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Black, Baker in D.C. for second round of interviews

Oct 26, 2015, 12:49 PM EDT

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The Nationals’ ongoing search for a new manager reached its second stage Monday, with presumed finalists Bud Black and Dusty Baker in town for follow-up interviews with the organization, according to a source familiar with the process.

Black and Baker, both experienced big-league managers, appear to have separated themselves from a larger pool of at least eight initial candidates who met with Nationals officials over the last two weeks seeking the job. That pool included former Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, Giants bench coach Ron Wotus, Dodgers bench coach Tim Wallach, Diamondbacks third base coach Andy Green, Diamondbacks Class AAA manager Phil Nevin and former major-league infielder Alex Cora, according to multiple sources.

The Nationals could still decide to meet with another new candidate or two, most notably Cubs bench coach Dave Martinez (whose team was just eliminated from the postseason on Wednesday), but they appear to have zeroed in on Black and Baker as top finalists to replace Matt Williams.

ESPN.com was first to report Monday’s planned interviews with Black and Baker.

Each candidate fits general manager Mike Rizzo’s stated preference for a new skipper with prior experience, each having won NL Manager of the Year honors in the past while establishing a reputation for communicating well with players.

Black, 58, spent the last nine seasons managing the Padres, compiling a 649-713 record and winning his lone Manager of the Year Award in 2010. A left-hander who posted a 121-116 record and 3.84 ERA in 15 major-league seasons with five franchises in the 1980s and early ’90s, he served as pitching coach for the Angels (including during their 2002 championship season) before becoming San Diego’s manager in 2007.

Black, a native of Longview, Wash., was highly regarded during his near-decade with the Padres despite zero postseason appearances and only two winning seasons. His firing on June 15 with San Diego’s record at 32-33 was viewed throughout baseball as more of an indictment of the new front office’s failed attempt to build an instant winner through dramatic roster changes than of Black’s actual managerial performance.

Baker, 66, has 20 years of big-league managing experience with the Giants, Cubs and Reds, having guided all three franchises to the postseason and the 2002 Giants to the World Series (where they lost to the Angels team that employed Black). The former major-league outfielder won three NL Manager of the Year awards with San Francisco (1993, 1997, 2000) and owns a 1,671-1,504 overall record.

Fired by the Reds after losing the 2013 NL Wild Card Game to the Pirates, Baker has been out of baseball the last two seasons but has sought multiple managerial openings, including the Nationals’ job after Davey Johnson’s retirement. The Nats didn’t interview him that time, ultimately selecting Williams off Arizona’s coaching staff, but included him in the process this time and appear to have been impressed with the California native.

Unless they decide to add more candidates to the mix, the Nationals figure to make their decision later this week. An official announcement, though, is unlikely until next week at the earliest, with MLB strongly discouraging clubs from making news during the World Series.

  1. Doc - Oct 26, 2015 at 1:13 PM

    My vote has always been for Black, even before he was interviewed.

    It was primarily a pitching issue last year, and it will continue to be a priority in ’16. The Nats’ main competition in the coming years is the Mets and their stacked rotation. I think that a guy like Black will be up to the challenge.

  2. jd - Oct 26, 2015 at 1:32 PM

    1st of all I think both Baker and Black are massive upgrades over MW. Having said that I am a little dissapointed that Rizzo is going the safe route rather than really going for it. I think the issue with MW wasn’t a lack of experience, it was a lack of competence. I think candidates like Wotus, Cora, Nevin, Martinez and Green would have been really interesting.

    Having said that I don’t think either Black or Baker will lose games for us.

    • natsguy - Oct 26, 2015 at 2:01 PM

      I totally agree with you.

    • natsguy - Oct 26, 2015 at 2:02 PM

      I think Wotus or Martinez might have been pretty good choices. What do I know, I wasn’t there.

  3. coolhandbane - Oct 26, 2015 at 1:51 PM

    My vote has been Bud Black. As most of you know and have said, pitching failed us this past season. Bud Black can help with our pitching along with his potential staff.

  4. ehay2k - Oct 26, 2015 at 2:44 PM

    Baker vs. Black is an interesting comparison when you consider their impact on pitching staffs. With young arms coming up from the farm system, Baker scares me a little, in a Rob Dibble “man up ” kind of way. Can Baker handle a pitching staff in a way that doesn’t kill their arms?

