The New York Yankees remained in the top spot as Forbes released its annual Major League Baseball valuations on Thursday. 

It was the 23rd edition of the rankings, with the storied Yankees franchise maintain its record of earning the number one spot in each year. 

According to Forbes, only the only sports team of greater value is the Dallas Cowboys ($5.5billion) of the NFL.

Forbes said the Yankees, whose 27 World Series titles are the most in MLB history, are valued at $5billion – an increase of nine per cent from last year. 

The Los Angeles Dodgers ($3.4billion), Boston Red Sox ($3.3billion), Chicago Cubs ($3.2billion) and San Francisco Giants ($3.1billion) round out the top five. 

Forbes said the average MLB team is worth $1.85billion, four per cent more than last year. It is the smallest yearly increase since 2010, when the average team value rose by two per cent. 

Only one of the 30 MLB teams came in under $1billion, with the Miami Marlins valued at $980million. 

The Kansas City Chiefs agreed to a one-year contract with cornerback Bashaud Breeland on Thursday, retaining another starter from their Super Bowl-winning team. 

According to multiple reports, Breeland has put pen to paper on a deal worth up to $4.5million with incentives.

The 28-year-old signed a one-year contract with Kansas City last offseason and started 15 regular-season games and all three postseason contests during the team's title run.

Breeland finished the regular season with 48 tackles, two interceptions and eight passes defended and came up with a key pick in the Chiefs' 31-20 victory over the San Francisco 49ers in this year's Super Bowl.

Breeland joins Pro Bowl defensive tackle Chris Jones, who was given the franchise tag, and wide receiver Demarcus Robinson as core contributors the Chiefs have been able to bring back from last season's squad.

Kansas City also restructured the contract of wide receiver Sammy Watkins to help create space after entering the offseason with little room under the salary cap. 

The Chiefs lost nickel back Kendall Fuller, defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah and back-up tight end Blake Bell in free agency and are not expected to re-sign veteran running back LeSean McCoy. 

Bell's spot appears to have been filled by Ricky Seals-Jones, whom the Chiefs officially announced they have signed to a one-year contract. 

Seals-Jones recorded a career-high four touchdown receptions in 14 games for the Cleveland Browns last season and had 34 catches totaling 343 yards in 15 games for the Arizona Cardinals in 2018.

The 25-year-old has 60 catches for 773 yards and eight touchdowns in 39 games over three NFL seasons.  

The Arizona Coyotes have signed defenseman prospect Cameron Crotty to a three-year, entry-level contract, general manager John Chayka announced on Thursday.  

Crotty, 20, was drafted by the Coyotes in the third round of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, 82nd overall.  

The right-handed blueliner recently completed his junior season at Boston University, where he scored four goals and registered five assists in 30 games while serving as an alternate captain.  

The Greeny, Ontario native helped to guide Boston University to the Hockey East Conference championship in the 2017-18 season.

Crotty skated in 102 games and totalled 10 goals and 17 assists during his three-year college career.  

Indianapolis Colts general manager Chris Ballard believes the opportunity to sign DeForest Buckner was "unique" and one the team could not turn down.

Ballard believes adding the defensive lineman means the Colts have landed an "elite" player who can have an "infectious" impact on their defense.

The Colts, who also added quarterback Philip Rivers in free agency, gave up the number 13 pick in the upcoming NFL draft to bring in Buckner from the San Francisco 49ers.

They promptly signed him to a huge four-year, $84million contract extension and Ballard felt the chance to pick up a high-profile player in his prime was rare.

"When you have an opportunity to acquire what you think is an elite player at a premium position, who's just turning 26 years old, still has three-plus years of high-level play, who's a unique, physical talent - plus a unique individual in terms of his character - we thought it was a great move for us," Ballard told the team's website.

"Most of the time when you acquire elite players they're usually on the down side of their careers and if it happens in free agency there's usually a reason they're hitting the market. 

"So we just saw a unique opportunity. The 13th pick was a lot, but we think his play, both on the field and what he's going to bring to the locker room, warranted the 13th pick of the draft."

Ballard has been impressed by Buckner's NFL career to date, an opening four years that culminated with him forming a key part of the 49ers team which reached the Super Bowl in 2019.

"He disrupts the line of scrimmage and he's been productive throughout his career," added Ballard of Buckner, who was drafted at number seven overall in 2016.

"His effort level, when you put the tape on, you never seen a down play where you see lack of effort.

"It is a high motor, all the time, playing as fast as he can and as hard as he can, and that's infectious to a defense - that's infectious to a team. 

"DeForest just adds another young talented player with high character that we want to build this thing on."

Padraig Harrington says some European Tour players, along with the majority of caddies, will now be struggling financially because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The proliferation of COVID-19 has led to a widespread halt of top-level sporting activity, with golf no exception.

Harrington, the three-time major winner and Team Europe captain for this year's Ryder Cup, believes only a few weeks without golf would leave some players further down the rankings in trouble.

But he feels the European Tour is more restricted than the more lucrative PGA Tour in what it can do to help.

