Monday, July 31, 2017

WMBL Hands Out Award Winners and All-Stars

WMBL President Kevin Kvame announced the 2017 League Award winners today. The winners were voted on by selected officials from each team. The selection process was done after a very competitive season that saw entertaining baseball played throughout the WMBL.

Most Valuable Player - Kody Funderburk (Okotoks Dawgs)
Kody Funderburk from the Okotoks Dawgs was named the WMBL MVP.  The Queen Creek, AZ product had a spectacular season. He played in 45 games with a .339 batting average and he led the WMBL in home runs with 15 round trippers. He also made nine pitching appearances and did not allow a run while striking out 11 and earning one save.

Rookie of the Year - Blake Adams (Swift Current 57's)
Swift Current’s Blake Adams was award Rookie of the Year honours. The junior outfielder from Tarleton State University in Texas was very impressive in his first WMBL season. Adams hit .360 with eight doubles and 12 homers. He also registered 54 RBI and 18 stolen bases.

Canadian Rookie - Matt Lloyd (Okotoks Dawgs)
The Okotoks born Matt Lloyd impressed the home town fans all season long. Lloyd who attends Indiana University had a 24-game hitting streak in 2017. Overall Lloyd hit .402 with eight homers, 38 RBI and seven stolen bases.

Coach of the Year - Phil Curtis (Weyburn Burns)
Phil Curtis has been the Weyburn Beaver’s head coach for five years. This season he led his team to a second-place Eastern Division finish with a 30-18 record. Curtis also won the Coach of the Year award in 2015.

WMBL Award Winners

Most Valuable Player
Kody Funderburk -  Okotoks

Rookie of the Year
Blake Adams - Swift Current

Canadian Rookie
Matt Lloyd - Okotoks

Coach of the Year
Phil Curtis - Weyburn

WMBL All Stars
The Okotoks Dawgs sported the top record in the WMBL at 35 and 13. They also led the WMBL with eight League All Star selections (5 first team and 3 second team).

The Regina Red Sox had six players named to the All-Star squads, three to each team.

Eastern Division leader Swift Current followed with five selections (3 on the first team and 2 on the second team).

Lethbridge had four players named to the second All Star team while Edmonton had three selections (2 first teams and 1 second team).

Medicine Hat had two players named while Weyburn and Fort McMurray each had one member make the All-Star team.

Brooks, Melville, Yorkton and Moose Jaw did not have a representative named to either team.

First Team
Blake Adams - Swift Current
Broderick Rodocker - Regina
Justin Erlandson  - Regina

Second Team
Zach Hanna  - Okotoks
Jesse Hilyard  - Lethbridge
Jordan Schulz  - Regina

Third Base
First Team
Eddie Sanchez - Okotoks

Second Team
Riley Campbell - Swift Current

First Team
Zane Takhar - Edmonton

Second Team
Greg Cullen - Okotoks

Second Base
First Team
Matt Lloyd - Okotoks

Second Team
Blake Rowlett - Medicine Hat

First Base
First Team
Kody Funderburk - Okotoks

Second Team
Alex Bishop - Lethbridge

First Team
Bodie Cooper- Swift Current

Second Team
John Hawk  - Okotoks

Designated Hitter
First Team
Erik Sabrowski -  Edmonton

Second Team
Aden Campbell - Regina

Utility Player
First Team
Blake Rowlett - Medicine Hat

Second Team
Brett Esau - Swift Current

Starting Pitchers
First Team
Bobby St Pierre - Swift Current
Anthony Balderas - Okotoks
Tyler Hodder  - Fort McMurray

Second Team
Jake Waters - Regina
Connor Dinaro - Weyburn
Erik Sabrowski - Edmonton

Relief Pitchers
First Team
Preston Minor - Regina

Second Team
Dawson Moser  - Lethbridge

Closing Pitchers
First Team
Tyler Burdett -  Okotoks

Second Team
Chris Stodolka - Lethbridge

Chicago Cubs Giving World Series Ring To Steve Bartman

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After being persecuted by Chicago Cubs fans for 13 years, Steve Bartman will receive an official 2016 World Series Championship ring from his beloved team according to WGN Television in Chicago

 Cubs owner Tom Ricketts made the decision as an outstretched arm to Bartman, the fan who infamously interfered with a foul ball in Game 6 of the 2003 National League Championship Series, leading many fans to blame him for the Cubs’ subsequent collapse against the then-Florida Marlins. Bartman was ceaselessly heckled and forced into hiding by death threats and non-stop media presence outside his home.

 “We hope this provides closure on an unfortunate chapter of the story that has perpetuated throughout our quest to win a long-awaited World Series,” the Cubs told WGN in a statement. While no gesture can fully lift the public burden he has endured for more than a decade, we felt it was important Steve knows he has been and continues to be fully embraced by this organization.”

 In response to the gift, Bartman wrote that he is “sincerely grateful” and “I am hopeful this ring gesture will be the start of an important healing and reconciliation process for all involved.

Something To "Mitch" About


DURON DAZZLES -  Those waiting for Duron Carter to break out aren't waiting any more. Number 89, who has been called the CFL's version of Odell Beckham Junior, made a Beckham-like grab that is giving the league some publicity across North America.  This catch was not only the number one play on Sportscenter in Canada, but it was number one on ESPN in the U-S.  Standing in the press box behind Rod Pedersen and Luc Mullinder, I could not believe what I had just seen as Rod proclaimed the catch of the year with an emphatic "Oh My Goodness" 

It's the greatest catch I've ever seen by a Rider and it definitely is the greatest catch I've seen in the CFL.  I don't know if it was good as the Beckham catch against Dallas a couple of years ago, but Beckham didn't backhand the ball the way Carter did.  It doesn't really matter what catch was better, it was just one of those that Rider fans will remember for a long time whether they were in Mosaic Stadium or not. 

As the night went on, we saw it wasn't the only spectacular catch made by Carter. This is why they got him.  

Other thoughts from a steamy Saturday night at Mosaic:

  -- When the Riders offense is playing like that, they are hard to stop.  Cameron Marshall is running for 100 yards, Carter, Roosevelt, Holley and Bakari Grant are making catches and Kevin Glenn is getting them the ball.  It just emphasizes how important the o-line play has to be for this squad.  It can be said for any team at any level, but when you give the QB time, it makes it tough on defenses and with the group assembled by the green-and-white, it can't be easy for a defensive co-ordinator to concentrate on neutralizing one guy. 

  --Is it just me or are we seeing the best play from receivers in this league in a long time.  CFL fans have been inundated with great catch after great catch after great catch this year.  Carter, Naaman Roosevelt and SJ Green all had highlight reel catches in the first half!  When TSN has its top 10 catches at the end of the year, there are going to be many left on the cutting room floor.  Oh yeah, we have just hit the 1/3 mark of the season so there are a lot more to be made. 

