Many people were unhappy that the Reds signed Dusty Baker to a two-year extension shortly after the end of the team’s 2012 season, but the people happiest with the news are the Reds players themselves.
After the Reds lost to the Giants in the National League Division Series, I spoke a bit to Jay Bruce, who said he really hoped Baker would return, and it’s a feeling shared by Bruce’s teammates.
While many people like to think a good manager is the type that raises fire and brimstone, the rah-rah type seen in movies or someone to be feared, that doesn’t work in baseball. Baseball’s a long game, where setting a tone can be more important than a making a scene. Those kinds of scenes — the closed-door meetings, the raising hell speeches — are the stuff of fairytales and bad movies, not baseball success. With 162 games, the long season plays out and few managers play the long season better than Baker. Baker’s greatest strength is managing a team, not a game. And when you’re talking about making the postseason, it’s the most important thing.
“This is Dusty’s team,” Reds owner Bob Castellini said at the press conference announcing Baker’s two-year extension. “These fellas are poised to go deeper and deeper in the postseason. To not bring Dusty back or not ask Dusty back was out of the question.”
The Reds won 97 games this past season; only Washington (which had a collapse of its own, despite perhaps the league’s best manager) had a better record — and that’s with nearly two months without the service of perhaps the league’s finest offensive player, Joey Votto. To hear people say the Reds should have won 10 more games if someone else was managing is laughable — and I’m floored by how many people I’ve heard throw this exact number out.
In the history of the National League, only four teams have won 107 or more games: the 1906 Cubs (116), 1907 Cubs (107), 1975 Reds (108) and 1986 Mets (108). The 1976 Reds, the team that many call the best in team history, won 102 games. While talented, the 2012 version of the Reds were certainly not at the level of the 1976 squad.
And speaking of the Big Red Machine, it reminds me of a story veteran Associated Press reporter Joe Kay tells about Sparky Anderson. Kay visited Anderson in spring training in 1979, Anderson’s first year in Detroit. Someone described Anderson as “beloved” in Cincinnati, and Anderson shot back that the questioner obviously hadn’t been in Cincinnati when Sparky was. Even Anderson’s nickname, “Captain Hook,” was a complaint about how he handled his pitching staff.
Now, though, Anderson has his number retired, his death was mourned and he is seen as one of the Reds’ all-time best managers, as he should.
But it should also be noted that he was considered a failure early in his career due to World Series losses to the Orioles in 1970 and the A’s in 1972. Baker has lost his first two postseason series with the Reds, but rest assured he will have more chances in the future.
“We still have work to do — I don’t want to leave a situation where I would have regretted not coming back,” Baker said.
The Reds have reached the postseason just 14 postseason times, and two of those have come under Baker. That’s why he’s coming back — just as he should.
Thinking Out Loud
A loss to the Browns, just what the Bengals needed heading into Steelers week. The Bengals finished the easy part of their schedule with a 3-3 record. That’s not going to be good heading into a stretch against the Steelers, Ravens and Giants. There are currently only two AFC teams ahead of the Bengals (the Texans and Ravens finished Week 6 with 5-1 records), but the pressure will be on for Cincinnati to make a playoff run. They might only be the favorite in their three straight games against AFC West teams from Week 11-13. ... To people who actually read what I wrote after Game 4 of the NLDS on CBSSports.com, thanks for doing so and actually trying to understand the point — that Cincinnati fans’ fear of blowing their rare chance at postseason success was palpable and that some players took exception to attendees of Game 4 booing the team. I honestly didn’t feel like I was ripping Cincinnati fans — I was defending them, bringing up why there was a sense of fatalism here. I should have mentioned Tim Krumrie and Stanley Wilson, as well. That said, I did have one Cleveland fan say he didn’t want to hear any complaining from Cincinnati fans about heartbreak.
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