The Washington Nationals will begin a delayed defence of their World Series title by hosting the New York Yankees on July 23 as MLB announced the schedule for its abbreviated 60-game 2020 season on Monday. 

The start of the MLB campaign has been on hold since March due to the coronavirus pandemic, which has wreaked havoc in the United States and across the globe.

But the marquee Nationals-Yankees matchup will be the first game of an opening-night doubleheader, with the Los Angeles Dodgers hosting rivals the San Francisco Giants in the nightcap.

That game is expected to mark the Dodgers debut of 2018 American League MVP Mookie Betts, while Gerrit Cole could make his first start since signing a nine-year, $324million contract with the Yankees in December. 

All other teams will begin their seasons on July 24, highlighted by the Texas Rangers hosting the Colorado Rockies in the first game at their new stadium – Globe Life Field.  

Games will be held without spectators during the shortened regular season, which is slated to end on September 27 and will be followed by a 10-team playoff format. 

Other notable opening series include the Los Angeles Angels, who made an offseason splash by signing former Nationals third baseman Anthony Rendon, visiting the Oakland Athletics and defending National League East champions the Atlanta Braves traveling to New York to take on division rivals the Mets. 

The schedule also includes a matchup between the St Louis Cardinals and Chicago White Sox in Dyersville, Iowa on August 13, which will be played on the field used in the acclaimed baseball film "Field of Dreams." 

MLB also rescheduled Jackie Robinson Day for August 28. The annual celebration of the Hall of Fame player who broke baseball's colour barrier in 1947 is traditionally held on April 15, but was postponed due to COVID-19.

Additionally, MLB will honour the 100th anniversary of the Negro Leagues on August 16 and will hold Roberto Clemente Day to commemorate the former Pittsburgh Pirates great on September 9. 

The revised schedule will have teams playing 40 games against division opponents and 20 interleague games against a corresponding geographical division, such as the AL East facing teams from the NL East. 

Major League Baseball (MLB) has explained the delayed results of its league-wide intake testing for coronavirus in response to harsh criticism. 

The league issued a statement on Monday which stated that the Independence Day weekend caused logistical delays and that all results from players' initial tests would be completed by the end of the day.  

It comes as some teams have had to skip team workouts or delay the beginning of their training camps just weeks before the scheduled start of the shortened season.  

"Our plan required extensive delivery and shipping services, including proactive special accommodations to account for the holiday weekend," the statement said.

"Unfortunately, several situations included unforeseen delays.  

"We have addressed the delays caused by the holiday weekend and do not expect a recurrence. We commend the affected Clubs that responded properly by cancelling workouts."

The Oakland Athletics opted to push back their first full-squad training session when testing results were not available on Friday, and the Washington Nationals and Houston Astros cancelled workouts Monday.  

Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo blasted the league earlier on Monday for not producing testing results as promised.  

"We will not sacrifice the health and safety of our players, staff and their families. Without accurate and timely testing, it is simply not safe for us to continue with summer camp," Rizzo said. 

"Major League Baseball needs to work quickly to resolve issues with their process and their lab. Otherwise, summer camp and the 2020 season are at risk."

The league admitted fault for the delayed results but indicated they were an anomaly, with 95 percent of intake tests completed. 

"The process has not been without some unforeseen difficulties, which are being addressed with the service providers that are essential to the execution of the protocols," the league's statement explained.

"It is important to be mindful that nearly all of the individuals have been tested as planned. The health and safety of our players and employees will remain our highest priorities."

The Washington Nationals have cancelled their training for Monday, and general manager Mike Rizzo did not hold back in explaining why, calling out MLB for a delay in receiving coronavirus test results and a lack of preparation. 

"Per MLB's protocol, all players and staff were tested for COVID-19 on Friday, July 3," Rizzo said on Monday in a statement.

"Seventy-two hours later, we have yet to receive the results of those tests. We cannot have our players and staff work at risk. Therefore, we have cancelled our team workout scheduled for this morning. 

"We will not sacrifice the health and safety of our players, staff and their families. Without accurate and timely testing it is simply not safe for us to continue with summer camp. 

