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Matheny grateful Giants treated concussion trouble

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Matheny grateful Giants treated concussion trouble

It has been years now since Mike Matheny experienced the foggy, frightening concussion symptoms that caused him to miss his exit, forget things, lose focus - and, ultimately, forced the four-time Gold Glove catcher to retire from the game he had played since childhood.

Oddly enough, with the rookie manager's St. Louis Cardinals facing his former San Francisco franchise in the NL championship series, Matheny credits the Giants for protecting him back then.

``I didn't plan on being one of the poster boys for that,'' Matheny said before Game 2 on Monday night. ``That wasn't part of my exit strategy from the game. But it did happen. And I've been able to spend some time talking with some people and some doctors, people that are making a difference with this now.''

``And hopefully some parents and some people that are organizing, especially sports on the youth level, are paying closer attention and being smart with these kids,'' he said.

Concussions are much more closely monitored in most spots these days, though Matheny always felt the Giants did everything to find the most current experts and studies.

The 42-year-old Matheny played his last full season in 2005, his first year with San Francisco. He had a .239 career batting average with 67 home runs and 443 RBIs in 1,305 games for Milwaukee (1994-98), Toronto (1999), St. Louis (2000-04) and the Giants (2005-06).

He began the 2006 with the Giants, but didn't play again after May 31 following a series of foul tips he took in the mask. Doctors warned him that he was more susceptible to even further damage if he received another blow.

Matheny said it took 18 months for him to get back to normal. He also wasn't allowed to get his heart rate above 120, which is a relatively low level when it comes to the exertion levels for an athlete. Most pregnant women, for instance, are encouraged not to exceed 140.

On Monday, Matheny worked out so hard he got his heart rate to 160. He thanked Giants general manager Brian Sabean and former athletic trainer Stan Conte - now with the Dodgers - for stepping in when they did at a time when concussions were not always on the forefront.

He might not be managing now otherwise.

``They were very proactive in trying to find somebody that could look into this a little deeper,'' Matheny said. ``Very grateful for that. But it is a heightened awareness, I believe not just in our sport but all across the board. And I think people are starting to get to the point to realize this is a brain injury. And the word concussion, (the) term concussion, I think, almost lightens what's really going on there. Not necessarily a severe brain injury, but can lead to it if not looked at seriously.''

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HE'LL MANAGE: New York Yankees bench coach Tony Pena was in Boston on Monday, interviewing for the Red Sox managing job that opened when Bobby Valentine was recently fired.

The 55-year-old Pena was the 2003 AL Manager of the Year with Kansas City. He was honored after leading the Royals to a winning season, their only one since 1994.

A five-time All-Star and four-time Gold Glove catcher, Pena has ties to the Red Sox. He played for Boston from 1990-93 and his son, Tony Jr., spent the last two years pitching in Triple-A for the Red Sox.

Pena has been the Yankees' bench coach for four years, following three seasons as their first base coach.

``Tony is a good baseball guy, one of the guys that played in the game for almost 20 years,'' Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira said Monday. ``As soon as he got out of the game as a player, he went into it as a coach. He knows baseball from both sides, being a catcher, he is the ultimate field general.''

``He has a lot of energy. He has thrown so much batting practice here, I think his arm has slowed down a little bit,'' he said. ``I don't know how much BP he will be throwing if he is the manager. But other than that, you couldn't ask for a better baseball man.''

The Red Sox recently interviewed Dodgers coach Tim Wallach and plan to talk to former big league catcher Brad Ausmus.

``I haven't spent any time in Boston on the home side, so I am not sure what personality they are looking for. But I know we love Tony here,'' Teixeira said.

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SOCCER DAYS: At age 5, San Francisco shortstop Brandon Crawford was playing youth soccer with Cardinals second baseman Daniel Descalso in the Bay Area.

Crawford only knows that they teammates on the Peninsula south of San Francisco because his dad told so. His father reminded him of that back when the two were teenagers and Babe Ruth opponents on the baseball field.

Descalso believes Crawford on all of it.

``I'm not sure, I can't verify that,'' Descalso said with a smile on the field for pregame work before Game 2 of the NL championship series against Crawford's Giants. ``If he says it, I'll take his word on it.''

Both young infielders stopped playing soccer by age 11 or 12 to focus on other sports. Crawford, who had moved across San Francisco Bay to suburban Pleasanton, began playing football.

While Descalso said he split his soccer time as a goalie and forward, Crawford figures at that age it was a free-for-all as far as specific positions.

``I think everybody plays everything, kind of like T-ball in baseball,'' he said.