Asked about possible solutions, Harrington told Stats Perform: "Obviously it's very difficult for the European Tour, they don't seem to be in a financial position to do something that's fair to every player and supports every player. 

"You can be sure there are some players on the Tour that have a month, or two or three months' living expenses and they need to make money to go past that.

"You can be pretty sure there's plenty of caddies who are close to week-to-week in terms of financial security. 

"There are people struggling out there so any ideas brought forward would be considered, but the European Tour doesn't have that financial clout.

"It is an interesting one and the PGA Tour have offered to pay some of your pension contribution back to you based on your performance.

"I know the Tour looks like it but not everyone is making that big money. There will be a few players and a significant number of caddies struggling financially. 

"It could be tough for players and I'm sure case-by-case they'd be considered by the Tour in general but they have to be fair to everybody.

"I am sure they've looked at it and discussed it and I am sure the Players' Committee would accept any proposals brought to them and again examine what would be the best."  

Harrington explained that even in normal times, golf is an expensive sport to play if you are not winning the biggest tournaments.

He said: "I often say to any of the young guys just turned professional, if you're young, free and single professional golf is a great life, there's enough money in it that you're going to survive.

"It gets tougher for the guys if you've got a partner and you've got a mortgage, you've got expenses, you've got to be playing good golf to keep yourself going.

"You can comfortably spend five grand some weeks on expenses, so you've got to be earning money." 

Belgium's Pro League have pushed back the date for a meeting to decide whether or not the 2019-20 season should be cancelled.

Last week, organisers recommended rendering the season void, with the coronavirus pandemic having seen all but a handful of sporting competitions across the world put on hold.

The unprecedented move would have seen Club Brugge declared champions and Waasland-Beveren relegated.

UEFA later insisted that any such decision was premature and that cancelling the whole campaign must be seen as "a last resort" by all member associations.

A Pro League general assembly had been called for April 15 to discuss the findings of a working group tasked with assessing the sporting and financial implications of declaring the season over.

However, a statement on Thursday confirmed the assembly has been delayed until April 24, when all Pro League clubs will be invited to attend.

"The members of the working group appointed by the board of directors are now continuing their duties," the statement added.

With the 2020 Masters postponed amid the coronavirus pandemic, we have drawn from the well of the tournament's rich history to produce something unique.

From its inception in 1934 right up to last year's stunning triumph for Tiger Woods, this major has always delivered the goods.

While the Augusta course may lay dormant for now, echoes of a glorious past still ring around its verdant fairways and greens.

Using daily leaderboards from a selection of the most memorable editions of the event, we have created a Fantasy Masters.

And here is how a thrilling opening round went down...

 

Jordan Spieth (2015) leads a star-studded field after shooting a stunning 64 in the opening round of the Fantasy Masters.

The American sits proudly atop a leaderboard dominated by his compatriots, sinking nine birdies to reach eight under at Augusta.

Spieth, 21, was eyeing a course record until a bogey at the 15th slowed his progress, although he was not too downbeat.

"I wasn't aware what the course record was here, let alone that it actually would have been the lowest round in major championship history. So that's a little frustrating," he said, with Nick Price's 63 safe for now.

"But I'm certainly okay with the day."

However, he faces pressure from Raymond Floyd (1976), who birdied each of the four par fives to stay within one stroke of the summit.

Seve Ballesteros (1980) is flying the flag for Europe, the Spaniard taking a typically bold approach in his 66, putting him one ahead of Jack Nicklaus (1965) and Phil Mickelson (2010).

A scruffy start left Tiger Woods (1997) well off the pace at the turn, sitting four over, but he surged on the way home – highlighted by an eagle three at 15, where Spieth faltered – to sign for a lop-sided 70, taking 40 shots on the front nine and 30 on the back.

Argentina's Angel Cabrera (2009), winner of the 2007 U.S. Open, is in the frame after carding a 68, putting him a solitary stroke clear of a five-man chasing pack consisting of Arnold Palmer (1964), Nick Faldo (1996), Fred Couples (1992), Patrick Reed (2018) and Charl Schwartzel (2011).

Meanwhile, Ben Hogan (1953), Ben Crenshaw (1995) and Tom Watson (1977) matched Woods' score, with Gary Player (1978) propping up the pile as the only man failing to shoot an under-par score.

 

WHAT THEY SAID

Tiger Woods: "I was pretty hot going to the 10th tee. I couldn't keep the ball in the fairway. I couldn't attack the pin. I knew what I was doing wrong. I was in such a bad position at the top of the backswing, I was coming off the ball. But after I realised that, it was just a matter of trusting the motion."

Patrick Reed: "It was one of those steady days where you go out and play normal golf and let the birdies come to you. Around this place, pars are good. I was able to plop myself around and when I had an opportunity I capitalised on it."

