Mitch Marner has one eye on July 10, the scheduled opening of training camps for 24 NHL playoff teams, and the other on a worsening COVID-19 situation in the United States.
Three months after the league shut down, could it be the dreaded second wave of the disease derails the methodical plan to finish the 2019-20 season? Marner, the creative winger on the Maple Leafs, has faith the league will take every precaution as it nears a decision on the two hub cities who will host the tournament, at least one of them expected to be south of the border.
“I think they’re going to do what’s best for their athletes and make sure that they’re willing to look after us and take care of us,” Marner said Thursday on a conference call with Toronto reporters.
As he spoke, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey reversed a previous decision and authorized local governments to require face coverings in public as his state was flagged as one of the current COVID-19 hot
Marner was asked about two key Leafs who are there in Scottsdale who’ve yet to come back for the workouts at Ford Performance Centre. Leading scorer Auston Matthews and house guest/goalie Frederik Andersen have been in Arizona almost since the start of the lockdown.
The duo’s reasoning is they’d rather stay in their regimen of daily workouts than come home and be unable to leave their residence for a full 14 days under the Canadian quarantine. As July 10 nears, they and others hope the Canadian NHL cities get a bit of a break from the government and that practice facilities would be designated as part of the players’ restricted zone for the 14 days.
“All that stuff’s voluntary,” Marner said of his friends preference to wait it out.
Toronto has been in and out of the running among 10 NHL cities initially identified by commissioner Gary Bettman as potential hubs. Together with Vancouver and Edmonton, there is a push to have the Canadian government alter the two-week quarantine rule so at least one of the cities can reap some economic benefits from empty hotels being occupied by up to 50 players and staff of the 12 teams. Las Vegas is believed to be a favoured American
Marner and five to six Leafs at a time continue to work out in preparation for the best of five opening round series against the Columbus Blue Jackets, like the others, tentatively scheduled for sometime in August.
As expected, the Jackets announced Thursday that star defenceman Seth Jones will be ready for the series, activated off injured reserve with fellow blueliner Dean Kukan.`
Major League Baseball players reportedly countered the owners proposal of a 60-game with their own 70-game schedule on Thursday, as the two sides inched closer to a deal that would allow a shortened season to begin. The sides have apparently agreed that the players will be played their full pro-rated salaries and the playoffs will…
While the NBA is gearing up for its return, a few players have formed a coalition to give others a space to raise their concerns about finishing out the season. Some of that apprehension is about the games taking away from the progress of the protests and Black Lives Matter movement. Stars like Avery Bradley,…
The NBA might be resuming its 2019-20 season soon, but some staff members are worried about how it might impact their careers. San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich is one of a handful of NBA coaches worried about how the league’s new COVID-19 restrictions “could be restricted from leading their teams and some could…
The NBA might be resuming its 2019-20 season soon, but some staff members are worried about how it might impact their career.
San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich is one of a handful of NBA coaches worried about how the league’s new COVID-19 restrictions “ould be restricted from leading their teams and some could face considerable challenges in resuming their careers,” per ESPN. In fact, the National Basketball Coaches Association worries the new rules could “severely jeopardize” some coaches’ future.
“The health and safety of all NBA coaches is our main concern,” the NBCA told ESPN in a statement. “However, we are also concerned with a coach’s opportunity to work and to not have their ability to secure future jobs be severely jeopardized. The league assured us that a coach will not be excluded solely because of age.
“We feel the medical review process is designed to flag only those individuals who pose significant threats of substantial harm to themselves that cannot be reduced or eliminated by the NBA’s considerable steps to create a healthy and safe atmosphere in Orlando.
“Adam (Silver) and the NBA have created a situation in Orlando that is likely far safer than in our coaches’ home markets. Absent a significant threat, we believe a coach should be able to understand and assume their individual risks, waive liability, and coach in Orlando.”
Popovich, 71, and other older coaches are among those considered among candidates at “higher risk” for COVID-19 once the NBA resumes play. But the doctor’s decision “will be final, binding, and unspeakable,” per the league.
How the 2020 season actually will play out, however, remains to be seen.
From hard-line owners to hard-done by players to frustrated fans, we’re long past the point of having a Major League Baseball season that would satisfy all of the senses.
But with news on Wednesday that MLB and its players association are finally negotiating face-to-face and in good faith, we can for the first time start imagining what such a season would look like and the potential implications for the Toronto Blue Jays.
Whether 60 games or 70 (and most likely closer to the latter given the indication from sources on Wednesday) the Jays will certainly be one of the most intriguing organizations to watch in whatever form 2020 takes.
