So the man at the top of the team’s heap said, “A change is necessary.”
Change … well, that’s never a good word for a Major League Baseball manager to hear, even for a manager with the success Dusty Baker has had. He is jobless now, fired last Friday as the manager of the Cincinnati Reds for no particular reason — unless change is necessary is an actual reason.
“This was a very difficult decision to make," said GM Walt Jocketty in a statement. "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.”
Tell Dusty Baker not to worry too much, because he should have little trouble landing a job elsewhere.
For all the no-account Eric Wedges and the sorry Ned Yosts who manage in the big leagues, Baker stands above all of them. He has no need to fret about what will be the next chapter in his career. He should land something just as good as what he left behind in Cincinnati.
Still, I think to myself why would a team fire a manager like Baker, one of the few Black men to have more than one managerial gig in the majors. Baker, 64, won a lot of games, which is what managers are supposed to do. He had solid ties with his ballplayers, which is what managers are supposed to have. He built solid ties with the media, which is what managers are supposed to do.
With all of this in Baker’s favor, how does the man lose his job?
Baseball is a funny business — not funny ha-ha, but funny in the peculiar way it does its business. A lot of what happens in the game — on and off the field — defies explanation, and firing Dusty Baker, a former Major League player, fits into the unexplainable category.
He had managed the Reds since 2008, and his job with them was his third in the big leagues. Success has followed him everywhere he had gone.
Isn’t winning what keeps a manager employed?
Listen closely to what the Reds front office had to say about the firing, and you’d be hard-put to understand its reasoning. The team can’t cite Baker’s failures on the field; they can’t point to any misconduct off the field.
It is a “why” that can find no answer. Why is the world round or why is Jupiter so far from Earth? It just is, right?
No reason to puzzle over any of this. Baker, his Cool Hand Luke-like persona unblemished, surely won’t sweat it. He will pack his candles, his baseball gear and ride into the Cincinnati sunset, dragging $3.5 million of the Reds’ money for next season with him.
The Reds, meanwhile, will futilely look for somebody better than Baker. They had their best man, but the team decided a change is necessary.
All change isn’t good, and changing from Dusty Baker, whose 90-win Reds made the post-season, to anybody else is nothing but bad. The Reds and their fans will discover that fact soon enough.
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(Photo: Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)