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Why Adam Eaton wanted to tear down protective plastic in Nationals clubhouse

Why Adam Eaton wanted to tear down protective plastic in Nationals clubhouse

The Nationals weren’t in a position to pop any bottles celebrating a postseason berth just yet on Monday night, but that didn’t stop someone in the organization from looking ahead. 

As the Nats embarked upon their final homestand of the year, reporters noticed protective plastic placed above lockers throughout the clubhouse, in preparation of a celebration most expect to come this week.

Players noticed it too, and at least one wasn’t happy with what he saw.

“Don’t bring that up. I’m not happy about it. I’m not happy at all,” outfielder Adam Eaton told reporters after the Nationals’ 7-2 victory over the Phillies. “We’ve had a discussion. It won’t happen again.” 

Eaton was so unhappy seeing the plastic, he threatened to pull a similar stunt to one of his former teammates.

“If I had it my way, I would do a Chris Sale and rip every single one of them down,” Eaton continued. “Chris, I love you. But I’m not happy with that. It’s a distraction in my book, and shouldn’t have happened.”

That’s a sight most fans would love to see, and it certainly would have been one of the more bizarre stories of the Nationals’ season.

It’s not completely unreasonable that the Nats’ operations team would want to be prepared. It’s possible (likely, even) that the Nationals clinch a postseason berth at some point against the Phillies this week, and it makes sense they’d want to be prepared for whenever the moment happens.

Now that the Nats took the first game in a rare five-game set, their magic number is just three. With a doubleheader scheduled for Tuesday, a sweep combined with a Cubs loss would lock the Nationals into the Wild Card Game and ignite a celebration.

With the early start time Tuesday, setting up the plastic Monday afternoon makes a lot of sense. But still, it’s also reasonable to see Eaton’s description of them as a distraction. 

Regardless of the team’s magic number, the outfielder’s focus hasn’t shifted.

“I don’t really follow that. I’m going to go in tomorrow and eat eggs and bacon and get ready for pitch one,” Eaton explained. “I don’t really worry about numbers or games or emphasis or anything like that. I just try to keep it as simple as possible. If we go out there and think this game is bigger than the rest, you’re kind of fooling yourself. And then all of a sudden you’re tightening up and doing things you’re not supposed to do. We’re ready for a doubleheader tomorrow, and we’ll see from there.”

Eggs and bacon sound like a pretty great start to the day. And if everything goes well for the Nationals, they’ll be prepared to end the day nicely too, with champagne, clean lockers and a spot in the 2019 postseason. 

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Max Scherzer continues to try to steer the union on a united front

Max Scherzer continues to try to steer the union on a united front

Blake Snell and Trevor Bauer have been examples A and B of what the union does not want to do during tenuous negotiations with Major League Baseball.

Public sentiment will not leak over to the players. They are the relatable ones, the ones fans scream at and for, the ones who have their jerseys or baseball cards bought. They are the emotional bond to the game. Not the owners. They’re a pack of men behind the curtain.

Which is why Snell and Bauer operating on their own runs counter to the union’s better interests -- and focus. A focus largely headed by the measured comments of Max Scherzer, or other prominent union representatives like St. Louis’ Andrew Miller.

Snell kicked off the what-not-to-do examples when he said the short-sighted and ill-informed, if accurate, “I gotta get my money” two weeks ago. That notion fed right into the perspective of player greed and the owners virtually high-fived. They stretched their inherent public relations lead thanks to Snell’s misstep.

Bauer made his inappropriate contribution where measured response goes to dies: Twitter. Bauer tweeted, “Hearing a LOT of rumors about a certain player agent meddling in MLBPA affairs. If true -- and at this point, these are only rumors -- I have one thing to say...Scott Boras, rep your clients however you want to, but keep your damn personal agenda out of union business.”

The rumors were true according to an Associated Press report. Boras sent a memo to his clients -- three of whom, including Scherzer, are on the MLBPA’s eight-player executive subcommittee -- which advised them not to “bail out” the owners. Boras argued the owners made bad financial decisions outside of baseball and the players’ salaries should not be a path to financial recuperation.

So, yes, Boras -- the sports’ most powerful agent -- is giving his clients his opinion of how to proceed. This is neither surprising nor unbecoming conduct. He negotiates for billions of dollars on an annual basis and does much of it while bending public perception. He’s more someone to listen to in these scenarios than tune out.

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Bauer’s desire to keep another agent out of union business is not a sin unto itself. His agent, Rachel Luba, is not part of the process. It’s understandable he wants to curtail other agents.

However, deciding to blast a tweet about it left other union members shaking their heads. And it’s in direct contrast to the approach Scherzer and others on the sub-committee have taken.

Scherzer’s late-night tweet was a measured, considered strike, in keeping with his general approach to public statements. Union work is second only to his primary function -- make all his starts -- when he views his job. He wants to relay specific points at specific times following forethought and consideration of the ripple effects. Basically the opposite of Bauer.

Look back to what Scherzer said about negotiations between the players and league in late March when they came together for an initial deal. Think about the points he makes here to NBC Sports Washington and how Bauer’s tweet undermines the priorities.

“All the players were very well connected,” Scherzer said then. “For having such a significant issue -- I don’t think baseball has ever been shut down, so we were navigating a situation that was constantly changing every 24 hours as we were trying to understand what was going to happen. And, we were trying to understand what we wanted in a deal.

“I got to commend the rest of the players in the league and the other players in the executive committee for everybody stepping up, being connected and sharing a voice. Trying to get as educated as possible to communicate it to the whole 1,200-player group. Try to get everybody’s desires of what they wanted in the deal, done. I thought we really acted extremely well together with our union leadership of coming up with what our wants were and working together as one to be able to get that done.”

This, again, is a key concept for the players. They need to be bonded in private, and even more so in public, which is why consistent messaging matters. Scherzer is among the cat herders here. No owner will be speaking out of turn. The players would be well-served to join them.

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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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