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Johnson tries to boost Nats' spirits during meeting

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Johnson tries to boost Nats' spirits during meeting

PITTSBURGH -- Sensing some of his players were starting to press in an attempt to snap out of their offensive funk, Nationals manager Davey Johnson closed the doors of the visiting clubhouse at PNC Park this afternoon and tried to boost spirits with something of a pep-talk.

The meeting lasted less than 10 minutes, but Johnson's message was clear.

"I wanted to let them know that I'm behind them 100 percent," he said. "I know we're going to get better as the season goes on. And I appreciate the effort they've given so far. ... I wanted to put them at ease that I have confidence in everyone on this ballclub, or else they wouldn't be here. I expect us to get it right."

The Nationals enter tonight's game against the Pirates on a three-game losing streak, having struck out 23 times in the first two games of this series. Several players, Johnson believes, look like they're trying to do too much, perhaps overcompensating for the losses of Michael Morse and Jayson Werth to injuries.

"They try to hit the ball too hard," the manager said. "They try to make up for the lack of power we have in the lineup. And I don't want that. We're not that kind of ballclub. Everybody's different. But all of the guys have the capability to be a good hitter."

Johnson sought not only to show confidence in his players through his words but also his actions. Thus, his lineup for this series finale isn't altered much from previous nights. Bryce Harper was bumped down to the fifth spot in order to provide some protection for cleanup hitter Adam LaRoche. But slumping second baseman Danny Espinosa (who leads the NL with 39 strikeouts) remains in the lineup and hitting sixth.

Johnson did meet individually with Espinosa this afternoon and offered him a chance to take the night off, with rookie Steve Lombardozzi filling his spot. The .189-hitting second baseman said he wanted to play.

"The most important guy right now in this lineup is Danny Espinosa," Johnson said. "And I had a conversation with him today about: 'Let me rest you. Lombo would certainly enjoy the opportunity to go out there and play second base.' But he said: 'I feel better. I've been a little confused.' I had a great conversation with him and I said nothing more than I'll give you every opportunity to do the things you're capable of, because we need you. Ergo, he's in the lineup."

Johnson reiterated a point he made Wednesday: He doesn't want players believing their jobs are on the line every time they step to the plate or take the mound. He also doesn't succumb to outside pressure calling for change.

"I wanted to let them know that I don't manage by audition, and I don't panic and I don't take a lot of advice from people that don't know a whole lot," he said. "I do read blogs and Tweeter and fans and the newspaper and also on the internet. I'm not immune to it, and I know these guys do it 100 times more than me.

"I'm not saying there's not always some good advice in there. But you're dealing with people that have feelings and you're also dealing with people that have a lot of pride. And also I want to be consistent with opportunities. The more you play, the more opportunities you get. It's kind of simple with me. One day doesn't necessarily make a winning streak. And a couple 0-fers doesn't necessarily mean a slump."

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Max Scherzer Giving Away Memorabilia For Good Cause

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USA Today Sports Images

Max Scherzer Giving Away Memorabilia For Good Cause

By Ryan Wormeli

Max Scherzer is the ace of the Nationals staff, a fan favorite, and the 2017 National League Cy Young award winner. He's also a soon-to-be father whose wife, Erica May-Scherzer, once accidentally threw out the jersey he wore when throwing his 2nd career no-hitter. This time around, I'm guessing they talked it over first before deciding to sell some of his memorabilia garage-style for a new fundraiser.

We don't have any more information about the fundraiser yet, but May-Scherzer posted some photos on Twitter this afternoon. 

And in case you're wondering, no, the Scherzer family cat featured in one of the pictures isn't for sale (we assume). Plus, even if they were willing to part with their cat, considering Scherzer is on a contract worth over $200 Million, their price would probably be pretty steep. How much would you pay to adopt the cat of a 3-time Cy Young winner?

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Why Bryce Harper would be a bargain at $500 million

Why Bryce Harper would be a bargain at $500 million

$500 million.

That number is so hard to wrap your brain around, but it's a number a lot of professional baseball players may soon start seeing on their contracts.

One player who could be the first to see that amount within the next year is Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper.

Harper will become a free agent in 2018 and people are already projecting his market value at close to $500 million, if not more.

Miami Marlins right fielder Giancarlo Stanton signed a contract back in 2014 for 13 years, $325 million, holding the league record.

For Fancy Stats writer Neil Greenberg, $500 million is a bargain for someone of Harper's caliber.

"Harper is every bit as good [as Stanton] but he's also young," Greenberg told the Sports Junkies Friday.

"I mean, we don't see a player that's as good as Harper, that's as young a Harper, hit the market almost ever I want to say. You look at how many years of his prime he has left and then even if you start to give him just the typical aging curb off of that prime, he's probably worth close to 570 million dollars starting from 2019 and going forward ten years. And that includes also the price of free agency going up and other factors."

Harper, who is only 25 years-old, brings more to a team than just talent. He's one of the most recognizable figures in baseball, bringing tremendous marketing opportunities to an organization. Greenberg dove deeper into how that will increase his market value.

"And that's just for the on-the-field product. You talk about all the marketing that's done around Bryce Harper [and] what he does for the game. In my opinion, and based on the numbers that I saw, he's a bargain at $500 million."

Don't we all wish someone would say $500 million is a bargain for us?

After crunching the numbers, the biggest takeaway for Greenberg is the return on investment the Nationals have gotten out of Harper.

"Like if you look at his wins above replacement throughout his career, he's given you 200 million dollars in value for 21 million dollars in cash and he's due what another 26 or 27 million this year. I mean he's already given you an amazing return on investment."

"So, if you're the Nationals having - benefited from that - you know you have a little bit of, I guess, wiggle room in terms of maybe you're paying a little bit for past performance 'cause, you know, when a player is on arbitration in their early years they don't really get paid that much."

The Nationals still have Harper for one more season and many feel they need to make him an offer sooner than later. Whenever and whoever he gets an offer from, it's going to be a nice pay day for him.