Reds - General

The Baker-Jocketty Rift

There has been plenty of indirect evidence that Walt Jocketty and Dusty Baker have knocked heads a few times this year regarding player roles.

First, there was the handling of Fred Lewis.  On January 10, the day Lewis signed with the Reds, Walt Jocketty stated that he saw a leadoff role for Lewis. “Lewis is a guy with experience leading off and has had success with that,” said Jocketty.  The Reds’ GM also indicated that he envisioned Lewis as a platoon partner for Jonny Gomes in LF. “We’ll see how it plays out in Spring Training and it could potentially be [a platoon], yes,” Jocketty said.  The GM had done his homework, an article in FanGraphs confirmed (“perfect platoon partners”).  The platoon made sense based on the two players’ career stats.

Enter Dusty Baker.  On March 1, with Spring Training barely begun, Baker shot down Jocketty’s idea, announcing there would be no LF platoon.  Baker wanted Gomes to receive most of the playing time in LF.  When a reporter asked Baker a question with the assumption of a platoon, the manager snapped, “I never said that.” He quickly added, “Gomes deserves to play most of the time.”

In one world, the disagreement between Jocketty and Baker on Lewis’ role could have been resolved on the field, by trying Lewis as a leadoff hitter in Spring Training. But Baker used his power of the lineup card to block the trial, preventing Lewis from the opportunity.  Why would Baker do that?  Easy.  If Lewis had been a success batting first, as Jocketty thought possible, the argument for playing Lewis and not Gomes in LF would have been much stronger.

It’s not like the Reds had an established leadoff hitter.  Drew Stubbs, Brandon Phillips, Jay Bruce, Edgar Renteria and Chris Heisey all took their turns at Goodyear.  But not Fred Lewis, the player who had been signed by the GM because he “had success with that.”  Amazingly, there were many games when Dave Sappelt or Kris Negron led off and Lewis batted lower in the lineup.  Baker gave Lewis a total of four AB in the leadoff spot.

It would not be until June 22 when Dusty Baker tried Walt Jocketty’s idea to look at Fred Lewis as the Cincinnati Reds leadoff hitter.

The Reds also agreed to terms with Edgar Renteria on January 10.  As with Lewis, Jocketty made clear his designs for the free agent.  “Edgar was signed as a complementary player,” Jocketty said. “He can have a lot of different roles on our club, filling in at third from time to time.”  During the Reds’ caravan trip, I attended the event at GABP.  When asked that day what role Renteria would play for the Reds, Jocketty said Renteria would play “all around the infield” and that Renteria “would take some balls at first base and at third base” at Spring Training.

Once again, it became clear that manager Dusty Baker had his own idea.  Baker plainly wanted Renteria to be his everyday shortstop and had no intention of allowing that plan to be disrupted by having Renteria practice all over the field.  Incredibly, on March 8, barely a week into Spring Training, Baker announced that Renteria would not play 3B.  “I talked to Edgar. He doesn’t feel real comfortable playing third.”  (Is it really possible that Jocketty never had this discussion with Renteria or his agent prior to signing him?)

Despite the logic that Spring Training was an ideal time to try Renteria at 3B, he did not play even one inning there in Goodyear.  Baker played Renteria exclusively at SS during Spring Training.

And that was that.  When Scott Rolen and Juan Francisco were hurt earlier this year, Renteria’s lack of practice at 3B was used as an excuse why he couldn’t fill in there. (If only someone had thought to try that in Goodyear, but who could ever imagine Rolen going on the DL!)  To this date, Renteria has not played a single inning for the Reds at first or third base.

Walt and Dusty apparently have had their share of disagreements this year, but we outsiders have had to read between the lines to deduce it.  Now, just maybe the cracks are becoming public.  Jon Heyman of Sports Illustrated reported this morning:

Sources suggest there has been some difference of opinion over playing time between Reds GM Walt Jocketty and manager Dusty Baker, who has a year to go on his contract. The Reds are over .500 for the first time since early July, but it is curious how much playing time veterans Miguel Cairo and Freddie Lewis are getting in a lost season. Rival execs say they also would have traded Ramon Hernandez before the July 31 trade deadline and employed Devin Mesoraco as catcher. Hernandez was claimed on waivers by a competitor and pulled back by the Reds. He would have helped the Giants, among others.

I think a majority of us were extremely disappointed with the relative inaction of the Reds last off-season, and our skepticism has been proven right by the team’s performance this year, falling short of their 2010 season.  Walt Jocketty’s moves were small bore, at best.  You can debate the merits of Lewis, Gomes, Renteria and Janish all you want.  But when even the meager steps taken by the GM are deliberately sabotaged by the manager, you have a recipe ripe for failure.

Seriously, is continued success possible with such a dysfunctional relationship between the GM and manager?

