NEW YORK — Carlos Beltrán is out as manager of the New York Mets before a single game, the latest fallout from the Houston Astros’ sign-stealing scandal that has rocked Major League Baseball.
The Mets announced the decision Thursday in a news release, saying Beltrán and the team “agreed to mutually part ways.” The move came two days after Boston cut ties with manager Alex Cora, who was Houston’s bench coach in 2017 when Beltrán played for the Astros.
A day before that, manager AJ Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow were fired by Houston soon after they were suspended for the 2020 season by Commissioner Rob Manfred for their roles in the cheating scheme.
Next to fall was Beltrán, the only Astros player mentioned by name Monday when MLB issued its findings from an investigation into the club’s conduct. No players were disciplined, but the nine-page report said Beltrán was among the group involved in the team’s illicit use of electronics to pilfer signs during Houston’s run to the 2017 World Series championship.
“We met with Carlos last night and again this morning and agreed to mutually part ways. This was not an easy decision,” Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen and Chief Operating Officer Jeff Wilpon said in a statement.
“Considering the circumstances, it became clear to all parties that it was not in anyone’s best interest for Carlos to move forward as manager of the New York Mets. We believe that Carlos was honest and forthcoming with us. We are confident that this will not be the final chapter in his baseball career. We remain excited about the talent on this team and are committed to reaching our goals of winning now and in the future.”
On a later conference call, Wilpon said the team had heard in advance “from sources” that Beltrán wasn’t going to be suspended by MLB.
“I think the change was that when the report did come out, how prominent he was in it,” Wilpon said.
The Mets said they will consider a number of internal and external candidates to be their next manager.
The 42-year-old Beltrán, with no managerial experience, was hired to replace Mickey Callaway as Mets manager on Nov. 1. The former New York slugger was given a three-year contract with a club option for 2023 and introduced three days later by Van Wagenen and Wilpon during a news conference at Citi Field.
“At a meeting this morning with Jeff and Brodie we mutually agreed to part ways. I’m grateful to them for giving me the opportunity, but we agreed this decision is in the best interest of the team. I couldn’t let myself be a distraction for the team. I wish the entire organization success in the future,” Beltrán said in the statement.
Beltrán becomes the first manager to be let go without managing a game since Wally Backman, who was hired by Arizona in November 2004 and fired four days later after legal and financial problems were revealed.
When the Mets hired Beltran in November, Van Wagenen said: “We can trust Carlos, and that goes a long way.”
A little more than two months later, Beltrán is out in the wake of transgressions that occurred with a different organization, according to MLB.
And the Mets are looking for a new manager again. They will be the 10th team to change managers since opening day of last year, with the Mets making a pair of switches.
Beltrán played the last of his 20 big league seasons with the Astros in 2017. Manfred said that year Cora was “an active participant” and developed the sign-stealing system used by the team, strongly hinting he will face severe penalties. Even though Cora was subsequently let go, the Red Sox remain under investigation for stealing signs during Cora’s first season as manager in 2018, when they won the World Series.
In a Nov. 12 report by The Athletic, ex-Astros pitcher Mike Fiers, now with Oakland, went public with allegations that Houston players used a camera to steal signs in 2017. That prompted baseball’s investigation, which found the Astros used the video feed from centre field to see and decode the opposing catcher’s signs. Players banged on a trash can to signal batters what kind of pitch was coming, believing it would improve their chances of getting a hit.
Beltrán told the New York Post in a text message he was “not aware of that camera.” He told The Athletic the Astros “took a lot of pride” in studying pitchers via computer before games but insisted “that is the only technology that I use.”
Attempting to steal signs with the naked eye is a legal and time-honoured part of baseball — but using technology during games is prohibited.
“(In) the game of baseball, guys for years have given location and if the catchers get lazy and the pitcher doesn’t cover the signs from second base, of course players are going to take advantage,” Beltrán said then. “I don’t call that cheating. I call that using the small details to take advantage. I think baseball is doing a great job adding new technology to make sure the game is even for both teams.”
Manfred said Hinch failed to stop the sign stealing in Houston and Luhnow was responsible for the players’ conduct even though he made the dubious claim he was not aware. Manfred said owner Jim Crane was not informed.
Manfred also said no Astros players will be punished because he decided in September 2017 to hold a team’s manager and GM responsible for sign-stealing infractions, a warning that was conveyed to all major league clubs.
“Virtually all of the Astros’ players had some involvement or knowledge of the scheme, and I am not in a position based on the investigative record to determine with any degree of certainty every player who should be held accountable,” Manfred said.
The report, however, indicated a group that included Beltrán discussed how to improve the sign-stealing system during the 2017 season.
Hinch and Luhnow, before they were fired by Crane, were suspended for the 2020 season without pay. Houston was fined $5 million, the maximum allowed under the Major League Constitution, and the Astros also will forfeit their next two first- and second-round amateur draft picks.
