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Canadian Press

Heyward’s grand slam powers Cardinals over Pirates 11-1 for 3rd straight NL Central title

PITTSBURGH — The St. Louis Cardinals are back in a familiar spot: on top of the NL Central looking down at everyone else.

Jason Heyward’s third-inning grand slam powered the Cardinals over the Pittsburgh Pirates 11-1 in the second game of a doubleheader on Wednesday night, giving St. Louis its third straight division title and 11th since 1994.

This one may be among the most impressive. The Cardinals and assured themselves of the best record in the majors this season despite losing several stars to injury for long stretches.

Heyward’s shot off Bobby LaFromboise, who replaced an ineffective Charlie Morton (9-9), gave St. Louis an early six-run lead. Tyler Lyons (3-1) had little trouble making it hold up as the Cardinals reached the 100-win plateau for the ninth time.

St. Louis players jogged out of their dugout to the infield in a businesslike celebration of their fifth straight post-season berth. Their season-long run atop baseball’s most competitive division — and the ease in which the team did it — is all the more stunning considering the obstacles it had to overcome.

The Cardinals held off the Pirates and the Chicago Cubs even though ace Adam Wainwright, sluggers Matt Holliday and Matt Adams and high-profile relievers Jordan Walden and Matt Belisle spent large chunks of the season on the disabled list.

Wainwright returned from a torn left Achilles to pitch one inning of mop-up duty during an 8-2 loss in the opener, his astounding recovery four months ahead of schedule. Even made Pirates manager Clint Hurdle break out in applause when Wainwright raced in from the bullpen in the eighth inning of the opener.

Yet to Wainwright, watching what the Cardinals did without him was just as impressive.

“I’m ridiculously impressed,” the three-time All-Star said on Tuesday, hours before being activated off the DL. “I think if you asked anybody in the distinguished media before the season if (we) lost (our) No. 1 pitcher and No. 3 hitter, No. 4 hitter and two set-up guys … nobody would have us (here).”

Certainly not the Pirates, who have spent the last four months breathlessly trying to track down the Cardinals only to come up short even though they have the second-best record in the majors. Pittsburgh will play in the wild-card round for the third straight year when it faces the Cubs next Wednesday, with the site still to be determined.

The Pirates missed a chance to inject some real drama into the final week of the regular season when it left 16 runners on base in a 3-0 loss on Monday night. Though Gerrit Cole threw seven strong innings in the opener on Wednesday to briefly pull the Pirates within three games, the Cardinals wasted little time getting to Morton, just like always.

Morton came in winless against St. Louis since April 4, 2011, a span of 11 starts. Tasked with forcing the Cardinals to wrap up the division in Atlanta on Friday, Morton faltered against his long-time nemesis once again.

Carpenter led off the game with a triple to the gap in left-centre, with normally sure handed Pittsburgh outfielders Starling Marte and Andrew McCutchen letting the ball scoot between them. Carpenter scored on a double play, Heyward singled and then scored on a double by Adams.

Morton temporarily gathered himself only to unravel completely in the third. Carpenter doubled, Morton hit Jon Jay with a pitch and walked Jhonny Peralta. LaFromboise came in for Morton only to watch Heyward send his fourth pitch streaking into the seats in right-centre to make it 6-0 and send the attendants in the visiting clubhouse at PNC Park scrambling to prepare for a postgame celebration.

Lyons, who has struggled while starting this season, didn’t let the cushion go to waste. He gave up four hits in seven innings, striking out five without a walk.


Francisco Cervelli’s grand slam off Michael Wacha (17-7) provided Cole (19-8) all the offence he would need to improve to 12-2 in September during his young career. Neil Walker also homered for the Pirates.


Cardinals: Made room for Wainwright by placing RHP Carlos Martinez on the 60-day disabled list with a strained right forearm.

Pirates: Cervelli was treated between games by trainers after taking a foul ball off his left ear in the opener. He remained in the game and started the nightcap, a rarity for a catcher.


Cardinals: St. Louis wraps up the year with a three-game set with the Braves in Atlanta starting Friday. Jaime Garcia (10-5, 2.36 ERA) starts on Friday against Julio Tehran (10-8, 4.16).

Pirates: Host Cincinnati on Friday looking to secure homefield advantage in next Wednesday’s wild-card game against the Cubs. Francisco Liriano (12-7, 3.27 ERA) will look for his 10th win in his last 11 decisions.

Will Graves, The Associated Press


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Canadian Press

Only four Sea Kings due to retire in near future despite retirement party

OTTAWA — Only four of the air force’s venerable CH-124 Sea King helicopters are due to be written off between now and the end of next March, despite last June’s splashy retirement party for the five decade-old workhorses.

National Defence is also spending more than $500,000 on a program to ensure the transition to the new CH-148 Cyclones is not a total culture shock for pilots and aircrew.

The Conservative government, which has struggled to deliver replacement maritime helicopters, went to great lengths last spring — before the election call — to demonstrate the Sea Kings could begin retiring in 2015 as promised.

It held a media event at the military air base in Shearwater, N.S., that included Diane Finley — public works minister at the time — declaring she was “delighted to begin putting these workhorses out to pasture.”

In a recent opinion piece for the Ottawa-based political publication The Hill Times, Defence Minister Jason Kenney complained that the introduction of the Cyclones was being overlooked as a Conservative procurement success story.

But documents obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act, along with several defence sources, say it will not be as smooth a retirement as the politicians would like it to appear.

There are approximately 26 Sea Kings still operating. Defence sources say the first two that were written off were already out of service after being damaged. National Defence would not confirm that, saying only that “to date, four aircraft have indeed been removed from flying status but have yet to be formally disposed of.”

