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As MLB sets 2020 season in motion, a new set of questions emerges – Sportsnet.ca

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TORONTO – After months of slow-moving negotiations between baseball’s players and owners, there’s finally a path ahead toward a 2020 MLB season.

On Monday night, MLB owners voted to put in motion plans for a shortened 60-game season and at long last, a painful back and forth ended without a negotiated agreement. Now, the focus will shift from the bargaining table to the field — pandemic permitting, that is.

For a sport that’s generated headlines for the wrong reasons of late, that’s a good thing. But it’s not quite so simple, either. The recent talks between players and owners will have lasting fallout, and there are still countless logistical questions to be answered as baseball’s return to play plans take shape.

At this point, many of these pressing questions don’t have answers. So in the absence of clarity, let’s start by simply identifying some of the many decisions approaching in the coming days and months…

What’s next?
The league has asked players for answers to two questions by 5 p.m. ET Tuesday:

1. Are players able to report to camp within seven days?
2. Do players agree with the owners on health and safety protocols?

Given that players have consistently pushed for more games, it stands to reason that they’ll be willing to report within a week. If and when MLB gets clarity on that front, schedule-makers can start planning for the shortest season in baseball history. Then, we’ll see a 60-game sprint to the finish this summer.

The health and safety questions are far more complex, but if players approve the suggested protocols, they’ll be expected in spring training on July 1 with regular season games beginning later in the month.

Where will teams hold spring training?
For 29 teams, the answer to this question seems relatively simple. The rise of COVID-19 cases in Florida and Arizona coupled with the arrival of warm summer weather means every American team can prepare for the season from their home stadiums.

For the Blue Jays, it’s not so simple. While they’d prefer to play their regular season home games in Toronto this year, the federal government has restrictions in place due to the pandemic, and non-essential travel is not permitted between Canada and the U.S. until July 21 at the earliest.

In theory, an exemption of some kind could allow the Blue Jays to train out of Rogers Centre, but that would require swift government action since players will likely be due to report to spring training next week.

Alternatively, the Blue Jays could return to Dunedin, Fla. and resume their preparation there, but their spring facility closed last week after a player showed symptoms consistent with the virus. At this point, it’s unclear how soon the facility will be safe again. In the meantime, the Blue Jays are believed to be working through their options with no clear answer yet established.

Either way, they’ll have to make a decision soon so players can book flights and find accommodations.

Who plays whom?
While nothing can be finalized until players sign off on a start date, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reported Monday that MLB plans to limit travel by having teams play within their own divisions and the corresponding geographic division in the other league.

For the Blue Jays, that would mean games against the AL East (Yankees, Red Sox, Rays and Orioles) and NL East (Braves, Phillies, Nationals, Mets, Marlins).

Ben Nicholson-Smith is Sportsnet’s baseball editor. Arden Zwelling is a senior writer. Together, they bring you the most in-depth Blue Jays podcast in the league, covering off all the latest news with opinion and analysis, as well as interviews with other insiders and team members.

What about expanded playoffs?
Expanded playoffs have long intrigued MLB decision makers, and they became especially intriguing once the pandemic led to dramatic drops in revenue across the sport. With that in mind, the final proposal MLB made to the players included an expanded playoff field of eight teams per league.

But the players rejected that proposal Monday night and once the owners went ahead without a negotiated agreement, the playoff field locked in at five per league for 2020. At some point that topic will likely resurface with owners pushing for more October qualifiers and players using that possibility as leverage for concessions of their own.

How does this impact the 2021 CBA negotiations?
Ideally, these talks would have brought the players and owners together ahead of their next negotiation, the collective agreement that expires following the 2020 season.

Instead, the league-mandated season leaves many issues unresolved. Among them…

• When will MLB implement a permanent universal DH? (There may be a universal DH in 2020, but NL pitchers are expected to hit again in 2021)
• When will MLB expand the playoffs?
• What will the draft look like going forward?
• And alongside those issues, there’s the biggest question of all: What do the sport’s economics look like?

Finding common ground on that front would have proved challenging regardless of how these 2020 talks unfolded. After months of leaks and public name-calling ended in failed negotiations, the challenge of dividing the sport’s revenue may be more daunting than ever.

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Can the players still file a grievance?
As negotiations unfolded in recent weeks, MLB asked players to waive the right to file a grievance against the owners for failing to negotiate in good faith only to have players decline. Because MLB’s working to impose a season unilaterally, players still have the right to grieve if they so choose, and in the view of some industry observers that possibility gives the MLBPA leverage.

“That’s worth a lot to them,” one agent said.

In the next year and a half, we’ll find out what players intend to do with it.

Either way, how do they play safely?
Even though plans for a season are now taking shape, the owners and players still face the same issue that led the these negotiations in the first place: the pandemic. As veteran left-hander Brett Anderson tweeted Monday, “What happens when we all get it?”

