The editors here at Redleg Nation have really been less critical of Dusty Baker than most Reds fans around these internets. Yes, we’ve all been baffled by the strange lineups and weird in-game moves, but we’ve always tried to remember that Dusty’s reported value as a manager, if any, is largely based on his reputation for managing the egos in the clubhouse. We don’t have access to the clubhouse, so we have really tried to give Baker the benefit of the doubt on that front.
That said, I’m truly worried that Dusty is managing to save his job right now, and I’m afraid that it is going to do long-term damage to this organization.
Here’s what I said in last night’s recap:
Johnny Cueto, 24 years old, threw 118 pitches. Four days ago, a 23 year-old Homer Bailey threw 121 pitches. Twenty-five year old Edinson Volquez is recovering from major arm surgery. Somewhere, Kerry Wood just cried out in pain. Meanwhile, 22 year-old Mike Leake cowers in fear in a corner of the Reds clubhouse.
This morning, I pulled out my trusty Baseball Prospectus 2010 because I recalled reading this:
It’s all too easy to blame Dusty Baker for the injured arms that litter his path as a major-league manager, but on closer inspection, it’s even easier to blame him. Volquez threw 110 or more pitches in six of his last seven starts in 2008, topping out at a career-high 121 pitches. In those six starts, Volquez posted a 5.81 ERA for a Reds team more than 20 games out of first place. Last year, Volquez hit the DL with back spasms in late May and lasted just one inning in his return before heading off for the operating table.
Cueto, remember, went on the DL last year with shoulder issues, and now he’s tossing 118 pitches in early May. How many pitches will Bailey and Cueto and, perish the thought, Mike Leake be forced to throw in August and September when Dusty Baker is desperately trying to save his job?
And that’s not even to mention the fact that Baker’s usage of our All-Star closer Francisco Cordero has been very strange. He’s using CoCo several days in a row, when there is an abundance of evidence that CoCo is not effective when tired. Perhaps indicative of a manager grasping at straws to save his job, or perhaps I’m reading too much into it.
This team has three starting pitchers age 24 or younger, and the Reds are probably going to let Dusty Baker get his hands on 21 year-old Aroldis Chapman at some point this year. That’s a ton of young pitching talent. Do we really want to take a chance on these young guys by letting Dusty abuse them?
I’m afraid, Reds fans. Very afraid.