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Steven Paul Baker (born 22 May 1980) is an Australian rules footballer who played for the St Kilda Football Club in the Australian Football League (AFL) from 1999 to 2011.
Baker was drafted in the 1998 AFL Draft at pick 27 in a second round pick to the St Kilda Football Club.
Baker played in St Kilda’s 2004 Wizard Home Loans Cup winning side – St Kilda's second pre-season cup win.
In 2005, he tied with teammate Luke Ball in St Kilda's best and fairest award, the Trevor Barker Award. Previous to this his best ranking was third in 2004. On 28 May 2005, Baker and teammate Fraser Gehrig played their 100th and 200th AFL games respectively.
Baker played in St Kilda’s 2008 AFL National Australia Bank Cup winning side – St Kilda Football Club’s 3rd AFL Cup Win.
Baker played in 21 of 22 matches in the 2009 season's home and away rounds in which St Kilda qualified in first position for the finals series, winning the club’s third minor premiership.
St Kilda qualifified for the 2009 grand final after qualifying and preliminary finals wins. Baker played in the 2009 AFL Grand Final in which St Kilda were defeated by 12 points.
The athletic Baker has caused some controversy during his career, playing as a tagger (run with) player rather than a set position player. Some football purists have criticised this style of play, while others have praised it.
Baker is regarded as one of the most efficient taggers in the league, but has been well documented to often stretch the rules, leading to a very high number of tribunal appearances and suspensions. On 18 August 2007, Baker was linked to an incident behind play, in the third quarter of a match against Fremantle at Telstra Dome. Fremantle forward Jeff Farmer was assisted from the playing area at Telstra Dome, with blood coming from his nose and suffering concussion.
The incident was not witnessed by umpires or captured on film. Channel 10 commentator Michael Voss stated soon afterwards that he saw what happened and added that Baker would be hoping it had not been captured by TV cameras. However he later denied viewing the actual incident and admitted to making an assumption based on his perception of the moments immediately before and after the incident.
Baker was charged by the AFL with rough conduct and, in the absence of video evidence, the Match Review Committee was forced to refer Baker directly to the AFL Tribunal. On 21 August 2007 it was announced that Baker had been found guilty and suspended for seven matches, then the longest sentence for a single incident since the tribunal system was changed to a points-based system (it has since been surpassed by only Dean Solomon's eight-match suspension the following year). The penalty was made so severe due to a 40% points loading due to Baker's record of four game suspension in the previous three years, and controversial 127.5 carry-over points; Baker had been suspended for two separate incidents in Round 6 against Carlton, but a loophole (closed immediately thereafter) allowed him to serve a shorter time and carry-over more than 100 points. After serving his suspension Baker returned for two matches before injuring his knee against Richmond.
On 28 June 2010, after St Kilda's Round 13 game against Geelong (the first rematch between the clubs since the 2009 grand final), Baker was charged four times for separate incidents – three for striking and one for misconduct (specifically, making unreasonable and unnecessary contact with an injured player) – against Geelong's Steve Johnson, who was also charged for twice for striking Baker (including an elbow which left Baker with a black eye), after the pair clashed several times during the first half when Baker was tagging Johnson. Baker became the first person to be reported for misconduct towards an injured player; ironically this became a reportable offence after a Saint, Nick Riewoldt got targeted after breaking his collarbone during an AFL match in 2005. After accepting early pleas for the three striking offences and having the misconduct charge upheld by the tribunal, Baker was suspended for nine matches. This is the longest suspension given from a single match (but not for a single incident) under the points-based tribunal system.
Baker was selected in St Kilda's two grand final matches against Collingwood in 2010.
Following St Kilda's elimination final defeat on 10 September 2011, St Kilda announced that Baker's playing career with the club was ending. Initially the club said that Baker was retiring but, after this was denied by Baker, the club later issued a reworded statement regarding Baker and several other players.