Cheaters pay the price for Astros as manager Hinch and GM Luhnow run out of the game - Toronto Sun - Canada News Media
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Cheaters pay the price for Astros as manager Hinch and GM Luhnow run out of the game – Toronto Sun

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In one of the more successful recent runs in Major League Baseball, cheating proved to be rather prosperous for the Houston Astros, tainting their recent accomplishments in spectacular fashion.

And now a pair of men recognized as the most innovative of the game have payed the price.

It all came crashing down on Monday when MLB suspended Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch for a year for their role in a high-tech sign-stealing scheme.

Within hours of the league announcement, which followed a lengthy MLB investigation, Astros owner Jim Crane fired both Luhnow and Hinch, cutting ties with the two figured so central to the Texas team’s success.

One World Series title in 2017 and a near miss again this past fall made the American League West team at once one of the more envied, and, as the suspicions of wrongdoing that trailed them, one of the most despised franchises in the sport. Now, they’ll be known as one of the most notorious for the brazen skullduggery they used to gain an edge.

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred stopped short of saying the Astros electronic sign swiping significantly contributed to their success — and thus didn’t strip the team of its World Series crown. He did, however, levy one of the most significant punishments in professional sports history.

“While it is impossible to determine the conduct actually impacted the results on the field, the perception of some that it did causes significant harm to the game,” Manfred said in his report.

Besides the suspensions to the key individuals in the Astros baseball operations, Manfred stripped the team of its first-round draft picks in 2020 and 2021 and levied a $5 million US fine, a maximum amount under the league’s constitution.

That Crane acted swiftly suggests the Astros owner was attempting to save face for the franchise, an almost impossible task given the circumstances. There is plenty of ill will towards the reigning AL champions throughout baseball as by this year’s World Series, whispers grew into more pointed suspicions that the team wasn’t on the up and up.

Sign stealing has long been a part of the game at the highest level, but using an elaborate electronic plan to enhance the process clearly crossed a line. The MLB investigation determined that the process was player driven but that management and coaches were well aware what has happening around them.

“When I found out I was very upset,” Crane said. “We want to be known as playing by the rules. We accept the punishment. Neither one of (Hinch or Luhnow) started it, but neither one of them did anything about it.

“That’s unfortunate and the consequences are severe.”

Tell that to the Los Angeles Dodgers, who lost the 2017 Fall Classic to the Astros. As talented as the Astros have been — with stars such as Justin Verlander, Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman — the fact that they were using technology to cheat during home games taints some of those accomplishments.

And the fact that the manager didn’t step in was found by Manfred to be reprehensible.

“As the person with responsibility for managing his players and coaches, there simply is no justification for Hinch’s failure to act,” Manfred said in his report.

The MLB investigation revealed during the 2017 season, the Astros started using a centre field camera at Minute Maid Park to swipe the signs. A video monitor next to the Astros dugout captured the signs and players could relay the information by banging on a garbage can. The report suggested that two fans meant an off-speed pitch was coming and no noise meant a fastball.

“Witnesses have provided largely consistent accounts of how the monitor was utilized,” the report states. “One or more players watched the live feed of the centre field camera on the monitor and then after decoding the sign, a player would bang a nearby trash can with a bat to communicate the upcoming pitch type to the batter.”

There’s a good chance that another member of that team’s coaching staff will get hit hard as well. Manfred strongly suggested that Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora was the mastermind behind the scheme and will be disciplined accordingly.

The commissioner pointed out in his nine-page ruling that the then Astros bench coach was instrumental in developing the system. MLB’s investigation of the Red Sox centres on Cora’s first season as Boston manager, a 2018 campaign that also ended in a World Series title.

“Cora was involved in developing both the banging scheme and utilizing the replay review room to decode and transmit signs,” the report said. “Cora participated in both schemes and through his active participation, simplicity condoned the players’ conduct.”

The league’s investigation into the Astros began shortly after a Nov. 12 report in the Athletic in which former Astros pitcher Mike Fiers detailed the scheme.

Allegations trailed Houston on their run to this year’s World Series appearance against the Nationals in which Hinch defiantly and arrogantly denied the charges, “In reality, it’s a joke,” Hinch said prior to an ALCS game against the Yankees and then called for those making the allegations to come forward publicly.

“While the evidence consistently showed I didn’t endorse or participate in the sign stealing practices, I failed to stop them and I am deeply sorry,” a chastened Hinch said in a statement late Monday. “I regret being connected to these events, am disappointed in our club‘s actions within this timeline, and I accept the Commissioner’s decision.”

JAYS BENCH COACH WAS INVESTIGATED

As the hitting coach for the Houston Astros during the 2017 and 2018 seasons, Dave Hudgens was of interest in the thorough MLB investigation of the now disgraced franchise.

