For a long time, I never really thought of Dusty Baker as a Hall of Fame manager—or, for that matter, as having any Hall of Fame argument at all.
Sure, I tossed around his Cooperstown chances in a previous article, but he never quite had the feel of a Hall of Fame skipper. Just as during his playing days when he was solid, he has been similarly solid as a manager.
But solid doesn’t cut it. Not when we’re talking about the Hall of Fame.
Yet, the numbers are undeniable. Upon winning his 1,500th game on May 9, he joined an elite fraternity—only 19 other managers ever have earned that many victories.
Let’s break those helmsmen down. Twelve of them are already in Cooperstown. Three* are recently retired and will be heading to the Hall when they become eligible, while three** more are retired and not in the Hall yet—but they have their supporters. The other, Jim Leyland, is still active and steadily making a case for a plaque of his own as we speak.
*Tony LaRussa (2,728 wins), Bobby Cox (2,504) and Joe Torre (2,326)
**Gene Mauch (1,902 wins), Lou Piniella (1,835) and Ralph Houk (1,619)
History indicates a manager with at least 1,500 wins has a great shot at earning induction into the Hallowed Halls, but is that singular victory milestone enough for Baker? Maybe, maybe not.
Despite compiling all those regular season victories, he doesn’t have very many from when it counts the most—the postseason. In his nearly two decades of managing in the majors, Baker has never led a team to a World Series victory and he has led only one team to the Fall Classic at all.
Sure, he has managed six teams to 90 or more victories—and one to over 100 wins—but he also has eight losing campaigns to his name. Though he has four first-place finishes to brag about, there are also four fourth-place finishes on his record that tarnish his legacy.
So maybe he shouldn’t be planning his Hall of Fame induction party just yet. To say that Baker “punched his ticket” to Cooperstown upon winning his 1,500th game may be a bit premature. As it stands, he is in that borderline grey area—on the edge, but perhaps not quite worthy of enshrinement.
But still, he may get the call to the Hall someday. Most 1,500-game winners have.