HOUSTON — Dusty Baker had come to terms with the fact that his baseball career was likely over when the Nationals didn’t bring him back as manager after the 2017 season. as a manager, which were the only two accomplishments missing from his resume after 22 years in management.
Baker packed up those disappointments in the back of his mind and most of his baseball gear in his attic in his Sacramento, Calif. area home, happy to see his son, Darren, start his playing career while growing up. taking care of his vineyard and wine. It was a baseball life well lived, and largely without regrets for a man considered one of the finest gentlemen in the game.
He was at home in January 2020 when Astros owner Jim Crane called him and asked him to interview for the executive opening in Houston. At 70, it was unexpected, but Baker hadn’t taken baseball out of his blood yet. The Astros hired him to take over a team in turmoil following the sign-stealing scandal – a man respected by everyone in the game and the perfect person to guide the Astros through the storm.
Baker reached 2,000 wins earlier this year – becoming the 12th AL/NL manager to reach that mark – and when he wakes up on Saturday morning he will be on the verge of completing his professional feat: a World Series championship. The Baker Astros can win the 2022 World Series with a victory over the Phillies in Game 6 on Saturday night at Minute Maid Park.
“I’m a goal-oriented person, and that means we’ve achieved one goal and we have another goal to achieve,” Baker said.
There won’t be many people in the game not associated with the city of Philadelphia who will root against Baker, the coolest 73-year-old man on the planet. He’s been there before. The 2002 Giants lost a 3-2 World Series lead, but that was with Games 6 and 7 on the road against the Angels. The Astros only need to win one game at home, and they have two chances to do so.
“I don’t think about the situation I’m in,” Baker said Friday. “Just take a day off, because if you think about something all the time, it would drive you crazy. So you just gotta take the day off, let it come to mind and [let it] by the way.
Baker’s 55-year legacy in the game is strong. He broke out as a player with the Braves in 1968, was taken under the wing of Hank Aaron and was on deck when Aaron hit his legendary 715th homer to pass Babe Ruth in 1974. He won a World Series with the Dodgers in 1981, the coronation. of a 19-year playing career.
Still, the missing Championship as manager casts a long shadow.
“I mean, I’ve had 2,000 wins and all they talk about is I haven’t won the World Series yet, you know?” he said. “So, yes, it matters. It matters to the people. It matters to us.
Last year, Baker became the first coach to win a division title with five different teams when the Astros won the American League West, and he led teams to pennants in the AL (Astros 2021 -22) and the National League (Giants 2002). After losing the World Series in six games to the Braves, the Astros signed Baker to a one-year contract a year ago on Saturday, and he earned a 106-win regular season and second straight AL pennant.
“We love going out there every day and competing for him,” third baseman Alex Bregman said. “He loves this team. He loves winning. He loves the game of baseball. And 100% we want to win for him. I think, just like Dusty would say, I think it’s the same mindset that we all have in this game [Saturday] is the most important game and we just have to stay locked in every pitch.
Of the last 11 managers to reach 2,000 career wins, 10 of them are in the Hall of Fame. The only one who is not is Bruce Bochy (2,003 wins), who is not yet eligible for induction. Baker is ninth in the regular season with 2,093 wins, having passed his former Dodgers coach Walter Alston earlier this year.
“Here’s a guy who survived cancer, [stroke] survivor and just to be able to take that step, he should be straight into the Hall of Fame,” wide receiver Martín Maldonado said when Baker reached 2,000 wins.
Baker’s contract is up at the end of the season and he will enter another offseason in limbo. His return could depend on the future of general manager James Click, who is also a lame duck. But if you thought Baker was going to retire after winning a championship, you don’t know him very well.
“I don’t want to stop now,” he said. “I don’t know how long I’ll manage, but I’ve always said if I win one, I’ll win two. I hate being a liar.
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