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."

Analysis: The instability of the Kings did DeMarcus Cousins no favors

Analysis: The instability of the Kings did DeMarcus Cousins no favors

SACRAMENTO -- DeMarcus Cousins took a microphone at a local Sacramento restaurant on Monday evening and couldn’t fight back tears. After almost seven seasons in a Kings uniform, the talented, yet enigmatic big man professed his love for the city that he has called home and the fans that have supported him.

“My love for this city will never change,” Cousins can be seen saying via mobile phone footage. “Even though I’m gone, it will still be the same. I’m still looking out for these kids. Every family in this city matters to me. Every soul in this city matters to me. Everything’s the same, I’m just not in a Kings uniform anymore.”

Rarely has Sacramento had a player kick and scream to stay. That is what happened behind the scenes over a wild weekend. Cousins made a commitment to remain in Sacramento, likely for the rest of his career. He spent All-Star weekend expounding his love for the city and his team.

The Kings weighed their options and went a different direction. That new path is a youth movement that was already underway.

Cousins wears his emotions on his sleeves. He can’t help it, regardless of what people think. Watching him grow from a 19-year-old kid to a 26-year-old man has been one of the more intriguing aspects of covering the Sacramento Kings since 2010.

Every night was different. Every mood was different. Be it a serious look from across the room and the 6-foot-11 big man summonsing you over to explain a tweet, or Cousins seeking council after picking up another tech, there was never a doubt that he was real.

Watching him hug and take pictures with kids at his basketball camp showed one side of Cousins. Seeing him come unglued on a reporter while wearing just a towel demonstrated another. There was very little middle ground.

The instability of the Kings did Cousins no favors. Six coaches, three general managers and two ownership groups in seven seasons helped perpetuate the cycle of confusion and chaos. But that doesn’t mean that anything would have worked out differently.  

Loyalty isn’t just a brand for Cousins, it’s how he lives his life. He’s been trapped inside a fishbowl from a very young age. Rarely has he let people into his world. His kids have always been off limits. His family history has remained mostly anonymous as well. The larger than life persona on the court has never consistently matched the man you see off it.

The locker room won’t be the same. Maybe that’s a good thing for Sacramento. Maybe the Kings will turn a much needed corner and become something other than a perennial lottery team. But there is no question that they just gave up the best big in the league and a player who never wanted to leave.  

Sacramento invested time and energy into Cousins. In the end, they had to make a tough decision. Could they win with him? If not, would they ever be able to move the star big when his price tag read 40 or even 50 million?

There were only two options - sign him to a max deal or trade him. Don’t let anyone tell you differently. His value as an asset was diminishing by the day, despite his incredible production on the court.

They chose to rip the band-aid off in one quick pull and start over. Their decision has sent shockwaves around the league, but very few people know what it feels like to walk in the Kings’ shoes. Sacramento knows they have a new building to fill and they know they got less than market value, yet they still made the move.

The return is not what was expected, but this wasn’t a normal transaction. Cousins’ talent is unquestionable. His on court production was incredible. His generosity in the community is legendary. But pieces were still missing from the overall puzzle.

This wasn’t about Buddy Hield or a draft pick in the stocked 2017 NBA Draft. This was strictly a decision to step off of one long and winding path and choose another direction.

Kings fans will watch Cousins continue to make All-Star appearances. He will likely be a first team All-NBA player this season and he and Anthony Davis might make the best big pairing since Tim Duncan and David Robinson.

The Kings will likely struggle to win 30 games for the next season or two and maybe longer. They might never stumble on a similar talent. But it wasn’t working, end of story.

For the last seven seasons, the Sacramento Kings have been the most interesting bad basketball team in the league. Relocation is over and now DeMarcus Cousins is gone. The focus will now be strictly on hoops, which might be the scariest proposition of all.

Analysis: Scoring winger a need for Sharks ahead of trade deadline

Analysis: Scoring winger a need for Sharks ahead of trade deadline

SAN JOSE – There are no glaring holes for the San Jose Sharks to fill ahead of next week's NHL trade deadline on March 1.

Still, Sharks general manager Doug Wilson is a notorious tire-kicker, and he’s surely working the phones these days to see if there’s anything out there that could help his hockey club, which has a comfortable five-point lead on the Pacific Division midway through its bye week.

“We’ll see, but we do feel really good about this group,” Wilson told CSN earlier this month. “We believe in our players and we believe in our guys on the Barracuda, because they’ve earned that.

“Having said that, our history speaks for itself. If there’s a way to help this hockey team or add something, we’ve always done it, and we’ll always explore it.”

So, what might the Sharks be exploring? There are two areas that make the most sense – a backup goaltender, and a scoring winger.

