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03-30-2008, 01:31 AM
Reds players ponder a life outside of baseball

By Hal McCoy

Staff Writer

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Several Reds were asked what

they thought their profession would be if they weren't major-league baseball players. Some knew right away, some thought about it.

Jeff Keppinger: "I would have taken school more seriously, and you may not believe me, but I'm going to go the lawyer route. I'm pretty good at arguing. At least my mom told me that."

David Weathers: "Always wanted to be a jockey, but it would have to be a Clydesdale. A writer asked me that once and I told him 'a jockey,' and didn't say anything else. He stared at me as if I had two heads and said, 'What kind of horse could you ride?' Actually, I'd be a high school coach. I've had a lot of practice working every day with my son, Ryan."

Adam Dunn: (Long, long pause) I'd be a financial adviser. (Several teammates laughed out loud.) Hey, I would be. I majored in finances in college. I'd have to put this head to good use in some way."

Joey Votto: "I'd be a chef. I've spent a lot of time around kitchens. My mother and father owned a restaurant in Canada, and I was always in the kitchen with him. I don't have a signature dish, but I'd come up with one."

Brandon Phillips: "I'd be Jerry Maguire (Show me the money!). I'd be a player agent. I've been around my agent a lot and see what he does and how good he is. That's what I'd like to do."

Corey Patterson: I always thought I'd be a pro football player. It's still sports, but it's what I always wanted to be. I grew up around it. My dad (Donald) played a couple of years of pro football for the Detroit Lions and the New York Giants. I'd be a defensive back."


03-30-2008, 01:34 AM
Rejuvenated Baker eager to win again
A man with nothing to prove plans to get back on top with a winning team after a year of healing Chicago wounds.

By Hal McCoy

Staff Writer

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Whoever asks gets the same answer about Dusty Baker's forced year away from managing a major-league baseball team. How was it, Dusty?

"It enabled me to cleanse myself, recharge myself," he said. "That last year in Chicago (2006) was pretty tough, a world of negativity fired at me from all sides."

Baker said his wife, Melissa, soothed him and told him, "Life goes on. It isn't worth keeping in your belly. Baseball is important, but it isn't everything."

A cleansed, refreshed and regenerated Baker is back in the manager's chair, trying to lead the Cincinnati Reds out of a seven-year losing pit. Six weeks of spring training was what Baker needed, his fix is back, and now he says, "It is time to start winning."

Winning is what Baker is all about.

"My daughter, Natasha, once asked me, 'Daddy, why do you always have to win?' " Baker said, tugging at his ever-present wrist bands and shifting the ever-present toothpick between his lips. "I never let my kids win at anything."

Baker said it is mostly about not losing, which is what he did his last two years as manager of the Chicago Cubs. Those two losing seasons followed eight straight winning seasons at Chicago and San Francisco.

"I don't like that losing, man," he said. "That losing makes me miserable. I don't like that 'L' by my name at all. I don't want my name even associated with anything that starts with 'L,' you know what I'm saying? I like W's."

Year of healing

With that preamble, Baker walks into a losing situation with the Reds, a team that hasn't had a winning season since 2000, a team that hasn't made the postseason since 1995.

"My last year in Chicago? Man, that ate me up big-time," he said. "I don't want to go through that ever again, hopefully the rest of my life."

When the Cubs relieved Baker of his duties after a 66-96 season in 2006, he spent a year working at ESPN as a baseball analyst and was feeling comfortable in the studio chair. But he became squirmy at times, thinking about an even more comfortable swivel chair in a baseball manager's office.

So when the Reds came calling, Baker answered the call, his psyche ready to be soothed, his enthusiasm a boiling cauldron again.

"I'm very motivated for this job," he said. "It was a wonderful year (2007) and I did a lot of healing, emotional healing. You know, whenever you have scars, scars heal back stronger than the skin that was there the first time."

In addition to time in the ESPN studios, Baker took a trip to Africa, fished in Montana, fished in Quebec and shot turkey with his son, Darren.

"Those are things I never had time to do before, and they were wonderful," he said.

But baseball grumbled in his belly, and he knew the only traveling he wanted to do was on charter flights as manager of a baseball team.

"It's time to get back," he said. "I talked to a number of people about how long I should stay out of the game before they forget you and about whether I should come to Cincinnati," he said. "I talked to Joe Morgan, I talked to Al Attles (former Golden State Warriors coach), I talked to Al Rosen (former Giants general manager) a number of people whose opinions I trust."

