Sports News

AP Sources: Phillies agree to trade Cole Hamels to TexasExternal Link

PHILADELPHIA (AP) After years of trade speculation, Cole Hamels' time in Philadelphia is ending.

Two people familiar with the deal say the Phillies have agreed to trade the ace left-hander to the Texas Rangers for a package of prospects.

Both people spoke to The Associated Press late Wednesday night on condition of anonymity because the trade had not been finalized. Hamels has a limited no-trade clause but does not have to approve a deal to the Rangers.

Hamels would become the first pitcher in major league history traded during a season immediately after throwing a no-hitter - he no-hit the Chicago Cubs on Saturday at Wrigley Field.

"He's definitely a great pitcher," Rangers first baseman Mitch Moreland said after Texas beat the New York Yankees 5-2 Wednesday. "Obviously watched the no-hitter the other day, pretty impressive. He's got a long track record of great success. It will be huge for us."

The 2008 World Series MVP was an integral part of the greatest run in franchise history when the Phillies won five straight NL East titles, two pennants and one World Series from 2007-11.

"He's been here a long time, but that's baseball," Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz said following an 8-2 loss at Toronto. "Definitely it's sad when you're around one of your teammates for a long time and then they have to go away."

The rebuilding Phillies, a big league-worst 38-64, traded All-Star closer Jonathan Papelbon to Washington on Tuesday. Both players made it clear they wanted to play for contenders.

Texas is seven games behind AL West-leading Houston and four games behind Minnesota for the AL's second wild-card spot.

There was thought the Phillies might wait to move Hamels in the offseason after recently hired executive Andy MacPhail officially replaces Pat Gillick, but general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. pulled the trigger with MacPhail's input.

Hamels was 114-90 with a 3.30 ERA in 10 seasons in Philadelphia. He went 7-4 with a 3.09 ERA in 13 postseason starts and also earned MVP honors in the `08 NLCS.

Hamels has three years remaining in a $144 million, six-year contract, a deal that includes a club option for 2019. He's owed $22.5 million per year through 2018 with a club option for 2019 at $20 million or a $6 million buyout. His option becomes guaranteed at $24 million if he throws 400 innings or more in 2017-18, including at least 200 in 2018, and isn't on the disabled list at end of 2018 with left shoulder or elbow injury.

More Phillies could be on the move before Friday's deadline to trade players without first securing waivers. Outfielders Jeff Francoeur and Ben Revere and righty Aaron Harang could help teams in the pennant race.

Philadelphia would like to deal 2006 NL MVP Ryan Howard but his contract makes it difficult. He's owed $25 million this year and next, and the team has a $23 million option for 2017 with a $10 million buyout.

Howard, Ruiz and Chase Utley are the only remaining players from Philadelphia's 2008 championship team.

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AP Sports Writers Ronald Blum and Stephen Hawkins, and AP freelance writer Ian Harrison contributed to this report.


MSNBC.com | Thu, 30 Jul 2015 04:54:00 +0000
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Brady fights on, files lawsuit to stop suspensionExternal Link

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) Tom Brady took the fight over his "Deflategate" suspension to social media and federal court Wednesday, and New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft backed the three-time Super Bowl MVP, saying "I was wrong to put my faith in the league."

One day after NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell rejected Brady's appeal, the star quarterback posted a 507-word statement on Facebook with his firmest denial yet, writing: "I did nothing wrong." Kraft followed with an unscheduled address to the media gathered at Gillette Stadium for the opening of training camp and the team's defense of its fourth Super Bowl championship.

"It is completely incomprehensible to me that the league continues to take steps to disparage one of its all-time great players, and a man for whom I have the utmost respect," the Patriots owner said. "I have come to the conclusion that this was never about doing what was fair and just."

Just before the courts closed in Minnesota, the NFL Players Association asked the court to overturn Brady's four-game suspension - or at least put it on hold until the case can be heard. The union asked the court to throw out the suspension before Sept. 4; that would keep Brady from missing any practices before the Patriots' Sept. 10 season-opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

"We need to free him up for that first week," union attorney Jeffrey Kessler told The Associated Press. "We don't believe this discipline can ever be sustained."

The lawsuit argues that the NFL made up its rules as it went along and misapplied the ones that were already on the books. In an interview with the AP, Kessler called it "offensive" that the league accused Brady of destroying his cellphone to obstruct the investigation, a claim NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell made in upholding the suspension on Tuesday.

"We believe they highlighted this issue solely to inflame the public, to suggest there is some secret information being withheld, and that's wrong," Kessler told the AP. "It's an unfair character assassination of a player who has done nothing but be a model citizen for this league."

Brady defended the cellphone swap on Facebook.

"To suggest that I destroyed a phone to avoid giving the NFL information it requested is completely wrong," he said. "There is no `smoking gun' and this controversy is manufactured to distract from the fact they have zero evidence of wrongdoing."

Brady was suspended four games and the Patriots were docked $1 million and two draft picks in May for what the league found was a scheme to provide improperly inflated footballs for the AFC championship game against the Indianapolis Colts. Investigator Ted Wells zeroed in on two equipment managers - one who called himself "The Deflator" - and said Brady was "at least generally aware" of the illegal deflation scheme.

