Dusty Baker

One of the great careers in MLB history is coming to a close, but will get at least one more year. Last Friday the Houston Astros announced that Dusty Baker would return as their manager for a third season. The Astros lost Game 6 of the World Series 7-0 to the Atlanta Braves, and Baker’s quest to win a World Series title remained unfulfilled. It’s the only thing that he hasn’t accomplished in a distinguished managerial career that’s seen him win 1,987 regular season games and take five different teams to division titles.

Baker, 72, signed a one-year deal. He,,took over from AJ Hinch, who was suspended by MLB for his role in the team’s sign stealing and then fired. The Astros lost to Tampa Bay in the 2020 AL Championship Series and to Atlanta in this year’s six-game World Series.

“We have an exciting future here — and present,” Baker told the Associated Press. “I just had some unfinished business to take care of, but we’re close. We’re getting better every year.” One thing that’s been quite interesting is Baker has made his peace with analytics, despite being much more of an old school type. “I was talking to some of our sabermetrics guys, and I said, ‘Hey, I guess you can teach an old dog new tricks,’ and they said, ‘Depends on the dog,’” Baker said with a grin. “That was a compliment, I guess.”

The prime reason that Baker’s returning, aside from his desire to finally get the elusive World Series crown, is his faith in team owner Jim Crane. Even though negotiations for a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) are expected to be contentious, Crane publicly said he won’t hesitate to do what’s necessary for the team to remain competitive.  “If we have to make a move to compete and close out something, we’ve always done that,” Crane said. “We’ve got the resources because we’ve got great support from the city. Our goal is to win championships and put the best team on the field that we can.”

Baker also plans to retain his coaching staff with one exception, pitching coach Brent Strom who is retiring. “We had talked about it earlier in the year last year, but I urged him to put all of his efforts into this year and not think about the end until the end came,” Baker said. He added he thought assistant pitching coaches Bill Murphy and Josh Miller are ready to take the next steps in their careers and could be leading candidates to replace Strom.

The team will also likely lose shortstop Carlos Correa, and pitchers Justin Verlander, who pitched just one game in the last two seasons because of injuries, and Zack Greinke. But Baker expects the Astros to contend for a title again, and hopes that the 2022 season will be the one that ends with a World Series title.