The Nationals are firing manager Dusty Baker after two seasons on the job, their ownership announced in an open letter to fans on Friday.
“This was an incredibly difficult decision for us,” the owners wrote. “Dusty Baker led the team to the first back-to-back division titles in our history and represented our club with class on and off the field. He is one of the true gentlemen in our sport, and we thank him for the successes that we enjoyed together over the last two years. We wish him nothing but the best going forward.”
Baker had two hugely successful seasons in Washington, at least by won-lost record. The Nationals won 95 games in 2016 and 97 in 2017. They lost in Game 5 of the National League Division Series both times, including last week to the Cubs.
Baker, 68, has managed big league clubs on and off since taking over the Giants in 1993. In 22 managerial seasons, he’s compiled a .532 winning season. He managed the Cubs and Reds between his San Francisco and Washington stints.
The Nationals have routinely fielded great teams since 2012, when they won 98 games and finished north of .500 for the first time since moving from Montreal in 2005. They’ve been blessed with generational talents in Steven Strasburg and Bryce Harper, but general manager Mike Rizzo has built smartly around them.
Yet the team hasn’t broken through in the cruel, random postseason. In four playoff appearances, the Nationals have bowed out shy of the league championship series each time. Harper is a year from free agency, and his possible departure means the Nationals really need to go ahead and win now.
They weren’t able to breach their NLDS ceiling under Davey Johnson or Matt Williams, who both managed exactly as long as Baker did: two years. The Nationals will hope that their fourth manager in this era, whoever he is, gets them over the top.