LOS ANGELES -- Offered a contract extension earlier this week, Reds manager Dusty Baker still wasn't tipping his hand Friday about his future plans. Some players didn't hide their feelings that they want Baker to accept the offer to return. "For sure," catcher Ryan Hanigan said. "I love playing for Dusty. I think everyone does. We're having a blast as a team. I think this organization is going in the right direction. I'm all for it."
Baker, who is finishing his current three-year deal, couldn't have asked for much more during a contract year. The Reds entered Friday in first place over the Cardinals by 3 1/2 games and led the National League in hitting and fielding while the pitching has been one of the league's best since June. "Dusty has done a fantastic job this year in a lot of different ways," first baseman Joey Votto said. "I know a lot of people give credit solely to the players. But we've seen the manager's hand on this winning season. The fact the team has offered him an extension is very good sign. Whatever he does is completely his choice, obviously, but knowing that he has that offer and we're headed in the right direction is a good thing." Baker has taken his share of hits from fans and media this season, especially for sticking up for players that underperform. He rode out Jay Bruce's extended slump and now he's showing signs of turning around. He maintained support when setup man Nick Masset struggled in the first half. Masset has since found his groove again. "He treats his players so well, and I feel like he'd doing anything for you at any time," said Masset, who came in with a 0.45 ERA over his last 20 appearances. "He was always there for me, through thick and thin. Earlier in the season, he called me into his office and we sat down and talked for a good hour. He just inspired me to keep fighting and helped me lift my spirits. I think it helped me out a lot. It's good to know your manager is behind you at all times. I couldn't ask for anybody else." Baker could have additional leverage with so many managerial openings expected to come up during the offseason. One of those clubs could be the Dodgers, with Joe Torre's status up in the air. Baker played a bulk of his career for the Dodgers and is a Southern California native. "I thought about it when I was out in 2007. I threw my name in the hat, but they wanted Joe," Baker said. "Hey, man, I'm happy right now where I am. I got a job." The fact that Baker hasn't immediately signed the extension, he says, shouldn't indicate he's tested the waters elsewhere. "I just got that the other day, the offer," Baker said. "I have work to do where I am. I'm trying to get this team to the playoffs. I don't have time to think about what else and where else. These are my boys. They got my back and I've got theirs."
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.