Baseball Is Finally Remembering How Good Albert Pujols Can Be

Fame can be fickle in sports, especially for the rare player skilled (and fortunate) enough to cash in big on his athletic talents. Five years ago, Albert Pujols was baseball’s most marketable superstar. But one massive contract and two disappointing seasons later, that goodwill had faded.Until this week, that is. Pujols belted his 499th and 500th career home runs Tuesday night, and the milestones seemed to remind fans of what he once was, and maybe still can be. Specifically, Pujols’s homers recalled the fearsome slugger who once made us seriously suspect he had been created by Cyberdyne Systems just to hit baseballs.Still, Pujols, now 34, is fighting an uphill battle against Father Time, as well as the backlash of unmet expectations. So amid the hyperbole and wild swings in public opinion — we loved Pujols, then turned on him, and have recently warmed to him once again — let’s survey the full arc of his career to date, even if, as we saw just this week, it’s still a work in progress.Pujols’s origin story begins with his 13th-round selection in the draft and ends somewhere during his express ride through the St. Louis Cardinals’ entire minor league system in one season. By the time he hit .329 with 37 home runs as a 21-year-old major league rookie in 2001, he had arrived. In his entire career, Pujols’s batting average has been below .300 for exactly four games. That’s it. He last finished a game with a sub-.300 lifetime average on April 6, 2001.In his prime, Pujols’s greatest strength at the plate was his ability to hit for power without sacrificing contact. From 2001 to 2010, he was tied with Ryan Howard for the major leagues’ third-highest rate of isolated power,1Isolated power (ISO) is a metric that subtracts batting average from slugging percentage, in essence capturing a player’s rate of extra base hits per at bat, weighted by his total bases. a .293 ISO that trailed only Barry Bonds’s .406 and Jim Thome’s .299. (Bonds’s stat is staggering, and mostly compiled during the performance enhancing drug-aided phase of his career, when he resembled more of a video game character than a baseball player.) Pujols struck out in only 9.5 percent of his plate appearances over that span. Among power hitters in the Late Steroid Era, a strikeout rate so low was unheard of. On the ISO list, you’d need to go down to Nomar Garciaparra at .183 (ranked 177th) to find anyone with a strikeout rate lower than Pujols’s.Pujols was also unusually disciplined about when he chose to swing, offering at only 42.3 percent of the pitches he saw (the average player swings at about 46 percent of pitches faced), and even swinging at balls in the strike zone 2.2 percent less often than the typical hitter.2According to Baseball Info Solutions data. He also swung at the first pitch less often than the norm (20 percent for Pujols versus 28 percent for the league), and constantly worked himself into hitter’s counts, seeing a 2-0 count 50 percent more often than the average hitter, and a 3-1 count 32 percent more often.Pujols could hit nearly everything. Among MLB batters from 2002 to 2010, only Pujols and his once-teammate Matt Holliday were at least one run above average per 100 pitches against every single pitch classification that hitters see with any regularity — i.e. the fastball, curveball, changeup, etc.3This excludes the knuckleball, which only makes up about 0.5 percent of all pitches seen by major leaguers. And when Pujols swung, he usually hit the ball hard. His hits went for extra bases 50 percent more often than the average player’s did. His fly balls left the yard twice as frequently as the norm. He hit home runs 2.4 times more often (on a per-at-bat basis) than the major league average.It was all of these elements working together — the combination of contact-hitting ability, patience and raw power — that made Pujols the most devastating hitter of his generation. And then there were the non-hitting skills. Despite very little speed, Pujols was a surprisingly good baserunner, adding somewhere between 15 and 20 runs above average on the basepaths over the first decade of his career, depending on which statistical estimation you look at. And he was also the game’s best fielding first baseman during his prime, likely deserving of more than the two Gold Gloves he won in 2006 and 2010.As dominant as Pujols was, by 2011 — the final season of a longterm deal he signed with St. Louis in 2004 — the cracks were starting to show. In his first 10 major league seasons, Pujols had never dropped below 5.5 wins above replacement (regardless of whether you look at Baseball-Reference’s or FanGraphs’ version of the statistic) and was often in the 7 to 9 WAR range. But In 2011, Pujols, then 31 years old, posted roughly 4.9 WAR4Splitting the difference between Baseball-Reference and FanGraphs. — easily a career low. His seasonal batting average fell below .300 for the first time ever, and his power was down. Plus, by FanGraphs’ estimation, he also had his worst baserunning and fielding performances in years.It was easy enough to write those numbers off, though. Pujols’s average was down largely because of a low .277 BABIP,5Batting Average on Balls in Play. which can vary from year to year due in no small measure to luck. His ISO matched his previous career lows, but in each prior case he’d bounced back to post monster power numbers within two seasons of the down year. Pujols turned in a great postseason performance for the Cardinals in 2011, culminating in a 1.064 OPS during the World Series. Why look for trouble with Pujols, baseball’s most automatic hitter?Then came The Contract.Star players leaving teams in free agency is nothing new, but Pujols’s move to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim struck a particular nerve with fans. Words like “greed” and “betrayal” were quickly thrown around. It didn’t help that Pujols had previously spoken about his desire to end his career in St. Louis. Money, he’d said, didn’t matter to him.After leaving St. Louis for Anaheim, Pujols invited the expectations that come with a $240 million deal — expectations that are rarely met. Take a look at the dollar-value returns on other notable MLB position-player contracts of the last decade-plus, according to FanGraphs data6FanGraphs’ dollar-value estimates for players only go back to 2002; dollars paid are not included for prior years. Also, Alfonso Soriano’s 2014 projected production is included.:Ironically, the only one of those contracts that ended up being a big bargain for the signing team was Pujols’s previous seven-year pact with the Cardinals, signed in February 2004.7The base term of the contract was seven years, but with a club option for an eighth season, which the Cardinals eventually exercised. Wikipedia’s list of the largest professional sports contracts doesn’t include extra terms like option years. But that deal was given to a 24-year-old Pujols, and would take him through age 30 (with a team option for his age-31 season). The next contract, with the Angels, was for a 32-year-old Pujols, and would run until the slugger was 41. That’s why some critics panned the Angels’ move before Pujols had ever played a game for the team.When Pujols did finally start playing for Los Angeles, the initial results were mixed at best. A miserable .570 OPS in April 2012 gave way to good — if not exactly Pujolsian — numbers over the rest of the season, but his overall value was down by about .5 WAR in 2012. Meanwhile, 2013 was a complete disaster: Pujols missed 63 games with a foot injury and posted the worst statistical rates of his career when he did take the field, likely a byproduct of playing through the ailment for four months before being placed on the disabled list in late July.The once great mix of power, patience and contact skills was disintegrating. Instead of rebounding after 2011, Pujols’s isolated power continued to plummet, bottoming out at .179 (still above the MLB average, but 100 points lower than his career rate) a year ago. Only 10.6 percent of his fly balls have left the ballpark since he became an Angel, a career low.Some of this is attributable to ballpark effects — Pujols played in hitter’s parks (both the second and third Busch Stadiums) during his prime, while Angel Stadium is one of the more pitcher-friendly parks in the majors. But it also reflects a change to Pujols’s underlying skills that we can detect by looking at his strike zone outcomes. Pujols’s strikeout rate immediately spiked to 11.3 percent upon arriving in Anaheim, followed by another increase to 12.4 percent in 2013 — his highest whiff rates since he was a rookie. He was showing uncharacteristic vulnerability to breaking pitches, and not punishing the fastball the way he used to. And, most alarming, he began swinging the bat far more often than he had in St. Louis. Cardinals Albert rarely chased balls outside the strike zone, but Angels Albert was suddenly going after bad pitches 3 to 5 percent more often than the average player.The little things were falling by the wayside as well. The smart, heady baserunner who, in his prime, made up for a lack of speed by capitalizing on 49 percent of his advancement opportunities was suddenly taking extra bases at only a 39 percent clip. And Pujols’s defense in 2013 was worse than it had been in a decade.The preseason narrative was that this year would be different. Every player claims health in spring training, so much so that it’s a running meme to mock stories about players coming to camp in “the best shape of their lives.” Pujols tried it in March, telling anyone who would listen that his painful plantar fascia injury was a thing of the past, and that he was ready to silence the doubters. You would have been forgiven for being skeptical, though, given that this was a 34-year-old slugger coming off four straight years of declining production.However, this season already seems promising. There’s the 500th home run, of course, but also an April that was reminiscent of Cardinals Albert. Pujols is hitting the ball with terrific power again — over 14 percent of his hits have gone for extra bases — and he’s mashing fly balls for home runs, instead of harmless flyouts. His strikeout rate is back down under 9 percent, where it was during his best seasons. And his per-inning rate of defensive runs saved at first base is back up where it was before last year’s collapse.All isn’t what it once was, though. Worryingly, Pujols is still swinging the bat more than he used to — and chasing more pitches outside the strike zone than the average hitter. In spite of his decreased strikeout rate, he’s also making less contact now than ever before, as a percentage of his swings. And his baserunning may never again be where it was in his prime.In other words, age is catching up to Albert Pujols, as it does to every ballplayer. But the early returns suggest his 2014 won’t be nearly as trying as his 2013, or even his 2012, was. And, perhaps more important, his reception this week suggests that fans may be ready to move past heaping scorn on his mega-contract with the Angels and the way he left St. Louis. Pujols probably won’t ever again be the same all-around superstar he was during his peak years as a Cardinal, but we should still enjoy what he is now: a future Hall of Famer who still has plenty of artistry left in his once-legendary bat. read more

