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Manfred passes huge test; MLB is in very good hands – TSN

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There are some people who believe that this week has been one of the darkest periods in the history of baseball.

But I believe it has been one of the best weeks for Major League Baseball.

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Baseball is in a better place today than it was on Monday, when MLB commissioner Rob Manfred dropped a sledgehammer on the Houston Astros, suspending AJ Hinch, the club’s manager, and general manager Jeff Luhnow for the entire 2020 season for their team’s sign-stealing schemes in 2017 and 2018.

Sure, there has been some pain and there will likely be more as the sign-stealing scandals unravel. But the game is getting cleaner and healthier.  

And clearly baseball is in very good hands. Manfred has proven to be a man of his word. 

In his Sept. 15, 2017 memo to all managers and general managers, he put clubs on notice that any efforts to steal signs using electronic devices would be punished with serious sanctions and a possible loss of draft picks. This was after an investigation proved that the Boston Red Sox had used an Apple Watch in the dugout to communicate with their replay review room, relaying signs to runners on second base and ultimately to hitters. 

In addition to the suspensions, the Astros lost two first-round picks and two second-round picks, plus the organization received the biggest fine allowed per the MLB Constitution ($5 million). Astros owner Jim Crane took the commissioner’s ruling even further by terminating the employment of his suspended manager and general manager. 

Baseball’s investigation revealed an arrogant and blatant attempt to cheat by the Astros, even after the warning from the commissioner. In fact, the Astros’ sign stealing led to an 8-1 home record in the 2017 postseason, compared to a 3-6 road record in route to a World Series championship victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers. Sign-stealing worked.

Strike One!

The mastermind of the Astros’ cheating plan was bench coach Alex Cora, who parlayed the Astros success into his first managerial job as he was hired to manage the Boston Red Sox in 2018.

When he packed his bags to head to Boston, he boldly brought with him the same sign-stealing tactics that worked so well in Houston. They did the job in Boston as the Red Sox went on to win the 2018 World Series, also against the Dodgers. Unfortunately for Cora, the MLB investigation into the Astros opened doors into what he was doing in Boston and he was soon in hot water for his actions in both places.

Red Sox, manager Cora agree to part ways

The Boston Red Sox fired manager Alex Cora on Tuesday, a day after baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred implicated him in the sport’s sign-stealing scandal.

The Red Sox decided on Tuesday to “mutually agree” (they fired him) to part ways with Cora. He had won two rings but lost the one job he had always wanted. 

Strike Two!

There was not a single player disciplined by the commissioner in the Astros investigation as Manfred gave immunity to players involved in order to get to the bottom of the story. Plus no player could unilaterally implement a sign-stealing scheme using technology without the assistance of a coach, manager or the front office. 

The only player named in the MLB investigation of the Astros was veteran outfielder Carlos Beltran. Per the report, Beltran along with Cora, spearheaded the plan in Houston and oversaw its ongoing maintenance and adjustments. 

So why was Beltran’s name included in the report? Likely because when the story first broke Beltran denied multiple times to the media that he knew anything about it. Based upon the investigation, Beltran’s denials were lies. 

Beltran’s actions have put the New York Mets in the spotlight now as they hired him as their new manager in early November. In his introductory press conference in New York, general manager Brodie Van Wagenen referenced Beltran’s trustworthiness as a big reason why he was hired. 

He will not be disciplined by the commissioner for his role with the Astros, but the Mets now have to decide whether Beltran can still function in his role leading the team and interacting with the media. Whether he can or not remains to be seen, but his ability to thrive in his new role in New York has been significantly compromised.

Strike Three!

Discipline and penalties have two functions: penalizing and deterring. The commissioner delivered both with his sledgehammer.

PENALTIES

The Astros now know their penalties and will now suffer for them. The Red Sox have lost their manager and will likely face the loss of draft picks and face steep fines like the Astros. The penalties will appropriately and significantly set back the two franchises in the short and mid-term. 

DETERRENT

The suspensions and ultimate dismissal of the managers and general manager involved in the sign-stealing scandals will have the desired effect. No manager or general manager will allow sign stealing to occur ever again.

The loss of a job, reputation, credibility and money will serve as a very worthy deterrent moving forward. The penalties have made it personal for the managers and general managers. There is no way any team’s manager and general manager will allow a player or coach on their team to cost them their jobs ever again. The pain of the penalties outweigh the benefits of cheating. And just as they should.

The history of sign stealing in baseball

ESPN’s Keith Olbermann examines the history of sign stealing in baseball, and the lack of punishment that teams have historically gotten for the violation.

Cheating compromises the integrity of the game. In the end, it hurts everyone. Commissioner Manfred has taken a huge step toward restoring that integrity.

It is indeed a bright day for baseball!

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Jubilant Latvians given national holiday after shock ice hockey win over USA

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Latvians woke up to go to work Monday morning, only to find they didn’t have to. Their parliament had met at midnight to declare a holiday after the national ice hockey team chalked up its best result at the world championship.

Latvia, where hockey is hugely popular, co-hosted the men’s championship with Finland, and the country’s 4-3 overtime victory over the United States for the bronze medal on Sunday was greeted with jubilation.

A plane bringing the team home from Finland flew at low altitude over central Riga on Monday to greet thousands of fans who had gathered to welcome the squad.

At quarter to midnight on Sunday, members of parliament, sporting red-and-white national team jerseys, convened for a 10-minute session to unanimously declare the holiday.

