Nationals

All signs point toward Watson as Ryder Cup captain

All signs point toward Watson as Ryder Cup captain

In the two months since a stunning loss in the Ryder Cup, the PGA of America talked about doing things differently when selecting its next captain.

Tom Watson certainly would break the mold.

Golf Digest reported on its website Tuesday night that the PGA of America plans to pick Watson, celebrated worldwide as an eight-time major champion and revered in Scotland where he won four of his five British Open titles.

``We look forward to sharing the news of the 2014 Ryder Cup captain on Thursday,'' PGA spokesman Julius Mason said when asked for comment.

The PGA of America spares no expense or amount of glitz when it comes to the Ryder Cup, and that much hasn't changed. Instead of a standard news conference, it will introduce its next captain Thursday morning during a segment on the ``Today'' show on NBC, the longtime broadcast partner at the Ryder Cup.

Later, it will have a news conference in the Empire State Building.

Watson will be 65 when the Ryder Cup is played at Gleneagles, Scotland, making him by oldest captain in U.S. history. Sam Snead was 57 when he was captain in 1969. Watson has not played a full PGA Tour schedule in 14 years, though he is still capable of showing the young kids a thing or two as one of the cleanest ball-strikers in history. Remember, it was only three years ago that Watson stood 8 feet away from capturing the British Open at Turnberry at age 59.

Stranger still, he says he has not been to a Ryder Cup since he last was captain in 1993 at The Belfry, which also was the last time the Americans won in Europe. And his relationship with Tiger Woods is much like how the weather can be in Scotland in the early fall - cold and damp.

He would be the first repeat captain since Jack Nicklaus in 1987 on his home course of Muirfield Village.

Watson said over the weekend at the Australian Open that it would be a ``great honor if I got tapped on the shoulder,'' though he said he had not spoken to the PGA.

The organization risks some fallout.

By taking a veteran of Watson's age would be to overlook Larry Nelson for the second time. Nelson is a three-time major champion - twice at the PGA Championship - who did not take up golf seriously until he returned from the Vietnam War. He had 9-3-1 record in the Ryder Cup and won all five of his matches in 1979, beating Seve Ballesteros in four of those matches. At least two former captains lobbied the PGA on behalf of Nelson, who was in line to be a captain in the 1990s.

Nelson is scheduled to play in the Father-Son Challenge pro-am Thursday and Friday in Orlando, Fla.

For the last 30 years, it was easy to predict the next American captain. The PGA of America tended to choose a former major champion still moderately active on the PGA Tour, which keeps him in touch with the current players. That ordinarily would point toward former PGA champion David Toms, though there has been discussion among PGA officials over the last month that Toms could wait until 2016 without any future candidate, such as Jim Furyk or Phil Mickelson, losing his turn.

PGA president Ted Bishop has said he wants only to win the Ryder Cup. Europe has captured the cup seven of the last nine times, the most recent loss one of the most painful. The Americans had a 10-6 advantage at Medinah only to lose on the final day when everything went right for Europe and just as much went wrong for the home team.

Love had said he wouldn't change anything about the week except the outcome, though he did not want to return as captain - at least not for 2014.

``I can guarantee you it won't be me,'' Love said about the next captain.

Paul Azinger was captain of the only U.S. team to win the Ryder Cup in the last 13 years, using a unique system of ``pods'' in which players were broken into groups of four. There was talk that he should take the U.S. team over to Scotland, though Azinger said in a text message to The Associated Press he had not been in touch with the PGA of America.

Watson told reporters in Australia he had not been back to the Ryder Cup since those `93 matches at The Belfry.

``I'd like to go back as captain,'' Watson said. ``That would be cool.''

But it might not be ideal for America's most famous player - Woods - who has a frosty relationship with Watson, even though both are Stanford alumni. Watson was highly critical in the aftermath of Woods' personal life crisis, saying he needed to show more humility and fewer tantrums.

``I think he needs to clean up his act and show the respect for the game that other people before him have shown,'' Watson said in early 2010.

The selection could have ramifications in Europe, too. Watson is so highly regarded in Scotland - in all of Europe, for that matter - that Europe might want to counter with a popular captain of its own. Darren Clarke, who won the British Open last year for his first major and is a man of the people, is under consideration with Paul McGinley. Europe is not expected to announce its captain until January at the earliest.

``Obviously if Tom does get it he is one of the legends of the game and I am sure he would be a fantastic captain not just to the team but to all aspects of the Ryder Cup,'' Clarke said Wednesday at the Australian PGA. ``The man is a huge name in the world of golf and rightly so, I think he would make a fantastic captain for America.''

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Sports Writer Dennis Passa in Coolum, Australia, contributed to this report.

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Around the NL East: All teams are leaving wins on the table

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Around the NL East: All teams are leaving wins on the table

After a week that gave several teams the opportunity to prove themselves in the National League East, the only team that did so was the Miami Marlins.

They aren’t as bad as we thought they were.

As for everyone else, each fan base should be disappointed.

The Atlanta Braves missed a golden opportunity to pull away from both the Washington Nationals and the Philadelphia Phillies. Instead, they actually lost ground to BOTH teams that were playing each other.

Philadelphia did leapfrog the Nationals in the standings, but they continue to leave wins on the table due to their bullpen. This is all while Washington went 4-4 on an eight-game homstand.

And if you’re the Mets, I need to say no more in regards to disappointment. Look out because the Marlins are now on your tail.

Atlanta Braves

Record: 44-32
Last 10: 6-4
Upcoming Series: vs. Cincinnati (3), @ St. Louis (3)

It is hard to take a team seriously when they lose two out of three to the Baltimore Orioles in their home park.

