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Process was a mess, but Baker’s hiring isn’t a mistake

Nov 3, 2015, 11:58 AM EDT


Had the Nationals simply hired Dusty Baker all along, had they picked him over Bud Black last week and agreed to contract terms, few eyebrows would have been raised. It would have been viewed both here in town and throughout the baseball world as a solid choice, a proven and successful manager taking the reins of a club that despite its obvious issues remains positioned to win in both the short- and long-term.

Hiring Baker isn’t the problem. The process by which he was hired is the problem.

For all the progress they’ve made in their near-decade owning the Nationals, members of the Lerner family have yet to fully grasp the importance of managerial job security. We’ve seen this play out far too many times over the years.

Since the Lerners purchased the franchise from Major League Baseball in 2006, they have given no manager a contract that includes more than two guaranteed years.

Manny Acta got two years with a club option. That option was picked up after Acta guided a slapped-together roster to an encouraging 73-win season in 2007, but he still wound up getting fired during the 2009 All-Star break with his team on pace to lose 100 games and his players having given up on him.

Jim Riggleman was hired as Acta’s replacement on an interim basis, then agreed to a series of 1-year deals that left the veteran skipper on thin ice throughout his tenure. When Riggleman, in June 2011, asked general manager Mike Rizzo to discuss picking up his option for 2012 and the front office said no, he stunningly resigned minutes after leading his team to its 10th win in 11 games, then explained how nervous he was signing his initial deal given the lack of long-term security.

“I made it very clear that, you know, I can’t say no to this, but this is a bad contract for a manager,” Riggleman said after quitting. “There’s no option for Jim Riggleman. It’s a one-year option that the club decides on. That’s not a good way to do business. I made it very clear that I didn’t like that. But you know I can’t say no to it. So there I am. And two years later, I’m realizing: You know what? I was right. It’s not a good way to do business.”

Faced with the prospect of their franchise falling into disarray, the Nationals managed to pull off a brilliant move, coaxing Davey Johnson out of retirement to take over midseason and retain the job over the winter. It worked perfectly, with a re-energized Johnson leading the young Nats to their first-ever division title in 2012, but then it all came crashing down the following season.

The Nationals, concerned both about the aging Johnson’s physical and mental strength and his desire to be paid commensurate with MLB’s top managers, announced up front that 2013 would be his final season in the dugout, retaining him beyond that only as a consultant. Their manager now a lame duck who seemed to lose interest as the summer wore on, the Nats (World Series favorites) underachieved and missed the playoffs altogether.

Needing to hire yet another manager — already his third in his first four years as GM — Rizzo went with someone he knew and trusted, but someone with barely any experience. Matt Williams, like fellow first-time manager Acta back in 2007, was given a 2-year contract (with a pair of 1-year options) that made him one of the sport’s lowest-paid skippers. Williams guided the Nationals to a division title, won NL Manager of the Year honors and had his 2016 option picked up … only to be fired after a disastrous 2015 season that included an 83-79 record, a litany of on-field mistakes and then clubhouse discord.

And so here they were yet again, Rizzo and the Lerner family, seeking the franchise’s sixth manager in 11 seasons in the District, none of the previous men having held the job more than 2 1/2 years. Rizzo said at the outset he wanted someone with experience, and the two candidates who emerged as finalists most certainly had that.

Black had managed the Padres for 8 1/2 years. His teams didn’t win much and never made the playoffs, but consensus opinion around baseball was that the record was more a reflection of a low payroll and an ever-changing front office than of his job skills. The fact Black was a former pitcher and pitching coach, and the fact at 58 he could be viewed as a potential long-term answer, made him a strong candidate and ultimately prompted the Nationals to inform him he was their choice, according to a source familiar with the decision.

Given his level of experience, Black likely assumed he would get a decent level of job security, probably three guaranteed years. The Lerners, sticking to the same philosophy they’ve used throughout their ownership, wouldn’t do that.

So the deal blew up in everyone’s faces, and the Nationals turned their attention back to Baker, who had impressed members of the front office throughout the process. Baker, who desperately wanted this job two years ago after he was fired by the Reds but never got an interview, was willing to accept whatever offer in the end was presented to him. (The Nats have said only that he signed a “multi-year contract” without specifying exact years or financial terms.)

