Colin Kaepernick, who made a rousing debut as the San Francisco 49ers’ starting quarterback Sunday replacing concussed Alex Smith, will take all the first-team reps for the Niners as they prepare to face the New Orleans Saints on Sunday.This comes from none other than Smith, to ESPN.The move seemingly would put Kaepernick on track to start against the Saints; players who receive first-team reps usually draw starts for that week’s game.Harbaugh said earlier Wednesday the QB for the NFC West-leading Niners (7-2-1) could change week to week, and even during the course of a game.Kaepernick went 16 for 23 for 243 yards, two touchdowns and an impressive passer rating of 133.1 in his first NFL start Monday against Chicago. The second-round draft pick out of Nevada in 2011 hardly seemed fazed by football’s big stage. He directed scoring drives and made beautiful throws on the Niners’ initial four possessions and completed 12 of his first 14 passes, with a 57-yard throw to Kyle Williams, setting up Vernon Davis’ 3-yard TD on the next play.Harbaugh rated Kaepernick’s debut start as “A-plus-plus.”Smith said plans to fight for his job once he is fully healthy, but he had yet to be medically cleared Wednesday after missing Monday night’s 32-7 rout of the Bears while recovering from a concussion. He was supportive Wednesday of Kaepernick’s success, even if the second-year pro takes Smith’s starting job as 49ers quarterback.“If you can’t be happy for your teammate’s success you’re playing the wrong sport. Go play tennis or golf or something,” Smith said Wednesday. “That’s ridiculous, I think. That doesn’t belong in team sports, in my opinion. It’s the quarterback position. It gets a lot of attention. We’re going to get talked about.”Harbaugh underwent a follow-up evaluation for his irregular heartbeat Tuesday and said, “believe we’ve got that one licked.” He has quit chewing tobacco and given up the four or five Diet Cokes he was drinking daily after doctors encouraged him to improve his diet and decrease his caffeine intake. Harbaugh underwent a cardiovert procedure last Thursday.“Zero,” he said of soda and dipping. “Cold turkey.”He swears he’s had no headaches as he moves off caffeine.Smith completed 18-of-19 passes for 232 yards and three touchdowns without an interception in a Monday night win Oct. 29 at Arizona for a passer rating of 157.1. Smith then sustained a concussion in the second quarter of a 24-24 tie against St. Louis on Nov. 11. He even threw a touchdown pass with blurred vision six plays after taking the hit doctors believe caused his injury.
On Sunday, in a 30-24 overtime win in Tampa Bay, the Oakland Raiders were flagged for 23 penalties, which cost them an even 200 yards. That was the most penalties for one team in a single game since at least 1940 and the third-most penalty yards that any one team has racked up in a single game in that same span. The Raiders have a history of committing penalties — the franchise led the NFL in that category for four straight years in the nineties and set the single-season record with 163 back in 2011 — so adding the single-game record to that legacy is at least in character. Heck, Oakland was already leading the NFL in penalties this season even before that, um, historic performance in Week 8. But what if I told you that the same factors that are driving the Raiders’ penalties are likely driving their surprising success?The Raiders have the second-most penalties through eight games of any team since 1940, but Oakland is also 6-2. That may not be as surprising as it appears, because committing more penalties isn’t as strongly correlated with losing as conventional wisdom suggests. I looked at all team penalties through Week 8 of each season since the NFL’s realignment in 2002, and there was only a slightly negative correlation between penalties and winning (i.e., the more penalties a team has, the lower its winning percentage).1The correlation coefficient between winning percentage and penalties over that span was just -0.10. And that correlation is actually positive for the 2016 season, thanks to the Bay Area teams: Not only is Oakland an outlier, but also the 1-6 49ers have the fewest penalties in the NFL this season. And while most coaches stress to players that they shouldn’t incur penalties, the relationship between penalties and success (as we can see from the chart) isn’t