When it was announced this morning that the Washington Nationals had hired Dusty Baker as their next manager, I'm sure there were some guffaws on this end of the Beltway.
Baker, over the years, has been criticized for the way he has handled a pitching staff -- too many pitches thrown by starters, too many appearances by relievers, too much indecision and countless bullpen ups without being used.
And we all know the Nationals pitching staff -- the bullpen, in particular -- is a bit of a hot button.
But know this, Nationals fans: Baker brings a personality and a demeanor that make players want to give their all. He respects the players and the game, and in turn, the players want to please him.
When the Nationals booted Matt Williams, who was criticized for his handling of pitchers as well as a non-communicative style with players and media, general manager Mike Rizzo said communication within the clubhouse would be "vital" for the next manager. He also said experience would be a plus.
And that's Baker, who has a 1,671-1,504 career record in 20 years as a skipper and took the San Francisco Giants to the World Series in 2002. He has won division titles with three different clubs.
I was told years ago by a smart baseball executive that you must get one of two things in hiring a manager: Impressive in-game acumen or exceptional people management skills. When you get both -- and in Buck Showalter, the Orioles have that right now, I believe -- you definitely have a keeper, the executive told me.
Baker, 66, has been around the game forever -- he played 19 seasons in the majors -- and obviously knows the ins and outs. But with the Nationals, it's probably most important that their new manager can deal with a mix of personalities and gain the respect of all.
Baker can wield the hammer if needed, and can put his arm around a player when necessary. And from what I've been told, he knows the best time to do one or the other.
At his age, he likely won't be around long. He wants that elusive World Series title as a manager. This could be his last shot. The Nationals certainly have the roster to do it. They've never seemed to be on the same page, though.
That's where Baker usually excels.
Scoff if you want about the pitching-management questions, but Baker is a good hire for where the Nationals currently are.