There was a barrage over the weekend of negative press about the Nationals ability to land a manager amidst all of the rumors of mistreatment of managers in the past. That is their story — and it is not a new story. Still, managers will line up at Mike Rizzo’s office this week to interview. Once that name is announced as the successor to the popular Dusty Baker, you can expect criticism. It just comes with the territory. In warfare, the Nationals are known as a soft target because they don’t fight back. They rarely do. The ownership group likes to neither be seen or heard from which is a far different story from the other sports franchise owners in D.C.
Nobody can tell you if the manager they hire will be better than Dusty Baker until the 2018 season comes to its conclusion. We will get some signals along the way. This new manager will inherit a team that is in much better shape than the one Dusty Baker took over 2 years ago which was called toxic and dysfunctional. This manager will take over a team that has five incumbent All-Stars — Bryce Harper, Daniel Murphy, Ryan Zimmerman, Stephen Strasburg and Max Scherzer and several more star players. There easily could have been seven All-Stars if Anthony Rendon and Gio Gonzalez were added. On top of that the Nationals acquired All-Star Brandon Kintzler on July 31st, and while he is one of the pending free agents, the Nationals return Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson to the bullpen and almost everyone else.
There are 20 key players from the 2017 roster that will almost certainly be on the Opening Day 2018 roster giving the Nationals perhaps the most stable roster in baseball through a year-to-year transition. That stability matters. Especially when all of the Nationals All-Stars are set to return and all the new manager has to do is write in the April 22nd starting line-up name for name, position for position. Mike Rizzo could piece together his 5th starter and his back-up catcher and a few other spots from within, but expect the new manager to come in knowing that he will be returning almost all of the 2017 roster who won the NL East again.
So who are the managerial candidates? It might be easier to tell you who is not. No Alex Cora and no Mickey Callaway and no Ron Gardenhire.
Okay, Dave Martinez was my pick. If Joe Girardi becomes available can I change my mind? One of my insiders has his money on Phil Nevin. Expect John Farrell to be a name that comes up along with Gabe Kapler and maybe even Bob Geren. Expect Brad Ausmus near the top of the list. Then there will be a few surprise names as there always is. Sandy Alomar Jr. is one of the newer names on the short-list and Mike Maddux for internal names. Kevin Long should be on the list too. Maybe Cal Ripken makes the list again since he was mentioned in 2015 and 2013. There could be blasts from the past like Chili Davis and Eduardo Perez and just for fun Tony LaRussa and Jim Leyland.
This is just the beginning of what will be an interesting managerial search process.