The Washington Nationals just announced that Dusty Baker will not return as the club’s manager in 2018.
Baker led the Nationals to a record of 192-132 and two National League East titles in his two seasons as manager. He also seemed to be the preferred choice of General Manager Mike Rizzo. Indeed, Bob Nightengale of USA Today says that Baker’s dismissal comes against Rizzo’s wishes.
It’s just the latest of a series of firings of Baker following a run of undeniable on-filed success. Baker took over a Nats team that was underachieving and roiled by clubhouse acrimony and won 95 and 97 games in his two seasons. Before that he took a long suffering Cincinnati Reds team to three 90+ win seasons and three playoff appearances in six seasons. He spent 2014 and 2015 out of baseball, in fact, as clubs found it preferable to hire men with no coaching or managerial experience. Indeed, when the Nats hired him, it came as something of a surprise.
The Nationals exited in the first round of the postseason both this year and last, so one might argue that Baker, somehow, was unable to take them to the next level and that someone new is required. Such arguments, however, would be pretty daft given the random nature of short postseason series and the fact that Baker was not the guy holding a bat or throwing a ball in those postseason losses. Indeed, the Nationals have made the postseason with three different managers and neither of the other two made it out of the Division Series either.
In light of that, how this falls on Baker I have no idea. I would hope and expect team ownership to explain why it does.