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Stripling resurgent in loss to Mets as Blue Jays begin busy stretch – Sportsnet.ca

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Quick, name one of the five players the Toronto Blue Jays traded away in four deadline deals last August. Literally anyone. Robbie Ray, Taijuan Walker, Ross Stripling, and Jonathan Villar were all acquired. Surely you can remember one of the guys who went the other way.

Only the truest Blue Jays prospect diehards could. Whether it’s Griffin Conine and his all-or-nothing power approach, who went to Miami for Villar; teenaged Dominican outfielder Alberto Rodriguez, who Seattle acquired for Walker; left-handed reliever Travis Bergen, who was shipped to Arizona for Ray before rejoining the organization months later; or second-round pick Kendall Williams and the uber-disciplined Ryan Noda, who comprised the package sent to the Dodgers in exchange for Stripling.

That those names are so forgettable, and that the Blue Jays were able to supplement an eventual post-season team so thoroughly without breaking the prospect bank — not to mention greatly impacting the 2021 club by re-signing Ray and fixing up Stripling — demonstrates the needle Toronto’s front office could thread prior to Friday’s 4 p.m. ET trade deadline, provided it’s again able to identify the right low-cost, under-the-radar players to pursue.

Players like Ray, whose 2021 contributions have been indispensable. Or like Stripling, who emerged nicely from a two-start rut Sunday to throw five innings of one-run ball in a 5-4 loss to the New York Mets. Mixing efficiently with fastballs up in the zone, sliders away from right-handed batters, and changeups away from lefties, Stripling racked up six strikeouts and didn’t walk any, throwing 51 of his 79 pitches for strikes, 10 of them swinging.

“I was just sharper all the way around,” Stripling said. “Everything was a little bit more crisp. Was able to flip in some curveballs for strikes, get ahead with that. I feel l like my last couple of outings, that hasn’t been a weapon for me at all. Changeup and slider were both good; fastball was solid. It was all kind of working for me today.

“I feel like over my six years I’ve proven that if I’m healthy and my stuff is where it should be, that I can go out there and get outs at this level. So, I really didn’t want to panic after that last one. Just choose to believe that that one was an anomaly and that I’ve been throwing the ball well over the last eight to 10 weeks — and look forward.”

Stripling’s resurgence — he allowed 10 runs over four innings between his prior two starts — was a welcome showing for a Blue Jays club that will need all the pitching it can get over the next month. The club is already planning to stretch its rotation to six this week as Thomas Hatch steps in to make his first big-league start of the season on Monday in place of Alek Manoah, who will instead throw 60-75 pitches in a simulated game as he continues to recover from a back contusion. And it might not be the last time we see it.

“We’re trying to do what we can to make sure guys are fresh,” said Blue Jays pitching coach Pete Walker. “It’s that part of the season where it’s getting a little long for some guys.”

The Blue Jays are already three games in to an 18-games-in-17-days stretch that will include the uncertainty of this week’s trade deadline, the frenzy and stress for both players and staff of Friday’s move back to Toronto for the first game at Rogers Centre in 22 months, four games against a Cleveland club running neck-and-neck with Toronto in the wild-card race, and eight against the AL East-leading Red Sox, including an August 7 doubleheader.

And thanks to another doubleheader in Anaheim against the Angels immediately following Toronto’s first off day in two-and-a-half weeks on August 9, it becomes a 25-games-in-24-days stretch that will see the club play more than 35 per cent of its remaining schedule.

It’s a lot. More than 215 scheduled innings over a little more than three weeks. That’s why Hatch is starting Monday to buy each starter an extra day’s rest, which will produce an upcoming pitching schedule that tentatively looks like this:

July 26 at Boston — Thomas Hatch

July 27 at Boston — Robbie Ray

July 28 at Boston — Steven Matz

July 29 at Boston — Hyun Jin Ryu

July 30 vs. Kansas City — Ross Stripling

July 31 vs. Kansas City — Alek Manoah

Whether Hatch gets another start in the majors after Monday’s outing remains to be seen, depending largely on his own performance, that of everyone else in the rotation, player health, potential deadline acquisitions, and the million other predicaments and circumstances that persistently arise throughout an MLB season. The biggest priority with Hatch is simply keeping him stretched out, because as Toronto’s sixth starter, he’s providing a critical and necessary insurance policy.

