By the eighth inning, many Nats fans were among the 29,034 people drinking in a 7-3 loss to Max Scherzer, and the New York Mets were standing up and chanting, “We love Soto!”
“It means a lot,” Soto said after taking Scherzer deep and marching on to appear in three more paintings. “It feels kinda weird, because it’s nothing [has] Happened so far, and we’re still waiting. “
This is tough stuff, and on an extraordinarily fun evening in August, it could almost feel like stifling the franchise and its fan base. There’s a chance — a chance — that at dawn on Tuesday, Soto will face a future in which he will never wear a national costume again. Put the evaluation of all that is returned in return on the back burner for a moment. It’s a lot on the stomach.
“You’re not going to give up on these guys and you’re not going to get something in return that we feel like, ‘Hey, that’s what our future is going to be, and that’s going to be really good for us,'” manager Dave Martinez said. [in the front office] We’re working hard to get those players we need, if we can get them. If not, we have one of the youngest players in the game, and I love this kid.”
As of 6pm on Tuesday, the situation was incredibly fluid. By the time you read this on the newsprint, Soto could have been traded. Update your Twitter feed frequently. It’s the only way to keep up.
“I feel good where I am, and I understand it’s work and they need to do whatever they need to do,” Soto said. “I’m just another player, another employee here – like Zim used to say.”
Forever Nat Ryan Zimmerman has never faced such a situation. But here’s a never-ending truth about any potential Soto deal: Citizens must demand an unprecedented return. This is their responsibility, given a player of his abilities and age who has never been traded with two years and two months of control remaining before free agency. For the opposing team, these aren’t just three banner races and three October. It’s also two full seasons of 162 games, which can’t be ignored.
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But the flip side of asking for such an extension — quite appropriately — is that it might be too much for an opposition general manager, let alone an opposing royal group, to swallow. Any club that trades with Soto and expects to be able to sign him for a contract extension has not listened closely to the player – who has repeatedly spoken out of his curiosity about having 30 teams bid on his services at free agency – or his agent, Scott Borras.
The potential deal should be based on its baseball concept, and it would be framed as such. But it is undeniable that there is a PR component in it as well. And it would be hard for General Manager Mike Rizzo to stand up to his fan base and argue that his generational talent would change the franchise if the rest of the industry reacted to a version of “That’s All They Got?”
This should be a fantastic comeback success, which gives the fan base more reasons to come to the field – not just in two or three years but immediately. This is a tough package for any team to give up.
In addition, it would be perfectly reasonable for Rizzo to say a version of: “Why is this such a bad result? We still have one of the best young players in the game. There will be a new ownership group in place in the Offseason. Perhaps they will be able to go further than the adult bargain.” Worth $440 million for 15 years which Soto rejected from the Lerner family.”
I’ve become pessimistic about whether a deal can be struck – which is more of a 65-35 sentiment against such a possibility than more than a 9-10 – so Soto is likely to trade five minutes after those words are posted. There is no certainty for any of this. Hold on to your hat.
OK wait. There’s a lot of certainty about this: October 2019 and the march that followed — oh man, they’ve been feeling for over two years and nine months.
“It seems like a very long time ago,” Martinez said. “Yes it is.”
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As if twisting that particular knife, Mets Scherzer kicked off Monday night in what would have been Soto’s last match in the uniforms they each wore during that wild race to the world title. In an unusually wide and poignant introductory meeting with reporters, Martinez tore a few times as he pondered what was and what remains. Since Scherzer and Trea Turner – not to mention Daniel Hudson, Yan Gomes and others – traded in last year’s deadline, the Nationals were 53-111 – numbers that make sense if you watch this team play regularly but still look amazing in black and white.
Martinez said Monday that he has a room in his house where he stores the most important memorabilia he has collected over the years. Much of 2019. In these dark days, he often heads there to remember old photos.
“He’s kind of saying, ‘Hey, no matter what happens, the point is to get back there, right?'” “So every day, I’m going over there, I’m going to pick myself up and say, ‘Hey, someday we’ll be back there,’” Martinez said. “Just keep these memories intact.”
But it’s not just the vortex around Soto that makes those days seem so far away. It is the deterioration of professionalism in some corners of his own club. On Monday afternoon, Victor Robles – formerly the undisputed world champion quarterback, now a spare with an uncertain future – had a box of T-shirts in front of his wardrobe, to distribute to any of his interested teammates. Foreground: A photo of Robles wearing a clown nose — a nod to his hide-and-seek actions last month after Arizona’s Madison Baumgarner called him a “clown” for solo pimping at home when the Nats were dropping six runs in eighth.
On the winning team, a fun jersey, even one that is self-critical, can be united. But for the group that has the worst record in baseball — and may have a definite impact on that situation by September — it’s comedy. Who are the clowns, Victor? Perhaps the effort that went into designing and ordering these t-shirts would have been best used to see how not to throw out the essential tracks.
But I digress. This, of course, is nowhere near the most important part of this week. The most important part of this week is not even this week. It is about the direction of excellence. And we’ll know something about the trend based on whether Juan Soto got another applause at home on Tuesday night – or if he packed up and left the local club for the last time.