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Matheny grateful Giants treated concussion trouble

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Matheny grateful Giants treated concussion trouble

It has been years now since Mike Matheny experienced the foggy, frightening concussion symptoms that caused him to miss his exit, forget things, lose focus - and, ultimately, forced the four-time Gold Glove catcher to retire from the game he had played since childhood.

Oddly enough, with the rookie manager's St. Louis Cardinals facing his former San Francisco franchise in the NL championship series, Matheny credits the Giants for protecting him back then.

``I didn't plan on being one of the poster boys for that,'' Matheny said before Game 2 on Monday night. ``That wasn't part of my exit strategy from the game. But it did happen. And I've been able to spend some time talking with some people and some doctors, people that are making a difference with this now.''

``And hopefully some parents and some people that are organizing, especially sports on the youth level, are paying closer attention and being smart with these kids,'' he said.

Concussions are much more closely monitored in most spots these days, though Matheny always felt the Giants did everything to find the most current experts and studies.

The 42-year-old Matheny played his last full season in 2005, his first year with San Francisco. He had a .239 career batting average with 67 home runs and 443 RBIs in 1,305 games for Milwaukee (1994-98), Toronto (1999), St. Louis (2000-04) and the Giants (2005-06).

He began the 2006 with the Giants, but didn't play again after May 31 following a series of foul tips he took in the mask. Doctors warned him that he was more susceptible to even further damage if he received another blow.

Matheny said it took 18 months for him to get back to normal. He also wasn't allowed to get his heart rate above 120, which is a relatively low level when it comes to the exertion levels for an athlete. Most pregnant women, for instance, are encouraged not to exceed 140.

On Monday, Matheny worked out so hard he got his heart rate to 160. He thanked Giants general manager Brian Sabean and former athletic trainer Stan Conte - now with the Dodgers - for stepping in when they did at a time when concussions were not always on the forefront.

He might not be managing now otherwise.

``They were very proactive in trying to find somebody that could look into this a little deeper,'' Matheny said. ``Very grateful for that. But it is a heightened awareness, I believe not just in our sport but all across the board. And I think people are starting to get to the point to realize this is a brain injury. And the word concussion, (the) term concussion, I think, almost lightens what's really going on there. Not necessarily a severe brain injury, but can lead to it if not looked at seriously.''

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HE'LL MANAGE: New York Yankees bench coach Tony Pena was in Boston on Monday, interviewing for the Red Sox managing job that opened when Bobby Valentine was recently fired.

The 55-year-old Pena was the 2003 AL Manager of the Year with Kansas City. He was honored after leading the Royals to a winning season, their only one since 1994.

A five-time All-Star and four-time Gold Glove catcher, Pena has ties to the Red Sox. He played for Boston from 1990-93 and his son, Tony Jr., spent the last two years pitching in Triple-A for the Red Sox.

Pena has been the Yankees' bench coach for four years, following three seasons as their first base coach.

``Tony is a good baseball guy, one of the guys that played in the game for almost 20 years,'' Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira said Monday. ``As soon as he got out of the game as a player, he went into it as a coach. He knows baseball from both sides, being a catcher, he is the ultimate field general.''

``He has a lot of energy. He has thrown so much batting practice here, I think his arm has slowed down a little bit,'' he said. ``I don't know how much BP he will be throwing if he is the manager. But other than that, you couldn't ask for a better baseball man.''

The Red Sox recently interviewed Dodgers coach Tim Wallach and plan to talk to former big league catcher Brad Ausmus.

``I haven't spent any time in Boston on the home side, so I am not sure what personality they are looking for. But I know we love Tony here,'' Teixeira said.

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SOCCER DAYS: At age 5, San Francisco shortstop Brandon Crawford was playing youth soccer with Cardinals second baseman Daniel Descalso in the Bay Area.

Crawford only knows that they teammates on the Peninsula south of San Francisco because his dad told so. His father reminded him of that back when the two were teenagers and Babe Ruth opponents on the baseball field.

Descalso believes Crawford on all of it.

``I'm not sure, I can't verify that,'' Descalso said with a smile on the field for pregame work before Game 2 of the NL championship series against Crawford's Giants. ``If he says it, I'll take his word on it.''

Both young infielders stopped playing soccer by age 11 or 12 to focus on other sports. Crawford, who had moved across San Francisco Bay to suburban Pleasanton, began playing football.

While Descalso said he split his soccer time as a goalie and forward, Crawford figures at that age it was a free-for-all as far as specific positions.

``I think everybody plays everything, kind of like T-ball in baseball,'' he said.

The two still have some mutual friends, and Crawford said he spoke to Descalso while on the basepaths during Game 1 on Sunday night at AT&T Park.

``He's a great player. He's scrappy,'' Crawford said. ``He's kind of the definition of the Cardinals and how they play, just grinds out hits, has power, plays good defense. Made a great play last night to kind of stop our rally there.''

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DISPLEASED DONALD: First, it was the home fans booing while the Yankees dropped the first two games of the ALCS to Detroit. Now, Donald Trump is chiming in.

Trump called on star Alex Rodriguez to donate his contract to charity.

``He doesn't make the (at)yankees any money and he doesn't perform,'' Trump tweeted. ``He is a $30M/yr rip off.''

