Dusty isn't San Franciscos story any more

Dusty isn't San Franciscos story any more
October 5, 2012, 5:52 pm
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Its been almost two decades since Dusty Baker was first hired as a manager in this very town, and one full decade since he left in a shower of backbiting, anger and recrimination.But 20 years is a long time, and so is 10, and life has a way of shaving the pointed edges off the best and worst times. Hes gotten married and had children. Hes lost a parent. He quit one job and been fired from another, and has found his bliss in a town you would not think would be either his, or its, cup of tea.Plus he just had a health scare on top of another health scare. Most folks can hold grudges a long time, but a heart attack-ministroke double play usually brings perspective in a large travel trunk right to ones feet, and the glories and slights of the bygone era tend to fade in significance.RELATED: Dusty Baker returns from mini-stroke
Thus Saturdays National League Division Series isnt as much about Bakers triumphant return to San Francisco as you might think. Hes returned plenty of times, with good teams and bad ones, in happy surroundings and lousy ones.His time in San Francisco should not have ended as they did, in a protracted feud when then-owner Peter Magowan, and he should not have left so underappreciated given the job he did managing a clubhouse that included Jeff Kent and Barry Bonds. This statue-happy franchise should have one of him in a very prominent place given what he was asked to do, and given how well he did it.But that statue wont ever happen, because memories are long and turf is defended long after the war is over. And if the Cincinnati Reds beat the Giants in this five-game series, you may rest assured that the subject of a statue will never be brought up again.So, fine. No statue for Baker. But as we said, the future is now, and the past a million years ago. Hes moved on, because hes had to move on. He missed almost two weeks of the tail end of this season because of a mild heart attack that morphed into a mini-stroke while he was in the hospital, and while he is not likely to dwell too long on the topic over the next week or so, his grudges have been reduced to Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner and Buster Posey and Pablo Sandoval.He is a baseball manager again, and he is a Cincinnati Red.Its a lie that you cant go home again. We all products of our homes, and they live in us forever. But Dusty Baker has had many homes, and for the moment, Cincinnati is as good as any of them. The town has learned what Chicago never did and what San Francisco sometimes forgot that good managers matter because they are so hard to find and match to their surroundings.Baker has been a manager for 19 years, which ties him for 23rd on the all-time longevity list, and he is one of 19 men to have managed 3,000 games, and the only one above him on that list who is not likely to go to the Hall of Fame is Ralph Houk. On the down side, he has been accused, more wrongly than rightly, of being a bane to pitchers health, and of having too a thin skin for managerial work.RELATED: Giants-Reds NLDS broadcast scheduleThat, too has changed. Most of the pitchers who got hurt on his watch had already come to him either damaged or with a delivery that suggested injury was on the way. And while he did not suffer slightly willingly or silently, he spoke up when he saw a wrong, and that cannot be a bad thing ever.So he comes to San Francisco now a far different man than the one who came here as a coach, or a manager, and different still than the one who left, a victim of front office meddling and turf-protecting. There will be some Baker nostalgia, and perhaps he will get a long and loud ovation when he is introduced before Saturdays game in thanks for services rendered.But he isnt really San Franciscos story any more. Hes not playing for his legacy in a city two jobs ago. Hes playing for the team he has today, and a city that has come to see him as a success. He has taken the Reds to two division titles in three seasons after 14 years of doing without, and this team is primed for a deep October run.Most importantly, though, Baker is alive to see it. And old enough to know that bygones, bad and good, really are bygones. Only the moment matters, he looks as good in red as in orange and black.Just ask him.Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com

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