By Tom E. Curran1. How's your Sunday? I would be remiss if I didn't share with you the staggeringly honest obituary of Robert Hunley right here. 2. I flew out to Seattle Saturday night on JetBlue - a direct flight that landed at around 2 a.m. EST. Fortunately for me, I got an empty row near the back and was able to hog all three TVs on the seatbacks in front of me. It was like Vegas. Without the gambling. And the lights. And a lot of other things. But what happens in Row 24 stays in Row 24. One more note from the sojourn - the snacks and waters were kept in the overhead compartment of Row 24. That meant, during a six-hour flight, the compartment opened several times. And it was closed several times. Hard. Hard enough to get me to pop at least three inches off the seat every time the thing slammed like a rifle shot 30 inches over my head. I can't be sure, but I believe there wasmalicious intent on the part of the flight attendants. 3. Oh yeah, football. Rob Gronkowski had one of the greatest statistical years in NFL history for a tight end in 2011. So I've been looking at his 2012 statisticalperformance thinking it's been really good, but not quite as good as 2011in relative terms. Actually, there's very little difference statistically through five games. Through five in 2012, Gronk's been targeted 34 times, has 23 catches for 295 yards and three touchdowns. In 2011, the numbers were 31, 22, 327 andfive. 4. Wes Welker? If you remember, he was absurdly productive early in 2011. At this point he had 65 (!!) targets for 45 catches, for 740 yards (!!!) and five touchdowns. Currently, he's 52, 38, 484 and 1. If there's ever been a more statistically impressive five-game stretch for a wideout in NFL history, INEED to see it. 5. Two Seahawks defenders to keep an eye onSunday: Kam Chancellor and Red Bryant. Chancellor fascinates the hell out of me because he's so damn big - 6-3, 232 - and can really be a physical presence in the middle of the field whether at strong safety or as an extra coverage linebacker. Bryant was a target of the Patriots this offseason. Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston.com came to Seattle early and caught up with Bryanton Friday. According to Bryant, it came down to family but he told Reiss, "the likelihood of me going there was high." Bryant signed a five year deal that could check in around 35 million when all is said and done. The 28-year-old defensive lineman is 6-3, 323 and models his game after Ty Warren. 6. Players need to cut the crap with the Adderall excuse. The first time I heard it, it came from Brandon Spikes two years ago. And it seemed a plausible oversight. Rookie player, didn't want anyone to know he had ADD medication, didn't know it was viewed as a performance enhancer because it's a stimulant. Now, every time a player gets pinched for a four-game performance enhancer suspension, he blames Adderall. And nobody knows if that's the truth or not because the NFL doesn't say what a guy gets bounced for. Nor should they. But any player who truly does getsuspended forusing Adderall should fire his agent immediately. What are the guys there for if not to shepherd young players through the do's and don'ts of being in the league, the need to disclose ALL medicines and a word to the wise about Adderall. 7. Not having Donta Hightower to aid and abet in bringing down Marshawn Lynchon Sunday is a bad deal. You need all the meat you can bring against him. It will be interesting to see if Steve Gregory is the starting free safety. Tavon Wilson played adequately last week and Gregory was not as impactful as I thought he was going to be when he was on the field. 8. Ryan Wendell and Nate Solder. Pretty much just fine so far. 9. Which reminds me, with the Patriots running for almost 500 yards the past two weeks and leading the NFL in almost every offensive category, the royal screwing they supposedly gave to The Reluctant Guard Brian Waters hasn't been a cause celebre lately. Seems just yesterdaywe heardscreams demanding Bill Belichick crawl to Denton, Texas, make things right and drop rose petals in front of Waters' every step for the rest of the season.A mean andvengeful Belichick, not giving a raise to a guy who didn't want to play football here. Well, I guess that's passed.
As the trade deadline approaches, it seems that hasn’t changed.
K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune:
Takes 1 blockbuster offer to change, but Bulls are rebuffing Butler inquiries/have told teams they have no plans to trade him, per source.— K.C. Johnson (@KCJHoop) February 21, 2017
There's posturing at this time of year. And if Celts engaged w/ Nets' pick, Bulls have to listen. But point is: Bulls aren't shopping Butler— K.C. Johnson (@KCJHoop) February 21, 2017
The teams that talked to the Chicago Bulls today were told, “Just about everybody on our roster is available, but Jimmy Butler is not.”
