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.