The Houston Astros have reportedly tabbed veteran manager Dusty Baker as the man to help lead their team through the fallout of their scandal.
The Astros have quickly gone from one of baseball’s most exciting young teams to being more loathed than the Yankees over the course of an offseason.
Such a dramatic shift in public opinion was something Houston’s owner Jim Crane had to be anticipating after his former manager AJ Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow were suspended and subsequently fired for their role in the sign-stealing scandal.
In response to all the chaos, Crane and the Astros have reportedly decided to bring in the extremely well-liked Dusty Baker, a 70-year-old manager that’s handled big personalities like Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa. The hope is that Baker brings a steady hand to a team that, as Bob Nightengale puts it, is “in the crosshairs of Major League Baseball’s cheating scandal.”
Nightengale’s report was followed by a number of other reliable sources on Wednesday.
Baker’s resume speaks for itself, having won seven division titles and an NL pennant, taking four different teams to the postseason nine times, and of course, winning three NL Manager of the Year awards.
Baker does have somewhat of a stigma about him and playoff shortcomings, but clearly that hasn’t scared teams from hiring him, spending time in San Francisco, Chicago, Cincinnati, and Washington over the last two decades.
But what makes Baker the right hire right now is his ability to shield his teams from controversy, having dealt with death threats from Cubs fans during his days in Chicago and even the public embarrassment of the IRS coming after him for $4 million in back taxes. He’s suffered and survived prostate cancer, a stroke, and an irregular heartbeat.
Baker is as battle-tested of a manager the Astros could find. And for a team that is going to be chastised throughout this upcoming season and beyond for cheating, adding Baker to this club will hopefully help his players focus on baseball while he handles all the uncomfortable questions about cheating.
It almost seems unfair for Baker to have to be the one to ultimately deal with the Astros cheating repercussions, but if the veteran manager truly wants to win a World Series, pairing up with another excellent team like Houston may be what solidifies his place in the Hall of Fame.