The Washington Nationals say manager Dusty Baker won’t be back next season.The team announced the move Friday.
Baker led the Nationals to the NL East title in each of his two years with the club. But Washington lost its NL Division Series both times. His contract expired at the conclusion of this season, his second in Washington and 22nd as a skipper in the big leagues.
Dating to spring training, he made clear his desire for a new deal, but the Nationals refused to negotiate at all until season’s end.
The Nationals and Baker had worked toward an extension of his original two-year deal — two years that resulted in two division titles. But Baker expressed some frustration about not having the deal done to The Washington Post’s Chelsea Janes, and that story displeased the ownership group of the Lerner family, and negotiations sputtered.
But in the week leading up to the series with the Cubs, people with knowledge of Baker’s future said a deal would get done, and that it didn’t depend on whether the Nats advanced to the NLCS for the first time in franchise history.
There are so many arguments that, at 68, he deserves a new deal. Before Baker arrived, the Nats’ ship was listing under the captaincy of Matt Williams. Baker proved before he arrived in Washington, and reinforced over the past two seasons, that he knows how to navigate the waters of a 162-game season as well as anyone. His players play for him. He keeps them rested and ready. He communicates. They respond.
At some point, wouldn’t the Nats want some consistency in the dugout? Since the team arrived in D.C. in 2005, no manager has remained in place for three full seasons. Frank Robinson was let go at the end of 2006, Manny Acta was fired in the middle of 2009, Jim Riggleman quit in the middle of 2011; they didn’t bring back Davey Johnson after 2013; and Williams was fired after 2015. Baker is the sixth manager in the 13 seasons since the Nats arrived. Excluding interim skippers who finished out a season, only Miami along wit Seattle has had more during that span.