January 16, 2014

LAWT Wire Services

 

DETROIT -- Jim Caldwell got a ringing endorsement from one of his mentors when Detroit Lions general manager Martin Mayhew was doing his homework.

The Lions hired Caldwell on Tuesday to replace fired coach Jim Schwartz, ending a search that included a phone conversation between Mayhew and Tony Dungy.

"Martin called me and said we're looking for a leader who can help turn our locker room into a winning one and to help us get the most out of our investment in Matthew Stafford," Dungy recalled in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. "I told Martin that Jim Caldwell is exactly what you're looking for. He'll lead by making people accountable and by being a role model on and off the field. And with his attention to detail and history of developing quarterbacks, Stafford is going to flourish just like Peyton Manning did with us in Indianapolis."

Detroit wanted to replace Schwartz with someone with experience as a head coach, ideally with a track record of tutoring quarterbacks.

Caldwell helped the Indianapolis Colts reach the Super Bowl after his debut season in 2009, but was fired two years later after a 2-14 season while Manning was injured, dropping his three-year mark to 26-22.

Before Caldwell was hired by the Dungy-led Colts in 2002 to be their quarterbacks coach, he had the same job for Dungy with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Caldwell was hired by Baltimore two years ago to be their quarterbacks coach and was promoted to offensive coordinator late in the 2012 season. The Ravens went on to win the last Super Bowl.

The Lions will introduce Caldwell as their coach Wednesday during a news conference at Ford Field.

"We believe Jim is the right man to lead our team and deliver a championship to our fans," Lions owner William Clay Ford said in a statement.

The Ravens struggled on offense in 2013 and might've replaced Caldwell if he didn't get another job. Baltimore ranked 29th on offense overall - 30th rushing and 18th passing - last season with Super Bowl-winning quarterback Joe Flacco and running back Ray Rice.

Still, Caldwell's body of work was enough to also make him a candidate to lead the Washington Redskins and Titans. Former Tennessee coach Mike Munchak and ex-Houston Texans coach Gary Kubiak were also considered by the Lions.

"I'm excited because he has worked with some good coaches and he did a good job with the Colts," Lions offensive guard Rob Sims said in a telephone interview. "Players seem to like him, so I'm looking forward to being a part of the next chapter of Detroit Lions football with him leading us."

Caldwell won his first 14 games with the Colts in 2009 before losing the final two games of the regular season while resting Manning and most of the other starters. The Colts lost to the New Orleans Saints in the Super Bowl. Indy was 10-6 the following season and won another AFC South title, then lost to the New York Jets in a wild-card game. With Manning out for all of Caldwell's third season, the Colts lost 14 games and Caldwell lost his job.

In Baltimore, Caldwell replaced offensive coordinator Cam Cameron toward the end of the 2012 regular season and he seemed to give the offense a boost as it went on to win the Super Bowl against San Francisco.

Helping the Lions win one playoff game would be a relative feat: Detroit has only one playoff victory - more than two decades ago - since winning the 1957 NFL title.

Caldwell, who won two playoff games in his first season with the Colts, will be counted on to use his experience with quarterbacks to make Matthew Stafford better. Detroit drafted Stafford No. 1 overall in 2009 and after two injury-shortened seasons, he has been spectacular at times and shaky at others.

When the Lions needed him most, he was at his worst last season. He had an NFL-high 14 turnovers from Week 11-16 as Detroit dropped five of six games, plummeting out of first place in the NFC North and wasting an opportunity to win a division title for the first time since 1993.

Caldwell's first job as a head coach was at Wake Forest, which fired him in 2000 with a 26-63 record over eight seasons. Caldwell, who is from Beloit, Wis., played defensive back for Iowa and began his coaching career in 1977 as a graduate assistant with the Hawkeyes.

Caldwell later went on to coach quarterbacks, wide receivers and outside linebackers from 1982-84 for Bill McCartney at Colorado.