"Major League Baseball needs to work quickly to resolve issues with their process and their lab. Otherwise, summer camp and the 2020 season are at risk." 

The Nationals' decision to cancel Monday's practice came a day after the Oakland Athletics opted to push back their first full-squad workout because they had not received test results for their position players. 

Rizzo's comments also come a day after Washington's left-handed reliever Sean Doolittle went on a lengthy rant over the United States' response to the pandemic. 

The Nationals, who had returned to Nationals Park on Friday for their first workout of Spring Training 2.0, are set to open the season in just over two weeks on July 23, with the full schedule set to be released Monday.

Washington Nationals left-handed reliever Sean Doolittle has previously called out MLB for its coronavirus precautions and on Sunday he went on a lengthy rant over the United States' response to the pandemic.

The USA has been hit hard by COVID-19, with nearly three million confirmed cases and a death toll exceeding 132,000.

"We're trying to bring baseball back during a pandemic that's killed 130,000 people [in the USA]. We're way worse off as a country than we were in March when we shut this thing down," Doolittle said. "Look at where other developed countries are in their response to this. We haven't done any of the things that other countries have done to bring sports back.

"Sports are like the reward of a functioning society. And we're trying to just bring it back, even though we've taken none of the steps to flatten the curve, whatever you want to say. We did flatten the curve a little bit, but we didn't use that time to do anything productive. We just opened back up for Memorial Day. We decided we're done with it.

"If there aren't sports, it's going to be because people are not wearing masks, because the response to this has been so politicized. We need help from the general public.

"If they want to watch baseball, please wear a mask, social distance, keep washing your hands. We can't just have virus fatigue and keep thinking, 'Well, it's been four months, we're over it, this has been enough time, right? We've waited long enough, shouldn't sports come back now?' No, there are things we have to do in order to bring this stuff back. And now you want to bring fans back? Is that safe? I don't know. I'm not a public health expert, but we should probably defer to them on some of these issues.

"So, I don't know if it's safe or not. I really don't know. But that doesn't seem like something that … I don't know if that feels like a good idea or not. I don't know."

Doolittle also said he is still debating about playing this season amid health and safety concerns. Earlier on Sunday, Atlanta Braves pitcher Felix Hernandez announced he is going to sit out this season after Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher David Price decided he would sit out on Saturday. 

Another point of frustration for the 33-year-old Doolittle is that he still has not received his COVID-19 results from Friday even though MLB claimed testing would have a 24-hour turnaround time. He also said National players have not been given respirator masks they were told they would receive. 

In mid-May, Doolittle posted a long Twitter thread presenting a number of questions about health protections for players, families, staff and stadium workers. He also provided links to articles that further examined the topics he was addressing. 

The eight-year major-league veteran has appeared in 390 games for the Nationals and Oakland Athletics, striking out 457 batters over 388 innings. He was instrumental to the Nationals' World Series championship run last season, posting a 1.74 ERA over nine playoff appearances.

Washington Nationals pair Ryan Zimmerman and Joe Ross have joined Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Mike Leake in opting out of the 2020 MLB season.

Zimmerman and Ross, who both won World Series rings with the Nationals in 2019, and veteran Leake will not play due to concerns over the coronavirus pandemic.

The 2020 MLB regular season is scheduled to begin on July 23 or 24 and has been shortened to 60 games because of the COVID-19 crisis and bitter negotiations between the league and the players' union. 

In a statement, Washington's general manager Mike Rizzo said: "Ryan Zimmerman and Joe Ross have decided not to participate in the 2020 season for the personal health and safety of themselves and their loved ones. 

"We are 100 per cent supportive of their decision to not play this year. We will miss their presence in the clubhouse and their contributions on the field."

Zimmerman, 35, explained his decision was motivated by family and he had not definitely decided to retire from the sport.

"After a great deal of thought and given my family circumstances - three young children, including a newborn, and a mother at high risk - I have decided not to participate in the 2020 season," he said in a statement released through agency CAA.

"Everyone knows how much it means to me to be part of a team, and I will miss that camaraderie dearly this year. Of course, I would love to pursue back-to-back titles. I cannot speak for anyone else, but given the unusual nature of the season, this is the best decision for me and my family, and I truly appreciate the organisation's understanding and support.

