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So who won the trade? Ranking the deals that define MLB’s final four



You can sign a great player, but that’s just about writing a bigger check than anybody else. You can draft a great player, but that’s just about your pick coming before somebody else’s pick. The true connoisseurs know that the fun is in trades.

In a trade, it isn’t enough to spot the talent or have the resources. A trade requires persuasion and sacrifice. It demands that a GM sell somebody on a hypothetical in which this lives there and that goes here. It puts a smart GM in a position to embarrass — or be embarrassed by — another smart GM. Free-agent deals “pay off” and draft picks “bust,” but trades produce winners and losers.

This year’s LCS teams were built through free agency, drafts, international scouting, waiver claims — and at least 35 trades. Who won these trades? In one sense, these four teams all won all their trades because they’re here, in the LCS, and getting here was the whole point. But in a more interesting sense, we’re going to rank the trades based on how well they have turned out so far.

Collectively, those 35 really cover the gamut: Some produced regrets, some produced superstars, and in the middle are a whole bunch of trades that were narrowly “won,” in the sense that these teams wouldn’t quite be what they are — wouldn’t have quite the balance, the depth or the strategic character — without them.

Two notes: We are counting trades in which the players reached the end of their contracts and re-signed, even though, yes, they were signed as free agents. All of these judgments are tentative and reflect only the perspective of the LCS team. Some trades benefit both sides, and not all trades have losers.

Bolded and italicized names are the players on the postseason rosters.

35. Astros trade Jonathan Villar to Brewers for Cy Sneed, November 2015

Villar was a 25-year-old shortstop whose modest offensive breakout with Houston seemed sustainable. Sneed was a pitching prospect with some hope of becoming a back-of-the-rotation starter. Since then, Villar has the second-most steals in the majors and more WAR (9.6) than Eric Hosmer, Wil Myers or Nick Castellanos. Sneed, a low-leverage reliever the past two years, hasn’t been asked to appear in a postseason game for Houston.

34. Rays trade Tommy Pham and Jake Cronenworth to Padres for Xavier Edwards, Esteban Quiroz and Hunter Renfroe, December 2019

The headliners in this deal were Pham and Renfroe, and the Rays appeared to trade the better player in an effort to get younger and cheaper — as the Rays do. Pham’s offensive collapse this year should be a point in the Rays’ favor. Renfroe’s, though, kneecaps that argument. Renfroe batted just six times in the first two rounds of the postseason, then K’d in all four at-bats in the first ALCS game. The Rays’ big offseason acquisition is not a contributing part of their postseason roster.

That sends the decision to the undercard: Cronenworth, the older, “lower-ceiling” prospect in the deal had a Rookie of the Year-level debut in San Diego. Edwards remains a prospect in the Rays’ system, and to the extent that the Rays can “win” almost every trade by swapping one win today for two less expensive wins in five years, Edwards might still deliver them this one. At the moment, though, it stinks.

33. Rays trade Matt Andriese to Diamondbacks for Brian Shaffer and Michael Perez, July 2018

Perez is a perfectly fine backup catcher.

32. Braves trade Jaime Garcia, Anthony Recker and cash to Twins for Huascar Ynoa, July 2020

For this one, it is too soon to say. Ynoa has promise but is only a small part of Atlanta’s postseason pitching plan right now.

31. Rays trade Jake Fraley and Mallex Smith to Mariners for Michael Plassmeyer, Guillermo Heredia and Mike Zunino, November 2018

No teams in the past four years have made more trades than the Rays and the Mariners, so what were they supposed to do, not make a five-player deal centered on four replacement-level players? Give Zunino credit, though: He had the biggest hit (by win probability added) in one of the Rays’ six wins this postseason and the second-biggest hit in three others.

