Orioles

Ex-wrestling executive pinned in Conn. Senate race

Ex-wrestling executive pinned in Conn. Senate race

Big-spending former wrestling executive Linda McMahon was smacked down again in her bid for a U.S. Senate seat Tuesday, losing on a night when sports and politics met in the same arena.

McMahon, a Republican who once ran World Wrestling Entertainment with blustery and better-known husband Vince McMahon, was beaten by Democrat Chris Murphy. She also lost in 2010 in a bid for the Senate. McMahon spent more than $42 million of her own wealth in the race for retiring independent Sen. Joe Lieberman's seat.

In another Senate race, the great-grandson of one of baseball's most august figures lost his Senate race in Florida. Connie Mack IV, a Republican, is a descendant of Hall of Fame manager Connie Mack. He was defeated by Democrat Bill Nelson, who won a third term.

This was hardly an All-Star night for sports. Long gone are the days when the likes of basketball's Bill Bradley served in the Senate. More recently, football's J.C. Watts and track's Jim Ryun were in Congress.

Two years ago, Hall of Fame pitcher and Kentucky Sen. Jim Bunning retired. This year, sports lost more of its sizzle in Congress: Wisconsin Sen. Herb Kohl, the owner of the Milwaukee Bucks, retired, and North Carolina Rep. Heath Shuler, a one-time NFL quarterback, chose not to run again after his district was redrawn.

Murphy, a three-term congressman, made an issue of the 64-year-old McMahon's wrestling roots, dismissing the enterprise as a vulgar and violent spectacle that belittled women.

``I think that not every CEO is qualified to be a United States senator,'' he said.

WWE, as the wrestling extravaganza is now known, tried to clean up its image during the Senate campaign in an attempt to make itself more presentable as family fare. Still, Democrats found ways to remind the electorate of an online scene featuring a wrestler simulating sex with a corpse in a casket.

Mack has made much of his baseball lineage. On his web page, the ``O'' in his first name is replaced with a baseball. The congressman's great-grandfather managed the Philadelphia Athletics for 50 years, starting in 1901, and with his suit and straw hat was always an impeccable presence in the dugout. He retired when he was 88.

The younger Mack's reputation was hit hard in TV ads. Nelson depicted Mack as a bar brawling party-boy. In 1992, Mack was involved in a barroom brawl with then-Atlanta Braves outfielder Ron Gant. Mack insisted he was sober and minding his own business.

Mack, however, was not the only loser on the ballot with a strong baseball heritage. U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler of Kentucky is the grandson of former baseball commissioner Happy Chandler. He was commissioner from 1945-51, a period when Jackie Robinson broke the game's racial barrier when he joined the Dodgers. Ben Chandler, a Blue Dog Democrat, lost to Republican Andy Barr, who linked his opponent to the president in a state where Barack Obama is decidedly weak.

Others with family ties on election night were two candidates with NFL connections: George Allen and Tom Rooney.

Allen was turned back by Tim Kaine in his attempt to win a U.S. Senate seat in Virginia. He is the brother of Washington Redskins general manager Bruce Allen and the son of former Redskins coach George Allen. Rooney, a nephew of Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney, easily won re-election to his U.S. House seat from Florida.

In Nevada, Danny Tarkanian was running for a House seat in Congress. He was the star point guard in the early `80s at UNLV, where he was coached by his celebrated towel-chomping father, Jerry Tarkanian.

Also from college basketball: Jim Tedisco, a Union College star in the early `70s, was on his way to victory in the New York Legislature; Al Lawson, once a Florida A&M star and assistant coach to Hugh Durham at Florida State, was beaten in a bid for the U.S. House of Representatives from Florida.

Four ex-NFL players were in the mix: Jon Runyan, a lineman who spent most of his 14 NFL seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles, held his New Jersey seat in Congress; Clint Didier, once a star tight end for the Redskins, lost his race to become public lands commissioner in the state of Washington; Phil Hansen, a defensive end who played on three Super Bowl teams for the Bills, was in a tight race for the Minnesota Legislature; and Jimmy Farris (Falcons, Redskins) was eyeing a U.S. House seat from Idaho.

In a U.S. House race in Ohio, former Arena Football League owner Jim Renacci was re-elected.

