Blue Jays Launch Investigation into ‘Disturbing’ PED Use in Minor League System

The Toronto Blue Jays are launching an investigation after six players from their minor league affiliates tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs, according to the Canadian Press (via ESPN.com).

Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins released a statement regarding the news:

"This situation is very disappointing and disturbing to the organization; disappointing that the players made these choices, but more so disturbing that some failure of our environment allowed this to happen. It is our responsibility to create an environment and culture where our players know that PED use is not condoned, and to give them resources and education to ensure that they do not make these decisions."

Drug testers flagged all six players for the same substance: boldenone.

         

This article will be updated to provide more information on this story as it becomes available.

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Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

This Heated Donut Should Help Keep You Warm This Winter

Thanks to that Global Warming thing, this could be another harsh winter and sure, you can cozy up to the fireplace like most people, but what could be better than snuggling up with a heated pillow made to look like a pink frosted sprinkle donut?

The Huggable Heated Doughnut is a pillow that can be placed in the microwave and heated to provide relief from conditions like aches and general loneliness, just not hunger. For god’s sake, don’t try and eat the filling, it’s not crème-filled.

Anyway, the heated donut can stay warm for several hours. With that time you can pretend that you have a giant warm inedible donut, or close your eyes and pretend it’s someone who loves you. It’s really up to you.

The Huggable Heated Doughnut is available for $27. Microwave not included.

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The MANET Easy Chair Is Odd And Expensive But I Really Want One

This is the MANET Easy Chair, just look at it, it’s an odd little thing. It’s one of those new-modern pieces of furniture that seems to be more form than function. So why do I want one so badly?

The chair is comprised of 16 odd shaped pillows that can be removed and rearranged in crazy different patterns. It looks so odd, but so comfortable at the same time. I understand you might get a sharp pillow jabbing you in a place where the sun don’t shine, but it looks a good spot to lose yourself in a book.

I don’t know, I guess art is just subjective. One thing’s for sure, it’s a bit pricey at $2,640. Oh well, guess I’ll stick to Ikea for now.

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Hit the jump for shots of how to sit on the chair, as well as a version with green pillows that looks like a potted plant.

Getting An Art Print of a Sound Seems Like A Great Gift Idea

This Holiday season, why not get that special person in your life something they will remember forever, Season 5 of Breaking Bad on Blu-Ray. Of course, if they already have that, you can always get them something more personal, like an art print of any recorded sound.

NewtonAndTheApple is an Etsy shop that is known for their high-quality prints of sound-wave images. Just send them a recorded file and get sent a beautiful print that you can have framed.

Now, the recording you choose is entirely up to you. It could be a baby’s first words, or a secret recording of the first time you said “I love you”, or any of that schmaltzy stuff. Of course, I’d go with the opening piano notes of Kanye West’s ‘Runaway’, but I’m sure you already knew that.

You can also customize the artwork, picking out any color for the wavelength and the background, and you can even have multiple sounds layer for a rather pretty mosaic.

Prices range from ~$30 for a small print to ~$65 for a longer song print, but the shop has stellar reviews, so I have no doubt this would make for an amazing gift.

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Tinder Nightmares Is A Book On How Not To Use Tinder

Tinder is a great app if your self-esteem is a little too high. But sometimes it can be a bit of a drag, especially when you think you’ve just written the worst thing someone’s ever read. So why not pick up a book that proves that you definitely could’ve said worse.

Tinder Nightmares is a collection of things said on the Instagram account @tindernightmares which has a 1.8 Million following. All sorts of matches are utterly ruined in the blink of an eye, and it’s all complied in one book. Obviously, I’ve never had bad luck on Tinder, but that’s just me.

It’s available for $14 from Firebox. Don’t left swipe on this offer (sorry).

Hit the jump for more angled shots of book pages.

Firebox ]

Shohei Ohtani a Top Target for Seattle Mariners, GM Jerry Dipoto Says

Count the Seattle Mariners among the teams that will aggressively pursue two-way Japanese stud Shohei Ohtani once he's posted next week.  

On his podcast, The Wheelhouse with Jerry Dipoto, Seattle Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto disclosed Wednesday the Mariners plan to make every effort to sign Ohtani. 

