Dusty isn't San Franciscos story any more

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Dusty isn't San Franciscos story any more

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

What they're saying: 2017 Baseball Hall of Fame class

What they're saying: 2017 Baseball Hall of Fame class

The National Baseball Hall of Fame inducted Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Ivan Rodriguez Wednesday. Here's what they and their peers are saying.

https://twitter.com/baseballhall/status/821855144681897988


Still on outside, Bonds, Clemens have become invaluable to Hall

Still on outside, Bonds, Clemens have become invaluable to Hall

The Baseball Hall of Fame becomes yesterday’s news Friday, as it always does. Three months of buildup, one day to announce the names, one day to castigate the voters for their willfully negligent slights, and then nine months of hibernation.

So much for the concept of “joining the immortals.”

But at least Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Ivan Rodriguez never have to go through this annual pageant of nonsense again.

Barry Bonds does, though, and so does Roger Clemens, and to a lesser extent, so does Curt Schilling. They are the new litmus strips for the Hall, and they will more than replace Raines (voter ignorance division) and Bagwell (presumption of guilt with evidence division) for self-involved debate.

And in that adjusted role from doomed outsiders to serious candidates, Bonds and Clemens – and to a lesser extent again, Schilling – have become invaluable to the Hall, and their eventual election and induction will reduce the Hall’s ability to inflame passions outside the seamhead community.

On a day when Bagwell and Raines finally cleared the 75 percent threshold and Bonds and Clemens moved from 45 percent to 53.8 and 54.1 percent, respectively, the Hall of Fame Debating And Chowder Society saw the end times for its power as a multi-month debate-churner.

The blatherers are dead, long live the blatherers.

An entire mini-industry of Hall watchers has been spawned, in part by the now-feted Ryan Thibodaux and his exit polling but also by the debates about what the Hall should be and who should get to decide it. It has made days like Wednesday event viewing when it hadn’t been for years. For that, the Hall owes Bonds and Clemens a debt that the powers inside Major League Baseball wishes it didn’t have to pay. But the day they are inducted is the day that PEDs die as a debating point. The answer will have been provided, and there will be no more need for discussion.

Worse yet, the BBWAA’S new voter transparency rules may unfortunately impact our pal Thibodaux, whose seminal work in this understudied area of social science undermined ballot secrecy. In short, if everyone has to fess up, the desperate need to know early returns may dry up.

Oh, there will always be the day of post mortem-ization, as those who didn’t clear the threshold are subject to a few rounds of the popular parlor game, “Who Got Snubbed, And The Tedious And Half-Informed Reasons Why.”

For instance, the big debating point from today’s results will not be about Raines and Guerrero getting in, but what happened to the Bonds and Clemens votes. People have already postulated that a lot of the jump in their respective votes can be directly linked to Bud Selig’s election from the Veterans Committee. Voters who had previously ridden the Hall-as-temple argument suddenly lost their raison d’etre and realized that the PED problem was an industry matter rather than a greedy players’ matter.

In short, they saw Selig getting in as tacit approval that the PED issue was no longer a moral one in baseball but a cynical one, a way to blame labor for management’s culpability. That is an irony whose existence Selig will almost surely deny, but it’s there anyway, and it represents one more non-glacial change in a system that has been nearly immovable for most of its existence.

The next change, of course, may be removing the vote from the BBWAA and turning it over to a more malleable panel of “experts” who may not skew as young and values-neutral as the BBWAA of the future seems to be heading. That course may be hastened if/when Bonds and Clemens are elected, because halls of fame in their more traditional role have been more about rewarding friends and punishing enemies, and a large and shifting electorate makes that harder to accomplish.

The argument against such a course, though, is that the current system of three months of fevered public debate about the same old stuff works for the Hall’s sense of its importance. I mean, MLB Network and its fetish for shrill argument only has so much reach.

By Friday, though, all of this will revert to its typically inert state. Bonds, Clemens (ATALE Schilling), PEDs, morality, practicality, secrecy, old voter/young voter – all of it will fade back into insignificance.

And in a year or two or maybe three, Bonds and Clemens will wipe it all out by being included in the one club that we once knew would never tolerate their presence, and the Hall Of Fame’s Golden Age Of Shrieking Argument will end.

In a weird and largely unpleasant way, it will be missed.