Dusty Baker Returns For One Last Hurrah, And The Nationals Will Be Better For It
Rick Chandler 11:20 am, November 03rd, 2015
Unklike the latest Rocky movie and the un-retirement of Phil Collins, I really looking forward to this blast from the past. Dusty Baker is back managing an MLB team. And he's just what the Washington Nationals need.
My most recent meeting with Baker came at the Twin Pines baseball complex in Sunnyvale CA, just a few miles from what would later become Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara (or "Little Big Horn" as 49ers fans call it). I was there to watch a friend play softball, but there on an adjoining field was Baker, managing a traveling youth baseball team for which his son, then about 10 years old, was playing.
Watching Baker work with kids was magical. He has the patience of any three saints, he explained things, was kind, yet was always in charge. Baker even talked with me after the game -- it was right after his stint in Chicago had ended, and he was upbeat and jovial. A handful of years before that I had run into Steve Mariucci at a Valley Christian High School (San Jose) football game, where his son was the starting quarterback. I tried to say hello and he abruptly turned away from me mid-sentence and disappeared into the stands. If he'd had smoke grenades I'm sure he would have used them to cover his escape. I still recall the scowl.
Not Baker. Dusty is genuinely nice -- the anti-Frank Robinson (I use that comparison because they both managed the Giants). He's someone you root for. And I'm rooting for him now.
Unfortunately Baker wasn't the first choice to manage the Nationals (the deal was finalized a few hours ago). Washington's first choice was Bud Black, but the two sides couldn't agree on money. Perhaps Baker feels this is his last chance -- he's 66 -- or perhaps managing is in his blood. Why else would he spend his summer coaching his kid on a youth baseball traveling team?
According to USA Today, talks between the Nationals and Black came apart when the team offered a two-year deal worth for a bit less than $2 million. Black turned it down, and the Nats then called Baker.
Baker hasn't managed since he left the Cincinnati Reds in 2013. Before that he managed the Giants and Cubs. Baker is 1,671–1,504 over 20 seasons.
Baker is just the manager the Nationals need. All of that fussing and underachieving and Jonathan Papelbon trying to choke Bryce Harper? That's not going to fly in the Baker Administration. If experience counts, Washington is in good hands.
The knock on Baker is that he can't handle pitchers, and that he chokes in the playoffs. And maybe that's why he's back -- to prove those critics wrong. All I know is that baseball is better with Dusty Baker in it, and I'm looking forward to spring.
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