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James McCann Signs 1-Year Deal With White Sox

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With the MLB non-tender deadline approaching, the Chicago White Sox have agreed to a one-year contract with catcher James McCann.

According to ESPN’s Jeff Passan, the one-year pact will pay McCann $5.4 million for the 2020 season, and will allow him to become an unrestricted free agent at the conclusion of the year.

The White Sox later confirmed the signing via a press release. 

McCann joined the White Sox before the 2019 season and had a strong year, with 18 home runs and 60 RBI’s in 118 games. He was named to the American League All-Star team for the first time in his career, and posted a slash line of .273/.328/.460.

It is unclear what McCann’s role with the White Sox will be after the team signed free agent catcher Yasmani Grandal to a lucrative four-year contract earlier this offseason. The White Sox have several catchers in their farm system, including Zack Collins and Seby Zavala, but it’s unclear whether either will open the season with the big league club.

The White Sox could also trade McCann, who had to be tendered a contract offer before Monday’s deadline. If the team had not tendered McCann at least an offer, he would have become a free agent, and Monday’s move means that the team retains control over him for the 2020 season.

The White Sox will also need to make a decision on outfielder Leury García, who will also be eligible for free agency after the 2020 season.





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Chiefs Embracing Loose Locker Room Culture on Super Bowl Run – NBC Chicago

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If you’re planning to walk through the middle of the Kansas City Chiefs locker room between lunch and their usual afternoon practice, you might want to grab someone’s shoulder pads and helmet and brace for impact.

There’s a good chance you’ll find yourself in the middle of a pickup basketball game involving 300-pound linemen.

It’s a scene that plays out daily during the regular season, big bodies banging into each other as defensive tackles Chris Jones and Khalen Saunders try to post up under the hoop — hung just over the doorway leading into the showers. Usually, teammates will gather around them, playing the dual role of vocal fans and even more vocal referees.

“When you check in, it’s nonstop competition,” Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce explained this week. “Guys are always trying to play some type of game or compete in some type of way to get the upper hand on somebody else.”

The pickup games illustrate a few points about the Chiefs team preparing to play in its first Super Bowl in 50 years: They have a fierce competitive streak that permeates the entire roster, whether it’s on the field or off; they genuinely like being around each other, even when they could leave during the lunch hour; and perhaps most of all, they have a loosey-goosey nature despite the pressure-cooker business and high-stakes nature of professional football.

That last point could serve them well as they deal with a week of media engagements, countless parties and distractions, and ultimately the strain that comes with prepping for their big game against the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday.

“The unique thing about this group is that they don’t complain about anything,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “When they need to cut it loose and have fun, they cut it loose. But when they’re at practice, they’re all business.”

It wasn’t always that way.

Less than a decade ago, under the failed tenures of general manager Scott Pioli and coach Todd Haley, the feeling in the locker room on a random Wednesday during the season was downright oppressive. Smiles were few, laughter even more rare, and the stress and tension that the Chiefs seemed to carry with them was almost palpable.

Romeo Crennel tried to lighten the mood a bit during his only season in charge, but it’s hard to be lighthearted in the midst of a 2-14 season marked by as much off-the-field turmoil as there were issues between the lines.

It wasn’t until Reid showed up from Philadelphia that things changed. He gave his players broad freedom to express themselves, whether that meant the way they dressed or how they acted or even where they spent their free time. All Reid asked was that they stay out of trouble, set a good example and take care of business when it was time to get serious.

“There’s a certain way we handle opportunities like this where we’re in front of the media,” Kelce said during the team’s pre-practice availability Tuesday, “but he wants you to be yourself and that’s the best thing you can do in his position is let you be yourself, how you’re most comfortable.”

Kelce is one of the biggest characters on the team — remember his reality TV show, “Catching Kelce?” He often wears outlandish outfits and his fashion sense is, to put it mildly, unique. But Kelce also exemplifies the almost uncanny way the Chiefs can flip a switch from silly to serious, as evidenced by his four consecutive 1,000-yard receiving seasons.

The Chiefs showed their appreciation for their coach — and the way he treats them — when they donned his trademark Hawaiian-style shirt for the trip to Miami. Other teams might deplane the week before the Super Bowl wearing suits and an all-business attitude, but the Chiefs bounced across the tarmac as if they were headed to Disney World.

