Nationals

Steelers suspend rookie Ta'amu 2 games

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Steelers suspend rookie Ta'amu 2 games

PITTSBURGH (AP) The Pittsburgh Steelers will have to turn around their season without any help from rookie nose tackle Alameda Ta'amu.

The team suspended Ta'amu two games without pay on Tuesday following his arrest over the weekend following a late-night run-in with police. The fourth-round draft pick faces three felony counts - fleeing police, aggravated assault and aggravated assault by vehicle - among a dozen other charges.

Calling Ta'amu's behavior a ``detriment to our efforts,'' coach Mike Tomlin said Ta'amu is barred from the team's facility during the suspension, which could be lifted before the Steelers (2-3) play the New York Giants Nov. 4. Ta'amu will have a preliminary hearing on the matter next Monday.

``We thought it was very important that we act and act quickly in addressing this,'' Tomlin said. ``Obviously it's a disturbing incident, one we take very seriously.''

Tomlin declined to expand how the team reached the suspension length or who was involved in the process, saying only ``we intend to do what's right, that's always our No. 1 charge.''

Ta'amu's teammates pledged their support on Monday but added they won't let his situation become a distraction. The Steelers have their hands full as it is heading into Sunday night's game against Cincinnati (3-3).

Pittsburgh is winless on the road, including a 26-23 loss at Tennessee last Thursday that gutted the offensive line and assured the Steelers of their worst start in Tomlin's six-year tenure.

While Tomlin is optimistic center Maurkice Pouncey - who left the Titans game early with a right leg injury - will be ready, right tackle Marcus Gilbert is out. Gilbert has a tendon issue in his left ankle but does not require surgery. Rookie Mike Adams will make his first NFL start in Gilbert's place.

Tomlin also ruled safety Troy Polamalu (strained right calf) and linebacker Chris Carter (hamstring) out, though outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley is expected to play after sitting out a game with a mild left hamstring strain.

Pittsburgh's road woes have followed a similar pattern. The Steelers play well in the first half then fall apart late. It happened against Denver in the season-opener, grew more exasperating in a 34-31 loss at Oakland on Sept. 23 then became a flat-out trend against the Titans.

``It comes down to playmaking,'' Tomlin said, ``and we haven't made enough significant plays.''

Having Woodley and James Harrison on the field at the same time might help. The two have played alongside each other for all of one quarter this season after Harrison missed the first three games with a lingering left knee injury and Woodley left a 16-14 win over Philadelphia two weeks ago when his hamstring started acting up.

Running backs Rashard Mendenhall and Isaac Redman are questionable after Mendenhall strained his right Achilles tendon in Tennessee, an injury Mendenhall said is partially related to the torn ACL he suffered in his right knee on New Year's Day. Redman is undergoing treatment for a balky ankle that cut short a breakout game. Redman became the first Pittsburgh running back in more than 40 years to have more than 100 yards receiving when he caught four passes for 105 yards.

If neither player can go, it leaves second-year Baron Batch and rookie Chris Rainey to do most of the work. Batch scored his first NFL touchdown in the fourth quarter against Tennessee and Rainey has been erratic.

Then again, so have the Steelers when it comes to running the ball. Other than a terrific performance by Mendenhall against the Eagles in his first game back from ACL surgery, Pittsburgh's rushing attack has been hit-and-miss. The Steelers had just 56 yards on 22 carries against the Titans and rank 31st in the league in yards per game (74.8).

While quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has been terrific, the inability to run consistently has played a role in allowing opponents to hang around.

``(Running) increases our chances of winning,'' Tomlin said. ``It increases our chances of controlling the flow of the game and the line of scrimmage. Obviously, we believe in that. Obviously, we haven't done that as well as we would like.''

Tomlin also took his team's young defensive players to task for a lack of production while filling in for older teammates, but added he'd be critical regardless of the circumstances.

``They aren't (playing great) but I think I'd say that if I was sitting here at 5-0,'' Tomlin said. ``This is not a patient man's business by any stretch. We need growth and development yesterday, if you will, not only in our defensive players but our offensive players.

``That is the nature of our business.''

NOTES: The Steelers bolstered their depth along the offensive line by signing Jacques McClendon to the practice squad. McClendon is a former fourth-round draft pick by the Detroit Lions. The team also signed defensive end Corbin Bryant, who played one game for the Steelers in 2011 and spent the remainder of the season on the practice squad. To make room for McClendon on the practice squad, the Steelers released TE Jamie McCoy.

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Explaining my National League ROY ballot

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USA Today Sports

Explaining my National League ROY ballot

This was tight. Really tight. A category for the Braves’ Ronald Acuna Jr. A category for the Nationals’ Juan Soto.

Sorting through 16 categories showed Acuna and Soto should have split the National League Rookie of the Year award. It also showed me a narrow advantage for Soto, which is why I voted him first, Acuna second and Dodgers starter Walker Buehler third. Once the votes from other members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America were added, Acuna won, Soto was second and Buehler was third. It wasn’t close. It should have been.