To avoid that possibility, teams and players will do their best to come up with and implement health and safety practices. But think about how many people are required at the ballpark even on days fans aren’t admitted. Security staff, trainers, kitchen staff, front office executives, cleaners, groundskeepers, umpires and clubhouse attendants will all be in the stadium, too.

And if keeping that environment safe sounds challenging, remember that players will still eat and sleep away from the stadium, where they could come into contact with COVID-19. In places like Florida where the infection rate is high, that’s a real risk. The recent outbreak in Phillies camp makes that much abundantly clear.

If that sounds complicated, it’s because it is. For every question MLB answers this year, a few more will likely be waiting around the corner.

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Canada's soccer captain consoled her American club teammate after the USWNT lost its shot at Olympic gold – Insider

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  • The US Women’s National Team lost to Canada in their Tokyo Olympics semifinal match.
  • Canada is now guaranteed a gold or silver medal, while the USWNT can secure bronze at best.
  • Canadian star Christine Sinclair consoled her club teammate, USWNT’s Lindsey Horan, after the upset.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Canada’s women’s national soccer team pulled off one of the biggest upsets in its history at the Tokyo Olympics on Monday, besting the US Women’s National Team for the first time in upwards of 20 years.

But at the conclusion of the semifinal match, Canadian team captain Christine Sinclair didn’t immediately begin celebrating with her squad. Instead, Sinclair — the all-time leading goal scorer (man or woman) in the history of international soccer — made her way across the field to USWNT midfielder Lindsey Horan. The two are teammates on the Portland Thorns, and Sinclair wrapped Horan in a tight hug.

Canada's Christine Sinclair hugs Lindsey Horan of the US Women's National Team.

Canada’s Christine Sinclair hugs Lindsey Horan of the US Women’s National Team.

Naomi Baker/Getty Images


Sinclair, who’s 38 and serves as the Thorns captain, appears in photos to give an animated pep talk to a visibly distraught Horan. The 27-year-old is a star in her own right, but she struggled when her national team needed her most.

Though Horan has won a World Cup for the United States, she has now gone to the Olympics and fallen short of the gold twice in a row.

Christine Sinclair comforts Lindsey Horan.

Canada’s Christine Sinclair comforts USWNT star Lindsey Horan.

REUTERS/Edgar Su


The USWNT still has a shot at a bronze medal, though — they’ll take on Australia for a spot on the podium Thursday at 4 a.m. ET. If they win, Horan will be one of many American stars on the team to earn their first Olympics hardware, since the USWNT unexpectedly walked away empty-handed from Rio in 2016.

Sinclair, meanwhile, is guaranteed her best-ever result in Tokyo after participating in four Olympic Games over her career. She’s twice earned bronze medals — in London and Brazil — but now she’ll take home either silver or gold, depending on the result of Thursday’s match against Sweden.

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In pursuit of 5th Olympic medal, Andre De Grasse eases into 200m semifinals – CBC.ca

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Andre De Grasse remains on track to repeat his triple-medal Olympic performance from 2016.

The decorated Canadian sprinter easily advanced to the 200-metre semifinals on Tuesday in Tokyo, placing third in his heat in a time of 20.56 seconds.

Amid temperatures that reached at least 36 C plus humidity, De Grasse appeared to hold back some, a possible change in strategy after claiming the best qualifying time in the 100m heats on the weekend.

Besides the harsh conditions, De Grasse also battled through another false start in his heat — the fifth he’s been involved in at these Olympics in four races.

WATCH | De Grasse cruises into 200m semis:

Andre De Grasse of Markham, Ont., finished third in his heat with a time of 20.56 seconds to qualify for the Tokyo 2020 men’s 200-metre semifinals. 8:44

The Markham, Ont., native ran a personal-best 9.89 to take bronze in the men’s 100m on Sunday. It was his fourth Olympic medal after becoming the first Canadian to ever win three on the track at the 2016 Rio Games, when he took silver in the 200m behind Usain Bolt, along with bronze in the 100m and 4x100m relay.

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He is the only contender from the 100m attempting the double in Tokyo.

Fellow Canadian Aaron Brown also advanced on Tuesday, winning his heat in 20.38 seconds.

Brown, 29, chose to give up the 100m in Tokyo so he could focus on his stronger distance, the 200m, with fresher legs.

“It feels good. Glad to get my feet wet finally, join in on the action. We’ve seen some great performances already, so glad to be safely through. Didn’t want to gas it too much but the main thing was just to qualify,” Brown said after the race.

WATCH | Brown takes top spot in heat:

Toronto’s Aaron Brown won his heat with a time of 20.38 seconds to qualify for the Tokyo 2020 men’s 200-metre semifinals. 5:01

The decision appears to be paying off in the early going for the Toronto native and current Canadian champion.

“I really think that I gave myself the best chance to be on the podium in the 200 by forgoing the 100. Not trying to spread myself too thin like I did [at 2019 worlds in] Doha. I’ll double in the future, so it’s not like I’m done with the 100 forever, but I really want to give myself the best chance here,” Brown said.

