Nationals Baseball: Wednesday Update - Manager Stuff

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Wednesday Update - Manager Stuff

Max threw 112 pitches last night. That was fewer than last time so... what was the point really? I'm happy that Max looks fine and that they didn't go for say 120 pitches but that would have made sense. Now the 116 doesn't look like an intentional stretch out but a mistake by Dusty that Max was willing to cover for. I don't know. Since Max's arm didn't fall off yesterday, let's just forget it and move on.

Speaking of Dusty though - there is that whole "no extension" thing hanging over the team. The question is - why hasn't it been done? The given answer is "that's just the way we do things here" suggesting that they don't look at contracts until they have to. Of course they have extended contracts mid-season several times, including signing Strtasburg's deal and extending Rizzo, so that argument doesn't feel right.

More likely is the Lerners have a certain belief on what a manager should be paid and how he should be paid. They like to offer contracts on the low-end of what managers should be paid and for very minimal time frames, single year if they can get it. They also don't really care what these guys want and are completely willing to show them little to no respect.

This isn't opinion here. Let's look at length first. Frank was on one-year deals in 2005 and 2006. Acta signed a two-year deal with two club options after that. Riggleman had what was essentially a one-year deals in 2010 and 2011*. Davey was on one-year deals. Matt Williams signed the same deal as Manny Acta. After picking up Williams' option for 2016 prior to 2015 and seeing that blow up in their face, Dusty was offered a two-year deal with no options.

As for the money that's harder to wrangle because the Nationals don't make that public**. If it gets public you know that comes from the manager. (Which is why we know what Dusty is making BTW. He wants you to know). Cot's contracts over at B Pro helps us out consolidating what we do know.

Frank - ?
Manny 500K in 2007
Jim - 600K per
Davey - ?
Matt  - 1 million in 2015
Dusty - 2 million per

A good guess puts the median manager salary a little under 1 million in 2005, closer to 1.5 million in 2010 and up over 2 million in 2015. Manny and Jim were certainly making near the bottom of manager pay. Matt Williams was probably about on par for a new hire with no experience. Dusty is close to average, but well underpaid for a manager his his experience and track record.

Respect? Well Frank Robinson is a HoF player and a groundbreaking manager. He was willing to manage the Nats for a few years while they figured out ownership but wanted a front-office or consulting job at the end. The Lerners, named owners mid 2006, didn't give him one. We all know about Riggleman, who basically just wanted to talk to the front office about his extension but got a "shut up and do your job" as a response. Davey Johnson, a legitimate HoF candidate as a manager, was given what seems like a take it or leave it deal for one more year then a force out despite not wanting to be done managing at the time. Dusty is twisting in the win after consecutive 90+ win division titles.  You can say you respect someone, and the Nationals are really good at that, but that's just words.

Managers are simply employees to the Lerners. Employees for a position where supply far outstrips demand. Dusty, who has perhaps mellowed in his old age or maybe has an understanding of his lack of leverage, has toned down the constant media war that you might have seen in San Francisco or Chicago to a mere quiet grumbling. He wants to be here. He'd like more money. He has made it known. The Nats have basically given him a more polite version of the Riggleman response.

What will happen when they year ends? I think it depends on how the Nats do. I think he'll be offered a contract regardless. The team likes him and it's playing well. But I think the contract offered will differ slightly. Another NLDS loss and I think it's a one-year deal at scantly more than he's getting now. A WS win might garner a two-year deal with a club option at a value scraping the bottom of the higher paid managers (3-4 million a year).  Does Dusty take it?  He was making about that much in 2008 when hired by the Reds. When he left the Giants under a contract signed in 2000 he was making 2.5 million*** Again, even at neaer 4 million it is an insulting number for a man with his level of experience and success. But I think he does take it. Dusty isn't going anywhere after this job except his winery. This is his last chance. If he wants to manage, and he likely does because he knows he needs a title to easily make the HoF, he has no choice.

*Technically Jim had signed a 2 year deal at 600K per. However he could be bought out for 100K after the first year, meaning effectively the Nats had him on a one-year deal for 700K if they wanted it. 

** That't not limited to the Nats. A lot of teams don't disclose manager pay. 

*** Again - you always know what Dusty is being paid.


Anonymous said...

I think you're mostly right about how the Lerners view managers. It may be somewhat cruel, though it's not necessarily wrong (the counterpoint is that Dusty is vastly superior to Matt Williams and has gotten better results, so managers do matter; the counterpoint to the counterpoint is that there may be value in going from grotesquely bad (Matt Williams) to competent (Dusty Baker) but that it's very difficult to tell the difference between good and competent, so you shouldn't pay for it).

Anyway, one nit: I believe they HAD to do a deal with Rizzo mid-season because his option triggered on June 1 or something, so I don't think that's good evidence for their willingness to do a deal mid-season.

Harper said...

Anon - oh ok. I knew the Rizzo deal had something like that but I couldn't find it exactly when looking up stuff.

Scherzer's Blue Eye said...

