06/25/2010

On Dusty Baker

So Joe Sheehan — who I really like as a baseball writer — has written an article for Sports Illustrated extolling the virtues of Dusty Baker. Or not:

In his last seven seasons as a manager, Baker’s questionable personnel choices, including an abiding love for veterans, and his refusal to prioritize on-base percentage over other traits, have chipped away at his team’s performances. Whether it was burying Matt Murton and Hee Seop Choi on the bench in Chicago, or giving away runs by leading off such OBP nightmares as Corey Patterson and Orlando Cabrera, or famously overworking Mark Prior and Kerry Wood, Baker has repeatedly made poor choices since leaving San Francisco, where he at least had Bonds’ greatness to paper over his mistakes.

Baker’s fingerprints are all over this Reds team. He has penciled Cabrera into the leadoff spot in 39 games, a bit more than half the time, despite the shortstop’s execrable .281 OBP. He limited the playing time of good defender and on-base guy Chris Dickerson to open the season, instead playing OBP sinks Jonny Gomes and Laynce Nix. (Dickerson subsequently broke a bone in his right wrist and is out until at least July.) Gomes is having one of the best seasons of his career, but as a poor defensive left fielder his .285/.342/.491 line is less valuable than it appears.

Sheehan’s basic premise is that Dusty has only experienced any success because he had Barry Bonds in his lineup every night. It’s a little simplistic, but there is an argument to be made in favor of Sheehan’s hypothesis. Anyway, here’s Sheehan’s conclusion:

Quantifying the impact of a manager is a delicate thing, because a significant part of the job is invisible, and to some extent, not quantifiable. Baker has, throughout his career, been given credit for having interpersonal skills that outweighed his tactical and strategic shortcomings. Perhaps he has those skills, but if he does, those skills seem to have been connected in a large way to writing Barry Bonds’ name into the lineup. They haven’t translated to his subsequent jobs. La Russa, on the other hand, won with the White Sox, won with the A’s and keeps winning with the Cardinals and now has one wild card, 12 division titles, five pennants and two World Series championships on his resume . Perhaps he doesn’t get the “leader of men” tag, but the one he has — “winner of division titles” — is a lot more important. The Cardinals’ edge in the dugout could well make the difference in this year’s NL Central race.

Read the entire thing; it’s worth your time.

Right on cue, GM Walt Jocketty and beat writer John Fay come rushing to Baker’s defense. Jocketty, I understand; it’s his job to defend his field manager, and he makes some decent points. What the heck is Fay doing, though? I thought he was a reporter.

I’m perfectly willing to give Dusty credit for his people skills and his management of egos within the clubhouse. I’ve said several times that Dusty certainly deserves credit if this Reds team overachieves. If we’re going to blame him, we have to be willing to give him credit when things go right.

There is, however, absolutely no question that Baker’s on-field tactical cluelessness has cost the Reds. Let’s not even talk about his mismanagement of the bullpen or whether he is to blame for the Edinson Volquez and Homer Bailey injuries. Baker has consistently used the absolute worst option available as the leadoff hitter in his lineup. Over at Baseball Prospectus, Steven Goldman expounded on this issue today:

Baker’s inability to exploit the leadoff spot is nothing new. Now in his 17th season as a manager, the aggregate rates for a Baker leadoff hitter are .264/.327/.382. Baker leadoff hitters have drawn more than 87 walks in a season only once, in 1998. More often, they have drawn fewer than 60. Overall, his leadoff hitters have averaged 749 plate appearances and 61 walks per season. While we would expect leadoff hitters to have a higher walk rate than the average hitter, Baker’s leadoff men have actually had a slightly lower walk rate than the average National League non-pitcher.

To wit: Corey Patterson (.238 OBP). Willy Taveras (.275 OBP). Orlando Cabrera (.276 OBP). Disgusting. I can’t take it any more.

On a more exciting note: MC Hammer is coming to Cincinnati!!!

Blame Chad for creating this mess.

Chad launched Redleg Nation in February 2005, and has been writing about the Reds ever since. His first book, “The Big 50: The Men and Moments That Made the Cincinnati Reds” is now available in bookstores and online, at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and wherever fine books are sold. You can also find Chad’s musings about the Cincinnati Reds in the pages of Cincinnati Magazine.

Join the conversation! 65 Comments

  1. What the #$%^ Fay? Hannigan is the number one catcher? Dusty stuck with Bruce (well, did he really have any alternatives)? I can slightly give credit to letting Votto play over Hatteberg. I swear it reads like Dusty’s agent fed him the lines. GAG 👿

  2. The Enquirer has become an arm of the Reds PR department when it comes to Dusty Baker.

    The piece they had last month where they reported uncritically Dusty Baker’s defense of the job he’s done here the past three years still has me mad. Baker taking credit for the Reds turnaround this year is simple astonishing.