 

28 thoughts on “The Baker-Jocketty Rift

  1. Let’s not forget that when Jocketty traded Gomes, his reasoning was “It is time to get Alonso his shot in left”. Well, apparently that meant three games to Dusty Baker.

  2. Well this seems as good a place as any to post the following.

    On a night when his pitcher is the guy who seems most high strung and prone to mental meltdowns often brought on by fielding miscues, Dusty decides to start Alonso at third. But Wait! Plus of course the Pfils are starting a left hander. And there is even more! Votto, Bruce, and Alonso are stacked back to back to back versus this leftie.

    If this isn’t a This line up just reeks of office politics and passive aggressive behavior. But then what is new about that?

    • OhioJim: On a night when his pitcher is the guy who seems most high strung and prone to mental meltdowns often brought on by fielding miscues,Dusty decides to start Alonso at third. But Wait! Plus of course the Pfils are starting a left hander.And there is even more!Votto, Bruce, and Alonso are stacked back to back to back versus this leftie.

      I’m not with you here at all. It’s not clear to me that Homer Bailey is high strung and prone to mental meltdowns. It is clear that he is a fly ball pitcher. Dusty gave this as a reason for trying Alonso with Homer pitching. Leake is a ground ball pitcher, I don’t expect to see Alonso at 3rd with him pitching.

      Criticizing Dusty for batting Votto-Bruce-Alonso against Hamels is bogus. First, Hamels is tougher on righties than lefties. We criticize Dusty all season for separating Votto and Bruce in the lineup just because they’re lefties, and Alonso hits lefties about as well as righties, so what’s the problem now ?
      Votto-Bruce-Alosno should be the 3-4-5 hitters in the Reds lineup, lefties or not. In particular Votto’s stats against lefties are off the charts.

  3. @Steve Mancuso: I don’t see the issue. Alonso shouldn’t get his shot in left field because he needs work in left field to become competent enough in left field to get a shot in left field.

    Got that, boys?

  4. You have to ask yourself why does Dusty feel so free to thumb his nose at the decisions of his boss. Like any workplace, it can only be because he has juice w/ the higher ups or he’s begging to get fired. Dusty must feel Castellini is in his corner. Ultimately, this is about Castellini and his level of satisfaction about how this season transpired. If Dusty suits up next season, all of Big Bob’s proclamations about being a winning organization will be just so much hot air.

  5. It almost seems like Dusty Baker is trying to get fired. Then again, he just seems like a guy who can’t win. The Reds are actually playing well now, so Dusty has that in his favor. Maybe it’s a good trait of his, but I think he still hasn’t given up on some sort of crazy run to make up 12-13 games. Or he figures that he wants the Reds to finish strong and if that means playing veterans then that is what that means.

    The Alonso situation is getting to be somewhat comical. Reminds me of a Cincinnati Bengals problem. It all seems dysfunctional. Is he really that terrible defensively in the outfield? Baker obviously believes that. It seemed that Baker is being stubborn whether right or wrong on Alonso. I think he doesn’t consider Alonso a big leaguer if he can’t play defense. Now Alonso is at third?

    I don’t think Baker ever considered Renteria the starting SS by the way. Janish has underperformed and there’s been injuries. Honestly, I don’t mind seeing Renteria play a lot now. Janish isn’t a young prospect who we need to find out what he can do. I hope he starts hitting better, but I’m not sure him playing most of the time will help with that.

    The injury to Zack Cozart was probably the most unfortunate thing to happen as far as trying to get a read on who they are going to go with next year. I was curious to see what he could do over a few months period. The SS position will be a big question mark again next year. Hopefully Cozart can pick up where left off.

    It’s obvious Alonso can hit. I think he is probably a better natural hitter then even Votto. (not a better hitter at this point in his career, but I think he might have more natural hitting ability). So it’s frustrating because we know the guy can hit and the Reds offense still is pretty weak in my opinion. Bruce hits a HR and has 86 RBIs, but he also goes 1-6 in yesterday’s game.

    They desperately need another hitter in that lineup. Alonso could be that guy, but the questions of his defense are apparently legitimate.

  6. Oh, and along the same lines, check out the quotes from the Toothpick about why he makes the lineup decisions he does. There’s so much convoluted logic there, he makes the Unabomber seem reasonable.

  7. I have a feeling that Homer Bailey’s tombstone will read “Headcase!” I know first impressions are hard to shed but his struggles this year apppear to be almost 100% physical.

    • I have a feeling that Homer Bailey’s tombstone will read “Headcase!”I know first impressions are hard to shed but his struggles this year apppear to be almost 100% physical.

      What struggles?

  8. I can’t blame Jocketty for making minor moves this offseason. He had a division winning team returning nearly everyone.

