Plethora of Pats in line for Pro Bowl picks


Plethora of Pats in line for Pro Bowl picks

Could Gronknandez be in Honolulu on January 29? The Patriots' absurdly productive tight end tandem of Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez finished 1-2 in Pro Bowl fan voting last week (Gronk with 936,886 votes, Hernandez with 265,682) and we'll find out Tuesday night if they are selected as the first and second-team tight ends for the 2012 Pro Bowl. Fan voting is one-third of the process; the coaches and player votes count for the other two-thirds. Other Patriots who led their respective positions in the fan voting were quarterback Tom Brady (1,454,311), wide receiver Wes Welker (1,133, 787), guard Logan Mankins (272,702) and injured defensive end Andre Carter (511,693). Matt Light finished second in tackle voting (306,609) as did corner Kyle Arrington (477,390).Finishing third at their positions were DT Vince Wilfork, kicker Stephen Gostkowski and special teamer Matt Slater. Despite Arrington's seven interceptions this season, he probably hasn't had a Pro Bowl-worthy season given the travails of the Patriots' defense. Carter, who's on IR, certainly earned his consideration with 10 sacks. Wilfork absolutely deserves to be in Hawaii. Brady, Welker and Gronkowski all deserve MVP mention this year (Aaron Rodgers deserves the award). Sebastian Janikowski has been the AFC's best kicker ahead of Gostkowski. Mankins hasn't been as effective this season as in years past but he's still the pre-eminent left guard in the league. Light also deserves consideration. All Patriots would like to avoid going to Honolulu. That would mean they are slated to be in Indianapolis for the Super Bowl the following week.

MLB players' union agrees to pitchless intentional walks

MLB players' union agrees to pitchless intentional walks

NEW YORK - There won't be any wild pitches on intentional walks this season.

The players' association has agreed to Major League Baseball's proposal to have intentional walks without pitches this year.

"It doesn't seem like that big of a deal. I know they're trying to cut out some of the fat. I'm OK with that," Cleveland manager Terry Francona said.

While the union has resisted many of MLB's proposed innovations, such as raising the bottom of the strike zone, installing pitch clocks and limiting trips to the mound, players are willing to accept the intentional walk change.

"As part of a broader discussion with other moving pieces, the answer is yes," union head Tony Clark wrote Wednesday in an email to The Associated Press. "There are details, as part of that discussion, that are still being worked through, however."

The union's decision was first reported by ESPN .

"I'm OK with it. You signal. I don't think that's a big deal," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "For the most part, it's not changing the strategy, it's just kind of speeding things up. I'm good with it."

There were 932 intentional walks last year, including 600 in the National League, where batters are walked to bring the pitcher's slot to the plate.

"You don't want to get your pitcher out of a rhythm, and when you do the intentional walk, I think you can take a pitcher out of his rhythm," Girardi said. "I've often wondered why you don't bring in your shortstop and the pitcher stand at short. Let the shortstop walk him. They're used to playing catch more like that than a pitcher is."

Agreement with the union is required for playing rules changes unless MLB gives one year advance notice, in which case it can unilaterally make alterations. Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred expressed hope Tuesday that ongoing talks would lead to an agreement on other changes but also said clubs would reserve the right to act unilaterally, consistent with the rule-change provision of the sport's labor contract.

Some changes with video review can be made unilaterally, such as shortening the time to make a challenge.

"I know they were thinking about putting in a 30-second (limit) for managers to make a decision," Francona said. "I actually wish they would. I think it would hustle it up and if we can't tell in 30 seconds, maybe we shouldn't be doing it anyway."

Blakely: Jae Crowder is more than 'just another guy' on Celtics

Blakely: Jae Crowder is more than 'just another guy' on Celtics

As the NBA trade deadline gets closer and closer, A. Sherrod Blakely helps shed some light as to why the Boston Celtics may be unwilling to part ways with Jae Crowder