LEADERBOARD

Jordan Spieth (2015) -8

Raymond Floyd (1976) -7

Seve Ballesteros (1980) -6

Jack Nicklaus (1965) -5 

Phil Mickelson (2010) -5

Angel Cabrera (2009) -4

Arnold Palmer (1964) -3

Nick Faldo (1996) -3

Fred Couples (1992) -3

Patrick Reed (2018) -3 

Charl Schwartzel (2011) -3

Tiger Woods (1997) -2

Ben Hogan (1953) -2

Ben Crenshaw (1995) -2

Tom Watson (1977) -2

Gary Player (1978) Even

The NBA may be on hold and the start of the WNBA delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic, but basketball fans will have a new game to watch in April.

An announcement by the NBA and National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) on Thursday confirmed a game of HORSE involving eight players and legends from the two leagues will begin on April 12 and be televised.

The challenge, which will be headlined by 10-time NBA All-Star Chris Paul, Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young and 2020 Hall of Fame inductee Tamika Catchings.

Chicago Bulls guard Zach LaVine, WNBA All-Star Allie Quigley, Utah Jazz guard Mike Conley and NBA Finals MVPs Chauncey Billups and Paul Pierce complete the line-up.

Each of the contestants will take part in isolation from their home courts.

Young and Billups will battle for the right to face the victor of a meeting between Catchings and Conley for a place in the semi-finals. LaVine must take on Pierce, with Paul up against Quigley on the other side of the draw.

The semi-finals and the championship game will take place on April 16.

State Farm is sponsoring the competition and will donate over $200,000 on behalf of the competitors.

Europe captain Padraig Harrington views the rescheduled date for the U.S. Open as beneficial for the form of his Ryder Cup players.

This week the PGA Tour confirmed the U.S. Open would be moving from June to September as part of a rescheduled calendar which was released due to tournaments being postponed or cancelled by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The U.S. Open will now begin on September 17 at Winged Foot in New York and it will conclude five days prior to the first day of the Ryder Cup.

The 43rd clash between Europe and USA will take place at Whistling Straits and, rather than fear his players arriving in Wisconsin burned out from the U.S. Open, Harrington expects them to firing on all cylinders.

"It's well above my pay grade, deciding on the actual schedules," Harrington told Stats Perform.

"There was always a chance there would be a major that week when all this came out.

"I think players will be in prime peak [condition] for that major - whatever they can do to be ready for the U.S. Open, that would be the biggest priority for the players.

"My experience is players often end up peaking the week after a major so that's not a bad thing.

"The major the week before will affect anyone who gets in contention, after that most of the players will be fine.

"When they get there for the Ryder Cup on Monday evening, they'll refocus, we'll assess who needs to rest and who doesn't."

Harrington explained he will not adopt a collective approach and will be willing to grant some players more time off if they feel they need it.

"Don't forget last time at the Paris National [in 2018], Justin Rose had just come in and he'd just come off so many big weeks, the FedEx Cup final, so he was like, 'Yeah, I need a bit more time' and we can do that," the Europe captain added.

"Gone are the days when I started out where everybody traipsed out and did the exact same thing for the three days, so individual things will be considered."

The Major League Baseball season is supposed to be two weeks old at this point.

Some random team will inexplicably be off to a ridiculously fast start before its season derails – see last season’s Seattle Mariners who started 13-2 and finished the year with a 68-94 record – while another club would splutter early in the season’s infancy before finding its footing – look no further than the 2019 World Series champions, the Washington Nationals, who were a game under .500 after 15 games and in fourth place in the NL East.

Two weeks into the season, as well, there’s bound to be a number of players who are playing much better than the backs of their baseball card would indicate before they come crashing back down to earth.

After 14 games of the 2019 season, career .275 hitter Elvis Andrus of the Texas Rangers was batting .414, while current Cincinnati Reds shortstop Freddy Galvis, a career .248 hitter with a .384 slugging percentage – the 10th lowest of the 117 active players with at least 3,000 plate appearances – was batting .375 while slugging .708.

While two weeks is a relatively small sample size in terms of the baseball season as all hitters go on hot streaks and endure slumps – even 2019 AL MVP Mike Trout had a .217/.368/.348 slash line with a home run and six RBI over a 13-game stretch from April 23-May 8 last season – two months is not considered a small portion of the season.

Two months, however, is how long it appears the start of the MLB season will be pushed back by after the coronavirus pandemic put a halt on sports and everyday life.

At this point, it’s really anyone’s guess how the 2020 season will look in terms of when it starts, how late it goes, how many games will be played and if games will be played in empty stadiums.

Assuming the 2020 season goes ahead, whatever format is concocted will undoubtedly produce several unique storylines with the potential of expanded rosters, numerous doubleheaders and a condensed schedule.

A season not starting until June or July will certainly have an effect on a number of hitters. Some players routinely get off to slow starts and need some time to find their groove. In the event of a 100-game schedule, those potential slow starters who don’t get comfortable until they get 150 at-bats could be in trouble.

On the flip side, some hitters have their greatest success in April and May before their seasons tails off, and now they won’t have the benefit of playing in the months where they’ve historically thrived.

The weather will also play an interesting role in the season. Players in the cold-weather cities won’t have to get started wearing ski masks under their batting helmets and parkas on the bench.