The Bulls are not obliged to stand by that, and there’s no indication they’ve assured Butler anything. If they’re offered a package more valuable than Butler, they’ll trade him.
But that’s a lot of value.
PHOENIX - Major League Baseball intends to push forward with the process that could lead to possible rule changes involving the strike zone, installation of pitch clocks and limits on trips to the pitcher's mound. While baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred expressed hope the ongoing process would lead to an agreement, he said clubs would reserve the right to act unilaterally, consistent with the rule-change provision of the sport's labor contract.
Union head Tony Clark said last weekend he did not foresee players agreeing to proposed changes for 2017. Under baseball's collective bargaining agreement, management can alter playing rules only with agreement from the union - unless it gives one year notice. With the one year of notice, management can make changes on its own.
"Unfortunately it now appears that there really won't be any meaningful change for the 2017 season due to a lack of cooperation from the MLBPA," Manfred said Tuesday during a news conference. "I've tried to be clear that our game is fundamentally sound, that it does not need to be fixed as some people have suggested, and I think last season was the kind of demonstration of the potential of our league to captivate the nation and of the game's unique place in American culture."
Yet, he also added: "I believe it's a mistake to stick our head in the sand and ignore the fact that our game has changed and continues to change."
Manfred said while he prefers an agreement, "I'm also not willing to walk away." He said he will send a letter to the union in the coming days and plans to continue dialogue with Clark and others in hopes of reaching agreement.
Clark met with Cactus League teams last week, five at a time over Thursday, Friday and Saturday, before departing Monday for Florida to visit each Grapefruit League club - and proposed rules changes were a topic.
"I have great respect for the labor relations process, and I have a pretty good track record for getting things done with the MLBPA," Manfred said. "I have to admit, however, that I am disappointed that we could not even get the MLBPA to agree to modest rule changes like limits on trips to the mound that have little effect on the competitive character of the game."
Clark saw talks differently.
"Unless your definition of `cooperation' is blanket approval, I don't agree that we've failed to cooperate with the commissioner's office on these issues," he wrote in an email to The Associated Press. "Two years ago we negotiated pace of play protocols that had an immediate and positive impact. Last year we took a step backward in some ways, and this offseason we've been in regular contact with MLB and with our members to get a better handle on why that happened. I would be surprised if those discussions with MLB don't continue, notwithstanding today's comments about implementation. As I've said, fundamental changes to the game are going to be an uphill battle, but the lines of communication should remain open."
Clark added "my understanding is that MLB wants to continue with the replay changes (2-minute limit) and the no-pitch intentional walks and the pace of game warning/fine adjustments."
Manfred said he didn't want to share specifics of his priorities for alterations.
"There's a variety of changes that can be undertaken," Manfred said. "I'm committed to the idea that we have a set of proposals out there and we continue to discuss those proposals in private."
MLB has studied whether to restore the lower edge of the strike zone from just beneath the kneecap to its pre-1996 level - at the top of the kneecap. Management would like to install 20-second pitch clocks in an attempt to speed the pace of play - they have been used at Triple-A and Double-A for the past two seasons.
Players also have been against limiting mound meetings. The least controversial change appears to be allowing a team to call for an intentional walk without the pitcher having to throw pitches. In addition, MLB likely can alter some video review rules without the union's agreement- such as shortening the time a manager has to call for a review.
"Most of this stuff that they were talking about I don't think it would have been a major adjustment for us," Royals manager Ned Yost said.
Manfred said starting runners on second base in extra innings sounds unlikely to be implemented in the majors. The change will be experimented with during the World Baseball Classic and perhaps at some short-season Class A leagues. Manfred said it was a special-purpose rule "beneficial in developmental leagues."
Manfred also said Tuesday that a renovated Wrigley Field would be a great choice to host an All-Star Game and Las Vegas could be a "viable market for us."
"I don't think that the presence of legalized gambling in Las Vegas should necessarily disqualify that market as a potential major league city," Manfred said.