HOUSTON — Just call him Mr. 2,000.
Houston Astros manager Dusty Baker won his 2,000th game Tuesday night, becoming the 12th manager in major league history to reach the milestone and the first Black man to do it.
The benchmark victory came in Houston’s 4-0 win over the Seattle Mariners and comes more than 29 years after he collected his first win on April 9, 1993, in San Francisco’s 2-1 victory over St. Louis.
Before Tuesday’s game, while still sitting at 1,999 wins, Baker was asked what it would mean to him to reach 2,000.
“You can’t look back because you have work to do going forward,” Baker said. “And you can’t gloat about what you’ve done until after your career is over with. Then when your career is over with, then you assess the entire situation. But while you’re in it, you don’t have time to do that.”
But the 72-year-old Baker did acknowledge that being the first Black manager to reach 2,000 wins makes the achievement more meaningful.
“It means extra,” he said. “It means extra to the culture. It means extra to society. It means extra to my race, and it means extra hopefully for others to get an opportunity (so) I’m not the last.”
It’s the latest milestone in a storied career as a player and manager that has spanned more than 50 years. Baker has reached the World Series twice as a manager, last season with the Astros and in 2002 with the Giants. As a player, he went three times with the Dodgers, winning it all as a big-hitting left fielder in 1981.
Ten of the 11 other managers who have accumulated at least 2,000 wins are in the Hall of Fame. Bruce Bochy (2,003), who isn’t yet eligible, is the only exception.
Baker's career record is 2,000-1,745 and he's the only manager in major league history to take five different teams to the postseason.
Baker collected 840 wins in 10 years with the Giants, 322 in four seasons with the Cubs, 509 in six years with the Reds, 192 in two seasons with the Nationals and has 137 in his tenure with the Astros.
He reached 500 wins while still with the Giants in a 6-5 victory over the Phillies on June 1, 1999. His 1,000th win came on Aug. 30, 2004, while managing the Cubs to a 5-2 victory over Montreal. Win No. 1,500 came on May 9, 2012, with the Reds in a 2-1 triumph over Milwaukee.
“It’s an honor to play for somebody who loves the game and loves his team and is so knowledgeable about the game of baseball and who has had such a storied career,” Houston third baseman Alex Bregman said. “To be able to learn from him, play for him and just to be able to suit up with him every single day is very special and nobody in here takes that for granted."
There was a time Baker wondered if he’d even get a chance to chase this milestone. After being fired by the Nationals following a 97-win season in 2017, Baker didn’t get another job until 2020 after Houston’s sign-stealing scandal cost manager A.J. Hinch his job.
“If there wasn’t a scandal, I wouldn’t be in this position,” Baker said. “My phone wasn’t ringing off the hook. Three different times I lost jobs and twice I was winning, and I didn’t get a call for two years... so, yeah, it’s just a matter of perseverance. And I’m here and I'm... where I’m supposed to be.”
Baker, who needs 41 more wins to move all the way up to No. 9 on the career list, was asked about cracking the top 10.
“I’ll get there long as I live,” he said. “That’s my thing. As long as I live and as long as you just do your job — and my job is to win — then I’ll get there.”
Here are some of the milestones he hit along the way:
- Win No. 1: April 6, 1993 - San Francisco at St. Louis
- Win No. 500: June 1, 1999 - San Francisco at Philadelphia
- Win No. 1,000: August 30, 2004 - Chicago at Montreal
- Win No. 1,500: May 9, 2012 - Cincinnati at Milwaukee
Who is Dusty?
"Dusty" was actually born Johnnie B. Baker Jr. He was the oldest of five children and got the nickname Dusty from his mother because he constantly played in a dirty spot in the backyard.
Baker made his MLB debut for the Braves in 1968, playing in just six games for the Braves. He would make several appearances for the organization before becoming a mainstay on the roster in 1972.
Baker finished his career with a .278 average, 1,981 hits, 242 home runs and 1,013 RBIs.
Baker rejoined the Giants as a coach in 1988. He eventually was hired as the full-time manager in 1993. Ironically, Baker's first season as manager was his winningest, as he finished with a record of 103-59.
He would eventually win NL Manager of the Year in 1993, 1997 and 2000.
A Wild Card berth in 2002 got Baker to win the NL pennant as manager, where the Giants would face the then Anaheim Angels in the 2002 World Series.
Baker and the Giants lost in seven games.
Baker left San Francisco as the winningest manager in franchise history (840-715) before that record was broken by Bruce Bochy.
Other stints as manager
Baker made other stops on his road to 2,000 wins.
After San Francisco, Baker joined the Chicago Cubs for four seasons. He would only make the playoffs in his first year in 2003.
He would take the year off in 2007 before returning to managing in 2008 with the Cincinnati Reds.
Baker led the Reds to postseason appearances in 2010, 2012 and 2013, before eventually being fired by Cincinnati.
The Washington Nationals hired Baker for the 2016 season. He would win 95 and 97 games with the Nationals, but postseason failures led to the team not bringing Baker back.
H-Town's new manager
Baker was hired to replace the outgoing A.J. Hinch in 2020.
In his first season with the Astros, Baker finished with a record of 29-31 during the shortened COVID-19 season.
Despite finishing under .500, the team made the postseason due to new rules, which helped Baker lead the team all the way to the ALCS. Houston eventually lost in seven games to the Tampa Bay Rays.
Baker led the Astros back to the World Series in 2021 after an incredible 95-67 season that saw many of his star players hurt and unable to contribute.
Houston took down the Chicago White Sox in the ALDS and the Boston Red Sox in the ALCS, before eventually losing in six games to Baker's old franchise, the Atlanta Braves.
Once he hits his 2,000th win, Baker will become the 12th manager to hit that milestone.
He can immediately get into the top-10 all-time with 2,009 wins later this season.