At 66, Baker probably isn’t positioned to hold this job for the long-term. The Mets’ Terry Collins, born 19 days earlier in 1949, is the only current MLB manager who is older. But that doesn’t make this is a bad hire.

Baker’s track record is about as strong as they get. Twenty seasons as a big-league manager. One thousand six hundred seventy-one wins, 17th-most in baseball history. Seven postseason appearances with three different franchises. Three NL Manager of the Year Awards. One NL pennant.

Players overwhelmingly adore Baker, who will walk into the clubhouse at Space Coast Stadium in February and immediately command the respect of the room. He’ll also be a welcome addition to the community, baseball’s lone African-American manager now calling the District of Columbia home.

Which isn’t to say Baker doesn’t have his flaws. He rubbed some in Cincinnati the wrong way with his game strategy (a strong proponent of the sacrifice bunt) and lineup construction (a tendency for No. 2 hitters with low on-base percentages). He has been criticized in the past for overusing young pitchers, though it’s debatable how much (if any) long-term damage he caused as a result.

But overall, there’s not a lot of valid criticism to offer of this hire. Baker is a supremely qualified manager with a long track record of on-field success and off-field relationships.

Of course, Black was just as qualified for the job. Some members of the organization obviously felt he was more qualified, only to discover he valued himself more than they valued him.

The Nationals, in the end, may have wound up with the right man for the job. Whether they’ve truly learned anything about how to conduct business and how to give a good manager the job security he needs remains the great unknown.

  1. Whack-A-Mule - Nov 3, 2015 at 12:10 PM

    “M-I-C-K-E-Y M-O-U-S-E”

  2. mwsmith13 - Nov 3, 2015 at 12:17 PM

    Baker may well end up being a decent manager (I certainly hope he is and wish him luck) but the Lerners have really done a dis-service to this organization and to themselves as owners. I have to think that they are making Rizzo start looking around…

    • therealjohnc - Nov 4, 2015 at 12:01 PM

      Well, he’s under contract for 2016 with team options for 2017 and 2018, so he can’t really start looking around at this point.

  3. Eugene in Oregon - Nov 3, 2015 at 12:19 PM

    Some useful insights; thanks.

  4. janebeard - Nov 3, 2015 at 12:22 PM

    Man I hope you’re right.

    It’s like they don’t see the very HUMANNESS of the people they hire. The people who make the sport great aren’t athletic robots. They have hearts and feelings. And believing in people is something that makes a true difference to players and managers alike. Just witness the Royals, most of whom came up together and are jazzed for and by each other. SO SIGNS of being believed in matter, too. So don’t re-sign Desi and wonder why he falls apart. Trade away Clip and then buy back a thug for almost the same money.Diss your first choice and then make a better deal for your second choice. Who is advising these people?

    As one of our kids said, “The Lerners are looking Snyder-esque here.”

    I really hope the baseball gods ironed this out the right way. Time will tell.

  5. janebeard - Nov 3, 2015 at 12:24 PM

    And now I blame Rizzo a lot less, by the by, for the Pap fiasco (as long as he never sets foot in out clubhouse again), Not that it matters a whit who I blame for what. Just saying. I get it now. He isn’t the issue.

  6. ehay2k - Nov 3, 2015 at 12:43 PM

    Colossal blunder by the ownership team. If they knew going in they would only offer a 2 year contract with option(s), then they should have said so. They didn’t need to negotiate price but that was a big hurdle to clear if you knew ahead of time that you wouldn’t negotiate on it.

    To put this in real estate terms, they came to terms with the owner on the value of a plot of land, then went out an announced plans for a huge development before the deal was done, only to find out that the plot owner was only interested in leasing the property. Oopsie! No deal.

    So, here’s what I believe will happen: Baker will arrive, the injection of energy will be good initially, just as it was with Davey. But in a year or at most two, Baker will be tired, the team will underachieve, and the Nats will be looking again for a new manager. And what star player would want to stay in an organization with such turnover? I just hope I am wrong.

    Gaah, not how to run a ballclub.

    • therealjohnc - Nov 4, 2015 at 12:13 PM

      Except that they (the Nationals/Lerners) didn’t announce the plans. Ever eager for a scoop, the media jumped the gun and are now engaged in a massive “blame the Lerners” CYA to avoid talking about their own failures.

      I do think the process was a cluster[bleep] – Rizzo should have known what the parameters for an offer would be, and should have communicated them to Black.

