A new strategy for the Reds is percolating. Let’s go with my friend Mike’s suggestion and call it “Younger and Better.” The premise is the Reds have several strong players at AAA who may be able to contribute more than their current counterpart on the Reds. John Fay, the Reds beat writer for the Cincinnati Enquirer is one proponent and here’s how he explains it:
So I’d continue to do what they did with the Jonny Gomes trade and open spots for young players. Take one of those reported offers for Ramon Hernandez and bring up Devin Mesoraco. … Give Todd Frazier a trial at third until Scott Rolen returns. See if someone’s willing to give up prospects for Francisco Cordero and let Aroldis Chapman close for the rest of year. When Zack Cozart returns, give Edgar Renteria his parting gift. Play Yonder Alonso and Chris Heisey in left. Maybe the young guys will energize the club. Maybe they’ll turn the season around.
Younger and Better isn’t a call for shedding salary in the name of yet another rebuilding. It’s a strategy of shedding certain veteran players in favor of younger ones who are their equals or, hopefully, their betters right now. I respect John Fay for publicly taking this stance in such a direct manner, because it can’t be easy doing his job while being critical of the team management. But his post leaves out the most important part of effectively implementing Younger and Better.
Dusty Baker has to be replaced as the Reds’ manager.
Leaving aside Baker’s batting orders, bullpen usage, apparent financial stake in the sacrifice bunt, losing track of the count, and the home stand dedicated to allowing starting pitchers to blow leads — yes, mercifully leaving aside all of that, Dusty Baker is exactly the wrong manager for Younger and Better.Younger and Better requires a new message of energy and accountability. Young stars do not need a “players manager” — just the opposite. Dusty Baker is a veteran-player’s manager and there’s nothing wrong with that. But the younger, better Reds would no longer be that kind of team.
Younger and Better needs a true commitment to playing the young players. Again, that’s not in Dusty Baker’s coaching DNA. He’d play Scott Rolen regularly at third base, not Todd Frazier. He’d start Fred Lewis, not Yonder Alonso. Ryan Hanigan would catch five games a week, not Meso. Just ask Willy Taveras or Orlando Cabrera. Or Edgar Renteria.
Younger and Better requires a fresh pair of eyes at the top. The person evaluating performance on a day-to-day basis has to be someone capable of a complete break with the past.
Finally, Younger and Better needs a clean slate of optimism. If Dusty Baker stayed on, the narrative would linger: ‘we’ve got to keep grinding ahead.’ The roster turnover would imply the team veered off the tracks, but the conductor would still be there driving the train. Dusty Baker impedes a new arc for the team.
Younger and Better, whatever its merits, must be Dusty-proof.