First, a thought about the general process here: Writers take this seriously. Once assignments for the awards are distributed, we start to talk about them in the Nationals Park press box. Even non-voters hop in on the conversation. Sympathies are relayed to those who have an extremely tight choice, as I did this season and last when I voted for MVP (I’m big in Cincinnati thanks to my Joey Votto selection).

I outline specific categories, talk to opposing players and managers and watch as much as possible in order to come to a conclusion. The only thing easy about voting for ROY this season was the chance to see the leading candidates often since one played here and the other is in the division.

I used 16 categories to largely determine my vote. They were as follows: OPS, OPS+, Baseball Reference WAR, Fangraphs WAR, Baseball Prospectus WARP, OBP, WRC+, SB, HR, late-and-close OPS, 2 outs RISP OPS, BB:K ratio, WPA, “Clutch”, WOBA, and an overall defensive mark.

There’s no perfect formula here. But, when looking through those, Soto took nine, Acuna six and one, Fangraphs WAR, was even. That, coupled with Soto doing this in his age-19 season as the league’s youngest player (Acuna was just 20, so, like everything else the leader’s advantage here is slight), and talking to others in the league, prompted me to vote for Soto.

Again, the gaps were minute. Baseball Reference’s WAR formula favored Acuna. Fangraphs had them even. Baseball Prospectus put Soto clearly ahead. Soto was significantly better in late-and-close situations. Acuna was better with two outs and runners in scoring position.

If Soto had a distinct lead anywhere, it was via command of the strike zone, which is currently his premier talent. His walk and strikeout rates were both superior to Acuna. When asked about Soto, opponents and teammates alike brought it up.

However, Acuna is the better defender and baserunner. Points back to his favor.

Soto was intentionally walked 10 times signifying what opponents thought of dealing with him. Acuna was intentionally walked just twice (though his spot in the order has some influence there).

This ping-ponging of qualifications could go on.

What the National League East has is two of the best players in baseball. Not just young players at this stunningly low age, but two of the best. Soto was fourth in on-base percentage and seventh in OPS in the National League when adjusted to be among the qualified leaders (an explanation from Baseball Reference: In order to rank the player, the necessary number of hitless at bats were added to the player's season total.). Acuna was eighth in slugging under the same adjustment.

The 2019 All-Star Game is in Cleveland. Expect both to be there and this to be just the beginning of them being measured against each other.

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Wizards releasing Chasson Randle opens roster spot, possibilities

Wizards releasing Chasson Randle opens roster spot, possibilities

The Washington Wizards released guard Chasson Randle Monday. The additional space – the Wizards had one vacant roster slot even with Randle – brings up the question of what the team may do next. For now, don’t expect a blockbuster move.

Head coach Scott Brooks briefly addressed the move ahead of Monday’s game against the Orlando Magic.

“He’s a terrific young man, a very good player,” Brooks said of Randle. “Just gives us more flexibility. Who knows what we might do with it. He’s definitely an NBA player.”

Randle, who Washington signed to the active roster on Oct. 30, likely clears waivers, and then would rejoin the Capital City Go-Go, Brooks said. It’s been a back-and-forth scenario for Randle between the Wizards and their G-League squad this season. The 6-foot-2 guard was on the Go-Go roster when Washington’s season tipped off and assigned to the G-League squad at the time of Monday’s release. Randle scored 37 points in the Go-Go’s inaugural game. He did not enter a game for Washington.

The Wizards were forced to add a player by Oct. 30, a date that marked two weeks from the time Washington traded Jodie Meeks to Milwaukee. League rules require a minimum of 14 players on the roster.

That two week timeline applies to the current scenario. For now, the Wizards save a bit on the luxury tax payment by waiving Randle, who was signed to a $1.24 million non-guaranteed contract. Considering he'll likely be back in the building, Randle returning to the Wizards roster is a consideration.

According to ESPN’s Bobby Marks, adding Randle cost the Wizards approximately $239,000 in luxury tax payments. Washington saved approximately $8 million by dealing Meeks.

As Brooks acknowledged, the open spots create greater flexibility.  In wake of the Timberwolves trading disgruntled All-Star Jimmy Butler to the 76ers, multiple reports at least tangentially mentioned the Wizards’ as part of the mix.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported Washington balked at including Bradley Beal. SI.com’s Chris Mannix reported teams are keeping tabs on the 3-9 Wizards in case role players like Jeff Green, Markieff Morris or Kelly Oubre Jr. become available should the slow start continue.

Randle’s release limits Washington’s backcourt depth, but the top four options are healthy entering its five-game home-stand. In theory two-way contract player Jordan McRae could be recalled from Capital City, but the wing guard is dealing with a groin injury, according to a source. McRae should be available later in the week.

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