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Thread: Is Dusty Baker able to fool the media...do they really like him?

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    Member Eric_Davis's Avatar
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    Is Dusty Baker able to fool the media...do they really like him?

    Oct. 15, 2007
    By Ray Ratto
    CBSSports.com Columnist

    Dusty Baker has just been hired to manage the Cincinnati Reds, which set one corner of the baseball world into full tizz alert. The corner that thinks to its soul that Dusty Baker is a horrible, player-first, pitcher-abusing, overpaid, bad-on-TV, thin-skinned failure of a manager.


    In Dusty Baker, the Cincinnati Reds are getting a manager with a career .527 winning percentage. (AP)
    Well, that's what having two out-of-contention seasons in Chicago will get you.

    Baker is an unusual hire for the Reds, in that he has never worked for the Reds. Cincinnati is an insular town with an insular ballclub, and the results of that insularity, combined with cheap and/or dim owners and a spotty development system, have combined to produce a team of profound mediocrity.

    In Baker, though, the new owners have hired an Internet piñata of the first magnitude, so this seems like as good a time as any analyze what about Baker makes his critics so crazy, and whether in fact it is true.

    "Horrible." A winning percentage of .527 is better than horrible, and so is 10 in-contention finishes in 14 years. "Horrible," when used without any statistical or analytical backup, only means that the user of the word doesn't like him. Did he have good players when he won? Duh. Did he have bad players when he lost? See Question 1. That's typically how this works. Managers ride their talent, they don't override them. Basic baseball truth, that.

    "Player-first." Here, guilty. Baker defends his players in public, sometimes to an almost uncomfortable degree, because that's the kind of player he was -– one who wanted his manager not to hang him out to dry in the morning paper.

    The largest example of this was Barry Bonds, but in that case, Baker was simply acceding to the first law of managing -– when your owner coddles your best player, that's the philosophy that prevails throughout the organization. In San Francisco, Barry Bonds was the emperor, and even those who thought it was Baker's idea saw that nothing changed after he left.

    "Pitcher-abusing." The prime examples here are Mark Prior and Kerry Wood, and they are both bad ones. Prior's injury history is (a) colliding with Marcus Giles; (b) blowing an Achilles' tendon; (c) being hit on the elbow with a Brad Hawpe line drive; and (d) shoulder issues that might have not been properly diagnosed by the Cubs doctors and in any event might well have resulted from any or all of the three other injuries.

    Wood has had a chronic bad elbow that was predicted when he first broke into the big leagues because of his high-energy delivery, and in any event began in 1999, four years before Baker got to Chicago. He also had a knee problem, which might have been the result of compensating for his arm issues.

    On the other hand, Baker always scored high in what numbers-based seamheads call "pitcher abuse" points, because he let his starters go 120 pitches and beyond. Since many of those pitchers were Livan Hernandez, who by any definition breaks that rule all to hell, this might be exaggerated somewhat.

    The Giants pitcher he is most commonly linked with in this area is Robb Nen, who like Wood had a history before he got to San Francisco and, like Wood, maintained the same high-torque delivery. Should Baker have had those deliveries changed? Maybe, but they might have also cost those pitchers their careers just as certainly.

    He did ride hot hands, true, but teams in contention always do so. Was he predisposed toward high pitch counts? Yes. Is that good? As a rule, no. Is there a trail of destroyed pitchers in his wake? Not really, once you see that Prior and Wood aren't good examples of Baker's alleged "abuse." In other words, shut up about Aaron Harang and Homer Bailey.

    "Bad on TV." A matter of taste at best, spiteful at worst, and not worth discussing in this context.

    "Overpaid." He has made good money in a job where the new trend is to underpay and undercut. He is paid what his employer is comfortable paying him, so in that context no. Compared to a teacher, or a nurse, or a janitor, or an entry-level anything, hell yes.

    "Thin-skinned." Maybe, but that's only if you believe Lou Piniella is a gentle soul, or Tony La Russa lets criticism roll off his back, or Ozzie Guillen is a Zen master.

    Baker has had no recorded YouTube-quality tantrums, but he does speak his mind and defend his turf, perhaps to his detriment if your idea of the perfect manager's temperament is Joe Torre. He does pay more attention to public commentary than he should, but that hardly puts him at the front of the pack.

    "Failure." Yeah, right. Next to Bonds, he is the most important hire Peter Magowan ever made as managing general whatever of the Giants. He managed the only team in the post-playoff world to win as many as 103 games and not get into the playoffs. He was one Scott Spiezio golf swing from managing a team to the World Series title. He was one Alex Gonzalez error from being the manager when the Cubs got to their first World Series since 1945. Yeah, that sucks. He's brutal. Chase him with sticks.

    Is Dusty Baker a good hire then? The short answer is he isn't bad at all. The more involved answer is, that depends on Adam Dunn and Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips and Harang and Bailey and Wayne Krivsky and Bob Castellini.

