How do you parlay two epic playoff collapses sandwiched around a disappointing season into a contract extension? Well, having a load of talent on your roster and "leading" your team back to relevancy after more than a decade on the dust heap help your cause. Add in a weak division and an almost unbelievably lucky run of health for your starting rotation, and you can begin to see how even a non-stellar manager might get the benefit of the doubt. Such appears to be the case for skipper Dusty Baker, who signed a two-year contract extension with the Cincinnati Reds on October 15, just four days after his team stumbled yet again in October. When the San Francisco Giants completed their unlikely series victory over the Reds last Thursday after trailing two-games-to-none, I thought we'd probably seen the last of Dusty in Cincy togs. General manager Walt Jocketty had other ideas.
According to USAToday.com, the new deal is a carbon copy of the last, which means that he should earn $3-4 million in each of 2013 and 2014. That seems like a lot of money for a small-market team to pay for a manager who is steeped in old-school philosophies and who seems to revel in his crusty persona. Love it or hate it, most observers would admit that "Moneyball" and the analyses it has engendered have changed the way that successful teams are built and run, and the Reds don't appear to be making strides in that direction. It is somewhat fortunate that the team has players, like Joey Votto, who seem to take a more measured approach to their own games even if their manager does not.
What it all comes down to is that we will probably see more of the 2011 Reds over the next two seasons than the juggernaut we were treated to this year. It's highly unlikely that five starters will remain healthy and effective for Baker again in 2012, as evidenced by ace Johnny Cueto's injury to start the post-season. Votto will hopefully be back in the lineup everyday, fully recovered from his mid-season ailments, but has the injury bug sapped his power. It sure looked that way in September, though it is of course too early to know anything for sure. Much more will become clear next spring, when 2013 Reds dust off the winter cobwebs and take to the fields of summer again.
And Dusty Baker will be right there to guide them. For better or worse.
Adam Hughes was raised, and still lives, in rural Indiana. He has been a Cincinnati Reds fan since the early 1980s, when gods like Dan Driessen and Cesar Cedeno roamed the ethereally green Riverfront turf. He thinks that Dusty Baker is the anti-Davey.
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- Dusty Baker
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