Sat, 22 Nov 2014 23:54:00 +0000

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) Quarterback Jameis Winston led top-ranked Florida State 66 yards to put Roberto Aguayo in position for a 26-yard game-winning field goal with three seconds remaining and the Seminoles remained perfect with a 20-17 victory over Boston College on Saturday.

Florida State (11-0, 8-0 ACC, No. 3 CFP) had been plagued by slow starts throughout the season and the Seminoles went into the fourth quarter tied 17-17 with the Eagles. But with less than five minutes left, Winston helped engineer another game-winning drive.

Winston finished with 281 yards passing with a touchdown and an interception.

The Eagles (6-5, 3-4) stuck with their run-first philosophy throughout and finished with 240 yards on the ground. Quarterback Tyler Murphy bounced a read-option around the left end for a 21-yard score midway through the third quarter to tie the game at 17. Joey Launceford missed a 43-yard field goal with 4:37 left that would have given Boston College the lead.

Sun, 23 Nov 2014 07:19:11 +0000

MACAU -- Manny Pacquiao couldn't resist having a little fun after getting the signature win he desperately needed for the fight boxing fans desperately want to see.

No reason not to enjoy himself after sending Chris Algieri to the canvas six times Sunday night in a performance that will once again heat up talk of a fight with Floyd Mayweather Jr.

"He's going to fight me? Yes! Yes!," Pacquiao said, jumping up and down in the ring Sunday after tearing apart a reluctant Algieri on his way to a lopsided decision win. "I am ready to fight him next year."

Pacquiao was playing off a new commercial where he celebrates after thinking Mayweather has agreed to the match. But he might have boosted his stock enough to entice Mayweather into the ring finally.

"I really want that fight," Pacquiao said. "The fans deserve that fight."

Pacquiao got the big knockdowns he was looking for, battering Algieri around the ring at will Sunday in a lopsided welterweight title fight.

Pacquiao chased Algieri from the opening bell, knocking him down repeatedly and dominating. About the only thing Pacquiao didn't get was his first knockout in five years, settling instead for a lopsided 12-round unanimous decision against an opponent who seemed unwilling to engage.

By the time it was over, Algieri had gone down six times. And Pacquiao had dispelled notions he might be on the decline.

"It's not just his hand speed," Algieri said. "He's a great fighter. He does everything well. Manny has perfected his style of boxing."

Pacquiao prayed in his corner while waiting for the decision. But it was Algieri who never had a prayer.

Pacquiao knocked Algieri down once in the second round, two more times in the sixth and twice more in the ninth. After a final knockdown in the 10th round, he seemed to back off in a fight that had long been decided.

Two ringside judges scored the bout 119-103 while the third had it 120-102. The Associated Press had Pacquiao winning 120-102.

Pacquiao went into the fight saying he needed a power win to entice Mayweather to fight him. He vowed to put on a performance like some of his earlier fights and did, never letting Algieri get close.

Some of the sold out crowd of 13,202 at the Venetian Macau may have wondered whether Algieri deserved this fight, as he spent more time trying to stay away from Pacquiao than trading punches.

But while Algieri could run, he couldn't hide. Pacquiao caught him repeatedly with power punches and dropped him as he tried to back away.

"The master boxer was given a master class by professor Pacquiao tonight," trainer Freddie Roach said. "I was disappointed in Algieri's performance tonight. All he did was run."

Pacquiao's second fight in China was held at midday to accommodate the pay-per-view sales in the U.S., but the time of day didn't matter much to the Filipino fans who cheered on their 35-year-old national hero.

Pacquiao knocked Algieri down in the corner in the second round, though Algieri claimed it was a slip. He easily fought his way through Algieri's tentative defense, landing punches on the inside and piling up points.

Algieri came into the fight with a reputation for his jab, but he refused to commit to it early and simply pawed at Pacquiao with his left hand. Still, Algieri's corner somehow thought he was carrying out the game plan just the way they had drawn it up.

"You're doing beautiful man," trainer Tim Lane told his fighter after the third round. "Everything stays the same. Keep it up."

By the end of the fourth round, Pacquiao had already thrown more than 100 more punches than Algieri. And Algieri rarely stopped to set his feet to punch, and kept trying to run away from the champion's punching power.

Unfortunately for Algieri, things then went from bad to worse. Pacquiao caught him with a big left hand that sent Algieri sprawling on the canvas in the sixth round, almost turning a reverse somersault before finally landing in the corner.

Pacquiao was right back on him, and Algieri went down again late in the round as he tried desperately to survive.

Still, Algieri's corner urged him to continue to do what he was doing, long after he needed a knockout to win.

"This is the way we want to be," Lane told him. "This is what you wanted"

Algieri was an unlikely opponent despite being unbeaten in 20 fights after ending a kick boxing career to concentrate on boxing. He got the bout after being knocked down twice in the first round in his June fight with Ruslan Provodnikov and coming back to win a 12-round decision, and was supremely confident in the weeks before the fight that he would beat Pacquiao, too.

Oddsmakers made him a 7-1 underdog against the Filipino great, who came into determined to show he still had his punching power.

The bout was for a piece of the welterweight title held by Pacquiao, though it was fought at a catch weight of 144 pounds instead of 147.

Sun, 23 Nov 2014 04:07:30 +0000

CLEVELAND -- Lou Williams scored a career-high 36 points and the Toronto Raptors rallied from a big early deficit to beat Cleveland 110-93 on Saturday night, handing the Cavaliers their fourth straight loss.

The Raptors, who have won four in a row and are off to their best start in franchise history, trailed 26-8 less than 4 minutes into the game before showing why they have the best record in the Eastern Conference.

Toronto led 56-54 at halftime and took control midway in the third quarter. The Raptors up by as many as 19 points in the fourth.

Kevin Love scored 23 points and Kyrie Irving had 21 to lead Cleveland. LeBron James, who spent the final 6:20 on the bench, finished with 15 points with 10 assists.

Following a lackluster 91-78 loss in Washington on Friday, the talk in Cleveland's locker room was about the team playing in the dark and the players having bad body language. The Cavaliers have a day off to think about their issues before they host Orlando on Monday.

In the game's final minutes, the loudest noise at Quicken Loans Arena came from several hundred fans who made the trip from Toronto and chanted, "Let's Go Raptors."

Kyle Lowry scored 23 points while DeMar DeRozan added 20 for Toronto, which led by 52 points in Friday's 124-82 win over Milwaukee.

The Cavaliers scored the game's first 12 points and raced to a 19-5 lead, forcing the Raptors to call timeout twice in the first 6 minutes. The margin reached 18 before Toronto began to cut into the lead, thanks mostly to Williams scoring 10 points in the quarter.

Williams added six more points and Toronto trailed 39-38 early in the second. Kyle Lowry's free throw with a minute left tied the game.

Williams' 3-pointer at the second-quarter buzzer out Toronto up by two. Cleveland led 65-61 with 7 minutes remaining in the third, but DeRozan scored eight points, including a 3, while Lowry and Williams also hit 3s to help Toronto build a commanding lead.

Raptors: Forwards Tyler Hansbrough (sprained right shoulder) and James Johnson (sprained right ankle) will be re-evaluated Sunday in Toronto. Hansbrough sat out his second game in a row, while Johnson missed his third straight. ... Toronto is 8-1 at Air Canada Centre, the best home mark in the Eastern Conference.

Sat, 22 Nov 2014 22:15:00 +0000

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) Oklahoma freshman Samaje Perine set a major college record by running for 427 yards in a driving rainstorm, scoring five touchdowns and leading the No. 23 Sooners over Kansas 44-7 Saturday.

A week after Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon set the mark by rushing for 408 yards against Nebraska, Perine broke it.

Perine set the record on his 34th and final carry, a 42-yard run with 12:16 left in the fourth quarter.

