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Vaccinated Merrifield aims to continue turning season around with Blue Jays –



MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. — All right, OK, let’s get to it. Whit Merrifield says he got vaccinated. Three weeks ago, when the Kansas City Royals came to Rogers Centre to play the Toronto Blue Jays, he didn’t make the trip. He went on the restricted list. He forfeited four games’ pay and service time.

“If something happens and I happen to get on a team that has a chance to go play in Canada in the post-season,” Merrifield said at the time, “maybe that changes.”

In Kansas City, those comments didn’t go over well. A lot of fans were hurt. You’d get vaccinated to help another team win but not ours? And a lot of them let Merrifield know about it. Out and about, on social media, from the stands at Kauffman Stadium. And as the trade deadline neared and Merrifield realized he was very likely to be moved, possibly even to Toronto of all places, he decided he didn’t want to hurt another fanbase all over again.


For a couple of weeks now, I’ve understood that this might be a possibility. And I’ll be in Toronto when the team goes there,” he said Thursday, wearing Blue Jays colours in the visitors’ dugout at Target Field in Minneapolis. “It was something that I probably could have handled a little better. But what happened, happened. And I’m excited to be a Blue Jay. I’m excited to get to Toronto and play at the Rogers Centre as my home.

“I’ll be in Toronto when the team gets to Toronto.”

And of course Merrifield got vaccinated. Why would anyone think he’d do otherwise? It would be legitimately shocking if the Blue Jays traded Max Castillo, a 23-year-old swingman with strong fastball command who’s pitched to a 3.05 ERA since making his big-league debut earlier this season, and Samad Taylor, a toolsy 24-year-old who plays multiple positions and likely would’ve been poached in last off-season’s Rule 5 draft if it happened, for a veteran utility player who can’t enter the country where half the club’s games take place.

The Blue Jays would never execute a transaction under those circumstances, just as they’d never compromise a player’s privacy by disclosing his health information publicly without consent. Merrifield’s vaccination decision was his to make and his to share. And now that it’s been made and shared, everyone can move forward.

Editor’s Note: The COVID-19 situation, in sports and around the world, is constantly evolving. Readers in Canada can consult the country’s public health website for the latest.

“What an exciting team. I’m so excited to be in this clubhouse, get to know some of these guys that I’ve played against from afar,” Merrifield said before chipping in a pair of hits as the Blue Jays beat the Minnesota Twins Thursday, 9-3. “As soon as I got traded, I called Ryan Goins and Justin Smoak — two of my really good friends. And they both said the same thing: ‘Man, you’re going to love it up there.’ I’ve only been on the opposing side. Had some choice words thrown my way. So, I’m excited to be on the other side.”

Not that it was easy leaving a Royals organization Merrifield spent the first dozen years of his professional career with and calls “my family.” He came a long way there. Merrifield was selected out of college by the Royals with the 269th overall pick in the 2010 draft and signed to a $100,000 bonus. He spent the next six years slowly working his way up the organizational ladder until finally, at the age of 27, he broke through to the big-leagues in 2016.

From there, he led the league in hits twice, in steals three times. He was a two-time all-star, including last season when he put up 42 doubles and 40 steals. Many of the coaches who helped develop him in the minors eventually joined him on Kansas City’s major-league staff. Merrifield’s known for weeks that his time with the Royals was coming to an end. But there’s no preparing yourself for those goodbyes.

“I didn’t expect it to be as tough as it was,” he said. “Saying goodbye to a lot of those guys, a lot of players that I’ve spent the majority of my career with, it was more emotional than I thought it would be. It’s part of the game. It’s part of the business. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy.”

Of course, much of Merrifield’s season has been about getting through things that haven’t been easy, from the regretful vaccination comments he made to the miserable slump he began this year that’s still dragging down his numbers today.

