The Chicago Cubs owners, the Ricketts family, and billionaire hedge fund tycoon Ken Griffin have partnered together to launch a bid to buy Chelsea.

Blues owner Roman Abramovich, who has been sanctioned by the United Kingdom government following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, is attempting to sell the Premier League club.

The deadline for bids is expected to be Friday, with a plethora of investors interested – including British billionaire and boyhood Blues fan Nick Candy.

The Ricketts family, who became major shareholders of Major League Baseball's Cubs in 2009, have reportedly combined with American Griffin to form a consortium capable of taking over at Stamford Bridge.

A widely reported statement from the Ricketts family on Wednesday confirmed their role in the bid and added: "As long-time operators of an iconic professional sports team, the Ricketts Family and their partners understand the importance of investing for success on the pitch, while respecting the traditions of the club, the fans and the community.

"We look forward to sharing further details of our plans in due course."

The Cubs' owners have overseen an impressive period of success at the franchise, both on and off the field.

Chicago ended a 108-year wait for World Series success in 2016 and completed a $1billion renovation of home ground Wrigley Field, a project which is thought to appeal to Chelsea fans demanding improvements to Stamford Bridge.

Abramovich, whose 19-year tenure at the London club is soon set to come to an end, had his British assets – including Chelsea – frozen last week and was disqualified as director of the club.

The Russian has owned Chelsea since 2003, with the club claiming 21 trophies during his spell at the helm.

 

 

The reigning World Series champion Atlanta Braves appear to be moving on from free agent and fan favourite Freddie Freeman at first base, having acquired Matt Olson from the Oakland Athletics on Monday.

The Braves are sending four prospects – outfielder Cristian Pache, catcher Shea Langeliers and right-handed pitchers Ryan Cusick and Joey Estes – to Oakland in return for the left-handed slugger.

The 27-year-old Olson, who was raised in the Atlanta suburbs, enjoyed a breakout season in 2021 and was named to his first All-Star Game, leading the A's in homers (39), doubles (35), RBIs (111) and OPS (.911).

Since his first full season in the majors in 2017, his 142 home runs are tied with Mike Trout for 10th in MLB.

The addition of Olson signals that the Braves will be moving on from Freeman, who has spent his entire 12-year career in Atlanta, culminating with a World Series championship last November.

A five-time All-Star and the 2020 National League MVP, the 32-year-old Freeman is a career .295-hitter and ranks sixth on the Braves all-time home run list with 271 and third in doubles with 367.

All-Star shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. could be sidelined up to three months with a fractured left wrist that will likely require surgery, San Diego Padres general manager A.J. Preller said on Monday.

The 23-year-old Tatis hurt his wrist earlier in the offseason, according to Preller, and the injury reappeared when he intensified baseball activities leading up to the start of spring training.

The injury is a major let-down for one of the brightest young stars in baseball on a Padres team hoping to make a return to the playoffs in 2022 after collapsing down the stretch last season, finishing 79-83.

Despite missing time in 2021 due to left shoulder inflammation, Tatis still managed to lead the National League with 42 home runs in just 130 games.

He hit .282, stole 25 bases and had the league's third-highest OPS at .975, finishing the year third in the NL in MVP voting.

The Padres are scheduled to begin the season on April 7 against the Arizona Diamondbacks, and will play their home opener a week later against the reigning World Series champion Atlanta Braves.

Three-time Cy Young award winner and former NL MVP Clayton Kershaw has reportedly agreed to a one-year deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers worth $17million.

First reported by The Athletic, the deal means the future Hall of Famer – who turns 34 later this month – will return to the Dodgers for the 15th consecutive season, keeping Kershaw as a one-club player as he enters the tail-end of his prime years.

The deal is still pending a physical, which may play a factor if the elbow injury that forced Kershaw to miss the end of the 2021 season – including the postseason – remains an issue.

However, no team will have a better idea about the health of Kershaw than the Dodgers, suggesting it is exceedingly unlikely that anything would show up on the physical with the potential to torpedo the deal.