  --I need to have a chat with special teams coach Craig Dickenson. On Friday, some reporters were speaking to Dickenson about the short kick performed by Winnipeg in their comeback win over Montreal and how rare it was to see that kick done where it was as it was down the hashmarks instead of the sideline.  Just before Dickie left, I asked him if he has it in his repertoire where Tyler Crapigna just basically kicks it 10 yards to himself as he did during the victory.  He just chuckled and shrugged his shoulders.  I'm sure it was ready to be rolled out at the appropriate time, but did I plant a seed by asking that question.  I'm sure the answer was no.. What a great call though at a great time.

 --Speaking of Crapigna, can we put his early season struggles to rest now? He has hit 13 of 15 FG's this season and all of his converts.  He hasn't missed since the "doink" against the Bombers. 

  --Where was the 13th man flag? At the last home game, the team said it was too windy. That excuse couldn't be used this time around. 

 --Just pure class from the Riders in bringing in the family of Joe McKnight for the game.  The slain running back was not a member of this football team for a long time, but it shows you something about the organization when they do what they did.   Seeing Joe's young son in the dressing room getting a football signed just reminds you win or lose, the football fraternity is a special one. A tip of the hat to Craig Reynolds, Wayne Morsky and all involved for making that night happen to a family who is likely still grieving.

 --Speaking of class, I completely understand some of the negativism that has surrounded Carter during his time in the CFL. Yes, he can be a hothead and that has resulted in some not necessarily welcoming him with open arms to Riderville. I do understand that.  It is a product of the past, and I think he understands that too.  Perhaps Rider fans can change their tune after hearing this.  The ball that he made that catch with isn't sitting with him. It is sitting with a 12 year old cancer survivor. Carter saw a sign her family had made before the game and said if he scored a TD, he would celebrate with them. In the hubbub of what had gone on, Carter did not forget as he went over and celebrated as promised before giving the girl the football.  That my friends is a first-class move.  Well done DC. Well done indeed! 

--The task is more difficult now with the next three games against the best two teams in the West. How much growth is there from this performance? That is up to the guys in the room. The talent is there, and if the effort is there they will be rewarded.  If not, it could be a lonnnnnng 2nd half of the season.  Let's see what road the team takes.

WTF - Upon arriving at Casa de Scruffy after Saturday's win, I asked the wife and daughter how their first experience at Mosaic was (it was outstanding BTW) and then turned the TV on to the Calgary-Hamilton game thinking it must be near the start of the 2nd half.  The 3rd quarter had just started and once I saw the score, I turned the channel.  WTF??!!  Did a high school team take the spot of the Tiger-Cats? I knew they were bad, but are they that bad? Have they given up on Kent Austin? Was a message sent? Does the Hamilton post-game phone in show get anyone like Sheldon phoning in because if they do it might have been the call to end all calls. How did Hamilton get their point? As was mentioned to me Sunday by a friend, I think I'd rather just get shut out than get rewarded for a mistake.  YIKES!!

ARE CHANGES COMING? -  I don't know about you, but I love what Commissioner Randy Ambrosie has been doing in his first month on the job. He has been more visible than the last guy, and he is actually speaking out on topics concerning the game he oversees.  The latest comments came Saturday night in Calgary.

Ambrosie told reporters he would consider making changes in-season to instant replay. He did add it is something that must be discussed by the teams on whether it should be done sooner than later. He also said when he gets into the office today he will be meeting with football operations staff on the issue.

This just in. Ambrosie gets it. The other guy wouldn't be visible at games, and he would be hoping the problem would just go away because he didn't get it.  Ambrosie sees what fans are saying and he sees what type of product is league is delivering. If he can get this issue solved, he could be sitting on a gold mine.   Why wouldn't the teams be on board with this?  Surely coaches must realize what is happening, but as has been said before, they are using the rule to their advantage.  Chris Jones didn't want to throw a challenge flag the other night, but he was basically forced into it because you just don't know how the command centre will rule.  Ambrosie went on to say he doesn't want to lose one single fan because especially over replay. As I stated, he gets it!  This hire could be huge for the CFL if the board of governors allows him to do his job.

CHANGE IT UP -  The "Canadian" Open golf tournament ended at Glen Abbey Sunday with Jhonattan Vegas winning for the second straight year beating Charley Hoffman in a playoff. He won at 21 under. 21 under!!! Did any PGA pro complain about how easy this course was/ After all, they were quick to do at the US Open! Sorry, but its time to toughen up this course somewhat.  Minus 21 is embarassing./ That isn't a challenge for guys at this level. It's a glorified pitch and putt. The tournament has apparently committed to going back to Glen Abbey for the next two years. Is this not a "Canadian Open".  How about Cabot Cliffs in the Maritimes which is considered one of the top courses in Canada/ or Banff Springs/  There are other great courses in the GTA as well.

Bring some respect back to this event and put it on a course where a winner won't be 20 under par.  The cut line on Friday was minus 4.  As I said, Glen Abbey comes off more as the Lakeview Par 3 when it comes to the PGA than an actual course which will challenge the world's best.

WEIRD WAY OF SAYING THANKS -  The Blue Jays have been downright horrible this year. A team that so many (not me though) were headed back to the playoffs for a 3rd straight year starts the day languishing in last in the American League East despite 9th inning heroics on Sunday.  They aren't making the playoffs barring a complete collapse from many teams in the American League.

The back-to-back playoff appearances have resulted in the Blue Jays having the best attendance in the American League. How does the organization thank its fans for doing that. Yes, in a year where they have sucked. they are raising ticket prices next year. How arrogant can you be?  This could actually drive people to BMO Field to watch the Argos.  In fact, if I were the Argos marketing team I would start working on plans for next year.  The Blue Jays window has closed and who knows when it will be open again. Raising ticket prices between 7 and 18 percent is just wrong and is a move that will likely go over like a lead balloon.  I am guessing the days of leading the AL in attendance end after this year.

Image result for tim raines hall of fame

THE ROCK GETS HIS DUE -  Rickey Henderson is probably the greatest leadoff hitter in the history of baseball, but Tim Raines would be a close second. The Expos outfielder got the ultimate honour on Sunday as he was officially inducted to the Baseball Hall of Fame. While Gary Carter fans might disagree, Raines could very well be the best player to ever wear an Expos uniform. He could do it all!  A career batting average of 294, 2600 hits, 800 stolen bases. He reached base over 4000 times during his 23 year career. Raines' spot in Cooperstown should have been cemented years ago, but he's there now.  BTW: Getting to Cooperstown is on my bucket list. I can't imagine how long I would stay at the BBHOF when I arrive. It may be more than one day.

MAKING SASKATCHEWAN PROUD -  I completely forgot about this in the Friday column, so I'll make it for up now.  Best of luck to all 400 plus athletes from our province competing at the Canada Summer Games in Winnipeg. Over 70 communities in the province are represented with competition in 17 sports.  We know our athletes are just as good as any other province, but its time to show the country just how good we are.