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The Dodgers Are The NL Wests Richest Team But The Giants Might

A FiveThirtyEight Chat Los Angeles Dodgersneil (Neil Paine, senior sportswriter): Every year, it feels like the LA Dodgers open the offseason as World Series favorites, and every year they win 90-something games, but they haven’t quite put it together in the postseason. What do we make of them going into 2016, sans Zack Grienke? More of the same formula — regular-season success but disappointing playoffs — or do we think they move the needle away from that in either direction?tomley: The Dodgers are a strange team. Despite entering each season with a stacked roster and as World Series favorites, don’t they seem to have been — I don’t know — treading water these last few seasons? I realize it’s kind of crazy to say that about a team that spends and wins as much as the Dodgers have, but it feels like they always manage to slog their way to 90 wins, if that’s possible.But that’s why I’m really excited to see what they do this year. Losing Greinke is obviously a big blow, but I feel like this is the season in which the Dodgers might actually take a few steps forward. Corey Seager‘s arrival has a lot to do with that, and I’m also bullish on Joc Pederson ditching his Jekyll-and-Hyde routine and finding a happy middle ground. Toss in a bounce-back season from Yasiel Puig, and I think you’ve got something.Maybe you won’t have as many wins as years past, but you’ll certainly have a team more interesting than the one that was running out Jimmy Rollins and Carl Crawford.neil: It does seem like there’s already been a bit of a shift in organizational direction under the Friedman regime — rather than the typical guiding philosophy of “spend literally as much money on a baseball roster as is humanly possible.” (Then again, their relative lack of activity this offseason wasn’t exactly for lack of trying.)tomley: Yeah, maybe the team is moving beyond the “outspend everyone” phase, although I never really had a big problem with that strategy. Absorbing massive contracts attached to aging, once-great players is exactly what teams with More Money Than God should be doing.But saddling a roster with all those old guys can also give the team a kind of moribund feel. If the Dodgers want to move beyond that, they really need Pederson, Seager, and Puig to put something together this season.christina_kahrl: I still have to wonder if they really understand how to use their money muscle to good advantage, frankly. Blowing it on Greinke was certainly sub-awesome, and spending $62.5 million on Hector Olivera — only to flip him for a No. 4 starter like Alex Wood — makes me wonder if they’ve really got a handle on how to spend all those dollars well.That said, Tom’s hit the nail on the head: They really need Pederson, Seager and Puig to put it together, now.neil: Seems like that’s especially the case given the medical state of that rotation: Brett Anderson is out for months with a back ailment, Scott Kazmir’s velocity is down, etc.christina_kahrl: Anybody who signs Anderson has to be ready for his unavailability.tomley: If I were a Dodgers fan, thinking about Kazmir would give me hives. His late-career renaissance has been good and fun, but I always just assume his arm is about to come apart at any moment.christina_kahrl: Given their investments, I really think they’re going to have to pull the trigger on a deal to add a starter soon. They need the depth.tomley: Maybe we’ll get to see Julio Urias!christina_kahrl: I think we’ll have to, for the Dodgers to deliver on their promise. If not, bad rotations and rookie skippers lead to messy games lost in the middle innings.neil: We’ll definitely get to see Kenta Maeda — are you buying the relatively optimistic projections for how he’ll translate from Japan?christina_kahrl: He had a nice camp, but I’ve heard more than a few scouts say it’s fourth-starter stuff that may not be so deceptive once he has to make a second pass through the division. Accrued experience counts.But if he’s a No. 3, that’s still the second-best starter the Dodgers have if Kazmir’s gone kablooey. (It’s also significantly worse than what the Giants or D-backs have going for them in their first three slots.)tomley: Yeah, even if Maeda is fine, it’s hard to look at a team on which he’s the No. 2 starter and call them a real championship contender.neil: Of course, when your No. 1 is Clayton Kershaw, that does change things a bit. Kershaw, plus a pretty solid bullpen, plus … whatever the rest of that rotation is … might still equal a pretty good run-prevention corps. (In the regular season, at least.)christina_kahrl: Again, that’s where I worry about/for new manager Dave Roberts. In-game, in-series, in-week management of your bullpen is the tactical fulcrum around which managers succeed or fail. If he’s got a handle on that, great. If he doesn’t, you won’t see him back in MLB any sooner than you will Mike Quade. San Diego Padresneil: OK, now let’s pivot to the members of this division clearly belonging to the “also-ran” group.christina_kahrl: Who do we want to pick on first?neil: Well, PECOTA and FanGraphs are split on whether the Padres or Tom’s Rockies will be better — what do we think?tomley: I’m going to be honest, I don’t think I’ve ever been able to muster an opinion on the Padres.neil: Yeah, the Padres have been pretty opinion-proof for a while now, aside from that crazy offseason they had a few years ago.christina_kahrl: We could pick holes in the Panda-to-the-Padres rumors for pernicious pandering to Beantown fantasies!neil: Oooh, that might change things.christina_kahrl: Yeah, put Panda on the Padres, and I can imagine a quick parade to throw A.J. Preller into the Pacific.neil: But going back to that offseason and Tom’s point about the “Mid-Market Team That Makes Some Splashy Moves and Becomes a Trendy Pick But Then Continues to Suck” — that was San Diego not long ago.tomley: Yeah! I remember when they made all those moves and I thought to myself, “Oh hey, might be time to pay attention to the Padres.” Serves me right. Nobody should ever pay attention to the Padres.christina_kahrl: I think the jazzy opening of that one busy winter misled folks into thinking this was going to be anything other than a complete rebuild. But, having made noise to advertise that he’ll deal, Preller’s now retrenching with what he has to work with.I’m more interested in seeing if they flip Matt Kemp or lose him to a waiver claim in August, but with James Shields, he’s better off holding out for a premium prospect deal, not other people’s big-money mistakes. And I think the area of scientific curiosity I have about them is whether Austin Hedges