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Why signing Josh Donaldson was a move the Twins needed as they try to defend AL Central title


The Minnesota Twins on Tuesday reportedly agreed to terms with free agent third baseman Josh Donaldson on a four-year deal worth $92 million. After a frenzied pace earlier in the offseason that saw premium free agents Stephen Strasburg, Anthony Rendon, and Gerrit Cole come off the board in quick succession, Donaldson was the last big name standing. Now he’s landed with the reigning AL Central champs. 

Donaldson, 34, is coming off an impressive bounce-back season with the Braves. He batted .259/.379/.521, which was good for an OPS+ of 127. He also smacked 37 home runs and 33 doubles in 155 games. You can discount those unadjusted numbers a bit if you’re so inclined on account of the hitter-friendly nature of SunTrust Park, as it was then known, and the “rabbit ball” that in large measure defined the 2019 regular season. Moving forward, you can rightly raise concerns about Donaldson’s age and the possibility that decline will set in soon. 

Countering those concerns are Donaldson’s quality of contact measurements from 2019. Consider:

  • Last season, Donaldson’s average exit velocity of 92.9 mph ranked in the top ten percent of MLB.
  • His hard-hit percentage of 50.0 ranked in the top three percent of MLB.
  • His “barrel” rate of 15.7 percent ranked in the top four percent of MLB. 
  • Based on quality of contact, Donaldson in 2019 had an expected slugging percentage of .536, which is higher than his actual mark of .521. 

If you look at those batted ball metrics in totality, Donaldson probably deserved to have even better numbers than he did last season. All of that bodes very well for 2020 (and perhaps beyond), despite his age. 

Also, Donaldson, clear of the injuries that afflicted him in 2017 and 2018, enjoyed one of his best seasons with the glove, and advanced metrics are in almost total agreement on that point. To cite one example, MLB’s Outs Above Average, which takes into account things like positioning during infield overshifts, ranks Donaldson for 2019 behind just Nolan Arenado and Matt Chapman among primary third basemen. 

None of this, of course, was lost on the Twins. They add his power bat to a that “Bomba Squad” offense that last season ranked second in the AL in OPS and set the all-time record for home runs in a season (307). No less important is that Donaldson and his plus glove will dislodge Miguel Sano at third base and push him across the diamond to first. Sano is one heck of a hitter, but he was squarely a fielding liability at the hot corner. As well, the move to a less demanding defensive position may afford him better health. 

In lineup terms, Donaldson essentially replaces C.J. Cron, who earlier this offseason signed with the Tigers as a free agent. While Cron has his merits, Donaldson is a much more productive hitter and continues to profile as much, at least for the near- to mid-term. And to repeat, installing Donaldson at third and moving Sano to first significantly upgrades the Minnesota defense (it’s also entirely possible Sano will be a defensive upgrade over Cron at first base).

This is a move the Twins needed to make. The Indians again profile as contenders in the AL Central, provided they do the proper thing and keep Francisco Lindor. The White Sox also look like they’ll be relevant thanks to their impressive young core in tandem with one of the most active offseasons of any team. Minnesota’s addition of Donaldson, one of the best talents available, in a real way parries all of those concerns and signals that — unlike so many other contenders — the Twins are taking their present opportunity seriously. Maybe this contract because of Donaldson’s age doesn’t look so appealing on the back end from the team standpoint. For 2020, though, it’s a huge offseason win for the Twins. 





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Baseball

Once a budding dynasty, Astros are left with tarnished title and uncertain future in wake of scandal


When Corey Seager grounded out to Jose Altuve for the final out of the 2017 World Series, the assumption was that it wouldn’t be the last time this Astros core ended the season in a pile on the mound. Assumptions are especially perilous in a sport like baseball — so often a loyal subject to randomness — but the Jeff Luhnow Astros seemed bound for dynasty-hood. 

