Reds - General

Dusty Baker, personal stats and playing hard

In the top of the seventh inning yesterday, I turned to Mike Maffie and said: “Clint Hurdle is managing like this is the most important game of the year for his team. Dusty Baker is managing like he wants to be Homer Bailey’s BFF.”

As most of you know, Baker left Homer Bailey in well after most observers would have pulled the tall Texan from the game. Baker’s reasoning (video link) was two-fold. One, that Homer “was dealin’ out there” which is hard to deny. Through six innings, Sunday was one of Homer’s most dominating performances.

Baker’s second reason was that he wanted to do everything he could to “get Homer a win” since “he hadn’t had one since his no-hitter.”

It’s that second point right there that makes me sick.

It goes without saying that Baker’s greater obligation to his team, employer and Reds fans was to win the game. This isn’t the first time Baker has explained questionable in-game moves based on trying to help individual players with their personal statistics.

His prioritization of individual achievement is especially galling when you consider the number of times the Reds starting pitchers (Bailey, Leake, Latos come to mind immediately) have said that the wins and losses don’t matter to them. It’s about the team winning the game.

My guess is that Dusty Baker would say, in his own defense, that when he sticks up for players, he’s earning their loyalty and they will “play harder for him.” When people describe Baker as a player’s manager, that’s a big part of what they mean. Dusty looking out for their next contract.

That’s pretty sickening to me, too. Those players wouldn’t play hard otherwise? For their teammates, for their fans, for their own pride? Baker’s implication that he has this unique access to a player’s willingness to play hard is bizarrely and massively ego-centric.

Is it really noticeable that the Reds play harder than other teams, the other teams who have managers who put the interest of the entire team ahead of individual achievement?

It also makes you wonder what other decisions (playing time, batting order etc.) that Baker determines based on doing favors for specific players.

54 thoughts on “Dusty Baker, personal stats and playing hard

  1. What is really scary: would he do the same in a post-season game? Did he do that with Latos in Game 5 last year?

  2. Jocketty and Castellini allow this to happen. It cancels out so much of the great work they’ve done on the franchise. Why would you hire a manager that evaluates and manages players based on his own arbitrary and archaic standards when you sign and pay players based on completely different ones?

    As a Cincinnati sports fan, I have always felt like I am held hostage by the Brown family, to the point where I don’t even bother to watch the Bengals on TV. But this is almost worse, to be a Reds fans in a situation where the franchise is so tantalizingly close to being great only to have Dusty playing Lucy to our Charlie Brown over and over again.

    • @Jason1972: That’s a great point. GM’s don’t even look at W-L when signing free agents. So looking at it purely from Homer’s selfish interest, leaving him out for 121 pitches, and raising his ERA/FIP etc., actually hurt Homer more than it helped. Baker’s emphasis on wins is yet more evidence of how out-of-date his thinking is.

  3. I think he uses the same methodology in the vast majority of his decisions. Hannahan batting 6th? He’s a 3rd baseman and needs 3rd baseman stats, so let’s bat him 6th so he can try to pick up a few RBIs. (That’s what I imagine to be the way Dusty makes a decision regarding batting order).

    On a side note: I was actually happy to see Dusty get Soto rather than Paul in against a lefty. (Gamecast showed Paul as annonunced, then Hurdle brought in the lefty, then Baker pinch hit for the pinch hitter.) I don’t know if that’s how it went down, but if so, that’s a kudos for Dusty in my opinion.

    • @prjeter: Except Baker should have used Mesoraco instead of Soto. Mesoraco was going in the game to catch anyhow. He is one of the best hitters (.333/.433/.471) on the team against LHP. Mesoraco would have had a much better chance to drive in that run than a player just called up from AAA, especially against a tough lefty. Soto, predictably, looked over-matched.

      • @Steve Mancuso: Are you kidding? That kis is only gonna be up for a few games. Gotta get him some ABs. Who cares which hitter would provide the best chance to win.

