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Back in playoffs, Nationals manager Dusty Baker feels at ease

Back in playoffs, Nationals manager Dusty Baker feels at ease

Dusty Baker has learned over the course of his 67 years, and through his career spanning six decades in Major League Baseball, that just because you know you are good at what you do and have the wins to prove it, doesn't mean you are guaranteed anything in his business. 

When he was fired by the Cincinnati Reds following the 2013 season, a year in which he won 90 games and one year after he won 97, Baker had a .526 career winning percentage through 20 seasons as a big league skipper. Only Bruce Bochy had more wins among active managers. Only 16 in MLB history have more victories and of those only four are not in the Hall of Fame. Bochy is one, the others are Jim Leyland - who recently retired - Lou Pinella and Gene Mauch.

Baker's résumé spoke for itself, yet he was out of a job for two full seasons following his departure in Cincinnati. Even the Nationals showed little interest before the 2014 season, when they instead chose his former player, Matt Williams, to coach.

It was a long two years, but now Baker is back where he feels he belongs. He's back in the majors, back in the dugout and back in the postseason ready to chase the one accomplishment that has eluded him for decades: a World Series title as a manager.

"This is what I thought I should be doing," he said. "When I was sitting at home, I was like 'I should be there' because I'm pretty used to going to the playoffs. So I'm very grateful and thankful that I have a good team. This is what we wanted in spring training this is what we wanted prior to spring training. We wanted to be in this position. So to me, this is kind of where I'm supposed to be."

[RELATED: Nats name Scherzer their Game 1 starter vs. Dodgers]

Baker is happy where he's at, but there were some dark times during those two years. He spent much of that period in his own thoughts, at times having doubts about whether he would ever get a chance to manage again. 

He made the most of his time, however. He married his daughter, he took fishing trips to Montana and Canada, he spent time with his teenage son. He started a wine business. He watched plenty of baseball and even spent time as a television analyst.

But Baker always knew he wanted to get back in the dugout. A desire to return burned inside of him. He wanted and felt he deserved one more shot.

"I was down for about three days [after getting fired] and I couldn't figure out why I was down. We had just lost the playoffs and a couple days after that I lost my job. But my dad used to tell me that it's ok to be down, just don't stay down. I was like 'man, is that what depression is?' I've never had depression, all I know is I didn't like that feeling."

[RELATED: Tough decisions to make for Nationals playoff roster]

He got over it, but that didn't make the phone ring. He waited and waited and waited, and to his surprise there was little interest from other teams.

"I was more bewildered than I was worried, and I wondered if I was on the blacklist or not. There's an unwritten list and sometimes your name is at the top as one of the unwanted, for whatever reason. I was sitting at home watching guys [get jobs] that hadn't done what I had done. In my last year I had gone to the playoffs again. That doesn't happen very often: a guy goes to the playoffs and all of a sudden he can't get a job."

Baker eventually interviewed with the Nationals last fall, but for a brief period believed he was passed over for the job. He did an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle and said he was displeased, in general, with the way African-Americans were being passed over for big league jobs. Baker's counterpart in the NL Division Series, Dave Roberts, is the only other minority among current MLB managers, a stat that does not accurately reflect the demographics among players.

"My mother taught me as a kid, as an African-American that you have to be twice as good to accomplish the same thing. So that's something that's been in my family ever since I was a kid," Baker said.

Baker knows this could be his last opportunity to win a World Series and if he does, he will vastly improve his case for the Hall of Fame. That, naturally, is another goal of Dusty's.

"Everyday in Cincinnati I was passing somebody [in career wins] that was in the Hall of Fame already. So yeah, I'd like to be the first African American in the Hall of Fame as a manager," he said. 

"I think about it. I think about if I hadn't been out the last couple years I'd be close to 2000 victories. So there's certain things that you think about."

[RELATED: Nats' Bryce Harper looking forward to playoffs, clean slate]

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Former Nats manager Jim Riggleman named interim manager of Reds

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Former Nats manager Jim Riggleman named interim manager of Reds

Remember Jim Riggleman, the infamous Nats manager that resigned from the position back in 2011 after a win against the Seattle Mariners? Well he's back in a managerial position.

Bryan Price was fired as manager of the Cinncinati Reds Thursday, after the team started the 2018 season 3-15. Riggleman, who spent four seasons as their bench coach, was named the interim manager to replace Price.

Riggleman was promoted to interim manager of the Nats in July of 2009, after Manny Acta was let go midseason. He stayed on as manager for 2010 and 2011, and he then resigned from the team on June 23, 2011 after a win agaisnt the Seattle Mariners. He had lead the team to a win in 11 of their last 12 games prior to stepping away.

The reason behind the dramatic exit was due to the organization not yet picking up his 2012 contract option. He had reportedly requested a conversation with the front office about his future with the organization, and was upset after they declined. At 58 years-old, he felt he deserved more respect.

He's been with the Reds organization since 2012, and has spent time managing the Padres, Cubs and Mariners, in addition to the Nationals. His career winning pct. with each team has been below-.500.

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Nationals fall after Mets score 9 runs in 8th inning

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USA Today Sports Images

Nationals fall after Mets score 9 runs in 8th inning

NEW YORK -- Yoenis Cespedes launched a grand slam during a nine-run outburst in the eighth inning that rallied the New York Mets past the Washington Nationals 11-5 on Wednesday night, preventing a three-game sweep.

Todd Frazier tied it at 4 with a two-run single and pinch-hitter Juan Lagares put New York ahead for the first time with a two-run double off ineffective setup man Ryan Madson (0-2).

Shut down by Tanner Roark for seven innings, the first-place Mets broke loose in the eighth and improved to 13-4 with a stirring victory against their NL East rivals.

Ryan Zimmerman homered twice, tripled and drove in four runs for the Nationals, who pulled off their own big comeback in the eighth inning of the series opener.

Two nights later, New York returned the favor.

Roark limited the Mets to two hits and left leading 4-2. Michael Conforto, Cespedes and Asdrubal Cabrera singled off Madson to load the bases with nobody out in the eighth. Jay Bruce fouled out before Frazier smacked a two-run single up the middle and advanced to second on the throw home.

After an intentional walk to Adrian Gonzalez loaded the bases again, pinch-hitter Wilmer Flores struck out. Lagares then lined a two-run double the other way, just inside the right-field line at the outer edge of the infield grass, to put the Mets up 6-4.

Sammy Solis walked Amed Rosario and Conforto to force in a run. Cespedes connected for his sixth career slam -- the third by the Mets already this season -- off A.J. Cole, sending fans into a frenzy.

Both of Cespedes' hits in the inning came on 0-2 pitches.

AJ Ramos (1-1) worked a perfect inning for his first win with the Mets since being acquired from Miami last July.

Howie Kendrick reached on an infield single for Washington in the first and Bryce Harper drew his 24th walk, most in the majors. Zimmerman, batting .121 at that point and struggling to make opponents pay for bypassing Harper, came through with a drive to left-center off Steven Matz for his second home run of the season.

Matz steadied himself after a 33-pitch first inning and retired his final 10 batters. He was pulled for a pinch hitter in the fourth after throwing 74 pitches.

Cabrera doubled to open the fourth and scored on Gonzalez's single. Zimmerman had a chance to start an inning-ending double play, but his throwing error from first base allowed another run to score on Jose Lobaton's RBI grounder as the Mets cut it to 3-2.

After Mets pitchers retired 16 in a row, Zimmerman's leadoff triple in the seventh got past a diving Bruce in right field, and Moises Sierra followed with a sacrifice fly to make it 4-2.

Zimmerman also hit a solo homer in the ninth.