One minor correction: Rizzo's extension was actually an option that the Nationals had to exercise by the end of June that year. That's why it was done midseason.

Jay said...

It's strange that the Lerner family prides itself on behaving like a family and treating people the right way - i.e. Strasburg shut down, Zim the model player, even Scherzer big contract, etc. However, they consistently treat front office and managers as disposable commodities. Usually when you consistently treat people poorly it catches up with you.

What if the Dodgers lose in the first round and fire Dave Roberts. What if they then decide to bring Dusty back to Dodger blue. since he's not under contract it could happen.

I did see on ESPN that Rizzo told Dusty he was getting an extension but he doesn't sign the checks. Told him to be patient.

BxJaycobb said...

Jay. Dodgers FO would never consider Dusty. They are a super new school sabermetric minded group and dusty is the opposite. They don't want a guy who bats Alejandro de Aza second and Rendon 6th and has starters throw 125 pitches sometimes. (I also hate these aspects of dusty---but I value that the clubhouse seems to really like him and give him credit for chemistry.)

Nattydread said...

Very interesting post. Ah, the dirty underbelly of baseball business (Harper, how much does Rizzo make?). I'm a big Dusty fan and think he should be the highest paid manager in baseball. But I don't feel sorry for him. His retirement package is set. If Dusty has a raw deal, then shine a light in the deals that minor league players have to survive. That's where baseball is harsh.

Anonymous said...

I admit I generally tend to agree with the "shut up and do your job" philosophy of life, so I didn't have much sympathy for the thoroughly mediocre Riggleman. The Nationals Park dugout isn't exactly the floor of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory.

But yeah, Dusty shouldn't feel left out because the Lerners treat pretty much everyone poorly, including the paying fans. Like most billionaires, they don't give an F what anyone personally thinks of them and their business decisions. I guess the exception would be Scott Boras and his clients, who apparently can sweet-talk them into almost anything (though Bryce may put that to the test).

Anonymous said...

If the 116 pitch game was a mistake, Scherzer would have gone obly 6 innings last night. For whatever reason, Scherzer wants to be stretched. Maybe it was the DL stint and he wants to make sure he doesn't run out of gas early.

As for Dusty, he deserves an extension but I think another first round exit in the postseason will be looked out as failure so fair or not fair the offer he receives will be dependent on how far the Nats advance. As for Riggleman, he showed he wasn't worthy of an extension. If you're under contract, you have to be able to live up to your end of the agreement. He could not.

Ole PBN said...

There appears to be two stances on this: 1) extend him now, and 2) extend him after the season is over. Both have their respective reasoning/benefits. Technically, to date, Dusty has done nothing that the previous managers haven't already done. I'm talking postseason success. By regular season standards, Dusty has them all beat with back-to-back division titles. If Dusty can do no better than Matt Williams or Davey in the postseason, why should the Lerners pay him for doing the job no better than the guy who got canned? "Let's wait and see how this postseason shakes out..." Fair point.

However, there is a certain vibe that permeates a clubhouse when you have an embattled manager or star player. The fact that Dusty is figuratively hanging by a thread with his future unknown, it makes it seem as though no one is safe, from a players perspective. This might be true. For example, if you ask any GM how many of his players are untouchable, he would say ZERO. Because theoretically, no one has complete job security in this business. The point is, they would never say that "no one is safe" PUBLICALLY. That ruins chemistry and causes unneeded stress/unrest in the clubhouse. By not extending Dusty now (or earlier this season), it shows a lack of faith and respect to those in leadership in a team atmosphere.

Bottomline, the Lerners are looking at this very pragmatically, which is fine, but also could/might already have created an unnecessary problem that could have been completely been avoided. A move like this is way more about what the gesture SAYS rather than what it IS, if that makes sense.

...They should have extended him months ago. Poor form by Ted & Co.

NatsVA said...

Hey everyone. This is off topic, but I finally got around to reading Svrluga's piece re: Nats attendance from last week and was thinking about how Nats Park may look in the NLDS. Not really worth hand wringing about but will we be at all surprised if the stadium is at least half full of Cubs fans? Could make for an interesting atmosphere/lots of scalding hot takes on the Nats fanbase.

NatsVA said...

The Cubs fanbase, while it has always been large, reminds me this season of the Red Sox "fanbase" in 2005. Lotta people flying the W when the Cubs came to town that I didn't remember seeing five years ago...

JE34 said...

@PBN: I'm similarly conflicted. Lerners would do well to cultivate an environment that players/coaches want to be a part of, but achievement must still be paramount. Of course if Dusty gets the team to an NLCS or WS, the conversations with the front office will be easier. So, just win baby. Then again, who else could fall into their lap at this point who would be preferable to Dusty?

Psst... Dusty: Less De Aza and more Robles! We know what A De A can do... let's see if Robles can play his way into the postseason.

@NatsVA: it's the curse of DC teams... tons of out-of-towners. The Dodger fans were quite loud this weekend as well. Philly fans were mighty annoying some years ago, and Cub fans have taken their place. Oriole fans still drive down and make Nationals Park sound like their home. Which is annoying.