Kraft said the Patriots did nothing wrong, but the team fired the two equipment managers. He said he didn't fight the team's penalty because he thought the league would go easy on the star quarterback.

Now, he said, he regrets his decision.

"I truly believe that what I did in May ... would make it much easier for the league to exonerate Tom Brady. Unfortunately, I was wrong," Kraft said, apologizing to the team's fans and to Brady. "Six months removed from the AFC championship game, the league still has no hard evidence of anybody doing anything to tamper with the PSI levels of footballs."

Kraft said the team turned over every cellphone not belonging to a player - including the one belonging to coach Bill Belichick. The powerful owner, who had been one of Goodell's most loyal allies, said the league's claim that Brady trashed his phone to obstruct the investigation was just the latest in a series of statements and leaks that "intentionally implied nefarious behavior" where there was none.

"Tom Brady is a person of great integrity and is a great ambassador of the game, both on and off the field," Kraft said.

Brady, who had earlier denied cheating accusations with the tepid "I don't think so," more forcefully defended himself in the Facebook post, claiming he cooperated with the investigation except where doing so would have set a bad precedent for his union brethren.

Brady said he replaced his broken phone only after his lawyers told league investigators they couldn't have it. "Most importantly, I have never written, texted, emailed to anybody at any time, anything related to football air pressure before this issue was raised at the AFC Championship game in January," he wrote.

The post was liked by 51,000 people - including his wife, supermodel Gisele Bundchen - in the first 30 minutes after it was posted on Facebook. By the time the lawsuit was filed at 6 p.m. Boston time, the number was 250,000.

Patriots special teams captain Matthew Slater said Brady's teammates support him.

"The guys in this locker room, we feel we are part of a family," he said. "Good or bad things happen in life, you stick with your family."

Belichick had been scheduled to speak to the media first on Wednesday morning, but Kraft took the podium instead. The coach, as is his practice, declined to comment on the scandal.

"Nothing really to talk about there," he said. "We're going to take it day to day, just like we always do."

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AP Pro Football Writer Barry Wilner and Associated Press writer Amy Forliti contributed to this report.

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Online:

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


MSNBC.com | Thu, 30 Jul 2015 02:04:00 +0000
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Winter Classic to bring Bruins, Canadiens to home of PatsExternal Link

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) The Winter Classic is coming to the home of the New England Patriots.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman joined officials from the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday to say the Original Six rivals would meet at Gillette Stadium on New Year's Day. The Bruins will be the first team to host the event twice. They also hosted it in 2010, at Fenway Park.

Patriots owner Robert Kraft also spoke at the ceremony, just hours after his impassioned "Deflategate" defense.

Bettman notes that the three organizations are among the most successful in their sports, with 34 championships. The Canadiens have won 24 of those, but the Patriots are the defending Super Bowl champs.

Bettman also says the league has extended the game's title sponsorship with Bridgestone for another five years.


MSNBC.com | Wed, 29 Jul 2015 19:35:00 +0000
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Chiefs safety Eric Berry back at practice after cancer fightExternal Link

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. (AP) There was a moment in the early stages of chemotherapy when Eric Berry was having breakfast with his father, and the enormity of what faced him was so great that he broke down and cried.

For 30 minutes, one of the toughest players on the Kansas City Chiefs wept.

Then, he resolved to beat cancer.

Eight months later, Berry walked triumphantly onto the practice fields at Missouri Western State University, joining rookies and select veterans Wednesday for the start of training camp.

Six merciless rounds of draining, debilitating drugs had rid his body of Hodgkin's lymphoma, but they had also stoked the passion that Berry still harbors for the game.

"It's been a roller coaster," he said, "but I wouldn't change it for the world."

Flanked by his father, James, and his mother, Carol, Berry spoke publicly for the first time since he was diagnosed with cancer last December. He recalled the terror that gripped him when the mass was first found in his chest, and the dark days that immediately followed.

The days he didn't want to get out of bed. The days he struggled to choke down food, all of it tasteless. The seemingly endless trips to the hospital for each round of treatment.

"In the beginning it was hard, it really was," James Berry said. "Those possibilities go through your mind - `What if he can't play again?' You think of those types of things, but then you kick those to the side. And when you looked at Eric you said, `This guy is a fighter."'

Such a fighter that he chose to receive treatment through an IV rather than a PICC line, a semi-permanent catheter that would have prevented him from training.

Between each round of chemo, Berry would squeeze in 10 to 12 workouts, sometimes struggling just to do five push-ups. But he never lost sight of an audacious goal: Be back with the Chiefs by the time their season opens Sept. 13 in Houston.

"Everybody wants you to be strong in this situation," Berry said, "but you can't be strong every day. If you want to be mad today, be mad. If you want to be sad, be sad. But the thing is, don't stay that way. Get it out of your system and go back to work."

