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Nationals should have re-signed Rendon over Strasburg, according to Steve Phillips

Nationals should have re-signed Rendon over Strasburg, according to Steve Phillips

The Nationals signed right-hander Stephen Strasburg to a then-historic seven-year, $245 million contract on Monday, a few days after Washington owner Mark Lerner said the team could not afford to keep both Strasburg and star third-baseman Anthony Rendon.

So, after the team re-signed Strasburg, it seemed that the Nationals had made their decision regarding Rendon too.

But SiriusXM's Steve Phillips thinks the Nationals made the wrong choice.

"I probably would have gone position player and not the pitcher, just because of predictability," Phillips said in an interview Wednesday morning with NBC Sports Washington. "It's a seven-year commitment, it's a big commitment. Stephen Strasburg had a remarkable season this year, but it was the first time in the last five years that he's made 30 starts in a season, so his health has been a bit of a challenge." 

It does make sense that Strasburg signed with the Nationals before Rendon got close; Strasburg grew up in the organization and has given the team, and the fans, a lot to cheer about over the years. While his health has been a problem in the past, if the ace stays healthy the decision to re-sign Strasburg over Rendon could prove beneficial for the Nationals. 

"When [Strasburg] is healthy, he's dynamic," Phillips said. 

From a purely statistical perspective, both Strasburg and Rendon proved they have something worthy of the big bucks during the 2019 regular season and postseason.

Rendon had a breakout season in 2019, slashing .319/.412/.598 with the most doubles (44) and RBI (126) in the NL, enough to land him in third place in the NL MVP race and earn him his second silver slugger. (He also had a career-high 34 home runs). 

It was also Rendon's third consecutive season batting above .300, and his strong swing proved key in the Nationals' World Series run -- he batted .328 and slugged .590 with three home runs and 15 RBI (and 11 walks) over the course of the postseason. 

Meanwhile, Strasburg started 30 games in the regular season for the first time in five years, with a 3.32 ERA and a team-and career-high 251 strikeouts over 209 innings. He also held opposing batters to a .210 average.

Strasburg's postseason performance also proved noteworthy, continuing his success with a 1.98 ERA and 47 strikeouts over 36.1 innings pitched, putting him with a career 71 strikeouts and 1.46 ERA in the postseason. 

And, though it is hard to compare statistics for pitchers and position players, both Strasburg and Rendon finished the season with a 6.3 WAR (wins above replacement).

There's no word yet as to where Rendon will end up by the end of free-agency, but Phillips thinks it's unlikely, albeit impossibly, he re-signs with the Nationals. 

"You're going to look at the Rendon deal..as being extraordinary," Phillips said. "I think it's probably going to take the price tag over where the Nationals are going to be able to go. It may be that they're going to have to settle."

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Nationals, Sánchez blasted by Orioles in another mediocre performance

Nationals, Sánchez blasted by Orioles in another mediocre performance

WASHINGTON --  The Nationals are 4-6 following a Friday night drubbing by the Baltimore Orioles, a team not expected to be remotely good in 2020.

The season’s fluctuations are under way. The Nationals went 1-4, looked listless and were charged with not having fun. They won three in a row to complete the push for an even record. They lost Max Scherzer and two games since. Friday night was particularly abhorrent. They were smacked 11-0 by an Orioles team which had 19 hits. It could have been worse.

“This is just one of those games where you’ve got to put it behind you as quick as you can and come back tomorrow and regroup and go get ‘em tomorrow,” Davey Martinez said. “This game was about as lopsided as I’ve seen in a long time.”

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Aníbal Sánchez has problems. His ERA is 7.84. It, like the Friday night score, could be worse.

He shrugged off his poor start to open the season. Sánchez was more irritated Friday -- back on the mound 12 days after the first time. When he walked Renato Núñez on a 3-2 pitch which wasn’t close to a strike, he yelled, then left the mound to pace. Pitching coach Paul Menhart came to visit.

Recall last year. Sánchez opened with a 5.91 ERA across April and May. He was much better in the following two months, righting his season and helping the Nationals from their malaise. But time for a course correction this season is limited.

“I think the situation that happened last year was [me] out of routine,” Sánchez said. “This is only something you have to handle no matter what. … This is going to happen this year early in the season. I think when you’re out of routine, it’s really hard to see what’s going on. Right now I can see the difference between the games with fans and no fans and all the kinds of things. A little bit something in your mind. At the end, I think I need to figure out how to control my game in all those situations.”

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Sánchez has made 16.7 percent of his starts (and the team is through the same amount of its season). Only nine remain. Reacting to two starts in normal times is not recommended. However, these are not normal times. Much like the offense -- which failed to score for the first time this season -- Sánchez needs to quickly gather himself. However, Trea Turner doesn’t feel the squeeze is on them yet.

“If we do, it’s just going to snowball on us,” Turner said. “There’s no point to. I think it’s more perspective -- more teams are in the playoffs this year, so you’ve got more room for error. More opportunities to make up ground. That being said, it is a shorter season. We need to take advantage of every game because we’re playing some good ball clubs. They kicked our butts [Friday]. Got to be ready each and every day.”

The Nationals play two more games during the weekend against Baltimore. Austin Voth starts Saturday, Stephen Strasburg returns Sunday. Friday opened a 13-games in 13 days stretch after the jumbled beginning of days off and postponements. Martinez said they were happy to finally be starting what a season traditionally feels like. Day after day, game after game. Time and geography lost to the rhythm of playing.

But, the Nationals entered the game 29th in Major League Baseball in runs, then failed to score. The only team to score fewer is the coronavirus-riddled St. Louis Cardinals who have played five games this season. Their starting staff is yet to anchor them. The bullpen has an injury to its most important offseason signing and Sean Doolittle is ineffective. Fixable problems, but problems to be sure.

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Phillie Phanatic returns favor to Bryce Harper with custom jacket

Phillie Phanatic returns favor to Bryce Harper with custom jacket

Despite only being in year two of his 13-year, $330 million contract with the Philadelphia Phillies, Bryce Harper's love for the Phillie Phanatic is well-known.  

On Friday, the team mascot returned the favor by showing some love to Bryce Harper with his new custom suit jacket.

Let’s all take a walk down memory lane since it is #FlashbackFriday and relive the moment when Bryce Harper took his love for Phanatic to the next level on Opening Day with this look: a custom olive-colored suit with pictures of team mascot Phanatic scattered throughout the inside. 

This is just a reminder to find someone who loves you as much as the Phanatic loves Bryce. Or vice versa. A bromance like no other.

Now if the Phillies are smart, they’ll make these suits available for the fans. If they do, there'll be no competition for the best-dressed fan base in the future.

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