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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Cliff Lee to return to Phillies - Big Ten Names New Divisions -

Big Ten settles on Leaders and Legends as new division names
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- When the Big Ten plays its first conference championship game next season, it'll be the Leaders division against the Legends division.
The conference, expanding to 12 teams in all sports and adding divisions and a championship game in football starting next season, on Monday also unveiled a new logo and 18 football awards, each named after two standout Big Ten performers.
"The Legends, not too hard in that we have 215 College Football Hall of Fame members, we have 15 Heisman Trophy winners," Commissioner Jim Delany said in an exclusive interview with The Associated Press. "We thought it made perfect sense to recognize the iconic and the legendary through the naming of the division in that regard. ... We've had plenty of leaders in the conference, that's for sure, but the emphasis here is to recognize the mission of using intercollegiate athletics and higher education to build future leaders."
With Nebraska becoming the conference's 12th team next year, the conference created new divisions that it introduced in September. Illinois, Indiana, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue and Wisconsin will be in the Leaders Division, with Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska and Northwestern in the Legends Division.
Delany said the conference had considered naming the divisions after coaches, players, commissioners and faculty but it was too difficult to single out just two. It also disdained from going with compass points since geography had been only the third consideration when the conference announced the divisional setup three months ago. In order, the main factors were competitive balance, maintaining rivalries, and then geography.
Asked if Leaders and Legends was too bland, or not unique to the Big Ten, Delany responded, "All of these things will engender discussion. We want to engage our fans. All I can tell you is that we thought long and hard about what not to do. We thought harder about what to do."
The logo is a block "Big Ten" which includes an homage to the original 10 members with those numerals embedded in the last two letters of the word Big.
The design firm Pentagram came up with the new logo. And, no, the conference never seriously considered putting a 12 in its logo or changing its well-known brand name to include the number of members today.
"There will be people who would want us to be digitally correct with our name and our number, but I think we have 100-percent support of the people who have responsibility for these programs - in fact, it was a presidential directive - that we maintain our name," Delany said.
The conference also introduced 18 new football awards which will be presented starting in 2011 with the advent of divisional play and Nebraska joining the fold.
The awards include the Stagg-Paterno Championship Trophy, presented to the winner of the conference title game, an offensive player of the year award honoring Otto Graham and Eddie George and a defensive trophy which will honor Bronko Nagurski and Charles Woodson. The Hayes-Schembechler Coach of the Year trophy will also be introduced next season.

