Orioles

Mystics aim Sky high for season opener

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Mystics aim Sky high for season opener

With their season set to tipoff Saturday night at the Verizon Center, the Washington Mystics can truly put the 2011 campaign behind them.That's a good thing. After finishing tied for the best record in the WNBA's Eastern Conference in 2010, the Mystics win total plummeted. Beset by injuries and inexperience, the recorddropped to a dismal 6-28. Not surpisingly, massive changes followed; only four players return, including all-star forward and former University of Maryland star Crystal Langhorne.The new roster put together by second-year coach and general manager Trudi Lacey boasts size plus veteran presence up front and in the backcourt. The first chance to see what the revamped squad is all about comes at 7 p.m. against the Chicago Sky. Here's what else you need to know about the new-look Mystics:Who's back: It all starts with Langhorne, who led the Mystics in scoring (18.2), rebounding and field goal percentage last season. The 6-foot-2 forward's scoring average has risen in each of first four WNBA seasons despite being the constant focus of opposing defenses. Help on the wing comes from the return of small forward Monique Currie (Bullis), who missed nearly all of last season with a knee injury. In 2010, the crafty scorer averaged 14.1 points and shot 45 percent from beyond the arc. In the Mystics preseason finale, Currie tallied 19 points and sank both of her 3-point attempts. Good sign indeed.Matee Ajavon took over the off-guard last season and finished second in scoring behind Langhorne. Dealing with a sore knee limited her during training camp while rising second-year point guard Jasmine Thomas missed time with knee tendinitis.Who's new: Seven of the Mystics 11 roster spots are filled with new faces. The acquistion of 6-foot-5 Michelle Snowstands out as the most prominent. The 10-year pro, along with former Seattle Storm shot blocker Crystal Robinson, will provide Langhorne protection inside plus a fiercer presence in the paint and on the glass. Center LaToya Pringle and forward Lindsay Wisdom-Hylton round out the frontcourt.Dominque Canty's 13-years of WNBA experience puts the quarterbacking of the Mystics up-tempo offense into veteran hands. She will also serve as mentor to Thomas, a first-round pick last season. Three-point threat Noelle Quinn and Natasha Lacy add punch off the bench.Then there is rookie Natalie Novosel, one ofthe Mystics twofirst-round picks, but the only one to make the final roster. The gritty anddurable5-foot-11 guardkeyedNotre Dame's run to thenational championship game and she will earn minutes as a defensive stalwart. Novosel also shot 41 percent from 3-point range combined over her last two seasions with the Irish.Where's Alana: After two injury plagued seasons, Alana Beard, the Mystics' all-time leading scorer, moved on during free agency.Beard signed with the Los Angeles Sparks, where she will be reunited with former Mystics Marissa Coleman and Nicky Anosike.The opponent: Like the Mystics,the Skyalso missed the postseason last year. Like the Mystics, the Sky also did not stand pat, adding former all-stars Swin Cash and Ticha Penicheiro. Like the Mystics, it all starts inside for the Sky with the reigning WNBA defensive player of the year and 2012 Olympian Sylvia Fowles. The 6-foot-6 center averaged 20 points and 10 rebounds last season. Speaking of last season, the Sky swept the Mystics in four games.What's the outlook:If Lacey has her way, this team will run more, play sharing is caring basketball and offer greater resistance on the defensive end. The coach said 15 of the team's losses last season came down to thefinal two or three possessions. With all the new but experienced hands, well, on hand, expect better results in the clutch. Barring the unforeseen, don't count on another six-win season. Then again, the East is stacked so even noticeable improvement on the court might not lead to the playoffs. Then again, change is in the air.

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Who is Mike Elias?

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Who is Mike Elias?

Where to begin after a team loses 115 games? That’s the main question settling into Mike Elias’ future when he takes over the Baltimore Orioles' beached ship.

Multiple reports have pegged Elias as the Orioles new general manager. He’s yet another front office member of the Houston Astros to be plucked by an outside organization for a larger role. He’s young, comes from an analytics-fueled front office and walks into a job where there only seems to be one direction to go following last season. 

Elias also has local ties. The 36-year-old is a graduate of Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria. He went to Yale where he worked four seasons as a left-handed pitcher. Elias jumped into scouting for the St. Louis Cardinals directly after graduation.

Similar to Nationals manager Mike Rizzo, Elias moved up from a scouting baseline to a prominent decision-maker in the front office. Elias was ported from St. Louis to Houston when the Astros hired Jeff Luhnow to become general manager in 2011. The duo, and rest of the front office took over a team that was about to embark on three consecutive seasons with 100 losses or more. The organization became notable around the league for its fervent reworking of approach and willingness to absorb losses to vault to the top of the annual draft.

