Nationals

Bengals' Jay Gruden interviews for Cardinals job

Bengals' Jay Gruden interviews for Cardinals job

TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden is the latest to interview for the vacant head coaching job with the Arizona Cardinals.

Gruden, younger brother of former Oakland and Tampa Bay coach Jon Gruden, said his interview Thursday at Cardinals headquarters was his first for a head coaching job with any NFL team. He said he may interview with the Philadelphia Eagles next week.

The Cardinals also have interviewed their defensive coordinator, Ray Horton, and Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy.

Although the Cardinals have not confirmed it, Steelers President Art Rooney II told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that Pittsburgh offensive coordinator Todd Haley interviewed for the Arizona job Wednesday. Haley was offensive coordinator of the Cardinals' 2008 Super Bowl team before becoming head coach at Kansas City.

Arizona is seeking a replacement for Ken Whisenhunt, who was fired after six seasons.

Gruden met with Cardinals President Michael Bidwill, newly named general manager Steve Keim and player personnel director Jason Licht.

``You can tell how passionate they are about the game, how much they want to win and bring this team back to where they were with Kurt Warner,'' Gruden said. ``The passion and drive is there. Now it's just a matter of maybe bringing in something new, some new ideas to try to get that thing done.''

The Cardinals filled their general manager's job by promoting Keim, vice president of player personnel, to the position earlier this week. Keim replaced Rod Graves, who along with Whisenhunt was fired after Arizona lost 10 of its last 11 to finish 5-11 for the second time in three years.

Gruden, 45, has extensive experience in the Arena Football League, including two stints as head coach of the Orlando Predators from 1998 to 2001 and from 2004 to 2008. In 2002 and 2003, he returned to the team as quarterback.

As a player, he was quarterback for the University of Louisville for four seasons, then played four seasons with the Tampa Bay Storm of the AFL.

He worked on the staff of his brother at Tampa Bay for seven seasons, while during some of that time continuing his Orlando Predators duties.

``I've been a head coach before for a while,'' Gruden said. ``I know it's a different league and it's not the NFL, but I've handled people and handled organization, handled salary caps, done all the things necessary to be a head coach. I understand the game and I think it would be a good fit.''

Gruden became offensive coordinator of the Bengals in 2011, helping to develop Andy Dalton into a successful NFL quarterback as the Bengals made the playoffs each of the last two seasons.

The Cardinals have had big problems on offense, particularly at quarterback, since Warner retired after leading the team to the Super Bowl in the 2008 season and a second straight NFC West crown in 2009. While the defense was among the NFL leaders in several categories, Arizona's offense was the league's worst. It's not just about the quarterback, Gruden said.

``There's a lot of things that need to be addressed when your offense sputters,'' he said, ``and they need to be addressed quickly.''

He said he turned down chances to interview for head coaching jobs a year ago.

`` It was my first year last year as a coordinator,'' Gruden said. ``The Brown family gave me an opportunity to be an offensive coordinator. I didn't want to jump ship after the first phone call. I wanted to go in there and see Andy Dalton progress another year, see A.J. Green progress another year, see what we could do. We did some good things, made it to the playoffs again and I got some calls this year and decided to take them, or else people might stop calling.''

He said his brother had offered some worthy advice to him going into his first head coaching interview.

``Jon's always got his two cents to add. He can talk with the best of them,'' Gruden said. ``And he's been around the block a few times. He's been to interviews and knows how the process works and been a big help. So I picked his brain a little bit and he's been excellent in the process, as usual.''

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Max Scherzer is having the best month of his career

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Max Scherzer is having the best month of his career

Max Scherzer’s black eye receded from the full-circle package to a dark half-moon before he took the mound in Miami. And his memory reminded him of the last time he was there. It was April 20 and produced his worst start of the season: 5 1/3 innings, 11 hits, six earned runs, a loss to drop his record to 1-3 and raise his ERA to 4.34. The latter number has declined in every start since.

Scherzer’s eight innings of one-run ball Tuesday night against the Marlins drove his ERA down to 2.52. His league-leading strikeout total again increased by 10 for the fourth consecutive game. He walked no one. It took just 94 pitches -- 71 strikes -- to reach that point Tuesday in the Nationals' 6-1 win.

Two questions emerged after the outing: Is Scherzer back in the National League Cy Young Award race? Is this the best month of his career?

The first is an easy yes. His 4.2 WAR (according to Fangraphs) coming into the night was by far the best of any pitcher in the major leagues. National League ERA leader Hyun-Jin Ryu is second in the NL at 3.3. Scherzer leads the National League in innings pitched, strikeouts, starts and strikeouts per nine. He is third in strikeout-to-walk ratio, fourth in WHIP, fourth in OPS against, seventh in batting average against. In a nutshell, Scherzer is again dominating while doing the heavy lifting. He makes every start. He gets into the seventh inning or later 58.9 percent time. He handles all comers.

His June blitz, in particular, has put him back in the Cy Young discussion. Following Tuesday night’s man-handling of Miami, Scherzer has a 0.97 ERA in the month. He’s struck out 54 and walked five. His WHIP is 0.70. Each start has lasted seven innings or more. He’s thrown 70 percent of his 536 pitches for strikes.

Why is he so diabolical? Look at the first three innings Tuesday against the Marlins. A 14-pitch first included some effort and 10 fastballs. Scherzer picked up no swinging strikes on those fastballs, which meant the eager Marlins were getting a good look at the pitch. So, he changed.

