Jun 9, 2012; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Reds manager Dusty Baker (12) goes to the mound to pull relief pitcher Sean Marshall (51) during the eighth inning against the Detroit Tigers at Great American Ball Park. The Tigers defeated the Reds 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Frank Victores-US PRESSWIRE

In Defense of the Recent "In Defense of Baker" Article


You know how people who are getting ready to say something incredibly insulting lead off with “no disrespect, but” or maybe “no offense” – as in, hey no offense, but I hate everything about you. I said no offense, so it totally negates anything remotely insulting about that remark.

July 3, 2010; Chicago, IL, USA; Cincinnati Reds manager Dusty Baker (12) prior to a game against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. (Dennis Wierzbicki-US PRESSWIRE)

Eating crow isn’t fun. People don’t like to do it. Those who aren’t toting around an ego the size of a Ford F150 find digesting their own words to be a little easier. One Reds writer made a decent effort. In an article entitled, “In Defense of Baker,” a writer who is well-known for his blog’s nightly criticism and questioning of Baker’s in-game competence makes a really solid effort to rectify the multitude of complaints Cincinnatians (including him) have of the skipper.

Hey, no offense. But it was, well, less than convincing.

If you haven’t read so yet, check it out.

We should start by clarifying a few things – namely, the title. This isn’t a defense of Baker. Well, it is in a way. This is the defense you get when you can’t afford an attorney and are forced to rely on the state’s defense attorney who is probably carrying eight other cases other than yours. This isn’t a defense – more like a plea bargain.

The first three paragraphs of the article essentially undermine the competence of Dusty Baker for his in-game strategy. One of those awkward “no offense” moments. Let’s talk about some of Chad’s points.

“Let’s be honest, Dusty remains pretty deficient in many of the areas that are obvious to people who actually, you know, watch the games.”

I watch the games. I don’t see these glaring deficiencies, but it’s probably because I’m not squinting my eyes trying to imagine they’re there.

“Baker’s in-game management has not improved one iota over the years. He insists on using leadoff hitters with sub-.300 OBPs. His catcher must always bat eighth and his shortstop must always hit first or second. Those are his rules, and Baker rarely wavers, no matter the personnel at his disposal.”

Let’s talk about that lead-off situation. In all actuality, there hasn’t been a real lead-off hitter on this entire roster since…anyone?

August 23, 2010; San Francisco, CA, USA; Cincinnati Reds manager Dusty Baker (top) watches from the dugout during the second inning against the San Francisco Giants at AT

Sure. You’re saying “Brandon Phillips” in your head right now – only, he’s the guy who was making people pay for walking the best hitter in baseball continually. Just so we’re clear, in 309 plate appearances at 4, Phillips is hitting .303 with 50 RBIs and 10 home runs. He’s not going anywhere, unless someone like say Ryan Ludwick can finally solidify themselves as a real cleanup guy. Any other ideas? Anyone?

Then there’s the point about where Baker bats catchers and shortstops, “regardless of personnel,” at the 2/8 spots. Catchers always 8. SS 2. Solid example of how people often prefer rhetoric to reality. Anyone remember Paul Janish last year? Sure he had 40 ABs batting 2nd. 1 AB batting first. 280 batting 8th. 152 appearances batting 8th in 2010. But why let facts get in the way of juicy criticism. And Hanigan? The guy that has become the new embodiment of criticism towards Baker? Over/under on how many additional hits it would take to score Hanigan? I’ll start it at 3.

Don’t stop there though. Check Baker’s lineups with the Giants and Cubs.

According to Dodson, Dusty Baker is incapable of properly executing strategy. Instead of making tough decisions, Baker has some old template that he refers to when making a lineup. Absurd how little credit a manager with the 20th most wins in the history of MLB receives. I often wonder how Baker manages to not trip over his own feet when getting out of bed in the morning without a template for how to properly navigate his legs.

“Further, his bullpen usage has been curious, to put it lightly. He uses Sean Marshall — one of the best relievers in either league over the past three years — as a situational lefty..”

It’s not every day you’ll hear people complaining about a bullpen that is statistically the best in baseball, but when it comes to Baker, nothing is out of bounds. For the past two seasons, Marshall has turned in no more than 75 innings. Currently, he has 44.2. Even if Marshall pitches one inning every other game from here on out, he’ll finish with 67. That’s the beauty of being in a bullpen loaded with options. Unlike Marshall’s time with the Cubs, he is not the only option late in the game.

Dusty Baker has been dealing with inane criticism like this since he left Chicago, baseball’s purgatory, a town where anything from a goat to a fan sitting near the foul line are blamed for the misfortunes of the Cubs. The manager is no exception. While people love to bring up the fact that Baker was fired, it is worth mentioning that the four seasons he spent in Chicago make him the second-longest tenured manager in that city since the 60s. Only Jim Rigglemen has lasted longer than Baker since the 60s in baseball’s Afghanistan.

But none of that matters really. Those who spend their time conjuring up absurd criticism for things that 29 other manager do in baseball aren’t looking for truth – just for satisfaction. They know more than Baker. Despite the fact that under Baker’s leadership, three different teams have gone to the postseason. Despite the fact the he’s 20th all time in wins.

Is Baker a model manager? What’s a model manager? If you buy into the fact that these guys actually account for wins and losses, I have a bridge I’d like to sell you. People simply invest too much stock in a baseball manager. If it’s the manager, perhaps Milwaukee’s terrible season has more to do with Ron Roenicke becoming incompetent over night than it does the departure of Fielder, Greinke, and the disappointing season of Rickie Weeeks. Maybe the Nationals’ surge has more to do with Davey Johnson than it does one of the best rotations in all of baseball. Brad Mills is behind the Astros struggles this year. And the tooth fairy will pay you for any teeth you may lose.

The role of a manager is to keep guys rested, uphold team chemistry, and keep the focus. At these things, Dusty Baker is World Class, which is why he’s won Manager of the Year on three different occasions. Making lineups, rotation/bullpen decisions? I promise you, the other 29 managers in baseball are all doing the same things.

I never understood the dismissive arrogance portrayed when talking Baker. “Those actually watching the game” clearly see the deficiencies Baker has. Sure. But those with access to the internet can clearly see otherwise.

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  • beeker

    That was one of the more bipolar articles I’ve read in a while. I can’t remember a more back-handed masquerading as a recommendation for Manager of the Year. The stereotypes were so thick, I couldn’t help but wonder if the guy is a closet Cubs fan.

    Something you didn’t reference that burned me was the assertion that the Reds have overachieved this year. 2010 was overachievement, and 2011 was complete underachievement. But this year is not overachievement at all. Plenty of experts picked the Reds to win the division this year, based solely on their roster. They might be playing at the top of their ability — especially lately — but not at a totally unexpected level. (Well, unless you are a large-market snob who doesn’t know enough about small market, fly-over teams to actually expect this from the Reds this year, like this author.)