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The Perfect Pitching competition involves pitchers attempting to hit as many bats as possible

This is obvious to the point where I’m going to mail it in. This is what I wrote when I graded the rumor that had Gray going to the Astros:

The A’s philosophy hearkens back to the old Branch Rickey quote, which is roughly Better to trade a player a year too early than a year too late. Trading their best players with years of team control is how they got Dan Haren for Mark Mulder, and it’s how they got Carlos Gonzalez and Brett Anderson for Haren.

Then they traded Anderson for Drew Pomeranz, whom they traded for Yonder Alonso, who will bring back a prospect or three this deadline. This trade chain will live forever, and the point is that it’s an organizational philosophy to look the future, cheap seasons of a good player as something that enhances the value for another team, not the A’s.

Fans have often pointed to the NHL’s skills competitions as something MLB could integrate into its own All-Star festivities, and the KBO provides a blueprint. In particular, there’s the Perfect Pitcher competition and the Perfect Hitter competition. (There’s no Perfect Bunting competition yet, but I believe that if we keep insisting upon justice, we will get there as a people.)

The Perfect Pitching competition involves pitchers attempting to hit as many bats as possible, which, OK, doesn’t sound optimal, but the bats are batterless, and it would give Aroldis Chapman something to be good at again. This year, LHP Hyun-Seung Lee of the Doosan Bears won it in a ~sudden death~ round. Sudden death! This feels like a no-brainer.

There’s even something for those They-Fan DH Haters Club members out there: RELIEF PITCHER Yoon-Dong Kim of The Kia Tigers cleaned up at the Perfect Hitter competition. The event features hitters trying to hit balls off a tee to hit targets scattered across the field.

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Royals have won 8 in a row and might actually be good now

Back in May, it looked like the Royals were just going to waste their 2017 season. That was no small thing, either, as Kansas City had a number of free agents who could leave following the year, important pieces like Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer, and Lorenzo Cain. The last two months have been a revelation, though, with the Royals making up for a terrible start and then some to launch into the middle of the postseason chase right before the trade deadline.

Kansas City has now won eight games in a row, and sits at 53-47 after a 22-30 start to the year. They’re only 1.5 games back of the defending AL Central (and American League) champions, the Indians, and the Royals are also in possession of the second wild card, just half-a-game back of the Yankees for the first one.

So a deal that moves a pending free agent for prospects who can help them get what they really need, like a closer, setup man, or left fielder in a three-way trade? Now we’re talking. This makes a whole bunch of sense, especially if they’re confident that Weaver can pitch as well as Lynn right away.

It doesn’t have to be a three-way trade, either. The prospects coming back for Lynn just have to make them feel better about losing whatever prospects they ship out for bullpen/outfield help.

What the Royals would gain from trading for Lance Lynn
The Royals might have the most urgency of any team in baseball. Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Jason Vargas, and Lorenzo Cain are all going to be free agents after the season. Even if they can afford to sign them all — which they probably can’t — that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. This is probably the last run with this core. Win now, or forever hold your peace.

The Royals could use a starting pitcher or two, but they don’t have the prospects (or the inclination) to go after a cost-controlled fella like Gray. They can afford a rental. That’s all they should bother with.

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Ryan Kesler’s 6-year-old son Ryker scores goal on Canadiens’ Carey Price

Is it too early to say Ryker Kesler has a future in hockey?

The 6-year-old son of Ducks center Ryan Kesler demonstrated he might be following in father Ryan’s footsteps in 12 years or so. Especially if he can score on elite goalies like he did Saturday night.

It’s awesome to see the elder Kesler with a mile-wide smile while recording. NHL All-Star weekend is usually full of feel-good moments, especially considering this is Kesler’s second All-Star game appearance and his first since 2011 (then with the Canucks).

Canada has won every international, true best-on-best hockey tournament since 2006. But it’s a stretch that nearly came to an end in 2010 at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, when the United States pushed the host Canadians to the limit.

After a surprise victory in the group stages against Canada, the U.S. and its northern rivals met again in the championship game, with a chance for Canada to avenge its only tournament loss and clinch gold on home ice.

The teams would need overtime to decide a winner, though, and that set the stage for Crosby to play the role of Canadian hero.

Tavares is concerned with the Islanders’ never-ending arena issues and question marks, as well as the makeup of the roster moving forward. The former won’t be settled any time soon, while the latter is a work in progress with Jordan Eberle joining the team this year and the pursuit of Matt Duchene still hot and heavy.

It’s hard to believe the Islanders somehow won’t find a way to get their franchise player signed long-term by opening night, though. If they don’t, this will become a far bigger soap opera than Duchene’s in Colorado.

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Capitals’ Alex Ovechkin reaches 30 goals for 12th straight season

Alex Ovechkin has reached another historic milestone.

The Capitals winger and captain on Saturday scored his 30th goal of the season to help Washington top the Coyotes 4-1 for its fourth consecutive win.

Ovechkin, who scored on the team’s power play in the first period, joined Hall of Famers Mike Gartner and Wayne Gretzky as the only players in league history to score 30-plus goals in each of his first 12 seasons.

