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Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Source: Astros focus on Dusty Baker to be new manager

The Houston Astros have focused their managerial search on veteran Dusty Baker, a source told ESPN’s Jeff Passan, but a deal has yet to be finalized.

Baker, 70, would become the oldest manager in the major leagues. Having last managed the Washington Nationals in 2017, he ranks 15th in all-time wins with a 1,863-1,636 record over 22 seasons that includes a National League pennant with the San Francisco Giants in 2002.

Baker would replace AJ Hinch, who was fired along with general manager Jeff Luhnow by owner Jim Crane on Jan. 13 following MLB’s findings that the team illicitly used electronics to steal signs during its run to the 2017 World Series championship and again during the 2018 season.

I’m oddly torn in this situation- I can’t make up my mind if I want to see Dusty ride in and clean that mess up, or wish him to stay far, far away from that wretched hive of scum and villainy.

 

QLE Posted: January 29, 2020 at 12:59 AM | 39 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: astros, dirty rotten cheaters, dusty baker, managerial search

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   1. vortex of dissipation Posted: January 29, 2020 at 03:09 AM (#5920123)
If the Astros hire Baker, and he leads them to a World Series title, does that make him a Hall of Famer?
   2. PreservedFish Posted: January 29, 2020 at 03:59 AM (#5920125)
Fascinating.

I wonder how much autonomy he would have.
   3. Steve Parris, Je t'aime Posted: January 29, 2020 at 07:50 AM (#5920130)
If the Astros hire Baker, and he leads them to a World Series title, does that make him a Hall of Famer?

I think so. He's 15th in manager wins right now. He jumps to 10th if you give him two seasons of 85 wins. You throw in a redemption ring (for both the franchise and Dusty), and I think it's a no-brainer.
   4. Dag Nabbit at ExactlyAsOld.com Posted: January 29, 2020 at 08:03 AM (#5920132)
If the Astros hire Baker, and he leads them to a World Series title, does that make him a Hall of Famer?
Definitely.
   5. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: January 29, 2020 at 09:04 AM (#5920135)

I wonder how much autonomy he would have.


Well, they can't really fire him without looking terrible, so, probably as much as he wants.
   6. Blastin Posted: January 29, 2020 at 09:09 AM (#5920136)
I like Dusty a lot. I loathe the Astros. Damn them.


   7. PreservedFish Posted: January 29, 2020 at 09:35 AM (#5920138)
What I mean is, they're not likely to just put the brakes on all of the crazy analysis they've been doing. You read what Gerrit Cole said about his first day in an Astros uniform: they sat him down and gave him an hours-long presentation, with data and video, on how he had been pitching suboptimally and how he should change. And it turned his career around overnight. Their #### works (and presumably it's not all just cheating). So are they going to knock that stuff off? If not, is Dusty going to be part of those conversations?
   8. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: January 29, 2020 at 10:21 AM (#5920146)
If the Astros hire Baker, and he leads them to a World Series title, does that make him a Hall of Famer?


That depends. Are they still cheating?

Baker was in charge of the Giants when all the BALCO stuff was going on, so he does know how to turn a blind eye to stuff...
   9. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: January 29, 2020 at 11:28 AM (#5920170)
What I mean is, they're not likely to just put the brakes on all of the crazy analysis they've been doing. You read what Gerrit Cole said about his first day in an Astros uniform: they sat him down and gave him an hours-long presentation, with data and video, on how he had been pitching suboptimally and how he should change. And it turned his career around overnight. Their #### works (and presumably it's not all just cheating). So are they going to knock that stuff off? If not, is Dusty going to be part of those conversations?

