Though it didn’t end the way he wanted it to, Dusty Baker enjoyed his first season in the nation’s capital, and he talked about how much he liked Washington, D.C. before the Nationals were eliminated from the NLDS.
Back in November of 2015, when he was introduced as the Nats’ manager, Baker said he was excited to be back in the game after two years away, and especially in a city like Washington.
“I've always thought about possibly managing here in the District and in Washington, D.C.,” Baker said.
“I see a lot of faces that I recognize. I have family and friends and my god children are in Maryland. It's like a family. It's like coming home to a family.
“This is my fourth and final team. Beyond compare, this is the best talent. That's why I was excited about coming here. Most of the other teams that I had were either on the bottom or near the bottom and we had to rebuild. I asked a friend of mine, Al Attles who was with the Warriors, I said 'Al, I always get teams and have to build them up.' He said 'Dusty, you've done more with less.' I told him I was ready to do more with more. I'd like to try that. They have some great talent here. There's some young talent also mixed with experience at the same time. I've always liked that formula.
“The youth gives you energy and hopefully the veteran players can give some of the wisdom and knowledge that they've acquired.”
It wasn’t just the talent on the roster that had Baker excited, however. He was happy to be in D.C.
“It's a perfect fit as far as the city is concerned because I do know quite a few politicians from the President down,” he explained.
“It's a perfect fit because of the culture here, the educational system here.
“Last night I went to the basketball game and there were people from all over the country and all over the world. I used to call myself back in the day 'International Bake' even though I wasn't international yet. Now I have an opportunity to be international and feel as such. I'm used to diversity and this is probably the most diverse city and the most diverse town that I've been in.”
His opinion didn’t change over the course of his first campaign back on the bench in the majors.
In an interview with Holden Kushner and LaTroy Hawkins on MLB Tune In Live once the season was over, Baker talked about how much he enjoyed his first run in Washington, which saw the Nationals win 95 games and take the NL East for the third time in five seasons though they once again failed to advance past the Division Series.
"It's the best time that I've had since San Francisco," Baker said from his home in California.
"I like the people there [in D.C.]. I like the diversity. You had to almost listen to somebody talk before you know what nationality they are, cause people are from all over the world. The educational level there is off the hook. I really liked it a lot -- an awful lot.
“It’s a sophisticated town, but on the other hand, parts of it are kind of country, which is kind of how I am."
Though the Nationals came up short in Game 5 against the Dodgers, Baker talked before the series finale about the ultimate goal of bringing a championship to D.C.
Baker, 67, is under contract for one more year and the goal will be the same in 2017.
“We come here to win,” he said.
“Not only for the organization and ourselves, but the town. I mean, this is something that lasts, [that] is going to go a long ways in this town and is going to last forever when you finally win.”
A D.C.-based team hasn’t been to the World Series (or beyond the NLDS) since 1933, making Washington one of the longest-suffering cities in baseball now that the Cubs have their championship. The only World Series title for Washington came all the way back in 1924, 93 years ago.
Major League Baseball returned to Washington, D.C. in 2005 after a 33-year absence.
Will Washington bring World Series baseball to D.C. in 2017 for the first time in 84 years, and or will the Nationals fall short and disappoint as they try to defend the division crown as they did after their previous division titles in 2013 and 2015?