The Family Trees of Dusty Baker and Walt Jocketty
There was a constant feeling of reluctance between Jocketty and Baker. Perhaps it stemmed from the long-running feud Baker had with Jocketty’s friend and former manager when he was the GM of the Cardinals, Tony LaRussa. Maybe they just had different philosophies.
Jocketty inherited Baker when he took over as GM for Wayne Krivsky in 2008. At the time of Baker’s hiring, after the 2007 season, there was debate as to whether it was owner Bob Castellini who wanted a “name” manager over the reservations of Krivsky, who would have preferred to keep interim manager Pete Mackanin. After his firing in early 2008, Krivsky said it was his call to hire Baker. Whether or not that’s 100 percent accurate or he didn’t want to torch bridges and leave the impression that he’d tell tales out of school is known only to Krivsky. I would surmise that the owner said he wanted a known manager and Baker was the best candidate out there for Krivsky to adhere to those wishes.
The previous fall of 2007, Jocketty had been fired after thirteen seasons as Cardinals’ GM due to his open displeasure with the club heading into a more stat-centric direction with scouting director Jeff Luhnow and his staff operating what was essentially a shadow government side-by-side with Jocketty and LaRussa.
When Jocketty was hired by the Reds as a “special adviser to the President and CEO” and Krivsky was in the final year of his contract, it was obvious what was going to happen. When Jocketty took over as GM, he inherited Baker who had a three-year contract worth over $10 million. It was a shotgun marriage on the part of Castellini and neither man would likely have entered into it willingly. From the time Jocketty took over, there was speculation as to whether he’d try to get LaRussa and Dave Duncan to come to the Reds. Neither the manager nor the pitching coach were happy with the Cardinals’ new direction as both had had their power marginalized in favor of Luhnow and his staff. LaRussa won that power struggle and left of his own accord.
While this all sounds dysfunctional, this isn’t a new situation in baseball. Owners tend to think they can hire smart people, shove them in a room with the edict, “Work together!!!” and that it will gel. Owners have people they want to hire for the front office, make promises of “full control,” then turn around and start making “suggestions” that the GM would be well-advised to adhere to. We’re seeing it now with Theo Epstein and the Cubs as it’s ownership nudging Epstein and Jed Hoyer to pursue Joe Girardi. People sometimes have to work with other people they might not choose to work with. That doesn’t mean it can’t end positively.