Nationals

Quick Links

Howie Kendrick needed the Nationals, and they needed him

Howie Kendrick needed the Nationals, and they needed him

Howie Kendrick knew he was in trouble May 19, 2018, when he was down on the warning track and could not control his ankle. His Achilles tendon tore after he moved back for a fly ball in left field. His season ended. His career could have well ended with his season.

Last offseason’s shift in free agency affected those still in their prime. The market tormented Bryce Harper and Manny Machado before forking over large sums. It treated veterans destined to be part-time players worse. Super-utility player Marwin Gonzalez didn’t sign with Minnesota until Feb. 25. He turned 30 in April and was coming off a 2.5-WAR season for a team that went to the American League Championship Series. Yet, he couldn’t find a job anywhere.

This would have been Kendrick’s plight. Perhaps it would have been more challenging. He may never have found a job via a new contract. Think of the advertisement: soon-to-be 36-year-old coming off Achilles tendon tear, with reduced positional flexibility and past hamstring problems, seeks part-time work. 

Kendrick vowed from the start he would be back, healthy, and just ride out the recovery timeline as it was dictated. The second year of his contract made the process easier. It also all but assured him of a job again with Washington. At just $4 million, even as a bench player, Kendrick’s salary was easy to accept. If he showed good health and a quick bat in spring, he would again team with Matt Adams as a potent left-right combination off the bench. The second-year saved him from graveling in the offseason.

“if that was the last year of my deal, I don’t know if I would have been in the Major Leagues this year,” Kendrick said. “Because a lot of times the way the league is now, bringing veteran guys back and being around the game, you don't see too many veteran guys around anymore. 

“Having the ability to come back to a place I really enjoy and get to be around these guys... It's been fun. We got a lot of great young guys here, guys like [Victor Robles], [Juan] Soto, [Anthony] Rendon, [Trea] Turner, those guys they keep you going every day and it's been fun. And it’s been cool to be able to see these guys grow and they've helped me out too with my game.”

Kendrick is having his best offensive season. Delivering it this year became an enormous factor in the Nationals’ survival and turnaround. Ryan Zimmerman has been to the plate 168 times in 2019. Kendrick has filled the gap with one of the most potent part-time -- rightfully not full-time -- bats in the majors.

His OPS-plus is a career-high 142. His second-best season in that category? Back in 2011, when he was 27 years old in Los Angeles. His OPS is 119 points higher than any other season, his slugging percentage 88 points higher. He’s two homers shy of tying his career-best mark despite 237 fewer plate appearances than he had in 2011.

“I'm not an everyday guy anymore and I know that and [Davey Martinez] knows and I'm not going to complain one bit about the way I’ve been used,” Kendrick said. “When I play, I play. When I don't, I’m ready to play and go in the game and I’ve kind of streamlined that process a little more, I’ve figured out, being in the National League how to prepare myself and be ready. 

“We've come up with little drills for when we pinch-hit and things like that to be as ready as we can. And then once you get in the game, whatever’s going to happen is gonna happen, and that’s what I try to look at. Keep the same mindset as hey I prepared and I’m going to go out here and try to do my job and that's' all you can ask for. I think your teammates know that, and I think your coaches know that. I think that’s the biggest part of it, and mentally you just have to know you're not always going to succeed.” 

Though this year, he has -- a lot. 

Kendrick’s career-best season exists because he didn’t have to wade through the market. The second year of his contract provided him a work haven despite his age and major injury. His work during it likely created a chance for him to sign yet another one, something which may have otherwise not happened in the first place.

MORE NATIONALS NEWS:

Quick Links

LeBron James calls out MLB commissioner over Astros cheating scandal

LeBron James calls out MLB commissioner over Astros cheating scandal

The Astros cheating scandal has gotten so big, LeBron James is chiming in with his take on how Major League Baseball has handled the situation. 

In consecutive tweets on Tuesday, James called out MLB commissioner Rob Manfred, telling him to listen to his increasingly frustrated players. 

Following the league's investigation into the Astros' sign-stealing scheme from 2017, the Astros were fined $5 million and stripped of their first and second-round picks in the 2020 and 2021 draft.

General manager Jeff Luhnow and manager AJ Hinch were also suspended from baseball for a year and subsequentially fired for their roles in the scheme. However, no Astros players were punished, inciting plenty of frustration and anger around the league. 

Nick Markakis said every Astros player, 'deserves a beating,' Howie Kendrick called out Manfred's handling of the situation and that's just to name the most recent cases. Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Mike Trout, Aaron Judge and Cody Bellinger are some of the biggest names to voice their displeasure with the Astros and Major League's Baseball's shortcomings in the aftermath of the investigation. 

James is one of the most famous players in the world, no matter the sport, and is one of the more pro-player advocates in professional sports today. It's not surprising James is siding with the players on this one, but it shows just how big this Astros mess has become. 

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports. Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Capitals and Wizards games easily from your device.

MORE NATIONALS NEWS:

Quick Links

Howie Kendrick has no sympathy for Astros, criticizes Rob Manfred's handling of scandal

Howie Kendrick has no sympathy for Astros, criticizes Rob Manfred's handling of scandal

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Howie Kendrick has no sympathy for the Houston Astros.

Asked on Tuesday morning if he -- a veteran about to play his 15th season -- was concerned about how Houston’s scandal reflected on baseball at large, Kendrick explained his view in simple and direct terms. He also expressed his displeasure with Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred’s handling of the situation.

“It doesn’t put baseball in a good light, and the Commissioner really hasn’t done a great job of trying to defuse the situation, honestly,” Kendrick said. “But if you cheat, you cheat. There’s no fairness in that. Obviously you have a choice. You either choose to do it, or you don’t. And obviously they chose to do it, and they should have to live with those consequences. Nobody’s going to have any remorse for you. 

“And going out and putting out public service announcements and things like that, I don’t think that’s really cool. You got caught doing something. I think you should just be quiet, go about your business and let your play talk. If you weren’t doing it, and you’re honest that you weren’t doing it. We’ll find out this season. They’ve got a lot of really good players, and obviously they win without doing a lot of that stuff. The fact they actually got caught doing it, it just makes them look that much worse.”

Responses in the Nationals’ clubhouse have varied. Some players, like Starlin Castro, chose not to comment on the Astros’ situation. Ryan Zimmerman reiterated his concern about the integrity of the game being questioned. Max Scherzer advised reporters to walk down the hall and ask the Astros questions about their cheating. Sean Doolittle worried about what jobs may have been lost because of the cheating.

Kendrick was also asked if the 2017 title should be taken from the Astros. 

“I haven’t really thought about it that much. I’ve heard a lot of guys say they should take it away, let them keep their rings and stuff like that. That’s not my job. That’s the commissioner’s job. But with all the details out there, obviously it went from the top to bottom. As a player, some of those guys probably didn’t want to do it. But who do you go to at that point? You either follow along, even if you don’t agree with it, because you really don’t have an avenue to go to. I do believe there were guys that didn’t want to do it, but what are you going to do about it when 90 percent of the people were doing it. That’s all I got to say about that.”

With that, Kendrick was done and subjected to jabs from his teammates for his Forrest Gump-esque closing remark. No matter the end, he can be added to the list of those irritated with the Astros, and the commissioner. 

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports. Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Capitals and Wizards games easily from your device.

MORE NATIONALS NEWS: