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MLB finalizes 2020 return, sides agree to health protocols – theScore



Baseball is back.

Major League Baseball and the players’ association reached an agreement Tuesday on health and safety protocols for the 60-game 2020 season.

“Major League Baseball is thrilled to announce that the 2020 season is on the horizon,” commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement. “We have provided the players’ association with a schedule to play 60 games and are excited to provide our great fans with baseball again soon.”

Camps will open July 1, with the “vast majority” of teams staging camps at their home ballparks, according to the league.

Due to restrictions at the Canada-United States border, Toronto Blue Jays players are expected to report to the team’s minor-league complex in Dunedin, Florida, according to Rob Longley of the Toronto Sun. The Washington Nationals‘ use of Nationals Park for their camp is contingent on the District of Columbia lifting COVID-19 restrictions, according to MASN’s Mark Zuckerman.

Opening Day will take place on July 23 or 24.

The schedule – MLB’s shortest since 1878 – will be based on regional alignment. Each team will face its divisional opponents 40 times, plus another 20 interleague games against its geographic divisional counterparts (for example, AL East teams will play 20 contests against the NL East). Each team will only make one road trip to cities on the schedule, according to Ronald Blum of The Associated Press.

Other unique features of the shortened season reportedly include an Aug. 31 trade deadline, 30-man rosters for the first two weeks, and optional taxi squads for road games.

Teams must designate 60 eligible players to be part of a “player pool” for the 2020 season, according to Chris Cotillo of MassLive. The pools will include all 40-man roster players plus 20 additional selections. No club can exceed 60 players at any time, and inactive players not on a taxi squad would stay at an alternate training site.

The normal 10-day injured list will remain, but the long-term 60-day IL will now change to 45 days. An additional IL for players dealing with COVID-19 will also be implemented, a special list that won’t come with a minimum or maximum length, Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports.

Players must also complete a COVID-19 education program before arriving at spring training, according to Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle. The program includes watching an educational video and taking classes.

Television broadcasters are not expected to travel with their teams, Cotillo reports. However, local radio broadcasters will be permitted to call games on the road.

Earlier Tuesday, players agreed to report to camps. Health and safety protocols were the last hurdle remaining to end the prolonged standoff between the MLB and MLBPA and finalize a 2020 season.

MLB announced Monday that all 30 owners voted to implement the 2020 schedule after the union rejected their final proposal.

The 2020 season had been slated to start on March 26 before the coronavirus pandemic forced MLB to delay the beginning of the campaign.

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How NHL plans to operate secure ‘bubbles’ in Toronto and Edmonton – TSN



The NHL and NHL Players’ Association have finalized a tentative agreement on Phase 3 and 4 protocols to open training camps and resume the 2019-20 season inside secure “bubbles” in Toronto and Edmonton.

The two sides continue to hammer out language and details for memorandum of understanding (MOU) on an imminent, new six-year Collective Bargaining Agreement. 

When that is agreed upon, the entire package – the Phase 3 and 4 protocols and CBA extension – will need to be ratified by both the NHL’s Board of Governors and the NHLPA’s full membership. Those votes are expected to occur some time this week.

For now, all of the details surrounding how the NHL plans to operate and maintain what it is calling a “secure zone” have emerged for the first time:

> In the Bubble: Each team will be permitted to bring a maximum of 52 individuals inside the secure zone, including ownership, players, coaches, executives and staff.

Teams are permitted to bring no more than 31 players. The list of each traveling part must be submitted to the NHL by July 13, the day training camps are scheduled to open.

Each team will have at least one physician, one security representative, one club Phase 4 compliance officer, and one content creator / social media member included in the traveling party.

> Testing: Every person inside the NHL’s “bubble” will be tested for COVID-19 daily via nasal swab, also administered temperature checks and symptom screenings.

The list of people requiring daily testing is massive and includes but is not limited to: all players, staff, officials, arena ice crew, security, hotel bartenders, food service staff, arena food and beverage staff, hotel housekeeping, hotel kitchen and food prep staff, and bus drivers. Simply put, any person who has contact or may come into contact (even indirectly) will be tested daily.

With 24 teams inside the bubble (at 52 people per team), that is 1,248 tests required daily for team personnel only. Add in all of the other levels and it is easy to imagine the NHL requiring upwards of 2,000 tests daily to begin the 24-team tournament. That is 20,000 tests in first 10 days alone.