According to the Jays, Hudgens cooperated with the league in its probe of the Astros sign-stealing allegations that on Monday led to the one-year suspension of general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch.

Hudgens was not mentioned specifically in the nine-page MLB report, however. He was named to first-year manager Charlie Montoyo’s staff as bench coach prior to the 2019 season.

“Dave is doing everything he can to help the investigation,” Jays general manager Ross Atkins said last month in San Diego at the Baseball Winter Meetings.

The MLB report said that its investigation interviewed 27 witnesses and reviewed thousands of emails and other electronic correspondence before revealing its findings on Monday.

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Recap: Toronto Raptors push through, beat Minnesota Timberwolves 122-112 – RaptorsHQ

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After an evisceration of the Washington Wizards on Friday night, the Toronto Raptors traveled straight to Minneapolis to face the Minnesota Timberwolves. After starting the year middling near .500, the Timberwolves have fallen out of the playoff picture with a record of 15-26 coming into the game, and on a four -game losing streak.

The Raptors, meanwhile, were finally feeling healthy. Prior to the game, Doug Smith of the Toronto Star announced the starting five:

After all the injuries, it was pleasing to see the Raptors starting the preferred lineup. Yet, the Raptors had held their own while those with injuries and they were looking to extend a short winning streak—their first consecutive wins in nearly a month—while continuing to get everyone back up to speed. Only a frisky Minnesota team, and perhaps some confusing officiating, stood in their way.

During the first quarter, both teams started hot from all over the floor. In particular, the Raptors were getting to the basket early and often as the defensive communication was off for the Timberwolves.

The Master Grifter Kyle Lowry had an excellent fake to get Shabazz Napier on his feet to draw a foul and frustrate Napier:

As the quarter neared its end, however, the defense from the Timberwolves tightened up and the shooting cooled for the Raptors, giving the Timberwolves a narrow 39-32 lead.

The hot shooting streak for the Timberwolves finally slowed in the second quarter and the Raptors slowly made their way back to a tie just under midway through the quarter. The quarter itself was mired with an increasing amount of whistles from the officials and calls that left both teams beside themselves.

At the very least, the Raptors stepped up their defense, but very little of it turned into transition baskets as the team only had two fast break points at the half.

Nearing the end of the quarter, both Marc Gasol and Pascal Siakam were called for technical fouls after a couple of questionable calls and non-calls. Lowry, of all people, pulled the team aside after the exchange and got their emotions in check.

Despite the officials keeping the Timberwolves in the game—Minnesota was 15-for-18 from the line compared to the Raptors’ 5-for-6—the Raptors only trailed the Timberwolves by four at the half, 62-58.

Fred VanVleet and Jarrett Culver led all scorers with 16 points apiece. Pascal Siakam had ten and Lowry had 11, respectively.

The third quarter has been the quarter in which the Raptors have shined throughout the season and this third quarter was just the same.

The Raptors, particularly Lowry, started out with a vengeance.

Lowry hit two quick threes and suddenly they were up by a point. Additionally, the defense was homing in on Andrew Wiggins, stifling his ability to get space and forcing him to pass at times. Another three, this time from VanVleet, caused the Timberwolves to call a timeout near the nine minute mark.

The Raptors then weathered a Timberwolves run and started one of their own. It began with a three from Lowry after a quick rebound and dribble into the front court by Norman Powell. Then, Powell did some magic of his own in the lane and scored, making it 79-71. At that point, the Raptors had outscored the Timberwolves 21-9 in the third. They would go on to outscore them, 31-22.

Again, however, the Timberwolves stayed in the game and the quarter ended with the Raptors ahead 89-84. Kyle Lowry scored 17 points in the quarter and quickly became the spark in the Raptors’ offense.

In the final quarter, the Raptors continued to expand their lead as Minnesota began to collapse. Suddenly, the Raptors all started to click just as Minnesota was breaking down defensively and Toronto quickly made their way to a 20-point lead. They would lead by as many as 22 in the quarter.

VanVleet very much made his return worthwhile as he piled on the points in the fourth quarter. He finished with 29 points, four rebounds, two assists, and four steals. Furthermore, he finished with a team high plus-20 while shooting 7-for-8 from three.

Toronto finally buried Minnesota in the fourth and beat them 122-112 despite hometown officiating. Along with VanVleet, Lowry and Powell also hit the 20+ points mark, scoring 28 and 20, respectively. Siakam finished with 14 points, four rebounds, and three assists on a relatively quiet night from him.

After a high scoring game against the Wizards, the Raptors started out slow yet finished strong. Now that they are healthy, they can make a push for a higher seed in the Eastern Conference with a game against the Atlanta Hawks on Monday, January 20th.