Although exceptionally well-maintained, technology aboard the Sea Kings is vintage, and in order to smooth the transition the air force quietly approved a program in 2013 to enhance the old helicopters with modern data links, sophisticated infrared and electronic optic systems and digital sonar processors.

“We can’t go cold turkey from the Sea King to the Cyclone,” Kenney said in a recent interview. “There’s going to have to be a phase-in transition, and that’s why some of these life extensions have to happen.”

The kits not only make moving to the Cyclone a less jarring experience, but also enhance the capability of the Sea Kings, originally built in the 1960s. A defence source with knowledge of the file said the kits will prove useful to keep the old birds flying, especially if Sikorsky is unable to deliver fully capable Cyclone helicopters between 2018 and 2021 as promised.

National Defence spokeswoman Dominique Tessier confirmed that $575,000 had been earmarked on the program, with half of it already spent, and that the air force will take delivery of the system over the next 12 to 18 months.

The Cyclones, originally ordered by the Paul Martin’s Liberals in 2004, have had a troubled development history, with the U.S. manufacturer missing at least two deadlines over nine years to deliver the 28 helicopters.

The Harper government looked at other aircraft in the fall of 2013 before deciding to stick with the original deal under re-negotiated terms, which when announced by Public Works in January 2014 promised the Cyclones would be “fully operational” by 2018.

After months of negotiations with Sikorsky, those terms became having all helicopters delivered by 2018, but not all of them will have fully operational combat software until 2021.

“Under the revised delivery plan implemented with the amendments to the Maritime Helicopter Acquisition contract in June 2014, the helicopters will undergo continuous capability upgrades, with technical upgrades happening annually,” said Tessier.

The Cyclones, in their delivered state, will be restricted to aircrew training, search and rescue and ground surveillance missions, according to defence documents. The software upgrades envisioned after 2018 will allow for operations in all weather at sea, including combat and anti-submarine warfare.

It will be next year sometime before the Cyclones are allowed to even participate in training exercises and the restricted operations mean the air force will be limited — even after 2018 — on the number of helicopters it can deploy.

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Murray Brewster, The Canadian Press


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Canadian Press

Jays fans pay tribute to GM Anthopoulos with chants of ‘Thank you, Alex’

BALTIMORE — Alex Anthopoulos sat quietly in his seat in the first row of section 48 just behind the visiting dugout at Camden Yards. With the game well in hand, a large group of Toronto Blue Jays fans turned their adoration toward the general manager.

“Thank you, Alex,” the crowd chanted.

Anthopoulos found it cool, if not a little bit weird, to receive that kind of attention. But without his moves, most notably last off-season and at the trade deadline, the Blue Jays wouldn’t have even been in contention, let alone been able to clinch the American League East with five games to play.

For a moment, Anthopoulos smiled and appeared to soak it all in.

“To experience that for nine innings when it was an easy game to watch was just fun, and just to see to the pride and the emotion of everybody was just a lot of fun for me to experience that,” he said.

Criticized by his own players for sitting on his hands and not making any trades at the 2014 deadline, Anthopoulos bided his time. He said Wednesday after a 15-2 rout of the Baltimore Orioles that deals made back then may have cost the Blue Jays a chance to have Josh Donaldson or Kevin Pillar on this team.

After signing catcher Russell Martin to a US$82-million, five-year deal, Anthopoulos pulled the trigger on the trade that landed Donaldson from the Oakland Athletics for third baseman Brett Lawrie and prospects. With a .300 average, 41 home runs and 123 runs batted in, Donaldson is the likely AL MVP.

But Donaldson was around, and so was the best lineup in baseball, when the Blue Jays were playing sub-.500 baseball. Anthopoulos traded a pile of pitching prospects for ace David Price, shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, outfielder Ben Revere and relievers LaTroy Hawkins and Mark Lowe near the MLB trade deadline. Those moves provided the spark that pushed Toronto past the New York Yankees and into the playoffs for the first time since 1993.

Anthopoulos repeated Wednesday what he said at the time, that the Blue Jays were better than their 50-51 late-July record and there was belief that this team could win. The makeup of the clubhouse played a role in that.

“I just lived through this and it’s real,” Anthopoulos said. “Don’t get me wrong: Talent’s important, talent is the first thing that you need, but that other element is huge. Just from a consistency standpoint, the room, the group of guys stayed consistent. They were great.

“And I think that’s why, even when we were six games under or whatever it was, the floor didn’t cave in.”

Everything Anthopoulos touched turned to gold. Price is 9-1 on the way to potentially winning the AL Cy Young, Revere has become the speedy leadoff hitter with sterling defence, and Tulowitzki is expected to bring his Gold Glove fielding back for the playoffs after getting injured three weeks ago.

The groundwork for those trades was laid in the off-season, when Anthopoulos said his staff studied players and knew they’d fit in. Even he couldn’t have imagined Toronto going 42-14 since the Tulowitzki deal.

“The unknown is, over a two-month period, how well are these guys going to perform?” the Montreal native said. “Guys can go into slumps, guys can have bad games. You don’t know when that’s going to happen. So from a performance standpoint, there was an unknown. But in terms of these guys all being able to come together and be a group, we don’t have any doubts at all.”

By Wednesday, clinching the division felt like an inevitability. But there were still moments of raw emotion as relievers streamed out of the bullpen to mob Hawkins and as Anthopoulos embraced Tulowitzki.

Anthopoulos had tears in his eyes at one point as he was getting text messages about his father, who died when he was young. The 38-year-old choked up again when discussing it afterward.

Soon it’ll be back to business, like figuring out the playoff roster and rotation. But for a few fleeting minutes, Anthopoulos was able to enjoy the fruit of the organization’s work, on the field with players and in the stands amid fans calling his name.