> Calling it off: At any time before or during play in the 24-team tournament, the NHL and NHLPA have the ability to postpone, delay, move or cancel any games in the event conditions present “risk to player health and safety” and/or jeopardize “the integrity of the competition.”

Those conditions may include “an uncontrolled outbreak of COVID-19 in the players of one or more clubs” participating in the tournament. No specific number of positive cases was provided in the protocol to define the “uncontrolled outbreak” threshold. The NHL has maintained that singular or even multiple isolated positive tests will not halt play.

The NHLPA may contest any ruling from commissioner Gary Bettman in the form of an “expedited arbitration of a grievance” before an impartial arbitrator.

> Compliance: Any team that violates the rules set in the protocol will be subject to “significant penalties, potentially including fines and/or loss of draft picks.” Any player who refuses to follow the testing and monitoring protocol will not be allowed to participate and may be subject to permanent removal from the bubble.

> Opt-out: Any player may choose to not participate in the return-to-play tournament for any reason and without penalty. The deadline to opt-out will be three days after this return-to-play protocol package is ratified by a vote, likely giving players at least until July 13, when the list of each traveling party is due.

> Bubble life: Each bubble will be tightly secured, no one will be able to enter/exit that is not authorized. Players will be living in single occupancy rooms, no roommates, with each team assigned designated floors. Players are not permitted to enter each other’s rooms. Housekeeping will be provided every third day. Hotel bars and restaurants will be open and available in the bubble, provided social distancing is followed.

Players will have access to hotel pool and fitness centre. Each club will be provided with a designated meeting space in the hotel. Each person will also have access to contactless room service delivery, as well as delivery from local restaurants available for pick-up.

The NHL is also planning for league-approved “excursions” both inside and outside of the bubble. Think designated tee times at a local golf club, etc. All transportation will be provided to/from the excursion and social distancing, face coverings and personal hygiene measures will be mandatory. There will also be outdoor areas to walk, exercise and mingle on campus.

> Masks mandatory: A cloth or surgical mask is required to be worn by any individual in the bubble when outside of their hotel room. Masks may be removed during exercise and play on the ice, as well as when eating and/or drinking. Coaches are not required to wear masks on the bench; on-ice officials are not required to wear masks during games. Broadcasters and players being interviewed are also not required to wear a mask, provided appropriate social distancing is followed.

> Arriving in the bubble: Every person will be tested three times, 48 hours apart, in the seven days prior to their charter flight to the bubble. They will not be subject to quarantine upon arrival, including for teams/players/staff coming from the United States. Daily testing will begin upon arrival. During the first five days inside the bubble (exhibition games), individuals will only be allowed to engage in social interaction with people from their own team’s traveling party.

> Leaving the bubble: Players who are authorized to leave the bubble for a medical reason or extenuating personal circumstance (birth of a child or death of a family member, etc.) will be permitted to return. They will be forced to quarantine on return pending four negative tests over a four-day period – or longer, depending on the location they visited outside the bubble and those circumstances.

> Family visits: Players’ immediate families (spouse/significant other and children only) will be permitted to join the NHL’s bubble during the Conference Finals and Stanley Cup Final in Edmonton. Families will be allowed to stay in the same hotel room as the player, only after an acceptable quarantine and daily testing have been conducted inside the bubble.

That means players advancing to the Conference Final will go a minimum of five weeks away from their families.

> Help at home: While players are gone, NHL teams will offer to assist families remaining at home by providing grocery delivery and errand delivery services. 

> Positive tests: Any person inside the bubble who tests positive will immediately be isolated. 

A second “confirmatory” test will be administered. If that test returns positive, then that person will be instructed to isolate until medical clearance is administered. Even if that confirmatory test is negative, that person shall remain isolated and will be tested again in 24 hours – only until a second negative test is provided will that person be permitted to exit isolation.

An ‘asymptomatic’ confirmed positive case will be allowed to rejoin after two consecutive negative tests over a 48-hour period, or after 10 days of passage in isolation.

A ‘symptomatic’ confirmed positive case will also be able to rejoin after symptoms have subsided (no fever, no respiratory symptoms) for a minimum of 72 hours, provided the person was in self-isolation for a minimum of 10 days since the onset of symptoms. 

