The Scott Rintoul Show
Shi Davidi discusses the Blue Jays off-season so far
December 18 2019
TORONTO – Tanner Roark played on five different minor-league teams across two different organizations, along with an independent and a winter ball club, before debuting with the Washington Nationals on Aug. 7, 2013. Five years of reliability for the Nationals followed before a two-stop year with the Cincinnati Reds and Oakland Athletics set him up for free agency.
Able to pick his next destination for the first time, the 33-year-old right-hander from Wilmington, Ill., wanted some stability and some good catchers to work with, finding both with the Toronto Blue Jays, who formally announced his $24-million, two-year deal Wednesday.
The way they pursued him helped tip the scales, he said during a conference call with media.
“They were the first ones to initiate contact with me. Right off the bat, they were really interested. So I knew that they wanted me and I talked to the pitching coach, Pete (Walker), and the bullpen coach, Matt Buschmann, we had a great conversation. Talked to Walker for like 25 minutes, that’s the first time I’ve ever talked to him,” said Roark. “They knew what they wanted and they wanted me and it’s exciting to have someone want you like that.”
Roark joins trade acquisition Chase Anderson as a stability post in a Blue Jays rotation that, at minimum, will feature legitimate major-league pitching after a miserable 2019 season best encapsulated by Charlie Montoyo’s memorable description of an opener and a guy ahead of one of many TBA days.
Japanese righty Shun Yamaguchi, who agreed to a two-year deal worth slightly more than six million with the potential for up in excess of a million more per season in incentives, is another possibility to start, although he could potentially be used as an opener, bulk-pitcher or leverage reliever, too.
Along with incumbent rotation candidates Matt Shoemaker, Trent Thornton and Ryan Borucki, the Blue Jays should now be able to give their young core of position players a chance in most games.
They continue to seek higher-end impact for the rotation – the bidding for Hyun-Jin Ryu, believed to be pushing past $80 million over four years, may end up outside their comfort level – and an internal debate now is whether to bite the bullet now, or wait for a shot at Trevor Bauer or James Paxton in free agency next fall.
David Price is one possibility on the trade market right now, while underperforming teams looking to escape big contracts may present a fresh set of options ahead of the next July 31 trade deadline, too.
Ben Nicholson-Smith is Sportsnet’s baseball editor. Arden Zwelling is a senior writer. Together, they bring you the most in-depth Blue Jays podcast in the league, covering off all the latest news with opinion and analysis, as well as interviews with other insiders and team members.
Roark’s steadiness opens up all kinds of possibilities for the Blue Jays, who in addition to wanting to present a more watchable product on the field, also sought to protect their young arms from overexposure. He’s made at least 30 starts and logged a minimum of 165.1 innings in five of the past six years, and having him take the ball every five days should make Montoyo’s life easier.
The dependability that has become his calling card is no accident.
“I think what keeps me on the field is I work hard,” said Roark. “It can be a long, arduous season, repetitive, travel-wise, all that stuff, and the mental part of it can just crush you. Working hard and doing what you need to do to prepare yourself for every fifth day, that’s the biggest thing. The stuff in between the starts is the real work and the fifth day is the actual enjoyment of it all, of what all the work that you put in those previous four days rewards you with, the start to go out there and hopefully kick some butt.”
The Scott Rintoul Show
Shi Davidi discusses the Blue Jays off-season so far
December 18 2019
Doing it in the American League East will present a new challenge, one Roark both embraced and played down, saying, “keep the ball out of the air I guess is the big thing – because often they go out for a home run.”
“Just make your pitches.”
That’s a pretty sound mantra for any division and his experience and path to the majors should serve both him and his young teammates well. Roark joked about being one of the oldest players on the roster now, but he’s eager to share his knowledge when called for.
“I was a late bloomer of some excitement, some five and a half years in the minor-leagues, and the biggest thing was the mental part,” he said. “I knew I could always make it to the big leagues and be a big-leaguer and having the underdog mentality I’ve had my whole entire career – underrated, not getting the most respect – has made me mentally tougher and stronger. Going through tough times is what got me to armour my mind to get through big situations and not let the name on the back of the jersey or the front of the jersey bother me or get in my head. …
“Especially with the young core group of guys coming up and what we have at the big-league level, give them some knowledge, teach them some things, answer any questions that they want to know,” Roark added later. “I’m here for them.”
