After announcing the selection of former Padres skipper Bud Black as the successor to the recently canned Matt Williams, the Washington Nationals failed to come to terms with Black and on Wednesday, unveiled former Giants/Cubs/Reds manager Dusty Baker (above) as the franchise’s 7th man to hold that position. Recalling the club’s treatment of Jim Riggleman, as well as suggesting GM Mike Rizzo is in a somewhat impossible position, the Washington Post’s Adam Kilgore declares the Lerner family, “still lack an understanding of how to treat people within their industry” (“they became wealthy owning shopping malls, and if they walked into one of the stores housed inside a palace in Tysons Corner seeking to buy an item, they would have to pay the listed price. They somehow have failed to grasp the same principle applies to Major League Baseball”).
The Nationals decided on Black last Wednesday. Negotiations commenced. The first offer the Nationals made Black, a manager fresh off an eight-year stint with the San Diego Padres, would have guaranteed him $1.6 million for one season. It left Black “deeply offended,” according to one person familiar with the situation. In the end, the Lerners would not exceed an offer of two years with multiple team options. By Saturday, talks had crumbled. They didn’t get their man, because they insulted him.
For context, Don Mattingly – a manager with more division titles but less experience than Black – signed a four-year contract with the Miami Marlins. The Lerners made Jeffrey Loria appear decisive and considerate.
The contract length matters for financial reasons, of course. It also allows a manager to do his job. With two years guaranteed – or one – handling a clubhouse of unfamiliar personalities would have been untenable. The first step is to gain credibility and respect, and that kind of contract prevents it. It forces a manager to look over his shoulder and defend himself rather than protect and motivate players. It breeds dysfunction.