That's all I got. Have a great week everyone. Looks like it's going to be cooler, but will it rain? Here's hoping!

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Players To Watch

Image result for toronto argonauts vs saskatchewan roughriders 

The column is called "Players To Watch", but perhaps "areas to watch" should be included in this as well.  Here are some things and players to look for when the Argos and Riders meet at what will be a toasty Mosaic Stadium this afternoon. 

RIDERS O-LINE  -  After last week's effort, this is a no-brainer.   After three great efforts to start the season, Charleston Hughes and the Stamps d-line made the Rider o-line look bad last week.....real bad.  That group collectively is better than that and they know it.  It was a slap in the face to veterans like Labatte, Clark, Dennis and group. Yes, Toronto won't have Victor Butler and Cleyon Laing in the lineup which is a huge plus to the green-and-white, but Toronto still leads the league in sacks with 17. That being said, I expect a much better effort from them today. I think Kevin Glenn hopes for the same thing.

SECONDARY PLAY  -  How many times will Chris Jones and Marc Trestman throw the challenge flag today?  I hope we don't see a repeat of what happened in the 4th quarter of the BC/Edmonton game last night as Jason Maas and Wally Buono went fishing several times in the final 15 minutes hoping for a call.  Jones said this week the game could be a challenge fest because like Dave Dickenson is doing, the receivers will run into defensive backs in double moves in the hope of seeing a flag fly.  That isn't the spirit of the game, but coaches will use it to their advantage until something is changed.  It isn't fair for the defensive backs to play this way. I asked Ed Gainey on Friday if defensive backs have to knock receivers on their wallet off the line of scrimmage.  While he didn't disagree, he added you can look real stupid if you do that and miss. 

SJ GREEN -   Who thought this guy was done?  The Argos receiver is a big reason why they are where they are in the East.  He will look to add to a nice start to the season that has seen him catch 31 passes.  He's also good for a highlight reel catch or two and some of his best have been just down the street at the old place. He is still one of the best in this league. 

CREZDON BUTLER -  Butler has bounced around the NFL, but he makes his first start in the CFL today playing at the SAM linebacker spot in place of Sam Williams.  It is a position Butler has not played, but Chris Jones correctly informed people yesterday that the position is much like an added defensive back and if they put him on the roster as that, no one would bat an eyelash.. Butler will have his work cut out for him. 

QUARTERBACKS -  It's not Brady vs Manning, but Ray vs Glenn features two quarterbacks who will be in the Canadian Football Hall of Fame and two quarterbacks who have thrown for 50-thousand yards.  Guys like this won't be around for much longer so enjoy watching them do what they do while you can. 

COREY CHAMBLIN -  Say what you will about Corey Chamblin, but the record shows he was the head coach of the 2013 Grey Cup winning team. He was the man in charge on that magical Sunday night at Taylor Field. Yes, it did not end well for him, but he deserves a salute from Rider Nation today as he returns to the sight of his greatest football highlight.   I doubt the Riders will be giving him any kind of salute as ones weren't given to Dressler and Chick last year on their return, but should Corey's mug pop up on the scoreboard today, it would be nice to see those in attendance give him a warm round of applause. 

No matter where you are and no matter how you tune it in, enjoy the game.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Depth Charts for Saturday's Riders Game


This And That

-- Welcome to Friday!  Here are the usual weekly thoughts running through my muddled mind, and as always they come in no particular order.

--What a difference a week makes!  There was optimism in Rider Nation one week ago at this time as the green-and-white were getting set to play the Stampeders.  The game was to be seen as a measuring stick as to where this team was and after a horrid performance which resulted in a 27-10 loss, we found out there is a long ways to go.

The green-and-white can make amends for that performance in Calgary tomorrow night at home against the Toronto Argonauts.  On Tuesday, Sportscage insider Arash Madani was as blunt as possible while delivering a cold slap of reality.

When speaking about the return of former head coach Corey Chamblin, who is now the DC in Toronto, to Regina on Saturday,  Madani had this to say:

"He (Chamblin) comes back after sitting out all of last year, and the last half of 2015 being paid by the Riders that has accomplished what since he was fired. How has this football team progressed and gotten better since he was let go? The reason why he was let go is that the message was there has to be "sustained success", and that has not happened. If Chamblin and the Argos walk off the field Saturday a winner, some major questions have to be asked and some explaining will have to be done.

How far has this organization progressed than they were when Chamblin was let go? They have one win over Hamilton this year. If they are 2-6 or 3-5 best case scenario, what has been accomplished and at what cost?  How much have they spent to make this happen?   It is a statement game for a lot of reasons. 

Craig Reynolds has seen the record sit at 9-31 I believe since he became President. That's not all on him, but he has to take some of the blame.  The question has to be "Where is this organization headed? What are they? So much has been hidden because of last year at the old Mosaic and this year at the new stadium. They have the oldest quarterback in the league, they have nothing in the pipeline to be the next franchise quarterback. they brought Vince Young to Canada,  and their number one pick last year (Josiah St. John) has been a healthy scratch. There are many questions that need to be addressed and I think the alarm bells will really start ringing if their old coach comes in here on a short week where they haven't practiced and beats them. 

Is he wrong? Chris Jones tore this team apart upon taking over. He had to! They were that bad! The job was not an easy one. However, results are needed. While some were willing to say last year was a year to get some new blood indoctrinated into the CFL, you can't say that now. Signs of progress have to come. While the team is better than at this point last year, the win-loss record remains the same. If that translates into another 5 win season, it won't be good enough.

I will say this.  There is more progress under Jones at the new Mosaic than what we are seeing with the Capital Pointe project in downtown Regina. It is not as fast as he or the organization would like, but it is there.  There is talent there, but there are also weaknesses and it is those weaknesses which need to be addressed.  I hear all the complaints, and some of them are valid, but others are just ridiculous.  At the end of the day, Arash is right when he says a Toronto win means it is time to start asking some serious questions.  The season doesn't go off the cliff with a loss Saturday night, but a defeat should result in some conversations that aren't necessarily desired, but needed.

 --As Corey Chamblin returns to Riderville for the first time since August of 2015, have we determined what his legacy was to this franchise. Say what you will about him, but there is no denying the history books. He was the head coach of the 2013 Grey Cup champions on a night in Regina no one will ever forget if they are a supporter of this organization. He did what only three others have done. Would it have been four if Darian Durant doesn't get hurt at Banjo Bowl 2014? We will never know the answer to that. As I have said before, it is my belief if Darian does not get hurt on that afternoon in Winnipeg starting this uncontrollable tailspin the team has been in, that Chamblin and Brendan Taman would still be here and that players like Weston Dressler, John Chick and Durant would still be here.  What would the record be? That is for you to decide.

