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Max Scherzer: ‘No reason to engage with MLB in any further compensation reductions’

Max Scherzer: ‘No reason to engage with MLB in any further compensation reductions’

Max Scherzer joined Twitter in February of 2012. He sent 433 tweets since then -- 54 a year on average -- and just four original tweets since Oct. 29, 2018. Until he dropped a shot Wednesday night.

Scherzer dispatched a screenshot at 11:09 p.m. which contained a clear message: the players’ union is angry.

“After discussing the latest developments with the rest of the players, there’s no reason to engage with MLB in any further compensation reductions. We have previously negotiated a pay cut in the version of the prorated salaries, and there’s no justification to accept a 2nd pay cut based upon the current information the union has received. I’m glad to hear other players voicing the same viewpoint and believe MLB’s economic strategy would completely change if all documentation were to become public information.”

This has weight. Scherzer is on the union’s eight-player executive subcommittee and it’s not hard to envision him as the executive director of the MLBPA one day. He never uses social media. He does not haphazardly dispatch comments. Anyone who deals with him on a regular basis has heard the phrase, “How do I want to put this?” before a pause. So, this is a distinct and emphatic message.

At its core, the tweet is a jab against Major League Baseball owners. They do not reveal their books to anyone but each other. The players’ union has often griped about being at an information deficit when dealing with the league. That’s because they are. And Scherzer took a big swing at that concept Wednesday night.

Spurring his acrimony was the owners’ recent proposal of a second pay cut for players. The league and union negotiated a deal back in late March which prorated player salaries. The owners circled back with a new proposal which would take a giant whack out of high-end salaries if there is a season in 2020 on top of prorating them.

The new proposal from the league would vault players into tiered pay cuts.

Here’s the scale, as reported by ESPN:

$563,501 to $1 million paid at 72.5%
$1,000,001 to $5 million paid at 50%
$5,000,001 to $10 million paid at 40%
$10,000,001 to $20 million paid at 30%
$20,000,001 and up paid at 20%

These cuts follow the already prorated salaries players would work under during an 82-game season.

Which produces rough numbers like this:

Scherzer would make around $4.333 million in base salary. He was set to make $28,777,759 in base salary this season.

Stephen Strasburg would make $5.313 million. His new contract called for a $35 million base salary, one of the richest in the game.

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Those massive cuts immediately became non-starters for the players’ union.

As in any negotiation, the gap is greatest at the beginning. However, this is not the offseason with months to figure things out. This is late May with the calendar compressing the realistic chances for Major League Baseball to salvage some form of season this year.

And, if Scherzer’s rare tweet is to be taken at face value, the distance to cover in a short period is vast.

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Champs with an asterisk? Not this year's World Series champ

Champs with an asterisk? Not this year's World Series champ

Just because the eventual 2020 World Series champion will have played fewer games, don't expect the rest of Major League Baseball to look at them with a scoff. 

In fact, it's apparently viewed by players as an even taller task given the circumstances of this year. 

"I did a story, this was a couple weeks ago, I talked to managers, GMs, players, and they all swore, you know, up an down, that's it's gonna mean even more, just because of what you've been through," USA Today's Bob Nightengale said on the Nationals Talk podcast. "Starting Spring Training. Stopping Spring Training. Not knowing when you're going to pick up again. So emotionally, physically, it's a very challenging season. So, the managers will tell you this might even mean more than just a regular season."

There's no question baseball is in the middle of something they've never experienced before, and it would be a lazy argument to brush aside the accomplishments of any successful team in 2020, let alone the one that wins it all.

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The number of regular season games played is minuscule compared to the mental toll the last couple of months has taken on everyone involved in the sport.

The human element of sports is far too often overlooked, and anyone deciding to put an asterisk on this season would be doing just that. 

Unique circumstances tend to bring out the best in the best. How this year's best, whenever the season gets going, reacts to those circumstances, will truly be a remarkable achievement. 

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How Stephen Strasburg changed his narrative in one postseason run

How Stephen Strasburg changed his narrative in one postseason run

When Stephen Strasburg entered the 2019 season, he had a reputation of fragility and, as a result, unavailability when it came to the playoffs.

The former No. 1 overall pick had missed two of the four playoff series the Nationals had appeared in since drafting him as one of the most hyped pitching prospects in a generation. While he had certainly shown more than a few flashes of the potential Washington saw in him, there were few instances when he was able to put it all together and stay on the field in time for the postseason.

That all changed last October, when Strasburg led the National League in innings (209) and placed fifth in NL Cy Young voting before cruising through the playoffs to the tune of a 5-0 record with a 1.98 ERA and 47 strikeouts across 36 1/3 innings. He also took World Series MVP honors, highlighted by a Game 6 near-complete game, as the Nationals claimed D.C.’s first baseball championship since 1924.

Now, Strasburg didn’t touch his career high in innings (215 in 2014) nor did he claim his best finish for the Cy Young award (placed third in 2017). He even once struck out 12 Chicago Cubs over seven scoreless innings to stave off elimination in the 2017 NLDS while battling the flu.

The signs were all there, but Strasburg’s historic playoff run changed the narrative around his career and cemented him as one of the premiere playoff pitchers in all of baseball.

USA TODAY baseball columnist Bob Nightengale joined NBC Sports Washington’s Todd Dybas, Nick Ashooh and Chase Hughes on Wednesday's episode of the Nationals Talk podcast and weighed in on how Strasburg improved his reputation on a national scale.

“I think [he has] just the warrior mentality now—taking the ball, winning big games, a clutch performer,” Nightengale said. “I think that with the Nationals’ World Series run, I think it benefit his reputation more than anybody else. [He’s now] seen as a tough guy. He’s probably always been that way but I don’t think he had that perception from peers, fans, media, that sort of thing.”

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Before the year began, critics were skeptical that Strasburg would exercise the first of the two player options in his contract to remain in D.C. rather than test free agency. Fresh off parading down Constitution Avenue, he opted out of that deal and scored a new one: seven years and $245 million, giving him the largest contract in Nationals history.

Of course, there are still plenty of questions surrounding Strasburg’s ability to remain healthy and productive all the way through his age-37 season (the final year of his contract). Prior to 2019, he was on a streak of four straight seasons with fewer than 30 starts and 200 innings—and only once in that span did he eclipse 25 starts and 150 innings.

But with a World Series MVP award on his resume, there’s now no question the Strasburg can perform in the playoffs even after handling a significant workload during the regular season.

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