Musings from Midway, Kentucky on a rainy Friday morning:

Dick Williams, Trojan Horse? 

Wouldn’t it be delicious irony if the Reds end up modernizing their baseball operation through the jagged path of nepotism? It’s possible, even likely, that had Bob Castellini conducted an open process for finding his next GM the Reds CEO never would have chosen an analytics-oriented candidate.

Every once in a while, the light at the end of a long narrow tunnel (vision) is real daylight. The jury on Dick Williams not only is still out, it hasn’t been convened. But maybe, just maybe, the only way the Reds get where they need to be is through the Trojan Horse of an owner’s son.

So Far, So Good  

The Reds are off to a solid start with their decision-making for 2016. They declined options for veteran utility player Skip Schumaker and relief pitcher Burke Badenhop. Those were easy decisions by the numbers. But each case featured a trap door we’ve seen the Reds fall through time and again.

Schumaker’s status as a former player on a Walt Jocketty Cardinals’ roster has proved a capricious catnip for the organization. Combine that with Schumaker’s occasional pinch hitting success (.244/.272/.321) and there was a plausible old-timey case for saying yes to Skip. On the other hand, Schumaker has been a negative WAR player for three years and a severe defensive liability at either LF or 2B. The club rightly decided not to pay a utility player with little utility $2.5 million.

Again, the case against re-upping with Badenhop was pretty clear. The reliever’s rock bottom strikeout rate fell even further in 2016 and his walk-rate rose. His xFIP was 4.67 and SIERA 4.49. A year ago, the Reds were seduced by Badenhop’s double-play rate, without factoring in how his lack of strikeouts more than neutralized that quality. The Reds didn’t even get what they’d bargained for as Badenhop’s ground-ball rate plunged from its one-year blip of 61 percent with the Red Sox to 46.7 percent

Yet the Reds might have been fooled by Badenhop’s sub-4 ERA and the bad April myth. In the end, they opted not to pay Badenhop another $2.5 million. That decision also puts an end to the corny “hopper” audio-clip the radio team played when Badenhop entered a game. Wasn’t clever the first time.

Best Wishes, Dusty Baker  

After spending two seasons tending his vineyards and writing a memoir about a rock concert, former Reds manager Dusty Baker has landed a job leading the Washington Nationals. In many ways, it’s a perfect fit for Baker. He inherits a talented, underachieving team, including one of the best players in baseball. The deep-pocketed Lerner family is willing to spend their stacks on the roster. It’s a big stage befitting a guy with a large personality.

If the press reports are right and the Nationals are looking for a manager to pull the team together, they have the right guy. As we learned in Cincinnati, Baker is an extreme players manager. That quality – and how it no longer fit the Reds needs – was at the heart of this post, published 36 hours before Baker was fired by the Reds.

Dusty Baker (66) deserved another opportunity if he wanted one. He’s earned it. Baker is accomplished and by all accounts, a great guy who truly loves the game. It’s no surprise that Baker wowed the DC press corps in his intro press conference yesterday. Mark the dates June 3-5 in your calendar. That’s when Baker makes his return to Great American Ball Park.

Steve grew up in Cincinnati as a die-hard fan of Sparky’s Big Red Machine. After 25 years living outside of Ohio, mostly in Ann Arbor, he returned to the Queen City in 2004. He has resumed a first-person love affair with the Cincinnati Reds and is a season ticket holder at Great American Ball Park. The only place to find Steve’s thoughts of more than 140 characters is Redleg Nation. Follow his tweets @spmancuso.

Join the conversation! 50 Comments

  1. This new thread is better for this… I meant to make a post a few days ago betting whether or not Dusty Baker would reference Hank Aaron at his presser. Baker did not disappoint! Of course, he name dropped about a 12 other people too, but still. Hank. Aaron. Can’t top that.

  2. My other favorite quote is that he said someone told him he always got rebuilding projects because he “does more with less” but now Dusty said “I’m ready to do more with more.” Ok.

