WASHINGTON—Dusty Baker is the new manager of the Washington Nationals—meaning Major League Baseball avoids what would have been its first start to a season since 1988 with zero black skippers.
The Nationals announced Baker’s hiring today, 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 has worked 20 seasons as a manager in the majors and whose 1,671-1,504 record—a .526 winning percentage—includes the second-most victories among active managers.
He led the San Francisco Giants to the 2002 World Series and reached the post-season a half-dozen other times.
Baker also managed the Chicago Cubs and, most recently, the Cincinnati Reds, who fired him in 2013.
Baker won NL Manager of the Year honours in 1993, 1997, and 2000.
He retired as a player in 1986 after 19 years in the majors—winning a World Series title with the L.A. Dodgers in 1981.
“We were looking for a manager to help us achieve our ultimate goal of competing for a World Series championship,” Nationals’ owner Ted Lerner said in a statement.
“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,” he noted.
The Nationals were said to have settled on hiring former San Diego Padres’ manager Bud Black last week before contract talks with him broke down.
When the Seattle Mariners fired Lloyd McClendon last month, it left no black managers in baseball.
No season had started without at least one since 1988; in April that year, Frank Robinson replaced Cal Ripken Sr. with the Baltimore Orioles.
Robinson later managed the Nationals.
Rizzo let Williams go a day after Washington, which had World Series aspirations, finished the regular season at 83-79—seven games behind the N.Y. Mets in the NL East.
Williams had never managed in the majors when he was hired for the 2014 season.
The Nationals won their division and he was voted NL Manager of the Year.
But he presided over a 2015 season filled with defeats, discord, and the embarrassing spectacle of a dugout dust-up between NL MVP front-runner Bryce Harper and teammate Jonathan Papelbon.