HOUSTON – Jim Crane vowed to do a thorough search for his new manager and, after 16 days and nine interviews, the last man standing is Dusty Baker.
Baker, 70, still has the drive and passion to win at a high level. He’s won nearly 19,000 games as manager over a span of 22 years, but the postseason has been his issue. Good teams and early exits have followed him, but now he will manage the most talented team he has ever had. The Astros are a world series caliber team once again and Baker has a shot at finally checking that box after a what has been a good managerial run with the Giants, Cubs, Reds and most recently the Washington Nationals.
Up to now, Crane has been the voice but that will change as he hands those duties to Baker.
Baker has been in tough situations before, particularly in San Francisco where he spent ten years in all, including the steroid saga tied to Giants slugger Barry Bonds. He’s the trusting, calm voice that the Astros need now and in the months ahead.
In just a few days Baker and the Astros will officially open camp. So what will the priorities be for Baker when he takes the reigns today at Minute Maid Park?
Build his staff:
Baker will inherit most of the staff and already there are reports that Joe Espada will stay on and serve as Baker’s bench coach. His analytics expertise will be vital in the transition Baker will face. Espada is a genius in that area, and the Astros success should continue. Behind the scenes, nobody knows what Crane laid out with regards to the coaching staff. The group is deep and it would be wise to keep it intact especially in the pitching department, where Brent Strom has led his talented group. He’s trusted by the hurlers and that goes a long way considering all of the turmoil this team has dealt with the past two weeks and what is still to come.
Bonding with team leaders:
He has been in the game for a long time, so Baker knows what it takes to gain their trust and have their backs from day one. It is important that players such as Altuve, Bregman, Correa and Springer connect with Baker. That will take some time but six weeks at spring training will go a long way towards accomplishing that.
Next for Crane will be to hire a new General Manager and that person will need to connect with Baker as well. Baker’s deal is for one year with an option in 2021, which seems to be the right length to find out if he and the GM will be on board and to really find out if this baseball marriage is meant to be.
Soon, the sounds of baseball return as the guys arrive in West Palm Beach to begin their push to the regular season. A season that will certainly be a challenge with the amount of criticism that will be coming their way.
For now, get those toothpicks ready. Dusty Baker is coming to town!