By Gary Norris Gray, Staff Reporter
OAKLAND — This manager just made Major League Baseball and African American baseball history, but will he get the credit? Will he receive the praise?
The Houston Astros lost in seven games to the Tampa Bay Rays for the American League Championship with number 12 leading them, Johnnie B. “Dusty” Baker.
This man won the National League Manager of the Year award three times. Baker willed this team after being down 3-0 in the series. He was five outs from taking those forlorn Chicago Cubs to their first World Series if only Moises Alou caught that foul ball.
Dusty Baker does not use analytics, Money Ball, homer ball, and many claim that he wears out his pitching staff after two years. Dusty runs the Houston Astros with inner feelings and guts, the old fashion way.
It has been cited that Baker can be difficult to conclude contracts. He played in an era where Black players were the stars of the game. This man now as one of the few Black managers wins baseball games and division titles.
Baker continues to give shout outs to surviving members of the Negro Leagues by discussing them when-ever he can and he makes his point about the current lack of Black players (80) in baseball today. He would love for his team to play Negro League baseball style in Houston. Some older fans push back and don’t like Baker bringing this point up again and again.
In his playing years with the Los Angeles Dodgers and Atlanta Braves Dusty played against some of the greatest African American baseball players of our time, players like the late Joe Morgan and Lee May-Cincinnati Reds, Jimmy Wynn and Bob Watson-Houston Astros, Bobby Bonds, Willie Mays, and Willie McCovey-San Francisco Giants, Maury Wills-Los Angeles Dodgers, Ernie Banks-Chicago Cubs, The We Are Family Crew-Pittsburgh Pirates, Hank Aaron-Atlanta Braves, Lou Brock-St. Louis Cardinals, and Richie Allen-Philadelphia Phillies, just to name a few. These players are only from the National League.
Now he has put the Houston Astros house in order. The Houston Astros got caught cheating and fired their manager, A.J. Hinch in 2019. Nobody and I mean nobody wanted to manger this team of misfits and cheaters. The Astros had just been in the World Series and won two years earlier, one of the best teams in baseball still nobody wanted any part of Houston because they cheated and won.
In leading Houston to the playoffs, Baker is the first manager in MLB HISTORY to direct five different teams to the playoffs. This is a major league record and a Black history sports milestone.
Mr. Baker took this position and another pay cut with a one-year contract. This was with the league mandate to just keep the Houston Astros out of trouble and out of fights because there happen to be three teams that were gunning for Houston and made it very public.
The Oakland A’s, New York Yankees, and Los Angeles Dodgers were not pleased because they were the victims of Houston cheating. These three teams made it known that they would be head-hunting when they played Houston in 2020.
Major League Baseball could not have daily fights on the field. Dusty Baker would do more than that. He would guide the team into the playoffs without many incidents.
Baker is one of three Black managers currently in the league, along with Dave Roberts of the Los Angeles Dodgers and interim manager Lloyd McClendon of the Detroit Tigers. McClendon might not be keeping his job because there still is a wanted poster outside of the Tigers clubhouse.
The next question is why young African Americans have no desire to play this game? It is because they do not see anyone on the field that looks like them. It is because cities across this land are closing baseball fields.
It is because they keep seeing L.A.’s Mike Trout, Philly’s Bryce Harper and Mr. Kershaw of the Dodgers in television commercials. The numbers do not lie it has stayed constant at eight percent Black players in the majors the last 10-15 years.
The best Black player (Mookie Betts) in baseball got traded from Boston to Los Angeles to join former teammate David Price. This would be like trading Babe Ruth all over again, Boston never learns the lesion, never trade your best player.
The current Black All-Stars are Mr. Andrew McCutchen cannot find a home, McCuthen now plays for the Philadelphia Phillies after stints with the Pittsburgh Pirates, San Francisco Giants, and New York Yankees.
There is Lorenzo Cain returning to the Milwaukee Brewers after winning the World Championship in Kansas City. There are three Black New York Yankees Aaron Judge, Aaron Hicks, and Giancarlo Stanton.
The Oakland A’s changed their ways with Marcus Semien and Khris Davis, leading the Gold and Green. Baltimore Orioles showcases Adam Jones as the California Angels have two Black players, the last Upton brother (Justin), and Howard Kendrick. The New York Mets carry young pitching star Marcus Stroman. The numbers are still low.
The Seattle Mariners have the largest number of Black players on the field with 10 and of course a minority owner is at the helm of this great northwest baseball organization.
There are currently two teams that do not have a single Black player on the field, The Arizona Diamondbacks, and The Kansas City Royals who won the World Series playing the Negro Leagues way.
Jackie Robinson would not be pleased that baseball seems to be rolling the clock back to 1948.
Caucasian managers like Don Mattingly will get three, four, or five chances to fail as a manager while African American are allowed only ONE, maybe two chances. Manager Don Mattingly received a new contract last year in Miami, Florida, we must asked, for what?
Why does Mr. Baker take a pay cut and a one year contract with all of his playoff experience? Dusty signed that one year contract to guide the misfits of baseball in 2020.
He has won over 1,600 games. Mr. Baker has guided the San Francisco Giants, Washington Nationals, Chicago Cubs, and Cincinnati Reds to the playoffs.
He has also guided the San Francisco Giants to the World Series. While coaches like Don Mattingly never reached the World Series with the Los Angeles Dodgers or the Miami Marlins.
Just ask about baseball’s fairness Willie Randolph former manager of the New York Mets, Ron Washington former manager of the Texas Rangers, and back to back World Series Champion Cito Gaston of the Toronto Blue Jays, one team, one job, that’s it.