    Was Mike Leake part of his three year plan all along? Arthur Rhodes? Was Jonny Gomes part of the plan? If so, it was odd then that they let him sit out there taking offers from other teams. If a single other team had been interested in Gomes, his 50 RBI would not be for the Reds. Was that the crafty master plan?

    Injuries have been the only way Baker has improved his starting team — if Willy Taveras hadn’t gotten hurt last year, he would STILL be the Reds CF and lead-off hitter today. If Ramon Hernandez hadn’t been hurt last year, Ryan Hanigan would still be catching once or twice a week.

    Baker stubbornly stuck with batting Brandon Phillips in the clean up spot this year, Stubbs leading off, until his own job was being called into question. THEN Baker gets credit for the change, after fighting it for two-plus years.

    Now we’re in the middle of another veteran-hitter lead-off disaster. Patterson. Taveras. Now Cabrera.

    John Fay’s defense of Dusty Baker playing young players is ridiculous. Where to begin?

    Baker actually kept playing Hatteburg instead of Votto in 2008, for a full month — despite everything showing Votto was ready to go. Hatteburg got hurt, so Baker had no choice to play Votto every night.

    In 2009, Baker played Willy Taveras over the Reds younger CF. We’d have never seen Drew Stubbs last year otherwise.

    In 2009, Baker played Ramon Henrnandez much more than Ryan Hanigan, except when Hernandez was hurt. Contrary to what Fay says, Hanigan has NOT become the #1 catcher this year. Before Hanigan got hurt a few weeks ago, Hernandez was catching 3 of every 5 games through the rotation. AND, when healthy, Hanigan should be catching 4 of the 5 pitchers in the rotation, not just splitting time as Baker has it.

    In 2009 and 2010, Baker has kept Paul Janish buried on the bench in order to play Alex Gonzalez last year and Orlando Cabrera this year.

    In 2010, Baker has kept the aged Miguel Cairo on the team instead of Drew Sutton. Sutton plays more positions defensively, is a better hitter, and could play for the Reds in the future.

    Finally, Baker has played Jonny Gomes and Laynce Nix instead of Chris Heisey, who Baker has also wasted.

    Bottom line: Baker clearly has positive clubhouse qualities. The Reds are doing well this year. But his lineup and game management is costing the Reds, both in terms of winning-and-losing this year, and also in terms of development for the future.

    Just don’t expect to find the full story in the Enquirer.

    • The Enquirer has become an arm of the Reds PR department when it comes to Dusty Baker.

      Give me a break. Very few people agreed with this little rant when it was posted on Fay’s blog, so you come to Redleg Nation to find some friends to stroke you(granted, there are some serious derelicts that post on the Enquirer site). The only reason the Enquirer’s “an arm of the Reds PR department” is because John Fay exercised some objectivity when it came to the Baker topic. If you bothered reading what Fay said, he didn’t sit there and protect Baker as you make it sound(I assume for affect). He made it very clear that one of Dusty’s biggest and most glaring faults has been the lead off spot, and I like most reasonable fans couldn’t argue that point at all. I also find it hilarious that the same knock on Baker for having Barry Bonds is not used against Larussa for having Albert Pujols the past 9 years…but I guess that would be objective journalism to point that out. Something Sheehan obviously wasn’t shooting for with this piece. A number of Baker’s decisions have bombed, a number of his decisions also have the Reds 1/2 a game out of first place in June. Which part of that gets nearly 90% of the attention from the media and blogs like this? Baker’s flawed as a manager in many ways, but it can’t be denied that he’s done above average job this season. Although I suppose many fans feel the Reds are where they’re at in spite of Baker.

      • Although I suppose many fans feel the Reds are where they’re at in spite of Baker.

        Sign me up for lodging in that camp.

        Baker’s only real fault is the lead-off spot? What about his abomination of defense by letting Carerra go out there day after day? Perhaps people on this blog overreact to Dusty, but it’s the very little things that end up making the difference.

        The advantage of having superstars is irrelevant. I much as I dislike LaRussa’s gamesmanship, I believe if he were helming the Reds right now, they’d be better than they are now. That might only be a difference of 2 or 3 games, but that would put the Reds in charge of the division. Who knows what difference he might make in the development of someone like Bruce or Heisey? Dusty isn’t the worst manager in the world by any means, but he’s not the right fit for THIS club.

  3. @Steve: Send that to Fay. Well done.

  4. @Steve:

    As a long-time Baker hater, that was beautiful. Although I don’t really think there’s anything wrong with starting Gomes, you also didn’t even touch on his tenure with the Giants or Cubs…which kind of says everything about Baker.

    • Although I don’t really think there’s anything wrong with starting Gomes,

      I agree. My main point was that Gomes isn’t part of Baker’s master plan. Baker got to watch Gomes all last year, yet he decided to let Gomes basically walk out the door. So it’s not like Baker saw this half-season coming for Gomes.

