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Ready for the World Series? 10 legends that should throw out the first pitch

Ready for the World Series? 10 legends that should throw out the first pitch

The Nationals will host at least two World Series games next week. That is a wild feat for a franchise that suffered through a string of 100-loss seasons after baseball came back to D.C. in 2005.

The job isn’t done for Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto. The job is just starting. The World Series presents a pomp and circumstance in baseball unseen in D.C. since before World War II. And no offense to baseball crowds in the 1930s, but the safe guess is the pomp and circumstance has grown significantly over the last 80 years. 

Much of the scene next week will be mandated by Major League Baseball. The big national corporate sponsors will show up and things that have happened all year will get pushed aside in the great name of a cash grab. God bless America. 

But, this is still D.C. and the Nationals still get some control over who throws out the first pitch. Should anyone need ideas, here’s a list of tremendous options. No politicians. Please. Seriously. 

1) John Thompson - Big John was born here in 1941 and built a basketball empire at Georgetown in the 1980s. Nobody embodies D.C. more than Thompson, the old and the new, and he probably watched Senators games at old Griffith Stadium. Thompson was around when RFK was new. Big John has an edge, and so does this Nats team. Likelihood: Slim. Baseball likes to celebrate baseball during the World Series. 

2) Joe Gibbs - The greatest winner the city has ever known. Gibbs is the epitome of class and maximizing player’s potential. A three-time Super Bowl winner that can probably still fire in a fastball. Likelihood: Even slimmer. Baseball likes to celebrate baseball and certainly not the NFL. 

3) Tom Boswell - A sports columnist to throw the first pitch of a World Series game? Damn right. Nobody did more to keep the hope for a new D.C. baseball team alive than Boz. For more than 30 years there was no baseball in Washington, and every year, Boswell would work his contacts about possible moves or expansion back to the city. For D.C. fans that were starving for baseball information and needed a leader in their quest to get America’s Pastime back to the Nation’s Capitol, Boz was their champion. No journalist will ever be more intrinsically involved in a professional team’s success than Boswell is with the Nationals. Likelihood: Slim. The media isn't supposed to be part of the story.

4) Alex Ovechkin - The best athlete in D.C. in the last century. Not just a scorer, but a champion now. This isn't about the Caps just did it so the Nats can too. This is about D.C.'s best supporting the local 9. Likelihood: Decent chance. He's a huge star and has been at Nats games throughout the franchise's existence. 

5) Livan Hernandez -  He threw the first pitch for the Nationals organization at RFK 14 years ago. A fan favorite and a winner, Livo is loved by Nats fans.  Likelihood: Seems like a good chance Livo will be involved in some capacity, first pitch might be a stretch though.

6) Wale - For young fans across the city, Wale is the most accomplished musician the city has produced. He proudly supports the Nationals and wears the Curly W just about everywhere he goes. Likelihood: Decently slim. Wale might not be quite a big enough star for a World Series first pitch but it would make a lot of sense for him to be involved somehow. Maybe he can say Play Ball!

7) Dave Grohl - A native of Northern Virginia and an incredibly accomplished musician. Getting Grohl to perform the National Anthem before next Friday’s Game 3 would be even cooler. Likelihood: Good chance, if he will do it. Not sure how much Grohl reps the Nationals. But him doing the Anthem would be incredible.

8) Anthony Williams - I know we said no politicians but if Williams wasn’t the mayor in 2004 the Nationals never make it to Washington in 2005. Securing the funding to build Nats Park wasn’t easy and probably cost Williams’ future in D.C. politics. The vote to build the stadium only passed by one vote and soon after Williams announced he wouldn’t run for re-election, but walk around the Navy Yard now and ask yourself if it was the right decision.  Likelihood: Slim. It would be very cool though if the Nats' Ted Lerner and Williams came on the field together to see just how big their vision became. 

9) Walter Johnson's relative - I don't know who this would be, but Babe Ruth's granddaughter threw out a pitch at a World Series game within the last decade. This would be a nice nod to a local icon as well as a tie to the last time a D.C. baseball team made the World Series. Likelihood: Strong. Baseball loves to honor its past especially with a local tie. 

10) Frank Robinson's relative - A baseball legend and the Nationals first manager when they arrived in D.C. in 2005. Robinson passed away earlier this year and is one of the game's all-time greats. Likelihood: Strong. Baseball loves to honor its past and especially with a local tie. Robinson would probably get honored during the Series this year anyway since he passed away in February. 

Wild Card - Tony Kornheiser. A national star now with his ESPN success, Kornheiser wrote for The Washington Post for years. He's also a huge Nats fan and talks about almost every game throughout the season on his podcast, which has a massive audience. Likelihood: Strong, but Tony will need to stay up late and deal with a huge crowd, neither are things he particularly likes. La Cheeserie.  