“Coach is an awesome dude to play for. He is 100 percent in this whole thing with us,” Chiefs left tackle Eric Fisher said. “A big part of why we’re here is we want to succeed for him. He puts in so much work every day in making us successful, and making sure we do good. The least we can do is give him our all.”

Reid has a natural habit of deflecting such plaudits, so it’s no surprise that he pointed to the players themselves as the reason the Chiefs are such a tight-knit group.

It starts with the star quarterback, Patrick Mahomes, who often drags a handful of guys to college basketball games or concerts or a myriad of other events in Kansas City. And it trickles down to the newest of arrivals, who suddenly find themselves immersed in a locker room environment unlike they’ve ever seen.

It’s like a bowl of chili in that the right amount of the right ingredients can come together for a delicious result.

“When you get them all together,” Reid said, “they all kind of feed off each other. That is kind of this age, this time of life, at this time, being 2020. This is how it has evolved since I came in the league. We were barely getting cell phones back then. Now, you give them a break so that they can be on the cell phone. It’s a different world.

“But they do have a great personality,” the coach added with a smile. “I’ve said from the time I’ve been a head coach, let your personality show. That’s part of this thing, not only as a player on the field, but also when you’re off. You still have to stop at the red light, but you can let your personality show. There’s nothing wrong with that.”

___

More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL





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The Day – Draft of gaming bill details expansion, tribes’ sports betting

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A draft of state Sen. Cathy Osten’s latest gaming bill calls for Gov. Ned Lamont to reach new agreements authorizing the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes to offer sports wagering at their resort casinos, at the “satellite” casino they still hope to build in East Windsor and at three other tribally owned facilities the proposed legislation would authorize in “entertainment zones” in Hartford, New Haven and elsewhere.

The envisioned agreements also would grant the tribes the exclusive right to offer online gaming and sports wagering via computers and hand-held devices from anywhere in the state.

Osten, the Sprague Democrat, announced Tuesday that a bipartisan group of legislators will join her Wednesday in Hartford at a news conference unveiling the bill, now dubbed “An Act Concerning Jobs In and Revenue From the Gaming Industry.”

Not surprisingly, chairmen of both tribes embraced Osten’s proposal, which the General Assembly is expected to take up during the legislative session that begins next week. And, just as predictably, MGM Resorts International issued a statement Tuesday saying it remains interested in opportunities in the state and will defend its right to compete in Connecticut.

The governor’s office did not respond to a request for comment on the draft of the bill.

Gaming expansion has commanded lawmakers’ attention in every legislative session since 2015, which was soon after Massachusetts licensed resort casinos in Springfield and the Greater Boston area. The prospect of competition from MGM Springfield, which opened in 2018, prompted Connecticut’s gaming tribes to jointly pursue their East Windsor project. The legalization of sports wagering has been considered all but inevitable since a long-anticipated 2018 U.S. Supreme Court decision that made it possible.

The tribes and Connecticut governors — Lamont and his predecessor, Dannel P. Malloy — have been negotiating amendments to longstanding gaming agreements that spell out revenue-sharing terms tied to the tribes’ exclusive right to provide casino gaming. While the tribes maintain that exclusivity extends to sports wagering, some in state government disagree.

“I am very optimistic that my discussions with Governor Lamont will bear fruit,” James Gessner, the Mohegan chairman, said in a statement. “He and I agree that Connecticut has waited too long to modernize our industry and be competitive with our surrounding states. The Tribal Council also has a great friend in Senator Osten and we are hopeful that the Connecticut General Assembly sees that through the Connecticut Jobs and Revenue Act everyone wins.”

Rodney Butler, the Mashantucket chairman, said he was hopeful that conversations that began last session will lead to legislation this session.

“We continue to work with the governor and legislative leadership to achieve the goal of expanding Connecticut’s gaming economy to bring incremental jobs and revenue to the state,” he said. “We’re grateful to all the delegations from both sides of the aisle that have thrown their support behind the Connecticut Jobs and Revenue Act, recognizing the value of our continued partnership. We’re excited to bring sports betting and online gaming to all of our patrons and to further modernize our gaming landscape to the benefit of the region and the state at large.”

