It’s Dusty Baker, but is it for the right reasons?


The Astros filled one of the gaping holes in the organization when Dusty Baker was named the new manager. There are a lot of reasons to hire a manager for any professional sports team and there is definitely a question on whether he was hired for the right reasons.

First of all, an opening at the helm of a team that made the World Series and came within a few outs of winning it is an unusual, but not unprecedented situation. One of the most famous of these was Casey Stengel being let go by the Yankees in 1960 after his team lost 10-9 to the Pirates on one of the most famous plays in World Series history, Bill Mazeroski’s walk off solo shot to start the bottom of the 9th inning of Game 7. Ironically, Stengel was basically forced out for turning 70 years old, the same age as Baker is right now. The Yankees did it again in 1964, removing Yogi Berra from the manager’s spot after losing a game 7 to the Cardinals. In 1997, Davey Johnson was the Manager of the Year in the AL, leading the Orioles to the ALCS and quitting before he could be fired by Peter Angelos.

So there have been plum jobs before that popped open, but never for the reason that the Astros dugout leader A.J. Hinch was let go. The cheating scandal and its aftermath has overshadowed everything this off-season. But filling that spot for a team that came so close in 2019 and is still one of the strongest teams (on paper) has been an interesting journey and begs the question – Was Dusty Baker chosen for the right reasons?

The Best Reasons for Picking Dusty Baker

  • Has Faced the Media Circus Before – He was with the Giants when Barry Bonds went ballistic with the long ball and had to face that hailstorm of media hype. This also included having to face a lot of steroid questions as both Bonds’ and later Sosa’s manager. Also, with the Cubs he had to maneuver through the “Bartman” fan interference mess.  In both Chicago and D.C. he had to deal with a lot of press scrutiny of his and his team’s work.
  • Has Been a Consistent Winner – He has been to the playoffs in 9 of his 22 seasons in the majors. He’s won 53% of the regular season games he has managed and taken all four of his teams – Giants, Cubs, Reds and Nats to the playoffs. In his last four major league seasons, his teams won 97, 90, 95 and 97 games.
  • Has a Good Reputation with the Players – Even though he is thought of as an old school manager, he is also considered a player’s manager and has consistently been loved by his teams. The Astros’ players will be getting plenty of negative vibes as they steer through the coming seasons with the Scarlet Letter “C” branded on their chests (at least digitally). They don’t need a manager kicking them when they are down and he should be someone they can rely on to have their back and probably their front when he steps up to the podium each game.
  • Has Seen It All – He played in 19 seasons (15 as a regular) in the majors and then managed 22 more and has done both at a high level. There can hardly be any situation that he hasn’t had to handle or seen in more than 40 seasons in the big time. He should be a great sounding board for his team.
  • Has Not Affected the Astros Future – He is only committed to 1 season as manager (2 if the team so wants that option). If it is not working or does not work out, Jim Crane can move onward quickly without him.

The Questions That Make One Wonder If This is the Right Hire

  • What About the “Other” Scandal – While Dusty Baker has a sterling reputation when it comes to the electronic cheating scandal (rumor has it he can only operate a black and white TV with only 4 channels at home) what happens if the media sharks ask him about the “other” Astro scandal – the Brandon Taubman scandal tied to the Roberto Osuna domestic violence suspension and redemption. As friend of the blog Billy C. pointed out with this link….. https://nypost.com/2015/12/08/dusty-bakers-domestic-violence-drivel-confirms-worst-fears/  …..he might not have as smooth sailing with the press, if they ask about Taubman or about Osuna.
  • What About the “Other” Part of the Season – You know the part that starts after you win 92 or 95 or 97 games. The playoffs. In his 9 playoff runs, Baker has won 3 series total – the NLDS in 2003 with the Cubs and the NLDS and NLCS in 2002 with the Giants. In seven other seasons his teams were one and done, losing one Wild Card Play-in game (2013) and six NLDS series (1997, 2000, 2010, 2012, 2016 and 2017). So his teams have played in two NLCS series (going 1-1) and one WS series (0-1). Just as a reminder, A.J. Hinch in his 5 seasons with the Astros has won 6 playoff series, won a wild card, won 3 ALDS series, won 2 ALCS series and won one WS. As the saying goes…. that would be more.
  • What About His Reputation as a Pitcher Killer – This especially ties to Mark Prior and Kerry Wood, who he used like heck at young ages and whose careers both died in a flurry of injuries and unfulfilled promise. Would Lance McCullers Jr. be the next potential victim?
  • What About His Reputation as a Poor In-game Manager (Especially in the Playoffs)? A beat reporter for the Washington Nationals was interviewed by Sports Talk 610 Wednesday and he basically said that for 21 hours a day, Baker is the greatest manager in baseball. It is only the 3 hours that they are playing the game where he falls down. And he laid the blame for both post-season failings (2016 and 2017) at Baker’s feet. Now whether he is kin to Evan Drellich and has a grudge about this I don’t know. But it does not make one feel very good about things.
  • What About Using or Ignoring Analytics – My mom has a land line telephone and no computer. My father-in-law had a computer on his desk at work towards the end of his career that he never turned on. He now has a computer (because he loves playing the stocks), but he had a flip phone forever and even though he finally got an i-phone from one of his daughters, he uses it only for phone calls – not even texts. Older folks are not that inviting to “new” things. What will happen when the inevitable happens and he uses his gut in place of analytics that were ginned up by the laboratory that Jim Crane has put a lot of stock and cash into?