30. Braves trade Matt Kemp to Dodgers for Adrian Gonzalez, Brandon McCarthy, Scott Kazmir and Charlie Culberson, December 2017

This was one of the weirdest trades of the transaction-math era, as the teams essentially swapped burdensome contracts of players they didn’t want so that the Dodgers could spread their luxury-tax obligations across multiple seasons — or maybe it was to consolidate them. The point is that it was mostly accounting gimmicks. (Gonzalez and Kazmir never appeared in a Braves uniform.) Culberson was the strangely placed throw-in, and for a brief period in 2018, he performed ably as the underperforming Dansby Swanson‘s overperforming doppelgänger. But with Swanson now good, Culberson is superfluous. He batted seven times this season.

29. Dodgers trade Kenta Maeda and Jair Camargo to Twins for Luke Raley and Brusdar Graterol, February 2020

Graterol, the reliever who let Fernando Tatis Jr. hit a baseball over the wall last series, is and should remain a good one, a 22-year-old with a 100 mph sinker and steady control. But Maeda might be one of the finalists for the AL Cy Young this year, so this is here.

28. Astros trade Jake Marisnick to Mets for Kenedy Corona and Blake Taylor, December 2019

Taylor is a lefty specialist of the sort who should be endangered by the new three-batter-minimum rules, and by the standards of his peers, he has low strikeout rates and sky-high walk rates. This is an itty-bitty move, yet this year, Taylor had the second-best ERA in a shaky Houston bullpen, plus four scoreless appearances in the postseason thus far.

27. Astros trade Tyler White to Dodgers for Andre Scrubb, July 2019

As in the move immediately above, the Astros traded a hitter they didn’t need for a younger reliever who walks too many batters. As with Blake Taylor, Scrubb — who throws half cutters and half curveballs, half strikes and half balls — defied his peripherals this year, walking almost a batter per inning while somehow keeping his ERA under 2. (White has already been released by the Dodgers.)

26. Astros trade player to be named later to Reds for Brooks Raley, August 2020

The Astros are in the ALCS with a bullpen that is half basically-untrustworthy-guys-recently-acquired-for-almost-nothing. I trust Raley — who from 2015 to 2019 had a losing record as a starter in Korea — more than I trust Scrubb or Taylor, but these are all moves that would be tiny, totally forgettable and forgotten if Houston weren’t so desperate for people who could pitch in the sixth.

25. Astros trade Trent Thornton to Blue Jays for Aledmys Diaz, November 2018

Diaz was the Astros’ secret weapon in 2019 — a high-contact utility player — whose OBP plummeted in limited time this year. He’d be a starter on at least a third of the teams in the league.

24. Dodgers trade James Marinan and Aneurys Zabala to Reds for Zach Neal and Dylan Floro, July 2018

Floro’s pretty good — he’d probably get the eighth inning if he were in Houston this year — but he’s the Dodgers’ lowest-leverage reliever.

23. Braves trade Lucas Sims, Preston Tucker and Matt Wisler to Reds for Adam Duvall, July 2018

This was an absolute disaster initially: Duvall slugged .151 in his first go with Atlanta, spent most of 2019 in the minors at age 30 and was hitting .229/.279/.417 on Sept. 1 this year. Then he hit three homers on Sept. 2, three more on Sept. 9 and ended up third in the National League in dingers this season. (Sims has turned out to be a quite good reliever for the Reds.)

22. Astros trade Tony Kemp to Cubs for Martin Maldonado, July 2019

Kemp had already been designated for assignment when Houston spun him off for Maldonado, an impending free agent acquired to back up Robinson Chirinos. The Astros liked Maldonado and his machete arm so much that they re-signed him to be the lead, and he started 46 of the Astros’ 60 games this year. The progression of his walk rate over the past four years: 3.2% to 4.0% to 8.6% to 16.4%.

21. Rays trade Brad Miller to Brewers for Ji-Man Choi, June 2018

Choi has gotten a little worse every year that he has spent in Tampa Bay, but as a first baseman providing reliable corner-position offense for almost no salary, he fits the philosophy.

