Posted on October 20, 2017, by Bryan Zarpentine
The Washington Nationals took a week after their elimination from the MLB postseason to make a decision about manager Dusty Baker. Yet, they still managed to make the wrong choice. The Nationals announced Friday that Baker would not return for the 2018 season. Baker took the Nationals to the postseason in each of the past two seasons, but that wasn’t enough for the team’s owners, the Lerner family, to bring him back for a third season with the team.
“The Lerner family, on behalf of the entire organization, would like to thank Baker for his two years in the dugout,” read a statement released by the Nationals Friday. “He led the team to the first back-to-back division titles in our history and represented our club with class on and off the field. We wish him the best going forward.”
Baker was hired by the Nationals in November 2015 and signed to a two-year deal. One would think that two division titles and two postseason appearances would have been enough for the team to sign him to a new contract. However, the Nationals have decided to allow Baker’s contract to expire. The other members of the coaching staff have also seen their contracts expire.
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During his two seasons in Washington, Baker led the Nationals to a record of 192-132, a winning percentage of .594. The nationals easily won the NL East each of the last two seasons. However, it was a lack of playoff success that likely led to Baker not being invited back. Last year, the Nationals lost in the NLDS to the Dodgers in five games. This year, they fell to the Cubs, also in five games. Despite winning four division titles in the last six years, the Nationals have yet to win a playoff series since moving to Washington from Montreal in 2005.
“I’m surprised and disappointed,” said Baker. “They told me they would get back to me and I told them I was leaving town yesterday and they waited 10 days to tell me. 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.”
Prior to the playoffs, Baker told reporters that was a “good chance” he’d be back next season. Nationals GM Mike Rizzo also said that he was “confident” Baker would be the team’s manager in 2018. However, Rizzo said Friday that Baker was never offered a contract for 2018 and that his regular season success the past two seasons was “not enough.”
The Nationals will begin searching for a new manager right away. Despite the team being the dominant team in the NL East throughout the decade, the next manager will be the team’s fourth since 2013 and the seventh since the club moved to Washington.
It will be interesting to see what direction the Nationals go in for their new manager. The 2018 season could be the end of Washington’s window to be a serious World Series contender. Both Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy will be free agents following the 2018 season. After next season, the Nationals could also become hamstrung financially by backloaded contracts for Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and Ryan Zimmerman.
Whoever the Nationals hire to be their next manager will be under pressure to win right away and take the team to the World Series next year. Apparently, team ownership didn’t think Baker’s success over the past two seasons made him the right person to accomplish that.