Out of 100 percent, what percent is it Dusty Baker's fault that Mark Prior is not a great pitcher today?
If we are assigning blame I'd just like to see some perspective.
Just some thoughts about some of the stuff discussed in this thread.
1. I do think we've progressed quite a bit in 10 years in the understanding of pitch counts, innings progressions and increasing the odds that we can keep young arms healthier.
2. Blaming Dusty and the Cubs for what happened to Prior seems a lot like blaming the mid-evil "healer" for treating some one with a bacterial infection with leeches.
3. Just because there are examples of guys who have made massive innings jumps with no ill effects does not mean that the current trend of limiting innings jumps and pitch counts is a worthless general practice. I'm sure there are examples of people who have smoked 2 packs a day without ever experiencing heart disease or lung cancer and others who have lived the model lifestyle yet still been stricken, it doesn't mean it would be in the best interests of a person's health to smoke. I feel the same way about innings progressions and pitch count limits. There will be guys who stay healthy even if they are "abused" and others who will be handled carefully and still end-up with injuries. It doesn't mean that following the general practice in order to increase the odds of staying healthy is a worthless practice. IMO, it would be irresponsible to go against this current "wisdom." It's not a guarantee, no one ever claimed it was, but thowing caution to the wind with a young arm is crazy IMO. I hope the Reds follow some version of this with Aroldis Chapman this year (though Chapman is a little older than the traditional 30 innings jump theory which mostly has been intended for kids 23 and under).
4. Of course money is a motivator in how these arms are handled. Money is the motivator for everything in professional sports.
You have to go with best current practice, which changes as we learn more. And we're always learning more, whether you're talking about baseball or knee surgery.
I very much like the job Dusty is doing with the Reds and am hesitant to go after him for things that have happened in the past, but yes, his handling of Prior is likely part of the reason for his injuries. Upper management also deserves some of the blame. We know more now, and I don't see this repeating, at least partially because of what happened to Prior.
I think Homer's added muscle helped keep him healthier in 2012, but you have to wonder if the young age innngs jump played a part in his 3 stints on the DL wth shoulder woes. That wasn't in the dark ages, but it was with Dick Pole involved (as was Prior's handling). We haven't seen anything like that since Pole left town. I have wonder how much Pole's seeming refusal to consider current wisdom is actually what he believes and, if so, how much it had to do with Walt stepping in and making the move to Price. It may have nothing to do with it and Pole may actually embrace the current wisdom, we'll never really know.
I have often said that Walt Jocketty's best move as Reds General Manager was hiring Bryan Price to be the pitching coach. Maybe Dusty Baker should get some of that credit too. I don't know whose idea it was to go after Price, but managers are usually given a lot of input when it comes time to build a coaching staff.
Bryan Price has done a magnificent job with the Reds' pitching staff. I am confident that Price is truly the guy making the decisions when it comes to how to handle the Reds pitchers. Dusty has input and makes the final decision, but 99% of handling the staff is all Bryan Price.
I am confident that Price is well aware of all the saber studies that have shown just how dangerous it is to overwork pitchers and how much their performance declines as their pitch counts climb. There is so much more information out there today compared to what was available in 2003. The body of knowledge has skyrocketed and has propelled the science of pitching to great new heights. Price seems fully up to date and may even be ahead of the curve. I believe Dusty follows his advice. I don't think we will see Dusty abusing pitchers anymore. He has learned his lesson.
Similarly, there are a few rare guys like Nolan Ryan who can pitch all day every day for 27 years and never suffer an injury or see their effectiveness decline. But it is still a proven fact that pitching too much is very dangerous to your health and will hurt your level of effectiveness. Nolan Ryan had a career ERA+ of 112, which is good but not that much better than average (compare it to Mark Prior's 179 ERA+ in 2003 for example). Perhaps Nolan Ryan would have delivered a much better career ERA if he had not been overworked so severely.
Avoiding cigarettes is very likely to lead to a healthier, happier, longer life.
Avoiding overworking your pitching arm is very likely to lead to pitching more effectively, suffering fewer injuries and having a longer career.
I do think references to an extreme outlier in terms of ability to handle a huge workload in terms of pitch counts and innings like Nolan Ryan are not that useful in this kind of discussion.
I know this sounds facetious but it isn't. I would like to read those studies. To me, the idea seems pretty obvious but I'm not sure that it has really played out as many believe it has.
But it may take a while.