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Maddon vs. Johnson settles down


Maddon vs. Johnson settles down

The animosity drawn from Tuesdays pine tar incident between the Nationals and Rays carried over prominently in each teams managers pregame comments, but through Wednesdays 3-2 Washington win there was little substance to what looked like signs of a continued feud.

No, Joe Maddon didnt have the umpires check Stephen Strasburgs ball before the first pitch. No, Maddon and Joel Peralta didnt try to rile up Nats fans when he ran out prematurely from the dugout. And, no Maddon didnt mouth I want to tick these guys off, when he sent Peralta to the mound.

In fact, the rift between Maddon and Davey Johnson seems to have been squashed sometime between their pregame comments and the first pitch of the game.

After being called a weird wuss by Johnson, eyes were opened at 7:05 p.m. as umpire Jeff Nelson trotted to the mound to inspect the ball Strasburg was about to commence the game with.

I thought he was going to check my glove, but he didnt ask for that. He just wanted the baseball because I threw it in the dirt and I think Flores short-hopped to second or something like that, Strasburg said.

Johnson told the same story afterwards, that catcher Jesus Flores bounced it to the bag on a routine warm-up throw to second and the umpires were just being cautious.

We kind of had a laugh on the bench. When the umpire came out he wanted to look at the ball and he came out to look at it instead of asking for the ball because it bounced on the throw to second, he said.

Stras was getting ready to undress. He took his glove off, he had everything, and the ump said 'No, I just want the ball.' I mean, Zim came in and everybody was making fun, he's ready to take everything off and let them search him.

Things got interesting again at the end of the seventh inning as Peralta was warming in the bullpen with Nats lefty Sean Burnett on the mound. Burnett induced an inning-ending double play by Hideki Matsui that Maddon hadnt anticipated. He thought Peralta would have more time warming before the inning was over. Peralta ran out of the bullpen five or six strides before turning around and going back in.

Thats my fault because Matsui grounded into the double play so fast we could not do all the things that we wanted to do. So, get him back and let Burke Badenhop pitch to the first guy and then make the switch after that, he said.

Maddon basically balked in making the switch as he wanted Badenhop to remain in the game because their ninth hitter was due up in the next frame.

Peralta did end up making it in the game as Maddon summoned the right-hander as part of a double switch after the first batter of the eighth was retired. Several Tampa reporters thought they read Maddons lips on their local broadcast saying basically he was trying to irk the Nats by bringing him in the game.

Maddon didnt exactly deny saying it, but didnt offer up any confirmation either.

I say that a lot. I dont remember that honestly. I would absolutely admit to it, but I dont remember saying that, he said. Peralta was jacked up enough, he didnt need me to say anything to him.

When Peralta took the mound he did hear it from the Nationals crowd, they booed loudly as he approached the mound and scattered taunts throughout his appearance. But all in all, the fireworks of Johnson vs. Maddon was kept between them and set aside when the game started.

Even the players said they thought something was going to happen, it just never did.

You kind of expected something to happen especially after yesterday, but nothing really went down, Strasburg said.

There is one more chance of course as the Nationals host the Rays for the third game of the series on Thursday at Nats Park. Whether the feud is re-ignited or not, this sure has been a unique year for the Nationals both on and off the field.

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Report: Under Armour taking over MLB jerseys in 2020

Report: Under Armour taking over MLB jerseys in 2020

Majestic’s reign as the maker of MLB jerseys are about to come to an end. 

In 2020, Fanatics and Under Armour will be teaming to make on-field jerseys and apparel for all MLB teams, according to a Sports Business Journal report. 

The news outlet also reports that the deal means the MLB’s licensing relations with Nike will be over as well. 

Under Armour will produce the jerseys starting in Spring Training of the 2020 season, and “broad apparel rights” will go to Fanatics. 

New Era will continue to be the maker of MLB hats. 

Given that Maryland native Kevin Plank founded Under Armour, and that the business' headquarters are in Baltimore, it’s sure to be a splash with baseball fans in the DMV.

You can read the full Sports Business journal report here. 

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Early look at the Nationals' biggest questions this offseason

Early look at the Nationals' biggest questions this offseason

Here is an early look at the biggest questions facing the Washington Nationals as they embark on another offseason in their quest to build a championship team...

What to do with Wilson Ramos and the catcher position?

The Nationals' biggest question entering this offseason is without a doubt at catcher with All-Star Wilson Ramos on the mend after having the ACL in his right knee repaired on Friday. Not only is the recovery a long one - he could be out until well into the 2017 season - it is the second time he's had the ligament fixed. At 29, his viability as a primary catcher moving forward is a real question. Even Ramos admitted he may have to transition to the American League with his next contract.