      Gomes should play regularly, but I’d also like to see Heisey in LF more. Better defense, player development for future years, and (unfortunately) Gomes is due for a bit of a comedown to his usual hitting levels.

      I do love Gomes’ enthusiasm, though.

      • I agree. My main point was that Gomes isn’t part of Baker’s master plan. Baker got to watch Gomes all last year, yet he decided to let Gomes basically walk out the door.

        I don’t know that this is fair…we do not know that Baker didn’t advocate for keeping Gomes. We do know that the final responsibility of who to sign and who to let walk is not in his job description.

  5. On the other hand, if it makes you feel any better, Fay’s defense of Baker doesn’t get anywhere near Mike Lupica’s contention that Joe Torre is the greatest manager in the history of New York City.

  6. @Steve: I have nothing to add regarding Baker. Brilliant, Steve.

    The two areas of weakness on offense are CF and SS. I believe the Reds could put Heisey in CF. Problem there is solved. What about SS. There’s not a single SS out there that’s available with an OBP above .350. Do you know how much I’d kill to add Rickie Weeks or Kelly Johnson at the trade line? OBPs over .350, leading off, playing second AND forcing Phillips into the SS role.

  7. @Steve:

    I’d probably use Heisey as a defensive sub, but as long as Gomes is slugging .500 he’d be an everyday player for me.

  8. If Baker’s people skills are keeping him in the dugout, maybe he should just be a coach. He is a strategic failure. If we’re going to compare Baker to LaRussa, let’s be honest. LaRussa finds a way to exploit the other team’s weaknesses. He has been lucky to have managed teams that had several superstar caliber players, but he has also managed to turn mediocre players into all-stars. And, most importantly, he knows how to work with his pitchers, planning ahead and preserving them for the future. Baker does none of this. The Cardinals have a weak bullpen as it is. Under Baker, they would be worse than how the Reds pen is doing now

  9. Also, this “leader of men” bullshit is completely overrated. Ferchrissakes, Baker’s best team featured two superstars who hated each other with a passion and had a fist fight in the locker room.

  10. Daaang, Steve, bringin’ the leverage!! *That’s a line from a sports movie w/ Patton Oswalt, Big Fan. Check it out*

    The rush to Baker’s defense by Mr. Fay can be summed up in one word: access.

    It’s sad Sheehan went off half cocked with his criticisms as this is probably the only time all season the media will do a full airing of Dusty’s strengths and weaknesses. It would’ve been nice to keep it solely based on the facts of his personnel decisions. Instead, this sort of lazy journalism is exactly what Walt and the apologists need to create a smoke screen around Dusty.

    • The rush to Baker’s defense by Mr. Fay can be summed up in one word:access.

      Exactly.

  11. @Sultan of Swaff:

    What was wrong with Sheehan’s column?

  12. @jdarts:

    “but it can’t be denied that he’s done above average job this season”

    Sure it can. You just have to isolate the independent variables that managers control.

  13. I think the best point Steve made was that Dusty should not get credit in the media for making personnel changes like Stubbs, Votto, and Hanigan. Those changes only came about because injuries forced his hand. The same thing applies to Cabrera right now. It’s been evident for over a week now that OC needs a few days off at the very least, yet Dusty is just soooo late to the game when it comes to recognizing when a player is dragging.

  14. @Brien Jackson: I don’t think Sheehan’s column was all that bad, I was more or less pointing out the fact that Larussa(much like a Phil Jackson) has had the luxury of managing some pretty incredible talent through pretty much of his career. It’s not hard to be viewed as a masterful tactician when you’ve had players like Pujols, Carpenter, Wainright, Eckersley, McGwire, Canseco and others to work with. Baker obviously won 3 time NL manager of the year and was viewed as a great manager when Barry Bonds was hitting 70 HR’s a year. A manager or coach is sometimes only as good as the players he has to work with. The truly great ones get the most out of less than stellar talent. I’m not saying Baker’s in the same league as Larussa as a manager, I’m simply saying it’s only fair that some of this is pointed out.

  15. Brian–When Sheehan brings up San Fran and also compare Dusty to LaRussa, there’s just so much conjecture there that it waters down his main points, which are very strong. It could’ve had a much greater impact had he just kept to his Reds decisions. You saw how Fay and Jocketty latched onto the LaRussa angle first. Smoke screen.
    I don’t get why the traditional baseball media like Sheehan don’t tap into the bloggers when researching their bullet points. I mean, where else does every decision get scrutinized like we do here? Certainly not from the broadcasters or print journalists. They need access, hence the kid gloves.

    • When Sheehan brings up San Fran and also compare Dusty to LaRussa, there’s just so much conjecture there that it waters down his main points, which are very strong.It could’ve had a much greater impact had he just kept to his Reds decisions.You saw how Fay and Jocketty latched onto the LaRussa angle first.Smoke screen.

