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Rizzo: Nats were negotiating with both Baker and Black

Nov 5, 2015, 3:57 PM EDT

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Acknowledging the unique nature of the situation, Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said Thursday the club was simultaneously negotiating contracts with both Bud Black and Dusty Baker to be their next manager, had not selected Black for the job and ultimately didn’t make the decision to go with Baker instead because of a financial disagreement.

“It was a unique situation,” Rizzo said shortly after the news conference to introduce Baker as the Nationals’ sixth manager. “We had both of the candidates in the running here. At the end of the day, it did not come down to money. It did not come down to term. It came down to who were we — meaning the general manager, the president of the team, and ownership — most comfortable with. And Dusty was the right choice.”

Speaking publicly for the first time since last Wednesday’s reports that Black had been chosen for the job, Rizzo admitted the Nationals were deep in negotiations with the former Padres skipper but insisted Baker was never out of the running.

If that was true, Baker wasn’t aware of it. After reading the reports of Black’s expected hiring, he “resigned myself to the fact that I had to deal with another disappointment” and went to Santa Cruz, Calif., for a book tour.

“I was a little bewildered as to why no one had told me that I didn’t get the job,” Baker said. “And I found out later, and now I know why. Because they hadn’t made up their mind. … I got a very touching call from [Nationals managing principal owner Ted] Lerner. He told me that I was not out of the running and I had a good chance of getting the job.”

Rizzo insisted the Nationals kept Baker abreast of the situation throughout.

“Dusty, in our mind, was never out of it,” the GM said. “We kept in contact with him, specifically through our assistant general manager, Bob Miller, who had a relationship with him with the Cincinnati Reds for years. So they know each other extremely well. They were in constant contact with each other. Bob was giving the message that I wanted him to give to Dusty: We were still interested, and don’t close the book on us.”

It’s not common practice for major-league clubs to negotiate contracts with two managerial candidates at the same time. Typically, a club would offer the job to one candidate, engage in contract talks and nearly always come to terms on an agreement.

Rizzo admitted the process in this case was not typical.

“No, it was a unique situation,” he said. “We uniquely had two extremely qualified candidates, and we felt that was the best track to go by. Because sometimes the negotiating process also tells you a lot about the people that you’re negotiating with. As we discussed baseball in the interview process, and parameters in the financial process, we came to the conclusion that Dusty Baker was the perfect guy for us.”

One possible reason for the convoluted and confusing manner in which this saga played out was the significant role Nationals ownership held in both the interview and negotiating process. The franchise’s board of directors — which includes several members of the Lerner family, other minority owners and Rizzo — was directly involved throughout the process.

“When we make these big decisions, they certainly have input and they are involved,” Rizzo said. “And I think that’s good for the organization. We learn from each other. We get input from each other. And at the end of the day, we come down to it with a singular voice and make that decision.”

Lerner family members attended Thursday’s news conference but left without speaking to reporters. Rizzo, who in his position as president of baseball operations and GM has final say on baseball decisions, was left to speak for the organization.

“When we make a decision baseball-related, I make the final choice,” he said. “I’m the president and general manager of the baseball team. But when we leave that room, we are unanimous. That’s what has happened with every major decision we’ve made, and it continued to happen with this decision.”

  1. natsguy - Nov 5, 2015 at 4:12 PM

    I have to say that is the most disingenuous story I have ever heard. I have a couple of bridges to sell maybe they can negotiate with both of them.

    • Dave - Nov 5, 2015 at 4:20 PM

      Agree completely.

    • chaz11963 - Nov 5, 2015 at 4:21 PM

      Oh, why? And what exactly are your inside sources? Do you really think Rizzo would go on the record like this if it wasn’t true? More likely, Stoolpigeon aka Nightengale was hoping to make himself look good by disparaging the Nats. I thought it was wildly silly when I read his report… and guess what… if something seems wildly silly, perhaps it is…

  2. natsguy - Nov 5, 2015 at 4:13 PM

    I guess that is like punishing both Papelbon and Harper even though only one was at fault.

    • Doc - Nov 5, 2015 at 5:03 PM


      From a team-history point of view, going back a game or two, both Harper’s mouth and Papelbon’s fists were at fauilt.

      • natsguy - Nov 5, 2015 at 5:55 PM

        Right. What Harper said was true. Papelbon chose to respond with violence. One is punishable by law and the other is free speech.

