Are you ready for some football?

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Are you ready for some football?

The NFL season may be over (at least in terms of games -- the off-season is a season unto itself) but pro football is not gone completely. In just two short weeks the San Jose SaberCats will kick off their 16th season in the Arena Football League. Only long-time head coach Darren Arbet isn't exactly looking at it that way.The 2012 campaign will mark just the team's second season since its 2008 Arena Bowl loss to Philadelphia. As SaberCats fans are well aware the AFL closed its doors shortly after ArenaBowl XXII and was revived in 2010 after some major restructuring. The 'Cats didn't return until last season and quickly learned it was indeed a whole new league.San Jose's 7-11 record marked its worst since Darren Arbet's first season with the 'Cats in 1999.Anyone who watched last year's team knows lady luck was not on their side as the injuries were ridiculous. San Jose suited up 57 different players over the course of 18 games. Fifty-seven! AFL teams only have 24-man rosters.But Arbet told me this week he refuses to blame the injuries for the SaberCats' struggles."Obviously I didn't do enough homework on the players and understand the league," he said. "Now I have a better feel by being thrown into that fire last year and we feel pretty good about it."Knowing the players and the league was hardly the only obstacle Arbet encountered in 2011. So too was the reality that the new version of the AFL was a stark contrast from the original in terms of structure. Gone were the multi-year contracts and six-figure salaries for the league's stars. In its place was a revised modest pay-per-game wage table and mostly one-year deals.It's a new reality that forces most of the players in the league to hold down second jobs as they still pursue their football dreams. That takes some getting used to.Arbet told me he's well aware of the needs of his players to support their families and attempts to accommodate them as much as possible. But he still wants to win.Nothing illustrated that point more than his cross-country trip over the offseason, in which he traveled from Oklahoma to Florida and beyond to personally recruit some of the league's biggest stars to relocate to San Jose. It was a stark contrast from the previous year when he hired an assistant to do his "recruiting." And it paid big dividends.The 'Cats waiver wire signings read like a who's who in the AFL. The new additions include:2-time All-Arena WR Huey Whitaker
2011 All-Arena DB Andre Jones
2011 All-Arena DL Tim McGill
2-time All-IronMan selection WRDB Jason Geathers
2011 AFL O-lineman of the year Rich Ranglin
2010 All-Arena DB Vince HillThat's one heck of a crop. Now it's Arbet's job to make them mesh.A week into camp he likes what he sees."They're working together, they're working hard," he said. "They're doing what it takes to win football games."So yes, optimism is back as the SaberCats gear up for 2012, but if you are planning on cheering them on this year, be sure to buy a program. With just nine returning players off last year's team in training camp there's little doubt you'll need it. ------------------On the Air with the 'CatsCSN Bay Area will again be the TV home of the SaberCats as we are set to broadcast 14 of their 18 games. If you can't catch the telecast you can catch them on the radio on KNBR-1050. Yours truly will be handling the radio play-by-play for a number of their games this season, including the season opener March 10th against Arizona.

Team USA dominates Puerto Rico to win 2017 World Baseball Classic

Team USA dominates Puerto Rico to win 2017 World Baseball Classic

LOS ANGELES -- Marcus Stroman tossed six hitless innings, Ian Kinsler slugged a two-run homer and the United States routed Puerto Rico 8-0 on Wednesday night to win its first World Baseball Classic in four tries.

Stroman dominated the tournament's highest-scoring team. Puerto Rico lost for the first time in eight games after outscoring the opposition 55-26. The U.S. territory finished runner-up for the second time, having lost to the Dominican Republic in the 2013 final.

Stroman, who was named the tournament's MVP, avenged his shakiness in the Americans' 6-5 loss to Puerto Rico during pool play. The right-hander from the Toronto Blue Jays retired the side on three grounders to open the game. In all, he gave up one hit, struck out three and walked one on 73 pitches.

He allowed just three balls past the infield until Angel Pagan's double in the left-field corner leading off the seventh, when Stroman departed to a standing ovation, having staked the Americans to a 7-0 lead.

Stroman walked Carlos Beltran leading off the second, but the defense helped him out. Yadier Molina hit the ball to shortstop Brandon Crawford, who started a double play before Stroman struck out Javier Baez to end the inning.