      OTOH it’s hard to say that Black should have regarded the offer as insultingly low. His salary rate was pretty much the going rate (I note that Terry Collins, the manager of the team that won the NL pennant that Black would have been chasing with the Nats, signed an extension for $1.5M/year for two years). Although the one year proffer was low, it wasn’t insultingly so. Mattingly’s deal is noted, but so is the fact that most managers aren’t making $1.6M/year. And Mattingly has made the playoffs three straight seasons and the Dodgers have outperformed their “pythagorean” record each of the last two seasons. Black has had two winning seasons in nine years, and his next playoff game will be his first.

      Bottom line, no one comes off well in this (except Baker). Not the Nats, not the media, not Black.

      • ehay2k - Nov 4, 2015 at 1:49 PM

        Agreed. I have a newer post about this. Not sure it’s the Nats fault.

  7. natsguy - Nov 3, 2015 at 12:44 PM

    I don’t care who is responsible, the Nats have looked very bad and incompetent for a while.

  8. langleyclub - Nov 3, 2015 at 1:05 PM

    Only the results matter, so, if Baker leads the team to the playoffs (and beyond), no one will care about the length of his contract or whether the Lerner’s screwed up by negotiating with Bud Black like they were negotiating lease terms at White Flint.

    The Lerners appear to understand and accept that the market requires shelling out mega bucks for players. For managers, coaches (and possibly GMs, Rizzo is on his last year of a deal), stadium terms with the City, the Lerners seek to win every negotiation (hard to blame them as that scorched earth philosophy is the bedrock of their financial success. They know how to exploit leverage. Only time will tell whether strategy is sound or short-sighted when running a MLB franchise.

    IMO, the Baker hiring will end badly, and the Nats will have squandered the edge that they had over the rest of MLB when the happened to have the first pick when Bryce Harper and Steven Strasburg were available. Hope to be wrong, but I doubt it.

    • sjberke - Nov 3, 2015 at 1:20 PM

      Actually Rizzo is not, except technically, in the last year of his deal, since there is a 2017 club option (per Cot’s) and unless there is a real rupture, it’s inconceivable the Lerners would not pick it up.

    • tcostant - Nov 3, 2015 at 3:46 PM

      I hope Baker has two great years and then demands $5M a year when he has the hammer…

  9. chaz11963 - Nov 3, 2015 at 1:28 PM

    Whatever- it all worked fine.

    • natsguy - Nov 3, 2015 at 1:46 PM

      For whom?

  10. Doc - Nov 3, 2015 at 1:32 PM

    Baker now, and Baker 5-10 years ago are 2 different Bakers. The Lerners blew it, and we’re stuck with a guy who will probably not last beyond the coming season.

    Running malls and running a sports club are 2 different kinds of business models. The Lerners and their lackey Rizzo need to to discover the differences. When the process is wrong, in distinction to Mark’s intro, the result is also wrong.!

    Black may not have been the best choice, but Baker was clearly not any better, and may have been worse. A very big SNAFU!!! Way to go Lerners!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  11. Drew - Nov 3, 2015 at 1:46 PM

    Look, Dusty Baker certainly is qualified to lead a team that hopes to make the playoffs.

    Whatever my initial qualms – about his age and the likelihood we’ll be back to square one in three years – I’m just really frosted at the procedural embarrassment.

    After Storen, Papelbon and the brawl, this SNAFU makes a proud franchise look like the Keystone Kops.

    • natsguy - Nov 3, 2015 at 1:47 PM

      Could not agree more.

  12. hersheyman - Nov 3, 2015 at 1:47 PM

    Having the only African American manager in baseball is a real credit to the organization. But how they got here is consistent with everything else that’s happened the last couple of years.

    • jfmii - Nov 3, 2015 at 1:53 PM

      “everything else that’s happened the last couple of years.”. Huh?

    • Nats Fan Zee - Nov 3, 2015 at 3:26 PM

      Oh please … enough of that PC balony. All fans care about is did we get a good manager. We certanily got an experenced one (and darn good ballplayer to boot). I hope it works out but I wish it were Bud Black. I would love to see a manager have a successful multi-year engagement with the Nationals. That’s not going to happen with a 66 year old.

  13. jd - Nov 3, 2015 at 1:49 PM

    First of all I don’t get why 2 years is an insult. If you as a manager have confidence that you can do a good job and you do you will get an extension. For the most part 4 year deals mean you end up paying more than 1 manager. I think what went wrong here is that the process became public.

