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Baker sees Nats as ‘perfect fit’ both on and off field

Nov 7, 2015, 9:00 AM EST

USA Today Sports Images

Last week when media reports had Bud Black penciled in as the Nationals’ new manager, Dusty Baker gave an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle at a book signing in which he lamented losing out on the job. The Nats had not spoken to him yet – which in hindsight perhaps should have been a clue to all of us – and he was down in the dumps about it.

His wife had alerted him of the story, which turned out to be premature. At the time, however, he did not know that and wondered aloud if his baseball managing career was over. It was a tough pill to swallow for the 66-year-old skipper, and not only because he missed being in the dugout.

Baker saw the Nationals job as the perfect fit for him, both on the field and off of it. On the field the Nationals boast a talented roster capable of going as far as they want in October. And off the field they represent a city Baker has long had a special admiration for. The demographics of D.C. as an international city have always impressed the man who grew up outside Sacramento, California.

“It’s a perfect fit because of the culture here, the educational system here,” Baker explained. “[Tuesday] night I went to the [Wizards] game and there were people from all over the country and all over the world… I’m used to diversity and this is probably the most diverse city and the most diverse town that I’ve been in.”

Baker will now lead a baseball team in a city long known for its large population of African-Americans. He, in fact, will be the only black manager in baseball next season – barring something unforeseen with the Dodgers’ hire – and only the second minority. If it weren’t for the Nationals hiring Baker, there may have been no black managers in baseball for the first time since 1987.

It is an unintended statistic in baseball, but an unfortunate one. And Baker knows being the only one carries a certain weight.

“I’ve felt a sense of responsibility really the whole time I’ve been managing. There have not been many managers of color. I’ve had a central responsibility since I was a kid in different walks of life. My parents were heavily involved in the NAACP when I was a kid and I was in the junior NAACP. My mom always stressed education and pride in my family,” he said.

GM Mike Rizzo was actually asked after Thursday’s introductory press conference explicitly if race played a factor in the team’s decision to hire Baker, who is a three-time NL Manager of the Year and was quite easily the most qualified candidate available.

“We didn’t have that thought,” Rizzo said. “We really chose Dusty for the résumé he brings, and the way he conducts himself. Really the thing that put Dusty over the top was the trust factor that he had, not only with me — because I’ve known of him and we know so many of the same people — but the trust factor with ownership was huge in this process.”

The process of hiring him was not as smooth as the Nats intended, but Baker is grateful for the opportunity in Washington and happy to be back in baseball.

“There is a sense of pride. Hopefully I can make a difference. All the calls that I’ve had, people have said ‘hey, it’s better to have you in the game than not in the game.’ I try to lead by example.”

  1. sunshinebobby - Nov 7, 2015 at 9:10 AM

    I’m getting into Dusty. I’m very high on him, personally and a manager. I really hope he brings it home. Good luck, Mr. Baker!

  2. JayB - Nov 7, 2015 at 9:25 AM

    This off season so far has been what needed to happen….Rizzo has been knocked down a few pegs and he is not the smartest GM ever…….Fired Medical Staff too and MW….this is so good! Late by a year at least but good!

    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

    • Thom - Nov 7, 2015 at 9:57 AM

      JayB who are you replacing Mike Rizzo with?

  3. TimDz - Nov 7, 2015 at 10:21 AM

    Off topic: Mark, could you PLEASE take down the NL East Standings graphic?
    I’m finding it depressing……

    • Doc - Nov 7, 2015 at 11:58 AM

      I think that Mark wants to remind us how bad last season was.

    • ehay2k - Nov 7, 2015 at 12:48 PM

      Hmm.. do we need to start posting Big 10 standings to make our point? 😉

      • Sec 3, My Sofa - Nov 7, 2015 at 2:26 PM

        OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!
        Burn!

    • ArVAFan - Nov 7, 2015 at 12:51 PM

      +104

      or maybe that should be

      -104?

    • janebeard - Nov 7, 2015 at 5:45 PM

      I would be happy for the countdown to Pitchers and Catchers, myself.

    • naterialguy - Nov 8, 2015 at 10:36 PM

      I actually don’t mind it. It reminds me that as bad as it seemed it wasn’t THAT bad. We still won more than we lost.

  4. natsfan1a - Nov 7, 2015 at 10:28 AM

    Maybe swap in a countdown to spring training.

    • Joe Seamhead - Nov 7, 2015 at 11:19 AM

      I second 1a’s idea.

      • Sec 3, My Sofa - Nov 7, 2015 at 11:33 AM

        I, too, would like to associate myself with the comments of my esteemed colleague.

  5. Dave - Nov 7, 2015 at 12:21 PM

    “Last week when media reports had Bud Black penciled in as the Nationals’ new manager…”

    I’m glad to see Chase accurately describe what happened last week, instead of suggesting that the Nats had done a deal with Black that went south.

    Meanwhile, as this week has gone on, I have become more and more enthusiastic about Dusty as the new skipper.

  6. TimDz - Nov 7, 2015 at 12:33 PM

    One of our old draft picks has turned things around:

    Per MLBTRADERUMORS:

    The Mets have added lefty Josh Smoker to their 40-man roster, Rubin tweets. Once a top draft pick of the rival Nationals, Smoker experienced a surprising rebound as a reliever in the New York system, reining in his command issues and putting up double-digit strikeout-per-nine numbers at the A, High-A, and Double-A levels. The Mets obviously feel he can contribute in 2016, and made today’s move to prevent him from qualifying for minor league free agency.

