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Hot Button: MLB playoffs in a bubble? … Wild Things forced to shut down … Power 5 football stars unite, want to play

ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- Hot Button is a 'round-the-clock feature that covers anything across the scope of sports. We're here to bring you everything hot: news items, highlights, takes — everything but hot meals — whether local, national or international. Better yet, it’s interactive. Share your thoughts in comments, and even post your own links to interesting, safe-for-work sports stories.

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Tuesday, August 11: Multiple sources have stated that Major League Baseball is considering using bubble cities for the 2020 playoffs to avoid the regular-season struggles with coronavirus, particularly the severe outbreaks with the Marlins and Cardinals.

With 16 playoff teams, it's speculated the league feels it would need three cities for the best-of-three wildcard round, then two cities for subsequent rounds, similar to the NHL's format with Edmonton and Toronto as locations for teams in the west and east, respectively. The difficulty lies in selecting cities that have the necessary capacity for all the players and adequate facilities, but also provides a safe environment for the playoff teams.

They better do something because it's not feasible to finish the playoffs if a team has an outbreak. — Bob


Monday, August 10: The Washington Wild Things announced in a press release they were forced to shutter their Independent League baseball season after Pennsylvania State Police threatened enforcement action if they continued playing. The release did not identify any specific reasons why the police threatened action.

The Wild Things, who play out of Wild Thing Park in Washington, Pa., were one of the few organizations in North America playing baseball in front of fans, hosting 250 spectators per game. They created their own little bubble city with three other independent teams — Baseball Brilliance Sox, Road Warriors, and Steel City Slammin' Sammies — quarantining before the season and following strict safety protocols when play began on July 9. The Wild Things did so well with player and fan safety, they received a special exemption from Governor Tom Wolf's office to have 50-percent capacity, approximately 2,200 fans, but voluntarily kept attendance to 250 when a recent coronavirus spike hit Western Pennsylvania.

Wild Things general Manager Tony Buccilli said, “We feel terrible. We never want to disappoint our fans and we were hoping not to have layoffs. Equally painful, we’re pulling the rug out from under our players and coaching staff who are in the middle of playoffs.  It’s terrible to work hard, trying do the right things, and then to be accused of doing something wrong.”

Team president Stu Williams was proud of the organization's positive impact on local business, stating the team "continued to be an economic generator for Washington County this summer, drawing people from all over the country to Washington, PA where they could experience one of a handful of places hosting live professional baseball. In addition, the Wild Things generated business for area hoteliers, landlords, and restaurants, by drawing four baseball teams to live here for six weeks."

Looks like we can't have nice things. — Bob


Monday, August 10: More than a dozen top names in college football representing all Power 5 conferences held a video call late Sunday and issued a statement early Monday morning expressing their desire to play the 2020 season, standardization of coronavirus safety protocols and opt-outs that allow players to keep eligibility.

Rallying around the hashtags #WeAreUnited and #WeWantToPlay, the players, including Heisman hopefuls Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields, also announced their desire to form a players association in the future, though no indication was given over whether that would seek to be a formal labor union.

This move by the players may be in response to emergency meetings held Sunday by the Power 5 conferences which are discussing whether to cancel entirely the 2020 fall sports season or postpone football, at least, until Spring 2021. — Bob


Sunday, August 9: The inevitable happened Sunday when the Oakland Athletics and Houston Astros brawled during Sunday's game after A's outfielder Ramon Laureano charged the Astros dugout after being hit high on the shoulder by a pitch from Astros reliever Humberto Castellanos in the seventh inning of the A's 7-2 win. Laureano took issue with Castellanos before he was challenged by the Astros bench while standing on first base.

Pitcher Mike Fiers, who blew the whistle on the Astros' cheating, is now on the A's staff, so there was sure to be some conflict at some point between the teams. — Bob


Sunday, August 9: American Collin Morikawa won his first major championship Sunday with a sparkling 6-under-par 64 at TPC Harding Park near San Francisco, finishing at 13-under and two shots clear of Dustin Johnson and Paul Casey. Morikawa, 23, hit the shot of the day Sunday on the 16th hole, driving the green on the par-4 hole then sinking a seven-foot eagle putt that ended up being the winning margin.

The victory was Morikawa's third on the PGA Tour and second in a month, defeating Justin Thomas in a playoff at he Workday Charity Open on July 12. — Bob


Sunday, August 9: The National Football League and the NFL Referees Association reached an agreement Sunday on coronavirus safety protocols and opt-out opportunities for the the 2020 season.

