NCAA

Cy and goodbye: Mets trade Dickey to Blue Jays

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Cy and goodbye: Mets trade Dickey to Blue Jays

NEW YORK (AP) Cy ya later.

R.A. Dickey and his nasty knuckleball are headed north of the border.

After weeks of speculation and then a weekend spent ironing out the last few details, the New York Mets finally traded the NL Cy Young Award winner to the Toronto Blue Jays in a seven-player swap Monday.

``I can't tell you how excited I am to be part of an organization that's committed to winning and putting a product on the field that the fans can be excited about,'' Dickey said Tuesday. ``A lot of people say these things at the beginning of spring training and the beginning of all new things, but I think in this particular case that the reason it feels so good is because it's so true, and you don't feel like you're tying to convince yourself of the things that you're saying.''

Toronto acquired the 38-year-old Dickey and catchers Josh Thole and Mike Nickeas. The Mets got top catching prospect Travis d'Arnaud and veteran catcher John Buck, plus minor league right-hander Noah Syndergaard and outfielder Wuilmer Becerra.

Earlier in the day, Dickey and the busy Blue Jays agreed to a new contract adding $25 million over two years clearing the way for New York to send him to a team that's spending a lot of money trying to join baseball's elite.

General manager Sandy Alderson said the Mets didn't completely decide to trade Dickey until they saw the final package that Toronto offered.

``This was a complicated deal,'' Alderson said on a conference call.

Dickey was already signed for $5.25 million next year, including a $250,000 escalator. His new contract drops next year's salary to $5 million, adds $12 million salaries for both 2014 and 2015, and includes a $12 million club option for 2016 with a $1 million buyout.

Dickey said New York's initial offer would have added $14 million over two years and the Mets increased it to $20 million.

``It's think it's important for me to grieve leaving New York,'' he said. ``I had proverbial home there. I had a home among fans. I had a home in an organization. I had a lot of success there, and I think it's important for me to be sad about that for a moment before I move on to the next feeling.''

Toronto has now acquired All-Stars Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, Melky Cabrera and Dickey since the season ended.

``We're just so close to contention,'' Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos said. ``It's not just about one season. This allows us to put what we feel is a contending team together for an extended run, for a three- to five-year period.''

Dickey became the fourth pitcher to win the Cy Young and be traded before the next season, joining David Cone, Pedro Martinez and Roger Clemens.

Alderson said the Mets' preference going into the offseason was to sign Dickey to a multiyear deal. But as the winter meetings approached in early December, Alderson said Dickey's value ``in a possible trade was also sky-rocketing. At some point, those lines crossed.''

Several teams made runs at a deal for Dickey, with Texas and the Los Angeles Angels among those in the mix. Alderson said while some clubs popped in and out of trade talks, Toronto's interest remained steady.

The Blue Jays have missed the playoffs since winning their second straight World Series crown in 1993, and have boldly moved to reshape a team that went 73-89 last season in the rugged AL East.

Dickey was 20-6 with a 2.73 ERA last season, capping his rapid rise from the majors' scrap heap to an ace pitcher. He did it by perfecting a way to throw his floater faster than previous knuckleballers, and tossing it with exceptional control.

``It was an extraordinary privilege for us to be part of his career,'' Alderson said. ``The final chapter has not been written.''

Dickey joins a stellar Toronto rotation that includes Johnson, Buehrle and returning starters Ricky Romero and Brandon Morrow.

``We clearly are convinced this can be a front-line starter for us,'' Anthopoulos said. ``I don't think he gets the credit or the respect he deserves because of his age, and because of what he does throw. And I understand because it's so rare.

``But there's so much overwhelming data and evidence that points to him continuing to have this success.''

Thole gives the Blue Jays a catcher who is familiar with handling Dickey's knuckleball, and Anthopoulos said that relationship was a key to the deal.

``R.A. is too important to our chances to take a chance and have a tryout camp to see if someone can catch him,'' he said.

Despite a big spot in the rotation to fill minus Dickey, Alderson said the Mets were not giving up on next season.

``We certainly are not punting on 2013,'' he said.

Alderson called d'Arnaud, who turns 24 in February, the top catching prospect in the minors and predicted he could contribute on the major league level next year. He hit .333 at Triple-A Las Vegas with 16 homers and 52 RBIs before tearing a knee ligament trying to break up a double play in June.

Popular with Mets fans, Dickey perturbed team management when he spoke about his contract situation last week during a club event at Citi Field for children displaced from their schools by Superstorm Sandy.

Dickey said he enjoyed playing for the Mets and added it would be ``disappointing'' if he went through his option year without a new deal and became a free agent.

