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Thursday Bantering: Jays Bits – Bluebird Banter



There isn’t much for news or rumors today.

There is a rumor that the Blue Jays have been talking to the Phillies about Jean Segura. I am putting that into the Blue Jays kick the tires on anyone who could be up for trade.

Segura played third and second last year, after being a shortstop for his career before that. He had been pretty much a league average shortstop defensively, but he had a very good 9.4 UZR/150 this season. Generally shortstops moved to second look better with the glove.

He’s hit well in his career. From 2016 to 2018 he hit .308/.353/.449 in 422 games. This season wasn’t as good, hitting .266/.347/.422. He has 183 stolen bases in his career, but then only 2 this year.

He turns 31 in March and has two years, both at $14,859,000. And there is an option year at $17 million. I’m thinking that, if they traded for him, they would expect the Phillies to take some of that money.

They could look at him as a very good utility player, or could be thinking that his glove is a big up grade at second or third.

I wouldn’t be excited about getting him, but depending on what we shipped to the Phillies I’d be ok with it.

There were a few interesting players non-tendered. You can see the whole list here. I used to be interesting in Kyle Schwarber but he isn’t someone I’d like the Jays to chase after now. Delino DeShields is a good glove CF and would be a good 4th outfielder type, and could pinch run, but I don’t know home much of an upgrade from Jonathan Davis.

The one player I’d like to see them look at is Carlos Rodon. When he came up, we all thought that he was going to be a very good starting pitcher. His career has been damaged by injuries, but there is still potential there.

Our old friend Ryan Tepera is on the list. I’d be ok with a minor league contract.

Minor Leaguer has updated the Roster Route Map:

The Toronto chapter of the Baseball Writers of America (insert annual joke about there being a Canadian chapter of the BBWAA) have released the results of their annual award voting.

  • Teoscar Hernandez was named most improved player and player of the year.
  • Hyun Jin Ryu is pitcher of the year (they should rename this the Halladay award).
  • Jordan Romano gets the rookie of the year.
  • Anthony Alford and Mike Wilner get the John Cerutti award for ‘displaying goodwill, cooperation and character;’.

It is worth noting that both the ‘good-guy’ award winners are no longer with the team.

In the past the Tip O’Neill award award has gone to a major league player, but it is kind of cool that they widened the net this year.

Romak hit .282/.399/.546 with 32 home runs in 139 games for SK Wyverns. The team didn’t have a good season going 51-92 this year.

Congratulations Jamie.

Speaking of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, they are having their annual Holiday Auction. There are many things I’d love to own, but I only bid on a couple of them (don’t bid against me).

There are many signed balls, bats, jerseys, some very nice artwork and much more. If you were looking for a Christmas present for your favorite site managers, there is no end of good choices.

Over in the Sun, Rob Longley tells us that Vladimir Guerrero isn’t a lock for third base, but there is this quote:

“It’s just because of his arms and his hands,” Atkins said when asked how Guerrero can be successful at his original position. “If he’s coming in at the overall body (composition) and weight and agility he was in Double A, it’s realistic to think of him being an impact player at third base.

Gregor Chisholm, in the Star, writes about the first five years of the Shapiro/Atkins reign. And he also goes through the 70 (!) trades they have made and takes a closer look at the ‘top 25’ .

He lists 10 as wins, 9 as losses, 3 as draws and 3 as TBD.

A couple I might argue:

  • Pearce for Espinal is listed as a loss, but, to me it is TBD, Pearce was great in the World Series, but Espinal might be a handy player to have in the long run.
  • He had Merryweather for Donaldson a win. We were trading only a couple of months of an injured Josh, but it was just a weird and poorly done trade.
  • Stroman for Kay and Woods Richardson is listed as TBD, but I count that as a win.

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Gameday: Bucks @ Raptors: Jan 27 – Raptors Republic



There’s a growth chart in my son’s room which he measures himself against every few months but sometimes 14 times a week. Kids are weird. That’s what the Raptors will be doing tonight: measuring how much they’ve grown as a team since the start of the campaign. Games against the Heat and Pacers are practice runs for ones like tonight, where the result lingers for longer. The 10-6 Bucks are tied in the loss column for the best record in the East with Philly and Boston, with the Raptors sitting in 10th. That spot is largely considered a false position given the number of tight ones the Raptors have lost, especially on their travels west. The Bucks did beat the Hawks in their last game but prior to that they failed two significant tests against the Nets and Lakers, leaving them possibly questioning their position. That’s the thing with records – we’d rather believe what we feel about a team than how good they’ve shown to be.

