I pose to you this question: If Dusty Baker retired tomorrow, would he be a Hall of Fame manager with his resume? What if he reaches 1,500 wins? Or 2,000?
I’m sure you unequivocally answered “No” to each question—or at least, “He’ll never get there” to the latter two.
Now, what if I told you that, surprisingly, Baker is only 51 managerial victories away from 1,500?
The answer is still “No,” right?
Well, consider the following:
All-time, 19 managers have won at least 1,500 games. Two of them, Tony LaRussa and Jim Leyland, are still active. Three of them, Bobby Cox, Joe Torre and Lou Piniella, retired last year and are currently not eligible for the Hall of Fame.
All of the other managers in that club—we’re down to 14 now, if you lost count—are in the Hall of Fame, save for one: Ralph Houk.
And Houk has plenty of supporters.
In fact, all of the managers with at least Baker’s current victory total (1,449) are in the Hall of Fame, except for the aforementioned Houk, the current skippers and the recently retired.
Baker has a career winning percentage of .522—higher than Hall of Fame helmsmen Dick Williams (.520), Casey Stengel (.508), Wilbert Robinson (.500), Bucky Harris (.493) and Connie Mack (.486).
In addition, his 1,449 wins surpass Miller Huggins (1,413), Robinson (1,399), Ned Hanlon (1,313), Frank Selee (1,284), Whitey Herzog (1,281) and Billy Southworth (1,044)—all Hall of Famers.
Slowly but surely, Baker has put together an impressive resume. I am certainly not saying that he is going to be a Hall of Famer, but his case may be stronger than we all (or at least, I) thought.
For sure, however, there are plenty of knocks against Baker as well.
For example, he has never won a World Series and, in 18 years of managing, he has led only one team to a league pennant (the 2002 Giants). Nearly every Hall of Fame manager from the World Series era has won at least one Fall Classic.
While he has five playoff appearances under his belt (a respectable amount), there are current Hall of Fame managers with at least five World Series victories to their names, including Joe McCarthy (seven), Casey Stengel (seven) and Connie Mack (five).
In short, Dusty Baker has been the Johnny Damon of managing. He has performed solidly for many years, but rarely posts any "WOW!" seasons. In fact, he has won over 100 games only once in a season—his very first, in 1993 with the San Francisco Giants.
Just like Damon will certainly have Hall of Fame supporters upon his retirement, Dusty Baker will have his own supporters upon his exit from professional baseball as well.
The question remains as to whether there will be enough support to get him elected into the Hall of Fame.
You probably agree with me when I say that the answer is likely no—for now. However, that may change down the line (and I mean way down the line), especially if he reaches 1,500 wins.
After a while, baseball analysts and Hall of Fame voters will fall prey to the “club” mentality. That is, they will note something to the effect of, “If every other manager in the 1,500-win club is in the Hall of Fame and Dusty Baker is not, then he should be elected. So, let’s elect him.”
This is especially likely to happen if, 50 or 75 or 100 years from now, all that remains is a statistical record and no more current analysis and input from his now-deceased contemporaries. Numbers, rather than first-hand opinion, will hold sway in determining his election into the Hall of Fame.
And don’t think Baker won’t have to wait 100 years to get elected to the Hall of Fame. Frank Selee did.
Correction: There are two Hall of Fame eligible managers with at least 1,500 wins, with Gene Mauch being the other. He has supporters for the Hall of Fame, too.