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Sean Doolittle weighs in on baseball's netting problem

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Sean Doolittle weighs in on baseball's netting problem

Major League Baseball came all too close to experiencing an unthinkable tragedy Wednesday night in Houston.

The Astros were hosting the Cubs, and outfielder Albert Almora lined a foul into the stands, striking a young girl unable to protect herself. The crowd immediately fell silent, and it was difficult not choke up watching Almora and his teammates fall to the ground with emotion in the middle of a live game.

The incident highlights a problem Major League Baseball has been dealing with gradually for years: protecting its fans from screaming line drives that leave the field of play several times every game.

Given the severity of what happened Wednesday (the girl was immediately taken to the hospital), it became the latest chance for fans online to debate extending the safety nets further down the lines at ballparks.

The conversation wasn’t limited to fans; many Cubs and Astros weighed in during postgame availability, and other players around the league, including the Nationals’ closer, joined them.

The only reason some fans have protested is the idea that nets will be obtrusive to their view. Doolittle points out that the top priority for everyone involved, players included, is safety.

As usual, the thoughtful reliever brings up another interesting point: distance.

As modern ballparks have taken over the sport, fans are sitting closer and closer to the action. It makes for a more engaging experience, but of course, puts fans closer to harm’s way.

With the exception of a vocal minority of fans online, just about everyone involved agrees the league needs to take more action. The more players as well-respected as Doolittle speak up, the better chance that has of happening.

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Sean Doolittle speaks out against disbanding of several minor league affiliates

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Sean Doolittle speaks out against disbanding of several minor league affiliates

When Sean Doolittle speaks, it's usually a pretty good idea to listen.

The latest piece of news the Nationals' closer has weighed in on? The proposed changes to baseball's minor league system, in which several teams may lose their affiliations and 1,000 players -- not to mention countless local employees -- would lose their jobs.

Doolittle is responding to reports of incoming changes that would drastically alter the shape and, more importantly, scope of minor league baseball. 

In an era with rapidly-declining attendance and fan interest every year, it's confusing to Doolittle and others why Major League Baseball would take actions to limit exposure to thousands of fans.

Doolittle points out in his thread of tweets why this seems counter-intuitive to what baseball is trying to do in winning over young fans. At the end of the day, the decision comes down to money, which will ultimately hurt fans in more remote areas of the country.

The Nationals and Orioles would be impacted too. The Frederick Keys, Baltimore's Single-A affiliate, is on the chopping block despite some of the best attendance numbers and community efforts in their league. The Hagerstown Suns, the Nats' Single-A affiliate, are also potential victims.

Once again, baseball is having the wrong conversations when it comes to improving the sport. Hopefully cooler heads like Doolittle's prevail and local teams across the country can continue to operate, bringing baseball to new fans everywhere.

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Former Nationals first baseman Adam Dunn on MLB's 2020 Hall of Fame ballot

Former Nationals first baseman Adam Dunn on MLB's 2020 Hall of Fame ballot

The National Baseball Hall of Fame announced on Monday the 32 names that are on the 2020 ballot, and one former Nationals player was listed.

That would be first baseman Adam Dunn, who played for Washington for two seasons, 2009 and 2010. 

In his two seasons in the nation's capital, Dunn displayed the power that had only been seen by Alfonso Soriano before in a Nationals uniform. Dunn hit exactly 38 home runs in both seasons, topping 100 RBIs during both campaigns, too.

Of course, should Dunn be selected into the Hall of Fame, the Nationals would not be his primary team. The slugger spent the first eight seasons of his MLB career with the Cincinnati Reds, and spent three and a half seasons with the Chicago White Sox following his time in D.C.

2020 is Dunn's first year on the ballot. While he had a long, respectable career, it's unlikely he's voted in right away, if at all.

The Nationals still don't have a primary member in the Hall of Fame, as catcher Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez is currently the only player in the Hall that sported a Curly W since the team relocated to Washington from Montreal in 2005.

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