``If that's the decision that they make, I feel like it would be unfortunate because it probably is going to mean that I'm not going to be back,'' Dickey said then. ``And that would be sad.''

Buck was an All-Star with Toronto in 2010. The 32-year-old hit .192 with 12 homers and 41 RBIs for Miami last season, then was part of the blockbuster trade between the Marlins and Blue Jays.

The 20-year-old Syndergaard went 8-5 with a 2.60 ERA for Class-A Lansing. The 18-year-old Becerra hit .250 with four RBIs in 11 games in the rookie Gulf Coast League.

Thole, 26, hit .234 with one homer and 21 RBIs in 104 games this year. The 29-year-old Nickeas split last season between the Mets and Triple-A Buffalo. He batted .174 with one homer and 13 RBIs for New York.

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AP Sports Writers Ronald Blum and Mike Fitzpatrick contributed to this report.

NCAA president Mark Emmert says fall champions can't happen at this time

NCAA president Mark Emmert says fall champions can't happen at this time

While conferences and schools across the nation are withdrawing from the 2020 fall sports season due to the coronavirus pandemic, others remain adamant that games and seasons can be played.

However, for those who are planning on having a fall campaign, their hopes of competing for a championship could still be derailed. According to NCAA president Mark Emmert, all Division I sports besides football --- which operates on the bowl schedule -- are in jeopardy of losing a title season due to the lack of teams involved.

“We cannot, now at this point, have fall NCAA Championships because there’s not enough schools participating," Emmert said during the NCAA Social Series on Thursday. "The Board of Governors also said, ‘look if you don’t have half the schools playing the sport you can’t have a legitimate championship.’”

Emmert noted that the fall can still be beneficial to universities as programs can put all their focus into safety protocols and maintaining the health of players. Additionally, players can still remain on campus and prepare for the spring season.

As for actual competition in the coming months, Emmert has begun to look ahead to 2021 with the hope that teams have the opportunity to compete when the spring comes around. Specifically, he wants to make sure that winter and spring sports -- who already lost a season in 2020 -- are not forced to suffer through the same fate again.

In order to do that, he's considering numerous altercations to sports such as modified bubbles and smaller brackets for postseason play. The procedures will become clearer in the coming months as more questions about the virus and its impact are answered.

For now, Emmert is optimistic that the NCAA has the capability to bring sports back in a safe way. But to do so, a lot of work still needs to be done.

“There’s a way to do it. Will it be normal? Of course not, you’ll be playing fall sports in the spring. Will it create other challenges? Of course. But is it doable? Yeah, it is doable and we want to do that," Emmert said. "We want to, again, make it work for these students.”

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Will there be high school sports in the DMV this fall amid coronavirus concerns?

Will there be high school sports in the DMV this fall amid coronavirus concerns?

No area of society has gone untouched by the novel coronavirus pandemic, including sports. After every level of athletics was rocked by the virus and forced to shut down in the spring, professional leagues have figured out ways to return to their fields of play in as safe a manner as possible. Meanwhile, decisions are still being made on the collegiate, high school and youth levels about when and how sports will return.

In our Playing Through COVID series, NBC Sports Washington will tell the story of those decisions and how they impact the people involved, including athletes, coaches, parents and more. The series launched with an interview of Dr. Sunil Budhrani, ER Physician, CEO and Chief Medical Officer at Innovation Health. Watch the full interview here.

As the 2020-21 school year approaches in the DMV, answers of whether sports will accompany it in the fall have slowly trickled in.

And thus far, the answer is overwhelmingly no. 

Washington, D.C. and Virginia have both announced plans to adopt a Condensed Interscholastic Plan, which would push the start of winter sports back to a tentative Dec. 14 start date and have what are traditionally fall sports follow in February. Maryland announced plans to postpone fall and winter sports during the first semester, which ends Jan. 27.

Current calendar plans announced for the resumption of sports are listed below:

DC

Winter season (basketball, indoor track and field, cheerleading)

First practice date: December 14 -- Game dates: January 4 to February 28 

Fall season (cross-country, football, soccer and volleyball)

First practice date: February 1 -- Game dates: February 22 to April 16 

Spring season (baseball, softball, tennis, track and field, ultimate disc, chess)

First practice date: March 29 -- Game dates: April 19 to June 13

Virginia

Winter season (basketball, gymnastics, indoor track, swim/dive, wrestling)

First practice date: December 14 -- Game dates: December 28 to February 20

Fall season (cheer, cross country, field hockey, football, golf, volleyball)

First practice date: February 15 -- Game dates: March 1 to May 1

Spring season (baseball, lacrosse, soccer, softball, tennis, track and field)

First practice date: April 12 -- Game dates: April 26 to June 26

Maryland

TBD

Present in each region's announcement of a postponement was mention of a collaboration with local health officials in determining those plans. District of Columbia State Athletic Association executive director Clark Ray reiterated that point on a town hall hosted by NBC Sports Washington’s Chad Ricardo on July 17.