It’s very huge, obviously, Ovechkin said, via ESPN. It’s nice to be in history. But more history to come.

The Capitals, who have yet to win a Stanley Cup, sit atop the Metropolitan Division, leading both the Blue Jackets and Penguins by three points.

It is the standard against which all other draft classes are measured.

In 1989, the Red Wings landed two of the greatest players in NHL history with third- and fourth-round selections. Nicklas Lidstrom (No. 53) became one of the three greatest defensemen in the history of the sport and the best since Bobby Orr. Sergei Fedorov (No. 74) became one of the best two-way centers of the past 30 years and had a cultural impact on the sport that would be tough to measure.

Those two players alone would make it one of the top five or so draft classes in NHL history, but the Red Wings also collected defenseman Vladimir Konstantinov in the 11th round, Mike Sillinger in the first, Bob Boughner in the second and Dallas Drake in the sixth.

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MLB trade rumor grades: Ian Kinsler to the Brewers?

The Brewers are reportedly interested in adding Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler to their team, and you know what that means: it’s time for us to check into how believable and likely this rumor is!

ESPN’s Buster Olney is the one who originally reported that the Brewers are digging into the possibility of acquiring Kinsler, which, man, that’s a lot of couching in part of a single tweet. That’s the name of the game in July, though, and it’s why we’re here to break things down for you.

What’s weird about all of this, though, is that no one seems that upset about the balls potentially being juiced and homers being on the rise (and no one really should be). Baseball purists loved the steroid era, too, until everyone was told to please think of the children. Lowering the seams on the baseballs seems pretty harmless comparatively, so even the oft-vocal purists are happy with the results (or, at least, not upset enough by them so as to be heard). Lowering the seams is no different than raising the mound, other than the fact that it benefits hitters instead of pitchers, and baseball’s initial boom came from using a ball made from something other than rolled up wads of chewing tobacco stuffed into socks, so this isn’t even new territory in this regard.

And yet, MLB is on the defensive here and it’s unclear why. Fans like offense. Juiced balls means more offense, and without the moral conundrum that juicing players brought to the table. Just roll with it, MLB, don’t spend time searching for the real reason we’re seeing so many homers.

Manfred keeps bringing up cities he wants MLB to expand to, but he recently left a clue as to why he keeps bringing them up: MLB wants to use these cities as leverage in order to get teams like the Rays and A’s new stadiums, and we’re not going to see any expansion until that plan works.

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American NHL players may boycott World Championships to support U.S. women’s team

The NHL players’ association released a statement Friday saying its members fully support the United States women’s team in its ongoing labor dispute with USA Hockey, but some players appear to be willing to go further to back the cause.

Hockey agent Allan Walsh tweeted Sunday about rumors in NHL circles that American players might boycott the upcoming World Championships to show their solidarity with the women’s team, and USA Today Sports later confirmed such discussions have taken place.

Anybody losing their top player, it’s obviously a gigantic hole, Boucher said. But we’ve had games without Erik. We were playing it tight, and we have to play the same way. We don’t have the same breakout abilities. We don’t have the same taking the rush abilities, the transition into the offensive zone and all that … the power play … but I think as a team, our game won’t change. We’re playing the same way. We’re expecting our players to buy in.

Karlsson previously missed two games with a foot injury but returned Monday to record a goal and assist in a shootout loss to the Red Wings. He added another goal in Tuesday’s win over Detroit but failed to finish the game.

Karlsson leads the Senators with 71 points (17 goals, 54 assists) through 77 games and ranks fourth in the NHL in average ice time at 26:50 per game.

Ottawa can clinch the postseason with one point against the Bruins or losses by the Lightning and Islanders.

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MLB trade rumor grade: Zach Britton to Indians?

Over on Roster Resource, they’ve helpfully tallied up the needs of every contender. The Rays are looking for a setup man or a closer, the Red Sox were looking for a setup man, and the Royals were looking for all sorts of things that they’ve since acquired.

They need their players to get healthy, but once they do … yeah, it’s a pretty complete roster. The lineup is complete. The rotation is so complete, it has six pitchers in it. And we all know about the bullpen, which helped them come within a single game of winning the World Series. They don’t need to dump prospects to improve the team.

But, just hear me out on this one: What if they could take their super bullpen and make it a super-duper bullpen? Makes you think.

When Gray struggled mightily last year, the A’s were struck by the Fear of Grieve, and it must have been absolutely jarring. Young, talented pitchers disappear all the time. What if it happened to Gray? What if it already happened?

He improved, and his trade value soared. There are monsters under the Let’s Make a Deal box. The A’s would like the year’s supply of Turtle Wax and not mess with the box this time.

The Braves don’t have a window of contention that’s easily defined. They have prospects knocking on the door (Ozzie Albies, Lucas Sims, Mike Soroka, Luiz Gohara, Ronald Acuna), but the best hitters are hyper-advanced for their age, which means they could struggle in the majors for three years before anyone would even think of panicking. And the best pitchers are pitchers, which is super risky. The Braves might have the best collection of sad, young pitcher tales over the last decade, so you don’t need to tell them.

