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Toronto Blue Jays' 'creative' postseason rotation is numbers-based gamble – TSN



TORONTO — The story the tea leaves were telling over the past few days pointed to something being up, but no one was going to believe it until it actually happened.

Traditionally, when your lone ace is rested and thought to be ready to open a best-of-three postseason series against a legitimate World Series contender, you hand him the ball and don’t think twice.

To kick off the organization’s first postseason trip since 2016, the Toronto Blue Jays decided to buck traditional thinking, instead pushing Hyun-Jin Ryu to Game 2 of the wild-card round on Wednesday and announcing veteran right-hander Matt Shoemaker will start Game 1 on Tuesday evening at Tropicana Field against the Tampa Bay Rays.

Calling the decision “creative” when he explained it Monday afternoon, Jays manager Charlie Montoyo pointed to the way his pitching staff was structured throughout the 60-game regular season.

“In a three-game series, the goal is to win two of them,” Montoyo said. “Putting our ace in the middle makes sense to us for several reasons. Plus, our bullpen’s fully rested. We said we were going to be creative from the beginning and that’s how we got here, being creative.

“To beat one of the best teams in baseball, we’re going to have to be creative.”

That creativity Montoyo points to is the lack of a traditional rotation — other than Ryu, of course — that’s counted on to pitch deep into ballgames.

Over 60 games, the Jays got just 255.1 innings out of the rotation, 27th-most in baseball, while the bullpen threw 269.1 innings, fourth-most in baseball.

With Shoemaker on some sort of pitch count Tuesday — he’s only thrown three innings and 54 pitches since Aug. 21 due to a lat strain that he returned from Sept. 21 — it’s clear that the bullpen will be relied on heavily in Game 1, with lefty Robbie Ray potentially following the veteran right-hander.

Putting Ryu in the middle of Shoemaker and Taijuan Walker is also designed to, ideally, give the bullpen a rest in Game 2 when their ace will be asked to get as many outs as possible.

Unlike a traditional five or seven-game series, Ryu can only pitch once, so the Jays are placing equal importance on each game, and his start will be seen as a must-win, no matter if it’s Tuesday or Wednesday.

Of course, being down 1-0 with a handful of tired relievers won’t be ideal and the criticism will be swift if that happens, but that’s the risk the Jays are willing to take.

“The goal is to win two, so it doesn’t matter when he pitches,” Montoyo said. “That makes a big difference. If it was five (games), then you’d have him for two (starts). A three-game series, pitching the second game with an extra day, that’s our best chance.”

Ryu’s schedule has been talked about a lot this summer.

The Los Angeles Dodgers had a tendency to give the oft-injured lefty five days off between starts rather than the traditional four, but the numbers are similar regardless of rest over the course of his career.

This year, the Jays gave Ryu an extra day seven times in 12 starts, and he responded with a 2.29 ERA, compared to 2.74 on regular rest.

That result is skewed a bit, however, by the fact he was more hittable with an extra day, evidenced by a .605 OPS against on four days and a .620 OPS against on five days of rest.

It would explain a lot if Ryu physically felt he needed the extra day of rest, especially coming off a season-high seven innings and 100 pitches in his final outing of the season on Thursday, one that helped the Blue Jays clinch with three games to spare.

But Montoyo shot that down, saying Ryu didn’t request more rest and that the 33-year-old was physically fine.

They likely wouldn’t want to even hint at some sort of injury limitation, even if it’s debatable what kind of edge the Rays would gain in that scenario.

“We’re looking at the numbers and our best chance and that’s what we came up with,” Montoyo said.

The decision to go with Shoemaker over Walker, who was clearly their second best starter this season with a 2.70 ERA and a .214 batting average against, was about all of the lefty bats the Rays can insert into their platoon-based lineup.

While Walker held right-handed hitters to a measly .178/.252/.263 slash line, lefties teed off to the tune of a .265/.351/.518 slash and an ugly .869 OPS.

With those numbers in mind, it’s clear Jays decision-makers weren’t keen on exposing Walker to a deep and talent Rays lineup early on in the series.

On the other hand, Shoemaker has been able to get either side out with the same success rate throughout his entire career and has limited lefties to a .194 batting average this year.

