The MLB Division Series have wrapped up and Championship series matchups have been solidified. The biggest surprise thus far has been most people’s favored World Series Champion, the Cleveland Indians, being eliminated. The Washington Nationals, managed by Dusty Baker, have also failed to advance.
On the surface, this is surprising. The Nationals had the second-best record in the National league this season, and this seemed like the year they would finally get over the hump.
They made the playoffs three times in the past five years, but have failed to advance past the first round. Once again, this season ended in disappointing fashion.
While the Nationals are certainly no strangers to disappointment, it’s something that has followed their manager, Dusty Baker, around even longer.
Baker first took a team he managed to the playoffs in 1997 as manager of the San Francisco Giants. Since then, he has taken eight teams to the postseason, but has advanced past the divisional round just twice.
He has won only one NL pennant and no World Series titles. On five different occasions, he’s lost a postseason series when all he needed was one more win to advance to the next round or win a title.
In fairness to Baker, this is not entirely his fault. Bad luck has seemed to follow him around like no other manager in recent memory.
Take his two most infamous playoff defeats, Game 6 of the 2002 World series and Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS. In 2002, Baker was not responsible for the collapse of his bullpen, which had been excellent up to that point.
In 2003, as manager of the Chicago Cubs, we all know what happened. The infamous Cub’s fan, Steve Bartman, reached onto the field of play and tried to grab a foul ball, sparking a Marlins rally and causing the curse of the Billy Goat to live on.
Baker is surely not responsible for that.
Even in his most recent defeat last night, Baker did everything right. When he needed it most, he turned to his ace, Max Scherzer, in relief. Scherzer pitched well, but in the end, it wasn’t enough.
This loss isn’t on Baker, but at some point, you must ask why his teams always seem to come up short. Maybe it has something to do with his managerial decisions, maybe he just has bad luck, or maybe the Nationals are the new team the baseball gods are tormenting now that they’ve decided the Cubs have suffered enough.
Whatever the reason may be, last night’s game perfectly summed up Baker’s career as a manager. Even when he does everything right, the proverbial black cat always seems to follow him around.
He isn’t to blame for his most recent defeat, or most of his previous ones. He is a good manager who has made a lot of teams relevant over the years. But after so many heartbreaking defeats, it’s become apparent winning a championship might not be in the cards for him.
Perhaps more than anyone on baseball, Dusty Baker needs to catch a break.