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No DL yet, but Span bracing for possibility

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No DL yet, but Span bracing for possibility

Denard Span, in official terms, was still a member of the Nationals’ active roster late Tuesday night. The veteran center fielder, though, sure sounded like a guy who believes he needs to take some extended time off with a back injury that just won’t go away.

“I’ve tried to play through it for the last month,” Span said following Tuesday night’s 5-0 loss to the Reds. “I don’t think I’m doing myself or the team any good. I’ve been playing every four days and then getting a day off here and there. I can’t do that. I can’t do that to the team. It puts the team in a bad spot.”

Since first experiencing back spasms during a June 7 loss to the Cubs, Span has either been out of the lineup or forced out of a game early eight separate times. He has so far never missed two consecutive games, but after leaving Monday night’s loss in the third inning and being held out of Tuesday night’s games, he underwent an MRI to determine if there is a more serious underlying injury.

Span and manager Matt Williams said Tuesday night those MRI results had not yet been reviewed by a back specialist, and that no decisions would be made until that happened. Williams, though, was unusually late to his postgame news conference — a delay typically accompanies a roster transaction — and Span sounded like someone resigned to a DL stint afterward.

“Right now we’re waiting to see what the doctor’s going to do,” he said. “I’ve tried to take it into my own hands and tried to play. I’ve tried to tough it out for the last month, and it’s been the same old cycle. I’ve listened to my body. My body is obviously telling me something. It’s locked up on me about four times now.

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“It ain’t about being smart, because I’ve been dumb, I think, for the last month. Now I’ve gotta finally be smart and listen to my body and find out what’s going on before I go any further. I don’t want to mess around with my back. That could be a career-ending-type injury. I don’t want to mess around with my back.”

Regardless of the MRI results, Span is scheduled to see the specialist in person Thursday, when the Nationals are off before a weekend series in Baltimore.

Despite all the sporadic time out of the lineup this season — he has missed 25 total games due to a variety of ailments — Span has performed well when healthy enough to play. He’s hitting .304 with a .367 on-base percentage, five homers, 22 RBI and is 11-for-11 in stolen base attempts, all while playing an exceptional center field.

Span’s importance to the Nationals can’t be questioned. The club is 35-24 when he has played this season, only 11-14 when he has been out of the lineup.

The 31-year-old, a pending free agent, was one of five regulars out of the Nationals lineup Tuesday night, joined by Yunel Escobar (tight hamstring) and three players already on the DL (Ryan Zimmerman, Anthony Rendon, Jayson Werth).

Should Span need to go on the DL himself, the Nationals would find themselves dangerously thin on productive, established, big-league hitters. Right now, though, Span can only be concerned about his own uncertain status.

“I’m very anxious right now,” he said. “I want to know what’s going on.”

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Players were asking Davey Martinez if he would be fired during 2019 rough stretch

Players were asking Davey Martinez if he would be fired during 2019 rough stretch

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Davey Martinez’s office in the home clubhouse is often a place of peace. A candle may burn, music is almost always on, and multiple conversations happen inside.

Martinez’s desk is tidy. His predecessors covered it with more material, or at least with more random material and decoration. An inspirational slogan sits on the outer lip, so anyone talking to Martinez would be faced with the words.

The talks in there since Martinez was hired in 2018 ranged from a meeting with Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg following their in-dugout argument to Martinez reminding Gerardo Parra of his prime duty during last year’s run. Different conversations began when the Nationals were roiled by a bad start last season which dragged them to a 19-31 record following a sweep in New York. The players wanted to know if Martinez’s job was safe.

“They were reading all this stuff and they would come into my office and they asked me, ‘Hey, are you going to get fired?’” Martinez told NBC Sports Washington. “I’d say, ‘No, I’m not.’ Let’s focus on just playing and going 1-0. The 1-0 came from -- even though I believe in waking up and doing that, but I started preaching, hey, let’s go 1-0 today and we believed that. And we built our season around that. All of a sudden when they got healthier and healthier, they took off.”

CLICK BELOW TO LISTEN TO THE ENTIRE INTERVIEW WITH DAVEY MARTINEZ AND MIKE RIZZO ON THE NATIONALS TALK PODCAST:

Martinez was sitting next to general manager Mike Rizzo when he made the statement. Rizzo publicly said last season Martinez would not be fired -- though an executive’s confirmation in that sphere is often viewed as the final damning blow. Managing principal owner Mark Lerner said in the playoffs he never considered firing Martinez. However, the grousing outside of the organization was loud and followed an 82-80 season. But, it’s that mediocre record which may have actually saved Martinez’s job.