Any referee or field official who opts out will be classified as taking a "leave of absence," language in the existing contract with the NFL that preserves their standing for the following season. Additionally, any ref testing positive during the season will be classified as an in-season injury and entitled to all existing benefits, while any ref who tests positive at an actual game will have all quarantine and travel expenses covered by the NFL. — Bob


Saturday, August 8: Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC kept up their high-scoring ways with a 4-1 rout of New York Red Bulls II Saturday at Highmark Stadium.

Hounds midfielder Robbie Mertz scored the first two goals, one on a penalty in the 3rd minute following a foul in the box on midfielder Jordan Dover, and the game winner in the 61st minute on a deflection off a shot from forward Ropapa Mensah. Mensah potted one of his own in the 65th minute with a nifty crossbody right-footed boot from the top of the box, and forward Anthony Velarde closed out Hounds scoring in the 80th minute right after subbing in with an easy put away after he worked in alone on Red Bulls goalkeeper Wallis Lapsley. Hounds keeper Tomas Gomez lost the clean sheet in the 3rd minute of extra time.

Hounds (4-2-0) have responded well after back-to-back extra time losses to Indy Eleven and Red Bulls II, with a 4-0 thumping of Bethlehem Steel on August 1 and another dominating performance Saturday. They currently sit atop Group F in the standings tied with Hartford Athletic at 12 points, though Hartford has one game in hand. Through six games, Pittsburgh SC leads the USL Championship in goals (18) and goal differential (+13).

Hounds hit the road for the next two games, a rematch with Indy Eleven Saturday, Aug. 15 at 7 p.m. followed by a mid-week matchup with Loudon United on Wednesday, Aug. 19 in Leesburg, Va.


Saturday, August 8: The Mid-American Conference voted Saturday to cancel all fall sports due to coronavirus safety concerns, making them the first Football Bowls Series conference to cancel the 2020 season.

The conference cited the lack of game day revenues from ticket sales, concessions and related services necessary to fund and enforce the coronavirus safety protocols required to keep the players safe.

This decision directly affects Pitt as the University of Miami (Ohio), Ben Roethlisberger's alma mater, was the first scheduled game for the Panthers this season on September 12. The other MAC member schools are Akron, Bowling Green, Buffalo, Kent State, Ohio University, Toledo, Ball State, Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Western Michigan, and Northern Illinois. — Bob


Friday, August 7: Running back Derrius Guice was cut by the Washington Football Team just hours after his arrest for domestic violence charges Friday, after three alleged incidents from February to April were investigated by police in Virginia.

Guice was formally charged with four counts: one count strangulation and three counts of assault and battery. He turned himself in to authorities when notified of the charges.

Guice was about to enter his second NFL season. Projected as a first-round pick, he was drafted by Washington in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft after his draft stock fell due to character issues. Guice tore his ACL and missed the 2018 season. He played just five games in 2019, suffering a torn meniscus. — Bob


Friday, August 7: The Drug Enforcement Agency has charged Eric Kay, the former Angels director of communications, with multiple drug charges related to an investigation into the accidental drug overdose death last season of Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs.

According to an ESPN report, "Kay has been charged with illegal possession with intent to distribute a mixture and substance containing a detectable amount of fentanyl, a controlled substance." An independent internal Angels investigation following Skaggs' death showed the organization and no knowledge of Kay's illegal drug-related activities or his relationship to any players, including Skaggs — Bob


Friday, August 7: Tip of the cap to the Braves organist or whoever is piping in music at Atlanta's Truist Park for trolling Blue Jays catcher and former Pirates prospect Reese McGuire by playing Michael Jackson's "Beat It" as McGuire approached the plate. McGuire, as many might remember, was arrested in February for exposure of sexual organs, when he was caught masturbating in his vehicle at a Dunedin, Fla. strip mall.

Top marks to the Braves. McGuire is off to a slow start this season, slashing .167/.167/.417 in five games. There is no truth to any rumor he is nursing a hand injury. — Bob


Friday, August 7: Giants cornerback DeAndre Baker has officially been charged with four counts of robbery with a firearm, stemming from an incident at a party in Miramar, Fla. on May 13, when Baker and Seahawks cornerback Quinton Dunbar allegedly robbed four people of their possessions using a gun. Dunbar is not being charged in the incident due to insufficient evidence.

Though no formal charges were filed against Dunbar, he may still face discipline from the National Football League.

At the time of this post, there has been no statement by the NFL, Giants or Seahawks regarding Friday's events. — Bob

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