The Nationals introduced Dusty Baker as the club’s new manager today, bringing a close to a surprising hiring saga. As James Wagner of the Washington Post writes, the veteran baseball man brought plenty of pizzazz to his press conference. The club also announced the hiring of Mike Maddux as its new pitching coach and Davey Lopes as the first base coach.
It was a busy week in D.C., with the Nats also losing an important court battle relating to TV revenue. Here’s more:
- Despite starting a nearly-unthinkable dugout brawl with star Bryce Harper, closer Jonathan Papelbon is nevertheless expected to stay with the club and handle late-inning duties alongside Drew Storen, team sources tell Tom Boswell of the Washington Post. Harper has reached out to Papelbon in an effort to improve their relationship, says Boswell, with the team indicating that they don’t expect any issues regarding the clubhouse interactions of any of the above players. Of course, as he notes, there may be some pre-winter posturing in the expression of those views.
- There were lots of negative reactions to the Nationals’ unconsummated dalliance with Bud Black prior to agreeing with Baker. We’ve already covered that episode in some detail, but here are some more sources to consider if you want to read further: Boswell writes that the club’s ownership (the Lerner family) has yet to fully adapt to conducting business in the world of baseball. Though the organization eventually offered Black three years at a strong annual rate, says Boswell, it had already botched the negotiations (which were, seemingly, largely conducted by ownership). Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com provides a detailed timeline of what went down with Black and Baker. In his account, the maximum offer only “may have gotten up to two guaranteed years at some point.” Talks failed, then were re-started, before Washington finally told Black late Monday night that the club was going in another direction.
- The Post’s Barry Svrluga adds that the botched Black negotiations are not the first time the ownership group has ruffled feathers. “Internal morale … is low,” sources tell him, with one explaining that GM Mike Rizzo is “handcuffed in so many ways” by the organization’s top leadership. And their colleague Adam Kilgore says that Rizzo’s “situation can be considered tenuous.”
- The Nationals, of course, are among the many clubs facing difficult qualifying offer decisions tomorrow at 4pm CST. We’ve yet to hear whether D.C. will make the one-year, $15.8MM offer to outgoing free agents such as Jordan Zimmermann, Ian Desmond, Denard Span, and Doug Fister. Only Span, perhaps, presents a difficult decision, though, as the first two of those names seem like virtual locks to receive the offer while Fister’s rough season makes him an unlikely candidate.