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Mastrodonato: Game 3 start a big chance for Eduardo Rodriguez to prove himself with Red Sox as free agency looms

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Mastrodonato: Game 3 start a big chance for Eduardo Rodriguez to prove himself with Red Sox as free agency looms

This is Eduardo Rodriguez’s chance.

Manager Alex Cora is giving him the ball again in a crucial matchup with the Astros for Game 3 of the American League Championship Series on Monday with a chance to make his name one that Red Sox fans won’t forget for a long time.

And it’s a chance for him to make perhaps his final pitch to the Sox’ front office, which will have to examine his candidacy for a contract extension with exclusive negotiating rights in a five-day window following this year’s World Series.

If they don’t come to an agreement, Rodriguez will be a free agent for the first time in his career.

Rodriguez, relievers Adam Ottavino and Hansel Robles, and first baseman Kyle Schwarber are among the Red Sox players eligible for free agency after the postseason.

“Probably towards the end of the season I guarantee you they were thinking about stuff like that,” Cora said Sunday. “But now it’s not even on their radar, honestly. I think what they think right now is how we’re going to try to beat them tomorrow, how I’m going to stay healthy, what I have to do to be ready for tomorrow. But (free agency) doesn’t come up right now. It doesn’t.”

If someone had to guess whether or not Rodriguez would end up back in Boston next year, it’d have to be a coin flip.

The Red Sox won’t be desperate for his services.

They have Chris Sale and Nathan Eovaldi leading the staff. They hold contract options on Garrett Richards ($10 million) and Martin Perez ($6 million), though both should be declined. They have two standout rookies in Tanner Houck and Garrett Whitlock, who are expected to compete for spots in the rotation next spring. And they have two prospects, Bryan Mata and Thad Ward, likely to return from Tommy John surgery at some point in the middle of the season. Connor Seabold and Jay Groome are a pair of young, intriguing possibilities as well.

The idea of Sale, Eovaldi, Houck and Whitlock making up four of the five starters to begin the year seems like a tantalizing one, and a likely one.

“Whitlock, from day one, he has been impressive, and he really hasn’t waned at all,” Ottavino said. “He has been awesome the whole year. I just think he is going to be truly special for his whole career. It’s been awesome to see him from day one, and Tanner too. He has unbelievable stuff.

“I think they both are starters in the future. But this year they’re kind of our super weapons in the ‘pen. It’s great to be at a point in my career where I can be so pumped to be a part of it and help those guys on their journey as they’re starting out.”

Still, the Sox will need to add another starter or two before 2022.

Rodriguez probably didn’t make himself a lot of money with his regular season performance in 2021. He finished the year with 157 2/3 innings, 185 strikeouts, 47 walks, 19 homers allowed, a 1.39 WHIP and a 4.74 ERA.

Most of those numbers put him toward the bottom of the league among qualified starters, though his strikeout rate was elite, and the best of his career.

Importantly, he made 31 starts one year after a case of COVID-19 left him with myocarditis and bedridden for most of the 2020 season, which he sat out.

“If you ask me that —  that shows you everything,” Rodriguez said. “I’m 100%.”

He said he was thankful just to be alive after his difficult bout with COVID-19.

“I just want everybody to be safe because I know how it is,” he said. “I know how it feels, and I just got to send thanks to God to be here because a lot of people are dead already because of that, and I just am glad to be here.”

In normal times, a lefty who throws in the mid-90s with an elite changeup and a career 4.16 ERA would surely command $12 million to $15 million a year in free agency. After a down year, and amidst an uncertain market, that could be difficult.

The Sox will have some money off the books in 2022, but chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom has shown a tendency to prioritize bargain deals.

He’s also shown a tendency to prioritize players with proven track records in the postseason, which Rodriguez has a chance to cement with a strong start against the Astros on Monday.

Until his last start against the Rays, he’d been a postseason failure, with 11 runs allowed in 11 2/3 innings.

The Astros knocked him around good in a pair of starts in late May and early June, scoring 12 runs off him in 9 1/3 innings.

