Matt Weyrich

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As Juan Soto returns, baseball is reminded of just how much it missed him

As Juan Soto returns, baseball is reminded of just how much it missed him

Juan Soto wasn’t in the Nationals’ lineup on Tuesday, but he still found a way to get both his teammates and fans pumped up from the top of the dugout.

No, really. The top of the dugout. Activated from the injured list 12 days after testing positive for the coronavirus, Soto was allowed to return to the team but wasn’t ready to start just yet. He spent the first half of the game sitting in the stands but couldn’t help himself from jumping on top of the dugout when new teammate Josh Harrison launched his first home run in a Nationals uniform.

It was a reminder of what Soto will bring with him once he finally does slot into his normal spot in the heart of the Nationals’ lineup. Of course, he’s brings an elite combination of power and plate discipline that’s matched by few across the sport—never mind among players 21 or younger. The thing is, Soto also has an exuberant attitude that’s contagious in the dugout and a model for how MLB can cater to young fans.

For every historic achievement—youngest player with three home runs in a World Series, MLB record for most walks before turning 21, owner of perhaps greatest teenage season of all time—there’s just as many moments that show his personality bursting out of him—copying Alex Bregman by carrying his bat down to first base in the World Series, drawing the ire of Miles Mikolas for an elongated Soto Shuffle, joking about just wanting to make the team in spring training.

RELATED: STEPHEN STRASBURG THROWS BULLPEN SESSION, NEARS RETURN

The baseball community has taken notice, too. Former Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz called him a 20-year-old who plays the game with the maturity of a 30-year-old. Fellow young phenom Ronald Acuña Jr. admitted that he thinks Soto is a more exciting player than him. Soto’s agent Scott Boras considers him to already be one of the faces of baseball and he’s not alone in that thinking.

The Nationals have plenty of outgoing personalities. Eric Thames, Starlin Castro and Emilio Bonifacio all signed free-agent deals last offseason to join a clubhouse that already had Soto, Victor Robles and Aníbal Sánchez. So far this season, they’ve showed they still know how to have fun with trumpet celebrations on the basepaths and socially distant dance parties in the dugout.

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But Soto’s status as a star heightens the amount of attention directed at him, something that can only benefit both the Nationals and baseball as a whole given how well he’s handled it since reaching the majors in 2018.

Not only does he give the Nationals MVP-caliber production, but he knows how to pump up his teammates while does it. MLB may be in the midst of navigating a season during a pandemic (and struggling to prevent outbreaks from happening), yet Soto’s return should be a boost for MLB as it competes with NBA and NHL restarts for the attention of sports fans.

Baseball is in a weird state right now. The season is shorter, stadiums are empty and everything from spitting to high fives has been banned. Yet if there’s anyone well-suited to make the best out of it, it’s Soto. And soon, he’ll be able to jump down from the top of the dugout and finally step back into the batter’s box to make his presence known once again.

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No starting pitcher has added more heat to their fastball this season than Orioles’ John Means

No starting pitcher has added more heat to their fastball this season than Orioles’ John Means

John Means’ 2020 season is only two starts in, but he’s already shown signs of improving after placing second in AL Rookie of the Year voting last year.

According to The Athletic’s Eno Sarris, Means has added 3.6 mph to his fastball this season, the largest increase of any starting pitcher in the majors. Though Sarris posted those numbers prior to Means’ start against the Miami Marlins on Tuesday, the Orioles’ left-hander hovered between 92.7 and 95.8 mph while allowing one run over four and a third innings.

Last season, Means averaged 92.2 mph on his four-seamer but that number jumped to 95.7 mph following his first start. Though that could be attributed to him starting the season fresh, it’s worth noting that the fastest pitch he threw all last season was 95.4 mph and he averaged a little over 92 mph over the first month of 2019.

RELATED: ESPN NOT CONVINCED BY ORIOLES’ HOT START, PUTS THEM LAST IN FIRST POWER RANKINGS

The early results have been a mixed bag for Means. He was lit up by the New York Yankees in his first start then posted a stellar stat line against Miami before was pulled in the fifth to keep his arm fresh after dealing with arm fatigue last month. Means retired 13 batters in a row before Francisco Cervelli hit a solo homer to end his night.

If the Orioles’ hot start is a sign of things to come, then Means be leaned upon to play a key role as the team’s top arm in the rotation. The 7.71 ERA may be unsightly, but the increased velocity has to have the Orioles feeling good about how he’ll perform moving forward.

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Tom Brady out-trolls Michael Strahan after birthday message

Tom Brady out-trolls Michael Strahan after birthday message

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady celebrated his 43rd birthday on Monday, reminding the football world that he has remained productive (just how much so depends on who you ask) despite playing well into his 40s.

Former New York Giants defensive end Michael Strahan—himself 48 years old—tweeted at Brady to wish him a happy birthday while also pulling out an old photo from a game the two all-time greats shared the same field.

The photo was taken Feb. 3, 2008, when the Giants ended Brady and the New England Patriots’ bid for a perfect 19-0 season by beating them 17-14 in Super Bowl XLII. It was an excellent troll job, but it was overshadowed by Brady himself when he responded with a quote tweet.

Strahan retired after that Super Bowl and has since taken on a second career as a studio analyst for FOX. Brady has remained on the field, winning three more Super Bowls in addition to the other three he won before that game.

The two players were at different stages of their careers and played different positions, but the only way Strahan could clap back at that is by returning to the field. That doesn’t appear to be happening anytime soon.

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