Dusty Baker was pretty low key this offseason, enjoying the fruits of his labor. Years of resilience and brilliance that culminated with the 73-year-old MLBbro manager’s first World Series Championship.
The Astros made sure that they secured Baker for at least one more season, giving him an opportunity to become the first Black manager to go back-to-back since Cito Gaston led the Blue Jays to such heights in 1992-93.
Houston Astros Change General Managers Late In Offseason
Despite the team’s dominating success since Baker’s arrival in 2020, Astros GM James Click wasn’t rewarded for the World Series. Salary differences and a “philosophical rift” with owner Jim Crane led to the organization parting ways with the 45-year-old talented executive. That fracture led to the ascension of Dana Brown, giving the Astros an All-Bro show as the only team in MLB with a Black manager and general manager.
Dana Brown Becomes Second Black General Manager Of Astros | Former Braves Exec Follows Path Of Bob Watson In Houston #MLBbro
💻: https://t.co/hWVGnh0u4U pic.twitter.com/rKI5kR21Jd
— MLBbro.com (@MLBbrodotcom) January 28, 2023
The change of leadership wasn’t as smooth a transition as the team probably hoped, which led to an unproductive offseason. The Astros are loaded and have MLBbro Michael Brantley back and healthy, but is Dusty confident that the team he is forming this season can repeat as champs?
Baker would have loved to add a veteran arm to replace future Hall of famer Justin Verlander who jetted to the Big Apple, inking a two-year deal with the Mets.
Here’s what Mr. 2000 had to say on Thursday when asked whether the Astros considered pursuing a quality starter over the winter (via Chandler Rome):
“You got to ask the powers that be. I got the power, but not the authority. That was always a consideration for me … We didn’t have a general manager in place in order to make that move.”
Brown didn’t get hired until late January and by then the fee agent cupboard was bare as teams had already ravaged the high-end pitching and position players.
Dusty Has To Master Bullpen To Win
The Astros have been able to withstand stretches where they lacked an ace starter. Baker’s experience, and acumen and array of international arms has allowed the oldschooler to piece together games in the way that modern ball teams maneuver pitching to secure wins these days. He also managed the aging Verlander well, limiting him to a certain number of innings.
The repeat is always harder than the first championship. Personnel and chemistry changes are inevitable. Some players will let down or have off seasons. Unexpected injuries occur. The addition of Jose Abreu should help. But will every move Dusty makes play out like a perfect movie script as it did in 2022? Will rookie Alex Pena continue to ascend or hit a sophomore wall? Will stalwarts Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman show any signs of aging or decline?
Can Dusty Baker’s Boyz Produce Another World Series Championship?
There are many questions to be answered, and you would think that finding an adequate replacement for Verlander as the stopper of the staff, would be first priority. Every championship squad (usually) needs a guy you hand the ball to stop a losing streak. Framber Valdez and Cristian Javier will naturally be stepping into larger roles. The first move general manager Dana Brown made with the Astros was to extend Cristian Javier. The five-year, $64 million deal could end up being a steal if Javier continues his current trajectory.
Baker seems to be slightly concerned, but confident that his roster is deep and talented enough to overcome any lack of star power. We’ll see come October. With improvements around the league, Baker will have to produce another career-performance from the bench. In 2022, enroute to his first World Series championship, just eight total pitchers made starts for Baker and pitching coach Josh Miller, and just seven made more than two.
Baker will have no shortage of decisions to make throughout the 162-game season as the Astros, fresh off a “clean” World Series title, go into this campaign as the hunted. And maybe a bit shorthanded.