is as amazing a receiver as we saw last season.neil: In an era where receiving numbers are potentially less predictive than usual.christina_kahrl: Indeed. And a Derek Norris trade would go far in giving us a better idea, obviously. Let’s have Mr. Preller get right on that.tomley: Norris for Sandoval. Let’s do it.christina_kahrl: Sadist.neil: All hypothetical transactions aside, what do we think about the Padres this season? A step in the right direction to move on from the disaster of 2015?christina_kahrl: Low 70s in wins if things break their way, but if the Giants, Dodgers and D-backs all get into the high 80s or more in wins, part of that’s going to come at the expense of the tiny two.tomley: My bold prediction is: The Padres will be bad.christina_kahrl: My equally bold prediction: They’ll be bad and boring, which is even worse.neil: Either way, the important thing is that you both mustered an opinion on the Padres. In honor of the 2016 Major League Baseball season, which officially opened on Sunday, FiveThirtyEight has been assembling some of our favorite baseball writers to chat about the year to come. Today, we finish the series by looking at the National League West with ESPN baseball writer/editor Christina Kahrl and Deadspin news editor Tom Ley. The transcript below has been edited.Los Angeles DodgersSan Francisco GiantsArizona DiamondbacksSan Diego PadresColorado Rockies San Francisco Giantsneil: Wait a minute, folks … I just remembered, it’s an even-numbered year. Which clearly means the San Francisco Giants are destined for a championship. Why are we even bothering to play the season?christina_kahrl: Heehee, well, they do have to play the games, right?neil: I suppose.christina_kahrl: One day at a time, 110 percent.I think any NL lineup that can afford to bat Brandon Belt seventh is pretty close to the definition of scary. And while everyone noticed Matt Duffy‘s breakout last season, if Joe Panik had put up a full season, we’d have been talking about his power outburst as well.tomley: The Giants make me very jealous. Not only do they have Madison Bumgarner and Buster Posey, but now Brandon Crawford can hit? Plus, Duffy and Panik are beasts? As a Rockies fan, I’m fed up.neil: SF was somewhat sneakily a good team last season, too. If any team that missed the playoffs might be due for an uptick, it’s probably them.christina_kahrl: Yeah, I definitely like the rotation depth — if Chris Heston‘s your No. 6 starter at the beginning of a season, that’s nice, because we’re going to have to see how long they roll with Matt Cain if he just can’t deliver.neil: They’re kind of the anti-Dodgers in that regard.christina_kahrl: And does anyone have less drama in their bullpen? I mean, let’s say Santiago Casilla loses the save-generator’s job to Hunter Strickland — so what? Sergio Romo was ready to roll with a demotion, and I expect Casilla will be as well. It all goes back to their stability, among the leadership — Bruce Bochy and Dave Righetti — and the talent. Winning provides its own kind of chemistry, where a worse track record and other people would generate spats.They might be baseball’s perfect “Just win baby!” team.tomley: It’s really hard to find a real weak spot on the roster, which is normally a kind of odd thing to say about a team that missed the playoffs. But like you said, Neil, last year’s version of the Giants wasn’t that much worse than the one that won it all in 2014. Throw in Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija, and a full season of Panik, and an uptick seems almost inevitable.christina_kahrl: I do worry a little about the outfield, if only because Gregor Blanco can only only fill one hole at a time. Denard Span and Hunter Pence both need to show better health this season, because Angel Pagan could very well be completely done.neil: That might be the only hole to speak of — Fangraphs calls for 0.8 combined WAR all year from their LF corps.christina_kahrl: But even then, Mac Williamson‘s a decent prospect to have to turn to. Again with the nice problems.tomley: Again, I’m fed up.neil: So we all kind of sound higher on the Giants than the Dodgers, projections be damned. Embed Code Arizona Diamondbackschristina_kahrl: Now, should we skip to the cellar and talk about the Purple Eaten People, or will that just make you crankier, Tom?neil: Hey, we have to talk about Arizona first!christina_kahrl: Good point, we should stick to the upper crust before touching on the lumpenteam tandem at the bottom.tomley: Yeah, let’s give me a few more minutes of peace.neil: OK, fair enough. So the D-backs obviously made some splashes this offseason, on the heels of a 79-win campaign last year. Is there a chance those machinations propel them at least into the conversation for the division or a Wild Card slot? Or is Arizona this season’s version of the mediocre team each year that comes out of nowhere to spend a lot in the hot stove, only to still be … well, mediocre?christina_kahrl: I think the Snakes have an interesting riff on the stars-and-scrubs formula. Starting from Paul Goldschmidt and Zack Greinke is a nice place to be, and A.J. Pollock, David Peralta, Patrick Corbin and Shelby Miller aren’t just sidekicks. It’s everything else that I sort of wonder about.(Ed. note: After we conducted our chat, Pollock fractured his elbow in a spring-training game. The Diamondbacks haven’t yet put a timetable on his recovery, but FanGraphs estimates his absence will cost Arizona about 3.9 wins above replacement.)tomley: I can’t decide what to make of the D-backs. On the one hand, they seem primed to pull people into the “Mid-Market Team That Makes Some Splashy Moves and Becomes a Trendy Pick But Then Continues to Suck” trap. But, there are some reaaaallllly good players on this team. Goldschmidt is incredible, Pollock is basically Desiigner to Mike Trout‘s Future, and I see no reason why Greinke won’t continue to dominate.christina_kahrl: If their “second rank” — say, the guys like Jake Lamb, Yasmany Tomas, Rubby De La Rosa, Robbie Ray — also deliver, that’s a team that will be in the Wild Card mix, absolutely. But Lamb has to show power, and Tomas has to show something.tomley: Tomas has to give them something more than he did last year, right? He can’t really be this bad …christina_kahrl: Or he could be the worst big-money mistake out of Cuba since Rusney Castillo. (Which is unfair to both guys, but when you have guys like Puig and Jose Abreu providing instant wins, that’s where expectations come from.)neil: Chris Owings, meanwhile, really is that bad.christina_kahrl: Yeah, and Nick Ahmed is sort of a latter-day Mark Belanger. You can win with that guy, but you need more from the non-Goldschmidts. I like the upside