Baker reaches 250 wins with third club

Baker reaches 250 wins with third club

SAN DIEGO -- If you measure a man's true wealth by his friends and family, Reds manager Dusty Baker would seemingly be a zillionaire.

Baker has accumulated a treasure trove of friends far and wide over 40-plus years in baseball. And beyond his actual close-knit family, his "baseball family" ranges from A-to-Z -- Hank Aaron to Carlos Zambrano. At each city the Reds visit, he often has visitors lined up to see him in the manager's office.

But in the Major Leagues, the only real measure of managerial success is wins, and the 61-year-old Baker has been rich on that bottom line also. With Monday's 3-2 Reds triumph over the Padres, Baker reached 250 victories with the team he's skippered since 2008. He is only the 11th manager in MLB history to collect at least 250 wins with three teams.

"It's some pretty good company," Baker said after the game. "It was also pretty good company to be fired by a team or two to get to that third team. At least somebody wants to employ you. I just thank God I've been around this long and had the opportunity to get this situation."

Baker won a franchise-record 840 games with the Giants from 1993-2003, and 322 games for the Cubs from 2004-06. Since taking over in the Reds' dugout, he is 250-246 and is coming off the club's first playoff berth in 15 years.

"It's not surprising," Cubs pitcher Kerry Wood said of Baker's feat as it was upcoming last week. "You look at the teams when he's come into those cities, and it's not like they were built for championships. He's definitely a motivator and gets the best from his players. It's a good achievement and not that surprising."

Following a 19-season playing career that ended in 1986, Baker spent one year outside of the game trying his hand as a stockbroker. It didn't take, and he was back in the game by the 1988 season as a coach for the Giants. The only other time away was 2007, following his dismissal from the Cubs, when he worked as an analyst for ESPN.

In 1993, Baker took over the Giants as manager and won 103 games while settling for second place. He went on to win two division titles and a Wild Card berth. In 2002, he led San Francisco to the World Series.

TRIFECTA
Dusty Baker is the 11th skipper to win at least 250 games with three clubs.
Skipper Team
Alvin Dark SF, KC/OAK, CLE
Leo Durocher Brooklyn, NY Giants, CHC
Ralph Houk NYY, DET, BOS
Tony La Russa CWS, OAK, STL
Gene Mauch PHI, MON, MIN, CAL
Bill McKechnie PIT, Boston Bees, CIN
Lou Piniella SEA, CIN, CHC
Buck Showalter NYY, ARI, TEX
Joe Torre NYM, ATL, STL, NYY, LAD
Dick Williams BOS, OAK, MON, SD
Dusty Baker SF, CHC, CIN
Baker picked up 840 wins with the Giants, 322 with the Cubs and now 250 with the Reds.

One of those National League West titles came in 1997, when the Giants weren't really expected to do much.

"Midway through the summer, he made us believe, why not us? Why can't we do it?" former first baseman J.T. Snow recalled last week. "No one paid attention to us. Communication is such a big part of being a manager. Being able to communicate with all 25 guys is a huge skill. Some guys are cut out for it and others aren't. He made you believe in yourself."

After the World Series loss to the Angels, Baker moved to Chicago in 2003 and inherited a Cubs team coming off a 67-95 season. He turned things around as they won the NL Central.

Baker is often assigned blame by fans and some media for arm injuries that derailed Wood's career as a starting pitcher. Perhaps the biggest measure of how that tag can be misguided is that Wood and Baker remained constant friends, even after Baker was let go by the Cubs after the 2006 season.

"I loved playing for him," Wood said. "You ask anyone who played for him, and 98 percent will say they loved playing for the guy. He was a motivator and definitely a players' manager."

What made Baker different?

"He's out there with you every day," Wood said. "He's got his wristbands on and he feels like he's in the game and he doesn't take one pitch off when he's in the dugout. From a players' standpoint, you see a manager not taking any pitches off and always thinking positively, and guys feed off that."

Baker's wristbands, and his ever-present toothpick, were not just symbolic.

"The wristbands were part of the signs," Snow said. "They weren't just for show. I didn't know what they were; he'd relay them to the third-base coach. He hated to lose. He took losses as hard as the players. I think that's a great trait for any professional or any athlete -- you hate losing more than you like winning."

In 2008, Baker took over the Reds and helped guide the club down a lengthy road toward respectability. Cincinnati was 74-88 his first season and only slightly improved to 78-84 during an '09 season that ravaged the team with injuries.

It all came together in 2010 as a young Reds roster sprinkled with veterans knocked off the Cardinals and claimed the NL Central. It was a season where he put a dent in the stereotype that he prefers older veterans over young players. Baker was credited for his patience in handling slumping young players and pitchers and for his eternal optimism.

Just like at his other stops, Baker got the players' loyalty in return -- and important production when it counted down the stretch.

"First and foremost, he's got a good idea of what it takes to win ballgames," Reds center fielder Drew Stubbs said. "Whenever you can go to different organizations and deal with different personnel and still be successful, you're able to adapt to your environment. Being a manager is feeling out your players, seeing what their personalities are like and who responds to what. In the time he's been doing it, he's been successful at getting guys to play well regardless of their personalities, and I think that speaks volumes for the job he's done."

After the success of 2010, Baker was rewarded with a two-year contract extension. His Reds are considered by many to be the favorites to repeat as division champs.

"From my experience with him is he has such a good social ability to appeal to everybody in the clubhouse -- whether it's the Latin guys, young guys, veteran guys or whatever," Reds shortstop Paul Janish said. "I think it's a testament of why he's been successful everywhere he's gone as a manager. That doesn't happen by accident. Baseball is a game that exploits weaknesses. He's had success as a player and as a manager. That kind of stuff that doesn't happen by accident."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Mark My Word, and follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon. Beat reporters Carrie Muskat and Chris Haft contributed to this report. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.