Other than re-upping Giannis the Bucks pulled off the Jrue Holiday trade, netting them improved defense and athleticism at a spot they felt was capping their aspirations. Holiday’s shooting 38% from three, averaging 16 points and has brought a dynamism to their game absent with Bledsoe. Despite Kyle Lowry’s issues of late the point guard play has been solid thanks to Fred VanVleet. VanVleet’s answers to the questions posed by those who balked at his deal have been emphatic. He has improved his three-point shooting, mid-range game, defense, ball-handling and finishing. He remains the Raptors best offensive weapon and creator, which few would have predicted. Well, maybe Louis Zatzman but I can be forgiven for being skeptical of a man who has a secret shrine in his house, deep in the kitchen cabinet on the underside of a shelf. Push the shelf inwards and rotate it at an angle of 23 – no more, no less. You will be witness to a cosmos which shames Pan’s Labyrinth’s labyrinth. Those have dared entered it have not returned. Except Zatzman. He always returns. Each time growing stronger.

Anytime we’re talking defensive backcourt play we have to start with how dribble penetration is handled. Whereas in previous years the Raptors could devise schemes that funnel the ball into their formidable defensive big men, the same strategy doesn’t have the literal or figurative legs to stand on. Combine this with aggressive closeouts which teams are getting accustomed to, the Raptors are offering too many clean paths to the rim. In response, they have used the zone a lot more in recent games, especially pressure zones where the top two guys are actively playing the pass more aggressively instead of sagging back. This has been an effective counter but it hasn’t stopped the overall bleeding. Most recently the Pacers dropping 70 points in the first half while shooting 51%.

The defensive signs are still encouraging as necessity has once again proven to be the mother action, if not invention. Pascal Siakam playing Free Safety by being everywhere yet nowhere was the de facto defensive stance.  His absence has correlated with Nick Nurse having more guys play a more contained approach because they can’t cover the ground Siakam can. We often talk about injured players coming back and seeing the game differently because they’ve finally had a chance to purely observe without the anxiety of playing. It’s interesting to think about how a coach might change their perception of the scheme based on the same. Like any human being they learn through inspection and adaption, and inspection takes many forms. He’s not going to re-wire the defense but perhaps a sprinkle or too of something that might have been gathering dust was in order.

Here’s an interesting stat: The Raptors three-point rate (threes as a percentage of all FGAs) last season was 42%. For the Bucks it was 43%. This season the Bucks are at 42% where as the Raptors have climbed to #1 in the league at 48% (they’re shooting 37%, 2% higher). That’s a significant shift in the balance of the offense which is why there’s so much emphasis on three-point shooting this season: the Raptors just take a ton of them and arguably live and die by the three. Though that’s true of many teams, this degree of dependency on three-point shooting is something new. This can be curbed by not taking shots that are unequivocally poor. There’s at least 2-3 shots a game (1-2 usually Norm) that would make even Mike D’Antoni raise an eyebrow. These are indiscretions that need to be cut out but if you insist on taking hail mary thees perhaps they should be taken by Matt Thomas, our best three-point shooter.

Let’s talk Giannis. The Raptors will probably throw a few different looks at him – OG, Watanabe, Johnson, Boucher – but the 30% three-point shot says it’s the zone that’s the main weapon.  Giannis has the ability to slither his way between defenders which diminishes the effectiveness of even deep zones played against him. See, he doesn’t drive to the rim. He snakes towards it at a cheetah’s speed with the footing of a mountain goat. There’s much to be said playing man-defense against him what with OG’s speed and size, and Boucher supplying help through shot-contention. The risk is that it leads into situations where you pick up fouls and leave yourself vulnerable to the drive-and-kicks they feed of.  Switching through different zone defenses may not win you an entire series as the defense gets used to it, but in a single game it can surprise and lead to short-run profits.  But maybe that’s exactly why you don’t play it.

Other than that, I’d like to see Brook Lopez go 0-13 and get decked by Aron Baynes if for no other reason to culminate the return of Baynes to something resembling an NBA player. The man is not just jumping, he’s blocking shots. He’s not just boxing out, he’s getting the rebound. He’s not just moving, he’s rotating.  He’s not just shooting, he’s scoring. If the NBA was handing out MIP awards every 2-3 days then Baynes for sure would be one of the 10 nominees. Welcome back, Aron.

We’re going to have live post-game shows immediately after the game with a variety of people. Sub us on YouTube and see you after the whistle.

More from RR:

Game Info

Tipoff: 7:30pm EST | TV: TSN | Radio: TheFan590. Bucks are a 5.5 point favorite.

Raptors Lineups

Pascal Siakam (left knee swelling) is questionable, Patrick McCaw (knee) is out.