It was not a rushed decision from the Los Angeles ball club, as they opted not to tender Kershaw's $18.4m qualifying offer following the World Series, allowing more time to gather information and come to a decision.

 

The Chicago Cubs have re-signed manager and former World Series hero David Ross for at least two more seasons after two relatively positive campaigns under his watch.

Ross, who guided the Cubs to a division win with a 34-26 record in the coronavirus-shortened 2020 season, had different expectations this past season after the organisation opted to trade star players Kris Bryant, Javi Baez and Anthony Rizzo with an eye towards the future.

With a slew of young prospects, and plenty to prove, bookmakers have the Cubs at 100-1 to win the next World Series, indicating that Ross' extension will hopefully provide stability and a consistent voice throughout this rebuild.

The two-year extension through 2024 also includes a third-year team option, which means the organisation can tack on an extra year if things are trending in the right direction.

Ross finished his playing career with the Cubs, hitting a home run in game seven of the 2016 World Series to help break a 108-year championship drought for the franchise.

Major League Baseball has announced an agreement with the MLB Players Association that will end baseball's lockout in time for the 2022 regular season to start on April 7.

A full 162-game schedule is to be played this year after a new collective bargaining agreement was belatedly secured.

MLB had previously cancelled Opening Day and then games up until April 14 as part of the lockout, vowing a shortened season would be the result, with players not compensated for lost games.

Finally, though, on Thursday, the two sides came to terms on a deal that was ratified by owners in a unanimous 30-0 vote and sets the new season in motion.

And the four series that had been removed from the calendar will now be rescheduled.

Detailed the new CBA, MLB said: "The new five-year CBA includes increased minimum salaries, a new pre-arbitration bonus pool to reward the top young players in the game, a raise in competitive balance tax thresholds, the introduction of a universal designated hitter, the widest-ranging Draft lottery in pro sports, a system to prevent alleged service-time manipulation and limits on the number of times a player can be optioned in a season to address concerns regarding 'roster churn'.

"The deal also includes an expanded 12-team postseason format, bringing playoff baseball to two additional markets each year."

Commissioner Rob Manfred said of the news: "I am genuinely thrilled to say Major League Baseball is back and we're going to play 162 games.

"I want to start by apologising to our fans. I know the last few months have been difficult."

The MLB has cancelled games until April 14 as the league's lockout goes on, with the decision criticised as "completely unnecessary" by the players' association.

The owners and players have still to reach a resolution on a new collective bargaining agreement, with MLB enduring the ninth work stoppage in its history, which has already seen Opening Day cancelled.

In a statement on Wednesday, commissioner Rob Manfred said: "In a last-ditch effort to preserve a 162-game season, this week we have made good-faith proposals that address the specific concerns voiced by the MLBPA and would have allowed the players to return to the field immediately. 

"The Clubs went to extraordinary lengths to meet the substantial demands of the MLBPA. On the key economic issues that have posed stumbling blocks, the Clubs proposed ways to bridge gaps to preserve a full schedule. Regrettably, after our second late-night bargaining session in a week, we remain without a deal.

"Because of the logistical realities of the calendar, another two series are being removed from the schedule, meaning that Opening Day is postponed until April 14th. 

"We worked hard to reach an agreement and offered a fair deal with significant improvements for the players and our fans. I am saddened by this situation's continued impact on our game and all those who are a part of it, especially our loyal fans.

"We have the utmost respect for our players and hope they will ultimately choose to accept the fair agreement they have been offered."

In response, the MLBPA said: "The owners' decision to cancel additional games is completely unnecessary.

"After making a set of comprehensive proposals to the league earlier this afternoon [Wednesday], and being told substantive responses were forthcoming, players have yet to hear back.

"Players want to play, and we cannot wait to get back on the field for the best fans in the world.

"Our top priority remains the finalisation of a fair contract for all players, and we will continue negotiations toward that end."

Among the key monetary issues being discussed are the scale of a Competitive Balance Tax, minimum salaries and bonus pool money for pre-arbitration players.

