[This post was written by John Ring, who is the Nation's correspondent from Afghanistan, where he is serving the entire nation.]
It got to the point where the Reds had no choice. Dusty Baker had to go.
It was bad enough the Reds limped to the finish line, losing their last five games to settle comfortably in third place. It was bad enough they filled out the last position slot available. But the Reds 6-2 defeat to the Pirates was truly all Reds fans could take.
The turning point for me was when Dusty sat awkwardly and looked on helpless when Brandon Phillips went into a tirade against a sportswriter. That was it for me. What respect I had for Dusty Baker was gone after that debacle.
An admission: I like Dusty Baker and have said before, he would be a great guy to go out with, have a few beers and talk baseball. I won’t preach to the Nation about how frustrating Baker had become, the lineups, the endless series of bunts, the lethargic “no sense of urgency” that drove us all crazy.
But now the big question is: who’s next?
Several names have already been mentioned, including Reds pitching coach Bryan Price, Triple AAA Manager Jim Riggleman, Cubs third base coach David Bell, Reds coach Chris Speier, and Barry Larkin.
Some of them are intriguing. Others scare the hell out of me. Walt Jocketty has a huge decision to make and you can bet the Reds won’t take long to name their new manager.
We all know Price’s track record as a pitching coach. But not many pitching coaches make great managers. I can think of Bud Black, currently, and that’s about it. And if the Reds hire Price, do we weaken two positions?
I want no part of Riggleman. He came off as a crybaby in his exit from Washington and as a quitter. We can do better than that. The Nation deserves better than that.
I used to think Speier would be a good manager. As a player, he was a fiery type of player who hustled and made the most of his abilities. But would he become Dusty Lite?
The Reds job would be Bell’s first at the big league level. And yeah, I know it was the same for Sparky Anderson when he was hired after the 1969 season. Like Bell and Jocketty, Sparky had a track record with Bob Howsam in the minor leagues. How would the veteran Reds players react to Bell’s hiring? Is this the guy to take us to the next level?
So now comes the two, in my mind, intriguing choices: Barry Larkin and Tony LaRussa.
Hiring Larkin is very similar to what the White Sox did with Robin Ventura. Or what the Cardinals did with Mike Matheny, although Larkin’s a Hall of Fame player. Larkin has a lot of positives; he’s a native Cincinnatian, would command instant respect from the players, young players would listen to him (you would think) and from a PR standpoint, it would be great for the Reds. He’s a former MVP who played on a championship team in an important position.
And now to the “X” factor: LaRussa.
Like most Reds fans, I don’t like LaRussa very much. He’s easy to dislike. He’s a lawyer and a vegetarian. And he always appears, you know, arrogant as hell. The one time he got pulled over for a DUI, he was drinking wine. Wine?
But despite these negatives, (1) La Russa is a proven winner and (2) he has a history with Jocketty and Bob Castellini. Yes, he has stated he doesn’t want to manage again, but who knows? What would the reaction of the Rhineland be if LaRussa was hired?
No matter who the choice is, I’d bet the Reds do it well before RedsFest in December. They will do their best to drum up interest in this annual event, especially after losing the final six games of the 2013 season.
So of the mentioned candidates listed above, my choice would be Larkin, unless a guy like Mike Scioscia emerges into the picture, I can’t even pick a guy from this crop as a runner-up. And please don’t mention bringing back Sweet Lou, due to his burnout managing the Cubs before he retired. True, it was the Cubs who burned him out. But if you think Dusty was laid back in 2013, Lou was even worse before he quit.
For now, our mantra has to be, “In Walt we trust.”