Did Jim Crane throw Dusty Baker under the bus for Astros falling short in 2023?

Houston may be much better off without Dusty Baker based on how he handled playing time last season.

Houston Astros Press Conference
Houston Astros Press Conference / Bob Levey/GettyImages

When Dusty Baker decided to retire as the Houston Astros' manager after the 2023 season, the reaction amongst Astros fans was decidedly mixed.

Baker was a big reason the team was able to come together in wake of the sign stealing scandal, and he brought another World Series title to Houston. However, Baker also irked many with his lineup and bullpen decisions at times, with many wondering if the Astros would be better off with someone else at the helm.

The die is cast now and Joe Espada is the Astros' manager going forward. However, Astros owner Jim Crane was recently interviewed by PaperCity Magazine, and while the entire interview is worth a read as Crane covered a wide range of topics, it's his comments on how Yainer Diaz was used last year that are certain to get some attention.

Even Jim Crane disagreed with how Dusty Baker used Astros' Yainer Diaz in 2023

While Crane was careful not to mention Baker's name, he was unequivocal in expressing his excitement for having Yainer Diaz being the team's primary catcher. In his own words, Crane said, "We’re going to play our young catcher a lot. He didn’t get a lot of action this past season."

Again, Crane was being very diplomatic here, but highlights one of the biggest issues with Baker's management of the team last year. Despite the fact that Diaz was the superior offensive and defensive player last year at catcher, Baker refused to play him there very much and instead gave the bulk of the playing time to Martin Maldonado.

This is a story we have heard over and over again when it comes to Maldy. Despite the fact that he was putting up a truly horrific season on both sides of the ball in 2023, the Astros just couldn't quit him, and ran him out there almost every day. No one denies that he was a fantastic clubhouse presence and a big help in managing the pitching staff, but that's describing a coach and not a guy that should be in the lineup every day.

Nevertheless, that is exactly what Baker did. Baker's reputation of not trusting young players and giving the nod to inferior vets preceded his time with the Astros. Houston's roster was fairly resilient to Baker's tendencies as he had a lot of guys with experience that could also play, but this is another reminder that the way Baker managed the team wasn't always optimal.

One can only wonder how many more games the Astros would have won with Diaz and his 127 wRC+ being the primary catcher every day instead of the ghost of Maldonado.

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