      • nattyboh1 - Nov 6, 2015 at 8:36 AM

        Speaking freely about your teammates doesn’t win you a lot of love in the clubhouse. Bryce was at fault too and I bet he doesn’t do it again.

  3. Joe Seamhead - Nov 5, 2015 at 4:28 PM

    I’m turning the page on that whole pile of fertilizer. I’m positively giddy about the final result. I was never in on Black for this team.

    • natsguy - Nov 5, 2015 at 4:30 PM

      I can’t wait for the reason they use for bringing back Papelbon.

    • natsfan1a - Nov 5, 2015 at 4:32 PM

      And what a page it was. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again.

      • Sec 3, My Sofa - Nov 5, 2015 at 6:48 PM

        Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again.”

        Translated into Harperese: “It don’t matter.”

  4. natsguy - Nov 5, 2015 at 4:29 PM

    It sounds like there was a disagreement between the FO and ownership over who was wanted and ownership won out. That is a much more plausible scenario but we will never know.

    • chaz11963 - Nov 5, 2015 at 4:39 PM

      How do you come to that conclusion??? Wow, you and Whacky Mole need to chat

      • Joe Seamhead - Nov 5, 2015 at 5:08 PM

        Chaz? We’re not going to change what they believe. For what it’s worth a few of us agree with you. Regardless, let it go. Forward ho!

      • natsfan1a - Nov 5, 2015 at 5:34 PM

        Vitriolic much?

      • Joe Seamhead - Nov 5, 2015 at 6:16 PM

        Naw, I just think everybody’s on an emotional jag.

      • natsfan1a - Nov 6, 2015 at 8:00 AM

        Hey, Joe, just in case you might check back here, my comment was not directed at you. It was in reference to a since-deleted comment from another poster.

  5. langleyclub - Nov 5, 2015 at 4:29 PM

    Really don’t like that Rizzo is trying to spin this to avoid the reality that Baker wasn’t the first choice.

    Simply admit that negotiations broke down with Black, and then celebrate that the Nats hired Dusty. The Dusty hire is going to be evaluated based upon on how the team does on the field in 2016. Irrelevant at this point that Baker was not the first choice. It only matters that he ended up being : “the choice”. Everyone is ready to move on; trying to characterize it as some sort of bizarre double negotiation is dumb and just unnecessarily injects life back into the Bud Black story which was already yesterday’s news.

  6. natsguy - Nov 5, 2015 at 4:31 PM

    I have to say I have been pleased with the choice of coaches so far.

  7. natsfan1a - Nov 5, 2015 at 4:31 PM

    So the Lerners were in on the process, but they left it to Rizzo to face the music. I suppose that’s his job.

    I do feel like they ended up with the right guy, but the way they went about the selection and negotiations could have, and almost did, blow up in their faces. I’m glad that Dusty didn’t tell them where to get off. Because I think he probably knows. Where they could get off. I’m just saying. 🙂

    • chaz11963 - Nov 5, 2015 at 4:40 PM

      why do you say that? Based on what? Twitter?

    • natsfan1a - Nov 5, 2015 at 5:33 PM

      Why do I say what? It’s not clear to me which element of my comment you are questioning. And I’m not a tweeter. Not that I need to explain my Internet habits to you.

    • natsfan1a - Nov 5, 2015 at 5:45 PM

      But seeing as how you asked so nicely.

      The first two lines of my comment relate to the quote below, from Mark’s article above.

      “Lerner family members attended Thursday’s news conference but left without speaking to reporters. Rizzo, who in his position as president of baseball operations and GM has final say on baseball decisions, was left to speak for the organization.?”

      My feeling that they ended up with the right guy is my own opinion.

      My statement that the negotiations almost blew up in their faces is based on what I’ve read in the newspaper and here regarding hiring/not hiring Black, then hiring Baker.

      I hope that I have addressed your questions adequately. Otherwise I shan’t be able to sleep tonight. But I will give it the old school try. Have a pleasant evening.

