Cubs

Why's Melo so upset about missing games?

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Why's Melo so upset about missing games?

From Comcast SportsNet

NEW YORK (AP)The first big night of the NBA season, barring further cancellations, would feature Carmelo Anthonys return to Denver.

The Knicks All-Star doesnt want to lose that one, but is concerned there may not be basketball at all this season.

Right now, anybody would be, he said Wednesday in an interview with The Associated Press. They cancel the first two weeks of the season, maybe in a couple of days they cancel another two weeks of the season. So I dont know how to feel right now.

But he knows he wants to play in Denver on Nov. 16, just to get the return to his first NBA home out of the way. He knows it could be a circus, but said: I cant shy away from that. Ive got to deal with it.

Obviously once they said the first two weeks was going to be canceled, of course the Denver game was highlighted on the calendar, not just for me but for everybody. So right now, that has a chance to be up in flames now.

The current season opener is Nov. 15, featuring just four games. The next night is a full slate, including Boston at Miami in a playoff rematch. Those could be gone if there is no collective bargaining agreement soon.

Looks like everything is up in jeopardy, Anthony said.

Anthony released his Melo M8 on Wednesday, his eighth Jordan sneaker and first since being traded to the Knicks in February. Anthony said the sneaker, with a suggested retail of 135, was his lightest model by far.

The move to New York has given him more opportunities for exposure, part of the reason he was looking to leave Denver. He would have become a free agent this summer and could have left through that route, but pushed for a trade to get done during the season so he could get under contract under the old rules.

And though he took some criticism from Knicks fans who would have preferred getting him for nothing instead of a costly trade, he made the correct financial decision given the current lockout.

I think I did the right thing. For the average person out there who really thought I was just trying to get up and just leave for no reason, that really was a big key in my decision, Anthony said. I knew free agency was coming, I knew it would be altered, I knew itd be messed up, so imagine if Id have stayed. Id have been a free agent now in limbo. Itd have just been all bad.

But he played well while awaiting the deal and the Nuggets ended up getting great value, acquiring Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari, Raymond Felton and center Timofey Mozgov and trading Chauncey Billups. So the No. 3 pick in the 2003 draft expects a mostly positive reception whenever he does return.

I dont think I did anything wrong to the Denver fans. I think Ive been loyal to them for 7 12 years, so for me to go backof course youre going to have some boos and people weeping and whining about itbut for the most part I can say I did a hell of a job out there in Denver, Anthony said.

I think it was kind of a win-win situation for both teams.

If hes not on the road with the Knicks next month, Anthony hopes to be playing in an exhibition game in New York. Hes played with LeBron James and Chris Paul in the recent star-studded affairs in Philadelphia, Winston-Salem, N.C. and Miami. If so, he hinted at some surprises on the court.

It is New York, the game would have to be that much bigger, he said.

But Anthony, recovered from offseason elbow and knee surgery, would prefer to be back at the Pepsi Center.

Some perspective on Pedro Strop's tough outing and struggles

Some perspective on Pedro Strop's tough outing and struggles

Pedro Strop has had a tough go of it lately, but that doesn't mean it's time to panic on one of the most consistent relievers in Cubs history.

After blowing the game Monday night in San Francisco — his third blown save of the month — Strop now has a 5.47 ERA on the year and an 8.22 mark in July alone. In fact, nearly half the runs he's allowed in 2019 have come this month — 7 of 16.

But Strop has been pitching better than his ERA indicates — his FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) is nearly a full run lower than his ERA this season. His strikeout rate (27.4 percent) and walk rate (8.5 percent) are the lowest they've been since 2016. 

That being said, the 34-year-old has also seen a precipitous spike in hard contact rate and his soft contact percentage is way down. He's been plagued by the home run ball this year more than ever before, serving up 1.7 dingers per 9 innings, the highest rate of his career (though the same can be said for many pitchers this season).

So Strop clearly hasn't been his typical dominant self this year, but he also deserves a better fate than he's had to this point in the season.

