In an appearance on MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM this morning (audio link), Blue Jays manager John Gibbons addressed a recent Ken Rosenthal report stating that the Jays “seem destined” for a managerial change. “That’s the reality of these jobs. Sooner or later it’s going to happen,” Gibbons said, though he didn’t believe he would be replaced anytime in the near future. As for the longer term, Gibbons raised the possibility that he might not be the best fit for a team “starting to get into a full-blown rebuild,” which could describe the Jays’ approach. “Maybe they would benefit from getting a new fresh face that could grow with the young players and things like that. I’m not so sure I want to go through one of those things, a total rebuild, but we’ll probably sit down before it’s all said and done and talk it out,” Gibbons said. The skipper’s deal runs through the 2019 season, with the Blue Jays holding a club option for 2020.
Some more rumblings from around the AL East…
- Aaron Judge was originally projected for a three-week absence after suffering a chip fracture in his wrist on July 26, though Yankees manager Aaron Boone told MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch and other media that Judge is going to need more time. Judge hasn’t yet begun swinging a bat, and an examination on Thursday revealed that the fracture still hasn’t fully healed. Once the pain subsides, Judge and the team are planning on a fairly quick return to the lineup, as Judge has been otherwise able to stay in game shape and train with the game while on the DL. Judge told Hoch and others today that he doesn’t anticipate being out of action for much longer.
- In a wide-ranging and very candid interview with MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko, Orioles slugger Chris Davis provides some insight into his disastrous 2018 season. Davis is struggling to a near-historic extent, hitting just .159/.242/.297 over 388 PA and posting the worst fWAR (-2.3) of any player in the league. “I’d be lying if I said the frustration and the negativity and just the overall lack of performance wasn’t weighing on me. I think it’s definitely taken a toll on me this year more than ever,” Davis said, even noting that he’d thought about quitting the game. The interview is well worth a full read, as Davis details the various tactics he and the O’s have tried to get him back on track, the extra pressure he put on himself after signing his seven-year, $161MM contract to remain in Baltimore, and his clubhouse role as one of the few veterans left after the Orioles cleaned house at the trade deadline.
- The powerhouse Red Sox roster has come at the expense of a rather depleted farm system, though president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski tells the Boston Herald’s Jason Mastrodonato that it wasn’t his intent to deal away as many prospects in Boston as he did in his previous job as the Tigers’ GM. When the White Sox approached Dombrowski about dealing Chris Sale, however, it was an opportunity Dombrowski couldn’t pass up. “The Chris Sale trade came out of the blue, because we were not anticipating the White Sox (trying) to trade him and we wanted to get involved and we traded some talent,” Dombrowski said. While Boston has dealt a lot of blue chip talent, however, it was also firm in holding onto other youngsters that the Red Sox feel are cornerstone pieces, such as Andrew Benintendi and Rafael Devers. “I don’t think it was ever tempting to trade Devers,” Dombrowski said. “People continue to ask about him a lot. But we like him a lot, same thing with Benintendi.”
Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie fights negative perception of Jon Gruden partnership
ALAMEDA — Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie doesn’t read stories about his relationship with relatively new coach Jon Gruden, but he knows they exist.
They question his level of influence with Gruden in town, now sitting atop the totem pole. Raiders owner Mark Davis told NBC Sports Bay Area back in March that McKenzie’s role has changed and Gruden is allowed to assemble the team’s roster as he sees fit.
Both Gruden and McKenzie have emphasized their collaborative efforts constructing the roster, including major decisions like last month’s Khalil Mack trade and Monday’s choice to send Amari Cooper to the Dallas Cowboys for a first-round draft pick.
McKenzie tried to quiet talk of internal discord between him and Gruden, between scouts and the coaching staff, during a Monday press conference.
“When you talk about pulling strings, Gruden and I work together very well,” McKenzie said. “Let’s make no mistake about that. About him pushing me out, that’s not happening. About me being unable to work with Gruden, that’s the furthest thing from the truth.