> Nondisclosure: No player who tests positive or develops symptoms will be identified to media or publicly, absent approval from the NHL or NHLPA.

> Player safety: Any player exiting isolation must “continue to refrain from exercise for a 14-day period from the time of the first positive test.” After that, players shall receive cardiac testing, including at a minimum: an ECG, echocardiogram and high-sensitivity troponin.

> Contact tracing: Any person considered to be in “close contact” with a positive test case – defined by the NHL as in contact for 15 minutes or longer at 6-feet or less – in the 48 hours leading up to the time of their positive test, will be immediately removed and tested. That person will then be monitored closely for a 14-day period.

> Cleaning procedures: Between every period during games, each bench area must be disinfected, including flooring, bench surface, top of dasher board and water bottle area. Vertical dividers will separate each players’ water bottle. All locker rooms, team spaces and event floor areas will also be disinfected daily.

Contact Frank Seravalli on Twitter: @frank_seravalli​

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Blue Jays’ Favourite Player: Mid Rotation Starter (Post-2000) – Bluebird Banter



Position player polls: C / 1B / 2B / SS / 3B / LF / CF / RF / DH / Bench

Pitcher polls: Ace / #2 Starter / Pre-2000 Mid

After looking at the mid-rotation starters up to 2000 the other day, we move on the mid-rotation starters who joined the team for the 2000 season or later. This is a list of guys who had some pretty good seasons for the Blue Jays, and individually could have had seasons that push them into the #2 territory, but overall they just were not quite as good as the guys on that list.

Esteban Loaiza (2000-2002)

The Blue Jays added Loaiza prior to the trade deadline in 2000, in the ill-fated trade that sent Darwin Cubillan and future All Star Michael Young back to Texas. At the time of the trade, the Jays were 1.5 games back of first place, in possession of a very powerful offense (that was the year with 7 different players over 20 home runs), and had a few bright spots on the pitching staff but just needed a bit more. Loaiza came over and had a pretty good finish to his season (3.62 ERA over 92 innings), but that wasn’t enough to propel the Jays to the playoffs.

His next two seasons in Toronto weren’t as good, as he went 20-21 with a 5.33 ERA (116 ERA-), although his FIP suggests he was pitching much better than the results he was getting, putting up a 4.51 mark in 2001 and even better 4.19 in 2002 (98 FIP- total over the 2 seasons).

The season after Loaiza left the Jays, he had easily the best season of his career, when he went 21-9 with a 2.90 ERA, finishing in second place to Roy Halladay. He was the starting pitcher for the AL in the All Star game that year too. But he was never that pitcher with the Jays. After his playing career was over, he has made a name for himself doing some not so great things.

Shaun Marcum (2005-2010)

The Jays drafted Marcum out of college in the third round of the 2003 draft, and he made his way to the Majors fairly quickly. He was in the bullpen as a September callup in 2005, and then spent the next couple years splitting time between the bullpen and rotation, picking up a 15-10 record and a 4.44 ERA.

He had a great season in 2008, making 25 starts and going 9-7 with a 3.39 ERA over 151.1 innings. However, after struggling to stay fully healthy throughout the second half of the season, he ended up blowing out his UCL in a September 16 start, and missed the entirety of the 2009 season as he recovered from Tommy John Surgery.

Fully recovered, Marcum took the ball for the Jays on opening day in 2010, and had another great season. He went 13-8 with a 3.64 ERA over 195.1 innings, putting up 4.1 bWAR and a 3.5 fWAR. That December, the Blue Jays shipped him off to Milwaukee, bringing back Brett Lawrie in return.

J.A. Happ (2012-2014, 2016-2018)

The Blue Jays sent several players to Houston prior to the 2012 trade deadline, bringing back their prized haul in Happ. Happ made 50 starts and another 8 relief appearances in his first stint, going 19-20 with a 4.39 ERA. The Jays traded Happ away after the 2014 season, bringing back Michael Saunders from the Mariners.

The Mariners flipped him to Pittsburgh at the trade deadline in 2015, and Happ revamped his game there. His success as a Pirate convinced the Jays to bring him back on a 3 year, $36m deal prior to the 2016 season.