WARNING: This story contains distressing details
For three weeks in 2010, they did nothing. That’s how long it took for the leadership of the Chicago NHL team to act on allegations that an assistant coach sexually assaulted a player.
Three weeks. Three weeks that — more than a decade later — rocked a once-proud franchise and raised more questions about the culture of sports.
In the span of 107 pages, featuring interviews with 139 witnesses, more than 100 gigabytes of electronic records and 49 boxes of hard-copy records, a report by an outside law firm detailed how senior leaders of the Chicago team seemingly ignored the sexual assault accusations raised with the franchise days before the team won its first Stanley Cup title since 1961.
The ramifications of the independent review, commissioned by the team in response to two lawsuits, stretched into several corners of the NHL, which fined the team $2 million for “the organization’s inadequate internal procedures and insufficient and untimely response.”
Florida coach Joel Quenneville is slated to meet with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman on Thursday, and Winnipeg general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff is planning to talk to the commissioner on Monday. Both were with the Chicago team when the accusations by Kyle Beach were first reported to team leadership.
According to the report, Donald Fehr, the leader of the NHL players’ association, was contacted twice about allegations connected to the assistant coach, including by a Beach confidant. Fehr told investigators he couldn’t recall either conversation, but did not deny that they had occurred.
Messages were left by the AP seeking comment from the NHLPA.
Beach, a 2008 first-round draft pick playing professionally in Germany, told TSN on Wednesday he felt “alone and dark” in the days following the alleged assault. He said he is only now beginning the healing process.
Beach, 31, had been referred to as John Doe in his lawsuit against the team. The AP does not typically identify people who say they are victims of sexual assault unless they come forward publicly.
In a statement attributed to the team, Chicago commended Beach for his courage in coming forward, and reiterated the organization’s “deepest apologies” for what he has gone through and its failure to promptly respond in 2010.
WATCH | Kyle Beach comes forward as ‘John Doe 1’ in Chicago scandal:
Chicago’s CEO Danny Wirtz, the son of team chairman Rocky Wirtz, met with current players Wednesday, a day after the graphic report was released, leading to the departures of president of hockey operations Stan Bowman and Al MacIsaac, another top executive.
“I think the overriding message was that we, as in the organization, we’re here for you,” coach Jeremy Colliton said. “The family is behind us. The organization’s behind us, and we’re going to do everything we can to move forward here.”
Rocky Wirtz said Tuesday that he and Danny were first made aware of the accusations ahead of a May filing of a lawsuit by Beach alleging sexual assault by then-assistant coach Brad Aldrich in 2010. The team also is facing a second lawsuit by a former student whom Aldrich was convicted of assaulting in Michigan.
The team said their lawyers contacted Susan Loggans, an attorney who represents John Doe and the former student in the second lawsuit, on Tuesday about possible settlements. A call was set up for early next week.
According to the report, the encounter between Beach, then a 20-year-old minor leaguer called up in case Chicago needed help in the playoffs, and Aldrich, then 27, occurred on May 8 or 9 in 2010.
Beach told investigators that Aldrich threatened him with a souvenir baseball bat before forcibly performing oral sex on him and masturbating on the player’s back, allegations that he also detailed in his lawsuit.
Aldrich told investigators the encounter was consensual. Asked Wednesday about the law firm’s report, Aldrich responded: “I have nothing to say.”
About two weeks later, on May 23, 2010, right after Chicago advanced to the Stanley Cup Final, Bowman, MacIsaac, team president John McDonough, executive vice president Jay Blunk and assistant general manager Cheveldayoff met with Quenneville and mental skills coach Jim Gary to discuss the allegations.
Former federal prosecutor Reid Schar, who led the investigation, said accounts of the meeting “vary significantly.” But there was no evidence that anything was done about the accusations before McDonough contacted the team’s director of human resources on June 14 — a delay that violated the team’s sexual harassment policy, according to Schar.
During those three weeks, Aldrich continued to work for and travel with the team. Schar said Aldrich also “made an unwanted sexual advance” toward a 22-year-old team intern.
Beach told TSN seeing Aldrich around the team made him feel sick.
WATCH | Bowman resigns amid team’s sexual assault allegations:
“I reported this and I was made aware that it made it all the way up the chain of command by [Jim Gary] and nothing happened,” Beach said. “It was like his life was the same as the day before. Same every day.
“And then when they won, to see him paraded around lifting the Cup, at the parade, at the team pictures, at celebrations, it made me feel like nothing.”
