You thought this story was about Dusty Baker? It is — but the headline is about John Farrell who spent under 5 years in charge of the Boston Red Sox. He won the 2013 World Series in his first year with the Red Sox and then was stricken with cancer. He came back to win the first back-to-back AL East titles in Boston’s storied history winning over 90 games in each of those seasons and then he was fired. The difference is there was no outrage when Farrell was fired. Both managers, Farrell and Baker, lost 2 straight Division Series after they had both won over 90 games each season. Both managers are gone.
The difference in The USA Today headlines (above) and the accompanying stories should probably be reversed. Farrell was under contract and was fired — Dusty Baker was not fired. Baker was a free agent and free to go wherever he wanted although Baker made it clear he wanted to stay — so did John Farrell. The same newspaper took two different approaches to covering similar stories. Farrell’s farewell story was mellifluous and positive while Baker’s was harsh and negative.
Farrell was not Dave Dombrowski’s hire. His firing did not shock anyone. Likewise, Dusty Baker’s tenure ending should not have totally shocked anyone either. Both managers were criticized in the post-season, but the difference from the first pitch thrown was the Red Sox were the underdogs and the Nats were the favorites.
The irony is that John Farrell could be the next manager of the Washington Nationals. The former MLB pitcher was criticized for his handling of the Red Sox pitching staff during the 2017 season as David Price was injured and Rick Porcello struggled, and Farrell was allegedly involved in an affair with a beat writer while Farrell was said to be married while some reports said Farrell was separated. Farrell and his staff had issues with Pablo Sandoval who was later released, and in the post-season endured some players who weren’t hitting. Sound familiar?
Emotions are running high in NatsTown. Change is difficult for some. As always, the blame game is in full tilt. USA Today and ESPN have written one-sided pieces with plenty of finger pointing and USA Today has some inaccuracies. Sure why not, “Baker stayed in Washington for nine days after the final playoff game” Nightengale wrote. How is that possible? Game 5 ended in the early hours on October 13th and Dusty flew out on Thursday October 19th. That isn’t 9 days. Dusty also wasn’t fired but why not make it incendiary to really make the Nationals look bad that they didn’t have the guts to tell Dusty Baker to his face. Was John Farrell told to his face? Probably not as Twitter seemed to break the news beforehand. Dusty at least found out before it hit social media. He got a phone call because Dusty had left town. Why it took 6 days to make a decision instead of 4 days is a mystery. Maybe Mike Rizzo really didn’t want to do a face-to-face with Dusty Baker. Maybe the Nationals just took a full week to make the decision. Maybe, just maybe we all do not have the full story.
The funniest part (not really funny) is the constant harping on salaries to managers. Baker was the 8th highest paid manager in the MLB last year and even when the Nationals made their 2015 offer to Bud Black, ESPN wrote this:
“According to the Washington Post, the team initially offered [Bud] Black a one-year contract for $1.6 million. Although only four managers in baseball had higher 2014 salaries than what the Nats were prepared to pay Black, he was offended by the short-term nature of the deal. Eventually, Washington extended the offer to a two-year deal with team options.”
Dusty Baker got paid more than what Bud Black was offered, but Baker settled for a straight 2-year deal, and earlier optimism that Baker would get that contract extension clearly never materialized. Maybe the initial contract had more to do with his age or the fact he was out of baseball for over 2 years before the age of video challenges and even more advanced sabremetric statistics. Maybe it had to do with Baker’s reputation. This is the same manager who was fired immediately after taking the San Francisco Giants to a World Series. If you want to complain, how do you do that to a manager?
Dusty was sold to Nats fans as a “players” manager who would be rewarded by those players, but when it was crunch time to cash in that currency the offense delivered a combined batting average well below “Mendoza” in the NLDS — a pathetic .186. Dusty never swung a bat in the series, but he chose the line-up and the same eight position players for each of the five games and never went with match-ups to insert Howie Kendrick, Adam Lind or Wilmer Difo into any of the starting line-ups.
In the end, the Nationals lost the NLDS and lost their manager. Not one of us really knows what transpired, and there are two-sides to every story. Dusty Baker was a free agent before he got the call from Mike Rizzo and he certainly is today without any strings attached. If he is as good as some think he is then he should be scooped up quickly and be given a managerial job. When the Nationals hired Dusty Baker, nobody wanted him except for Ted Lerner according to the rumor mill. Yesterday, the 92-year-old owner knew one thing, he could have retained Dusty Baker, but Ted Lerner isn’t getting any younger and once again the Nationals were not playing meaningful baseball on his birthday this week — a sentiment that Bryce Harper knows as his birthday is a day after Mr. Lerner’s.
The Nationals go through managers on average every two years. There is a pattern here, but it seems to be how they do things whether Nats fans like it or not. The continuity with the team is in having one of the longest tenured executives in Mike Rizzo who arrived in 2007 shortly after the Lerners purchased the team from MLB . The further irony is that managerial candidates will line up for this job because there is only two openings this season to take the helm of a post-season incumbent team. Just two of those jobs in existence. The unknown is what the 7th full-time manager will do when he’s hired. Once the name is announced, expect the criticism and second-guessing that will start immediately. That’s the nature of the business.