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Guerrero Jr.’s all-star dominance a sign of his growing importance to MLB – Sportsnet.ca

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DENVER – Major League Baseball decked out the Colorado Convention Center in downtown Denver for the all-star week’s fan festivities, plastering massive decals of its brightest talents on the building’s glass exterior. Staring down from one of the main entrances were four players – Fernando Tatis Jr., Tim Anderson, Jacob deGrom and Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

That the Toronto Blue Jays superstar was featured so prominently in the league’s marketing at its central hub for fans, and on banners hanging from light posts all around Coors Field and the downtown core, is a clear demonstration of his growing importance to the sport.

Between his ruthless power, deliberate discipline and infectious joy on the field, Guerrero is everything the sport wants to highlight. Both commissioner Rob Manfred and union boss Tony Clark shouted out his emergence as a key development during their conversations with the BBWAA on Tuesday morning, and in an all-star game largely built around two-way wonder Shohei Ohtani, the 22-year-old demonstrated that he’s a transcendental talent, too.

Whether it was disarming the usually snarling Max Scherzer with a hug on the mound after his line drive nearly decapitated the Washington Nationals ace, launching a 468-foot home run off Corbin Burnes or professionally cashing in Teoscar Hernandez with a groundball to the right side, Guerrero’s imprints were all over the American League’s 5-2 win over the National League.

In doing so, he became the first Blue Jays player named all-star game MVP, the youngest to accomplish the feat, and once again proved to be a young man of his word.

“I can’t wait to get back to hear what Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and George Springer have to say about this,” Guerrero, speaking through interpreter Hector Lebron, said afterwards. “Before I left I made a promise to them that I was going to win the MVP and they said, ‘You better win the MVP. If not, don’t come back.’”

No worries there, even if Hernandez quipped about deserving half the prize for setting up Guerrero’s second RBI. Either way, it was a strong Blue Jays showing in the contest, as Marcus Semien’s infield single in the second brought home Aaron Judge with the game’s first run, while Hernandez doubled and scored in the fifth, Toronto hitters responsible for the game’s first three runs.

Bo Bichette, subbing in for Xander Bogaerts in the bottom of the fifth, made a nice play on a deflected Adam Frazier grounder to end that inning and then took his trademark big swings against Mark Melancon in the eighth in a three-pitch strikeout.

“That’s my first time coming off the bench I think in my whole life,” Bichette joked. “I didn’t really know what to do, just swing as hard as I can.”

Ohtani went 0-for-2 on a pair of groundouts at the plate but considering that he became the first player ever to start an all-star game on the mound and as a hitter, his night was still remarkable. Roughly 24 hours after an electric showing at the home run derby, when Juan Soto eliminated him after an extra round and a swing-off, the Los Angeles Angels superstar topped out at 100.2 m.p.h. and averaged 98.1 on seven fastballs during a clean 14-pitch first.

Just awe-inspiring stuff that impacts far more than his team.

“I appreciate what he’s done for our game and our fans,” said AL manager Kevin Cash. “There’s a lot of stuff that we are coming out of, obviously, with the pandemic, and for his talent to get baseball going again, he’s been a big part of it. So the appreciation goes to him and similar to Vlad Guerrero Jr. Those guys have so much on their plate and the way they handle it with such humility, class and go about their business, that’s probably the thing that stands out.”

Guerrero delivered an example of that right out of the gate when he ripped a fastball down and in right up the middle. Scherzer just barely whipped his head away from the 111.1 m.p.h. rocket that went for a loud groundout to second.

On his way back to the dugout, Guerrero turned wide toward the mound and warmly hugged the fiery righty, his amiability on display the moment the competitor shut down.

“At the home run derby, we had a conversation and he was just joking with me, he said, ‘Hey, take it easy with me tomorrow.’ That’s what he told me,” Guerrero recalled. “After the line drive, I just wanted to give him a hug.”

Scherzer described the line drive as “a pitcher’s worst nightmare,” and added that he’s “just grateful I still have a blue eye and a brown eye.”

“I’m alive and I didn’t get hit by a ball,” he added, “that’s the success story.”

The home run the next inning was majestic, unloading on a lazy 1-1 slider that hung middle-middle and launching it deep into the darkening Rockies sky at 110.2 m.p.h. As he skipped up the line he cracked a smile, revelling in his accomplishment before throwing down his bat, circling the bases and engaging in some interplay with Tatis.

