Dusty Baker took the Reds to the postseason three times in six years, but he never got them over the hump in October. He talked about that at his press conference Tuesday night at PNC Park in Pittsburgh after a 6-2 loss to the Pirates in the wild card game.
“It’s very difficult. It’s unbelievable actually,” Baker said. “Our club has been through a lot on and off the field. Our club stuck together. We realize we’ve now got some more work to do.”
The loss turned out to be the final straw for Baker’s career with the Reds. The team announced Friday that Baker was out as manager. The Reds hadn’t officially announced the move, and the AP reported it didn’t know if he was fired or resigned.
“This was a very difficult decision to make. Dusty played an important role in the recent success of this organization, and we thank him for his contributions during his time here,” Reds General Manager Walt Jocketty said. “We feel a change is necessary, however, if we are to continue to move the organization forward.”
No announcement was made about any changes to the rest of the coaching staff.
Baker, 64, had one-year left on a two-year contract. He signed an extension after last season when the Reds won the National League Central division title for the second time in three seasons and then blew a 2-0 lead in the division series against the Giants.
The Reds finished 90-72 this season and in third place in the division. Many expected this team to be the best team in the National League. Instead, the Reds never found the consistency to overtake the Cardinals or Pirates. Cincinnati lost its last five-regular season games, losing the right to host the wild card playoff game, and then were routed Tuesday by the Pirates.
A veteran manager who had postseason success, but no world championships, with the Giants and Cubs, Baker was known as a player’s manager. No Reds players ever spoke poorly of him this year. Baker was mostly a calm figure in the Reds dugout. He chewed on his trademark toothpick and rarely got on players in the middle of a game.
However, Baker drew a lot of criticism from fans. His lineup choices were a never-ending point of discussion. Some fans thought he bunted too much. Some thought the opposite.
Fans wanted him to start Billy Hamilton in September. They wanted him to pitch closer Aroldis Chapman in the eighth if the situation warranted it.
Mostly, fans wanted to see the Reds win when it counted. That never happened. They were 2-7 in the postseason under Baker and still haven’t won a series in the playoffs since 1995.
Baker was 509-463 with the Reds. He was the longest-tenured Reds manager since Sparky Anderson (1970-78). Baker ranks third in Reds history in wins.