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Is a contract extension in Max Scherzer’s future?

Is a contract extension in Max Scherzer’s future?

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Early July of 2019 in Cleveland was not the time Max Scherzer wanted to talk about his contract.

Washington had surfaced from its brutish start, but remained six games out of first place when the All-Star break arrived. Scherzer was the team’s lone presence at the All-Star Game in Ohio since Anthony Rendon opted for rest and the voters opted for other players. Scherzer wasn’t going to pitch. Though, he did go to Media Day, where he was asked about the future of his contract. The question annoyed him.

“I’m trying to win a championship,” he said.

Flip to this spring in West Palm Beach. Scherzer has won said championship, shaved another year off his seven-year deal and is entering his age-36 season. Let’s try the question again. Has he thought about or been approached about a contract extension?

“Obviously, there is a time and place to think about that,” Scherzer told NBC Sports Washington. “It’s really [for] the team to come to you to drive those conversations. And, so, for me, I’ll cross that bridge when a team wants to pick up the phone.”

The template to do so is Scherzer’s former teammate, Justin Verlander. He signed a two-year, $66 million extension in March of 2019 on his way into his age-36 season. The Astros approached him in January of last year about a longer deal before it was sealed two months later. The extension kept Verlander from becoming a free agent following the 2019 season. The contract also set a precedent by delivering the highest average annual value in base salary for a pitcher.

“I thought it was very fair compensation, and also the way it affects future players’ contracts in age-37, -38 seasons just helps push the boundary a little bit, which is something that’s important to me,” Verlander said at the time.

In that sense, he did Scherzer a favor.

The Nationals will point to last season’s injuries as reason not to approach Scherzer now. Scherzer made only 27 starts because of a middle back problem. His neck stiffness in the middle of the World Series roiled the entire setup. His swift return from the rigid neck enabled them to start him in Game 7. He says he feels good now, but those issues linger at least mentally and offer easy reasons to kick the can. Never mind he’s averaged 220 innings per season across the prior five years. In order to be paid, he has to prove it over again, continuing his tussle with the aging process.

Scherzer tries to push out thoughts of the future. He doesn’t have a flat answer for how long he will play, or what he wants to do in the next few years when his already firm Hall-of-Fame résumé will become concrete. He’s 308 strikeouts from becoming the 19th pitcher to strikeout 3,000 batters, and likely the last to do so for a long period, if not the last to do so period because pitcher usage has dipped so much. Another Cy Young Award would be his fourth. Just four other pitchers have done that. Those numbers aren’t kicking around inside his mind.

“Ignorance is kind of bliss,” Scherzer said. “Trying to worry about your future and how many years you want to play kind of makes your head go numb. For me, what works is just kind of stay in the moment, don’t worry about everything. Control what you can control. Who knows how everything will turn out over the next few years? But, for me, I feel great, I feel good. Want to continue to keep playing baseball and look forward to what I can do the next few years.”

Maybe, Scherzer will make 32 starts this year. Maybe next spring he will be at a press conference sounding like Verlander did in 2019, when he said he didn’t want to be anywhere else, and he will be charged with keeping it up until he is 38 years old. Maybe it all comes together so he retires in a Washington uniform, then becomes the Nationals’ first representative in Cooperstown. But someone from the organization has to pick up the phone before all that can happen.

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Davey Martinez to ESPN: ‘I believe there will be baseball’

Davey Martinez to ESPN: ‘I believe there will be baseball’

Baseball may not yet be close to returning to action, but Nationals manager Davey Martinez hasn’t given up hope that the 2020 season will be salvaged after the start pf the campaign was delayed due to the coronavirus outbreak.

“I do believe that we'll have a season, but at this particular moment, for me and for our players, our main concern is the well-being of families, friends, fans,” Martinez told ESPN’s Marly Rivera. “We need to get out of this healthy and ready to go.”

This is the seventh time MLB has had to cut into a season. The last time it happened was 1994-95, when a strike by the players forced the league to cancel ’94 World Series. Martinez was a member of the San Francisco Giants that season, denied a chance to make the playoffs after the season came to a halt with the Giants only three games back of the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL West.

