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Tigers hire A.J. Hinch as new manager on multi-year contract – Sportsnet.ca

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DETROIT — As he waited out his suspension this year, AJ Hinch knew he wanted to return to baseball. The question was whether anyone in the sport would be ready to welcome him.

His answer came pretty quickly.

“About 30 minutes after the World Series’ last out, my phone rang,” Hinch said.

It was Detroit general manager Al Avila, telling Hinch to get on a plane. The Tigers quickly hired Hinch as their new manager, giving him a chance to return to a major league dugout after he was fired by Houston in the wake of the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal.

It may take a while for Hinch to overcome the stigma of what happened in Houston, but he and his new bosses were ready to address the topic Friday.

“I understand the question and I understand how wrong it was, and I’m sorry for that,” Hinch said. “I’ve said that before, I’ll say it again, I’ll continue to say it. I’ll never forget the feeling that I’ve had throughout the past year as I’ve navigated this with my family, but you quickly get to the exciting time of getting back and leading a group of men again, and establishing what Tigers baseball’s going to be all about.

“I’m sorry that today, that has to be a topic, and I understand why.”

The 46-year-old Hinch replaces Ron Gardenhire, who retired late this season. He takes over a team that has been rebuilding for the past few years.

Hinch guided Houston to the 2017 World Series title, but that championship — and a lot of what he accomplished there — is now viewed in a different light after an investigation found the Astros used a video feed from a centre field camera to decode the opposing catcher’s signs, and players banged on a trash can to signal to hitters what was coming. In January, Major League Baseball suspended Hinch and Astros GM Jeff Luhnow for the season and the Astros immediately fired both.

Hinch said then that he hadn’t endorsed the sign stealing but had failed to stop it.

“I started thinking right then and there, when AJ and Jeff got suspended, what’s going to happen to those two guys? Are those two guys going to be back in the sport? Would they be welcomed back in the sport?” said Christopher Ilitch, the Tigers’ chairman and CEO. “As time went on, and I just sort of watched from afar, how everybody that was involved with that handled themself, I really admired the way AJ handled himself.”

Hinch said he was very happy when the season was able to start, and he also went on a couple family trips. He also said he contracted the coronavirus, which made for some scary times in September.

He knew, however, that he didn’t want to be away from the game for long.

“I always knew that I wanted to get back into baseball,” he said. “It was a matter of, I think the game and the people within the game will tell you where that’s going to be, if it’s going to be anywhere.”

Hinch said he was counting down the outs to the end of the post-season, when he could start having serious interviews with any interested teams. On Thursday, the Chicago White Sox announced the hiring of Hall of Famer Tony La Russa for that managerial opening. Hinch said he never interviewed for that position.

On Friday, the Tigers announced a multiyear deal with Hinch. He had a connection with the organization, having played for Detroit in 2003.

“We had a pretty good knowledge of AJ, of who he was,” Avila said. “There was never a doubt in my mind of his character, honesty — he’s one of the better guys that you’re going to meet in the game, or in life in general. One mistake does not determine a man.”

Detroit went 23-35 in this shortened season, finishing last in the AL Central. That’s been a familiar spot for the Tigers recently — Detroit lost 114 games in 2019 — but the team has been able to pick high in the draft during this stretch. Casey Mize, the top overall pick in 2018, reached the majors this year, and Detroit used this year’s No. 1 selection on infielder Spencer Torkelson.

Left-hander Tarik Skubal made his big league debut this season along with Mize. While these youngsters have yet to prove they can make the Tigers contenders again, Detroit will hope Hinch can replicate what he did in Houston.

Hinch, a former big league catcher, managed Arizona from May 2009 until July 2010. When he took over the Astros before the 2015 season, they had not finished above .500 since 2008. Houston then had a winning record in all five years under Hinch, including that 2017 World Series title and the 2019 American League pennant.

Hinch is 570-452 as a major league manager. He played from 1998-2004, spending time with Oakland, Kansas City, Detroit and Philadelphia.

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NBA Free Agency Report: Raptors waive Dewan Hernandez – RaptorsHQ

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In a surprising turn, the Raptors officially announced this afternoon that they are waiving centre Dewan Hernandez in advance of the 2020-21 season. The soon-to-be 24-year-old big man would have once again been the Raptors 14th or 15th man for the coming season, but it still comes as something of a shock given Toronto’s usual regard for their own draft picks as of late — and their ability to develop them into useful NBA players.

The thinking here from Toronto may have more to do with roster management and salary cap thinking than potential. Though, due to things he could and couldn’t control, Hernandez didn’t do much to prove he could stick in the NBA.

Hernandez joined the Raptors for the 2019-20 season as the 59th pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. There’s usually no reason to believe a player picked in that range will hang on in the league, but Hernandez is a lithe 6’10”, 235 pounds, and showed he had some of the mobility and shooting range needed to be a new-age frontcourt player in the NBA. He still had a ways to go, particularly on the defensive end and appeared in just six games during last season for the Raptors. Unfortunately a serious ankle injury kept him off the floor for the 905 in the G League as well, which surely hurt his development — and his chances of staying with the Raptors.

