Nationals

Vigil planned to remember Paterno 1 year later

Vigil planned to remember Paterno 1 year later

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) From bumper stickers to signs posted by a few businesses to the occasional T-shirt, reminders of Joe Paterno sprinkle Happy Valley.

Most cues are subtle enough to make an outsider look twice. Like the decals with the outline of the bespectacled Paterno's distinctive face, or the shirt with the image of the longtime Penn State coach's trademark look of rolled-up khakis and sneakers.

A year after his death, Paterno and a reputation tarnished in the aftermath of the child sex abuse scandal involving retired assistant coach Jerry Sandusky remain sensitive topics for groups of alumni, former players, staffers and community residents.

The Hall of Fame coach died of lung cancer on Jan. 22, 2012, at age 85. On Tuesday - exactly a year after his passing - community residents have organized a vigil at a downtown mural that includes a depiction of Paterno.

A family spokesman has said the Paternos would not take part, and remain in privacy.

Their supporters, though, spoke up at a recent meeting of the university's Board of Trustees.

Most critics are angered by how school leaders handled Paterno's ouster as coach and the explosive findings of the internal investigation led by former FBI director Louis Freeh that put part of the blame on Paterno.

Others say the school hasn't done enough to honor a 46-year career in which Paterno was known for focusing on academics and philanthropy as well as football.

``The university should lead the way and not sit in silence,'' said Ed Stine, 62, of Gaithersburg, Md., a member of the alumni watchdog group Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship. He was one at least one of at least four dozen audience members who applauded or praised speakers who paid tribute to Paterno at the meeting.

The man who built Penn State's program into one of college football's marquee brands was fired in November 2011, days after Sandusky's arrest on molestation and other charges. The trustees had said Paterno was ousted in part because he had a moral obligation to pass on to police outside the university a 2002 allegation of sexual assault by Sandusky that was relayed to Paterno by a graduate assistant.

Sandusky was convicted in June on dozens of criminal counts, crimes that authorities said occurred on and off campus. In July, Freeh accused Paterno and three former school administrators of concealing allegations against Sandusky to protect the school's image.

The NCAA took unprecedented action two weeks later in levying strict sanctions including a four-year bowl ban, strict scholarship cuts and a $60 million fine on the university. College sports' governing body also vacated 111 wins under Paterno, erasing what had been his major college record of 409 career victories.

Paterno's family has vehemently denied Freeh's conclusions and has maintained the coach would not take part in a cover-up. They have said they expect to release a response to Freeh's report in the near future.

The trustees have maintained over the past year that they intend to honor Paterno at some point. When asked last week, a couple trustees cited ongoing legal issues related to the scandal.

``There's going to be a time and a place to do that, and I don't think that's right now yet,'' trustees chairman Keith Masser said last week.

University leaders continue to navigate tricky issues as they try rebuild Penn State's image. In the eyes of some national columnists and other critics outside Pennsylvania or the Penn State community, Paterno's name has been forever soiled.

A survey of alumni conducted for the school by an external public relations firm found that more than eight in 10 alumni remained positive toward Penn State, though that's down from nine in 10 in 2009. The survey also found that ``recent events'' still had a negative impact overall on the feelings of alumni, though the impact was less pronounced in December than in the last survey taken in May.

About 75 percent of respondents also said the school should publicly recognize Paterno for his decades of service to the school, down from 87 percent in May. The survey of 1,172 alumni was taken online and over the telephone, with a margin of error that was 2.86 percent.

``We still have an overwhelming majority of people who say he should be honored,'' said trustee Anthony Lubrano, who has long voiced support for Paterno and his family. He joined the board last summer with the backing of alumni critical of trustees who fired Paterno.

``It's important for us to address if we're going to heal and move forward,'' Lubrano said.

At the least, the football program that appeared to be in peril after the sanctions has regained its footing under Paterno's successor, Bill O'Brien. The former New England Patriots offensive coordinator conducted a masterful job leading Penn State to an 8-4 season and keeping most of the team together following the penalties.

``It was pretty impressive,'' said Terry Pegula, a proud Penn State donor and the owner of the NHL's Buffalo Sabres. ``To be down there, in the middle of that, wasn't a good situation. Even the students were feeling bad. So Bill turned into the shining light in the whole thing. He had a lot of pressure on him and he did a heck of a job.''

Al Pacino has been signed to play Paterno in a movie about the late coach. Producer Edward R. Pressman said last week that Brian De Palma will direct ``Happy Valley,'' the tentative title of the film, based on Joe Posnanski's best-seller ``Paterno,'' which followed Paterno's final years as his career ended with the sex abuse scandal.

Since the season's end in late November, questions have been raised again about the sanctions and Freeh's report. Gov. Tom Corbett - a trustee by virtue of his elected office - has sued the NCAA in federal court to have the sanctions overturned.

Lubrano and longtime trustee Alvin Clemens, who was on the board in November 2011, drew applause when paying tribute to Paterno last week.

The tributes at the meeting were appropriate, said trustee Paul Suhey, captain of the 1979 football team and another November 2011 trustee. He hoped there would be ``a time when (the board) can honor Paterno more'' after addressing lingering problems from the scandal.

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AP freelance writers Christina Gallagher and Mike Haim contributed to this report.

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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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