"We have spent most of the past year preparing for this moment," Dipoto said, according to MLB.com's Greg Johns. "Whether it's written presentations, something aesthetic for him to touch and feel ... we've put together a film on the merits of Seattle and the Mariners. And we're hopeful at some point we get to sit down in the same room."

Dipoto added he thinks the franchise's connection to several prolific Japanese players, including Ichiro Suzuki, could help the Mariners in their recruitment of the 23-year-old. 

"The history of the Japanese player in Seattle has been so celebrated and some of the greatest players in our franchise's history have been from Japan," Dipoto said. "There is an attraction there. There has to be, for a player who is as respectful of those who came before him as Shohei Ohtani appears to be."

If there's a roadblock for the Mariners, it's that they only have $1.5 million available in international signing bonus money available to offer Ohtani, according to the Associated Press' Ronald Blum

Conversely, the Texas Rangers ($3.5 million), New York Yankees ($3.25 million) and Minnesota Twins ($3.24 million) all have far more free cash flow at their disposal. 

It also doesn't help that "many Yankee competitors are now viewing them as the supreme favorite," according to FanRag Sports' Jon Heyman

That said, Dipoto made it clear he would make every attempt to free up monetary resources if it means the Mariners will have a better shot at landing the power-hitting lefty who has also flashed promise as a fireball-throwing right-handed pitcher. 

"We're not going to leave a stone unturned in the efforts to do it again if the opportunity arises," Dipoto said. "We'll be responsible in how we do it, but we understand this is a one-time buying opportunity and you have to be prepared."

Once MLB owners approve new posting guidelines that were tentatively agreed upon Tuesday, Ohtani will have 21 days to sign with a new team, according to the New York Post's Joel Sherman

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

These Oktoberfest Inspired Adidas Sneakers Can Repel Spilt Beer

In the spirit of Germany’s favorite holiday, Oktoberfest, Adidas has come up with a pair of sneakers perfect for complimenting the German festivities.

The Adidas München are similar to traditional Adidas Three-Stipe sneakers, but are designed after traditional German lederhosen which are popular during the event. They look great, but what’s much cooler is that they are made with a specific coating made to repel water, and more importantly, beer. So, you won’t ruin your nice kicks by spilling a glass of beer (or twelve).

They look really cool, but they’ll set you back about €200 without tax or shipping. Plus, there’s only a few sizes left in stock. Hopefully, they’ll come back before next year’s event.

Hit the jump for more shots of the sneakers and a short video by Adidas.

 

 

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Dee Gordon Trade Rumors: Giants Discussed Possible Deal; Other Teams Interested

The San Francisco Giants and Miami Marlins discussed including Marlins second baseman Dee Gordon in a potential Giancarlo Stanton trade, FanRag Sports' Jon Heyman confirmed Wednesday.

SiriusXM's Craig Mish first reported Monday the Giants and Marlins had preliminary talks about a deal in which Gordon and Stanton would head to San Francisco in return for second baseman Joe Panik, minor league pitcher Tyler Beede and minor league outfielder Chris Shaw.

Heyman tweeted, however, the odds of Gordon landing with the Giants may be low, since "other teams have greater [second base] need."

Heyman called the Los Angeles Angels and Toronto Blue Jays the "most logical" destinations for Gordon and added the New York Mets are in the market for a second baseman as well.

While Stanton is fresh off winning the National League Most Valuable Player Award, the Marlins appear likely to move the 28-year-old outfielder. The Miami Herald's Barry Jackson reported in September the franchise's new ownership group, which includes former New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, plans to shed some payroll.

Since that's the case, Gordon is a natural trade candidate as well. He's set to make $37 million over the next three seasons and has a $14 million vested option for 2021.

The Marlins should be in a position to receive good value back should they deal Gordon. The 29-year-old was tied for seventh among second basemen in WAR (3.3) in 2017, per FanGraphs. He stole an MLB-best 60 bases—though he was also caught stealing a league-high 16 times. His .308 batting average and .341 on-base percentage were also the second-highest of his MLB career.

