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Baylor would be great hire for Nats
DETROIT -- So Lou Piniella, who is here doing the Fox television analysis for the American League Championship Series between the Tigers and Athletics, says he is not interested in the Washington Nationals' managing job.
He may still be on the Nationals list of candidates, though. I'm not sure. Through various sources, I have obtained a copy of the list of candidates the Nationals are considering for their managing job.
The problem is, all the names are blacked out. So, I don't know if Sweet Lou's name is still on there are not, but there is one blacked-out name that has $5 million a year next to it, with the words "fat chance" following that figure.
Just kidding. I have no such document. I don't want to go to jail. So I don't know who is on their list of candidates, though there has been a list of suspects reported, including Piniella, Dusty Baker, Terry Pendleton, Tony Pena, Manny Acta and the darling of the seamheads, Joe Girardi.
(I don't get this infatuation with Girardi. He may have had a team with a $15 million payroll, but they were good players, and he finished with a losing record -- 78 wins, just seven more than Frank Robinson got out of the Nationals. Don't you think Frank could have won 78 games if he had Dontrelle Willis in his rotation instead of Billy Traber? Girardi has one year of major league managing experience and considers himself so much of a genius he couldn't get along with his owner and general manager. That's Davey Johnson without the personality and resume).
Here's a name that hasn't come up yet, but should be on the Nationals list of candidates to talk to -- someone with major league managing experience, who had worked with young players and has commanded as much respect in the game as anyone who has ever walked into a major league clubhouse. Don Baylor.
"Managing a team in the nation's capital would be great," Baylor, 57, said in a telephone interview. "I know they have a good fan base there with a lot of interest, and with a new ballpark opening soon, there are nothing but positives there."
Baylor, who said he had not been contacted by the Nationals, is well-known to longtime area baseball fans, having come up through the Orioles organization and played for Baltimore from 1972 to 1976. He had a brilliant batting career, winning the 1979 American League MVP award after hitting .296 with 36 HR and leading the league with 139 RBI and 120 runs scored, as he led the California Angels to their first AL West title, and was highly regarded as a team leader.
Baylor became the Colorado Rockies first manager in 1993, so he has experience starting a team from scratch and working with young players to help them develop. In 1995, the Rockies won the NL wild card, and Baylor was named NL Manager of the Year. He was fired two years later but was then hired to manage the Cubs in 2000, and after a 65-97 first season, he led the Cubs to an 88-74 record in 2001. But he was a bad fit -- a good baseball man in a bad baseball organization -- and was fired in 2002 after a 34-49 start.
A short time later, Baylor received horrible news. He was diagnosed with multiple myeloma. However, he underwent a stem cell transplant and said his health is "outstanding."
"I was at my doctor the other day and I am doing wonderful," Baylor said. "My doctor said he will talk to anybody about my health. I'm doing great."
Baylor feels strong enough to get back into the game, and would love that return to take place in Washington.
"I know that organization wants a good product on the field and they want to do it the right way," he said. "You have to be able to develop your own players, either from this country or internationally. Everybody can't have a $200 million payroll."
In between the Rockies and Cubs job, Baylor worked for Bobby Cox in Atlanta as the Braves hitting coach. So Nationals team president Stan Kasten should be familiar with the qualities that Baylor can bring to an organization. Baylor is certainly familiar with Kasten's success.
"He was with a great organization and had a great run for 14 years," Baylor said. "How can you argue with that?"
Not too many people are going to argue with Baylor, whose physical presence and reputation both command respect and certainly serious consideration by the Nationals for their next manager. He may be just what they are looking for -- if they haven't made up their minds already.
By John R. Bolton
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