Just a number: At 66, Baker looks to win big in golden years

FILE - In this May 11, 2003, file photo, Miami Marlins manager Jack McKeon watches a baseball game against the Colorado Rockies in Miami. Since 1976, five men have been hired as managers after they turned 65 and then worked at least one full season. McKeon was home playing his grandkids in North Carolina when the Marlins came calling after firing Jeff Torborg in May 2003. (AP Photo/J. Pat Carter, File)

Dusty Baker has put up plenty of big stats in his baseball life: More than 1,000 RBIs, nearly 2,000 hits, 20 years as a player, 20 more as a manager.

After he was hired Tuesday to guide the Washington Nationals, many fans focused on another number — 66, his age.

Baker re-emerges in the dugout at a time when the trend across the sport is toward young and fresh. New stats, new names, new approaches in the front office and on the field.

So, is Dusty age appropriate?

Absolutely, if recent hires and history hold true.

Terry Collins just led the New York Mets to the World Series as the oldest skipper in the majors, born about three weeks before Baker.

Collins became the 10th manager in the last 20 years to take a team into the playoffs at 66 or older, STATS said. The list of those who won big in their golden years includes Hall of Famers Tony La Russa, Tommy Lasorda and Bobby Cox, along with Jim Leyland and Charlie Manuel.

And the guys who got jobs after the “post-retirement” period? Very successful, right from the start.

Since 1976, five men have been hired as managers after they turned 65 and then stayed at least one full season, STATS showed. A look at how they fared:

DAVEY JOHNSON: A former All-Star infielder who had managed three teams to the playoffs, he was 68 and working as an adviser for the Nationals when they hired him in June 2011 after the sudden departure of Jim Riggleman. The next season, Johnson was voted NL Manager of the Year when Washington posted the best record in the majors and the franchise made its first postseason appearance since the Montreal Expos in 1981.

JOE TORRE: He’d guided the Yankees to four championships, but his time in pinstripes had run out when the Dodgers hired him at 67. That first year in LA produced a 2008 division title and a spot in the NL Championship Series, the team’s best showing since winning it all 20 years earlier. The Dodgers won the West under Torre the next year, too.

JACK McKEON: He was playing with his grandkids at home in North Carolina when the Marlins came calling after firing Jeff Torborg in May 2003. At 72, Trader Jack became the third-oldest manager ever — Connie Mack was 87 while Casey Stengel was almost 75 when he broke a hip. McKeon guided Florida to a wild-card spot and, puffing away on his victory cigars, won the World Series. He stayed two more seasons. When the Marlins asked in June 2011, he returned at 80 to manage them for the rest of the year.

FELIPE ALOU: He was already part of Giants lore, having played in the same outfield with brothers Matty and Jesus. The longtime Expos skipper was 67 when he replaced Baker, who left after San Francisco lost Game 7 of the 2002 World Series. Alou made it a smooth transition, guiding Barry Bonds and Co. to 100 wins.

FRANK ROBINSON: The only player to win MVP awards in both leagues hadn’t managed in more than a decade when Montreal hired him at 66 to start in 2002. The Expos took to him right away, bouncing back from five straight losing seasons under Alou to go 83-79 in each of their first two years under Robinson.

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