Blackhawks

Former NL MVP: The 2012 season will be my last

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Former NL MVP: The 2012 season will be my last

From Comcast SportsNet
ATLANTA (AP) -- Flanked by his family, his former manager and a group of teammates he hates to leave behind, Chipper Jones choked up a bit and delivered the news that's been looming for years: It's time to call it a career. This time, he means it. With his 40th birthday approaching and a long string of injuries slowing him down, Jones announced Thursday he will retire after one more season as the Atlanta Braves' third baseman. "I have fulfilled everything," Jones said during a news conference at the team's spring training stadium in Kissimmee, Fla. "There's nothing left for me to do." Jones, who has spent his entire 18-year career with Atlanta, actually planned to retire after the 2010 season, only to change his mind. As he battled leg issues this spring, he openly wondered if he'd be able to make it through the season. So, he'll give it one more year with the Braves, then become a full-time dad to his three children. "I just want to make it final," Jones said. He praised the Braves organization, calling Bobby Cox "the greatest manager any of us will ever know," thanked team executives John Schuerholz and Frank Wren for building a perennial winner and fought back tears as he turned to his teammates. "I've been thinking about this and the reason I stayed around is you guys," Jones said. "I played on teams where clubhouse cohesion wasn't there. That never happened with you guys." Around baseball, Jones was praised for this long, consistent career, which included the NL MVP award in 1999, an NL batting title in 2008, seven All-Star games -- and, quite possibly, will include an induction ceremony at Cooperstown. Even fans of the rival New York Mets, who were continually battered by Jones as crowds in the Big Apple tried to rattle him by chanting his actual name ("Larry! Larry! Larry" was a familiar chant at old Shea Stadium), offered up nothing but respect. Jones already reciprocated by naming one of his children Shea. "He's a great ballplayer who has always been a Mets nemesis," said New York fan John Ring, speaking before Mets' spring training game in Port St. Lucie, Fla. "I mean, he just tore them apart. He's been an asset to the game, but as Mets fans we never wanted to see him in the lineup." Mets third baseman David Wright grew up wanting to be like Jones, which didn't change after they both wound up in the big leagues. "He's been one of those guys where I always looked across and tried to take away some of the things from his game and apply it to mine," Wright said. "He's been so consistent, so good for so long and been part of a lot of great times. It's going be a little odd looking across there and not seeing Chipper in uniform, that's for sure." New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, whose 17-year stint with one team is surpassed only by Jones among active players, has always been impressed by the way the Atlanta player carries himself: a wad of tobacco in his jaw, a batting glove always dangling out of his back pocket when he took the field. "He just looks like a ballplayer, you know? His actions, his mannerisms, everything he does," Jeter said. "I really can't say enough good things about him. The way he's gone about his business, his consistency, how he took care of himself, what he means to the team. He could flat-out hit. He's a Hall of Famer, for sure." He should be a first-ballot selection, according to Cox, who attended the news conference with the only other manager Jones will have in his big league career, current Braves skipper Fredi Gonzalez. Schuerholz, the former general manager and now team president, and Wren are the only GMs of the Jones era. Stability meant a lot to the third baseman, who never seriously considered leaving the Braves. "To have two top executives and only two managers at one table after all these years says a lot about this organization," Jones said. "There have been times when I could have gone into free agency to see if the grass is greener, but it never was." While other players came and went, Jones was always the one constant in the clubhouse. "He was the face of the franchise," said former teammate Andruw Jones, who's now with the Yankees. "You don't see it too much any more. It's hard for players to stay with one organization." No matter what happens in his final season, Chipper Jones will go down as one of the game's greatest switch-hitters, a guy who could hit for average (.304 in his career) and power (454 homers and 1,561 RBIs). Shortly after reporting for what will be his final spring training, Jones marveled that he was still with the Braves with his milestone birthday coming up in April. "Never in my mid-20s would I have given myself a snowball's chance to be in camp and have a job at 40 years old," Jones told The Associated Press. "But I like to think I've kept myself in pretty good shape over the years. The skills are still there to go out and get it done. I don't know for how much longer, but we're going to ride it as long as we can." That ride lasts one more season. The Braves said Jones hopes to remain with the organization in another capacity after his playing career ends, but it won't happen next year. First, he plans to spend some long-overdue time with his family. "I just want to be a full-time dad," Jones said. But he'll always stay involved in the game. While Jones has no desire to go into managing, he has indicated a desire to be hitting instructor some day. "I have such a passion for hitting," Jones said last month. "I'm kind of a one-track-mind kind of guy. I can't have my hands in a bunch jars and be delegating responsibility for a bunch of different areas. I'd much rather stay focused on just one area and be able to do that well. While I think I could manage, I really don't have the urge to manage. I'd much rather be a hitting coach than a manager." Jones, the top overall pick in the 1990 draft, was initially pegged to join the Braves' lineup four years later as a left fielder. But he suffered a season-ending knee injury in spring training, delaying his debut. What a debut it was. Back at his natural infield position in 1995, Jones finished second in the NL rookie of the year balloting and helped the Braves win their first World Series title in Atlanta. That remains his only championship, even though the Braves kept right on winning the NL East through 2005 in an unprecedented streak of 14 straight division titles. Jones was on teams that lost to the Yankees in the 1996 and '99 World Series. After the team slumped for a couple of years, Jones was joined by a new generation of players who led the Braves back to the postseason in 2010 -- the final year of Cox's long tenure as manager. Atlanta lost to the eventual champion San Francisco Giants in a tightly fought division series that Jones missed, having gone down in August with the second season-ending knee injury of his career. Now, the Braves have one more chance to send Jones into retirement with a second World Series title. "He's had 18 remarkable years," Schuerholz said, "and I hope his 19th is his most remarkable." Injuries were an unfortunate hindrance to Jones' career, preventing him from reaching 500 homers. In addition to the two major knee operations, Jones had to deal with nagging ailments since 2004. This spring, he reported in top shape but his legs tightened, leading him to question whether he could even make it through the season. "There's not a day goes by that I don't take some kind of pill or injection ... to help me go out there," he said. When Jones was healthy, he was one of game's most feared hitters. His best season was 1999, when he won the MVP award with a .319 average, a career-leading 45 homers and 110 RBIs. Nine years later, at 36, he won his first batting title with a career-high .364 average, which remains the last of his 10 seasons hitting above .300. Despite his impressive power numbers, Jones always considered average to be the most important statistic. "You're never going to convince me I can't hit .300-plus," he said. "Hitting .300 -- that's my benchmark."