      • kkpp3 - Nov 5, 2015 at 6:04 PM


  8. Joe Seamhead - Nov 5, 2015 at 4:42 PM

    Off topic, but regarding Davey Lopes, this column from a 2010 Phillies piece will tell you a little bit of why we all should be excited about Lopes coming here. I am slobbering over how much this guy will help the likes of MAT, Bryce, and not to mention Trea Turner and Wilmer Difo:

    • rmoore446 - Nov 5, 2015 at 5:00 PM


    • Doc - Nov 5, 2015 at 5:06 PM

      Good link, Seams!

  9. chaz11963 - Nov 5, 2015 at 4:44 PM

    Some of us, no doubt, work in very controversial industries/jobs/roles (because this is DC after all) that the media frequently reports on and more often than not gets wrong, but also create all kinds of narratives about what actually happened that have no basis in reality. I can only imagine Rizzo’s head must have been exploding over the last few days. Good grief… been there….

    • natsguy - Nov 5, 2015 at 5:43 PM

      If I said the sky was blue you would disagree. That’s the way it is. I’m not the one who got nasty about it.

  10. Sec 3, My Sofa - Nov 5, 2015 at 6:51 PM

    While I want no part of whatever started this pissing contest, I do think it’s possible that things really were as the front office says they were, more or less. I have no idea who leaked what information, and that would matter, I suppose, but the leaks were all unattributed, and it’s not like Rizzo or the Lerners to sit in front of the mirror in a poker game.

    • Joe Seamhead - Nov 5, 2015 at 6:59 PM

      Here! Here!

    • Sec 3, My Sofa - Nov 5, 2015 at 7:07 PM

      and just for the record, I didn’t see whatever comment got reported, but 1a doesn’t say [stuff] deserving 86-worthy replies. She can handle her own action just fine without me, but I will chime in, in favor of civil discourse.



      • natsfan1a - Nov 6, 2015 at 8:00 AM

        Amen, brother.

      • kkpp3 - Nov 6, 2015 at 8:35 AM

        Yes yes yes

  11. Whynat - Nov 5, 2015 at 8:16 PM

    Just curious, how many of you, in management roles, typically enter into simultaneous financial negotiations with two candidates for a single position? I my line of work that is generally considered negotiating in bad faith.

    • ehay2k - Nov 5, 2015 at 8:35 PM

      Well, since you asked, I do this frequently when two (pick one: candidates, vendors, resellers) look pretty equal on paper. I start with the one with a slight edge, and talk numbers. If we are in alignment, I go with that entity. However, if we are not, then I put the first on “let me think about it” hold, and talk numbers with the second, who has been sweating. If that works, the first guy loses, and I win either way.

      What I NEVER do is announce my choice and start negotiating with them. Total loss of leverage. That was the main oddity of this process: Black appeard clearly to be out before Baker was signed. I blame leaks, overeager media, and the often disruptive speed of social media.

      My only other comment is that if Black was so “offended” by the first offer that he later refused a 3 year, $6M dollar deal, then we dodged a bullet. And he may well be millions poorer.

    • Sec 3, My Sofa - Nov 5, 2015 at 10:09 PM

      I do that with contractors, if you count bidding processes, but never with employees.

    • trfwans - Nov 5, 2015 at 10:39 PM

      This kind of thing has to be done fairly often in the hiring of executives/managers. For instance, Metro just hired a new GM in the same set of circumstances as the Nats. The press announced that one guy had been hired, then negotiations apparently broke down and almost right after that Metro announced that a second guy was hired. Surely they had been negotiating with both guys simultaneously or they’d never have been able to reach a deal with the second guy so fast.

      As for never doing it when hiring employees, baseball players are employees and this kind of thing happens all the time when teams acquire new players via free agency or trade. Happened with the Mets at the trade deadline, didn’t it?

  12. philipd763 - Nov 5, 2015 at 10:31 PM

    That story is a crock of you know what. Rizzo and the Lerners are the laughing stock of MLB and their fan base. Nobody conducts business that way. I now have 0 respect for Rizzo and wouldn’t trust him anymore than Jim Riggleman would trust him.

  13. Michael Hayde - Nov 5, 2015 at 11:18 PM

    Let’s wait until after Bud Black gets his next managing gig; when he’s safely employed, see what he says about his negotiations with the Nats.

  14. mdmcommish - Nov 6, 2015 at 12:06 AM

    Good god, it used to be enjoyable to come on this site and read reasoned, intelligent and thoughtful discourse. It’s all gone to hell. I never post, but you guys need to calm down.





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