* * *

No question Aaron Dell has exceeded expectations in his first NHL season. He’s 7-3-1 with a 1.95 GAA and .934 SP in 12 games, and his .953 even-strength save percentage is tops in the league among goalies that have played at least 10 games.

Still, it’s unknown if Dell would be able to handle the day-to-day grind, if anything were to happen to Jones. Even in the minors last season when he earned the number one job with the Barracuda, he wasn’t playing three and four games a week due to the AHL’s Pacific Division having fewer games than the rest of the league. He’s also not been overly tested at the NHL level – of Dell’s 10 starts, only one has come against a team currently in playoff position, and the Calgary Flames are only barely in the second Wild Card spot.

There are some goalies thought to be trade bait as pending unrestricted free agents. They include Tampa Bay’s Ben Bishop, Winnipeg’s Ondrej Pavalec, the Islanders’ Jaroslav Halak, or Philadelphia goalies Steve Mason and Michal Neuvirth. All could likely be gotten for some combination of young players and/or draft picks.

But is it worth it for the Sharks to make a move for a player that might not even be needed in the postseason? According to one NHL analyst, the Sharks should just take their chances with the inexperienced North Dakota product.

“I probably wouldn’t put a whole lot of resources in [finding a backup goalie],” NBCSN analyst Keith Jones told CSN on the latest Sharks Insider Podcast. “If Martin Jones was injured you’d have a real problem, it would be tough to find a goalie to replace what he brings to the table. I know they tried James Reimer last year, and the book is out on him. … I’m not sure that that’s a major upgrade on Aaron Dell.”

That said, Keith Jones would like to see Martin Jones – who’s on pace to play 69.5 games – get more time off after the schedule resumes. That means increased playing time for Dell.

“I think you might just want to take a chance with your backup a little more frequently,” Jones said. “You may want to sacrifice a few games along the way. [Dell] gains some experience, and Jones gets some rest.”

The impression here is that the Sharks will probably stick with Dell. Sharks coach Pete DeBoer has been nothing short of glowing in his reviews of Dell lately, as well he should be. The goalie has earned his place on this team, and none of the other goalies that the Sharks could acquire would be obvious upgrades at this stage of the season.

* * *

A much stronger case can be made that the Sharks are in need of another scoring winger. 

While the offense has been more dangerous in recent weeks than it was over the first half of the season, it still doesn’t look as effective as it was last season going into the playoffs, when it finished fourth in the league. Yes, the power play has been relatively power-less, but there’s more to it than that.

Mikkel Boedker has been a disappointment after signing a four-year deal as a free agent, and was benched yet again on Sunday. Joonas Donskoi, still out with what looks like a shoulder injury, hasn’t taken that next step after his strong playoff run last season. Joel Ward is off his scoring pace from last year. Patrick Marleau has been outstanding, but remains streaky. Kevin Labanc and Timo Meier have done some nice things as rookies, but neither of them has “arrived” yet, to borrow a word commonly used by DeBoer. Nikolay Goldobin failed in his two-game tryout last week, too.

Finding a winger to play on the Joe Thornton-Joe Pavelski line should be a priority, as DeBoer has tried seven different wingers there this season without finding a permanent fit. 

Among the veterans that could be available are Dallas’ Patrick Sharp or Patrick Eaves, Arizona’s Shane Doan, Colorado’s Jarome Iginla, Detroit's Thomas Vanek, or even Vancouver’s Alex Burrows or Jannik Hansen, if the club is looking for a more agitating type.

Sharp is perhaps the most intriguing name on that list. Although he’s been hurt off and on this season and his numbers are down on a bad Dallas team, he’s a veteran scorer that has won three Stanley Cups as part of Chicago’s dynasty. He’s an obvious upgrade over the players that have rotated through the Thornton line.

Bringing in one of those aforementioned forwards would require some salary cap juggling (especially Sharp, who carries a $5.9 million cap hit) and perhaps a salary from the current roster going the other way, as the Sharks don’t have a whole lot of room right now. But it’s worth exploring, as a consistent offensive attack should be this team’s biggest worry right now with seven weeks until the postseason.

* * *

If the Sharks don’t make a move, DeBoer and company are still confident with the team in the dressing room. After all, most of those players were a part of the team’s run last season, when the Sharks were just two wins from capturing the Stanley Cup.

“For us, it’s not whether a piece comes in or whether we don’t bring any pieces in, I think we’re confident in our group,” DeBoer said. “It’s about us…playing to our identity for as long a stretch as is possible, because that’s what wins in the playoffs. Whether we don’t do anything or whether a piece comes in here, I don’t think that mindset changes.”

Justin Braun said: “Management is going to do what they’re going to do, but if they don’t do anything, we have confidence with everyone in here to get the job done.”