Both were in demoralizing ways. First, Sean Newcomb went seven innings allowing only a single run, then two relievers gave up a combined six runs in the ninth. Despite a comeback in the ninth, they wouldn’t eventually fall in the 15th (!) inning.

And yes… we can attest, this sucks…

Second was Julio Teheran allowing four to score before Atlanta even got an at-bat. There was a wistful rally for the rest of the game, but ultimately they came up two runs short.

Missing on a golden opportunity to emerge as the frontrunner in the NL East, the Braves dropped the ball. Once excited for a finalized rotation to be back together, there are still some gaps to fill. The team averaged 6.8 runs this week and managed only two wins.

And still no Robert Acuna Jr.

Philadelphia Phillies

Record: 41-34
Last 10: 7-3
Upcoming Series: vs. New York Yankees (3), vs. Washington Nationals (4)

Winning series will get you in the postseason. Taking two-out-of-three over the St. Louis Cardinals and the Nationals gives them four straight series wins.

None of those series victories were bigger than taking two at Nats Park.

In those six games Odùbel Herrera had 12 hits, four home runs, nine RBIs for a .444 average. He is leading the charge for a team that scored 39 runs in only six games.

Their starters are giving them quality outings as well. With each starting pitcher this week having a 1.40 WHIP or lower, there has been no downtick from them. However, all of their losses are attributed to their bullpen, including three blown saves.

On June 18, they optioned their closer Héctor Neris to Triple A after giving up four runs in two-thirds of an inning. While he did have a 6.00 ERA, and a 9.45 ERA in June, he did get the job done in the final innings of games. On 13 save opportunities this year, he got 10 saves.

They hope Seranthony Domínguez (four saves) can turn around the bullpen as they make a push to the All-Star Game.

Washington Nationals

Record: 41-35
Last 10: 3-7
Upcoming Series: @ Tampa Bay Rays (2), @ Philadelphia Phillies (4)

All things considered it wasn’t the worst week for the Nationals. Despite losing a series to Philadelphia and dropping a Gio Gonzalez start to Baltimore, Washington gained a half game on the Braves.

But, you have to demand better on an eight-game homestand. These games may be the ones that could haunt the Nats come late-August and September.

Yet there are a lot of highlights this week.

-Juan Soto retroactively hit a HR on his first-ever MLB at-bat
-The Nats pick up reliever Kelvin Herrera in a career-year
-Despite trailing by four, and a rain delay, the Nats came back

Most importantly though Bryce Harper is out of his funk.

…and the fire is back, which may be the most important headline this week.

New York Mets

Record: 31-44
Last 10: 3-7
Upcoming Series: vs. Pirates (3), @ Marlins (3)

Finishing up a 10 game road trip with a 3-7 record, all the Mets needed was a return home.

Wrong, New York followed that up by getting swept by the Los Angeles Dodgers at Citi Field.

And one of those losses, just one, featured seven Dodger home runs.

Also another of the few productive players for the Mets could be heading to the DL. Centerfielder Brandon Nimmo (.283, 12 HR) took a pitch off of his hand this past weekend.

Miami Marlins

Record: 31-47
Last 10: 5-5
Upcoming Series: vs. Diamondbacks (4), vs. Mets (3)

A 3-3 West Coast road trip is not too shabby for the Marlins who are playing .500 ball in the month of June (11-10).

It gave the opportunity for Kyle Barraclough to pick up two more saves, bringing his total up to seven this season. His stellar relief performances will likely garner him the honor as the Marlins’ lone representative in the All-Star Game next month.

He’s pitched 11.2 straight innings of hitless baseball. Barraclough has also not allowed a run since May 8 (19 appearances).

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2018 MLB All-Star Game Voting Results: Adams out, Harper down one spot after this week's voting

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2018 MLB All-Star Game Voting Results: Adams out, Harper down one spot after this week's voting

The countdown to the MLB All-Star game in Washington ticks on, but the stars of its host city struggled this week in the voting.

Last week, Bryce Harper, Trea Turner, and Matt Adams dropped one position from the first week's ballot. This week, the downward trend continues, perhaps a sign of the ambivalence among Nationals fans following a mixed record since week two's update.

The Nats won three of their seven games last week with a blowout 2-12 loss to the Phillies on Friday. Maybe they're feeling bogged down by the incessant rain delays in the DC-Maryland area

Regardless, Bryce Harper dropped another spot on the fan voting ballot this week to settle in the No. 3 spot among outfielders with 1,403,335 votes. Leading him are No. 1 Atlanta Braves right fielder Nick Markakis with 1,829,276 votes and No. 2 Los Angeles Dodgers left fielder Matt Kemp with 1,498,827 votes. It's worth noting that Harper trails Kemp by less than 100,000 votes, a very reasonable gap to recover from, and leads No. 4 Colorado Rockies centerfielder Matt Blackmon by over 400,000 votes, a somewhat safe separation. 

Matt Adams, however, was not so lucky. After dropping from No. 14 to No. 15 last week, he fell out of the top 15 in this week's voting. In this week's results, only 8,000 votes separate Nos. 14 and 15, so it's okay to be hopeful that your vote will make a difference. 

Trea Turner is still holding onto the No. 5 spot in the shortstop category, with an over 100,000 vote increase from last week's voting update pushing him up to 380,331 votes. The shortstops' rankings haven't changed since last week, so the San Francisco Giants' Brandon Crawford, Braves' Dansby Swanson, Chicago Cubs' Addison Russell and Colorado Rockies' Trevor Story remain in the top four spots.

Nats fans, now's the time to keep casting those votes to keep your favorites on this year's National League roster. You can keep voting until July 5 at 11:59 p.m. ET, up to five times every 24 hours. Read more about how to vote for your favorite players in the MLB All-Star Game HERE

The 2018 National League - American League matchup is in Washington, D.C. on July 17.

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