Reading/watching last night's game threads, I think I had some new insight about the strengths and weaknesses of Dusty Baker... and why he is both loved and ridiculed.
Dusty is a great strategist... he has the skills to make excellent long term decisions and has a unique ability to get the most out of his players over time.
On the other hand, his method of leadership is not so useful in winning a given battle/game/series. He will continually make choices that are best for the team/player over time, even when they cost the game.
Unlike some other managers, Dusty does not have much ability to switch from strategy to tactics... he does not have ability to change who he is in times where the short term need exceeds the long term.
For example, last night Dusty chose to put Massett in rather than pitch Lecure or Chapman an extra inning. As far as that inidividual battle, this appears to be a horrible decision. Lecure was only at 87 pitches through 6 with only one run. The tactician would say to give him another inning. The strategist, however, says that the benefit gained in Lecure's confidence after pitching 6 strong innings is the bird in the hand and not worth the risk of losing by pushing him one extra inning. Not to mention that Lecure should have his innings stretched out gradually since he prepped to be in the pen.
Next, Dusty could have kept Chapman in an extra inning.... but again, Aroldis had a scoreless outting that was in the bank, not to mention that it was his third time pitching in 3 days.
Finally we have him bringing in masset in the 8th inning of a one run game. Why not have Massett get his innings in and regain his form in a blowout? The answer is that, in the long run, Massett is training to be the set up guy and/or closer... to be the one who will come in a one run game and shuts the opponent down. As many have written , the effective closers are based almost entirely on confidence. Last night Dusty showed his confidence in Massett... maybe not in a single game, but as a player overall for a season. It is the same reason that Dusty would continue to pinch hit an O-fer player that has proven hitting ability in prior seasons. The confidence he has in the players improves their own cofidence, and over the course of a season he gets great efforts out of his players.
That is Dusty's strength... the season... but never a given series. I think that is why he will continue to take teams, the Reds or otherwise, to the postseason, but have less success once he makes it there.
I guess I am OK with that.