"To be clear, I am not retiring at this time. I have not decided on my future in baseball past 2020. But this year I'll be staying safe at home and pulling as hard as anyone for the guys to defend our championship."

Zimmerman and Ross followed in the footsteps of Leake, whose agent Danny Horwits confirmed he was the first player to publicly opt out.

Leake had been in consideration for a spot in the back end of Arizona's starting rotation that includes Robbie Ray, Merrill Kelly and the newly acquired Madison Bumgarner.

The Diamondbacks acquired Leake from the Seattle Mariners at last season's trade deadline, and the veteran right-hander is scheduled to be a free agent next offseason.

Leake broke his left wrist during spring training in February, but he has since recovered and appears more concerned with protecting his family from COVID-19.

"During this global pandemic, Mike and his family had many discussions about playing this season," the statement said. "They took countless factors into consideration, many of which are personal to him and his family.

"This was not an easy decision for Mike. He wishes the best of luck and health to his Diamondback team-mates this season and he's looking forward to 2021."

Leake has a career record of 105-98 in 296 starts with a 4.05 ERA, playing for the Cincinnati Reds, San Francisco Giants, St Louis Cardinals, Mariners and Diamondbacks.

Washington Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer said on Wednesday the players are not planning to make any further concessions on salary reductions after MLB presented an economic plan to the Players' Association a day earlier.

The union held a conference call with its executive board, player representatives and alternate player representatives.

Scherzer, among eight players on the union's executive subcommittee, confirmed the call without revealing who was on it.

"After discussing the latest developments with the rest of the players there's no reason to engage with MLB in any further compensation reductions," Scherzer tweeted.

"We have previously negotiated a pay cut in the version of prorated salaries, and there's no justification to accept a second pay cut based upon the current information the union has received.

"I'm glad to hear other players voicing the same viewpoint and believe MLB's economic strategy would completely change if all documentation were to become public information."

MLB proposed a sliding scale of salary slashing for a pandemic-delayed season with an 82-game schedule in ballparks without fans.

In the plan, stars such as Mike Trout and Gerrit Cole would lose the most, about 77 per cent of the $36million each they were set to be paid this season. Trout and Cole would be cut to about $8m each.

The union has argued players already accepted a cut to prorated shares of their salaries in a March 26 agreement and should not have to bargain again.

The 2020 baseball season may be on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic, but that will not stop the Washington Nationals from celebrating their 2019 World Series championship.

The Nationals will hold a virtual ring ceremony on Sunday, which will be broadcast both on television and online.

World Series ring celebrations are typically held early in the season right before a game in front of a sold-out home ballpark, but with the coronavirus having killed more than 324,000 people worldwide, the Nationals will unveil their rings from their own homes.

"We'd love to do it with 44,000 screaming fans in the stands," Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said on Tuesday on a team-run YouTube live stream.

"It's really refreshing that we're going to be able to share this with so many more people through these different venues. I think it's unfortunate we won't do it in front of the home fans in the ballpark, but I think we're going to reach a heck of a lot more people [doing] it this way."

The decision to hold the event on Sunday was hardly arbitrary, as May 24 is now a celebrated day for the Nationals.

Washington went into May 24, 2019 with a 19-31 record before turning things around and capturing the franchise's first World Series title.

MLB owners have reportedly approved a plan to begin the season in July, but Washington Nationals reliever Sean Doolittle has reservations about their proposal. 

Doolittle posted a lengthy Twitter thread on Monday, presenting a number of questions about health protections for players, families, staff and stadium workers.

He also provided links to articles that further examined the topics he was addressing. 

Some of his questions regarding starting the season amid the coronavirus pandemic is the unknown long-term effects of COVID-19 and possible lung damage and lower male hormone ratios caused by the virus. 

The eight-year veteran also questioned how frequently players would be tested, as well as coaches, clubhouse staff, grounds crews and umpires. 

A concern about players with pre-existing conditions was raised by Doolittle, as was a lack of currently having a vaccine and a potential second wave of the coronavirus. 

Doolittle asked for these, and other concerns, to be addressed by MLB so players can return to play and stay safe. 

