Thursday, January 30, 2020

Thursday Morning Hot Links

My kingdom for Jim Crane to come and introduce the new Astros manager as "Busty Daker." Dusty Baker is the 24th manager in Astros' history (Baker is currently one game behind Salty Parker in "Career Astros Games Managed". By the end of May, Baker will rank 19th in Games Managed in Astros History. He signed a 1-year guaranteed deal with a club option or a buyout. Jim Crane:
He's a winner, and more importantly, a strong leader who has earned the respect of not only his players, but of virtually everyone that he has touched in baseball.

Whether you believe Jim Crane or not, the hiring of Dusty Baker is about regaining legitimacy.

I'm extremely thankful for this opportunity. This is a great ballclub with outstanding players that know how to win. I applaud Jim Crane for the leadership he has shown in recent weeks and look forward to working with him and the players to bring a championship to the city of Houston. 

Dusty Baker is just 137 wins from becoming the 12th manager to reach 2,000 wins. With this roster, he could do it by September.

As I mentioned on Twitter, and on the Lima Time Time live show on Tuesday night, there is a certain perspective in which Dusty Baker makes sense:

1. They need someone who is well-respected (by the media and General Baseball People, anyway - your complaints were heard loud and clear)...
2. They need someone who has managed in a variety of situations...
3. They need someone who can handle A Circus.

Dusty Baker checks all of those boxes. He managed Barry Bonds for ten years, including Bonds' 2001 73HR season. He has managed in nine separate postseasons, won 95+ games six times, and 103 games once (in his rookie managerial year, when the Giants famously won that many games and didn't even get into the postseason). Baker has managed in San Francisco, Chicago, and Washington, so he has dealt with Bonds, Prior/Wood, Harper, Scherzer, etc. Would I have been equally fine with Buck Showalter? Maybe! Do I wish Espada had gotten the job? Sure!

But this is an extraordinary time for the Astros. They're coming off one of the biggest scandals in recent baseball memory (however common it may have been throughout literally all of baseball history). It's certainly the largest baseball scandal of the Twitter Era, which makes it that much more insufferable. And the fact that Yankee and Dodger Fan is the most aggrieved, it's just a God-awful time. If you're enjoying this era of Astros Baseball, well, you're a psychopath. Every city to which the Astros travel is going to be that city's sports story of the day...Kind of like Bonds was in 2001. Baker managed through that and made it to Game 7 of the World Series in 2002....when the Giants had a 3-2 lead before losing both Games 6 & 7 to Anaheim (and, to be fair, both of those games were in Anaheim).

Columnists across [puts hand across forehead] the land are going to love it because their hand-wringing, and bringing blood out of a turnip, will easily provide that week's Column. But then they have to deal with Dusty Baker, whom pretty much everyone loves except for you, who gets their narrative from FanGraphs. Their hearts will melt. It's an organizational rehab assignment, for a year, and the best-case scenario is that the Astros (and by that I of course mean Us) and Dusty Baker gets their ring in 2020. Winning a World Series like this, in this year, with this much hate, would be delicious, and the scrutiny would cleanse it. Yankee and Dodger Fan would move the goalposts, to be sure. But it would be sweeter than the first (I think).

And for everyone who busts on Baker's postseason record, let's look at it more closely:

1997: Lost in the NLDS 3-0 to the eventual WS Champion Marlins.
2000: Lost in the NLDS 3-1 to the eventual NL Pennant-Winning Mets. Two of those games went to extra innings.
2002: Lost in the World Series 4-3 to Anaheim
2003: Lost in the NLCS 4-3 to the eventual WS Champion Marlins. This is the Bartman series.
2010: Lost in the NLDS 3-0 to Philadelphia. Roy Halladay threw a no-hitter in Game 1. Cole Hamels threw a CGSHO in Game 3.
2012: Lost in the NLDS 3-0 to the eventual WS Champion Giants
2013: Lost in the Wild Card Game to the [squints] Pirates
2016: Lost in the NLDS 3-2 to the Dodgers, who won the Pennant in 2017...
2017: Lost in the NLDS 3-2 to the Cubs, who won the World Series in 2016. Max Scherzer allowed four runs in the 5th Inning of Game 5.

