From Comcast SportsNetDETROIT (AP) -- Pablo Sandoval not only has baseball's neatest nickname, Kung Fu Panda has a World Series MVP award to go along with it.Sandoval took home the trophy following the San Francisco Giants' sweep of Detroit, hitting .500 with three home runs, a double and four RBIs in 16 Series at-bats."I was ready for the moment," he said after a 4-3 victory in 10 innings Sunday night. "It's just an incredible moment you're never going to forget."This Panda works with maple, not bamboo.Sandoval got the Giants off to a powerful start by hitting three homers in the opener against the Tigers, becoming the fourth player to accomplish that feat in a World Series game.He made his big league debut on Aug. 14, 2008, and earned his nickname just a month later. That Sept. 19 at Dodger Stadium, Sandoval scored from second on Bengie Molina's first-inning single off Greg Maddux, leaping sideways to avoid catcher Danny Ardoin's lunging tag on the throw from center fielder Matt Kemp.Maddux and Dodgers manager Joe Torre argued Sandoval ran out of the baseline. Barry Zito, on the mound for the Giants that night, coined the nickname for Sandoval's oversized personality and roly-poly shape -- the animated film "Kung Fu Panda" had been released in theaters that June."The Panda has special powers," Zito said in the middle of champagne spray in the Giants' crowded clubhouse. "I watched that movie and thought, he's a guy that if you see him, you may not think he's so athletic, and then all of sudden, you're like, wow! This guy is one of the better players in baseball."And the jovial Sandoval loved the moniker."It's me. The character is me," he said. "Have fun, like a little kid, fight for everything, never lose faith. It's important when you have teammates thinking that way, you are that guy."While Sandoval hit .330 in 2009 and finished second to Hanley Ramirez in the NL batting race, the Giants launched "Operation Panda" that offseason, telling him to ditch the Big Macs, fries and milkshakes in favor of chicken breast on wheat bread, watermelon slices, bananas and oranges. He started lifting.Sandoval's weight is listed at 240 on the Giants' website, 235 on the players' site. At one point, he had been up to at least 272."I just want to keep that a secret," he said three years ago, trying to avoid an exact number.By the time the 2010 World Series rolled around, when the Giants won their first title in 56 years, Sandoval was benched for four of five games following a slump. His weight had gone up again, and his batting average had gone down to .268. He made 13 errors and grounded into a league-high 26 double plays."I know it was a tough time in 2010 when he got relegated to the bench there," manager Bruce Bochy said. "He really wanted to, I think, shine on stage. He's a great talent and we got him hot at the right time."Sandoval hit .369 this postseason with five doubles, six homers and 13 RBIs. Quite a turnaround from his .176 average with two RBIs two years ago.He has come a long way since then. He hired a personal chef. He ran up desert hills in Arizona during the offseason, causing him to throw up regularly. Sandoval's average rebounded to .315, and he made his first All-Star team. Then at this summer's showcase in Kansas City, he hit the first bases-loaded triple in All-Star history, a drive off Justin Verlander in a five-run first inning that helped secure home-field advantage for the NL in the World Series.After Sandoval went deep three times in the opener, matching the Series record shared by Babe Ruth, Reggie Jackson and Albert Pujols, the Giants sold 760 more of their furry panda hats, including 466 at AT&T Park during Game 2. Venezuela President Hugo Chavez tweeted, "Pablo going down in history! Long live Venezuela!!""I still can't believe that game. It's the game of your dreams," Sandoval said. "You don't want to wake up."
For so many years the NFL has had an almost impenetrable veneer in the way it has successfully pivoted away from a myriad of scandals that would have at the very least delivered a significant, noticeable blow to most professional leagues.
But that Teflon-tough image has taken a whacking of late with the league dealing with what has been for the most part an across-the-board ratings dip in its programming.
The NFL’s slide comes at a time when the NBA seems to be on a upward surge in terms of interest and ratings.
Kevin Durant’s decision to leave Oklahoma City and play for Golden State is a needle-mover across the NBA landscape. LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers are looking to defend their NBA title – a phrase no one thought they would ever hear even when James signed on for a second tour of duty – will certainly generate tons of interest.
The Boston Celtics added Al Horford to a team that many believe will be among Cleveland’s stiffest challengers, in addition to being a team that has played Golden State as well as anyone the last couple of years.
There are many hands responsible for the NBA having such a strong position on the professional sports landscape, chief among them being former commissioner David Stern.
He was in town last week as part of the Shamrock Foundation’s annual Gala.
Stern gave a rundown of what he’s been up to since passing the commissioner’s torch to Adam Silver.
