The Astros made a good hire in making Dusty Baker their new manager.
Fan reaction has been pretty mixed to the news that the Astros are hiring veteran manager Dusty Baker to take the helm this season. In the CTH Twitter poll, 42 percent said they supported the hire, 36 percent did not support it, and 22 percent were undecided.
But here’s the thing — there’s no candidate who would’ve been considered a home run hire by fans. Mixed reaction is the best any candidate would’ve gotten; not even bench coach Joe Espada would have seen anything close to universal support. It’s just the nature of the beast right now.
But the hiring of Baker has been met with a great deal of support across the baseball world. He’s one of the most experienced and respected people in the game, and owner Jim Crane made a great decision to bring him aboard.
The 2020 season is going to be a circus for the Astros. In the wake of the sign stealing scandal, the players (especially the hitters) are going to be under constant intense scrutiny both from the media and from opposing fans. Everything they do will be under a microscope.
Baker has been part of his share of media circuses. He was the Giants manager when Barry Bonds broke the single-season home run record. He managed the Cubs during the Steve Bartman incident. He has a reputation for handling the media and being able to connect with his players.
He instantly brings credibility and respect at a time when the Astros need it the most. He’s won everywhere he’s been, and he’s been part of the game since the days of Hank Aaron. Having that wealth of experience and knowledge can only be a good thing for a clubhouse that needs to be able to pull together.
Plus, he’s hungry. As much success as Baker has had, a World Series ring has eluded him as a manager. He’s not going to phone it in and he’s not just here for a paycheck. He wants to win as badly as the players do.
Allows for Reevaluation
Baker now becomes the oldest manager in the game at age 70, but that’s not a bad thing. The fact that he agreed to a one-year deal with an option for 2021 shows this isn’t a long-term arrangement, nor is it expected to be. Baker won’t be managing for a long time and the Astros don’t need him to.
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The next two years are going to be pivotal for this franchise. George Springer, Josh Reddick, Yuli Gurriel and Michael Brantley are free agents after this season. Justin Verlander, Zack Greinke, Roberto Osuna and Carlos Correa can hit free agency after 2021. The only core players under contract for 2022 are Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman, with younger players like Yordan Alvarez, Kyle Tucker and Forrest Whitley joining them.
That’s a lot of potential turnover for this team, and retaining everyone will likely be too expensive. Plus, with Verlander and Greinke in their late 30s, they won’t be top-of-the-rotation arms for much longer. The Astros will have to find a way to keep their pitching staff competitive, and that’ll take more than just Whitley realizing his potential.
With that being the case, it’s entirely possible the team will need to do a reset after 2021 — not necessarily a complete rebuild, but more of a retooling. With the loss of draft picks the next couple of years, the farm system is going to need some help.
In that scenario, the club would probably want a different manager who would stick for the long haul and grow with the team. Baker might not be up for that anyway, so bringing him on for a year or two is essentially an attempt to squeeze as much success out of this current core as possible before things drastically change.
Viewed in that prism, it makes perfect sense. Baker is going to bring stability to a team that desperately needs it, and it’s hard to come up with a better option if your goal is to try to win now. Baker has the experience necessary for this job at the time when it’s needed the most.