"He's one of the finest people I've ever met," McCartney said in a telephone interview. "He has tremendous character. If he says something, you can take it to the bank and hang your hat on it. His players will trust them and they'll rally for him. He's ready for this.

"Every home, every business and every NFL team rises or falls because of leadership. And, the Lions have a leader now."

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January 16, 2014

Floyd Mayweather Jr. says his next opponent will be decided within a week. One thing's for sure, it's not Manny Pacquiao.

Mayweather Jr., who arrived in South Africa on Wednesday, named Britain's Amir Khan and Argentina's Marcos Maidana as contenders for his next bout in Las Vegas on May 3 but said "we don't know. We will know within the next seven days."

The undefeated Mayweather, now 45-0 after dominating Canelo Alvarez for a majority decision in September, also passed off Pacquiao's renewed attempts at making their mega fight happen as desperation because of the Filipino's unpaid tax issues.

Mayweather said of Pacquiao "two losses and tax problems later, now he all of a sudden want to say: `You know what? I'd do anything to make the fight happen.'"

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January 09, 2014

LAWT WIRE SERVICES

 

PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) -- Dennis Rodman sang "Happy Birthday" to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un before leading a squad of former NBA stars in a friendly game Wednesday as part of his "basketball diplomacy" that has been criticized in the United States as naive and laughable.

Rodman dedicated the game to his "best friend" Kim, who along with his wife and other senior officials and their wives watched from a special seating area. The capacity crowd of about 14,000 at the Pyongyang Indoor Stadium clapped loudly as Rodman sang a verse from the birthday song.

Rodman said he was honored to be able to play the game in the North Korean capital and called the event "historic." Some members of the U.S. Congress, the NBA and human rights groups, however, say he has become a public relations tool for North Korea's government.

The government's poor human rights record and its threats to use nuclear weapons against rival South Korea and the United States have kept it a pariah state. Kim shocked the world in December by having his uncle, once considered his mentor, executed after being accused of a litany of crimes including corruption, womanizing, drug abuse and attempting to seize power.

Rodman, 52, has refused to address those concerns while continuing to forge a relationship with Kim, whose age has never been officially disclosed. The government did not say how old he turned Wednesday but he is believed to be in his early 30s.

At the start of the game, Rodman sang "Happy Birthday" to Kim, who was seated above in the stands at the stadium, and then bowed deeply as North Korean players clapped.

To keep it friendly, the Americans played against the North Koreans in the first half, but split up and merged teams for the second half.

The North Korean team scored 47 points to 39 for the Americans before the teams were mixed. Rodman played only in the first half and then sat next to Kim during the second half.

"A lot of people have expressed different views about me and your leader, your marshal, and I take that as a compliment," Rodman told the crowd. "Yes, he is a great leader, he provides for his people here in this country and thank God the people here love the marshal."

Rodman is the highest-profile American to meet Kim. He has carefully avoided getting involved in overtly political activities, saying that he is not a statesman and instead is seeking only to build cultural connections with the North through basketball that may help improve relations between Pyongyang and Washington.

Rodman has been slammed in particular for not using his influence with Kim to help free Kenneth Bae, an American missionary in poor health who is being confined in the North for "anti-state" crimes. In an interview with CNN on Tuesday, Rodman implied that Bae was at fault for being held captive.

Bae's sister, Terri Chung, said his family couldn't believe what Rodman said.

"Here's somebody who is in a position to do some good for Kenneth and refuses to do so," Chung told KOMO Radio in Seattle on Wednesday. "And then after the fact, instead, he decides to hurl these unqualified accusations against Kenneth. It's clear he has no idea what he's talking about. I'm not sure who he's talking to, where he's getting his information, but he's certainly no authority on Kenneth Bae."

The U.S. State Department distanced itself from Rodman and said it did not want to "dignify" his activities or comments in Pyongyang by commenting on them. But spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the department was open to speaking with Rodman on his return.

"We have not reached out to him. We've said before, if he wants to reach out to us, we're happy to hear from him and what he has to say," she told reporters.

