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Sammy Sosa's only contract offer in 2006 came from the Nationals

Sammy Sosa's only contract offer in 2006 came from the Nationals

The Nationals traded for four-time All-Star and three-time Silver Slugger Alfonso Soriano on Dec. 7, 2005 in an effort to inject a star corner outfielder into a roster desperate for talent.

However, there was only one problem: Soriano didn’t want to play in the outfield.

On the day he was traded, ESPN noted that the longtime second baseman had been “reluctant in the past to switch positions.” That proved to be the case in Washington as well. The Nationals already had All-Star Jose Vidro entrenched at second, so they asked Soriano to move over to left field.

For what was supposed to be his Nationals spring training debut, Soriano refused to take the field and prompted then-general manager Jim Bowden to consider placing him on the disqualified list. He relented two days later, before going on to have a historic 46-home run, 41-stolen base season in his one year with Washington before signing a $136,000,000 deal with the Chicago Cubs.

But months before Soriano began his standoff with the Nationals, Bowden was working on a contingency plan: Sammy Sosa.

Sosa, a main subject in the ESPN documentary “Long Gone Summer” that premiered Sunday night, was in the twilight of his career and coming off a disappointing 2005 season with the Baltimore Orioles in which he hit .221 with 14 home runs in 102 games. At 37 years old, he was looking for a team that would allow him to continue his quest of climbing the all-time home run leaderboard.

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In January of 2006, ESPN Deportes reported that the Nationals were in “preliminary discussions” with Sosa over terms of a one-year deal to play in Washington. According to the Associated Press, the Nationals offered Sosa a “non-guaranteed, incentive-laden major league contract” in February after originally proposing a minor-league deal.

However, Sosa—known to be a proud figure—declined the offer and instead opted to sit out the 2006 season. The Society for American Baseball Research found that Washington’s offer was the only one Sosa received that winter, despite being just one season removed from hitting 35 home runs in his final year with the Cubs.

It wouldn’t be the end for the Dominican slugger, though. He made his return to baseball in 2007 and hit 21 home runs to eclipse the 600 mark and finish with 609 for his career—which at the time ranked fifth in the history of the sport. Sosa would’ve been a first-ballot Hall of Famer if not for being accused of using performance enhancing drugs.

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He didn’t end up in D.C., which may have ended up costing the Nationals. Outside of Soriano, no other outfielder played more than 78 games for them in 2006. They finished 71-91 and fifth in the NL East while ranking 23rd among major-league teams in scoring and 20th in home runs. Home attendance also dropped by nearly 600,000 compared to 2005.

It was a disappointing year for the Nationals, saved only by the excitement Soriano and Nick Johnson brought to the plate and promise Ryan Zimmerman showed. Sosa could’ve hit his 600th career home run in D.C. and provided a distraction from the poor display of baseball that was happening on the field. Instead, he took the year off in the Dominican Republic while the Nationals began their descent to the basement of the major-league standings.

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Stephen Strasburg will start for Nationals Sunday against Orioles

Stephen Strasburg will start for Nationals Sunday against Orioles

Davey Martinez said Friday that Stephen Strasburg will start Sunday against the Baltimore Orioles.

Strasburg has yet to pitch this season because of a right wrist impingement which led to a nerve problem in his right hand. He missed his first start, slated for the second game of the season on July 25, then what would have been his second start five days later. Strasburg said his hand was falling asleep in the middle of the night. The Nationals medical staff needed to give Strasburg multiple injections in his hand in order to help the pain subside.

RELATED: IS NATIONALS VS. ORIOLES A TRUE RIVALRY?

He threw a heavy bullpen session Wednesday before throwing 32 pitches in a simulated game. Martinez said Strasburg felt well during the simulated game, so instead of continuing, they had him stop in order to throw 70-plus pitches Sunday against Baltimore.

"The tingling in his thumb is gone," Martinez said Friday. "That's a good sign. We watched him, like I said, he's thrown some really good [bullpen sessions]. That was the big thing for me. Nothing in his mechanics has changed. Everything's good. Based on conversations with him, he feels good. He wants to pitch. He's ready to pitch on Sunday."

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Max Scherzer left his Wednesday start after just an inning because of a hamstring "tweak" from the day before when he was running sprints. He was expected to play catch Friday. Martinez labeled him "day-to-day."

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Is Nationals vs. Orioles a true rivalry?

Is Nationals vs. Orioles a true rivalry?

Let's just get this out of the way now -- no, it's not a rivalry. 

There, now we can move forward from here.

With the Washington Nationals and Baltimore Orioles getting set for their first series of the 2020 MLB season, the conversation about whether or not "Nats and O's" should be considered a rivalry is once again rearing its ugly head. 

Here's the deal, Washington and Baltimore have a rivalry -- you know, the cities -- but the teams aren't even close to that yet. For true rivalries to form in sports, the foundation is always rooted in meaningful games. I mean, they're not even in the same division. Just because two teams' ballparks are an hour or so away from each other doesn't mean the players on the roster have a deep-rooted hatred for one another.

Think of some of the most historic rivalries in sports, the biggest moments are either postseason games, or games that can determine who wins a division and goes to the postseason (or conferences in college, but you get the idea). 

Washington Football Team and Cowboys, Lakers and Celtics, Duke-North Carolina, Yankees Red Sox, and the list goes on. Every single one of these rivalries grew organically, not just geographically. They've had to beat each other to win their division, their conference, or advance in the playoffs. 

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The games have to matter first, it's just that simple. This means that until we see a Nationals-Orioles World Series, we can continue to argue about whether crabs cakes or mambo sauce is better, but we can't call this weekends' series a rivalry. 

Maybe one day. 

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