The umpires in the Astros-Angels game have been disciplined

The umpires in the Astros-Angels game have been disciplined

Relatively unprecedented. From MLB: Umpire Fieldin Culbreth, the crew chief in Thursday night’s game between the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park in Houston, has received a two-game suspension and a fine for the misapplication of Official Baseball Rule 3.05(b) in the top of the seventh inning, Major League Baseball…

2015-16 Capitals in Review: Jason Chimera

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2015-16 Capitals in Review: Jason Chimera

With the Capitals’ 2015-16 season now in the rearview mirror, we continue with our numerical player-by-player roster analysis.

No. 25 Jason Chimera

Age: 37 (turns 38 on May 2, 2017)

Games: 82

Goals: 20

Assists: 20

Points: 40

Plus-minus: Even

Penalty minutes: 22

Time on ice: 14:03

Playoff stats: 12 games, 1 goal, 1 assist, minus-1, 12 PIM, 13:00

Contract status: Unrestricted free agent (2015-16 salary: $2 million)

If Jason Chimera set out this season to prove his age is just a number, he accomplished his goal by matching his career high in goals (20) and maintaining his reputation as the faster skater on the Capitals.

The question facing general manager Brian MacLellan is whether the Caps can afford to bring the 37-year-old left wing back to Washington for an eighth season.

If it was up to his teammates, they should.

RELATED: PRESSING OFFSEASON QUESTIONS FACING THE CAPITALS

“He’s great,” Caps center Nicklas Backstrom said. “He’s great to have in the locker room, as well. He’s just an all-around great guy. He’s a funny guy, he jokes around and stuff like that. You need that in the locker room.”

Chimera is a bundle of energy on and off the ice, cracking jokes, singing songs and screaming over interviews in the Caps’ locker room. He’s also a physical anomaly, possessing the kind of speed and physicality that defines third-line wingers in today’s NHL.

“He's a freak,” said Caps center Jay Beagle, who played alongside Chimera much of this season. “He's going to play for, I think, a lot more years. He's still one of the fastest guys in the league. He's got those young legs that never seem to slow down and he’s a great guy in the locker room, a great guy to be around.

“He's going to play a lot of years. It's up to management and him, but I would love to see him back and I would love to play with him again.”

Chimera came into this season with a lot to prove. He was coming off a seven-goal, 12-assist season and had committed 51 minutes in penalties in Barry Trotz’s first year behind the bench, many of them due to a lack of discipline. Chimera cut his penalties in half (22) and more than doubled his offensive output with 40 points.

“I think the understanding with Trotzy was a little better this year,” Chimera said. “I played some power play with Kuzy (Evgeny Kuznetsov) and that didn’t hurt, for sure (4 power-play goals, 5 power-play assists). He’s one of the most skilled guys in the league and I got some easy tap-in goals with him. I played with Beags most of the year and you play with (Tom Wilson) and (Marcus Johansson) came in and played and we had a really good, solid third line all year. It was a fun year. Our team probably had the most fun I’ve ever had in my whole life of playing. It was a fun year to be a part of, right from the coaches all out. It was a good year in that aspect, for sure.”

On the ice, Chimera possesses many of the qualities the Caps seem to be seeking this offseason. Thanks to a grueling offseason workout program, his speed has remained intact and his durability is nearly unmatched. He’s missed just seven games in his last six seasons with the Caps. And he believes he has many more.   

“I’m not putting a number on it,” Chimera said. “I think you’ll know the writing’s on the wall when you’re kind of walking out the door. I haven’t seen any writing yet, so hopefully I don’t see any in the near future. I want to play as long as I can. I won’t put a number on it. I know a lot of players in the past I’ve talked to said, ‘Don’t let go unless you’re ready to let go’ because a lot of guys said there’s nothing like it other than playing.

“I’ll play as long as I can, whatever role I have to. It’s one of those things, I might not score as much as a (Jaromir) Jagr at his age (44), but you hopefully keep going to his age. This game’s treated me really well. Hopefully, it treats me really well moving forward. You don’t see stopping anytime soon.”

After the season MacLellan identified improving the Capitals’ bottom six forwards as his top priority in the off-season, adding that he will see how much money is needed to re-sign his restricted free agents before deciding on whether to re-sign Chimera.

Right now, the Caps have roughly $58.5 million committed to next year’s salary cap, which MacLellan expects to be around $73 million.

If $9 million is needed to re-sign RFAs Marcus Johansson, Tom Wilson, Michael Latta and Dmitry Orlov, the Caps would have roughly $5.5 million in cap space for two players.

Chimera likely will be seeking a deal no less than two years and $4 million. Despite seeing good friends Joel Ward, Mike Green and Eric Fehr depart for greener pastures last summer (Ward and Fehr are playing for the Stanley Cup), Chimera believes he’ll be back in a Caps jersey next season.

“I still think I’m going to be back,” Chimera said. “I’m not confident in anything. In this game, I think you’re not guaranteed anything to be back. I want to be back. You don’t think of playing anywhere else. You know the business side of it, but I still don’t think I’m going to play anywhere else, but we’ll see what happens, right?”

It is that uncertainty that made the Caps’ first-round playoff loss to the Penguins that much more painful for Chimera, who has seen the Caps get to the playoffs in six of the last seven seasons, only to be knocked out in the first or second round.

Last year, Chimera continued his reputation as a playoff performer with three goals and four assists in 14 playoff games. This year he struggled, netting one goal and one assist and taking 12 minutes in penalties in 12 games.   

“This loss was maybe a little more, not taxing, but I guess you don’t know what’s going to go on next year,” Chimera said. “You don’t know if you’re going to be with these guys. You want to be with the guys, but you understand the business side of it, too. That’s why I was disappointed the way it ended, for sure, because you want to win with these guys and you don’t know if you’ll have that chance. Maybe it’ll all work out, but it’s one of those things that it’s a business, and I realize that, too.