Well, sure, but I doubt Dusty would object to that. He just won't be a part of it. Is the manager usually hanging around when coaches work with guys? I was thinking game management stuff. If he doesn't want to shift so much, he doesn't have to. He can write out the lineup card, and use his pen however he likes.
   10. Jeremy Renner App is Dead and I killed it Posted: January 29, 2020 at 01:07 PM (#5920200)
Dusty Baker is like the Joe Biden of baseball managers. The perceived safe alternative after some group decides things have gone to ####.
   11. PreservedFish Posted: January 29, 2020 at 01:17 PM (#5920203)
Now that you mention it, Darren Baker and Hunter Biden...
   12. Steve Parris, Je t'aime Posted: January 29, 2020 at 01:20 PM (#5920205)
Hunter Biden was ready to testify before the Senate until JT Snow scooped him up.
   13. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: January 29, 2020 at 02:06 PM (#5920225)

Huh, Darren Baker's now 20 and plays 2B for Cal. I feel old.
   14. Astroenteritis Posted: January 29, 2020 at 02:13 PM (#5920229)
Heck, Dusty may work out just fine. Also, I got a laugh out of the "dirty rotten cheaters" tag. This being the center of all evil in baseball is actually starting to be a little enjoyable, because it is so ridiculous.
   15. gef, talking mongoose & vexatious litigant Posted: January 29, 2020 at 02:38 PM (#5920236)
being the center of all evil in baseball


The non-Yankee center of all evil, more specifically.
   16. Red Voodooin Posted: January 29, 2020 at 03:04 PM (#5920240)
This being the center of all evil in baseball is actually starting to be a little enjoyable, because it is so ridiculous.


I'm not an Astros fan, but I agree with this 100%.

Also, I'm happy for Dusty Baker. I used to loathe him, but have come to respect him and realize that a lot of my hatred towards him was wholly unjustified.
   17. Walt Davis Posted: January 29, 2020 at 04:00 PM (#5920264)
Do the Astros even have a GM right now? Who would be trying to tell Baker what to do?

Baker is an old fogey but I'm not aware of times he worked "against" management. I had real issues with some of his habits with the Cubs but it's not like Hendry (who I also had issues with) was telling him to do stuff and he refused. In Cincy, he was working with Jocketty, another traditionl GM. Did he have conflicts with Rizzo? Dusty's a smart guy, if the nerds tell him something useful or help his players perform better, he's not going to object. I can see he might not be too amenable to "but if you do this instead, you'll increase our chances of winning by .005 percent."

But beyond that, one of the reasons he is there is to provide (the image of) integrity and the last thing the Astros want is Baker complaining to the press about those meddling kids in the front office. If there are disagreements, he wins all the arguments for now. He'll be running the team on the field not a push-button manager. Whether that's good or bad in a baseball sense, that was always going to be the position the Astros found themselves in once the punishment came down.
   18. PreservedFish Posted: January 29, 2020 at 04:11 PM (#5920271)
Do the Astros even have a GM right now? Who would be trying to tell Baker what to do?

I have no idea, and I wondered the same thing myself. But I feel like the owner would want to keep some of the Luhnow team in place. Yeah yeah, toxic environment and all, but they won baseball games, and they're already there, already under contract. I don't know if the owner really cares about that toxic environment stuff anyway.

Baker is an old fogey but I'm not aware of times he worked "against" management.


I'm not saying he has that reputation. Just that for a team that would otherwise be inclined to hire a manager that is essentially just a front office liaison, he's one of the last people you'd ever hire.

(I understand why he's being considered, to wipe the slate clean.)
   19. Jeremy Renner App is Dead and I killed it Posted: January 29, 2020 at 04:18 PM (#5920278)
Doesn't Baker have a rep of making hitters better? If yes than holy ####. Like Houston needs any help scoring.
   20. The Yankee Clapper Posted: January 29, 2020 at 04:51 PM (#5920312)
   21. Walt Davis Posted: January 30, 2020 at 07:47 AM (#5920401)
I have no idea, and I wondered the same thing myself. But I feel like the owner would want to keep some of the Luhnow team in place. Yeah yeah, toxic environment and all, but they won baseball games, and they're already there, already under contract. I don't know if the owner really cares about that toxic environment stuff anyway.

I think that's correct (but don't know). But they might not have much choice but to find an upstanding external GM candidate too (what's Jocketty up to?), I don't think an internal candidate will go over very well but maybe Dusty is enough. And I agree there may be times when Dusty frustrates the nerds. I don't imagine he'd have even been on their radar under more normal circumstances.