All-Star third baseman Anthony Rendon has agreed a seven-year, $245million deal with the Los Angeles Angels, the MLB franchise confirmed on Friday.

Rendon, 29, became a free agent after leading the Washington Nationals to their first World Series title in October.

He hit a crucial home run off Zack Greinke in the decisive Game 7 victory against the Houston Astros and finished third in the voting for National League MVP honours.

Rendon joins forces with star center fielder Mike Trout after agreeing the largest free-agent contract in the team's history, having exceeded the 10-year, $240m deal Albert Pujols signed in December 2011.

The Angels, who missed out on New York Yankees-bound pitcher Gerrit Cole, failed to reach the postseason for a fifth successive year in 2019, finishing with a 72-90 record.

Rendon will be introduced at a news conference at Angel Stadium on Saturday.

MLB World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg has agreed a seven-year contract to return to the Washington Nationals.

The Nationals announced the news on Monday in what is reported to be a record deal for a pitcher, coming in at $245million.

Strasburg was key to the Nationals' 4-3 victory over the Houston Astros in October, securing the franchise's first World Series title before entering free agency.

A three-time All-Star and 2012 Silver Slugger, Strasburg started Games 2 and 6 of the World Series, going 2-0 with a 2.51 ERA, 14 strikeouts and two walks in 14.3 innings of work.

"We are very excited to welcome Stephen Strasburg and his family back to the Washington Nationals," said Nationals managing principal Owner Mark D Lerner.

"His tremendous talent, work ethic and leadership have been a staple of our organisation since the day we selected him in the 2009 MLB Draft.

"We would not have won the 2019 World Series or accomplished everything we have these last 10 seasons if not for Stephen's many contributions."

Strasburg is fifth on the all-time list for MLB strikeouts with 1,603.

United States president Donald Trump welcomed MLB World Series champions the Washington Nationals to the White House.

The Nationals' celebrations continued on Monday as Washington took to the White House steps with Trump in DC.

Washington claimed their first World Series in franchise history after topping the Houston Astros in seven games and Nationals star Ryan Zimmerman presented Trump with his own jersey.

"America fell in love with Nats baseball. That's all they wanted to talk about," Trump said amid an impeachment inquiry. "That and impeachment. I like Nats baseball much more."

"For the first time in nearly 100 years, our nation's capital is celebrating a World Series victory," Trump said. "The last time Washington, DC, was home to the World Series champs the president was a man named Calvin Coolidge."

Nationals reliever Sean Doolittle did not attend the ceremony, while Anthony Rendon, Victor Robles, Michael Taylor, Joe Ross, Javy Guerra and Wander Suero were also absent.

Zimmerman praised Trump by saying: "What an unbelievable honour to be here. This is an incredible honour that I think all of us will never forget.

"We'd also like to thank you for keeping everyone here safe in our country, and continuing to make America the greatest country to live in the world."

Trump also embraced Nationals catcher Kurt Suzuki, who donned a "Make America Great Again" hat.

"I love him! Awww," Trump said before adding, "I didn't know that was going to happen."

 

The Washington Nationals are the newly crowned world champions in baseball, the NFL's trade deadline is boring and an injury to Stephen Curry has left Golden State in a hole

A lot has certainly happened this week - learn more below.

 

1. Washington Nationals come from behind to win World Series

This was not supposed to happen. The Nationals started the year 19-31 but made the playoffs in the National League on a wildcard berth. But still, they had to face an Astros team with home-field advantage that won 107 games and 61 at home in 2019. Washington were not supposed to win a title.

But, after falling behind 3-2 in the series, the Nationals won two straight games over the Astros at Minute Maid Park coming from behind in both games to take the first championship in the history of the organisation.

The Astros won 117 games in total in 2019 but it just was not quite enough. Stephen Strasburg was named the World Series MVP after winning two games while Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto were huge contributors as well. Now the eyes of MLB turn to the postseason where Strasburg has a chance to be a free agent while Astros ace Gerrit Cole absolutely will be.

 

2. What a boring deadline

The NFL is not the NBA or MLB. The league does not have a crazy eventful trade deadline, but after a 2018 year full of moves we thought we were going to have some drama on Tuesday. Instead, when it was all said and done, there was just one trade made before things wrapped up.

