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Shapiro gets chance to build Blue Jays up after tearing things down –



TORONTO — The Toronto Blue Jays doubled down on the leadership of Mark Shapiro by handing him a five-year extension as president and CEO, matching the original term that lured him from Cleveland.

Parent company Rogers Communications Inc., which also owns this website, announced the move via Twitter on Wednesday morning, with company and club chairman Edward Rogers saying, “Mark’s leadership and commitment to excellence over the last five years have been critical to the team’s growth and development. We’re extremely pleased that Mark will continue to lead the Toronto Blue Jays and build on the team’s progress as we work towards our goal of bringing a World Series championship back to Canada.”

The extension isn’t a surprise, as Shapiro hinted that one was coming back in October, although it wasn’t clear at that point that term of the deal would be announced. Shapiro argued then for keeping the details private, saying “it’s more of an extension of the desire to have that focus be on the players. I think when things are going well, that naturally happens anyway.”

Perhaps, but the transparency is important for fans to understand how long a period the team intends to operate under its current structure, while establishing the same standard of performance under public scrutiny players, managers and coaches face.

With Shapiro now locked in through the 2025 season, he’s in position to see through the Blue Jays build up after the tear down that started on his watch.

“From a personal and professional standpoint, I am thrilled to continue being a Toronto Blue Jay. I am fortunate to work with exceptional people and am proud of the progress we have made together, to build a culture, community, and clubhouse that our incredible fans can cheer on,” he said in a statement through the club. “Living in Toronto and Canada has been life-changing for me and my family and I am excited to experience the feeling of winning a championship with this city and country.”

Shapiro’s next steps with the team are especially crucial with a young core on the upswing after the dreadful nadir of a brutal 2019 season and a rebound trip to the playoffs amid the pandemic-shortened campaign last summer.

The Blue Jays have been involved with nearly every available player of consequence this winter but thus far their only addition of note is re-signing left-hander Robbie Ray to an $8-million, one-year deal.

How effectively the Blue Jays augment a young core featuring Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio, Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Teoscar Hernandez, Danny Jansen and Nate Pearson is the next test of Shapiro’s leadership after he inherited a team that won the 2015 AL East title.

Shapiro and general manager Ross Atkins, his choice to replace Alex Anthopoulos who left because of philosophical differences, guardedly saw through that competitive window while rebuilding the organization around the major-league team.

In 2016, that led to a wild-card berth and a trip to the American League Championship Series, but cracks on the roster began to show in 2017, expanded the next year and led to total collapse during a 95-loss 2019.

The payoff for that on-field pain began surfacing last summer, when the Blue Jays went 32-28 to claim the eighth and final spot in the expanded playoff format.

That jump forward has led them to big-game hunt this off-season, when free agents George Springer, D.J. LeMahieu, J.T. Realmuto and Trevor Bauer have been among their targets. Attempts to land free agents like Liam Hendriks, Kevin Gausman, Ha-seong Kim and Tomoyuki Sugano didn’t work out, while the New York Mets beat their attempts to trade for Francisco Lindor.

Other near-term issues on Shapiro’s plate include finding a home for the team in 2021 if pandemic travel restrictions prevent the Blue Jays from playing in Toronto again and the futures of Atkins (believed to be signed through ’21) and manager Charlie Montoyo (club option for ’22). Longer-term is seeing through the baseball end of the property redevelopment project ownership is considering that would include a new stadium.

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What we learned from the Leafs pummeling the Jets – Pension Plan Puppets



The Maple Leafs pummeled the Jets in most statistical categories, and the only reason the score was an ENG-padded 3-1 was Connor Hellebuyck. The Jets did not have Patrik Laine, and that might have made that game a lot easier for the Leafs.

Special Teams

The Leafs laid down a glorious power play for five seconds less than two minutes on the only penalty called on the Jets. It had movement of all kinds, and might be the single best execution the team has done in some time.

The Jets had four full power plays, and their total shooting on those four looked like this:

Oh, look, the Leafs had two shots on the Jets’ power play making the total shot difference in the Jets’ 8 minutes to the Leafs’ 1:55 minutes 12 to 14. However, not only would it be unwise to give up that penalty differential if Laine is in the lineup, it’s very unwise to do it against Edmonton.

This was the Oilers last night:

I mean, yes, on the one hand, LOL Oilers, but on the other, that’s a very intimidating orange blob when you consider who is doing that shooting. That was a relatively poor showing for the Oilers too, considering they had 11:36 of five-on-four to the Canadiens 9:03.

