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Andrew Lelling also eyeing run for Massachusetts governor, sources say

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Andrew Lelling also eyeing run for Massachusetts governor, sources say

Add former U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling to the list of might-be candidates in the upcoming governor’s race — with sources close to the moderate Republican saying he’s “seriously” considering a run.

“With Baker and Polito both out, he’s tempted,” a source close to the Trump-appointed former U.S. attorney told the Herald.

It’s another name on the growing list of potential candidates — which grew to include the likes of U.S. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh, Taunton Mayor Shuanna O’Connell and Boston City Councilor and failed mayoral candidate Annissa Essaibi-George — thinking about the race since Gov. Charlie Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito on Wednesday took themselves out of the running.

Republicans have just one candidate so far — former Whitman state Rep. Geoff Diehl — and GOP strategist Wendy Wakeman said a primary would be “healthy” for a state party “divining” whether voters will resonate more with a conservative or moderate candidate.

But what place the GOP — particularly Trump-affiliated candidates — will have in the upcoming general election remains to be seen.

Fewer than 10% of the state’s 4.7 million voters are registered Republicans, according to the Secretary of State’s latest voter statistics.

State Democratic Party Chairman Gus Bickford, meanwhile, says Democrats “have been and continue to be ready to take back the Corner Office.”

The Trump-endorsed Diehl is the sole Republican on the ticket so far. In a state where former President Donald Trump took just 32% of the vote in 2020, pundits say there’s ample room for a more moderate candidate like Lelling — despite his own Trump administration affiliations — to jump in the race.

But Republicans are more than likely out of the office next year, Democratic strategist Doug Rubin said. Taking it a step farther, former Deval Patrick adviser Rubin said 2022 could be a year of “great opportunity for a progressive candidate to win.”

It would be a major shift in a state where voters have continually toed the moderate line for most of the past three decades when it comes to electing governors — all of which have been Republican except for one.

“Because of where the Republican Party is and how far it’s shifted to the right and toward Trump, there is a real opening for Democrats right now to win this thing,” he said. “It comes down to what message do you have and progressive politics in general play very well with Massachusetts voters.”

All three declared Democratic candidates for governor tout progressive ideals, but state Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz is quickly emerging as the race’s progressive firebrand.

The Jamaica Plain daughter of a social worker and the nation’s first Latino astronaut picked up an endorsement from People’s Action, a major national progressive organization that backed Bernie Sanders.

Politics Director Brooke Adams called Chang-Diaz the “only” candidate who will fight “profiteers and the ultra-wealthy (who) have dominated power in the Massachusetts State House for too long.”

Former state Sen. Ben Downing and Harvard Professor and political adviser Danielle Allen are also running on the Dem side.

But there are still more questions than answers when it comes to who is and who isn’t running.

All eyes are on Democratic Attorney General Maura Healey, who has been mulling a run since the beginning of the year. Sources close to the AG say it’s a decision she’s unlikely to make in the next few days.

Pundits say playing the waiting game is unlikely to damage a candidate of Healey’s caliber.

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Robot umpires at home plate moving up to Triple-A for 2022

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Robot umpires at home plate moving up to Triple-A for 2022

NEW YORK — Robot umpires have been given a promotion and will be just one step from the major leagues this season.

Major League Baseball is expanding its automated strike zone experiment to Triple-A, the highest level of the minor leagues.

MLB’s website posted a hiring notice seeking seasonal employees to operate the Automated Ball and Strike system. MLB said it is recruiting employees to operate the system for the Albuquerque Isotopes, Charlotte Knights, El Paso Chihuahuas, Las Vegas Aviators, Oklahoma City Dodgers, Reno Aces, Round Rock Express, Sacramento River Cats, Salt Lake Bees, Sugar Land Skeeters and Tacoma Rainiers.

The independent Atlantic League became the first American professional league to let a computer call balls and strikes at its All-Star Game in July 2019 and experimented with ABS during the second half of that season. It also was used in the Arizona Fall League for top prospects in 2019, drawing complaints of its calls on breaking balls.

There were no minor leagues in 2020 due to the pandemic, and robot umps were used last season in eight of nine ballparks at the Low-A Southeast League.