20. Braves trade Joey Wentz and Travis Demeritte to Tigers for Shane Greene, July 2019

The Braves bought high on Greene, whose 1.18 ERA as the Tigers’ closer was way out of line with his career numbers. But he has been pretty good — not quite a carriage but certainly not a pumpkin. He’s something in the middle, like a sled.

19. Rays trade Emilio Pagan to Padres for Logan Driscoll and Manuel Margot, February 2020

It looks almost like a strut: The Rays have so many good relievers and are so confident in their ability to find or create them evermore that they traded their closer — coming off a dominant year and still not eligible for salary arbitration — for an extra outfielder. Margot is fast, he plays great defense and he’s right-handed in a mostly left-handed lineup. No AL team’s hitters played fewer complete games than the Rays’ did — in other words, no team substitutes more than they do — and Margot is a big part of making that work. Pagan got significantly worse across the board for the Padres; Margot, meanwhile, just hit his third postseason home run and made the best non-HR-robbing catch of the postseason.



Enrique Hernandez crushes a breaking ball to left, tying the score in the fifth inning.

18. Dodgers trade Dee Strange-Gordon, Miguel Rojas, Dan Haren and cash to Marlins for Andrew Heaney, Chris Hatcher, Austin Barnes and Enrique Hernandez, December 2014

Of all the splashy moves this Dodgers regime has made — trading for Rich Hill, for Yu Darvish, for Manny Machado — few have done as much for the franchise as this one, which produced … a couple of role players. Barnes has never started more than 62 games in a season. Hernandez has never started more than 63 at any position in a season. Yet they’ve been valuable enough to become two of the longest-tenured players on one of the great teams in history, and some far more famous Dodgers (Yasmani Grandal, Joc Pederson, Cody Bellinger) have at times been benched or platooned in October so those two could play.

17. Rays trade Jonah Heim to A’s for Joey Wendle, December 2017

The local headline in Tampa Bay when the Rays traded a player to be named later for Wendle, a 27-year-old who spent most of the previous year in Triple-A: “Small Deal Done, Bigger On Deck.” In fact, Wendle turned out to be a pretty big deal. He’s 62nd in all of baseball in WAR the past three years, tucked between Carlos Correa and Jose Abreu. He started games in every spot of the lineup except cleanup this year and played at least 10 games at second, third and shortstop. (The “bigger” deal to come, in which the Rays shipped off Evan Longoria, didn’t produce much.)

16. Braves trade Tristan Beck and Dan Winkler to Giants for Mark Melancon, July 2019

The Giants were trying to shed the final years of a big free-agent contract. The Braves, unexpectedly, and apparently all alone in this conviction, still saw the aging Melancon as a closer. While more conventional closer candidates have staffed the seventh and eighth innings for Atlanta, Melancon has pitched to contact, kept the ball on the ground and converted 25 of 28 save chances.

15. Braves trade Kolby Allard to Rangers for Chris Martin, July 2019

During the first game of last year’s NLDS, Martin had to leave a game without throwing a pitch, having hurt himself while warming up. That turned out to make all the difference — in that game and the rest of the series — as the Braves’ bullpen couldn’t find the depth to replace him. He’s healthy now, and he threw two perfect, high-leverage eighth innings in the wild-card round. As a Brave, Martin has walked only three batters unintentionally in just under 40 innings. Allard walked that many in his first start as a Ranger.

14. Dodgers trade Niko Hulsizer to Rays for Adam Kolarek, July 2019

The three-batter minimum is no friend to lefty specialists generally, but there will always be a role for pitchers as good as Kolarek has been: He has held lefties to a .113/.137/.141 line since the Dodgers acquired him, and his regular-season ERA in blue is 0.88.

13. Rays trade Nick Solak to Rangers for Peter Fairbanks, July 2019

Just another Rays reliever story: They acquired a 25-year-old with only nine (terrible) big league innings, no prospect pedigree, mediocre minor league numbers and two Tommy John surgeries, and as a rookie, he’s closing out their postseason games with steady triple-digit heat.

