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last updated: Wed, 10 Sep 2014 22:44:10 -0400

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File: In this Tuesday May, 20, 2014, file photo Oscar Pistorius outide the HIgh Court in Pretoria, South Africa. Presiding Judge Thokozile Masipa is expected to announce her verdict in Pistorius' murder trail after scrutinizing evidence Thursday and Friday given by 37 witnesses in a court transcript running to thousands of pages in a drama that has played out over six months. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe, File)Your Top Plays for Today: AP's Sports Guide


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Sport | The Guardian
last updated: Mon, 20 Oct 2014 17:29:48 GMT2014-10-20T17:29:48Z

Louis van Gaal: a win at WBA can spark Manchester Uniteds title challenge
Manager regrets lack of European football at Old Trafford
Its always better to play in the Champions League

Louis van Gaal believes defeating West Bromwich Albion at The Hawthorns could inspire Manchester United to a title challenge, just as the Champions League victory over Juventus when he was in charge of Bayern Munich inspired the German club to win the Bundesliga. The manager said that a win on Monday evening could do for Manchester United what that 4-1 victory in Turin in December 2009 did for Bayern, which was to put them into the quarter-finals of the Champions League. From there, Van Gaals side reached the final, losing to Internazionale, and won the German Cup as well.

Van Gaal had a sticky start at Bayern, much as he has endured at Old Trafford this season, so he was happy to look back. Do you remember when we had our revival? he said. We won 4-1 at Juventus, a fantastic game, and that gave us that psychological benefit. He also cited Uniteds inconsistency in the latter part of matches after they faded in the 2-1 win over Everton. But that was a very good game [Juventus] and against Everton we could not say it was very good. The first 60 minutes maybe, but a game lasts 90 minutes.

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NYT > Sports
last updated: Mon, 20 Oct 2014 03:54:03 GMT

Awaiting Oscar Pistorius Sentencing, South Africa Wrangles Over Complex Issues
Judge Thokozile Matilda Masipa is expected to begin handing down a sentence on Tuesday to Oscar Pistorius in the death of his girlfriend.






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CNN.com - Sport
last updated: Wed, 15 Oct 2014 06:47:35 EDT

Should rapist get second chance?
What are the rights of a convicted rapist, who has served their time in prison, being allowed to resume their old job?

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Fox Sports Top Stories RSS feed merging with Breaking News
The Fox Sports Top Stories RSS feed is merging with Breaking News. Please use http://feeds.news.com.au/public/rss/2.0/fs_breaking_news_13.xml instead.

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FOXSPORTS.com.au | Breaking News
last updated: Mon, 20 Oct 2014 13:00:00 GMT

Williams wins WTA Finals opener
SERENA Williams has opened strong at the WTA Finals, beating Ana Ivanovic to put any concerns over a knee injury to bed.

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ESPN.com
last updated: Mon, 20 Oct 2014 09:54:48 PDT

Ishikawa walk-off HR sends Giants to Series
Travis Ishikawa hit a three-run homer in the bottom of the ninth inning, sending the San Francisco Giants to the World Series with a 6-3 win over the St. Louis Cardinals on Thursday night.

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Demaryius Thomas clearly the top wide receiver - CBSSports.com


ESPN

Demaryius Thomas clearly the top wide receiver
CBSSports.com
Coming into the season, Demaryius Thomas wasn't the clear No. 1 wide receiver in Fantasy. Calvin Johnson was. And while Thomas was in the discussion for the No. 2 spot, so were A.J. Green and Julio Jones. But with Johnson and Green battling injuries ...
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What’s next?
There’s a much different feel surrounding the Pirates going in to this offseason, as opposed to last year. It was almost impossible to be disappointed with the season as a whole last year, even after missing a golden opportunity to move past the Cardinals in the NLDS. The team won 94 games and showed up pretty […]

There’s a much different feel surrounding the Pirates going in to this offseason, as opposed to last year. It was almost impossible to be disappointed with the season as a whole last year, even after missing a golden opportunity to move past the Cardinals in the NLDS. The team won 94 games and showed up pretty well in the playoffs, and more importantly heading into the winter, they looked set to compete again this year. A.J. Burnett was the only main piece of the team that wasn’t coming back (not counting the late-season trade acquisitions). While I’d like to think we weren’t naive enough to assume the Bucs would be back in the postseason, it seemed pretty plausible.

Now the situation has changed. 2014 was still a very good year. You can call it a “step back” but it wasn’t a very big step back – it would have been tough to improve on 94 wins, and even though Buctober only lasted one game, reaching the playoffs in MLB is a significant accomplishment. That said, they missed out on a very good opportunity to win the division and flopped in the WC game, so there’s a much more bitter taste in their mouth going into the winter. The free agency situation only compounds that. Why? It’s pretty simple – if the Pirates have another offseason like last year’s, they are not going to look like a contender coming into next season.

Going around the diamond…

Catcher: Hmm, have you heard that Russell Martin is entering free agency? Maybe you think the Pirates should try and re-sign him, huh? TELL ME MORE! Yes, of course the Pirates need to do all they can to bring Martin back. It’s hard to get a read on him (he’s indicated eagerness to test the market but also has talked at length about how much he liked playing here). The Pirates aren’t going to win a bidding war for Martin, but if they can at least offer something competitive – which I honestly think they will – they might have a shot.  The Pirates should be able to pay ~$15M/yr for a guy as important as Martin at this point, but it may come down to the number of years on a potential deal, not the yearly dollar amount.  My guess would be that the Pirates would prefer three years and definitely no more than four.