The two still have some mutual friends, and Crawford said he spoke to Descalso while on the basepaths during Game 1 on Sunday night at AT&T Park.

``He's a great player. He's scrappy,'' Crawford said. ``He's kind of the definition of the Cardinals and how they play, just grinds out hits, has power, plays good defense. Made a great play last night to kind of stop our rally there.''

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DISPLEASED DONALD: First, it was the home fans booing while the Yankees dropped the first two games of the ALCS to Detroit. Now, Donald Trump is chiming in.

Trump called on star Alex Rodriguez to donate his contract to charity.

``He doesn't make the (at)yankees any money and he doesn't perform,'' Trump tweeted. ``He is a $30M/yr rip off.''

Rodriguez is 3 for 23 this year in the playoffs, but he wasn't the only Yankees player that Trump gave a hard time. Derek Jeter is out for the season after breaking his ankle in Game 1 of this series, and Trump needled him a bit for his real estate decisions.

``Derek Jeter had a great career until 3 days ago when he sold his apartment at Trump World Tower,'' Trump tweeted. ``I told him not to sell- karma?''

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Devante Smith-Pelly named a starter in return to Chicago after ugly racial taunts

Devante Smith-Pelly named a starter in return to Chicago after ugly racial taunts

The top line for the Capitals on Sunday against the Chicago Blackhawks is Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie, but the starting lineup is Ovechkin, Backstrom and Devante Smith-Pelly. Why the change?

It all has to do with the last time the Caps visited Chicago nearly a year ago.

On Feb. 17, 2018, Washington went into the United Center and were obliterated by the Blackhawks 7-1. But that wasn’t the ugliest thing to happen that night.

While sitting in the penalty box, Devante Smith-Pelly faced racial taunts from some Chicago fans who began chanting “basketball, basketball” at him.

In the wake of the incident, Smith-Pelly handled himself about as gracefully as one could. So, in the team’s return to Chicago Sunday, head coach Todd Reirden felt he should be on the ice for the national anthem.

The starters traditionally stand on the ice for the anthem while the rest of the players stand at the bench.

Smith-Pelly has remained active against racism in the sport. He and teammate John Carlson invited a youth hockey team whose lone African-American player had faced racial taunts during a game to the Caps’ game on Monday.

Sunday’s move by Reirden is a classy tribute to Smith-Pelly who handled an ugly situation about as well as one could. 

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The Wizards refuse to tank, so be skeptical of those Bradley Beal trade rumors

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The Wizards refuse to tank, so be skeptical of those Bradley Beal trade rumors

Apparently Wizards owner Ted Leonsis could have been even more clear when he delivered the edict last week that his team will "never, ever tank."

Despite publicly stating the Wizards would not go through a rebuild, the trade rumors surrounding All-Star guard Bradley Beal have persisted. Bleacher Report created some buzz on Saturday with an extensive look at Beal's trade value and there will likely be many more stories written in the next several weeks leading up to the NBA trade deadline on Feb. 7.

What Leonsis said, however, should change how any rumors are viewed. He expressed firmly what team officials have been indicating for weeks, that if they are active at the trade deadline, it won't be with deals involving their main guys.

That means Beal is highly unlikely to be dealt. Otto Porter Jr. can be considered similarly and John Wall should go without saying given his current injury status and hefty trade kicker.

All of that doesn't mean the Wizards won't get calls. There are reasons why people are connecting the dots on Beal and Porter. The Wizards have underperformed this season and they are good, veteran players. That is generally the most basic formula for trade speculation.

Leonsis, though, made it clear that he doesn't want to go through a rebuild anytime soon and trading Beal would signify a reset. If the Wizards want to make the playoffs this season, as Leonsis said, they have a much better shot with Beal in the mix than without him.

So, for the Wizards to trade Beal, that would require a serious change of face and in a short period of time. Or, it would require someone in the organization with a differing opinion to overrule the owner. Neither scenario sounds realistic.

If the goal is to build on what they have rather than tear it down and start over, you could argue they would be crazy to trade Beal. He is 25, an All-Star who is still improving and he's under contract two more years. The roughly $56 million he's owed through 2020-21 is a relative bargain in this era of supermax contracts.

The Wizards can't 100 percent rule out a trade of any player, of course. No front office really can, with rare exceptions like MVPs or all-time greats in their prime. Generally, everyone has a price.

Nothing can be taken as a guarantee in these situations. But Leonsis' comments have made it about as clear as possible that Beal isn't going anywhere. Just keep that in mind when the rumors inevitably crop up in the next few weeks.

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