    As a point of reference the $1.6 mil annual salary the Nats offered Black would have made him the 5th highest paid manager. Again I don’t get the insult here at all.

    Lastsly, if the Nats don’t do well this year it won’t be because of Dusty Baker because his record says he knows how to manage, he’s not perfect by a long shot but he’s several light years ahead of MW.

    • natsguy - Nov 3, 2015 at 2:38 PM

      He was originally offered 1 year. That is an insult.

    • adcwonk - Nov 3, 2015 at 4:12 PM

      As a point of reference the $1.6 mil annual salary the Nats offered Black would have made him the 5th highest paid manager.

      Thanks for offering some, you know, actual perspective on this.

      Lastsly, if the Nats don’t do well this year it won’t be because of Dusty Baker because his record says he knows how to manage


  14. Joe Seamhead - Nov 3, 2015 at 2:00 PM

    The Dodgers went 94 years without giving a manager more than a one year contract including Walter Alston for his whole career. After several years Tommy Lasorda got the first multiyear deal from them.

    Like everyone else here, I am often wrong, but sometimes right. I was never thrilled about Bud Black, but would have supported the move. I was also never crazy about Williams. But I am thrilled about Dusty Baker as I said here:

    Joe Seamhead – Oct 26, 2015 at 3:14 PM
    I think that Dusty Baker would be a ton of fun.

    I think that he is a good baseball guy.
    I think that players love him.
    I think he’s a good community guy.
    I think it’ll be good for the city to have him here.
    I think that there will be no shortage of interesting things for the press to write about.
    I think winning baseball is fun.
    I think he’ll be a ton of fun.

    • Candide - Nov 3, 2015 at 2:38 PM

      +1 on the Dodgers observation; I was wondering if someone was going to point that out.

  15. Dave - Nov 3, 2015 at 2:00 PM

    I just posted this sincere and honest question on Twitter:

    Who actually broke the “news” that Black was the new manager? It wasn’t the Nats. The only announcement they have made was the one this morning, that the new guy is Dusty.

    Did this situation arise from an over-eager reporter going on a tip from someone her or she found reliable, but who actually wasn’t?

    I can’t help wondering whether we would be hyperventilating today if the WHOLE process had happened privately, with the first news coming today.

    Jon Heyman broke the overnight story about the “deal” with Black falling through. But Heyman was pretty distracted last week watching the Mets lose. So…

    • NatsLady - Nov 3, 2015 at 2:14 PM

      Bud Black’s wife went on Twitter (since deleted) saying she was the source of the leaks about the offer to Bud Black (including the terms) and other stuff. Perhaps by leaking she hoped to put pressure on the Nats to up their offer, but if that’s what she thought, it clearly backfired.

      • adcwonk - Nov 3, 2015 at 4:14 PM

        Bud Black’s wife went on Twitter (since deleted) saying she was the source of the leaks about the offer to Bud Black (including the terms) and other stuff. Perhaps by leaking she hoped to put pressure on the Nats to up their offer, but if that’s what she thought, it clearly backfired

        And if that’s the case — I don’t blame the Lerners for looking elsewhere.

        Who needs soap-opera’s caused by the loose lips of a spouse?!

    • rmoore446 - Nov 3, 2015 at 2:22 PM

      The “over-eager reporter” is highly unlikely in a situation like this one. The typical course of events would be this. The story was leaked, most likely by someone in the Nats Front Office. it was accepted widely in the media as it was never denied by the club as a false report would have been. Plus, likely several in the media got the same leak. Official announcements had to wait until after the series.

      • Dave - Nov 3, 2015 at 2:32 PM

        If that’s the case, then the screw-up was letting the info leak out before the ink was dry on a contract. I would’ve thought the Lerners would be more circumspect than this. Which leads me to think this whole thing might not just be a “screwed-up-Lerners” situation.

  16. trfwans - Nov 3, 2015 at 2:04 PM

    The process by which Baker was hired was in no way “a mess.” The way it was reported by the media – taking unconfirmed rumors and reporting that a deal with Black was done even as it was still being negotiated – was certainly a mess. And Mark Zuckerman and Adam Kilgore, who wrote a scathing “column” today accusing the Lerners of making a fiasco out of the manager hiring process, are fully culpable in that media-made mess.

