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The 2022 MLB season is winding down, and the playoff picture continues to grow clearer.
Through Sunday’s action, most of the division races moved closer to being already decided, while it appears there are a couple that will come down to the wire.
With less than a month left in the regular season, the teams still hunting for a playoff spot will need a strong finish to turn their fortunes around.
Here’s a look at the postseason picture as of Sept. 4, along with the latest standings.
Current Playoff Picture
No. 1 seed: Houston Astros (86-48), first-round bye
No. 2 seed: New York Yankees (80-54), first-round bye
No. 3 seed: Cleveland Guardians (68-64) vs. No. 6 seed: Toronto Blue Jays (73-59)
No. 4 seed: Seattle Mariners (76-58) vs. No. 5 seed: Tampa Bay Rays (74-58)
No. 1 seed: Los Angeles Dodgers (92-41), first-round bye
No. 2 seed: New York Mets (85-50), first-round bye
No. 3 seed: St. Louis Cardinals (79-55) vs. No. 6 seed: Philadelphia Phillies (73-61)
No. 4 seed: Atlanta Braves (84-51) vs. No. 5 seed: San Diego Padres (74-61)
- New York Yankees: 80-54
- Tampa Bay Rays: 74-58, 5.0 GB
- Toronto Blue Jays: 73-59, 6.0 GB
- Baltimore Orioles: 71-62, 8.5 GB
- Boston Red Sox: 67-68, 13.5 GB
- Cleveland Guardians: 68-64*
- Minnesota Twins: 68-64*
- Chicago White Sox: 67-67, 2.0 GB
- Kansas City Royals: 55-80, 14.5 GB
- Detroit Tigers: 51-83, 18 GB
*Cleveland currently owns the tiebreaker, as it is 6-5 against Minnesota this season.
- Houston Astros: 86-48
- Seattle Mariners: 76-58, 10 GB
- Texas Rangers: 58-75, 27.5 GB
- Los Angeles Angels: 58-76, 28 GB
- Oakland Athletics: 50-85, 36.5 GB
- New York Mets: 85-50
- Atlanta Braves: 84-51, 1.0 GB
- Philadelphia Phillies: 73-61, 11.5 GB
- Miami Marlins: 55-78, 29.0 GB
- Washington Nationals: 47-87, 37.5 GB
- St. Louis Cardinals: 79-55
- Milwaukee Brewers: 70-63, 8.5 GB
- Chicago Cubs: 56-78, 23.0 GB
- Cincinnati Reds: 53-79, 25.0 GB
- Pittsburgh Pirates: 49-84, 29.5 GB
- Los Angeles Dodgers: 92-41
- San Diego Padres: 74-61, 19.0 GB
- San Francisco Giants: 64-68, 27.5 GB
- Arizona Diamondbacks: 64-69, 28 GB
- Colorado Rockies: 57-78, 36 GB
When it comes to division races, the National League East and American League Central are providing the most intrigue in the home stretch of the season.
The New York Mets have led the NL East for much of the season, but back-to-back losses to the last-place Washington Nationals have them clinging to a one-game lead over the Atlanta Braves, who are on a five-game win streak.
The defending World Series champs are playing some of their best baseball at the perfect time, which is creating some increased pressure in New York. It wouldn’t be a surprise if the division is decided in the penultimate series of the season when the Braves host the Mets from Sept. 30 to Oct. 2.
The Cleveland Guardians once looked to be cruising to an AL Central title, but five straight losses this week allowed the Minnesota Twins to pull even. The Chicago White Sox are not too far behind, as well.
The Twins and Guardians will play a three-game series beginning Friday, which could go a long way toward deciding the division. Winning the AL Central would be a drastic change in fortune for Minnesota, which faces an uphill climb in the wild-card race and currently sits five games out of the final spot.
The New York Yankees are clinging to a five-game lead in the AL East after holding on to win Sunday’s series finale over the Tampa Bay Rays. The Yankees had lost six of their last seven games prior to Sunday’s victory as their disappointing late-season performance continued.
New York has to hope to build some momentum, as it will welcome a hungry Minnesota squad for a four-game series beginning Monday. The Yankees were once believed to be the top contender in the AL, but that is clearly no longer the case.
That distinction belongs to the Houston Astros, who topped the Los Angeles Angels on Sunday for their fifth win in their last six games. The Los Angeles Dodgers have the best record in the majors and are favored to represent the NL in the World Series.
In the wild-card races, the Philadelphia Phillies hold a 2.5-game lead over the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL, while the Baltimore Orioles are 2.5 games behind the Toronto Blue Jays for the final spot in the AL.
Panthers outlast Hurricanes in 4th OT in 6th-longest game in NHL history
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The Carolina Hurricanes and Florida Panthers seemed determined to keep playing. And playing. And playing.
The teams opened their Eastern Conference final playoff series with Florida’s 3-2 victory in four overtimes early Friday, with the game ranking as the sixth-longest game in NHL history.
Matthew Tkachuk’s goal came at the 19:47 mark of the fourth OT to end this one, which marked the 15th four-overtime game in NHL history and the longest game in franchise history for each team.
The longest game in NHL history came on March 24, 1936, when the Detroit Red Wings beat the Montreal Maroons 1-0 in the sixth overtime on Mud Bruneteau’s goal at 116 minutes, 30 seconds of extra play.
Florida’s previous record for longest game was 104:31 in Game 4 of the 1996 Stanley Cup final against Colorado. Carolina’s previous record was 114:47 for Game 3 of the 2002 Stanley Cup final.
The only good news for the teams is they had an extended break before this series began. Carolina closed out New Jersey exactly a week earlier, while Florida eliminated Toronto a day later.