Perine got off a fast start, running for a 49-yard TD on his first carry. He added TD runs of 33 and 34 yards in the second quarter and scored on runs of 66 and 27 yards in the third.

In a game that started 90 minutes late because of lightning, Perine shattered the school rushing record of 294 yards set by Greg Pruitt in 1971.

The Sooners (8-3, 5-3 Big 12) led the Jayhawks (3-8, 1-7) by 41-7 after three quarters.

Sun, 23 Nov 2014 01:56:00 +0000

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston has pushed defenses around for two seasons, but it was an official's turn Saturday.

The top-ranked Seminoles were running a hurry-up offense late in the third quarter and Winston was rushing to the line of scrimmage to snap the ball on second down with 5:20 remaining on the clock. The official stood behind center Cam Erving, who was already in his stance, as Winston approached.

The official tried to stop Winston by giving him a stop sign with his hand, but Winston muscled in and gave a little push. The officiating crew told coach Jimbo Fisher and Winston they had to allow Boston College to substitute players because Florida State had.

Winston said, "I was trying to get up under there and let it ride."

FSU beat Boston College 20-17.

Sun, 23 Nov 2014 04:56:00 +0000

NEW YORK (AP) Jahlil Okafor had 10 points and 12 rebounds and dominated the closing minutes in leading No. 4 Duke to a 70-59 victory over Stanford in the championship game of the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic on Saturday night.

Fellow freshman Justise Winslow added 14 points and nine rebounds, and Quinn Cook had 18 points as Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski got the best of former assistant Johnny Dawkins in the first coaching matchup between the longtime coach and his former player.

Matt Jones added 10 points for the Blue Devils (5-0).

Chasson Randle scored 22 to lead Stanford (3-1). Stefan Nastic had 13 points and 13 rebounds before picking up his fifth foul trying to stop the athletic, 6-foot-11 Okafor from going to the basket.

Okafor was amazing down the stretch, scoring eight points, grabbing six rebounds and making life miserable in the lane for anyone wearing red.

Sun, 23 Nov 2014 04:36:00 +0000

PASADENA, Calif. (AP) Brett Hundley passed for 326 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for another score, leading No. 11 UCLA past No. 24 Southern California 38-20 on Saturday night for the Bruins' third straight victory in the annual crosstown showdown.

Devin Lucien, Thomas Duarte and Eldridge Massington caught scoring passes as the Bruins (9-2, 6-2 Pac-12) confirmed their Los Angeles supremacy and closed in on the Pac-12 South title with a one-sided romp over their biggest rivals at a festive Rose Bowl.

Paul Perkins rushed for 93 yards and a score for UCLA, which hadn't won three straight over USC since 1998.

After five consecutive wins down the stretch of a slow-starting season, UCLA can advance to the Pac-12 title game with a victory over Stanford on Friday.

Cody Kessler passed for 214 yards for the Trojans (7-4, 6-3), who struggled mightily against UCLA's inspired defense.

Fri, 21 Nov 2014 22:18:00 +0000

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) Adrian Peterson's hearing for the appeal of his suspension will be held on Dec. 2. And it will not be in front of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

The NFL announced Friday that longtime hearing officer Harold Henderson will preside over the proceedings involving the Minnesota Vikings star running back. Goodell has the authority to decide whether to hear the appeal himself or appoint someone else.

Peterson has not played since the opening week of the season while dealing with child abuse allegations in Texas. He was placed on paid leave while the legal process played out, and he pleaded no contest on Nov. 4 to misdemeanor reckless assault for injuring his 4-year-old son with a wooden switch.

Goodell suspended Peterson earlier this week for the rest of the season and told Peterson that he will not be considered for reinstatement before April 15 for his violation of the NFL's personal conduct policy. Peterson is appealing the punishment, which the NFL Players Association called "unprecedented, arbitrary, and unlawful."

The union had been seeking a neutral arbitrator to oversee the appeal, saying the league "is making up the process and punishment as it goes."

Henderson worked for the league as chairman of its powerful Management Council's executive committee for 16 years. He also was a league vice president of labor relations.

He led the league's negotiation team, which settled several lawsuits by NFL players and ultimately entered into a new collective bargaining agreement which included expanded free agency and a salary cap. That agreement has been extended several times, most recently through 2021. He regularly deals with NFL team owners, team executives, players, players' union, player agents and attorneys on a variety of matters.

Henderson's long history of working for the league did little to assuage the union's concerns about the process.

"The NFL should stop attempting to position a former NFL executive as neutral and independent," the union said. "It is disappointing the league office made a decision to ignore the players' request for fairness."

The NFL argued that Goodell's right to preside over appeals or choose an official has been part of the collective bargaining agreement since 1993. NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said criticism of Henderson is unwarranted given his current position as president of the NFL Player Care Foundation, which is funded jointly by the union and the league; and his experience in hearing 87 appeals, including one from receiver Brandon Marshall that ended with his three-game suspension for a domestic violence incident being reduced to one game.

Goodell's punishment of Peterson comes under the new player conduct policy he unveiled in August. That came in the wake of criticism he received for his initial light treatment of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice, who was caught on camera punching his then-fiancee in the face in an Atlantic City casino elevator. Rice was later suspended indefinitely, cut by the Ravens, and recently had his appeal heard by an arbitrator.

The new, tougher guidelines call for a six-game suspension for the first assault, battery or domestic violence offense.

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

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AP Pro Football Writer Barry Wilner, in New York, contributed to this report.

Sat, 22 Nov 2014 03:48:00 +0000

DETROIT (AP) Are you ready for some free football at Ford Field?

Fans are being offered free tickets to the NFL game between the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets on Monday night that was moved to Detroit from snow-plagued western New York.

The game was originally scheduled for Sunday at 1 p.m. at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, New York, but the league relocated it to the Lions' indoor stadium after a lake-effect storm dumped about 7 feet of snow on the Buffalo area since Monday.

The Lions announced Friday that their season-ticket holders and those for the Bills can use Flash Seats - a digital entry ticketing system - for general admission seats to the game Monday night. Fans who had tickets for the game at Ralph Wilson Stadium and travel to Detroit will be admitted with their original tickets.

The Bills also announced that full refunds will be given to all original ticket holders and season ticket members, whether or not their ticket is used to enter the rescheduled game.

The general public can get tickets beginning at 10 a.m. Saturday via Flash Seats at Detroitlions.com, and from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday at Ford Field's box office.

"We are pleased to be hosting the Bills and Jets for their game Monday night," Lions president Tom Lewand said. "While our thoughts are with the people of the Buffalo area during this difficult time, our team at Ford Field will do everything we can to be good hosts to their team this weekend."

The NFL has offered fans free tickets in similar situations in the past, including in December 2010 when the Giants and Vikings were relocated to Ford Field after the roof of Minnesota's Metrodome collapsed after a blizzard. Vikings quarterback Brett Favre's streak of 297 regular-season starts came to an end that night because of shoulder and hand issues.

A wildfire in Southern California in 2003 moved a game - also with free admission - between the Miami Dolphins and San Diego Chargers to Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Arizona, because Qualcomm Stadium was turned into an evacuation center for displaced residents.

Jets coach Rex Ryan thought the potential of less crowd noise at a neutral-site stadium could help Michael Vick and New York's offense.

"Instead of having 70,000 screaming (Bills) fans, I would say it'd be easier," Ryan said. "I don't know who's going to be at the game." Then, he added: "I hope there are a lot of Jets fans."

Detroit Sports 105.1 radio, an affiliate of ESPN, called for fans to wear green to the game in support of the Jets - and against Bills defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, who was fired last December after five seasons in which he went 29-51 as the Lions' coach.

He was carried off the field by the Bills after they beat the Lions in Detroit in October.

Using the hashtag GreenMonday, the station wrote on Twitter: "Monday, we all become Jets fans in Detroit to give Jim Schwartz some payback. Wear green and be loud."

