Nationals

Les Miles and LSU agree to raise, extension

Les Miles and LSU agree to raise, extension

Les Miles has a new seven-year contract at LSU that also will result in a pay raise for one of the most successful coaches in the history of the Tigers' football program.

``I'm a LSU head coach and will be a LSU head coach for as long as I can be,'' Miles said Wednesday. ``Hopefully, we'll look up seven years from now and I'll be looking for another seven-year extension.''

The new contract runs through 2019, which amounts to a two-year extension. LSU athletic director Joe Alleva said financial details were still being worked out and will be released after LSU plays in a still-undecided bowl game to close out this season.

A person familiar with the contract said that Miles' new annual pay would be in the range of $4.3 million. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because financial details of Miles' deal were not released.

Miles' previous contract paid about $3.75 million annually through 2017. He has not received a raise since 2008, after LSU's last national title, though he has since received an extension and raises for assistants.

``It is not all about winning championships,'' Alleva said. ``It's about being in the hunt to win championships. ``Les Miles is one of the premier coaches in the country and has LSU in contention for championships year in and year out. Only two coaches in the 119-year history of LSU football have coached as many years at this school and only one has won more games.''

Miles has an 85-20 record since arriving at LSU in 2005 with two Southeastern Conference titles, the one national title and two BCS championship game appearances. Only Charles McClendon won more games as Tigers coach (137). The victory over Arkansas last Friday clinched Miles' fifth 10-win season at LSU.

``The coaching business is a competitive one and it is important to compensate our coach for his accomplishments and his worth,'' Alleva said. ``(Miles) has continued to keep LSU on the national stage. Coach made a commitment to LSU and LSU made a commitment to coach.''

Miles said Arkansas representatives reached out to him in a preliminary way, but he also said reports of a five-year, $27.5 million offer to take over the Razorbacks program were ``not true.''

``I have great respect for the AD (Jeff Long), a college friend of mine,'' Miles said. ``My talks were very preliminary. They fell far short of being serious. I can tell you that this Miles family is awfully comfortable in southern Louisiana. I think home is what we call this place.''

Alleva said LSU already planned to offer Miles an enhanced contract after this season, but decided to close the deal now to snuff out speculation that Miles could be lured elsewhere.

``Speculation about other job opportunities accelerated our process a little,'' Alleva said. ``I think we have accomplished the important step of securing Les Miles as our head coach for the long-term good of the program.''

In the short-term, Miles has given his team two weeks off.

The Tigers will find out their bowl destination Sunday with the Capital One Bowl, the Cotton Bowl and the Chick-fil-A Bowl being the leaders. LSU will begin bowl practice after fall exams end Dec. 8.

``We look forward to playing in a quality bowl game,'' Miles said. ``We should add two starters (linebacker Kwon Alexander and guard Josh Williford). We should be healthy. I think we'll fill the bowl arena. There is speculation as to which bowl. I know LSU will be in attendance and that will be enough.''

LSU's 21-17 loss to Alabama, for all practical purposes, ended its opportunity to repeat as SEC champion. With a loss at Florida, the Tigers finished with a 10-2 record. LSU posted that mark even though six projected starters missed all or most of the season.

``I would never take 10-2 as a final'' record, Miles said. ``But, as this year played out, I think this team improved. Three games into (the season), the team changed numbers. We had key players not there. Guys stepped in and played big. This team fought like hell and fought adversity.''

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Bryan Lazare contributed to this story from Baton Rouge, La.

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Which Washington Nationals might show up on 2019 MLB awards ballots?

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USA TODAY Sports

Which Washington Nationals might show up on 2019 MLB awards ballots?

Despite their struggles in 2018, the Washington Nationals nearly came away with two major awards this season. Juan Soto, despite having the most impressive offensive season for a teenager in baseball history, finished a distant second behind Ronald Acuna in NL Rookie of the Year voting. Max Scherzer, despite becoming just the 17th pitcher ever to strike out 300 batters in a single season, fell to Jacob deGrom in the NL Cy Young race.  

So, who’s most likely to take home some hardware a year from now? Of course, any National could theoretically win a Gold Glove or a Silver Slugger, but let’s focus on the big ones, which player is most likely to win, and who his biggest competition will likely be. We’ll go from most likely to the biggest longshots.

1. Max Scherzer, NL Cy Young

He may have fallen short this season, but Scherzer is pretty clearly still the National with the best chance of winning a major award next season. Sure, he’s already 34, and it’s not easy to predict when a pitcher will break down, but this is an arm that has defied conventional ideas of “wearing down.”

Scherzer’s biggest competition is the reigning winner deGrom, a potentially healthy Clayton Kershaw, a potentially healthy Noah Syndergaard, and Aaron Nola. Beyond them, a potentially healthy Stephen Strasburg could also find himself in the conversation. Noticing a pattern here? With so many injury-prone aces, health will almost certainly play a major role in this race.

Scherzer has won two of the last three Cy Youngs, and he undeniably pitched at a Cy Young-level in 2018 as well. The question is who else steps up in 2019 to challenge him?

2. Victor Robles, NL Rookie of the Year

Rookie of the Year awards are tricky. At the top of ballots, you often see the most highly-touted prospects in baseball. Acuna, Corey Seager, Kris Bryant, Jose Fernandez, and Bryce Harper all won in the National League in recent years. But you also have surprise rookies who come out of nowhere, either because it wasn’t expected that they’d be ready so soon (like Soto) or because they weren’t seen as top talents before their respective breakouts (like Aaron Judge).

