John McClain: Thanks to Dusty’s steady hand, the Astros are World Series champs again

Mandatory Credit: Photo by David J Phillip/AP/Shutterstock (13610545i) Houston Astros manager Dusty Baker Jr. celebrates in the locker room after their 4-1 World Series win against the Philadelphia Phillies in Game 6, in Houston World Series Phillies Astros Baseball, Houston, United States – 06 Nov 2022

John McClain: Thanks to Dusty’s steady hand, the Astros are World Series champs again

In my 47 years covering the Oilers and Texans in Houston, I’ve never had the privilege of writing about a World Champion.

Until now.

And it is a privilege to write about the Astros’ conquest of the Phillies in the World Series — their fourth appearance in the Fall Classic in six years and their second championship under owner Jim Crane.

Fans around the country may not like the Astros because of the cheating scandal that resulted in the most severe penalties since the 1918 Black Sox almost caused the ruination of Major League Baseball, but only fools refuse to respect them after their incredible achievement in Dusty Baker’s third season as their manager: a 117-58 record, including 11-2 in the playoffs and 4-2 advantage over the Phillies while getting booed unmercifully every time they stepped on the field in an opposing ballpark.

Even the Astros’ most vociferous critics must be happy to see the 73-year-old Baker win his first World Series as a manager. He’s liked and respected around Major League Baseball and beloved by his players and coaches. In his 25th year as a manager, he finally won that elusive title.

“I’m extremely happy,” Baker said. “I thought about it a lot. I tried not to dwell on it but tried to have faith and perseverance knowing with the right team and the right personnel this is going to happen.

“Had this happened years ago, I might not even be here. Maybe it wasn’t supposed to happen so I could, hopefully, influence a few young men’s lives and their families and a number of people in the country (by) showing what perseverance and character can do for you in the long run.”

Baker was asked if he felt relief more than anything?

“It’s just sheer joy and thankfulness — not relief at all,” he said. “I mean, everybody was talking about it more than I was even thinking about it. I’ve always said that if I win one, I’ll win two, but you’ve got to win one first. I mean, the one was hell to get to this point, but it was well worth it. I’m in a great city with great people, great fans, and a great ball club.

“These guys know how to win. No alibis, no excuses.”

After Crane fired general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch, he hired Baker and general manager James Click. Under their stewardship, the Astros came within one game of the 2020 World Series and made it last year when they lost in six games to the Braves.

Looking back, Baker believes he is the right manager for the right time.

“When the scandal was exposed and I was hired here, I felt it was meant to be,” Baker said. “I felt the Lord worked through Jim Crane, because I don’t think I was probably first on his list to be hired. But some of the guys I had played with and his former players on his advisory staff told him I was probably the best guy for the job.

“So I definitely thought it was meant to be. Big time. I welcomed it. I jumped headlong into this job with the goal of trying to win.”

The Astros’ discipline and focus on the road, including winning two of three at Citizens Bank Park, where the Phillies were supposed to be invincible, was an extraordinary accomplishment.

Those same fans who treated them with such disdain can read it and weep – the Astros are a bona-fide dynasty that should be favored to win another title next year because of the best pitching staff in baseball, clutch hitters, terrific defense and a culture that breeds winning.

Crane, Baker and Click should take a bow for overseeing and guiding this incredible collection of gutsy, gritty and talented players who thrived on pressure whether it was at home or on the road.

Crane said before Game 6 he would address Baker and Click’s contract situations on Monday. Both have expiring contracts and hope to return. There’s no reason to make changes at the top of an organization that’s overcome decades of exasperation and disappointment.

I’ve been fascinated and frustrated with the Astros since they were born in 1962 as the Colt .45’s and beat the Cubs in their first game. Bobby Shantz got the victory, and Roman Mejias smashed two home runs.

Growing up in Waco, I was mesmerized listening on the radio to Gene Elston and Loel Passe spin tales about players like Mejias, Turk Farrell, Hal Woodeshick, Bob Aspromonte, Bob Lillis, Al Spangler and Carl Warwick, among many others.

I suffered and celebrated – mostly suffered — with a team that was renamed the Astros in 1965 when they moved into the Astrodome. I remember those experiences like they were yesterday.

Now yesterday has become today, and Houston is celebrating the Astros’ incredible achievement – an impressive playoff run that ended with Saturday night’s 4-1 victory over the Phillies in Game 6 at Minute Maid Park.

Not counting the ignoramuses who are unflinchingly blind to the facts and figures of the season, nobody can dispute this Astros’ untainted title six years removed from winning their first World Series over the Dodgers in 2017 when they were caught cheating and paid a severe price for it.

“I think that’s what drove this team,” Baker said. “That’s what motivated them. The boos and jeers we got all over the country, it bothered these guys, but it also motivated them at the same time. And it wasn’t an us-against-the-world thing. It was more of a come-together, even-closer-type thing.

“What happened before, it doesn’t ever pass completely, but we have turned the page, and, hopefully, we’ll continue this run.”

When I think about Baker and the 2022 Astros and their wild ride to a second title, including the Game 6 victory over the Phillies at Minute Maid Park, I’ll never forget some of their experiences:

After 55 years in baseball, Baker finally winning his first World Series as a manager, cementing his place in Cooperstown.

Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale taking on Philadelphia fans after Game 3 and throwing out the first pitch in Game 6 before winning $75 million, the largest payout to an individual in the country’s history.

Yordan Alvarez clobbering a three-run, 450-foot home run to centerfield in Game 6.

A magnificent pitching staff that included Framber Valdez helping clinch the title with another clutch pitching performance to elevate his World Series record to 2-0.

Jeremy Pena topping off his ALCS MVP award and gold glove by becoming the youngest position player to be voted World Series MVP.

The magnificent bullpen that posted a 0.83 playoff ERA, including Ryan Pressly’s five-out save in the last game in Philadelphia.

Led by starter Cristian Javier, the pitchers combining for the second no-hitter in World Series history at Philadelphia to even the Series 2-2.

Amazing defensive plays by Chas McCormick in center field and Trey Mancini at first base to save the 3-2 Game 5 victory, silencing the crowd at The Bank.

Yuli Gurriel’s playoff resurrection at the plate in the playoffs after a disappointing regular season.

Alex Bregman’s consistency.

Jose Altuve rebounding from the worst slump of his playoff career.

Bryan Abreu’s dominating playoff performance and emergence as a big-time weapon out of the bullpen.

The perseverance to overcome a 2-1 deficit and allowing the Phillies to score only three runs in the last three games of the World Series.

I could go on and on about these 2022 Astros, but I’m already getting fired up about the 2023 season and their chance to reach a fifth World Series in seven years, including a third title.

What are the odds of that happening? Just ask Mattress Mack. You know he’s already calculating the possibility of the Astros becoming the first team to repeat as World Series champions since the 2000 Yankees won their third in a row.

As Houston fans know, you don’t bet against Mack.

(John McClain writes four columns a week for He can be heard Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday on Sports Radio 610 and Monday and Thursday on Texans Radio. He does three weekly Houtopia podcasts for 610. He also can be read three times a week on

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1 Comment

  • You and I were born about a year apart and became Colt 45’s fans at the same time. I enjoyed this trip down memory lane and summary of the playoffs and look forward to more Astros stuff from your prolific quill.
    Dave Howard
    Round Rock

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