When manager A.J. Hinch was fired, it left a glaring hole in the clubhouse. John Gibbons, Dusty Baker, Bruce Bochy, Buck Showalter, and Will Veneble are just a few of the names that have been mentioned to replace him. Of these five, Dusty Baker and John Gibbons have had interviews with the club. If I had to choose one of the two I would choose Gibbons by a long shot over Baker. Baker makes poor decisions, he doesn’t seem to embrace analytics and worst of all, he has been unsuccessful in the stat that matters the most, World Series Championships.
According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Baker claimed to be into analytics before it was around.
“If other teams called up an unknown player from the minors, Baker had to call a coach on the farm to get a scouting report.”
Baker might claim to believe in analytics, but a 2013 article by Ben Lindbergh of Baseball Prospectus claimed Baker was fired by the Reds in part because he made stupid decisions and didn’t follow analytics.
“Replacing Baker with someone who won’t make the obvious mistake could be the easiest, cheapest way for the Reds to get better, even if it means swallowing his salary for 2014. The only reason for another team to hire Baker is if its brain trust believes his interpersonal skills are so superior to the next-most motivational manager’s that they would outweigh any wins his moves might subtract. “
Baker has managed four teams, the Giants, Cubs, Reds and the Nationals. He has been awarded manager of the year thrice. The Nationals of course hired Baker in 2017, but he lasted only one year. His bench coach replaced him and then led the Nationals to the World Series this year, despite losing Bryce Harper. Baker might have adapted his managing style since his time with the Reds and Nationals, but we won’t know any of that unless he gets hired. I’m not willing to take that gamble while this team is in win-now mode.
Baker is a proven regular-season winner, but in 22 seasons he won only one NL pennant and has never won a World Series ring. Obviously it’s hard to get to the World Series, but despite managing perennial playoff teams, he’s never gotten a team over the hump as a manager. He’s known for regular and post-season collapses while managing the Giants, Cubs, and Reds. That includes the 2003 season when his Cubs were ahead in the NLCS 3-1.
Many of his post-season failures have been attributed to mishandling pitchers, such as Mark Prior in the 2003 NLCS, whom he kept in too long. Or Russ Ortiz, whom he removed too soon, thus costing the Giants the 2002 World Series in the view of many. With an aging staff and a farm that lacks MLB ready starters aside from Forrest Whitley, that would concern me.
There are reasons to like Baker. He has a sense of integrity. He’s a player’s manager, and he has an overall winning record as a manager for over 20 seasons. His motivational style may be something this team needs. He might have almost everything the Astros want. He’s even credited for inventing the high-five.
However, Baker can’t manage when it counts, doesn’t know when to remove pitchers, and doesn’t consistently make smart decisions. Out of the list of managers that’s been discussed, almost all of the guys can do at least one of those better than Baker can.