Take Monday night, for example. 

Strop came on to pitch the eighth inning of a game the Cubs were leading 4-2 and promptly gave up a leadoff double to Pablo Sandoval. On paper, that's obviously not a great start, but look at where this pitch was when the Giants third baseman hit it:

Strop followed that by striking out Stephen Vogt before executing a nice pitch to Brandon Crawford and inducing a groundball...only to see it sneak through the infield for an RBI hit:

Then came a groundout before Austin Slater's game-tying double that came just inches away from Albert Almora Jr.'s glove in center field. 

The final blow was the go-ahead double by Joe Panik...on a ball that was higher than Strop would've liked it, but still not a bad pitch off the plate outside:

These are not bad pitches; it's not like Strop was leaving the ball over the heart of the plate all inning.

How's this for bad luck — the Sandoval double was pegged for just a .070 expected batting average. 

Crawford's single was hit at 89.7 mph and had an expected batting average of .360. By comparison, Kyle Schwarber hit a grounder in the top of the inning at 102.9 mph with an expected batting average of .630 and it was an out. It was simply a matter of Crawford's ball finding a hole while Schwarber hit his right at a defender. 

No matter which way you slice it, this was a tough luck outing for the veteran setup man. 

But bad luck or not, Strop still hasn't been getting the consistent results the Cubs need in crucial innings of a tight playoff race, so it's understandable manager Joe Maddon was asked about the bullpen usage on his weekly appearance with 670 The Score Tuesday afternoon:

"When Pedro's in the game, I really feel good about it," Maddon said. "We all do. I think last night, it was more about pitch selection than it was necessarily about stuff. He was one pitch away from getting out of that thing. 

"If you replay and look at it, you see the hit by Sandoval — that ball literally almost bounced. It really did and it almost hit his back foot. I don't know how he kept that ball fair, but he did. Good for him. And then Crawford hits a slow ground ball up the middle that gets between two guys that are outstanding infielders and that's a hit."

Maddon went on to say the last hit — Panik's double — was the more concerning one because it was a sinker that just didn't drop enough. Maddon said he'd rather see Strop go to his wicked slider in that situation than lean on a pitch (the sinker/fastball) that has seen a dip in velocity and value this season.

"I don't think Pedro's that far off," Maddon said. "Maybe the velocity's down a little bit more than anything. To utilize his cutter/slider and really get that to where he wants it — those are the devastating pitches. So that was my bigger concern last night."

Moving forward, it doesn't sound as if Maddon will shy away from utilizing Strop in high-leverage situations again, but the Cubs also have the luxury of a pretty deep bullpen where they could utilize some other arms (Steve Cishek, Brandon Kintzler) to pitch the eighth inning and help bridge the gap to closer Craig Kimbrel.

Strop is 34 now and has dealt with some health issues over the last calendar year, but he has such a long track record of success that it wouldn't be surprising to see him once again emerge as a lights-out reliever before the season ends.

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Dave Leitao suspended 3 games, DePaul put on 3-year probation

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USA TODAY

Dave Leitao suspended 3 games, DePaul put on 3-year probation

The DePaul men's basketball team has been placed on three-year probation and head coach Dave Leitao has been suspended three games for the 2019-20 season, the NCAA announced on Tuesday.

The program was found guilty of "failing to promote an atmosphere of compliance while Leitao did not "prevent violations from occurring in his program."

A Division I Committee on Infractions panel concluded that a "former DePaul associate head coach violated NCAA ethical conduct rules when he knowingly directed the former assistant director of basketball operations to provide impermissible recruiting benefits to a recruit."

The NCAA found that three coaches knew about the situation but failed to report the infractions. DePaul will vacate all wins earned while the ineligible player competed and suffer recruiting restrictions. They were also fined $5,000 plus 1% of the men's basketball program budget.

In 2019, DePaul had their first winning season since 2007 by going 19-17.