As the story goes, the Astros under Luhnow as GM undertook a complete razing of the organization — one that saw them lose more than 300 games across three seasons and run a derelict payroll of $26 million at one point — in the service of a better tomorrow. They landed on talents like Carlos Correa and Alex Bregman and Lance McCullers Jr. and paired them with star-level holdovers from prior regimes like Altuve, George Springer, and Dallas Keuchel. Along the way they tapped into their young talent base in order to swing trades for Ken Giles and Justin Verlander. Not 10 weeks after hoisting the trophy, they executed a blockbuster swap for Gerrit Cole and swiftly turned him into the most dominant starting pitcher in baseball. Then came the most recent deadline addition of Zack Greinke, whose presence in the playoff rotation reinforced those assumptions noted above. Supposing that one or more additional titles would follow seemed less of a reach than it normally does in this sport of ours. 

The Astros came up short in 2018, and in 2019 a Howie Kendrick home run — one of the clutchest in World Series history — ripped a second title from Houston’s grasp. You know what happened next. MLB‘s investigation into Houston’s electronic sign-stealing yielded tough penalties, owner Jim Crane fired Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch, and the club’s reputation was further sullied Monday afternoon. 

The Astros will very likely still be a very good team in 2020, and will in most quarters be the favorites in the tough AL West. No matter the damage to the brand, the Astros’ winning the 2020 World Series is a plausible outcome. The scandal and its consequences, however, have put a deep layer of uncertainty on top of the Astros and their near-, mid-, and long-term outlooks. For a number of reasons — all self-inflicted — it’s hard to know what to make of Houston going forward.

The Astros will feel the loss of draft picks

As part of MLB commissioner Rob Manfred’s ruling, the Astros will lose their first- and second-round draft picks in both 2020 and 2021. The Astros still have some high-ceiling prospects and “sophomores” in the fold, but promotions and trades in tandem with lower picks (a function of their recent success) have thinned that particular herd. Also, don’t forget that the current structure of the First-Year Player Draft is such that it’s more than “just” the loss of high picks. Losing picks also entails losing money in the signing bonus pool, and the effects of that cascade throughout the entire draft class. Losing your top two picks necessarily entails losing the biggest parts of those pools. It’s too much to say that the Astros’ next two drafts are squandered, but the likely future value of picks drops steeply and in a non-linear fashion the deeper you go.  

Crane may now be even less inclined to invest

Manfred also fined the Astros $5 million, the maximum allowable amount. While that shouldn’t be enough to matter to man of Crane’s means and a franchise of the Astros’ resources, it probably will. We’re in an era in which teams seem to seek out reasons and incentives not to invest in player payroll. Sometimes this is nothing more than creative lying about the financials, which teams as privately held entities are under no obligation to disclose. Give a club the cover of a $5 million expense for which they did not budget, and you’ve got an excuse that’s strong by the usual standards. 

Crane also has rarely invested in the product at a level befitting their recent status as World Series favorites. Just twice on Crane’s watch have they ended the season with a top-10 payroll, and their Opening Day payroll prior to last season actually went down. Bear in mind that Forbes estimated the 2013 Astros to be the most profitable team in MLB history. Like most other owners, Crane has made de rigueur invocations of financial limitations in the face of all evidence and even suggested that his Astros aren’t a big-revenue club. The population and media market rankings of the Houston metropolitan area of course suggest otherwise. 

The Astros going into 2020 are right now over the Competitive Balance Tax threshold (as most serious contenders should be), which would make them a tax payor for the first time. Owners treat the CBT as a more imposing boundary than they should, and Crane can easily play that game if he wants. Circling back to the draft and young talent situation noted above, teams of course covet players in their cost-controlled years because they can get so much surplus value out of them. The Astros are no different and in some ways are the modern standard-bearer for it.

So how do you get more of those when your system is starting to dry up and the draft figures to provide little help over the next two years? You trade away team-controlled players. Springer is headed to arbitration, and his salary as a third-year arbitration-eligible player could be the difference in the Astros’ paying the luxury tax or not. Throw in the fact that the Astros and Springer are $5 million apart — coincidentally the same amount as that fine levied against Houston — and the stakes are notable. Springer was the subject of trade rumors even before Manfred’s ruling, and that ruling has perhaps made it more likely that Springer will be traded. Correa trade speculation has also been bandied about. He’ll be owed $8 million for 2020, and because of that lower price tag and the extra year of team control relative Springer he could net the Astros a higher return in trade. 