as clear as you might think. Sure, on any given play, a penalty is bad, but penalties are also associated with aggressive, physical play, and those can be very good things on the plays where penalties aren’t called.Of Oakland’s 103 total penalties (both accepted and declined), a league-high 53 (51 percent) of them have come on offense. (On average this season, 49 percent of all penalties have come on offense, compared to 37 percent on defense and 14 percent on special teams.) Of Oakland’s offensive penalties, 18 have come from offensive holding, which is tied for first with the Patriots (who have only played seven games), and 14 have come via false start, second in the league to Washington’s 16. And Oakland’s offense has been flagged a league-high four times for unnecessary roughness, with tackle Donald Penn owning two of those infractions.So far this season, 45 players have been flagged for at least five offensive penalties, and six of those players are Raiders: backup lineman Vadal Alexander (8), followed by Penn (7), center Rodney Hudson (6), guard Gabe Jackson (6), WR Michael Crabtree (5) and guard Kelechi Osemele (5). In total, Raiders offensive linemen have been flagged for 33 penalties, nine more than any other offensive line in the league.That’s a lot of penalties, but what that analysis is missing is what’s happening on all the plays that don’t result in a penalty — especially if those plays include ones where the refs don’t throw a flag because they’ve already thrown so many. And Oakland’s offensive line is doing really, really well on those plays. No team has spent more 2016 salary cap dollars on its offensive line than the Raiders, and it’s paid off: Oakland has been sacked on just 2.7 percent of all pass plays this season, the lowest rate in the NFL. And Oakland’s top three running backs — Latavius Murray, DeAndre Washington, Jalen Richard — aren’t highly-regarded and weren’t drafted with premium picks, but they have rushed 156 times for 763 yards and 6 touchdowns, averaging 4.9 yards per attempt. The Oakland line is getting things done.We don’t often think of offensive linemen as boom-bust players, but that’s what the Raiders have created under OL coach Mike Tice. Because while that unit has been responsible for an enormous share of the team’s penalties, on most other plays, it’s operating as one of the best units in football. The Raiders have talked about building a nasty, physical, aggressive offensive line — and for better or worse, that’s exactly what they’ve done.CORRECTION (Nov. 2, 12:34 p.m.): An earlier version of the chart in this article misstated the time period of the penalties and win percentages shown in light purple. The correct time period is 2002 to 2016, not 2012 to 2016.
The AL East has been really tough to winSince 2010, the most and fewest number of wins for the winner of each MLB division, with the average number of wins (per 162 games) required 2008Tampa Bay Rays1096673 2017Cleveland Indians937111 2019Tampa Bay Rays11611715 WAR Rankings by category YearTeamHittingRunningDefenseStartersBullpenOverall These Rays go to 11MLB teams who ranked among the top 11 in every subcategory of wins above replacement — across offense, defense and pitching — since 1995 NL Central1049095.3 1996Texas Rangers1039763 AL Central1028894.2 AL West1058896.6 2016L.A. Dodgers9951146 2002Anaheim Angels9211164 It’s tough to find a more successful baseball club over the past decade-plus than the Tampa Bay Rays, owners of a 1,035-901 record — fifth-best in MLB — ever since their stunning breakout in 2008. The Rays went to the World Series that season and made the playoffs in three of the five years that followed, creating a blueprint for other teams hoping to win on similarly microscopic budgets. Even this year, the Rays sit 10th in our Elo team rankings despite ranking 30th in payroll.But for all of those wins, Tampa Bay has had some lousy luck in actually getting to the playoffs. The Rays have made only three postseason appearances this decade — and none since 2013. Only three teams in the expanded wild-card era (since 2012) have won 90 games but failed to play in the postseason: One of those was the 2013 Texas Rangers; the other two were Rays clubs, in 2012 and 2018. And this year’s team, on pace for 95 wins, has just a 54 percent chance of making the playoffs, according to the FiveThirtyEight model. What