I avoided writing about Johnny B. “Dusty” Baker after Davey Johnson was awarded the manager of the year award. But as the ‘dust’ has settled it is time to come clean. Dusty Baker is my 2012 National League Manager of the Year.
Why, you ask, do I think Dusty should be recognized with this high honor? For a number of reasons really. For one thing I do not want to be the spoil sport, the ‘homer’, yet I am. For another, and maybe more importantly, I really liked Davey Johnson when he was the manager of the Reds but I think he had more talent to work with. And finally, I submit, because Dusty managed a mediocre offense to victory in spite of doing things that every Reds ‘fan’ on Twitter knew was fundamentally the wrong choice to make at any given time.
Let’s spend some time and dissect how Dusty Baker affected outcomes last season. The Reds On Base Percentage (OBP) of .315 was better than just four National League teams who combined for a record of 264-384 yet Dusty’s Redlegs won 32 more than they lost. He managed the team to a 10 game winning streak with Joey Votto on the disabled list. Anyone who thinks this streak happened solely because players stepped up haven’t been paying attention. They stepped up because Dusty lead them up. Over the past five years Dusty has led the team to more victories than in the previous season in each year except for the 2011 regression.
Dusty is often criticized for his handling of pitching staffs and he has made mistakes. Is he perfect? Of course not, but was he better than the rest in 2012? I think so. Dusty and Walt Jocketty have built this team. Consider this, Dusty used 3 rookies in critical roles in 2012. And while they did not light the world on fire they did play well enough to win. Todd Frazier made a compelling argument for the Rookie of the Year award in the NL. I think hype was as much the reason as performance for Bryce Harper taking home the trophy. But the hype I had always heard indicated Harper was better than Mike Trout. By my observation, that is not and never will be true.
Devin Mesoraco is a very talented, very raw catcher, and Dusty handled him quite well particularly in spite of the temper issues late in the year the Mes displayed. Mes has not developed offensively the way I had hoped but he did not lose games. That is significant for a rookie catcher.
Finally Zack Cozart played a spectacular brand of baseball at short stop and in my mind he made a strong case for being the deserving recipient of the Gold Glove award. Another incident during the season highlighted my view of Dusty and that was the absurd somersault Aroldis Chapman dove into after finally gathering in a save after a couple of botched attempts in late July. He quietly talked to Aroldis, apologized for any affront to the other team, and moved on. Aroldis will never make that error in judgement again.
One other point I will make here. Davey Johnson inherited his team last season when Jim Riggleman left the team over a contract issue. Davey stepped into the perfect situation at the perfect time. He is a great manager but the level of young talent is high and he was force fed all sorts of odd decisions, most notably the Strasburg shutdown.
Dusty deserved his day, but there is always next year!
Follow me on Twitter @JohnHeitz