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Max Scherzer is focused on strengthening back, ensuring no more flare-ups

Max Scherzer is focused on strengthening back, ensuring no more flare-ups

Max Scherzer doesn't know what caused his two back injuries in the past few weeks, but has a plan to ensure he isn't sidelined with the same injury again.

The Nationals ace called in to the Grant & Danny Show on 106.7 The Fan on Wednesday morning, when he broke down exactly what he's been dealing with over the past month. 

After he was initially placed on the injured list at the beginning of July with a mid-back strain (specific to his scapula), Scherzer worked back to make a start against Colorado on July 25 and threw 86 pitches in five innings. 

But the right-hander woke up the next morning with irritation in his mid-back again. After another MRI, Washington's medical staff determined the new problem was a strain to Scherzer's rhomboid muscle and treated him with a stem-cell shot. 

"I really don't think I came back [from the first injury] too soon," Scherzer said. "My entire life, every time I've been able to throw the ball full-out, I've made my starts...this is the only time I've had any type of injury where I am throwing full out, I'm throwing full-out bullpens and...had any type of ailment become worse."

Since then, the Nationals returned Scherzer to the 10-day injured list on Monday (retroactive to Saturday) and missed his scheduled start against the Braves on Tuesday as a result. 

The thing is, no one really knows what caused Scherzer's injury. And, now that the ace is back on the injured list for the second time this month, Scherzer isn't focused on figuring out why it happened, but instead on how to ensure it doesn't happen again. 

Scherzer, the Nationals' trainers and strength coaches are working on a program to target the muscles around the problem areas, which will keep the muscles "properly balanced" so that he doesn't have to deal with this injury again.

"I've always [prided] myself in getting out there and making 33, 34 starts," Scherzer said. "To not be out there is frustrating, but at the same time I feel fortunate...we're not dealing with anything major here."

"[We're trying to] come up with that right program of everything the back needs so that I can be completely durable and go out there and throw 100-plus pitches and recover." 

The righty will be eligible to come off the injured list on August 5, and he said all the doctors agree that the latest back strain should only be a 10-day injury. 

Plus, Scherzer is hopeful that once he can get back on the mound he'll be back to his usual self. 

"Once I can get through this little dent," Scherzer said, "I have the feel for all the pitches, my arm strength [is] built up...and everything, the shoulder, the elbow is good. So it's really [just] hit the ground running as soon as I can get back on the field." 

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Nationals mailbag: Luxury tax for dummies, odd memories and how to break into a front office job

Nationals mailbag: Luxury tax for dummies, odd memories and how to break into a front office job

Hello and welcome to another Nationals mailbag as we wait for baseball to hopefully be played in 2020.

As a reminder, you can send questions to me directly at Todd.Dybas@nbcuni.com or through the mailbag portal here.

On to the questions:

Q: Could you do a “luxury tax for dummies” write up?  You always say on the pod that it is too complicated and boring for listeners.  But readers have nothing but time right now.

Jennifer Lowe
A:
This insinuates I am not among the dummies. But, I’ll do it regardless.

The Competitive Balance Tax (CBT), or, colloquially, the “luxury tax” in baseball was a threshold introduced to try to close the gap between the giant spenders and the have-nots. The plight of small-market teams became such a topic in the early 1990s -- mainly because of the Yankees’ ongoing largess -- the league decided to put the CBT in place.

The premise was to find a way for significant spending to flow back to clubs who did not have the same payroll prowess. And, it’s become a major factor in how the Nationals do business.

Managing principal owner Mark Lerner has repeatedly said the Nationals would not exceed the CBT threshold (it’s $208 million this year). The organization wound its way under the tax last season to reset its clock. That move was important.

The CBT works on an ascending penalty scale. So, go over once, and you pay a 20 percent tax on any overage. For instance, if Team X has a $218 million payroll this year, they are $10 million over the threshold, and their penalty would be $2 million for going over one time.

Go over in consecutive years, and the penalty rises to 30 percent. Three consecutive seasons of overage produces a 50 percent tax on the amount the threshold is exceeded.

There’s also another recent wrinkle:

Beginning in 2018, clubs that are $40 million or more above the threshold shall have their highest selection in the next Rule 4 Draft moved back 10 places unless the pick falls in the top six. In that case, the team will have its second-highest selection moved back 10 places instead.


