Dusty Baker became the 12th coach in Major League history to win 2,000 games – and the first black manager to reach the feat – with the Astros’ 4-0 Tuesday night win over the Seattle Mariners in Houston.
It came more than 29 years after he scored his first win on April 6, 1993, in San Francisco’s 2-1 win over St. Louis.
“I’m probably one of the luckiest men ever to walk this earth,” said Becker, smiling, minutes after Tuesday’s final.
The Baker players presented him with a bottle of vintage Dom Perignon champagne that they signed with a gold sign to celebrate the achievement. The team roasted Baker with affordable champagne at the club after the game.
His wife Melissa and a group of about 10 friends were at the playground. Melissa Baker smiled as she pictured her husband at a post-play game from the stands as the big screen displayed a picture of him with the words “2K Wins” in huge white letters.
The 72-year-old began his managerial career in 1993 with the Giants, and has led five different teams — the Giants, Chicago Cups, Cincinnati Reds, Washington Nationals and Astros — until beyond the season, the only manager to achieve the feat. He is also one of nine managers to have won pennants in both leagues, and led the Giants to the World Championship in 2002 and the Astros in 2021. His 40 post-season wins tied for an eighth time with Terry Francona.
With his iconic toothpicks and bracelets, Baker has been one of the game’s most vibrant characters over the past three decades – on top of a 19-year career as a player, finishing with 1,981 hits and 242 home runs.
Despite the 2000 win, his Hall of Fame affair is still the subject of contentious debate. Of the 11 managers with more Hall of Fame wins than Baker, 10 are in the Hall of Fame, and Bruce Bochy is seen as a lock to be elected when he is eligible for the December 2023 ballot. All 10 Hall of Fame managers with more wins than Baker, however, She also has at least one world championship, while Bochy has won three with the Giants.
Baker’s teams failed both in his World Championship appearances and suffered some heartbreaking defeats along the way – notably Game 6 of the 2002 World Championship with the Giants, Game 6 of the 2003 National League Championship with the Cubs and Game 5 of the 2016 NL Division Series with the Nationals, All possible matches led by his teams in the seventh inning or thereafter.
However, Baker’s success in the regular season makes him a solid candidate for the hall, especially given his track record of transforming franchises – or, in the case of the Astros, establishing a steady presence in the wake of the organization’s signals-stealing scandal. It is considered:
• The 1993 Giants team went from 72 wins the previous year to 103, despite losing in the NL West to the Atlanta Braves on the final day of the season.
• The Cubs in 2003 went from 67 wins to 88 wins and reached the NLCS.
• In Cincinnati, Baker took over the franchise in 2008 that had suffered seven consecutive losing seasons and regained it in the playoffs in 2010, and also made the post-season in 2012 and 2013.
• After taking over the national team coach in 2016, the team improved from 83 wins to 95 wins, winning the NL East title in both seasons of Baker at the helm.
• Finally, he took charge of the Astros in 2020 after the signal-stealing scandal led to the firing of AJ Hinch. Although losses Gerrit Cole in free agency and Justin Verlander Injured, Baker led the Astros to the MLS Championship Series in 2020 with 95 wins and the World Championship in 2021.
The Astros players said Baker’s 2,000-win mentor should make the hall call easy.
“This should lead straight into the Hall of Fame,” Catcher Martin Maldonado She said.
3rd main man added Alex Bergman: “It is such an honor to play for someone who loves the game, loves his team, is very knowledgeable about baseball and has such a career. Being able to match him up every day is very special and no one here takes that for granted.”
When the Giants hired Baker, he became the seventh manager of the Black team in MLB history. After retiring as a player in 1986, Becker was initially not interested in management, but eventually joined the Giants as head coach and then hit coach for four seasons, before replacing Roger Craig as manager after the 1992 season.
He’s one of only two black managers out in 2022, along with Dave Roberts of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
He said of being the first black manager to win 2,000 games: “It means more. It means more culture. It means more to the community. It means an increase in my race, and it means extra hope for others to have a chance (so) I’m not the last.”
Becker is working on a one-year extension that was signed right after losing the world championship last year.
“I just have some unfinished business to take care of,” he said at the time of the extension. “We’re close. We’re getting better every year. I thank the organization for giving us the chops, thanks [general manager] James Click to add the pieces in time and teamwork that we have on this team. I am very proud to be the captain of the team.”
If the Astros win the World Championship this season under Becker, it will be another milestone for him: At 73 by the world championships, he will become the oldest coach to win a championship.
When asked about the standings of Tuesday’s moment, Baker stuck to the present but was eyeing the future.
“Now at the top,” he said. “But I won’t stop now.”
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.
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