June 21, 2024

Dusty Baker has retired as manager of the Houston Astros, he told USA Today on Wednesday, ending an illustrious 26-year career as a big league skipper highlighted by a World Series win last season.

“I’m very grateful and thankful to Jim Crane and the Houston Astros for giving me this opportunity, and to win a championship,” Baker, 74, told USA Today in an interview. “I felt like they’ve been good for me, and I’ve been good for them.

“What I really appreciate is that Jim has been totally honest and transparent with me on all things.”

Baker’s decision comes two days after the Astros lost to the Texas Rangers in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series.

A news conference is scheduled for Thursday.

“Dusty Baker is a legend in this sport,” Houston shortstop Jeremy Pena said Monday night. “I’ve loved every single day that I’ve gotten to share with him on this ballclub. He’s been great for me. He’s shown so much confidence in me. He’s been a great manager.”

Baker was hired by Crane in the winter of 2020, after the sign-stealing scandal erupted and led to the firings of manager AJ Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow.

Baker did exactly what Crane had hoped for, deflecting attention away from a group of players who were besieged by boos in all ballparks other than Houston’s Minute Maid Park, while fostering continued success. The Astros reached the ALCS in 2020, secured the league pennant in 2021 and won the World Series — Baker’s first as a manager — in 2022.

After signing a one-year extension, Baker guided the Astros to a 90-72 mark during the regular season — winning the AL West division title via tiebreaker on the final day of the season — before taking the club to its seventh consecutive ALCS.

Baker also won the World Series with the 1981 Los Angeles Dodgers during his 19 seasons as a player — just one of seven to have won a ring doing both, joining Alex Cora, Joe Girardi, Davey Johnson, Lou Piniella, Dave Roberts and Mike Scioscia.

The toothpick chewer and epic storyteller was a lifelong friend of Hank Aaron, who died in 2021. They were teammates on the Atlanta Braves.

“I love winning,” Baker said after last season’s World Series title. “I’m just telling you, I love winning probably more than anything else. I’m spoiled by winning.”

He has done a lot of it during a lifetime in baseball.

Baker, who will be eligible for the Hall of Fame in three seasons, ranks seventh all time with 2,183 regular-season wins with the Astros, San Francisco Giants, Chicago Cubs, Cincinnati Reds and Washington Nationals.

He is the 12th manager in major league history to reach 2,000 wins and the first Black man to do it. Ten of the 11 other managers who have accumulated at least 2,000 wins are in the Hall of Fame; Rangers manager Bruce Bochy (2,093 wins), who isn’t yet eligible, is the only exception.

Baker’s 57 postseason wins — over 13 postseason appearances — rank fourth all time, just ahead of Bochy (53).

Baker’s team in San Francisco, with star Barry Bonds, entered Game 6 of the 2002 World Series against the Angels needing just one win for the title. As the road team for the last two games of that series, the Giants squandered a five-run lead in a 6-5 loss in the sixth game before the Angels won the title with a 4-1 victory in Game 7.

After being fired by the Nationals following a 97-win season in 2017, Baker wondered if he’d ever get another shot to manage, much less win that elusive title.

Back home in California, as he worked on his wine business and grew collard greens in his garden, he often felt perplexed he had been passed over for interviews so many times as managerial openings came and went, having made inquiries that he said were unanswered over the years.

Then the Astros came calling, and Baker would finally get his title as a manager — joining Roberts (Dodgers, 2020) and Cito Gaston (Toronto Blue Jays, 1992 and 1993) as the only Black managers to win the World Series.

Baker was 320-226 in his four regular seasons in Houston. He went 34-19 in the postseason with the Astros, surpassing Hinch (28-20) for most playoff wins in franchise history.

Baker told USA Today that he’d like to move into an advisory role in baseball, either with the Astros or a team closer to his Northern California home.

“I’ve still got a lot to offer; baseball has been my life,” Baker said. “I have a lifetime of knowledge, much more than those who have never played the game.”

He added: “I’m gone, but I will be back.”

ESPN’s Buster Olney and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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