In the second inning, Scherzer threw five four-seam fastballs, four sliders/cutters, (Scherzer calls his 90-mph pitch often identified as a “cutter” his “power slider”), three changeups and three curveballs. That mix produced five swinging strikes.

In the third inning, six fastballs, five sliders, one changeup, three swinging strikes.

Which is the complication for the opposition. He will move off whatever is not working and immediately dispatch a fresh bouquet. He can command all of it, throw any of it when he wants, and he’s been obsessing over it for almost a week. Good luck.

An age-35 season is not supposed to be a time of ascension, but, as he is wont to do, Scherzer appears to be running against perceived norms. 

June of 2017 is the only month of his career to challenge June of 2019 for personal supremacy. The numbers that month: 0.99 ERA, 36 ⅓ innings pitched, 51 strikeouts, six walks, a 0.55 WHIP. He made five starts that month. He’s already made five this June, struck out more batters and walked fewer while carrying a lower ERA.

Scherzer has a start remaining this month. It comes against one of his former teams, the Detroit Tigers. No major-league club has scored fewer runs. That mix should further define this as the best month of Scherzer’s Hall-of-Fame bound career and help answer the Cy Young question, too.

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Orioles' past and future intersect during jam-packed day at Camden Yards

Orioles' past and future intersect during jam-packed day at Camden Yards

If you were looking for a moment in Tuesday’s game that exemplified the proverbial passing of the torch in Baltimore, it came early.

In the top of the third inning, past Oriole superstar Manny Machado crushed his 100th career Camden Yards home run. It was especially fitting that the ball traveled far enough (455 feet, to be exact) to land in the *visitor* bullpen.

In the middle of the fourth inning, future Oriole superstar (fingers crossed) Adley Rutschman was introduced to a sea of adoring fans wearing orange and black, a sight the former Oregon State Beaver is all too familiar with.

It was hard to tell which player received the louder ovation. The fact that both players, neither of whom was playing for the Orioles Tuesday night, elicited such receptions highlights the crossroads this franchise finds itself at.

Manager Brandon Hyde spoke to this effect pregame.

“Obviously when the game starts I’m going to try to win the game and go with the guys we have,” Hyde told reporters. “I’m also looking at the big picture. I think everybody is really aware of where we are organizationally. It’s the start of the process we laid out months ago. Anytime we get extremely talented guys in our organization, it’s bright, and it feels good, and there’s excitement. And I totally understand it and I feel that too.”

Fans could be forgiven for forgetting there was even a game to be played Tuesday evening, with the excitement surrounding Rutschman’s introduction and the long-building buzz for Machado’s return coinciding on the same day. That can be true of the state of the franchise overall right now.

It’s easy to talk about top draft picks and high-level prospects in the minors, but there are games going on every night for the big league club as well. But with another historic season taking place on the field, it’s much more appealing to look elsewhere.

Adley Rutschman provides a level of hope fans can’t get from the Major League roster, and Hyde recognizes that.

“We’re just looking to get talent, guys that can be impact players,” Hyde explained. “You don’t want to label a guy or put too much pressure on someone, but obviously he’s done a lot of really good things at the amateur level and we’re really excited to have him in our organization. So there’s a lot of excitement.”

The Orioles manager came to Baltimore from a Chicago Cubs franchise known for developing high-end talent.

“I was the farm director when we drafted Bryant, obviously saw Almora and Baez and all those guys,” Hyde answered when asked how Rutschman compares. “He’s along those lines of being a real mature kid, looking forward to go play, you can tell he’s really excited and we’re obviously looking forward to getting him going and watching him play.”

Of course, it’s not just former Cubs prospects who have provided a template for success Rutschman can follow. Somebody a little closer to home just so happened to be sitting in the third base dugout Tuesday night.

“Just soak it all in, enjoy it all," Manny Machado told the media to laughter when asked what advice he would give Rutschman. "You know I wasn’t a number one overall pick, so it’s different. I mean just enjoy yourself. It’s an opportunity that he worked for his entire life to get to that situation, he finally got drafted by a ballclub...the only advice I can give is to continue to have fun, just enjoy yourself every moment of the way and just keep working as hard as you possibly can to reach your goals. Just because you got picked, one of those goals is scratched off, but there’s so many more to be accomplished. Just keep working as hard as you can to be the best person you can be, the best ballplayer you can be, and everything else will just take care of itself.”

It’s a mature response from a matured player, one who not too long ago found himself in the same position as Rutschman: top prospect for a franchise desperate to field a winner.

Trying to build that winner is GM Mike Elias, who emphasized just how critical bringing in a player like Rutschman is.

“This was the biggest decision this organization is going to make this year, and we couldn’t be more thrilled with the outcome,” Elias said Tuesday. “We’re looking for building blocks and found a big piece of that with Adley.”

It’s going to be a few years until Rutschman is able to truly take over the mantle of face of the Orioles. As Hyde reminded the media, “it’s still so far away.”

For now, Rutschman will have to settle for face of the rebuild, a position Machado was all-too-familiar with. 

But even an elongated timeline couldn’t keep Tuesday from feeling like a milestone in the history of the franchise, at the intersection of it’s past, present and future. It was a figurative passing of the torch, if not a literal one.

It is better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all. Fans at the park felt that as they welcomed back Manny Machado with open arms.

And if their warm reception for Adley Rutschman is any indication, they are more than ready to love again.

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