The Washington Nationals announced this morning that two of their early 2012 games would be featured on ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball with the Nats' May 6th matchup against the Phillies and their May 26th game against the Braves getting the national spotlight for the first time since their Nationals Park-opening game against Atlanta on March 30, 2008.
The Nats also learned that 23-year-old right-hander and '09 no.1 overall pick Stephen Strasburg had landed 47th overall on a list of GQ's, "50 Most Powerful People in Washington*", with the * = noting it was the Top 50 people after the President and Vice President. The right-handed Nats' starter edged out Bradley Graham and Lissa Muscatine, owners of the bookstore Politics and Prose, who were 50th, restauranteur James Alefantis (49) and Democratic "megalobbyist" (as GQ described him) Jack Quinn (48) and landed just behind former Senator and current MPAA chairman Chris Dodd (46th).
Strasburg was the only D.C.-area athlete to make the list. (Take that, Ovie!!) As the quick write-up notes, "DC's heart swelled for the real-deal phenom with unreal stuff," when he made his debut and their hearts broke when he injured his elbow, but they were willing to, "... let themselves fall in love again," when he returned last season. The games on ESPN and Strasburg's place on GQ's list weren't the biggest stories of the day in NatsTown, it was the reports which followed the Texas Rangers' announcement of a 6-year/$60M dollar deal with 25-year-old now-former-Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters' right-hander Yu Darvish...
As FOXSports.com's Jon Morosi (@JonMorosi) wrote on Twitter tonight, though the Rangers haven't said they're out on Prince Fielder, a source he talked to said, "Prince Fielder’s price tag must come way down for #Rangers to afford him." In a follow-up tweet the FOXSports.com reporter wrote that, "Sources say Rangers unlikely to outbid #Nationals for Prince Fielder," though he warned that, "... as I wrote earlier this week, Texas has surprised us before." Ft. Worth Star-Telegram baseball writer Jeff Wilson (@JeffWilson_FWST) wrote on Twitter tonight that Rangers' GM Jon Daniels said, "'It's very unlikely,'" when asked if Texas would add Fielder in addition to Darvish, telling reporters, "'I don't expect that we'll do anything big the rest of the off-season.'"
Anything said by any team executive must be taken for what it's worth, of course, but the prevailing sentiment out there right now is that the Texas Rangers aren't going to go big for Fielder after today's big deal with Darvish. In an appearance on the MLB Network "Hot Stove" show, CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman said the Rangers, "... are definitely still in the market for [Fielder], and definitely still interested, but they would have been a huge player had they not been able to sign Darvish." Mr. Heyman put the Nationals and Orioles in the market for Fielder with the Rangers, while acknowledging that other teams could get involved.
Dallas Morning News' baseball writer Evan Grant wrote before the Darvish deal was announced, in an article entitled, "Rangers remain interested in Prince Fielder, but only in 'creative' deal", that a source told him, "... that the team would not rule out Fielder, but that any flexibility to negotiate would likely be eliminated by the Darvish signing." MLB.com's Rangers' beat writer T.R. Sullivan talked to Texas' GM Jon Daniels "off camera" as he wrote in a blog post tonight entitled, "Daniels on Fielder", and the Rangers' general manager said, "'I’m intimately aware of our budget and it’s very unlikely,'" that the Rangers will target Fielder now that the Darvish deal is done.
Will Fielder's agent Scott Boras now steer another top free agent to the nation's capital? Can the Nationals now get the 27-year-old slugger on the sort of deal Washington wants? Does anyone really believe the Rangers are out? Until Fielder signs somewhere, it's not safe to rule anything out. But it Texas is now really out of the mix, the Nationals might have hung around long enough to get the opportunity to add a big middle-of-the-order bat to the Nats' already-competitive lineup...