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Baker to be introduced today at Nationals Park


Baker to be introduced today at Nationals Park

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.

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Nationals trade Brian Goodwin to Kansas City Royals

Nationals trade Brian Goodwin to Kansas City Royals

KANSAS CITY, Mo.  -- Outfielder Brian Goodwin has been acquired by the Kansas City Royals from the Washington Nationals for minor league pitcher Jacob Condra-Bogan.

The 27-year-old Goodwin hit .200 with three homers and 12 RBIs in 48 games for the Nationals this season. He bruised his left wrist diving for a ball and did not play from April 15 until May 15, when he had two at-bats. He went back on the disabled list, returned June 1 and is hitting .171 (7 for 41) since.

Condra-Bogan, 23, went 1-1 with a 2.08 ERA in 16 relief outings with Lexington of the South Atlantic League and one appearance with Wilmington of the Carolina League, also Class A.

The trade was announced Sunday.


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What to make of the Strasburg-Scherzer shouting match in the Nationals' dugout

USA Today Sports

What to make of the Strasburg-Scherzer shouting match in the Nationals' dugout

Stephen Strasburg and Max Scherzer had a heated exchange in the Nationals dugout Friday night.

It was another not-so-great moment in an otherwise unspectacular season for the Nats so far.

Things like this often appear worse than they are based on what we can see, not hear, on television. In any case, it has fans and pundits talking about a perceived off-the-field issue instead of the actual game. There's nothing "good" about this, but there are important factors that are "bad" and ones that are "not bad."

Davey Martinez, Strasburg and Scherzer already said this has been settled and wasn't a big deal in the first place, but for a manager who's already faced some scrutiny this year for how he manages his pitchers, having two of them go at it in the dugout isn't ideal.

It also doesn't present the best optics for a team that came out of the All-Star Break 5.5 games back of the division-leading Philadelphia Phillies. The Nationals need to build some momentum heading into the dog days of summer, and after a lackluster first half, this isn't how anybody would want to start the second half.

This was also Strasburg's first start back from a month-long stint on the disabled list. Ryan Zimmerman just rejoined the club as well. Things are shaping up to make for a solid second-half run, but all this does is detract from that.

The Nationals also just hosted the first All-Star Game in Washington since 1969. Having something like this happen in the dugout where everybody can see it takes away from some of that good publicity.

But there are also positives, or at least non-negatives, to take from this. Scherzer has always been ultracompetitive, and as the best pitcher on the staff, he needs to harness that into leadership. With Strasburg coming off a rough inning, Scherzer may have thought he needed a little tough love from a veteran. There's nothing wrong with that. Strasburg, to his credit, has never been one to focus too much on himself, so if there's anyone who can take something like this constructively, it'd be him.

This isn't Jonathan Paplebon fighting Bryce Harper for not running out a pop fly the day after the Nats were eliminated from playoff contention. These are two veteran guys who play the same position who are both competitive and want to win. It's akin to an older brother pushing his younger brother to do better. Strasburg even hinted at the family aspect after the game.

In the end, there's really nothing to see here. Frustration is part of the game. Talking it out is a part of remedying the frustration.

What really matters is tracking down the Braves and the Phillies. The Nationals can get started on that Sunday in the second game of a rain-shortened two-game series against the Braves.