      • @Steve Mancuso:

        I wasn’t commenting on Soto, particularly. Sorry if it seemed that way. I was just commenting on Dusty pinch hitting for a pinch hitter. That’s a step in the right direction instead of just saying “Oh, well they brought in the lefty to face Paul. Let’s see how this goes.”

  4. I am glad I was not the only one who thought Dusty left in Bailey way to long. It is gonna be real sickening if we miss the playoffs by 3 or 4 games in which “Dusty” cost us a good chance of winning. They need to cut ties with him after this year!!

  5. Baker will look out for player’s stats, make sure they get their bonuses, put him arm around them and tell them their role on the team, so that they are secure.

    A manager like Piniella would look out for the team, make decisions based on what it took to win the game. No matter how a player felt about getting the hook or being pinch-hit for. Lou would put anyone in any situation, with that ’90 team Davis might leadoff, Larkin might hit clean-up, Myers or Dibble would close, and get four outs at a time.

      • @Redsfan7: I love Dusty the man from what I know about him, but I am not a Manager-Dusty fan. But I was hoping Dusty would send him out for another inning. I was hoping Bailey could squeeze it out. I would have, however, pulled Bailey 2 hitters earlier. Everyone should be happy I am not the manager because I would totally suck. Yet, my gut is very often proven correct over Dusty’s decisions and that is a serious problem.

    • @RedLeg75: A couple of players told us when we were researching Wire-to-Wire that one of the biggest differences between Lou and Pete was that Pete would always be checking in with players to see if they were close to getting any bonuses and then would help them to get to those levels, if they needed it. And Lou didn’t care, he was more focused on the team as a whole.

      Some players liked playing for Pete. Some liked playing for Lou. I don’t think any would say that Pete cost them games (because of that philosophy at least), but it definitely creates a different atmosphere.

      • @Joel: Mr. Luckhaupt, I presume. Thanks for a great read! I’ve been re-reading Wire-to-Wire on my breaks at work, and have a couple of guys lined up wanting to borrow it. Great insight behind the scenes of my favorite Reds team.

        I don’t think getting players their bonuses would hurt a team not in contention, but the main beef with Baker is how he coddles the guys, leaving them in roles set in stone regardless of the results, or obvious alternatives. Reading the book, I would love the Reds to have a manager of Lou’s ilk.

        Anyone who is interested in learning more about the 1990 Reds should buy this book.

  6. I see what you’re trying to say Steve but there are many times where putting a player in the position to get a personal achievement is helpful for the team. It shows your players you have confidence in them and that you want them to succeed. No matter how many times a player says “personal achievements don’t matter to me”, it just isn’t true. It’s “interview speak” and one of the many cliches that players use.

    Yes, I think that in this case Dusty left Bailey in 2 hitters too long. I was fine for him seeing if he could get by after the McKenry double. I would have pulled him after that next single though. It’s a matter of balancing trying to get the guy his personal achievement and doing what’s best to win that particular game.

    I fully agree that he should have had Mesoraco bat for Paul against a LHP. This is especially true with Mesoraco having to come in to catch anyway. Why use Soto there when you may use him later and Mesoraco is a legit MLB hitter who is coming into the game anywhere?

    • @LWBlogger: I get what you’re saying. But we need to be careful not to blur the concepts of showing confidence and wanting them to succeed with helping them earn personal statistics. I think Baker was doing the latter, not the former.

      It’s hard to believe that Homer Bailey isn’t already confident – seriously, he’d just struck out a personal best 12 batters. You really think it was important *at that moment* for Baker to show he had confidence in Bailey and wanted him to succeed. Homer isn’t in Little League or even a 24-year-old rookie any longer.

      It’s those clichéd ideas – showing confidence, wanting to succeed – that rattle around in places like Dusty Baker’s head, much past their expiration date.

    • @LWBlogger:

      I think that in this case Dusty left Bailey in 2 hitters too long.