“At that point he wasn’t on point,” Cora said. “I think the change-up wasn’t good. It was a bad sinker. … The pitcher that we have now compared to who he was when we went there and then he pitched here, it’s a lot different. The velocity is up. The change-up is where he wants it.”

A great start will mean a lot for the Red Sox. And it’d mean a lot for Rodriguez’s future, either in Boston or somewhere else.

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Heisman finalists: Bryce Young, Aidan Hutchinson, Kenny Pickett, C.J. Stroud

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Heisman finalists: Bryce Young, Aidan Hutchinson, Kenny Pickett, C.J. Stroud

NEW YORK — Alabama quarterback Bryce Young, Michigan defensive end Aidan Hutchinson, Pittsburgh quarterback Kenny Pickett and Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud were announced Monday as finalists for the Heisman Trophy.

The Heisman will be presented Saturday in New York, returning to its usual routine and date — second Saturday in December — after it was forced to delay and go virtual last year due to the pandemic.

There are some changes this year. The site of the presentation is moving from a theater in Midtown Manhattan, near Times Square, to a smaller venue on the West Side near Lincoln Center.

The process by which Heisman finalists are determined has also been modified. The Heisman Trust announced that starting with this season, there will be four finalists — no more, no fewer — invited to the award presentation ceremony.

In the past the Heisman has invited at least three and as many as six players to the presentation. The number was determined by distribution of vote, with the cut-off decided by the gap between vote-getters.

After a 2021 season in which a Heisman front-runner took a while to emerge and the race seemed wide-open into November, Young closed strong to become the favorite.

The sophomore led a 97-yard, game-tying touchdown drive against rival Auburn two weeks ago, helping the Crimson Tide rally to win the Iron Bowl in overtime.

Then Young broke the Southeastern Conference championship game record with 421 yards passing in a victory against Georgia’s vaunted defense on Saturday. For the season, Young has thrown for 4,322 yards, 43 touchdowns and just four interceptions while guiding the top-ranked Crimson Tide to the College Football Playoff.

As good has Young has been in his first season as Alabama’s starting quarterback, following Heisman finalists Mac Jones and Tua Tagovailoa, an argument could be made he is not even the clear best player on his own team.

Will Anderson Jr. appeared to be the Tide’s top Heisman contender until Young went off against Georgia. The sophomore outside linebacker leads the nation in tackles for loss with 31.5 and sacks with 15.5, but he didn’t get an invitation to New York.

Nether did Michigan State running back Kenneth Walker III, who is second in the nation in rushing at 136 yards per game with 19 touchdowns. The Wake Forest transfer jumped to the top of the Heisman watch lists after scoring five touchdowns in the 11th-ranked Spartans’ victory against Michigan on Oct. 30.

Young could become Alabama’s fourth Heisman winner, second consecutive, but first quarterback.

Tide receiver DeVonta Smith won the Heisman last year. Smith broke a streak of four straight quarterbacks to win the Heisman. Since 2000, 17 quarterbacks have won the trophy. Among the non-quarterback winners are Alabama running backs Mark Ingram (2009) and Derrick Henry (2015).

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Minnesota State Fair reestablishing own police department a year after disbanding one

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Minnesota State Fair reestablishing own police department a year after disbanding one

The Minnesota State Fair is reestablishing its own police department, a year after disbanding one and then turning to the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office for law enforcement at the Fairgrounds.

Fair General Manager Jerry Hammer in a Monday statement announced the Fair’s decision, which follows seven months of the sheriff’s office providing security at the Fairgrounds in Falcon Heights and also leading a multi-agency effort during the Fair. The State Fair’s agreement with the sheriff’s office ends Dec. 31.

According to the statement, the Fair’s police department will continue its partnerships with the sheriff’s office and Minnesota State Patrol, along with officers from other law enforcement agencies and medical services providers, plus additional security contractors. Ramsey County sheriff Cmdr. Ron Knafla will serve as the Fair’s police chief.

