You should hate the Houston Astros, and you should choose any old reason for doing so. Sports without hate is oatmeal without milk, sugar, cinnamon and heroin. OK, OK, I get it. Some of you don’t like cinnamon.
But in my fetid little alleyway of the internet, we are totally good with the Astros and here’s why. They have Dusty Baker, and we are invested in his ring finger.
Baker is probably the only right thing Astros management has done since hiring that primordial slug Jeff Luhnow, and one of the very few right things since the noted toad impersonator Jim Crane bought the team. In many ways, the Astros are perfecting detestability, now by accepting the fact that they are being reinvigorated as America’s Villains and playing off it. It’s smart marketing, and like most smart marketing ideas, it reeks of the kind of loathsome, cynical insincerity the Astros embody.
So sure, screw the Astros, if that’s what floats your corpse. Screw them with all the venomous force you have at your command—like that’ll get you anything. The A’s openly despised them, and look where that got them. But give us Dusty Baker. We know what we like, and we shan’t let your moral tics surrounding a historically amoral game interfere with our enjoyment.
You prudish bastards.
For one, Baker didn’t bang on a single trash can, or ask anyone else to do so. For two, he has been a very good manager, and the kind of manager players like playing for. For three through six, he has been largely and mostly unfairly vilified over the years for not speaking the analytic dialect, for not winning with teams that didn’t deserve to win, for putting his faith in his players when they couldn’t return his faith, and for being persistently and unapologetically black.
Baker is still the one rooting interest you should have in a lifetime of avoiding rooting interests, and he is never more that than for taking the job that people thought only a guy in a Hazmat suit would find acceptable. He was running out of time to win a World Series as a manager, he was considered the one guy who could sweeten the bile-infused vinegar of the Astros’ brand, and he took the job knowing everyone would root for him to fail spectacularly.
Only he hasn’t. Finally gifted with a relatively healthy team, he has supervised the bullrushing of Minnesota and the defenestration of a seemingly superior Oakland group. The Astros now await Friday’s Rays-Yankees winner, and while you should have a mild interest in Tampa winning because they are the weirdest good team in all of sports, it matters not. When they or the Yankees arrive in the dugout opposite Houston’s on Sunday, Baker is the only emotionally satisfying bet.
Not the Astros, mind you. Again, if you choose, loathe them the way you loathe the UPS mope who throws your package through your dashboard window. What do we care how you manifest the wisdom-free emptiness of your life? Why would we lecture you on the folly of pretending that fair play and honor exist in a sport that has laughed at those principles since the Cincinnati Red Stockings beat the Fort Wayne Kekiongas in the second game of the 1869 season? The Astros suck? Sure, why not. That and a buck and a thousand-dollar bet on the A’s will get you a cup of coffee. Live it up. Let a thousand poison sumac plants bloom.
But Dusty Baker should have a ring anyway, because why the hell not? He took a job nobody else wanted to do, took on baggage that wasn’t his to take, and is doing it not just capably but as skillfully as managers are allowed these days.
If this doesn’t meet your worldview, well, let us refer you to the middle finger of all 46 of our hands, even those staff members who were not consulted in the typing of this screed (which is all of them). We speak as one, even though nobody else was asked, even though I wrote this on spec because Comrade Petchesky would’ve said no. Dusty Baker must win the World Series, even if that means the Houston Astros must win the World Series.
Author’s note: If you agree with these sentiments, please do comment below, and be as clever as you like. If you do not agree, then just piss off. If we wanted you to express an opinion, we would have assigned you this one ahead of time.