Good guy Dusty Baker guides reviled Houston Astros into ALCS

LOS ANGELES (AP) - If there is one universally recognized good guy among the universally maligned Houston Astros, it's Dusty Baker.
At 71, he's the first manager to lead five different franchises into the postseason but still pursues his first World Series title at the top. The Astros have reached their fourth AL Championship Series in a row, defeating the Oakland Athletics in four games.
Next up on Sunday in San Diego are either the New York Yankees or the Tampa Bay Rays with a berth in the World Series.
If the Astros get that far, Baker could become the second black manager to win a World Series and join Cito Gaston. He would also be the second oldest to win behind 72-year-old Jack McKeon.
While the Astros remain villains in the eyes of many people because of their shield theft scandal three years ago, few treat themselves to the grandfather's baker. He was careful to protect his health during the coronavirus pandemic by wearing a mask and gloves. He eats oatmeal for breakfast.
"I was really excited to have a man like him," said Astros outfielder Josh Reddick. `` I've only heard great things about him. His stories are fantastic; He has a lot of old stories. ''
The Astros won the ALDS at Dodger Stadium at the neutral location, Baker's old turf. He was sold to the Dodgers by the Atlanta Braves in 1976 and had a tough first season of boos.
That's why I haven't read any articles about myself to this day, Baker said. "When I was with the Dodgers my first year, I learned why other people should control my self-esteem."
Things started to turn the next season and Baker enjoyed his greatest achievements as a player during his eight seasons in Los Angeles: MVP of the 1977 NL Championship Series; the 1981 World Series title; a two-time all-star selection. Baker's presence at Dodger Stadium remains strong. Photos of him and his gold glove from 1981 are on display.
"It taught me some valuable lessons," he said of his time in Dodger Blue. '' It taught me not to get too high when things are going well or too low when things are going bad. ''
That setting probably came in handy when Baker was hired by the Astros in January. He replaced manager AJ Hinch, who was fired after the team's fraud scandal. Former Astros thrower Mike Fiers announced last year that Houston had used a camera in midfield to steal signs and steal batsman signals that the pitches were to be expected by hitting a garbage can.
As a manager, Baker was forced to answer for the Astro's past violations even though he was not around. He handled all inquiries with a cautious attitude.
"They closed the circle and got into each other," he said of his team. `` It brought them closer. ''
Early on, Baker had little time with his new players before spring training was interrupted in mid-March due to the corona virus. They didn't get back together until the summer camp in early July and the shortened regular season with 60 games began on July 24th.
"I felt like a substitute teacher for a while," he said. '' I didn't know which guys were stubborn or sensitive. They didn't know how honest or honest to be with me or what would tick me off or make me happy. Now I've been becoming a constant teacher for the last month or so. ''
Despite their talented squad, the A's fought for a 29:31 record in the regular season and ended up behind West Champion Oakland. The pandemic meant the team had days, not weeks, to counter its problems.
"It was my biggest challenge ever," said Baker of the season. '' There was more uncertainty every day. For a while every day we got the message that someone either had the virus or was injured. I hated seeing my trainer come. ''
But Houston heats up in the playoffs with a 5-1 record. The team met in the ALDS .322. Carlos Correa, Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman and Kyle Tucker each beat over 400, and the 2017 World Series MVP George Springer is 0.389.
"We did everything as a group," said field player Michael Brantley. `` From Dusty up to the bottom. ''
The closest Baker to winning a World Series on the bench was in 2002 when he led the Giants against the Anaheim Angels. Baker came under heavy criticism after the Giants had a 5-0 lead in the seventh inning of Game 6 and then lost in Game 7. His teams also struggled with post-season finals where they had the chance to advance to the next round.
Long known as a traditionalist, Baker has shown a willingness to incorporate into his approach the analysis that dominates today's game. But he will never escape his gut feeling.
"This whole baseball thing is about a feeling," he said. `` If you feel like you're bringing your act together, you've brought them together. ''
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