With the fallout of the Houston Astros’ cheating scandal leaving a void in the team’s managerial role, the team looked toward a seasoned veteran to calm the storms and keep the team afloat as it attempts to build upon its recent success. Dusty Baker has more than two decades of experience as a manager, and despite being 70 years old, he took the call and will lead the team to its next chapter. With so much experience and a high-profile incident putting the spotlight on the hire, many are asking how it will work out for Houston.
The Houston Astros’ cheating scandal
Dusty Baker is taking over a reclamation project in Houston that stems from MLB’s investigation into the Astros’ complex cheating scandal.
The Astros’ woes came when it was revealed that a camera placed in center field focused on the signs between the pitchers and catchers and fed into a hallway near the dugout. The pitches were then revealed to the Astros’ batters by hitting a garbage can in the hallway as a way to signal exactly what was coming. The perceived cheating took place between the World Series season in 2017 and 2018.
Sign-stealing in baseball is nothing new, but using electronic equipment to do so is explicitly illegal, and that is where the Astros’ sins stem from. Major League Baseball has been vocal about that, so the Astros knew exactly what they were doing and paid the consequences. Astros’ manager A.J. Hinch and GM Jeff Luhnow were both suspended for one year and subsequently fired. Former assistant GM Brandon Taubman was also suspended for a year. The team will also forfeit the first- and second-round picks over the next two years.
With all of that lingering over their heads, the team needed a calming force that could come into the locker room without disrupting anything. Dusty Baker could be that force.
Dusty Baker’s baseball resume
By most metrics, Baker has had a successful career as a manager. The most obvious is the decade he spent with the San Francisco Giants that saw some of the best years of Barry Bonds and company’s careers. Although that team never achieved the ultimate goal of winning a World Series, it had spent several years as a contender. Baker won the NL Manager of the Year three times in San Francisco.
Following the Giants’ loss to the Anaheim Angels in the 2002 World Series, Baker packed his bags for the Chicago Cubs. He failed to see much success there, although the team hovered above and below .500 during his entire four-year tenure. After Chicago, Baker packed his bags for the Cincinnati Reds, where he spent six years and, like in Chicago, saw a mixed bag of results.
Baker’s most recent stint in Washington, a Bryce Harper-led team that historically struggled to find much success past the regular season at the time of the hiring, saw Baker win 95 and 97 games during his two years there before departing. The Astros will be his first job since Washington.
Is Dusty Baker the Astros’ savior?
Dusty Baker has some flaws on his resume, although they may not be entirely his fault. His Giants teams were consistently on the cusp of success, and had Bonds been able to perform his magic without intentional walks, he might have had a World Series in 2002. Only one manager wins a championship every year, and Baker hasn’t had too many rosters poised to win it all.
In Houston, where Baker will have a team with recent success under its belt, he might be able to shake off the perception that he cannot win in the postseason. A manager isn’t out there swinging the bats, and even the most well-coached team can only be carried so far by its coaching. What Baker provides the Astros, however, could be exactly what they need.
Baker has coached four different teams in the past across different eras of baseball. He’s seen high highs and low lows. For a team that is trying to move on from the recent past, Dusty Baker can provide the sort of veteran leadership that is needed for a team that already has the tools to win. Because of that, he remains a fascinating hire.