possibilities for Jean Segura, but if he’s just regular Segura, a relative improvement on Owings still doesn’t move the dial that much.neil: On the other hand, I can kind of appreciate where Dave Stewart’s coming from here. Are the uninspiring projections simply from factors like Goldschmidt (great as he is) regressing to the mean after such a tremendous 2015 season? Oftentimes it’s easy to envision poor performers improving and be blind to great performances regressing back.christina_kahrl: Absolutely, but that gets into the weird competitive imbalance of the NL, where you have eight contenders and seven also-rans. Given health from Greinke, Corbin, and Miller, plus Goldschmidt, the Snakes have mid-80s potential, and higher upside than that with the right kind of breakthrough from a guy like Miller. But it’s a fragile proposition, and really probably rests with one guy in particular. If Goldschmidt takes another hit and misses 50-70 games? Then 79 might seem high.tomley: This is when I really feel for the small-market teams. If this was the Dodgers, they could spend the money necessary to turn the holes around this roster’s (very good) nucleus into bright spots, and it wouldn’t even matter if Tomas continued to suck. But the D-backs can’t just eat the $68.5 million they spent on him and go get someone else. It’s never fun to be a fan of a team that has one of the best hitters and pitchers in baseball, and still have to say things like, “Hey, if Yasmany Tomas or Jean Segura give us something, we might be in business …” to yourself. Colorado Rockiesneil: All right, finally, we have to talk about the Colorado Rockies.(Sorry, Tom.)christina_kahrl: Hey, at least they’re not boring — Nolan Arenado is worth the price of admission.tomley: Oh boy, do I have some TAKES on the Rockies.neil: Do tell.christina_kahrl: Expectations of a clutterbuck-spattered detonation on the subject of their rotation in 3, 2, 1…tomley: Yeah, so, the rotation…I’ve spent most of the winter trying to convince myself that the Troy Tulowitzki trade was actually cool and good, and that Jeff Hoffman will indeed turn out to be the next Justin Verlander. But here’s the thing a lot of people who don’t care about the Rockies (i.e., everyone) may not realize: This organization has never once in its history successfully developed a pitching prospect.That’s bad news in any year, but it’s especially harrowing heading into this season, as the Rockies have one of the better farm systems in the majors and should be turning out quality arms in the next year or so.christina_kahrl: Yeah, I expect it’s going to be sort of bittersweet if Jhoulys Chacin has a good year with the Braves.tomley: But! So far we’ve only gotten glimpses at Jon Gray and Eddie Butler, and the results have been … not very encouraging. It’s hard to look at this team and not come away with the conclusion that there is just something fundamentally wrong with their development philosophy. Butler has only gotten worse as he’s risen through the organizational ranks, and Gray somehow lost a huge chunk of his velocity on his journey from college to the pros.This is not good! And it doesn’t bode well for a team that just traded its Hall-of-Fame shortstop for a collection of pitching prospects.christina_kahrl: Well, I think there we can hope that the change of philosophy in-house might be a good thing. They seem more ready now to let guys do their thing, instead of trying to mold them.tomley: Yes, the one thing that gives me some hope is that Jeff Bridich seems to be bringing a new philosophy, which values high-velocity guys and hopefully doesn’t involve trying to turn everyone into a worse version of Aaron Cook.christina_kahrl: “Make no small plans,” as it were.tomley: And I am legitimately intrigued to see how he plans on deploying the bullpen. We could definitely see the Rockies deploying the Rays’ strategy from last year, and try to get every game into the hands of the flame-throwers in the pen as fast as possible.neil: If they squeeze every bit they can out of the pitching staff, what are the bright spots in this lineup aside from Arenado?christina_kahrl: CarGo ain’t chopped liver.neil: He did have a resurgent year last season.tomley: Gonzalez is good, Charlie Blackmon is good and there are a few young guys who might make some noise. David Dahl is interesting, and Trevor Story has been tearing it up in the spring.christina_kahrl: Indeed, Story might make Jose Reyes history.tomley: Yeah, I don’t think we are going to see any of Reyes this season.neil: It’s amazing how quickly the Tulo trade just completely became about the prospects and not about Reyes at all.tomley: I don’t think many Rockies fans were all that excited about getting him in the first place. We mostly wanted him out of the way as soon as possible so that Story could get a shot.christina_kahrl: Now there’s the additional downside that they can’t flip Reyes for much. It’s a PR win if they excise him, though.tomley: But again, hitters like Story, Arenado and Dahl don’t matter unless there’s a dramatic shift in the pitching development. This really feels like a make-or-break year, in terms of what direction this team is going in. Trading Tulo was a nuclear option, and if it just yields another crop of failed pitching prospects, I don’t really know where the team goes from there. They’ve tried everything — throwing money at Mike Hampton and Denny Neagle, installing the humidor, preaching the importance of ground balls — and at some point something has to work.neil: And is it fair to say it’s a race against time to develop some of these supporting pieces before Arenado’s years of team control are up?tomley: Yes. Good things need to start happening this year, or the Rockies can say goodbye to Arenado.neil: That’s a lot of pressure for this season!tomley: I don’t feel great!neil: Do we think they start to make that progress?tomley: I’m cautiously optimistic. Like Christina said, there does seem to have been a real shift in philosophy, and I’m much more on board with the team collecting as many hard-throwing guys as possible, instead of trying to squeeze innings out of sinkerballers and guys who rely in the curve ball.neil: Strikeouts do make a lot of sense as an overriding strategy at Coors.tomley: But if Jon Gray comes out and is suddenly throwing 92 and pitching to contact, I will walk into the ocean.neil: Well, if you end up exiting the continent, can you do it via San Diego? The Padres need something exciting to happen around them.tomley: If I can remember that the Padres exist, I’ll catch a game before I hit the coast. More: Apple Podcasts | ESPN App | RSS | Embed Ben Lindbergh joins the Hot Takedown podcast to preview the 2016 MLB season. read more

