#1 Dusty Baker
If the Astros miss out on the postseason, nobody deserves more blame than Dusty Baker. We said so back in June.
No matter what his resume shows, his ancient ways of thinking and disdain for young talent have killed Houston all year. The Astros are getting a first-hand taste of why Baker has been let go of four times.
Baker spent the early months of the season starting names like Bligh Madris at DH while Yainer Diaz collected 68 plate appearances through May.
He's basically refused to play Diaz over either Maldonado or Abreu. Maldy has been worth -1.3 fWAR, and by all publicly available metrics, has been the worst defensive catcher in the sport. But because of "comfort," Diaz has't gotten to work with Valdez or Verlander, and barely has with Javier. One of the Astros best bats remains parked on the bench while Maldy and Abreu flail away daily.
His beef with Chas McCormick has continued to boil over. McCormick didn't start on Opening Day, has lost out on starts due to the return of the "personal center fielder" after the JV trade, was benched so Jon Singleton could pinch hit, and has been publicly criticized. Meanwhile Chas was named one of the MLB's top breakout stars and has put up All-Star numbers.
He treated winnable games like Spring Training, and in claiming he doesn't panic, set up his team to fail by expecting them to flip a switch in October. He granted too many rest days to players like Yordan, even with the season on the line.
He often turned to Phil Maton with runners on base rather than Hector Neris, even when Maton is much better in a clean inning. Hunter Brown has continued to take the ball every fifth day with terrible results and too much work while José Urquidy handles mop-up innings in long relief.
He left José Abreu in the heart of the order all season while burying Chas and Yainer in the bottom of the order even when he did play.
Yes, Baker was the right hire for stability in 2020. But his decisions on both a micro and a macro level have killed Houston this year. He's a great human and a likable guy. But his outdated thinking has left Houston playing catchup all year.
No matter how you slice it, nobody deserves more blame for 2023 than Dusty Baker.