By Dr. Fred J. Cromartie |
A legend in baseball as both a player and manager, Johnnie B. “Dusty” Baker is the only 3-time Major League Baseball Manager of the Year, a former All-Star as a player, and a former Marine. Dusty Baker stated that his success in life and baseball is deeply rooted in his life experiences.
According to writer David Steele: Fellow managers, former players and commentators have Baker’s name in constant conversation regarding the Hall of Fame. To get that conversation ignited though, it took getting hired by the Astros two years ago.
Steele also stated that even before the Astros called, Dusty’s credentials spoke highly of his candidacy. He is currently 12th in all-time in victories and of the 11 managers ahead of him, 10 are in the Hall and the other is Bruce Bochy.
Baker’s Astros won the American League West, America League Championship Series and are currently down 3-2 in the 2021 World Series against the Atlanta Braves. Additionally, as manager he lead the Reds to the NL Central title, and the San Francisco Giants and Chicago Cubs, winning the 2002 National League pennant with the Giants.
Drafted by the Atlanta Braves in the 26th round in the 1967 amateur draft out of Del Campo High School, Sacramento, Dusty Baker began his professional baseball career as an outfielder for the Braves in 1968. After spending 16 full seasons with the Braves, Los Angeles Dodgers, as well as a short tenure with the San Francisco Giants and Oakland Athletics, Baker finished his prosperous career as a player with .278 batting average, 242 home runs, and 1,013 runs batted in.
Baker’s coaching career started with his former Dodger arch-rival: the San Francisco Giants. Baker began his coaching career as a first base coach for the Giants in 1988, and then spent the following four years (1989-1992) as the hitting coach before taking over as manager in 1993. In his very first year as Giants manager, he won the N.L. Manager of the Year award, leading the team to a 103-59 record, which was the second-best record in baseball that year (behind the 104-58 Atlanta Braves). His Giants went on to win division titles in 1997 and again in 2000 after which Baker was honored as Manager of the Year for both years. In 2002 the Giants gained the Wild-Card berth and from there advanced to the World Series where they lost in seven games to the Anaheim Angels.
In 2003 Baker left the Giants to join the Chicago Cubs, where he made a major impact in his first season as manager. With the help of an impressive pitching staff and big gun batters such as Sammy Sosa and Moises Alou, the Chicago Cubs were able to claim their first divisional title in over a decade.
In 2004, the team was involved in a heated wild card chase with the Houston Astros but fell out of contention near the season’s end. In the subsequent season, the Cubs lost several of their key players, most notably ace pitchers Mark Prior and Kerry Wood, to injuries. The team finished the season with a 79-83 record, marking the first time in three years that the Cubs finished with a losing record. Baker left the Cubs following their 2006 season.
Cooperstown Credibility: Dusty Baker (24 seasons as MLB manager)
- Giants (1993-2002), Cubs (2003-06), Reds (2008-13), Nationals (2016-17), Astros (2020-2021)
- 1,987-1,734 (.534) regular-season record; 2,025 total wins (including postseason)
- 1,987 regular-season wins are 12th most all-time
- Career: 253 games above .500; 18th best in MLB history since 1901
- Led teams to 11 playoff appearances, tied for 4th most in MLB history (behind Cox, Torre, La Russa)
- Won 90 or more games in 11 of his 24 seasons
- Won 95 or more games in 7 of his 24 seasons
- 3-time manager of the year (1993, 1997, and 2000)
- As a player: .278 BA, 242 HR, 1,013 RBI, 37.0 WAR in 19 MLB seasons
If and when Dusty Baker is inducted in the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame, he will be the first African-American manager to earn that honor. Let us hope that the Astros can help get him closer to the Hall as 2021 World Series Champions.
Dr. Cromartie is the Director of Doctoral Studies at the United States Sports Academy.