The Lions, in a partnership with Henry Ford Health Systems, will also be operating a 50/50 raffle when gates open, with proceeds benefiting the American Red Cross of Western and Central New York Disaster Relief Fund.

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Fri, 21 Nov 2014 23:09:00 +0000

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) Raul Ibanez, Kevin Cash and Don Wakamatsu are the finalists to replace Joe Maddon as manager of the Tampa Bay Rays.

Dave Martinez, the Rays' bench coach for the past seven seasons, was among seven candidates dropped Friday. Also cut were Barry Larkin, Doug Glanville, Manny Acta, Craig Counsell, Charlie Montoyo and Ron Wotus.

Tampa Bay said interviews with the finalists will be scheduled for the week of Dec. 1. Maddon left the Rays after nine seasons to manage the Chicago Cubs.

"The decision on Dave Martinez was especially difficult," Rays President of Baseball Operations Matt Silverman said in a statement. "He's played a key role in our organization's evolution, and he's done all he can to put himself in position to be a manager. In the end, we determined that our clubhouse would best benefit from a new voice that will add to our already strong and cohesive culture."

Ibanez, 42, has spent 19 seasons in the major leagues with Seattle, Kansas City, Philadelphia, the Yankees and the Los Angeles Angels and has 305 homers and 2,034 hits. He helped the Royals win this year's AL pennant.

The 36-year-old Cash played for Tampa Northside in the 1989 Little League World Series and was a big league catcher for eight seasons with Toronto, Tampa Bay, Boston, the New York Yankees and Houston from 2002-10. He was a major league advance scout for Toronto in 2012 and Cleveland's bullpen coach in 2013-14.

Wakamatsu, 51, was the first Asian-American manager in major league history and led Seattle to a 127-147 record in 2009-10. He played in the minor leagues from 1985-96, reaching the major leagues for 18 games with the Chicago White Sox in 1991. Wakamatsu has been bench coach of Texas (2003-06), Oakland (2008), Toronto (2011-12) and Kansas City (2014), and was the Rangers' third-base coach in 2007.

Fri, 21 Nov 2014 20:22:00 +0000

FRISCO, Texas (AP) Two-time NHL All-Star center Jason Spezza signed a $30 million, four-year contract extension Friday with the Dallas Stars.

The deal came nearly five months after the Stars acquired Spezza from Ottawa just before the start of free agency, and keeps the 31-year-old center from becoming an unrestricted free agent next summer.

Spezza has 18 points in his first 20 games in Dallas, with his 14 assists tops among the Stars and ninth in the NHL. He has 705 points (255 goals, 450 assists) in 706 career games since being the second overall pick in the 2001 NHL draft by Ottawa.

"Jason is a world-class player and his commitment to the organization is a reflection of what we are building in Dallas," Stars general manager Jim Nill said. "The professionalism and production he brings to our group is key for our success moving forward and we value the leadership he brings to our team."

The Stars acquired Spezza on July 1 in exchange for right wing Alex Chiasson, left wings Nick Paul and Alex Guptill and a second-round selection in the 2015 NHL Draft. Spezza is in the final season of a $49 million, seven-year contract, so his new deal with the Stars is through the 2018-19 season.

In 11 seasons with the Senators, Spezza had at least 65 points in a season six times, and three other seasons with at least 50 points. He was sent to the Stars only a few days after using his no-trade clause to turn down a possible deal to Nashville.

Fri, 21 Nov 2014 22:21:00 +0000

Far removed from punishing hits on the ice, the real crunching in the NHL these days is being done in front offices around the league with the numbers involved in the complex, lengthy calculations of analytics.

The "Moneyball" approach popularized in baseball has slowly become as much a part of the NHL as the breakaway. More and more teams are turning to the same kind of analytics that have taken over Major League Baseball when they assess talent, players and performance.

Never heard of Corsi and Fenwick statistics? And you call yourself a fan?

It's a new era in the NHL and - much like in baseball - there's a still a divide between the new school thinkers and the hockey lifers stewing at the thought that newfangled stats could ever replace gut feel in building a Stanley Cup championship roster.

Take Philadelphia, for example.

The franchise known for decades as the Broad Street Bullies now has more use for an extra set of pocket protectors than rough-and-tumble goons.

"Analytics is where we're going," general manager Ron Hextall said. "You can't overvalue it, but in my mind it's going to become more and more and more valuable, I think in all sports. It's another tool. Why not use every tool available? You still need eyes on hockey players. You need that. I don't think that will ever change, but the analytics, I wouldn't say it's a huge part, but it's going to get bigger and bigger."

The Flyers, Toronto, Buffalo, Columbus, the Los Angeles Kings and others are leading the charge in using a new lens at scoping out the way players are judged. The key thought is, there are other ways to scout a player than the traditional means of goals, saves, plus/minus ratio and puck possession time.

Here are some of the stats that are becoming part of the lexicon:

- Fenwick Percentage: The percentage of unblocked shots (on goal or missed) taken by the player's team; also known as FF%.

- Corsi: Named for former Buffalo Sabres goaltending coach Jim Corsi, this stat tracks shot attempts for and against taken by a team or player. It's the sum of a team or player's goals, shots on net, shots that miss the net and shots that are blocked.

- League-Wide Success Rate: The league-wide shooting percentage from that area of the ice in the time frame selected.

- PDO: The sum of a player's on-ice shooting percentage and on-ice save percentage.

Sam Ventura, a 26-year-old Ph.D candidate at Carnegie Mellon, co-founded the analytics blog War On Ice. Ventura has become such a fan of NHL math, he has tinkered with creating his own advanced stats, working on a metric called zone transition times.

He used zone information (which zone a hit or shot may come from) and measured how long it took for each team to transition between zones.

"Over the long run, we should see the better teams holding the puck in the offensive zones longer and getting the puck out of their defensive zones faster," he said. "That's sort of what I found. The metric I created correlates pretty highly with the number of points in the standings."

Ventura's stat could become the next big thing in the NHL. Or it could take years for some teams to adapt.

"Hockey's such a free-flowing game that it's hard to determine automatically where each player is at each point of the game," he said. "It's not surprising that hockey has been slower in adopting analytics."

The hard-liners agree that fancy math should go the way of Fox's glowing puck.

"There are guys that leave people on the ice in bad situations and don't get punished for it in terms of the numbers," Washington Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. "What analytics doesn't show for me is when the game's on the line, when games or important situations happen, it doesn't show me who's going to win them."

The Sabres were at the forefront of analytics with stats developed by Corsi. He has moved on to St. Louis, leaving the heavy lifting in the front office to Jason Nightingale. The Pittsburgh Penguins hired Jason Karmanos as vice president of hockey operations in June to be their analytics guru. The Blue Jackets turned to Josh Flynn. The Capitals hired Tim Barnes. The Flyers use Ian Anderson. The Maple Leafs hired Kyle Dubas, a twentysomething former player' agent without any previous NHL experience.

Teams have largely refused to make the analytics experts available to the media for fear they'll expose classified ideas.

Most advanced stats debunk the idea that the oldest stats are still the most reliable. Ventura said he found in his research that hits and blocked shots - bread and butter for many NHL general managers - tend to be overrated.

"If you hit someone, that means you didn't have the puck before. Not having the puck is bad," Ventura said.

And blocked shots?

"Not that it's bad to block shots, but if you have a lot of blocked shots, it means your team rarely has the puck when you're on the ice," he said.

There's really no stopping the movement. The Stanley Cup champion Kings serve as a blueprint for finding undervalued players and consistently ranking among the league leaders in FenClose (the percentage of unblocked shot attempts a team takes in a game when the score is within one goal or tied).

It's up to a team's stats whiz to convey what's important in clear terms to the guys on the bench.

"If I cross the blue line with possession of the puck, I don't need to be a math major to know that the percentage of shots that I get are going to be higher," Trotz said. "Every coach in the league wants to enter the zone with possession of the puck, they really do. And for us, when it gets thrown in a coach's face, you go, `Yeah, I get that."'

