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Orioles, Red Sox contribute to unpredictable first round of MLB draft



Baseball fans anxious for intrigue from their favourite sport got a small dose of it Wednesday night during an unpredictable first round of the 2020 MLB Draft. While the Toronto Blue Jays added to an already-strong position player core by selecting highly-regarded infielder Austin Martin, here’s how things played out around the rest of the league.

Unforeseen beginnings

Spencer Torkelson and his power bat were always going to go first overall to the Detroit Tigers, but pre-draft expectations went out the window when the Baltimore Orioles selected outfielder Heston Kjerstad with the second-overall pick. It could prove to be a shrewd bit of maneuvering, as the Orioles also held the No. 30 and 39 selections. Now, they can redirect the bonus pool money they presumably save cutting an under-slot deal with Kjerstad towards higher-upside talent later in the draft.

By the third pick of the night, every mock draft across the internet was blown up as the Miami Marlins took right-hander Max Meyer off the board. Industry consensus was that the Marlins were all over big left-hander Asa Lacy and would make him the first pitcher selected. But they went with Meyer’s electric two-pitch mix instead, which dropped Lacy into Kansas City’s lap at No. 4.

The Blue Jays were more than happy to take advantage of all the commotion up top and select the versatile, polished Martin at No. 5. Baseball America graded Martin as the best college hitter in the draft. FanGraphs ranked him as the second-best position player behind Torkelson. The majority of mock drafts had him going second overall and no later than third. Really, the draft couldn’t have broken any better for the Blue Jays.

“Obviously we’re keeping an eye on the mock drafts as they come out throughout the week and aware of industry consensus. But I think it really started to shake up at picks two and three,” said Blue Jays amateur scouting director Shane Ferrell. “We were surprised a little bit. But certainly prepared to make that selection. And we’re ecstatic to have the chance to pick Austin.”

Similarly, the Pittsburgh Pirates had to be thrilled to scoop up Nick Gonzales’ contact and power combination at No. 7, while the Colorado Rockies have to love the huge upside they acquired at No. 9 in Zac Veen, who was widely considered the top high school hitter in the draft. The Philadelphia Phillies may have also come away with a steal, selecting the hard-throwing, immensely projectable prep right-hander Mick Abel at No. 15. And the Brewers were likely ecstatic to see toolsy outfielder Garrett Mitchell still available at No. 20.

Prospect analysts across the industry have a strong track record of accurately predicting how things will play out on draft night. Their mock boards are very well-sourced, as club executives have little to gain from being coy with their intentions under a system in which teams can’t trade picks and bonus deals are often agreed to well in advance. But 2020’s widely inaccurate mock drafts have provided the exception to the rule.

“I don’t know if that’s to say that the industry was off the mark. There’s a lot that goes into making these selections, that factor into this. Like signability and things like that,” Farrell said. “So, we monitor [mock drafts] just for public opinion. But, ultimately, we’re relying on our own internal rankings and our internal scouts to build our lists and go from there.”

Around the AL East

The Orioles certainly threw a curveball into the draft by selecting Kjerstad second overall, and will presumably use the money they’re positioned to save there to add more high upside talent to the organization’s early-stages rebuild. But it’s unlikely that Jordan Westburg, the college shortstop the Orioles selected with the No. 30 overall pick, will be the beneficiary. There should be some high-ceiling pitchers available when the draft’s second night begins on Thursday, and it’ll be interesting to monitor whether Baltimore takes a flier at signing one to an above-slot deal.

And what about Toronto’s other rivals around the American League East? The Boston Red Sox had the next highest pick at No. 17 and went way off the board selecting high school infielder Nick Yorke, who was somewhere in the mid-100s on most draft boards. The Red Sox have only four picks in the draft, having lost their second-round selection as part of MLB’s punishment for sign stealing during the 2018 season.

Evidently, the Red Sox are high on Yorke’s bat and feel he was undervalued. “We feel if the spring had gotten a chance to play out, the public perception of him would be a lot different,” GM Chaim Bloom told reporters. Of course, it’s also possible Yorke is a pick Boston believes it can sign for well below slot value, saving money to take big swings on tough signs with their three remaining picks later in the draft.

Don’t forget, Bloom came to Boston from the Tampa Bay Rays, one of the leagues shrewdest organizations on draft day and one with an excellent track record of selecting and developing big league talent. It’s safe to say Bloom has a plan.

Speaking of the Rays, one must always pay close attention to their draft-day decisions — particularly when they select a big-armed high school pitcher scouts haven’t been closely following. That describes Nick Bitsko, a 17-year-old who was originally eligible for the 2021 draft but graduated high school early and entered this year’s instead only to have his senior season wiped out by a pandemic.

