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Finnegan passes big test, helps Royals win Game 3External Link

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) Brandon Finnegan passed his biggest test yet.

Only four months after he pitched in the College World Series, the 21-year-old reliever trotted into a troubling seventh inning, got two key outs and helped the Kansas City Royals hold off San Francisco 3-2 Friday night in Game 3 of the World Series.

Finnegan made history with his rapid ascent, and later agreed to donate his cap to the Hall of Fame. All that, and something even more important to the Royals - he was part of giving them a 2-1 edge over the Giants.

"My time came, and luckily I got the job done," Finnegan said. "This is the real deal, y'know?"

His parents knew.

Outside the Kansas City clubhouse, surrounded by a bevy of Royals rooters, Betty and Gary Finnegan tried to absorb what they'd just seen.

"It is a dream ..." she said, some of her makeup washed away by tears. Without a pause, her husband finished the sentence, adding, "... that you don't want to wake up from."

Back in June, Finnegan reached the peak of his baseball career - until that point - when he threw for TCU in the College World Series. But no one could have envisioned what would follow, because no one had ever played in both events in the same year.

"I feel like I'm still in college," Finnegan said. "It's no different. It's still baseball."

Ah, youth.

Finnegan had warmed up in the sixth inning when the Giants scored twice to pull within a run, but didn't get the call.

"We figured he wouldn't pitch after that," his dad said.

Finnegan was back on the bullpen mound in the seventh at a rollicking AT&T Park, warming up when he was summoned into a tense spot to take over for proven reliever Kelvin Herrera: Runner on first, one out, Royals clinging to a one-run lead over the rallying Giants.

"Get a double play and the inning's over," Finnegan said he told himself.

All of Kansas City infielders huddled behind the mound as Finnegan got loose, realizing the most important point of their season was being entrusted to the rookie left-hander.

Right before pinch-hitter Juan Perez stepped up, Finnegan walked to the back of the mound and went the routine he uses to steady himself. He took off his hat, rubbed his hair and looked at the right-field foul pole.

"That's just what I do," he said.

Then it was time for business. Finnegan delivered, retiring Perez on an easy fly. When he fell behind in the count 2-0 to Brandon Crawford, All-Star catcher Salvador Perez went to the mound.

The message: "Be aggressive, not nervous," Perez said.

Finnegan came back to strike out a swinging Crawford on a full count, and started to jog off the mound. He stopped short of the dugout and walked the rest of the way to the bench, where he was congratulated by Herrera and several other Royals.

In the stands near the Kansas City bullpen, about 20 family members and friends whooped it up.

"I'm very proud of him," Royals ace James Shields said. "To be able to keep your composure on this big of a stage the way he's doing, it is very impressive."

"He's pitching well beyond his years. If he keeps that up, he's going to have a really good career," he said.

Small in stature but big in accomplishments, Finnegan already has done that, and a lot more.

"I fulfilled two dreams in one year," he said.

As he spoke, he glanced at the tattoo on his right wrist. His tattoos all refer to family and faith, he said.

There was some concern earlier this month that Finnegan's run of success was winding down. After finishing his minor league season in Double-A, he made his major league debut on Sept. 6 and pitched seven games for the Royals, allowing one run in seven innings.

He threw 2 1-3 effective innings in the AL wild-card win over Oakland, and pitched twice in the AL Division Series against the Angels and got a win. But he struggled in the AL Championship Series against Baltimore, giving up three hits and a walk while getting only one out in two outings.

Manager Ned Yost didn't need Finnegan in the first two games of the World Series. When it got tight in Game 3, it became Finnegan's turn to pitch - and his father's turn to soak in the whole experience.

"I was shaking for three innings," his dad said. "My heart was pounding pretty hard."


MSNBC.com | Sat, 25 Oct 2014 04:52:00 +0000
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Vargas to take on Vogelsong in Game 4 of SeriesExternal Link

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) Even though Jason Vargas will be making his World Series debut for Kansas City in Game 4, the Fall Classic atmosphere in San Francisco will not be foreign to him.

Four years ago, while home for the offseason in Arizona, Vargas and his wife decided to fly to San Francisco to watch Game 1 of the 2010 World Series between the Giants and Texas Rangers.

