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.
BKFC to up $20 million offer to Mike Tyson, Wanderlei Silva pitched as potential foe – MMA Fighting
Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship will next week issue another offer to Mike Tyson in hopes of bringing the 53-year-old boxing legend out of retirement.
BKFC President David Feldman told MMA Fighting the contract will exceed the $20 million offered to Tyson earlier this month, adding additional sweeteners that include charitable donations. He said he wasn’t able to provide the exact value of the contract because it’s still being finalized.
“I think I know what we need to do to make this thing happen,” Feldman said.
The race to get Tyson back into the ring has heated up ever since the former champ signaled his desire to compete again, potentially in a charity match. Several promoters, including BKFC, have jumped into the mix with million-dollar offers, and fighters from across the combat spectrum have volunteered themselves as opponents.
UFC Hall of Famers Tito Ortiz and Ken Shamrock were among those who expressed interest in a potential fight, regardless of the medium. On Sunday, Ortiz claimed someone close to Tyson had inquired about a potential matchup; Ortiz did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Feldman said matching Tyson with “the right kind of guy” is central to BKFC’s offer, and an opponent like former PRIDE champ Wanderlei Silva, who immediately reached out to BKFC after the offer to Tyson, is right now a more desirable matchup than Ortiz.
“I didn’t offer that (to Ortiz),” Feldman said. “I don’t know that it really draws. I think a Wanderlei Silva, someone of that nature. No matter how old Silva gets, he’s dangerous, and I think that would be an intriguing matchup. Something like that, but I don’t actually have anything in mind right now.”
Ortiz most recently fought this past December, submitting Alberto Del Rio inside one round in Combate America’s inaugural pay-per-view event. The ex-UFC champ has talked up a rematch with Silva, whom he defeated in the octagon in 2000. Silva most recently fought in 2018, losing a second-round TKO to rival Quinton “Rampage” Jackson.
“First, I want to see if we can make the Mike thing happen, period, and then we’ll start talking opponents,” Feldman said. “We’re not successful yet in making that Mike thing happen. But I don’t think the door’s shut.
“He did say no immediately. But I think there’s room there.”
Tyson, who retired after quitting on his stool during a 2005 boxing match against McBride, recently talked up a charity rematch with boxing rival Evander Holyfield. Retired boxer Shannon Briggs also has claimed he’s already signed an offer to fight Tyson in an exhibition match.
“There are a lot of people out there that need help, and something like that could help a lot of people, that’s in need for help,” he told TMZ.
Feldman said BKFC will restart its event promotion schedule on June 26 with enhanced safety measures in place to address the threat of the COVID-19 virus. A location has not yet been finalized.
Cejudo retires, vacates bantamweight title – TSN
The UFC confirmed to ESPN’s Ariel Helwani on Monday that Henry Cejudo is considered to be retired and has vacated the UFC bantamweight title. His name was removed from the title page and official rankings on the UFC website Sunday.
Henry Cejudo is no longer the UFC bantamweight champion, per the promotion. They have confirmed this news to ESPN. Cejudo is officially “retired” and the title is now vacant. No word yet on when the vacant title fight will take place.
— Ariel Helwani (@arielhelwani) May 25, 2020
Cejudo successfully defended the bantamweight belt against Dominik Cruz at UFC 249 earlier this month and announced after the bout he was retiring.
“I really do want to walk away, but money talks,” Cejudo said at the time. “It gets stagnant. I want to leave on top.”
It is unknown if Cejudo has removed himself from the USADA drug-testing pool. If he removes himself, Cejudo would not be able to return to the UFC until he puts himself back in the pool for a period of six months.
With a 16-2 record, Cejudo had not lost since 2016 and is only the fourth person in UFC history to hold titles in two different weight classes at the same time (bantamweight and flyweight). He is currently on a six-fight winning streak, which includes victories over Cruz, Demetrious Johnson and TJ Dillashaw.
The UFC has yet to announce its plan regarding a future bantamweight title fight.
NHLers face new normal as league prepares to ramp up toward return to play
Before NHL players are permitted to step back inside a team facility they must first have a swab inserted roughly four centimetres into their nasal cavity.
Laboratory-based RT-PCR testing is used to detect any active or recent infection with COVID-19, and will be administered 48 hours prior.
The next stage of life in the time of the novel coronavirus for players and team staff will then include at least two more of those tests each week, plus daily temperature and symptom checks — one self-administered at home and another from medical personnel upon arrival at the facility.
All of that just to walk through the door.
You want to get on the ice? Well, there’s a pre-participation medical exam, which includes an EKG test and screening for pre-existing conditions, to be administered before that can happen.
What resonates most about the NHL’s return-to-sport protocol is how much meticulous effort will be required just to get six players working out inside the rink together, never mind what’s still to come when teams progress to training camps or actually start playing games again.
The league hopes to reopen team facilities for small-group workouts as soon as next week and has set out the requirements for doing so. The protocol distributed to teams and players early Monday leaves no detail uncovered and paints a scene unlike any that would typically play out in these buildings.
On the ice, no more than six players are allowed to participate in non-contact skates at a time. Coaches, including those for skating and skills, can’t take part (an exception will be granted for goalie coaches after the first week of training).
Off the ice, everyone must remain at least six feet apart and players are discouraged from socializing with one another. A cloth or surgical mask must be worn when entering and exiting the building and at any point where social distancing can’t be maintained. Exercise and weight room equipment is permitted for use, providing a spotter isn’t required, and players can receive individual treatment from athletic therapists and team doctors.
But they won’t be granted access to saunas, hot tubs or steam rooms and are encouraged to shower at home whenever possible.
The groups of six (or less) will remain constant and essentially be assigned a rotating shift for when they’re allowed in the facility. Where possible, teams have been told to assign a different athletic trainer, strength and conditioning coach and equipment manager to each group.
That will ensure any infection or exposure will be contained within the group and should help facilitate contact tracing.
The facility must be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected between each training session. That includes locker-room areas and circuit-based training equipment. Players are required to leave all workout gear inside the facility for cleaning and can only take supplements provided in single-dispense packs.
Single-use beverages or snacks such as power bars can be consumed by players inside the facility, but any meals prepared and packaged by the catering staff must be taken home before they’re eaten.
This promises to be a different experience for players who largely haven’t been back inside team facilities since the season was paused on March 12. The small-group sessions starting in early June are strictly voluntary, but they’re viewed as an important step in trying to complete a 24-team tournament for the Stanley Cup — especially for the large number of guys unable to skate during the last three months.
The detailed nature of protocols being put in place reflect how challenging it is to contain the spread of germs in a team environment, and the NHL acknowledged in its Monday memo that they “cannot mitigate all risk.”
“A range of clinical scenarios exist, from very mild to fatal outcome,” the league wrote.
Anyone who develops symptoms and/or tests positive for COVID-19, or shares a home with someone who does, must immediately notify the team’s medical staff. They will be isolated and provided treatment, if needed.
There could be serious consequences for any teams that don’t comply with the measures put in place by the league. Penalties include fines, loss of draft choices, and ineligibility to participate in the resumption of play.
Source: – Sportsnet.ca
Edited By Harry Miller
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