Dealing both of them lowers Crane’s costs and pays that fine while also adding cheap young players to the system. At the same time, it would significantly reduce Houston’s chances of winning it all in 2020. How Crane structures the post-sanctions team could be the single biggest factor in all of this. 

The cheating made a difference

Even though some Astros players told investigators that they didn’t believe the sign-stealing scheme made much of a difference, the numbers say otherwise. Over at Baseball Prospectus, Rob Arthur researched the issue by combing through game audio to determine the parameters of the tell-tale banging. He found that within those parameters, the Astros drastically improved in terms of plate discipline. He also found this: 

“Forget the more stable statistics underlying plate discipline: this also manifested as a big spike in their team triple-slash line. As a unit, the Houston offense ranked first in the league in 2017, with a .282/.340/.478 slash line. Each number was the best in all of baseball. In March and April, however–the only months without any sign of a competent signal interception scheme–they batted a “lowly” .272/.340/.425 (second in average, third in on-base, and eighth in slugging). It’s not that they were terrible without advance knowledge of the incoming pitch, but they also didn’t quite play like the Murderer’s Row they came to resemble over the rest of the season.”

(Do yourself a favor and read Arthur’s writings on this matter.) As well, Joe Sheehan in his excellent subscription newsletter researched fastball counts as a reasonable proxy for what the Astros were doing — i.e., spitting on offspeed stuff until they knew a fastball was in the immediate offing — and not surprisingly found that such knowledge makes a huge difference. On another level, the Astros were found to have used the cheating system throughout the 2017 postseason. While it’s probably a bridge a bit too far, one could if he or she wanted discount those October accomplishments on that basis. That’s perhaps too provocative of an approach, but any discussion of a dynasty is rendered moot if that first title is rendered dubious. 

Going forward, though, do we really know how good the Astros’ hitters are? Highly regarded batsmen like Altuve, Springer, Correa, and Bregman are surely productive in any context and in the absence of nefarious aids, but how productive? Data say the cheating worked, and it follows that Houston hitters must cope with some decline, or at least a lower baseline, now that they’ve (presumably) been dragged back into compliance. That, then, affects their ceiling and outlook in future seasons. We mostly know what this team is, which is a good one, but we don’t fully know what this team is because of the rule-breaking.

There’s been some brain drain

While it says here that front office decision makers are generally overvalued right now — there’s too much uniformity from club to club, and the real differences lie in ownership’s willingness to spend — there’s no doubting the effectiveness of Luhnow’s approach, at least in the raw terms of recent wins and losses. There’s also no doubting Hinch’s effectiveness in implementing that approach on the field. 

When it comes to replacing Luhnow on a permanent basis, there will be quite a bit of pressure to bring in someone from outside the organization. Manfred, after all, directly criticized the baseball operations “culture” in Houston. Hiring externally is probably the right thing to do, but it may not be the route Crane takes. Even if he does tab one of Luhnow’s lieutenants as the next permanent GM, something imprecise figures to be lost. There’s no measuring how the loss of GM and manager will affect Houston on the field in the seasons to come, but the most reasonable guess is that it will cost them in some way. Crane was right to fire Luhnow and Hinch, but it has some bearing on how the team fares. 


So what will become of the Astros once the games that count start being played? There’s no way to answer that question for any team, least of all one with as many uncertainties as Houston. They’ll at least be good, but beyond that the possibilities range from missing the playoffs with a win total in the 80s to once again topping 100 victories and getting that second title. How those factors above play out will determine where the Astros land on that continuum in 2020 and beyond. Whatever the specifics, the expectation now is that the Astros won’t be a dynasty and may not even be thought of as one if they do win it all again. That’s not how things were back when Altuve made that final play on Nov. 1, 2017. Things, though, have changed in ways we couldn’t have imagined back then. 





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Trending News

Selena Gomez Has an Unreleased “Rare” Song With the Same Title as a Justin Bieber Hit


Selena Gomez is everywhere right now while promoting her new album Rare, and she’s been busy doing the media circuit and sharing fun tidbits about the album and the recording process. At her latest stop on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Selena revealed that there are a few songs from the Rare sessions that didn’t make the cut, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we won’t be hearing them.

