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White Sox hire Hall of Famer Tony La Russa as new manager – Sportsnet.ca

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CHICAGO _ Tony La Russa, the Hall of Famer who won a World Series with the Oakland Athletics and two more with the St. Louis Cardinals, is returning to manage the Chicago White Sox 34 years after they fired him.

The 76-year-old La Russa rejoins the franchise where his managing career began more than four decades ago. He takes over for Rick Renteria after what the White Sox insisted was a mutual agreement to split.

“We are extremely excited about the future of this team,” general manager Rick Hahn said Thursday. “As we showed in 2020, this is a young, talented club that we expect to only grow better and better in the coming years. Adding in a Hall of Fame manager who is recognized as being one of the best in the history of the game, we are a step closer to our goal of bringing White Sox fans another championship.”

La Russa inherits a team loaded with young stars and productive veterans that made the playoffs for the first time since 2008, only to sputter down the stretch and get knocked out in the wild-card round.

He becomes the oldest manager in the major leagues by five years. Houston’s Dusty Baker is 71.

“While I have had other inquiries about managing since retiring, this opportunity with the White Sox brings together a number of important factors that make this the right time and the right place,” La Russa said. “The on-field talent is amazing, and the front office, led by Kenny Williams and Rick Hahn, has done everything necessary to create an atmosphere of long-term success. All of those factors aligned to make this a tremendous opportunity, and I am excited to get going as soon as possible by building a coaching staff and getting to work.”

La Russa, who started his managing career with the White Sox during the 1979 season, is returning to the dugout for the first time since 2011, when he led St. Louis past Texas in the World Series. He also won championships with Oakland in 1989 and the Cardinals in 2006.

La Russa is 2,728-2,365 with six pennants over 33 seasons with Chicago, Oakland and St. Louis. He was enshrined in Cooperstown in 2014. Only Hall of Famers Connie Mack (3,731) and John McGraw (2,763) have more victories.

LaRussa got his first major league managing job at age 34 when the White Sox promoted him from Triple-A to replace the fired Don Kessinger. He took over that August and led them to a 522-510 record over parts of eight seasons.

The 1983 team won 99 games on the way to the AL West championship _ Chicago’s first playoff appearance since the 1959 Go-Go White Sox won the pennant. But he was fired in 1986 by then-general manager Ken Harrelson after the White Sox got off to a 26-38 start.

Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf has long regretted allowing that move and remains close with La Russa. Now, they’re reuniting.

“His hiring is not based on friendship or on what happened years ago, but on the fact that we have the opportunity to have one of the greatest managers in the game’s history in our dugout at a time when we believe our team is poised for great accomplishments,” Reinsdorf said.

The move is a surprise considering how long it’s been since La Russa was in the dugout. General manager Rick Hahn said the White Sox were looking for someone who has “experience with a championship organization in recent years.”

Former Houston manager AJ Hinch and ex-Boston skipper Alex Cora fit that description. Both were suspended by Major League Baseball for the 2020 season for their roles in the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal, and both lost their manager jobs. Their punishments ended this week.

Though he hasn’t been in a dugout in nine years, La Russa has remained a part of the game.

Shortly after retiring, he went to work in the league office for two years assisting former Yankees manager Joe Torre in on-field discipline issues.

In May 2014, he was hired by the Arizona Diamondbacks to oversee their baseball operation. They signed Zack Greinke to a $206.5 million deal following the 2015 season. La Russa got demoted to an advisory role following a 93-loss season in 2016 and joined Boston’s front office as a special assistant to then-president Dave Dombrowski in November 2017.

La Russa was with the Red Sox when they hired Cora and won the World Series in 2018. And he spent last season as a senior advisor for baseball operations with the Los Angeles Angels, assisting in player development. Whether any of manager Joe Maddon’s eccentricities rubbed off on him remains to be seen.

Maddon keeps a loose and fun atmosphere, whether it’s having a magician or zoo animals at the ballpark or showing up for a spring training workout decked out in tie-dye with a 1970s van blasting Earth, Wind & Fire’s “Shining Star.” La Russa, of course, was known more for his scowl than his smile. Now, he’s taking on a vibrant and outgoing team, where sky high bat-flips by Tim Anderson seem almost as common as pop flies.

Then again, he’s no stranger to managing outsized personalities. He had Rickey Henderson and Jose Canseco in Oakland, after all.

The White Sox have never made back-to-back playoff appearances. But after ending a string of seven losing seasons, they are in position to change that.

