The Cincinnati Reds’ front-office leadership kicked manager Dusty Baker out the door after the 2013 season when his club lost a first-round playoff game. His six-year tenure as boss of the Reds ended because Baker’s teams three times in four years fell in the first round of the National League playoffs.
Careful what you wish for
Right now that record is looking pretty darned good. The Reds may not admit they miss Baker, but the 2014 season has been an epic bust. The Reds will have to either buy their own playoff tickets this season or watch the games on TV because they aren’t going to qualify.
Going into Friday’s play the Reds owned a 61-67 record and resided in fifth place in the NL Central Division, only five games ahead of the doomed Chicago Cubs.
Not what the Reds leaders expected when they promoted pitching coach Bryan Price to his first job as a manager and exiled Baker, who wanted one more year as he was turning 65 to chase his first managerial World Series title.
Baker's Reds record
Baker was a hero in 2010 when the Reds shocked baseball and captured the NL Central crown with a 91-71 record. The clubhouse was awash in champagne and players celebrated as if it was 1999, that is New Year’s Eve 1999.
Injuries and underachievers contributed to a 2011 failure of a 79-83 mark, but the Reds immediately rose up again under Baker’s tutelage in 2012, finishing 97-65 and taking another Division crown. In 2013 the Reds finished 90-72 in what was probably the toughest division in the game. It was the only one that produced three playoff teams.
Baker’s – and the Reds' failing – was that Cincinnati was unable to advance further than the first round of the playoffs in each of these three seasons.
Before it was all over Baker had suffered some health problems and there was a brief period when it seemed possible that he was going to be forced to retire.
Following that scare he returned to lead the team through the end of the regular season and the playoffs. Although the conclusion wasn’t sweet, it was apparent that Baker felt good about a Reds team built to win now and surely hoped he would have one more season at the helm to win The Big One.
Instead, Baker was soon unemployed after his team’s last loss last fall and the Reds got a new manager. No one would wish this Reds season on anyone because Price has had a 10 plagues of Egypt type of year.
From All-Star closer Aroldis Chapman being hit in the head by a line drive in spring training to All-Star second baseman Brandon Phillips’ injured thumb and All-Star first baseman Joey Votto’s balky legs, the Reds have never had it truly together all year.
While Todd Frazier and Devin Mesoraco became All-Stars, most of the lineup has underachieved and other injuries have interrupted when consistency beckoned.
As for Baker, being ousted stung, but the way this season has progressed he is probably not that sorry he missed it. He would have ended up with a nagging ulcer. Instead, he has probably been able to indulge his passion for fishing more than in any other summer in recent memory. And he is probably well rested waiting for that last phone call to lead a team one more time.