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Column: Marlins fans must feel like fools now

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Column: Marlins fans must feel like fools now

People in Miami had begun to wise up about the time their new baseball stadium was being completed and Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria wanted them to shell out $10,980 for some wine so he and his buddies could celebrate.

That wasn't all. The team also wanted taxpayers to buy office furniture, drapes and even fabric for pillow covers before public officials decided they had already spent enough.

By then, of course, it was too late. The stadium was ready and they were on the hook for about 80 percent of the $634 million it cost to build.

Imagine what fools they must feel like now.

They've got their barely used stadium, complete with a $2 million psychedelic home run thingy and fish swimming behind home plate. Some may even find it attractive in a baseball- meets-tropical-lounge-show sort of way.

Unfortunately, there's no longer a real major league team to put in it.

Barring some sort of action by baseball commissioner Bud Selig - not likely - the Marlins will ship what is left of the team Loria trotted out on opening day to the Toronto Blue Jays. His thank you to the citizens of Miami-Dade County ended with a salary dump that would be stunning if only the Marlins weren't so practiced in the art of dumping salary.

No more Jose Reyes or Josh Johnson. Bye-bye Mark Buehrle. They cost money, serious money that Loria would rather keep stuffed inside his deep pockets.

Think of it this way: The $150 million Loria will save with the trade could pay off his share of the new ballpark, with money left over.

If only the people of South Florida could be so lucky; they'll be stuck paying the other $500 million for years.

They're outraged, and they're not alone. Giancarlo Stanton still works for cheap so he remains a Marlin, but the budding superstar knows a fire sale when he sees one.

``Alright, I'm (mad)!!! Plain & Simple,'' he tweeted shortly after the news broke.

No one can blame Loria for trying to tweak the team of underachievers he assembled last winter with a goal of making a big splash in the new ballpark. During the course of one offseason he brought in a new manager, nearly doubled the team's payroll and trotted out new uniforms.

On opening day he even hired Muhammad Ali to take a victory lap around the field in a golf cart with him.

``We have a glorious new ballpark, and we want to be good,'' Loria declared. ``We want to win.''

The words sure sounded good. The new Marlins looked good, too, until about the time manager Ozzie Guillen praised Fidel Castro and things started going downhill fast.

They ended up finishing last in their division, but not before Loria sent Hanley Ramirez and some other talent packing. The message then was he was giving up on the season; the message now is even clearer.

``If you haven't figured it out yet, I'm not going to figure it out for you,'' Loria told reporters Wednesday in Chicago at baseball's owner meetings.

It's nothing new for Loria, who spent the better part of the last decade trying to squeeze a profit out of the Marlins. According to the Miami Herald, the Marlins got more from Major League Baseball's revenue sharing than the team paid for player salaries for at least two years. At the time, Loria was crying poor while trying to get Miami-Dade to pick up most of the tab for the new ballpark.

Meanwhile, Forbes estimated earlier this year that the Marlins were worth $450 million - $300 million more than Loria paid for them 10 years ago.

If Selig had anything on his agenda other than making owners as much money as possible, he would step in. That doesn't mean vetoing the trade, but it does mean taking a stand for baseball fans in Miami.

The Marlins project to have an opening day payroll of about $34 million, barely more than what the New York Yankees will pay Alex Rodriguez next season. It would be their lowest since 2008, and well below the $59.5 million Oakland payroll that was the lowest in the majors last season.

If Selig ordered the Marlins to double that payroll next season, he could say he was acting in the best interests of baseball. That is, ordering Loria to spend enough money to put a competitive team on the field.

It's the least Selig could do after all the work that went into making sure Loria got his tricked-out new stadium. It would give fans reasons to hope, and reasons to come back.

Then again, maybe Loria has a plan of his own. Maybe he's going to use the money he's saving to sign free agent Josh Hamilton, add a few pitchers and make a run for the playoffs.

Maybe this was all some necessary tidying up to get the house in order for some new stars in Miami.

And maybe this time the wine will be on him.