A one-time Harlem Globetrotter provided some razzle-dazzle in Arkansas. Fred Smith, of the Green Party, was elected to the Legislature when a judge said no votes would be counted for his opponent because of a felony conviction.

In a sports-related ballot measure, Glendale, Ariz., voters rejected a sales tax enacted this summer, but it's still uncertain what this does to the proposed sale of the Phoenix Coyotes.

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Associated Press writers Susan Haigh in Hartford, Conn., and Gary Fineout and Brendan Farrington in Florida contributed to this report.

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What exactly did the Orioles get in return for Manny Machado?

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What exactly did the Orioles get in return for Manny Machado?

So, the Orioles made some headlines earlier this week. I’m not sure if you’ve heard, but minor league pitcher Asher Wojciechowski exercised his opt-out clause and is no longer with the organization. Please keep Orioles fans in your thoughts during this trying time.

As everyone reading this is undoubtedly already aware, the Orioles *also* made a trade yesterday, sending 26-year old superstar Manny Machado to the Los Angeles Dodgers. In return for their once-in-a-lifetime talent, the Orioles received a whopping five prospects from the Dodgers’ minor league system.

Yusniel Diaz, OF, 21

It’s fitting that this trade is being compared to the Erik Bedard trade, which was also a five-for-one, because Diaz could be a poor man’s Adam Jones. He’s not the prospect Jones was, but he could end up being a really nice player.

Talent evaluators are split on his ultimate ceiling. Some describe him as a bona fide stud, and others leave him off their top 100 lists. I’ve seen him ranked as high as 31st overall (by Baseball Prospectus), which, if accurate, is a terrific main piece in a package for a star rental. 

Most consider Diaz’s main flaw as a prospect to be his in-game power, though anyone watching the 2018 MLB Futures Game would be confused by that, as he became the second player ever to hit multiple home runs in the game. It’s possible that more power develops as he matures, and he certainly wouldn’t be the first player to hit for more power once reaching the Majors, but for now, it’s not a strength. I wouldn’t expect him to top 20 home runs in most seasons.

His bat-to-ball ability is his clearest strength, as he projects to consistently hit for a high average. His batting eye, while formerly a weakness, has become a strength in 2018, as he’s actually walked more times than he’s struck out (a rarity in this day and age). That will play well with O’s fans who are tired of seeing their players challenge strikeout records.

Dean Kremer, RHP, 22

Kremer isn’t a major name, which is a disappointment for O’s fans and one of the reasons their haul felt so uninspiring. Compared to more highly-touted prospects like Dustin May, Kremer looks like the team settled.

That said, he’s currently sporting the best K/9 ratio in the minors, and could end up being a diamond in the rough. He’s come a long way since being a 14th-round pick two years ago, and you have to wonder if the Orioles’ much-maligned pitching development can pick up where the much more successful Dodgers instructors left off.

Kremer is also notable for being the first Israeli-born player ever drafted in Major League Baseball.

Rylan Bannon, IF, 22

Bannon was an 8th-rounder last year and is having somewhat of a breakout this season. He’s leading the league in home runs, though playing in a notorious band box of a home park is skewing those numbers.

Bannon is undersized, but has a reputation of a good, if not elite, fielder. He’s a third baseman, but will likely spend some time at second as well. If the power breakout is real, he could end up a solid starter for the Orioles down the road. Again, that’s about all you can hope for in trades of this nature.

Zach Pop, RHP, 21

Pop has been described as potentially a future “right-handed Zach Britton,” which every O’s fan would take in a heartbeat. Of course, he’s not ranked like a future All-Star, as even in the weaker Orioles farm system he’s likely no better than around 25th. 

Still, the filler players in big trades like this are just lottery tickets, and considering his lack of pedigree, Pop seems like a relatively “safe” pitcher with projectability. He strikes out a lot of batters and gets a lot of ground balls, and at the very least can likely become a decent middle reliever.

Breyvic Valera, IF, 26

In a best-case scenario, Valera becomes the Orioles’ Ryan Flaherty replacement. If you squint, you can see somewhat decent upside in each of the other returning players, even despite their modest prospect rankings, but Valera is a clear utility player. 

