CINCINNATI -- Good move? “Absolutely,” replied the long time Reds’ employee as we gathered for Bryan Price’s introduction as Reds manager.
“Easy to work with too,” they added.
The implication being Dusty Baker wasn’t always so. From what I’ve been able to ascertain, there are others in the organization who are not unhappy Baker’s era has ended. Not to say things ever got hostile, just frosty. Occasional misalignment we’ll call it.
But Dusty was Bob Castellini’s guy. And no one was going to pick that fight. That eventually fell to the Reds’ president as Dusty’s ‘guy-ness’ deteriorated in Bob’s eyes.
Some of those seeds were planted Friday August 2. Game one of a big weekend series with World Series bound St. Louis. Bronson Arroyo didn’t have any stuff, let alone good. I’m told that Bob quickly got a bellyful and made his earliest ever exit: Heading for the lot after just four innings with Cincinnati trailing 9-0 in a 13-3 loss. The Reds rebounded the following night only to be swamped again Sunday, 15-2.
Fast forward through Brandon Phillips’ episodes wherein Cincinnati’s second baseman questioned the bosses honesty and C. Trent Rosecrans physique. During the latter, Dusty played the role of Switzerland: neutral observer.
The third to last straw came Saturday August 28 when the Reds took a fourth straight loss, an 8-3 defeat at the hands of Pittsburgh. Sources tell me Joe Morgan had joined Bob in the owners’ suite for much of the game and didn’t need the Tri-States’ most accurate doppler radar to sense an approaching storm front. He beat his own hasty retreat, telling confidants that Bob was ‘Very’ unhappy. That weekend series sweep and play-in game loss, their sixth straight, sealed Dusty’s fate.
In the aftermath, Mr. Castellini told me It was one of the most difficult things he’s ever had to do.
“When you have a business and someone you know and respect doesn’t work out as planned, you can reposition them into something that’s a better fit," Castellini said. "In baseball, you have to move people out. It’s tough. I had to separate my feelings for Dusty Baker as a friend from the realities of the situation. That we needed a change.”
He added that knowing Price and seeing how he has presided over Cincinnati’s pitchers makes the transition easier.
“And if we didn’t promote Brian, we’d lose him to another club,” Castellini said during the Tuesday introduction of Price as the new manager.
Price nevertheless inherits some thorny issues that went unaddressed by Baker. I could be wrong but to date, I can’t find any reaction from Joey Votto to Baker’s firing or Price’s hiring. Telling.
I asked Walt Jocketty if Price is up to the task of disabusing Joey of the notion that a base on balls is as beneficial as a run scoring sacrifice fly.
Walt gave me an emphatic “Yes,” but added, “that is something many more of us in the organization will also try to convey.”