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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Monday, June 24, 2024

Extra Innings: This one's for Dusty


Almost everyone in America outside of Houston, Texas, wanted the Philadelphia Phillies to take down the Astros in the 2022 World Series. After all, the Phillies were the unquestioned underdogs of this story. They were the last team to clinch a spot in the playoff field at 87–75, were making their first postseason appearance since 2011 and no one expected them to make it to the Fall Classic. 

The Astros, on the other hand, were one of the preseason World Series favorites,  a prediction that seemed to increasingly play out as the season wore on. They registered the second-best record in baseball at 106–56, made their sixth consecutive American League Championship Series appearance and won their fourth American League pennant in that span. And of course, baseball fans everywhere hate the Astros for the infamous 2017 sign-stealing scandal. 

But for everyone who rooted against the Astros all of October, I’m asking you to set that aside for a moment and be happy for the man who deserves this title more than anyone else: Astros manager Dusty Baker. 

Dusty Baker has spent the better part of 50 years in baseball, both as a player and a manager. While he won the World Series as a player with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1981, until Saturday night, he had yet to win it as a manager. 

Baker’s managerial career has been remarkable. He ranks ninth all-time in wins, and the eight men in front of him are all in the Hall of Fame. Now a World Series champion and a three time pennant winner, he has a higher win percentage than legends like Tony La Russa, Joe Torre and Casey Stengel. 

But what made this win so sweet were all the close calls Baker has had in his career. The most painful was in 2002 when he took the San Francisco Giants to the World Series against the Anaheim Angels. In game 6, the Giants led 5–0 and were just eight outs away from a title. Their championship win probability was 98%. The Angels, however, came storming back, scoring three in the seventh and three in the eighth to force a game 7, which they would win to snatch the title from San Francisco. 

Almost as agonizing was the 2003 postseason. In his first season as manager of the Chicago Cubs, Baker led a team that had lost 95 games the year prior to a National League Central division title. In game 6 of the National League Championship Series against the Florida Marlins, the Cubs led 3–0 in the eighth and were five outs away from their first pennant in 58 years. But then, a fan named Steve Bartman appeared to interfere with left fielder Moisés Alou as he tried to catch a foul ball. A comedy of errors ensued for the Cubs as the Marlins scored eight runs in the inning and stunned the Cubs in game 6. Florida won game 7 and went on to defeat the New York Yankees in the World Series. 

More recently, Baker’s Washington Nationals were eliminated at home in game 5 of both the 2016 and 2017 division series. He led the Astros to the World Series last year as well, but they would fall to the Atlanta Braves. 

But now all that is behind him. After all his close calls, Baker finally got his well-deserved World Series ring in his 12th trip to the playoffs and third World Series appearance. He’s been a beloved manager everywhere he’s worked, including Houston, with Astros shortstop Jeremy Peña saying that “he brings the best out of his players.” In part, this may be because Baker is one of the few managers who can fluently speak Spanish, bringing language skills he learned in his playing days in Latin America to increasingly Hispanic MLB clubhouses.

Dusty Baker is not only a great manager, but he’s a great man. He’s been so close to this moment for so long and he deserves it more than anyone. So set aside your hatred for the Astros for just a minute, and be happy for this absolute icon of baseball.

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