After Dusty Baker won his first World Series title in 25 years of managing, he made his plans for the future clear.
“What’s next? I said if I win one I want to win two,” he said Saturday night after his Houston Astros defeated the Philadelphia Phillies, 4-1, winning the series in six games at Minute Maid Park.
At 73, Baker is the oldest manager in Major League Baseball, and he wants another shot at it at 74. Baker won in his third try, losing in 2002 with the San Francisco Giants and last year with the Astros.
“I mean, the one was hell to get to at this point, but it was well worth it,” he said. “I’m in a great city, with great people, great fans, and I got a great ball club.”
It should be an easy decision for owner Jim Crane. Have the parade on Monday, and clean up some business in the days after. Crane said before the Series began that his decisions on retaining Baker and general manager James Click would wait until after the results were in.
He also said Baker had been a huge positive in the three years since he was hired to stabilize the organization after MLB fined Crane and the Astros $5 million as a result of a sign-stealing scandal. MLB also suspended then general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch, who Crane then fired.
“Dusty came in here under very trying circumstances and has done a good job,” Crane said.
It’s an MLB trend at this point—going back to older, more experienced managers. Nine clubs have managers age 58 or older, who won eight World Series titles.
Across the state in Arlington, the Texas Rangers last month hired Bruce Bochy, 67.
In the fraternity of what Baker calls “the old dudes,” nobody could have been happier for Dusty than his friend Bochy.
“I talked to him earlier. I’m elated for Dusty,” Bochy said Sunday in a telephone interview. “What a remarkable career he’s had. This is one box I know he wanted to check off. With all the success he had as a manager I’m sure this was one he wanted to get. It’s a pretty cool moment when it all ends.”
Bochy, who won three titles from 2010-14 with the San Francisco Giants, was hired after a three-season sabbatical. And like Baker now, he’s a certain inductee into the National Baseball Hall of Fame when their careers end.
“He’s one of the best, finest managers around,” Baker said. “A great baseball man, baseball mind. One more for the old dudes.”
Bochy was hired by Chris Young, a first-time general manager who pitched for Bochy when he managed the San Diego Padres.
“For me, in this moment, having an experienced manager in the dugout not only suited me, but I think it’s what is best for our organization and our players,” Young said at a media conference late last month in Arlington to introduce Bochy. “So, it was a big part of the decision.”
“I talked to Chris Young for about seven hours,” Bochy said. “When I was done I just said, ‘Man I’m in.’ It was a perfect time for me to come back.”
Besides Dusty and Bochy, the list of old-timers includes Brian Snitker in Atlanta and Terry Francona in Cleveland, both 67; Buck Showalter with the New York Mets, 66; Bud Black with Colorado, 65; and Bob Melvin with the San Diego Padres, 61.
The movement began when, in the wake of the sign-stealing scandal, Crane hired Baker, who’d been looking for another managing job for three seasons after he was fired by the Washington Nationals in 2017.
“I mean, when the scandal was exposed and then I was hired here, I felt it was meant to be,” Baker said. “I don’t think I was first on his list to be hired. But some of the guys that I had played with and his former players on his advisory staff indeed told him that I was probably the best guy for the job.”
Last winter, the Mets fired the inexperienced Luis Rojas and hired Showalter, four years after he was let go by the Baltimore Orioles.
At the same time, after a dealing with string of inexperienced managers—Pat Murphy, Andy Green and Jayce Tingler—and sub-.500 finishes, Padres general manager A.J. Preller received permission from Oakland to hire veteran Melvin.
The Padres, like the Astros and Mets, went to the expanded playoffs, although each experienced a varying levels of success.
“Bob and his staff did a great job creating an atmosphere in that clubhouse,” Preller said during the season-concluding media conference in San Diego. “Through injuries and other situations his group kept the team focused.”
That’s no small feat and why more than a third of MLB’s 30 teams have experienced managers who had are 50 or older.
To be sure, repurposing elder statesmen doesn’t always work out. Joe Maddon, 68, and Joe Girardi, 58 were fired by Los Angeles Angels and the Phillies, respectively, during the season. Tony La Russa, 78 and already a Hall of Fame manager, was forced to retire from the Chicago White Sox because of a heart ailment. And Don Mattingly, 61, left the Florida Marlins after seven seasons.
Two of those jobs were filled by younger managers with little experience: Pedro Grifol, 52, replaced La Russa and Skip Schumaker, 42, is getting his first shot at managing in lieu of Mattingly.
The rise of those newcomers doesn’t smother the rise of baseball’s boomerang gang.
“I always said that if I was going to jump back into the fire, it had to be the right fit,” Bochy said. “It’s all about being back in the ballpark, walking through the dugout and the clubhouse, the competition. I just missed it.”
Baker leapt into a forest fire and the heat has been extreme.
“It’s just sheer joy and thankfulness,” Baker said. “It’s not relief at all.”