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Harper on Williams' firing, Papelbon & chances for new contract

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Harper on Williams' firing, Papelbon & chances for new contract

It has been quite the offseason for Bryce Harper, who in addition to winning the National League MVP award has dyed his hair blonde, been a presenter at the NASCAR Awards, and now has a rap song by Wale inspired by his historic 2015 campaign due out this week.

These days, Harper is showing up just about everywhere. But Sunday was the first time this winter the Nats beat corps got to catch up with the superstar right fielder. That allowed us to get his take on many things that have changed with the Nats, including their hiring of manager Dusty Baker.

"I'm definitely excited," Harper said. "Having a guy at the head of the throne in Dusty Baker, who has been in a lot of clubhouses and has had a lot of superstar players and things like that. He's been around the game for a long, long time. He played for some great teams, as well."

Though Harper is happy to have Baker in store, he made it clear throughout 2015 that he enjoyed Matt Williams as his manager. He often spoke of how Williams helped his development as a player and even defended him towards the end of the season when his job was in jeopardy.

"I think that was just what the organization wanted. Anything the organization wants to do, I'm all for it," Harper said of Williams' dismissal.

"I tip my cap to what Matt did for me. Being able to learn from a guy like that, a guy that hit over 50 homers in one year and then however many in his career, he's been unbelievable. He was awesome to be able to talk to every single day hitting-wise. I've talked to him a couple times this offseason and I've wished him the best of luck. I'll see him down the road, definitely."

Part of Williams' demise involved his mishandling of the fight between Harper and Jonathan Papelbon. Harper was asked about the closer and their relationship on Sunday.

"Last year is behind us. I'm not even worried about last year. It was a terrible year for what we are about. We need to go into this year with the right mentality," he said. 

Harper has already turned the page toward next year. He currently weighs 210 pounds, but plans on reporting at 205. Carrying a lighter frame, he believes, is better for preventing injuries. And, of course, it worked pretty well for him in 2015.

Harper had one of the best seasons of all time last year, but hopes to improve and get even better. One area he thinks that is possible is with baserunning. Since stealing 18 bases as a rookie, he has notched only 19 total steals in the three years since, including six last year.

"If I'm allowed to," Harper said of wanting to steal more often. "I know I can score from first, I've done that a couple times. I did that a couple times this year. But I'd like to be able to score from second or third. Hopefully I can get a little better on the basepaths and hopefully Davey [Lopes] and Dusty, I can see where that lies. If it means we're going to score some more runs, then that's huge for us."

The Nationals have been close to signing several of the top free agents this offseason. They have pursued Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist, to name two, but have fallen short.

Harper has been keeping up with all of it and believes in the Nats' front office, despite the fact they've missed out on a few players this winter.

"We've done a pretty good job of going out trying to get guys. We just haven't been fortunate enough to have those guys come to play for us. We've put money on the table and done things we've needed to do, but we just haven't been fortunate enough to have those guys come in and play for us. 

"We've got work to do this offseason, as [Mike] Rizzo has said. And like I said, I've got Rizzo's back no matter what. He does a great job through the minor leagues all the way to the big leagues. We've got [Lucas] Giolito in the minors, we've got [Erick] Fedde. We've got some guys who are almost ready coming up. Giolito throws a billion miles per hour. Whatever they do with him, I'd like to have him on our staff or even in the bullpen. That'd be something I'd think about. We're young, but we're good. If that's Micheal Taylor or Trea Turner, I believe in this organization. Rizzo is still not done and hopefully we make a splash here and there and see what we can do."

When it comes to the future, the million dollar question is whether Harper will sign a long-term extension with the Nationals. His contract runs through the 2018 season, but beyond that there is uncertainty.

When asked about the potential for a new deal, Harper wouldn't get into specifics.

"I think that will play out when it does. I'm just worried about this year and the next couple of years. I'm very fortunate to be able to be a National and play this game every single day. I love these fans and I love this organization. It will play out in the next couple of years."

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Beats by Scherz: Why Scherzer chose Dr. Dre song as his walk-up music

Beats by Scherz: Why Scherzer chose Dr. Dre song as his walk-up music

NEW YORK – A few constants remain during this wayward Nationals season. One is Max Scherzer.

