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Baker news conference this morning

Nov 5, 2015, 6:00 AM EDT

USA Today Sports Images

Dusty Baker will formally be introduced as the sixth manager in Nationals history at 11 a.m., donning a curly W cap and home jersey for the first time during a news conference at Nationals Park. It should be a time of celebration and optimism for the organization, but of course that won’t entirely be the case because of the circumstances surrounding this hire.

This isn’t simply an event to unveil Baker to the District. It’s an opportunity for reporters to ask questions about the entire process that led to this announcement. And with general manager Mike Rizzo sitting alongside Baker at the dais, there figure to be plenty of questions that won’t be directed at the new skipper.

Here are just a few of the most significant questions that are likely to be asked during the news conference…

What exactly happened with Bud Black? Rizzo may try to deflect all inquiries about the man who didn’t wind up getting the job, but given how much is already out there and the negative light that has been cast upon the Nationals organization, Rizzo would be wise to address the situation. He needs to explain the club’s side of this story, how negotiations with Black fell apart and opened the door for Baker to be hired instead.

Why was Baker selected for the job now but wasn’t even interviewed two years ago? Baker made no attempt to hide his interest in managing the Nationals the last time they had an opening, but the club showed zero interest in talking to him. If Baker is the right man for the job now, why wasn’t he the right man in 2014? Or, at least, why wasn’t the club willing to bring him in for an interview?

How has Baker adapted as a manager over the years, and is open to new ideas and new strategies now? The criticism of Baker mostly has to do with a perceived old-fashioned way of running a ballgame. He bunts too often. He doesn’t emphasize on-base percentage. He leaves starting pitchers on the mound too long. All of that may well have been true of Baker at earlier points in his managerial career, but is any of it still true? Has he adapted over time and embraced any new-school strategies?

How did the deal with Mike Maddux come about, and will any other members of the new coaching staff be named? The Nationals announced the hiring of Maddux as their new pitching coach late Wednesday afternoon, making a point to say the two sides agreed to terms Tuesday night. USA Today, however, reported the Nats and Maddux already had a deal last week and that he would have been the club’s pitching coach no matter who was named manager. So, which is it? And how much say did Baker have in that hire, and how much will he have in the hiring of other coaches?

What are the Nationals’ roster priorities this winter? Let’s be honest: The new manager won’t make much difference if he doesn’t have a better roster of players to lead. There are all kinds of questions in that regard, starting with what the organization plans to do with Jonathan Papelbon, Drew Storen and the rest of a bullpen that could require a complete overhaul. Do the Nationals plan to seek upgrades to their lineup or bench? Are they content to go with the rotation as-is, or do they feel the need to go outside the organization to replace Jordan Zimmermann and Doug Fister? There’s still a long time for all of this to be sorted out, but the process begins now.

  1. homeparkdc - Nov 5, 2015 at 7:13 AM

    LOL Good luck with that last one:
    Q: What are the Nationals’ roster priorities this winter?
    Rizzo: As always, our front office and scouting teams are looking for the best opportunities to improve the Nationals.

  2. ArVAFan - Nov 5, 2015 at 7:29 AM

    One of these days, I want to buy “Lunch with Mike Rizzo” at a charity auction . . . just to see how long he can talk without actually saying anything!

    • npb99 - Nov 5, 2015 at 5:17 PM

      + infinity

  3. JayB - Nov 5, 2015 at 8:07 AM

    Great Questions Mark! Will you ask any of them will you push with a follow up when he does not even address the question?

    On Rizzo….I remember at a S Ticket Lunch I asked him about 2nd Base void…..he said Anderson H had a great Winter Ball and that he liked what he had right now……after the event he was mulling around and I talked again with him and he flat out said he knew 2nd base base had to be addressed and he knew he had to do something soon…..Kennedy was signed soon after that…..Rizzo just does not tell the truth on the record…off the record he knows he has a problem.

    Rizzo clearly lost a great deal of power with his keep MW and add J Pap decisions this summer. He will not be here this time next year.

    • Eugene in Oregon - Nov 5, 2015 at 9:53 AM

      The notion that ‘off the record’ answers — whether in baseball, politics, business, religion or any other human endeavor — often differ from what officials are willing to put ‘on the record’ shouldn’t surprise anyone.

  4. Joe Seamhead - Nov 5, 2015 at 9:27 AM

    I have been more than a little upset with what I consider muckraking by the press on this whole chapter to start the hot stove league. so, since the sports writers are drawing conclusions based on conjecture and “our sources” [unnamed] I am going to offer one of my own: The deal for Mike Maddux was evidently worked out last week. Darren Basley decided to stay with San Diego the deal with Maddux was worked out. Most folks seemed to think Balsley would come with Bud Black, maybe even Bud Black assumed that Darren Balsey was coming with him. But then the Nats let him know that, no, you are not going to have the say in who your coaches will be.Add in the reported insulting opening contract terms and the negotiations ended.

    • Joe Seamhead - Nov 5, 2015 at 9:31 AM

      edit: Balsley decided to stay with San Diego after the deal with Maddox was worked out.

  5. Joe Seamhead - Nov 5, 2015 at 9:55 AM

    So, Davey Lopes returns as 1B coach according to Mark Zuckerman’s tweet a little while ago. I love it, though I was also fond of Tarasco.

    • Doc - Nov 5, 2015 at 10:04 AM

      Me too, I liked Tony T.

      But Lopes knows a thing or two about running the bases.

      • Joe Seamhead - Nov 5, 2015 at 10:08 AM

        He hates head first slides.He also believes in ultra aggressive base running. I like it! He is a perfect coach to work with Trea Turner and Difo!

    • natsfan1a - Nov 5, 2015 at 10:28 AM

      *like*

      • natsfan1a - Nov 5, 2015 at 10:33 AM

        Plus, I believe he has the Werth seal of approval. 😉

  6. Doc - Nov 5, 2015 at 10:06 AM

    The best thing that Rusty Dusty can do about managing the pitching staff is listen with both ears to Maddux.

  7. homeparkdc - Nov 5, 2015 at 10:19 AM

    Some trivia before the press conference:
    Dusty Baker # 12 — Goodbye TMo ?
    Mike Maddux #31 — Will he ask Max Scherzer for this number?
    Davey Lopes #15 — Welcome aboard #15.

  8. jskurtzke - Nov 5, 2015 at 10:29 AM

    As messy as the process has been, these are 3 pretty good hires: Baker, Maddux, Lopes. A definite upgrade in the coaching staff.

    • ward5nedc - Nov 5, 2015 at 10:55 AM

      I’m holding my breath until I hear that Henley will not be coaching 3B

      • Doc - Nov 5, 2015 at 11:06 AM

        I think that a while back it was announced that Henley would be a special assistant to Rizzo.

      • Doc - Nov 5, 2015 at 11:06 AM

        I think that a while back it was announced that Henley would be a special assistant to Rizzo.

  9. sjberke - Nov 5, 2015 at 11:15 AM

    You know, not interviewing Dusty two years ago could be seen as a sign of respect. Two years ago, Rizzo was going to hire Matt Williams no matter what, interviews were only being done because the Selig Rule said they had to be, and so why have someone with Dusty’s record go through a sham interview? We know Dusty inquired after Davy’s retirement; wouldn’t be surprised if someone in authority told him not to bother.

    • NatsLady - Nov 5, 2015 at 12:11 PM

      Dusty said two years ago he didn’t want the job because he already knew “his student” Matt Williams had the inside track. He said he contacted the Nats to let the world know he wasn’t retired. Don’t know if I’m buying that, but it’s a good cover story.

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