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Three days before the end of the regular season and 90 minutes before game time, Dusty Baker sits in his office at Nationals Park and does what Dusty Baker does.He shoots the breeze with an old friend named George Santiago, whos in town visiting. Theres always an old friend in town. He engages in perfect conversational Spanish with a member of the kitchen staff who pops in to deliver some news about lunch (its a day game). He picks up the phone and starts tapping away -- a text message to his daughter, Natosha, whose birthday is today.Its easy to remember how old she is, says Baker, as music flows out of the Bose receiver on his desk. Im 67, Natoshas 37 and Darrens 17. I always know their age, ya know what I mean?The story hes trying to sell is that the sevens matter, that because of some fortuitous mathematical coincidence, hes able to remember how old two of the most important people in his life are. The truth? Baker remembers everything about everyone because he listens. To everyone.He takes pride in coming in and getting to know every single player, says reliever Blake Treinen. Hes just real attentive, and he holds onto a lot of the little details. Thats a special quality.With Treinen, an outdoorsman who makes his home in Walla Walla, Washington, Baker talks fishing. With first baseman Ryan Zimmerman, a UVA grad who leans toward the epicurean, Baker talks wine. With pitcher Shawn Kelley, a father of two young boys, Baker talks family. Of course, it helps that Baker A) spends his offseasons fishing with a Cheyenne chief in Montana, B) owns a winery and C) has two kids of his own.He definitely hears you, says Kelley, a 32-year veteran who played for seven different skippers in seven seasons prior to landing with Baker in Washington this year. He doesnt just talk to talk because hes the manager. He genuinely cares.Like a doting parent, Baker, a self-proclaimed foodie, often conveys that care by feeding. During a June home series against the vaunted Chicago Cubs, whod swept the Nationals at Wrigley Field earlier in the season, Kelley walked into the clubhouse one afternoon to discover a box of food on the chair in front of his locker. He opened it up to find a heaping portion of shepherds pie, then glanced around the room in search of clues. Finding none, he walked into Bakers office. Skip, did you mean to leave me some food? the reliever asked. Baker nodded his head. We need to out-Irish the Cubs, said the manager, whod picked up the pie at Extra Perks, a British café he frequents in Northern Virginia. Kelley, who is of Irish descent, proceeded to crush the casserole, then went out and -- subbing for injured closer Jonathan Papelbon -- recorded his first save of the season in a 4-1 Washington win. Things like that are not normal in other locker rooms, Kelley says.Even when the Nats are away, Baker has a knack for making his players feel right at home. In late August, his club was in Philadelphia, finishing up a brutal stretch of 20 games in 20 days. On the way to the park one day, Baker stopped at the infamous Reading Terminal Market and purchased a couple of choice-cut steaks from one of the Amish stands. When he arrived in the visitors clubhouse, he walked right up to center fielder Trea Turner and third baseman Anthony Rendon -- the only two players who appeared in each of those 20 contests -- and handed them the steaks. After the game, which the Nats won (they swept the Philly series), the two players sat in the clubhouse dining room and feasted.Hes very personal, and thats why hes good, Turner says. Its not just all about baseball with him. Hes very, very thoughtful. You can get so caught up in just getting to the field each day or whatever it may be in your daily life. But he takes the time to get those gifts, and he shares them with everybody.Truth be told, oftentimes those gifts are actually re-gifts. Like the signed Tony Perez ball and the bottle of Orlando Cepeda wine that Baker gave to Zimmerman just last week.I read this book that said that usually people that are friendly have a lot of friends, and people that are generous, people are generous back to you, Baker says. People give me stuff. They give me food, they give me wine, and what am I gonna do, hoard it all?Hes so anti-hoarding that Jayson Werth jokingly calls him Santa Claus. Hes just a warm guy, the veteran outfielder says. Hes generous. That kind of sets up the whole place. You walk into the room on the first day of spring training, and the biggest thing you notice is how inviting and warm it is. Thats what sets him apart.Another thing that sets him apart? Winning. Now in his 21st season as a big league manager, Baker has 1,766 career wins, good for second most among active skippers and 17th all time. In fact, of the 23 managers whove been inducted into the Hall of Fame, nearly half of them (11) have fewer victories than Baker. During his first season in DC, he took a disappointing Nationals team that finished 83-79 a year ago and turned them into a 95-win squad, furthering his reputation as a turnaround technician: At four different stops during his managerial career -- San Francisco, Chicago, Cincinnati and now Washington -- his teams have improved by an average of 16 wins in their first season with him at the helm. All of which begs the following question: Do Bakers warm and fuzzy ways create winning teams, or merely accompany them?Absolutely it makes a difference, says pitching coach Mike Maddux, a 14-year veteran whos in his first season working with Baker. Everybody knows that hes in their foxhole. Thats big support right there. Knowing that youre not being judged on this pitch or this swing. Its your body of work, man. Hey, youre one of my guys. Youre gonna play, youre gonna pitch. One bad swing or one bad pitch isnt gonna change anything. Youre at ease.You know when something goes down, hes going to have your back, Kelley says. Hes fighting for you, and rooting for you. There are managers where you dont get that