Slugger traded from Angels to Mariners

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Slugger traded from Angels to Mariners

From Comcast SportsNetSEATTLE (AP) -- The Los Angeles Angels got the pitching depth they wanted. The Seattle Mariners got the power-bat they so desperately needed.Two foes in the AL West found a way to work together Wednesday when the Angels traded switch-hitting slugger Kendrys Morales to the Seattle Mariners for left-hander Jason Vargas, filling needs for both teams.The 29-year-old Morales became expendable after the Angels agreed to a deal last week with free agent slugger Josh Hamilton. The Angels had been looking for a pitcher after losing Zack Greinke and Dan Haren to free agency and trading Ervin Santana.The Angels added a left-hander to their rotation, while Seattle got a hitter that can instantly take a spot in the middle of its order."We were going to try and come up with some type of offense and I think this worked out in a positive way," Seattle general manager Jack Zduriencik said. "Both players are at the end of their contracts."Getting Vargas reunites the lefty with his former Long Beach State teammate Jered Weaver at the top of the Angels' rotation. The duo played college ball together in 2004 and now will be counted on in helping make the big money the Angels spent on Hamilton and Albert Pujols last season pay off."I'm back home in California now," Vargas said. "It's perfect."Vargas grew up in Southern California where his father coached high school baseball. He used to watch his second cousin, infielder Randy Velarde, play for the Angels in the late 1990s.Vargas led Seattle in wins last season, going 14-11 with a 3.85 ERA and pitched a career-high 217 1-3 innings. The 29-year-old is 36-42 with a 4.09 ERA in four years with the Mariners."Jason was what we were looking for on the market this year: just a steady reliable left-hander who can go out there. He's got a history of pitching a high volume of innings and clearly I think we make ourselves a little bit better just in that we don't have to face him because he's given us fits," Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto said. "So we're thrilled to make the deal. We feel like this makes us a better, more complete and balanced team."In his career, Vargas is 5-4 with a 2.65 ERA and 66 strikeouts in 85 innings pitched against the Angels.A flyball pitcher, Vargas is excited to have an outfield that includes Rookie of the Year Mike Trout and Hamilton."Those guys out there behind me is outstanding," he said.Morales hit .273 with 22 home runs and 73 RBIs last season after missing the entire 2011 season after breaking his leg early in 2010 while celebrating a game-ending grand slam against the Mariners. Morales was at his best later in 2012, hitting .275 with 11 homers, 28 RBIs and an OPS of .827 over the final two months. Among its regular starters, no Seattle hitter had an OPS higher than .738 for the 2012 season.Morales said his leg got progressively stronger through last season and has felt 100 percent during offseason workouts."It's allowing me to work this offseason for the first time since about two years back," Morales said through an interpreter. "Following workouts and what I'm doing, I'm feeling no pain, no inflammation. So at this point I would say I feel 100 percent."Morales could quickly become the most productive hitter in the Mariners lineup. He would have led Seattle in home runs and been second in RBIs last season and could be even more potent with the Mariners bringing the fences closer in the outfield.In 34 career games at Safeco Field, Morales is a .292 hitter with a .904 OPS, seven home runs and 23 RBIs."I thought it was a situation where we could acquire a middle of the lineup bat, and a switch hitter. And here is a guy who played in this division, here is a guy who knows the American League. I thought that was really good," Zduriencik said.Zduriencik said the conversations with Dipoto became serious on Tuesday morning and the deal was wrapped up by midday on Wednesday.The acquisition of Morales will instantly boost Seattle's offense but also creates a log-jam of with catcherdesignated hitter Jesus Montero and first baseman Justin Smoak. Morales started just 28 games at first base last season, but Zduriencik said they are confident he could play in the field. He's also hopeful that Montero comes to spring training ready to be the everyday catcher."As long as we create competition and as long as we have these pieces in spring training we'll see what happens," Zduriencik said. "I don't have the exact answer. We've certainly talked about a lot of scenarios and feel very comfortable that there will be enough at-bats to go around for all these guys but at the end if you've added a piece that you think makes your club better, that's just better."Morales and Vargas each are eligible for salary arbitration and can become free agents after next season. Morales made 2,975,000 and Vargas 4.85 million last year.

Celtics-Wizards preview: Making of a matchup

Celtics-Wizards preview: Making of a matchup

BOSTON -- While it’s debatable whether the Boston Celtics and Washington Wizards are rivals, there’s no question there has been a heightened level of animosity towards one another when they play.

When these two met on Jan. 11, the Celtics came away with a 117-108 win.

But the game itself featured plenty of back-and-forth trash talk, finger-pointing, cries of dirty play and NBA fines.

IN FACT . . . Washington plans to bury Boston

“It’ll be a physical game,” said Jae Crowder who was hit with a five-figure fine for his role in a post-game incident involving Washington’s John Wall. “We have to answer the bell; we’ll be ready.”

Crowder knows he and his teammates must balance being the more physical team, with not losing their cool because if tonight’s game is anything like previous ones, there will be trash talk … lots of trash talk.

“They talk a little bit more than other teams,” said Crowder who added that was a factor in the incident him and Wall which cost them $25,000 and $15,000, respectively.

Crowder said a flagrant-foul committed by Washington’s Bradley Beal against Marcus Smart was what really cranked the level of animosity that was already at a high level.

But Beal probably hasn’t fully put behind him an incident last season in which Smart broke his nose and put him in the league’s concussion protocol program on a Smart drive to the basket.

As far as the hard foul that Beal delivered to him earlier this month, Smart said, “you take exception to every hard foul.”

Smart added, “It’s the game of basketball. You play with your emotions and intensity and everything like that. It comes with the game.”

While Crowder understands the Celtics have to play a physical brand of basketball, he’s not looking to do anything that might result in him having to cut another $25,000 check which was the amount of his fine from the Jan. 11 game against the Wizards.

“I’m looking at it as another game we have to win,” Crowder said. “I’m not looking at it as a rivalry or anything like that. I’m not coming in talking; they might.”

For the Wizards, winners in four of their five games since losing to Boston, a major key to their success lies in the play of their backcourt.

John Wall and Bradley Beal are the latest high-scoring backcourt tandem that the Celtics have to be worried about.

And making matters worse for Boston, the Celtics will have to try and make due without Avery Bradley who is still dealing with a right Achilles injury.

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said the 6-foot-2 Bradley was not going to be with the team in Washington and would most likely be out all this week.

That means Boston will lean heavily on Smart to not only help the offense run relatively smooth, but also provide some much-needed defense to help limit Wall and Beal who collectively rank among the higher-scoring starting backcourts in the NBA.

“We have to slow them down; by any means we have to slow them down,” Thomas said. “We know they go as far as those two take them. It’s going to be a tough game. They have a lot of momentum at home. It’ll be a tough game for us. But we’re ready for the opportunity.”

Wall and Beal are just the latest in a string of high-scoring backcourts that the Celtics have had to contend with recently.

In Saturday’s 127-123 overtime home loss to Portland, C.J. McCollum and Damian Lillard combined to score 63 points on 20-for-42 shooting from the field.

“This stretch of backcourts is exceptionally difficult,” Stevens said. “They (Wall and Beal) both should be and certainly are in the discussion for the all-star team. It’s a real difficult challenge. Our guys are going to have to be really good on both ends of the floor.”

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.