The question is more how long he's there ... and per the link in #20, it's just a 1-year deal with an option. I thought Dusty might insist that it be more than a careteaker position but apparently not. But they were never gonna give anybody a 5-year deal I don't think -- maybe if it had happened early enough for them to get in on Maddon. If they had time to hold a proper search, they'd have found a saber-savvy manager of unquestioned integrity. The other possibility would have been the saber-savvy GM of unquestioned integrity. I'm not sure either beastie exists.

Doesn't Baker have a rep of making hitters better?

Maybe. The only (not well substantiated) example I know of is Aramis Ramirez. He tended to get nice production out of part-time vets in SF but then not really so much in Chicago. He was in Cincy far longer than I remember -- if he had anything to do with Votto, that's a huge feather. Otherwise EE didn't do much for him, broke out a few years later in Tor; Bruce had good and bad years; Drew Stubbs neveer hit; did he have anything to do with Todd Frazier, that would be good; Ludwick had one really good year and one bad year; Cozart's offensive breakout came later; Suarez wasn't there yet.

If you want an example of the good and bad Dusty take a look at the 2011 Reds bench: Renteria age 34, Ramon Hernandez age 35, Miguel Cairo age 37, Fred Lewis age 30. Of course as luck or Dusty genius would have it, Hernandez and Cairo both hit pretty well and the quartet combined for about 4 WAR in 1200 PA which is dandy for bench players. Collectively they had only around 400 terrible PAs left in them so Dusty got the best of what they had left.
   22. Rally Posted: January 30, 2020 at 07:58 AM (#5920405)
I wonder how much autonomy he would have.


I don't think a manager with Dusty's resume would agree to a job without autonomy. Plus he was hired by Jim Crane since the team doesn't even have a GM right now.
   23. Infinite Yost (Voxter) Posted: January 30, 2020 at 08:42 AM (#5920408)
I'm basically agnostic on Dusty's skills as a manager. I do think he sometimes gets credit for things that no manager can actually do, but other than that, you know. He seems like a pretty good player's manager, and with a team full of stars that has recently steered into very choppy waters, that might be a good thing.

But. This seems like the first move in the collapse of Houston's brief dynasty. The team became immensely successful with a top-down model in which its manager was AJ Hinch, who was understood to be a cog in the winning machine. Now, without sound baseball guidance, the first thing the owner did was hire a famous manager who is (a) notably old-school and (b) going to expect a pretty free hand with decision-making. That just seems like exactly the wrong thing to do, to me. This is a recipe for a very weak decision-making apparatus that is dominated by people whose understanding of the game is completely orthogonal to what made the team successful.

Though the sign stealing is a bad deal because it shows a corrupt intent, I gravely doubt that it has much to do with the Astros winning -- far more important are the on-field personnel and the people who were doing the analysis like what turned around Cole. They might continue to win because they still have Bregman and Correa and Altuve and Springer and so on, at least for a while. All the same, this seems almost perfectly designed to start a domino effect that results in the Astros sinking back into ignominy rather quicker than they otherwise would.

Maybe there was no way the Astros were going to weather this scandal and come out healthy on the other end. Maybe hiring a famous player's manager will keep an even keel on an extremely talented roster. Either of those things might be true. But I doubt it. If the problem was basically corporate culture, the right answer is not to hire a celebrity, but to hire decision-makers who can continue the parts of the organization that were effective and model ethical leadership.
   24. Ron J Posted: January 30, 2020 at 09:57 AM (#5920425)
#23 I think he's very good at building and managing an us against the world setup. And in sports that's often not a bad thing.
   25. PreservedFish Posted: January 30, 2020 at 10:01 AM (#5920427)
I'm part of this problem, but we're making a lot of assumptions about Dusty's amenability to the Astros' model. Sure, he's old, but he might well show up to the analytics department and say "You guys keep doing what you're doing!" Why would Dusty intervene when the FO wants to sit down and tell Ryan Pressly that he needs to be throwing more curveballs?

I think they probably needed to hire an outsider. And with no GM, they weren't about to hire one of these front-office-liaison types. A guy like Girardi would've been ideal, a highly-respected Little Napoleon that has a very open mind about analytics. But I don't know who else is available that matches that. Maybe a Terry Collins, a guy that doesn't quite have Dusty's big personality, but that has just as much crash and burn potential.