    Black, on the other hand, is known as a very good pitching manager, but perhaps not the best offensive mind in the game. But this year, the pitching was more of an issue than hitting, in my mind. So, put my money on Black and let it ride!

    • adcwonk - Oct 26, 2015 at 2:54 PM

      Can Baker handle a pitching staff in a way that doesn’t kill their arms?

      What has his past record, and Black’s record in this matter, been in this regard?

      • jd - Oct 26, 2015 at 2:59 PM

        Baker’s not so good (Wood and Prior). Black probably OK based on his pitching background.

      • trfwans - Oct 26, 2015 at 6:26 PM

        Wood and Prior were over a decade ago, and wasn’t Wood mostly on Riggleman’s watch? And how many young arms did Dusty Baker destroy in his six years with the Reds?

      • Dave - Oct 27, 2015 at 1:19 PM

        That’s a good point, trfwans. I’ve thought about this myself a good deal lately. And I know the prevailing narrative about Dusty is that he “killed some young pitchers,” but he was at Cincinnati a long time, and I don’t recall hearing any such stories while he was there.

    • Doc - Oct 26, 2015 at 3:18 PM

      Bud for manager, Davey for hitting coach–just kidding about Davey; he would not be the least interested in that role.

  5. Joe Seamhead - Oct 26, 2015 at 3:14 PM

    I think that Dusty Baker would be a ton of fun.

    • jd - Oct 26, 2015 at 3:17 PM

      He might be. He will also make all those pining for small ball happy. He loves to sacrifice.

  6. JayB - Oct 26, 2015 at 3:17 PM

    I do not think Rizzo has too much input on this decision in reality. Lerners are not the type of people who allow someone to make them look like fools twice. Rizzo put his neck on the line and then handed them the ax when he would not act after last years playoff show of incompetence by MW. Ted Lerner is making the call on both what they are looking for and who is going to get the job.

    • TimDz - Oct 26, 2015 at 3:58 PM

      And….your sources are__________?

      • JayB - Oct 26, 2015 at 4:46 PM

        10 years of watching this team in my source……I am not always right by any means….but I have been spot on on many of these items and the facts have shown that….recall your type on this board were saying all summer that I could not know that MW lost the clubhouse…..sure it is best to be in the room but nobody her or in the media is so we are left to watching….I saw players ignore MW and roll their eyes when he came out to the mound……I was right about all that by looking for things that matter.

      • trfwans - Oct 26, 2015 at 6:30 PM

        It has been reported that the Lerners are involved in the manager search this time, as they should be. Looks like they have directed Rizzo to bring his top two experienced candidates before the “Board of Directors” and make his case for each of them. Ultimately the Lerners will make the pick, or at least ratify it. As they should.

  7. tcostant - Oct 26, 2015 at 3:42 PM

    My first choice was Gardenhire, but I’m fine with Bud Black. Just glad Cal was ignored (again). P.S. If you want to manage, go manage a Double A team (no doubt a lot of teams would give him that chance) and then try again in a few years.

  8. langleyclub - Oct 26, 2015 at 3:55 PM

    Really hope that Black is the choice over Baker, if it’s down to those two. Talk to Reds’ fans about Dusty, and he made a lot of curious moves in Cincy, and like MW, managing a pitching staff is not strength of Baker’s either. Also, Baker is 66. Have heard him a few times on the radio this past season, and seemed not as sharp as he once was.

    I fine with Bud Black, but would’ve been happy with Martinez or Wotus too. If the Nats do hire Black, would think that the Nats would want his input about building the bullpen. Black was the pitching coach for the Angels when they won the 2002 W-S. In 2007, Black replaced Bruce Bochy, and the Padres actually had a slightly better record than the Padres had the year before under Bochy, but the Padres lost a one game playoff to the Rockies when the Rockies won something like 17 out 18 leading up the W-S.

    BTW, Black’s daughter went to U of MD; so, he is familiar with the area.

  9. veejh - Oct 26, 2015 at 3:56 PM

    Does anyone think the front office feels rushed on this move because of the Dodgers vacancy?

