Robinson Cano in one of his worst slumps ever

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Robinson Cano in one of his worst slumps ever

From Comcast SportsNetNEW YORK (AP) -- Hitless at the plate, Robinson Cano isn't getting a break with the umpires, either.The slumping All-Star second baseman could only plead his case to no avail Sunday after a missed call by an umpire helped the Detroit Tigers beat the New York Yankees 3-0.And just like that, the Tigers once again tagged the Yankees, taking a 2-0 lead in the AL championship series."We've just got to forget about these two games," Cano said.And the task doesn't figure to get easier in Game 3 at Detroit on Tuesday, when the Yankees face AL MVP Justin Verlander."Maybe a little change of scenery might be good," Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez said. "It's definitely not an ideal situation. You'd rather be up 2-0 and facing a Triple-A pitcher. That would be nice."An MVP-caliber player for much of the summer, Cano has been a fall flop -- all the more stunning given that he finished the regular season with 24 hits in his final 39 at-bats.And it's not just him. Four-hit by Anibal Sanchez and Phil Coke in Game 2, the Yankees are batting .205 in the playoffs (53 for 258), including 10 for 50 with runners in scoring position."We've been through stretches like this all year," said Rodriguez, hitting .130 (3 for 23) with no RBIs. "It's been a very volatile stock market for us this year."Cano is hitless in 26 straight at-bats, a record for a single postseason, and 2 for 32 overall (.063)."It is odd," manager Joe Girardi said. "You know this is a really, really good hitter that is struggling right now, and he's not getting a lot of pitches to hit."Cano's failure to run hard out of the batter's box has become glaring. And he let the ball pop out of his hand in the seventh inning, allowing Detroit's first run to score on Delmon Young's grounder instead of trying for an inning-ending double play."He is capable of making it. He knows that he has to get rid of it quickly," Girardi said. "I am not sure if he gets rid of it quickly he is safe. He knows it's going to be a bang-bang, so he has to hurry."Then Cano wound up on the wrong side of a call by second base umpire Jeff Nelson, who missed seeing Cano tag Omar Infante. Instead of the Yankees getting the third out, the Tigers expanded their lead with a two-run eighth."If it was the right call, it'd be a different game," Cano said.A week shy of his 30th birthday, Cano is looking forward to a nine-figure contract after the 2013 season, when he can become a free agent. Instead of revving his resume, he's become a big factor in the Bronx Bombers' transformation into Bronx Busts.Cano grounded out four times Sunday, and his 0-for broke the previous mark of 24 for a single postseason set by Baltimore's Bobby Bonilla in 1996, according to STATS LLC. By the end of the game, fans were booing him as loudly as they jeered A-Rod.Derek Jeter's broken ankle seems to have left most of the rest of New York's batting order hurting, too, with Raul Ibanez, Mark Teixeira and Ichiro Suzuki the only consistent threats.Rodriguez is 0 for 18 with 12 strikeouts against right-handers, and fans mocked him with applause when he made contact and flied out. Curtis Granderson is 3 for 26 with 14 Ks, Nick Swisher 4 for 26 and Russell Martin 5 for 26.Girardi sounded peeved about the lack of plate prowess."You have to make adjustments. We know what they are doing to us," he said. "They are not going to put it on a tee for us. We know that. We are more than capable of scoring runs, and have done it a number of times this year."Rodriguez said that when Yankees hitters chased bad pitches, Tigers hurlers "became predator-like" and used "sucker pitchers."Swisher complained about hearing from angry fans in the right-field corner."You're trying to go up there, you're trying to get a hit," he said. "If you don't, people let you know about it. It's a tough spot, but hey, man, I guess that's playing in New York."Hiroki Kuroda had taken a perfect game into the sixth inning and was on the verge of escaping trouble in the seventh. Following Quintin Berry's leadoff double over Granderson in center and a single to right by Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera, Kuroda struck out Prince Fielder and induced a grounder to shortstop from Delmon Young.Jayson Nix, starting in place of Jeter, made a good throw to second, where Cano stepped on the bag, But in transferring the ball for the throw to first, Cano allowed the ball to pop out of his right hand as Berry scored.Kuroda tied his season high with 11 strikeouts, allowing five hits and three runs in 7 2-3 innings. But the Yankees, looking like the old team that they are, have scored just 20 runs in seven postseason games, a figure more appropriate for 1968 than 2012."This game is a very cruel game sometimes," Teixeira said. "When you're hitting, it's fun and you enjoy it, and the team's winning and you're putting up your numbers. When you're cold, it stinks. I've been cold plenty of times, and it's not a fun feeling."

Lynch outcome should determine whether Raiders draft a running back

Lynch outcome should determine whether Raiders draft a running back

It’s officially NFL draft week. Marshawn Lynch still isn’t a Raider.

A contract impasse remained as of Sunday morning, a few days before general manager Reggie McKenzie’s desire for a by-Thursday resolution.

Deadlines, even soft ones, prompt deals. But Marshawn is unique, adding a level of uncertainty to procedings. 

The Raiders would prefer Lynch agree to terms on a new contract so they can acquire his rights from Seattle -- that’s the easier part – and know where they stand heading into the NFL Draft.

McKenzie left several doors cracked during a Friday pre-draft presser, saying Lynch’s presence wouldn’t stop him from drafting a rusher, not having the Oakland native wouldn’t guarantee it, and that there’s always a chance Lynch could come later no matter what happens during amateur selection.