It's another problem that's solved by winning. The embarrassing "OUR PARK" signs during series with Philly 5-6 years ago are happily on the ash heap of history. A thorough ass beating of the Cubs will help a lot.

blovy8 said...

I doubt that such a "problem" will be solved by winning, because the team has already been doing that. If averaging 31K a night is bad, I guess some town will just have to build a new stadium for them to move into, right? Just like spending only like a top 10 team must mean you're not trying.

PotomacFan said...

Attendance has been dragged down this year for several reasons:

1. The games have been meaningless for months. I myself have attended fewer games this year as a result.
2. Injury to Bryce. He's a draw.
3. So many games against terrible Division teams. In past years, at least the Mets were good. They drew their own fans, but also Nats fans. Remember the awful 2015 September (?) series where Storen imploded? The seats were pretty full for that mid-week series.

Sure there will be Cubs fans at the Nats playoff games. There are a lot of transplanted Chicago folks living here. And while there was no baseball in DC for decades, baseball fans chose other teams (notably, but not exclusively, the Orioles) to cheer for.

31glide said...

The typical complaint regarding not extending a manager in his final contract year is that it undermines the manager in the clubhouse; that he is less respected by the players. I'm pretty sure that is not the case with Dusty. I hear Thom Loverro and others going on and on about the injustice of it all. If I thought it mattered in THIS clubhouse, I might be concerned as well. I don't think it does. Hurt feelings aside, I agree that Dusty said his piece and will want to stay whenever the extension is offered. I also agree with BxJaycobb above in that Dusty actually doesn't have a lot of options. This is his last go-round. It happens to be with a great team and a quality organization for $2 million per. I'm sure he will endure.

BxJaycobb said...

It makes literally no sense to me why Dusty would play all these random outfielders in front of Robles. He's a possible impact player in postseason. The others are not. So what are you doing? Ps if Werth is still "hitting" like this in another week, you really can't start him over kendricks in October. I mean he's an automatic out. I'm sure he will bitch about it, but do you want to win or not? He's like 2 for 50 since returning or something similarly ghastly.

Anonymous said...

In past years, the NLDS presale had already occurred by this point (it happened on 9/15 last year, for example). I called the Nats ticket office a few days ago and they said to expect the presale "later in the month." The Nats didn't say this, but I think they decided to have the presale later in the year to reduce the number of Cubs fans attending. The idea being that a very high percentage of the people buying presale tickets are Nats fans and reducing the amount of time between the presale and the games themselves makes it more difficult (but certainly not impossible) for Cubs fans to buy playoff tickets on the secondary market. I'm not sure how plausible it is, but that's my theory.

JE34 said...

@blovy - all I meant was the visiting hordes are quieter when their team is losing. You're right though - it's more about the other team being good or bad, than the Nats being good.

Generalization time: Visiting Phils fans were annoying, but at least they were well informed (in my experience). Sure, they were irritating, dozens of Joey Bagodonuts rising as one in their powder blue #20s, arms out, grunting at one another... but they knew their team. Can the same be said of today's noisy Cubs fans?

@bx - agreed 100% re Robles. In meaningless games, why not give Robles a real shot, especially since he's flashed some brilliance in his 10 plate appearances? And especially considering how bad Werth, Lind, and Kendrick have been defensively in the OF?

JE34 said...

@bx: just to underscore the Werth problem... since returning from the DL on August 28:

Werth's slash line: .132/.203./.245. It's 15 games, but Yikes. That's 7 for 53. And such a defensive liability on top of this. I'm all for giving him as much time as possible to work through things between now and Oct 1, but if it doesn't change, how can you trot him out there? And how can you not kick the tires on Robles by giving MAT a day off here and there?

Anonymous said...

I with the Robles 'Give the kid a real shot'. It's times like these I miss Davey Johnson. #moarrobles

KW said...

I'm not totally in the tank for Dusty, and his handling of the starters at times does concern me (although you would think a pitching coach with the nickname of Mad Dog has no problem expressing his opinions on that score; in other words, the pitch counts aren't all on Dusty). That said, in their second full seasons with the Nats, Davey and Matt both "lost" the squad. I loved Davey, and he's had a great career, but he didn't know what to do with that 2013 team as the wheels came off. Say what you will about Dusty, and also feel free to point out how bad the rest of the NL East has been, but Dusty has kept the 2017 ship sailing smoothly despite a huge number of injuries to key players and the substandard bullpen hand he was dealt at the beginning of the season. It seems clear that the players would run through a wall for him. I'd rather see them win a playoff series or two instead . . .

Are the Lerners waiting to see some playoff success? Yeah, probably. Is that a fair standard? That's hard to say, particularly when the playoffs are such a crap-shoot. The Nats will be playing the defending world champs in the first round. I don't think they fear the Cubs, but it's likely to be a close series decided by a handful of plays. Should a manager be judged by that near-happenstance, or by 162? Increasingly, it seems to be by playoff happenstance.

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