Seen by many around baseball as a rapidly moving towards contention club, it is conceivable that the Jays could be a surprise factor given the reduced sample size whatever form of a protracted schedule may bring and the expanded playoff format that has already successfully been negotiated.
As is the case with all 30 MLB teams, an abridged season comes at a potential cost for Jays management, which for the most part feels it was on the right track before the COVID-19 pandemic intervened. But it also creates a unique set of circumstances that could benefit the Jays as much or more than many of its rivals.
Here’s a look at some of the concerns no doubt filtering through the minds of team president Mark Shapiro, general manager Ross Atkins and the rest of the baseball operations department as a season moves closer to reality.
Firmly entrenched in the draft and development playbook, the Jays certainly have reason to be optimistic with some of the groundwork already in place.
But how will a 65-70 game season affect those on the accelerated path to becoming potential MLB stars?
It was difficult not to be captivated by the 2019 emergence of players such as Bo Bichette, Vlad Guerrero Jr., Cavan Biggio and Lourdes Gurriel Jr.. And part of the excitement of 2020 was to track the continued growth of that group and others. Will that progress get stunted because of a shortened season and the reduction in at-bats and playing opportunities defensively? We shall see.
One of the great unknowns of 2020 — regardless of the big league season — is what will happen to the minor leagues. The consensus seems to be that there won’t be any farm team action, which could be devastating to a group loaded with prospects.
To their credit, the Jays by all accounts are among the more progressive organizations in terms of player development but it will take all that creativity and more to come up with ways to continue the progress shown by a group of players such as infielder Jordan Groshans, this year’s first-round pick Austin Martin, plus would-be stud pitchers such as Nate Pearson and Alek Manoah.
RYU THE DAY
When the Blue Jays braintrust was given clearance to break open the Rogers Communications bank on a four-year, $80-million deal for ace left-handed starter Hyun-Jin Ryu it was heralded as a signal that this management group was serious about winning now. Or very soon, at least.
Given that Ryu turned 33 two weeks after baseball (and the rest of the world) was halted, it’s not a stretch to suggest that the Jays anticipated the best performance years to be at the front end of that deal. A shortened season certainly has the impact to diminish the impact of the signing.
Having to pay Ryu a maximum of 40% of that first $20-million might assuage the Rogers beancounters, but they pursued Ryu in part to help accelerate the young core’s move towards contention.
As for the dreamy side of the Ryu influence, should the South Korean southpaw emerge as a true ace, his value in a shortened season may actually increase. Sure, he might top out at 15 starts, but if those turns in the rotation turn out to be virtual guaranteed win nights, the chance of the Jays being a surprise factor increases.
WHAT ABOUT NATE?
Other than tracking the development of Ryu and his young position player teammates, one of the highlights of the month in Dunedin (way, way, way back in February and early March) was seeing flame-throwing right hander Nate Pearson in action.
The first-round pick regularly hit triple digits with his fastball and showed every sign of being the Jays No. 2 starter in Grapefruit League play. The plan was always for Pearson to start 2020 in Buffalo, but with no triple-A season and an arm in need of innings, few would be surprised if Pearson was in that rotation at some point early on in the 2020 season 2.0.
The management and fan perspective would differ on Pearson’s season, but may have the same end game. The kid needs meaningful innings and the big leagues seem far and away the most viable option. And for the fans, having Pearson in the lineup is not only incredibly exciting, but significantly increases the team’s chances of being in contention.
Back to the Jays fans dream sequence: A Ryu-Pearson one-two punch in the rotation could be both fascinating and formidable stuff.
Given the corporate structure of Jays ownership, we’re guessing it is a safe bet that Rogers Communications was not part of a minority group who favoured scrapping the season altogether.
Consider that it’s all one happy family — a baseball team, a TV network and a radio network — that thrives on the synergies and a reduced schedule is already exacting a price.
Television ratings were surprisingly strong the past two seasons, fuelled in part by the young guns and the nature of being ideal summer-time programming. It can be argued that few (if any) teams in baseball benefit more from its TV deal than the Jays given the inherent boon of 162 games of in-house programming with good numbers.
Lopping 100 or so off of that is no doubt a hit to Rogers Communications, so just like the players, the more games MLB is able to cram into the limited window, the better.
Shapiro and Atkins won’t publicly venture down this road, but fans sure will. So the question is a valid one: Are the above factors trumped by the fact that the Jays may actually be sitting on a superfecta of factors that make them one of the most intriguing contenders in MLB?
Online bookmaker sportsinteraction.com was among the quickest out with odds on the proposed MLB season. With a caveat of a minimum 60 games being played, the over/under on the Jays win percentage was set at 46.5%.
A shortened-season, expanded playoffs, Ryu and Pearson plus all the young guns certainly sounds like fun, doesn’t it?