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Monday, July 13, 2020

Stories by Grey Papke:

Report: Blue Jays still exploring playing home games in Buffalo

Blue Jays logo

The Toronto Blue Jays still don’t know where they’ll be playing their home games in 2020.

The Blue Jays have been given permission to stage summer camp at Rogers Centre in Toronto, with major restrictions on movement. However, they have yet to receive approval to play regular season games there due to the amount of travel in and out that would be required for both the Blue Jays and visiting teams.

According to Mike Harrington of the Buffalo News, the Blue Jays have subsequently reached out to the Buffalo Bisons, their Triple-A affiliate, about the potential of playing games at Sahlen Field in Buffalo. This is a contingency plan for if the Blue Jays cannot get approval to play in Toronto, which remains their preference and goal.

While Sahlen Field is a decent option, there are concerns over the quality of stadium lighting as well as whether there is enough space to accommodate an MLB operation. Ultimately, though, the Jays may be left with no other option if they are told they can’t play in Toronto.

The Blue Jays had also looked into using their spring training home in Florida for the 2020 season. It’s not clear whether that plan could also still be on the table.

Redskins reportedly fire two long-term executives in abrupt shakeup

Dan Snyder

The Washington Redskins continue to make big organizational changes during the offseason, and that even includes personnel.

According to Ben Standig and Rhiannon Walker of The Athletic, Director of Pro Personnel Alex Santos and Assistant Director of Pro Personnel Richard Mann II were both fired by Washington over the weekend. Santos had been with the organization since 2006, and Mann since 2010.

There had been rumors about Santos’ job security after owner Dan Snyder gave coach Ron Rivera significant organizational power, but Santos was at Rivera’s introductory press conference as well as the Senior Bowl.

The timing of the changes is unusual, as it’s rather late in the offseason for something like this to happen. The pro personnel department is an important one for an NFL team, and it’s strange that Washington would make significant changes to it in mid-July.

Even bigger changes appear to be coming to the organization in the days to come.

Marcus Stroman expects to be ‘one of the top arms’ in free agency after 2020

Marcus Stroman

New York Mets pitcher Marcus Stroman is set to become a free agent after the 2020 season, and he certainly thinks he’ll be one of the best pitchers available.

Stroman said Sunday he expects to be one of the top pitchers available in free agency, offering up some reasons why he feels he should be in high demand on the open market.

Stroman is not lacking in confidence, and there’s some evidence to back his assertions. Chris Archer and Jake Arrieta would have been highly-touted names once, but Archer has struggled since being traded to Pittsburgh and Arrieta will be 35. Trevor Bauer, who like Stroman will be 30 at the end of the season, is probably the only comparable in terms of age and statistical accomplishments. Unlike Stroman, however, Bauer’s contractual demands might be rather unique.

Stroman has a career 3.76 ERA, and he was an All-Star in 2019. He’s still fairly young, and while it may be hard to do too much for his value in a shortened season, a strong 2020 couldn’t hurt his case.

Dwayne Haskins working with Terrell Owens ahead of training camp

Dwayne Haskins

Washington quarterback Dwayne Haskins is clearly committed to improving ahead of his second season, and he’s got some pretty big-name connections to make that happen.

Haskins’ personal photographer posted a picture of the quarterback working with Hall of Fame receiver Terrell Owens with training camp just around the corner.

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Not a bad connection to make, and it makes plenty of sense for a quarterback to pick the brain of one of the game’s all-time great receivers to try to better serve the needs of his own pass catchers.

Haskins had a somewhat underwhelming rookie season, tossing seven touchdowns and seven interceptions in nine appearances. He’s definitely been working very hard this offseason to ensure that year two is significantly better.

PJ Tucker brought a big screen TV and 60 pairs of shoes to Orlando bubble

NBA players are bringing a lot of personal belongings with them for their extended bubble stay in Orlando, but P.J. Tucker has really gone all out.

Tucker, a noted sneakerhead, brought over 60 pairs of shoes with him to Orlando, and intends to use his downtime to shop for more on eBay, according to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.

That’s not all. On Saturday, Tucker said he had an 85-inch TV delivered to his hotel room to make him feel more at home.

It’s safe to say Tucker will be living large as long as the Houston Rockets are in Orlando. And we thought the portable sauna was going above and beyond.

Clippers’ Lou Williams shares why he decided to participate in NBA restart

Lou Williams

Lou Williams was one of a number of players who said they were unsure about playing in the NBA restart over concerns that it would distract from the Black Lives Matter movement. Williams ultimately joined the Los Angeles Clippers in Orlando, and explained why on Saturday.

Williams said the Clippers had chosen to decide as a team whether to play or not, and ultimately voted to go to Orlando. Williams chose to go along with the group decision, adding that it was either “everybody or nobody.”

Williams gave hints that he was considering sitting out, but the Clippers have taken an interesting approach here. It would have been quite the story if one of the leading title contenders opted as a team not to play, but it hasn’t come to that.

A three-time Sixth Man of the Year recipient, Williams has been his typical strong self primarily coming off the bench this season. The 33-year-old is averaging 18.7 points and 5.7 assists per game, making him a key part of the Clippers’ championship hopes.

Clippers fans, show everyone who runs Los Angeles with this great “We Run LA” shirt. It makes a perfect gift for you or a friend – you can buy it here:

Yoenis Cespedes ‘certain’ he will be ready for Opening Day

It sounds increasingly likely that the New York Mets will have Yoenis Cespedes on the field for the first time since 2018 when the MLB season begins.

Cespedes underwent heel surgery in 2018, then hurt his ankle in embarrassing fashion when working his way back from that. On Saturday, he said he’s fully healed and is “certain” he will be ready to play on Opening Day.

There are actually several things working in Cespedes’ favor. The extended time off is one, but the universal DH is another. The Mets will, in theory, be able to avoid putting him in the field too much if they don’t want to, which could be very beneficial.

One teammate has said Cespedes looks primed for a huge year. Given how his injuries left a bad taste in the Mets’ mouth, that would be very welcome.

Eric Thames weighs in on MLB’s ‘terrible’ summer training

Some MLB players are definitely struggling to adapt to the new rules and expectations that come with a mid-pandemic summer camp. Washington Nationals outfielder Eric Thames is one of them.

Thames said summer camp has been “terrible,” citing the various social distancing rules implemented by the league to reduce the likelihood of the virus being transmitted.

Thames is probably not alone in his feelings. Other players have said some of the expectations are simply unrealistic, and the behaviors are so habitual that they’ll be hard to break.

Thames batted is in his first season with Washington after batting .247/.346/.505 with 25 home runs last season for Milwaukee.