“When he hit the fly ball to left (in the first inning), I told him, ‘Hey, you just missed that one,’” Guerrero explained. “And when I hit the homer, he told me that I should have stood at the plate a little longer.”

Waiting for him outside the dugout was Bichette for the pair’s traditional post-homer hug before his elaborate handshake with Hernandez.

“He’s so amazing that we almost kind of expect him to do that,” said Bichette. “It was definitely cool to see him do it on this stage. “His personality, being his teammate, that’s so infectious. He has fun every day and it’s tough not having fun with him.”

In the fifth, he made it 3-0 with his chopper to second allowed Hernandez to scoot home, delivering a productive out on a 98.8-m.p.h. fastball at the top of the zone from Trevor Rogers after swinging through a pair of heaters in similar spots the previous two pitches.

Guerrero came out of the game after the inning but hung around until the end, being among the first players to greet Jared Walsh after he made a sliding catch on a Kris Bryant liner to bail Matt Barnes out of a bases-loaded jam in the eighth and preserve a 5-2 lead.

“A lot of people hadn’t seen it and now they have,” said Semien. “Everybody watches this game. If I’m not an all-star, I’m sitting there at home watching it with my kids. He did it against the best in the game. Hopefully he carries that into the second half and we win some ballgames.”

Major League Baseball can definitely sell that, and the fact there were 42 first-time all-stars in the game and so many compelling young talents – even in the absence of the recently injured Ronald Acuna Jr. – speaks to the opportunity the game has in the years ahead.

Leveraging that, of course, will require labour peace beyond the expiration of the current collective bargaining and more labour talks are upcoming. Both Manfred and Clark were especially tight-lipped about how much, if any, headway was being made but the lack of sniping after last year’s disconcerting back-and-forth is surely better than the alternative.

While there’s certainly lingering distrust, Manfred chafed at the notion of there being any spillover, saying “this whole relationship thing gets overplayed and misinterpreted.”

“If you’re in a collective bargaining relationship, you’re going to have points in time where you have disagreements and sometimes they get public,” he continued. “I don’t think that’s a good thing but it happens, OK? It just is the way of the world. Agreements get made or not made based on the substance of what’s out there. The fact that you have a period of time, which we admittedly had last spring, where we had serious disagreements that became public, I don’t think is really an indicator of whether you’re going to get an agreement.”

A labour stoppage just as the sport is re-emerging from the pandemic would seem asinine, but there are fundamental issues in both the game’s economic structure and the way it’s played that are up for debate.

Manfred essentially said seven-inning doubleheaders and runners on second to begin extra innings won’t be back once health and safety concerns ease, saying “they are much less likely to be part of our permanent landscape,” than non-radical rules that tweak play.

Among them could be regulating defensive shifts by stipulating that two infielders must begin on either side of second base, something he said “is not change, it’s restoration.”

No matter how it’s spun, implementing any adjustments is better done in conjunction with players, especially with the opportunity to reset the sport for rapidly changing times.

At the forefront of it all is a remarkable collection of generational talent taking control of the game, and on a night for baseball’s best to shine, Guerrero outshone them all.

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From harassment to mental health, female athletes at the Tokyo Olympics bring important issues to the forefront – The Globe and Mail

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Canada’s Charity Williams powers through Grace Adhiambo Okulu and Judith Okumu of Kenya during rugby sevens match at the Tokyo Olympics.

SIPHIWE SIBEKO/Reuters

With no fans at the Tokyo Olympics, the stadiums don’t roar. They echo. For those few in attendance, the disinfection stations at every juncture are a physical manifestation of what organizers want these Games to be: sterile.

But in stripping away the pageantry, the pandemic has laid bare some of what lies below the surface of sport. Without spectators to drown them out, the noise has come from the athletes themselves.

What has resulted has been an Olympics that has become consequential in ways far beyond the field of competition.

“Oftentimes we talk about sport and say it’s neutral — that we should try and make it neutral,” said Charity Williams, a veteran of a Canadian women’s rugby sevens team that, for months before the Olympics and now again in Tokyo, has spoken out against abuse and bullying.