Baker talked with his wife and his father, Johnnie, who has been ill and was another reason Baker took a year off "so I could be around him and help him."

Baker didn't take long to say yes to the Reds and a three-year, $11 million deal.

"It's a good organization with a great history, and if I have to make a change, I might as well make a major change," Baker said with a smile. "I've never been in red. Every uniform I had on had some blue in it all my life, so it is the first time for red. Let's take it back to the top."

Baseball to Wall Street

Johnnie B. "Dusty" Baker Jr. was born in Riverside, Calif., and lives in San Francisco. He was a solid major-league player for 15 seasons, mostly with the Atlanta Braves and the Los Angeles Dodgers. In 1972, his rookie year, he hit .321 for the Braves. Early in the year, before it was known how good he would be, Baker hit a late-inning home run to beat the Reds, and manager Sparky Anderson was fuming after the game.

"I can't believe we just got beat by Dusty Frigging Baker," Anderson said.

When his career ended in 1986 with a .278 lifetime average with 242 homers and 320 doubles, Baker wondered what path his life would take. He was a sullen stockbroker in 1987.

"There was that Wall Street crash, and then I got a divorce and my life was spinning," he said. "That's when the general manager of the Giants, Al Rosen, called and asked, 'Would you like to be in baseball?' "

Baker didn't leap with both feet. His indirect answer was, "I don't know."

"What would you like to do?" Rosen asked.

"I'd like to be your assistant so I could be general manager some day," Baker said.

Rosen told Baker he would fit better on the field, and when Baker asked him what he meant, Rosen said, "A field manager. It'll take you five years to get the player out of you, and you'll be ready."

Said Baker, "It was exactly five years. And I'm glad, because as a stockbroker I didn't like asking people for money."

But he is adept at asking baseball players to do the right things on the field. His first team the 1993 Giants won 103 games, but finished second to the Braves in the National League West and didn't make the playoffs because there was no wild card at the time.

The 2000 Giants lost the World Series to the Angels and the '02 Cubs lost the National League Championship Series to the Florida Marlins. Along the way Baker has won 1,162 games and lost 1,044.

Baker says he has nothing to prove to himself in Cincinnati. "I know I can manage," he said. "I don't have to prove that or prove anything. I never felt like a loser, no matter what. That never came to mind. I had to win for my own sake of winning.

"I don't want it to end like that (in Chicago). I want it to end on how I am. Simple as that. I'm not a TV man, I'm a manager."


03-30-2008, 01:36 AM
Rites of spring: Heaters, hazing and Homer
Hall-of-Fame baseball writer reveals top five memories from his 36th spring training covering the Reds.

By Hal McCoy

Staff Writer

Sunday, March 30, 2008

After 36 spring trainings, they all run together like melting vanilla ice cream and Hershey's Syrup. But here are five things I remember about 2008, maybe the next-to-last camp in Sarasota, Fla. ... and the day all 88 toilets quit working at Ed Smith Stadium isn't one of them:

1 Watching out the pressroom window every morning to see which vehicle Ken Griffey Jr. drove that day the Land Rover, the Mercedes, the Jaguar, the Bentley or the Aston Martin. He never did drive his Dodge minivan.

2 Watching Homer Bailey walk into the clubhouse in cowboy boots, Wrangler jeans, a silver belt buckle and a sheathed Bowie knife on his side, looking as if he were more interested in hunting elk or prairie dogs than striking out opposing hitters.

3 Watching scouts do double-takes as they glanced at their speed guns after they saw 97 and 98 on rookie Johnny Cueto's fastballs, then having one scout say, "Not only should that kid be on the Reds staff, he should be their ace." More disrespect for Aaron Harang?

4 Watching Jay Bruce dutifully and with a smile taking his rookie hazing, including at the insistence of Adam Dunn autographing his photo on the cover of a baseball newspaper and taking it to manager Dusty Baker's office with orders to say, "Mr. Baker, I thought you might want this." Maybe that's why Bruce was demoted to Louisville.

5 Watching 22-year-old former Dayton Dragons pitcher Daryl Thompson make his major-league exhibition debut by striking out the side against the New York Yankees, then saying with a huge grin, "This just proves to me I can compete up here." Then he made his second (and final) appearance of the spring, again against the Yankees, and retired four straight with another strikeout.


03-30-2008, 01:41 AM
Take these predictions on '08 Reds to the bank

By Hal McCoy

Staff Writer

Sunday, March 30, 2008

One of Cincinnati Reds General Manager Wayne Krivsky's favorite sayings when asked about a time frame for injuries is: "I don't have a crystal ball."

