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Dusty Baker, Dave Roberts on being first pair of opposing black managers in postseason

Dusty Baker, Dave Roberts on being first pair of opposing black managers in postseason

On the week that marks the 42nd anniversary of Frank Robinson being hired as Major League Baseball’s first African-American manger, Dusty Baker and Dave Roberts are about to make a different kind of history.    

As the Nationals and Los Angeles Dodgers get set for their NL division series on Friday, Baker and Roberts will become the first pair of African-American managers to square off in the postseason. It’s a milestone not lost on both men, especially considering they are MLB’s only black skippers at the moment.  

“I was hoping that it would be [former Texas Rangers manager] Ron Washington and myself in the World Series before,” Baker said after Thursday’s pre-NLDS workout. “I mean, significance is it gives us some pride in being African-American to show people that not only can we do the job, but we can do the job better than most. Especially this year.”

The 67-year-old Baker, who’s in his 20th season leading a big-league team, has been vocal in recent years about baseball’s lack of minority hiring among the managerial ranks. Last November, when it appeared he was out of the running for the Nats job, he expression his frustration. 

“How many teams are willing to accept what we have to offer? We’ve got something to offer,” Baker told the San Francisco Chronicle then. “How much respect do they have for my knowledge and expertise and wisdom over the years? There’s a certain thing called a life experience degree. There used to be.

“I get tired of talking about it. We should be talking about another issue at this point in time. We’re talking about the same thing we were talking about 40 years ago."

Baker, of course, was hired by Washington a few days later. In his first season with the Nats, he led them to a 95-win campaign and their third division title since 2012.

Likewise, Roberts oversaw a Dodgers team that won the NL West for the fourth straight season, doing so in his rookie year as a manager. While he wanted to keep the attention on the series at hand, the 44-year-old also acknowledged the significance of the moment. 

“Obviously, it's important, and it doesn't go unnoticed or underappreciated,” Roberts said. “I think speaking for Dusty, myself, what it means to the game of baseball, to society…I think that when we look back, it’s going to be more special. But I definitely know it's certainly noted, and not to go unappreciated.”

There may be a ways to go before baseball's managerial hires accurately reflect the more diverse demographics among its players. But as clubs with vacancies begin the search for their next clubhouse leaders, Baker hopes the immediate impact that he and Roberts have had on their respective teams may influence some of the sport’s decision makers.

“Hopefully it motivates other organizations to get some African-American managers,” Baker said. “Also to motivate other players that are playing now, and former players that have managerial aspirations. It probably brings a lot of pride across America and not only African-American people, but everybody.”


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Why Nationals' Max Scherzer picked college over pros — at first

Why Nationals' Max Scherzer picked college over pros — at first

When Max Scherzer was a teenager, he didn't know that one day he'd actually become a two-time Cy Young Award winner. He had no guarantee he'd make it to the majors, much less play in five consecutive MLB All-Star games. 

All he knew was that he had the option to go pro as a kid or go to college, and back then, the Nationals' ace needed a contingency plan in case baseball didn't work out. Fortunately for Scherzer, it did, but he doesn't regret going to college at the University of Missouri, telling Santana Moss on CSN's "Route 89" going to school was a no-brainer.

"It was actually a really easy decision," Scherzer told Moss. "When you get drafted out of high school, you're going to be going into the minor leagues, and that can take three to five or six years — multiple years — in the minor leagues, and you're forfeiting your right to further your education."

Scherzer was drafted in the 43rd round by the St. Louis Cardinals in 2003, but he opted to play for Mizzou for three years, which turned out to be a great decision. The Arizona Diamondbacks then drafted him in 2006 in the first round as the 11th overall pick. 

"A lot of times when you sign out of high school, you don't make it to the major leagues," Scherzer continued. "So I realize that your education — that's your safety net.

"You need to further your education in college, and if you do get drafted out of college, you're in a much better position to try to chase your dreams because if it doesn't work out, you still have one year left of school and that's much easier to obtain rather than try to go through four years when you're not coming out of high school."

MORE NATIONALS: Stephen Strasburg returns to the mound

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Nationals offense provides no support in Strasburg's return

Nationals offense provides no support in Strasburg's return

SAN DIEGO -- Yangervis Solarte hit a two-run home run off Stephen Strasburg in the first inning of the right-hander's first start in almost a month and the San Diego Padres beat the Washington Nationals 3-1 Saturday night.

Strasburg (10-4) retired the first two batters he faced before allowing a single to Jose Pirela and then the homer to the switch-hitting Solarte, who drove a 96-mph fastball to right for his 13th.

Strasburg then settled down against his hometown team, retiring 10 straight batters and 13 of 14. He went six innings, allowing two runs and four hits while striking out eight and walking one.

He hadn't pitched since July 23, when he went only two innings at Arizona. He went on the disabled list with an elbow nerve impingement.

Strasburg pitched at West Hills High in suburban Santee and then at San Diego State for coach Tony Gwynn before going to the Nationals with the No. 1 pick overall in the 2009 draft.

While Strasburg pitched well, the Nationals had only three hits.

San Diego's Travis Wood (2-1) also settled down after laboring through the first inning, when he threw 35 pitches but didn't allow a run. He was unscathed until the fifth, when he allowed a one-out single to Jose Lobaton and a two-out double to Adrian Sanchez. The run was unearned because of Woods' throwing error on Strasburg's sacrifice bunt that advanced Lobaton.

Wood allowed just the unearned run on three hits in seven innings, with two strikeouts and two walks.

Brad Hand pitched the ninth for his 11th save.