There is a narrative thread out there that says veteran skipper Dusty Baker, who managed for twenty seasons from 1993-2013 in San Francisco, Chicago and Cincinnati before taking the job in D.C. this week, was the Washington Nationals' second choice as manager.
That narrative, voiced (in writing) by Boston Globe writer Nick Cafardo in his weekly Sunday Baseball Notes column, suggests that, "[t]he 66-year-old Baker didn’t mind being the second choice to Bud Black for the job."
That (the part about Baker being the second choice) is not accurate, at least according to Nationals' GM Mike Rizzo, who, while acknowledging that it was a "very unique situation" and that it did come down to two finalists for the job, said that things didn't necessarily play out as widely reported with Black the first choice and Baker hired only after negotiations with the former San Diego Padres' skipper broke down.
"It was a very unique situation, I'm not going to lie to you," Rizzo told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.'s The Sports Junkies on Thursday, after Baker's introductory press conference in the nation's capital.
"I've hired several managers with the Nationals and with the Diamondbacks as a front office executive and it's really the most unique situation that I've ever encountered, that we had two extremely qualified candidates after an expansive pool of great candidates got whittled down to the two finalists.
"We called seven of the candidates and said, 'Sorry, we're going to go in a different direction, you're not the guy.' The guys that we didn't call were Dusty Baker and Bud Black."
So were the reports that the job was Black's at one point two weeks back wrong?
"I think I would describe it as certainly the media jumped the gun on it," Rizzo said.
"Because as we went down this parallel interview process with the final two candidates, we also were setting parameters as far as contractual parameters with both candidates.
"What I came away with, what I would be willing to share with you guys, is that the interview process was the interview process. It went great. Both candidates shined and it was a dead heat.
"What we found out is that part of picking the manager is having a comfort level in all aspects of --..."
"We?" one of the Junkies asked, wondering who he meant when he said "we".
"It's myself and the entire Board of Directors of the Lerner family," Rizzo explained. "Which is how we make all of our big decisions."
So how many people are involved in the decision-making process?
"It's five owners and myself," Rizzo said, "[and] my Assistant GM Bob Miller was also involved in the interview process."
"So as we go down this process," he continued, "we have two finalists that are both great, capable guys and we feel good about both of them.
"During the parameters searching process of trying to find out where these guys are at financially and that type of thing, you learn a lot about personalities, further more about personalities, and it was at that point we really got very, very comfortable with Dusty, both myself -- I was always comfortable with him -- but also with the family and the Board of Directors."
"And because I know where your next question is going," Rizzo said, anticipating the next line of inquiry, "... the final decision to hire Dusty Baker as the manager had nothing to do with salary, AAV (average annual value) or term. I can say that without giving you too much information because we don't talk about terms outside of the [room]."
Baker, himself, lent some credence to this version of events when he told reporters during his introductory press conference this past Thursday that he did think for a while last week, based on widespread reports, that he'd lost out on the job.
"I was a little bewildered as to why no one had told me that I didn't get the job then I found out later ... now I know why, because they hadn't made up their mind," Baker said, with Rizzo by his side, nodding in agreement.
"Dusty, in our mind, was never out of it," Rizzo said. "We kept in contact with him specifically through our Assistant General Manager Bob Miller who had a relationship with him with the Cincinnati Reds for years, so they know each other extremely well. They were in constant contact with each other. Bob was giving him the messages that I wanted him to give to Dusty that we were still interested and don't close the book on us."
"I didn't know where it came from and Mike didn't know where it came from," Baker said of the rumors.
"I got a very touching call from Mr. Lerner and he had told me that I was not out of the running and I had a good chance of getting the job."
So did they ever get to the point of an offer with Black?
"Bud Black was one of the finalists," Rizzo said.
"We definitely had financial parameters discussed with him and Dusty at the same time. At the end of the day, we decided to make Dusty our manager."