Nationals

A Monday finish turned into a Monday start

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A Monday finish turned into a Monday start

KAPALUA, Hawaii (AP) As expected, Monday at the PGA Tour's season opener figures to be filled with anticipation at the Tournament of Champions.

Not because of who might win, but whether they might actually start this tournament.

Already, a few historical notes are worthy of research. This is believed to be the first PGA Tour event to start on a Monday. Rickie Fowler is certainly the first player given the honors of hitting the first tee shot of a new season - three times.

``Sweet,'' Fowler said before leaving Kapalua for the day.

The opening round was wiped from the books for the second time on Sunday when gusts that reached 48 mph came roaring down the Plantation Course and turned this winners-only tournament into goofy ball. Ben Curtis had birdie putts on his first two holes. He made a double bogey and a triple bogey. Matt Kuchar's ball was blown off the tee before he could hit his opening tee shot.

``You hope for the best, and it just didn't happen,'' said Slugger White, the tour's vice president of rules and competition, when he delivered the grim news to players who have spent more time waiting than actually playing at Kapalua this week.

The plan was to play 36 holes on Monday, and then return Tuesday for 18 holes to make it an official event.

By now, it's officially a weird tournament.

``I think everyone wants to play,'' Bill Haas said. ``But I think everybody wants it to be the person that plays the best who wins. On the 10th hole, somebody might hit a putt ... a foot from the hole, and that same, exact putt 10 minutes later might blow off the green 30 yards and make triple (bogey). And I just don't know if that's identifying the best player.''

Here's how the 2013 season has unfolded to this point.

-Fowler smashed a driver 360 yards on Friday to start the season. He made it through eight holes before play was stopped because of 40 mph gusts, not long after Carl Pettersson hit a good lag that rolled another 30 feet by the pin and off the green. Webb Simpson was 3 under through seven holes when his score was wiped clean. Scott Stallings was 7 over through four holes and thrilled with the decision.

-The idea of a 36-hole Saturday never materialized. There were three one-hour delays before officials realized the wind was getting worse, and the round was postponed without anyone hitting a shot, except on the practice range.

-The plan for a 36-hole Sunday turned into an 18-hole Sunday when the wind did not relent, and when players teed off, trouble was brewing. Kuchar's ball wouldn't stay on the tee. It took him seven minutes before he made contact, which was about how long - slight exaggeration - it took Ian Poulter to take a stab at his 10-foot birdie on the 11th. Fowler hit a thin 3-wood that never got more than shoulder-high and barely reached the first fairway. The round was wiped clean after about an hour.

Where does that leave the Tournament of Champions? Right where it started, even though it hasn't started.

Jason Dufner was 1 under through five holes, though he was on the front nine, which is far easier in this wind. Curtis was 5 over through two holes, and no one was happier than him to see the round scrapped. As for the Tuesday finish? Curtis is the last PGA Tour player to win on a Tuesday, at the Booz Allen Classic in 2006.

His golf ball already had moved once on the 11th green. As he got ready to hit his putt, it moved again, this time off the green and down the slope. He chipped up and took four putts from 15 feet, giving him eight putts in two holes.

``It's crazy. That's the only way to describe it,'' Curtis said. ``I've never hit two greens in regulation at the start and walked away at 5 over. But hey. At least we had to try.''

And they will try again.

For those wondering why this tournament keeps getting postponed, an hour of television Sunday was all the evidence they needed.

Poulter posed over his 4-iron shot to the 13th green and was so stunned to see it come up short that he looked at his small gallery for the longest time, repeating loud enough for them to hear that he was only 138 yards from the front of the green. Off to his right, Charlie Beljan had a search party stomping through high grass to the right of the 10th fairway looking for both his tee shots. He had a 15-foot putt for triple bogey when play was stopped.

Moments later, a call came over the radio for a ruling on the 12th green. Stallings was trying to tap in a 2-foot putt when a gust blew his ball 8 feet away.

``We need to try to put the show on,'' Poulter said. ``Hyundai spent a lot of money. We want to play. Fans want to see us play. TV wants to see us play. We're backed into a corner. I don't think they understand how windy it really is. Now they've seen it.''

It was comical from the start, with Kuchar having to tee it up three times before he could hit, and removing his cap the rest of the way. Jonas Blixt had a 1-foot par putt on the 10th hole and took about two minutes. He had to wait as a cup and someone's hat blew across the green.

Blixt has played 10 holes over two days in these conditions in 1-under par. None of it counts, but the Swede learned one thing.

``There's no instruction book for this,'' Blixt said. ``You just go by instincts.''

The tour insists on a 54-hole tournament, no matter how complicated that will be with the next tournament, the Sony Open, starting on Thursday in Honolulu. Andy Pazder, the tour's chief of operations, said television and operational equipment can only be transported to Oahu on a barge that takes 16 hours on a good day. The plan was to televise the final round at Kapalua, and go with a limited TV production for the opening round of the Sony Open.

Defending champion Steve Stricker lounged on a sofa in the dining room watching the NFL playoffs with Dustin Johnson and Brandt Snedeker. Along with Bubba Watson, they have yet to tee off all week.

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Which Nationals would have been named All-Stars in a normal season?

Which Nationals would have been named All-Stars in a normal season?

July 14, 2020 was supposed to be a day for celebrating the best players in Major League Baseball. The 2020 MLB All-Star Game, set to take place that evening at Dodger Stadium, had the promise of putting some of the biggest names on display such as Mookie Betts in his new LA threads, Gerrit Cole still fresh off signing a $324 million deal last winter and Mike Trout from only a few miles down the road.