The worst part about the Martin saga is the fact that the Pirates have nothing behind him. Chris Stewart is a solid backup but there’s no way you want him as your starter. Tony Sanchez does not appear even close to ready to take the job. Next up in the minors is Elias Diaz, who had a nice year in Double-A but is probably at least a year away. And the free agent market is totally barren behind Martin. If he signs elsewhere, the best possible result for the Pirates would be to find something via trade, but that won’t be easy either.

3B, SS, 2B: Harrison, Mercer, and Walker are all back. Nothing to worry about here.

1B: Ike Davis, Gaby Sanchez, and Pedro Alvarez are all arb-eligible, and all likely to make more money than they deserve based on the seasons they had. My guess would be that Davis is gone and Alvarez stays. I’m no longer concerned about Pedro’s ability to play first, especially with a full offseason to work on it, and even though you could make a strong OBP-based case for Davis over him, Pedro is “their guy” and it really probably would be too soon to give up on a guy only one year removed from a HR title.

As for the other side of the platoon (assuming there is a platoon, which would be wise based on how Pedro hits LHP), Sanchez has lost his “lefty masher” status and should be gone. It shouldn’t be that hard to find a part time 1B that can do OK against LHP for less money. Andrew Lambo may also stay in this mix, but since he’s also lefty he would probably have to find his way onto the roster as a backup 1B/RF/bench bat.

LF, CF: Marte and Cutch, duh.

RF: Travis Snider is arb-eligible and you’d think he earned a tender with his strong finish to the season, right? But then there’s Gregory Polanco. Do you start next year the way this year finished, with Snider starting and Polanco basically the backup/defensive replacement/pinch runner?  But then you don’t want to have Polanco sitting out most of the time, either. Both are left handed so it isn’t really a platoon situation. This could be an awkward situation to start the year but I suppose both figure to be on the team one way or another, since they’ll need four OF’s anyway.

Starting pitching: Everything other than catcher seems fine to this point, but here’s where it gets sticky. Liriano is a free agent. Volquez is a free agent. Morton could miss the start of next season as he recovers from surgery. As it stands now, the rotation is Cole, and then, um, gulp. Worley and Locke are in there, but as your #2 and #3? And then what? Stolmy Pimentel? Nick Kingham (who started out AAA on fire but then fell off a good bit)? Jameson Taillon will certainly figure into the plans eventually but he is also recovering from surgery (and hasn’t pitched much in Indy yet).  Oh yeah, and remember how much Martin helps the pitching staff…and if he’s gone…

I am all in on the Pirates bringing Liriano back. He continued to show ace-level stuff this year after returning from his injury, and the Pirates simply aren’t going to find anything resembling an ace-level pitcher at their price on the open market. Presumably Liriano would be a little more affordable with the injury risk and some inconsistency this season. I am of the opinion that he should get a qualifying offer, even if that may be a bit of a stretch.  Volquez, not so much – as we discussed leading in to the Wild Card start, he is a huge regression candidate and some team will probably pay him too much. If the Pirates can get him for something close to the $5M he made this year, sure, bring him back, but Liriano should be the priority.

The Pirates are going to need more pitching, though, even beyond those two. We know they won’t be able to spend with the big boys for a Jon Lester, Max Scherzer, or James Shields, but they’ve had success “dumpster diving” the last two years with Liriano and Volquez. I would certainly expect another attempt at something like that. Some have already identified Justin Masterson as a potential candidate. There are plenty of mid-level guys out there that the Pirates may be able to compete for, and (especially if they don’t sign Martin or Liriano), they actually will have a good amount to spend – and this is the area where it should be spent.

Bullpen: The bullpen needs some work but certainly not a complete overhaul. No key pieces from this season are gone; Melancon and Watson are a very strong back two, Hughes will still be there, and John Holdzkom will get an extended look to see if he’s for real. Obviously more depth is needed for those middle inning roles, but the Pirates don’t like to overpay for relief pitching – a philosophy that is generally wise. Still, people probably won’t be too happy if they open the season with guys like Wilson (though I’m guessing he’ll stick around), LaFromboise, Axford, and Gomez rounding out the ‘pen.

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So there’s lots of work to do, but almost exclusively at pitcher and catcher. Unlike last year, there is a lot more pressure this offseason and Neal Huntington is going to need to go to work to keep this team in the mix. The good news is that there’s some money to play with. Don’t laugh. Regardless of what you think about Bob Nutting’s spending habits or how much he may or may not be willing to increase payroll, the payroll will significantly decrease if it’s a quiet winter, since Martin, Liriano, Volquez, Wandy, and some others’ money will be coming off the books. I don’t know how much the payroll will go up but I’m fairly confident it isn’t going to go down. The Pirates are going to have to spend some money somewhere.  And if they are going to bump the payroll up, now would be an awfully good time to do it with a lot more revenue flowing in and a few clear needs established around an otherwise strong lineup.

Original article: What’s next?

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