Thursday, October 10, 2013

Who is minding the store and other stuff

by: Dan Howard
Staff Writer

Wow, I never saw that coming. The firing of Dusty Baker was a shock, but I guess canning the manager is a whole lot easier than firing the players.

Dusty Baker isn’t the first Reds manager to be replaced after finishing a ninety win season. Actually, Baker is the fourth. The first Reds manager to be replaced after such an accomplishment was Patrick Moran, the skipper who guided Cincinnati to its first World Championship in 1919. Moran led the Reds to a 91 – 63 record in 1923. Unfortunately, prior to the beginning of the 1924 season, Moran became ill in his Fitchburg Massachusetts home, recovered enough to report to Cincinnati’s Spring Training facility in Orlando Florida only to have his condition worsen leading to his death on March 7, 1924 from a kidney ailment.

Sparky Anderson was the next Reds skipper to get the axe after a ninety win season. The 1978 Reds rolled to seven straight wins to finish at 92 – 69, but it wasn’t enough to save Sparky’s job. Reds GM Dick Wagner wanted the team to move into a different direction, and under John McNamara they did. Mind you the Reds did win a weakened West Division in 1979 and had the best record during the strike shortened season in 1981, but the wheels fell off in 1982, Cincinnati’s only 100 plus loss season, followed by losing records in 1983 and 1984.

The last manager to lead Cincinnati to a World Championship, Lou Piniella, is the third field boss to be replaced after a ninety win season. The Reds went 90 – 72 in 1992 and battled the Atlanta Braves all season for the West Division, falling in the final week. Piniella and tight fisted former owner Marge Schott never quite saw eye to eye, and in an epic battle of wills, Schott won out and Piniella resigned on October 5, 1992.

Useless Trivia; John McNamara went on to manage the Boston Red Sox leading them to the 1986 World Series losing to the New York Mets in seven games. If Boston would have had any decent type of relief pitching, especially in games 6 and 7 they would have won the title, period. Yeah, I went there, if you’re stupid enough to blame Bill Buckner for the Sox losing that series, you are seriously in need for checkup from the neck up.

More Useless Trivia; Lou Piniella fared pretty well himself after leaving Cincinnati. “Sweet Lou” became manager of the Seattle Mariners, and their transformation was immediate. Seattle won three West Division titles under Piniella and in 2001 the Mariners tied the modern Major League record for wins with 116. Piniella also managed the Chicago Cubs to consecutive Central Division titles in 2007 and 2008. Piniella, however, never led another team to the World Series.

Is there turmoil brewing in Cincinnati? Who’s running this team? I ask these questions because all the info we Reds fans received was a four paragraph press release, from the Reds website, saying Dusty Baker had been dismissed. No press conference, no interviews, no in-depth analysis, no nothing, just a four paragraph letter saying, in essence, thank you for six seasons and good luck finding a new job.

I heard about Baker’s firing at 8:30am last Friday morning while listening to ESPN Radio. I later tuned to MLB Network Radio to get more information, and just missed Marty Brennaman’s comments. Have no fear though, his comments were replayed during most of the morning including his opinion that the Reds may be looking to trade All Star second baseman Brandon Phillips. HUH! Did I just hear right, the Reds contemplating trading Phillips? I understand the reasoning behind the comments, to gain some prospects and to free up some cash (to re-sign Shin-Soo Choo?). The rumor mills went crazy which leads me to ask, does Marty run the Reds? Don’t misunderstand me, I sincerely love Marty Brennaman, but the Reds have neither confirmed nor denied those rumors since they were aired last Friday morning. Yeah, maybe Phillips wrote his ticket out of here with his comments in Cincinnati Magazine this past summer, but his play never seemed to suffer. He drove in over 100 runs for the first time in his career, and he’s arguably the best second baseman the Reds have had since Joe Morgan. If you trade Brandon Phillips for anyone, how about getting a number four hitter and/or a front line lefty starting pitcher. You can NEVER have enough left handed pitching!

Where do we go from here? Who will be the next to take the reins of a potential World Series contender in 2014? I have ideas who I’d like to see become the next skipper, and no, his name is not Jim Riggleman. No offense to Riggleman and his vast legion of supporters, but the only time he ever managed a team to the postseason was the 1998 Chicago Cubs, who fell to the Atlanta Braves in the Division Series. Then again, Dusty Baker never led the Reds past the Division Series either. I think Bryan Price would do a really good job, however he’s never managed in the big leagues, but hey, you’ve got to start somewhere.

In my humble opinion, I feel the next Reds manager could be Jim Tracy, the 2009 N.L. Manager of the Year who lives near Cincinnati or former Philadelphia manager Charlie Manuel who just fell on some tough times in the City of Brotherly Love, i.e. the aging Roy Halladay, and the tempestuous Jonathan Papelbon just to name a couple. The one person no one is mentioning is bench coach Chris Speier. You know, he’s the dude that took over when Dusty got sick in September 2012, and managed the Reds to the Division title. The team seemed to respond well to his guidance, and I’m silently rooting for him to get the job.

Dusty Baker will be fine. I believe he’ll wind up in Seattle and turn that franchise around, just like he’s done in San Francisco, Chicago and now Cincinnati. Rumor has it he’s interested in the Nationals vacancy. Let’s hope Baker goes to an American League team.

Remember Dave Bristol? He was the Reds manager prior to Sparky Anderson. It’s safe to assume that Bristol built the Big Red Machine, but Anderson was the man who drove it to five division titles, four World Series and two World Championships in seven seasons. Maybe the same success will follow Cincinnati next manager, we can only wish.

Have a blessed week.

Dan Howard

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