Player salaries have dropped four per cent since 2015, when Manfred became commissioner.

Players stand to lose $20.5million in salary for every day of the season that is cancelled.

Major League Baseball's Players Association (MLBPA) announced on Friday it will set up a $1million fund to help employees affected by the labour dispute that has delayed the start of the 2022 season.

The support program, which will be overseen by the MLBPA in conjunction with the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), is designed to provide financial assistance for stadium workers and other employees who may endure hardship by owners' lockout and cancellation of games.

"There are a lot of people who make our game great. Many aren't seen or heard, but they are vital to the entertainment experience of our games," MLBPA executive board leaders Andrew Miller and Max Scherzer said in a statement.

"Unfortunately, they will also be among those affected by the owner-imposed lockout and the cancellation of games. Through this fund, we want to let them know that they have our support."

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred announced on Tuesday that the league has cancelled all games scheduled for the first week of the upcoming season due to the current impasse in negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement. It's the first work stoppage since the players' strike in 1994-95 that wiped out the 1994 World Series.

The MLPA added that it will work with the AFL-CIO in the coming weeks to determine which areas will be most impacted by the stoppage and outline a plan to distribute its resources to where they will be most needed.

"Whether you're a worker on the baseball field, or a worker behind the scenes, we all deserve respect and dignity on the job," AFL-CIO president Liz Shuler said. "The labour movement will do everything in our power to support these and all workers."

The owners imposed the current lockout on Dec. 2 following the expiration of the previous CBA, and Manfred announced an agreement would need to be reached by Tuesday in order to prevent a delay to the season's start. The two sides met extensively in Florida earlier this week, but remain at odds on key economic elements to prevent a deal from being reached.

Talks broke off between the two parties following Tuesday's deadline, and no decision has yet been made as to when negotiations will resume.

The 2022 MLB season will not start on time after owners and players failed to reach an agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement.

A deadline of 17:00 eastern time on Tuesday had been set by management, yet no deal was stuck.

Commissioner Rob Manfred announced that the first two series of the season were cancelled as the players remain locked out in an ongoing and bitter labour dispute.

"I had hoped against hope I wouldn't have to have this press conference where I am going to cancel some regular-season games," Manfred said on Tuesday.

"We worked hard to avoid an outcome that's bad for our fans, bad for our players and bad for our clubs.”

The MLB Players' Association issued a statement less than an hour after Manfred spoke, saying that players and fans worldwide are "disgusted, but sadly not surprised."

"What Rob Manfred characterized as a 'defensive lockout' is, in fact, the culmination of a decades-long attempt by owners to break our Player fraternity," the statement said.

"As in the past, this effort will fail."

The sides did make some progress, however, negotiating for over 16 hours on Monday before management made its "best and final offer" on Tuesday, the ninth straight day of meetings.

The players' union rejected that offer, and the owners followed through on their threat to cancel games.

Only the first week of games have been officially cancelled, so MLB could salvage a 156-game season starting on April 8 if a deal is made in the coming days, but the two sides remain divided with no imminent resolution in sight.

The players have yet to accept any cancellation and could try to negotiate for the unlikely result of rescheduled games. Manfred explained that the league will not compensate players for any cancelled games.

Among the key monetary issues still being discussed are the scale of a Competitive Balance Tax, minimum salaries and bonus pool money for pre-arbitration players.

Player salaries have dropped four per cent since 2015, when Manfred became commissioner.

Manfred – along with players' union leader Tony Clark – are likely to receive the ire of fans as baseball will have a shortened season for the second time in three years. The 2020 campaign was shortened to 60 games due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Players stand to lose $20.5million in salary for every day of the season that is cancelled.

Major League Baseball has extended a deadline for talks with the MLB Players Association, which had been set for Monday.

MLB warned last week the 2022 season would be shortened and players would not be compensated if there was no new collective bargaining agreement by the end of February.

However, as talks continued between the league and the union into Tuesday, there was still hope such an outcome could be avoided.

