Derek Jeter statement
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Derek Jeter’s statement about the Marlins COVID-19 outbreak raises more questions

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Following the Miami Marlins COVID-19 outbreak that has caused the postponement of their home opener, team CEO Derek Jeter issued a statement:

The health of our players and staff has been and will continue to be our primary focus as we navigate through these uncharted waters. After a successful Spring 2.0, we now have experienced challenges once we went on the road and left Miami. Postponing tonight’s home opener was the correct decision to ensure we take a collective pause and try to properly grasp the totality of this situation. We have conducted another round of testing for our players and staff, and our team will all remain in Philadelphia pending the results of those tests, which we expect later today. We will provide additional information as it becomes available.

As far as statements go there is nothing surprising there. But Jeter’s claim that health is the top priority is hard to square with Don Mattingly’s statement yesterday after it was revealed that four players had tested positive: “We never considered not playing [Sunday]. We are taking risks every day.” It was a statement quickly followed up with an acknowledgment of the safety of the players’ health and family, but it’s hard to see that as anything other than a decision top prioritize playing over those health concerns. I mean, they took notice of those concerns and played on, right?

The “____ is our top priority” form of corporate statement is always — always — deployed when the thing the business is claiming to be its top priority has been manifestly compromised. If a plane crashes, “safety is our top priority.” If employees are mistreated, “the well-being of our workers is our top priority.” If there’s a chemical or oil spill, “responsible environmental practices are our top priority.” It’s become such a cliche that it’s hard to take that bit of businesspeak even remotely seriously.

What I’d like to hear is why the Marlins played a game with over 10% of its roster having tested positive and a bunch of other tests outstanding. What was the protocol that was followed and what, if anything, might have caused them to cancel that game if not the situation present at the time. Why, as Don Mattingly said, was the idea of cancelling the game “never considered” before today’s Marlins COVID-19 outbreak?

I don’t ask this rhetorically. I honestly do not know the decision process involved with the Marlins COVID-19 outbreak. It’s something, in light of today’s events and the Derek Jeter statement, that should be a lot more transparent than it is. I bet it’s something a lot of players want to know too.

Nationals’ Soto youngest ever to win NL batting crown

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WASHINGTON — Juan Soto became the National League’s youngest batting champion, Trea Turner hit a grand slam and drove in seven runs, and the Washington Nationals closed out the season with a 15-5 victory over the New York Mets on Sunday.

Soto walked and singled before being lifted for a pinch hitter in the third inning, elevating his average to .351 and sealing the NL lead in the category during this pandemic-shortened 60-game season.

The 21-year-old Soto surpassed Brooklyn’s Pete Reiser for the youngest ever to take a batting crown. Reiser was 22 when he ended the 1941 season hitting a league-leading .343.

“For me, it doesn’t matter the age,” Soto said with a smile when informed of the feat’s historical significance. “If you deserve it, you deserve it.”

Soto held off Atlanta teammates Freddie Freeman (.341) and Marcell Ozuna (.338) and also finished 2020 with the major league-lead in on-base percentage (.490) and slugging percentage (.695).

Yan Gomes homered for Washington, which won seven of its last nine and closed the season on a three-game winning streak and caught the Mets in the NL East standings.

“These guys don’t quit,” Washington manager Dave Martinez said. “They play hard every day and you saw what they did the last nine games. I’m proud of them hanging in there.”

The Nationals finished 26-34 a year after winning their first World Series. The Nationals’ .433 winning percentage in the truncated season was the lowest for a defending champion since the 1998 Florida Marlins went 54-108 (.333).

New York slipped from 86-76 last season and third place in the NL East to 26-34 and tied for fourth in manager Luis Rojas’ first season. The Mets still held slim playoff hopes entering Saturday before dropping three in a row, and they would have secured a wild card had they won those games because of three-game slides by Philadelphia and San Francisco to end the season.

“We didn’t get it done,” Rojas said. “We needed to do it, and we didn’t do it. It was definitely all on us. It makes it a little bit more frustrating just seeing that part happened the way we wanted, but we didn’t execute what we needed to do.”

Pete Alonso homered twice for New York and finished with 16 after clubbing a rookie-record 53 last season. Guillermo Heredia added a solo shot for the Mets.

Washington right-hander Austin Voth (2-5) needed 36 pitches to escape the first but made it through five innings to close his season with back-to-back victories. Voth allowed four runs while striking out four.

The Nationals chased Mets starter Seth Lugo after 1 1/3 innings. Lugo (3-4) allowed six runs on five hits and two walks.

With Washington already leading 7-3, Turner busted the game open with a third-inning grand slam off reliever Steven Matz. It was Washington’s first grand slam of the season.

KENDRICK’S FUTURE

Washington and INF Howie Kendrick have a mutual option for 2021, and he has at least one prominent figure hopeful for his return.

“I’m holding onto his leg,” Martinez said. “He’s got a lot of discussions to have with his family and I told him we’ll stay in touch as we always do and we’ll see where he’s at.”

The 37-year-old Kendrick hit .275 with two homers and 14 RBIs in 25 games, and ended the season on the injured list with a left hamstring strain.

NATS AWARDS

Soto was named Washington’s player of the year and RHP Max Scherzer (5-4, 3.74 ERA) earned the team’s pitcher of the year award in voting by local media. LHP Sean Doolittle won his third consecutive Good Guy Award.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Mets: New York placed RHP Erasmo Ramirez (right groin tightness) on the injured list. Ramirez was 0-0 with an 0.63 ERA in six games. The Mets recalled RHP Corey Oswalt.

Nationals: OF Victor Robles was hit by a pitch in the second inning and was lifted for a defensive replacement in the third.

UP NEXT

Mets: New York opens its 2021 spring training schedule on Feb. 27 against Miami in Port St. Lucie, Florida.

Nationals: Washington takes on Houston on Feb. 27 in West Palm Beach, Florida, in its scheduled 2021 spring training debut.