Merrifield remembers looking up at the Camden Yards scoreboard during a series in Baltimore a week into May and thinking, ‘Man, am I really hitting .130?’ Not quite. It was .135 with a .341 OPS through his first 113 plate appearances. He was about to be dropped to No. 8 in the Royals batting order after leading off or hitting second for the club every day for the last half-decade. It was a rough time.

But nothing seemed off in the batter’s box. If anything, Merrifield felt good — like the ball had been jumping off his bat as well as it ever has. He just wasn’t seeing results. Maybe it was the deadened baseballs; maybe the cold weather; maybe just bad luck. Well, certainly bad luck. Off the top of his head, Merrifield can tell you about 10 well-struck, early-season balls that simply didn’t drop in.

Whatever it was, a correction has been occurring ever since. Over 307 plate appearances from May 10 until he was traded, Merrifield hit .280/.332/.423, good for a 112 wRC+. He strung together separate hit streaks of 10, seven, and six games. He hasn’t had quite enough runway to drag his season-long numbers all the way out of the crater they started in. But he’s brought them up pretty far.

And he was a good bet to do so. His barrel rate and average exit velocity on the season are right in line with his norms; his strikeout and walk rates are both a tick better than over his career; his hard-hit rate’s up, too. Despite the early-season slump, you won’t find anything alarming in Merrifield’s peripherals.

What you will find is a suspiciously low .266 BABIP— his career BABIP is .323 and has never gone lower than .295 in a single season — plus sizable gaps between his actual and expected batting average (.240 BA; .253 xBA), slugging percentage (.352 SLG; .377 xSLG), and weighted on-base average (.282 wOBA; .303 xwOBA).

How much stock you put into these metrics that suggest Merrifield’s impacting pitches the same way he always has, just not receiving the results you’d expect based on his quality of contact, is up to you. There’s no disputing the fact his season-long line is that of a below-average MLB hitter. But Merrifield’s 80 wRC+ clearly doesn’t tell the entire story on the surface.

At least, that’s how Zack Greinke feels. When Merrifield was traded, one of the first texts he received was from the veteran Royals right-hander, who didn’t send him any pleasantries, any words of encouragement, or any actual words at all. Greinke merely sent a Tweet comparing Merrifield’s actual numbers to his expected ones, demonstrating how unfortunate he’d been.

“That was it. There was nothing else but the Tweet. And so, I saw him later on that day, and I was like, ‘Zach, I got your Tweet. What’s up?’” Merrifield remembered. “And he goes, ‘Yeah, man, I just want to let you know that you’re a good player. Even though sometimes the numbers might not show it.’”

It’s a good reminder. Even at 33, Merrifield’s still a productive, versatile player, capable of raising a club’s floor at any position around the diamond besides shortstop and catcher.

And while he’s undoubtedly lost a step in the field and on the basepaths from his 2017-2020 prime, losing only a step off elite speed and defensive metrics means you’re still an exceptionally skilled player. Merrifield’s sprint speed this season ranks within MLB’s 83rd percentile, putting him right in line with Teoscar Hernandez and George Springer. The only Blue Jay measured faster is late-game speed specialist Bradley Zimmer.

Merrifield’s ability to sustain above-average athleticism into his mid-30’s is good news for a club positioned to employ him through next season, as the Blue Jays are. At a modest $6.75-million salary for 2023, it isn’t hard to envision Merrifield providing ample surplus value if he keeps making contact the way he has, running as well as he is, and avoiding the injured list which he last visited in 2014.

The $18-million mutual option in his contract for 2024, when Merrifield will be 35, is another story. But with only a $500,000 buyout attached to that option, there’s little risk there for the Blue Jays.

Of course, they’ll worry about that then. For now, the Blue Jays have a multipurpose piece who can help them this year and next, a needed layer of insurance against injury to another regular, and a ballplayer who’s extremely motivated to compete for them — wherever the games are taking place.

