UPDATE: Dusty Baker — not Bud Black — now “very likely” to be Nationals manager

AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar
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UPDATE: Bob Nightengale of USA Today has more details on how talks broke down with Black. He was offered the job last Wednesday and accepted, but contract negotiations didn’t start until Thursday. The word is that the Nationals offered him a two-year deal for less than $2 million. Black is an established manager, so he understandably balked at the low-ball offer.

Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post wrote a little while ago that “there’s a strain of thought” that the Nationals’ owners, the Lerner family, “don’t have a grasp on standard pay for managers.” That looks like an understatement right now.

10:40 p.m. ET: Heyman has updated his story and writes that the Nationals will offer Baker the job and that he’s now “very likely” to be the Nationals’ next manager. Meanwhile, Bob Nightengale of USA Today hears that negotiations with Black are “over.”

For what it’s worth, Heyman hears that nothing was ever settled with Black despite the reports last week. The Nationals were said to be leaning toward Baker over the weekend. Could this just be some spin now that talks with Black have fizzled? Who knows, but surely this situation smells fishy for sure.

10:30 p.m. ET: Bob Nightengale of USA Today confirms that the Nationals have reached out to Baker after they were “unable to finalize a contract” with Black.

10:07 p.m. ET: Some truly surprising news from CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman, who hears that the Nationals may hire Dusty Baker over Bud Black as their next manager.

It was reported last Wednesday that the Nationals were set to hire Black for the job. An official announcement was expected to come after the World Series. It still sounded like a formality just a couple of hours ago as James Wagner of the Washington Post reported that the two sides were “still ironing out contract terms with him.” Apparently those negotiations haven’t gone well and the Nationals have kept in touch with Baker, who was the other finalist for the job. What a mess.

The Nationals have made experience a top priority after firing first-time manager Matt Williams. The 66-year-old Baker obviously has plenty of it. He owns an 1671-1504 (.526) record over 20 seasons between stops with the Giants, Cubs, and Reds. He was let go by the Reds after the 2013 season.

Hopefully it won’t be long until we have more clarity about this increasingly confusing situation. Stay tuned.

Biden praises Braves’ ‘unstoppable, joyful run’ to 2021 win

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said the Atlanta Braves will be “forever known as the upset kings of October” for their improbable 2021 World Series win, as he welcomed the team to the White House for a victory celebration.

Biden called the Braves’ drive an “unstoppable, joyful run.” The team got its White House visit in with just over a week left before the 2022 regular season wraps up and the Major League Baseball playoffs begin again. The Braves trail the New York Mets by 1.5 games in the National League East but have clinched a wildcard spot for the MLB playoffs that begin Oct. 7. Chief Executive Officer Terry McGuirk said he hoped they’d be back to the White House again soon.

In August 2021, the Braves were a mess, playing barely at .500. But then they started winning. And they kept it up, taking the World Series in six games over the Houston Astros.

Biden called their performance of “history’s greatest turnarounds.”

“This team has literally been part of American history for over 150 years,” said Biden. “But none of it came easy … people counting you out. Heck, I know something about being counted out.”

Players lined up on risers behind Biden, grinning and waving to the crowd, but the player most discussed was one who hasn’t been on the team in nearly 50 years and who died last year: Hall of Famer Hank Aaron.

Hammerin’ Hank was the home run king for 33 years, dethroning Babe Ruth with a shot to left field on April 8, 1974. He was one of the most famous players for Atlanta and in baseball history, a clear-eyed chronicler of the hardships thrown his way – from the poverty and segregation of his Alabama youth to the racist threats he faced during his pursuit of one of America’s most hallowed records. He died in January at 86.

“This is team is defined by the courage of Hank Aaron,” Biden said.

McGuirk said Aaron, who held front office positions with the team and was one of Major League Baseball’s few Black executives, was watching over them.

“He’d have been there every step of the way with us if he was here,” McGuirk added.

The president often honors major league and some college sports champions with a White House ceremony, typically a nonpartisan affair in which the commander in chief pays tribute to the champs’ prowess, poses for photos and comes away with a team jersey.

Those visits were highly charged in the previous administration. Many athletes took issue with President Donald Trump’s policies and rhetoric on policing, immigration and more. Trump, for his part, didn’t take kindly to criticism from athletes or their on-field expressions of political opinions.

Under Biden, the tradition appears to be back. He’s hosted the NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks and Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the White House. On Monday he joked about first lady Jill Biden’s Philadelphia allegiances.

“Like every Philly fan, she’s convinced she knows more about everything in sports than anybody else,” he said. He added that he couldn’t be too nice to the Atlanta team because it had just beaten the Phillies the previous night in extra innings.

Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was later questioned about the team’s name, particularly as other professional sports teams have moved away from names – like the Cleveland Indians, now the Guardians, and the Washington Redskins, now the Commanders – following years of complaints from Native American groups over the images and symbols.

She said it was important for the country to have the conversation. “And Native American and Indigenous voices – they should be at the center of this conversation,” she said.

Biden supported MLB’s decision to pull the 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta to protest Georgia’s sweeping new voting law, which critics contend is too restrictive.