WASHINGTON — If media reports can be taken at face value, Dusty Baker wasn’t the Washington Nationals’ first choice as manager last offseason, but there is no question that he got the job done.
The Nats were the bounceback kids in 2016, living up to their regular season potential with 95 wins and easily reclaiming the NL East Crown.
But because Baker was running out of opportunities to coach again in the MLB, he settled for a two-year contract, allowing the team full flexibility to move on if he flopped in 2016. Heading into Year 2, Baker craves the security that comes with success.
“I mean, everybody likes security,” Baker told the media. “Everybody likes to know what their future is going to be even though it doesn’t amount to much. But I’m very confident that we’d get things worked out. You’d like to do it sooner rather than later because I don’t want to be a distraction to my team.”
While the sounds very magnanimous, the simple fact is that Baker wants what he deserves. And with six weeks to go before Opening Day, the clock is ticking to get a deal done. Over the winter, the team expressed interest in retaining Baker beyond 2017, but he sounded uncertain if he wanted to return.
“I don’t know,” Baker said of his future and desires. “Tell you the truth, the way I look at it — between my family, my hunger, between, you know, the prayers that I send up looking for answers and looking for clues — it will come to me, you know? Some of it’s in your control, and some of it’s out of your control.”
Now, with the deadline in sight, Baker is singing a different tune.
“I see my importance in the organization has grown since I’ve been here,” Baker said. “That’s worth something. And as much as we’re a young organization, I’ve been around a while. Everybody comes to my office, from the trainers to the PR department to the media department to the community relations department.
“I feel like I’m helping out on all fronts. Sometimes you can make yourself valuable so you’re not that easily disposed.”
Regardless of what happens on the contract front, Baker refuses to be a distraction for a team with huge aspirations.
“The guys, I just want them to focus on what they have to do,” Baker concluded. “Don’t worry about me, because Dusty’s fine.”