“I feel like this is a ballclub that fits into my game. Action, excitement, versatility. Guys out there like to hit, like to swing the bat,” Merrifield said. “When you’re playing against certain teams from the outside, there’s teams that come in that you just feel an energy from. And this is one of those teams. From top to bottom. It’s just exciting baseball. I’m excited. I mean, I’ve said excited a lot. But I’m excited to be a part of this team.”

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The Best Canadian Players Ever To Play In The NFL



When people talk about the best players in the history of the NFL, they usually talk about American players. Well, when we consider that most of the legends were from this country, this should not come as a surprise. The case is the same today. Just take a look at and you will see who the most popular individual players are and the top betting picks for football enthusiasts.

However, looking further north, we can see that there are many splendid Canadian players who graced the NFL with their talent.

Let’s take a look at the best ones who played in the league.

Nate Burleson

This ridiculously talented American-Canadian football player had a successful career in the league. He played as a wide receiver for various teams throughout his career, including the Minnesota Vikings, Seattle Seahawks, Detroit Lions, and Cleveland Browns. Burleson was drafted by the Minnesota Vikings in the third round of the 2003 NFL Draft.


He quickly made a difference on the field, showcasing his speed, agility, and reliable hands. During his time with the Vikings, he became known for his ability to make acrobatic catches and his versatility as a receiver. In 2006, Burleson signed with the Seattle Seahawks, where he continued to excel. He played a key role in the team’s success, helping them reach the Super Bowl in the 2005 season. However, injuries limited his playing time during his tenure with the Seahawks.

In 2010, this wonderful man joined the Detroit Lions, where he had some of the best years of his career. He formed a dynamic receiving duo with Calvin Johnson, and together they became one of the most formidable wide receiver tandems in the league. Burleson’s leadership and veteran presence were also highly valued by his teammates. After his time with the Lions, Burleson signed with the Cleveland Browns in 2014.

Bronko Nagurski

This football diety wrote a delightful piece of the NFL history and he made the whole of Canada proud. He played as a fullback and defensive tackle for the Chicago Bears in the 1930s and early 1940s. Nagurski was known for his incredible strength and power on the field, earning him a reputation as one of the toughest players of his time.

During his splendid career, Nagurski helped lead the Bears to multiple championships, including the NFL Championship in 1932, 1933, and 1940. He was a dominant force on both offense and defense, known for his ability to break tackles and his hard-hitting style of play. Nagurski’s physicality and versatility made him a standout player in an era when two-way players were common.

He was later shown the heavenly doors of the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1963. This of course, only made his legacy a legit one in this neck of the woods. What do his colleagues have to say about him? Well, most of them remember him being one of the toughest dudes to roam the green fields.

Mike Vanderjagt

This absolute legend became famous for playing as a placekicker for the Indianapolis Colts from 1998 to 2005 and later for the Dallas Cowboys in 2006. Vanderjagt was known for his accuracy as a kicker and he has the NFL record for the most consecutive field goals made with 42. He was also the first kicker in NFL history to have a perfect season, making all of his field goal and extra point attempts in 2003.

Vanderjagt was selected to the Pro Bowl twice in his career and was a key contributor to the Colts’ success during his time with the team. Imagine having those tales to tell the kiddies on your lap when you get old.

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Jimmy Butler steals the show on NBA media day with ‘emo’ phase look following Damian Lillard’s trade to the Milwaukee Bucks



CNN — 

Whether or not Miami Heat’s golden child Jimmy Butler’s new “emo” look is just a phase, the NBA star carried it off with some aplomb, drawing plenty of laughs from his teammates.

One year on from his memorable fake dreadlocks look, the 34-year-old outdid himself by turning up at the Heat’s media day on Monday sporting a straightened fringe, piercings in his eyebrow and lips and painted black nails.

Butler said he’s now “emo” and after the summer he and the Heat have had, who can blame him?

After former Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard and his agent publicly stated on numerous occasions that he would only want to play for Miami, it seemed like a matter of when, not if, the 33-year-old would end up in South Beach.