12. Rays trade Matthew Liberatore, Edgardo Rodriguez and supplemental second-round pick to Cardinals for Jose Martinez and Randy Arozarena, January 2020

Liberatore is a top-50 prospect. Martinez, the main pickup in this deal, didn’t hit for Tampa Bay and was traded in July for a player to be named later. But Arozarena, the postseason’s hottest hitter, has probably already won this one: He’s slugging .886 this postseason and has scored more than a quarter of the Rays’ runs. You don’t have to believe that the 25-year-old is likely to keep doing this for five more years or ignore Liberatore’s potential. The Rays are already deeper into the postseason than they’ve been in more than a decade, and Arozarena’s being an unlikely hero doesn’t make him any less of one.

11. Rays trade Jake Bauers to Indians for Cole Sulser and Yandy Diaz, December 2018

Diaz has hit .278/.365/.451 as a Ray, roughly what Manny Machado and Paul Goldschmidt have hit since they changed teams the same winter that Diaz did. Bauers spent the 2020 season at Cleveland’s alternate site.

10. Astros trade Seth Beer, J.B. Bukauskas, Corbin Martin and Josh Rojas to Diamondbacks for Zack Greinke, July 2019

It’s hard enough to judge a trade of four prospects just one (minor-league-free) season later. It’s harder still when it isn’t quite clear what Greinke’s ace status is right now. Of the five potential starters the Astros brought into this postseason, Greinke had the worst ERA but the best FIP. What’s clear enough is that Greinke filled a hole that the Astros knew last summer was coming — with Gerrit Cole‘s impending departure — and one that they didn’t know last summer was coming — with Justin Verlander’s elbow injury. The Astros, it turned out, desperately needed Greinke this year — Beer and Martin would not have gotten the team into the postseason. Greinke just had his best strikeout rate since 2017, his best home run rate since 2015 and his best walk rate ever.

9. Rays trade Drew Smyly to Mariners for Carlos Vargas, Mallex Smith and Ryan Yarbrough, January 2017

The “opener” strategy probably made Yarbrough more famous than any fourth starter in baseball, as he parlayed his pioneering role as the Bulk Guy into 14 wins as a rookie reliever in 2018. Nowadays he mostly just starts — though he was effective for five innings of bulk against the Yankees in the ALDS — and over the past three seasons, he has as many wins as Trevor Bauer and more than Patrick Corbin. (Smyly, who needed Tommy John surgery shortly after the trade, never threw a pitch for Seattle.)

8. Rays trade David Price to Tigers for Drew Smyly, Nick Franklin (from Seattle) and Willy Adames, July 2014

Besides making possible the Ryan Yarbrough trade, via Drew Smyly, this headline deal from the 2014 trade deadline produced Adames, who is … probably the Rays’ best position player? It’s difficult to say definitively, but he’s certainly in the mix: an excellent shortstop whose power broke through in the 2019 postseason and presaged his career-best .481 slugging percentage this year. He’s 30th in baseball in WAR the past two years, tied with Francisco Lindor and tops on his team.

7. Astros trade Gilberto Celestino and Jorge Alcala to Twins for Ryan Pressly, July 2018

Occasionally, a team pulls off such a progression of heists that people start to wonder whether anybody should trade with them at all, given that nothing but one’s own humiliation ever results. The Astros were briefly that team, and the acquisition of Pressly was the peak of Astros-trade paranoia: In the 365 days after they acquired him, he had the majors’ best ERA (1.61) and second-best WHIP (0.77). Neither he nor the Astros has the same air of invincibility these days, but Pressly — the team’s closer this year — might be Houston’s most indispensable player at the moment because the rest of the bullpen is bad.



Max Fried goes through the Dodgers’ lineup, striking out nine in six innings.