  10. NatsNut - Oct 26, 2015 at 3:59 PM

    Makes me wonder if either Dusty wasn’t that great a mentor or if MW just didn’t learn very well. Oh well. Hoping for the best either way.

    By Bill Ladson / MLB.com | November 6th, 2013
    WASHINGTON — During his introductory news conference last week, manager Matt Williams cited Dusty Baker — his hitting coach from 1989-92 and manager from 1993-96 — as his mentor, saying that Baker taught him how to be a professional hitter and that he considers him a great friend.

    “I spent hours and hours in the cage with him,” Williams said. “We talk often. In that respect, I try to take a little from Dusty in that he is the ultimate player’s manager. He communicates so well with the players that — you hear it all the time — they run through the wall for Dusty…”

  11. natsguy - Oct 26, 2015 at 4:19 PM

    Per Jim Bowden Black is the one.

    • sunshinebobby - Oct 26, 2015 at 5:51 PM

      If that’s the source, give me $10,000 on Dusty.

      • natsguy - Oct 26, 2015 at 7:00 PM

        This is one time I hope he;s right.

      • tcostant - Oct 27, 2015 at 9:30 AM

        He right plenty on the Nationals, he still talks with ownership according to many reports (including Zuck on the radio last week).

  12. JamesFan - Oct 26, 2015 at 4:46 PM

    Williams’ problem was more than managing pitchers. He lost the whole team with his erratic lineup, aloof and up tight manner. I’m not excited about either one of these guys, but not opposed wither.

    Who ever comes in must have a solid professional relationship with the clubhouse and be able to keep their respect.

    If Rizzo doesn’t clean up the mess in the bullpen and get some serious depth on this team, it’s not going to matter who the manager is.

    • langleyclub - Oct 26, 2015 at 5:09 PM

      Agree that building a bullpen is a priority, but it’s so hard to predict bullpen pitchers effectiveness from year to the next.

      Two years ago, Jeurys Famalia was an afterthought in the Mets organization as a struggling starter coming off injury. Now, he is one of the best closers in the game; a dominant two inning guy. The Cardinals had the best bullpen in the NL, and none of their bullpen pitchers were highly regarded prospects or big time free agents. Heath Bell was a dominant reliever; he signed a big FA contract and sucked. Eric Gagne went from the most dominant closer in baseball history to completely ineffective.

      Except for Mariano Rivera and Craig Kimbrel really hard to predict what bullpen pitchers will do from one year to the next. Clear that Felipe Rivero has a ton of talent (lefty that can throw in the high 90s). Still at a loss to understand why/how Blake Treinen struggles so much. His stuff looks as unhittable as anyone. Just so hard to predict.

      • jd - Oct 26, 2015 at 5:23 PM

        langley,

        Your point is very well taken but I think we need to acquire one proven bullpen arm kind of what the Yankees did with Andrew Miller. I think O’Day would be ideal. I agree with you that Treinen made sense and in fact so did Barrett. Everyone is very high on Rivero but he too was an integral part of the big series bullpen blowup against the Mets.

        I think Cole is worth a look see etc.

        BTW, I feel that much of the bullpen failure was on MW. I think a pen needs some consistency and direction and since MW was lost and rudderless this translated into serious problems for the pen. I also wouldn’t jettison Storen just yet. We have all seen that he can be an effective closer for months at a time. I think he’l be gone after this year via free agency and I wouldn’t be against trading him but only if we get decent return.

  13. philipd763 - Oct 26, 2015 at 5:16 PM

    If Black (my choice) is the favorite, I would not wait to offer him the job. He lives in Rancho Santa Fe, CA, which is located in North County San Diego. He’d be a strong candidate for the Dodger vacancy. Baker is too old and he’s been out of baseball for awhile.

    • jd - Oct 26, 2015 at 5:26 PM

      I don’t think the Dodgers are going in this direction. They seem to be high on Kapler.

  14. philipd763 - Oct 26, 2015 at 5:17 PM

    Regarding a hitting coach, how about Mark McGuire? He was fired along with Mattingly but he may not be interest in coming east since the LA area is his home.

    • Section 222 - Oct 26, 2015 at 5:40 PM

      After MW, you want to bring another juicer into Natstown?