Butler led the Heat to an improbable NBA Finals appearance as the eight seed last season, so it’s easy to imagine his excitement at the prospect of Lillard’s addition to the roster pushing the team over the top and to its first title in the post-Lebron James era.

Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler (22) gets his new hairdo brushed at the start of a TV interview, during the NBA basketball team's media day, in Miami, Monday, Oct. 2, 2023. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

However, the Milwaukee Bucks swooped in last week with a package that blew Miami’s out of the water, meaning Lillard will now be plying his trade in Wisconsin and not Florida.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah, laugh it up,” Butler said as he entered his press conference, pushing his fringe out of his eyes. “I’m emo. This is my emotional state, I’m at one with my emotions so this is what you get.”

Despite failing to acquire Lillard and losing key contributors Gabe Vincent and Max Strus, Butler remains confident ahead of the upcoming season, telling reporters the Heat are going to win it all.

If it’s good news that he’s now at one with his emotions, Butler might just also be a gifted method actor and isn’t actually going through a belated “emo” phase. The six-time All Star could be heard saying “don’t make me break character” as he entered the press conference.

Oct 2, 2023; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler poses for a photo during media day. Mandatory Credit: Jim Rassol-USA TODAY Sports

His new character was certainly a hit with his teammates and had Bam Adebayo crying tears of laughter as the pair were having their photos taken for the new season – which means, yes, Butler will have this hair in official photos for the entire year.

Certainly not someone to do things by halves, Butler was fully immersed in his new state and even posted songs from emo bands on his Instagram story throughout the day.


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Finding Your Perfect Match: The Best Ways to Choose an Online Sportsbook



In the ever-expanding world of online sports betting, selecting the right sportsbook is crucial. This is to ensure an enjoyable and secure gambling experience. With numerous options available, it can be challenging to find the perfect fit. For instance, you can be looking into sites like BestOdds to find a sportsbook to go with but do not know what exactly to check.

This article will explain the basics of finding an excellent online sportsbook.

Licensing and Regulation

The first and most critical factor when choosing an online sportsbook is ensuring it operates in a legal and transparent manner. A reputable sportsbook should possess a valid license from a recognized regulatory authority. These licenses indicate that the sportsbook adheres to strict standards, including fair play, responsible gambling and financial security.

Before registering, check for the sportsbook’s licensing information. In most cases, you will find this in the footer of their website. Some of the most reputable regulatory bodies for online sports betting include the United Kingdom Gambling Commission (UKGC), the Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) and the Isle of Man Gambling Supervision Commission.


Additionally, research the sportsbook’s track record for regulatory compliance and any previous non-payment or unethical practices incidents. User reviews and industry news sources can provide valuable insights into the sportsbook’s reputation.

Odds and Betting Markets

The quality of odds and the variety of betting markets offered are key factors in determining the suitability of an online sportsbook. Competitive odds provide better potential returns for your bets, while a wide range of markets allows you to explore different betting options.

Compare odds from multiple sportsbooks to ensure you get the best bet value. Some websites and apps even offer odds comparison tools to make this process more convenient.

Moreover, consider the breadth of sports and events covered by the sportsbook. Whether you’re into mainstream sports like football, basketball, or soccer or niche sports and events, the sportsbook should offer diverse markets to cater to your preferences.

Security and Payment Options

Security is paramount when sharing personal and financial information with an online sportsbook. Look for sportsbooks that employ the latest encryption technologies, such as SSL (Secure Socket Layer), to safeguard your data. Consider factors like two-factor authentication (2FA) to enhance account security further.

Payment options are another critical aspect. Ensure the sportsbook offers convenient and secure methods for depositing and withdrawing funds. Common payment methods include credit/debit cards, bank transfers, e-wallets (like PayPal or Skrill) and cryptocurrencies (like Bitcoin). Choosing a sportsbook that supports your preferred payment method is essential to streamline your betting experience.


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