⚾It’s (not) handled
Quick, remind me how this started: In January, the Houston Astros were found guilty of illegal sign-stealing — using technology to decipher signals from the opposing team’s catcher, pitcher and coaches to predict the next pitch — during their 2017 championship-winning season. The MLB fined Houston $5 million (which, although it is the largest allowable fine in baseball, it seems like chump change to us), gave one-year bans to the now-fired manager and general manager and revoked a few important draft picks.
Got it. Then what?: Last week, an exposé revealed that the scheme began with one of the MLB’s most famous and now-retired players, Carlos Beltrán — the so-called “Godfather” of sign-stealing — when he joined the Astros in 2017. We also learned that the Astros’ executives not only knew about the sign-stealing, but also had an intern (c’mon guys) create an Excel spreadsheet called “Codebreaker” (double c’mon guys) to help keep track of everything.
Woah. So, what’s the latest?: League commissioner Rob Manfred has, of course, come under intense scrutiny for how he chose to handle (or not handle) the crisis. Manfred didn’t penalize any players involved, didn’t revoke Houston’s 2017 World Series title and didn’t take away second baseman José Altuve’s 2017 American League (AL) MVP Award.
- On top of all that, things got worse on Monday when Manfred referred to the World Series trophy as “a piece of metal”...yeah that actually happened.
Jeez. What are people saying about this mess?: You better believe that athletes (even those in other sports) and fans are not happy about it. And, boy, have people let Manfred know how they feel.
- Even the usually soft-spoken New York Yankee outfielder Aaron Judge made it known that he felt “sick to his stomach” about the Astros’ actions and specifically Altuve, who narrowly edged him out for the AL MVP Award that year. NBA star LeBron James also sounded off, taking to Twitter to express his disgust. Yeah, you and us both.
What’s The GIST’s take?: Like a lot of people, we feel cheated. It’s not just scandals that create trust issues with baseball, it’s also the messy, and arguably unfair, way they’re handled that ruins the integrity of the sport — a sport that’s been so widely loved for more than a century. If this off-season is any indication of what this regular season will be like, hang on to your hats, because it will definitely be a rollercoaster.
Best of the rest
WNBA: We’re only three days into the WNBA’s (super undercovered) official free agency period and we already have a blockbuster move: former Dallas Wings superstar Skylar Diggins-Smith is heading to the Phoenix Mercury to link up with fellow heavy hitters Diana Taurasi and Brittney Griner, essentially creating the WNBA’s first “Big Three” (it’s giving us real early 2010s Miami Heat vibes).
- Thanks to the newly signed CBA, teams have more cap space (aka total amount of money they’re allowed to spend) and therefore can offer more enticing max contracts to the elite players. For example, the reigning champ Washington Mystics just extended their star Elena Delle Donne. Just a casual reminder of how opportunities for women can make a huge difference!
NHL: It was a scary scene in Anaheim on Tuesday night when St. Louis Blues defenceman Jay Bouwmeester suffered a cardiac episode while on the bench during a game against the Ducks. Bouwmeester’s teammates noticed him collapse and called for the team’s training and medical staff.
- Thanks to the staff’s quick action and an on-site defibrillator, the 17-year NHL veteran was stabilized and is said to be doing well in hospital. Let this be a lesson to us all: get CPR certified!
Gymnastics: A basketball analyst is in big trouble (and rightfully so) after making an inappropriate comment on-air. Barry Booker, who commentates on the SEC Network, said he’d like to spend Valentine’s Day watching “scantily clad women,” in reference to the gymnasts participating in this weekend’s NCAA tournament.
- Booker immediately — and we repeat, rightfully so — faced online backlash, with one former gymnast calling him out for sexualizing a sport that has already been the unwilling face of sexual abuse. Booker has since apologized, but he’s now facing an internal investigation. It’s 2020 and there’s absolutely no room for sh!t like this.
NFL: Yesterday the NFL announced that Cleveland Browns pass rusher Myles Garrett will be reinstated from his indefinite suspension — the “indefinite” only lasting six games — for smacking Pittsburgh Steeler Mason Rudolph in the head with his own helmet during a game in November. The NFL’s not exactly known for sticking to harsh punishments, so despite the controversial response, we’re not surprised about this one.
⚾Save the drama for your mama
The GIST: Just when you thought you’d seen the end of Major League Baseball’s (MLB) sign-stealing saga, they come out and hit you with more. After originally placing most of the blame on their coach A.J. Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow, it turns out the Houston Astros front office has some ’splainin to do.
Wait. Remind me how it started?: In January, the Astros were found guilty of illegal sign-stealing — using technology to record and decipher the hand and body signals of the opposing team’s catcher, pitcher and coaches to predict the next pitch — during their championship winning season in 2017.
- As a result, the MLB fined the ’Stros a measly $5 million, gave one-year bans to Jeff Luhnow and A.J. Hinch (who were subsequently fired) and revoked a few important draft picks.
