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SIMMONS: Blue Jays needed to sign Hyun-Jin Ryu to let baseball know they're back in the game – Toronto Sun

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Hyun-Jin Ryu is huge.

As in heavier than David Wells. As in 75 pounds more than Marcus Stroman. Huge, as in the largest signing and most significant gamble made by Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins, the previous baseball twins of do-nothing and say-nothing, who suddenly have something to say and sell and something to be proud about.

Ryu is a giant from South Korea who doesn’t just pitch. He conducts the orchestra. He controls the environment. He throws what some baseball people call the best changeup in the game.

He doesn’t walk people. He doesn’t give anything away. He’s the ace the Blue Jays haven’t had since that moment in time when Aaron Sanchez led the American League in earned-run average. Ryu led the National League in the same category this past season, which at the age of 32 was his healthiest, strongest, and most complete big-league season with the Los Angeles Dodgers. L.A. wanted him back, but he opted not to return after the Blue Jays dangled $80-million U.S. at him.

There were other teams chasing Ryu. The Los Angeles Angels had interest, as did the San Diego Padres and San Francisco Giants.

And this is where Shapiro and Atkins need to be congratulated: They beat somebody to the finish line. Finally. They weren’t just chasers of Ryu. They won the gold medal in this race.

Being in the race is meaningless off-season talk, especially around here. We’ve heard too much of it over the years. Who cares who is chasing whom? Winning the race — getting your man — that’s all that matters, an indication to Blue Jays fans that they are at least serious about becoming competitive.

Before this signing, with all the garage-sale junk the Jays have accumulated in recent years, it was hard to take Shapiro and Atkins all that seriously. It was hard to believe they weren’t doing anything but paddling in circles.

The Ryu signing may not be a ticket to the post-season, but it is an indication of the credibility of management. This signing paints the Blue Jays as players. This signing brings a certain respect we haven’t seen since 2015. Not unlike the Russell Martin signing in Toronto, this is an overpay, a Lou Lamoriello signing — to use his terminology, too much money, too much term. But to get free agents to come to Toronto, at this time in Blue Jays history, to get them as the Jays languish near the bottom of the American League, they have to overpay and oversell.

And they have done that here.

Ryu,  by the way, is not a sure thing. No free agent ever is. But here’s what we’ve been able to find out about him. He’s considered both a good guy and good pitcher, and he was very popular with Dodgers players and management.

What some wonder about now is the adjustment he will have to make from pitching at Dodger Stadium to pitching at Rogers Centre.

It’s not just National League to American League. The free outs are gone with the switch of leagues. The earned-run average always goes up with that kind of move.

It’s throwing in a pitcher-friendly stadium to throwing at the home-run haven we have in downtown Toronto that will represent a challenge for Ryu.

At home, last season, Ryu was 10-1 with an earned-run average of 1.93. On the road, his ERA rose to 2.72.

He started 29 games: The Dodgers won 20 of them and he ended the season with 182 innings pitched, the most he had thrown since he was a rookie. And the question with Ryu has always been about health. In 2016, 2017 and 2018, he made just 40 starts. In three of his six big-league seasons, he pitched from beginning to end. In between, he couldn’t be relied upon.

One of the two National League scouting eyes I talked to about Ryu said he can really pitch, he really challenges hitters and, in his words, he called him “legit.” But then he listed three words as his cons: Durability, durability and durability.

Was 2019 an indication that he’s gotten past his arm and shoulder troubles.

“How healthy is he doing to be? How many innings is he going to log?” He meant this season and the years that follow.

We don’t care how much it cost to sign him. It’s not our money. We care that Rogers and Atkins and Shapiro are finally using the necessary money to enhance the Blue Jays’ roster and reputation, both of which are in need of some repair.

Hyun-Jin Ryu is not the saviour of anything that doesn’t happen every fifth day during the upcoming season. But he’s a message that Toronto can be a destination. He’s the front end of an improving starting staff on an improving team.