Yes, the argument is moot at this point. Dusty will manage the team at least for the coming season. Will he change his spots and his luck and catch that ride to his first WS title as a manager? A lot of people will think that he used up his luck in being able to take over a 107 win team from his couch.

37 comments on “It’s Dusty Baker, but is it for the right reasons?

  1. I guess we will find out how good or bad he is. I do have worries about his mismanagement of pitchers, McCullers is going to be on an innings limit, don’t scew around with THAT arm.
    I have a question:
    Do you think Dusty Baker will reach out to Hinch about handling this lineup?
    Or is Hinch prohibited from talking to him. If I’m a new manager, I would think reaching out to Hinch would be helpful….especially with a team as loaded as this one. Becky⚾

    Liked by 1 person

    • That is a great question Becky. I would think that they would not want him to contact AJ – but Dusty might do it on his own under the radar. I am not sure how Hinch would take that – but I think he would probably love anyone who would not be treating him like he has the coronavirus.

      My son said one of his friends thought that after Dusty fills in for one year, the Astros would re-hire the repentant Hinch for 2021. I’m not holding my breath on that.

      Liked by 1 person

      • dan i think your son may be on to something. baker to me seems like a hire to make it thru this season and all the bs that may come along and then be replaced by someone hinch-like. may not be hinch himself as the stain may still be too fresh. but someone more new school.
        i think becky is absolutely correct in that a new manager would be well advised to get in touch with hinch for his insights on the team, i also dont know if he is allowed or not.
        baker was not who i had hoped for, but next season is gonna be way different than any other season and he may be as good as we could hope for given the circumstances. and its just a single year (with a club option for 1 more). its hard to call him a sacrificial lamb when he’s getting a 107 win team, but at least in terms of longevity it seems like it.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. The smart move for Crane is to hire someone else in the organization whose job is basically to be Toby from The Office. I suspect there are a lot of folks in house who need the sensitivity training refreshed. As for Baker’s failings in the playoffs, I’m not sure if people remember but his bullpens fell apart in Washington at the worst times. This is a concern for me as I don’t trust Osuna with the ball anymore than I trusted Giles or post-Albert Lidge. There is a long history of bullpens blowing up under the brightest lights, but let’s remember that the WS is most often a matchup of the best two teams in baseball.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Perhaps the hope is that next year “better” candidates will emerge, and that Baker is there basically so that the next real manager won’t be set up to fail (see Bo Porter replacing Mr Magoo before Hinch was hired). In that case I hope Raul Ibanez is available next year… trust me on this…he will be a great manager one day

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    • Please remember Rafael Palmeiro. The one who pointed his finger and told Congress and the American People he was not like all those other “Cheaters” and steroid users. Then later flunked a drug test.

      There will be a “Rafael Palmeiro” in the sign stealing.

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  4. Oh and I forgot to mention that former Astro – 36 year old Scott Kazmir is attempting to make another return to the bigs after being away since 2016….. add your own comments…..

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    • I guess this hiring is a bit disappointing for me. It reminds me of our last owner bowing over to Selig for for the league’s good graces. Is it not obvious that no matter what the Astros do, other teams and their fans and the media are going to heap abuse on our hero’s. That group essentially wants to tear down our team. I say, that the best manager for this Team should have been hired. I say that if we are going to be victims of media, other teams venom, the league, we may as well just try to beat the hell out of them. Our fans will still wear their Astro caps and shirts and fill the stadium.

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  5. I’ve been getting personally attacked on Twitter and Facebook for my comments about Dusty Baker. Being called a racist (by people who don’t know my heritage or background)has probably been the tamest thing, which says a lot, sadly. Society has grown increasingly ugly year by year.

