Dusty Baker was listening to his favorite reggae station not long ago when Peter Tosh came across the airwaves, singing about living fearlessly in the face of hardship.

"I thought, 'Hey, man, that's me,' " the former Giants manager said. "Things have a way of always working out for me. God will guide you. I learned to trust and not to doubt or worry."

Those soothing thoughts help what might otherwise be a maddening time for an unemployed manager. Spring training opens this weekend and, for just the third time since the 1960s, Johnnie B. Baker won't be a part of it.

Baker, 64, is at a career crossroads. The Cincinnati Reds fired him in October, despite a tenure that ended with back-to-back seasons of least 90 wins and a playoff appearance ... despite ranking 16th on baseball's all-time victories list ... despite joining the Giants' Bruce Bochy and Jim Leyland as the only three managers active at the end of last season to win at least 500 games for two teams.

While some of his celebrated contemporaries -- Tony La Russa, Bobby Cox and Joe Torre -- will be enshrined in Cooperstown this summer, Baker will be home with his resume in hand. He wants to manage again.

At the time of their parting, the Reds suggested announcing it as a "retirement" or that Baker was "taking a year off."


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"Why? That's not what I wanted," Baker said when reached at his Sacramento-area home this week. "I'll know when I want to retire. ... I said, 'Let's call it what it is' " -- a firing.

Baker's departure in Cincinnati has echoes of his final chapter in San Francisco, where Baker and the team parted ways not because of regular-season failure but because of October frustration. The last game he managed for the Giants was Game 7 of the 2002 World Series.

That time around, the Chicago Cubs swooped in within weeks to hire one of the game's most charismatic dugout leaders.

This time? Baker's phone isn't ringing, not even after he makes the first call.

Baker said he reached out to the Washington Nationals, Seattle Mariners and Detroit Tigers when those teams had managerial openings and that he never got a reply.

"What's it take to call back and say, 'No, thank you?' " Baker asked.

He recalled that story without a hint of anger, as if questioning the etiquette, not the snub. In any case, he said, his overture to the Nationals was a symbolic gesture. Baker knew the job would go to former Giants star Matt Williams, one of his protégés, and made sure to tell Williams so. The two remain close and have discussed Williams' dugout future many times.

"I didn't want to do anything that would ice him out of the job," Baker said. "I told him, 'That's not why I put my name in the hat. I put my name in the hat to show people I wasn't through.' "

Cincinnati won 97 games under Baker in 2012 and won 90 more last season, the eighth time one of his teams won 90 games.

It was the Reds' belly flops that did him in. A year after a blowing a 2-0 lead to the Giants in the National League Division Series, they lost their final six games last season, including the wild-card playoff game.

Baker's strategy was second-guessed, and not for the first time. So was his style, which was characterized as too laid back.

Baker, without being prompted, addresses the criticism. He said he was following doctor's orders to turn it down a notch, to keep his trademark enthusiasm in check. He had spent part of 2012 in a Chicago hospital recovering from an irregular heartbeat and a ministroke.

Baker concedes now that he entered last season not knowing if he would make it through the grind. He joked about feeling like the Bionic Man while dealing with a defibrillator, heart monitor and C-PAP machine.

Now, Baker said, he is back to his old self, having had an additional year to recover from the scary heart episode. "I know I'm strong," he said. "Nobody needs to tell you when you're strong."

That's an important message when it comes to his hopes of getting hired again. The last thing Baker needs is any vestige of age. What was long a mark of distinction -- his association with contemporaries such as La Russa, Cox, Torre and Leyland -- now has a drawback. He name is linked with the old guard, the fading greats, the past.

Major league managing suddenly has become a young man's game. Brad Ausmus, 44, was hired to succeed Leyland in Detroit. Williams, 48, will replace Davey Johnson in Washington. Mike Matheny was 41 when he succeeded La Russa in St. Louis in 2012. There are two other first-timers, Bryan Price, 51, with the Reds and Rick Renteria, 52, with the Chicago Cubs, while Lloyd McClendon, 55, gets a second shot, this time with the Seattle Mariners.

Jim Bowden, a former Reds G.M. now with ESPN, suspects Baker might be back in the dugout this summer.

"He's the perfect July hire for the team that's underachieving," Bowden said. "I can see him as a midseason replacement for a team that's 12 games back. A G.M. is going to say, 'I need a proven winner to come in here and prove that we're better than this.' "

Until then, Baker sounds at peace, even as pitchers and catchers report without him. The only other times he missed spring training since being drafted in 1967 was in 1987, the year before the Giants hired him as their first-base coach, and in 2007, before the Reds hired him.

For now, Baker said, he is enjoying his time with his family.

"Still," he said, "I feel like I could help somebody."