Baker's dismissal comes as tough news for players
For Reds' younger contingent, manager's six-year tenure spanned entire careers
CINCINNATI -- Most Reds players woke up Friday morning having no idea that a big change had happened with their team.
The Reds dismissed manager Dusty Baker on Thursday afternoon and announced the decision late Friday morning. But word was already out earlier than that and many were stunned upon hearing the news.
Reds pitcher Bronson Arroyo talked with Baker at Great American Ball Park on Wednesday, the day after the team was bounced out of the postseason by the Pirates in the National League Wild Card Game.
"He didn't seem to sense it, and he makes a good salary for a team that doesn't spend a lot of money," said Arroyo, the longest tenured player on the team. "So for that, I was surprised. If he had any sense it was coming, he didn't lead on to it at all."
The decision to replace Baker came from Reds CEO Bob Castellini and general manager Walt Jocketty after the club lost its final six games of the season -- including the last four to Pittsburgh.
Arroyo assumed some on Baker's coaching staff would be scapegoats for the team falling short.
"After going to the playoffs three out of four years but not doing any damage, I thought it would land on somebody. I didn't think it would be him," Arroyo said.
The Reds finished 90-72 and in third place in the NL Central, behind the Cardinals and Pirates. Cincinnati spent much of the season trying to adjust to injuries to key players, including rotation ace Johnny Cueto, left fielder Ryan Ludwick and relievers Sean Marshall and Jonathan Broxton.
Cincinnati, which won 97 games in 2012, struggled to find a groove much of the season and didn't reach first place again after April 22.
"It's obviously a bit shocking. I understand that it's a business, and when teams don't accomplish what's expected of them, there are changes, but any way you slice it, Dusty was an integral part of turning the organization around," Reds right fielder Jay Bruce said in a text message. "The Cincinnati Reds became relevant again with Dusty at the helm, and that's something people should never forget.
"From a personal standpoint, I'm thankful to have had Dusty there with me from the time I was 21 years old. He taught me so many valuable things about the game of baseball, things that have helped me become the player I am today, and I'm very appreciative of that. Aside from the on-field aspect, he took an interest in myself and the other players on a personal level that far exceeded that requirements of a manager."
Hired before the 2008 season, Baker spent six seasons in the Reds' dugout. With a younger clubhouse, he was the only big league manager many of his players have ever had -- including Bruce.
"Dusty's had an amazing baseball career, and I truly wish him the best in whatever he decides to do," Bruce said. "Being that he's all I've ever known as a manager, it's obviously a sad day to see him go, but I look forward to what the future holds for this organization."
Going back to his rookie season with the Braves in 1968, Baker has logged 45 years in the big leagues. His 20-year managerial career spanned with the Giants from 1993-2002, the Cubs from 2003-06 and then the Reds from 2008-13. Along the way, he has earned the respect of players, coaches, managers and executives from around the game.
One of Baker's friends was also one of his current rivals in Cardinals second-year manager Mike Matheny.
"He's always been very good to me, even before I had this job," Matheny said. "And before he knew I had a chance of getting this job, he was a guy who reached out to me. That's something I'll never forget. To me, his teams have always competed hard, and he's always there for his club. He's had a lot of success as a manager, and I know a lot of his players think highly of him.
"You see a lot about somebody when they have nothing to gain. He was just reaching out to me as a former player to encourage me and help me figure out what my next step was going to be. He made a huge impression on me."
That Baker was out in Cincinnati was tough news to get for third baseman Todd Frazier, who learned the news on television.
"I really enjoyed having him," said Frazier, who just completed his second full season in the Majors. "He's a player's coach that's been there before. He could relate to anyone, that's why I liked him. He could break it down for you. A five-year-old could understand how to hit after talking to him. That's what made him so good. Dusty taught me a lot of things about hitting and life. I really thank him for that."