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Nats GM Rizzo: Team was in talks with both Dusty Baker, Bud Black

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Nats GM Rizzo: Team was in talks with both Dusty Baker, Bud Black

Acknowledging the unique nature of the situation, Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said Thursday the club was simultaneously negotiating contracts with both Bud Black and Dusty Baker to be their next manager, had not selected Black for the job and ultimately didn't make the decision to go with Baker instead because of a financial disagreement.

"It was a unique situation," Rizzo said shortly after the news conference to introduce Baker as the Nationals' sixth manager. "We had both of the candidates in the running here. At the end of the day, it did not come down to money. It did not come down to term. It came down to who were we — meaning the general manager, the president of the team, and ownership — most comfortable with. And Dusty was the right choice."

Speaking publicly for the first time since last Wednesday's reports that Black had been chosen for the job, Rizzo admitted the Nationals were deep in negotiations with the former Padres skipper but insisted Baker was never out of the running.

If that was true, Baker wasn't aware of it. After reading the reports of Black's expected hiring, he "resigned myself to the fact that I had to deal with another disappointment" and went to Santa Cruz, Calif., for a book tour.

"I was a little bewildered as to why no one had told me that I didn't get the job," Baker said. "And I found out later, and now I know why. Because they hadn't made up their mind. ... I got a very touching call from [Nationals managing principal owner Ted] Lerner. He told me that I was not out of the running and I had a good chance of getting the job."

Rizzo insisted the Nationals kept Baker abreast of the situation throughout.

"Dusty, in our mind, was never out of it," the GM said. "We kept in contact with him, specifically through our assistant general manager, Bob Miller, who had a relationship with him with the Cincinnati Reds for years. So they know each other extremely well. They were in constant contact with each other. Bob was giving the message that I wanted him to give to Dusty: We were still interested, and don't close the book on us."

It's not common practice for major-league clubs to negotiate contracts with two managerial candidates at the same time. Typically, a club would offer the job to one candidate, engage in contract talks and nearly always come to terms on an agreement.

Rizzo admitted the process in this case was not typical.

MORE NATS: GRUDEN WISHES DUSTY WELL 

"No, it was a unique situation," he said. "We uniquely had two extremely qualified candidates, and we felt that was the best track to go by. Because sometimes the negotiating process also tells you a lot about the people that you're negotiating with. As we discussed baseball in the interview process, and parameters in the financial process, we came to the conclusion that Dusty Baker was the perfect guy for us."

One possible reason for the convoluted and confusing manner in which this saga played out was the significant role Nationals ownership held in both the interview and negotiating process. The franchise's board of directors — which includes several members of the Lerner family, other minority owners and Rizzo — was directly involved throughout the process.

"When we make these big decisions, they certainly have input and they are involved," Rizzo said. "And I think that's good for the organization. We learn from each other. We get input from each other. And at the end of the day, we come down to it with a singular voice and make that decision."

Lerner family members attended Thursday's news conference but left without speaking to reporters. Rizzo, who in his position as president of baseball operations and GM has final say on baseball decisions, was left to speak for the organization.

"When we make a decision baseball-related, I make the final choice," he said. "I'm the president and general manager of the baseball team. But when we leave that room, we are unanimous. That's what has happened with every major decision we've made, and it continued to happen with this decision."

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3 Up, 3 Down: Allow Juan Soto to distract you from Bryce Harper

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USA TODAY

3 Up, 3 Down: Allow Juan Soto to distract you from Bryce Harper

Nationals fans are teetering on the edge. 

On one hand, the Nats are 3.5 games out of first place after a 10-week span full of injuries and underperformance. The team just acquired All-Star closer Kelvin Herrera, and their 19-year-old left fielder looks like an All-Star already. 

On the other hand, doom is imminent. The Monstars stole Bryce Harper's abilities at some point over the last three weeks, Steven Strasburg can't stay healthy, and the offense is pushing everyone's patience to the limit. 

So who's overperforming? Who's underperforming? Who's out there just trying their very best? LET'S LIST. 

Three Up

1. Juan Soto

Our large young son Juan continues to impress. He's now hitting .325/.411/.602 with a 1.013 OPS in 95 plate appearances over 25 games. That means we're mercifully starting to leave the 'fluky start' narrative behind. He's been the best hitter on the Nationals by a wide margain since he got called up - although that's perhaps more of an indicitment on the rest of the lineup than it is on Soto. Still, in less than a month he's probably earned the starting left field spot for the rest of the summer. Not bad. 

2. Justin Miller

Miller is 31, on his third team in four years, and owns a career ERA north of 4.50. Despite all of this, Miller's been the best reliever in baseball since coming up for the Nats. Of relief pitchers with at least 10 innings pitched (we hear your sample size comment and are not going to acknolwdge it), no one has a better FIP than Miller (0.64). He's striking out over half of the batters he sees and has yet to walk a single person this year. All the elite relief pitchers are already at 30-40 innings pitched, so Miller has a while to go before these stats mean a whole lot. If he stays even 75 percent as good as he's started, the Nats' bullpen looks scary. 

