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Sports
Spring training opens with turmoil, many moves to make
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Spring training opens with turmoil, many moves to make

Spring training opens with turmoil, many moves to make
Photo Credit: AP Photo/Charlie Riedel, File
FILE - In this June 30, 2017, file photo, Kansas City Royals' Eric Hosmer hits a three-run home run during the fourth inning of a baseball game against the Minnesota Twins, in Kansas City, Mo. Perhaps 100 free agents still seek contracts as the start of spring training workouts on Feb. 14 draws near, a group that includes J.D. Martinez, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Jake Arrieta and Yu Darvish.(AP Photo/Charlie Riedel, File)

Spring training opens with turmoil, many moves to make

The Boston Red Sox plan to print 5,000 copies of their media guide during the last week of February. Their opening-day roster could include several players who won't make the deadline.

Perhaps 100 free agents still seek contracts as the start of spring training workouts on Feb. 14 draws near, a group that includes J.D. Martinez, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Jake Arrieta and Yu Darvish.

In a historically slow market, players and management are feuding publicly about riches and rules, and teams seemingly are seeking bargains like shoppers awaiting a closeout.

"Some guys feel like they're worth a little more than maybe what they're being offered," All-Star outfielder Andrew McCutchen said ahead of his first spring training since Pittsburgh traded him to San Francisco. "It's just all about being fair."

As soon as the Houston Astros won their first World Series title last November , attention turned toward 2018 and the start of stretching in Scottsdale, catching in Clearwater and bunting in Bradenton. But there will be two camps in Bradenton — in addition to the Pirates, based there for the 50th consecutive year, the Major League Baseball Players Association is setting up a free-agent workout facility at the nearby IMG Academy while players wait for the market to thaw.

Job-seekers include pitchers Alex Cobb and Lance Lynn; reliever Greg Holland; infielder Eduardo Nunez; outfielders Carlos Gomez and Carlos Gonzalez; and catcher Jonathan Lucroy.

"There are always going to be some big names available at the beginning of spring training, but there's an exorbitant number this year," New York Mets general manager Sandy Alderson said.

With Cincinnati, Detroit, Miami, Oakland, Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay in the early stage of rebuild mode, and Atlanta, the Chicago White Sox and Philadelphia starting to emerge, it appears about one-third of the 30 teams have little chance for this year's 10 playoff berths. For their fans, hope and faith are longer-term emotions going into opening day on March 29.

Union head Tony Clark labels this offseason a "race to the bottom." Seattle general manager Jerry Dipoto thinks more clubs may be competing for the top 2019 draft pick than for this year's title.

"There is an element or a percentage of the league that's not particularly into signing players that might help them win, but prefer the go the other route," he said. "You have a number of teams that have through the course of the last few years built up to what we have now referenced as super- team status. They may not need to fill those holes, which leaves a team in the middle, let's call it eight to 12 teams, of which we are one, who are surfing through the markets."

And many of the perennial big spenders are cutting back, too. The Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Yankees want to get under the $197 million luxury tax threshold, putting them in better position for a free-agent class next fall that could include Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Josh Donaldson and Clayton Kershaw.

The Yankees did make the splashiest move of the offseason, acquiring big league home run champion Giancarlo Stanton from the Marlins when former New York captain Derek Jeter took over as Miami's chief executive and started a payroll purge.

After losing to the Astros in Game 7 of the AL Championship Series, New York fired manager Joe Girardi and replaced him with Aaron Boone, who has never managed or coached at any level. Other new managers include the Mets' Mickey Callaway , Boston's Alex Cora , Detroit's Ron Gardenhire , Philadelphia's Gabe Kapler and Washington's Dave Martinez .

They may or may not have to maneuver pitch clocks and new limits on mound visits — negotiations with the players' union continue. But a new generation drenched in analytics clearly is comfortable schmoozing about spin rates and launch angles, perfect for Ivy League-GMs and their ever-expanding staffs of programmers. A half-century after the Yankees were led by the M&M boys, the hot area of baseball is R&D.

"I've spent quite a bit of time looking at video and finally spending time on some numbers, which I really enjoy," Kapler said a week after he was hired. "I've always liked digging into what makes a player good at his job."

Mike Scioscia, starting his 19th season with the Angels, is the only manager left hired by his team in the 20th century. But he may have to learn some new moves. Pitcher-outfielder Shohei Ohtani signed with Los Angeles , and Scioscia is considering a six-man rotation to accommodate the special skills of the Japanese star.

"Some guys have proven that they're not as functional with too much rest," Scioscia said, "and some guys thrive on the extra day."

Seeking to follow the Astros' example and win the World Series for the first time, Milwaukee realized its rebuild was ahead of schedule. The Brewers obtained Christian Yelich from the Marlins and signed Lorenzo Cain to an $80 million, five-year contract , thus far the largest free-agent deal of the offseason.

Milwaukee is an outlier this winter.

"Some teams would prefer to let young players get the reps and the opportunities," Dipoto said. "Free agents by and large are players in their 30s, and if the expectation is for a long contract in your 30s, many clubs that are in that middle zone can't afford to strike out on the multi-year deals in the 30s."

If a free agent does sign with the Red Sox late, there's always time for the next publication: The deadline for the press run of 10,000 yearbooks is in mid-March.

___

AP Baseball Writer Janie McCauley and AP Sports Writer Tim Booth contributed to this report.