The Giants won 11-7 on the way to their first World Series title in San Francisco. They followed with another championship in 2012 and are back in for a third time in five years against the Royals this season.

"It was just an electric atmosphere," Vargas recalled before Game 3 on Friday. "They were ready to go. The fans are here and they want to see their team win, and we're hoping to stop that."

Vargas will have a big part in that goal when he starts Saturday night against Ryan Vogelsong.

Vogelsong has experience on this big stage, getting the win in Game 3 against Detroit two years ago when he pitched 5 2-3 innings in a 2-0 victory that helped send San Francisco to a sweep.

Vogelsong is the only pitcher to yield no more than one run in his first five postseason starts. That run ended in the NL Championship Series when Vogelsong allowed four runs in three innings of a no-decision against St. Louis.

But Vogelsong has proven he has no problems dealing with the heightened intensity in October.

"The biggest thing is just the experience of curbing the emotions," he said. "It's definitely a situation where you have to be locked into the game and your thoughts need to be on the game, but you have to take a quick second to look around and take it all in."

Vogelsong's postseason success is partly attributable to an increase in velocity in those games, with his fastball going from the low 90 mph range to about 95 mph.

"It's definitely a different adrenaline when you're in this stadium in a postseason game," he said. "It's different than an everyday regular-season game."

Vargas has pitched well in his first two postseason starts, allowing two runs in six innings of a no-decision in the division series opener against the Angels and getting the win when he allowed one run of 5 1-3 innings of the ALCS clincher against Baltimore.

Vargas had seven days off before his first postseason start, 12 before the second and nine before the Game 4 of the Series. He has used the time wisely, with the extra bullpen and side sessions helping to smooth out some mechanical issues that contributed to him going 1-5 with a 5.89 ERA in his final seven starts of the regular season.

"He's had two great starts," manager Ned Yost said. "He was a guy that was consistent for us all year. Struggled a little bit his last three or four starts in September, but, again, a lot of that was mechanical, and he's made the adjustment. Had a great start against Anaheim. Had a great start against Baltimore, and we look for him to do the same tomorrow."


MSNBC.com | Fri, 24 Oct 2014 21:58:00 +0000
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New advisers say NFL is serious about reformExternal Link

CHICAGO (AP) Beth E. Richie is a professor and a college administrator. She has written articles and books about feminism, battered women and the prison system, and provided training for police, judges and other groups.

So when the NFL called to ask for help with its domestic conduct policy, Richie wanted to make sure it was more serious than window dressing.

"The players and the teams are one thing that almost could be easily managed," said Richie, the director of the Institute for Research on Race and Public Policy at Illinois-Chicago. "I wanted to know are they interested in the fan base, the sponsoring organizations, the other corporate interests?

"We almost haven't had a moment like this in the work to end violence when such power, such attention, such resources could go to prevention, changing culture, bystander education, those kinds of things."

Intrigued by the possibilities, Richie joined a high-profile effort that is hoping to have an impact on domestic violence beyond the sports world. Richie is one of five senior advisers recently hired by the NFL to help shape the league's policy on abuse.

Any action by the league after the Ray Rice scandal will be closely watched by the other sports. But the NFL's new group of advisers believes the process also could have a more far-reaching impact.

"I think that they have the opportunity to model some cutting-edge policies and protocols or guidelines, and I'm excited at the opportunity for that reach to go beyond just the NFL, but into all of corporate America," said Jane Randel, a co-founder of No More, a campaign against domestic violence and sexual assault.

Randel and the other advisers had a hand in a 40-minute educational presentation at last week's NFL meetings in New York. The presentation focused on the dangers of spousal abuse, child abuse, sexual assault and other domestic violence topics.

Richie praised the NFL owners for their attentiveness, and Randel said it was so quiet you could hear a pin drop. Richie and Randel said the owners seemed serious.

"You can see what people in the room are doing, and they were watching and engaged and taking notes and doing all the things that you would want them to do," she said, "because these things really only work if they start from the top."

Randel's background is in cause marketing and corporate communications. She helped start No More in 2009 in an effort to raise awareness and money for organizations working to end domestic violence and sexual assault.

