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Houston Astros skipper Dusty Baker crossed a significant career milestone Tuesday. With the Astros' 4-0 win over the Seattle Mariners, Baker became the 12th MLB manager — and the first Black manager — to reach 2,000 career wins.
The achievement is significant, as nearly all of the 11 managers with more wins are in the Hall of Fame. The lone exception is former San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy, who retired from managing in 2019 and will very likely get into the Hall of Fame once he's eligible.
Astros players celebrated the occasion by gifting Baker with a signed bottle of champagne.
— Kristie Rieken (@kristieAP) May 4, 2022
Baker should move even higher on the all-time wins list throughout the 2022 MLB season. With three more wins, he will tie Bochy for the 11th spot. He should also pass Leo Durocher, who sits at 2,008 career wins. Walter Alston — 2,040 wins — should also be passed by Baker this season.
After that, it depends how long Baker, 72, wants to continue managing. While he has a chance to continue moving up the all-time wins list, catching Connie Mack — who won 3,731 — isn't going to happen. The next closest manager to Mack, Chicago White Sox skipper Tony La Russa, sits a 2,830 wins. Mack's record is safe for now.
Dusty Baker still building Hall of Fame legacy
Baker likely already had a Hall of Fame resume before reaching 2,000 career wins. Baker experienced success with every team he's managed. He's the only manager in MLB history to lead five different franchises to the playoffs. He's taken two teams — the San Francisco Giants and the Astros — to the World Series.
One of Baker's former stars, Giants outfielder Barry Bonds, congratulated Baker following Tuesday's game.
— Jessica Kleinschmidt (@KleinschmidtJD) May 4, 2022
Despite his success, Baker is still searching for his first World Series championship as a manager.
Prior to managing, Baker excelled as a player. He played 19 seasons in the majors, the majority of which came with the Los Angeles Dodgers and Atlanta Braves. Baker made two All-Star teams, won a Gold Glove and won the 1981 World Series with the Dodgers.
Dusty Baker continues to excel
Baker's road to 2,000 wins wasn't easy. He faced challenges early in his career due to his race.
Dusty Baker told me one of the challenges he faced as a MLB manager was that, for many of his players, he was the first Black authority figure they'd ever encountered & some didn't know to react to him telling them what to do. Still found success at every step. Now with 2K wins. https://t.co/oshHhPJs1l
— Michael Lee (@MrMichaelLee) May 4, 2022
After establishing himself as a standout manager, Baker received criticism for his old-school methods with the Chicago Cubs. He was blamed for overworking the arms of Kerry Wood and Mark Prior. That reputation followed Baker to Cincinnati. He was still able to succeed with the team, and was fired after winning 90 games in 2013.
Baker re-emerged with the Washington Nationals in 2016. He won 95 games his first season with the team and 97 in his second. He was fired after not delivering a World Series title. The criticisms lobbed at Baker during his Cubs tenure no longer applied with the Nationals. Baker altered the way he managed to fit the more modern play style.
That has carried over to Baker's time with the Astros. He's led the team to success on the field, and deftly navigated the team's sign-stealing scandal within the organization. Baker — who has developed a reputation for being a strong manager of personalities — was tasked his taking over the team after the trash-can banging, sign-stealing scandal, not an easy ask. In Washington, Baker took over a locker room where the best player on the team was choked by another player the previous year. He's cleaned up some toxic situations, especially late in his career.
Baker's prowess in the clubhouse and on the field has earned him the respect of many throughout the game.
Not many know this but I was Dusty Bat boy when he played in winter league in Venezuela. When I got to pro baseball and I played vs him I told him I was that kid. I got to bat boy, play and manage vs this man. always respect a legend of the game #DustyBaker pic.twitter.com/TQBqnbqaUx
— Ozzie Guillen (@OzzieGuillen) May 4, 2022
Fans have been more critical and slower to come around — especially after Baker's Cubs tenure — but his time with the Nationals and Astros is proof he's adapted and remained one of the best managers in the game.
A World Series ring as a manager would complete Baker's baseball legacy, but he's a Hall of Famer whether he wins one or not.