Five-game series are a crapshoot. We almost got to see that firsthand in 2019 against Tampa. Anyhow, Dusty Baker's record in postseason games when facing elimination is 5-9. A.J. Hinch's record in postseason games when facing elimination was 7-3 (I'm willing to admit my math could be fuzzy here). But I'm not busting on A.J. Hinch! Hinch is/was the greatest manager in Astros history, and I'm sad that he's gone, I wish he would come back! I wish he hadn't been fired!

Anyhow, no matter how you feel about it, the 2020 Astros, who won 107 games in 2019 and lost the World Series by going 0-4 at home - something that HAS NEVER HAPPENED BEFORE IN PROFESSIONAL SPORTS HISTORY I THINK - but is returning every major player except for Gerrit Cole and Robinson Chirinos. Expect a dip, but I - literally me - could absolutely manage this team to 90 wins. They're that good. Now they have Dusty Baker, who will have Joe Espada as his Bench Coach, to help out.

We're in a spot where we've had some unfortunate things happen and we've owned up to it. We need a strong leader that's been in a lot of different situations and has experience.

Chandler Rome: Dusty Baker gives the Astros a stabilizing presence. Rome:
The team is sullied by scandal but still set to contend for a title. Its image and reputation remain in ruins. Players will endure eight months of invective from opposing crowds and players. Baker arrives as a slice of serenity amid acrimony, a man who Crane hopes can galvanize an Astros clubhouse still searching for a way forward.

Rome talked to Ralph Garr: Houstonian, 1974 NL Batting Champ, and former teammate of Dusty:
He's the right man for the job. It's not going to be easy for those players. They're going to have to have somebody to lean on. He knows how to treat people, and he cares about his players. He can make adjustments, and he can help the Astros stay competitive.

The press conference to introduce Baker will be at 2pm Central.

Check out Dave Sheinin's 2016 profile of Dusty Baker. It's worth your time.

Inside Dusty Baker's life in baseball. Jerome Solomon says it's a good hire. So does Lance Berkman, if "Lance" "Berkman" is your cup of tea.  Buster Olney says "there's no better choice" than Dusty Baker to Houston. The Athletic's Britt Ghiroli has an excellent piece about what Dusty could mean for Houston, and what Houston could mean for Dusty.

If Dusty's the manager, Houston got better.
-Nationals GM Mike Rizzo.

Dusty Baker will manage the AL All-Star Dodger Stadium...against Washington's Dave Martinez. Should the 2020 Astros make the postseason he'll be the first manager to take five different teams to the postseason.

Ken Rosenthal notes that you can expect Baker to hire Chris Speier, who has been on a number of his staffs.

Predictably, Jon Heyman isn't a fan the Astros told the other candidates.

*Anyway, other stuff:

Astros Fan Tony Adams listened to every single freaking pitch from the 2017 Astros season to try to detect trash-can banging and built a website based on what he found. It's impressive, and you should give it a look. Check out The Athletic's Marc Carig, on Tony's story.

Tampa Bay's VP of Baseball Operations James Click interviewed for the vacant GM gig on Wednesday. Kansas City's Director of Pro Scouting Gene Watson has also interviewed for the GM spot. So has MLB Senior VP Peter Woodfork.

Woodfork was mentioned in an early-December 2019 Bob Nightengale column wondering why people of color were getting left out of GM interviews.

*The Astros win the prestigious Offseason Best Outfield In The AL West Award from

* predicted the 2020 Astros' rotation would go Verlander-Greinke-McCullers-Urquidy-Peacock.

*The Astros have just one player - Forrest Whitley - on the MLB Pipeline Top 100 Prospects list for the first time since 2012. But Bregs, Yordan, and Kyle Tucker are still awfully young so...

*Former Astros Great Gregorio Petit will be Corpus' manager, his first stint at the head of a team. Former Astros Great Wladimir Sutil will manage a team for the first time, at Tri-City.

*Former Astros Great Scott Kazmir is attempting a comeback.

*The Hardball Times' Chris Bouton: To Forgive Is Baseball - Armando Galarraga and Jim Joyce.

*This small crew makes every Super Bowl football by hand.

*NPR: The thinking behind China's Quarantines and (Illegal) Village Blockades.

*A Musical Selection: