The Washington Nationals announced on Monday that they have hired Dusty Baker to be the next manager, after firing Matt Williams after the season. This comes five days after the Nats seemingly hired Bud Black to the same position. Baker signed a two-year, $3.5 million contract.
The Nationals’ front office low-balled Black, before ultimately hiring Baker. The biggest question is for what reason? General Manager Mike Rizzo called Black last Wednesday to tell him he was being hired. He also called Baker that week to tell him he was not going to be hired. On Thursday, the Nats offered Black a one-year, $1.6 million contract, which was eventually upped to two years. That is a slap right in Black’s face. The offer is completely disrespectful. Managers need a multi-year deal for job security reasons as well as time to build a team that fit his plan.
Bud Black will manage again in the MLB, somewhere where he will be appreciated and wanted.
As for the signing of Baker, it is a pretty big hire for the Nats. Baker will bring a presence to the clubhouse that will change the atmosphere as dysfunctions doomed the Nats in 2015. He will take command of this team and clean up the locker room nonsense that occurred. This is a team that desperately needs guidance and structure and a manager they can buy into, which wasn’t the case with Williams. Baker is said to be a player’s manager, which will be good for this team. Baker has managed three teams in his managerial career, taking them all to the playoffs. His record as a manager is 1,671-1,504. He also won NL Manager of the Year three times in his career.
While the hire is a quality one for the Nats, there are some questions to be raised about Baker. Each team he took to the playoffs could not close the door and ultimately win the World Series. In 2002, as the San Francisco Giants manager, Baker had his team up three games to two in the World Series against the Anaheim Angels, with a 5-0 lead in the seventh inning of game six. The Angels would come back in that game and eventually win the series. A year later, Baker was at the helm of the Chicago Cubs and saw his team blow a 3-1 series lead in the NLCS to the eventual World Series champion Miami Marlins. In 2012, Baker’s Cincinnati Reds held a 2-0 series lead in the NLDS against Baker’s former squad, the Giants, with the next three games being held in Cincinnati. However, the Reds failed to seal the deal and bowed out of the playoffs. The loss of the series was one of the reasons he was let go.
Another key question will be how much Baker uses his pitching staff. He has been criticized in the past for pitching his pitchers past their limit. This will be something to watch as Baker is now the manager of Stephen Strasburg, who the Nats have shut down in the past due to Tommy John surgery. How much Baker uses Strasburg could affect whether or not Strasburg comes back as he is a free agent after the 2016 season.
Bud Black was low-balled and Dusty Baker was hired. That wasn’t a good look on their part, but got a great manager in the process. Time will tell if Baker can lead this team to a World Series.