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Zimmerman leads Nats not with words but example

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Zimmerman leads Nats not with words but example

Ryan Zimmerman is the last guy in the Nationals clubhouse who is going to gather his teammates together and offer an impassioned plea for better play on the field. There isn't an ounce of cheerleader in the man's body. Never has been, never will be.

Which doesn't mean Zimmerman can't still be a leader of this ballclub. Leaders come in different shapes and sizes and personalities. Some lead with their words. Some lead with the example they set, both on and off the field.

And nobody has set a better example for others in the 10-year history of the Nationals than the guy who was the organization's first-ever draft pick upon arriving in the District.

Has Zimmerman ever been criticized for lack of hustle? For not putting his team ahead of his own personal benefit? For passing blame onto others? For giving anything less than his best?

His career might be considered by some a disappointment, but that's a result solely of the injuries he has suffered over the last decade, most notably a right shoulder that hasn't been 100 percent since maybe 2009 and led to his well-publicized throwing woes at third base.

All those injuries, especially in recent years, have made us forget at times a significant point: Ryan Zimmerman, when healthy, is an awfully good baseball player.

Consider his average career stats over a 162-game season: A .282 batting average, 25 homers, 97 RBI, 91 runs scored, a .348 on-base percentage, .473 slugging percentage and .821 OPS. There are 11 full-time third basemen in the Hall of Fame. Only five had a career OPS higher than Zimmerman. Only three had a higher slugging percentage.

Now, this isn't to suggest Zimmerman is going to wind up in Cooperstown some day. He won't play enough games in his career to merit serious consideration, and his defense at third base (once legendary) deteriorated to the point it was a severe black mark on his record. He may prove to be a very good first baseman over the remainder of his career, but his offensive numbers won't look as impressive on that side of the diamond as they did on the other.

This is only to serve as a reminder just how good a player Zimmerman is when he's able to play. And boy has he been showing it over the last few weeks.

Wednesday night's game in St. Louis was merely the culmination of a red-hot streak at the plate for Zimmerman. He launched two homers, including the 200th of his career, which happened to come on the 10th anniversary of his first career hit. He also drove in the winning run with an RBI double to right. In fact, all three of the runs he drove in during this game gave the Nationals the lead.

Over his last 10 games, Zimmerman is hitting .359 with seven homers, 19 RBI and a 1.346 OPS. How good is that? Well, do you remember his torrid stretch in 2012 after receiving a cortisone shot in his ailing shoulder? During his best 10-game stretch that summer, he hit .370 with four homers, 16 RBI and a 1.147 OPS. This stretch has been better.

And boy have the Nationals needed this one, especially Wednesday night. That was yet another game that was slipping from their grasp, but Zimmerman did everything he could to seize control right back.

That's leadership. When his team needed him most, he stepped up and delivered.

Not with his words. But with his performance on the field and the example he has always set off it.

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It's Day 1 of spring training and Bryce Harper is already done taking questions regarding his future

It's Day 1 of spring training and Bryce Harper is already done taking questions regarding his future

So if you have not heard, Bryce Harper is going to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2018 season.

All off-season talking heads, baseball aficionados, radio hosts, etc. were speculating on where the outfielder’s destination will be next year.

And we are still a year away from it actually happening.

RELATED: VEGAS SETS OVER/UNDERS FOR 2018 MLB SEASON

Reporting to spring training on Monday, Harper did not waste any time telling the media how his press conferences were going to play out this season.

“If guys do [ask], or talk anything about that, I will be walking right out the door.”

Entering his seventh season with the Washington Nationals, the 25-year-old is coming off the second-best season, statistically, of his career. The 2015 NL MVP has hit .285 in his career, with 150 home runs and 421 RBIs. Unquestionably he is the face of the Nationals’ organization, if not, the best player in the team’s history.

If he does end the season without a contract extension, he will join Rafael Palmeiro, Alex Rodriguez, Randy Johnson, and Barry Bonds as the top sought out free agents in MLB history.

One thing is for certain in terms of Harper’s free agency; Harper has given no inclination on where his landing spot will be.  The top three cities are of course his favorite childhood team, the New York Yankees; joining with one of his closest friends with the Chicago Cubs; or just staying with Washington.

Wherever he does land, it does appear that it will be the largest contract given to a free agent ever.

As for now we just wait and direct any of your calls to his agent Scott Boras.

READ ALSO: NATIONALS FULL SPRING TRAINING SCHEDULE

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Nationals Spring Training Schedule 2018

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Nationals Spring Training Schedule 2018

Now that pitchers and catchers have reported, the next step in our long journey to Opening Day is the spring training games themselves. Not every game is televised, so get ready to follow along with your favorite beat writer's Twitter account for all your updates.

Even without getting to watch the games, it'll still be exciting to once again check box scores in the morning to see if Bryce Harper homered again, or if Max Scherzer is perfect through 4 innings (spoiler: both of these will happen).

This year's spring training will be especially interesting, considering how many big-name players will be signing contracts in the next few weeks. The Nats are always willing to make a big splash, and even beyond the available free agents, have been linked to impact players like J.T. Realmuto in trade rumors.

Typically, the excitement of adding a new piece to the roster has to be reignited after a long winter off, but this season, those additions will be happening while camp is already underway.

It's going to be a hectic few weeks as teams prepare for their seasons, so bookmark this page to check on the Nationals spring training schedule over the next few weeks as the team finally takes the field in 2018.

Nationals 2018 Spring Training Schedule

Friday, Feb. 23 - Nationals at Astros, 1:05 pm (MLBN)
Saturday, Feb. 24 - Nationals at Marlins, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Feb. 25 - Braves at Nationals, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Monday, Feb. 26 - Nationals at Braves, 1:05 pm
Tuesday, Feb. 27 - Marlins at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Wednesday, Feb. 28 - Nationals at Marlins, 1:05 pm
Thursday, Mar. 1 (SS) - Nationals at Braves, 1:05 pm
Friday, Mar. 2 (SS) - Nationals at Mets, 1:10 pm
Saturday, Mar. 3 - Nationals at Astros, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 4 (SS) - Tigers at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 4 (SS) - Nationals at Mets, 1:10 pm
Monday, Mar. 5 - Nationals at Cardinals, 1:05 pm
Tuesday, Mar. 6 (SS) - Astros at Nationals, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Wednesday, Mar. 7 - Nationals at Cardinals, 1:05 pm
Thursday, Mar. 8 - Mets at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Saturday, Mar. 10 - Nationals at Astros, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 11 - Cardinals at Nationals, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Monday, Mar. 12 - Nationals at Tigers, 1:05 pm (MLBN)
Tuesday, Mar. 13 (SS) - Mets at Nationals, 7:05 pm (MLBN) (MASN)
Thursday, Mar. 15 - Astros at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Friday, Mar. 16 (SS) - Cardinals at Nationals, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Saturday, Mar. 17 - Mets at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 18 - Nationals at Cardinals, 1:05 pm
Monday, Mar. 19 - Nationals at Marlins, 1:05 pm
Tuesday, Mar. 20 - Marlins at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Wednesday, Mar. 21 - Astros at Nationals, 1:05 pm (ESPN2) (MASN)
Thursday, Mar. 22 - Nationals at Mets, 6:10 pm
Friday, Mar. 23 (SS) - Astros at Nationals, 6:05 pm (MASN)
Friday, Mar. 23 - Nationals at Marlins, 7:05 pm
Saturday, Mar. 24 - Marlins at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 25 - Cardinals at Nationals, 1:05 pm (MLBN)
Tuesday, Mar. 27 (at Nationals Park) - Twins at Nationals, 4:05 pm