NASHVILLE — Dusty Baker thinks the Washington Nationals need more speed, so he wants more African-American and Latino players on the roster.
He also vigorously defended Cincinnati Reds closer Aroldis Chapman, who was accused of choking his girlfriend and shooting a gun during an incident in October. And Baker also had a different take on domestic violence.
At the winter meetings as a manager for the first time since he was fired by the Reds after the 2013 season, Baker answered more than 30 questions in a free-wheeling interview session Tuesday.
"You’re always in need of left-handed pitching, left-handed hitting, and in need of speed," he said. "I think that’s the number one thing that’s missing, I think, in the game is speed. You know, with the need for minorities, you can help yourself — you’ve got a better chance of getting some speed with Latin and African-Americans.
"I’m not being racist," he added. "That’s just how it is."
There were no black managers in the major leagues at the time Baker was hired by Washington last month. The 66-year-old former manager of the San Francisco Giants, Chicago Cubs and Reds came to the defence of Chapman, who played for Baker in his first three big league seasons after defecting from Cuba.
"Oh, he’s a heck of a guy. I mean, a heck of a guy. I’ll go on record and say I wouldn’t mind having Chapman," Baker said. "No, no, he is a tremendous young man with a great family, mom and dad, and what he went through to get here and what his family had to go through to get here. I was with him through the whole process."
Baker said he did not read the police report.
"I heard it from my son," he said. "I mean, who’s to say the allegations are true, number one? And who’s to say what you would have done or what caused the problem?"
Pressed further, Baker said he thought it was a positive step Major League Baseball and its players’ union adopted a domestic violence policy last summer, created after several high-profile incidents in the NFL last year.
"I think it’s a great thing. I mean, I got a buddy at home that’s being abused by his wife. So I think this policy needs to go further than the player. I think the policy should go to whoever’s involved," Baker said. "Sometimes abusers don’t always have pants on.
"I think we need to get them both in a room and try to come up with something. It’s a bad situation. That’s the first thing my momma told me when I was a kid. Don’t hit a woman, even my sister. Man, I was like you better leave me alone before I tell my momma.
"It’s a bad situation," he said. "I learned that young, but a lot of people maybe didn’t learn that."
A couple of hours later, the Nationals tweeted a "clarification" from Baker:
"There’s no way I would ever condone domestic violence. No way … We gotta stop it, big time. I’m hoping that (the Chapman I knew) is innocent," Baker told MLB Network Radio.