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What was Opening Day like the last time a Washington baseball team was defending champion?

What was Opening Day like the last time a Washington baseball team was defending champion?

Here’s a not-so-fun reminder: Opening Day would have been March 26. In New York. Max Scherzer versus Jacob deGrom. The defending World Series champions against a division rival projected to fight for a postseason spot. The kookiness of Citi Field. All the good stuff.

Instead, the holding pattern continues. Nationals players are in West Palm Beach, Washington or at their homes. They continue to work out and hope baseball will resume at some point this summer.

There was no such wait back in 1925.

The Senators won the 1924 World Series after winning the American League pennant. The series came down to Game 7 in Griffith Stadium, where the Senators trailed 3-1 in the eighth inning before Juan Soto singled to right...just checking to see if you are paying attention. They did trail 3-1 in the eighth. Bucky Harris, also the team’s manager, hit a grounder to third which, as the lore goes, hit a pebble and went to the outfield, scoring two runs. In his rookie season, Earl McNeely -- yes, the Earl McNeely -- hit another ground ball to third in the bottom of the 12th. Another bad hop supposedly followed. Muddy Ruel scored the winning run. Senators win. Go crazy.

The Senators won 96 games the next season. George Mogridge received the start in New York to begin Washington’s title defense. He made 30 starts in 1924 on the way to the World Series championship. Though, Mogridge and Pinky Hargrave didn’t make it to the end of the title defense. They were traded June 18 for catcher Hank Severeid. It was a shrewd move. Severeid hit .355 for the Senators.

Mogridge lasted seven innings in the opener. He gave up five runs in the 5-1 loss. However, he did hold Wally Pipp to an 0-for-4 outing. Pipp was two months away from the headache that would change his life. When he needed a day off to rest his throbbing skull, Yankees manager Miller Huggins inserted Lou Gehrig to replace him. Pipp was then destined for a lifetime filled with bench time and infamy.

Goose Goslin hit cleanup that day for the Senators. He’s in the Hall of Fame after 18 years in the major leagues, 248 home runs (a lot for his era), 173 triples (a lot for any era), 500 doubles and an .887 career OPS.

The Senators’ home opener came eight days later against the same Yankees crew. President Calvin Coolidge -- the 30th president in the history of the country -- threw out the first pitch at packed Griffith Stadium.

Gehrig was in the lineup and playing right field that day. Walter Johnson was not impressed. He threw a shutout during a 10-1 Washington win. There was another win for everyone involved: the game lasted just 2:15.

No such history exists -- yet -- for the Nationals. It was supposed to arrive Thursday, then at home April 2. Instead, we wait.

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Social distancing guidelines would make Nationals’ celebrations look very different in 2020

Social distancing guidelines would make Nationals’ celebrations look very different in 2020

High fives? Nope. Dugout dance parties? Not happening. Group hugs? No chance.

If the 2020 MLB season is played this summer, there are going to be extensive protocols in place that could reportedly limit everything from chewing sunflower seeds to showering after games. The game would look a lot different, and perhaps nothing would change more than how players will celebrate together on the field.

NBC Sports Bay Area talked with Oakland A’s outfielder Robbie Grossman last week about how his team might adapt to the health protocols.

“It’s going to be very hard not to celebrate, shake hands, hug each other, and do all the stuff we’re accustomed to doing,” Grossman said. “But it’s just something that we’re going to have to make an adjustment to. This is the new normal. We’ll get creative and come up with something.”

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The Nationals in particular were a team that relied on a tight-knit clubhouse and prided themselves on staying relaxed and having fun even when their backs were against the wall. Even with the departure of the fun-loving Gerardo Parra last offseason, Washington was expected to employ that same approach during its quest to repeat in 2020.

Instead, the Nationals will have to find other ways strengthen their relationships over the course of the season. With players such as Eric Thames, Aníbal Sánchez, Juan Soto and Victor Robles on the roster, creativity is to be expected.

There are still many hurdles baseball officials must clear before a season can be played. But if the Nationals do return to field, there’s little doubt they would find a way to celebrate together.

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Trea Turner ribs Juan Soto for not hitting a home run as far as him in 2019

Trea Turner ribs Juan Soto for not hitting a home run as far as him in 2019

Juan Soto is just 21 years old and already has his name scattered across the record books.

He’s drawn the most walks ever by a player before turning 21 with 187. He’s the youngest player to put up a .400 on-base percentage in each of his first two seasons. He’s the fourth-youngest to hit a home run in the World Series.

Have we mentioned he’s still only 21?

The hype is only just beginning for the Dominican outfielder, especially since he had the chance to showcase his talents on the national stage last October. So of course, it’s only natural that teammate Trea Turner do what he can to keep his teammate humble.

Even though Soto is considered an up-and-coming slugger and Turner is more known for his speed, the Nationals shortstop has one thing going for him that Soto does not: hitting the Nationals’ longest home run of 2019.

On July 5, Turner hit a 453-foot bomb off Kansas City Royals starter Brad Keller. That just barely beats Soto for his career best, the 449-foot blast he hit off Clayton Kershaw in Game 5 of the NLDS.

Soto may beat out Turner eventually, but for now the shortstop holds bragging rights over the longest home run hit between the two.

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