A nine-time All-Star, Beltrán signed a $119 million, seven-year contract with the Mets in January 2005 and helped them win the NL East in 2006. But the switch-hitting outfielder took a called third strike with the bases loaded against Adam Wainwright that ended New York’s 3-1 loss to St. Louis in Game 7 of the 2006 NL Championship Series.
Beltrán played for the Mets from 2005-11 before they traded him to San Francisco. He finished his career with a .279 batting average, 435 home runs, 1,587 RBIs and 312 stolen bases for Kansas City, Houston, the Mets, San Francisco, St. Louis, the Yankees and Texas. He interviewed to become New York Yankees manager after the 2017 season, when Aaron Boone was hired, and spent the 2019 season as an adviser to Yankees general manager Brian Cashman.
Last month, the Mets hired Hensley Meulens as bench coach and Tony DeFrancesco as first base coach to fill out Beltrán’s staff. Meulens, 52, was San Francisco’s hitting coach from 2010-17, then was Bruce Bochy’s bench coach for the past two seasons. DeFrancesco, 56, spent the last two seasons as the Mets’ Triple-A manager and interviewed for the manager opening.
New York went 86-76 last season and missed the playoffs, finishing third in the NL East behind Atlanta and World Series champion Washington.
Pogacar rides to victory at COVID-defying Tour de France – Sportsnet.ca
PARIS — In a stunning performance for the ages, Tour de France rookie Tadej Pogacar won cycling’s showpiece race Sunday on the eve of his 22nd birthday, becoming the second-youngest winner of the 117-year-old event that this year braved — and overcame — France’s worsening coronavirus epidemic.
Turning him from promising prodigy into cycling superstar, Pogacar became the youngest winner since World War II and the first from Slovenia.
His victory was remarkable, too, for the way in which he sealed it: at the last possible moment, on the penultimate stage before Sunday’s finish on Paris’ Champs-Elysees. During the three-week cycling marathon over all five of France’s mountain ranges and 3,482 punishing kilometres (2,164 miles), Pogacar held the race lead and its iconic yellow jersey for just one stage — the last and most important one into Paris, with a yellow bike to match.
Pogacar KO’d the race and Slovenian countryman Primoz Roglic by snatching away the yellow jersey that he’d worn for 11 days, in a high-drama time trial Saturday.
Their 1-2 is the first for one country since British riders Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome also took the top spots at the 2012 Tour. Australian Richie Porte rounded out this year’s podium, at age 35, after his brilliant time trial that hoisted him from fourth to third overall.
Irish rider Sam Bennett won the prestigious final sprint on the Champs-Elysees, giving him his second stage win at this Tour. He also won the race’s green jersey, awarded for picking up the most points in sprints during and at the finish of stages.
With jets trailing plumes of red, white and blue smoke above the riders as they raced on the Champs-Elysees, lined with French tricolour flags, the Tour was also celebrating a victory — over the coronavirus.
When the race, delayed because of the epidemic from its usual spot in July, left the start town of Nice three weeks ago, it was unsure that riders would be able to stay virus-free to the finish.
But none of the 176 riders who started, or the 146 finishers, tested positive in multiple batteries of tests, validating the bubble measures put in place by Tour organizers to shield them from infection.
Roadside fans still cheered them on, mostly respecting riders’ pleas that they wear face masks, but were kept well away at stage starts and finishes.
The only COVID-19 positives touched a handful of team employees and the race director, even as infection numbers soared across the country.
The director was back after a week of self-isolation and, in a mask, signalled the start of Sunday’s stage at Mantes-La-Jolie west of Paris with a wave of his flag through the sunroof of his car.
Mask-wearing spectators waiting for the rumble of the riders’ arrival on the handlebar-shaking cobbles of the Champs-Elysees said holding the Tour had lit up a dark year and demonstrated that the coronavirus need not bring all life to a grinding halt, if health measures are respected. The famous boulevard lacked its usual fervour, a victim of the virus, with the usually rows-deep crowds limited to a socially distanced maximum of 5,000 people, clumped in pens by police and barriers.
But Pauline Bourbonnaud, a 22-year-old podiatry student, said it was nothing short of “an exploit, enormous” that the Tour succeeded in keeping riders virus-free. At previous Tours, she’d been roadside when they zoomed through her region in central France. But this year’s postponement to September, when she was back in Paris for her studies, allowed her to soak in the finish for the first time.
“It’s important to have events like this that are diverting. People needed the Tour after a year like this,” she said.
One of the most enthusiastic backers of the pandemic-defying Tour was also its most powerful: French President Emmanuel Macron. With his government trying to revive France’s COVID-battered economy, Macron praised the race as “the pride of the country” and an example of how it must learn to live with the virus and the restrictions it imposes.
