Dusty Baker has been a punching bag for manager-bashers for years. It started with his decade as the manager of the Giants where he coddled and cowed to Barry Bonds while ultimately failing in all three of his post seasons there. Then he was considered the guy who threw away the careers of Mark Prior and Kerry Wood during his run with the Cubs and helped create the misanthrope by the name of Carlos Zambrano. Baker has always run afoul of history and critics when it came to his managerial skills. The taunts crested since he took over the Cincinnati Reds. But perhaps it is time to reconsider all this negativity and take a fresher look at Dusty Baker as a manager.
His tenure with the Red started well enough. In his third season at the helm of that team and after steady improvement, the Reds won the National League Central Division and went to the post season for the first time since 1995. But all of that was negated when the Reds faced the Phillies in the first round of the playoffs in 2010 and Halladay pitched a no-hitter and the Reds were overwhelmed in the series three games to none.
And besides, it was Walt Jocketty who got the credit for building the team after coming to the front office via the Cardinals. And then the Reds could not get out of their own way in 2011. After winning the division, the team could not win back to back games that entire season to save themselves. Bronson Arroyo had a homer-prone season for the ages. The team was out of rhythm the entire season and Baker received his share of the blame.
An admission here is needed. This site run by this Fan has not been kind to Baker over the years either. Much energy here was bent on a mission to get the man fired earlier this season. And then a funny thing happened. Baker's team ran away with their division this season and finished tied for the best record in the National League. But surely the Reds would crumble again in the playoffs against those magical Giants and that pitching staff that won the World Series back in 2010. Oops. That didn't happen either.
So two straight Reds' mauling of the Giants this weekend coupled with that amazing season sort of left this naysayer sucking wind. Whose your daddy now, Fan?
Agreed. It is time to embrace Dusty Baker. It is time to give him his due as a manager his team rallies around and enjoys playing for. It is time to realize that he has managed winners in all three of his managerial stops. It is time to wonder if at least part of the anti-Baker meme is at least unconsciously racist. The guy has a .525 winning percentage as a manager. He was a Bartman foul popup and costly error of doing the unthinkable and getting the Cubs to the World Series.
But what about that pitcher-killer reputation? Well, here we are a decade removed from his years with the Cubs and there is still no consensus about the effect on innings on young pitchers. Some of the same writers who bashed Baker for killing Prior and Wood were this season crucifying the Nationals for shutting down Strasburg.
And Baker wasn't alone in that Cubs situation. He had a pitching coach there and medical people and advisers and a general manager. And in fairness, how the heck do we know how healthy those two pitchers would have been had they been coddled like Strasburg has been? We just don't know. We'll never know.
And Bonds was a force of nature. Would any other manager have been able to handle him any better in those years with the Giants? Bonds was bigger than the Giants at that time. When that happens and when an ego is as big as Bonds' was, what could any manager have done differently?
So yeah, we've been bashing Dusty Baker for years. He has never been given any credit for his managerial career. And perhaps it is time for that to end. He has won the Manager of the Year Award three times. He has won nearly 1,600 games as a manager in his 19 seasons doing the job. And that came after a very good nineteen year playing career. That is 38 years of quality service in Major League Baseball. That is quite awesome when you think about it.
It is time to embrace Dusty Baker as one of the treasures of this baseball era. This Fan will be the first one to admit he has done the man wrong. The Reds, despite their 2-0 advantage currently over the Giants, might not lead to a championship. But that does not even matter in the end. What matters is that Dusty Baker has been worthy of our respect and it is way past time he started receiving it.