“You always leave with that sting in your mouth that you didn’t win. And I think the disappointment of that overshadows a good season sometimes. You overlook a lot of things in this game because a lot of times you end on a bad note. Twenty-nine teams end on a bad note. It was tough to take, for sure, the playoffs. I’m proud of the season I had for sure, but you want to get more out of the playoffs. That was our goal, and that’s what’s disappointing out of it.”

Ravens excited about increased speed at wide receiver

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Ravens excited about increased speed at wide receiver

Will the Ravens’ increased speed at wide receiver force opponents to defend them differently?

The Ravens hope so.

They were without Breshad Perriman (knee injury) all of last season, and without Steve Smith Sr. (Achilles injury) the final two months.

That gave opponents license to put a safety closer to the line of scrimmage, and to crowd Ravens receivers with press coverage – unafraid that the Ravens could throw deep with success.

However, Perriman is healthy again, and the Ravens added two speed receivers by signing Mike Wallace during free agency and drafting Chris Moore in the fourth round.

The Ravens believe that speed will lead to more big plays, help their running game, and give Smith and other receivers more operating room.

“We’ve had years when we couldn’t back anybody up,” said Ravens coach John Harbaugh. “The ability to back people up, it’s huge – to quote a famous politician not to be named here. It’s hard for me to see the speed all of the time in some of these drills. I’m like,`How fast are they really moving?’ Then I go ask the (defensive backs) and they say, ‘They’re moving really fast.’ And that makes me feel good about it.”

Perriman averaged 19.5 yards per catch at Central Florida, Moore averaged 19.3 yards per catch at Cincinnati, and Wallace has averaged 15.2 yards per catch over a seven-year NFL career.

The Ravens believe their speed will make opponents think twice about crowding the line of scrimmage. And when opponents do crowd the line of scrimmage, the Ravens plan to make them pay with big plays.

RELATED: FREE AGENT WEDDLE ALREADY MAKING AN IMPACT

Zimmerman heating up for Nats, Papelbon can't solve Philly

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Zimmerman heating up for Nats, Papelbon can't solve Philly

Here are a few leftover thoughts from Monday night's Nationals win over the Phillies…

Is Zimmerman finally starting to heat up?

Ryan Zimmerman missed his ninth homer of the season by a matter of inches on Monday night as he watched his long flyball in the seventh inning bounce off the railing in center field at Citizens Bank Park. Instead, it was his first triple since last April and the 20th of his career. A 12-year veteran, Zimmerman is usually good for one or two of them per season.

The triple was Zimmerman's fourth extra-base hit in his last three games and his 15th of the month of May. In April he only had four extra-base hits the entire month. Zimmerman's four XBHs are the most he's had in a three-game span all season. Over his last 19 games he has seven homers, 12 RBI, eight walks, a .355 OBP and a 1.007 OPS.

Zimmerman is still hitting just .244 this year through 46 games and .247/.309/.769 since the start of 2015 (141 G). But perhaps this recent stretch can get him going. All year it has been pointed out how highly he ranks in average exit velocity - currently 11th in MLB at 94.7 miles per hour - and it may now be starting to pay off. 

Papelbon keeps having trouble with the Phillies

Jonathan Papelbon earned his 14th save of the season on Monday night, but once again it was an eventful outing against his former team. Papelbon served up back-to-back doubles to lead off the bottom of the ninth inning, the second by Ryan Howard. That brought home Maikel Franco and cut the Nationals' lead to 4-3 with no outs.

Papelbon escaped, but it wasn't easy. Since getting traded from Philadelphia to Washington, Papelbon has blown two saves and has allowed six earned runs in 5 2/3 innings (9.53 ERA) against the Phillies. 

Compare those numbers to what he's done against the rest of the league since joining the Nats and it will make you scratch your head. Papelbon has a 2.09 ERA (9 ER in 38.2 IP) with the Nats against non-Phillies teams. The Phillies are 29th in baseball in runs scored this season, too. There doesn't seem to be a good reason for it, but Papelbon just can't solve his former team.

Roark goes seven strong innings

Tanner Roark continues to bounce back nicely from his May 14 disaster against the Marlins, his worst start of the season. In his three outings since, Roark has allowed just four earned runs in 20 2/3 total innings. In four of his last five starts Roark has gone at least six innings with two runs or less allowed. 

Roark now has a 2.70 ERA, which ranks just third on the Nats but 13th overall in the National League. He places sixth in slugging percentage against (.304) and 11th in the NL in OPS against (.607). One stat that really stands out for Roark is his groundball rate. His groundball/flyball ratio is 1.94, which ranks third in the NL and seventh in baseball.

As good as Roark has been, the Nats are just 4-7 in his starts this season and have lost five of his last seven outings. He's been killed by a lack of run support, ranking fifth from the bottom (100th among qualifying pitchers) with an average of 2.55 runs per game scored by his team. Stephen Strasburg, who is a perfect 9-0 and has seen the Nats win his last 15 starts dating back to last season, is second from the top with an average of seven runs scored per start.

Revere keeps searching for consistency

Ben Revere went 0-for-4 on Monday and is now hitless in three straight games and in five of his last six. He's still not striking out, which is good. Revere only has one strikeout in his last eight games, a span of 30 at-bats, and he has the best contact percentage on the Nats (88.6%). 

And when Revere gets hits, they tend to come in bunches. In each of the last five games he's notched a hit, he's landed at least two in those contests. That gives him a .282/.333/.436 slash-line over the last 11 games. That's not bad, but it has been feast or famine for the outfielder with six hitless outings during that stretch.