“You want to smile and it’s nice, you’re definitely grateful,” he said. “You’re not a player, and you certainly don’t expect that. Their support has been great. Can’t say enough about that.”

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Stephen Whyno, The Canadian Press


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Canadian Press

Aubut steps down as COC president as sexual harassment investigation begins

TORONTO — Marcel Aubut has stepped down as president of the Canadian Olympic Committee and chairman of the Canadian Olympic Foundation as he is investigated for sexual harassment.

Aubut and the COC issued separate statements about the investigation on Wednesday night.

The COC received a complaint last Friday about Aubut and has retained Francois Rolland, former Chief Justice of the Quebec Superior Court, as an independent investigator.

Aubut asked to step away from his duties for the duration of the investigation.

The 67-year-old from Saint-Hubert-de-Riviere-du-Loup, Que., says he will fully co-operate with the investigation.


The Canadian Press


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Canadian Press

Back from a torn ACL, Blue Jays’ Marcus Stroman is living out his dream

BALTIMORE — Marcus Stroman had a vision in his head as he rehabbed a torn ACL in his left knee. The Toronto Blue Jays pitcher saw himself pitching in meaningful games in a playoff race.

“That’s kind of what kept me going,” Stroman said.

Less than seven months after going down with a knee injury that looked season-ending, Stroman woke up Wednesday excited to put a “storybook ending” on his recovery. 

In his fourth start of the season, Stroman’s eight innings of one-run baseball combined with another offensive outburst delivered the Blue Jays the American League East title, the franchise’s first since 1993.

Stroman was 2-years-old at the time. Now 24, the right-handed future ace of Toronto’s staff is revelling in his comeback and the team’s turnaround.

“It still feels like a dream, to be honest with you,” Stroman said. “How everything played out from the beginning of this season and being in this position to help my team clinch, it’s been a journey, it’s been a special ride. I’m just thankful for everybody who helped me get to this point.”

Stroman singled out his doctors at Duke University and his teammates for helping him along the way. The front office had faith that Stroman could return and help this season, but general manager Alex Anthopoulos didn’t want to count on it.

“You just don’t want to plan for it, and it was going to be found money if he’d come back,” Anthopoulos said.

After acquiring David Price at the trade deadline, the Blue Jays found a $20 bill in their back pocket with Stroman, who’s 4-0 with a 1.67 earned-run average since making his debut.

Because the injury was to his knee and not his throwing arm, the Blue Jays were confident Stroman could reach peak performance.

“I knew if I got back and my knee was ready to go, I knew that I’d be able to pitch in pretty big games and I knew my stuff would be where it would be and I knew I could be in mid-season form to where I was last year,” Stroman said.

Now Toronto goes into the playoffs with a potential rotation of Price, Stroman, Marco Estrada and R.A. Dickey. That would’ve been hard to imagine as recently as mid-July.

“I kept good faith the entire way, and it played out perfectly,” Stroman said. “I’m just blessed and lucky to be in this position.”

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Stephen Whyno, The Canadian Press


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Canadian Press

Appeals court strikes down possible cash payments to college athletes for use of their images

A federal appeals court struck down a plan to pay college football and basketball players in a ruling that NCAA leaders believe supports their contention that the athletes are students and not professionals.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed Wednesday that the NCAA’s use of college athletes’ names, images and likenesses in video games and TV broadcasts violated antitrust laws, but vacated a judge’s decision that would have allowed schools to make deferred cash payments to athletes of up to $5,000 per year.

“The difference between offering student-athletes education-related compensation and offering them cash sums untethered to educational expenses is not minor; it is a quantum leap,” Judge Jay Bybee wrote. “Once that line is crossed, we see no basis for returning to a rule of amateurism and no defined stopping point.”

NCAA President Mark Emmert said: “That was a very, very welcome decision from our point.”

The NCAA had appealed U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken’s 2014 decision in the so-called O’Bannon case to allow — but not require — players in the top division of college football and in Division I men’s basketball to be paid for use of their names, images and likenesses. The money would have been put in a trust fund and given to them when they left school.

Wilken also ruled that those players should be compensated with the full cost of attendance. The NCAA in August began allowing its member schools to provide an athletic scholarship that covers the full cost of attending college, though officials say it should not be mandated by the courts.

Previously, an athletic scholarship covered tuition, room and board, books and fees. Now NCAA rules allow schools to raise the value to include other expenses, such as travel, that come with attending college. Schools determine their cost of attendance using federal guidelines.

“There are elements of (Wednesday’s) ruling that are either unknown at this point or are things that we would tend to disagree with the court,” Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby said. “But in the main I believe this has affirmed the amateur status of collegiate athletes and affirmed these are students, not employees.”

Michael Hausfeld, the lead attorney for the plaintiffs, said in a statement that the ruling confirms the NCAA and its members are a “price-fixing cartel.”

“Judge Wilken’s injunction will produce significant competition among the member schools that will translate into real money for college athletes to put toward the rising educational expenses they face,” he said.

Stephen Ross, a law professor at Penn State who specializes in sports and antitrust law, said the ruling was a win wrapped in a loss for the NCAA.

“The 2-1 majority opinion is a huge victory for the major college football and basketball programs in the country by letting them do exactly what they want to do while losing on every single major legal point they raised in the appeal,” Ross said.

Ross said the U.S. Supreme Court may eventually decide the issue if a similar but separate case that is pending is decided in favour of athletes. A case working its way through the courts, led by antitrust lawyer Jeffrey Kessler, challenges schools’ rights to cap compensation at the value of a scholarship.

