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Ryan Zimmerman joins The Racing Presidents to talk option year, baseball’s best division and traveling with the family

Ryan Zimmerman joins The Racing Presidents to talk option year, baseball’s best division and traveling with the family

Click "play" in the embedded podcast to listen to The Racing Presidents' interview with Ryan Zimmerman and click here to subscribe to the podcast.

Ryan Zimmerman and spring training. Hmm. Kind of an off combination these days.

Remember the uproar last season when Zimmerman was not out on the main fields? A slow start followed. His limited public work became a thing -- unnecessarily -- but a thing nonetheless. So much so Zimmerman remained surprised by it when he sat down to join The Racing Presidents podcast this spring.

“I’ve talked more about that I think than anything in my career for some reason,” Zimmerman said with a smile. “Shows how exciting I am that I have nothing else to talk about besides the one controversial thing I’ve ever done.”

It’s an interesting time for Zimmerman. He’s entering the final assured year of his contract. The team holds an $18 million option for his services in 2020. If he plays the 125-135 games manager Davey Martinez hopes he will, there is a slim chance the option is picked up. Most likely, the option is declined, the sides renegotiate and Zimmerman returns at a much lower cost.

“You never rule anything out,” Zimmerman said. “In professional sports, anything can happen. … Just need to play well. It’s simple. If I play well, then, of course, they’ll be willing to have me back -- who knows if it is going to be at that number or something else or one year or two years or something like that. We obviously haven’t even talked. Our relationship throughout this process has always been positive and I don’t see that changing at all.”

Much more with Zimmerman on the podcast, which was recorded early in spring training before Bryce Harper signed. Topics include the reality of baseball travel when you have two young daughters in the house, the slowness of free agency and the division.

That’s not all. It’s prediction time in this episode. The voices of The Racing Presidents podcast outline who will be taking personal accolades in each league, plus who they expect to push through in the playoffs. The group is in agreement on one topic: They expect Washington to win in the challenging National League East. They are not in agreement on what comes next, though one member expects the Nationals to go to a new level.

Last, a few thoughts on the graceful exit of one of baseball’s all-time graceful players, Ichiro.

Listen, subscribe, rate, and stay tuned for big things happening as Opening Day approaches.

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Astros wade through first boo-filled night of many to come

Astros wade through first boo-filled night of many to come

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- The only agreed upon factor of Saturday night’s spring training opener was affinity for Dusty Baker. 

Baker, alone at home plate to receive a ceremonial first pitch, raised his hand to the crowd when announced. Both sides cheered. Those in red stood, some shouted his name. Others on the Houston side could unabashedly applaud Baker. He represented what’s next, not what was.

But the past chased the Astros from the second the ballpark opened. Any Houston highlights were followed by hefty boos. “FOR THE H” flashed on the right-center field video board during the evening on what was supposed to be an Astros “home” game. However, there was nothing warm and fuzzy about the location for the Astros, an experience sure to track them outside of Houston throughout the season.

The Astros were booed en masse since Baker did not play any of his regulars. Myles Straw, Jeremy Pena and Taylor Jones began the game against Max Scherzer. It’s difficult to let Nos. 3, 89 and 79, respectively, have it on the first night of spring training. But, those on the team in 2017 remained safely in the dugout, prompting an expansion of targets.

Before Scherzer began his night, the Astros’ mascot, Orbit, ran across the face of the Washington dugout with an oversized Houston flag. He, too, was booed -- with fervor. Anything representing the Astros was in play since their main facets were not on the field.

Two signs carried by Nationals fans were taken by a ballpark employee. Some Washington fans banged on their seats during the game to mimic the Astros’ prior method for stealing signs. Scherzer thought something colorful had a chance to leak into the setting.

“I figured something like that was going to happen,” Scherzer said. “I got a good taste of what it’s like [when] facing [Bryce Harper] last year when we had our whole crowd going. I thought our fans would boo. I didn’t realize it was going to be that loud when I face Harp. That was a playoff atmosphere. Everything gets turned up a notch when the fans get into it.”

Scherzer threw 22 pitches, 13 for strikes in two innings. He allowed a single and struck out two batters he’s unlikely to ever face again. Otherwise, he was nonplussed to face the Astros in a game rain forced to pause, then stop, after two innings and a head-scratching delay.

“We won the World Series,” Scherzer said. “It wasn’t like I have a vendetta to hold. So, for me, over here we’re just trying to move forward and get ready for our season.”

Baker thought the reception went as expected.

“There were a lot of Nationals fans here,” Baker said. “We had a lot of fans here, too. You could tell who was for us and who was against us. All in all, it wasn’t too bad. You kind of expect to get some. But they weren’t too bad, though.”

So, the night ultimately served as the expected start. Scherzer pitched well. The Astros were booed.

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Astros booed, fans' signs taken in spring training opener against Nationals

Astros booed, fans' signs taken in spring training opener against Nationals

As if this week hadn’t already been bad enough for the Houston Astros, it got a bit worse on Saturday afternoon when they faced the Washington Nationals in the spring training opener. 

The Astros took the field at the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches and were welcomed by the fans with an eruption of boos. The two teams share the facility, but it was Houston's home game. 

Since 2017 Washington and Houston have shared their spring training facility in West Palm Beach and made it a tradition to kick off their respective Grapefruit League schedules against each other. They will play six times this spring - though Saturday's opener was postponed by rain after a scoreless two innings. 

One courageous fan really got into the act, holding up a sign reading "Houston *'s" that was eventually confiscated by ballpark personnel, according to the Associated Press.

If this start is any indication of what they will face throughout this season, it's going to be a long 2020 for the Astros. 

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