Fri, 21 Nov 2014 07:42:00 +0000

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) Adrian Peterson says he realizes moving on from the Minnesota Vikings might be best for both him and the team.

In an interview published Thursday by USA Today, Peterson said he believes the coaches and players on the team are fully behind him but that feelings in the organization toward him are mixed after he was charged with felony child abuse in Texas for using a wooden switch to discipline his 4-year-old son. He pleaded no contest Nov. 4 to misdemeanor reckless assault.

"I know who loves me. The coaches and the players, it's not going to be a problem. I've felt so much support from those guys. The organization, I know there's people in the organization that support me and there's people that I know internally that has not been supporting me," Peterson told the newspaper. He said he has given a lot of thought to the idea that "maybe it's best for me to get a fresh start somewhere else."

"I would love to go back and play in Minnesota to get a feel and just see if my family still feels comfortable there," he told USA Today (http://usat.ly/1F6vQN7). "But if there's word out that, hey, they might release me, then so be it. I would feel good knowing that I've given everything I had in me."

Peterson said he spoke last week with his son for the first time in five months. He told the newspaper he "won't ever use a switch again," that he has been seeing a therapist and meeting a pastor certified in counseling near his Houston-area home, and has learned other ways to discipline his children.

On paid leave from the Vikings for more than two months, Peterson was informed this week by the NFL he will be suspended without pay for at least the rest of the season. The NFL Players Association has appealed the punishment on his behalf, and Peterson will continue to draw his salary on the exempt list until the appeal is resolved.

Regardless of which team he plays for next year, assuming he's reinstated by the league, Peterson said his focus has been on family - restoring his relationship with the boy and becoming a better parent. Peterson has fathered six children by six different women. He was married July 19.

"No one knows how I felt when I turned my child around after spanking him and seeing what I had left on his leg," Peterson said. "No one knows that Dad sat there and apologized to him, hugged him and told him that I didn't mean to do this to you and how sorry I was."

Peterson said he declined to meet with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell last week because of unanswered questions he and the union had about the process.

"I didn't want to go into a situation blind. I didn't know what to expect. Who's going to be there? Who will I be meeting with? What details are we going to get into?" he said.

Peterson also said he was upset by Goodell's accusation in the letter about the suspension that he showed "no meaningful remorse" about injuring the boy.

"Ultimately, I know I'll have my opportunity to sit down with Roger face to face, and I'll be able to say a lot of the same things that I've said to you," Peterson told the newspaper. "Don't say that I'm not remorseful, because in my statement, I showed that I was remorseful. I regretted everything that took place. I love my child, more than anyone could ever imagine."

Thu, 20 Nov 2014 23:54:00 +0000

LOS ANGELES (AP) Kings defenseman Slava Voynov was charged with felony domestic violence on Thursday by the Los Angeles County district attorney's office.

Voynov faces one felony count of corporal injury to a spouse with great bodily injury. In a statement providing the first public details of the incident, the district attorney's office said Voynov "caused his wife to suffer injuries to her eyebrow, cheek and neck" during an argument at their home, several hours after the Kings won an afternoon game.

The 24-year-old Russian Olympian has been suspended since his arrest early Oct. 20 at a hospital in Torrance, California. He had taken his wife to the hospital for treatment of injuries from their home in nearby Redondo Beach.

Craig Renetzky, Voynov's attorney, has repeatedly said his client didn't hit his wife. Renetzky also said Voynov shouldn't have been arrested, blaming a misunderstanding between police and Voynov's wife, who speaks even less English than her husband.

"Mr. Voynov is extremely disappointed that the district attorney's office elected to file charges," Renetzky said in a statement. "Mr. Voynov maintains his innocence and looks forward to clearing his name in court. We remain confident."

Voynov was suspended indefinitely by the NHL before he even posted bail on the morning of his arrest. The Kings have wholeheartedly supported the league's disciplinary actions, and they affirmed that position in a statement issued by the team after Voynov was charged.

"We are aware of the actions taken today in California, which we will review and evaluate before making any decisions," NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said. "Until further notice, the current terms of Mr. Voynov's suspension remain in place."

The NHL's position means the Kings will not receive salary cap relief in the absence of Voynov, who is still being paid his $3 million salary during his suspension. With Voynov still counting against the cap, Los Angeles was forced to play with five defensemen earlier this month while unable to recall anyone from the minors to fill in for an injured player.

"As an organization we will continue to closely monitor the developments of the legal proceedings and work in partnership with the NHL to determine the proper course of action in the future," the Kings said in their statement.

Voynov isn't allowed to practice or play for the team, but he has been skating at the Kings' training complex after their practices, sometimes under the supervision of an assistant coach.

Voynov will be arraigned Dec. 1 in Torrance. The charge carries a maximum penalty of nine years in prison, and Voynov also could face deportation.

Voynov is a two-time Stanley Cup champion who also played for Russia at the Sochi Olympics. He will miss his 14th straight game Thursday night when the Kings host Carolina.

Through her own attorney, Voynov's wife previously said she didn't want charges filed against the defenseman, but California authorities aren't required to consider such wishes when deciding to file charges.

Voynov and his wife got married during the summer. They are still living together and raising her child from a prior relationship.

Voynov earned a spot in the Kings' lineup as a rookie during their run to their first Stanley Cup title in 2011-12. He scored a career-best 34 points last season, and he has two assists in six games this year.

The Kings signed Voynov to a six-year, $25 million contract extension in June 2013.

Fri, 21 Nov 2014 00:11:00 +0000

NEW YORK (AP) The executive director of the NBA Players Association said Thursday the suspension given to Charlotte's Jeffery Taylor by Commissioner Adam Silver is "excessive, without precedent and a violation of the Collective Bargaining Agreement."

Michele Roberts adds that the union is ready to file an immediate appeal, but that the choice is Taylor's.

Silver suspended Taylor for 24 games without pay on Wednesday after the forward pleaded guilty last month to misdemeanor domestic violence assault and malicious destruction of hotel property. Taylor will lose nearly $200,000 of his $915,000 salary this season.

Taylor will get credit for the 11 games he has missed, and will sit out an additional 13 for a total which is slightly more than one-fourth of the league's 82-game schedule.

"The CBA contemplates a minimum 10-game suspension in any case involving a conviction for a violent felony, including domestic violence. In contrast, Jeff Taylor was charged with a misdemeanor that is likely to be dismissed at the end of a probationary period," Roberts said in a statement.

Taylor was sentenced to 18 months of probation. As part of his probation, he must complete 26 weeks in a domestic violence intervention program.

Silver issued a statement Wednesday in which he said: "This suspension is necessary to protect the interests of the NBA and the public's confidence in it. Mr. Taylor's conduct violates applicable law and, in my opinion, does not conform to standards of morality and is prejudicial and detrimental to the NBA."

But Roberts notes that the penalty is one of the longest in NBA history.

"We have a scheme of discipline that was the result of collective bargaining between the parties that has been applied consistently over the years," she said. "While we appreciate the sensitivity of this societal issue, the Commissioner is not entitled to rewrite the rules or otherwise ignore precedent in disciplinary matters."

Taylor can appeal the suspension to an independent arbitrator.

"While ultimately this is Jeff's decision, we stand ready to file an immediate appeal on his behalf," Roberts said.

Thu, 20 Nov 2014 22:24:00 +0000

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) Praising the transition as quick and orderly, Bud Selig announced Thursday that baseball owners unanimously approved a five-year term for Rob Manfred, who will succeed the longtime commissioner early next year.

Selig spoke at the conclusion of two days of meetings in Kansas City, where owners discussed a variety of issues that included pace of play, instant replay and domestic violence initiatives.

Selig will chair his final owners' meeting in January in Arizona.

"I've been so busy and every day is so frenetic that the last month or two, I'm sure I'll spend a lot of time thinking about it," Selig said, "but you know, we are where we want to be. We're having a wonderful transition, orderly transition, good transition. That's very important."

