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Nationals GM Mike Rizzo: It's too early to make changes - at manager or otherwise

Nationals GM Mike Rizzo: It's too early to make changes - at manager or otherwise

WASHINGTON -- Max Scherzer and Mike Rizzo met at the upper corner of the dugout railing Friday around 2 p.m. Scherzer, coming in from a bullpen session, leaned against the padded bar. Rizzo did most of the talking, at times using both hands and gesturing toward different parts of the field.

Scherzer walked into the dugout following the five-minute conversation with Rizzo. Turns out, everyone has questions and is searching for answers during this failing Nationals season.

Not long after the general manager and his Hall-of-Fame-bound starter finished their conversation, manager Davey Martinez came up the dugout steps to watch Anibal Sanchez throw a simulated game. Martinez’s emergence confirmed he was still in charge Friday. Rizzo’s words two hours later further entrenched that idea -- for now.

“We're not making any decisions with a third of the season gone,” Rizzo said when asked his confidence level with Martinez as manager. “We've got a lot of season left. Davey's not happy with what's going on, nobody's happy with what's going on, the fanbase, ownership and myself. Things got to get better. We've got to play better baseball.”

In a planned group session with reporters, Rizzo harped on a trio of points: One was the stage of the season, a second was the need to play cleaner baseball, the third centered on his hunt for bullpen help.

To the first, it’s a semantics dance. Washington, 19-31 coming into Friday following stomach-churning losses to a Mets team in disarray when the Nationals arrived at Citi Field last Sunday, are 30.9 percent into the season. Forty games is historically used as a marker for determining a team’s capabilities. The Nationals are beyond that point and in a deep corner. It’s no longer early because of the broad hole the Nationals have dug.

To the second, the call for cleaner baseball began last offseason. That it’s still being made May 24 is perhaps the most explanatory aspect of how the Nationals find themselves just 1.5 games in front of the trying-to-lose Marlins. Despite persistent harping on the concept, near-daily gaffes continue on the field. The Nationals often do early work, have extra meetings and try to drill down specific points. But, the attempts are betrayed time and again during the actual games, whether it’s baserunning, fielding or math-countering pitch selection.

To the last, Rizzo said he is in pursuit of bullpen fixes from any location: trade, waiver wire, wherever. He also expects those on the roster to perform better. This idea is akin to the demand for cleaner baseball, if with a shorter shelf life. The bullpen roared into the bottom of the league the second day of the season when it allowed seven runs across the eighth and ninth innings. It’s been atrocious since. Of the five relievers used that day, all five remain in the organization. Only Trevor Rosenthal is not on the active 25-man roster.

The three pillars of Rizzo’s discussion -- the calendar, bad baseball and tragic bullpen -- have conspired to put Martinez’s future at risk. He was more stern and explanatory in Friday’s pregame press conference before his boss delivered a proportional backing. Rizzo did not explicitly say Martinez will remain manager. He also did not say he would not. Instead, the generalist approach reigned.

“Well certainly you have to have a plan in place for all contingencies,” Rizzo said. “And like I said, we're fairly spoiled here. We've had winning records, we've been in first place for a lot of the last seven years. There's only three teams in all of baseball, I think, that have played .500 baseball over the last seven years. So we're certainly cognizant of the calendar and where we're at in the standings, and we always have a one-, three-, and five-year plan in our minds, and that'll continue.”

The question is how many of those years will include Martinez if this one continues on the same path.

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Report: Nationals among teams to release minor leaguers amid coronavirus pandemic

Report: Nationals among teams to release minor leaguers amid coronavirus pandemic

The Nationals are among many teams that cut a portion of its minor-league ranks as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, TheScore’s Robert Murray reported Thursday.

According to ESPN’s Jeff Passan, "hundreds" of minor leaguers lost their jobs Thursday as talks continue between MLB and its players union over the parameters for a salvaged 2020 season.

Although both sides maintain optimism that an MLB season will be played this summer, the fact that it would begin without fans in attendance is an indication that the minor-league season—of which teams rely almost entirely on ticket sales and concessions for revenue—is likely lost.

