Reds third base coach Mark Berry diagnosed with cancer

Reds third base coach Mark Berry diagnosed with cancer

Via C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer: Reds third base coach Mark Berry told the team Sunday morning that he has been diagnosed with cancer, but expressed optimism that he will beat it. “I have cancer,” Berry told reporters after the team meeting. “I know it sounds bad, the word cancer, but there are…

Can the Marlins compete in the NL East without Dee Gordon?


Can the Marlins compete in the NL East without Dee Gordon?

Through the first month of the 2016 season, the NL East looks like it could be deeper than it was a year ago. That is, of course, excluding the Atlanta Braves, who are currently MLB's worst team with a .217 win percentage after 23 games.

The Nationals and Mets look very good. The Phillies are 13-10 and winners of three straight. Whether they can keep that up, though, is doubtful.

On paper, the Marlins have the third-best roster in the division and in terms of starpower can measure up to just about any team in baseball. With Giancarlo Stanton and Jose Fernandez, in particular, they have two superstars in their prime.

Depth was the biggest concern for Miami heading into this season and now it's about to be seriously tested. All-Star second baseman Dee Gordon, who won the NL batting title in 2015, has been suspended for 80 games for performance enhancing drugs. His loss is a big one.

The Marlins' lineup is impressive, but it looks a lot better with Gordon at the top setting the table for Stanton, Christian Yelich and Justin Bour. Few players in baseball can provide the threat Gordon can not only as a leadoff hitter, but as a baserunner as well. Gordon led the league each of the last two years in steals, with 58 last year and 64 the season before that.

It's only logical to think Gordon's loss will have a profound effect on the Marlins, that his absence alone could pave the way for the Phillies to be the third-best team in the NL East. But, interestingly enough, the Marlins are red-hot right now. They've won six straight and just swept the Dodgers in L.A. The Dodgers had one of baseball's best records prior to the series and won the NL West last year.

Miami may appear okay right now, but they will have to stay afloat for three full months without Gordon. He can't return until late July and by then it could be too late. 

At 11-11, the Marlins have an average record and rank as a pedestrian team in many categories. They aren't scoring a ton of runs and no part of their pitching staff has stood out as above average. Their starting rotation, in particular, does not appear to be a strength, especially if Fernandez pitches the way he has to begin this season. Wei-Yin Chen hasn't been very good, either.

If the Marlins have been a middle of the road team overall with Gordon, it's hard to see them proving to be anything more than that without him. Miami had the best chance of making the NL East a three-team race this season and Gordon's suspension may have sealed their fate. Now the division now looks even more like a direct battle between the Nationals and Mets, unless the Phillies have something to say about it.

Ravens finally take cornerback in 4th round of NFL Draft


Ravens finally take cornerback in 4th round of NFL Draft

The Ravens finally drafted a cornerback, taking Tavon Young of Temple with their first pick in the fourth round (104th overall). Young is a Maryland native who went to Oxon Hill High School, and the Ravens hope Young’s homecoming will strengthen their secondary.

For five straight years, the Ravens have not drafted a cornerback during any of the first three rounds. Jimmy Smith, their first-round pick in 2011, is the last cornerback the Ravens have spent a high pick on, and it was revealed this week that Smith would undergo surgery to remove bone chips from his foot. 

Smith is expected to recover in four to six weeks, but even before his most recent foot issues, the Ravens entered this draft looking for corners. The starting spot opposite Smith is wide open, and even if Shareece Wright or Kyle Arrington wins that job, Young has a chance to contribute immediately in a nickel-back role.

Young had seven career interceptions at Temple, but he was not among the bigger corners in this draft pick at 5-foot-9, 185 pounds. Young might have his work cut out covering taller receivers, but he was durable and tackled well – two traits that likely attracted him to the Ravens.

Capitals' Tom Wilson explains 'bluff' hit on Conor Sheary


Capitals' Tom Wilson explains 'bluff' hit on Conor Sheary

One day after being fined $2,403.67 for his knee-on-knee hit on Penguins forward Conor Sheary, Capitals right wing Tom Wilson explained to reporters what he was trying to do on the play and the reputation he’s trying to develop around the NHL.

“Honestly, on that play I wasn’t even going to hit him,” Wilson said of his decision to veer off his path to the Capitals’ bench for his unpenalized hit on Sheary. “That wasn’t my intention. I was just trying to kind of bluff check him, give him a fake and kind of go to the bench and our legs got caught up. 

“Hockey’s a fast game, and sometimes stuff happens that you don’t really intend on. I think it looked a lot worse than the outcome was. The impact really wasn’t that great. He was trying to get out of the way.”

Sheary finished Thursday’s Game 1 and was back on the ice for the Penguins on Saturday at Verizon after missing Friday’s practice at Kettler.

“Just kind of an unfortunate circumstance, but the league does their job,” Wilson said. “They watch pretty much all my hits, I’m sure. When you play the game hard, you’re going to get under a microscope, and you’ve just got to make sure you’re playing within the rules. Player safety’s a big part of the game these days. We want to make sure that everyone’s kind of safe out there and guys are playing within the rules. Whatever player safety needs to do to kind of keep the game in check and playing the right way, they’re going to do that.”

Wilson, 22, said he was not given any specific message from the NHL’s Department of Player Safety.

“I think I get the message,” Wilson said. “I know they’re watching. I play the game hard. When you play the game that way, you’re going to be under a microscope. You’re finishing checks hard, and up until this one I’ve been completely off the books. I’ve hit very hard but very legal. I’m not going to change the way I play. I’ve got to trust my instincts.

"That’s just a real unfortunate kind of circumstance. I don’t even intend to really hit him there. I’m trying to kind of bluff hit him and our legs get tangled up. I had no intention on going knee-on-one. You ask any player, if I’m going in there planning to go knee-on-knee, there’s a 50/50 chance it’s going to be my knee that blows up. That’s an unfortunate play. I’m sure he’s all right. I hope he’s all right. We’ll just go on with the series here.”

Capitals coach Barry Trotz said he believes Wilson has become a more disciplined player in his two seasons of coaching him. Wilson noted that he has never been suspended by the NHL, although that could be the NHL’s next step after issuing a fine.

“The game’s constantly evolving, you’ve kind of got to evolve with it,” Wilson said. “The Pittsburgh media was saying it was just a crazy Game 1, it was an octagon not a rink and I don’t think they really watched the Philly series because that was even crazier. 

“I kind of learned throughout that series that I’ve got to tone it down a little bit. Our team’s so good on the special teams that if we can give our team the advantage, that’s what I want to do. There’s going to be emotion, it’s playoffs and I’ve just got to make sure that I’m putting our team kind of up a man not down a man. 

“It’s playoffs, stuff happens. That was kind of an unfortunate one, but I’ve talked to Barry, I’ve talked to numerous refs, the league, I’ve talked to people. It’s no secret that I hit hard and that I play the game hard. I’ve just got to make sure that I’m staying within the rules and doing what I have been doing.”