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LaRoche free to talk to other clubs Saturday

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LaRoche free to talk to other clubs Saturday

When Miguel Cabrera took a Sergio Romo fastball down the heart of the strike zone late last night, the 2012 Major League Baseball season came to an end. And the Hot Stove League immediately commenced.

While the Giants are busy celebrating and the Tigers are busy moping, everyone else around the sport is preparing for the official start of the offseason, with some important decisions that will need to be made right off the bat.

All eligible players become free agents this morning, a group that will include Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche, right-hander Edwin Jackson, left-handers Sean Burnett, Michael Gonzalez and Zach Duke and utilityman Mark DeRosa.

Though they'll technically be free agents right away, those players won't have the right to negotiate with other clubs until five full days have passed. Thus, the Nationals have until Saturday morning to exclusively negotiate with their free agents.

That creates a potentially limited window of opportunity to re-sign key players, most notably LaRoche. The 32-year-old first baseman (who will decline the $10 million mutual option on his contract) has already been in discussions with the Nationals since season's end and there is hope on both sides of a multi-year deal.

Though there will be incentive on the Nationals' part to strike an agreement this week, LaRoche may be tempted to test the market and see how other offers compare, though he can still re-sign with Washington after Saturday.

The Nationals aren't expected to make a serious push to re-sign Jackson, who will be seeking a multi-year deal after going 10-11 with a 4.03 ERA this season.

The situation with Burnett could be more complicated. There's a $3.5 million mutual option for 2013, but the left-hander is expected to decline it and seek a multi-year deal. The Nationals could be reluctant to offer a long-term commitment to the 30-year-old, who had surgery after the season to remove a bone chip in his elbow.

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Nationals' Dusty Baker thinks Washington teams are positioned to win a championship this year

Nationals' Dusty Baker thinks Washington teams are positioned to win a championship this year

Nationals manager Dusty Baker is back for a second year and feeling optimistic for his Washington team. Spring training has begun in Florida and it has Baker thinking about how the Nats can create some excitement for local sports fans.

In an interview with American University’s WAMU radio station, Baker said D.C. wants to be a "city of champions.” Furthermore, he thinks it can be pulled off before the year ends.

"I came here to win a championship and you know I would love nothing more than to bring one to Washington. Washington, I didn’t know it before I got there, but it’s had a tough time getting out of the first round in a number of sports."

He projected the Nationals to bring home the next championship for the District, but he knows they have competition of late. 

"Washington Wizards are looking pretty good. I’m pulling for them first because their season ends before ours, so I’ve been really following them. The Capitals have a good thing going. I started watching the Redskins more this year.

"You know once it gets contagious in a city and you get a positive attitude throughout the city, then it transfers to the sports teams. So we want to be known as a city of champions, before the end of the year hopefully."

Baker has a reputation for bringing out the best in his teams, especially managing star players. He managed the San Francisco Giants for ten seasons before moving on to the Chicago Cubs, a team he managed for four seasons.

He's never won a World Series, but has taken a team to Game 7. He also finished third for the 2016 National League Manager of the Year award.

So, what are Baker’s steps for the Nationals to get that ultimate prize? A simple formula, really.

"I think that we’ve got to stay healthy, number one. We’re trying to fill the holes that we need to fill, and we’ve got to play," he said. "You know last year we were very close, we were one hit away or one play away or one pitch away from going to the next round against the Cubs."

While he says he came to win Washington a championship, he's also enjoying his time in the city. 

"I love D.C. Before that, San Francisco was my favorite town; that’s my home. But I tell you, D.C. is definitely in the running," he said. "I thought San Francisco had the best seafood, but man, you guys have the best seafood I think in the world."

Thanks, Dusty!

The Nationals play their first spring training game against the New York mets on Saturday.

RELATED: NATIONALS REGULAR SEASON SCHEDULE

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Former Nationals outfielder admits to drinking vodka before MLB games

Former Nationals outfielder admits to drinking vodka before MLB games

When it comes to sports, we sometimes forget that the athletes we look up to are just normal people. Normal people who have a lot to prove to millions of people on a weekly basis. Former Nationals outfielder Rick Ankiel has discussed one of his human moments in an interview with 590 The Fan in St. Louis.

Ankiel admitted to drinking vodka during his plight as a pitcher. He referenced his first two starts of the 2001 season, in particular against the Arizona Diamondbacks where he allowed his anxiety to give in to alcohol to soothe him. In the previous postseason, he became the first pitcher since 1980 to throw five wild pitches in a single inning. 

It may have worked for a couple of games but Ankiel eventually realized it was only making matters worse.

Ankiel began playing in Majors at the age of 19, and has had a fluctuating career through six teams. All the while, he has kept a “never give up” mentality.

Why the sudden need to vent? Ankiel is getting up close and personal with his upcoming book, “The Phenomenon: Pressure, the Yips, and the Pitch that Changed my Life” which is co-written by sports writer Tim Brown. The book will be released on April 18.  

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