Cubs

How many Patriots, 49ers made Pro Bowl team?

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How many Patriots, 49ers made Pro Bowl team?

From Comcast SportsNet
NEW YORK (AP) -- Tom Brady is one of eight Patriots and Patrick Willis one of eight 49ers to make the Pro Bowl, the most on each roster. Defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay (14-1), led by starting quarterback Aaron Rodgers, and Baltimore (11-4), led by veteran linebacker Ray Lewis, have seven apiece for the Jan. 29 game in Honolulu, the NFL announced Tuesday. Brady is one of seven starters from New England (12-3). The others are receiver Wes Welker, tight end Rob Gronkowski, defensive tackle Vince Wilfork, defensive end Andre Carter, and guards Brian Waters and Logan Mankins all are starters for the AFC from the Patriots. Special teamer Matthew Slater is the other New England representative. Linebacker Willis, DE Justin Smith, cornerback Carlos Rogers and tackle Joe Staley will start for the NFC from the 49ers (12-3), who had only Smith and Willis make the Pro Bowl last year. Green Bay's Rodgers is the starting NFC quarterback, backed by record-setting Drew Brees of New Orleans (12-3). "It does have special significance, because when I was voted in in 2009, I was the third guy and I was very thankful to be voted in, and got the opportunity to start because of some injuries and guys not going," Rodgers said. "It's great to be voted in as a starter, that means a lot to me and it's a special honor." Four of the NFL's biggest headline makers this season did not get voted in by players, coaches and fans: Lions DT Ndamukong Suh, Steelers LB James Harrison, Panthers rookie QB Cam Newton, and Denver QB Tim Tebow. Suh might have lost support after drawing a two-game suspension for stomping an opponent, and Harrison's one-game suspension for his helmet-to-helmet hit on Browns QB Colt McCoy might have reduced his support. Fifteen first-time Pro Bowlers made the NFC squad, including Rogers, Staley and safety Dashon Goldson of the 49ers. Thirteen AFC players were first-time selections, including Gronkowski, Carter and Slater of New England. Carter is on injured reserve (left quadriceps) and won't play. "If you look around the NFC, you see a ton of amazing and talented players at tight end," said the Saints' Jimmy Graham, the starter at the position and a first-time Pro Bowler. "And to be thought of in that company by my peers, the head coaches and the fans who follow the NFL is something I take seriously." Fourteen teams from each conference were represented, with St. Louis (2-13) and Washington (5-10) drawing blanks in the NFC, Buffalo (6-9) and Tennessee (8-7) shut out in the AFC. Pittsburgh (11-4), New Orleans and Chicago (7-8) each had five representatives. Three rookies were chosen: Denver linebacker Von Miller, Cincinnati receiver A.J. Green, and Arizona cornerback Patrick Peterson, selected as a kick return specialist. He has tied an NFL record with four punt runbacks for TDs this season. "As I've said before, A.J. is the best first-round draft pick that I've ever been around," Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said. "He has shown the other players in this league, and the fans, that he deserved this honor. I have not seen a receiver better than he is at getting to the ball." All the kickers are from Bay Area teams. NFC special teamers included two 49ers: record-setting placekicker David Akers, and punter Andy Lee; Peterson; and Corey Graham of Chicago. For the AFC, the Raiders' Sebastian Janikowski is the placekicker, Shane Lechler the punter. The kick return specialist is Pittsburgh WR Antonio Brown, and the special-teams player is Slater. NFC starters will be Rodgers, Eagles RB LeSean McCoy, Packers FB John Kuhn, Graham, Panthers C Ryan Kalil, Saints guards Jahri Evans and Carl Nicks, Eagles tackle Jason Peters and Staley, Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald and Lions WR Calvin Johnson on offense. On defense, it will be Vikings DE Jared Allen and Eagles DE Jason Babin, Cowboys DT Jay Ratliff and Smith, Packers OLB Clay Matthews and Cowboys OLB DeMarcus Ware, ILB Willis, Packers CB Charles Woodson and Rogers, Seahawks safety Earl Thomas and Cardinals safety Adrian Wilson. AFC starters will be Brady, Ravens RB Ray Rice and FB Vonta Leach, Gronkowski, Steelers C Maurkice Pouncey, Mankins and Waters at guard, Browns tackles Joe Thomas and Dolphins tackle Jake Long, Welker and Steelers WR Mike Wallace. On defense, it will be Broncos DE Elvis Dumervil replacing Carter, Colts DE Dwight Freeney, Wilfork and Ravens DT Haloti Ngata, Miller and Ravens OLB Terrell Suggs, Lewis, Jets CB Darrelle Revis and Broncos CB Champ Bailey, Steelers safety Troy Polamalu and Ravens safety Ed Reed. Players who make the Super Bowl will be replaced on the Pro Bowl rosters.

