NCAA

Astros agree to $2.9 million deal with Carlos Pena

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Astros agree to $2.9 million deal with Carlos Pena

HOUSTON (AP) The Houston Astros wanted to add power to their lineup and a veteran presence to their young team.

They think they got both by agreeing to a $2.9 million, one-year contract with Carlos Pena.

``We believe he is exactly the kind of player we need in this organization at this time,'' general manager Jeff Luhnow said Monday. ``We think that he's going to be a big contributor for us on the field as well as in the clubhouse next year.''

Pena will be the Astros' designated hitter, addressing a key need as they prepare for their first season in the American League. But Luhnow said Pena could also play first base.

``I think he provides some flexibility because he's a left-handed batter who can play a good first base defensively,'' Luhnow said. ``So that gives you some options ... he can still play very good first base, and we expect to see him at first base a little bit.''

The 34-year-old Pena, who spent last season in his second stint with Tampa Bay, hit .197 with 19 home runs and 61 RBIs in 2012, when he made $7.5 million.

In addition to his base salary, he can earn $1.4 million in performance bonuses, $233,333 each for 350, 400, 450, 500, 550 and 600 plate appearances.

He has hit below .200 in two of the past three seasons and struck out a career-high 182 times last season. But he also draws a lot of walks - he had 87 last season - and has continued to drive in runs despite his dipping averages.

``There are so many things that I have to improve,'' he said. ``There are so many things that I've been so good at, and other things that I've been challenged with. The game has changed so you adapt and make adjustments ... I'm always learning.''

He said that he had other offers, but felt as if Houston was the right fit for him.

``Everything seems so fresh so I wanted to be part of that new identity,'' he said. ``Hopefully as we start creating our new identity and shaping up our culture, I want to make sure that I do everything I can to start steering it in the right direction.''

Pena had the best seasons of his career in his first stint with the Rays from 2007-2010 when he had at least 100 RBIs in three of those four seasons. His most productive year came in his first with the team when he hit 46 homers with 121 RBIs, both career highs.

Pena started his career with the Rangers, and has hit 277 homers with 791 RBIs in a 12-year career that also had stops in Oakland, Detroit, Boston and with the Cubs. He has history with new Houston manager Bo Porter, having played with Porter in spring training when he was in the Rangers minor league system.

He's undaunted by the fact that Houston has lost more than 100 games in each of the past two seasons and isn't expected to contend in its move to the powerful AL West next season.

Pena was in a similar situation in Tampa Bay. They Rays had lost 95 and 101 games respectively in the two seasons before he joined the team. They lost 96 in his first season there in 2007 before winning 97 games the next season and reaching the World Series.

``It actually was inviting to me,'' he said of joining a rebuilding team. ``I've been on teams where we were thought to be the worst in baseball at one point and very quickly, sooner than anyone expected, we were in a World Series. So I've seen things change very quickly. ... I like the challenge that it presents and the potential for growth.''

Some had speculated that the signing of Pena would eliminate the possibility of the Astros bringing back slugger Lance Berkman. Luhnow said that wasn't the case.

``We need to do everything we can to improve this team,'' Luhnow said. ``And if we get to a point where Lance is interested in playing and we find that we can utilize him, which we obviously can if he's healthy, then we'll have a conversation with him.''

Two more Georgetown players transfer out of program as Hoyas remain in turmoil

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Two more Georgetown players transfer out of program as Hoyas remain in turmoil

Freshman Myron Gardner and junior Galen Alexander are the latest players transferring away from Georgetown. 

Gardner and Alexander are the two other Hoyas, along with former Georgetown player Josh LeBlanc, who received restraining orders from a Georgetown student back in September. The restraining orders stemmed from an incident involving sexual assault, harassment and a subsequent burglary.

Alexander, who also played at Jones County Junior College and LSU, announced his decision on Twiter. In the announcement, he criticized the university for their handling of the incident and lack of support. He also professed his innocence of the allegations he is facing. 

"I have been publically shamed, threatened, and criminalized. I have been falsely accused and targeted by the media and my peers of crimes I did not commit. My character has been defamed and that needs to be cleared up more anything else. Very soon it will come to light that I am innocent and had nothing to do with the false allegations," Alexander wrote.

"In light of the situation, the University has allowed me to become a target and subjected to unfair treatment, with little or no support."

Playing in all nine games this season, Alexander averaged 4.2 points and 2.7 rebounds a game in just over 12 minutes a contest. This included considerable playing time in their wins over Oklahoma State and SMU after the allegations were made public. 

This is not the first time controversy has followed Alexander. While at LSU he only played in 9 games before being dismissed by coach Will Wade for disciplinary reasons.

Gardner told the Washington Post of his decision just hours before Alexander's announcement.  He will enter the transfer portal after scoring 25 points through eight games in his first collegiate season. 

As a result of these transfers, the Hoyas have seen four players leave their program in 11 days. LeBlanc and James Akinjo, who was not a part of the initial incident, announced their intent to transfer back on Dec. 2.

Only nine scholarship players remain on the Georgetown roster with over two-thirds of the season remaining.

Already the team was facing an identity issue for the allegations of their players. While all the players are now removed from the program, it is clear they were upset with how the university handled the situation. Either way, it is a bad look. 

In the aftermath of the complaints, Georgetown lost a high-value transfer from D.C. 

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Impossibly, the Orioles have lost a game more recently than the Ravens

Impossibly, the Orioles have lost a game more recently than the Ravens

Hard to believe, right?

Somehow, some way, the Baltimore Orioles have lost a game more recently than their football neighbors.

As a reminder, the Orioles season ended on *September 29*. They lost their regular season finale to the Red Sox that afternoon.

The Ravens’ last loss also came on September 29, though it came earlier in the afternoon.

It’s hard to fathom an NFL team winning for two-and-a-half straight months. 10 consecutive wins in that span is in the top-60 longest winnings streaks in NFL history, a sign of just how rare and impressive this Ravens stretch has been. 

It won’t be easy for Baltimore to maintain their play all the way through to the Super Bowl. If they do, however, they’ll have a chance to go almost an entire calendar year until their next loss.

Unfortunately, there will probably be a whole lot more Orioles losses in that span.

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