Javier Mascherano Stretchered off with Head Injury in Copa del Rey Final

Javier Mascherano‘s outing in the Copa del Rey final against Deportivo Alaves didn’t last long, as the veteran defender suffered a head injury that required him to leave the pitch on a stretcher after just 11 minutes.

As shared by Kieran Canning of Agence France-Presse, he was replaced by Andre Gomes:

The former Liverpool man clashed with Marcos Llorente and started bleeding heavily almost immediately. He also seemed to twist his knee while landing and held his leg as he was carried off.

Barcelona have long been revered for their attacking pedigree, but in Mascherano, they possess one of the most intelligent, energetic and tenacious defenders in world football.

Since moving to the Camp Nou from Liverpool and switching from a holding midfielder to a central defender, Mascherano has been magnificent. Next to the unflappable Gerard Pique, the 32-year-old is strong in the tackle, quick across the ground and excellent at anticipating danger.

Gomes was a surprise substitute on Saturday, with Aleix Vidal also available to help out at right-back. Fortunately for the Catalans, the Copa del Rey final is their last match of the season, so they won’t have to worry about an immediate replacement should Mascherano‘s injury prove serious.

Read more Soccer news on BleacherReport.com

Source: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2602871-javier-mascherano-stretchered-off-with-head-injury-in-copa-del-rey-final

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French Open 2017: Sunday Schedule and Predictions for Roland Garros Bracket

There’s a new name at the top of the women’s seedings as the 2017 French Open gets underway Sunday, and Angelique Kerber will get her first opportunity to display her worthiness as she opens the second Grand Slam tournament of the year in her opening match against Russian Ekaterina Makarova.

Kerber inherited the No. 1 seeding from Serena Williams, who is taking time off from competition during her pregnancy. The 29-year-old is a worthy successor—at least on a temporary basis—but she has not played as well this year as she did a year ago.

The German established her status in 2016 when she won three tournaments and had more than $10 million in earnings with a 63-18 record. She is off to a slow start in 2017 with a 19-12 record (no championships), and she has to figure things out quickly if she is going to turn things around in Paris.

Kerber and Makarova are scheduled to play the second match of the day at the Philippe-Chatrier Court, with matches scheduled to begin at 6 a.m. ET (11 a.m. Paris time). Here’s a look at Sunday’s complete schedule.

“I think it’s for sure not the easiest time right now for me, but I think that I have to look for solutions right now. I think that my movement is not the best, especially on clay,” Kerber said, per Ian Chadband of RolandGarros.com.

First-round matches are spread over the first three days of the tournament, and Kerber’s match is the highest-profile of the opening day of competition.

Makarova could be a tough opponent, as she was victorious in two of three matches in Rome earlier this month. She defeated fourth-seeded Dominika Cibulkova in three sets before losing to Kiki Bertens in the third round.

Grigor Dimitrov, the 11th seed on the men’s side of the draw, follows Kerber on the Philippe-Chatrier Court, and the Bulgarian will face Frenchman Stephane Robert in the first round.

Dimitrov is the second-highest-seeded player on the men’s side to see action Sunday, behind sixth seed Dominic Thiem. Dimitrov was a first-round, straight-set loser to Juan Martin del Potro in Rome, but he has played quite well this year with a 17-6 record and just under $1 million in earnings.

The 25-year-old Dimitrov is something of an enigma because he often has looked like he is ready to break through and join the top players in the game. That’s part of the reason for his “Baby Fed” nickname. However, he has never been able to come through with a reputation-making performance in the biggest tournaments.

Robert will have the backing of the home crowd, but he brings just a 1-8 record into this match, and it is unlikely he will be able to threaten Dimitrov.

Tenth-seeded Venus Williams will also see action Sunday as she faces Qiang Wang of China in the final match of the day on the Suzanne-Lenglen Court.

Serena’s older sister has been an efficient player who is still very tough to beat. She takes a 17-6 record into the French Open, and she defeated Yaroslava Shvedova, Lesia Tsurenko and fifth-seeded Johanna Konta in Rome before losing to third-seeded Garbine Muguruza.

Williams, 36, has done well in her recent Grand Slam tournaments. She advanced all the way to the semifinals at last year’s Wimbledon as well as the fourth round in the U.S. Open.

She had a spectacular showing at the Australian Open this year, advancing all the way to the final round where she was defeated by Serena, 6-4, 6-4.

However, it’s not likely that she will go far in Paris because she has never fared well on that clay surface, although her recent performance in Rome may provide some hope. She has only made it past the quarterfinals in the French Open once in her career, and that was in 2002.

         

Seeded Players Schedule and Predictions

Despite her recent difficulties, look for Kerber to get the best of Markarova, although she could get pushed to three sets.

Dimitrov will not have any problems with Robert even though the Frenchman will have the support of the home crowd. Venus Williams will be able to use her ability and experience to easily make it through to the second round.

Here are our predictions for other seeded players who will be in action Sunday:

Dominic Thiem (6) over Bernard Tomic, Suzanne-Lenglen Court
Petra Kvitova (15) over Julia Boserup, Philippe-Chatrier Court
Lucas Pouille (16) over Julien Benneteau, Philippe-Chatrier Court
Gilles Muller (26) over Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, Court 1 
Dominika Cibulkova (6) over Lara Arruabarrena, Court 1 
Monica Puig over Roberta Vinci (31), Court 2
Albert Ramos-Vinolas (19) over Marius Copil, Court 3
Ivo Karlovic (23) over Stefanos Tsitsipas, Court 3
Mirjana Lucic-Baroni (22) over Cagla Buyukakcay, Court 3
Steve Johnson (25) over Yuichi Sugita, Court 6
Timea Bacsinszky (30) over Sara Sorribes Tormo, Court 17

Read more Tennis news on BleacherReport.com

Source: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2712071-french-open-2017-sunday-schedule-and-predictions-for-roland-garros-bracket

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Richard Sherman, Michael Bennett Respond to Reported Issues with Russell Wilson

Seattle Seahawks defensive stars Richard Sherman and Michael Bennett denied tension exists between the defense and quarterback Russell Wilson after an ESPN report surfaced Thursday.

Bennett took to Twitter to call the article, written by Seth Wickersham, “trash” and “gossip”:

 

Sherman appeared on SiriusXM NFL Radio to deny the reports.

“It’s just a bunch of nonsense from ‘anonymous’ sources,” Sherman said. “Can never put much gravity of things like that.”

The ESPN profile delves into internal unrest in Seattle that has reportedly existed since the team’s Super Bowl victory in the 2013 season. Wickersham described one particular practice where Sherman intercepted Wilson before telling him “you f–king suck” in 2014.

Per Wickersham, tensions have continued to grow under the surface, with Sherman reportedly blaming Wilson and coach Pete Carroll for the team’s Super Bowl loss to the New England Patriots in February 2015.

“He’s always looking at what other people are doing,” a coach told Wickersham. “He’s made it personal. It’s your fault we’re not winning. It wears guys thin.”

