How to win the Manager of the Year Award: prove the pundits wrong

How to win the Manager of the Year Award: prove the pundits wrong

I wrote this when Bud Black won the Manager of the Year Award in 2010, and Aaron touched on some of the same themes earlier today. I think it remains the most that can be said about the Manager of the Year Award: As I’ve said in the past, no one has ever set forth…

Nats don't believe Cardinals' Garcia was throwing at them on purpose

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Nats don't believe Cardinals' Garcia was throwing at them on purpose

It's not always easy to determine the intent when a major league pitcher throws over a batter's head and on Friday night Cardinals pitcher Jaime Garcia did it twice against Nationals center fielder Ben Revere. He also hit second baseman Daniel Murphy with an errant fastball that clipped him on his upper back.

The pitch to Murphy came before the other two in the fourth inning. So, when Garcia lofted one just inches over the helmet of Revere in the fifth, home plate ump Alan Porter issued a warning to both dugouts. It surprised Cardinals manager Mike Matheny, who came out to chat with Porter. And it also surprised Nationals skipper Dusty Baker.

"I was surprised. I don’t know what happens on a warning any more. If you come close to a guy I guess it’s a warning," Baker said. 

"I’m sure Mike Matheny was probably just as surprised. You could tell that [Garcia] wasn’t sharp. In my mind, I know he wasn’t trying to hit those guys. There’s no reason to. I don’t know if there’s bad blood in the past, I wasn’t there. I didn’t see anything that merited him coming close to our guys or even getting a warning.”

Revere also didn't think Garcia was trying to hit him above the shoulders on purpose.

"I've faced Garcia a couple of times. I know how humid it is tonight and with the way the ball moves. He was trying to come inside and it kind of got away from him," Revere said. "His hands were sweaty. He wasn't trying to throw at my head."

Revere wasn't as surprised at the warnings and actually thought it was smart of Porter to issue them.

"That was good because you don't want retaliation where something breaks out that shouldn't. After a while, hopefully if he does go up and in and hits someone, then it's like 'okay dude, you're kinda done,'" Revere said.

If something did stem from this later in the series, it wouldn't be the first time animosity build up over the course of several days between teams. Sometimes mayhem breaks out in baseball when you least expect it. 

The Nationals gave Garcia the benefit of the doubt on Friday and don't expect anything else to come from it this weekend as they continue their four-game series. 

"He's not trying to throw at your head. If a pitcher is really trying to do that, then it's time to get serious," Revere said. "You don't want to get somebody potentially hit in the head. I've been hit in the face and it's not fun. It's definitely not fun."

Does Tampa's playoff run prove they don't need Stamkos?

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Does Tampa's playoff run prove they don't need Stamkos?

Has Steven Stamkos played his final game for the Tampa Bay Lightning? The superstar forward was on the final year of his contract and is now the biggest free agent on the market, or he at least will be when free agency opens on July 1. A player of Stamkos' caliber actually hitting the open market is rather rare, and where he decides to play could change the outlook of the the NHL. But first Tampa will have between now and July 1 to try to convince him to re-sign there.

As the season began and Stamkos remained unsigned, the Lightning faced a tough decision: trade him or risk losing him for nothing at the end of the season. At the trade deadline, Tampa elected to hold onto their star and make a run at the playoffs...only to see him miss almost the entire postseason with a blood clot in his right arm.

Now they have no Cup and no contract.

Stamkos said all the right things on Friday about wanting to remain in Tampa Bay.

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The problem is, he could have stopped it from getting to this point by re-signing before now. The team tried to get a deal done before the start of the season, but the two sides could not reach an agreement. Unless the Lightning were seriously lowballing him, which seems unlikely considering he was already counting $7.5 million against the cap, Stamkos could have ended the talk and the speculation by signing a deal. He would not have let it reach this point if he was not at the very least thinking about exploring his options in free agency.

But after the Lightning did so well in the playoffs, the question now is how much does the team actually need Stamkos? Tampa came within one win of reaching the Stanley Cup Finals for a second consecutive season and they did it essentially without him.

According to General Fanager, Alex Killorn, J.T. Brown, Vladislav Namestnikov, Nikita Kucherov, Cedric Paquette, Nikita Nesterov and Mattias Ohlund are all free agents this summer. Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, Brian Boyle, Jonathan Drouin, Victor Hedman, Andrej Sustr, Ben Bishop and Andrei Vasilevskiy are free agents at the end of next season. Several of these players (Kucherov, Johnson, Drouin) are going to be due significant raises. General manager Steve Yzerman is going to have to make some tough decisions as to who will remain on the team and he’s going to have to find the money to pay them. He will have a lot more money to play with if Stamkos leaves.

Clearly, the Lightning are a better team with Stamkos. He has become one of the top goal-scorers in the NHL and it would be crazy to suggest that they are somehow better without him. The point is, should they pay him $8, 9 maybe even 10 million per year and lose some of their young talent, or try to keep the rest of the core together after seeing how successful they were in the postseason without him?

Of course the Lighting will still look to get a deal done before July 1, but now they don’t need to be desperate. They don’t need to break the bank with an offer around $10 million per year. Now they could justify offering him a contract around $8 million per year. If he stays, great. If he walks, well, more money for the rest of the team, a team that came within one win of making the Stanley Cup Finals.

MORE HOCKEY: PENGUINS' RUST PROVING WHY BOTTOM SIX MATTERS

Alhaji Kamara scores late in MLS debut, lifts United to 1-0 win over Sporting KC

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Alhaji Kamara scores late in MLS debut, lifts United to 1-0 win over Sporting KC

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) -- Alhaji Kamara scored late in D.C. United's rain-soaked 1-0 win over Sporting Kansas City on Friday night.

Kamara, making his MLS debut after a congenital heart condition derailed his European career this year, put away a cross from Taylor Kemp in the 86th minute -- less than a minute after coming on for Lamar Neagle as United's final substitution.

The kickoff was delayed 2 1/2 hours because of weather concerns and there was a 60-minute rain delay at halftime.

Kansas City, which outshot United 18-6, had some early chances but couldn't convert and the weather dampened the action after the break, until Kamara's winner.

Bill Hamid, making his first start of the season after undergoing knee surgery, batted away a right-footed blast by Kevin Ellis from the center of the box in the 88th minute to preserve the win.

It was the first road win for D.C. United (4-5-4).

Sporting (5-8-2) has just one win in its last 10 matches.