The Washington Nationals parted ways with the popular manager Friday. As Dusty Baker leaves, a new uncertain era begins in DC.
Winner of consecutive National League East titles, two heartbreaking Game 5 losses in the NL Divisional Series, along with his expiring contract, sees the Lerner family decide to move the Nats in a different direction.
The Nats ownership says firing Baker was “an incredibly difficult decision.”
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In a statement, the team says:
"“Even though this ultimately wasn’t our season, we remain devoted to that cause. In further pursuit of that goal, we have decided to make a change in leadership and begin the process of finding a new manager. This was an incredibly difficult decision for us.“Dusty Baker led the team to the first back-to-back division titles in our history and represented our club with class on and off the field. He is one of the true gentlemen in our sport, and we thank him for the successes that we enjoyed together over the last two years. We wish him nothing but the best going forward.”"
After dismissing Matt Williams following a dismal 2015 season, Bud Black was the first choice to replace him, but the two sides did not come to a financial agreement. Baker, who last managed the Cincinnati Reds over six seasons, ended up with the job in Washington.
Over his two years as skipper, Baker amassed a record of 192-132. This past season, the Nats navigated multiple serious injuries while running away from their division rivals by 20 games. But, those playoff losses stung everyone, and the club thinks it is time for another direction.
Most of the coaching staff has expiring contracts. Bench Coach Chris Speier, First Base Coach Davey Lopes, Pitching Coach Mike Maddux are all Baker hires and unlikely to manage. Whether they stay with the new manager is another question. Maddux may, but the others are unlikely.
Where the Nats and Baker go from here is anyone’s guess. With Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy hitting free agency after 2018, the team will bridge into a new era. But, their championship window does not close with the likes of Anthony Rendon and Trea Turner. Ace arms Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg do not hurt the cause either.
What promised to be a quiet off-season goes out with a bang.