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When Sean Doolittle thinks about the Astros cheating, he thinks about lost jobs

When Sean Doolittle thinks about the Astros cheating, he thinks about lost jobs

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Sean Doolittle leaned against a shelf in the middle of the Nationals' clubhouse Thursday while explaining his thoughts on the Houston Astros cheating.

Doolittle often looked down and around the room, his mohawk untamed after being forced into a hat all morning during the first Nationals pitchers and catchers workout of 2020. Across the room from him were players who had little chance of making the team. Many of those relievers are non-roster invitees trying to return to the major leagues. Their job status is tenuous when employed. It’s all the more challenging when trying to find a way back after failing.

And when Doolittle thinks about the Astros stealing signs via technology, he thinks about the extrapolations. What did that do to relievers who had a bad day against a cheating team? What did it do to him personally?

First, the latter. Doolittle played for Oakland in 2017 before being traded to Washington on July 16. He threw 21 ⅓ innings in Oakland that season. During those, Doolittle allowed three home runs and eight earned runs. Two of those home runs were hit by the Astros -- George Springer and Jose Altuve, to be exact. They produced three of the eight earned runs he gave up before being traded. He allowed five earned runs in the other 20 innings (2.25 ERA).

Which makes Doolittle think about the Sliding Doors Theory as it pertains to him: Were those failed outings against the Astros -- a team convicted of stealing signs with technology -- enough to lower his trade value to the degree a swap with Washington worked for Oakland? And, if so, is it partly to thank for him eventually becoming a World Series champion?

“Maybe they don’t make the trade,” Doolittle said. “Maybe I’m still in Oakland. I don’t know. I really don’t know. But that's the kind of stuff that you just start thinking about. But, for me, I got traded, I landed on my feet, I ended up in a great spot. But for some guys, their bad outings, that was kind of the end of the road for them. They got sent down. They never got called back up again. I think about those guys a lot.”

Yes, Doolittle throws fastballs 90 percent of the time. However, the hitter knowing what is coming -- or is not -- is an enormous factor for any opposing pitcher, no matter repertoire. Further, being on the edge with a job, which is so often the case among relievers, means one bad day can produce combating thoughts for weeks.

Doolittle has been through this process multiple times himself. His results fluctuated last season. He wondered about his release point, his mechanics toward the plate, wondered why his fixes on the side often weren’t fixes in his outings. Questions. Doubt. Hunt for solutions. Repeat.

“I think about how they say they wish they had done more to stop it and they’re remorseful,” Doolittle said. “And I think about pitchers that had to stand up in front of their lockers after games and searching for answers after they just got hit around. I don’t know if a lot of people realize what that does to a pitcher, especially a reliever, who in that situation, that might have been the difference in the game and he’s got to stand there and face the music not really knowing what to put his finger on or what went wrong or why he got hit around the way he did.

“For some guys that was their last chance, they got sent down or they got sent out. You spend weeks, you spend months, looking for answers after an outing like that and it can change the trajectory of the season. It can impact your team’s win-loss record in the long run because you’re not as effective because you’re kind of racked with self-doubt.

“I think about the implications it might have had for teams making the playoffs and guys in the clubhouse and clubhouse staff playoff shares, and how that would have come into effect. There’s lots of layers to this, so it’s going to take more than one day of issuing statements and answering questions to feel good about moving on from this.”

Which means Thursday was just a tiny start. The Astros held multiple press conferences and open locker room opportunities. Their apologies fluctuated from stock to semi-defiant. The Nationals listened and largely shrugged.

The only thing not in dispute is the widespread frustration outside of the Houston side. Much of that frustration only led to more questions in the offseason, from trades to jobs to what's next.

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Nationals' championships rings filled with flash and memories

Nationals' championships rings filled with flash and memories

Salivating and awe came first. Distribution will have to wait.

The Nationals revealed their jewel-laden championship ring during a slow-moving, hour-long telecast Sunday night which was originally supposed to include select players receiving their rings. After pushback from the players -- who wanted to receive the rings together when it was safe to do so -- the night was converted to more of a reveal than reaction.

The ring itself included several nods to the D.C. area, markers from the championship season, and specific personalizations.

Here’s a blow-by-blow:

-- The ring is 14-karat white and yellow gold

-- The “W” logo is made from 30 rubies to represent the 30 runs the team scored in the four World Series game

-- Around the logo are 58 pavé-set diamonds

-- Above and below the logo or the words “World Champions” set over the ring via 32 sapphires. This number represents the sum total of the team’s 2019 walk-off wins (7), shutout wins (13), longest winning streak (8 games), and playoff rounds won (4).

-- An additional 108 diamonds are featured along the ring top, representing the number of regular season and postseason wins (105), plus one diamond for the World Series title and two diamonds for the locations -- Washington and Montreal -- of the franchise.

-- The top and bottom of the ring have 12 rubies to represent the total number of postseason wins

-- On the left side in yellow gold is the player’s name

-- Beneath the name is a flag, the Capitol Building and the Roman numerals MMVI to represent the year the Lerner family purchased the franchise

-- The player’s number is in diamonds on the bottom left side

-- “Fight Finished” is on the right side

-- The interior of the ring is engraved with a shark symbol holding a yellow gold trophy. So, yes, a nod to “Baby Shark” has made it onto the rings

-- Also on the interior are the team logos of each opponent the Nationals defeated in the postseason

-- “Go 1-0 every day” is also engraved inside

-- In total, the average championship ring contains 170 total diamonds, 32 custom-cut sapphires, 31 custom-cut rubies, and 24 princess-cut rubies for a precious total stone carat weight of 23.2 carats.

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The lead up of the ring reveal included congratulatory messages from a slew of people associated with the Nationals in the present and past.

Former closer Chad Cordero and catcher Brian Schneider started the video messages. Denard Span and Adam LaRoche followed. Redskins quarterback Alex Smith, former Redskins player Brian Mitchell, chef José Andrés and Dr. Anthony Fauci were among several others to send congratulations.

In a post-reveal show, the players emphasized they were looking forward to receiving the rings in a group.

“I think the only thing better than seeing it is going to be wearing it,” Howie Kendrick said.

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Max Scherzer: Nationals players opening rings together will be ‘final piece to our championship’

Max Scherzer: Nationals players opening rings together will be ‘final piece to our championship’

One year to the day after the Nationals began their climb out of the depths of a 19-31 start on their way to winning the World Series, the team unveiled its championship ring design.

Introduced in a virtual ring ceremony hosted by a conglomerate of Nationals officials and media members, the rings captured many significant images and phrases from the Nationals’ historic season such as “Go 1-0 Today” and Baby Shark.

A few players were originally set to receive their rings during the virtual ceremony before the rest of the team, but the Nationals released a statement Saturday saying that “the players collectively decided they would prefer to receive their rings when the team could be physically reunited.”

Instead, the entire team watched on with the rest of baseball fans as the design was introduced. After the presentation ended, several players went on a Zoom call with MASN’s Dan Kolko to discuss their thoughts on the new bling.

“It’s cool to see in person but I think I’ll be with Davey [Martinez] when I can actually put that thing on,” Nationals starter Max Scherzer said. “I think all of us, when we’re all together, when we can have that moment together, that’s the final piece to our championship and that’ll be an emotional moment.”

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As part of the presentation, the Nationals invited fans to support their #NATS4GOOD community response fund that assists those who’ve been directly affected by the coronavirus outbreak,

“I’m with Max, I think it’ll be cool for us all to get it together,” Ryan Zimmerman said. “I think with the situation that we’re in, obviously nothing is normal right now so to give the fans a look at this and at the same time raise some money…it’s the least we can do.”

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