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Max Scherzer to the Yankees? Probably not

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Max Scherzer to the Yankees? Probably not

Bryce Harper held a State of Bryce Harper press conference every spring. It occurred inside the cramped clubhouse in Viera, Florida, outside in the sunshine of a new facility in West Palm Beach, Florida, then, for the final time in 2018, in the bland press conference of the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches. Harper threatened to walk out that day if asked about his pending free agency.

No matter the location, New York reporters showed. Year after year, they asked Harper about the prospect of playing for the Yankees -- he, apparently, was the only person to ever like Mickey Mantle -- in order to produce new churn about the possibility of Harper to New York. It happened so frequently, and irked him so much, Harper managed his time accordingly when a New York team was in Washington or he was in New York. He was not around during those times, if he could help it.

This is how it goes with the Yankees, a truth earned by decades of titles and lore, as the preeminent franchise in baseball. Big-name player A is attached to the Yankees by thread or whim because they are the Yankees. This process was kickstarted last weekend for Max Scherzer via a report which said New York would do “whatever it takes” to acquire Scherzer. Ignore it. He’s not being traded.

Scherzer crept back into the National League Cy Young race by pitching with a damaged face last week and showing supreme command his last six starts: 0.88 ERA, 41 innings pitched, 27 hits, .179 batting average against, 59 strikeouts, eight walks and 70 percent of his pitches thrown for strikes. He leads the National League in strikeouts and FIP. He’s third in walk-to-strikeout ratio, fourth in ERA, sixth in WHIP and 11th in batting average against. Like the Nationals, Scherzer recently turned into something to take further notice of.

And even if the recent team surge is a mirage, Scherzer is unlikely to be traded. He’s the black-and-blue face of the team. Multiple other parts -- an unextended Anthony Rendon, Howie Kendrick, Brian Dozier, Matt Adams, Yan Gomes, even Michael A. Taylor -- could be moved out for several prospects. Trading those players does not necessitate a rebuild or rule out Rendon’s return. Trading Scherzer with two years remaining on his deal means the spine of the team is removed when his contract cost is about to modestly recede as the competitive balance tax threshold goes up.

The lone wrinkle is Scherzer’s current service time status: At the close of 2019, he will hold 10 and five rights -- meaning he has been in the league at least 10 years and five with the same team -- enabling him to veto any trade. He can’t do that now. However, it’s hard to envision that has enough onus to send him anywhere this season.

So, believe the Yankees would want to acquire Scherzer. Then envision a line with 28 other teams, scoff and move on.

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Braves' Acuña, Nationals' Soto find friendship on field despite rivalry

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Braves' Acuña, Nationals' Soto find friendship on field despite rivalry

WASHINGTON -- Before Game 2 of the Nationals-Braves series, Washington left fielder Juan Soto spotted his counterpart Ronald Acuña, Jr. leaving the Atlanta dugout.

Soto immediately wandered over, and the two young stars started chopping it up, continuing the banter for so long that Soto almost missed his turn in the batting cage.

The scene isn’t much different from the first time they met, or at least in the way Soto described it.

“I didn’t know him when I got up here in the MLB,” Soto said. “I played against him my first road trip. I’d see him and I’d see he’s really nice. So I go over there and say, ‘Hi’ and we just start talking and having fun.”

Fun seems to be a theme for these two.

Take Friday night’s game, for example.

In the first inning, Acuña rocked Stephen Strasburg’s second pitch to left field. Soto tracked it down, made a leaping grab against the wall, and shot a smile back to Strasburg and home plate.

“We just laugh at it,” Soto said. “I caught it, and a couple innings later [Acuña] told me, ‘Hey, whatchu doin?’ I said ‘Hey, we just playin’ baseball.’”

But Acuña doesn’t mind the teasing.

“During the game, we’ll give each other looks and motion about whatever happened,” Acuña said, through an interpreter. “That’s the good part. Because I’ll have the opportunity to return the favor if he ever hits it my way.”

The opportunity didn't come Saturday, but Acuña and the Braves did get the 13-9 win.

Though pitted against each other as National League East rivals, Acuña and Soto continue to grow in their friendship. They text messages of well-wishes often, and Soto was sure to congratulate Acuña on signing a historical deal earlier this year.

And in an age of supreme youth in baseball, the two outfielders continue to grow on the field.

Soto and Acuña are the third- and fifth-youngest players, respectively, on active MLB rosters. Neither player is older than 21. But, both players surpassed the 180th game of their careers this month, a handy measuring stick for weighing them against each other.

Here are their career numbers:

Soto: 181 games, .295 avg, .403 OBP, .517 SLG, 33 HR, 113 RBI, 121 runs

Acuña: 186 games, .292 avg, .368 OBP, .530 SLG, 43 HR, 113 RBI, 128 runs

Those figures put them in the company of several Hall of Famers.

The two prodigies are forever linked by their rookie seasons. Acuña won the 2018 National League Rookie of the Year Award, with Soto the runner-up by 55 votes.

They learned the results of the vote while together in Japan, as part of Major League Baseball’s All-Star team – an appropriate example of how intertwined their careers have been.

The Nats youngster said it’s hard to avoid comparisons.

“We just try to put that away – how other people talk,” Soto said. “They tried to make us fight last year because of the Rookie of the Year. But we just forget about it. We just try to play baseball and be friends and have fun.”

Fans will be fortunate to see Acuña and Soto playing head-to-head for seasons to come. But Acuña wants the attention directed beyond this NL East duo.

“It’s great to see all the young players continue to develop,” Acuña said. “Hopefully, we’ll be able to continue to play each other for many years.”

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Rendon, Soto, three other Nationals snubbed in All-Star Game voting

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Rendon, Soto, three other Nationals snubbed in All-Star Game voting

Major League Baseball announced the finalists in the 2019 All-Star Game fan voting on Friday, but none of the Washington Nationals made the list, though some came close. 

Most notably, Anthony Rendon came in fifth in the list of National League third basemen moving on to the final round of fan voting. The Nats third baseman was just under 700,000 votes away from third place and an All-Star honor. 

Juan Soto came in 16th in the list of National League outfielders, almost half a million votes behind the last qualifying position, ninth (nabbed by the Dodgers' Joc Pederson, with 961,515 votes). 

Both shortstop Trea Turner and second baseman Brian Dozier finished ninth in their respective positions, while Yan Gomes finished 10th amongst National League catchers. 

The other notable name left off the final list of All-Stars this year is Bryce Harper, who, in his first season with the Phillies, finished 10th amongst outfielders and just over 130,000 votes away from an All-Star bid. It is also Harper's first year since 2014 where he hasn't made the All-Star roster. 

Fans can vote between June 26 and 27 to determine which of the qualifying players will start the All-Star Game on July 9 in Cleveland, Ohio.

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