Jul 8, 2013; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Cincinnati Reds left fielder Chris Heisey (28) is greeted by manager Dusty Baker (12) after hitting a home run in the 4th inning against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
I wouldn’t say the Reds can’t play under pressure. But they haven’t, at least not of late. And I’m not just talking about hitting with runners in scoring position. That’s going to fluctuate, as it does with every team. You’ll never read me shoveling verbal manure in this space, talking about the things I’d do as manager, like who I’d bat second and who I’d bring in late in the game. That’s silly talk. Plenty of Reds blogs sling that kinda’ stuff like blue dream. If you’re looking for fire Baker material, check them out.
But I’m not an apologist either. And at some juncture, someone has to be held accountable for the nonsense we’re witnessing on the base path seemingly every game. Yesterday, Robinson nearly induced insanity when he ambitiously tried to swipe third, with no outs, and another guy on first. Joey Votto was up to bat. But that’s just one anecdote from a road trip that provided multiple: Cozart (2), Votto, Mesoraco, Choo and Bruce. The radio guys have noticed:
*Marty: “What is alarming right now is that every game it seems someone does something stupid.”
And I’m willing to accept that answer. Pressure can make a lot of guys press and be reckless. It’s not as if the Reds are intentionally doing these things. Some guys are pressing, others may be frustrated to the point where their focus drifts. And by no means am I saying it has, but do you remember Joey Votto getting thrown out at second the other day because he didn’t look up after rounding first until the ball was already being sent back to the infield? Jay Bruce falls asleep yesterday and gets picked off.
And we can deal with errors. But Joey amassed his career best 12th error because he decided to keep his sunglasses on his hat instead of over his eyes. We’ve witnessed Todd Frazier do this too, for the exact same reason.
It’s trivial to argue lineups and bullpen moves – I mean you can offer any alternative to Baker’s if his option fails. That’s just too easy and meaningless. You would have brought in Chapman against Puig in LA and you would have let LeCure pitch the 9th in game one in San Diego, as William Cunningham imprudently suggested on the radio. Stop it.
Baseball isn’t so different than any other business. Management, regardless of whether it’s directly responsible for performance or not, is accountable for performance. Companies change CEO’s all the time when stocks don’t perform, for the sole purpose of satisfying shareholders and ensuring they’re aware of the problem. Store managers are demoted for others when their stores don’t meet expectations. Branch managers in poor regions of performance are axed when the numbers remain stagnant. It’s just life. Baseball is no different. And this year, you can argue that Baker’s been handed the keys to the Porsche. When you witness mistakes like these, what are you supposed to think?
I’m not here to criticize Baker for a five game skid, I’m saying he needs to be accountable for the borderline imbecilic base running and fielding. If you’re familiar with my work in any capacity, you’ll know that I invest little importance in the manager of a baseball team. Managing a baseball team is very simple, provided you have a good roster. You bat good guys high, mediocre guys low, pitchers last. You try to get RH batters facing LHP, and vice versa. You have a bullpen with delegated responsibilities and innings. It’s not hard. Mounds of data available to make any decision you need to make to leave you validated. But what I consider the most important facet of any manager’s job is the tone that’s being set. And what kind of tone do the recent mistakes insinuate?
Baker is a player’s manager. In my opinion, these managers traditionally garner the respect of their players and thus gain their trust and their complete and undivided effort. I like it. But when things get this sloppy, isn’t it time we started asking just exactly what is going on between management and players? Maybe it’s nothing. Maybe it’s all just the result of pressure. But again. Managers set tones. Tones dictate things, like how you respond to pressure. If I get paid to blog, and I’m told that spelling errors and no links hurt this blog, and I repeatedly mak thos spellin errers, at some point, aren’t people going to start asking my editor why the hell I’m being given space? If you’re an accountant and you’re repeatedly messing up the count, who is the CEO going to first – you, or the manager of accounts payable or receivable?
Jul 29, 2013; San Diego, CA, USA; Cincinnati Reds center fielder Derrick Robinson (15) slides into third base for a triple during the fifth inning against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park. . Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
So the obvious question becomes, what curbs this behavior? If you’re a car mechanic who has been shorting people air in their tires, causing their tire pressure lights to become eternally enabled, what motivates you to make sure you’re paying attention and adequately filling that tire? What motivates you to ensure you’re carrying the ones in accounting and ensuring 100 percent accuracy?
What is in the minds of the Reds while they’re on the bases? I don’t know. But at the rate of their mistakes, is it fair to believe there isn’t much fear of ramifications? Doesn’t mean I’m saying there aren’t ramifications. Let their actions speak for themselves. How often are you pulling your hair out after watching another coveted, precious run fall victim to mindless base running aggression?
Skip has a job. It’s not time to demand his resignation, but it’s not unfair to demand a more competent product either.