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Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at tdahlberg(at)ap.org orhttp://twitter.com/timdahlberg

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3 reasons why the Caps beat the Sabres

3 reasons why the Caps beat the Sabres

You may think this was an ugly four-game road trip for the Caps, but with a 3-2 win in Buffalo on Monday, Washington managed to earn five out of a possible eight points.

Here is why the Caps beat the Sabres and managed to save the road swing.

A missed high-stick (maybe) from Ovechkin

Ovechkin scored the first goal of the game in the second period as he deflected a high-shot from Christian Djoos down past goalie Chad Johnson. But did the deflection come on a high stick? The play was reviewed and the goal was ultimately upheld. According to the NHL, it was determined that "video review supported the Referee's call on the ice that Alex Ovechkin's stick was at or below the height of the crossbar when he tipped the puck into the Buffalo net."

NBC Sports Washington analyst Alan May broke the play down during the second intermission and made his case for why the NHL actually got the call wrong.

Was that a high stick? I don't know. As compelling an argument as May made, it still looks inconclusive which means the review made the right call. What surprises me is that the referee did not disallow the goal on the initial call.

Whether the review is truly inconclusive or flat out wrong, Washington was fortunate to walk away from this sequence with the goal.

MORE CAPITALS: BIZARRE SEQUENCE LEADS TO CAPS SCORING AND GETTING PENALIZED AT THE SAME TIME

A centimeter of ice

Hockey is a game of inches and it took less than an inch to put Washington up 2-0. When an Evgeny Kuznetsov shot hit off the boards and bounced back to the front of the net, it sparked a scrum next to goalie Chad Johnson. Eventually, John Carlson was able to get a swipe on the puck sending it trickling to the goal line, but Kyle Okposo was there waiting and appeared to kick it out to safety just before it crossed. A review triggered by the Situation Room, however, revealed that the puck had just barely managed to cross the goal line before Okposo got to it.

Here's the view the NHL released after the review:

Philipp Grubauer's third period

After dominating the first 40 minutes of the game and taking a 2-0 lead, Buffalo predictably made a late push in the third period with two goals to pull within one. Washington outshot the Sabres in the first and second periods, but Buffalo reversed that trend in a big way in the third as they outshot the Caps 17-6. Grubauer turned aside 15 of those shots and was impressive after barely being tested in the first two periods.

RELATED: CHECK OUT THE 3 STARS OF THE GAME FROM CAPS-SABRE

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3 stars of the game: Caps knock out the punchless Sabres

3 stars of the game: Caps knock out the punchless Sabres

Coming off an ugly 7-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks, a Buffalo Sabres team missing star Jack Eichel was just what the doctor ordered for the Caps to get back on track. Washington dominated the first two periods and then survived a late surge from Buffalo for the 3-2 win.

After battling to a scoreless first, Alex Ovechkin and John Carlson spotted Washington a 2-0 lead in the second. They then held on in the third period as Buffalo began to tilt the ice in their favor, with Evgeny Kuznetsov scoring the empty-netter to put this game out of reach. Evander Kane would pull Buffalo within one, but with only three seconds left it was too little, too late.

Here are the three stars of the game:

1. Alex Ovechkin: Ovechkin opened up the scoring in the second period as he deflected down an innocent shot from Christian Djoos past Chad Johnson.

Ovechkin also set a physical tone as he battled with defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen all game long. After taking a high elbow from Ristolainen early in the game Ovechkin skated up to Ristolainen prior to the faceoff on his next shift and let him know that it was on. 

2. John Carlson: Carlson had a hand in both of Washington's first two goals. He recorded a secondary assist on Ovechkin's goal as he made a blue line pass to Djoos which Djoos fired on net and Ovechkin deflected. Carlson then managed to hit the puck past the goal line in a scrum next to Johnson. It looked initially like Kyle Okposo had managed to kick out the puck just before it crossed, but Carlson was awarded the goal as a review showed the puck had completely crossed the line.

3. Philipp Grubauer: A Sabres team that ranks last in the NHL in scoring and that was also without its leading scorer did not test Grubauer much in the first two periods. Facing a 2-0 deficit, however, Buffalo made a third period push to try to tie the game, but Grubauer was up to the task as he turned aside 15 of the 17 shots he faced in the final 20 minutes. He finished with 32 total saves on the night.