- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 10, 2014

BASEBALL

SAN DIEGO (AP) - North Side, South Side, Chicago has become the center of baseball at the winter meetings.

The Cubs struck the first big deal among top free-agent pitchers, agreeing to a $155 million, six-year contract with left-hander Jon Lester.

Earlier in the day, the White Sox acquired starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija - a former Cub - from the Oakland Athletics as part of a six-player trade. That came hours after they reached a $46 million, four-year deal with closer David Robertson.

Lester’s deal includes an option for 2021 that, if it becomes guaranteed, would make the contract worth $170 million over seven seasons. Aslo, the Cubs acquired All-Star catcher Miguel Montero from Arizona for minor league right-handers Jeferson Mejia and Zack Godley - a deal that added $40 million in payroll over the next three years.

In the day’s other moves, the Pittsburgh Pirates agreed to a $39 million, three-year deal to keep left-hander Francisco Liriano. And Atlanta agreed to a one-year deal with free-agent infielder Alberto Callaspo.

PRO FOOTBALL

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - Panthers quarterback Cam Newton suffered fractures to his lower back in a two-car crash and will spend the night in the hospital, a team spokesman said.

Newton was in fair condition, had no other internal injuries and would not need surgery, team spokesman Charlie Dayton said during a news conference outside a Charlotte hospital. It was unclear if Newton would be able to practice or play Sunday against the Buccaneers. He was expected to be released from the hospital on Wednesday after undergoing tests.

A black pickup truck that Charlotte-Mecklenburg police spokesman Robert Tufano said Newton was driving was overturned on the roadway with debris scattered all over the street. The roof was caved in and a tow truck later was hauling it away. Another car that appeared to be involved in the crash had front end damage.

NEW YORK (AP) - The players’ union says it has not had input into a revamped personal conduct policy the NFL is preparing.

NFL owners are meeting Wednesday in Irving, Texas, and are expected to see a framework for changes to the policy. The union has sought to have any alterations to the policy negotiated.

The current policy was part of the 2011 collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and the NFL Players Association. But in the wake of the Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson cases, portions of the policy are being reworked.

Among the union’s aims is to have Commissioner Roger Goodell’s role in handing out discipline reduced or even eliminated. League spokesman Greg Aiello said the union’s proposal “would weaken the policy.”

COLLEGE SPORTS

NEW YORK (AP) - NCAA President Mark Emmert said it was troubling to see the University of Alabama-Birmingham drop its football program, but he believes Olympic sports are more vulnerable to cuts as schools look at athletic budgets.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Emmert said he worries that while autonomy for the Big Five conferences will lead to more money being spent on athletes it could decrease the overall number of opportunities in college sports for students.

UAB dropped its football program last week. The school cited rising costs of college athletics, including pressure to pay the full cost of attendance for athletes. That proposal was supported by Emmert and pushed by the wealthiest conferences.

The NCAA earlier this year approved a new governance structure that would allow the Big Five conferences - Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, Atlantic Coast Conference and Southeastern Conference - to create rules in some areas without the support of the rest of Division I.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL

NEW YORK (AP) - Shane Conlan and Derrick Thomas, two of the most dominant college linebackers of the 1980s, are part of a class of 14 former players and two coaches being inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in New York.

Thomas had 27 sacks and won the Butkus Award as the nation’s top linebacker in 1988 before going on to a successful NFL career with the Kansas City Chiefs. He was paralyzed in an automobile wreck in 2000 and died from complications about a month later. He was 33.

Conlan was a two-time All-American. He had two interceptions in his final college game as Penn State upset Miami 14-10 in the Fiesta Bowl to win the national title.

The rest of the class is highlighted by TCU running back LaDainian Tomlinson, South Carolina receiver Sterling Sharpe and Southern California tackle Tony Boselli.

AUTO RACING

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - Three-time IndyCar champion Scott Dixon will return for a 14th season with Target Chip Ganassi Racing, though he will be one of only two drivers piloting the red and white bulls-eye cars next year.

Target will go from two sponsored IndyCar entries to just one in 2015 as the retailer shifts spending to promoting its drivers. Target also sponsors Kyle Larson, who just wrapped up NASCAR’s top rookie honors in the Sprint Cup Series.

Ganassi and Target celebrated their 25th anniversary this year. The partnership began in open wheel, eventually grew to the sponsorship of two IndyCar entries, and expanded into both NASCAR as a primary sponsor and sports cars as an associate sponsor.

HOCKEY

BOCA RATON, Fla. (AP) - NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman is playing down the possibility of relocating struggling franchises in Arizona and Florida.

One day after putting the brakes on the prospect of expansion, Bettman reaffirmed Panthers owner Vinny Viola’s commitment to South Florida. There had been reports that Panthers ownership was trying to position the franchise for a move either to Quebec City or Las Vegas, two locales actively pursuing a hockey team.

The Panthers and Broward County are talking about the terms of the existing 30-year lease for BB&T; Center in Sunrise that expires in 2028. The Panthers have asked the county to vote on giving them a $78.4 million buyout, which would offset what they claim to be substantial losses.

Arizona came within one vote by the Glendale City Council in July 2013 from possibly moving to Las Vegas.


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