Philadelphia, PA – You may want to avoid the poker table if you ever find yourself in a casino with Cincinnati Reds general manager Walt Jocketty.
Just days after saying manager Dusty Baker's job was safe, Jocketty fired his skipper on Friday.
"This was a very difficult decision to make," Jocketty said Friday. "Dusty played an important role in the recent success of this organization, and we thank him for his contributions during his time here. We feel a change is necessary, however, if we are to continue to move the organization forward."
Baker had taken the Reds to the postseason in three of the last four years, but was just 2-7 in the playoffs with them after dropping a 6-2 decision at Pittsburgh in the wild card game on Tuesday.
Of course, that loss came on the heels of Cincinnati losing three straight to the Pirates at the end of the season with home-field advantage in the one-game playoff at stake.
Jocketty may not have been lying, he may have wanted Baker to return and this was strictly the call from owner Bob Castellini. Baker may have even forced their hands by demanding more than the one year remaining on his current deal.
Who knows? But most in Cincinnati seem to be rejoicing, which is kind of odd considering the kind of success he's had there. Keep in mind this a team that hadn't been to the postseason in 12 years before he got there.
But, truth be told, I would have fired Baker last season when his team blew a two- game lead in the best-of-five NLDS against San Francisco.
Of all the sports I honestly believe that a Major League Baseball manager has the least to do with his team's success or failures. They are basically clubhouse stewards.
Baker, though, has made me rethink my stance on that. Or should I say amend my thinking a bit. While a manager may not have a whole heck of a lot to do with you winning, he certainly can lose some games for you.
If you want to blame the players fine. But what exactly is the manager's responsibility then? Filling out a lineup card? If that's the case, how many managers wouldn't have succeeded this season with a roster of Joey Votto, Shin-Soo Choo, Brandon Phillips, Mat Latos and Aroldis Chapman?
As much success as Baker had in Cincinnati, the Reds still haven't won a postseason series since 1995. And they weren't getting any better, and for whatever reason they were never able to win a big game.
A lot of that has to fall on the players, but Baker's in-game managing decisions have been called into question almost since he first started managing back in 1993 with the San Francisco Giants.
The sabermetrics crew is always all over him for his swing at everything philosophy and his thought that "walks clog up the bases". His lineup choices, specifically at the top, were also always a topic for debate.
Let's face it, he's as old school as it gets. It's hard to say the game is passing him by because he won 509 games in six years with the Reds. But, the only book he manages by is the one that is inside his head.
We all know how this works. Baker was perceived as a player's manager. The next one will be a fiery in-your-face type. And just a hunch, there will probably be a higher on-base-percentage guy hitting in front of Joey Votto next year than Brandon Phillips.
You can't fire the whole team and a good part of the Reds' core is going to be there next season. They needed a new voice and Baker had to go.
How would you like to be Joe Girardi's agent today?. Now he has another team to leverage himself for even more money from the New York Yankees. By the way, the Reds are also a much better situation than the Yanks. Girardi would be silly not to give them a thought should they come calling.
That, though, is probably a topic for a few days from now.
The bottom line is that Baker is the type of manager to make your team relevant again. He's just not the guy to get you over the hump.
His Wikipedia page may say it the best,"Baker has never won the World Series as a manager, although he has presided over some of the biggest collapses in baseball history."
Maybe he's just unlucky.