It is a classic Rays pick. Bitsko is super projectable at six-foot-four, 225 pounds and already throws a fastball in the mid-to-high 90s with a solid curveball and a developing change-up. He could’ve been one of the first names off the board next June, but a combination of clubs not being honed in on him ahead of this year’s draft and COVID-19 shutting down high school baseball this spring let him fall into Tampa’s lap towards the back of the first round a year earlier.

Profiles like Bitsko’s out of high school are inherently risky. But if you had to bet on any club’s development system maximizing his potential, wouldn’t it be the Rays? The organization also selected college shortstop Alika Williams with the No. 37 overall pick in the first competitive balance round.

Meanwhile, the New York Yankees used the No. 28 selection on Austin Wells, a college catcher with a promising left-handed bat. The organization clearly feels highly about him as this is the second time they’ve drafted Wells, and even if his so-so defence moves him out from behind the plate someday, it appears the Yankees have added another potent offensive player to their system.

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Nashville SC vs. Chicago Fire FC game postponed, two other MLS is Back Tournament games rescheduled –



Major League Soccer announced on Tuesday that the MLS is Back Tournament game between Nashville SC and Chicago Fire FC, scheduled for July 8, has been postponed.

The timing of two other games in the MLS is Back Tournament have also been rescheduled. The Toronto FC vs. D.C. United Group C game, originally scheduled for July 10, has been moved to July 12 at 9 am ET (ESPN2, ESPN Deportes in US; TSN, TVAS in Canada) due to Toronto’s delayed arrival in Orlando. As a result, the game between San Jose Earthquakes and Seattle Sounders scheduled for July 10 will now be played at 9 pm ET (ESPN, ESPN Deportes in US; TSN, TVAS in Canada).

The league confirmed that five Nashville players had tested positive for COVID-19 since arriving in Orlando on July 3, two at the weekend and three more on Monday night. Four more Nashville players are currently awaiting further testing after receiving inconclusive test results.

In conjunction with the club, MLS said it will continue to evaluate Nashville SC’s participation in the MLS is Back Tournament following the results of additional testing. Further information on when the game between Nashville and Chicago will be rescheduled will be announced at a later date.

In addition to the five Nashville players, the league confirmed on Monday that 10 FC Dallas players and one player from a third club have also received confirmed positive tests. FC Dallas were withdrawn from the tournament on Monday. Testing results from the five clubs that arrived on July 6 will be available later on Tuesday. 

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NASCAR, Wallace respond to Presidents tweet – Yahoo Canada Shine On



President Trump on Monday asked on Twitter if an apology was forthcoming from NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace for his alleged role in what he termed a “hoax” two weeks ago at Talladega Superspeedway, adding that the sanctioning body’s decision to ban the confederate flag has hurt television ratings for its events.

None of these claims are true.

Wallace, the lone Black driver in the NASCAR Cup Series, embraced a widespread show of support from the stock-car racing industry and his fellow drivers two weeks ago after the discovery of a noose at his team’s assigned stall at Talladega Superspeedway. The rest of the Cup Series driver roster stood shoulder to shoulder in solidarity with Wallace on Talladega’s pit road after a crew member for his Richard Petty Motorsports No. 43 team reported the noose’s presence to NASCAR officials that weekend.

The Birmingham office of the FBI launched an investigation, later determining that no hate crime had been committed against Wallace and that the garage pull had been tied into a noose since last fall’s events at the Alabama track. That prompted conspiracy theories and other allegations of wrongdoing on social media accusing NASCAR and/or Wallace of falsifying the timeline of events.

NASCAR President Steve Phelps addressed those charges at a press conference June 25, stating: “Bubba Wallace and the 43 team had nothing to do with this.”

Wallace responded later Monday with his own statement, encouraging his followers to “keep your head held high” and saying in part that “always deal with the hate being thrown at you with LOVE! Love over hate every day. Love should come naturally as people are TAUGHT to hate. Even when it’s HATE from the POTUS. Love wins.”

Trump’s mention of the “Flag decision” refers to NASCAR’s June 10 decision to ban the confederate flag from its events and properties. That resolution came days after Wallace advocated for its removal and days after NASCAR drivers banded together for a video message speaking out for social justice in the wake of the killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and others in the Black community.

Trump’s claim of “lowest ratings EVER” is false, unsupported by the facts of recent TV ratings data. NBC Sports on Monday said the NASCAR Cup Series’ Sunday event averaged a total audience of 4.37 million viewers, a 46 percent increase from last year’s Indianapolis Motor Speedway race and a 32 percent rise over the Daytona event held on the same weekend last year. Michael Mulvihill, FOX Sports executive vice president in charge of research and Nielsen ratings analysis, said his network’s ratings were up 8 percent since NASCAR racing resumed in May after the coronavirus outbreak.

