Dusty Baker is a legend in the game of baseball. He followed a highly successful playing career with an even more successful managerial career.
Last season, he finally crossed the lone missing piece off of his Hall-of-Fame resume, winning his first World Series. Though he could have ridden off into the sunset on a high note, he came back this year to try and win a second.
Beloved and as much of a player's manager as he may be, he is making it extremely hard on himself and his team to do so.
That is not hating on Baker. That is not wishing harm on Baker. That is not cheering for him to fail. It is simply pointing out the fact that the lineup he sends out does not put the Astros in the best place to succeed.
Look no further than what has happened with Yainer Diaz and Chas McCormick. Look at the inexcusable sweep at the hands of the Yankees.
Some may argue it's on players like Alvarez and Tucker for not coming through, and sure, while the lineup wasn't great against the Yankees, they won't be all 162. Try not taking your best bats out of the lineup and they can all pick each other up throughout the season.
There is one catcher in the MLB that is slugging .530+ and has 20 home runs this year. It's not Will Smith, J.T. Realmuto or Jonah Heim. Nope, that's the Astros rookie, Yainer Diaz. And with the return of Michael Brantley, his already sporadic playing time is about to be cut even more.
On the year, Diaz is hitting .283 with an .843 OPS. Through May, Diaz had taken 68 at-bats on the year. The Astros were carrying three catchers at the time. Where might the Astros be if Diaz had gotten the at-bats that inexplicably went to Corey Julks as an almost everyday player, or even Rylan Bannon and Bligh Madris in totally unjustified starts at DH.
There's a reason none of the three remain with the big league club.
When José Abreu came back from injury, Dusty Baker said:
"We need him. We need him badly."- Dusty Baker
José Abreu has a .640 OPS and only eight first basemen have been worse defensively.
No Dusty, what we need is less back of the baseball card talk and more playing the better player. In the eight games in which Diaz has played first base, he's hitting .393 with a 1.236 OPS. While eight ganes is a small sample size, he's hitting .320 with a .990 OPS when catching.
When Diaz is in the field, he rakes.
But instead, Baker continues to send a well past his prime Abreu to first everyday. And not only is Abreu playing when he shouldn't be, but he's still batting in the heart of the order. Abreu hit 6th yesterday while Yainer hit 8th.
Seriously Dusty? And you want to claim the city will "thank" you for how you've handled Diaz. No. You'll be thanked if you do the right thing and play Diaz at first when he's not catching.
And if your "argument" is that you need the Abreu of old, guess what? Yainer's OPS is still higher than what Abreu posted in 2021 and 2022. He's a better player. Period. Start Yainer every day. It's not difficult.
And as for Chas McCormick, Dusty, could you make it any more clear you just don't like the guy?
As Chandler Rome pointed out, it's no secret Baker doesn't like McCormick. And what other reason could there be for giving Chas three at-bats against the Yankees?
Chas is hitting .284 with an .880 OPS this year. Against lefties, McCormick is hitting .359 with a 1.096 OPS. So when the Yankees started a lefty in Carlos Rodon on Friday, surely McCormick was in the heart of the order, no?
Actually, you could find him on the bench. The Astros scored two runs in the loss. Jake Meyers was 0-3.
If that wasn't bad enough, Chas started Saturday and went 1-3. With the game in the balance and the tying run on base with two outs, Dusty Baker pinch-hit Jon Singleton for Chas McCormick. No, that's not a typo.
McCormick, one of the Astros four best hitters on the season and a player with a .968 OPS in the secod half was pulled for a guy hitting .127 with a .411 OPS against right handers.
Baker cited some asinine "projection" that Singleton would hit .275 off of Holmes while Chas would hit .220. Well, those projections in a complete and total shock, failed. Singleton was blown away by Holmes and the Astros lost 5-4. The guy hitting .127 against righties didn't live up to the .275 projections. Isn't that strange?
While not starting McCormick again on Sunday, Baker offered this ludicrous quote:
"Depends on what I need. If you need defense, if I need an arm, if I need a bat, depends on who's pitching, depends on the stadium, depends on how a guy's doing. I mean, it's easy if you got a Julio Rodriguez, you just put him out there in center field. Each one brings something different to the table, plus and minuses. This has been a tough situation, and also to keep them sharp, and us win, and be productive. It's not an easy thing, it's not easy at all, but it's part of my job."- Dusty Baker
With Sunday's game hanging in the balance again, and Baker "needing a bat," he let Mauricio Dubón bat rather than pinch hit McCormick.
And oh by the way, after J-Rod went on one of the hottest stretches the game of baseball has seen, his OPS is still 40+ points lower than Chas'. You've got an All-Star center fielder. You just simply do not play him.
There's no defensible reason for McCormick and Diaz to not be in the lineup every day.
Dusty, swallow your pride and get over your disdain of young players. There's a division to be won and Houston has a legitimate chance of repeating as World Series champions. With a young rotation that's faltered down the stretch, runs are a must.
You simply cannot continue to bench Yainer and Chas. Play them daily, go win another ring, and maybe then the city will start to think about thanking you.