The proposed bill would authorize a tribally owned company to operate a casino gaming facility in Bridgeport, provided the company invests at least $100 million in the venture.

In recent legislative sessions, MGM Resorts has pushed for the establishment of a competitive-bidding process among casino operators, offering to develop a $675 million project in Bridgeport.

“MGM continues to be interested in opportunities in Connecticut, and we strongly believe that the best path for Connecticut, whether in establishing sports betting or moving ahead with a third casino in the state, is an open, competitive process,” the company said in its statement. “As we have said consistently, if Connecticut is to maximize the economic impact of a commercial casino license, a transparent, competitive process is in the state’s best interest. That is equally true for sports betting, and the most direct path to bring the greatest results for Connecticut taxpayers, economic growth and state revenue.”

“MGM will also continue to pursue all legal options, including litigation, to defend our right to compete in Connecticut,” it said.

MGM already has succeeded in delaying, if not outright blocking, the tribes’ East Windsor project through lawsuits, including one currently pending against the U.S. Department of the Interior, which approved the most recent amendments to the tribes’ gaming agreements with the state.

Sportech Venues, which operates the state’s off-track betting facilities, indicated it will continue to lobby for a piece of the state’s sports-betting action.

“We haven’t changed our view,” said Ted Taylor, Sportech’s president. “We think we should be involved. We’re the only operator in the state licensed to take retail bets online. It would be amazing for us to be excluded from any sports betting …”

Osten’s bill also would authorize the Connecticut Lottery Corp. to sell draw-game tickets online and offer internet keno, and it would allow Foxwoods Resort Casino and Mohegan Sun, as well as the proposed gaming facilities in Bridgeport, Hartford, New Haven and one other municipality, to serve alcohol until 4 a.m., which is two hours later than the state currently allows.

The new gaming authorized by the bill would generate about $90 million a year in additional revenue for the state, according to Osten, and allow for a greater portion of the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan Fund to be divvied up among the state’s cities and towns. The fund now comes from the state’s 25% share of the slot-machine revenues generated by the tribes’ casinos.

b.hallenbeck@theday.com





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No Australian Has Won an Australian Open Singles Title Since the ’70s. Can Barty?

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MELBOURNE, Australia — In downtown Melbourne, Ashleigh Barty is nearly impossible to avoid. Her image adorns posters not just for tennis apparel but also for things like sunblock, watches and even Vegemite, the savory spread that is an Australian classic.

The displays embody a hope — unfulfilled for more than 40 years — for someone from the host country to win an Australian Open singles title.

Now, Barty is two wins away as the top seed in the women’s tournament, with Simona Halep as the highest-seeded potential opponent in a draw that has lost many top players. Halep, the No. 4 seed who could meet Barty in a final, is scheduled to play in a quarterfinal on Wednesday.

Given the history of others falling short in the face of high expectations at home, it makes sense that Barty has tried to stay within the tennis bubble to avoid seeing the hype (beyond members of her team sending her photos of posters when they see them in the city).

“I’ve been on-site quite a bit, not really going for leisurely strolls around Melbourne,” said Barty, the reigning French Open champion, who is nicknamed Ash. “When I have an hour or two, it’s more just going back to the apartment and spending time with family. That’s about it.”

Barty is the first Australian woman to reach the Australian Open semifinals since Wendy Turnbull in 1984. She is scheduled to face Sofia Kenin, an American seeded 14th, on Thursday for a spot in the final.

No Australian woman has reached the final since Turnbull in 1980; no Australian woman has won the title here since Chris O’Neil in 1978, a time when most top international players did not compete in the event. The last men’s singles champion in the tournament from the host country was Mark Edmonson in 1976. In the 33 years that this tournament has been held at Melbourne Park, Barty, 23, is the first woman to even reach the singles quarterfinals twice.

Barty has been a far steadier hand at the helm of Australian tennis hopes than Samantha Stosur, who beat Serena Williams to win the 2011 United States Open but failed after that to get past the third round in Australia’s Grand Slam tournament.

Even retired male stars like Lleyton Hewitt and Pat Rafter, who both won two Grand Slam titles outside Australia, were not able to do the same at home, to the annual disappointment of local fans.



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