However, the coronavirus pandemic had other plans. MLB suspended spring training on March 12 and spent three months on hold before ultimately settling on a 60-game season that begins July 23. As a result, there will be no All-Star Game for the first time since 1945.

The Nationals, coming off their first World Series title in franchise history, have plenty of stars who would’ve merited consideration. Even with 2019 NL MVP candidate Anthony Rendon departing for the Los Angeles Angels in free agency, there’s no shortage of talent in D.C.

Here are the players that stood the best chance of representing the Nationals in this year’s All-Star Game.

The favorites

SP Max Scherzer

Name value alone could’ve gotten him in if fans could vote on pitchers, but even a 35-year-old Scherzer can’t be counted out of making another run at the NL Cy Young.

SP Stephen Strasburg,

The reigning World Series MVP is already a three-time All-Star and coming off an offseason in which he signed a seven-year, $245 million deal to return to Washington.

LF Juan Soto

Making his first All-Star team would seem like something of a formality for Soto, who has already established himself as one of the game’s best young stars.

RELATED: DANIEL HUDSON ISN’T SURE A 60-GAME MLB SEASON CAN DETERMINE THE BEST TEAM

Needed a career year

SP Patrick Corbin

Corbin was given the Warren Spahn Award for the best left-hander in baseball last season and is no stranger to the Midsummer Classic. If he could’ve avoided the infrequent implosion (five starts of 5+ runs allowed in 2019) on the mound, he stood a good chance of posting numbers worthy of a selection.

RP Sean Doolittle

With Will Harris and Daniel Hudson in the fold, Doolittle wouldn’t have been relied on as much as he was last season. By getting more rest and still handling closer duties for a contending team, Doolittle certainly would’ve been in the running.

SS Trea Turner

No broken finger holding him back, Turner had a chance to show he can help replace some of Rendon’s production in what would’ve been his age-27 season. Shortstop is a deep position in the NL (Trevor Story, Javier Báez, Fernando Tatís Jr., Corey Seager) but Turner has to make it one of these years, right?

2B Starlin Castro

Castro may not be the first player who comes to mind when you hear “four-time All-Star” but that’s what happens when a young, healthy infielder plays every day during a rebuild. However, coming off a 2019 second half in which he hit .302 with 16 home runs, Castro came to D.C. looking to show he’s developed into a different kind of player.

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If he made the leap

CF Victor Robles

Though it’s a bit of a long shot considering his struggles at the plate as a rookie, Robles has always displayed the tools that make coaches dream of what he can become. As he gains a few more pounds—Robles is one of the strongest players on the team—and improves his plate discipline, there’s no telling what his ceiling might be.

Stay connected to the Nationals with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.

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Antonio Brown and other available receivers Washington could add after Kelvin Harmon's injury

Antonio Brown and other available receivers Washington could add after Kelvin Harmon's injury

Kelvin Harmon's torn ACL is tough news, as it will prevent him from taking the next step in his career in 2020. That injury also does significant damage to Washington's already limited group of receivers.

So, if Ron Rivera wants to replace Harmon with a free agent, who's out there?

Before getting to the list — which begins with one guy fans have been yearning for and will now yearn for even more — it is worth wondering how signing an outside free agent could be affected by COVID-19. How much more complicated is that process? 

As long as the virus doesn't make a move like that very strenuous, though, keep an eye on these options. The first name stands out, of course, but a few others make sense as well.

Antonio Brown

When asked about Brown last month, Ron Rivera basically shut down the thought of Washington acquiring him. Rivera explained to the media that he didn't want to "stunt the growth of somebody young" by introducing a vet to the mix.

Well, circumstances are obviously different, as the offense has one less young target to feature. Based on that logic, the possibility of going after Brown has to be at least a little higher. He has been working out plenty with Dwayne Haskins this offseason, by the way.

Yet the ex-Steeler, Raider and Patriot wouldn't just bring huge talent to the organization, and that's something else Rivera has to weigh. Is Brown, with his propensity for being involved in non-football drama, someone the coach will want to deal with during this rebuild?

That could be the real key in this matter. But with Harmon now sidelined, there's an even larger need for help on the outside. Maybe that'll sway Rivera. Maybe.

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Jarius Wright

Wright doesn't have nearly the same production that Brown has — few who have ever played the sport do, honestly — but he is a pro that Rivera knows well and Scott Turner knows really well.

The 30-year-old overlapped with Turner in Minnesota, and he spent the last two campaigns with both coaches in Carolina.

That kind of familiarity is always useful, but it would be particularly useful in this bizarre offseason. Wright should probably keep his phone nearby over the next handful of days.

Chris Hogan

Like Wright, Hogan is a recent former Panther. The 32-year-old joined the club for 2019, but a left knee injury marred most of his season and he finished with just eight receptions.

Before that, however, he did record five straight years with at least 34 catches, so he can be an effective role player. Let's see if Rivera gives him another chance to make an impact on his roster, this time in Washington.

Demaryius Thomas

By size, Thomas would be the most similar of these choices to Harmon. Harmon would've been a nice complement to the speedier Terry McLaurin and Steven Sims because of his height and physicality. Maybe Thomas could step into that void.

The accomplished five-time Pro Bowler has reportedly drawn interest from both the Jets and Giants this summer, so his services are still in some demand. He's no longer the dominant star he once was, but he could be a piece that Washington will now want, too. 

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