Dusty Baker, vessel of disappointment and frustration

Thearon W. Henderson

Friday morning, the Cincinnati Reds fired manager Dusty Baker. If you could construct an algorithm to predict managerial firings, I'll bet that Dusty Baker wouldn't have been real high on the list this fall. Not after a 90-win season and three postseason berths in the last four years. So what gives? Cincinnati.com's Paul Daugherty has a few ideas:

Being pretty good is no longer good enough, for Reds fans or team CEO Bob Castellini. It wasn’t just that the Reds ended the year on a six-game losing streak. It was that they looked disinterested doing it. The best a manager can do is set a tone. Baker’s tone this year didn’t work.

It’s not that Baker isn’t a good manager. He just isn’t a good manager for this team, at this time.

The Reds could no longer sell him to an expectant fan base. Castellini had been firmly in Baker’s corner, until this year. A few events changed that:

When Brandon Phillips interrupted Baker’s daily pre-game press briefing to berate an Enquirer reporter, Baker didn’t stop it. That suggested Baker didn’t have the necessary control of his players. Then, as the Reds drifted, then nose-dived late in the year, Baker insisted there was no need for urgency.

That's only two events, and hardly seem to constitute reasonable grounds for dismissal. But we might also add Baker's insistence on using Zack Cozart and Brandon Phillips in the No. 2 and No. 4 slots in the batting order, for which both were highly unqualified. About which Brian Kenny hammered Baker with some regularity on Major League Baseball's official television network. I suspect that Castellini noticed. Castellini might also have noticed that Baker's squad led the major leagues in sacrifice bunts, when that particular maneuver has largely fallen out of favor. Castellini might also have noticed that Baker, by at least some accounts, didn't care much for the general hitting approach of Joey Votto ... who's under contract with the Reds through Forever. Castellini might have noticed that Baker took some heat for his moves one year ago in the Reds' razor-thin loss to the Giants in their Division Series.

Of course there's also this:

Looking purely at wins and losses and personnel, it's not easy to make an objective case for firing Dusty Baker. Looking at individual events and decisions, it's not difficult.

And as well as the Reds have played in three of Baker's six seasons at the helm, they've gone 2-7 in their three postseason series while (of course) losing all three. In fact, It's now been 23 years 18 years since the Reds won a postseason series.

I have little doubt that some managers would have gotten more wins out of the Reds this season than Baker got. Maybe even enough to avoid playing a Selig Memorial Game (N.L. Edition) in Pittsburgh.

Some manager would have gotten fewer wins out of the Reds this season, though. Most managers, probably. If only because most managers should not actually be managers. That's why so many managers have short careers, and so few have long ones. It's an exceptionally difficult job to do well. The season's so long, the decisions so many, the personalities so complicated, the pressures so great.

I probably would have fired Dusty Baker, too. Because he does so many things that would drive me crazy, were I his boss. But I like to think I wouldn't have fired Dusty Baker because the Reds lost one game in Pittsburgh. Managers often wind up as vessels for the disappointments and frustrations of their bosses. But decisions made in frustration usually aren't good ones.

Then again, management probably had perfectly good reasons for firing Dusty Baker. Maybe the way the season ended was just a convenient excuse.

For much more about Dusty Baker and other Red things, please visit SB Nation's Reds Reporter.

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