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Djokovic Makes a Run at No 1

At the end of a strange day at the Monte Carlo Masters men’s tennis tournament Friday, Novak Djokovic emerged as a growing threat to Rafael Nadal’s No. 1 ranking.The world’s top four players appeared on the Monte Carlo Country Club’s red clay on Friday. Three of the four won. The lone upset victim was the least likely: Nadal had won 30 straight matches on clay before losing to David Ferrer. Like Nadal, No. 4 Roger Federer and No. 2 Djokovic each lost the first set of their matches, but they came back to win and join Ferrer and No. 3 Stanislas Wawrinka in the semifinals Saturday.The loss left Nadal with just 180 ranking points for the tournament, which he had won eight straight times before losing to Djokovic in last year’s final. The loss also dropped Nadal further back in a little-noticed rankings-point race. In the seven months since Nadal won last September’s U.S. Open, Djokovic has amassed 6,830 ranking points to Nadal’s 4,800 (including the results through Friday at Monte Carlo). Federer and Wawrinka aren’t far behind Nadal’s total and they, along with Djokovic and Ferrer, will split the remaining 880 ranking points available in the Monte Carlo tournament. Djokovic, who has won the last four Masters events and is the defending champion in Monte Carlo, is the favorite to collect most of those points.The official rankings are based on the last 12 months, and these split-season rankings aren’t readily available; they’re my best approximation from the players’ ranking breakdowns on their ATP World Tour Web pages. The advantage of these split-season rankings is that they show who has amassed the most points, most recently. Those players who’ve earned points recently are at an advantage in future rankings because points drop off a year after they were earned. About two-thirds of Nadal’s points are due to drop off by the end of the U.S. Open; about 40 percent of Djokovic’s will fall off in that time.Djokovic still has work to do to overtake Nadal for the No. 1 ranking that Nadal seized from him last October. Nadal got there by sweeping the clay events at Barcelona, Madrid and Rome, before winning his eighth French Open. Nadal, the world’s best clay-court player, then looked like its best hard-court player (a title Djokovic mostly has held since the start of 2011) by winning titles in Montreal, Cincinnati and New York — his second U.S. Open title. That sparkling spring and summer still leaves Nadal with a lead of nearly 2,000 points even if Djokovic wins Monte Carlo this weekend. But Nadal may have to repeat his run on clay last year to hold off Djokovic before the tour moves to grass in June. read more

