Nationals

Baker, Pepperdine hold on for 60-57 victory

Baker, Pepperdine hold on for 60-57 victory

LOS ANGELES (AP) Jordan Baker scored 21 points and Pepperdine held off a late rally by Loyola Marymount for a 60-57 victory on Thursday night.

Lorne Jackson scored 13 points for the Waves (10-9, 2-4 West Coast) and Stacy Davis grabbed 10 rebounds.

Loyola Marymount (8-12, 1-6) had a 29-22 lead with 5:34 left in the first half, but Pepperdine went on a 15-4 run in the closing moments for a 37-33 lead at the half.

Loyola Marymount tied it at 43 with 14:41 left in the game, then went cold, missing seven shots in a row. But it got back in the game, using a press to fuel a 9-0 run. It got as close as 59-57, but a Pepperdine free throw with 2:21 remaining proved to be the final point of the game.

Anthony Ireland and Ayodeji Egbeymi each scored 14 points to lead Loyola Marymount.

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Anthony Rendon’s future appears set following Stephen Strasburg deal

Anthony Rendon’s future appears set following Stephen Strasburg deal

SAN DIEGO -- On the stage Monday at the Winter Meetings, two key components of Anthony Rendon’s future chatted before the television’s red camera light popped on.

Mike Rizzo and agent Scott Boras passed a final 30 seconds before showtime with small talk, then addressed the first bombastic signing of the Winter Meetings: Stephen Strasburg is returning to the Washington Nationals on a seven-year, $245 million deal. This, for all intents and purposes, ends Rendon’s time with the organization. 

The math creates a crunch. Rizzo tried to maneuver around the reality when on the dais next to Boras, but the reality is Washington does not want to surpass the competitive balance tax, it does not want to blow out payroll, and it has little wiggle room. Rendon moving on is the now an anchor in the offseason.

Washington operates with a big payroll and pocket-lining approach. A seeming dichotomy. It spends just to the edge. Then, it stops. Not too far to go over the tax. Not too far to appear reckless. But always far enough to say, correctly, the organization is a willing spender, a point Rizzo leaned on when asked about Rendon’s future Monday.

“You look at the history of the Nationals and the way we've positioned ourselves and the details of the contract and the way that it's structured, this ownership group has never shied away from putting the resources together to field a championship-caliber club,” Rizzo said. “I don't see them in any way hindering us from going after the elite players in the game.

“I think that Anthony Rendon is, again, one of the players that is most near and dear to my heart, a guy we've drafted, signed, developed, watched turn into a superstar, playoff success, and a huge part of the world championship run that we went on. So he's a guy that we love.

“The ownership has always given us the resources to field a great team, and we're always trying to win, and we're going to continue to do so.”

That is a 141-word non-answer. 

Washington’s managing principal owner Mark Lerner did not help Rizzo’s position before the Winter Meetings by stating the team could bring back only Rendon or Strasburg -- not both. 

“He did?” Rizzo joked. 

He did. Which, naturally, makes reporters curious about the correlation between a statement from ownership and Rizzo’s operating capacity.

“Well, when you look at those comments, and then you look at the structure of this particular deal and the structure of deals we've had getting up to where we are right now, I think Mark realizes that there's ways to fit players in, there's ways that you can field a championship-caliber roster -- and, again, the resources have always been there, so I don't expect that to change,” Rizzo said.

Here, he hopped into the idea Strasburg’s deferred money -- reportedly $80 million to be paid out within three years of the contract’s expiration -- suggesting the manipulation of those numbers keeps Rendon in play for the organization. It’s not enough. Not based on how the Nationals allocate and spend.

Which means they chose. Strasburg or Rendon. They could only have one, and they signed the homegrown pitcher and thanked Rendon for his time.

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Mike Rizzo believes there is a path to bring back Anthony Rendon even with Stephen Strasburg signed

Mike Rizzo believes there is a path to bring back Anthony Rendon even with Stephen Strasburg signed

The announcement of Stephen Strasburg signing a 7-year, $245 million deal to continue (and hopefully finish) his career in Washington was music to the ears of Nationals fans everywhere.

General Manager Mike Rizzo kept the good news coming during a joint press conference officially announcing the deal, implying that the Nationals were still in the conversation to resign their other superstar free agent: Anthony Rendon.

Rizzo was asked early on about how Strasburg’s mega deal might impact the team’s ability to purse (afford) a similar contract with Rendon. The Nationals’ GM was quick to point out he has never been hamstrung financially by the team’s ownership group, and he sees the franchise as capable of bringing back both World Series stars.

In response to his optimism, Rizzo was asked a follow up question specifically referencing Nationals owner Mark Lerner’s comments, in which he suggested to NBC Sports Washington that the Nats can only afford to pay one of Strasburg and Rendon. 

“When you look at those comments, and then you look at the structure of this particular deal, and the structure of deals we’ve had getting up to where we are right now, I think that Mark [Lerner] realizes that there’s ways to fit players in,” Rizzo responded, initially rebutting Lerner’s hesitation that there’d be enough money available. 

The Lerners are among the wealthiest ownership groups in Major League Baseball, and while hundreds of millions of dollars may seem like a lot, it’s important to remember that sports team owners are almost exclusively billionaires.

On the other hand, it’s also important to remember that the Nationals have never shied away from spending big if it means getting closer to a World Series title.

“There are ways that you can field a championship-caliber roster,” Rizzo continued. “And again, the resources have always been there. I don’t expect that to change.”

It’s a little eye-raising to hear two important decision-makers with the same team make such contrasting comments publicly, but this is the type of answer you’d expect from a team expecting to compete for more championships in the years to come.

Both Strasburg and Rendon were drafted by the Nationals and developed into World Series-winning superstars in the nation’s capital. It’s no surprise that the team would like to bring both back to their win-now club. 

What may be a surprise to Nats fans is if/when they elect to spend that kind of money. But don’t tell Mike Rizzo the team isn’t ready and willing to spend on another championship-level roster. 

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