“Last time he pitched he was really sharp,” Montoyo said of Shoemaker. “He was throwing 94, 95 (mph) because he’s been rested now. I really feel good about him taking the mound. He’s been one of our best pitchers all year, he just got hurt.”

Shoemaker found out he’d be making his first postseason start in six years Monday, as the Jays decided to scrap his final regular season start over the weekend in order to keep their options open.

“Postseason baseball, it’s different,” Shoemaker said. “It’s exciting to say the least.

“This is only going to be my second time pitching in the postseason. I got a really good taste of it early on a few years ago and you always miss it when you’re not there.”

Like any pitching decision, the results will tell the story of whether it’s right or wrong.

If the Jays can somehow cobble together enough offence and outs to beat Blake Snell and the Rays in Game 1 and then send their ace to the hill with a chance to finish the series Wednesday, they’ll look like geniuses.

If Shoemaker gets shelled and the Jays use up a handful of bullpen arms, they’ll quickly be facing elimination and the pressure will be on Ryu to save their season, rather than deliver a quick and decisive blow at the outset of the series.

Cunningly creative or overly cute?

The answer to that question lies in the performance of Shoemaker and the bullpen arms that will undoubtedly follow on Tuesday.

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Naylor: David Braley symbolized the past 30 years of the CFL – TSN



How to sum up David Braley’s meaning to the Canadian Football League?

Braley, the Ontario-based businessman and former Senator who passed away Monday at the age of 79, was at various times the owner of three teams in a nine-team league, including the Toronto Argonauts in whom he held a secret ownership position at the same time he owned the BC Lions.

He served as the CFL’s chairman of the board and took on the commissioner’s role in 2003 after he led the charge to oust Michael Lysko in 2002.

And until recently, when poor health interfered with his ability to participate in the business of the CFL, he was a powerful presence among league governors, so much so that every commissioner had to be aware of where Braley stood on key issues and be prepared to deal with being on the opposite side.

It became a common refrain among people within the league that there would be no Canadian Football League without Braley. And yet, he was both loved and loathed by those within it. Some considered him the league’s biggest benefactor, while others considered him a ruthless profiteer.

Braley grew up in Hamilton, Ont., rooting for the Tiger-Cats. He had played football in high school and at McMaster University, and was a Tiger-Cat season ticket holder before, during and after his ownership of the team, which went from 1989 until he sold the team in 1992 over his opposition to the CFL’s plan to expand to the U.S.

He re-entered the CFL officially as the savior of the Lions in late 1996, one of three CFL franchises insolvent by the end of that season. Braley claimed a federal cabinet minister had warned him that the CBC would bail as a TV partner if the league couldn’t field a Vancouver franchise the next season, so he stepped up.

When the Toronto Argonauts went bankrupt in 2003 under the ownership of Sherwood Schwartz, Braley was front and centre in the search for new owners, trying to broker a deal with Toronto businessmen David Cynamon and Howard Sokolowski.

The pair balked at the losses they’d be inheriting with the Argonauts. So Braley offered to be their partner, an arrangement that was known only by then-commissioner Tom Wright and select others before it was revealed in a 2009 Globe and Mail story.

The league subsequently passed bylaws requiring internal disclosure of all financial arrangements between teams. Braley eventually took over full ownership of the Argos in 2010, then sold the team to Bell and Larry Tanenbaum in 2016.

In its darkest hours, the CFL could always count on Braley, or so it seemed. He was there when the Lions and Argos needed new ownership, but also at various times over the past three decades when teams found themselves short on cash.

It’s believed he loaned money to every team in the CFL at least once, except for the Edmonton Eskimos. That includes to the Tiger-Cats during the years after he sold them to a non-profit group when he would continue to quietly write cheques to help the team make payroll. Braley’s name may not have been on the franchise, but he remained its primary financial backer.

That kind of financial influence in such a small league granted him enormous power, and Braley was never shy about trying to wield his influence over the direction of the league.

He also appeared to be rewarded with a disproportionate number of occasions to host the Grey Cup, which, in most circumstances, is a surefire money-maker. The Braley-owned Lions or Argos hosted the game five times over a 10-year period from 2005 to 2014.

