By DERON SNYDER
Hindsight is 20-20 and hypothetical answers bat 1.000.
Davey Johnson should’ve never been let go as the Nationals manager and Dusty Baker would’ve gotten over the hump next season. Neither of those statements can be proved nor disproved. There’s no guarantee that Washington would’ve reached the NLCS under Johnson or Baker.
But the Lerner family decided that Baker shouldn’t return, which means the search begins for Washington’s seventh manager in 14 seasons. Whichever way you fall on the decision, you have a good point.
Unfortunately for Baker and those who believe he deserved a new contract, the team’s history and his record of postseason futility conspired against him. The Nationals and Baker each have enjoyed plenty of success in the regular season.
Come the playoffs? Not so much.
As good as it feels to win four division titles in six seasons, the Nationals wear a scarlet ‘F’ for failing to advance past the NLDS. As proud as Baker is for ranking 14th in wins on the all-time manager list, he can’t escape the 0-fer in his past 10 playoff games with a chance to move on.
The choice really was that simple for those who concur with management. A franchise that has never thrived in the postseason can’t keep a manager with the same malady.
“Our expectations have grown to point where winning lot of regular season games and winning divisions are not enough,” Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo told reporters Friday after the announcement that Baker won’t be back. “The goal is to win a world championship.”
Left unsaid was the belief that Baker couldn’t lead Washington there. His excellence in shepherding a clubhouse, handling veterans, supporting youngsters and generally keeping things smooth during a 162-game journeys mattered not.
Strategy and moves that are barely mentioned over the course of six months are amplified and magnified during five-game series. If the moves work out, unorthodox as they might be, your team advances. If the decisions fail too often, as they did in Baker’s case, your team parts ways with you.
Even if the next round was only one Max Scherzer implosion away.
“I’m surprised and disappointed,” Baker told USA Today. “I really thought this was my best year. We won at least 95 games each year and won the division back to back years but they said they wanted to go a different direction. It’s hard to understand.”
Not really. The organization put more emphasis on the postseason and was uncertain results would change with Baker at the helm.
Of course, they might not change in 2018 under the next manager, either. Does that mean it was right or wrong to let Baker go?
Yes. Whichever you choose to believe.
— Follow Deron on Twitter @DeronSnyder and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.