do the Rays have to do to get some postseason love around here?Some of Tampa’s troubles simply have to do with playing in the cutthroat American League East, where the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox are together currently spending more than twice as much on players as the rest of the division combined. Whether in terms of the average victories necessary to win the division or even just the bare-minimum requirement, those numbers have consistently been higher for the AL East than any other division in baseball this decade: 2001Seattle Mariners111951 AL East1089397.3 DivisionMostFewestAverage NL East1029096.1 NL West1049194.8 Winner’s Wins (per 162 games) 2002Seattle Mariners3410856 Source: Baseball-Reference.com In every division except the AL East and NL West, a 90-win team has had at least had some chance to come out in first place this decade. But in the AL East, no fewer than 93 wins have been required to win the division, and seldom fewer than 91 have been needed to make the playoffs, period.1Two 89-win teams — the 2016 Blue Jays and Orioles — and one 87-win team — the 2015 Yankees — have made the wild card this decade out of the AL East. By my accounting,2Using a logistic regression on team data since 1995, with a dummy variable for the extra wild-card slot MLB added in 2012. being in the AL East makes it 8 percentage points tougher for a 90-win team to make the playoffs than being in another division would make it, 10 percentage points tougher for an 89-win team and 12 percentage points tougher for an 88-win team.That sweet spot around 90 wins happens to be where Tampa tends to often find itself, and it’s tough to make the playoffs from that zone when you’re in the AL East. Last year was a great example: The Rays went 90-72 but were precluded from winning the division (the Red Sox won 108 games) or even finishing in second place (the Yankees won 100 on the number). That left only one solitary playoff spot even up for the Rays to battle for, and it was snapped up by the 97-win Oakland Athletics. Baseball’s seventh-best team by wins above replacement,3Using our JEFFBAGWELL metric to blend WAR from Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs. sporting a record that would normally earn a playoff slot 81 percent of the time in the double-wild-card era,4Once again, according to the logistic regression I ran. ended up missing the playoffs by seven whole games.But the Rays have found ways to miss the playoffs even when the Yankee/Red Sox hegemony was partially broken. Back in 2012, New York was good (95 wins) but hardly dominant, and Boston deteriorated completely under the not-so-watchful eye of Bobby Valentine, going 69-93. Meanwhile Tampa Bay had the fourth-most WAR in baseball, led by star seasons from Ben Zobrist (5.7 WAR) and David Price (5.5), plus solid years via players ranging from the expected (James Shields, Evan Longoria) to the out-of-nowhere (Jeff Keppinger??). By WAR, that was one of the most talented teams the Rays have ever produced. But they underperformed relative to the record their underlying stats say they “should” have had — according to BaseRuns, they should have made the playoffs with a 95-67 mark — wasting a red-hot 36-22 finish over the last two months of the season to end up three games shy of Texas and Baltimore for the wild card.The disappointing Red Sox will miss the playoffs this season as well, possibly finishing as many as 10 games behind the rival Rays. Although the Yankees have dominated this season, tracking for 105 wins, you would think 95 wins could at least buy the Rays a wild-card appearance, in a wide-open year with Boston out of the picture.And yet, here Tampa Bay is again, fighting for its playoff life on a nightly basis over the final few weeks of the season. Once again, the Oakland A’s — in many ways the West Coast mirror image of the Rays — are almost assured of one wild-card slot, putting themselves on pace for 97 wins by season’s end. And after the Minnesota Twins unexpectedly dominated the AL Central race, the Cleveland Indians’ only playoff hopes essentially rest on the same wild-card spot Tampa Bay has been eyeing all season. In the mega-top-heavy AL, one misfortunate team could win 95 games and still miss the playoffs entirely.5And the team that makes it would promptly haves to face a gauntlet of three hundred-win teams, and a 97-win