The U.S. pounded out 13 hits and finished with a 6-2 record while making the final for the first time in front of 51,565 at Dodger Stadium.

Kinsler homered off an 0-1 pitch from Seth Lugo into left-center field in the third, scoring Jonathan Lucroy, who singled leading off.

Lugo of the New York Mets allowed four runs and five hits, struck out seven and walked four in four innings. The right-hander won his first two starts of the tournament, including in the second round against Stroman and the U.S.

In that game, Stroman gave up six consecutive singles in a four-run first inning and took the loss against Puerto Rico last Friday in San Diego.

The Americans made it 4-0 in the fifth on RBI singles by Christian Yelich and Andrew McCutchen.

Fans wore flags of both countries as capes and decorated their faces in team colors. Puerto Rico boosters pounded cowbells, tooted horns and blew whistles early on before their team fell behind 4-0.

Fans were on their feet chanting "U-S-A" when the Americans loaded the bases in the seventh with two outs. They were rewarded with Crawford's two-run single that chased J.C. Romero, extending the lead to 6-0.

The U.S. tacked on another run on Giancarlo Stanton's RBI single off Hiram Burgos past diving shortstop Francisco Lindor.

Burgos' wild pitch moved runners to second and third before he walked Lucroy to load the bases a second time. Kinsler flied out to end the inning.

The Americans led 8-0 in the eighth on McCutchen's RBI single with two outs.

The U.S. defeated two-time champion Japan, while Puerto Rico beat the Netherlands to reach the final.

The three games at Dodger Stadium drew 109,892.

Instant Replay: Kings blown out by Bucks, Antetokounmpo at home

Instant Replay: Kings blown out by Bucks, Antetokounmpo at home

BOX SCORE

SACRAMENTO -- The Milwaukee Bucks are where the Sacramento Kings hope to be in two seasons - young, athletic and on their way to the playoffs. Wednesday night at Golden 1 Center, the visiting team jumped all of the Kings early on their way to a 116-98 win. 

The Greek Freak didn’t let up on his fellow countryman, Georgios Papagiannis. Giannis Antetokounmpo went at the Kings from the opening tip, finishing the night with 32 points, 13 rebounds, six assists, two steals and a block.  

Former Kings Jason Terry and Spencer Hawes heard boos every time they touched the ball. Unfortunately for Sacramento, they hit almost every shot they took, combining for 19 points on 6-for-9 shooting.

Greg Monroe added 15 points and five rebounds. Mirza Teletovic finished with 13 points off the bench and Khris Middleton hit 3-for-6 from long range to score 13. 

Rookie Buddy Hield put on a shooting clinic. The 22-year-old shooting guard dropped in 8-of-16 from the field on his way to 21 points and four rebounds

Darren Collison set up his teammates from the opening tip. The veteran point guard dropped in 10 points and a team-high seven assists, but it wasn’t nearly enough.

Garrett Temple stepped up his scoring, chipping in 12 points on 5-for-7 shooting and chipped in three rebounds in the loss. 

Willie Cauley-Stein stuffed the stat sheet with 10 points, seven rebounds, two assists and four blocks. 

Arron Afflalo started at the small forward position and added 12 on 5-of-9 shooting. Tyreke Evans came off the bench, posting 18 points in 20 minutes of action behind Afflalo.

Skal Labissiere managed to shake off a rough first half to drop in eight points and grab eight rebounds, and fellow rookie Georgios Papagiannis picked up four points, seven rebounds and two blocks in 23 minutes off Dave Joerger’s bench.  

STANDOUT PERFORMER

Antetokounmpo was as advertised and more. The 6-foot-11 forward gave the Kings fits from start to finish on his way to another huge performance.

TURNING POINT

The Bucks blew up in the first half, scoring 69 points on 61.4 percent shooting from the field and 50 percent from 3-point range. This game was over before the teams headed in for the break.

INJURY UPDATE 

Kosta Koufos and Ty Lawson both missed the game for scheduled rest. Rookie Malachi Richardson is out with a right hamstring thickness tear, but is expected back soon. Rudy Gay is out for the year with a torn left Achilles. 

WHAT'S NEXT 

The Kings hit the road again following the game against Milwaukee. They will face the Golden State Warriors on Friday evening at Oracle Arena, followed by a stop in Los Angeles on Sunday to visit the Clippers.