“Are there other songs that didn’t make it to Rare that are out, that are done and finished?” Jimmy asked Selena during their interview, JustJared Jr. reported.

“Maybe there’s a few things, yeah,” Selena teased. “There’s a few other songs that I couldn’t help but want to exist, so I can’t really tell when, but one of my favorite tracks is called ‘Boyfriend,’ so I can’t wait for people to hear that one.”

Wait, wait, wait — back up. “Boyfriend”? As in, the same title as Justin Bieber’s 2012 masterpiece? You read that right, though we’re pretty sure it’s not a cover and probably has nothing to do with Justin or his song. Is it hinting at a new love in Selena’s life? We’ll have to wait and see, because she didn’t reveal any more details about the unreleased tracks or how fans will be able to get their hands on them, but we’re hoping this means a bonus edition of Rare or a special EP is in the works.

Selena and Jimmy also took the time to play a (very gross) game called “Can You Feel It,” where both parties had to stick their hands into a box of questionable materials — in Selena’s case, hair in the shower drain — and figure out what they are. Selena was a good sport about the game despite its ick factor, and we’re so happy to see her back on top and enjoying her success.

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Movies

Peter Pan Disney+ Remake Gets a New Title and Character Details


Disney’s upcoming live-action Peter Pan remake has been given a new title, and some casting breakdowns reveal some new details about the characters. Now set to be exclusive to the House of Mouse’s Disney+ streaming service, the upcoming movie will reportedly be titled Peter Pan and Wendy.

Slated to soon begin filming in Canada, casting for the project is now underway, and some information about the characters from their breakdowns for the actors have also been revealed. You can take a look at them below.

“Peter Pan – 10 to 14 years – The boy who will never grow up. An enchanted child that’s a confident and courageous warrior, with and without a sword. Lead Role.

Wendy – 12 to 14 years – A sly girl, full of good-natured energy, who is conflicted by her pending departure to boarding school. She is not quite ready to step into the adult world. Lead Role.

John Darling – 9 to 11 years – A budding child with an old soul. However, the mature youth is not above playfully fencing and rough-housing with his brother and sister. Lead Role.

Michael Darling – 6 to 9 years – A delightful child rarely seen without his closest friend, his teddy bear. Lead Role.”

Of course, seeing these names on the casting sheet for Peter Pan and Wendy is not very surprising. Though popularized by the animated Disney movie, the Peter Pan character dates back to the 1904 play Peter Pan; or, the Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up by J. M. Barrie, which was later adapted as a novel. This would also serve as the source of inspiration for many adaptations to be made about the Peter Pan story, as Wendy and her brothers John and Michael were present in the original play and novel as well. These characters have since frequently appeared in several other written, animated, and live-action versions of the story.

Undoubtedly, Disney’s animated Peter Pan movie remains the most well-known of all versions of the story. Released in 1953, the movie featured the voices of Bobby Driscoll as Peter Pan, Kathryn Beaumont as Wendy, Paul Collins as John, and Tommy Luske as Michael. As other characters from the play like Captain Hook and Tinker Bell are also included, the movie is very faithful to its source material, though it did contain some key differences. One example of this would be showing Hook swimming away from the Crocodile in the movie, while in the original story, he is actually eaten by the animal.

It’s nothing new for Disney to reach into their vault to develop live-action remakes of some of their most classic movies. We’ve seen many make their way into theaters over the past several years, which includes new takes on Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, and The Jungle Book. When Disney+ launched in November, it also came with an exclusive live-action movie remake of the animated classic Lady and the Tramp. With plenty of titles to draw from, it’s clear that the House of Mouse is looking to pad up their streaming service with several live-action remakes just as they’ve been doing on the big screen for years.

David Lowery (Pete’s Dragon) directs Peter Pan and Wendy, and production is expected to last from April through August of this year. There’s still no word on when the movie will premiere on Disney+, though considering its production schedule, it will likely arrive in late 2020 or early 2021. This news comes to us from The Illuminderdi.

Jeremy Dick at Movieweb



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Tennis

Serena Williams ends title drought in New Zealand, but will the momentum lead to a 24th Grand Slam title?