Manfred, who has worked for MLB since 1998, was chosen to replace the 80-year-old Selig in August over Red Sox Chairman Tom Werner. He will assume office Jan. 25.

"It hits me every day when I go to work," Manfred said. "I agree with Commissioner Selig, we've had a really productive and smooth transition."

One of Manfred's mandates will be to attract young fans back to baseball, and many believe that will involve speeding up the game. The average time of a nine-inning game increased from 2 hours, 33 minutes, in 1981 to a record 3:02 this year, with postseason games stretching nearly 4 hours.

Selig appointed a committee chaired by Braves President John Schuerholz to discuss ways to improve the pace of play. Among the ideas experimented during the Arizona Fall League were pitch clocks and requiring hitters to remain in the batter's box between pitches.

MLB can't alter the rules for 2015 without agreement from the players' association, though it can implement changes unilaterally with one year advance notice. Selig said union head Tony Clark and other representatives from the players' association provided their input.

"I want the committee to continue to do its work," Selig said. "This was very productive in terms of ideas. The experience in the Arizona Fall League made quite an impact on a lot of people."

When changes may be implemented at the major league level remains to be seen. Selig said he wants to "push them" and will have more to say on the subject in the next couple months.

Owners also spent time discussing the first season of expanded instant replay, largely considered a success after several calls were overturned during the postseason.

The system also slowed games. Given the opportunity to challenge everything from force and tag plays to fan interference and home runs, managers often stalled in the middle of the diamond while awaiting word from their dugout whether to contest a call.

"I think the core of replay will be similar," Manfred said. "I think the changes we're contemplating - without getting into them - are largely technology improvements. ... I think there are also some issues related to exactly how long it takes to get replay going."

MLB Executive Vice President Joe Torre said during a recent meeting of general managers in Phoenix that putting a stop to all the lingering would be a priority.

"That's one area we'll do something differently," Torre said. "I'm not sure what that is, but certainly we will eliminate some of that standing around because 10 seconds is a long time."

Selig also applauded the record-breaking $325 million. 13-year deal reached by the Miami Marlins and Giancarlo Stanton, calling it the "objective of everything we did" in changes to the game's economic model, which included revenue sharing and luxury taxes.

"What I like is individual franchises making decisions to make themselves better, Selig said. "I've been reading all the clips, and I do think they're happy in South Florida, and they should be. It's a good sign, a very good sign for them, and that's how you have to look at it."

MLB Executive Vice President Dan Halem provided owners with an update on a comprehensive domestic violence program that is being developed for players and non-players alike. Domestic violence has become an issue of increased importance across professional sports.

To underscore that point, Selig announced the Seattle Mariners had received the Commissioner's Award for Philanthropic Excellence for their "Refuse to Abuse" program. The state-wide educational initiative is designed to promote healthy relationships in Washington state.

"It was really great competition. We had three or four clubs, tough decisions to make," Selig said. "It's a program that goes around the state of Washington on domestic abuse, and they've been doing it a long time. This isn't something that just happened."

Wed, 19 Nov 2014 22:59:00 +0000

RENTON, Wash. (AP) For all the noise he creates on the field, Marshawn Lynch's silence with the media has now cost him six figures in fines.

The NFL fined Seattle's star $50,000 on Wednesday for violations of the league's media policy. League spokesman Michael Signora confirmed the fine.

Along with the $50,000 for violating the NFL Media Policy this year, the league is collecting the $50,000 fine that was imposed against Lynch for violations last season. The fine from 2013 was held in anticipation of future cooperation from Lynch.

The league's media policy mandates that players must be available during the week and in the locker room following all games. Lynch has only spoken to reporters postgame after Seattle's Week 9 victory over Oakland and did not talk the past two weeks after games against the Giants and Kansas City.

This is Lynch's third fine for violations of the league's media policy.

"I'm aware of it," Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. "It's the rules and all of that."

Lynch spoke at his locker on Wednesday for nearly 10 minutes, but almost every question was answered by talking about music or his shoes.

When asked if he had any input in designing his shoes, Lynch said, "In this league you really don't have a lot of input in nothing. Just your play. That's about it."

The news of Lynch's fine came after he helped light up social media along with teammate Ricardo Lockette. The duo went out of their way to return a lost wallet on their way back from an appearance at the site of a recent school shooting.

Lynch and Lockette appeared at Marysville-Pilchuck High on Tuesday along with other Seahawks players. While stopping at a gas station on their way back, the pair noticed that Jason Lynch had dropped his wallet. The pair found that Jason Lynch lived about 20 minutes away and drove to his neighborhood, eventually leaving the wallet with a neighbor because Lynch was not at home.

Jason Lynch later posted about the events on social media.

"It was all (Marshawn's) idea pretty much, though. He was like `We should take it back,"' Lockette said.

Lynch's reclusiveness with the media became a major story at this year's Super Bowl media day. Lynch appeared for 6 1/2 minutes, left the Newark, New Jersey, arena, then returned to a `'mixed zone" the NFL created for players not on podiums or in microphone-equipped speaking areas at the Prudential Center. With the exception of briefly speaking with the NFL Network, to the Seahawks' website, and to Armed Forces Network, he did not deal with reporters that day.

`'Players are required to participate and he participated. We will continue to monitor the situation," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said back in January.

Lynch appeared at league-mandated media sessions the next two days, again briefly.

The NFL has meted out fines to players and coaches before for not adhering to media policies.

Buffalo coach Marv Levy was hit for $5,000 for missing the `91 Super Bowl media day. Bills running back Thurman Thomas, like Levy a future Hall of Famer, was docked $5,000 for failing to participate in a mandatory interview session, though not on media day, in `92.

Three players have been fined $20,000 for missing media availabilities at the Super Bowl: Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora in 2012; Patriots left tackle Matt Light and defensive tackle Vince Wilfork for refusing to speak to the media following that Super Bowl.

The Oakland Raiders were fined $50,000 as a team for not making all coaches and players available for a required media session in 2003.

Two star receivers, Randy Moss and Chad (Ochocinco) Johnson, also drew league fines for ignoring media requirements.

Wed, 19 Nov 2014 23:52:00 +0000

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) Adrian Peterson's last appearance in the Minnesota locker room was nearly 10 weeks ago. The Vikings have played all but one game this season without his swift and strong running ability.

Optimism for his return remained among Peterson's teammates, particularly following his plea agreement earlier this month that freed him from the court system with only a misdemeanor charge and probation requirements.

The hope, now, has vanished.

"We know now he's not coming through those doors and coming back this year to be on our team," cornerback Captain Munnerlyn said Wednesday, the day after the NFL gave Peterson a suspension without pay for at least the rest of the season. "We're kind of hurt that he's not, but we knew it was kind of coming, so we just have to move on."

Commissioner Roger Goodell ruled Peterson violated the personal conduct policy for the severe injuries to his 4-year-old son he acknowledged to authorities occurred from corporal punishment with a wooden switch.

Even if Peterson were to shorten his suspension with a successful appeal, the Vikings actually using him yet this year would be an implausible scenario given the heat they took for initially reinstating him to the roster. Then add in the long time Peterson has been away from practices and meetings, let alone games.

"I guess it is a sense of knowing that it is over with. Kind of, I guess, puts people at ease. It's not what we wanted, but at the same time we hope that he gets another shot," running back Jerick McKinnon said. "Great player, great mentor, and I'll still look up to him. I'll stay in touch. I'm praying for him, hoping for the best."

The Vikings have six games left and host the Green Bay Packers on Sunday.

"We can't have a dark cloud over our facility or over our team," quarterback Teddy Bridgewater said, adding: "We would love to have him, but it's out of our hands."

Coach Mike Zimmer addressed the Peterson situation with the players Wednesday morning.

