How long is Kawhi Leonard out? Injury timeline, return date, latest updates on Clippers star

The Clippers reached the Western Conference finals for the first time in franchise history last season. If they want to make it back to that playoff round again, they will have to collectively replace the production of their best player.
Kawhi Leonard will be sidelined indefinitely after undergoing surgery in July to repair a partial tear of the ACL in his right knee. Leonard may be able to rejoin the rotation at some point during the 2021-22 season, but Paul George and Co. will be expected to do the heavy lifting to start the new campaign.

What's next for Leonard? Here's everything we know about his injury and the latest news on when he may return to the court.
What is Kawhi Leonard's injury?
Leonard suffered a right knee injury during Game 4 of the 2021 Western Conference semifinals. The two-time NBA Finals MVP came up limping after a drive toward the basket against Jazz forward Joe Ingles. He ended up sitting the last four-plus minutes of that contest, but in his postgame interview with TNT's Rebecca Haarlow, he said, "I'll be good."
With 5:25 remaining in the fourth quarter of Game 4 against the Jazz, Clippers star Kawhi Leonard tweaked his right knee.

After the game, Leonard told TNT, “I’ll be good.”
Unfortunately for Leonard, the knee issue was more serious than he thought and ended what had been a spectacular playoff run. The Clippers announced on July 13 that Leonard underwent successful surgery to repair the partially torn ACL, adding that there is "no timetable for his return."

In 52 games last season, Leonard averaged 24.8 points, 6.5 rebounds, 5.2 assists and 1.6 steals, earning a spot on the All-NBA First Team.

How long will Kawhi Leonard be out?
When asked about his recovery timeline at the Clippers' media day, Leonard didn't offer a specific date, only telling reporters that he is "working with the staff day to day."

"That's the challenge of it, just seeing how quickly I can get better and stronger I can get than what I was when I'm healthy," Leonard said. "That's where I pretty much turn my mindset to."

The 30-year-old added that he signed a long-term deal to stay in Los Angeles in part because he wants to play this season.

"One thing, I wanted to secure some money, and I wanted to be able to come back if I was able to this year," Leonard said. "If I would've took the one-and-one [deal], I probably would have not played just to be cautious and opted out and took a five-year [deal]. But I'm here. I'm here to be a Clipper. I'm not going to another team unless something drastic happens. I'm here for the long run."

While it is impossible to know exactly how much time Leonard will miss, injury expert Jeff Stotts believes his recovery will extend into next year.
Re: Kawhi: Thomas Bryant & Spencer Dinwiddie each missed 60+ games after undergoing surgery for Grade 2 (partial tear) ACL injuries earlier this season. Dinwiddie was cleared for basketball activities ~6 months after surgery. Look for Kawhi’s recovery to carryover into next year.
Kawhi Leonard career stats, highlights
19.2 points per game
6.4 rebounds per game
2.9 assists per game
0.6 blocks per game
1.8 steals per game
1.6 turnovers per game
31.3 minutes per game
49.3 percent shooting
38.4 percent 3-point shooting
85.8 percent free throw shooting

College football coach carousel: Every FBS coaching change in 2021

The 2021 FBS coaching carousel is moving fast, and we're just starting November.

Virginia Tech coach Justin Fuente was fired on Tuesday after six seasons. Fuente is the 12th coaching change in the 2021 season. That list includes seven Power 5 openings. Washington's Jimmy Lake was fired on Sunday.
There were 18 coaching changes last season, a number that likely will be surpassed given how many we've seen so far.

Sporting News looks at all the changes in 2021:

2021 FBS coaching changes
Randy Edsall, UConn
Resigned (Sept. 6): Edsall resigned after the Huskies' 0-2 start. Edsall had two separate stints at UConn. The first, from 1999 to 2010, saw the program make the rise to the FBS ranks and culminated with a trip to the Fiesta Bowl in 2010. Edsall returned in 2017, and that produced a 6-32 record. UConn did not play in 2020 because of COVID-19 concerns. Lou Spanos is the Huskies' interim coach.

Clay Helton, USC
Fired (Sept. 14): Helton, who had been on the hot seat the past few seasons, was fired after the Trojans' 42-28 loss to Stanford in Week 2. Helton replaced Steve Sarkisian in 2015 and compiled a 46-24 record. That mark included the program's last Pac-12 championship in 2017. USC, however, slipped to a 19-14 record from 2018-21. Donte Williams replaced Helton as interim coach.
Chad Lunsford, Georgia Southern
Fired (Sept. 26): Lunsford was fired after a 1-3 start this season. It was a peculiar decision considering the Eagles reached bowl games the previous three seasons. Lunsford compiled a 28-21 record and had previously been an assistant coach with the program from 2013-17. Kevin Whitley was appointed interim coach.

2021 Coaching changes by school
UConn Randy Edsall Jim Mora
USC Clay Helton
Georgia Southern Chad Lunsford Clay Helton
LSU Ed Orgeron
Washington State Nick Rolovich
Texas Tech Matt Wells Joey McGuire
TCU Gary Patterson
Akron Tom Arth
UMass Walt Bell
Washington Jimmy Lake
FIU Butch Davis
Virginia Tech Justin Fuente
Ed Orgeron, LSU
Resigned (Oct. 19): Orgeron and LSU reached a separation agreement that will take effect after the conclusion of the 2021 season. This came one day after the Tigers beat Florida 49-42. Orgeron replaced Les Miles in 2016 and became the third consecutive LSU coach to win a national championship (2019). The Tigers finished 15-0 with Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow that year, but the program has been a disaster on and off the field since. The problems include a Title IX lawsuit and self-imposed penalties.

Nick Rolovich, Washington State
Fired (Oct. 20): Rolovich was fired in his second season with the Cougars for failing to comply with the state's COVID-19 vaccine mandate. Rolovich cited religious beliefs for his reason to not get the vaccine, and he plans to sue the university over his firing . Rolovich, who previously coached at Hawaii, had a 5-6 record at Washington State. Jake Dickert replaced Rolovich on an interim basis.
Matt Wells, Texas Tech
Fired (Oct. 25): Wells was fired after a 25-24 loss to Kansas State on Oct. 23, which capped an unremarkable three-year stint with the Red Raiders. Wells replaced Kliff Kingsbury, who took a head coaching job in the NFL with the Cardinals. Wells compiled a 13-17 record but appeared to have Texas Tech headed in the right direction this year with a 5-2 start. Sonny Cumbie, a former Red Raiders quarterback, is the interim coach.

