Redskins

Marlins' latest payroll purge prompts fan backlash

Marlins' latest payroll purge prompts fan backlash

MIAMI (AP) The attendance-challenged Miami Marlins have antagonized fans yet again by deciding a low-budget team is good enough for their new ballpark.

A blockbuster trade sending three stars to Toronto could save Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria $150 million, which prompted a backlash from South Floridians angered by the team's latest payroll purge.

``Everybody in the world wants to talk about the Marlins and the fact they're now a Triple-A team,'' said city commissioner Marc Sarnoff, who was an opponent of the ballpark project. ``The Marlins have lost pretty much all credibility with fans. Even if this trade is a positive move from a baseball standpoint, it won't be viewed by the general public as a positive move.''

Miami traded All-Star shortstop Jose Reyes, left-hander Mark Buehrle and right-hander Josh Johnson as part of the deal, which awaited final approval Wednesday pending physicals for the players. Among the players the Blue Jays gave up were shortstops Yunel Escobar and Adeiny Hechavarria, right-hander Henderson Alvarez and several top minor league prospects.

Many fan complaints involved the ballpark, which was paid for mostly with taxpayer money as Loria promised a new era of higher payrolls and more competitive teams. The ballpark opened this year and is state of the art, but the team suddenly is looking like the same old Marlins.

Loria declined to talk with reporters as he passed through the hotel lobby at the owners meetings in Chicago.

``Not today, boys,'' he said. ``If you haven't figured it out yet, I'm not going to figure it out for you.''

Team president David Samson said the trade improved the Marlins, who have finished last in the NL East each of the past two years. This season they expected to contend for the playoffs with the highest payroll in franchise history but instead went 69-93, their worst record since 1999.

``We sat down after the season and talked about the team and said we cannot keep finishing in last place,'' Samson said on his weekly radio show on WINZ-AM. ``We found a way to possibly in one fell swoop get a whole lot better. I recognize that the names coming back in a potential trade are not names people are familiar with, but in the baseball world, people are familiar with them.''

When asked about fans feeling betrayed, Samson said, ``I think that people should feel betrayed by the fact we're losing so much, and that they wouldn't want us to stand pat and keep losing.''

Samson's description of the roster shakeup as an upgrade failed to mollify fans. Radio talk show host Jeff DeForrest began fielding calls from irate listeners shortly after news of the trade broke Tuesday.

``The next move obviously is to have Fidel Castro throw out the first pitch next year,'' DeForrest said. ``That's the only way they could alienate the fans more than they have.''

Castro became a source of acrimony last April, when Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen's praise of the former Cuban leader infuriated team supporters. That was shortly after the new ballpark opened in Miami's Little Havana neighborhood, and attendance never recovered from the tempest.

Management had projected the rebranded team would win and draw nearly 3 million fans, but instead the Marlins were out of contention by midseason, and attendance barely topped 2.2 million.

With revenue falling short of projections, Loria decided to end the franchise's brief era of big spending. The players traded by the Marlins have combined guaranteed salaries of $163.75 million through 2018, including $96 million due Reyes. The deals he and Buehrle signed when they joined Miami a year ago were heavily backloaded.

Salaries for 2013 include $13.75 million for Johnson in the final year of his contract, $11 million for Buehrle and $10 million for Reyes. The net in guaranteed salaries coming off the Marlins' books is expected to be $154 million, which does not account for any cash that may be involved in the trade.

Three years ago, the Marlins reached an agreement with the players' union to increase spending in the wake of complaints team payroll had been so small as to violate baseball's revenue sharing provisions. But the trade with Toronto leaves the Marlins with an estimated opening-day payroll of $34 million, which would be their lowest since 2008. Oakland had the lowest payroll in the majors last season at $59.5 million.

Of the lineup that took the field for the festive first game in the new ballpark less than eight months ago, only two players remain - Giancarlo Stanton and Logan Morrison.

Stanton tweeted that he was angry about the trade and changed his Twitter photo in an apparent protest, swapping out his Marlins uniform for a black shirt.

``I'm not saying fans can't be upset,'' Morrison tweeted to his 123,000 followers. ``I'm saying I'm not going to get upset. I can't control it. So don't expect me to be upset.''

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AP Sports Writers Ron Blum in New York and Jay Cohen in Chicago contributed to this report.

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D.J. Swearinger slams Jay Gruden, says Redskins 'will never win big'

D.J. Swearinger slams Jay Gruden, says Redskins 'will never win big'

Almost a month after his release, former Redskins safety D.J. Swearinger voiced some highly critical comments of Washington head coach Jay Gruden on his Instagram page. 

"That coach y’all have will never win big cause it ain it him to coach discipline," Swearinger wrote in a comment on his page. 

The backstory here needs telling.

While Swearinger was playing at a high level for Washington in 2018, he was clashing with the coaching staff.

Swearinger was released before the Redskins final game of the 2018 season after the safety made damning comments about defensive coordinator Greg Manusky. Swearinger alleged that he watched more film than the defensive coaches and questioned the team's scheme in a critical moment of the Week 16 loss against the Titans. 

