WASHINGTON (AP) — Dusty Baker is the new manager of the Washington Nationals, meaning Major League Baseball avoids what would have been its first season since 1988 with zero black skippers.
The Nationals announced Baker’s hiring on Tuesday, nearly a month after firing Matt Williams, whose lack of prior experience turned out to be a problem as the club missed the playoffs.
In the 66-year-old Baker, the Nationals get someone who already has worked 20 seasons as a manager in the majors and whose 1,671-1,504 career record — a .526 winning percentage — includes the second-most victories of any active manager.
He led the San Francisco Giants to the 2002 World Series, and reached the postseason a half-dozen other times. Baker also manager the Chicago Cubs and, most recently, the Cincinnati Reds, who fired him in 2013.
Baker won NL Manager of the Year honors in 1993, 1997 and 2000.
Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo let Williams go a day after the club, which had World Series aspirations, finished the regular season barely above .500 at 83-79, seven games behind the New York Mets in the NL East.
Williams had never managed in the majors before being hired for the 2014 season, when the Nationals won their division and he was voted NL Manager of the Year.
He presided over a 2015 season filled with defeats, discord and the embarrassing spectacle of a dugout dustup between NL MVP front-runner Bryce Harper and teammate Jonathan Papelbon during a game the day after the team was eliminated from playoff contention.
Williams said he had no idea of the extent of the skirmish until much later in the day. Even though he was, of course, in the dugout at the time, Williams said he hadn’t been aware of exactly what happened — including that Papelbon grabbed Harper by the throat. None of his players or coaches told him about it right away, and he said he hadn’t asked to know more.
On the day he announced that Williams would not return, Rizzo was asked what he’d be looking for in Williams’ replacement.
“Communication in the clubhouse, communication within the coaching staff, is vital,” Rizzo said on Oct. 5. “Experience is always helpful. It always adds a layer of expertise to anybody’s resume. We feel that where we’re at in our timetable of winning a championship, we certainly would lean toward someone that has some type of managerial experience, especially at the major league level.”