Gary Patterson, TCU
Resigned (Oct. 31): Patterson and TCU agreed to part ways after a 3-5 record through the first two months of the season. It's still a somewhat shocking move considering he was the second-longest tenured coach in the FBS behind Iowa's Kirk Ferentz. Patterson took over the Horned Frogs in 2000, and he led the program to six conference championships and 11 seasons with 10 wins or more. The highlight was 2010, when TCU finished 13-0 and won the Rose Bowl. The Horned Frogs moved up to the Big 12 and enjoyed success in the Power 5.

Tom Arth, Akron
Fired (Nov. 4): Arth was fired two days after a 31-25 loss to Ball State dropped the Zips to 2-7 in 2021. Arth, a nearby John Carroll alum, simply could not get Akron going in three seasons. The Zips had a 3-24 record in that stretch, including a 3-17 record in Mid-American Conference play.

Walt Bell, UMass
Fired (Nov. 8): Bell was fired after a 35-22 loss to Rhode Island on Nov. 6. Bell, who took the UMass job after a stint as an offensive coordinator at Florida State, had a 2-23 record since taking over in 2019.

Jimmy Lake, Washington
Fired (Nov. 14): Lake was already under a university suspension for hitting Huskies linebacker Ruperake Fuavai in the helmet druing a game. He did not coach the Huskies' loss to Arizona State on Nov. 13. Earlier that day, The Seattle Times published an article that contained allegations Lake shoved former wide receiver Quinten Pounds into a locker at halftime of a 2019 game at Arizona. Lake denied the allegations. Washington was 7-6 under Lake. Assistant coach Bob Gregory was named interim head coach.

Butch Davis, FIU
Fired (Nov. 15): Davis will not return to FIU when his contract expires at the end of this season. The decision comes a week after longtime FIU athletic director Pete Garcia resigned. Davis said the school administration is "sabotaging the program." Davis, who previously coached at Miami and North Carolina, had success in his first two seasons at FIU. The program slipped the last two years, however, and is 1-9 in 2021.

Justin Fuente, Virginia Tech
Fired (Nov. 16): Fuente is out after six seasons with the Hokies. Fuente, who was hired in 2016 after a three-year stint in Memphis, enjoyed a 10-4 season and an appearance in the ACC championship game in his first season. The Hokies are 24-23 the last four years, however, and they have been a middle-of-the-road program in the ACC Coastal Division. Fuente finshed with a record of 43-31.

College Football Playoff rankings: Who are the top four teams in third CFP poll of 2021?

The Week 12 College Football Playoff rankings were easily adjustable for the selection committee. But they also set up to be a potentially chaotic final weekend of football.

Only one top-10 team in the most recent set of rankings lost on Saturday. That would be Oklahoma, a team the committee clearly didn't value in the first two sets of rankings, considering the Sooners' position at No. 8 overall in each of those weeks. The top seven teams remained the same following their loss, with Notre Dame, Oklahoma State and Wake Forest moving up to fill in the Sooners' spot.
A looming concern for this committee is what will happen if each of the one-loss Power 5 favorites win out the rest of the season. That could create a logjam of Oregon, Ohio State/Michigan/Michigan State and Oklahoma State/Oklahoma. That's to say nothing of the SEC, which could presumably lock up two spots should Alabama beat Georgia in the SEC championship.

Then there's the question of a potentially undefeated Cincinnati team, which if left out would join UCF as a twice-undefeated Group of 5 team that never got a chance to compete for a title.

There's still plenty of football left to be played, including the two Michigan teams vs. Ohio State in the Big Ten; Alabama taking on two ranked teams in the last three weeks of the season; Bedlam; and a not-insignificant end to the season for Cincy, which plays a ranked team in Houston.

It's all shaping up to be a wild, fun and potentially chaotic stretch to end the season. Best take a deep breath while you're still able. Until then, here's the latest top 25 rankings from Week 12:
College Football Playoff rankings 2021
Who are the top four CFP teams of third CFP poll of 2021?
Ranking Team Record
1 Georgia 10-0
2 Alabama 9-1
3 Oregon 9-1
4 Ohio State 9-1
Who are the first two teams out of third CFP poll of 2021?
Ranking Team Record
5 Cincinnati 10-0
6 Michigan 9-1
CFP top 25 rankings from third CFP poll of 2021
Rank Team Record
1 Georgia 10-0
2 Alabama 9-1
3 Oregon 9-1
4 Ohio State 9-1
5 Cincinnati 10-0
6 Michigan 9-1
7 Michigan State 9-1
8 Notre Dame 9-1
9 Oklahoma State 9-1
10 Wake Forest 9-1
11 Baylor 8-2
12 Ole Miss 8-2
13 Oklahoma 9-1
14 BYU 8-2
15 Wisconsin 7-3
16 Texas A&M 7-3
17 Iowa 8-2
18 Pitt 8-2
19 San Diego State 9-1
20 N.C. State 7-3
21 Arkansas 7-3
22 UTSA 10-0
23 Utah 7-3
24 Houston 9-1
25 Mississippi State 6-4

USMNT's faltering draw to Jamaica illustrates bumpy road to Qatar 2022

There was a moment in the first half, not even 20 minutes into the United States’ World Cup qualifier at Jamaica, that American midfielder Yunus Musah gathered the ball in the center of the field at Independence Park and contemplated one of his favored rampages toward the opposing goal. He had demolished Mexico with his physical strength and dribbling skill, and it was time to do the same to the Reggae Boyz.

As Musah advanced, though, the ball did not. The field — yes, the field — had other ideas.
It’s not always the opposing fans or the refs or the pressure of the circumstance. Sometimes, it’s as simple as lacking the comforts of home. For a squad that included three teenagers and was the second-youngest the USMNT ever deployed for a qualifier, being unable to count on the ball rolling evenly was among the many reasons it left Jamaica with a 1-1 draw and a single point to add toward its total.

“We’re not looking at it as a disappointing result. We’re looking at it as a good result,” U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter told reporters. “Any time you can get a point away from home is a good thing in CONCACAF qualifying. I want to be very clear by saying that.

“I think for the guys to have their heads down because we wanted more is completely natural, but this is a point that we’ll absolutely take on the road.”

It’s a point more precious than American fans are likely to appreciate. The U.S. easily could have lost, given one blown opportunity at a wide-open tap-in for Jamaica’s Bobby Reid and a disallowed goal from his teammate, Damian Lowe, on an 84th-minute set piece.