    But hey, more power to him and the Nats. Should be a decent set up.

  3. Good piece, Steve

    Nepotism is often disastrous, but in this instance,the resume of Dick Williams is worthy of the appointment. Yes, he was born on third base, but so were Bill Gates and Warren Buffet. Robert Kraft married into millions and turned it into billions.

    Were his name Dick Schick the narrative would be ” Finally, we’ve moved beyond the “Red Schoendist model ” and the Reds will treat player procurement and development like an actual business…..and what a cool name.”

  4. I agree this seems to be a tailor made situation for DB’s skill set and personality. If he is paired with a good pitching coach and gets somebody he trusts beside him in the dugout to put an elbow into his ribs when his urgency button needs to be pressed, the Nats could turn into the team so many folks have been expecting them to be for several years.

    • I think Washington just signed Texas’s pitching coach, Mike Maddux. That was a team hire and not a Dusty hire, so we’ll have to see how that goes.

      • Maddux had a good run with Texas and could well be the right kind of guy to work with Dusty unless they have some bad personal history

  5. RE: DW as GM/ PoBO: There are any number of guys (and gals) who have quietly toed the company line in the family business while thinking of how they would run the business (differently) if and when the opportunity came their way. Let’s hope DW has a good plan and the other side of the house (Castellini’s) give him reigns to pursue it.

  6. How the Reds handled the Badenhop and Schumaker options was a positive sign in my opinion. My only slight worry is that it was strictly a cost-cutting move and that even if they performed better, the Reds may still have wanted to save those $$.

    • Yeah, WJ said (in so many words) on the record that they had always viewed the option/ buyout on Badenhoff as 2015 salary shifted to 2016 on the books and never had planned on keeping him.

    • LW,
      What do you think about Boog Powell getting traded last night?
      The first trade of the Hot Stove League.
      No not your O’s Boog. But the Rays’ Boog. Rays traded him to Seattle. No relation to original Boog either and not a bopper. He’s an OF/leadoff guy with a high OBP. Somebody the Reds should have been aware about though.

      • Yeah, I’d heard of him but didn’t know too much about him. He seemed like an interesting prospect. He’s the kind of guy the Reds should be targeting in trade if you ask me.

        Looks like David DeJesus is available. He could be a nice 4th OF on a 1-year deal at the right money. He had a bad year last year but really didn’t get enough work and that big ballpark didn’t help either. He’s not young, but a nice bench piece. Just gotta stay away from that 2-year deal. I think he has a year left.

  7. It’s a sad, sad commentary on the state of the Reds when the team is being applauded for not picking up the options on Schumaker and Badenhop.

  8. The GM meetings are coming up soon, so it is nice to have Williams in his new position before then, and the Winter Meetings in December. What happens after the GM meetings and before and during the Winter Meetings is going to go a long way in telling us about Williams. It is alright to hold your cards close to the vest, as long as you play your cards wisely, instead of standing pat or folding altogether like we’ve seen Jocketty do too many times.

    • I am not expecting a ton from him until WJ leaves…JMO. He did say all the right things in the interview and I thought the part about “growing their analytics” without talking about it actually made sense to me. At the very least it’s a step in the right direction and his background is certainly data driven.

    • Especially in 2013 when WJ did next to nothing to fix left field after Ludwick went down on opening day. Then he failed to get Byrd off of waivers, and the Reds lose the one game playoff.

  9. What is written in the Washington Post (see Steve’s link to “wowed the DC press corps”) reminds me exactly of what was written about Baker in the Chicago papers when he arrived to manage the Cubs. A few years later he was vilified and excoriated by exactly the same writers. It will be interesting to see what happens in Washington.

    • I bought a ” In Dusty we Trusty” shirt at Tribune Tower in 2003…….lets just say it had very little re-sale value a couple of years later.

