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There’s no replacing Gerardo Parra, but he left his mark on the Nationals’ clubhouse

There’s no replacing Gerardo Parra, but he left his mark on the Nationals’ clubhouse

WASHINGTON--There may not be any baby shark montages on the jumbotron at Nationals Park this season, but that doesn’t mean the team is forgetting about Gerardo Parra.

The journeyman outfielder joined the Nationals as a waiver claim midway through the season and played a significant role in creating a light atmosphere in the clubhouse as Washington recovered from a 19-31 start and won the World Series.

As Parra led dugout dance parties, donned lucky sunglasses and engaged in group hugs, often beside him was starting pitcher Aníbal Sánchez. The right-hander is back with the Nationals for the 2020 season, hoping to help Parra’s impact carry over into the new year.

“I’m probably going to bring him in on FaceTime during the game,” Sanchez joked at the Nationals’ annual WinterFest event. “He’s probably gonna be asleep by the time we play but it’s something that I thought of him, in the offseason we had a conversation about that. He’s sad but at the end of the day he’s happy [with] where he’s going.”

Sánchez expects a fun clubhouse vibe to continue despite Parra’s departure for the Yomiuri Giants of Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball league. In fact, he’s already started, giving re-signed World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg a hug the first time he saw him back in D.C.

“I saw Stephen yesterday and I gave him a big hug and said, ‘Oh, there we go again,’” Sanchez said.

For the Nationals, it's a tried and true formula that landed them their first championship. They're entering the 2020 season hoping to reclaim some of that magic.

"The clubhouse dynamic might change a little bit but he trained us well," closer Sean Doolittle said. "I think we'll still be in good shape there. But I really think that it's important that we brought so many of those guys back. I think our biggest strength last year might've been the chemistry we had in the clubhouse and keeping so much of the same group together I think will be really big."

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Why is Trea Turner’s name on a replica Super Bowl trophy in the Nationals’ clubhouse?

Why is Trea Turner’s name on a replica Super Bowl trophy in the Nationals’ clubhouse?

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Yan Gomes walked by a bright, silver emblem which represented his personal joy and has sat in the middle of the Nationals clubhouse as a beacon of trash talk this spring. He stopped, then rubbed his shirtsleeve over it to maintain its gleam.

At first glance, the replica looks precisely like the Vince Lombardi Trophy. And, it’s central location in the clubhouse makes it impossible to miss, which is the point.

“That’s Yan flexing on all of us,” Max Scherzer said, shaking his head.

The trophy is to commemorate Gomes’ fantasy football victory from last year. No one will disclose the cost to enter, but it’s steep. So high that the team split into two leagues last season: The A group, populated by well-heeled veterans, and the B group, who do not have the same cash.

Three names are on the trophy: Gomes, batting practice pitcher Ali Modami, and, in a late addition, Trea Turner.

Gomes and Modami were the co-owners of the winning team. Turner was added to the trophy via trolling tape. His name is hand written and spread across the bottom of the trophy’s base, beneath Gomes and Modami. Why? This is Gomes’ way of simultaneously mocking and thanking Turner for his contribution to the championship after he made a bad trade which vaulted Gomes and Modami to the title.

“I had three good running backs,” Turner said. “So, I traded Nick Chubb, who was doing great at the time, George Kittle, and Carson Wentz for Deshaun Watson, Keenan Allen and John Brown. I needed wide receivers, so I gave up one of my running backs and tight ends for two wide receivers, basically, but...shouldn’t have done it.”

Nothing was formal about the split between who was in the A or B league. No service time requirements or particular stats. It was more about making a financial decision. Erick Fedde, commissioner of the B league, considered his personal fate before choosing.

“I didn’t need my girlfriend killing me for spending a lot of money on fantasy football,” Fedde said.

So, he organized the B league, mostly populated by what he called the “swing guys,” who were mostly young at the major-league level or still in the minor leagues. Carter Kieboom, Tanner Rainey, Jake Noll, Tyler Mapes and Scott Copeland were in the league. So was Javy Guerra, Joe Ross and Austin Voth. Among the biggest challenges? Organizing the draft.

“It was so difficult,” Fedde said. “We were trying to make sure we got the minor-league season done or the big-league guys that were either called up or they weren’t flying. We had a big-league day game like two days after the minor-league season ended, so hopefully everybody was home by then. That was the hardest part. I remember we did our group chat, we did picking names out of the hat with all the guys who were in the big leagues at the time then sent the video to everyone who was down in the minors still. It’s a lot of work being the commissioner of that league.”

Fedde was in four fantasy football leagues last season. He, similar to Turner, became partly responsible for delivering a championship via ill-advised trade in the Nationals B league.

“I made the bad trade this year to the champion,” Fedde said. “Copeland won. I gave up Tyreek Hill. Traded him away because I was like 0-4 to start the year. I needed healthy players. That ended up biting the league in the butt.”

Turner tried to defend his decision-making, which flipped the A league in Gomes’ favor, claiming a bad start did not push him into a panic move.

“I still to this day, I’ll argue for it because I gave up a strength of mine to improve a weakness,” Turner said. “It just didn’t work out. I’m not mad about it. He thinks it’s so funny to put me on that trophy, but he just got lucky.”

Did Turner know he would be on the trophy?

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” Turner said. “He texted me as soon as he won. I knew that was going to happen. He’s having the time of his life. I’ll let him enjoy it.”

Gomes again walked by the trophy later Wednesday and paused for a minute. He shot a look across the clubhouse, then moved on. Turner lurked with revenge on his mind.

“Next season is coming up here pretty quick,” Turner said. “He’s going to have to redo it all again or else he’s going to be wearing it himself.”

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Mark Lerner ribs Davey Martinez after walking in on his World Series ring fitting

Mark Lerner ribs Davey Martinez after walking in on his World Series ring fitting

The Nationals haven’t seen what their World Series rings will look like just yet, but on Wednesday players and coaches were fitted for the highly coveted jewelry they’ll be receiving during their first homestand in April.

Manager Davey Martinez’s ring sizing was caught on camera, and an unexpected guest arrived as he was trying a sample ring on.

Nationals principal owner Mark Lerner had to poke fun at his skipper, saying, "Oh no, no, no. He's not getting one. He was never on the list.” Martinez wasn’t recognized by the ring specialist—something that wasn’t a first for him this offseason despite being the reigning World Series-winning manager—but settled on a size-10 ring for his left index finger.

The Nationals are set to receive their championship rings April 4 before their contest with the New York Mets that afternoon.

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