Would Baseballs AllTime AllStar Team Go 1620

Every year, MLB’s All-Star game brings together the best players from each league to form two superteams. For one game, we get to see Jose Fernandez as a reliever against lineups in which Mike Trout and Miguel Cabrera hit back to back. But unlike the NBA’s fantasy rosters made real, we never get to glimpse how dominant such a talent-laden squad would be against normal MLB competition. So with a little statistical analysis and some conjecture, I took a guess at how well an MLB All-Star team would fare in a regular season — and even how often they’d go a perfect 162-0.1This piece was prompted by an email from reader Rich Chiesa, so thanks, Rich.To get an idea of how good each All-Star team would be, I added up the wins above replacement2The FanGraphs version. for every All-Star team’s best player at each position since 1933 (the first year of the All-Star Game). To further make things comparable to regular-season teams, I summed the top five pitchers’ WAR totals to get a rotation’s worth of pitching WAR.3I excluded relievers from the rosters in order to make an apples-to-apples comparison across history, since relief pitching didn’t really exist in anything like its current form until the 1970s. I also did not consider any WAR contributed by the designated hitter for each All-Star and regular season team, since the DH did not exist before 1973. The result of all this was a predicted WAR total for each All-Star team, which I could use as a comparison against real regular-season teams.Not surprisingly, All-Star teams tend to carry far more talent in their ranks than most normal teams. The average All-Star squad put 60 full-season WAR on the field, which is about the same as the 1976 Reds — widely regarded as one of the best teams in MLB history. No regular-season team in history exceeded the 1927 Yankees’ 66.3 WAR, but about 30 percent of All-Star teams would have if given the chance to play together in the regular season.But 66.3 WAR is kind of an abstract idea; what most fans care about is Ws and Ls. To establish how well these All-Star rosters might have fared in the standings, I used regular-season teams as a guide. I regressed their winning percentages against the total WAR on their rosters to get a sense for how much each additional WAR was worth.4I used a logit transformation on these winning percentages, since I expected them to become asymptotic at some point (i.e., no team can win more than 100 percent of its games). The correlation between a team’s WAR total and its winning percentage was a robust and statistically significant 0.82. As expected, each win above replacement contributed to a team increases winning percentage by roughly 0.7 points, or the equivalent of about one win in a 162-game schedule. By this method, practically every All-Star team would be predicted to have a winning record, and the average All-Star squad would be predicted to win 73.4 percent of its games.5The sole All-Star team predicted to have a losing record was the 1933 National League’s outfit, and this is largely by virtue of the fact that they listed only four pitchers on their roster. In a 162-game schedule a .734 winning percentage would lead to 120 wins, a feat no real-life team has ever achieved. And that’s just the average; the very best All-Star teams — the top 10 percent — would be predicted to win more than 81 percent of their games, or 132 contests in a regular season.Standing atop that group as the best All-Star team ever was the 1997 National League squad. (Which, by the way, lost to the AL 3-1, a reminder that in any one game a superteam can lose to a merely great team, especially if there isn’t much at stake.) Seven players from that roster have already made the Hall of Fame, with two more (third baseman Chipper Jones and pitcher Curt Schilling) likely to reach induction in the near future, and a few others (such as outfielder Barry Bonds and first baseman Jeff Bagwell) mainly excluded over performance-enhancing drug concerns. (By comparison, only five players from the AL team that opposed them have made the hall so far.) Combined, the top players on the ’97 NL team produced 86.2 WAR; six of them reached the MVP level threshold of 6 WAR; their worst position player, Jones, ended up producing 3.7 WAR — still 23rd best in the NL.We can’t say for sure how such a team might have fared over a 162-game schedule; the assumptions of any model can break down at the extremes, particularly since we’re trying to extrapolate from a sample of regular-season teams that have never been anywhere near as powerful. But by the model outlined above, the 1997 NL All-Stars would have been predicted to win 87 percent of their games, or 140 times in a season. Even given the amount of luck in baseball records,6Random variation can can cause a team’s win total to fluctuate by something like 6 to 10 wins per year. the ’97 NL would hypothetically go undefeated only once every six billion seasons. (So the best team in baseball history — by a huge margin — would still be the longest of long shots for a perfect record.)I can, of course, take things a step further and assemble the all-time greatest All-Star team. By assembling the greatest single-season performances at each position throughout history, I can build a team with almost 137 WAR, more than 50 percent better than the greatest single All-Star team ever. This team — with Lou Gehrig from 1934 manning first base, Barry Bonds from 2002 in the outfield, and ’99 Pedro Martinez sharing a rotation with ’72 Steve Carlton — would be predicted to win 96.8 percent of its games, becoming the first 157-game winner. With a lot of luck, it could eke out an undefeated regular season, but even for them it would be far from a certainty. (According to the binomial distribution, it would happen once every 200 or so seasons.)Obviously, no such team will ever play the regular season, and this simplified approach ignores many factors that limit teams from such otherworldly performance, such as injuries and the grind of the long schedule. Even so, it’s intriguing to consider how overwhelming an All-Star team likely would be in the face of regular-season competition. For a game in which the default is to fail seven times out of 10, most All-Star teams would suddenly make baseball look quite easy.Check out our latest MLB predictions. read more

Only A Superteam Could Stop LeBron

FiveThirtyEight On the latest episode (June 13, 2017) of Hot Takedown, FiveThirtyEight’s sports podcast, we first talk about the right way for teams to approach the MLB draft. Then FiveThirtyEight’s Kyle Wagner stops by to talk about the Golden State Warriors’ 129-120 Game 5 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers. Are these Warriors the greatest team of all time, and what makes them so good? We deliberate. Plus, a significant digit on Rafael Nadal.Here are links to stories we discussed this week:FiveThirtyEight’s Neil Paine argues that Moneyball’s draft advice has outlived its usefulness.Neil also writes that although the Warriors are still in the GOAT debate, they blew their chance to end it.Check out Kyle Wagner’s piece on how the Warriors duped the NBA.Kyle and Chris Herring write that the Warriors belong to Kevin Durant now.Sports Illustrated’s Deantae Prince does a category-by-category examination of the Warriors vs. the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls.Significant Digit: 10, the number of French Open titles Rafael Nadal has won. Nadal beat Stan Wawrinka to win his first Grand Slam in three years. More: Apple Podcasts | ESPN App | RSS read more

