What a start! Yankees pummel Blue Jays on Giancarlo Stanton’s 2 HRs

The dreams started in December.

When the Yankees stunned baseball and traded for Giancarlo Stanton, the reigning National League MVP, manager Aaron Boone — just days into the job — immediately imagined lineup with Stanton and young stars Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez back-to-back-to-back.

Stanton also annihilated a solo shot in the ninth inning off ex-Yankee Tyler Clippard, tossing his bat to the side after it slammed into the second deck of the center-field seats.

When he returned to the dugout, Stanton was given the silent treatment.

I didn’t expect that, Stanton said with a smile. I had to get it late. But I got some air high-fives.

Stanton finished with four RBI and a run-scoring double.

Newman’s overtime heroics against Duke were part of a career-high 32-point performance. Scoring 14 points per game on the season, the sophomore guard has raised his game over the last seven outings, averaging 22.7 points on 54.2 percent shooting.

Kansas features three players shooting better than 40 percent from 3-point range: Svi Mykhailiuk (45.1 percent), Newman (41.5) and leading scorer Devonte’ Graham (40.4).

Jalen Brunson, who leads Villanova in points (19.3) and assists (4.6) per game, is shooting 53.5 percent from the floor this season.

Udoka Azubuike, who leads the Jayhawks in rebounding (7.0) and blocks (1.7) per game, easily led the nation in field-goal percentage (77.4 percent) during the regular season.

MLB 2018: Mariners’ contention window could close after this season

It’s been more than four years since Robinson Cano first put on a Seattle uniform, and more than two since Jerry Dipoto took over as general manager of the Mariners.

Dipoto was supposed to bring a radically different school of thought to the Mariners’ front office and lead the team to success. Cano, signed by predecessor Jack Zduriendcik, was supposed to spearhead a push for relevancy, backed by Felix Hernandez, Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager.

Although the Vikings have not made any offer to Cousins yet, there’s “mutual interest,” according to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero.

The Jets can outbid the Vikings, but they’re worried that the Vikings will land Cousins anyway because he wants to play in Minnesota, per SNY’s Ralph Vacchiano.

Adam Schefter said the Vikings were one of the four finalists to land Cousins.

The Vikings don’t plan to apply the franchise tag to Case Keenum, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport. Rapoport and his colleague Mike Garafolo both reported that the Vikings are expected to be in on Kirk Cousins once legal tampering begins.

No one should expect Kaepernick to get a call, though, for the same reasons (good and bad, right and wrong, true and false) that kept him out of the NFL in 2017, and for another that wasn’t a factor last offseason. Kaepernick’s collusion grievance against the league, filed in October, is still in play.

Yahoo! Sports reported last month that Kaepernick’s attorneys had requested depositions from several owners, team and league executives and even commissioner Roger Goodell’s wife, Jane. With discovery still going on, no timetable is set for when the arbitrator can hear the case.

It’s not impossible or impermissible for a team to sign or even negotiate with Kaepernick while the grievance is in play … but it’s impractical and unlikely. Kaepernick could receive damages lost salary from last season and, conceivably, this season if he wins the case.

Hopkins’ new pact came in at $49 million over three years.

The difference between the three-year money and the difference between those fifth-year options is essentially identical, but even so, it’s a surprise that Evans and his representation weren’t able to get more given the 6.1 percent rise in the salary cap over last season.

The Giants and the NFL acknowledged only that they know of their existence.

ESPN has been unable to confirm where or when the videos were filmed.

“We’re aware of the video, but we don’t have any comment beyond that,” a Giants team spokesman said via email Friday night.

The NFL, through a spokesman, also declined to comment further.

Hawkins said no receiver in the NFL plays as hard as Landry.

Thomas called the trade for Randall “fantastic” and said it would be good for Kizer to go to Green Bay.

“I really think Kizer has a future in this league, but he needs some time to learn and grow,” Thomas said. “The situation in Green Bay is going to be so much better than it is if he would’ve stayed in Cleveland. For Kizer, this is a great trade. For the Browns, it’s a great trade.”

Hawkins and Thomas both said that Shelton would be a better fit in the 3-4 defense with New England than in Gregg Williams’ 4-3 defense in Cleveland.

The Giants (3-13) badly missed their top receiver after he fractured his ankle during a Week 5 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers. They finished 31st in the NFL, averaging 15.4 points per game.