Defensive players have also reportedly become upset that Wilson receives preferential treatment from coaches and management even though the defense led the NFL in points allowed for four straight seasons. Sherman spent most of his offseason on the trading block, and Wickersham’s report potentially highlights some of the issues that led the situation to nearly boil over.

Read more NFL news on BleacherReport.com

Source: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2711848-richard-sherman-michael-bennett-respond-to-reported-issues-with-russell-wilson

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David Lee Avoids Surgery on Knee Injury

San Antonio Spurs power forward David Lee won’t require knee surgery on a patellar tendon injury suffered during the Western Conference Finals against the Golden State Warriors.

Ramona Shelburne of ESPN first received the update from Lee’s agent, Mark Bartelstein. Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News confirmed the news Saturday and noted the recovery timetable for the ailment is an estimated six-to-eight weeks.

Lee scored four points in two minutes in Game 3 of the West Finals before getting forced to exit with the knee issue. He missed Game 4 as the Warriors completed the sweep of San Antonio, which was also without stars Kawhi Leonard and Tony Parker.

The 34-year-old Florida product played a limited role for the Spurs during the team’s playoff run. He averaged 4.1 points and 3.8 rebounds while playing 16.3 minutes per game across 15 appearances.

Lee provided solid per-minute contributions during the regular season, though. He ranked 15th among qualified power forwards in Player Efficiency Rating, ahead of marquee names like Paul Millsap, Kristaps Porzingis and Dirk Nowitzki, though his overall impact was smaller.

In April, the two-time All-Star selection told Orsborn he wasn’t sure what the future held, but he enjoyed his first season in San Antonio.

“It’s been a great fit overall,” he said. “That’s the best way to put it.”

Lee’s current contract includes a player option for the 2017-18 NBA season. He can either accept a $1.6 million salary to stick with the Spurs or decline to become an unrestricted free agent.

The timeline for his recovery from the knee injury means he should be ready for the start of training camp, which is usually in late September, barring any setbacks.

 

Read more Basketball news on BleacherReport.com

Source: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2712102-david-lee-avoids-surgery-on-knee-injury

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Ben McAdoo Dismisses Victor Cruz’s Claim Giants Intentionally Limited Him

Former New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz claimed during an interview on 105.1 FM’s The Breakfast Club that the team purposefully didn’t target him in the passing game to make it easier to release him this offseason, per Ryan Wilson of CBS Sports. 

On Thursday, head coach Ben McAdoo denied those assertions.

“There is no accuracy to it,” he said, per Bob Glauber of Newsday.

Cruz, 30, caught just 39 passes for 586 yards and a touchdown in 15 games last season. And he registered 245 yards and his lone touchdown in the first four games of the season. 

The veteran wideout was convinced his inconsistent role was intentional on the Giants part, per Wilson:

“I felt it all year long. Halfway through the year I’m ballin’, the other half I’m not getting the ball. And you’re just like, ‘What’s going on?’ It was like ‘OK, I see what’s happening. They don’t want me here anymore.’ A lot of people probably don’t know this… Let’s say I played well—was a 1,000-yard receiver last year—it would have been more difficult from a fan perspective to cut me.”

“If I am a 1,000-yard guy, they’re like ‘Why are you cutting Cruz? He just had 1,000 yards and five or six touchdowns. That doesn’t make sense.’ But if I have 500 yards or whatever the case may be, it’s a little easier on the fans.”

He also said money played a factor.

“If I played well, they owed me a ton of money that next year,” Cruz noted, per SNY. “So it was like, ‘Let’s get Cruz off the books.’”

He didn’t necessarily think Eli Manning was in on the scheme, however.

“It’s hard to believe,” he said. “Even just to think about someone coming up to the quarterback and saying, ‘Hey, don’t throw it here’ or ‘Don’t give it to this guy’—it’s hard to even fathom that thought. Which I don’t even know or think happens. I doubt it. But when you look at the film and look at how it goes down, it’s the only way.”

He walked back his comments later, however.

I love the Giants, they gave me a platform no one else did,” he wrote on Twitter. “I am forever grateful! I never said I was sabotaged, don’t believe these headlines.”

Regardless, Cruz has landed on his feet. Ian Rapoport and Kimberly Jones of NFL.com reported Thursday that Cruz would be signing a one-year deal with the Chicago Bears

Read more NFL news on BleacherReport.com

Source: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2711826-ben-mcadoo-dismisses-victor-cruzs-claim-giants-intentionally-limited-him

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Whether the End or a New Start, Saturday Was a Masterpiece for Wenger & Arsenal

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger half turned his back with his interrogator’s words still forming in the close Wembley air. He knew what was coming.

Like an overly officious lawyer who asks a bride and groom en route to their first dance whether they have a prenup in place, the BBC’s Dan Walker gave the present a cursory pat before moving on to the future.

The question was posed over whether he would be at Arsenal next season. 

Walker wouldn’t be a journalist if he didn’t ask it; Wenger wouldn’t be human if he didn’t show a flicker of irritation in pleading: “Let me enjoy the night.”

By God! He deserved to. An epoch-making seventh FA Cup win, secured via a 2-1 victory over Chelsea in a game as magnificent as the day was muggy, makes him the most successful manager in the competition’s 146-year history. Wenger has as many winners’ medals as Liverpool and Chelsea do in their respective histories. Now he comes to mention it, a lack of respect does seem a little churlish.

Aaron Ramsey’s stooping header, just 129 seconds after Diego Costa had cancelled out Alexis Sanchez’s opener, was enough to win a game that fully tested Arsenal’s propensity to shoot themselves in the foot like few others. The Welshman ensured no one in the Arsenal end felt the need to turn the gun on to themselves, courtesy of a second FA Cup final winner in four seasons. 

As a neutral, at full-time, it was hard not to be pleased as the camera panned to Wenger in a moment of solitude. For a split second a double fist-pump was his only company, as he stood silently dignified with his back as straight as a ruler despite his 67 years. Physically and in terms of acuity, he’s probably half the age of many of those who label him over the hill.

A remarkable man in many ways, he looked resplendent in a crisp white shirt, as though he had just stepped off an ironing board. Quite the feat considering he had spent much of the preceding hour and a half in his favourite squat position as if trying to gauge the tide. It tends to turn quickly in north London.

After a campaign that has at times felt like the long goodbye, even Raymond Chandler would accept the strange case of Wenger’s future at Arsenal will not be solved until after Tuesday’s board meeting. Not so supporters, journalists, pundits and all points in between, amateur sleuths to a man. 

The zeitgeist for binge-watching box sets is not so different with football, to the point that having to wait for news seems less a slight inconvenience than a denial of a basic human right. Like with Netflix, 15 seconds seems a reasonable period to pause before moving on to the next episode.

The Arsenal Fan TV boys, who had featured in the BBC’s buildup (the national deficit may never recover from a likely shortfall in TV licences paid next year), were probably already on the Wembley Stadium concourse demanding to know the truth about Wenger’s future when Per Mertesacker was lifting a third FA Cup for Arsenal in four years. Life is nothing if not testing.