Michael A. Carrier, a professor at Rutgers Law School, said plaintiffs received from the appeals court a “very strong ruling” that NCAA amateurism rules are subject to antitrust scrutiny. That will keep alive the possibility of future antitrust challenges.

But, he said, future attempts to get even more money for college athletes were hurt by this ruling.

“If even this deferred $5K doesn’t fly, nor would greater amounts that have even less to do with educational expenses,” Carrier said in an email.

The majority found that the NCAA rules against compensation violate anti-trust law by stifling competition among schools for athletes, but serve the goal of preserving the popularity of college sports by maintaining its amateur status. The court said the NCAA could still achieve that goal by providing athletes with full scholarships for the cost of attending school. But giving them cash compensation would jeopardize their amateur status, which underpins the market for NCAA sports.

In a dissenting opinion, Chief Judge Sidney Thomas said the majority wrongly dismissed expert testimony that found that paying student athletes small amounts above their cost of attendance most likely would not have a significant impact on consumer interest in college sports.

This does not end the legal challenges facing the NCAA.

“I think in a general sense we made progress,” Bowlsby said. “I think we now are well-positioned to move ahead with the rest of the challenges that we face.”


Associated Press Writer Sudhin Thanawala in San Francisco and AP Sports Writer Tim Dahlberg in Las Vegas contributed.

Ralph D. Russo, The Associated Press


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Canadian Press

Blue Jays clinch American League East Division title: How they got here

The Toronto Blue Jays have clinched their first American League East title since 1993, securing a spot in the best-of-five divisional series. They accomplished the feat Sept. 30 in Baltimore, but their journey to this point started a year ago.

How the Blue Jays got here:

Sept. 30, 2014 — After making no moves at the trade deadline despite being 60-50 and holding a wild-card spot, the Blue Jays go into a tailspin and finish 23-29 to miss the playoffs. General manager Alex Anthopoulos laments the cost of acquiring players and says the team would be competitive in 2015.

Nov. 1, 2014 — In an effort to get roster flexibility, the Blue Jays trade longtime first baseman/designated hitter Adam Lind to the Milwaukee Brewers for right-handed pitcher Marco Estrada.

Nov. 18, 2014 — The Blue Jays sign three-time all-star catcher Russell Martin, born in Toronto and raised near Montreal, to a US$82-million, five-year contract.

Nov. 28, 2014 — Following another injury-plagued season, the Blue Jays trade Canadian third baseman Brett Lawrie and prospects to the Oakland Athletics for third baseman Josh Donaldson.

Dec. 3, 2014 — Seeking depth, the Blue Jays sign former blue-chip prospect Justin Smoak to a $1-million, one-year deal.

Dec. 4, 2014 — In another depth move, the Blue Jays sign unheralded outfielder Ezequiel Carrera to a minor-league contract.

Dec. 8, 2014 — The Blue Jays claim journeyman outfielder/first baseman Chris Colabello off waivers from the Minnesota Twins.

Dec. 14, 2014 — Outfielder Melky Cabrera leaves the Blue Jays, agreeing to a $42-million, three-year deal with the White Sox.

Feb. 23, 2015 — Blue Jays pitchers and catchers report for their first spring training workouts in Dunedin, Fla.; catcher Dioner Navarro says he’d like to be traded so he can play every day.

Feb. 25, 2015 — Newly acquired outfielder Michael Saunders tears cartilage in his left knee from stepping on a sprinkler while shagging fly balls in spring training.

March 10, 2015 — Marcus Stroman, who was supposed to be Toronto’s 24-year-old ace, tears the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during fielding practice and is expected to be out for the season.

April 6, 2015 — Opening Day starter Drew Hutchison tosses a gem as the Blue Jays open the 2015 season with a 6-1 victory at the rival New York Yankees.

May 17, 2015 — The Blue Jays get swept in a four-game series by the Houston Astros to fall to 17-22 on the season.

June 14, 2015 — The Blue Jays win their 11th straight game, tying a franchise record and moving to within one game of the second American League wild-card spot.

June 22, 2015 — After trying Brett Cecil and other relievers in Casey Janssen’s old role, manager John Gibbons turns to 20-year-old Roberto Osuna to be the Blue Jays’ closer.

July 12, 2015 — Toronto goes into the all-star break 45-46 after an 11-10 loss to the defending AL-champion Kansas City Royals.

July 25, 2015 — The Blue Jays win five of eight games out of the break to get above .500 and back into playoff contention.

July 28, 2015 — In a blockbuster deal with the Colorado Rockies, the Blue Jays get shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and reliever LaTroy Hawkins in exchange for shortstop Jose Reyes, right-hander Miguel Castro and pitching prospects Jeff Hoffman and Jesus Tinoco.

July 29, 2015 — With the Blue Jays at 50-51, Tulowitzki goes 3-for-5 in his debut to lead them to a blowout of the Phillies to cut the New York Yankees’ AL East lead to seven games with 60 to play.

July 30, 2015 — The trade bonanza hits its apex as the Blue Jays acquire pending free-agent ace David Price from the Detroit Tigers for top prospect Daniel Norris and fellow pitching prospects Matt Boyd and Jairo Labourt.

July 31, 2015 — Anthopoulos finishes his shopping, trading for outfielder Ben Revere from the Phillies and reliever Mark Lowe from the Mariners on deadline day.

Aug. 3, 2015 — Price strikes out 11 and allows one run on three hits against the Twins in his debut at a sold-out Rogers Centre as the Blue Jays move into a tie for a wild-card spot.

Aug. 9, 2015 — Estrada tosses 6 1/3 shutout innings and Josh Donaldson and Jose Bautista each hit home runs as the Blue Jays finish off a sweep of New York at Yankee Stadium.