For the first time in 1,079 days, Serena Williams has hoisted a championship trophy. The 38-year-old defeated unseeded Jessica Pegula — daughter of Buffalo Bills owners Terry and Kim Pegula — 6-3, 6-4, to win the ASB Classic on Sunday in Auckland, New Zealand. 

The victory ended a titleless drought that stretched back to the Australian Open in 2017, and included the period she gave birth to her daughter. Here’s what that clearly special moment looked like:

If her expression wasn’t clear enough, she solidified her happiness in her postmatch comments.

“It feels good. It’s been a long time,” Williams said. “I think you can see the relief on my face. I played an incredible opponent today in Jessica, and honestly, it was a great match, and I couldn’t have played anyone better in the final.”

Williams even became the latest tennis start to pledge money to relief funds for victims of the ongoing Australian wildfires, donating her winner’s check of $43,000. Others who have donated include Ashleigh Barty, Novak Djokovic, Nick Kyrgios and Maria Sharapova.

While a drought of any capacity for a former champion is unpleasant, Williams found herself in the unfortunate position of often getting as close as possible to a title before ultimately falling short. Since returning to the sport after giving birth, she’s made five tournament finals and lost every single one. At Wimbledon, her losses came against Angelique Kerber (2018) and Simona Halep (2019). At the U.S. Open, it was Naomi Osaka (2018) and Bianca Andreescu (2019), with the Andreescu also beating Williams in the Canadian Open just a few weeks prior.

Despite the fact that she’s still making these finals in her late thirties, the belief in her chances to win 24th Grand Slam title has begun to wane a fair amount. But this win in Auckland might very well put a stop to the bleeding as the tournament serves as a tune-up of sorts prior to the Australian Open — a tournament she’s won seven times — that begins on January 20.





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Football

Back in A.F.C. Title Game, Patrick Mahomes Is Eager for More


KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Late in the Chiefs’ demolition of the Houston Texans on Sunday, the team posted a note on the video screen at Arrowhead Stadium telling fans that thanks to Kansas City’s 51-point outburst, all the fireworks used to celebrate scores were gone.

“Chiefs fans, we are sorry to report, but due to your support and the Chiefs continually finding the end zone, we have run out of touchdown fireworks,” the announcement said.

Indeed, the Chiefs engineered a historic offensive performance, led by their quarterback, Patrick Mahomes. After falling behind, 24-0, in the second quarter, Mahomes threw four touchdowns before the end of the first half to put the Chiefs in front. The barrage continued in the second half as the Chiefs scored touchdowns on a record seven consecutive possessions to put the game out of reach.

Kansas City became the first team to win a playoff game by 20 or more points after being behind by 20 or more points.

The 51-31 victory lifted the Chiefs into the A.F.C. championship game for the second consecutive season. Because the Tennessee Titans knocked off the No. 1-seeded Baltimore Ravens on Saturday, the Chiefs, the No. 2 seed, will host the Titans, who beat the Chiefs earlier in the season.

With a victory next Sunday afternoon at home, the Chiefs will return to the Super Bowl for the first time in a half-century.

For now, though, Chiefs fans can savor Mahomes’s feats, which, even in his third season, have at times become remarkably routine. A series of mistakes — a dropped punt return, a blocked punt, several dropped passes — allowed the Texans to jump to an early lead that prompted some fans to boo the hometown Chiefs. A handful of fans even headed for the exits.

Then, just as quickly, the Texans gave the Chiefs an opening, and Mahomes made them pay. On fourth-and-8, the Texans, who were leading, 24-7, tried a fake punt, but came up a yard short. Three plays — 23 seconds later — Mahomes threw a touchdown pass to tight end Travis Kelce.

After Houston fumbled on the ensuing kickoff, Mahomes took just three plays — 1 minute 25 seconds — before he threw another touchdown pass to Kelce. Just before the half, Mahomes threw a third score to Kelce to put the Chiefs ahead for good, 28-24.

Mahomes became the first quarterback to throw four touchdowns in a quarter in an N.F.L. playoff game since Doug Williams did it in Super Bowl XXII, more than 30 years ago.

Mahomes was more than a scoring machine. He was the instigator. When the Texans were ahead, he ran up and down the bench encouraging his teammates, “Let’s do something special.” After one touchdown, he sprinted across the field exhorting the crowd to cheer.

