Details from Art Modell's funeral

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Details from Art Modell's funeral

From Comcast SportsNetBALTIMORE (AP) -- Thousands of family and friends turned out Tuesday for the funeral of former Browns and Ravens owner Art Modell, including current and former players, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.An important figure in the development of the league, Modell also was one of the NFL's most polarizing owners. Cleveland fans never forgave him from moving his club to Baltimore for financial reasons after the 1995 season, but Ravens fans were fond of him and Modell also was remembered as a loving family man on Tuesday.Ray Lewis, Ray Rice, Joe Flacco, Haloti Ngata and Torrey Smith were among current Ravens players who attended the service at Baltimore Hebrew Congregation. Former Ravens players Michael McCrary, Peter Boulware and Rob Burnett also went to pay their respects."He contributed so much to the NFL," Goodell said. "He was obviously a close adviser to (former NFL commissioner) Pete Rozelle. He was a big part of NFL history. He played a big role in the NFL and the NFL is going to miss him."Lewis, Baltimore's second pick in the 1996 draft after Modell moved the franchise, gave a eulogy filled with emotion."Rest in peace Pop Art,'" he said.Goodell and Modell's sons, John Modell and David Modell, also spoke during the service. John Modell followed his speech by performing a song he wrote on the guitar for his father in 1998, when the Ravens built their facility, which is now known as M&T Bank Stadium."He loved the game," John Modell said. "He loved the men who played the game. He loved football."Toward the end of the 90-minute service, Modell's pallbearers, which included Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome and Ravens senior vice president of public and community relations Kevin Byrne, carried his casket to a hearse sitting in front of the synagogue.Modell's funeral came the morning after the Ravens defeated the Cincinnati Bengals 44-13 in Baltimore. The team paid tribute to Modell by wearing commemorative T-shirts during pre-game warmups and in the locker room after the game ended."If Mr. Modell (didn't) bring the team to Baltimore, it doesn't happen for us," Ravens safety Ed Reed said following the game. "This city here loves football, too, and Mr. Modell saw that in this city, and he made us all Ravens. We're all grateful just to be here."Modell purchased the Cleveland Browns in 1961 for 4 million, an unheard of amount at the time. He won an NFL championship with the Browns in 1964 -- over the Baltimore Colts -- and those early Cleveland teams later appeared in the 1965, 1968 and 1969 title games. The Browns also reached the AFC championship in the 1986, 1987 and 1989 seasons but fell short to the Denver Broncos each time.Modell was a member of the NFL's television committee for 31 years and helped launch Monday Night Football. He served on the NFL-AFL merger committee and helped negotiate the NFL's first collective bargaining agreement as the chairman of the owners' labor committee.But it was Modell's decision in 1995 that made him a villain in the northeast Ohio. Facing a financial burden, Modell moved the Browns to Baltimore instead of selling the organization and keeping it in Cleveland.Fans in Cleveland still bear a grudge, though the Browns kept their history and received an expansion team three years later. In 2000, the Ravens won Modell his first Super Bowl title.Modell was never voted into the NFL Hall of Fame, which has been a debatable issue for many years.Though Goodell commended Modell's accomplishments as an NFL owner, he said he wouldn't judge whether he should be in or not."That's for others to make that decision," Goodell said. "I think his contributions are extraordinary. I don't want to take positions on that."

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State of the Nats: Delicate balance to stay healthy in final week

State of the Nats: Delicate balance to stay healthy in final week

Team Record: 91-65

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The final week - Manager Dusty Baker and his Nationals have a delicate balance to maintain over the next week-plus as they get set to play the Dodgers in the NL Division Series on Oct. 7. They need to remain sharp while still giving some of their regulars rest before the grind that is October. It sounds simple, but it has been proven over and over to be much more complex than it sounds.

The most important objective through all of it, of course, is avoiding injuries and both Sunday and Monday's games illustrated how difficult that can be. Any time players are on the field, they are at risk of hurting themselves. On Sunday in Pittsburgh, Bryce Harper jammed his thumb sliding into third base on a triple against the Pirates. X-rays were negative, but it could have easily been serious. The Nats dodged a bullet.

One night later, catcher Wilson Ramos hurt his knee on a throw home. Ryan Zimmerman threw high over Ramos' head, requiring him to jump and catch it. He landed on his right leg and his knee buckled slightly. It wasn't even a contact play, yet now the catcher's immediate future hangs in the balance.

Both of these injuries come on the heels of Daniel Murphy injuring his left buttock and Stephen Strasburg suffering a strained right flexor mass. That's four of their five 2016 All-Stars, all injured to different degrees in a span of just three weeks.

No one wants to put their players in harm's way unnecessarily, but the alternative can also be bleak. It's an inexact science trying to keep players sharp down the stretch of the regular season ahead of the playoffs, especially with a four-day layoff awaiting them while the MLB wild card games are decided. That's basically an All-Star break, an unusually long respite right before the intensity of games goes up several notches.

