Washington Nationals: Dusty Baker deserves 2018


The veteran manager has earned the right to guide the Washington Nationals one more year. His dedication to the players and record deserves it.

The Washington Nationals should retain Dusty Baker as their manager for 2018.

Despite another first-round exit from the playoffs, Baker’s firm control of the clubhouse and ability to get maximum effort from his players deserves at least another year.

When he changed the lineup order for Games 4 and 5 of the National League Divisional Series, the offense responded. Over those two games, the Nats scored 14 runs and nearly won them both.

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Baker draws his share of critics for his in-game style. He is slow to pull starting pitching. The skipper relies heavily on his veteran players. He is fiercely loyal to his regulars no matter what the stats pages at FanGraphs say. And, his playoff record underwhelms the most vocal.

All valid concerns.

But, Baker is the first Nats manager to guide the team to consecutive postseason trips. It was his steady hand keeping Washington on track through countless injuries this year. Remember, at one point 13 players were on the disabled list. DC clinched the division with three full weeks left in the regular season.

Not the first choice of the Nats two years ago, Baker has taken a team on edge with itself and cruised to 95-plus win seasons and two division titles. A World Series championship in the future cements a legacy worthy of Cooperstown.

Two tough NLDS Game 5 losses does not undo what Baker means to his players and city.

He is the ultimate players manager. Baker never bad mouths a player in public. He sat down with Michael Taylor after Adam Eaton’s torn ACL explaining this was his last chance. Taylor responded with 19 home runs and a grand slam in Game 4. When Trea Turner slumped in the NLDS, Baker pulled him aside before Game 4. Turner became a force those last two games.

You can quibble over individual games, but you cannot say the Nats are not a whole team. Even through the endless first-half bullpen woes did the team turn on each other in the press. There were a couple grumbles in columns from unnamed sources, but the chemistry and unity Washington shows is a tribute to Baker’s skills.

To clean house with the entire coaching staff is silly. A team averaging 96 wins and home field for a divisional series does not need drastic change.

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Universally loved and respected within the game, there is no reason to part ways unless both sides want to do so. Baker is the right man for 2018, and perhaps beyond.