Say Stripling can’t maintain the under-appreciated effectiveness he contributed from late May through early July and rediscovered on Sunday. Say Ryu’s glute starts acting up again. Say a starter gets hurt falling down a flight of stairs, which has already happened twice this season. Now you’re scrambling for innings and the triple-A options aren’t necessarily thrilling.

Hatch is already in the majors; Nate Pearson’s hurt and working to return to the mound as a reliever; Trent Thornton’s in Toronto’s bullpen pitching long, low-leverage relief; Anthony Kay’s worked to a 5.61 ERA over 11 big-league appearances this season; T.J. Zeuch was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals Sunday for cash after being designated for assignment last week, while Nick Allgeyer passed through waivers following his own DFA; Rule 5 eligible 25-year-olds Zach Logue and Bowden Francis possess neither prospect pedigree nor major-league experience.

So, if you’re the Blue Jays, you’re going to want to investigate acquiring some pitching help sooner, when legitimate big-leaguers are on offer via trade this week, rather than later, when you’re left trawling the waiver wire for some other organization’s flotsam in August. The bullpen is an obvious and glaring area of need for this club, reinforced again Sunday as Ryan Borucki and Jacob Barnes collaborated to cough-up a two-run, sixth-inning lead. But that doesn’t mean the Blue Jays shouldn’t be looking to add rotation depth, too.

Entering Sunday with 31.3 per cent playoff odds per FanGraphs, Toronto may not want to cough up the prospect capital necessary to come away with a premium rental such as Max Scherzer. But there’s a middle tier of pending free-agent starters below that who ought to be acquirable without a significant price paid, a la Walker and Ray at last year’s deadline.

Colorado’s Jon Gray is having a strong, bounce back season supported by underlying numbers (3.68 ERA vs. 3.57 xERA). Pittsburgh’s Tyler Anderson makes up for what he lacks in premium velocity with 80th percentile fastball spin and exceptional command (5.8 per cent walk rate). Kansas City’s Mike Minor brings a similar profile (low-90’s heater; 96th percentile fastball spin rate; 7.1 per cent walk rate) and a 4.51 xERA that stands in stark contrast to his actual 5.45 ERA. Arizona’s Merrill Kelly — who comes with a $5.25-million 2022 club option — made his MLB debut at 30 after a four-year stint in Korea and has been a perfectly serviceable back-end starter ever since.

Then there’s Kyle Gibson, who the Blue Jays tried to sign as a free agent in 2019. The 33-year-old right-hander presents a higher-upside alternative and is under contract next season at an extremely reasonable $7.6-million. He could impact the Blue Jays today and tomorrow, helping the club get ahead on its winter shopping to replace the production of pending free agents such as Ray and Matz.

Of course, that raises the acquisition cost. And considering Gibson’s spotty track record, below-average velocity and spin, and the glaring differences in his expected outcomes based on the quality of contact he allows (3.68 xERA) and the actual results he’s produced this season (2.87 ERA), the Blue Jays may be wary of paying an up-market price for Gibson’s regression to the mean. One might even suggest that regression has already begun, considering Gibson allowed 13 runs across two outings earlier this month before walking eight — yes, eight — on Saturday against the Houston Astros.

So, maybe whatever Toronto’s front office ends up doing this week — and expect them to do something — won’t be flashy. Maybe it won’t win the deadline, which is worth exactly as much as winning the off-season. But there will be opportunity to augment the big-league roster and address the constant need for pitching without coughing up anything too precious. Maybe even opportunity to begin putting pieces in place for next season, as well.

The Blue Jays thread that needle well a year ago with a flurry of below-the-radar moves in which fringe prospects were used to acquire near-term, big-league help. With a roster deserving of reinforcement, yet possessing only middling odds of postseason qualification, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them try to thread it again this week.