  10. Maybe I should take the high road like Steve and wish Dusty Baker the best, but I’m not really feeling it.

    Dusty always came off as so condescending to me. He always seemed to criticized the fans and the media for thinking they knew better than him, all the while batting Willy Tavares lead off. It’s one thing to be old school, stubborn, set in your ways, and jolly. But to be all those things and kind of nasty about it was really off putting to me.

    I live in the Bay Area now and have friends in Chicago. Fans of both the Giants and Cubs seem to despise Baker in equal measure, for those same reasons. I liked baseball better when it had moved on from Baker, and I’ll certainly be rooting against the Nationals more now.

    • “I liked baseball better when it had moved on from Baker”

      I have definitely NOT liked Reds baseball since we moved on from Baker.

    • I live on the South Side of Chicago and the White Sox fans were in mourning when Baker was fired. White Sox fans loved having Baker manage the Cubs. I also remember how open Cubs’ management was about the need to restore order after Baker was fired. In fact, when management hired Lou Piniella they were very explicit about wanting to find the polar opposite of Baker.

  11. I was not against Dusty Baker as much as many of the posters on this site. But He did make some strange moves and lineups quite often. I honestly feel he is a better fit now for the Nationals then he was when we first signed him to be the Reds new manager.

    Good luck to you ole’ chap… Nationals were a big let down this past season. Dusty does have a nice way of uniting a team with big egos.

    • Dusty did some things well. For the most part, he had the respect of the players, and they played hard for him. He got a bum rap at the end of 2013, as we did not know that Jay’s knee was damaged, and that Latos had bone chips in his right elbow. We mostly suspected that Brandon had a sore left arm from being hit in June. And I think Joey’s knee was hurting him. The scuttlebut was that the team “quit” on Dusty at the end of 2013. I think he did overplay some guys, and they were tired, but everybody is tired at the end of the season.
      I think that the Nationals will get off to a hot start in 2016, but will fade at the end. Dusty will overplay certain key players, and not use his whole bench.

      • Which explains the 2010 and 2012 playoff disasters how?

        • Jesse: I understand your position. Mine, though, is that getting into the playoffs largely eliminates “disaster” from the discussion. Most teams don’t make the playoffs at all, and only one team wins it. We can endlessly and inconclusively discuss the importance of the manager v. the players, so I won’t start.

        • I believe a lot of people look down wrong end of the telescope many times in situations as befell the Reds in 2010 and 2012 in the playoffs. Short series tend to be settled by player performance rather than managerial decisions.

          I do recall that in 2002 that I felt that DB may have frittered away game 6 of the WS with his characteristic lack of urgency,

          However with the Cubbies, he did not have any control over Bartman or make the error on the routine grounder in the same inning that should have been a DP.

          In 2010, what’s a manager to do to combat a no hitter being thrown at his team or a gold glove RF muffing a routine play or the umps calling a HBP on a ball that missed the batter by several inches and whatever that crazy play was at 3B.

          In game 3 of 2012, it wasn’t the manager that handed the game to the Giants by allowing a passed ball to move the eventual winning run to 3rd or allowed the guy to score by failing to make a routine play on a two out grounder to 3rd.

          • …We disagree.

            Yes, players are the ones who make the plays, but the manager’s job is to put the best team on the field in every situation. Dusty didn’t do this in games 3, 4 and 5 of the 2012 NLDS. In fact, he sat back and let the action unfold, while his counterpart actually MANAGED.

            And in 2010? I dunno – visit the mound in that 7th inning to calm everyone down as all heck broke loose?

            Actually go toe to toe with the ump about Utley’s phantom HBP? Show a little support for the team?

            There’s a reason Dusty has never won the big game.

            And as for the Cubbies? Game 7 was after Game 6. How’d he do there?

            Don’t worry, I’m sure history will be kind to Dusty. “He won everywhere he managed…”

        • And GREENMTRED said it all best.

