The Cincinnati Reds gave manager Dusty Baker a two-year extension through 2014 on Monday. This is a bad move if Cincinnati wants to win a title anytime soon, however; Baker has proven now – in three big situations – that as a manager, he simply can’t get the job done.
In the 2002 World Series, the San Francisco Giants had a 5-0 lead in game six, needing just nine outs to win the title against the Anaheim Angels, before the wheels fell off (after Baker taking out Russ Ortiz) in a 6-5 loss – the Giants lost game seven the next day. Baker had another chance the next year with the Chicago Cubs, who hadn’t won a World Series in 95 years at that point. Baker did lead the Cubs to their first playoff series win since 1908, but with a 3-1 series lead and Mark Prior and Kerry Wood lined up and ready to go at home, Baker’s team faltered down the stretch, including the infamous game six at Wrigley Field before the Cubs lost game seven to the Florida Marlins.
That brings me to this year, where the Reds had three chances to close the Giants out at home, but could not finish off the series. Baker has proven that his teams are not prepared to win out when they have a big lead in a series. The loss of Johnny Cueto in game one didn’t help this time around, but not pitching Mat Latos on three days’ rest after throwing four innings of relief in game one, or even Bronson Arroyo on three days’ rest in game five (after the veteran shut down the Giants in game two) are moves that will haunt Reds fans – and probably Baker – forever.
It’s three strikes and out for Dusty.