At 64 years-old with three decades of pro baseball as a player and successful manager under his belt, Dusty Baker isn’t looking for a long vacation before he gets his hands dirty with another managerial position. A little more than a week after he was fired by the Reds following six solid seasons as skipper, Baker gave Washington Nationals GM Mike Rizzo a call to express his desire to replace former manager Davey Johnson, who retired after almost 50 years in the game.
“It’s early,” Baker told WaPo in a phone conversation. “A lot of stuff doesn’t really happen until the World Series is over. Right now, I’m in no hurry. I just let them know that I was interested.”
Baker is among at least 15 candidates that are extremely “interested” in taking over a young, talented team with explosive and polarizing players such as Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper. The Nats have depth at most positions and a strong pitching staff. After falling off a bit since leading MLB in wins (98) in 2012, most analysts feel the Nats are a super motivator away from making a World Series splash.
“It’s a good team. It’s a very good team,” Baker said. “I’m about winning. My son told me – he was crying the other day – he wanted to play for the Reds. Then he told me, ‘Dad, if you want to win, you want to go to the Nationals.’"
Baker went 509-463 in his six seasons with Cincinnati, and finished third on the Reds' list for wins by a manager behind Sparky Anderson (863) and Bill McKechnie (744). The knock on the three-time NL Manager of the Year’s was that he never made it out of the opening-round.
A guy with 1, 671 wins, ranking 16th in MLB history in bench damage, deserves one title before he hangs it up.
“I don’t know why people think I’m going to retire,” Baker added. “I’m better [physically] now than I was at this time last year. I feel younger now. I’m serious. I’m taking better care of myself than I was then. I’ll know when the time comes for me to go home. I’m not of those that refuses to face reality.”
The reality for Baker is that, once again, he led the Reds to a 90-win season (the team’s third in four years) and the National League wild card playoff game, only to get spanked out of the playoff picture by the Pirates.
One plus for Baker is that the Nats had unprecedented franchise success with a 70-year-old Johnson leading the pack, so age shouldn’t factor too much into Rizzo’s evaluation. Johnson has old school philosophies, but seemed to manage his much younger players pretty well. One negative against Baker is that he has been known to overuse his pitchers, and that tactic contradicts Rizzo’s baby- butt soft treatment of his young studs. One thing that can’t be denied is Baker’s shrewd baseball mind and desire to win.
Good to hear Baker still has those competitive juices flowing, too, but the ultimate decision will be up to Rizzo, who said through a team spokesman that “he will not be commenting on the team’s managerial search.”