Earlier this week in Nashville, in his first news conference since being introduced as manager of the Washington Nationals, Dusty Baker stumbled into controversy. His well-documented defense of maligned Reds closer Aroldis Chapman — he called a man accused of choking his wife “a heck of a guy” — disquieted many, particularly as baseball and other professional sports hone policies to deal with domestic violence.
“Who’s to say what you would have done or what caused the problem,” he asked, before pointing out that those who responsible for domestic violence “don’t always wear pants.”
Immediate uproar followed. Baker clarified his comments on MLBNetwork Radio a few minutes later. “No way,” he condones domestic violence, he said, but the damage was done. Saturday at Winterfest, Baker was asked whether he was caught off-guard by that reaction.
“Not really caught off-guard, just sort of surprised that it was to that magnitude,” Baker said. “Whoever was there, certainly that wasn’t my intent if you know me. If you know me, you know my family background, you know my history.”
Baker said he “could’ve clarified” his domestic violence thoughts better. He said he was thinking of former big league outfielder Darryl Hamilton, whose girlfriend shot and killed him this June. Baker gave the eulogy at Hamilton’s funeral.
“I carry him in my heart and in my briefcase every day,” Baker said. “To give that eulogy and see his sons crying, that really touched me. That’s why I didn’t want to go too deep into what I was saying because I’ve seen it first hand. So that’s okay. I’m a big person and my conscience and my heart is clear, and I know what my intent is, and anyone that knows me, they can speak for me, or just let it be.”
A few minutes after Baker explained his comments, Nationals President of Baseball Operations Mike Rizzo said the Nationals, formerly interested in Chapman, are “not going to continue to go after (him) until we figure out how things have happened.”
“It’s something, we don’t want to get into that because of the allegations against him,” Rizzo said. “There’s plenty of other targets we have, and we’re going to move on to those.”