“Even in September, the Tour de France is magic!” Macron tweeted Saturday after Pogacar crushed Roglic in the time trial.
Largely deprived of racing as the epidemic tore across the globe, and with those in lockdown only able to keep fit on home trainers, riders arrived at the Tour somewhat race-rusty but with the pent-up energy of caged hounds, their disrupted seasons reconfigured to make them peak physically on cycling’s biggest stage.
After a slow-burn start, with multiple crashes, the racing became increasingly furious. Roglic, the winner of last year’s Spanish Vuelta and a pre-Tour favourite, was backed by a powerful Jumbo-Visma team of star riders devoted to putting him in yellow — achieved on Stage 9 — and then keeping the prized jersey until Paris.
But UAE Team Emirates rider Pogacar hadn’t read their script.
He first demolished Roglic’s 57-second lead and then built his own Tour-securing margin of 59 seconds in the time trial, an incredible reversal of fortunes.
The birth of the Pogacar supernova is now set to ripple across the cycling galaxy for years to come. His future rivals are unlikely to repeat Jumbo-Visma’s mistake of allowing him to ride his way back into contention, as he did after losing time in crosswinds in the first week, when he slumped from third to 16th.
By conquering the Tour on his first attempt, Pogacar joined an elite club of rookie winners that includes, among others, the great Eddy Merckx, who ended up winning five. He unseated Egan Bernal, who was 22 when he won last year, as the Tour’s youngest champion since World War II. And he become the race’s second-youngest winner ever, behind only Henri Cornet, who was just shy of 20 when he was crowned in 1904.
The lone Canadian in the race, Hugo Houle, a support rider for the Astana Pro Team, finished 47th. The 29-year-old from Sainte-Perpetue, Que., finished 91st in last year’s Tour.
JONES: Gary Bettman sings praises for Edmonton as Hub City – Edmonton Sun
Article content continued
“I think we need a better sense of when we’re going to get to normalcy before we can commit to any dates.
“As it relates to the World Juniors, I think part of the announcement was an indication from the Oilers organization was what they learned from working with us helped make them a better candidate and a more viable candidate for the world juniors and to whatever extent we can be helpful to making the world junior championships a success, we would of course be willing to do that.
“The cooperation and the expertise we got from the organization that you have here in Edmonton was a critical element in making the logistics of this work and in making this building work as everybody envisioned it could because it’s world class, state-of-the-art. We’re grateful of that support and anything we can do to replay it, you know we will.”
The session that included Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly who Bettman maintained to be the man who actively headed the entire operation, went on for more than an hour. It included a endless parade of reporters asking about next season and Bettman and Daly taking turns on answering them that they had no idea.
“Anything that anybody suggests or reads or writes or commentates about next season is nothing more than speculation,” said Bettman.
“Dec. 1 has always been a notional date. I will not be surprised if it slips into later December. It could slip into January. There’s still too much we don’t know.
“Nobody can tell me whether or not the border between Canada and the United States is going to be open by a date certain. Nobody can tell me what the state of COVID-19 is going to be. Nobody can tell me whether we can have either socially distanced or occupied buildings,” said Bettman.
He did say his intention is still to play a full 82-game schedule, plus playoffs.
One thing for sure, Gary Bettman and the NHL have so far come out of this looking brlliant.
And just for fun, because Bettman has come to have a sense of humor about it, maybe he should get Chief Content Officer Steve Mayer to put on some canned crowd noise of the fans booing, just to make it feel normal when he presents the Cup.
Bryson DeChambeau wins U.S. Open for first career major victory – Sportsnet.ca
MAMARONECK, N.Y. — What was supposed to be a typical U.S. Open produced a most unconventional champion.
Bryson DeChambeau was not the least bit concerned by the narrow fairways or the ankle-deep rough that shape Winged Foot into historically the toughest of all U.S. Opens. With his extra 40 pounds of muscle and mass, he wanted to pound it into submission with his driver, even if his errant shots were buried in deep grass.
That’s how he plays the game. And for skeptics who said that wouldn’t work in a U.S. Open at Winged Foot, just look at that shiny silver trophy he kissed, and the record score he posted Sunday in a six-shot victory.
This victory was as much about validating his out-of-the-box approach to the royal and ancient game.
“One hundred per cent, no doubt,” DeChambeau said. “For me, it’s about the journey of can I executive every shot more repeatable than everybody else. I was able to do that this week. That’s why I won by six.”
Part of this course’s fame is the “Massacre of Winged Foot” in 1974 when the winning score was 7-over par.
This was a massacre, all right.
DeChambeau rolled in a 7-foot par putt and thrust those powerful arms in the air when he capped off a 3-under 67 on a course that didn’t allow another round under par. Two shots behind Matthew Wolff at the start of a chilly September afternoon, he caught him in four holes, passed him in five and pulled away along the back nine.