The statement did not address why the Fair is going back to its own police force, nor did it give additional details such as when that process will begin and its projected size. Hammer was unavailable Monday for further comment, according to the statement.

Security at the Fairgrounds became an issue when the Fair this past spring decided to disband its decades-long police department and instead turn to an outside agency to provide security. In January, the Fair chose not to rehire the department’s roughly 35 officers who were working on annual contracts either full- or part-time.

The decision not to renew the contracts was made because “we were reorganizing and adding more training, which was stopped because of the pandemic,” Hammer said in June.

In May the Fair’s Chief of Police Paul Paulos announced his retirement, which was effective May 31, and the Fair officially dissolved the police department.

But that meant Fair officials had to scramble to find security at the Fairgrounds before, during and after the 12-day event.

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety recommended that the sheriff’s office take the lead role during the Fair, prompting Sheriff Bob Fletcher and Fair officials to work on a plan. The sheriff’s office on June 1 began providing one deputy at the Fairgrounds for pre-Fair security.

But the Ramsey County Board had reservations with the sheriff’s office taking the lead during the Fair, with liability being chief among them. In late July, the county board signed off two contracts, one that covered the event and another for non-Fair dates through 2021. The board’s decision came after reassurances from Fair officials that it had intended to purchase $10 million in police professional liability insurance and that the policy would include the county.

The county board had planned a Nov. 2 workshop on the Fair, including financials and steps beyond this year, but it was canceled after Fletcher told Board Chair Toni Carter that he would not be attending, according to a county spokesperson. That prompted Carter to send a Nov. 4 letter to Gov. Tim Walz informing him of “the unwillingness of Sheriff Fletcher to personally engage with the County Board” and suggesting that the Minnesota Agricultural Society Board, which governs the Fair and maintains the state-owned, 322-acre Fairgrounds, “will need to pursue alternative security arrangements for 2022.”

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Eureka just made ‘handle flipping’ illegal to curb car break-ins

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Eureka just made ‘handle flipping’ illegal to curb car break-ins

ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. — The City of Eureka passed an ordinance that makes it illegal for people to check door handles to see if they can find one that is unlocked.

“If you’re going to steal a car, steal it somewhere else. Don’t steal it in Eureka,” said Eureka Mayor Sean Flower.

The mayor said the new ordinance is part of the city’s crackdown on car break-ins and thefts.

“It makes it illegal for someone to go and check a bunch of car doors by pulling on the handles to find one that’s unlocked,” said Flower. “You can’t get in somebody else’s car or tamper with it inside if it’s not your car.”

Mayor Flower said this is considered a lower-level crime but hopes it will stop further car crimes. He said if authorities catch someone committing these crimes, the police department will now have their information on record too.

“We can have our cops get involved early, and really try and discourage people from doing that early, and plus we can also get their information, we can start trying to prevent crime as opposed to waiting for it to happen afterward,” Flower said.

He said other municipalities and police departments have been contacting them to get guidance on the language of their ordinances. Flower said he hopes other cities follow suit.

Eureka’s neighbor, the city of Wildwood, has already started to. Wildwood Mayor Jim Bowlin said the city is introducing similar ordinances at its meeting Monday. Mayor Bowlin said Wildwood has seen a 300% increase in car break-ins in recent years. He said he would be surprised if the ordinances don’t pass.

“It’s going to send a message — don’t commit crimes in Wildwood,” Wildwood Mayor Jim Bowlin said. “The western part of St. Louis County is seeing an uptick in these car crimes.”

Similar bills were introduced in St. Louis County but have not been officially passed yet.

In St. Louis City, a bill was passed that makes it “unlawful for an individual to lift the door handles or otherwise try the doors and locks of successive vehicles to gain entry to the vehicles unless the individual is the owner of the vehicles or has the owners’ permission to enter the vehicles.”

However, St. Louis City Mayor Tishaura Jones said in October that she wants to work on the provisions of the bill. Despite that, the bill went into effect without her signature.

other coverage to link to https://fox2now.com/news/missouri/st-louis-county-council-introduces-3-bills-to-curb-increase-in-car-crime/

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