Rodriguez is 3 for 23 this year in the playoffs, but he wasn't the only Yankees player that Trump gave a hard time. Derek Jeter is out for the season after breaking his ankle in Game 1 of this series, and Trump needled him a bit for his real estate decisions.

``Derek Jeter had a great career until 3 days ago when he sold his apartment at Trump World Tower,'' Trump tweeted. ``I told him not to sell- karma?''

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Redskins' schedule "rest disparity" is very fair in 2018

Redskins' schedule "rest disparity" is very fair in 2018

The NFL started taking into account a new factor when putting together its schedule this year. The concept is called rest disparity. It stems from a complaint made by the Giants last year. And, of course, when the Giants have a cold, the NFL sneezes and immediately does whatever it takes to cure the cold. 

Here is how Peter King laid it out this morning on the MMQB:

Last year, I heard the Giants were not pleased with their schedule because they felt they were too often playing teams more rested than they were. In consecutive October weeks, they played teams coming off byes, for instance. The NFL calculated a figure for every team based on the number of combined days of rest for their foes or for the team, calculating, for instance, in those two weeks, the Giants were a minus-14 (minus-seven for each of the foes, Seattle and Denver, coming off byes). In all, by my math, the Giants were a league-worst minus-22 in “rest disparity.”

So the schedule makers worked to minimize the rest disparity this year. According to King, the worst rest disparity in the league this year is minus-11. The Giants are minus-eight. 

The question that Redskins fans will have immediately here is if the Giants’ rest disparity was reduced at the expense of the team in burgundy and gold. The answer that will surprise many is no. 

The Redskins rest disparity in 2018 will be either minus-one or zero. The variance is due to the possibility that their Week 16 game in Tennessee will be flexed to a Saturday game (see details here). If the game stays on Sunday, they will be at minus-one in rest disparity. If it gets moved, they will have had exactly as much rest over the course of the season as did their opponents, in aggregate. 

If you're interested in the nitty-gritty, here is how it breaks down. In eight or nine of their games, they will have had the same amount of rest as their opponents. They play one game coming off of their bye, a Monday night game in New Orleans. The Saints play the previous Sunday, giving Washington a plus-seven in days of rest. That is canceled out when they play the Falcons in Week 9 after Atlanta’s bye. 

Due to their Thanksgiving game, they get three extra days off going into their Week 13 Monday night game in Philadelphia. Two weeks later the Jaguars will have those three extra days of rest when they host the Redskins, having played on Thursday in Week 14.

They lose a day relative to their opponents coming off of those Monday night games against the Saints and Eagles. The Redskins get an extra day prior to visiting the Giants in Week 8 as New York has a Monday night game in Week 7. 

So far, that comes to minus-one in rest disparity. That will remain in place if they play the Titans on Sunday, December 23. If the game is flexed to Saturday, they will gain a day of rest on the Eagles in Week 17, zeroing out the rest disparity for the season. 

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Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.

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Will the Caps be able to take advantage of home ice in Game 5?

Will the Caps be able to take advantage of home ice in Game 5?

There's a saying in sports that goes, "A series doesn't start until a team loses at home." For the Washington Capitals and Columbus Blue Jackets, their series won't start until someone wins at home.

Four games into the series, the road team has won every game. Columbus took Game 1 and Game 2 from Capital One Arena and the Caps answered back by winning Game 3 and Game 4 in Ohio.

"We came [to Columbus] to try to get the first one," Barry Trotz said after Thursday's win. "Did that. We came here to get the second one. Did that. All we've done is just got on even terms."

Now the series is a best of three with two of those final three games in Washington, but how much of an advantage does that really give the Caps?

"We've got to make sure that we're ready to go," Trotz said. "I think we have been since we got here. We've just got to do it at home."

The various playoff struggles the Caps have suffered in the Alex Ovechkin era have been well-documented to this point. One particularly maddening issue is the team's struggles to win at home. Since 2008, the first year the Ovechkin-led Caps made the playoffs, the team is just 28-25 in home playoff games. Since 2015, Trotz's first season as head coach, the Caps are 12-10 in Washington.

Part of that is just the nature of hockey. Upsets are prevalent in the playoffs in the NHL and home-ice advantage does not mean as much as it does in other sports. But it should mean more than 28-25.

Besides having the crowd on your side, home ice also provides matchup advantages. The home team gets the second line change at home, meaning during a stoppage in play the home coach gets the opportunity to see who the opponent puts on the ice before making his own change. For the Caps, this means getting Dmitry Orlov and Matt Niskanen on the ice against Artemi Panarin.

Trotz has matched his top shutdown pair against Columbus' top line all series long. According to Natural Stat Trick, when Niskanen was on the ice in Game 4 he held Panarin's Corsi For percentage to 36.36. When Niskanen was not on the ice, Panarin's percentage shot up to 71.43. 

Theoretically, it should be much easier for Trotz to get those favorable matchups at home. Now all the Caps have to do is take advantage.

"Our home record hasn't been really great in the last little stretch at the end of the season here and obviously the first two games of the playoffs," Trotz said. "We owe it to our fans, we owe it to ourselves to take advantage of that."

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