But when asked if he had any past experiences helping him get through the pandemic that’s forced governors across the U.S. to issue stay-at-home orders, Martinez pointed to another traumatic event that shook both baseball and the country.

“For me, 9/11,” Martinez said. “I am from New York and I have family in New York. I understood what everybody was going through. But New York rebounded, and baseball came back and took everybody in. I was playing with Atlanta and we played the Mets in that first game [in New York after 9/11].

“We were winning that game, and all of a sudden [Mike] Piazza hits the home run -- and it was almost a sigh of relief for everybody. It really was. That moment, watching the ball go over the fence. ... I know we're all so competitive and we all want to win, but in that particular moment for me, it was like, ‘You know what, this is what the game's all about. Win or lose, this is what the game is all about.’ Watching and listening to the fans stand up and cheer like they did, it was phenomenal.”

While stuck at his home in Tennessee, Martinez has helped pass the time by driving around his property on a four-wheeler and reaching out to his players—two or three a day. He asks them about their families, trying to gauge what their mindsets are because “all of a sudden what you love to do this time of year is gone.”

“I believe there will be baseball,” Martinez said “I can't put a finger on when, but we're going to step back on that field and we're going to have a lot of fun. I tell the boys, think of it this way, we hold the trophy for a lot longer than anybody else.”

As the defending World Series champions, the Nationals have been able to at least take solace in the fact that a banner-raising ceremony and ring presentation await them when they return to D.C. Until then, all Martinez can do is bunker down and wait things out along with the rest of the world.

“I think about that moment when we come back and get those beautiful rings and put up that banner in the stadium,” Martinez said. “It's still going to be there no matter what when we get back. But under these circumstances, I can't think about anything else but the safety of the people and our love for this country.”

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Nationals leave spring training facility after it is shut down, converted to coronavirus test site

Nationals leave spring training facility after it is shut down, converted to coronavirus test site

The Washington Nationals’ spring training facility in West Palm Beach, Florida, has been shut down and converted into a coronavirus testing facility.

All 13 players and the accompanying team staff who were working at FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches -- the shared spring training home of the Nationals and Houston Astros -- dispersed once Florida governor Ron DeSantis ordered the closure of all non-essential businesses.

“Our medical staff is still working on finding some off-site facilities for some players,” Mike Rizzo said Monday on a conference call. “The handful of players that are rehabbing from injuries from last season... it’s a very, very small list, and obviously the injuries were a long time ago. It’s not something that’s of essential importance, and obviously the safety and the health of all the staff and all the players is paramount. Again, we are in constant communication with all players about their health and their training.”

Turning the facility over for use by the national guard was among the provisions when it was constructed, then opened, in 2017.

“The majority of the 13 players that were in West Palm have places here,” Rizzo said. “So they’re just at their home. They’re isolating themselves and trying to find some way to continue their throwing programs and their workout programs at their own homes or facilities. We still do have several minor league players, that we deemed it was unsafe to go back to their home countries, here in West Palm Beach. We continue to take care of them and put them up at one of the local hotels, as we’ll continue to do until we start back up playing.”

Nationals Park is also closed. Players already in Washington who need rehabilitation treatment can go there, but no training is taking place.

Rizzo also reiterated that no one on the roster has shown symptoms of coronavirus. So, none have been tested.

Otherwise, the Nationals are waiting and maintaining like everyone else.

“As far as the training and preparing, all of our pitchers have been in contact with Paul Menhart, our pitching coach,” Rizzo said. “They are following their throwing programs and our hitters alike have been in constant contact with Kevin Long and Pat Roessler. They all have their plans in place. There are some kind of inventive ways that they’re keeping in shape and conditioning and staying as ready as they can to participate in baseball whenever that takes place.

“Many industries are in the same situation as we are. We’re doing the best we can, we have a lot of unknowns, we continue to rely on the CDC, the World Health Organization and MLB as our resources. We are certainly going to follow their protocols and their recommendations to the letter. And as the commissioner recently said, when it’s safe to play baseball, baseball will be back, and our fans will be back, and it will be part of the recovery process in the country. But safety and health is the paramount.”

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