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Manfred wants expanded playoffs format to continue, but with adjustments – Sportsnet.ca

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TORONTO – Rob Manfred wants expanded playoffs to continue beyond this year with fewer than 16 teams and better rewards for division winners, a shift from the format the Toronto Blue Jays capitalized on to return to the post-season.

The current system was agreed to by Major League Baseball and the players association hours before opening day on July 23 and applies to the 2020 season only. In an interview with sportsnet.ca on Friday, the commissioner said he’s in favour of proceeding with more than the 10 teams that have reached the post-season since 2012, but with a tougher barrier-to-entry.

“I think the 16-team format was a good format for the 60-game unique season we’ve been playing in 2020. The principle reason for that is in a shortened season, it seemed like giving more teams access to the post-season was the right thing to do, the fair thing to do, No. 1,” he said. “No. 2, I do think the way things played out this year, the 16-team format has created a lot of excitement right up through the last weekend. Our biggest problem right now is that we don’t know where the heck people are going and can’t plan as far in advance as people might like. I do think it’s been really exciting for the fans.

“The third thing I would say,” Manfred added, “over the long haul, if we continue with the expanded playoffs, I think it would be fewer teams — not 16 — and I think there could be structures that are built in that preserve the incentive, for example, to win the division, preserve the incentive to play hard all the way through the 162-game season, so that the additional teams in the playoffs do not detract from the regular season. The regular season is a really important product for us and believe me, believe me, whatever we do more permanently, we will protect the value of that regular-season product.”

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Alterations to the playoff format in 2021, the final year of the current collective bargaining agreement, would require union approval.

The only advantage for division winners this year under the 16-team format is that they, along with the top second-place finisher, host all the games in the best-of-three wild-card round. Advancing clubs will then gather in bubbles in California and Texas for the division, league championship and World Series.

The Blue Jays, who clinched a post-season berth Thursday, are likely to enter the playoffs as the eighth seed — although they can still surpass the New York Yankees as the second-place finisher in the American League East.

Manfred said he’s “thrilled at the rebuild Toronto has gone through and the success they enjoyed this year,” coming after the club was denied permission to host its regular-season home games by the Canadian government, and had subsequent plans to tenant in Pittsburgh and Baltimore shot down by state governments.

That led the Blue Jays to settle on Buffalo’s Sahlen Field, a plan that initially worried Manfred but ultimately exceeded his expectations.

“My concern when the decision was finally made about Buffalo was, No. 1, timing. It wasn’t just where they were going, they didn’t have a heck of a lot of time to get organized. No. 2, look, no rap on minor-league facilities in general or Buffalo in particular, our major-league facilities are really, really nice and players are used to a certain level of facility to go to work in.

“I was really concerned about our ability to deliver that,” said Manfred. “On both of those topics, the Toronto Blue Jays management team, Mark (Shapiro), Marnie Starkman, what they accomplished – and I did go to Buffalo, I saw it myself – is unbelievable, literally unbelievable.

“Not only was it playable, and serviceable, but the work they did actually created that feeling of this is the Blue Jays’ home, which I think is really important to the psyche of the team and the ability of the team to perform, and an unbelievable accomplishment given the tight timeframe.”

Livestream Toronto Blue Jays games all season with Sportsnet NOW. Plus, watch marquee MLB matchups, the post-season and World Series.

Whether the Blue Jays will be allowed to return home next season is far from certain and Manfred doesn’t know whether baseball’s rebound from early-season outbreaks among the Miami Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals is enough to change the Canadian government’s outlook.

“The one thing I can say is that we will do everything humanly possible to convince the government that the Blue Jays should play in Toronto next year,” added Manfred, who also answered questions about how adapted protocols helped save the season, considerations for next year, the future of expanded rosters and whether the pandemic has impacted the Tampa Bay Rays’ dual city plan with Montreal.

Sportsnet: After the outbreaks on the Marlins and Cardinals, which of the mid-stream changes you implemented do you feel helped turned the tide and allowed you to reach this point?

Rob Manfred: I would point to two things. First, after the, and as a result of, particularly the Cardinals situation, we realized that the key consideration was not when could you play again, but instead, what do we have to do to make sure the virus doesn’t spread among the team. You saw a change in approach after the Cardinals where immediately when we found a positive, we shut everybody down and just waited it out until we were sure we didn’t have spread. That was really important.

