BaseballRegional Sports

World Series championship would complete Baker’s career

Photo: Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle

Count me in for rooting for the Houston Astros to win the World Series. I got nothing to be ashamed of.

It has nothing to do with the Astros’ redemption after baseball wonks viewed their championship a few years ago as tainted. As everyone recalls, they used illegal sign-stealing tactics through technology to win games during the 2017 and 2018 seasons. In both seasons, they went to the World Series. They won the World Series in 2017.

It’s about Houston Astros manager Dusty Baker. He deserves a World Series championship for the work he has done as a manager for five franchises and for what he has meant to the game. He should be everyone’s sentimental choice to root for in this year’s World Series. Not only does he deserve a championship, but he should be in the Baseball’s Hall of Fame.

Baker has always been a great manager. 1987 wins say it all right there. 24 years of managerial service tell the story. Two World Series appearances and 11 playoff appearances should be enough said. No manager achieves those accomplishments for nothing.

But in professional sports, a manager, a coach or a player is judged by championships. That’s just the lay of the land as Islanders head coach Barry Trotz would say. Baker knows he needs a championship for anyone to validate his managerial career in the world of hot takes and sports debates. He dealt with critics talking about him not winning games that matter in the playoffs for a long time.

Baker was the right guy for the Astros at the right time. The team was reeling with the cheating scandal hovering around them. They needed a manager who can help them navigate through a rough road, and Baker knows how to manage players through a regular-season grind. He earned the respect of Major League players a long time ago for his accomplishments. With the Astros being heckled at every ballpark, he was there for the players to help them get through it.

Don’t let the perception of him being a player’s manager fool you into thinking he can’t manage during games. That’s far from the truth. He has a good feel of putting players in a position to succeed when it comes to utilizing his 25-man roster. He knows when to take the starters out when it’s really time rather than rely on analytic nonsense. He even lets the starters go deep in games. Look what he did in letting Framber Valdez throw eight innings against the Boston Red Sox in Game 5 of the American League Championship Series last week.

In a sport now where managers don’t really manage because of general managers getting more involved by having them use analytics, it’s another reason to root for Baker to win it all. He manages his way by using his gut in trusting his players rather than use a guy for matchup reasons. Yes, he does use his bosses’ input in using players, but this has been his show all the way.

Baker deserves credit for rallying the Astros when the Red Sox took a 2-1 series lead against them in the ALCS. It could have been easy for them to be discouraged after the way the Red Sox hit the baseball at Fenway. But there’s where leadership matters. He knew how to get through with his players and help lead the way by not letting Game 3 get to them. He had his team on track to win the final two games at Fenway to help pave the way to clinch Game 6 at Minute Maid Park on Friday night.

This is as good as it gets for him. If he doesn’t win it all this year, it may not be meant to be for him. That would be wrong. That would be a travesty. He deserves a championship after all the heartbreaking losses he had as a manager, particularly Game 6 of the World Series, in which the Giants blew a 5-0 lead and took a 6-5 loss to the Anaheim Angels that extended the World Series to seven games. In the end, the Angels won the World Series by taking a 4-1 victory over the Giants in Game 7.

Fair or not, that Game 6 loss symbolized Baker’s career. He was criticized for taking Russ Ortiz out with a 5-0 lead in the seventh after giving up back-to-back singles. The Angels struggled to hit Ortiz for most of the game, but Baker panicked thinking the Angels got to him. This is so wrong that people think of Baker that way.

The only way Baker can erase all that is to win the World Series. This is why I have a rooting interest in this World Series. I want to see baseball remember him positively, and it comes from winning a championship.

If there is justice, the baseball gods will shine on this baseball lifer in this year’s World Series.

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