Beckham has reached the Pro Bowl and set numerous records in his first three professional seasons.

About a month ago, Thomas said the rehab for the torn triceps tendon that ended his 2016 season and his consecutive snap streak at 10,363 was going well.

In January, Thomas told WKYC-Channel 3 in Cleveland that he feels he’s still playing at a high level and he loves the game. But he has struggled with knee and shoulder issues during the past few years to the point that he only practices one day per week.

Female umpire Jen Pawol gets first taste of MLB action

Jen Pawol, one of only two women umpiring in MLB-affiliated professional baseball, was behind the plate Thursday in the Tigers’ 6-1 exhibition win over Division II Florida Southern in Lakeland, Fla., earning praise from Detroit manager Ron Gardenhire and minimal abuse from either team.

The native of New York state says she doesn’t know yet where she’ll be assigned this season, but presumably she’ll work some Grapefruit League games this spring.

“I’m the luckiest woman in the world,” she said. “I get to take the field every day with the best men the world. I am so thankful for the opportunity.”

Behind Ohtani, Tyler Skaggs is sort of a question mark, but Matt Shoemaker has a few successful seasons under his belt. After a season marred by injury in 2017, the hope for the Angels is that Shoemaker can pitch like he did in 2014 and 2016 in particular, when he kept his ERA well under 4.00. But the beauty of having Ohtani in the rotation is that the Angels will not need to lean so heavily on pitchers like Skaggs or Shoemaker.

Finally, once-in-a-generation talent Mike Trout missed a large chunk of last season thanks to a torn ligament in his left thumb, and while it’s not necessarily likely that a full year of Trout would have put the Angels in the 2017 playoffs, losing him for nearly 50 games didn’t help. Trout, at only 26, is garishly talented and was worth nearly 7 WAR in his abbreviated season last year, so having him return to the lineup almost every day in 2018 only bolsters the Angels’ case for making the playoffs.

The road to October won’t necessarily be easier for the Angels this season, but thanks to the additions of Ohtani and a few veterans, they are better equipped to traverse it.

Rodgers-Cromartie joins a slew of top-to-mid tier cornerbacks in the free agency pool.

The move comes one day after NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo reported DRC was asked by the new Giants regime to take a “significant pay cut” from his $6.5 million salary for the 2018 season. NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport added that Rodgers-Cromartie was also asked to move to safety, but the corner will instead test the open market as an outside cornerback.

Former Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman spent just one day on the market before signing an incentive-laden deal with the San Francisco 49ers . Sans Sherman, Malcolm Butler , Trumaine Johnson , Bashaud Breeland , E.J. Gaines , Brent Grimes , Morris Claiborne and Prince Amukamara lead this season’s free-agent cornerback class. Of those top talents, the 31-year-old?DRC is older than all of them but Grimes.

What does this mean for the Bills? : It wasn’t difficult to see Taylor’s departure coming. He was a candidate to be cut last spring before restructuring his contract with the team. The writing on the wall got even darker when he was benched for Peterman in Week 11 despite a 5-4 record. While Taylor would return to mark 14 starts on the season and help get the Bills to the playoffs for the first time since 1999, the franchise’s lack of faith in him meant his days in New York were numbered.

The Chargers have great edge?rushers in Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram, plus?a shutdown corner anchoring their secondary in Casey Hayward. Their 3-4 defense, however, is one speedy,?playmaking linebacker away from being truly elite. Evans?would be a huge?asset against?the pass, both in coverage and in blitz packages.

The Seahawks need to end their nightmare of duct-taping the offensive line and trying to solve problems by?moving players around. McGlinchey’s athleticism will allow him to be a rock of a right tackle for the long haul.

Sean McVay, Baker Mayfield sat next to each other on flight to Indy

Sean McVay spotted reigning Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield walking down the aisle of his flight from Los Angeles to Indianapolis on Tuesday and called him over.

Mayfield took the middle seat, just to sit next to the Los Angeles Rams’ second-year head coach, and got a little bit of advice before interviewing with and working out for an assortment of NFL teams at this year’s scouting combine.

McVay and Mayfield met during Super Bowl week in Minneapolis earlier this month. McVay, who was flying Southwest, which allows passengers to select their seats when they board, got the window with an earlier boarding group. He called Mayfield over because he said he preferred to sit with someone he knew, but he was conscious of giving him his space during the four-hour flight.

