Dusty Baker led the Washington Nationals to 95 wins and their third NL East title in the last five years (under three different managers).
In earning his sixth division title as a major league manager, Baker became just the third MLB skipper, along with the late Billy Martin and former Nats’ manager Davey Johnson, to lead four different teams to the postseason.
The 2016 campaign ended with a loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLDS, but Baker earned himself a nomination as a finalist for the NL Manager of the Year Award as voted on by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA), along with LA’s skipper Dave Roberts and Joe Maddon, of the World Series champion Chicago Cubs.
NL BBWAA Manager of the Year finalists:— MLB (@MLB) November 7, 2016
Dave Roberts pic.twitter.com/brBKIMmsuL
Baker is a three-time NL Manager of the Year winner, having won the award with the 1993 San Francisco Giants, the ‘97 Giants and the 2000 Giants.
Baker, 67, also has the second-most wins (1,766) of any active major league manager, behind only the Giants’ Bruce Bochy (1,789 wins) among active skippers, and he’s now 17th in wins on the all-time list of MLB managers, three wins behind Jim Leyland (16th, 1,769 wins).
He talked before the start of the NLDS about being aware of his place in the history of the game and wanting to make some history at some point.
“I started thinking about it when I started passing guys that were already in the Hall of Fame,” Baker said, when asked if he had thoughts of ending up in Cooperstown.
“I didn’t think about it before that, but then every day in Cincinnati I was passing somebody that was in the Hall of Fame already. So, yeah, I’d like to be the first African-American in the Hall of Fame, manager, so yeah I think about it. I think about if I hadn’t been out the last couple years I’d be close to 2,000 victories.”
Baker admitted that there were times between his gigs in Cincinnati and D.C., when he wondered if he would get another shot when he was asked if he worried that his days as a major league manager were over.
“No, worry is not the word, I don’t worry, cause you can’t hire yourself,” he said, “so why am I going to worry? I was more bewildered, than I was worried, and I wondered if I was on the blacklist or not.
“Sometimes there’s an unwritten list that sometimes your name is at the top of being one of the unwanteds for whatever reason. Cause I was sitting at home watching guys that hadn’t done what I had done in my last year. I had gone to the playoffs again — that doesn’t happen very often, am I right?
“A guy goes to the playoffs and all of a sudden he can’t get a job or can’t get a callback. But that’s okay, I found out who my friends were and so I would rather find out then rather than later. And I had a pretty good time while I was home. I wasn’t exactly just sitting around.
“I was watching my son, I was going to Canada. I went to Montana. I was watching baseball, because I like baseball.”
But in 2016, he returned to the major league game he’s been a part of since he debuted as a player for the Atlanta Braves in 1968.
Forty-eight years later, he took another team to the postseason, adding to his resume as a manager in his 21st year on the bench.
He’ll be back in D.C. in the second year of the two-year deal he signed with the Nats last November.
Will 2017 be the season he finally gets the ring he’s been after all these years?