Everything in #23 is possible. But this team is pretty plug-and-play. The lineup is incredible, the bench is strong, the bullpen is bananas, and the top starters are elite. Perhaps the Dusty Astros will be less creative with the back of the rotation than they might otherwise have been, but I don't think that, for example, fewer defensive shifts are really going to make a recognizable difference. It's easy to imagine Dusty being a 1-2 year caretaker, winning 200 games, and retiring with honors. At that point Crane might have a groomed replacement or it might be time to blow the ####### team up and enjoy that sweet sweet rebuilding profit margin.
   26. Jose Needs an Absurd Ukulele Concert Posted: January 30, 2020 at 10:09 AM (#5920433)
Dusty is a good choice IMO. He’s a steady hand who should be able to give a good public face to the organization. Also I think it shouldn’t be overlooked that he managed Bonds during a lot of the steroid stuff so being a shield to a team that is getting a lot of heat is something he has some practice with.
   27. Steve Parris, Je t'aime Posted: January 30, 2020 at 10:32 AM (#5920436)
Dusty also did a good job of sticking up for Votto when he missed several weeks with anxiety after the death of his father back in 2009. It would be much more understandable now, but even just ten years ago time off for mental health was far from accepted and there were plenty of knuckleheads in the Cincinnati media. Votto and Dusty would later have minor disagreements about hitting philosophy - Dusty wanted him to swing more - but from what I've seen they had a good relationship, and Votto was always grateful for Dusty's guidance early on.

Agree with [25] that Houston is plug-and-play, so any small tactical disadvantages that are incumbent with Dusty are beside the point. They've now got their respected elderly statesman who's shown he can develop an "us against the world" atmosphere. Good hire.
   28. SoSH U at work Posted: January 30, 2020 at 11:20 AM (#5920451)
I think they probably needed to hire an outsider. And with no GM, they weren't about to hire one of these front-office-liaison types. A guy like Girardi would've been ideal, a highly-respected Little Napoleon that has a very open mind about analytics. But I don't know who else is available that matches that. Maybe a Terry Collins, a guy that doesn't quite have Dusty's big personality, but that has just as much crash and burn potential.


I like Dusty, but I thought Showalter would have been the perfect choice for the Stros.
   29. The Yankee Clapper Posted: January 30, 2020 at 01:33 PM (#5920529)
I like Dusty, but I thought Showalter would have been the perfect choice for the Stros.
Either one would be fine, but I thought Showalter would be a better fit for the Red Sox. He should know the AL East pretty well from his time in Baltimore. Starting this late, his experience would also come in handy, although Boston appears to be in no rush, which may suggest they look at it differently.
   30. SoSH U at work Posted: January 30, 2020 at 01:59 PM (#5920538)
Either one would be fine, but I thought Showalter would be a better fit for the Red Sox.


Showalter strikes me as a little more no-nonsense than Dusty, which seems to be necessary given overall culture issues in Houston.

OTOH, I don't like the Dusty-Boston media combination.

   31. . Posted: January 30, 2020 at 02:27 PM (#5920552)
What I mean is, they're not likely to just put the brakes on all of the crazy analysis they've been doing. You read what Gerrit Cole said about his first day in an Astros uniform: they sat him down and gave him an hours-long presentation, with data and video, on how he had been pitching suboptimally and how he should change. And it turned his career around overnight. Their #### works


That's too strong a conclusion. Their #### *may* have worked for Cole and even then, we don't really know if it was merely luck or placebo effect. We can't really pluck one example out of many that worked and conclude that the thing "works" more generally.
   32. McCoy Posted: January 30, 2020 at 02:43 PM (#5920563)
Success creates a narrative. The narrative works until it doesn't. Jake Arrieta and his move from the Orioles to the Cubs was an example of how smart and great the Cubs organization was but of course the Cubs have since then failed on a bunch of reclamation projects.
   33. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: January 30, 2020 at 02:46 PM (#5920564)
the Cubs have since then failed on a bunch of reclamation projects.
Brandon Morrow raises his hand and tears his labrum.
   34. Jose Needs an Absurd Ukulele Concert Posted: January 30, 2020 at 02:59 PM (#5920574)
Showalter strikes me as a little more no-nonsense than Dusty, which seems to be necessary given overall culture issues in Houston.

