No manager in Reds history took more criticism than Dusty Baker, if only because he joined the Reds in the age of Twitter. The Reds announced his firing on Friday, and more than a few fans included the words, “good riddance,” in their tweets. The Fire Dusty Baker account celebrated as if the Reds won the World Series.
With Twitter, fans whose only previous outlet to vent was talk radio could now let the world know how disgusted they were with Baker every time he batted Zack Cozart second or called for a bunt.
“Everyone knows what I should do,” Baker said last week. “Everyone can do my job, but they’ve never done it.”
Someone told Baker last week they often stuck up for him on Twitter.
“You don’t have to stick up for me,” Baker said. “I don’t really need it. I don’t care. I’ve been doing pretty good for the last 20 years.”
Despite the backlash against him over the years, Baker will go down as one of the Reds’ great managers. He finished 592-463 (.524 winning percentage) with the Reds. Only Sparky Anderson (863-586, .596) and Bill McKechnie (744-631, .541) won more games. Baker was the first Reds manager to last six years on the job since Anderson.
Baker’s teams won 72, 74 and 78 games in his first three seasons. The Reds became a winner in 2010, going 91-71 and winning their first division title in 15 years. They took a step back in 2011 (79-83), but returned to form in 2012 with another division title (97-65).
“We respect the job he’s done here the last six years,” General Manager Walt Jocketty said. “He’s helped us win and get to the playoffs. We have had some good teams. He’s helped us get to that level. We just haven’t advanced far enough into the playoffs. We were in a good position last year, and it didn’t work out. We were in a good position this year to get home-field advantage.”
Even though the Reds battled consistency issues all season, Jocketty was confident they could pull it together in the final week.
“I think we felt we had a very good chance, especially with Johnny (Cueto) coming back and pitching well and Marshall was back, and Ludwick was starting to swing the bat well,” Jocketty said. “We just had some guys that didn’t perform.”
Jocketty mentioned the Reds’ inability to hit left-handed pitching. Jay Bruce, Joey Votto and Shin-Soo Choo, three of the team’s top four hitters, all bat left-handed. As a team, the Reds hit .241 against lefties, compared to .252 against right-handers. A southpaw, Francisco Liriano, shut the Reds down in the wild card game.
“We still had (Brandon) Phillips and (Ryan) Ludwick, and (Todd) Frazier, from time to time, helped us from the right side,” Jocketty said. “Most of all, we just need to be more consistently offensively and play good defense and run the bases better.”
As good as the pitching was all season, it let the Reds down at the end, too. Mat Latos’ injury, like Cueto’s the year before in the first game of the NLDS, proved to be something the Reds couldn’t overcome.
Baker said Latos tried to get it going again in a bullpen session before the playoffs.
“He couldn’t throw his breaking ball,” Baker said. “That’s one of his pitches. He couldn’t throw his curveball. The guys that were available were (Mike) Leake and Cueto. Leake had terrible numbers against the Pirates, probably as bad as he had against anybody. We went to Johnny Cueto. He was ready for the task. There are no guarantees.”