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Lack Of Fans Much More Benefit To Dusty Baker Than To His Players

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Thin Skin Is A Bad Characteristic For a Manager Of a Despised Team

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Pardon the Interruption hosts Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon, while recently discussing the baseball playoffs, maintained that the Astros had greatly benefited from the COVID regulations during the 2020 season. After investigations of cheating during the 2018 season, Houston's manager A.J. Hinch and general manager were both suspended by Commissioner Rob Manfred.

While the players themselves went unpunished, there was much backlash from fans as well as other teams throughout the winter. It was to inevitably have spilled over into the regular season, when Houston's stars would be verbally assailed during road games.

George Springer, Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa and Alex Bregman were able to avoid such rude greetings on 81 occasions, since the coronavirus caused games to be played without fans in attendance. It is likely the Astros, who lost more games than they won, would have fared even worse had angry fans been present.

The co-hosts of the popular ESPN program were correct in that the Astros certainly were lucky that fans were prohibited, but the players did not benefit nearly as much as their manager. After all, Skipper Dusty Baker has suffered a history of being much too sensitive to fan criticism, which is one of the main reasons he has switched clubs five times in his career.

Baker was actually complaining about the expected fan taunting as soon as he accepted the job with Houston, even before a single pitch had been thrown in Spring Training. He called for Manfred to end the criticism of the Houston Astros from across baseball over sign stealing and take steps to ensure that pitchers don’t throw at his players, as if the Commissioner had the power to silence all fan criticism.

“It’s not good for the game, it’s not good for kids to see it,” the new Houston manager told Associated Press reporter Austin King in the February 15, 2020 edition of the Statesman. “Stop the comments and also stop something before it happens.”

If he was that concerned over the potential backlash, the 73 year old Baker should never have taken on the job. Having suffered an irregular heart beat as Cincinnati skipper back in 2013, he was certainly not going to benefit from the stress of having to endure hearing his players chastised in twenty different cities over a span of 81 games.

Baker's overly sensitive reaction to criticism goes all the way back to 1993, the year he began his first managerial assignment with the Giants.

“He's seriously thin skinned and offended by the mildest questioning,” Dan Dierdorf of San Francisco wrote on Reddit back in 2013, recalling Baker's grumbling about fan criticism during his seven year tenure as skipper of the Giants.

His skin seemed to grow even thinner when he left San Francisco to manage the Chicago Cubs in 2005, when he lashed out not only to fan criticism but to that of broadcasters as well. He was so perturbed after popular announcer Steve Stone second guessed a pitching decision, that Baker went to the front office and demanded the broadcaster be called in.

That October 1st meeting with Cubs president Andy MacPhail, general manager Jim Hendry and manager Dusty Baker did indeed involve Stone's questioning of managerial strategy and criticism of the team's approach during a September 30 postgame television show.

Not wishing to work in an environment where he did not feel free to express baseball commentary, Stone left the broadcast booth at Wrigley Field to join Ken Harrelson for the broadcasts of the White Sox across town. Baker, too, a few years later left the Cubs and took on the reign of the Cincinnati Reds.

While his team did enjoy some success in the regular season, Baker once again failed to lead the Reds beyond the first round of the playoffs. Before long, as might have been expected after his prior two stints, Baker became increasingly vulnerable to fan criticism.

"The last couple weeks, I've been getting a rash of hate mail,,'' he told Jon Heyman of MLB.com on October 4, 2014. "Maybe it is time to go."

After failing to take the highly talented Washington Nationals beyond the first round during a five year tenure, Baker announced his retirement. He should have stayed there, for being in charge of a baseball team is no place for an aging manager with big ears and thin skin.

Fortunately, his health remains intact, thanks to the absence of fans in 2020. When they are allowed to return next season, they will not have forgotten what the Astros did.

The taunting and heckling may even be worse, since fans have been forced to bottle it up for over a year. The players, having grown up around social media and a society accustomed to criticism, will handle the unleashing much easier than a manager who played in the bygone era when there were only three networks in all of existence.