On Friday, the Washington Nationals announced that manager Dusty Baker would not return in 2018 in a move that both disappointed and surprised the veteran skipper.
Baker said earlier on Friday that he thought 2017 would be his best year. He added that the team had won 95 games or more each season and the division title two straight seasons, but the organization told him they wanted to move in a different direction. Baker called it hard to understand.
The season for Washington ended October 12, when the Nationals lost in Game 5 of the National League Division Series to Chicago.
General Manager Mike Rizzo said the decision to not retain Baker was made on Thursday and Baker was informed Friday. It was a timeline that caused Baker frustration.
Baker said that the team told him they would get back to him and he told them he was leaving town and then they waited another 10 days before telling him.
Baker guided the Nationals to postseason berths in each of the two seasons he managed the team, which is the first time in franchise history the team has qualified for the postseason in consecutive seasons.
Each time, the Nationals were eliminated during the NLDS by a team that was higher seeded. Washington has not advanced beyond the NLDS in four appearances in the postseason since 2005 when it moved to Washington.
Rizzo on Friday was clear that the Nationals most recent exit did play a role in the organization’s decision to not retain Baker.
Rizzo called the decision to move forward without Baker in the dugout an incredibly difficult one.
Baker’s contract ended when the team was eliminated as did the contracts for the other coaches on his staff.
Alex Cora the bench coach for the Houston Astros and former manager of the Detroit Tigers Brad Ausmus are amongst possible replacements for the new opening with Washington.
One report said that Mike Maddux the pitching coach for the Nationals would also be considered. Prior to the series with Chicago, Baker was asked about his future with the Nationals.
Baker said he had given thoughts to a few things, but was told the organization wanted to wait until the season ended to make any decision, but there was a strong chance he would return.
Baker was expecting negotiations for new contracts for he and his coaches to pick up following the season, and the club gave the same type of impression. Rizzo said both Baker and the club were confident he would return as manager.