LeVeon Bell Is Irreplaceable The Steelers Have Yet To Notice

Le’Veon Bell was born in the wrong decade. The Pittsburgh Steelers running back is the best player in the NFL at his position, but he’s playing at a time when that distinction has never been less valued. On Thursday, Bell didn’t report to camp (and was under no obligation to do so), having yet to sign his franchise tender for $12.1 million. Earlier this month, negotiations between the All-Pro and the Steelers broke down without Bell signing a long-term contract after he reportedly sought $15 million per year. Assuming Bell does sign the tender, he’ll still play this season for the Steelers as the game’s highest-paid back. But the Steelers can’t resume negotiations on a long-term deal until 2018, meaning Bell will be a free agent once again.Put another way: This could be Bell’s last season wearing black and gold. In another era, when running backs like Earl Campbell, Franco Harris and Walter Payton were the gods of the gridiron, this would be unfathomable. But in the modern NFL, any running back, regardless of his ability, may be viewed as replaceable simply because he doesn’t throw or primarily catch the football. Despite this new line of thinking, Pittsburgh could still be making a huge mistake.Local papers have noted that Pittsburgh has won at a higher rate without Bell the past two years (11-5 including playoffs) than with him (12-7). But Bell played in five games without quarterback Ben Roethlisberger during that span, compared with just one for his backup the past two years, DeAngelo Williams, who is no longer with the team. The Steelers went 10-3, meanwhile, when Bell and Roethlisberger both played.1 This is excluding a 2015 game against the Bengals in which Bell suffered a season-ending injury early in the second quarter and January’s playoff loss against the Patriots when Bell left the game in the first quarter.In addition to durability risk, the knock on running backs is that they are interchangeable –that their success is based more on a team’s offensive scheme and run blocking than any innate ability. But that doesn’t seem to be the case with Bell. WSHR. KelleyC. Thompson4.25.2-1.1 CLEI. CrowellD. Johnson4.84.9-0.1 The 25-year-old averaged 4.86 yards on 261 carries last season — or 1.36 yards more than Williams averaged in 98 attempts while running behind the same offensive line. That differential was the fourth in the NFL when comparing primary ball carriers to their best backup with 50-plus carries, according to Pro-Football-Reference.com. That means Bell gained 355 more yards on his 261 carries than his backup would have, and those extra yards are worth 23 points, based on the league rate of a point every 15.4 yards from scrimmage. That was bested only by the Chicago Bears’ Jordan Howard (1.98 yards better per carry), San Francisco 49ers’ Carlos Hyde (1.90) and Cowboys rookie Ezekiel Elliott (1.55). But in those three cases, the 2016 backups — Jeremy Langford, Shaun Draughn and Alfred Morris, respectively — are nowhere near the caliber of Williams, one of only three backs since 2000 who have matched Bell’s active streak of averaging at least 4.7 yards in three consecutive seasons (minimum 100 carries).2 The other two are Tiki Barber (2004 to 2006) and Jamaal