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Wed, 17 Oct 2012 02:30 AM EDT

Dusty Baker missed the Reds’ division title celebration, still recovering from a heart issue and a mini-stroke in a Chicago hospital. One win away from the National League championship series and another celebration, he came up short.

The Cincinnati Reds are giving him a 2nd chance to take his team deep into the postseason.

The 63-year-old manager agreed to a 2 year contract extension, the same length as his last contract. The Reds have won the National League Central title in a couple of the last 3 years under Baker, losing in the 1st round of the playoffs.

The Cincinnati Reds have won 169 games in the last 3 seasons, their best such showing in 30 years. Their 2 division titles in 3 years mark their best stretch since Sparky Anderson led the Big Red Machine to back-to-back World Series titles in 1975-76.

The next challenge is to take that next step – the Reds haven’t reached the National League championship series since 1995.

”In Dusty’s 5 seasons here, he’s taken us to the postseason twice and has proven he will be able to lead our teams to championship-caliber play on the field,” owner Bob Castellini claimed. ”He’s the right manager to continue the building process that will take us deeper and deeper into the playoffs in the future.” Sports scores

During his first 2 seasons, Baker presided over the club’s rebuilding from a team reliant on homers – an offense built around Ken Griffey Jr. and Adam Dunn – to one that wins with pitching and defense.

The Reds reached the playoffs ahead of schedule in 2010, and then got swept by the Phillies as their inexperience showed. They took a step back last year, when 3 of their 5 starters got hurt or became ill during spring training.

The Cincinnati Reds won 97 games and the National League Central again this season and took the first 2 games of their division series in San Francisco. They also suffered a major setback when 19-game winner Johnny Cueto pulled muscles in his right side during the 1st inning of the playoff opener, which cost Cincinnati its ace.

The Cincinnati Reds dropped the next 3 at home, a devastating collapse as Baker reached the end of his contract.

”It was disheartening to have my club go thru this,” Baker claimed.  He recognized that he was not sure whether ownership would bring him back. He got his reply quickly.

Baker was a hard-hitting outfielder with the Atlanta Braves, getting his 1st promotion to the majors in 1966. His greatest moments as a player came with the Dodgers. He helped L.A reach the World Series 3 times and win it in 1981. He played 19 years overall with the Atlanta Braves, Los Angeles Dodgers, San Francisco Giants and Oakland Athletics, making the All-Star game s6ix times. He won 2 Silver Slugger awards and one Gold Glove.

He has set himself apart as a manager.

Baker is one of only 6 managers to win division titles with 3 teams, with Billy Martin, Joe Torre, Tony La Russa, Lou Piniella and Davey Johnson. When the Reds got their 90th win this season, it gave him 7 seasons of reaching the mark.

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