Astros manager Dusty Baker, who played the first eight years of his career in Atlanta, said Friday he supports Major League Baseball’s decision to relocate the 2021 All-Star Game and MLB Draft, originally scheduled to take place in Atlanta, to a to-be-determined location.
MLB’s decision comes a little more than a week after the passage of S.B. 202, a Georgia law that President Joe Biden criticized earlier this week, saying that it will restrict voting access for residents of the state. Commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement that the decision to move the All-Star Game was “the best way to demonstrate our values as a sport” and was made after consultation with teams, former and current players, the MLB Players Association and The Players Alliance, among others.
Baker wasn’t consulted, but he said he’s pleased the league is still going to honor Hank Aaron, the Hall of Fame slugger who played a majority of his career with the Braves and took Baker under his wing when he was a young player. Baker considered Aaron, who died earlier this year, a father figure.
“I think it’s great the league is going to properly honor Hank Aaron, no matter where the game is played,” Baker said. “My opinion is it’s a positive move by Major League Baseball to support voting rights. That was a pretty big and bold move by baseball, and I’m proud of the fact they stood by the voting rights of people. This is what Hank would have liked. Even though [the 2021 All-Star Game] was in his town, he always had the rights of the people in the forefront of his mind and his heart.”
Baker said he hasn’t spoken with any friends in Georgia in recent weeks about the voting issue, but he said he is mindful of the economic impact losing the game will have on Atlanta. Still, he said the rights of the people come first.
“It’s definitely going to hurt some [financially], but … I’m proud of Major League Baseball for making the move they did to support voting rights,” he said. “I’m proud of Major League Baseball, and I’m sure Hank is proud of Major League Baseball, as well.”
Maldonado carries workload early
Baker said he’s yet to determine exactly how veteran catchers Martín Maldonado and Jason Castro will split playing time throughout the season, but the manager added that Castro won’t get a start until Sunday’s series finale in Oakland with José Urquidy on the mound.
That means Maldonado will start three of the first four games behind the plate after he caught 46 of 60 regular-season games last year. Maldonado is more familiar with the pitching staff than Castro, but Baker made sure Castro caught as many different arms as possible during the spring. Castro re-signed with the Astros this winter after spending three years with the Twins and one split between the Angels and Padres. The only pitcher remaining from his final year in Houston in his previous stint (2016) is Lance McCullers Jr.
Maldonado, who didn’t catch three consecutive games in the spring, worked well with Saturday starter McCullers Jr. last year.