There were plenty of trades that happened leading up to the deadline, as Jalen Ramsey went to the Rams and Marcus Peters went to the Ravens, but all in all, this one was kind of boring. Teams appear happy to stand pat and hope their rosters are good enough to win titles already.

 

3. Stephen Curry breaks hand

For the Golden State Warriors, this season just went from bad to worse. After starting out 1-2, Golden State were simply trying to get a win against a surprisingly competitive Phoenix Suns team in the early going. But what they actually got was a loss and an injury to their star player.

Stephen Curry broke his hand on a bad fall on Wednesday and he may be out for an extended period of time because of the injury. The Warriors were already going to be without Klay Thompsonfor the majority of the year, but now they will also be without the two-time MVP for an extended period of time.

D'Angelo Russell will likely have to lead a team of rookies and youngsters for the next few months, which is not the news the Golden State fans thought they were going to get before the year started.

 

4. UFC 244 already full of drama

While UFC 244 was actually pretty tame in the weeks leading up to it, with main event competitors Nate Diaz and Jorge Masvidal very respectful to each another, the drama really kicked up a notch in the last week.

First, Diaz announced he would not be fighting after he was told he tested for elevated levels of a banned substance. He said he would not compete if his name was not immediately cleared. Then, in the last couple of days, Liverpool's Darren Till ran into visa issues which put his fight with Kelvin Gastelum at risk as well.

But, it appears things have calmed down as the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) and the UFC almost instantly cleared Diaz and Till has reportedly overcome his visa issues while landing in New York on Thursday.

It's been a very dramatic week ahead of what promises to be an awesome fight weekend.

Stephen Strasburg conceded the Washington Nationals needed to be "punched in the face" to spur them on to their maiden World Series title.

The Nationals rallied from a 3-2 series deficit against the Houston Astros to win Games 6 and 7 in Texas, having also trailed as late as the eighth inning in the National League wild-card game against the Milwaukee Brewers earlier in the postseason.

Strasburg was key and, after Washington's 6-2 triumph on Wednesday, the pitcher was named World Series MVP after superb performances in Games 2 and 6.

Overall, the 31-year-old went 5-0 with a 1.98 ERA, with 47 strikeouts and four walks in 36.3 innings pitched across six appearances in the playoffs.

Washington also had to deal with an injury to Max Scherzer, who pitched despite suffering with neck spasms in the days leading up to Game 7 and Strasburg has credited the team's never-say-die attitude as the reason for their first-ever championship success.

"It's almost like we've done it so many times, we have to get punched in the face before we wake up," Strasburg told a news conference. 

"It's the M.O. We don't quit and we never quit throughout the season despite everybody saying that we were done."

Selected as the first pick by Washington in the 2009 MLB Draft, three-time All-Star Strasburg suffered a serious injury early in his Nats career, missing over a season.

"Through all that adversity I think I've learned a lot about myself," Strasburg said.

"When you have the ups and downs you can learn just as much from the downs as you can the ups. I think everything happens for a reason.

"I've learned to focus on the things I can control, I've learned I'm a perfectionist, a control freak. In this game it's very hard to be perfect and control things, but what you can control is your approach, when you go out there and compete it's about execution."

Strasburg also hailed Nationals veteran Ryan Zimmerman, who has spent his entire career with Washington.

"He's been here since day one, it seems like just yesterday that I was drafted and he was out there handing me my jersey," he added.

"I'm so happy for him and his family because he's the face of the franchise. He's dealt with losing seasons, he's been there through it all, dealt with his fair share of adversity so for us to come together as a group and get it done is awesome."

The Washington Nationals clinched their first World Series title after beating the Houston Astros 6-2.

Wednesday's Game 7 victory guided the Nationals to an historic MLB triumph over the Astros.

The Nationals rallied from a 3-2 series deficit to win Games 6 and 7 in Houston and shock the 107-win Astros.

After trailing as late as the eighth inning in the National League wild-card game against the Milwaukee Brewers earlier this postseason, the Nationals regrouped and are now champions.