Especially with a weak crop of free agents at the position this offseason, Gordon would be a sensible target for any team looking to upgrade at second base.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Jose Altuve Joins Elite Company with Trio of Honors in 2017

Houston Astros second baseman Jose Altuve took home the first MVP award of his career in 2017, beating out Aaron Judge by a sizable margin for the honor.

Altuve winning the award also made him just the eighth player in the past 50 years to take home the MVP award along with the batting crown and a world championship, per the Elias Sports Bureau (via ESPN.com). The others to do the same previously include Joe DiMaggio (1939), Stan Musial (1946), Willie Mays (1954), Mickey Mantle (1956), Dick Groat (1960), Frank Robinson (1966) and Buster Posey (2012).

The 27-year-old hit .346 for the Astros this season, leading the American League for a second straight season and the third time in the last four campaigns. Altuve has consistently knocked around opposing pitchers, possessing a .316 batting average.

Altuve possesses a rare blend of pop and speed especially for a player who stands just 5'6" tall. He tied his career-high mark for home runs in 2017, posting 24 of them for the second straight year. The Venezuela native also racked up 32 steals, the sixth straight year in which he's topped 30.

With only two years remaining on his contract, Altuve is almost certainly due to receive a big pay bump following the 2019 season. It's quite possible, however, that the Astros will sign him to a contract extension before he ever hits the market.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

MLB Trade Rumors: Latest Buzz on Giancarlo Stanton, Ian Kinsler and More

Major League Baseball's 2017 season ended just three weeks ago, yet it feels like the game never left because of all the rumors and rumblings of what could be happening before teams arrive at spring training in February. 

Trades are always more complex than free-agent signings because they require at least one team to take on, depending on the player, a lot of existing money on a contract and give up significant pieces of their future to make a deal happen. 

There are always teams on the verge of competing for a World Series or playoff spot that want to make a big splash. On the other side of the equation, there are always teams trending downward with a significant asset to deal that can help them get where the Chicago Cubs were in 2016 and Houston Astros are right now. 

Looking around MLB, here are the latest trade rumblings to keep an eye on. 

         

Cards, Giants Make Pitch for Stanton

On the heels of being named the 2017 National League MVP, Miami Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton now awaits his fate to find out where he will play next season. 

It's no secret the Marlins' new ownership group wants to cut payroll, with Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald reporting they want to get down to the $90 million range. 

That's a problem for a team that has $131 million in salary commitments to eight players in 2018, not factoring arbitration and pre-arbitration guys. Stanton has the biggest deal, by far, at $25 million next season and is signed through 2027. 

With Stanton possibly on his way out of Miami, it's no surprise to see two teams in need of a big bat making an offer to the Marlins. 

Per SiriusXM's Craig Mish, the San Francisco Giants offered a package of three players for Stanton and Dee Gordon:

MLB Network's Jon Morosi reported the St. Louis Cardinals have also made a formal offer to the Marlins for Stanton, though names included were not released. Mish did note the proposal includes right-handed pitcher Sandy Alcantara, who appeared in eight MLB games after being called up in September. 

The Giants are trying to put a band-aid on a broken leg, presumably in an effort to not waste anymore prime years of Madison Bumgarner and Buster Posey. They bottomed out last season with a 64-98 record, tied for the second-most losses in a season in franchise history.

One of San Francisco's problems that made 2017 so difficult is its an old team loaded with big contracts. Seven players on the roster for next season will make at least $15.2 million. 

Another issue for the Giants is a bad farm system that lacks impact and depth. Baseball America ranked their system as the 24th-best at the start of last season.

Tyler Beede, one of the players reportedly included in San Francisco's trade proposal for Stanton, had a 4.79 ERA with more hits allowed (121) than innings pitched (109) and just 83 strikeouts in Triple-A last season. 

Essentially, the Giants are just hoping the Marlins are so desperate to be rid of the contracts for Stanton and Gordon to sell low on a deal. 

The Cardinals are better equipped to trade impact players from the minor leagues to make a deal for Stanton. Alcantara has big stuff with a fastball that averaged 98.3 mph in his brief cup of coffee at the MLB level last season, per FanGraphs

Alcantara's 4.31 ERA in Double-A isn't impressive, but one key advantage he has as a trade chip over Beede is age. At 22, St. Louis' flame-thrower is two full years younger than Beede. He has more time to refine his command and control to develop into a potential top-of-the-rotation arm.