“We work really well together. We’re in each other’s offices all the time, talking about who’s up and down, and who I would like to see play more. We talk about practice-squad guys and all that, about claiming players and trading players. …
“When you’re talking about the negativity I hear about between me and Gruden, there have been times when I want to make a statement and just say, ‘Really?’ ”
There have been times, after the Mack trade and again following the Cooper deal, when the two provide mixed messages in public. For example, McKenzie said everyone’s available in a trade (for the right price, obviously) and Gruden later said the Raiders aren’t trading anybody else.
If nothing else, that gives the impression McKenzie and Gruden aren’t on the same page.
In regards to Cooper, McKenzie worked the phones and, when Cowboys CEO Stephen Jones offered a first-round pick Monday morning, he took it to Gruden on the practice field. The coach gave the move a thumb’s up. McKenzie said he was on board trading his 2015 first-round pick.
The Raiders have cut, waived-injured or traded 13 McKenzie draft picks since Gruden was hired in January. They seem committed to rebuilding a young, seemingly solid foundation starting with a promising 2018 draft class.
“The NFL brings change,” McKenzie said. “The system will not allow you to keep them all, but we have to understand that coaching plays a part from the standpoint of systems. We’re talking about a 12-4 team that made a couple schematic changes, and we didn’t win last year. There’s another scheme this year. There’s a lot of change around here.
“Teams that do well consistently don’t have a lot of change. That’s partly on me. We’ve had too many coaching changes since I’ve been here, as far as I’m concerned.”
Gruden will be around a long time — he signed a 10-year contract in January — and will be given time to execute his grand plan as the team heads toward Las Vegas in 2020.
McKenzie’s contract continues through the 2021 NFL Draft, and he wants to continue building a team that fits what the Raiders are trying to do with Gruden back in Silver and Black. They’ll have five first-round picks over the next two drafts to get the team back on track. While it will take some time and the Raiders could struggle in the near future, “tanking” is not on the table.
“We are building this thing in concert together. I’m talking about me and Coach Gruden,” McKenzie said. “We are building this thing together. I think these picks are going to help this team tremendously, bottom line. (The Cooper trade) was something I saw as a great opportunity.
“We aren’t tanking this season. These guys are going to have to step up and continue to work to win some ballgames. That’s going to always be the case. There is always opportunity elsewhere for trades. We have got another week. There could be something else down the line of acquiring somebody.
“We are not tanking this season. I want to win bad.”
Leonard, Lowry keep perfect Raptors rolling
While the Raptors ran their record to 4-0 and came close to a franchise record with 36 assists in their highest offensive output of the young season Monday, coach Nick Nurse pointed to his defence after a 127-106 win over the Charlotte Hornets.
"I think we created a lot [of offence] out of our defence tonight which I was probably more happy with," he said. "It was a high-scoring free-shooting team coming in here and we asked [our players] to get out and contest and disrupt some of their rhythm and we did a pretty good job of that."
"Eight blocked shots, [we] got our hands on a lot of balls," he added.
Kawhi Leonard scored 22 points and Kyle Lowry added 16 points and 14 assists for his second straight double-double as the Raptors never trailed. Toronto, which led by as many as 25, was up by double figures the entire second half.
"They're long, they're physical and they're athletic," Charlotte coach James Borrego said of the Raptors. "It's a very good defensive group. Bringing in two elite defenders like Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard, you add that to their length, their athleticism, that's going to be a heck of a defence all season."
Leonard, continuing to shake off the rust from his injury-disrupted 2017-18 season in San Antonio, found his shooting range early — often with some shake-and-bake moves to befuddle the man guarding him.
Leonard, who went for a workout after the game, is now averaging 25.7 points through three games.
Leonard, Lowry lead Raptors in blowout win:
"He's still not back to where he normally is but he's getting glimpses of it," said Green, his former teammate at San Antonio. "He's starting to get back to himself, into his rhythm."
