Dusty Baker really can screw it all up. Jay Bruce is in Triple-A, while Corey Patterson and his career .298 OBP are slated for the leadoff slot. There are few things you can do to an offense worse than sticking a terrible OBP guy in the #1 hole. That’s what Patterson is, and if the decision to invite him to camp was a good one—he’d make an excellent fourth outfielder—and the decision to start him in center is marginally defensible, the decision to bat him first is just ridiculous.
The final verdict on the damage Baker might render isn’t in, which makes the next three days critical for Reds fans. The team’s lineups over the past few days are good signs, Patterson aside. Jeff Keppinger and Joey Votto have been starting at shortstop and first base, respectively, which is what the Reds need. Choosing the 1992 Braves (Mike Stanton and Kent Mercker) over Bill Bray for the bullpen isn’t a good decision. Stanton is simply done, while Bray has the kind of live arm that can be a weapon in a situational or full-inning role.
We can’t completely write off Baker. How he handles Votto’s first bad week, or Keppinger’s playing time once Alex Gonzalez returns, or Edwin Encarnacion, or the young pitchers in his charge once they appear at midseason, will all go into the final evaluation. The potential is there, however, for Baker to once again ride 88-win talent to 84 wins, and be hailed a hero for it.