    In other words, when evaluating Baker, trust nobody and nothing except (a) your own lying eyes, and (b) the standings. That last one is a handy and much underrated tool for this sort of thing.

    Ray Ratto is a columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle.


    -----------------------------------------------------------------

    I love this response by an emailer named Dillon1998:

    October 16, 2007 2:11 am

    Prior never blew an Achilles tendon. He had tendonitis, and it was probably caused by compensating for his overuse arm injuries.

    Moreover, Dusty's pitch-counts for Prior during the 2003 season weren't just negligent, they were practically criminal. At the end of his 22-year-old season - September, at a time when he was already well above his all-time high for innings pitched, Dusty left Prior in for outings of 131, 129, 124, 131, and 133 pitches.

    And the abuse continued in the playoffs - Dusty let Prior start the 8th inning of Game 2 of the 2003 NLCS with a 10-run lead and 110+ pitches already thrown. He sat in the dugout and chewed toothpicks after the Bartman incident in Game 6 while Prior, visibly laboring and visibly upset, already up at ~120 pitches and only in the high-80's with his fastball, got knocked around.

    "Thin-skinned"? Very. Dusty repeatedly fell back on the "Well, dude, I'm a MLB manager and you're NOT, so I'm smarter" routine with reporters after they (correctly) called Dusty out on his abuse of Prior, Wood, and Zambrano, or called Dusty out on an improper double-switch.

    On at least two occasions, Dusty incorrectly double-switched, causing the Cubs to bat out of order and costing the team outs. On countless other occasions, Dusty would double-switch stupidly, causing the pitcher's spot to come up sooner. On most occasions after a double-switch, Dusty would only use the pitcher for 1 inning anyway, making the double-switch unnecessary to begin with. Once, Dusty (or, more likely, one of his coaches) recognized a double-switch mistake after one batter, and the Cubs had to make a second double-switch, yanking an outfielder in the middle of an inning. Amateur hour!

    "Thin-skinned"? Dusty took such umbrage with Steve Stone's (spot-on) criticism of his managing failures that the best color man in TV was run out of Chicago. When Stoney is noting that you ran zero hit-and-run plays in the 2004 season.... and he's not exaggerating... there's a problem.

    The "Fact" is, Dusty isn't a very good baseball mind. ("Walks clog the bases", right?) This is why the Cubs fired him three years after he made the NLCS, and this is why the Giants fired him immediately after winning the pennant. Great teams can win in spite of him, but he'll cost every team wins, and his locker rooms eventually dissolve into anarchy and in-fighting.

    The Reds have made a terrible mistake. As a baseball fan, I hope that the Reds end up paying a lesser price than the Cubs did for hiring Dusty Baker - they're still doing penance a year later. Mark Prior, now only 25 years old, may never recover.
    Rob Neyer: "Any writer who says he'd be a better manager than the worst manager is either 1) lying (i.e. 'using poetic license') or 2) patently delusional. Which isn't to say managers don't do stupid things that you or I wouldn't."

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    The Lineups stink. KronoRed's Avatar
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    Re: Is Dusty Baker able to fool the media...do they really like him?

    The media in this town will love him.
    Go Gators!

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    breath westofyou's Avatar
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    Re: Is Dusty Baker able to fool the media...do they really like him?

    Ray Ratto writes for the Chronicle his knowledge of Dusty goes way beyond Dillon1998's Prior fixation.

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    Stat Wanker Hodiernus RedsManRick's Avatar
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    Re: Is Dusty Baker able to fool the media...do they really like him?

    There definitely seems be a fight right now between the "Dusty is satan" and "Dusty has done no wrong" crowds.

    Here's a thought, Mark Prior had a number of injuries unrelated to his arm AND Dusty Baker made him throw a lot of unnecessary pitches. Both sides in the discussion are so focused on using the "facts" to support their case, that I have yet to see any real commentary which accurately reflects reality.

    Baker does seem to favor veterans, but it's also true that he never had a ton of talented youth to utilize.

    Baker has ridden a number of his pitchers very hard, but those pitchers have had other reasons for concerns as well.

    Baker does seem to make the occasional strategic mistake, but let's be careful to properly assess the value/cost of those decisions in the big picture.

    Baker does seem to be a bit too protective of himself and his players. However, again, let's make sure this isn't a criticism just for the fun of it, but that we cite the real negative outcome of this issue.

    I'm clearly on record as not being a Dusty fan. However, I think we should be careful not too just uncritically mimic the various complaints OR dismiss those complaints out of hand because the may be made in an overly dramatic fashion. Let's look at his actions and examine the impact of those actions in their proper context. Nothing is served by this over-heated, back-and-forth struggle between witch hunt and absolution.
    Games are won on run differential -- scoring more than your opponent. Runs are runs, scored or prevented they all count the same. Worry about scoring more and allowing fewer, not which positions contribute to which side of the equation or how "consistent" you are at your current level of performance.

