Not all of today’s managerial news is carnage. Some of it is downright positive: like Dusty Baker and the Reds agreeing to a two-year extension, as the team just said in a press release.
It’s a deserved extension. Dusty led the Reds to their first playoff appearance and division title in 15 years, and their highest win total in 11. Despite his reputation for abusing young pitchers, he’s handled the staff pretty well in Cincinnati from what I can tell.
But maybe the thing that has earned him his extension more than anything is his rapport with his players. It has long been fashionable to bash Baker for various things, but his players seem to love him and respond to him.
I was particularly impressed by the way Baker handled Joey Votto’s struggles with anxiety disorder in 2009. Every statement Baker made about the situation came from an obvious and genuine place of empathy and concern for Votto the man, not Votto his first baseman. You can bet that Votto appreciated having a manager with the intelligence and sensitivity to understand his situation. You can bet that Votto’s performance in 2010 owes at least some part to the comfort he felt by having Baker in his corner and leading his team.
Yeah, we’ll all jump on Dusty in 2011 if he makes Aroldis Chapman a starter and throws him out there for 130 pitches on some cold rainy April night. But let’s cross that bridge when we come to it. For now, let’s congratulate the Reds for making the smart choice in retaining Dusty Baker.