Five Storylines to Watch at Washington Nationals Spring Training

Credit: Greg Fiume / Getty Images North America

Credit: Greg Fiume / Getty Images North America

Dusty Baker’s Impact

The team-chemistry angle is often trumped up by the media and fans, but there is no getting around the fact that things were more than a little toxic in the Nationals Park clubhouse at the end of the 2015 season. Jonathan Papelbon has cleared the air with Bryce Harper, and is not as universally disliked by his teammates as some would lead you to believe.

Baker’s impact on the team may not be in the on-field management. His tactics and in-game decisions may not be much more New School than those of Matt Williams. Where Baker will differ significantly from his predecessor is in his handling of the team’s myriad personalities. The Nationals have a good core of veteran players, but no clear leader. Ryan Zimmerman and Anthony Rendon are more lead-by-example types. Jayson Werth can be a bit prickly and clashed with Williams. Harper is the face of the franchise, but the raw anger with which he plays the game at times needs to be reined in before he can be a true leader.

Dusty Baker is one of the best players-first managers in baseball history. He will make coming to the park fun for the Nationals, which clearly was not the case at all times last season. What Baker actually does for the Nationals will be hard to quantify, but is nonetheless very important.


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