    And for those who accuse the Nats of “low balling” Black by offering him two years at $1.6M per, consider this: Your current NL champion manager Terry Collins just finished his fifth year as manager of the Mets, the last year of his deal, making $1M even. Clint Hurdle, who has taken the Bucs to the playoffs three years straight now, makes $1.125M. $1.6M for a guy with a lifetime losing record looks pretty generous by comparison, doesn’t it?

    • jfmii - Nov 3, 2015 at 2:17 PM

      Indeed. Thank you

    • NatsLady - Nov 3, 2015 at 2:20 PM

      If it’s true about Bud Black’s wife (I didn’t see the Tweets, they were reported), I don’t see how the Nats or the Lerners could control that.

      If, in fact, a good manager can “swing” a team by 4-5 wins, then $1.6 million is underpaid. But it’s yet to be demonstrated that (a) a manager can make that swing and (b) Bud Black can make that swing with our team. I don’t care what the Marlins are paying Mattingly. Not my problem.

      • rmoore446 - Nov 3, 2015 at 6:17 PM

        Black’s wife tweeted about the negotiations when they began to sour. There are no reports that she tweeted the leak about the original “Black is the choice” information. Tweets are attributable Scanning various media reports before and since the switch to Baker, the original “leak” on Black most likely came from the club back when they assumed the paperwork would follow successfully. Not a terrible sin–9 out of 10 times it will work out. Happens like that almost every time. This time it went south.

        For me, I have accepted the Baker choice and feel optimistic no matter how we got here.

    • Dave - Nov 3, 2015 at 2:34 PM

      I’m with you there, trfwans. The whole thing should’ve taken place behind closed doors until the deal was actually done. I certainly would not want any employment negotiations I was a part of–whether successful or not–to be reported in the media before I was given a contract.

    • natsguy - Nov 3, 2015 at 2:36 PM

      I couldn’t disagree more.

      • chaz11963 - Nov 3, 2015 at 2:48 PM

        Do you have any idea what you’re talking about or are you just basicaly a mean and negative person? There is nothing wrong with Baker as the Nats pick, nothing wrong with the Nats offer to Black, and nothing wrong with how the Nats organization went about this- they clearly didnt announce or leak the Black deal. Good grief.

      • adcwonk - Nov 3, 2015 at 4:16 PM

        I couldn’t disagree more.

        With which part?

        Facts are facts — and $1.6M is, as pointed out, more than Collins, or Hurdle, etc. . . .

  17. NatsLady - Nov 3, 2015 at 2:16 PM

    The Royals are having a great parade, and being the Royals, the weather is glorious for it.

    • Doc - Nov 3, 2015 at 2:49 PM

      KC more than deserves a great parade!

    • natsfan1a - Nov 3, 2015 at 4:07 PM

      Forgot about that. Just watched a bit of their speechifying via the MLB site. Jonny Gomes is still a character. He has, what, two rings since leaving the Nats? As they used to say on TWIB, how about that?

      • natsfan1a - Nov 3, 2015 at 4:09 PM

        Also, enjoyed the fan sign: “Thor wears Alcides Escobar pajamas.”

      • ArVAFan - Nov 3, 2015 at 5:08 PM

        Also t-shirt: (for those who skipped school for the parade): Education is Important, but Baseball is Importanter.

  18. jd - Nov 3, 2015 at 2:53 PM

    I reject Mark’s premise that the Lerners don’t understand the need for job security for managers. Riggleman complained about it and he hasn’t managed in the majors since. There are 30 jobs like this and many more qualified candidates. Since the reported number offered Black is $1.6 mil (5th highest in the majors) this is hardly an insult. The 1 year proposal was something done in the negotiating process and since the offer went up to 2 years this is completely reasonable.

    The fact that all of the dirty laundry was made public is regrettable. I don’t know who the source of the leak was but shame on them. If it’s someone in the Nats organization their position should be reviewed. If it came from the Black camp then they deserve what they got in the end. I don’t know about Bud but I for 1 would not be in position to reject a job offer of $1.6 mil even for 1 year.

    • NatsLady - Nov 3, 2015 at 3:05 PM

      This “lame duck” stuff is complete foolishness. Players don’t go by that, as if a “lame-duck” manager is equivalent to a substitute teacher. The manager earns respect with how he deals with the clubhouse and with his on-field decisions, NOT the length of his contract. Players want to win. If they see the manager is getting in the way of winning, that’s the end.

