Dusty returning to Astros in '23: 'This is what I was called to do'

November 9th, 2022

HOUSTON -- Not long before Astros manager Dusty Baker and his players and staff boarded buses to head to the team’s championship parade through the downstreet streets on Monday, Baker met with owner Jim Crane at Minute Maid Park and hammered out a deal to return for 2023. The agreement took just 15 minutes to complete.

If Crane had any doubts about the popularity of Baker, who won his first World Series as a manager when the Astros beat the Phillies on Saturday, the thousands of fans chanting Baker’s name and holding up “We love Dusty” signs for nearly two miles during the championship parade certainly were enough to reassure him of the manager’s popularity in Houston.

“He's a legend,” Crane said. “He's really done a lot for the team.”

Crane announced on Wednesday that Baker will return to manage the Astros on a one-year deal in 2023, his third consecutive one-year deal since he was hired in the wake of the sign-stealing scandal in January 2020. In those three seasons, the Astros won two American League pennants and last week won their second World Series title since 2017.

“I'm happy to be back,” Baker said. “I had an idea I'd be back. We wanted to complete the tasks that we had at hand and complete the quest for the championship. I wasn’t worried. Like I said before, I really didn't want any distractions. I'm glad that we got it done. It didn't take very long. I'm happy, my family’s extremely happy. And we’ll see where we go from here.”

Baker, 73, became the oldest manager to win a World Series when the Astros took down the Phillies in six games in the 2022 Fall Classic. That capped an incredible year for Baker, who picked up his 2,000th career win as a skipper on May 3. The Astros will be among the favorites to repeat in 2023, considering many of their key players remain under contract for next year.

“We’ve got a great nucleus and we’ve got a great young pitching staff,” Baker said. “This is what I like to do and this is what I was called to do. I think God brought me here to Houston to do this. And I’d be going against what I was destined to do if I did anything else at this point in time. I prayed on it and my answer was, ‘Hey man, get your butt back out there and manage again.’”

Baker said he’s in discussions to bring back his coaching staff, including bench coach Joe Espada, who has interviewed for several managerial jobs the last three offseasons, including this year with the White Sox and Marlins, with whom he was a finalist.

“He means a lot to the staff,” Baker said. “This guy's a worker. He has one of the toughest jobs, probably, to organize Spring Training. That takes a lot of effort and a lot of time and a lot of coordination. … We work well together.”

With Baker in the fold for 2023, Crane said he’s been in discussions with general manager James Click, whose contract expired on Oct. 31. Crane said he met briefly on Monday with Click, who left to attend the General Managers Meetings in Las Vegas after the parade. The two will meet again later this week, according to Crane.

“We're in discussions and when he gets back, we'll complete those discussions,” Crane said. “James has done a good job. He stepped in and made some good moves. We'll sit down and see here where we end up with James.”

Click said on Tuesday from Las Vegas that the uncertainty about his future in Houston hasn’t dampened his satisfaction of the Astros’ World Series title.

“That was one of the most enjoyable experiences that I’ve ever had in my entire life,” he said. “I got here [at the GM Meetings] and so many people who haven’t been lucky enough to win the title came up to me and said, ‘Is this worth it, what we all go through and how much time we spend away from our families?’ I will tell you unequivocally, yes. It totally lives up.”