In a stunning twist to cap a tumultuous 24 hours, the Nationals announced Tuesday morning they have hired Dusty Baker as their new manager, negotiations with initial choice Bub Black having fallen apart over the weekend.
Baker, a 3-time NL Manager of the Year Award winner with 20 seasons of experience at the big-league level, receives a "multi-year contract," the club announced. No more contract details were released.
"We were looking for a manager to help us achieve our ultimate goal of competing for a World Series championship," managing principal owner Ted Lerner said in a statement. "During our broad search process we met with many qualified candidates, and ultimately it was clear that Dusty's deep experience was the best fit for our ballclub."
That wasn't the Nationals' initial conclusion. After meeting at least eight candidates for the job over several weeks, the club informed former Padres manager Bud Black on Wednesday he was the choice, according to a source familiar with the decision. The two sides then attempted to negotiate a contract, but talks fell apart when the Nationals were unwilling to offer Black more than two guaranteed years, the source said.
Unable to find common ground, the club then turned back to Baker, who had been the other finalist for the job, and hashed out details of this deal with the 66-year-old late Monday night.
Whether the Nationals made a better offer to Baker than Black isn't clear yet, but the organization has never previously given its manager more than two guaranteed years since the Lerner family took over as owners in 2006. (Davey Johnson, the highest-paid of the team's previous five skippers, did have an extra year on his deal to serve as a consultant with the team after he left the dugout following the 2013 season.)
Baker has a wealth of experience with the Giants, Cubs and Reds, having guided all three franchises to the postseason and the 2002 Giants to the World Series (where they lost to the Angels team that employed Black). The former major-league outfielder won three NL Manager of the Year awards with San Francisco (1993, 1997, 2000) and owns a 1,671-1,504 overall record.
Fired by the Reds after losing the 2013 NL Wild Card Game to the Pirates, Baker has been out of baseball the last two seasons but has sought multiple managerial openings, including the Nationals' job two winters ago. The Nats didn't interview him that time, ultimately selecting Matt Williams off Arizona's coaching staff, but included him in the process this time and clearly were impressed with the California native during his pair of interviews.
"I am so pleased to welcome Dusty Baker to the Nationals family," general manager Mike Rizzo said in a statement. "In getting to know Dusty and identifying what we wanted in the next on-field leader of our team, we are excited to have him on board. Dusty's experience, as a winning player, coach and manager, is vast and varied. We are excited to bring him to Washington and put his steady demeanor, knowledge and many years in the game to work in our favor. I think I speak for the entire organization when I say I am very much looking forward to working with him."
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