Jim Montgomery is getting a second chance to coach in the NHL after being hired by the St. Louis Blues as an assistant coach less than a year since he was fired by the Dallas Stars for unprofessional conduct.
Montgomery was fired in December, 32 games into his second season as Stars coach, for what general manager Jim Nill said was behavior inconsistent with ”core values and beliefs of the Dallas Stars and the National Hockey League.” The 51-year-old on Wednesday said he has been sober for over nine months now.
”Sometimes it takes an unbearable consequence in your life to happen to have an unbelievable breakthrough, and that’s the way I look at it,” Montgomery said in a video interview conducted by the Blues. ”I’m just very thankful for what happened because now I’m a much better person every day and obviously a better husband, father and son.”
The Stars replaced him in December with interim coach Rick Bowness and are now in the Stanley Cup Final. Montgomery said he’s wishing them the best of luck ”because I’m not with them because of my own actions.”
Montgomery said he and his family are very grateful to owner Tom Stillman, general manager Doug Armstrong and coach Craig Berube for this opportunity. His Stars lost in the second round of the 2019 playoffs to Berube’s Blues, who went on to win the Cup.
”Jim has won at every level he has coached at, and we look forward to him being a valuable addition to our team,” Armstrong said in a statement.
Montgomery fills the spot vacated by Marc Savard, who stepped away from coaching after one season to return to his family in Canada. He had already moved to St. Louis with his wife and four young children over the summer for a better family life.
”Fate would have it, an opportunity opened up with the Blues and we’re just ecstatic as a family,” Montgomery said.
This is Montgomery’s first NHL assistant coaching job. After a playing career as a center that began with St. Louis in the mid-1990s, Montgomery went behind the bench, winning two championships with the Dubuque Fighting Saints of the United States Hockey League and a national title during one of his five seasons at the University of Denver before the Stars hired him.
Montgomery was considered one of the next big coaching stars at the time and got Dallas to the playoffs in his first season there. Upon firing Montgomery 10 months ago, Nill called it a very tough decision.
”I have got a lot of respect for Jim Montgomery,” Nill said. ”He’s a very good coach. And unfortunately, you know, sometimes in life, the hardest decisions are the toughest. And this is one of them.”
It worked out well for the Stars after Nill had to make another tough decision who would take over among Bowness, John Stevens and Todd Nelson, who had all been NHL head coaches before. After learning of Montgomery’s conduct, Nill didn’t have much time to make that decision.
”I just had to decide who I wanted to be kind of the leader of that group,” Nill said Tuesday. ”I knew that any of them could be, but I just thought Rick was probably the guy. He’d been in Dallas with us the longest at that time. He’s done a good job.”
For more AP NHL coverage: https://apnews.com/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports
Broncos unsure on QB, but won’t be Blake Bortles
The Broncos aren't sure who will start at quarterback in Thursday night's fall classic against the Jets. Except it won't be Blake Bortles. Via Andrew Mason of TheDnvr.com, Broncos coach Vic Fangio said he'd either go with Jeff Driskel or Brett Rypien this week. "To expect him to play on a short week where practice [more]
Another September collapse could spur changes for Phillies
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A third straight September collapse left the Philadelphia Phillies out of the postseason for the ninth straight season.
Major changes could be coming.
President Andy MacPhail and general manager Matt Klentak are clearly on the hot seat after failing to produce a winning record in any of their five seasons together.
Manager Joe Girardi isn’t going anywhere after one season, but Phillies managing partner John Middleton is expected to take a hard look at a front office that hasn’t built a winner despite a payroll above $200 million.
The Phillies went 1-7 in their final eight games to finish 28-32 in the pandemic-shortened season. Just one more win would’ve given them a wild-card berth.
They went 8-20 in September 2018 and 12-16 in September 2019, prompting the club to fire Gabe Kapler as manager after two seasons.
“I think we could have just as easily won 38 games, 35 games, I really do,” Girardi said. “I don’t think we were that far from being a 35- to a 38-win total, and we would have felt a lot different with the same guys in the room.”