--Is Kevin Glenn a hall-of-famer. The CFL veteran feels he should be, and I think many are in agreement.  Yes, KG does not have a Grey Cup ring on his finger meaning his resume is not like the other CFL QB's who have accomplished the feat, but you don't throw for 50-thousand yards in the CFL and not be considered as a shoo-in for the Canadian Football Hall of Fame. Hey, if Milt Stegall can be in the CFHOF without winning a ring. so can Glenn. He will be there when his CFL career eventually ends. We don't know when that will happen though. The way he is going this year, I think its safe to say he could play into his 40's.

--I don't know about you, but I can't wait to see the Lions and Eskimos kick it off at Commonwealth tonight. What a matchup this should be. Can Travis Lulay throw for 400 yards again?  Some of the anti-Jones faction are wondering why Lulay was never recruited to come to Saskatchewan. This just in. He didn't want to! Lulay might have come here, but he let the Lions be known he had no desire to leave Vancouver and was content being a backup behind Jon Jennings. The Lions made it clear they still wanted Lulay around and a deal was struck. A rather fortuitous move by Wally if I do say so myself seeing what has transpired.  I still believe BC has the best team in the CFL as we approach the one-third pole, but an Eskimos win tonight will change that.

--While I can't wait for tonight's game, what do you say about Winnipeg's last second miracle at home?  CFL fans aren't tuning in for whatever reason as numbers are down 20 percent. I am guessing the challenges have a large part to play in the turn-off so if it can ever be resolved to the liking of those fans, the CFL could have a real hit on its hands. How do you get back fans you've alienated though?  Randy Ambrosie will have his work cut out for him when he decides to tackle the issue. If he can get the co-operation of the board of governors, I have confidence he can. 

 --The CFL based website is a valuable resource for CFL fans, but its Genie Bouchard at the Argos game story this story was a huge head-scratcher.  An article openly asked why the Canadian tennis star/swimsuit model would be at an Argos game. Why not?  She spent time in Toronto to promote the upcoming Rogers Cup tennis tournament and whether or not she was supplied a ticket by the CFL or not, she was at the game and snapping pictures while at it.  She was helping promote the league which is something she doesn't have to do.  Would this have been a story had she been at an Alouettes game in her hometown? Would this have been a story if Milos Raonic did it? Would this have been a story if Genie was in Regina and snapped a pic at Mosaic Stadium? 3DN writes some good stories, but this is one they should have left in the bin.

--The fact Canadians now have to access "NFL Sunday Ticket" through someone that isn't their cable subscriber is interesting.  Do I want to sit down in front of my computer on a Sunday to watch games? No I don't.  There are enough games on CTV, TSN and the American networks each Sunday and the fact I have the Seattle cable package means I will not miss the Seahawks. It really makes this stout NFL fan wonder if he will plunk down the coin for DAZN. Right now, I am leaning towards no, and I think others are too. Will it hurt the NFL in Canada? No it won't!

--Canada, are you ready to cheer on guys like Mason Raymond, Ben Scrivens, Daniel Paille and Cam Barker to go for gold in South Korea and try to bring us a 3rd Olympic gold medal.  Yes, we're spoiled, but is this what the Maple Leaf carries our hopes on.  Count me in as one who won't be excited about Olympic hockey next winter and will just get the scores when I get up.  Once you start this exercise, you can't go back, but Gary Bettman and the NHL are this time around much to the disgust of fans and players.  By the way, another player who could wear the Canadian colours is former Pat Craig Schira.

--100 games into the season and the Chicago Cubs are back in first place in the National League Central. They haven't played well this season, but they seem to have their game back. They won't be an easy out.  Joe Maddon may have pulled off the ultimate sandbagging caper.  I'm OK with that.

That's all I got.. Have a great weekend. Stay cool!

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Sunday Ticket Is No More

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You must get connected if you want to watch an NFL game of your choosing in Canada over the next five years.

Domestic cable and satellite providers will no longer carry the Sunday Ticket service, nor the NFL RedZone channel.

DAZN has bought those rights in Canada for the next five years — and for NFL Game Pass, an on-demand service for various platforms. All will launch in time for NFL pre-season games starting early next month, the company announced Thursday.

DAZN (pronounced “Da Zone,” according to the company) is a live and on-demand sports streaming service, along the lines of Netflix. Based in London, England, DAZN is an arm of Perform, a global sports media group.

DAZN provides sports games and services on web-connected digital devices such as Smart TVs, tablets, smartphones and games consoles.

“Your average fan should think this is like Netflix,” Alex Rice, DAZN’s managing director of strategic partnerships, said Thursday in a phone interview from England. “It will be available on all the major connective devices, including all the major TV manufacturers.

“In very simple terms, all games will still be available on your TV, if you have a connected television … We’re very big on the living room experience.”

Rice confirmed that the usual cable and satellite access options are a thing of the past for NFL fans north of the U.S. border.

“We are not going to distribute these NFL products to other pay platforms in Canada,” he said.

While it is true, as the company’s news release states, that “DAZN will be the only place Canadians can watch every live NFL game this season,” the CTV and TSN family of channels under the Bell Media umbrella will continue to show select NFL games on Sunday afternoons, in doubleheaders — in addition to all marquee Sunday night, all Monday night and (new this year) all Thursday night games throughout the 2017 season. Rogers Media’s Sportsnet channels previously carried Thursday night games.

Canadian subscribers to DAZN will receive access to (1) all NFL games live (via the Sunday Ticket pay package provided previously by cable and satellite companies such as Rogers and Bell), (2) the NFL Game Pass digital service (which includes all games on demand, “all-22” coaches film of all games,plus other NFL Network and NFL Films programming) and (3) the NFL RedZone channel, on which studio hosts jump between games as scoring occurs.

Game Pass alone previously cost at least $300 annually in Canada.

This year DAZN offers two payment options to Canadians: $20 per month with no monthly minimum, or a $150 annual fee. A 30-day free trial is offered to all.

“I can assure you there genuinely is no catch,” Rice said. “It’s all the games live, it’s RedZone, it’s (Game Pass) … and other future sports properties on the service, as well.”

Canadian cable and satellite companies in recent years typically charged more than $30 per month (with a four-month minimum) for their all-game, all-sports packages that included the NFL’s live, all-games package called Sunday Ticket.

For instance, Rogers Media charged cable subscribers in the Toronto area $36 per month last fall for its “Super Sports Pack,” which included Sunday Ticket.

“Hopefully, our introductory offer shows our desire to offer not only great value for the money, but also savings to fans,” Rice said.

Canada is the fifth country for which DAZN has bought all-games NFL rights, after Japan, Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

“We have actually acquired Game Pass for next season (2018) in a number of other territories, but we’re going to be live one year in advance in Canada,” Rice said.

DAZN carries numerous all-game sports packages in Europe, and plans to soon add more such exclusive services in Canada. Subscribers in Canada will get those sports at no additional cost, Rice said.

“We run over 40 different sports (in Europe). We’ve just acquired Champions League (soccer) rights for Germany next year … These are wholly exclusive properties.”

