The one good thing about the Astros returning to the World Series, which they’ll do after wrapping up the American League pennant with a 5-0 win over the Red Sox in Game 6 on Friday night, is that Dusty Baker will get his chance to finally manage his way to a World Series ring.
Dusty Baker does have a ring, from 40 years ago when he was the Dodgers’ All-Star left fielder. But he’s never won one as a manager, and 19 years after his last appearance in the Fall Classic as the Giants’ skipper, Baker is heading back.
In between, Baker has managed the Cubs to a division title and within a win of a pennant, and the Reds and Nationals to first-place finishes. Five of Baker’s last eight seasons have ended with his team winning their division, but he hasn’t been able to get back to baseball’s biggest stage — until now.
Baker is 12th all time in managerial wins, and the only man ahead of him on the list not in the Hall of Fame is Bruce Bochy, who assuredly will be enshrined in Cooperstown for his three World Series wins in five years with the Giants and long career piloting San Francisco and San Diego.
The top 10 wins list includes two managers, Connie Mack and Bucky Harris (as well as Bochy in 11th), with career records under .500, while Baker is 1987-1734 in his career. The only managers more to the good in their careers according to Baseball Reference and not in the Hall of Fame are Davey Johnson (who should be), Vic Harris (who managed the legendary Homestead Grays in the 1930s and 40s, winning seven pennants, and deserves closer examination), and Terry Francona (who probably will be).
It shouldn’t be a question of whether Baker needs this World Series win to cement his Hall of Fame resume, but giving back the title of “most games won without a title” to Gene Mauch would make it inarguable. And if the Hall of Fame would consider an entire baseball life instead of playing and managing as separate in modern cases, Baker would be something even more than a shoo-in.
So, naturally, Baker doesn’t have a contract for next year, and the Yankees tripped all over themselves on the way to retaining Aaron Boone instead of waiting to see if the man they should’ve hired in the first place, four years ago, might become available.
Give Baker his flowers, whether or not he gets the four more wins to finally get that ring as a manager.