I never agreed with Dusty Baker’s hiring – He was a little bit outdated and it was in the other end of the spectrum.
How did we go from unproven, inflexible and inexperienced in Matt Williams to a proven players-manager, but old-fashioned in Dusty Baker.
Let’s look back at some of the front office’s missteps.
First the Lerners lost Bud Black, who now manages the Rockies, by low-balling him with a one-year, $1.6 million offer.
Six years ago, the up and coming Nationals were on a roll with Jim Riggleman at the helm.
The Nats had just won 11 of the last 12 games and for the first time since coming to DC was flirting with .500
Truly Riggleman, who had been promoted two years earlier from bench coach when Manny Acta was fired mid-season, was winning praise with a bright future ahead.
He didn’t ask for a new contract – he just wanted to have a chat — something owners and managers should be having all the time.
Instead the front office gave the stiff arm, causing Riggleman to do the unspeakable by not getting aboard the plane and skipping the team’s series against the Chicago White Sox.
Ironically, it was the close but heart-breaking defeat to the Chicago (Cubs) that led to the Lerner’s next ruthless decision in removing Baker.
Baker did a superb job in his two years as manager. Players loved him and he brought unity and calm to a team that lacked it. Rizzo was happy with him, but with his own head in the chopping block, the team had to make another drastic move.
“I really thought this was my best year. We won at least 95 games each year and won the division back-to-back years but they said they wanted to go a different direction. It’s hard to understand,” said Baker.
Even though he held an 0-10 record in elimination games, he shouldn’t shoulder the blame for not advancing. They knew that before hiring him and nothing much had changed.
“More than anything, we want to share with you the elation of the final out going in our favor, when we can finally bring a championship home to Washington. That “One Pursuit” is the core driving force behind everything we do, from the first day of Spring Training to the last out of the final game,” the Lerners said in a letter sent to their fans.
“Winning a lot of regular season games and winning divisions is not enough,” said Rizzo
The new manager will now carry the unnecessarily high pressure of advancing to the NLCS in his first year and the World Series by the second. Everything short of that would be a huge disappointment
Who would want to manage under those circumstances.
The Lerners could have avoided the Williams – Baker short comings by just having an open dialogue with Riggleman in the first place. And if Riggleman had boarded the bus to Chicago, he might still be manager today, and who knows brought home a World Championship crown in DC.