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What If Rafael Nadal Had Never Won a Grand Slam Title

Imagine a tennis world in which Rafael Nadal never picked up a racket. Some of his rivals must have. Novak Djokovic could be excused for daydreaming about it after Nadal beat him in Sunday’s French Open final, 3-6, 7-5, 6-2, 6-4.Who would benefit most in a hypothetical world without Nadal? Well, let’s divvy up Nadal’s 14 Grand Slam titles. Although he might never reach Roger Federer’s record of 17 major titles, Nadal already leads Federer and all other Open-era greats in the ranking of biggest obstacle to a single Grand Slam title.To quantify this, I give you the “title block.” A title block isn’t an official tennis stat — I made it up. Here’s how it works: If Nadal beat a player in a final, I figure that given the next best possible opponent, the man who lost to Nadal would, on average, have a 50 percent chance of winning. So that win counts as half a title block. (This may undersell some blocked players’ chances of winning, but because this is hypothetical, treating unplayed matchups as coin flips is safest.) Similarly, a semifinal win cost the loser a quarter of a Grand Slam title and so on. Then I summed the title blocks for each Grand Slam tournament. I used data from Tennis Abstract, adding data from the just-completed French Open from rolandgarros.com. I ignored walkovers but included mid-match retirements.No matter how many times Nadal bites trophies, they don’t get broken up into pieces. But because this is a what-if exercise, these hypothetical titles come in fractions. If Nadal beats a player enough times, those fractional titles can start adding up. Nadal’s four wins in French Open finals over Federer, plus one semifinal ousting, count for two and one-quarter titles that Nadal has deprived Federer. Meanwhile, by beating Djokovic in two French Open finals, three semifinals and a quarterfinal, Nadal has cost him one and seven-eighths French Open titles.In a non-Nadal world, Djokovic would have one more U.S. Open crown in addition to those one or two French Opens. Federer would have another Australian Open title, along with those two or three additional French Open titles. And David Ferrer would no longer be in the running for best player never to win a major, because he’d have lifted a French Open trophy.We can expand this to other tennis greats. Let’s skim the cream off the top of the tennis world one great player at a time: Let’s get rid of each of the 12 men who have won at least six Grand Slam singles titles since the Open era of pro tennis began in 1968, one by one. We’ll add an unlucky No. 13 in Murray, who has had the misfortune to compete in an era dominated by three of those 12 men: Federer, Nadal and Djokovic.Nadal’s dominance of Federer and Djokovic rank first and second, respectively, among title blocks at the four Grand Slam tournaments, ahead of other famous blocks like Federer’s of Andy Roddick at Wimbledon, Pete Sampras’s of Andre Agassi at the U.S. Open and Bjorn Borg of Jimmy Connors at Wimbledon. Nadal’s defeats of Ferrer at the French Open the Top 10: By costing Ferrer one title, Nadal also takes the 10th spot on the list.Overall, Nadal has blocked Federer from three and three-quarters major titles; Federer would have 21 without Nadal. That’s No. 1 on the title-blocks list overall, and Nadal’s blockage of Djokovic from almost four major titles is No. 2 on the overall list.Don’t pity Federer too much, though: He did win the French Open in 2009, the one year in the past decade that Nadal didn’t. Djokovic still hasn’t won the clay-court major. Murray, meanwhile, would have more than triple his current total of two Grand Slam titles if not for Federer, Nadal and Djokovic, who each have cost him more than one.Nadal has had the better of all of his rivals, but he, too, could have won more majors without Federer, Djokovic, et al. By beating Nadal in two Wimbledon finals, Federer has cost Nadal a third Wimbledon title to go with the two Nadal has won. Djokovic, meanwhile, beat Nadal in the finals of three consecutive Grand Slam tournaments over 2011 and 2012, which cost Nadal one and a half major titles. read more

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Ronda Rousey Fights Like An Outlier