Aug. 12, 2015 — The 10th victory of another 11-game winning streak, coupled with a Yankees loss, puts the Blue Jays in first place in the AL East by a half-game.

Aug. 14, 2015 — Price cracks and Aaron Sanchez gives up a three-run home run to Carlos Beltran as the Yankees reclaim first place in the division

Aug. 23, 2015 — A rout of the Angels wraps up a three-game sweep in Anaheim as the Blue Jays get back into first place.

Sept. 12, 2015 — Stroman makes his triumphant season debut and is impressive as the Blue Jays sweep a Yankee Stadium doubleheader to move 4 1/2 games up.

Sept. 23, 2015 — Another series victory against the Yankees makes the Blue Jays 13-6 against New York and gives them a 3 1/2-game lead.

Sept. 26, 2015 — The Blue Jays unknowingly clinch a wild-card spot, their first playoff berth since 1993, with a win over Tampa Bay and a Detroit Tigers win over Minnesota. They celebrate a day later.

Sept. 30, 2105 — The Blue Jays clinch the American League East division in Baltimore.

Stephen Whyno, The Canadian Press


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Canadian Press

Jays-mania strikes Toronto sports fans, accustomed to defeat but now dreaming big

TORONTO — The Toronto Blue Jays have clinched the American League East division title, booking their place for a post-season chase of another World Series title while cheering a city of terminally despondent sports fans and grabbing the attention of baseball enthusiasts nationwide.

The Jays have not made the playoffs since 1993, when they won the World Series for the second straight year. Joe Carter’s three-run homer in the bottom of the ninth inning — and his subsequent joyous leaps around the bases as the crowd roared — remains one of Toronto’s fondest and most glorious sports moments.

The team has struggled since then, mired in a 22-year playoff drought that was the longest in any of the four major North American sports leagues.

Even this year threatened more of the same. And then came the trade deadline in late July.

Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos nabbed superstar shortstop Troy Tulowitzki from the Colorado Rockies and left-handed ace David Price from the Detroit Tigers.

Capping the busiest trade-deadline week in franchise history, the Jays then added two more key players a few hours before the clock ran out in reliever Mark Lowe and outfielder Ben Revere.

Within weeks, the team motored past the Minnesota Twins into a wild-card spot, and then overtook the New York Yankees in the American League East race.

If the hot streak continues, they’ll have the best record in the American League, meaning Canada’s only Major League Baseball franchise will have home-field advantage throughout post-season play.

Fans across the country are over the moon and hoping the Jays are on their way to a third World Series.

“The Jays are yours,” wrote Zach Borutski in the University of Alberta’s student newspaper, The Gateway.

“They’re Canadian, they represent all of you, from the dustiest Saskatchewan farming town, to the coldest ice shelf in Nunavut — the Jays are playing for all of that. Every other MLB team can only go so far before they run into another hostile fanbase. Some even have to coexist in the same city, but the Jays have an entire nation to themselves; they have a fan base that’s 35 million strong.”

The Canadian Press


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Canadian Press

Blue Jays rout Orioles to clinch first American League East title since 1993

BALTIMORE — It wasn’t the storybook scene anyone would have dreamt up: a half-empty road stadium in the first half of a doubleheader on a Wednesday afternoon.

It was a moment 22 years in the making for the Toronto Blue Jays franchise and almost a year in the making for the 2015 team. In front of an intimate crowd at Camden Yards wearing more blue than orange, the Blue Jays routed the Baltimore Orioles 15-2 to clinch the American League East.

The pennant is Toronto’s first since 1993, when it won its second of back-to-back World Series titles. It assures the Blue Jays a spot in the five-game AL Division Series rather than the uncertainty of a one-game wild-card playoff.

“Anything can happen in a one-game series,” injured shortstop Troy Tulowitzki said. “You could have the best pitcher in the world starting for you and anything can really happen in those games.”

That’s not a problem anymore. In late July, any kind of post-season appearance would have been welcomed, before general manager Alex Anthopoulos went all-in, trading for Tulowitzki, ace David Price, outfielder Ben Revere and relievers LaTroy Hawkins and Mark Lowe at the deadline.

Those moves worked like a charm, taking a Blue Jays team that was 50-51 and eight games back of first place on the day Tulowitzki entered the lineup on a 42-14 run up the standings, past the New York Yankees and into October.

Winning the division seemed inevitable in recent days as the Yankees struggled and the Blue Jays kept rolling.

The final victory of that accomplishment came Wednesday with young stud Marcus Stroman on the mound in just his fourth start of the season following a torn ACL in spring training. Stroman (4-0) was masterful yet again, striking out eight and allowing just one run on five hits in eight innings.

In typical Blue Jays fashion, the most productive lineup in baseball led the way by tormenting opposing pitching. RBI hits by Russell Martin and Ryan Goins in the second inning and more trouble in the fourth forced Baltimore starter Miguel Gonzalez (9-12) out of the game.

With Anthopoulos watching in the first row above the visiting dugout, the Blue Jays poured it on, scoring four runs in the fifth, including three on an infield dribbler that allowed hitter Darwin Barney to come around to score.

Edwin Encarnacion hit his 37th home run of the season, a two-run shot, in the seventh to get to double digits, and Jose Bautista hit his 40th in the ninth. Justin Smoak added a two-run shot to put an exclamation point on the blowout.

It was the 41st time in 157 games Toronto scored eight or more runs. Bautista’s blast also got the Blue Jays two hitters with 40-plus home runs (MVP front-runner Josh Donaldson has 41) for the third time in franchise history and first time since 2000.

Everyone in the lineup got at least one hit for a total of 18. Goins set a new career high with five.