      The Sultan is on target again. Sheehan’s article, which could have been powerful if he focused on his strong points, instead created an opportunity, not a problem, for Jocketty. And WJ jumped on that opportunity.

  16. Fay’s defense of Baker is awfully tepid, if you read it again. He lets Baker’s boss, whose opinion is among the two that actually matter, do most of the defending, but Fay himself doesn’t dispute much of what Sheehan asserted.

    If you want to criticize the Enquirer for toeing the Reds company line, I think their apparent directive not to cite the reason Volquez has recovered so quickly is much more troublesome. Both Fay and Daugherty, who went all the way to Louisville to watch him pitch, neglected to mention his 50-game suspension in two separate pieces this week on his miraculous recovery. That’s far more newsworthy, IMO.

    • If you want to criticize the Enquirer for toeing the Reds company line,….. Both Fay and Daugherty, who went all the way to Louisville to watch him pitch, neglected to mention his 50-game suspension in two separate pieces this week on his miraculous recovery. That’s far more newsworthy, IMO.

      I find it very ironic that the only “mainstream” linkage between the 50 Day suspension/ PED use and quick recovery that I have seen or heard was made on air during a game broadcast by Brantley. Cowboy made an indirect comment during the 2nd inning beat reporter sound byte. Marty then called him out to specifically state that the PED usage and quick recovery could well be linked (which CB did). The reporter, and I forget whether it was Fay or Sheldon, stayed stone cold quiet through the entire exchange between Marty and CB.

  17. @Sultan of Swaff: Cabrera does need to sit, no doubt about it. My biggest criticism of Baker has always been his incredibly slow reaction time when the ships starting to sink. When OC was moved to lead off it, along with BP moving to the 2 hole and Rolen to cleanup, helped spark the offense(I know it seems hard to remember now). But now that Cabrera is falling apart Baker needs to move on it, but he waits…and waits. That part of Dusty does drive me bonkers.

  18. From si.com’s power rankings:
    Looking to jumpstart his offense, manager Tony La Russa moved Matt Holliday from the cleanup spot to the No. 2 hole in the lineup and received immediate dividends. In his first week in the new spot, Holliday batted .435 with four home runs and eight RBIs, earning NL Player of the Week honors. He denied that the new lineup spot mattered, but results are results.

    How many years did it take Dusty to move Phillips? Oh, yeah.

  19. @jdarts:

    “A manager or coach is sometimes only as good as the players he has to work with. ”

    With all due respect, this is incredibly lazy, and just falls back on the premise that a baseball coach can only be evaluated by how many games his team wins, which is stupid. There’s no reason that you can’t evaluate the decisions a manager makes on their own terms, no matter what the talent level of their roster, to determine the independent worth of the manger.

  20. @Sultan of Swaff:

    “When Sheehan brings up San Fran and also compare Dusty to LaRussa, there’s just so much conjecture there that it waters down his main points, which are very strong”

    Well, I think you’re missing the point of the piece. Sheehan is a national writer for SI, so his topic isn’t confined to the Reds, or this season, so much as it’s about Baker on the whole.

  21. I usually just read these and do not post but I feel the need to post now.

    Have any of you ever sat down after a Reds loss and said to yourself “If only our lead-off man in the first inning reached base then we would have won”?

    I’m all for the use of saber metrics and analyzing the game. I also thing Janish should play about 25-50% of the games, but let’s not overdue it.

  22. @Brien Jackson: I think you may have misinterpreted what I was trying to say. I’m in no way saying that ALL of a manager’s success can be attributed to having great players, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to have the luxury of an Albert Pujols or Barry Bonds in your lineup. Am I wrong or lazy in saying that?

  23. @jdarts:

    No, I suppose not, but it’s not really related to the point anyone’s making either.

  24. @Brien Jackson: Agree, the story is about Baker, but it wouldn’t have any merit at all if Sheehan didn’t think somethign was going wrong with the Reds this year. Joe Posnanski wouldn’t have needed to go there. He’d rip Dusty on his merits without bringing in the LaRussa piece. Maybe Sheehan did it on purpose or was asked to bring a more contraversial piece into it by his editors, but it does take away from the salient points about what he does wrong as a manager. There’s nothing wrong with that story unto itself.

  25. @Matt WI: Yep, well said.

  26. To jdarts:

    I’m not really interested in comparing LaRussa to Baker or in whether or not the Sheehan column is fair to Baker. I didn’t write about either of those things.

    My main interest is how Baker has handled the development of the young Reds players. Here is what John Fay’s blog post said about that:

    “Sheehan also talks about Baker’s favoritism of experienced players. That hasn’t been the case here. He’s played Joey Votto over Scott Hatteberg, stuck with Jay Bruce when his average approached .200 and made Ryan Hanigan the No.1 catcher over Ramon Hernandez.”

