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Bryce Harper calls out Nats fans for crossing line in Phillies' loss

Bryce Harper calls out Nats fans for crossing line in Phillies' loss

WASHINGTON -- Bryce Harper has long been a favorite target for hecklers in road ballparks and now he is experiencing what that is like in Washington, where he called home for seven seasons.

Now a member of the Phillies, Harper was seen gesturing to the crowd at Nationals Park on Wednesday in the later innings of the Nats' 5-2 win. It was clear he was hearing it from fans and seemed to be egging them on.

But afterwards, when asked about the back-and-forth while addressing the media, Harper said these particular jeers crossed the line.

"They were fine all game talking about myself and things like that. I mean, I get it everywhere I go. It’s nothing new, but the last inning, it’s just not right. It’s just not right," he said.

Harper wouldn't specify when prodded for what exactly crossed the line. He suggested things were okay when the insults were about him, so perhaps fans took it further and invoked his family or something else.

He did, though, go into detail about why he gets criticized. Though Harper has always been a lightning rod because of his hype as a prospect, he thinks Wednesday's incident may have been rooted in the highly-publicized moments where he didn't hustle for the Nationals.

"Of course there have been times I haven’t ran out baseballs and things like that. I’ve slacked and things. That’s part of it. But every single night I come out here, my team deserves that, my city – Philadelphia – deserves that and the great fan base we have up there," he said.

Harper spoke glowingly about the fans in Philadelphia despite mentioning how they have also booed him this season. But he seemed surprised he would get this treatment from Nationals fans, who don't have the reputation for nastiness that other fanbases do, Philly being one of them.

"There are times it’s just not good and just not right. Everybody has a platform now whether it’s Twitter, Instagram or in the stands. They kind of say whatever they want and that’s just how it is. You kind of have to live with it. You see it in the NBA, you see it in the NFL and you see it here now and I guess it is just part of sports now," he said.

Harper hearing it from fans has been a constant in his career. Back in 2016, he spoke with NBC Sports Washington in-depth about the heckles he commonly hears from fans and the times where lines are crossed.

Back then, he said the Braves and Giants were among the most unpleasant towards him. It sounds like Washington is moving up the list.

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Don't worry Nationals fans, Anthony Rendon was never going to be a Dodger

Don't worry Nationals fans, Anthony Rendon was never going to be a Dodger

While Nationals fans are understandably disappointed Anthony Rendon is no longer a member of the Nationals, they can rest easy knowing he didn't see himself signing the the NL rival Los Angeles Dodgers.

The Dodgers never made an offer to Rendon, per The Athletic, after "sensing that he didn’t want to play in Los Angeles." He instead signed with the Los Angeles Angels, inking a seven-year, $245 million deal to play for the California team that receives considerably less media attention than its in-state rival.

Now entrenched in the AL on the other side of the country, Rendon won't face the Nationals very often nor will his team's play have any effect on Washington's playoff chances from year to year. It was a best-case scenario for fans after it became likely he wouldn't be returning to Washington.

After being spurned by Rendon and losing out on top free-agent pitchers Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg, the Dodgers are still looking to make their first big move of the offseason.

There's still plenty of time for them to make a move, but Los Angeles can expect little sympathy from Nationals fans that Rendon won't be suiting up in Dodger blue for the next seven years.

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Nationals trading for a third baseman is possible -- as long as it’s not Nolan Arenado

Nationals trading for a third baseman is possible -- as long as it’s not Nolan Arenado

Here’s the list of players on the Nationals’ active roster who could play third base: Wilmer Difo, Jake Noll, Adrián Sánchez, Howie Kendrick, Carter Kieboom. Career major-league starts at the position: Difo, 29; Noll, one; Sánchez, nine; Kendrick, 25; Kieboom, zero. 

Such is the state of third base for the defending World Series champions. Not good. 

Which makes Josh Donaldson’s agent smile and any semi-skilled third baseman with a pulse a possible target. Possible trades? Count the Nationals in. On most. Not on Nolan Arenado. That’s a non-starter because Washington is not going to send assets (prospects) for a contract it was unwilling to give Anthony Rendon in the first place. Zero chance. Zilch.

However, Kris Bryant is more intriguing depending on the years and ask -- as always with trades. Beyond him and Kyle Seager, is there another third baseman the Nationals could pursue in a trade? The question takes on weight because of the aforementioned toothless list of in-house candidates and shallow free-agent talent pool beyond Donaldson.

Any trade consideration needs to begin with an understanding of the parameters Washington is working from. Last season, Rendon’s one-year deal to avoid arbitration earned him $18.8 million. When Washington looks at the cost for its next third baseman, the number will be similar to last season’s cost for Rendon. A bump in the competitive balance tax threshold, plus savings at first base and catcher, provide the Nationals wiggle room for increases in spots. So, $18-25 million annually for a third baseman is in play.

Second, the Nationals’ farm system needs to be taken into account. Their 2018 first-round pick, Mason Denaburg, had shoulder problems last year. Mike Rizzo said at the Winter Meetings that Denaburg is healthy and progressing. But, the early shoulder irritation for a high school pitcher who also had problems his senior year with biceps tendinitis provides his stock pause. He’s a would-be trade chip. So is Kieboom.

But, what is Kieboom’s value? What damage did it receive during his rocky, and brief, appearance in the majors last season? Did his potent hitting in the Pacific Coast League after being sent back mitigate his big-league struggles? 

Beyond Kieboom, the farm system’s next tier is manned by Luis Garcia, 2019 first-round pick Jackson Rutledge, Wil Crowe and Tim Cate, among others. Only Garcia is part of MLB.com’s top-100 prospects list (which is more of a guide than an industry standard).

So, when Bryant or Seager -- or anyone not named Arenado -- are mentioned, know where the Nationals are coming from. If they are positioned to take on money, they don’t want to use assets to do it (this is the Donaldson Scenario). If they can save money, find a solid player and retain the few high-end assets, then a trade could be in play (this would be the Seager Scenario, if Seattle pays some of the contract). 

The Bryant Scenario is the most appealing and challenging. He’s the best player of the group. However, acquiring him would be high-cost and short-term. Bryant has two years remaining before he can become a free agent -- with an outside shot at becoming a free agent after next season because of a grievance he filed against the Cubs for service-time manipulation. Obtaining him would likely focus on multiple pitching prospects.

There is no Arenado Scenario. Just a reminder.

Piled together, Washington is in a tough spot. What it has is not enough. What it needs will be costly.

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