Here’s a look at some possible situations and how they could benefit or hurt specific hitters.


Hitter-Friendly Coors Field? The Friendly Confines?

One thing that is unlikely to be seen this regular season is the grounds crew at Coors Field shovelling snow off the Colorado Rockies’ playing field – unless, of course, the season is scheduled to go until December.

Regardless of the weather in Denver in April and May, Colorado All-Stars Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story are probably going to be okay not playing early season home games.

Arenado homered just once in 61 at-bats in his first 15 home games last season, while Story averaged a home run every 15.8 at-bats through his first 20 games played in Colorado in 2019. The two then took advantage of the thin air in Colorado, as Arenado hit 20 homes in 62 home games the rest of the way and Story slashed .336/.411/.691, while averaging a homer every 11.4 at-bats in the rest of the Rockies’ home games.

Another NL All-Star who plays in a cold-weather city, the Chicago Cubs and Las Vegas native Kris Bryant, probably isn’t going to do much complaining about not playing games at Wrigley Field in April. In 43 career April games at Wrigley, Bryant is batting .252 while slugging .429 with four home runs.

 


Leave your long underwear and hand warmers at home

The Atlanta Braves were scheduled to play at the New York Mets next week and Braves catcher Travis d’Arnaud probably wasn’t looking forward to a Citi Field homecoming if cold weather was in the forecast.

In games with temperatures 10 degrees Celsius or less, d’Arnaud is batting .132 in 53 at-bats, and his .344 OPS in such games is the lowest among active players with at least 50 career plate appearances in temperatures so cold.

Chicago White Sox outfielder Eloy Jimenez had a solid MLB debut in 2019, hitting 31 home runs – third most by a rookie in franchise history – but not one of those longballs came in the cold weather.

Jimenez had a .348 OPS in games with temperatures 10 degrees Celsius or less, and among hitters with at least 25 plate appearances in such games last season, only the Toronto Blue Jays’ Brandon Drury had a lower OPS at .316.

As the weather warmed, though, Jimenez found success at the plate, compiling an .865 OPS in games when the temperature was 10 degrees Celsius or more. That improvement of .517 in OPS from cold-weather games to warm-weather games was the largest in baseball last season among hitters with at least 25 at-bats with temperatures 10 degrees Celsius or less.

Good news for Jimenez is that it should be warmer than 10 degrees Celsius in Chicago come the summer months.


Extend spring training through May – maybe June

Free agent outfielder Yasiel Puig can’t use the weather as an excuse for his slow starts in recent seasons seeing as he’s spent much of that time calling Southern California home. Of major league players with a minimum of 1,200 plate appearances since 2016, Puig’s .672 OPS through the end of May ranks 222nd. From June through the end of the season over the past four years, he has an .878 OPS. That difference in OPS from pre-June to June and after of .206 is the largest increase in the majors.

Perhaps his mid-season surge is the reason he still remains unsigned as teams are simply waiting for the calendar to turn to June to maximise his production.

One of Puig’s team-mates last season with the Cleveland Indians, Jose Ramirez, had a disastrous first three months of 2019 before finding his stroke.

Coming off a 2018 season in which he finished third in the AL MVP voting, Ramirez stumbled out of the gate in 2019 – and well up to the season’s mid-point – hitting .214 with five home runs and a .634 OPS through the end of June. Out of 135 batting qualifiers his OPS ranked 131st.

He then started to hit like the player who made a run for MVP the previous season, batting.321 with 18 homers and a 1.078 OPS from July on – fourth highest OPS in baseball among batting qualifiers. The improvement in OPS of .444 since the start of July was the largest in baseball among qualifiers in a single season since 1985, when Cleveland’s Andre Thornton had an improvement in OPS of .471 after July 1.

While Ramirez’s 2019 season was a bit of an outlier compared to his previous few seasons, the Houston Astros’ Yuli Gurriel has notoriously been a slow starter who doesn’t heat up at the plate until July.

Gurriel had eight home runs through the end of June last season before nearly tripling that production the rest of the way, clubbing 23 in the season’s final three months.

In his career, Gurriel has a .736 OPS with 20 homers in 211 games before July compared to a .905 OPS with 42 home runs in 208 games in July and later. Since 2017, he’s averaging a homer once every 41.7 at-bats before July and one every 18.9 at-bats after July 1, and that difference of 22.8 at-bats per homer is the biggest improvement in baseball among the 130 major leaguers with at least 50 homers in that time frame.

With the season not expected to start until the middle of summer, will Gurriel immediately start off swinging a hot bat or will he still need more time?

 


On the flip side, the 2020 season cannot start soon enough for some

While Gurriel entered June of last season with all of four homers and a .712 OPS – good enough for 111th out of 135 qualifying batters – the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Josh Bell was making a strong case for the NL MVP.

Bell entered last June batting .343 with 18 homers and a 1.109 OPS, while leading the majors with 40 extra-base hits and 52 RBI. His production fell off dramatically over the next four months, as he hit .232 with 19 home runs, 37 extra-base hits and 64 RBI with an .818 OPS.

