WASHINGTON -- The Nationals own the best record in the National League and have marched out to a commanding lead in the National League East division, which they led by 11 1/2 games entering Friday. And yet the man leading that charge as manager, Dusty Baker, is currently in the
WASHINGTON -- The Nationals own the best record in the National League and have marched out to a commanding lead in the National League East division, which they led by 11 1/2 games entering Friday. And yet the man leading that charge as manager, Dusty Baker, is currently in the final season of his contract.
Baker, who is in his second season as the Nationals manager, has stated that he wants to manage beyond next season as D.C. has become one of his favorite stops, alongside San Francisco, during his 22-year tenure as a Major League manager. He took over last season and helped transform a team that won 83 games amid locker room turmoil in 2015 to a 95-win division champion in 2016 -- a coaching effort that earned him a third-place finish in the voting for the NL Manager of the Year Award.
The Nationals speak highly of the job Baker has done and Baker speaks highly of Washington, and yet, even as the two-year contract Baker signed at the start of the 2016 season is set to expire at the end of the year, the two sides have not made any progress on a contract extension, a source told MLB.com. Baker told the Washington Post he has made clear his intentions to keep managing and that he has mentioned it to a primary person in Nationals management and general manager Mike Rizzo.
According to the report in the Post, Rizzo strongly recommended to ownership that a deal be done in Spring Training, but a deal hasn't materialized. Rizzo responded to the report prior to Friday's game at Nationals Park.
"The way that we describe it is we do business the way we've done business for a long time," he said. "And we've done it very successfully so the fact that anonymous sources say certain things about how we handle things couldn't be farther from the truth."
In fact, Rizzo knows firsthand how contract negotiations can linger with ownership considering he began last season in the final year of his contract before his two-year option was exercised in May.
Baker, who turns 68 next week, is 133-88 in his career leading the Nationals and became just the 16th manager in Major League history to win his 1,800th career game last weekend in Oakland. He has indicated his desire to keep managing -- even to get to 2,000 career wins -- however, he does not go out of his way to bring up his contract status nor even seem uneasy about his status.
And yet it lingers on as the Nationals continue an excellent 2017 season where Baker seems poised to carry them to consecutive playoff appearances for the first time in team history. Rizzo also reiterated Friday that Baker's contract status would not become a distraction for the Nationals going forward.
"It's not going to be an issue, we're not going to let it be an issue," Rizzo said. "Dusty's a true professional. Been through the rigors of the regular season a million times; I've been through it a million times. Suffice to say that there's great communications, great respect between the front office and the managerial office.
"We're an organization that does business the way we do it, it's been successful for many many years, probably as successful as any team in Major League Baseball. We're going to continue to do business the way we do it, and we're not going to allow it to be a distraction because we have too many things to accomplish this year, and everyone's on the same page to accomplish them."
Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.