Ronda Rousey is the rare athlete who dominates her sport while transcending it. You might recognize her from a cameo in the recent “Entourage” movie, or maybe you read about her in The New Yorker. Or maybe you saw clips of her last fight — all 14 seconds of it.But in case you’ve been living in a pacifist commune, know this much: Rousey is the best female mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter in the world. Top male fighters are wary of facing her. With an 11-0 record going into her much-publicized fight against Bethe Correia on Saturday, she’s arguably the biggest draw — man or woman — in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), the biggest MMA promotion league.Beyond being simply “the best,” the former Olympian in judo — who, in the 2008 games in Beijing, became the first American woman to medal in the sport — is known for winning astonishingly fast. Her previous two fights lasted 30 seconds. Combined.Plotted below is the winning percentage of 2,135 MMA fighters (men and women) who have won at least three fights.1Fights from several promotion companies, such as Bellator and Strikeforce, are included in addition to UFC. On the x-axis is what I’m calling a fighter’s “fight speed score” — a measure of how much time is left in the fights they won versus how much is remaining in the bouts they lost.2The weighted average works like this: Take a fighter who has six wins and four losses. In her six wins, on average, 50 percent of the scheduled fight time was remaining; but in her losses, on average, 80 percent of the time was remaining. So her fight speed score is (6*0.5) – (4*0.8) = -0.2. This fighter tends to lose faster than she wins, even though she has a winning record. On average, Rousey has won her 11 fights with 90 percent of the scheduled fight time remaining; only three of her fights took more than 66 seconds.3The typical MMA fight is three scheduled five-minute rounds, except for championship bouts, which are five scheduled five-minute rounds. Other round and minute variations exist and were accounted for in the time-remaining calculation, which is a percentage. Combined with her undefeated record, this blazing-fast track record makes her a Lionel Messi-like outlier.Rousey’s quick fights are totally counter to the MMA trend overall. In the early 2000s, the average fight in the three-round, five-minute format lasted about 400 seconds for men and less than that for women. But in 2015, the typical fight went nearly two rounds (or about 600 seconds).4The trend lines in this chart represent the three-round, five-minute format. Rousey’s data points include fights in both formats. UPDATE (Nov. 13, 1:00 p.m.): Ronda Rousey defends her bantamweight title against Holly Holm this weekend in Australia. We wrote the story below before Rousey knocked out Bethe Correia in 34 seconds in August. Longer fights might be a product of the changing nature of MMA. It’s likely that, as MMA has become more popular, the competitive parity has risen too. And so it’s possible that fighters, facing more fearsome and equally matched opponents, are tweaking their tactics to be more risk-averse — to bide their time for an opportunity to strike, rather than coming in with the all-out aggressiveness that characterized the early days of the sport. Whatever the reason, today’s fighters don’t end fights like they used to.In the MMA of the past, fights were most likely to end when a fighter knocked another unconscious or twisted an opponent’s limb until he said “uncle” — but those days are over. Instead, MMA fights increasingly end with both fighters standing, which forces judges to make the call. There are essentially three ways a fight can end: a decision, a knockout (KO) or technical knockout (TKO), or a submission, which is when a fighter verbally or physically “taps out,” usually by being in a vulnerable position such as a chokehold.This is what’s happened to those three outcomes over the past 15 years:Submissions are down from about 45 percent of all fights in 2000 to 25 percent in 2015.5Each year, about 1 percent of fights have an “other” ending — usually a disqualification or a “no contest” (such as when a fighter does an illegal move that ends the fight). Those have been removed from this chart. That more fights end with a decision explains the longer fights, and could be a reflection of improving competitive parity in the sport. There are fewer instances of pros quickly pummeling their opponent.But Rousey is an exception. She has won all her fights by a submission or KO. Rousey has won nine of her 11 fights with the “armbar” submission — a move where Rousey hyperextends her opponent’s elbow, causing excruciating pain and sometimes gruesome results.And, interestingly, among fights ending in a submission, fewer are done with an armbar.Rousey’s favored armbar technique made up more than 35 percent of submissions in 2000. But now the armbar is used in less than 15 percent of submissions. Replacing it are choking moves such as the “guillotine” and “rear naked choke.”Although Rousey’s ways of winning are increasingly at odds with MMA trends, bettors seem to be confident she will continue winning. The betting odds from the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook put Rousey as a -1700 favorite against Correia (as of July 27). So one must bet $1,700 on Rousey to net $100 if she wins. She’s still a huge favorite. But Correia is also undefeated (9-0) and has beaten two of Rousey’s training partners.Rousey’s dominance has been a boon for MMA — and for female athletes more broadly. There’s no use resisting it. Just submit.Hank Gargiulo and Andrew Davis from ESPN’s Stats and Information Group contributed data analysis. Data is provided by FightMetric LLC. read more

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Gallery Cleveland Cavaliers vs Washington Wizards Preseason Game

The Cleveland Cavaliers took on the Washington Wizards on October 18 at the Schottenstein Center in Columbus for their first preseason game. The Cavaliers fell to the Wizards 96-91. Cavaliers’ shooting guard J.R. Smith (5) takes a selfie with a young fan before their preseason game at the Schottenstein Center on Oct. 18. Credit: Mason Swires | Assistant Photo Editor

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Opinion 1loss Big Ten champion deserves a spot in inaugural College Football

Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio holds the trophy above his head after the game. OSU lost to Michigan State, 34-24, in the Big Ten Championship at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis Dec. 7. Credit: Lantern file photoThe new College Football Playoff system revealed its first ever rankings Oct. 28 with an emphasis on who team’s have played and who they’ve beaten.Three teams from the Southeastern Conference were included the top four of the rankings, which will ultimately be where every team aspires to be in the end.Despite posting four consecutive games of 500 or more yards of offense and defeating Penn State in a tough road environment, Ohio State debuted at No. 16 in the rankings, which is relatively low for one of the best teams in the Big Ten and a team ranked No. 13 in the Associated Press top 25.OSU and the Big Ten took huge hits to their reputations during the latter years of the Bowl Championship Series. After the Buckeyes lost convincingly to SEC teams Florida and Louisiana State University in consecutive national championship games between the 2006 and 2007 seasons, it has been an uphill battle for the conference to regain its credibility.But the new playoff system should be designed to place conference champions in the “Power 5” against each other. With two teams likely making the final four from the SEC and defending national champions Florida State looking poised to stay undefeated, that leaves just one spot open.And that spot should be reserved for the Big Ten champion, as long as it has just one loss.Michigan State — the Big Ten’s highest ranked team (No. 8) in the College Football Playoff standings — lost an early season matchup against then-No. 3 Oregon on the road in Eugene, Ore., but it’s been impressive ever since.The Spartans’ defense has long been the strength of the team under coach Mark Dantonio, but the offense has been explosive this season as well.Michigan State is fifth in the country in scoring with 45.5 points per game and its running game has accumulated about 254.9 yards per game.When OSU and Michigan State meet in East Lansing, Mich., on Saturday, it will be a matchup of two of the top five scoring offenses in the nation. Both teams are hitting on all cylinders and the winner should have an inside track to making the College Football Playoff bracket.There are two one-loss teams remaining in the Pac-12 and three one-loss or undefeated teams in the Big 12 that could challenge for a playoff spot, but the Big Ten’s best have continued to look dominant in the face of pundits that claim they cannot compete with the nation’s best.The Big 12 has lost a lot of steam since serious contender Baylor took a road loss to No. 24 West Virginia and Oklahoma took losses to No. 6 Texas Christian University and No. 9 Kansas State.Oregon appears to be on a crash course to face Arizona State in the Pac-12 Championship Game. If the Ducks can win their conference, they are perhaps the only team that can stand up to the Big Ten’s elite because they defeated Michigan State head-to-head.But the College Football Playoff committee ultimately needs to put an emphasis on conference championships in its inaugural season. The committee needs to set a precedent that going through an entire season and finishing at the top of your respective conference should give you a chance to play for it all.The winner of the Big Ten will have to at least defeat the smash mouth defense of Michigan State, the elite offensive firepower of OSU, or Nebraska’s senior running back Ameer Abdullah, a top Heisman candidate.If given the chance to compete for it all, the Big Ten will have a lot more to show in 2014. read more