The U.S. took a 1-0 lead on forward Timothy Weah’s inventive 11th-minute goal, which required a sweet feed from striker Ricardo Pepi, two nifty moves from Weah and a left-footed finish past ace goalkeeper Andre Blake. That was answered 11 minutes later, though, when Jamaica’s Michail Antonio — currently third in the Premier League in goals for West Ham United — drove to the left against U.S. midfielder Tyler Adams, stopped and cut back to his right foot and left Adams behind. He blasted a searing shot from 34 yards that found the top right corner, beyond the reach of goalkeeper Zack Steffen.

“Obviously, it was a rough game. Not the result that we wanted,” Weah said. “We knew it was going to be difficult.

“Conditions were rough, but that’s no excuse. We wanted to execute, but it wasn’t there today.”

It’s difficult to reconcile this torpid performance against the brilliance of Friday night’s victory over Mexico. But combining the two gives the USMNT four points from the two-game window in CONCACAF qualifying, and still leaves it in position to earn an automatic position in the 2022 World Cup field.

The Americans now have five points from four road games, slightly ahead of the “win your home games, draw on the road” standard that tends to assure qualification in this format. However, they’re also a couple points behind at home because of a 1-1 September draw against Canada. Their 15 points through eight games is three more than they earned in the entire 10-game qualifying round when failing to qualify for Russia 2018.

Qualifying will not be easy. Not that it ever has been.

“It was difficult conditions, it really was,” Berhalter said. “Controlling the ball, playing the ball was challenging. You can chalk it up to simply that. It was challenging field conditions, and the movements weren’t always clean. That’s something you can’t control.”

This is not something Musah would have encountered often while growing up in Italy or later England, where he trained in the Arsenal youth program. Pristine pitches predominated once he moved to Spain to join Valencia in 2019, and that’s what was in place in Cincinnati — even though it rained — when the USMNT dominated rival Mexico to earn a 2-0 victory and take over first place in the final round of World Cup qualifying.

After that moment in the 18th minute, though, Musah seemed to abandon the skill that had made him such a force against Mexico. With midfielder Weston McKennie out because of a yellow-card suspension — and with Musah muted and fellow teen Gianluca Busio just a shade hesitant in his first qualifying start — the Americans lacked the engine that had driven them four days earlier.

Berhalter allowed that he thought Musah was bothered by the conditions, then told Sporting News he also was bothered by a case of strep throat.

“We could tell that was taking a toll on him,” Berhalter told SN. “I don’t want this to be about the field, I really don’t. It was the same for both teams. We had enough time to be moving the ball. It was difficult, but we had enough time. And it’s just something you have to deal with. And we’re used to dealing with that.”

Are they, though? Most of the USMNT still has played in just a few CONCACAF road qualifiers. Hesitation was horrifically huge for many of those who played Tuesday. So many circumstances that could have been devastating developed because players expected balls to roll into their feet, only to see them die and be beaten to the play by the opposition. There were passes fed in the direction of teammates that lacked the necessary pace, including one to Steffen that traveled so slowly it nearly allowed Jamaica another simple scoring chance.

That’s what happened on the play that set Reid up, with U.S. right back DeAndre Yedlin waiting too long to pursue what should have been a simple clearance. Instead, Jamaica was able to feed a cross to the far post, where left back Antonee Robinson tried to clear it for the Americans. Instead, he knocked it directly across the goal to Reid. What should have been a simple tap-in was blasted over the crossbar because Reid panicked.

In the 84th minute, Jamaica’s corner kick was pursued by Lowe directly in front of the goal, but he was called for climbing over defender Walker Zimmerman’s back to head the ball past. Berhalter said he heard the whistle quickly, so he believed referee Juan Gabriel Calderon of Costa Rica was convinced of his call.

“When you think about the youth of this group, the inexperience of this group in CONCACAF qualifying, we’re on the right track,” Berhalter said. “Just thinking about it, you don’t often get where you’re in a qualifying competition, one venue is freezing cold, and the next venue is this tropical climate.

“Most continents, when they have qualifying, the weather’s consistent. So we’re going through a lot here, man. We’re learning on the fly. The guys have done a good job with that. We’ll take our position now and focus on 2022.”

To be clear, he meant the six games remaining in qualifying that will be played in the new year — not “Qatar 2022.”

The Americans are not there yet. And the road to get there will remain bumpy.

CONCACAF 2022 World Cup Qualifying: Schedule, standings, TV for soccer Octagonal

We're now into the second half of the qualifying schedule and it's Canada at the top of the CONCACAF 2022 World Cup qualifying standings.

A 2-1 home win over Mexico allowed the Canadians to overtake the USA atop the eight-team table. Canada is the only remaining unbeaten team in qualifying as it continues to push to qualify for its first World Cup since 1986.

The USA (2nd, 15 points) and Mexico (3rd, 14 points), long the powers of the region, are now chasing. Meanwhile, Panama continued its surge with another dramatic come-from-behind victory to go level with Mexico on 14 points. The top three teams earn automatic berths to the World Cup, while fourth-place earns passage to a play-in series for one of the final spots in Qatar 2022.

The other half of the table is in precarious position. A group of three teams — Costa Rica (5th), Jamaica (6th), El Salvador (7th) — is now between 5-8 points behind Panama for fourth place. Meanwhile, it's looking unlikely that Honduras will be able to recover from its last-place point total. 

The first standings tiebreakers are (1) goal difference, (2) goals scored and (3) most points obtained from matches between teams that are tied. The full list of tiebreakers and results for Matchdays 1-7 follow at the bottom of this post.

CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying Standings & Results

  1. Canada 16 8 4 0 4 13 5 +8
  2. USA 15 8 4 1 3 12 5 +7
  3. Mexico 14 8 4 2 2 11 7 +4
  4. Panama 14 8 4 2 2 11 9 +2
  5. Costa Rica 9 8 2 3 3 6 7 -1
  6. Jamaica 7 8 1 3 4 6 10 -4
  7. El Salvador 6 8 1 4 3 4 10 -6
  8. Honduras 3 8 0 5 3 5 15 -10
    Matchday 8
    Date Match
    Tues, Nov. 16, 2021 Jamaica 1 , USA 1 Highlights
    Tues, Nov. 16, 2021 Costa Rica 2 , Honduras 1 Highlights
    Tues, Nov. 16, 2021 Panama 2 , El Salvador 1 Highlights
    Tues, Nov. 16, 2021 Canada 2, Mexico 1 Highlights
    Matchday 9
    Date Match Time (ET) Stream
    Thurs, Jan. 27, 2022 Honduras vs. Canada TBD TBD
    Thurs, Jan. 27, 2022 USA vs. El Salvador TBD TBD
    Thurs, Jan. 27, 2022 Costa Rica vs. Panama TBD TBD
    Thurs, Jan. 27, 2022 Jamaica vs. Mexico TBD TBD
    Matchday 10
    Date Match Time (ET) Stream
    Sun, Jan. 30, 2022 Canada vs. USA TBD TBD
    Sun, Jan. 30, 2022 Honduras vs. El Salvador TBD TBD
    Sun, Jan. 30, 2022 Mexico vs. Costa Rica TBD TBD
    Sun, Jan. 30, 2022 Panama vs. Jamaica TBD TBD
    Matchday 11
    Date Match Time (ET) Stream
    Wed, Feb. 2, 2022 El Salvador vs. Canada TBD TBD
    Wed, Feb. 2, 2022 USA vs. Honduras TBD TBD
    Wed, Feb. 2, 2022 Mexico vs. Panama TBD TBD
    Wed, Feb. 2, 2022 Jamaica vs. Costa Rica TBD TBD
    Matchday 12
    Date Match Time (ET) Stream
    Thurs, March 24, 2022 Costa Rica vs. Canada TBD TBD
    Thurs, March 24, 2022 Panama vs. Honduras TBD TBD
    Thurs, March 24, 2022 Jamaica vs. El Salvador TBD TBD
    Thurs, March 24, 2022 Mexico vs. USA TBD TBD
    Matchday 13
    Date Match Time (ET) Stream
    Sun, March 27, 2022 Canada vs. Jamaica TBD TBD
    Sun, March 27, 2022 Honduras vs. Mexico TBD TBD
    Sun, March 27, 2022 El Salvador vs. Costa Rica TBD TBD
    Sun, March 27, 2022 USA vs. Panama TBD TBD
    Matchday 14
    Date Match Time (ET) Stream
    Wed, March 30, 2022 Panama vs. Canada TBD TBD
    Wed, March 30, 2022 Jamaica vs. Honduras TBD TBD
    Wed, March 30, 2022 Mexico vs. El Salvador TBD TBD
    Wed, March 30, 2022 Costa Rica vs. USA TBD TBD
    CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying results & highlights
    Matchday 1
    Date Match
    Thurs, Sept. 2, 2021 Canada 1, Honduras 1 Highlights
    Thurs, Sept. 2, 2021 Panama 0, Costa Rica 0 Highlights
    Thurs, Sept. 2, 2021 Mexico 2, Jamaica 1 Highlights
    Thurs, Sept. 2, 2021 El Salvador 0, USA 0 Highlights
    Matchday 2
    Date Match
    Sun, Sept. 5, 2021 Jamaica 0, Panama 3 Highlights
    Sun, Sept. 5, 2021 Costa Rica 0, Mexico 1 Highlights
    Sun, Sept. 5, 2021 El Salvador 0, Honduras 0 Highlights
    Sun, Sept. 5, 2021 USA 1, Canada 1 Highlights
    Matchday 3
    Date Match
    Wed, Sept. 8, 2021 Canada 3, El Salvador 0 Highlights
    Wed, Sept. 8, 2021 Panama 1, Mexico 1 Highlights
    Wed, Sept. 8, 2021 Costa Rica 1, Jamaica 1 Highlights
    Wed, Sept. 8, 2021 Honduras 1, USA 4 Highlights
    Matchday 4
    Date Match
    Thurs, Oct. 7, 2021 USA 2, Jamaica 0 Highlights
    Thurs, Oct. 7, 2021 Honduras 0, Costa Rica 0 Highlights
    Thurs, Oct. 7, 2021 Mexico 1, Canada 1 Highlights
    Thurs, Oct. 7, 2021 El Salvador 1, Panama 0 Highlights
    Matchday 5
    Date Match
    Sun, Oct. 10, 2021 Panama 1, USA 0 Highlights
    Sun, Oct. 10, 2021 Jamaica 0, Canada 0 Highlights
    Sun, Oct. 10, 2021 Costa Rica 2, El Salvador 1 Highlights
    Sun, Oct. 10, 2021 Mexico 3, Honduras 0 Highlights
    Matchday 6
    Date Match
    Wed, Oct. 13, 2021 USA 2, Costa Rica 1 Highlights
    Wed, Oct. 13, 2021 Canada 4, Panama 1 Highlights
    Wed, Oct. 13, 2021 Honduras 0, Jamaica 2 Highlights
    Wed, Oct. 13, 2021 El Salvador 0, Mexico 2 Highlights
    Matchday 7
    Date Match
    Fri, Nov. 12, 2021 Honduras 2 , Panama 3 Highlights
    Fri, Nov. 12, 2021 USA 2 , Mexico 0 Highlights
    Fri, Nov. 12, 2021 Canada 1 , Costa Rica 0 Highlights
    Fri, Nov. 12, 2021 El Salvador 1 , Jamaica 1 Highlights
    How CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying works
    Eight nations from the CONCACAF region (North America, Central America and the Caribbean) are competing for three automatic berths to the 2022 Qatar World Cup in the final "octagonal" qualifying round.

The eight countries are facing off in a round-robin format with each team playing the other seven opponents once at home and once on the road. The 14 total matches for each national team began in September 2021 and will wrap up in March 2022.

The top three finishers will earn automatic berths to Qatar, while the fourth-place team will head to an intercontinental playoff with a final ticket to Qatar on the line. Here are the standings tiebreakers for teams even on points:

Goal difference in all group matches
Most goals scored in all group matches
Most points obtained from group matches between teams concerned
Goal difference from group matches between teams concerned
Most goals scored in group matches between teams concerned
Goals scored away from home (if two teams tied)
Discipline points (based on yellow/red cards)
Drawing of lots by FIFA
The Qatar World Cup will be played from Nov. 21 to Dec. 18, 2022.

Yankees have strong free-agent options at shortstop, center field and starter

George Steinbrenner, the fiery, volatile Yankees owner who prioritized winning over pretty much everything else, died of a heart attack at 80 years old in July 2010, about nine months after his club won the 2009 World Series in six games over the Phillies.

The Yankees, who won seven World Series titles in Steinbrenner’s era (1973-2010) — and made the final round four other times — haven’t been back to the World Series since his death. The team from the Bronx has been good since then, with two 100-win seasons and nine trips to the playoffs — including four to the ALCS — but hasn’t broken through.
Maybe the most frustrating thing of all? The Yankees have had more regular season wins than the eventual World Series champ five times since that 2009 title: in 2010 (95, to the Giants’ 92), 2011 (97, to the Cardinals’ 90), 2012 (95, to the Giants’ 94), 2019 (103, to the Nationals’ 93) and 2021(92, to the Braves’ 88).

