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Blue Jays break the bank with risk-reward signing of ace Hyun-Jin Ryu – Toronto Sun



The Blue Jays have found their ace — a big-money, top-of-the-rotation starter in the form of free agent left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu.

The news broke late Sunday that the rebuilding Toronto franchise signed the 32-year-old South Korean to a four-year US$80-million deal.

The signing turned a quiet off-season into a home-run acquisition for Jays general manager Ross Atkins and team president Mark Shapiro.

Most importantly, it gives manager Charlie Montoyo and pitching coach Pete Walker a legitimate starter to lead the young team after one of hits worst seasons in decades.

Though he pitched for the Los Angeles Dodgers for six seasons, Ryu led the majors in earned-run average in his outstanding 2019 campaign, finishing with a 2.32 ERA which earned him an All-Star berth and a runner-up for the National League Cy Young Award. Those honours were well earned with a 14-5 record which included 182.2 innings of work and 163 strikeouts.

Obviously the southpaw immediately vaults to the top of a Toronto rotation that for the most part was a disaster last season. It got particularly bad when Aaron Sanchez continued to battle injury issues and Marcus Stroman was a disruption in the clubhouse. Both were dealt prior to the July 31 MLB trade deadline and a troubled season in which the Jays used 21 different starters was in full disarray.

In Ryu, however, the team now has a legit ace to build around and complement the talented group of young position players led by Vlad Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette and Cavan Biggio.

It also makes it a productive off-season for Atkins and a Jays offence that has taken a lot of heat from a frustrated fan base. Quietly the Jays brass made it known they were serious about Ryu, however, and from a perception standpoint with the clubs followers, landing him has to be viewed as a large score.

Already, the team has acquired potential starters in Chase Anderson, Tanner Roark and Shun Yamaguchi, the latter who would appear to be a candidate for the bullpen.

As with any acquisition, the Ryu deal is pending a physical, which isn’t likely to take place until the new year. In his six seasons with the Dodgers, Ryu compiled a record of 54-33 with a stellar 2.98 ERA. Prior to coming to North America, Ryu was a legend in his homeland where he was a star in the Korean Baseball Organization.

The signing comes with some risk, however, given Ryu’s age and the fact that he has battled injuries throughout his career. But his most recent form is difficult to ignore and the need to acquire a pitcher with star power and effective stuff was critical.

From a money standpoint, the expenditure on the lefty is certainly a breakthrough for the Jays organization. Atkins has vowed all off-season that he had clearance from team owner Rogers Communications to spend — and spend he did.

The reported $80-million outlay is the most under the current administration and is the most money the team has spent since signing Canadian-born catcher Russell Martin to a five-year, $82-million contract. It also continues a massive MLB off-season for free-agent pitchers to break the bank. The biggest of those contracts went to Gerrit Cole, who signed with the Yankees for a record US$324 million.

In a perfect world, the Jays likely would have preferred topping out at three years for Ryu, so the term certainly brings some risk as the pitcher ages. On the other hand, with the Yankees getting so strong, so much young talent on the roster and attendance plummeting, one could argue that the team could ill afford not to make a splash by acquiring a quality arm.

The recent Jays acquisitions certainly change the makeup of a pitching staff that laboured last year. If you were projecting a rotation today — seven weeks and change before pitchers and catchers report to Dunedin, Fla. for spring training — Ryu would be at the top followed by Roark, Anderson, and Matt Shoemaker (who is coming off of knee surgery), with Ryan Borucki and Trent Thornton battling for the fifth spot.

With Ryu under contract for four years, if things go to plan the Jays pitching situation now seems loaded with promise. Nate Pearson, one of the most coveted pitching prospects in the game, is a year at most from a potential arrival in the big leagues and a host of other strong arms, including 2019 first-round pick Alek Manoah are also well regarded.

Until the Ryu signing, the Jays off-season was dominated by talk — with both Atkins and Shapiro maintaining they were aggressively pursuing big names. Sources around the league confirmed that strategy by Toronto management and now the talk is real.

And perhaps the Christmas miracle came just in time to stuff some Blue Jays tickets under the tree.

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LeBron Saves Team USA in Thrilling Exhibition Against South Sudan at O2 Arena



LONDON — In what could have been one of the most monumental upsets in international basketball history, Team USA narrowly escaped with a 101-100 victory over a spirited South Sudan team at the O2 Arena in London on Saturday night. This exhibition match, serving as a tune-up for the 2024 Olympics, showcased the rapid rise of South Sudanese basketball and the indomitable spirit of the American team led by LeBron James.

The atmosphere at the O2 Arena was electric, with fans witnessing a game that turned out to be far more competitive than expected. South Sudan, a team composed largely of refugees and players from the diaspora, pushed the heavily favored Americans to their limits.

First Half Highlights:

  • South Sudan came out firing on all cylinders, building a surprising 16-point lead in the second quarter.
  • Team USA struggled with their three-point shooting, missing 12 of their first 13 attempts from beyond the arc.

Despite the odds, South Sudan’s players, many of whom have overcome significant personal and professional challenges, played with remarkable cohesion and determination. Their performance was a testament to the rapid progress the team has made under the guidance of former NBA star Luol Deng.