In 2012, the Astros selected Carlos Correa No. 1 overall. Elias, then a special assistant to the general manager, has received a large amount of the credit for taking a shortstop who became Rookie of the Year and an All-Star. Nine of the Astros’ 14 selections that year made it to the major leagues. Not all with the Astros. Not all with a large degree of success. But, they made it.

Houston selected burgeoning All-Star Alex Bregman with the No. 2 overall pick in 2015. 

However, the Astros’ high-end draft history wasn’t perfect with Luhnow and Elias in place. They selected Stanford starter Mark Appel with the No. 1 overall pick in 2013. Just 27, he is out of baseball after never making it past Triple A. The Astros took Brady Aiken with the top overall pick in 2014. He never signed. 

Yet, the organization continued to turn. Bregman developed into a star. Jose Altuve won the MVP award, Lance McCullers, also part of the 2012 class, became an All-Star. Four years after Luhnow arrived to reverse the organization’s course, the Astros had a winning season and reached the postseason. Two years later they won the World Series.

Hiring Elias signals the Orioles, long viewed as one of the stodgier organizations in baseball, are shifting to the modern era. Baltimore was known more for its reticence to embrace analytics as opposed to its use of the information. The move may also calm the ongoing rotation of the front office bosses. Elias will be the organization’s fourth general manager since the Nationals started playing baseball again in the District in 2005. 

Among Elias’ initial tasks is finding a new manager. The Orioles fired Buck Showalter after 8 ½ seasons. Three of them led to the postseason. But, the mess of last season forced a change.

They also need to hit in the draft. The Orioles hold the 2019 top overall pick.

Elias will try to conjure a way to resuscitate the Orioles while fighting the expansive cash flow of the New York Yankees and World Series champion Boston Red Sox within the division. 

He’s been part of turnarounds before. This one would fully be in his hands.

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Morrissey avoids suspension for Oshie body slam in a decision that makes little sense

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Morrissey avoids suspension for Oshie body slam in a decision that makes little sense

The Department of Player Safety announced Thursday that Winnipeg Jets defenseman Josh Morrissey was fined $8,467.74 for his body slam of T.J. Oshie in Wednesday’s game. It is a punishment that falls well short of the standard the DPS itself set earlier this season.

Late in Wednesday’s game between the Caps and Jets, Oshie skated to the corner of the offensive zone after the puck while locked in a physical battle with Morrissey. Morrissey checked Oshie into the boards, then, as he was falling back, Morrissey slammed Oshie down to the ice. Oshie appeared to be dazed after the play which is troubling given his history of concussions.

There is nothing wrong with the initial hit. Both players were battling for the puck making Oshie eligible to be hit. The problem is after the hit when Morrissey slams him to the ice afterward, which is unnecessary and dangerous.

Oh, c’mon, you may be saying, Morrissey was just finishing his check! That’s not an argument anymore considering the DPS already suspended a player for doing the exact same thing earlier this season when Florida Panthers defenseman Mike Matheson slammed Vancouver Canucks rookie Elias Pettersson to the ice. Matheson was suspended two games for the play.

Matheson’s suspension was a matter of some debate within the hockey community not just because some argued Matheson was finishing his check on a hockey play, but because it was made to look worse by the fact that Pettersson is only 176 pounds, nearly 20 pounds lighter than Matheson. The DPS didn’t buy it and Matheson was suspended.

If you compare the Morrissey and the Matheson hits, they are very similar. Matheson hits Pettersson with a legal check, just as Morrissey did with Oshie. Matheson then slammed Pettersson to the ice after the initial check, just as Morrissey did with Oshie. One can quibble somewhat with the fact that Petterrsson’s skates came off the ice making the throw down more violent, but the two plays are similar enough that, in my opinion, it is fair to compare them and the corresponding punishment. In fact, one could easily argue that the Morrissey hit is worse considering he and Oshie are both listed as 195 pounds. Oshie didn’t go down to the ice because of a size disparity, Morrissey had to physically slam him down.

In addition, Morrissey is considered a repeat offender after getting suspended in the 2018 playoffs for a crosscheck to Minnesota Wild forward Eric Staal. To be fair, being a repeat offender is not supposed to affect the DPS’s decision on whether a play is worthy of a suspension or not, it is only meant to be taken into consideration when determining the length of a suspension.

But the remains that the DPS was presented with two very similar plays within one month of each other and came up with two completely different punishments. That is more than a little head scratching.

The DPS has one of the toughest jobs in hockey. No matter what they do, most people are going to be unhappy with the decisions they make. It’s the nature of the job when it comes to determining supplemental discipline. Having said that, the one thing people should be able to expect from the DPS is consistency. The Morrissey hit on Oshie seemed like a slam-dunk considering a very similar play happened a month before and resulted in a two-game suspension.

But hey, Caps fans can at least take comfort in the fact that Morrissey was issued the maximum fine allowed by the CBA. So there’s that.

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