So, yeah, there’s plenty of motivation this offseason to add significant talent to what’s already a very talented roster. Here are two things we know about the Yankees’ offseason plans: They are going to acquire a shortstop, and payroll will increase.

Longtime GM Brian Cashman has spoken often since his club’s season ended about the need to upgrade at shortstop — Gleyber Torres is moving full time to second base — and he addressed the payroll issue speaking to reporters at the GM meetings this week.

“Well, it’s going to have to be (increasing). We don’t have a lot of stuff coming off,” Cashman said, according to the New York Post. “So obviously I’ll have some latitude.”

The Yankees stayed under the competitive-balance tax threshold in 2021, which was important to the club because penalties for going over the set number — it was $210 million in 2021 — increase sharply for every consecutive year a team is over. Getting back under the number for a season resets everything. So the Yankees are back to zero, but expect them to exceed the luxury tax — whatever the number might be — next year.

Let’s take a look at what the Yankees might do, at positions that Cashman has said are in play this offseason. We’ll start with the obvious one.

Yankees shortstop options
Back when Cashman made his initial comments saying shortstop was an “area of need” we took a dive into the most obvious options in front of the club, so we’ll just link to that story and give you the Cliff Notes version here.

Carlos Correa and Corey Seager are the two biggest names, meaning they’ll both demand massive contracts of at least 10 years. Trevor Story is coming off a down year, but the Yankees had a lot of success with one ex-Rockie (D.J. LeMahieu). Marcus Semien is a top-three AL MVP finisher this year, and he could move to second when/if one of the Yankees’ shortstop prospects is ready for the bigs. Javier Báez is an intriguing option.

“It’s certainly the year of the shortstop, certainly with a lot of high-end, talented players coming out at the same time,” Cashman said at the GM meetings.

After those five free agents, there are options the fan base probably wouldn’t like but wouldn’t be awful, such as signing Jose Iglesias or Andrelton Simmons (Cashman’s mentioned defense a couple of times) or trading for Paul DeJong.
Yankees starting pitcher options
Here’s what Cashman said on the topic at the GM meetings: “Always pitching, pitching, pitching, even though our pitching was a good thing for us this year. It’s always good to try to reinforce it and add to it if you can.”

Stealing this from a TSN piece earlier this week: The Yankees’ 2022 rotation options at the moment consist of perennial Cy Young candidate Gerrit Cole and about eight or nine pitchers who seem likely to post an ERA in the 4s if given 25 to 30 starts. It would seem unlikely that the Yankees would add a bottom-of-the-rotation starter this offseason, unless it’s an opportunistic trade or signing with low risk.

Here are four options to slot in there next to Cole:

Max Scherzer, free agent: Scherzer is 37 going on 29, still an effective and often dominant starting pitcher in the big leagues. The right-hander with three Cy Young wins had a 1.98 ERA in 11 starts with the Dodgers after arriving in a trade with the Nationals. He’ll have lots of teams bidding for his services, offering two or three-year deals with crazy-high annual salaries. A short-term, high AAV deal makes sense for the Yankees, who have to tackle the Aaron Judge extension issue sooner than later.

Justin Verlander, free agent: Sure, he’s coming off Tommy John surgery and will turn 39 during spring training. But that TJ surgery was 17 months ago, and Verlander impressed during his showcase throwing session earlier this week, sitting 94-97 with his fastball. And the idea of pairing Verlander with Cole atop the rotation has to be intriguing. Remember 2019, when those two finished 1-2 in the AL Cy Young race as teammates in Houston? You can bet the Yankees — who lost to those Astros in the ALCS that year — remember the duo well.

Marcus Stroman, free agent: Stroman was outstanding for the Mets in 2021, one of the few players on the team who was good start to finish. He made 33 starts for the club, posting a 3.02 ERA and 3.49 FIP, with only 2.2 walks per nine. Stroman pitched at least five full innings in 29 of his 33 starts — including every July, August and September outing — and only three pitchers topped that number: Zack Wheeler, Walker Buehler and Julio Urias. And you know Stroman would love the pressure of pitching under the Bronx microscope.

Kevin Gausman, free agent: Gausman was outstanding in 2021 for the Giants, posting the best season of his career. He had a 2.81 ERA/3.00 FIP in 33 starts, with a 10.6 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9. Plus, he played last year after accepting San Francisco’s qualifying offer, so he has no draft-pick compensation attached, which is nice for him. He knows the pressures of the AL East from his days with the Orioles, but now instead of facing the Yankees a couple times per season, he’d face an Orioles club that lost 110 games in 2021.

Yankees center field options
Aaron Hicks is a hard worker and a good teammate, but at this point in his career, he’s probably not a full-time center fielder, as much as the Yankees might want him to be. The club gave him a seven-year, $70 million contract after his breakthrough 2018 season — 27 homers, .833 OPS, 4.4 bWAR — but he only played 91 of the possible 324 games in 2019 and 2021, and though he played 54 of the 60 games in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, his production wasn’t great: 0.8 bWAR, 6 homers, 21 RBI, .225 average.

The injury issues aren’t new. Hicks has been in the majors for eight 162-game seasons, and he’s played more than 97 games only twice. His contract has four remaining years, but using “contractual obligation” to determine starters isn’t the best way to build a World Series team. Cashman acknowledged as much at the GM meetings.

“He’s going to finish off his rehab and he very well might be our starting center fielder, but again I’m going to be open-minded and evaluate all opportunities,” Cashman said. “We just want to make sure we put the best team out there. There are no guarantees right now, for anybody. … Aaron Hicks was hurt, so he’s been off the board. He might play some winter ball, we’ll see. In the meantime, center field was an area of concern this past year because of his injury.”

Here are four options:

Starling Marte, free agent: He’s heading into his Age 33 season, but Marte still is a great player. He led the majors with 47 stolen bases despite playing just 120 games combined for the Marlins and A’s, and he posted a career-best on-base percentage (.381) and OPS+ (131), plus a bWAR of 4.0 or better for the sixth time in his career. He’s also an outstanding defensive center fielder. A three-year deal with a relatively high AAV seems reasonable.

Chris Taylor, free agent: Playing center field is just one of his many talents. The Yankees could sign him with the idea that he’s the starting center fielder, but they’d also be getting a replacement third baseman if Gio Urshella gets hurt, a replacement shortstop if the new shortstop gets hurt, a replacement second baseman if Torres goes down and he could probably catch, too, if Gary Sanchez gets hurt (OK, not the last one, but you get the picture).

Joey Gallo, on the roster: The Yankees could decide to keep this one in house, with Gallo — yes, he’s a large human but he’s an excellent defensive outfielder who has played 55 games in center in his career — as the fallback option if the club decides that Hicks is ready to take the full-time role this spring.