The Major League Baseball Umpires Association agreed in its labor contract that started in 2020 to cooperate and assist if Commissioner Rob Manfred decides to utilize the system at the major league level.

“It’s hard to handicap if, when or how it might be employed at the major league level, because it is a pretty substantial difference from the way the game is called today,” Chris Marinak, MLB’s chief operations and strategy officer, said last March.

MLB said the robot umpires will be used at some spring training ballparks in Florida, remain at Low A Southeast and could be used at non-MLB venues.

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Omar Kelly: Dolphins’ commitment to Tua isn’t unanimous and it could hurt search for coach

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Omar Kelly: Dolphins’ commitment to Tua isn’t unanimous and it could hurt search for coach

History has had a nasty habit of repeating itself with the Miami Dolphins during the past decade, if not two.

No matter how hard the franchise tries to steer a different course, it keeps traveling down the same path, making similar mistakes, and the people who record that history need to take some ownership for this ride on the mediocrity merry-go-round.

At least I do, because not all of Dolphins’ history has been recorded properly, or done in a timely fashion.

For instance, you’ve probably heard whisperers, or internet chatter about the failed coup d’état the 2014 receivers orchestrated at the end of the season to have quarterback Ryan Tannehill replaced by Matt Moore.

As I’ve been told by multiple sources, in December of that season, with a playoff berth on the line, the receiver unit sat down with then-head coach Joe Philbin and asked him to bench Tannehill for Moore, who was a more aggressive passer.

Philbin denied their request, and 7-5 turned into 8-8. Every receiver on that team outside of Jarvis Landry and Rishard Matthews was traded or purged that offseason.

Tannehill survived, got new weapons the next offseason, and Miami’s mediocrity marched on. I never reported about the attempted coup at the time because the receivers didn’t want it out then, since it failed, and it could have hurt their NFL future.

But I’m bringing it up now because I’ve been hearing plenty of locker-room discomfort regarding the franchise’s supposedly unwavering commitment to Tua Tagovailoa, the 2020 first-round pick for whom Miami has gone 13-8 in his starts the past two seasons.

Players aren’t siding with now-removed coach Brian Flores over Tagovailoa. Many of them had issues with Flores’ antics and personality quirks, like Tagovailoa and General Manager Chris Grier did. Their troublesome relationship with Flores contributed to his firing earlier this month.

Now, some players’ issues are with the reports that the Dolphins plan to build around Tagovailoa, who finished the 2021 season with the 19th-highest passer rating (90.1) in the NFL, sandwiched between Atlanta’s Matt Ryan and Tannehill.

Most Dolphins like and respect Tagovailoa, which hasn’t always been the case with Dolphins quarterbacks. See Chad Henne and Tannehill’s career for the most recent examples.

NFL backups are always popular in locker rooms, especially with defenders when the offense struggles, and the Dolphins’ offense has struggled for most of the 21st century.

What I’m sensing, reporting, chronicling, hoping to bring to the light, is that there’s a strained relationship with Tagovailoa and his team. And for the sake of transparency, I’m admitting it is difficult to put a finger on the source.

Most of the players I talk to privately acknowledge that there is some resentment built up because Tagovailoa was hyped up as this franchise’s savior, and “he’s no savior,” as one Dolphins player puts it.

Many players felt Ryan Fitzpatrick, who was the clear-cut leader of the 2020 team that finished 10-6, had his team stolen from him when Fitzpatrick was benched for a then rookie Tagovailoa six games into the season.

Many players felt that decision, which was made by Flores and Dolphins management, hurt the team’s playoff chances that season. Although Tagovailoa didn’t push to become Miami’s starter, it strained some relationships.

His leadership style is constantly compared to Fitzpatrick’s, and that’s a losing battle.

A few players admitted that the Dolphins’ seasonlong flirtation with Houston quarterback Deshaun Watson, which excited quite a few of Tagovailoa’s teammates, affected their feelings about Tagovailoa because “Watson’s an elite quarterback now. We’re ready to win,” as one player summed up.

When Tagovailoa’s positives are pointed out — as I often do, as an admitted supporter of Tagovailoa — the rebuttal always centers on the lack of velocity of his throws.

