Fans’ Rap Against Baker Seems A Little Over The Top

By Paul Daugherty
Updated: October 15, 2007

CINCINNATI — No love for Dusty Baker. Nothing but bile for a man with more than 1,100 career wins, whose teams have finished either first or second in eight of his 14 seasons as a manager. A guy who has been NL Manager of the Year three times, who took the Chicago Cubs closer to the World Series altar than any manager in almost 50 years?

He stinks, you say. Terrible pick. You won’t go to the games, you won’t renew your season tickets. You’re done with the Reds.

Ownership believed you’d love their choice. An established manager with clubhouse cred, a players manager, a guy who co-existed with the world’s most ornery athlete, Barry Bonds.

You wanted someone who wasn’t an afterthought, a fill-in, a finger in the dike of losing. Well, here he is.

You’re more than irritated. Judging from the comments to Cincinnati.Com, e-mail and callers to my radio show on WLW-AM (700), you’re offended.

How come? What do you want?

Do not say Joe Girardi or Tony La Russa. Reds ownership judged Girardi not worth the trouble, which says a lot.

Girardi won 78 games two years ago, with a $15 million payroll.

You’d think miserly Florida Marlins ownership would have locked him up forever and beyond. Instead, they fired him. Red flags all around.

La Russa, ultimately, was not going to come here. He’s 63, doesn’t want to start all over. If he does, it’ll be with a team he thinks can win immediately. Probably, he’ll be in St. Louis next April, or at home.

Point is, prospective managers don’t grow up dreaming of managing the Cincinnati Reds. So tell me, again, why Baker is the least popular choice since Vern Rapp.

Burns out pitchers, you say. Look at Mark Prior and Kerry Wood.

Well, Wood was a time-bomb, a hard thrower with lousy mechanics. Prior might have been ridden too hard, but this was 2003 and the Cubs were chasing their first Series since 1945. Baker’s not the only guy making the calls on Prior’s pitch count. You could say it was a total team effort, from ownership on down.

Favors veterans, you say. No, more than that. Pampers them. Could be. Question: Could Junior Griffey be coddled any more than he is already? What veterans, exactly, would Baker spoil? The Reds are going to be younger than an Olympic gymnast. Adam Dunn? By inside accounts, Dunn is ready to lead, not be led. Who else might Dusty spoil? David Ross?

Part of Baker’s image as a butt-kisser of older guys comes from having to deal with Bonds. What would any manager have done differently with Barry? Do you really think a Lou Piniella or a Joe Girardi would have stood up to Bonds’ act? Doubtful.

What else? It could be this age of quicker-than-instant communication exaggerates everything, especially anger. Baker is the first manager hired in the offseason since Bob Boone, in 2001. In the six years since, chat rooms and message boards and such have exploded.

It’s much easier to let the world know your anger now.

Or maybe part of it is Baker is black. Is that it? Tell me it’s not.

Marvin Lewis is black, but that’s the Bengals, here just since 1968, never taken as personally around here as the Reds. I’d like to think we’re past skin color. Wishing doesn’t make it so.

Here’s what Baker has to do to make you eat your bias: Lead.

Identify a few vets capable of doing your bidding in the clubhouse. Set a tone of professionalism that is absent now. Insist on it.

When Joey Votto goes 1-for-20, stay with him. When Homer Bailey hits 100 pitches, remove him. Get yourself a good pitching coach. Leo Mazzone’s available. Other than that, get yourself a figurative flak jacket. You’re gonna need it.