McVay called Mayfield an impressive guy, very likeable. You see why his teammates thought the way they do about him.

While Altman was involved in the meeting, he and Mike Gansey — at that point officially the head of the Cavs’ G League team — were only keeping the ship afloat on an interim basis and had yet to be formally elevated to their current roles as GM and assistant GM, respectively.

It was a lapse in judgement that is looked back at by some still within the franchise as the consequential moment that led to the trade that sent Irving to Boston and put Cleveland at a disadvantage for most of the 2017-18 season prior to Altman’s trade deadline deals.

The Falcons did the opposite, throwing into the second half a little longer than they should have after taking a [hops in car, drives to local library, visits newspaper archives, finds a copy of USA Today dated Feb. 6, 2017, reads game recap, asks librarian if this is a typo] 28-3 lead late in the third quarter.

At this point, teams should expect the Patriots to have an advantage in the fourth quarter. They are maniacally well-conditioned, and they consistently make the right corrections to render what you were doing hopelessly ineffective.

Moment of silence, uniform patches among Panthers’ tribute to Florida shooting victims

The Florida Panthers honored the victims of the shooting at Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Luongo made 33 saves in his third game since returning from a groin injury to lead the Panthers to a 3-2 victory. Vincent Trocheck scored the winning goal with 19.1 seconds left for Florida, who celebrated his go-ahead goal by encouraging fellow players to sign his stick. He plans on donating it to the students and faculty at Marjory Stoneman Douglas..

Players from both teams stood for the ceremony, some wiping tears from their eyes.

“We had little angels helping us tonight to help us pull out a big win here,” Luongo said.

The Panthers wore decal stickers Thursday on their helmets and “MSD” patches on their sweaters. They debuted those additions during their road game at Calgary on Saturday and will continue to wear them for the rest of the season.

“They’re nice and gritty and I think we like that style of game,” Hellebuyck said. “We like to get in the mud and really work and grind teams down and I think they fit right into game role.”

Nic Petan and Patrik Laine also scored to help the Jets win for the fourth time in five games.

Jake Allen made 19 saves for the Blues. They are 0-4-1 in their last five.

“Just too many mistakes throughout 60 minutes, including myself,” Allen said. “You see the turnovers against a top team like that with tons of speed and they shoved it back down our throats pretty quick. We need to limits those and tonight it just kind of snowballed on us.”

The Jets, with 81 points, have a solid grasp of second place in the Central Division. The Blues, with 72 points, could lose their hold of the second wild-card spot in the Western Conference with a Los Angeles or Calgary win Saturday.

This Eagles hype video is the best hype video I’ve ever seen, and it’s not close

Austin Seferian-Jenkins is a free agent, and despite some flashes as a reclamation project, he is unlikely to be re-signed. This is one of the weakest tight end units in the NFL, and Bates can’t afford to have it remain that way.

There’s nothing better in the world than being a basketball player! The time has come, perhaps the most difficult in an athlete’s career, time to say goodbye to the courts.

Given the Trail Blazers’ schedule leading up to it … well, you might turn the channel if things turn ugly. This will mark Portland’s fifth game in eight days, with the first three of those games taking place on East Coast time. The Trail Blazers will head home to face Charlotte on Feb. 8, then they’ll head out that night for Sacramento to close out the tail end of a back-to-back set and play their third game in five days. To make matters worse for Portland, the Kings will enter this game with a mighty three-day rest advantage — and the Kings also will be on the 10th day of a 10-day homestand.

The St. Louis Blues’ first-round pick will go to the Philadelphia Flyers if it is outside the top 10 selections, as a result of the trade that sent Brayden Schenn to St. Louis for Jori Lehtera, Washington’s first-round pick in 2017 and this pick. If St. Louis’ pick is within the top 10 selections, the 2018 first-round pick will go to Philadelphia.

Players on the Mavericks roster don’t share that opinion.

Players never play to lose, veteran forward Dirk Nowitzki told reporters earlier in the week. It might happen, but you don’t play for it. I still love to compete. That’s one big reason why I’m still out there. I’ll never stand for losing on purpose. It’s just not who I am.