All-in-all, Bell still had a terrific season in 2019, but without those astounding first two months, his season totals would certainly take a big hit. Last season, though, may have been an aberration for Bell as his performance at the plate in his first two full big-league seasons were consistent across all months.

Philadelphia Phillies shortstop Jean Segura, however, year after year is his most productive at the plate in the season’s first two months before experiencing a sharp decline.

Segura routinely comes out of spring training feasting on opposing pitchers, owning a .343 batting average through 10 games played in the seven major league seasons that he’s broken camp on the big-league roster.

He continues to roll through the end of May, having compiled a .315 pre-June career batting average. Among the active players with at least 3,000 plate appearances, only the Detroit Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera has a higher pre-June batting average at .322.

Once the calendar flips to June, though, Segura begins to struggle mightily. His .259 career batting average in June is .061 lower than his May average of .320 and that is the third-largest drop-off from May to June in the live-ball era among hitters with at least 3,000 plate appearances.

Things don’t get a lot better for Segura at the plate in July, August and September either, as he’s hitting .271 in his career from June through the end of the season. His .044 drop-off in batting average, as well as his .112 decline in OPS from pre-June (.808) to June through the end of the season (.696), are the largest in baseball among active players with at least 3,000 plate appearances.

Can Segura still get off to his normal hot start at the plate, or because the calendar won’t read April or May will he begin with his regular June struggles?


Play ball

The state of the 2020 season is still a mystery. Once it’s determined it’s safe to play games, the league will devise what will surely be an unprecedented schedule.

And once the schedule is set, then it will be all about how players adapt and how they’ll perform under different circumstances from situations and scenarios not previously seen. The 2020 season will be unlike any other and it will be interesting to see how it all plays out.

Of all the quarterbacks to have endured a slide in the NFL Draft, Aaron Rodgers' fall from prospective number one pick to 24th overall selection is among the most infamous.

Rodgers entered the pros in 2005, when his boyhood team the San Francisco 49ers held the top selection in the draft.

It all seemed so perfect. The Northern California kid who grew up idolising the Niners and played his college ball with the California Golden Bears in nearby Berkeley would land with a San Francisco team in desperate need of a long-term answer at quarterback.

However, the 49ers threw a curveball and instead selected Utah quarterback Alex Smith first overall.

Smith endured many years of struggle with the Niners before finally helping them to the playoffs in 2011 under Jim Harbaugh. The 49ers made the Super Bowl a year later but Smith had to watch from the sideline after a concussion handed the job to Colin Kaepernick, who never gave it back to him.

By marked contrast, Rodgers was selected by the Green Bay Packers as the heir apparent to Brett Favre and led them to a Super Bowl title in the 2010 season. A two-time MVP, Rodgers' legacy as one of the best NFL quarterbacks of all time is secure.

But what if the 49ers had gone with Rodgers 15 years ago? Here we look at how Rodgers being drafted by San Francisco might have changed the landscape of the NFL.

GREEN BAY MISS OUT ON MCCARTHY

Though the 49ers did not draft Rodgers, their offensive coordinator in 2005, Mike McCarthy, ended up being his head coach for the majority of his career in Green Bay.

McCarthy was hired by the Packers in 2006 and it was not until the second half of the 2018 season that Green Bay dispensed with his services

His appointment came despite an awful 2005 season for the 49ers, who finished 4-12 and ranked 30th in total offense. 

Smith was thrown in at the deep end with a team ill-equipped to compete and ravaged by injuries. However, the argument could be made that Rodgers would have fared much better had he been placed at the helm of the Niners offense.

In a scenario where Rodgers comes in and makes the Niners more competitive, perhaps McCarthy is more in demand and receives other offers more attractive than the approach from Green Bay.

There are few franchises with more appeal than the Packers but, if the Niners draft Rodgers, it is possible McCarthy never moves to Wisconsin to guide them to Super Bowl glory five seasons later.

FAVRE RETIRES A PACKER

Brett Favre retired in 2008, allowing Rodgers to ascend to the role of starting quarterback.

However, Favre later stated that he felt pressured into retiring by the Packers and filed for reinstatement to the league.

Talks with the Packers led to him being traded to the New York Jets. His one-year spell with Gang Green was followed by two years with the Packers' division rivals the Minnesota Vikings, turning him into a villain for many in Green Bay.

Had Favre's successor not been lying in wait, the great gunslinger may have been able to retire on his terms as a member of the Packers.

Without Rodgers being drafted by Green Bay, the bizarre image of Favre playing at Lambeau Field in Vikings colours might never have come to pass.

Favre and the Packers deserved a better ending to his time there. If Rodgers' name is first off the board in 2005, the odds are that Favre's send-off is more fitting.

HARBAUGH HEADS TO MIAMI AS NINERS ENJOY EARLY RESURGENCE

The 49ers endured a long playoff drought after losing in the Divisional Round at the end of the 2002 season. They did not make it back to the postseason until the 2011 campaign, when Harbaugh authored a return to prominence.

