The Washington Nationals announced on Tuesday that they had signed Dusty Baker to be their next manager. But that only happened after they failed to sign their first choice, Bud Black.
Black and Baker were the two finalists for the opening after the Nationals fired Matt Williams after the season. The Nationals reportedly chose Black, with James Wagner of the Washington Post citing multiple sources.
It was believed at the time that no announcement was being made because it came in the midst of the World Series and Major League Baseball frowns on other teams making major announcements during the series. The same situation arose with the Miami Marlins who were reported during the series to be hiring Don Mattingly, a move that wasn’t officially announced until the day after the series ended.
In other words, there was no reason to think anything was amiss. Only there was a problem: the two sides had not yet agreed on a contract and negotiations sound like they were a complete mess.
According to Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post, the Nationals’ first offer to Black that was only guaranteed for one season at $US1.6 million, with a source describing Black as “deeply offended.”
For comparison, most managers sign contracts with new teams with a length of 3-5 years. Joe Maddon signed a 5-year, $US25 million contract with the Chicago Cubs. Kevin Cash, who had no previous managerial experience, received a 5-year contract from the Tampa Bay Rays. Black managed the San Diego Padres for eight years.
Kilgore explains the importance of contract length:
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.
The Nationals did increase their offer to two years with multiple team options, but according to the report, negotiations were off by Saturday, forcing the Nationals to move on with Plan B.
We have reached out to the Nationals for comment.
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