    • TimDz - Nov 7, 2015 at 12:37 PM

      On that note, it should soon be time that the Nats begin retooling their 40 man roster….I look forward to seeing these moves and who we could potentially lose in the rules 5 draft…

    • ehay2k - Nov 7, 2015 at 12:58 PM

      Amazing that we picked Smoker ahead of Zimmermann. Hmm.. that was clearly pre Rizzo & Co.

      Also in that draft were Derek Norris and Souza. The other pitcher in the draft that was touted was Jack McGeary, now 25 and appears to have last played high A ball for the Dodgers in 2014. He was the guy who didn’t get drafted high because he wanted to go to school (Stanford?) first. The Nats gave him a contract and he went to school for a bit but not sure what happened there, just that in 2007 he started playing for the Nats affiliate in Vermont. Seems to have fizzled out.

      • philipd763 - Nov 7, 2015 at 1:17 PM

        Nats even paid for McGreary’s entire education at Stanford and he was a huge bust!

      • Sec 3, My Sofa - Nov 7, 2015 at 2:28 PM

        A dry well, for sure. He had TJS fairly early on, too, IIRC.

      • Section 222 - Nov 7, 2015 at 3:07 PM

        Rizzo was Asst. GM/VP starting in 2006, and heavily involved in the 2007 draft. In fact, he takes credit for the JZnn pick. You never know how these guys will turn out, but the McGeary thing did leave a bad taste. They bent over backwards for that guy and he never amounted to anything.

      • ehay2k - Nov 7, 2015 at 5:35 PM

        Yes, but I believe this was before he had overhauled the scouting staff, correct?

      • Sec 3, My Sofa - Nov 7, 2015 at 8:03 PM

        Well, you pays your money and you takes your chances.

      • Section 222 - Nov 8, 2015 at 11:25 AM

        ehay, I thought he was basically in charge of the scouting staff at that point. But it’s not really worth tracking down. The point is that to say he had no involvement with the 2007 draft, or the decision to pick Smoker ahead of JZnn is not correct. How much control he had, I don’t know.

      • ehay2k - Nov 8, 2015 at 1:37 PM

        Did some research and that was Rizzo’s first year with the Nats. Bowden was still running the show. They had hired a lot of good talent evaluators that year as well, but who knows how ready they were – its possible there was some overlap in their scouting reports that first year because easch scout was probably already following some players before that scout joined the Nats, but I confess I have no idea how that would have worked out. What I do know is that if Bowden had his eye on someone, they were going to draft him. McGeary had apparently let it be known that he wanted to go to college, so his stock dropped because teams feared they wouldn’t sign him. Bowden and Kasten crowed about that draft, which included Smoker and Detwiler. On yeah, also some kid from Stevens Point, Wisc., with a power arm.

        So, I’m not sure how much Rizzo had to do with any of the picks, but I am pretty sure the big picks were very heavily influenced by Bowden, who still considers himself a very good evaluator of talent, despite some evidence to the contrary.

        Good WaPo article here:
        http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/08/15/AR2007081502221.html

      • Section 222 - Nov 8, 2015 at 2:09 PM

        Thanks for digging up that article. Fascinating. Did you see the story at the bottom about Zim trying to figure out why he was making so many throwing errors? Long before his injuries.

      • ehay2k - Nov 8, 2015 at 2:13 PM

        Yeah, I saw that. I think that was about the time Zimm was having issues trying to throw overhand to reduce stress on his abdominal muscles. At any rate, that was a long time ago. He really struggled for a long time.

      • Section 222 - Nov 8, 2015 at 2:20 PM

        No, the abdominal injury came in 2011. He actually played all 162 games in 2007 and didn’t have a significant injury until 2008, when he hurt his left shoulder.

    • npb99 - Nov 7, 2015 at 7:57 PM

      With a name like that, gotta give the kid another chance.

  7. Joe Seamhead - Nov 7, 2015 at 4:04 PM

    When I was with the Giants I signed two-year contracts. They said I might as well be a lame duck, I was on crutches, you know what I’m saying. It’s no big deal to me. How many people in life have one-year contracts? How many of you out there have one-year contracts? A lot of people are on paycheck-to-paycheck contracts, so I feel very fortunate to be even on a one-year contract.

    Dusty Baker
    Dec.5, 2011 in an interview with USA Today

  8. unkyd59 - Nov 7, 2015 at 4:49 PM

    I keep checking in, hoping to see the next coaching hire… If they keep to the Maddux/Lopes level for batting, 3b and Bench, it’ll be graduate level instruction, fer sure…

  9. npb99 - Nov 7, 2015 at 8:00 PM

    For what it’s worth, I am enjoying having a manager with a real and lively personality.

    • unkyd59 - Nov 7, 2015 at 8:29 PM

      It’s worth a lot, over here…😉

  10. Sec 3, My Sofa - Nov 7, 2015 at 10:54 PM

    OK, playoffs start tomorrow. Wish me luck.

    • natsfan1a - Nov 8, 2015 at 6:46 AM

      Good luck. Go, SOFA!

  11. rabbit433 - Nov 8, 2015 at 5:35 AM

    I can’t believe that being black was a consideration for Dusty being. It never occurred to me that all the other managers were white, at this time. At least I know I’m above that. Will a race issue ever end? Play ball!

  12. rabbit433 - Nov 8, 2015 at 5:35 AM

    being hired.

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