Note: It’s probably fair to ask why I wrote this piece as I cover the Redskins and rarely, if ever, write about the Nats. Well, I’ve been at just about every major Nationals milestone as a fan, in person, in good seats and in bad. I watched Livo throw the first-ever Nationals pitch from the nosebleeds at RFK. I watched Jayson Werth hit that Game 4 homer from standing room seats at the Red Loft bar. I was there for the opening of Nats Park and the Game 5 loss to the Cubs. I traveled to Harrisburg to watch Strasburg pitch in the minors and I’ll never forget the electricity of his Nats Park debut. I watched Bryce Harper play in Bowie. I love this baseball team, and while I loved the Orioles when the Nats didn’t exist, there was always a big hole not having baseball in my hometown. Yes I’m a reporter but I’ve never covered the Nats. I’m a fan, just like you. 

Let’s go win the World Series. 

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The ageless Fernando Rodney to reportedly play in Dominican Winter League

The ageless Fernando Rodney to reportedly play in Dominican Winter League

Only one player in the major leagues threw a pitch while over the age of 40 last season. Fernando Rodney, who in fact is 42 and coming off his first ever World Series title, has appeared in at least 50 games each of the last eight years and 10 of the last 11.

For a player who’s three years older than the second-oldest active pitcher, taking the offseason off wouldn’t just be expected—it’d probably be recommended. But Rodney is taking no such break, reportedly signing up for the Dominican Winter League this offseason.

Leones del Escogido plays in his hometown of Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. This will actually be the fifth time Rodney will suit up for the team, most recently doing so last winter.

Rodney is a free agent after being picked up by the Nationals midseason. He’s played 17 years in the majors and ranks 17th all-time in saves with 327.

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How big of a priority is filling the hole at second base for the Nationals?

How big of a priority is filling the hole at second base for the Nationals?

When the Nationals entered the offseason, they had significant needs at seven different areas of the roster: catcher, first base, second base, third base, rotation, bullpen and bench.

Washington made strides toward solidifying the first two by inking catcher Yan Gomes and first baseman Howie Kendrick to separate deals over the first five weeks of the offseason. But with former stars Stephen Strasburg and Anthony Rendon both still on the board, there are still many different directions the Nationals could go this winter.

On this week’s episode of the Nationals Talk podcast, NBC Sports Washington’s Todd Dybas sat down with Jesse Dougherty of The Washington Post and MLB.com’s Jamal Collier to talk about the team’s offseason plans. With the needs the Nationals have in so many areas, the writers agreed Washington didn’t need to prioritize second base.

“Second base, to me, feels like it would probably be the last thing on my checklist if I’m the Nats,” Collier said. “You’re going to operate on some kind of budget and you have to spend money on re-signing [Stephen] Strasburg, figuring out whatever you’re going to do at third base…and you have to do something with this bullpen as well.”

Right now, the Nationals have top prospect Carter Kieboom as a potential option to take the starting job out of Spring Training. They also have veteran utility players Wilmer Difo and Adrian Sanchez on the roster, but neither has been able to produce consistently on the offensive end.

“I would probably band-aid it with probably a cheaper option than Brian Dozier,” Dougherty said. “Maybe even give Carter the shot but have a veteran behind him…César Hernández makes a ton of sense to me. He’s a switch hitter, he can play multiple positions, you have a hole at utility player.”

Dybas also mentioned Starlin Castro as a potential option. Castro played all 162 games for the Miami Marlins last season, hitting .270 with a career-high 22 home runs. He’ll be 30 years old on Opening Day and was lauded by his former club for his clubhouse presence.

One potential option that came off the board in recent weeks was Mike Moustakas, who inked a four-year, $64 million deal with the Cincinnati Reds. A natural third baseman, Moustakas played 47 games at second for the Milwaukee Brewers last season and is now entrenched there for the Reds moving forward with Eugenio Suarez playing third.

“I hate that Moustakas deal,” Collier said. The Reds are “putting him out of position. He’s not a second baseman. So you’re getting worse defensively for a guy who’s pretty much all power. We don’t know what the shape of the ball is going to be [and] he’s only getting older.”

It was certainly a high price tag, which likely took the Nationals out of the running if second base is an area the team is hoping to save money on. But they also could’ve signed Moustakas to play third, a position that is remarkably light on talent in free agency.

For the full episode, which also includes discussions about Rendon and Strasburg’s prospects of returning to Washington, you can find the Nationals Talk podcast at Art19, Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

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