|Baker returns to Reds despite postseason collapse||| Print ||
Written by Jim Mancari (Contact & Archive) on October 17, 2012
Well, as we saw, it was much easier said than done. The Reds dropped three straight to the Giants, including a heartbreaking Game 5 in which the Reds had plenty of chances to score runs.
As a result of the devastating series loss, Reds manager Dusty Baker’s future in Cincinnati seemed uncertain. With the elimination, his contract expired, and the Reds faced a difficult decision of whether to bring him back.
The Reds, however, agreed on a two-year extension with Baker. This comes after a crucial managerial call that played a role in costing the Reds the series against the Giants.
Photo by Keith Allison used under creative commons license.
With no outs and runners on first and second in the bottom of the sixth inning of Game 5 with the Reds down 6-3, Baker called a double steal on a full count pitch to catcher Ryan Hanigan. Hanigan took strike three, and Giants’ catcher Buster Posey gunned down Jay Bruce on the steal attempt for a double play.
“It was 3-2, and it looked like the pitch was outside,” Baker said in defense of his call. “That changed the whole ballgame, but it was 3-2 with a base runner -- one that rarely strikes out and if the base runner hits the ball on the ground it’s an automatic double play. If he hits it on the ground and you don't run, it’s a double play and if you do run and he misses it, it’s still a double play. So we were trying to be aggressive at that time and stay out of the double play.”
But at that point in the game, being aggressive really wasn’t the best strategy, and that double play took the wind out of the Reds sails. As a result of the Reds elimination, Baker remains the second-winningest manager, behind only Gene Mauch, without a World Series title.
Baker is 63 years old now and suffered a mini-stroke late in the regular season. There’s no doubt that he is a great baseball mind, but this recent collapse coupled with the 2002 Giants World Series collapse (leading Angels 3-2 in the series) shows that Baker has failed to come through on the big stage. Before signing the extension, he too was uncertain where his managerial career would take him.
“I’m not sure where my career is going here in Cincinnati,” Baker said. “We’re going to talk about that in the next couple of days, but I’m not through managing yet. I have more to do.”
Baker still has a passion for the game, and it would have been surprising if the Reds looked elsewhere for a manager. He led a team that had just mediocre expectations heading into the season to a 97-65 record, the second best in the majors. His career managerial record with the Reds in five seasons is 419-391.
So Baker will once again lead the Reds, but if his track record of losing the big game precedes him, he may not be given the chance to finish out his recent extension.