“Sport is political. You’re representing a country. That’s as political as it gets.”

On Saturday, the Canadian women won against Kenya in their final match after failing to make the finals, a disappointing ninth-place finish for a group seen as a medal contender.

But there was little discussion of what happened on the field. Hours before the match, Rugby Canada fired coach Jamie Cudmore over a series of Twitter messages exulting in the women’s Friday loss against France. “Karma is a bitch! #Survivorsmyass,” he wrote, while cheering on the Chinese team.

The posts, which Rugby Canada called “unacceptable,” came after 37 past and present women’s team members signed a complaint describing what they called psychological abuse, harassment and bullying. In April, an independent review ordered by Rugby Canada found no violations of policies on harassment or bullying but said “it would not be viable for John Tait to resume his duties as head coach of the national senior women’s sevens.” Tait, who coached the sevens team to bronze in Rio de Janeiro, resigned, but said he did “nothing to warrant my behaviour being described as abusive in any way.”

Cudmore, who is close to Tait, deleted his tweets and apologized on Twitter, saying it “was an emotional event for a good friend and I let that get the better of me.” Hours later, he was pulled from his position. Rugby Canada promised a review with “a goal of positioning teams for success in supportive, inclusive environments.”

Captain Ghislaine Landry of Team Canada during the rugby sevens at the Tokyo Olympic Games.

Dan Mullan/AFP/Getty Images

“I’m glad that people have seen what’s been going on,” Canadian women’s captain Ghislaine Landry said after the match Saturday. “It’s not ok in sport. It’s not ok in society. It’s not ok anywhere. And that’s the stuff that people have been talking about for years and years and years.”

But in Tokyo, a much larger audience is listening.

Cudmore’s tweets came as a particularly bare-faced example of the strains on athletes — women, in particular — that have risen to the fore at the Tokyo Olympics.

On Saturday, U.S. gymnast Simone Biles withdrew from another two events, the vault or uneven bars, after withdrawing from individual and team all-around events earlier in the week. She has described “fighting all of those demons,” saying she needed to prioritize her own mental, and physical health after suddenly losing the ability to push her body into the gravity-defying performances that have made her the world’s best.

On Instagram, she described what has happened. “Sometimes I can’t even fathom twisting,” she wrote. “I seriously cannot comprehend how to twist…. It’s the craziest feeling ever. Not having an inch of control over your body.”

Tennis star Naomi Osaka has similarly decried the toll that pressure has taken after she lost in an early match. Others athletes have protested the different expectations for how female Olympians should dress. Sporting bodies around the world have publicly expressed support. Olympic Broadcasting Services, which provides most of the televised images of the Games, said it would steer cameras away from sexualized images of athletes, particularly those in revealing attire at events like beach volleyball.

But if those conversations suggested change, the tweets from Cudmore illustrated something very different.

“Through our stories being shared, we’re getting messages of so many similar stories — and that’s what breaks my heart,” Landry said. “And it’s a big reason why we’re still speaking to it. Because there’s a lot of people that haven’t been able to speak up,” or been driven out of athletics entirely.

It’s happening “all over the place in sport,” she said. “It’s way too commonplace. And if we can be a tiny little part of that change or help an athlete in the future, we’re proud to do it.”

Britt Benn, who is leaving the Canadian team after these Olympics, said she was “very happy that Rugby Canada took the steps forward to show that there is consequences for people that don’t support this program in a very disrespectful way.”

But the episode with Cudmore pointed to a need for more radical change, Williams said, including of “those faces in the meeting rooms.”

“You can’t have the same people — that look the same, that act the same, that think the same — creating decisions.”

Canada’s Britt Benn, left, is tackled by Fiji’s Ana Maria Naimasi in their women’s rugby sevens match at the Tokyo Summer Olympics.

Shuji Kajiyama/The Associated Press

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Tokyo Olympics Day 8 Review: Kylie Masse continues Canada's success in the pool – Yahoo Canada Sports

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The majority of action during the Tokyo Olympics happens when most Canadians are fast asleep. While you were cozy in your bed, however, members of Team Canada were making their push for the podium.

Here’s what you missed from Day 8 of the Summer Games:

Women’s 200m Backstroke Swimming: Kylie Masse takes home second silver of Olympics

Swimming in the women’s 200m backstroke, Masse earned a time of 2:05.42 to bring home silver, and a new national record for Canada.

