Baker keeping busy with no Spring Training
Veteran skipper home for only second time since he started managing in '93
CINCINNATI -- If this were like most of his other offseasons from the past 20 years, Dusty Baker would be saying goodbye to his family this week and heading for Arizona for another Spring Training.
Had this been any other year, Baker would already be jotting down little notes on a pad at the table by his bed or on a calendar at his desk -- a lineup tweak here, a reminder about how he could help a hitter there.
For only the second time since he first started managing in 1993, Baker doesn't have a camp to prepare for. The Reds, who he had managed since 2008, dismissed him on Oct. 4 and promoted his pitching coach, Bryan Price, as his replacement.
A three-time National League manager of the year, Baker is ranked 16th all-time with 1,671 wins with the Giants, Cubs and Reds. The 64-year-old doesn't find the feeling odd of not having a team to manage in 2014. But he also didn't know what to think of it because baseball season hasn't quite started yet.
"It's still the offseason for me," Baker said fron his home near Sacramento, Calif. "I have no problems staying busy. If I have nothing, I make up something to do."
Baker compiled a 509-463 record with the Reds from 2008-13, and is ranked third in franchise history in wins behind Sparky Anderson and Bill McKechnie. In three of the past four years, Baker guided Cincinnati to 90-or-more win seasons and postseason berths. But, his club didn't advance in any postseason rounds. A six-game losing streak at the end of last season prompted the Reds to make a change in the dugout even though Baker had a year left on his contract.
"Hey, life goes on," Baker said. "I'm spending time with my son [14-year-old Darren]. It's been nice watching him play basketball and now he's getting ready for baseball. I've had eight months worth of honey-dos to make up. I'm trying not to think about baseball. It still hurts some. You find other avenues for the time."
The last time Baker was out of baseball came after the Cubs let him go following the 2006 season. The '07 season was spent working as an analyst for ESPN. Baker said he had a chance to go back into television work again, but the offers came right after the Reds job ended.
"It was too soon," Baker said.
Either Baker or his agent reached out about the managerial vacancies with the Nationals, Mariners and Tigers in October but he said none of the clubs contacted him.
"You can't hire yourself to do something," Baker said. "[Former football coach] Bill Walsh always said you have to try to find something to substitute for the time and competiveness that's derived from baseball."
Instead of baseball, Baker has occupied himself with other ventures. He's dabbling with different businesses, from real estate to alternative energy.
"My wife says I have eight part-time jobs. But none of them are paying, yet," Baker said with a laugh.
Baker often travels and just returned this week from a trip to Portland and Seattle. He happened to be in Seattle when the Seahawks won the Super Bowl, but he avoided the victory parade downtown.
On Monday, Baker had his wisdom teeth removed -- the only health issue he can report since leaving the Reds. Near the end of the 2012 season, he sustained a minor stroke and missed 11 games just before the playoffs started. Although he returned in 2013 at a lighter weight and with improved eating and fitness habits, the season still wore him down more than usual.
"I feel 100 percent better now than where I was at this point before Spring Training last year," Baker said. "I was just trying to make it through the year. Now, I'm 100 percent strong and feel great."
Baker has tried to keep tabs on his former Reds players and the usual flurry of offseason transactions around the game. He admitted he doesn't stay glued to the television like he would if he were still managing.
While there was still a sting over the sudden ending of his time in Cincinnati, Baker denied having hard feelings.
"No. Whenever you're not allowed to finish a job, you just miss it," Baker said. "It's a combination of feelings. I don't want to retire. You spend a lot of time in this game. The next phase is going to be better -- whatever it is. I am convinced."