Still, Robles’ pedigree and the potential opening in the outfield with Harper in free agency means the stars could be aligning for an awards push. Robles is one of the most talented prospects in baseball, and he’s proven himself enough the minors to show he belongs. The only thing missing has been the opportunity, which is now right in front of him.

His competition likely will come down to a trio of young shortstops: Fernando Tatis, Jr., Nick Senzel, and Brendan Rodgers. Tatis is the most talented, but is younger and coming off an injury last season. Rodgers doesn’t have that one flashy elite skill to catch the eyes of voters. Senzel, however, already looks like a .300 hitter, and on a surprisingly decent Reds offense will probably be Robles’ biggest competitor.

3. Anthony Rendon, NL Most Valuable Player

No offense to Rendon, who has led the Nats in Wins Above Replacement in each of the past two seasons, but this is probably the choice that gives me the least confidence. He’s really, really good, but is he MVP-worthy?

The nice part about playing the National League is that there’s no Mike Trout or Mookie Betts to dominate MVP voting year in and year out. The downside is that means there are as many as a dozen hitters in any given season to compete with, plus pitchers like Kershaw and Scherzer who are strong enough to take votes away as well. Nolan Arenado, Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Freddie Freeman, and Buster Posey are all stalwarts who will grab the attention of voters, not to mention the inevitable youngster who will pop up unexpectedly.

Rendon is well-rounded, underrated, and a truly valuable star worth keeping in Washington for many years to come, but his talents aren’t flashy enough to draw the attention of voters, there’s no strong narrative surrounding him winning, and while he plays on a good team, he’s not generally looked at as the most important piece on the roster. This one probably isn’t happening.

4. Dave Martinez, NL Manager of the Year

Those fans who weren’t exactly thrilled with Martinez’s performance in the dugout during Year 1 are probably going to laugh at the prospect of him winning Manager of the Year, but allow me to make the case.

Manager of the Year is never about the actual best manager in baseball. Frankly, there are far too many unknowns for writers to ever really identify who the best manager is. And managers of elite teams rarely get the credit they deserve. The guys who win are typically skippers of teams expected to be bad entering the season but end up making a surprise run to the playoffs. Think the Braves and A’s in 2018.

If the Nats bounce back and return to the playoffs in 2019, national writers will notice. Plus, if Harper leaves this offseason, the narrative will be there for Martinez to receive a ton of credit. It may not be accurate, but with this particular award, perception matters more than reality.

The Nats making the postseason again is a very realistic scenario, and if it happens, Martinez should at least get national consideration for the award.

5. Bryce Harper, NL Most Valuable Player (as a National)

Ahhhh, the fun one. Or, maybe, the tricky one.

Obviously, if Harper was guaranteed to return to the Nationals, he’d be much higher on this list, probably the top choice. Based on his pedigree and name brand, he’d at least be the clear favorite from the Nats roster to win MVP. And if the choice was simply that he’d win with any franchise, then he’d be higher as well, but knowing (or rather, not knowing) what we know right now? That makes this a tough one to place.

While I’d probably guess that he’s not coming back to Washington (it’s hard to imagine the team going too much higher than their already-rejected $300 million offer), it’s still definitely a possibility. And, if he does, we’ve already seen what an MVP season from Harper looks like. Strange as it is to believe, he’s only just now entering the age at which most MLB players hit their primes. The best may be yet to come for Bryce, so it comes down to whether or not you think he’s coming back.

If yes? This is the new number one. If not? Well, that’s why he’s a longshot.

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It's Friday and the Ravens still haven't announced who their starting quarterback is for Sunday

It's Friday and the Ravens still haven't announced who their starting quarterback is for Sunday

The suspense is killing us.

Will it be Lamar Jackson, Robert Griffin III or actually Joe Flacco starting for the Baltimore Ravens Sunday in the most important game of the season, in Week 11 against the Cincinnati Bengals?

Well, it's almost time for happy hour on a Friday and we still don't have a definite answer.

Flacco, who is nursing a right hip injury, did not practice this week and was listed as doubtful on the team's Friday injury report.

But the good news is that Jackson, who missed Thursday's practice with an illness, was a full participant Friday. When asked whether Jackson missing the most crucial day of practice is concerning, head coach John Harbaugh had us scratching our heads.

“It’s not ideal,” Harbaugh said. “Was it part of the plan? Apparently, it was.”

Jackson admitted that the possibility of his first NFL start Sunday would bring on a few butterflies but that once the ball was snapped,"it's on."

"You have to have trust with your guys," Jackson said Wednesday. "You have to have them believing in you to put points on the board. So, that’ll be my job if I’m out there.”

And in the latest version of 'The NFL is wild,' Robert Griffin III was the only Ravens quarterback who participated in a full week of practice.

The 2012 Offensive Rookie of the Year hasn't started an NFL game since January 1, 2017, but has stayed up to speed in case a moment like this occurred. 

"That's my job. That's why they brought me here," Griffin III said Wednesday. "They brought me here to be a pro. They brought me here to help this team if need be. I try to help the defense every week on scout team and then do those [reps], and if my number's called I'll be able to go out there and lead this team."

Prior to this week, Flacco had only been on the team's injury report eight times and had missed only three regular-season practices. In 11 years, Flacco has missed just six games, starting the last 41. 

Guard/tackle James Hurst (back) has been ruled out for the fourth week as well as Tim Williams (ankle).

Cornerback Tavon Young (ankle), tackle Ronnie Stanley (ankle) and safety Tony Jefferson (thigh) are listed as questionable. 

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