(Reuters) - The Cincinnati Reds have fired manager Dusty Baker, the club announced on Friday three days after the team was eliminated from the postseason in the National League wild card playoff game by the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Baker, who managed Cincinnati for six seasons, had led the Reds to the playoffs three of the past four years but each time failed to clear their first hurdle.
"This was a very difficult decision to make," said president of baseball operations and general manager Walt Jocketty, who said he informed Baker during a meeting at Great American Ball Park on Thursday.
"Dusty played an important role in the recent success of this organization, and we thank him for his contributions during his time here. We feel a change is necessary, however, if we are to continue to move the organization forward."
Baker, who managed the San Francisco Giants to the National League pennant in 2002 and directed the Chicago Cubs to the NL Central Division title in 2003, steered the Reds to NL Central titles in 2010 and 2012.
Last year, the Reds won the first two games of their Division Series in San Francisco before getting swept at home by the Giants, who went on to win the World Series.
He compiled a record of 509-463 record for the Reds, who stumbled toward the end of the 2013 season and were swept in the final three games at home by the Pirates to finish at 90-72 before losing to Pittsburgh in the wild card showdown.
Reactions from Reds players garnered by the Cincinnati Enquirer showed they were expecting some fallout from their poor finish.
"I thought someone was going to get fired, but I didn't know who," said starting pitcher Bronson Arroyo, who will be a free agent following the World Series.
"I'm surprised it was him. I had a conversation with him two days ago and if it was coming, he didn't know it. He was talking about his plans for next season and he was worried about his coaches."
Reliever Sam LeCure said he was not surprised.
"Unfortunately, it's not like (CEO) Mr. (Bob) Castellini can fire all of the players," LeCure said. "I think it's more like him trying to send a message that the culture of the clubhouse had to change.
"I think it was a time for a change with some of the personalities."
Outfielder Jay Bruce said Baker deserved credit for putting the Reds on the right path.
"I understand that it's a business and when teams don't accomplish what's expected of them there are changes, but any way you slice it, Dusty was an integral part of turning the organization around," Bruce wrote in an email.
"The Cincinnati Reds became relevant again with Dusty at the helm, and that's something people should never forget."
The 64-year-old Baker, a former major league outfielder who began his managerial career in 1993 with the Giants, is ranked 16th all-time and second among active managers with 1,671 wins, and three times was named Manager of the Year.
Baker guided his teams to seven postseasons, including the 2002 World Series with the Giants, who lost to the Angels in seven games.
(Reporting by Larry Fine in New York, Editing by Gene Cherry)