Dusty Baker the Right Choice for the Astros...Right Now

Dusty Baker, seen here managing the Nationals, provides a steadying influence for a veteran team in crisis.
Dusty Baker, seen here managing the Nationals, provides a steadying influence for a veteran team in crisis. Photo by Lorie Shaull

On Tuesday, it was widely reported that veteran manager Dusty Baker would take over for the Astros after the firing of A.J. Hinch in the wake of the sign stealing scandal. Baker is a three-time manager of the year and considered a steady hand with veteran players. He most recently managed the Washington Nationals in 2016 and 2017.

His hiring comes on the heels of what appeared to be a thorough process with as many as nine potential candidates discussed including Buck Showalter, Jeff Bannister and Brad Ausmus. A vacancy remains at General Manager, but the list of candidates there is quite a bit shorter than for manager with a staff and a system that is already in place.

For this particular Astros team at this moment in time, Baker would appear to be the right hire for owner Jim Crane. While Baker is considered a traditionalist in terms of management style and has, at times, clashed with GMs over analytics and promoting young players, he is a veteran presence at a time of crisis for the entire franchise. This team is filled with veterans who know their roles and have an established clubhouse hierarchy. Baker should be able to slide into his role seamlessly.

It also doesn't hurt that Baker has a track record for being hired by solid teams and improving them almost immediately. Taking over a team that won 107 games and was one win away from a second title might make that more difficult in this situation, but his experience bodes well for a team with high expectations.

Most importantly, no one should expect this to be a long-term gig for Baker. At 70 years old with a team of veterans, several of whom will be free agents after this year or next, he doesn't have to be. It allows the team to work with a proven manager for a couple years while they sort out what they want to do going forward, where they want to spend their money and how they will rebuild their minor league system.

Safe to say he will not be the manager when players like Yordan Alvarez and Kyle Tucker (fingers crossed) reach the peaks of their careers. But, if he can wring every ounce of winning out of a very talent team in their current prime, it will have all been worth it.

At this point, anything the Astros can do to help salve the wounds of fans coming off the darkest moment in franchise history is welcome. Bringing in a veteran with the respect of players and the league feels like the perfect move. Of course it will be up to the players to do it on the field, but a long-time manager like Baker should help to ease that pressure and get them back focused on winning.
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Jeff Balke is a writer, editor, photographer, tech expert and native Houstonian. He has written for a wide range of publications and co-authored the official 50th anniversary book for the Houston Rockets.
Contact: Jeff Balke