Lost in the detritus of the week is the very bizarre and very delightful hiring of Dusty Baker as the new manager for the New Evil Empire. Even the picture of him on the Astros’ own Twitter feed says volumes about the team’s existential crisis.
Houston was a longtime irrelevance in Major League Baseball, that is until they embraced analytics, then cold McKinseyesque thinking, then trash receptacles. They did good on the first, but the second and third ended up backfiring even in victory, and now with soot-stained eyes they send out a photo of Baker smiling under a golf hat and over a caption that reads, “Mornin’, y’all.” It’s as if he is saying with his eyes, “I know why I’m here. You know why I’m here. But I’m here, and ain’t a damn thing you can do about it.” And it’s as if the Astros are saying, “We would never have thought of this if we didn’t need to be less, you know, repellent.”
Baker is here to play Doctor Feelgood after the Jeff Luhnow Astros went full heel turn and did it so well that even owner Jim Crane recoiled in ass-covering horror at what his Borg collective had done in his name. Luhnow is now fully disgraced, for countenancing cheating and offending his contemporaries just bybeing him, and Baker is here to clean the town up before the Astros figure they’ve atoned enough.
He won’t be taking phone calls from the next general manager during games. He won’t give out mathematical equations as answers. He will restore the manager’s office to a place where information and entertaining stories are imparted with equal facility. Hell, he might fix baseball’s problems with Congress over the plan to gut the minor leagues on an off-day in Milwaukee. He is Johnnie B. Fix-It, come to save baseball from itself, one self-inflicted wound at a time.
The Astros’ players will still determine the team’s success or failure, but the spectre of galvanized metal will be a distant memory. That is, unless the Astros stink, in which case the town will demand more and better cheating. After all, we like the rules as long as they don’t get in the way of the stuff we want.
But the thing about Baker’s hiring this time is that it wasn’t derided the way the Twitter snot brigade has invested itself in previous Baker hirings. Everyone seems to have recognized that Baker is needed in Houston because of the damage the Astros did to themselves, and even the idiotic myths attached to his managing style by his ham-faced detractors have been largely dismissed because he is quite frankly the best guy for this particular job.
The hiring came during a Super Bowl week which was actually a week devoted to mourning Kobe Bryant and the other eight victims of Sunday’s helicopter wreck, so it went largely unnoticed. But it happened all the same and reminds us all that managing is and has always been more about handling people than readouts, talking to people’s faces rather than their Slack channels. The Astros needed a human touch after the cyborgs fluffed their chance, and that not only works against the team’s internal type but against the run of play in modern baseball.
But it’s an experiment worth the testing, because baseball has been trying the same robotic solution with every team’s organizational chart for a decade now, and some jobs just aren’t to be done by the robots. This is one of them.
Ray Ratto prefers the St. Louis Browns, as should we all.
Jeremy’s Iron says:
I’m not a commentator by nature, but so help me Jesus I’m going to do everything in my power to drive traffic to this site, so I’ll ask a question.
What the duck is going on with Nolan Arenado?
February 1, 2020 — 3:49 pm
The Rockies, like the Cubs with Kris Bryant, are experimenting with the bold question: “What if we had fewer good players?!”
February 1, 2020 — 3:52 pm
Dusty Baker Will Save Baseball says:
See also: Red Sox, Mookie Betts
February 1, 2020 — 7:12 pm
The obvious and wonderful answer – in ownership’s eyes, at least – is “we’ll have such a low payroll!”
February 1, 2020 — 11:01 pm
Alex King says:
Which goes along with: these rubes will cheer for us losing on purpose while turning massive profits!
February 2, 2020 — 10:34 am
Tastefully Striped Polo says:
I had to google who Nolan Arenado was. Deadspin was how I learned about non-football sports and now I am no longer a sports-knower when my friends talk about baseball or hucky. That’s all I got. I just miss Deadspin.
February 1, 2020 — 3:55 pm
God, so do I. The last time I went to that site was the day the resignations were public, and it was to buy a “Stick to Sports” shirt.
February 1, 2020 — 4:08 pm
i can say as a born and raised coloradoan, the rockie’s owners don’d want to pay good players to stick around it happens every time we get someone who is good they use them for a few years then trade them to save money on the pay roll.
February 2, 2020 — 5:21 am
February 1, 2020 — 4:07 pm
Fuck you buddy
February 1, 2020 — 7:23 pm
Fred Zeppelin says:
February 1, 2020 — 10:04 pm
Don't Mess says:
Can this blog just go on…forever? Please?
February 2, 2020 — 12:07 am
Alex King says:
February 2, 2020 — 10:35 am
Stevie Ray Palpatine says:
I regret that I only have but a single +1 to give to this sentiment.
I really miss Deadspin.
February 2, 2020 — 3:00 pm
What do the Rangers have to do with this story about the Houston baseball team?
February 2, 2020 — 1:39 am
The Rangers play in Oklahoma
February 2, 2020 — 4:18 pm
Jennifer Murdock says:
Two Ray Ratto articles in one day. I’m in heaven.
February 1, 2020 — 4:55 pm
Manna from sports heaven
February 1, 2020 — 5:13 pm
Ray Ratto articles that aren’t written for the Bay Area media just hit different
February 1, 2020 — 5:13 pm
I’d agree except for the fact he only has a one year deal. He’ll be a lame duck manager then be kicked to the curb and the Astros will go back to their shittiness..
February 1, 2020 — 5:45 pm
Oh my god please keep this an ongoing thing. I miss deadspin so freaking much!
February 1, 2020 — 6:51 pm
February 1, 2020 — 7:31 pm
Petey Phister says:
Should we start taking bets on when Verlander’s elbow falls off? I call August 18th.
February 1, 2020 — 7:36 pm
Fire Mike Schur says:
Solid take from 2003, man.
February 2, 2020 — 9:45 am
My cup runneth over.
February 1, 2020 — 8:00 pm
Some Spike Owen Wannabe says:
The easiest way to not get caught cheating at the World Series is to hire a manager who will make it impossible to make the World Series unless you have a steroid bloated Barry Bonds in the clubhouse.
February 1, 2020 — 8:57 pm
Captain Assholay says:
+1 cream & clear
February 2, 2020 — 6:01 am
I Appreciate the Legacy of the Deadspin HOF’s Inaugural Class On A Much Deeper Level Than You Do. says:
Dusty Baker invented the high five and he’s the only one to ever wear that kind of hat and not look stupid. Can’t manage a lick, but still. A man.
February 1, 2020 — 11:38 pm
Jon Lewis says:
Would love to see this thing keep going ?
February 2, 2020 — 12:21 am
It should kill the cheating because Dusty won’t abide a guy clogging up the bases just to steal signs.
February 2, 2020 — 8:46 am
If the Astros win this year they can go look, we did it with a manager who loses in the first round and not an over elaborate scheme to juice their numbers without juicing. Maybe they can find Drew Storen as well.
On the other hand, when they lose in the first round because it’s Dusty frickin Baker they look like they are being penitent but not totally tanking.
February 2, 2020 — 10:08 am
Quique Munners says:
I love how a bunch of people who couldn’t manage a T-ball team to a .500 record have jokes about Dusty Baker! Never change, Internet!
February 2, 2020 — 9:53 pm