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    RZ Chamber of Commerce Unassisted's Avatar
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    Re: Is Dusty Baker able to fool the media...do they really like him?

    With the notable exception of some radio talkers, the Cincinnati media are really quite gentle with Reds players and management compared to media in larger cities. IIRC, there were one or two beat writers who actually lamented the departure of Dan O'Brien. If he doesn't listen to the radio, Dusty should find the media in Cincinnati to be a refreshing change from his last two stops.
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    Posting in Dynarama M2's Avatar
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    Re: Is Dusty Baker able to fool the media...do they really like him?

    Quote Originally Posted by RedsManRick View Post
    There definitely seems be a fight right now between the "Dusty is satan" and "Dusty has done no wrong" crowds.
    I see a lot of people in the "Dusty is Satan" crowd. I've yet to see one person I'd categorize as thinking "Dusty has done no wrong."
    Baseball isn't a magic trick ... it doesn't get spoiled if you figure out how it works. - gonelong

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    Re: Is Dusty Baker able to fool the media...do they really like him?

    Quote Originally Posted by M2 View Post
    I see a lot of people in the "Dusty is Satan" crowd. I've yet to see one person I'd categorize as thinking "Dusty has done no wrong."
    I kind of disagree with that. It seems like those from the Chicago era (fans, journalists and the like) are in the "Dusty is Satan" crowd and those from the Giants era are in the "Dusty has done no wrong" camp.

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    Re: Is Dusty Baker able to fool the media...do they really like him?

    Quote Originally Posted by fearofpopvol1 View Post
    I kind of disagree with that. It seems like those from the Chicago era (fans, journalists and the like) are in the "Dusty is Satan" crowd and those from the Giants era are in the "Dusty has done no wrong" camp.
    I imagine Giants fans like him better, but you've got a column from San Francisco's Ray Ratto right there and he's saying:

    "Is Dusty Baker a good hire then? The short answer is he isn't bad at all. The more involved answer is, that depends on Adam Dunn and Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips and Harang and Bailey and Wayne Krivsky and Bob Castellini."

    That's hardly a case of acting like the guy is some sort of baseball messiah.

    Plus, it's not just the Chicago folks who've indulged in the frantic Dusty bashing. A good chunk of the numbers-oriented crowd apparently has a Dusty itch that must be scratched as well. Apparently you don't have to be rational about Dusty Baker.
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    Rally Onion! Chip R's Avatar
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    Re: Is Dusty Baker able to fool the media...do they really like him?

    Quote Originally Posted by Unassisted View Post
    With the notable exception of some radio talkers, the Cincinnati media are really quite gentle with Reds players and management compared to media in larger cities. IIRC, there were one or two beat writers who actually lamented the departure of Dan O'Brien. If he doesn't listen to the radio, Dusty should find the media in Cincinnati to be a refreshing change from his last two stops.

    True. The Chicago media may be a pack of jackals compared to the Cincinnati media but they can be somewhat tough as well. I'd liken them to a bunch of old ladies living in a small town all related to each other who gossip. Usually gossip doesn't do anyone any harm but sometimes things are said that people don't like and then problems ensue.

    I think Big Dust's biggest problems are going to be with Cowboy and Franchester. Now Cowboy loves him some Dusty but he's also someone who will criticize players - especially pitchers. I see a lot of potential conflict there.
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    Stat Wanker Hodiernus RedsManRick's Avatar
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    Re: Is Dusty Baker able to fool the media...do they really like him?

    Quote Originally Posted by M2 View Post
    I see a lot of people in the "Dusty is Satan" crowd. I've yet to see one person I'd categorize as thinking "Dusty has done no wrong."
    I don't think you'll see that latter as a blanket statement. I meant to imply those making excuses on his behalf, ones based in a narrow interpretation of events. Perhaps the phrase "Dusty apologist" would have been more precise.
    Games are won on run differential -- scoring more than your opponent. Runs are runs, scored or prevented they all count the same. Worry about scoring more and allowing fewer, not which positions contribute to which side of the equation or how "consistent" you are at your current level of performance.

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    Re: Is Dusty Baker able to fool the media...do they really like him?

    Quote Originally Posted by M2 View Post
    I imagine Giants fans like him better, but you've got a column from San Francisco's Ray Ratto right there and he's saying:

    "Is Dusty Baker a good hire then? The short answer is he isn't bad at all. The more involved answer is, that depends on Adam Dunn and Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips and Harang and Bailey and Wayne Krivsky and Bob Castellini."

    That's hardly a case of acting like the guy is some sort of baseball messiah.

