In his second year as Astros manager, Dusty Baker led Houston to 95 wins and its fourth American League West title in five years, making him the first skipper in Major League history to win division titles with five different clubs.
On Tuesday, Baker finished third for the 2021 AL Manager of the Year Award presented by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, behind winner Kevin Cash of the Rays and runner-up Scott Servais of the Mariners. Baker received two first-place votes, five second-place votes and eight third-place votes.
Baker was named the National League Manager of the Year with the Giants in 1993, 1997 and 2000. He finished the 2021 season with 1,987 career wins, which ranks 12th-most all time.
The 72-year-old Baker recently signed a one-year contract extension with the Astros, and will likely push past 2,000 career wins in 2022.
Baker was a vital presence for the Astros’ squad this season, leading the team to the World Series before falling to the Braves in six games. This was the fifth time he’s led a club to a division title.
When Houston was riddled with injuries -- including losing ace Justin Verlander for the entire season following Tommy John surgery and third baseman Alex Bregman for 59 games -- Baker and the Astros held steady to finish with the second-best record in the AL, behind the 100-win Rays and the award-winning Cash.
Baker did all of that as the Astros were shown no mercy by the fans on the road this season. Houston’s players were booed often for the role some of the players played in the 2017 sign-stealing scandal.
“These guys, they love to play,” Baker said on MLB Network before the award was announced. “The hard part was that we were constantly bombarded by negatives that you have to try to put behind you. You have to ask for forgiveness, which they have, which a lot of people didn’t forgive. The thing about it is they’re quality people and quality guys. Whatever rookies came up, they embraced them. Whatever new guys came through our team, they embraced them.”
Houston has made the playoffs in both of Baker’s seasons as manager, making it as far as the AL Championship Series last year before losing to the Rays. Though the Astros had a losing record in 2020 (29–31), they were able to make the postseason due to the expanded playoff picture after the pandemic-shortened season.
Only two Astros skippers have received Manager of the Year honors: Larry Dierker in 1998 and Hal Lanier in 1986.
“The core group of players here was perhaps the most enjoyable core that I’ve had,” Baker said. “They come to play every day. They don’t whine about it, they don’t complain about anything other than just coming to play. I was very fortunate to come to this team and inherit such a great group of guys that can play. The talent was unbelievable, the organization from James Click to Jim Crane and all of the people upstairs, were all pulling on the rope at the same end. It wasn’t quite as hard as it appeared to be, but it wasn’t nearly as easy as we made it look like.”