The Houston Astros are in the news a lot these days, and a former Brave from way back has taken control over the madness in Dusty Baker.
Dusty Baker, the Right Choice
The 70 year old Baker is a logical choice for a franchise who had an unexpected vacancy to fill on the cusp of Spring Training. Dusty has a track record of managing good teams and a good reputation in the game, which could help dissipate some of the heat aimed at the Astros in the aftermath of their sign-stealing scandal. (When Nick Markakis says you need a beating, you better believe that’s a beating.) Baker has a one year contract with a team option for 2021, and will buy the Astros time until they figure out what they really want to do.
Dusty has been criticized for his old school style of managing, something he may have a chance to address some day at Cooperstown. His career record as a manager is 1863 – 1636 for a .532 W-L%, and his wins and winning percentage are well positioned among current Hall of Famers. A lack of a World Series title (to date) may hold him back in the voting. Adding to that, his teams have won 1 pennant in his 22 seasons.
Dusty stands 15th in Major League history in managerial wins, accumulated over 10 seasons with the Giants, 4 with the Cubs, 6 with the Reds, and 2 with the Nationals, where he won 95 and 97 games in 2016 and 2017 respectively. He’s been NL Manager of the Year 3 times, and just 43 more wins this season would leave him in 12th all time. Averaging 70 wins per year over the next two seasons would move him into 9th place, although a 70 win season in 2020 would undoubtedly preclude a second season in 2021.
Baker also had an outstanding career as a player, breaking into the majors with the Braves as a 19 year old in 1968. He had minimal opportunities those early years before starting full time for 4 seasons beginning in 1972. His .321 batting average in 1972 was 3rd in the league. He played mostly as a center fielder or right fielder for the Braves, and occasionally found time to sign autographs for 9 year old boys. You can read Mac’s assessment of Dusty as one of the 44 greatest Atlanta Braves here.
Dusty was traded to the Dodgers after his age 26(!) season along with Ed Goodson for Lee Lacy, Tom Paciorek, Jerry Royster, and Jim Wynn. He spent 8 seasons in L.A., hitting 30 homers in 1977, and once again finishing 3rd in the league in batting in 1981, at .320. Baker eventually spent 19 seasons in the majors, totaling 242 homers and a .278 batting average.
Leave Dusty Out of This
There won’t be many people pulling for the Astros this year, but my hope (and undoubtedly the Astros hope) is that we don’t take it out on Dusty Baker.
Thanks for reading our piece on Dusty Baker. If you enjoyed this retrospective look on a former player, you might enjoy our 10 for 10’s series of which all parts can be found linked in this piece.