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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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5 reasons the Caps beat the Lightning in Game 6

5 reasons the Caps beat the Lightning in Game 6

After losing three straight, the Capitals battled back in Game 6 on Monday. With their 3-0 win, Washington forced the Eastern Conference Final into a decisive Game 7 on Wednesday.

Here is how the Caps did it.

1. Braden Holtby matched Andrei Vasilevskiy save for save

Andrei Vasilevskiy was just as great in this game as he was in the three previous, but one of the major differences in this one was that Holtby was just as good. He may not have been tested as much (Vasilevskiy made 32 saves, Holtby 24), but he was big when the team needed.

In the second period with the scored tied at 0, Holtby made one of the most critical saves perhaps of the entire season when he denied Anthony Cirelli with the toe on a 2-on-1. When the Caps took the lead, Holtby really shut the door in the third period with 10 saves to cap off what was his fifth career playoff shutout and first shutout of the entire season.

2. T.J. Oshie’s timely goal

Over halfway into the game, it looked like it was just going to be one of those nights. Caps fans know it well by now. Washington outplays their opponent, they get chance after chance and develop a whopping advantage in shots, but they run into a hot goalie and a random play suddenly turns into a goal for the other team, game and season over.

Vasilevskiy was on his way to having perhaps his best performance of the series. Considering how he played in the three games prior to Game 6, that’s saying something. The Caps were doing everything right, but he continued to make save after save. Then on the power play in the second period, John Carlson struck the inside of the post, the horn went off and the roar of the crowd gave way to dismay as the referee waved his arms to indicate there was no goal and play continued. Just seconds later, T.J. Oshie gave the Caps the 1-0 lead.

You have to wonder if doubt was starting to creep into the back of the minds of the players when that puck struck the post as they wondered what else they had to do to beat Vasilevskiy. Luckily, that feeling didn’t last long.

3. Special teams

Braydon Coburn’s tripping penalty in the second period gave Washington its only power play of the night and its first since the second period of Game 4. They had to make it count given how well Vasilveskiy was playing and they did.

Washington now has a power play goal in each of their three wins against the Lightning and no power play goals in their three losses. So yeah, it’s significant.

Tampa Bay had two opportunities of their own, but Washington managed to kill off both power plays in the penalty kill’s best performance of the series.

4. Washington’s physical game plan

On paper, the Lightning are better than the Caps in most categories. One area in which Washington has the edge, however, is physical play and it was clear very early that they intended to use that to their advantage in Game 6. Tampa Bay was pushed around and they seemed to struggle to recover.

Ovechkin was a one-man wrecking ball out there hitting everything that moved. The energy he brought with every hit was palpable and both the team and the crowd fed on it.

Washington was credited with 39 hits on the night compared to Tampa Bay’s 19. Ovechkin had four of those as did Nicklas Backstrom while Devante Smith-Pelly contributed five and Tom Wilson and Brooks Orpik each led the team with six.

5. Fourth line dagger

Tampa Bay’s fourth line was the story of Game 5, but Washington’s fourth line sealed the deal on Monday with its third period goal.

Chandler Stephenson beat out an icing call, forcing Braydon Coburn to play the puck along the wall. Jay Beagle picked it up, fed back to Stephenson who backhanded a pass for the perfect setup for Devante Smith-Pelly.

Smith-Pelly scored seven goals in the regular season. He now has four in the playoffs.

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Soto, Harper homer in Nats' win over Padres

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Soto, Harper homer in Nats' win over Padres

WASHINGTON -- Juan Soto, the youngest player in the majors at 19, hit a three-run homer in his first career start as the Washington Nationals defeated the San Diego Padres 10-2 on Monday.

Mark Reynolds had two solo home runs for the Nationals, who snapped a three-game losing streak. Bryce Harper had a homer and an RBI double.

Soto's drive highlighted a five-run second inning for Washington. The promising outfielder, who played for three minor league teams this season, hit the first pitch from Robbie Erlin (1-3) over the Nationals bullpen in left-center field. Soto also singled.

Soto's homer traveled an estimated 442 feet at Nationals Park. He earned a standing ovation from the crowd and the teenager responded by taking a curtain call. Per Baseball-Reference.com, Soto became the first teenager to hit a home run in a major league game since Harper on Sept. 30, 2012.

Called up to Washington on Sunday, Soto became the first 19-year-old to make his major league debut since Dodgers pitcher Julio Urias in 2016. He entered that game in the eighth inning as a pinch-hitter and struck out.

Washington's starting left fielder began the season at Class A Hagerstown. He hit a combined .362 with 14 homers and 52 RBIs in his three minor league stops.

Gio Gonzalez (5-2) allowed two runs and two hits in seven innings.

San Diego's Franmil Reyes, playing in his seventh career game, also hit his first career home run.

Trea Turner hit a pair of RBI doubles for Washington. Reynolds had three hits.

Erlin surrendered six runs and seven hits over four innings in his third start of the season. San Diego had won three in a row.

Reyes connected for a two-run homer in the fourth inning, but the Padres' lineup generated little else against Gonzalez, who allowed one run over six innings in a no-decision at San Diego on May 9.

2018 MLB POWER RANKINGS AND OTHER NATS NEWS:

- Rankings Update: Where does your team fall?
- Cause For Concern?: How worried should Nats fans be?
- Very Persuasive: How Rizzo convinced Reynolds to come to D.C.