How all 13 Blackhawks performed at 2019 IIHF World Championship

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AP

How all 13 Blackhawks performed at 2019 IIHF World Championship

The Blackhawks had 13 players represent the organization at the 2019 IIHF World Championship in Slovakia. Here's how each of them performed, sorted by country:

Canada (Final ranking: Silver medal)

— Dylan Strome ... In his first career IIHF World Championship, Strome had five points (one goal, four assists) in 10 games. He also had a plus-1 rating, 12 shots on goal and averaged 11:59 of ice time. Strome ranked fifth among all centers with a faceoff win percentage of 63.3.

Czech Republic (Final ranking: 4th)

— Dominik Kubalik ... Kubalik, whose rights were acquired by the Blackhawks from Los Angeles in January, finished eighth among all skaters in scoring with 12 points (six goals, six assists) in 10 games and his plus-10 rating was tied for fourth overall. He also recorded 28 shots on goal and averaged 13:55 of ice time.

Denmark (Final ranking: 11th)

— Mathias From ... From, who was drafted in the fifth round (No. 143rd overall) in 2016, was pointless in four games. He was a minus-1 rating, had one shot on goal and averaged 5:02 of ice time.

Finland (Final ranking: Gold medal)

— Henri Jokiharju ... Jokiharju compiled three points — all assists — in 10 games. He also had a plus-1 rating, 13 shots on goal and averaged 11:44 of ice time. He and Kaapo Kakko became the seventh and eighth players in IIHF history to win gold at the Under-18s, World Junior and World Championship in their career. They also became the first players since Jonathan Toews (2007) to win the World Junior and World Championship in the same year.

— Kevin Lankinen ... Lankinen was the breakout star of the tournament. The 24-year-old ranked first in goals against average (1.50), second in save percentage (.942) and tied for first in shutouts (2). He was named player of the game in the semifinal contest against Russia with a 32-save shutout then stopped 43 of 44 shots for a save percentage of .978 in the gold medal game against Canada.

Germany (Final ranking: 6th)

— Dominik Kahun ... Kahun was one of Germany's most productive players. He racked up five points (one goal, four assists), ranked second on the team in shots on goal (16) and averaged 19:18 of ice time. He finished with a minus-1 rating in eight games.

Norway (Final ranking: 12th)

— Andreas Martinsen ... Martinsen, who's set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, was tied for the scoring lead on Norway with six points — all assists — in seven games. He had a minus-1 rating, 11 shots on goal and averaged 15:28 of ice time. Coaches voted him one of the three best players on Norway at the end of the tournament.

Russia (Final ranking: Bronze medal)

— Artem Anisimov ... Anisimov recorded six points (four goals, two assists) in 10 games, and tallied one game-winning goal. He also registered 14 shots on goal and averaged 14:25 of ice time. His plus-11 rating was tied for third among all skaters.

