October 1, 2012; St. Louis, MO. USA; Cincinnati Reds manager Dusty Baker (12) looks on before a game against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-US PRESSWIRE

Where Do The Reds Stand?

A 97 win season.  A polarizing manager.  An injured superstar.

Those three phrases merely scratch the surface of the 2012 Reds.  After a tumultuous week, I know it took this Reds fan several days to digest and heal from what took place.  There were many layers.  First the immediate “we just witnessed an epic collapse” feeling, then the “life goes on” phase, and finally the “what happens next” wondering.

This Reds team was good.  Very good.  A few bad games won’t change that.  If you’re in a place where reading an unbiased, quite informative summary of what happened the last three games of the NLDS, and specifically, Game 5, is something that interests you, go here and check out Jeff Sullivan’s commentary.  He really does a great job putting everything in perspective.

Fans and media love to attach narratives to everything.  Behind every event there must be a story.  The Reds collapsed, the Giants have heart, Dusty can’t manage in the playoffs, the Reds will be back, etc etc.  These are the stories that stem from the need to make sense out of what happened to the Reds this year.  Maybe some of these themes will end up defining the next several years, maybe they won’t.  Would the Reds have lost three straight games with another manager at the helm?  Would the Reds have been in the playoffs with another manager at the helm?  These are questions to which we will never have answers.

What makes it all interesting is how it actually plays out.  The Reds resigned Baker for another two years.  His player first attitude and clubhouse management could lead to two division titles.  Or his handling of the lineup and pitching staff could cost the Reds more wins, potentially in October.

Just because one of these outcomes occurs doesn’t mean the other wasn’t just as likely.  I think we as fans are becoming more educated all the time, but I still find too many people falling victim to the idea that a season or even a series can turn on a single event.  Even last week, you can point to at least five moments where, had any one of them gone the other way, the Reds are probably still playing.

Personally, I would have been perfectly fine if the Reds decided to move on without Baker.  No, he wasn’t the only one to blame for the way the season ended, and no, we aren’t going to fire Brandon Phillips or Ryan Hanigan because they mishandled situations as well.  However, Baker’s mishandlings are different, because for the most part, he does them on purpose.

Brandon will acknowledge the fact that he shouldn’t have tried for third, and I can assure you no one felt worse about it than he did.  Baker’s in game moves aren’t by accident.  They are by design.  Meaning, they will likely continue to happen in this manner while he’s still chewing on his toothpick in our dugout.  The Reds are making a conscious choice that anything he did to hurt their chances of winning the NLDS is incidental.  The cost of keeping a manager who took you to 97 wins.

That said, I don’t think having Dusty as manager is a deal breaker.  Honestly, I became a Dusty fan this season.  I bought into the intangible effect he supposedly has on a clubhouse.

But what will really make Reds fans feel better is the notion that 2012 wasn’t their only chance.  That we’ll find ourselves here again the next year, and the next.  Pieces are in place, and ownership has indicated that they are willing to commit resources to putting a quality team on the field.  Having a few young stars and a solid pitching staff doesn’t guarantee you 90 wins.  Many things have to go right during a baseball season in order to find yourself still standing after 162 games.

The Reds have taken steps to ensure they have a good chance of being there again soon.  All we can do now is watch.  Well, that’s not true.  We can talk about it, and speculate, and criticize, and pull our hair out, and yell as loud as we possibly can.  And really, that sounds pretty great to me.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1085604491 Jordan Lee Barhorst

    The way I look at it is that a manager’s job is to maximize the talent on the roster and give the team the best chance to win every game. I believe this team was pretty darn near “maximum talent” for a lot of the games this season.

    We had a pitching staff that lasted the entire year. That’s something that NEVER happens. Sure, Votto went down, but we all know the record the good guys had during that time span.

    Baker isn’t the problem. If we’re complaining about him playing Cairo or Valdez, then maybe they’re the problem. Our bench isn’t a solid one by any means. You can bet that if Dusty had better options he’d use them.

    In short, our maximum effort got us 97 wins, a division title, and a very good crack at winning a divisional series. I’d say that’s pretty good, and I think Dusty helped to create an atmosphere in the clubhouse and a solid lineup to help get us there.

    The stars will continue to grow, but you’d be insane if you thought we’re going to see the same durability out of that pitching staff any time soon. With a few roster moves, you can be sure that Dusty will field an even better lineup next season.

    • http://blogredmachine.com/ Steve O’Red

      There will be some tweaks to the roster in the off-season, on that, you can be assured.

      Mentioning Valdez is interesting. He is eligible for arbitration, but there is a chance he won’t be tendered a contract. I can easily see Didi Gregorius as the backup middle infielder next season. As far as someone backing up Frazier, that could be in the hands of Henry Rodriguez.

      The bench should be better, but also, a little younger as well.