  19. philipd763 - Nov 3, 2015 at 2:58 PM

    The Lerners should have never been awarded the team in the first place. MLB screwed Fred Malek and his syndicate. He was the thrust behind bringing baseball back to DC. Then, he was cast aside by Selig, who awarded the team to the Lerners.

    • jd - Nov 3, 2015 at 3:29 PM

      What’s the point of going there?

    • Dave - Nov 3, 2015 at 4:33 PM

      The St. Louis Browns should never have moved to Baltimore. Whoever thought this region could support two American League teams?

      Seriously, you’re bringing up the Malek syndicate in late 2015?

  20. philipd763 - Nov 3, 2015 at 3:05 PM

    Baker is strong proponent of the bunt. Too bad that is one of the Nats glaring weaknesses.

    • NatsLady - Nov 3, 2015 at 3:10 PM

      Well, maybe the next hitting coach can teach bunting. Or maybe Baker will take note of his personnel and their strengths and weaknesses.

      • ArVAFan - Nov 3, 2015 at 3:49 PM

        Already making plans for Viera for P & C. I’ll be glad to report back on the bunting drills. Over the last couple of years, those have definitely been entertaining. The team (not just P & C) did plenty of bunting drills each Spring. In the case of Bryce, maybe he did a little TOO well in the 2015 drills.

      • virginiascopist - Nov 3, 2015 at 4:45 PM

        “Or maybe Baker will take note of his personnel and their strengths and weaknesses.”

        So true. Just because the Royals played to their own strengths so well doesn’t mean that every team should try to force-feed the Royals’ philosophy on their personnel. I have a suspicion a lot of teams will try to do that in 2016 without success. That said, a couple of refresher courses on bunting would not be lost on the Nats.

  21. nats106 - Nov 3, 2015 at 3:56 PM

    If then decision statements:

    If Nationals hire Dusty and go to NLCS: Then “Good Decision”
    If Nationals hire Dusty and go to WS : Then “Really Good Deciions”

    If Bud Black hired by other team: Other team go to NLCS Then “Bad Decision”

    It’s just that simple.

    Dusty was in San Francisco when Al Davis was in Oakland, so he knows the mantra.

    Rizzo, new pitching coach, Boras and about 27K fans per game will be keeping pitch counts for Dusty. He just needs to manage the rest of it. Get it done, Dusty.

    • adcwonk - Nov 3, 2015 at 4:18 PM

      +162 😉

  22. unkyd59 - Nov 3, 2015 at 4:28 PM

    Can’t find a list of managers salaries… Apparently most teams don’t disclose this. Somebody mentioned that $1.6mil would have been the sixth highest in MLB… Did I miss the link to this?

    • trfwans - Nov 3, 2015 at 4:47 PM

      Just Google ‘MLB manager salaries’ and you’ll get several sites that list them. You are right that most of them are not public, but the higher ones like Maddon, Girardi, etc are listed.

    • Sec 3, My Sofa - Nov 3, 2015 at 6:23 PM

      I can’t find the list of managers who have never screwed up, or been criticized by the fans on a daily basis. Does anyone have that?

  23. jd - Nov 3, 2015 at 5:47 PM

    Here’s a good article about our topic:

  24. Joe Seamhead - Nov 3, 2015 at 6:10 PM

    I’d sure like to hear some players’ perspectives about Dusty’s hiring. Hell, I’d like to here some about MW’s parting, but really would like to hear from the vets that know him.

    • ArVAFan - Nov 3, 2015 at 6:35 PM

      Well, Clint Robinson seemed enthusiastic. (via Twitter). And Bryce (see Mark’s re-tweet). Those are the only two reactions I’ve seen so far.

  25. Section 222 - Nov 3, 2015 at 6:34 PM

    Another pro-Baker article:

    • Joe Seamhead - Nov 3, 2015 at 8:59 PM

      Thanks for that link, Deuces. I enjoyed it.I’m not saying that Baker is the greatest manager, but I don’t think that he’s this idiot that a lot folks are portraying him, either.

      • veejh - Nov 3, 2015 at 9:38 PM

        I felt a little better after reading that article, but then went on to read the comments. I have mixed emotions about this one. I dunno.

      • Sec 3, My Sofa - Nov 3, 2015 at 10:39 PM

        I don’t think that he’s this idiot that a lot folks are portraying him, either.