Also finishing on the podium were Australia’s Kaylee McKeown and Emily Seebohm. McKeown raced to a time of 2:04.68 while Seebohm finished with a time of 2:06.17.

This medal marks the second Masse has won at the Tokyo Games, as the Canadian also earned silver in the women’s 100m backstroke.

“I know I have high expectations of myself, but I’m really happy to have gotten on the podium a second time at an Olympic Games,” Masse said.

She now has three all-time medals at the Olympics as she also earned bronze in the women’s 100m Backstroke at Rio 2016.

Impressively, Canada has now earned six medals in the pool at these Olympics, and all are from women.

Women’s 400m Hurdles: Sage Watson claims spot in semifinal

Racing to a time of 55.54 seconds, Watson tied Italy’s Linda Olivieri to finish 17th in Round 1. She’ll now race in Semifinal 1. Fellow Canadian Noel Montcalm finished 24th but did not qualify for the semi.

Women’s Rugby Sevens: Canada defeats Kenya to finish ninth

The Canadian women defeated Kenya 24-10 to finish ninth in the tournament.

Men’s 800m: Marco Arop advances to semifinal

Arop finished with a time of 1:45.26 to finish eighth in Round 1 which qualified him for the semi. Fellow Canadian Brandon McBride earned a time of 1:46.32 but did not earn a lane in the next round.

Men’s Individual Golf: Mackenzie Hughes puts forward solid Round 3

Hughes shot six-under-par to finish fourth during Round 3 at the Kasumigaseki Country Club. He and his fellow Canadian Corey Conners are tied for 17th in the tournament after three rounds. United States golfer Xander Schauffele currently owns the lead with a score of -14.

Women’s 3m Springboard Diving: Jennifer Abel qualifies for final

With a total of 341.40, Abel finished third in the semifinal to secure a spot in the final. She only trailed Chinese divers Wang Han and Shi Tingmao during the round. Canadian Pamela Ware finished 18th and did not advance to the final.

Men’s 100m: Andre De Grasse surges to semifinal

Finishing with a blazing time of 9.91 seconds, the fastest in Round 1, De Grasse earned himself a spot in the semi. Fellow Canadians Gavin Smellie and Bismark Boateng finished 51st and 52nd respectively which wasn’t good enough to qualify for the next round. De Grasse will next compete on Day 9 of the Olympics.

Kylie Masse and Andre De Grasse put forward sellar performances on Day 8 of the Tokyo Olympics. (Getty)

Kylie Masse and Andre De Grasse put forward sellar performances on Day 8 of the Tokyo Olympics. (Getty)

Men’s 96kg Weightlifting: Boady Santavy narrowly misses podium

Lifting a combined weight of 386kg, Santavy finished fourth in the men’s 96kg final. Georgia’s Anton Plyesnoy and Venezuela’s Keydomar Vallenilla tied by lifting a total weight of 387kg, a result which awarded Plyesnoy silver and Vallenilla bronze. Qatar’s Fares Ibrahim Elbakh earned gold by lifting an Olympic record of 402kg.

Santavy lifted the most of any competitor during the snatch lift, clearing 178kg.

Way Beyond Gold: Tony Hawk has to explain Margielyn Didal’s joke to reporter

22-year-old Marigelyn Didal of the Philippines competed in the first-ever skateboarding event at the Olympics after winning gold at the Asian Games in 2018. During the Tokyo Games, Didal got to take a photo with one of the legends of the sport, Tony Hawk.

On social media, Didal jokingly captioned the photo “this guy asked me to take a photo with him and I let him because he looks like Tony Hawk.”

The joke seemed pretty apparent, but apparently, one reporter didn’t quite catch on.

“I was asked during an interview today,” Hawk started. “How does it feel to go to the Olympics and not be recognized by competing skaters, like Margielyn Didal?” So I had to explain that she was joking with her caption. My life is weird.”

Hawk, one of the most famous names in the game, definitely knows how to take things lightly.

How many medals has Canada won in the Summer Olympics?

Canada is now up to 12 medals in Tokyo heading into Day 9.