      Ugh… that sucks. You stole my thunder. I probably should read the entire thread before I comment.

  7. dusty would have been a great manager for Marge.

    She didn’t like the rough side of Davy Johnson

  8. LWBlogger stole a lot of my thunder, but obviously the decisions should be made within the greater context of the greater team goals. That said, I don’t tend to believe much of what comes out of Dusty’s mouth as an explanation anyway. He will use either version of logic to explain why he made a move one day but didn’t make it the next.

    As to the differing philosophy’s that also has a greater context. Clint Hurdle was managing like it’s the 7th game of the WS(at least in part) because the team had dropped two winnable games to start the second half, had lost 4 of its last 5 series and is having to overcome the mental block associated with some huge July collapses in the 2nd half of the year.

    Dusty is managing like he has a veteran group that won’t get too high after a win or too low after a loss. While we may not like Dusty’s form of leadership or lack of fire, it’s notable that the Reds haven’t lost more than three in a row since April despite clearly not playing their best baseball for the last month.

  9. To start, I totally agree that Homer was left in too long, and that Dusty’s reasoning for doing so is faulty. That said, I think that your argument against the concept of a “player’s manager” is oversimplified. A player’s manager is good for a team because players want to play there. It makes it easier to sign good free agents if they feel like the manager will have their backs, and players who are happy where they are are willing to sign for a discount (e.g. Arroyo, Bruce). There’s a happy medium, and last night went beyond that in my mind, but to discount the idea of keeping the players happy is wrong-minded.

    • @BenL: I agree with that. I wasn’t implying that’s all there is to being a player’s manager. Baker’s system where players don’t often have to compete for playing time once their role is established is another.

      Where we disagree is that I don’t think Baker’s decision yesterday was based on keeping the players happy. How could leaving a pitcher in longer than he should be left in make Jay Bruce happy, or Joey Votto or Mike Leake for that matter?

      When managers cater to the individual statistical needs of their players, it creates hard feelings with others.

      I’ll ask again. Is there any evidence that this method of Baker’s works? Do his players play harder? Do the Reds sign key free agents because of Baker?

      As I’ve said before, I think most every big league manager, Baker included, has the respect of his team. In general, they play hard for their managers and teammates.

      There are risks involved in enabling Baker’s style with these unsupported, feel-good platitudes about the way he’s managing people.

      • @Steve Mancus

        @BenL: I agree with that. I wasn’t implying that’s all there is to being a player’s manager. Baker’s system where players don’t often have to compete for playing time once their role is established is another.

        Where we disagree is that I don’t think Baker’s decision yesterday was based on keeping the players happy. How could leaving a pitcher in longer than he should be left in make Jay Bruce happy, or Joey Votto or Mike Leake for that matter?

        When managers cater to the individual statistical needs of their players, it creates hard feelings with others.

        I’ll ask again. Is there any evidence that this method of Baker’s works? Do his players play harder? Do the Reds sign key free agents because of Baker?

        I think you’re creating different burdens of proof Steve. You’re asking for proof of Baker’s method being successful, but stating quite plainly that it breeds resentment among other players. Is there any proof that players feel any sense of resentment towards Baker looking out for another player’s individual goal?

      • @Steve Mancuso: I wouldn’t claim that yesterday’s decision was good in any way. I disagreed with it at the time, and there was nothing about the results that changed my mind :) I was only disagreeing with your characterization of the purported advantages of a player’s manager.

        Regarding the existence of evidence that a player’s manager is helpful, of course there is no direct evidence that I can cite, as any signing involves a complex set of factors. However, there is no denying that more than one player has signed at a discount to stay in Cinci (e.g. Bruce, Arroyo) and that BP has openly stated his desire to stay if he’s paid at what he considers a competitive rate. It is clear players like it here. People never give credit to Dusty for any of this, and I openly admit that I can’t prove them wrong, but I would suspect that he is part of the equation.