"I support him and his family and he's been great with me, but other than that ... we've got to move forward. It's just the way life is," Zimmer said.

Regardless of their feelings about boundaries of parental discipline and punishment Peterson might have deserved for what was originally a felony charge, Vikings players were unanimous in their support for him and his return. Even rookies like Bridgewater and McKinnon raved about the effort Peterson put into being a leader and a mentor.

"There were times in training camp where I'd get down on myself because I may have had a bad practice or didn't like this throw or that throw, and he would always come up to me and tell me, `Hey, you're not going to be perfect. You can't control what everyone's saying about you. You can't control every throw. You just have to trust yourself, play football and trust your God-given abilities,"' Bridgewater said. "Hearing that from Adrian, it just meant a lot."

The Vikings were also in lock-step disagreement with Goodell's decision. The NFL Players Association has accused the league of handling the process inconsistently and unfairly, believing Peterson has already been punished by being on the exempt list with pay for the last nine weeks. Goodell has sole discretion to put a player on or take him off the list, which has rarely been used.

"Once he got taken care of what he got taken care of in the games he's already missed, I feel like he should be back," fullback Jerome Felton said.

Peterson's salary for the season was $11.75 million. He will keep the money accrued while on the exempt list. But the NFL's punishment has now amounted to a 14-game ban, with six unpaid weeks. That's the equivalent of a fine of more than $4.1 million.

There are three years and $45 million remaining on his contract, but none of it is guaranteed. The Vikings would take only a $2.4 million hit on their 2015 salary cap if they cut him before next season.

NOTES: McKinnon missed practice Wednesday with a lower-back injury, and so did running back Matt Asiata with a concussion. With Joe Banyard the only other ball carrier on the active roster, the Vikings claimed running back Ben Tate off waivers from Cleveland. Tate was overtaken for playing time by rookies Isaiah Crowell and Terrance West after signing as a free agent with the Browns to be their featured back. He sprained his right knee in season opener and missed two games, but returned after the bye week with a bang, rushing for a career-high 124 yards.

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AP NFL websites: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Tue, 18 Nov 2014 12:06:00 +0000

MIAMI (AP) The Marlins persuaded Giancarlo Stanton to say yes. He couldn't afford to say no.

Stanton agreed to terms Monday on a $325 million, 13-year contract, team owner Jeffrey Loria said. It's the most lucrative deal for an American athlete and averages $25 million per season.

"It's a landmark moment for the franchise and Giancarlo," Loria said.

The deal includes a no-trade clause, and Stanton can opt out after six years, Loria said. A news conference was planned Wednesday.

The Marlins right fielder and centerpiece wasn't due to become eligible for free agency until after the 2016 season, and signing him to a long-term deal was considered a long shot. The Marlins haven't reached the playoffs since 2003, and he was distrustful of the franchise's direction.

Miami's 2014 payroll of $52.3 million was the lowest in the majors. The last time they spent big was before the 2012 season, the first in their new ballpark. Then came a disastrous season and salary purge, intensifying fan animosity toward Loria.

That sell-off and subsequent roster rebuilding set the stage for the Stanton deal, Loria said.

"Unfortunately people didn't understand that two years ago, we had no choice," the owner said. "I had to get to today."

Loria's frugal ways in the past angered the players' union and made the franchise the butt of jokes. Given such thriftiness, the generosity toward Stanton becomes even more stunning.

His contract tops the $292 million, 10-year deal Miguel Cabrera agreed to with the Detroit Tigers in March. Alex Rodriguez signed the largest previous deal, a $275 million, 10-year contract with the Yankees before the 2008 season.

Stanton, who turned 25 on Nov. 8, is perhaps the game's most feared slugger. He has 154 career homers, including 37 this year, despite playing home games in spacious Marlins Park.

The two-time All-Star right fielder recently won the NL Hank Aaron Award and was voted the NL's outstanding player in balloting by his fellow major leaguers. He won a Silver Slugger Award and finished second to Clayton Kershaw in NL MVP voting.

"Giancarlo Stanton has come of age, and he's going to be here a long time," Loria said. "It's wonderful to have a young man this caliber, integrity and ability, and I'm very happy."

Loria said he doesn't expect Stanton to opt out when he's 31, and sees a positive side to the no-trade clause.

"There will be no distraction about, `Will he be traded?"' Loria said.

Stanton's 2014 season ended Sept. 11 when he was hit in the face by a pitch and suffered fractures in his face and other injuries. Despite missing the final 17 games, he led the NL in homers and slugging for the Marlins, who went 77-85 but ended a three-year streak of last-place finishes in the NL East.

The Marlins have said they're not concerned the injuries will have lingering effects. They made locking up Stanton their top offseason priority and overcame his skepticism about their efforts to fielding a winning team.

The Marlins believe they're poised to contend next year with a young roster than includes right-handers Jose Fernandez and Henderson Alvarez, Gold Glove left fielder Christian Yelich, center fielder Marcell Ozuna and shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria.

Sun, 16 Nov 2014 20:39:00 +0000

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) Despite trying three coordinators and five quarterbacks, Will Muschamp never figured out one side of the ball at Florida.

And it cost him his job.

The Gators parted ways with Muschamp on Sunday, one day after a gut-wrenching loss to South Carolina that summed up the former defensive coordinator's four-year tenure as head coach.

Muschamp's close-to-the-vest style proved to be too conservative and too unsuccessful for a school with three national champions, eight Southeastern Conference titles and sky-high expectations.

Muschamp, who cleaned up a troubled program and made Florida one of the best defensive teams in the SEC, will stick around for the final two regular-season games against Eastern Kentucky and Florida State. He is 27-20, including 17-15 in conference play, in three-plus seasons in Gainesville.

"Upon evaluation of our football program, we are not where the program needs to be and should be," athletic director Jeremy Foley said in a statement. "I've always said that our goal at the University of Florida is to compete for championships on a regular basis. ... I will be forever grateful to Will and his staff for their unwavering commitment to the University of Florida and the mission of our athletic program."

The decision came less than 24 hours after a 23-20 loss to South Carolina in overtime. It was Florida's sixth defeat in its last eight games in Gainesville.

The last two were debacles that sealed Muschamp's fate, making the guy nicknamed "Coach Boom" a bust at Florida.

"I was given every opportunity to get it done here and I simply didn't win enough games - that is the bottom line," Muschamp said in a statement. "I have no bitter feelings, but this is a business and I wish we would have produced better results on the field. We have a great group of players and a staff that is committed to this University and this football program. They have handled themselves with class and I expect them to continue to do so.

"As I've said many times, life is 10 percent of what happens to you and 90 percent how you respond."

The Gators didn't respond well enough, especially in their last two home games.

The Gamecocks blocked a field goal and a punt in the final four minutes of regulation Saturday, special teams gaffes that turned what should have been a 10-point lead into a third consecutive home defeat.

The previous loss was equally troubling for Foley. The Gators (5-4, 4-4 SEC) turned the ball over six times in a 42-13 drubbing against Missouri on homecoming last month. Chants of "Fire Muschamp" could be heard throughout an emptying Florida Field.

Foley stuck with Muschamp after that one, saying the coach and the season would be evaluated "as it plays out." The Gators regrouped, benched turnover-prone quarterback Jeff Driskel and won consecutive games in dominating fashion, including a stunner against rival Georgia. They even had an outside shot at winning the SEC's muddled Eastern Division.

But that ended against the Gamecocks, which entered the game with one of the country's worst defenses.

"Hate to see it about coach Muschamp," South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said Sunday. "Will is a good person and a good coach. He's been a bit unlucky. We all, as coaches, complain about close losses and he's had his share of them. I was telling somebody that in the four meetings we've had with his team, we've not scored more than 20 points in regulation, but we've won three out of four somehow."

Spurrier also made it clear he has no intentions of returning to his alma mater, where he won the 1966 Heisman Trophy, spent 12 years (1990-2001) coaching and led the Gators to the 1996 national title.