If Ramos does leave, behind him will be a significant hole on the Nationals. They have several in-house options, but none that are anywhere close to Ramos, who emerged this season as the best offensive catcher in baseball. Pedro Severino is a nice young player, but has a career .632 OPS in the minors. The drop-off on offense from Ramos to him would be significant. The same can be said about Jose Lobaton.

It won't be easy replacing Ramos with an external option, if that's the way the Nats opt to go. Catchers who can hit and play defense like him are a rarity. Matt Wieters of the Orioles would be the best option in free agency, but he's a year older and is also a step down offensively. Unless they like Wieters - who does happen to be represented by Scott Boras - they may have to trade for a new backstop, and that won't be easy either. 

This is all not to rule out the Nationals re-signing Ramos, but right now it's difficult to project what type of contract he will garner and whether that could fit in their plans. Surely it would be tough for them to offer a long-term deal, but maybe they make sense if he decides to take a short-term contract to reset for free agency either next offseason or the one after that.

Any major upgrades needed?

The Nationals are in an interesting spot, having won 95 games and the NL East, but with yet another disappointing end to their year. General manager Mike Rizzo loves to make big splashes in the offseason. Every single winter he does something aggressive and unexpected. What will he do this year? There aren't many areas where he could potentially upgrade, but that hasn't stopped him in the past.

If Ramos leaves, catcher is obviously the biggest need. But beyond that, the two major problem areas in their lineup this season were at shortstop and first base. Danny Espinosa played solid defense and hit 24 homers, but held an unsightly .209 batting average. His .552 OPS in the second half was worst in baseball among those with at least 165 at-bats. 

Espinosa is always looking over his shoulder this time of the year and just this past winter appeared to be the odd-man out when the Nats traded for Ben Revere and signed Daniel Murphy. Espinosa managed to overcome the odds and play 157 games. He has one year left on his contract, so one way or another the Nats will need to start thinking long-term about his position.

Shortstop is an easier situation to evaluate than first base, where Ryan Zimmerman is due to make $14 million each of the next two seasons and $18 million the year after that. He had the worst season of his career with a .642 OPS through 115 games. Bringing in a first baseman to flat-out replace Zimmerman seems unrealistic, given his contract. But perhaps they can find someone who plays both first base and left field, with Jayson Werth having just one year left on his deal.

Who will be the closer?

The Nationals found success in the ninth inning with Mark Melancon after they acquired him at the trade deadline in a deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates. But it was just a rental. Now Melancon is due for free agency and the Nats once again have questions at the position. They could opt to re-sign Melancon, or go with another free agent option. Aroldis Chapman, whom they have coveted in the past, will be available. So will Kenley Jansen, who just helped end their season with the Dodgers. It's an unusually deep crop of star closers and it would be a surprise if the Nationals didn't snag one of them. Another option would be to promote Shawn Kelley or Blake Treinen, but that would be out of the Nationals' character.

Are they content with the rotation?

If one were to pick the biggest reason the Nationals lost their NL Division Series against the Dodgers it would have to be the starting rotation. It was their most glaring weakness and it wasn't even close. This is despite the Nats being built on starting pitching and boasting one of the best regular season rotations in baseball. Losing Stephen Strasburg to injury didn't help, but they still had four capable starters left over. Max Scherzer struggled in Game 1, while Tanner Roark, Gio Gonzalez and Joe Ross combined to pitch just 11 1/3 innings in their respective outings. 

If you look at the year as a whole, starting pitching was not a major concern. But the Nats are always aggressive in addressing their needs, whether big or small. They have top prospects Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez, but neither distinguished themselves this season. Do they sit tight and hope things improve, or do they try to make another game-changing move? With a weak free agent class, any outside upgrade would have to come through a trade. Also, Gonzalez' $12 million team option is definitely something to watch this winter.

Will extension talks with Harper heat up?

Both the Nationals and Bryce Harper, one could argue, may have incentive to back away from the negotiating table this winter, given the Nats have to be less confident in giving Harper a record-setting contract after his disappointing year, and that Harper may not be wise to sign his new deal when his stock has lowered. But if the Nats and Harper do not come to terms this winter, that sets up a lot more pressure for the following offseason. Harper has two years left on his contract. Heading into next offseason without a deal, with just one year remaining, would create a lot of uncertainty for all sides involved, including the fans who certainly want to see the 2015 MVP remain in Washington for a long time. The storyline would dominate their offseason.

This upcoming winter always seemed like the best time to broker a deal to avoid that scenario, but the timing has not worked out with Harper's production on the field. Also, would anyone be surprised if it turns out Harper was dealing with an injury this season that held him back at the plate? If it were a serious one, he wouldn't have kept playing. But any injury has to be factored in those discussions.

[RELATED: Bullpen, baserunning leads to Nats heartbreak]