Public criticism is a nuisance every notable professional athlete and coach has to deal with in some way or another. In the case of former Houston Astros manager Dusty Baker, it was reason to retire (or at least one of the reasons).
Baker, who announced his retirement late last month after 26 seasons as an MLB manager, discussed the decision during an appearance on TNT’s “The Steam Room” podcast with Charles Barkley and Ernie Johnson. He presented a surprising reason for hanging up his toothpick.
Simply put, a certain segment of online Astros fans and media were too mean to him, via the Houston Chronicle:
“We had a lot of success here, Ernie and Charles, and then the last couple of months here weren’t very pleasant, because we weren’t 10 games ahead,” Baker said. “You spoil people. They think you’re supposed to win this every year running away and it’s not like that. Every year’s different. There was a whole bunch of criticism from 30-year-olds and bloggers and tweeters that I’m not doing this and I don’t know that and I told my wife, ‘You know, I’m kind of tired of this and tired of the scrutiny and if I could go manage and show up at say 6:30 for a 7 o’clock game and leave 30 minutes after the game, don’t do the (pregame and postgame interviews), I could manage for another four or five years.’ You know what I mean? After a while, you just get tired of answering questions.”
Baker had previously hinted at a similar sentiment in his retirement news conference, answering “somewhat, yeah,” when asked if he felt “mistreated” by members of the Houston media. He also mentioned that there were “a couple instances, a couple articles” that helped him make up his mind.
Blogger questions weren’t the sole reason for Baker’s retirement, though, as he told Barkley and Johnson that he also considered his health at 74 years old. His son Darren is also a player in the Washington Nationals organization, a career Baker seemed very interested in following more closely.
Baker joined the Astros in 2020, at a time when the franchise certainly needed someone like him. The managerial vacancy opened due to the firing of A.J. Hinch in the aftermath of the cheating scandal that rocked baseball and tainted the Astros’ reputation, not to mention their 2017 title. The team needed a manager that could give it an appearance of integrity, and Baker fit the bill.
That match certainly seemed to work out for both parties. Under Baker, the Astros posted a 320-226 regular season record, reached the ALCS all four seasons and won the World Series in 2022. Meanwhile, the Astros gave Baker a chance to get back into baseball two seasons after the Washington Nationals let him go and an organization with enough talent to consistently compete for the World Series.
Of course, Baker’s reputation for being the last true old school manager, fair or not, was a contrast with the previously stats-obsessed Astros, and maybe that was reflected in the questions and criticism he received as manager. Part of being a manager is fielding questions nearly every day, both before and after the games, and few, if any, of them enjoy that part of the job.
When you’re as accomplished as Baker, that can be reason enough to opt for retirement.