        • Actually, if we’re revisiting the 2012 playoffs, I really, really wonder what would have happened in Game 3 if Dusty had walked that Arias guy and made Bochy decide whether to pinch hit for Romo in the 9th inning. Or was it the 10th? The Giants had already used four pinch hitters, so not sure who, if anybody, they had left. Instead, Arias put the ball in play, Rolen made the error, ballgame.

          My recollection of Game 4 was that Dusty left Leake in too long. (And yes, it stunk for Dusty and us that Cueto got hurt, making it even necessary to use Leake.) And then Game 5, the hurt that never quite goes away, when it was obvious that Latos was in trouble, and Dusty didn’t go get him.

          Good luck, Dusty, but I wasn’t glad to see you go.

          • This was a basic managing error, perhaps excusable in June or July, but just plain dumb in a series-clinching game.

            Force the issue. Make Bochy make a choice.

            But, Dusty managed with the same lack of urgency he always did. “We’ll get em tomorrow…”

            They didn’t.

        • The Great Sparky Anderson lost the 1970 World Series to Baltimore in 5 games; sure because the starting pitching was shot by October. And then lost again in 7 games in 1972 to the Oakland A’s (after finishing in 4th place in 1971). Then lost to the Mets in 1973 in the National League playoffs. The Mets.
          Sometimes you have to re-calibrate your expectations because it may turn out your team was not as good as you thought it was.

          • Sparky was rightly criticized for taking teams to the cusp, but not winning the big games… Sparky WON in 1975 and 1976. We’re still waiting for Dusty.

            Sometimes you have to stop making excuses for bad managing.

            2012 Reds were far more talented than the 2012 Giants, had a 2-0 lead in that series, and lost the last two games in disastrous fashion – largely because the manager fell asleep at the wheel re: pitching.

            One thing is for sure: The 2010-2013 Reds were the most talented teams the franchise has had since the early 90s, and they underachieved. To give Dusty a pass on that is ignorant.

  12. I see via Twitter where Chris Heisey is now a free agent. Should the Reds want to revisit that saga?

    • No, IMHO. Chris was a nice guy/good 4th outfielder for a while, but ….no. We have to think of young guys with potential. We already know Chris’s ceiling.

      • FWI(not)W, I agree. I wanted to see if any of folks who get spun up over old Cardinals had a soft spot for old Reds 🙂

    • As long as he’s a bench piece, yes!

    • I was always a Heisey fan. If he is resigned to never being more than a bench player, then sure, sign him to a minor league deal. But I wouldn’t promise him a spot on the 25-man. Or, to say it differently, I’d expect them to have better outfield options come Opening Day. But nothing wrong with having a guy like that in AAA if we don’t really have anyone else down there ready to play if need be.

      • I think Heisey will end up having to take a minor league deal with an ST invite; but, I’d look for him to try and sign one with a walkaway clause to keep from being billeted in AAA for the season.

        By this point, he probably isn’t a viable long term CF back up anymore which makes him a 5th or 6th OF. More and more, teams are spending those 2 roster spots on guys who also give them utility at IF positions or they elect to carry a 3rd catcher.

  13. Agree re: Dusty. I wish him the best of luck, as long as he doesn’t beat the Reds in the playoffs next year.

    And on the new GM, I’m hopeful. We will see, I guess.

  14. Dusty should do well with the Nats. He has a very good roster. The Cubs have had 3 managers sine Dusty and they still not have won. The closest thing to winning for them was the Bartman year when the Cubs SS made the error that doomed them in the playoffs. Dusty is in the top 15 managers for all time wins. Some one wrote he would be rooting more for the Nats to lose now that Dusty is their manager. I do hope the Reds beat the Nats any time they play them. But why would anyone cheer for a specific manager to lose? Not liking some of Dusty’s decisions is one thing but wishing him eternal losing is a bit over the top.

