HOUSTON — Dusty Baker accepted that his baseball career was likely over when the Nationals did not bring him back as manager after the 2017 season. He probably didn’t hit 2,000 or win a World Series as a manager, the only two accomplishments that disappeared from his résumé after 22 years in charge.
Baker put those frustrations to the back of his mind and much of his baseball equipment in the attic of his home in Sacramento, California, content to watch his son Darren as he tended the vineyard and played his playing career. wine It was a baseball life well lived and more than regrettable 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 and asked him to interview for a management opening in Houston. At age 70, it was unthinkable, but Baker still hadn’t gotten baseball out of his blood. The Astros hired him to take over a team behind a 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 the mark — and when he wakes up Saturday morning, he’ll be on the verge of a career achievement: a series championship. the world Baker’s Astros can win the 2022 World Series with a win over the Phillies in Game 6 on Saturday night at Minute Maid Park.
“I’m a goal person, and that means we’ve reached one goal and we have another goal,” Baker said.
There aren’t many people in the game who aren’t connected to the city of Philadelphia rooting against Baker, the 73-year-old greatest on the planet. He was in this place before. The 2002 Giants took a 3-2 World Series lead, but that was with Games 6 and 7 on the road against the Angels. The Astros need to win just 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 a day off, because if you think about something all the time, it will drive you crazy. So you just have to take a day off, let it come to your mind and [let it] on the way out”.
Baker’s legacy of 55 years in the game is strong. He entered as a player with the Braves in 1968, was taken under the wing of Hank Aaron and was on the deck when Aaron hit his legendary 715th homer off Babe Ruth in 1974. He hit a World Series-winning home run with the Dodgers in 1981, a remarkable achievement. 19-year playing career.
However, the lost championship casts a long shadow as a manager.
“I mean, I hit 2,000 and they’re just talking about how I haven’t won a World Series yet, you know?” he said. “So yeah, it’s important. It’s important to the people. It’s important to us.”
Last year, Baker became the first manager to win a division title with five different teams when the Astros captured the American League West, and he led teams to both the AL (2021-22 Astros) and National League (2002 Giants). . After losing the World Series in six games to the Braves, the Astros signed Baker to a one-year deal a year ago Saturday, and he had a 106-win regular season and a second straight AL pennant.
“We love to go out there every day and compete for him,” third baseman Alex Bregman said. “He loves this team. He loves to win. He loves the game of baseball. And 100 percent, we want to win for him. I think, like Friendship says, I think that’s the mentality that we all have this game [Saturday] It’s the most important game and we have to stay tight on every pitch.”
Of the 11 previous managers to reach 2,000 career wins, 10 are in the Hall of Fame. The only one who isn’t is Bruce Bochy (2,003 wins), who is still ineligible. Baker is ninth in regular season wins with 2,093, passing former Dodgers manager Walter Alston earlier this year.
“Here’s a boy who survived cancer. [stroke] survivor, and just to reach that milestone, it should be straight into the Hall of Fame,” catcher Martin Maldonado said as Baker reached 2,000 wins.
Baker’s contract expires at the end of the season, and he’ll be in for another season. His return may 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 well.
“I don’t want to stop now,” he said. “I don’t know how long I will manage, but I always said that if I win one, I will play two games. I hate lying.”