Nick Ashooh

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Juan Soto is no longer Major League Baseball's best kept secret

Juan Soto is no longer Major League Baseball's best kept secret

After Juan Soto's performance in the 2019 MLB Postseason, he's no longer a secret around baseball. Of course, his almost seamless transition as the new centerpiece of the Nationals' lineup is great for organizational progress, but it also means big financial decisions will have to be made in the future

Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo and the front office don't rush when it comes to offering big deals for their stars, and, as was the case with both Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon, aren't afraid to pass if the price is too high. 

That being said, Soto's bright future is being noticed not only in D.C. but around the baseball world as well. 

"I think he's one of the stars of the future," said SiriusXM host Steve Phillips on the Nationals Talk podcast. "He's a great personality. He loves the game, he plays with some flair, but he's humble. I don't know that you can find a better centerpiece on a team to build around both short term and long term. He's one of the elite talents in the game and he's still just a baby. The Nationals and their fans are so lucky to have him."

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Lucky they are. But, with these types of talents, at some point, the Nats will have to start addressing whether or not they're willing to take on a potentially massive contract to retain Soto. 

For now, the organization and fans get to benefit from watching a potential MVP talent in Soto develop as a player and personality, especially since as Phillips said, he's a baby (he's only 21). 

Let's hope this time around though, Soto doesn't end up in another uniform. 

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Will the 2020 Major League Baseball season be completed? Here's why it will

Will the 2020 Major League Baseball season be completed? Here's why it will

One of the major hang-ups during Major League Baseball's restart negotiations was how late into the fall the 2020 season should be scheduled. The concern remains that a rise in coronavirus cases could put the postseason and World Series into jeopardy. 

Now, with the regular season reportedly to open July 23 with the Nationals hosting the Yankees, we have an idea when we'll see real baseball again.

But, that doesn't answer the bigger question: will they make it through the entire season? 

"I think it's possible. I don't think it will be without some positive tests along the way," former Mets GM Steve Phillips told the Nationals Talk podcast.  "I just find it interesting, so we started in Japan, and they're getting along fine. In Korea, their policies were if one player tested positive the entire league would shut down for 18 games, and they haven't shut down yet."

Obviously there are different situations country by country, but Major League Baseball has an exceptionally long list of protocols they expect players to follow in order to keep this season running safely. The clear way to lower the risk is by following them. 

"If you want to play you're going to have to follow the rules," Phillips continued. That list is long too, and along with regular testing, here's a few:

  • Non-playing personnel must wear masks in the dugout. 
  • No spitting and no chewing tobacco. Chewing gum is allowed.
  • No bat/ball boys or girls. Their duties will be handled by team personnel.
  • Players have to retrieve their own cap and glove at the end of an inning if they're on base. A teammate can't bring it to them.
  • Hitters will have their own personal pine tar rag, bat weight, and other hitting equipment. Nothing is shared.
  • Baseballs used during batting practice must be disinfected and taken out of circulation for at least five days.
  • High fives, fist bumps, and hugs are prohibited. Fighting will be met with "severe discipline."
  • The only contact allowed on the field is tag plays and other incidental contact that occurs during normal play.
  • Showering at the ballpark is "discouraged." Even then only players, coaches, and clubhouse staff can shower at the park.

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There's only so much that can be done to keep this season as safe as possible, and there's no way to prevent a COVID-19 infection with 100 percent certainty. Yet MLB is going full steam ahead starting this month, and the hope from all is that it ends with a World Series champion crowned. 

Preferably the Washington Nationals again. 

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Former Mets GM Steve Phillips likes how the Nationals stack up in a 60-game season

Former Mets GM Steve Phillips likes how the Nationals stack up in a 60-game season

With the laundry list of adjustments Major League Baseball has had to make, there's no shortage of questions entering the 2020 season. Safety protocols are going to put players in a unique situation, but keeping players from spitting or high-fiving won't be nearly as daunting as the sprint of an abbreviated season. 

The Nationals' 60-game schedule brings a whole new layer of strategy the organization needs to navigate, but it's something former Mets' GM and current SiriusXM host Steve Phillips thinks they can do well. 

"I actually like where they are now better than if the season started on Opening Day," said Phillips on the Nationals Talk podcast. "I worried about a bit of a hangover effect with the impact on the starting pitching, with some of the changes on the roster, and sort of coming into the season with the 'How can this year live up to what last year was?'. But I actually think that this helps them, that it's different, that it's special, it's unique. Everybody's disrupted, and I think that sort of helps light that fire back under the Nationals players."

RELATED: 2020 MINOR-LEAGUE SEASON CANCELED AMID CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC

There's no question the mental side of this condensed season will take a toll on even the most focused players. After overcoming last season's 19-31 start, the Nationals are familiar with having their backs to the wall. Their rebound from last May's slow start to World Series champions is a big confidence builder for this veteran roster. Not to mention their starting rotation spent plenty of time in unnatural circumstances during the postseason.

"With the pitching that they have they should be in every game," Phillips continued. "I think bullpens are going to be really important though and I don't know about their bullpen."

You're not the only one Steve. Washington had the second-worst bullpen ERA in 2019, but it's also been a conversation dating back far longer than just last year, so we're kind of used to it. 

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Clearly 2020 will be different, and without a doubt, some teams will find ways to sift through the weird and figure out how to make it work. 

The Nationals have a lot on their resume that suggests they'll be able to navigate all this, but we obviously won't know until we get our first real baseball again later this month.

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