Deep down inside, I knew it had to happen. I knew when the Reds went out lifelessly for the third time in four seasons, that Dusty Baker’s time had run out.
It broke late last night after I fell asleep. I received a flurry of texts from my ‘Reds inner-circle’ stating that Dusty was out. By the time I awoke the story was all over the place. A door had closed. An era had officially ended.
Many who know me and know how passionately I feel about the Reds felt I would be thrilled by this. The truth is there was no dancing on the gravestone – I was saddened by it.
I’ve had numerous short and meaningless conversations and exchanges with Dusty Baker through the years and he’s been nothing but pleasant and fan-friendly in every sense of the word. He is a likable man, a good man. I’ve had friends that partied with the guy. He’s just a real human being.
He was the first Reds manager I ever really cared about. Hell, I have been through so many wars with Baker on the seat of my pants in my living room that I felt like he was one of the family. He had his flaws: his poor lineup construction and belief that guys who walk a lot ‘clog the bases’. He made some mistakes. But you learned to love him for these mistakes like you love your whacky uncle who shows up for the holidays every year with his bullshit dish that no one eats. I accepted Baker and never rooted for his demise. I will miss Dusty.
But it was time. When the CEO of a company fails to advance that company after several years, things need looked at. I am disappointed to hear that Dusty felt the Reds overachieved in 2013. That couldn’t be further from the truth.
In my heart I was never really fully into 2013. I knew this team that never got hot had no chance at doing anything big time. In 2012, everything was different. I thought that would be the year we won it all. For me, 2012 will always be the one that got away. That was our big shot at the title. It will never be greater, trust me. In the end, I look back at the successful Dusty Baker era as a few years that wasted the primes of our stars. You can’t get back the years for Jay Bruce, Brandon Phillips, Aroldis Chapman, Johnny Cueto and Joey Votto among others. They’re gone, they’re spoken for, and in a sense they’ll never achieve the greatness as a nucleus of centerpieces that they could have under a better leader.
That’s not to say Baker was a flop – he was a good manager here. He’s always going to be a good manager and a great baseball guy. He can take you to nearly the top of the mountain, but he will always slip and fall before reaching it’s pinnacle. It is the real life story of a sad hero that always ultimately fails despite numerous triumphs.
Baker will always remain synonymous with a resurgence era in Reds baseball. For that, I’m forever grateful. The things I won’t miss go without saying. The loyalty to ineffective veterans in spots they aren’t designed to be successful, the inability to shake things up, his lineup construction, and his hands-off approach that failed to promote urgency amongst other things were his damning qualities.
I didn’t realize until this week that the man was 0-9 in elimination games in his career. That is downright scary.
I wish Dusty Baker well. I am thankful for the time he devoted to making the Reds a winner to the best of his ability. I will never slander the guy. He just wasn’t the guy for the job and it was time that he and the organization go their separate ways. Perhaps the saddest thing about the whole situation is that a good man and a great baseball man aligned with a talented roster of superstars and above average players will never be viewed as winners by outsiders.
Where we venture from here, I do not know. But I can guess that the Reds next manager will be someone with youth on their side and a strong voice that promotes urgency day in and day out. The country club has closed. It’s just a matter of whether it’s too late for this generation of Reds.