Those things could be true. Or, you know, not. McKenzie prefers mystery this time of year.

Bottom line: The Raiders need a bigger back to pair with smaller, yet elusive runners DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard.

The Raiders want Lynch to fill the void. Ditto for Raider Nation, especially the Oakland state. A few free-agent options remain, including LaGarrette Blount. Or the Raiders could draft a back, something the Raiders have done well in later rounds.

They got Latavius Murray in the sixth round four years back, and he provided quality before changing uniforms this offseason. They got Washington in the fifth last time and pulled Richard from undrafted free agency. They could mine talent again this year. Waiting seems more likely if Lynch is around. 

Quality abounds in this draft class, with several worthy of early selections and talent easily found late. Let’s inspect McKenzie’s draft options at running back, should he need one:

Good fits: It’s hard to see the Raiders looking at a rusher in the first round, considering the draft’s depth at the position and major defensive needs. A first-round talent might be considered in the second. If controversial former Oklahoma rusher Joe Mixon is available following a free fall due to off-field issues described in detail here, a running back might come early.

Tennessee’s Alvin Kamara could be another Day 2 option, an explosive talent who analysts say has wiggle and power to create coveted yards after contact. He could be a three-down back thanks to quality as a receiver.

Odds are, however, the Raiders will look deeper into the draft. Wyoming’s Brian Hill was an excellent college producer who runs strong and might fit well into the Raiders rotation. Round projections vary, but he should be available on Day 3.

Pittsburgh’s James Conner offers great power at 233 pounds. He could run through tacklers and wear down defenses for the Raiders’ shift backs. He's also well known for drive and work ethic. He is projected as a fifth or sixth round pick.

Brigham Young’s Jamaal Williams might offer value and power rushing later in the draft. Clemson’s Wayne Gallman has tackle-breaking ability, but analysts say he isn’t a strong pass protector.

 

Confident in what he's built, Kerr should prioritize health over coaching

Confident in what he's built, Kerr should prioritize health over coaching

Steve Kerr has always tried to will his vicious post-surgical back into obedience, to the point of showing discomfort even with well-wishing inquiries.

And he has failed. Damned bodies, always acting out.

He wanted the nick in his spinal cord and the fluid it released to self-correct, and though nobody is sure that this is the specific cause of his absence from the remainder of the Golden State-Portland, it has been a persistent issue for the last 20-plus months.

And now it, or a related issue, may jeopardize his ability to guide the Warriors to whatever their playoff destiny is.

That he chose to surrender to the logic of pain gives us all a pretty clear indication of how poorly he truly feels. Behind his jocular exterior and the perspective that comes with it lies a series of shields that forces him to be less forgiving about himself than others. He was going to defy his actual spine by showing how mighty his metaphorical backbone is, and as if usually the case, actuality trumps metaphor.

It seems unfair, but as Kerr will grudgingly admit, fair has nothing to do with it. Fair would be a successful surgery with no lingering side effects. Fair would be the ability to do his job pain-free. Fair would be tackling the evident difficulties of meeting the expectations of the entire basketball-playing world with a clear, undistracted mind.

So there’s your fair, in a fetid heap by the hamper.

As for his quality of life, it can be reasonably assumed that he would not jeopardize that just for a second ring. He is hyper-competitive, but he isn’t reckless, or worse, nuts. That’s his call for as long as he owns his back. If he doesn’t coach again in these playoffs, then he doesn’t coach again in these playoffs, and the worst thing that happens is that we argue pointlessly about whether he gets credit for the games they play between now and the end of their season, whenever that is.

And while it seems unduly callous, to talk about how long he’ll be out or what his version of “100 percent” is or how much coaching he will do from his office, or his home, it is where this part of the conversation must ultimately go.

Mike Brown is a qualified head coach whose only real shortcoming as it matters here is his different voice in the room. To the minimal extent that this could be disruptive, there is still Ron Adams and Bruce Fraser and Jarron Collins, not to mention Stephen Curry and Andre Iguodala and Draymond Green and Klay Thompson and Shaun Livingston . . . oh, and Kevin Durant. The Warriors don’t coach themselves, but they have a healthy idea of what to do, how to do it, and how to create the conditions under which those things get done.

But in a postseason that has been almost notorious for the number of players who can’t, well, play, Kerr’s absence will stand out. The Warriors will be different as a result – certainly not better, probably not materially worse, but different. Every assumption about a hand ride through the playoffs is now so much wadded-up paper, or if you must, tablet without connectivity.

And maybe that’s the real casualty here. If Kerr misses only a couple of games, then it didn’t matter that much. If he can’t come back, it will. But the NBA playoffs are as casualty-strewn in their way as the Stanley Cup playoffs are in theirs, and if nothing else, it may cause us all to assume nothing about anything.

And that includes Steve Kerr. Here’s hoping he doesn’t rush back to fix a problem that doesn’t yet exist. Here’s hoping his view goes beyond mid-June. Here’s hoping he resists the impulse to coach this team with several vertebrae tied behind his front.

As unfair as all this might be (there we go again, doing that fair stuff), he sat out once, and his team thrived because of the atmosphere he had already created. He should be confident in what he’s built, and if he can be return for the start of the next series, it should be because he is ready to, not because he feels compelled.