There's also the chance this entire discussion will be moot for both teams since Stanton has a full no-trade clause, giving him the ability to dictate his future. If he just wants out of Miami for a chance to win, teams like the Giants and Cardinals will keep working the phones. 

If Stanton, who is from the Los Angeles area, wants to play for a team like the Dodgers, Miami's hands become more tied than they already are. 

         

Mets Eyeing Ian Kinsler

Who are the New York Mets?

Are they closer to being the team that won the 2015 National League pennant and advanced to the postseason in 2016? Are they an unlucky, injury-riddled group that fell apart with a 70-92 record last season?

On raw talent, the Mets are probably closer to the former group. A core that includes Yoenis Cespedes, Michael Conforto, Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom and budding stars like Dominic Smith and Amed Rosario is a really good place to start. 

If the Mets front office believes last season was more of a fluke occurrence than a sign of imminent decline, it's not a surprise they would try to make a bold move to upgrade their roster. 

Per Morosi, the Mets have had "preliminary discussions" with the Detroit Tigers about second baseman Ian Kinsler. 

It's not a bad idea, in theory, because the Tigers have no reason to keep a 35-year-old making $11 million in 2018. They traded Justin Verlander, Justin Wilson and Justin Upton in the middle of last season, signaling that they want to start building for the future. 

The Mets need a second baseman, unless they want to put Asdrubal Cabrera or Gavin Cecchini there to start the season. 

But Kinsler doesn't seem like a good answer for the Mets, given his age and current skill set. His .236 average in 2017 was the worst of his career and his .412 slugging percentage tied his lowest in a single season. 

Kinsler's entire value at this point in his career is almost entirely on defense. He still grades out well, leading all American League second baseman in FanGraphs defensive value (7.8) and defensive runs saved (six) last season.

There's not a great market for second baseman in free agency. Neil Walker, who the Mets traded to the Milwaukee Brewers in August, is the best of a mediocre bunch. 

The Mets are smart to explore all options as they look to improve in 2018, but investing in another aging and offensively-limited middle infielder isn't in their best interest. 

          

The Jurickson Profar Dilemma

It's hard not to interpret the Texas Rangers' handling of Jurickson Profar as an indication they don't view him as a long-term asset. 

Once the top prospect in MLB, Profar's career was derailed when he missed two full years in 2014 and 2015 due to shoulder injuries. He did return in 2016 and has appeared in 112 MLB games over the past two seasons, posting a disappointing .227/.316/.315 slash line in that time. 

Even though Profar's career hasn't taken off as expected when he was an elite prospect, he's only 24 years old and hit .287/.383/.428 in Triple-A last season. 

Since there still seems to be something there with Profar, it's hardly a surprise that Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reported most teams have checked in with the Rangers about the young infielder. 

Joel Sherman of the New York Post got it started by reporting the New York Yankees looked at Profar, despite having an abundance of infielders at the MLB level and in the minors. 

If the Rangers wanted to see what Profar could do, it would've made sense to have him replace second baseman Rougned Odor at some point last season. Odor was the worst second baseman in MLB last season by FanGraphs wins above replacement, hitting just .204/.252/.397. 

Profar needs a change of scenery and a chance to play for a franchise that will throw him in the lineup every day to get consistent reps against MLB pitching to see what he can do. It may not work, but we don't know because the Rangers have never given him a real opportunity. 

       

Contract info via Cot's Baseball Contracts

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

DipClips Will Make It Safer For You To Drive And Dip McNuggies

If you’re the type of person who likes to eat your food while driving, you can know how dangerous it can be to hold your sauce in one hand and dip your Chicken McNuggies with the other, oh I guess you have to occasionally keep your steering wheel from veering you into oncoming traffic too, but whatever. For years, we’ve been crying out for a better solution, and now I think our prayers have been answered.

