Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Gardy, Black and Baker

A few days ago, the Washington Nationals had settled on Bud Black as their manager. On Tuesday, they officially announced the hiring of Dusty Baker.

In between came an apparently contentious contract negotiation with Black, who found both the length of contract and salary too small. The Nats have gotten a reputation for low-balling managers, and that is apparently by design, Their initial offer to Black was a one-year contract; meanwhile, Don Mattingly got four years from the Miami Marlins, and the Fish have made a habit of paying people not to manage them.

The Black fiasco should be an embarrassment for the Nationals, but I suspect Baker's actually a better choice for Washington. For all his sabermetric and tactical shortcomings, Baker's well-established as a handler of egos, and that might be the biggest specific task for the manager of that squad.

And while he was justly criticized for his mishandling of a talented set of young pitchers during his tenure with the Cubs, Baker appears to have learned from that experience. He was the manager of the Cincinnati Reds when Johnny Cueto emerged as a star. In 2012 the Reds led the National League in run prevention; in 2013 they were fourth, this in an extreme hitter's park. in those two years, nine Reds made at least 30 starts. That's not a record that fits his reputation as a pitcher-killer, but that reputation ought to be outdated by now.

The Nationals had high expectations entered 2015, and failed to come close. There will be a good bit of roster churn there this winter, but they will still have Bryce Harper and Max Scherzer, and they will continue to have high expectations, perhaps higher than they ought to be.


Meanwhile, in San Diego, the Padres have reportedly offered Ron Gardenhire the bench coach job. That provoked this tweet (from a reporter who confidently informed the world that Rick Sofield would be the Padres skipper less than 24 hours before Andy Green was hired):

Assuming that Gardenhire doesn't need the job financially, I would think it's a question of: What's the best route for gaining the managerial job he really wants? My guess is that he (and his agent) will figure that he's better off remaining a free agent and waiting for somebody to get canned in midseason.

To be specific, there was a widespread expectation that Detroit would fire Brad Ausmus after their disappointing 2015, and that Gardenhire was his most likely successor. Ausmus has been retained for 2016, but the leash is probably short. There's a genuine logic to Gardenhire deciding to decline any coaching jobs to keep himself available for a managerial post.

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