Cubs

X-Games champ dies 9 days after crash

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X-Games champ dies 9 days after crash

From Comcast SportsNet
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Canadian freestyle skier Sarah Burke died Thursday, nine days after crashing at the bottom of the superpipe during a training run in Utah. Burke, who lived near Whistler in British Columbia, was 29. She was injured Jan. 10 while training at a personal sponsor event at the Park City Mountain resort. Tests revealed Burke sustained "irreversible damage to her brain due to lack of oxygen and blood after cardiac arrest," according to a statement released by Burke's publicist on behalf of her family. A four-time Winter X Games champion, Burke crashed on the same halfpipe where snowboarder Kevin Pearce suffered a traumatic brain injury during a training accident on Dec. 31, 2009. As a result of her fall, Burke tore her vertebral artery, which led to severe bleeding on the brain, causing her to go into cardiac arrest on the scene, where CPR was performed, according to the statement by publicist Nicole Wool. Wool said Burke's organs and tissues were donated per her wishes. "The family expresses their heartfelt gratitude for the international outpouring of support they have received from all the people Sarah touched," the statement said. Burke was the best-known athlete in her sport and will be remembered for the legacy she left for women in freestyle skiing. She set the standard for skiing in the superpipe, a sister sport to the more popular snowboarding brand that has turned Shaun White, Hannah Teter and others into stars. Seeing what a big role the Olympics has played in pushing the Whites of the world from the fringes into the mainstream, Burke lobbied to add superpipe skiing to the Olympic program, using the argument that no new infrastructure would be needed -- the pipe was already built -- and the Olympics could get twice the bang for their buck. She won over the Olympic bigwigs, and the discipline will debut at the Sochi Games in 2014. Burke, who was favored to win a fifth X Games title later this month, would have been a favorite for the gold medal in Sochi, as well. Instead, sadly, the competitors will have to toast to her memory when they make their debut on what will be the sport's grandest stage. "Sarah, in many ways, defines the sport," Peter Judge, the CEO of Canada's freestyle team, said before her death. "She's been involved since the very, very early days as one of the first people to bring skis into the pipe. She's also been very dedicated in trying to define her sport but not define herself by winning. For her, it's been about making herself the best she can be rather than comparing herself to other people." Burke's death continues a sad string of stories involving some of the best-known athletes in the wintertime action-sports world. Pearce's injury -- he has since recovered and is back to riding on snow -- was a jarring reminder of the dangers posed to these athletes who often market themselves as devil-may-care thrillseekers but know they make their living in a far more serious, and dangerous, profession. Burke's death also is sure to re-ignite the debate over safety on the halfpipe. The sport's leaders defend the record, saying mandatory helmets, air bags used on the sides of pipes during practice and better pipe-building technology has made this a safer sport, even though the walls of the pipes have risen significantly over the past decade. They now stand at 22 feet high. Some of the movement to the halfpipe decades ago came because racing down the mountain, the way they do in snowboardcross and skicross, was considered even more dangerous -- the conditions more unpredictable and the athletes less concerned with each other's safety. But there are few consistent, hard-and-fast guidelines when it comes to limiting the difficulty of the tricks in the halfpipe, and as the money and fame available in the sport grew bigger, so did the tricks. Snowboarding pioneer Jake Burton once told The Associated Press that much of this was self-policed by athletes who, because of the nature of a sport often considered less competitive and more communal, knew when to draw the line. It's an opinion shared by many. "There are inherent risks in everything," Judge said. "Certainly, freestyle skiing has one of the greatest safety records of almost any sport. Freestyle is a very safe sport in large part because we had to build a safe sport in order to get into the Olympics." Burke's biggest accident before this came in 2009 when she broke a vertebrae in her back after landing awkwardly while competing in slopestyle at the X Games. It was her lobbying that helped get slopestyle -- where riders shoot down the mountain and over "features" including bumps and rails -- into the X Games after much back and forth. It wasn't her best event, but she felt compelled to compete because of her advocacy of it. She came to terms with her injury quickly. "I've been doing this for long time, 11 years," she said in a 2010 interview. "I've been very lucky with the injuries I've had. It's part of the game. Everybody gets hurt. Looking back on it, I'd probably do the exact same thing again." She returned a year after that injury and kept going at the highest level, trying the toughest tricks and winning the biggest prizes. The tragedy brings a much-too-early end to a life of fame the skiing star lived both inside and out of the halfpipe. A native of Midland, Ontario, Burke won the ESPY in 2007 as female action sports athlete of the year. In 2010, she married another freestyle skier, Rory Bushfield, and they were headliners in a documentary film project on the Ski Channel called "Winter." In her interview two years ago, Burke reflected on the niche she'd carved out in the action-sports world. "I think we're all doing this, first off, because we love it and want to be the best," she said. "But I also think it would've been a great opportunity, huge for myself and for skiing and for everyone, if we could've gotten into the (Vancouver) Olympics. It's sad. I mean, I'm super lucky to be where I am, but that would've been pretty awesome." A little more than a year later, with Burke's prodding, her sport was voted in for 2014.