At the 2016 Olympics, Brown placed 16th in the 200m and 31st in the 100m.

The top three runners in each of the seven heats, plus the next three fastest, advanced to the semifinals later Tuesday. The final is scheduled to be run Wednesday evening in Tokyo.

After placing sixth in his heat, Canada’s Brendon Rodney failed to advance with a time of 21.60 seconds.

WATCH | De Grasse claims 100m bronze in Tokyo:

Canadian Andre De Grasse claimed 100m bronze in a second-straight Olympic Games, while Italian Lamont Jacobs won gold and American Fred Kerley took silver. 5:55

The 200m is De Grasse’s top event. Whereas the 100m was viewed as a wide-open field and played out that way, American Noah Lyles is the runaway favourite in the 200m with De Grasse, 26, his top competition.

Lyles ran a 20.18 on Tuesday.

The Canadian set a national record in the distance in Rio, blazing past the finish line in 19.80 seconds. He’s ranked second in the discipline by World Athletics, behind Lyles whose personal best is 19.50.

Brown, whose personal best is 19.95, is ranked sixth. He won bronze alongside De Grasse in the Rio relay.

American Erriyon Knighton, 17, cruised to a 20.55 to win his heat and instantly entered the podium conversation. Kenny Bednarek, also of the U.S., posted the best time in heats at 20.01.

Canada’s Constantine advances

Canada’s Kyra Constantine is into the women’s 400m semifinals.

Running in a heat with Bahrainian star Shaunae Miller-Uibo on Tuesday in Tokyo, Constantine burst out of the blocks, but slowed down late, falling to fifth in her heat. She crossed the line with a time of 51.69 seconds.

“I tried my best to execute [my race plan]. My first 200 was great. My second could have been executed a little better,” she said moments after the race.

Still, it was enough to advance with one of the six fastest times outside the top three athletes in each heat. The semifinals are set for Tuesday evening ahead of the final on Thursday.

The 23-year-old from Toronto, making her Olympic debut, owns a personal best of 50.87, set in June as the third-fastest time in the world this year.

“Honestly, coming in, I felt so overwhelmed with the love and support from my family and friends and I just wanted to come out here and do my best — not only for myself, but for them,” Constantine said.

Miller-Uibo won the heat in 50.50 seconds. The Dominican Republic’s Marileidy Paulino posted the best qualifying time at 50.06 seconds.

Canada’s Natassha McDonald placed last in her heat, failing to qualify with a time of 53.54 despite a strong start to her race.

Meanwhile, Canadian Liz Gleadle won’t advance to the women’s javelin final after throwing 58.19 metres in qualifying on Tuesday.

Gleadle, a 32-year-old from Vancouver, placed 11th in her group. The top 12 finishers combined between the two groups, or anyone with a distance of 63 metres, moved on to Friday’s final. 

No other Canadians were competing.

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Athletics-Jacobs says reconnecting with father pushed him to 100m gold

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Lamont Marcell Jacobs believes reconnecting with his estranged American father helped him make history by becoming the first Italian to claim Olympic men’s 100 metres gold on Sunday.

Jacobs secured a surprise victory with a European record time of 9.80 seconds, becoming the first winner of the post-Usain Bolt era and the first European Olympic men’s 100 meters champion since Britain’s Linford Christie in 1992.

It was a stunning run from the 26-year-old underdog, who was born in the United States to an American father and Italian mother.

“I was born in Texas, but I stayed there for six months before my parents separated and I came to Italy. Italy is my country,” Jacobs told Gazzetta dello Sport.

“I did not hear from my father again until one year ago, when I decided to work with a mental coach. She told me that to run fast I would need to reconnect with the father I had never known.

“The reconciliation gave me something more, which has helped me in the last few days. But I have never met him in person, we write to each other and talk.”

The former long jumper had never run under 10 seconds until this year, but exploded out of the blocks to come out on top in an open field.

“I changed mentality and took advantage of my team, that was the turnaround in the last few months,” Jacobs said.

“I knew I could improve with my start. Then I asked my body for one last effort: ‘please, let’s do one last run and then we can rest’.

“I knew I was in great shape coming here. There was no favourite, so I thought when I looked at the others: why not try it, what more do they have than me?”

Jacobs’s run topped off an incredible night for Italian athletics, coming 13 minutes after Gianmarco Tamberi shared the gold medal in the high jump with Qatar’s world champion Mutaz Essa Barshim.

It completed a remarkable turnaround for Tamberi, who broke his ankle days before the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, and the Italian was the first person to embrace Jacobs at the finish line.

“I know his story, I know what he had to go through to get here, I have also been through a lot, many blows, I took them from all sides,” Jacobs said.

“It takes a thousand defeats to win, you need to know how to lose with class in order to get up again.”

 

(Reporting by Alasdair Mackenzie, editing by Ed Osmond)

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