From Comcast SportsNetNEW YORK (AP) -- Yunel Escobar insisted he meant no insult, reiterating that the words he wrote were supposed to be "just a joke."The Toronto Blue Jays had a different read, suspending their starting shortstop for three games on Tuesday for wearing eye-black displaying a homophobic slur in Spanish during a game last weekend against Boston.Escobar apologized to his team and "to all those who have been offended.""It was not something I intended to be offensive," he said through a translator. "It was not anything intended to be directed at anyone in particular."Escobar said he wrote the message 10 minutes before Saturday's home game on his eye-black, a sticker players wear under their eyes to reduce sun glare. The 29-year-old Cuban said he frequently puts messages there -- usually inspirational, manager John Farrell offered -- and had never previously written that specific slur.Escobar insisted the word is often used within teams and by Latinos and "I didn't see it as something bad at the time.""For us, it doesn't have the significance to the way it's being interpreted now," he said. "It's a word without a meaning.""I don't have anything against homosexuals," he said, adding he didn't mean for the term to be "misinterpreted" by the gay community.The suspension -- issued after input from Commissioner Bud Selig, the players' union and team management -- was to have started Tuesday night. The game between Toronto and New York was rained out and a day-night doubleheader was set for Wednesday.The penalty was announced in a 26-minute news conference at Yankee Stadium. Escobar wore a jacket and jeans and was joined by Farrell, Toronto general manager Alex Anthopoulos, coach Luis Rivera and translator Robbie Guerra, a lawyer from the players' union.Escobar's lost salary during the ban -- about 82,000 -- will be directed to two advocacy groups, the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation and You Can Play.Escobar also will take part in an outreach initiative to promote tolerance to others based on their sexual orientation, and participate in a sensitivity training program.Pictures posted online showed Escobar with the message written during the Red Sox-Blue Jays game. Farrell said Escobar's notes are often to the effect of "Let's go today." They draw so little attention that nobody caught the change."There was no reason to think it was something derogatory," Farrell said.Farrell said the slur was written in small letters and "if someone had seen it, I would suspect someone would have said something."Major League Baseball regulations prohibit derogatory words and symbols on uniforms. Writing something of that nature on eye-black would fall under that category, MLB spokesman Pat Courtney said.The NFL and college football have banned eye-black messages. The college ban came after stars including Tim Tebow, who wrote Bible verses, and Reggie Bush, who put his hometown area code, began to use the eye-black to send messages."Mr. Escobar has admitted that his actions were a mistake and I am hopeful he can use this unfortunate situation as an opportunity to educate himself and others that intolerance has no place in our game or society," Selig said in a statement.GLAAD President Herndon Graddick commended the decision."Today's actions show that MLB and the Toronto Blue Jays are committed to creating an environment that all fans and families can enjoy, not a place where discriminatory language and anti-gay attitudes are accepted," Graddick said in a statement.Anthopoulos said he had spent most of the day with Escobar at the commissioner's office."I don't know there's a right way to deal with these things," he said. "You're not going to satisfy everyone."In May 2011, MLB suspended Atlanta pitching coach Roger McDowell for two weeks without pay for inappropriate comments and gestures with homophobic and sexual overtones he made toward fans before a game in San Francisco.In April, Miami Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen was suspended for five games by his team because of comments that he loves Fidel Castro. Many Cuban-Americans were angered by the remarks.On Tuesday, Guillen said he didn't think Escobar meant to be offensive."I think he just did it for fun. I know he didn't mean to hurt anybody's feelings. Nobody is that stupid," he said before the Marlins hosted Atlanta."In my house, we call (each other) that word every 20 seconds. I've got three kids," Guillen said. "For us, it's like What's up, bro? What's up, dude?' It's how you say it and to who you say it. But that's our country. We have to respect this country. Sometimes for us it's funny, for other people it's not."Escobar was traded from Atlanta to Toronto in July 2010. He is hitting .251 this season with nine home runs and 49 RBIs.Escobar's salary this year is 5 million. The Blue Jays have club options on him for 2014 and 2015.
Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, January 18, 99 days before the NFL draft.
—NFL franchise tag deadline 43
—NFL free agency starts 51
—First Sunday of 2017 season 236
The coordinator search and more
—Did the Redskins underachieve this year? I know that a metric like DVOA is not the final word in the quality of a team but looking at it year after year it usually does work out that the teams with the better numbers in DVOA usually win more games than those with worse numbers. The Redskins finished 2016 eighth in DVOA. Considering that 12 teams make the playoffs, that could be considered a playoff quality team. Yet 15 teams finished with a better record than they did. I’m sure there are some holes in the formula for the stat but just looking at that it sure appears that the Redskins did leave some wins out on the field.
—John Keim is reporting that the Redskins are prepared to switch to a 4-3 defense if that is what their new defensive coordinator prefers. They have been in the 3-4 since Mike Shanahan arrived in 2010. Whether it is because of the scheme or lack of draft and free agent resources spent on the line and at safety, the defense hasn’t been very good. As Keim notes, they will need to make some personnel changes if they do change but with a full load of draft picks and $62 million in cap space this may be the time to do it.
—I expected the angst that was all over Twitter when word of the Rob Ryan interview got out. But it’s pretty dumb to get all worked up over an interview (with all due respect to readers here who may have been upset). It’s not a hiring. Look, somehow or another Ryan managed to stay employed as an NFL defensive coordinator for 12 straight seasons. I don’t know how to research it without going through some very time consuming and tedious steps but I’d be willing to bet that only about a few dozen men in the history of the league have been able to remain a defensive coordinator for that many season in a row. The organization can learn something from sitting down and talking to him for a few hours.