The game is a new milestone in Rodman's unusual relationship with Kim, who inherited power after the death of his father in late 2011 and rarely meets with foreigners. He remains a mystery to much of the outside world and until recently, his birthday was also not widely known, though it was quietly observed elsewhere around the capital Wednesday.

Along with Rodman, the former NBA players included ex-All Stars Kenny Anderson, Cliff Robinson and Vin Baker. Also on the roster were Craig Hodges, Doug Christie, Charles D. Smith and four streetballers.

Members of the team, who average in their late 40s, said they came because they believed the game would be a good opportunity to create a human connection with the people of the isolated country. But some said they have been concerned by the negative reaction they have seen from the media and critics back home.

"This was a test of faith. We stepped out into the unknown," said former New York Knicks player Smith, who has played similar games in other countries and has acted as the team's spokesman to balance Rodman's famously outspoken character.

Smith said he was gratified to see the North Korean crowd enjoy the game, but he added that he had mixed emotions about the two-hour event.

"Emotionally, I don't know what to feel," he told The Associated Press afterward. "I'm indifferent. I'm not totally overjoyed."

Smith said he and the other players did not join Rodman in singing the birthday song.

"We always tell Dennis that he can't sing. He is tone deaf," Smith said. "He did it alone."

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January 09, 2014

LAWT WIRE SERVICES

 

NEW YORK -- Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas were elected to baseball's Hall of Fame on Wednesday, while Craig Biggio fell two votes short and tainted stars of the Steroids Era remained a long way from Cooperstown.

Maddux was picked on 555 of 571 ballots by senior members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America. His 97.2 percentage was the eighth-highest in the history of voting.

Glavine, Maddux's longtime teammate in the Atlanta rotation, appeared on 525 ballots and received 91.9 percent. Thomas, the first Hall of Famer who spent the majority of his career as a designated hitter, was at 478 and 83.7 percent.

Thomas said he accepts the view of many Hall of Famers that players whose accomplishments are muddied by accusations of steroid use, such as Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, don't belong in the Hall.

"I've got to take the right stance, too. No, they shouldn't get in," he said. "There shouldn't be cheating allowed to get into the Hall of Fame."

The trio will be inducted July 27 along with managers Bobby Cox, Joe Torre and Tony La Russa, elected last month by the expansion-era committee. Maddux and Glavine, who played under Cox for most of their careers, will become the first pair of 300-game winners to be inducted in the same year.

"It's exciting for me to go in with my teammate," Maddux said.

The only other time three players were elected together in their first appearances was in 1999 with Nolan Ryan, George Brett and Robin Yount.

Biggio received 427 votes and 74.8 percent, matching Nellie Fox in 1985 and Pie Traynor in 1947 for the smallest margin to just miss. Traynor made it the following year, and Fox was elected by the old Veterans Committee in 1997.

Biggio, who spent his entire career with the Houston Astros, appeared on 388 ballots last year in his initial appearance - when writers failed to elect anyone - and appears to be on track to gain election next year.

"Obviously, I'm disappointed to come that close," he said in a statement. "I feel for my family, the organization and the fans. Hopefully, next year."

Mike Piazza was next with 62.2 percent, up from 57.8 last year. Jack Morris was 78 votes short at 61.5 percent in his 15th and final appearance on the writers' ballot, a drop from 67.7 percent. Morris replaces Gil Hodges (63 percent in 1983) as the player with the highest-percentage of the vote not in the Hall.

Jeff Bagwell dropped to 54.3 percent from 59.6, and Tim Raines to 46.1 from 52.2.

Controversy over how to evaluate stars tainted by the Steroids Era continued to impact the vote totals of players with stellar statistics. In their second appearances on the ballot, Roger Clemens dropped from 37.6 percent to 35.4, Barry Bonds from 36.2 to 34.7 and Sammy Sosa from 12.5 to 7.2.

Bonds, baseball's career home run leader, is the only seven-time MVP in major league history. Clemens is the lone seven-time Cy Young Award winner.