Rice stressed that his company’s Canadian NFL rights acquisition is no grand technological experiment for DAZN. The company has been “streaming services for the best part of 10 years” in Europe and beyond, Rice said, thus it is experienced with high-volume spikes that might involve “hundreds of thousands” of simultaneous users.

(Edmonton Sun)

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Ottawa Announces Plans For November's Grey Cup

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Nestled inside TD Place, home to the 105th Grey Cup presented by Shaw that kicks off in exactly 150 days, the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group unveiled the events and programming for the 105th Grey Cup Festival presented by Shaw. RNation welcomes Our Nation to Canada’s capital to enjoy more than 30 free and ticketed events that commence with the arrival of the Grey Cup on Tuesday, November 21. Most ticketed events go on-sale June 29 at 10:00 a.m. at

The Grey Cup Festival Concert Series presented by TD runs November 23-25 with an all-Canadian line-up of country, alternative and classic rock performers headlined by Jess Moskaluke, Sloan and Trooper. A three-day concert series pass will go on sale for $115.

The ever-popular RNation Party presented by Budweiser will run November 23 through November 25 inside the Aberdeen Pavilion featuring live entertainment, special guests and more plaid than your eyes can handle! Admission is free until 7:00 p.m. then the RNation Party will get kicked up a notch! A three-day pass providing priority access into the party is available for an additional $30 to those who purchase a concert series pass.

“As a member of RNation, I’m both proud and excited to welcome Our Nation to Ottawa for what promises to be the most memorable Grey Cup Festival ever,” said Jim Durrell, Chair of the Grey Cup Festival Committee. “Our Grey Cup Festival team, the Canadian Football League and our sponsors have produced a remarkable series of events and programs that celebrate Canada – our culture, values and diversity – offering something for everyone.”

A series of free events at Lansdowne and TD Place will include the Nissan Titan Street Festival and Family Fun Zone that will offer fan interactive activities, the Cheer Extravaganza, Canadian Football Hall of Fame and Museum and the #BringItIn – Inspiring Youth event.

The three-day all-Canadian concert series will open November 23 with a country music line-up featuring acclaimed female Canadian country artist and Juno award winner Jess Moskaluke, The Washboard Union and JJ Shiplett. The celebration of Canadian musical talents continues November 24 for a night of alternative rock with one of Canada’s most popular bands, nine-time Juno nominees Sloan! Also featuring one of Canada’s top indie bands Reuben and the Dark and everyone’s favourite supergroup, Dwayne Gretzky. The Grey Cup Festival Concert Series wraps up on November 25 with a Classic Rock night headlined by one of Canada’s top five selling bands of all time, Trooper and April Wine.

A series of unique ticketed events at Lansdowne include the Capital Pride Grey Cup Party presented by You Can Play November 23, the always popular Riderville that will leave you seeing green from November 24-25, culminating with the VIP Tailgate Party on November 26.

The Montreal Huddle is set for FlyBar in the ByWard Market on November 25. Additional information on all CFL Team Parties will be announced as they are confirmed.

The Shaw Centre will also host a series of ticketed events including the Festival Kickoff Bash on November 23, the CFLAA Legends Luncheon and Touchdown Manitoba on November 24 and Gridiron Gals on November 25.

Tickets for the various Grey Cup Festival events go on-sale at 10:00 a.m. Thursday (June 29) at, by calling 613.232.6767 X1 or in person at The Box Office at TD Place.

Visit for more information on all festival events.

105th Grey Cup Festival presented by Shaw Event Programming Schedule

Tuesday, November 21


Wednesday, November 22

Shaw Grey Cup Festival HQ Lansdowne FREE EVENT
Nissan Titan Street Festival Aberdeen Square FREE EVENT
#BringItIn – Inspiring Youth The Arena at TD Place FREE EVENT

Thursday, November 23

Shaw Grey Cup Festival HQ Lansdowne FREE EVENT
Nissan Titan Street Festival Aberdeen Square FREE EVENT
Family Fun Zone Lansdowne FREE EVENT
Canadian Football Hall of Fame The Arena at TD Place Concourse FREE EVENT
Radio Row The Arena at TD Place Concourse FREE EVENT
Festival Kickoff Bash Shaw Centre TICKETED EVENT – $300
Capital Pride Grey Cup Party presented by You Can Play Horticulture Building TICKETED EVENT – $10
RNation Party presented by Budweiser Aberdeen Pavilion FREE EVENT UNTIL 7PM
3-Day PassAdd On ($30)
Concert Series
– Jess Moskaluke
– Washboard Union
– JJ Shiplett The Arena at TD Place TICKETED EVENT

Friday, November 24

Shaw Grey Cup Festival HQ Lansdowne FREE EVENT
Nissan Titan Street Festival Aberdeen Square FREE EVENT
Family Fun Zone Lansdowne FREE EVENT
Canadian Football Hall of Fame The Arena at TD Place Concourse FREE EVENT
Radio Row The Arena at TD Place Concourse FREE EVENT
Calgary Grey Cup Committee Free Pancake Breakfast Aberdeen Square FREE EVENT
CFLAA Legends Luncheon Shaw Centre TICKETED EVENT
RNation Party presented by Budweiser Aberdeen Pavilion FREE EVENT UNTIL 7PM
3-Day PassAdd On ($30)
Team Party: Riderville Horticulture Building TICKETED EVENT
Team Party: Touchdown Manitoba Shaw Centre TICKETED EVENT
Concert Series
– Sloan
– Reuben and the Dark
– Dwayne Gretzky The Arena at TD Place TICKETED EVENT

Saturday, November 25

Shaw Grey Cup Festival HQ Lansdowne FREE EVENT
Nissan Titan Street Festival Aberdeen Square FREE EVENT
Family Fun Zone Lansdowne FREE EVENT
Canadian Football Hall of Fame The Arena at TD Place Concourse FREE EVENT
Radio Row The Arena at TD Place Concourse FREE EVENT
Calgary Grey Cup Committee Free Pancake Breakfast Aberdeen Square FREE EVENT
Cheer Extravaganza The Arena at TD Place FREE EVENT
Gridiron Gals Shaw Centre TICKETED EVENT – $99
RNation Party presented by Budweiser Aberdeen Pavilion FREE EVENT UNTIL 7PM
3-Day PassAdd On ($30)
Team Party: Riderville Horticulture Building TICKETED EVENT
Team Party: Caucus Montreal/Montreal Huddle Flybar TICKETED EVENT
Concert Series
– Trooper
– April Wine The Arena at TD Place TICKETED EVENT

Sunday, November 26

Shaw Grey Cup Festival HQ Lansdowne FREE EVENT
Nissan Titan Street Festival Aberdeen Square FREE EVENT
Tailgate Party Great Lawn at Lansdowne FREE EVENT
VIP Tailgate Party Aberdeen Pavilion TICKETED EVENT – $150

Monday, July 24, 2017

Former Rider LB Jerrell Freeman Saves Man's Life At Texas Airport

Chicago Bears linebacker Jerrell Freeman was enjoying his last cheat meal before heading to training camp, when his brute strength was needed in a dire situation Sunday afternoon.