    My “little rant” was focused on directly disputing the factual correctness of the Votto and Hanigan points, as well as providing other evidence of Baker’s favoritism toward past-their-prime veterans.

    You (jdarts) may find this difficult to believe, but I really couldn’t care less whether people at the Fay blog agree with what I say. I’ve posted here about 100-times more than there. I do like it here better, mainly because people tend to stay focused on the issues instead of questioning each others motivations for posting, as you did mine.

  27. @Matt WI:

    I thought the LaRussa comparison was relatively clear: LaRussa does some idiosyncratic things, and takes a lot of heat from writers for over-managing, but for the most part, he gets the most valuable possible out of his roster, and the math often supports his seemingly odd decisions (although his fondness for the hit-and-run will forever irk me). Baker, on the other hand, indisputably costs his teams runs with the way he handles the leadoff spot. It was basically to contrast a good tactician (maybe the games best), with a horrible tactician (maybe the worst), given that their two teams are in competition for the NL Central crown.

  28. @pinson343:

    I kind of doubt that Sheehan was all that concerned with lobbying Reds upper management when he wrote the article.

    • @pinson343:
      I kind of doubt that Sheehan was all that concerned with lobbying Reds upper management when he wrote the article.

      Who said he was ?

  29. @Bill Lack:

    I’d add that it could be more complex than simply whether they wanted to keep him or not. Obviously he didn’t get any other offers, which led to the team being able to keep his salary low. Good GM’s generally have a good feel for the market, so it’s entirely possible that that was roughly Jocketty’s plan: to let the market set Gomes’s value and see how it played out.

  30. BP has a “Dusty’s a hack” article also…only part of it is free.

  31. Oops, sorry Chad.

  32. Here are a couple more sentences from that long and interesting article at BP about Baker:

    “It is difficult to understand why a manager would choose to handicap his team the way Baker has in most seasons. He is clearly not a stupid man, and yet he continually makes batting order choices that are difficult to describe in any other way. It’s as if some psychological trauma prevents him from seeing the errors in his thinking. It might be that his career provided poor role models, leadoff exemplars that he’s still trying to find facsimiles of for his own batting orders…”

  33. “I’m perfectly willing to give Dusty credit for his people skills and his management of egos within the clubhouse. ”

    Yes, this is definitely his strength.

    “There is, however, absolutely no question that Baker’s on-field tactical cluelessness has cost the Reds. ”

    I agree with this, too.

    The primary area I disagree with is the, IMO, errant point that he plays veterans over rookies. The two cases mentioned with respect to the Cubs were Matt Murton and Hee Seop Choi.

    –Karros was out-hitting Choi and Choi got hurt mid-season. Seems like Baker stuck with the right guy, there.

    –Lack of playing time for Murton is just factually incorrect and just repeats the whines of Cubs fans. Chicago acquired Murton in 2004 as part of the Garciaparra deal. Murton was in A+ ball that season. In 2005, he spent most of the year (350PA) in AA, 9 games in AAA, and played 51 games with the Cubs, frequently in a PH role. Murton was with the Cubs the entire 2006 season, playing in 144 games. Lou Pinella came in for the 2007 season and cut Murton’s playing time in half.

    Neither Murton nor Choi benefitted from a “change of scenery” elsewhere.

    Janish and Hanigan aren’t necessarily “young”, and are fairly old rookies. With Janish…he won’t hit…as much as the organization has been preaching pitching and defense, they’ve picked the better offensive option at SS over the defensive option dating back to Keppinger and Hairston getting PT at SS.

    Hanigan & Hernandez was splitting time, with Hanigan getting slightly more PT just before his injury. I wouldn’t call either one the #1 catcher, and I think the 50/50 play was working out well for both of them.

    @Steve: With respect to Votto, I don’t remember it going down that way…I don’t remember a Hatteberg injury. Hatteberg had hit well the 2006-07 season for the Reds…Hatteberg was having a great spring and Joey a terrible spring. Yet, Baker’s spring 2008 interviews he indicated that Votto was the guy…they could have easily said that Hatteberg’s spring gave him the job. I know they split time the first two weeks of the season, but from Apr 14 on, Votto was the guy. I don’t recall that Hatteberg was hurt…maybe he was…b-r shows that Hatte PH on days that he didn’t start, so he was at least healthy enough to PH.

  34. The three most damning things about Dusty this season are, in my opinion, the overuse of Rhodes, not putting BP in the leadoff spot, and not giving Janish more starts. Much as I’d like to be more supportive, I just can’t regard him as a very intelligent manager. And yeah, you can count me among those who feel the success of the team is in spite of, not because of, him.

  35. Yes, I wish Heisey was used more, but I don’t see playing him over Gomes…Gomes has played 164 games as a Red with a .277/.342/.522 line.

