Perhaps Dusty Baker will wonder what his managerial career would have looked like had Jeremy Pena not gotten hot for 10 days last year. Maybe Game 5 against the Phillies flips, maybe Dusty faces another Game 7, another winner-take-all game to match the 2002 World Series, the 2003 NLCS, the 2012 NLDS, the 2017 NLDS.
But Dusty got his ring last year, and he’ll ride off into the sunset a beloved “baseball man.” Which is fair enough. Most everyone who has come across Baker has liked him. His former players tend to swear by him, and he’s always been available to the press, which doesn’t hurt how one is remembered.
Since Baker took over the Astros job in the wake of their cheating scandal, it’s been said that he gives the organization an air of credibility after they shot it to pieces in the previous years. Certainly Baker’s longevity speaks to credibility. Though a little closer look and skepticism might seep in. After all, he was Barry Bonds’s manager when his hat size doubled. He let the 2004 Cubs go into business for themselves all over the field, whether they were picking fights with the broadcasters or trying to pick fights by themselves with entire other teams or whatever they focused on, which certainly wasn’t winning enough games. When the Reds and Nats faceplanted, and they always did, it was rarely Baker’s fault, according to Baker.
But that’s ok now, even if his lineup choices in the ALCS, which was decided on a knife’s edge, were abstract to be polite. Three playoff appearances, two World Series and won one. Stick around long enough and everyone will assume and claim you were always great.
That’s the quirk about Baker’s managerial career, perhaps more than any other. His teams always won…just not enough. And when they fell short, he was usually a leading cause. But rarely do managers lead teams that win enough to try and try again. Especially with so many teams. Bobby Cox was just with one team. So has Dave Roberts.
Perhaps that’s the sting. Baker has maybe the most unique managerial career, and too many confuse unique with great. But that isn’t Baker’s problem. He’ll be in Cooperstown soon enough. That’s why it’s always best to save the best for last.
Let the Juan Soto watch begin
The Juan Soto rumors have started, with the Yankees apparently first through the door to meet with a salesman. Which did leave us this beauty from Bob Nightengale, and we need to cherish these before he goes back into hibernation for the winter:
Soto had a .893 OPS with the Padres, so whatever didn’t work didn’t have much to do with him. Who do you think will be first to criticize Soto’s upcoming $400 million contract that he’ll have more than earned? Be curious to know why that will be.
This will become the winter’s biggest story, as the Yankees shouldn’t be the only ones in the pool.
The crawling of the Bulls begins
-Sticking close to home, the Bulls’ season started because the NBA decreed they had to play it. Even though no one’s sure why, as everyone is very sure that it will be as close to pointless as can be. Nowhere near good enough to challenge, nowhere near bad enough to reset the whole team. How do you sum that up in one highlight?
This is why my father told me to take everything in rhythm in grade school. But then, the Bulls don’t really have a rhythm.
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