In their race to find a replacement for the disgraced A. J. Hinch, the Houston Astros hired former Chicago Cubs manager Dusty Baker to lead them in 2020.
The Houston Astros’ search for an emergency fill-in after the firing of manager A. J. Hinch has ended today with the selection of a familiar face for Chicago Cubs fans. Dusty Baker has been chosen to lead the Houston ball club according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today.
When the contract is finalized, this will be Baker’s twenty-third season as a big league manager. His last gig was with the Washington Nationals in 2017, but he’s also managed the San Francisco Giants, the Cincinnati Reds and, of course, the Cubs.
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Baker managed in Chicago from 2003 through 2006, most notably leading them to a tragic end in the infamous NLCS game 6 against the then Florida Marlins. He managed to a .497 win percentage with the Cubs and a lifetime .532 win percentage alongside nine playoff berths.
In that time on the North Side, Baker got to work with a team that featured the likes of Cubs superstar slugger Sammy Sosa, All-Star outfielder Moises Alou, and ace pitchers Mark Prior and Kerry Wood. His tenure ultimately ended on a sour note, however, with the team losing 96 games and Baker walking in free agency.
Baker will have his work cut out managing the Astros given the recent cheating scandal that has rocked the world of Major League Baseball for weeks now. He will no doubt have to handle his players being constantly ridiculed for sign stealing over the course of the year. It will also be interesting to see how the old school veteran meshes with an analytics savvy club.
On the other hand, this talented Astros team may be Baker’s best chance at obtaining some hardware of his own. He’s fallen painfully short of a title several times in his career, including the aforementioned ALCS loss to the Marlins and the heartbreaking Game 7 loss to the Angels in 2002 with the Giants. It remains to be seen if he can shed his reputation for postseason failure with a team that has made the World Series two of the past three years.
If anyone can hold this Astros team together, it is Baker. He’s dealt with clubhouse issues in the past, keeping the mercurial duo of Barry Bonds and Jeff Kent from destroying the Giants clubhouse atmosphere. He’s also been known to foster strong relationships with his players, as seen with Bryce Harper during Baker’s Nationals tenure.
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It won’t be an easy year for the seventy-year-old Baker given all of the controversy, but he may be a decent fit for that Astros team. While he only enjoyed very mild success with the Chicago Cubs, he’s an established veteran of the game and maybe the type of manager to wrangle a team that has gone off the rails.