Brett Gardner, free agent: Yep, Gardner could possibly come back, even after both sides declined their options this offseason. Another year of “hope Hicks is healthy, but at least we have Gardy” might not be the most appealing, but if the Yankees spend big at shortstop and in the rotation, that could what winds up happening.

Ranking the 20 best free-agent starting pitchers, with potential landing spots

So your favorite team needs pitching? Join the club. To quote Yankees GM Brian Cashman at the GM meetings earlier this week: “Pitching, pitching, pitching.”

There’s something for every team in this year’s market. There are veterans looking for short-term, high-dollar deals, starters around 30 years old looking for lengthy, lucrative deals and plenty of potential bounce-back candidates looking for a chance to reestablish value on one-year deals (maybe with an option or two).
If your favorite team doesn’t add a starter, it’s not because it didn’t have options.

Let’s take a look at the top 20 on the market.

  1. Robbie Ray, LHP
    Opening Day age: 30

Why he’s here: The Blue Jays traded for free-agent-to-be Ray at the 2020 trade deadline and he liked his time in Toronto, so he bet on himself with a one-year deal to stay with the Jays in 2021. Turns out, that was a brilliant idea. He finally solved the control issues that had long kept him from joining the elite circle of starters; his 2.4 walks per inning in 2021 was light years better than his career average of 4.3 heading into the season. Ray led the AL in ERA, innings, strikeouts and WHIP, just to name a few stats and is a Cy Young finalist (expected to win).

Potential landing spot: The Blue Jays are primed to compete for AL East and World Series titles for years to come, and having a strikeout pitcher such as Ray atop the rotation feels like a pretty good fit.

  1. Max Scherzer, RHP
    Opening Day age: 37

Why he’s here: Scherzer is 37 going on 29, still an effective and often dominant starting pitcher in the big leagues. The right-hander with three Cy Young wins had a 1.98 ERA in 11 starts with the Dodgers after arriving in a trade with the Nationals. He’ll have lots of teams bidding for his services, offering two or three-year deals with crazy-high annual salaries.

Possible landing spot: Padres. Even though, on paper, San Diego has the five rotation spots filled — Yu Darvish, Blake Snell, Joe Musgrove, Chris Paddack and Mike Clevinger returning from Tommy John surgery — you know after last year’s disaster the Pads are going to be aggressive. And adding Scherzer would be very aggressive.

  1. Marcus Stroman, RHP
    Opening Day age: 30

Why he’s here: The Mets had dozens of issues in 2020, but Stroman was not one of them. He made 33 starts for the club, posting a 3.02 ERA and 3.49 FIP, with only 2.2 walks per nine. Some have criticized Stroman for only throwing 179 innings in those 33 starts, but that total is impacted by a couple of short outings that were not performance-related, such as April 11, when umpires started the game and then pulled Stroman off the mound for a rain delay after he’d faced just two batters. Or June 22, when he left after an inning because of a hip issue. Here’s a more relevant stat: Stroman pitched at least five full innings in 29 of his 33 starts — including every July, August and September outing — and only three pitchers topped that number: Zack Wheeler, Walker Buehler and Julio Urias.

Potential landing spot: Stroman’s more of a contact pitcher (career 7.5 K/9) than many of today’s starters, so pitching in front of a Cardinals team that had five Gold Glove winners makes sense. The Cardinals would like a reliable rotation addition after last year’s cavalcade of rotation injuries and scrap-heap replacements (many of whom did very well, we should add).

  1. Kevin Gausman, RHP
    Opening Day age: 31

Why he’s here: Gausman was outstanding in 2021 for the Giants, posting the best season of his career. He had a 2.81 ERA/3.00 FIP in 33 starts, with a 10.6 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9. Plus, he played last year after accepting San Francisco’s qualifying offer, so he has no draft-pick compensation attached, which is nice for him.

Potential landing spot: The lack of compensation is nice, no doubt, but Gausman had pitched in Baltimore, Atlanta and Cincinnati and never experienced nearly the success he had in San Francisco. The Giants have a lot of money to spend, and a reunion makes all the sense in the world for both sides.

  1. Carlos Rodon, LHP
    Opening Day age: 29

Why he’s here: Just a stellar bounce-back year, a great comeback story for a guy who has basically been an afterthought for a few years. Shoulder concerns might limit teams’ willingness to offer tons of money and lots of years, at least theoretically, but agent Scott Boras has gone on the record that Rodon isn’t signing a one-year deal.

Potential landing spot: The Mariners could use another lefty starter with Yusei Kikuchi opting out of his deal.

  1. Noah Syndergaard, RHP
    Opening Day age: 29

Why he’s here: Yeah, this might be a bit high for him, considering how much time he’s missed. But his upside is huge, he’s only 29 and you can bet the two innings he threw at the end of the season helped ease concerns teams might have had about his return from Tommy John surgery. And the track record of players coming back from TJ is pretty solid. Does he take a one-year deal to reestablish value or will some team sign him longer term, maybe a few years guaranteed with lucrative mutual options?

Potential landing spot: Most seem to think Syndergaard will wind up back with the Mets, either accepting the qualifying offer or on another shorter-term deal. But the taste of free agency is a funny thing. I could absolutely see him winding up with a team looking to make a playoff push in 2022. Think Seattle.

  1. Clayton Kershaw, LHP
    Opening Day age: 34

Why he’s here: Kershaw, who turns 34 next March, might not be a perennial Cy Young favorite at this point in his career, but he’s still a damn good pitcher when healthy. He had a 2.16 ERA in 10 starts during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season and a 2.93 ERA in five postseason starts (2.31 in two World Series outings). Kershaw’s 3.00 FIP in his 22 starts in 2021 was his lowest since 2016 and his 10.7 K/9 ratio was the third-best mark of his career — better than two of his three Cy Young seasons.

Possible landing spot: Dodgers. Truth is, Kershaw’s probably going to spend time on the IL every year from here on out. He hasn’t made more than 28 starts since the 2015 season, with a wide variety of issues causing him to miss time. For the Dodgers, Kershaw brings value as a franchise ambassador even when he’s hurt, and they have the resources to build back-up rotation options into the roster. It makes sense that they’d keep the fan favorite around and just do everything in their power to make sure he’s healthy for the stretch run and into October.

  1. Justin Verlander, RHP
    Opening Day age: 39

Why he’s here: It’s hard to know where to rank a pitcher closing in on “40-year-old future Hall of Famer who has only made one start since 2019.” Here’s much more on Verlander’s situation and his potential landing spots.

