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Astros hire Dusty Baker as manager, per report

It’s back to the future in Houston.

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Dusty Baker is a polarizing figure in Cubs history. He helped bring the team to an unexpected NL Central title in 2003, then had a massive playoff failure which we don’t have to rehash here. He had similar postseason failures in his other managing stops with the Giants, Reds and Nationals.

Baker turns 70 in June, and he’ll reportedly celebrate that milestone birthday with another managing job, per Bob Nightengale at USA Today:

The Houston Astros, a franchise in the crosshairs of Major League Baseball’s cheating scandal, is about to choose Dusty Baker to be their next manager, according to a person familiar with the hiring.

The person spoke to USA TODAY Sports on the condition of anonymity because Baker’s contract has yet to be finalized.

Baker has managed in the major leagues for 22 seasons with 1,863 wins. With his 43rd win of 2020, he will pass Bill McKechnie, Gene Mauch and Casey Stengel and move into 12th place all-time. Every manager who has more than 1,863 wins, save one (Mauch) who is eligible is in the Hall of Fame (Bruce Bochy, with 2,003, will be inducted eventually). My view of Baker is that he’s a great manager for regular-season games. Players love him because essentially he just lets them do their thing. His problem has been that he doesn’t seem to recognize that postseason games need to be managed differently than regular-season games.

He is, however, a very good choice for the Astros at this moment in history. His calming influence will help take pressure off his players, who are likely going to be booed at every road game they play this year (and perhaps beyond 2020):

There’s no manager in the game more well-liked, respected and admired by his peers and players throughout the industry.

“His greatest attribute is the way he manages people,’’ Davey Lopes, the former Dodger great and long-time friend of Baker’s, told USA TODAY Sports in 2017. “I find it hard to find someone who’s better.

“Getting the best out of the players, getting them to want to play, getting them to want to put that extra effort into it, that takes a special talent.’’

That attribute will be needed more than ever when it will be so easy for the Astros to succumb to the pressure and distractions, and fall apart.

It’s up to Baker to make sure it doesn’t happen.

There’s been no official announcement from the Astros about this hire, nor is there any information on whether Baker will just manage in Houston for 2020, or if he’ll be on a multi-year deal. He’ll be the oldest manager in MLB this year. The second-oldest is former Cubs manager Joe Maddon. And then there’s this:

I wish Dusty well and good luck. He’s going to need the latter.