a Seattle team that lost 101 games last year can stay afloat in the AL West.

So, to recap. ...

Atlanta = home, family, playing meaningful games, possibly getting one more chance to play in October if all sorts of things fall into place.

Seattle = easier on the legs thanks to the DH slot and ... um ... well, far less humidity than Atlanta during the peak of the summer.

It's difficult to view a Griffey return to Seattle as anything more than a chance for the Mariners to help sell more tickets. At 39, he's certainly past his prime and isn't in position to significantly help them improve. He's a role player now.

Bottom line is, it's pretty clear.

Atlanta makes the most sense.

Likes: Mets manager Jerry Manuel's plan to shake up the lineup, and maybe give shortstop Jose Reyes more defensive responsibility in terms of helping to position guys. Terrific idea. Reyes has shown a lack of focus and a need to mature. Giving him more responsibility may be exactly what he needs to lock in and stay focused. ... Love Boston's David Ortiz and White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen saying anybody who tests positive for steroids should be suspended for an entire season. Somebody start that petition. ... Sean Penn has to win the Oscar for Best Actor over Mickey Rourke, doesn't he? Rourke's performance was powerful, but -- and not to diminish it -- he was largely playing Mickey Rourke. Penn was pure acting. ... B.B. King's latest disc, One Kind Favor, is really good. ... So is The Hold Steady's latest, Stay Positive. Vastly underrated group. ... Absolutely love the Blackberry "If Delivery People Ran the World" ad where the kid Callahan is missing from school and the delivery folks track him, grab him and deposit him before he knows what's hit him.

Dislikes: I will see you on Tuesday live from the Alex Rodriguez press conference in Yankee camp. I don't think anybody wants to be there -- A-Rod, the Yankees, the media, anybody. But we've all got to play our parts before we can move on with the spring, know what I mean? I'll be happy to get past it and get back to writing baseball.

Sunblock day? Warm sun, cool air. Probably around 70 which, for you Northerners eating your hearts out, is still pretty darn good down here.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"I think she drove a new Mustang
"I guess it might be a rental
"I remember she had satellite radio
"I guess she seemed a bit nervous
"Do you think I’m that stupid?
"Well look, what the hell, I’ll tell my story again …"

-- The Hold Steady, Sequestered in Memphis

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com