NASCAR released its own statement Monday afternoon, saying “We are proud to have Bubba Wallace in the NASCAR family and we commend his courage and leadership. NASCAR continues to stand tall with Bubba, our competitors and everyone who makes our sport welcoming and inclusive for all racing fans.”

A spokesperson also reiterated the stance made by NASCAR President Steve Phelps on June 25: “Bubba has done nothing but represent this sport with courage, class and dignity and he stood tall for what he believes in.”

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Decade Deals: How other 10-year NFL contracts panned out – theScore



The Kansas City Chiefs are locking up Patrick Mahomes for the next decade, as the parties agreed Monday to a 10-year extension worth up to $503 million.

While such instances are rare, Mahomes isn’t the first recipient of a contract spanning 10-plus years. Here’s how the other decade-long deals panned out:

March 2001: Brett Favre gets 10 years, $100M from Packers

Favre didn’t anticipate playing beyond 2006 but took a 10-year deal at 31 to help Green Bay massage the salary cap. Though his best days were behind him, Favre still led the NFL in passing touchdowns once and gave the Packers four Pro Bowl seasons after signing the deal. The club made the playoffs five times over the next seven years, and Favre broke the NFL career passing touchdowns record in a Packers uniform.

Favre didn’t finish the contract in Green Bay, though, as he was traded to the New York Jets in 2008 after ending a brief retirement. The Jets released him in 2009 after he retired again, and he signed a fresh contract when he made a second comeback as a member of the Minnesota Vikings.

March 2001: Drew Bledsoe gets 10 years, $103M from Patriots

Bledsoe was already regarded as the greatest quarterback in Patriots history by the time he signed his deal. And at 29, it appeared he was signing up to spend the rest of his career in New England. But Bledsoe played only two more games for the Patriots, as an injury in Week 2 of the 2001 season spelled the beginning of the Tom Brady era.

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Bledsoe helped the Patriots reach the Super Bowl that year after relieving an injured Brady in the AFC Championship Game and collected a ring as Brady’s backup. Bill Belichick and Co. traded him to the Buffalo Bills that offseason with nine years left on his contract. While Bledsoe got off to a hot start with his new team, he fizzled the following season and was released after the 2004 campaign.

September 2002: Donovan McNabb gets 12 years, $115M from Eagles

McNabb owns the record for the longest contract in NFL history. At 26, he agreed to a 12-year pact with Philadelphia. The deal quickly paid dividends, as McNabb led the Eagles to a Super Bowl berth two years after signing. The Eagles were perennial contenders with McNabb, though they never hoisted the Lombardi Trophy or returned to the Big Game after the 2004 season.

Shockingly, the Eagles traded him to the Washington Redskins in 2010 with four years remaining on his contract. Though only 34, McNabb’s game fell off quickly in Washington, which made the five-year extension he received midway through the 2010 campaign a head-scratcher. He was relegated to third-string duties late in the season and was traded to the Vikings in July 2011. McNabb spent less than one miserable season in Minnesota before he was released, and he retired soon after.

May 2003: Daunte Culpepper gets 10 years, $102M from Vikings

One of the most exciting young quarterbacks in football at the time, Culpepper was 26 when he inked his extension. He immediately rewarded the Vikings with two of his best seasons. In 2004, Culpepper established a new NFL record for total yards by a quarterback, racking up 5,123. He led the league in passing that year with over 4,700 yards.

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But he got off to a horrid start in 2005, and in late October, he tore his ACL, MCL, and PCL. The Vikings shipped him to the Miami Dolphins, who were more encouraged by his injury outlook than that of Drew Brees. Culpepper struggled with the Dolphins and was released after one year, with six seasons remaining on his contract. The three-time Pro Bowler had forgettable stints with the Oakland Raiders and Detroit Lions before exiting the NFL for good.

December 2004: Michael Vick gets 10 years, $130M from Falcons

Atlanta gave a 24-year-old Vick, perhaps the most electrifying quarterback the NFL had ever seen, the richest contract in league history. Vick steered the Falcons to the NFC divisional round that year and appeared to be ascending, but he plateaued. While he became the first quarterback to rush for 1,000 yards in a season in 2006, his lack of progress as a passer kept him from joining the top echelon of quarterbacks and the Falcons from becoming a Super Bowl threat.

Everything came crashing down in the summer of 2007, as Vick was arrested for his role in a dogfighting ring and spent most of the next two years in prison. The Falcons recovered nearly $20 million in arbitration, and the signal-caller signed with the Eagles upon returning to professional football.

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