Yet the signs the Niners had the talent to compete were there before Harbaugh's arrival. Smith showed promise in a 7-9 2006 season and a solid core, featuring the likes of Frank Gore, Vernon Davis, Patrick Willis and Justin Smith, was gradually built.

In 2009, Mike Singletary oversaw the 49ers' first non-losing season since 2002 despite Smith and Shaun Hill alternating at quarterback.

With Rodgers at the helm, the likelihood is the Niners' resurgence would have come well before 2011 and taken them out of the race for Harbaugh's services.

The Miami Dolphins were the other franchise interested in Harbaugh, then head coach at Stanford University.

Success for San Francisco would have allowed the Dolphins a clear run at Harbaugh, who went on to lead the Niners to appearances in three NFC Championship games and the Super Bowl.

Harbaugh eventually left the 49ers in acrimony in 2015 but, given the success he enjoyed in his brief NFL head coaching career, the now-Michigan boss could have set the Dolphins as long-term challengers to the New England Patriots' superiority in the AFC East had the 2005 draft fallen in a different way.

Bayern Munich chief executive Karl-Heinz Rummenigge believes it is imperative the Bundesliga resumes when possible for financial and sporting reasons.

Like most competitions around the world, the Bundesliga has been suspended in an effort to limit the impact of coronavirus.

However, it would appear Germany's top flight is closer to returning than other leagues as most teams have already resumed training in small groups, with games set to take place behind closed doors in early May.

There have been fears that some leagues may have to be scrapped entirely if they cannot be concluded in the coming weeks, yet Rummenigge is vehemently against that notion.

"We know that it is necessary to start again for two reasons," he told Corriere dello Sport. 

"The first is the sports one. You have to assign the title, know which team will participate in the cups, who will be demoted. 

"The second, no less important, is economic. Here the televisions that broadcast the games have a strong impact on revenues."

To help lessen the financial impact, Bayern and Germany's three other Champions League representatives in 2019-20 - Borussia Dortmund, RB Leipzig and Bayer Leverkusen - have all pledged €20million to Bundesliga and 2.Bundesliga clubs.

Rummenigge warned such collaborations will be necessary across the game after a decade of big spending.

"For 10 years, football has lived beyond its means and the clubs have taken all the risks," he added.

"In such a difficult moment, balance sheets do not count as much as cash.

"The crisis is global, the solution must be shared. The field can limit the damage. FIFA and UEFA must improve their relations and act economically."

Four years ago today, Anthony Joshua claimed a portion of the world heavyweight title for the first time.

Entering the O2 Arena to a hero's reception, Joshua's 16th fight as a professional pitted him against the undefeated but largely untested American Charles Martin.

As was the case throughout his early career, the 2012 Olympic champion got the job done in double-quick time, decking the rangy southpaw twice with crisp right hands in the second round to seal a TKO triumph and the IBF belt.

Since then, however, it has not always been plain sailing.

Here, we look back at AJ's record in world title fights since becoming champion.


Dominic Breazeale

Joshua did not waste much time in booking a first defence of his IBF strap and was back in the ring at the end of June 2016 to face another American.

Breazeale arrived with an unbeaten 17-fight record and was taller than the champion. He had fought at the 2012 Olympics as well, only his bid for gold ended in the preliminary round.

The Californian is nicknamed 'Trouble' but he failed to provide many issues for his opponent on the night. Joshua tenderised him for several rounds before a knockout arrived in the seventh. The beaten fighter earned plaudits for his bravery but was simply outclassed at the O2 Arena.


Eric Molina

Poor Molina was served up as the appetiser before the main event in December 2016. The Texan had pushed Wilder into the ninth round 18 months earlier, but was blown away inside three in Manchester.

Joshua scored a knockdown with a big right hand and while Molina beat the count, referee Steve Gray called a halt to proceedings soon after the resumption. Wladimir Klitschko watched on from close quarters before climbing into the ring to confirm he would face the reigning IBF champion next.

Molina, meanwhile, tested positive for a banned substance after the bout. He was handed a two-year ban in May 2018, though by then he had already had two outings since losing to Joshua.


Wladimir Klitschko

Klitschko was undoubtedly the biggest test of Joshua's career. The cynics suggested the Londoner had benefited from a soft schedule in the pros, but a meeting with the experienced Ukrainian in April 2017 looked anything but easy.

As well as the IBF strap, the vacant IBO and WBA titles were on the line in front of a full house at Wembley Stadium. The meeting of two fighters at contrasting stages of their careers did not disappoint either, serving up a see-saw contest that captivated the audience.

Joshua scored a knockdown in round five but was down himself in the next. However, Klitschko failed to capitalise on a rival apparently running on empty, allowing the home favourite to regroup and force a stunning stoppage in the 11th, with Klitschko downed again before being saved by referee David Fields.


Carlos Takam

Joshua was due to take on Kubrat Pulev in October 2017 in Cardiff, only for the IBF mandatory challenger to pull out through injury. In stepped Takam, a teak-tough replacement with a reputation for making life difficult for his foes.