Braley had created his wealth from scratch, taking a loan to purchase an industrial distributing company from a former neighbour, then shifting its focus into becoming a global auto parts manufacturing giant.

He was a well-known for his frugality as his wealth, a pattern demonstrated when he purchased the Tiger-Cats from an ailing Harold Ballard for $500,000, financed with proceeds from the team’s five-year sponsorship agreement with Player’s Tobacco.

That frugality was legendary in the CFL. Despite his wealth, Braley was known to be reluctant to spend on what he considered unnecessary frills for his teams and the league.

His views on the business of the CFL were rooted in traditional approaches to marketing and selling tickets, and he privately railed against the league putting every game on television, favouring blackouts because he believed it would mean better business at the turnstiles.

He had waxed about selling the Lions for at least a decade, engaging with different groups of potential owners but always deciding either the timing or the group itself and what it was willing to pay for the team wasn’t right.

That seemed to do the franchise no favours as he continued to hang on as both his own health and that of his franchise was slipping.

Though the belief in Vancouver is that any Lions business turnaround has to start with new ownership, Braley’s ownership has been viewed as a safety net for the franchise during the pandemic, given his willingness to financially stabilize the franchise.

He was believed to be among the owners who were willing to play a shortened 2020 season, even without government support.

Braley in so many ways symbolized the past 30 years of the CFL: rooted in tradition, dependent on philanthropy and run by a powerful few.

There will never be another like him.

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JONES: Edmonton Oilers dressing room icon Joey Moss dies – Edmonton Sun



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Gretzky’s call has been difficult the last two years with Alzheimer’s and the complications involving Down syndrome at this stage of Moss’ life and especially this year with his hip surgery and the isolations involving the hospital and the facility relating to the coronavirus pandemic.

COVID-19, however, was not a factor in his death.

“Janet & I are saddened to learn about the passing of Joey Moss. Not only was Joey a fixture in the Edmonton dressing room, he was someone I truly considered a friend. We will miss you Joey and you will always live on through our memories. Our thoughts are with Joey’s loved ones,” Gretzky said in a statement.

“On behalf of all the players who had the honour to get to know him, we are so saddened to hear the news of Joey’s passing. We were all lucky enough to be part of his life for a lot of years. His love for life always brought a smile to anyone who met him. Whether it was a coffee before practice or a big hug after a great win or a tough loss, he would put life in perspective. He will be missed but not forgotten, Once an Oiler always an Oiler. RIP Joe.”

There was almost certainly never a member of a sports franchise custodial staff so loved by a community or as famous as Joey Moss.

There are a lot of much less famous members of the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame than Moss, who was inducted in 2015.

Stafford, whenever asked about Joey Moss, always made the point:

“He’s not a locker room attendant to anyone who knows him and works with him. He’s part of the team. In a lot of ways he’s the face of the Oilers.”

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Longtime Oilers locker room attendant Joey Moss dies at 57 –



EDMONTON — Joey Moss, a longtime Edmonton Oilers locker room attendant, died Monday at the age of 57.

Moss was born in 1963 with Down Syndrome, the 12th of 13 children to Lloyd and Sophie Moss.

He became the Oilers’ locker-room attendant in 1984 when superstar Wayne Gretzky was dating his older sister, Vikki. Moss joined the Edmonton Football Team in 1986 and held roles with both organizations for over 30 years.

He worked with the CFL club from the opening of training camp in June until mid-August, at which time he headed over to the Oilers locker-room for the NHL season _ capturing the hearts of Edmonton sports fans along the way, particularly with his enthusiastic participation in the national anthem before the start of every hockey game.

Moss helped the training staff with such tasks as filling water bottles and equipment duties, but became more than an attendant over the years by providing inspiration to everyone in the locker-room.

Moss was awarded the NHL Alumni Association’s “Seventh Man Award” in 2003, for those “whose behind-the-scenes efforts make a difference in the lives of others.”

In October 2008, Moss was honoured with a mural in Edmonton for his service with both clubs. In 2012, he received a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee medal honouring significant contributions and achievements by Canadians, and was inducted into the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame in 2015.

Moss also inspired the Joey Moss Cup, a tournament held at the end of Oilers’ training camp.

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