From the fairway. From the rough. It didn’t matter.
“I don’t really know what to say because that’s just the complete opposite of what you think a U.S. Open champion does” Rory McIlroy said. “Look, he’s found a way to do it. Whether that’s good or bad for the game, I don’t know, but it’s just not the way I saw this golf course being played or this tournament being played.”
Call him a mad scientist in a tam o’shanter cap. Call him a game-changer in golf.
Any description now starts with U.S. Open champion.
Taylor Pendrith of Richmond Hill, Ont., was the top Canadian following a 70 that left him 10 over, good for 23rd spot. Adam Hadwin of Abbotsford, B.C., struggled to an 80, finishing at 19 over.
Wolff, trying to become the first player since Francis Ouimet in 1913 to win the U.S. Open in his debut, closed with a 75. He made a 10-foot eagle putt on the par-5 ninth to stay within one shot. That was his only hole under par. Wolff finished at even-par 280, a score that would have won four of the previous five U.S. Opens at Winged Foot.
It didn’t stand a chance in this one.
“You can’t take Bryson out because obviously he won, but shooting even par for four rounds at Winged Foot is pretty exceptional,” Wolff said.
That describes DeChambeau this week. It was a breathtaking performance, four rounds at par or better, the first player to manage that at Winged Foot.
His victory really began last October, when he closed out his 2019 season in Las Vegas and said with a mischievous grin, “I’m going to come back next year and look like a different person.” He added 40 pounds through intense workout and a diet of 6,000 calories a day.
The COVID-19 pandemic shut down golf for three months, leading to the U.S. Open being postponed from June to September. It also gave DeChambeau more time to execute his plan of swinging faster and harder, stretching the limits.
His work ethnic borders on insanity, and the eve of the final round was no exception. Unhappy with how he played Saturday, hitting only three fairways, DeChambeau had the lights turned on so he could stay on the range well past 8 p.m., pounding driver, searching for the right swing. Temperatures were in the 40s. He was in a short-sleeve shirt.
He didn’t find fairways, but he seemed to miss in the right spots. That was key for a player who hit only six fairways on Sunday, 23 out of 56 for the week.
Skepticism turned into admiration, with a healthy dose of disbelief.
“It’s a game we’ve never really seen before,” said Harris English, who shot 73 and finished fourth.
Louis Oosthuizen birdied the 18th to finish alone in third.
“I don’t think they can set it up for him, to be honest,” Oosthuizen said. “I don’t know what they can do really, because he’s hitting it so far. He’s so strong out of the rough. And he’s probably one of the best putters out there, which a week that he really putts well, you’re going to have a lot of trouble.”
In six U.S. Opens at Winged Foot among 894 competitors, DeChambeau is only the third to finish a tournament under par. His 6-under 274 was the lowest score, and no one saw it coming this week.
Wolff, the 21-year-old Californian who can drive it past DeChambeau with a lower flight and more roll in the fairway, gave him a good run in his quest to become the youngest U.S. Open champion since Bobby Jones in 1923.
The U.S. Open was still up for grabs for a fleeting moment around the turn. DeChambeau and Wolff each got out of position on the eighth hole and made bogey. DeChambeau was at 3 under, one shot ahead of Wolff. Ahead of them, Oosthuizen and Xander Schauffele were lurking at even par.
Still to play was the back nine, where so much has gone wrong at Winged Foot over the years.
Not this time.
DeChambeau and Wolff blasted drives down the fairway on the par-5 ninth. DeChambeau rolled in a 40-foot eagle putt with perfect pace. Wolff, who had pitching wedge for his second shot, matched his eagle with a 10-foot putt.
Just like that it was a two-man race.
And then it was a one-man show.
Wolff’s tee shot on the par-3 10th rolled left into the thick collar of the bunker, a spot so precarious he had to stand in the deep bunker and grip halfway down the steel shaft of his sand wedge. He chipped 10 feet by the hole for a bogey to fall two shots behind.
From the fairway on the 11th, however, Wolff hit wedge that was chunky and went into the right rough, and he had to scramble for par instead of setting up a reasonable birdie chance. DeChambeau from the right rough came up short, but he used putter from off the green for birdie from 15 feet away.
With a three-shot lead, DeChambeau kept blasting away as if he were chasing, not leading, just like he said he would. He saved par from the left rough on the 14th and a perfect pitch from deep grass behind the green. He downed another protein shake walking down the 15th, marching along to a major title that affirms his position in the game as a pioneer.
Imagine the USGA, which has been studying the impact on distance, getting together for a debriefing after this performance. What would they say?
“He’s hitting it forever,” DeChambeau said with a laugh.
The last laugh.
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