“Based on the information that we had, based on our conversations with our department of health, and based on input from the public schools, the public charter schools, the private schools and all of those who represent the multiple conferences of our private schools, this was an easy decision to make but an agonizing decision to send out,” Ray said. “It’s the right decision at this time based on the current science and data that we have.”

Virginia High School League executive director Dr. John W. “Billy” Haun echoed how difficult the decision was during a virtual press conference on July 27, though Virginia’s plan left open the possibility for sports to return sooner than outlined if the state moves beyond Phase III in its recovery plan. Or if guidelines for Phase III are revised to allow high-risk activities.

“This has been an extremely difficult decision,” Haun said. “All of you know how important high school activities are to our student athletes, to our coaches, to our parents, just our school communities. This was not a decision that was made lightly. Everybody took this very seriously. I think it’s safe to say in our office and probably with the executive committee, there have been very few of us that have had a full nights’ sleep in a long time just thinking about all the implications here that are involved.”

RELATED: INNOVATION HEALTH CEO SAYS DISTANCE LEARNING 'DIRECTLY' LED TO HIGH SCHOOLS CANCELING FALL SPORTS

Those same implications are part of the reason why decisions on fall sports were delayed until recently across the state of Maryland.

Rather than enforce a statewide decision on athletics, Maryland initially left the decision on how to proceed this fall to each individual school system, of which there are 24. The state set a minimum set of guidelines, but each local system had the authority to be more restrictive based on local circumstances in regards to the virus. It’s a path that left many in limbo but that Maryland governor Larry Hogan said was consistent with how the state made other decisions.

“The state sets some parameters, but people were not wanting us to interfere with those local decisions,” Hogan said at his press conference on Maryland’s COVID-19 recovery July 22. “County governments have always had their individual authorities to make decisions that are more restrictive than what we’ve done, not less restrictive. They can’t ignore state law. But our plans always incorporated the flexibility of local governments.”

That autonomy resulted in varying decisions across Maryland’s local school systems. While most never announced a decision before Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Assoication finally made an overarching decision last Monday, others had postponed fall sports, and Montgomery County canceled fall and winter sports altogether. The variation in decisons wasn't much different than the current NCAA football scene where some conferences have already postponed sports, while others are holding out hope for a season.

Montgomery County superintendent Dr. Jack R. Smith said the decision to cancel was devastating.

“It’s not just sports programs. It’s all of our extracurricular and cocurricular programs that are so important to our students,” Smith said on a virtual recovery plan media briefing July 22. “And we understand that this is devastating, and we’re gonna continue to look at how we can support students through the digital world or whatever other strategies that people may be able to come up with. I’ve seen some examples of this that are really tremendous, and we’re going to continue to push hard to make sure that we can do whatever we can do in this very important part of a student’s educational experience.”

Montgomery's decision at the time likely spoke to a larger concern in coronavirus trends cited by Hogan. While Montgomery’s positivity rate was down 90% from a high of 32.64% on April 20 to 3.27%, Hogan said there was concern that the positivity rate for Marylanders under 35 years (6.57%) old was higher than it was for those 35 or older (3.50%). And while it has dropped significantly since peaking, it has recently seen a slight uptick. Additionally, there had been a slight uptick in COVID-19 hospitalizations in the state and, according to Hogan, some of those were younger patients.

These were the types of numbers being considered across D.C., Maryland and Virginia when deciding whether schools should move to a virtual-only format this fall. Most have decided they will, but some will open at full capacity, while others are going with a hybrid approach. Those decisions had a direct influence on what local jurisdictions decided in regards to how to proceed with sports. MPSSAA cited as much in its announcement to postpone sports.

"This decision comes in light of the recent announcements of local school systems to begin education virtually and provides each school system with options for the gradual increase of student engagement for the physical and social-emotional health of students," the statement read.

MPSSAA said it's finalizing plans for modified competition seasons for all sports in the second semester and will make those plans available at some point prior to the start of the school year, which is Aug. 31.

Private schools in the region aren’t beholden to the same rules enforced by the public governing bodies, but many of them are going in the same direction.

The Interstate Athletic Conference, Independent School League and Mid-Atlantic Athletic Conference all announced the postponement of sports until January. The Washington Catholic Athletic Conference said it is canceling fall athletics but exploring scheduling options for a January start.

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