On Tuesday, May 3rd, the Houston Astros took down the Seattle Mariners 4-0 giving legendary manager Dusty Baker 2000 regular season victories in his incredible career. Baker, at 72 years old, became the 12th manager ever to reach this milestone, but most importantly he became the first black manager to accomplish this feat.
Let’s take a look at how he was able to reach this level of success.
A Legendary Career
Long before becoming one of the best managers in baseball history, Baker spent 19 seasons in the MLB as an outfielder. After a dominant career across four team, most notably eight seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers, he retired from being a player in 1986.
Seven years later, in 1993, at age 44, he took over the managerial reigns of the San Fransisco Giants.
San Fransisco Giants
That first season went almost as well as he could hope as the Giants finished with a 103-59 record. Unfortunately, that same season saw the Atlanta Braves, an original member of the National League West, finished 104-58. That era did not have a wild card team so even after a spectacular season the Giants missed the playoffs. To add to the pain, after that season the Braves left for the NL East and the wild card team was established.
On a positive note, he was named National League Manager of the Year in only his first managerial season.
Over the next eight seasons Baker led the Giants to three straight losing seasons before getting back to winning ways with five straight seasons with 86 or more wins, including three 90 plus win seasons. In 1997 he took the Giants to their first NL West title since 1989. In this span he would win National League Manager of the year in 1997 and 2000.
In 2002, Baker led the Giants to a 95-66 season where they came up just short of yet another division title. Fortunately, this time they were able to claim the wild card spot. They took full advantage of that by riding that wave all the way to the World Series. In a clash of California teams, the Giants lost in seven games to the Los Angeles Angels.
Following the 2002 season, Baker and the Giants parted ways after 10 strong seasons where he went 840-715.
In 2003, he took his managerial skills to the windy city for the Chicago Cubs. In his first season with the new team he continued his dominance. They completed the season with an 88-74 record which was good enough to win the National League Central. They went all the way to the NLCS where they lost in seven games to the Florida Marlins.
Even after finishing with a better record in 2004 at 89-73 they still ended up missing the playoffs behind the dominance of the St. Louis Cardinals and Houston Astros who finished with 105 and 92 wins respectively.
After two great seasons his next two and final two seasons as a Cubs manger featured sub .500% records including a career worst .407 win percentage in 2006.
He left Chicago with a 422-426 record, which impressively was the only time he left a team with a sub .500 win percentage.
After not managing a team in 2007 he was brought on in 2008 by another NL Central team in the Cincinnati Reds.
He began his time with the Reds with back-to-back sub .500 records. He quickly turned that around as in his next four seasons he finished with 90 plus wins and playoff appearances in three times.
Baker led the Reds to NL Central titles in 2010 and 2012 with 91 and 97 victories respectively. Despite their regular season success they were unable to move past the division series either year losing to the Phillies and Giants.
With a 90 victory season in 2013 the Reds took on their division rival Pittsburgh Pirates in the National league Wild Card game where they lost that crucial one game battle.
After six rather successful seasons with the Reds where he finished with a 509-463 record he moved on in search of his fourth team.
In 2016 he was picked up by the Washington Nationals.
His time in the National League East was his shortest by far as he only managed the Nationals for the 2016 and 2017 seasons. This is surprising considering the fact that in those two seasons he led the team to 95 and 97 wins and back-to-back division titles. Despite the incredible success that these teams had with pitching and hitting they lost in the division series in five games both times.
The Nationals decided to move on from Baker after only two solid seasons where he went 192-132.
Following two more seasons without a job as a manger the Houston Astros, a former NL Central team, picked up Baker for the 2020 season.
His first season with the leaders of the American League West was by far the most unique for the much traveled Baker. The 2020 season was anything but normal meaning he got to start off with only 60 games and no fans. Even after finishing with a 29-31 record the Astros still ended up making the expanded playoffs. They made it all the way to the AL Championship Series where they lost in seven games to the Tampa Bay Rays.
In the first 162 game season with the Astros, Baker led the team to a 95-67 record and their fourth division title in the past five seasons. They took down the Chicago White Sox with ease in the ALDS taking them to the ALCS against the Boston Red Sox.
In game six the Astros took down the Red Sox to head to the World Series. This was nothing new for the Astros who had made the World Series in 2017 and 2019. For Baker though, after many years of frustration and playoff failure, he finally made it back to the World Series for the first time in 19 seasons.
Despite their success, the Atlanta Braves hurt Baker once again by taking them down in six games, keeping that elusive title from Baker.
Baker is back at it once again in 2022 with the Astros putting up a 13-11 record early on in the season.
May 3rd, 2022 will go down as a historic day as Dusty Baker picked up regular season victory number 2000 in his 25th managerial season. It is hard to believe that after 24 seasons and 2000 victories he has failed to lay claim to a World Series title. At only 72 years old, Baker still has many managerial years ahead of him and hopefully one of those seasons finds him at the top of the mountain.
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