“He can’t make every throw,” one prominent defender said before reminding me he watched Tagovailoa every day, not just on game days. “He’s only going to take us so far. I’m wasting my career here if that’s what we’re doing!”

None of these issues are new revelations or uncharted waters for the Dolphins.

I’ve heard that kind of talk privately for decades about too many quarterbacks, and here we are with two postseason appearances in 20 years.

But it warrants mentioning now because the Dolphins are embarking on a search for the team’s next head coach after seemingly making a public announcement that whoever wants Flores’ job must believe in and build an offense around Tagovailoa.

What if 49ers offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel wants to continue coaching Jimmy Garoppolo, who will likely be on the trading block this offseason. His $25 million-a-year contract expires after the 2022 season, and the 49ers traded three first-rounders and a third-rounder to the Dolphins to select Trey Lance with the third pick of last year’s draft.

Or if Dan Quinn, who spent four seasons in Seattle, could find a way to deliver perennial Pro Bowl selection Russell Wilson in a trade with the Seahawks?

Maybe Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, or Cowboys offensive coordinator Kellen Moore, two more candidates, covet a quarterback in the 2022 draft class.

How about Miami’s decision-makers simply listen to each candidate’s unbiased opinions of Tagovailoa, and their game plan at quarterback before stacking the deck, potentially turning off candidates?

That is why Dolphins players would prefer it be out there that not everyone supports the organization’s stance of unwavering commitment to Tagovailoa, and that the players would prefer that he at least be given legit competition this offseason, and must win the job in a training camp battle, where a new offense is installed.

This isn’t about not believing in Tagovailoa’s future, potential and promise.

This is about ensuring that the franchise’s course, its trajectory, isn’t tied to it, and that a general manager’s desire to prove he was right on his quarterback selection two years ago doesn’t hold a team back for the rest of this decade, like some of the Dolphins’ other unwavering commitments to lackluster quarterbacks.

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At 113, NAACP evolves for relevance on racial justice agenda

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At 113, NAACP evolves for relevance on racial justice agenda

As the NAACP turns 113, look for its voice to grow louder on issues like climate change, the student debt crisis and the ongoing response to the coronavirus pandemic — while keeping voting rights and criminal justice reform at the forefront of its priorities.

The nation’s oldest civil rights organization’s birthday next month comes as it undergoes a restructuring to reflect a membership and leadership that is trending younger, to people in their mid-30s. As a result, it is adding endeavors like producing TV streaming content for CBS.

The hope is that younger Americans see the NAACP has modernized beyond being grandma and grandpa’s go-to civil rights hub, good for much more than voter-registration drives and the star-studded Image Awards.

“We had to reinvigorate the organization,” national president Derrick Johnson, 53, told The Associated Press.

“The changes that we have seen are absolutely necessary for the organization to exist for the next 112 or 113 years,” he added. “But more importantly, we are more targeted in our work and are driven by outcomes as opposed to output.”

The NAACP’s legacy includes the legal desegregation of schools and workplaces, crusades against lynching and racial terrorism, and pursuit of socioeconomic advancement for Black Americans. It commands the respect of U.S. presidents and Capitol Hill powerbrokers, confers with U.N. diplomats on global issues and trains future leaders through its network of thousands of state and local branches.

But in periods of NAACP history when it found itself embroiled in financial hardship and internal power struggles, the group appeared ineffective or even irrelevant. Past critics have said the NAACP was insular, too concerned with corporate funding, and not nearly nimble or progressive enough for the times.

“The best of the NAACP is when it fought for change, not as payback for Black people voting for a candidate, but because the change was demanded by the promises of the constitution, the demands of human rights and the sound morality of our deepest religious traditions,” said the Rev. William Barber II, who led the North Carolina NAACP from 2006 to 2017 before resigning to become co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign.

“Right now, the NAACP should be leaning to its better history,” Barber told the AP.

A revamped “brain trust” within its leadership is helping to better meet the needs of its membership, said NAACP chief strategy officer Yumeka Rushing. During a December national staff retreat, roughly half of those in attendance had come onboard in the prior 12 months.

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