3. Michael A. Taylor

Have yourself a week or two, Michael A.! The centerfielder is slashing .500/.556/.583 over the last 14 days, the first of many "Maybe He Put It Together?!" runs we'll see from him this year. He also has six stolen bases during that span, more than anyone else on the team. His plate discipline has been better over the last two weeks, with a BB% a shade over 11 percent - only behind Juan Soto for highest on the team. Juan Soto, man. 

Three Down

1. Bryce Harper

A couple things here. We'll start with the admission that Bryce Harper is obviously not having a superb year. We've already briefly touched on why looking at only his batting average is a lazy way of judging his season, and we stand by that. With that said - Harper's had a bad season. The last month has been particularly painful. There's no way of dressing up a .189/.278/.400 slashline over the last 30 days. Still, his contact has been as great as his luck terrible - there's a positive regression coming, we promise. 

2. Pedro Severino 

And you think Harper's been slumping?? Over the same 30 days, Severino has hit .098/.179/.115 with a .294 OPS. He's essentially daring the Nats to put together a trade package for JT Realmuto at this point. He has six hits over his last 68 plate appearances and five of them are singles. 

3. Shawn Kelley

Kelley owns a 6.09 FIP and a 4.32 ERA over the last month (10 games, 8.1 innings pitched). He's walking close to nine percent of the hitters he's faced during that time. He has a 12.5 HR/FB over the last month. With the trade for Kelvin Herrera and the sudden emergence of Justin Miller, Kelley's role going forward isn't quite clear anymore. 

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National League All-Star Game Roster Projection: How it will all break down

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USA Today Sports

National League All-Star Game Roster Projection: How it will all break down

In less than a month, the 2018 MLB All-Star game will take place at Nationals Park.

There are plenty of details that still need ironing out, but none are more important than the 64 players that will be taking the field at the Midsummer Classic.

Surely the Washington Nationals are hoping that many of their hometown stars will make the cut.

So, lets clear the air. How are the MLB All-Star rosters created? Well it is a combination of the fan vote, the player ballots, and the MLB Commissioners Office. No, it is not a 33-33-33 split, but rather a political (yet fair) process. Here is how it shakes out for there to be 32 players on each team:

  • Fan vote: eight position players in NL/ nine in AL (DH); plus final vote for each league
  • Player’s ballots: next 16 players in NL; 17 players in AL (five starting pitchers, three relievers must be chosen)
  • MLB Commissioner’s Office: seven NL players (four pitchers, three position players) and five AL players (four pitchers, one position player)

Keep in mind, the MLB Commissioner’s Office merely is just there to ensure that there is one representative from all 30 MLB teams. Additionally, the player’s ballots are generally in-line with statistics and name recognition.

So let’s see how this shakes out for the National League All-Star Game roster. This factors in the latest fan vote returns:

National League All-Star Roster Projection:

C – Buster Posey, Giants (Fan Vote), Wilson Contreras, Cubs (Player Ballot)
1B – Freddie Freeman, Braves (Fan Vote), Jose Martinez, Cardinals (Player Ballot), Justin Bour, Marlins (Commissioner’s Office)
2B – Ozzie Albies, Braves (Fan Vote), Scooter Gennett, Reds (Player Ballot)
3B – Nolan Arenado, Rockies (Fan Vote), Kris Bryant, Cubs (Player Ballot)
SS – Brandon Crawford, Giants (Fan Vote), Chris Taylor, Dodgers (Player Ballot)
OF – Nick Markakis, Braves (Fan Vote), Bryce Harper, Nationals (Fan Vote), Matt Kemp (Fan Vote), Albert Almora Jr., Cubs (Player Ballot), Charlie Blackmon, Rockies (Player Ballot), Corey Dickerson, Pirates (Player Ballot), David Peralta, Diamondbacks (Commissioner’s Office), Christian Yelich (Commissioner’s Office)

SP – Max Scherzer, Nationals (Player Ballot), Sean Newcomb, Braves (Player Ballot), Jon Lester, Cubs (Player Ballot), Aaron Nola, Phillies (Player Ballot), Jacob deGrom, Mets (Player Ballot), Mike Foltynewicz, Braves (Commissioner’s Office)

RP – Brad Hand, Padres (Player Ballot), Sean Doolittle, Nationals (Player Ballot), Josh Hader Brewers (Player Ballot), Wade Davis, Rockies (Commissioner’s Office), Kenley Jansen (Commissioner’s Office), Jeremy Jeffress (Commissioner’s Office)

Manager: Dave Roberts, Dodgers

After this, there will be one more player chosen by another fan vote. The MLB Commissioner’s Office, along with the manager, choses five players to be selected in the penultimate vote. 

This puts three Nationals on the All-Star team with the Braves leading the charge with five selections.

Now of course nothing ever goes to plan, but heck its baseball, not everyone will be happy.

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