We are counting down the 10 biggest moments of 2015 for the Nationals as we approach New Year's Day. In the eighth installment, we look at the hiring of Dusty Baker as manager...
After the dismissal of Matt Williams, who was hired in the fall of 2013 without any previous MLB managerial experience, the Nationals set out this time around looking for a veteran manager, someone with a proven track record who wouldn't need time to learn on the job. That led them through an extensive search, one that included a bizarre saga involving a reported contract dispute with former Padres skipper Bud Black.
Despite the unusual circumstances of their search, the Nationals ended up with a very solid result. In comes Dusty Baker, he of 20 seasons as an MLB manager, a man who has done absolutely everything in the profession except coach a team to a World Series title. He, in fact, came within one game of that goal in 2002 with the Giants.
There will be no learning curve for Baker, who at 66-years-old has seen and done just about everything in the game of baseball. He will step in on Day 1 ready to lead those in the Nats clubhouse, just as he did in San Francisco, Chicago and Cincinnati.
There are, of course, questions that come with Baker's hiring, as there was a reason he was available for the Nationals this offseason. There are reasons he was out of the game for two years between stops.
Is he a retread manager whose best years are behind him? Can he adapt to new ways of thinking in baseball, given his past statements on analytics and history of wearing out pitchers? Time will tell on all of that, of course, but he does possess what the Nats appeared to be missing in the dugout under Williams.
Baker is in many ways the anti-Matt Williams. He is not nearly as intense and buttoned-up, with a big focus on having fun and letting players be themselves. His experience should come in handy both within games and inside the clubhouse, where it's unlikely he will lose the respect of his players.
He also, as we have seen already, seems more likely to speak his mind. That could benefit the Nationals privately, and maybe even publicly as well. Williams was often criticized by fans for not reacting properly to important wins and losses. It does not seem like Baker will hold back, no matter the situation.
The Nationals decided to go in the exact opposite direction from the inexperienced Williams by hiring Baker, who ironically was his mentor and former manager. Whether they made the right decision has yet to be determined, but there is no question it will be a much different dynamic with Baker in charge.
More from the countdown: