Johnny Damon is back in the major leagues

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Johnny Damon is back in the major leagues

From Comcast SportsNetCLEVELAND (AP) -- The Cleveland Indians may have found a boost for their stagnant offense.The team has reached agreement on a 1.25 million, one-year contract with free agent outfielder Johnny Damon, a person familiar with the deal said Thursday. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the Indians had not yet announced the agreement.Damon is 277 hits from 3,000 and was looking to catch on with a team to prolong his career.Damon needs hits to reach the milestone. The Indians simply need hits.Agent Scott Boras has worked out a deal with Indians general manager Chris Antonetti, who has been looking for a player to help a Cleveland team off to a 1-4 start and batting just .176 -- worst in the majors. Damon can play both left and center field and will give manager Manny Acta another option in his lineup and outfield until Grady Sizemore returns from the disabled list.Sizemore, who underwent minor back surgery last month, is not eligible to come off the 60-day disabled list until June 3. Damon could provide a stopgap, or if he produces, the Indians may want to keep him for the entire season.The 38-year-old Damon, who confirmed the deal was near completion earlier in a text message to the AP, can make another 1.4 million in performance bonuses based on plate appearances..Now that the agreement is in place, Damon, who can play left field or center, must pass a physical. And although he's in excellent shape, Damon will likely need some time to get ready to play after not going to training camp. He hasn't faced major league pitching since last season.Damon played with Tampa Bay -- his sixth AL team -- in 2011. He batted .261 with 16 homers and 73 RBIs in 150 games, 135 as the club's designated hitter. The Indians are Damon's fourth team in four years.The Indians need someone to ignite their lineup.Cleveland went 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position during a 10-6 loss to the Chicago White Sox on Wednesday. The Indians set a season-high for runs and hits but didn't get any in the clutch.Afterward, Acta said he wasn't concerned about the slow start."Five games is not going to make me panic about my bullpen, my offense, defense or anything like that," Acta said. "We have to give it a little more time."The Indians traveled to Kansas City on Thursday night. They begin a three-game series against the Royals on Friday.Antonetti has been looking for offensive help this spring. He recently had talks with the Los Angeles Angels about a trade for Bobby Abreu but a deal never materialized.A career .286 hitter, Damon has also played for Kansas City, Oakland, Boston, the New York Yankees and Detroit. One of baseball's good guys, Damon's presence alone in Cleveland's clubhouse will benefit the young Indians, who can learn from his work ethic seek advice as they did last season when slugger Jim Thome returned to the Indians.He will start with a minor league contract and get the big league deal when he is added to the 40-man roster.In addition to his base salary, Damon would get 100,000 each for 100 plate appearances, 200 plate appearances and each additional 25 up until 500.

Brady-Ryan marks rare case of NFL's top two quarterbacks meeting in Super Bowl

Brady-Ryan marks rare case of NFL's top two quarterbacks meeting in Super Bowl

For all the flack that Matt Ryan got heading into this season, he’s been a damn good quarterback. Is his career on the same level as Tom Brady’s? Of course not, but this regular season saw him stand as Brady’s peer, making him an MVP favorite.

One of Ryan’s biggest challengers for that hardware is the same man who stands in the way of him winning his first Super Bowl. Though he missed the first four games of the season due to suspension, Brady finished second in the league in passing yards per game and threw just two picks in 12 games while tossing 28 touchdowns.  

So Super Bowl LI will pin the quarterback with the best numbers overall (Ryan finished two touchdowns behind Aaron Rodgers for the league lead but threw for 516 more yards and had a higher completion percentage) against the quarterback with the best touchdown/interception ratio ever for a single season. 

In other words, this is a Super Bowl that puts what one could argue are the season’s two best quarterbacks each other. That’s pretty rare. 

Going back the last 25 years, there are four candidates for such meetings: Manning vs. Brees in Super Bowl XLIV, Favre and Elway in Super Bowl XXXII (this one is a stretch), Favre and Bledsoe in Super Bowl XXXI and Kelly and Rypien in Super Bowl XXVI.. 

Why haven’t the two best quarterbacks squared off in the Super Bowl more often? Because Brady and Peyton Manning played their entire careers in the same conference, silly. It’s taken other players entering their echelon to even set up such a scenario, and that’s why Brees’ Saints beating Manning’s Colts serves as the only example during Manning or Brady’s career. 