They have a core of young players on team-friendly deals, starting with Anderson. Veteran Jose Abreu put himself in the running for AL MVP by driving in 60 runs. Ace Lucas Giolito pitched his first no-hitter.

Eloy Jimenez hit .296 with 14 homers and 41 RBIs. Luis Robert, who agreed to a $50 million, six-year contract in January, showed star potential in a roller-coaster rookie year. He got off to a great start and hit a massive homer in the playoff series against Oakland, though he also slumped in September.

Now, the White Sox are banking on La Russa to help push them to championships, just as he did with Oakland and St. Louis.

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The absurdity of medal ceremony mask-wearing at the Tokyo Olympics – Yahoo Canada Sports

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TOKYO — The International Olympic Committee on Sunday reminded athletes to keep wearing masks, especially at the one time when mask-wearing is completely unnecessary.

Dozens of athletes have now stepped up onto podiums here at the Olympics. They’ve draped medals around their necks, and listened to national anthems, with nobody within six feet of them. And in perhaps the proudest moment of their lives, with emotions washing over their faces, their families, forced to watch from home, haven’t been able to see those faces, because they’re covered by masks.

And when pictures circulated of a few swimmers posing on podiums with masks off?

A reporter asked IOC spokesman Mark Adams whether there’d been a relaxation of COVID-19 rules that require mask-wearing during medal ceremonies. “There is no relaxation,” Adams responded. “We would urge and ask everyone to obey the rules.”

But at the Tokyo Aquatics Center on Sunday, Olympic officials made a mockery of those rules. A non-story became a story because pictures circulated of swimmers arm in arm with masks off. But multiple athletes said after their competitions that they’d been directed to remove their masks for photos.

American swimmers Chase Kalisz (right) and Jay Litherland both had to wear masks on the podium ... at least for some of it. (Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Network)

American swimmers Chase Kalisz (right) and Jay Litherland both had to wear masks on the podium … at least for some of it. (Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Network)

“Someone in the front was holding a sign that said, ‘Don’t wear a mask,’” said gold medal-winning American swimmer Chase Kalisz. “So, um, I can’t speak for what the proper protocol was, but he had a sign that said ‘mask off’ and ‘mask on.’”

Hours later, silver medal-winning Canadian diver Melissa Citrini-Beaulieu confirmed: “At one point they said to take off masks for a picture.”

And then, after the medal ceremonies, swimmers and divers alike paraded around the pool deck, stopping for more pictures, arm in arm with their fellow medalists, masks sometimes on, sometimes off. They hugged coaches. One German diver put her mask on the ground, then in a pocket.

There are all sorts of protocol violations here. On the first night of competition, U.S. soccer star Megan Rapinoe took her mask off for an interview with a dozen reporters in the post-match mixed zone. On Sunday, Tunisian swimmer Ahmed Hafnaoui lined up for an impromptu video interview against a wall outside the Aquatics Center after his improbable gold medal. Reporters surround him. A Tunisian Olympic committee official literally pulled Hafnaoui’s mask off, so cameras could see his beautiful face.

Tunisian swimmer Ahmed Hafnaoui speaks to reporters after winning gold ... without his mask on. (Henry Bushnell/Yahoo Sports)Tunisian swimmer Ahmed Hafnaoui speaks to reporters after winning gold ... without his mask on. (Henry Bushnell/Yahoo Sports)

Tunisian swimmer Ahmed Hafnaoui speaks to reporters after winning gold … without his mask on. (Henry Bushnell/Yahoo Sports)

Protocols are enforced inconsistently. And yet, at the most prominent moment of virtually zero danger, with swimmers who’ll soon hug maskless separated by several feet, and with nobody in their immediate line of breath, the IOC and Tokyo organizers have decided that they must wear masks. At most of more than a dozen medal ceremonies tracked by Yahoo Sports thus far, including those in archery, judo, taekwondo and fencing, athletes have been masked up.

There is an argument that doing so models proper behavior, and perhaps that’s what Adams, the IOC spokesman, meant when he said that mask-wearing “sends a strong message.” But there is an obvious counterargument, that behavior modeling must be reasonable, or else the world will see it for what it is: all for show. Hygiene theater is prevalent at these Olympics. Medal ceremony mask-wearing is just another version.

Yahoo Sports’ Jack Baer contributed reporting.