Freeman was eating at a restaurant inside Austin's Bergstrom International Airport, when he saw a man inside the restaurant in distress. An older woman, recognizing the man was choking, tried to administer the Heimlich maneuver, but she wasn't strong enough to get any results, so the 6-foot, 236-pound Freeman sprang into action.

"I grabbed him and tried to squeeze the life out of him," Freeman told the Chicago Tribune. "You've got to push in and up. So I did that and he started throwing up what he was choking on. I asked him if he was all right and he shook his head like 'No!'"

So, Freeman tried again.

"I grabbed him again and hit him again with it," Freeman added. "And when I put him down the second time, his eyes got big. He was like, 'Oh, my god! I think you just saved my life, man!' It was crazy."

After everything settled down, the choking man – Austin attorney Marcus Ryan – inquired about Freeman's strength and wasn't surprised to learn his hero was a professional football player.
The pair even posted for a photo, which Freeman posted on social media.

Freeman said after everything settled down, his new friend went back to finish off his brisket plate.

"Crazy," Freeman said. "Hey, I guess that was some good brisket. He wasn't about to let that go to waste. You can't get between a man and his brisket. I get it."

(Associated Press)

Something To "Mitch" About

A BAD SATURDAY NIGHT -- That was ugly! At least the first 30 minutes were  By the time the Saskatchewan Roughriders righted the ship Saturday night in Calgary, it was too late.

As I said at the start of the season, the Riders need to compete with Edmonton and Winnipeg if they are to make the playoffs. Calgary and BC are on a different level so I didn't really expect the green-and-white to win this one and while they did come back to make it a one score game in the 3rd quarter, there was little doubt as to who the better team was.

Once again though, the CFL was embarrassed by the work of its officials in what to me might have been their worst game of the year.

It started in the first minute with 3 challenges in what were the game's first 5 plays including a challenge of a challenge.  Would this needless delay not have been averted if the official in charge called pass interference on Sam Williams right away? It did get worse from there.  How it took so long for Cameron Marshall to be awarded a touchdown, how Jerome Messam was not given a touchdown when it was clear he had broken the plane, and how both teams were constantly getting away with receivers going offside, yet ticky-tacky illegal contact penalties were called were just a prime example as to how the Canadian game, which has been highly entertaining this year, continues to be tarnished.

I think it is safe to say CFL fans are sick and tired of pass interference and illegal contact being reviewed. That has to go! It should never have been put in. It is an easy out for coaches.  It is also too easy for a receiver to run into a defensive back outside the 5 yard cushion and then claim there was illegal contact.  Reviews need to be limited to turnovers, scoring plays and possession.

By continuing to allow this, the CFL denigrates their game. They are doing this themselves.  An umpires strike zone is discretionary and we as fans realize that as it is part of the game, much like a basketball official on a foul or a hockey referee on a penalty.  We might not agree with it, but the call is made. That is what has to be done in the CFL. If a ref feels there has been illegal contact or pass interference than throw the flag, if not, move on and don't allow the coaches to throw a flag.

I'm tired of seeing this, and so are others. It is mundane. it is tedious, and it is eroding the overall product.   The league seemingly just wants to spew propaganda at us saying there is nothing wrong with the officiating. CFL fans are smarter than that----even ones in Toronto.  Yes, I know I've repeated this message before, but it will continue to get repeated until action is taken.  Why the league allows this to happen without doing something to even try to fix what is their most glaring problem is a huge head-scratcher! I hope the new commissioner is paying attention. Randy Ambrosie is saying and doing all the right things in his first few weeks in office. He may not be able to do anything this year, but something has to be done moving forward.

Back to the game, and as mentioned the first half was one of the uglier ones the team has had if not the ugliest since Chris Jones assumed control.  They could not stop Jerome Messam, they could not neutralize Charleston Hughes and they had secondary breakdowns again meaning guys were wide open.  Sam Williams had a night to forget. Did he ever! The squirrel had a better first half than the Riders.   The team admitted they came out flat.  Why is that?  They knew they had a stiff challenge facing them and that this was a measuring stick. It showed they have a long ways to go even though there has been improvement.

Give credit to Derek Dennis. The free agent o-lineman admitted Hughes got the better of him on Twitter after the game. He needs to be better. He's not alone.  While it wasn't a complete blowout, the Riders found out they have a ways to go before they can compete with the league's elite.  Toronto has been up and down this year, but Marc Trestman seemingly has them on the right path.  Will the Argos be up or down next Saturday at Mosaic?  It's a question the Riders can answer.  If they can't, all the good feelings orchestrated by the victory of Hamilton will be flushed away.  Once again, it will be an interesting week in Riderville.

AN ENTERTAINING FRIDAY NIGHT --  Officiating aside, CFL games have been great this season. Perhaps no greater than Friday in Vancouver as the Lions and Bombers slugged it out in what was a tremendous contest to watch. The game had it all from trick plays that worked to trick plays that didn't to big plays to big hits to a lot of points being scored.  It was a perfect way for the CFL to market itself.  The game went right down to the end, and Weston Dressler showed why he is considered as one of the league's best and one of the most respected players in the league by not giving up at the end.

Chris Rainey looked like he was going to take Justin Medlock's missed field goal at the end of the game back for a touchdown. Rainey could have gone to a knee when the field goal was short as BC had won, but he didn't.  Dressler didn't give up on the play when it looked like Rainey would score as he corralled the Lions talented kick returner just a few yards from the goal-line. Many would have and did give up on the play. Not WD7.  He wasn't letting Rainey get in despite the fact his team had lost.  Chris Jones can say age and money didn't translate, but hustle and leadership are qualities you can't let get away. He whiffed on that one as most of us already know.

A GREAT SATURDAY AFTERNOON --  Soccer Day in Saskatchewan was tremendous!  I think the 15-thousand in attendance at Mosaic Stadium Saturday afternoon saw a great display of the game as the New York Cosmos beat Valencia 2-0 in what was termed to be a huge upset.

The talent and the speed of those on the pitch was evident, and the fans were very knowledgeable which was great to see.  On Ice's John Graham told me after this was not a one and done and more soccer will be coming to Mosaic in the future. I can't wait!  If you went, I'd love to know your thoughts.

A DRAMATIC SUNDAY MORNING --  When Jordan Spieth decided to take a page of "Golfing the Scruffy Way" with his tee shot on the 13th hole at the Open Championship, I think many thought his chances of winning much less finishing in the top 5 were in huge jeopardy.

The 23 year old simply shook it off and played the final five holes in something which wasn't even Tiger-esque.  Most would have folded after that wayward right tee shot, but Spieth was not going to meltdown like he did at the 2016 Masters.  He rallied from what was a huge bogey on 13 to play the final 5 holes in five under par to take the Claret Jug in resounding fashion.