He gets on base and hits for contact well enough to stick around and has proven capable of defending multiple positions, so there actually might be a spot for him at the end of the Orioles bench.

Overall

This trade has been described as anywhere from adequate and somewhat deflating to a great haul O’s fans should be excited about. Four of the five players have decent ceilings, though the chance of all four (or even just two of them) reaching those ceilings is highly unlikely. It’s just the nature of baseball.

Ultimately, this trade will be judged on the success or failure of Yusniel Diaz, who is the clear centerpiece of the package. Whether or not he succeeds will be partially up to him, and partially up to the front office and player development team.

If this trade is the beginning of the core for the next competitive Orioles team, then it’ll have to be considered a success. If these players each bust out of the league, then it was still the correct decision to trade Machado instead of settling for draft pick compensation, but it will still sting all the more for O’s fans seeing Manny soar to new heights elsewhere.

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Nationals players were critical of Dave Martinez's decision-making in the first half

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Nationals players were critical of Dave Martinez's decision-making in the first half

Baseball fans love the long ball. They love the flashy plays. They love the no-hit bids and the rare perfect game. All of these things dominate headlines and capture our attention. 

The often overlooked bullpen of a club, however, almost always serves as the glue holding everything together. Relief pitching is derived of unsung heroes who are asked to perform on short notice and in sticky, high-pressure situations. 

Head skipper of the Washington Nationals, Dave Martinez, is being criticized for his handling of the bullpen during the first half of the season. 

By now it's well-documented that the Nats played their first 96 games at .500 leaving the club in third place in a division the team has walked all over back-to-back years. 

Sure, one can chalk it up to injuries, lack of roster changes or an inexperienced first-year manager working through kinks. But, there's a reason this team expects to compete for a pennant year in and year out: depth. The buzz around Martinez's decision-making continues to point toward his inability to dish out relief pitching assignments to the player's liking.  

Brandon Kintzler, Ryan Madson, Sean Doolittle, Sammy Solis and Matt Grace once made up the team's relief staff in May. Between disabled-list periods for Kintzler and Madson, and Sammy Solis being sent down to Class AAA Syracuse, the staff took a beating in the month of June. 

Nats relievers aren't necessarily upset about overuse, but more so because of a lack of communication between player and manager. 

At times during the first half of the season, relief pitchers felt overworked and that their wishes were not being acknowledged nor granted by Martinez. 

Sean Doolittle was quick to point out that the addition of Kelvin Herrera, who joined the team on June 18, sparked a change in Martinez's approach. 

“Over the last maybe month or so, maybe since we got Herrera, he’s gone around to the relievers and been a lot more proactive with that communication,” Doolittle said.

On a more tricky note, trust has also been targeted as an area needing improvement. 

When a starter gets in a jam or doesn't seem like he is 100%, Martinez often calls on reinforcements to begin the warming up process. Guys have noticed a pattern in which relief pitchers who initially warm up are often not the ones who start the following inning. 

From a relief pitcher's perspective, this is a sign of Martinez's distrust. Dramatic or not, there was a glaring disconnect throughout the first half of play. 

“With a veteran group, I think we all expect to come into a team and say we’ve all been there; we just want things to go boom, boom, boom and be a piece of cake. But we also all know it’s not like that,” Shawn Kelley said.

Handling his veteran rotation in the second half of the season should become easier for Martinez as Stephen Strasburg is expected to start Friday. The right-hander was placed on the disabled list June 10 with right shoulder inflammation. 

Strasburg pitched 5 2/3 innings in a rehab start for Class A Potomac on Sunday, allowing three runs while striking out seven and walking one. It was his second rehab start since going on the DL. He allowed one run in 3 1/3 innings for Potomac on July 11. Strasburg is 6-6 with a 3.46 ERA this season, striking out 

95 in 80 2/3 innings.

One thing that hasn't been criticized is Martinez's positive attitude. Players often rave about him as a person and how he brings a source of energy in the clubhouse. 

This was on full display during Monday night's Home Run Derby at Nationals Park. 

Moments after Bryce Harper won the Derby, Martinez was among the first to congratulate his All-Star slugger as he hoisted him in the air. 

As the second half of the season gets underway Friday, expect to see a manager who brings forth an openminded approach to his club while in pursuit of a deep October run.