Well I don't either and, in fact, I don't even have a cut-glass ball or a jelly jar in which to peer. That, though, doesn't prevent me from forecasting some events for the 2008 Cincinnati Reds.

Why not go on record with some predictions so readers can come back after the season and say, "You just proved you're an idiot, as if there was any doubt."

The Reds will finish above .500, something they haven't done in seven years. It may only be 82-80, but that could be good enough for the National League Central title. The Cubs won it last year with 85 and the division is still as weak as a little girl's imaginary tea.

Ken Griffey Jr. hits seven home runs in April and reaches 600 before May. He hits 35 for the season, drives in 105, but the Reds don't pick up his $16.5 million option for 2009 and he signs with Seattle to become the Mariners' designated hitter.

Eventually he retires as a Mariner and goes into the Baseball Hall of Fame wearing a Seattle cap, sailing off into the sunset on his boat to the Bahamas.

Adam Dunn hits 40 home runs, drives in 100, scores 100 and walks 100 times. (That's not a prediction, that's a regular event, like the buzzards returning every March to Hinckley, Ohio.) The prediction is that the Reds sign him to a three-year, $45 million deal and he buys the Houston Texans and installs himself as quarterback (just kidding about the quarterback part).

Dusty Baker is named National League Manager of the Year, gets a call from the president of the United States and calls him, "That president dude." Even if the Reds don't win the division, if Baker can turn in a winning season after seven years of bad luck (OK, who broke the mirror in 2000?), he'll qualify.

Corey Patterson starts the season in center field, but bats only .250 in April, so the Reds call up this kid who is tearing it up in Louisville, a kid named Jay Bruce, and he hits .318 the rest of the year. But he loses the Rookie of the Year vote to somebody with inferior numbers in New York or Philadelphia.

Aaron Harang is 12-3 at the All-Star break, but doesn't make the All-Star team. When National League manager Clint Hurdle is asked why Aaron didn't make it, he says, "Aaron Cook did make it, what're ya' talkin' about?"

Josh Hamilton is hitting .325 with 20 home runs and 47 RBIs at the All-Star break for Texas and Reds fans continue asking, "Why did we trade this guy?" Meanwhile, Edinson Volquez is 9-4 with a 3.50 earned-run average and the same fans ask, "How'd we get this guy?"

Yeah, I know. Pretty far-fetched. But was it Yogi Berra or Joe Garagiola or Rodney Dangerfield who said, "Baseball is a funny game, but it will break your heart until the Fat Lady sings."


03-30-2008, 01:42 AM
3 guys who could have breakout seasons

By Hal McCoy

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Three players who will have breakout seasons in 2008 to help the Reds eradicate the bad memories of seven straight losing seasons:

Edwin Encarnacion, 3B The quiet kid who has "Can't Miss" stamped on his forehead, but has missed so far, is only 25 (hard to believe) and this is the year it all clicks in for him under the observant eye of Dusty Baker.

Joey Votto, 1B The Canadian native and resident gets tired of the question, "Didn't you play hockey?" No, he can't even skate. He showed glimpses of what he can do last September when he hit .321, and if given the playing time could turn that into an entire season of .300 hitting.

Alex Gonzalez, SS He was not himself last season due to off-field worries about his gravely ill infant son and he missed all of spring training this year with a knee injury. If all is well, on and off the field, fans will see Gonzalez at his best, as one of baseball's best defensive shortstops with enough pop to hit 25 home runs.


03-30-2008, 03:10 AM
That's some good stuff from Hal there on the predictions.

However, it's funny how EE "has missed so far" by OPS'ing .832 at age 23 and .794 and age 24. Meanwhile, Phillips is the new face of the franchise while OPS'ing .751 at age 25 and .816 at age 26.

Ah the joy of a big smile, speaking English, and your manager not hating you (and thus giving you regular at bats and putting you in the clean up spot because you destroy left handed pitching)...

Or maybe he's just talking about defense....

03-30-2008, 04:56 AM
Or maybe he's just talking about defense....

It's all about the steals.

Big Klu
03-30-2008, 09:47 AM
Corey Patterson: I always thought I'd be a pro football player. It's still sports, but it's what I always wanted to be. I grew up around it. My dad (Donald) played a couple of years of pro football for the Detroit Lions and the New York Giants. I'd be a defensive back.

Corey, when you take the field Monday afternoon, look at the big guy to your right wearing #44. Now imagine you have to tackle him after he's caught a football over the middle. If you think you can do that, then maybe you do have a career in the NFL. :cool: