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Reds' decision comes as surprise to Baker

Reds' decision comes as surprise to Baker

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Reds' decision comes as surprise to Baker

CINCINNATI -- Dusty Baker was still digesting the news on Friday that he had been let go as Reds manager. Delivered on Thursday afternoon, it came as both as a shock and a disappointment.

"They didn't really say [anything] other than the club didn't finish very strong and we lost quite a few in a row and we made a poor showing in the National League Wild Card Game and that they were going in a different direction and maybe the team needed a different voice," Baker said Friday afternoon, explaining how he was told about his dismissal.

Baker, 64, had a 509-463 record with the Reds since 2008 and is ranked third in franchise history in wins, behind Sparky Anderson and Bill McKechnie. They are also the only three managers in franchise history to reach the postseason multiple times.

Cincinnati reached the playoffs in three of the last four years, including NL Central titles in 2010 and '12. This year, elimination came in the Wild Card Game vs. the Pirates on Tuesday.

With that defeat, the Reds lost their final six games of the season. The lineup scored only 10 runs in the six losses, and the rotation lacked a quality start in any of the final four games -- including Johnny Cueto's early exit after 3 1/3 innings on Tuesday. That was ultimately what led to Baker's ouster.

"It was very helpless," Baker said of the feeling he had the final week. "Not only did our batters go into a slump, which makes you look flat if you're not scoring runs. On the other hand, we weren't pitching that well, either.

"We didn't play any phases of the game that last week. I just hate that I'm judged -- more or less -- from that last week, for what we've done here in six years."

This season, the Reds finished third in the NL Central with a 90-72 record. Throughout the year, injuries played a role, as Cueto had three stints on the disabled list. Left fielder Ryan Ludwick missed four months and bullpen set-up men Sean Marshall and Jonathan Broxton missed most of the season.

"Sometimes you look back and you don't know if we had enough horses or some of the horses that were there weren't able to run," Baker said.

When the season ended, Baker was fully expecting to come back, especially since he was under contract through 2014. He signed a two-year deal last year shortly after the Reds were eliminated in the NL Division Series in five games.

"I was preparing for next year. Maybe it's something I said. Maybe it's something I didn't say along the way," Baker said.

Baker believed a recent conversation with general manager Walt Jocketty about hitting coach Brook Jacoby's status had something to do with his abrupt exit.

"I know I had a conversation with Walt that they were looking to replace Brook Jacoby," Baker said. "I was like 'Oh no, Brook's not doing anything in my mind as one of my coaches that deserved that.' I wasn't giving an ultimatum, but I said 'Hey man, if we get rid of Brook, you might as well get rid of me too.' Next thing I was called up to the office. I thought I was going to discuss Brook's future and the rest of my coaches' future or whatever. I was told my services were no longer needed. I told them thank you for everything that transpired for me and my family."

During the season, the Reds made no acquisitions, namely at the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, to pick up the slack for injured players. Baker sometimes discussed the lack of moves from the front office publicly.

"The manager always wants more," Baker said. "We didn't do much during the seasons the whole time I was here. We kept waiting on somebody to come at the Deadline or about to come, and it never came. I never complained about 'I need more ...' I tried to do the best job I could with what I had available to me."

Before the season, the Reds did trade for outfielder Shin-Soo Choo to take over the leadoff spot and re-signed free agents Ludwick and Broxton to multiyear deals.

Baker, who bounced back from a minor stroke suffered near the end of the 2012 season, admitted to having grown weary from the negativity he sensed from some of the fans. His style of managing and decision making was often a flashpoint on talk radio and social media.

"Maybe the time here was long enough," Baker said. "I was starting to get quite a few jeers and hate mail and stuff. Maybe it was time for me to move on."

The news of the end of Baker's tenure in Cincinnati, he said, reverberated around the country to his many friends, current and former players and colleagues. Baker said he received lots of text messages and that his phone's voicemail was full.

It was taken hardest on Baker's teenage son, Darren. The younger Baker often visited his father and the team during the summers and breaks from school. Darren, 14, was back at Baker's home in California when his dad was informed he was out as manager.

"The one that's really going to miss them is my son," Baker said. "My son cried when he heard the news and called me. He knew them from [ages] 8-14, which are very formative years for a young man. He became friends with Joey [Votto], [Todd] Frazier, Brandon [Phillips] and Jay [Bruce]. They text each other and stuff."

Baker is free to pursue other opportunities. Besides the Reds, the Cubs, Mariners and Nationals currently have managerial vacancies. A few more could open up during the offseason.

"I'm not retiring," Baker said. "I'm not taking the year off as suggested. I feel better this year than I did last year at this point."

Baker, who is ranked 16th all time and second among active managers with 1,671 wins, is still pursuing his first World Series title. He went to one in 2002 with the Giants, who lost to the Angels in seven games. He managed in San Francisco from 1993-2002 and the Cubs from 2003-06. A three-time NL Manager of the Year, he has been to the postseason seven times as a skipper.

"I've got a lot to offer somebody," Baker said. "I think they know it, and I know it too."

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

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