Finally, the Blue Jays stopped chasing, stopped stalling, started spending and came home with a giant-sized, left-handed gift for the holidays.

ssimmons@postmedia.com

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Kansas State rallies to stun No. 3 Oklahoma – TSN

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NORMAN, Okla. — Skylar Thompson passed for 334 yards and ran for three touchdowns, and Kansas State rallied from 21 points down to beat No. 3 Oklahoma 38-35 on Saturday.

Freshman Deuce Vaughn caught four passes for 129 yards and ran for a touchdown for the Wildcats, who were coming off a season-opening loss to Arkansas State. It was Kansas State’s first-ever road win against a top-three team in the AP poll.

Oklahoma freshman Spencer Rattler passed for 387 yards and four touchdowns, but he threw three interceptions.

Kansas State upset Oklahoma 48-41 in Manhattan, Kansas, last year.

Kansas State said earlier in the week it was struggling to have enough players available at all position groups to play the game because of COVID-19.

In the opening moments of the second quarter, Rattler threw into traffic and found Drake Stoops for a 32-yard touchdown. It was the first career touchdown for the son of former Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops, and it gave the Sooners a 14-0 lead.

Thompson’s 39-yard touchdown pass to Chabastin Taylor in the second quarter cut Oklahoma’s lead to 14-7, but the Sooners answered with Marvin Mims’ 9-yard touchdown reception in the final minute of the first half.

Rattler’s 53-yard pass to Stoops led to Seth McGowan’s 5-yard touchdown run and a 35-14 late in the third quarter.

Two short rushing touchdowns by Thompson got the Wildcats back in the game. Kansas State’s Nick Allen blocked Reeves Mundschau’s punt, and the Wildcats took over at the Oklahoma 38. Vaughn’s 38-yard touchdown run on the Wildcats’ second offensive play and the extra point tied it at 35 with 8:17 to play.

Kansas State’s Blake Lynch hit a 50-yard field goal with 4:32 remaining. Kansas State’s Jahron McPherson intercepted Rattler in the final minute to help close out the win.

THE TAKEAWAY

Kansas State: The Wildcats didn’t fold when they fell behind and the defense improved in the second half against Rattler.

Oklahoma: The defense fell apart much like it has many times in recent years.

UP NEXT

Kansas State: Hosts Texas Tech on Saturday.

Oklahoma: Travels to Iowa State on Saturday. The Cyclones beat the Sooners three years ago and nearly upset them last year before falling 42-41.

Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/CliffBruntAP

More AP college football: https://apnews.com/Collegefootball and http://www.twitter.com/AP-Top25

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NBA Finals 2020: LeBron James' 10th trip to the Finals is a reminder of his all-time greatness – NBA CA

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4h ago


Los Angeles Lakers

LeBron James went 10-for-17 (58.8%) in the Los Angeles Lakers‘ Game 5 win over the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference Finals.

Yes, I’m aware that LeBron actually finished with a ridiculous 38 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists on 15-for-25 shooting – this isn’t a box score thing.

Allow me to clarify.

In his 17th NBA season, LeBron James is now set to make his 10th appearance in the NBA Finals.

If you take away the three years in which James-led teams failed to qualify for the postseason, you’re looking at him appearing in the Finals 10 out of a possible 14 times (71.4%). And after tonight, teams that feature James have only lost once in the conference finals, his lone loss coming against the Orlando Magic in 2009.

Yes, LeBron now holds a 10-1 record in the conference finals.

James has become just the fourth player in NBA history to make 10 or more Finals appearances, tying Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Boston Celtics legends Sam Jones (11) and Bill Russell (12) are the only two players that have played on the NBA Finals stage more.

Most Finals appearances, NBA history
RankPlayerAppearancesTitles
1.Bill Russell1211
2.Sam Jones1110
3.Kareem Abdul-Jabbar106
3.LeBron James103
4.Tom Heinsohn98
4.Magic Johnson94
4.Jerry West91

Say what you want about Finals records but to be quite honest, you can only lose in the Finals if you make it to the Finals. Jerry West, the Logo, took seven losses in the Finals before capturing that elusive title on his eighth try, only to lose for an eighth time while in pursuit of a repeat. Winning titles is hard, and getting to the Finals – win or lose – is not the type of accomplishment to scoff at.

