Dusty Baker is managing once more. If you’re not sure how to feel about that, you’re probably not alone.
On Wednesday, news broke - after much speculation - that Baker would join the Houston Astros.
The Houston #Astros and Dusty Baker have reached agreement on a short-term deal to become their new manager— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) January 29, 2020
Baker will have a chance for great success in Houston. The Astros have won 100 or more games three years running; in that time, they’ve made the ALCS three times, the World Series twice, and hoisted the trophy in 2017.
That trophy is, admittedly, a bit tainted, which is why such a good team needed a manager in the first place. The Astros were recently found guilty of using video technology to steal signs during that World Series run (and since then), resulting in the one-year suspension of manager AJ Hinch, followed by his firing.
It’s not often you see a 100-win team needing a manager. But Baker is hopefully up to the task.
He certainly brings experience. He’s managed four different teams in 22 seasons, most notably the San Francisco Giants. Baker led the Giants from 1993 through 2002, compiling a record of 840-715, capturing many fans’ hearts, and infuriating a few people. He also spent one season on the Giants as a player.
Most recently, he had a two-year stint with the Washington Nationals from 2016 through 2017.
It’s likely to be a short gig for the 70-year old Baker. The Astros signed him to a one-year deal, with a team option for 2021, giving themselves every chance to find their preferred long-term candidate.
But for what they needed now - trusted experience and a quick hire - Baker was a logical stopgap.
Over at our sister site, The Crawfish Boxes, Theo Gerome laid out the reasoning for the hire:
There’s a lot of uncertainty in hiring someone totally unproven, and even in the event that you find someone great, it may take a while for them to find their footing. Just look at Terry Francona, Bobby Cox, or Joe Torre, all of whom didn’t record a winning season until their second teams as managers. Even the legends who figure things out relatively quickly still usually have something of an adjustment period, like Tony La Russa and Bruce Bochy needing a full season or more to make it above .500. And this is without getting into the unique challenges Houston will present this year, with increased pressure following in the fallout of the sign stealing investigation. Given all that, I’d rather go with a more experienced manager.
And of the managers with experience, Baker was far and away my favorite option. Let’s just start with the first, most basic point: Dusty has had substantially more success than anyone else available.
A man who stubbornly makes his own decisions in the dugout has to show he’s capable of blending new-age numbers with those time-tested strategies. Baker, who opined that he never inherited a good team, is now taking over a powerhouse. Like the Nationals, who claimed in Baker’s firing that just getting to the playoffs was no longer good enough, anything less than a World Series title will be a massive disappointment in Houston. The Astros have posted three consecutive 100-plus win seasons, twice reaching the World Series and winning it all in 2017. While the scandal has tarnished — or at least, cast some doubt on — the validity of those accomplishments, the 2020 Astros are still a very, very good team.
Baker’s postseason failures, which include a 23-32 record, are notable. He’s overseen some epic collapses, including losing in back-to-back NL Division Series with Washington. The luster of a career 1,863-1,636 regular-season record is often forgotten when you can’t win the biggest of games.
For those who like Baker, it’s great to see him back in the game. But it does come with the caveat of the who’s employing him.