Reds manager Dusty Baker in the dugout before the game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park. (Charles LeClaire-USPRESSWIRE)

Baker Will Never Get a Break

One tidbit of info that was “aired” today (HT to John Fay) was that shortstop Zack Cozart will most likely be batting second. While that doesn’t surprise me, neither should the reaction. It didn’t take long for a certain faction of the Reds fan base to make a statement centering around the fact that Reds skipper Dusty Baker seems to have “pre-filled” or “canned” lineup cards.

Truth be told, Baker could guide this team to a World Series title and he’ll catch seven different kinds of Hades. It happens with all managers and we already know the “past” Baker holds.

There’s the deal about young pitchers and wearing out their arms. Sure, happened during his days in Chicago (which was 2003-2006), but that has not slowed that chatter down one iota. And that particular subject will never cease…and the jokes about a heaping pile most likely won’t subside either…

I will grant you that Baker’s Cincinnati tenure hasn’t been the best we’ve seen. Of course, when you manage in a city where a Hall of Famer and legend managed (Sparky), things will be further scrutinized. Being the owner of a 322-326 record (.497) isn’t all bad. There are managers that have a worse record and don’t feel the heat.

It appears the seat under Baker’s posterior is growing warm. Being in the last year of your deal doesn’t help matters either. It does make you wonder exactly how long the rope is. The Reds have made some “curious” off the field moves. Rick Sweet is now a roaming instructor for catchers. Jim Riggleman is perched at Pensacola. David Bell, now in Louisville, seems to be on some sort of “fast track”.

Is this math adding up to everyone else?

In all reality, I don’t think it matters one bit. The only thing that may get Baker more years as Reds skipper is a title. The big title…and I’m cannot say that would even be a guarantee. It also has nothing to do with the current state of affairs either.

Or does it.

There is substantial conjecture that the moves GM Walt Jocketty has made “prove” the Reds are going all out for a title run in 2012. I once learned that perception is reality and the reality is the Reds have beefed up certain aspects of the roster where Jocketty felt the team needed improvement. Like the moves or not, that is true to many especially to those outside of Reds circles.

Holds true for many Reds fans as well.

Let’s say the Reds are fortunate enough to win it all this year. I refuse to believe there would be lovefest for Baker. Well, maybe the players might, but you wouldn’t see the love oozing similar to that of when the Reds won it all in 1990. Remember the reception for Lou? Sure, Lou received some criticism, but not on par with the amount Baker receives. Yes, some of it is due to the 24/7 sports news cycle, part of it is just, but also overblown.

The man some refer to as “The Toothpick” has nor ever will receive any credit. He does deserves some.

Rk Year G W L W-L% Finish Playoffs Managers
1 2011 162 79 83 .488 3rd of 6 Dusty Baker (79-83)
2 2010 162 91 71 .562 1st of 6 Lost LDS (3-0) Dusty Baker (91-71)
3 2009 162 78 84 .481 4th of 6 Dusty Baker (78-84)
4 2008 162 74 88 .457 5th of 6 Dusty Baker (74-88)
5 2007 162 72 90 .444 5th of 6 Jerry Narron (31-51) and Pete Mackanin (41-39)
6 2006 162 80 82 .494 3rd of 6 Jerry Narron (80-82)
7 2005 163 73 89 .451 5th of 6 Dave Miley (27-43) and Jerry Narron (46-46)
8 2004 162 76 86 .469 4th of 6 Dave Miley (76-86)
9 2003 162 69 93 .426 5th of 6 Bob Boone (46-58), Ray Knight (1-0) and Dave Miley (22-35)
10 2002 162 78 84 .481 3rd of 6 Bob Boone (78-84)
11 2001 162 66 96 .407 5th of 6 Bob Boone (66-96)
12 2000 163 85 77 .525 2nd of 6 Jack McKeon (85-77)
13 1999 163 96 67 .589 2nd of 6 Jack McKeon (96-67)
14 1998 162 77 85 .475 4th of 6 Jack McKeon (77-85)
15 1997 162 76 86 .469 3rd of 5 Ray Knight (43-56) and Jack McKeon (33-30)
16 1996 162 81 81 .500 3rd of 5 Ray Knight (81-81)
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 2/23/2012.

Before Dusty hit town, the Reds had finished in second place twice since 1995, the last season the Reds had made the playoffs before 2010. Upon Baker’s arrival in the Queen City, he slowly had the Reds on the road to improvement…and respectability.

Then, 2010. A season for the ages as the Reds surprised practically everyone in the baseball world and won the NL Central. The world seemed balanced, didn’t it? Many players had excellent seasons, but nary a drop from all the accolades went the way of Baker. Walt got his due in being named Executive of the Year. Joey Votto received an MVP. And Dusty was still ripped…especially by ESPN’s Keith Law. (From Paul Daugherty’s TML on November 18, 2010)

KEITH LAW. Dusty Baker lost by one point to Bud Black for manager of the year. No real complaints here. Baker wasnt robbed. Black did a very good job, with lesser talent, and missed the playoffs on the final weekend, playing in the same division as the world champions. Here’s the rub, though. Here’s another example of why the “experts” really arent. This one from my very good friend at ESPN, Keith Law, via a Mobster:
From Keith Law’s Twitter:
RT @xxx: Is it also safe to assume that Dusty Baker did not make your NL MoY ballot?

Correct. Can’t slag arms and make my ballot.

Right, Keith. That would be the same Baker who shut down Mike Leake, yeah? Who watched pitch counts on Travis Wood and Edinson Volquez?
What are we talking about here, my man? Wood and Prior? Are we still talking about Wood and Prior?
Was the vote for 2010 MOY? Just checking.

Being swept in the playoffs and a lackluster 2011 has dulled the image, no question. A point that actually cannot be argued…except for one thing that does stick with me. Has it ever occurred to anyone that in 2010 many players had “career years”? I’m not implying it was a fluke, but what I am implying is that maybe Baker deserves a little more credit than what he’s given for that season.

It may not matter. Probably won’t.

Tags: Baseball Cincinnati Reds Dusty Baker MLB

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