Charles (2012 to 2014). No back this century has ever done it four straight years.If you look at the list across the league, you begin to see why an NFL front office might think twice about giving big money to a first-string running back. There were 11 teams in 2016 in which the difference in efficiency between the starter and the backup was separated by less than half a yard per attempt. What’s more, there were 16 backups who were actually more efficient in less work, perhaps because of fresher legs. And the four backs who averaged at least 1 yard more per rush than the man they were behind on the depth chart are backups again this year. That includes the best backup rusher last year, Oakland’s Jalen Richard (1.88 yards per carry more than the now-departed Latavius Murray, who was replaced by Marshawn Lynch). More mysteriously, the Jets’ Bilal Powell (5.51 per carry) is expected to back up the same starter, Matt Forte (3.73), as is Washington’s Chris Thompson (5.24) behind Rob Kelley (4.19).Bell’s teammates, at least, seem to appreciate his value. “We need him,” star wide receiver Antonio Brown told ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler on Monday. “He’s a special piece.” But on Wednesday, prior to training camp, Brown expressed dismay on Instagram over Bell’s anticipated absence, saying the “First rule to getting better is showing Up!”Brown was rewarded for his stellar output with a four-year, $68 million deal in February. But Bell’s best offer from the Steelers didn’t approach that, according to Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network, which is instructive in showing how much more the NFL values passing over the ground game. But Bell is arguably the team’s second-most important receiver behind Brown, too. Last year, he became the first player in NFL history to average more than 50 yards receiving per game in addition to 100 rushing yards. And his total of 157 yards from scrimmage per game was third-most in league history.Yet despite their arguably equal importance to the team, it’s Bell who is skipping camp while he waits on his payday. Brown, meanwhile, arrived at camp on Thursday chauffeured in the backseat of a 1931 Rolls Royce. MINJ. McKinnonM. Asiata3.43.3+0.1 PHIR. MathewsD. Sproles4.34.7-0.4 BALT. WestK. Dixon4.04.3-0.3 NOM. IngramT. Hightower5.14.1+1.0 Not every running back is replaceableDifference between teams’ primary and secondary running options by yards per attempt, 2016 CINJ. HillR. Burkhead3.84.7-0.9 TEAMRB1RB2RB1RB2DIFF. SDM. GordonK. Farrow3.93.2+0.7 CARJ. StewartF. Whittaker3.84.7-0.9 DETT. RiddickZ. Zenner3.93.8+0.1 KCS. WareC. West4.33.3+1.0 TEND. MurrayD. Henry4.44.5-0.1 NYJM. ForteB. Powell3.75.5-1.8 JAXT.J. YeldonC. Ivory3.63.8-0.2 DALE. ElliottA. Morris5.13.5+1.6 NEL. BlountD. Lewis3.94.4-0.5 TBD. MartinJ. Rodgers2.94.3-1.4 HOUL. MillerA. Blue4.04.2-0.2 SFC. HydeS. Draughn4.62.7+1.9 ATLD. FreemanT. Coleman4.84.4+0.3 NYGR. JenningsP. Perkins3.34.1-0.8 CHIJ. HowardJ. Langford5.23.2+2.0 GBT. MontgomeryE. Lacy5.95.1+0.9 PITL. BellD. Williams4.93.5+1.4 BUFL. McCoyM. Gillislee5.45.7-0.3 DEND. BookerC.J. Anderson3.54.0-0.5 OAKL. MurrayJ. Richard4.05.9-1.9 RB2 is the teams’ best backup running back with at least 50 rushing attempts.Source: TruMedia YARDS/ATTEMPT read more