Happ did not disappoint in his first season back, as he went 20-4 with a 3.18 ERA over 195.1 innings. He placed 6th in the Cy Young voting, and had some success in the playoffs that year too. He made just a pair of starts, allowing 3 runs over 10 innings, picking a win over the Rangers but a loss against Cleveland.

He was nearly as good his final year and a half as well, picking up another 20 wins for non-competitive teams, and completing his second stint as a Blue Jay with a 40-21 record and a 3.55 ERA. Overall, his entire Blue Jay career amounts to a 59-41 record with a 3.88 ERA, 11.1 fWAR and 10.6 bWAR.

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Mark Buehrle (2013-2015)

The Blue Jays brought Buehrle and a host of other expensive Major Leaguers over from the Marlins in the ill-fated Jeff Mathis trade in November 2012. The future Hall of Famer ended up being the best player that came to Toronto, and the only one still left on the team when they clinched the playoff spot in 2015. Sadly, Buehrle was left off the postseason roster, as his season wound down and he was clearly out of gas.

Buehrle had a pretty strong 3 year run in Toronto. Overall, he went 40-28 with a 3.78 ERA over 604.1 innings. He crossed the 200 inning threshold in the first 2 seasons (and 14 consecutive in his career), but fell 4 outs short of that mark in 2015 as a last ditch effort on 1 day of rest resulted in 8 runs over 0.2 innings in game 162.

He threw 5 complete games and 2 shutouts in his 3 seasons here. In the 4 years since he left, the Jays have 0 shutouts and just 3 complete games – 2 by Marcus Stroman, and 1 by Ryan Feierabend, a 5 inning rain shortened loss that will stump you on a future Sporcle from Minor Leaguer.

Papa Buehrle was a great mentor the younger pitchers, specifically Stroman. He brought a love of the game and a strong work ethic to the clubhouse, and he was a veteran that you could actually see providing the coveted yet unmeasurable Veteran Presence.

R.A. Dickey (2013-2016)

After the Jays pulled off the Mathis trade, the Jays realized that they still had a hole at the top of their rotation, and they traded for the reigning 2012 NL Cy Young winner. This Cy Young winner was a bit different though, as the 38 year old knuckleballer had just started coming into his own, and obviously wasn’t your typical overpowering ace. Nonetheless, Alex Anthopoulos pulled the trigger on the trade to send future ace Noah Syndergaard and top catching prospect Travis d’Arnaud back to the Mets.

The charismatic Dickey had a solid few years in Toronto, overall putting up a 49-52 record with a 4.05 ERA across 130 starts. He was also the 2013 AL Gold Glover winner on the mound, showing that he had some defensive value as well. That amounted to a 7.1 bWAR, but that also doesn’t account for the -2.0 bWAR that his personal catcher, Josh Thole, provided the Jays in that time too.

When the Jays finally made it to the playoffs in 2015, Dickey was right there making the start in game 4 of the ALDS against the Rangers, pitching 4.2 innings while allowing just 1 run. He didn’t fare nearly as well against the Royals in the ALCS however, lasting just 1.2 innings in game 4 while allowing 5 runs to kick off a 14-2 loss. Dickey was around in 2016, but was shut down in September and never made the playoff roster.

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Marco Estrada (2015-2018)

The Jays traded fan favourite first baseman/designated hitter Adam Lind to the Brewers prior to the 2015 season to bolster their pitching depth with Marco Estrada. Estrada was meant to go to the bullpen and provide a backup plan if there were holes in the rotation, but mainly be a swingman jumping between the bullpen and rotation as needed. After a month in the bullpen, he made his first start on May 5, and never pitched out of the bullpen for the Blue Jays again.

Estrada and his incredible changeup had some remarkable starts for the Blue Jays, with his best regular season effort coming on June 24 in Tampa Bay. He was perfect through 7 innings, ultimately making it 8.2 innings of 2 hits, no walks or runs, and 10 strikeouts. His ability to limit hits was incredible, and he led the league in hits allowed per 9 innings in both 2015 and 2016. Unfortunately back problems plagued a lot of his time with the Blue Jays, and he was never able to pitch more than 186 innings in any of his 4 seasons.

