After first being reported on Tuesday that the Astros were focused on finalizing a deal with Dusty Baker as their new manager, Baker and the Astros finally got the deal done today, agreeing to a one year deal with a club option for 2021. He will replace former Astros manager AJ Hinch, who was fired on January 13 after news broke that he would be suspended for a season due to the Astros’ cheating scandal. At 70 years old, Baker will become the oldest current manager in the MLB, taking the crown away from 65 year old current Angels manager Joe Maddon.
Baker last managed in 2017 with the Washington Nationals. He went 192-132 over 2 seasons in Washington, leading the team to 2 NL East division titles but bowing out in the NLDS in both years. He has enjoyed a fairly long career as a manager, as he will enter 2020 with 22 years of managerial experience at the major league level with 4 different organizations. Baker currently owns a 1,863-1,636-1 career record as a major league manager, sitting 15th all time for managerial wins in MLB history. In fact, former Giants manager Bruce Bochy and longtime manager Gene Mauch are the only managers with more career wins than Baker that aren’t currently in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
Dusty Baker’s 3,500 career games as a manager also rank 15th all time, and if he is able to manage every game this season, he would move up to 12th on that list. He has also claimed 3 Manager of the Year awards, all coming in his time with the Barry Bonds-led San Francisco Giants. If Baker wins the award with the Astros, he would enter a three-way tie with longtime managers Bobby Cox and Tony La Russa for most all-time with four and would become the seventh manager all-time to win the award in both the NL and the AL.
Despite Baker’s regular season accomplishments, the biggest argument against him has been his lack of postseason success. He has no World Series rings and just one league pennant in his 22 years managing, which came with the 2002 San Francisco Giants. He was one win away from a second pennant with the 2003 Chicago Cubs, the same year the infamous Steve Bartman incident occurred. Baker’s career postseason sits at just 23-32 between 9 postseason appearances, leading each organization he has been with to at least one playoff series. His .418 career postseason win percentage is the lowest in MLB history among the 49 managers with at least 10 career postseason wins, and his 32 postseason losses is the 7th most all-time. His 55 career postseason games managing is the most all-time among managers that haven’t won a World Series. Baker will be looking to quiet the critics of his postseason career with an organization that has reached the World Series two of the past three seasons.
The Astros will certainly be looking for Dusty Baker to use his experience and leadership to keep the players calm and focused. With many fans and players on other teams unhappy with the news that the Astros used technology and trash cans to steal signs, road fans will not take it easy on the Astros players, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see opponents try to retaliate and get under the skin of Astros players. Baker will need to keep control of the locker room and still deliver success to an organization that is shooting for their second World Series title ever.
Baker will have some questions to answer regarding the roster. Will he prefer Kyle Tucker or Josh Reddick to start in right field? With last year’s Astros team losing Gerrit Cole and Wade Miley, Lance McCullers will likely take over one of the open rotation spots, but does Baker trust Jose Urquidy to take over the other open spot? With Spring Training starting for the Astros on February 13, Baker won’t have much time to get accustomed to taking over in Houston. Will Dusty Baker be able to lead the Astros through the distractions and keep them as one of the top teams not just in the AL, but in the MLB, or will the loss of AJ Hinch prove costly for the Astros? Our questions will start to be answered when the Astros open the season at home against the Angels on March 26.
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