Cubs' World Series expectations are no surprise, but they show how radical transformation from Lovable Losers has been

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USA TODAY

Cubs' World Series expectations are no surprise, but they show how radical transformation from Lovable Losers has been

MESA, Ariz. — Tom Ricketts sure doesn’t sound like the guy who met his wife in the bleachers during the century-long tenure of the Lovable Losers.

“Everyone knows that this is a team that has the capability to win the World Series, and everyone will be disappointed if we don’t live up to that capability.”

Yeah, the Cubs have been among baseball’s best teams for three seasons now. That curse-smashing World Series win in 2016 was the high point of a three-year stretch of winning that’s seen three straight trips to the National League Championship Series and a combined 310 wins between the regular season and postseason.

But it’s still got to come as a strange sound to those who remember the Cubs as the longtime butt of so many baseball jokes. This team has one expectation, to win the World Series. The players have said it for a week leading up to Monday’s first full-squad workout. The front office said it when it introduced big-time free-agent signing Yu Darvish a week ago. And the chairman said it Monday.

“We very much expect to win,” Ricketts said. “We have the ability to win. Our division got a lot tougher, and the playoff opponents that we faced last year are likely to be there waiting for us again.

“I think at this point with this team, obviously that’s our goal. I won’t say a season’s a failure because you don’t win the World Series, but it is our goal.”

The confidence is not lacking. But more importantly, success drives expectations. And if the Cubs are going to be one of the best teams in baseball, they better keep winning, or they’ll fail to meet those expectations, expectations that can sometimes spin a little bit out of control.

During last year’s follow-up campaign to 2016’s championship run, a rocky start to the season that had the Cubs out of first place at the All-Star break was enough to make some fans feel like the sky was falling — as if one year without a World Series win would be unacceptable to a fan base that had just gone 108 without one.

After a grueling NLDS against the Washington Nationals, the Cubs looked well overmatched in the NLCS against the Los Angeles Dodgers, and that sparked plenty of outside criticism, as well as plenty of offseason activity to upgrade the club in the midst of baseball’s never-ending arms race.

“I think people forget we’ve won more games over the last three years than any other team. We’ve won more playoff games than any other team the last three years. And we’ve been to the NLCS three years in a row,” Ricketts said. “I think fans understand that this is a team that if we stay healthy and play up to our capability can be in that position, be in the World Series. I don’t blame them. We should have high expectations, we have a great team.”

On paper, there are plenty of reasons for high expectations. Certainly the team’s stated goals don’t seem outlandish or anything but expected. The addition of Darvish to a rotation that already boasted Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks and Jose Quintana makes the Cubs’ starting staff the best in the NL, maybe the best in the game. There were additions to the bullpen, and the team’s fleet of young star position players went untouched despite fears it might be broken up to acquire pitching.

“I think this is, on paper, the strongest rotation that we’ve ever had,” Ricketts said. “I think that being able to bring in a player of (Darvish’s) caliber reminds everyone that we’re intending to win our division and go all the way.

“We’ve kept a good core of players together for several years, and this year I think our offseason moves have really set us up to be one of the best teams in baseball.

“Just coming out of our team meeting, the vibe feels a lot like two years ago. Everybody’s in a really good place. I think everyone’s really hungry and really wants to get this season off to a great start and make this a memorable year.”

There should be no surprise that the team and its players and its executives and its owners feel the way they do. The Cubs are now expected winners, even if that’s still yet to sink in for the longtime fans and observers of the team they once called the Lovable Losers.

Blackhawks deal Michael Kempny to Capitals for conditional third-round pick

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks deal Michael Kempny to Capitals for conditional third-round pick

The Blackhawks dealt defenseman Michael Kempny to the Washington Capitals for a third-round pick. Kempny had seven points in 31 games this season.

Kempny, 27, recorded 15 points in 81 career games for the Blackhawks. He tallied an assist in Saturday's 7-1 victory over the Capitals.

Kempny signed a one-year extension through the end of this season back in May.