Jaffe: Dusty Baker is a fascinating, counterintuitive choice to manage Astros

From SABR member Jay Jaffe at FanGraphs on January 30, 2020:

When commissioner Rob Manfred issued his report regarding the Astros’ illegal sign-stealing efforts and handed down one-year bans to both manager A.J. Hinch and president of baseball operations Jeff Luhnow, he also took aim at the culture within the Astros’ analytically-inclined organization, calling it “insular” and “problematic.” In desperate need of rebranding as they move forward, the Astros have taken the first step towards that end by hiring Dusty Baker to succeed Hinch — who, along with Luhnow, was fired by owner Jim Crane almost immediately after the report was released — as manager.

The choice of Baker certainly offers a contrast to the recent past, given the 70-year-old skipper’s old-school reputation, but that’s not to say it’s a bad one. At the helm of a team that will face constant scrutiny and considerable hostility, Baker’s strengths — many of which fall outside the realm of the quantifiable — include the respect he commands in the clubhouse and when dealing with the media, particularly amid controversy, all of which should serve him well. That said, he’s been positioned as an easy fall guy if things don’t go well. After all, the Astros came within one win of a championship last year, and they still have a strong roster despite the departure of free agent Gerrit Cole, so any outcome short of a trip to the World Series will represent a step backwards. The fact that he’s been hired before the team has replaced Luhnow sets up a potential clash down the road, in that the incoming general manager or president of baseball operations might prefer to hire their own manager. The length of Baker’s contract — one year plus a club option — spells that out explicitly.

Read the full article here: https://blogs.fangraphs.com/dusty-baker-is-a-fascinating-counterintuitive-choice-to-manage-astros/

Originally published: January 30, 2020. Last Updated: January 30, 2020.