one.If that team ends up being Tampa, it would obscure what has been maybe the most quintessentially Rays-y season of them all, in terms of doing more with less. The team’s best player by WAR (with 5.1) has been pitcher Charlie Morton, who had 1.5 career WAR to his name before joining the Astros in 2017; he is easily obliterating his previous career-best WAR (3.2 in 2018) this season at age 35. Left fielder Tommy Pham (3.9 WAR) had previously displayed his talent with 6.2 WAR in 2017, and shortstop Willy Adames had up-and-coming star potential. But the rest of Tampa Bay’s expected stars — such as pitcher Blake Snell and center fielder Kevin Kiermaier — have been merely OK, if also injured and/or underwhelming.Instead, the Rays have succeeded with a mishmash of acquired prospects (Austin Meadows, Tyler Glasnow), unheralded youngsters (Brandon Lowe), seemingly random pitchers (Ryan Yarbrough, Yonny Chirinos, Emilio Pagan), retread veterans (Travis d’Arnaud) and other spare parts. They still use the opener, still shift a ton and still play relievers in the field before putting them back on the mound. They’ve fought through key injuries to rank fifth in the league in WAR per game, and through Sunday they were tracking to become just the eighth team since the 1994 strike to rank among MLB’s top 11 in WAR from every phase of the game — hitting, fielding, base-running and pitching (both starting and relieving):6Yes, “top 11” is arbitrary. Who cares? This is an impressive all-around team season! 2019 Rays’ rankings are through Sept. 15.Source: Baseball-Reference.com, FanGraphs.com (Fittingly, the 2008 Rays — the team that started it all — are also in that club.)If Tampa Bay does end up missing the playoffs, it would go down as one of the best teams ever to fit that criteria. Its current Elo rating of 1543 would tie last year’s Rays for the second-best among nonplayoff teams of the double-wild-card era (trailing only the 2012 Rays), and its 0.303 WAR per game would easily be the highest of any nonplayoff team since 2012. The last team to miss the postseason with as many WAR per game was the 2011 Red Sox, who fumbled away their playoff hopes with one of the most infamous collapses in baseball history.But if the baseball gods know what they’re doing, they would maybe consider giving the Rays a break this time around. The franchise has already seen several of the hardest-luck nonplayoff seasons in recent history — and this year’s might be the cruelest postseason snub of all, given how many wins the Rays might rack up in vain. After so many years spent knocking on the door with records that usually belong in the postseason, it seems like it’s time Tampa finally gets in.Check out our latest MLB predictions.
Middlesbrough have announced the shock signing of ex-Chelsea star John Obi Mikel on a short-term dealThe Nigeria captain, who featured at last summer’s World Cup in Russia, previously spent 11 years at Chelsea in the Premier League before leaving for Chinese club Tianjin TEDA in a free transfer in January 2017.But Mikel had been keen to return to England with his girlfriend, Olga Diyachenko, and their twin daughters still living in London.This had allegedly captured the interest of Crystal Palace along with a number of Championship clubs.But in the end, two-time Premier League winner Mikel has agreed to a shock move down at Championship promotion hopefuls Middlesbrough.Tony Pulis’ side are currently fifth in the standings and, crucially, in a playoff spot and Boro will now hope Mikel will be able to aid them in their bid for a return to the Premier League after nearly 10 years away from the English top-flight division.“I’m pleased to get him in. He is a man with a lot of experience and quality,” Pulis told the club website.“He has a winning mentality and he wants to be here be a part of what we are looking to achieve.”Boro have also signed Rajiv van La Parra from Huddersfield earlier in the month in a season-long loan deal.Chelsea hat-trick hero Tammy Abraham hopes for more Andrew Smyth – September 14, 2019 Tammy Abraham hopes this season will be his big breakthrough at Chelsea after firing his first hat-trick for the club in Saturday’s 5-2 win at Wolves.Mikel managed six goals and 13 assists in 372 appearances for Chelsea across all competitions during his 11-year stay at Stamford Bridge.The Nigerian midfielder won two Premier League titles for the club along with three FA Cups, an EFL Cup, Community Shield, Champions League and the Europa League.Now Mikel will be hoping to make his mark at the Riverside Stadium after making only 31 appearances in the Chinese Super League for Tianjin TEDA, which also saw him claim three goals and three assists.The 31-year-old could make his debut for Boro in Saturday’s FA Cup fourth-round match against Newport County.🏆🏆🏆🏆🏆🏆🏆🏆🏆🏆Pretty much says it all 👊Facts and photos from @mikel_john_obi’s career so far ➡️ https://t.co/9vIdr7gYoB #UTB pic.twitter.com/JTOOJ2bAKJ— Middlesbrough FC (@Boro) January 24, 2019
