A function of dysfunction; Nationals get a manager, but questions about ownership are raised

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We now conclude the most interesting twenty four hours the Nationals have had since they signed Max Scherzer this past January. Thank you for watching.

After a day when nothing, and I mean nothing seemed certain for the Washington Nationals, the fans can go to bed with one certainty – the biggest issue the Nationals may be facing right now has nothing to do with who will manage their team.

After an embarrassing season filled with gaffes and poor decision making, the Nationals chose to fire their manager, Matt Williams and start the search for a new one. General Manager Mike Rizzo, who’s status had quickly gone from an irremovable messiah to an executive on the hot seat after the disappointing season, noted that the Nationals “certainly would lean toward someone who had some managerial experience, particularly at the major league level.” (C/O Adam Kilgore, The Washington Post) Soon, after not-so extensive interviews, the Nationals seemingly had their guy, Bud Black. Black, who had been recently fired by the Padres, was not set in his ways, shifted, but was still high up on the experience scale. The other finalist for the job, who in a quote to the San Francisco Chronicle, said that he thought he didn’t “think anyone would have been as good for the job as (he would’ve). It seemed like a perfect fit.”, and later explained how he handled the disappointment.

Well, he didn’t have to deal with it for too long. The Nationals, despite having the news of Bud Black’s hiring breaking, never announced his hiring. At first it seemed trivial, and they were just waiting for the World Series to end. But as other teams made their announcements, the Nationals stayed quiet. Fans went to bed on Monday night with the managerial post occupied by Bud Black, and woke up with Dusty Baker. Talks fell through with Black, and Baker was offered the job.

This should seem abnormal, but not completely problematic. And then the numbers come out. The Nationals offered Bud Black $1.6 million for a one year deal. Offering Bud Black, the experienced manager who they wanted, $1.6 million dollars and one year, the number closest to zero, to a manager who at least deserves two guaranteed to put down an anchor in the clubhouse, while Don Mattingly, Black’s former counterpart in Los Angeles, received four years and ten million dollars in Miami is like offering Bryce Harper $100 million while Mike Trout makes $400 million. Has one been better overall during their career? Yes, but there’s not a drastic difference.

So, they turned to Dusty Baker, who immediately accepted a two year deal, which, according to MLB Network Radio, is worth $3.7 million, more than the salary of Black. Ted Lerner, upon hiring him, said in a press release that “During (the Nationals’) broad search process, it was clear that Dusty’s deep experience was the best fit for our ballclub.”

That leaves one critical question: why attempt to hire Black in the first place, if you know you want another guy?

More and more, it seems like the Lerners are controlling the team beyond what’s appropriate. And frankly, that should be more worrying than whoever manages the team.

The Nationals last 24 hours were so drama-filled compared to the last month, that the only comparison would be binge watching an entire series on Netflix after a month without new episodes. But drama, as middle school will show any good person, is rarely a good thing.

When the news came out originally, there was speculation, and only speculation.  First, multiple outlets reported that the Nationals were reconsidering Black and Baker, respectively, which then turned into the Nationals offering the job to Baker, which led to the news of the contractual issues between the Nationals and Black. Now, Dusty Baker will be formally introduced on Thursday morning.

Mike Rizzo didn’t have much to say on the matter, saying that he is “so pleased to welcome Dusty Baker to the Nationals family” and that he was “excited to have him on board.”. Those quotes, from a GM, who’s the most involved in the process of finding a new manager, don’t seem quite right. Those are usually the words of the owner, while the GM says something more detailed. The situation flip-flopped this time around, as Rizzo noted the above comments, while Ted Lerner, the managing principal owner of the Nationals, had much more intricate comments.

“We were looking for a manager to help us achieve our ultimate goal of competing for a World Series championship,” Lerner said. “During our broad search process we met with many qualified candidates, and ultimately it was clear that Dusty’s deep experience was the best fit for our ballclub.”

Again, why go after one guy if you think another is the best fit? Ultimately, there are only a few people who know what actually happened, and Dusty Baker isn’t included on that list. But the real questions remain: how much are the Lerners getting in the way of the actions of Mike Rizzo? Are they dictating who’s hired and who’s signed, and at what price? Are they overstepping their bounds?

One possible scenario was one in which the Lerner family wanted Baker all along, but needed to give Mike Rizzo the choice. Rizzo chooses Black, but the Lerners don’t truly want to pay for him, so they give Rizzo a ludicrous salary and subpar contractual terms. They then see Black walk away and sign Baker, for more, and for longer.

That’s just a possible scenario. There is a very good chance that was 100% fictional, but it’s possible that’s exactly what happened. The Lerner family could just not want to spend money, even though they hand over an extra twenty million dollars every time Scott Boras comes knocking at their door. There are so many possible scenarios from which this whole situation could’ve unfolded.

But here’s the thing. If the Nationals wanted Bud Black, they would’ve paid for him. If Mike Rizzo wanted Dusty Baker, he would’ve been the first hire. All of this suggests that something or someone changed Rizzo’s view, or got in Rizzo’s way. If those people are the Lerners, that’s a problem. Adam Kilgore said it best in his article, pointing out that “The Lerners became wealthy owning shopping malls, and if they walked into one of the stores housed inside a palace in Tysons Corner seeking to buy an item, they would have to pay the listed price. They somehow have failed to grasp the same principle applies to Major League Baseball.”

There is one, and only one definite truth here. The Lerners, overstepped their bounds, or at least Ted Lerner did, and the team could pay for it. It’s a worrying phenomenon that may well be seen in the future. Since when did Dan Snyder become a role-model?

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