    What has really hurt this team? We can argue the merits of lineup construction or SS/LF, but the Reds’ lineups have produced more runs and have a higher OPS than any team in the NL.

    Ask someone who has the best rotation in the NL and you will most likely hear one of these teams named: Philly, Atlanta, San Franciso, or Milwaukee. I measure a team’s SP, rightly or wrongly, by QS. > 6 IP and < 3 ERs may equate to a pretty abysmal 4.50 ERA, but to me it's the best way to measure a team's starting pitching. Those four teams mentioned above, they are also the top four teams in QS. What surprised me was that despite Arroyo's awful first half and the decline of Volquez, Cincinnati is tied with Atlanta for fourth in QS. While certainly this team lacks a true Ace (King Felix for Joey Votto?). Starting pitching depth was supposed to be a strength, and it actually, in a way, has been that.

    The real area of weakness was RP. The Reds' relievers rank last in K:BB ratio and 13th in SV%. Did anyone clamor for a major influx of RPs in FA? How well does it usually work out for the Reds when they trade for established RPs? The other thing is that bullpens are usually the most volatile. So, I can't really fault Jocketty for holding on making major moves.

    • I can’t blame Jocketty for making minor moves this offseason.He had a division winning team returning nearly everyone.

      What has really hurt this team?We can argue the merits of lineup construction or SS/LF, but the Reds’ lineups have produced more runs and have a higher OPS than any team in the NL.

      Ask someone who has the best rotation in the NL and you will most likely hear one of these teams named: Philly, Atlanta, San Franciso, or Milwaukee.I measure a team’s SP, rightly or wrongly, by QS.> 6 IP and < 3 ERs may equate to a pretty abysmal 4.50 ERA, but to me it’s the best way to measure a team’s starting pitching.Those four teams mentioned above, they are also the top four teams in QS.What surprised me was that despite Arroyo’s awful first half and the decline of Volquez, Cincinnati is tied with Atlanta for fourth in QS.While certainly this team lacks a true Ace (King Felix for Joey Votto?).Starting pitching depth was supposed to be a strength, and it actually, in a way, has been that.

      The real area of weakness was RP.The Reds’ relievers rank last in K:BB ratio and 13th in SV%.Did anyone clamor for a major influx of RPs in FA?How well does it usually work out for the Reds when they trade for established RPs?The other thing is that bullpens are usually the most volatile.So, I can’t really fault Jocketty for holding on making major moves.

      I’ll give Walt a pass on the shortstop problems this year. I was impressed enough with Janish last season to think that maybe this year would have turned out differently.

      But the idea that Gomes was anything more than what he showed this year was lunacy. He wore out his welcome in Tampa Bay with all of his strikeouts, and he had really only one good month or 6 weeks in 2010 before struggling. I’m sure ownership and/or Walt were happy that they had Gomes so cheaply, but that cheap cost — and the obvious need to keep him through the Bobblehead Night promotion — were critical to the Reds problems this year.

  9. Baker should not manage the Reds next year. He is a terrible tactician, and will not work with the GM.

    Baker and Jocketty should not both be employed by the Reds next year. If they both return, or if Baker is the one who keeps his job, I will be very disappointed… more like sick to my stomach.

  10. @Dave Lowenthal: You’re joking, right? He played LF in 62 games at AAA and never made an error. If Walt Jocketty thought there would be a problem with Alonso playing LF at the major league level, it would have been corrected in Louisville. Alonso not playing is Dusty Baker’s doing and it ticks me off. I don’t understand how one series at Wrigley, which is notorious for giving outfielders problems, is cause to write-off the idea of Alonso playing LF for the Reds. Dusty is leaving the second-best bat on the bench for no reason other than an axe to grind with Jocketty or he’s a moron.

  11. I don’t know, it seemed when the starting pitching stunk, the bullpen was pretty good and got worked over. Once they got Cueto and Homer then banished Volquez to the minors the starting pitching seemed to straighten out and the bullpen got out of whack.

    This season has been like the Evil Spock to last years Good Spock. They don’t seem to be able to get that timely out or timely hit as much this year and the errors in the field and basepaths have tended to haunt in all of those close losses.

    I can’t quite say that Dusty is in Big Bob’s corner, Mr. Castolini has a longer working relationship with Walt than Dusty.

  12. Steve, thanks for spelling out the Walt-Dusty differences, especially what Walt had said about the Lewis signing when it happened.

    A few reactions to some other posts:

    I love the idea of seeing Alonso at third base, although I hope if he makes an error, he doesn’t go back to baseball’s Siberia for three weeks as an immediate consequence. And I don’t have a lot of sympathy for Homer for having to pitch with Alonso at third. Homer has had his share of problems that have contributed to the Reds playing meaningless games now (at least, as far as the pennant race is concerned), so this is our lot.

