The 72-year-old Baker began his managerial career in 1993 with the San Francisco Giants and has led five different teams — the Giants, Chicago Cubs, Cincinnati Reds, Washington Nationals and Astros — to the postseason. , the only trainer to accomplish that feat. He is also one of nine coaches to win pennants in both leagues, guiding the Giants to the World Series in 2002 and the Astros in 2021. His 40 career postseason wins are tied for eighth all-time with Terry Franconian.
Sporting his iconic toothpicks and wristbands, Baker has been one of the most vivid personalities in the game over the past three decades, in addition to a 19-year playing career that saw him finish with 1,981 hits and 242 home runs.
Despite 2,000 wins, his Hall of Fame case remains the subject of contentious debate. Of the 11 coaches with more wins than Baker, 10 are in the Hall of Fame, with Bruce Bochy seen as a sure thing to be picked when he becomes eligible for the ballot in December 2023. The 10 Hall of Fame coaches with more wins than Baker However, they also have at least one World Series championship, while Bochy won three with the Giants.
Baker’s teams came up short in both of their World Series appearances and suffered some heartbreaking playoff losses along the way, notably Game 6 of the 2002 World Series with the Giants, Game 6 of the ALCS of the 2003 NL Division Series with the Cubs and Game 5 of the 2016 NL Division Series with the Nationals, all potential game-winners that their squads led in the seventh inning or later.
Still, Baker’s success in the regular season makes him a strong Hall candidate, especially given his history of flipping franchises or, in the Astros’ case, providing a steady presence in the wake of the Hall’s sign-stealing scandal. organization. To consider:
• The 1993 Giants went from 72 wins the year before to 103, though they lost the NL West race to the Atlanta Braves on the final day of the season.
• The 2003 Cubs went from 67 wins to 88 and reached the NLCS.
• In Cincinnati, Baker took over a franchise in 2008 that had suffered seven straight losing seasons and returned to the playoffs in 2010, also making the postseason in 2012 and 2013.
• After he took over the Nationals in 2016, the team improved from 83 wins to 95, winning the NL East in Baker’s two seasons at the helm.
• Ultimately took over the Astros in 2020 after the sign-stealing scandal led to the firing of AJ Hinch. Despite the losses of Gerrit Cole to free agency and Justin Verlander to injury, Baker guided the Astros to the American League Championship Series in 2020 and to 95 wins and the World Series in 2021.
When the Giants hired Baker, he became the seventh black manager in MLB history. After retiring as a player in 1986, Baker initially had no interest in managing, but eventually joined the Giants as first base coach and then hitting coach for four seasons, before replacing Roger Craig as manager after the season. from 1992.
He is one of two black coaches in 2022, along with Dave Roberts of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
“Just a couple of things missing now, a championship and the 2,000th win,” Baker told the New York Times during the offseason. “I would be the only African-American in that club, you know what I mean, bro? And I hope I can help convince other owners that Dave Roberts and I shouldn’t be last, that we should have a lot more.”
Baker is working on a one-year extension signed on the heels of last year’s World Series loss.
“I have some unfinished business to take care of,” he said at the time of his extension. “We are close. We are better every year. I thank the organization for giving us the pieces, thank you [general manager] James Click for adding the pieces at the right time and the unity we have on this team. I am very proud to be the team leader.”
If the Astros win the World Series this season under Baker, it would be another milestone for him: At 73 years of age for the World Series, he would become the oldest manager to win a championship.