WILMINGTON, MA — Arnold F. Lanni, 91, of Southbridge, MA, formerly of Wilmington, MA and Vermont, fondly known as “Al” to his family and friends, passed away peacefully at home on January 30, 2019.Al was the beloved husband of Laurie Towne Slobody of Southbridge and the late Mary (Boylen) Lanni of Wilmington. He was the devoted father of Marion Lanni of Shrewsbury and Jeanne Lanni and her husband Richard Vinton of Southborough, MA, and the late Michael, Arnold F. Jr. “Al” and Mark Lanni; loving “Grampy” of David John Gagnon III, Lanni Jeanne Gagnon and Olivia Leahy Vinton; cherished son of the late Domenic Lanni; and dear brother of Fred Rusha of Hudson, FL and John Rusha of Auburn, ME. He was the beloved brother-in-law of Jeanne (Boylen) & Benedict Crupi of Reading, Mary and the late George Boylen of Wilmington, Daniel and the late Janet Boylen of Lunenburg, the late Barbara (Boylen) and Jerry White of Wilmington, and Roger and Laurie Slobody of West Brookfield. Al is also survived by many others who adore him, including numerous nieces, nephews and friends.Al was born on March 17, 1927, in Everett, MA. As a young boy, Al, was raised and educated in Roxbury and West Roxbury. While living there, he had fond memories of belonging to the “Knot Hole Gang”, a group of young boys who paid 5 cents to get into the Boston Braves games.When Al was in the sixth grade, he moved to Foxborough, MA. There, he continued his education, graduating from Foxborough High School with the Class of 1945. While in high school, he was very active. In addition to serving as Class President for three years, he was a drummer in the high school band and he played on the baseball, basketball and football teams. In his non school time, he played drums for a 27 piece community swing band.After graduation, Al enlisted in the United States Coast Guard to serve his country during World War II. He was honorably discharged in May of 1946 and returned home to his family.For the next several years, Al moved to Maryland to continue his education. He attended Severn Academy Prep School in Severna Park, MD and Hagerstown Junior College in Hagerstown, MD.In 1951, Al entered the United States Navy to serve his country during the Korean War. He served aboard the USS Tarawa and at the US Naval Receiving Station in Brooklyn, NY. Following four years of active duty, Al was honorably discharged in 1954.After leaving the Navy, Al went on to attend Boston University where he earned his Bachelor’s Degree with honors. In 1964, he earned a Master’s Degree in Education from the State College at Boston.Following college, Al began a long and rewarding career as a public school teacher and administrator, while always continuing his own education. In 1957, he began teaching American History at Topsfield High School. In 1959, transferred to Sudbury Public Schools to serve as Chairman of the Social Studies Department at Curtis Junior High School. While in Sudbury, he also served as Chairman of the Professional Standards Committee of the Sudbury Teachers Association and was elected President of the Board of Directors of the Lincoln-Sudbury Town Employees Federal Credit Union. In 1963, Al received the Silver Tray Award by the Sudbury Kiwanis Club for “The Teacher Who Has Done the Most for the Sudbury School System”.Following his tenure in Sudbury, Al accepted a position at the Massachusetts Department of Education. As a Senior Supervisor, he traveled around the state providing public schools with training in curriculum development, program evaluation and teacher training. He was also responsible for evaluating federal programs. During these years, Al was called on to assist in producing several publications. He became a contributing author to the Curriculum Guide