Dusty Baker

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Dusty Baker was ‘really hurt’ after the Nationals decided to let him go in 2017

Dusty Baker was ‘really hurt’ after the Nationals decided to let him go in 2017

Dusty Baker has managed five different teams over the last three decades, landing with the Houston Astros last offseason after stretches with the Nationals, Cincinnati Reds, Chicago Cubs and San Francisco Giants. On Tuesday, following the Astros’ announcement that they were picking up Baker’s 2021 team option, the veteran skipper talked about how his time with each previous team ended.

Baker’s contract with the Nationals ended in 2017, after the team won back-to-back NL East division titles but each time failed to advance past the first round of the playoffs. The Nationals opted not to bring him back, instead hiring Cubs bench coach Davey Martinez to be their next manager.

For a year and a half, that move appeared to be a disastrous on for Washington. The Nationals missed the playoffs during Martinez’s first year before stumbling out to a 19-31 start to the 2019 season. It appeared that Martinez was on his way when the Nationals finally started winning. They didn’t stop until Oct. 30, when they beat the Astros in Game 7 of the World Series to win D.C.’s first title since 1924.

Baker, meanwhile, spent two years out of baseball before the Astros signed him last offseason to replace disgraced former manager A.J. Hinch. The 71-year-old was assigned the difficult task of helping the Astros whether a sign-stealing scandal that likely would be at the forefront of baseball fans’ attention this season if it weren’t for the coronavirus pandemic.

Even though the Nationals won a title without him, there are still segments of the fanbase that lament the fact that Washington let him walk in 2017. Baker has always indicated that he enjoyed his time in D.C. and he evidently wishes he had another chance to compete for championships before the team gave up on him.

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Astros pick up Dusty Baker’s 2021 option while Davey Martinez waits for Nationals to do the same

Astros pick up Dusty Baker’s 2021 option while Davey Martinez waits for Nationals to do the same

Dusty Baker’s future with the Houston Astros came a bit more into focus Tuesday when the club announced that it was picking up his team option for the 2021 season. The veteran skipper was hired last offseason after owner Jim Crane fired former manager AJ Hinch for his role in the Astros’ illegal sign-stealing scandal. Houston has gotten off to a 3-1 start under Baker’s guide.

Meanwhile, the man who replaced Baker at his previous position in Washington still has yet to find out what his job security looks like beyond this season. Davey Martinez was signed by the Nationals to take them to the World Series after the team bowed out in the NLDS twice with Baker at the helm. He did exactly that last year, working around a hodgepodge bullpen to help D.C. claim its first title since 1924.

Yet both Martinez and GM Mike Rizzo, whose contract expires after this season, are lame ducks as the Nationals wade their way through a trying 60-game season in the midst of a pandemic. Washington has stumbled out to a 1-3 start, but that would hardly be a reason for the Lerner family to grow reluctant about handing either of them an extension.

Baker, 71, has managed for five different ballclubs across 23 seasons, racking up 1,866 career wins and appearing in one World Series. If he can pick up 134 more wins over the next two years, he’ll become the 12th manager in MLB history to win at least 2,000 games.

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Nationals Supreme Court: Did the Nats make the right decision with Dusty Baker?

Nationals Supreme Court: Did the Nats make the right decision with Dusty Baker?

It is time for another installment of 'Nationals Supreme Court,' where we lay out arguments and vote on the most timeless debates in Nats history. With three people, we can break the tie.

Today, we look at the Nats' decision in 2017 to let manager Dusty Baker leave after his contract expired. The votes were cast by Nick Ashooh, Todd Dybas and Matt Weyrich...

Todd Dybas: This is difficult. The answer is yes because of what happened in 2019. It has to be. Davey Martinez was hired to bring a World Series title to the organization. He did that.

The question is if Baker would have done the same with the same team? It’s an impossible one to answer. This seems true: If Baker was given a new two-year deal, missed the playoffs the first season, then opening 19-31, he would have been fired.

So, ultimately, Martinez’s outcome makes this answer clear, even if the process to get there remains in question.

TODD'S VOTE: Yes

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Nick Ashooh: Even though the Nats had great regular season success, Baker couldn’t get them out of that postseason purgatory. Failures in elimination games and questionable pitching decisions haunted Dusty.

Davey looked like he was out the door at 19-31, but the team seemed to rally around him when everyone else was calling for his job (it also helped that they got healthy too). You win a World Series, and you’ve obviously a better choice than the manager that came before you. Fair or not.

NICK'S VOTE: Yes

Matt Weyrich: When the Nationals let Dusty Baker walk after his contract was up, they were torn apart by the media and fans alike. How could a team that just won back-to-back division titles allow its manager to get away?

Then answer was simple: It wasn’t enough. Baker did as good a job as anyone could’ve getting the Nationals to the postseason. He just couldn’t stop himself from getting in his own way. The playoffs require a change in approach from what is normally required during the regular season, and Baker struggled to adapt.

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Davey Martinez is credited with helping pull the Nationals’ clubhouse together amid a 19-31 start. The funny thing is, I could see Baker managing to do that as well. It’s the way Martinez used his pitchers throughout the postseason that separates him in my mind. I have a hard time believing Baker would’ve used the same approach had he been in Martinez’s shoes.

MATT'S VOTE: Yes

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WINNER: Yes, based on a 3-0 vote.

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