      • Joe Seamhead - Oct 26, 2015 at 5:43 PM

        I was wondering why he left the Cards as their hitting coach.

      • jd - Oct 26, 2015 at 5:52 PM

        I never believed that hitting coaches move the needle all that much. I think it’s more about personality and who you are comfortable working with. I think pitching coaches are critical.

    • philipd763 - Oct 26, 2015 at 7:22 PM

      Ask Daniel Murphy what a hitting coach did for him! Mark McGuire left the Cardinals because he had a opportunity to return to his hometown in the same capacity with the Dodgers. I suspect he got more money too. By the way, the Cardinals offense has take a big dive since he left. All their good results have been because of stellar pitching and defense.

  15. Joe Seamhead - Oct 26, 2015 at 5:36 PM

    I wish that i could be more excited about Bud Black. I just don’t feel all that good about him. I hope I’m wrong.

    BTW, there is a poster here that keeps saying how bad the choice of MW’s was. I seem to remember that same poster raving about the move at the time Williams was hired and going on and on about the end of the country club attitude, and that team would improve fundamentally under the “Big Marine.”

    I thought the most telling comment made about Williams was from Jayson Werth last year when he was asked how he felt about MW getting the Manager of the Year award: “Well, he didn’t do anything to screw it up.” Gee, what a tittlelating

    • Joe Seamhead - Oct 26, 2015 at 5:42 PM

      Ha! I was going to say “what a titillating endorsement”, knew I had spelled it incorrectly, and somehow hit reply. Oh, well.

    • jd - Oct 26, 2015 at 5:43 PM

      Joe,

      I am kind of with you on Black but I think he fits into the category of most managers where he won’t be a negative influence, kind of a sum zero on the W/L record and I think that’s ok. There are very few managers in my opinion who really move the needle one way or the other, I think MW unfortunately is in the latter category.

      I knew after this year’s fiasco that Rizzo will make a very safe choice because his own ass is on the line especially after the Paplebon fiasco.

      I think Terry Collins is a good example of someone who was nor really all that highly regarded but when given the horses was perfectly competent in leading his team, I think Black can be that as well.

    • JayB - Oct 26, 2015 at 6:23 PM

      I called for MW to be fired after last years playoff mess. Yes when he was hired I wanted him to do all the things he said he would do…….He did not do them….it was clear he had no clue based on his comments in the post season last year….that is when I knew he was a dope…..when he managed a team that was up by 15 games in August…he did nothing and that worked.

      • tcostant - Oct 27, 2015 at 9:33 AM

        Jay I was with you, saying fire Williams and hire Joe Madden last year…

  16. Joe Seamhead - Oct 26, 2015 at 5:36 PM

    I wish that i could be more excited about Bud Black. I just don’t feel all that good about him. I hope I’m wrong.

    BTW, there is a poster here that keeps saying how bad the choice of MW’s was. I seem to remember that same poster raving about the move at the time Williams was hired and going on and on about the end of the country club attitude, and that team would improve fundamentally under the “Big Marine.”

    I thought the most telling comment made about Williams was from Jayson Werth last year when he was asked how he felt about MW getting the Manager of the Year award: “Well, he didn’t do anything to screw it up.” Gee, what a great endorsement,eh?

  17. chazzmichaelmichaelzz - Oct 27, 2015 at 12:18 AM

    Living in San Diego for the past 8 years, I can say the Padre fan view of Bud Black was “eh, should have been fired in 2010” when the Padres had their epic collapse, losing 10 games in a row late August and out of first place. The Padres had a 6.5 game lead over the Giants, who eventually won the world series.

    Of course, from my perspective, watching the Padres was like watching a AAAA team, and you can’t blame the coach for the roster. In terms of overall game style, Bud Black often double swapped late in games and handled bullpens well. He played a lot of small ball, but he had no other choice. Padres best chance to win was a 2-1-type game, especially. He has proven to be a great mentor for young and developing pitcher, but we have no idea how he will handle fiery personalities (Werth, Harper, Gio). The only superstars he ever coached was Adrian Gonzalez, probably the nicest guy in baseball.

    Even watching Black closely here in San Diego, I have no idea if he would be a good hire.

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