—I understand that we want things to talk about in a relatively slow time. But I just don’t see why there is fear out there over the possibility that Kyle Shanahan will get hired as the coach of the 49ers and somehow steal Kirk Cousins away to be his quarterback. The Redskins can maintain his rights via the franchise tag. They could tag Cousins and trade him to the 49ers but there would be a heavy price in terms of draft picks. But while it’s possible, it’s unlikely. The chances are very, very good that Cousins will be in a Redskins uniform this year via either the tag or a long-term deal. 2018? That’s a different story.
Tandler on Twitter
Interesting fact I learned about Tarver: He earned his bachelor’s in biochemistry from Santa Clara while coaching at another local college.— Rich Tandler (@Rich_TandlerCSN) January 17, 2017
That doesn’t mean he will be a good defense coordinator. But it does mean that he’s smarter than me.— Rich Tandler (@Rich_TandlerCSN) January 17, 2017
In case you missed it
- #RedskinsTalk Podcast Episode 40 - Picking Redskins coordinators
- JP & Tandler select Redskins Offensive Player of the Year
- Redskins defensive coordinator resume: Jason Tarver
- An early look at 1st-round draft possibilities for the Redskins
You can have effort and hustle on defense, but without smarts and proper communication, it's all just wasted energy. The Portland Trail Blazers aren't a good team record-wise, but they have two elite scorers in Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum who gave the Wizards fits in sweeping them last season.
They'd recently beaten the Cleveland Cavaliers by 16 points, but the Wizards had their best defensive showing for 48 minutes of the season.
The pick-and-roll action between Lillard and Mason Plumlee leaves much to be desired. Wall uses lock-and-trail technique to take away the three-point shot. Lillard gives it up to Plumlee being defended by Marcin Gortat. Markieff Morris digs in to help prevent a clean layup, forcing the ball out to Al-Farouq Aminu. Quickly, Morris jumps out to prevent the clean look by a solid three-point shooter and Gortat is behind him in support. Where Plumlee is standing during all of this, he's not a threat. As Aminu can't turn his shoulders square to the rim for a finish, he tries a pass out to Plumlee on a bad angle which makes Morris' steal an easy one.
Bradley Beal does the same on McCollum. He locks and trails around the screen from Plumlee. This technique allows the guard to recover provided he stays low, absorbs contact from screener and has support from the big to stop the ball until recovery. Unfortunately for the Blazers, Plumlee isn't a spread five. Him being this high allows Gortat double the ball and not have to vacate his spot. Beal can get the strip from behind.
Otto Porter is following Mo Harkless as he curls into the paint but doesn't allow him to turn into the rim. Lillard cuts baseline and it appears Porter is destined to collide with Wall, which creates an open look. They switch out and Lillard is forced to take a contested fade on a 6-8 small forward with long arms. This isn't a complicated play, but the kind of play earlier this season that the Wizards would defend well but not finish the possession because they'd relax thinking the play was over by stopping Harkless.
Kelly Oubre was on the ball with Lillard but gets screened off. Tomas Satoransky makes the switch, bodies up Lillard as he tries to turn the corner to the rim which slows him. Markieff Morris leaves Aminu in support to smother the ball. That's a 6-7 guard and a 6-10 big and the baseline serving as a third defender. When Lillard figures out he took it one step too deep before passing back out to Aminu, it's too late. It's a turnover.
Meyers Leonard screens Oubre to get Lillard free vs. Gortat. Using the sideline, Gortat moves his feet and is aggressive in keeping him pinned until Oubre can recover underneath to the ball. Also see how Gortat is physical with Leonard, giving him a left stiff arm to take away any possibility that he can roll to the basket. By the time Lillard tries to shoot, the 6-7 Oubre, who has a 7-2 wingspan, is in his face to contest and it's a brick.
Beal gets his hands out of the cookie jar, knowing Lillard likes to sweep through to force contact on his arms and draw a whistle (a smart, legal play). Anticipating he'd get that contact that never came, Lillard elevated and realized there'd be no whistle. He makes an emergency pass out to Allen Crabbe who swings it to Aminu. Also note, Oubre immediately shades Crabbe to his left hand. He doesn't dribble and finish well in that direction. Aminu goes at Morris who doesn't allow him to get to the rim or square for a decent shot. The Wizards gang rebound to get out in transition. Lillard puts up no resistance as Wall goes end to end.
Wall stays connected to Lillard through the first screen from Jake Layman. He anticipates the pin down coming from Plumlee on the reversal and tries to go over the top, but Lillard breaks off his route and tries to cut across the lane to fill the opposite slot for a potential three. Porter switches with Wall as a result, but see what Gortat does to allow Porter to get into position. He won't allow Lillard to run freely into his spot for a catch-and-shoot. He doesn't hold him, which would be illegal, but interrupts his route. That throws off the timing and Crabbe has to send the ball back to Layman, now being covered by Wall who has to deal with a third screen set by Plumlee. He gets the strip from behind for a breakaway.
Wall hops into the ball to take away Plumlee's screen. This forces Lillard to make the read to drive away from the screen, but Gortat is there. What makes this easier – again – is Plumlee's positioning and that Lillard doesn't temper his speed. He's going too fast, rendering Plumlee a non-factor, rather than manipulating the spacing and putting pressure on the Gortat to make a decision to stop the dive or double-team the ball. It's 1 vs. 2, a turnover and a runout for Beal.