Those of the belief ennui is no different to slow death may cite the always prophetic writer J.G. Ballard in defence of the incandescent fury brimming at Arsenal for the best part of a decade: ”It seems to me that what most of us have to fear for the future is not that something terrible is going to happen, but rather that nothing is going to happen. … I could sum up the future in one word, and that word is boring. The future is going to be boring.”

Usually, Wenger gives his medals away. A little later, when facing the press in Wembley’s holding cells below ground level, he told them he would keep this one for himself: “For once I have taken my medal, so that means it’s a special night for me.”

It was the type of comment that will be pored over and forensically tested for clues before carefully being sealed back into an evidence bag. Both Wenger and Arsenal’s board have denounced short-termism. Whatever happened on Saturday was always going to be circumstantial, it was said.

“I don’t feel that winning the Cup will necessarily change anything, said Wenger, per Paul Wilson of the Guardian. “It would be a bit ridiculous were 20 years of service to be decided by the result of one game, and neither should the future of the club depend on a single game.”

New beginnings need a starting point, though. Where better than here? Arsenal were as good with the ball as they were without it, as steely as they were stylish. This was not a mirage; Arsenal could easily have been 3-0 up at half-time.

Wenger’s eyes of late have betrayed the hurt he has felt at being so openly criticized. On Saturday, for the first time in a long time, they sparkled as bright as any diamond in Tiffany & Co. In a candid interview with the BBC that was shown before the game, he had spoken of being “treated in a way in that human beings don’t deserve to be treated.” He added: “The lack of respect from some has been a disgrace, and I will never accept that. I will never forget it.”

It was Wenger’s compatriot Marcel Proust who said: “The only real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.”

There was plenty about Arsenal’s performance, for which Wenger must be credited with outwitting Chelsea counterpart Antonio Conte, to suggest he may still have enough fresh ideas to reassure those who claim an exhausted imagination is mirrored by his side. The Frenchman is regularly accused of being antiquated in his tactical outlook, but since switching to three at the back, Arsenal have won nine of 10 matches.

Kudos should also be given for how decisive he was in making a switch pretty much immediately after Chelsea equalised. Danny Welbeck’s withdrawal would surely have drawn criticism had Arsenal failed to win. His replacement, Olivier Giroud, needed just 38 seconds to lay on Ramsey’s winner with a deft clipped cross after he had outdone a weary Gary Cahill with a smart run down the left flank.

Wenger’s argument that he can reinvent himself is, in part, about his attempt to broker a deal that allows him the same autonomy he has enjoyed for over 20 years, but this felt like something seismic. 

Although it was a cup final imbued with sadness in light of the Manchester bombing, with a minute’s silence impeccably observed before kick-off, it proved the perfect curtain call for the season. As a contest, it was as absorbing as any played this term. It was the type of game that makes even the most jaded fan a little wistful, forcing a re-evaluation of whether it is the game that has changed or them. Just maybe it is still as beguiling as it always was.

Notwithstanding Victor Moses’ ignominy for being the first player to be sent off in an FA Cup final for an act of simulation, for which he was awarded a second booking, there was a pureness to the final that somehow made it feel like it belonged to another age.

Petr Cech putting aside obvious disappointment at being left out to charge on to the field at full-time and head straight for David Ospina would have melted Theresa May’s even the coldest heart. Like a yellowed photograph curled up at the edges, the game felt lived-in, an instant classic. Some 34 shots in 90 minutes takes some beating.

If necessity is the mother of invention, then Wenger owes it a debt. The call to start Ospina was his, but injuries and suspension meant he had no real option other than to field a back three that had never previously played together. It included Mertesacker, making his first start in 392 days (and the first time ever in a back three despite a career that includes some 104 caps for Germany), the relative rookie Rob Holding and left-back-turned-left-centre-half Nacho Monreal.

Chelsea’s pre-match meal came accompanied with a side serving of mint sauce.

All three were magnificent. Arsenal’s BFG looked as though he must have been doped up on George’s (Graham) Marvellous (Defensive) Medicine. Astronaut food may turn quicker than the German, but his reading of the game is borderline clairvoyant.

Post-match footage in which he dead-eyes Martin Keown in the tunnel after the pundit had predicted a difficult afternoon for him was cringingly majestic. “They’re calling it the Mertesacker final,” Keown creeped. “Don’t write me off, man,” was Mertesacker’s pitch-perfect retort.

In the stands, Labour leader and dyed-in-the-wool Arsenal supporter Jeremy Corbyn was sending out a similar message of defiance via social media. It’s unconfirmed whether May sent Amber Rudd to be her representative at Wembley.

Remarkably, it was only the second-best thing Keown was involved in on the day. Before the game, the BBC man gave an analysis of the Wenger situation that was possibly the greatest broadcast in the history of television. John Logie Baird’s life’s work has not been in vain.

“Old people die,” he exclaimed on Football Focus, in a revelation that will have had corporation bigwigs pondering whether Professor Robert Winston’s programmes could be freshened up by a new co-presenter. ”That’s how serious it is for him. His life is dependent on staying in management.”

There was a key moment defensively that seemed to define the whole game just after Sanchez had scored his contentious opener.

Costa’s legs took on the properties of a pair of jelly scissors in “accidentally” nearly taking Holding’s head off in a tangle between them on the floor. Arsenal’s 21-year-old defender got up grinning, tapping his head and seemingly mouthing “mental” in the direction of his opponent. Costa’s team-mates did well to keep him on the Bruce Banner side of the Incredible Sulk. For once, it looked as though Arsenal would not be bullied.

Later, the Spain international would exact revenge when holding off the young defender to chest down substitute Willian’s cute chip and fire past a somewhat limp Ospina to score an equaliser for 10-man Chelsea. It was a goal so Arsenal-like in its predictability it will surely in time be donated to the club’s museum. By full-time, however, Holding could be forgiven for joining in chants from the Arsenal end that compared him favourably to Fabio Cannavaro. His win rate is remarkable, with Arsenal having won the past 15 games he has started.

Wenger seemed to have borrowed his tactics from Manchester United’s 2-0 victory over Chelsea in mid-April. Arsenal pressed high and aggressively from the off, with Welbeck both magnificent and key to their victory.

Just like Chelsea did not feel comfortable playing with a high line against United because of Marcus Rashford’s pace, here it was Welbeck putting the frighteners on them. Twice he went as close as it gets to scoring without doing so, as he first crashed the far post with a header from a set piece before Cahill cleared the ball off the line for a second time, having earlier done the same to Mesut Ozil.

With the game stretched from back to front, Ozil and Sanchez were able to persistently find space between the lines. Everything thrown up to Welbeck stuck, with the only thing bouncing off him being Chelsea defenders. At various points in the first half alone, Welbeck’s smart movement and hard running drew each of Chelsea’s back three hopelessly out of position. None of them could live with him.

