CINCINNATI -- "If you want to fire someone, fire me."
That's what former Cincinnati Reds manager Dusty Baker told General Manager Walt Jocketty on Wednesday, CBS Sports insider John Heyman is reporting.
The conversation came one day after the Reds' Wild Card game loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates Tuesday night.
Jocketty told Baker he intended to fire hitting coach Brook Jacoby, a person familiar with the situation told CBS Sports.
But was Jocketty's intention to fire a hitting coach really what drove Dusty away?
Or was it the Reds' fans?
If Jocketty wanted to fire Jacoby, that couldn't have been a surprise to Baker considering the Reds' sub-par offensive performance in 2012 and 2013. But it just might have been the tipping point for Baker after a frustrating few years as a result of many Reds fans' perception of him.
By most standards, three out of four years with playoff berths is a successful run as a manager in MLB.
But with that success, the fans wanted more. With the promise of this year being 2012 X 2, Reds supporters wanted the team to deliver. They didn't.
"The last couple weeks, I've been getting a rash of hate mail, racial mail,'' Baker told CBS Sports' Heyman. "Maybe it is time to go."
Those kinds of messages from Reds fans have not been an uncommon trend. In the stands at GABP the past few years, on social media and in candid bar conversations, it seemed every misstep was somehow blamed on Dusty by at least one fan in each section of the ballpark, in each social media circle and at each bar table, and it had an echo effect.
During a recent Reds game, Zach Cozart couldn't make a play on a tough bouncer, and even though it wasn't an official error, the tormenting started.
One fan spoke up, "Smart move to keep him in, Dusty!"
Another fan chimed in, "Wish Dusty would keep track of the guys in his lineup."
One more repeated the negativity, "What are you doing with this guy, Dusty?"
The theme continued among those vocal in attendance until they found something else negative to point back to Dusty.
It was so bad, during the same game, that when one fan was vocal about a few pigeons flying around the upper deck, a Dusty-curmudgeon commented with, "Dusty's our bird."
"This is really ugly," Baker told CBS Sports. "There are all sorts of references to Barack Obama. So now I know where they are coming from. I don't know, maybe people are mad at him, so they don't like the idea of blacks in authority."
The Reds said Friday that the decision to release Baker was made "collectively," but from Dusty's seat, it seems rather than a collection, it was a culmination.
"I pissed somebody off, I guess," Baker said.
Baker seemed to have initiated the act of his dismissal in his meeting with Jocketty, but with years of this kind of attitude, the fans had to have some sway on his willingness to part ways with the Redlegs. It's no secret that Baker and Jocketty were not close, but Baker has a passion for the game and wouldn't outright give up without good reason, especially with the relationships he has built in the dugout.
Jacoby wasn't even one of the coaches that Baker brought in, and the emotional connection to him couldn't have been overwhelming enough for Baker to offer up a sacrifice of his hard work, which has led him to being the third winningest Reds manager in team history, and primed this team with the talent to be a contender year in and year out.
"It hurts. It hurts big-time," Baker told Heyman. "It's a double whammy being swept out of the playoffs, and two days later this."
During negotiations in 2012, Baker only requested a one year deal, according to CBS Sports, but the team instead insisted on signing him for two.
What's even more ironic about the dismissal, which can only be described as surprising, is Jocketty was quoted after the Wild Card loss about Baker's future, and if there were any questions about his spot on the staff.
"I don't think so. He's signed for another year," Jocketty told the Cincinnati Enquirer.
Did Baker make some questionable decisions during his tenure in Cincinnati? Yes. Was his philosophy on how a lineup should look too steadfast at times? Absolutely. Did he have too much faith in his pitchers from time-to-time? You bet.
But Dusty Baker has won Manager of the Year awards and more than 1,650 games compared to just under 1,500 losses, and the cards he was dealt this year, and other years as a Reds manager, have forced a hand that can't be entirely blamed on him, despite a strong opinion in this city otherwise.
At the end of the day though, baseball is a business; a business of winning. And there is one thing Dusty Baker hasn't done in his career - Win it all.
In a city so close to a trophy and hungry to return to its glory days of dominance on the diamond, the perception was Dusty wasn't going to cut it at that level of competition, and that outlook was made very, very vocal.
An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified Bryan Price's age as 38. He is 51. We regret the error.