It’s called DipClip and it’s here to change your life. It’s a clip that attaches to your air vent, that will allow you to safely dip your nuggies or potato sticks in that sweet BBQ or Honey Mustard. I suppose you could also use it for Sweet and Sour sauce, but that’s gross, don’t do that.

It’s made of ABS plastic, should it should hold up pretty well, just don’t go slam dunking your nugs. And as you can tell, it’s design is intended to be compatible with most major fast food chains from Arby’s to some food chain that starts with Z.

Available for pre-order at Kickstarter for $10.

Hit the jump for more beautiful shots and a video of off-road dunking and driving.

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Nothing Can Be More Festive Than This Ellen Ripley Ornament From Aliens

Sci-fi fans will love this Christmas ornament based on the phenomenal sequel to the original alien horror movie, Aliens. The ornament shows our lead protagonist from the movie (and certified badass) Ellen Ripley, as she suits up in the P-5000 Power Loader and prepares to take on the Queen Alien (a.k.a. “You Bitch”).

It comes from the Hallmark line of Christmas decorations, which previously gave us some other great looking ornaments based on pop-culture franchises such as, Star Wars, Disney and, most notably, A Christmas Story. Yea, we have some of those in my house.

The ornaments look great, and are known for the quality reproduction, and this one looks no different. The Ellen Ripley Power Loader ornament can be yours this Christmas and will run you a cool $20.

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Pre-Black Friday Sale: Dash Buttons, Status Audio Headphones, and Rollibot Vacuum Cleaner

Status Audio Closed Back Studio Monitor 

Audio professionals, you only deserve the best headphones to tackle your jobs. Here’s the Status Audio Closed Back Studio Monitor. It’s equipped with 50 mm drivers that deliver its premium sound quality. Ear pads are ergonomic so you can comfortably wear them all throughout long studio rehearsals. Plus, they’re foldable so you can keep it in your bag and not eat up much space. Get it for only $55 today.

Rollibot Robotic Vacuum Cleaner

This Rollibot Robotic Vacuum Cleaner not only sweeps, mops, and vacuums. It also sterilizes with UV and removes pet hair and allergens with its HEPA Filter. It’s the ultimate robot cleaner that will clean your home and protect the health of your family. It’s up for sale for only $144 today.

Dash Button

Fond of Dash buttons? They make your life easier and today’s a good day to get more for other products. A lot of Dash buttons are on sale today for only $2.49 a piece. Those on sale are Dash buttons for Tide, Charmin, Pampers, Keurig, Kleenex, Ziploc, and more.

Giancarlo Stanton Red Sox Trade Would Set Up Dream HR Rivalry with Aaron Judge

It's good enough that Major League Baseball has Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge set to go toe-to-toe in pursuit of slugging accolades for many years to come.

Even better would be if their rivalry were also a face-to-face affair, with Stanton and Judge on opposite sides of the long-running feud between the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees.

Stanton, the National League MVP, and Judge, the American League MVP runner-up, are gigantic right fielders who made impressive shows of launching 59 and 52 home runs, respectively, in 2017. It was hard not to think of them as two very big peas in a very big pod.

But with Stanton playing in the NL East with the Miami Marlins and Judge playing in the AL East with the Yankees, they were rivals much more in theory than in reality.

"It's the kind of a thing where we both have to talk about all the time but don't even know each other, or said hello," Stanton said in July, per Michelle Kaufman of the Miami Herald. "It's like the twin you've never met, I guess. Everyone's comparing us to each other. We don't even know each other."

However, nothing can strike up a true rivalry like close proximity. That may be in the cards for Stanton and Judge.

Stanton and the remainder of his 13-year, $325 million contract are on the chopping block as new Marlins owners Bruce Sherman and Derek Jeter seek to cut payroll. According to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, the trade offers are rolling in:

Per Jon Paul Morosi and Ben Weinrib of MLB.com, the St. Louis Cardinals have since joined the San Francisco Giants in making an offer for Stanton. The Red Sox haven't yet, but are expected to.

After hitting an American-League-low 168 home runs in 2017, the Red Sox surely have a need for Stanton's power. With young talent to deal and pockets deep enough for the $295 million remaining on Stanton's contract, they also fit the profile of a team that can trade for him.