The Nationals know this all too well, as in 2014 they had the four-day layoff and came out of it flat on offense. They won 17 of 22 down the stretch of the regular season, but then had four days off. They did their best with a simulated game at Nationals Park. Aaron Barrett famously sang the national anthem. It sounded like a fun time, but it couldn't prevent the Nats from hitting just .164 in their series against the Giants. Their bullpen stood out in that series loss, and so did some managerial decisions, but bottom line is that they scored nine runs in four games.

Their pitching was mostly good. They also held the Giants to just nine runs in the series. The Nats just couldn't score when they needed to.

Baker has plenty of experience heading into the playoffs both as a player and as a manager. He told a story on Monday about the 1977 season when he was an outfielder for the Dodgers that has stuck with him ever since:

"I know that when I was a player back in ’77 Steve Garvey and I were the only ones that played all the way to the end because I was trying to hit 30 home runs and he was trying to get 200 hits. Consequently, Reggie Smith and Ron Seay when we started the playoffs they weren’t sharp because they took three or four days off because they already had their 30 home runs. So Garv and I were the only two that were really hot and we got to the World Series and we weren’t that hot but the other guys that had gotten the rest were hot. It’s a thin line between playing a whole bunch and not playing enough."

It may not affect how they play in the postseason whatsoever, but it would be a good idea for the Nats to hold an open workout this time. In 2014, they closed their workout to both fans and the media. They basically remained silent for four days heading into the postseason.

The Kansas City Royals, conversely, held a workout open to fans in October of 2014. They called it a playoff rally and around five thousand people showed up to Kauffman Stadium.

Now, that's just an idea that could bring some fun to the whole experience. It offers no solution to the conundrum of keeping players rested, yet sharp for the playoffs. Though, the Royals reaching the World Series that year at least proves it can't hurt.

Truthfully, there is probably no right answer in how to handle the Nationals over the next 10 days. Would you rather run the risk of injury, or risk losing rhythm and momentum entering the playoffs? It's not an easy call to make.

NL East Standings

Offensive game of the week: Ryan Zimmerman 9/23 vs. Pirates - 2-for-5, 2 2B, 2 R, RBI

Pitching line of the week: Reynaldo Lopez 9/24 vs. Pirates - 5.1 IP, 0 R, 3 H, 6 SO, 2 BB, 85 pitches (57 strikes)

Quote of the Week 

"That's what I came here for. I'm telling you -- let these young men have a great time tonight, back to work tomorrow. First step in a four-step process. This step is the hardest to get. I'm just so happy for these guys. I love them. I love this team."

- Dusty Baker on the Nats clinching the 2016 NL East

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Road Ahead

Mon. - 14-4 loss to Arizona
Tue. - 7:05 p.m. vs. Arizona Diamondbacks (Scherzer vs. Godley)
Wed. - 7:05 p.m. vs. Arizona Diamondbacks (Gonzalez vs. Miller)
Thu. - 1:05 p.m. vs. Arizona Diamondbacks (Ross vs. Ray)
Fri. - 7:05 p.m. vs. Miami Marlins (Cole vs. Chen)
Sat. - 4:05 p.m. vs. Miami Marlins (Roark vs. Phelps)
Sun. - 3:05 p.m. vs. Miami Marlins (Scherzer vs. Urena)

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Dee Gordon on his emotional home run: 'That's the best moment of my life'

Dee Gordon on his emotional home run: 'That's the best moment of my life'

A little over 24 hours after learning of the tragic death of Jose Fernandez, the Miami Marlins somehow, someway played a baseball game against the New York Mets on Monday. 

The night was filled with emotional tributes, from a moment of silence to the entire team donning No. 16 "Fernandez" jerseys, to the dugout emptying postgame to form a circle around the pitching mound for one final goodbye. 

But it was Marlins second baseman Dee Gordon who perhaps provided the most poignant moment of the evening. In his first inning at-bat, the left-handed hitting Gordon batted on the right side of the plate while emulating Fernandez’ batting stance. One pitch later, after going back to the left side, Gordon launched a solo home run — his first of the season — and tearfully rounded the bases before embracing his equally emotional teammates in the dugout. 

​"I don't have kids, so that's the best moment of my life," Gordon told FOX Sports afterward about his home run. 

He later told reporters that his trip around the bases, “took forever. It seemed like it took forever…. I was just wondering why [Fernandez] wasn’t there standing on the top step, cheering for me.”

Given the circumstances, Gordon’s longball is undoubtedly one the standout moments of the 2016 MLB season, and won’t soon be forgotten. The same can be said of Fernandez, whose immense talent was trumped only by the joy with which he played the game.