The Reds have endured 12 seasons since their last postseason appearance in 1995 and seven straight losing seasons.
"We're both starving, so I hope we can both eat at the same time," Baker said. "Even when I asked my son [Darren], 'What do you think of the Cincinnati Reds?' he says, 'Dad, they always start off good and end up in last place.' I said 'No, Dad is here to change that.'"
Reds owner/CEO Bob Castellini and general manager Wayne Krivsky are banking on it, and gave Baker a three-year contract through the 2010 season. The 58-year-old has 14 seasons of managerial experience with the Giants (1993-2002) and Cubs (2003-06) and is a three-time National League Manager of the Year. He went to the World Series with San Francisco in 2002.
That kind of resume brought instant credibility in the minds of Castellini and Krivsky.
"This guy is a winner," Krivsky said. "The more I'm around him, he's a very sincere, genuine person that relates well to players. He's someone that communicates, somebody that creates an attitude that winning is the only thing we're after here, but we're going to go about it the right way and professional way.
"The more you talk to people that have been around him more than I have, he just commands that respect. Players want to play for Dusty Baker."
Baker owns a 1,162-1,041 career record as a skipper and will become the first African-American manager in Reds history. With Marvin Lewis as the head coach of the NFL's Bengals, a city often criticized for its race relations issues will have African-Americans leading both of its professional sports franchises.
"I think it says a lot for Cincinnati and it says a lot for the organization," Baker said. "The organization certainly would not have made such a move if it had feared that the city or the area would not have accepted this change at this time.
"This guy is a winner."
-- Reds GM Wayne Krivsky, on the hiring of Dusty Baker
"Hopefully, there will come a time when you no longer look at me as an African-American manager or leader. You look at me as a man and a leader that's going to lead your team regardless of who I am and what face that I have."
The Reds received permission from Commissioner Bud Selig to make the announcement during the playoffs.
Neither Castellini nor Krivsky would divulge the other candidates for the position other than interim manager Pete Mackanin. Under Mackanin, the Reds went 41-39 after the team was 31-51 with Jerry Narron by July 1.
Krivsky said Mackanin had a spot in the organization, if he wanted it.
"Pete is going to come out the better for this for the experience," Krivsky said. "He's only elevated his status in the game in the eyes of other baseball people. There will be place if he thinks it's the best place for him. I'm confident he'll be getting some other opportunities, whether it's as a coach or manager with another team. He's a field guy and belongs on the field."
Speculation throughout the second half rested on whether the Reds would go with Mackanin or someone with a bigger name. And while Baker's name is among the biggest among current managers, Castellini insisted name recognition wasn't an overriding factor.
"He's a proven winner, a proven leader, experienced in winning," Castellini said. "He's won 90 games five times. We've won 90 games as a franchise since  three times. When he has all those attributes, he's naturally going to be a high-profile manager. But did we go out to find some rock star? No."
Neither Krivsky nor Castellini would reveal how many candidates were up for the job.
"We didn't do a formal search. We exhaustively searched who was available," Castellini said. "[Baker] was one fellow we went after."
Baker was dismissed by the Cubs after back-to-back losing seasons, including a 66-96 campaign in 2006. He spent the 2007 season working as a television analyst for ESPN, where he will remain throughout the postseason.
Word leaked by Thursday that the Reds and Baker were talking seriously, but the process started much earlier.
"I talked to Wayne sometime midsummer. I talked to him on the phone," Baker said. "They had approached me and it was sort of feeling each other out, not knowing what was going to transpire. I had a job and they already had an interim manager here. I talked to Bob shortly thereafter."
There was little activity between the two sides for a couple of months. Everything accelerated once the season ended.
"They approached me very aggressively," Baker said. "It didn't take a very long time to make up their minds or my mind, which how is how l like to do things. You either want me or you don't. They showed me that they did. We got things rolling and it transpired very quickly."
"The overriding words that you hear are 'commands respect,' 'born leader', 'a winner,' 'universally respected by players and management alike,'" Krivsky said. "This guy embodies everything you're looking for in a leader, and a winner. When you talk to players and hear those things, it really gives it some oomph when the players make the comments that they do."