  1. Eduardo Rodriguez, LHP
    Opening Day age: 29

Why he’s here: That 4.74 ERA in 32 games (31 starts) wasn’t pretty on the surface, but that 3.32 FIP sure looks nice. As does the career-best 10.6 K/9 and 3.94 K/BB rate, especially coming off a 2020 season where he was as impacted by COVID as any MLB player. E-Rod will generate plenty of interest.

Potential landing spots: Wouldn’t be at all surprised if he wound up back in Boston, where he has a career 4.16 ERA in 856 2/3 innings.

  1. Jon Gray, RHP
    Opening Day age: 30

Why he’s here: Gray has reportedly expressed interesting in staying with Colorado, but the Rockies didn’t extend a qualifying offer, which means Gray doesn’t come with draft-pick compensation and that’s good news for any teams that might be interested in seeing what he can do away from Colorado’s thin air. His career ERA at home (4.54) is actually a tick better than his ERA on the road (4.65), but what happens when he’s not switching between the thin air and “regular” air if he’s in a different home atmosphere? It’s an intriguing question. He’s coming off a solid year, with a 4.22 FIP and 9.5 K/9.

Potential landing spots: Look, we could put the Angels as a “potential landing spot” for every pitcher on this list. But Gray makes a lot of sense in Anaheim. If nothing else, he’s been pretty durable, with at least 20 starts each of the past five full seasons and at least 149 innings in four of those five.

  1. Steven Matz, LHP (30)

Why he’s here: After a 9.68 ERA in 30 2/3 innings with the Mets in 2020, the lefty had a nice bounce-back season with the Blue Jays, posting a 3.82 ERA and 3.79 FIP in 29 starts. Matz would make for a good secondary starter acquisition for the Angels.

  1. Anthony DeSclafani, RHP (31)

Why he’s here: Like Matz, DeSclafani was pretty awful in 2020 (7.22 ERA) and pretty great in 2021 (3.17 ERA) in a new location, with the Giants. He’d make sense with Matz’s original team, the Mets.

  1. Alex Wood, LHP (31)

Why he’s here: Yep, another starting pitcher who was key to the Giants’ success in 2021. Makes sense that they’ll bring at least one back; of the three, Wood seems likely to command the smallest deal of the three. He’d fit in Washington with the Nationals.

  1. Yusei Kikuchi, LHP (30)

Why he’s here: The lefty didn’t live up to his billing in Seattle, posting a 4.97 ERA in 70 starts in his three years with the M’s. But he has a durable arm and posted a solid 9.3 K/9 ratio last year, making his first All-Star team in 2021 before struggling in the second half (5.98 ERA). He’ll make sense for teams — not necessarily just contenders — looking to add multiple starters, teams like the Giants, Angels, Cubs, Rangers or Twins

  1. Dylan Bundy, RHP (29)

Why he’s here: The former bright hope of the Orioles was great in the shortened 2020 campaign for the Angels, posting a 3.29 ERA in 11 starts, but 2021 was a disaster. Bundy posted a 6.08 ERA and 5.51 FIP, while his K/9 dropped from 9.9 in 2020 to 8.3 in 2021. At this point, he’s probably looking for somewhere to reestablish value with a team that is not counting on him every fifth day to fuel a playoff push. Look for him to land somewhere like Pittsburgh or Texas.

  1. Zach Davies, RHP (29)

Why he’s here: Yeah, he was pretty bad for the Cubs in 2021 (5.78 ERA in 32 starts), but he’s not the first pitcher to blow up in Wrigley Field. Don’t forget, Davies compiled a 3.30 ERA in 43 starts pitching for the contending Brewers and Padres in 2019-20. He’s the perfect candidate to sign with a non-contender, work out the issues that caused his BB/9 to spike from 2.5 in 2020 to 4.6 in 2021, then get traded at the deadline and generate more interest as a free agent next year.

  1. Danny Duffy, LHP (33)

Why he’s here: He belongs in Kansas City. He’s family there. Here’s hoping he goes back home.

  1. Michael Pineda, RHP (33)

Why he’s here: In what was a disaster of a season for Minnesota, Pineda was actually pretty good when he was on the mound, posting a 3.62 ERA in 22 starts, and the Twins (who finished 16 games under .500) were .500 when he started. He’s pretty much a five-inning starter now — he got more than 18 outs only once all year — but he’s good in that role, and finished with a 1.85 ERA in 24 1/3 September innings.

  1. Zack Greinke, RHP

Why he’s here: His All-Star days are likely behind him, but the future Hall of Famer knows how to make the most of his stuff, and he could be an outstanding No. 4 starter for a contender. It’s hard to imagine he’d sign with a team like the Twins or Marlins; maybe the Cardinals — that stellar defense would be appealing — or maybe even a return to the Dodgers?

  1. Alex Cobb, RHP (34)

Why he’s here: Cobb was solid when he was healthy, posting a 3.82 ERA in 15 starts before landing on the IL and missing almost nine weeks with wrist issues. He returned to make three five-inning September starts; two were good, one was not.

Don't expect Carlos Correa's take on Derek Jeter to be a deal-breaker for Yankees

Carlos Correa's statement last week that Yankees legend Derek Jeter "did not deserve" any of his five Gold Gloves wouldn't be as controversial if Correa wasn't one of the hottest free agents on the market this offseason and would solve the Yankees' current shortstop problems. Goodness knows, he isn't the only person who has said such a thing.

Correa, 27, won a Rawlings Platinum Glove this year as the best fielder, regardless of position, in the American League. He also collected a Gold Glove (his first). He racked up 21 defensive runs saved, most in MLB among shortstops and seven more than runner-up Andrelton Simmons. He's no slouch in the field.

In fact, DRS was a large part of Correa's seeming diss of Jeter on an episode of "Me Gustan Los Deportes" ("I Like Sports"), a Facebook Live show hosted by former MLB star Carlos Baerga. Correa used Jeter's career numbers to illustrate the point that evaluation of defense has changed over the years because of the rise of advanced stats such as DRS.

"Derek Jeter. How many Gold Gloves did he win? Five. I think he won five. Derek Jeter did not deserve any of them," Correa, who has been an admirer of Jeter's, said in Spanish. "You know how much Derek Jeter's [DRS was] in his career? Negative 160 [actually, negative 162, per Fangraphs]. In his career. But your eyes can lie to you. Your eyes can lie to you. His fame . . ."
Heard in isolation, that snippet was a shot at "The Captain." And it came out during a period when the Yankees can bid on Correa, who reportedly turned down an offer recently of five years and $160 million from his old club, the Astros.
Jeter's fame served him well over his two decades with the Bronx Bombers, but it's not why AL managers and coaches voted him a Gold Glove winner in 2004, 2005, 2006, 2009 and 2010 when he was roaring through his 30s. (Critics might say his jump throws and solid hitting were why.) He had one positive DRS figure his entire career, a plus-3 in 2009. Sabermetrics didn't help to decide fielding awards then, however; the eye test was still king.