PG: Kyle Lowry, Malachi Flynn

SG: Fred VanVleet, Norman Powell, Terence Davis, Matt Thomas, Jalen Harris

SF: OG Anunoby, Stanley Johnson, DeAndre Bembry, Paul Watson

PF: Pascal Siakam, Yuta Watanabe

C: Aron Baynes, Chris Boucher

Bucks Lineups

Bucks have no injuries.

PG: Jrue Holiday, DJ Augustin, Bryn Forbes

SG: Donte ViVincenzo, Sam Merrill, Torrey Craig

SF: Khris Middleton, Pat Connaughton, Jordan Nwora

PF: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Thanasis Antetokounmpo

C: Brook Lopez, Bobby Portis, D. J Wilson

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Seravalli: ‘Shocking’ move as Pittsburgh Penguins GM Rutherford departs in jaw-dropping fashion – TSN



Legendary Pittsburgh play-by-play man Mike Lange likes to roar “Ladies and gentlemen, Elvis has just left the building,” after Penguins wins on home ice.

On Wednesday, one of the men responsible for hanging two Stanley Cup banners in that building left the Steel City in jaw-dropping, Elvis-like fashion.

The Penguins announced Jim Rutherford had resigned from his post as general manager, citing personal reasons. The three-time Stanley Cup champion manager, who turns 72 in three weeks, was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in the builder category in 2019, thanks in no small part to the back-to-back Cups he led the Penguins to in 2016 and 2017.

The Penguins (4-1-2) are just seven games into their 56-game slate, tied for third place in the realigned East Division.

“I know it’s a little unusual to have this happen during a season, but just felt this was the right time to step away,” Rutherford said in a statement from the team.

“Shocking,” was how Penguins CEO David Morehouse described Wednesday’s turn of events.

Assistant GM Patrik Allvin (pronounced All-veen) will take over on an interim basis, the team said, with full autonomy of hockey operations. Allvin, 46, is the first Swede to sit in an NHL GM’s chair in league history. He had been at his assistant GM post only since Nov. 4, replacing Jason Karmanos, who was fired on Oct. 26.

Rutherford did not provide a specific reason for his resignation, but ruled out his health.

“No health issues, I’m probably healthier than I was 20 years ago,” Rutherford told TSN’s Pierre LeBrun.

Instead, Rutherford opted to keep his reasons for stepping down private.

“No, I’m not going to do that,” Rutherford told LeBrun when asked to elaborate on his decision. “I don’t think it serves anybody well. I’ve been treated first-class here and I really appreciate and respect what they’ve done for me. That’s the way I want to leave the Penguins.”

Morehouse said it was a “personal decision Jim made,” adding that Rutherford had “his mind made up” after sleeping on his decision overnight.

“I don’t think there’s any one thing that led to Jim resigning,” Morehouse said.

One thing Rutherford did make clear: He isn’t ready to retire just yet. This may be an abrupt end to his seven-year tenure in Pittsburgh, but it’s not necessarily the end of his career. Rutherford has this season remaining on his contract with the Penguins.

“I will just take it easy for a while until the summer time and at that point, I can decide if I want to keep working or if I want to retire,” Rutherford told LeBrun.

Morehouse said the Penguins plan to cast a wide net for Rutherford’s replacement. The jockeying for one of the NHL’s truly coveted jobs, with the chance to inherit a roster with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, had already begun according to Morehouse. He said he received calls from interested candidates before the news was even announced.

One of the prerequisites for interested candidates, Morehouse said: a manager willing to think outside the box and be aggressive.

There is no question Rutherford was that in Pittsburgh. After a shaky end to his two-decade tenure in Carolina, Rutherford reinvented himself at the confluence of the Three Rivers.

His nickname of “Trader Jim” was well-earned. Rutherford completed a whopping 61 trades in just over six and a half years on the job. For perspective, the NHL’s longest-tenured GM, Nashville’s David Poile, has completed just 126 in 23-plus years on the job, according to

He swung big and he swung often, his courage of conviction never in question. Rutherford traded for maligned winger Phil Kessel from Toronto and Kessel ended up eating hot dogs out of Lord Stanley’s chalice. Kessel produced 45 critical playoff points over two postseason runs, nearly resulting in a Conn Smythe Trophy.

Rutherford often had the sterling silver touch. On one of his first days on the job, he dealt James Neal to Nashville in exchange for Patric Hornqvist. He added some more speed in Carl Hagelin, changing the look of the Pens, and properly insulated his stars with Trevor Daley, Nick Bonino, Ian Cole, Ben Lovejoy, Justin Schultz and Ron Hainsey.