Yeah, that’s the other thing. This is a weird NHL season, but it’s still NHL, so the penalties are frequent to the point of absurdity in some games. That should go away in about two weeks There were only 36:46 minutes of five-on-five in that Montreal – Oilers game.

Zach Hyman

The Leafs finished off the Jets with a Corsi of 62% and Expected Goals of 71%. Meanwhile the Kerfoot line had 39% Corsi and 60% Expected Goals (the worst of any line).

At the same time, however, Hyman had seven shots (Corsi or all shots, not shots on goal) second only to Matthews and Tavares with eight each.

How can you be on the worst line, and one of the best shooters?

The entire 6:49 seconds the Kerfoot line was together only five shots of any kind were produced by any Leafs player. In 1:49 of Hyman with Marner and Matthews, there were six.

Zach Hyman has been cloned in a way. He plays two deeply distinct roles on the team as the muscle winger of the “shutdown” line that doesn’t shut down top lines very well, and as the support the offence winger on the top line in his free moments.

No one should be too concerned about the Kerfoot line in that Jets game, they were more than good enough, but there’s not much about their matchup results that recommends them for the role against better teams. They dummied Ottawa okay. They folded like wet tissue against the Canadiens, and using Kerfoot’s stats as a proxy for the line since he only played two minutes away from Hyman and Ilya Mikheyev, you get this:

  • 31% Corsi against Nate Beaulieu and rookie Logan Stanley
  • 31% Corsi against Mark Scheifele
  • 34% Corsi against Paul Stastny

The only forward they really shut down was Matthew Perreault. To give them their due, they did keep those top two lines on the Jets to less effective Expected Goals while allowing them to dominate the matchup. But when the Matthews line, and particularly the Tavares line rolled over the entire lineup, this doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence that this third line, as constructed, can handle life outside the North Division. Or the Habs. Or even the Oilers for that matter, although, we’re about to find out.

There’s a lot of time to get to a place where that can be a priority to fix, and I don’t think it is now, but no one actually needs a shutdown line that only works against Ottawa.

All numbers are from the Natural Stat Trick Full game report. All are five-on-five, score and venue adjusted, unless other wise specified or in reference to specific Corsi counts, and then they are unadjusted.

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Raptors waive centre Alex Len after seven games with team –



The Toronto Raptors have waived centre Alex Len after just seven games, the team announced Tuesday.

The bruising big man had fallen down the team’s depth chart at centre after signing the former fifth-overall pick to a one-year deal in the off-season.

Len — who’s also had stops in Sacramento and Atlanta after being drafted by Phoenix in 2013 — averaged 2.3 points and 1.6 rebounds in 10.8 minutes for the Raptors.

The 27-year-old had missed the team’s last three games, the first for personal reasons and the latter two because he was in the NBA’s health and safety protocol.

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Spain's Bautista Agut apologizes for comparing hotel for Aussie Open quarantine to jail –



Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut has apologized after criticizing the Victoria state government’s quarantine requirements for tennis players ahead of next month’s Australian Open and comparing being locked down in a hotel to being in prison.

Passengers who arrived on three charter flights have been placed into hard quarantine, including more than 70 players who are unable to train outside their rooms for 14 days before the year’s first Grand Slam starts on Feb. 8.

A number of top players, including world number one Novak Djokovic, have questioned the need for mandatory hotel quarantine but Victoria premier Daniel Andrews said it was essential to stop the spread of COVID-19.

“It’s like [being] in a jail,” Israeli television channel Sport 5 quoted world number 13 Bautista Agut as saying.

“It’s the same [as being in prison], but with Wifi. These people have no idea about tennis and about practice courts and it’s a complete disaster.

“The control of everything isn’t Tennis Australia, it’s with the government [and health officials].”

Bautista Agut, who reached the Australian Open quarter-finals in 2019, apologized for the comments in a post on Instagram, saying they had been made in a private conversation that was released to the media without his knowledge or consent.

“Both my coach and I are following protocols designed by the Australian Government and Tennis Australia to avoid any risk and guarantee to compete again in a safe way,” Bautista Agut added. 

“I thank all the people who are making playing tennis again possible.”

Making the best of a situation

Czech Barbora Strycova, a semi-finalist at Wimbledon in 2019, backed the strict health protocols and said she was getting on with it.

“I’m exercising twice a day, reading some books, being on social [media] and watching TV,” she told SEN Breakfast.

“I can’t really complain. I really have to go through it and try to be as positive as I can be.”

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