Berry passed a battery of tests before he was cleared to practice late Tuesday, but it remains unclear when he'll fully participate in practice. Chiefs trainer Rick Burkholder said Berry will be monitored constantly, especially during the early portion of camp.

Veterans report Friday. The first full-squad workout is Saturday.

"One of the things Eric and I talked about was just being honest with us about how you're feeling out here," coach Andy Reid said, "and sometimes that's hard for a player to do, especially with his makeup. He's been great with that up to this point and I think that will continue through."

After all, he's in a much better place than he was eight months ago.

The three-time Pro Bowler first knew something was amiss in November, when he felt oddly out of breath after a couple of games.

When things got worse during a game against Oakland, Berry was put through a series of tests that revealed a mass in his chest. The diagnosis was Hodgkin's lymphoma, a treatable form of cancer that affects about 9,000 people in the U.S. each year.

His treatment began Dec. 10 at Emory University's Winship Cancer Institute, near his home in Atlanta.

And it wasn't easy: "It literally feels like you're dying," Berry recalled, "but you're not really battling chemo, you're battling yourself the whole time. It was me versus me."

The final round of treatment was May 13, followed by a month of recovery.

"He tolerated chemotherapy extremely well," said Dr. Christopher R. Flowers, who directs the cancer institute's lymphoma program. "He achieved a complete response to treatment."

On June 22, a follow-up PET scan showed Berry was cancer-free.

The Chiefs had just finished their mandatory minicamp, so he headed to Florida, where he trained with teammates. Then last week, Berry headed back to Kansas City for another round of testing to make sure he was in football condition.

"It was a battle, every day, to the point where I had to set goals to get out of bed," he said. "But I had a great support system, between my mom and dad being in the trenches with me, day in and day out, making sure I had everything I needed."

The Chiefs are cautiously optimistic Berry will be ready for the regular season, and such a rapid return would not be without precedent: Reid said they looked at case studies involving other athletes, such as Mario Lemieux, in deciding how to proceed.

The Hall of Fame hockey player was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma in 1993, went through a similar course of treatment and returned to finish his career with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

There is plenty of work ahead for Berry.

But on a warm, humid morning in northwest Missouri, as he trotted out of the locker room, he had already surpassed nearly all expectations.

"At the beginning, you kind of put football aside. Your mind goes to, `Hey, we're hoping and praying he can be healthy and live a good life,"' Reid said. "Anything else is icing on the cake."

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


MSNBC.com | Wed, 29 Jul 2015 21:11:00 +0000
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Michel Platini confirms he will run for FIFA presidentExternal Link

GENEVA (AP) Michel Platini has launched his campaign to succeed Sepp Blatter as FIFA president, aiming to give the scandal-hit governing body "the dignity and the position it deserves."

Platini, the UEFA president and a FIFA vice president, wrote to member federations in Europe on Wednesday saying he will stand in the election and is counting on their support.

The FIFA election is on Feb. 26 and would-be candidates must apply by Oct. 26.

"There are times in life when you have to take your destiny into your own hands," wrote Platini, who turned 60 last month. "I am at one of those decisive moments, at a juncture in my life and in events that are shaping the future of FIFA."

Platini has for years been the obvious candidate to succeed Blatter, his mentor in FIFA politics. But a rift between the long-time allies deepened when Blatter broke a promise to leave office in 2015.

The former France great chose last year not to oppose Blatter, who won a fifth presidential term on May 29. Four days later, Blatter announced his resignation plans under pressure from American and Swiss federal investigations of corruption implicating FIFA.

"However, recent events force the supreme governing body of world football to turn over a new leaf and rethink its governance," Platini said.

Platini chose to run after getting encouragement from some of his fellow FIFA vice presidents last week in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Five of the six confederation leaders, including Platini, were there for the 2018 World Cup qualifying draw with only the North American regional body missing.

Platini then traveled to Philadelphia for the Gold Cup final on Sunday, and briefed CONCACAF leaders on his plans. They included FIFA executive committee colleague Sunil Gulati, the U.S. Soccer Federation president.

The U.S. body was among the five FIFA members which nominated Prince Ali bin al-Hussein to challenge Blatter two months ago. The Jordanian prince was publicly supported by Platini but Blatter had pockets of support across Europe in a 133-73 victory.

Platini met the prince in the south of France last week and discussed the FIFA election.

Though not the first would-be candidate to launch a formal bid, Platini is the most serious contender in the contest so far.

Another former FIFA vice president, Chung Mong-joon of South Korea, has suggested he will run after stating last week that he doubted Platini was serious about wanting the job. Former Brazil great Zico and Liberia federation president Musa Bility have said they want to seek the five nominations required to be a candidate.

Diego Maradona also said he wants the FIFA job, although the colorful former Argentina great is unlikely to be taken seriously.

The most detailed manifesto by any recent presidential hopeful was issued by Jerome Champagne, the former FIFA international relations director whose exit in 2010 was engineered with Platini's support.

However, Champagne did not take part in the last election after failing to get the five nominations required by a January deadline.


MSNBC.com | Wed, 29 Jul 2015 11:41:00 +0000
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