The Nationals are experiencing their worst start to a season since before the Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper eras began. Lots of fingers have been pointed by the fan base, many in the direction of Dave Martinez, who took over as manager for Dusty Baker after Baker’s contract was not renewed following the 2017 season despite winning 192 games and two National League East titles in two years.
After guiding the team through a disappointing 2018 campaign that saw the club miss the playoffs, Martinez is leading an injury-plagued squad that has stumbled to a 15-22 start, Washington’s worst record after 37 games since beginning 12-25 in 2009.
The start has left some supporters reminiscing about Martinez’s predecessor, perhaps even wishing Baker was still in charge. Baker said in an MLB Network Radio interview Friday that the feeling is mutual.
“I get calls and letters from people, especially when I see the 202 area code, and it’s like: ‘Hey man, we miss you. I wish you were here,’ ” Baker said. “And quite frankly, I wish I was there, too, sometimes. But the longer you’re away from somewhere, the more you stop wishing.”
The 69-year-old said he doesn’t take solace in Washington’s underwhelming performance since his departure.
“You don’t feel good because I still root for the players,” Baker said. “You try not to feel anything because you try not to let it really affect your life because there’s nothing that you can do about it. They’ll never admit to making a mistake and [bring] you back so you’re really hoping for something that’s not possible.”
While his tenure in the District didn’t end the way he envisioned, Baker does speak highly of his brief stay in the nation’s capital.
“I enjoyed my time in D.C., and it was second only to San Francisco, which is, like, my home and also I was there for 15 years — five as a coach and 10 as a manager, where in D.C. I was only there two years," he said. "Those were two of the finest years that I’ve had living-wise, but if I was there, I wouldn’t have been able to see my son the last two years.”
Baker works with the San Francisco Giants as a special adviser to the CEO. He said he still keeps up with the Nationals, and he even took in a game at Class AAA Fresno this season.
“I hate to see [Max] Scherzer struggling because I know how badly this guy wants to win,” Baker said. “And then Anthony [Rendon] got hurt. You know they’re not the same team without Anthony in there.”
The Nationals will have to go 75-50 (a .600 pace) the rest of the season to reach 90 wins. They sit 6½ games behind the Philadelphia Phillies for first place in the highly competitive NL East.
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