(SportsRadio 610) -- Dusty Baker has gone from making the most sense, to making none.
When Astros owner Jim Crane hired Baker to step into a disheveled, scandal-ridden organization criticized and condemned coast to coast, most of us - me included - saw it as a stroke of brilliance.
Baker had seen it all in more than 50 years of baseball. He handled it with aplomb.
From racial biases and injustices, to playing the game through strikes and work closures, to being a black man in management, to the circus was that was Barry Bonds’ homerun chase in the midst of the steroid era.
Baker was there. Baker was steady.Who else, it seemed, would be better equipped to handle the volatility, unpredictability and tension surrounding the similarly scandal-ridden Astros?As it turns out, just about anyone else could have.
That much is obvious now – and not because of a 6-9 record, with struggles and injuries mounting. Dusty Baker has gone from the voice of reason to watching the controversy and criticism of his team spiral out of control.
And that is where he has fallen dramatically short. More so than bunting or not bunting, handling pitchers and/or his managerial acumen in any way between the lines, Dusty’s defiance has hurt the Astros.
The Astros became the first team in 2020 to provide a bench-clearing melee that could have been much worse. They should have been the last team to do it.
Baseball's Astros haters saw a scene Sunday instigated in large part by one of Baker’s coaches. They then saw a total lack of remorse and control from him. In fact, they saw the opposite.
They saw defiance and excuse-making by the guy who was supposed to help lead the Astros out of this abyss.
Dusty Baker is only making things worse. That much is obvious.
To be sure, we are not saying grown men with pride should back down from a fight. We are not saying they should not argue that an opposing pitcher is trying to instigate ill will or something worse. That's what men do, especially in the all-for-one atmosphere in the clubhouse of a baseball organization.
What Dusty’s team is not supposed to do, though, is start things, or escalate them. Instead of bowing up and acting as if they are being victimized when retribution is in the air, Baker should take control and try to diffuse.
Instead, he has said things to blame the opponent or escalate bad blood.
At the start of the year, he said bygones should be bygones and things forgotten. He knew better than that.
“Balls get away,” he said, “but not that many in the big-leagues.”
Over the weekend, Astros pitchers hit Ramon Laureano three times and Baker had a different story.
“He got hit by two guys that don’t have any time in the big-leagues,” Baker said. “(The Astros) weren’t trying to hit him.”
So balls don’t get away from big-league pitchers … sometimes?
Baker knows better.
In the Dodgers incident, it was the Astros who walked across the field and challenged the Dodgers. Baker showed no control. Also, before the Joe Kelly incident with Correa, it was Baker who shouted profanities at Kelly from the dugout. That’s not why he was hired.
That’s not control. That’s not what Baker was hired to bring to the club.
Baker is failing at the job the Astros most needed him to complete. He’s failing miserably on the field, but a number of things out of his control are leading to it.
He is failing even more miserably and causing more damage in the job he truly was hired to do.
His top priority was bringing the Astros and their fans through what predictably would be trying times all season. He is ensuring that the season and opponents’ reaction to the Astros scandal are only going to get worse, with the stigma and bad blood toward the Astros lingering longer than it should.
It’s not just the particulars of one day in Oakland getting out of hand. It’s not just the Joe Kelly incident. Fans always will take sides and parse the whys and why-nots of individual moments.
It’s what should be clear to everyone by now. Dusty Baker is failing at his job. And it's not because the Astros are 6-9.