If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile, you know my feelings about Dusty Baker as a manager. Here’s a snippet from 2019:
IN PRAISE OF AN EX MANAGER – Dusty Baker is rarely thought of as one of the best managers in recent history but you’ll forgive me if that’s where he rates in my mind. He’s taken four different franchises to the playoffs and in 22 years leading teams, he’s amassed an 1863-1636 record for a .532 winning percentage. Over a lengthy MLB managerial career, Baker averages 86 wins a season. He won 90 or more games in five of his last six years on the bench but wasn’t brought back by two different clubs. The Reds went from 90 wins in Baker’s last season to 76 without him while the Nationals went from 97 wins in Baker’s last year to 82 wins without him.
Since 2010, Baker has a 41-24 record against the Mets. The year before he arrived in Cincinnati, the Reds went 2-5 against the Mets. The year after Baker left, Cincinnati won just two of six games against New York. It was more of the same in Washington. The Mets went 11-8 against the Nats the year before Baker took over and again won 11 of 19 games after Baker was replaced. But the two years Baker was in DC, his squad went 25-13 against the Mets. With two wins this season, the Mets have now won seven of their last nine games against the Nationals, something that would have been unthinkable if Baker was still running things there. As a Mets fan, thanks for running him out of town, Washington.
It’s now five teams that Baker has brought to the playoffs. Today at The Athletic (subscription required) there was a story filled with player quotes about Baker. Here are a few of them:
Jonny Gomes: I’ve never seen someone that hands on, not fake, know the details, know the stories, relate to every demographic of player. He can just sit and hang out with the hip hop group, then sit and hang out with the rock and roll group. He can sit and hang out with the Latin group and the superstars. He was with Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Kerry Wood, Jeff Kent. The dude was on deck when Hank Aaron hit 715.
LaTroy Hawkins: When I played for him in Chicago, I grew up 30 minutes from there (in Gary, Indiana). So I would go home, and all the people where I’m from, they’re all Cub fans. They all wanted to know: How’s Dusty? How’s Dusty? And I would always tell them — we have a liquor store in our neighborhood called Tarry Town Liquors, and I’d say: “Dusty could come out here and stand on the corner with you guys, hang out, and you would think he was born and raised here. Or, he can go to the White House and sit in the Oval Office and he’ll belong there.” He can navigate any environment.
Bronson Arroyo: He would see me leaving the hotel with some friends or a girl, and he’d say: “You know who I am?” And she’d say: “Yes, Mr. Baker. I know.” He’d say: “Well, you know that beer commercial with the most interesting man in the world? I’m the second most interesting man in the world.”
Joey Votto: As a manager, he made me crazy. He made me crazy in a good way. My dad made me crazy. But I loved my dad. I loved him. With that in mind, in 2011, I got off to a really nice start, but I wasn’t hitting for as much power. I wasn’t hitting as many home runs. But I felt like I was hitting really well. And we’re in Atlanta, and we weren’t in first. And Dusty is absolutely, unequivocally all about winning. He doesn’t care about anything else but winning.
I’m about to go on deck. It’s my time. I need to focus on hitting, and I was in the hole … And Dusty would always sit on the end of the bench, and to get out to the on-deck circle, I needed to pass him. So I walk past him, and he catches me. He goes: “Now listen, listen.” And he gave me one, two, three different tips on hitting for power. Some adjustments that he felt like I needed to make. Now, this was in the middle of the game, in the middle of competing. And in Atlanta, in center field, there’s a really big Jumbotron screen in the old stadium … and Dusty is talking to me about hitting, and he’s looking me in the eyes, and I’m going crazy. I’m doing everything I can. I’m doing well. Get off me. He’s asking more of me. And I needed that, but I didn’t know I needed that. So I’m looking at him, and I look past him, I look around his head, and I look up and I’m hitting .330, and here he is, giving me hitting tips, in the middle of the game, before my at-bat.
And you know what? At the time, I was frustrated with it, and I was angry, but he was absolutely right.
Ryan Zimmerman: So many managers now are terrified of getting fired and are basically being told what to do from the top. It’s fun to play for a manager that remembers the game.
Source: Rustin Dodd and Brittany Ghiroli , The Athletic