Gold: Margaret Mac Neil (women’s 100m butterfly), Maude Charron (weightlifting, women’s 64kg), Women’s Eight Rowing

Silver: Women’s 4x100m freestyle relay, Jennifer Abel and Melissa Citrini-Beaulieu (women’s 3m synchronized springboard), Kylie Masse (women’s 100m backstroke), Kylie Masse (women’s 200m backstroke)

Bronze: Jessica Klimkait (judo, women’s under-57 kg), Softball, Catherine Beauchemin-Pinard (judo, women’s 63kg), Penny Oleksiak (women’s 200m freestyle), Caileigh Filmer and Hillary Janssens (women’s pair rowing)

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Blue Jays pay huge price to acquire Jose Berrios from Minnesota Twins – Jays Journal

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The Toronto Blue Jays made major headlines earlier today, acquiring starting pitcher Jose Berrios in exchange for top prospects SS/OF Austin Martin and RHP Simeon Woods-Richardson.

Berrios has been on the Blue Jays radar for quite some time, with the organization linked to the Twins starting pitcher for most of the season. This season, the Puerto Rico product has amassed a 3.48 ERA through 20 starts while striking out 126 batters to 32 walks. He also boasts a 1.04 WHIP on the season and is under team control until the end of next year.

He is a legit top-of-rotation arm who will slide in nicely beside current ace Hyun Jin Ryu, standout left-hander Robbie Ray, and rookie Alek Manoah as the Blue Jays attempt to make up ground in the AL East and shoot for a spot in the postseason.

The Toronto Blue Jays have traded two top prospects in Austin Martin and Simeon Woods-Richardson in exchange for starting pitcher Jose Berrios from the Minnesota Twins, a high price to pay for a top of the rotation arm.

As per MLB Pipeline, Martin was ranked #2 and SWR was ranked at #4 within the Blue Jays organization, with both players also ranking within the top 100 prospects in baseball at #16 and #68 respectively.

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Martin was the Blue Jays top pick in last year’s COVID shortened draft and has been cruising in AA this year after a rocky start. He currently owns a .281/.424/.383 through 196 at-bats with the New Hampshire Fisher Cats while also contributing two home runs and 16 RBI through the same time span. He was the team’s lone representative at the Future’s Game earlier this month and did miss some time on the injured list earlier this season.

Woods-Richardson was the Blue Jays’ second top-ranked prospect behind Nate Pearson and was also in AA with the Fisher Cats. After a strong start to the campaign, the right-hander has fallen on hard times and now sports a 5.76 ERA through 45.1 innings and 11 starts with 67 strikeouts and 26 walks. He is currently with the United States national team as they compete at the Tokyo Olympics.

I have been pretty open about how I think the Blue Jays should acquire Jose Berrios to bolster this club’s starting rotation but can honestly say I am shocked that the organization was willing to give up two top prospects like Martin and SWR to get the deal done.

Looking at other deadline deals over the past few days, it does appear at first glance that the Blue Jays may have overpaid for Berrios and quite a few people will agree/disagree with the trade when the dust finally settles later this afternoon. Berrios does have the pedigree to be a top arm in the rotation and is under contract for another season, which is why the Blue Jays had to sacrifice a few top prospects to get the deal done.

For those of you who follow prospects and the Jays farm system, this deal hurts in that Martin and SWR could potentially be key contributors at the major league level in the near distant future. With this trade, it appears that the front office appears confident in Pearson and fellow infield prospect Jordan Groshans has the potential to be major league starters, making both Martin and SWR expendable for trades.

Does this seem like an overpay? Sure it does, as both players heading to the Twins are most likely going to be major league contributors within the next few years but for veteran arms who can impact the rotation, it makes sense why the club was forced to send Martin and SWR.

What this trade does is solidifies the notion that the Blue Jays are ready to compete over the next two seasons with the current core to try and run for a World Series Championship. Berrios helps with that goal in the now and the Jays still do have some top prospects coming up through the pipeline like Gabriel Moreno and Orelvis Martinez, both of whom could easily be major league contributors in their own right within the next few years alongside Pearson and Groshans.

Some will agree, some will disagree but this trade does help the current roster and does give the Blue Jays a better shot at securing a spot in the postseason, whether you believe it is an overpay or not.

What are your thoughts Blue Jays fans?

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