MLB teams agreed in March to pay their minor-league players $400 a week through May 31. However, as many teams have announced series of pay cuts, furloughs and lay offs for their employees over the past few weeks, it started to look inevitable that the minor leaguers would be a casualty of the virus’s economic ramifications once the agreement expired.

The last few weeks of spring training leading up to Opening Day typically see a significant number of minor-league players cut loose after failing to make team rosters. Since no team had the chance to narrow down its list of players before coronavirus forced the suspension of spring training, many of the players released may have already been candidates to get let go.

However, the sheer number of players that are now unemployed is unprecedented. While the released players are now free agents and free to sign with any club, it’s unlikely many teams bring on new players while the pandemic continues to grip the country.

At the very least until the league and MLBPA—which doesn't represent players in the minors—reach an agreement on how to proceed with the 2020 season, those minor-league players are going to have to find income through another job.

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New Jersey brewery takes shot at Astros' cheating scandal with new beer

New Jersey brewery takes shot at Astros' cheating scandal with new beer

Even with the baseball world on hold, the digs at the Houston Astros surrounding their sign-stealing scandal persist. The latest may be the most clever, as one New Jersey brewery created a custom beer just to take a shot at the Astros.

Departed Soles' newest drink is named "Trash Can Banger" and is a beer dedicated to slighting the Astros' 2017 World Series championship. The drink itself contains 2,017 grams of hops in each barrel, and the can design mimics Houston's well-recognized striped jerseys.

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Sometimes you need to bend the rules a little to Marwin the day, so we're up and at 'em a little earlier than we should be, getting a fresh new Hazy IPA in cans Justin time for a surprise Sunday release! Some of you may have already gotten the Signs that this was coming today, but beer releases are like a pitcher's arsenal, and you never really know what's coming and when... unless, of course, you cheat. When this pandemic first struck, much of our staff worked from home, while Brian rededicated himself to the Art of Brewing.. rewatching brewing school classes, reading new studies, and pouring over interviews, trying to Luhn(h)ow we could improve our efficiencies and processes. The result is a Fiers new approach to everything we do, from mashing in, to dry hopping, water treatments to canning, and everything in between. And, well, we don't mean to breg, man, but this new beer is Reddickulous, and you won't want to miss it! Brewed with Citra in our whirlpool, and given a touch of milk sugar for complexity, this juice bomb was twice dry hopped... first with more Citra, then with 2017 grams per barrel of Galaxy and Strata Hops... and just like an Asteroid, the flavor is out of this world! Like a craft beer Minute Made orange juice, to enjoy at a Park this fine day! Need some #TrashCanBanger in your life? Maybe Collin a favor with a friend if you're stuck in Correa, to have 'em pick you up some, or Cora ride share from Dallas to the brewery. If all else fails, throw a Belt & ran to the brewery, with a little Springer in your step, to be here at noon when we open up and release it to the world... Assuming our canning run goes off without a Hinch, 4 packs of this new #DefinitelyNotGlutenFree Banger will be available at noon for $17. Set your alarm to buzz, or tape an electrode to your chest to make sure you don't forget! The show Musgrove on! We're open from noon until 8pm, accepting same day delivery orders up until 4pm. Usual minimums, fees, etc. apply! Menu in story.

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Why exactly did Departed Soles decide to make this beer? It was a simple mentality that most would agree with.

“I’m not a fan of cheaters,” Departed Soles head brewer and owner Brian Kulbacki told NJ.com

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Kulbacki noted that the beverage has created some support among Yankees and Dodgers fans who were heavily impacted by the 2017 events, while people in Houston are not too fond of it. That's no surprise, though Kulbacki was taken back by how many Astros fans remain blind to what happened.

The creation of the beer stemmed from the brewery missing live sports; taking a shot at the Astros in the process was an added bonus. 

“We’re all very big sports fans, and we’re all desperate for sports to come back,” Kulbacki said. “We’re desperate for anything to talk about other than a pandemic right now. So we thought it was an opportune time to put out a beer.”

At ballparks or bars, it looks like the Astros won't be escaping the digs anytime soon. 

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