After all the bad decisions made by the Astros, hiring Dusty Baker was a brilliant decision for the scandal-ridden franchise.
But if they are stupid enough to let him go when this playoff race is over, the Mets should call Baker as soon as possible after the final.
Baker’s contract expires at the end of the World Series, and the Astros — whether they win a ring or not — could decide whether the chapter on damage control in their cheating saga is now closed.
After firing AJ Hinch as manager, they gave Baker a one-year deal for the 2020 season and then took his opportunity, what they probably reckoned was enough time to quiet the echoes from the pounding bins.
The calculation to sign up for Baker in the first place was simple. What was more sensible than the most hated team in America tapping on one of baseball’s most beloved personalities to navigate them through a poisonous wilderness?
On that sunny day in February 2020, when the Astros finally hosted a press conference at their West Palm Beach complex to (presumably) show remorse for their cheating ways, the normally lovable Baker looked like a glum hostage among the culprits. My feeling back then was that if anyone could pull this off, it was Baker, now a 72-year-old baseball lifter who had previously managed four teams and who had guided each of them to the playoffs at least once.
And while pandemic shutdown shielded the Astros from vengeful highways in 2020 because there were no fans in the stands, Baker was instrumental in weathering the enemy avalanche from the jump and lent his credibility to a franchise that had wiped out its own.
Along the way, Baker helped steer a deeply talented Astros team to a couple of playoff spots and reached within a Game 7 loss (to the Rays) in the World Series last season before reaching the Fall Classic by beating the Red Sox in six games this year .
After Friday night’s 5-0 victory in Game 6 of the American League Championship Series, Baker was asked what it was like to get the reins on a disgraced team and overcome so much baggage to get to the brink of a championship. He actually made some comparisons to his own personal struggles and defied perceptions throughout his career.
“When I got to different jobs, I heard the most criticism,” Baker said Friday night. “You did not do this or you are not good at it. You do not know how to use your bullpen or you do not like young players. I have heard a whole lot of things. Most are not free, you know, What do I mean? As African Americans, they often do not really say that you are of a certain intelligence, it is not something we usually get, and I have therefore heard a lot about this most of my life.
“It just depends on how I feel about myself, how they feel about me, and how the Lord feels about me. And as I tell these guys, you have nothing to prove or show anyone. The only units, you have to satisfy is God, family and yourself, and then the other people can see you later. “
We bring Baker up compared to the Mets for a few reasons. While Steve Cohen’s $ 2.5 billion new toy does not dig out of the sport’s worst cheating episode, they have some demons to chase away, from front-office dysfunction to a clubhouse that could benefit from an infusion of responsibility.
I have always said that managing the Mets is among the toughest jobs in professional sports. Even with Wilpons’ interference now out of the equation — Jeff Wilpon was a nocturnal postgame guest in the manager’s office — Cohen’s Twitter presence is a wild card that further raises the temperature of a concert that already comes with a glowing spotlight. You will also be marked with the Mets’ continued tale of dark comic failure, immortalized by the world’s media capital.
That is why some of the beginners chew and spit out regularly. Mickey Callaway had a number of underlying issues that were not uncovered until he was gone, but his little market mentality helped judge him. In the end, the job was too big for the inexperienced Luis Rojas, who was suddenly thrown into the role a few years too early after Carlos Beltran’s January firing, which also stemmed from the Astros’ cheating scandal.
The next Mets manager needs some gravitas, a reason to be automatically respected in the clubhouse, with a charismatic presence that can solve problems directly in the public arena. Despite the diminished perception of leaders throughout the 21st century, this should not apply to the Mets, who would greatly benefit from a Baker or Buck Showalter in that chair.
Throughout his Astros tenure, Baker has been praised for his ability to both advise players and communicate with the front office. The most successful leaders are able to direct the credit to the players in the good times and divert the balls when things go badly.
“When you can identify with the people you’re with, no matter what age they are, you know it’s easier to get together and identify the struggles they’re going through,” Baker said. “I feel very lucky to have this group of guys and be in this position to possibly win the World Series.”
The Mets have a lot of work to do this out of season. It is clear that their re-branding efforts under Cohen are far from complete. And if Baker becomes a free agent, he’s the kind of proven narrative changer who could perform his magic in Flushing.
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