Astros: Dusty Baker’s Case for Manager of the Year
Houston Astros‘ manager Dusty Baker is a finalist for the American League Manager of the Year award alongside the Seattle Mariners’ manager Scott Servais and Tampa Bay Rays’ manager Kevin Cash.
Servais led the Mariners to a surprising 90 wins despite projections putting them at 72.5 wins in the preseason.
Cash led the Rays to their first 100-win season in franchise history and the best record in the American League despite tremendous losses to his rotation, whether it be via free agency losing Blake Snell and Charlie Morton, or via injury losing Tyler Glasnow for the season in mid-June.
Both are deserving for the nomination given what they accomplished and overcame this year.
Here’s why Astros’ Dusty Baker deserves to win AL Manager of the Year.
While Servais’ claim to the award is outperforming preseason projections and Cash’s claim is navigating his team to a winning season despite massive losses via injury and free agency, Baker did both those things and he did it navigating 81 land mines in road games where the team was mercilessly booed.
The Astros may not have outperformed their preseason projections to the level the Mariners did, but the Mariners also did not have to deal with verbal abuse on a daily basis and the microscope of all eyes in baseball watching them, waiting (and in many cases hoping) for them to fail.
Baker had to manage the players’ confidence levels in what is arguably the most unprecedented level of hate levied at one team in the history of professional sports in one season.
Cash’s claim to the award is that the Rays played in the toughest division in baseball and still came out on top of not just their division, but the entire league despite all their injury and free agency losses.
But the same injuries and free agency losses Cash went through, Dusty had losses of at least similar caliber. He went yet another year without the reigning full season Cy Young winner Justin Verlander, lost all-star centerfielder and spark plug from the leadoff spot George Springer, and didn’t really get any reinforcements for those losses.
The Astros off-season was pretty quiet as their biggest acquisition was signing Jake Odorizzi to a two year deal, which was only a result of losing their number two starter Framber Valdez for the first two months of the season. Dusty has managed an Astros team that for the second year in a row has lost more than it added.
And while they did get a great full healthy year from Yordan Alvarez after he missed the entire 2020 season with knee issues, the center field spot was replaced with an average combination of Myles Straw, Chas McCormick and Jake Meyers. All three are fine players, but reached nowhere near the level of production a healthy George Springer would return.
Baker also kept the team above water despite the two and a half month loss of the 2019 AL MVP runner up Alex Bregman and the on-again, off-again knee tenderness that kept Michael Brantley in and out of the lineup throughout the year.
Not to mention he kept the team in contention in the first half of the season with the one thing the Mariners and Rays had that the Astros didn’t, which was a strong bullpen. James Click did a great job acquiring reinforcements for the biggest glaring weakness on the team and Dusty utilized them perfectly putting them in optimal situations for success.
Dusty Baker deserves the award because he overcame similar injury/free agency losses to the Rays, outperformed preseason expectations like the Mariners, and he did it all with arguably the biggest target a team in professional sports has ever had on its back for an entire season.
The postseason does not count towards the voting of this award, but if it did it would only solidify the argument he deserves to be manager of the year. If not the World Series trophy, Baker at least deserves the individual hardware.
In other award news, the Astros’ defense was crowned the Gold Glove for the American League, while not being awarded a Silver Slugger the night before. Carlos Correa also secured his first Platinum Glove, as the best defender in the American League.