The standard to which James is often held speaks to his greatness. That he’s expected to lead teams to the Finals – in his 17th year, no less – is not normal.

Like, we-may-never-see-this-again abnormal.

We also know LeBron’s star has shined its brightest in the Finals. The last time he was there, he opened with a 51-point, eight-rebound, eight-assist performance in what I consider to be one of the greatest individual performances I have ever seen – regular season or postseason.

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Now, after a one-year hiatus from the postseason, James is four wins away from title No. 4 with team No. 3.

It’s worth mentioning that Robert Horry and John Salley are the only players in league history that have won titles with three separate franchises. While Horry and Salley executed their respective roles to a T, LeBron is the first player to lead three separate teams to the finals, posting averages of 26.7 points, 10.3 rebounds and 8.9 assists through the first three rounds, and also has a chance to become the first player to ever win a championship and Finals MVP with three different franchises.

With that being said, James and the 2020 Lakers still have four wins to earn before attaining basketball immortality. And in this league, nothing is guaranteed.

For now, appreciate the greatness of the accomplishment at hand. Unlike the fairly common sight of a player shooting 10-for-17 from the field, we may never see a player lead a team to the Finals in 10 of his 17 seasons ever again.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA or its clubs.

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Israel Adesanya dominates Paulo Costa, finishes with devastating second-round knockout in UFC 253 main event – MMA Fighting

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It was supposed to be the toughest challenge of his career, but Israel Adesanya made it look easy as he dominated Paulo Costa to retain his middleweight title in the UFC 253 main event.

“The Last Stylebender” predicted that precision would beat power and that’s exactly how the fight played out as he avoided just about everything Costa threw at him while chopping down the Brazilian contender with leg kicks throughout the opening round. Adesanya then finished the fight with a blistering counter left hand that put Costa down and out for the final time.

The end came at 3:59 in round 2.

There was a lot of bad blood between the middleweights in the days and weeks leading to the event but Adesanya ultimately needed less than two rounds to dispatch Costa and hand him the first loss of his professional career.

“I’ve been telling you guys. Like Roy Jones said, ya’ll must have forgot. Ya’ll must have forgot,” Adesanya said in reference to his previous win over Yoel Romero before making short work of Costa on Saturday night.

“I see you media people with your little clickbait headlines. I had to make ya’ll remember.”

Wary of the power coming from Costa early, Adesanya concentrated on leg kicks in the opening exchanges while looking to chip away at his opponent’s foundation. Rather than rushing ahead to close the distance, Costa countered with a couple of stiff kicks of his own to the body while inviting Adesanya to come after him.

As the fight continued, Adesanya was methodical while dishing out a steady diet of those same leg kicks with Costa willing to stand directly in front of him. While Costa was constantly taunting Adesanya, it was the former kickboxer turned UFC champion who was inflicting far more damage.

Midway through the second round, Adesanya’s leg kicks paid off when he was able to go up to the head where he connected and opened a cut over Costa’s eye.

With a dazed look in his eyes, Costa never really recovered as Adesanya saw the hurt painted all over his opponent and he knew the end was near.

At that moment, Adesanya welcomed an exchange on the feet where he showcased his dazzling defense and then tossed the counter left hand that ultimately led to the finish. As soon as the punch connected, Costa crumbled to the mat and Adesanya only had to threw a few more shots before the referee rushed into stop the contest.

The win moved Adesanya to 20-0 in his career, 9-0 in the UFC and he’s now a two-time defending middleweight champion. Never one to sit back and wait for the next challenge, Adesanya already had a name in mind as he looked ahead to UFC 254 in a few weeks when a former champion squares off with a top ranked contender at 185 pounds.

“I already DM’d Jared Cannonier. He’s a hell of a dude. I love his energy. He’s a beautiful man,” Adesanya said. “I said you destroy Robert Whittaker and you’re next.

“He’s the one I want to fight next. He deserves it. If he beats Robert Whittaker handily and dominates him, he’s next.”

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