McDonough, Blunk and Gary are no longer employed in the NHL. Now Bowman and MacIsaac are out as well.
But the report makes clear that 11 years ago, winning the Cup took priority over taking immediate action on the Aldrich allegations; Bowman recalled that during the May 23 meeting, McDonough and Quenneville talked about the challenge of reaching the Stanley Cup Final and “a desire to focus on the team and the playoffs.”
Bowman’s description of what happened was reminiscent of scandals at Baylor University, where assault claims against football players were mishandled by school officials, or at USA Gymnastics, still reeling from its mishandling of convicted serial sex abuser and team doctor Larry Nassar.
Loggans said she hopes what happened with Chicago leads to changes across sports.
“There has to be a change from a mentality of complete animalism, like let’s just completely ramp up the masculinity factor of these players and whatever it takes to win a game, we’ll do that,” she said. “There has to be some context, no different than being concerned about concussions in football games.
“It’s not winning at all costs. These are human beings. They’re not gladiators whose lives are going to be sacrificed in the game.”
One — This win was very similar to their other victory against Boston. The Raptors swarmed the Pacers which took them entirely out of their offence, won the possession battle by a landslide with a 22-10 edge in turnovers along with 16-9 in offensive rebounds, and that almost always results in a win. The Raptors kicked it into another gear defensively in the second half and basically ran the Pacers out of the gym. That effort, coupled with better shooting from their main players, resulted in a blowout win in which the Raptors stamped out every single comeback charge by the Pacers. You will see the Raptors win in this fashion regularly this season.
Two — Fred VanVleet was a charge shy of delivering a vintage Kyle Lowry game. VanVleet has been excellent since the home opener, following his career-high of 17 assists against Chicago with a career-high 10 rebounds in tonight’s win. VanVleet is emerging as the clear leader of this team, his only focus is on winning, and it shows up in the margins as much as it does in his impressive shotmaking.
There was a play in the fourth quarter where VanVleet made four rotations to cut off four Pacers drives, before the possession was ended by Chris Boucher‘s block. That’s the type of commitment it takes to win, and VanVleet is a shining example of how hard everyone else should be working.
This was also VanVleet’s best game of the year with his scoring, as he made several impressive moves off the dribble to create the space for his jumper, which was accurate both from the midrange and from 30-feet out.
Three — OG Anunoby is settling in after his frantic start. Anunoby was sensational all night on both ends, starting in the first quarter where he put up 14 points with ease. Playing out of the post has allowed him to calm down, to assess his options, before making a decisive move, and teams are having to bring double teams to slow him down because otherwise, Anunoby is burying his defender under the rim. The bully ball approach comes much more naturally than when he tries to attack from the perimeter, although he’s starting to find his bearings from there as well, and his touch from three is rounding back to form.
What cannot be questioned is his defence, which remains airtight and suffocating each and every minute he’s on the floor. Anunoby collected five steals, but his best play was on a closeout to end the first half, where he had a step inside the paint as the shot was released but was somehow still able to swat the shot out of play.
Four — Scottie Barnes keeps wowing us. You can see the maturity in his approach even as compared to Summer League and pre-season. Nick Nurse’s message is for Barnes to attack downhill and to attack every time, and he’s starting to get it. Barnes is so strong that he’s going to get to whatever spot on the floor he damn pleases, and he’ll be balanced enough to fire the shot off cleanly.
Even when he misses, Barnes has a great chance of getting the putback because the momentum of his drives often knocks his defender backwards. Case in point: Barnes took it strong to the cup against Domantas Sabonis, who stands seven-foot weighing 260 pounds, yet it was he who bounced back from the contact instead of Barnes, who collected the second chance basket off the initial miss.
Keep in mind that Barnes is only 20-years-old, and that he will continue to gather strength and agility through more time with a professional training staff. It’s genuinely scary to think about how more dominant he will be in a few years.
Five — Nurse was a man of his word and moved Dalano Banton into his rotation. Nurse dismissed Malachi Flynn‘s claim to more playing time and he benched accomplished veteran Goran Dragic because he believes in Banton and his faith was rewarded. Banton was the first player off the bench in both halves, and he was great each time in how he changed the energy of the game.