Lisa Friel, another senior adviser, was the head of the Sex Crimes Prosecution Unit in the New York County District Attorney's Office for more than a decade, and Rita Smith is the former executive director of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Tony Porter is a co-founder of A Call to Men, an organization dedicated to ending violence against women.

"The first thing that we're going to look at is the league's personal conduct policy and how we can educate people about that," Friel said at the owners' meetings. "In a perfect world, the hope is you never have to use the disciplinary end of that policy, right? That you have your standards of behavior, you educate people about them and they don't violate your policy. That's what we're hoping to do."

Sports have been a part of Richie's family life for a long time. She learned more about the business and organizational side of sports when her sister Laurel became president of the WNBA in 2011.

Laurel Richie said in an email to The Associated Press that the NFL made a smart choice in asking Beth for help.

"As a researcher, service provider, and advocate, my sister is one of the nation's leading experts on domestic violence and sexual assault in the African-American community," she wrote.

Beth E. Richie was the last addition to the NFL panel, and her appointment was announced after the Rev. Jesse Jackson and a leading black women's group criticized the league for not including any African-American women in the group of consultants.

It was clear the NFL was "looking for someone to fill that particular niche of race and community accountability," Richie said.

The league is mulling over when to act in cases of domestic violence and sexual assault, particularly when criminal cases drag on.

"I emphasize really, when possible, alternatives to only relying on the criminal legal system because in black communities that's been such a difficult tension," Richie said.

"My instinct has always been to try to find ways that communities can hold people accountable, and only rely on the criminal justice system when communities can't hold people accountable."

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AP Basketball Writer Doug Feinberg and AP Pro Football Writer Barry Wilner in New York contributed to this report.

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Online:

No More: http://nomore.org

National Coalition Against Domestic Violence: www.ncadv.org

A Call to Men: www.acalltomen.org

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

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Jay Cohen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jcohenap


MSNBC.com | Fri, 17 Oct 2014 17:05:00 +0000
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Attorney: NFL, Ravens not helping union Rice probeExternal Link

The attorney leading the NFL players' union investigation into the Ray Rice domestic violence case told The Associated Press the league and the Baltimore Ravens have not been cooperating.

Richard Craig Smith told the AP on Friday night that the NFL has not provided documents and witnesses requested by the NFLPA's investigators, while the Ravens have refused any cooperation with similar requests.

"I am interested in the facts, and if we get cooperation from all the parties that were involved, we will have an understanding of what happened," Smith said. "We cannot accept public statements that call for transparency, candor and openness and then not allow the investigators to do their jobs."

The union's investigation, like a similar probe organized by the NFL, isn't a law enforcement inquiry and the parties involved aren't under any legal obligation to comply with requests. The league and the union, however, have each said separately that they wanted answers in the case.

A spokesman for the NFL couldn't comment immediately when reached Friday night while a spokesman for the Ravens didn't immediately return a phone message.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell suspended Rice indefinitely Sept. 8 for violating the league's personal conduct policy, once video of Rice hitting his then-fiancee was released publicly.

The players' union hired Smith, a former federal prosecutor, one month ago to oversee its investigation into how the Ravens and the league handled themselves during the events that led to the suspension, as well as how the team handled issues like due process. Separately, the NFL hired former FBI director Robert S. Mueller III to conduct a probe into how the league handled evidence as it investigated the claims against Rice. NFL owners plan to make the findings of Mueller's report public.

Smith said the union's investigation is important to ensuring the process was fair, and that requires transparency.

"If the NFL is genuinely concerned about fixing the issues that led to an admitted mistake, then they should be honest and forthright about what they knew and when they knew it," Smith said. "We want both our team and Bob Mueller's team each to be able to conduct a thorough review of all the relevant facts."

Smith, the head of regulatory and governmental investigation for the law firm Norton Rose Fulbright, represented the union during the Saints bounty scandal that resulted in four players being reinstated from suspension through an appeal in 2012.

Goodell originally suspended Rice for two games. Once the video became public, the Ravens cut Rice, and the league banned him indefinitely. The league considered the video to be new evidence, giving Goodell the authority to further suspend Rice.