How Penn State Can Still Make The College Football Playoff

13Auburn def. Alabama37.732.3+5.3 Which of Penn State’s games holds the most weight?PSU’s remaining 2017 matchups by the impact they have on the team’s playoff chances 13Michigan def. Ohio State35.419.2+16.3 12Nebraska99.892.4+7.4 10NC State def. Clemson41.530.6+10.9 13Maryland99.688.8+10.8 11Michigan State def. Ohio State16.17.0+9.1 Each week in this space, we examine all the things a certain contending team needs to have happen in order for it to make the College Football Playoff. This week, we look at the Penn State Nittany Lions, who suffered their first loss of the season Saturday after a fourth-quarter collapse on the road against Ohio State.Current situation: Undefeated and ranked No. 2 in the country, Penn State had a clear playoff path laid out in front of it — provided it could beat the Buckeyes, that is, in what was the program’s biggest game since the late 1990s. The Nittany Lions scored on the game’s first play and held control for three quarters, but Ohio State kept chipping away at PSU’s lead late, capping off a 19-3 fourth-quarter run with a go-ahead touchdown pass from which Penn State never recovered. Now ranked seventh in the first edition of the CFP committee rankings, the Lions have only a 14 percent chance of making the playoff, according to the FiveThirtyEight model.What the Lions can do: Because the loss came relatively late in the season, it left Penn State without much time to rebuild its playoff status. Even if the Lions win the rest of their games, our model gives them only a 20 percent chance of making the playoff. One important factor driving that number is a lack of opportunities for another signature win down the season’s final stretch: According to ESPN’s Football Power Index, Penn State’s future strength of schedule ranks just 67th in the country — easily the worst among the top 15 teams in the country by FPI. The only ranked team remaining on Penn State’s schedule (assuming it doesn’t go to the Big Ten championship) is Michigan State — and if PSU beats Michigan State, the Spartans will surely lose their ranking, which is currently only No. 24. With this weak slate of remaining games, it will be difficult for the Lions to impress the committee solely with their performance on the field before season’s end.Even so, here are the most important games left in the regular season for Penn State, based on the biggest difference in winning percentages between our simulations where the Lions make the playoff and ones where they don’t: WKOPPONENTMAKES PLAYOFFDOESN’T MAKE PLAYOFFDIFF. The other games that need to go right for the Nittany LionsNon-Penn State matchups that have the biggest impact on the team’s playoff chances 11Stanford def. Washington46.440.7+5.7 Differences may not add up because of rounding. 13Stanford def. Notre Dame43.435.7+7.7 Where they need help: As if losing to the Buckeyes wasn’t enough, Penn State fans now need to keep a close eye on every Ohio State game from here out. Because the teams share a division and because OSU now holds a head-to-head tiebreaker over Penn State, Ohio State will need to lose twice in conference play to give PSU a shot at winning the East. That’s not very likely; our model gives Ohio State a 44 percent chance of winning every remaining regular-season game, much less winning at least three of four. But OSU’s best chances to lose will come in its games at Iowa this weekend and at Michigan on Nov. 25, so those are also Penn State’s highest-leverage games left in the season (aside from the Lions’ own matchup against Michigan State on Saturday). 10Iowa def. Ohio State34.1%12.7%+21.5 PROBABILITY BY PENN STATE OUTCOME 13Georgia Tech def. Georgia29.522.9+6.6 11Rutgers99.996.3+3.6 10Michigan State99.4%79.2%+20.1 11Miami (FL) def. Notre Dame42.035.2+6.8 13South Carolina def. Clemson27.521.2+6.3 WKRESULTMAKES PLAYOFFDOESN’T MAKE PLAYOFFDIFF. PENN STATE WIN % BY OUTCOME Based on two sets of simulations: one where the team makes the playoff and one where it doesn’t. Differences may not add up exactly because of rounding. Of course, it’s also possible that the committee could slot in both Penn State and Ohio State come selection day. (In 28 percent of simulations where the Lions make the CFP, the Buckeyes are also in, making OSU Penn State’s fourth-most-likely playoff “companion” behind Alabama, Georgia and Clemson.) But the chance of two Big Ten teams making the playoff is pretty remote; our model gives it an 8.3 percent probability of happening, mainly because it would require some major shakeups elsewhere in the country — most likely losses by Clemson, Washington, Notre Dame and/or one of the Big 12 front-runners — to clear space. And although the most common combination among those multiple-Big Ten-playoff-team universes features Penn State and Ohio State making the playoff together (47 percent of the times that two Big Ten teams make it), our model assigns a 27 percent chance to a scenario where Ohio State and Wisconsin are the Big Ten picks, and the Nittany Lions are left out.1And in 22 of our 20,000 simulations — or 0.1 percent of the time — three Big Ten teams somehow make the playoff.But maybe that’s also an area where the model doesn’t have enough information yet. If Wisconsin and OSU are on a collision course in the Big Ten championship (and they appear to be), then those Badger-Buckeye universes would mean that the committee selected a conference title-game loser for a playoff spot. That may not be very realistic: In 12 chances over three seasons, only once — Ohio State in 2016 — did the real-life committee pick a team that didn’t win its conference (and those Buckeyes didn’t lose their championship game but rather missed it entirely on a tiebreaker).That should give Penn State hope that its current odds are being slightly understated by our model — that if they just keep winning and get a little lucky, the Lions could slip in as a second Big Ten playoff bid at the very least. Then again, if college football’s playoff era has proven nothing else, it’s that the committee might do something we’ve never seen before. We’ll see whether that works in Penn State’s favor or not.Check out our latest college football predictions. Also, see what it will take for Notre Dame, Clemson, Washington and Oklahoma to still make the playoff. read more

