Nov 6, 2015, 2:42 PM EDT
It has been just over 24 hours since Dusty Baker was introduced as the Nationals’ new manager and three-and-a-half months remain until pitchers and catchers report for 2016 spring training. That is a long, long time for Baker to get settled and start making plans for his first year on the job.
Given that timeframe, Baker could only share so many details about what he plans to change about the Nats moving forward. For now, he hopes to contact his players, coaches and front office colleagues and get started on his first objective: simply listen to what they have to say.
“It’s going to take a while,” Baker explained. “The thing about great leaders, like Nelson Mandela said ‘you have to listen as well as talk.’
“Number one, I have to wait to be around guys before I start changing people. I don’t believe in going in and getting rid of everybody. Some people here love it here and deserve to be here. So, I have to sort of observe for a while before I mandate, which I don’t believe in mandating anything. I believe in sort of going in with my eyes open. When people tell me things, I will listen to people and then I will make my decision based on what that person has told me or not.”
Baker said he’s been asked by many people already about what he will say on the first day of spring training. That exact question came up during his introductory press conference and he gave an honest answer about where he stands as of now.
“To tell you the truth, everyone wants to know what I’m going to say on the first day of spring training. And you know something? I really don’t know. It’s something that I have to feel, something that can’t be fabricated and can’t be faked. Guys can see that. I’ll talk to some of the guys and see what this team needs. But I really don’t know exactly what they need. Who knows, they may not need anything. I doubt it, but I’ll listen to some of the guys [first].”
Exactly what he will change can not be determined yet, but Baker did share some insight into what he hopes to install in terms of a philosophy as the Nationals’ manager. For one, he wants the Nationals to play faster. The Nats were 27th in baseball in stolen bases this past season.
“We’re going to run the bases. I think that’s something that is last on the list for a lot of teams. Baserunning is probably the most overlooked part of baseball,” Baker said.
New first base coach and baserunning specialist Davey Lopes should certainly help that cause.
The Nationals will be the fourth team Baker has managed and, though he has coached some star-studded rosters in the past, this is the best group of talent he’s ever inherited in his first year. What he does with them is yet to be determined, but it was easy to sense Baker’s excitement to lead the Nats’ current group of players into 2016.
“This is my fourth and final team. Beyond compare, this is the best talent. That’s why I was excited about coming here,” he said.
“Most of the other teams that I had were either on the bottom or near the bottom and we had to rebuild. I asked a friend of mine, Al Attles who was with the Warriors, I said ‘Al, I always get teams and have to build them up.’ He said ‘Dusty, you’ve done more with less.’ I told him I was ready to do more with more. I’d like to try that. They have some great talent here. There’s some young talent also mixed with experience at the same time. I’ve always liked that formula.”
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As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2015 schedule (subject to change)...
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