Mahomes’s final line didn’t do justice to his impact. He completed 23 of his 35 passes for 321 yards and five touchdowns, much of it in the last three quarters. He might have had more yards and touchdowns if his receivers had not dropped several passes. Mahomes also ran for 53 yards to lead the team, including a 21-yard sprint down the sideline.

His five-touchdown performance barely in the rearview mirror, Mahomes was looking forward to next week. Last season at this time, the Chiefs absorbed a heartbreaking loss to the New England Patriots in overtime, ending Mahomes’s M.V.P. season with a thud.

The drive to vanquish last season’s disappointment is strong.

“When you fall that short last year, the next step is to get to the Super Bowl,” Mahomes said. “We understood that going into the season.”

After an epic 2018 season in which he threw for 5,097 yards and 50 touchdowns, Mahomes’s offensive statistics were not as gaudy this season. That was in part because he missed time with a knee injury.

In some ways, Mahomes has benefited from not being the focus of attention the way he was last season. That honor went to Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson.

The Chiefs’ offense was plenty potent, but Mahomes became more selective. He threw about half as many touchdowns, but only five interceptions, compared with a dozen last season. His completion rate was steady at 66 percent. It might have been unreasonable to assume he would throw for over 5,000 yards again. Instead, he ended with 4,031 yards.

Mahomes, who is 24, can still change a game in an instant, as he showed on Sunday. But he and the Chiefs will have to avoid being complacent against the sixth-seeded Titans.

Two months ago, the Titans shocked the Chiefs, 35-32, in Nashville. Derrick Henry, the N.F.L.’s leading rusher, ran over the Chiefs, collecting 188 yards and two scores. Henry has continued his stampede in the playoffs against the Patriots and the Ravens.

The Chiefs have not lost since that trip to Tennessee. Many of their injured players are back in the lineup, save for defensive tackle Chris Jones. The team’s defense has improved.

Mahomes is not taking anything for granted.

After Sunday’s game, Mahomes was asked if he had any advice for the Chiefs fan who posted a video of himself on Twitter leaving Arrowhead Stadium when the Texans were ahead, 24-0, because he felt he was jinxing the team.

“Watch the next game at home,” Mahomes said.

Mahomes, though, will be back at Arrowhead Stadium ready to fire away again.





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Movies

Star Wars’ Adam Driver Has A Brilliant Perspective On The Force Awakens’ Title



It’s still strange to comprehend it, but the Skywalker Saga is over. In just four years, Star Wars fans were taken on a twisty, turning ride across the galaxy to wrap up the story that George Lucas began in 1977. Along the way, audiences were introduced to quite a few new characters, some of which will remain among the franchise’s most interesting players, and that certainly includes Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren.

Son to Han Solo and Leia Organa, nephew to Luke Skywalker, grandson to Darth Vader and named after Ben Kenobi, there’s no Star Wars character with more ties to the saga more than Kylo Ren, is there? As the Marriage Story actor thinks back on his Star Wars odyssey, he has a cool perspective on the title of Force Awakens. Check out what Adam Driver said:

How interesting! Can you believe Adam Driver had some of the ideas explored in The Rise of Skywalker in his brain since he first started playing the character? It’s pretty crazy! While many think of the title as a reference to Rey embracing her Force sensitivity during the adventure, it also has a lot to do with Kylo Ren’s character arc as well.

While Daisy Ridley’s Rey was brought up into the light in the 2015 blockbuster, The Force Awakens sees Kylo Ren completely embracing the dark side. He wrestles a bit with it throughout the movie, but it’s when he murders his father that it’s cemented.

SPOILERS AHEAD for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.

As we learn in the recent conclusion to the Skywalker Saga, Rey and Kylo Ren are revealed to be a dyad in the Force. They are two opposite sides of a coin, in a sense, who have a bond so deep that it is the key to bringing balance to the Force. So looking back at The Force Awakens, the two meeting and building a connection also has a lot to do with the title. It was in front of us the whole time!