By the numbers Ohio State runs over Michigan 4213

OSU junior running back Ezekiel Elliott (15) carries the ball while Michigan linebacker Ben Gedeon (42) attempts to tackle him during a game on Nov. 28. OSU won, 42-13. Credit: Muyao Shen | Assistant Photo EditorThe annual rivalry game between the Ohio State Buckeyes and the University of Michigan Wolverines has produced many great and tightly contested games throughout the years. This year’s matchup was not one of those.OSU, after being humbled by Michigan State last week, rushed passed one the nation’s elite defenses en route to a convincing 42-13 victory in Ann Arbor, Michigan.OSU struck first with a seven-yard touchdown run by redshirt sophomore quarterback J.T. Barrett as the Buckeyes claimed a 7-0 lead by the end of the first quarter. Michigan got on the board with a field goal in the second and both teams exchanged touchdowns as the Buckeyes took a hard-fought 14-10 halftime lead into the locker room.The second half was an entirely different ball game, however. OSU scored a touchdown on its opening drive and never looked back. After being bullied all night against Michigan State last week, OSU dominated the Wolverines in the trenches, as the Buckeyes forced their power run game all day. On the day, OSU went through the Wolverines for 369 rushing yards, more than four times the amount it managed against the Spartans (86).Junior running back Ezekiel Elliott, after publicly criticizing the play-calling and his lack of touches in last week’s loss, put forth a herculean effort against a stout Michigan defense. For the game, he rushed for 214 yards and two touchdowns on 30 carries. Barrett also added 139 yards rushing and three touchdowns on the ground to go along with 113 yards and a touchdown through the air.Redshirt senior transfer from Iowa Jake Rudock picked apart the Buckeyes through three quarters as he racked up 263 yards passing and a touchdown, his fourth straight game with 250-plus yards. However, a heavy hit by junior Joey Bosa, a former high school teammate, early in the fourth quarter left him injured and unable to finish the game.Michigan failed to impose their rushing game as it was limited to 57 yards. Sophomore Jabrill Peppers led the Wolverines with 29 yards on seven carries.With the win, the Buckeyes finished their regular season at 11-1, while Michigan ends its at 9-3.  With Michigan State’s victory over Penn State, the Spartans will represent the East Division in the Big Ten Championship Game. The Buckeyes and Wolverines, meanwhile, will be sitting at home and watching to see how the College Football Playoff committee evaluates their seasons and selects what bowl games they will represent the Big Ten in during the postseason. By the numbers:2: With his fantastic performance, Elliott has now moved into second in the all-time rushing leader category at OSU, only trailing behind two-time Heisman Trophy winner Archie Griffin.19: Michigan and Ohio State, two of the top five winningest college football teams in the country, have combined for 19 national titles throughout history (eight for the Buckeyes, 11 for Michigan).77: The two programs have combined for 77 Big Ten championships, 35 of which came from OSU.3:  Elliott rushed for 214 yards at Michigan Stadium, which is the third-highest total given up to an individual in Michigan football history.42: The Buckeyes lucky’ number against the Wolverines. OSU has now scored 42 points against Michigan in three consecutive games, all victories.482: A week after putting forth one of the worst offensive performances in recent memories, the Buckeyes racked up 482 yards of offense on the road against one of the best defenses in the nation.5: Michigan had only allowed teams in the red zone to score a rushing touchdown on it five times through its first 11 games. Against the Buckeyes, they double that mark with another five.11/12: OSU has now won 11 of the last 12 meetings against the Wolverines, including six of the last eight games played in Ann Arbor.19: OSU has now won 19 straight road games, the longest active streak in college football.2: OSU only officially punted twice against Michigan, the least amount of punts in any game this year. read more

Pujols wants the biggest contract in MLB history – and I dont

You would think the only player in Major League Baseball history to hit .300, have 30 home runs and drive in 100 runs for 10 consecutive seasons would be the highest-paid player in baseball — but he’s not. St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols isn’t even the highest-paid player on his team. That would be outfielder Matt Holliday, whose $120 million contract he signed last year is $20 million more than what Pujols received in 2004. Don’t get me wrong, $100 million is a lot of money. But when it comes to professional sports, and especially baseball, Pujols is vastly underpaid for the numbers he puts up. The fact that Hiroki Kuroda made more during the 2010 season than Pujols just doesn’t make sense. And that you just asked yourself who Hiroki Kuroda is, is my point exactly. Now, maybe you’re thinking that the Cardinals just pulled a Bronx Bombers and have two of the highest-paid guys in the league — but Pujols isn’t even in the top 25 when it comes to his annual salary as of the end of the 2010 season. That’s a little hard to wrap my head around, considering former Atlanta Braves manager Bobby Cox said he would give Pujols $50 million a season. Cox is not far off. A good barometer of where Pujols stands is comparing him to New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez. They both have put up consistent numbers over the years, except for income. For the 2010 season, they put up somewhat similar numbers, with Pujols batting .042 higher with 12 more home runs and A-Rod having seven more RBIs. Rodriguez’s annual salary for the 2010 season, $33 million, was more than double what Pujols made. Pujols will creep a little closer to that $33 million because of the Cardinals exercising their option for 2011, which will put him at a base salary of $16 million for 2011. But still nowhere close to A-Rod status. The Cardinals had offered Pujols a contract extension earlier in the year, which some baseball insiders reported to be in the vicinity of 10 years, $200 million, but Pujols respectfully declined. And he was right to decline that. He knows what his value is, and the Cardinals are coming up short on their offer. It’s like any other profession: If you are great at what you do, someone will pay you what you are worth. It has been rumored that Pujols is looking for $300 million, but there is no way he’s going to get that, especially if he “wants to be a Cardinal forever,” like he says. $300 million would be a little steep for a team whose payroll is just more than $93 million. But that is the beauty of America and free agency: If you don’t like the offer, you can look somewhere else. It won’t come down to that, though. The Cardinals and Pujols will secretly negotiate during the season and work out a deal that satisfies both parties. Prediction: 9 years, $262 million. read more

