On Wednesday, Dusty Baker earned the 2,000th victory of his career as a manager.
To celebrate the cool, toothpick-chomping, wristband-wearing skipper, we’ve selected an All-Time Team from the great players Dusty has managed over the years, since his first game as a skipper in 1993, through his current tenure as manager of the Houston Astros.
Previously we did a similar thing for the late, great Tommy Lasorda, who happened to manage Dusty on the Dodgers.
How long has Dusty been managing in the big leagues? Consider that five current managers played for Dusty: David Bell, Bud Black, Dave Martinez, David Ross, and Scott Servais.
Benito Santiago, Catcher
Santiago was 37 years old and looked 60 in 2002 when Dusty asked him to ignore his aching knees and be the everyday catcher for the Giants. Baker was rewarded, as Santiago had a fine season and saved his most important moments for the postseason. Santiago blasted two homers in the NL Championships Series and helped the Giants to the World Series.
Joey Votto, First Base
Here’s what The Big Read Machine had to say when Dusty got his 2,000th win:
Jose Altuve, Second Base
With all his accomplishments from the dugout, Baker’s classy guidance of the Astros following the sign-stealing fiasco may be his most impressive. There’s no other manager who could have instantly given Houston credibility like Johnnie B. Baker.
Altuve’s in the declining phase of his great career under Dusty, but he’s still a remarkable player and adding to his credentials for a possible Hall of Fame bid.
Trea Turner, Shortstop
In his two seasons in D.C., Baker led the Nationals to a pair of NL East titles and 96 wins per. He was fired after the Nats lost twice in the divisional round of the playoffs. Turner was one of the key players on those Baker teams.
Matt Williams, Third Base
These two may not have seen eye to eye all the time during their tenure together in San Francisco, but they respected each other. Williams hit 126 home runs in just four seasons under Dusty. He later went on to manage in the big leagues, and in 2016, Baker replaced Williams in Washington.
Barry Bonds, Left Field
Unquestionably the greatest player Dusty Baker ever managed, steroids or not. Bonds won a pair of MVP awards with Baker as his manager.
Darren Lewis, Center Field
Lewis wasn’t a great player. He spent 13 seasons in MLB and never made an All-Star team. He did win the Gold Glove as a center fielder for Baker in 1994 for the Giants. Lewis ended up with just over 1,000 hits and was a useful outfielder for the seven teams he played for.
Why is Lewis on this team? Because of the friendship and respect that grew between him and his manager. Baker loved Lewis and his approach as a teammate and big leaguer so much that he named his youngest son “Darren.” More about Darren later.
Bryce Harper, Right Field
How cool is it that some day when Bryce Harper is standing on a stage on Cooperstown to accept his Hall of Fame plaque, he’ll get to thank Dusty Baker as one of the important people in his career? Harper was born in October of 1992, only a few months before Baker managed his first game. Yet he was influenced by the same guy who was on-deck when Henry Aaron hit his record 715th home run.
Yordan Álvarez, Designated Hitter
In just a few short years in Houston at the helm of the Astros, Baker has won the favor of the young men in his clubhouse. Álvarez is a power-hitting slugger in the middle of the lineup for a team that Dusty has already taken to the World Series. Baker is one of the few managers to win a pennant in both leagues.
J.T. Snow, Designated Snatcher
In Game Five of the 2002 World Series between Baker’s Giants and the Angels in San Francisco, little Darren Baker was serving as a batboy. On the play shown in the video below, J.T. Snow rescued little Darren from a possible violent collision with a baserunner at home plate. For that, Snow deserves a place on this team.
Carlos Zambrano, Starting Pitcher
The volcanic ace of the Cubs during Baker’s four-year stint in Wrigleyville. Learn more about Zambrano here.
Kirk Rueter, Starting Pitcher
Rueter was a tough pitcher who had success for Baker in San Francisco. He made more starts under Dusty than any other man. He won between 14 and 16 games four times for Dusty, and pitched in Game Seven of the 2002 World Series.
Greg Maddux, Starting Pitcher
Max Scherzer, Starting Pitcher
Johnny Cueto, Starting Pitcher
Maybe no other player who ever played under Baker had the Dusty Coolness Factor like Cueto. With his confident swagger, trademark dreadlocks, and variety of arm angles and hesitation deliveries, “El Jucho” made 160 starts for Baker, the second most next to Rueter. He went 65-48 and grew up under Baker’s guidance from a young pitching prospect into an ace.
Rod Beck, Relief Pitcher
There wasn’t a hell of a lot that Dusty had in common with Beck, a hard-throwing, country music loving righty known as “Shooter” But the two men became close due to the trust Baker had in his relief ace. It can best be explained by this story:
On September 18, 1997, Beck entered in the top of the 10th with the score tied. As the season had progressed, Beck had lost his closer’s job. Just three days earlier in Atlanta while trying to close that game he had surrendered four earned runs in just 2⁄3 of an inning. Beck got into trouble immediately by giving up consecutive singles to Mike Piazza, Eric Karros, and Raúl Mondesi of the rival Dodgers. With the bases loaded, nobody out and the San Francisco crowd booing loudly, Dusty came out to talk to Beck, who was obviously struggling. Baker told his reliever: “You’re the guy.”
Beck proceeded to strike out Todd Zeile, then he coaxed Eddie Murray into an inning-ending double play. The crowd of 52,188 went crazy. Two innings later, Giants catcher Brian Johnson hit a walkoff home run, giving Beck and the Giants a dramatic win over LA. The victory put San Francisco into a tie with the Dodgers for the NL West lead. The G-Men would go on to finish in first place.
Needless to say, Beck loved Baker.
Aroldis Chapman, Relief Pitcher
For a few years in Cincinnati, Baker had the hardest-throwing pitcher to ever step onto a mound. Chapman saved 77 games and was a two-time All-Star for Dusty.