Dallas is facing Utah for the second time this season. The Jazz have won four of the last five regular-season meetings between the two teams. Utah defeated the Mavericks 104-89 on Oct. 30 behind 25 points from Rodney Hood and 20 points from Ricky Rubio.

Last May, Harper and the Nats agreed to a $21.65 million deal for the 2018 season that was the largest one-year pact ever given to an arbitration-eligible player.

That’s a lot of pressure on a player whose entire professional baseball experience consists of 126 minor league games split between Class A and Class A Advanced teams in 2017. Tebow said Alderson’s prediction was nice, but he’s not thinking about anything other than what he needs to do to improve.

My goal isn’t about what’s going to happen one day, Tebow said. My goal is to focus on this day and our outfield work, my training session, getting to know all the new coaches, and working as hard as I can. I think one of the important things about being an athlete is being able to lock in and have tunnel vision because I can’t worry about one day if I’m going to play in the bigs or not.

I got into this because I love it. I’m passionate about it, and I think for me it’s being able to lock in and have tunnel vision regardless of what team I’m on wherever they decide to put me.

But when Thursday’s action tipped off, that narrative headed for the dumpster. For starters, the Purdue Boilermakers went off the rails, losing at 11-16 Wisconsin Badgers — the Boilers’ third defeat in succession. That means the Auburn Tigers are now this projection’s fourth No. 1 seed.

Note: Quality win data (the ratio in parentheses, see Jan. 26 post for more info) and RPI information are courtesy WarrenNolan.com and accurate as of the morning of Feb. 16, 2018 and only reflect games against Division I opponents.

I will not be discussing anything relative to 2019 at all, Harper said, wearing a Nats cap backward and reading prepared opening remarks from his phone. I’m focused on this year. I’m focused on winning and playing hard like every single year. So if you guys have any questions about anything after 2018, you can call [agent] Scott [Boras] and he can answer you guys. … If you guys do talk anything about that, then I’ll be walking right out the door.

The former No. 1 overall pick in 2010, Harper debuted in 2012 at the age of 19. In 2015, he won the National League’s Most Valuable Player award, becoming the youngest player ever to be voted a unanimous MVP, after a season in which he hit .330 and led the NL with 42 home runs. Despite a down season in 2016, he returned to form last year and was considered an MVP front-runner before suffering a gruesome knee injury in mid-August that all but ended his regular season.

When that contract expires in November, the 25-year old superstar is widely expected to ink a historic deal as the headliner of a star-studded free-agent class that includes Baltimore Orioles third baseman Manny Machado and Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson. That is, if the Nationals aren’t able to sign Harper to a long-term extension before then.

The season is coming unraveled for the Raiders.

They have two straight losses since a 2-0 start and now they’ll be without QB Derek Carr for an estimated two to six weeks because of a transverse process fracture in his back.

The switch to rookie Mitchell Trubisky as the starter at QB is the correct move. The time is right. But the early change underscores how misguided the Bears’ offseason moves at QB were, signing Mike Glennon to a significant contract and then trading up in the draft to land Trubisky. They needed to do one or the other, not both. Now the Bears must hope that Trubisky has the same sort of early success that Deshaun Watson is experiencing with the Texans.

Let’s not hear anything more about how “improved” the Browns’ roster is this season. They played at home against the previously winless Bengals and were down, 31-0, before a late, cosmetic TD. This is not on Coach Hue Jackson.

The Colts are in a great spot at No. 3. Their three biggest needs are offensive tackle, edge rusher and running back, and they have three high-end prospects to choose from here. Offensive tackle would be my pick, as keeping Andrew Luck healthy is more important than giving him rushing support or defensive help.

The Browns have done a great job building their defense in recent drafts, but after adding Darnold first overall this year, getting an elite running talent and a culture-changing person can complete their offense with awesome young players.

Each week, national NFL writer Mark Maske will provide his ranking of the league’s 32 teams. This week, Kansas City holds on to the top spot after maintaining the league’s only unbeaten mark with a convincing Sunday night win over the Texans in Houston. Nipping at the Chiefs’ heels are the Green Bay Packers, who broke more Dallas Cowboys hearts thanks to another sensational last-minute comeback authored by Aaron Rodgers. Things get a little muddy thereafter, with plenty of solid squads filling out the top 10.

With 20 starts heading into his senior season, Thomas was one of the leaders on Miami’s defense, a unit that has been pivotal in the team’s success.