Football Redshirt freshman quarterback Matthew Baldwin enters name in transfer portal

Redshirt freshman Matthew Baldwin (12) throws a pass down the field in the first half of the 2019 Spring Game on April 13. Gray beat Scarlet 35-17. Credit: Casey Cascaldo | Photo EditorAfter entering spring camp expecting to battle with sophomore Justin Fields for first-team quarterback reps, redshirt freshman Matthew Baldwin has entered his name into the transfer portal. Ohio State confirmed the report Thursday. Lettermen Row was first to report.In the Spring Game, Baldwin completed 20-of-36 passes for 246 yards, throwing two touchdowns and two interceptions. Fields finished the game completing 4-of-13 pass attempts for 131 yards and a touchdown, adding a rushing touchdown with 38 rushing yards. Baldwin spent his first season with the Buckeyes overcoming an ACL injury he suffered in the 2017 Texas 6A State Championship game when he was at Lake Travis High School.As spring practice continued, Fields and Baldwin split first-team reps, and Baldwin was confident in is chances of playing time. “Now Tate leaves and Justin comes in,” Baldwin said. “I guess he is kind of chasing me.”With the loss of Baldwin, Fields and redshirt senior Chris Chugunov are the only quarterbacks on scholarship for the Buckeyes. Sophomore quarterback Danny Vanatsky is also on the roster as a walk-on. read more

Top Alevel grades could rise this summer

first_img A-level Results Day 00 : 00 : 00 : 00 Days Hrs Mins Secs Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily  Front Page newsletter and new  audio briefings. Last year, boys held a 0.9 per cent lead over girls at A* grade, although girls had a 0.4 per cent lead at A and A* grade combined – having out-performed boys every year since the millennium.But according to Alan Smithers, director of the Centre for Education and Employment Research at Buckingham University the lead could widen as a result of the maths and further maths take up as they tend to be high-scoring subjects.Maths and further maths entries on the riseEntries to maths and further maths are up again, the former now replacing English as the subject with the highest intake – 85,980 entries compared with 78,800. Since they award by far the most A* grades, this could lead to an increase in A* grades overall.Prof Smithers said: “The grades have been narrowing since 2006. “Boys tend to cluster in the subjects that give out a lot of the top grades, such as maths, Greek and Latin.”Girls cluster in subjects like English that offer relatively few of the top grades, like English and psychology.”It could be that boys go further ahead this year due to the increase in people taking maths and further maths.”A-level resultsHis comments come just days before thousands of students across England, Wales and Northern Ireland learn their A-level results.Last year, the proportion of A-levels scoring at least an A grade fell by 0.1 percentage points to 25.9 per cent. Official figures for 2015 showed that 8.2 per cent of entrants received an A* grade, the same figure as the previous year.The overall pass rate rose to 98.1 per cent in 2015 – having fallen the previous year for the first time in three decades.Prof Smithers said it was difficult to say what the pass rates would be this year, but that it was possible that the percentage of students getting the top grade could increase by one 10th of a per cent.He said: “It’s quite tricky to predict, of course, because the regulator Ofqual tries to keep the percentage of the grades awarded the same for year on year, bearing in mind the prior attainment (GCSE results) of the cohort.”In 2015, interest in computing, RE, economics have gone up.”The most A* and As go on further maths and maths. In English there are relatively few top grades and there entries have fallen by about 6 per cent.”These changes in entries could be overwritten by the other factors. The A* and A grades could go up just a bit, by a tenth of a percent or so.”Check out our guides:• Step-by-step guide to Clearing• Step-by-step guide to Adjustment• Step-by-step guide to A-level Results DayExam board plans to “crowd-source” questions from teachersOne of England’s major exam boards is planning to “crowd-source” questions from teachers to use on its GCSE and A level exam papers, according to theTimes Educational Supplement. The idea being developed by Cambridge Assessment, which owns the OCR board, would ask teachers to submit questions that have stretched and challenged their pupils in lessons and improved teachers’ understanding of what has been learned.The board hopes to receive “millions” of questions and says the best of these could then be used for GCSE and A-level exam papers.   However, some fear this could lead to schools ‘gaming the system’  as some of them who know the exams process very well ‘play it to their advantage’.center_img Search for Clearing vacancies onlineDownload the Clearing app on iPhone or AndroidA-level grades are expected to rise for the first time in six years as boys lead the way in taking up serious subjects, an education expert has predicted.It came as the number of boys achieving A*s could rise ahead of girls because of the increase in maths and further maths, where they tend to score higher.Sixth formers have been increasingly choosing ‘tougher’ or so-called facilitating subjects because they are favoured by elite universities, including Oxford and Cambridge. last_img read more

