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Max Scherzer helps union take step forward after Trevor Bauer, Blake Snell set it back

Max Scherzer helps union take step forward after Trevor Bauer, Blake Snell set it back

Blake Snell and Trevor Bauer have been examples A and B of what the union does not want to do during tenuous negotiations with Major League Baseball.

Public sentiment will not leak over to the players. They are the relatable ones, the ones fans scream at and for, the ones who have their jerseys or baseball cards bought. They are the emotional bond to the game. Not the owners. They’re a pack of men behind the curtain.

Which is why Snell and Bauer operating on their own runs counter to the union’s better interests -- and focus. A focus largely headed by the measured comments of Max Scherzer, or other prominent union representatives like St. Louis’ Andrew Miller.

Snell kicked off the what-not-to-do examples when he said the short-sighted and ill-informed, if accurate, “I gotta get my money” two weeks ago. That notion fed right into the perspective of player greed and the owners virtually high-fived. They stretched their inherent public relations lead thanks to Snell’s misstep.

Bauer made his inappropriate contribution where measured response goes to dies: Twitter. Bauer tweeted, “Hearing a LOT of rumors about a certain player agent meddling in MLBPA affairs. If true -- and at this point, these are only rumors -- I have one thing to say...Scott Boras, rep your clients however you want to, but keep your damn personal agenda out of union business.”

The rumors were true according to an Associated Press report. Boras sent a memo to his clients -- three of whom, including Scherzer, are on the MLBPA’s eight-player executive subcommittee -- which advised them not to “bail out” the owners. Boras argued the owners made bad financial decisions outside of baseball and the players’ salaries should not be a path to financial recuperation.

So, yes, Boras -- the sports’ most powerful agent -- is giving his clients his opinion of how to proceed. This is neither surprising nor unbecoming conduct. He negotiates for billions of dollars on an annual basis and does much of it while bending public perception. He’s more someone to listen to in these scenarios than tune out.

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Bauer’s desire to keep another agent out of union business is not a sin unto itself. His agent, Rachel Luba, is not part of the process. It’s understandable he wants to curtail other agents.

However, deciding to blast a tweet about it left other union members shaking their heads. And it’s in direct contrast to the approach Scherzer and others on the sub-committee have taken.

Scherzer’s late-night tweet was a measured, considered strike, in keeping with his general approach to public statements. Union work is second only to his primary function -- make all his starts -- when he views his job. He wants to relay specific points at specific times following forethought and consideration of the ripple effects. Basically the opposite of Bauer.

Look back to what Scherzer said about negotiations between the players and league in late March when they came together for an initial deal. Think about the points he makes here to NBC Sports Washington and how Bauer’s tweet undermines the priorities.

“All the players were very well connected,” Scherzer said then. “For having such a significant issue -- I don’t think baseball has ever been shut down, so we were navigating a situation that was constantly changing every 24 hours as we were trying to understand what was going to happen. And, we were trying to understand what we wanted in a deal.

“I got to commend the rest of the players in the league and the other players in the executive committee for everybody stepping up, being connected and sharing a voice. Trying to get as educated as possible to communicate it to the whole 1,200-player group. Try to get everybody’s desires of what they wanted in the deal, done. I thought we really acted extremely well together with our union leadership of coming up with what our wants were and working together as one to be able to get that done.”

This, again, is a key concept for the players. They need to be bonded in private, and even more so in public, which is why consistent messaging matters. Scherzer is among the cat herders here. No owner will be speaking out of turn. The players would be well-served to join them.

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Nationals Scene and Heard: Team has a staff member opt-out

Nationals Scene and Heard: Team has a staff member opt-out

WASHINGTON -- Tuesday night was a quieter one in Nationals Park. Multiple members of the bullpen pitched against the same hitters over and over in what was less an intrasquad game and more drill work.

Will Harris, Daniel Hudson, Javy Guerra, Aaron Barrett, Kevin Quackenbush and Ryne Harper pitched. Trea Turner, Adam Eaton, Starlin Castro, Carter Kieboom and Eric Thames hit the most.

So, let’s get started with what was going on at the park:

-- Davey Martinez announced Tuesday night that batting practice pitcher Ali Modami has opted out of the 2020 season. Modami throws BP as a left-handed pitcher, but he’s also one of the fixtures at the park since joining the team in 2011.

His initial work was often with Bryce Harper in the batting cages before games. Modami always pitched to Harper, who did not take BP on the field. Overall, Modami threw a massive amount of pitches on a daily basis to whomever was ready to swing.