The second thing is kind of nature. Throughout the year we asked a lot of the players, we asked them to change the way they play the game on the field, we asked them to change the way they lived their private lives, to tell you the truth. The two early incidents just drove home to everybody involved, us, our managers/coaches, front office personnel and the players, that attention to detail, the masks, the distancing is just absolutely crucial.

SN: Hopefully the world is a safer place next year as it relates to COVID-19, but if things level off where we’re at right now, could the protocols currently in place be employed over a 162-game season?

Manfred: That’s too much of a crystal ball for me. Obviously the longer you go, the tougher it is to maintain the (current) model, the more likely it is you’re going to have lapses. All I can say to you about that is what happens next year is going to be dictated by the course of the virus.

SN: The Blue Jays, among others, really leveraged expanded rosters this year. Given all the injuries experienced this year, the shortened body of work for pitchers, and interrupted player-development supply, can a season be safely conducted with only 26 on the roster next year?

Manfred: I think it’s realistic that at some point next year, we could get back to 26. What I would say to you is I suspect, depending on the course of the virus, that there would be a number of operational issues that we’ll have to work through with the MLBPA.

Even if we have a vaccine and everything is good on the health front, there are going to be some results from 2020 that are going to require us to have those kinds of conversations and to continue to show some type of creativity and flexibility to put a quality product out there.

Ben Nicholson-Smith is Sportsnet’s baseball editor. Arden Zwelling is a senior writer. Together, they bring you the most in-depth Blue Jays podcast in the league, covering off all the latest news with opinion and analysis, as well as interviews with other insiders and team members.

SN: What’s your sense at this point of what the minor-leagues are going to look like in 2021 between the expected cutting of teams and the need to restart some wider scale player development?

Manfred: Too early to tell on that one. The only thing I can say on that is we recognize that player development is the long-term lifeblood of the industry and whatever form it takes, there probably will be more activity next year than there was this.

SN: For baseball fans in Montreal, how has the pandemic impacted the Rays’ dual-city plan and MLB’s outlook for potential expansion?

Manfred: The Rays process, probably not significantly affected given the timing of that process. With respect to expansion, it’s hard not to admit that, to the extent that there was a certain timeline where expansion was going to be considered, I would say that the pandemic has probably pushed that timeline back.

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Rams dominate matchup of tough defences to prevail over Bears – TSN

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. — The Rams could tell Leonard Floyd was playing with an uncommon fury against his old team, and the rest of the Los Angeles defence followed his lead.

By the time the Rams were done with the Chicago Bears on Monday night, Floyd had two sacks and the game ball — and Los Angeles had a decisive, energizing victory over a fellow NFC contender.

Josh Reynolds and Gerald Everett caught touchdown passes from Jared Goff, and the Rams won a matchup of dominant defences, beating the Bears 24-10.

“We proved that we were the better defence today,” Floyd said after a six-tackle performance in his first game against Chicago since the Bears released him last off-season.

After his first sack, Floyd jumped up and went toward the Bears sideline, shouting and gesticulating at the team that let him go. Floyd already knows he landed in a good spot with the Rams (5-2), who remained unbeaten at brand-new SoFi Stadium and reasserted themselves in the conference hierarchy with a rebound performance one week after a rough loss at San Francisco

“I thought our defence was outstanding from start to finish,” Rams coach Sean McVay said. “They did such a great job. Some key stops, some key turnovers. Offensively, we did enough to get that lead and then really just run out the clock on that game.”

Goff passed for 219 yards and Malcolm Brown rushed for a score for the Rams, but their defence did the hardest work.

Taylor Rapp made an end-zone interception on a pass deflection by Troy Hill while the Rams held Chicago (5-2) to 182 yards in the first three quarters and built a 24-3 lead.

Eddie Jackson returned a fumble 8 yards for Chicago’s only touchdown with 7:30 to play, but Los Angeles’ defence stayed in control, yielding 279 total yards and three points. The Rams have won twice in three defence-dominated games between these longtime rivals over the past three seasons.

“Obviously, stating the obvious, the offence, we’ve got to get this stuff figured out,” Chicago coach Matt Nagy said. “It’s not good enough, and to be outscored by your defence, obviously, is unacceptable, too. So that part is frustrating.”

Nick Foles passed for 261 yards for the Bears, who dropped out of the NFC North lead and fell to 3-1 on the road with their latest discouraging offensive performance. Chicago managed just 49 yards rushing and has 175 yards on the ground in the past four games.

