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Baker, Rizzo don't buy criticism manager is too old school


Baker, Rizzo don't buy criticism manager is too old school

The mere mention of Dusty Baker's name when candidates began surfacing in the Nationals' managerial search brought strong reactions from all around. Many were thrilled at the news, pointing to his impressive record as a three-time NL manager of the year. Others, however, were not quite as enthused.

Criticism emerged of Baker being too old school: Is he averse to using analytics, which have become commonplace in today's game? Is he simply too old to take on the challenge of restoring the Nationals to prominence?

Baker touched on all those subjects at Thursday's introductory press conference, and so did general manager Mike Rizzo. You may be concerned about Baker's ability to adapt and learn new tricks, but they aren't.

"Well, I was pretty good before I got here. Adaptation is no problem for me. My friends call me a chameleon because I can adapt to any time and anywhere," Baker said.

Baker's affinity for music is well-documented. He currently has a book for sale that chronicles his time at the 1967 Monterrey Pop Festival and a later experience where he smoked a substance now legal in D.C. with Jimi Hendrix. And much like music can stand the test of time, so can Baker, according to the manager.

"I would like to think I transcend some generations like some musicians. Stevie Wonder still sounds good. The Doors might sound even better. I believe in old ideas but you have to translate them in modern ways so that they can understand," he said.

Baker said his family helps keep him young. He has a 16-year-old son who in two years will play baseball for the Cal Bears. He has a 36-year-old daughter and a wife who he says is "50-something." They are all younger than Baker and they all represent different generations.

"Sometimes you gotta listen to the young to keep a pulse on things," he said.

Baker's defense of himself was strong, but Rizzo took it up a notch. He went into extensive detail about how Baker gets a bad wrap that is unfair if you pay attention to the details of what he has accomplished in his career.

"He's often described as an old school, dinosaur-type of a manager but yet was 13th in shifting in Major League Baseball in his last year as a manager," Rizzo explained. "He's famous for handling of players and handling of the clubhouse and that type of thing. But when you look harder and dig deeper and you watch the man navigate nine innings of a baseball game, it is truly something to watch when you're really looking in-depth."

True to form, Rizzo did his research. He spoke to former players of Dusty's including Jay Bruce and Joey Votto. He relied heavily on the opinion of Reds manager Bryan Price, who replaced Baker when he was fired after the 2013 season. Price previously served as Baker's pitching coach before getting promoted.

Rizzo and Price were minor league teammates and have remained very close friends. Price is one of the people in baseball Rizzo trusts the most and his review was very positive.

"[Baker has] always been a creative thinker, an outside the box thinker. He is certainly not a manage by the numbers type of manager, but he should get far more credit than he does for what he does in between the lines and in the dugout as he does for how he handles the clubhouse, which is impeccable," Rizzo continued.

Baker may not manage by the numbers, but he will be receptive to data provided by the Nationals' analytics department. According to Rizzo, Baker met with some of the Nats' sabremetrics guys before the decision was made to hire him.

"It was an extremely important part of the interview process. But more than that, we watched how he managed games. The input from a lot of the coaches on that staff, the players that played for him, showed a man that was open-minded and open to change. He's really come a long way in his recent past, especially in those last couple years in Cincinnati. The analytical part of it, it's taken a lot of people a long time to adapt to that. But it's a tool for us. It's a weapon for us.

"He's used it in the past. And he's used it very effectively. So he's on board. He had spoken to people in our analytics department, and he was extremely impressed by them. I think there's a trust factor there that's built right off the bat. He's going to embrace it, because it's going to help us win games. And that's what he's all about."

Baker is confident he can continue to adapt with the Nationals as he moves forward as their manager. He pointed to Mets manager Terry Collins, who is the oldest skipper in the majors and just led his team to an NL pennant.

"I don't think of myself as 66 years old. I don't know how old I am. It really doesn't matter. The way I look at it, not to sound cocky or nothing, but I don't see a bunch of dudes out there who look better than me right now," he said.


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Its Day 1 of spring training and Bryce Harper is already done taking questions regarding his future

Its Day 1 of spring training and Bryce Harper is already done taking questions regarding his future

So if you have not heard, Bryce Harper is going to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2018 season.

All off-season talking heads, baseball aficionados, radio hosts, etc. were speculating on where the outfielder’s destination will be next year.

And we are still a year away from it actually happening.