feeling. You get a feeling like theyre there for themselves, and they manage for themselves. Dustys there for this organization and everybody to do one thing, and thats just to win. When you have that bond, that respect, that communication, it allows you to go out and play more relaxed. When times are good, theyre really good. When you go the other way and you lose a few, theres that sense of relaxed calmness, that hey, were OK, just keep fighting, keep doing your thing, were good.But that wasnt always the case with Baker.Earlier on, this game wore on him, says bench coach Chris Speier, who also served under Baker in Chicago and Cincinnati. This time around, he just seems a lot happier and a lot more at peace. And he doesnt take defeat, doesnt take losses, doesnt take down times as hard as he used to.Baker agrees that he has mellowed in recent years. Thanks to multiple health scares -- he was diagnosed with prostate cancer 14 years ago and suffered a mini-stroke five years ago -- he doesnt sweat the small stuff.I took everything personally because I hate to lose so much that it would eat me up inside or eat me up at night, says Baker, who celebrated his 67th birthday in June. I had to chill out. I love this game, I love what Im doing, but aint nothing worth taking me outta here.Theres nothing worth taking him out of games, either. Among managers who were with their teams the entire 2016 season, Baker is the only one who wasnt ejected. In fact, he hasnt been tossed since 2011 and has just 20 career ejections in 21 seasons. Compare that to Giants skipper Bruce Bochy, who has managed one more year than Baker but has over three times as many heave-hos on his résumé (61).Its hard to get tossed nowadays because you got replay, says Baker, dismissing the notion that his ability to stay in games is directly correlated to his ability to get along with people (and yes, umpires are people, too). Instead, it has more to do with his cost/benefit analysis. No. 1, I gotta stick around and manage the game, and I dont think that me hollering and screaming is gonna charge the team up. And No. 2, from a guy who had a stroke, Im not gonna let anybody get me to that point where my blood pressure gets that high because I can get real mad.Dusty Baker, mad? The guy who dances during batting practice, routinely praises reporters when they ask a good question and gifts his players on their birthday by leaving a bottle of wine from his own vineyard in their locker? If you think the Kris Kringle of coaching doesnt get worked up, think again.Back in spring training, when his Nationals were just starting out on their quest for a National League East crown, Baker sat in the dugout and smiled, watching as his team stretched out prior to a Grapefruit League game. When it occurred to him that Michael Taylor was missing because he was off to the side signing something for an usher, Bakers faced turned to stone and he barked at the outfielder, dropping an F-bomb in the process. Seven months later, pennant in hand, he sat in front of a room full of reporters and once again showed his dark side.The question was about Dave Roberts, the Dodgers rookie manager. Like Baker, Roberts is a former LA outfielder. Like Baker, Roberts is African-American. In fact, theyre the only two black managers in the game today.Hes where I was 20 years ago, Baker said benignly enough. Im happy for him, big time. I know him, but I really dont know him. I know him from across the field, and I know him from one of my players, Rich Aurilia. He and Rich Aurilia are wine owners, like I am. They dont grow grapes, but we both make wine. Hes always a pleasant guy; hes a very bright, young man.Then Baker paused ever so briefly, and turned cold.But hes in the way.Roberts is in the way of the one thing that has somehow managed to elude Baker during his long and illustrious career. He has won a World Series as a player. He has been an All-Star. He has been a Gold Glove winner and a Silver Slugger winner. Hes a three-time Manager of the Year. But he has never won a ring as a manager. Despite seven playoff appearances in 20 seasons, he has never guided his team to a World Series title. Its the reason why last November, after two years away from the game, he signed on for a two-year term in D.C.Sitting in his office three days before the end of the regular season, 90 minutes before game time, and a week before the start of the playoffs, he ponders the possibility of going all the way. Not just this year, but next year, too.Thats why I came back here, he says. For the two things thats missing. Two rings.On the one hand, he sounds a little greedy. On the other hand, if he wins them, hell be probably just turn right around and give them away. Authentic Derrick Nnadi Jersey . Numbers Game looks into the Canadiens securing the services of Thomas Vanek in a trade with the New York Islanders. The Canadiens Get: LW Thomas Vanek and a conditional fifth-round pick. Authentic Kahlil McKenzie Jersey . LeBron James and Chris Bosh didnt need any more. 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Little says hes convinced the team has the talent it needs to succeed and likes what the off-season addition of forwards Michael Frolik and Devon Setoguchi does to the offence. "At the end of the day thats what we want," Little said of making the Jets into a playoff contender. "If I felt the team was going to struggle for five more years, I wouldnt have signed that deal." The 25-year-old is a member of Winnipegs top line with captain Andrew Ladd and Blake Wheeler. Little, who avoided arbitration by signingg the deal, had seven goals and 25 assists in 48 games last season.dddddddddddd In 404 games with the franchise, the 12th overall pick in the 2006 NHL draft has 99 goals and 128 assists. The Jets still need to come to terms with Wheeler, who has also filed for arbitration. "Hopeful Wheeler can get something similar because we really enjoy playing together," Little said on a conference call. 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