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Marlins salary dump to Toronto finalized

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Marlins salary dump to Toronto finalized

MIAMI (AP) The Miami Marlins' latest payroll purge received final approval Monday from the commissioner's office, and as the team's top baseball executive began to discuss the deal during a conference call, a bad connection generated waves of reverberating noise that filled the phone line.

Nearly a week after the Marlins swung their widely ridiculed trade with Toronto, negative feedback keeps coming.

Commissioner Bud Selig approved the blockbuster deal, however, even though it made Marlins fans irate and made the team a nationwide punch line. The trade sends All-Star shortstop Jose Reyes to the Blue Jays along with pitchers Mark Buehrle and Josh Johnson, catcher John Buck and outfielder Emilio Bonifacio for seven players, none of whom has a big-money contract.

Miami received infielders Yunel Escobar and Adeiny Hechavarria, pitchers Henderson Alvarez, Anthony DeSclafani and Justin Nicolino, catcher Jeff Mathis and outfielder Jake Marisnick.

By swinging the deal only months after the Marlins moved into a new stadium built with taxpayer money, they pared from their books $146.5 million in payroll. That's their net savings after agreeing to send $8.5 million to the Blue Jays as part of the trade.

Marlins president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest said he understood why fans were mad, and confirmed the trade was necessary because owner Jeffrey Loria wanted to pare payroll. Beinfest also conceded the deal will make it harder for the team to recruit free agents in the future.

But Selig decided not to block it.

``This transaction, involving established major leaguers and highly regarded young players and prospects, represents the exercise of plausible baseball judgment on the part of both clubs (and) does not violate any express rule of Major League Baseball and does not otherwise warrant the exercise of any of my powers to prevent its completion,'' Selig said in a statement. ``It is, of course, up to the clubs involved to make the case to their respective fans that this transaction makes sense and enhances the competitive position of each, now or in the future.''

The players traded by the Marlins have combined guaranteed salaries of $163.75 million through 2018, including $96 million due Reyes.

``I understand the pause the fans have with the instability in our roster at a time when we were hoping to be very stable in the new stadium,'' Beinfest said. ``It's not a lot of fun.''

By contrast, the trade stamps the Blue Jays as contenders in the AL East. They haven't reached the playoffs since winning their second consecutive World Series in 1993.

Miami also finalized a deal with outfielder Juan Pierre, who agreed to a $1.6 million, one-year contract. That leaves the Marlins with an estimated opening-day payroll of $36 million for active players, which would be their lowest since 2008. In the latest figures, Oakland had the lowest payroll in the majors this year at $59.5 million.

While Beinfest said the Marlins acquired championship-caliber talent, fans believe Loria's goal was to increase his profits in the new ballpark rather than put increased revenue into the roster.

``We did receive a payroll range from ownership that we needed to achieve,'' Beinfest said. ``With this transaction, we have achieved that payroll range.''

The Marlins flopped as big spenders. They began the year with a franchise-record payroll of $112 million, then went 69-93, their worst record since 1999.

After sinking to last place by midseason, the Marlins traded former NL batting champion Hanley Ramirez, second baseman Omar Infante, right-hander Anibal Sanchez and closer Heath Bell.

``We've finished in last place the past two years, and that is unacceptable,'' Loria said in a statement. ``It's incumbent on us to make the changes necessary to make us a winner again. It may not happen overnight. But with the players we acquired in the second half of last season, coupled with the infusion of players we are acquiring now, we will be returning to Marlins baseball: high energy and hungry.''

Reyes, Buehrle and Bell signed multiyear deals as newcomers a year ago during an unprecedented Marlins spending spree, and Beinfest acknowledged other free agents might be now reluctant to sign with Miami.

``It'll be a factor,'' he said. ``I don't think we're happy about this at all. I understand there may be some disdain in the marketplace. We won't know until we get into those negotiations with free agents. It's definitely not great for the club, and we're going to have to deal with it.''

Miami's biggest remaining star, slugger Giancarlo Stanton, has been among those expressing anger about the trade. Beinfest said he hadn't talked with Stanton about the deal.

``I know this is an emotional time,'' Beinfest said. ``I'm sure it has been tough for him. Our feeling was to maybe let the dust settle a little bit and then talk to Giancarlo. I hear the frustration. It's not unexpected. This has been a tough go, but we think it's best for us moving forward.''

Players' union head Michael Weiner withheld comment, saying he was awaiting more input from Major League Baseball.

In January 2009, the union reached an agreement with MLB and the Marlins covering 2010-12 which Weiner said was a ``response to our concerns that revenue sharing proceeds have not been used as required. As part of the deal, Weiner said the team planned to ``use such proceeds to increase player payroll annually as they move toward the opening of their new ballpark.''

Selig said he was sensitive to how Marlins fans reacted to the trade.

``Baseball is a social institution with important social responsibilities, and I fully understand that the Miami community has done its part to put the Marlins into a position to succeed with beautiful new Marlins Park,'' Selig said. ``Going forward, I will continue to monitor this situation with the expectation that the Marlins will take into account the sentiments of their fans, who deserve the best efforts and considered judgment of their club. I have received assurances from the ownership of the Marlins that they share these beliefs and are fully committed to build a long-term winning team that their fans can be proud of.''

NOTES: Pierre would earn a $25,000 bonus if he's an All-Star, $25,000 each for winning a Gold Glove or Silver Slugger, $50,000 if he's an LCS MVP, $100,000 if he's the World Series MVP and $100,000 if he's the league MVP.

---

AP Sports Writer Ronald Blum in New York contributed to this report.

