In what would end up being his final season on the bench in Cincinnati, Dusty Baker led the Reds to 90 wins and a loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates in the NL Wild Card Game.
Three days after Cincinnati’s 2013 campaign ended, Baker was ousted as the manager and he didn’t return to the game for two seasons.
In his first season with Washington, the now-67-year-old skipper is headed back to the postseason and an NLDS matchup with the Los Angeles Dodgers, after he led the Nats to 95 wins and a third division title since 2012 (under three different managers).
After the first workout of the week on Tuesday in the nation’s capital, Baker talked about being back in the postseason, with a fourth different team.
“Well, this is what I thought I should be doing,” he said. “When I was sitting home, I was like, ‘I should be there,’ because I’m pretty used to going to the playoffs.
“I’m very grateful and thankful that I have a good team and this is what we wanted in Spring Training, this is what we wanted prior to Spring Training.
“We wanted to be in this position and so to me this is kind of where I’m supposed to be.”
While he was away from the game, Baker said he didn’t worry about whether or not he’d get another shot, though he did wonder why he wasn’t getting another chance.
“I was more bewildered than I was worried,” he explained, “and I wondered if I was on the blacklist or not.
“Sometimes there’s an unwritten list that sometimes your name is at the top of being one of the ‘unwanteds’ for whatever reason. Cause I was sitting at home watching guys that hadn’t done what I had done in my last year. I had gone to the playoffs again — that doesn’t happen very often, am I right? A guy goes to the playoffs and all of a sudden he can’t get a job or can’t get a callback. But that’s okay, I found out who my friends were and so I would rather find out then rather than later.”
Baker didn’t sit around waiting for the phone to ring either, he traveled, watched his son play baseball, watched his daughter get married and started a couple companies.
He did, however, he admitted, need some time to get over the disappointment of losing his job with the Reds.
“I was down for about three days,” Baker said.
“I couldn’t figure out why I was down, because we had just lost the playoffs and then a couple of days after that I lost my job. So, like my dad used to tell me, ‘It’s okay to be down, just don’t stay down.’ And then I was like, man is this what depression is, I’ve never had depression, but all I know is I didn’t like that feeling.”
He moved on with his life and waited for another opportunity, which came when the Nationals parted ways with Baker’s former player, Matt Williams, who led the Nats to 96 wins in 2014, but was dismissed following a disappointing 2015 campaign.
Now he’s headed back to the postseason with the Nationals, and he’ll take on the LA Dodgers he played for over eight seasons from 1976-1983.
Baker was asked about his counterpart on the bench, Dave Roberts, who has taken Los Angeles to the postseason in his first full season as a major league manager.
“He’s where I was twenty years ago,” Baker said. “I’m happy for him, big time. I know him, but I don’t really know him. I know him from across the field.”
“He’s always a pleasant guy, he’s a very bright young man, but he’s in the way.”