With the game hanging in the balance, LeBron James demonstrated why he remains one of the greatest basketball players of all time. Benched at the start of the third quarter, James returned to the floor with a determination that was palpable.

Key Moments:

  • Third Quarter: Anthony Davis’ defensive prowess helped shrink the deficit. LeBron’s return brought stability and focus back to Team USA.
  • Final Minute: With just 20 seconds left, JT Thor of South Sudan scored over LeBron, giving his team a one-point lead.
  • Game-Winning Shot: LeBron drove to the basket, scoring the decisive layup with eight seconds remaining.

South Sudan’s journey to this point has been nothing short of inspirational. The country gained independence from Sudan in 2011, and the basketball program, still in its infancy, has quickly become a source of national pride.

Notable Contributions:

  • Carlik Jones: Delivered a triple-double with 15 points, 11 rebounds, and 11 assists.
  • Wenyen Gabriel: LeBron’s former teammate with the Lakers, contributed 11 points.
  • Marial Shayok: Led South Sudan with 24 points.

The team’s formation and rise have been spearheaded by Luol Deng, who played a pivotal role in recruiting and funding the program. His efforts have culminated in South Sudan qualifying for the Olympics, marking a historic achievement for the young nation.

Stephen Curry: “Wild game. They played really intense. It was nice to see how we responded. LeBron with a great finish down the stretch.”

Steve Kerr: “The whole team was embarrassed at halftime. We were challenged today, and it was good for us to feel that now. This was a reminder that we need to bring our best every game.”

Luol Deng: Expressed immense pride in his team’s performance, emphasizing the significance of their journey and the obstacles they have overcome.

This exhibition game was more than just a pre-Olympic warm-up. It highlighted the potential for underdog stories in sports and underscored the global reach and impact of basketball. Team USA, despite the narrow escape, was reminded of the importance of every game and the challenges that lie ahead.

South Sudan, on the other hand, has cemented its place on the international stage, showcasing that with determination and the right support, even the newest teams can compete with the best in the world.

As both teams prepare for the Olympics, this game at the O2 Arena will be remembered not only for its thrilling finish but also for the remarkable stories of resilience and ambition that played out on the court.

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UFC Vegas 94: Amanda Lemos vs. Virna Jandiroba – Main Event Recap



In a thrilling main event at UFC Vegas 94, strawweights Amanda Lemos and Virna Jandiroba faced off on Saturday night. After an evenly matched first round, Jandiroba secured a dramatic submission victory in the second round, just moments before the bell.

Fight Summary:

  • First Round: The opening round was highly competitive, with both fighters showcasing their skills and maintaining a close contest.
  • Second Round: In the final seconds of the second round, Jandiroba managed to secure a submission, forcing Lemos to tap out. The win marks an impressive fourth consecutive victory for Jandiroba.

Post-Fight Remarks:

  • In her post-fight interview inside the Octagon, Jandiroba confidently called out UFC President Dana White, declaring, “Dana, I’m the next one. Dana, I’m your next champion.”

Future Implications:

  • With this victory, Jandiroba has positioned herself as a strong contender for the strawweight title. Tatiana Suarez, who was the rightful next contender for Weili Zhang, has been sidelined due to an injury. Jandiroba’s current four-fight win streak and her dominant performance at UFC Vegas 94 make a compelling case for her title shot.

Stay tuned for more updates as the UFC strawweight division continues to evolve, and see if Virna Jandiroba will indeed become the next challenger for the championship belt.

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Jake Paul vs. Mike Perry: Fight Night Updates



Jake Paul is back in the ring, and he’s promising fireworks as he takes on former UFC star Mike Perry at the Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida. The fight will be broadcast live on DAZN. Originally, Paul was set to fight Mike Tyson, but Perry stepped in after Tyson suffered an injury.

Fight Details:

Jake Paul (9-1, 6 KOs)

  • Paul is coming off a first-round TKO of Ryan Bourland in March.
  • He has promised that Perry won’t survive the second round.
  • Paul is more experienced in boxing but still relatively new to the sport.

Mike Perry (0-1)

  • Perry, known as “Platinum,” brings over a decade of fighting experience, mainly in MMA and bare-knuckle fighting.
  • He believes Paul is still green in the fight business and intends to use his experience to pull off an upset.

Main Event:
Jake Paul vs. Mike Perry

Live Updates: Follow DAZN for all the live updates, results, and highlights from the Paul vs. Perry pay-per-view main card.

Main Card Results:

Amanda Serrano def. Stevie Morgan via TKO

  • Round 2, 0:38
    • Watch the finish

Lucas Bahdi def. H20 Sylve via knockout

  • Round 6, 2:27
    • Watch the finish

Corey Marksman def. Tony Aguilar via majority decision

  • Scores: 76-76, 77-75, 78-74

Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. def. Uriah Hall via unanimous decision

  • Scores: 59-55, 59-55, 58-56
    • Recap

Stay tuned for the main event updates and see if Jake Paul can deliver on his promise of another highlight reel knockout or if Mike Perry will teach him a lesson and pull off a major upset.

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