 Image result for jordan spieth

While it was incredible to see Spieth do what he did, I do have to ask this.  How was it he was allowed 20 minutes between shots. Is there not some kind of time limit?  While Spieth was extremely classy in going over to Matt Kuchar and apologizing for the delay he caused, why wasn't someone coming to up to Spieth or his caddy and saying "Let's go!".  Yes, he had to weigh out all his options, but it seems to me as if he should have been told to decide what his game plan was and continue.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Players To Watch

The Riders look to go to 2-2 tonight in Calgary as they battle the Stampeders in a Western Division showdown.

Here are some players to watch for on both sides

KEVIN GLENN -- The Riders quarterback should surpass the 50,000 career yards passing mark tonight as he is just 116 yards away.  It should cement KG as one of the best ever passers to play professional football as he will become the 7th CFL quarterback, and the 13th overall to reach that milestone. Glenn goes into tonight leading the CFL in completion percentage at 72.8 percent.

DURON CARTER --  Is this the night?  In three games, Carter has caught a rather pedestrian 14 passes for 144 yards.  There is no doubt Carter is a game-breaker and can flip field position with one play.  The matchup between him and Calgary's Tommie Campbell could arguably be the  best one on the field tonight.  If Carter wins that matchup, the Riders could very well pull off an upset.

CHARLESTON HUGHES --  The Stampeders get what arguably is their main man on defence back for this one as Hughes comes back onto the roster after missing two games with a leg injury. The CFL's reigning sack king has been exchanging words with former teammate Derek Dennis this week. If he can get to Glenn and disrupt his rhythm, it will be a good sign for the Stamps.

KIENAN LAFRANCE --  The free agent pickup makes his first appearance on the roster after being bothered by an injury suffered in training camp.  Chris Jones says he will play special teams, but one has to think we will see him spell off Cameron Marshall a tine or two.  The Riders showed against Hamilton that they are a more diversified offence when running the football and Marshall/Lafrance could be a nice 1-2 punch.

JEROME MESSAM --  It is somewhat hard to fathom tthat the beast that is Jerome Messam is averaging just over 3 yards a carry. That could be one of the reasons Calgary is struggling  out of the gate. I am guessing the Stamps may want to rectify this meaning the Rider D could get a solid dose of number 33 running the rock. It will be a big test for Zach Minter and Eddie Steele in the middle of that Rider d-line to keep Messam in check.

Depth Charts for Saturday's Riders-Calgary Game


620 CKRM's coverage begins at 4 with Rod Pedersen and Luc Mullinder having the play-by-play at 7 

Friday, July 21, 2017

This And That

--Welcome to Friday! Here are the usual weekly thoughts running through my muddled mind, and as always they come in no particular order.

Image result for spy vs spy

--"Spy Games" goes tomorrow night in Calgary, and I can't wait.  The Riders don't like the Stampeders, the Stampeders don't like the Riders. A green wave will once again descend on MacMahon Stadium, and both coaches are treating this Week 5 game like a playoff contest by closing practices so things don't get "leaked".  It's a little far-fetched to think fans are divulging secrets, but hey whatever sells tickets works for me. 

The Riders are better than last year, and Calgary isn't as good as last year.  While it is early, the Stamps seem to be missing something from last year when they ran roughshod over the league until the Grey Cup game.  Will this translate into a Riders win? One would have to think the Stamps will win at home, but I will say the Riders will cover the 11 and a half point spread.  Yes, Calgary could add a late TD to make it a double-digit win, but I think Bo Levi and crew are in for a tough game against an opponent that gives them nightmares no matter their record. 

--Riders head coach Chris Jones has the quote of the year in the CFL so far this year for his "We had more fans in the stands today (for Tuesday's practice) than Toronto has fans. Some have said that was an unnecessary shot against the Argos and are condeming him (surprise, surprise!) while others are taking it for what it was which was humour.  It was a well-played dig, and he wasn't really wrong was he? We all know fan support in Toronto is disgraceful. 

--Can someone please tell me what Dave Dickenson was trying to accomplish when he told Calgary radio station QR77 on Monday night that he thought the Riders had  a good team last year with the exception of their QB play?  Why is Dickenson taking a shot at the now-departed Darian Durant. The same Darian Durant that beat his Stampeders one week ago!  If he had said, they had bad o-line play or a bad secondary I could understand it, but taking a poke at a player who is no longer here. I don't get it! 

--Another thing I don't get is fans (smokers) who are railing on the Riders for the fact they put out an edict this week reminding people Mosaic Stadium is now smoke-free. Why is that? It's a City of Regina bylaw.  A city of Regina bylaw and not a Riders one. It's also a bylaw this non-smoker wholeheartedly endorses.  If it's a city bylaw, the Riders are simply adhering to it. Do you want them to not abide by this?  The hate of the smoker is being directed at the wrong folk. 

--There is also a furour over the fact once you leave,  you can't get back in. IT WASN"T LIKE THAT BEFORE!!! claim many.  Guess what? Things change, deal with it! Many other stadiums have this policy in place. Every NFL, NHL and MLB game I have seen over the last few years whether it be at Rogers Place, Bell Centre, Target Field, Wrigley Field, CenturyLink Field, the now no-more Metrodome, you are not allowed to leave once you enter. Its a safety thing!!  It's the same reason you get your bag searched, and its the same reason many venues give you souvenirs in a clear plastic bag. How easy would it be for someone to say oh, I forgot something and come back into the stadium whether it be here or anywhere with a weapon he or she has hidden hoping security will go "Oh I remember him/her. you're good and then chaos breaks out. 

Yes, the chances of that ever happening in Regina are slim, but if it did, questions would be asked about why fans weren't protected. Things change! Get used to it. It could be worse. Once again, the anger for this is a little unwarranted.  Do you say the same thing when going through the airport? Yes I do, but I understand why it's being done.  Bottom line, settle down and don't let the little things consume you as they seemingly are with some.

--Through 4 1/2 weeks of the CFL season, as a fan you can't say you are not seeing good games. Wednesday's game in Ottawa went right down to the wire and so did last night's game between the Eskimos and Ti-Cats. What a letdown by the Tabbies.  Despite another night of shoddy o-line play, Hamilton had a chance to win until late in the 4th quarter when Mike Reilly said enough was enough.  A win by the Ti-Cats (or Spy-Cats as RP has joked) would have tightened things up in the East and he West.  Perhaps Derek Meyers wasn't wrong when he said the gap between top and bottom in the league has shrunk significantly in the last year.  There seemingly isn't a lot between the top team and the worst one in the CFL.

Of the 18 games in the league this year, 13 have been decided by 8 or less. You can't ask for much better than that as a fan. A majority of the games including the two this week are coming right down to the end which I think is what you want in the end.