One catch is that the Giants and the Cardinals seem to be more aggressive in their pursuits of Stanton. There's also the question of whether Stanton would waive his no-trade clause for the Red Sox.

A move to Boston wouldn't be a homecoming for the Southern California native. He'd also be blocked from right field by Mookie Betts. Plus, projections from ESPN.com's Dan Szymborski caution that Fenway Park wouldn't actually be a boon to Stanton's power.

As easy as it may be to imagine Stanton launching ball after ball over the Green Monster, that 37-foot wall gives death to hard line drives as easy as it gives life to high fly balls. That's a potential issue for Stanton, who hits home runs at a lower angle (25.4 degrees) than the average hitter (28.0 degrees). 

Still, nobody's going to mischaracterize Fenway Park as a stadium that can utterly destroy Stanton's power. No such stadium exists. Maybe he couldn't keep chasing 60 homers in Boston, but he could keep chasing 50 homers without much trouble. 

Since they're coming off consecutive division titles, the Red Sox also have an advantage over the Giants and Cardinals regarding Stanton's no-trade clause: a more direct path to the wins he so desperately craves.

All told, Stanton in a Red Sox uniform is a legitimate and exciting possibility. But even more exciting is how it would set up a big rivalry inside an even bigger rivalry.

Even if it's a mighty stretch to label them as true rivals, it's understandable if anyone looks at Stanton and Judge and wonders if they're seeing double. 

The two are separated by age (Stanton is 28; Judge is 25) and experience (Stanton has hit 267 homers in eight seasons; Judge just 56 in just over one season) but not much else. Both are massive, with Stanton checking in at 6'6", 245 pounds and Judge at 6'7", 282 pounds. Both pack their bulk into a heck of a punch. To wit, their first full shared season as major leaguers ended with them owning the list of 2017's hardest-hit homers.

Sure, neither is perfect. Both can be made to swing and miss, and Stanton's injury track record is arguably as big a red flag as Judge's lack of a track record.

Even still, they're singular talents. They're also perfect avatars for the era that Major League Baseball now finds itself in. The game spent several years in the hands of hurlers. Fresh off a 2017 season with record-setting home run numbers, the game is now squarely in the hands of sluggers.

Every home run they launch has meaning to this extent. Putting them in the same division and ensuring their home runs also have meaning for the standings is a good way to up the ante.

Which, in turn, makes putting them in the AL East and on either side of the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry the best way to up it.

The rivalry was an all-out war in the mid-2000s, but then faded in subsequent years as the Red Sox and Yankees took turns rising and falling. This past season marked the end of that period. Both clubs made the playoffs for the first time since 2009 and, per Neil Paine of FiveThirtyEight, played their most meaningful games since 2005. Since each team is loaded with young talent, future seasons should contain more where that came from.

The only gripe is that the modern Red Sox-Yankees rivalry isn't well-balanced in regard to power. While the Red Sox were busy finishing dead last in the AL in homers in 2017, Judge and the Yankees were busy hitting an MLB-high 241 homers.

Stanton alone wouldn't balance those scales, but he'd give the Red Sox a leg up on paper. And, more importantly, a guy who could respond in kind when Judge is dropping bombs in head-to-head matchups.

At the risk of actually going there, picture Stanton as the Ted Williams to Judge's Joe DiMaggio. Their individual rivalry would have that kind of epic feeling, and it could mean appropriately huge things in an ongoing Red Sox vs. Yankees battle for AL East supremacy.

Now all that needs to happen is for one little trade to go through.

                  

Stats courtesy of Baseball Reference, FanGraphs and Baseball Savant

Follow zachrymer on Twitter

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Stranger Things Cast Answers Google Autofill Questions About The Show

Here’s a neat video of Stranger Things cast members Gaten Matarazzo and Joe Keery answering questions that appear in Google’s Search Results.

The questions all relate to the topic of the show and range from “Is Stanger Things like the Goonies?” to “Does Stranger Things Get better?”. Oh, and apparently a lot of people think Stanger Things is written by Stephen King.

It’s a short video, but it should help to hold you over until Stranger Things Season 3 releases and answers some of the burning question we have. And hey, if you watch the video 64,388 times in a row, you’ll make it Season 3! (I did the math)

Hit the jump for the video.