All 13 Raptors scored and 12 of them contributed assists. Toronto finished with 36 assists on 50 made field goals — three assists off the single-game franchise record.
Jonas Valanciunas had 17 points and 10 rebounds for Toronto off the bench.
"A lot of guys played pretty well tonight," said Nurse.
Toronto is one win away from the franchise record of five to open the season, set in 2015-16. The Raptors host Canadian Andrew Wiggins and the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday.
Kemba Walker led Charlotte (2-2) with 26 points. The eight-year veteran guard is averaging 33.0 points over his first four games.
Leonard, who was given the night off Saturday in Washington on the second half of back-to-back games, returned to action as Nurse used the same starting lineup — Lowry, Green, Leonard, Pascal Siakam and Serge Ibaka — as he did in Friday's win over Boston.
Nurse had used three different starting lineup in the three previous games.
The game featured two of the hottest points guards in the league in Walker and Lowry, who have both been scoring from distance. Earlier Monday, Walker was named Eastern Conference player of the week after becoming the first player in Charlotte franchise history to reach the 10,000-point plateau.
Charlotte came into the game ranked No. 1 in the league in three-pointers made per game at 16.3, but made just nine of 28 three-pointers compared to 15 of 39 for Toronto.
Entering play Monday, Walker had an NBA-record 19 three-pointers through the opening three games of the season (a record previously held by Danilo Gallinari with 18 in 2009-10) while averaging a league-leading 35.3 points.
Homecoming for Triano
Walker missed his first three attempts from outside the arc but finished 2-of-7 to tie Steph Curry's record of 21 in the first four games of his MVP campaign in 2015-16.
Lowry, who came into the game second in three-pointers in the East with 12, added three more to his total.
Toronto got off to a hot start and led by as many as 10 in the first quarter, with Leonard and Lowry combining for 13 of the Raptors' first 17 points. The Hornets missed nine of their first 12 shots.
Charlotte missed its first six attempts from long-range. When the drought ended, two three-pointers led to an 8-0 Charlotte run in the second quarter before Norman Powell ended the streak with a spectacular one-handed slam dunk.
The Raptors rebuilt their lead for a 62-47 edge at the half. Leonard was good on three three-pointers compared to four for the entire Charlotte team.
The teams took their time arriving on the court for the second half with each getting a delay of game warning. It was more of the same in the third, with Toronto maintaining its advantage.
Toronto swept the season series with Charlotte last season and has now won nine of the last 11 meetings.
The game was a homecoming for Canadian basketball icon Jay Triano, a Hornets assistant coach who doubles as Canada head coach. The 60-year-old Triano, who coached the Raptors from 2008 to 2011, has also served as interim coach of the Phoenix Suns and as an assistant coach with the Suns, Raptors and Portland Trail Blazers.
The game also marked a return for former Raptor fan favourite Bismack Biyombo, who is making US$17 million this season in Charlotte. He had four points in a little more than eight minutes, getting an ovation from the sellout crowd of 19,800 when he entered the game.
Leonard and Green, meanwhile, faced former Spurs star Tony Parker, now in Hornet teal.
Toronto's Delon Wright missed his fourth straight game (adductor strain) but is expected to be ready Wednesday.
Falcons outlast a punchless Giants team for a season-saving Monday night win
ATLANTA—When you’ve got two teams in a must-win game in Week 7, you’re looking at two pretty ragged teams.
And although the ratings for the “Monday Night Football” game between the Atlanta Falcons and the New York Giants will be just fine, if you care about that sort of thing, this wasn’t the kind of full-throttle, air-it-out, video-game-on-easy football we’ve enjoyed this season. This was a slog, plain and simple, and the Falcons came out on the high side, TK. Atlanta held on for a 23-20 win.
These teams rolled into Monday night carrying some well-earned 2018 reps: the Falcons, an unbalanced spectacular-offense, zero-defense team on the edge of a spiral; the Giants, an aimless, flailing mess already halfway down into the abyss. Atlanta’s Matt Ryan is having one of the best seasons of his career in some of the most futile circumstances; Eli Manning, his New York counterpart is suffering through some of the most miserable self-inflicted woes of his entire career.