for the U.S.S. Massachusetts and to the Aerospace Curriculum Resource Guide published by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.During his teaching years and his years spent at the Massachusetts Department of Education, Al was also an active contributor to his own community. He served as Chairman of the Wilmington School Committee, was a member of the Wilmington Conservation Committee, and an active member of the Wilmington Community Fund. As in his work life, Al spent his personal time trying to better the lives of others.In 1970, Al accepted a position with the Arlington Public Schools. After serving as the district’s Director of Curriculum, he was promoted to Assistant Superintendent. In that position, he received many accolades for his expertise in administration, planning, curriculum, personnel and community relations. He developed a wonderful reputation for honesty, loyalty, expertise in education and his ability to speak his mind.In 1984, Al brought his knowledge, planning abilities, and belief that all children can learn at high levels to Vermont. He accepted the position of Superintendent of Schools in Vergennes, VT and served Vergennes and the surrounding communities. While there, he also served as Regional Chairman for the Vermont Superintendents Association.Following his Vermont tenure, he returned to Massachusetts to become Superintendent of Schools in 1989 in Southbridge, MA. During his years in Southbridge, he was instrumental in improving curriculum and was responsible for training teachers in Total Quality Management.Al retired in June of 1993 from the Southbridge Public Schools, following a long and illustrious career. His dedication to students, faculty and the evolution of public education was unwavering. Throughout his work life, he put his heart and soul into everything he did, with the goal of making this world a better place for future generations.Following retirement, and up to the time of his passing, Al continued to be an active contributor to the town of Southbridge. He was elected and served on the Town Council, the town’s Long-Range Planning Committee, the High School Scholarship Committee and the committee formed to raise funds for the public schools. He was chosen to represent Southbridge on the Central MA Planning Commission and served in that role for many years. Until his passing, Al remained an active member of the Southbridge Rotary, as well as the Italian-American Club.In addition to his commitment and service to the public education, country, and community, Al’s other “passions” included his family, gardening and sports. He will always be remembered for his devotion to his family…always there to lend a helping hand, give advice, and unconditional love. He was a man who totally enjoyed sports, especially golfing, skiing and bocci. He also loved his beloved Patriots and never missed a game. Fortunately for this year’s Super Bowl, he had the best seat of all…Al was a gentleman in every way…truly a “gentle man”. He totally enjoyed life, was caring and giving of his time and talents to help others, and forever enriched the lives of everyone he met.Family and friends are invited to gather a Mass of Christian Burial at Notre Dame Church, 446 Main St., Southbridge, MA on Friday, February 8th at 12:00 noon. Following Mass, all are invited to continue the celebration of Al’s life at the LaSalle Reception Center located next to the church. A private burial will be held on Monday, February 11th in Wilmington, MA. Family members are invited to meet on that day at Nichols Funeral Home, 187 Middlesex Ave., in Wilmington for a 12:00 noon service. Burial will follow at Wildwood Cemetery.In lieu of flowers, donations in Al’s memory may be made to the American Cancer Society, 30 Speen St., Framingham, MA 01701.Arnold F. Lanni(NOTE: The above obituary is from Nichols Funeral Home.)Like Wilmington Apple on Facebook. Follow Wilmington Apple on Twitter. Follow Wilmington Apple on Instagram. Subscribe to Wilmington Apple’s daily email newsletter HERE. Got a comment, question, photo, press release, or news tip? Email email@example.com.Thank You To Our Sponsor:Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:Like Loading… RelatedOBITUARY: William J. “Bill” Wolfe, 75In “Obituaries”OBITUARY: Lucille C. (Enos) Gilson, 77In “Obituaries”OBITUARY: John “Jack” Tannian, Jr., 89In “Obituaries”