    You could argue Heisey vs. Stubbs and use Heisey as the leadoff guy, but then that has nothing to do with the “veteran preference” debate on Baker.

  36. @Greg Dafler: Yeah, it looks like I misremembered April 2008. Votto and Hatteburg split time the first two weeks then Votto took over pretty much full time after that. For some reason I remember the injury part, but then again I also thought it took about a month for Votto to start playing full time and that was off. I do remember people complaining that Votto should have been the regular first baseman out of camp.

    Hanigan caught 23 of the 49 games before he was hurt, but it was 50-50 in May. Fay’s point was that Hanigan had clearly become the #1 catcher, which just isn’t accurate based on playing time.

  37. @jdarts:

    I second just about Jdarts has said above. Dusty DOES make some very questionable decisions at times. I just don’t get it sometimes. But I do find myself at first disagree with a tactical decision that he makes and then watch his questionable decision pay dividends.

    I did not expect this team to be 1/2 game out at this point. I don’t think most people did. They have bounced back several times–an outcome that has not happened with past teams. I disagree that he has overused Rhodes, Cordero, or Bailey. It seems like every unfortunate act that happens to the Reds is Baker’s fault; on the flip-side any positive event occurs in spite of him.

    Despite the fact that 90% of you will disagree with me I still think you are all fantastic. Have a wonderful day. 😀

  38. Steve – I agree – Hanigan was only labeled the #1 catcher in Fay’s mind. I’ve seen/remember nothing that would validate that statement.

    wrt bullpen use – I would lump Cordero’s overuse in with Rhodes. It’s to the point that we have the “Baker Save”, any lead of 4 runs or less requires the use of Rhodes and Cordero.

  39. I do think it’s fishy/poor for Fay to be rushing to Dusty’s defense. As noted, Jocketty did that perfectly well.

    While Dusty’s strength seems to be people-managing, I think it’s utter nonsense to give him credit for this year’s winning season. Dusty’s doing nothing different than he did in the past. According to the media, difference is that Scott Rolen (and supposedly Orlando Cabrera) are here, walking on water, and turning water to wine. It can’t be both.

    I can give Dusty the benefit of the doubt on a lot of things. His treatment of pitchers has been only occasionally excessive, and he really has given good young players a very fair chance. BUT BUT BUT, the total indifferent – bordering on malicious way he’s treated the leadoff position, is a crime I cannot forgive.

  40. @OhioJim: Nobody mentions PEDs until it’s time to be outraged about everyone (else) turning a blind eye to PEDs.

  41. This is a long-time lurker’s first post.

    I’m a Dusty defender. Yes, he builds strange lineups, leading off guys who should hit 7th or 8th. Yes, he doesn’t use relievers exactly the way in I would (nobody on the planet hates the modern ninth-inning closer concept more than I do). Yes, I’d like to see more of Chris Heisey, Yes, Dusty says some things that leave us scratching our heads. But . . .

    Baseball managing is far more about relationships and human management than Xs and Os. Dusty, by all accounts, excels at the human side of the job. His old Dodger teammates all swear by him, and we hear almost nothing negative about him personally. Arthur Rhodes is here in no small part because he wanted to play for Dusty. Ask Scott Rolen whether he would rather play for Dusty or LaRussa. Dusty’s job is to get the best out of his players over the course of the year. It is not to have posters on blogs marvel at the genius of his day-to-day moves. When Dusty said that walks just clog up the bases, he knew full well that it was BS, but Dusty never throws his players under the bus to the press. This team plays hard for Dusty, and few of us really thought we’d be a half-game out in late June, with pitching help on the horizon and the vastly underrated Ryan Hanigan rehabbing in Louisville.

    Brandon Phillips, for example, is having a career year. Why? Well, we don’t know, but maybe Dusty’s handling him has something to do with it. We all boil when BP styles out of the batter’s box instead of running, but Dusty has dealt with it under the radar; we don’t see the styling as much anymore, and BP generally plays his rear off. Jay Bruce has learned to hit lefties, due in no small measure to Dusty’s relentless patience with him. Dusty handled Joey Votto’s problems last year flawlessly; it was none of our business, and Dusty kept it that way. Bronson Arroyo tells Dusty when he’s out of gas, because BA trusts Dusty.

    We know virtually nothing about the behind-the-scenes details on things such as Arthur Rhodes’s injury and availability, nor should we. I have to assume that Rhodes and Dusty are on the same page about when Rhodes pitches, because the results have been flawless. It ain’t Dusty’s fault that his other relievers are so erratic, although Masset and some other may finally be coming around.

    The Reds have some questions. We don’t have a good leadoff option; the left side of the infield defense has range issues; the bullpen lacks depth; and I don’t know if we’re strong enough in left and center. When this team loses, it generally does so because it gets a bad outing from its starting pitcher, or has a bullpen lapse, and not because Cabrera’s OBP is .080 less than we’d all like it to be. Dusty has gotten a lot out of this team. This has been a good season; let’s enjoy it.

