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.