Major League Baseball
Yankees' Matsui, Damon join free-agent ranks
World Series MVP Hideki Matsui became a free agent Monday along with New York Yankees teammates Johnny Damon, Eric Hinske, Jose Molina and Xavier Nady. Matsui and Damon both said after the Yankees' six-game victory over Philadelphia last week that they would like to stay with New York. The Yankees said it was too early to address how they want to formulate their team for 2010.
■ Boston prevented Victor Martinez from filing by exercising a $7.7 million option on the catcher-first baseman. The Red Sox declined a $6 million option on shortstop Alex Gonzalez, who will get a $500,000 buyout. Gonzalez immediately filed.
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Boston also declined a $5 million option on captain Jason Varitek, and the catcher now must decide whether to exercise a $3 million player option. Rather than exercise its $4 million option on Tim Wakefield, the Red Sox agreed to a $5 million, two-year contract with 43-year-old knuckleballer.
■ Tampa Bay blocked Carl Crawford from becoming eligible for free agency by exercising a $10 million option on the left fielder.
France wants TV broadcasters to dial back their criticism
NASCAR chairman Brian France said he wants TV broadcasters that work NASCAR events to call the sport like those in other sports do and limit their areas of criticism. France made the comments in an exclusive interview with The Roanoke Times of Virginia before Sunday's race at Texas Motor Speedway.
The sport has been battered by critical comments from TV broadcasters the past two weeks, starting with a roundtable discussion in The Roanoke Times with Larry McReynolds, Jimmy Spencer and Kyle Petty. The three targeted the so-called "Car of Tomorrow" and the lack of balanced competition in their criticism of the sport.
"It's the safest thing that has ever happened to our sport," Spencer said of the Sprint Cup cars. "Absolutely the worst car you will ever see in your life. No driver will tell you that because they're scared to."
Said Petty: "Part of the blame goes to the cars. Part of the blame goes to the complacency and the vanillaness of the drivers. Part of the blame has to go to the economy. But at the same time, it circles back and you can say there's not as many butts in the stands and there are just not as many eyes on the TV on Sunday afternoons. That's got nothing to do with the economy. I've already paid for that TV."
Sunday, France spoke publicly for the first time on the issue.
"Clearly, this is a sport that has a lot of opinions," France said. "Most other sports channel their thoughts and criticisms differently. That is an unusual thing that we have, to have people within the sport openly just criticizing (NASCAR) as we go along, but maybe that's something very unique in NASCAR that no other sport has to sort out. We'll sort it out."
France noted that he is not against all forms of criticism.
"We welcome criticism on calls that are made, strategy, policy; that goes with the territory," he said. "What we'll ask the commentators to do, they're professionals, and to look at how other professional commentators call other sports. They work with professional networks. They are professionals in their own right. At some point they have to be professionals and that will be that."
France defended the level of competition in the sport.
"I think we're getting better and I think it's very good," he said. "I think we've had some great races at like Loudon and even Dover, places that are not known as having our most exciting races, but they were. ... I think if you look at it on balance, we're very pleased with the competitive level of things. It's easy to get off track when you look at how good Jimmie Johnson has been, how dominant he's been and sort of forget that there's been lots of hard-fought passing and racing that has gone on, but there has. We're quite pleased with it ... finishing up in 2009."
UK goalie wins 7th weekly honor
Kentucky men's soccer goalkeeper Dan Williams was named the Conference USA Defensive Player of the Week for a league-record seventh time after shutting out Southern Methodist and High Point. Kentucky (13-5, 5-3 C-USA) will be seeded fourth in the conference tournament and will play top-seeded and host Tulsa on Friday. Tulsa won the teams' regular-season matchup 1-0 in Lexington.
■ Kentucky senior libero BriAnne Sauer was named the Southeastern Conference's Defensive Player of the Week. Sauer, a Louisville native, led the Wildcats with 6.86 digs per set last week.
■ Campbellsville's returning leading hitter, Brian Chase, was named to the NAIA Pre-season Baseball All-America Team. Chase, a 6-foot-7, 250-pound first baseman from San Jose, Calif., helped lead Campbellsville (39-12) to a fifth consecutive Mid-South Conference championship and its first NAIA World Series last summer, hitting .475 with 17 home runs and 71 RBI.
Hall of Fame to be built in Pennsylvania
A museum honoring excellence in scholastic sports is going up in Easton, Pa. The High School Sports Hall of Fame Museum will be built in a sporting hotbed known nationally for its wrestling programs and for its century-old football rivalry with neighboring Phillipsburg, N.J. The $20 million museum will highlight inductees who, as girls and boys, excelled in 20 high school sports. The National High School Coaches Association's past award winners have included NBA stars LeBron James and Dwight Howard, American League batting champ Joe Mauer and Olympic gold medal swimmer Allyson Felix. Two Kentuckians have won the honors, given yearly since 2000. Pro golfer J.B. Holmes, a Taylor County graduate, won the boys' golf award in 2001. St. Xavier's Kevin Bick won the boys' soccer award in 2009.
Overall numbers down at Santa Anita
Attendance was down 11 percent and on-track wagering declined 16 percent during Santa Anita's recently concluded 31-day Oak Tree meeting. Track officials in Arcadia, Calif., blamed the struggling local and national economy for the downturn in the meeting that ended Sunday. Wagering from all sources was down 15 percent.
The meeting ended on a high note with the two-day Breeders' Cup, which attracted 96,496 fans on Friday and Saturday — a 17 percent increase from a year ago when 82,578 attended the world championships at Santa Anita.
Safin keeps career alive at Paris Masters
Marat Safin extended his career by at least one more round, saving three match points Monday to beat French qualifier Thierry Ascione 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (3) at the Paris Masters. The 29-year-old Russian, a three-time winner in Paris, plans to retire after this tournament. He will face U.S. Open champion Juan Martin Del Potro of Argentina in the second round. "The way he is playing right now, I don't think I have a chance," Safin said. "I'm going to fight 100 percent. But to win it? I'm not sure."
The last word
Milwaukee Bucks center Andrew Bogut heaped praise on former UK star Jodie Meeks after the rookie scored 19 points on Saturday:
"Jodie did a great job. He's a flat-out shooter. The good thing about him is he doesn't hesitate. If he's open, he's shooting it. I think he's going to be one of the steals in the draft, especially in the second round. He has a phenomenal stroke, and we're happy to have him on our team."