Modami added good-luck charm to his duties in 2019 when he was tasked with carrying the lineup card to home plate Friday, May 24, when the Nationals were 19-31 and staggered home from New York. They won -- in sloppy fashion -- that night. Modami went out the next day, and every day from then on.

You might also remember him as Brian Dozier’s celebratory transportation in the dugout. Modami is another part of a would-be normal situation who will not be around in 2020.

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-- A staffer who is back is hitting coach Kevin Long. Tuesday night was his first in Nationals Park since intake testing which forced him into quarantine.

“I know he had a mask on, but he was smiling ear to ear,” Martinez said. “He was dying to come back, and he’s back now. That’s one guy we got back. Hopefully, we get the rest of the guys back soon.”

-- Wednesday marks two weeks since intake testing began. The Nationals performed rolling testing the first week of “Summer Camp” and eight players have not been seen since. Among them are Juan Soto, Victor Robles and Howie Kendrick.

Martinez said recently the team is following District-mandated protocols -- which are more stringent than the ones put in place by MLB’s operations manual -- when deciding who will come back.

If any of the players went into quarantine July 1 or 2, they are nearing the end of their 14-day stay in such isolation. So, are they close to joining the team just three days before the exhibition game and eight before the start of the season?

“Honestly, I don’t know that answer,” Martinez said. “Every morning I wake up, all I can do is ask my medical staff, ‘Are they coming?’ and they give me a no. Hopefully, one of these days when I wake up and ask if they are coming, they give me a yes. That’s all I can say about it. I do know we can’t wait to get all these guys back and be in full force. Hopefully it will be soon.”

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-- Harris worked a clean inning Tuesday. His recovery from a spring-time abdominal strain is complete and he often worked from a mound in Baton Rouge while everyone waited for the season to begin. Tuesday was the first time he’s faced hitters since the 2019 World Series.

“I’ve thrown a lot of bullpens,” Harris said. “The reps are there, as far as just pitching and my arm. It’s just now getting the feedback from hitters and basically the validation of, OK, my stuff is doing what I think it’s supposed to be doing and I’m getting the swings I’m accustomed to getting. I got to have a bigger sample size, but with all the technology today you can pretty much know where you’re at pretty quickly. So, me throwing [Tuesday], I’ll take a look at it [Wednesday] when I get here, make sure my stuff’s doing what I’m accustomed to it doing, if it’s not, figure it out before my next outing.”

-- A quick Harris quip about the idea he might be used frequently at the start of the season. “If you don’t want to throw 18 times in a month, give up some runs and you won’t throw 18 times in a month.”

-- The Nationals worked on preparation for the new extra-innings rule this season which will place a runner on second base to start the 10th inning. They immediately tried a “daylight” pickoff play -- when the shortstop cuts in behind a runner leading off second, the catcher signals there is space, or “daylight”, between the fielder and runner, and the pitcher pivots for a pickoff attempt. Tuesday was the first time they started to fold this into their daily routine.

-- Martinez said to-go meals are prepared at the end of workouts so players and staff can leave with food and go straight home.

“We’re making it a point for these guys, when you leave here, you’re pretty much going to a hotel or you’re going to your place that you have and you’re staying in,” Martinez said. “If we’re really going to do this and keep everybody safe, I tell these guys all the time, you can’t be messing around. You’ve got to really take it seriously. One, I don’t want to get sick. Two, I don’t want anybody else around here getting sick. You’ve got to be smart about everything we do.”

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Former Astros RP Will Harris dons ‘District of Champions’ T-shirt for Nationals press conference

Former Astros RP Will Harris dons ‘District of Champions’ T-shirt for Nationals press conference

Will Harris may have been the pitcher who served up Howie Kendrick’s go-ahead home run in Game 7 of last fall’s World Series, but he apparently isn’t holding any grudges about the outcome.

Harris, who spent five years with the Houston Astros before signing a three-year deal with the Nationals over the winter, sat down for a Zoom press conference Tuesday in what his first chance to speak with the media since Summer Camp began. He wore a T-shirt that was a bit surprising for a player who was on the losing end of Washington’s title run.

The shirt reads “District of Champions,” a nod to D.C. winning titles in MLB, NHL and WNBA over the last three years. To his credit, Harris hasn’t shied away from talking about his performance in Game 7.

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“Look, I took the L in Game 7, that’s never gonna change,” Harris said on MLB Network in January. “But at the same time, I plan on winning my next Game 7 and I plan on winning more World Series, and I think Washington is a place I can do that.”

As if there was any doubt before, it appears that Harris has completely committed to his ballclub and D.C. as a sports town.

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