Oct 26, 2015, 12:49 PM EDT
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.
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