      • @Steve Mancuso: One more quick thing: I invite you and everyone to think about every boss they’ve ever had and what about their leadership style contributed to or detracted from the success of the organization. I suspect two things:

        A) You will conclude that the way they treated people and the work environment that fostered was important.

        B) You will find that A) is hard to prove without inside knowledge of the organization you worked for.

        • @BenL: Of course. But let’s not lose sight of where that game was. It’s not like Baker pulling Homer after the double would have been “treating him poorly.” That’s my point. These individual game decisions don’t add up to anything when it comes to Baker’s overall relationship with Homer or the rest of the team/Homer’s confidence/Homer’s belief that Baker trusts him etc. It just doesn’t mean anything to that.

          All it meant was that Baker managed in a way that made the team less likely to win, for no reason other than promoting Homer’s self-interest in piling up the relatively meaningless statistic of a win.

        • @Steve Mancuso: Again, I have said nothing in favor of the decision to leave Homer in last night. I disagreed with it at the time, and I disagree with it now.

        • @BenL: You make a great point BenL. I stayed in a crappy paying job a LONG time because I loved working for my boss. He had some of the same qualities of Dusty in that he looked out for me. But he could also kick by butt behind closed doors at any time too. We all know that good bosses are rare.

          That is probably not the case when it comes to ML Managers. Most if not all are pretty good people persons. Bad managers don’t tend to stick around.

  10. One thing I disagree with is that pitchers do not care about wins. Maybe Bailey doesn’t, I don’t know, but with the game on the line, how many times do you see most of the dugout (including the other pitchers) chatting, laughing, while the starting pitcher (in line for a win) is watching the stopper in there with a towel over his head, nervous as can be?

    I’m talking about all teams, not the Reds, here.

    WRT Bailey, I didn’t have a problem leaving him in there, UNTIL Baker made his comment about getting him a win.

    • @Hank Aarons Teammate: I agree with your last sentence mostly. If Baker had just said I left Homer in there because he was still pitching better than the likely replacement from the bullpen, I’d feel completely differently.

      Now, I was still concerned about Bailey’s pitch count – how many pitches was Baker willing to go to get that win? Bailey had thrown 120 pitches and still needed two outs to finish the inning, already behind.

      Baker was quoted in the Cincinnati Enquirer print edition this morning that when pitchers go high in their pitch counts like Bailey did, the important thing is to take care of them in their next start. Which I guess means he’ll pull Homer more quickly in the next game.

      I sure hope Bailey doesn’t need to stay in longer to get a win then. (It’s going to be against Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers on Friday night.)

      • @Steve Mancuso:

        Is it just my imagination, or does Dusty let Homer’s pitch count get higher than the other Reds starters? 120 pitches with men on and only one out is pretty high to leave a pitcher out there to continue battle to the end of the inning.

        • @MikeC: He does. But I think that’s justified. Homer is one of those rare pitchers who often gets stronger as the game goes on. Verlander is another present day example. Whether Homer is stronger, better conditioned or just has the mindset that he’s OK throwing 110+ pitches, he has been effective later. With other pitchers – Arroyo, Leake – they seem to hit the wall at an earlier pitch count. I don’t see a problem with allowing Homer to routinely thrown 100+ pitches. But I think you have to be extremely careful when you get to 120+ even with Homer. Not that you never do it, but it has to be a good reason.

          And trying to get a pitcher a win in a game you’re already behind isn’t anywhere near a good enough reason.

  11. I remember another manager the Reds used to have. He was notorious for pulling starting pitchers early. He was even called Captain Hook due to that.

    I bet his pitchers and the rest of the team hated him. Hated playing for him. Probably didn’t play hard because of that. Probably didn’t think the manager respected them. Probably wanted to leave the team as soon as they could. Probably say terrible things about him now.

