Friday, March 23, 2012

The Reds are Dusty

You know how you avoid bending over so that your underwear does not show? Writing about baseball can be like that. Topics are sometimes avoided because of fear you will look either biased or uninformed and neither is a comfortable place to be. In this particular space, posts about the Cincinnati Reds have been particularly avoided and it is not because the team is disliked. On the contrary, Cincinnati is a great baseball town with a rich baseball history. Some of the players there are favorites like Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips and Mike Leake. To be honest, the Reds have been avoided because of bias about their manager, Dusty Baker.

No, it is not Baker's skin color that causes the bias. This space should not even exist if that were the case. The bias goes back to personally blaming Baker for the demise of Kerry Wood and Mark Prior during Baker's tenure with the Cubs. Those two pitchers should have been the dynamic duo for a decade. And like most biases, this one is not even logical because we simply do not know if Wood and Prior would have developed the injuries they did no matter how they were used by Baker. But they were hurt under his watch and care and he is held responsible.

And it is not like those two were isolated instances. There was Bill Swift and Jeff Brantley and others that were never the same after perceived overwork under Baker's watch. There is also the perception here that he hasn't been able to close the deal. In his eighteen years as a manager, his teams have won a grand total of one National League pennant and no World Series titles. His record in the post season is 17-22 including the Reds' colossal blowout at the hands of the Phillies in 2010.

But big picture, Dusty Baker has had success as a manager. His teams have a .521 winning percentage and all of his teams combined have finished in first place in the division four times. That is not a bad record. He managed Barry Bonds for ten seasons and lived to tell about it (if he so chose). So, there's that. And it cannot be forgotten that he was a very good baseball player in his day as well. This bias has to be dealt with because the Reds are still a factor in the NL Central this coming season and his team cannot continue to be avoided like they are contagious or something.

It is time to "man up" about this particular bias. Now that it is out in the open, it can be dealt with. Baseball Prospectus predicts the Reds will win slightly few games than the Cardinals in 2012. With such a close race predicted in the NL Central this coming season, that race will need attention. And a lot of Baker's decisions will be important if every game counts in that divisional battle. It all starts with how his rotation will start the season as he has seven pitchers vying for the five spots. The season will be fascinating and this space and its readers have been shortchanged by a bias that simply has no good reason for existence. 

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