But perhaps what Rutherford will most be remembered for from his tenure in Pittsburgh will be his no-ego ability to flush mistakes. If Rutherford swung and whiffed, he wasn’t too proud to admit it.

Head coach Mike Johnston was jettisoned after just a season and a half, a wrong righted by the hiring of Mike Sullivan. The Penguins said hello and goodbye quickly to Christian Ehrhoff, Derick Brassard, Nick Bjugstad, Patrick Marleau and Erik Gudbranson. The Penguins missed Conor Sheary, who walked to Buffalo in free agency due to cap constraints, so Rutherford reacquired him.

His reward was the 2016 Jim Gregory General Manager of the Year Award.

“He deserves a lot of credit,” Sidney Crosby told TSN in 2016. “He’s had in mind what he wants our team to look like and how he wants us to play and showed a lot of confidence in different guys.”

Along the way, Rutherford lost lieutenants in assistant managers Bill Guerin, Tom Fitzgerald and Jason Botterill, all of whom went on to become GMs elsewhere in the NHL.

His latest protege, Allvin, will be given a long look by the Penguins. Allvin might just need to be surrounded by an experienced assistant like Les Jackson. Or perhaps Botterill, recently hired as an assistant in Seattle, will be interested in returning to the fold. Former Flyers GM Ron Hextall spent time growing up in Pittsburgh while his father, Bryan, played for the Penguins.

There is no shortage of qualified candidates (see the list below). But one thing is for certain: Whoever it is will have enormous shoes to fill. The Penguins are very much in ‘win-now’ mode after saying goodbye to Rutherford, who gave Crosby and Malkin and Co. every opportunity to do so.

Patrik Allvin                 Assistant GM, Pittsburgh
Craig Billington           Assistant GM, Colorado
Jason Botterill           Assistant GM, Seattle
Craig Conroy             Assistant GM, Calgary
Mathieu Darche         Dir. Hockey Ops, Tampa Bay
Kris Draper                Dir. Amateur Scouting, Detroit
Chris Drury                Assistant GM, N.Y. Rangers
John Ferguson Jr.     Assistant GM, Boston
Laurence Gilman       Assistant GM, Toronto
Ron Hextall                Advisor, Los Angeles
Mark Hunter              GM, OHL London Knights
Chris Lamoriello        Assistant GM, N.Y. Islanders
Dean Lombardi          Advisor, Philadelphia
Chris MacFarland       Assistant GM, Colorado
Scott Mellanby           Assistant GM, Montreal
Pat Verbeek               Assistant GM, Detroit​

“We’re going to do a careful analysis of people who are interested,” Morehouse said. “We’re looking for someone who can take this great group of players and hang another banner in the rafters.”

Contact Frank Seravalli on Twitter: @frank_seravalli​

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Blue Jays’ Springer signing needs to end tired Toronto narrative –



TORONTO – Now that George Springer has donned a Toronto Blue Jays cap and jersey in public for the first time, with Marcus Semien soon to join him, let’s put the persistent narrative about players not wanting to come here to bed for good.

If the situation is right from a baseball perspective and the money is there, the Blue Jays have a legitimate shot at any free agent they want.

Toronto may not be a glamour destination like California, or home to a historic franchise like the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers or Cubs, or native to wide swaths of the major-league populace, but let’s stop acting like the front office has to sell players on Milwaukee.

This is a great place to play, and arms don’t have to be twisted to get guys to stay once here, as evidenced by the club’s strong history in retaining players that have been prioritized. Tired whinges like the border and customs and taxes are weak crutches that are convenient when the Blue Jays are struggling, or can’t compete on the baseball front.

The signing of Springer to a club record $150-million, six-year deal, and the looming arrival of Semien, who agreed to an $18-million, one-year contract pending a physical, reinforces what’s possible when the Blue Jays build an enticing core, and are willing to pay market rates.

They have plenty to work with, and GM Ross Atkins has effectively leveraged that.

“One that was most important is that they were themselves,” Springer said of how, beyond dollars, the Blue Jays swayed him to head north. “They were honest about where they wanted the team to go, about what they believed in, about how much they believe in their players now, the guys already in that locker-room, the plan, the direction they saw these guys going. When you have a young, talented group that’s already in place, it’s obviously very, very attractive because you know what they can potentially do. All the conversations I’ve had, not one person has said that they don’t want to win, that they don’t go out there and play as hard as they possibly can. That’s what I’m looking forward to the most, getting down to it and playing hard every day with these guys.”

To be clear, the Blue Jays’ decision to offer an extra year at a higher average annual value than what the New York Mets reportedly had on the table is ultimately what tipped the scales – in free agency, money almost always trumps all.