    I’d hate to see what things would be like if Ty Cobb was playing in the age of social media.

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    • I’m not sure how to say this Billy so I’ll just say it. I obviously believe that you should not be attacked for saying what you believe about a person of color – but I don’t think that you being a person of color should even need to be part of your defense.
      Being an African American manager is not a get out of free card from criticism. I’m not a person of color, but I should be able to make reasoned criticism of the Baker choice just like I made criticism of the very white Bill O’Brien becoming the GM along with the head coach and offensive coordinator of the Texans.
      I think Dusty Baker will win a lot of games with the Astros and he will have the opportunity to get the giant monkey off his back in the playoffs. If he succeeds or he fails it will likely be because of the decisions he makes and the health of his team. His race will have nothing to do with it. And frankly any old time sexist or racist things he has in his heart probably will have nothing to do with it.
      It will be an interesting and difficult year.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Remember Billy, “those in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones”. It’s interesting that those who typically accuse others of being racist are the biggest perpetrators themselves. As one person said to me in my younger years, “ignore them, they are insignificant”. Hang tough my friend.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I think Crane goes outside the organization to hire his GM. I predict that the Astros win the WS. Dusty is given a new 3 year contract. In the second year, 2022 he is fired at All Star break because the “under performing” Astros are 33-55. GM is also fired because a “clean, new break is needed” per the clubs new owner. The new owner purchased the club from Crane et al and they made a 273% return on their investment.

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  7. In related news, I predict AJ Hinch is hired in 2021 to manage the Marlins. He is fired also at the break in 2022 because nobody can win with an Hall of Fame player playing the part of a terrible GM. My prediction is JL is hired by Seattle to turn them into a contender. He decides to dump salary and realizes the largest salary is his. So he moves to Hollywood and writes new episodes of Game of Thrones.

    Hey it’s still January and I am bored.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. 21 organizations have three or more prospects on MLB’s top 100 list. A fair amount of those clubs are already quite solid at the major league level. For me, our single top 100 guy has lost a bit of his shine. Of course these lists are arbitrary. And there are several top 100 lists. But I keep hearing how much talent we have in our system. Are we really that good today at the minor league level, or is it mostly the opinion of loyal Astro fans I’m hearing from?

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  9. Excellent article on astrosdaily.com, it’s title is “Apologize This”. Seems like more than a few are saying to move on, but I got a chuckle when Big Pappy said it!! He’s in the Red Socks front office…..and I’m pretty sure everyone with the Red Socks are sweating bullets waiting for Manfred to lower the *boon* on them. I was happy knowing all the coaches with the Astros are coming back this season. The guys need stability…..I’m going to miss A.J. Hinch, the best manager we’ve ever had.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. We have a lot of grade ‘B’ to ‘B-‘ talent in the minors, bu I don’t see any true A’s. None of the position players in the Astros organization have shown anything to make us think of them as potential difference makers. The pitching prospects look a little better than the position guys, but even there, no one can quite seem to be able to put it and hold ittogether consistently enough to get anyone really excited about seeing them. Put another way, no regulars on our roster are in any real danger of anyone pushing them from below this year, or probably next.

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  11. Stripping the team of good players allowed JL to have those top draft picks for several years. I can’t help but wonder if any GM could have accomplished the same under those circumstances.

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    • As with all “innovators” he provided results. (See shifts, analytics, etc) Which means others follow. If we are to bash him now (which I can’t do) we can point out his failure with two first round picks. One got him Bregman a year later. We can point out all of the cheap pickups in the early years that produced nothing of value. But he was the GM of a World Champ team. My personal opinion is that JL performed a HUGE sell off with the permission of Crane. And he also (if he were here) would need a mini-sell off after next year. Several excellent players are near retirement and the farm is almost as depleted as the Grocer had it. Plus we lost more draft picks in the scandal. But it appears we will never know.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. One comment I haven’t seen is that which points out that Baker has never managed in the American League.
    All the talk about bullpen management and over-usage of relievers is changed with his introduction into the DH, where he doesn’t have to make a pitching change by pinch hitting for the pitcher.
    Most likely he will be operating with 13 pitchers because of the new 26-man active rosters, so that should be a big help, too.

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    • At the 28:30 time period, Dusty answered that question about National League adjustments. He said ,”that’s what I have this staff here,.. will depend on the analytic side,.. to keep me abreast of teams we’re playing like TOR; strengths and weaknesses, do as I’ve always done studying …”

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    • Also, isn’t there a new rule about pitchers having to pitch to X amount of batters before they can be removed?
      That should also help.

      Like

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