6. Braves trade Justin Upton and Aaron Northcraft to Padres for Dustin Peterson, Jace Peterson, Mallex Smith and Max Fried, December 2014

In the Braves’ push to rebuild after a lousy 2014 season, they acquired at least five young pitchers who might, on a scouting report, have looked likely to lead a postseason rotation someday: Mike Foltynewicz, Matt Wisler, Sean Newcomb, Touki Toussaint and Fried. That list is why you trade for five: These potential aces have come, gone, risen up briefly or failed to develop at all, but collectively they have, indeed, produced baseball’s most valuable thing: a single starting pitcher whom the Braves can confidently send to the mound for a Game 1 (or a Game 7).

5. Braves trade Shelby Miller and Gabe Speier to Diamondbacks for Ender Inciarte, Aaron Blair and Dansby Swanson, December 2015

This is one of the more predictably lopsided trades ever — Miller has the worst ERA in baseball since the start of 2016; Enciarte became an All-Star — but, until this year, it wasn’t really in the way that everybody predicted. That’s because it took until now for Swanson, the former No. 1 pick, to become a star. But now is when we live. Swanson finished sixth in the majors in WAR this year, one spot ahead of Fernando Tatis Jr.

4. Dodgers trade Zach Lee to Mariners for Chris Taylor, June 2016

The Dodgers have won eight division titles in a row, but their run as a permanent superpower really started in 2017. Since then, they’ve won 40 more games than any other NL team. In that time, Chris Taylor — while playing semiregularly at shortstop, center field and two other positions — is third on the club in WAR, or fourth (just a tick behind Clayton Kershaw) if we bring in pitchers. Zach Lee was waived by the Mariners within six months.

3. Rays trade Jesus Sanchez and Ryne Stanek to Marlins for Trevor Richards and Nick Anderson, July 2019

In the 15 months since the Rays got him, Anderson has been the best reliever in baseball, and he’s in the mix for the most dominant stretch of relief pitching in history. In 38 regular-season innings, he has struck out 16 batters per nine innings and struck out 13 for every walk. His strike rate — at 74% — is a full two percentage points better than that of any other pitcher in baseball, and he has the highest chase rate and the highest swinging-strike rate. His ERA is 1.43. Six of his eight postseason appearances have been for more than one inning, two have been for more than two innings, and his role as a bullpen stopper is so broad that he has been brought into postseason games in the third, the fourth, the fifth, the seventh, the eighth and the ninth. The Cubs, in July 2016, wanted a bullpen ace for the postseason and traded Gleyber Torres for three months of Aroldis Chapman. The Rays, in July 2019, had the same wish, and they traded Ryne Stanek for six years of Anderson, who is better.

2. Dodgers trade Jeter Downs, Connor Wong and Alex Verdugo to Red Sox for David Price and Mookie Betts, February 2020

The only knock on the Dodgers is that they didn’t trade for the best player in baseball — probably. Mike Trout would win the vote for that title, but over the past five years, Betts is only 0.3 WAR behind Trout at Baseball-Reference, a negligible difference that is well within WAR’s margin of error. Anyway, as a Dodger, Betts delivered with the majors’ highest WAR this year. He hit .368/.435/.632 in the first two rounds of this year’s playoffs.

1. Rays trade Chris Archer to Pirates for Shane Baz, Tyler Glasnow and Austin Meadows, July 2018

Shortly after this move, we wrote about the Delmon Young trade tree, on which Meadows and Glasnow were the newest branches. We didn’t realize at that time how sturdy they would be: Meadows finished 14th in MVP voting in his first full year as a Ray, and Glasnow is the ace the Rays called upon (on two days’ rest!) last week in a deciding Game 5 against the Yankees. If this had been a full season, Glasnow’s strikeout rate — 14.3 per nine — could have set the all-time record for a starter. (Baz, meanwhile, is one of the game’s top pitching prospects.) At this point, a reasonable guess is that the Delmon Young trade tree — which is closing in on 50 WAR for Tampa Bay — could spin off another couple of trades and keep producing into the 2030s. In the meantime, Glasnow is an ace, and Meadows often bats leadoff for an ALCS offense.