But it’s the other parts of the package that have allowed the Blue Jays to overcome the usual excuses that come up in their pursuit of players.

To wit, Springer cited the presence of Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette and Cavan Biggio as being a key part of the attraction, and augmenting a team coming off a playoff berth is a strong marketing tool.

In his opening comments, Atkins shouted out Shannon Curley, the club’s senior manager, player relations and community marketing, for her role in the courtship process, and the dedicated work she does in assisting players and their families is essential in building comfort.

The tax hits here, meanwhile, aren’t much different than in New York and California, and the Blue Jays must do more to kill the imbedded perception of excessively onerous clawbacks. From a tax perspective, it’s really no worse joining the Blue Jays than the Yankees or Dodgers.

None of that means the Blue Jays will get every player they want – no team does. Gerrit Cole spurned aggressive pursuit from the Dodgers and Angels to play for the Yankees. Mookie Betts wouldn’t sign an extension with the Red Sox so they traded him to the Dodgers, who locked him up. Some players have a destination in mind, no matter what, a right they’ve earned in free agency.

But former Blue Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi – whose fall 2005 signings of A.J. Burnett ($55 million over five years with an opt out) and B.J. Ryan ($47 million, five years) remain the fourth and fifth largest free-agent commitments in team history – was bang on when he told me last year that, “most free agents want three things.”

“They want the most money they can make; they want to be as close to their home as they can be; and they want to be on a winning club,” added Ricciardi, now a senior advisor to San Francisco Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi. “Sometimes, you just can’t get as close to their home as they want, so you’ve got to try and create the other two things.”

In other words, it might be harder to sign free agents and it may cost more, but it can be done.

That’s why marketplace perceptions matter, underlining the importance of president and CEO Mark Shapiro describing Springer as a step, not the destination.

If his plan to build a sustainable winner is successful, upper tier off-season additions like Ryu last year and Springer this year are going to become the norm, rather than outliers. Ryu’s $80-million, four-year contract last winter was viewed by some in the industry as an overpay by a team spurned by other free-agent pitchers, but it also established a credibility that’s been bolstered by the moves this winter.

One agent in regular contact with the Blue Jays is impressed with how aggressively they’ve pursued such a wide array of players in recent months, believing it demonstrates a real change in direction.

Making that view more widespread is critical with Shapiro indicating the team’s payroll has the potential to exceed record highs in the $165 million range during the 2016-18 window if the wins keep coming, and the revenue increases commensurately once the pandemic passes.

“There is no limit to what that can reflect from a revenue perspective” if the team grows into a consistent contender, said Shapiro. “(The) plan is to continue to win. And as we win, the revenues will increase. And where those dollars go, I think there’s no limit to what this market can be. It’s a behemoth and we’re going to continue to get better and continue to add the players and keep the players that we have necessary to be a championship team year-in, year-out.”

Those are bold words and when asked if the Blue Jays could be a team that spends to or beyond the $210 million competitive balance tax threshold, Shapiro hedged around the uncertainty with the collective bargaining agreement expiring in December.

“Whatever system is going to be in place after this year, we’ll have to consider it and adjust,” said Shapiro. “But beyond this year, there is no system in place. So that’s not a concern right now.”

Fair enough, but it’s refreshing to think in those terms about a franchise that for too long has constrained itself.

Fading into forgotten history is that the Blue Jays led the majors in payroll during the World Series years of 1992 and 1993, when nobody cried about the difficulty in luring free agents.

Hall of Famers like Dave Winfield, Jack Morris and Paul Molitor signed with the Blue Jays as free agents because they believed this was a place they could win. And thanks to the brilliant framework Hall of Fame GM Pat Gillick put in place, that’s exactly what they did.

The ensuing drift into an extended playoff-less wilderness steadily eroded the organizational derring-do, and when combined with some player abandonments of the NBA’s Toronto Raptors, a deep insecurity settled into the local sporting psyche.

And it’s lingered since, even after Masai Ujiri, the Raptors president, sought to pull everyone from the malaise during Kawhi Leonard’s introduction in September 2018, telling a questioner that, “the narrative of not wanting to come to this city is gone. I think that’s old and we should move past that. Believe in this city, believe in yourself.

Those words should resonate again after seeing Springer in a Blue Jays uniform Wednesday and hearing him respond to a question about if playing in Canada gave him pause by saying, “No. To be honest, no.”

There’s no better proof that the narrative of not wanting to come to this city is gone, is old and that we very much should move past that. The Blue Jays have reason to believe in themselves and they’ve started to make star free agents believe in this city, too.

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