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Keeler: Broncos needed to punt Pat Shurmur weeks ago. His greatest sin? Making Drew Lock boring.



Broncos gassers, notable Week 15 quotes following loss to Bengals and looking ahead to Week 16 versus Raiders

We tried to add up Pat Shurmur’s litany of sins in Broncos Orange and Blue, but the pencil broke.

The greatest and grandest is, without a doubt, the shell of a quarterback Shurmur, the Broncos’ soon-to-be-former offensive coordinator, left where Drew Lock used to be.

When I wrote two weeks ago that Shurmur called plays as if he were trying to get Lock squeezed like a tangerine on national TV, I was partly kidding.

And yet, sure enough, what did Pencil Pat do Sunday against the Chargers? While No. 3 was operating with only one healthy shoulder, Shurmur dialed up a “Philly Special” at the goal line, a trick play which involves turning your quarterback into a receiver.  It also involves the possibility of your quarterback getting hit at full tilt.

To nobody’s surprise, Lock got belted before reaching the end zone.

“He’s just a lot more confident than he was (in 2020),” tailback Melvin Gordon said Monday when asked about Lock’s up-and-down 2021. “He (has been) taking the initiative to really take control of the huddle … from what I (saw) last game against the Chargers, you could tell there was some growth in that area.”

Yet Lock remains the ultimate Rorschach test for Broncos Country. When we look, when we tweet, we see what we want to see. Strong arm? Tough guy? Willing to put his body on the line for the team? Check, check and check.

Two balls, early on, thrown straight into the hands of Chargers safety Derwin James? Check and check.

It was only after he got down 27-6 that Lock caught fire. Seven completions on nine attempts, 83 passing yards and a touchdown over the Broncos’ two final drives.

Before that: 11 for 16, 162 passing yards, no touchdowns, two field goals.

Better? Yes.

Serviceable? Not in this division.

When Lock is playing quarterback and the Broncos are up or down seven or less in the fourth quarter, Buzz Lightyear is 5 for 13 passing (38.5%) for 77 yards, no scores, two sacks, and a 58.8 passer rating. Last season, he was 27 for 52 (51.9%) in those circumstances, with three touchdowns and three picks, for a 76.3 passer rating.

That won’t work in the AFC West, with Patrick Mahomes, Justin Herbert and Derek Carr.

It’s a video-game league now. A Madden league. A passing league. Trying to mimic the Titans or Vikings — winning on toughness, grit, running and execution — sounds good on paper. It sounds pretty macho on the podium. It makes for an awfully low ceiling. Especially in January.

The NHL playoffs are about goalies. The NFL playoffs are about quarterbacks. When this town has witnessed excellence in both positions, no shock, it’s wound up throwing championship parades. We make this thing harder than it has to be, sometimes.

Is Lock entirely to blame for all that potential still unfulfilled? Heck, no. The Post’s Ryan O’Halloran charted four drops by Broncos targets in Vegas two weeks ago. And another one, by tight end Eric Saubert, during Week 17.


Rookie Christopher Morel’s special moment pumps life into the Chicago Cubs’ rebuild plan: ‘It’s so cool’



Rookie Christopher Morel’s special moment pumps life into the Chicago Cubs’ rebuild plan: ‘It’s so cool’

If the Chicago Cubs could bottle moments like Tuesday night at Wrigley Field, they wouldn’t have to worry so much about people calling this a rebuild.

Christopher Morel’s bat-flipping celebration after homering in his first major-league at-bat, combined with Brandon Hughes’ five strikeouts in 1 ⅔ innings in his big-league debut, provided Cubs fans with hope the future might be brighter than imagined.

That’s what an infusion of youth can do.

“It just brings that energy, that new energy,” pitcher Kyle Hendricks said before Wednesday’s series finale against the Pittsburgh Pirates. “It’s having a good balance of both. We have so many good veteran guys around here now that bring the right energy from that side and that aspect.

“But seeing these young guys come up, kind of a deer-in-the-headlights (look) a little bit. They don’t know what to expect. They just go out and play and play so wholeheartedly and so natural. It’s just fun to see all that emotion come out of them.”

Morel was in the starting lineup at third base Wednesday, still flying from the electric moment in the eighth inning Tuesday. The 22-year-old call-up from Double-A Tennessee knew when he stepped up that Willson Contreras had homered in his first at-bat in 2016.

“I saw it on the scoreboard and I said to him, ‘Hey, I’m going to make my first at-bat a home run just like you,’ ” Morel said.

The moment the ball left the bat, Contreras jumped out of the dugout like the Cubs had won the pennant. It was an instant flashback to June 19, 2016, at Wrigley, when he homered in his first major-league at-bat on Father’s Day against the Pirates.

“It was amazing,” Contreras recalled Wednesday. “A good introduction for me in the big leagues.”

Justin Steele chimed in, recalling watching the shot six years ago when he pitched for Class A South Bend.

“Pretty sure me and Adbert (Alzolay) watched that home run together,” Steele told Contreras.