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Toronto FC hoping to make MLS Cup run having spent much of 2020 far from home



On a recent Thursday in Hartford, Conn., Toronto FC goalkeeper Quentin Westberg pondered the dichotomy of wanting to reach MLS Cup on Dec. 12, but also desiring to see his family again. Meanwhile, Jim Liston, the team’s director of sports science, was planning a trip to Lowe’s to buy 15 garbage cans so players could have an ice bath after training. As for manager Greg Vanney, he was fretting about his team’s health and the lack of practice time their schedule was affording.

Such is the life of a team as it attempts to not only navigate its way through the COVID-19 pandemic, but has been forced to do it away from home.

Due to travel restrictions between the U.S. and Canada, TFC — like the league’s other two Canadian teams, Montreal Impact and Vancouver Whitecaps — set up a “home” base in the U.S. for the remainder of the season; Toronto were stationed in Hartford. (Vancouver Whitecaps took roost in Portland, ground-sharing with Timbers, while Montreal Impact split use of New York Red Bulls’ facilities in Harrison, N.J.) This was on top of nearly every team spending nearly a month inside a bubble back in July at the MLS is Back Tournament outside Orlando, Florida.

The Reds spent about seven weeks back in Toronto as they played a series of matches against Canadian teams. In mid-September, the remainder of the regular season — and the temporary move to Hartford — beckoned. The vagabond nature of the campaign is what led Liston to joke that he was willing to discuss “whatever five seasons” the team has been through so far. But for Vanney and the players, the campaign has required a special kind of focus.

“A lot of what we’ve done here, and what we try to preach here is just control the controllables, and don’t get too drawn into the things you can’t,” Vanney told ESPN. “Roll with it, and make the best out of whatever the situation is.”

Stream FC Daily on ESPN+
– 2020 MLS Playoffs: Who’s in, schedule and more
– MLS on ESPN+: Stream LIVE games and replays (U.S. only)

Toronto has largely succeeded in spite of its odyssey. While there was disappointment at missing out on the Supporters’ Shield to the Philadelphia Union, TFC went 7-3-2 during its Hartford sojourn and finished with the second-best record in the league. But the challenges have still been immense. Simply being out of one’s home environment is difficult enough, but the time spent away from family and loved ones weighs heavy on the psyche, even as Vanney has given players the occasional trip back to Toronto — under quarantine — to reconnect with loved ones.

“It’s just very different, very challenging and emotionally exhausting,” Westberg said of his experience while based in Hartford.

Westberg has arguably had it tougher than most. The TFC goalkeeper is married with four children, including a baby girl who was born in June. For that reason, Westberg and his wife, Ania, made the decision at the end of September that it would be better for her and their kids to head back to his native France so they could be surrounded by family. Westberg called it “the least bad decision,” but there are difficulties nonetheless.

“I’m a very even person, and this year has challenged me a lot,” he said. “I’m still pretty even, but I keep a lot to myself and for sure there’s some difficult days, seeing your family [struggle] from your absence.”

The inability to be home has affected the players and staff in other ways. In Toronto, there are ways of disengaging from the game. Being with friends, loved ones or even in familiar surroundings can be the best medicine in terms of forgetting a bad game or training session. But in Hartford, at the team’s hotel, that escape is nearly impossible even as players try to distract themselves by reading or taking online classes.

“You don’t really unplug,” Westberg said. “You FaceTime family, or this or that, but it’s too short. You’re 100 percent focused on your soccer, and your whole day basically relies on being ready for whatever soccer activity that you have next, whether it’s practice or game. It’s good for your physique, it’s optimal for the way you eat and the way you [train]. But mentally, you’re not as fresh as your body.”

That isn’t to say there are only negatives to the separation. There is also an us-against-the-world mentality that Toronto has adopted, given that their players and personnel are experiencing the season in a way that is vastly different than most other teams. The team staff has done what it can to make their surroundings a home away from home, whether it’s personalizing the locker rooms at Rentschler Field or having hotel staff brand the surroundings in TFC colors. The hotel went so far as to bring in a barista who could consistently give the players their coffee fix. Supporters groups have even sent down banners in a bid to convey the fact that the players are remembered.

