Nationals

Nationals

If an MLB season is played this summer, there will be several choices for the favorite to win the World Series at the end of what is expected to be a shortened regular season.

The Nationals are the reigning World Series champions and managed to keep their star-studded rotation intact over the offseason. Up north, the New York Yankees made the biggest free-agent signing of the offseason by luring Gerrit Cole into pinstripes. Over on the West Coast, the Los Angeles Dodgers boosted their lineup by acquiring former AL MVP Mookie Betts in a trade with the Boston Red Sox.

However, despite the sign-stealing scandal that dominated most of MLB’s headlines over the winter, Houston Astros manager Dusty Baker believes his team has the talent to win it all.

“Well it’s got to be the Nationals because they were the team to beat,” Baker told Brian Custer on Monday’s episode of The Last Stand Podcast. “We came in second so right now they would be the team to beat since they’re the incumbent. But you know, I feel like it’s us…it’s going to be tough to replace Gerrit Cole but you still got to play the games.”

Baker, who prior to this season last managed the Nationals from 2016 to 2017, joined the Astros after owner Jim Crane fired then-manager A.J. Hinch (as well as GM Jeff Luhnow) for failing to put a stop to the team’s sign-stealing scheme that spanned across the 2017 and 2018 seasons.

 

As the Astros were being investigated by MLB officials, they also had to grip with the loss of AL Cy Young runner-up Cole. Even though they have no obvious in-house options to pair up with Justin Verlander atop their rotation, Baker is confident the Astros have someone on the roster who will help fill the void Cole left behind.

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“I always count on somebody, a surprise guy, coming through that you weren’t counting on because when the Astros got Gerrit Cole, he wasn’t the Gerrit Cole when he left,” Baker said. “So hopefully there’s another one waiting that we’re not counting on.”

There will certainly be a target on the Astros’ backs this season. But Baker is 70 years old and still hasn’t won a World Series over 22 years of managing. Despite being unsure about what his future holds with Houston beyond 2020, he joined the Astros with the full intention of leading them back to the Fall Classic this year.

“I didn’t come back not to win,” Baker said. “In my mind, I was brought back to win and the fact that this is my last hurrah to win. So I’m usually good under pressure. I’m looking forward to the managing and trying to bring a championship back to Houston.”

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