Ahead of them, the usually indefatigable N’Golo Kante played as though his legs were on strike, sunning it up by a pool while he borrowed someone else’s. Possibly a Chelsea Pensioner’s. The double footballer of the year was at least partly responsible for Sanchez’s goal, as his left foot lost communication with his right to allow Arsenal to nick the ball back after Thibaut Courtois had bowled it out to him.

David Luiz looked to have headed the danger away when Sanchez, with his arm, blocked Kante’s attempt to hook the ball further clear. The Chilean chased after it, as he did everything all afternoon, and with Chelsea’s players appealing for both the handball and Ramsey’s offside stationing, the ball was volleyed past Courtois. It was Sanchez’s seventh goal in five starts at Wembley. He’s such a big-game hunter he has banning orders from zoos nationwide.

Referee Anthony Taylor consulted his linesman Gary Beswick, who had flagged for offside, before giving the goal. It was a remarkably bad decision that, in so many ways, made for a great final. Rare is it you can say a goal was coming after 240 seconds, but Chelsea were on the ropes.

It was a 30th goal of the season for Sanchez, on top of 15 assists. Whether swansong, open audition or simply taking responsibility, it was a remarkable shift. Surliness was conspicuous only in absence, with the only thing he shook on the day being equally pugnacious performances out of his team-mates. He even made Granit Xhaka look like a £30 million player.

Around the 20-minute mark, Sanchez won the ball off Kante in the left-back position for Arsenal. It was symptomatic of his afternoon’s work. You can imagine him growling as he made the challenge.

It seems an odd thing to say about two players so disparate, but there was something Kante-like about Sanchez’s omnipresence. He was popping passes all over pitch with a right foot so attuned to its surrounds it could knock a pigeon off a telegraph pole on hearing it coo. Whether it is through successful contract negotiations or kidnap, Sanchez must not be allowed off the premises over the summer.

All game, he somehow butted together a mix of savagery and subtlety. He was like a superhero made of granite wearing silk pajamas. Chelsea were shell-shocked, punch drunk to the point it wouldn’t have been impertinent to ask whether they were sozzled. Ozil may have been sporting the Andrew Ridgeley highlights, but it was Chelsea’s lot who played as though they had spent the previous fortnight holed up in Club Tropicana, where drinks are almost certainly still free. 

Playing an FA Cup final a couple of weeks after winning the title is long enough for legs to grow weary and heads a bit blurry. Chelsea were better after the break than before it, with Conte’s post-match words, when he conceded there was much work to be done over the summer in the transfer market, perhaps also having been given an airing at half-time.

Before the game, BBC host Gary Lineker had pondered whether Ozil was a “flat-track bully,” with Frank Lampard adding: “For me, he’s a bit of a luxury.” That’s the thing with luxury. We’ve sold ourselves the idea that it is something we wouldn’t want to have too much of, as opposed to being something we can’t afford.

Generally, it’s a healthy line to take; it stops us craving what others have got. When we’re talking about football and luxury, however, no one should feel bad about enjoying teams filled with little geniuses on billionaires’ dimes. That’s one of the few luxuries we can all afford.

In the The Brothers Karamazov, Fyodor Dostoyevsky wrote: “The genuine realist, if he is an unbeliever, will always find strength and ability to disbelieve in the miraculous, and if he is confronted with a miracle as an irrefutable fact, he would rather disbelieve his own senses than admit the miraculous also.”

If only the Russian were still around to show any unbelievers video footage of an act so miraculous it can only be a matter of time before Donald Trump labels it fake news. In the 42nd minute of Saturday’s final, Ozil sprinted back to make a slide tackle. Run the video:

Ozil probably should have scored when his deft dink didn’t have enough purchase to beat Cahill on the line. A dropped shoulder that preceded his rattling the base of Chelsea’s post at the death was a prime example of when video technology should be introduced to award goals for sheer chutzpah.

On that point, his dummy on the touchline in added time, when he allowed the ball to run through his legs and buy valuable seconds when his team-mates were seemingly competing in a competition to hit the moon, brought to mind the Ezra Pound line: “Genius is the capacity to see 10 things where the ordinary man sees one.”

There was nothing ordinary about this Arsenal performance, and neither is there anything ordinary about Wenger. Whether this proves a perfect end he insists does not exist or the start of something new, or even a continuation of same old Arsenal, it can wait a while.

For now, the final word belongs to the Frenchman.

“Let’s enjoy the win, not worry about the future and live in the present.

“It is one of my proudest moments because nobody gave us a chance, and we responded with attitude and class.”

Read more World Football news on BleacherReport.com

Source: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2712276-whether-the-end-or-a-new-start-saturday-was-a-masterpiece-for-wenger-arsenal

Lou Whitaker Harry Heilmann Brooks Robinson Luke Appling Barry Larkin Derek Jeter Tony Gwynn Jesse Burkett Bobby Grich Carlton Fisk Duke Snider Edgar Martinez Larry Walker Jim Thome Alan Trammell Eddie Murray Jim Edmonds Ivan Rodriguez Pee Wee Reese Ron Santo Gary Carter Manny Ramirez Craig Biggio Rafael Palmeiro Willie McCovey Kenny Lofton Tim Raines Ozzie Smith Ernie Banks Frank Baker Roberto Alomar Al Simmons Gary Sheffield Mark McGwire Reggie Smith Jackie Robinson Goose Goslin Joe Jackson Joe Cronin Scott Rolen Ryne Sandberg Dwight Evans Yogi Berra Jake Beckley Graig Nettles Harmon Killebrew Dick Allen Keith Hernandez Willie Keeler Buddy Bell Sal Bando Willie Randolph Bobby Wallace Jimmy Wynn Dave Winfield Sammy Sosa Jeff Kent Mike Piazza Sherry Magee Jack Glasscock Andruw Jones Ken Boyer Richie Ashburn Bid McPhee Zack Wheat Willie Stargell Will Clark Todd Helton Billy Williams Willie Davis Vladimir Guerrero Bobby Abreu Darrell Evans Bobby Bonds Hank Greenberg Andre Dawson John Olerud Elmer Flick Joe Medwick Lou Boudreau Billy Herman Joe Torre Joe Kelley Bill Terry Robin Ventura Jack Clark Joe Gordon Stan Hack Carlos Beltran Bill Dickey Enos Slaughter Bob Johnson Jimmy Collins Norm Cash Minnie Minoso Jason Giambi Jose Cruz Bob Elliott Harry Hooper Cesar Cedeno Buck Ewing Ron Cey Jimmy Sheckard Mickey Cochrane Tommy Leach Sam Rice Ted Simmons Ichiro Suzuki Max Carey Fred McGriff George Sisler Tony Perez Gabby Hartnett Chet Lemon Luis Aparicio Kiki Cuyler Hugh Duffy Frank Chance Brian Downing John McGraw Vada Pinson Joe Tinker Gene Tenace King Kelly Johnny Evers Joe Sewell Tony Lazzeri Bobby Doerr Ellis Burks Hughie Jennings Tony Phillips Fielder Jones Larry Doby Larry Doyle Fred Lynn Bernie Williams Cupid Childs Mark Grace Toby Harrah Harry Stovey Edd Roush Orlando Cepeda Mike Cameron Johnny Damon Sam Thompson Babe Ruth Barry Bonds Ty Cobb Willie Mays Hank Aaron Honus Wagner Tris Speaker Stan Musial Rogers Hornsby Eddie Collins Ted Williams Mickey Mantle Lou Gehrig Rickey Henderson Mel Ott Mike Schmidt Frank Robinson Nap Lajoie Joe Morgan Cap Anson Alex Rodriguez Eddie Mathews Jimmie Foxx Al Kaline George Davis Cal Ripken Wade Boggs Carl Yastrzemski Roger Connor George Brett Dan Brouthers Roberto Clemente Joe DiMaggio Charlie Gehringer Jeff Bagwell Rod Carew Ken Griffey Robin Yount Chipper Jones Albert Pujols Sam Crawford Bill Dahlen Frank Thomas Arky Vaughan Pete Rose Paul Molitor Frankie Frisch Ed Delahanty Reggie Jackson Paul Waner Fred Clarke Johnny Bench Johnny Mize Billy Hamilton Lou Whitaker