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What 2022 Holds for the Canadian Sports Betting Sector

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After years of confusing legislation, Canada finally achieved some clarity with regard to its sports betting laws earlier this year. The passing of Bill C-218 saw single event betting become legalized for the first time, paving the way for sportsbooks and online operators to begin serving Canadian customers all across the country.

Since then, the industry has gone from strength to strength. Unsurprisingly, Ontario has led the way in terms of online competition, with a wide array of options for punters to choose from. Home to some 15 million people, Ontario is the fifth biggest jurisdiction in the USA and Canada and is expected to rival the likes of New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Michigan in the coming years.

So with sports betting finally up and running in a more comprehensive format in Canada, what does the future hold? Here’s a quick look ahead to some of the biggest developments that are expected to occur in the next 12 months.

Mobile gaming

The ability to place bets on-the-go is something that customers have come to expect from their sportsbooks nowadays. Although the idea of sports betting on single events is still a relative novelty for many Canadians, it won’t be long before they begin to demand a truly mobile experience from their gambling provider, allowing them the freedom to lay wagers wherever, whenever and on whatever they please.

Thankfully, there is already a healthy infrastructure in place to deal with that demand. The list of sports betting apps in Canada is growing longer by the day, with sportsbook operators giving their customers round-the-clock access to better odds, up-to-the-minute stats and exclusive promotions and bonuses. There’s an app for everything these days – so it should come as no surprise that an increasing percentage of Canadians will choose to bet on their smartphone via the app in the coming months and years.

Greater competition

Even before the passing of Bill C-218 officially endorsed sports betting from a legal perspective, overseas operators had been serving a Canadian market for years. Although the practice was not legal prior to this summer, it wasn’t strictly illegal, either. This created a grey area which many foreign sportsbooks exploited, with some reports suggesting that billions of dollars were being funneled into them every year.

Now that the practice has become fair game for domestic operators, it should open the floodgates with regard to the number of available options. Early adopters and established names in the industry were quick to jump aboard the bandwagon, but more and more rivals will spring up as time goes on. This can only be good news for punters, since they will gain access to more lucrative incentives and better markets with the increased competition.

Booming popularity

As well as increased competition among operators, it’s also likely that this excess supply will be met by ballooning demand. Indeed, a particularly bullish report from Deloitte Canada speculated that the industry could be worth a massive $28 billion inside five years. Given that it isn’t projected to exceed $1 billion in its first 12 months of operation, that’s quite a seismic shift.

What that means for players is that sports betting is likely to become endorsed and advertised with greater frequency. Collaborations between teams and individual athletes will enhance the profile of the sector, while lucrative sponsorship deals will benefit both parties. And of course, the government itself is poised to cash in on a significant revenue stream, potentially swelling its coffers for reinvestment in other areas of policy.

Technological advances

Another exciting possibility is the increased incorporation of technological advances into the sports betting experience. Fans can already benefit from livestreams of their favorite matches, as well as real-time analysis and in-play betting opportunities. However, the sky is the limit when it comes to tech and sports betting, since there are a variety of tantalizing innovations currently on the horizon.

Chief among these is the possibility of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) becoming a more central pillar of sportsbooks. Imagine if it were possible to view a sporting event in 3D, as if you were in the stadium yourself, all from the comfort of your own home? That kind of tech breakthrough might seem lightyears away, yet similar software is already commonplace in the world of gaming. If it could be adapted to live sporting events, it would dramatically alter the way in which sport is consumed (and bet upon) all across Canada. Watch this space for news on potential developments of VR and AR in 2022.

Although sports betting is still in its infancy in Canada, it has already made quite a splash among punters, operators and regulators alike. As the practice becomes more and more mainstream, it’s to be expected that it will both deliver higher revenues and benefit from greater investment – potentially creating some exciting times ahead.

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Longtime NFL official Carl Madsen dies on way home from Chiefs-Titans – Yahoo Canada Sports

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Carl Madsen had worked for the NFL since 1997. (Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images)

Carl Madsen, who had worked for the NFL as an official for more than 20 years, died on Sunday. He was 71.