This monstrous offensive outburst made the clinching game feel like a coronation, in front of Blue Jays fans who chanted “MVP” for Donaldson’s at-bats and serenaded Anthopoulos with a chorus of “Thank you, Alex.” After Hawkins got the final out, players celebrated on the same field on which they watched Baltimore clinch the AL East a year ago.

This division title also came with the guarantee of home-field advantage in the ALDS. The Blue Jays will either play host to the AL West champions — the Texas Rangers, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim or Houston Astros — or the wild-card team at Rogers Centre for Game 1 on Oct. 8.

Home-field throughout the playoffs is within reach, too. The Blue Jays’ magic number to earn the top seed in the AL is three — any combination of victories and Kansas City Royals losses.

With the second half of the doubleheader and one more game against the Orioles left, that could come as soon as Thursday afternoon, since the Blue Jays’ game was moved up to 12:05 because of the threat of rain.


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Stephen Whyno, The Canadian Press


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Canadian Press

Don Orsillo signs deal to broadcast Padres games, set to take over for Dick Enberg in 2017

SAN DIEGO — Don Orsillo has landed with the San Diego Padres after being ousted as the Boston Red Sox’s television play-by-play voice.

The Padres said Thursday that Orsillo has signed a long-term deal and will become the primary television play-by-play broadcaster on FOX Sports San Diego when Dick Enberg retires after next season. Next year, Orsillo will do select games on television and radio.

In Boston, Orsillo wasn’t offered a new contract with NESN and is being replaced by Dave O’Brien. Orsillo first broadcast Red Sox games on NESN in 2001 and became the full-time play-by-play man in 2005 when the network acquired rights to all local telecasts.

Orsillo was popular with Red Sox fans, but his true popularity seemed to catch the club by surprise only after the news leaked that he wouldn’t be brought back. Fans brought signs to the games begging the team to keep him, and a petition to bring him back garnered more than 65,000 online signatures.

The Red Sox played a video tribute to Orsillo at the final home game Sunday, drawing cheers and leaving him speechless on air. NESN said it would give him a sendoff during his final broadcast Sunday.

The Padres also said former major Leaguer Mark Grant will return for his 21st season as the television colour analyst, Ted Leitner will be back for in the radio booth for his 37th season, and Jesse Agler, will move from lead host of Padres Social Hour into a full-time radio broadcasting role.

Eduardo Ortega will return for his 30th season as the team’s Spanish-language voice, teaming again with former Padres catcher Carlos Hernandez for an expanded schedule of telecasts on FOX Deportes San Diego.

The Associated Press


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Canadian Press

Conservatives bob, weave over Trans-Pacific deal and ‘caretaker convention’

OTTAWA — Panda bears and Joe Oliver — two things rarely seen thus far on the 2015 campaign trail — made unexpected appearances Wednesday that left political observers scratching their heads.

The finance minister surfaced in his hotly contested Toronto riding of Eglinton-Lawrence to crow about the latest GDP numbers: a paltry 0.3 per cent growth in July, leaving some to wonder why he’d even bothered.

“Our low-tax plan for jobs and growth is working,” Oliver boasted.

Sneered Unifor economist Jim Stanford: “Claiming ‘victory’ because GDP is growing again after a recession is a bit like commenting on how good it feels to stop beating your head against the wall.” 

And the pandas? News out of Toronto that one of the two rare beasts on loan from China is pregnant with twins prompted a punchy Conservative war room to promise to double Canada’s panda population by next year.

“The prime minister also noted that his low-tax, balanced-budget plan to protect Canada’s economy would ensure a consistent supply of bamboo and other treats,” the party’s straight-faced news release wryly noted.  

One symptom, perhaps, of Canada’s unduly long 11-week campaign.

Here’s another: the business of government has to carry on, even when that business includes nailing down sprawling, 12-country Pacific Rim trade deals, which is why Trade Minister Ed Fast was in Atlanta instead of his B.C. riding.

“Canada is prepared to negotiate, to stay here until we have a deal,” Fast said. “We believe we are on track to do so.”

The fact the deal could be born in the throes of an election campaign had both Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and NDP Leader Tom Mulcair crying foul, saying the rules require opposition parties to be consulted.

Fast and Oliver both shrugged off that suggestion.

“When there’s a matter of importance or urgency for the government to deal with in the national interest, then it’s appropriate for us to do that,” Oliver said. “And this is certainly one of those cases.”

Trudeau has “not been approached by anyone in government on the Trans-Pacific Partnership” — indicative, he said, of the Harper government’s control-freak approach to the flow of information.

“One of the things that we’ve seen over the past years with this government is an approach that has been secretive, non-transparent, that hasn’t let Canadians know what it is negotiating and how it is negotiating, what is on the table,” he said in Surrey, B.C.

“It would be unrealistic for us to expect that the whole world will stop and wait with bated breath for the outcome of Canada’s election. But what we need to know is that our government is negotiating in a way that is going to enhance Canadian opportunities and growth while protecting our interests.”

Questions persist about what concessions Canadian negotiators may be willing to make in agriculture and the auto sector in order to get a deal.

Mulcair said he is “very worried” about what Prime Minister Stephen Harper is willing to put on the table.

“I don’t trust Stephen Harper as a negotiator,” he said in Iqaluit.

“He’s not good at it. He has an ideological bent that means he doesn’t care about what happens here at home.”

Harper promised Tuesday to preserve Canada’s long-standing protection of the dairy and auto industries. He said his government is “absolutely committed” to preserving Canada’s supply management system — a structure of production limits and import tariffs — through trade negotiations.

The focus on the TPP has knocked last week’s hot-button election issue — niqabs at citizenship ceremonies — to the back burner.

The Liberals and the NDP have accused the Conservatives, who say people should be required to show their faces while taking the citizenship oath, of using an issue that affects few people to divide voters and instill fear.

