Good guy Dusty Baker guides reviled Houston Astros into ALCS

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Houston Astros manager Dusty Baker Jr. signals as he walks to the mound to change pitchers during the fourth inning of a baseball game against the Texas Rangers in Arlington, Texas, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020. (AP Photo/Roger Steinman)

LOS ANGELES – If there’s a universally recognized good guy among the generally reviled Houston Astros, it’s Dusty Baker.

At 71, he’s the first manager to lead five different franchises to the postseason, but is still chasing his first World Series title at the helm. The Astros have advanced to their fourth consecutive AL Championship Series, beating the Oakland Athletics in four games.

Next up, starting Sunday in San Diego, is either the New York Yankees or Tampa Bay Rays with a berth in the World Series at stake.

If the Astros get that far, Baker would have a shot at being the second Black manager to win a World Series, joining Cito Gaston. He would also be the second oldest to win behind 72-year-old Jack McKeon.

While the Astros remain villains in many people’s eyes for their sign-stealing scandal of three years ago, few begrudge the grandfatherly Baker. He's been careful to protect his health during the coronavirus pandemic, wearing a mask and gloves. He eats oatmeal for breakfast.

“I was really stoked to get a guy like him,” Astros outfielder Josh Reddick said. “I heard nothing but great things about him. His stories are fantastic; he’s got a lot of old-timey stories.”

The Astros won the ALDS at neutral-site Dodger Stadium, Baker's old stomping ground. He was traded to the Dodgers from the Atlanta Braves in 1976 and endured a rough first season filled with boos.

“That's why I don't read any articles on me to this day,” Baker said. “I learned when I was with the Dodgers that first year, why should other people control my self-esteem?”