  15. Boog Powell is the next Ryan Freel but he can hit for a much higher average and power. I saw Powell play in Durham all season. The guy is a phenomenal fielder and is a throwback to the Lenny Dykstra, Larry Bowa, Pete Rose type of players. I wish the Reds would have gotten him. Remember that name…he is going to be something in about two years!

  16. 1) Dusty Baker. Hope he goes 0-32 with the Nats (and then get fired) he couldn’t do crap when it mattered (3 tries in the playoffs) when he managed the Reds, then took NO accountability for it. Condescending to just about anyone who questioned his decisions. Now he gets the easiest gig in baseball. (Lots of talent, previous season was a disaster. Set up to succeed.) So I hope he FAILS.

    2) Sign Heisey to a AAA deal. Can play all 3 OF positons, and has had more sustained success than someone like Boesch.

    3) Sign Arroyo. He, not Marquis, is the kind of Veteran pitcher you’d want.

    4) Don’t get any funny ideas about trading Votto, Dick.

    • 1) I just don’t understand the animosity towards Dusty. How much have the Reds sucked immediately before and after him. Dusty was frustrating at times but never came across as completely inept or over his head (i.e. Price).

      • … I don’t really understand why some people defend Dusty as much as they do.

        Yes the Reds won under Dusty, but as many around here have argued, the manager has little to do with wins and losses during the regular season. That’s about the talent. So with that logic, Dusty had little to do with the Reds’ 90+ win seasons.

        The Reds had SO MUCH talent from 2010-2013, and they didn’t win a single postseason series. Dusty’s decisions leading up to, and then during those series were confounding at times.

        After deciding to put LeCure, then Latos in in game one of the 2012 NLDS, Dusty was consistently outmanaged by Bochy.

        Dusty tapped Johnny Cueto – who clearly wasn’t ready – to start the 2013 play in game, instead of managing his rotation in the days leading up to the game to have options.

        Dusty didn’t recognize the Reds’ flat play at the end of 2013 – ever.

        Corey Patterson. Drew Stubbs. Stubbornly insisting upon one person as a leadoff hitter, even though it was clear that that person wasn’t doing the job.

        “Willie Harris? We gotta get him going!!!!” – and all the other veteran retreads that Dusty insisted on playing over better, younger players.

        Dusty derailed Chappy’s ascent to perhaps the most dominant starting pitcher the Reds ever had by insisting to keep him as closer – to close out games with a 3 run lead.

        Dusty never argued with umpires or defended his players after a bad call. I saw plenty of games @ Wrigley where Dusty essentially gave lip service to an ump’s bad call, then returned to the dugout.

        Yes, the Reds won more under Dusty – in the regular season- (whee! at least we’re not bad!), but Dusty underachieved, and seemed nonplussed about it.

        Maybe a lot of this is due to the mini-stroke that Dusty had in 2012, and in that case I’d feel pretty lousy about what I’ve said. But if Washington hired him, his brain must be working fine.

        It’s nice that so many in this community wish Dusty the best, but not me.

        Again, Dusty. He’s a nice enough guy, but he didn’t do enough here with the talent he was given. Coffee is for closers, and Dusty. Never. Closed.

        • I’m not going to get in a Dusty argument. He was frustrating, but I’ll always appreciate the Reds’ success while he was here. Doesn’t make sense not to give him some credit.

  17. MLBTR is saying about the Byung-Ho Park winning bidder: “….That leaves the Brewers, Reds, Cubs, White Sox and Twins as the remaining options”.

    Has anyone checked to see if Park has ever played LF?

    http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2015/11/latest-byung-ho-park-winning-bid.html

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About Steve Mancuso

Steve grew up in Cincinnati as a die-hard fan of Sparky's Big Red Machine. After 25 years living outside of Ohio, mostly in Ann Arbor, he returned to the Queen City in 2004. He has resumed a first-person love affair with the Cincinnati Reds and is a season ticket holder at Great American Ball Park. The only place to find Steve's thoughts of more than 140 characters is Redleg Nation. Follow his tweets @spmancuso.

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