Reds fans love to second guess and criticize Dusty Baker and many of his managerial decisions. However, Dusty Baker did what Dave Miley, Bob Boone, and Jerry Narron all couldn’t; he took the Reds to the playoffs.
The Reds have now improved in all three years under Dusty Baker, and there is no reason to think that improvement won’t continue. The Reds have finally found what they had been looking for for a long time: managerial and front office stability. The importance of sticking with plans and sticking with goals cannot be understated for the long-term success of a ballclub.
Take the Minnesota Twins for example. Ron Gardenhire has been a staple in the dugout for years there and the front office has stuck to its plan of building through trades and its minor league system. They are a model that the Reds should follow. In 2010 the Twins payroll jumped, but in 2009 the Twins had a payroll smaller than the Reds and won the division (they have won the division 6 times since 2002).
Dusty Baker now has a record of 243-243 for the Reds, and led the team to a 91-71 record that not even the most idealistic Reds fan would have been on at the beginning of the season.
The fact is the Dusty Baker, Walt Jocketty, and Bob Castellini are all unified in the goal of producing a winner and are clear on how they want to get there.
Baker will have a new two year deal, and if everything goes as Baker believes it can, he has signed on for two more trips to the playoffs.
To me, Dusty Baker’s excellent leadership shined several times this season. Every Reds fan knows that there were times when this team could have easily folded. At Atlanta when they blew a huge 9th inning lead, after the sweep at the hands of the Phillies before the All-Star break, after the sweep at the hands of the Cardinals in early August, this team could have folded. They never did, and each time they came back stronger than they were before. Credit Baker for keeping the team focused and believing in themselves.
In the playoffs, however, not even a veteran Dusty Baker could calm down the team. They looked frantic and they pressed. On the biggest stage that Reds baseball had been on in years, they just did not get it done. Not this year. Not on those fields. Not this postseason. They dreamt of playing in the playoffs since they were kids, and they were swept.
BUT that experience will be invaluable to this team in the future. They now know the concentration and execution it takes to close out meaningful games that they absolutely have to win in October. The Phillies were swept in their first post season appearance in a long time in 2007. They learned and have been to the World Series 2 of the past 3 years now.
Maybe in 2013 we will be talking about the Reds team that learned such valuable lessons in 2010 and won a World Series soon thereafter.
I believe Dusty Baker will get them back to the playoffs, and then the players must come through from there.