    Well, of course, they won the 1975 and 1976 World Series. So that might have made up for it a bit. :-)

  12. Long-time listener, first-time caller.

    First, I should say that I “watch” most Reds games from 2000 miles away via Yahoo Sports, with additional context added via the Twitter feeds of the beat writers. In other words, I didn’t see firsthand that Homer was still throwing in the high-90s, that some of the hits he gave up in the 7th were fluky bloopers, etc. All I saw was that he started the 7th with 98 pitches. I figured he’d be yanked at the first sign of trouble — and to me, a 10-pitch at bat ending in a hard-hit double by someone batting under .200 fits that description, but Dusty obviously felt otherwise.

    This, to me, was a quintessential Dusty game that proves while managers might not necessarily win games, they can contribute mightily toward losing them. Sure, the offense sucked, and who knows if Hoover would have fared any better against the 7-8-9 hitters, but I think there’s a difference between playing to win and playing not to lose. I also think Dusty is terrible at explaining his thought process, or perhaps is just too lazy/too annoyed to do so. In other words, it’s not the stupid decisions; it’s the stupid decisions being explained stupidly. If he was able to better justify his logic, he wouldn’t frustrate me anywhere near as much — but because he does boneheaded things and then spews jibberish when asked why, it’s absolutely maddening.

    Thanks for the continued coverage and the dialogue.

  13. Is it really noticeable that the Reds play harder than other teams, the other teams who have managers who put the interest of the entire team ahead of individual achievement?

    No.

    • @MikeC: Noticeable that the Reds play harder? Uh, no. I’d argue that they can worry less about consequences of not playing hard with Dusty as their manager.

      Robin Ventura pulled Alex Rios out of the game the other day because he dogged it down the first base line. Would Dusty ever, ever, ever pull a guy from a game for that? You can’t be a player’s best friend if you embarrass him like that.

  14. Brain Kenny talking on MLBNow about this very topic. I agree with all of you, that Dusty is bad at in-game decisions, but good at clubhouse atmosphere. I just wanted to bring up this point.
    I LOVED Mike Leake’s interview. That was the first time I heard a pitcher talking about Wins and not giving the normal cliched interview speak.
    But I also think we hear a lot of pitchers say “I don’t care about my stats, I just care about the team W” is interview speak. Not necessarily what pitchers feel. Now I didn’t hear what Arroyo and Latos had said and if it was like Leake, or if it was normal interview speak. But I think that’s what a lot of pitchers rely on in interviews, and really do care about their W.

  15. Dusty definitely left Homer in too long yesterday. However, I think it’s nuts to suggest that really liking, trusting and believing in your manager makes no difference. There is a long sordid history of players tuning out or outright tanking on managers that players could not stand. I suppose you could argue the value in that is marginal, but I would disagree.

    • @davidphillips6: Not saying that. I’m saying that Homer is veteran enough and thrown two no-hitters, so that what Dusty Baker did or didn’t do yesterday isn’t going to change his mind about whether he likes, trusts or believes in his manager. There is also a long history of players tuning out or tanking on managers that were popular.

      Plus, you’re blurring “liking, trusting and believing in” too easily and that’s a problem. Sparky Anderson may not have been liked by his pitchers, but he sure was trusted and believed in.

      One way you really undermine the trust and “belief in” with your players is favoritism, or putting the individual interests of a player over the team. You can throw hypocrisy in that list, too.

      Imagine Baker trying to convince his players that they should make decisions for the good of the team (extra batting practice, more film study, working out in the off season) instead of just doing what they want.

      I would bet (no numbers on this, obviously) that there have been more successful hard-nosed coaches/managers than the ones who are soft on their players.

      • @Steve Mancuso: I don’t know about that last statement about hard-nosed coaches/managers being more successful overall. It may be true in a sport like football but baseball is a different type of game all together. In my experience, the manager who got the best performance out of his team was pretty low key. He never got too up or down. He also wasn’t quick to bench someone or to shake things up. There were rules and there were penalties for breaking those rules but he never seemed to make it personal and tended to use the carrot much, much more than the stick. Not that he never called guys’ performances out, just that he never seemed to make a production out of it. There was another guy who was very “rah rah” and quick to bench players or chew them out and he had very little success over two seasons with many of the same players.