WHY? All three men guided their teams to the playoffs. All three men improved their teams; all three are not managers anywhere today.
It is truly amazing that there have been 29 Black managers in the long history of Major League Baseball. African Americans were not allowed to play in the Majors until 1948. The Brooklyn Dodgers then signed Jackie Roosevelt Robinson.
Twelve years later African Americans would step in the coach’s box with Buck O’Neal in Chicago with the Cubs. 15years after that American and National League MVP Frank Robinson broke the managerial color barrier with the Cleveland Indians.
Major League Baseball has taken a step backwards with only three managers (one interim) and 80 Black players on the field in 2020.
Currently there are Black third base coaches, First base coaches, hitting coaches, and many minority coaches in the minor leagues that could lead any team to a Major League title.
In 2020 there were three new managerial openings up for grabs. The Boston Red Sox, the Chicago White Sox and the Detroit Tigers. The Tigers have for the time being put Lloyd McClendon as interim manager. McClendon tried his hand at managing the first time in Pittsburgh before moving on to Seattle.
Many African American baseball fans feel that The Kansas City Royals are now being punished for playing the Negro Leagues way and winning. Many old baseball diehards are still upset. The Royals have not won anything since.
Major League Baseball continues to lose in so many ways, they have lost one or maybe two generations of future baseball fans and they are on the verge of losing another. You build your fan base through younger fans.
African Americans are no longer interested in this great game because many feel like the game will not invest in their employment or will promote Black players. African American children see this and say no way.
The game has become too long and too boring for many young Americans and MLB continues to be comfortable with the way the game is being played. THEY ARE LOSING.
Many old-time baseball fans state that the charm and nostalgia is an integral part of baseball and that the game should never change. If that were true then why did the American League infuse the designated hitter in 1975?
CHANGE !!!!If that were true why did they lower the pitcher’s mound in 1970? CHANGE!!! Last if that were true why do we now have inter-league play in 1997? CHANGE!!!. So these facts fly in the face of the old-timers’ argument.
There are too many unwritten rules and rituals that have frozen the game in time. THEY ARE LOSING. Baseball refuses to join the world in 2020 to modernize and speed up the game. There is a glimmer of hope with the new 2020 Wild Card Playoff three game format, so there is hope.
The long ball and station to station baseball style has disabled the sport. The Steroid Era has turned many pure baseball fans off as they begin to turn to soccer, basketball, football, and yes even hockey for their sports entertainment.
Major League pitchers fidget on the mound trying to find the perfect pitch and batters wait for the perfect pitch to smack the ball out of the park, thus making the at bat longer. Three hour games are now common.
The Kansas City Royals showcased that difference and have paid the price. The use hit and run, stealing bases, and taking two or three bases on a single. The Royals played old-time baseball and it created a faster exciting game.
The Royals have paid the price.
THE DUSTY BAKER EFFECT
African American managers have taken dysfunctional teams and elevated them to playoff status. Dusty Baker changed the culture in Washington, D.C. and stopped the infighting between pitcher Jonathan Papelbon and outfield Bryce Harper.
This constant bickering disrupted the Nationals play on the field, Baker squashed that quickly. He instilled confidence in the San Francisco Giants and Chicago Cubs. He put pride back into the Cincinnati Reds.
THE FEAR OF THE ANGRY BLACK GUY
In sports this fear is magnified three fold. Louis Victor Piniella, Earl Weaver, and Billy Martin throwing their caps on the ground, kicking dirt on an umpire, yelling and cursing at umpires, America thinks it is funny but LET A BLACK GUY DO THAT!!!
Ask Hal McRae who was relieved of his managerial duties five days after his outburst in the Kansas City Royal clubhouse, yelling, screaming, and throwing the telephone across the floor. This was after a reporter kept repeating the same dumb question. Ask Lloyd cClendon who lost an argument with an umpire and then picking up first base throwing it into the dugout; he was released that same year.
Former tennis star John McEnroe can argue and scream at the chairperson in a match and college basketball head coach Bobby Knight can throw a chair across the basketball floor and it is funny in fact they made television commercials about these acts, LET A BLACK GUY DO THAT!!!
So Dusty Baker or any other African American sports leaders cannot show this anger even though they may be simmering inside.
DISRESPECTING BLACK LEADERSHIP
Last note on the double standard in sports, white players can show disrespect for their team’s Black leader but African American players often get penalized for doing the very same thing to Caucasian team leaders.
Just ask Frank Robinson about the God-squad in San Francisco or the cowardly acts under the Willie Randolph regime in New York’s new Citi Field. Robinson and Randolph could not say a word, Frank and Willie had to turn and walk away.
THE HOUSTON ASTROS
The Astros were a dysfunctional team in need of a strong SILENT leader. Mr. Baker, the former Marine fits the bill. The Houston Astros were a target because of their cheating and winning the World Series.
There were a few incidents with The New York Yankee, Oakland A’s, and Los Angeles Dodger games this year but Baker has defused the dynamite with his calmness. No other manager wanted this job and this is the reason why.
The real question will the Astro brain trust sign Dusty Baker to another year in Houston? Is Houston the last stop for Johnnie B “Dusty” Baker?
Gary Norris Gray – Writer, Author, Historian. Gibbs Magazine-Oakland, California and New England Informer- Boston Mass. THE GRAYLINE:- The Analects of A Black Disabled Man, The Gray Leopard Cove, Soul Tree Radio In The Raw, and The Batchelor Pad Network on Blogtalkradio.com Disabled Community Activist. Email:- firstname.lastname@example.org
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