Steinbrenner won't address A-Rod return next year


Steinbrenner won't address A-Rod return next year

NEW YORK (AP) Hank Steinbrenner says too much blame is being directed at Alex Rodriguez for Detroit's sweep of the Yankees, and won't address whether the slumping star will be back in New York next season.

``He was just one of quite a few that just had a bad time at the plate,'' the team's co-chairperson said Friday during a telephone interview with The Associated Press. ``So is it fair to accuse him of everything but the Kennedy assassination? No, it's not fair, but we'll see what happens from this point on.''

The Yankees owe the third baseman $114 million over the next five seasons. Rodriguez, who has the ability to block trades, was benched for three games in the playoffs and pinch hit for in three others. A-Rod said he wants to stay in New York.

``I'm not going to get into that at this point,'' Steinbrenner said.

A person familiar with the situation said the Yankees want Rodriguez to focus more on baseball and less on being a celebrity, and hope he'll come to grips with the idea at age 37 he no longer is the player who won three MVP awards and needs to set realistic goals. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the team did not want to its views attributed publicly.

With a major league-high $222 million payroll, the Yankees expected nothing less than their 28th World Series title. But Rodriguez, Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson, Nick Swisher, Russell Martin and Eric Chavez combined to hit .110 with eight RBIs and 57 strikeouts in nine postseason games.

``It was something to not be very pleased about,'' Steinbrenner said. ``Everybody is kind of a bewildered and a little angry, too. But that's natural.''

His younger brother Hal, the team's managing general partner and boss, issued a statement combining praise for the team and disappointment. He cited numerous injuries the Yankees overcame to win the AL East with the league's best record at 95-67.

``We fell short of our singular and constant goal,'' he said. ``Make no mistake, this was a bitter end to our year, and we fully intend to examine our season in its totality, assess all of our strengths and weaknesses and take the necessary steps needed to maintain our sole focus of winning the World Series in 2013. Great teams - and organizations - use disappointment as a motivation for future improvements and success. In the days, weeks and months ahead, we plan to do what's necessary to return this franchise to the World Series.''

Yankees closer Mariano Rivera had a season-ending knee injury in May, ace CC Sabathia went on the disabled list twice, left fielder Brett Gardner missed almost the entire season, Andy Pettitte was out for nearly three months and shortstop Derek Jeter broke an ankle in the ALCS opener.

``We may have fallen short yesterday but we never feel sorry for ourselves and never make excuses,'' Hal Steinbrenner said.

Among the position players, only Jeter (38), Raul Ibanez (40) and Ichiro Suzuki (38) had good postseasons at the plate. Mark Teixeira batted .281 but drove in just one run.

``Eventually, obviously we've got to get younger at some point. Every team does,'' Hank Steinbrenner said. ``But it wasn't age that did this this time. That's what has us kind of bewildered, because you've got to remember, Ibanez and Jeter did just fine. They're the oldest.''

New York's pitchers had a 2.76 ERA in the playoffs - more than a run below its 3.85 during the regular season.

``Our pitching was really good,'' team president Randy Levine said. ``We didn't hit. Why didn't we hit? I don't know the answer to that. I think that this is a team of well-known professional hitters who, top to bottom for the most part, except for a few guys, didn't hit.

``I don't think it has anything to do with age,'' he added. ``I don't think it has anything to do with type of hitters that were in there. You had guys who were contact hitters who went cold, guys who were home run hitters who went cold and guys who were a combination of both who went cold.''

Hank Steinbrenner said the team remains committed to lowering its payroll by 2014 to get under the $189 million threshold for the luxury tax, which uses average annual values. Under baseball's new labor contract, teams under the threshold that pay revenue sharing money would get some of those dollars back.

``We'll still do more than any other team would do to win, but at some point with the new rules it's going to become imperative to be a little more fiscally conservative,'' he said. ``That's where we've got to rely on our young players, and we'll still be able to get players when we need them now and then.''

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Phil Chenier becomes fifth Bullets player to ever have his jersey retired


Phil Chenier becomes fifth Bullets player to ever have his jersey retired

On the newest banner that hangs from the rafters at Capital One Arena, a small microphone - embroidered with a white 33 - is subtly stitched into the bottom left corner. 

You'd barely notice it was there; Phil Chenier certainly didn't.

Chenier, who had his #45 jersey retired tonight during halftime of tonight's Wizards-Nuggets game, didn't even notice the mic, added to signify his three decades as a broadcaster with the team.

"I had no idea there was even a mic on it," Chenier said, laughing. "I'll have to go back out and look at it some more."

Despite the Wizards' 108-100 loss, the night was first and foremost a celebration of Chenier - the 5th player in franchise history to have his number rasied in the rafters. He joins Earl Monroe, Elvin Hayes, Gus Johnson, and Wes Unseld as the only players to achieve the honor so far.

"To be up there with the other 4 names means a lot – people I had the fortune of playing with," he added. "I remember my first day of practice and I had just watched this team play in the finals and now I’m plopped down with Wes Unfeld and Earl Monroe and Gus Johnson. It seemed like they accepted me from the get go."

Many from that 1978 Championship team were in attendance on Friday night, watching as one of their teammates cemented his professional legacy. For Chenier, that acceptance as an All-Time Bullets great is at the core of why he played the game.