He certainly left a mark on the Briton, an early clash of heads drawing blood from Joshua's nose, while Takam suffered a nasty cut in a fourth round that also saw him knocked down.

However, the substitute stuck around until he was eventually stopped midway through the 10th. Takam felt he could have carried on, but Joshua extended his record of wins inside the distance to 20 after a less-than-memorable outing.


Joseph Parker

The unification clash between two unbeaten heavyweights in their prime saw Joshua head back to the Welsh capital at the end of March 2018. In the opposite corner was Parker, a New Zealander based in Las Vegas who held the WBO title.

For the first time, Joshua was unable to get the job done inside the distance. His risk-free policy of staying out of range allowed him to put rounds in the bank, leading to a landslide verdict from the judges after a slow-burner that was more intriguing than entertaining.

Parker – returning after surgery on both elbows – was a tough nut to crack but barely threatened an upset. He achieved the honour of becoming the first boxer to take AJ 12 rounds, but left the ring minus his belt. For Joshua, it was a performance that demonstrated he is about far more than just raw power.

Alexander Povetkin

A showdown for the undisputed heavyweight crown against then-WBC king Deontay Wilder continued to prove elusive and, as the American knockout specialist began to make plans for an alternative path with Tyson Fury in situ, Joshua had dangerous Russian veteran Alexander Povetkin next on his agenda.

It was another Wembley extravaganza, although the fire show that greeted the champion to the ring mingled with damp September air and Joshua did not have it all his own way early on – Povetkin steadying the man 11 years his junior and bloodying his nose with a hook at close quarters.

Joshua, who had the final stages of his build-up compromised by a heavy cold, weathered the storm and the finish was spectacular when it arrived in round seven. A left hook, straight right combination sent Povetkin crashing to the floor and he duly crumpled under the follow-up barrage.

Andy Ruiz Jr

Joshua's dream American debut abruptly unravelled into the nightmare of being on the receiving end of one of the biggest upsets in heavyweight history at New York's Madison Square Garden in June last year.

Ruiz was in as a late replacement for motor-mouthed drugs cheat Jarrell Miller and the Mexican's kindly demeanour and rotund physique did an excellent job of obscuring the danger that lay in his deceptively fast hands.

After a slow start, Joshua decked his foe with a left hook off the right uppercut but, as he looked to close the show, a chopping Ruiz right to the temple left him on bandy legs. The champion never regained his equilibrium and was hanging on after going down twice in a topsy-turvy third. Two more trips to the floor in round seven left the Briton looking battered, baffled and beaten.

Andy Ruiz Jr

With little hesitation, Joshua exercised his rematch clause and both men reconvened in the unusual surrounding of Saudi Arabia for a fight dubbed 'The Clash on the Dunes' last December.

Joshua came in lighter and more mobile, while Ruiz… didn't. Boxing, moving and working expertly off a sharp jab, the Briton banked rounds and it quickly became clear the champion's reign would be a brief one.

Margins of 119-109 and 118-110 twice on the judges' scorecards underlined a story of almost total domination.

Patrick Mahomes has expressed his delight at the Kansas City Chiefs' signing of running back DeAndre Washington.

According to widespread reports, Washington has signed a one-year contract with the Super Bowl champions.

He played alongside quarterback Mahomes in college with Texas Tech before spending the first four years of his NFL career with the Oakland Raiders, now known as the Las Vegas Raiders.

Mahomes praised his signing on Twitter, writing to Washington: "Glad to be back with my dawg! Welcome to #ChiefsKingdom."

Last season, Washington had 387 rushing yards and three touchdowns along with 36 catches for 292 yards.

He will be expected to compete with Darwin Thompson and Darrel Williams for snaps behind starting RB Damien Williams, who starred in the Chiefs' Super Bowl victory over the San Francisco 49ers.

Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Trent Alexander-Arnold will be among the England players competing in a FIFA 20 tournament designed to raise awareness of the fight against coronavirus.

The Football Association has announced 16 players across England's senior men and women's teams, and the Under-21 squad, will take part in a competition that begins next week.

As well as underlining the importance of the United Kingdom government's advice for citizens to stay at home amid the coronavirus pandemic, the tournament will also highlight the National Emergencies Trust, a collection of community foundations that distributes money to charities.

Chelsea trio Mason Mount, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Tammy Abraham will also compete in the tournament, along with fellow England players Callum Wilson and James Maddison.

Lucy Bronze, Jordan Nobbs and Ellie Roebuck - all part of Phil Neville's women's squad - will also be involved, as will Under-21 internationals Reiss Nelson, Todd Cantwell, Max Aarons, Eddie Nketiah and Ryan Sessegnon.

The opening round of the tournament begins on Friday, April 10.

The NRL is planning to resume on May 28, the Australian Rugby League Commission (ARLC) has announced.

The competition was suspended after just two rounds on March 23 due to the coronavirus pandemic, with earlier games having taken place behind closed doors.

ARLC chairman Peter V'landys said this week he was confident of the season restarting on June 1 but after a call including representatives of all 16 clubs on Thursday it was decided to resume even sooner.