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Mens Volleyball Ohio State takes on Ball State in conference semifinals

Ohio State senior setter Christy Blough sets the middle for redshirt sophomore Blake Leeson against Quincy on April 15 at St. John Arena. Credit: Aliyyah Jackson | Lantern reporterWith “win or go home” in full effect for the No. 2 Ohio State men’s volleyball team (28-2, 16-0 MIVA), the Buckeyes are looking to keep the momentum rolling from Saturday’s sweep to Wednesday’s semifinals match against No. 11 Ball State (19-9, 9-7 MIVA).After downing Quincy in straight sets in the Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association quarterfinals, the Buckeyes hold a perfect record in conference play thus far and will clinch the MIVA Tournament Championship and an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament if they win their next two games.“I don’t think there’s more pressure,” said senior middle blocker Matt Dorn. “I think there’s always pressure to just keep winning and just keep playing well. I think it’s pretty much the same now.”Ball State is a familiar foe for OSU with the Buckeyes having faced the Cardinals more than any other opponent in program history. Both OSU and Ball State were founding member schools of the MIVA conference.Since 1968, the teams have met on a total of 179 occasions, with the Buckeyes holding the upper hand in the all-time series 98-83. The No. 4-seeded Cardinals have only won one of the last seven meetings.“The two times we played them earlier this season, I thought we had good offensive nights, and we had good serving nights,” said OSU coach Pete Hanson. “They’re a team that plays with a real focus on defense in terms of blocking, digging, transitioning the ball, keeping the ball coming back at you.”Ball State will come into Columbus ranked top-10 nationally in three defensive categories. The Cardinals are third in digs per set, averaging 9.37, and fifth in blocks per set, averaging 2.48.Ball State’s junior middle blocker Matt Walsh holds the sixth spot nationally for individuals in blocks per set, with 1.19. In Walsh’s last meeting with the Buckeyes, he failed to record any blocks against OSU’s attacking regime.OSU’s 1.94 aces per set is tops in the country. MIVA Player of the Year junior outside hitter Nicolas Szerszen leads the nation with 0.64 aces per set.Szerszen, along with senior opposite Miles Johnson, heads OSU’s offensive pursuits with both players ranked in the top-10 nationally in points per set. Johnson, the top point producer, averages 4.81 points per set.“We talked in the locker room about (how) this is the beginning of a playoff run. (Saturday) needed to be our best match,” Hanson said. “I put on the board that now Wednesday’s match has to be the best match of the year. Each step going forward, we just need to step it up a little bit. Ratchet up the intensity, ratchet up the focus.”The Buckeyes and the Cardinals face off on Wednesday at 7 p.m. in St. John Arena. read more

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Football Threestar tight end Cormontae Hamilton commits to Ohio State

Three-star tight end Cormontae Hamilton joined Ohio State’s 2019 recruiting class Friday, announcing his commitment to the Buckeyes via Twitter. I am 100% committed to The hio State University #GoBucks pic.twitter.com/WJFJ3kQiwn— Cormontae Hamilton (@Cbvndzzz) July 27, 2018Hamilton is the 15th member of Ohio State’s 2019 class and, as a Memphis, Tennessee native, is the 11th out of state student to join the Buckeyes in the class.  He is ranked as the No. 32 tight end in the 2019 class according to the 247Sports composite rankings. Hamilton also is ranked as the No. 29 player from the state of Tennessee in the class. Hamilton will join fellow Tennessee native Kane Patterson, a four-star inside linebacker from Nashville and the No. 7 recruit in the state, in the 2019 class. read more

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Underfire Southern NHS health trust created new £240k job for exchief executive

first_img(It) will aggravate the sense of injustice felt by the families of those who lost their livesNorman Lamb Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily  Front Page newsletter and new  audio briefings. Dismissing suggestions the move was a “fix” he said: “That is not the case. The case is that over the next few months the work that we’ve asked Katrina to do needed to be done in any event.”The trust has been the subject of independent Government reviews since it was revealed it failed to investigate the unexpected deaths of hundreds of patients between 2011 and 2015.Mark Aspinall, who resigned from the council of governors of the Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust in April, said the decision was “strange”.He told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: “The idea that the role has been created purely to move Katrina Percy sideways seems very strange.”Mr Aspinall said the whole board must take responsibility for the problems at the trust.He added: “There are questions for the remainder of the board as well. You do start to wonder if there’s a bit of wagon-circling going on here and whether they are starting to worry about their own positions a little.”Commenting on the news of Ms Percy’s change of job at the time, Liberal Democrat health spokesman Norman Lamb said: “Reports that she will move into another well-paid job advising GPs on strategy are deeply concerning, and will aggravate the sense of injustice felt by the families of those who lost their lives.”Southern has been under intense scrutiny following the deaths of hundreds of patients, including 18-year-old Connor Sparrowhawk, who died in 2013.In October, a jury inquest ruled that neglect contributed to the death of Mr Sparrowhawk, who drowned after an epileptic seizure at Slade House in Headington, Oxfordshire.In April, inspectors concluded that the trust was still failing to protect patients from risk of harm.  Connor Sparrowhawk Care Quality Commission inspectors found that robust arrangements to probe incidents, including deaths, had not been put in place, resulting in “missed opportunities” to prevent similar events.In December, an independent investigation found Southern Health had failed to probe the deaths of hundreds of people since 2011.Southern Health is a mental health trust providing services to 45,000 people across Hampshire, Dorset, Wiltshire, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire.It employs around 9,000 staff at more than 200 sites, including community hospitals, health centres, inpatient units and social care services. A much-criticised health trust has admitted creating a new job for its former chief executive who resigned after saying her position had become untenable.Katrina Percy announced her decision to stand down from the top position with Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust last week, but added that she was “delighted to be taking on an alternative role” with the organisation.Ms Percy will get the the same pay and benefits of around £240,000 a year in her job “providing strategic advice to local GP leaders”.The trust’s interim chairman Tim Smart told the BBC the new role will address work that “needed to be done”.Asked if the job existed previously he confirmed it did not, said Ms Percy was the only candidate and was “uniquely qualified for it”, and said it had not been advertised.  Connor SparrowhawkCredit:PAlast_img read more