According to NFL.com, Madsen died on his way home from Sunday’s game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Tennessee Titans, where he was working as a replay official.

While details are hazy on Madsen’s death, the Nashville Police Department told TMZ that early signs indicate Madsen suffered “a medical emergency” while driving on I-65 North. A spokesperson reportedly said officers answered a call about a motorist blocking a traffic lane and found Madsen unconscious at the scene.

Chest compressions were immediately administered once Madsen was removed from the vehicle, per the report, but he ultimately died after being transported to a nearby hospital. His exact cause of death remains unknown.

An Air Force veteran, Madsen spent 12 years as an on-field official from 1997 to 2008 before transitioning to his replay official role. He was reportedly tied with Paul Weidner as the league’s most experienced replay official.

From NFL.com:

“Carl Madsen was an NFL officiating fixture for more than two decades, first as a highly respected on-field official before transitioning to a replay role beginning in 2009,” NFL senior VP of officiating training and development Walt Anderson said in a statement. “A terrific friend and colleague, Carl’s love of football and dedication to officiating was ever-present, as he generously shared his time to mentor young officials at clinics across the country. A veteran of the Air Force, Carl had a tremendous spirit and will be greatly missed.”

NFL Referees Association president Scott Green also released a statement to Pro Football Talk:

“Carl will be missed by those who worked with him on the field and in replay,” Green said. “He had a nickname among his fellow officials of “Big Country” which was not only related to his size but to his big personality as a warm and generous man.”

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Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Campbell, Spezza, Engvall, Calling Leaders – The Hockey Writers

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Where did Saturday’s game come from? In the three seasons that I’ve covered the Toronto Maple Leafs, it was one of the strangest games I watched. The team was overwhelmed. There was every chance to come in and play well against what should have been an under-manned Pittsburgh Penguins’ squad; but, a final score of 7-1 for the Penguins shows it didn’t happen. 

Related: Frederik Andersen’s Legacy: One of the Best Maple Leafs’ Goalies Ever

The question that remains for the Maple Leafs as a team is whether this current funk is a short one or whether it’s symptomatic of deeper issues. There’s a saying attributed to William Arthur Ward that “The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.”

The question now is what the Maple Leafs will do to adjust the sails. Although there’s great value in optimism, for as optimistic a face as head coach Sheldon Keefe shows the public, having watched him in the Amazon Prime Documentary “All or Nothing,” you have to know Keefe isn’t singing “Kum Ba Yah” behind the scenes when he’s not answering the media’s questions. 

Keefe’s a realist and is surrounded by realists. What will happen now? In this edition of Maple Leafs’ News & Rumors, I’ll take a look at Jack Campbell’s odd night. Second, I’ll look at Jason Spezza’s continuing contributions to the team. Finally, I’ll consider Maple Leafs’ current team leadership.

Item One: Time for a Jack Campbell Mulligan

The stats line shows that Maple Leafs’ starting goalie Jack Campbell let in five goals on 21 shots during Saturday’s 7-1 loss to the Penguins. That isn’t the Campbell we know from either last season or thus far this season. The second period did him in when he let in four goals in 20 minutes.

By the third, coach Keefe had enough and put in Michael Hutchinson to close out the obvious defeat. Given that the 29-year-old Campbell entered the game with a 2-0-1 season’s record, a goals-against-average of 1.18, and a save percentage of .953 in four games, he deserves a mulligan. 

Jack Campbell, Toronto Maple Leafs (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

Honestly, it’s hard for me to lay a guilt trip on a goalie who had, until Saturday’s game, only given up two or fewer goals in each of his first four starts. Here’s hoping, although Campbell might have fallen in one game, that he can get up quickly.

Item Two: Jason Spezza Continues to Produce

No surprise, the one player whose game seemed unaffected by the circumstances was Jason Spezza. He scored a goal to tie the game early and gave Maple Leafs’ fans early hope that all was not lost. It was the last goal the team would score.

