I was listening to some music today and the Beatles song “Don’t Let me Down” was played. Guess the title kind of sums up how I feel about the Reds. Two years ago I would have given anything for the Reds to be where they are today competing for the division after 9 years of not winning half of their games. Living in Pittsburgh, the excitement is palpable because they finally see a light at the end of the 18 year tunnel they have been crawling through. So why are Reds fans so disgusted and despondent. I am guessing in part because those who remember the Big Red Machine are still spoiled after all of these years while younger generations fear falling into another losing swoon.
When I watch the Reds play I want only one thing. I want effort. The best effort these players can provide. So there have been moments during this season where I have been disappointed. Every time we give up runs in the first inning demonstrates a lack of preparation by the starting pitcher. Brandon Phillips wandering off second in extra innings only to be hung out to dry. Last night watching Edinson Volquez act like running the bases was a burden to him.
There are a lot of intangibles that decide who wins baseball games. Umpires, bad bounces, even hitting the ball a foot to the right or a foot to the left. Players can only work hard preparing for game situations then allow muscle memory, God given talent and reflex to succeed.
Fans have a burden too. I am fascinated by the reaction Dusty Baker receives from fans. I am not certain why he receives the scorn he often gets. Has he made mistakes, certainly. Does he create an atmosphere that promotes the mindset needed to win. I think he does.
Dusty currently has 1439 wins, 22nd best in MLB history. 6 times he has reached or eclipsed 90 wins in a season, 3times he was awarded manager of the year and I felt he deserved the award last year for creating an atmosphere that allowed players win succeed.
Arguments I have heard criticizing Dusty include the way he handles pitchers. Cubs fans all seem to be convinced that he broke Mark Prior and Kerry Wood, even Edinson Volquez is included by some as an example of Dusty’s poor use. Well I don’t buy it. Modern pitchers don’t throw nearly as many pitches as pitchers of bygone eras and at some point players have a responsibility for their own health. Critics argue that he succeeded in San Fransisco only because of Barry Bonds. There is not a single team sport on earth that one player can win the game. But a manager can and does make a difference.
Consider the career of Hall of Fame manager Miller Huggins. Miller managed the Yankees and the Cardinals and is 23rd on the list of all time wins. He had a better winning percentage than Dusty and won three World Series titles. In 1925 he managed the Yankees to a record of 69-85. Not a great record and he only had two worse records in his career. Dusty only has had a worse record twice in his career as well. The difference is when Dusty lost he did not have Earle Combs, Lou Gehrig, Waite Hoyt, Herb Pennock, and Babe Ruth on his team, Hall of Famers all. In 2006 with the Cubs, the only future Hall of Famer Dusty had to work with was 40 year old Greg Maddux. I like a lot of the young players the Reds have but I have a hard time believing 5 Hall of Famers will come from this group. I would love to be proven wrong but I am fairly certain time will prove differently.
All I ask of Dusty and the Reds is that you put in the effort to allow for victory and I am certain that Dusty will do that. Not sure about a few others and all I can say to them is “Don’t Let Me Down.”
Follow me on Twitter @JohnHeitz