___

More MLB baseball: https://apnews.com/tags/MLBbaseball

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Even now, anywhere a satellite, radio, TV, video or podcast can reach, his sonorous voice is probably still calling someone to Christ.          Though Graham's shoes could likely never be filled, his son, Franklin, has taken over in some aspects—leading The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and becoming a confidant of President Donald Trump, including speaking at his inauguration.          But Franklin's message has swayed from his father's, leaving a mixed legacy for the Graham name. Franklin has mocked both Islam and LGBT rights. He uses his following on social media to raise funds for 'persecuted Christians,' boycotts businesses that use gay couples in advertisements and blasts the separation of church and state as as the godless successor to Cold War communism.          But his father's words for years offered peace and perspective. On the National Day of Prayer and Remembrance following the 9/11 attacks, Billy Graham spoke of the 'mystery of iniquity and evil,' of 'the lesson of our need for each other' and, ultimately, of hope.          'He was so real, he made Christianity come true.' observed Susan Harding, an anthropologist at the University of California-Santa Cruz. 'He was homespun, historical and newsworthy all at once. He could span the times from Christ to today, from the globe to you, all in one sentence.'          Grant Wacker, a Duke University professor of Christian history, says Graham represented, 'what most decent churchgoing people thought and ought to think.'          His reputation was untouched by sex or financial scandals. When anti-Semitic comments came to light as transcripts of conversations with Richard Nixon surfaced, Graham was promptly and deeply apologetic.          He never built a megachurch, set up a relief agency, launched a political lobby or ran for office. Yet he redefined American Protestant life by popularizing Christianity's core message — Christ died for your sins — downplaying denominational details and proclaiming the joys found in faith.          Graham was, however, drawn to power. Eventually, he met, prayed with, comforted and joked with 12 U.S. presidents, and Graham learned to walk a tightrope.          He found a fine balance that allowed him to become America's pastor, Democrat or Republican. North or South. When President Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky came to light, Graham called for forgiveness. Clinton told Peter Boyer of The New Yorker, 'He took sin seriously. But he took redemption seriously. And it was incredibly powerful the way he did it.'          Former president George W. Bush has said it was a conversation with Graham that turned him from his drinking ways when he was young.          'I've never called him on a specific issue but his influence is bigger than a specific issue, as far as I'm concerned. He warms your soul,' Bush told an ABC 20/20 special on the preacher and politics.          Graham emphasized the joy to be found in belief, in contrast to evangelists such as Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson who routinely issued glowering condemnations of politicians or blamed natural disasters on modern culture. However, Graham did take an uncharacteristically political stand before the 2012 presidential election. He authorized full page ads in major newspapers in October urging people to vote for politicians who opposed same-sex marriage on 'biblical principles.'          He brought to the microphone a 'corny but effective humor,' Wacker says, which made him a convivial talk-show guest. Graham logged more than 50 radio or television interviews with Larry King alone. YouTube has a tape of Woody Allen interviewing the evangelist, who draws almost as many laughs as the caustic, agnostic comedian.          The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association he founded, now led by his son, Franklin, used every communications innovation possible to carry the Gospel to any willing heart on Earth. More than 214 million people in 195 cities and territories heard God's call in Graham's voice and witnessed him deliver the Gospel in person or by satellite links. His projects included founding             Christianity Today magazine in 1956 and writing more than 30 books.          High among his numerous honors: The Congressional Gold Medal awarded to Billy and Ruth in 1996, the Presidential Medal of Freedom awarded to him in 1983, and the Templeton Foundation Prize for Progress in Religion in 1982. He even has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.          'Fundamentalists saw him as excessively liberal, and liberals saw him as too literalist in talking about sin and salvation. His wonderful balance between them is critical to his legacy,' says John Wilson, editor of             Books & Culture, a sister publication of             Christianity Today magazine            .  Graham's last decades were slowed by illness and injury. He was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 1989, felled by broken bones, bouts of hydrocephalous and rounds of pneumonia.          Age, illness and bone-breaking falls had left him struggling to deliver 20-minute sermons.   Graham's last crusade, in June 2005 in New York City, drew 242,000 people to Flushing Meadows; 8,786 made a new commitment to Christ and thousands more renewed or rejoiced in their faith.          Then he retired to his Montreat, N.C., mountaintop log cabin home (where his five children grew up mostly without their traveling father) to spend his days with his beloved wife, Ruth. They shared Bible study, devotions and an endless recycling of the movie musicals she loved to watch. Those were bittersweet days, with Ruth bedridden and Billy relying on a walker. Their frequent prayer was, 'Help me, Lord.'          At her funeral in June 2007, Graham called Ruth the finest Christian he ever knew. Graham lived through the explosion of religious diversity in America, the rise of the human potential movement and the trend to personalized spirituality. He also lived to see many tire of lonely seeking or a high-minded hopscotch from church to church, religion to religion.          Yet he remained steadfast in his response. In 1996, when he and Ruth were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, he once more shared his faith in God with some of the most powerful men on Earth:          'As Ruth and I receive this award, we know that some day we will lay it at the feet of the one we seek to serve.
  • The Rev. Billy Graham, who transformed American religious life through his preaching and activism, becoming a counselor to presidents and the most widely heard Christian evangelist in history, has died. Spokesman Mark DeMoss says Graham, who long suffered from cancer, pneumonia and other ailments, died at his home in North Carolina on Wednesday morning. He was 99. Graham reached more than 200 million through his appearances and millions more through his pioneering use of television and radio. Unlike many traditional evangelists, he abandoned narrow fundamentalism to engage broader society.