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Golf

In search of title defense, Xander Schauffele (68) holds lead at Sentry Tournament of Champions



KAPALUA, Hawaii – The only thing that resembled paradise to Xander Schauffele at Kapalua was his name atop the leaderboard Friday at the Sentry Tournament of Champions.

Through bursts of rain and gusts that topped 30 mph, Schauffele managed to go bogey-free for the second straight day with a 5-under 68 that gave him a one-shot lead over Patrick Reed and Joaquin Niemann.

Schauffele is trying to become the first repeat champion of this winners-only event in 10 years.

On this day, he was trying to keep it together.

Schauffele finished with a birdie, a two-putt par from just under 100 feet, and a 7-foot birdie on the final hole. That gave him the lead at 9-under 137, the highest 36-hole score to lead at Kapalua since 2008.

“A day of adjustment is sort of how I like to look at it, and glad we were able to come out on top,” Schauffele said.

Reed made three straight birdies around the turn, lost two good scoring chances late, made up for that with a 30-foot birdie on the 17th and wound up with a 66 for the best score of the day. Niemann didn’t make a birdie until the ninth hole and limited the damage enough for a 72.

Rickie Fowler (71) was two shots behind.

Schauffele won last year with a 62 in the final round, a score that now seems out of reach on a Plantation course with entirely new grass on fairways that remain soft because of rain. The greens have shelves that weren’t there a year ago. And the weather was never this rough when he won.

“Besides looking the same and looking over at Molokai, very different,” Schauffele said. “We’re on the same property, but for the most part there’s no memory I can fall back on when it comes to making a putt or hitting a bump-and-run shot on a certain hole since the green layouts are very different.”


Sentry Tournament of Champions: Full-field scores | Full coverage


Justin Thomas was poised to join Schauffele until he missed the green at the 17th to the right and made bogey, and made another bogey on the 18th when his drive went left into the waist-high native grass. He was three strokes back after a 73.

Thomas had a moment that sized up the day. Hitting into the wind, his divot flew back toward his face and deposited in the back of his shirt, leaving tiny splotches of mud on his white pants.

The round was stopped twice, without ever taking players off the course, during a few burst of showers early that left standing water in too many spots. When told it would resume, Paul Casey asked if there was room to hit off the first tee. A puddle stretched from one end to the other, but just behind the tee markers.

It was a sign that Kapalua would play longer than ever, and that much was evident throughout the day. Shots that typically bounce and roll out some 30 yards were rolling a few feet, if not hopping back from their pitch marks.

Matthew Wolff hit a tee shot on the 18th that plugged in its pitch mark.

The temperature felt tropical. Otherwise, this was a test.





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Fashion

Justin Bieber’s Latest Tattoo Might Be a Hint of His New Album Title


Justin Bieber might just be a walking human clue for his upcoming album. After dropping numerous social media teasers, confirming a tour, and sharing news of a docuseries focused on his life, fans believe the singer’s latest ink could be another hint related to future music ventures.

As TMZ reports, the singer already has the names of his past albumsBelieve and Purpose — tattooed on his body, and he recently added the word “forever” to his collection. You can see just a hint of the word, tattooed beneath a bird, in one of Justin’s recent Instagram image.

Back in early December, when Justin got the tattoo done by none other than Dr. Woo, some fans had already speculated that it could be hinting at a return but Justin hadn’t yet revealed any information regarding his now confirmed fifth album. Since then, Justin has announced a tour and new music are already in the pipeline, and although he hasn’t yet divulged the name of his latest album, it would make sense that “forever” could somehow be tied to it.

Since revealing the tattoo and his music plans, it didn’t take long for fans on social media to start putting two and two together. Now that his comeback is in full swing, many have picked up on the tattoo and its possible ties to an album title. “The tattoo “Forever” on @justinbieber’s neck. I think this is the name of the next album #Bieber2020 because Justin always tattooed his albums names on his body such as Believe, Purpose and now Forever,” one fan wrote on Twitter. Another fan agreed, writing, “Is it just me or is Justin trying to tell us something? He’s showing off his patience and forever tattoos. Is JB5 named patience forever? Or forever?”

Again, nothing regarding an album title is confirmed for now, but with the singer releasing his new single, “Yummy,” today and planning an upcoming world tour, we’re sure fans will know more — and soon.

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