Cuban OF Luis Robert Reportedly Agrees to Contract With White Sox

The Chicago White Sox have added a big-time prospect in 19-year-old Cuban outfielder Luis Robert, per Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports.

The multitool player has elite speed that will help him on the basepaths and in center field, where he projects to play at the major league level. He also dominated Cuban pitching over the past year, hitting .401 with 12 home runs and 40 RBI in 53 games for Ciego de Avila.

Adding in a strong arm from the outfield, it’s clear why he was worth such a large contract.

“It’s no slam dunk,” a National League scout told Bleacher Report’s Danny Knobler. “But he’s about as freakish a physical package as you’ll see.”

Although the young prospect will likely start in the minors before seeing his skill set translate to success at the next level, his raw ability made him a highly sought-after player on the open market.

Per Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports, the Houston Astros, San Diego Padres, Oakland Athletics and Cincinnati Reds all sent top scouts to see him, with the St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago ending up as the most likely.

In the end, the White Sox won the bidding war and have added a high-upside player to an already solid farm system.

The team also has a solid foundation of Cubans between Jose Abreu and top prospect Yoan Moncada.

Although the signing restricts the organization from adding another international player for more than $300,000, this could be worth it if Robert lives up to his billing.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Source: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2710538-cuban-of-luis-robert-reportedly-agrees-to-contract-with-white-sox

Bill Dickey Enos Slaughter Bob Johnson Jimmy Collins Norm Cash Minnie Minoso Jason Giambi Jose Cruz Bob Elliott Harry Hooper Cesar Cedeno Buck Ewing Ron Cey Jimmy Sheckard Mickey Cochrane Tommy Leach Sam Rice Ted Simmons Ichiro Suzuki Max Carey Fred McGriff George Sisler Tony Perez Gabby Hartnett Chet Lemon Luis Aparicio Kiki Cuyler Hugh Duffy Frank Chance Brian Downing John McGraw Vada Pinson Joe Tinker Gene Tenace King Kelly Johnny Evers Joe Sewell Tony Lazzeri Bobby Doerr Ellis Burks Hughie Jennings Tony Phillips Fielder Jones Larry Doby Larry Doyle Fred Lynn Bernie Williams Cupid Childs Mark Grace Toby Harrah Harry Stovey Edd Roush Orlando Cepeda Mike Cameron Johnny Damon Sam Thompson Babe Ruth Barry Bonds Ty Cobb Willie Mays Hank Aaron Honus Wagner Tris Speaker Stan Musial Rogers Hornsby Eddie Collins Ted Williams Mickey Mantle Lou Gehrig Rickey Henderson Mel Ott Mike Schmidt Frank Robinson Nap Lajoie Joe Morgan Cap Anson Alex Rodriguez Eddie Mathews Jimmie Foxx Al Kaline George Davis Cal Ripken Wade Boggs Carl Yastrzemski Roger Connor George Brett

MLB Power Rankings: Where All 30 Teams Stand Entering Week 8

If we’ve learned anything this baseball season, it’s that not all divisions are created equal.

This week’s power rankings show three NL West teams among the top seven and four AL East clubs with at least a .500 record and ranked inside the top 16.

Meanwhile, the NL East has just one team ranked higher than the No. 22 spot, and the AL Central leaders remain clustered outside the top 10.

The Houston Astros stay in the top spot this week as we have a repeat No. 1 team for the first time this month, but there was once again plenty of shuffling below that, including a red-hot Texas Rangers team that vaulted into the top 10.

As always, this is a fluid process, as teams rise and fall based on where they were ranked the previous week. If a team keeps winning, it will keep climbing—it’s as simple as that.

With that in mind, here’s an updated look at where all 30 teams stand:

  Updated Rankings  
1 img Astros (29-15) img
2 img Rockies (28-17) img1
3 img Nationals (26-17) img1
4 img Yankees (25-16) img
5 img Orioles (25-17) img
6 img D-backs (26-19) img5
7 img Dodgers (26-19) img
8 img Rangers (24-21) img7
9 img Brewers (25-19) img1
10 img Cardinals (22-19) img4
11 img Indians (23-19)
img1
12 img Cubs (22-20) img1
13 img Red Sox (22-21) img4
14 img Twins (22-18) img4
15 img Tigers (21-21) img1
16 img Rays (23-23) img6
17 img Angels (23-23) img2
18 img Giants (19-26) img7
19 img Pirates (20-24) img7
20 img White Sox (20-22) img3
21 img Mariners (20-25) img3
22 img Braves (18-23) img6
23 img Blue Jays (19-26) img7
24 img Athletics (20-24) img
25 img Royals (18-25) img4
26 img Reds (20-23) img6
27 img Mets (18-24) img4
28 img Phillies (15-26) img1
29 img Marlins (15-28) img
30 img Padres (16-30) img

 

Biggest Risers

Texas Rangers (up seven spots)

With 11 wins in their last 12 gamesincluding a 10-game winning streak that came to an end Saturdaythe Rangers are the hottest team in baseball and the biggest risers in this week’s rankings.

They tallied a plus-34 run differential during that 12-game span and made up three games in the standings on the first-place Astros, who now hold a 5.5-game lead in the AL West.

Any time you win, it’s a good night,” first baseman Mike Napoli told Jason Beck and T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com. ”We’re playing good baseball, getting good pitching, timely hitting and playing good defense. That’s how you want to do it.”

Andrew Cashner (4 GS, 2.16 ERA), Yu Darvish (4 GS, 2.52 ERA) and Martin Perez (3 GS, 2.79 ERA) have all been terrific since the calendar turned over to May, while closer Matt Bush has converted all four save chances and worked 7.2 innings without allowing an earned run.