“Everybody talks about 19-31 to the world championship,” Rizzo told NBC Sports Washington. “82-80 the year before might have been the greatest managing job he ever did because that thing could have gone off the rails really quickly and it could have been a horrendous season for us. With all the injuries that we had that year with some key personnel, I thought he handled it masterfully in 2018 to keep that ship afloat, then in 2019 you just saw a more experienced person that had the hearts of the clubhouse. 

“You not only didn’t see anybody pointing fingers or anonymous quotes or anything like that. You had players who had no skin in the game say positive things about the manager when they didn’t have to -- 19-31 you have a professional like Brian Dozier telling you this is one of the great managers in the game and we’re 19-31.”

They hung on. It worked. Which means two things are now known: First, Martinez has a clear path to exceeding a low bar and becoming the longest-tenured manager in Nationals history. Second, the outside world wasn’t the only place wondering about his job status during last season’s downtrodden start.

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Why is Trea Turner’s name on a replica Super Bowl trophy in the Nationals’ clubhouse?

Why is Trea Turner’s name on a replica Super Bowl trophy in the Nationals’ clubhouse?

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Yan Gomes walked by a bright, silver emblem which represented his personal joy and has sat in the middle of the Nationals clubhouse as a beacon of trash talk this spring. He stopped, then rubbed his shirtsleeve over it to maintain its gleam.

At first glance, the replica looks precisely like the Vince Lombardi Trophy. And, it’s central location in the clubhouse makes it impossible to miss, which is the point.

“That’s Yan flexing on all of us,” Max Scherzer said, shaking his head.

The trophy is to commemorate Gomes’ fantasy football victory from last year. No one will disclose the cost to enter, but it’s steep. So high that the team split into two leagues last season: The A group, populated by well-heeled veterans, and the B group, who do not have the same cash.

Three names are on the trophy: Gomes, batting practice pitcher Ali Modami, and, in a late addition, Trea Turner.

Gomes and Modami were the co-owners of the winning team. Turner was added to the trophy via trolling tape. His name is hand written and spread across the bottom of the trophy’s base, beneath Gomes and Modami. Why? This is Gomes’ way of simultaneously mocking and thanking Turner for his contribution to the championship after he made a bad trade which vaulted Gomes and Modami to the title.

“I had three good running backs,” Turner said. “So, I traded Nick Chubb, who was doing great at the time, George Kittle, and Carson Wentz for Deshaun Watson, Keenan Allen and John Brown. I needed wide receivers, so I gave up one of my running backs and tight ends for two wide receivers, basically, but...shouldn’t have done it.”

Nothing was formal about the split between who was in the A or B league. No service time requirements or particular stats. It was more about making a financial decision. Erick Fedde, commissioner of the B league, considered his personal fate before choosing.

“I didn’t need my girlfriend killing me for spending a lot of money on fantasy football,” Fedde said.

So, he organized the B league, mostly populated by what he called the “swing guys,” who were mostly young at the major-league level or still in the minor leagues. Carter Kieboom, Tanner Rainey, Jake Noll, Tyler Mapes and Scott Copeland were in the league. So was Javy Guerra, Joe Ross and Austin Voth. Among the biggest challenges? Organizing the draft.

“It was so difficult,” Fedde said. “We were trying to make sure we got the minor-league season done or the big-league guys that were either called up or they weren’t flying. We had a big-league day game like two days after the minor-league season ended, so hopefully everybody was home by then. That was the hardest part. I remember we did our group chat, we did picking names out of the hat with all the guys who were in the big leagues at the time then sent the video to everyone who was down in the minors still. It’s a lot of work being the commissioner of that league.”

Fedde was in four fantasy football leagues last season. He, similar to Turner, became partly responsible for delivering a championship via ill-advised trade in the Nationals B league.

“I made the bad trade this year to the champion,” Fedde said. “Copeland won. I gave up Tyreek Hill. Traded him away because I was like 0-4 to start the year. I needed healthy players. That ended up biting the league in the butt.”

Turner tried to defend his decision-making, which flipped the A league in Gomes’ favor, claiming a bad start did not push him into a panic move.

“I still to this day, I’ll argue for it because I gave up a strength of mine to improve a weakness,” Turner said. “It just didn’t work out. I’m not mad about it. He thinks it’s so funny to put me on that trophy, but he just got lucky.”

Did Turner know he would be on the trophy?

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” Turner said. “He texted me as soon as he won. I knew that was going to happen. He’s having the time of his life. I’ll let him enjoy it.”

Gomes again walked by the trophy later Wednesday and paused for a minute. He shot a look across the clubhouse, then moved on. Turner lurked with revenge on his mind.

“Next season is coming up here pretty quick,” Turner said. “He’s going to have to redo it all again or else he’s going to be wearing it himself.”

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