Before the start of Game 5 of the Washington Nationals’ NLDS matchup with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Nats’ skipper Dusty Baker was asked about his emotions going into the finale of the best-of-five series.
“Well, the emotions I had — tell you the truth, I got up, said my prayers like I always do. Got a cup of coffee. And then packed for Chicago,” Baker said.
Instead of the Nationals heading to Wrigley Field to start the NLCS with the Cubs, however, it will be the Los Angeles Dodgers facing off against the NL’s best.
Baker and the Nationals dropped a 4-3 decision to LA in D.C. on Thursday night, and, inevitably, someone asked the 67-year-old skipper how it would feel when he had to unpack.
“Well, it's not going to be very pleasant, because I'm not ready to go home,” Baker said.
“I haven't been home since February, but I would have gladly stayed a couple more weeks.
“No, it's not going to be pleasant, really. I don't know when I'm leaving. I don't know when, because, you know, like I said, I'm ready to go home to my house and family, but I'm not ready to, you know, for the season to end.”
Ready or not, the offseason is here for the NL East champion Nationals. Baker hadn’t yet spoken to his team when he met with reporters, but he said he would.
“I'll address them when I go back in,” he said. “But right now, everybody's kind of, you know, kind of numb. Everybody's probably thinking about what we all could have done to change the outcome of the game.”
It was another disappointing loss for the Nationals, who have now won three division titles in five years, but failed to advance past the NLDS.
Baker was asked if he believed that all teams and cities have to go through this sort of pain before reaching the pinnacle.
“Yeah, it's not an overnight process,” he explained, ‘but I mean, yeah, you do have to go through some pain. It's not a very pleasant pain. I've gone through that pain a few times now.
“But you know, you have to persevere. That's the story of life. You know, it's how you deal with the downtimes and how you deal with pain. And if you just keep persevering, then something will happen, something good will happen. You can't stop trying. You can't stop trying to reach your goal. Like I said, the key word is perseverance.”
Baker will be back with a lot of the same players in 2017.
In the immediate aftermath of the season-ending loss, he was asked what needs to improve in order for the Nationals to take the next step.
“Yeah, there are a few things,” he said. “You know, like I had asked for health from the time we started, number one. I'd like to -- we've got to go back to the drawing board, better fundamental play, cut down on our strikeouts, cut down on our walks.
“Because you know, in this series, it seemed like whenever we walked somebody, they scored. Especially as a leadoff walk.
“So yeah, there's always some things that you can improve on, even if we had won the championship.
“So like I said, we'll go back to the drawing board, put our heads together, and hold our heads up high.”