With the newfound health, we may finally begin to see just how high the ceiling is for these Toronto Raptors as they pass the halfway mark in the season.

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Conor McGregor returns to UFC, TKOs 'Cowboy' Cerrone in 40 seconds – CTV News

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LAS VEGAS —
Conor McGregor’s opening punch bloodied Donald Cerrone’s nose. He then floored Cerrone only 20 seconds into the bout with a perfectly placed kick to the head, and he mercilessly finished on the ground.

When he paraded around the ring with an Irish flag on his shoulders to celebrate, the mixed martial arts world knew McGregor is back with a big bang.

The Irish former two-division champion came out of a three-year stretch of relative inactivity and outside-the-cage troubles with a welterweight performance in UFC 246 on Saturday night that echoed his greatest fights during his unparalleled rise.

“I feel really good, and I came out of here unscathed,” McGregor said. “I’m in shape. We’ve got work to do to get back to where I was.”

After hurting Cerrone (36-14) with his first punch, McGregor (22-4) dropped him with a sublime kick to the jaw. McGregor pounced and forced referee Herb Dean to save Cerrone, delighting a sellout crowd of 19,040 at T-Mobile Arena.

McGregor’s hand hadn’t been raised in victory since November 2016, when he stopped lightweight Eddie Alvarez to become the first fighter in UFC history to hold two championship belts simultaneously. With his fame and fortune multiplying, McGregor fought only his boxing match with Floyd Mayweather in 2017, and he lost a one-sided UFC bout to lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov in late 2018.

“I wasn’t committed,” McGregor said afterward while speaking to reporters with a bottle of his Proper Twelve whiskey on the table before him. “I just felt like I disrespected the people that believed in me and supported me. That’s what led me to re-centre myself and get back to where I was at.”

After a year spent out of competition and in repeated trouble with the law, McGregor got back into training and vowed to return to elite form. This dramatic victory over Cerrone indicated he’s well on his way, and McGregor has vowed to fight multiple times in 2020.

Welterweight champion Kamaru Usman and veteran brawler Jorge Masvidal watched UFC 246 from cageside. Either man could be McGregor’s next opponent, but UFC President Dana White is pushing for a rematch with Nurmagomedov, who first fights Tony Ferguson in April.

“Any one of these mouthy fools can get it,” McGregor yelled into the microphone. “Every single one of them can get it. It does not matter. I’m back and I’m ready.”

McGregor also wants to make up for his loss to Nurmagomedov, but he doesn’t want to wait until the champion is ready to fight again in late summer. McGregor wants an earlier fight, and he predicted that the Nurmagomedov-Ferguson fight will be scrapped, as it already has four times during those fighters’ careers.

Cerrone is the winningest fighter in UFC history with 23 victories, a mark that reflects both his durability and commitment to an uncommonly busy schedule. Cerrone, who also holds the UFC record with 16 stoppage wins, had fought a whopping 11 times since McGregor’s win over Alvarez, and he was in the cage for the 15th time since he lost his only UFC title shot in December 2015.

But Cerrone’s last two fights were stopped when he took too much damage, and he couldn’t block McGregor’s decisive kick or recover from the punishment on the ground.

“I’d never seen anything like that,” Cerrone said. “He busted my nose, it started bleeding, and he stepped back and head-kicked me. Oh, man. This happened this fast?”

Although many observers have scoffed, the 31-year-old McGregor believes he can reclaim the fearsome form he showed during his meteoric rise to unprecedented MMA success. He won 15 consecutive fights during a five-year run from low-profile shows in Dublin to the world’s biggest MMA events, stopping five straight elite UFC opponents with punches on the way up.

After his latest victory ended, McGregor peeled away briefly to celebrate, but quickly returned to comfort the disoriented Cerrone. When Cerrone’s grandmother, Jerry, entered the cage after the fight to hug her grandson, McGregor also hugged Jerry and got a kiss on the cheek.

Even after his prolonged absence — or maybe because of it — McGregor’s return was a huge seller on pay-per-view, according to White. The UFC said it made more than $11 million in ticket sales at T-Mobile Arena for the fourth-biggest gate total in the promotion’s history.

“This guy is such a huge superstar,” White said. “I put him up there with (Mike) Tyson, (Sugar Ray) Leonard, all of them. He’s got the biggest pay-per-view in history, and how many of the top 10 does he have? I don’t know. Coming up in his career, he’s been doubted for his talent, and he proves them wrong every time.”

An eager Vegas crowd showed up in person, with celebrities including Matthew McConaughey, Jeremy Renner and Dave Bautista, along with NFL stars Tom Brady, Christian McCaffrey, Baker Mayfield, Myles Garrett and Jon Gruden.

Former bantamweight champion Holly Holm beat Raquel Pennington by unanimous decision in the penultimate bout of UFC 246. The 38-year-old Holm (13-5) had lost five of her seven fights since she memorably knocked out Ronda Rousey in November 2015.

On the undercard, 37-year-old flyweight Roxanne Modafferi pulled off one of the biggest upsets in recent UFC history with a one-sided decision victory over previously unbeaten 21-year-old Maycee Barber, the UFC’s top 125-pound prospect.

Barber (8-1) injured her left knee during the bout, but Modafferi (24-16) was already dominating with the superior jiu-jitsu she has been practicing for Barber’s entire life. Modafferi was the biggest betting underdog on the UFC 246 card, facing 10-to-1 odds at some sports books.

Aleksei Oleinik, a 42-year-old heavyweight who made his pro debut in 1996, also beat Maurice Greene by submission in the second round.

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McGregor defeats Cowboy in main event at UFC 246 – TSN

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LAS VEGAS — Conor McGregor stopped Donald Cerrone with a head kick and punches 40 seconds into the first round at UFC 246 on Saturday night, announcing his return to mixed martial arts with his first victory since 2016.

The Irish former two-division champion returned from a three-year stretch of inactivity and outside-the-cage troubles with a performance that echoed his greatest fights during his unparalleled rise.

McGregor (22-4) floored Cerrone (36-14) only 20 seconds into the bout with a perfectly placed left kick to the head, and he mercilessly finished on the ground to the delight of a sellout crowd at T-Mobile Arena.

McGregor’s hand hadn’t been raised in victory since November 2016, when he stopped lightweight Eddie Alvarez to become the first fighter in UFC history to hold two championship belts simultaneously. With his fame and fortune multiplying, McGregor fought only his boxing match with Floyd Mayweather in 2017, and he lost a one-sided UFC bout to lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov in late 2018.

After a year of inactivity and trouble outside the cage, McGregor vowed to return to elite form in this bout against a fellow UFC veteran and stoppage specialist. This dramatic victory over Cerrone indicated he’s on his way, and McGregor has vowed to fight multiple times in 2020.

Cerrone is the winningest fighter in UFC history with 23 victories, a mark that reflects both his durability and commitment to an uncommonly busy schedule. Cerrone, who also holds the UFC record with 16 stoppage wins, had fought a whopping 11 times since McGregor’s win over Alvarez, and he was in the cage for the 15th time since he lost his only UFC title shot in December 2015.

But Cerrone’s last two fights were stopped when he took too much damage, and he couldn’t block McGregor’s decisive kick or recover from the punishment on the ground.

McGregor believes he can recapture the fearsome form he showed during his meteoric rise to unprecedented MMA success. He won 15 consecutive fights during a five-year run from low-profile shows in Dublin to the world’s biggest MMA events, stopping five straight elite UFC opponents with punches on the way up.

McGregor walked to the cage with the Irish flag wrapped around his shoulders. The bearded fighters touched gloves beforehand in an extension of this bout’s unfailing sportsmanship — not always a hallmark of McGregor’s previous bouts.

After the referee stopped the bout, McGregor peeled away briefly to celebrate, but quickly returned to comfort his disoriented opponent. When Cerrone’s grandmother, Jerry, entered the cage after the fight to hug her grandson, McGregor also hugged Jerry and got a kiss on the cheek.

Even after his prolonged absence — or maybe because of it — McGregor’s return is expected to be a huge seller on pay-per-view. An eager sellout Vegas crowd showed up in person, with celebrities including Matthew McConaughey, Jeremy Renner and Dave Bautista, along with NFL stars Tom Brady, Christian McCaffrey, Baker Mayfield, Myles Garrett and Jon Gruden.

Former bantamweight champion Holly Holm beat Raquel Pennington by unanimous decision in the penultimate bout of UFC 246. The 38-year-old Holm (13-5) had lost five of her seven fights since she memorably knocked out Ronda Rousey in November 2015.

On the undercard, 37-year-old flyweight Roxanne Modafferi pulled off one of the biggest upsets in recent UFC history with a one-sided decision victory over previously unbeaten 21-year-old Maycee Barber, the UFC’s top 125-pound prospect.

Barber (8-1) injured her left knee during the bout, but Modafferi (24-16) was already dominating with the superior jiu-jitsu she has been practicing for Barber’s entire life. Modafferi was the biggest betting underdog on the UFC 246 card, facing 10-to-1 odds at some sports books.

Aleksei Oleinik, a 42-year-old heavyweight who made his pro debut in 1996, also beat Maurice Greene by submission in the second round.

___

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