 

Three takeaways from the Nationals' win over the Astros in World Series Game 7

Max Scherzer bent, but didn't break

After dealing with neck and back spasms in the days leading up to Game 7, Max Scherzer took the mound for Washington with their season on the line and did what he was asked.

Despite traffic on the base paths all night, Scherzer managed to limit the damage to just two runs in his five innings of work. He consistently found ways to get the Astros' hitters out on a night when he did not have his best stuff. 

The 35-year-old allowed seven hits and two earned runs, while striking out three and walking four before Patrick Corbin relieved him at the start of the sixth inning. His performance is all the more remarkable considering the injury he was dealing with was so painful he reportedly wore a neck brace on the team's flight to Houston on Monday.

Home-field advantage was a myth

They call it home-field advantage for a reason. But this World Series proved the exact opposite.

Washington's win marks the first instance of the road team winning every game in a postseason series in MLB history. It is such a rare phenomenon the feat had never been pulled off in any postseason series in either the NHL or NBA either.

The Nationals might as well have called Minute Maid Park home because Nationals Park was anything but this series. Washington scored three runs combined in Games 3, 4 and 5 in D.C. while in Games 1, 2, 6 and 7, they scored 30.

Washington also posted an 8-1 record on the road this postseason, including eight straight after dropping Game 1 of the National League Division Series to the Los Angeles Dodgers. 

Washington's bullpen were rock solid

Once Washington manager Dave Martinez handed the game over to his bullpen, the contest was over.

Corbin and Daniel Hudson combined for four shut-out innings, allowing just two hits while striking out seven and walking none. Over the 35 at-bats Houston saw on the night, they left a collective 10 runners on base and plated just two runs. 

While the Astros' hitters left much to be desired with their performance at the plate these last two games, much can be said about how good Washington's bullpen were.

The victory is even sweeter for Hudson, who was released by the Los Angeles Angels in March and then spent most of the season with the Toronto Blue Jays before he was dealt to the Nationals at the trade deadline.

In hindsight, the deal to acquire Hudson and the signing of Corbin in free agency have paid dividends for the Nats.

"Take it back".

It is not a complicated slogan. But it is one the Houston Astros took on before this year signifying one thing: they wanted to take the title back after failing to repeat as World Series champions in 2018.

Taking that into account, there is no other way to look at the 2019 season for the Astros than as one of failure.

With Houston's 6-2 loss to the Washington Nationals on Wednesday, the Astros fell in seven games in the World Series. It is a second-place finish for Houston, something this team wanted no part of during the year.

"It was a good year," Alex Bregman said before the start of the playoffs. "But none of that means anything now. It's all about the postseason."

He continued: "In this game, when we show up to spring training, we're not worried about winning the Hank Aaron award or MVP. We're worried about winning a World Series. The only MVP award we worry about is the World Series MVP."

Bregman went 0 for three in the Game 7 loss and six for 32 (.188) in the series.

The 2019 season was about one thing for the Astros: winning. It was not about winning their first title, it was about winning another one. It was about getting back to the World Series and winning a second title in three years; something that the San Francisco Giants, Boston Red Sox and St Louis Cardinals have all done since the start of the millennia.

Wednesday's loss was a failure. Not a failure for one game, but a failure over 180.

Gerrit Cole's Game 5 win over the Tampa Bay Rays, in which he struck out 10 batters while allowing one run in eight innings, does not matter anymore. Jose Altuve's walk-off homer against the New York Yankees to win the pennant is a distant memory now.

Former Astros catcher Brian McCann put it best after throwing out the first pitch in Game 1 of the World Series: "When you win a championship somewhere, it's special. It lives on forever."

But it is the Nationals who claimed this year's title. The Astros won 117 games but they were not crowned the champions.

The reasons why are simple: Justin Verlander went 0-2, Houston went 15 for 57 (.263) with runners in scoring position including one for eight in Game 7, the Astros overexposed Will Harris as he gave up two huge home runs in Games 6 and 7 and they went 0-4 at Minute Maid Park – losing four games in a row at home for the first time all season.

Were the Astros great this year? Absolutely. Were they the best team in baseball? You can certainly make that argument.

But if Houston are put on the spot and asked after this series if this season was a failure, they can answer with only one word: Yes.

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