Philadelphia’s biggest problem was a bullpen that posted a 7.06 ERA, worst in the majors. Klentak acquired four veteran relievers before the trade deadline — Brandon Workman, David Phelps, David Hale and Heath Hembree combined for a 3.82 ERA with five saves in seven chances in 2020 for other teams. In Philadelphia, they were a disaster. They combined for an 8.56 ERA, blew four of nine save opportunities and surrendered 18 homers in 41 innings.
“We had opportunities to win games, and we simply didn’t get it done,” slugger Bryce Harper said. “I feel like that’s been all year long. We’ve had opportunities to win many games, and it just didn’t happen. As we go into the offseason, we’re going to need to understand what we need to do as an organization and as a team to hopefully get better in those situations and get better in any part of this team.”
Perhaps the biggest disappointment was the fact Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler didn’t pitch like aces with the season on the line. Nola was 0-2 with a 6.60 ERA in his last three starts. Wheeler was 0-2 with a 4.05 ERA in his last three. The Phillies were 0-6 in Nola and Wheeler’s last six starts.
“My Septembers haven’t been that great, this year’s obviously wasn’t that great,” Nola said. “I felt like I could have done more. I’s just frustrating.”
Two-time All-Star catcher J.T. Realmuto and shortstop Didi Gregorius will be free agents after the World Series. Realmuto lost an arbitration case before the season and the Phillies never engaged in serious contract talks with a player widely considered the best at his position. Realmuto hit .266 with 11 homers and 32 RBIs in 47 games, missing more than a week with a hip flexor.
“J.T. Realmuto needs to be our catcher next year — plain and simple,” Harper said. “Anybody that’s the best at their position — hitting and fielding — needs to be signed and that is J.T. Realmuto. I don’t think that should even be a question. There’s going to be two teams or three teams in the NL East who are going to go after that guy and if that happens, I mean, that’s going to be tough to swallow for us.”
Gregorius batted .284 with 10 homers and team-high 40 RBIs. He was the team’s most consistent hitter and is a perfect fit in the lineup.
Right-hander Jake Arrieta is also due to be a free agent. He didn’t live up to his $75 million, three-year contract and finished the season injured.
ON THE RISE
Corner infielder Alec Bohm is a strong candidate for NL Rookie of the Year and should be a fixture in the top or middle part of the lineup for years. Bohm hit .338 with four homers and 23 RBIs in 44 games.
Right-hander Spencer Howard was 1-2 with a 5.92 ERA in six starts but he’s shown potential to be a key part of the starting rotation.
Lefty JoJo Romero had a 7.59 ERA in 12 relief appearances but also had several impressive outings.
Righty Connor Brogdon had a 3.97 ERA with 17 strikeouts in 11 1/3 innings.
More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
Wild Card Round preview and prediction to start 2020 MLB postseason
Last season, the Yankees saw a long-standing streak broken: It was the first decade they hadn’t reached the World Series.
There were two really good chances in the past three seasons for the Yankees to keep that alive, but the Houston Astros had other plans last season and in 2017. Once again, though, the Yankees have the team to compete for their 28th franchise title.
But this is an entirely different format that every MLB team is experiencing in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. Teams will be going into playoff bubbles stationed in California and Texas — if they make it past the Wild Card Round.
For the fifth-seeded Yankees, that means getting through the fourth-seeded Cleveland Indians in a best-of-three series…in Cleveland. New York will not have playoff baseball at any time in October, as the Yankees will be the home team at Progressive Field in Cleveland for Game 2 of the series.
And this is a series that features two teams who have battled recently in the postseason. Back in 2017, the Yankees had to go through five games to beat the Indians in the ALDS before moving on to Houston. This season, they both feature a top ace in the American League, a solid lineup one through nine, and records that are very close (Indians went 35-25 while Yanks finished 33-27).
With Game 1 kicking off the Wild Card Round on Tuesday at 7 p.m., let’s break down the series and give our prediction of how this one will end heading into the ALDS.
