Contorting the Words

Ever see one of those headlines and your curiosity just gets the best of you? You had to click that link to see if what the title says is true. You read and reread it. You stare, almost with a blank look on your face, in disbelief of what you read.

I know I usually save some headlines for the weekends when I do my links around the division and those that mention the Reds, but this one was too good to hold off until then.

Dusty Baker talking before game

Image by Blevine37 via Wikimedia Commons

The headline that piqued my interest…”Dusty Baker is Afraid of the Cubs”.

No, it’s not a misprint, typo or anything of the sort. It’s legit. It’s an actual post from Bleacher Nation authored by “Ace”. I know Bleacher Nation has a large following (3,355 Twitter followers as of the timing of this), but we must take what Baker told the Chicago Tribune and place it in its proper perspective.

Baker was interviewed by Fred Mitchell of the Tribune. His piece on that interview is here. Mitchell chose the word “wary”. A better one if I must say.

Dusty knows there were teams that made efforts to improve their rosters during the off-season. He mentions Milwaukee, St. Louis and the Cubs.

“Our division is tougher. The Cubs are better, they have picked up some pitching, and they’ve got some healthy pitching coming back, and they have some new players,” Baker said Tuesday in an interview with the Tribune from his Northern California home. “You look at the Cardinals and they’ve got (Ryan) Theriot and they added (Lance) Berkman. That’s a powerful bat right there. And they already have a very good team.

“You look at Milwaukee and they are a year older and more experienced with a great offense already. They have added some big-time pitching. Our division is going to be one of the tougher divisions. Seems like whoever was trading somebody was trading to our division. It’s going to be a tough fight; it’s going to be a tough division. But, hey, that’s what it’s all about.”

Translation: Dusty knows what his Reds must do in order to repeat. The three teams mentioned by Baker made perceived (and significant in some cases) upgrades to their rosters. That’s a fact.

But to draw from this that Dusty is afraid of the Cubs? The Cubs add a .196 bat (granted, with 30+ homer power) and an arm or two. That suddenly makes them a team to incite fear within the halls of GABP?

Not at the present, it doesn’t. I know last year is last year, but what was the Cubs record against the Reds last season? 4-12, that’s what is was. Bring up the past all you want. (I know, I just did.) People tend to look back, but does it play like it used to play? The world has become a “what have you done for me lately” world. Not what you did five, ten years ago. Hell, maybe not even just last year. You could say we’ve evolved into a “what will you do for me” type world. Well, unless your team has the upper hand. Again, it’s an overplayed point.

But if you must play that “past” card, I will. 1908. Need I say more?

Then, there was this…

“But 2011 is a new year, and Dusty has plenty of young arms to destroy.”

Another indictment that occurred years ago. We all know the stories regrading Kerry Wood and Mark Prior and how it has been said on many an occasion that Baker overused them. It’s a fact that I, too, will agree upon. But this is not the same Dusty Baker that was in charge in Chicago. Mike Leake was shut down. Travis Wood had his innings and pitch count closely monitored. And that was somewhat the case with Edinson Volquez as well. Some just can’t let the past be the past.

And here’s the kicker…

“Sure, he’s just playing the part. But I choose to believe he’s afraid of the Cubs. Terrified. His toothpick is shaking.”

Yes, Ace is more than entitled to his choice. That’s what makes the whole blogosphere go ’round, doesn’t it?

I know of no one that’s afraid of the Cubs. Well, there may be one guy…

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Tags: Baseball Chicago Cubs Cincinnati Reds Dusty Baker

  • beeker

    I choose to believe that Sofia Vergara wants me. Bad. She is a tortured soul without me.

    That I choose to believe it makes it true, right? Right?

    • Steve Engbloom

      beeker, hate to break this to you, but she’s at my house right now…

  • Ace

    The title of the post, as indicated by the body of the post, was tongue-in-cheek. As you note – and as my post states – Dusty was just playing the part. In fact, I explicitly state in the post:

    “I doubt [Dusty]’s actually concerned with the Cubs.”

    And as for the final line of my post, if you couldn’t tell that was joking – toothpick is shaking? – then you aren’t a regular reader (which, I understand, you are not). That’s how I write. Believe me: Cubs fans are far, far more worried about the Reds than the Reds (or Dusty) are about the Cubs.

    I was not kidding, however, about Dusty’s penchant for destroying young arms. If Mike Leake had a toothpick, it, too, would be shaking.

  • John Bell

    I definitely agree that Wood was used too much and Prior to a point, but Prior’s arm was going to give out eventually anyway because of his delivery. People can argue that he had pitched his entire life the exact same way, but it was never put to the test that it was once he reached the majors. When you go from throwing no more than 100 innings in college and then 90 in the minors, then throwing 211 innings in your sophomore season over the course of 6 months, that’s a HUGE difference. Part of that was Baker, but part of it was the nature of the game.

  • Justin Hamilton

    Dusty became the face of wearing out pitchers due to just those cases: Wood and Prior. What is not pointed out is that all of baseball started to learn from that point going forward that young arms must brought along slowly. You could say that the cautionary tales of Prior and Wood are what incited the trend of pitch counts and inning caps that we see today. And that is a good thing. The thing to remember in all of this is that it is an organization-wide matter as well. The management and player personnel aspects of the teams learned as much as managers about working together to bring pitchers along the right way. Put it this way, I am sure the management of the Cubs at that time was just as adamant about pushing the young studs Prior and Wood so as to keep winning, just the same as Dusty. Baseball has changed in that regard today. Young pitching is a commodity that has come to be carefully cultivated today as opposed to even 5 years ago.

  • Steve Engbloom

    You still hear many former pitchers talk about how they didn’t have pitch counts and/or innings monitored and wonder what has changed since then. Part of that, to me, is that there’s such an emphasis on pitch speed. Gotta have a guy with at least a plus fastball somewhere in your organization. Sure, pitchers “back in the day” had good fastballs. Bob Feller immediately comes to mind. With that, pitch deliveries have become more violent in order to find the means to produce that speed. And the cycle begins as the wear and tear on an arm commences.

    • Justin Hamilton

      Add along with that Steve, the fact that we have kids learning to throw a curve at age 7 and having Tommy John surgery at 16 and you get a mess as well. I feel like that has a lot to do with it. We are pushing children to too much of an advanced level too early. So for the kids who go past little league and high school and have college and then professional talent we see them having done irreversible damage to their arms before they even enter high school sometimes.