Baker to manage Astros through 2021
Options also picked up for pitching coach Strom, third-base coach Pettis
HOUSTON -- After managing only four games for the Astros, Dusty Baker will be coming back in 2021.
Astros general manager James Click announced Tuesday the club had exercised the ’21 option on Baker’s contract. Baker was hired Jan. 29, only weeks after owner Jim Crane dismissed manager AJ Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow in the wake of the sign-stealing scandal, and he has served as a calming public voice of a team in turmoil.
“Dusty has been a perfect fit for our ballclub,” Click said in a statement. “His knowledge of the game and experience have been invaluable to us in his first few months with the club. We’re excited to see him in an Astros uniform again next year.”
Click also announced pitching coach Brent Strom and third-base coach Gary Pettis had their options exercised for ’21, as well.
Baker said he’s been a lame-duck manager four of five times previously in his career, and he appreciates having some stability.
“I was one of the lamest ducks there is walking around,” he said. “It feels pretty good not to be a lame duck, and this is the best I’ve been treated in quite a while. I commend [owner] Jim Crane and the organization and James Click for making this possible. I know we’ve got some work to do.”
Baker, 71, ranks 15th all-time in managerial wins with 1,866 entering Tuesday’s game against the Dodgers, his former team. Baker’s resume as a manager includes eight postseason appearances and a trip to the World Series with the Giants in 2002. He’s one of only three managers to lead four teams to the playoffs -- Giants, Cubs, Reds and Nationals, who let him him go following the 2017 season after a 97-win year.
“Everybody likes security and everybody likes to know where they’re going to be, but I really like this town,” Baker said. “I’ve always liked the town of Houston. I’ve been coming here for 50 years. I’ve got a lot of people here. I love the town even though I haven’t had the chance to experience the people I know or the town I know form the outset. I’m just hoping we find a cure for the coronavirus so we can all enjoy the great city we have here.”
Strom, who is in his seventh season as the Astros' pitching coach, has helped the career resurrections of several pitchers, including Charlie Morton, Collin McHugh and Will Harris, and helped Gerrit Cole blossom into one of the most dominating pitchers in the game. Dallas Keuchel (2015) and Justin Verlander ('19) have won American League Cy Young Awards under Strom, and Verlander ('18) and Cole ('19) have finished second.
Strom, 71, considered retiring after this year, but said he’s been invigorated by the young pitching that’s coming up to the big leagues. The Astros have nine rookies on their pitching staff, and five have already made their debuts this year.
“My time with Dusty has been so gratifying and fun,” he said. “I told the organization if they want me, I’d love to come back for another year. My health is good. I feel good about it. It’s been a strange year, a short one. I think I’m geared up for a full 162-game season next season and ready to go.”
Pettis is in his sixth season as the club’s third-base coach and oversees baserunning and outfield instruction.
“Strommie and Gary have had a tremendous impact on the recent success of the Houston Astros,” Click said. “They are among the most respected coaches in the league, and we’re very fortunate to have them.