HOUSTON – Twin traumas have plagued Dusty Baker for almost two decades. They bonded as they tried to get a pennant as manager of the Houston Astros late Friday night. If Baker had chosen to hide until the storm subsided, you’d understand: He was up 5-0 in Game 6 of a championship streak.
Normally that would be a very good thing. However, in Anaheim, California, the scoreboard was also 5-0 when Baker’s San Francisco Giants had a chance to finish the 2002 World Series. The Angels returned to win and took the title the next night.
If game six looked overwhelming, Baker’s next game was even worse. Five days after winning the 2003 National League Championship Series with the Chicago Cubs, Baker watched the pennant disappear when a fan innocently reached for a foul ball and touched the landscape of hell.
Baker has since led his team everywhere—Cincinnati, Washington, Houston—to the playoffs. But for now, he has a record no one wants: Most wins are won by a manager who never won the World Series in 1987.
Baker faced his fears as the Astros captured the American League pennants and finished the Boston Red Sox 5-0 on Friday.
“Game 6 has been my foe in most playoffs, and that’s what I was thinking,” he admitted. “I mean, you have to get past your enemy. I was afraid of electricity as a kid, now I own an energy company. You’re trying to get over the past things in your life.”
As such, Baker and the Astros are on parallel journeys, both eager to win for different reasons. For Baker, one World Series victory spans an otherwise 24-year management career. For the Astros, it would prove they could lift a banner without the aid of electronic sign theft.
Scandal brought Baker here. NS astros chart He helped with the 2017 championships and led to the suspension and firing of their manager, AJ Hinch, when a league investigation confirmed the cheating in early 2020. Astros owner Jim Crane hired Baker, now 72, to manage both the crisis and his career. baseball team.
“I interviewed a group of guys and the first time I spoke to him we talked for two hours and I felt like he was my best friend,” Crane said. “So I immediately got very comfortable with him and boom, I made the decision. I knew he had a lot of experience, he calmed down a lot of the bullshit we were dealing with and kept these guys on track.”
The Astros have played in fanless stadiums during the 2020 season shortened by the pandemic, but this year they have routinely been teased on the road; Some fans at the ALCS in Boston greeted second baseman Jose Altuve with disrespectful singing. Baker helped his team deal with hate.
“He’s a leader and a friend, so we can go to his office whenever we feel like it and talk about him,” said Carlos Correa. “He’s a very smart guy and he lived through all of this in baseball. Right mind to choose. He told us to go there and show the world how good we really are, and everything will fall into place and take care of itself. And so we did.”
After falling to the Tampa Bay Rays in a neutral zone ALCS last October, the Astros prevailed this time with a sudden and explosive comeback. The eighth kick kicked off in game four, with Houston trailing 2-1 in the game and series. From then on, they beat the Red Sox 22-1 and ended things with a combined two hits in Game 6.
Yordan Alvarez hit .522 (12 for 23) to win Most Valuable Player Award in the Seriesand Houston’s pitchers under coach Brent Strom made a critical adjustment in the middle of Game 4 to attack the Red Sox more aggressively with fastballs. But Baker left his mark, too.
In Game 4, he added backup catcher Jason Castro, who later continued the ninth continuing single. In game 5, Baker allowed starting player Framber Valdez to work eight innings — the most by any post-season pitcher — without pulling him early to chase match-up advantages.
In the 6th game, Baker’s faith in kick catcher Martín Maldonado paid off. Maldonado took .071 hits for the series, but guided rookie Luis Garcia in five and two-thirds innings. Later, Maldonado blocked a Red Sox threat with a shoot him out, throw him out duo game.
“This man will soon be a Hall of Famer,” Maldonado said of Baker, who had done enough to earn that honor easily. A championship might save him, though, and Baker’s pursuit might make it easier for some fans to root for a team they still don’t like.
“I think that shows why 18 or 19 months ago was the right decision for this franchise,” said General Manager James Click. “Can you think of anyone else in baseball where people would actively say, ‘You know, I don’t care if the Astros win because of Dusty? Is there anyone else who can change the narrative of a franchise the way it can? I can’t think of anyone.”
Indeed, there may be no one more beloved in the sport than Baker, who played for 19 seasons and faced one of his former teams, the Atlanta Braves or the Los Angeles Dodgers, at the World Series. Baker said he remembers some of his baseball family who died in the finals in Game 6: Hank Aaron, Al Kaline, Joe Morgan, Bob Watson, Jimmy Wynn.
“I felt like they were with us,” he said.
Yet as much as Baker’s honour, there have always been whispers in the bunker about his intelligence. Never mind that Baker was NL Manager of the Year in his first season with the 1993 Giants and has since won more than 1,800 games. The mild ones still hurt.
“You haven’t done this or you’re not good at it, you don’t know how to use the bullpen, or you don’t like young players — I’ve heard a lot of things,” Baker said. “Most are not compliments, you know what I mean?
“As an African-American, most of the time they don’t really say that you have a certain intelligence. It’s not something we can usually take and that’s why I’ve heard a lot of this kind of thing for most of my life.”
Baker said one reason he fits so well with the Astros is because they both have stigmas to tackle. This World Series can change people’s minds about a manager and a franchise. But whatever happens, Baker will hold on.
“It just depends on how I feel about myself, how they feel about me, and how God feels about me,” she said. “And as I told these guys, you have nothing to prove or show to anyone. The only assets you have to satisfy are God, family and yourself, and other people can see you later.”
James Wagner contributing reporting.