Dusty Baker takes the fall for Nationals meltdown against Cubs

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USA TODAY

Dusty Baker takes the fall for Nationals meltdown against Cubs

The Washington Nationals must have been sitting at home, watching the National League Championship Series and wondering: How did we lose to this team?

The Cubs poured so much physical effort, mental focus and emotional energy into those five playoff games against the Nationals that they didn’t have much left in the tank for the bigger, better Los Angeles Dodgers team that dominated the defending World Series champs in every phase and captured the NL pennant on Thursday night at Wrigley Field.

By midday Friday, the Nationals announced that manager Dusty Baker will not return for the 2018 season, while the contracts for the big-league coaching staff have also expired, leaving a franchise with chain-of-command issues in damage-control mode.

This is a bitter disappointment for Baker, who needs a World Series ring as a manager to put the final bullet point on a Hall of Fame resume and still grumbles about how things ended in 2006 after four up-and-down years managing the Cubs.

Baker, 68, a former Marine, All-Star player and all-around Renaissance man with a great feel for dealing with people and managing the clubhouse, apparently couldn’t overcome last week’s elimination-game meltdown at Nationals Park, where the Cubs hung on for a 9-8 victory and forced Washington into its fourth first-round playoff exit since 2012.

Baker’s in-game decision-making was already under the microscope and his teams have now lost 10 straight postseason close-out games, a major-league record, according to Elias Sports Bureau.

The Nationals also needlessly subjected Stephen Strasburg to withering criticism when Baker said the $175 million pitcher was feeling under the weather — maybe because of Chicago mold and hotel air-conditioning units — and being saved for Game 5. Only to flip-flop and watch Strasburg throw seven scoreless innings in a dominant Game 4 performance at Wrigley Field.

That unforced error and yet another manager search is not a good look for the Nationals, who made the announcement through the Lerner family ownership group after general manager Mike Rizzo repeatedly signaled that he expected to reach a new agreement with Baker after winning 192 games combined in two years and back-to-back division titles.

Since the franchise relocated from Montreal and abandoned the Expos logo in 2005, the Nationals have employed seven different managers and will be starting all over again in 2018, when Bryce Harper will be in his last season before becoming a free agent and probably wondering if Washington can finally get its act together.

What now for the Cubs?

What now for the Cubs?

OK, time to turn the page.

Nah, it doesn't have to be that sudden.

The 2017 Cubs season may not have resulted in a World Series, but it was absolutely a smashing success. There was a time not long ago that playing — and even losing — in the fifth game of the NLCS was a huge step.

But the Cubs now have a World-Series-or-bust mentality now and the 2017 season did not live up to those expectations.

"We're capable of more than we showed in the postseason," Ben Zobrist said.

So what now? What's next for these Cubs?

Well, quite literally: Rest. Rest is next.

"For those guys that are playing every day, they need to take the time that they need to take," Zobrist said. "Take the three weeks, month to let your body relax and heal up.

"I think from there, it's listening to your body for them. For me, I'm in a different place. I didn't play as many games as I normally play. I feel like my stamina, I have to work on my endurance and stamina to get back up to where it needs to get to where I'm capable of playing more games and not getting injuries and things like that like I had this year.

"...[Kris Bryant] and [Anthony] Rizzo, they were our horses and so they need to take more time than somebody like me does going into the offseason. They deserve to get some rest and relaxation. I think we're all very motivated going into the offseason to get back to where we're capable of playing as a team."

Other players have a different attitude as they approach the winter.

Albert Almora Jr., after his first full season in the big leagues, is anxious to get better. Immediately.

The young outfielder is planning on spending a lot of time hanging out with his wife and one-year-old son, but he isn't interested in all that much rest right now.

"[I plan] to get back to work," Almora said. "I think we have a big chip on our shoulder coming into next year."

Rizzo and Bryant, meanwhile, played 167 and 161 games, respectively, including the postseason. They combined for over 1,500 plate appearances from April 2 through Oct. 19.

Neither player has much interest in watching the Los Angeles Dodgers play either the Houston Astros or New York Yankees in the World Series.

So what will they do?

"It's always tough," Rizzo said after the Cubs were officially eliminated. "You start a journey with all these guys and at the end of the day, these last couple days, you don't take anything for granted at all.

"The stretch, the cage work. Yesterday could've been our last day. Today's obviously our last day. We gotta enjoy these moments because you don't know how long they last.

"But you make a lot of friendships along the way. This next week will be tough and kinda scratching your head on what to do."