Related: Ron Francis’ 5 Best & Worst Moves as Hurricanes General Manager

Spezza continues to show up. In six games to start the 2021-22 campaign, he’s scored three goals and added two assists (for five points). Last season, he scored 10 goals and 20 assists (for 30 points) in 54 games. He shows no signs of a let-up.

Item Three: How Did Pierre Engvall Emerge with a Plus-One Rating?

One amazing scoresheet surprise has to be that Pierre Engvall emerged with a plus-one rating on the night. How does a player play 13:21 minutes during a 7-1 loss and come out on the positive side of the ledger? I have no comment on Engvall’s game because I didn’t notice the statistic until I looked at the box score after the game. 

Pierre Engvall Toronto Maple Leafs
Pierre Engvall, Toronto Maple Leafs (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Engvall had an assist on Spezza’s goal but was miraculously not on for any Penguins’ goals. That just seems amazing and was perhaps the only positive statistic the Maple Leafs can show for the game.

Item Four: Considering Team Leadership

Each offseason the team’s management gets together to talk about what moves it can make during the offseason to improve the team. Last season, the management decided to bring in outside players to provide leadership. Chief among those players was Joe Thornton. I believe he provided that aspect of leadership and the team was better for his presence. Even if his play was less than expected, he helped the team.

Related: 3 Takeaways From Maple Leafs’ 7-1 Loss to Penguins

During this offseason, I believe management thought it was time for the team’s internal leadership to take the next leadership step. Specifically, it was time for Jake Muzzin, Morgan Rielly, John Tavares, Auston Matthews, and Mitch Marner to take the reins. The team’s management reasoned that group had seasoned enough to do that job. In addition, Wayne Simmonds and Spezza remained to help.

As a result, this season, the team is different because management didn’t bring in outside players for leadership. That leadership now must come from within – starting with Matthews, Marner, and Tavares. The results on the ice suggest that it hasn’t happened yet. 

Auston Matthews John Tavares
Toronto Maple Leafs’ Auston Matthews celebrates with teammate John Tavares (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young)

As my sometimes collaborator and long-time Maple Leafs’ fan Stan Smith emailed me after the game, if these players are to lead they’ll have to do it by example. So far, it isn’t happening – not yet anyway, 

If this team is to come out of its current crisis, that leadership must emerge soon.

What’s Next for This Maple Leafs?

The Maple Leafs must try to shake off this blowout before they meet ex-teammate Frederik Andersen and the Carolina Hurricanes on Monday. You can only imagine that Andersen is waiting to exact some payback against his old team. 

Related: Frederik Andersen’s Unforgivable Sin According To Maple Leafs Fans

Winning in Carolina won’t be easy for the Maple Leafs. The Hurricanes are 4 – 0. Andersen’s only given up seven goals in four games, and he’ll be ready. It might be another disaster, or it could be a chance for redemption. That it’s the Maple Leafs’ third game in four nights, this one might take some lucky bounces or the immediate emergence of Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner.

Is it too naive for Maple Leafs’ fans to be optimistic?

The Old Prof (Jim Parsons, Sr.) taught for more than 40 years in the Faculty of Education at the University of Alberta. He’s a Canadian boy, who has two degrees from the University of Kentucky and a doctorate from the University of Texas. He is now retired on Vancouver Island, where he lives with his family. His hobbies include playing with his hockey cards and simply being a sports fan – hockey, the Toronto Raptors, and CFL football (thinks Ricky Ray personifies how a professional athlete should act).

If you wonder why he doesn’t use his real name, it’s because his son – who’s also Jim Parsons – wrote for The Hockey Writers first and asked Jim Sr. to use another name so readers wouldn’t confuse their work.

Because Jim Sr. had worked in China, he adopted the Mandarin word for teacher (老師). The first character lǎo (老) means “old,” and the second character shī (師) means “teacher.” The literal translation of lǎoshī is “old teacher.” That became his pen name. Today, other than writing for The Hockey Writers, he teaches graduate students research design at several Canadian universities.

He looks forward to sharing his insights about the Toronto Maple Leafs and about how sports engages life more fully. His Twitter address is https://twitter.com/TheOldProf

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