        He’s a baseball manager. The only people stupider than that are elected officials, and parents of teenagers. In that order.

      • Section 222 - Nov 4, 2015 at 11:12 AM

        I’m reassured too, as I will confess I had been influenced by the conventional wisdom put forward by commenters here.

  26. natsred4dndc - Nov 3, 2015 at 9:09 PM

    The story of the Dodgers and one year contracts–especially the 20 one-year contracts with Walt Alston–often comes up when a manager job is filled, and sure enough it appears above. But that’s a VERY exceptional case.
    Walt Alston was a completely different sort of man in a completely different era. He was well known for saying, every single year for 20 years, that he did not WANT a longer term deal; he wanted to be continually motivated (not that “motivation” was the buzz-word in that era) and if he didn’t do a good job every year, he didn’t deserve an extension. If you can find a copy, his first autobiography “Alston and the Dodgers” is an insightful read into a unique man.
    And of course he was far from the only one getting one year managing deals at that time. The whole business of baseball has changed since the 1970’s, and while Walt’s story is great, it is far more nostalgia than one having current relevance.
    Given that he and his wife have lived the better part of two decades in southern California, it is unsurprising that Black wanted a longer term commitment to justify moving cross-country. And given that the Lerners are pretty savvy (some would go so far as ruthless) business people, it is unsurprising that they didn’t want to make a long term commitment right out of the gate. A contract is a meeting of the minds, and that never occurred here.
    The problem IMHO is that this is yet another example of irresponsible media reporting.

    • sunshinebobby - Nov 3, 2015 at 9:26 PM

      I’m with Mr. Seamhead and natsred4. The media (specifically the Post, but Mark as well) went hook, line and sinker in on that Bud Black leak, which turned out to be erroneous and premature. This was never as clear-cut and finalized as the Post made it out to be. Now to cover their ass, the Post is making it look like the Lerners a) backed out, b) reneged and c) were too cheap to pay Black what he wanted.

      In reality the negotiating process worked through normal channels, they couldn’t agree on that third year, and either a) Black walked or b) the Lerners told him to stuff it.

      Enter Dusty, who apparently was never really out of it, just perhaps the fall-back position all along.

      I have no problem with Dusty. In fact, I applaud his hiring. He’s taken three teams to the postseason, which is three more than Black. I also see this tied to the MASN deal in that we’re playing ball with Manfred Man, two weeks after he lamented the fact there were no black managers in baseball.

      The Nation’s Capital is a perfect place for Dusty. If he succeeds like I think he will, that third year will be rewarded soon enough.

      Bottom line: beware of stories that are merely leaked, but never officially confirmed. Sometimes they’re false.

      Welcome to Washington, Dusty. Knock ’em dead.

      • veejh - Nov 3, 2015 at 9:43 PM


    • veejh - Nov 3, 2015 at 9:41 PM

      Not to trivialize your lucid and coherent post, I made a comment about moving out of SD (paradise) to DC with a 2 year commitment. I wouldn’t do it either.

      • ehay2k - Nov 4, 2015 at 6:45 AM

        Well, our big earthquakes are only at 5 on the Richter scale, so there’s that. Plus, we have lots of water. 😉

  27. thewerthwhisperer - Nov 3, 2015 at 9:22 PM

    Only negative part that I can see is having to watch Dusty Baker chew on that damn toothpick all year.

    • nats106 - Nov 3, 2015 at 9:44 PM

      Better than chewing on those painful losses this year. And chewing on the “what might have been”

  28. veejh - Nov 3, 2015 at 9:47 PM

    I feel the most letdown in this debacle was the notion that our pitching staff was going to be elevated from Black taking over. Sigh.

    • Joe Seamhead - Nov 4, 2015 at 6:41 AM

      Darren Balsley has been the SD pitching coach since before Bud Black became their manager. How much of Balsey’s influence on the staff get attributed to Black? I don’t personally know, but a lot of baseball people consider Balsley to be a pitching guru.

  29. thelatencn - Nov 4, 2015 at 4:00 AM

    On MLB radio Tuesday there was a discussion which postulated that a) the real issue was length of contract and not the $$$. b) that the Lerners wanted 1 year, would accept 2 if they had to and would not go to 3. c) that the reason for this stance is that Rizzo’s contract is up after this year and d) therefore, Rizzo’s tenure after his contract is up is not at all certain, and probably dependent on his performance in 2016.

