The contentious relationship between Juan Soto and the Washington Nationals continues to sour.
Less than 24-hours before Soto hoisted the 2022 Home Run Derby trophy at Dodger Stadium on Monday night, the 23-year-old outfielder was waiting in an airport for a commercial flight, all because the Nationals refused to charter a flight for Soto to Los Angeles, days after he rejected a record 15-year, $440 million contract extension.
Soto’s agent, Scott Boras, confirmed to USA TODAY Sports’ Bob Nightengale that Soto arrived in Los Angeles early Monday morning following the Nationals’ game against the Atlanta Braves in Washington, D.C. on Sunday. The Braves chartered a plane to Los Angeles for their players. The Nationals did not.
“The Atlanta Braves arrived (in Los Angeles) five hours earlier than Juan Soto did,” Boras told Sports Illustrated. “You know why? Because their team chartered a plane. Juan Soto had to fly on a commercial flight and wait in an airport for two hours and get here at 1:30 in the morning and have to compete in the Home Run Derby. And that’s something that Major League Baseball did not take care of and that’s something that the Washington Nationals did not take care of.”
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The traveling delay didn’t appear to have an effect on Soto. He went on to win the 2022 Home Run Derby, topping 21-year-old Seattle Mariners phenom Julio Rodriguez in the final.
But much of the night’s attention focused on Soto’s future after the Nationals expressed a willingness to trade him after the outfielder rejected their contract extension.
Soto made it clear that he was angry and frustrated at the Nationals’ decision to leak his contract negotiations, while he openly wonders why they had an about-face after saying he wouldn’t be traded a month ago.
“A couple weeks ago they were saying they will never trade me,” Soto said. “And now all these things come out. It feels really uncomfortable. You don’t know what to trust.”
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Oakland Athletics’ All-Star pitcher Paul Blackburn found himself in a similar situation. He planned to fly commercial to Los Angeles following the Athletics’ game against the Astros in Houston on Sunday. But the Astros offered Blackburn a ride.
“It was fun. I felt like they made me feel very welcomed and comfortable,” Blackburn said in a video shared on Twitter by Fox’s Mark Berman. “We had some good conversations, some good laughs. It was fun. It was a good time.”
Blackburn continued: “It’s awesome. It just kind of shows that, within baseball, it’s kind of like a brotherhood. Everyone respects each other and tries to help each other out. I’m greatly appreciative for their organization and letting me tag along over here.”
Contributing: Bob Nightengale from Los Angeles
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