He said he has been a senior advisor to a venture capital firm, counsels several start-up companies and of course a senior advisor to the NBA.
But it’s what he’s not doing – negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement with the player’s union – that seemed to bring him the most joy.
“That’s when I got the least amount of sleep,” quipped Stern.
But those sleep-deprived marathon sessions with owners and union leaders, have helped bring the league to where it is today – thriving with its players and the profits both seem to be reaping.
That’s why the reports of the NBA and the player’s union being close to coming to terms on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, make a lot of sense. The NBA or the player’s union can opt-out of the current CBA prior to Dec. 15, although that’s looking less likely to happen because of what should be a new deal that better reflects the economic changes that currently exist in the NBA.
This past summer saw the salary cap in the NBA balloon to $94.14 million after having been $70 million for the 2015-2016 season.
With both NBA players and owners profiting significantly from the new TV deal, most of the changes to come about (paying players on the rookie scale more money; increasing the dollar amounts for veteran’s minimum and team exception contracts) are just common sense rule changes that have both sides closer to getting something done sooner rather than later.
And while he’s not directly involved in any of the current dealings, what he accomplished prior to retiring as commissioner certainly laid the groundwork for what appears to be a relatively smooth negotiation period.
“I didn’t project anything other than I was leaving it in the most spectacular of hands with an All-Star executive cast and they would just do what’s right for the league and they have,” Stern said.
And as far as the current talks that have reportedly been ongoing for months, Stern understands all too well that the last CBA talks which led to a shortened, 66-game season led to changes that has both players and owners feeling better about current negotiations.
“I’m proud to say the league has gotten to a very good place in terms of the player’s share, the owner’s share and where they can all see this is something that pays to keep going,” Stern said. “It’s fun to watch from a distance and not be involved.”
NOEL TO MISS START OF SEASON
So much for that logjam in the frontcourt for the Philadelphia 76ers. The latest big man to go down with an injury is Nerlens Noel who recently had “minor” surgery on his left knee that will sideline him for reportedly three-to-five weeks. Keep in mind that the Everett, Mass. native missed his entire rookie season following left knee surgery, although the Sixers indicate this was an arthroscopic procedure and is considered minor. He joins No. 1 overall pick Ben Simmons who suffered a foot injury that’s expected to keep him out until at least January. That means a lot of the trade rumors involving Noel (and Jahlil Okafor to a certain extent too) should cool off for a little bit.
ROUGHT START FOR SULLINGER
Signing with Toronto during the offseason was supposed to be Jared Sullinger's chance at a fresh start. Unfortunately for him, things are looking a lot like they did in his early days in Boston. Concerns about his back dropped his draft-day stock from a likely lottery (top-14) pick, to falling in the Celtics' lap at No. 21. During his rookie season, he played well but had to have season-ending back surgery. With the Raptors, it appears he will miss some time early on due to a foot injury that occurred in the team's first preseason game which has kept him out of action ever since.
“May be a little while before he comes back,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey told reporters recently. “He may get checked out just to see what else is going on.”
Sullinger’s weight was an issue during his time with the Celtics. It’s unclear what impact if any, it had on his current injury or whether it’s a factor in the injury keeping him out indefinitely.
COACH METTA WORLD PEACE?
We have seen Metta World Peace (formerly known as Ron Artest) in lots of different basketball roles from hitting big shots to just hitting people.
But as a coach? That is reportedly being discussed by the Los Angeles Lakers brass as they try to trim their training camp roster down to 15 players.
MWP is likely on the outside of the 15-man roster now, but the Lakers still want him to be part of the organization. While it may seem a bit of a stretch at first, he does bring a wealth of basketball experience to the table, a player how has seen the highs and lows of the game in a way few players can fully understand or speak about with a great amount of credibility.
The LaMarcus Aldridge trade talk will be one of the storylines this NBA season. The Boston Celtics will continue to be discussed as a possibility, but the team to watch is the Phoenix Suns. They came close to convincing him when he left Portland for San Antonio. Phoenix provides him a team that can be built around him (which he wants), lots of shots (which he wants) and a team with no pressure on his back to lead them to major success (yup, he wants that too). … Michael Carter Williams’ stock seems to continue to tumble after winning the league’s rookie of the Year award. He’s going into his fourth season and he’s already on to his third team. … Multiple league executives believe Devin Booker is the best 20-and-under player in the NBA right now. He's good, but I'd probably take Minnesota's Karl-Anthony Towns.
What predictions did Tom E. Curran get right for Sunday's Patriots-Steelers game? Find out in his preview review.