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Terence Conran says he never punched his business partner as he is

first_imgDenying having made any sort of special agreement exempting Mr Gunewardena from company share rules, Sir Terence said: “If there had been any kind of agreement or arrangement I have no doubt that Mr Gunewardena would have raised the issue at a board meeting with a view to then seeking shareholder approval, and ensured that any agreement or understanding reached was also recorded in writing.”Mr Gunewardena was and remains a savvy businessman who would always take a sensible approach to protecting his own financial interests and had a good understanding of legal matters.”It comes as no surprise to me that Mr Gunewardena was required to transfer his shares on leaving the Conran Group in 2013, because that would be the normal position for all existing employees, along with a mechanism for valuation of such shares.”In fact such clauses are often a lot more draconian,” he added.”I explained to Mr Gunewardena that Conran Holdings had taken legal advice and had proceeded with the buy back (of his shares) very carefully to ensure that it had acted legally and honestly.”Sir Terence said that he had received a letter last year from Mr Gunewardena in which the restauranteur “noted” that Conran Holdings “should certainly be concerned about the damage to their reputation of a public fight with their ex-CEO and founder shareholder.””The dispute that has arisen is regrettable,” Sir Terence concluded.The evidence in the case has now finished. It will return to court on Friday for lawyers to make their final submissions. After the hearing, a spokesman for Mr Gunewardena said: “Des Gunewardena was a long term business partner of Sir Terence Conran.  “He was a shareholder and director of Conran Holdings Ltd for over 20 years. He was CEO of the Conran group for 11 years, prior to leading a buyout of the restaurant business, which completed in 2013. This is now the hugely successful D&D group of restaurants.”Together Sir Terence and Des turned the Conran group from a £10million to a £120million turnover business, until Des’ forced resignation in June 2013. “This claim states that, despite Des’ loyalty to the Conran brand, and the length of his relationship with Sir Terence, in December 2014 Conran Holdings unjustifiably compulsorily acquired his seven per cent shareholding for a derisory £1,254.”Des’ shareholding had been valued independently at over £3million. This claim simply seeks to restore that shareholding to Des or ensure that if it is acquired, that the acquisition is at a fair price. It is a shame that it has ended in the courtroom. Mr Gunewardena Fashion designer Sir Terence Conran has admitted that he rarely paid attention to the “legalities of company law” and instead surrounded himself with “good people” – among them a business partner who has now taken him to court in a £3m dispute.The Conran family company is being sued by the man known as London’s restaurant king, Des Gunewardena, who claims he was paid only £1,245 for shares in Conran Holdings Ltd worth £3m.In an unusual exchange in court on Wednesday, the 85-year-old responded to questions about past quarrels with Mr Gunewardena, by saying: “I’ve never punched him”. The answer prompted laughter in the courtroom. The judge Mr Justice Mann intervened, saying: “That wasn’t quite the question: Did you ever have a falling out, short of punching him?””No,” Sir Terence, who arrived at court supported by his wife Vicki and leaning on a walking stick, said. Sir Terence told the High Court Mr Gunewardena had got “fair value” for his shares when he left the company in December 2014 according to the formula that he himself had seen written into the company’s articles.Mr Gunewardena was CEO of the Conran group for 11 years, before leading a buyout of the restaurant business which completed in 2013. He claims he was “fired” from the Conran group and deprived of his just reward for 20 years of hard work.Sir Terence told the court that he had personally paid little attention to the “legalities of company law” and had “always left company matters like articles to Des, as he was both the company secretary and the CEO.””I engaged people who were meticulous in this respect, including Mr Gunewardena. I have always had good people around me to look after the business and its paper work properly,” he added. The changes were designed to encourage valued employees to stay with the company long term, and was prompted by Sir Terence’s “bad experience with exiting senior employees of Habitat when it became a public company.”Mr Gunewardena now claims Sir Terence agreed that he would be exempt from these clauses, meaning he would not have to relinquish his shares or that he would be paid for them on the basis of an independent valuation.The designer denied his assertions in the witness box: “I understand that Mr Gunewardena’s position is broadly that there was an agreement or understanding between him and me that the compulsory transfer provisions would not apply to his shares during or after 2006,” he said.”He has never produced any documentary evidence to back up his assertions. None of the various assertions made by Mr Gunewardena is correct.”I never had an agreement or any other form of understanding with him, either orally or in writing, that he would be entitled, no matter what the legal agreements said, to retain his shares in Conran Holdings following his departure from the Conran Group.” Matthew Collings QC, for Mr Gunewardena, cross-examining the designer on his relationship with his former partner, put to Sir Terence: “You say the dispute is regrettable, that you admire him as a businessman and look back fondly on your many happy years together.”He was a good servant of Conran Holdings, but also had an eye on his own interests”.Sir Terence replied: “He was and remains a savvy businessman. He was meticulous in detail, particularly when it came to his own finances.”He said he has spent the last two years trying to convince his former business partner that he would be “very ill advised” to bring a court claim against him.Mr Collings claimed that changes made in 1995 to the articles governing the running of Conran Holdings had been instigated by Mr Gunewardena himself.They meant that outgoing employees would have their shares compulsarily bought back by the company on the basis of five times the value of the company’s recent annual profits, rather than having their value assessed by an auditor. Sir Terence Conran and his wife Vicki  Mr Gunewardena was and remains a savvy businessman who would always take a sensible approach to protecting his own financial interestsSir Terence Conran Mr Gunewardena arriving at the High CourtCredit: Paul Grover for the Telegraph Restaurateur Mr GunewardenaCredit: Paul Grover for the Telegraph Sir Terence with his wife VickiCredit: Paul Grover for the Telegraph Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily  Front Page newsletter and new  audio briefings. Mr Gunewardena arriving at the High Courtlast_img read more

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