Jackson insisted the defence won’t get discouraged by the offence’s struggles.

“It’s a team sport, and we know the type of players we have on offence,” Jackson said. “We’ll put ’em against any defence any day. You’re going to come up short in some games … but we’re going to continue to rally around one another and do our best.”

The Rams’ defence, now co-ordinated by former Bears outside linebackers coach Brandon Staley, sacked Foles four times and picked off two of his passes, including Jalen Ramsey‘s first interception of the season near midfield to clinch the victory with 3:13 to play.

Staley also was awarded a game ball by McVay after the latest in a strong line of performances by his defence.

“The defence, we’re playing aggressive, we’re playing physical, and we’re making all the right plays,” said linebacker Justin Hollins, who had a huge fourth-down sack in the red zone after Aaron Donald flushed Foles from the pocket in the fourth quarter. “Everybody is on one page. We’re just one tight unit right now.”

The Rams led 10-3 at halftime after holding the Bears to 126 yards. Reynolds made his 4-yard TD reception in the first quarter, but the Bears stopped two additional drives just outside field goal range to keep the deficit manageable.

The Rams went up 17-3 midway through the third quarter on a TD drive capped by Brown’s 1-yard run.

Chicago mounted its best drive immediately thereafter, but its 71-yard march ended when Hill deflected a pass intended for Darnell Mooney in the end zone and Rapp snagged it for an interception.

The Rams followed with a crisp 80-yard drive capped by a 12-yard TD catch-and-run by Everett, their big-play tight end.

Chicago showed life when Jackson returned Robert Woods‘ fumble on a jet sweep for the sixth defensive touchdown of his four-year career, but the Bears couldn’t ride any momentum.

PRIMO PUNTING

Even Rams punter Johnny Hekker dominated the Bears, pinning them inside their 10 with all five of his punts in a superb performance by the four-time Pro Bowler.

“Johnny is the best punter in the league, and he showed it tonight,” Goff said. “He really was a weapon for us.”

The Rams celebrated his big kicks as a team, and Hekker even got a chest bump from Donald, LA’s All-Pro defensive tackle.

“It’s just great to know that Aaron Donald knows my name sometimes,” Hekker said with a laugh.

INJURY REPORT

Bears: WR Allen Robinson was evaluated for a concussion after he left the game late in the fourth quarter. He led the Bears with 70 yards receiving. … C Cody Whitehair injured his calf in the second half.

Rams: Rookie S Terrell Burgess was taken off the field on a cart in the fourth quarter with an air cast around his left leg. He has an ankle injury. … TE Tyler Higbee was inactive with a hand injury, missing his second game since 2016. Johnny Mundt had a career-high 47 yards receiving in his absence, including a career-best 34-yard catch in the second quarter.

UP NEXT

Bears: Host New Orleans on Sunday.

Rams: Visit Miami on Sunday as the opponent in Tua Tagovailoa‘s debut start.

___

More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

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Naylor: David Braley symbolized the past 30 years of the CFL – TSN

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How to sum up David Braley’s meaning to the Canadian Football League?

Braley, the Ontario-based businessman and former Senator who passed away Monday at the age of 79, was at various times the owner of three teams in a nine-team league, including the Toronto Argonauts in whom he held a secret ownership position at the same time he owned the BC Lions.

He served as the CFL’s chairman of the board and took on the commissioner’s role in 2003 after he led the charge to oust Michael Lysko in 2002.

And until recently, when poor health interfered with his ability to participate in the business of the CFL, he was a powerful presence among league governors, so much so that every commissioner had to be aware of where Braley stood on key issues and be prepared to deal with being on the opposite side.

It became a common refrain among people within the league that there would be no Canadian Football League without Braley. And yet, he was both loved and loathed by those within it. Some considered him the league’s biggest benefactor, while others considered him a ruthless profiteer.

Braley grew up in Hamilton, Ont., rooting for the Tiger-Cats. He had played football in high school and at McMaster University, and was a Tiger-Cat season ticket holder before, during and after his ownership of the team, which went from 1989 until he sold the team in 1992 over his opposition to the CFL’s plan to expand to the U.S.

He re-entered the CFL officially as the savior of the Lions in late 1996, one of three CFL franchises insolvent by the end of that season. Braley claimed a federal cabinet minister had warned him that the CBC would bail as a TV partner if the league couldn’t field a Vancouver franchise the next season, so he stepped up.

