You’ll need a subscription to The Athletic to read Ken Rosenthal’s lengthy interview with Giants’ special adviser and former manager Dusty Baker, but if you don’t want to pay for another subscription service but badly want to read it, The Athletic does offer a 7-day free trial (or maybe go bug Brady). In the meantime, let’s talk a little bit about the interview itself.
Rosenthal was looking for someone who could speak to the modern game — not “waaaaa why are they using computers and overshifting?” modernity, but, like, actual 2018 Major League Baseball. Current events. Baker has never been one to mince words. He’s a great interview, and since he was no longer a manager, Rosenthal couldn’t bank on an annual chat. So he literally called him up and said he’d fly to see him. He met Baker in Maryland while Baker was there scouting the Giants’ Double-A Richmond team.
The best part about the baseball man Dusty Baker is how he doesn’t kiss the ring. He seems totally fine with the Giants organization, but he never goes out of his way to lavish praise on them. He’s just not that sort of person. He’s very straightforward with his beliefs.
I really liked Washington a lot. Washington was like San Francisco, but with even a grander scale of education and probably even diversity.
That’s not a backhanded compliment or secret dig at the city or the Giants, though. It’s just a matter of fact to him. It’s his experience. But a schmoozer, someone using Rosenthal equally to gain some national attention and remind teams he’s still ready to manage, might take a more overt shot or be more willing to choose words that only talk up everyone he’s worked with and everywhere he’s been — we’ve seen that type of media awareness before, regardless of someone’s pedigree or era.
Dusty Baker is a people person, though. He genuinely engages everyone on a human level. That’s rare for a public figures and based on most baseball managers I’ve seen and heard from in my lifetime, it’s rarer still in the game.
Baker also has a lot of thoughts on the revised culture of baseball and how front offices have shifted public attention and salary away from the managers to the general managers. He’s seen every part of the evolution of baseball’s racist past and America’s racially-motivated culture and so his perspective really does raise some new questions about the statistical revolution.
It’s a lot more “convenient” for owners and executives to build up and pass down a baseball team through an ivy league development system. The front office people speak the wealthy individual and corporate owner’s language — a field manager does not. A black man even less so.
Everybody wants the Hall of Fame. I want the Hall of Fame. I don’t know if I’ll get it or not.
I’d be the first brother in there as a manager. The only reason I got this job is because of what Al Campanis said. (Campanis, a former Dodgers executive, said in 1987 that black players “lacked the necessities” to become managers and front-office executives, leading baseball to start recruiting former black players for such positions.) I know that. All of a sudden, after what Al said, they came and got me and Baylor and Hal McRae and Cito. Out of every negative, there’s a potential positive.
And, look, if a discussion of racism makes you uncomfortable and you feel compelled to lash out because of it, consider that you’re lashing out at someone’s honest perspective. Baker didn’t meet with Rosenthal to talk about baseball’s racism, he met to talk about baseball, and in the course of that conversation, racism came up because it has been a part of the game for as long as Baker has participated.
Baker wanted to manage a couple more years in Washington and retire having been in baseball for a nice round 50 years. He figured they’d win a championship in one of his final years. Of course, the squirrely ownership group with the Nationals don’t do long-term deals and general manager Mike Rizzo has done a really great job throwing managers, coaches, and frustrated relievers under the bus to keep his position, so the cards were stacked against Baker there. But you’ll have to read the article to get why Baker left Chicago and Cincinnati. Those situations became toxic in a hurry and simply poisoned him.
He also talks about his ventures outside of baseball, including his winery and solar panel company. I’m not spoiling the only money quote of the interview, but probably the money quote:
If I thought there was some B.S. in baseball, there is some big B.S. out in the business world.
It’s an engaging read and a reminder that the Dusty Baker era might be a little underrated.