But this game ended roughly six hours after Thursday night’s puck drop, and the teams have a Game 2 in less than 48 hours.
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Barcelona says probe found no evidence of corruption by club
MADRID (AP) — The investigation ordered by Barcelona into its controversial payments for refereeing reports found no evidence of corruption by the club, president Joan Laporta said Monday.
Laporta reiterated that the club’s payments over several years to the company owned by the vice president of Spain’s refereeing committee were only for technical reports and not to influence referees. He said he believed there were no ethics breach and that Barcelona was the victim of a campaign to hurt its reputation.
“This is one of the most ferocious attacks in our history,” Laporta said. “I ask FC Barcelona supporters to be as united as ever in defense of our crest, our essence, and our ownership model. No campaign to discredit us will prevent us from continuing to be an organization of reference in the world of sports that is beloved and admired by millions of Catalans and by many more millions of people around the world.”
It was the first time Laporta spoke at a news conference to give explanations after it became public that the club paid 7.3 million euros ($8 million) from 2001-18 to the company of then committee vice president José María Enríquez Negreira. Prosecutors have accused Barcelona of alleged corruption in sports, fraudulent management, and falsification of mercantile documentation.
Barcelona opened the probe to look into the actions of all the different presidential administrations that made payments over the years, including Laporta’s first at the club. The investigation was conducted by an external company.
The club said the probe found that “no conducts of a criminal nature associated to sporting corruption have been identified, nor are there any grounds to investigate any form of criminal activity associated to bribery.” It added there was “official documentation on the invoices and payments” for the services of “scouting and advice regarding referees, which are common practices in the professional sports sector.”
“Consulting on technical-refereeing issues does not constitute any type of illegal act,” Laporta said. “Consulting, as is done by the big clubs, that was carried out transparently, with the corresponding invoices, at least in my first mandate as president.”
The probe found 629 technical refereeing reports and 43 CDs that the club received over 18 years for what Laporta called “market price.” More reports were likely lost over time, he said.
“I reiterate with all my resolve, I am convinced that FC Barcelona has not committed any crime of sports-related corruption. I hope that sooner rather than later, it is fully exonerated,” he said. “Accusations must be proven. We live by the rule of law, which guarantees among its basic principles the presumption of innocence.”
He said that if there were any irregularities committed by Negreira, Barcelona would be a victim of them. He also said Negreira was not in a position to directly influence referees, and that it was Negreira’s son who actually produced the refereeing reports.
“I dare anyone to show an instance in which Barcelona was favored in a match because of these payments,” Laporta said. “We will allow the justice system to do its work and I’m sure that Barcelona will be cleared. I am fully convinced that FC Barcelona has never performed any act with the intention of altering the competition to gain an advantage.”
The Spanish league, Real Madrid and other clubs have been among those taking part in the legal proceedings against Barcelona. Laporta criticized league president Javier Tebas for making accusations against Barcelona, and also took a shot at rival Madrid.
“Everyone knows that Real Madrid is a club that is historically favored by refereeing mistakes,” he said.
Laporta said Barcelona has always been a club that takes pride in its values, and it would never want to win anything with outside help.
“Throughout its 123-year history, FC Barcelona has always been a model of fair play, both on and off the field,” he said. “If we have won for so many decades, it has undoubtedly been a result of effort, talent and knowledge.”
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Silicon Valley councilman indicted in 49ers report leak
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A Silicon Valley city councilman has been charged with perjury after he allegedly lied about leaking a grand jury report to the San Francisco 49ers last year that detailed a purportedly unethical relationship between the team and the city council, prosecutors said Friday.
Santa Clara City Councilmember Anthony Becker is accused of providing the secret report titled “Unsportsmanlike Conduct: Santa Clara City Council” to the team’s former top spokesperson and a local media outlet in 2022, days ahead of its official release.
Becker then allegedly lied to the grand jury about the leak, prosecutors said, prompting the criminal charges.
The 49ers play in Levi’s Stadium in the city of Santa Clara, about 35 miles (56.33 kilometers) south of San Francisco. Santa Clara County is broadly considered home to Silicon Valley.
The city of Santa Clara owns the stadium and leases it to the team; fighting between the two groups has led to ethics complaints, legal disputes and years of bad blood.
Al Guido, the team’s president, and Larry MacNeil, the former CFO who worked extensively on the team’s stadium project, were named in the indictment as witnesses who spoke to the criminal grand jury for Becker’s indictment.
“The 49ers have cooperated fully with the District Attorney’s Office in their investigation, and will continue to do so,” team spokesperson Brian Brokaw said in a statement Friday. “However, because this is an ongoing legal matter, the organization is not able to make any further comment at this time.”
Prosecutors say the team has bankrolled Becker’s political career by spending $3.2 million through independent expenditure committees for his 2020 city council race, which he won, as well as his unsuccessful 2022 mayoral bid.
The “Unsportsmanlike Conduct” report alleged that Becker and four other councilmembers regularly voted “in a manner that is favorable to the 49ers” and would routinely meet with the team’s lobbyists but not disclose what was discussed.
Becker faces a felony charge of perjury under oath, as well as a misdemeanor charge of willful failure to perform duty. He is scheduled to be arraigned Monday.
Becker did not immediately respond to requests for comment Friday, and it was not clear whether he had an attorney who could speak on his behalf.
“Councilmember Becker violated the public’s trust,” Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen said in a statement. “That an elected official would commit perjury and lie under oath before the grand jury strikes at the very heart of our justice system and requires accountability.”
Representatives for the Santa Clara City Council did not immediately respond to a request for comment.