When the Toronto Argonauts went bankrupt in 2003 under the ownership of Sherwood Schwartz, Braley was front and centre in the search for new owners, trying to broker a deal with Toronto businessmen David Cynamon and Howard Sokolowski.

The pair balked at the losses they’d be inheriting with the Argonauts. So Braley offered to be their partner, an arrangement that was known only by then-commissioner Tom Wright and select others before it was revealed in a 2009 Globe and Mail story.

The league subsequently passed bylaws requiring internal disclosure of all financial arrangements between teams. Braley eventually took over full ownership of the Argos in 2010, then sold the team to Bell and Larry Tanenbaum in 2016.

In its darkest hours, the CFL could always count on Braley, or so it seemed. He was there when the Lions and Argos needed new ownership, but also at various times over the past three decades when teams found themselves short on cash.

It’s believed he loaned money to every team in the CFL at least once, except for the Edmonton Eskimos. That includes to the Tiger-Cats during the years after he sold them to a non-profit group when he would continue to quietly write cheques to help the team make payroll. Braley’s name may not have been on the franchise, but he remained its primary financial backer.

That kind of financial influence in such a small league granted him enormous power, and Braley was never shy about trying to wield his influence over the direction of the league.

He also appeared to be rewarded with a disproportionate number of occasions to host the Grey Cup, which, in most circumstances, is a surefire money-maker. The Braley-owned Lions or Argos hosted the game five times over a 10-year period from 2005 to 2014.

Braley had created his wealth from scratch, taking a loan to purchase an industrial distributing company from a former neighbour, then shifting its focus into becoming a global auto parts manufacturing giant.

He was a well-known for his frugality as his wealth, a pattern demonstrated when he purchased the Tiger-Cats from an ailing Harold Ballard for $500,000, financed with proceeds from the team’s five-year sponsorship agreement with Player’s Tobacco.

That frugality was legendary in the CFL. Despite his wealth, Braley was known to be reluctant to spend on what he considered unnecessary frills for his teams and the league.

His views on the business of the CFL were rooted in traditional approaches to marketing and selling tickets, and he privately railed against the league putting every game on television, favouring blackouts because he believed it would mean better business at the turnstiles.

He had waxed about selling the Lions for at least a decade, engaging with different groups of potential owners but always deciding either the timing or the group itself and what it was willing to pay for the team wasn’t right.

That seemed to do the franchise no favours as he continued to hang on as both his own health and that of his franchise was slipping.

Though the belief in Vancouver is that any Lions business turnaround has to start with new ownership, Braley’s ownership has been viewed as a safety net for the franchise during the pandemic, given his willingness to financially stabilize the franchise.

He was believed to be among the owners who were willing to play a shortened 2020 season, even without government support.

Braley in so many ways symbolized the past 30 years of the CFL: rooted in tradition, dependent on philanthropy and run by a powerful few.

There will never be another like him.

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Edmonton Oilers dressing room icon Joey Moss dies

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Gretzky’s call has been difficult the last two years with Alzheimer’s and the complications involving Down syndrome at this stage of Moss’ life and especially this year with his hip surgery and the isolations involving the hospital and the facility relating to the coronavirus pandemic.

COVID-19, however, was not a factor in his death.

“Janet & I are saddened to learn about the passing of Joey Moss. Not only was Joey a fixture in the Edmonton dressing room, he was someone I truly considered a friend. We will miss you Joey and you will always live on through our memories. Our thoughts are with Joey’s loved ones,” Gretzky said in a statement.

“On behalf of all the players who had the honour to get to know him, we are so saddened to hear the news of Joey’s passing. We were all lucky enough to be part of his life for a lot of years. His love for life always brought a smile to anyone who met him. Whether it was a coffee before practice or a big hug after a great win or a tough loss, he would put life in perspective. He will be missed but not forgotten, Once an Oiler always an Oiler. RIP Joe.”

There was almost certainly never a member of a sports franchise custodial staff so loved by a community or as famous as Joey Moss.

There are a lot of much less famous members of the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame than Moss, who was inducted in 2015.

Stafford, whenever asked about Joey Moss, always made the point:

“He’s not a locker room attendant to anyone who knows him and works with him. He’s part of the team. In a lot of ways he’s the face of the Oilers.”

Source: – Edmonton Sun

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