Sweden (Final ranking: 5th)

— Erik Gustafsson ... He had four points (two goals, two assists) and a plus-5 rating in eight games. His 25 shots on goal ranked first on Team Sweden and 18:29 average time on ice ranked sixth.

— Marcus Kruger ... Kruger, who's set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, scored two goals — one of which was a game-winner — and added an assist in eight games. He was one of four players on the team that had a negative rating (minus-3). Kruger averaged 10:37 of ice time and ranked 15th among center with a faceoff win percentage of 59.2.

Switzerland (Final ranking: 8th)

— Philipp Kurashev ... Kurashev, who was taken in the fourth round (No. 120 overall) in 2018, accumulated four points (one goal, three assists) in eight games. His plus-4 rating also ranked tied for third on the team. Kurashev registered eight shots on goal and averaged 11:02 of ice time.

United States (Final ranking: 7th)

— Alex DeBrincat ... DeBrincat picked up right where he left off with the Blackhawks. He finished second among all skaters in goals (7) despite playing in eight games, and compiled nine points. Two of his goals were game-winners and three of them came on the power play. His shooting percentage was 43.8.

DeBrincat now has 18 points (eight goals, 10 assists) in 18 career tournament games. 

— Patrick Kane ... After being named tournament MVP in 2018, Kane also didn't skip a beat. He averaged 1.50 points per game with two goals and 10 assists in eight contests, and led his country in shots on goal (28) and forwards in ice time (22:26 per game).

The three-time Stanley Cup champion surpassed U.S. Hockey Hall of Famer Mark Johnson for most points (33) in World Championship history. Kane pulled away even further by the end of the tournament, totaling 42 points in 25 career IIHF World Championship games.

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Kris Bryant's injury looms large as Cubs finish home stand in underwhelming fashion

Kris Bryant's injury looms large as Cubs finish home stand in underwhelming fashion

There are 162 baseball games in a season and some days, you’re just not going to have it. On Sunday afternoon, in a 10-2 loss to the Reds, the Cubs just didn’t have it. 

“It’s already in the trash can...” Maddon said. “... so let’s flush it out and move on.” 

Things were bleak from the very first at-bat of the game, when Kyle Schwarber took a 3-2 fastball looking for one of his three strikeouts on the day. Anthony Rizzo was the only starter not to strike out at least once, as the Cubs’ finished with 11. Reds starter Tanner Roark was responsible for 9 of them, his season-high. 

Things weren’t much better on the basepaths or in the field (2 errors). Anthony Rizzo was thrown out at the plate in the 2nd inning and David Bote got doubled-up at first after drawing a walk in the 6th. The Cubs were playing playing their 13th game in 13 days, and it showed.

“I feel really good about how we’ve been playing until today,” Maddon said. “This whole month we’ve been in almost every game except for this one, and maybe the [7-0 loss on May 10th] against Milwaukee. There’s not a whole lot to be upset about, and I’m not. I just want to make sure everyone’s well moving forward.” 

There was a scary moment in the 6th inning, as Kris Bryant and Jason Heyward collided in the right field gap while trying to make a play on a fly ball from Eugenio Suarez. Bryant was slow to get up and eventually had to leave the game. He’s still being evaluated for a head/neck injury, and the Cubs don’t yet know if he’ll go into concussion protocol. For what it's worth, Bryant was cleared to fly with the team. 

“He’s doing okay,” he said. “He’s still under evaluation. We don’t know exactly what we’re doing with this whole thing yet, but we’re trying to talk with the doctors and find out exactly where we’re at.”

“We collided, and I called for the ball,” Heyward added. “We were both going hard to make a play and ran into each other.”

The loss dropped starter Jose Quintana to 4-4 on the season. Quintana went 5.1 innings while allowing six runs on 12 hits with one walk and two strikeouts. Despite relatively weak contact, the Reds hit well all weekend. Their 42 hits over three games was the most for them in a three-game series at Wrigley since 1976, and they finished the weekend with a .404 BABIP. 

“Yeah, I just had to keep pitching, you know?” Quintana said. “Keeping my focus. It was really tough - too many base hits. In some contests that happens. I just try to stay close in the game.” 

The Cubs finished their 7-game homestand at 3-4, and now hit the road for a two-city trip. Up first comes the 35-19 Astros, who are 20-7 at home. This season Houston ranks first in on-base percentage, second in slugging percentage, and third in home runs. Their bullpn features Ryan Pressley, who currently has the lowest ERA of all qualified relievers and is fresh off a streak of 40 straight scoreless appearances.

“I’m excited,” Joe Maddon said before Sunday’s game. “Let’s get by today, but I’m excited for the whole week. Look at our schedule - it’s been pretty firm, and it continues to be pretty firm. And that’s the way it should be. I’m looking forward to it.”