"I've already had my run at Florida," Spurrier said. "They need to hire a coach that hopefully will be there 10 years."

Florida fell to 17-8 under Muschamp at home, where Spurrier (68-5) and fellow former coach Urban Meyer (36-5) dropped a combined 10 games in 18 seasons.

Florida fans expected and demanded better results.

The former head-coach-in-waiting at Texas, Muschamp was Foley's pick to replace Meyer after he stepped down at the end of the 2010 season.

Foley extended Muschamp's contract twice and gave him a raise. Because of those shows of good faith, Florida owes Muschamp more than $6 million for the final three years left on his deal.

Paying off the rest of the coaching staff could cost about another $2 million.

It's unclear how long it will take for Foley to find a replacement. But the hire likely will be someone with head-coaching experience who comes from an offensive background. After all, the last two defensive guys with no head-coaching experience Foley hired - Muschamp and former coach Ron Zook - didn't pan out.

Muschamp hired Charlie Weis, Brent Pease and Kurt Roper to run the offense but all failed to impress a following that had grown accustomed to seeing points a plenty under Spurrier and Meyer.

The Gators finished 105th, 103rd and 113th in total offense during Muschamp's first three seasons. They rank 88th this year through nine games.

Players were told of the decision during a team meeting Sunday and quickly reacted via social media.

"I'm hurt man," offensive tackle Rod Johnson posted on his Twitter feed.

"Great coach but an even better person," kicker Frankie Velez tweeted. "I'm thankful everyday for the opportunity coach Muschamp gave me. Sad day for Florida."

Sun, 16 Nov 2014 23:54:00 +0000

HOMESTEAD, Fla. (AP) There was no trick to Kevin Harvick's first Sprint Cup championship. Competing for the title against three other drivers, he seized his opportunity with a relentless dash through the field in the closing laps of the season finale.

It was exactly what NASCAR was looking for when it revamped its playoff format this year to try to force drivers to win races.

Harvick picked off car after car, and passed two other title contenders on a series of restarts as he aggressively chased both the victory and the title Sunday night at Homestead-Miami Speedway. His desperate drive from 12th to first over the final 15 laps gave Harvick the championship over Denny Hamlin, Ryan Newman and Joey Logano.

All four were determined to claim their first career title, and all four raced to win - because winning, it turned out, mattered in this Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.

"If you want to win the championship, you're going to have to figure out how to win races," Harvick said. "In the end, that's what it came down to, was winning the race to win the championship. It all worked out."

The four drivers all found themselves racing each other at the front of the field after the sun went down on the 400-mile race. It was Hamlin, the Charlotte Bobcats season-ticket holder who had Michael Jordan cheering from his pit, who seemed to have the race in control until a caution with 20 laps to go.

All four teams were forced to make tough strategy decisions that ultimately decided their fate.

Joe Gibbs Racing decided not to pit Hamlin, which moved him to second on the restart. Richard Childress Racing gave Ryan Newman two tires, while Harvick crew chief Rodney Childers made the risky call for four tires.

Team Penske also had planned to give Joey Logano four tires, but a problem with the jack destroyed Logano's chances and he plummeted from sixth to 21st, ending his championship bid.

Harvick restarted 12th with 15 laps to go and not much time to pick his way through traffic. As Hamlin passed leader Jeff Gordon on the restart, Harvick shot past four cars to move to seventh.

"The seas kind of parted down the backstretch and we were able to get three or four cars or six, I guess, or five. You've got a very short time to do it," he said. "You had all the championship guys show up at the front of the pack. I was just going to hold the pedal down and hope for the best."

Then came another caution, and Hamlin, on old tires, knew he was in trouble. Harvick, on the four fresh tires, rocketed through the middle on the restart, dicing his way through traffic to pick up another four spots and move into second.

"I loved our chances, but they weren't there at the end," Hamlin said. "Strategy is part of winning, and the strategy for us didn't work out with the cautions."

Harvick got by Hamlin, then Newman passed Hamlin for second and the championship became a battle of drivers who had essentially swapped seats this year. There was one more caution, forcing Harvick to nail one final restart with three laps remaining, and he eased his way ahead of Newman on his way to the win.

The victory capped a magical first season at Stewart-Haas Racing, where Harvick moved this year after 13 seasons with Richard Childress that failed to produce a championship.

Harvick, who had to win last week at Phoenix just to advance into Sunday's final four, wrapped up his third victory of this Chase and fifth of the season. He leaned this week on team co-owner Tony Stewart, a three-time champion, and Jimmie Johnson, the six-time champion who moved from California to North Carolina to chase a career in NASCAR about the same time as Harvick made the move east.

"Been trying for 13 years," an emotional Harvick said. "This week ate me up. If it wasn't for Jimmie Johnson and Tony Stewart, I would have been in bad trouble this week. Those guys really helped me get through the week. After every practice, Jimmie was in there, and in our team debriefs Tony was constantly telling me just to go race and that it's just another race."

Stewart shared an emotional hug with Harvick, and then beamed during the celebration.

"That's about as emotional as you can get, to have one of your greatest friends go out in one of your race cars and win a championship in the toughest series in the country," Stewart said.

Newman, winless on the season, finished second. Hamlin faded to seventh and Logano was a distant 16th.

Harvick's wife, DeLana, sobbed on the pit stand and buried her head in her hands when Harvick crossed the finish line. She hugged Childers, who dabbed his eyes, before she made it down to the victory celebration. She met Stewart, who had retired from the race earlier with a car problem and was in street clothes, for an embrace and kiss before holding her son for the victory celebration.

Harvick hugged Childers and showered his jubilant crew with Budweiser, the beer company that followed him this year from Richard Childress Racing to Stewart-Haas. Harvick spoke with a catch in his voice, trying to compose himself when it was his turn to hold 2-year-old Keelan.

Stewart threw his arms around Harvick and the close friends and teammates held each other tight for several moments. It was Stewart who in 2012 convinced Harvick that if he left RCR when his contract expired at the end of 2013, he could help Harvick win his first title.

Stewart, co-owner Gene Haas, and Childers, who left Michael Waltrip Racing for the chance to build Harvick's team, delivered.

"They gave us all the resources we needed," Harvick said. "We never talked about money, we talked about building a team. It was just go get what you need."

For Stewart, it took the sting off his 15-year winning streak coming to a close Sunday.

"It doesn't make up for a bad year," Stewart said. "I mean, I've had a terrible year. But this makes the end of November great."

Fri, 14 Nov 2014 06:13:00 +0000

NEW YORK (AP) For once, Clayton Kershaw was glad to see a long shutout streak end.

Kershaw became the first pitcher to win the National League MVP award since Bob Gibson in 1968, coasting to an easy victory Thursday.

"A little bit of shock, honestly," the Dodgers ace said on a conference call. "I guess I never really anticipated to win that."

A day after unanimously taking the NL Cy Young Award, Kershaw completed a Los Angeles sweep. A little earlier, Angels outfielder Mike Trout was a unanimous pick for the AL MVP.

Trout had been blanked in his bid the past two years, finishing second both times to Detroit slugger Miguel Cabrera. The 23-year-old Trout was the youngest unanimous MVP pick in major league history.

"Just anxious throughout the day," Trout said of the waiting period. "I knew the experience I had the last two years. It helped me with it."

Trout, the MVP of the All-Star game in July, and Kershaw both led their teams to West division titles. In August, they finally faced each in a regular-season game - Trout singled, doubled and struck out looking at Dodger Stadium.

Someday, they hope to meet in October.

"I think in the future we're going to contend for the World Series, year in and year out," Kershaw said.

To do that, they want to improve in the playoffs. Kershaw went 0-2 with a 7.82 ERA against St. Louis in the Division Series, leaving him 1-5 with a 5.12 ERA in the postseason.

The MVP and Cy Young prizes don't "take the sting away of what happened in the playoffs," Kershaw said.