The Federal Court found that it affects about 100 women per year. But Citizenship and Immigration Canada said that since 2011, only two people have chosen not to proceed with the ceremony because of the ban.

Trudeau was also asked Wednesday about another divisive issue — his pledge to legalize and regulate marijuana, which he said a Liberal government would get started on “right away.”

“We didn’t book for tax revenues from marijuana because we don’t yet know exactly what rate we’re going to be taxing it, how we’re going to control it or whether it will happen in the first months, within the first year or whether it’s going to take a year or two to kick in,” he said.

“We are being responsible and prudent in our approach to costing but make no mistake about it: Mr. Harper’s failed approach, which endangers our kids and endangers our communities, needs to stop.”

The Conservatives pounced, issuing a statement from Julian Fantino, a former provincial police commissioner, charging that it’s Trudeau’s plan that will put kids at risk.

“Justin’s singular justice policy will make smoking marijuana a normal, everyday activity for Canadians and he wants to make marijuana available in storefront dispensaries and corner stores just like alcohol and cigarettes,” Fantino wrote.

Trudeau unveiled Liberal health-care policies Wednesday, including a promise to spend $3 billion over the next four years on improved home care and an unspecified additional amount to reduce the cost of prescription drugs and expand mental health services.

Mulcair used his time in the North to slam Harper’s record on climate change and muzzling federal scientists. He announced that an NDP government would create a new parliamentary office to provide solid scientific advice and analysis to Parliament.

The Canadian Press


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Canadian Press

B.C. boy sentenced for movie-like attempted murder of his little sister

PRINCE GEORGE, B.C. — A boy who repeatedly watched a violent scene from a well-known horror movie before stabbing his little sister several times in their home near Prince George, B.C., won’t be going to prison.

The high-school-aged boy, who can’t be named under provisions of the Youth Criminal Justice Act, recently pleaded guilty to attempted murder and was placed on strict conditions.  

Judge Michael Brecknell heard that before the boy attacked his sister in September 2013, he repeatedly watched a scene from “Halloween,” in which a family is murdered with a knife and baseball bat.

Brecknell says in his ruling that the boy, without warning, picked up a kitchen knife and began stabbing his sister in the back, but she managed to escape outside and flag down a school bus.

He says the girl could have died had she not received immediate medical care, noting she suffered a collapsed lung and multiple stab wounds in her back, arms, hands, legs and face.

The judge’s nearly 30 conditions prohibit the boy from possessing weapons, impose a curfew and forbid him from watching any TV shows or movies that haven’t been approved by his youth worker.

The sentence also allows the boy to access as much as $100,000 in federal funds for rehabilitation programs.

The Canadian Press


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Canadian Press

TPP: ‘We believe we are on track’ toward a trade deal, Canada’s envoy says

ATLANTA — The Canadian government is eager enough to complete a historic trade agreement this week that the country’s lead minister has no idea when he’ll be back home campaigning in the federal election.

In his first full day at the meetings that could ultimately clinch the 12-country Trans-Pacific Partnership, Ed Fast said he’s willing to stay as long as it takes.

He said he doesn’t yet have a return plane ticket to British Columbia where he’s in a re-election fight because, he says, completing the deal is critical to Canada’s economy.

“What I can say is that Canada is prepared to negotiate, to stay here until we have a deal,” the international trade minister said Wednesday.

“We believe we are on track to do so.”

He insisted that he’s also willing to walk away if necessary: “I can’t prejudge whether there will be a deal this weekend… We are only going to sign a deal that is in our national interest.”

Some countries are expressing a sense of urgency that a deal be completed now before several governments involved in the talks face uncertain re-election campaigns, starting with Canada’s.

But the biggest impending concern for TPP proponents is the fast-approaching U.S. presidential primaries, which could play havoc with attempts to get the agreement ratified in Congress.

The Canadian government faces the dual pressure of having to run a campaign at the same time. While Fast chats about dairy and auto quotas in Atlanta, his colleagues back home are weighing the potential impact in dozens of ridings that could hold the key to Conservative re-election chances.

The government left the last talks dismayed by a surprise Japan-U.S. agreement that would have upended auto-production, with tariffs eliminated on cars that primarily use cheaper parts from non-TPP countries like China.

Fast called the last proposal unacceptable. He added Wednesday that there has been movement since the failed round in July: “We have continued to make progress,” he said.

But the Canadian government also desperately wants to change the conversation.

It’s attempting to steer attention toward companies and industries enthused by the TPP. It hopes those voices drown out some of the skeptics: the auto-workers union warning of lost middle-class jobs, and the dairy farmers urging against even a one-per-cent increase in foreign cheese imports.

The government has been circulating quotes from supportive stakeholders in multiple industries: mining, seafood, pork, cattle, and even from the bigger auto-parts companies with foreign plants.

One enthusiastic stakeholder is the Canadian beef industry. It predicts exports to Japan could potentially triple if tariffs fall as low as reported in Japanese media.

John Masswohl said the industry shipped $100 million to Japan last year — and lost almost 40 per cent in duties. But that’s not the biggest issue: It’s that Australia is gnawing away at everyone else’s market share, he said, because it already has a tariff-reduction deal with Japan.

“It’s a bad scenario for us if there is no TPP because Australia’s rate continues to get lower and lower,” said Masswohl, director of government relations for the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association.

In Quebec and Ontario, the concerns of dairy farmers have received widespread media coverage. Those two provinces also happen to produce more than half of Canada’s hogs.

And the pork producers are delighted.

Martin Rice of the Canadian Pork Council predicted that joining the TPP would increase the $1 billion in pork exports to Japan by more than 30 per cent within four years.