After adding two new rookies in the 2020 NBA Draft — Malachi Flynn and Jalen Harris — and then signing a pair of established centres in Aron Baynes and Alex Len, it was clear the Raptors were about to run into a bit of a roster crunch. As reviewed here: with Hernandez on the roster, the team was at 16 players — and that’s before adding Len as the team’s backup centre, and before addressing what to do with their other two-way contract slot, which may go to rookie Harris or a returning Oshae Brissett (who is still on the restricted free agent market). There’s also Terence Davis to consider, but we’ll leave that for now.

In truth, Toronto just did not have a lot to lose by letting Hernandez go. Some team could — and likely will — pick him up to become their 15th man or to solidify their G League roster at some point in the future. But with no timetable for a G League return and roster needs now shifting elsewhere for Toronto (e.g. it’s hard to teams to justify carrying three centres), releasing Hernandez saves the team a few bucks in the short term and presumably opens the way for the return of Brissett or some other forward option.

Here’s hoping Hernandez can regain his footing in the NBA soon because, I’ll be honest, he flashed some funky skills at times and I hope he gets a chance to ply his trade for real in the league. Best of luck, Dewan.

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Report: Ravens close facility until next week; game vs. Steelers in jeopardy – Sportsnet.ca

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The Baltimore Ravens are closing their training facility until Monday at the earliest due to the team’s COVID-19 outbreak, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Sunday’s game between the Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers — which was originally scheduled for the Thanksgiving primetime slot on Thursday — figures to be in jeopardy, though it has not yet been postponed.

Five additional Ravens tests came back positive on Thursday, with four players and one staff member contracting the coronavirus. Linebacker Pernell McPhee, running backs Mark Ingram and J.K. Dobbins and defensive tackle Brandon Williams had previously been placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list.

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6 star players the Raptors could sign as free agents in 2021 | Offside – Daily Hive

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After saying goodbye to Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol this offseason, one thing is clear: the Toronto Raptors will be going all-in on free agency next year.

The Raptors reportedly refused to offer either player more than one-year deals in the name of cap flexibility, with a historically-great crop of players potentially available in 2021.

Masai Ujiri will have plenty of options, beginning with his own team. Kyle Lowry is set to become a free agent, while Norman Powell could opt out of the final year of his contract.

With that said, let’s take a look at some of the top pending free agents in 2021, with an eye on who the Raptors might throw money at.

1. Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee Bucks)

Position: Power forward
Age: 25
2019-20 stats: 29.5 PTS, 13.6 REB, 5.6 AST

Two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo will be the most sought after free agent in 2021, and there’s a very real possibility that the Raptors could be a top contender to sign him.

Ujiri helped Giannis’ family emigrate from Nigeria to Greece, and the Raptors president wanted to draft him in 2013.

Getting a player of Antetokounmpo’s ability at age 25, in a position the Raptors covet no less, would be a franchise-changer.

2. Kawhi Leonard (LA Clippers)

Position: Small forward
Age: 29
2019-20 stats: 27.1 PTS, 7.1 REB, 4.9 AST

He wouldn’t, would he? But what if he did?

They say absence makes the heart grow fonder, and perhaps after two years in Los Angeles, Kawhi Leonard would like to rekindle some magic back in Toronto.

It’s a long shot, but the Clippers did have a disappointing playoffs and reportedly have a fractured locker room. If the team falls apart again this season, maybe it’s enough for Kawhi to leave as a free agent, as he has a player option for 2021-22.

3. Paul George (LA Clippers)

Position: Shooting guard
Age: 30
2019-20 stats: 21.5 PTS, 5.7 REB, 3.9 AST

If Kawhi wants out of LA, maybe Paul George will too. And if Leonard doesn’t opt for a Toronto reunion, perhaps Ujiri can convince George to come north of the border.

Crazier things have happened.

4. DeMar DeRozan (San Antonio Spurs)

Position: Small forward
Age: 31
2019-20 stats: 22.1 PTS, 5.5 REB, 5.6 AST

Speaking of reunions, wouldn’t this be fun? DeMar DeRozan loved his time in Toronto and was heartbroken when the Raptors traded him to San Antonio in 2018. But perhaps that broken heart has been mended.

According to a recent story in GQ, DeRozan and Ujiri made up in the NBA bubble in Orlando. DeRozan gave the Raptors executive a “big hug,” according to Ujiri, who added that he felt they had “reached a new place.”

5. Rudy Gobert (Utah Jazz)

Position: Centre
Age: 28
2019-20 stats: 15.1 PTS, 13.5 REB, 1.5 AST

Seven-foot-one French centre Rudy Gobert is an intriguing piece. A two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year, Gobert would fit in well to the Raptors’ commitment to defence.

6. Victor Oladipo (Indiana Pacers)

Position: Shooting guard
Age: 28
2019-20 stats: 14.5 PTS, 3.9 REB, 2.9 AST

Victor Oladipo wants out of Indiana, and openly campaigned for a trade to the Raptors during in front of his teammates last season, according to a report in the Indianapolis Star.

While that’s clearly outrageous, it is an indication that the two-time NBA All-Star wants out of Indiana. Named to the All-Defensive First Team in 2018, Oladipo would help at both ends of the court.

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