MLB insider shares insight on Dusty Baker's future with Houston Astros

Astros Dusty Baker
Will Dusty Baker be back next season? Composite Getty Image.

Last week, Sports Illustrated asked … “Will Dusty Baker be back managing the Houston Astros next year?”

That was followed by an ESPN commentator piling on, “I'm starting to lose trust in the Astros. Seems like the entire team has just fallen apart” in part blaming manager Baker's reputation for over-using and burning out young pitchers.

Then MLB Insider Ken Rosenthal, not exactly a hot take blowhard, hammered another nail in Baker's job security, reporting that Astros management already is considering who might be Baker's successor next season. Rosenthal even floated Atlanta Braves coaches Eric Young and Walt Weiss as candidates.

More and more it appears that, win or lose, Baker is going, going, gonzo – dead manager walking. The only question remaining is, will Baker leave the Astros triumphantly, riding a firetruck in another World Series parade, or be carried out on his bullheaded, obstinate shield?

Baker is working on a ticking, one-year contract. If the Astros fail to invite Baker back for 2024, it won't be the first time that a team parted ways with Baker as manager. It won't be the second time. Or third time. Or fourth time. It will be the fifth, and by the actuarial calendar, final time. Baker is 74, the oldest current manager in baseball, the fifth oldest in history.

The Astros hired Baker in 2020 as a mature, calming influence in the embers of the Astros sign-stealing scandal. His other managerial stops were the San Francisco Giants (1993-2002), Chicago Cubs (2003-2006), Cincinnati Reds (2008-2013), Washington Nationals (2016-2010). In all those cases, Baker seems to have worn out his welcome, butting heads with management and owners. And sometimes with fans.

That appears to be the story in Houston. Months ago, newly hired general manager Dana Brown publicly expressed a wish that Baker play rookie sensation Yanier Diaz more at catcher instead of veteran Martin Maldonado. Fans lit up the phone lines on radio shows pleading with Baker to put Diaz behind the plate. More recently, a published report in The Athletic claimed that several people in the Astros organization were frustrated that Baker doesn't play outfielder Chas McCormick more regularly.

Baker's typical retort: I don't need any help filling out the lineup card. Once he dismissed fans' feelings by saying, "If you listen to fans, soon you'll be sitting with them." Those aren't endearing, fan-friendly comments.

It's no coincidence that Braves coaches Young and Weiss are rumored to be on the Astro wish list of candidates. General manager Brown was the Braves' vice-president of scouting for four years when Astros owner Jim Crane hired him this season.

Fans surely realize that Crane and Brown are watching the same Astros games as they do. They see the same stat sheets. They know that Diaz is batting .282 with extraordinary power and speed for a catcher, while Maldonado is batting .192 with a penchant for leaving runners on base. More important, Maldonado has thrown out only 13 of 79 base stealers, a horrid 14 percent, and is leading the American League with 12 passed balls. He also led the league in passed balls last season. It's sort of his thing.

Meanwhile, Diaz has thrown out 15 of 50 base stealers for a competent 30 percent, and has zero passed balls. Simply, Martin Maldonado is a defensive specialist who's a defensive liability.

Baker is 74 years old, the oldest manager in baseball, set in his ways, at times cranky and short with the media. He is old school, a manager who believes he, and no one else, is in charge between the white lines. It's important to note that Dana Brown did not hire Baker. That's a big deal for a general manager. If 2024 is a transitional year for the Astros, a rebuild on the run with younger players, and a new sheriff in town, Baker wouldn't be the logical choice for manager.

If Baker is not invited back for 2024, he leaves a Hall of Fame legacy as a skipper. He is the only manager to win a divisional title with five different teams. He is the eighth winningest manager in MLB history. He is No. 1 in wins for an African-American manager. And what we care most about in Houston, he guided the Astros to three ALCS (with one in the oven) and has a World Series ring for leading the Astros to the World Series in 2022.

Let's not forget, his story is not finished.

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Will all the Texans playmakers be satisfied with their roles in the offense? Composite Getty Image.

ESPN Texans reporter DJ Bien-Aime joined The Mina Kimes Show this weekand shared his thoughts on the Texans outlook this season.

When looking at the Texans offense, Bien-Aime pointed to Houston's play calling as being a possible issue in 2024. Bobby Slowik did a terrific job in his first season as an offensive coordinator. But he will have his hands full keeping all his playmakers happy with Stefon Diggs joining the team, and Nico Collins expecting a ton of looks after signing a massive contract extension.

Which got us thinking, are there enough catches to go around?

We took a deep dive into the 2023 numbers and here's what we found. CJ Stroud averaged 21 completions per game. And here's a breakdown of how many catches his receivers averaged last year.

Nico Collins 5.3 catches per game

Stefon Diggs (with Buffalo) 6.29 catches per game

Dalton Schultz 3.93 catches per game

Tank Dell 4.27 catches per game

Texans running backs 3.05 catches per game

If we add those up, the total is 22.84. Which means the Texans top receivers should expect a similar amount of production compared to last season. Of course, players like Noah Brown, Robert Woods, and Brevin Jordan will take targets away from Stefon Diggs and company from time to time.

But it's good to know that the Texans top pass catchers should produce numbers close to their 2023 averages. Which is a big deal for a player in a contract year like Diggs.

Another thing to note. We're factoring in that the Texans are expected to run out of 11 personnel most of the time. Which means Diggs, Collins, Dell, Schultz, and Mixon will be the only pass catchers on the field the majority of the time.

Are there concerns about the defense?

Both Kimes and Bien-Aime designated Houston's secondary as the big x-factor this year. Bien-Aime named cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. as the only player in the secondary that he truly trusts. Is he right?

Be sure to watch the video above as we react to Kimes and Bien-Aime's outlook for the Texans this year, and share our thoughts on the possible pitfalls the team will have to navigate in the short and long-term.

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