Reporting to spring training on Monday, Harper did not waste any time telling the media how his press conferences were going to play out this season.

“If guys do [ask], or talk anything about that, I will be walking right out the door.”

Entering his seventh season with the Washington Nationals, the 25-year-old is coming off the second-best season, statistically, of his career. The 2015 NL MVP has hit .285 in his career, with 150 home runs and 421 RBIs. Unquestionably he is the face of the Nationals’ organization, if not, the best player in the team’s history.

If he does end the season without a contract extension, he will join Rafael Palmeiro, Alex Rodriguez, Randy Johnson, and Barry Bonds as the top sought out free agents in MLB history.

One thing is for certain in terms of Harper’s free agency; Harper has given no inclination on where his landing spot will be.  The top three cities are of course his favorite childhood team, the New York Yankees; joining with one of his closest friends with the Chicago Cubs; or just staying with Washington.

Wherever he does land, it does appear that it will be the largest contract given to a free agent ever.

As for now we just wait and direct any of your calls to his agent Scott Boras.


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Nationals Spring Training Schedule 2018

USA Today Sports Images

Nationals Spring Training Schedule 2018

Now that pitchers and catchers have reported, the next step in our long journey to Opening Day is the spring training games themselves. Not every game is televised, so get ready to follow along with your favorite beat writer's Twitter account for all your updates.

Even without getting to watch the games, it'll still be exciting to once again check box scores in the morning to see if Bryce Harper homered again, or if Max Scherzer is perfect through 4 innings (spoiler: both of these will happen).

This year's spring training will be especially interesting, considering how many big-name players will be signing contracts in the next few weeks. The Nats are always willing to make a big splash, and even beyond the available free agents, have been linked to impact players like J.T. Realmuto in trade rumors.

Typically, the excitement of adding a new piece to the roster has to be reignited after a long winter off, but this season, those additions will be happening while camp is already underway.

It's going to be a hectic few weeks as teams prepare for their seasons, so bookmark this page to check on the Nationals spring training schedule over the next few weeks as the team finally takes the field in 2018.

Nationals 2018 Spring Training Schedule

Friday, Feb. 23 - Nationals at Astros, 1:05 pm (MLBN)
Saturday, Feb. 24 - Nationals at Marlins, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Feb. 25 - Braves at Nationals, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Monday, Feb. 26 - Nationals at Braves, 1:05 pm
Tuesday, Feb. 27 - Marlins at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Wednesday, Feb. 28 - Nationals at Marlins, 1:05 pm
Thursday, Mar. 1 (SS) - Nationals at Braves, 1:05 pm
Friday, Mar. 2 (SS) - Nationals at Mets, 1:10 pm
Saturday, Mar. 3 - Nationals at Astros, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 4 (SS) - Tigers at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 4 (SS) - Nationals at Mets, 1:10 pm
Monday, Mar. 5 - Nationals at Cardinals, 1:05 pm
Tuesday, Mar. 6 (SS) - Astros at Nationals, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Wednesday, Mar. 7 - Nationals at Cardinals, 1:05 pm
Thursday, Mar. 8 - Mets at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Saturday, Mar. 10 - Nationals at Astros, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 11 - Cardinals at Nationals, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Monday, Mar. 12 - Nationals at Tigers, 1:05 pm (MLBN)
Tuesday, Mar. 13 (SS) - Mets at Nationals, 7:05 pm (MLBN) (MASN)
Thursday, Mar. 15 - Astros at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Friday, Mar. 16 (SS) - Cardinals at Nationals, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Saturday, Mar. 17 - Mets at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 18 - Nationals at Cardinals, 1:05 pm
Monday, Mar. 19 - Nationals at Marlins, 1:05 pm
Tuesday, Mar. 20 - Marlins at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Wednesday, Mar. 21 - Astros at Nationals, 1:05 pm (ESPN2) (MASN)
Thursday, Mar. 22 - Nationals at Mets, 6:10 pm
Friday, Mar. 23 (SS) - Astros at Nationals, 6:05 pm (MASN)
Friday, Mar. 23 - Nationals at Marlins, 7:05 pm
Saturday, Mar. 24 - Marlins at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 25 - Cardinals at Nationals, 1:05 pm (MLBN)
Tuesday, Mar. 27 (at Nationals Park) - Twins at Nationals, 4:05 pm