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What will Baker change as manager of the Nats?

Nov 6, 2015, 2:42 PM EDT

USA Today

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.”

  1. ArVAFan - Nov 6, 2015 at 3:08 PM

    Not directly on point: made our reservations for Spring Training: 2/20-27. I know we don’t have exact dates yet, but there are worse things in Feb. than sitting on the beach for a day while deleting winter weather advisories from Arlington County. Needed to make the reservations before all the rooms sold out on the auto train.

    I’ll go hang on a fence and “report” what Dusty has the guys doing, and how they’re doing it. Mark will do the actual reporting–without the quote marks, of course.

    We’ll make another trip in March for a few games and our “lunch with the umpire.”

    • Sec 3, My Sofa - Nov 6, 2015 at 3:12 PM

      Looking forward to your reports!

    • Doc - Nov 6, 2015 at 3:13 PM

      I’m thinking that you’ll have a lot t report, ArVAFan.

    • ArVAFan - Nov 6, 2015 at 3:36 PM

      In the past, bunting drills have always been good for a few laughs/eye rolls. I don’t expect that to change.

      Now that Zim has shown himself to be a fine 1st baseman, those drills won’t have as much tension this year, unless he’s injured and someone else is playing first in the fielding drills. But it is fascinating to hear the situation “called” and watch how the players re-position themselves and react.

      I’m sure the design of the drills in the past two years were 100% MW down to the number of repetitions. Going forward, I expect that Dusty will have the coaches doing the details under his general guidance. This will be our 4th year down there, so I’m beginning to feel as if I have some basis for comparison. Really looking forward to seeing this new regime–and, I’m sure, some new players (and missing some old ones).

    • NatsNut - Nov 6, 2015 at 3:46 PM

      Too funny, ArVA

      “…sitting on the beach for a day while deleting winter weather advisories from Arlington County…”

      • ArVAFan - Nov 6, 2015 at 4:03 PM

        Yep. I probably have an evil grin on my face while doing it. I admit it.

    • Sonny G 10 - Nov 6, 2015 at 4:54 PM

      I’ll also be looking forward to your reports ArVAFan. I’d like to make it down there myself, but don’t know if I can. I may be in the middle of radiation treatments for my prostate cancer at that time, so I’ll see what happens.

      • natsfan1a - Nov 6, 2015 at 5:20 PM

        Sorry to hear that, Sonny. Hope that all goes well with treatment.

      • knoxvillenat - Nov 6, 2015 at 5:29 PM

        Good luck with your radiation treatments. Cancer of any sort sucks.

      • Joe Seamhead - Nov 6, 2015 at 5:50 PM

        We may, or may not, be able to pull off another spring training trip. We have an incredible invite for a place to stay in Gentily, NOLA around New Years, and $ may play a part on how many days away we can pull off..Sonny, sending you lots of good Ju-Ju!

      • Sec 3, My Sofa - Nov 7, 2015 at 12:22 AM

        Yes, good numbers to you, Sonny!

  2. JayB - Nov 6, 2015 at 4:02 PM

    Mark what exactly is the status of the training and medical staff? Dusty said it yesterday, that changes have been made and this was an area of improvement needed. MW killed the team with his lack of skills as a person and manager but Dusty will not get us where we should be with the same injury issues this team has had over and over again.

    So again Mark…..what is the status of training, strength and medical staff.

    • NatsNut - Nov 6, 2015 at 4:28 PM

      I’ve actually been a little more curious about this than any other moves to be made. I forget if it was a chat or blog or what, but I recall reading something, even before the others were fired, that sounded like the training staff would be canned. It seems to be the next moneyball-type thing teams could be using to get a little edge, and the Nats were just way behind.

      • Sonny G 10 - Nov 6, 2015 at 4:58 PM

        I hope you’re right. We really need to keep our guys relatively healthy.

    • Dave - Nov 6, 2015 at 5:16 PM

      The Washington Post already reported two weeks ago that the training staff was dismissed:

      Washington Post report

      • NatsNut - Nov 6, 2015 at 7:36 PM

        I know. I actually read something about it even before the training staff was dismissed, so I wasn’t really surprised when they were. I’m just curious to see the moves they will make to revamp that part of the system.

    • knoxvillenat - Nov 6, 2015 at 5:28 PM

      I believe the Nats have hired at least one individual for the staff, someone Baker recommended from his time with the Reds. Name escapes me at the moment but I remember reading it somewhere in the last couple of days. Sorry for not knowing all the details but that’s the best I got right now.

      • Joe Seamhead - Nov 6, 2015 at 5:51 PM

        Lessard?

      • Sec 3, My Sofa - Nov 7, 2015 at 12:27 AM

        Paul Lessard
        Head Athletic Trainer

        Paul Lessard, 50, was hired in December ‘09 to be the Head Athletic Trainer for the Cincinnati Reds. He held the same position with Red Sox (2005-09), as well as the Arizona Diamondbacks (1997-2005). He has an extensive background in Collegiate sports, as well as Professional sports. He was Head Athletic Trainer at Holy Cross (1994-97), and Senior Athletic Trainer at Boston University 1988-94. Paul served as a summer assistant athletic trainer for the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons in 1985 and 1986, followed by 2 seasons with the New York Yankees affiliate in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.(1987 & ’88). A native of Stamford, Conn., Lessard received an undergraduate degree in athletic training from Northeastern University. He is a member of NATA, the EATA, the OATA, and ATOM. Lessard’s hobbies include playing golf and racquetball. Paul and his wife Lisa have 3 daughters, Anne, Grace, and Nicole.

        http://pbats.com/cincinnati-reds/

        Byron Kerr:
        “Baker mentioned that longtime Reds head athletic trainer Paul Lessard has been hired to lead the Nationals training staff.”
        http://www.masnsports.com/byron-kerr/2015/11/baker-and-rizzo-understand-the-benefits-of-a-new-revamped-training-system-could-have-on-nats.html

  3. JayB - Nov 6, 2015 at 5:22 PM

    how is that not NJ worthy news and what about medical staff?

  4. JayB - Nov 7, 2015 at 7:50 AM

    So Cool!!!!!!!! This has been a major beef of mine for several years…..so many posters here have dismissed it but there it is….and no reporting on NJ from Chase or Mark?

    “”It was part of what we identified as one of the things we needed to improve on,” Rizzo said. “We really have come to a point where we’ve got ourselves a really a cutting edge, expansive, innovative health system that’s going to be in place, that’s going to be all-inclusive, that will hopefully reap benefits.
    “We think that that is the next frontier. We had over 1,000 games missed by our core players. It’s hard to win no matter how deep you are or how good you think you are in the minor leagues with that many games missed by your core players.”
    Rizzo feels that an innovative medical and training plan will pay dividends. But he was not ready to make an official announcement as to the specifics regarding the new staff.
    “We’ve invested a lot of money into it,” Rizzo said. “We are going to wheel that out our new medical people when the time is right, when we’ve completed it. But we’re very excited with that addition to the ballclub, too.”

    • natsfan1a - Nov 7, 2015 at 8:17 AM

      Those comments were made at the Baker presser, which was televised on MASN.

    • Sec 3, My Sofa - Nov 7, 2015 at 10:51 PM

      Not to mention, here’s a guy who already knows everything, demanding a particular article from anybody.

  5. ehay2k - Nov 7, 2015 at 2:03 PM

    NJ is the WaPo blog. This is NI.

  6. wskyrnr21 - Nov 8, 2015 at 7:00 AM

    Love the fact that we have a legitimate MARINE in charge to LEAD our team!

    Semper FI

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