Morel’s homer sparked a wild reaction from the crowd at Wrigley, which already was on its feet for the 3-2 pitch. He performed a semi-moonwalk out of the box while flipping his bat for what he insisted was the first time in his career.

Really? His first-ever bat flip?

“Like this, yes,” he said. “Last year I hit a walk-off and I flipped my bat, but not like this.”

Morel became the ninth Cub to homer in his first major-league at-bat and the first since Contreras.

“I wasn’t thinking about it until it happened,” Hendricks said of the coincidence. “(Contreras) did it on the first pitch, of course. But we thought about it right away, especially Willson running out there giving him a hug. It was just an awesome, awesome moment for him. Going out there and doing that, it’s so cool to see things like that happen.”

Contreras said he was waiting for Morel to “do something positive, either a blooper or a base hit.”

Morel did something even better.

“Hitting a home run is pretty good,” Contreras said. “Almost nobody can do that in the big leagues.”

Manager David Ross called it a moment Cubs fans will always remember and said he and pitching coach Tommy Hottovy had “swelling” in their eyes.

“That’s what stories are made of, and I’ll never forget that,” Ross said. “It reminded me of Willson’s first at-bat, that emotion. And then I started laughing when he nearly missed first base, like Mark McGwire (after breaking the home run record).”

The Cubs were riding a wave entering Wednesday night’s game, with a four-game winning streak and Marcus Stroman scheduled to return to the mound Thursday after his COVID-19-related IL stint. Closer David Robertson was cleared to return from his COVID-related absence Wednesday.

Team President Jed Hoyer doesn’t want his plan labeled a “rebuild,” a term the Cubs embraced a decade ago before it became associated with another word — tanking.

But when kids such as Morel, Steele, Hughes and Keegan Thompson enjoy some success, “rebuild” doesn’t sound quite as offensive. Most Cubs fans, in fact, would prefer to watch unproven 22-year-olds develop at Wrigley than former prospects signed on the cheap or 30-something pitchers who can be moved at the trade deadline.

“We have a lot of good, young talent, and they are hungry,” Contreras said. “They bring a lot of positive energy around the clubhouse, which is always good to have.”

Hendricks and Contreras helped establish the winning culture on the North Side in their early years, and both said they hope the younger players understand they’re here to keep that culture alive.

“We’re trying to hold on to that,” Hendricks said. “And everybody that comes into this environment, we hope that’s what they feel.”


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Annabelle De St. Maurice: We’re losing the fight against superbugs, but there’s still hope



Annabelle De St. Maurice: We’re losing the fight against superbugs, but there’s still hope

As parents, we inherently want to protect our children. We tell them stories with happy endings and reassure them that there aren’t monsters hiding under the bed.

But there’s an enemy living among us that poses a fatal threat to kids and adults alike — and we’re simply not doing enough to stop it.

These enemies are “superbugs” — bacteria and fungi that are resistant to antibiotics and other medications. All microbes, from everyday bacteria to killer superbugs, are constantly evolving. And paradoxically, exposing microbes to antimicrobials — whether a common antibiotic for strep throat or a potent antifungal treatment given in the hospital — can make them stronger in the long run.

While most of the microbes die when treated, the ones that survive can reproduce. These new generations of microbes can build up resistance to certain antimicrobials, rendering some medications less effective or ineffective over time.

Unfortunately, this natural evolutionary process is speeding up for several reasons. We greatly overuse antibiotics in patients with viruses, like the flu, common colds and bronchitis — without benefit. And modern medical care has increased the demand for antibiotics. Advances in cancer care, organ transplants and surgeries such as hip and knee replacements have become much more common. These procedures can extend and improve life, but patients often require antimicrobials because they are at high risk of developing infections.

Bacteria are mutating at a speed that outpaces the development of antibiotics. Penicillin was discovered in 1941, but it wasn’t until 1967 that penicillin-resistant Streptococcus pneumococcus was first identified. By contrast, consider an antibiotic for multidrug-resistant bacteria released in 2015, called ceftazidime-avibactam. That same year a strain of bacteria emerged that was resistant to this new antibiotic.

Drug-resistant pathogens are one of the greatest healthcare threats of our time — for everyone, everywhere, including adults and children. More than 1.2 million people died worldwide from antibiotic-resistant infections in 2019 alone. Multidrug-resistant infections are on the rise in kids. More of these infections originate outside of our hospitals and within our communities.

Without effective antibiotics, run-of-the-mill pneumonia or skin infections can become life-threatening.

COVID-19 exacerbated the situation. Amid the widespread uncertainty and limited treatment options at the beginning of the pandemic, doctors often used antibiotics to treat COVID-19 patients as they tried to help them. Patients may also have been given antibiotics in instances in which it was difficult to distinguish between bacterial pneumonia, which requires antibiotics, and COVID-19.

Hospital stewardship programs — which manage the careful and optimal use of antimicrobial treatments — also had to redirect their limited resources away from antibiotic use to focus on the complex administration of COVID-19 therapeutics. And severely ill patients on ventilators were at a higher risk of contracting secondary infections, especially while their immune system was weakened.

