Hank Aaron thinks Colin Kaepernick is getting “a raw deal”

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There’s a lot of passion on both sides of the ongoing Colin Kaepernick saga, with supporters contending that the protesting quarterback is being blackballed by the NFL and detractors, somewhat inconsistently, alternating between arguing that (1) it’s not a political thing, he’s just not good enough to play; (2) teams don’t need the “distraction” he provides; and (3) he’s an un-American ingrate who outta be put on a rocket and blasted into the sun (or something).

One argument I’ve heard frequently from Kaepernick detractors is that it’d be silly to believe that team owners and executives would avoid signing a player they believe would help their team because all team owners and executives care about is winning. Ergo, the argument goes, it must be based on his skills as a quarterback.

I don’t now enough about football to argue intelligently about that, but one man who has spent decades as a high-ranking front office executive for a professional sports team has no trouble believing that owners would spite themselves by avoiding Kaepernick: Hank Aaron.

Aaron, who is the Atlanta Braves senior vice-president and who has served in various other capacities for the club for years, says Kaepernick is “getting a raw deal,” and that  the reason Kaepernick isn’t signed is due to the wishes of the team owners. He added that he’d like to see other players join Kaepernick’s protests.

I’m not suggesting that Hank Aaron could go and be the GM of an NFL team tomorrow or that he is some authoritative voice when it comes to a man’s football skills, but (a) the guy knows more about discrimination and injustice in sports than anyone else alive; and (b) has been in a front office for nearly 40 years. That he has no trouble whatsoever believing that an athlete is getting blackballed should make those who think such a thing is impossible take notice. At the very least, it’s worth taking his views on the matter seriously.

Manoah, Merrifield lead Blue Jays to 3-1 win over Rays

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Alek Manoah pitched seven shutout innings, Whit Merrifield hit a three-run homer and the Toronto Blue Jays regained the top AL wild-card spot with a 3-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays on Saturday night.

The Blue Jays lead Tampa Bay by one game. The top wild card finisher will host all games in their best-of-three opening-round series, while the other two wild cards play strictly on the road.

Manoah (15-7) scattered four hits, walked two and struck out eight while throwing a season-high 113 pitches. The righty worked out of a two-on, one-out jam in the sixth by striking out Randy Arozarena and getting a flyout from David Peralta.

Jordan Romano replaced Tim Mayza with two on and two outs in the eighth and allowed pinch-hitter Harold Ramirez‘s RBI infield single but avoided further damage by striking out Manuel Margot. Romano finished the game to get his 35th save in 41 chances.

Tampa Bay starter Drew Rasmussen (10-7) gave up one run, three hits and two walks in 6 1/3 innings. He struck out five.

The teams combined for 31 runs, with the Rays accounting for 20, in the first two games of the series that were both won by Tampa Bay.

Arozarena got the Rays’ first hit off Manoah with a two-out double in the fourth. He became the first Tampa Bay player and 20th big leaguer to have 40 doubles, 20 homers and 30 stolen bases in a season.

Teoscar Hernandez ended Rasmussen’s night with a double in the seventh. Brooks Raley entered and, after a walk to pinch-hitter Danny Jansen, Merrifield made it 3-0 on his 10th homer of the season.

Merrifield homered twice in Thursday night’s 10-5 loss to the Rays.

Alejandro Kirk opened the second with a single before Rasmussen retired 12 in a row until Merrifield’s leadoff double in the sixth.

Plate umpire Corey Blaser took a hard foul ball by Margot on the mask in the eighth but remained in the game.

HONORING KK

The Rays posted a thank you on the message board for CF Kevin Kiermaier, who is out for the season following left hip surgery. Kiermaier is in the final season of a $53.5 million, six-year contract that includes a club option for 2023 that is expected to be declined.

TEAM AWARDS

Rays ace Shane McClanahan was voted the Don Zimmer MVP award winner by members of the Tampa Bay chapter of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. CF Jose Siri was selected as the outstanding rookie. 3B Yandy Diaz received the Paul C. Smith Champions award as the player who best exemplifies the spirit of true professionalism on and off the field.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Blue Jays: RHP Nate Pearson (lat strain) allowed three runs and three hits over two-thirds of an inning for Triple-A Buffalo.

Rays: 2B Brandon Lowe (lower back) is done for the season.

UP NEXT

McClanahan (12-6), pulled from his start Tuesday in the fifth inning due to neck tightness, will face Blue Jays RHP Ross Stripling (8-4) on Sunday.