There are a number of big questions facing the NL East-leading Washington Nationals as the second-half of the 2017 campaign gets underway tonight in Cincinnati.
Who is the fifth starter right now with Joe Ross headed to the DL?
Which pitchers will the Nationals target as they try to shore up their bullpen with the non-waiver trade deadline approaching at the end of the month?
Will Michael A. Taylor be able bounce back from the oblique issue which landed him on the DL before the Break?
When is Jayson Werth going to return from the foot injury, the result of a foul ball, which has kept him on the DL since June 3rd?
How long will Trea Turner be out and can the Nationals get by with Stephen Drew and Wilmer Difo until Turner’s ready?
Will Ryan Zimmerman be able to sustain the impressive run he’s been on this season, putting up career-best-type numbers so far in 2017?
The one question that has not been getting much attention? What does the future hold for Nats’ skipper Dusty Baker?
There hasn’t been much focus on the 68-year-old manager, who has led the Nats to a 52-36 first-half and a 9.5-game lead in the division heading into the second-half opener tonight.
Baker told Washington Post beat writer Chelsea Janes last month that he wanted to continue to manage beyond this season, and that he’d let the Nationals’ brass know about his desire to continue his 22-year career on the bench in the majors.
“I mentioned it to one of the primary people [in Nationals management],” Baker told the WaPost reporter. “And I mentioned it to [General Manager Mike Rizzo] one time. That’s enough. They know.”
Rizzo said at the time that while the focus was on the on-field results, “... we’re not going to mistake that for not making him a priority,” and a source the WaPost writer spoke to said the GM, “... hoped to get an extension done with Baker during spring training and ‘strongly recommended’ to ownership that they extend Baker before his deal expires.”
“Dusty is a true professional, been through the rigors of the regular season a million times,” Rizzo said in a June 9th discussion with reporters.
“I’ve been through it a million times,” Rizzo continued, “suffice it to say that there is great communication, great respect between the front office and the the manager’s office, and the way that we describe it is we do business the way we’ve done business for a long time and we’ve done it for a long time, and we’ve done it very successfully, so the fact that anonymous sources say certain things about how we handle things, couldn’t be further from the truth, we’re an organization that does the business the way we do it, it’s been successful for many, many years, probably as successful as any team in major league baseball.
“We’re going to continue to do the business the way we do it and we’re not going to allow it to be a distraction because we have too many things to accomplish this year and everyone is on the same page to accomplish them.”
Baker returns to Cincinnati tonight, where he managed from 2008-2013, before the Reds parted ways with the veteran skipper following a loss in a Wild Card loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Baker spent two seasons away from the game between gigs before the Nationals gave him an opportunity to manage his fourth major league team. Will he return for a third season in D.C. in 2018, or will he be looking for his fifth big league managing job over the winter?