The players' union appealed Rice's suspension, saying he should not be punished twice. Former U.S. District Judge Barbara S. Jones was selected by the commissioner and the players' union to hear the appeal. A person familiar with the case told the AP that Judge Jones told Goodell on Wednesday that he should testify at the hearing, which will be held Nov. 5-6.

The person, speaking on condition of anonymity because details haven't been made public, said Adolpho Birch, the NFL's vice president for labor policy, league attorney Kevin Manara and security chief Jeffery Miller also are expected to testify along with Ravens President Dick Cass and general manager Ozzie Newsome. Rice plans to testify and his wife, Janay, might testify, the person said.

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

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Follow Rob Maaddi on Twitter: https://twitter.com/AP-RobMaaddi


MSNBC.com | Fri, 24 Oct 2014 23:08:00 +0000
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Union questions NFL's domestic violence planExternal Link

NEW YORK (AP) The players' union has questioned why the NFL's domestic violence training and education program "treats all players as perpetrators."

In a memo sent to NFL Players Association members on Thursday by Executive Director DeMaurice Smith and obtained Friday by The Associated Press, the union also said the plan "doesn't build a positive consensus to warning signs."

Smith and union special counsel Teri Patterson described two meetings this month with the league in which an NFLPA commission was briefed on the league's approach to educating players, coaches, executives, owners and NFL personnel about domestic violence. He wrote that a "good overview of domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse" was presented. But "it did not address larger issues of violence in and outside of the home."

The NFL said of the "perpetrators" claim: "Nothing could be further from the truth. The presentation expressly recognizes that people in the NFL are often falsely portrayed and that the actions of a few damage the reputations of many."

"What the program teaches is that everyone can and should be part of the solution," the league statement said.

The union memo also said the "NFL's presentation doesn't focus on follow-ups and providing continuous resources at the clubs to address potentially violent situations as well as preventing them."

The NFL's educational program was shown to the AP on Oct. 7, and it included information from a memo sent to the 32 clubs on Sept. 18 that pointed out local resources available to all team personnel and their families. That document indicated a plan was in place to provide those resources and follow-ups for those who need it.

The union memo to the players also said the NFL presentation "doesn't include any psychological information about the type of behavior that could lead to acts of violence or warning signs of negative behavior, but instead seemed to focus almost entirely on what happens after a violent incident has been committed."

The league's plan calls for experts who work in the psychological space to offer a research perspective of societal issues, recognizing that these are intimate crimes that impact people in many ways. The program calls for each club to have such experts available to the teams, or what the NFL calls "the entire club family."

That can include a clinician, human resource workers, player engagement executives, security personnel and a mental health professional who works with the club.

The union added that although the league indicated that the trainers for this educational program will be experts, the NFL did not list any specific names, titles or relevant backgrounds of the people they intend to utilize for the training.

Previously, the NFL announced an advisory group that includes authorities in the domestic violence area such as Tony Porter, Beth E. Richie, Rita Smith, Jane Randel and Lisa Friel.

Another NFLPA observation was: "Too much reliance was placed on using former players to participate in the training. While some former players possess the right qualifications and experience to train personnel on these issues, the league's inability to articulate who these players are raises concerns that call into question the effectiveness of the training."

Many of the player ambassadors, as the NFL calls them, have personal testimonies around these issues and might be helpful, but they would not deliver the education program.

The union added: "The league stated that at each presentation, they will distribute information on suggested local (team city/state specific) resources for domestic violence and sexual assault prevention specialists, licensed club mental health clinicians, club human resource directors and Directors of Player Engagement. The NFLPA commission members recommended that a broader net of resources be included, such as faith-based counselors and male-focused community organizations, etc. The NFL did not provide any explanation as to why one resource was chosen over another or how those resources would be specifically integrated into the workplace, if at all."

In response to the union memo, the NFL said: "We were pleased to meet with the union and are working to incorporate their suggestions into the presentations to clubs. As we emphasized to the union, this first set of presentations is the start of a process of education that will continue in future years."

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


MSNBC.com | Fri, 24 Oct 2014 22:28:00 +0000
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