Scherzer comes into Tuesday leading the National League in innings pitched and strikeouts. He's second in strikeouts per nine innings and third in strikeout-to-walk ratio. Scherzer's 3.72 ERA is well above his average of 2.71 since arriving in Washington in 2015. However, his FIP (fielding-independent pitching) is a league-leading 2.45, showing he has been victimized by bad defense more than bad pitching.

He hopped on a pop-up edition of The Racing Presidents podcast Tuesday in New York. Sitting in the visitors dugout a day ahead of another matchup with 2018 Cy Young Award Jacob deGrom, Scherzer touched on lighter topics, like his selection of Dr. Dre's "Still Dre" as his walkup song, and addressed who is responsible for the Nationals being seven games under .500 the last year-plus.

We're all responsible," Scherzer said. "When you wear a hat and jersey that says Nationals on it, we're all in the same position. It's frustrating to not have a winning record. It's frustrating not to be winning as a team. [Since] I've been here, we've won a couple division titles and you know that feeling of what it's like to win. You know you have the core group of players who have won here in the past that can win here again. It's just a matter of figuring out what the right chemistry is and going out there and getting it done."

Scherzer is in his 12th major-league season. He's made at least 30 starts for 10 consecutive seasons. One of the reasons for his lack of injuries and durability is not because he goes through extensive recuperation during the offseason. Instead, Scherzer keeps pushing both his arm and body. 

"I try to find a way to continue to do more, to take more on my body even as I age," Scherzer said.

And, about that walkup song, which is part-protest, part-comeback song? He was out to dinner with reliever Aaron Barrett when it popped on and Barrett suggested it as this year's entrance music.

So, click below to listen to everything Scherzer had to say in our exclusive interview. Also, don't forget to download, rate and subscribe to The Racing Presidents podcast. We're with you after every game and with marquee interviews and insight you can't find elsewhere.

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The history of Adam Eaton and Todd Frazier's beef, explained

The history of Adam Eaton and Todd Frazier's beef, explained

Ever since they were teammates in Chicago on the White Sox, Adam Eaton and Todd Frazier haven't gotten along. Here's a breakdown of Eaton and Frazier's beef, and how it boiled over during Monday's 5-3 loss to the New York Mets.

2016

Eaton and Frazier started their tenure with the White Sox on bad terms. The team was in the midst of a full rebuild, and Adam LaRoche retired after his son, Drake, was no longer allowed in the clubhouse.

With what appeared to be a vacuum in leadership, Eaton tried stepping up but it fell on deaf ears, particularly Frazier's.

Frazier, whose locker was next to Eaton's, called him out for being a phony according to 670 the Score. That spat led to a locker room fight.

Eaton's locker was then moved across the room from Frazier's, and the two were both eventually traded for picks and prospects.

2018

During the Nationals' visit to New York on August 26, Eaton slid hard into second base, injuring Phillip Evans on the play. The Mets challenged the play as a violation of the slide rule, but Major League Baseball's review determined the slide was allowed.

The Mets didn't take kindly to it. Pitcher Zack Wheeler drilled Eaton, and as he trotted to first base, Frazier chirped him on his way there and Eaton responded.

 “When he usually talks or chirps, usually he says it just loud enough that you can hear him but you can’t understand him," Eaton told MASN after the game. "So I’ll just leave it at that.”

2019

That brings us to Monday's 5-3 loss against the Mets. In the bottom of the third inning, as he was jogging to the dugout, Eaton got an earful from Frazier.

Eaton jawed back at Frazier, and other Nats players were ready to come to Eaton's defense before first base umpire Mike Estabrook impeded Eaton's progress toward Frazier.

After the game, Eaton unloaded. 

"I ignored him a couple times chirping coming across, but I had it to the point where I’m not going to say the saying I want to say but you got to be a man at some point," Eaton explained. "So, I turned around, had a few choice words with him. It’s funny, I was walking towards him, he didn’t really want to walk towards me but as soon as someone held him back then he was all of a sudden he was really impatient, like trying to get towards me. Just being Todd Frazier. What’s new?”

While Frazier kept quiet after the game, Tuesday he noted that Eaton should go "pay off your mortgage."

Before game time tonight, Eaton called the beef "high school stuff"

Will tonight's beef escalate during the game? Tune in at 7 p.m. to find out.

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