    Plus, it's not just the Chicago folks who've indulged in the frantic Dusty bashing. A good chunk of the numbers-oriented crowd apparently has a Dusty itch that must be scratched as well. Apparently you don't have to be rational about Dusty Baker.
    Valid point(s).

    But Ray Rotto is just one example. And to be honest, I didn't interpret the article the way you did. I thought Rotto was more defending Dusty than putting him down. Could he have used better language to convey that if that's what he really felt? Absolutely. But, I took away from the article that he was saying that the field manager would be in tact and that it was up to the players and the ownership to make the rest happen.

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    Posting in Dynarama M2's Avatar
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    Re: Is Dusty Baker able to fool the media...do they really like him?

    Quote Originally Posted by RedsManRick View Post
    I don't think you'll see that latter as a blanket statement. I meant to imply those making excuses on his behalf, ones based in a narrow interpretation of events. Perhaps the phrase "Dusty apologist" would have been more precise.
    Well, if pointing out that he's done a few things right along the way too makes one an apologist, then I'll happily be considered an apologist. The black/white on this has been absurd.
    Baseball isn't a magic trick ... it doesn't get spoiled if you figure out how it works. - gonelong

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    Re: Is Dusty Baker able to fool the media...do they really like him?

    The black/white on this has been absurd.
    As usual.

    But when it gets to the real black/white issue (race), that's when things get oh so subtle.
    "Baseball is a very, very complex business. It's more of a people business than most businesses." - Bob Castellini

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    Party like it's 1990 Blitz Dorsey's Avatar
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    Re: Is Dusty Baker able to fool the media...do they really like him?

    I like the Dusty hire. His teams in San Fran always overachieved IMO. Chicago didn't go as well obviously, but he was on the doorstep of a WS in Chicago and his body of work was much longer in San Fran.

    And I agree with Ratto that it's up to Cast and Kriv now. Baker is going to be a solid manager here and the core of players is already in place. But if they can go out and get him a couple more pitchers and a couple position players to fill in, the Reds could have something right away in 2008. The Central will be there for the taking perhaps again. I don't see the Cubs doing much this offseason after spending so much last year and with their ownership in flux. If the Reds just have a decent offseason, nothing flashy, just decent, they are going to be contenders right away.

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    Stat Wanker Hodiernus RedsManRick's Avatar
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    Re: Is Dusty Baker able to fool the media...do they really like him?

    Quote Originally Posted by M2 View Post
    Well, if pointing out that he's done a few things right along the way too makes one an apologist, then I'll happily be considered an apologist. The black/white on this has been absurd.
    "Pitcher-abusing." The prime examples here are Mark Prior and Kerry Wood, and they are both bad ones. Prior's injury history is (a) colliding with Marcus Giles; (b) blowing an Achilles' tendon; (c) being hit on the elbow with a Brad Hawpe line drive; and (d) shoulder issues that might have not been properly diagnosed by the Cubs doctors and in any event might well have resulted from any or all of the three other injuries....

    ....He did ride hot hands, true, but teams in contention always do so. Was he predisposed toward high pitch counts? Yes. Is that good? As a rule, no. Is there a trail of destroyed pitchers in his wake? Not really, once you see that Prior and Wood aren't good examples of Baker's alleged "abuse." In other words, shut up about Aaron Harang and Homer Bailey.
    So which one of of (a), (b), or (c) is responsible for the significant amount of wear and tear on his on Prior's labrum? Or did that happen solely at USC? Is it not possible that Dusty putting him out there for 130 pitches a dozen times as a 22 year old at least contributed to the injury(ies)? Not according to Ray Ratto; he's saying that those other 3 injuries could very well have been the cause of an injury which is a repetitive use injury by definition. The inference being that because we can't prove Dusty directly and solely caused the injuries suffered by Prior and Wood, we should ignore his use of those two pitchers as examples of pitcher abuse.

    I'm not trying to say that I know for sure that Dusty Baker caused Mark Prior's problem. However, Ray Ratto wants to not even consider it a possibility and to not to take it as a reason for concern regarding the future health of our pitchers.

    The entire structure of the article is him going point by point and saying that either the criticism is wrong and unfounded or that it's justified by irrelevant. I call that being an apologist -- not taking an even handed approach towards Dusty's strengths and weaknesses.

    I think we agree in principal. A lot of people, including myself, have jumped to conclusions about Baker based on heresay and/or a very cursory look at the available record of evidence. But to suggest that we have no reason for concern based on his past actions is just ignorant. In fact, Ratto would have us use the standings as our primary judgment tool of managers, and frankly I think that's a really naive way to approach manager evaluation.
    Last edited by RedsManRick; 10-17-2007 at 05:47 PM.
    Games are won on run differential -- scoring more than your opponent. Runs are runs, scored or prevented they all count the same. Worry about scoring more and allowing fewer, not which positions contribute to which side of the equation or how "consistent" you are at your current level of performance.


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