HOUSTON (CBSDFW.COM/AP) - The Houston Astros introduced Dusty Baker as their new manager on Thursday.
"He's a person of high integrity. He's a respected leader. He has great baseball experience and he will earn the players' trust," said Astros owner Jim Crane.
The Astros hired Baker after Crane fired A.J. Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow earlier this month.
Prior to his dismissal, Hinch was suspended for the season by the league for his involvement in the Astros' sign-stealing scandal.
"We have to go forward and make sure that it doesn't happen again," Baker said at his introductory news conference. "It's certainly not going to happen on my watch here."
Baker also acknowledged that the Astros job will be his last stop. He'll turn 71 in mid-June. Baker's contract with the Astros is only for one season, though it includes a club option for the 2021 campaign.
Baker says he's excited about the chance to win his first World Series title as a manager.
"I want to win. I want to start out hot and get out of the gate hot," he said.
Baker longed for another shot at an elusive title after falling short in his previous stops. But at 70 years old he wasn't sure if it would come.
"I was happy but I wasn't satisfied, where I was and what I was doing because something's missing," he said. "And I think the Lord gave me the best chance to accomplish what I need as a person, as a father, and as a man."
An All-Star outfielder while playing 19 years in the majors, Baker has 22 years of managerial experience, starting in 1993 with the San Francisco Giants.
A three-time NL Manager of the Year, Baker was let go by the Washington Nationals after a 97-65 season in 2017.
"Hiring Dusty Baker is one big step for us to move forward," Crane said. "And I believe Dusty is the right person at the right time."
Baker has served since 2018 as a special adviser to Giants CEO Larry Baer, working in both the baseball and business operations of the club. He regularly attended son Darren's college games at the University of California in Berkeley.
He was so excited about coming to Houston on Thursday that he woke up an hour before the alarm that was set at 2 a.m. was to go off.
"This is my last hurrah," he said. "And I thought my last hurrah was in Washington, actually, because I gave all my stuff away. I went to find my shoes, went up to the attic and I found the empty bag ... so this is a new beginning for me."
With just about two weeks until the start of spring training, Baker said he would keep Hinch's staff intact instead of bringing in his own people.
"We're going to go with what we have because it's pretty good," he said.
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred disciplined the Astros after he found the team broke rules by using electronics to steal signs during its run to the 2017 World Series championship and again in the 2018 season.
The Astros were fined $5 million, the maximum allowed under the Major League Constitution, and forfeited their next two first- and second-round amateur draft picks.
The investigation found that the Astros used the video feed from a center field camera to view and decode opposing catcher's signs. Players banged on a trash can to signal to batters what was coming, believing it would improve chances of getting a hit.
Former Astros star Enos Cabell, who works as a special adviser in the team's front office, has been friends with Baker for years and was thrilled about the hire.
"I'm thankful for Jim making the right decision because our team needs him," Cabell said. "We need somebody who is stable and who the players will play for."
Baker and Dodgers manager Dave Roberts are the only two African-American managers in the majors, a fact that disappoints Baker.
"But I'm hoping that what we do will motivate other coaches and players to try to strive to get to where I am," Baker said. "And also hopefully this will incite other owners to say, 'Hey man, these guys are pretty good at what they do, these guys are the best.'"
Baker said he'll spend the next few days getting things in order at his home in California to prepare to be at spring training and then in Houston for the season. He mentioned spending time with his first grandchild, a boy who was born about two weeks ago, pruning his grapes and taking his dogs to the veterinarian.
"I've got a lot to do and then when I get to spring training I'll hit the ground running," he said.
Baker has compiled a 1,863-1,636 regular season record in a career where he spent 10 years with the Giants, four years with the Chicago Cubs and six seasons with the Cincinnati Reds before his two-year stint with the Nationals.
He was a two-time All-Star, Baker began his career with Atlanta and played for the Los Angeles Dodgers, Oakland and San Francisco. He was selected MVP of the 1977 NL Championship Series and won a Gold Glove in 1981, when he helped the Dodgers to a World Series title.
He was voted Manager of the Year in his first season with San Francisco in 1993, when he guided the Giants to a 103-59 record. He won the award again in 1997 and 2000 with the Giants, and led San Francisco to the 2002 World Series, a seven-game loss to the Anaheim Angels.
While Crane has made his choice at manager, he continues to search for Luhnow's replacement.
Former Giants general manager Bobby Evans has interviewed for the job, a person with direct knowledge of the meeting said. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the candidates have not been made public. The Astros are still in the middle of the interview process, the person said.
(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
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