OTOH, I don't like the Dusty-Boston media combination.


Agreed on Dusty. I think Buck may have passed his expiration date as a manager though. I think he's at the stage where he's no longer going to connect with players the way he needs to. No nonsense isn't bad but I think Buck is a bit too no nonsense at this point.

In Alex Speier's book Homegrown he talks about the way Cora let the players be a bit more free in how they expressed themselves. I think this group is better with someone a bit closer to them but still able to drop the hammer when necessary. I'm still rooting for Febles.
   35. Walt Davis Posted: January 30, 2020 at 08:33 PM (#5920653)
What I'll add to the responses to #23 is that it's just a 1-year deal with an option. The hiring of Dusty is about the image (and I'm sure reality) of integrity, it's not a major shift in team philosophy. They are hoping/expecting the need for an elder statesman manager to be relatively brief. It also gives them cover to have the time to find the right GM -- I'd think scrambling to hire a GM posed a greater risk to long-term philosophy and goals. With regard to all this, it was quite the whammy for the Astros and Red Sox. There's the deserved ignominy they need to deal with; there's the suspension/firing of GM and manager; but the third factor is the timing was "terrible" with just a month before spring training and after all the other manager and GM candidates had been hired elsewhere. In an alternate universe where this came to light sooner and the suspensions were handed down immediately after the post-season, we'd have seen a more standard search based on longer-term criteria. Instead the Astros needed somebody "legit" in like three weeks. Seemed like it was always gonna be Baker, Bochy or Showalter.

I will be interested to see whether Dusty's "us vs them" clubhouse culture comes into play here because I don't think that's going to go over well with the outside world. Or more precisely, Dusty's protection of his players and his role as first wall against the media I think is helpful. But at the end of his Cubs' tenure, it was squabbles with the media and Dusty's defense of his players included excusing some obviously rotten play on the field. The Astros don't want to be picking fights with the media so that Dusty wouldn't be so helpful. I'm not expecting that, just pointing out the possibility.

But I do expect to see Eddie Taubensee as the backup C. :-)
   36. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: January 30, 2020 at 08:48 PM (#5920656)
I will be interested to see whether Dusty's "us vs them" clubhouse culture comes into play here because I don't think that's going to go over well with the outside world.
Yeah, I think this pretty much guarantees that they’re going to go with an obnoxious ‘we are protagonists overcoming adversity’ schtick.
   37. Infinite Yost (Voxter) Posted: January 31, 2020 at 05:30 PM (#5920904)
Sure, he's old, but he might well show up to the analytics department and say "You guys keep doing what you're doing!"


I think that's entirely possible, too. To wit, I've finally started law school, 15 years after all of my friends from Pomona College did. My Con Law professor is basically Professor Binns from Harry Potter -- but he's proven himself to be extremely adaptable on the subject of gender-fluidity. DESPITE the fact that he can't remember any of his students' names. Dusty's obviously a good baseball mind; he might prove to be adaptable. But I also think that 70-year-old men who have been at the top of their field forever are far more likely to be like, "Eh, screw all that business. I know how to do this."

I think they probably needed to hire an outsider. And with no GM, they weren't about to hire one of these front-office-liaison types.


I guess my main point -- though I never got around to saying it -- was that it would probably better to hire a GM / President of Baseball Operations (or whatever they're calling them these days ) before hiring a field manager. Though I could be wrong: with a roster this talented, maybe the most important thing is to make the players feel like they know who's going to be in the dugout with them next spring.
   38. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: January 31, 2020 at 05:38 PM (#5920911)
I've finally started law school, 15 years after all of my friends from Pomona College did.
Cheers to old 1Ls! I was 33 when I started. Do your classmates call you Grandpa?
   39. Astroenteritis Posted: January 31, 2020 at 09:44 PM (#5920930)
Yeah, I think this pretty much guarantees that they’re going to go with an obnoxious ‘we are protagonists overcoming adversity’ schtick.


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