Jeter passed the test. Correa noted that the eyes can lie.

Jeter's enduring popularity led some Yankees fans to rush to his defense Monday against Correa, who is a sworn enemy in parts of New York because he played for the cheating Astros in 2017, when they beat the Yankees in the ALCS.
But other fans — and, most importantly, Yankees management — know that Correa would be a massive upgrade over Gleyber Torres, Tyler Wade or any other internal candidate. Yankees shortstops tied for 25th in the majors this year with minus-14 DRS. Adding a top-notch player at the position is an offseason priority.

And Correa is top-notch. He heads a loaded free-agent shortstop class that also includes Corey Seager, Javier Baez, Marcus Semien and Trevor Story. The Yankees won't reject him because of a quote that may have been taken out of context. They would be glad to have him play Jeter's position — and very happy if he plays it better than Jeter did.

Why isn't Trey Lance starting? 49ers' commitment to Jimmy Garoppolo makes messy QB situation

49ers fans waiting for the return of the "Trey Area" may have to wait a little longer.

The 49ers sending away two future first-round picks for the No. 3 overall pick for, what turned out to be, Trey Lance in the 2021 NFL Draft meant that the future was now. Or later. Or, apparently, eventually.
Kyle Shanahan and the 49ers have maintained that the best way to develop their prized QB prospect is to keep him on the bench, a strategy that may or may not work out long-term for them.

With Jimmy Garoppolo still a serviceable starter for San Francisco, the 3-5 start has fans calling for a change at the quarterback spot, leading to many wondering why Lance isn't starting. While draft philosophies differ, one thing is certain: The 49ers spent a lot of future draft capital for a guy who's gotten a very small sample size of work so far this season.

Shanahan's comments haven't painted a pretty picture for Lance's starting prospects in 2021, either.

Why isn't Trey Lance starting?
The answer: Anyone's guess.

While Lance got an opportunity to fill in for Jimmy Garoppolo in Week 5 vs. the Cardinals, he's been on the sidelines since then. Through a bye week, a knee injury and Garoppolo getting the opportunity to start once again, the 49ers have resisted the urge to let Lance see the field. Lance last got a snap in Week 5.

While Lance came out of college as something of a project, it seems like the 49ers' direction is to do more to try and develop Lance for the future than to shoehorn him into situations now after attempting to earlier in the season.

In late October, head coach Kyle Shanahan explained why Lance hasn't been given a longer leash to start:

“We didn’t draft Trey to just fix this year," Shanahan said. "We drafted him so he could be the quarterback of the future and that’s a matter of time. We are not playing him just because what our record is, or just because."

There's also the matter of Jimmy Garoppolo, who has played "all right" (Shanahan's words) despite missing a game with an injury. ESPN's Dan Graziano reported that he doesn't feel that Shanahan will make the change to Garoppolo anytime soon — not as long as Garoppolo is playing, well, all right.

On Halloween, Lance was seemingly healthy and ready to go. Shanahan, though, didn't want to risk putting Lance on the field in the event that Garoppolo was injured.

To that end, the question remains: Not that Lance's usage rate was out of this world, but why were the 49ers more willing to use Lance early on in the season (129 snaps in total through Week 5) and not now?

The resistance to want to use Lance continued in this past weekend: Following the rough Week 9 loss to an undermanned Cardinals team, Shanahan was asked if he'd consider making a QB change for the Niners' Week 10 game vs. the Rams.

"Probably not, but definitely not thinking about those things right now. I’m thinking about this game and the rest of our team," Shanahan said post-game.

Defenses have been playing the 49ers passing game tighter, with Garoppolo's propensity to work short throws and the middle of the field (as the Shanahan system accounts for). Garoppolo's ability to stretch the field has always been something of a question, something that Lance's physical traits would allow him to do.

But, come hell or high water, it sounds like it's going to be Garoppolo — for now.

'Space Jam' turns 25 (sorry Sporting News wasn't there for the birth)

Twenty-five years later, this much is clear: “Space Jam” was not our jam.

But since its debut on Nov. 15, 1996, the iconic movie to kids of the ’90s (looking at you, Ken Griffey III) has found its way into Sporting News’ world.
Back in the day? Not so much.

In fact, the first and only mention of the movie in ’96 was in The Sporting News’ annual 100 Most Powerful (cover headline: “Mouse madness: Disney’s growing sports kingdom,” so at least, y’know, some things aged reasonably well).

Ranked No. 17 on the TSN 100 — sandwiched between a pair of commissioners, No. 16 Paul Tagliabue and No. 18 Gary Bettman, David Falk, agent for a certain Tune squad team captain, was described in capsule form:

“Michael Jordan’s $30 million, one-year deal was only a part of the $400 million in player contracts Falk’s (agency F.A.M.E.) negotiated last summer. Falk also was executive producer of ‘Space Jam.’”
Next time “Space Jam” popped up in TSN’s pages was almost a year after its premiere, in the Sept. 1, 1997 issue in, of course, a baseball story.

The headline: How to survive a pennant race.

Nobody can live baseball 24 hours a day … Players, coaches and managers strongly advise leaving the game at the park. Those with young children have an advantage: They go home to a first job. Ken Griffey Jr. watches movies with his son, Trey. "We watch 'Space Jam,'" Griffey says. "My son asks me, 'Daddy, how come you can't disappear into the ground like Michael Jordan?’”

Now, in fairness to TSN, other sports flicks got scant mention if at all — even, for God’s sake, when The Sporting News its own self got a mention (shoutout to Susan Sarandon and “Bull Durham”!).

Also, in fairness, we eventually came around and the original “Space Jam” dotted Sporting News, to readers’ good fortune.

So on the 25th anniversary of The Sporting News ignoring “Space Jam,” here are five times SN didn’t:

  1. Michael Jordan trash-talked extras on the set of 'Space Jam’
  2. This 'Space Jam' honest trailer is here to destroy your childhood memories
  3. Michael Jordan got ready for the Bulls' '95-96 season on the set of 'Space Jam'
  4. Bill Murray wants some credit for setting up Michael Jordan's game-winning shot in 'Space Jam'
  5. DeAndre Jordan, Blake Griffin read 'Space Jam' (VIDEO