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Old but more than old school, Dusty Baker and Bruce Bochy shining as MLB’s oldest managers

HOUSTON (AP) — When Texas rookie Evan Carter was born in 2002, Houston Astros manager Dusty Baker had been managing in the big leagues for a decade and Rangers skipper Bruce Bochy was in his eighth season.

The ages of MLB managers have been declining in the last few years, with 22 under 60 at the start of the 2023 season. But in the AL Championship Series, the two oldest managers in the majors, 74-year-old Baker and 68-year-old Bochy, are leading the way.

“I can brag, because I’ve made it this far in age,” Baker said. “(And) it has something to do with us, but mostly to do with your team. And the fact that the team trusts us.”

“I didn’t look at it as a competition as far as old versus young, to be honest,” said Bochy, whose team leads 2-0 heading into Game 3 on Wednesday.

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After Baker was fired by the Nationals following a 97-win season in 2017, he wondered if he’d ever get another shot. He thought his age — and salary demands commensurate with his experience — was keeping teams away.

“I’ve said in the past, you look around the world, there’s different kinds of discrimination. There’s age, race and there’s sometimes gender. And sometimes intellectual,” he said. “So, there’s all kind of things that you can think about. But it’s no good to worry about.”

Bochy believes what Baker and some other older managers — including 2021 World Series winner Brian Snitker in Atlanta — have done in recent years might have helped with his return to the dugout after a three-year absence.

“I guess it’s good for the old guys that we’re in this situation,” Bochy said. “But that might be why I got a call, I don’t know, because of the success of some veteran managers.”

Houston owner Jim Crane wasn’t turned off by the fact Baker was 71 when he interviewed to manage the team after A.J. Hinch was fired in the wake of the team’s sign-stealing scandal in 2020. In fact, he believed his reputation and decades in the game were just what the Astros needed to help repair their tattered reputation.

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“His experience and the experience of dealing with pressure and players and a lot of different situations — that was very appealing,” Crane said. “He’s a smart guy. Once you visited with him a couple of times, you realized how bright he was, how well he knew the game. And he embraces the analytics, but he also goes old school. So you’ve got a good blend.”

Rangers GM Chris Young said people asked him about hiring an “old-school manager” when he brought Bochy to Texas this offseason. He pushed back on the assertion that Bochy was old school simply because he was old.

“I feel the exact opposite,” he said. “I think that if you’re stuck in your ways, you don’t last. And these old managers who have lasted last because they evolve and they’re open-minded and they grow. I think that’s an important attribute to recognize with Boch. He’s been wonderful. I absolutely love working with him.”

Crane, who is a year older than Bochy, enjoys seeing the “old guys” shine this postseason.

“I think it’s great,” he said. “It may have flipped a little bit too far the other way, and now it’s kind of back in the middle and I think that’s where it’s best for baseball.”

Houston outfielder Mauricio Dubón might be the biggest fan of this matchup of anyone on either roster after playing for both managers. He played 28 games for Bochy as a rookie in San Francisco in 2019 and has played for Baker since joining the Astros last season.

“It’s pretty unreal and no wonder why they’re having the success they’re having — I think Bochy’s a big part of what’s going on over there,” Dubón said. “He treats the players how they should be treated. Dusty does the same thing. So, it’s heaven, in a sense as a player, just because they treat the players the right way.”

The 29-year-old Dubón said playing for Bochy and Baker is like being around a grandfather.

“He’ll pull your ears and ground you,” Dubón joked. “But he does it because he cares about you and he wants you to be good.”

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And Dubón can’t get enough of the old-school tales from the two.

“They know stories that sometimes you’re like: ‘You were managing that long?’ And it’s pretty crazy hearing them,” he said.

At 40, Houston ace Justin Verlander was among the oldest players in the league this season. He thinks he and the old managers have many things in common.

“It’s kind of like older pitchers, you know, there’s instincts, they’re there for a reason,” he said. “And you can trust your gut. And I think a lot of times it works out.”

After a 19-year playing career, Baker has managed 4,046 regular-season games over 26 seasons with the Giants, Cubs, Reds, Nationals and Astros. Bochy, who played for nine seasons, also has managed 26 seasons, with 4,194 games with the Padres, Giants and Rangers.

Baker is the winningest active manager with 2,183 victories and Bochy ranks second with 2,093. But Bochy has more rings — he won the World Series three times with the Giants, while Baker took home his first title last season.

At 75, Arizona pitching coach Brent Strom is one of the oldest on-field staffers in the majors. He had the same job with the Astros from 2014-2021, working for Baker for the last two seasons.

He’s thrilled to see two fellow senior citizens excelling.

“The players today, even though they’re besieged by analytics, (Baker and Bochy) have a bunker mentality of ‘been there, done that,’” Strom said. “And both of those guys have been through the wars. They’ve been to the top of the mountain. They’ve had some lows, too, but I think the players really appreciate a guy who has some battle scars. Both those guys have them and wear them with pride.”

Bochy isn’t concerned about whether his players think of him as a father or grandfather figure. He’s only worried about one thing.

“Hopefully they know that I care about them, and we all want the same thing, and that’s to win ballgames,” he said. “Hopefully I can help put them in that situation. That’s my job. If they understand that, then I’m good with it.”

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AP Baseball Writers Stephen Hawkins and David Brandt contributed to this report.

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AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/mlb