Each MLB Team’s Nightmare 2017-18 Offseason Scenario

Every MLB franchise enters the offseason with dreams. Unfortunately, like all dreams, they can curdle into nightmares.

In some cases, it's a club failing to acquire the assets necessary to remain a viable contender or vault toward a title. In others, it's a squad selling low on a bankable asset or letting a key free agent walk away. Some are more nightmarish than others, depending on the strength and status of the roster in question, but none are ideal.

As the hot stove crackles to life, let's run through all 30 teams and identify the winter scenario that would have their front office and fan base waking in a cold sweat.

Cue the music.

Begin Slideshow

Rob Manfred Strikes Fear in Heart of MLB by Banning Former Braves GM for Life

The press release from Major League Baseball dropped just before the close of business Tuesday.

"Commissioner's Statement Regarding Braves' Violations," it said, and that's exactly what this was.

It was a statement, perhaps the strongest one Rob Manfred has made yet in his three years as the commissioner of baseball. It was a statement heard round the baseball world, one that many who have decried the Wild West nature of baseball's international signing game had been hoping for but never really expected.

Manfred's full release describing the findings and the penalties were posted on MLB.com.

The Braves organization later responded to MLB's decision, saying it “cooperated fully throughout this investigation and we understand and accept the decision regarding the penalties that have been handed down.”

"Game changer," said one executive who has worked in the international market. "I think this will have a major impact in how people operate."

It should. It might not, because the incentives to cheat are still great. But at least now everyone in baseball should understand the penalties for cheating can be even greater.

Ask John Coppolella, the former Braves general manager who had already lost his job but now has lost any chance at getting another one. In addition to stripping the Braves of 12 prospects Coppolella and his staff signed over the last three years, Manfred placed Coppolella on MLB's permanently ineligible list.

To be clear, that's the Pete Rose list, the Shoeless Joe Jackson list, the list that says you did something so bad baseball wants no part of you anymore.

That's a statement.

Manfred also effectively prohibited the Braves from signing any significant international free agent between now and July 2, 2020, and cut their signing bonus pool in half for the year after that. Gordon Blakeley, who had been a Braves special assistant until he and Coppolella were both forced to resign Oct. 2, received a one-year ban. Manfred also took away the Braves' third-round draft pick next June, because they were found to have broken one of the draft signing rules, too.

That's a statement, too.

There will be those who say everyone cheats on the international market, that the Braves were simply the team that got caught. Multiple officials from teams around baseball strongly disputed that sentiment in the hours after Manfred's announcement. All of them agreed the penalties were strong, even stunningly strong, but not one of them suggested they weren't justified.

"The Braves were reckless," one major league general manager said.

What did they do? Like everything in the international market, it's a little complicated, but we'll try to simplify it here.

While players from outside the U.S. and Canada aren't subject to the June draft, teams can't simply sign anyone they want for as much money as they want to give. For the last several years, MLB has given each team a pool of money. What the Braves did, according to MLB, was circumvent those rules by giving some prospects smaller bonuses on paper, while channeling more money to them through their agents and claiming it went to players not covered by the signing rules.

By doing so, they stayed within their cap for the 2015-16 signing period, enabling them to overspend the next year. Had they reported the bonuses they actually gave in 2015-16, they would have been prohibited from signing any player for more than $300,000 in 2016-17, effectively taking them out of the market for the nine "high-value" prospects they signed that year.

Basically, the Braves found a way to get around the rules and sign a huge number of players they could not have signed within the rules. Other teams trying to sign the same players suspected right away something fishy was going on, and an MLB investigation that took nearly two months found significant cheating.

Other teams have been charged with similar "bundling" violations in the past. Five players originally signed by the Boston Red Sox were made free agents in 2016, and the Red Sox were banned from international signings for a year.

"My [international scouts] have been upset for a long time because it progressively gets worse with more clubs each year," said another general manager, who agreed the Braves have been the worst offenders.

Both general managers contacted by Bleacher Report said the only long-term solution that would work is an international draft. One of the GMs called the current system unfair to the players involved, saying many of the bonuses never get to the players and are instead diverted to trainers and others who deliver the players to teams that sign them.