Banton mixed in two driving layups along with two catch-and-shoot threes for his 10 points in 16 minutes, which is the best guard play the Raptors have had off the bench all season. Banton’s speed really pops when you see it in person, because a six-foot-nine player handling the ball should not be anywhere close to as fast as Banton is. On one of his two layups, Banton got the inbound pass off a Pacers basket, and raced downhill so fast that he beat every single player down the court, and a helpless T.J. McConnell could only swipe at him as he dashed in for the and-one finish. Banton is the fastest player on the team changing ends with the ball.
Six — The introduction of Banton as the backup point guard had a cascading effect on the Raptors’ defence. The smallest player on the floor became VanVleet, who is an all-word defender on account of his anticipation and his toughness. The next smallest players were Svi Mykhailiuk and Gary Trent Jr., both at six-foot-six with a combined seven steals between them, and the rest of the rotation were six-foot-nine forwards with seven-foot wingspans. Simply put, the Pacers had nowhere to go because the Raptors had a hand in every passing lane, were aggressive in their double teams, and there were no mismatches anywhere for a Pacers player to attack one-on-one.
One of the oddest sights from this game was seeing the ease in which Banton swatted McConnell’s driving layup, because not only did Banton match him for quickness which allowed him to cut off the drive, but he was also a foot taller against someone at his own position.
Seven — Nurse’s defensive scheme against Sabonis continues to be excellent. Sabonis is normally a dominant post player who is crafty with his passing while also being physical in the paint, but Nurse’s strategy of swarming him with triple teams at times completely cut him off. Sabonis went from scoring 33 points in his season opener, to only attempting four shots. The Raptors closed down on him so hard that Sabonis didn’t even score a single basket after the seven-minute mark of the first quarter.
Credit goes to Precious Achiuwa and Khem Birch for bodying him up and denying him position, but the way Trent Jr., Anunoby, and VanVleet flustered him was breathtaking to watch. Even though Sabonis is an elite passer for a center, he recorded only three assists against four turnovers.
Eight — Chis Boucher finished the game much stronger than he started it. He opened his account with many of the same mistakes that drive coaches crazy, such as being late to closeout, failing to hold his position because he didn’t seal his man and taking ill-advised shots. But he did get 18 minutes tonight from Nurse because his defence came around in the fourth quarter.
Boucher recorded a block at the rim, changed a pair of shots at the rim with his length, and on his most positive sequence, he resisted his urge to leave his feet on a pump fake, kept his man in front, and forced a shot-clock violation. Boucher needs to understand that Nurse will reward him for being solid, not for the spectacular.
Nine — The only issue with the Raptors stacking up so many forwards is the lack of shooting. It didn’t hurt them tonight since VanVleet and Anunoby combined for 10 of their 14 threes, but their shooting drops off significantly when one or both players hit the bench. The spacing is especially tight for the second unit, where Mykhailiuk is often the only threat from deep, and that’s one threat that Dragic and Flynn provide which Banton ordinarily wouldn’t.
There’s not a great in-house solution to this problem outside of Boucher finding his rhythm, which is why Nurse should look to keep giving him chances. And with Banton’s length on the floor at point guard, maybe there is some more leeway defensively to where Boucher can make up the gap with his shooting.
Ten — Adding Pascal Siakam and Yuta Watanabe back to this group will supercharge the defence. There will be a new rotation to be sorted out, both in how Siakam slots in with the starters and how Nurse wants to deploy Wanatabe with the bench, but managing the fit is simply a matter of getting enough scoring on the floor. Watanabe could either take Mykhailiuk’s minutes at shooting guard, or he can be Boucher’s replacement as the backup power forward, while Siakam joining a starting group with Anunoby, VanVleet, Barnes, and one of Trent Jr. or Achiuwa is a scary proposition in how versatile and tough the Raptors will be on defence.
Crosby has yet to play this season after having wrist surgery in August. On Wednesday, Sullivan told media Crosby was “real close” to returning to the lineup.
“We’ll see how he responds,” Sullivan said Wednesday. “We’ll listen to the medical staff and we’ll make decisions accordingly. But we’re really encouraged with his progress.”
Crosby has been practicing regularly with the Penguins in recent days and was a participant in the team’s optional morning skate Thursday morning.
Sullivan also provided brief updates on his two players in COVID protocol, saying Kris Letang remains symptomatic and Jeff Carter is still asymptomatic. He added that Carter could rejoin the team for practice on Friday.
The Penguins have a light schedule over the next week with a game against the New Jersey Devils on Saturday and then four days off before they face the Philadelphia Flyers on Nov. 4.
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