The Washington Nationals are a lot like Ike and Tina Turner. They never seem to do anything nice and easy.
After firing Matt Williams, it appeared that the team had picked former San Diego Padres manager Bud Black over former San Francisco Giants, Chicago Cubs and Cincinnati Reds manager Dusty Baker.
But now the Nats have done an about face and have hired Baker instead. The problem came down to money with Black only being offered a one-year, $1.6 million deal. OK, I realize that most people in Black’s position would have jumped at $1.6 million. The problem is the length of the contract. If you offer a manager a one-year deal you are basically telling them you have no confidence in him and are looking for a better option. Unlike Williams who had no managing experience, Black had managed the Padres for 8½ seasons. By comparsion, Don Mattingly, after five seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers, sigend a four-year, $10 million contract to manage the Miami Marlins. As Adam Kilgore writes in The WaPo, “The Lerners made Jeffrey Loria appear decisive and considerate.” That is no small feat. The details of Baker’s contract have not been revealed, but it is reportedly a multi-year deal.
Nevertheless, if I were part of the Nats’ organization and had a choice between Black and Baker, I would pick Baker. He’s got a long established rapport with players. Why the Reds fired him I’ll never know. Baker guided them to two NL Central titles and a NL Wild Card berth in his six seasons with the club. The Reds have had two straight losing seasons under Price and in 2015 finished in last in the NL Central 36 games back of the St. Louis Cardinals. The Reds finished the season losing 14 of their final 15 games. Mind you, this is a team that includes the likes of Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips, Todd Frazier, Jay Bruce, Billy Hamilton and Aroldis Chapman. You can’t tell me the manager doesn’t make a difference.
Or as Kevin Draper of Deadspin put it, “Nobody is going to be choking the star player in Dusty Baker’s dugout.”
While Bryce Harper might be safe, Baker has signed up with a dysfunctional organization. Sadly, the dysfunction in D.C. is not confined to the Obama Administration.
Nevertheless, the Washington Nationals have nowhere to go but up in 2016.