So, the next time you hear the Nationals don’t want to go over the “luxury tax”, remember their penalty for doing so could well be minimal. But, they achieved the ultimate upside last year: they slid below the tax threshold, resetting their clock, and won the World Series. That’s a financial coup.
Q: I’m a relatively new Nationals fan and baseball fan in general, having gotten into it around the 2018 All-Star Game, and I was just wondering what are some of your favourite weird or obscure moments in Nationals history that maybe not a lot of people will remember?

Maple Meadows
A.
Hey, Maple. Thanks for tuning into the podcast and reading.

This is certainly fan dependent. But, a few random things came into the head of our resident baseball historian, Tim Shovers:

-- Alfonso Soriano’s 40-40 season in 2006 is an odd anomaly. Not for Soriano personally, because he was close multiple times prior, but that it came in his only season in Washington. The Nationals sent three players to Texas -- Armando Galaragga, Termel Sledge and Brad Wilkerson -- for a year of work from Soriano. He went crazy, finished sixth in MVP voting and signed with the Cubs in the offseason. Meanwhile, the team finished 20 games under .500.

-- John Lannan was the team’s No. 2 starter at the start of 2011 and pitched 184 ⅔ innings, then didn’t make the team out of spring training the following season. He eventually returned to the major leagues that year. But that was the end of his time in Washington. Lannan made 14 starts for Philadelphia in 2013 then pitched four innings for the Mets out of the bullpen in 2014. He never pitched in the major leagues again.

-- Back in April of 2009, Ryan Zimmerman and Adam Dunn wore Nationals jerseys which were missing the  “o” because of a mistake by jersey-maker Majestic Athletic. So, across their chest was “Natinals.” They were in proper jerseys after the first three innings.

The lessons here? You can’t predict baseball.

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Q: I know this isn't a complete Nationals question but, I have a dream to work in the Nationals baseball front office one day, as hard as that is what in your opinion can I do as a senior in high school to raise my chances of possibly one day getting there?

Yitz Taragin


A. Hey, Yitz.

I turned to a better authority on this, and relayed your question to Nationals assistant general manager of player development Mark Scialabba. Here’s what he had to say:

“I always tell students when they ask about how they can eventually work for a Major League team that they should immerse themselves in the game as much as possible.  If you are playing, play as long as you can and if not that is OK, too. Watch games live, study the game, and watch games regularly on TV. Read as much as you can to understand the history of the game as well as the business/economic side and read online contemporary articles and interviews with people in the game.

“Develop skills that can impact a front office one day when you have the opportunity to interview for a position, whether that may be learning statistical analysis, player evaluation, computer programming, new video or technologies impacting the game, biomechanics, general management skills, mental conditioning, or perhaps even becoming fluent in Spanish.

“Apply for internships that will provide you experience in an area where you can immediately utilize your strengths and have a growth mindset that will allow you to best impact your organization long term. Take advantage of opportunities by using your skills to complete an independent study for school or take on a challenging project during an internship. This way you will have something tangible to help demonstrate your ability when you are seeking the next opportunity or position.

“Schedule information interviews with veteran scouts, coaches and front office executives who are willing to share their experiences and impart their wisdom from years of experience. The demand for these jobs greatly outweighs the supply so you have to be aggressive in your search for an internship/job and distinguish yourself by leveraging your strengths. Everyone’s process is different but regardless where and when you start I believe it is best to be humble, always continue to learn, be ready to take risks and make sure to be persistent.”

There you have it. Thanks to Mark for the assistance.

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Nationals closer Sean Doolittle gets some help from his dog Sophia for his home workout

Nationals closer Sean Doolittle gets some help from his dog Sophia for his home workout

The suspension of the MLB season due to the coronavirus outbreak has forced players around the league to get creative with their home workouts.

Gyms are closed and team facilities have been shut down, but that hasn’t stopped Nationals closer Sean Doolittle from staying in shape. While working out by his house, Doolittle decided to bring his dog Sophia in as an extra weight while doing lunges.

A noted bookworm, Doolittle also stacked a few novels on top of each other to keep the leg workout going.

Teammate Max Scherzer may have an MLB catcher living with him to help keep his training regime up to par, but Doolittle didn’t have such luck. Instead, he had to think a little bit more outside the box.

Doolittle’s exercises follow Capitals forward Carl Hagelin posting a video of him training with his one-year-old daughter. They’re not dumbbells or weights, but one way or another athletes are getting those crucial workouts in to stay ready for once their seasons resume—whenever that may be.

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