Christian Yelich
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Christian Yelich extends historic home run streak to four games

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After hitting a home run in each of his first three games of the season, Brewers slugger Christian Yelich swung for the fences again on Sunday. He came up to bat in the bottom of the first inning, drew an 0-1 count from the Cardinals’ Michael Wacha, and cranked a 107-m.p.h., 408-footer out to right field for his fourth home run in as many games.

The home run put Yelich in some rare company: He’s just the sixth MLB player to rake in four home runs over the first four games of the season, joining the likes of Trevor Story (2016), Chris Davis (2013), Nelson Cruz (2011), Mark McGwire (1998), and Willie Mays (1971). No defending MVP had pulled off the feat so far; neither had any player in Brewers’ history.

As we mentioned here yesterday, Yelich has the opportunity to extend his streak when the Brewers road trip to Cincinnati on Monday. If he manages another homer against the Reds’ Tanner Roark (or a bullpen that ranked 18th-best in the league last year), he’ll be the first player with a five-homer streak to start the season.

The Brewers currently lead the Cardinals 1-0 in the top of the third inning.

Mark Lerner says Nationals can’t afford both Anthony Rendon and Stephen Strasburg

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The defending champion Washington Nationals may have to replace two star players in third baseman Anthony Rendon and starter Stephen Strasburg as both are free agents. Both are represented by agent Scott Boras and both are expected to command lucrative contracts. As a result, Nationals managing principal owner Mark Lerner said the club can’t afford to bring back both players, Todd Dybas of NBC Sports Washington reports.

Lerner told Donald Dell in an interview, “We really can only afford to have one of those two guys. They’re huge numbers. We already have a really large payroll to begin with.”

As Dybas notes, there are myriad reasons why Lerner would say this publicly. If Lerner had instead said, “Yeah, we’re filthy stinking rich, especially coming off of a World Series win. We could afford to get every free agent if we wanted to,” then the Nationals would have no leverage in negotiations. Creating artificial scarcity increases the Nationals’ leverage when negotiating with Boras and his clients. And as Dybas also points out, Lerner’s statement also prepares fans for an unsatisfactory outcome not unlike when the club took itself out of the running to bring back outfielder Bryce Harper earlier this year. This not to say Lerner’s statement is justified; it’s just how things work in the current system.

Lerner also defended the Nationals’ approach to free agency. He said, “They think you’re really back there printing money and it’s whoever goes to the highest bidder. It’s not that way at all. You give these fellas — there’s a negotiation that goes on, but…We’ve been pretty successful in free agency over time. You’re not going to get everybody. Certain players may want to go home, closer to where their home is. You never know the reason why people move on. But, we’ve been very successful. Probably one of the most successful teams in free agency the last 10 years. We’re very proud of our record. But, again, I think people have to realize, it’s not all up to us.”

It is true that the Nationals have been one of the most active teams in free agency in recent years. In a league that has otherwise done the opposite, they deserve some credit for that. But the Nationals are also keenly aware of the competitive balance tax threshold, which teams use as a de facto salary cap. They don’t have to, but they choose to because it’s a convenient structure that allows them to limit expenditures.

At the end of the day, it’s baseball’s financial structure that is rotten. It forces constant misinformation out of everyone’s mouths so as to protect their financial interests and leverage, and incentivizes teams to value profits above all. In a perfect world, MLB team owners wouldn’t need to cry poor every offseason, but we don’t live in such a world.