He warned that the exact opposite would happen if the TPP happens without Canada.

“Our processors just wouldn’t be able to compete anymore,” he said.

Expect to hear arguments like those from the Conservative party repeatedly in the last weeks of the federal election, should an agreement come together in Atlanta.

Another emerging debate has to do with transparency. The deal is being negotiated in secret; the final text might not even be made public before Canadians vote; and the government hasn’t involved opposition parties despite the fact that one of them might actually have to implement the deal if they win Oct. 19.

Fast said Canada would push for the full text to be released instantly. He offered no guarantee when asked about consulting his election opponents.

Alexander Panetta, The Canadian Press


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Canadian Press

Guy Turcotte’s murder trial hears about stabbing deaths of children

SAINT-JEROME, Que. — The trial of a former Quebec doctor charged with killing his two young children heard on Wednesday from an expert who described how they were stabbed to death.

Guy Turcotte, 43, has pleaded not guilty to two charges of first-degree murder but has admitted through his lawyers to causing the children’s deaths in 2009.

Biologist Francois Julien, an expert in blood spatter, testified that both Olivier, 5, and Anne-Sophie, 3, were first attacked while lying on their backs and then when they were on their sides.

They were eventually found on their backs, he said.

As Julien testified, photographs of the two bloodied bodies were shown, with some jurors appeared troubled by the graphic images. All the while, Turcotte, his face red, kept his head down, occasionally wiping his eyes with a tissue.

The Crown has said it intends to demonstrate the children were stabbed a total of 46 times — Olivier 27 times and Anne-Sophie another 19.

Julien told the jury that Olivier was the first to be attacked and that his blood was found on the doorknob of Anne-Sophie’s room, leading him to conclude Turcotte moved from his son’s room to his daughter’s.

The blood of both children were found on a knife found near the bathtub. A longer knife found underneath the young boy wasn’t used to stab him.

The case resumed Wednesday after losing a juror.

Quebec Superior Court Justice Andre Vincent said he exercised his powers under the Criminal Code to free the juror. The reason for the dismissal cannot be made public.

That means 11 people will now continue to hear the case against Turcotte.

A trial needs a minimum of 10 jurors to proceed.

The case will not sit Thursday and Friday as another juror requires an operation for an injury sustained last weekend and because a trial cannot proceed with an absent juror.

Stephanie Marin, The Canadian Press


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Canadian Press

“Utility tool” Michael Frolik finding his fit with Calgary Flames

CALGARY — When Calgary Flames general manager Brad Treliving signed forward Michael Frolik, the GM described him as a “Swiss Army knife.”

The multi-purpose right-winger has spent training camp adapting to his new team and finding out where head coach Bob Hartley believes he’ll be the most useful.

Frolik has seen a lot of 19-year-old rookie sensation Sam Bennett on either his opposite wing or at centre on Calgary’s second line during the pre-season.

“Most of the games I’ve played with Sammy,” Frolik said Wednesday. “He’s a young guy, but a really skilled and smart player. I like playing with skilled guys who can make plays and I think he’s a guy who can do it.

“Every day I feel we build a little bit more chemistry and hopefully if we stay together, we keep building.”

The Flames conclude the pre-season with games against the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday and Saturday before opening the regular season Oct. 7 at home against Vancouver.

After a pair of 42-point seasons with the Jets, the 27-year-old Czech signed a five-year contract with the Flames in July worth US$4.3 million annually.

Frolik won a Stanley Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2013 as a defensive forward on their checking line, although he assisted on Dave Bolland’s Cup-winning goal. Chicago subsequently dealt Frolik to Winnipeg in a salary dump.

Frolik ranked among the top three performers in fitness testing to open Calgary’s main camp. He’s been a standout in the pre-season with a team-leading four points (two goals, two assists) and a team-high 14 shots in three games.

The six-foot-one 200-pounder from Kladno scored a pretty goal with a soccer move — kicking the puck with his right skate to his forehand — in a 4-1 exhibition win over Vancouver last week.

“I think I’ve proved during my career I can be an offensive guy and a defensive guy too,” Frolik said. “Obviously it’s a little more fun where you can play more offence. It’s kind of why I signed here because I could see the opportunity here that I can have here.”

He says he’s still getting the hang of Calgary’s galloping, high-pressure attack.

“There is a lot of offence here and the system is a little bit different than what I was used to,” Frolik acknowledged. “It’s a little bit more stretching and going behind the defence. In Winnipeg we kind of were always under the puck.”

If they continue as linemates, Hartley believes Frolik can be an on-ice mentor for Bennett. Frolik said he had a similar role in Winnipeg in Mark Scheifele’s rookie season.

“Obviously the coach cannot help any player while the play is going on on the ice,” Hartley explained. “A good veteran like Michael Frolik can, while the play is going on, talk to those young players, ‘Go there, I’ve got him,’ and come back to the bench and finish the explanations of what you want to get through to him.”

“(Frolik) is a very smart player, understands the game well. I think he’s going to become a big, big part of this team and at the same time a big helper for us.”

After the Florida Panthers drafted him 10th overall in 2006, Frolik moved to Canada and spent two seasons with the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s Rimouski Oceanic.

He lived with an English family and thus could understand and speak the language his first season with the Panthers in 2008-’09. Hartley believes Frolik’s decision to come to North America as a teenager gave him a headstart on an NHL career.

“If you come at 17, 18 years old, you have a chance to go to school and learn the language. I think you put a big barrier out of your way,” Hartley said.

“I’ve coached Milan Hejduk in Colorado, I coached Josef Marha in Cornwall. The only way we could communicate for the first couple of weeks was with a piece of paper and a pencil.”


Follow @DLSpencer10 on Twitter.

Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press