UPDATE 2:00 PM: C. Trent Rosecrans of the Enquirer has talked to Baker and it’s worth a look on Twitter. Among the highlights: the decision wasn’t mutal, the Jacoby discussion happened last week, and Dusty looks to ride again.
Three days after the Reds’ sobering 6-2 exit from playoff contention, skipper Dusty Baker is on his way out of Cincinnati.
The Cincinnati Reds announced Friday that Baker will be replaced as manager, and the conditions of his exit were not amiable. John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer writes that Baker was fired as a result of the team’s sour finish; after clinching a playoff spot, the Reds dropped their last six decisions.
General manager Walt Jocketty, who had announced shortly after the wild card heartbreaker that the six-year coach would likely return in 2014, now believes that a new direction is necessary to ensure victory next season. Baker exits with one year remaining on his two-year contract, valued at $3.5 million.
The two-time All-Star spent nineteen seasons in the major leagues as a fixture of four organizations before beginning his foray into coaching shortly after hanging up his spikes in 1986. Baker, 64, garnered National League Manager of the Year honors in his maiden voyage with the San Francisco Giants and took them to the World Series in 2002. It proved to be his closest taste of a championship across his coaching career, watching the Chicago Cubs bow out of the 2003 National League Championship Series and missing the postseason during each of the next three seasons. The Cubs did not renew his contract after the 2006 campaign.
Baker signed on in Cincinnati as manager in 2008 and soon took a cellar-dwelling team to their first playoff game in fifteen years. Following a 79-83 setback in 2011, Baker powered back-to-back seasons of ninety wins or more but failed to advance past the first round of the playoffs. Fans have been frustrated with the tenured coach for this very reason, and their indignation hit a breaking point on the heels of their early elimination at the hands of Pittsburgh.
Only two Reds managers won more games than Baker did, who would finish his career in Cincinnati at a 509-463 clip.
Though Baker brought a once-prominent team back into acclaim with playoff appearances in three of his last four seasons, his failure to close the door ultimately hastens his departure.
UPDATE, 8:30 AM: Fay has confirmed the story though messages left with the Reds’ front office have not yet been returned.
UPDATE, 11:30 AM: Reds.com has confirmed the transaction as beat writer Mark Sheldon penned a write-up earlier this morning. Jocketty has also released a public statement on Baker’s departure, though he declined to clarify whether the former manager was indeed fired:
This was a very difficult decision to make…
Dusty played an important role in the recent success of this organization, and we thank him for his contributions during his time here. We feel a change is necessary, however, if we are to continue to move the organization forward.
Further details on the 2014 coaching staff were not released, but Baker will be paid next year’s salary.
UPDATE, 12:30 PM: A basic news search has seen titles change from “Baker out” to “Baker fired” and we may have found the reason. Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com writes that Baker issued an ultimatum to Jocketty yesterday: “If you want to fire someone, fire me.” The point of contention came down to hitting coach Brook Jacoby, says Heyman.
UPDATE 1:00 PM: Owner Bob Castellini has denied the Heyman report while speaking with the Enquirer. You can check those statements and more here.
Kourage Kundahl is the lead blogger and editor of Hook, Line, and Sinker, the official blog of the Pensacola Blue Wahoos, as well as a contributing writer to Blog Red Machine.