Battle of Two Aces in Game 1
Gerrit Cole was pegged to be an AL Cy Young candidate the second he signed his blockbuster deal with the Yankees worth $324 million. He was a proven, bonafide ace that the team desperately needed and was hoping to land when the offseason began.
But with the regular season now over and the stats set in stone, the man that will likely win that award will be on the mound for the home team in Game 1.
Shane Bieber has been lights out for the Indians this season, owning an MLB-leading 1.63 ERA among starters while also leading the league in strikeouts with 122 on the year. The 25-year-old has not only solidified himself as Cleveland’s ace, but should actually be the favorite in this matchup against Cole – something no one would’ve predicted at the start of the season.
Cole hasn’t been as consistent as Bieber this season, having a stretch in late August/early Sept. that saw more runs than normal come across the plate when he was on the mound. He’s also let up 14 homers this season, which is uncharacteristic for the righty.
However, Cole has been dominant heading into this postseason, giving up just two earned runs in his last three starts with 24 total strikeouts and going seven innings in each contest.
In a series that is only three games, Game 1 is crucial to win to get the upper hand. And this will be the pitching matchup to watch across all the matchups for sure to see who can come out victorious and give their team good standing heading into Game 2 on Wednesday.
Offense = Advantage Yankees
The Indians don’t have a lackluster offense. But compared to the Yankees lineup, there’s no comparison.
The likes of Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, DJ LeMahieu, Luke Voit, Gleyber Torres, Clint Frazier and more have got the Indians beat in a lot of offensive categories such as:
- – Batting average: .247 vs. .228
- – Home runs: 94 (fifth in MLB) vs. 59
- – RBI: 301 (fourth in MLB) vs. 234
- – On-base percentage: .342 (fourth in MLB) vs. .317
- – OPS: .789 (fifth in MLB) vs. .689
Run differentials, though, have been close this season with the Yankees at +45 compared to the Indians +39. At the end of the day, the Yankees lineup is stacked and arguably the best in the American League. However, after losing six of their last eight games of the season, they will need much more production to get past this Indians squad.
They can certainly do it, especially given their postseason experience over the past few years. Keep an eye on Voit and LeMahieu, too. Voit led the league in homers while LeMahieu made MLB history by collecting the batting title in the AL, making him the first player to ever win that award in both leagues.
Can J.A. Happ come in clutch?
If this series is pushed to a Game 3, Happ would be the likely starter in this win-or-go-home matchup. He doesn’t look like the lefty manager Aaron Boone had to cut out of the rotation during last year’s postseason, owning a 3.47 ERA over 49.1 innings this season.
He also has postseason experience while Zach Plesac, the likely Game 3 starter for the Indians does not. But Plesac does have better numbers this season at 2.28 in the ERA department.
As we mentioned, the Yankees’ offense has the advantage in a do-or-die game, but they would need solid starting pitching despite all hand being on deck for this one. Happ will need to step up, and if he does, he’d silence all the haters in the process.
PREDICTION: Yankees in 3
Game 1 is bound to be a fun pitching matchup to watch, but I’m going to have to take the postseason-experienced Cole over Bieber regardless of what the stats say. It’s a whole different game and Cole has proven to perform in those high-pressure moments while we don’t know what to expect from Bieber just yet. It will be close, but the Yankees offense will come away with the win.
Masahiro Tanaka has not been his consistent self this season despite his ERA being 3.56. His FIP at 4.42 shows the true nature of his regular season. Yes, he’s a different animal when the postseason comes around, and that could very well be the case and the Yankees be done with this series after just two games following a stellar start. But Carlos Carrasco is no slouch either, with postseason experience and a 2.91 ERA to boot this season. He also handled the Yankees well in 2017 during his start in the ALDS.
Game 3, then, will be the Happ-Plesac battle and I think this is where the Yankees’ offense seals the deal. The bullpen advantage with Adam Ottavino, Zack Britton and Aroldis Chapman on the back end should provide a good safety blanket as well.
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