  30. ehay2k - Nov 4, 2015 at 6:43 AM

    Wait, why is Dusty Baker’s photo the one for Mrs. Black’s twitter account? Dusty, you sly dog you!

    OK, I joke. But, now that the dust has settled, some thoughts (feel fee to scroll down to skip!): The Nats never Officially announced Black was the manager, so this may just be another deal soured by innapropriate use of social media. If I am an owner, and someone is tweeting about how a deal is unacceptable, I am not inclined to pursue that person. Especially if the candidate is the GM’s first choice, but not mine, as was alleged. I’m not saying Black had grounds for wanting a longer term deal, and so would the coaches he brought in. But if Black was offended, that seems a bit thin skinned for a guy who has never won anything. And if he doesn’t get another gig, going to Twitter may have cost him $1.6 M this year. It almost certainly cost him an opportunity to manage a consensus contender for the WS. (Hey Bud, any other contenders need a manager?) Lastly, the knock on his record was that he never had the talent, so if he wanted to show what he could accomplish with good talent, this was certainly his chance.

    As for the Mattingly deal, who cares? Deals for Marlins managers are not useful financial comparisons, since they seem to still be paying about 8 of them. Money isn’t an issue there, even to to point of silliness. The bigger question question is why would Mattingly want to work for that ownership? On wait, cuz they overpay and overcommit!

    I posted here that Dusty had a bit of a reputation for being hard on pitchers, with people pointing to his tenure at the Cubs as the primary example of that. However, I heard yesterday that after he was accused of overworking Prior and Wood, Dusty took that to heart. So much so that he hired a guy (can’t remember the name given) to manage the pitchers in Cincy, apparently one of the first managers to do so.(This was more than just the pitching coach, and more like the NFL equivalent of a “defensive coordinator” to paraphrase what was said.). Not sure how the pitchers fared in Cincy, someone here can opine on that topic. But I feel better about the careers of our pitchers now.

    Dusty didn’t write the book on hitting, but he did write a book on hitting. That expertise is much needed here, IMO.

    At any rate, I’m happy we got a proven manager, one that is also happy to be here. Now Rizzo needs to focus on getting the roster set. That may be more important than choosing between Bud and Dusty.

  31. 4thgendc - Nov 4, 2015 at 7:56 AM

    Searches for executive level positions and especially the discussions around compensation, guarantees, etc., are very often messy. That’s the nature of that process. It should not be a huge surprise that it turned out the way it did. From what I’ve read, nothing in this process was out of the ordinary compared to other searches in different fields.

    I’m *very* excited to see this club coalesce around Dusty and cannot wait until Opening Day.


  32. golfersal - Nov 4, 2015 at 9:38 AM

    Mark your thoughts are right on. Starting with your accessment of Davey Johnson who showed very little energy in 2013, probably because the Nats management took him for granite. I agree with everyone else, you want a winning team you have to get a great manager and spend what it takes. We never heard a word from the Cubs or Joe Madden when he switched over last year. Bet that the Cubs didn’t try to low ball him. Dusty Baker fits that bill as a great manager a lot more than Bud Black does, but just like Davey Johnson, Baker is getting old. What happens if he achieves the goal, getting us to the World Series and winning it? What does Baker have to continue on. Same with his management, it was pointed out that something was terribly wrong with the Riggleman debacle. To everyone he look like a fool to resign, but maybe he was sound in what he did?
    The Lerners are so good in some areas, but terrible in others. But the question I ask, how could this last three months happen and the Nats still have to balls to raise my 81 game season tickets by 32%? How can they ask for so much more money and then do this stupid act of low balling a manager? Let’s face it, Baker really was motivated to become a manager one more time, to the point that he is taking half of what he got from the Reds plus very little job security. Not crying for Baker because the man is probably well off, but at the end of the day is this good for the Washington Nationals? It just about guarantees that we will have another manager search in two to three years, gosh I want someone that will be here for a decade or so of winning baseball.

    Sorry but hate the cheapness of the Lerners on this.

    • nats106 - Nov 4, 2015 at 10:46 AM

      Golfersal, is it spell check run amok or were you just having fun with everyone else’s grammatical errors?

      Starting with your accessment of Davey Johnson who showed very little energy in 2013, probably because the Nats management took him for granite.





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