After latest playoff flop, Nats must decide Baker's future

ABS-CBN Sports on Oct 14, 2017 08:49 AM
After latest playoff flop, Nats must decide Baker's future
Washington Nationals' players walk in the dugout after the Chicago Cubs beat the Nationals 9-8 to to win baseball's National League Division Series, at Nationals Park, early Friday, Oct. 13, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

By Howard Fendrich, Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — This is nothing new for the Washington Nationals: enjoy the euphoria of an NL East title, then the disappointment of a Division Series exit — usually with a narrow Game 5 loss, usually at home.

So once again, this time by virtue of a wild 9-8 defeat in the deciding game against the visiting Chicago Cubs, the Nationals head into the offseason knowing they've still never won a playoff series. As always, there are important questions to ask and answer, the biggest being whether manager Dusty Baker will be back.

"That decision is made from up top," 2015 NL MVP Bryce Harper said when asked about Baker in the wee hours of Friday. "I don't want to comment on that, really."

Harper himself only is under Washington's control for one more year and can become a free agent after the 2018 season, which will undoubtedly be a major topic of serious conversation and speculation from now until either the Nationals sign him or he heads to the open market.

But more likely to get resolved, one way or the other, in the near term is Baker's situation. His contract expires at the conclusion of this season, his second in Washington and 22nd as a skipper in the big leagues.

Dating to spring training, he has made clear his desire for a new deal, but the Nationals refused to negotiate at all until season's end.

"We're both confident that he'll be back with us," general manager Mike Rizzo said before the NLDS against the Cubs began, "but we haven't had any conversations about it."

Baker's teams in Washington have won two division titles — they were 97-65 in 2017, finishing 20 games out in front — and finished with two one-run Game 5 setbacks at Nationals Park.

"It really hurts," Baker said, "to lose like that."

There are pressing matters other than his future, of course.

For one, the not-so-small matter of how to go from being such a consistently good regular-season team to one that finally manages to get over the hurdle of collecting a single postseason series victory.

"Any time you get to the end of a series like this and you don't win it," second baseman Daniel Murphy said, "it feels like a missed opportunity."

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AP Sports Writer Stephen Whyno contributed to this report.

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