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Team meetings like the one the Nationals had this week are no guarantee of a turnaround – but it can happen

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Team meetings like the one the Nationals had this week are no guarantee of a turnaround – but it can happen

Sometimes the doors shut on the outside world and struggling teams find clarity inside the sanctuary of a locker room. Sometimes they do not. 

The Nationals experienced the downside of a players’ only meeting this week when a clear-the-air session on Wednesday at Citi Field in New York was followed by two horrifying losses to the NL East rival Mets.

Now 12 games under .500, the season slipping away, their manager facing daily questions about his job security, the hardest part is here: Where do the Nationals go after a team meeting doesn’t solve the problem? 

Washington doesn’t need to go too far back into the history books to see that team meetings are often just exercises in frustration, They held one after a 3-0 loss to the Boston Red Sox last July 4. It capped a 9-20 stretch where they were shut out eight times in 34 days. 

You know what happened next. The Nationals drifted through an 82-80 season and failed to reach any of their preseason goals. A team 10 games over .500 and tied for first place in the NL East on May 31 was a game under .500 (42-43), seven games out and never got closer than five again. 

Of course, if there were no problems there would be no meetings. But sometimes players can root out issues by shutting out everyone, including the coaches. The Capitals did it each of the past two seasons. 

It’s easy to forget in the wake of winning the Stanley Cup in 2018 and a fourth straight Metropolitan Division title in 2019 that the Capitals had plenty of problems to work through. Former coach Barry Trotz blistered his team after a 6-2 loss at Colorado on Nov. 16, 2017 and left his players to sort things out. Washington was floundering at 10-9-1. 

The message got through. They won 12 of their next 15 games and finished the rest of the season 39-17-6. They went on to win the Cup – though there were a few more bumps in the road and a defensive overhaul following another team meeting in March. 

This year an embarrassing 8-5 loss at Chicago left the Capitals in third place in the Metro at 27-16-5. Maybe that doesn’t seem too bad, but they were in the midst of what would become a seven-game losing streak. They were teetering. Again the brutally honest talk after the loss to the Blackhawks eventually helped turn the tide.

“At the end of the day we’re pretty close, we’re a team. This group isn’t guys yelling,” Capitals forward Tom Wilson said after that Jan. 22 game. “We’re close, we know how we need to play. We just needed to address it, we needed to talk it out a little bit, get on the same page.

 But it took two more losses – one a brutal 7-6 overtime defeat at home to San Jose where they coughed up a two-goal lead twice, gave up the game-tying goal with one second to go and lost in overtime. Even productive team meetings rarely have linear results. 

 But they can also make things worse. The Wizards had a team meeting in January 2018 and soon after got destroyed by Charlotte 133-109. They rallied and beat Detroit two days later and their record was 26-20. 

But the fruitless meeting couldn’t solve Washington’s underlying issues. And while injuries played a factor, the Wizards only made the playoffs as the No. 8 seed and lost to Toronto in the first round in six games. 

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Report: Nationals among teams to release minor leaguers amid coronavirus pandemic

Report: Nationals among teams to release minor leaguers amid coronavirus pandemic

The Nationals are among many teams that cut a portion of its minor-league ranks as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, TheScore’s Robert Murray reported Thursday.

According to ESPN’s Jeff Passan, "hundreds" of minor leaguers lost their jobs Thursday as talks continue between MLB and its players union over the parameters for a salvaged 2020 season.

Although both sides maintain optimism that an MLB season will be played this summer, the fact that it would begin without fans in attendance is an indication that the minor-league season—of which teams rely almost entirely on ticket sales and concessions for revenue—is likely lost.

MLB teams agreed in March to pay their minor-league players $400 a week through May 31. However, as many teams have announced series of pay cuts, furloughs and lay offs for their employees over the past few weeks, it started to look inevitable that the minor leaguers would be a casualty of the virus’s economic ramifications once the agreement expired.

The last few weeks of spring training leading up to Opening Day typically see a significant number of minor-league players cut loose after failing to make team rosters. Since no team had the chance to narrow down its list of players before coronavirus forced the suspension of spring training, many of the players released may have already been candidates to get let go.

However, the sheer number of players that are now unemployed is unprecedented. While the released players are now free agents and free to sign with any club, it’s unlikely many teams bring on new players while the pandemic continues to grip the country.

At the very least until the league and MLBPA—which doesn't represent players in the minors—reach an agreement on how to proceed with the 2020 season, those minor-league players are going to have to find income through another job.

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New Jersey brewery takes shot at Astros' cheating scandal with new beer

New Jersey brewery takes shot at Astros' cheating scandal with new beer

Even with the baseball world on hold, the digs at the Houston Astros surrounding their sign-stealing scandal persist. The latest may be the most clever, as one New Jersey brewery created a custom beer just to take a shot at the Astros.

Departed Soles' newest drink is named "Trash Can Banger" and is a beer dedicated to slighting the Astros' 2017 World Series championship. The drink itself contains 2,017 grams of hops in each barrel, and the can design mimics Houston's well-recognized striped jerseys.

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Sometimes you need to bend the rules a little to Marwin the day, so we're up and at 'em a little earlier than we should be, getting a fresh new Hazy IPA in cans Justin time for a surprise Sunday release! Some of you may have already gotten the Signs that this was coming today, but beer releases are like a pitcher's arsenal, and you never really know what's coming and when... unless, of course, you cheat. When this pandemic first struck, much of our staff worked from home, while Brian rededicated himself to the Art of Brewing.. rewatching brewing school classes, reading new studies, and pouring over interviews, trying to Luhn(h)ow we could improve our efficiencies and processes. The result is a Fiers new approach to everything we do, from mashing in, to dry hopping, water treatments to canning, and everything in between. And, well, we don't mean to breg, man, but this new beer is Reddickulous, and you won't want to miss it! Brewed with Citra in our whirlpool, and given a touch of milk sugar for complexity, this juice bomb was twice dry hopped... first with more Citra, then with 2017 grams per barrel of Galaxy and Strata Hops... and just like an Asteroid, the flavor is out of this world! Like a craft beer Minute Made orange juice, to enjoy at a Park this fine day! Need some #TrashCanBanger in your life? Maybe Collin a favor with a friend if you're stuck in Correa, to have 'em pick you up some, or Cora ride share from Dallas to the brewery. If all else fails, throw a Belt & ran to the brewery, with a little Springer in your step, to be here at noon when we open up and release it to the world... Assuming our canning run goes off without a Hinch, 4 packs of this new #DefinitelyNotGlutenFree Banger will be available at noon for $17. Set your alarm to buzz, or tape an electrode to your chest to make sure you don't forget! The show Musgrove on! We're open from noon until 8pm, accepting same day delivery orders up until 4pm. Usual minimums, fees, etc. apply! Menu in story.

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Why exactly did Departed Soles decide to make this beer? It was a simple mentality that most would agree with.

“I’m not a fan of cheaters,” Departed Soles head brewer and owner Brian Kulbacki told NJ.com

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Kulbacki noted that the beverage has created some support among Yankees and Dodgers fans who were heavily impacted by the 2017 events, while people in Houston are not too fond of it. That's no surprise, though Kulbacki was taken back by how many Astros fans remain blind to what happened.

The creation of the beer stemmed from the brewery missing live sports; taking a shot at the Astros in the process was an added bonus. 

“We’re all very big sports fans, and we’re all desperate for sports to come back,” Kulbacki said. “We’re desperate for anything to talk about other than a pandemic right now. So we thought it was an opportune time to put out a beer.”

At ballparks or bars, it looks like the Astros won't be escaping the digs anytime soon. 

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