"You know, when you play this game, you play for acceptance," he said. "You want to be the best, you want to be accepted. Having players and childhood friends – and of course, your family – here, you’re surrounded by so many people that meant a lot to you both before and now. It’s a really humbling feeling.”

It was hard to find someone in DC without something good to say about Chenier on Friday night. Even in the basement of Capital One Center, after the Wizards' fifth loss in seven games, head coach Scott Brooks took a moment out of his press conference to praise Chenier. 

"[Chenier] is a great ambassador and we all love him," Brooks said. "It's well deserved. It's going to be pretty cool seeing his jersey every time we step into this building."

Fans left the arena with a commemorative Phil Chenier cut out. Phil Chenier left the arena with his number retired. The experience was, according to the man himself, everything he thought it'd be. 

"You don’t know what the emotions are going to be..." he told media members after the ceremony."...Obviously it’s something I thought about, but it really was exciting to see the 45 up there and my name."

Then Chenier cracked a smile.

"I’m glad it’s over with."

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Wizards lose again, this time to Nuggets as offense falls flat

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Wizards lose again, this time to Nuggets as offense falls flat

The Washington Wizards lost to the Denver Nuggets 108-100 on Friday night. Here's analysis of what went down...

Another loss: It is becoming more and more clear that the Wizards need a shot in the arm, something to change the direction of where they are currently heading.

Whether that will come in the form of All-Star point guard John Wall returning from his months-long absence, an adjustment to their lineup or strategy, or something else entirely, the losses are piling up and at a tough time in the season.

With another loss on Friday night, their seventh in their last 11 games, the Wizards are now 40-32. They have plenty of room to still clinch a playoff berth, as their magic number stands at two, but they only have 10 games left to secure their all-important playoff seed.

Both the Pacers and Cavaliers, two teams just ahead of them in the playoff race, won on Friday.

The Wizards lost their second straight game and again offense was their problem. They scored 100 points, six below their season average, and committed 17 turnovers.

Big third quarter: The Denver Nuggets have emerged as a team on the rise, a young squad with burgeoning stars that could someday soon make some noise in the Western Conference. The reason is because they are very good on offense. Defense is a much different story.

That was not the case on Friday night, as the Wizards had all sorts of trouble scoring in three of their four quarters. They managed just 43 points by halftime, the fewest the Nuggets have allowed in a first half since Jan. 27.

The Wizards, though, did get cooking in the third quarter. They erupted for 33 points in the frame while shooting 63.2 percent from the field and 58.3 percent from three. Markieff Morris, who finished with 17, had 11 points in the third quarter and Bradley Beal (24 points) hit three threes.

The Wizards also found a solution for Jamal Murray, one of the Nuggets' brightest young stars. He had 20 points at halftime, but went scoreless in nine minutes in the third quarter. Kelly Oubre, Jr. (15 points) was among those who gave him trouble. Murry finished with 25.

The big third quarter reflected well on the Wizards' ability to make adjustments, but their 24-point fourth quarter flipped the script again.


Didn't force mistakes: The first time these teams squared off back in October, the Wizards forced the Nuggets into 23 turnovers. This game was a very different story. 

The Nuggets didn't commit their first turnover until midway through the second quarter and had only three by halftime. They had just 10 turnovers for the game.

Denver deserves some credit for limiting their mistakes, but all of it did not reflect well on the Wizards' defense. They didn't put enough pressure on the ball and failed to disrupt passing lanes like they usually do. It was uncharacteristic, as the Wizards entered the game 10th in average turnovers forced.

Not creating mistakes allowed the Nuggets to get way to many field goal attempts. Though they shot just 43.5 percent, Denver managed 108 points. And not getting turnovers offered the Wizards few opportunities for easy transition buckets.

Turnovers were one issue with the Wizards' defense. So was defending the perimeter, as the Nuggets shot 17-for-34 (50%) from long range. It is worth noting the Nuggets were without their leading scorer Gary Harris, a guy who is dangerous from long range.


Special night: Halftime offered a memorable moment in franchise history as legendary player and broadcast Phil Chenier had his No. 45 jersey retired by the team. His longtime broadcaster and friend Steve Buckhantz hosted the ceremony with about 20 friends and family members of Chenier's seated behind him. Buckhantz had opening comments, then majority owner Ted Leonsis spoke as everyone in the crowd stood and cheered.

Then, it was Chenier's time to talk. He thanked his former teammates, members of the organization and those close to him. He kept his composure until the very end when he brought up his mother, Peggy, who could not make the event. Chenier choked up and wiped away tears as he described what she has meant to him in his life.

It was a powerful moment and a great ceremony to honor a guy who has impacted the lives of many in the D.C. area. Now, his No. 45 will hang up in the rafters forever. That banner, by the way, features a picture of a microphone and the phrase '33 years,' signifying how long he was the color analyst for Bullets and Wizards games.


Up next: The Wizards do not have a game Saturday, though they are going to practice and Wall is expected to take a big step forward in his rehab. Their next game is Sunday at 6 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington when they host the Knicks. That will also be a special game, as the Wizards are set to honor the 40th anniversary of their 1978 NBA championship.

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