    • I can give Dusty the benefit of the doubt on a lot of things. His treatment of pitchers has been only occasionally excessive, and he really has given good young players a very fair chance.

      Yes, I think this is where some folks get rubbed the wrong way. They think every player up from AAA should be playing above the utility/bench guys already on the 25-man. Baker would prefer to play a Hairston over a Rosales. He doesn’t seem to blow the obvious Votto, Bruce, etc decisions. Whether the former everyday player (Hairston) is a better choice than the future utility player (Rosales) is not something you can make a blanket statement that it is always better to go with the veteran or the rookie.

  42. Ok, here’s my theory on why Dusty Baker is repeatedly going to Orlando Cabrera in the lead-off spot…

    When you get old your mind plays tricks on you. I’ll be he gets up every day and reads MLB.com to see how his players are doing. More than likely he looks at the Slugging Percentage leaders and says to himself, “WOW! Look at Cabrera. He’s got an SLG of .622!!!”

    Dusty Baker thinks Miguel Cabrera of the Tigers is Orlando Cabrera, just like he got Corey Patterson mixed up for Ichiro Suzuki.

  43. Big batting order shakeup tonight. Instead of

    1. Cabrera SS
    2. Phililps 2B

    its:

    1. Phillips 2B
    2. Cabrera SS

    Well, that will certainly get more runners on base for Votto, Rolen and Gomes.

  44. It’s like that earthquake in Canada the other day that a few folks in Central Indiana could feel.

  45. @Steve: It’s not a big shakeup but it is an improvement. BP obviously gets on base a lot more than Cabrera. Cabrera is a good bunter and at least has a better shot at “productive” outs. So while this won’t necessarily lead to more runners on base for Votto, we have a better shot at a runner in scoring position.

    Also this (less pressure) might help Cabrera out of his funk. He has been hitting worse than he is, and at this point I think it’s more than the ankle that’s bothering him.

  46. Nice. I hope Phillips keeps up his pace against his former team. But, more than anything, I hope Harang is nasty tonight. And give Austin Kearns a friendly flyby the head, just to say hi, we miss you kid.

  47. @Steve: At least Gary Matthews Jr. isn’t in the lineup… yet 🙄

  48. one thing always missing from discussion of the Giants at that time is always Jeff Kent. Bonds was playing at a level nobody alive had seen before for sure…..but he also had Jeff Kent who was amazing.
    I don’t care how bad a manager you are you CAN NOT lose with Bonds, Kent, Williams and a not old Aurilia in your lineup. Throw in Robb Nen (before Baker destroyed his arm) and some OK but not great starters (before Baker destroyed their arms) you could manage in a coma.

    Yes Bonds was the best player we’ve seen since Ruth at the time but he was not alone. Very much like in Chicago, if Dusty keeps his pitchers healthy they win a LOT more.

    of course, Dusty hasn’t changed much (if at all) since those days, it’s that when you don’t have Bonds/Kent his poor managing is magnified.

  49. My young player vs. vet issue with Dusty is mainly about those situations where a vet is the regular starter and the young guy is the backup. Let’s grant for the moment that the vet should be the starter and the young guy the backup.

    But then he overuses the vet and underuses the backup young guy, which hurts both of them (literally hurts the vet) and slows down the development of the young guy. Also, it makes it more difficult to evaluate the young guy.

    The examples of this are obvious.

  50. @Chris Garber: With that said, why is Fay writing a reaction piece to Sheehan’s article in the first place? I’d bet a month’s salary, judging by Jocketty’s reaction, that Fay asked Jocketty for his take, rather than Jocketty seeking out Fay to respond. As Jocketty said in Fay’s piece, Sheehan’s article is a “rehash of a lot of old stuff.” Why do a puff piece as a retort when you could just report actual news? That to me is why Fay’s objectivity is questionable here.

    If there’s anything I’ve seen from Baker it’s that he values speed over OBP, to a serious fault, at the leadoff position. I’m no Baker apologist, but I can sort of see where that comes from. Your not going to bat Rolen or Hanigan 1st because they don’t have 1st to third speed. That really would “clog the bases.”

    BTW – I’ve wanted to respond to the “clog the bases” mocking for awhile. Everybody SHOULD understand what Baker is saying here. It’s really not THAT nonsensical. Yes you want base runners that’s first and foremost. However, if a guy who can’t get from 1st to 3rd on a single is hitting in front of a guy like Phillips, you are just wasting your opportunities.