Meanwhile, Napoli has a .911 OPS with seven home runs this month after hitting .146 with a .505 OPS and a 30.3 percent strikeout rate in April.

Now the question will be whether they can keep things rolling on the road.

Eight of the 10 wins during their streak came at home, where they’ve gone 16-8 on the year, compared to 8-13 with a minus-eight run differential away Globe Life Park.

It was a similar story last season when they were 53-28 with a plus-34 run differential at home and 42-39 with a minus-26 mark on the road.

After sweeping the Philadelphia Phillies and taking two of three from the Detroit Tigers last week, trips to Boston and Toronto await on the upcoming slate.

    

Pittsburgh Pirates (up seven spots)

The Pittsburgh Pirates bottomed out at No. 26 in these rankings last week after their record dropped to 14-22 following a six-game losing streak.

However, after taking the final two games of their series with the Arizona Diamondbacks to salvage a split, they picked up an impressive series win over the Washington Nationals before taking two of three from the Phillies to close out the week.

That marks the first time this season they’ve won consecutive series, and they have a great opportunity to climb back above the .500 mark against the Atlanta Braves and New York Mets this week.

Gerrit Cole has rattled off eight consecutive quality starts, posting a 2.25 ERA and 0.96 WHIP during that span and once again looking like a bona fide ace in the process.

On the offensive side, rookie first baseman Josh Bell has an .859 OPS with six doubles and five home runs this month, and thus far the team has managed to muddle through the loss of Starling Marte.

There’s still work to do righting the ship after such a rocky start, but they’re headed in the right direction once again.

    

San Francisco Giants (up seven spots)

Maybe a series win over the rival Los Angeles Dodgers was exactly what the Giants needed to kickstart their 2017 season.

That three-game set is part of a 7-2 stretch for the Giants on the heels of a 12-24 start.

They’re doing it without ace Madison Bumgarner, as the team has seemingly rallied around his unfortunate off-field injury to begin climbing back up the NL West standings.

Buster Posey has been as hot as any hitter in baseball this month with a .371/.451/.694 line that includes six home runs. He’s hitting .362 on the year—second only to Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner (.379) among qualified hitters.

Improved pitching has been the real difference-maker, though.

Jeff Samardzija is pitching well alongside Johnny Cueto after a rocky start, and the bullpen has rounded into form around the standout late-inning duo of Derek Law and Mark Melancon.

A four-game series in Chicago against the Cubs kicks off the upcoming week before the Giants play host to the Braves over the weekend.

  

Biggest Fallers

Toronto Blue Jays (down seven spots)

The Blue Jays have been as high as No. 7 and as low as No. 29 in these rankings already this year.

After checking in as the “biggest riser” a week ago and looking like a team that was finally figuring things out, they once again tumble back down to the No. 23 spot following series losses to the Braves and Orioles.

Aaron Sanchez is back on the disabled list with a finger laceration where he joins J.A. Happ (elbow inflammation) and Francisco Liriano (shoulder inflammation).

In their absence, the team has struggled to field a viable rotation as guys like Joe Biagini, Mike Bolsinger, Mat Latos and Casey Lawrence get hit hard in spot-start duty.

Meanwhile, the offense is still without a pair of heavy hitters in Josh Donaldson and Troy Tulowitzki, who’ve been sorely missed.

On a positive note, second baseman Devon Travis put together a huge week at the plate, going 13-for-24 with six doubles and a home run. He may be snapping out of a lengthy early slump.

With off days on Monday and Thursday this coming week, they’ll have a chance to recharge a bit before taking on the streaking Rangers over the weekend.

    

Cincinnati Reds (down six spots)

The Cincinnati Reds held a half-game lead in the NL Central standings May 7.

Since then, they’ve gone 3-9 with a minus-25 run differential and slipped to fourth place in the standings.

Starting pitching remains the most glaring issue on the roster, and it was front and center in their struggles last week.

Bronson Arroyo, Lisalverto Bonilla, Amir Garrett, Tim Adleman and Scott Feldman went 0-5 with an 11.33 ERA in seven combined starts. What was already the worst starters’ ERA in baseball ballooned to 5.93 in the process.

A home/road series with the Cleveland Indians gets things rolling this coming week before they head off to Philadelphia for a three-game set with the Phillies.

Since the Pirates are playing well of late, it might be only a matter of time before the Reds slip into the NL Central cellar.

  

MVPs of the Week

AL MVP: RF J.D. Martinez, DET

Stats: 7-for-18, 4 HR, 9 RBI, 7 R, 10 BB

J.D. Martinez missed the first 32 games of the season recovering from a foot injury suffered during spring training, but he’s set right to work making up for lost time since returning.

The 29-year-old slugger is hitting .407/.579/1.074 with six home runs and 12 RBI in his first nine games, including a pair of multihomer games.

He’s also walked 11 times against just seven strikeouts.

Free agency awaits in the offseason, and Martinez could wind up being the biggest bat available when the trade market kicks into gear this summer. Either way, he’ll position himself nicely for a hefty payday if he comes anywhere close to sustaining his early production.

  

NL MVP: SP Carlos Martinez, STL

Stats: 1 GS, ND, 9.0 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 5 K

Carlos Martinez is still searching for his first career shutout.

He did everything in his power to notch No. 1 on Saturday, scattering two hits and one walk over nine scoreless innings, but he departed with the game still scoreless and settled for a no-decision.

The Giants ended up winning in 13 innings.

That takes nothing away from a brilliant individual performance from the St. Louis Cardinals’ young ace, as he had everything working and needed just 93 pitches over nine frames.

That’s probably his best start of his career. And part of that was just trusting his defense and making pitches in the bottom. He used everything. The changeup was good. The breaking ball was good. He had it all tonight. It’s just a shame we couldn’t do anything with it,” manager Mike Matheny told Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com.

  

Stats of the Week

Let’s dive right into some of the better nuggets from around the league.

We’ll start with the Rangers, who became the first team to put together a winning streak of double-digit games this season.

The Rangers’ winning streak is the longest in the Majors this year, the fourth-longest in club history and their longest since capturing 12 in a row in 2011,” wrote of Jason Beck and T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com.

Their 8-0 performance during their recent homestand was also just the second time in franchise history that they’ve gone undefeated during a homestand of eight or more games. The other came in May 2005.

They’re still chasing the Astros, though, who got off to the best 41-game start in franchise history at 29-12.

What makes that 41-game mark significant?

Three of the past four teams to win at least 29 of their first 41 games went on to win the World Seriesincluding the Cubs a year ago.

On the individual side of things, Joey Gallo was at it again setting new Statcast records.

With an exit velocity of 114.9 mph, Gallo’s home run off Detroit Tigers starter Daniel Norris on Saturday is now the hardest-hit ball by a left-handed hitter against a left-handed pitcher.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, we have utility infielder Pete Kozma, who is slightly less accustomed to leaving the yard.

