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Gonzalez heads to mound as Nats hope to sweep Marlins in opening series

Gonzalez heads to mound as Nats hope to sweep Marlins in opening series

Matt Wieters was signed by the Washington Nationals after spring training had already started.

So the veteran catcher, who had spent all of his big-league career with the Baltimore Orioles, is trying to quickly learn the patterns of the Washington pitching staff.

Wieters knows what it is like to hit against Nationals left-hander Gio Gonzalez, who will start Thursday against Miami Marlins right-hander Tom Koehler in the series finale in Washington. The Nationals will be looking to sweep the three-game series after wins Monday and Wednesday, as Wieters had three hits in the second game.

Gonzalez has been with the Nationals since 2012, and each year Washington plays a home-and-home series with the Orioles.

"I remember Gio when he was younger," Wieters said. "He has definitely evolved his pitching style where he can pitch in different ways. That is something you will see as a catcher that you will have multiple options and you kind of point him in the direction for whatever we need that day."

Gonzalez has made at least 32 starts in six of the last seven years, but his ERA has risen in each of the last four seasons.

RELATED: Top ten craziest Minor League Baseball team names of 2017

He will be opposed by Koehler, who was 9-13 last season with a 4.33 ERA in 33 starts. The product of Stony Brook in New York is 1-2 in five career starts against the Nationals with a 4.50 ERA.

"He doesn't give in (to hitters) ever. He tries to give you as many innings as possible," Marlins closer A.J. Ramos said. "He is a competitor. He is always prepared. He has the preparation and desire. That is all we ask of starters: Go out there and keep the game close and do your best."

Koehler has given up six home runs in 32 at-bats to Bryce Harper, the Washington right fielder. He has made at least 31 starts in each of the last three seasons.

"He has been a guy that takes the ball," Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. "It is something you can count on. Tom is a picture of consistency for us."

The Nationals won the series opener 4-2 on Monday as Harper and pinch-hitter Adam Lind hit homers off reliever David Phelps.

In the second game Wednesday, the Marlins scored two runs in the first off right-hander Tanner Roark before the bats awoke for the Nationals.

Washington scored four times in the fourth to chase starter Dan Straily and came back to win 6-4.

"Well, he made an adjustment," manager Dusty Baker said of Roark. "He was throwing high with his fastball. This is a team that's hit him pretty good in the past. He's had some success the last couple times out, but Tanner makes adjustments. Wieters helped him make those adjustments. Wieters called a very good game for him. He went a little longer than we had thought."

Baker is encouraged by the fast start of first baseman Ryan Zimmerman, who hit a homer Wednesday and is batting .427 coming off the worst year of his career, when he hit .218.

"He's healthy. He feels good," Baker said. "You see his confidence growing daily. He hit a tough pitch out to right field. That's a good sign, especially this early in the year when that ball's not flying out there too much until it warms up. Anything he gives us is big, especially in the middle of that lineup. He's getting better every day."

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Nationals ranked 10th-most valuable MLB franchise by Forbes

Nationals ranked 10th-most valuable MLB franchise by Forbes

The Washington Nationals are the 10th-most valuable MLB franchise, according to Forbes' annual evaluation of teams.

The Nationals are currently slotted 10th, with a valuation of $1.9 billion, a 9% rise from 2019, when the franchise was valued at $1.8 billion. It appears that even with a World Series pennant, the valuation didn't have that much of an increase. 

1. New York Yankees: $5B
2. Los Angeles Dodgers: $3.4B
3. Boston Red Sox: $3.3B
4. Chicago Cubs: $3.2B
5. San Francisco Giants: $3.1B
6. New York Mets: $2.4B
7. St. Louis Cardinals: $2.2B
8. Philadelphia Phillies: $2B
9. Los Angeles Angels: $1.975B
10. Washington Nationals: $1.9B

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Not a bad return on investment for the Lerner family, who bought the team from MLB in 2006 for $450 million.

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Nationals mailbag: Luxury tax for dummies, odd memories and how to break into a front office job

Nationals mailbag: Luxury tax for dummies, odd memories and how to break into a front office job

Hello and welcome to another Nationals mailbag as we wait for baseball to hopefully be played in 2020.

As a reminder, you can send questions to me directly at Todd.Dybas@nbcuni.com or through the mailbag portal here.

On to the questions:

Q: Could you do a “luxury tax for dummies” write up?  You always say on the pod that it is too complicated and boring for listeners.  But readers have nothing but time right now.

Jennifer Lowe


A: This insinuates I am not among the dummies. But, I’ll do it regardless.

