CHICAGO (AP) — Kobe Bryant was one of eight finalists announced as candidates for enshrinement into the Basketball Hall of Fame later this year, a decision that came as absolutely no surprise in his first year of eligibility. Joining Bryant Friday as first-time finalists for the Hall: 15-time All-Star Tim Duncan, fellow 15-time All-Star Kevin Garnett and 10-time WNBA All-Star and four-time Olympic gold medalist Tamika Catchings. The other finalists have all been to this point previously: Baylor women’s coach Kim Mulkey, former Houston Rockets coach Rudy Tomjanovich, five-time Division II women’s coach of the year Barbara Stevens of Bentley, and four-time national men’s college coach of the year Eddie Sutton.
UNDATED (AP) — NL MVP Cody Bellinger, All-Star pitcher Trevor Bauer and others around the major leagues are hammering the Houston Astros for their sign-stealing scam and their apologies this week. Washington Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo says the Astros still haven't gone far enough to take responsibility for what they did and the damage it caused. Major League Baseball found the Astros illegally stole signs during their run to the 2017 World Series championship and also used the scam in 2018. Dodgers pitcher Alex Wood says he thinks Houston hitters will face retaliation from opposing pitchers this season.
GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — NL MVP Cody Bellinger thinks Houston's José Altuve stole the 2017 AL MVP award from the Yankees' Aaron Judge and the Astros swiped that year's World Series title from the Los Angeles Dodgers. Bellinger criticized Astros owner Jim Crane’s attempt at an apology and called MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred's punishment weak. Dodgers pitcher Alex Wood says Astros batters might face on-field retaliation from opposing pitchers. Houston Manager AJ Hinch and Jeff Luhnow were suspended for one season each, and the team was fined $5 million and stripped of its first- and second-round draft picks in 2020 and '21.
UNDATED (AP) — Amazingly, this is still a thing as we begin the third decade of the 21st century. A handful of colleges refuse to let go of antiquated nicknames that adorn their female programs. Most notably, that group of teams includes the No. 2 Baylor Lady Bears. Well, it's time for this sexist practice to take its rightful place in the waste bin of history, though there might be a few exceptions that require more debate. The NCAA should speed the process along, just as it did in largely ridding the college landscape of monikers that were offensive to many Native Americans.
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Justin Verlander elected not to throw his scheduled bullpen session and No. 2 starter Zack Grienke isn't even in camp yet, adding to an unusual start to Houston's spring training. Verlander's name appeared on Houston's daily schedule as a thrower, but a team spokesman said Verlander threw a 60-pitch bullpen on Tuesday before camp opened and requested “a little extra time before he threw again.” Grienke isn't expected to arrive in camp until Feb. 22 — opening day of the Astros' Grapefruit League schedule. His absence is not a surprise to the club. Astros manager Dusty Baker said Grienke is 100% healthy.
FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) — Kenta Maeda wonders whether the Astros’ sign stealing affected the performance of teammate Yu Darvish during the Los Angeles Dodgers' 2017 World Series loss to Houston. Darvish lost Games 3 and 7. He gave up nine runs over just 3 1/3 total innings with two walks and no strikeouts. He didn’t make it out of the second innings in either game. Maeda didn’t think it sign-stealing affected his performance. He gave up a tying, three-run homer in Game 5 to José Altuve ina game Houston went on to win.
MESA, Ariz. (AP) — New Oakland infielder Tony Kemp got called up by Houston in September 2017 and says he was asked whether he wanted to be part of the Astros' sign-stealing system. He said no and now says what his former club did was wrong. Kemp plans to speak individually with his teammates on the A's now and be available for any questions they have as spring training gets underway. Kemp spoke with former Houston teammate and whistleblower Mike Fiers as well as manager Bob Melvin as he arrived in Arizona. Kemp will get regular work at second base this spring.