        The same could be said about success with me as a player. I did better with a lower-key manager who would just let me play the game. I don’t mean a doormat who didn’t coach and let his players get away with anything they wanted. I mean a guy who could coach without it getting too wound up when a mistake was made. A guy who could tell you what mistake you made and what you needed to do to fix it.

        • @LWBlogger: Dude, for the record, Sparky, Pete and Lou were intensely competitive and you would NEVER hear them putting a player’s personal stats above their team’s goal to win. SAD, SAD day for the Red’s! Dusty egocentric – you bet! And that’s why this will be another winning Reds team with nothing to show for it at season’s end.

  16. Great article..It is sad this man is destroying this team and the owner doesn’t seem to care.

  17. Tell Dusty to get off his back side and go argue some close plays that actually affect the outcome of games and lead by example and his own intense desire to win. He is way too lackadaisical and it shows in his team’s poor play (below .500 since June 1st and counting).

  18. Great, Dusty wants players to focus and play hard for their next contract (thus promoting the idea of selfish play). Shoot, that’s the main problem with pro sports, in that they are already making way too much and always have their eyes on more. Jay B – “I can sign another of these $50 million contracts in the future”.

    Man, how many of us minions would be happy with just one of these $50 million contracts and be independently wealthy at 29?

    The days of playing for pride, your city, self respect etc. are long gone. There are a few that buy into the team concept but it is diminishing by the day as MLB and NFL get wealthier and wealthier by the day. Blacking out Saturday’s game to out of town fans who actually purchased their season MLB TV package is simply another fine example. By the way, since I don’t drink, do $10 beers taste any better?

  19. Dusty has done this several times since he’s been in Cincinnati. I remember once a few years ago he left Mike Lincoln in to pitch a third inning in a 6-0 game so that he could get a save for pitching three innings. Lincoln didn’t get the save, but I think he did give up four or five runs in the ninth and Cordero picked up a blown save. Another example is in 2011 when he kept playing Ramon Hernandez using the rationale that Hernandez was playing for his next contract. I understand having a players back, but this is ridiculous. Despite helping guys accumulate empty stats thus costing the owner money at arbitration/contract time, Castellini seems to be obsessed with the guy though so we’re stuck with him.

    • @Jetsons Dog: Ramon Hernandez is who you pick? He absolutely mashed the ball in 2011, didn’t he? .282/.341/.446 is numbers I will take from any catcher he had a 112 OPS+ in 2011. Not to mention that it’s pretty clear Hanigan couldn’t have played more than he did as it seems now that Hanigan gets less effective the more he plays because he breaks down playing any more than 1/2 of the games in a season. (He was best in 2010 when he only played in 70 games, he’s been terrible and made out of glass when he started the season catching 4/5 of the rotation.)

      • @ToddAlmighty: That particular case had to do with the fact that in August and September that team was going nowhere and instead of playing Mesoraco, (who was one the top one or two prospects in the organization and was thought to be the catcher of the future) day in and day out he seemed to be just as concerned about the next contract of a veteran who everybody knew wasn’t going to be on the team the next year. Had Hanigan not gotten hurt late in the year Mesoraco wouldn’t have gotten as much of a look as he did in 2011. My point is, Hernandez was already paying an agent whose job it was to worry about his next contract and his name wasn’t Dusty.

  20. I think the thing that we all have to watch out for with Bailey now is that in his three starts after throwing 115+ pitches this season, he’s given up 13 runs in 17.2 innings. The innings after a high pitch count start are still goodish, but those 13 runs are a killer. Also he only had 12 Ks (~6.1 K/9) in those 17.2 innings opposed to his season average of 9.3 K/9.

    Hopefully the Reds can win his next start, otherwise they’ll be 0-4 with Bailey on his first start since his 115+ pitch start.

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