    Hasn’t Dusty moved into the Top 20 managerial wins of all time this season? I can’t help but think he has been starting Lewis and Cairo so much because he wants every win possible to pad his career record, in case this is his last managing post, and thinks the veterans could win him a game or two. If he is truly interested in 2012, his playing time would likely be allotted differently.

    Toward that end, why not more of Frazier at shortstop, or even Valaika if he comes up Sept. 1, just to see what they can do? I think everyone was rightfully impressed with Cozart and he could be the answer for years to come. Shortstop would appear to be his to lose in spring training……But the best way to learn more about Frazier and Valaika as hitters at the major league level is to give them playing time. Again, let’s salvage something of this season by finding out who can help us — or impress potential trade partners — by seeing what the younger players can do.

    (And, with all of the NL postseason spots apparently set, it’s not like we owe it to other teams to try to play spoiler.) PLAY THE PROSPECTS!

  13. @JerBear:

    JerBear is Dusty had to deal with injuries to his 3B, he put his starting SS and best defensive SS at 3B instead of the guy who was signed to be the utility infielder.

  14. “..When Scott Rolen and Juan Francisco were hurt earlier this year, Renteria’s lack of practice at 3B was used as an excuse why he couldn’t fill in there….”

    Hmm, Dusty does not seem to find issue with making Yonder take ground balls there. I guess that ability is beyond Renteria at this point.

    Find it very crazy, first start for Yonder at Cincy is not in LF, supposedly one of easier LF to play, nor at 1B but at 3B. However, Dusty thinks ok to play yonder in Houston with its stuck out walls or Wrigley with its issues or the big stadium of the nationals.

    To me its like Dusty is setting up Yonder to fail for whatever reason. i would not be surprised if Phillies bunt all night long to 3B side.

    • “..When Scott Rolen and Juan Francisco were hurt earlier this year, Renteria’s lack of practice at 3B was used as an excuse why he couldn’t fill in there….”

      Hmm, Dusty does not seem to find issue with making Yonder take ground balls there.I guess that ability is beyond Renteria at this point.

      Find it very crazy, first start for Yonder at Cincy is not in LF, supposedly one of easier LF to play, nor at 1B but at 3B.However, Dusty thinks ok to play yonder in Houston with its stuck out walls or Wrigley with its issues or the big stadium of the nationals.

      To me its like Dusty is setting up Yonder to fail for whatever reason.i would not be surprised if Phillies bunt all night long to 3B side.

      And isn’t the game televised nationally by ESPN? It wouldn’t be a good night to have a bad night, so to speak.

  15. How much has this tension between those two affect this team’s play? It could be the underlying reason for the Reds big belly flop.

  16. @David: Quality starts?

    The rest of your post is I right on, but quality starts? I mean, a great rotation will just by default have a lot of QS. But to look at that, I mean, the Reds rotation hasn’t been good this year. I don’t know where they rank in ERA, whatever, QS, but their K:BB ratio is anemic.

  17. Baker plainly wanted Renteria to be his every day SS ? How so ? Janish was given a more than reasonable chance to be the every day SS, and when he failed to hit the job was given to Cozart.

  18. @David: I agree that the Reds bullpen has turned out to be a major weakness, where it was expected to be a strength. It’s been the main reason for the Reds many losses in close games.

  19. Great post, Steve. You could have added Alonso as a case where DB and WJ have not been on the same page, but I guess we all have that continuing saga fresh in our minds. Dusty made his own decision that Alonso can’t play LF, the rest of the organization be damned. (I don’t think Alonso can play LF either, but that’s besides the point.)

    I harped about the Ramon situation thru July right up until he was withdrawn from waviers. WJ blew it there.

    Bottom line: You’re right that this is a serious problem. I never saw a manager and GM this out of synch without one or the other getting fired before long.
    I have my issues with WJ, but if he gets fired and Dusty stays then I’ll have grave doubts about the judgment of Bob Castellini.

    • Great post, Steve. You could have added Alonso as a case where DB and WJ have not been on the same page, but I guess we all have that continuing saga fresh in our minds. Dusty made his own decision that Alonso can’t play LF, the rest of the organization be damned. (I don’t think Alonso can play LF either, but that’s besides the point.) I harped about the Ramon situation thru July right up until he was withdrawn from waviers. WJ blew it there. Bottom line: You’re right that this is a serious problem. I never saw a manager and GM this out of synch without one or the other getting fired before long.I have my issues with WJ, but if he gets fired and Dusty stays then I’ll have grave doubts about the judgment of Bob Castellini.

      I believe Walt’s contract is up while Dusty still has some time left on it, so Bob wouldn’t be “firing” Walt, just not rehiring him.

  20. @Y-City Jim:

    Homer has struggled all season, I have not seen one bit of consistancy from him at all. At this point I really hope he is wearing another teams uniy next year.

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