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Astros booed, fans' signs taken in spring training opener against Nationals

Astros booed, fans' signs taken in spring training opener against Nationals

As if this week hadn’t already been bad enough for the Houston Astros, it got a bit worse on Saturday afternoon when they faced the Washington Nationals in the spring training opener. 

The Astros took the field at the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches and were welcomed by the fans with an eruption of boos. The two teams share the facility, but it was Houston's home game. 

Since 2017 Washington and Houston have shared their spring training facility in West Palm Beach and made it a tradition to kick off their respective Grapefruit League schedules against each other. They will play six times this spring - though Saturday's opener was postponed by rain after a scoreless two innings. 

One courageous fan really got into the act, holding up a sign reading "Houston *'s" that was eventually confiscated by ballpark personnel, according to the Associated Press.

If this start is any indication of what they will face throughout this season, it's going to be a long 2020 for the Astros. 

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Not extending suspensions for A.J. Hinch, Jeff Luhnow in line with other moves

Not extending suspensions for A.J. Hinch, Jeff Luhnow in line with other moves

The baseball season’s delay postponed games as well as booing.

Houston was bracing for a grouse-filled season as baseball’s top enemy. The title is usually reserved for the brash, arrogant or well-off (meaning the Yankees). Instead, the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal flipped them from model franchise to convicted cheaters. They would be the target of universal vitriol outside of Minute Maid Park. The level of booing would only vary based on location.

Former Houston general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch would be forced to watch the anger-filled tour from afar. Major League Baseball suspended both for a year following its investigation into the organization’s sign-stealing scheme. The duo’s season was over before everyone else’s was delayed.

Thursday, ESPN reported those year-long suspensions would not be bumped until next season -- no matter length of delay this year. Luhnow and Hinch are off the league’s hook following the 2020 World Series. If there is no such event, they will be done regardless. This makes sense.

Why? It’s generally understandable. Baseball also had little choice.

When the Major League Baseball Players Association agreed to a deal with MLB in order to set baseline parameters for what would come in a shortened season, service time was the paramount issue. Players wanted their clocks to run. Nothing matters more to their finances. Juan Soto would gain another year toward becoming a future free agent. Moving the young players up in baseball’s drawn-out contractual process was crucial. But, much of this hinged on a single player: Mookie Betts.

Betts was traded in the offseason from Boston to Los Angeles because the Red Sox decided they did not want to pay one of the game’s great talents now or after the 2020 season, when he can become a free agent. Betts can be an unrestricted, 28-year-old, former-MVP free agent this winter. If he wasn’t allowed into free agency via his clock moving, not only would he personally be damaged, but the Dodgers may have received a year-plus of his work when they otherwise wouldn’t.

So, the players demanded their service time numbers move with or without a season. Their give was to prorate their salaries. That pushed everything into motion for the agreement.

It also means Luhnow and Hinch can’t suddenly receive disparate treatment. The season is going to be treated as if it exists, even if it does not. That idea extends to everyone, even the suspended cheaters.

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Meet the Orioles catcher living with Max Scherzer and keeping him in shape for the season

Meet the Orioles catcher living with Max Scherzer and keeping him in shape for the season

When Max Scherzer had former teammate Bryan Holaday over for dinner at his spring training home in Florida, he thought it was going to be a rare chance for them and their wives to hang out before the season started. Instead, the two families ended up being quarantined together.

Holaday reported to Orioles camp this spring as a non-roster invitee after spending the last two seasons with the Miami Marlins. Originally drafted by the Detroit Tigers in 2010, he’s played 268 games over an eight-year career with four different organizations and hit .241 with 10 home runs.

“He was a catcher who caught me when I was in Detroit and our wives have always been really good friends ever since and we’ve always been good buds as well,” Scherzer said on 106.7 The Fan’s Grant & Danny Show on Thursday. “When we played the Orioles, they came over and hung out with us and the whole virus thing was starting to blow up. So they hunkered down with us and [when] everything was getting shut down we just said, ‘Hey, would you guys stay with us [during] this quarantine?’”

As gyms have closed down and public parks have restricted access, professional athletes around the world have been challenged to stay in shape while their respective sports are on hold. Luckily for Scherzer, he has a major-league catcher in his home who is helping keep his arm fresh for once play does finally resume.

“We’re just training in the mornings, playing catch,” Scherzer said. “If I need to throw a bullpen or two, he’ll catch it. And if he needs me to flip some baseballs to him so he can hit into a net, I’ll do that for him as well. Right now we got a good little thing going. This little family that we have right now taking care of each other, he’s got two kids as well so we have four kids, four dogs so life’s pretty crazy.”

Of course, Holaday is a bit of a journeyman while Scherzer is a three-time Cy Young winner who’s likely headed to Cooperstown once his career wraps up. That doesn’t mean it’s been easy for the star pitcher to set Holaday down during batting practice.

“Because he’s caught me, he knows everything I’m thinking and what I’m trying to do,” Scherzer said. “When we face each other, that’s actually a tough AB because he knows exactly what I’m thinking.”

It’s an unusual scenario for both players. Scherzer, fresh off winning the World Series with Washington last October, is out to prove he’s still the exception to the aging curve. Holaday is hoping to nab a roster spot with an organization that is looking to give anyone with potential an opportunity. By staying together, both Scherzer and Holaday have been able to continue working on their craft and prepare for when the coronavirus pandemic is contained.

“For me to be able to do my job the best I can, I gotta stay on top of my game as best I can,” Scherzer said. “And so whatever I gotta do to train and stay ready for that, my family is behind me, my wife is doing a great job and everything to keep the house in order so that I can continue to train and continue to do everything I can to be the best baseball player I can be.”

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