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Vancouver Canucks place Jake Virtanen on waivers for purpose of buying out contract – ESPN

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The Vancouver Canucks placed Jake Virtanen on unconditional waivers Sunday for the purpose of buying out the final year of his contract.

Canucks general manager Jim Benning confirmed the decision in an announcement on the team’s official Twitter account.

Virtanen was placed on leave on May 1 after being accused in a lawsuit of sexually assaulting a women four years earlier. The organization said at the time that it “does not accept sexual misconduct of any kind and the claims as reported are being treated very seriously.”

The suit, filed in British Columbia, alleges Virtanen took the woman to a hotel in West Vancouver in September 2017 and assaulted her as she repeatedly said no and pleaded with him to stop.

The Canucks said at the time they had “engaged external expertise” to assist in an independent investigation. The NHL said then it would not comment until the investigation was complete.

The Canucks are on the hook for paying a third of Virtanen’s remaining $3 million base salary, while freeing up $2.5 million in cap space.

Virtanen, 24, had five goals in 38 games last season, a year after scoring a career-high 18 goals in 69 games. Overall, Vancouver’s 2014 first-round draft pick has 55 goals and 100 points in 317 games.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Felix Auger-Aliassime first-round upset Tokyo Olympics – TSN

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TOKYO — It was far from the performance Felix Auger-Aliassime was hoping for in his Olympic debut.

Playing on centre court of Tokyo’s Ariake Tennis Park on Sunday, Auger-Aliassime was eliminated in just under two hours by a player ranked 190th in the world who was not even scheduled to compete.

Australian Max Purcell, replacing the injured Andy Murray, upset the 15th-ranked Canadian in straight sets 6-4, 7-6 (2) in the first round.

The 20-year-old Auger-Aliassime never got into any kind of rhythm, except for a three-game winning streak that saw him go from down 1-3 to up 4-3 in the second set.

The Montrealer’s performance otherwise did not live up to expectations.

“It’s difficult to explain,” said the ninth-seeded Auger-Aliassime a few minutes after the loss. “You have to give credit to Max for playing such a good match. Even if he’s more of a doubles player, he’s dangerous, he serves well.

“Despite everything, I still had chances to do better in this match. I had a very bad service game in the first set, which cost me. After that, I did not find ways to get back into the match. A little in the second set, but it was not enough.”

Purcell broke the Canadian to take a 4-3 lead in the first set and won all four points in the next game to go up 5-3.

“I played with confidence,” said Purcell. “I just had two great tournaments in singles. I won a Challenger just last week.

“I need to make the most every time I get in. I went out there thinking I could win, and I think I had just as much to lose as Felix in my mind.”

The Australian earned another break early in the second set to take a 3-1 lead. Auger-Aliassime then strung together his best tennis of the encounter, winning three games in a row to give renewed hope to his team gathered around the court.

But it was short-lived. The two players exchanged serves until the tiebreaker, where Auger-Aliassime fell flat.

“You always have to try to find solutions, to adapt,” said the Canadian. “It’s difficult, we don’t always play our best tennis. That was the case today.

“My first service game has been good. There was no reason (to struggle today). In training (Saturday), I served well. (Sunday,) I didn’t have a lot of good first serves, I couldn’t find the right pace.

“In the second set I started to serve better, but it was almost too late. He had gained confidence, he was leading the game and I was going through it. I tried to find solutions, but it didn’t work out.”

Auger-Aliassime was supposed to face Murray, but the two-time defending Olympic champion withdrew a few hours before his clash with the Quebecer.

Murray, 104th in the world, suffered a quadriceps injury in his right leg. He is still lined up to play the doubles portion of the tournament with teammate Joe Salisbury.

“It’s not easy for anybody, adjusting at the last second,” said Frank Dancevic, Auger-Aliassime’s coach. “You think you’re going to play one guy and somebody else comes, a different game style than Andy. So it was just a little bit of mental adjustment.”

Auger-Aliassime now turns his attention to mixed doubles, which kicks off later this week, with teammate Gabriela Dabrowski of Ottawa.

“It doesn’t change that much for me. Whether I play against Andy or Max, I had to play a good game” said Auger-Aliassime. “I would have had to find solutions.

“It for sure hurts. Coming here, I had the possibility of having a better tournament. Leaving so early is a bit unexpected and I am very disappointed. I have to accept it and I will try to bounce back in the mixed doubles.”

Purcell will next face Germany’s Dominik Koepfer, who downed Argentina’s Facundo Bagnis 3-6, 6-3, 7-5.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 25, 2021.

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