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Baker to be introduced today at Nationals Park


Baker to be introduced today at Nationals Park

Dusty Baker will formally be introduced as the sixth manager in Nationals history at 11 a.m., donning a curly W cap and home jersey for the first time during a news conference at Nationals Park. It should be a time of celebration and optimism for the organization, but of course that won't entirely be the case because of the circumstances surrounding this hire.

This isn't simply an event to unveil Baker to the District. It's an opportunity for reporters to ask questions about the entire process that led to this announcement. And with general manager Mike Rizzo sitting alongside Baker at the dais, there figure to be plenty of questions that won't be directed at the new skipper.

Here are just a few of the most significant questions that are likely to be asked during the news conference...

What exactly happened with Bud Black? Rizzo may try to deflect all inquiries about the man who didn't wind up getting the job, but given how much is already out there and the negative light that has been cast upon the Nationals organization, Rizzo would be wise to address the situation. He needs to explain the club's side of this story, how negotiations with Black fell apart and opened the door for Baker to be hired instead.

Why was Baker selected for the job now but wasn't even interviewed two years ago? Baker made no attempt to hide his interest in managing the Nationals the last time they had an opening, but the club showed zero interest in talking to him. If Baker is the right man for the job now, why wasn't he the right man in 2014? Or, at least, why wasn't the club willing to bring him in for an interview?

How has Baker adapted as a manager over the years, and is open to new ideas and new strategies now? The criticism of Baker mostly has to do with a perceived old-fashioned way of running a ballgame. He bunts too often. He doesn't emphasize on-base percentage. He leaves starting pitchers on the mound too long. All of that may well have been true of Baker at earlier points in his managerial career, but is any of it still true? Has he adapted over time and embraced any new-school strategies?

How did the deal with Mike Maddux come about, and will any other members of the new coaching staff be named? The Nationals announced the hiring of Maddux as their new pitching coach late Wednesday afternoon, making a point to say the two sides agreed to terms Tuesday night. USA Today, however, reported the Nats and Maddux already had a deal last week and that he would have been the club's pitching coach no matter who was named manager. So, which is it? And how much say did Baker have in that hire, and how much will he have in the hiring of other coaches?

What are the Nationals' roster priorities this winter? Let's be honest: The new manager won't make much difference if he doesn't have a better roster of players to lead. There are all kinds of questions in that regard, starting with what the organization plans to do with Jonathan Papelbon, Drew Storen and the rest of a bullpen that could require a complete overhaul. Do the Nationals plan to seek upgrades to their lineup or bench? Are they content to go with the rotation as-is, or do they feel the need to go outside the organization to replace Jordan Zimmermann and Doug Fister? There's still a long time for all of this to be sorted out, but the process begins now.

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May the odds be ever in your favor: Vegas sets over/unders for 2018 MLB season

May the odds be ever in your favor: Vegas sets over/unders for 2018 MLB season

The start of spring training is a glimmer of hope during the cold of winter. It means warm weather, cold beers and hot dogs at the ballpark are coming your way.

It's our first chance to get a taste of how our favorite team is shaping up for the 2018 season, and for those who are not quite into just the game itself, betting odds.

CG Technology, a Las Vegas sportsbook operator, has set the 2018 odds for each MLB team.

Specifically, how are things looking for the local teams?


Washington Nationals: 91 1/2 wins

The 2018 season is looked at by many as the last World Series run for some time for the Nationals and their core group of players. Bryce Harper, Daniel Murphy and Gio Gonzalez will become free agents after the 2018 season in addition to general manager and President of Baseball Operations, Mike Rizzo.

In 2017, the team won 97 games and went on to win the NL East, but couldn't make it past the first-round of the National League Division Series. In 2018, Vegas is giving the Nats 7/2 odds of taking the National League title. They are just behind the Chicago Cubs, who knocked them out of contention last season, at 4/1 odds.

As far as winning the World Series, Vegas is giving the guys an 8/1 chance of their first title, tied with the Cubs.

Baltimore Orioles: 77 1/2 wins

The O's finished the 2017 season with 75 wins, which could be considered somewhat of an accomplishment considering their pitching resources.

The same problem will occur in 2018 as the organization hasn't signed any new starting pitchers. Vegas is giving them 50/1 odds of taking the American League title and 100/1 odds of winning the World Series.

The lack of depth in their rotation will come back to bite them as division rival New York Yankees have 5/1 odds of winning the World Series and the Red Sox have 10/1 odds.

A below average season should be expected.

A few other standouts, good and bad, include the Miami Marlins at 500/1 odds of winning the World Series, the Kansas City Royals at 200/1 and current champions, the Houston Astros, at 6/1 odds.


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Former Nationals pitcher Esteban Loaiza arrested with more than 40 pounds of suspected cocaine


Former Nationals pitcher Esteban Loaiza arrested with more than 40 pounds of suspected cocaine

SAN DIEGO — Former All-Star pitcher Esteban Loaiza has been arrested on suspicion of trafficking drugs after packages containing a white powder believed to be cocaine were found at a home he rented in Southern California, officials said Monday.

The 46-year-old former Major League Baseball player was booked Friday on charges involving the possession, transport and sale of 20 kilograms (44 pounds) of suspected cocaine worth an estimated $500,000, according to the San Diego Sheriff's Department.

Loaiza played for numerous teams between 1995 and 2008, starting with the Pittsburgh Pirates and concluding with his second stint with the Chicago White Sox. He had a 21-9 record with the Chicago White Sox in 2003 and started in the All-Star Game that year.


He also played one season for the Washington Nationals in 2005 — the team's inaugural season in D.C. after the franchise changed from the Montreal Expos. During his one season in Washington, Loaiza finished with a 12-10 record adn a 3.77 ERA over 34 games played that year.

It was not immediately known if Loaiza had hired a lawyer and the former player could not be reached to comment. He was being held Monday for lack of $200,000 bail pending a court appearance on Wednesday.

Loaiza's agent, John Boggs, told the San Francisco Chronicle that he had no information about the arrest and that he has not spoken to Loaiza recently. He said that Loaiza had called his office early last week but Boggs was unavailable at the time.

"I am shocked and saddened by the news and had no indication he would ever be in this type of situation," Boggs said in a text to the newspaper. "I don't know how he would get himself involved in this, so it's difficult to even comment on it."

Officers stopped Loaiza for a minor traffic infraction Friday after he left the home he started renting recently in the Pacific coast community of Imperial Beach, along the U.S.-Mexico border. Authorities had the vehicle under surveillance on suspicion it was used for smuggling drugs.

When they searched the vehicle, they found a sophisticated compartment used to conceal contraband, authorities said. That led them to obtain a search warrant for Loaiza's rental home, where they found the packages of drugs, according to investigators.

The packages containing a white powder are still being tested but are believed to be cocaine, said San Diego Sheriff's Lt. Jason Vickery.

Loaiza was born in Tijuana, Mexico and was married for two years to the late Mexican-American singer Jenni Rivera. She filed for divorce shortly before she died in a plane crash in 2012.

The 43-year-old Rivera was known as the "Diva de la Banda" and died as her career was peaking. She was perhaps the most successful female singer in grupero, a male-dominated Mexico regional style, sold more than 15 million records, and moved into acting and reality television.

Loaiza sued the aircraft's owners in 2014 for wrongful death but her relatives accused him of trying to profit from her death. He denied the accusations and later retracted his lawsuit.

NBC Sports Washington contributed to this report.