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still plenty of work to
#1
TORONTO -- Andrew Stein and Glenn Macaulay bought into the Blue Jays hype. Best friends since kindergarten and lifelong baseball fans, the pair were swept up in the promise of 2013 and purchased season tickets. From the top level of Rogers Centre above home plate they watched as Toronto slumped through the spring then came alive during an 11-game winning streak only to finish last in the AL East. Excitement isnt a word they used to describe their hopes for 2014. "I wouldnt say worried," said Stein. "Not optimistic," said Macaulay. "Yeah, not optimistic," said Stein. "Maybe slightly uneasy that its just going to be a repeat of last year." Stein and Macaulay were among the Blue Jays season ticket holders at Rogers Centre on Wednesday for the teams annual State of the Franchise event. Team president and CEO Paul Beeston, general manager Alex Anthopoulos and manager John Gibbons were on hand to take questions as jazz played throughout the stadium and food and drinks were handed out to fans wondering just what the state of the team is. Anthopoulos had no surprise announcements, nor was he worried about being grilled despite promises of change going unfulfilled during a quiet off-season. "When you dont have a good season you expect theres criticism that comes with that, that goes without saying, thats part of it," he said. "But again, these fans, I think its a different type of setting because these are the season-seat holders. They support the club. They love the team good and bad. Obviously were here to be accountable and to make ourselves available to talk and answer whatever questions they might have." Torontos only notable acquisition has been catcher Dioner Navarro, who was brought on to replace J.P. Arencibia. Navarro, who hit .300 with 13 home runs and 34 RBIs in 240 at-bats with the Chicago Cubs last season, barely made the splash that all-stars Jose Reyes or R.A. Dickey did when Toronto traded for them prior to last season. "(Navarro will) be serviceable. Im not going to buy his jersey or anything," said Stein. The Blue Jays real need, the one Anthopoulos promised would be his winter focus, is starting pitching. Dickey, coming off a Cy Young season, struggled, although not as badly as Josh Johnson. J.A. Happ missed time after being hit in the head by a frightening comebacker in May, while Brandon Morrows season ended in July with a forearm injury. Only Mark Buehrle, who also had a slow start to the season, performed to expectation. Torontos rotation finished with a 4.81 earned-run average last season, second worst in the majors, and the starters 899.1 innings pitched were 28th in baseball. But Toronto has stood pat during the off-season. Japanese phenom Masahiro Tanaka was signed by the New York Yankees before veteran Matt Garza joined the Milwaukee Brewers. Several pitchers such as Ervin Santana and Ubaldo Jimenez still remain on the market, but Anthopoulos said progress has been slowed by free agents who cost teams draft picks. That doesnt apply to the Blue Jays -- theyve got two protected first-round draft picks. But Anthopoulos remained non-committal. "We like some of the upside of the guys that are coming back. Wed still like to add," he said. "I think weve been very open about that. I dont know whats going to happen obviously between now and the start of camp. "Depending on how free agency goes or even the trade market, maybe its beyond that, but we are excited about some of the guys coming back, especially some of the young guys. Theres upside to the performance of a lot of these guys. But at the same time were still going to be active and try to get a starter." Whereas Anthopoulos could only ask fans to stick by the team, Gibbons said hes looking ahead after making peace with 2013. "After I was home for about two weeks I said, you know what, its time for a new season," said Gibbons. "Ive always been an optimistic guy. Its smart to look back and look at some areas to do things differently maybe to improve some things. But in the end youve got to turn the page and its a new start here in the next two months." Gibbons, who heard plenty of calls for his dismissal last season, isnt worried about the direction of the team. He acknowledged fans frustrations, and that there wont be as much good will in April as there was last year. "It sure would be nice me coming in here feeling good going to this thing having won something, but until you do that youre just hoping and dreaming. So hopefully we can do that." What, then, is the state of the Blue Jays? Ask again on Opening Day. Koen Casteels Belgium Jersey . -- Athletics manager Bob Melvin is already starting to run out of superlatives to describe Scott Kazmir. Adnan Januzaj Belgium Jersey .L. - Defending womens champion Alberta improved to 3-0 at the Canadian junior curling championships with a 10-3 win over Ontario in Sundays afternoon draw. http://www.belgiumsoccerpro.com/Toby-Ald...um-Jersey/ . According to a report from ESPN, Lynch wants a new contract from the Seahawks, and will likely skip all off-season workouts until he can