New Nationals manager Dusty Baker gave us a clue about his possible managing style at Thursday’s news conference when he talked about being aggressive on the base paths.
“We’re going to run the bases,” Baker said. “I think that’s something that’s probably last on the list on a lot of teams. Baserunning is probably the most overlooked part of baseball.”
It might be a welcome change from the Nationals’ recent offensive style, where they waited for the three-run homer more times than they manufactured runs. Without Denard Span at the top of the lineup due to injury, this team didn’t steal that many bases in 2015.
But what will be the style of play of these Nationals under Baker? Will they be ultra-aggressive? Or will they bunt too much or use sacrifices for hitters, like Anthony Rendon, that can hit better than they can bunt guys over?
Baker said he will first need to get to know his roster before deciding what its strengths and weaknesses are.
“I have to wait to be around guys before you start changing people,” Baker said. “I don’t believe in going in and getting rid of everybody and stuff because there’s some people here that love it here and deserve to be here. I have to sort of observe for a while before I mandate, which I don’t believe in in mandating anything.
“I believe in just sort of going into it with my eyes open. People tell me things. I will listen to people and then I’ll make my decision, if that person is telling me the truth, about that particular person or not.”
Baker said he trusts in the Nationals staff already in place to help him get to know the players better, but he will also need to talk to them and watch them play.
“I do know some people around here that have a pretty good pulse on this team,” Baker said. “So in that point in time, it’s going to take a while. It’ll probably take into the winter, into spring training and then we’ll see what we have.”
One complaint of Baker’s philosophy in the past was he burned out pitchers arms by leaving starters in too long in games. He was asked if he has changed or adapted to today’s game after not managing for two seasons.
“I was pretty good before, I thought,” Baker countered.
“Adaptation is no problem for me because my friends call me the chameleon because they think I can adapt any place in any time anywhere,” Baker said. “I would like to feel I transcend different generations like some musicians. Stevie Wonder still sounds good and The Doors might sound even better.
“I believe in old morals and ideas, but you translate them in modern ways so that they can understand. I think it really helps me to have a daughter of 36, a wife of 50-something (laughter) and a son of 16. So I got it pretty covered. I’ll come home sometime and I’m like, ‘I’m going to cuss them out today.’ My son goes, ‘Dad, now is not the time to cuss them out, I don’t think’. Sometimes you got to listen to the young because they have a pulse on things.”
There has been much written about a need to change the culture in the Nationals clubhouse. It was reported that the relationship between manager Matt Williams and the players was not as seamless and cozy as it could be. How would Baker change that feeling in the clubhouse day to day?
“To tell you the truth, everybody wants to know what I’m going to say the first day of spring training,” Baker said. “And you know something? I really don’t know. It’s something that I have to feel. It’s something that can’t be fabricated or something that can’t be fake. Because guys can see when you’re not being genuine.
“I’ll talk to some of the guys and I’ll see what this team needs because I really don’t know exactly what they need. Who knows they might not need anything, I doubt it. At the same time, I’ll listen to some of the guys because sometimes the thing about being a great leader, like Nelson Mandela says, you have to listen as well as talk. Right now, I’m in listening mode.”