These factors led to an increase in drug-resistant infections acquired in hospitals during the pandemic. Drug-resistant staph infections, MRSA, jumped 34% for hospitalized patients in the last quarter of 2020 compared with the same period in 2019.

Prior to COVID-19, we made initial progress in the fight against antimicrobial resistance. In 2014, California was the first state to pass a law requiring antimicrobial stewardship programs in hospitals. In 2019, Medicare began requiring antibiotic stewardship programs.

Some modest federal investments have also been made in antimicrobial research and development, but not enough to generate the pipeline patients need. We must increase support for antimicrobial stewardship practices, which were under-resourced even before the pandemic. Teaching practitioners to safely use and monitor antimicrobial treatments is a significant step.

We also need to develop novel antimicrobial medicines capable of defeating the superbugs that have grown resistant to previous generations of treatments. But market incentives are misaligned. Because doctors prudently limit their use of antimicrobials to avoid further resistance, there isn’t high demand to sustain the development of new products, which take years of research and billions of dollars in investments.

As a result, many large biopharmaceutical companies have stopped antimicrobial research entirely. And many smaller startups have had success at first, only to face bankruptcy. That’s part of the reason why there have been few new classes of antibiotics developed in the last 35 years.

This is a textbook case of a market failure, but government intervention can help realign market incentives.

The PASTEUR Act is a bipartisan bill in Congress that would establish a payment model for critically needed antimicrobials.

Currently, the government pays manufacturers based on the volume of drugs sold. But under PASTEUR, the government would enter into contracts with manufacturers and pay a predetermined amount for access to their novel antimicrobials — allowing scientists to innovate new treatments without fear of an insufficient return on investment due to low sales volumes.

Essentially, the bill would switch the government from a “pay-per-use” model for antimicrobials to a subscription-style model that pays for the value antimicrobials bring to society. By delinking payments to antimicrobial makers from sales volumes, the measure would stimulate investment in new antibiotics.

The bill would also provide resources to strengthen hospital antimicrobial stewardship programs, which help clinicians use antimicrobials prudently and help the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention closely monitor resistance. Hospitals should join public health leaders in supporting this legislation and invest more of their resources in their antimicrobial stewardship programs.

Unfortunately, superbugs aren’t an easy enemy to defeat. We need to be fighting them more vigorously to ensure that they don’t get around our best defenses.

Annabelle de St. Maurice is an associate professor of pediatric infectious diseases at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, and head of pediatric infection control and co-chief infection prevention officer at UCLA Health. She wrote this for the Los Angeles Times.

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Orioles ace John Means ‘looking forward to the grind’ of recovery from Tommy John surgery



Orioles ace John Means ‘looking forward to the grind’ of recovery from Tommy John surgery

John Means is in the early stages of his recovery from Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery, but the mustache he sported Wednesday in the Orioles’ clubhouse was in vintage form.

“Gotta keep it interesting, you know?” Baltimore’s left-handed ace said. “I was losing my mind.”

Without baseball as he recovers from his season-ending procedure, Means has turned to facial hair. He’s only three weeks into a recovery and rehabilitation process that will take at least a year, but he said he and doctors are pleased thus far.

“Honestly, it’s going better than it’s supposed to be,” Means said. “My range [of motion], they said we’re ahead of schedule, so I don’t know, three weeks, and we got 12 months to go. Little victories here and there.”

Means unexpectedly exited his second start after only four innings, with testing eventually revealing the ulnar collateral ligament in his left elbow was “about 90% torn,” he said. Dr. Keith Meister performed the surgery in Arlington, Texas, on April 27, three day after Means’ 29th birthday.

Means spent his offseason training at Meister’s Texas Metroplex Institute, hoping to strengthen a left shoulder that has landed him on the injured list in two of his first three major league seasons. In 2021, Means had a 2.05 ERA through 11 starts before exiting his 12th outing in the first inning with a left shoulder strain. He missed nearly two months, then had a 4.88 ERA after returning.

He had no previous elbow injuries before this one. He’s back at TMI to rehab.

“I’m definitely going to be working out like crazy to try and keep that competitive edge and all that,” Means said. “I’m looking forward to coming back. I’m looking forward to the grind of this.”

He’s also getting more time around his family, watching his 1-year-old son, McCoy.

“That’s been the best part, let me tell you,” Means said. “He’s swinging off the tee now, and he’s running around constantly. I’m getting my workout in just chasing him around the living room and kitchen to try to keep his hands off the oven and microwave.”

Means said he hopes to visit the Orioles at least once a month and will be traveling with them for their upcoming road series in New York. The day after, he’ll have his arbitration hearing to determine his salary for this season.

“It’s tough watching games and that sort of thing,” Means said. “You just want to be there — good, bad, whatever it is, you want to be there for your team and be a part of it. That part’s been hard, but I’m getting used to it. I’m going to come back as much as I possibly can to be around the guys.”

Orioles manager Brandon Hyde has been pleased with how Baltimore’s pitching staff has handled losing Means, who served as their opening day starter for the second straight season. Having him around on occasion will benefit the other pitchers, Hyde said.

“He’s still a big part of our team,” Hyde said, “and it’s great to have him in the building.”


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