Dusty Baker will formally be introduced as the sixth manager in Nationals history at 11 a.m., donning a curly W cap and home jersey for the first time during a news conference at Nationals Park. It should be a time of celebration and optimism for the organization, but of course that won't entirely be the case because of the circumstances surrounding this hire.
This isn't simply an event to unveil Baker to the District. It's an opportunity for reporters to ask questions about the entire process that led to this announcement. And with general manager Mike Rizzo sitting alongside Baker at the dais, there figure to be plenty of questions that won't be directed at the new skipper.
Here are just a few of the most significant questions that are likely to be asked during the news conference...
— What exactly happened with Bud Black? Rizzo may try to deflect all inquiries about the man who didn't wind up getting the job, but given how much is already out there and the negative light that has been cast upon the Nationals organization, Rizzo would be wise to address the situation. He needs to explain the club's side of this story, how negotiations with Black fell apart and opened the door for Baker to be hired instead.
— Why was Baker selected for the job now but wasn't even interviewed two years ago? Baker made no attempt to hide his interest in managing the Nationals the last time they had an opening, but the club showed zero interest in talking to him. If Baker is the right man for the job now, why wasn't he the right man in 2014? Or, at least, why wasn't the club willing to bring him in for an interview?
— How has Baker adapted as a manager over the years, and is open to new ideas and new strategies now? The criticism of Baker mostly has to do with a perceived old-fashioned way of running a ballgame. He bunts too often. He doesn't emphasize on-base percentage. He leaves starting pitchers on the mound too long. All of that may well have been true of Baker at earlier points in his managerial career, but is any of it still true? Has he adapted over time and embraced any new-school strategies?
— How did the deal with Mike Maddux come about, and will any other members of the new coaching staff be named? The Nationals announced the hiring of Maddux as their new pitching coach late Wednesday afternoon, making a point to say the two sides agreed to terms Tuesday night. USA Today, however, reported the Nats and Maddux already had a deal last week and that he would have been the club's pitching coach no matter who was named manager. So, which is it? And how much say did Baker have in that hire, and how much will he have in the hiring of other coaches?
— What are the Nationals' roster priorities this winter? Let's be honest: The new manager won't make much difference if he doesn't have a better roster of players to lead. There are all kinds of questions in that regard, starting with what the organization plans to do with Jonathan Papelbon, Drew Storen and the rest of a bullpen that could require a complete overhaul. Do the Nationals plan to seek upgrades to their lineup or bench? Are they content to go with the rotation as-is, or do they feel the need to go outside the organization to replace Jordan Zimmermann and Doug Fister? There's still a long time for all of this to be sorted out, but the process begins now.