Baker's Contentious History With Media Bodes Poorly For Houston In 2020
Baker Has Experienced Several Run-Ins With Media Members
Generally, baseball folks have responded optimistically to Houston's hiring of Dusty Baker as the new manager, a positioned that opened after A.J. Hinch received a one year suspension from Major League Baseball. An investigation determined that the Astros used technology to cheat during the 2018 season, when Hinch guided the club to the first World Series Championship in franchise history.
Houston's front office obviously wanted a veteran manager, and Baker is certainly that. He has taken the helm of four different teams in his long career, a quartet that all made the postseason under Baker's reign.
In spite of becoming one of the winningest skippers in baseball history, Baker has several flaws in his legacy. The most obvious is his lack of success in the postseason, including the absence of even a single World Series Championship. He has reached the Fall Classic just once, the year his San Francisco Giants fell to the Los Angeles Angels.
Another criticism of Baker as manager, one that even his new boss pointed out the day he was hired, is his reluctance to embrace analytics. He has always preferred making decisions more from baseball instinct than from computer data.
These warts apparently did not, not should they, prevent the reigning American League Champs from selecting Baker as Hinch's successor. You see, Baker arrives with much deeper defects, which have tainted every organization for which he has been manager.
As skipper of the Giants, Baker oversaw (or overlooked) the alleged rampant use of steroids by a number of his players. The skinny young Barry Bonds who had spent his early career with the Pittsburgh Pirates did not become the huge muscles up mammoth that smashed home run records until he began to play under Baker in San Francisco. Dusty turned a blind eye to the cheating back then, so he is likely to take the same approach to his current group of cheating players.
Another problem Baker has caused in his stints has been with the media, which he views as no better than a nagging nuisance. Nowhere was this more evident than during his tenure with the Cubs, when he overreacted to the comments of a popular broadcaster.
Television commentator Steve Stone, a former Cy Young Award winner, expressed some concern about Baker's handling of the Cubs pitching staff. The Skipper was bothered by the criticism, so he backed outfielder Moises Alou when the latter publicly accused Stone and fellow broadcaster Chip Caray of being "too negative."
Stone was subsequently dismissed from doing Cubs games, switching to the North Side to call White Sox games with Ken Harrelson. Baker, too, was soon gone from Wrigley Field, moving a few hours east to take the helm in Cincinnati.
His regular season success continued with the Reds, but so did his trouble with the media. Baker alienated most Cincinnati reporters when, after Brandon Phillips verbally attacked beat writer C. Trent Rosencranz, the manager fully defended the player.
Houston will justifiably be under much scrutiny this year, which could become quite stressful for the oldest manager in baseball. Given Baker's confrontational history with home town broadcasters, Geoff Blum may again experience what happened to him back in 2017.
The Houston TV analyst was confronted by Astros coach Alex Cora, an incident that ended in a shouting match between the two men. With Baker working under a lot of pressure, he is likely to initiate a similar altercation if Blum continues to do the job he is being paid to do.