"We want to exhaust every possibility to get a deal done," a league spokesperson said, with Tuesday now seen as the key day in negotiations.

Reports claim MLB has made a move towards MLBPA's demands in terms of the luxury tax threshold, minimum salary and bonus pool without yet meeting them.

Plans for further talks on Tuesday would suggest there is room for further movement as the two sides seek an end to the lockout.

Hall of Famer Derek Jeter announced on Monday he will step down as CEO of the Miami Marlins, a position he held since September 2017.

The Marlins went 218-327 in his four full seasons at the helm, making the playoffs once in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season following last-place finishes in 2018 and 2019. They finished fourth in the NL East this past season, going 67-95.

"I will no longer serve as CEO nor as a shareholder in the club," Jeter said in a statement released through PR Newswire, and not the Marlins.

"We had a vision five years ago to turn the Marlins franchise around, and as CEO, I have been proud to put my name and reputation on the line to make our plan a reality.

"Through hard work, trust and accountability, we transformed every aspect of the franchise, reshaping the workforce, and developing a long-term strategic plan for success.

"That said, the vision for the future of the franchise is different than the one I signed up to lead."

The Marlins were last in MLB in attendance in 2021, drawing less than 8,000 fans per game, and ranked 27th out of 30 teams in payroll at $61million – stark differences than what Jeter was used to during his playing days with the New York Yankees.

A five-time World Series champion and 14-time All-Star during a career spent entirely with the Yankees from 1995 to 2014, Jeter ranks sixth on baseball’s all-time hits list with 3,465. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2020.

Major League Baseball has warned the 2022 season will be shortened and players will lose money if the lockout is not ended by Monday.

Monday represents the February 28 deadline the league has set as negotiations continue with the MLB Players Association over a new collective bargaining agreement.

That deadline had already been publicised to allow Opening Day to take place on March 31.

But with talks still unsuccessful to this point, MLB said on Wednesday there would be no room for manoeuvre with that date.

And if that deadline passes and games are missed, the league does not plan to compensate players.

"A deadline is a deadline. Missed games are missed games," a spokesperson said. "Salary will not be paid for those games."

Major League Baseball has postponed all spring training games until March 5 at the earliest as negotiations continue to end the lockout.

Games were due to take place from Saturday, February 26, but the lack of a breakthrough in talks with the MLB Players Association (MLBPA) has prompted the delay in getting back on the field.

MLB said in a statement on Friday: "We regret that, without a collective bargaining agreement in place, we must postpone the start of spring training games until no earlier than Saturday, March 5. All 30 clubs are unified in their strong desire to bring players back to the field and fans back to the stands.

"We are committed to reaching an agreement that is fair to each side. On Monday, members of the owners' bargaining committee will join an in-person meeting with the Players Association and remain every day next week to negotiate and work hard toward starting the season on time."

MLB has designated Monday, February 28 as its deadline for a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) deal to be signed off to allow Opening Day to take place on March 31.

The MLBPA said in December that the lockout was a move designed by team owners "to pressure players into relinquishing rights and benefits".

On the part of the MLB, commissioner Rob Manfred claimed the MLBPA "came to the bargaining table with a strategy of confrontation over compromise", describing demands as "the most extreme set of proposals in their history".

Talks have continued in an effort to find agreement on labour terms and the MLBPA made a new offer on Thursday.

A previous strike led by players forced the 1994 World Series to be scrapped, and lasted into 1995.

A former Los Angeles Angels communications director faces 20 years to life in prison after being found guilty of supplying drugs that caused the death of pitcher Tyler Skaggs.

Skaggs, who played for the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Angels across a seven-year MLB career, was found dead in a Southlake hotel on July 1, 2019 after an overdose.

Eric Kay has been convicted of distribution offences, following the testimony of several other former Angels players who said he also dealt pills to them on team premises.

Kay was found guilty in Fort Worth, Texas on Thursday and will be sentenced on June 28.

