With all that has gone wrong for the Washington Nationals, do they have to win game 4 to save Dusty Baker’s job?
The Washington Nationals Game 4 matchup against the Chicago Cubs was postponed yesterday to this afternoon (4:08 p.m ET, TBS) because of rain. It was thought that Stephen Strasburg would take the ball on four days rest due to the rainout, but the Nats are sticking with Tanner Roark because Strasburg is reportedly under the weather
Regardless of how sick Strasburg is and no one can tell how sick he actually is until we hear from him, the pressure is immense on everybody in the Nats organization to get this series to a Game 5 at Nats Park and Strasburg back on the mound Thursday night.
By far, the person with the most pressure in this series is Dusty Baker. While Baker can’t control whether or not the Nats score runs in the series, the narrative will remain that he hasn’t been able to win the big game as a manager. But, should his job be in jeopardy if the team loses?
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To me, the answer is no. There has never been a player that had a bad word to say about Baker and he sticks up for his players. While a particular player might be struggling, Baker keeps him in the lineup and believes in him to break out of the slump. That’s what you want out of a manager.
A lot of people will blame Baker for what happened in Game 3. But, let’s look at the facts. Max Scherzer wasn’t going to throw more than 100 pitches because of the hamstring issue and he gave his ace a chance to finish seven innings if he got the Cubs in order. Then, came the bullpen decision, which he was in a lose-lose situation.
If Baker brought in Brandon Kintzler to pitch to Kyle Schwarber, that is a tough matchup because Schwarber can take any mistake up in the zone and hit it to Ohio. Instead, he brings in Sammy Solis and Joe Maddon made the right counter with Albert Almora Jr. and it worked for Chicago.
If the Washington Nationals do lose this series, Baker doesn’t deserve much, if any of the blame. Sure, you could blame him for what’s going on with Strasburg. However, as Mark Zuckerman of MASN tweeted yesterday, this kind of decision isn’t solely the manager’s:
Since Baker came to D.C. after the disastrous 2015 season, there has been no fighting in the clubhouse and the team has been a consistent winner in the regular season (192 wins in the last two years). He’s run into the same problem that Davey Johnson and Matt Williams had where the team hasn’t picked up the big hit when it matters in October.
After three games in this series, the Nats have a historically low batting average (.121) and have scored five of their seven total runs in one inning (eighth inning in Game 2). I think Daniel Murphy had a great quote yesterday when asked about Baker that it is really about the offense to score runs:
Of course, Baker remains without a contract for next season, which is a surprise considering the success he has had as the manager. Before the postseason began, Bob Nightengale of USA Today wrote how the team had hoped to sign a two-year extension with him, but nothing is final yet.
If the season ends tomorrow or Thursday, some of the blame will fall on Baker. One question I have asked all week on Twitter is if you want Baker gone, who do you want to replace him? No one has yet to answer that question.
The offense deserves more of the blame than Baker, but it is easier to get rid of a manager than the players. Baker deserves to stay, but the narrative of him not being able to win the big one may make him the unfortunate scapegoat if the Nats lose again in the NLDS.