ExRHS manager jailed for masterminding £700k scam to fund party lifestyle

first_img Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily  Front Page newsletter and new  audio briefings. Elaine Summers outside court Shaheen Kadri He got Summers, 54, and Kadri, 44, to send him false invoices for cleaning work over a 10 year period which they did not do.Recorder Gopal Hooper told the trio who sat quietly in the dock during sentencing: “It (the scam) appears quite simple but it was quite sophisticated. It was done not by need by the three of you but by greed.”By the time the scam started you, Stuart Medhurst, were leading a lifestyle of champagne and nightclubs using money you did not have.” A former manager at the Royal Horticultural Society has been jailed for four years for masterminding a £700,000 scam against the charity.Operations manager Stuart Medhurst, 56, along with Elaine Summers and Shaheen Kadri acted out of “greed not need” in the sophisticated decade-long scam which was only discovered by accident.Faced with £100,000 of personal debt which was largely loaded on to credit cards Medhurst, who was in a trusted position after working for the RHS for 20 years, decided to plunder the charity’s funds to help pay for a luxury lifestyle, London’s Southwark Crown Court heard. The judge said that Summers, of Notting Hill, west London, had been “influenced” by Medhurst.She had been recruited into the scheme after working for Barclays and diamond company De Beers – where she organised functions.The judge said Medhurst, “no doubt encouraged by the ease” of the success of the scam, brought his long-time friend Kadri into the mix.The judge told Kadri, of Camden, north London: “You went in to this with your eyes wide open, clearly for greed because you were in gainful employment.”Obvious intelligence belies the claim the you did not know what was happening. I was not surprised when the jury convicted you.”The RHS, set up in 1804, lays on world-famous exhibitions every year including the Hampton Court Palace and Chelsea Flower Shows.The prosecution said false invoices were prepared by Summers and Kadri for cleaning work that was never done.These were made to match false purchase orders prepared and issued by Medhurst.He arranged for payments by RHS to be made to bank accounts held by Summers and Kadri. Medhurst, of Westminster, had previously pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy to steal – for sums amounting to £360,850.51 with Summers and £317,110 with Kadri. He was sentenced to four years jail on each of these counts which are to be served concurrently.He was also sentenced to another year, to be served concurrently, after admitting a count of fraud in abusing his position at the RHS by withdrawing £43,895 for his own “personal use”. He spent this on a stash of luxury electrical goods.Summers and Kadri were each found guilty by a jury at the same court in July of one count of theft.Summers was sentenced to 18 months in jail while Kadri was sentenced to two-and-a-half years imprisonment.The scam ran from January 2004 to January 2014 but fell apart in late 2013 when RHS officials spotted that cleaning work, which was being invoiced and paid for as part of the scam, was being done by another company.Medhurst spent more than £40,000 on a haul of high-priced electronics and household items including £10,244 on a Bang and Olufsen sound system, two Siemens Porsche designer kettles, a toaster, along with a high end steam iron, washing machine, dishwasher, digital camera, hair trimmer, fitness bicycle and microwave.Medhurst ensured the invoices were disguised “so that the exact nature of the items would not immediately become apparent”, according to prosecutor John Traversi.The judge added that Medhurst had ensured the electrical items were bought from a regular supplier to the RHS and appear like it might be used by the charity. Elaine Summers outside courtCredit:CENTRAL NEWS Shaheen KadriCredit:CENTRAL NEWSlast_img read more