The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Texas said in a statement: "After less than an hour and a half of deliberation, a federal jury found former Angels communications director Eric Prescott Kay, 45, guilty of distribution of a controlled substance resulting in death and conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute controlled substances.

"According to evidence presented at trial, Mr Kay distributed the pills that killed Mr Skaggs.

"In the course of their investigation, the Drug Enforcement Administration determined that Mr Kay allegedly regularly dealt the blue M/30 pills – dubbed 'blue boys' – to Mr Skaggs and to others, dolling out the pills at the stadium where they worked."

A pill examined by investigators, taken from Skaggs' hotel room, showed it had been laced with the synthetic opiate fentanyl.

Confirming Kay faced a considerable sentence, the statement added: "Mr Kay now faces between 20 years and life in federal prison."

U.S. Attorney Chad Meacham said: "This case is a sobering reminder: fentanyl kills. Anyone who deals fentanyl – whether on the streets or out of a world-famous baseball stadium – puts his or her buyers at risk. No one is immune from this deadly drug. A beloved pitcher, Tyler Skaggs was struck down in the midst of an ascendant career.

"The Justice Department is proud to hold his dealer accountable for his family and friends' unimaginable loss."

pic.twitter.com/ETEG3Nb9hv

— Los Angeles Angels (@Angels) February 17, 2022

The Angels said the evidence in the case had been "incredibly difficult... to hear".

The Major League Baseball franchise said in a statement: "On behalf of the entire Angels organisation, we are saddened by the devastating heartache that surrounds this tragedy, especially for the Skaggs family.

"The players' testimony was incredibly difficult for our organisation to hear, and it is a reminder that too often drug use and addiction are hidden away. From the moment we learned of Tyler's death, our focus has been to fully understand the circumstances that led to this tragedy."

Barry Bonds missed out again on baseball's Hall of Fame as David Ortiz was elected in his first year on the ballot.

For a 10th year, the vote of the Baseball Writers' Association of America (BBWAA) did not give sufficient backing to San Francisco Giants great Bonds, the player with the most home runs in Major League history (762).

Bonds will no longer feature on future BBWAA ballots, but he could still reach the Hall of Fame through a different route.

Players required votes from 75 per cent of the baseball writers, and Ortiz got there after securing 77.9 per cent support. That amounted to a vote of approval on 307 of the 394 ballots, but Bonds could only draw 66 per cent (260 votes).

Boston Red Sox great Ortiz, a Dominican-American who struck 541 home runs across his MLB career, began his career with the Minnesota Twins but came to the fore in Boston where he spent 14 seasons from 2003 to 2016.

Now 46, Ortiz was a 10-time All-Star and three-time World Series winner during his Red Sox career. Players are eligible for Hall of Fame nomination after five years in retirement.

Popularly known as 'Big Papi', Ortiz's election was praised by Bonds, who wrote on Instagram: "CONGRATULATIONS Big Papi on your induction into the Hall of Fame! Well deserved…I love you my brother."

Joining Bonds in missing out during a 10th year of eligibility were Roger Clemens (65.2 per cent), Curt Schilling (58.6 per cent) and Sammy Sosa (18.5 per cent).

They and Bonds could yet secure Hall of Fame status via the Today's Game Era Committee, which will meet in December to consider players who have made an impact on the sport since 1988.

Ortiz will be joined in being officially inducted in Cooperstown this July by six selections from the Golden Days and Early Baseball Era committees. They are Jim Kaat and Tony Oliva, along with the late Bud Fowler, Gil Hodges, Minnie Minoso and Buck O'Neil.

Bonds was a seven-time National League MVP in a career that spanned 1986 to 2007, beginning at the Pittsburgh Pirates before he moved on to San Francisco from 1993. He experienced controversy surrounding performance-enhancing drugs allegations, but Bonds has always insisted he did not knowingly use any such substances.

The San Francisco Giants expressed disappointment at Bonds missing out, posting on Twitter: "We remain hopeful that he will gain election into the National Baseball Hall of Fame through the next phase of the voting process."

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