ARL Commissioner Wayne Pearce, who is heading up the innovations committee, said: "I'm pleased to announce we're planning a competition start on May 28.

"The details on the competition structure we haven't got yet because the landscape is changing around government boundaries. That will feed into the complexity structure.

"Today what we landed on was a starting date.

"We haven't finalised what that [competition] looks like yet. Why we want to firm up a date is to give certainty to players and their schedules, clubs and thousands of people who are out of work through clubs and millions of fans.

"It's a mark for everyone to work towards that's associated with the game."

Real Madrid star Toni Kroos said it was logical for players and coaches to take a pay cut amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Madrid announced that players and coaches from their football and basketball squads agreed to reduction in wages on Wednesday, with LaLiga and professional sport in Spain on hold due to COVID-19.

Directors at Madrid also accepted to voluntary reductions in pay for 2019-20 – the pay cuts will be between 10 and 20 per cent "depending on the circumstances that may affect the closing of the 2019-20 season", the club said in a statement.

Prior to the midweek announcement, Kroos had stated he was not in favour of pay cuts amid financial concerns but the Germany international explained his comments.

"It is possible that it [the interview] has not been translated correctly or that some do not want to understand," Kroos wrote via Twitter.

"From the first moment, my opinion, you know me well, is this: if we can help the workers and areas of the club, I see it as logical to renounce part of our salary, something that could be proven today."

In an interview with SWR Sport podcast on Tuesday, Madrid midfielder Kroos said: "Cutting salaries is like a donation in vain – or for the club.

"I am in favour of paying the full salary and let everyone do sensible things with it. Everyone is being asked to help where necessary, and there are many places where it is necessary."

LeBron James is optimistic the coronavirus-hit NBA season can resume, though the Los Angeles Lakers superstar would struggle to find closure if the campaign did not conclude.

The NBA has been on hiatus since March 11 amid the COVID-19 pandemic, with over 88,500 deaths worldwide and more than 1,518,700 confirmed cases.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver said the league will not be able to make any decisions regarding the season until at least May.

Asked how he would feel if the season could not be finished, James – whose Lakers were top of the Western Conference at the time of the postponement – told reporters on Wednesday: "I don't know if I will be able to have any closure."

Initially against the idea of playing games without fans if and when the season restarts, three-time NBA champion James added: "If it comes to a point if we're playing without our fans, we still know that we have Laker faithful with us in spirit.

"We know they'll be home cheering us on, online, on their phones, on their tablets watching us playing so hopefully we can bottle that energy that we know we're getting from them.

"Bottle that loyalty that they've had for not only this year but since the Lakers have been in Los Angeles. So hopefully we're able to channel that. Channel that energy, channel that focus and bring them with us if we're either at Staples without fans or we're somewhere in an isolated location playing the game of basketball."

The NBA is reportedly exploring the possibility of holding the entire postseason in one location – Las Vegas. The Lakers had played 63 of the 82-game regular season when the campaign was halted.

"I believe once [the pandemic is] under control and they allow us to resume some type of activity, I would love to get the season back going," James, 35, continued. "I feel like we're in a position where we can get back and start to compete for a championship, get back to doing what we love to do, making our Laker faithful proud of us, of being back on the floor.

"And if it's in one single isolated destination ... if it's Las Vegas or somewhere else that can hold us and keep us in the best possible chance to be safe, not only on the floor but also off the floor as well, then those conversations will be had. Just figuring out a way."

After a difficult first season in Los Angeles, James had returned to his brilliant best for the Lakers in 2019-20 – the veteran's performances catapulting him into the mix for a fifth MVP award.

At the time of the NBA suspending the league, James had been averaging 25.7 points, 10.6 assists and 7.9 rebounds per game for the Western Conference-leading Lakers.

"I can have some satisfaction on what our team has been able to do this year, having a first-year coach, first-year system, a whole new coaching staff, bringing on so many new pieces to our team this year," James said.

"Doing the things that I honestly -- like I told you guys all year -- I honestly didn't think that we would be able to come together as fast as we did. I thought it would take us a lot longer than it did. But I was wrong. I was very wrong about that."

St Louis Blues star Vladimir Tarasenko is set to return to the ice when and if the coronavirus-hit NHL season resumes.

Tarasenko underwent shoulder surgery in October and the Russian forward has not played for Stanley Cup champions the Blues since.

The three-time All-Star had three goals and seven assists in 10 games up until October 24.

Tarasenko began skating for the first time since the procedure in early February and was inching closer to a return before the season was paused on March 12 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I was lucky enough to travel a couple road trips before this all started to feel like a part of the team again more," Tarasenko said on the Blues' full-team conference call on Wednesday.

"Just looking forward to joining the guys on the ice, practice normally and hopefully play some hockey. It's been a long year, but hockey will start some day and we're just waiting for the day."

Tarasenko and Alex Ovechkin are the only players in the league to score at least 30 goals for five consecutive seasons entering 2019-20. 

The Blues' Tarasenko had 11 goals and six assists in 26 games last season to help St Louis win the Stanley Cup for the first time. 

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