--Football of another kind comes to Mosaic Stadium on Saturday. I'm looking forward to seeing the New York Cosmos take on Valencia CF in the first ( and what won't be the last) international friendly. Say what you will about the game, but its popularity is increasing in our country by the day with more and more kids playing.  There is talk about a new league setting up a franchise in either Regina or Saskatoon. Former Rush prez Lee Genier is one of the people trying to make it happen. That guy knows what he's doing, so don't bet against him. Lee is scheduled to join me in the Cage at 605 Friday nightt to talk about it before a meeting at O'Hanlons at 7.

--It would only be fitting if Al Cowlings picked up OJ Simpson once he is paroled and drove him home would it not?

--People are talking about the home runs being hit in baseball and whether or not the ball is "juiced". How about the fact there are many more young stars in the game than before who can make you pay for a mistake.  Bryce Harper, Mike Trout, Kris Bryant, Cody Bellinger, Aaron Judge, Miguel Sano and Jose Altuve are just some of the names that will carry baseball for the next many years. There is a lot of talent on the field, and that is being shown by the increased numbers and interest in the game. You won't see me complaining about it.

--That's all I got. Have a great weekend! GO RIDERS!!

Monday, July 17, 2017

Lulay Gets Start for BC This Week

The news about Jonathon Jennings’ wounded shoulder probably couldn’t be much better for the B.C. Lions.
After an MRI, the Leos’ star pivot appears to be in clear.
Jennings told reporters Monday at the team’s training facility in Surrey that his range of motion was already better than the day before.

Head coach Wally Buono said he was “relieved” at the news.
The Lions host the Blue Bombers on Friday; Travis Lulay is slated to start.
The veteran put up the best-ever performance by a backup on Saturday, after he came in early in the game in relief of Jennings.
Lulay threw for 436 yards after relieving Jennings, who hurt his shoulder on the first play from scrimmage.

(Vancouver Province) 

Why Are So Many HR's Being Hit In Baseball?

Image result for giancarlo stanton home run

Home run hitters have always had great nicknames like The Sultan of Swat, Hammerin’ Hank and The Big Hurt.
And, now, Scooter.
Cincinnati utilityman Scooter Gennett — whose given name is Ryan — last month became the 17th player in major league history to hit four homers in a game, accomplishing the feat in a Reds win over St. Louis.
“For a guy like me to have done it, it’s amazing,” Gennett told reporters afterwards. “It’s maybe a little bit short of a miracle.”
Not this season, in what seems destined to go down as “The Year of the Homer.”
At the All-Star break, 3,343 home runs had been hit this season in the major leagues (15 of them from Scooter, by the way). That pace would produce 6,126 homers, which would not just break but obliterate the record 5,693 homers hit in 2000 season during the height of the Steroid Era.
At least this time around it’s the ball that’s suspected of being juiced and not the players (a topic addressed elsewhere today in these pages).
“There’s just something different about the baseballs,’’ Miami reliever Brad Ziegler said in a recent USA Today story. “I don’t have anything to quantify it, but the balls just don’t feel the same. It just feels different to me, a little harder, tighter than the past. ...
“Balls aren’t moving as much. And they’re being hit a long ways. Basically, it feels like every park is Colorado.’’
New York Mets pitching coach Dan Warthen, in the same story, said, “There’s a lot of people unhappy with the baseball, and I’m getting the same feedback. You’re seeing guys going opposite field, breaking their bats, and the balls are flying out.
“It’s the balls. They’re throwing harder with it, but they’re getting less movement, so they’re just hanging there.
“There has got to be some investigation.’’
Speaking to the Baseball Writers Association of America hours before last week's all-star game, Commissioner Rob Manfred said they have “done more testing on the baseballs in the last few years than (ever), and we know with certainty the baseball falls within the specifications that have existed for many years.”
Added Manfred: “We are in the process of trying to come to a conclusion as to what is going on.”
MLB uses Rawlings balls that are produced by hand at a factory in Costa Rica. The balls that don’t meet minimum standards are pulled aside, stamped with the word “PRACTICE” on them and used for BP.
Balls have been produced to exacting specifications — 9 to 9.25 inches in circumference and 5 to 5.25 ounces in weight — for more than a century. They still have a cushion cork center and four layers of tightly-wound wool wrapped with two strips of horsehide that is secured with 108 stitches.

“To be honest, I haven’t noticed anything (with the ball),” Padres starting pitcher Clayton Richard said. “I think the game constantly advances and it’s ever adapting, and pitching becomes more difficult, as I’m sure hitting does. It’s a game of adjustments. To me, it doesn’t seem like it’s changed much.”
Walking through Padres clubhouse during the discussion was first baseman Wil Myers, who said: “Strikeouts and home runs, baby! It’s what we’re about.”
He’s right.
Interestingly enough, this HR explosion has occurred just after homers had dropped to their lowest level since MLB expanded to its present 30 teams — with only 4,186 hit in 2014.
That year, Baltimore’s Nelson Cruz led the majors with 40 homers. The most 40-homer seasons in history was in 2000 when 16 players did it. Nine players did it in 2015 and eight players last season.
This year, there were 24 players with at least 20 homers — led by New York Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge with 30 — and were roughly at a 40-homer pace at the All-Star break.
The surge in home runs has brought an even greater increase in strikeouts, which have gone up every year since 2006. There were a record 38,982 strikeouts last season. Hitters are on pace to surpass the 40,000 mark this year.
By comparison, there were 31,356 strikeouts in 2000 when the HR record was set.

“Everything that research shows is we’re not (juicing the balls),” Padres Executive Chairman Ron Fowler said during a radio interview this week. “I think part of it is that guys are all or nothing. That’s the mentality. I don’t know if I necessarily agree with it. I like balls in play, but there are fewer balls in play and more home runs and more strikeouts.
“I like (Paul) Goldschmidt, for instance, from the Diamondbacks. He changes his approach at the plate when he has two strikes. He might be a free swinger on the first two, but after that he puts the ball in play. There’s a lot to be said for it.”
Much more is said these days about launch angle and exit velocity. Players are swinging for the fences and don’t seem to mind much if they swing and miss.
Richard, for one, has noticed different approaches at the plate.
“It seems as if hitters’ holes have changed,” he said. “Four, five years ago, you tried to stay down with everything and you’d be right. Now, a lot of guys’ holes are at the top of the strike zone. It’s changing all the time.”
Among the revelations in a recent story by The Ringer was that there has been a significant increase in the home run rate per batted ball.
“That increase coincided with a significant rise in the average exit velocity of batted balls,” the Ringer story said, “which largely explained the extra home runs but effectively replaced one mystery with another, leaving us wondering instead why balls were leaving bats with such speed.”
Back to the ball. Is it wound tighter? Are the seams lower (explaining why more pitchers have complained about blisters)? Or, what?
“That’s something for a scientist to figure out,” Padres reliever Craig Stammen said. “There are a lot more home runs. I think the hitters’ approach is a lot different. ...
“I mean, it could be the baseballs. I’m not denying that. But I don’t know. I can’t speak on something I don’t know anything about. I’m just out there to pitch, and whatever baseballs they give us I’m happy to use.”

(San Diego Union-Tribune)