Sun. Jul 14th, 2024

Dusty Baker is retiring, the longtime manager tells Bob Nightengale of USA Today. According to Nightengale, the 74-year-old informed Houston owner Jim Crane of his decision in a meeting Tuesday. The Astros have scheduled a news conference for Thursday afternoon to make the official announcement.

“I’m very grateful and thankful to Jim Crane and the Houston Astros for giving me this opportunity, and to win a championship,” Baker told Nightengale. “I felt like they’ve been good for me, and I’ve been good for them. What I really appreciate is that Jim has been totally honest and transparent with me on all things.”

The news doesn’t come as any kind of surprise. Chandler Rome and Britt Ghiroli of The Athletic reported in the immediate aftermath of Houston’s elimination in the ALCS that Baker had been telling those close to him he planned to move on. Baker confirmed to Nightengale that he has known for some time that he was stepping away after this season. While he no longer wants the daily grind of managerial work, Baker told Nightengale he was hopeful of landing an advisory position with an organization to remain in the game in some capacity.

It’s the conclusion of what’ll almost certainly be a Hall of Fame career. After concluding a near 20-year MLB playing career, Baker made the jump to managing. He took over the Giants in 1993, guiding the team to 103 wins in his first season. That still left them just shy of the postseason, and a trio of subsequent losing campaigns meant Baker didn’t get his initial playoff appearance until 1997. Baker made the postseason three times in San Francisco, highlighted by a trip to the World Series in 2002.

After the decade-long run in the Bay Area, Baker moved on to the Cubs. He guided Chicago to the NLCS in his first season, although that’d be his only playoff appearance in four years. Baker led the Reds from 2008-13, winning a pair of NL Central titles. After two years away from the game, he returned to the dugout in Washington. Baker led the Nationals from 2016-17 before being dismissed and replaced by Dave Martinez.

That appeared as if it could be the end of Baker’s lengthy career. He was away from the game for consecutive seasons. Once the Astros’ sign-stealing scheme was revealed, Houston fired A.J. Hinch early in 2020. The Astros sought a veteran manager to navigate the fallout of the scandal, tabbing Baker in late January.

The tenure started slowly, as Houston went just 29-31 in the shortened regular season. That was enough to qualify for the expanded postseason, however, and the Astros clicked in October. They made the ALCS, an achievement they’d repeat in all four of Baker’s seasons at the helm. Their sluggish regular season of 2020 wasn’t a factor in any of the subsequent full schedules, as Houston topped 90 wins and claimed division titles every season from 2021-23.

The Astros advanced to the World Series in 2021, dropping a six-game set against the Braves. They repeated as AL champions after a 106-win season a year ago. Houston carried that dominance into the postseason, sweeping the Mariners and Yankees to set up a Fall Classic matchup with the Phillies. They won the series in six games, securing the franchise’s second championship. It was the final box for Baker personally, marking his first title. The club fell just shy of a third straight pennant, but it marked the 12th playoff appearance of his career.

The Astros have gone 320-226 (58.6% win percentage) since the start of 2020. Baker’s clubs have won 54% of their regular-season contests over his 26-year career. His 2,183 victories rank seventh in major league history. Aside from Baker, Bruce Bochy and Terry Francona — all of whom have remained active through this year — everyone in the top 14 on the wins leaderboard has been enshrined in the Hall of Fame. MLBTR congratulates Baker on an illustrious career and wishes him all the best in retirement.

Houston becomes the fifth team with a managerial vacancy. The Guardians, Mets and Angels all fired their skippers, while Bob Melvin departed the Padres to join the division-rival Giants. Craig Counsell has considered various opportunities as his contract with the Brewers expires, leaving a sixth team with some amount of uncertainty.

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