The strong performances of those who dominated the regular season have often carried over into their Super Bowl meetings, but not always. Drew Bledsoe and Jim Kelly (both throwing two touchdowns and four picks in Super Bowl losses) are examples of the wheels falling off in the final game. 

Here’s a breakdown of past occurrences. Note that all four of them saw the winning team score at least 30 points, something the Pats have done just once in Brady's four Super Bowl wins: 

Super Bowl XLIV: Brees vs. Manning

Brees led NFL with 34 touchdowns in regular season; Manning finished tied for second with 33

Final score: Saints 31, Colts 17

Brees: 32/39, 288 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT
Manning: 31/45, 333 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT

Brees completed a postseason in which he had no turnovers and did so in a nearly exactly average game for him that season, as e averaged 292.5 yards, 2.26 touchdowns and less than one interception per game in the regular season. The two quarterbacks also combined for just one sack. 
 
Super Bowl XXXII: Favre vs. Elway

Favre led NFL with 35 TDs in regular season, Elway finished second in TD/interception ratio

Final score: Broncos 31, Packers 24

Favre: 25/42, 256 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT, fumble lost 
Elway: 12/22, 123 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT

Again, this is the forced one because Jeff George (3,917 passing yards, 29 touchdowns, nine interceptions) had the better regular season than Elway (3,635 passing yards, 27 touchdowns, 11 picks). Elway may have been the winning quarterback, but he didn’t have anything to do with the win. Terrell Davis carried the Broncos, playing through a migraine and rushing for 157 yards with three touchdowns en route to Super Bowl MVP honors. 

Super Bowl XXXI: Favre vs. Bledsoe

Favre led NFL with 39 TDs, Bledsoe third with 27

Final Score: Packers 35, Patriots 21

Favre: 14/27, 246 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT
Bledsoe: 25/48, 253 yards, 2 TD, 4 INT

Both quarterbacks took five sacks in this game. For Bledsoe, it was the most he took all season. The game was the third four-pick performance of his NFL career. 

Super Bowl XXVI: Kelly vs. Rypien

Kelly led NFL with 33 TDs, Rypien second with 28

Final score: Redskins 37, Bills 24

Rypien: 18/33, 292 yards, 2 TD, INT
Kelly: 28/58, 275 yards, 2 TD, 4 INT, fumble lost

Turns out five turnovers (and being sacked four times) is not a recipe for winning the Super Bowl. Kelly’s 58 passes thrown set a Super Bowl record.
 

Dimitroff, Pioli the first Belichick defectors to lead new team to Super Bowl

Dimitroff, Pioli the first Belichick defectors to lead new team to Super Bowl

Working for the Patriots makes you attractive to other teams. Many have left, but Thomas Dimitroff and Scott Pioli are finally showing that major success can be attained in the process. 

Dimitroff and Pioli have built a team in Atlanta that will play for the franchise’s first Super Bowl title on Feb. 5. While many have been hired away from Bill Belichick's Patriots to lead other organizations, Dimitroff is the first of the defectors to get to the Super Bowl on his own. Adding an old friend in Pioli has played a part in that. 

Dimitroff served as New England’s director of college scouting from 2003 through 2007 before becoming Atlanta’s general manager in 2008. He hired Pioli in 2014 as an assistant GM after the longtime Patriots director and vice president of player personnel had a messy stint as the Chiefs’ GM. 

Executives and coaches (even Field Yates; yes, the fair-haired boy from the television) leaving the Patriots for better positions with other organizations has been common, but with the new positions have often come diminished success compared to New England. 

Romeo Crennel, Eric Mangini, Bill O’Brien, Charlie Weis (in his brief return to the NFL in 2010) and Josh McDaniels make up the list of coordinators who have left winning with the Patriots to experience a dropoff without Brady and Belichick. John Robinson (Titans), Jason Licht (Buccaneers) and Bob Quinn (Lions) currently serve as GMs elsewhere, while former Pats secondary coach Joe Collier works with Dimitroff and Pioli as the Falcons’ director of pro personnel. 

It’s only fitting that Dimitroff and Pioli will have to go through Belichick in order to secure a title on their own. Winning without Belichick has proven hard enough for his former colleagues; winning against him will be even harder.