The care that TFC takes for players has extended to families back home, with the club supplying meals to loved ones three times a week.

On the logistical side, Liston made sure that one of the gyms used at MLS is Back was brought to TFC’s hotel in Hartford, and he remarked that the food at the hotel is “arguably the best we’ve ever had on the road.”

There have also been efforts to create new routines. Assistant coach Jason Bent, aka DJ Soops, has been in charge of the pregame music selection for the past 18 months — no easy feat for a squad that has a considerable international presence. In Hartford, Bent has set aside Thursday nights to spin music in one area of the hotel. He’ll even go live on Instagram or Twitch for those who prefer to relax in their rooms.

“[We] opened it to players and staff and basically anyone that’s part of our bubble to come relax, listen to music and just enjoy each other’s company,” Bent said. “I enjoy making people happy so if it’s helping everyone even in the slightest, I have no problem arranging the set and spinning.”

For Vanney, the pandemic and operating outside of the team’s home market has meant any number of challenges. He said the team has used three different training facilities in Hartford, with varying field conditions. He recognizes that the trips home are vital for the mental health of his players and staff, but any breaks also mean less time spent on the practice field. The compressed schedule, which at times involved games every three or four days, has had an impact as well. Even the best-laid plans in terms of squad rotation were impacted as minor injuries began popping up.

“We end up with a lot of guys in different positions because they need special kinds of treatment or care to help them get fit and back to health,” Vanney said. “So it ends up being a lot of different things kind of going on all at once, and that’s been the challenge of it.”

Recovery from matches has been complicated by the fact that TFC doesn’t have access to the same level of facilities that it does at home — hence Liston’s emergency trip to Lowe’s to fashion impromptu ice baths for the players. Then there are the different ways the players occupy themselves on the road as compared to home, especially amid the pandemic.

“There’s really no life outside of the hotel,” Liston said. “[At home], you may go walk the dog in the afternoon or go for a walk with your wife or friend or girlfriend or family and you’re out and about. The recommendation [here] is to kind of stay put. So you’ve got a really active population and pro athletes, who we’re asking them to be sedentary the rest of the time, kind of stay in the hotel from a COVID and safety standpoint. That’s not optimal for recovery either.”

There are also the creature comforts of home that are no longer available on the road, which can impact sleep.

“Sleep is the number one tool for recovery, and that’s definitely been a challenge,” Liston said. “We do well-being questionnaires and the scores on quality of sleep, and hours of sleep, just drop.”



Tom Barlow and Brian White seal Toronto’s fate in a 2-1 win for New York Red Bulls. Watch MLS on ESPN+.

Another change has been same-day travel, which has drawn mixed reactions from the TFC players and staff. Vanney and Westberg are generally in favor, saying it reminds them of when they each played in France. Flying back the same night also means a training day isn’t lost. Liston has a different perspective in that he prefers arriving the day before, and then leaving the same day.

“I think [same-day travel] makes for a really long day,” he said. “And there’s definitely a negative impact on performance, taking three bus rides and a plane ride before your game. You’re getting home — it can be 12:30, but it could also be 1:30 in the morning, and that’s where you know our well-being scores and sleep hours and quality just disappear. When you have so many games in succession, you can’t make up the sleep.”

With the playoffs set to begin for TFC on Nov. 24, the end is in sight, even as it makes for a complex — and even conflicting — set of emotions.

“This is the tricky part. I miss them a lot,” Westberg said of his family. “But in a way I want to see them as [late] as possible in December, because obviously, there’s this idea that we want to do well in the playoffs and we want to keep going. TFC has a history of setting high standards and high expectations. It’s a heavy load to carry but also an exciting one.”

Win or lose, it’s a season they’ll never forget.


