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Around the NL East: Have the Mets locked up the division?


Around the NL East: Have the Mets locked up the division?


The Braves are in the midst of a full-on tailspin, losing 20 out of their last 23 games. At this point, there isn't much left to salvage other than trying to avoid an 100-loss season for the first time since 1988. But with their next seven games against the Mets and Blue Jays, it looks like things could get worse before they get better. 


The saga continues in Miami. According to FOX Sports, the Marlins have approached manager Dan Jennings about reprising his role as GM once the season ends. The problem? It appears that Jennings would prefer to stay on as the skipper or become a GM at a more desirable location like Seattle. At this moment, it doesn't look like he's going to get what he wants, and so his best (and only) option may be to return to the Marlins' front office. 


As Nationals fans found out the hard way, the Mets may have very well locked up an NL East title this week. By going to Washington and earning a hard-fought sweep, New York has opened up a seven-game lead in the division while also breaking the heart of its closest competition.

The key cogs in the gigantic series win were (as usual) the trade deadline acquisitions, most notably Yoenis Cespedes, who has been nothing short of brilliant since the moment he joined the Mets. He's hitting .312 with 14 home runs and 36 RBI in just 36 games with New York, a performance that has prompted a few pundits to wonder if he deserves NL MVP consideration. While that might be taking it a little too far (there's a guy in D.C. who has a better claim to that throne), what's undeniable is how impactful the 29-year-old former Cuban defector has been on the division race.

In fact, if and when the Mets clinch, their fans will probably look back at the wacky deadline week that may have changed the entire season; from the Wilmer Flores trade-that-wasn't to the collapse vs. the Padres to the acquisition of Cespedes on July 31 that preceded a sweep of Washington at Citi Field, the seven-day stretch sparked an unlikely turnaround that transformed the Mets into serious contenders while simultaneously sinking the Nats. 


With the season coming to a close, all eyes are on Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. With the newly-hired Andy MacPhail as team president, it's reasonable to assume that change will be made as soon as the season ends. But so far, MacPhail hasn't tipped his hands about what Amaro's fate will be just yet. Given that other clubs have already fired their GMs in recent weeks, you'd think if a change were to be made, the Phillies could have done it by now. But MacPhail is known for his patience, so fans will have to wait a few more weeks to see what the new man in charge has in store. 

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May the odds be ever in your favor: Vegas sets over/unders for 2018 MLB season

May the odds be ever in your favor: Vegas sets over/unders for 2018 MLB season

The start of spring training is a glimmer of hope during the cold of winter. It means warm weather, cold beers and hot dogs at the ballpark are coming your way.

It's our first chance to get a taste of how our favorite team is shaping up for the 2018 season, and for those who are not quite into just the game itself, betting odds.

CG Technology, a Las Vegas sportsbook operator, has set the 2018 odds for each MLB team.

Specifically, how are things looking for the local teams?


Washington Nationals: 91 1/2 wins

The 2018 season is looked at by many as the last World Series run for some time for the Nationals and their core group of players. Bryce Harper, Daniel Murphy and Gio Gonzalez will become free agents after the 2018 season in addition to general manager and President of Baseball Operations, Mike Rizzo.

In 2017, the team won 97 games and went on to win the NL East, but couldn't make it past the first-round of the National League Division Series. In 2018, Vegas is giving the Nats 7/2 odds of taking the National League title. They are just behind the Chicago Cubs, who knocked them out of contention last season, at 4/1 odds.

As far as winning the World Series, Vegas is giving the guys an 8/1 chance of their first title, tied with the Cubs.

Baltimore Orioles: 77 1/2 wins

The O's finished the 2017 season with 75 wins, which could be considered somewhat of an accomplishment considering their pitching resources.

The same problem will occur in 2018 as the organization hasn't signed any new starting pitchers. Vegas is giving them 50/1 odds of taking the American League title and 100/1 odds of winning the World Series.

The lack of depth in their rotation will come back to bite them as division rival New York Yankees have 5/1 odds of winning the World Series and the Red Sox have 10/1 odds.

A below average season should be expected.

A few other standouts, good and bad, include the Miami Marlins at 500/1 odds of winning the World Series, the Kansas City Royals at 200/1 and current champions, the Houston Astros, at 6/1 odds.


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Former Nationals pitcher Esteban Loaiza arrested with more than 40 pounds of suspected cocaine


Former Nationals pitcher Esteban Loaiza arrested with more than 40 pounds of suspected cocaine

SAN DIEGO — Former All-Star pitcher Esteban Loaiza has been arrested on suspicion of trafficking drugs after packages containing a white powder believed to be cocaine were found at a home he rented in Southern California, officials said Monday.

The 46-year-old former Major League Baseball player was booked Friday on charges involving the possession, transport and sale of 20 kilograms (44 pounds) of suspected cocaine worth an estimated $500,000, according to the San Diego Sheriff's Department.

Loaiza played for numerous teams between 1995 and 2008, starting with the Pittsburgh Pirates and concluding with his second stint with the Chicago White Sox. He had a 21-9 record with the Chicago White Sox in 2003 and started in the All-Star Game that year.


He also played one season for the Washington Nationals in 2005 — the team's inaugural season in D.C. after the franchise changed from the Montreal Expos. During his one season in Washington, Loaiza finished with a 12-10 record adn a 3.77 ERA over 34 games played that year.

It was not immediately known if Loaiza had hired a lawyer and the former player could not be reached to comment. He was being held Monday for lack of $200,000 bail pending a court appearance on Wednesday.

Loaiza's agent, John Boggs, told the San Francisco Chronicle that he had no information about the arrest and that he has not spoken to Loaiza recently. He said that Loaiza had called his office early last week but Boggs was unavailable at the time.

"I am shocked and saddened by the news and had no indication he would ever be in this type of situation," Boggs said in a text to the newspaper. "I don't know how he would get himself involved in this, so it's difficult to even comment on it."

Officers stopped Loaiza for a minor traffic infraction Friday after he left the home he started renting recently in the Pacific coast community of Imperial Beach, along the U.S.-Mexico border. Authorities had the vehicle under surveillance on suspicion it was used for smuggling drugs.

When they searched the vehicle, they found a sophisticated compartment used to conceal contraband, authorities said. That led them to obtain a search warrant for Loaiza's rental home, where they found the packages of drugs, according to investigators.

The packages containing a white powder are still being tested but are believed to be cocaine, said San Diego Sheriff's Lt. Jason Vickery.

Loaiza was born in Tijuana, Mexico and was married for two years to the late Mexican-American singer Jenni Rivera. She filed for divorce shortly before she died in a plane crash in 2012.

The 43-year-old Rivera was known as the "Diva de la Banda" and died as her career was peaking. She was perhaps the most successful female singer in grupero, a male-dominated Mexico regional style, sold more than 15 million records, and moved into acting and reality television.

Loaiza sued the aircraft's owners in 2014 for wrongful death but her relatives accused him of trying to profit from her death. He denied the accusations and later retracted his lawsuit.

NBC Sports Washington contributed to this report.