The Competitive Balance Tax (CBT), or, colloquially, the “luxury tax” in baseball was a threshold introduced to try to close the gap between the giant spenders and the have-nots. The plight of small-market teams became such a topic in the early 1990s -- mainly because of the Yankees’ ongoing largess -- the league decided to put the CBT in place.

The premise was to find a way for significant spending to flow back to clubs who did not have the same payroll prowess. And, it’s become a major factor in how the Nationals do business.

Managing principal owner Mark Lerner has repeatedly said the Nationals would not exceed the CBT threshold (it’s $208 million this year). The organization wound its way under the tax last season to reset its clock. That move was important.

The CBT works on an ascending penalty scale. So, go over once, and you pay a 20 percent tax on any overage. For instance, if Team X has a $218 million payroll this year, they are $10 million over the threshold, and their penalty would be $2 million for going over one time.

Go over in consecutive years, and the penalty rises to 30 percent. Three consecutive seasons of overage produces a 50 percent tax on the amount the threshold is exceeded.

There’s also another recent wrinkle:

Beginning in 2018, clubs that are $40 million or more above the threshold shall have their highest selection in the next Rule 4 Draft moved back 10 places unless the pick falls in the top six. In that case, the team will have its second-highest selection moved back 10 places instead.
So, the next time you hear the Nationals don’t want to go over the “luxury tax”, remember their penalty for doing so could well be minimal. But, they achieved the ultimate upside last year: they slid below the tax threshold, resetting their clock, and won the World Series. That’s a financial coup.

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Q: I’m a relatively new Nationals fan and baseball fan in general, having gotten into it around the 2018 All-Star Game, and I was just wondering what are some of your favourite weird or obscure moments in Nationals history that maybe not a lot of people will remember?

- Maple Meadows


A: Hey, Maple. Thanks for tuning into the podcast and reading.

This is certainly fan dependent. But, a few random things came into the head of our resident baseball historian, Tim Shovers:

-- Alfonso Soriano’s 40-40 season in 2006 is an odd anomaly. Not for Soriano personally, because he was close multiple times prior, but that it came in his only season in Washington. The Nationals sent three players to Texas -- Armando Galaragga, Termel Sledge and Brad Wilkerson -- for a year of work from Soriano. He went crazy, finished sixth in MVP voting and signed with the Cubs in the offseason. Meanwhile, the team finished 20 games under .500.

-- John Lannan was the team’s No. 2 starter at the start of 2011 and pitched 184 ⅔ innings, then didn’t make the team out of spring training the following season. He eventually returned to the major leagues that year. But that was the end of his time in Washington. Lannan made 14 starts for Philadelphia in 2013 then pitched four innings for the Mets out of the bullpen in 2014. He never pitched in the major leagues again.

-- Back in April of 2009, Ryan Zimmerman and Adam Dunn wore Nationals jerseys which were missing the  “o” because of a mistake by jersey-maker Majestic Athletic. So, across their chest was “Natinals.” They were in proper jerseys after the first three innings.

The lessons here? You can’t predict baseball.

Q: I know this isn't a complete Nationals question but, I have a dream to work in the Nationals baseball front office one day, as hard as that is what in your opinion can I do as a senior in high school to raise my chances of possibly one day getting there?

Yitz Taragin


A: Hey, Yitz.

I turned to a better authority on this, and relayed your question to Nationals assistant general manager of player development Mark Scialabba. Here’s what he had to say:

“I always tell students when they ask about how they can eventually work for a Major League team that they should immerse themselves in the game as much as possible.  If you are playing, play as long as you can and if not that is OK, too. Watch games live, study the game, and watch games regularly on TV. Read as much as you can to understand the history of the game as well as the business/economic side and read online contemporary articles and interviews with people in the game.

“Develop skills that can impact a front office one day when you have the opportunity to interview for a position, whether that may be learning statistical analysis, player evaluation, computer programming, new video or technologies impacting the game, biomechanics, general management skills, mental conditioning, or perhaps even becoming fluent in Spanish.

“Apply for internships that will provide you experience in an area where you can immediately utilize your strengths and have a growth mindset that will allow you to best impact your organization long term. Take advantage of opportunities by using your skills to complete an independent study for school or take on a challenging project during an internship. This way you will have something tangible to help demonstrate your ability when you are seeking the next opportunity or position.

“Schedule information interviews with veteran scouts, coaches and front office executives who are willing to share their experiences and impart their wisdom from years of experience. The demand for these jobs greatly outweighs the supply so you have to be aggressive in your search for an internship/job and distinguish yourself by leveraging your strengths. Everyone’s process is different but regardless where and when you start I believe it is best to be humble, always continue to learn, be ready to take risks and make sure to be persistent.”

There you have it. Thanks to Mark for the assistance.

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