So now what’s happened?: A couple of new details have emerged. First, apparently the sign-stealing scheme started with one of the MLB’s most famous players: the now-retired Carlos Beltrán. According to anonymous teammates, when Beltrán signed with the Astros for the 2017 season, he came with a plan and was the so-called “Godfather” of sign-stealing. We guess he made them an offer they couldn’t refuse. He’d previously been with the New York Yankees, who were also accused of sign-stealing in 2015. Coincidence? We think not.
- Second, it’s also come out that the Astros’ front office executives not only knew about the sign-stealing but also had an intern create an Excel algorithm they called “Codebreaker” (real subtle, guys) to help decipher signs more efficiently. This is a big deal because the MLB previously told the public that the sign-stealing scheme was not planned or directed by the front office. SMDH.
And what will the MLB do about it?: That remains to be seen. Spring training (aka preseason) starts in less than two weeks so the pressure is on for the MLB to discipline the ’Stros before then. In the meantime, some players who previously played against the Astros are taking it upon themselves to right the wrongs...
- Yankees pitching legend CC Sabathia is calling for the Astros’ World Series to be revoked, while former relief pitcher Mike Bolsinger is suing the team for $31 million, alleging the Astros interfered with and harmed his career. Following a bad game in 2017 in which he gave up four runs against the Astros, the Toronto Blue Jays terminated Bolsinger’s contract and he hasn't played in the MLB since. Not good.
What’s The GIST’s take?: We said it once and we’ll say it again: as fans, we feel cheated. Between steroid use, sign-stealing and everything in between, we have serious trust issues with baseball.
The GIST: It’s NBA All-Star Weekend, baby! Cue Smash Mouth.
What’s the NBA All-Star Weekend all about?: Every February, the NBA takes a break to showcase the league’s biggest stars in a skills competition on Saturday and main event game on Sunday. The All-Star Weekend doesn’t really mean anything, it’s just a for fun event in the middle of the season before the big postseason push.
- But unlike other men’s professional leagues, these festivities are a BFD and a lot of fun to watch.
Cool! How is it set up?: This year’s All-Star Weekend is being hosted in Chicago for the first time in 32 years. The weekend kicks off on Friday with the celebrity game — featuring a mixture of stars, including perfect 10 and viral gymnast sensation Katelyn Ohashi — and a next generation game called “Rising Stars.”
- The majority of the fun comes on Saturday night, which is separated into three parts: the Skills Challenge, 3-Point Contest and everybody’s fave main event, the Slam Dunk contest.
Tell me about the dunk contest: Keep your eye on a couple of dunkers who are coming for the 2020 crown with a vengeance: LA Laker and 2008’s champion Dwight “Superman” Howard wants to reclaim his throne, while Orlando Magic’s Aaron Gordon wants redemption after
being robbed losing despite a stunning performance in 2016.
And on Sunday?: It’s time for the game. The teams are captained by the top fan-voted stars from each conference: Laker LeBron James in the West and Milwaukee Buck Giannis Antetokounmpo (pronounced YONNIS ANDEDO-KOONPO) in the East. In a good ol’ fashioned schoolyard pick (sorry if this brings up bad memories), LeBron and Giannis each drafted their own squads who will battle it out for bragging rights and local charities.
Any Canadians to watch out for?: Two Toronto Raptors have been selected as All-Stars: six-time attendee Kyle Lowry and first-time All-Star and starter Pascal “Spicy P” Siakam. Fresh off last night’s loss that ended their franchise-record 15-game win streak, you better believe these guys will be using the weekend to regain some swagger.
- And get this: four Canadians will play in the Rising Stars matchup, marking the first time ever that Team World will have four players from the same country. #WETHENORTH, indeed.
Anything else?: This weekend will largely be a tribute to the late 18-time All-Star Kobe Bryant who, along with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others, died in a tragic helicopter accident in January. In honor of Kobe and Gianna, No. 24 (one of Kobe’s numbers) will be worn by Team Giannis while Team LeBron will wear No. 2 in honor of GiGi. Every player will also wear a patch with nine stars in memory of all the victims.
🎾A Canadian weekend
Tennis: Canadian tennis player Vasek Pospisil made it to the final of the Open Sud de France tournament this weekend (his first ATP final since 2014) and while he ended up losing to Frenchman Gael Monfils, he did it in the most Canadian way possible: by taking a swig of maple syrup right from the bottle for a quick sugar boost. You have to love it, eh?
NBA: Our Toronto Raptors have now won a franchise-record 14 straight games. Kawhi Leonard, who? What makes these wins more remarkable is that the Raps have been plagued with injury: big-man Marc Gasol is currently sidelined with a hamstring injury while star point guard and hype man Kyle Lowry sustained a whiplash injury on Friday night.
- But the Raps’ talent runs deep and players like Freddy VanVleet have stepped up — on Saturday night Freddy scored 29 points in the Raps’ 119–118 win over the Brooklyn Nets. Here’s to 15!
Golf: Okay, just one more Canadian win and then we’ll stop. With an overall score of 18 under par, golfer Nick Taylor won yesterday’s AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, one of the highlight tournaments on the PGA schedule. He beat out big names like Phil Mickelson and Jason Day to ensure that the Canadian flag flew high all weekend.