Sticking with the home run theme, care to guess how many opposite-field home runs were among the 39 hit by NL MVP Kris Bryant a year ago?

We probably haven’t seen the best of Bryant yet, a scary thought for pitchers everywhere.

We’ll close things out with Andrew Miller, who’s borderline unfair.

Pretty sure that slider is illegal in several countries.

  

Must-See Upcoming Matchup

Arizona Diamondbacks vs. Milwaukee Brewers (May 25-28)

The Diamondbacks and Brewers have been two of the league’s biggest early surprises, checking in at No. 6 and No. 9 in this week’s rankings, respectively.

They’ll meet for the first time this season for a four-game series in Milwaukee this weekend.

Junior Guerra has been sidelined with a calf strain since spring training, but he appears set to be activated from the disabled list, and there’s a good chance he’ll be plugged into the rotation for Friday’s game.

That said, it’s the two offenses that will likely be the focal point of this series.

The Brewers lead the majors with 66 home runs and check in third at 5.3 runs per game, while the Diamondbacks aren’t far behind in either category with 62 home runs (sixth) and 5.0 runs per game (seventh).

Twins vs. Orioles, Rangers vs. Red Sox and Cubs vs. Dodgers are among the other notable head-to-head matchups on tap.

    

All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted and current through Sunday, May 21.

Have thoughts on our new power rankings format or looking for someone to yell at about where your favorite team was slotted in the latest rankings? I’ll meet you in the comments section.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Source: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2710959-mlb-power-rankings-where-all-30-teams-stand-entering-week-8

Hugh Duffy Frank Chance Brian Downing John McGraw Vada Pinson Joe Tinker Gene Tenace King Kelly Johnny Evers Joe Sewell Tony Lazzeri Bobby Doerr Ellis Burks Hughie Jennings Tony Phillips Fielder Jones Larry Doby Larry Doyle Fred Lynn Bernie Williams Cupid Childs Mark Grace Toby Harrah Harry Stovey Edd Roush Orlando Cepeda Mike Cameron Johnny Damon Sam Thompson Babe Ruth Barry Bonds Ty Cobb Willie Mays Hank Aaron Honus Wagner Tris Speaker Stan Musial Rogers Hornsby Eddie Collins Ted Williams Mickey Mantle Lou Gehrig Rickey Henderson Mel Ott Mike Schmidt Frank Robinson Nap Lajoie Joe Morgan Cap Anson Alex Rodriguez Eddie Mathews Jimmie Foxx Al Kaline George Davis Cal Ripken Wade Boggs Carl Yastrzemski Roger Connor George Brett Dan Brouthers Roberto Clemente Joe DiMaggio Charlie Gehringer Jeff Bagwell Rod Carew Ken Griffey Robin Yount Chipper Jones Albert Pujols Sam Crawford Bill Dahlen Frank Thomas Arky Vaughan Pete Rose Paul Molitor Frankie Frisch Ed Delahanty Reggie Jackson Paul Waner Fred Clarke Johnny Bench Johnny Mize Billy Hamilton Lou Whitaker Harry Heilmann Brooks Robinson Luke Appling Barry Larkin Derek Jeter Tony Gwynn Jesse Burkett Bobby Grich Carlton Fisk Duke Snider Edgar Martinez Larry Walker Jim Thome Alan Trammell Eddie Murray Jim Edmonds Ivan Rodriguez Pee Wee Reese Ron Santo Gary Carter Manny Ramirez Craig Biggio Rafael Palmeiro Willie McCovey Kenny Lofton Tim Raines Ozzie Smith Ernie Banks Frank Baker Roberto Alomar Al Simmons Gary Sheffield Mark McGwire Reggie Smith Jackie Robinson Goose Goslin Joe Jackson Joe Cronin Scott Rolen Ryne Sandberg Dwight Evans Yogi Berra Jake Beckley Graig Nettles Harmon Killebrew Dick Allen Keith Hernandez Willie Keeler Buddy Bell Sal Bando Willie Randolph Bobby Wallace Jimmy Wynn Dave Winfield Sammy Sosa Jeff Kent Mike Piazza Sherry Magee Jack Glasscock Andruw Jones Ken Boyer Richie Ashburn Bid McPhee Zack Wheat Willie Stargell Will Clark Todd Helton Billy Williams Willie Davis Vladimir Guerrero Bobby Abreu Darrell Evans Bobby Bonds Hank Greenberg Andre Dawson John Olerud Elmer Flick Joe Medwick Lou Boudreau Billy Herman Joe Torre Joe Kelley Bill Terry Robin Ventura Jack Clark Joe Gordon Stan Hack Carlos Beltran Bill Dickey Enos Slaughter Bob Johnson Jimmy Collins Norm Cash Minnie Minoso Jason Giambi Jose Cruz Bob Elliott Harry Hooper Cesar Cedeno Buck Ewing Ron Cey Jimmy Sheckard Mickey Cochrane Tommy Leach Sam Rice Ted Simmons Ichiro Suzuki Max Carey Fred McGriff George Sisler Tony Perez Gabby Hartnett Chet Lemon Luis Aparicio Kiki Cuyler Hugh Duffy

Mets GM Sandy Alderson Says Team Is Changing Way It Handles Injuries

New York Mets general manager Sandy Alderson revealed on Friday that the team is going to change the way it handles injuries in the wake of the team sending a slew of players to the disabled list this season, according to the Associated Press (via ESPN.com).

Among the major changes will be Alderson meeting daily with his training staff “to provide context for the decisions that we have to make from day to day based on information that not only arises that day, but may have been sort of gestating over a period of days.” 

The front office will also be communicating more frequently with its spring training complex in Port St. Lucie, Florida.

As for more substantial changes, Alderson said that “might require a little more in the way of investigation and research that sometimes requires a little time.”

It isn’t hard to see why the Mets might want to make some adjustments to how they handle injuries. The team’s two biggest stars, Noah Syndergaard and Yoenis Cespedes, are currently on the DL, along with Asdrubal CabreraTravis d’ArnaudSteven Matz, Seth Lugo, David Wright and Jeurys Familia.

Syndergaard’s injury in particular was controversial, as the AP outlined:

“Syndergaard partially tore the latissimus dorsi behind his right arm on April 30, a few days after refusing an MRI while dealing with biceps and shoulder discomfort. He’ll be out until at least after the All-Star break.

“Alderson acknowledged at the time that skipping the MRI eliminated ‘some information that probably would have been useful,’ but also said the test may not have prevented a DL trip. That injury followed an offseason in which Syndergaard claimed to add 17 pounds of muscle, although Alderson said May 6 that Syndergaard only added three pounds of weight.”

In turn, the Mets have started the season with a disappointing 17-23 record.

Given that the Mets have made the postseason the past two seasons and the World Series in 2015, anything less than October baseball would be a major disappointment for the club. If they can’t get a handle on their rash of injuries, however, the 2017 season could be a bleak one.