This was not the first time Swearinger had gone public with complaints about coaching. It happened multiple times in 2018 and also in 2017. 

After an ugly December loss against the Giants that caused Swearinger to criticize the team, Gruden publicly admonished his safety. Privately, the coach made clear that the behavior would not again be tolerated. Then, the Titans game happened, Swearinger blasted Mansuky. The safety was released a few days later.

Below are Swearinger's full comments from his Instagram page that came in a reply to a Redskins fan saying he missed him on the team:

Y’all will never win big bro. I’ve seen championship swagger from a coach BA he a OG. That coach y’all have will never win big cause it ain it him to coach discipline..it ain in him to chew somebody out in practice cause they lacking..when u say I’m a cancer for wanting to practice harder or wanting to get coached harder just to win then winning prolly not for you or you don’t understand that hard work pays off. Mediocre work get you beat! Remember This winners are born but champions are made. A strong leader of men make others around him better. Spread Peace Love And Elevation In everything you do lil brudda! Be Easy!!

Nobody would question Swearinger's effort in practice or workouts. He's a hard worker.

For the season, he logged four interceptions and three forced fumbles to go with a sack and 53 tackles in 15 games. Pro Football Focus ranked Swearinger the 13th best safety in the NFL and he had been named as an alternate to the Pro Bowl.

Obviously, Swearinger was not released because of his play. The coaching staff just felt they could no longer tolerate his public criticism, and some on the staff had felt that way for a long time. 

It should be noted too that for a talented player, Swearinger has bounced around a lot.

The Texans released him two years after drafting him in 2013, despite having two more years on his rookie contract. Tampa signed him, and released him after seven games. Things worked out in Swearinger's next stop with the Cardinals, where he played for part of 2015 and the full 2016 season before signing with the Redskins as a free agent in 2017.

The Redskins cut Swearinger despite having another year on his contract for a modest $4.5 million price tag. Arizona claimed him on waivers. 

One bizarre note in all this: The actual photo Swearinger posted to go along with this comment had nothing to do with the Redskins. It was a picture of Swearinger with Larry Fitzgerald, with the safety congratulating the receiver for his recent announcement that he would return for the 2019 season. 

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Alex Ovechkin in the lineup shows just how important Wednesday vs. Toronto really is

Alex Ovechkin in the lineup shows just how important Wednesday vs. Toronto really is

The Capitals have one last piece of business to tend to before the All-Star break. They head to Toronto to take on the Maple Leafs Wednesday (7:30 p.m., NBCSN) in an absolute must-win for Washington.

Here’s what you need to watch.

Alex Ovechkin is in

Because Ovechkin decided not to participate in the All-Star Game, he has to serve a one-game suspension. The team had the option of Ovechkin missing the last game before the All-Star break or the first game back. Ovechkin was asked after the game Tuesday if he would be playing against the Leafs and he said yes. Head coach Todd Reirden confirmed that he would indeed be playing Wednesday. So, coming off a hat trick performance, Ovechkin will be back in the lineup Wednesday in Toronto.

The decision comes as no surprise. The Caps desperately need a win Wednesday or they will head into the All-Star break on a seven-game losing streak which will fester until the team finally returns to the ice after the bye week.

Ironically enough, the last time Ovechkin played in Toronto was on Nov. 25, 2017, the famous Alex Luey game in which Ovechkin also tallied a hat trick.

By playing Wednesday, Ovechkin will have to sit out the team’s first game back from the break on Feb. 1 against the Calgary Flames.

Who will play in net?

With the high stakes of this game, could we see Braden Holtby back between the pipes despite playing Tuesday? It’s possible.

Reirden said after Tuesday’s game that he had not yet reached a decision on which goalie would play in Toronto. On the one hand, this is a game the team really needs to win so it would make sense to play your top netminder especially before the prolonged All-Star break. On the other, Holtby has really struggled in his past two outings giving up four goals to Chicago on just 11 shots and seven goals to San Jose on 43 shots. Holtby’s break will also be shorter given that he will be participating in the All-Star festivities.

Pheonix Copley has been a dependable backup this season, but he certainly seems to be showing some cracks the last few games. He has given up 14 goals in his last three appearances, one of which was only half a game in Chicago.

It’s been a long time since Washington has lost seven straight

The last time the Caps lost seven straight games was in January 2014.

From Jan. 12 to Jan. 24, the Caps went 0-5-2 in Adam Oates’ second and last season behind the bench. That streak was particularly messy as Washington had three goalies on the roster -- Holtby, Philipp Grubauer and Michal Neuvirth -- and all three played during that stretch.

What should concern Caps fans the most is that not only was that the last time Washington lost seven straight, it was also the last time it missed the playoffs.

Toronto could really use this game too

For any optimists out there thinking maybe the Leafs will be looking ahead to the break and may just mentally take this game off, that’s not going to happen. Toronto needs this game about as much as the Caps do.

The Maple Leafs have lost four of their last five and seven of their last 10. Given what hockey means in Toronto, you can guess what the mood is like in that city. To say people are panicking would be grossly underselling it.

When the puck drops on Wednesday, two desperate hockey teams will be facing off.

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