"As for what they did, I don't think any of us will ever really know," Thomas said. "But I can just tell you, what I did was real and that's why I've got this smile on my face right now because the writers, they definitely got it right."

Mark McGwire, appearing for the eighth time, fell from 16.9 to 11 percent - down from a peak of 25.6 in 2008. Rafael Palmeiro will be dropped from future ballots after falling to 25 votes and 4.4 percent - below the 5 percent threshold necessary to remain eligible. One voter submitted a blank ballot.

"I can go home and sleep at night and rest," Thomas said, "so I don't have to worry about all the nonsense that the other people are going through, because I know I won't be getting a call in the middle of the night from someone saying, oh, he did this or he did that."

Deadspin.com announced Miami Herald columnist Dan Le Batard had turned his ballot over to the website, which allowed readers to vote on how it should be cast.

"I hate all the moralizing we do in sports in general, but I especially hate the hypocrisy in this," Le Batard said in remarks posted by Deadspin. "`I always like a little anarchy inside the cathedral we've made of sports."

BBWAA Secretary-Treasurer Jack O'Connell declined comment.

Maddux reached the major leagues in 1986 and Glavine a year later. They become the first primarily starting pitchers to enter the Hall whose careers began after Bert Blyleven, who debuted in 1970. And they are the first teammates on a starting rotation to be elected together since 1946.

Add in Cox, and the induction will be dominated by Braves.

"It's fitting, given the influence those two guys had on my career," Glavine said. "The thing that would have disappointed me the most had it not happened would have been a lost opportunity to go in with Bobby and Greg."

Eighth on the wins list with a 355-227 record and a 3.16 ERA over 23 seasons, Maddux won four consecutive Cy Young Awards from 1992-95 and a record 18 Gold Gloves with the Chicago Cubs, Atlanta, the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego. An eight-time All-Star, he won at least 13 games in 20 straight seasons.

Glavine, a 10-time All-Star and a two-time Cy Young winner, was 305-203 over 22 seasons. A two-time AL MVP, Thomas hit .301 with 521 homers and 1,704 RBIs in 19 seasons with the Chicago White Sox, Toronto and Oakland.

Writers who have been members of the BBWAA for 10 consecutive years at any point were eligible to consider the 36-player ballot.

Next year's vote will be even more crowded when Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz, Carlos Delgado and Gary Sheffield become eligible, five years after their retirements. The BBWAA last month formed a committee to study whether the organization should ask the Hall to change the limit of 10 players per ballot.

In a sign of how some newly eligible players have taken votes from holdovers, Lee Smith dropped to 171 from 272 last year, his percentage falling to 29.9 from 47.8.

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January 09, 2014

LAWT WIRE SERVICES

 

World No.1 Tiger Woods has cracked $US1.3 billion ($1.45 billion) in career earnings by leading the Golf Digest 50 income list for 2013, with Australian Adam Scott coming in eighth.

The 14-time major champion topped the list for the 11th time in its 11-year history with $US83 million, including an estimated $US71 million off the course and more than $US12 million in prizemoney.

Golf Digest magazine reported on its website on Tuesday that Woods' winnings of more than $US155 million reflect less than 12 per cent of his career earnings, with $US1.16 billion coming from endorsements since his pro debut in 1996, a figure that continues to increase even after his infamous sex scandal and ensuing divorce.

Second on the Golf Digest list was Phil Mickelson at $US52 million, with an estimated $US45 million in endorsements and other non-prizemoney income.

The US left-hander won last year's British Open and hopes to complete a career grand slam by winning this year's US Open, an event where he is a record six-time runner-up.

Arnold Palmer, the 84-year-old golf icon whose popularity helped spawn the television riches of today's players, was third at $US40 million, largely from licensing deals in Asia.

Jack Nicklaus, who turns 74 on January 21, ranked fourth at just over $US26 million. The record 18-time major champion joins Palmer and Gary Player for the annual honorary tee shots that mark the start of the Masters each year.

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