Couldn’t you just feel the excitement?
First half: Exactly as expected
The first half played out pretty much exactly according to the expected script. Both teams traded punts, and punts, and more punts, six in all, before Ryan finally connected on a gem of a 36-yard pass to Austin Hooper, followed by a 47-yard gift basket touchdown to a wide-open Julio Jones … no, wait, strike that; Ryan found someone named Marvin Hall – who prior to tonight had all of five receptions on the year – in the end zone. (Jones’ continued touchdown-free streak this season remains one of the game’s great mysteries.)
Manning, meanwhile, playing under the watchful eye of his older brother Peyton, compiled a run of numerically impressive yet utterly irrelevant statistics: 13 of 16 passes completed, including his first nine in a row, the longest a deep pass to Sterling Shepherd for 38 yards that put the Giants in the shadow of the Falcons’ end zone.
But then, the Giants’ essential Giant-ness took over. Running a no-huddle offense, Manning floated a pass over the head of a wide-open Odell Beckham Jr. in the end zone, then took his fourth sack of the half to leave the Giants with only a field goal to show for their effort.
Second half: Atlanta pulls away
New half, same problems. Once again Manning found Shepherd for a long reception, a 53-yard strike that put New York on Atlanta’s 10. Once again, the Giants flailed in the red zone, Manning failing to get into the end zone on a naked bootleg, and the Giants inexplicably not running the mobile tree trunk that is Saquon Barkley right up the middle on third-and-one. Going for it all on fourth down, Manning could only manage a weak, impotent throw into heavy traffic that bounced harmlessly to the turf.
Given the chance to step on New York’s throat, Atlanta fumbled – literally, on a deep route by Jones – and the Giants once again carved up Atlanta’s secondary. This time it was Beckham, getting loose for two consecutive completions of 51 and 22 yards. And for a moment, if you squinted a bit, you could mistake this for a functional NFL offense.
But only for a moment. Manning missed on three straight red zone throws, and again the Giants settled for a field goal. The score at that point was 10-6, but it felt like 100-6 the way the Giants seemed incapable of finding the end zone.
The Falcons’ offense – perhaps affected by the stench coming from the opposite sideline – slowed down a notch; Ryan distributed the ball to 10 different receivers, but to diminishing effect. New kicker Giorgio Tavecchio, a replacement for injured stalwart Matt Bryant, knocked down a 50-yard field goal to stretch the lead back to a touchdown.
From there, it was like watching a boa constrictor get down to business. Another ineffective Giants drive and punt, another long Atlanta drive, this one punctuated with an off-tackle Tevin Coleman 30-yard touchdown run, and that was pretty much that. Manning orchestrated his most coherent and composed drive of the evening with less than seven minutes left in the game, but again missed an open Beckham in the end zone before handing off to Barkley for a dump truck-esque two-yard touchdown smash. Manning couldn’t connect with Beckham for an unconventionally-timed two-point conversion, leaving the Giants down 20-12.
The Falcons finished off the game with a clock-chewing, Giant-timeout-consuming drive that ended with Tavecchio hitting a 56-yard field goal, the longest of his career. That put Atlanta up 11 with less than two minutes remaining.
The Giants put together a quick drive and scored on an Odell Beckham touchdown catch with a few seconds left, after two Manning quarterback sneaks were unsuccessful and valuable time bled off the clock, and then scored a two-point conversion. But the Falcons recovered the onside kick to seal the win.
The Falcons now head into the bye week with an opportunity to reinvigorate a season that had once seemed lost. The Giants, meanwhile, are now 1-6 heading into a divisional matchup with the NFC East-leading Redskins, and facing a world of problems under center. It’s going to get worse before it gets better for New York, and judging from Monday night, it’s not going to get better for a long time.
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