Washington’s 95 wins in the first season under Nationals’ skipper Dusty Baker were the third-most since the franchise returned to the nation’s capital in 2005, behind only the 2012 (98) and 2014 (96) Nationals.
It was also the third-highest win total for Baker in his second career in the game.
Baker, 67, led the 1993 San Francisco Giants to 103 wins, the 2000 Giants and 2012 Cincinnati Reds to 97 wins and the ‘02 Giants to 95 as well. That 2002 Giants team went to the World Series, eventually losing to the Los Angeles (then Anaheim) Angels.
After Sunday’s win in the regular season finale, Baker said he fell a little short of his overall expectations this season.
“I planned to win 90 almost every year,” he explained.
“I tell everybody 15 games a month, then you have a couple months where you win more. The only month that we didn’t win 15 was probably July, we had a couple off days and we had the All-Star break in there, but we were still pretty close. It means that you played consistent baseball.
“When the year started, I wanted to win 97, I really wanted to win 100, because I haven’t won 100 since my rookie year in San Francisco, but I didn’t want to win 100 at the expense of injury or just wearing guys into the ground. You don’t want to do it at any cost. I think [GM] Mike Rizzo said 95, and [Daniel] Murphy had 95 in his head in Spring Training, so just shows you, hell, the power of positive thought I guess.”
A reporter pointed out that the Nationals’ NLDS opponents, the Los Angeles Dodgers, who’ve now won the NL West in each of the last four seasons and made six trips to the postseason since baseball returned to D.C. in 2005, and have reached the 95-win mark just three times in the last 38 seasons, while the Nationals have now reached it three times in the last five.
“That says something for our organization,” Baker said. “I guess we did something so far.”
Baker said he is proud of what the Nationals accomplished as a team this season.
“The thing I’m proud of is how they play together,” he said. “How we win with different facets of the game.
“Sometimes it’s pitching, sometimes it’s defense, sometimes it’s home runs, sometimes it’s offense and when Trea [Turner] got here sometimes it’s stolen bases or all of the above. We haven’t been hot-hot all year long. This is what I’m proud of, that we won that many games with guys not having career years. Most of the time when you win that many games, you’ve got a couple guys that are having career years, other than [Daniel] Murphy really, and [Wilson] Ramos probably. Some other guys here have had kind of down years for them and for us to win that many games with key players either injured or not having their typical years is a tribute to our team and our team unity.”
Now is no time for reflection, of course, as Baker explained, and though he said he was proud of the fact that he’s now led four different teams to division titles, joining Billy Martin and former Nationals’ skipper Davey Johnson as the only three managers in MLB history to lead four different clubs to the postseason, he said it’s all about what happens next.
“No. 1, I don’t ever reflect on it,” he explained. “I don’t think about it much. I think about the present. I don’t think about the past, and I think about the work that we have to do now. And so, I remember having a discussion with Sadaharu Oh, when I was with the Dodgers and they were training at our facility at Vero Beach, he was with the Tokyo Giants, and I asked him a similar question, because I think he was nine-times MVP at that time, and I asked him, ‘How do you stay motivated?’ and stuff like that, and he told me, ‘You don’t think about your accomplishments until it’s over,’ and then you think about it. While you’re in the middle of it, I don’t have time to think about that, I’m trying to figure out how we’re going to beat these Dodgers.”