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It was “to strengthen the fact of significant success of Latvian athletes in the social memory of the society,” according to the bill’s sponsors.

The bill was introduced by a smiling member of parliament with her face painted in the colors of the national flag. Another giggled while trying to read out the names of absent parliamentarians, to laughter from many in the hall. There was an ovation from everyone present after the final vote.

But as dawn broke, there was confusion about who was working and who was not. Court hearings were canceled and schools and universities were closed, but national exams for high school students went ahead, with staff paid at holiday rates. Several hospitals chose to stay open to honor doctor appointments.

Businesses found themselves in some disarray, with Aigars Rostovskis, the president of the Latvian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, telling public broadcaster LSM: “It will be chaos for many.”

Canada won the gold medal, the team’s record 28th world title, by defeating Germany 5-2 on Sunday.

 

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Kamloops Blazers rout Peterborough Petes 10-2 in Memorial Cup – ESPN – ESPN India

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KAMLOOPS, British Columbia — Logan Stankoven had a goal and four assists, Connor Levis had a goal and two assists and the Kamloops Blazers routed the Ontario Hockey League champion Peterborough Petes 10-2 in the Memorial Cup on Sunday.

The win came after Kamloops defenseman Kyle Masters was taken off the ice on a stretcher after he was hit and fell backward into the corner boards with less than seven minutes remaining. There was no immediate word on Masters’ condition.

Ryan Michael, Fraser Minten, Ashton Ferster, Matthew Seminoff, Dylan Sydor, Jakub Demek, Matthew Seminoff and Ryan Hofer each scored goals for the Blazers, who bounced back from an 8-3 loss to the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League champion Quebec Remparts on Friday night.

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Caedan Bankier and Olen Zellweger also added two assists each for the Blazers, who scored four power-play goals and improved to 1-1 in the four-team, 10-day tournament.

Peterborough dropped to 0-2 and must beat Quebec on Tuesday to advance.

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IIHF Hockey: Canada downs Germany 5-2

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TAMPERE, Finland –

Sammy Blais scored twice as Canada beat Germany 5-2 to capture gold at the men’s world hockey championship today.

Lawson Crouse, captain Tyler Toffoli and Scott Laughton also scored, and Peyton Krebs pitched in two assists for Canada.

“It feels really good,” Blais said. “We’ve been in Europe for a month and we’ve all waited for that moment to play for the gold-medal game. And we’re lucky enough to have won it.”

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JJ Peterka and Daniel Fischbuch scored for Germany, which was in the gold-medal game for the first time since 1992 when the playoff format was introduced at the world championship. Moritz Seider added two assists.

Goaltender Samuel Montembeault made 21 saves for Canada, while German netminder Mathias Niederberger turned away 23 shots.

Canada won gold for the second time in three years after losing to Finland in overtime in last year’s world championship gold-medal game. It’s Canada’s 28th title at the event, the most of any country. Canada also has 16 silver and eight bronze medals from the tourney since 1931.

“I could not be more proud of this group. We battled through a lot of adversity and doubt to get to this point, and this win is so special,” Toffoli said. “We have such a close-knit team that came together quickly, and we always believed in each other.

“Everyone bought in and we played a great game today, and I am incredibly happy to be going back to Canada with a gold medal.”

Peterka opened the scoring for Germany at 7:44 of the first period with a wrist shot from the top of the left circle off a breakout that beat Montembeault.

Blais responded three minutes later, scoring in his third consecutive game after finishing off a pass from centre Peyton Krebs on a two-on-one to tie the game at 1-1.

Fischbuch gave Germany the lead again on a one-timer from the slot that trickled into the net 13:47 into the second period.

Canada replied with Crouse deflecting a pass from Krebs on the power play with 2:32 remaining in the second frame.

Blais then buried his second of the game 4:51 into the third period with a backhand off a rebound to put Canada ahead.

Toffoli added an insurance marker with eight minutes left, scoring with a wrist shot on a two-on-one to make it 4-2 in favour of Canada.

Laughton scored into an empty net with two minutes left to put the game out of reach.

“The commitment of everyone on our team was unbelievable. We knew we had to come here and play for each other and commit to a team game. We came here to represent Canada and make our country proud, and I am so blessed to be a part of this group,” said head coach Andre Tourigny.

“Our players wanted to win so bad. They wanted to bring a gold medal back to Canada, and when you have that mindset you can accomplish great things, and we did that tonight.”

Following the gold-medal game, MacKenzie Weegar was named best defenceman of the tournament and was selected to the media all-star team. Crouse, Montembeault and Weegar were also named Team Canada’s three best players of the tournament following the semifinals.

LATVIA 4 UNITED STATES 3 (OT)

Defenceman Kristian Rubins scored his second goal 1:22 into overtime to lead Latvia to victory over the United States and earn a bronze medal earlier Sunday.

It’s the first top-three finish for Latvia at the tournament. Its previous best was a seventh place it managed three times.

The U.S. lost in the bronze-medal game for the second straight year. The U.S. team was cruising through the tournament with eight straight wins until it was defeated by Germany in the semifinal, 4-3 in overtime.

Rubins rallied Latvia with his first with 5:39 to go in the final period to tie the game at -33 to force overtime.

Roberts Bukarts and Janis Jaks also scored for Latvia.

Rocco Grimaldi scored twice for the U.S. in the opening period to negate Latvia’s 1-0 and 2-1 leads.

Matt Coronato had put the U.S. 3-2 ahead 6:19 into the final period.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published May 28, 2023.

 

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