The players union has long fought the idea of an international draft, believing it would cut bonuses even further by limiting players to negotiating with a single team. Baseball officials and players in the Dominican Republic, Venezuela and other countries have feared a draft and lower bonuses would harm the baseball infrastructure in their countries. The current collective bargaining agreement, which runs through 2021, doesn't allow for a draft.

Baseball is going to continue to operate under the current system, at least for a while. Manfred is determined to get teams to play by those rules, or else. He showed Tuesday what "or else" means.

"I think it will put the brakes on things, at least for the immediate future," one of the GMs said. "MLB has done a lot, and I believe they will continue to work on this."

The Braves got hit hard, make no mistake about it. Coppolella got hit even harder. The penalties are severe, unprecedented for this type of violation.

They were strong enough to catch the attention of everyone in baseball. The hope is they're strong enough to convince everyone that serious cheating on the international market isn't worth the risk.

    

Danny Knobler covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report.

Follow Danny on Twitter and talk baseball.

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Shohei Ohtani Set to Join MLB After Posting Agreement Reportedly Reached

Major League Baseball, the MLB Players Association and Nippon Professional Baseball reportedly reached a tentative agreement Tuesday on a new posting system that will allow two-way Japanese star Shohei Ohtani to play stateside in 2018. 

According to MLB Network's Jon Morosi, previous posting rules—which dictate MLB teams can pay NPB clubs a maximum fee of $20 million—will continue to apply this offseason before a new arrangement kicks in after the 2018 campaign. 

The New York Post's Joel Sherman broke down the details of the new posting terms: 

Sherman added the agreement must be ratified by MLB owners next Friday in order for Ohtani to officially be posted by the Nippon Ham-Fighters. 

Assuming the new deal is pushed through, Sherman reported Ohtani will have 21 days to sign once he's posted. 

But because Ohtani isn't yet 25 years old and is still defined as an international amateur, according to MLB's collective bargaining agreement, he'll be restricted to signing a minor league contract that's accompanied by a signing bonus from his future employer's international bonus pool. 

According to the Associated Press, the Texas Rangers can offer Ohtani the maximum of $3.5 million, while the New York Yankees can offer $3.25 million and the Minnesota Twins can dangle $3.24 million. 

Only three other clubs—the Pittsburgh Pirates, Miami Marlins and Seattle Mariners—can offer upward of $1 million. 

As things stand, the Yankees are reportedly considered the front-runners to land the 23-year-old. 

"The Yankees are the favorite, there's no other way to look at it," a National League executive told FanRag Sports' Jon Heyman

Hideki Matsui, who came over to the Yankees from Japan in December 2002, told MLB.com's Deesha Thosar through a translator on Saturday he would he happy to help the team in its recruitment of Ohtani if asked. 

"If that's something he wants to do and the team wants it, then why not?" he said. "If he's allowed to come here and the Yankees are interested, then I expect to be involved in that process as maybe trying to convince him or recruit him to the Yankees."

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Former Braves GM John Coppolella Banned for Life from MLB for Rule Violation

Former Atlanta Braves general manager John Coppolella has been banned for life by Major League Baseball in a punishment that stems from multiple violations in the international market. 

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred issued a statement Tuesday announcing Coppolella's ban, via MLB.com's Mark Feinsand:

In addition to Coppolella's lifetime ban, former Braves special assistant Gordon Blakely was suspended one year. 

Manfred also announced 12 players the Braves signed illegally during the 2015-17 international free-agent period have been released from their contracts, making them eligible to sign with any team. The Braves are prohibited from signing any international players for more than $10,000 during the 2019-20 window, and their international signing bonus pool in 2020-21 will be cut by 50 percent. 

As noted by Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports, Manfred's sanctions against the Braves are "the sort of penalty that will make teams think long and hard about cheating."

Coppolella resigned as Atlanta's general manager on Oct. 2 following an MLB investigation into the team's international signing methods. The 38-year-old took over the position in Oct. 2015 after previously serving as the Braves' director of baseball operations and assistant general manager. 

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