Cubs

Randy Moss is back in the NFL

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Randy Moss is back in the NFL

From Comcast SportsNet
SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) -- Randy Moss is ready to show the world he can still be that dynamic deep threat who once dominated NFL defensive backs. Even after a year away. Even at age 35. Even with a reputation he says isn't all it's made out to be. Moss is getting a another chance in the NFL, signing a one-year contract with the San Francisco 49ers on Monday only hours after he worked out for the team and with former NFL quarterback and current coach Jim Harbaugh. "I'm not a free agent. I'm a guy straight off the couch, straight off the street," Moss said. "One thing I want the sports world to understand is the love and passion I have for football." Moss will fill a big void for the reigning NFC West champions in Harbaugh's version of the West Coast offense. While he didn't go as far as to promise not to pout when times are tough, he did say all the right things, and that he plans to be a positive presence in a locker room known for its blue-collar, unselfish approach. Moss has no interest in reflecting on his past, either. This is a fresh start. "The thing about me being here is they've done their research on me. When it comes to the worldwide sports media, I've gotten a bad rap," Moss said. "They've done their homework on me or they wouldn't have brought me in here. ... (The questions were) more of me not being a team player and things like that. I don't want to get into that." Moss got a good vibe about the organization from the moment he was picked up at the airport Sunday night, calling it a "no-brainer" to sign. He said the organization quickly decided to "pull the trigger" -- and it's a low-risk, high-reward move for San Francisco. "Harbaugh is a young, enthusiastic coach. I love enthusiasm," Moss said. "A lot of things stood out to me." It seems Harbaugh's throws were on target, too. "Jim Harbaugh makes 49ers veteran emergency board: Best coach's workout in NFL history (especially while wearing khakis & a sweatshirt)," Niners CEO Jed York tweeted. Moss, who worked out last Tuesday with the New Orleans Saints, spent a year out of football and last played for New England, Minnesota and Tennessee during a rocky 2010 season. He said he enjoyed playing catch with Harbaugh, a 15-year NFL pro in his day. "Yes, he can still bring it at his old age. I don't know, he's probably sitting there with an ice pack or something on his shoulder right now," Moss said. "He can still wing it." The 49ers can sure use him. San Francisco's receivers managed just one catch for 3 yards in a 20-17 loss in the NFC championship game to the eventual Super Bowl champion New York Giants at Candlestick Park on Jan. 22. York told reporters earlier Monday at team headquarters his team needed "someone to stretch the field." The athletic, 6-foot-4 Moss fits the bill. Moss said he initially retired for "personal reasons outside of football" and considered making a comeback late in the 2011 season before ultimately deciding to give his body more time to train. He suffered a shoulder injury during 2010 with New England. Moss always believed he could still perform. "It was a decision to get back in the game because I still love the game and think I can play at a high level," he said. "It was obvious they liked what they saw. I don't want to let them down." The 49ers also are working to re-sign quarterback Alex Smith, the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2005, and have reportedly made him a three-year offer. Smith's representatives haven't returned multiple messages seeking an update on the status of negotiations. "Alex is trying to figure out what he wants to do," York said. "There have been good conversations back and forth." If Moss proves himself during workouts this spring and training camp, he could be a viable deep threat that San Francisco hoped it had in Braylon Edwards last season. The 49ers cut ties with Edwards in December. Joshua Morgan broke a bone in his lower leg Oct. 9 against Tampa Bay and later had surgery to have screws inserted and was placed on season-ending injured reserve. Morgan is expected to generate his share of interest in free agency, and receiver and return man Ted Ginn Jr. might not return. Michael Crabtree, San Francisco's 10th overall pick in the 2009 draft, had 72 receptions for 874 yards and four touchdowns in 2011. San Francisco went 13-3 and ended an eight-year drought without a playoff berth or winning record. Moss' best season came for the Patriots in 2007, when he caught 98 passes for 1,493 yards and a single-season record 23 touchdowns in helping New England to a 16-0 regular-season record. He has 954 catches for 14,858 yards and 153 TDs in his 13-year career, which included a stint in the Bay Area with the Oakland Raiders in 2005 and 06 where he produced little on the field. Running back Anthony Dixon watched Moss' workout Monday, and came away giddy. "Randy Moss done linked up with us. Oh it's about to get scary like the end of October!" Dixon tweeted. Moss has had more than 1,000 yards receiving in a season 10 times, second only to Hall of Famer Jerry Rice, who accomplished the feat 14 times. Moss hasn't lost his swagger. "I accept the challenge and I'm ready to bring the fans out of their seats," he said, noting he considers this a chance to give back to the game. "I like what I can do for the NFL. I don't like what the NFL can do for me." ESPN first reported the move a day before the start of the free agency period.

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.