In the on-deck circle

The similarities are a bit eerie.

The Nationals led Game 5 of the National League Division Series 6-0 after three innings only to see their offense go silent. Their opponent, the visiting St. Louis Cardinals, chipped away and eventually left D.C. fans heartbroken.

The Redskins led the NFC wild card game 14-0 after one quarter only to see their offense completely shut down. Their opponent, the visiting Seattle Seahawks, chipped away and eventually left D.C. fans to deal with another stunning postseason defeat.

As special a year as this was for sports teams in the nation’s capital, with both the Nats and Skins rising from longstanding mediocrity (that’s putting it nicely) to finally win their respective divisions, the way that each team got knocked from the playoffs added another layer to the disappointment that fans in the district have experienced in the last decade.

As if Drew Storen’s ninth-inning disaster in Game 5 of the NLDS wasn’t enough, less than three months later, we had to watch Robert Griffin III crumpled to the turf in pain as the shot at a home playoff win slipped away.

Both teams hold great promise for the future, especially if RGIII’s knee can stop bending in such gruesome ways and Stephen Strasburg’s right elbow can remain intact. And that’s something in which fans should take comfort.

For now, however, we can turn to baseball.

The Capitals will be back in action sometime in the next couple of weeks thanks to the NHL’s new labor agreement and college basketball will continue to heat up over the next two months. But with around five weeks until pitchers and catchers report to spring training, baseball is now in the on-deck circle.

Over the next few weeks, teams and arbitration-eligible players will start exchanging figures and discussing contracts for the 2013 season. If a deal is not able to be reached through the negotiating process, then the two sides will take part in arbitration hearings, which take place in February.

Here’s a reminder of the Nationals’ arbitration-eligible players this year: Roger Bernadina, Tyler Clippard, Ian Desmond, Ross Detwiler, Craig Stammen, Storen and Jordan Zimmermann.

Zimmermann and Clippard figure to earn the largest contracts of that bunch because they’ve already been through the arbitration process once. Players’ contracts usually rise through arbitration each season, and with Zimmermann and Clippard both coming off very strong 2012 campaigns, we’ll see them get a nice boost for 2013.

Outside of the arbitration negotiations and the lingering free agent questions (we’re looking at you, Mr. LaRoche), the offseason is starting to wind down.

Spring training is getting closer, and with the Redskins’ playoff run now at an end, there’s even less separating Nats fans from the start of baseball in 2013.

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