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Sidney Crosby responds to criticism from Senators owner Eugene Melnyk

Sidney Crosby doesn’t have much to say about Eugene Melnyk.

The Senators owner openly criticized the Penguins captain during a radio appearance on Friday, calling him a whiner and demanding a lengthy suspension after Crosby failed to draw a penalty for his slash of Senators defenseman Marc Methot on Thursday.

When asked about Melnyk’s censure during Pittsburgh’s morning skate on Sunday, Crosby wasn’t interested in discussing it.

I’m just going to leave it, Crosby said. He likes to hear himself talk, so let’s just leave it. It was four days ago.

The slashing incident left Methot with a grotesque finger injury that will sideline him for weeks. While the play may have deserved a penalty, it’s unlikely a suspension would be carried out.

For all of the great players this franchise selected in the late 1980s/early 1990s, they were kind of spread out across several drafts. The first draft for the franchise after joining the NHL was actually its best.

The Nordiques took a 1,000-point player with each of its first two picks as an NHL franchise with Michel Goulet at No. 20 and Dale Hunter at No. 41. Then the fourth pick at No. 83 was Anton Stastny, who had 636 points in 650 games. That’s a heck of a welcome to the NHL draft.

Pickings are slim here. Rick Nash and Jakub Voracek are the only players the Blue Jackets have drafted with more than 400 NHL points. The Nash and Voracek drafts were largely whiffs other than them, so it’s either a one-man haul or 2006 when they selected Derick Brassard, Steve Mason and Derek Dorsett. We’ll take Nash here.

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Lightning’s Steven Stamkos resumes skating for first time since November

Steven Stamkos has made a small but important step toward his anticipated return.

The Lightning captain on Tuesday resumed skating at the team’s practice for the first time since having knee surgery in November, completing skating and shooting drills with the help of assistant coach Brad Lauer.

It’s a difficult thing for him to be dealing with now in this situation, Bylsma said. Very, as a coach and a person, concerned for him and his situation.

He’s seeing our doctors and done some tests.

The Sabres later said in a statement that Okposo was under the care of team doctors as he deals with symptoms of an illness.

Out of respect to Kyle and his family, we will have no further comment at this time, the team said.

Okposo, 28, last played March 27 vs. the Panthers — his second game since returning from a seemingly unrelated rib injury. The NHL veteran, who signed with the Sabres as a free agent this offseason, originally started feeling ill during the game, which was played in Buffalo, and has not practiced with the team since.

He was not in the lineup for Buffalo’s game Wednesday night and has been ruled out for the team’s remaining two games this season.

He’s sick and ill, Bylsma said. (I’m) very concerned.

Patrick Marleau, LW ( Signed with Maple Leafs ) — For a 19-year veteran who will turn 38 before the start of next season, Marleau sure had his suitors. And in the end he got the term and money he was looking for from the Maple Leafs in the form of a three-year deal worth $18.75 million ($6.25M AAV).

Marleau played 1,493 games with the Sharks, missing only 31 in his career, and was the longest-tenured player for a single team in the NHL. He’s betting big that one of its youngest rosters is ready to win now, and the Leafs are betting he has plenty left in the tank to help them do it.

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Blues lose F Robby Fabbri for season with torn ACL

Blues forward Robby Fabbri, one of St. Louis’ leaders in goals with 11, will miss the rest of the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his left knee, the team announced Sunday.

The injury comes as the Blues, who fired coach Ken Hitchcock last week, are two points outside the second wild-card spot in the Western Conference. Worse, they open a five-game trip Monday against the Flyers and play 15 of their next 20 on the road, where they are 8-13-1 this season.

The Blues recalled forwards Kenny Agostino and Magnus Paajarvi from Chicago of the AHL to help replace Fabbri, who was tied for fifth on the team in goals though he hadn’t scored since having a hat trick Dec. 28 against the Flyers, a run of 16 games.

The Blues said Fabbri is expected to be ready for the start of training camp next season.

Babcock is widely regarded as the best coach in the league, yet he has never been named Coach of the Year. That may change this year.

Babcock spent much of his coaching career leading insanely good Red Wings teams; now he’s leading one of the NHL’s youngest teams into the playoffs.

Not many expected young stars Matthews, Marner and Nylander to be contributing so much this early. Babcock has them playing like vets.

Alexander Radulov, RW ( Signed with Stars ) — The Stars continued their bold offseason overhaul, inking Radulov, the top available UFA forward, to a five-year, $31.25 million contract ($6.25M AAV). Radulov, 30, is not short on talent, scoring 18 goals and 54 points in his first season in North America since leaving the NHL on sour terms in 2012. That doesn’t seem to scare Dallas, which has added a starting goalie in Ben Bishop, a top-four defenseman in Marc Methot and bolstered its center depth with the weekend signing of the underrated Martin Hanzal. All four players are on the wrong side of 30 and come with caveats, but the Stars look vastly different after a disappointing year.

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