‘Doesn’t surprise me that they win’: Dusty Baker talks Astros culture, future in first news conference as manager

The Astros signed Baker to a one-year agreement with an option in 2020 as the new manager Wednesday.
The Astros signed Baker to a one-year agreement with an option in 2020 as the new manager Wednesday. (KPRC)

HOUSTON – Managing the Houston Astros is like a return home for the newly-hired manager, Dusty Baker.

The 70-year-old veteran manager said he has been coming for years and has overcome some great battles in Houston. He nailed his first professional hit in the Astrodome in 1972, and many of his former players live in Houston and have welcomed him to the city.

“This is my last hurrah,” Baker said Thursday.

The Astros signed Baker to a one-year agreement with an option in 2021 as the new manager Wednesday, taking over for AJ Hinch who was fired in January just an hour after he was suspended for the season by the Major League Baseball for his role in Houston’s sign-stealing scandal.

Astros owner Jim Crane said he and Baker talked for three hours like they were old friends. Crane said it was clear that Baker wanted to help the Astros move past the scandal. Baker also had the credentials to match the passion.

“(I am) excited to be here and win,” Baker said. “This is my last chance to accomplish the goal."

Baker is expected to bring an old-school mentality and stern presence to a franchise reeling from the dismissal of Hinch, former general manager, Jeff Luhnow, and the $5 million fine levied by Major League Baseball.

He has 22 years of managerial experience, starting in 1993 with the San Francisco Giants, and is a three-time National League Manager of the Year. The last team he managed was the Washington Nationals in 2017.

If the Astros going to get back to the World Series championship, communication is the key, Baker said.

He said has to talk to the players, get to know them and make sure they stick together. He said they have to continue to love each other.

“I don’t really know them, other than a couple of guys, but it comes across the screen that this is a tight group of guys,” Baker said. “It doesn’t surprise me that they win.”

Baker said at some point he will address the sign-stealing scandal, noting he doesn’t know how many players on the current team were on the team in 2017.

“We’ll get to the bottom of it, flush it, forget it and go about what we have to do," Baker said. “My feelings haven’t changed as much as far as gamesmanship. At the same time, we have to go forward and make sure that it doesn’t happen again, not going to happen under my watch. I don’t see it happening ever again. It’s been an embarrassment for a lot of people.”

Crane said the team hopes to hire a general manager during Spring Training, which begins in 10 days. He said the team could promote from within or bring in someone new.

“We are all in the process of healing,” Baker said. “Fans rally around the team. Players love their fans here. When I watch the games on TV, these fans are really into it. When I was on the field, I didn’t like coming here because the fans were on their side.”

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