renegotiate his deal with the Seahawks. Thomas Meunier Jersey . Jimmy Howard made 44 saves and Henrik Zetterberg scored two goals, leading the Detroit Red Wings to a 5-1 victory over the Dallas Stars on Saturday night. Belgium Jerseys . Catch the game on TSN starting at 7pm et/4pm pt. You can also listen to all the action live on TSN 1050 at 7pm et. The Knicks are two games behind the Atlanta Hawks for the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference race.Severn Stars director of netball Anita Navin says they could face a tough task in convincing established players to join the franchise, but says that will give younger players a chance to impress. Stars were one of three new franchises granted a licence for the 2017 Vitality Superleague and having got a home venue in place, a head coach to oversee matters on the court, the challenge is to now build a squad to compete.It is a difficult one for a franchise setting out on a journey at the top level of the game in this country, but it is one that will present opportunities. We are having conversations with players who are saying I am in an established top four franchise but I dont know if Ill be in the first seven, can you give me more court time? Navin said.That is a difficult question, but I explain our coach and franchise vision and that will be seen over the season and until they have seen us play then they are a little bit hesitant to move.There may be some disappointed players who stay with their franchise but see individuals who have not reached their level out on our court. Moonia Gerrard is the head coach of Severn Stars Plenty of overseas stars have added much to the competition and Navin admits the challenge will be getting the blend right between talent from abroad, established and emerging England players and talented local youngsters.I really want to make sure we dont just bring players to the area. We want to grow the young talent and there is a pretty good base of 17/18 year-old players in the area, Navin told Sky Sports.So we have committed to saying we will use imports if we need them but initially we want to know what players are coming to us from England and who can play for their country - whether they are U19 or U21.Then we can see where the gaps are and see if we need imported players. We are determined to make a good squad environment with a blend of experience and youth. I really want to make sure we dont just bring players to the area. We want to grow the young talent and there is a pretty good base of 17/18 year-old players in the area. Anita Navin New head coach Moonia Gerrard has a track record of working with young players and having played at the top level herself with 68 Test Appearances for the Australian Diamonds she shares the same beliefs.We are not oveer ambitious although being Australian Moonia is pretty ambitious already - she has a winning mentality and finishing top is where she wants to be, Navin said.ddddddddddddBut we are realistic and she shares the same vision as us that it is about blending and growing the youth but not throwing them onto court if they are not ready. We have a real focus to grow and not just a one season win, but we can build for the future over the coming years.The established franchises have got their brands, theyve got the players that are looking to move into a top four franchise so it is a bit harder for us but that is an opportunity as we can invest in some players who may not be getting onto court at other franchises.We can look to get them opportunities with more established players. Gerrard has a wealth of coaching experience in Australia The new season gets underway in January so there is still plenty of work to put in place as plans come together and Navin and Gerrard are working hard to get the squad in place.We are conscious that we want a core framework of players by mid-August, Navin added.So Moonia is looking to come over a bit earlier now, she wants to see players, she wants to talk to individuals. I dont want to make any decisions for her, I want to be her squad and her selection.We are looking at players now and are trying to get a framework of three or four experienced players, whether they are still playing for England or have retired. But that is an opportunity for us to get a backbone and then add in some of the youth.As much as players are asking me about our player package, I am passing it through to  Moonia for her to look at what she wants and where she sees the experienced players fitting.We think there may also be a bit of a window in September when some of the players have been to the top franchises but find that there have been imports and it might look doubtful that they will get on court.Check out daily Netball news ahead of the 2017 Vitality Superleague season on skysports.com/netball, our app for mobile devices and iPad and our Twitter account @skysportsnetball.By purchasing a Sky Sports Day Pass for £6.99 or Sky Sports Week Pass for £10.99, you can enjoy access to all seven Sky Sports channels and watch on a TV with a NOW TV Box or on a range of devices. 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