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This time four years ago, the Nationals had just finished the second of two consecutive 100-loss seasons, according to Baseball-Reference.com. Who would have thought that in such a short period of time, Washington would become a desirable destination for MLB managers, both veteran and novice alike?
Well, that is exactly what is happening. On Oct. 9, Adam Kilgore of The Washington Post wrote that "with their roster’s talent and their ownership’s willingness to spend, the Nationals will have no shortage of qualified candidates lining up to replace Davey Johnson as their next manager."
To that point, Kilgore mentioned in that same article how Dusty Baker, recently fired by the Cincinnati Reds, had contacted Nationals GM Mike Rizzo via his agent to express interest in the position. Baker had this to say in a phone conversation with Kilgore:
It’s early... A lot of stuff doesn’t really happen until the World Series is over. Right now, I’m in no hurry. I just let them know that I was interested.
...It’s a good team. It’s a very good team... I’m about winning. My son told me – he was crying the other day – he wanted to play for the Reds. Then he told me, ‘Dad, if you want to win, you want to go to the Nationals.’
I don’t have a whole bunch of years left, but I’ve got some good ones left. I want to take a team to the top.
Baker isn't the only candidate who has been inserted into the conversation before ever receiving an official interview from the team. Jayson Werth talked to Adam Kilgore of The Washington Post on Sept. 28 about Cal Ripken, Jr. (pictured), a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame as well as a player who has never even managed at the minor league level. Werth said of Ripken that “he would be my No. 1 choice."
Ripken responded to those comments during an appearance on the Rich Eisen Podcast on Oct. 1 (trancsript via Dan Steinberg of The Washington Post):
I have said that at some point I’d like to come back to baseball. And most recently, I said that I’m starting to get an itch to do that. But I’d have to look hard at any opportunity, and so far, I haven’t been asked to do anything. So it’s very flattering that people think of me that way, and I have thought about how cool it would be to manage.
And even Donny Mattingly got me thinking about this a little bit more... He said there’s nothing like being a player, and coaching is pretty good because you help other people do what it is that they do. But managing is the closest thing to being a player. And I’ve always thought that, anyway, internally. Now I’m starting to think about that a little bit more. So far I’ve got nothing new to report, but that’s been the consistency, that I’ve made those statements. And I am getting a feeling that maybe I’d like to get back in.
Baker and Ripken are in addition to the two primary candidates for the position, Nationals bench coach Randy Knorr and Arizona Diamondbacks third base coach Matt Williams, according to Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com on Sept. 30. And like Dusty Baker said, the World Series isn't even over yet. By the time it is, expect at least one more significant candidate to throw his hat in the ring.