As expected, the Astros on Wednesday evening named veteran manager Dusty Baker as the successor to A.J. Hinch as the skipper for the ballclub. Baker, 70, will be the winningest active manager in baseball when he opens spring training in a couple weeks.
With tremendous scrutiny on the Astros in the wake of the sign-stealing scandal that cost Hinch and GM Jeff Luhnow their jobs (and a year suspended from baseball), owner Jim Crane needed to make a careful choice in replacing both highly successful, though now tainted, members of his organization. Baker, a three time manager of the year, would seem to be the right calming presence on a veteran team with aspirations of another World Series.
Baker praised the Astros owner and the players he inherits in a statement released by the team. “This is a great ballclub with outstanding players that know how to win," Baker said. "I applaud Jim Crane for the leadership he has shown in recent weeks and look forward to working with him and the players to bring a championship to the city of Houston.”
Crane noted Baker's winning track record and the respect he has around the league, especially among players, in a statement. It will be critical given the controversy that will face the team and its players wherever they go, beginning in spring training where they share a facility with the Washington Nationals.
One lesser discussed narrative is the fact that Baker's age makes him a good candidate to captain the ship for the next couple years as some of the team's veterans — Justin Verlander, Zack Greinke, Yuli Gurriel, Michael Brantley — reach the end of their contracts and the Astros begin to re-build a minor league system affected by trades that improved the team the last couple of seasons.
The Astros will formally announce Baker's signing at a press conference on Thursday.