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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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Max Scherzer set to start Game 1 of the World Series

Max Scherzer set to start Game 1 of the World Series

HOUSTON -- The simplest decision often rests as the correct one.

In this case, the Nationals selecting Max Scherzer to start Game 1 of the 2019 World Series qualified as the simplest decision.

Washington let the options publicly simmer until Monday afternoon when Davey Martinez said Scherzer would start Game 1. Stephen Strasburg will follow. The Game 3 starter is to be determined.

Scherzer has not pitched since Oct. 12. Monday, he was in left field throwing, the crack of a catcher’s mitt among the few sounds in Minute Maid Park before the Nationals’ evening workout began, prior to skulking around on the center field warning track by himself.

The six-day break between games prompted by an NLCS sweep was key for the Nationals’ biggest strength, their starting pitching. Strasburg is No. 1 in pitches thrown in the postseason. Scherzer is No. 2. They are the only two to throw more than 300 pitches in the postseason. No pitcher in the major leagues has thrown more pitches than Strasburg this season.

Scherzer and Strasburg starting Games 1 and 2 in Houston means they are in line for Games 5 and 6, respectively. Patrick Corbin’s availability for Game 3 will be dependent on his bullpen role in Games 1 and 2. Corbin brewed a mess in his first relief outing of the postseason. He allowed six earned runs in ⅔ of an inning against Los Angeles in Game 3 of the National League Division Series before pitching more effectively in future relief appearances.

“I haven’t really thought about it because we’ve kept winning,” Corbin said. “That night stunk. The next day, after that series [I] was fine. Never really thought about it. Right now, I’ve had a lot of time off, about a week now, I’ll be fresh to come in and give what they want. I’ve felt fine. I’ve kind of developed a little routine down there to stay loose. If they need me, I’ll be available.”

The Nationals considered pitching Aníbal Sánchez in Game 1, which would bump Scherzer and Strasburg to Games 2 and 6, and 3 and 7, respectively. They opted to send out their biggest strength immediately in the series, then will figure out Game 7 (which would be the Game 3 starter on normal rest). Martinez will go step by step following the first two games. 

As for Scherzer, he opted to skip the canned answer and express his excitement about pitching the same game as Houston starter Gerrit Cole, who has dominated for more than a year. 

“Of course,” Scherzer said. “I mean, I've been in the situation, faced really good pitchers here in the National League over the years; [Clayton] Kershaw, [Jacob] deGrom, those guys. You just know you've got to come out there, you're going to be throwing up zeros. And you've got to try to match the intensity from your opponent.”

Taken away from Scherzer is his chance to hit. Howie Kendrick will be the designated hitter in the first two games. Scherzer said not being part of the offense alters the vibe of the game for him. 

“It's just a different feel to the game of not grabbing a bat,” Scherzer said. “I've definitely grown accustomed to doing that, it kind of keeps you in the game flow even more. It feels weird when you get to the DH and you're not in that flow of the game offensively.”

That will be his situation Tuesday night when he opens the World Series in Houston.


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How To Watch Nationals-Astros World Series Game 1: Date, time, TV channel, live stream

How To Watch Nationals-Astros World Series Game 1: Date, time, TV channel, live stream

With the Washington Nationals pulling off a clean sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLCS, there was a rather long break before the team could make its much anticipated World Series appearance. But, that wait has reached its end, as Tuesday marks the beginning of this year's fall classic.

On Saturday night, the Washington Nationals learned of their opponent: the Houston Astros. The AL West division winners took care of the New York Yankees in six games, clinching a berth in the World Series with a walk-off homerun by Jose Altuve. For Houston, this will be the second World Series appearance in three seasons, as the team took home the title in 2017.

But, this team maybe even better than that one. The core of Altuve and Carlos Correa now also features a rising superstar in Alex Bregman and a stellar bat in Michael Brantley to make the lineup one of the most potent. As for the pitching rotation, it's equally as dominant. One could make the case for either Justin Verlander or Gerrit Cole to take home the AL Cy Young, and the Astros have both. Oh, and they can also run out Zack Greinke for good measure. Cole hasn't lost a start since May (yes, you read that right) and while Verlander and Greinke have struggled at times in the postseason, they aren't exactly arms you want to face.

As impressive as Houston is, the Nationals pack their own punch as well. Anthony Rendon, Trea Turner, Juan Soto and NLCS MVP Howie Kendrick star in a lineup that has thrived on timely hitting in October. Add that to the four-headed monster of Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Patrick Corbin and Anibal Sanchez that handled the Cardinals with ease, and you have the formula for an exciting World Series.

It will be Scherzer against Cole in Game 1, here's everything you need to know about the series opener.

2019 World Series Game 1: Washington Nationals @ Houston Astros

Date: Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Location: Minute Maid Park, Houston, TX.

Time: 8:08 p.m. ET

TV Channel: FOX

Broadcasters: Joe Buck and John Smoltz

Live Stream: FOX Sports

Radio: 106.7 The Fan (Washington DC Market), ESPN Radio (Nationally)

Weather: 70° F

World Series Schedule:

Tuesday, Oct. 22:
- World Series Game 1: Nationals @ Astros. Time: 8:08 p.m. TV Channel: FOX.

Wednesday, Oct. 23:
- World Series Game 2: Nationals @ Astros. Time: 8:07 p.m. TV Channel: FOX.

Friday, Oct. 25:
- World Series Game 3: Astros @ Nationals. Time: 8:07 p.m. TV Channel: FOX.

Saturday, Oct. 26: 
- World Series Game 4: Astros @ Nationals. Time: 8:07 p.m. TV Channel: FOX.

Sunday, Oct. 27: 
- World Series Game 5*: Astros @ Nationals. Time: 8:07 p.m. TV Channel: FOX.

Tuesday, Oct. 29: 
- World Series Game 6*: Nationals @ Astros. Time: 8:07 p.m. TV Channel: FOX.

Tuesday, Oct. 30:
- World Series Game 7*: Nationals @ Astros. Time: 8:08 p.m. TV Channel: FOX.

*If necessary