Blackhawks

Nationals' Ramos kidnapped in Venezuela

584156.jpg

Nationals' Ramos kidnapped in Venezuela

From Comcast SportsNetCARACAS, Venezuela (AP) -- Officials said Thursday they have found the vehicle used by armed men who abducted Washington Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos, a case that highlights a sharp rise in kidnappings in Venezuela. Police found the kidnappers' vehicle abandoned in a nearby town and were gathering evidence, Justice Minister Tareck El Aissami told reporters Thursday morning. He said anti-kidnapping units were dispatched to the area in central Carabobo state. The 24-year-old Venezuelan player, who had just finished his rookie season, was seized from his home by kidnappers on Wednesday night. "The abductors haven't made contact with the family or with anyone," said Domingo Alvarez, vice president of the Venezuelan Professional Baseball League, in a telephone interview. "We're worried." Ramos was taken away in an SUV by four armed men from his home in Santa Ines, spokeswoman Katherine Vilera of his Venezuelan team, the Aragua Tigers, said on her official Twitter account. Police last year said that 618 kidnappings were reported in 2009, and the numbers have grown rapidly in recent years. Security experts say the real number of kidnappings is much higher because many cases aren't reported to authorities. The wealthy in Venezuela have taken steps to protect themselves; sales of armored cars have soared in the past several years. Bodyguards also typically shadow Major League players when they return to their homeland to play in the winter league. "Every Major League player has his own security, but we don't know if at that time he had his security there," Alvarez said. He said it's the first time a Major League Baseball player has been abducted in the country, though other players' relatives have been held for ransom in the past. A person close to Ramos' family, who asked not to be quoted by name out of safety concerns, said the catcher was at home with his father and brothers when several men "entered the house and took him away." Drew Storen, a relief pitcher for the Nationals, tweeted his concerns: "Extremely upsetting news about Ramo. Thoughts and prayers with him. Scary situation." Ramos is considered one of the key young players for the Nationals as they try to become a contender in the National League East. As a rookie in 2011, he hit .267 with 15 home runs and 52 RBIs in 113 games. He also threw out 19 of 67 runners attempting to steal a base, a 28 percent success rate that ranked third among qualifying catchers in the National League. Washington acquired Ramos from the Minnesota Twins in a trade for All-Star relief pitcher Matt Capps in July 2010.

Corey Crawford expects to make season debut for Blackhawks on Thursday vs. Arizona

corey_crawford_usa_today.jpg
USA TODAY

Corey Crawford expects to make season debut for Blackhawks on Thursday vs. Arizona

The wait is almost over.

After missing nearly 10 months with a concussion, Corey Crawford said he expects to start on Thursday when the Blackhawks take on the Arizona Coyotes at the United Center. An official decision will come following the team's morning skate.

"It feels good to be back to myself," Crawford said. "I'm feeling good, I'm feeling clear. ... It was a pretty long process. But I think the most important thing was not to rush anything. When I finally was out, it got to a point where I wasn’t in shape to play and it was time to rest and it’s unfortunate it took a lot longer than I would’ve liked. 

"It’s been long, but finally, just to get back and be practicing with the team has meant a lot. It’s good to get to this point now when you’re really close to playing. Practices have been great, been getting timing a little bit more and getting up to speed and reading shots and all that, so it'll be nice to finally get in one."

Crawford's last appearance in an NHL game was Dec. 23, 2017 against the New Jersey Devils when he allowed three goals on seven shots in 13:22 of action before getting pulled. So of course, emotions will naturally be running high, especially in front of the hometown crowd.

"I'm sure I'll be a little anxious getting into it," Crawford said. "Some nerves. But we'll see. We'll wait until the morning, but I'm definitely excited I can tell you that."

It's obviously terrific news for the Blackhawks, who have picked up eight out of a possible 10 points to start the season and are getting their two-time Stanley Cup winning goalie back between the pipes. It's been a long time coming, and Crawford is coming back into a healthy situation where the Blackhawks are in a good spot in the standings.

"It's great news, I'm sure it'll be exciting for him exciting for our team, exciting for our fans and the organization as well," Patrick Kane said. "It’s probably a good situation all around. Cam [Ward] has done a great job of playing in the net so far. Crow is really good in practice right now, so I’m sure he’s itching to get back, too. We’ve had a good start here. It’s something we want to keep going, and I’m sure him coming back on home ice, in front of our crowd, will be a fun one for him and for our team."

There's no doubting how important Crawford is the team and organization. While there may be a little bit of rust early on, the Blackhawks are expecting him to look like his old self.

"He means a lot to the team," Quenneville said. "We felt last year was a good example of how important he was and how well he was playing for us, as well. We’ve gotten off to a decent start and he was a big factor in it. We know that goaltending is such a big part of the team and your success a lot of nights depends on him and his consistency’s always been in place.

"But he looks good in the net. He’s been off for a long, long time. Is there rust? Do we expect rust? I think the way he’s competing and practicing and finding pucks, he looks like he hasn’t missed a beat. So we’re looking forward to him getting in there and getting comfortable and how he’s feeling going forward will dictate a lot of the decisions about him going back in."

Bill Belichick scoffs at Khalil Mack-Lawrence Taylor comparison

Bill Belichick scoffs at Khalil Mack-Lawrence Taylor comparison

All of the good graces Bill Belichick may have won on Tuesday afternoon -- when he compared the Bears' offense to Kansas City's -- are officially gone. 

Today, when talking to reporters, a Khalil Mack-Lawrence Taylor comparison came up. Belichick, who coached LT as the New York Giants’ defensive coordinator in the 1980s, was NOT having it: 

"Wait a minute, we’re talking about Lawrence Taylor now. I’m not putting anybody in (LT’s) class. Put everybody down below that. With a lot of respect to a lot of good players, we’re talking about Lawrence Taylor."

A bit harsh, Bill. 

For what it's worth, here's Khalil Mack's 2018 projection, assuming his latest ankle injury doesn't make him miss time: 

20 sacks, four interceptions, 16 forced fumbles, 4 fumble recoveries

That's .5 sacks less and four INTS, 16 FFs and 4 recoveries more than LT had in his 1986 MVP season. And yeah, maybe "they didn't record tackles/fumbles in 1986" and "16 forced fumbles would not only blow the current record (10) out of the water but is just plain unrealistic" but whatever, we're just sayin'. 

UPDATE: shocker, LT agrees: