The Houston Astros’ tumultuous offseason has been capped with the hiring of a new manager. According to USA Today’s Bob Nightengale and others, Dusty Baker will fill the void left by A.J. Hinch after his unceremonious dismissal following MLB’s investigation into the franchise’s sign-stealing scheme.
It will be a one-year deal with a club option that could keep Baker in Houston in 2021, according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, making him the oldest manager in MLB.
Both Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow were suspended for the 2020 season after MLB found them responsible for illegally stealing signs during the team’s 2017 World Series run. Rather than bring in interim replacements, owner Jim Crane immediately decided to fire both and move forward.
That left a Texas-sized opening and will now present an equally large challenge for Baker. The Astros are again expected to be top contenders for a World Series title, but there will be dark clouds and distractions all around them. Baker’s job will be to keep the focus on moving forward.
Baker, 70, is now back in the game after spending several years in the managerial candidates pool. The legendary old school skipper was last employed by the Washington Nationals, who fired him in 2017 after the team blew a 4-1 lead against the Chicago Cubs in NLDS Game 5.
Baker’s experience goes far beyond his two-season stint with the Nationals. He managed the San Francisco Giants from 1993 to 2002, winning Manager of the Year in his first season and eventually taking the team to the World Series in 2002. When the Giants didn’t renew his contract, Baker moved on to managing the Cubs for four seasons, and then managed the Reds from 2008 through 2013.
The main criticism of Baker from his past managerial stints is that he both mismanages and overuses his pitchers, something that’s bound to make Astros fans nervous. Baker did show growth in that area when he was with the Nationals, and his union with the Astros — an organization known for analytics and regimentation — almost certainly means Baker will have to reign in those tendencies. Baker also brings a ton of experience (he’s won over 1800 games in his career and taken his teams to the playoffs nine times in 22 seasons) and is known as a player-first manager.
The Astros have a lot to overcome in 2020, and while Baker’s reputation as an old school manager may at first seem like a poor fit with the modern Astros, it could be just what they need.
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