Cliff Lee to return to Phillies
The numbers had been crunched and all the scenarios exhausted Monday night when Cliff Lee finally made his decision.
He picked up the phone, thanked Rangers general manager Jon Daniels for his time in Texas and revealed he was signing with the Philadelphia Phillies. Agent Darek Braunecker simultaneously delivered the news to New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman. And just like that, Lee was back where he felt he belonged.
The most intriguing negotiation of the hot stove season came to a stunning conclusion late Monday when Lee, 32, spurned bigger offers from the Yankees and Rangers and agreed to a five-year, guaranteed $120 million contract with the Phillies, sources said. The deal includes an "easily reachable" vesting option for a sixth year, a source said, and most likely will ensure that Lee finishes his career in a Philadelphia uniform.
Lee's deal includes a $27.5 million option that vests if he pitches 200 innings in 2015 or a total of 400 innings over the 2014-15 seasons. If the option doesn't vest, the deal includes a $12.5 million buyout.
Lee joins Carl Crawford of the Boston Red Sox and Jayson Werth of the Washington Nationals as the third free agent to sign a contract of more than $100 million this offseason. In addition, Colorado shortstop Troy Tulowitzki recently signed an extension that tacked $134 million onto his deal with the Rockies.
Lee's agreement carries the third-biggest guarantee ever for a pitcher, behind CC Sabathia's $161 million contract with the Yankees and Barry Zito's $126 million deal with the San Francisco Giants. But in the end, his negotiations were as much about heartstrings as purse strings.
In July 2009, Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. acquired Lee from the Cleveland Indians to be a stretch-drive savior in a pennant race. Lee helped pitch the Phillies into the playoffs and posted a 2-0 record with a 2.81 ERA in Philadelphia's World Series loss to the Yankees.
Beyond that, Lee came to embrace the clubhouse culture in Philadelphia, and he and his wife, Kristen, quickly grew to love the city. So when the Phillies acquired pitcher Roy Halladay in a trade with Toronto last December and sent Lee to Seattle for three prospects in an ancillary move, it came as a crushing disappointment to the family. One Phillies front-office member said the Lees were "heartbroken" by the news.
Lee split the 2010 season between Seattle and Texas, dominated the postseason before suffering two losses to San Francisco in the World Series, and was at the top of every publication's free-agent rankings in November. The Yankees and Rangers quickly made their interest known, sending delegations to Lee's home in Little Rock, Ark., and gradually increasing their offers well beyond their initial comfort zones.
Sabathia, Lee's former Cleveland teammate, lobbied him to come to New York, and Lee's teammates in Texas wore out his cell phone imploring him to come back to Arlington.
The Phillies, meanwhile, lurked on the periphery, intent on becoming a player as Lee neared his decision. Baseball sources said Amaro and his front office jumped into the process with increased fervor after last week's winter meetings in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. "It happened in a hurry," said a source familiar with the negotiations.
There were some significant obstacles to overcome. The Phillies' club policy typically precludes contracts of longer than three years for pitchers, and they held the line with Halladay to three years and $60 million, plus a $20 million vesting option for 2014. But it was clear that wouldn't get it done with Lee, and Amaro broke with the policy of his predecessor, Pat Gillick, and kept sweetening the Phillies' offer to Lee. Eventually, the Phillies got it close enough to the New York and Texas packages that Lee couldn't say no.
The Yankees' final offer to Lee came in at $132 million over six years, a source said, with a $16 million player option that could have brought it to $148 million. But as that whopping figure stood out there for days without a positive response from Lee, Yankees officials grew increasingly pessimistic over their chances of landing the pitcher.
Lee's decision now leaves Cashman with some serious salvage work to do. Sabathia is coming off knee surgery, A.J. Burnett sported a 5.26 ERA this past season, and Phil Hughes and Ivan Nova will begin the 2011 season at age 24. The Yankees haven't expressed much interest in trading for Kansas City's Zack Greinke, and they probably would be challenged making a deal within the division for Tampa Bay's Matt Garza. In addition, what remains of the free-agent market is a monumental dropoff from Lee.
ESPN MLB Insider Buster Olney explains how Cliff Lee ended up back with the Philadelphia Phillies. Olney says the Phillies were always in the conversation on the periphery. Plus, Olney talks about the incredible Phillies rotation on paper.
As for the Rangers, they made a six-year offer for an undetermined figure with a seventh-year option, only to come up short in their bid to land Lee. Now they'll have to either explore a deal for Garza or take a look at Carl Pavano, Brandon Webb, Jeff Francis and some other free-agent pitchers who are still available. The Rangers apparently don't match up with Kansas City in a potential trade for Greinke.
"We're disappointed but now we can move on and look at other ways to improve the team," Daniels told ESPNDallas.com. "We still have every expectation to win this year. It's hard to find fault with Cliff's decision when he chooses a spot where he and his family are comfortable, and he has a chance to win. He was a part of the most successful team in club history, to this point, and we thank him for his role here."
Sources said Amaro is trying to trade pitcher Joe Blanton to free up some money, but the Lee acquisition signifies another major commitment for a franchise that hasn't been hesitant to spend money. The Phillies ranked fourth among the 30 MLB teams with a $142 million Opening Day payroll, and they continue to throw bouquets to a fan base that's produced 123 straight sellouts at Citizens Bank Park.
A Red Sox source told ESPNBoston.com's Gordon Edes that Boston and Phladelphia talked Monday about a Blanton trade but couldn't come to agreement on a deal. At this point there is no reason to expect a deal, the source said.
Beyond the finances, the Phillies have a starting rotation that will be the envy of baseball in 2011. Most teams are fortunate to have one starter who can be classified as a bona fide ace. With Halladay, Lee, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels in the mix, Philadelphia manager Charlie Manuel now has four. If the Phillies thought expectations for the team were high in 2010, they haven't seen anything yet.

College Hoops Dec. 13, 2010
AP Top 25 Rank Team Record Pts Pvs
1. Duke (65) 10-0 1,625 1
2. Ohio St. 8-0 1,547 2
3. Kansas 9-0 1,467 4
4. Connecticut 8-0 1,343 6
5. Syracuse 10-0 1,331 8
6. Kansas St. 9-1 1,320 5
7. Tennessee 7-0 1,316 11
8. Pittsburgh 10-1 1,137 3
9. Baylor 6-0 1,023 10
10. Villanova 8-1 926 12
11. San Diego St. 10-0 914 14
12. Illinois 10-1 779 16
13. Missouri 8-1 771 15
14. Michigan St. 7-3 755 7
15. Georgetown 9-1 722 9
16. BYU 10-0 688 18
17. Kentucky 7-2 668 17
18. Memphis 7-1 561 13
19. Purdue 9-1 506 19
20. Louisville 8-0 464 24
21. Minnesota 9-1 336 22
22. Texas 7-2 181 25
22. UNLV 9-1 181 20
24. Notre Dame 9-1 165 23
25. Texas A&M 9-1 105 -
Others receiving votes: UCF 62, Florida 55, Washington 37, Temple 30, Vanderbilt 29, North Carolina 21, Cleveland St. 15, Arizona 8, Wisconsin 8, Saint Mary's, Calif. 6, Cincinnati 5, Northwestern 5, Washington St. 5, Richmond 3, Old Dominion 2, West Virginia 2, Boston College 1.

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