But he certainly was healthy when it came time for the playoffs. He pitched some of the biggest games for the Jays, including staving off elimination with gems in both game 3 of the 2015 ALDS, and game 5 of the 2015 ALCS. Over 41.2 playoff innings with the Jays, Estrada allowed just 10 earned runs on 29 hits, good enough for a 2.16 ERA. And when he was on, he made batters look absolutely foolish at the plate. (<— you want to click this link)

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Who was your favourite post-2000s mid rotation starter?

  • 0%

    Esteban Loaiza

    (0 votes)

  • 14%

    Shaun Marcum

    (52 votes)

  • 18%

    J.A. Happ

    (67 votes)

  • 18%

    Mark Buehrle

    (68 votes)

  • 0%

    R.A. Dickey

    (3 votes)

  • 47%

    Marco Estrada

    (175 votes)

365 votes total

Vote Now

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NHL, players’ association reach tentative agreement on protocols to resume season



The NHL and NHL Players’ Association agreed Sunday on protocols to resume the season, a major step toward the return of hockey this summer.

Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly told The Associated Press there was an agreement on protocols for training camps and games and the sides are still negotiating an extension of the collective bargaining agreement, which is crucial to the process.

A person with knowledge of the situation said the return-to-play protocols would only go into effect if each side votes to approve the full package of the CBA extension and return-to-play agreement. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because CBA talks are still ongoing.

To complete a return, two-thirds of the league’s board of governors and majorities of the players’ executive committee and full membership must vote in favour.

If everything is ratified, it will end a pandemic-forced shutdown that began in mid-March. Games would resume in late July or early August with 24 teams taking part in an expanded playoffs, finishing with the Stanley Cup being awarded in October.

The agreement was first reported by TSN.

The 47 pages of protocols outline the health and safety measures the league and players agreed to after several weeks of negotiations. Any player has until 5 p.m. EDT on Tuesday to notify his team if he’s choosing to opt out of participating in training camp and games, with an additional deadline expected after ratification of the agreement.

For those playing, each team is limited to 30 skaters and an unlimited amount of goaltenders for camp and total roster of up to 31 players for games. Each team is limited to 52 personnel in its game city, a group that must include two trainers, a doctor and compliance officer in addition players, coaches and management.

They are expected to be quarantined from the general public during play at least for the qualifying and first two traditional playoff rounds. Family members will be permitted to join when play is moved to one city for the conference finals and Stanley Cup Final.

All team and league employees plus hotel, restaurant and arena staff coming in contact with players will be tested daily in the two “hub” cities.

One player’s positive coronavirus test result is not expected to shut down play entirely. The league has said it would isolate any player or staff member who tests positive, acknowledging an outbreak would threaten the remainder of the season.

“The players will be pretty well-protected from being exposed,” Montreal Canadiens owner Geoff Molson said during a conference call in June. “It’s going to be a completely different way for you all and us watching hockey and being around a team because players will be really well protected throughout the process.”

The protocols include a provision for Commissioner Gary Bettman in consultation with NHLPA executive director Don Fehr to postpone, delay or cancel games in the event of a COVID-19 outbreak.

Assuming the protocols are approved, teams are expected to open training camps July 13 before travelling to the two hub cities for games. Players have been able to skate and train off-ice in voluntary, small-group workouts since June 8 — nearly three months after hockey was halted March 12 with 189 regular-season games remaining.

Returning for the playoffs is seen as a stirring victory for the NHL, which like other top leagues faced the prospect of losing millions more without the television revenue tied to the post-season. There were deep concerns about cancelling the rest of the season and word of positive tests didn’t help: 26 players since June 8, in addition to almost a dozen before that.

Boston defenceman Matt Grzelcyk called the positive test results “eye-opening” but expected. A few players expressed concerns in recent weeks about the uncertainty surrounding a return.

“We have obviously a unique situation right now,” Montreal goaltender Carey Price said. “The NHL and the NHLPA are trying to make the best of a very difficult situation. Moving forward I’d like to play, but we have a lot of questions that need to be answered and a lot of scenarios that need to be covered.”

If the protocols and an CBA extension cover those scenarios for enough owners and players, there will be a path forward to hand out the Stanley Cup. Only twice since 1893 has the Cup not been awarded: in 1919, when the final couldn’t be completed because of the Spanish flu pandemic, and 2005 when the season was wiped out by a lockout.



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