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Alex Ovechkin goes for gold before a needed break from hockey

Alex Ovechkin goes for gold before a needed break from hockey

The Capitals’ season ended a month ago, but Alex Ovechkin has yet to take his break.

That will happen soon enough, but for now Washington’s captain is leading Russia at the IIHF World Hockey Championships in Slovakia. After that, he gets his first real rest since the end of the 2016-17 season. He has played in 194 NHL games, including the postseason, in 18 months.  

Ovechkin will turn 34 on Sept. 17 and the questions now start in earnest: How long can one of the world’s greatest goal scorers keep up his pace? Ovechkin recorded his eighth 50-goal season this past season. And while it ended in disappointment with a first-round loss to the Carolina Hurricanes in the Stanley Cup playoffs, Ovechkin deserved little blame after adding four goals and five assists in the series.

“As a captain and as a leader, I thought he took another step this year from how he showed up to training camp to how he played all year long two-way hockey, commitment and when the games mattered the most,” Capitals coach Todd Reirden said last month. “He scored big goals and showed fantastic playmaking ability. A physical force. I'm excited to see what he comes back with now after a little extended time away because he was tremendous this year.”

Washington won the Stanley Cup on June 7 in Las Vegas last year and after a hectic summer of celebrating and, eventually, training, players were back less than three months later for another grind of a season that ended after 89 more regular-season and playoff games. Ovechkin missed just one of them. 

Next year could be another one filled with milestones for Ovechkin. He doesn’t even need 50 to reach them. With 42 goals he reaches 700 for his career. Only seven players have ever hit that mark.  

Ovechkin passes Mario Lemieux (690) with 32 goals and moves into the top 10 all time. He has a reasonable chance to catch Brett Hull for second-most power-play goals (265) in NHL history. Ovechkin has 247 right now and has averaged 17 per year each of the past four seasons.     

At some point, even for Ovechkin, scoring 50 goals will be too much. Only Johnny Bucyk (36) and Jaromir Jagr (34) have ever topped 50 goals at an older age. But if he could just do it one more time he would tie Wayne Gretzky and Mike Bossy for most 50-goal seasons ever (nine). We’re at the point where nothing should surprise, but we’ve gone off the known map. 

“That's the best I've seen him play in my three years here,” teammate Lars Eller said. “He just took some games over. It was impressive. He was our best player. Him and Nick, but especially O, he just took it to another level. Physicality-wise, he enforced his will out there and when he decides to do that, he's almost unstoppable. That was exciting to see."

Almost everything Ovechkin does now is unprecedented. In the past 20 NHL seasons dating to 1998-99, there have been 28 different 50-goal seasons as scoring has become harder thanks to better goalie play, equipment and more tactical defensive systems. And yet Ovechkin owns 29 percent of those 50-goal seasons. His 89 points (51 goals, 38 assists) were his most since 2009-10.  

For now, Ovechkin will settle for another IIHF World Championship. He has helped Russia win gold at the event three times (2008, 2010 and 2014). 

But Russia was 6-0 heading into the matchup with Sweden on Tuesday night and had outscored its opponents 29-3 in Group B despite just a goal and an assist from Ovechkin. 

There can be wild fluctuations in the competition level during the group stage at Worlds. The Russians beat Italy 10-0 last week. And the United States, Canada and Finland are all formidable opponents in Group A. 

Russia will likely play one of those teams in the quarterfinals on Thursday so nothing is guaranteed. The semifinals would be Saturday if they do win and then the gold-medal game - or the bronze-medal game - would be Sunday. Then, finally, Ovechkin can rest and get ready for his 15th NHL season with two years left on his contract with the Capitals. 

“[Ovechkin] elevated his game in the first round. He's just got a hunger to him to contribute and to score goals,” teammate Brett Connolly said. “You could tell that he was committed and that he was going to give everything he had to win it again. He was great last year and arguably even better this year….This fan base is very lucky to watch what he does on a consistent basis. You're not going to see that ever again. So, enjoy it while it's here.” 

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Tim Connelly explains his interview with Wizards, decision to stay with Nuggets

Tim Connelly explains his interview with Wizards, decision to stay with Nuggets

Tim Connelly sat down with Wizards owner Ted Leonsis about the head front-office opening on Friday.

On Monday, NBC Sports Washington confirmed that he decided to stick with his role as president of basketball operations for the Denver Nuggets

A day later, he spoke to the media at a press conference and answered questions about his meeting with Washington.

Clear in Connelly's comments were his respect for Leonsis, but commitment to continuity in Denver. 

"I had a really nice conversation with Mr. Leonsis and his staff. He's a fantastic owner, I think a real visionary. I was really impressed by who he was and his thoughts for the team. That team's going to be special quickly under his leadership. We just had a conversation and not much more than that."

As for the reason for the discussion with Leonsis, Connelly said it came down to his love for the franchise. 

"I spent 14 years there. Certainly it's where I'm from, it's where my wife's from, so I just wanted to have the conversation because I care about the organization," he said.

"I'd never had an audience with [Leonsis], so to have that conversation and exchange of ideas, you know, it's flattering." 

Ultimately, however, the Baltimore native emphasized that Washington couldn't entice him away from the franchise he'd spent the last six years building. 

"Loyalty and patience is such a rarity in professional sports and that's here in spades. Those things matter to me," he said. "I had a hard time envisioning myself elsewhere."

With Connelly out of the picture, the list of candidates for the Wizards front-office opening is narrowing. Currently, Tommy Sheppard, Danny Ferry and Troy Weaver remain in the conversation. 

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