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Bettman: NHL is mulling temporary realignment



The NHL is considering a temporary realignment of its teams for the 2020-21 season due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, according to commissioner Gary Bettman.

Bettman said Tuesday that restrictions on travel across the Canadian border, as well as “limitations in terms of quarantining when you go from certain states to other states” within the United States, could mean the NHL creates a more regionalized alignment for its upcoming season.

“As it relates to the travel issue, which is obviously the great unknown, we may have to temporarily realign to deal with geography, because having some of our teams travel from Florida to California may not make sense. It may be that we’re better off — particularly if we’re playing a reduced schedule, which we’re contemplating — keeping it geographically centric and more divisional-based; and realigning, again on a temporary basis, to deal with the travel issues,” Bettman said during a 2020 Paley International Council Summit panel with fellow commissioners Adam Silver of the NBA and Rob Manfred of MLB.

The NHL board of governors has a meeting scheduled for Thursday which will provide a progress report and possible recommendations for a season format, based on talks between the league and the NHL Players’ Association. The target date for starting next season remains Jan. 1.

Bettman said the league is considering a few scheduling options for the 2020-21 season. Something that’s off the table: playing the entire season in the kind of bubbles the NHL had in Toronto and Edmonton, Alberta, to complete last season. But Bettman said teams opening in their own arenas is a possibility, along with a modified bubble.

“We are exploring the possibility of playing in our own buildings without fans [or] fans where you can, which is going to be an arena-by-arena issue. But we’re also exploring the possibility of a hub. You’ll come in. You’ll play for 10 to 12 days. You’ll play a bunch of games without traveling. You’ll go back, go home for a week, be with your family. We’ll have our testing protocols and all the other things you need,” he said.

Bettman also indicated that the NHL is exploring “a hybrid, where some teams are in a bubble, some teams play at home and you move in and out.”

The NBA’s board of governors unanimously approved a deal with the players’ union that sets the stage for a season that will open on Dec. 22 and with a reduced schedule of 72 games. Silver said that the commissioners are in communication on COVID-19-related issues, especially the NBA and the NHL, since the two leagues’ teams share arenas and, in some cases, team owners.

Silver said he senses that the NBA will have fans in many of its buildings this season.

“We’re probably going to start one way, where we’re maybe a little bit more conservative than many of the jurisdictions allow,” he said. “What we’ve said to our teams is that we’ll continue to work with public health authorities. Arena issues are different than outdoor stadium issues. There will be certain standards for air filtration and air circulation. There may be a different standard for a suite than there will be for fans spaced in seats.”

Silver said there will be standardized protocols that are consistent from arena to arena, such as proximity between players and fans: “In certain cases, for seats near the floor, we’re going to be putting in testing programs, where fans will certify that they’ve been tested — some within 48 hours, some within day of game.” While Silver supported a continued expansion of the NBA postseason through its play-in tournament, Bettman said that he’s not in favor of expanded playoffs or “playing with the fundamentals of the game.” The NHL had 24 teams in its postseason last summer.


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The Battleground States Where We’ve Seen Some Movement In The Polls



With apologies to The Raconteurs, the presidential race continues to be “steady as she goes,” with little sign of tightening despite a plethora of new polls. FiveThirtyEight’s presidential forecast gives Joe Biden an 89 in 100 shot at winning the election, while President Trump has just an 11 in 100 chance. This makes Biden the favorite, but still leaves open a narrow path to victory for Trump, for whom a reelection win would be surprising — but not utterly shocking.

At the same time, we also have fewer polls from live-caller surveys, which have historically been more accurate and have shown slightly better numbers for Biden, than polls that use other methodologies, such as polls conducted primarily online or through automated telephone calls. Nevertheless, while the overall picture has shifted only a little in recent days, a few battleground states have seen at least some movement in their polls, which has slightly altered the odds Biden or Trump wins in each of those places.

What election stories need to get more coverage | FiveThirtyEight Politics Podcast


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