    Imagine this scenario. Top 4, 0 outs.
    1) Hanigan is leading off and draws a walk.
    2) BP hits a shot down the third base line to the wall. With nobody on base, Phillips has a real shot to stretch the single into a double. Instead, because Hanigan doesn’t have wheels to go from 1st to third on a ball down the line, he only advances to second and BP holds at first. Instead of 2nd and 3rd no outs for Votto, it’s first and second with no outs.
    3) Votto hits a grouder to short, who flips to second, they can’t turn two. Rather than attempt the DP. Now you have 1st and 3rd with 1 out.
    4) Rolen hits a grounder to short. It’s a 6-4-3 double play. Inning over, no runs score.

    NOW

    1) Drew Stubbs walks.
    2) BP hits the same shot down the third base line to the wall. Relay throw makes it a close play, but Stubbs to third, BP to second. No outs.
    3) Votto hits the same grounder to second. Because of Stubbs’ speed, the second baseman has no play on him, and he has no play at 2nd. He takes the force at first. BP’s on 2nd with one out. 1 Run scored.
    4) Rolen grounds out to the short stop, there’s no force, at second for the DP. Rolen out at 1st. BP’s on 2nd with two out. 1 Run scored.
    5) Gomes comes to the plate and hits a single up the middle, Phillips scores. 2 outs, and 2 runs scored.
    6) Bruce strikes out swinging. 3 outs. 2 runs scored.

    Agree or disagree with the logic, but that’s what clogging the bases means. It means that Hanigan’s speed led to more opportunities for outs than did Stubbs’.

  51. I don’t know what Baker meant by “clogging the bases” the first time he said it in Chicago.

    His reference the first time he said it in Cincinnati had to do with players (the specific incident was related to a Votto plate appearance in Spring Training 2008) who were, in his opinion, looking for a walk instead of swinging at hittable pitches. Being too patient at the plate moved runners from station to station, where hits would get runners moving. Being too patient at the plate was also causing Votto that spring to take too many strikes, and he was K’ing more than BB’ing.

    I’ve never heard him say walks and OBP were unimportant. Some of his leadoff hitters at Chicago were non-SB threats with good OBP (Grudzielanek and Walker a couple of guys that come to mind.)

  52. I say the same thing, you have two Hall of Fame caliber players in Bonds and Kent, both of which can argubly be said are the best hitter at their position of all time and Matt Williams who in his prime was a power hitting beast, you are going to win some ball games.

    The thing that people need to remember and examine on Baker as a manager is the collapse of the 2004 Cubs. They were up 2 1/2 games with 8 to go and folded up like an old tent with all of the players at each others throat. It was a BAD and ugly collapse. For a guy who was a players guy and I don’t doubt that Dusty is a pretty good guy, he definitely wasn’t able to contain that mess. Steve Stone was calling it like he saw it and they say Dusty was a big part of him getting canned. I think it wasn’t as public as the Bartman debacle, but really I think it was more telling.

  53. #1 I am not a Dusty fan in any way shape or form. His game management is pathetic and when things get rough he panics. There could be a change today and I would say it is waranted.

    However, as far as Cabrera leading off, who on this team would you move there? Unless you move him to 8th and everyone up one spot I don’t think there is another alternative. Stubbs? failed there. Janish (he is poor man’s Cabrera)? Votto, Rolen, Bruce, Gomes, Phillips? Hernnadez or Hanigan (talk about clogging the bases). Heisey? They are not going to take Stubbs out and I am sure this isn’t coming from the top. So what choice does Dusty have? And, what is the record since the Stubbs/Cabrera line-up switch. 40-33, half game behind, mid-June. If they finish with a .548 win/loss percentage Dusty will probably be the Manager of the Year and get a 3 Year Contract offer.

    As far as Hanigan being #1 I think the last two years has proven than the H/H tandem is at its best sharing time. Last year Hanigan wore down when he played everyday during Hernandez’a knee injury and Hernandez has done the same thing now with Hanigan. Together they are great, apart very average. So to call Hanigan #1 is fair. I think they are 1A and 1B.

  54. Another example, Jim Leyland has coached quite a few losing clubs that didn’t really have talent, but by that measure I haven’t really seen anyone question his quality as a manager. Talent is a big part of winning, no doubt, but I don’t think Dusty really maximizes out of what he’s got.

    I’ll be honest with you, Dusty is a Dodger, so the only way I would ever accept him as a manager is if he wins a world series with the Reds. Until then, he will always be a Dodger and I HATE the Dodgers, especially those clubs he was on.

  55. @earl:
    I was saying that the day they hired him!

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About Chad Dotson

Blame Chad for creating this mess. Chad launched Redleg Nation in February 2005, and has been writing about the Reds ever since. His first book, "The Big 50: The Men and Moments That Made the Cincinnati Reds" is now available in bookstores and online, at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and wherever fine books are sold. You can also find Chad's musings about the Cincinnati Reds in the pages of Cincinnati Magazine.

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2010 Reds, Corey Patterson OBP Watch, Orlando Cabrera OBP Watch, Willy Taveras OBP Watch

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