Trout went 1 for 12 in a three-game sweep by Kansas City in his first playoff try.

"It's tough to do. You have all these expectations, you want to do so good," he said.

The awards voting was completed by the end of the regular season.

Kershaw breezed past Miami bopper Giancarlo Stanton and Pittsburgh outfielder Andrew McCutchen to become Most Valuable Player.

While Detroit pitcher Justin Verlander won the AL MVP in 2011, no one on the NL side had done it for nearly a half-century.

There was plenty of everyday player-vs.-pitcher MVP debate before this announcement. Kershaw had acknowledged "there are so many people out there who don't think a pitcher should win."

But the 26-year-old lefty again dominated the hitters - Kershaw led the majors in wins and ERA while going 21-3 with a 1.77 ERA and throwing a no-hitter.

Kershaw got 18 of 30 first-place votes and 355 points in balloting by members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America. He drew nine second-place votes, one third and pair of fourths.

"To be a pitcher and win the MVP, it's pretty awesome," he said.

Stanton got eight first-place ballots and 298 points. He led the NL with 37 homers and was second with 105 RBIs, and missed the last 17 games for the fourth-place Marlins after being hit in the face by a fastball.

McCutchen got four firsts and 271 points in his bid to win the award for the second straight year. He hit .314 with 25 home runs and 83 RBIs for the wild-card Pirates.

Six AL pitchers have won the MVP since Gibson took it for the Cardinals.

Before Gibson, seven pitchers had won the NL MVP, a list that includes Hall of Famers Sandy Koufax, Carl Hubbell and Dizzy Dean.

The AL MVP has been won 12 times by pitchers, starting when it was first presented in 1931 to Lefty Grove.

Kershaw won the major league season opener in Australia on March 22, then missed more than a month when a strained upper back put him on the disabled list.

Featuring sharp breaking pitches, Kershaw came back to win his second straight NL Cy Young and third in four years.

Kershaw led the big leagues in complete games and was best among starters in strikeouts per nine innings and WHIP (walks plus hits per inning).

The four-time All-Star struck out 239 in 198 1-3 innings. On June 18, he threw the first no-hitter of his career, at Dodger Stadium against Colorado.

Trout received all 30 first-place votes and 420 points. Detroit designated hitter Victor Martinez was second with 229 points and Cleveland outfielder Michael Brantley third with 185.

Trout hit .287 and set career highs in home runs (36) and RBIs (111) while leading the major leagues in runs with 115 and extra-base hits with 84. In his third full season, he matched his bests in doubles (39) and triple (nine).

"The power's definitely up," he said. "Getting a little older and a little stronger."

Other numbers also changed. He led the AL with 184 strikeouts and his stolen bases dropped to 16.

Trout was a unanimous pick as the 2012 AL Rookie of the Year and was second in MVP voting to Cabrera in both of his first two full seasons, 81 points back in 2012 and 103 points behind last year.

Trout is the fifth-youngest MVP, STATS said. Vida Blue (1971), Johnny Bench (1970) and Stan Musial (1943) were 22 and Cal Ripken Jr. (1983) was a younger 23.

Kershaw and Trout won the last of baseball's major postseason awards.

Just in time, too. Pitchers and catchers are due at spring training in only 98 days.

Fri, 14 Nov 2014 03:38:00 +0000

NEW YORK (AP) NBA Commissioner Adam Silver says it's time for a new approach to betting on sports.

In an op-ed article for The New York Times published online on Thursday, Silver says fans should have a safe and legal way to gamble on professional games. He suggests a federal framework that allows states to legalize sports betting. He says new regulations would help prevent underage betting while educating those with a gambling problem about how to bet responsibly.

Sports leagues have long opposed gambling on games, claiming it creates incentives for game-fixing. It is currently only legal in Nevada; New Jersey is moving toward legalization - against the opposition of all four major pro sports leagues.

Silver says new laws would have to protect the integrity of the sports.

Thu, 13 Nov 2014 00:18:05 +0000

NEW YORK -- Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw was a unanimous choice for his third NL Cy Young Award, and Cleveland's Corey Kluber edged Seattle's Felix Hernandez to win the AL honor for the first time.

Kershaw led the majors in victories and ERA and threw a no-hitter, going 21-3 with a 1.77 ERA for the NL West champions.

Now, the big question: Is he the Most Valuable Player, too?

The 26-year-old lefty with a wicked curveball will find out Thursday if he's the first NL pitcher to sweep the MVP and Cy Young honors since Bob Gibson in 1968.

As expected, Kershaw earned the pitching prize for the second year in a row, getting all 30 first-place votes in balloting by the Baseball Writers' Association of America announced Wednesday.

"Pretty cool," Kershaw said after the MLB Network telecast.

Johnny Cueto of Cincinnati was second with 112 points, followed by Adam Wainwright of St. Louis (97) and World Series MVP Madison Bumgarner of San Francisco (28).

"As far as the regular season is concerned, it was a ton of fun," Kershaw said.

Voting was completed before the start of the postseason. Kershaw went 0-2 with a 7.82 ERA in a Division Series loss to St. Louis, leaving him at 1-5 with a 5.12 ERA in his postseason career.

Kluber received 17 of 30 first-place votes and 169 points, while King Felix got 13 firsts and 159 points. Chris Sale of the Chicago White Sox was third with 78 points.

"I think I'm definitely surprised," he said.

His plans after the announcement were far from flashy.

"Probably go home and give my daughters a bath," he said.

A 28-year-old right-hander, Kluber went 18-9 to tie for the AL lead in wins. He had a 2.44 ERA in his first full major league season and 269 strikeouts, two behind league leader David Price.

Kluber pitched consecutive 14-strikeout games in September, the first to accomplish the feat since Arizona's Randy Johnson in 2004. He became Cleveland's fourth Cy Young winner, joining Gaylord Perry (1972), CC Sabathia (2007) and Cliff Lee (2008).

Hernandez, who won the AL award in 2010, went 15-6 with a 2.44 ERA. He struck out 248 in 236 innings.

From the start, Kershaw was headed toward his third Cy Young in four seasons.

He won the major league season opener in Australia on March 22, then a strained upper back put him on the disabled list for the first time in his seven-year career.

Once he returned, he was nearly unbeatable - and kept looking more and more like his friend, Dodgers Hall of Fame lefty Sandy Koufax.

Kershaw joined Koufax as one of nine pitchers with at least three Cy Youngs. Roger Clemens leads the list with seven.

The previous pitcher with a unanimous win was Detroit's Justin Verlander, who took the AL Cy Young and MVP in 2011. A year earlier, Philadelphia's Roy Halladay unanimously won the NL Cy Young.

Verlander is among six AL pitchers to take the Cy Young and MVP since Gibson's NL sweep nearly a half-century ago.

Kershaw became the first pitcher to lead the majors in ERA for four straight years. He topped baseball this season in complete games and was best among starters in strikeouts per nine innings and WHIP (walks plus hits per inning).

He struck out 239 in 198 1-3 innings, three behind NL co-leaders Stephen Strasburg and Cueto.

Kershaw's crowning achievement was the first no-hitter of his career, at Dodger Stadium against Colorado on June 18. Soon after, he was picked as an All-Star for the fourth time in a row.

Kershaw came within one vote of being unanimous last year. Tim Lincecum had been the last NL pitcher to win back-to-back Cys, in 2008-09 for the Giants.

The Cy Young was first awarded in 1956. Up through the 1966 season, there was only one selection from both leagues.

Kershaw earned a $1 million bonus, while Wainwright gets $500,000, Cueto $75,000 and Bumgarner $25,000.

Kluber gets a $10,000 bonus, while Sale receives $80,000 and gets a $1.5 million boost in his 2019 team option to $15 million.

Kluber played in college at Stetson, leaving one season before Jacob deGrom arrived. On Monday, deGrom was chosen NL Rookie of the Year.