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Source: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2710777-mets-gm-sandy-alderson-says-team-is-changing-way-it-handles-injuries

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A Jones Rematch Awaits Alexander Gustafsson If He Can Return to Form at FN 109

There was a time when Alexander Gustafsson mauled the greatest to ever do it.

With no one expecting much going into UFC 165, the Swede tore into Toronto and beat Jon Jones from pillar to post in a way no one ever had.

He bloodied and battered the champion, repeatedly smashing him with combinations and even scoring a takedown. It wasn’t enough, with Jones digging deep late in the bout to narrowly come out ahead on the scorecards, but a star was born.

Gustafsson had arrived, doing more for himself in his second career loss than he had in his previous 15 victories.

That was nearly four years ago, and on Sunday, Gustafsson returns to action for only the fifth time since that, the crowning achievement of his MMA career. That such a crown was earned in a memorable loss, and that he has been largely inactive since, is perhaps instructive of his place in the sport.

Because of the shallowness of the light heavyweight class and the incapacity of those lurking on its fringes to move forward, Gustafsson has remained among the top few contenders at the weight since he fought Jones.

This comes despite his being 2-2 since, on the wrong end of Anthony Johnson’s thunder and a memorable decision against Daniel Cormier. Gustafsson has dispatched the foes he should in that time, but the wins have been uninspired, more a matter of “when” than “if” based on the caliber of opposition.

There is a case to be made that, coming out of the near-defeat of Jones, The Mauler squandered his prime.

He was as hot a commodity as the promotion had at 205, with Johnson not even in the UFC and Cormier not even at the weight. He looked like he could be setting up for a run at greatness.

He had size, he was more athletic than most realized and he appeared to be rounding out his arsenal with an eye on capturing gold.

Instead, what followed was a win over Jimi Manuwa and multiple yearlong layoffs and mixed results, interspersed with talk of retirement.

It was a confounding run, one that left people frustrated that someone with so much potential was treading water.

Yet thanks to the noted shallow division and incapacity of others to rise the ranks, Gustafsson has a chance to right the ship on Sunday.

Should he beat Glover Teixeira, another man pressed against the glass ceiling of contendership that separates Jones and Cormier from everyone else, Gustafsson may well springboard himself into a rematch with Jones.

Jones will return at UFC 214 to fight Cormier, and with a win, he’ll regain the title he lost to his own stupidity back in 2015. That win would likely provide a runback of the fight everyone loved so much in 2013, as the UFC would surely fancy a chance to pit Jones against the only man to ever challenge him.

It would represent a roundabout way for Gustafsson to get the fight, but he’d get it nonetheless. The best way to excite people about it would be for him to dispatch Teixeira with precision and viciousness, two things that have been agonizingly absent since he poured his heart and soul into the first dance with Jones.

Should he do that, people may be quick to see it and be inspired about his chances against Jones, particularly in light of their first meeting and his reputation for rising to his level of competition.

It remains a formidable condition, though, this ability of Gustafsson to look as excellent as most would suggest he is. In the face of a stretch of fits and starts that is being measured by years, it is hard to know what to expect on Sunday.

Still, the money, fame and opportunity that comes with a shot at Jones might be just the thing to bring Gustafsson out of his shell for the first time in a while. 

That prospect alone makes his upcoming scrap a can’t-miss proposition.

     

Follow me on Twitter @matthewjryder.

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Source: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2711362-a-jones-rematch-awaits-alexander-gustafsson-if-he-can-return-to-form-at-fn-109

Scott Rolen Ryne Sandberg Dwight Evans Yogi Berra Jake Beckley Graig Nettles Harmon Killebrew Dick Allen Keith Hernandez Willie Keeler Buddy Bell Sal Bando Willie Randolph Bobby Wallace Jimmy Wynn Dave Winfield Sammy Sosa Jeff Kent Mike Piazza Sherry Magee Jack Glasscock Andruw Jones Ken Boyer Richie Ashburn Bid McPhee Zack Wheat Willie Stargell Will Clark Todd Helton Billy Williams Willie Davis Vladimir Guerrero Bobby Abreu Darrell Evans Bobby Bonds Hank Greenberg Andre Dawson John Olerud Elmer Flick Joe Medwick Lou Boudreau Billy Herman Joe Torre Joe Kelley Bill Terry Robin Ventura Jack Clark Joe Gordon Stan Hack Carlos Beltran Bill Dickey Enos Slaughter Bob Johnson Jimmy Collins Norm Cash Minnie Minoso Jason Giambi Jose Cruz Bob Elliott Harry Hooper Cesar Cedeno Buck Ewing Ron Cey Jimmy Sheckard Mickey Cochrane Tommy Leach Sam Rice Ted Simmons Ichiro Suzuki Max Carey Fred McGriff George Sisler Tony Perez Gabby Hartnett Chet Lemon Luis Aparicio Kiki Cuyler Hugh Duffy Frank Chance Brian Downing John McGraw Vada Pinson Joe Tinker Gene Tenace King Kelly Johnny Evers Joe Sewell Tony Lazzeri Bobby Doerr Ellis Burks Hughie Jennings Tony Phillips Fielder Jones Larry Doby Larry Doyle Fred Lynn Bernie Williams Cupid Childs Mark Grace Toby Harrah Harry Stovey Edd Roush Orlando Cepeda Mike Cameron Johnny Damon Sam Thompson Babe Ruth Barry Bonds Ty Cobb Willie Mays Hank Aaron Honus Wagner Tris Speaker Stan Musial Rogers Hornsby Eddie Collins Ted Williams Mickey Mantle Lou Gehrig Rickey Henderson Mel Ott Mike Schmidt Frank Robinson Nap Lajoie Joe Morgan Cap Anson Alex Rodriguez Eddie Mathews Jimmie Foxx Al Kaline George Davis Cal Ripken Wade Boggs Carl Yastrzemski Roger Connor George Brett Dan Brouthers Roberto Clemente Joe DiMaggio Charlie Gehringer Jeff Bagwell Rod Carew Ken Griffey Robin Yount Chipper Jones Albert Pujols Sam Crawford Bill Dahlen Frank Thomas Arky Vaughan Pete Rose Paul Molitor Frankie Frisch Ed Delahanty Reggie Jackson Paul Waner Fred Clarke Johnny Bench Johnny Mize Billy Hamilton Lou Whitaker Harry Heilmann Brooks Robinson Luke Appling Barry Larkin Derek Jeter Tony Gwynn Jesse Burkett Bobby Grich Carlton Fisk Duke Snider Edgar Martinez Larry Walker Jim Thome Alan Trammell Eddie Murray Jim Edmonds Ivan Rodriguez Pee Wee Reese Ron Santo Gary Carter Manny Ramirez Craig Biggio Rafael Palmeiro Willie McCovey Kenny Lofton Tim Raines Ozzie Smith Ernie Banks Frank Baker Roberto Alomar Al Simmons Gary Sheffield Mark McGwire Reggie Smith Jackie Robinson Goose Goslin Joe Jackson Joe Cronin Scott Rolen